Title: Cold Comforts
Author: Sholio (a.k.a. friendshipper)
Rating: PG for a bit of profanity. Gen. Rather shameless h/c.
Word count: about 5000
Summary: It was going to be the most embarrassing obituary ever: M. Rodney McKay, age 39. Fell down a hole.
It was going to be the most embarrassing obituary ever, Rodney thought dazedly. M. Rodney McKay, age 39. Fell down a hole.
He took stock of himself piece by piece, a litany of body parts he either couldn't move or didn't dare try: legs, arms, neck, head. He was buried to the neck in light, drifted snow, and the icy walls of his prison held him firmly. He thought his head was probably pointed up rather than down, based on the lack of blood rushing into it, but it was sort of impossible to tell, without having any landmarks to orient himself. An omnipresent blue light surrounded him, seeping through the ice and painting his world in ocean shades of cobalt and aquamarine.
Something in his collar was squeaking at him. Oh. Radio. Right. It must have fallen out of his ear during his tumble. He tried to reach for it, reflexively, and caught himself short with a undignified squawk of pain. Something hurt, somewhere deep inside him. Oh God, what if I broke my back? You're not supposed to move your back after you have a fall, right?
He still couldn't think straight. Not just his body, but his brains, too, were scrambled, shaken, twisted. By twitching gently, he determined that his right arm was pinned at his side, but he could get the left one free. He fumbled at his collar with fingers like blocks of wood, and paused to waggle them in front of his face. No glove. Okay, that was bad.
After some more fumbling, he got the radio cupped in the palm of his numb hand and held it against his ear.
"-- odney? Rodney, dammit, say something!" Sheppard sounded half frantic, and there were scrabbling sounds in the background that would have probably given him a cold chill if he'd been capable of getting any colder. The only thing that would make this situation worse would be Sheppard landing on top of him and breaking both their necks.
"If you're tr-trying to climb down, for God's sake use your brain," he snapped into the radio. His lips and tongue felt thick, stiff, unresponsive with cold; only aggravation managed to loosen them enough to shape coherent words. "It's like a luge chute and there's only room for one down here, thanks!"
The scrabbling stopped. "Rodney," Sheppard said, in a tone that Rodney had only heard from him once before -- over the radio when he was trapped in the submerged puddlejumper. And wasn't that an unhelpful thought. Think warm thoughts, McKay. Wide-open fields. Deserts.
"Are you okay?" Sheppard was saying, which gave Rodney a nice satisfying wave of annoyance to warm him and get his jaws working properly again.
"Oh yes, I'm absolutely wonderful. I'm thinking about moving the entire Atlantis science division down here. There's a lovely alcove to my left that would do nicely for Radek's new office."
"I meant," said Sheppard, sounding a lot more like his usual self, "did you hurt yourself in the fall, Rodney."
"I think my ... wait, where's Ronon?" New panic supplanted the old. "Please don't tell me he's about to fall on me, because seriously, I don't think I'll survive that."
"No, he's heading back to the Stargate to bring help." Rodney could hear the frustration in Sheppard's tone. They'd been walking through this damned winter wonderland for how long -- an hour? Two? Ronon was by far the fastest runner that -- well, that Rodney had ever met, actually, but it wasn't like he could teleport.
"I hope he's looking out for holes," Rodney said, more bitterly than he'd intended.
"Crevasse," Sheppard said. "The word is crevasse. God, Rodney, I'm sorry. I didn't even see --"
Whatever he didn't see was lost, because the radio slipped out of Rodney's unresponsive fingers. "Oh, dammit." He fished for it in his collar and finally managed to get it close enough to his mouth to make himself heard. "Sheppard, hold on a minute. Got to do something."
The tinny little voice said, "Wait, what --" before Rodney let the radio fall back into his collar and ran his hand through the sandy powder of ice crystals, fishing for his missing glove. Okay, stupid idea -- how was he supposed to find it when he couldn't feel it? His hand was like a hunk of rock at the end of his arm. And I really should be terrified, and I'm not, and that's sort of terrifying me, except in all the ways that it's not. He held up his hand in front of his face. While it was difficult to distinguish colors in the flat blue light, he could tell that the swollen fingers were cut and scraped from dragging through the sharp ice crystals -- and he couldn't feel that, either.
Okay, there was no help for it. Broken back or not, he couldn't do anything without two hands. Hoping Sheppard could just sit tight for one damn minute without falling on him, he carefully wiggled his right arm. "Ow ... ow ... ow!" and it was out. This hand still had a glove, so he tucked the ice-cold fingers of his left hand against his neck and picked up the radio clumsily with his right.
