Holes, Bees, and Other Threats in the Pegasus Galaxy
by Audrey Lynne
I'd like to file an assault charge. (As I'm sure Shep and Rodney will at the end of this story as well.) This story came along and thwapped me upside the head. It would let me have no peace until it was written, despite my pleading with my muse that I really, really needed to finish my other stories first. So here it is...and hopefully, now my muse will let me have my life back, such as it is.
It had seemed like a normal, routine mission. The goals were simple and clear--check out the planet, meet the natives, find out if they had decent food, trade for it. However, if John Sheppard had truly thought things through, he would have remembered that no mission in the Pegasus Galaxy was ever routine. Ever. And considering that he lived in a galaxy where he could turn things on just by touching them and open doors just by thinking, where he had to protect himself and his people from alien vampires that sucked the life out of humanity, it should have been hard to forget nothing was ever routine. But forget he had, and it didn't take John long to realize his mistake.
It would have been so convenient, too, if the problem that had inevitably risen at the successful close of the trade deal had been something like an ambush from Wraith warriors, nothing good but something Sheppard and his team were accustomed to dealing with nonetheless. They shot the Wraith, they got back to the jumper, they got the hell out of dodge. Rodney McKay was sure to bitch about their near-death experience for at least the first hour of the trip home, but that was only to be expected. John could have dealt with that. He was used to that. What John was not used to, however, were holes. Big holes. Big holes that led to traps. Small traps. And that was where they were now. No, not the whole team, just him and Rodney, but that was enough. In fact, it was more than enough.
They hadn't even been running from anyone, either. Rodney had wanted to explore the area outside the main village, just in case there were some cool Ancient toys lying around. It wasn't likely there were, and in fact, there was nothing to suggest such a treasure awaited them. However, they'd found Ancient stuff unexpectedly on too many planets not to take a quick look around. The villagers were amenable to their new friends exploring "the outer lands," and while they had warned dangers awaited, that didn't stop John from agreeing to let his team check things out. Rodney had quickly pointed out that the warning about the dangers of "the outer lands" might have suggested there was Ancient technology out there, even if it was inactive. What both John and Rodney had failed to realize was that the villagers weren't talking about the dangers of technology they didn't have the means to understand. No, what they were talking about were the perils of nature itself. Like holes. Big holes.
Someone must have tried to tame some of the land at some point, because the hole itself wasn't entirely natural, nor was the trap it led to. Entirely organic, yes, but it had to have been dug out by a human who had known what they were doing, because holes didn't just lead to tunnels that ended in traps. Traps that he and Rodney had ended up in after falling down the rabbit hole.
It had all been a stupid, random accident, too, which only added insult to injury. Rodney, convinced "dangers" translated to "possible inactive ZPM," had taken the lead in their exploration. John had been content to let him. It was an extremely long shot, as nothing even remotely suggested there would be something so valuable in this place, but it kept Rodney happy and occupied. Besides, it gave them all something to do while they awaited the evening's celebratory feast. John still had no idea why so many cultures they encountered seemed to insist upon a celebration after a trade deal, but Teyla always assured him such things were normal. And who was John to buck tradition and risk alienating new trade partners?
It didn't look like they would be making it to the party tonight, though. Well, Teyla and Ronon might. John and Rodney were a bit indisposed at the moment. It just wasn't fair, John thought, though he was sure it wouldn't take long for Rodney to begin expressing the same opinion--quite often and extremely vocally.
The search for whatever it was they were looking for had been going along swimmingly, until Rodney had suddenly stopped and stared at the scanner in his hand.
"What?" John had asked.
"Buzzing. I thought I heard buzzing," Rodney reported.
"Like Ancient technology buzzing?" John asked, surprised. He hadn't heard anything.
"No, like bee-buzzing."
John rolled his eyes. "Oh, for heaven's sake. First of all, even if it was a bee--which I tend to doubt in the middle of the Pegasus Galaxy--it's nothing to worry about. Secondly--"
John never got the chance to get to his secondly, but that was all right, because he'd expected Rodney to interrupt him, so he didn't really have a "secondly." Rodney huffed his indignation before proceeding to cut John off mid-secondly. "Excuse me, but in case you've forgotten, I'm allergic to beestings."
