TITLE: Blood
AUTHOR: Wraithfodder
Copyright Disclaimer: See part one.

SUMMARY: While on a mission, Sheppard turns his back for just a moment and McKay vanishes. The team fights against time when the only clues to the missing scientist's whereabouts are drops of blood. McKay whump. Sheppard angst. .

Thanks for the reviews!


Blood, part 2

An average military field dressing can absorb approximately one-half pint of blood.

Sheppard turned around rapidly on his heel, surveying the endless darkness. Rodney had to be in there somewhere, but... aiming the light down, he quickly checked the surrounding area on the floor. No more paw prints. The new carcass was probably the only animal.

"Rodney!"

Nothing.

"Ronon, Teyla," he shouted into his radio. There was a crackle. "I'm three floors down. Large manufacturing room. Follow the blood."

God, the room had to be the size of a friggin football field and more cluttered than a mall parking lot the night before Christmas. Rodney could be anywhere in there. With the animal dead by definitely unnatural causes, there was the faint hope that Rodney might still be alive.

Follow the blood.

Turning the corner, he realized he'd been holding his breath. Rodney lay just ten feet away, on his side, looking like the victim of a roadside bombing. Blood soaked his entire side and his upper arm was obviously torn open. The uniform was shredded and there were more claw marks on a leg.

Sheppard quickly knelt down next to Rodney and rolled him onto his back.

Pain exploded in his head as something smashed him in the side of the head and he went down, landing hard on the floor.

"Shit!" He clutched a hand to his throbbing forehead. It felt like he'd been clobbered with a brick. The thought that another animal had suddenly appeared rushed into this thoughts and he held out his weapon, frantically scanning the darkness with its beam but all he saw was McKay trying in vain to crawl away.

Damn, he'd spooked McKay and the man had simply tried to defend himself. Stupid move, John!

Crawling back over to his fallen comrade, Sheppard shook his head. Not concussed but close enough and he was definitely going to have a lump there in the morning if he didn't bleed to death first. Blood dripped down the side of his face. "Rodney. Rodney," he said, loud and sharp. He wanted to lay down a reassuring touch, but was unsure if the action would prompt further violence.

McKay whimpered. Sheppard never thought he'd ever appreciate that particular sound but now it was music to his ears. "It's just me," he said. He very carefully removed the laptop from McKay's right hand. It was battered, dented and liberally covered with blood. That's when Sheppard realized McKay had struck him with it, and that he was probably covered in animal blood and not his own.

Most severely wounded soldiers die of blood loss before they can reach a medical facility.

"-nel, can you hear us?" Teyla's voice, broken but there.

"I'm down here," Sheppard yelled into his earpiece. "Rodney's alive but hurt bad."

"Where?" came Ronon's voice.

Shit. No dman light switch to hit and say here I am, send the rescue party. "Rodney, listen to me." Sheppard laid a hand on the bloodied scientist. "I'm going to fire my gun. The animal is dead. Okay. It's dead. You're safe. I just need for Ronon and Teyla to find me."

Rodney grimaced, more from pain than anything else, but Sheppard took that as a yes. He aimed the P-90 up high and off to the side and fired off a long burst. A second later, there was a strange creaking sound and a resounding pop. A massive explosion of glass and metal shattering fifty feet away filled the air. Sheppard instinctively threw himself over McKay, ignoring the man's cry of pain from the movement, but whatever he'd knocked off the ceiling hadn't spread its destructive tendrils to where they lay on the floor.

Crap. It sounded like a bomb had gone off.

"Sheppard!" Ronon's voice echoed, and not so much over the radio but just outside the massive room.

"Here!" Sheppard aimed his P-90's light upward, leaning it against the cabinet while he quickly unfurled a field dressing. Rodney's upper arm was torn open. It was a deep wound and had bled profusely, as had the multitude of deep jagged tooth marks in the man's one shoulders.

Sheppard kept up a steady stream of chatter, letting Rodney know everything he was doing. Any human voice was probably a blessing at that point, he realized, and knew that if he'd been the one on the floor, that would set his mind at least partially at ease. Rodney's eyes remained tightly shut but he was conscious enough to know he was no longer alone.

The medical field dressings that Sheppard carried went fast on the arm wound. Sheppard rifled McKay's torn vest, finding two more dressings. Thank God they hadn't been replaced with PowerBars or laptop batteries. Sheppard bandaged the leg wounds as best he could, but had now run out of material. Shucking his vest and jacket, he pulled off his own shirt and used that to staunch further bleeding on the shoulder wounds.

