A New Respect (aka: SON of Creature Feature)
Characters: Rodney (h/c), Ronon (h/c) and Sheppard
Disclamer: The characters, Atlantis, etc, all belong to Sony, MGM, Gecko, Showtime, the Sci-Fi Channel.
Summary: Ronon and McKay are attacked off world and Ronon sees Rodney in a new light.
A/N: This is another answer to a sga-hc-challenges lj challenge. This was challenge #3-"I missed" Comfort challenge. The story needed to be based off the opening paragraph (written by x-erikah-x). And yes, yes I'm fully aware of the current Ronon kick I seem to be on. He's just so yummy. I make no apologies for it. The world needs more Ronon!!
Thanks to NotTasha for betaing. All mistakes are mine!
That was the last thing Ronon thought before the huge quickening beast knocked him against the hard stone. As he swiveled in the air, the image of the unconscious scientist, bruised and bloodied, crossed his eyes. With Sheppard and Teyla still on their way, it would be only a matter of time before the creature took its prey. His vision darkened and he was unaware of what happened next."
This could not be good. Rodney knew he was in trouble the moment he started to regain consciousness. He didn't remember what or where, he just knew he hurt. Everywhere. His head pounded. Sharp spikes of pain stabbing through his temple and wrapping his entire cranium like a vice. Dizziness overwhelmed him and he hadn't even tried to move yet, let alone open his eyes.
He concentrated on breathing and not on the nausea growing in his gut. Something teased at the back of his distracted mind. There was something… dangerous here. What had happened? What? He blinked, trying to open his eyes but shut them quickly as the clouds above swirled like kaleidoscope. Oh crap. Instinctively he moved, even as he wretched, trying to turn onto his side so he wouldn't choke. He couldn't choke. Oh oh oh, he hated puking. Fire burned through him, his back arched rigidly and his whole body convulsed as he threw up. Tiny knives scraped the inside of his throat and mouth and his nose seemed to explode.
Oh god, that was gross.
He shoved himself away from the smell and the mess, but movement brought a new wave of agony. What had happened? He couldn't remember where he was or why they had come here, just…wait. They? They? Who was?
Shakily he forced himself to try again. His body felt leaden, as if someone had turned on a gravitational device to increase the pull of his weight against the ground but he pushed on, ignoring the way the pain intensified. He had to find Ronon.
McKay managed to push up and get one arm under him absently noting that his hand sunk into a soggy mess of blood and dirt. What?
Blinking again and trying to ignore the sway and the triple vision, Rodney looked around and froze. "We are so screwed," he whispered.
Ronon lay, sprawled against the side of a rocky embankment. Completely unconscious and unaware of the- the thing- that now pawed lazily on his right foot. Rodney stared, trying to figure out what he could do.
The beast was huge. It had the body like a large cat but its head…heads…it really didn't have three did it? No. Just one, but it was different from any mountain lion or panther or jaguar he'd ever seen. It was sharply angled and its nose came to a beak like snout that curved to a point. Midway down its back…Rodney swallowed back another round of bile…wings. Silver tipped wings that seemed to glitter as it moved.
Its muscles rippled as it pawed at Ronon's legs and nudged at the Satedan with its muzzle, nipping lightly at the man's pants. It reminded Rodney of his cat with a rubber mouse or a ball filled with catnip. Just contentedly…playing. A mythical creature was using Ronon as a chew toy.
God, sometimes he really hated this galaxy.
Trembling, Rodney watched with growing terror. He couldn't fight it. He was nothing but critter bait himself. He couldn't even sit all the way up, how was he going to get that thing away from Ronon before it decided that Ronon would be more tasty than entertaining? Closing his eyes against the pain ratcheting through his head, McKay tried to remember if anyone was coming for them. Where were Sheppard and Teyla anyway? He couldn't remember.
A low growl had him opening his eyes quickly. The wings of the beast were outstretched now, so it appeared to almost hover over the Satedan. It'd moved from his feet and now pawed more intently at the unresponsive man's side. Rodney could see silvery claws extended.