"Yes, and citrus fruits, as you've told us many times, but I don't see any lemon trees around either. Come on, bees are an Earth insect."
"It doesn't have to be a bee, exactly," Rodney argued. "I'm allergic to most anything with stingers."
John sighed. "Yeah, we know. Just go back to whatever it is you were doing. You leave Buzzy alone, he'll leave you alone."
Rodney had responded with his most put-upon sigh, but continued on, walking right into the trap ahead, which had been hidden under a layer of brush. In a way, it was a good thing the bee had distracted him, because if he'd been forging ahead without having stopped first, he might have been going a little faster and been hurt more in the fall. In another way, John wished they hadn't stopped first, because then he wouldn't have been only one step behind Rodney and he wouldn't have dived to try to catch the physicist as he tumbled forward. John had actually managed to grab Rodney's waist, but Rodney had been too far down by that time. Simple physics dictated that objects in motion tended to stay in motion, and Rodney had definitely stayed in motion. John, with his grip on Rodney's shirt, had become the Jill to Rodney's Jack, tumbling after in the least graceful way possible. John had no idea how long the tunnel leading down to the trap was, but it was too damned long and pretty steep. And the trap had either been designed for an animal or only meant to hold one person at a time, because John found himself between a rock and a hard place--literally. Half of him was in the trap itself, and the other half on the flat space immediately above it at the end of the tunnel. The space was only a few feet wide by a few more feet long, but it was something to rest on, anyway. Rodney was in the same predicament, though more of his body was in the trap, and his body was exactly what was pinning John in place so that he couldn't climb the rest of the way out of the trap. At least the trap itself wasn't much more than an empty pit. It could have been something much nastier, and John was exceedingly grateful it wasn't.
"Rodney? You okay?" John asked. He couldn't really see much; the only light was what had filtered down from the hole above. Besides, Rodney was mostly squished against his chest at that point.
"Do I look okay to you?" Rodney immediately countered, pure indignance. That was reassuring. Though he had to be at least as bruised as John was, if not more, at least he sounded like himself. After a moment, he added, "I'm fine--as fine as I can be, given that I'm bruised to all hell and trapped between you and a lot of rock. You okay?"
"I've been in worse spots before," John assured him. His ribs ached, but he knew they weren't broken. He'd had broken ribs before. That sucked, on many levels, but at least he'd always have a basis for comparison every other time he managed to get himself banged up. He'd definitely wrenched his shoulder in the fall, and possibly turned his ankle when he dove to grab at Rodney in the first place, but those were all injuries he could handle. A good night's rest, a heavy dose of aspirin, and he'd be fine. Rodney wasn't drama-queening about any injury in particular, so he must have been all right, which left them with only one real problem--how the hell they were supposed to get out.
"Colonel! Are you all right?" Teyla. Her voice sounded as if it were coming from far away, which didn't seem like a good sign, but it could also have been an effect of the tunnel leading down to where John and Rodney were.
Rodney answered for both of them, yelling back, "Yes, he's fine, and so am I. Thanks for asking!"
John shook his head before shouting, "We're okay. You two, run back to the village and see if you can't find someone to help us out. It's a little cramped down here."
There was a brief delay, presumably while Teyla discussed the matter with Ronon. "Of course. I will go. Ronon will stay here with you."
"Sure, as long as he stays up there," John called back. "Two's a crowd as it is."
They shouted back confirmation, and John immediately began to work on an escape plan of his own. The tunnel was steep, going nearly straight up until it came to the nice, flat little landing before the trap, but there were roots sticking out here and there and it might have been possible to climb. Heavy on the "might," but John wasn't willing to rule out anything yet. He wiggled one foot experimentally. It felt as if there was room beneath their feet, that the two bodies falling together had prevented either one of them from falling into the trap completely. Who knew how far down it went? From his position, John couldn't entirely see the top of the tunnel, just shadows near where it probably was, but it looked to be a good ten feet. The trap couldn't have been too deep, then, not with the planet's level of technology. After a certain point, the rocky earth would have been too difficult to dig through. Unless, of course, the trap had been built prior to a Wraith culling, when the available technology had been further advanced, which John supposed was possible. Either way, he doubted the pit below them was too deep, given that it obviously wasn't meant to accommodate a lot of people. "Rodney?"
