Title: Where the Buffalo Roam
Word Count for Story: 13,128
Summary: Sheppard's team is forced to depend on the locals after he is injured and the gate malfunctions.
Disclaimer: I still don't own or have any rights to SGA. If I did, it wouldn't be canceled.
AN: Written for Sheppard H/C Secret Santa for negolith2. Prompt follows the story so as not to give too much away. I hope it's somewhere close to what you wanted (chews nails anxiously).
WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM
By Titan 5
John Sheppard squinted into the bright morning sun as he dug in his TAC vest for his sunglasses. This is different, he thought as he studied the landscape and simultaneously logged the arrival of the rest of his team. Adjusting his sunglasses, the relief from the glare allowed him a more detailed look at the tall grasses lazily undulating in the breeze as they stretched out in front of him. It looked like the old prairies of mid-America, bordered by forests and mountains many miles in the distance.
"All we need are the buffalo," muttered Rodney from behind him.
"What are buffalo?" asked Ronon, scanning the horizon for any signs of danger.
"Big furry animals that roam around places like this eating grass," answered John, focusing in on the area in front of the gate. "Is that a path?"
Following John's line of sight, Ronon moved over to kneel in the tall grass, brushing the ground with his fingertips. After a few moments, the Satedan looked up with a grin. "It's old and not often used, but there is a wearing here consistent with a path. Nice work, Sheppard. You've been paying attention."
Moving forward with a small grunt, John bobbed his head once. "Yeah, well, contrary to popular opinion, I'm not always clueless."
"Just most of the time," remarked Rodney from behind him. John cleared his throat and looked out over the golden field, almost sparkling with reflected sunlight.
"No, that would be you," John said with a smirk. "Come on girls and boys, we have natives to meet and greet." Grinning to himself, John struck off down the barely visible path, knowing his team would follow. Teyla looked amused as he passed her, shifting her eyes to look over his shoulder at the sputtering scientist behind him.
"Mature, Colonel, very mature. Why am I here anyway? My talents would be better utilized back on Atlantis instead of meeting the undoubtedly barbaric native population."
John could tell from the cadence of the whining that Rodney had fallen in step with his team. "Because, Rodney, you are part of this team and we never know when your particular talents might be needed. Who knows, maybe they have a ZPM hidden somewhere."
"Well, if they do, it's dead because I'm getting no energy readings," Rodney griped, wiping a stream of sweat that had begun to tickle his hairline. "You'd think they could have a tree or two for shade."
"At least it is not cold and raining like when we visited the Adalians," reminded Teyla, ever the voice of reason and comfort.
"Well . . . that's true," agreed Rodney with a bit of reluctance in his voice.
"See, it's all good," said John with a grin.
Forty minutes later, Rodney stopped and bent over, his hands on his thighs just above his knees. "Okay, I give. Gotta stop a minute."
John turned around and watched the scientist for a moment before sighing and nodding. "Fine, we'll rest a few." Pulling his water from his pack, he slowly turned around, scanning the horizon.
"Why didn't we bring jumpers? It's not like there are trees to get in the way. This is about as open as it gets." Rodney sucked down several swallows of water before splashing a little on his flushed face.
John looked at Rodney, his eyes hidden behind the dark lenses. "Someone took the jumpers out of action for maintenance and upgrades, which left us doing this little gig on foot."
Opening and closing his mouth several times, Rodney finally grunted and shrugged his shoulders. "I didn't realize how long it would take. If Radek and that crew of imbeciles had a collective IQ above fifty, it would be done by now. Besides, I told them not to take all the jumpers off line at once." Straightening his shoulders, Rodney's posture became defensive. "This wasn't my fault."
"Whatever you say," replied John lightly, trying not to smile before he turned around to check out the far horizon. He could hear Rodney droning on behind him, but John's attention was focused on something approaching them, a small cloud of dust announcing its eventual arrival. Ronon joined him, apparently having seen it as well, and they watched in silence for several moments.
"What do you think?" asked the Satedan.
"I think we're about to have visitors," said John.
"What? Visitors? From where?" Soon Rodney was at John's side and Teyla had come up beside Ronon. They could now see that the disturbance was at least a dozen men riding some kind of animals. Everyone's tension level went up, along with their weapons.
"Do you think they're friendly?" asked Rodney, a touch of quiver in his voice.
"Since I'm not psychic, I don't really know," said John, never taking his eyes from the group. The dust settled a bit as they stopped and John tried to count their numbers. There were somewhere between twelve and fifteen men on animals that bore an uncanny resemblance to horses. The dark skin and hair, along with the plain tan clothing, made John think of American Indians in all the old Westerns he'd ever seen.
"Bows and arrows," observed Ronon with a feral grin. "This will be easy."
"Not so fast, Chewy," warned John. "We don't know if they're hostile yet."
With a loud hoop, the group suddenly made a run at the Lanteans, leading them to spread out with their weapons up and ready. When the riders had cut the distance in half, the two in front suddenly parted, revealing the native behind them with his bow poised for a shot. John stepped back as the man let loose an arrow, but not fast enough. The arrow struck his thigh in a bolt of pain that felt like fire, knocking him back and off his feet. Everything around him seemed to buzz for a moment and then Teyla was leaning over him, calling his name.
"John, please answer, can you hear me?"
Ronon's blaster and sharp retorts of a P90 brought John out of his fugue. "Yeah, I'm good . . . help me up." Grabbing Teyla's arm, he used her leverage to pull himself up to where he was sitting in the tall grass. Grabbing his gun, he managed to get to his feet so that he and Teyla could help fend off the attacking natives. Several horses ran around with no riders, but there were still almost a dozen horses (and they really did look like horses) with natives riding in a huge circle firing arrows at them. For a moment, John felt like he was trapped in a western and had to stop himself from looking for the circled wagons.
His leg throbbed, the arrow sticking out and distracting him, as he tried to concentrate on taking down their attackers. Arrows hit the ground around them. A cry from Teyla had John turning to see her grab her arm where an arrow had grazed her bicep. With a frown and a nod, she brought her gun back up and began firing. The fire in his leg had now turned to ice and everything was taking on a multicolored haze, making it hard for John to remember what he was doing. He saw Rodney go down, but his body was becoming numb so that when he took a step toward his friend, he went immediately to his knees.
Another banshee cry caused John to whip his head around. A second set of riders was coming up fast and all John could think of was how screwed they were. Then he was lying on his back, looking up at the clouds floating along in the sky and there were rainbows everywhere. The warmth of the sun on his body felt good, counteracting the cold that had spread from the arrow in his leg. He should probably do something about that arrow, but he wasn't sure what and he really didn't care right now.
Teyla saw John go down in her peripheral vision. The arrow that struck him had been the first one fired, but it had been immediately followed by others as the riders began making a wide circle around them as they attacked. She had barely reached him when he began trying to sit up and help with the fight. Knowing they were outnumbered and needed his gun if they were going to survive, she helped him to his feet. When she was sure he steady, she turned her attention back to the battle. Truth be told, she was amazed they had not all been hit by now, leaving her wondering if they were truly that inaccurate or if they were not trying to kill them.
Teyla had paused to check on John when an arrow grazed her upper arm, digging a furrow as it went. The flash of pain was instant and hot, but she shook it off, knowing now was not the time to worry about it. Noticing John looking her direction, she gave him a nod that she was alright. Rodney dropped into the tall grass a few seconds later, prompting Teyla to take a step his direction. The scientist promptly sat up and made eye contact, sheepishly waving her off. Teyla was confused, but at least he seemed to be okay.