"-- going on down there? Rodney! You have ten seconds to answer before I'm climbing down there, rappelling gear or not. Nine --"
"Sorry, d-dropped the radio." Just in the short time since he'd last said anything, his lips seemed to have frozen up again; he could barely even understand himself. Fumbling with the radio, he finally got it hooked over his ear, for the moment at least. His right fingers weren't working as well as he might have hoped, and he whacked them against the side of the ice cave to see if that helped. It didn't.
"Still hear me?" Sheppard said. "Rodney?"
"Yes, yes, what?"
There was a brief pause. "You never told me if you were hurt."
Rodney braced himself and spit out his three least favorite words in the English language. "I ... don't know."
"What do you mean, you don't know?"
"What do you think it means? I can't move, Sheppard. I'm not sure if that's because I'm just stuck or because -- well, I'm definitely stuck, and I think my legs are still attached because something must be propping me up, but I can't really vouch for the condition of my back. Tell Ronon to bring a neck brace," he added in a small voice.
"He's bringing a whole puddlejumper, McKay." Sheppard's voice was warm, which was good because right now, Rodney could use all the warmth he could get.
"Ronon can't fly the jumper, Sheppard. He doesn't have the thing, the gene. ATA gene."
Another brief pause. "No, I mean he's bringing a jumper and a pilot. Rodney, how cold are you? You're not making a whole lot of sense."
"How cold do you think I am? I'm stuck at the bottom of a crevasse." The word dripped with as much scorn as he could pack into it.
"Okay, listen, Rodney, it's going to be at least, I don't know, fifteen or twenty minutes minimum before Ronon can get help back here, so why don't you see if you can move, huh? You need to do something to warm yourself up."
"Obviously," Rodney said, enunciating carefully because not only were his lips and tongue failing to work properly, but obviously he was dealing with a moron, "you missed the part about me being stuck."
"What can you move, Rodney?" Sheppard said patiently.
"I might have broken my back. I'm not m-moving a muscle until Ronon gets back with a backboard."
"Rodney, it's got to be ten below up here, at least, and while I'm sure it's a little warmer down there where you are, you've got to do something to warm yourself up. Oh, hey! Do you still have your pack?"
"I guess so. Probably." He thought that he could feel the laptop digging into his spleen, or whatever that part of him was down there.
"See if you can get the emergency blanket out."
Rodney closed his eyes briefly. Give him strength to deal with idiots, and with John Sheppard in full-fledged "must do something" mode. "I. Can't. MOVE."
"Well, obviously you can move some part of your body, if you dropped the radio and then found it again." Sheppard's voice was dry as an Arctic desert. "See if you can get that part of your body to reach around to the pack."
"Quit talking to me, then, so I can concentrate."
Sheppard, miraculously, shut up, and Rodney tried stretching his right arm over his head. Something spasmed in his side. "Ow!"
"What? What's wrong?"
That had felt bad. "I think my ribs are b-broken." The stammer was from cold, not fear -- at least, that was his story and he was sticking to it.
Rodney started a mental list of Things To Do When I Get Out of This Crevasse. "Hit John Sheppard" was at the top of it. "No, I just thought I'd say it for a laugh." He tried slipping his hand around his side, twisting his upper body to -- "Ow!"
"What are you doing now?"
"I'm doing what you told me to do! Shut up!"
They weren't outfitted for a long stay. This was just supposed to be an afternoon jaunt to double-check on foot some odd energy readings the initial survey team had seen from the jumper. Rodney was pretty sure the so-called energy readings were just atmospheric anomalies, but with Teyla on mission stand-down, they hadn't been getting off Atlantis all that much lately, and Sheppard had thought it would be a nice light outing to keep the three active team members in shape for more important missions, blahblahblahcakes.
He was so kicking Sheppard's ass when he got out of here.
So, no sleeping bag, no tent. But they were all carrying light day-packs with emergency blankets, fire-making supplies, food and water -- if he could just reach it. Which, right now, looked about as likely as suddenly finding out he could levitate and float up to the surface. Lifting his shoulder, sending ripples of pain down his side, he managed to slide the strap of the pack down around his upper arm -- pinning him like a straightjacket.
"Any luck?" Sheppard said.
"I hate you."
"Guess that's a no, huh?"
