If you go down to the woods today
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis characters set in the Supernatural universe
Characters: Sheppard, McKay, Ronon, Teyla, Beckett and a few others
Rating: Gen, Teen
Summary: McKay and Sheppard are hunters on the search for supernatural evil to kill …and they've just found something nasty hiding in the woods outside of Atlantis.
Notes: Written for the Artword alternate universe challenge 008B. Thanks to Rinne for the beta.
It was quiet when they drove into the small town, passing the sign that declared "Welcome to Atlantis, population: 526." The town was barely even visible on the map that Rodney held up, squinting to read it in the dimming light of dusk - just a small dot surrounded by pine forest.
"Well, this is it, for whatever it's worth," he grumped, slouching down further in the passenger seat with a sigh. "I hope there's a diner nearby. I'm starving."
Sheppard chuckled, stretching out the kinks in his back and steering the Dodge pick-up into the first motel he spotted. He killed the engine and with it the Johnny Cash tape that had been playing the last few miles, making the silence all that more oppressive.
"Sure, Rodney. I'll ask the manager where the nearest diner is, okay." John's stomach rumbled too as he headed inside and talked to the manager, before picking up the keys for a room with twin beds.
They dumped their stuff in the room – mangy carpet, peeling wallpaper, too soft mattresses that made McKay grumble – before John set up the usual salt lines across the doorway and around the beds and Rodney checked for any unusual EMP activity or other signs of spirits. A half hour later they were chowing down on meatloaf at the local diner, Miko's Roadhouse Restaurant, after several reassurances from the petite owner that there was absolutely no citrus in that particular food item.
"So, what have we got on this thing so far?" Sheppard asked, reaching for more ketchup as Rodney flipped open his notebook.
"I'll have to do more research. You know as much as me." Rodney shoved some more meatloaf into his mouth, eating at an unhealthy speed as he spoke between bites.
"Recap for me, then, would ya?"
"Well we've got several unexplained deaths recently, with bodies found – and I quote here," Rodney set down his fork briefly to make air quotes with his fingers, "- sucked dry. That's what caught my attention initially. A bit of digging shows a history of unexplained disappearances in the area going back as far as I can find. Looks like whatever is going on here has been going on for centuries at least."
"Certainly sounds like our kinda gig." Sheppard leaned back against the booth.
"Yes, Captain Obvious. That would be why we're here. You gonna eat that?" Rodney made a grab for Sheppard's fries, as Sheppard tried to stab him with his fork but wasn't fast enough.
"What, it's not like you were going to eat it."
Sheppard rolled his eyes and pulled the plate closer to him, tucking into his meatloaf without another word. Meanwhile the plucky waitress approached them with a coffee pot and Rodney's eyes lit up as he waved her over.
"Can I get you boys anything else?" she asked in a slow drawl.
Sheppard looked up from his plate to smile at the woman, amused by her use of the term boys when she looked several years younger than either of them. He glanced at her nametag. "Just the coffee would be great, Laura."
"And pie, do you have pie? Something citrus-free, though," Rodney added, his face alight at the idea of dessert.
"Oh yeah, Miko said that. Sure, we've got blueberry or raspberry. The apple pie has lemon in it and the lemon pie is lemon, so..." The waitress shrugged.
"Raspberry would be fine." Rodney beamed at the waitress and she smiled.
"One raspberry pie coming right up. You sure you don't want anything, honey?"
"No thanks, but you're a local right? Mind if we ask you some questions?" John flashed his most charming smile and they were away.
The pick-up truck bumped and bounced over the dirt road that wound along the outskirts of town as they followed Laura's Beetle. The small daisy-yellow car bounced happily up ahead as the woman drove at the sort of reckless speeds that meant she knew the road all too well or was just a little crazy. To Rodney's mind, both options were more then likely true. Sheppard, meanwhile, was grinning like a child at Christmas as he revved the truck up the next hill, crunching through the gears with gusto as the scenery flashed past in the spotlight of their headlights. Rodney's knuckles were white where he held on to the seat, his mouth an unhappy line.
