THE BONE PIT - by NotTasha
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PART 6: FIRST TIME EVER
Sheppard waited in the infirmary, running one hand through his hair, glad to know that there would be no antennas growing there. He'd seen "The Fly" once too often.
He was a little alarmed at how many ants he'd already pulled from his hair (and promptly smashed). A half-dozen or so of the little bastards had taken the trip with him through the transporter a journey that started at 'the bone room' and ended up in the fanciest restaurant in town.
It was a surprise to dematerialize in a simple room, and rematerialize in a larger, elegant one, on top of a table filled with plates and glasses and serving dishes. Food went flying. People yelped and jumped to their feet. Chairs were overturned. A wall hanging was torn and accidentally caught on fire by a tipped candle. Patrons screamed in shock. A waiter fainted.
Sheppard stumbled over a tureen of some sort, planted one foot on top of a pile of pastries and then upended a table. Teyla knocked over a potted plant, dumping it into what looked like a plate of ravioli. Ronon, looking completely unfazed, dutifully picked up Rodney and headed toward an exit.
Sheppard and Teyla were right at his heels.
The upper transporter room must have been declared the 'nicest building in town' at some point, and an entrepreneur had moved in to take advantage of its beauty and excellent location, converting it into a gilded dining room, all decorated with velvets and rich decorations (some of which were currently aflame).
The town suffered great poverty, but there was always a well-heeled element that needed a special place to eat.
Sheppard was almost sorry he hadn't sent in the ants first.
They ran from the place and into the street, finding townspeople staring at them in amazement, big-eyed and with strangely wide smiles. The people surged forward, trying to get near them, trying to touch them.
But Sheppard had no time for that. He commandeered a rag-filled 'ox' cart, and Ronon carefully settled Rodney into the back.
Rodney was failing, and their only hope was to get back to Atlantis as soon as possible.
Teyla took the reins and they charged through town sending people hopping. They knocked over a few vendor stands, and one lady in a fine gown swore like a sailor as she jumped out of the way.
Sheppard ground his teeth the whole way as he desperately tried to keep his collarbone from jarring, hoping that he didn't end up puking on anyone.
Many of the townspeople followed them more joining all the while. They had to run to keep up. Sheppard could have sworn they were having a great time. The people waved, and seemed to dance and sing but it could have been the pain clouding his reason.
"Hang in there, Rodney," Sheppard said, because he needed to say something to keep from passing out. "We'll be home soon."
Teyla expertly guided them. Ronon swatted at people who tried to climb on. The vehicle reached the Gate within minutes and they left the cart. They activated the wormhole. And, as the crowd roared, they stepped through the event horizon and were home.
That was hours ago.
One of Keller's people had taken John aside when they reached the infirmary. His scrapes and cuts were treated. X-rays were taken. He was given a pair of pills for the pain and a sling to keep one arm in place to allow his abused clavicle some rest.
Rodney had been nearby during the beginning of Sheppard's treatment. John had listened as hushed voices had spoken of 'swelling' inside his skull. Sheppard recalled the skulls lined up with the crypts.
And then there was talk of surgery, and Rodney was whisked away.
And John waited. It still felt like ants crawled on him, even after a fairly thorough examination for them. It felt as if their little legs kept ticking him, taunting him, but that could have been the painkiller.
He waited. Keller returned and told him that they were trying to avoid surgery, treating the swelling with drugs. It was only a matter of time before they knew whether or not that would work. They would have to wait to find out whether Rodney would awaken.
"He might not?" Sheppard had asked, alarmed.
And Keller had tried to look sure, pasting on a pleasant expression as she said, "There's always a danger in these sorts of injuries. We'll just have to wait and hope."
They brought McKay back to the room, and set him up in one of the beds, where he was monitored constantly, until finally someone decided that the danger had passed, the swelling was reducing. There was no need to drill into the genius physicist's skull again.
Yet, Keller remained quiet and unsure. Only time would tellWoolsey arrived for a debriefing, but didn't seem too interested in all details. "We'll deal with that later," he declared, and then asked, "Did you really materialize in the middle of a fancy dinner party?" He seemed delighted with the details of their landing and the reactions of the people.