Something else glinted in the light and Rodney flicked his eyes in that direction. Ronon's weapon…or weapons because there appeared to be three of them…lay in the dirt. If he could reach it…
Forcing himself to keep his eyes on the griffin-esque thing, Rodney reached for the weapon. He bit his lip as he struggled to stretch for it. Agony went through him. Pins of fire poked at his shoulder and side, but he had to do this. He watched as the creature's eyes flicked up. Oh God. It was aware of him. He knew that look. Even as it appeared to be completely focused on Ronon, he saw its back and hindquarters tense. He recognized the posture and knew, just knew that in any minute, it was going to pounce at him.
His fingers clawed at the dirt, still moving as cautiously but as quickly as he was able. It took a try or two,but finally he felt the cool solid weight of the weapon in his hand. He could barely lift it as he lay stretched out in his own blood. It wavered and shook and swayed dangerously in Ronon's direction as Rodney struggled to raise it high enough. His arm shook like he had palsy and he didn't know even if the weapon was set to stun or kill. What if he killed Ronon?
The beast raised its head and looked squarely at him now. Its wings stretched wider as it bared two rows of sharp dirty teeth.
"Oh God." Rodney couldn't…he fired, the action jarring him back into the dirt. He didn't know if he'd hit it, or Ronon or if he'd missed and it'd go on chewing on them both. He needed to… His triple vision blurred together into darkness, his last thought through the pain was that he was a dead man.
Ronon woke to jumbled memories, pain and the thick fuzzy feeling immediately recognizable as Beckett's "good drugs". He knew he was back on Atlantis and in the dim light of the infirmary he could see that Rodney was back too. Relaxing a little, his eyes swept over the bed next to his. Rodney was hooked up to an IV, but Ronon saw none of the tubes or attachments that he had come to identify with serious injuries.
It meant that Rodney was breathing, his heart was beating and he didn't need assistance for either. Knowing all this didn't curb Ronon's need to really see for himself how McKay was doing. The four foot space between their beds was suddenly too wide a distance. The image of McKay lying bruised and bloody and completely unresponsive flashed through his mind.
Dead – McKay should have been dead. Both of them should be dead.
Slowly and carefully, Ronon pushed himself up, cataloging his own injuries and then dismissing them. His head ached and the room swayed slightly. His back protested. He pressed one hand against the bandages that wrapped his torso to ease the burning sensation as his stitches stretched and pulled with his movement.
He didn't know where his shirt was.
Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he reached for the IV pole next to him for added stability, careful not to tangle the tubing that led to the back of his hand. If he pulled the IV out alarms would start sounding all over the place.
Glancing around and checking for Carson, he noticed Sheppard, fully clothed and laying on a nearby bed, sleeping. Not injured then. There was no sign of any medical staff lurking about to command him back into bed.
Silently, Ronon stood, ignoring the shiver that ran through him as his bare feet hit the cold floor. His solid red scrub pants rode low on his waist but he ignored them.Dragging the IV pole behind him, he managed the two steps to Rodney's bed.
McKay slept with a scowling expression. A long line of stitches traced his hairline just above his ear, standing out against his normal pasty white skin. Blood had dried and crusted in his hair.
Like himself, McKay was shirtless. Bandages wrapped his left shoulder and his arm was immobilized, strapped across his chest. The thin cotton sheet covering Rodney had slipped down to his waist and,without thinking about it, Ronon pulled it higher. McKay wouldn't want to be cold.
Movement behind him warned Ronon he was about to hear a lecture about being out of bed, but he didn't move.
"You should probably sit down." A chair scraped against the floor and pressed lightly against the back of his knees. Though shaky, he refused to sit yet.
Sheppard crossed his arms and leaned a hip against McKay's bed. "He's okay," he assured softly.
Ronon watched McKay sleep. Watched his chest rise and fall evenly.
"I don't remember how…" Ronon rubbed his hand over his face. The memory of the winged creature attacking Rodney assailed him. He saw it again in vivid pictures. The beast had knocked him down a hill first and he was climbing back up when the thing rammed the scientist, cracking its head against his then clamped its teeth down around Rodney's shoulder. He could still hear McKay's scream.