A shrill cry drew her attention to a new group of riders, also riding neceara. The fear their appearance initially caused dissipated some when their attackers stopped firing to pull up in a knot several yards away. They lingered only a few seconds before riding off the way they had come. Teyla noticed that John was down again, and she moved to stand beside Ronon next to their fallen leader. Glancing back, she could see that John's eyes were open, but glassy and unfocused. Rodney limped up beside them and they all raised their weapons to let the newcomers see they weren't going down without a fight.
The second group was dressed in a similar method to the first, but had beads and feathers woven into their hair. She had noticed their attackers had painted their faces. The second group had a much smaller amount of colors spread across their faces. The main difference was that this group was not aiming weapons at them. They stopped several feet away and then one approached them slowly, stopping close enough she could feel the quick breaths of the neceara he was riding. He had dark hair and skin like the others and his form was tall and lean, similar to John.
"Los stae kera mashua?" The native nodded toward John, still lying in the grass.
"I don't suppose either of you speak whatever he's speaking, do you?" asked Rodney, a look of rising panic in his eyes.
"I am afraid not," answered Teyla.
"You speak the old language," said the native with a nod. "That is good. That one is injured," he said, nodding to John again. "We can help, if you like."
"So you aren't going to try to shish-ka-bob us like the others?" asked Rodney.
Frowning, the man tilted his head a little. "I do not know of this sish kay bod that you speak of, but we will not harm you if you do not try to harm us. That is not our way. The same cannot be said of the Hotchie," he said, glancing over his shoulders at the dust cloud of the retreating attackers. Turning back, he held his hands out. "I am Machk of the Guyapi tribe."
Ronon nodded, lowering his weapon. "I'm Ronon Dex. This is Teyla Emmagan and Rodney McKay," he said, waving a hand toward his teammates, before gesturing toward the fallen pilot. "The injured one is Colonel John Sheppard, our leader." Teyla and Rodney lowered their weapons as well and Teyla knelt beside John.
"John, can you hear me?"
Blinking a few times, John frowned and then smiled. "Teyla? Where did the rainbows come from? So pretty . . . "
Rodney grimaced as he stood over the wounded man. "Did he say rainbows?"
Machk dismounted and came over to squat on the opposite side from Teyla. He gently fingered the yellow feathers on the shaft of the arrow and frowned. Teyla glanced at the ground around them and then looked back at Machk. "This is the only one with yellow feathers," she pointed out.
With an audible sigh, Machk nodded. "That means it was dipped in juice of the lomasi flower. It is a potent drug that make the user see things that are not there."
"A hallucinogen," said Rodney.
"They sometimes see visions. Our people sometimes use small amounts when seeking their true inner spirit, but only when attended to by an elder and only in small amounts. The Hotchie coat their first arrow with much of the juice and then try to hit the leader of their enemy. That way if the leader is not killed, he will shortly be of no use in the fight. This often makes their victory easier."
"They take out the leader and the warriors lose their direction," said Ronon. "It's a good strategy."
"What will it do to John?" asked Teyla, noticing the way his eyes were wandering around as if he were completely unaware of his surroundings. Every once in a while he would lift his hand and snatch at some unseen something in the air.
"In large amounts, such as your friend probably has received, it can be very disturbing for many days. Coupled with an injury, it can have some bad effects. We should get him back to the camp where he can be seen by our healer."
"Not to mention the fact that it was introduced directly into the bloodstream," muttered Rodney with a scowl. "We need to get him back to At . . . we need to get him to Keller and fast."
"First we need to get that arrow out," said Ronon firmly.
"Carson always told us not to remove objects such as this," reminded Teyla. She could still vividly remember the lecture Carson had given them all after Ronon had removed an arrow from his calf. John had already lost quite a bit of blood and she didn't want to make him lose more.
"What about the drug?" asked Ronon.
"It is already in his system," said Machk. "Leaving the arrow in will not affect that. Did you come through the great portal?"
"Yes, we did," Teyla answered, placing one hand on John's shoulder when he tried to sit up.
"You goin' to the party?" John slurred, narrowing his eyes to study her. "Is that a butterfly?"
"Oh, yeah, I'd say the Colonel definitely has a good buzz going," said Rodney. "At least he isn't feeling any pain."
"Who's in pain?" asked John, looking around in confusion.
Ronon let a small smile slide across his face momentarily before kneeling beside Machk. Reaching out, he grasped the arrow near its entrance point and then used his other hand to break off the end. John yelped and partially sat up before dropping back to the ground gasping. After a few moments he looked up at Ronon.
"What'cha . . . do that for?"
Teyla had already brought out the med kit and worked to stabilize the remaining part of the arrow and cover the wound. When she was finished, she noticed that some of the other natives had made their way up to stand with the group. Ronon was standing again, watching them warily, but they seemed completely at ease with the strangers.
"We will assist you to the Great Portal so that you may take your friend home," announced Machk.
"Really, not necessary," said Rodney, obviously still not trusting the men.
Machk frowned and studied them for a few moments. "The Hotchie may return. Will you be able to fight them off while protecting your friend? They were testing your skills earlier, but they lost several of their warriors. If they return, it will be to kill."
Teyla looked at John, blinking rapidly as his head lolled to one side, and then looked back the way they had come. There was no protection, no place to hide. "Rodney, perhaps it would be wise to accept their help."
Licking his lips nervously, Rodney looked from her to Ronon, who gave a small nod. Rodney finally nodded, his shoulders slumping slightly. "Okay, fine, I guess we could use the help."
Machk waved to his men before turning back to the Lanteans. "We will ride double on the neceara and I will take the wounded one." He turned to a native that had come up beside him. "Askook, I will need you to help hand him to me once I have mounted."
Almost before they had time to protest, Machk had mounted his animal and Askook was pulling John to his feet. Ronon hesitated for a second, but then pitched in to help as John tried to pull away from them.
"Sssop . . . lea'me lone . . . not hurtin' anyone . . . sky'so plue." He giggled for a moment as they tried to lift him up to Machk. "Meant blue . . . not plue . . . s'funny." John lurched sideways, his body almost limp while he continued to giggle.
"Oh, brother," griped Rodney. "How long did you say that drug lasts because . . . this is just disturbing."
"A long time," said Machk, wrapping his arms around John to reach the reins. They had decided it would be safer for John to ride in front so he didn't just fall off the beast. "Sometimes several days, although the effects can vary in intensity as time passes."
"This's weirdes' horse I ever rode," slurred John as he fingered the short, coarse bristles that took the place of a mane. After studying it a moment, he lifted his hand and jabbed at the stiff hairs with his index finger.
"That's just great," muttered Rodney. "At least he gets to be in la-la land while we ride the smelly beasts."
"Would you prefer to walk?" asked Teyla, a little embarrassed by Rodney's complaints. The team was used to his antics, but these people were not and she was afraid they would take offense. She was pleasantly surprised when Machk laughed.
"They are smelly, as you say, but they are better than walking, and faster too."
"Don't mind McKay, he just likes to complain," said Ronon as he pulled himself up on one of the neceara behind Askook.
"Hey!" snapped the scientist.
"He is like our Mukki," said one of the natives and all of them laughed as Rodney turned red.
"Sheppard's drugged out of his gourd and chasing rainbows and I'm the one everyone is laughing at. How does this always happen?"
"At least you do not have an arrow in your leg," said Teyla evenly.
Ronon snorted. "Or your-"
"Hey! I got the point, Conan, you can quit any time now," snapped Rodney, subconsciously rubbing the site on his rear where the he'd been hit with an arrow. "Could we just go now?"