When Ronon and Teyla appeared seconds later, the team went into precise action. They weren't a medical team per se, but they'd seen enough and been injured enough to know the drill. The Satedan secured a makeshift stretcher in an act so noisy that Sheppard wondered if the man had literally ripped the board off some wall. Sheppard and Teyla covered McKay with their vests and jackets in the hope it would help stave off shock.

By the time they they'd made it back to the jumper, Rodney was cold and incoherent at best, rambling on about gargoyles. Sheppard was forced to shove aside the overwhelming desire to stay by Rodney's side to render more aid and offer much-needed emotional support, but someone had to fly the jumper.

He thanked God for the inertial dampeners or else everybody would have been squashed flat against the rear of the jumper as he pushed the ship to its maximum speed toward the Stargate.

Beckett's medical team barely let the jumper's rear hatch descend before they clambered like a horde of invading insects into the ship to attend to Rodney's supine form.

A doctor took one look at Sheppard and ordered another gurney. It was then Sheppard realized just how much blood coated his own body - from kneeling in it, helping to pick up Rodney, just wiping the nauseating slickness off his hands so he could pick up a stretcher or handle the jumper controls. "It's not mine," he said tersely, waving off any assistance.

He'd stood in the jumper bay, flanked on either side by Ronon and Teyla, watching as Rodney was whisked away. They knew they'd just be in the way if they followed to the infirmary, and would be denied entrance.

Sheppard suddenly had the overwhelming urge to wash off the blood before he threw up.

A pint of blood weighs about one pound. Losing blood wasn't an ideal method to lose weight.

All Rodney had to do was wake up.

It had been over 24 hours since the surgical team had put him back together. Concussion, soft tissue damage, more stitches than Sheppard had wanted to know about. Dr. Josh Levin, their resident trauma surgeon, hadn't seemed unduly alarmed by the damage, citing no severed tendons, nerves or major blood vessels. Rodney was, in his estimation, a very lucky man.

Sheppard stared at his fingers. They'd been pink several hours ago. He'd scrubbed and scrubbed. Once the blood had dried around the fingernails, it just seemed to set in like rust on a car. If it wasn't for the fact that the Ancient's laundry facilities could remove bloodstains - and that replacement uniforms and boots weren't that readily available - he would have tossed out the sodden clothing.

The ghostly white pallor had left Rodney's skin hours ago, and now he looked as though he were merely sleeping in the infirmary's only occupied bed, that is, if it wasn't for all the tubes and wires connected to the man, the heavy bandages on his shoulder and the bruised shadows under his eyes.

It didn't bother Sheppard to hang around the infirmary. His team came and went, their concern for Rodney evident as they checked in on their fallen teammate. They'd all gone over what had happened on that planet. Sheppard felt responsible, but no one blamed him. There had been no indication of life anywhere. Teyla and Ronon were both more accepting of the situation - that's how life was in the Pegasus Galaxy. Rodney was alive, and that was what mattered.

Beckett had outlined McKay's post-operative care. Teyla volunteered to help the scientist with physical therapy. Meanwhile, Ronon focused his time on making a necklace out of the wicked tooth that they'd found buried deep in Rodney's shoulder. Sure, Ronon had no problem with wearing a Wraith finger bone around his neck, but Rodney was never going to wear that around his neck. Sheppard was one hundred per cent certain of that. Elizabeth would visit as her duties permitted. She'd know Rodney the longest and he was like family to her. Sheppard found himself reassuring Elizabeth of Rodney's recovery when, in fact, he was as worried as her.

Beckett finally told Sheppard that if he didn't get some sleep and soon, he'd help the colonel in that department.

It wasn't as if he hadn't tried. He'd grabbed the bed next to Rodney, and did his best to get some shut-eye, but sleep was elusive. Replays of blackened corridors glistening with streaks of blood haunted his dreams, or memories of how pale blue Rodney's skin had been, a sharp contrast to the darkening bloodstains...

The pattern had repeated itself throughout the night.

It was 3:03 a.m. when he'd heard it: a slight hitch in Rodney's breathing, then a mumbled word.

Sheppard shot up in the bed. Dammit. He'd fallen asleep. He tumbled off the bed, and stood next to Rodney's bed. He eyed the heart monitor, letting the steady rhythm of the device drift over him like a soothing chant. Without giving it much thought, he grasped one of Rodney's hands in his own. There was a slight tug as the fingers reacted, curling ever so slightly onto his hand.

