Spoilers: Small ones for The Storm, The Siege Part 3 and Michael
Written for Stealthdragon's 'Not So funny After all' challenge
Disclaimer: No they're not mine, but that's all right as long as I can take them out and play with them sometimes.
It was supposed to be a freaking game.
That was John Sheppard's thought as he crept down the hallway, his eyes glued to the life signs detector he carried. He'd long since ditched the paint ball gun, but he held his 9 mil low and at the ready glad that he carried it at all times, even when they thought themselves safe and secure. They'd learned the hard way that there was no such thing in Atlantis.
Sheppard watched the dot as it kept moving forward, seemingly unaware that he was trailing along behind it.
It had all started out as a game, a stupid child's game – Hide and Seek. It was supposed to be a way of instilling some tracking skills in one Dr. Rodney McKay and teaching him some basic evasion techniques. McKay had been doing really well, he'd completely disappeared from the life signs detector for a couple of hours. When he put that big brain of his to work on a problem, there was no stopping him.
John had been enjoying the game, too. It wasn't often they could just let go and relax, but this had seemed like a day when they could do just that. The rules had been simple enough. John got to use the life signs detector. McKay got to use any technology he could get to work in the lifeless section of the city they were playing in. If McKay could stay hidden for 3 hours or make it back to the city without getting caught by Sheppard, he won., or if he could 'kill' Sheppard, he also won.
The stakes were dinner, anywhere on Earth the winner wanted to go.
John had thought it would be a simple matter to track down the scientist and splatter him with the paint gun. He was already salivating at the possibilities of where they'd go when he collected his victory dinner, his imagination ran the gamut from sophisticated to greasy spoon. So he was really surprised when McKay disappeared from the life signs detector. He had been there one minute and gone the next.
Obviously the section of the city they were in wasn't quite so dead after all. It was two hours before McKay had showed back up in a section of corridor that John had long since scouted. With a disgusted snort, John turned and headed back in that direction, certain that the game was all but over.
Sheppard had been moving in for the 'kill' when another dot had appeared on his life signs detector. At first John thought it was probably someone from the city proper looking for the two of them. They'd been gone for several hours and communications in the part of the city they in was iffy at best. It would be reasonable for Teyla or Ronon to come looking for them if there was a problem.
Still, some innate sense kept John from calling out to the third dot as he approached Rodney's position. He followed along behind as the dot trailed McKay. Fear coiled in John's gut as the dot neither intercepted the scientist or made him aware of its presence. If it was truly one of their expedition members, they would have identified themselves long since.
Their simple game of Hide and Seek had become a hunt ,with McKay as the unwitting bait.
Rodney couldn't believe he'd let Sheppard goad him into a stupid child's game.
He didn't need tracking skills, that's what they had Ronon on the team for. As for evasion, he could run as fast as the next person. That's all the evasion skills he needed. But Sheppard didn't seem to agree and had drug him down to the depths of a lifeless section of Atlantis and had abandoned him there.
"Three hours, McKay," Sheppard said as he disappeared down a corridor. "Evade me for three hours and I'll take you to dinner anywhere you want to go."
"What?" he muttered to himself. "Playing hide and seek like we're six years old." He hadn't liked the game as a kid, he certainly didn't like it now. He held the paint ball gun tightly in a sweaty hand.
It was stupid he knew. He'd learned to face the wraith with a certain fatalistic steadiness. He could even stare down the Genii if he had to. But the paint ball gun was different. He didn't want to return to face his friends and colleagues splattered with paint.
It wasn't just his life that was at stake this time. It was his pride that was on the line.
There was a clatter and an echo in the hall behind him. McKay stood, poised ready to fire or flee – whichever seemed appropriate to the moment. But the noise died away and it wasn't followed by footfalls or breathing or other signs of pursuit. He gripped his weapon tighter, snorting at the thought of the toy as a weapon, and continued cautiously up the hallway.
