WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM - by NotTasha
PART 10: OH, GIVE ME A HOME
Ronon sat and waited.
Ronon sat with one hand on Teyla and waited.
He glanced to her, squinting as he tried to see her clearly.
Teyla was still alive. That was good. She hadn't moved, but she breathed.
He lifted his head to look in the direction where Sheppard and McKay had disappeared. He blinked, trying to clear his head. No luck.
He hoped they made it.
He knew that he should be aggravated. He knew that he should be frustrated and annoyed. He knew that he should have fought his way to his feet and he should have been the one who accompanied McKay to the Gate.
He could have gone without McKay. Could have gone alone. He knew, as he sat with one hand on Teyla and waited, he knew that he should be angry with himself.
But he was remarkably calm as he gazed out into a haze, with just one task – to keep an eye on Teyla. But since he couldn't see her clearly, he kept track of her with one hand, feeling that she was still warm, that she still breathed.
Teyla moved slightly, turning her head and moaning.
He probably should say something to her, say something reassuring, but his jaw just wasn't working. So he kept one hand on her and continued his vigil.
She was still living. She wasn't getting any sicker. That was good.
The squams hadn't come closer again. That was good.
He waited. His head hurt. His chest hurt, too.
He wanted to get home – back to Atlantis.
There was noise and something large appeared and he blinked at the large thing. Things started moving around him.
A faces appeared. He should have reacted. He didn't. He just watched the faces. Someone asked him questions. He didn't answer. People were moving around him and kept asking questions.
Someone was touching him, prodding him. "Teyla," he said feeling as if his tongue was too thick to talk. "Plant tried to eat her." It was getting hard to say so many words when all he wanted to do was close his eyes and sleep for a while. "Poisoned."
His head hurt. His head hurt a lot.
Someone said something, but the air around him seemed to be growing thicker.
"Sheppard?" he asked. "McKay?"
The same person said a long sentence, and somehow he was lying down, and suddenly he was moving.
He let his eyes close for a moment, and when he opened them again, he was in the jumper.
Things were suddenly a little clearer, and he recognized Dr. Biro beside him.
"Hello, Ronon," she said as she fiddled with the IV. "Oh, it's so good to see your eyes open. It's a good sign. We're going to get you home in a jiffy. You'll be feeling a lot better soon."
"Yeah," he returned. He tried to sit up, but that wasn't a good idea. He glanced up at the IV and figured that was part of the reason his head felt a little clearer. "Teyla?"
Biro moved to the other side of the jumper to tend to the Athosian. "She's stable right now and we want to keep it that way."
"Poisoned," Ronon stated. "By that plant. Stuff's all over her."
Biro nodded. "We have a pretty good sized sample of the residue on her clothing." She gestured to the pile on the floor. "We'll see what we find out when we reach Atlantis, okay? Until then, you rest. She's doing fine."
She cocked her head at him and said, "You did a number on yourself. I'm going to need to do some needlework." And she smiled as if she made a joke. "And your hair. Oh, dearie, that must have been painful," she said as she swiped a hand over the bald patch.
Ronon just grumbled.
Biro went on, "We're going to have to get you out of that wet coat. Did you really stand in front of the door to a water tank that was about to bust open?"
"Sheppard? McKay?" She must have talked to them if she knew that much.
Biro smiled a little. "Dr. Keller brought a team out on foot to take them through the Gate. I don't know a whole lot about their situation, but Sheppard was talking at least. McKay was unconscious, not responsive."
Ronon frowned, feeling that frustration finally – he should have been the one to walk to the Gate.
Biro reached across the aisle to pat him, as one might console a worried child. "It's going to be okay. Now, get ready. We're taking off."
Ronon closed his eyes because his head really hurt, and now that Teyla was safe, and McKay and Sheppard were home, he could think about sleep. He heard the slight change in sound that told him the jumper had risen from the ground.