"Where is this mad woman taking us again?" Rodney asked above the growl of the engine.
"She said this Doc Beckett lives on the outskirts of town. Seemed to think he was the expert on town history and the disappearances. I figure it's worth a shot."
A loud bang sounded up ahead as one of the smaller car's tyres blew. Sheppard slammed on the brakes as Laura's car plowed off the road, spinning once, before coming to rest against a tree.
They were out of the truck in an instant and making their way down to the Laura. John reached the car first, opening the door to find a slightly dazed, but otherwise unhurt Laura.
"You all right?" he asked, tilting her head up by the chin to get a look at her face.
"Yeah, I think I'm okay. Damn gonna have to fix the car again though. Carson's gonna kill me. He keeps telling me to drive slower."
"Sounds like a very sensible man. I keep telling Sheppard that, but…" Rodney grumped from behind them, relief evident through the sarcasm in his voice. John looked back when he stopped talking suddenly.
"Did you see that?"
"See what, Rodney?" Sheppard reached for the knife he had stashed in his boot, as Rodney pulled out a Baretta handgun from inside his coat.
"It was like a shadow in the corner of my vision… There." Rodney pointed with the gun. "There it is again. What do you think?"
"Wraith!" Laura whispered, her eyes suddenly wide. "We have to get out of here."
Rodney spun around as another ghostly grey shadow passed in front of the truck's headlights, then let off a single shot as another seemed to pass right by his head.
"Think you can stand? Come on." Sheppard helped Laura out of the car, one arm around her waist as they moved toward the truck, Rodney letting off a few more shots in the hope it was doing something.
Suddenly, there was a woman standing between them and the truck. She was silhouetted by the truck's headlights and, with the wind lifting her long dark hair and her tanned skin visible at the midriff, she looked as wild and ghostly as the smoky grey figures that seeming to float right through her. Rodney came very close to just shooting the alien-looking woman as he stood protectively in front of John and Laura.
"Do not shoot. The Wraith can make you see things that are not there. The shapes you see are not real and you will only be drawing attention to us." The strange woman held out one hand in a calming gesture, but she held a shorn-off shotgun comfortably in the other hand and her stance was obviously that of someone trained to a fight.
"Teyla, it's me, Laura." Laura waved at the figure in the lights and she seemed to relax slightly.
"Good. Doctor Beckett sent me to find you after you did not show at the appointed time."
"I got held up talking to these guys. They want to meet with Carson, and then I blew a tyre." Laura cringed and the mystery woman, Teyla, met them halfway to the pick-up.
"You are unharmed?"
"Yeah, just a little beat up."
"That is good to know." Teyla flashed a smile at Laura and held a hand out to Sheppard.
"My name is Teyla Emmagan. It is not safe here; we must leave. Is your truck still functioning?"
John nodded, looking a little befuddled, while Rodney mumbled incredulously, "I almost shot you!" Nevertheless they moved toward the truck. John and Rodney continued to flinch at the shadowy spirits that seemed to fly out of nowhere but, as Teyla had promised, they didn't appear to be dangerous as they passed through their bodies harmlessly.
A short while later, all four squeezed tight in the front of the truck – Laura perched on Rodney's lap and Teyla squeezed in between the guys – they made it to the house of Doctor Carson Beckett. It was a rambling shack affair, but cozy enough from the outside. Rodney's sharp eyes didn't miss the many totem-like objects that were spaced to form a ring around the dwelling.
"What are those?" Rodney asked of Teyla, as they walked past one of the wooden poles to get to the door.
"They are protective totems. The patterns were developed by the Ancestors and the knowledge handed down from generation to generation through my tribe, but there are few who remember today. So much has been lost. There is a larger circle surrounding the town, keeping it safe, but it is slowly failing with so few of us left to maintain it." She shook her head sadly.