Rodney wriggled a little more. Now his one functional arm was well and truly pinned. "I'd say so. Any more bright ideas?"
A moment of silence while Sheppard, presumably, thought it over. Rodney surprised himself by wishing Teyla were there -- she was really good with this sort of practical stuff. Heck, she'd probably have noticed the snow-covered hole, or crevasse, or whatever, before he stepped in it, and saved them all this trouble.
"Tell me what you see around you," Sheppard said, finally.
"What?" He was startled, momentarily, to hear Sheppard's voice and not Teyla's. But, no, he'd only been thinking about her. She wasn't really here.
"Uh -- ice. I see ice. What did you th-think I'd see?"
Sheppard sighed. "I mean, more specifically."
Rodney tilted his head back, remembering too late that he was supposed to be keeping his neck still. Oh well, if he'd broken his neck he was probably completely screwed at this point anyway. "It's kind of a ch-channel in the ice. I guess I just slid until it narrowed enough to stop me. I'm vertical -- at least, I think I am."
"So your legs are pinned by the ice? ... Hey, I'm talking to you. Rodney?"
"Didn't I just say that? I'm wedged in here like a cork in a bottle."
"Smooth sides?" Sheppard asked. "Or rough?"
He started to say "Smooth", because, duh, ice, but actually, when he looked more closely at it, the ice was seamed and sort of ... pitted, yeah, that was the word. For some reason he was having trouble finding the words he wanted. "Uh, it's kinda pitted, actually. Lots of holes. Sheppard, seriously. Do not try to climb down."
"I wasn't thinking about climbing down." There was a pregnant pause.
"Oh, no way. I can't climb out of here."
"I doubt if you can," Sheppard said, at which Rodney bristled even though he'd just said the same thing himself. "But do you think you can brace yourself against the sides and pull your legs free? ... Rodney?"
"Back injury. Hello."
He could hear a repetitive crunching noise which he realized was Sheppard pacing. "Just stop if something hurts. Rodney, you don't seem to realize it, but you're slurring and you keep pausing, not answering me. You're hypothermic--"
"I am not."
"-- and you have to move around, at least a little. You need to do something to raise your body temperature. Okay?"
Sheppard sucked in a breath. "Do you remember what we were just talking about?"
"It would be easier if you'd quit changing the subject," Rodney said sulkily.
"Rodney, you're hypothermic and you're getting worse by the minute. See if you can brace your arms and elbows against the sides of the ice tunnel, and move your legs a little."
His right arm wouldn't work -- oh, right. Pack strap. His left was doubled up against the side of his neck for some reason. When he took his hand away, his bare, stone-cold fingers brushed against his lips. "Oh. Crap."
"What? Rodney? What's wrong?"
"Lost a glove," Rodney said, trying to wiggle his fingers. They wouldn't.
He tried to remember. "Uh, probably when I fell. I guess."
"Is it down there with you?"
"Don't know. Can't find it." His teeth weren't chattering anymore, which was, he thought, a major improvement and also kind of bad at the same time. Despite the lack of shivering, he was still having a lot of trouble talking. Maybe he ought to see Carson about that. Wait, no. Keller. "Could we get Keller out here?"
Sheppard made a choked little noise, almost a laugh, but with no humor in it. "We're trying, believe me. Okay, since you don't have a glove on that hand, see if you can use your elbow. Can you get it braced against the ice?"
He lifted his arm and gasped when a silvery dart of pain shot through his side. "Ow!"
"What? Something hurts?"
"My side," he said, breathing through the pain.
"Oh, right. Broken ribs. Shit ... Listen, Rodney, does it hurt when you breathe, or just when you move?"
At the moment, it was sort of difficult to sort out. "Uh, when I move, mostly, I guess."
"Let's assume it's not broken, then; you might've just strained or bruised something when you fell. Brace your elbow on the wall, and your other hand on the other side, and try to move your legs."
Gritting his teeth, he set his left elbow and shoulder against the side of the tunnel. He could only move his right arm from the elbow down, because of that damn pack strap, but the awkward position actually gave him better leverage. Setting the heel of his right hand in one of the crevices in the ice, he tried to brace his weight between them, and pried himself up.
A sheet of white-hot pain blanked out his vision, his consciousness, his world. It didn't come from anywhere. It just was. Everywhere.
"... Rodney! C'mon, McKay. Rodney?"
