Title: Fortitudo

Rating: PG

Author: MacGateFan/seramercury for gaunicorn on LJ

Prompt: Panicky (but ultimately courageous) McKay, Shep whump

Timeline: Between Echoes and Irresponsible

Disclaimers: Unfortunately they don't belong to me.

Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.
Omar Bradley

Rodney McKay had always tried to be brave. The first time was when he was eight and the kid down the street was throwing things at Jeannie and thought it would be hilarious to punch her in the stomach.

Rodney, however, did not. Although at the time he wasn't sure if he did it for Jeannie or just to make him feel important. Whatever the reason, he ended up with a nasty bruise on his face from a fist slamming into it.

The next opportunity for bravery came his second week in Atlantis when he put the shield device on. The shadow creature was about to drain all of the city's power. As he watched Sheppard making his way down to the MALP, Rodney realized how great a power he received.

Rodney knew he couldn't have Sheppard sacrifice his life in that way... just as he knew he couldn't let it happen now. Again, the man was risking his life to protect his friends. He was going to take the fall for them.

In truth it was Rodney's fault they were even in this position. The people of Bishell still worship the Ancients and they have a temple devoted to them. The Atlanteans had be welcomed and were allowed access to it.

Hey, he couldn't help it if the Ancient tech responded to his touch and the temple was nearly destroyed in the process! Rodney still wasn't sure why Sheppard was blaming himself considering the fact that the man was outside with Ronon.

Sheppard said something about being the leader and therefore responsible for his team's actions. The Bishell were content to punish Sheppard right away, but somehow Rodney was finally able to convince the them to hold a small trial.

The Judge had agreed but said they were taking Sheppard for interrogation first. The three friends were very worried for him because he hadn't been seen for almost two hours.

He looked up when he heard Teyla gasp. Sheppard was being brought in and he looked horrible. There was a nasty gash on his left temple and he seemed very unsteady on his feet.

The guard shoved him onto the chair next to Rodney. "Hey, take it easy, will ya!" He merely glared at Rodney and moved a few feet away.

"Hi, Rodney," Sheppard, said, head in his hands.

"You okay?" Rodney asked as Teyla appeared and began dressing his wounds. "Where did you get that?"

"I removed it from my vest before it was taken. I had a feeling we would need it," came Teyla's quiet response.

Rodney could see a slight glazed expression in Sheppard's eyes. The Colonel seemed quite confused and disoriented. "Seems like you have a concussion. What's the last thing you remember?"

"Being yelled at for taking down a sacred temple."

"No," Rodney replied. "That was my fault!"

"Don't, Rodney. The leader should always take responsibilities for those under his command," Sheppard replied, laying his head on the cool surface of the table.

Rodney sighed. He needed to think of a strategy. And it seemed as though Rodney had plenty of time to think. It didn't matter that he couldn't come up with anything because it seemed that the people of this world had no regard for schedules.

"We have reviewed your case, Dr. McKay."

Rodney blinked, looking up at the Judge. "What?" he exclaimed. "We haven't even pleaded our case! You didn't even ask us any questions!"

"Very well," the Judge replied. "I have one question then. Did Colonel Sheppard awaken the Wraith?"

"Excuse me?"

"Answer the question, Doctor."

Rodney took a deep breath. "Yes, but..."

"That is all we need to know! We have heard of your team's exploits and friends of ours told us that your people were responsible for the Wraith. That is a good enough reason to punish him, is it not?"

"It wasn't like he did it on purpose!" Rodney told him. "We're not from around here. We had no knowledge of the Wraith! Yes, we went in blindly but that was to save our people and the Genii who had been captured. Sheppard didn't know killing the Queen would awaken the Wraith!"

The Judge stared at Sheppard, who had yet to say a word in his defense. "And if he had known?"

"I would do it again. We don't leave our people behind." Sheppard stood, wincing at the pounding in his head. "The Wraith would have awakened eventually, but for some reason, I can't help but feel like you're only worried about your own asses!"

"Sheppard! What the hell are you doing?" Rodney asked, taking his friend by the arm.

"Rodney, they're right. This is all my fault. I should be punished."

Ronon shook his head. "You know, for the first time I agree with McKay. I think they knocked something loose in your head."

Sheppard didn't care what they thought. He had to live with that choice everyday. "What is my punishment?"

"Hypnosis. Whenever the Wraith are mentioned, your mind will flashback to that time. It will be physically and emotionally painful for you. We will allow one member of your team to experience this with you."

Teyla stared at the Judge harshly. "I thought his crime was for nearly destroying your temple. I am unclear as to why we are not holding trial for that."