It took them almost thirty minutes to get back to the gate since they had to take it fairly slowly. Several animals were carrying double, plus much of the time John was either about to fall off the neceara or was fighting to get down so he could go after some unseen foe. While Rodney went to the DHD to dial, Teyla helped Ronon get John back down to the ground. His pupils were huge and his eyes glassy. He kept muttering in some language neither one of them were familiar with.
"Thank you, Machk, for helping us get safely to the gate. It would have been difficult to get John back here in his condition by ourselves."
"Not to mention we probably would have had company," added Ronon, nodding at an angle to the way they had just come. Barely visible on the horizon were several riders. The Hotchie had been following them the whole time.
Teyla let out a deep sigh. She must have been more preoccupied than she thought to have missed them. "It would seem so," she said. The sound of the gate dialing drew her attention. They would be back in Atlantis in a few minutes and she found herself anxious to be there. Rodney punched what should be the sixth symbol.
There was a loud pop, followed by sparks and what looked like a couple of bolts of blue lighting streaking out from the gate. Rodney, the closest of them all, flew back and landed on his back with a grunt several feet from the DHD. Teyla and Ronon initially leaned over to cover John, protecting him from further injury. The fireworks ended within a few seconds and Ronon ran over to kneel beside the downed scientist.
"McKay! You okay?"
Teyla watched as Ronon helped Rodney sit up and had to squelch her immediate reaction. His hair stuck out in every conceivable direction, standing as straight as John's sometimes did in the back. He was obviously dazed, his eyes still rolling around in their sockets as he fought to regain his balance. Ronon held firmly onto one shoulder as he also held firmly onto his expression.
Rubbing his upper arm and then wiping his hand across his face, the disoriented man smeared black soot over his nose, cheek, and forehead. "Huh?"
Distracted by Rodney's plight, Teyla didn't notice John pulling away from her to sit up. "Wha's goin' on? Wazzat lightning?" Narrowing his eyes at Rodney, John scooted away and then groaned as he grabbed for his injured leg.
"John, please stay still," scolded Teyla, now worried about two of her teammates. She bit her lip as the action pulled on her injured arm.
"Clowns," John mumbled, now rolling over in an attempt to get to his feet. "'Gotta get 'way from clowns. Hate clowns."
Teyla reached out to grab John, but before she got her hands on him, he collapsed on his side panting. "Feel . . . sick . . . "
Teyla barely got him up far enough that when he started retching a few moments later, he wasn't lying in it. She held him until he was finished and then began trying to pull him back. The weight was suddenly lifted and she discovered Machk helping her move John away from where he'd been sick. Easing him back down to the grass, she noticed how pale he was, with sweat now causing his hair to cling to his scalp.
"What happened?" Ronon asked and Teyla turned to find him helping Rodney to his feet. The Satedan had to hold on tight as Rodney swayed and almost ended up in a heap at his feet. "Steady, McKay, get your feet back under you."
"Feet . . . under me . . . right." Rodney turned to look at her and John. "Did he call me a clown?"
Ronon reached out and bumped his hand up and down on Rodney's crazed hair a few times. "I think it's your hair."
"Well . . . I was electrocuted . . . what do you expect?" Rodney shifted his eyes down to the blackened fabric on his upper left arm. He poked at it gently with his right hand. "I'm burned, if anyone wants to know."
"What about the gate?" Teyla asked, trying not to be impatient. "John needs medical attention."
"Hey," Rodney whined, furrowing his brow. "I could use a little medical help myself."
"McKay!" Ronon growled.
"Fine, fine, just . . . give me a minute." Picking up his datapad from the grass, Rodney pressed a few buttons. "Well, I have no idea how, but this thing still works." He moved over to the gate while they all watched. The Guyapi had all dismounted and were standing around staring at the stargate. Several minutes later, Rodney dropped his head and then turned around to face them all.
"The good news is that I think I can fix the gate. The bad news is that I can't do it without parts from Atlantis."
"Are you certain, Rodney," asked Teyla, knowing Rodney's penchant for the dramatic, especially when it came to repairing Ancient technology.
Shifting his weight, Rodney grunted and rolled his eyes. "Yes, I'm certain. Look, there's moving parts inside each of the chevrons and they have to stay aligned a certain way to function properly. The ones in the malfunctioning chevron have lost their alignment. I've seen some references to this in the Ancient database and I'm sure I could fix this after consulting those and getting some equipment, but nothing even close to what I need is on this planet. Not unless you guys have some hidden Ancient lab or temple or something." Rodney looked expectantly at Machk.
"There is nothing," said Machk.
"In that case, we're stuck here until the Daedalus comes for us. The gate won't work at all in its present condition."
"The Daedalus doesn't arrive in Atlantis for another five days," said Ronon.
"And it will take them at least twelve hours to get here," added Rodney. "We're here for another six or seven days, kids."
"You are welcome to stay with us until your friends arrive," offered Machk.
"That would be most appreciated," said Teyla, grateful that at least some of the people on this planet were welcoming.
Machk studied John as the pilot's head lolled to one side and his eyes rolled around in an attempt to focus. "Our camp is a quarter-day's ride from here. We need to remove the arrow and stop the bleeding." Not waiting for an answer, he turned to the men behind him. "We need to start a fire."
Rodney's eyes widened and he glanced at Ronon and then Teyla. "What? No. We said it was bad to pull out arrows in the field. We should wait." His eyes shifted nervously down to John.
With a sigh, Teyla shook her head. "He is right, Rodney. John is still bleeding and it sounds as if their camp is several hours away. The journey will only increase the bleeding and his pain if we do not."
"They're right, McKay," Ronon said with a slap to Rodney's shoulder. "Don't worry, you don't have to help."
John picked that moment to start singing Home on the Range. After staring a moment, Rodney threw up his arms and shook his head.
Rodney sat several meters away while they heated Ronon's sharpest knife in the fire. Arms wrapped around his torso, he kept trying to look away. He just couldn't watch them cut the arrow out of Sheppard's leg while a group of natives held him down. It was too much like torture. And yet like people driving past a wreck, he just couldn't keep from looking, even when the Colonel started screaming and desperately trying to pull away from the hands holding him still.
When the blood covered tip came into view, it provided the shock Rodney needed to break contact with the horrific events in front of him. Turning away, he staggered to the DHD and leaned against it, breathing in pants as he tried to quell his lurching stomach. Bile burned the back of his throat and he swallowed convulsively.
A gentle touch to his arm made Rodney yelp and he turned to see Teyla frowning at him. "Rodney, are you all right?"
He couldn't speak for a moment, swallowing back the meal he'd almost lost. "Fine, yeah, I'm fine. Just watching them hold Sheppard down while cutting him up and making him scream. Have you ever heard him yell like that, cause I haven't. Not even when that stupid bug had him by the neck and . . . yeah, just, you know, having a swell time here."
A tiny smile crept across Teyla's face, making Rodney scowl. "What? You think I'm funny?"
Arching one eyebrow briefly, Teyla shook her head once. "No, not at all. I was just remembering that John told me once that if you were babbling or complaining about how you were injured and in pain, that you were all right." She squeezed his arm firmly. "John will be all right. Machk says that the drug has dulled his senses and it is unlikely he will remember any of this."
"Yeah, well, let's hope not. He's got enough food for his nightmares without adding this little event to the mix."
"John is lucky to have a friend such as you."
Rodney snorted at that. "Well, I haven't been useful for anything yet on this trip. I'd say he's lucky to have you and Ronon here."
"I would say that it is fortunate your friend has all of you here to watch out for him," said Machk, having walked up on the end of their conversation. "Kitchi is binding the wound and placing herbs to fight wound sickness. Your friend has lost awareness, but that is probably a good thing right now. We should leave for our camp soon so that we may arrive before dark."