He blinked. Ice crystals flaked off his eyelashes, melted with sharp cold little twinges at the edges of his eyes. His head was cocked to the side, resting on his shoulder; in fact, his whole body seemed to be crumpled up, packed into a little wad where gravity had dragged him to a stop after he'd gone limp.
"I, um ..." His voice was small and thready even to his own ears. He was afraid to move, afraid even to breathe, afraid that next time, the darkness wouldn't let him go. "I think my leg is broken."
Dead silence on Sheppard's end, then, "Are you sure?"
He felt that he ought to be annoyed, or even amused, but he couldn't seem to muster much concern one way or another. "Oh ... probably. Don't really have an X-ray machine down here. Hey, if I did, maybe I could modify it to broadcast infrared. Make myself a heater."
"Accidentally blow yourself up like a hamster in the microwave."
"Urban legend," Rodney muttered.
"Hey ... Rodney ... stay awake, okay?" Little scuffly sounds came over the radio. He couldn't begin to imagine what Sheppard was doing up there, and didn't really care.
"I'm not sleepy. In fact ..." He stretched one arm, the one with the missing glove, and tried once again to wiggle the fingers over his head. "I'm not really cold, either."
"You're cold, all right. You're fucking freezing to death while I get to listen to it." Sheppard grunted, and cursed softly. Rodney still couldn't figure out what he was doing, but it didn't seem terribly important. His head felt light and swimmy, like he really might be capable of floating up to the top of the crevasse.
"Hey, Rodney. You still there? Say something."
"Hey yourself," Rodney said sleepily into his collar. "Can you go into shock from a broken leg, do you suppose?" Snow or ice sifted onto his face; he blinked it away, but more fell in his eyes, so he shut them.
"Yes," Sheppard said. "Try not to."
"Right away, sir. Aye aye. Yes, boss." He laughed; because really, why couldn't you laugh at yourself when you were stuck in a shaft in the ice? And freezing to death, the lucid part of his mind insisted in a voice that sounded a little like Sheppard and a little like Teyla.
"Aha!" Sheppard said. "I can see you."
"No you can't," Rodney mumbled, and then a wad of snow or ice hit him in the face with a shock that knocked him out of his sleepy daze. He jerked, startled, and God, pain, pain that took away his breath and soul and mind.
He came back, hazily, to something bumping his face and head, knocking more snow across his face. "Rodney?" Sheppard's voice said, and wow, he must be farther gone than he'd thought, because he was getting an echo from the radio, like he was hearing Sheppard's voice through the radio and --
Wait a minute.
Rodney opened his eyes, blinking snow out of them. It was nearly dark in the ice tunnel, and this, he realized as he slowly began to make sense of what he was seeing, was due to the shaft being mostly blocked by Sheppard.
He was crouching, with one boot braced against the shaft just above Rodney's head and his other leg bent with the knee next to Rodney's cheek -- that must have been what he was using to jostle him. Sheppard's arms were spread out and braced against both sides of the shaft, and in his hands --
Rodney blinked, blinked again to make sure he wasn't hallucinating.
"Did you free-climb down here using knives?"
"Pretty much. Good thing I listened to Ronon and started carrying more than one, isn't it?" Sheppard's voice sounded artificially light, but even from this angle, and even with most of his brain not exactly running up to spec, Rodney could see that Sheppard was trembling with the strain of holding his awkward position. Naturally, the part of his brain that did still work immediately conjured an image of Sheppard losing his grip on the knives and falling, thus turning Rodney into a vaguely human-shaped plug the diameter of the tunnel.
"In what universe," he managed to say through stiff, unresponsive lips, "is that not a stupid idea?"
"The universe in which you're freezing to death, which also happens to be ours." Setting his foot more firmly against the wall, Sheppard pulled out the right-hand knife, sending a cascade of ice chips onto Rodney's neck and shoulder, and set it again a couple of feet lower. "Listen, Rodney, you can't really see it from where you are, but there's a sort of ice cave a few feet above you -- well, more of a ledge, really, but if I can get you up to it, I think it'll be a lot more comfortable than where you are. Want to try?"
"Oh, sure," he said wearily. At this point, it seemed easier to just go along with whatever Sheppard had in mind. Mostly, he wanted to go to sleep. His eyes kept drifting shut, and he decided that it was probably easier, not to mention less stressful, to leave them shut rather than watch Sheppard wriggling around over his head.
The next thing he became aware of was something digging into his kidneys, which turned out to be Sheppard's knees pressing into his pack.
"That's really uncomfortable, you know."