"Oh!" Biro exclaimed. Ronon could hear her jumping to her feet and moving hastily to the cockpit. "Look at those cows on that dam. Isn't that funny? Oh my! Those cows are acting really crazy, aren't they?"
Ronon wanted to tell her that they were sick, that they were dying, that they'd eaten the same stuff that was poisoning Teyla, but his head hurt.
"Looks like they're going to kick that dam apart if they don't stop that dancing." She tksed, saying, "Poor things. I think it's a reaction to the poison, isn't it?"
"Yeah, maybe," the pilot, Miller, responded.
"We'll come back and do a necropsy on that one at the landing site," Biro said excitedly. "I wonder what it will tell us." Ronon could tell she was smiling at the thought.
"Yeah, sure," Miller sounded like he wasn't as thrilled about the idea as Biro was, but then his voice rose a little, "Damn! Look at them! They're going to break that wall apart if they don't stop…"
Biro and Miller both gasped.
"What the hell?" Miller cried.
And Biro said, "Gosh!"
"Damn," Miller uttered, his voice awed. "Never thought I'd see a thing like that."
Tired, hurt and irritated with their talk, Ronon got off an irritated, "What?"
It took a long moment for him to receive a response. "Those cows," Biros said as she returned to the rear of the jumper to hunch beside Teyla. "A bunch of them were up on that dam, and it just gave way." She shook her head as she leaned over Teyla, checking her equipment. "It was really something to see. The dam fell apart. The water just gushed out of the lake. Those cows were swimming and kicking. Their legs were sticking up in the air! And everything moved so fast."
"It was a dam break, sir," Miller told him over his shoulder. "The dam just fell to pieces and the whole lake came busting out behind it. It's flooding that entire valley." He dipped his head a little and said, "Good thing we came to get you when we did otherwise… damn."
"Yeah," Ronon said closing his eyes again. "Damn."
And then the darkness crowded in.
The last thing he heard was Miller saying, "And you can tell Dr. McKay that we found his Ancient outpost."
He was cold. He was so cold and the water kept rising. He was trapped underwater. He was in some sort of a cage, staring up at faces. He couldn't reach the air. His lungs ached, his throat ached and he strained, trying to reach the surface.
Faces – John and Teyla and Ronon – looking down at him. They were shouting at him. He could see their mouths moving, but couldn't hear them. He had to do something – they needed him to do something, but he couldn't hear them and he was trapped beneath the water.
He was desperate to get to them, but the distance was too great, the spaces between the bars too tight. His lungs felt as if they were going to burst. There was so much water.
He was so cold, so cold his skull felt like it was going to implode.
He was going to suffocate, to drown. They kept shouting at him. He opened his mouth speak and water rushed in. Terrified, he tried to cough it out, only to breathe in the freezing water.
It burned. He choked, sucking in more water. Terrified, he fell – their faces fading as he dropped into the black depths as he clawed at the water.
"Hey!" The shouted word came at him through the dark and the depth and the cold.
"Hey!" the voice called again.
"Huh?" Rodney's eyes shot open and he found himself shocked by the warm, dry brightness. "What?" He blinked, trying to clear the water and the cold from his brain. He coughed at the memory.
"Hey, McKay!" Sheppard said again.
Still pulling himself into the waking world, Rodney turned his head toward the colonel and muttered, trying to sound irritated, "I was sleeping."
"Yeah, and now you're awake," Sheppard said smugly.
"I might have been having a beautiful dream."
"Nope," Sheppard told him. "I'm pretty sure that was a nightmare."
Rodney gave John a steely look, but he deflated when he saw the concern in Sheppard's gaze, and he looked away.
They were in the infirmary. Home… they'd made it home. He smiled a little with this realization. But what about the others?
He searched, finding Ronon in the bed across from him. The hulk was sitting, knees up, hunched forward. Noting that McKay was looking at him, he tipped his head slightly and met his gaze with bloodshot eyes. He grunted a greeting, and lowered his head again.