"What about the Hotchie?" asked Ronon, nodded at the group still visible in the distance.
Machk looked at the small figures on the horizon and then turned back to the group. "They will follow for a time, but they will not attack unless we are caught in the open and far from camp after dark. That is why we should get moving soon. We still have time, but we will be moving slowly, so we do not need to linger."
"Can Sheppard ride?" asked Rodney, glancing at the pale, unconscious man lying in the tall grass. His thigh was now thickly bandaged and Rodney was surprised at how relieved he was not to see an arrow shaft sticking out.
"He can make it," said Ronon. The Satedan narrowed his eyes a little at Machk. "I want to ride with him. He knows me and he's less likely to fight me if he wakes up disoriented."
The native's expression was unreadable as he studied Ronon and then John. "That is probably a wise move. I will have two of my men double up so that you may have their neceara."
Rodney wasn't looking forward to another even longer ride on the horse-like animals, but at least he wouldn't have to worry about John. He knew Ronon would ensure that Sheppard was safe. That would give him more time to worry about his own aches and pains, of which he already had many. The ankle he had twisted stepping in what passed as a gopher hole on this God-forsaken planet was throbbing and his burned arm was . . . well, it was burning. He let out a long sigh as he took in his last breath of fresh air for a while. He just had to make it one week, six days if he was lucky. Rodney snorted at the thought of being lucky because that had worked out so well thus far.
Ronon would never admit it to anyone, but he was exhausted by the time they reached the Guyapi camp. His arms were beginning to tremble slightly and his back ached ferociously from his awkward position holding Sheppard in front of him on the neceara for almost four hours. The trip had taken even longer than Machk had predicted.
Sheppard had woken twice and had fought hard to get off the animal both times. The first time he was convinced Atlantis needed him and if he didn't get to the chair room in time, the city would be destroyed. Ronon had been so busy keeping the flailing soldier from falling off the animal that he hadn't been able to block the elbow to his nose. The others had taken control of Sheppard and walked him around until he was more coherent while Teyla helped him stem the flow of blood, all the while reminding him that the pilot was not responsible for his actions.
After that, Sheppard sang some Christmas carols until he passed out again, something which the Satedan was grateful for. From the look on McKay's face, he thought the scientist was just as grateful as he was. The Guyapi just seemed to think it was funny and kept asking who Santa Clause was and what was snow.
The second time Sheppard came to wasn't nearly so dramatic. He kept asking of they'd gone back in time and where were the buffalo. Ronon had been able to keep him calm by explaining what had happened, not that Sheppard seemed to understand anything he was saying. Ronon thought it was mostly the sound of a familiar voice and the firm grip he had on his friend that kept him calm. Sheppard did ask Ronon why he was hugging him like that, but Ronon just snorted. John was soon asleep again.
The Guyapi camp reminded Ronon some of the Athosian village. They had large, round tents that had been made semi-permanent with wood reinforcements around the perimeter. There were probably six large tents, each between eight and ten meters in diameter, and another thirty or so smaller tents that were about half that size. A slight woman about Teyla's height came running out to meet the group, heading straight for Machk. She had on a long dress made from the same material as that of the mens' clothing, but with bright-colored panels and even brighter thread.
"Machk, you have returned. And you have brought visitors."
Dismounting, the native gave her a quick hug. "Yes, and one of them has been injured by a Hotchie arrow tainted with lomasi. Is the tent of guests prepared?"
When she nodded, Machk turned to the group. "This is my wife, Kanti. We have a tent we leave prepared for visitors such as yourself. It is a bit crowded since we also store some things there, but I think you will be comfortable for the time you are here. She will show you to the tent while I fetch our healer. My men will assist the one you call Sheppard." Machk looked at Askook until the man nodded acknowledgement, and then handed his reins off to one of the other men before scurrying down an aisle between the tents.
The other natives also dismounted and most of them began leading the horses off. Askook and a couple of others remained to help with Sheppard. Ronon carefully handed Sheppard off to them so he could get down himself. After a few stretches, he noticed Sheppard had lifted his head and was trying to look around.
"Teyla? Where's Halling?" he asked sleepily, apparently thinking they were in the Athosian village. "When did they rebuild everything?"
Teyla stepped to put her hands on either side of John's face. "John, we are in the village of the Guyapi and they are going to help us. You are injured, but the rest of us are fine and these people will help keep us safe until we are rescued."
"Rescued?" John said, frowning as he tried to look around.
"Yes, rescued," said Rodney. "You just let us worry about that until your brain is back in the land of the coherent."
"Right," John said, his head already beginning to droop to one side. Ronon doubted he had any idea what had just been said by him or anyone else.
"Come," said Kanti. "It is not far." She led them past two tents and then they turned right and made their way to another row. Stopping at the first tent, she held the door back while the others entered. It was dark at first, but an older woman who was a little plump around the middle followed them in and quickly lit a couple of lanterns that brightened the interior considerably. There were several piles of blankets and furs on one side, apparently their version of beds. The two natives helping John quickly deposited him on the mound at the end.
Teyla immediately went to work trying to make John more comfortable, even while he tried to sit up and kept asking what was going on. Rodney joined her in trying to make John lie still until the healer arrived. Askook came up to Ronon.
"Machk will return in a moment with the healer to see to your wounds. It is still a while before the evening meal is served, and I know you must be hungry. I will have something brought to you, as well as some water."
"Thanks," Ronon said. "What about the Hotchie?"
"They are not a danger now that we are back in camp. It has been a long time since they dared attack our dwellings. They usually prey on smaller villages west of here or the occasional small group of travelers such as yourselves. They are cowards and scavengers," Askook said bitterly. "It is good that we came along when we did."
"Yeah, I'd say very good for us," said Ronon.
Askook smiled and nodded. "I will see to the food." As he left, he stepped to one side to make room for Machk and a woman who was almost as tall as he was. Fine wrinkles around her eyes and mouth told of the many years she had seen. Her long hair, interspersed with gray, was tightly woven into a braid that almost reached her waist. She carried a basket of materials across her arm. Machk pointed to Sheppard.
"He is the one I told you of and in the greatest need of assistance."
With a quiet nod, she made her way across the room and kneeled beside Teyla. "I am Nadie, the healer of this tribe."
Teyla bowed her head in respect. "I am Teyla. This is Rodney," she said as she waved her hand in the scientist's direction. "John is the one injured. Can you help him?"
Nadie patted her arm and smiled warmly. "I'm sure I can, child. Just let me have a look and see how bad Machk and his crew butchered his leg trying to cut that arrow out."
While Machk sighed and shook his head, Ronon grinned and crossed his arms as Teyla smiled at him. He already liked this woman.
Okay, this isn't so bad, thought Rodney. The healer woman, Nadia or Nadene or whatever, had cleaned John's leg and put something on it to help hold the edges together. She had wanted to stitch the wound, but said due to the ragged edges and length of time, she thought this was the better route. Rodney only cared about getting away from the gory mess before he threw up. When she had finished with him, she had cleaned and bound Teyla's arm wound and tended to Rodney's ankle and burn.
He was now lying back against a very soft mound of furs and blankets while eating bites of cheese and some kind of meat wrapped up in a bread-like shell. His ankle was propped up on a small pillow with some kind of herb-soaked cloth draped across it. He had no idea what was in that thing, but it had quieted the throbbing in his ankle within minutes. Smiling, he wiggled his toes, noting that it didn't even hurt.
