The Scientist and the Soldier
Rodney was staring. He couldn't help it. The big man moved a box, straightened and then stalked over to another, bending to rummage through the contents.
Ronon Dex, the newest member of their team, a man so resourceful, so dangerous, he evaded Wraith for seven years, was searching crates for tin foil.
Rodney wondered if his new team mate felt as out of place as he looked. Then again, he thought, Dex was a soldier, and this was a military team - he glanced quickly at Sheppard, leaning on a rock, P-90 ready for anything, as always. Perhaps Ronon fit in perfectly, and it was McKay himself who was still odd one out.
He looked across at Teyla who was crouched, delicately placing a sensor in the loose earth. Foil was needed to cover the equipment, against the elements, and she glanced up, just as Ronon grunted and tossed a roll to her. Engaged in a mundane task, she looked like Ronon had... out of place. Her story, of course, was similar to Ronon's; both from alien worlds... they were fighters, both had lost much to the same enemy and both had found a place with the people of Atlantis.
But McKay had to admit it; he was a little scared of the big Satedan, in a way he never had been with Teyla.
Well, Teyla is a girl..., he thought.
Yeah, a girl who can kick your butt any day of the week...
They were on a simple, scientific expedition, sampling soil and taking seismic readings for the geologists. They had come some way from the gate and were moving in a wide semi-circle around it, planting sensors as they went. They would camp off-world tonight and then retrieve the sensors in the morning. Rodney was taking a break from calibrating the long soil probes and recievers, a job which required him to focus his scratchy, irritated eyes.
Rubbing his eyes with one hand, Rodney slurped greedily on the water bottle he was holding in the other.
He noticed it was almost empty; never mind, he had brought plenty with him. He screwed up his eyes against the sun's glare and his head thumped, sickeningly.
He sighed, and blinked. He'd already had more tylenol than he should, and was heartily regretting his late night drinking session with Radek. Zelenka's highly illegal rot-gut ought to be banned, as it had cetainly left it's mark on Rodney McKay.
"What are you looking at?", someone growled, and McKay jumped when he realised that the ex runner had stopped what he was doing and was now glaring at him with hooded and beady eyes. Rodney also realised that he was still staring at the man who could probably kill him with a flick of his finger.
He felt himself blush, like a schoolgirl, so he huffed and coughed.
"Nothing... I'm just... I should probably... ", and he quickly got back to his calibrations, without seeing the strange look on the Satedan's face.
Teyla laughed... a delightful, musical sound, and Sheppard looked shocked.
"Just because I fight the Wraith, Colonel, does not mean I have had no experience..."
"Well, I thought, you know... nice girls like you wouldn't know of such things", said Sheppard, obviously uncomfortable, his eyebrows still raised.
Teyla leaned forward and batted her eyelashes in mock seduction, "Perhaps I'm not such a nice girl then..."
Everyone laughed again, even Rodney, who had exactly no idea what was being discussed, although it sounded like the kind of chatter he enjoyed. But he didn't care tonight. He moved a little closer to the fire, and pushed his dinner, still in it's packet, further away from him; the smell of it turned his stomach.
He felt like crap; his head pounded, his mouth was dry, and he was barely holding onto his stomach contents. Maybe he needed to sleep...
He clambered ungracefully to his feet, and watched as three faces turn toward him, flickering in the fire light.
"I'm... ", and he didn't even have the energy to finish, he just motioned loosely with his hand in the direction of his bed roll, and muttered, "G'night..".
Head down he made his way across to the tree where his stuff was. He didn't know if the others had even aknowledged him, but was really too tired to care. The ground was uneven in places, and as he stepped, Rodney felt every jolt go through him, turning his gut painfully.
They would wake him when it was time for his watch. That must have been some bad batch he'd had last night... no, he corrected himself, it was all a bad batch. He over indulged and this is what you get for such a lapse, a seriously messed up and confused digestive system.
Never again, he vowed, as his stomach gave another little flip flop, and he wormed his way down in his sleeping bag, shivers chasing up and down his back.
"Hey, Ronon... any sign of movement?", smirked the colonel, as he swilled out his coffee cup and ditched it behind him.
Ronon was cleaning a knife, with a cloth he kept for that express purpose, but he looked up when Sheppard spoke. He had been aware of a conversation going on between the colonel and Teyla across the fire from where he himself sat; it hadn't concerned him... whatever they decided, they would tell him when they were ready. He imagined, though, it was about McKay...
All three of them turned to look across at the snoring lump-in-a-sleeping-bag that was Dr McKay. They had decided to let him sleep... through his watch and through breakfast. Teyla had mentioned a scientist friend of the doctor's, who had an alcohol supply; she had heard them singing raucously together, the night before the mission. Well, that made sense; the previous night, when McKay had dragged himself to bed early, the doctor had looked sickly and white faced, not unlike a person suffering from the after effects of too much alcohol.