"Those people up there...you think they could've built something like this?"
Rodney snorted. John felt the motion of the action, telling him just how closely the two of them were pressed together. "Well, obviously someone did."
Somehow, John felt he should have seen that one coming. "No, I mean with their current level of technology."
It only took Rodney a moment to think it over. "I don't see why not. Sure, it would have taken them a long time, and I doubt they could have gone any deeper than they did without running into problems their equipment couldn't handle, but they've got some decent farming equipment up there. Not sophisticated, but it gets the job done. And this could have been constructed--"
"Prior to a culling," John finished. "I'd thought of that, too."
"The real question, I think, is, what this was designed for," Rodney said. "It's a trap, sure, but for what? Humans? Why? Wraith? That makes sense, rudimentary defenses, but it's a little snug if you wanted to stop more than one. Animals? Possible, but tough to get them out again, unless you were trying to rid yourself of pests."
"Does it really matter?" John countered. "We're in it. Whatever it was designed to trap, it got us." He squinted at Rodney. His eyes were adjusting to the dim light, and he could make out Rodney's face now. There was a scrape on Rodney's cheek, but otherwise, he looked all right. "Can you wiggle loose at all? If one of us can get out and climb onto this ledge, the other could probably climb up and sit on it too. Better than two of us stuck in a hole."
"Except we don't know how deep the hole is. One of us could fall down further." The look on Rodney's face suggested it sure as hell wasn't going to be him.
"You said it yourself, the pit can't be too much deeper if these people made it," John argued.
"If it was made with their current tools," Rodney reminded him. "If. If. Never forget the ifs; they're very important. Especially when it's my life we're dealing with here. I'm further down, so the odds have it that I'd fall. I could break my neck if I landed wrong!"
"And I could break your neck if I could get my other arm free," John muttered, just loudly enough for Rodney to hear. He had one arm loose; the other was trapped in front of him, between himself and Rodney. With the way they'd been falling down after each other, it wasn't surprising. Rodney was in a similar situation; one arm was free, the other pinned between John's back and the rock behind him. It wasn't comfortable, but it wouldn't kill either of them. And if one or both could get their limbs loose, they just might be able to pull themselves out. From there, they could determine if climbing back to the surface was an option at all or if they were simply going to have to sit tight and wait for rescue. A second later, John felt Rodney's arm moving behind his back, shifting a few inches, and he wondered if Rodney was going to test the theory. "What are you doing?"
"Moving my arm," Rodney replied, in that tone he used when stating the blatantly obvious. "It's going numb. If we're going to get out of here, I'm going to need the use of both of my arms. Besides, if the blood flow's compromised for too long, do you have any idea what could--"
John cut him off. "I know, your arm is invaluable. You're invaluable." It took him a second, but he soon realized exactly where Rodney's hand rested with his arm in its new position. "McKay, get your hand off my ass."
Rodney tugged a bit and managed to move his hand the barest inch north, but enough to satisfy John. "I'm sorry. I thought that was your thigh."
"Oh, like that's so much better."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "What is this, 'don't ask, don't tell' day? I was not trying to grope you. In fact, that's the sort of thing that would very probably give me nightmares, thank you very much. You wouldn't have been complaining if I were Elizabeth."
John didn't bother to dignify that with a response. Instead, he opted to change the subject. "Could we please focus here? On something helpful, like getting out?" But, as usual, he found he couldn't let it go entirely. "And for the record, despite whatever you're trying to imply, Elizabeth and I are good friends, yes, but you're good friends with her, too. My relationship with Elizabeth is entirely professional."
And, as usual, Rodney wasn't going to let it go, either. "Not for your lack of trying, I'm sure."
"What are you suggesting?"
"Nothing. I'm just saying, I've seen the way you look at her sometimes when she's not paying attention. And she is an attractive woman." Rodney shrugged, or he tried to. Their tight quarters wouldn't allow him enough freedom to complete the motion. "Too bad she's interested in Radek."
"Zelenka?" John sputtered. "You're kidding." He quickly realized from the look on Rodney's face that he was. "You made that up." To see how John would react, no doubt. "She's gonna kill you if she ever hears you saying stuff like that. How do you think rumors get started?"