If he told the truth, this part of the city creeped him out a little. It was like occupying a ghost or something. Systems that should work, didn't. The place creaked and moaned piteously and the smell was dreadful.
Logically Rodney knew that the systems were still down because of the storm damage they'd never had time to repair. But he had a really good imagination that conjured up lots of other explanations for the noises and the smells.
They'd encountered a whole load of creepy crap since coming to Atlantis. The Ancients hadn't done a very good of posting 'do not touch' signs on their experiments when they left. Some of those experiments had come back to bite the Atlantis expedition in the ass. There was no reason to think there wouldn't be more surprises left behind for them to find.
It didn't matter that he had less than an hour to go before he could claim victory, Rodney was actually beginning to hope that Sheppard would show up and shoot him already. He was ready to go back to the inhabited part of the city. The part of the city that knew him and loved him. The musky darkness that surrounded him was downright unnerving.
Rodney was pretty surprised that he had managed to allude Sheppard for so long. He had been smugly satisfied when he found a lab that contained shielding that would block Sheppard's life signs detector, but then he'd locked himself in and it had taken him two hours to get out. He should have stayed there he knew, but it felt vaguely like cheating. If he won the game, he wanted it to be an honest victory.
Now he was just wandering the halls, a little lost, hoping to be splattered with paint at every turn of the corridor.
A footfall alerted him to another presence and Rodney pivoted, automatically bringing up his paint ball gun. Sheppard came around the corner and in a distracted part of his brain Rodney noted that the colonel was carrying his 9 mil instead of the paint ball gun. Rodney didn't pause to think why, all he was wanted was to end the stupid game so he could get back to his lab before one of his idiot minions blew the city up.
Rodney squeezed the trigger of his gun as Sheppard brought his weapon up. He was gratified by the spread of red paint that splattered all over the front of Sheppard's tactical vest that the man had insisted on putting on over the coveralls they wore for the game.
"Yes," he said triumphantly even as Sheppard aimed his weapon and called out,
"Down, Rodney, now!"
Sheppard's tone was sharp and commanding. Rodney didn't hesitate, he dropped to the floor as Sheppard fired over his head.
It took Rodney a long second to realize they were no longer playing a game. That there was a real and immediate threat behind him. Craning his head, he was horrified to find a wraith standing in the corridor behind him.
Sheppard's bullets had pushed it against the wall, whatever it was that flowed through its veins instead of blood dripping to the floor. Even so, it was already pushing away, heading for the two of them.
"Go, Rodney," Sheppard shouted.
Rodney didn't need to be told twice, he was up and running down the corridor before the colonel could speak again. He paused half way down to tap his comm and call for help. All he got was static.
"Shit," he muttered to himself. "This is bad. This is very, very bad."
John had a heart-stopping moment when he rounded the corner and found Rodney standing there with a wraith just a few feet behind him and the scientist was totally unaware of it. He barely registered it when Rodney raised his paint ball gun and spattered him with paint. His attention was wholly focused on the threat behind his friend. He brought his weapon up, shouting,
"Down, Rodney, now."
If he'd been able to pay attention, he would have been impressed at the way Rodney immediately followed his instructions and hit the floor. But all his concentration was focused on the advancing wraith. It was smirking at him, it knew the weapon wouldn't stop it. Well, it might be ineffective at killing the wraith, but it would hurt like hell.
John squeezed off several shots, counting each one. He knew he couldn't kill the thing, not with just a hand gun. He was hoping to injure it enough to slow it down so he and Rodney could escape.
The force of the shots slammed the wraith into the wall.
"Go, Rodney," John shouted.
McKay glanced over his shoulder and horror was immediately visible on his face when he saw the wraith standing there, bleeding onto the floor. He pushed himself off the floor and was past John before he said another word. John stood his ground prepared to stop the wraith with his body if he had to in order to make sure that Rodney escaped.