"What are you protecting against? Those things in the forest? What were they? If the protection is failing, is that why there has been an upsurge in unexplained deaths and disappearances around here?"
Teyla gave a little patient smile. "All in good time Mr?" She quirked an eyebrow in question.
"McKay, Rodney McKay and that's John Sheppard." Rodney stuck out his hand, as an afterthought, and Teyla shook it briefly.
"Well, Mr McKay. I am sure we can explain, but it would be better if Doctor Beckett helps and he will want to see to Laura first. Come inside and make yourself at home."
They were ushered inside the shack by a talkative man with a lilting Scottish brogue. He took one look at Laura and took her by the arm, steering her into a small sitting room. "Laura, what happened love? Are you all right? Let me take a look at that cut."
He turned to the others. "Teyla? What's this now? Who are these gentlemen?"
"This is John Sheppard and Rodney McKay. I believe they were asking in town about the Wraith and wished to learn more. Laura brought them."
"I see." Beckett nodded, as he knelt down in front of Laura, turning her face to examine a small cut she must have received in the crash. "Well make yourselves comfortable, gentlemen. Teyla, why don't you get them some coffee?"
"Coffee would be great, thank you." Sheppard bounced slightly on his feet, looking awkward, before taking a seat on the couch opposite Beckett and Laura. His eyes roved around the room, cataloguing anything of interest. Rodney shuffled after Teyla to help with the coffee.
Once Beckett was satisfied Laura was in one piece and everyone had a fresh mug of coffee in hand, they finally got down to business.
"So, what's with these, what did you call them, Wraith?" Sheppard asked and it was Teyla who started to explain.
"My ancestors have lived in this area for as long as we can remember," she stated. "In the legends told among my people, it is said that back in the beginning of time, there was a woman who found a way to cheat death – to live forever. Soon, though, the other villagers realised that in order for her to live, she was stealing the lives of the other villagers – sucking their very life force from their body. Some tried to confront her and then, when this did not work, they tried to kill her, but there were others who wished to discover her secret in a bid to also live forever.
"It is said that the woman gathered strong warriors to her and taught them her secrets, and in return they protected her from the other villagers and brought her fresh prey. They continued to kill, taking other lives so that they might live for eternity and over the centuries they became what we now know as Wraith."
"So these Wraith kill in order to live. So, what, we've got a nest of vampires?" Rodney asked.
"No. They don't drink blood the way vampires do, nor do they look completely human anymore. They suck their victim's life out through their hand." Beckett held up his hand and waved it palm facing out. "I've studied these buggers since I came here - ever since I took Teyla in as a wee child after one of these things took her father's life. I can't explain how they do it, but they suck a person's life, until there is nothing but a shrivelled old corpse left."
"So, you hunt these things?" Sheppard raised an eyebrow.
"Teyla hunts the odd one, along with another friend of ours. And I've been working on other ways of killing them, finding their weakness."
"They were once human." Carson frowned.
"Doctor Beckett has found a way to make them human again. It is only temporary, but once they are human, they are vulnerable. They are far easier to kill." Teyla explained.
Their discussion was interrupted abruptly when John shot up from his chair and ran out to the pick-up, alerted by the silent alarm vibrating in his pocket. Rodney quickly followed.
Outside, John held a gun on a big guy with dreadlocks that was rummaging casually through their truck. He'd uncovered their weapons cache and was idly throwing things out of their neatly ordered rows.
"Hey, step away from the vehicle," John ordered.
The big man laughed deep in his throat, throwing more things onto the ground behind him, mumbling, "Holy water, rock salt, hand guns," and chuckling. "Ain't gonna do you much good."
"Ronon. You are being rude. Step away now." It was Teyla who spoke, her voice commanding the man's attention where Sheppard's had failed to do so. "Do not shoot, John. Ronon will not hurt you. He is a friend." She winced slightly as though the man's actions were embarrassing her.