"You tell her I said that and they'll never find your body." Rodney smirked. "It's not like I'd say anything like that to some of those idiots on Atlantis who haven't got two brain cells to rub together. You, you know I wasn't serious. And, hey, if she ever did go for Zelenka, he's a decent guy. Little strange, but decent. And you can't tell him I said that, either."
John tried to pull his trapped arm loose. He made a little bit of progress before his arm got bent into an awkward position. "Which part, the strange or the decent?"
"The decent. He already knows I think he's strange."
John would have argued that Rodney was pretty strange himself, but it wouldn't have done him any good, and as far as comebacks went, it was kind of lame.
"Colonel! Dr. McKay!" Ronon's voice came to them from above.
"We're both still fine!" John shouted back. "Any progress on your end?" He appreciated his teammate checking up on him, but he wanted to know if they were any closer to being rescued.
"Teyla hasn't returned yet," Ronon answered.
"So that would be a no," Rodney sighed.
"Okay, thanks!" John yelled his response back to Ronon before returning his attention to their most immediate problem--the fact that his arm was beginning to go numb from the awkward angle he'd forced it into. After a few moments, he managed to work it loose, which gave him some promise of being able to free himself so that he could climb up onto the ledge. It would be tough, and nearly impossible to do without kicking Rodney at least a couple of times, but there were plenty of times that John had wanted to kick Rodney over the years. He kept that thought to himself, however, simply telling Rodney, "I'm gonna try to climb out of here."
"And leave me?" Rodney argued.
"Not all the way out of here," John said, "just onto the ledge, like we talked about."
Rodney wasn't convinced. "No, you talked. I said that it would be a very bad idea, because whoever was left behind--and, in this case, that would be me--would probably fall further into the pit, if not all the way."
John had anticipated Rodney's resistance and planned accordingly. "If you stay upright like you are now, you won't break your neck. And I doubt the pit is that deep, especially if it wasn't made to accommodate many people. Considering that we're both stuck in the opening, I'd say that's a pretty safe assumption. Now quit whining and stay still while I see if I can't get myself loose." At least they weren't wedged in there with no wiggle room whatsoever. After a second, John added, "Look on the bright side. If I pull this off, the blood flow to your arm won't be endangered anymore."
Rodney threw John a look, but he didn't argue, which must have meant he was having trouble coming up with a sound argument at the moment. Just as well. John took advantage of the momentary lack of opposition to twist his body the couple of inches he was able to and take hold of a root up on the ledge with both hands. He wiggled his hips upward as he tried to find purchase for his feet, and as expected, made contact with Rodney's legs a number of times. Rodney didn't let them pass without protest, but he seemed to understand that it was the only way John was going to get out, so he didn't do anything to try and stop the colonel.
"Almost there..." John muttered to himself, finally finding a rock he could push against with his foot. The upper half of his body was entirely on the dirt shelf that formed their ledge now, and with any luck, his hips and legs would be up there shortly. Of course, the higher up John got, the further down Rodney slipped. John hoped his guess that the pit wouldn't be too deep was right. If not, he'd never hear the end of it.
As John finally pulled his hips free and climbed up, Rodney lost the extra mass that had been holding him in place and he fell down the rest of the way with a surprised shout. As soon as John had crawled up onto the ledge, he turned in place to see how Rodney had fared. He hadn't heard any cries of pain, so that was a good sign. Sure enough, the pit was only about eight feet deep--at least that would have been John's guess, given that Rodney was standing up in it and it went a couple of feet over his head. It didn't widen as it deepened; the narrow opening was indeed exactly how wide it was. One of them, tumbling alone, would have made it in, and the other might have fallen in on top, but there was definitely not enough room for the two of them to stand up inside. As it was, Rodney barely had room to turn in a full circle. All in all, it was a good thing they'd have gotten stuck, or John would have spent the first minutes of their ordeal with Rodney pinned beneath him--or pinned beneath Rodney, depending on how they fell. That would have been even less pleasant than being crammed in the too-small entrance together.
John turned a little more and sat on the ledge, waving down at Rodney. "I see you survived--neck, arm, and all."