The wraith didn't move to follow. Perhaps he understood that it wouldn't be to his advantage to pursue the humans just yet. Although at the moment any advantage was his. John and Rodney had no way to seriously hurt the creature and they were far from any help. John knew the score and he knew precisely how screwed they were.
"Sheppard," Rodney called from down the hall, his voice rising with the tension, "Get your ass moving."
Time seemed to slow as John weighed his options. He could stay and try to take the wraith. But if he lost, that would leave Rodney alone and defenseless. If they ran, the two of them might be able to come up with something to stop the monster. They made a good team, they were stronger together than apart. John knew that.
The wraith just stood watching as John's mind raced. His mouth was crooked in the closest thing to a smirk John had ever seen on one of the creatures.
"Run, human," it said in the hissing tones of its kind. "There is nowhere you can hide from me. But I will enjoy the hunt." The wraith took an unsteady step toward John. "I will drain you dry and then I will take your friend."
John knew he should move. But it was like his feet were rooted to the floor. His finger trembled on the trigger as he willed himself to pull it. Now, he needed to do it now. The wraith took another step forward, straightening as its wound healed and it regained its strength.
"Then I will tell all the wraith that Atlantis still stands. We will rip the location of Earth from your friends and we will make Earth our next feeding ground and there is nothing you can do to stop us."
The wraith's eyes were locked on Sheppard's, the toothsome mouth twisted in a grotesque imitation of a grin. John knew what he wanted to do, he wanted to pump the rest of the rounds from his 9 mil into the wraith's body, he just couldn't get his body to obey his commands.
A hand on his shoulder made John jump, breaking the wraith's spell.
"I told you to move," Rodney spoke harshly in his ear, tugging on his arm.
John's body was suddenly his to command again and his finger tightened on the trigger, pumping the rest of the rounds into the wraith's body before pivoting to follow Rodney down the corridor. He automatically ejected the spent cartridge from his weapon and inserted the one spare he'd brought with him.
"What was that?" Rodney bit out as they ran. "Social hour?"
Sheppard ignored the caustic comment. It was just Rodney's way to deal with things. Instead he asked a question of his own.
"Where did that thing come from?"
They took a turn at a dead run, John's hand on Rodney's arm to keep him from crashing into the wall.
"There aren't any working sensors in this part of the city," Rodney reminded him unnecessarily. "It could have been down here for weeks and we wouldn't have known it."
Sheppard paused at a junction of two corridors. He knew where he was gong, he just didn't know how well the wraith knew the maze of corridors. How long had it been there? Long enough to know its way around?
Making a decision, he tugged on Rodney's arm, pulling him along.
"But how did it get here?" Sheppard knew they wouldn't be getting any answers until they captured the wraith, if then, but if he kept McKay's brain working, it might forestall the inevitable wraith-induced freak out that was coming for the scientist.
McKay kept up with him, all the months of training and being in the field were starting to pay off.
"We've theorized that a small craft, something like a puddle jumper, could fly in from behind the sun and maybe evade our sensors."
"You didn't think this was something you should tell me?" Sheppard's senses were on full alert, he was attuned to everything trying to sense if the wraith was pursuing them.
"It was the-o-ret-i-cal," Rodney pronounced each syllable individually, as if that would make it easier for Sheppard to understand. "We were working on closing up the gaps to make sure something like that didn't happen."
"I don't think it's the-o-ret-i-cal any longer," was Sheppard's sour rejoinder as he guided McKay around another turn and still the wraith was nowhere. John was beginning to be pissed off that the thing was playing with them like mice.
"Do you even know where we're going?" Rodney asked finally after being man handled through yet another turn.
"McKay, would you shut the hell up?" Sheppard hissed at him, straining to hear over the sound of his own heartbeat and McKay's harsh breaths. He fumbled in his tac vest and pulled out the life signs detector where he'd thrust in when he'd found McKay and the wraith. He only had time to register the third dot was nearly on top of them when the wraith came around the corner in front of them.