"Yeah, well excuse me if your friend is systematically messing up my weapons cache system," Rodney grumped.
Ronon straightened, holding a couple of shorn-off shotguns and a P90. "Now these could be useful. How much ammo you got?"
"Enough." John's reply was curt, his pistol still trained on the large man.
"Military issue?" Ronon held up the P90.
"This'll be useful," he repeated.
John kept his weapon trained on Ronon and turned his head to raise a questioning eyebrow at Teyla.
"You can lower your weapon. He is not dangerous to you. He works with us. He helps us to hunt the Wraith."
"All right." John slowly lowered his weapon and the big man gave a toothy smile.
"Well, Teyla and the Doc were just explaining to us all about these Wraith, then, hopefully, we'll figure a way to waste these life-sucking freaks. Why don't you join us?" Sheppard tilted his head back toward the cottage.
"We need to get to the Queen. Never have been able to get to the Queen. Seen good people die trying, though." Ronon stood akimbo, resting the shotgun he held casually over his shoulder as he spoke. He didn't look overly impressed.
"Well, maybe we're not good people," John quipped and Ronon laughed as he followed them back inside, where they talked, argued and planned long into the night.
The next day, while they hunkered down in wait, Ronon slid down next to Sheppard. He rested his back against an old log, before turning to face him.
"You ex-military?" He gave the P90 Sheppard held a meaningful look.
Sheppard sighed. "Yeah, used to be Air force."
Sheppard rarely told anyone about his past, so he was surprised to find himself unbothered by the idea of divulging the details to this stranger.
"I served in Afghanistan, flying Black Hawks mostly. A few of my buddies were shot down and I went in against orders to rescue them."
"Did you save 'em?"
Sheppard shook his head. "Something found them first." John's fingers tightened on his weapon as he thought about it.
Ronon sat quietly, letting Sheppard continue in his own time.
"It was fast, really fast. No human moves that fast. No animal I'd ever seen either. There was just blood everywhere, and slash marks, and I tracked it so easily. Almost like it wanted to be followed - blood and drag marks in the desert sand, forming a clear trail form the helicopter wreckage.
"I tracked it to this underground bunker system. Found Mitch still alive; tied up and in bad shape, but still alive. And then it came. I swear I emptied a whole damn clip in that thing and it didn't do anything to it."
Ronon grunted in sympathy. "Then what?"
"It took Mitch, slashed him up right there in front of me. Nothing I could do, and then it came for me." Sheppard pulled down his t-shirt at the collar, revealing five long parallel scars running down from his collarbone.
"I thought I was dead for sure and then I remembered the flare gun in my jacket. Figured anything was worth a try. Shot the damn thing point blank as it attacked me and it burnt up in front of me, just like that. Like it was never there. I can still smell it burning, hear it screaming.
"When I got back, they court martialled me for disobeying orders. No one believed my story. Theory was I must have been drugged or tortured, maybe driven mad by the desert heat and blood loss, and that I was lucky to have escaped. They had the last bit right at least. I quit the military then. Set out to find..." Sheppard waved one hand in an all-encompassing gesture.
"So what's with you and Rodney? What's his story?"
"Rodney doesn't talk about his past much, but he's been at this way longer than me. All I know is when he was a teenager, his little sister, Jeannie, went missing. He was supposed to be looking after her at the time. He saw something take her, but his parents never believed him. After that, they made his life hell, so he left as soon as he could. He's a genius. Taught himself everything he needed to know - studied religion, ancient history, numerology, physics and math. He was still searching for Jeannie when I met him. Twenty years searching for his sister.
"Rodney was the first person I'd met doing this…" Sheppard waved his hand again to encompass the whole hunting thing. "First guy not to call me crazy and laugh in my face. He opened my eyes to all the other evil that's out there."
Ronon nodded. "Did he ever find her?"
