"What I don't understand is why this always has to happen this way?" Dr. Rodney McKay complained as his teammate worked to soak up the blood and get a good look at the wound.

"Always?" Ronon Dex asked as he stood at the opened hatch at the rear of the cloaked jumper.

"Yes, always," McKay answered, breathing through the pain.

"This way?" Dex persisted.

"Leave him alone, Ronon," Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard said as he helped get Rodney stable on the floor of the jumper.

"No," McKay said, insistent on answering the query. "You know, Sheppard shooting me? That's what I mean by this…Ow!" he screamed, the pitch uncomfortably high and the decibel level too loud for the small space. "Teyla?" he pleaded pathetically.

"I am sorry, Rodney. I must press against the wound to stop the bleeding."

"Actually, I'm not sure…" the scientist started to argue, but stopped quickly as pain from the gunshot enveloped him. "Eerrrggh," he growled, followed by panting breaths. "This really hurts."

"I know that it does. But I must do this properly. I will be finished soon," Teyla Emmagen told her 'patient'. "I will have the pressure bandage on and then we can get you back to Atlantis."

"Okay." Rodney closed his eyes and tried to remain calm. Amidst the quiet within the Ancient spacecraft, and the din of Rodney's moans, Sheppard spoke.

"I'm not sure two times can really be classified as 'always'," he said, using his hands to quote around the offending word. Teyla raised her eyebrow, questioning with just that small physical expression the colonel's tact, his common sense, and later on, when Rodney was feeling better, his skills at self-preservation.

"Is…that…so," McKay panted. "As a scientist, I feel more than comfortable qualifying it as always: it's happened twice, and both times - you shot me!"

"Rodney, please calm down," Teyla directed as she deftly placed the pressure bandage against McKay's lower abdomen.

"Ow," he said, and then added miserably, "When's it gonna be my turn?"

"Whaddya mean?" Sheppard asked, taking a cool, damp cloth and wiping the sweat from his friend's face. "When's it gonna be your turn to shoot me?"

Rodney looked up into his team leader's eyes. Sheppard could see the regret in McKay's animated, expressive face. "No. I mean, yes, I was thinking that. But no, I don't really want to shoot you," he admitted.

John patted him on the shoulder. "I know you don't, buddy." Teyla pressed the bandage along the edges, making Rodney jump, and that caused a vibration of pain across his lower stomach. His hand flew up, heading toward the wound. John caught it in mid-air and let his friend squeeze tight – too tight – but that was something that John Sheppard would never let Rodney McKay know about.

A tear trickled from the physicist's eye. Rodney's eyes were shut tight, and he was breathing through his mouth, doing double-duty: both an effort to bear the pain of another piece of metal embedded in his body, as well as the persistent nausea that now seemed so happy to taunt him. He opened his eyes and said to John, "Getting shot really sucks."

Sheppard smiled sadly. "Yes, it does." He flexed his hand slightly, despite Rodney's locked clench of it in this own hand. He added, "It sucks more that I'm the one that shot you."

"Well, it doesn't suck more, I can vouch for that," Rodney countered, continuing to pant through the pain. "You know it's not your fault." John looked away. Rodney shook his hand, the hand clasped by John's, to get his friend's attention. "It was just…" McKay wasn't yet sure what it was; he didn't know exactly what had happened to cause him to be right in the line of fire between Sheppard and the Wraith. He knew that he was lucky that the colonel's P-90 had jammed, forcing Sheppard to use the 9mm was the only fortuitous moment in their last few minutes in the open. It was dubious good luck as good luck went. Also lucky was the fact that Teyla and John seemed to have gotten away unscathed; Ronon held tight to a cloth that covered a deep graze on his arm, the result of a successful escape from the clutches of one sharp-nailed alien.

"Sheppard!" Rodney yelled. He got John's attention again, finally, and said softly, "We're okay. Don't…ah, ow…don't feel guilty. We'll figure out what h…happened later. Y…You need to f…fly us out of here." Rodney was now shivering. John looked down at McKay's newly patched up injury. "N…Now w…would be n…nice."

"Teyla, get him a warm blanket," Sheppard ordered. He unfolded his cramped hand, but Rodney had yet to let go. McKay saw his friend shutting down, refusing to listen, intent on packing up his guilt and keeping it with him in its own little invisible box. McKay knew all about that – he owned the technique. But he was tired…he'd have to deal with Sheppard on that topic later. Much later.

"I, um, need that hand…to fly?" Sheppard said quizzically to his friend as he used his good hand to point to the cockpit situated behind him.

"Oh. Sorry," McKay apologized, suddenly more tired than pained.

