Title: Dead or Alive

Author: Grey Lupous

Archive: The Ancient Database, Jumperbay, FFnet, and my site

Rating: PG-13...er T. Stupid MPAA.

Summary: When McKay's abducted right under the team's nose, it's up to Sheppard to save him before it's too late.

Spoilers: Quite a few for "The Storm" and "The Eye", some minor ones for "Underground", "Hide and Seek" and "Childhood's End". I think that's it.

Author's Notes: This takes place some time after "The Eye", and probably before "The Defiant One". I've got no idea how much time was left open between episode on the show, so if there's not time for this adventure, let's just pretend. This story is rated higher than my others for violence, language, and well, uh, my villain is kind of sadistic, and I couldn't stop him from making innuendos (fear not, that's as far as it goes...)

Betas: I have to thank my lovely betas Linda and Tipper. You guys managed to wade through all of this and still make some great suggestions :) This fic is much better for it. (Especially the weapon count which I had so freely ignored). Also have to thank Kimba for assuring me that no, I didn't kill Shep.

The P-90 was a wonderful device: capable of firing 900 rounds per minute, absurdly easy to reload, and when properly trained on it, was a very deadly weapon. As a flashlight – it sucked. Right now what Rodney McKay needed was a nicely sized maglite, or maybe one of those hard hats with a little light on top, that way he didn't have to hold anything while he tried to study the symbols on the wall before him. At least with a flashlight of some sort he wouldn't feel reluctant to pass it to the native who was supposed to be helping him with deciphering this wall. As harmless as these people looked, he really didn't think handing them a fully automatic weapon was the brightest of ideas.

The native in question watched him trying to juggle the gun, a notepad, and pencil all at once with no small trace of amusement. The man could maybe have been a little help if he could dictate what he was trying to read, but the man, of course, had no knowledge of how to write the English language, although he could speak it just as fluently as the rest of this galaxy. Which was a point that really confused McKay to no end, but he had decided to stop trying to figure that one out after about the tenth inhabited world.

Back to his original point, the man couldn't write a lick of English, and was an awful artist at that. McKay was desperately wishing some other member of his team was down here to point the light or take notes, but they were all outside of this damp, dark cave trying to negotiate trade agreements with the villagers they'd met upon leaving the gate.

Like many other worlds, M5G-1115, as they had designated it, or Fresca, as the natives called it, was among the thousands of planets plagued by the Wraith. That wasn't a real shocker to McKay, nor was the fact that they lived like they were perpetually stuck in the Bronze Age. However, they seemed genuinely friendly and were excited about the prospect of a new trading partner, hence the talks. They had mentioned the ruins not too far outside of the village once they heard of McKay's interest in old artifacts. In fact, Major Sheppard looked pretty annoyed that he'd let it slip along with their place of origin.

Oh well, like the pitchfork-wielding citizens of Fresca were really going to tar and feather them because they lived in Atlantis. These people weren't like the Genii. Really! They weren't! McKay had done some "discreet" scans after they'd met the natives to make sure no one was trying to build any atomic bombs under the surface. Maybe that's what Sheppard was a bit more annoyed about. It's not like Rodney could keep his device from beeping, and, really, he had been doing the scans for the good of Atlantis. No one on Atlantis, he in particular, wanted to run into another hostile culture like the Genii.

So here he was, with his guide/useless assistant, trying to decipher runes on a wall that looked vaguely Ancient. Since it wasn't definitely Ancient, he was having trouble. He was a physicist after all, not a linguist. However any excuse to get out of another round of boring trade negotiations certainly appealed to him. It wasn't like he was doing anything dangerous. While a little tall and maybe a little built, his cave companion seemed to be on the slow side, and not prone to violence. Besides, why would anyone attack him? Other than due to pure jealousy of his dashing good looks?

"Mersir McKay, you look like you are having some difficulty. Am I not here to provide assistance?"

"It's Doctor McKay," he corrected for what had to be the fifteenth time that day. "I'm a doctor of physics, not one of your medicine men. And I'm fine, there's not much you really can do but keep talking and distracting me, uh..."

"Vargas," the native provided with the smile of a simpleton. "I could hold your light for you, that way you can write."