"His sister? Yeah. Two years ago. We tracked her to a vampire nest in South Carolina, run by this guy called Kaleb. Turns out their vegetarian vampires, or as close as you can get if you have to drink blood. They were up there living off cow's blood, all peaceful like.
"They'd even taken in some little kid and made themselves a little family. No idea where Jeannie was between then and now. She was too old to have been turned when she went missing, but Rodney's sure been better company since we found her."
"You waste them?" Ronon was looking at Sheppard with an odd expression in his eyes.
"Nah. They weren't hurting anyone. The little kid calls Rodney 'uncle'. We visit now and then."
Ronon nodded, looking thoughtful, but didn't say anything further, just sat back to wait. Sheppard was content to follow his lead and sat back to wait in silence for a while. Finally, though, his own curiosity came into play.
"What about you? How'd you end up here?"
Ronon shrugged. "I was running. Marked. The Doc. and Teyla helped me out."
"Broke a curse?"
"Something like that."
"So you stayed on to help them?"
"Yep. 's only fair."
Sheppard nodded and the silence continued until John's phone rang, the ring tone briefly playing 'Big Bad John,' before he answered it with a lazy, "Yeah."
Hey, we're all ready, here. Teyla just placed the last canister. Rodney sounded out of breath and was probably still on the move.
"All right. You sure you want to do this, Rodney?"
No, but it's the only plan we've got. We distract and you guys sneak in for the kill.
Sheppard hung up, turning to Ronon with a smirk. "Ready to raise hell?"
"Let's do it."
Rodney flipped his phone shut and turned to Teyla. "Okay, Sheppard says they're all set to go." He closed his eyes a moment and took a deep breath. "You're certain this amulet is going to protect you? Seems like a pretty stupid risk to me."
"I do not plan to have to make use of its protection, but I do believe it will protect me if necessary. As I told you, I have never used it before, because I suspect it may have a limited power before the Wraith become immune, but, if I am in danger, I do believe it will keep me safe."
Rodney swallowed and looked closely at the green amulet that currently hung about Teyla's neck.
"Make sure you don't need to test it, okay."
Teyla smiled, tilting her head in acknowledgement. "I will be careful, Rodney." And with that, she walked into the clearing just a little beyond the caves and stood proudly.
"I know you are in there, Wraith. You killed my father. Face me like the men you once were." Her voice rang out clear and strong.
Rodney, waiting quietly in hiding, felt his hand tense around the detonator box he clutched and carefully forced himself to relax his grip. They would need to time this carefully.
Ronon and John watched from the ridge above the clearing as Teyla stepped proudly out into the center and called out her challenge.
"Woman's got guts, I'll give her that," John mumbled.
"Yep," was all the reply he received.
John grinned. "You sure are a man of few words."
John's grin widened, but he clutched his weapon, keeping his eyes on Teyla in the clearing below. Something was happening.
The ghostly grey figures appeared first, swirling around Teyla like smoke given form, drifting on the wind.
Teyla barely even flinched. If anything she stood even straighter, calling out again. "Is that the best you can do?"
And then they were marching out. The Queen's soldiers, The Wraith, swarming out of their lair with their hive mind set on one objective only - killing Teyla. Within moments they were upon her, and then John couldn't see her anymore. From his perch high above the action, he could only catch glimpses of her, fighting like a banshee, her skin occasionally flashing an unearthly green as the amulet worked its protective magic.
Then the first explosion went off, sending Beckett's anti-Wraith dust flying into the clearing. That was their cue to leave, but John was pleased to catch a glimpse of Rodney's hunched form, drawing the final symbol in the sand that would lock the circle he and Teyla had drawn around the clearing. The Wraith inside were now locked into that clearing, trapped within the power of the circle.
Rodney had happily called it 'a Wraith version of a Roach Motel' when he'd explained it the other night. It was just a pity they hadn't been able to use simple old food scraps for bait. John just hoped Teyla would be able to get out of there all right and, if they were lucky, that the majority of the Queen Wraith's minions were now trapped within its power. Otherwise, Ronon and John's job was about to become a whole lot harder.
