Bullet Time

A Stargate Atlantis Fanfic
Friday, 27 July 2007

Timeline: ATL S1: Pre-'Storm'
Warnings: Violence, language
Spoilers: None

"I took a bullet for you!" "No you didn't. Taking a bullet implies some kind of self sacrifice– all you did was get in the way!"

The only thing worse for Sheppard and McKay than being stuck on some backwards, rural world– in imminent danger of being shot– is being stuck on a backwards rural world in imminent danger of being shot with each other.

A/N: It's called 'Bullet Time' because it's nearly two in the morning and I needed to get this posted before I leave on a road trip at eight for the whole weekend, and honestly couldn't think of anything better.

Oh, why, you may ask, did this need be posted tonight? Why could it not wait until next Monday, as everything else must? Because, this is a super-special birthday fic!! (Cue the cheers and confetti!) Yes, this was made specially for 'TSpe35AZ' over at SGAHC, as she requested fics for her birthday, which is saturday! (Cue more confetti!)

Honestly, I have no idea if this is anything like what you wanted. But I hope you enjoy it anyhow. And happy birthday! ;)

"So, you are from the city of the Ancestors?"

Major Sheppard shifted uneasily, but checked the motion, putting on a winning smile for their guide. "That's right." The man's excitement seemed to increase, and Sheppard cast a sidelong glance at his team mates, gauging their reactions.

His 2IC, Lieutenant Ford, didn't seem to have any objections. Teyla's expression was carefully guarded— she probably didn't approve, but it meant she wasn't going to call him on it either. Dr. McKay, on the other hand, was glaring at him openly. Honestly, he had to wonder if the man simply disagreed with him for the sake of being contrary. He looked away, returning his eyes to their guide and deliberately ignoring the scientist.

"Alright… Cabin, was it?"

The native nodded, beaming. "Come, I will show you to our leader."

Sheppard glanced over his shoulder; "Teyla— see if you can talk to some of the locals, find out what they need. You two," he added, "with me," motioning with his head that he and the rest of his team should follow the man.

Confronted with the chieftain, Sheppard found himself being scrutinized warily, and forced another smile onto his face. Somehow, he gathered the idea that not all here were as enthusiastic about receiving visitors from Atlantis as Cabin. Luckily, the chief's own second-in-command seemed slightly more receptive to them— at least, he didn't blatantly regard the group with suspicion.

"So what is it you want of us?"

Want? Oh boy… This was already going down hill.

"Well see, we need—" Sheppard held out a hand to cut McKay off, before he dug a hole so deep they couldn't get out of it.

Apparently, not soon enough, as the chief's expression darkened. "What Dr. McKay meant," he said, shooting the aforementioned a glare of his own, "was that we're interested in trade. For food. We have medical supplies and… some other things that might help," he finished lamely. From the corner of his eye, he saw the triumphant smirk on McKay's face out of the corner of his eye, and decided he needed to deal with that man before they left.

The chief let out a ragged breath, turning towards the village. "We cannot. Our fields produce little enough as is— they have insufficient water."

"What?" McKay broke in, incredulous. "There's a river not two kilometers from here, why don't you plant your crops down there?" He seemed surprised by the dirty looks the rest of his team shot him. "What?" he repeated. "It makes sense!"

The chief made a disparaging noise. Stepping in to try to ease tensions, his second said, "When the snows melt in spring, the river swells."

"And that entire basin floods," the chief added, bitterly. "Many have tried what you suggest, and come away with nothing."

"Well, what about game?" Ford interjected, trying to steer the conversation in a different direction. "I mean, you have to have hunters."

This time, the chief let out a short, mirthless laugh. "Hunters? You have never encountered the creatures on this planet. They are too dangerous to hunt in the wild, and our herds are thin as is." He turned away from them. "You are welcome to hunt them yourself, if you want," he added, sardonically, before walking off.

"That's something, I guess," Ford said, with a shrug.

"That… didn't go as well as I had hoped," Sheppard mused.

He heard McKay snort, behind him. "Not everything's as ideal as Star Trek, is it?"

"No," Sheppard said amiably, turning to face the frustrating man. "If it was, I could shoot you without leaving any marks." He held his small smile until McKay began to get unnerved, and backed away a small step.

"I am sorry that it did not go well for you," a voice broke in. The three of them turned to see the chief's second, quietly appraising them.

Sheppard's brow furrowed some. "Uh, I'm sorry… I didn't catch your name?"

"Jaris," he supplied, before raising one eyebrow and giving them a wry grin that the major didn't find too friendly. "Do you really intend to go hunting out there?"

Ford stepped forward, unable to help looking a little confused— and wary. "We can go do that, right?"

"Of course," Jaris said, waving off the lieutenant's concern like so much dust in the air. His smirk didn't fade though. "I'd be more than willing to accompany you on a hunting excursion if you'd like," he added, prompting Ford and Sheppard to exchange an uneasy look. It sounded more as if this man wanted to come along and see them fail miserably, rather than try to help.

"We'll… keep that in mind," Major Sheppard assured him, before gesturing to the other two. "Let's grab Teyla."

"Oh, well, 'a hunting we will go!'" McKay said, voice dripping with sarcasm, doing everything he could to make his 'enthusiasm' for this trip, or blatant lack thereof, quite evident.

Sheppard turned so he was walking backwards now, and could address McKay face-to-face. "Just please don't break into song." He was trying to remain polite. He really was. All the same, it was difficult to keep his irritation from rising up into his voice.

"Major!" McKay gasped.

Sheppard stopped, alarmed. "What?" he demanded, bringing Teyla and Ford to a halt as well.

"You know the word please," he replied, sounding for all the world like he was about to keel over in shock. "You're sure you're military?" he continued, still acting awed.

Sheppard narrowed his eyes at the scientist; out of the corner of his eye, he could see Ford throwing a none-too-kind glare at McKay. The major turned back to the front, resuming their walk. "If it makes you feel better, I could say, 'Break into song and I break your legs'?" He knew he should have admonished Ford for the snicker he heard coming from the young lieutenant's direction; however, he was having a hard time keeping a smile off of his own face.

"Charming," he heard muttered somewhere behind him.

They walked on in silence for several minutes, before out of nowhere, Sheppard felt himself yanked to a halt, someone's hand holding tightly to his arm. "Major!"

"What?" Sheppard cried again, before looking around— Teyla was the one holding him in a vice grip, and as far as he could see, there was nothing dangerous in the area. "Will you all stop doing that?" he asked, somewhat petulantly— his heart was still racing from the adrenaline burst. This time, it was McKay snickering at him— even Ford was hard pressed to keep his amusement concealed. Trying to ignore the two of them, Sheppard turned to Teyla. "What?" he asked again, trying to sound calmer.

"I am sorry to have alarmed you," she said coolly, before pointing at the ground in front of them; "but I did not see that until you had nearly walked into it."