Rodney scowled. "Very funny. Now make yourself useful and help me get the hell out of here, will you?"
John pretended to think it over, pulling his knees up toward his chest so that Rodney couldn't grab his legs. "Well...maybe if you ask nicely..."
"After you kicked the crap out of me trying to get yourself out of here?" Rodney adopted his most martyred expression. "How's that for gratitude? I allow myself to be bruised and abused in order for you to get free, and then you proceed to amuse yourself at my expense while I'm stuck down here in this pit. Thanks a lot, buddy."
"No problem." John was happy to play along in his own way. Sometimes, it was just way too fun to yank Rodney's chain. He leaned forward so that he could see better and began to seriously analyze the situation. "You know, you could probably climb out of there yourself."
Rodney gave him a blank look, as if he couldn't believe John had suggested such a thing. "Um, how?"
"Use the rocks to give yourself leverage," John told him. If you can find a handhold, you can do it."
"And what am I supposed to use for a handhold?" Rodney asked. "All those rocks are too small or sharp to get a good grip on, and with as small as that ledge is, if I hold onto you, I'll just pull you down with me, and we'll be in even worse straits than we are now."
John shrugged. "You're resourceful. Think of something. You got a knife on you? Not the Swiss Army kind," he amended, as Rodney began to reach for one of his smaller pockets. "A real knife."
The McKay sarcasm turned on instantly, not that it had ever gone away. "Yes, a knife. Of course! I always carry a knife--no, I don't have a knife. Do you?"
John pulled his out and handed it down, still sheathed. "As a matter of fact, I do--but unless your balance is really good, you'll need another one." He was sure Rodney could do it with one, even if it took some trial and error, but providing a challenge didn't hurt.
Rodney's expression was as dry as his tone. "And would you happen to have another one?"
Rodney made a wide gesture with his arm. "Then what am I supposed to do?"
John feigned utter nonchalance. "You're the genius. I'm sure you'll think of something."
Rodney was not amused. "Very funny. Hey, maybe we could get Conan the Barbarian up there to toss down one of his knives. I'm sure he's got a whole Ginsu set on him, at least."
"And skewer me when he tosses it down and it lands who-knows-where? I don't think so." Ah, precious and few were the moments when John could throw Rodney's attitude back at him. "We have one knife--one. And you should really consider starting to carry one of your own, but we'll discuss that later."
"So what am I supposed to do with it?" Rodney whined. He unsheathed the knife and regarded it, then the walls of his temporary prison. After experimentally chipping at the rock with the tip of the knife, he smiled and plunged the knife into the rock with all of his might. It was at a good height, about an arm's length over his head, and he swatted the hilt experimentally. Seemingly satisfied it wouldn't move the moment he touched it, Rodney smiled. "I see." He contemplated it a moment longer. "Yeah, I definitely wish I had two."
"It's doable," John said, shifting so that he could better monitor and guide Rodney's progress. "You just have to be careful to put your weight on whatever your feet are on and not the blade."
"Of course I do." Rodney shook his head disbelievingly. "What do I look like to you, a seventh-grade science student? Come on, I know enough not to expect that one knife to hold me up."
Fortunately, in the time since they'd first set foot in the Pegasus Galaxy, John had become more than adept at dealing with Rodney's brand of snarkiness. "Good for you. Now get your ass up here."
It did take some trial and error, and several instances of Rodney losing his footing and landing ungracefully at the bottom of the pit, but eventually, Rodney managed to climb up high enough that he was able to get both arms up onto the ledge. From there, once he got a foothold on another rock, John was able to help scramble up. It was still a tight fit, but at least both of them were sitting on the ledge, their legs dangling over the edge of it into the pit. They had to sit shoulder-to-shoulder, with the opposite arm flush against the rocky dirt walls, but it sure beat the positions they'd been in not long ago.
"How long do you think we're gonna be down here?" Rodney asked.
"Well, however long it takes Teyla to reach the village, tell the people there what happened, get help, get back here..." In all honesty, John didn't know, but at least they had air coming from above and what little bit of sunlight did trickle down. "Don't worry, you won't starve. I know you always keep a Power Bar on you. Whatcha got this time?"