Moving quickly, they reached the secondary cave entrance and Ronon ducked inside, John following a few steps behind him, leaving the dappled sunlight of the forest for the dank darkness of the cave system. Ronon pulled the pin on one of Rodney's specially modified smoke grenades and threw it into the passage way before them, watching as anti-wraith dust spread from the rolling canister and disappeared into the dark. They waited a few minutes for a reaction that never came. This entrance didn't appear to be guarded. Then, pulling down his night vision goggles, his vision now glowing shades of green on black, Sheppard gave a thumbs-up to Ronon and they headed on into the Wraith Queen's lair.
When no more Wraith seemed to emerge from the cave, Rodney hit the detonator button for the first explosive canister, hearing the explosion a split second before the fine powder spread across the clearing. He seriously hoped this stuff worked the way Beckett claimed it did. He hit the second detonator soon after and used the cover of the explosion to dash toward the cave entrance, drawing the final Ancient symbol that would lock the power circle, keeping the Wraith trapped within.
Between the smoke and the writhing, fighting wraith he could no longer see Teyla at all. According to the plan, she should have been making her way outside the circle anyway she could. There. He spotted the green flash amid the grey bodies and briefly caught sight of Teyla fighting to break free. Rodney aimed his shotgun at the Wraith closest to the melee, careful not to aim too close to Teyla herself, as she began to slowly fight her way free of the circle.
Teyla struck out with a front kick, weaving to the side in an attempt to avoid another grey hand reaching out and seeking to feed upon her – seeking to take her life – and she struck out yet again. The hits made little difference, there were so many of them and they were so much stronger than she. Teyla knew she had to get outside of the circle and soon, but her gun had been dislodged when the Wraith had overwhelmed her and she couldn't hold out long in a hand-to-hand fight.
The second explosion rent the air, but she barely noticed it, all her senses tuned to fighting. She knew she should be dead by now, that the amulet was somehow protecting her from being fed upon by the hungry Wraith. The green flash coloured her vision each time it took effect, each time she should have been killed by a seeking Wraith hand as it managed to push past her failing guard.
A shotgun blast sounded, and then again, and the press of Wraith bodies eased slightly. It was enough for her to make some ground as she continued to creep with agonizing slowness, fighting with energy born of desperation and adrenaline, toward the edge of the clearing.
She never saw the Wraith that managed to force his hand up past her guard, slamming it toward her chest with such force that it sent her flying backward even as the green flash of the amulet protected her. She landed hard, vision graying around the edges as the breath was knocked out of her body and then she felt herself being dragged along the ground.
John and Ronon moved deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of caves that formed the Queen Wraith's Hive. The tunnels were damp and dank, smelling of decay, with walls covered in slimy organic material that seemed to only get denser as they crept further into the caves.
"Bleh!" John grimaced as Ronon let yet another slimy piece of membranous goo hit him in the face. "Maybe I should be taking the lead."
"Nah. I'm good," came Ronon's sardonic reply.
John rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I bet you are."
They'd only come across one Wraith so far, taken him down with their respective firepower, and left him in a tunnel rapidly filling with Beckett's anti-Wraith dust. If he managed to regenerate before the dust took effect, then he'd be back in a human form soon anyway and therefore vulnerable.
"Hey, Ronon? You get the feeling this is…"
"…too easy? Yeah." Ronon finished Sheppard's sentence for him, glancing around another passageway that looked much the same as the one they'd just left.
The two men looked at each other as though waiting for something to happen, as if just by voicing their concerns they had doomed themselves to a nasty fate. When nothing changed, they both shrugged sheepishly and continued moving, weapons held at the ready before them.
A few more nasty smelling tunnels and they finally came to a large cavern, the ceiling of which was so high that, looking up, John couldn't make it out at all. It was simply lost in the inky darkness. Ronon and Sheppard edged warily into the open space, Sheppard walking backwards so their backs were almost touching, thereby giving them a little more security.