Frowning, the major gave the ground another inspection— especially the overgrown patch Teyla had just indicated. Kneeling carefully, he pulled aside the worst of it to reveal a hole in the ground, probably just large enough for a person to fall into. His stomach did a little flip as he noticed that he couldn't see the bottom… The rest of the group moved up behind him, curious as well. "Thanks," Sheppard murmured to Teyla, trying not to imagine what might have happened otherwise.

"I dunno," McKay remarked, though without the usual bite— he too seemed a bit disturbed. "I'd have liked to see your 'baby Jessica' impression," he joked. The major had to wonder if this was his weird way of trying to lighten the mood.

"Who?" Teyla asked, confused by the scientist's reference.

It was Ford that came to her rescue. "Well, she was this little girl, who fell down a well…"

As Ford proceeded to try to explain the incident to the Athosian woman, Sheppard leaned closer, scrambling back a little as the muddy ground beneath him began to give way. Helped along by someone who had the foresight to grab him by the back of his vest, Sheppard was surprised to look up and see McKay standing over top of him.

"What the hell, I wasn't being serious," he said, as if Sheppard had been trying to jump into the hole, with the sole purpose of giving McKay a heart attack. The soldier didn't know whether to be grateful or amused or miffed, or maybe all three.

As it was, Sheppard looked at him reproachfully. "I thought I heard something from down there." Careful to watch where he placed his weight this time, he leaned over again. "Sounds like running water."

Rejoining the conversation, Ford tilted his head. "You sure you're not just hearing the river?" he asked.

It was McKay who shot Ford a withering glance. "Yes, lieutenant, because there's no such thing as an underground river." Returning his focus to the hole, he murmured, "Probably an old well, made by someone who was actually smart enough to use it." He added a disparaging noise.

Noticing Teyla bristling— sure, McKay had been referring to the villagers here, but they were similar enough to the Athosians— Sheppard stepped in before they started bickering. "Maybe we can offer to help them restore it," he said. "Maybe even find a way to get some irrigation going so they can grow their crops up here. We could do that, right?"

McKay let out a short laugh. "Of course we could, we're not in the Bronze Ages anymore, Major. It'd probably take a mechanical pump to keep the water coming continually," he said, "but it's not like it would be hard."

"Great!" Sheppard said brightly. "Thanks for volunteering."

"Wait wait, what?"

The major smiled cheerfully at McKay. "You didn't want to go hunting, right? Well, there ya' go," he said, gesturing towards the well, and starting to walk off as McKay stood there, spluttering. "You're gonna hafta do some inspections of it eventually, right?" And with that, he headed off, Teyla and Ford in tow. He thought he could feel his spirits rising already.

Sheppard had quickly relinquished the lead to Teyla— honestly, he wasn't sure about this hunting thing, but, if it could be done easily enough, it might be an option for the Expedition. Then again, he thought, might give the marines something to do besides babysitting. Not that there hadn't been a few dangerous situations so far that had required military force, and it was always safer to have some firepower on any mission out here— but, with any luck, that wouldn't be the standard of life in the Pegasus Galaxy. Either way, the military contingent had been getting restless.

Ahead, Teyla held up one hand, bringing both soldiers to a halt. Turning, she motioned for Ford to follow her, indicating that Sheppard should wait. He nodded, though reluctantly, and dropped to one knee, watching the other two move off.

The soldier let his mind start to wander as the minutes ticked by. This was… this was a far cry from anything he ever thought he'd be doing… And the people he thought he'd be working with.

Ford, he had to admit… it was a bit refreshing to have someone in the military who not only respected him, but trusted him. The kid wasn't too bad. And Teyla, well… Teyla was— a good warrior, he hastily told himself. A good warrior and a better leader in her own right. He had wondered, for a while, whether she would actually be able to defer to him when she had agreed to staying a part of his team. True, Sheppard rarely found himself exercising his authority in such a way— personally, he found they worked better as a team than as a squad.

And then there was McKay. The single person who made Sheppard want to throw his rank around. The guy was a royal—

"Major Sheppard!"

Teyla's frantic cry hadn't been close by, but it was enough to snap the major out of his reverie. He looked around, but saw nothing.

There! In the distance, he could see something moving through the trees. Something big.

"Oh, shit." Sheppard stood up, sighting the form that was now heading towards him. Then dropping his weapon, not knowing where Ford or Teyla were, and not wanting to accidentally hit them. The huge creature— looking like a green bear or pig or some weird combination— just kept getting closer, though, and it was with a jolt of fear that Sheppard realized it was heading right for him. Swearing again, he took off in the other direction.

Through the trees on his right, he could see a second form that he assumed to be Teyla, trying to both keep pace and work her way towards him. Now able to hear the thing's grunts and the crashes as it tore through the trees, Sheppard risked a look over his shoulder.

He almost stumbled as he realized how close it was getting. Someone was yelling at him— he thought they were saying, 'Shoot it!' Either way, the soldier realized he no longer had a choice— it was that or get run over.

Trying to pull his P90's strap over his head, Sheppard heard the staccato bursts of gunfire coming from the sides— he could only assume his teammates were trying to slow it down.

The thing let out an angry roar, and Sheppard looked back over his shoulder again, this time holding his rifle in one hand and doing his best to empty the clip into the creature's head.

Now it was close enough that debris and dirt torn from the ground by scythe-like claws were pelting him in the back. Glancing down, he couldn't tell if he even had any ammunition left— it didn't seem to be doing any good anyhow. With nothing left to do, he hurled himself to the side, hoping the creature would continue past and not, say, trample him into the dirt.

Today was his lucky day. The thing took a few steps past him, before it plowed into the dirt itself, struggling for a moment before lying still.

Sheppard stared at it from the ground, still in shock, breathing hard. A few seconds later, Ford trotted up, out of breath, offering Sheppard a hand. The major waved off, though, pushing himself into a sitting position. "No, I think I'm just gonna… stay down here for a while…" he managed to say, planting his hands on his knees.

Putting both of them to shame, Teyla walked up— and had barely broken a sweat. She inspected the creature, ensuring it was truly dead, before moving to stand with the two men. Meanwhile, Ford had joined Sheppard on the ground, leaning up against a tree and pulling his ball cap off.

"We saw one of them… and figured we could get it going in the right direction," Ford managed to get out between breaths; "flush it out towards you… didn't realize it was a young one…'"

"And mom here wasn't too happy about that, I take it…" Sheppard filled in, able to guess the rest. "Well there's no way we're going to get that back to the 'Gate on our own."

"McKay?" Ford asked, though he knew it was pointless.

Teyla shook her head. "I highly doubt that even with Dr. McKay we could move the creature."



The three of them turned as one, confused by the fourth voice. Approaching was a figure that resolved itself into Jaris; behind him were many other people, something that sat uneasily with Sheppard.