"It's okay," John replied. Teyla placed the warming blanket over McKay. "Let's get you home."

"'s a good idea," Rodney slurred.

"Keep talking to him," the colonel instructed. "Try to keep him awake."

"I will do my best," Teyla said with a sad smile. With a tilt of her head, she asked, "Are you all right, John?"

John Sheppard looked at his friend once more, shook his head and then looked at his Athosian teammate.

"Not really." He headed for the cockpit. Within moments the rear hatch was closed and the jumper was in flight to the Stargate up in orbit.

Two days later, Rodney McKay woke to find John staring at him. Or was he staring through him? McKay blinked, thinking he wasn't seeing clearly, but Sheppard's expression didn't change. The scientist reached his hand in front of the Air Force man, but he grunted and leaned back into the pillows, the effort too much for his still-healing and very tender wound and its unpleasant stitches. He squeezed his eyes shut and said softly, "Stupid."

Sheppard leaned in closer and said, "Yeah, it was, but I think I apologized for it, a number of times if I remember correctly."

Rodney snorted derisively and said, "I didn't mean you, you dope, though I am second guessing that right about now."

"Are you okay? I can get Carson…"

"No, no. He's done enough damage. Didn't I tell you this wasn't your fault? Ergo, no need to apologize." McKay's face was strained…he was obviously in pain.

"I'm gonna get Carson or a nurse to bring you something for the pain," Sheppard said, turning quickly to leave the area.

"No, you're not. I've got a button," Rodney said, looking around, "somewhere," he added, now feeling around the bedding. "Ah." He looked back to John. "You stay. I'll call them when I'm ready."

"But you're in pain, right?"

"Yes, I'm in pain, you idiot! But I need…we," he corrected, using his hand to point between the two of them, "need to talk."

"We don't. Not really. Ronon, Teyla and I talked and I know now that it really wasn't my fault that I shot you."

Rodney looked at John carefully, trying to assess whether the colonel was telling the truth.

"Really? Well, good. That's good. I'd hate to think that you'd've been scarred for life from the guilt of shooting me. Twice."

"That would have been unlikely even if it had been my fault," Sheppard said with a crooked grin.

"Is that so? You wouldn't have had nightmares thinking about my painful almost death?"

"I feel bad, Rodney. Don't get me wrong. And I'd feel worse if you actually died. But the fact is, the next round I fired off probably saved your life."

"Oh," McKay said, followed by, "Really?"

"Yes, really. But you did good, getting to the clearing so quickly. I'm impressed. We were all impressed."

"What? You were impressed that I could run so fast with the knowledge that I was in mortal danger? I don't really think that's newsworthy."

"You didn't see yourself running, and you don't know the time you made. It was definitely a record," John said with a knowing nod of his head.

"Hm. Well, I have been trying to get in more workouts…"

"No you haven't. But you're in better shape that you've ever been since coming to the Pegasus Galaxy," Sheppard noted.

"I'm glad you think so, but apparently being in good shape…" Rodney was interrupted by his commanding officer.

"Better shape," John said, lifting his finger to make his point. "You still have a way to go to get in good shape."

"Yes. Well. Whatever. As I was saying," he continued. John watched as Rodney's hand reached shakily for the call button. "Being in better shape doesn't make surgery to remove a bullet any less painful."

"Shit, Rodney. I coulda gotten Carson here earlier," John said, taking the device from McKay's unsteady hand and pressing the button, repeatedly.

"I think they've got the hint," McKay said, removing the gadget from Sheppard's hands. "I hurt," he added with a hesitant sigh.

"I know you do, son. Betty was supposed to be in with your pain meds ten minutes ago, but she was working an emergency," Dr. Carson Beckett said as he pushed John away and began to inject something into Rodney's IV port. "It seems that newly arrived Major Sheridan is allergic to one of the Athosian grains. He's the first one we've come across. Poor thing nearly choked to death on his own bloated tongue."

"Carson!" Sheppard yelled, disgusted.

"Ugh," McKay said, seeming to turn a light shade of green.

"Sorry," the physician apologized to both men, a cheeky grin on his face. "You should feel better any time now."

Rodney breathed in heavily and said, "Already do," before he made his way to a drugged sleep.

Beckett turned to Sheppard. "Did you talk?"

"Yep," Sheppard grinned broadly.

"Everything okay?" Beckett knew he really didn't have to ask, not with the way the colonel was acting.


Beckett chuckled as he walked Sheppard to the door. "Does this mean that I'll be seeing less of you until I release Rodney to his quarters?" He knew the answer to this one, too.


The End.