It was nothing more than a shifting of shadows that had alerted Sheppard to the Wraith Queen's presence, as both he and Ronon twisted around simultaneously to face the same direction. She landed without a sound, like a spider dropping by a strand of web, and though it was obvious she could once have been human, there was no mistaking she was now something else.
Her blue-grey skin looked almost rubbery, though it was smoother than that of the male Wraith that had attacked Teyla in the clearing outside. Her hair was an odd shade of red and yet it was her eyes that immediately drew John's attention – the almost reptilian quality of them – as she canted her head to one side and seemed to stare right into his soul.
She hissed, revealing neat rows of tiny pointed teeth. "Put down your weapons. What do you call yourself? Why have you trespassed upon my feeding ground?"
Her voice seemed to hammer into his skull with an unearthly quality, and the sudden realization that he had indeed lowered his weapon, as she'd asked, hit him like a sledge hammer. Beside him, Ronon answered her question, but whether it was out of a similar unwitting obedience or fighting spirit was yet to be seen. From the way his weapon had also been lowered though, John thought it was more than likely the former option.
"Ronon Dex. We have come to destroy you." The words were ground out around Ronon's bared teeth.
The Queen laughed. "Then you have come to die."
She raised her long twisted hands above her head as the ghostly grey shapes they had seen in the forest began to swirl around her, faster and faster, until they formed a dense cloud that soon obscured her body altogether.
With eye contact suddenly broken, both men raised their weapons as one – John shaking his head briefly as if to rid himself of the residual pounding in his skull, the lethargy in his limbs. They both fired, aiming blindly into the writhing black mass that was still growing. Ronon pulled the pin on a canister of anti-wraith dust and hurled that into the black mass as well, backing up as he did so, but it was to no effect. John realized belatedly that there was nowhere left to go.
The rapidly spreading black cloud already blocked the entrances and when Ronon tried to touch it, he jumped back in pain, his hand burnt where the cloud had touched him. John backed up, still firing until he felt the rough surface of the cave wall behind him. That was it; nowhere left to run. This was really not going at all to plan.
Rodney dragged Teyla the last few feet until she was well and truly outside of the clearing, before kneeling down and cradling her head on his lap.
"Teyla? Teyla, open your eyes. Can you hear me?"
Rodney shook her gently and Teyla moaned, tensing against him for a moment before she opened her eyes and took in Rodney's concerned face. She grabbed a fist-full of Rodney's t-shirt, using it as leverage to pull herself up into a seated position, as Rodney steadied her from within the protective circle of his arms.
"Maybe you shouldn't be moving. What if you hurt your back? How's your head; any nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath…?"
Teyla placed a gentle finger against Rodney's mouth to stop the flood of questions. "I will be all right, Rodney. Thank you for your concern."
Rodney huffed, but didn't start up again. "Well, we should probably take care of these Wraith, I guess. I think the Doc's formula is doing its thing. Something had to go according to plan, right?"
Teyla looked up into the clearing, noticing for the first how the Wraith trapped within the circle appeared to be writhing in pain, their features changing eerily, skin peeling to reveal the pink colour of human flesh.
Rodney stood, offering his hands to Teyla, but she winced in pain as she levered herself to stand, keeping her weight off one leg. Rodney frowned in concern and Teyla answered the question before he could start. "It is just my knee. I will be fine, Rodney."
Then Teyla's gaze drew distant and she drew in a sharp breath. "John and Ronon are in trouble. We must help them."
"Teyla, how could you…?"
"My people can sense the Wraith. That was how I knew you were in trouble the other night. Trust me, Rodney. They need our help." She hissed as she tried to walk, belatedly remembering her knee.