"Ms. Emmagan, awakening the Wraith is a far greater offense." The Judge turned back to Sheppard, whose

face was as white as a sheet. "Colonel, have you chosen the one?"

John swallowed around the lump in his throat. "I have to choose?"

"Wait!" Rodney said suddenly. "I'll do it!"

The other three turned to face him. "Rodney..." John said.

"Could you give us a minute?" Rodney asked the Judge. At his nod, Rodney turned back to the others. "Look, if we're not back in 45 minutes, Elizabeth's gonna send a bunch of Marines. If we need to be extracted, you two are our best bet."

Teyla nodded, surprised and pleased with Rodney's logic and bravery. "Rodney is right, John. We should let Elizabeth know what's going on. If you have not returned to the 'Gate by that time, we will come and rescue you both."

"Are you sure about this, Rodney?" Sheppard asked.

"I am!"

Sheppard nodded. "All right. Dr. McKay is going to do this with me. I suggest you send Teyla and Ronon back to the 'Gate, though. We're due to check in soon and if we don't, our people will send soldiers through to find us."

The Judge agreed. "Very well, Colonel. If yourself and Dr. McKay will come with us, we can get started."

"Bloody hell, this sounds like a horrible idea to me," Carson said after listening to Teyla's account of what happened. "Did they say anything about how they were going to accomplish this?"

Ronon shook his head. "No. They just said Sheppard and McKay would be returned soon. I don't think they like us very much."

"Why is it that we can never find any allies against the Wraith?" Elizabeth sighed in frustration.Her question went unanswered as the 'Gate activated. "It's Colonel Sheppard's IDC."

"Open the shield," she replied, joining the others at the bottom of the stairs. "John, Rodney, are you two all right?"

"Just peachy," John said, glaring at Rodney.

Rodney glared back. "You know the person who volunteered to help you out shouldn't be on the receiving end of that glare right now. I don't like the Wraith--"

"Ahh!" They both cried out, falling to their knees and clutching their heads.

After about ten minutes, the pair stood up, unsteadily. "What did they do to you?" Carson asked, taking in Sheppard's blood shot eyes and the wild look in Rodney's. "Lets get down to the infirmary immediately."

There was no argument from the two men as they followed Carson down the hall. Elizabeth glanced at Teyla and Ronon. "All we know," Teyla said, "was that one of us would have to endure what Colonel Sheppard did. Rodney volunteered himself."

"They hypnotized us so that whenever that 'w' word is mentioned, I remember what happened. This is supposed to last two days but, Carson, it's bad enough I have to do this," John said, looking over at Rodney.

Carson nodded. "He volunteered, did he?"

"Yeah." Sheppard watched as Carson finished jotting down notes in his chart. "So, everything look all right?"

"Aye. Your blood pressure is a bit elevated but that's to be expected considering what's going on. And as you can probably tell, you have a concussion."

As the pair spoke, Major Lorne's team came into the infirmary. They didn't look so hot. "Excuse me, Colonel. Major, what happen to you now?"

"Wraith," came the innocent, one worded response.

Carson watched in sympathy as Sheppard and McKay clutched their heads again in pain. "We're going to have to ban that word for the next few days."

Sheppard held his hand to his head as the last attack dissipated. This was not helping the concussion he received. He glanced over at McKay, who was curled in the fetal position, facing away from him.

He knew McKay volunteered, but that didn't make him feel any better. All the emotions he felt were being transferred to his friend and Sheppard hated it. He would have hated it no matter who was on the receiving end.

If Sheppard had been any other person, McKay probably wouldn't have volunteered. He never really thought about what his friend had gone through as he ran through the hive ship, trying to save anyone he could.

The emotions Sheppard felt after shooting Sumner were overwhelming. McKay took a deep breath, wiping away the tears that had fallen without him noticing. He was going to go over to his friend and help him through this and he would not leave his side short of a major scientific emergency. Carson would just have to deal with it.

John had just woken up from a restless sleep filled with Wraith and destruction when the word was heard again. He clutched his head in pain, but this time it wasn't as bad as the last one. John glanced at Rodney's bed, but the scientist was no longer there.

"Rodney?" he shouted, thinking maybe he had run to the bathroom. John slowly got out of bed and as he did, he tripped over something on the floor. His eyes widened in shock. "Rodney!"

Rodney's face was pale and his nose was bleeding. John shakily reached out to check his pulse and was relieved to find one there. A bit faint, but there. "Carson!" he exclaimed.

It was actually Carson who rushed from the bathroom. "What happened, Colonel?" he asked, kneeling next to them.

"I don't know. I woke up and found him on the floor."

"Help me get him onto a bed," Carson replied.