"Well, humans, here you are."
It charged down the hall, whole and undamaged.
John really hated the wraith.
He brought up his weapon and fired at the creature, emptying his clip into it. It jerked as each shot hit home, dark ichor staining its coat, dripping down to puddle on the floor. And still it kept coming, malevolent glee evident in its hated face. Sheppard pushed Rodney back the way they'd come.
"Go," he said unnecessarily. McKay was already headed in that direction, tugging Sheppard after him.
"This is bad. This is really bad," he muttered. They could hear the sound of wraith laughter following them down the hall.
"Not so bad," Sheppard informed him as he snagged Rodney's sleeve to stop him. He hit a door panel. The door opened and they plunged inside.
"Make sure the wraith can't get that door open," the colonel ordered sharply as he began tapping on the walls.
"Oh, nice plan," Rodney panted out bitterly as he dissembled the mechanism on the door that would prevent the wraith from being able to open it manually from the outside. "Get us trapped in a room so all the wraith has to do is come in and get us.
Sheppard didn't even bother answering him, he just kept tapping on the walls. McKay watched through narrowed eyes.
"What are you doing?" he asked at last, his curiosity finally getting the better of him.
"You've got things you don't tell me, I've got things I haven't told you."
"Oh, please, what are you? A girl?"
Sheppard found the place he was looking for at last and pulled his knife out of its sheath. Inserting the tip into a seam in the wall, he pulled it back to reveal a stack of boxes labeled 'USAF.'
Rodney huffed impatiently, "How did those get there?"
Sheppard grinned at him, "After the Genii siege and then having the wraith running around the city, Bates and I decided that we needed to have some weapons stored strategically in every part of the city."
"And you didn't think I needed to know this why?" Rodney demanded, crossing his arms petulantly.
A thunderous boom from the door interrupted them. It sounded like the wraith was throwing itself at the door. Sheppard wouldn't take any bets as to how long the door would hold.
"Can we not do this now?" Sheppard asked. "We need to take this wraith down and get some answers."
"Alive?" McKay's voice rose higher than Sheppard had ever heard it before. If it had been different circumstances he might have teased the scientist, but at the moment they had more important matters to deal with.
"Unless you can extract answers after they're dead; then, yes alive," Sheppard said.
He began pulling the boxes out and opening them. He handed a P-90 to McKay who handled it a lot more expertly than Sheppard liked. The scientist was becoming more and more of a soldier. Fortunately he didn't seem to lose that inner McKayness that made him who he was. Sheppard knew on the day that happened, the Pegasus Galaxy would win a bitter victory.
"Alright," Sheppard talked rapidly, outlining his bare bones plan as he searched through the boxes for exactly what he needed. "When I give the word, I want you to open the door and let the wraith in." He found the stunner he'd been looking for and pulled it out, running a hand appreciatively down it's length.
"Yes, and that puts me right next to the door when that thing come in. What are you going to be doing?" Rodney demanded suspiciously.
"I'm going to stun it before it can suck the life from you," Sheppard said with a roll of his eyes.
There was another thud as a wraith body hit the door. There was a sizeable bubble in the door now.
"Alright, well, you better," Rodney said primly before stalking over to the door to fix the damage he'd just inflicted.
There was another thud and Rodney started.
"It's okay, McKay," Sheppard said in his most sarcastic voice, "just take your time."
"Oh, that's easy for you to say," Rodney answered bitterly, "you're standing on the other side of the room with a stunner. It's not you that's going to be a snack for the visiting wraith."
"No one's going to be a snack today, McKay, just get the damned door open."
Even as he spoke, the door slid open and the wraith was throwing himself against it again. Its momentum carried it into the room. It barreled past Rodney careening straight into the colonel. The stunner skittered across the floor as Sheppard and the wraith crashed to the floor in a tangle of limbs.