As they came closer, Sheppard could see their wide-eyed stares and open-mouthed gapes. They pointed and stared at the felled creature. Jaris walked straight up to them, barely concealing his disbelief. "You killed this? Just the three of you, in such a short time?"

"Yeah," Sheppard said, before instantly regretting it. Intense muttering went up in the group behind the native man.

"How?" he demanded suspiciously.

Sheppard exchanged a glance with Ford, who shrugged, and Teyla, who gave no response. Figuring, what the hell, maybe it'll warn them off from any trouble, he unholstered his M9, displaying it to the man. "With something like this."

Someone in the crowd laughed. From their leader's expression, Sheppard could see it wasn't going over well. Unfazed, he pointed it at a nearby tree, and fired.

The resulting noise was enough to make most of the assembled men duck for the ground, their mutterings now frightened and shocked. Jaris, to his credit, had remained standing, but was completely taken aback. When Sheppard gestured towards the tree, the native quickly found the hole and traced his fingers over it. "Incredible," he mouthed, before turning back to the major, looking properly cowed. "May I?" he asked, gingerly.

Against better judgment, Sheppard turned it in his hand, making sure the safety was on, before proffering the grip to Jaris.

"This is what you used to kill the deepclaw?"

Sheppard was about to correct Jaris, but thought better of it. "Yes," he said, unconsciously gripping his P90 more tightly. Instead of seeming awed or impressed, Jaris and his band of merry men seemed to be getting suspicious, muttering amongst themselves— worst of all, they were getting excited. He was regretting ever letting Jaris hold the Beretta, especially since the man was showing no sign of giving it up, even as he fingered it now.

Inspecting the thing in his hand, Jaris leveled it at a nearby tree, before squeezing the trigger, emptying another round into it. While those around him jumped at first, they cheered upon seeing the smoking hole left in the bark. So much for the safety, Sheppard thought.

"Major Sheppard, I do not believe it would be wise to try to claim this kill and take it with us," Teyla whispered over his shoulder. Not taking his eyes off Jaris and the weapon in his hand, he nodded. "We should leave," she added, and he hesitated.

"All right," he said eventually, keeping his voice quiet. Gesturing to Ford with his head, he waited for the lieutenant to get closer.


"You two get to the 'Gate," Sheppard commanded, "and I'll get McKay." He shook his head ever so slightly as Ford opened his mouth to protest. "Let's just go before envy gets the better of them," he said under his breath.

Jaris seemed to take notice of the two departing people— and warily so. Sheppard stepped into the man's line of sight, flashing an annoying cheerful smile.

"Hey, Jaris. You know what?" He gestured at the fallen beast. "Why don't you all keep that? Token of good faith, and all that," he trailed off, careful to keep one hand on the P90. He seriously didn't want to end up shooting anyone, but he wasn't about to let them shoot him either.

Raising one eyebrow, Jaris' expression morphed into a smug grin that told Sheppard he had never had any intention of giving the creature up. He raised the M9 questioningly, though the major was pretty sure that was just a pretense as well. Nodding at Jaris, Sheppard waited until he had turned to his cronies in triumph, before sprinting off in a direction away from that of Ford and Teyla's.

Surprised cries went up behind him, and he tried to put on more speed. As he lost them in the woods, he turned to his right, now on a parallel to the river. It was an obvious course, but hopefully Jaris and his 'friends' were as bright as they looked, and wouldn't figure it out in time.

"McKay, time to go!"

Surprised by the sudden yell after nearly an hour of having no one to talk to but himself, McKay jumped, nearly dropping the tape measure he had been holding down the well. Emerging from a copse of trees nearby was none other than the major, who looked like he had just run a decathlon. McKay watched him approach in disbelief; after being so eager to leave him behind, now the man just waltzed up and—

"Well?" Sheppard said expectantly, interrupting the scientist's thoughts. "Come on," he added, gesturing for McKay to hurry.

Feeling brushed off, he made a slight huffing noise. "What? You don't want me to stay and work on this fascinating well?" he said, still incensed about this 'assignment', let alone how Sheppard was acting now. It was like the man went out of his way to be an asshole.

Sheppard didn't seem to notice his teammate's irritation. "I'm serious, McKay, pack up, let's go."

"Pack up, oh that's rich." McKay rolled his eyes, making no move to get up. "Yes, because I'm quite capable of packing up at a moment's notice, and 'moving out' like a good little toy soldier."

"Then leave it!" Sheppard said, raising his voice.

McKay seemed as shocked by Sheppard's suggestion as he was by his tone. "Leave it, are you crazy?"

Making a noise of exasperation; "Would you make up your mind?" Noises from over the crest of the hill caught his attention; both of them snapped their heads around.

"What was that?"

"The reason why you should hurry up," Sheppard said, insistently, bringing his weapon up to bear on the hill. The motion was not missed by McKay, who went wide-eyed and hesitated in what he was doing. The major shot him a meaningful glare.

"Oh! Right, hurrying up." He continued to stuff equipment and instruments unceremoniously into his pack.

A group of men came over the hill, and the scientist flinched as a burst of gunfire went off over his head. Sheppard was just firing into the air to try and scare them off, but it didn't appear to work. One man stood back up, rallying the rest of the group to try again. Gritting his teeth, the major delivered another burst of fire— while they ducked again, this time, they did not attempt to retreat.

Suddenly, a single gunshot rang out, and McKay started as the dirt several feet away from him plumed upwards. "What the hell?" He spun to face his teammate.

Sheppard had dropped to one knee, this time taking aim for the men themselves. McKay turned to watch as Sheppard squeezed the trigger; one of them jerked backwards, falling with spurts of blood from his arm and shoulder. Suddenly, the cacophony from his rifle became silence. Alarmed, Sheppard glanced down at the magazine on top of it, to see no ammunition left within. Shit. How could he have forgotten to exchange the clip? "McKay! Some help would be nice!" he said, fumbling for another magazine.

"What? Oh, right," McKay said, looking for his own P90, before spotting it on the other side of the major. By this time, the group of villagers was starting to get uncomfortably close, and they looked rather pissed off, now that Sheppard had just wounded or killed one of their men. Sheppard began to shift himself back, shuffling on foot and knee, still trying to change magazines.

It was pure bad luck, then, that McKay happened to be moving in front of the other man as Jaris brought Major Sheppard's weapon to point at him and fired.

The sudden scream, made Sheppard drop the magazine and the rifle, the latter of which swung from its strap. "McKay!!" he yelled, grabbing the scientist as he staggered back into him. He couldn't tell where it was coming from, but there was already a sizeable splattering of blood on the ground, and it was getting bigger.