Rodney inclined his head slightly in admission. "Trail Mix, I think."
"Trail mix," John mused. "Doesn't that have nuts in it?"
"You're not allergic to nuts, too?" John asked. He'd seen Rodney eat things with nuts in them before without the least bit of fuss, but he couldn't resist the opportunity to tease a bit, especially considering Rodney's chronic hypochondria.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "No, just citrus fruits and stinging insects. Honestly."
"Hey, you know me, just watching out for my team. Wouldn't want that Power Bar to kill you."
Rodney laughed, but it came off sounding more like a derisive snort. "Yes, well, you wouldn't find my allergies nearly so funny if you'd ever had to deal with them. Thanks to my careful avoidance, I've managed to avoid actually having any full-blown anaphylactic reactions for the past seven years--and the last one was unforeseeable."
"Attack bee?" John guessed. It was a way to pass the time, anyway.
"No, date who made fruit salad. She liked to soak the apple slices in lemon juice to keep them from browning. Forgot to mention it to me." Rodney made a face. "I never had another date with her. Somehow, she didn't find my nearly dying in the middle of the appetizer course to be terribly attractive." He suddenly frowned. "Do you hear that buzzing again?"
John listened for a second, but he didn't hear anything. "No."
"I think that bee's back."
John shook his head. "No way."
"Hey, if we can get down here, it can," Rodney pointed out. He was quiet, focusing intently on the perceived threat. In the dim light, however, it was impossible to see if there was truly a bee there, or if it was a fly--or maybe nothing at all.
John would have waved a dismissive hand in Rodney's general direction, but that sort of lost its punch when the motion would have resulted in thwapping Rodney in the face. As tempting as that was, John would have preferred a change in subject entirely. "Look, you're thinking about your allergies, and Buzzy up there caught your attention before. It's probably nothing."
"I'm sure you're right," Rodney conceded with a tiny shrug. He waved at something in the air, fortunately with the arm that was closer to the wall than John. "I know I worry abou--ow! Damn!" Rodney's hand immediately slapped against his neck, and his eyes went wide. Though he tossed the bug's body aside before John could see it, the welt that was immediately forming on Rodney's neck told the story. "Shit."
John was inclined to agree. Privately, he hoped that the all-stinging-creatures allergy didn't apply to stinging creatures not from Earth. Maybe Rodney's hyper-vigilant immune system could cut this one a break. That would be nice. "Little bastard tracked you down, huh?" He tried to keep it light, hoping that would keep Rodney from freaking out too badly. "Maybe you won't react."
"Maybe." Rodney didn't sound convinced. He turned John's head to look at him. "Do I look swollen to you?"
John thought he might have seen a tiny bit of swelling around Rodney's eyes, but he couldn't trust his vision entirely with the sort of light they had available to them. "I can't tell."
Rodney's voice sounded a little breathy as he said, "Epinephrine. Now." He pulled open a vest pocket and took his Epi-Pen out. Thank heavens for Rodney's utter preparedness for any of his anticipated medical situations. Rodney fumbled with it as he tried to open the protective casing, and the injector rolled out of his suddenly-clumsy hands. Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem, but in their situation, it was very much a problem as it rolled right off Rodney's lap and down into the trap. He closed his eyes, and John noticed Rodney's face was really starting to swell. His breath was coming in quick, harsh gasps, each accompanied by an audible wheeze. "Can't...breathe... Shep..." It was obvious an effort for him to get those short words out.
John knew what to do, fortunately. He'd had some basic medical training from the military, field emergencies and such, but Rodney had also very thoroughly briefed him on the complete management of anaphylactic emergencies, with a specialization in the McKay variety. At the time, John had been shaking his head, but now he was grateful because he knew that Rodney always carried the recommended two Epi-Pens on him, and he also knew exactly what pocket they were in and how to use them. He pulled an arm free and immediately retrieved the pen from the vest pocket. By that time, Rodney's wheezing was getting quieter, and John knew that was a very bad sign. Rather than being an indication of improvement, it meant Rodney was about to stop breathing altogether, and there was no room for John to do any proper form of CPR. John readied the Epi-Pen as fast as was safely possible, pulling out the safety stopper and tossing it aside, then jamming the auto-injector against Rodney's thigh until it clicked. The ten-count was the worst part, trying to slowly count ten seconds before pulling it away and tossing it aside. There weren't exactly any sharps containers handy, and John was far more worried about the patient than possible pollution.