Teyla was in the bed across from Sheppard, hooked up to IV's, curled up on her side, but looking remarkably better than the last time he'd seen her. She smiled a hello at him.
"Gang's all here," Sheppard stated.
Rodney relaxed into his pillow, whispering, "Thank God, thank God." They'd all made it back. "We reached the Gate. We did it."
"Yeah, we did," Sheppard stated. "And you kinda freaked me out with the collapsing and the unconsciousness." There was serious tone to his voice, almost an anger. "You could have told me that you were feeling so sick."
"I'm pretty sure I mentioned it a time or two, and I was kinda busy hauling your ass to the Gate!" McKay snapped. "How long have I been out?"
"Fifteen hours," Sheppard told him.
"Fifteen? Really? That's a long time, isn't it? I mean, even for me."
"Yeah, a hell of a long time," Sheppard told him. "Keller was worried, but she figured it out. That buffalo snot? Not really safe for humans once it gets mixed with that plant juice. Bad concoction. Has some sort of effect on the nervous system."
McKay felt his heart race. "Is it… dangerous?"
"Keller pumped you full of some sort of drug and said that it'll take care of things," Sheppard told him. "She said that it probably started off making you weak and dizzy, but would have progressed to something much worse. It's some sort of toxin …"
"It's fine," Sheppard responded quickly. "Jennifer took care of it." He sighed, and cleared his throat before going on. "Rodney, it's not like I'd like to break up the act, but you should have left me. You would have made it back faster. The jumper could have picked me up after they got Teyla and Ronon."
Ronon made a rumbling sound, saying something about not having enough time.
McKay frowned at the garbled statement. "But they got a jumper there in time to get you, obviously," he said to Ronon.
"Just," Ronon mumbled.
"What's that supposed to mean?" McKay gibbered. "Teyla's okay, isn't she? Teyla?" He winced a little at the emotion that crept into his voice.
"I am going to be all right," Teyla told him, snuggling into the covers, and she smiled again, looking curiously pleased.
"Apparently, that plant juice is mostly harmless to humans," Sheppard told him.
"Mostly harmless," Rodney repeated the phrase.
"Yeah, when taken in reasonable quantities," John said and looked to Teyla. "Which she didn't. And we all know what happens when you get too much of a good thing."
"So, she's going to be okay," Rodney said watching Teyla.
"Now that Keller's taken care of her, yes," Sheppard said. "Mostly, it just gave her an upset stomach and made her want to sleep."
"She's still not looking so good," Rodney declared, watching the Athosian who hid in her covers.
"I will be better," she mumbled.
"Might take a while," Sheppard said. "She swallowed a lot. Keller says it has properties kinda like aloe vera. Good for the skin. But this stuff wasn't really meant for the insides." John shrugged. "She should be feeling rather moisturized right now, inside and out."
"Mostly harmless toward humans, but deadly to squams?" Rodney asked, running a hand over his skin to test if he'd benefited from the aloe-vera treatment.
"Seems that way," Sheppard responded. "The plant isn't a native species. They must have been starving to eat it so ravenously. Keller explained it, but honestly, at the time the room was tilting, so it mostly went over my head."
"Go figure," McKay responded. "But because I got a dose of poisoned bison snot, I was poisoned too, meanwhile Teyla got off with a lovely skin treatment?"
Teyla made a face.
"So what was this man-eating plant thing, anyway?" McKay asked.
Sheppard nodded. "One of our botanists figured it out. What was it called, Teyla?"
She told him, "It is the quaise vine. It is native to the planet Wauwinet. On Wauwinet, it is consumed by their native creatures, the polpis. It does not harm them. Because of the polpis, the quaise vine grows only large enough to consume insects and small rodents. It is prized for this ability."
"Ladies use the juice on their skin," Ronon said without lifting his head.
"The natives brought this vine to that planet without knowing what it'd do if left unchecked," Sheppard told him. "Didn't find out what it might do to their stock."