"It's about to get a whole lot more uncomfortable in a minute," Sheppard said, not a particularly confidence-inspiring speech. "Rodney, I'm going to need your help here. What I'm going to do is work my way around to your front, and you need to get a grip around my waist -- all right? And you have to hold on."
"I want to stay here."
"Nope. Sorry. I didn't climb all the way down here just to hang out and watch you freeze. I could've done that much more comfortably from the surface."
More squirming ensued. Rodney kept his eyes shut. He was drifting, thinking about ZPMs and almost asleep when something smacked his cheek sharply. His eyes flew open to see Sheppard returning his grip to the knife stuck in the wall.
"Not very nice," Rodney mumbled.
"That's because you're not paying attention." Sheppard had somehow worked his way down until his chest was squashed against Rodney's chin. It bothered Rodney a little that he hadn't even noticed this, but it was hard to get too worked up about it. "Okay, Rodney, put your arms around my waist and grab your -- uh --" He'd just caught sight of Rodney's gloveless hand. "God, Rodney," he muttered. "Okay, grab your left wrist in your right hand and hang on tight. All right?"
After a little more flailing, Rodney had his arms settled to Sheppard's satisfaction. His face was turned to the side, cheek pressed against Sheppard's chest. "Gonna hurt," he said into Sheppard's coat.
"Yeah, Rodney, it's gonna hurt. It's gonna hurt like hell. Just remember -- you've been tortured by Genii, you've been shot in the ass and shocked with a defibrillator and this is probably not --"
Rodney didn't hear what it was not, because Sheppard moved just then, quick and sharp, and all he could think was Pain -- nothing coherent, just a pure animal reflex. He might have screamed, he wasn't sure, because he wasn't really sure what happened next, not until Sheppard was prying at his arms and saying, "Rodney, okay, nice job with the hanging on, but I have to breathe now."
Shaking, he let himself slide down; he was sort of in Sheppard's lap, and thought he should probably move away but didn't really have the strength. Tears were freezing on his cheeks; he blinked them away. "Where?" he managed to say.
"Ice shelf, like I told you." Sheppard was doing something around him, busy quick movements. The straps of the pack yanked at his arms. He tried to move and Sheppard's arm slammed across his back instantly. "Whoa, don't do that. There's barely enough space for the two of us, Rodney, and I don't know how stable it is. Just stay still."
Still was okay. Still he could manage. He couldn't really see anything; his face was turned against Sheppard's coat -- no, T-shirt actually; he realized that Sheppard's coat and tac vest were both unzipped, and Rodney's cheek rested against Sheppard's stomach through the thin material of the black shirt. Hands were undoing his coat, too, and Sheppard slipped something down inside it. Rodney jerked in surprise; the heat was more painful than welcome. " 's that?" he managed to ask.
"Chemical heater from an MRE. Clever, huh?" Sheppard sounded very pleased with himself. Something rustled behind Rodney's head, and then he was being wrapped in a silver emergency blanket. Sheppard reached behind himself to arrange it around the two of them. Rodney wanted to raise his head to figure out if his legs were still attached -- he thought the answer was probably yes, because little shivery bolts of pain still raced up his nerve endings, making him twitch. When he stirred, though, Sheppard planted a hand on top of his head and pushed it back down.
"There's no way in hell I can get you warm down here, Rodney; I can barely move without falling off this damned ledge." As he spoke, Sheppard ran his hand down Rodney's left arm and closed his hand around the wrist, bringing it up between their bodies. "The best I can do is try to keep you from getting any colder until they get a jumper and some guys with climbing harnesses out here. At least, that's the plan." Bending Rodney's arm at the elbow like a mannequin's, he lifted the edge of his T-shirt and laid Rodney's ice-cold, ungloved hand against his side, then closed his own over it. At least, so Rodney inferred from the glimpses that he got whenever he opened his eyes halfway. He couldn't really feel much of anything.
"Hey? Rodney? Still with me?" Something stung his forehead. Rodney opened one eye just in time to see Sheppard thwack him again with thumb and forefinger.
"That's not polite, Sheppard," he murmured.
"Hey, it's better than what the nuns used to do to me when I'd answer a math problem wrong."
This tidbit of information percolated slowly through his sluggish brain. "You ... went to Catholic school?"
"Regrettably, yes." Sheppard shifted on the ledge; Rodney could feel the abdominal muscles under the T-shirt flex against his cheek. He closed his eyes again.