"Feeling better?" asked Ronon with a smirk, sticking a meat pie in his mouth whole.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. Much better. My ankle doesn't hurt any more and my stomach has stopped trying to dissolve itself in a desperate search for food. Even my headache is getting better. I've decided a week here might not be so back after all. These things are really good," he said, holding up one of the meat pies before shoving it in his mouth. Too late he decided maybe shoving the whole thing in his mouth in a feeble attempt at keeping up with Ronon wasn't one of his more genius moments. He tried diligently to chew without either choking himself or spitting out food in his lap.
Teyla turned her head away from him, but not before he saw the smile she was trying to hide. Ronon just out and out snorted. Rodney couldn't say anything to either one of them though because he was still struggling to chew.
"John seems better," said Teyla, once she had recovered. They all looked at the pilot's sleeping form. He muttered every once in a while and shifted around restlessly, but it never lasted long. Whatever the old healer had made him drink seemed to have calmed him down and let him sleep easier.
"Machk said he'll be okay in a few days," said Ronon.
"As long as he rests and stays off his leg," said Teyla with a slight grimace.
Rodney had finally swallowed, so he took a swig of water to wash the last of the pie down. "Keeping him off his feet should be fun. Since there's not much for him to do here, maybe it will be easier than it is on Atlantis."
Ronon slid his eyes sideways at the scientist. "Right."
Obviously Ronon had learned the fine art of sarcasm quite well. "Well, I can hope, can't I?" asked Rodney.
John mumbled and stirred again, opening his eyes and staring at the ceiling. Teyla crawled over to sit beside him. "John?"
Shifting his head, he looked up at the Athosian. "Where are we?"
"We are in the Guyapi camp. You were hit by an arrow from an enemy tribe and these people agreed to help us. Do you remember?"
John rubbed his face and frowned up at her. "I thought I was in . . . never mind. Is Kolya here?"
Teyla frowned and shook her head. "No, Kolya is not here, John. Do you remember anything that happened?" John's head had drifted to one side and his eyes wandered vacantly. Teyla tapped his cheek until he looked back at her. "John, do you remember what happened?"
He blinked several times before speaking. "It's . . . kind of mixed up . . . explosion . . . arrows . . . rainbows . . ." He squinted for a moment and then tried to lift his head. "Think . . . saw . . . Santa on a buffalo?"
Rodney had been trying to drink, but spurted water all over himself at Sheppard's revelation at what he'd apparently been seeing. Pushing himself quickly up to keep from choking, he coughed and wheezed for several seconds. When he finally got his breath back, he looked over to see Sheppard watching him closely as Teyla supported the pilot while he drank. When she eased him back down, Sheppard frowned in worry.
"Is McKay okay?"
"He is fine," she replied, cutting her eyes over to the scientist. Rodney snorted and tried to get situated back against the furs. By the time he had regained his comfort level, Sheppard was asleep again and Teyla wasn't glaring at him any more. Yeah, this really wasn't too bad. There was even entertainment.
Rodney figured he should have learned a long time ago not to tempt fate by thinking things were going well. All hell broke loose in the middle of the night. First he snapped awake to the sound of retching and a smell so horrible that it made him want to join the fun.
"Oh, God, what is that?" he whined as he sat up and clamped his hand over his nose. A quick look around the darkened room shed no light on the situation (no pun intended) until his eyes adjusted. He finally realized one small lamp had been left on low in the far corner and he was just able to make out Ronon and Teyla helping Sheppard remain upright while he vomited out everything all the way down to his toes. How could it smell that bad when the man hadn't eaten since early that morning? It must be that herbal goop the healer woman kept giving him to drink.
"Rodney, we could use your help." Teyla's tone was more of a get-over-here-or-I'll-make-you-regret-it than a request, so Rodney scrambled to his feet.
"What? What do you expect me to do?" And then he was gagging, trying not to join Sheppard's little vomit-fest.
"Breathe through your mouth, McKay," barked Ronon.
Mouth, okay, he could do that. It was still foul, but it helped. "What now?" he asked in a nasally tone.
John seemed to have stopped throwing up and his body had sagged sideways into Teyla. "Turn up the lamps so we can see what we're doing," she said. "We'll need to get him cleaned up."
"Ack, oh, what did you let him vomit all over himself for?" asked Rodney as he lit the lamp.
"We did not let him do anything, Rodney," said Teyla with forced patience. "We did not get to him until he had already begun vomiting."
Okay, that made sense. The sound probably woke them like it woke him. Rodney hated it when his mouth got ahead of his brain and he asked dumb questions. "Yeah, okay, sorry. What now?" He really didn't want to touch Sheppard or his vomit laden clothes or blankets. It was still all he could do not to add his own supper to the mess.
One of the natives cautiously entered the tent and looked around. "Is everything all right?"
"Not really," said Teyla. "I know it is late, but would it be possible to get Nadie? John is very ill."
The native nodded, wrinkling his nose as he backed out. "Yes, I will see to it now."
Ronon snorted, still watching the closed flap. "Guess they aren't so dumb after all. They posted a guard."
"Well, wouldn't you?" asked Rodney.
"Yeah, but I didn't think they did. I thought they were too trusting. I'm glad they show some sense." Ronon began rolling the messed blankets up into a ball. "Help me, McKay."
"I was afraid you were going to say that," Rodney muttered, but he grabbed the end of the blankets and helped Ronon get them off Sheppard. Nadie arrived with Kanti a few moments later, each carrying a bundle. Ronon and Rodney were shooed off, much to Rodney's delight, while the women tended to cleaning and changing Sheppard.
"He's going to hate that," said Rodney, nodding to the group of women disrobing their limp teammate.
"Not if we don't tell him," said Ronon.
"And miss the opportunity to tease him? I think not," said Rodney with a grin. "Maybe we could wait outside."
"Why" asked the Satedan. "We've seen him undressed before. We've done it a few times."
Rodney frowned and looked up at the huge man. "You know, you should watch who you say that to. Taken out of context, it sounds kind of . . . well, you just probably shouldn't tell people that." Ronon shrugged his shoulders as if he didn't care. "And I want to wait outside because it still stinks in here. Honestly, this place will have to air out for hours before it's habitable again."
Ronon's nose twitched once and then he nodded to the tent flap. "Best idea you've had since we got here, McKay."
They had only taken two steps toward the entrance when the Hotchie attacked.
Weird images flitted in and out of John's thoughts, disorienting rides in crashing puddle jumpers and chases through the woods, cowboys and Indians, Santa Claus and buffalo and strange clowns. There were intermittent vague conversations with his team that seemed dreamlike and unreal. Moments of fear speckled across moments of pain or relaxed pleasure. He was hot, then he was cold, then he was hot again. Acid burned his throat and burrowed into his leg. By the time things finally settled down, John allowed himself to slide away into the inviting darkness, exhaustion successfully squelching any possibility of him fighting it.
Then the darkness gave way to gray and then to light on the other side of his lids. There were sounds, soft rustles of someone nearby. No antiseptic smell, so not in the infirmary. Not even in Atlantis. His heart sped up as he tried to figure out where he was. Everything was strange, the air, the bed underneath him, the sounds.
"John . . . are you awake?"
He didn't recognize the voice, but it sounded kind. A woman's voice, unfamiliar. A light touch to the side of his face, a gentle touch with a woman's hand. "Open your eyes for me, John. I won't hurt you, you know."
Her encouragement made him want to open his eyes, to see her face. It took effort, almost too much. His body was tired and sore and his head ached abominably, but he was finally able to pry his lids open a slit. A set of kind, brown eyes looked at him from a slightly wrinkled face with a big smile.