Rodney's head was leaning against John's shoulder now, and it was obvious the fight to draw air into his tortured lungs was exhausting the physicist. All the loud, insistent complaints that should have accompanied any medical crisis Rodney faced were utterly missing, the silence punctuated only by Rodney's struggle to breathe.
"Dammit, McKay," John snapped, knowing the epinephrine would begin to take effect almost instantly, but still frightened on behalf of his friend. Yes, his friend, reluctant as he was to admit it sometimes. He and Rodney enjoyed taunting one another, sparring verbally, and they did truly get on each other's nerves from time to time, but down deep, they really were friends. Good friends. And damned if John was going to watch a friend die when he had the opportunity to do something about it. "Rodney, do you hear me? Hang in there."
Epinephrine wasn't considered the magic bullet of anaphylaxis for nothing. Already, Rodney's breathing was beginning to ease. The nasty hives that had appeared around the site of the sting were still present, but they weren't spreading and they didn't look so angry anymore, though that may have been a trick of the light. John checked to ensure there was no stinger in the wound, and there wasn't. "Still here," Rodney managed a moment later. He closed his eyes for a long moment, leaning heavily against John. "Thanks."
John nodded. "Thanks for making sure I knew what to do." It was knowledge he'd never wanted to put into practice, but he had. And Rodney was still breathing. "That second pen..."
"I need Carson," Rodney said quietly. "Could start the cycle again."
John had heard about that, a second reaction. Epinephrine stopped the symptoms of the reaction, opened the airways, bought time, but it didn't kill the reaction entirely. Sometimes, if the allergen was still creating a nuisance of itself or if the reaction hadn't abated entirely by the time the epinephrine boost war off, the reaction could continue and a second dose would become necessary. That was why patients were advised to carry two injectors. And one of Rodney's was at the bottom of an eight-foot pit. Antihistamines were necessary, too. "Do you have that Benadryl on you?"
Rodney nodded. He pulled out a small sample packet, but his hands were shaking--a side effect of the epinephrine--so John opened it for him and handed him the tiny pink pill. He swallowed it dry, as there weren't really any other options, and took a breath, no doubt savoring every bit of the oxygen. "Yeah...that ought to hold it off a bit. Still need Carson."
"I know." John was about to shout up to Ronon when he realized that though he'd lost his radio earpiece somewhere in the fall, Rodney still had his. He snatched Rodney's headset and activated the radio. "Ronon, Teyla."
Teyla answered first. "Yes, Colonel?"
"Forget the villagers." Fortunately, the puddle jumper was parked nearby. "Run to the jumper, get on the radio. We're gonna need a rescue team to get us the hell out of here, and have them get Beckett on board." The Stargate was in orbit around the planet, so fortunately, help from Atlantis could come fast. "Tell them to hurry."
"What's wrong?" Ronon asked.
"Rodney got stung by something down here and he's had an allergic reaction. I gave him epi, he's breathing for now, but he needs a doctor." While neither Ronon nor Teyla could fly the jumper, at least the ATA encryption didn't prevent them from accessing the ship or using its radios.
Teyla radioed back her confirmation, which was quickly followed by Ronon's, and John returned his attention to Rodney. "Do you usually start to react again?"
"Depends," Rodney managed, lifting his head temporarily from John's shoulder. "More with the food than the bugs." He was still too quiet, at least for him, and that alone told John how bad Rodney felt. "Damn. Seven years."
What could John say? "Good record."
"Personal best." Rodney spent another minute catching his breath before adding, "Down the drain, now."
"Not entirely," John reminded him. "You haven't had to do this in seven years. And I bet it's the first time you've had to handle it in such...unique circumstances."
Rodney's laugh turned to a cough. "No...this is new." He clasped his still-shaking hands together. His pulse was racing when John felt for it, but that was because of the epinephrine, too. It was doing its job, which was obvious because Rodney was breathing and the swelling in his face was going down.