Once Rodney was situated, Carson began checking his vitals. "His blood pressure is through the roof. Whatever this hypnosis did to him is not good. Do you think there's any chance of us getting information about it from those people?"

"I doubt it," John said, rubbing his forehead. "They didn't say much about the process."

"Why don't you get back in bed?" Carson suggested, noticing that John's face was as white a sheet.

But of course, he wouldn't. "Doc, I gotta talk to Elizabeth about this. If this punishment is killing Rodney then it's my fault. They shouldn't do that to innocent people!"

"Aye, John! And that includes you as well!"

"No. It doesn't. As much as I want to believe that, I could never be counted as that. I gotta get going."

Carson sighed, knowing he couldn't talk his friend down and knowing he would do the same thing if their roles had been reversed.

"John, are you sure about this?" Elizabeth asked, eying him in concern. "I mean, these people pretty much said we weren't welcome there." She was ready to jump from her chair the moment he keeled over.

Glancing up at movement behind John, she saw Carson, Ronon, and Teyla. "If there is anything we can gain from those people, then we need to find out sooner rather than later," Carson said once they were in Elizabeth's office.


"It's bad, Elizabeth. Rodney is no longer responding to outside stimuli. It's like he's in a coma but there is nothing indicating that he is. If we don't find any answers within the next few hours, we're going to lose him."

John was silent the entire time. As long as that word wasn't said aloud at all around him, Rodney should be all right. He only hoped those people in that city wouldn't go on about them...


He blinked, looking up at Elizabeth. "I have to go."

"As do we," Teyla said. "However, I suggest Major Lorne's team accompany us."

"I was just about to say the same. All right, John, you have a go. Be safe."

John nodded, then rushed out to get ready for the mission. "I request permission to go with them, Elizabeth."

"What about McKay?" Ronon asked.

"There's not much we can do for him except make him comfortable," Carson replied. "I'd feel better about Colonel Sheppard going off world if I'm there."

"Go ahead, Carson. If something comes up that should need your attention, we'll let you know," Elizabeth told him. When they left her office, Elizabeth grabbed her laptop and decided to head down to the infirmary to sit with Rodney. He was going to need someone there to keep him grounded.

"Chuck, I'll be down in the infirmary. Colonel Sheppard's team will be heading off world shortly."

Elizabeth spotted Dr. Cole at Rodney's side when she arrived in the infirmary. She smiled hopefully at her. "How's he doing?"

"He's stable for now but I'm not sure for how long. Right now we're monitoring his blood pressure and temperature. They are both way too high."

She nodded. "Is it all right if I sit with him? Maybe even talk to him?"

"It's fine and I'm sure Dr. McKay would love to hear someone talk to him. I'll just be in my office check his blood test results. I'll be out in a flash if I'm needed."

"Thank you, Dr. Cole."

"Call me Sarah."

"Elizabeth, then."

"Lorne, you and your men set a perimeter around the 'gate. Hopefully we'll be back in 20, but if not you know what to do."

Lorne nodded. "Yes, Sir!"

"It seems really quiet around here," Ronon said as they headed to the Tribunal Hall.

John wondered about that too, but pushed it to the back of his mind. Right now all he could think about was the fact that Rodney was dying because of him. He shuddered, thinking of what he brought onto his friend.

Teyla's short gasp pulled him from his thoughts. It was now that he noticed the smoke billowing from the Tribunal Hall and every building surrounding it. How they didn't notice this, he would never know.

"We should go," Ronon said. "Whoever did this might still be here."

However, John wasn't listening. He had to find that Judge. He had to find the doctor who hypnotized them. Instead of agreeing, or even saying a word, John rushed into the town.




"We must go after him! I do not believe he is thinking clearly."

Gunfire erupted from behind them and Carson was too shocked to give any other response than a Rodney type one. "And what made you realize that, Lass? The fact that he ran off and there's gunfire back at the Stargate?"

"Lorne," Ronon said.

"We are under attack. Repeat. We are under attack! Cadman was able to dial Atlantis, but we can't wait long."

"Understood, Major!" Teyla replied. "The Colonel is not himself at the moment and we will have to go after him. Return to Atlantis and send a jumper when you have a chance."

"Will do, Teyla. Good luck! Lorne out."

While Ronon and Teyla were tracking him, John had made it to the Tribunal Hall. He carefully moved around the destruction. True he hated what these people did to him and Rodney, but no one deserved this.

John reached up to cue his radio when he heard gunfire coming from Lorne's position. However, instead of activating it, he felt a searing pain in his lower back and dropped to his knees.

"This is your doing, isn't it?" a voice said from behind. Ignoring the pain, he attempted to face his attacker, but the man grabbed his head to keep John from turning. "Don't deny it, Colonel! You ordered this attack the minute you returned home!"