"John, I knew you were waking up finally. My name is Nadie. I have been taking care of you the past few days, but you most likely do not remember that, do you? You have been very ill."
Flashes of memories that he couldn't identify as real or imagined ran through his mind. Teyla bleeding. Rodney going down. A sudden rush of adrenalin allowed him to lift his head and scan the room . . . not a room, a tent . . . for his team. "Where . . . my team?"
"Your friends are fine. They are currently talking with the elders of the tribe about future contact between our people. Your friends helped our village fight off an attack of the Hotchie and our leaders are very grateful."
"An attack?" John's initial relief at hearing his friends were all right seemed to dissolve away at hearing they were involved in an attack. "Were they hurt?"
Nadie sighed and used gentle force to make him lie back against the bed. "You must rest. The lomasi and the fever took much out of you and you are still weak. You're friends received some minor injuries, but they are well, much better than you. They should be back any time now."
John relaxed back against the soft pile of whatever he was lying on. At least he knew his team was all right and it seemed they weren't in the hands of hostile forces for once. Shifting produced a flare of pain from his thigh and he winced as it caught him off guard. All at once, he remembered being struck by the arrow. Reaching down, he rubbed the side of his leg near the wound and found the entire area covered by thick bandages.
"I imagine your leg is still very sore, but you will recover. You should lie still, though." Her tone was partway between scolding and encouraging, reminding John of his mother trying to get him to take medicine when he was a child.
"How long . . . have I been . . . " The tickle that had been developing in his throat finally won out and became a coughing fit, making his already aching head feel like it was going to explode. Nadie slid her hand behind his back and helped him sit up until the urge to hack up half his respiratory system finally passed. He was more than grateful for the water she helped him sip in the aftermath of the fit.
"Hey, he's up!" Rodney almost bounced across the room, followed by Teyla and Ronon. Nadie eased him back against the bed as they surrounded him. Ronon had a small cut over his right eye and a bandage around his right forearm. Teyla had a bandage around her upper arm, but John thought he remembered that from their initial encounter with some apparently angry natives. The bruises on her face and slight limp were new however. Rodney had a bandage across his forehead.
Nadie stood and bowed to the Lanteans. "Now that you have returned, I will take my leave. Call me if any of you need me. And an old woman would appreciate it if you would stop getting injured and ill. I need a rest."
As the tent flap closed behind her, Rodney plopped down on the bed next to John's. "Give her an accent and she's Carson in drag."
"Rodney!" snapped Teyla.
"Well, am I wrong?" When no one answered, Rodney glanced down at John. "So, what does it feel like to be in the land of the awake and coherent?"
John sighed. "Slow and achy and very much behind. What happened?"
They all looked at one another, as if deciding who would speak. Teyla and Ronon took seats around John's bed and he noticed the way they moved slowly and carefully. Rodney finally began filling him, reminding him of the attack by the Hotchie. He remembered most of that, but things got fuzzy around the time the Guyapi arrived to save them. When Rodney's explanation of why the gate malfunctioned got too detailed, Teyla took over, filling him in on the removal of the arrow and their journey back. Rodney interrupted several times to describe John trying to sing and go rescue Atlantis, making John wish he could pull his blanket over his face. That part he was glad he didn't remember.
Ronon explained how the Hotchie attacked their first night there. He, Rodney, and Teyla had been able to help the Guyapi turn the battle around with their superior weapons, saving many lives. Machk had explained that the Hotchie were apparently fascinated with the visitors to the planet and wanted to capture them to see if they could gain anything useful from them. There had been no sign of the enemy tribe since the initial attack however, so apparently they had scared them off.
Teyla explained that the tribal elders were not only grateful for their help, but also intrigued by some of the things the Lanteans had told them arriving, and wanted to set up some kind of trade relationship.
"Tell me you didn't offer weapons," John asked, remembering his ill-fated bargain with the Genii and how angry Elizabeth had been with him. His heart ached for a moment as he missed her all over again.
"No," said Teyla with a sad smile, undoubtedly remembering the same thing John had been. "We have offered medical supplies and help with their housing and farming. They are offering some native herbal remedies that have seemed to work well and some food supplies as well." She glanced at Rodney. "They have a meat dish that is apparently very good."
"Maybe I should try that," John suggested, rubbing his very empty stomach.
"Hey, it's almost time for lunch," said Rodney. "Maybe they'll have some."
"Think so?" asked Ronon, his eyebrows going up as he straightened.
"So, how long have we been here?" asked John.
"Four days," said Rodney.
"Four days?" He'd been out of it for four days.
Teyla picked up on his discomfort, as always, and leaned over to grip his hand. "The drug on the arrow made you very ill for several days. Nadie says that happens sometimes, but this was the worst she's ever seen. We think it may be because we are not of this world."
"Yeah, but four days," John groaned. How did this stuff happen to him?
"Hey, don't complain. You got to miss out on the stinky, horrible ride to the camp and the whole battle in the middle of the night thing. Not to mention the violent vomiting spell complete with –"
"Rodney!" snapped Teyla. "John does not need to hear this."
John grinned, the normalcy of it all making him feel better than any comforting words ever could. "It's okay, Teyla, it's just Rodney. How long until the Daedalus arrives?"
"Two days, maybe three," said Rodney, glancing smugly at Teyla.
"Help me sit up," John said, trying to push himself up. The three of them worked together to mound hand-sewn pillows up behind him until he was sitting up. He had to lean his head back for a moment and catch his breath while waiting for the swaying feeling to go away. When he opened his eyes, his team was looking at him with worried faces. Smiling, he lifted his head off the pillows. "I'm fine, just not much energy."
Teyla's shoulders seemed to drop a little as she relaxed. "Nadie said you would be weak for several days from the drug and the illness."
John shifted, uncomfortable with the focus of attention on him. "When do we eat? I'm starved." He really was hungry, but he also knew that he had to start getting food into himself if he was going to be on his feet by the time the Daedalus arrived. And he was going to be on his feet when he met up with Caldwell. He hated feeling weak around the Colonel. Caldwell had seen him down too many times already.
Ronon held firmly onto John while his equilibrium settled and he gained his balance. The man had his hand fisted into Ronon's shirt and he probably wasn't even aware of it. "You sure this is a good idea?" As much as he respected Sheppard's wish to be on his feet and mobile again, the way the color had drained out of the man's face upon standing couldn't be a good sign.
"I'm good . . . just give me a minute."
The tent flap flew back and Teyla stuck her head in. "Ronon, if you are . . . what are you doing?" she asked, stepping inside and letting the flap fall.
"Sheppard wanted to come eat breakfast with the rest of us." No way he was taking the blame for this. He'd told Sheppard that Teyla and Rodney would fuss about him being up so soon. Actually, he'd been proud of his team leader when he'd insisted on getting up. He liked the fight in Sheppard.
"Teyla, I'm fine, just a little slow," said John. "I can't just lie there any more. I need to be up moving. You know Carson always got us up and moving around a little as soon as we were able. Get's the blood circulating."
With an exasperated sigh, Teyla came over to John's other side. "Then you can at least allow us to assist you to the tables."
John broke out in a big grin, obviously not sure whether he would win this battle or not. "Thanks."
"You are welcome. Rodney went ahead."
"Naturally," said Ronon with a smirk.
"I'm guessing low blood sugar?" said John, also with a bit of a smirk.
"Yes, I believe that is what he said." Teyla was smiling now as well.
It took several minutes to get to the big tent where several families ate their meals. John was not only still tired and weak, but could barely put any weight on his injured leg, so he leaned heavily on his friends. If the tent had been much farther, Ronon would have been tempted to just pick him up and carry him there.