Rodney huffed a breath, as he steadied her. "I'll go. You'll only slow us down. You take care of these Wraith, and be sure to keep the circle intact." He bent down to rifle through a duffle bag at his feet, picking up his shotgun, a second P90, some night vision goggles and more Wraith bombs, but, as he turned to leave, Teyla stopped him – one slender hand gripping his shoulder.
"Here, take this." She pulled the green amulet over her head and strung it around Rodney's neck, leaning her forehead against his briefly. "May it protect you, as it has protected me."
Rodney nodded, feeling her breath warm against his cheek when he raised his head to meet her wide dark eyes. "Thank you, Teyla." Then he licked his lips nervously, took a deep breath and headed toward the caves at a light jog.
"Well, this isn't going the way I'd hoped," John quipped, earning him a grunt from Ronon.
The inky black mass was so close they could make out the individual writhing forms within it, whatever they were. Then John was blinking his eyes, as something flashing green moved toward him through the black, the mass parting to allow it through.
Rodney stepped in front of John, the black cloud parting around him like Moses parting the Red Sea.
"It's Teyla's Amulet. The Wraith can't touch me. I'm invulnerable." Rodney's happy smirk was contagious as he bounced on his feet slightly. "Come on, follow me out of here."
"The Queen is still here, Rodney," John started to say, and then Rodney was gone, flying toward the opposite side of the cavern. The black cloud receded, revealing the Queen standing over him, screaming her defiance.
John was running before he'd even made a conscious choice to do so, empting the last of his ammo into the Wraith Queen as he ran. Her limp body fell to the ground where Ronon proceeded to shoot her with his shotgun for good measure.
"Rodney?" John knelt next to Rodney where he was lying, fingers reaching for and finding a pulse. Ronon knelt on his other side.
Rodney stirred and then sat up lethargically with Ronon's help. "You okay, buddy?"
"I think so. Do I look all right? Maybe I should see a doctor. I might have a concussion?"
John sighed in relief and let out a faint chuckle at the litany of words that fell from his very alive friend, reaching as he did to pick up the charred remains of Teyla's amulet where it now lay next to Rodney. He spun suddenly, though, as he caught a movement behind him and jumped to his feet, pulling a knife from his boot as he moved. The Queen stood once more, bullet holes healing, closing over before their eyes, as she hissed her displeasure to the room. John sprinted the few steps between them and slammed the knife into her heart, watching the surprise that rippled across her alien features, before he twisted the silver handle around for good measure.
"That has got to kill you," he grunted, as he stepped to the side and she fell to the ground once more. Ronon shuffled over to poke at her with his boot.
Satisfied that this time she appeared to be dead, but unwilling to take any chances, Ronon hog-tied the Queen's body and they dragged it out of the caves behind them.
That night they burnt the Wraith bodies, just to be sure it was all over, that they were really dead. They left amid promises to keep in touch – knowing they probably wouldn't – and the next day found them packing their things back into the pick-up, moving on as usual.
Sheppard stretched languidly as he settled into the passenger seat of the pick-up. "So where to next, Rodney?"
Rodney fumbled around, feeling for something behind the seat and then threw a local newspaper at John's head. "Page six."
John flipped open the paper and folded it to the right page, starting to scan the articles.
"Bottom right corner," Rodney added helpfully, and John started to read.
A young man was incarcerated today, following the brutal hold-up of a local drugstore. Six people were injured in the seemingly random attack. The man arrested, a Mr Aiden Ford, was well known in the community. "He was always such a nice man," one witness said. "I can't imagine what possibly got into him," another added.
"Skip to the last paragraph," Rodney prodded.
Sheppard did as he said, skipping to the end of the story.
One clearly traumatized witness to the hold up was quoted as saying, "There was something wrong with his eyes. I swear they were black as black. As if something else was in there."
"Possession?" John asked.
"Sounds that way."
"That's why I'm the brains of this operation." Rodney grinned, as John threw the paper at his head and they set off down the highway, heading out past a sign that declared: "You are now leaving Atlantis, please come again."