"Mmm." Rodney licked at his lips, then cracked open bleary eyes. "Uh."

"You're in the infirmary." Relief gripped Sheppard as the blue eyes shone in recognition. "You're going to be okay."

"Wha?" Rodney blinked. He had the pseudo-glassy look of someone who'd been drugged, and well, he was, come to think of it.

"An animal attacked you," Sheppard explained, unsure of just how much information the man's mind could process at that point. "But you're safe now. Back home."

"Gargoyles," said Rodney groggily.

"Uh, no, more like a cross between a mountain lion and a bear," said Sheppard.

"Thought it was a gargoyle," Rodney repeated, slowly blinking his eyes. "...was just sitting there on a cabinet, covered in dust. Uglier than Kavanagh trying to look supe... uh... smart."

Sheppard's brow furrowed. Rodney sounded off in la-la land.

"Looked like stone and I thought..." Rodney licked plaintively at his dry lips. Sheppard looked around and spotted a cup with melting ice chips in it on the small table next to the bed. He carefully placed a chip in Rodney's mouth. After a minute, Rodney continued in an oddly flat voice, almost as if he were reading a computer manual aloud. "The eyes were soooo life-like. Like wet glass. Thought, great craftsmanship, but shitty statue. Figured I'd blow the dust off, see what the teeth were made of..."

Shit.

"And it just... lunged," finished Rodney. "Think it knocked me out."

"Sorry." Sheppard wanted to say more, but didn't think Rodney would remember, and he wanted McKay to know how bad he felt about what had happened.

Rodney seemed to almost cross his eyes when he tried to focus his gaze on Sheppard. "Why?"

"It's my job to make sure crap like this doesn't happen to you."

Rodney shut his eyes, silence permeating the air. Sheppard couldn't fault the man for laying blame where it squarely belonged. He shouldn't have let Rodney out of his sight, shouldn't have-

"But you found me..." The azure eyes studied him with an intensity that Sheppard found a bit unsettling.

"Well, hey, brilliant astrophycists are hard to come by, you know," Sheppard joked lightly.

"Thank you."

The tone was so sincere that Sheppard almost did a double take.

"It's the drugs talking," Rodney added with a slight hint of sarcasm, his eyes gradually closing. "Oh wow, this stuff is good. Tell Carson... want a grand latte of it..."

Sheppard gently squeezed the man's hand. Rodney was asleep, but now, Sheppard knew he could get some sleep as well. Rodney was going to be okay.

They say blood is thicker than water… that family relations (blood) are more important than friends (water). But what happens when your friends are your family?

Weeks had gone by since Rodney's nearly exsanginated body had been brought back to Atlantis.

His recovery had astounded everyone, except for Beckett, who put it down to sheer stubbornness on the scientist's part, plus the fact that one day the physician told Rodney to stop whining about the one Jell-O per meal rule, and that if the bloody fool wanted another one, he could very well go down to the mess hall and get one. So he had.

Teyla had studied with the nurse regarding physical therapy, so by the time Rodney was ready for the less intensive version of it, she could do it. She was the only one with such a high enough degree of patience to handle Rodney's snarky attitude, which had come back in spades. She also had secret weapon to keep him in line. Admit it or not, Sheppard knew that Rodney was terrified that Teyla would one day suck him into stick fighting practice.

Ronon had kept his promise. He'd walked into the infirmary one afternoon with the necklace made from some incredibly strong vine entwined into a braid, to which attached was the sharp two-inch fang. He'd presented the 'warrior's gift' to Rodney, who immediately was disgusted by the 'barbaric concept' and stuck it aside on the table. Ronon hadn't gotten angry and, later on, he'd confessed he'd rather been expecting that reaction. Yet, once Rodney was released to his quarters, Sheppard had dropped by and spied that 'barbaric' necklace carefully hung around one of the scientist's many awards that dotted the wall. Maybe Ronon hadn't been so off after all...that Rodney would appreciate it.

But while Rodney seemed to be falling back into his old complaining self, Sheppard knew that the incident hadn't been put in the past in the proper way.

Sheppard had waited until Rodney seemed strong enough - both physically and emotionally - to handle what Sheppard presented to him one day in his lab.

The blue eyes had focused intently on the object that Sheppard had laid down on the counter next to McKay's computer. After a second, fury erupted. "What moron broke it! Do they think they grow on trees?" Rodney picked up the rectangular object and several drops of clear water dripped ominously from a cracked corner. "Oh my God!" Rodney exclaimed and then his outburst died, a flurry of emotions darkening his face. He almost let the laptop drop from his hands.