John hated inaction, but that was what he found himself left with. All there was left to do was to sit tight and wait for Atlantis to arrive and hope Rodney didn't begin to react again in the meantime. He'd watch Rodney like a hawk, keep him company, provide support, but that was really all he could do. And, God, John hoped Atlantis showed up soon. He didn't particularly relish the idea of climbing down into that pit to retrieve the lost Epi-Pen, though if he had to, he would. But Atlantis had better medical supplies, and more importantly, Atlantis had Carson. He was the one Rodney truly needed. But for now, John was there and he'd do what he could until the real help arrived...and hope he didn't screw up too badly in the meantime.
Rodney closed his eyes as he continued to allow himself to use John Sheppard's shoulder as a temporary pillow. As long as John didn't protest, Rodney didn't mind. They were friends--way down deep sometimes, yes, but friends nonetheless--and what else were friends for? Seven years. Seven damned years since his last anaphylactic reaction, and Rodney had not missed the symptoms one bit. Seconds were hours when you couldn't breathe, and though Rodney was always prepared for a reaction, the lack of oxygen intake and the fighting for each breath, not to mention the bottoming blood pressure, always made things difficult.
Rodney's hands were shaking, still, and it would abate soon, but Rodney nonetheless wished he had some control over it. He valued control more than almost anything, and his stupid allergies took it away from him completely. He bit back the wave of anxiety he felt at the thought; that was the epinephrine talking. Rodney so very, very hated the way epinephrine made him feel, but he also so very, very cherished little things like oxygen and being able to breathe, so he'd deal with it. Like he'd been dealing with it his entire life, as long as he could remember. He'd been three when he'd had his first all-out reaction, and they hadn't gotten better since. In fact, they'd gotten worse, quicker to progress. Damn, he wanted a new immune system--or at least one that had primed itself to freak out about something fairly rare, like South American tree frogs, not things he could easily encounter every day. But John had been right; at least this would be a story to tell later. Top signs your day really sucks, Rodney thought wearily; his brain could still run a mile a minute, even if his aching lungs couldn't catch up to feed him enough oxygen to speak as quickly yet. You fall into a hole, get stuck in the trap, and then to top it all off, you get stung by a bee from another planet in another galaxy...and still go into full-blown anaphylaxis! But at least he hadn't been alone. That would really have sucked. He'd have to thank John properly later.
Some patients complained that time passed slowly for them as they tried to cope with the not-so-nice effects of the epinephrine and waited to see if a second-phase reaction would ensue, but for Rodney, the time effect had always been minimal. He'd waited for so much in his life, and those moments when he couldn't breathe had always felt so long, that time seemed to pass relatively quickly. Especially since he usually tried to close his eyes and shut out the world around him because he felt so miserable. At least he hadn't thrown up. Yet.
John probably felt the effects of the wait much more than Rodney did, because it didn't feel like too long before Rodney felt himself being strapped into a harness. He opened his eyes to see it was indeed a harness and John was fastening it, telling him he was going to be okay. Rodney hadn't been asleep, but he'd been zoned out, and he was glad for it, because the rescue was no longer as far away as it had seemed minutes ago. Before the reaction, they might have made an attempt to climb out, but Rodney wasn't going anywhere fast now. His limbs had turned to jelly, and he was content to be lifted out of the hole and back up to the surface. Once up top, he opened his eyes again, only to find his vision field filled with Carson Beckett's face. "Aye, lad, you've had a rough day."
"No shit, Sherlock," Rodney countered, hating to hear how much heat his tone lack. He felt weak as a kitten, and though he knew it would wear off soon, it sucked. But Carson would understand. He was a doctor. And Rodney had made sure he was fully comfortable with handling anaphylactic shock and its aftermath before they'd even left Earth on the Atlantis mission. It never hurt to be too careful, after all.
Carson grinned. "I think you're gonna be just fine."
As Carson sat back, Rodney could see Ronon and Teyla coming up beside him, and he heard the rescue team making preparations to lower the harness again and get John out. Yeah, he was going to be all right, and it was a wonderful feeling.
Of course, it would take him a day or two to get back on his feet entirely, and that didn't mean he couldn't give his friends a run for their money in the meantime. He had to; they'd worry otherwise. And, besides, Rodney had to admit...it was fun.