Keller invited Sheppard to spend the night in the infirmary. "You'll probably be more comfortable," she'd said amicably. "You can keep your bed tilted up. It will help with the ol' clavicle. I can put you in the bed next to Rodney if you want."
So he stayed, and Keller ordered dinner. They ate together. She was unusually quiet and he didn't feel like talking. And eventually she stood, and after she checked on Rodney, she stated that she research to complete. And they were left alone for a while.
God, what a day. What a horrible, crappy day!
Teyla and Ronon showed up after dinner, but were eventually sent to their rooms for rest. They needed it. They deserved it. And yet, they were reluctant to go.
Zelenka visited, asking questions about the mining facility and wanting particulars about the crystal that had been quarried at that site. Sheppard had little information to offer, but he gave Radek some of the pebbles that had ended up in his boots.
Radek stayed longer than he needed, watching his boss throughout the discussion. He eventually left as Rodney continued to sleep.
It was boring to watch McKay sleep, but Sheppard kept waiting. Rodney's head was bandaged, and his face was dotted with cuts, and some nasty looking bruises showed on his arms.
Sheppard figured he didn't look pretty himself at the moment. He wasn't going to ask for a mirror any time soon.
All evening long, Keller came by to check on her patient. Sheppard would try to look interested in reading reports on his laptop when she was there.
Reports were dull. And when he got bored, John felt ants on his legs again and he swatted at them violently, getting a look from Keller.
She tried to be upbeat. She tried to look hopeful. But there was a sorrow that clung to her, a regret that filled her movements.
"He's going to be okay," Sheppard told her, and she smiled at that.
"That's what I'm supposed to say," she told him.
"He's got the best doctor he can have."
And there was gratitude in her eyes.
He had to just keep hoping for the best.
He was tired of that tired of things being out of his control. It sucked.
It was a long night.
Keller came by with a couple more pills as the night dragged on. He tried to watch a movie on his laptop, but without really meaning to, he fell asleep in the middle of a big car chase.
First time ever.
"Did he wake up?"
Huh? Sheppard winced as he opened his eyes. Daylight shone in through the windows bright daylight. He'd slept through the night and part of the day.
"Hey," Sheppard replied groggily, turning toward the Satedan.
"He wake up at all while I was gone?" Ronon repeated the question as he sat down on the other bed.
"Don't think so," Sheppard responded, turning toward McKay and seeing that his position hadn't changed.
"Keller says he should soon." But Ronon looked unhappy, as if there was still a question as to whether that would happen. "Zelenka's been waiting to talk to him. Keeps coming in whenever I'm here."
"Crystals," Sheppard muttered, rubbing his face and wanting a shower desperately. "He wanted to know more about the crystals. I didn't have anything to tell him."
"He got those rock samples," Ronon said. "Checked them out. They were radioactive."
Sheppard sighed. "Figures."
"Not enough to kill us," Ronon added.
"Good to know." And John asked, "Was he able to figure out if any of that material was used to make ZPMs?"
"Yeah, he thinks so -- and he seemed pretty excited."
Sheppard laughed a little. "And itching to geek-out with McKay about it," he surmised, glancing to McKay again, who was entirely too still. After a moment he added, "And the Ancients probably mined it all already. That's too bad."
Ronon shrugged. "Just having some crystals wouldn't have done us much good anyway. There's more to the ZPMs than just that."
"I guess we can still go back and look for their power source -- that is, if the Ellikans will let us. What was their problem anyway?" Sheppard asked, frowning in memory. "What kind of a person locks prisoners in a vault just to let them die?"
It was Teyla that responded as she approached the beds. "They had found copies of the 'wanted posters' that the Genii had produced." She settled a lunch tray in front of John.
Lunch?, Sheppard thought, I slept in past noon? Ronon grabbed the chocolate chip cookie before Sheppard could move.
John scowled at the Satedan. And then, Teyla's words sunk in. "You're kidding me? Those Genii wanted-posters are still out there? It's been years!"
"Apparently they are still circulating," Teyla said with a sympathetic expression. "I have heard from my sources that the Ellikans had been making inquiries about whether the prize is still available. It is rather unfortunate that we didn't know about this earlier."