"It's-" Rodney practically stuttered.

"Yeah, that's the computer you smashed me in the face with," finished Sheppard.

Rodney broke his startled gaze from the battered rectangular device, then stared intently at Sheppard. "You brought it back?"

Sheppard shrugged. "Government property," he said in a lazy manner, although he'd tossed it on the stretcher quickly, thinking that Rodney would yell at him if he'd left it behind. An insane thought at the time.

Rodney blinked. "Why is it dripping water?"

"I washed it."

"You what!"

"Soaked it in the tub," finished Sheppard.

McKay looked torn between having a massive stroke or dying laughing. He settled for something in between, an incredulous look that conveyed his horror at the act as well as disdain for the aggressor.

"It's a computer. It's electronic. Water and electricity do not mix."

"It was shot."

"Well, it is now!"

Sheppard left his bloodied uniform and boots in the tub/shower, just soaking, after he'd cleaned up. When he'd returned to his quarters - after laying out the disastrous mission in a short briefing to Elizabeth, and too agitated to just sit and wait because it would be hours before any of them would be permitted to see Rodney - the water in the tub had turned a soft pink. He dumped the soggy clothing in the laundry. He'd deal with it later.

Someone took the laptop from the jumper and it was now in a lab. Rumors were the techies were going to salvage it. Zelenka and a technician (who didn't look over 20 years old, if that) were staring at the bloodied device as though it were a bomb that would detonate at the slightest sneeze.

It was an all around bad idea to even look at the thing. He couldn't fathom which money-crunching nitwit had come up with this plan.

The tech, wearing latex gloves, picked up the laptop and something soft and gelatinous slid out of a large crack in the side. It hit the counter with a soft 'plop.'

"What is that?" Zelenka asked, disgust and trepidation clear on his face.

"Brain," Sheppard said matter-of-factly, remembering too clearly the gore leaking out of the animal's battered skull.

Zelenka turned green and, with hand clamped over mouth, bolted from the room.

"Cat brain," Sheppard clarified after a beat. But part of that blood was still Rodney's blood...

The tech dropped the laptop with a resounding thud and stepped back in horror.

"It's a write-off," the man suddenly declared. A second later, he imitated a chameleon, turning that lovely shade of green as he too fled the lab.

Sheppard decided to spare anybody else that misery and donning some latex gloves, tossed the laptop into a box and left. He went to his room, filled the tub and dumped in the computer.

The water blossomed red, drawing intangible threads of dark crimson from the machine's insides to swirl lazily in the tub. It reminded Sheppard of the infamous shower scene from 'Psycho,' or any one of the number of shark attacks in the ever-worsening 'Jaws' trilogy.

"We could have salvaged parts," Rodney continued his rant, drawing Sheppard back from that bizarre memory.

Not really, thought Sheppard. It had been amazing how much brain goo had settled in at the bottom of his tub. He'd used bleach to clean it out afterwards.

"Well, obviously I didn't hit you hard enough," muttered McKay.

Sheppard looked up, not sure he'd heard what he thought he'd just heard. "What?"

"Apparently," Rodney continued in a sharp tone. "It'll take more than one blow to pound some knowledge in that brain of yours."

McKay had said it harshly and without much thought, but that's precisely the reaction Sheppard had been hoping he'd hear. Rodney hadn't said a lot about what had happened during the time that animal had dragged him down those long corridors, but evidence indicated he'd been awake for the bulk of it. He'd given them the placate-the-shrink version of the attack, but now some of the more suppressed emotions were coming to surface.

Sheppard wasn't a shrink - sure as hell didn't want the job - but he was a friend. And friends put up with hell to help friends.

"Who told you it was shot?" Rodney demanded.

"Hmm..." Sheppard couldn't remember the guy's name. "Zelenka," he settled on instead.

Rodney glowered in disdain. "Of course."

"And all the cat-bear blood that was inside it, sloshing around," Sheppard added. Okay, not sloshing, really, but enough to turn the tub's water to cherry Koolaid red. Sorta.

Sheppard picked up the laptop and shook it vigorously. "See, dry now."

McKay rolled his eyes at the ceiling, but the sarcasm left his person instantly when Sheppard placed the laptop back down on the counter. He'd deliberately laid it down on its top, so that now, a set of horrific gouge marks could be seen on the bottom of the device.

"It served its purpose," Sheppard said seriously. "Saved your life."

