Title: Big Bad Monsters
Written by LoveConquers
Spoilers: Mild reference to Doppelganger
Disclaimer: Not mine! Stargate Atlantis belongs to MGM.
Summary: He was supposed to save her from the monsters, not be one himself. One shot loosely set after the events of Doppelganger. Mild John Whump with a dash of JT.
A/N: For Elfinn. Inspired by John's line, "Was I the dashing hero saving you from the big bad monster?"
Halfway home, it occurred to him that part of being the dashing hero and saving her from the big bad monster also entailed his surviving said big bad monster.
Or in this case, the bullet.
Two weeks since the crystal entity had wreaked havoc on all their dreams, John still hadn't forgotten the look in Teyla's face as she shoved back from her breakfast, nervous eyes skidding away from his. Though she was now the one who reminded him it had been just a dream, he couldn't shake that look from his memory.
He never wanted to see that look from her ever again.
He cast a sideways glance at her now as she hurried to catch up with him. Despite his battered and weary appearance, he walked determinedly back toward the gate. But he didn't complain when Teyla dipped under his shoulder and helped support his weight.
Her gaze fell worriedly down to his bleeding leg. Despite the earlier bandaging, his thigh was soaked with blood and sweat, and she hadn't seen an exit wound. "John—"
"I'm fine." He was limping badly, but felt relief that when all was said and done, they had come out ahead, at least in the sense that they were alive and the bad guys weren't. He shot her a grin, his sand crusted face cracking. "We stopped the monster, didn't we?"
She felt his arm tighten around her momentarily and understood. Though the entity had affected them all, John was still trying to make amends, holding himself responsible for something he well knew he could not control. But knowing and feeling were two completely different things. It was something Teyla also understood all too well.
"That we did." She murmured her words, eyes scanning anxiously ahead as she felt his weight dig more heavily into her frame. He was in more pain than he was letting on. Even at a brisk walk, the gate was still half a day ahead. At their current shuffling pace, it was even further. She felt the weight of the situation even as John tried not to lean on her too much. They had lost most of their supplies in the scuffle and had precious little to use. Next to her, John couldn't hide the groan that escaped, his lips clamped and pale. She sighed, gesturing lightly to the side with her chin. Though subtle, she trusted Ronon to still catch the signal from behind her.
"We should stop here for the night." It was more a command than a question, though he still looked for John's answering nod before unceremoniously dumping the limping scientist he supported onto the dirt. There was sand everywhere on this god forsaken planet.
"Ow! Injured ankle here." Rodney protested moodily, pulling his body into an upright slump. He felt Ronon's knee give him an answering nudge as the big man passed by him, immediately setting to work and gathering what little he could find around them for firewood. "I'm just saying…" Rodney muttered under his breath as he shifted around to get more comfortable, pulling out his canteen and tipping his head back for a much needed drink. He caught Teyla's eyes over the brim of the metal on his way back down, clamping the stopper back in place before tossing it over to her.
She caught it with a grateful smile, handing it over to John before digging in the one remaining knapsack they had left, taking stock of what little medical supplies they had available. He had lost a good deal of blood throughout the day, and they were still out of contact with Atlantis. She cast a practiced eye over him as she dug around. There didn't seem to be a part of him that wasn't bloody.
Ronon noticed the same thing as he approached a few minutes later, kneeling close by to start a fire. By silent agreement, they would keep it small, uncertain if there were others yet around them.
Teyla shivered as the wind blew suddenly, tasting the cloying sand gritting with the coppery blood from her own cut lip. She accepted the canteen from John as he handed it over, swishing the stale liquid around in her mouth before spitting it out. She stole another glance at him as she took another sip, watching as he shuffled over to Ronon. His gait wasn't nearly as sure as before, and his breath was coming in a little quicker. She turned her attention back to her task when he frowned at her studying look.
"Home sweet home," John rasped, awkwardly settling himself next to where Ronon was still working the fire without much luck.
Ronon snorted, but didn't comment. He raised his eyebrows triumphantly a moment later when a tiny spark flared to life, only to be smothered by blowing sand.
"Damn." John kept up a running commentary.
"No kidding." Doggedly, Ronon tried again. And again. He didn't protest when small hands reached over and pulled the matches from his larger ones, grunting when Teyla got a flame on her first attempt.