"This?" McKay glanced at the P-90, then back at Vargas. "No, no, you might... break it." Or shoot my head off as you manhandle the SHINY object.

"I promise that I will be careful." Again with the goofy smile. Like he was going to give THAT something with bullets.

"I've got a better idea." McKay tried smiling back, hoping it came out more placating than frustrated. Stowing away the pen and paper for the moment, he tapped his radio. "Lieutenant Ford, are you busy?"

He knew that Sheppard had to be there during the negotiations and maybe Teyla too, with all her experience in the past trading for the supplies they needed. They were running dangerously low on food now that the storm had wiped out almost all of the Athosian's crops. Teyla knew exactly what her people needed to begin reconstruction... and he also had strong suspicions that Elizabeth had secretly asked her to make sure the Major didn't start giving away all the C-4 again. Ford, though, seemed to enjoy trade negotiations about as much as he enjoyed one of Carson's enemas.

"Not really," Ford's voice was hushed, but if McKay was reading the tone right, "not really" meant "Do you need help? Are you being attacked by flying monkeys? Is there any way I can join in on your vacation from this torture?"

"Well, I really could use someone who has the slightest mastery of the English alphabet," McKay shrugged at Vargas. "No offense."

"I'll be right there! I mean—uh, if it's okay with the Major." McKay had a vision of Ford jumping to his feet, only to get a reprimanding look from his superior officer. About fifteen seconds later Ford came back with an affirmative.

With a relieved sigh, McKay turned back to Vargas, who looked a little offended. "What? You really can't consider this the greatest way to spend an afternoon. I'm sure you have something you want to do more than stand around in a dark cave."

"Actually..." Vargas smiled, but it was no longer the smile of the village idiot. It was feral, even a little wicked. "I've been thoroughly enjoying our time together."

McKay's stomach did a little flip-flop, and he mentally chastised it, before offering Vargas a truly placating, if somewhat nervous, smile. "Uh, really?"

"Yes," the tall man took a step closer to Rodney, and the stomach olympics resumed. "In fact what do you say to spending a lot more time together?"

"Um, well," McKay took a step back equal to Vargas's step forward, "you see, I'm already in a committed relationship back on Atlantis. And well, my girlfriend really isn't into threesomes, you know?"

Vargas apparently didn't, but took another step closer. "Really? A woman? Who?"

"Uh," McKay quickly glanced around for an escape route, "Teyla? You met her on the way in, didn't you?"

"Why don't we ask her?" Vargas continued his approach, and as McKay took another step back, he felt the cold wall of the cave meet his back.

"Let's not, and say we did." McKay tried to quickly step around Vargas, but was outmaneuvered. He really wasn't serious about that dashing good looks thought earlier. Really, he was rather homely, could hardly look into a mirror on his best days. Oh, and he probably should have been babbling that aloud. "Listen, I think we really need to define my personal bubble. If you just back up out of the cave, I think you won't be invading it anymore."

"I'd really rather not," Vargas leaned in close.

McKay realized that he was still holding his P-90. "Okay... but I warned you."

He swung the handle into the other man's gut, trying valiantly to remember those self-defense lessons Sheppard was always badgering him to attend. His temporary plan worked and as the villager doubled over, McKay swiveled out of the way while bringing the gun back to bear on Vargas.

"Now, I'm going to leave this cave, and if you don't follow me, maybe we can forget this ugly incident ever happened." McKay began to back out, one finger resting against the trigger of his gun, and both eyes trained on his attacker.

Vargas just chuckled, and rose up, as if having a P-90 rammed into your gut tickled. He continued to mirror Rodney's footsteps like he was approaching a frightened deer. Oh, how he really didn't want to think of being compared to venison right now. "How can I forget? We were getting along so well."

McKay tried to make the gun in his hands look more menacing by waving the tip slightly. "I will shoot! Just--just take another step! Watch me!"

