This is dedicated to McKayRocks! -an equal opportunities whumper of the best variety! Thanks to my trusty Beta, Kodiak for her input here. As usual, any mistakes are most definitely and completely my own fault...
I'm the first to admit that I'm perhaps not the easiest person to get along with. My genius has always resulted in me being an outsider. As a small child, I preferred the company of adults, yet the feeling wasn't mutual. As an adult, I always preferred the company of other geniuses and again that sentiment was not reciprocated, though, in all honesty very few have been able to match my great intellect. I don't suffer fools lightly and why should I? Thus, I've never had any close friends, just acquaintances really. That is, until I met the man lying eerily still on the infirmary bed to the side of me.
I never intended to find myself in another galaxy, facing imminent death and horror at every turn. Yet amidst the terror, stress and wonder of this beautiful city, I'd found something that had always eluded me – friendship. The problem with friendship was one I'd discovered all too quickly – it hurts. Which brought me back to the source of my pain. A certain Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, aka – my newest, all right my one and only, best friend.
As I looked down at the pale, clammy man to the side of me, with tubes snaking in and out of his abused body, I wondered how on Earth - or if I was going to act like the denizen of the wonderful galaxy I had been resident in for the last two years - how on Atlantica, he had managed to get himself in this much trouble – again. Only I could pick myself a best friend who had the most incredible knack of finding himself in mortal danger on a disturbingly and unnaturally regular basis. I mean, what was the statistical probability of that happening? Perhaps I should have written an algorithm to tell me. I'd learned over the course of the past two years that Sheppard was a man who regularly beat the odds, but this time I sadly realised his luck may have finally run out.
Carson walking in to the small curtained off area of the infirmary interrupted my thoughts. He proceeded to check all his instruments of voodoo torture, which he euphemistically called 'life-maintaining apparatus', before turning to me and tutting.
"Rodney, you shouldn't still be here. I told you over an hour ago to go and get some food and rest. Why are you still here?" he asked in his 'I know the answer already, but I'm going to make you tell me anyway' voice.
I wasn't in the mood to mess with Carson, so I answered honestly, my usual astounding and cutting wit having temporarily abandoned me. "I didn't want him to be alone. I promised him I wouldn't leave him, even though he ordered me to. I ask you, as if he could ever order me to do anything." He had. Ordered me to go on without him. He knew I'd never leave him, just as he'd never leave a man behind – leave me behind. That much I'd learned from him.
Carson gave me one of his patronising looks. "Rodney, I already explained to you that he's not going to be waking up anytime soon. There's nothing you can do here. May I remind you that you have seven sutures in your arm, and that you could use some sleep? Or, do I have to search through my giant needle collection to inspire you to go on your merry way and do as you're bloody well told?"
I must have looked at him blankly, as he knelt down to speak to me. "Look, I understand how you feel. But sitting here isn't doing you any good. The last thing I need is you having a hypoglycaemic episode, or collapsing from exhaustion. If you want to help the colonel, then help me, and get some food and sleep. Don't make me get Elizabeth down here – she's got enough on her plate, without you adding to it."
I didn't want to go, didn't want to leave the pale man lying near death all alone. Carson had warned me Sheppard might die, and if that was going to happen, I wanted to be there, even though it would have been much easier, less painful, to just walk away. I couldn't – wouldn't do it. Sheppard would stay if the situation were reversed.
Beckett looked sadly at me, and appearing to understand my resolve, capitulated.
"Okay. You can stay. But, you sleep in a bed next to him. That's my one and only offer, so I'd take it, if I were you," he warned me.
I managed a faltering smile. "Can you at least open the screens, so I can see him?"
"I suppose so. If things get hairy, I'll be closing them again though, is that clear?" he stated.
"Fine. Carson?" I really wanted to ask him. Ask him the question I knew I didn't want to hear the answer to, but I felt so – impotent. "Was there anything I could have done that would have made a difference? I tried to lower my intellect and think voodoo, but…"
Carson put his hand on my shoulder. Partly to get me to shut up, I think, partly to offer me some sort of comfort, or reassurance.
"Rodney, don't be doing this to yourself, lad. I've already told you, there was nothing anyone could have done without proper medical supplies and the knowledge of how to use them." He smiled grimly at me. "You kept him alive and did extremely well, while you were injured. Don't second-guess yourself. Even if I'd been there, in your position, there would have been little more that could have been done." He stood, and tugged on my good arm. "Come on – bed." He ordered. "I'll get Melissa to bring you a sandwich," he added.