For the moment, the attacking group was shocked into stillness by the result of what had just happened, and Sheppard took advantage of that to drag the civilian back towards the woods, all the while with McKay getting hysterical; "Oh my God I'm shot, I'm bleeding, I'm gonna die—"

"You're not going to die," Sheppard said, his voice somewhat harsh. "Come on, you've got to move," he insisted, trying to get the man to support himself. Instead, McKay fell to one side with a sharp sound of pain. Sheppard seized a hold of his vest, turning him to lean against a nearby tree.

Taking pause to inspect his comrade, Sheppard felt something in his gut sink as he saw the dark red blood, oozing out of a very distinct bullet wound in McKay's thigh.

McKay seemed to take this pause to inspect the wound himself, letting out one more 'Oh God,' before Sheppard cut him off with a shushing noise.

"Listen," he whispered, but McKay disregarded him, still moaning softly and gripping at his leg. Sheppard felt a pang of regret for his unsympathetic treatment of the man. However, behind them, he could hear Jaris and his gang yelling again, heading in their direction. Trying to soften his voice some; "Just hang on, okay?" He pulled McKay's arm over his shoulders, though the physicist seemed oblivious. "We need to move."

"Move? Don't you see the gaping hole in my leg?" he asked, growing hysterical again. Confused at first, then frantically; "He had a gun… he had a gun!"

Sheppard winced, pulling McKay along. "Ye-eah."

"Why the hell did he have a gun?!" McKay cried, and Sheppard hissed at him again.

"Shh!" Now feeling guilty on top of everything else, Sheppard poured even more strength into pulling McKay forward; the man beside him stumbled, though, unable keep up and not quite able to stifle another noise of pain as he came down on his bleeding leg. This time, though, Sheppard had him, and was able to pull him back to his feet. "Let's focus on not getting shot again, why don't we?" he said, not quite ready to try and explain exactly why they were in this situation.

Being silent just wasn't going to happen, though. Luckily, it seemed their pursuers were being just as loud, if not louder. On the downside, Jaris was between them and the Stargate, and Ford and Teyla would be well on their way there.

On our own, outnumbered, blocked off, and with an injured man. He spared a glance for McKay, who was starting to look pale, and was taking short, ragged breaths.

"Okay," Sheppard said to himself, slowing, "we need to stop." Though he didn't want to admit it, he was exhausted himself; moreover, if he kept pushing his teammate like this, pretty soon he was going to be dragging an unconscious man. Gingerly lowering McKay to the ground, he remained standing, unsure that he'd be able to get back up if he sat down.

Chest heaving, McKay shot Sheppard a grateful look, unable to speak; it wasn't lost on the soldier, who nodded, looking down at his P90.

We're not gonna be able to keep this up forever, he thought. Diplomatic relations here were no longer possible— it didn't mean he wanted to fire on them again. It didn't seem like he had any choice, though. Inspecting his weapon, Sheppard felt a distinct chill go through him, and stiffened up. "Damn it," he muttered. "Damn it!" He kicked a nearby tree, wishing he could kick himself. Turning back to McKay, who wasn't so out of sorts as to miss his outburst, he exhaled in defeat.

Bewildered, and honestly, a little frightened by the major's behavior, McKay continued to stare at Sheppard until the man turned his weapon to reveal the top of it. Where a magazine should have been, there was nothing. The scientist's confusion lingered for a moment, as Sheppard made no move to put a replacement in, until he realized that Sheppard had no replacements to put in.

McKay searched for his own weapon, before groaning in realization, then wincing as another jolt of pain shot up his leg.

Sheppard moved to kneel in front of the other man, hating to interrupt this one relatively peaceful moment. "Have you got your sidearm?"

Glancing up at Sheppard, a moment later, McKay's eyes went wide, and he started trying to grab it— setting himself off balance, and worse, his hands shaking so hard that he accidentally jerked the gun while it was still in the holster.

Sheppard's arms darted forward to catch either side of his teammate's vest, as the man doubled up in pain, curled over his injured leg. He thought he could see tears on the scientist's face, and instinctively glanced away, embarrassed at witnessing this much emotion from him.

Not looking up, McKay reached for his weapon again, trying to suck it up. He was surprised to feel Sheppard's hand close around his wrist. Glancing up, he saw the major's other hand held up, placating. "Just hold on to it for now," he said. He didn't want to say it, but it seemed to go unspoken— one pistol against a gang of men wasn't any good. Staring back over his shoulder, he added, "We need another plan."

They could now see movement— with no more time to waste, Sheppard once again grabbed McKay, who put his own arm around the major, trying to do what little he could to help himself. Noticing the strain on Major Sheppard's face as he hauled him up, McKay grit his teeth, determined not to let the pain make him yell out this time. As the intensity of it washed over him, it took everything he had not to scream. Finally, he was able to get his one good leg under him; that, and the fact that his injured one was now still, made him nod at Sheppard, albeit feebly.

"Okay," Sheppard said, exhaling loudly. McKay could practically see the gears turning in the man's head— it was begging to be mocked, but the pain and dire predicament they were now in put a bit of a damper on any satisfaction he might have gotten from it. "Okay," Sheppard repeated, as if trying to convince himself what he was thinking of would work. "We'll try to lose them in the trees… get past them, go from there."

They had only gone a few steps before McKay startled Sheppard by saying, "Wait!"

"We don't have time to wait, McKay!" Sheppard replied, trying to get them moving again. A gunshot going off behind them had them both instinctively going for the ground, though not quite together. Jerked to one side with his leg under him, McKay let out a short scream, unable to stop it this time. Sheppard was suddenly holding up the both of them, and struggled to rise from the squat he was in, now that the scientist had collapsed.

"McKay!" he said, shaking the physicist, unsure if he had passed out; "McKay!"

"Stop it," McKay managed to hiss back at him, feeling like he was about to throw up. "The river!" Not understanding, Sheppard gave him a baffled look, before looking back towards their attackers, and trying to rise. McKay pushed himself up one more time, but refused to move as the major tried to drag him from the spot. "No, stop! We have to head for—"

A sharp gasp cut off the end of his sentence, but finally it clicked with the soldier. "The river. Right," he murmured, waiting for McKay to get steady again, before starting them off. "We headed in the right direction?" he asked, under his breath, unable to muster any more volume.

McKay couldn't even manage that, only able to take a quick glance around, before clenching his eyes shut, and nodding once.

He wasn't even sure how long it was until he saw the trees start to clear out in front of them, but McKay could have cried as the sound of running water began to drown out the yells from behind them. It was Sheppard this time who halted, nearly taking the other man off his feet yet again at the unexpected stop. Pain shot up and down his whole leg and into his torso; he rocked his head forward, sure he was going to lose his lunch.

"What are you waiting for," he managed to grate at Sheppard; the major was gritting his teeth. "That's our only chance!"

"Notice something?" Sheppard said, seeming torn over… something.

The physicist gave the river another inspection, before realizing he couldn't actually see the river— he was overcome a sinking feeling as the implications of this set in. "What do we do now?"