But even before that, Ronon recalled, when he'd been searching boxes at Teyla's request, he had watched the doctor, looking tired, almost drain a water bottle dry. He had looked distant... spaced out and staring, eyes dull, and when Ronon had spoken, he had almost jumped out of his skin, his cheeks burning with an unnatural heat, two bright spots on a pale face.
In his opinion, though, Ronon thought McKay always looked kind of delicate... weak looking. When they had first met, he'd been hanging upside down in an ankle trap, helpless and vulnerable. He was obviously no soldier, his level of fitness not even on the scale. He wondered why someone like Sheppard would have him on his team. Then again, Sheppard had told him that one of their major responsibilities was the safety of the science staff, people with little or no training in the field; he had also heard that McKay was brilliant and maybe, he thought, that was enough for these strange earth people.
The colonel continued,
"Give him two of these when he wakes up...", he threw a package of pills at Dex, and he caught them easily.
"He'll no doubt have a rotten head. I'm going to have words with Radek... his stuff is lethal."
Ronon noticed Teyla was packing up her stuff and so was Sheppard.
"Teyla and I will walk back along the trail and pick up the gear. When Rodney wakes you can bring the rest of the stuff and meet us at the gate, it'll be quicker."
"Keep in radio contact... ", said Sheppard. Then as he turned to go, he asked, "You sure you two will be alright?"
Ronon knew what the colonel was really asking; can you look after my scientist?
He answered truthfully, remembering their conversation,
"I'll make certain of it, Sheppard."
The colonel smiled and said, "I know you will", and he and Teyla left.
In college, once or twice, he'd got stinking drunk. Crashing into bed only to wake later in the night with the horrible nausea of mild alcohol poisoning. With the room spinning disconcertingly, he found that if he closed his eyes, rode out the nausea, and tried to sleep, he could avoid the unpleasantness of throwing up... sometimes.
Now, he tried the same thing. This time, though, it was the branches of the tree above him that twirled and swooped. Funny, too, that he could see the branches clearly, in full colour, as if it was day time; wait... it was day time, the birds were singing, it was light, the sky was blue... why was he still intoxicated?
There was a pain, too, pushing into his awareness... a stitch in his groin, thumping to the rhythm of his racing heart.
He groaned, lay as still as he could and breathed...
He could hear someone moving about; one of the others was making breakfast... no, don't think of food, McKay.
Then he heard the crinkle of leather near him, could smell it too, its heavy odour just too much for his delicate stomach. He actually felt the colour drain from his face as a huge wave of nausea washed over him.
He vainly tried to pull himself up and forward, but he found the pain was excruciating if he moved, and he weakly turned his head, resigned to puking all over himself. Then, suddenly, as his stomach wound itself up to spasm, he realised he was moving; he was leaning over, being supported in a strong and secure grip. There was that smell again... and that was when Rodney finally lost his battle with nausea, and vomited.
He heard the sound of retching, a desperate gasping; one hand was curled around stiff fabric, the other which was on the ground, clenched, finger nails tearing as they raked through soil and grit. The pain was like a searing white light in his brain, a stabbing, tearing sensation across his belly and down his right leg. He trembled, prayed that he would pass out, and all the time something held him... kept him upright, steady.
"What's wrong with you?", growled a voice, as the hands holding him allowed him to sink back down to the ground
Rodney's brow creased at this question; he honestly didn't know... he'd thought it was the world's worst hangover, but that was becoming less and less likely.
"Dunno...", he replied, feeling stupid.
"You're burning up...", and McKay realised that someone's hand had been on his forehead... and now he felt its absence, chilling him to the bone.
What the hell is wrong with me?, he thought wildly.
Ronon withdrew his hand and Rodney shuddered and gulped, his eyes flickering, trying to focus. The man was restless, his body twisting, one knee brought up and his arms hugging his belly.
Ronon narrowed his eyes, a memory coming back to him, from long ago...
Many years back, on Sateda, he had watched one of the men in his unit, succumb to a rapid illness. One moment the man seemed to be fit and healthy, the next he was writhing in agony, curled around a pain in his side. He was feverish, his thoughts rambling. They had been out on a mission, were unable to get the help the man needed... and he had died, quietly in the end, but still with his hand clamped to his right side.
"Where's your pain?", he asked, with sudden urgency.
But the scientist had become unresponsive, his head flopping to one side, and Ronon could see his neck and hair were damp and shiny with sweat.
Whatever was going on, this was due to more than alcohol, and Ronon knew without a doubt... the scientist was in trouble.
TBC and thanks for reading as always!
I've always wanted to do an appendix story, and I've had designs on Rodney's for a while! Sorry, doctor, but we just love to kiss it better!