"That's a good word for it," Sheppard grumbled. He poked angrily at his fruit cup. It had too many maraschino cherries in it. He hated it when all of the other fruits got coated with the red dye. Ronon resolved the problem for him by taking the cup off his hands. "So, they locked us up just so that they could get a reward?"
Ronon downed the contents of the fruit cup on one gulp, then said, "Guess they were planning on opening the doors to that temple eventually to let us out."
"If the Genii ever showed up for the hand off," Sheppard responded, wondering if their alliance would have held. Probably not. It wouldn't have ended well.
Teyla went on, "We appeared in a flash of light at the House of Special Favors. It was taken as a sign by the lower caste. They now believe that we were one with the Ancestors."
"The House of Special Favors?" Sheppard echoed.
"It was the name of the restaurant," Ronon told him.
"It sounds like a Chinese Restaurant," Sheppard remarked. "Or a whore house, for that matter."
"They're changing the name to the House of Good Signs because of us." Ronon said, settling the empty cup on Sheppard's tray. "Still a crappy name, but better than the first one."
"We were a good sign?" Sheppard asked. "There's a first time for everything, I guess."
Teyla moved slowly around the room to stand near Rodney's bed. "The townspeople of Ellik were quite amazed with us. They have legends of people who appeared mysteriously at that site."
"Huh," Sheppard responded, picking up the sandwich that Teyla had procured for him. "Probably some hold-over from when the Ancients used the transporter."
Teyla continued, saying, "Our appearance brought them great joy. They believe that prosperity will return to their land."
"That's nice for a change," Sheppard replied, taking a bite. He chewed a moment, then said, "Usually, by the time we leave, we're getting the pitchfork and torches treatment."
"They believe that we are deities," Teyla told him, and then with a wistful expression, added, "I suppose it is because they desperately needed something to believe in."
"When you live in that sort of place, people hope for anything," Ronon said and chuckled a little. "The animal we borrowed was paraded round the town as a sacred beast. Never going to have to pull a cart again unless we show up."
Sheppard raised his head from his turkey and swiss and asked, "So do you think they'd be amenable to our return? I mean, we can bring them supplies, food, things that they can really use. Maybe this time they'd be willing to show us the ZPM if they actually have it?"
"It is possible," Teyla replied. "I believe the lower caste will be more than willing to help us. The upper caste holds some of the same beliefs." She turned to Sheppard and stated, "But we cannot allow the Ellikans to believe that we are gods. That would be wrong." She spoke with finality.
"Party pooper," Sheppard muttered. "Okay, fine. But if they want to show us a little respect and NOT lock us in a grave, I'm not going to argue."
For a moment, they said nothing as Sheppard enjoyed his sandwich, Ronon took his fries, and Teyla stood beside Rodney's bed, watching him.
"He's doing better?" she asked.
"I don't know," Sheppard responded. "I don't think there's been any change."
She continued to watch Rodney.
"Give him a little time. He'll be back to annoying us all in no time," Sheppard said.
"It is what he does best," Teyla said, with affection.
"Yeah," Ronon said, scarfing down the last of John's french fries. "We kinda like it that way."
"We just have to hope he gets better soon. It won't be long and we'll be going back to take a ride on an ox cart," Sheppard said. "We'll bring toys for the kids this time. Maybe help the parents find a way of making a living."
"It will be nice to make a difference for these people," Teyla added.
The free food gone, Ronon stood and stated, "I'm heading to the mess. You want anything?"
Sheppard sighed, regarding his empty plate and thinking about the thing that he really wanted at that moment. "No. I'm going to my room in a bit. I need a shower." He ran his free hand over his sling. "It's not going to be fun, but it will have to be done. Of course, it would be easier if I had a room with a big tub in it." He glared at Rodney, but the tight expression fell as he watched his friend.
"You should get some more sleep, John," Teyla told him. "You look tired."
"It's been a crappy couple of days," Sheppard responded.
They all agreed.
"Ronon, I will go with you," Teyla said as she came alongside the Satedan. "They are serving ice cream sandwiches."