Wincing again, Sheppard began to move them towards the river. "We follow your plan." This time, the other man resisted.

"Are you crazy? We can't!" Grunting, Sheppard yanked McKay forward, surprising the scientist with the amount of strength he was able to muster— he let out a yelp of pain as the sudden movement jarred his leg.

"We don't have any choice!" Sheppard yelled, as Jaris and his men emerged from the forest. He took another step towards the river embankment, heaving McKay towards it; this time, the scientist wasn't even able to offer protest as the pain threatened to make him black out— his eyes rolled back in his head. "Stay with me!" he heard yelled, though it sounded muffled, like it was far away. He was trying— God, he was trying!— to push himself forwards, to move with Sheppard now.

In an instant, he heard Sheppard swear, and the ground ended beneath his feet. Pitching forward, he flailed blindly—

For a second, he seemed to hang in the air, before he realized he was falling. And if he had time to consciously think he was falling, then—

McKay contorted in agony, enveloped by water, trying to yell. He couldn't tell which way was up, the world seemed to be spinning— it felt like someone was tearing his leg off and his whole body was wracked with pain from crashing into the water— he thought he could see something else explode into the water, but it was too much— dimly, he was aware that water was rushing into his lungs, blocking his airway, probably irreparably, really…

With a bit of morbid curiosity as he began to pass out, Rodney McKay wondered if this was what it felt like to die.

Sheppard nearly fell over the edge of the river himself as he desperately reached out for McKay, who slipped away. He was screaming himself hoarse in defiance, before he looked over his shoulder, just in time to see Jaris pointing the gun at him again. Without thinking, he launched himself over the edge as a gunshot reverberated overhead. He bounced off the sloping river bank halfway down, to land painfully in the water.

For a moment, the major's limbs seized up, as the crushing weight, the confinement of the water pressed in on him, trapping him, and he thrashed around trying to break free of it. He almost wanted to cry as he resurfaced, more from luck than any conscious effort— above all, he wanted to swim for the bank, grab hold, claw his way out, anything to keep from going under like that again.

Like ice through his veins, though, as he continued to be washed downstream, he realized he couldn't see McKay. He spun in the water, searching for a flash of grey, and a sense of panic started to take him. He couldn't have lost him… No!

His lack of concentration cost him, though, and the river swept the major underwater. Once more, it was a fight for his life, desperately fighting, craving the air above him and the need to be out of this water. A dark shape ahead only barely caught his attention. With more than just a little trepidation, Sheppard forced himself further into the water, kicking towards the form that resolved itself into the scientist, lower in the river, caught in the strong current. Now thoroughly out of breath, Sheppard kept going, certain that he'd never find the man again in the murky, wild river if he let him out of his sights now.

His hand locked around the crook of McKay's elbow, his lungs burning. But it had to get worse— the current refused to give up its hold on either of them, sweeping them along and keeping them stuck in the midst of the water, trapping them well beneath the surface. Even the soldier's long legs couldn't hit the bottom, yet the surface of the water seemed to be at least five feet overhead.

Fighting to get up, it seemed that for all the effort he made, he was getting nowhere— the river pushed and pulled them, growing rougher spinning them around and making it impossible to tell which way was up anymore.

Then, impossibly, his foot seemed to brush something hard, and the major scrambled, floundering like an idiot, anything to reach it. McKay was still being swept downstream and it felt like his arm was being ripped from its socket, but after a few moments, he clawed not more water, but mud, thick and deep, his fingers sinking through it.

With what little strength he had left, Sheppard brought his legs up, and kicked off of the bank, only hoping it was enough and he was headed in the right direction.

Unbelievably, his head broke the surface of the river a few seconds later, McKay's a moment after that. Muscles screaming with every stroke, he somehow managed to work them to the embankment, holding on for dear life at a stand of reed-like plants at the water's edge.

"McKay…" he said, trying to give the man a shake. There was simply no way he could pull the both of them up the slick, muddy slope— hell, he doubted if he could really pull himself up. "McKay!" He felt his stomach do a flip as the physicist's head lolled back.

Frantic, he glanced ahead, hoping, praying that there was a lower bank down there. He didn't have much choice but to let go of his tenuous hold, struggling to keep McKay's head out of the water, and slip further downriver. Soon— not soon enough— he saw a spot where it looked like the bank had collapsed, leaving a much shallower slope. Sheppard kicked for it somewhat feebly, first pulling himself out, then trying to drag McKay's bulk up out of the moving water.

Once he finally got him out enough that he thought the scientist wouldn't wash away, he bent his head over McKay's face, trembling fingers at his neck. A weak, fluttery pulse… but no breathing.

He hesitated a moment, before swearing— if Sheppard didn't do this, his teammate could die. Pinching the physicist's nose and tilting his head, the major gave him a couple rescue breaths— no good, he thought, seeing McKay's chest barely move.

As he laced his hands together and started doing chest compressions, he talked to the man, angrily. "You… had better… live… 'cause if I… have to go… through… giving you… mouth-to-mouth… and you… just die… I'm am so…. gonna be… pissed!" Ducking down to administer another set of breaths, Sheppard was barely able to get out of the way as McKay first coughed, then vomited, expulsing the watery contents of both his lungs and stomach. "S'about damn time," he murmured, watching the other man stir and sitting back on his hands.

Feeling weaker than he could ever imagine in his life, McKay slowly rolled onto his side, still coughing up small amounts of water with every breath. He could hear someone sigh explosively— though it sounded muted, as it still felt like water was rushing around his head, pummeling his eardrums. Then Major Sheppard flopped onto his back in front of him. Confused, McKay tried to work up a question, but only brought up more water, his body shaking with the effort of trying to get rid of all of it. Sheppard turned his head towards him, a second later offering a slight smile. Even more confusing was the major, wearily extending one arm, before patting him reassuringly on the shoulder. None of it made sense— like why he felt like his leg was on fire, or why he was laying half in mud, half in water— or why he wasn't dead. Before he got the chance to try asking a question again, though, everything started to go a little grey, and he closed his eyes, resignedly accepting unconsciousness.

Waking up quite a while later, McKay had a serious moment of panic as he found himself in a forest, soaking wet, at night, alone—

"You're awake." Make that, the physicist amended in his head, not quite as alone as I'd like.

Sheppard was leaning against a tree nearby— there was a fire between them. The scientist could only presume that that was supposed to 'dry' them, or 'warm' them— both of which is was failing miserably at, he noted. Gingerly and with shaking limbs, McKay pushed himself up off the ground, and into a sitting position, legs splayed out in front of him. About forty different questions assaulted him at once, and he tried to work them out, pick which one to ask. From across the flames, Sheppard was watching him splutter. Eventually, McKay just moaned, putting one hand to his face. "God, I'm starved."

The major snorted once in amusement, but tossed a power bar at the scientist, who eagerly tore into it. Sheppard, meanwhile, leaned his head back against the tree, closing his eyes. McKay gave him no notice though, devouring the power bar like it was nothing.