John grinned silently, leaning back as she idly set it into the kindling, face contorting briefly as he fought the pain the simple movement awoke.
"The bullet." Teyla worried, lower lip pulled between her teeth as she next bent over his leg, hand on his upper thigh. "You got hit pulling me down…John…"
The last came out in the barest of whispers, hesitant and yet with a hint of promise; it brought John's gaze abruptly to her, sending a warm rush through his battered body. They stared at one another for a silent beat.
"If he wasn't still bleeding, there'd be a cliché in this whole thing somewhere." Rodney broke the moment, letting out a long sigh of relief as he eased himself closer to the fire. He exchanged glances with Ronon as he extended his injured foot. Though his tone was light, his eyes betrayed his concern.
"We have to remove it." John finally spoke what the others had not dared throughout the long afternoon.
"Yes." Teyla closed her eyes for a moment, gathering strength. When she opened them, Ronon was already busy, filling a bowl with water from their meager supplies and setting two of his smaller knives into the fire. Knives. This, compounded with the fact they had no pain killers save mild tablets... She pushed aside the bile that rose unbidden to her throat, removing her jacket before moving down to John's feet. She could feel him watching her as she pulled off his boots and tossed them to the side.
Ronon handed her a pair of scissors from the small med kit, and she exhaled slowly, steadily, before aiming for his trousers.
John grabbed her hand firmly. "What do you think you're doing?"
Teyla's eyebrow crept up slightly as she waved the scissors in the general vicinity of his injured leg. "Either I cut the pants, or we remove them."
"I'llremove them," John insisted. He ignored Rodney's soft guffaw as he pulled Teyla's jacket for covering before wiggling to remove them, hissing and grunting at the effort. Teyla snaked a practical hand underneath and grabbed the ends, yanking them the rest of the way off. He let out a startled yelp that even had Ronon cracking a grin.
"The scissors would have been easier." Teyla shook her head.
"Yeah, I'm sure." John grunted, trying to contain the gasp of pain as Ronon next removed his tac vest and shirt as carefully as possible. There was fresh blood seeping through his upper shoulder as well. He hadn't even felt that one before now.
Ronon whistled at the extent of the damage. His torso was splattered with blood, some dried and some fresh. A raw trail seared his side, saturated with scarlet and sand.
"Guess they got off a few lucky shots."
Rolling her eyes heavenward at his bravado, Teyla started cleaning the gunshot wound to his side. Black power burns from the close proximity of the gun peppered his skin. Though ugly, it was just a graze along the ribs. He had been lucky.
John hissed as she dabbed the area with antiseptic, and Ronon began theorizing about the soldiers they had encountered, sure he had seen them somewhere before. Teyla remained steadily silent through as she listened to their assessment while she worked, her mind casting back to the fierce kick one of them had landed on that same side, as if knowing best where to hurt John. The coldness of the monster's eyes still bore into her soul. She could not remember feeling such terror from a mere man before. It had been only her instinctive gamble for survival that had overcome, drawing his complete attention to her before Ronon's gun mercifully assisted. She resisted the shudder, turning her attention next to John's leg. She stripped off the soaked bandaging, grimacing when it stuck to the wound. It finally came free with a spurt of blood and sand.
John rose up off the ground with an anguished howl. "Damn it, Teyla! Warn me...when you're going to do that."
"Sorry." She mumbled. Her eyes blinked back the tears gathering beneath her lids, reminding herself that he would recover. She just had to get through this and not let her emotions show. It would only interfere with what had to be done. She had to be detached about it or the pain she was about to inflict would shatter her heart.
Everything in that day had happened so fast. She had had no idea the extent of his injuries when he had collapsed after the danger was past and had feared the worst. The memory made her tremble even now, and she knew it would haunt her dreams for some time to come. Ironic that he would now haunt her dreams in another way. The entity had realized how important John's trust was to her, how she relied on him, and how terrifying the thought was to her of losing that trust, of losing him, to the monsters of this galaxy. Little did she expect that fear to come true in a roundabout and more literal way.