John had talked with Machk the night before when the tribal leader came to visit. The native came and sat across the table from the team, asking them how things were going and if they needed anything. John thanked him again for helping the team at a time when they had really needed it.
Machk turned to Ronon and Teyla. "We have a hunting party going out in a little while. Would you be interested?"
Ronon glanced at Sheppard. He knew the man was bored and wanting to try getting around a little, but Ronon had been bored for the better part of five days now. The thought of actually getting to do something was very appealing.
"Go," John said, waving his hand at Ronon. "You don't have to babysit me, I'll be fine."
"Thanks, buddy," said Ronon and then nodded at Machk.
"What about you, Teyla? I must admit, it is unusual to see a woman as such a fine warrior. Most of our women stay with the camp, but you have a couple of our younger ones interested in a more active role in the camp's protection."
With a graceful nod, Teyla gave a small smile. "Many women in my home also tended to the needs of the family or tribe from the settlement. But some, like me, chose to be warriors and hunters. I have been training since I was a child."
"Perhaps you could share some things with us, and with our young women who wish to learn," said Machk.
"I would be happy to. I could do that today while Ronon goes with the hunting party."
Machk nodded gratefully. "Yes, I'll tell Kanti and she will set it up. Thank you."
By the time breakfast was over, John could hardly keep his eyes open. Rodney and Machk helped him back to their tent. In the few minutes it took for him to doze off, John just kept thinking about how bad it sucked to be so weak.
Rodney spent most of the day exploring some sort of bizarre mineral the locals had introduced him to, while Teyla began training three young women who apparently now worshipped the ground she walked on. John had noticed at lunch that they mimicked almost every move she made. It would have been funny if he hadn't felt so tired and useless.
By evening, John had taken three naps, but at least he'd been out of bed for quite a few hours. Nadie checked his leg wound and rewrapped it right before they headed to supper. She held onto his arm as he stood and got his sense of balance.
"You look tired, in spite of your periods of rest. Does your head still ache?" asked Nadie with a concerned frown.
John rubbed the side of his face, feeling the whiskers from several days without shaving. "A little. Mostly I just keep having these weird dreams. And I mean really weird." Yeah, Santa riding a buffalo across a rainbow as he was chased by clowns was just disturbing.
Nadie nodded and pursed her lips a second. "I am afraid many of those exposed to the lomasi drug experience effects of their visions for many night cycles after the drug leaves their system. It is as if it takes the mind much longer to purge the images from the dreams."
"Great," John muttered. He could only hope maybe he'd sleep better once they were back on Atlantis.
"Let us go eat, John. Perhaps a full stomach will cheer you up. You have been unhappy today."
John smiled sheepishly, feeling guilty for his recent wallow in self-pity. "Not really unhappy, just . . . I'm not good at being injured." He scratched his nose with a smirk. "I've been told I'm a bit of a bear when I'm recovering," he admitted. Not sure why, he only knew that he felt comfortable with Nadie, and tended to be more open and honest with her than with others. Maybe it was because she was so kind and seemed to see right through him anyway. Maybe it was because he wouldn't be around her much longer to deal with the consequences of telling her things. Whatever the reason, his defenses definitely crumbled when she was around.
"Now that I believe, John Sheppard," she said with a stern laugh. "Let's go get some food into you so we can build your strength up. Then you won't have to be cranky much longer."
Laughing, John followed her out of the tent and down the path to the what he called the "mess tent". They were almost there when a group of teenagers came running across the camp yelling for her. One of them deposited a small boy, around five years old and soaking wet at her feet.
"Nadie, Nootau fell into the river. We got him out quickly, but he does not breathe."
Nadie knelt beside the boy and felt his neck. She then placed her hand in front of his mouth, followed by listening to his chest. After a few seconds, she lifted her head sadly. "The life has gone out of him."
John dropped down beside the boy, ignoring the pull on his injured leg. Touching the boy's neck to feel for a pulse, he noticed the skin was cold. "How cold is the river?" He'd noticed the stream running next to the village, but had not actually been down to see it.
"The water is very cold," said Nadie. "It comes from the mountain snows and is winter cold all year." That made sense with the camp being set up at the base of the mountains.
"That may be a good thing," John said as he brought to mind his training in field medical care. Making sure the boy's airway was clear, he positioned the head and began rescue breathing, followed by CPR. He rotated back and forth several times before the boy arched his back and gasped. As he child began coughing, familiar hands joined his in rolling the boy on his side. A collective gasp from the crowd could be heard as he and Teyla supported the child while he coughed and vomited up water and then began to cry.
"How is this possible?" asked Nadie from beside him.
Before he could answer, a woman that had to be the mother broke through the crowd and swept the terrified child up in her arms. Nadie went to checking the boy and comforting the mother as John and Teyla backed away to give them room. The crowd moved to allow Rodney through as he elbowed people aside to get to the front. He'd been chewing on a meat stick, but paused to take in the scene before him. Looking from the swarm around the crying child and then to John, he sighed.
"What did you do, Colonel?"
John shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, you know, took a nap, headed to dinner, brought a drowned child back to life. The usual."
"Always have to play the hero," Rodney muttered.
"Hey, I am who I am," John said with a smirk.
"Whatever." Rodney leaned over to offer John a hand up, which he took. Between him and Teyla, they managed to help John get to his feet and get balanced on his good leg.
"Thanks, guys." John glanced over to see Machk and Kanti had been talking to Nadie and the mother of the boy, who someone had thrown a blanket around. Kanti gave the mother a brief hug and then the couple made their way over to John, their eyes wide. The circle around them had grown wider as people backed away, and John realized he'd apparently scared most of them.
"You realize you probably just ruined our trade agreement for those meat pie things by scaring them all to death, right?" commented Rodney.
"What was I going to do, Rodney, let the kid die?" John said softly.
"Well, no, of course not," replied Rodney. "Just, you know, try not to scare them any more."
"Thanks for the advice."
"John," said Machk, a little breathlessly. "How is this possible? Are you of the Ancestors, to bring a child back to life?"
John held his hands up defensively. "Whoa, no, I'm just like you guys. This is part of that medical training we were telling you about. It doesn't always work, depending the injury and the person, but sometimes it can be used to bring a person back or keep them alive until better help arrives. Our doctors will train your people on when and how to use it. Anyone can learn to do what I just did."
Machk's eyebrows shot up as his eyes widened. "Truly, anyone can learn?"
"Yes," answered Teyla. "John's people taught many such things to my people. It has saved lives on many occasions."
"Saved me once or twice too," admitted John.
"This is wondrous, truly wondrous. How can we ever repay you?"
"Well," Rodney held up a finger, "those meat pies are really good."
"We will make all that you want," said Kanti with a big smile. John rolled his eyes, Teyla smiled, and Machk laughed.
"What's funny?" asked Ronon, walking up to stand beside Teyla. "Did I miss something?"
"Just Colonel Cowabunga saving the day again," said Rodney.
"What?" Ronon asked with a frown. Shaking his head, he grinned at John. "Hey, Sheppard, we killed a really big animal that you should see. I think it might be like those buffalo you kept singing about."
John sighed and ran one hand through his hair, wishing everyone would forget his apparent attempt at serenading his team. He had a feeling he'd be hearing about his singing for months to come. They followed Ronon to where a cart was loaded with a huge beast that indeed did look like a buffalo. A really, really big buffalo.
"Oh my gosh, that thing is huge," said Rodney, reaching out to touch the thick, coarse fur.
"This is a good kill," said Machk.