As he finished, he tossed the wrapper to one side, before noticing his injured leg. There were several pieces of gauze, and a wrapping keeping slight pressure on it. Still, he could see blood seeping through one small spot, and his leg was starting to feel blood deprived. All the same… McKay yet again took notice of their surroundings, before realizing he couldn't hear the river, at all. How far they were… he had no idea. The realization came as a surprise, and he didn't know how to ask Sheppard about it. So, he went for the next biggest question; "What happened?"

"Fell in the river. Drug you out." Sheppard opened one eye. "Revived you."

McKay couldn't help but make a face. "I don't think I should ask how."

"No," Sheppard agreed, somewhat threateningly, "you shouldn't."

"Well," McKay stated shortly; "…Thanks."

"No problem," Sheppard said, sounding anything but sincere. He closed his eyes again, but opened them a moment later. "I know the river couldn't have been good for it, but how's your leg?"

McKay couldn't help but reply, dryly, "Painful."

For several long minutes, there was silence between them. Finally, McKay brought up the question Sheppard had prayed he had forgotten. "How did he get the gun?"

For a moment he didn't answer. "'Scuse me?" he asked.

"Don't play stupid, Sheppard," McKay shot back, growing snappy as the major evaded his question. "As well as it suits you," he grumbled.

Sheppard watched him, before looking away. "I gave it to him," he said simply.

McKay was silent for a moment, before he yelled, "What the hell? You gave him a gun?"

"Hey," Sheppard said, incensed, "it wasn't like I expected him to use it on us!"

"Oh, so what did you expect him to do with a gun?"

Sheppard pushed himself up, and for a moment McKay thought he was going to walk over and kick him, or something similarly painful. Instead, he began pacing, back and forth. After about half a minute of this, he stopped, glaring at McKay. "You know, I was just trying to be nice. It's not my fault that they decided it was more profitable to kill us and take our weapons."

McKay said nothing, just watching Sheppard a bit wide-eyed— and wondering, not for the first time, if he was entirely mentally stable. "Well, I… I'm sure it was all one big misunderstanding," he said at length, trying and failing miserably to be reassuring.

Shooting him a droll look, but not snapping at him either, Sheppard flopped back to the ground, before his legs gave out. "These people are bad off enough… We try to help," he mused, "but instead of wanting that, they get jealous, and want what we have for themselves…" He shook his head.

"Well…" McKay started, uneasily. "Can you blame them?"

Letting out a mirthless laugh, Sheppard shook his head.

McKay gave a sigh of his own. "So… I was shot with your gun. Great."

It seemed that Sheppard wasn't going to reply, until he spoke in a voice so quiet McKay nearly missed it. "With a bullet meant for me." Seeing McKay's confused expression, he elaborated. "Jaris wasn't aiming for you. If you hadn't been in front of me…" he trailed off, and neither man finished the sentence. It was an awkward moment already.

"Well, for once, this is not my fault," McKay said, trying to change the subject; though, he didn't seem entirely certain. In fact, he wasn't certain. He felt quite the opposite, and it showed.

"'For once'?" The major gave him a disbelieving look. "'Not your fault'?"

Grimacing; "Are you going to repeat everything I say?" Under that, though, he felt a stab of betrayal; okay, maybe he deserved it, but still, to have his supposed teammate rub it in his face that he had managed to piss off the locals so badly…

"Everything you say?" Sheppard said, grinning— the expression quickly faded, as McKay made a sound of disgust. "Just trying to keep the mood light," he added, under his breath. For a while, silence prevailed again, and the soldier stoked the fire with some nearby branches. Eventually, he just came out and asked; "What was with the whole, 'not my fault' thing? And I'm not trying to mimic you," he added, cutting off McKay before he could have another go at him. "I'm wondering where the hell you got the idea this was your fault?"

Blindsided by the unexpected reply, the scientist snapped his mouth shut, before taking a breath, and starting again, though the accusing glare returned to his face. "Come on. If you haven't noticed, I'm rather smart— I can tell when I've royally screwed things up," he muttered. "Again," he added, almost as an afterthought.

Sheppard sat there, observing the scientist, unsure of what to say at first. This… unguarded side of him was something new, and honestly, he had no idea of how to deal with it. At length; "Well, y'know what? I say you're full of it."

"Excuse me?" the other man demanded. "The copious amounts of blood I've been losing must have impaired my hearing, because it sounded like you just said 'I'm full of it'."

"Who's repeating who now?" Sheppard shot back. "You expect me to listen to that B.S. about you always screwing things up?"

McKay gave him a long, baffled stare. Finally; "Is this your convoluted way of trying to comfort me?"

The major gave a shrug. "I'm just saying, you've got no reason to think this was all your fault. I think it's just an excuse for you to pity yourself."

"Oh, because everything is just going so well for me right now," McKay snapped, his voice rising. "How very selfish of me to feel any kind of discontent for the situation I find myself in." Sheppard frowned, sitting up and staring past the physicist. "Hey, are you even listening to me?"

Sheppard waved one impatient hand at him. "Shut up."

"Excuse me?" McKay said again, this time much louder and sounding far more offended.

"Shhh!" Sheppard hissed, leaping to his feet.

Off in the woods were voices— many of them, and none of them familiar. McKay turned in place, biting his lip nervously. "You think they're friendly?" he asked, somewhat hopefully.

"No," Sheppard said, walking over to where his teammate was sitting. "And I don't intend to find out by waiting for them. Up," he commanded, stooping to grab McKay. Getting his one good foot under him, the man tried, this time, to keep from moving his injured leg more than necessary. It helped, some, but one thing he noticed was that Sheppard's arms were shaking. But then, the man had pulled his arm over his shoulders, taking as much of his weight as he could, and McKay couldn't help but feel a bit of guilt. Guilt wasn't going to keep them alive, though, and they started off, like they were participating in some kind of weird three-legged race.

McKay stumbled, coming down hard on his bad leg— the searing pain made it seize up, and in an instant, it collapsed under him. A second later, he was face down in the loam, the sounds of the hunting party behind him. By this point, there was no doubt in his mind about what it was that was following them— he could even hear footsteps, running around them, in the dark. He tried to hiss for Sheppard, but got no response— unable to see, it was likely the major had lost him.

Grunting, he tried to haul himself back up, failing miserably. Without warning, another set of hands seized the back of his vest, pulling him to his feet. He began flailing, trying to knock his assailant away, but they caught first one, then both wrists.

"McKay! Knock it off," he heard a familiar voice say, "before you do another header."

"Sheppard?" he replied, unbelieving.

Even though he couldn't see the major's face, he got the distinct feeling the soldier was smiling that same, damned, ironic little smile at him, and tried to get them going again.