She drew in a deep breath to steady her nerves, forcing her mind to remain on the matter at hand. She probed the wound as gently as she could to determine the bullet's location. John squirmed slightly under her, but didn't speak. He just lay there panting at the effort to not move, the creases around his eyes deepening with agony as Teyla's fingers probed and found the stray lead.
"How bad?" Ronon craned his neck to see.
"It is deep, but it missed the bone and artery."
"Lucky me." John's attempted glibness fell flat.
Teyla shook her head, rising to her feet. John watched her move around him and maneuver to the fire. She was walking very erect. The stress of the situation, both then and now, were telling on her. He wanted to reach out to her, let her know all was well. Even though he was exhausted beyond measure, in terrible pain, he felt relief. And that was the most important thing.
The fear was gone. All the guilt and uncertainty, the shame that had flooded him and that had all invaded him, threatening to consume him, was gone. Until this very moment, he didn't fully understand why. He had felt responsible for his failure with the entity. But it had been Teyla in danger that had made him find himself again. Before, he had flippantly asked if he had been her dashing hero. It had shamed him deep inside to be the opposite. Until now, he hadn't realized the overwhelming affect it had on him, the need to defend her and the others. And while logically he knew it had been the entity that had drawn him to touch the crystal in the first place, and it had been the entity that had terrorized his team, it hadn't released the shame until now. He remembered it, and it made him stronger. And he hadn't failed them this time.
Teyla came back to his side, holding the sterilized knife. He offered a smile to her that she half-heartedly returned. But it fell off her lips far too quickly. Her fingers trembled imperceptibly as her hand hovered above his injured thigh, debating how best to proceed.
"Be careful where you point that thing," John commented dryly.
She looked back at him, startled. Hazel eyes burned into hers and a warmth flooded her so fast that she almost felt faint. She spun away from him, not wanting him to see the emotion he had wrought so plainly on her face.
Ronon came up behind her. "Do you want me to do it?" He asked quietly, mistaking her reaction as distress.
She shook her head. She would do this, for John. "Just hold him down." She met his gaze hard. "Don't let him move."
Ronon grunted, moving to John's side. At a firm stare, Rodney caught on as well, paling as he also scrambled to help.
"Well, this is going to be fun." For a moment, John's eyes held bald lucidity as he nodded at Teyla, hands gripped into fists as Ronon leaned down to put weight on his forearms to keep them there. Rodney placed his weight on John's healthy leg while Teyla did the same with the injured one, positioning herself over the wound.
With a last meeting of the eyes, she began.
John's scream of agony rang out clear despite his best effort to clench his teeth. He tried to shift away from the pain, but they held him. Tears did flood Teyla's eyes now, but she blinked them away, concentrating solely on extracting the bullet. To her relief, she felt the knife tip strike the bullet, but she couldn't get a good grip on it. The blood and frenzied shifting was making it difficult.
Mercifully, John stilled, passing out finally. Teyla gasped, fighting for control as she tried to get the bullet. She finally pulled it out with a cry of triumph.
"Put pressure on the wound," Rodney's voice came out hoarsely. John's thigh was bleeding profusely again.
Teyla tossed the lead aside, barely hearing its spat into the dry sand as she pressed a wad of clean bandages over the entry hole. A blossom of red quickly appeared through the thick layers. Ronon handed over some antiseptic, which she poured liberally into the wound, cleaning it, and hopefully preventing an infection. Thankfully, John didn't even flinch. Teyla piled on more dressing and then wrapped the wound up tight with a thick pressure bandage. She only hoped she hadn't done more harm than good before they could get John back to Dr. Keller. She sat back up, shaking.
Ronon placed a steady hand on her slim shoulder. "It's done."
Letting out a shuttering sigh, she rose. "There is still much work to be done. His side, his arm.."
Ronon nodded his head back to where John lay. Teyla looked over to see Rodney already busy at work on John's arm. The sight almost brought her to tears again, and she swallowed tightly, bending back down to finish up his side before he woke up.
His jaw muscles twitched reflexively at her touch, and she soothed his face with a tender brush of her hand, grateful that for the moment at least, he wasn't in pain. She reached for more bandages, working with Rodney in tandem to finish up.
"Three bullet wounds. It's a wonder he didn't bleed to death." Rodney was uncharacteristically solemn.