"We killed two smaller ones, but cut them up in smaller pieces for travel," said one of the warriors with a big grin. "We should get much food and fur from this hunt."
"Does that mean you had fun?" John asked Ronon.
With a big grin and a twinkle in his eyes, Ronon nodded. "Oh, yeah, this was the best day since we've been here. Too bad you couldn't come, Sheppard."
With a little smile, John crossed his arms and looked at the animal. "It would have been nice, but I think maybe it worked out better that I stayed." The sight of the small boy clinging to his mother and the look on her face when she knew her son would be all right was worth any pain that he'd endured since coming to this planet. He would be happy to devote some of their resources to showing these people some things that might replace some tragic moments with ones like today.
"Hey, Sheppard," Rodney called, snapping his fingers in front of the colonel's face. "Anybody home?"
"Sorry," John said. "Just thinking."
"Yeah, well I know you can't do two things at once, so quit thinking and start walking so we can eat. I'm starved," Rodney complained. "My blood sugar is so low, it's amazing that I'm even conscious."
"And yet you still have the energy to talk," said Ronon.
"Okay, kids," John said with a laugh. "Let's go eat. Sounds like we've all had a full day."
Rodney stared at Sheppard, sitting across the table from him. His eyes kept drifting closed and then he'd snap his head up, wincing at the sudden movement. He was obviously exhausted. There had been a constant stream of people thanking the pilot and wishing him well since his brief stint at resurrecting small drowned children the night before, making the man decidedly uncomfortable.
"So, I don't get you," Rodney said, waiting until John looked up at him like he might be listening. "You rush into danger and save the day all the time, and then try to hide from all the attention that comes after."
"I don't do it for the attention, Rodney. I know you like to be the center of attention, but I don't. I'd rather fade into the woodwork when I can."
Ronon stopped chewing and looked around the tent. "What woodwork?"
"It's a saying, Conan, not to be taken literally. He doesn't like to be noticed. He likes to blend in."
"Oh," said the big man with a frown. "Why don't your people ever just say what they mean?"
"Too easy," Rodney replied.
"John does what he does to save people whenever he can," said Teyla. "He does not do it for the attention."
John waved his fork toward Teyla. "What she said."
"Well, I know that, but still, the attention afterward of everyone thanking you and bringing you gifts and thinking you're wonderful and all, that's not such a bad thing."
John looked at the pile of gifts on the table and shrugged. "Makes me feel weird. I was just doing what was right, what any one of us would have done. I don't think that deserves to be treated special."
"Well, since you don't want them, I'll take that multi-colored blanket," Rodney said, reaching for the pile. John's arm came down across the gifts immediately.
"No one touches the blanket. I get cold sometimes and it looks really warm. I'm told Sooleawa makes the best blankets in the village, too."
"And she's very attractive," said Teyla with a grin.
"There is that," said John with a small smile. He waggled his eyebrows at Rodney.
"Oh, for heaven's sake," the scientist muttered while John grinned at Ronon.
"Well, you look like you'd better take a nap before you try to woo her. You look like you haven't slept in a week."
John sighed and looked down at his food. "I haven't. Well, I have but . . . I keep having weird dreams that wake me up. Then I'm all wired and can't go back to sleep for a while."
"Like what?" asked Ronon.
John frowned and looked across the tent, as if remembering something. "Santa riding a buffalo . . . Rodney turning into a crazed clown and firing lightning bolts at me . . . weird stuff that makes absolutely no sense."
"Okay, that is disturbing," said Rodney.
John sighed and poked at the food left on his plate, his appetite gone. "Nadie thinks it,s some kind of remnant from that drug. She says the hallucinations kind of hang around in your dreams for a while."
"Maybe you will rest easier once we are back in the city," said Teyla.
Rodney straightened and held up one finger. "This is McKay. About time you guys got here."
"Daedalus?" asked John and Rodney nodded. It was only then that he noticed Rodney was wearing his radio, apparently remembering it was about time for their rescue vessel to arrive.
"We're basically fine. Sheppard was injured, but he's getting around now. We've kind of made friends with some of the locals and are working out a trade agreement. Maybe you could beam down." After a brief pause, Rodney nodded. "Okay, we're in a tent right now, but we'll meet you outside. McKay out."
Standing, Rodney motioned for the others to follow. "Caldwell is on his way down with Keller."
John pushed himself to his feet. "Well, let's go welcome the rescue party. Sounds like it's time to go home."
They ended up staying a few more hours. Caldwell met with the team and the tribal leaders. After being filled in on all that had transpired, they were all invited to a feast of celebration, both for the survival of the boy and for the new alliance. It was hard to refuse without being rude, so Caldwell agreed.
Keller checked John over and had a long discussion with Nadie, which irritated John to no end. The doctor finally let him return to his team after deciding that he was healing all right, but promised him time under the scanner as soon as they returned to Atlantis. John tried not to limp as he left the tent, but only succeeded in about three steps before the pain got the better of him. So much for a strong exit.
The feast was a delight of colored lights and music and lots of food. Rodney and Ronon ate more than anyone thought possible, making the group of women who prepared most of the food very happy. At one point, Rodney asked if he could take the main meat pie-maker home with him. Caldwell said no. She promised to make more when he returned to fix the gate.
John had to admit that he ate more than he should have, but the food was so good that he couldn't make himself regret it. He was feeling better every day and that made him happy. If he could just get the weird dreams to stop so he could get some decent sleep, he'd be a lot happier. His leg was getting stronger and the headaches were becoming less frequent. If he was lucky, getting home and in familiar surroundings would help him sleep better.
"John, you seem to be having a good time," said Nadie, sitting down beside him.
"I am. Look, we'll be leaving soon and I just wanted to thank you for everything. I'm told I'm not the easiest patient to take care of, so, uh, thanks for putting up with me." He flushed with sudden embarrassment and he wasn't sure why. He was really going to miss Nadie.
"Oh, posh, I've had lots worse." She reached out and took his hand, gripping it firmly. "Take care of yourself, John Sheppard. You're a good man. Will I see you again?"
"Oh, yeah. We'll be back in a few days to fix the gate. I'll bring a jumper . . . uh, one of our flying ships, and we'll come see you guys. Besides, we have a trade agreement now."
"Yes, we do," she said proudly. "And I want to learn of the way you brought our Nootau back from the dead."
"You will," he replied.
"Hey, Caldwell says we're ready to go," said Rodney, walking up with Teyla and Ronon.
"Okay," John replied, standing up. "I'm ready. Did you guys get our stuff?"
"Already done," said Ronon. "We boxed up all your thank you gifts and got them too."
John sighed and rolled his shoulders. "Thanks." He turned to say goodbye to Nadie and was almost knocked over by the woman grabbing him into a big bear hug. After a few awkward seconds of flailing his hands around, he set them gently on her back to return the hug. When she finally released him, he glanced around to find his team beaming at him.
"Well, if the John Sheppard fan club is done saying goodbye, we can go now," said Rodney with smirk.
John nodded to Nadie, happy that she didn't seem to take offense, and followed the group to stand with Colonel Caldwell and the others. The Guyapi all waved and yelled at them as they were beamed up. The last thing John saw before being caught up in a flash of light was the top of the box beside him. Someone had drawn a crude image of Santa riding a buffalo across a rainbow while a clown ran behind them. He was so going to kill Rodney.
Prompt: The team gets stranded on a planet when one of
the chevrons on the Gate goes splodey, and they have to wait for the Daedulus to come get them. The planet is Great Plains type ecology, locals are equivalent to Native American. Whump can come with Gate malfunction, or when meeting the locals. Need one good tribe, one mean tribe.