"Idiots." McKay looked to Teyla. "So, seriously, you're feeling okay? Keller fixed you up? You still look kinda queasy."
Teyla winced a little at the memory of being 'fixed', and then said, "I am very weak," she admitted. "But I am well."
"Weak? No, you're stronger than a bull," McKay said with a big grin.
Teyla didn't look terribly pleased, and pulled her chin into her chest. The blankets fell closer to her shoulders.
McKay watched her lethargic movements with concern until Sheppard told him, "You should have seen her brighten up when Kanaan and the baby came by earlier. You'll see. She'll be feeling better in no time. Probably won't want to have much to do with plants for a while though."
"I hate plants," Ronon grunted, resting his arms on his knees and letting his head hang.
Sheppard smiled a little. "You should have seen him brighten up when Lt. Cisco came by. He was all sunshine and smiles for her."
Ronon gave him a glare what would melt ice.
"Ah," Rodney responded. "Lt. Cisco with the Buffalo Bills paraphernalia in her room?" He shuddered. "Not sure if I'd want to be seeing any of that in the near future." He stopped suddenly and looked startled. "Not that I'd be in Lt. Cisco's room or anything."
Ronon's glare switched to Rodney.
Sheppard went on, trying to divert attention, "The big guy is going to have a headache for a while. He has several pretty impressive lacerations, a concussion, and cracked a couple ribs and bruised his chest pretty spectacularly. Didn't Keller tell you to lie down and not stress your ribs?" Sheppard directed the last comment to Ronon.
Ronon grumbled, but didn't change his position.
"He should learn how to stand out of the way of exploding doors," McKay said with a small grin.
"And you should learn not to get trapped," Ronon grumbled.
"That's unfair!" McKay returned. "I wasn't the one that set off the thing!" And he cast an eye on Sheppard. "And speaking of which," he gestured with his good hand. "How's the foot?"
Sheppard gazed at the splint. "It's packed and immobilized until the swelling goes down. Keller yelled when she realized how far we'd walked."
Rodney sighed, resting back against his pillows. "She's right. You shouldn't have done that. Rational thing would have been for you to stay put – just stay with the others. Don't know why you didn't. Of course you and 'rational' don't always go together."
"Yeah, that would have made sense," Sheppard said. "Certainly would have put less weight on you."
"You are kinda heavy," McKay told him, rubbing his shoulder with his good hand.
Sheppard grinned at the response and then added, "But, you know, with the way you were steering, you couldn't have made it without me. You would have wandered off into the river or something," Sheppard told him.
"That bison snot messed up my Nav system," Rodney protested. "It wasn't my fault!"
"Yeah, well, Keller's pissed at you, too, so watch out," Sheppard told him.
"Why? What did I do?" McKay asked incredulously, turning quickly to face Sheppard… and then he let out a hiss of pain as he felt the bitter soreness of his muscles and the spike of pain that ran through his left arm.
"See," Sheppard said. "I got a gander at some of those bruises while they were messing with you. You're not as banged up as Ronon, but, it's not pretty." There was that gravity in his tone as Sheppard tried to play off the words easily.
Rodney looked toward his arm, finding it splinted similarly to Sheppard's foot. "What did she say about my arm?" He tried to sound casual. "I mean, will I be able to use it?"
"You'll be joining me in surgery," John told him. "She seemed fairly sure that it'll be okay. Oh, and she yelled at me for not getting it in a sling."
"Good," Rodney responded.
"Of course, one good thing about the walk is that we got you warmed up. She only was a 'little' upset about the hypothermia. She wasn't too pleased when she heard about the whole near drowning thing."
Rodney closed his eyes as images of the tank room came back at him, as he felt the rising water again, the cold, the fear, the utter hopelessness of the situation. He gulped and blinked rapidly, remembering.
Sheppard was saying something, but Rodney didn't hear him immediately, and when Sheppard shouted "HEY!" Rodney finally looked at him.