Ronon smiled widely at that statement, and Sheppard complained, "Hey, why didn't you bring me one?"
Teyla paused, then said, "It would have melted."
"It would have been fine," Sheppard didn't mean to whine, but there was a petulant tone to his comment. "And they're best when they are a little on the melted side."
"Ronon would have taken it from you and eaten it," Teyla told him.
"I could have taken him," Sheppard insisted.
"No," Ronon said with a laugh, and turned toward the door.
Teyla remained a moment longer, saying, "I will return with one for you," and then she added, looking toward Rodney. "I'll bring two." And, with that, they left.
And Sheppard remained. It didn't feel right to leave while no one was with Rodney. Keller would be back soon, so he pulled out his laptop and decided to work on those damn reports again.
They had to be written.
Reports were boring.
Okay, so he started to fall asleep again.
He'd been through a couple of hellish days, and Keller had put him on pain meds. It wasn't surprising that he had trouble staying awake.
And he blinked, turning his head slightly to see the other bed and found blue eyes peering sleepily at him from the next bed.
"Hey," Sheppard said softly.
"What happened?" Rodney asked quietly. He looked barely awake.
Sheppard smiled, relieved. "Where do you want me to start? The planet of filth? The ZPM temple with the fake ZPM? The catacombs? The skulls? The mine? The ants? The slide from hell? The bone room? The crystals? The transporter? The buffer? The restaurant mayhem? The ox cart? The scene out of some Bollywood musical? Ice cream sandwiches?"
Rodney looked as if he wanted to frown, but his face just wasn't up to the task. "Bollywood?" his voice trailed.
"Yeah," Sheppard said. "Not my idea of a fun vacation."
"Have you even seen a Bollywood movie?"
"No," Sheppard admitted.
"Then you don't know what you're talking about," McKay went on, his voice never rising above a whisper.
"True, but it sounded good, didn't it? And those natives were pretty darn happy with us when we left. I swear, they were dancing in the street."
"You're making this up."
"I don't remember it," Rodney said, discontentedly.
"You were out of it. You hit your head pretty hard."
"It hurts." Rodney raised a hand to touch his head.
"Leave it alone, or I'll let Keller drill that hole into your head."
"Oh," McKay mumbled, and he let his hand drop. "No more power tools. Never again. Can't use me as your next summer home improvement project." And he smiled a little before saying, "I don't need improvement."
"So you say," Sheppard responded, trying to sound annoyed, but unable to keep from grinning a little. "Anyway, it's probably for the best," he mumbled. "Your brains should be kept on the inside."
"It's where they do their best work."
"Yeah, oh, and not wanting to inflate your ego too far, but your idea about the buffer worked."
McKay seemed to think for a moment before remembering, and then he looked satisfied. "I knew it would."
"Well, it worked with Teyla's help."
That earned a frown before Rodney asked, "We got out? Everyone got out okay?"
"We're all home," Sheppard told him. "And we didn't turn into Mants or unleash the hoards upon the town."
"Mants? Are the ants still in the buffer?"
"Yeah, and that's where they're going to stay. Oh, we're heroes in Ellik."
"Heroes?" Rodney repeated the word quietly, contentedly.
"They'll probably throw a parade for us next time we're there. Can you imagine Ronon on a float, waving to the crowds? Maybe we'll get him to throw beads."
"Where is he?" Rodney asked, his words starting to slur together again.
"Teyla and Ronon went to get some lunch."
"Ice cream sandwiches?"
"Teyla said she'd bring some back for us."
Rodney smiled at that. He continued to watch Sheppard, but his gaze was getting unfocused.
John told him, "I'm sure Keller can put yours away somewhere here. She's got to have cold storage, right? I mean, she has to, what with this being the infirmary and all."
"Not with the corpses. I'm tired of all the dead people."
"I think she has a regular refrigerator in here, Rodney."
"Yeah she does." His voice was getting softer. "She likes frozen grapes."
"Go to sleep, Rodney."
And Rodney's eyes shut as he drifted off again.
Sheppard smiled that McKay obeyed him without any guff. First time ever.
And suddenly, a horrible couple of days, began looking a hell of a lot better.
I hope you enjoyed the story!