McKay, on the other hand, was starting to feel the wear of their mad run. Hell, who was he kidding, starting? They couldn't have gone more than a mile and a half, yet he felt like he was about ready to die. Never mind that he was still soaking wet, freezing cold, probably bleeding again after all this running, opening up what was sure to be an infected wound.

Letting out a cry of pain, the physicist stumbled again, sagging against Sheppard, who suddenly found himself supporting the weight of both of them. "Come on," he grunted, "On your feet."

McKay made no effort to get up this time, though. About now, he'd welcome the angry mob that was following them— at least getting shot would be quick and relatively painless, as opposed to the torture that was running with a gunshot wound in his leg. As if to punctuate his question, the thunderous sound of the Beretta being fired went off, making both men flinch; it sounded like it had been right next to them. "Why are you doing this?" he asked, miserably.

The long night had worn on Sheppard, too, and he was unable to come up with any response except "What?"

"Why do you keep trying to drag me to the Stargate, we both know I'm never going to make it?"

Sheppard took a few ragged breaths, before trying to get McKay to his feet again. "Bull," he said through gritted teeth. "You think I'm gonna leave you here to those maniacs?"

McKay let out a sound of disparagement, but it lacked the usual sharpness. "Oh, like you really give a damn?" he asked, his voice going up an octave.

"Ouch," Sheppard said, somehow managing to sound incensed through the labored breathing.

For his part, McKay looked confused. "Come on, I mean… what about that whole 'you're full of it' number?" McKay found himself being hauled to his feet, as Sheppard took advantage of his momentary distraction. Not really paying attention, the scientist managed to get at least his good leg under him.

"So what? Just because I think you whine doesn't mean I think you should be shot," the soldier said, trying not to sound grating. He pulled McKay's arm over his shoulder again, grabbing a fistful of the material of the man's vest with his other hand, trying to support as much of his weight as he could. It took a lot of self control to bite back a comment about said weight, though; instead, he tried to focus on getting as much ground between them and the villagers, as fast as possible.

After some more stumbling, dragging, tripping, and staggering, McKay suddenly stopped, staring at Sheppard wide-eyed.

"What? What is it?"

"You did want to shoot me!"

Completely blindsided by this accusation, Major Sheppard could only gape for a few seconds, before he screwed up his face in confusion. "What?"

"No, no, I remember, I said too bad life wasn't like Star Trek and you said you wanted to shoot me!" McKay continued, his voice high and looking somewhat out of sorts.

Sheppard, unsure of what had brought this on, tried to ignore the question and keep moving; those voices behind them were getting uncomfortably close. McKay, however, had other ideas, and refused to move. By this time, the major was too exhausted to force the scientist to move on his own. "I never said I wanted to shoot you."

He didn't seem convinced though. "No but you sure acted like it…"

"Look, McKay— Rodney—" he said, trying to recapture the civilian's attention as it started to slip. "I don't think now's the best time to discuss this," he said, feeling like he was dealing with a child.

All of a sudden, lights and flames burst out of the trees on the edge of his vision. Swearing, Sheppard tried to fumble for his sidearm without dropping McKay— only to realize it wasn't there. He tried to go for McKay's instead, but the scientist flinched away from him, knocking both off them off balance. The next thing he knew, the ground was rushing up to meet him— Sheppard felt the side of his head impact hard on the ground, a multitude of sticks and rocks beneath his body, each leaving what would probably end up as some pretty interesting bruises the next day. Groaning, he could only be thankful that no rocks had been beneath his skull when he came down.

Before he even had the opportunity to sit up, though, they were both surrounded. Spearheads and torches, and, best of all— the barrel of an M9— were all being held uncomfortably close to their heads.

"You injured one of my men," Jaris said, voice heavy with accusation.

Sheppard regarded him from his kneeling position. "Well… yes. Your men were trying to kill me," he pointed out. Never mind what you've been doing. He glanced around; Jaris' followers were in a relatively tight circle around the two of them— nearby, McKay was sitting on the ground, not being forced to kneel, but well guarded. All in all, things were looking pretty shitty, in his estimation.

The leader of the little hunting party continued to stalk around the soldier. From where he sat, McKay didn't even register the breath catching in his throat. He's not really going to kill Sheppard, he's not really going to kill him… is he? As if in response to his mental question, Jaris leveled the Beretta at Sheppard's head.

"You parade such weapons in front of us, hunting freely from our land, yet offer us nothing like it, when we have so little." Sheppard said nothing, clenching his jaw. Jaris, realizing that his intimidation technique wasn't working. "Why shouldn't I just go ahead and kill both of you now, with your own weapon?"

"Because there's a limit to how much it fires," Sheppard shot back, catching Jaris off guard. "You haven't been paying attention to how much you used that thing, have you? You only have one shot left," he said, disparagingly. "How do you intend to kill us, then?"

"Shut up!" Around Jaris, his group was muttering again, and he shot them all a dirty look. "You lie," he said, addressing Sheppard once again.

"You want proof? Why don't you just fire that gun in your hands there, and find out. Use your last bullet, I have no problem with that," he said, nonchalantly, subtly taunting the other man.

Jaris' lips curled in a snarl. "Fine, then," he said, bringing the M9 back to bear on Sheppard's head. "I kill you, and make your people pay for the other one."

"No!" Not entirely sure what had gotten into him, McKay wrested himself away from the two men holding him still— half limping, half hopping towards Jaris and Sheppard, collapsing part of the way there onto one knee.

"McKay, what are you doing?" Sheppard demanded in a low tone.

"If you shoot anyone, it should be me," the scientist said, not entirely sure what he was doing. "Sure, he may have shot your guy and all, but let's face it, it wouldn't have happened if he hadn't come after me. I'm your number one problem," he insisted.

Jaris eyed him as if he were crazy— maybe he was. Sheppard was hissing at him; "Rodney!" McKay ignored him though.

"And I swear, if you kill him, I'm going to make your life a living hell— you think I talk a lot now, well, you just wait and see, 'cause when I get afraid and the adrenaline really starts to speak, this is nothing," he said in a rush. "Besides, I can hardly walk, and are you all really that interested in dragging me back to your little shanty-town? I think not," he said, managing to work some derision into his voice, over the nervousness.

"McKay, I appreciate what you're trying to do," Sheppard said, trying to keep his voice level, "but this is not the time to suddenly decide to be noble."

The civilian let out a bark of laughter. "Me? Noble? Look who's talking, Kirk. Besides, I have just as much right to get shot as you," he said, with a sniff.

Sheppard scowled at him. "You are aware that they're about to put a bullet in one of our brains, right?"

"Oh really," McKay said, with a tone of feigned surprise. "Is that what that gun is for?"

"You know, your brain's a lot more valuable than mine— which you've gladly reminded me of on multiple occasions," Sheppard shot back.