The wraith was up faster than humanly possible, capturing Sheppard by his throat. He lifted the colonel until he was dangling in mid air, his feet kicking helplessly for some kind of purchase.
"I told you human," the wraith hissed, "you are going to die first."
"After you," Sheppard wheezed out. From the corner of his eye, he could see McKay diving for the stunner. He gasped for breath as he felt the bite of the wraith's fingers curling around his neck. Dots began to dance before his eyes and his vision began to grow grey around the edges.
McKay straightened with the stunner but hesitated, knowing that the blast would catch Sheppard, too.
"Do it," John said with his last breath, not knowing if Rodney complied or not because the darkness took him then.
It was the sound of tapping keys that woke Sheppard up. He lay a moment trying to figure out where he was and why when it all came flooding back. He sat straight up in the bed looking around wildly for the wraith.
"Hey, hey," McKay was out of his chair in a flash, pushing Sheppard back into the pillows. "It's okay, everything's okay," he rushed to assure his friend. Sheppard blinked up at him suddenly too weary to protest as Rodney pulled the blankets back up around his chin.
"The wraith?" Sheppard breathed out, his voice raspy and his throat sore.
"Carson says not to talk for a while, the wraith did a number on your throat," McKay informed him after the fact.
Sheppard just raised a sardonic eyebrow and whispered, "You okay?"
Rodney rocked back on his heels, his smile smug, "Yes, and it fell to me to save your ass. Again If I hadn't been there to stun the wraith, you would have been wraith chow."
"Thanks," a cough erupted and it hurt like hell.
Rodney held a cup of water for him to sip from.
"Don't talk again," Rodney told him roughly. "Carson'll get pissed and make me leave." He raised an imperious finger to stop Sheppard's next words.
"Now, I stunned the wraith, thereby stunning you, too, by the way, but since I saved your life you have to forgive me for that."
Sheppard bit back the smile that threatened to break out at McKay's rushed words.
"It's okay," he mouthed and motioned for Rodney to continue with his tale.
"There isn't much more to tell." Rodney suddenly found something interesting with his feet.
"What?" Sheppard croaked, clearing his throat painfully.
"Would you stop that?" Rodney demanded crossly. "I was trying to figure out how to contact the city when Ronon and Teyla showed up. Seems she sensed there was something wrong and they came looking for us."
"Cavalry," John commented dryly.
"Yep, they showed up just in the nick of time. The wraith was waking up and I couldn't figure out how to get you and all the weapons out of the room in time."
"Did good," John said succinctly.
"Well of course I did, genius," Rodney said shortly.
John smiled at him sleepily.
"Seriously, stop talking," Rodney frowned down at him "And, what?"
"Wraith?" Somewhere in there John had decided the wraith's name was Mikey, of Life cereal fame. Mikey wouldn't eat anything. It was ironic, John liked irony.
"What is it with you and naming these things?" Rodney asked, blinking down at him. John shrugged because his throat really did hurt too much to talk anymore.
"Anyway, it's in the brig. We haven't been able to find anything else out about where it came from or why it's here. We just know we can't let it leave because now it knows that Atlantis is still here despite all our efforts to convince them otherwise."
Sheppard nodded his agreement to that as Rodney continued, "So, we thought we'd just keep it in there awhile until you're back on your feet. Carson has an idea he'd like to run by us."
John felt a little chill at that. Whatever Carson had up his sleeve, it couldn't be good.
McKay patted him on the shoulder, "You get some rest," he told John, "And next time you want to play games, you just remember this."
John couldn't help the chuckle that escaped as he allowed his eyes to close and he slipped back into sleep.
Just as sleep pulled him down, he thought he heard Rodney say, "And you still owe me dinner."
A/N: Yes, this is a prelude to Michael. I just didn't want to say so in the beginning because I thought that ruined the surprise. Hope you liked it. Comments and reviews are always welcome.
Thanks to my lovely beta Chocolatephysicist. Any remaining mistakes are my own.