The gate opens and the team bursts through, looking over their shoulders, not stopping until the event horizon shuts down behind them, until the ring is dark. Only then do they breathe.
Lorne and his men are shell-shocked, and one man less. Teyla's hands fall to her knees as she doubles over, her eyes wide with shock. Ronon turns in a slow circle, his eyes to the ceiling, his large hands running over his bound hair. John's hand is still on his weapon. Rodney is shrinking from him. Angry. Hurt.
Sam doesn't know what to think. "What the hell happened out there?" Okay, so it isn't exactly protocol. Screw protocol.
"Genii," John says in a slow drawl filled with fatigue. "Damned alliance. Had us right where they wanted us."
"You could call it that."
Sam shakes her head. "You mean the Genii are down there on that planet? Why?" It isn't something she wants to think about. The Genii are turning into a plague, appearing in the most unlikely places, determined to pick off her people one by one until they get what they want. And to be truthful, she's no longer sure whatthey want. The conflict between them has turned more into a game. Almost as though they're pulling terrorists acts more out of habit than need. Still, they are a viable threat, as is made obvious by the lack of personnel that comes back through. She notices one man missing. "Where is Lt. Thrasher?"
John straightens, and she winces at the crack she hears. "He's gone."
John licks his lips slowly. "I think we should shower, get Rodney checked out. Then debrief."
Sam recognizes the look in John's eyes. She sees the defeat there, and as much as she needs to know what is going on, she lets him set the bar. "Very well. One hour."
John gives her a nod of thanks, and reaches out for Rodney's elbow. She's surprised to see him jerk away again, and head off to the infirmary alone.
"Well, looks like you did quite a number on your shoulder." Dr. Keller frowns as she gently thumbs the tender flesh around the wound. "What the hell is that?"
"That would be a physical manifestation of pain," Rodney snaps. "And you probing at it isn't helping!"
"I'm just trying to sort out what happened, Rodney, don't get your panties all twisted." Keller examines the wound closely. "What kind of weapons did they have?"
Rodney faces her with heavy eyes. "Cosmic ray guns," he says sarcastically.
Keller sighs. "All right. Fine. If you're not gonna tell me what happened, then be quiet so I can patch you up and get you out of my lab. Okay?"
It isn't much of a threat, and she knows it. Still, Rodney turns back. His lips press tight together, his shoulders slump in defeat. Keller forces him to straighten, and ignores the sharp, annoyed intake of breath.
That, she hasgotten good at.
"I probably should bind this. Keep you from moving it too much."
"Just do whatever. I don't care." And the problem is, Rodney really sounds like he doesn't give a crap.
Which, after hearing stories about Rodney's passion for his own health, just isn't right at all.
"Now what happened out there?" Sam clasps her hands together on her desk and gives John her full attention. He's radiating uncertainty and tension, and that's never a good sign. "I thought you were going to the planet for trade. You were gone only a few hours. There wasn't enough time for anything to happen, not to this degree. Not unless it was premeditated."
"You hit the nail on the head," John says, and Sam leans back, letting her hands slide to her lap. "It was all a set-up from the get-go. There was no trade. We were ambushed a few miles from the gate."
"I don't understand. You've come through that gate hot plenty of times, John. What makes this time different?"
John looks skyward, though the sky is hidden from him. Like he's searching. "I messed up. I went back. We should've kept running, but I stopped and went back. And someone died."
"You went back into the line of fire? Why?"
"Haven't you?" John asks.
He's looked for Rodney all evening. John finally sees him in an obscure corner overlooking the city. "You okay?" he asks gently.
The eyes that turn to him are not okay. Neither is his bandaged arm. "What do you want?" he asks.
"I want to know if you're okay." .
"I'm fine." Rodney turns away.
"Yeah, I can see that." He joins his friend. Tucks his hands in his pockets. In it for the long haul.
Rodney is incredulous. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Waiting for you."
"I don't know. To cry, cuss, bitch, moan, anything except give me the silent treatment."
"I want to think," Rodney says in a smaller voice, and looks away.
And like flipping a switch, he explodes. "About what? About that! Back there!" He gestures vaguely towards the gate room. "About. . .you leaving him behind." The eyes are accusing, his voice cold.
And John's heart freezes. "I didn't have a choice."
"You had a choice."
"No . . ."
"Youleft him behind!"
"It wasn't like that!" Sheppard has never heard such venom from his friend.
"Don't tell me was it was like! I was there! You hardly looked back, and then you went through the gate!"
"He was dead!"
Rodney's voice shakes. "He reached out for you, Colonel. Or did you miss that?"
John stares, then shakes his head. There's no way. There's no way in hell Rodney saw that soldier . . . "You're lying."
"Oh, really?" Rodney steps closer. "You think I'm making this up? I've seen people die too, you know. They've died right in front of me. Gaul blew his damn brains out in front of me, and did I do anything? No. Why? Because I couldn't. Now you, on the other hand, all you had to do was look back. Just look back!"
"If I looked back, you would be dead!"
"YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW THAT?" Rodney spins on his heel, then backs Sheppard down once more. "You had no right!"
"I had every right!"
"He was still alive!"
"So were you!" John yelled. "And you were closer!"
Rodney's voice catches, just for a moment. "He reached out for you," he tries again.
John deflates. "So did you, Rodney," he says quietly. "So did you."