As he settled me in the bed next to Sheppard, and covered me with a thin blanket before leaving, I closed my eyes, knowing sleep would elude me. My attempt at rest was interrupted unceremoniously by the alarms around Sheppard's bed suddenly screaming, and I bolted upright in fear. Carson and a nurse rushed by my bed, closing the screens behind them and I just sat there, listening as they frantically fought for my friend's life. I closed my eyes, trying to shut out the noise, and thought about the events that had led to the sorry situation I found myself in.
The mission was supposed to be a simple one – aren't the one's that end in disaster always? A 'walk in the park' Sheppard had called it. Just trading negotiations with a simple, decent, though I think primitive summed it up best, people. We'd recently discovered yet another wonderfully lush, green world on G6B-104, and met the Annarians, who were willing to possibly trade fruit and vegetables for basic medical supplies and tools. We'd headed off, blissfully ignorant of the impending disaster ahead. Story of our lives, really.
Sheppard turned and waved to Elizabeth, smiling that patented cocky half smile of his. She'd muttered her usual 'Be safe' before we departed, a selection of items for possible trade in tow, with Ronon acting as packhorse, or was it mule? Not that I'd ever have the temerity to say that to him. I'm many things, but completely witless isn't one of them.
After exiting the gate, we trudged happily, well they did, anyway, to the village we'd been instructed to head to. There we met Alden, the leader of the village, and man we hoped to trade with.
I watched Sheppard as he shook Alden's hand, and smiled. As I gazed at the proceedings, I thought to myself how good Sheppard was at this sort of thing. People always liked him when they first met him. He was charming, tactful and polite – everything I wasn't.
Sheppard calling me over brought me out of my reverie.
"Rodney, come and meet Alden. Alden, this is Dr. Rodney McKay. I'm sure Rodney here'd like to try some of your fruits, especially the citrus type one's – he's especially fond of them," he quipped.
I grimaced. "Oh yes, very amusing. You'll have to forgive the colonel's attempt at humour, Alden. He knows only too well that I'm allergic to citrus, and that one taste could potentially kill me," I answered, perhaps a little more testily than I should have.
Alden stared at me in shock. "I am most alarmed to hear that, Dr. McKay. I do not know what this 'citrus' is. Perhaps the colonel should taste everything before you try it?"
It was my turn to tease. "Alden, you are a very wise man." The Annarian smiled at me in satisfaction. I turned to Sheppard. "Colonel, what a wonderful idea! It appears you've been appointed my personal food-taster. An incredible honour, I assure you, unless you're not up for the challenge?"
Sheppard took his sunglasses out of his pocket and grinned, before putting them on. "Always up to anything you could challenge me to, Rodney," he answered cheerfully. Sometimes the man infuriated me. I honestly had expected him to flatly and indignantly refuse, or make a witty, sniping retort. No, he had to be charming. Sometimes I really wanted to throttle him.
Taste all the fruit and vegetables, he dutifully did. Teyla and Ronon helped too- the latter with his usual gusto. As it happened, there was only one citrus-like fruit, a red lemon thing, which I obviously avoided like the plague.
After three hours of negotiating, which for once Sheppard handled competently, we left the village, agreeing to send Stackhouse's team the following week with the supplies in exchange for a selection of the Annarian's delightful produce.
It was on the walk back to the 'gate that everything fell to pieces.
We'd been walking along merrily- well again, they had- minding our own business, when both Teyla and Ronon simultaneously cocked their guns, reacting to an unseen threat.
Sheppard eyed both of them, asking, "Guys? What's up?" Like me, Sheppard knew only too well never to ignore the instincts of either of the two members of our team who were indigenous to the Pegasus Galaxy.
It was Ronon who answered. "Up there, at the top off the cliff. Saw a flash. Maybe the scope of a gun. We should take cover – now," he urgently grunted.
As my brain comprehended the words, the first shot rang out. I distantly heard Sheppard ordering us to take cover, and out of the corner of my eye, saw Ronon and Teyla heading for the dense forest nearby, Sheppard in pursuit. Me? I just stood there, like a deer in the headlights, frozen in fear. I was aware of a whooshing sound as a bullet flew by my arm, and felt the burn as it grazed my flesh on it's trajectory past me.
Sheppard yelling as he ran towards me, brought me back to my senses, just that little bit too late. I felt him crash into me, sending us both flying across the dirt track we were on, him landing less than gracefully on top of me. I struggled to breathe as air was summarily knocked from my lungs. I waited for him to roll off of me, but he didn't move. We just lay there, sitting ducks, Sheppard shielding my body as shots hit the earth around us. I knew then that he was going to die, heroically, saving me, and at that moment, I rued the day I'd ever met John Sheppard.