Rodney touched one of the long score marks in a very hesitant reach, as if the mere contact would scorch his fingertips. "I remember hearing it strike the floor after that thing attacked..." His pulled his fingers away. "I'd lost my gun. Found a screwdriver, something, but lost it, too."

"It got stuck in the animal," Sheppard said, realizing Rodney might be foggy on those details. Panic, blood loss: doesn't do a mind any good. He could only imagine how scared the scientist must have been, just stabbing away at an animal that wouldn't quit. Wild animals were like that.

"Oh," was Rodney's response.

"You know, I've said this already," said Sheppard, leaning against the counter, "but you did really good."

Rodney smiled tentatively, and Sheppard realized a barrier had finally broken down. Little by little, Rodney began to provide the details of his terrifying experience. Oh, he'd spoken about it with Kate, but it wasn't the same. The two men shared this type of experience on a visceral level. Both had faced pain and imminent death by alien creatures, albeit Sheppard's experience had involved an ugly Iratus bug that had glommed on to his neck with pinchers of superglue, but the result had been the same: facing one's fears and bouncing back.

Sarcasm was Sheppard's defense against the darkness, as much as it was McKay's, yet he held his own at bay while the scientist let his coffee grow cold while he continued speaking.

Sheppard had been astonished at how level headed Rodney had remained throughout the entire ordeal, reasoning that if he'd struggled or cried out for help, that the animal would no doubt have finished him off on the spot. Instead, he'd used the weapons on hand, improvising wildly and ultimately, successfully. McKay seemed horrified that he'd just kept striking the animal, but Sheppard patted him on an arm. "If you hadn't and it was still alive, it would have killed you."

Neither man looked at the clock as the conversation finally wound down, as Sheppard assured Rodney that while the memories would always be there, they would become muted in time. The nightmares would go away - although Sheppard knew that they might be replaced by ones that were even worse - but he didn't say that aloud.

Rodney finally noticed his coffee was no longer palatable, which in his estimation meant a trip to the mess hall.

Sheppard reached for the laptop, assuming it had served a much better purpose in 'death' than in life, but a hand clamped down on it with an unexpected intensity. "Excuse me, but where do you think you're taking that?"

"Uh, the dump?" Sheppard suggested, not that they actually one. Maybe deep-sixing it over the edge of Atlantis, down to a watery grave, would be more appropriate. "I thought-"

"You thought wrong," interrupted Rodney sharply.

Oookay... now Sheppard wasn't so sure where the man's mind had wandered. The thing was broken. Dead. An ex-laptop. Pushing up RAM.

"While I may have brained Garfield the Gruesome to death with this very expensive piece of equipment, and thus rendered it possibly unfixable until someone drowned it, I have learned one thing from this experience."

Sheppard arched one eyebrow in expectation.

"That you can't be trusted with a laptop." Rodney picked it up and held it to his chest in an almost covetous manner. "You put it in a tub? I can't-" He suddenly frowned, then sniffed, then repeated that action intently as he held the computer right up to his nose. "You used shampoo?"

Sheppard just coughed. He was sure he'd rinsed it pretty well. He didn't think metal and plastic could pick up the scent.

Rodney shook his head in utter dismay. "What were you thinking? Oh, why on earth am I asking? Look at who I'm talking to."

Sheppard offered a wan smile. What had he been thinking…? That the machine was toast, that it had reeked of stale blood and brain goo and that hell, he was going to erase every atom of those nasty scents before showing McKay the laptop.

Rodney shoved the laptop onto the shelf behind him. Sheppard wondered briefly if the scientist would keep it and then one day, take it out from wherever he'd stashed it, remember the horrors, but also find solace in that he'd survived.

The scrape of the coffee mug being dragged off the counter brought Sheppard back to the present. "Coming?" Rodney said dryly, heading out of his lab. "I don't even want to ask what would happen if you got dirt on a life signs detector. You'd probably use your toothbrush to clean it."

Sheppard caught up the scientist. "Don't be insane." He waited a beat before continuing. "I use that to clean my P-90."

Rodney abruptly turned on his heel, his mouth dropping open like the bay on a bomber. He snapped it shut and composed himself before declaring, "You're insane, and I need my coffee." He headed down the hall, determination evident in his fast stride.

Sheppard shrugged, then let a broad smile envelope his face as he followed the scientist down the corridor.

Rodney McKay - one. Alien gargoyle - zero.

Horseshoe crabs have blue blood due to the copper content - does that make them royalty? - another inane fact from the strange mind of Carson Beckett. That man really needs to get a new hobby.

THE END


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