"Like it's gonna help," Rodney mumbled, his voice so quiet that he could barely even hear himself now. His eyes slid shut again.
Thwack! This time it wasn't his forehead, but the soft skin behind his ear.
"Hate you," Rodney said without opening his eyes.
"Ah, but you have to be awake to hate me, right?" Sheppard squirmed a little farther back on the ledge. With his face turned to Sheppard's stomach, Rodney hadn't a clue how things looked from the outside, but from Sheppard's tenseness he imagined they were pretty close to the edge.
"Rodney? You comfortable? Anything hurt?"
" 'm comfortable." And he was, too ... warm and cozy, probably still freezing to death, but at least now he'd be doing it wrapped up in an emergency blanket. And Sheppard was there, which was kind of nice. Sheppard had climbed down into a hole in the ice to retrieve him. It wasn't Sheppard's fault that he hadn't made it.
"Don't ..." he said, into Sheppard's T-shirt. "Don't blame yourself."
"Blame myself? For what?"
Sheppard huffed a small, harsh laugh. One of his hands still held Rodney's ungloved one pinned against his side; the other came up and wrapped around the back of Rodney's neck, warm fingers curling around to rest their tips against his throat. Taking his pulse, he realized. "Nothing to blame myself for. In a few minutes we'll be on our way back to Atlantis, drinking hot soup and laughing about this. I can't wait to tell Teyla you got yourself stuck in a hole."
"Crevasse," he said, with all the indignation he could muster.
"Still pretty damn funny." The hand on the back of his neck tightened in a brief squeeze. "Are you in any pain?"
"Some. Not much." Lack of sensation could be a benefit sometimes. His left hand was starting to hurt, though -- burning, stinging, like a million wasps under the skin. "Hand hurts."
"Which one?" Sheppard moved a little -- Rodney felt his own left hand slip against Sheppard's side, the fingers holding it in place tighten slightly. And, hey, he'd felt that. "This one?" Sheppard said.
Sheppard laughed a little. "That's good. That's really good, Rodney."
"So," he murmured, drifting again, "can I sleep now?"
"No," Sheppard said, and then, "Rodney!" But Rodney had never been much good at following orders.
He woke because some idiot was jostling him, bumping him around, and it hurt. "Sheppard, stop that," he said, or tried to say, without opening his eyes.
"Rodney, are you with us?" Not Sheppard's voice. Woman. Familiar. Couldn't quite place it, though. "Could you look at me for a minute? Just for a minute."
He opened his eyes and then squeezed them shut again, the retinas seared by dazzling blue. As the after-image faded, he risked a peek through half-closed lashes. Blue -- and for a horrible moment he thought he was still in the ice shaft, until he realized that this was a far brighter, more vivid blue than the attenuated glow of sunshine through ice. Wispy clouds curled through his narrow window of vision. "Pretty," he whispered, because it was. He could almost see why Sheppard liked to fly.
"Rodney, look at me." The woman's voice again. Keller. He rolled his eyes towards her, because his head wouldn't seem to move. He caught a brief glimpse of her face, young and pretty with blond hair tucked under a parka hood, before she rudely flashed a penlight across his half-closed eyes.
"Ow," he protested, squeezing his eyes shut.
"Sorry. Just be still for a minute, Rodney. Colonel, could you give me a hand moving him?"
"Sheppard?" he asked, hopefully, as his body moved and jerked about, entirely out of his control, and then something bumped his leg and a rush of white noise drowned out anything anyone might have said to him.
When the world came back, warm fingers were curled around his right hand -- this one seemed to have lost its glove, too, but he could feel the pressure and squeezed a little, which got him a little squeeze back. "Hey, you with us, McKay?" Sheppard's voice was soft and very close. "We're just taking off now. Have you back in Atlantis in just a few minutes, like I said."
The air was warm and humid and tasted like plastic; he could feel the edges of an oxygen mask pressing against his jaw. It was vaguely depressing that he recognized the sensation without even opening his eyes. He curled the fingers of his right hand to give a little thumbs-up and then to give him the finger -- he might've been unconscious for some of it, but it had definitely been more than a few minutes, unless this was some new and unique definition of "few".
"He all right?" another voice said, a little farther away. Ronon.
"Do I look all right?" Rodney demanded, as loudly as he could manage, through the oxygen mask, without bothering to open his eyes.
"Yeah," Sheppard said, and laughed again, quietly. "He's all right." The warm pressure of Sheppard's hand kept him grounded, all the way back to Atlantis.