Teyla busied herself with cleaning up, a tad too frantically. She felt rather than saw the two men exchange glances over her before Ronon reached around her, taking the things from her hands.
"I'll take care of all this."
"We are not done yet." Teyla shook her head fervently. "There is still Rodney's ankle to attend to and John will need—he will need..."
"Teyla, sit." Ronon placed gentle pressure on her shoulders, bringing her back to John's side. "I've got it."
"Besides, I've always wanted Ronon to wait on me hand and foot." Rodney's eyes gave a hint of a smirk as he pushed back away from them, stretching out his own injured foot slowly.
Teyla's face tightened as she fought the emotions that swelled; she let them show only in the gesture of a tiny smile, genuine and weary. "Thank you...for everything."
They both knew to what she referred. Sometimes they forgot that no one was alone here, and no one faced a threat on their own. But they were a family now. It had been a long, hard struggle,but somehow they had become friends. There were times Teyla would have thought it impossible. She liked the promise it held now.
She turned back to John as they busied themselves around the fire. In just the last couple of months, they had been through so much. The emotion in her eased as she sat very still, watching John sleep before her for a long time. The planet succumbed to the night around them, the wind blowing in occasional shifts. Ronon and Rodney's voices murmured nearby, but still she stayed. As the light waned to where she could no longer plainly see him, she reached out instead, her hand unconsciously rising to smooth his mussed hair. There was still sand buried within the dark strands. Using her fingers, she combed through what she could before leaning over him, checking his breathing and temperature, relieved to find both normal. He was warm, but not feverish. Ronon threw more wood onto the fire, and the suddenly spurt of flames cast shadows across his prone body. She shifted her jacket on him, trying to give him more cover.
John drew in a deeper breath at the motion, his eyes flickering open. She waited until he regained his bearings. "John?"
He blinked a few times and then turned towards her voice. "Teyla?" His was thick and dry. He coughed lightly and then stilled as the movement caused some pain.
"I'm here." She gathered up his hand briefly, letting him feel her physical presence in the darkness.
"He is keeping watch. Rodney is sleeping comfortably." Her smile could be heard in the blackness.
John paused for a moment, taking stock. "I think I feel worse than I did before."
She felt more than saw John's answering grin and gently pulled her hands back. In the flickering shadows, she could see just see him in all his pathetic glory. He looked terrible; dark purple bruises were beginning to show on his torso. Self-conscious, he cleared his throat and with a hand behind his neck, she maneuvered him up enough to drink some of the remaining water from Rodney's canteen. He grimaced at the taste, but gamely swallowed as much as he could anyway.
Setting it down, she then lifted up the edge of her jacket down by his thigh, and it was then John remembered he was practically naked. He jerked the jacket back down and grunted at the pain that move elicited.
"John, it is too late for modesty." That only made him blanch. She could see him trying to work through what might have happened while he was out and failing miserably. She smiled gently. "I must check your leg."
"It's fine." His grip on the jacket didn't waver.
"It's either me or Ronon," She reminded him with a raised brow.
John thought it through and eventually let go of the jacket, keeping his hand poised at a delicate position in the darkness.
Teyla rolled back the edge. Thankfully, the bleeding seemed to have stopped. The bandage was still spotted with blood, but it wasn't anything to be alarmed over. She opted to let it go until morning. She dropped the jacket back into place, much to John's wry sigh. She checked the rest of his injuries as well. His breathing had become more relaxed and rhythmic. She knew he wasn't going to stay awake much longer. His eyes were drooping, but he fought to keep them awake.
"You need to rest."
"I was dreaming...of you and I." The words were murmured.
She laughed, a little embarrassed. "That seems to be happening a lot lately."
"It's...it's good." He muttered, almost alseep now.
"I am glad." She whispered, daring to press her hand against his bare chest. It was rare she let herself show emotion like this, but she savored it now, taking the time to just be. To breathe.
"Teyla..." John's chest rose deeply as he roused himself briefly before trailing off again. "No—no more big bad monsters."
"No," The laugher chortled out of her softly. "No more big bad monsters." Lowering her head, she rested her forehead against his, feeling him relax once more against her warmth. "But I think I shall keep the hero."
His responding laughter echoed in windswept ripples across the sand.