Okay this is a fic that started from a random discussion about Shep whumpage and what we'd like to see in Season 3… and the very popular suggestion of a leg wound necessitating Carson's cutting off Sheppard's pants (or trousers for those of us in the UK!)
Here is my take on the idea – warning for pretty graphic description of injuries towards the end of the chapter!
Please do review and let me know what you think – further chapters to follow.. and the aforementioned surgical removal of the pants :)
Saving Rodney McKay's life was getting to be a bad habit for John Sheppard.
He sometimes wondered how the man managed to get himself into such trouble on such a regular basis.. and how come it was always worked out that it was he who ended up taking the brunt of the damage, and not Rodney himself!
He supposed it was partly due to Rodney's nature – particularly his habit of becoming so focused on one thing, usually the readings from his instruments, that he stopped paying attention to his surroundings – and partly to his own nature; his instinctive need to protect, his willingness to put himself in harm's way to save another.
There wasn't a lot he could do about the latter – his military training aside, it was simply a part of who he was – but he was starting to think he might have to have some serious words with Rodney about paying more attention when off-world. The Pegasus Galaxy was a dangerous place... and trouble could come from the most unexpected direction.
They'd come to this world for the usual reasons.. a mysterious energy signature picked up by the MALP. The chance of finding a ZPM was too good to pass up on – even if the lush, tropical jungle that surrounded the stargate made using the jumper impossible, even if the only way to track down the energy readings was to trek on foot through the heavy vegetation. Even McKay, for all his complaints about the necessity of physical exertion, was not willing to give up on the chance of finding a power source for Atlantis.
The planet was certainly beautiful – lush, tropical vegetation as far as the eye could see in every direction. Unfortunately, as far as the eye could see was not actually that far at all. The plant-life on this world had grown wild and free, a heavy tangle of trees and vines and plants of every conceivable type. The air was heated, thick with moisture and very possibly – as Rodney took pains to point out repeatedly – god only knew what kind of spores and microscopic life. Moving through the jungle was hard, hot, sweaty work and Sheppard's arms were aching before they'd gone more than half a kilometre from the gate.
It was gloomy amongst the soaring trees; what little sunlight reached them was filtered through the constantly shifting leaves of the canopy far above. The jungle around them was alive with noise – odd hooting and shrieking noises as animals called to each other all around them; the life signs detector stashed in Sheppard's tac vest was worse than useless in these conditions, picking up every creature that climbed, crawled or flew through the jungle. Later on John would kick himself for giving up on the LSD so easily – confusing though the readout had been, it might have given them just a moment's warning.. just a split second more time.
The noise from the wildlife was unsettling, startlingly loud at times, and constantly moving around them. MacKay's nerves showed in his constant chatter, his voice rising in pitch as he kept up a litany of complaints about the heat, the humidity, his allergies, the likelihood of being eaten by creature or creatures unknown. The atmosphere seemed to affect all of them; John was uncomfortably aware of Teyla's heightened alertness as she constantly surveyed the tangled foliage around them and he found himself frequently wiping his sweaty palms on his BDU pants and unconsciously tightening his grip a little on his P90. Ronon, perversely, seemed relaxed and at ease in the jungle and Sheppard was reminded of the years the Satedan had spent running from the wraith across world after world. Ronan was accustomed to the wilderness, in some ways felt more at home here in the jungle, confident in his finely-honed reflexes, in his own ability to deal with the dangers of an unforgiving environment.
The energy readings they were following were faint, fluctuating wildly, and McKay soon became entirely absorbed in his efforts to pinpoint the source, his focus so complete that he forgot his nerves, forgot everything but his self-appointed goal. Walking slightly ahead of the rest of the group, twisting this way and that as he swept the area for readings, Rodney was looking anywhere but where he was walking. After the third time the scientist stumbled in the heavy undergrowth, only Teyla's strong grip saving him from landing unceremoniously on his behind, Sheppard opened his mouth to warn McKay to at least look where he was going.
He never got chance to form the words.
In that very instant he found his hands clenching around the P90, unconsciously bringing the gun up to a position of readiness as his subconscious reacted instinctively to a sudden change in their surroundings; the jungle around them had fallen silent. The sudden pool of stillness was centred slightly ahead of him, around where McKay strode obliviously forward.
John reacted in an instant, moving forward before he'd even decided on an exact course of action. He was vaguely aware of Ronon tensing beside him, the tall warrior training his gun on the dense foliage ahead.
The warning shout burst from his lips even as the tangled plant-life to Rodney's right seemed to explode outwards. Sheppard slammed into McKay, knocking him forwards, as out of the corner of his eye he caught a blur of movement, a glimpse of dark brown colour moving incredibly fast. A flare of bright red light illuminated the gloom, the sound of Ronon's gun discharging loud in the close confines of the jungle, and something heavy impacted the right side of his body, spinning him away from McKay, sending him staggering. His P90 was ripped from his grasp with enough force to snap the cord attaching it to his vest. It landed in the undergrowth with a muffled thud.
A low growling sound reached his ears as he shook his head groggily, momentarily stunned.
Ronon's voce was low, cautious. You might say deliberately calm.
The growl rose to a hissing snarl and John looked up to see teeth. Great big goddamn teeth, sharp teeth, and hard, flat eyes, cold and amber, focusing solely on him. It was big, about the size of a tiger, and covered in rough, coarse fur. It looked kinda like one of the big cats from back on earth but with a longer neck and a strangely elongated face, more like a horse or even a lizard than a cat. It was dark brown in colour with darker spots mottling the shoulders and neck. Its lips were pulled back in a snarl, revealing a mouth full of incisors, and it crouched low to the ground, muscles bunched beneath it as it snarled at its prey. Yep, prey. Sheppard had no illusions about where he stood in this creature's list of priorities.