"You were both out when we found you," Sheppard explained. Ronon could tell John knew more than he was saying. The Colonel was waiting to see what Ronon could remember on his own.
Ronon shook his head. "Knocked me down the hill," he recalled. "I couldn't get a shot off fast enough. Not before it got to him." Couldn't protect him. The failure beat at him. He should have been faster or stronger or more alert for the danger. It was his fault they'd nearly been killed. McKay depended on him to be there, to protect him and he'd let his friend down.
"That thing was huge," John reminded.
"I should have…" Ronon didn't know what he should have done. Something. Anything.
Rodney began to stir, trying to move his bound arm. His fingers flexed and his hand fisted. His breathing quickened.
Ronon reached out and laid his hand over Rodney's tense fist.
Sheppard touched McKay's leg.
"He's okay?" Ronon needed to hear it again.
John nodded. "Lost more blood than anyone ought to and his shoulder's torn up a bit, but Beckett's sure it'll heal without any permanent damage. He'll be an ass with PT though." He patted McKay's leg to affirm he meant Rodney would be the ass—not Carson.
Ronon snorted, knowing Sheppard was right. Physical therapy and Rodney went together as well as Sheppard and bugs.They were all in for some prime McKay bitching.
"Banged his head good,but not enough to knock much sense into him, I'm sure." The lightness in the statement told him McKay probably had a decent concussion. He probably did too the way his head was throbbing.
McKay's fingers twitched again beneath his.
"How'd you kill it?" Ronon questioned. He had to know what happened.
When he'd blacked out, he'd thought they were finished. How had Sheppard and Teyla gotten there in time?
"It was dead when we got there."
Ronon's head snapped up, his eyes meeting John's. The room swayed around him.
He heard the order in Sheppard's tone and obeyed it this time. A hand on his elbow steadied him.
"It was dead?" He searched John's expression for an explanation.
Sheppard nodded, taking a minute to scooch back so he was now sitting on the edge of McKay's bed. Rodney mumbled incoherently.
"Go back to sleep, McKay." John touched his leg again. After a moment, McKay began to snore softly.
"How?" Ronon didn't understand. He tried to remember, ignoring the pain throbbing through his head. He'd fired at the thing, but had missed and been attacked.
John shrugged, waiting to see if Ronon would remember more.
Ronon could remember hearing Sheppard and Teyla arrive. First panicked, then calm and reassuring. He remembered asking about Rodney, needing to know if the scientist was okay. He remembered Carson.
He didn't remember killing the beast.
"We found your blaster," John pulled at his attention
"I shot at it," Ronon admitted, looking up at John intently. "I missed."
"Well, your weapon killed it."
"I don't understand." Ronon sat back in the chair, grimacing as it jarred his back and side. How could his weapon have killed it? He closed his eyes, going over the attack yet again. Moment by moment. Had he somehow managed to fatally wound the animal? No, he had missed the shot.
"I know I missed."
John reached forward, his hand grasping Ronon's shoulder.
Ronon opened his eyes again, the weight of his guilt heavy. "I missed," he whispered.
John's expression was calm and knowing. There was no blame or judgment, just an easy, reassuring smile.
Ronon watched Rodney sleep as he listened to Sheppard explain how they'd found his blaster next to McKay. The evidence showed that somehow Rodney had managed to drag himself close enough to reach the gun and then had taken out the giant beast. He'd saved them both.
"You ready to get back to bed?" John waited for an answer but Ronon waved him off.
He needed a minute.
It'd been his job to protect McKay, and Rodney was usually the first one to remind him of that. He was the warrior. Rodney was the scientist. He was trained to fight. Rodney wasn't.
The tension in his shoulders began to ebb as he leaned more heavily back into the chair. The realization settled on him like a comfortable blanket. McKay was a fighter and for all his complaining and excuses…when it came down to it, the man fought and fought hard to survive. He may go on about saving himself, but Ronon couldn't help but smile to know definitively that the man would fight to save his friends as well.
He owed his life to Rodney.
Maybe McKay was more like a warrior than Ronon had ever thought.
He at least deserved the respect of one.