McKay let out a somewhat high-pitched laugh, sounding almost delirious, and Sheppard had to wonder how much of it was blood-loss, and how much of it was adrenaline from letting himself get so worked up. "Hah! What, you think I'm going to argue that point? That doesn't change anything, though," he added.

Sheppard let out a sound of exasperated disgust. "McKay!"

"Hey, I already took one bullet for you," the scientist said, voice dripping in sarcasm. "Might as well get the set."

"You did not," Sheppard said, brow furrowed. "Taking a bullet implies some kind of self sacrifice. You just got in the way!"

"Enough!" Jaris finally yelled, putting an end to their bickering. "If either of you has forgotten, I am the one with the 'gun', and you are my prisoners!" he practically screamed.

"Oh, I hadn't forgotten," Sheppard said, squinting up at Jaris in the torchlight. "I was kinda hoping you had, though."

His expression faded into one of fear, however, as Jaris brought the weapon up again. McKay yelled out as the major threw himself to the side, right as Jaris fired his last shot. Sheppard collapsed face first in the mud— and did not get up.

"Sheppard! Sheppard!" The scientist tried to scramble forward and check on his teammate, but stronger pairs of arms grabbed his own, restraining him. "Let go of me, you bastards— Sheppard!"

Someone grew tired of his incessant screaming, and McKay felt a kick delivered to his stomach, doubling over in pain. Looking up through tears, he saw Jaris first toe, then kick Sheppard… Sheppard's… No, he thought, no, not his body, he can't be dead…

Without warning, the loud bursts that could only be the fire of P90s came from startlingly nearby, making many of the men assembled flinch and look around in confusion. Then, bits of bark and plant matter began flying, as the gunfire got louder and closer, and people began to scream, running in all different directions, not wanting to get shredded by the hail of bullets. McKay dove for the ground, pulling his arms over his head.

Jaris, meanwhile, snapped his head around in confused panic, pointing the useless gun in every direction he could, trying to appear threatening. Without warning, something struck him from behind— someone was trying to grab his arms, wrestle him to the ground. Lashing out with the hard metal of the gun, he caught his assailant in the face— none other than Major Sheppard, who staggered backwards.

Jaris advanced on him again, trying to wield the Beretta like a club now. Sheppard made a grab for that arm, closing the distance between them and trapping Jaris' hand. As the villager struggled to get free, they lost their balance; he took advantage of the situation, pushing over onto Sheppard, landing on top of him and punching him in the face once, as he writhed again, determined to free his hand.

A single gunshot rang out, and Jaris stopped moving, eyes going wide. McKay looked up in surprise, to see Sheppard shove the now mortally wounded man off of himself, holding the M9 himself.

"You're alive! You were bluffing!" he said, suddenly sounding accusatory.

Sheppard frowned, kneeling next to him. "Don't sound so cheerful."

Spluttering a bit for a response, McKay's eyes fell on the bloody stain across Sheppard's midsection. He opened his mouth to ask, but Sheppard held up one hand to forestall it.

"Not mine," he said, noticing where McKay was looking.

"…So you bluffed about the gun, too," he said finally. "To keep him from using up all the ammunition!"

Wincing, Sheppard tilted his head to the side. "Uh, yeah, on that one I actually just guessed."

He was saved from McKay's wrath and something about playing Russian Roulette with their lives by a cry from close-by that sounded distinctly like Teyla. Sure enough, she ran out of the forest, followed closely by Ford— both looking incredibly relieved to see them, but neither so much as Sheppard and McKay.

"Your timing sucks," he called out to his 2IC as way of greeting.

"When you didn't show up," the lieutenant said, "we figured something had gone wrong. Glad to see us?" Ford asked, barely containing a grin.

"Depends… are we walking all the way back to the 'Gate, or did you bring a Jumper?"

"We came in a Jumper," Ford assured him.

Teyla added, "But it is some distance from here," tossing a glance back at the lieutenant.

"Then no. I'm not happy." Sheppard cracked a smile. "But I'll admit to being relieved." He turned to McKay. "Think you can make it?"

"No." The scientist gave him a look like he was crazy. "Can't you all go get the ship and bring it to me? Instead of making the injured man walk several miles?"

Ford frowned at him. "It's only a half mile away," he said to Sheppard under his breath.

The major shook his head, though. "Nah, I think we'll do it his way. Teyla," he said, catching the attention of the Athosian woman. "You stay with McKay. Ford— lead the way," he said, gesturing off into the woods. Despite his exhaustion, he figured he could go ahead and make it to the Jumper— he would have liked to fly it back, but after fighting the whole night just to stay alive, he didn't see the point in crashing a perfectly good Jumper and getting himself and everyone else in it killed.

The thought made him chuckle, for some reason, a bit deliriously. Ford shot him a strange look, and Sheppard realized in the back of his mind that his lieutenant was probably wondering if he was really okay. He couldn't have cared less, though— they were okay. They were really going to be okay.

It had been several hours since they had gotten back to the City; McKay was sitting up in an infirmary bed, immersed in the scrolling data on a laptop perched on a bedside tray— unable to rest it on his legs. He had so far managed to avoid all contact with anyone by such a tactic, except of course Carson, who had assured him he had gotten lucky, and there was no infection in the wound. Lucky, right. However, he soon got one visitor who refused to take a hint, seating themselves in a chair next to the bed, and watching him, until, in exasperation, he finally said something.

"Come to mock me?"

"Absolutely," Sheppard replied with an unwavering smile and without missing a beat.

Glaring back at the military man, McKay replied, "Well, get it over with then, I have better things to do than listen to you."

Sheppard didn't say anything, though, and eventually, McKay just made a noise sounding like, 'Hmph', before turning back to his laptop, beginning to type away.

"…You were really gonna take that bullet for me, weren't you?"

Startled by the quiet question, McKay looked up at Sheppard. It took a moment to even register what the man had said, and when he did, he gaped for a while like a fish. Seeing a smile form on Sheppard's lips, McKay glanced away, snapping his mouth shut, embarrassed.

"S'alright," Sheppard assured him good-naturedly, "forget I asked."

He stood to go; as he turned to go, McKay suddenly blurted out, "You would have taken it for me." Surprised, Sheppard turned his head to look back over his shoulder, as if not sure of what he had just heard. McKay too seemed shocked at what had just come out of his mouth. "It just…" he tried to continue, in a modest, decidedly non-McKay fashion; "It seemed like the right thing to do… The kind of thing friends would…" He stopped, no idea how to continue.

After a second, Sheppard's warm smile returned, this time seeming so much more genuine, and secretly pleased. "Night, Rodney," was all he said, before heading for the exit.

A few seconds after the major had left, McKay found himself murmuring, "Night", before hastily returning to his laptop. He typed for several minutes, before just lifting his fingers from the keys, pausing.

You know what? he thought to himself; I've got time for this later. He was acting strange he knew, nothing like himself, and yet… He did have time for it later.

For now, he could sleep, and easily.