John's heart pounded hard in his chest and he could feel blood seeping to the ground from the wound on his back. "I didn't, I swear! If I did would I have come back?"

The man grabbed John's hair yanking so hard he had to stifle a moan from being bent back that way. "You just may be unstable enough to send them after us!"

That's when he noticed that man who captured him was the doctor from earlier. John could tell by the scar running down his left cheek. "Look, I didn't come back to attack or order an attack on your people. I came back because whatever you injected us with is killing my friend! All I'm asking for is information on the drug!"

"Wraith," the man said, grinning evilly.

"Ahhh!" John exclaimed, clutching his head.

Scarface laughed, letting go of John's hair and allowing him to fall forward. Before he could say anything more, there was a loud whine and a bright flash of red light. Scarface immediately fell to the ground unconscious.

"John!" Teyla exclaimed, rushing to her friend's side. She could see crimson red blood seeping through his tac vest. Whatever weapon the other had used, it had armor piercing bullets. "Ronon, there is no one else around, we should bring him with us and find shelter!"

Ronon gave her a look. "How 'bout we just leave the man here. Sheppard is more important."

"He may know of a way to save Rodney and right now, the only person who knows who attacked Major Lorne and his team. We should find shelter and await the rescue team!"

With reluctance, Ronon lifted the man with a grunt. "Are you sure about this?"

"Yes," she replied. "John, it is Teyla. You must get up."

John blinked as the pounding in his head decreased somewhat. As he lifted up, he groaned as the movement sent spikes of pain in his lower back. "Teyla!"

"You will be fine! Once we get somewhere safely I will tend to your wound and give you some morphine while we wait for the rescue team."

"But..." he sputtered. "Rodney."

"We will save him, John! I promise!"

John was barely conscious as Teyla half carried him. Once she had set him back on the ground and began taking care of the injury, he slowly slipped into the darkness thinking he had somehow betrayed his best friend.

When John woke up again he could smell the familiar scent of Atlantis' infirmary. That and the fact that he couldn't feel any pain in his lower back. Carson must have him on the good stuff. He looked around for said physician and saw him heading towards him after handing a chart to one of the nurses.

"Colonel, it's good to see you awake." John glanced around the infirmary looking for any signs of Rodney. Carson noticed his distress and realized what John was thinking. "Rodney's fine, John. I just discharged him and sent him to his quarters to rest."

John took a deep breath to calm himself. "What happened and how long was I out?"

"I'll let your team tell you answer the former question. As for the latter, you've been in and out of consciousness for a week," Carson told him.

"A week!"

Ronon and Teyla came in at that exclamation. "Yeah," Ronon replied. "I was wondering if you were ever going to get up off your lazy--"

"It is good to see you awake, Colonel. We were all very concerned for you and Rodney," Teyla said, effectively cutting off Ronon's use of a cuss word.

"So what happened out there? That guy give you something to help Rodney?"

Teyla explained that once she had dressed his wound, the doctor woke up. Apparently the Wraith had come and culled the town, but left immediately after. There were only a few left on the planet to finish everyone else off. "When he saw you standing in the middle of his decimated city he decided you needed to be dealt with. Even the punishment, to him, was lenient."

"Tell that to my head," John muttered.

"So basically," Ronon added. "The doctor un... hypnotized you and came back with us to do the same for McKay."

Teyla nodded. "He also had something that would counteract the effects of the drug you were both given. Rodney seemed to have been allergic to it."

"But he's all right?" John asked.

"He is fine."

John looked over at Carson. "Don't suppose you'd let him come in for a few minutes. I just need to see him up and breathing myself... ya know?"

"Aye, Colonel. I'm sure that can be arranged."

Teyla smiled. "I will bring him here. It is good to have you back with us, John."

"Thanks, guys."

"No problem, Sheppard. Later."

About 15 minutes after she left, Teyla arrived with Rodney in tow. The scientist looked very pale and he could tell by the look on his face that he hadn't been sleeping very well. "Hey Rodney."

"Hey," he replied, sinking into a chair. "Sorry I wasn't here when you woke up, I... I just needed some time to myself."

"It's fine. I understand."

"Yeah, I think you do. And I just wanted you to know that I do too. I'm sorry you had to go through all that but now I get it. Definitely. Not that I would ever want to be put in that position or have you put in that position again."

John nodded. "Not a good position to be in."

"So... thanks."

"For what?" John wanted to know.

"For not giving up on me. For going back to that planet to find someone to help. Even knowing they might kill you for it."

John shrugged, stifling a yawn. "You would have done the same."

"Yeah, I would have."