"Really?" There was that smile again, the one that sent chills up and down Rodney's spine, but he didn't stop coming. "You know, if you were going to shoot me--"

Suddenly he wasn't in front McKay anymore, he had dived off to the side with a speed that would put Teyla to shame, and as soon as McKay had corrected his aim, he'd switched directions, and was closing in the distance fast. Backpedal faster you moron! Shoot him! His mind was working fast enough, but his feet felt clumsy trying to run in the reverse direction, and he certainly didn't want to turn his back against Vargas. He was sure he was almost to the mouth of the cave; they hadn't gone down that deep.

Just as fast as Vargas's personality shift, the ground and his feet parted ways and his back slammed against the ground, his head smacking into it two seconds later. The air whooshed out of him, and he desperately tried to get it back, but the bright stars in his vision and blinding PAIN in his head had other plans. Through all of this he felt Vargas yank the P-90 from him, nearly taking Rodney's arm with it. Vision returned in time for Rodney to see it unceremoniously tossed to the side.

"—you should have done it from the start." Vargas finished.

Well crap, there goes my edge, McKay thought staring at his gun. He was sure he had a knife stashed somewhere within the many pockets of his vest—if only his head would stop pounding long enough for him to remember where it was.

Operation: Get-Air-Back-Into-Lungs hit a snag as Vargas placed a knee directly on Rodney's sternum. He grinned sadistically as he leaned most of his weight onto the downed scientist.

"I'd really appreciate it if you wouldn't do that," McKay managed to whisper between gasps of air. "Seems to make it a little hard to breathe."

If anything, Vargas put more pressure on McKay's sternum. "This better?"

"Peachy," he gasped.

"Now that I have your attention, I'd really like to take you to meet a couple of friends of mine."

"Speaking of friends, I have some back in the village that I really should be getting back to—" Rodney squawked as the weight on his chest increased. "Okay, shutting up and listening!"

"Good," Vargas pressed his lips together as he studied the scientist beneath him. "As I was saying... I think a little walk would be just the thing to help that breathing problem. Get a little fresh air, you know?"

"Walking is good!" McKay squeaked.

"And you'll be a good mersir and not force me to do this again?"

"Promise," McKay wheezed, and felt the pressure on his chest lighten considerably. "But can I say one thing?"

Vargas sighed. "And what would that be?"

Before Vargas could stop him, McKay grabbed his radio. "Ford! I need he--"

McKay saw stars again as Vargas backhanded him and grabbed both of McKay's wrists in his hands. "Now, now, what did I say about being a good mersir?"

McKay tried to think of a witty response as the cave and Vargas whirled around in circles. "I, uh, bing tiddle tiddle bong?"

Vargas's face scrunched up in confusion. "And what does that mean?"

The world finally spun back into place, and he felt heartened to see the precious light and flickering shadows streaming in from the front of the cave, forming a familiar shape out of the darkness and light. "It's a common Atlantean phrase meaning, look out behind you!"

"What?" As Vargas spun to look over his shoulder as one Lieutenant Ford slammed into him.

A brief struggle ensued between the two men, both grappling at each other's arms, before the Lieutenant pulled one of the moves McKay had once seen during those mandated self-defense rounds with Sheppard. Using his legs like scissors, he trapped Vargas's torso between them and used his body to slam the other man into the ground. Without pause, Ford slammed the butt of his P-90 against Vargas's skull. The bipolar villager crumpled into an unconscious heap, and Ford quickly leapt free and helped McKay to his feet.

"You all right?"

"Just grand," McKay held his pounding head as he told his knees they were not made of Jell-O. "You know, I've got this sudden urge to attend food negotiations."

"I bet." Ford kept a hand on McKay's shoulder as they made their way out of the cave, stopping long enough to scoop up McKay's P-90.

"McKay! Report!" Sheppard's voice erupted over the radio with a small crackle.

"Oh, right, he heard that." Rodney held his head, and considered taking the earpiece out, so the Major's outbursts wouldn't agitate his headache.

"McKay's fine sir," Ford glanced back at the cave. "The villager that escorted him to the caves attacked him, but I handled it."

"I see." Sheppard's voice rose in what some might mistake for amusement, but really was a very restrained annoyance or anger. "Meet us at the edge of the village in ten minutes."


"He doesn't sound too happy," McKay remarked.

"I think the negotiations may be cancelled." Ford agreed, half-leading, half-guiding McKay back to the village.