Ronon's voice came softly from behind him. The creature hissed, the long neck swaying oddly as it shifted its attention briefly over John's shoulder before fixing back on its main objective.
"You're in my line of fire, Sheppard. I can't get a clean shot…"
John stood very, very still, doing his damnedest to not even breathe.
The creature's head whipped to one side with frightening speed and John cursed under his breath.
"Rodney!" he whispered fiercely, his eyes not leaving the animal as it swayed its head back and forth, its attention flitting now between himself and McKay, "Shut up!"
The scientist was pushing himself unsteadily to his hands and knees from where he'd fallen into the heavy undergrowth to John's right. "What the hell was tha… ooohhh.."
McKay's voice trailed off suddenly, all colour draining from his face, as he looked up and found himself face to face with the snarling beast. The creature's eyes flicked from Rodney to John and back again but it was clear its attention was focusing now on McKay. Frozen on all fours, Rodney whimpered, "Sheppard?"
"Shut up and stay very, very still." The amber eyes shifted over to John at his low, tight words. For once, McKay did as he was told and shut up. For a moment the only sound in the jungle was the deep, guttural growl rumbling up from the belly of the predator. This was not a good situation. Not good at all.
The only thing keeping the creature from attacking was indecision. Crouched on all fours, McKay was less of a threat, made the more appealing prey, but Sheppard was closer and… the creature hissed, its head tilting to one side as it regarded John coldly. He barely breathed as the wide nostrils flared, testing the air, and Sheppard was suddenly aware of a dull ache in his side, the tickling sensation as something – blood – seeped into his t-shirt. He looked at the huge paws and saw blood on the long, razor-sharp claws. Shit. Damn thing tagged him first go around.
The smallest of sounds from behind Sheppard and the animal's attention shifted, its mouth opening in a snarl as it snapped its head to the right. John knew what Ronon and Teyla were doing; moving away from each other, presenting the creature with further targets to confuse it as they tried to manoeuvre to where they could get a clear shot at it without hitting John or Rodney. Sheppard also knew, as he saw the animal's muscles tense, that it wasn't going to work; they were out of time.
With a lightening-fast movement, almost too quick for his eyes to follow, the predator whipped its long neck to the front and sprang forward. Sheppard tried to lunge to the left, drawing it's attention further away from McKay, but he was slow, far too slow. It slammed into him with a force that stole the air from his lungs, its momentum carrying him backwards off his feet. Grabbing handfuls of fur instinctively, he hit the ground with a bone-jarring thud and somehow - god only knows how - retained the presence of mind to roll with the motion, tucking his legs up and pushing against the creature with all his might, managing to lift its weight from his chest and use its own speed and power to roll it off him. The long claws raked down his arm as the animal scrabbled for purchase, its momentum tumbling it clear of Sheppard.
The blast from Ronon's gun sizzled in the air and the creature shrieked. The hit slowed it for only a second and, bleeding from its hindquarters, it again leapt after its prey. Winded and defenceless, John could only scream as powerful jaws clamped down on his left thigh. A bolt of burning heat shot past his chest and the animal howled in pain, shaking its head viciously as it worried at his leg. John's vision was greying, the roaring in his ears drowning out Teyla's cry.
"Ronon, no! You'll hit the Colonel!"
The sharp incisors dug deep into his flesh and there was a horrible sensation of pressure, pulling. A ragged scream was torn from his throat as the predator began to drag him through the undergrowth.
"For god's sake, do something! It's killing him!" Rodney. Panic pushing his voice high and breathless.
Oh dear god it hurt.
The precise "phut, phut" of the P90 on single-shot mode. Teyla, taking the best shot she could – trying to hit only the creature as it slunk low to the ground, making John both its both prey and its cover. It growled and snarled as the bullets hit home but refused to drop, refused to release its prize. Fiery agony raced outwards from John's thigh, flooding through his entire body as the thing tore at his leg, pulling him sharply away from the pursuing attackers. He couldn't be sure if he screamed or not.
The animal's breath was hot on his flesh as it gripped him firmly in its mouth, dragging him bit by bit away from any chance of survival. He couldn't let it reach the trees. He was dead if it got him into the trees. His right arm felt numb, hard to move. He could feel blood wet on his skin where the creature's claws had torn through his flesh. He struggled to move his arm, fumbling clumsily for the holster on his right thigh.
It seemed an age before his managed to get his fingers around the grip of his 9mm.
With terrible effort John raised his arm, the gun pulling free of the holster. The creature ignored his weak movements, its attention focused entirely on those threatening to take its prey. He managed to raise his head enough to see what he was aiming at. The leg of his BDU pants was stained black with blood, the mouth clamped down on his limb wet and dark red with it. Blood, his blood. An amber eye regarded him coldly as he dredged up the strength to point the gun – pointed it right at that dead, flat eye.
The thing shrieked and writhed as he pulled the trigger, its eye exploding in a rain of blood and flesh and bone. Agony convulsed him as its jaws clamped tighter but he kept pulling the trigger, firing and firing and firing as the animal's death throes ripped and pulled at the meat of his thigh. It had stopped moving by the time the gun clicked on empty. Click. Click. Click. Click…
Teyla was there, gently taking the gun from his hand. His arm was trembling.
The canopy danced and shimmered in the breeze far above him, the swaying branches blurring in and out of focus as he tried to concentrate on breathing, just breathing. Rodney leaned over him, blocking out the canopy above.
"Is he gonna be okay?"
Dark spots danced at the edges of his vision.
He screamed one last time as Ronon pried the creature's jaws loose from his flesh.
An answering scream echoed from the tangle of jungle. A howling scream that ended in a rumbling growl that was all too familiar.
"Oh shit!"said Rodney.