"He's shivering.." said Teyla, as if he wasn't there. She was still holding his hands.
Then, there was Sheppard, on his knees again, peering into his face intently; Rodney pulled his head back. Sheppard ripped off a glove and before he could protest had pulled open the scientist's jacket and thrust his bare right hand past layers of clothing to rest on the skin of his belly.
"Do you mind?!"
"Quiet McKay," said the colonel mildly, ignoring him, and saying instead to the others, as he withdrew his hand, "He's warm enough. We just have to keep him that way."
Ronon said, "I'll do a sweep," and he walked off, his bulky outline fading into the near darkness.
Teyla turned quickly and brought out an emergency blanket. Rodney watched as she shook it out; it settled over him, sparkling in the waning light.
"I thought it had me.." he muttered and he laughed, a very forced laugh that probably fooled no one. He couldn't take his eyes off the dead beast, he felt sure that if he did, it would try to eat him again. Suddenly he remembered his unanswered question from earlier:
"Well... what took you so long?" he spluttered, and he saw Teyla and Sheppard exchange dark looks.
"We came as quickly as we could, but we had to pass many dangerous crevasses, Rodney," Teyla explained patiently, "We cannot go back the same way." She was rubbing at his arms through the thin blanket.
"I l-lost all my stuff... my radio..." he mused, half to himself.
"Don't talk now, there's no need," said Sheppard, and he set about helping Teyla as she tried to thread the scientist's arms through the sleeves of a spare jacket.
Rodney gave a laugh and said, "Never thought my talking would come in h-handy.."
Teyla continued, "We have contacted Atlantis and they are sending another jumper. All we need do is wait," she assured him, flashing a warm smile.
Ronon came over then, and offered him an open water bottle; he accepted it and drank greedily.
"No sign of anything. But we need a fire..." he rumbled, and he let slip the armful of damp wood that he'd been carrying. They all gazed in wonder at the small pile, Rodney imagining everyone having much the same thought: where did he get it? The big guy certainly was resourceful.
"What about that?" asked the Satedan in a low voice, pointing to the tattered boot, peeking from the edge of the blanket.
All eyes turned first to the limb in question and then, taking his cue from the others, McKay lowered the bottle and looked expectantly at Sheppard. But the colonel said nothing at first, only tapped his chin thoughtfully.
"Help me get his boot off.." said Sheppard, his expression tight.
Rodney's reaction was instant... the bottle glugged what little water was left, onto the snow.
"No, no, no...! It's-it's fine... don't-" He really did not want them touching his foot.
"We need to control that bleeding, and you know it." The colonel's gaze met Rodney's, and the scientist recognised there was some sympathy in the other man's eyes.
"Okay... this might hurt," said John quietly and he shot a meaningful look at Ronon, who immediately moved to grasp McKay's upper leg.
Rodney struggled briefly and he thought that he might have whimpered, but no one paid him any mind - not even Teyla. They just closed the circle, immobilising him more effectively.
His foot was cold.. very cold, and this had served him pretty well as a painkiller thus far. Similarly his rigid boot was an effective splint. But as Sheppard slowly began to remove the damaged footwear, the extent of his injuries became apparent. The pain escalated to new heights of agony; something was wrong with the bones of his ankle maybe, because even the smallest of movements as the colonel gently worked to ease off the boot, caused white-hot pain to shoot up the scientist's leg.
He could hear a frantic gasping sound and realised it came from him. His shoulders were so tense, they hurt him, and he could feel someone's steady grip on them. His head fell back and he found himself blinking up at a darkened, alien sky. He heard Sheppard ask for a dressing, and then he felt a pressure as it was applied round and round the lower part of his foot.
Slowly he brought his breathing under control. He swallowed past a dry throat, and allowed himself to relax a little; this was really not so bad, maybe the worst was over.
Then Sheppard slightly rotated the ankle joint.
He felt a scream begin in his throat, but before he had chance to vent it, the first wave of faintness washed over him. He floated, sickened and dizzy, until sounds and movement and pain brought him back to grim reality.
He was flat on his back... he felt warm. Dropping his chin, he looked down the length of his body; they must have worked quickly because somehow his left foot was elevated, swathed in white bandages and splinted with what looked like cutlery.
"That's my mess kit you got there, McKay, and I'll be wanting it back."
John's face appeared and Rodney watched him replacing items into an open field pack.
"Good thing I've got bigger feet than you.." the colonel said with a chuckle, and Rodney could see that Sheppard already had his own laces untied, as he got ready to switch their boots.
"You d-don't have to-" Rodney began, but with his tongue so dry in his mouth, it was difficult to continue.
Then he saw that while he had been speaking, Sheppard had already jammed his ample toes into the wrecked boot, leaving the laces untied. His foot must have been wedged in there pretty good; it looked quite comical with his toes poking out on one side, covered in a plastic bag.
Sheppard leaned over then, his face apologetic and serious; in his hand, an injector from the med-kit.
"Gonna give you something this time... then we'll get that good boot on you, okay? Keep the splint together, you know?" Rodney nodded dumbly, and felt only a little sting in his thigh, followed by a cool and calming wave that spread rapidly through his veins. He felt the ghost of a touch on his foot and then no more for a little while.
When he opened his eyes again, it was to see Sheppard standing beside him, a hand to his radio. Rodney saw his lips move but heard nothing. Strangely, he had no care as to whether rescue was coming or not, he only cared that for now he was doing just fine.
He flopped his head over to the other side. A fire crackled merrily; his team were close. Ronon and Teyla talked together quietly, beside the fire. Their faces glowed and he felt warm... safe. He wanted to speak but knew better than to try; morphine always made him weird.
Besides, for once he had to admit it... he was all talked out.
John spoke now, his voice sounding hollow... subtly changed by the drug in Rodney's bloodstream.
"Help's coming, McKay... don't worry."
Don't worry? Was he worrying? Maybe he was... he was trembling; not shivering, but trembling. He tried to stop, but it seemed impossible. The stinging of his eyes mortified him.
"Is it shock?" boomed a distant voice, echoing like it came from a cave.
"No, I don't think so, but we should get him back soon," came the softly spoken answer.
Not shock, he thought to himself... just a bad day.
A long day with a nasty injury and the fear of death hanging over him.
A hard day of hard talking, where talking had been his salvation.
There was a scuffle and he felt himself moved. Warmth crept through the folded shirt his head was pillowed on; he could smell Teyla's hair. He looked up and realised his head was in the woman's lap and she was shushing him like a child. He felt the urge to cry.
Unlike his team mates, he couldn't just shake these things off; it was a huge deal that he had been dragged away and barely escaped with his life. It would stay with him for a while yet.
"Rest, Rodney, we will be home soon," she said and gently rubbed his forehead. It made him feel sleepy and that was okay by him.
Someone stamped out the fire, which startled him for a moment. Then there was the hum of a jumper and the cold sting of ice chips flying against his lips and cheeks... Teyla's face above his, upturned and illuminated by white light.
He heard, "Okay, where's ma patient?" and knew that everything was going to be alright.
There were words here and there that he caught, others he most probably missed. Hands slid him carefully sideways onto a stretcher, and he felt a brief chill as his sleeves were pushed up.
The last thing he heard before he lost consciousness, was the outraged voice of his friend and physician...
"What the hell...? Knives and forks? Knives and forks, Colonel?!"
Thanks for reading! I don't have another chapter because I'm a bit cheesed off with infirmary scenes at the moment... can't seem to get them out. Also I don't think this story really needs one.
Hope you still enjoyed it.