"You okay?" Sheppard asked. "Do you need Keller?"
"What was that room for anyway?" McKay asked, because he couldn't stop picturing it. "Whoever came up with that tank should be locked up! It was a death trap!"
"Yeah," Ronon muttered. "It's for shimmo."
Rodney furrowed his brow. "What's that?"
"Shimmo," Teyla explained, her voice quiet as she curled in her bed, "Is a specially prepared type of squam meat. It is believed that the most intense flavor is acquired by slaughtering the creatures in a specific manner." And she let the idea hang for a moment.
It didn't take the genius long. "They drown the animals? Purposefully?" Rodney shook his head as he considered it. "Probably releases adrenaline or something into their bloodstream as the creatures struggle to get out. But they can't get out. They can never get out!" He swallowed, feeling a tightness at this throat and the chill returning. "That sucks. The animals don't deserve that! God, what a horrible way to die. I hate that place."
"Yeah," Sheppard said. "It was total suckage."
Ronon grunted his agreement, and Teyla murmured her concurrence.
"And we accomplished nothing," Rodney mourned. "After everything that happened to us, we ended up with nothing but our pains and the horrible, horrible nightmares that will undoubtedly plague us for years." He grumbled and added, "I'm not going to be the one that tells Woolsey that we came back empty-handed."
"Found the outpost," Ronon suddenly voiced.
"What?" McKay responded. "Where?"
Ronon lifted his head. "In the lake."
"In the lake?" McKay returned to looking at the ceiling. "Like, underwater? Has to be because there was no island! Great," he muttered. "Of course. Back underwater. Just what I love."
"Dam broke when I was on the jumper," Ronon went on. "Those squams knocked it down."
"Guess the dam break was pretty cool," Sheppard said. "Miller saw it. He came by to gloat earlier," Sheppard commented.
"Miller gets all the luck," McKay groused.
"Biro too," Ronon added.
"Great," McKay grumbled. "How many chances does a guy get to see a real live dam break, and I missed it."
"Stop your complaining," Sheppard countered. "We all missed it."
"Except Biro and Miller," Ronon stated.
Sheppard shook his head. "Look, there's no more lake. The outpost is in the open now. We can go check it out."
"What the hell were those natives thinking?" Rodney said, annoyance in his voice. "Not only do they cruelly drown their livestock because they think it makes them tastier." He shuddered a little with that statement. "And, they overgraze their crops and bring in a noxious replacement. Then, they dam up a river and don't care that they're submerging what may prove to be a highly important and interesting Ancient structure?"
"Ass-hats," Sheppard declared.
"Total ass-hats," McKay agreed.
"So, when do you want to go?" Sheppard asked leadingly.
"Are you high?" Rodney asked in disbelief. "We've been poisoned, drowned, smashed, slashed, trapped, frozen, broken, bruised, eaten, flung through the air, stampeded and over-moisturized! We're not going anywhere for a while."
Sheppard crooked a smile. "Okay, later then. No worries. The outpost will wait. It has to dry out anyways." And he settled back in his bed, folding his arms under his head. Rodney watched the move jealously.
With an unhappy expression, McKay said, "Well, it's going to take a while until we're ready. Especially for you, with that… foot. Bet it's pretty mangled. They'll probably release me soon." He smiled smugly. "You're going to have to stay put."
"Yeah," Sheppard looked unhappy at that prospect. But his expression changed as he stated, "But you are all stuck here with me for a while, so I say, let's make the best of the situation."
"And how do you propose to do that?" McKay responded.
"We'll just have to find a way to pass the time," Sheppard said. "You know, a little togetherness is a good thing." He smiled. "So, a man walks into a bar…"
Rodney groaned. Teyla shut her eyes, and Ronon mumbled, "I've heard one this before."
Sheppard just grinned, and kept going.
Thanks so much for all your wonderful comments. I hope you liked the story. I had a lot of fun writing it. I apologize for the bad jokes.