Never Anger a Geek
Disclaimer: The following story is a work of fan fiction, and as such is for fan enjoyment only. All recognizable characters/settings are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is made. I'm afraid that despite wishing that I did, I don't own these characters. I've just borrowed them for a while. (Although, I may hang onto McKay and Sheppard for a bit longer – they're a lot of fun…)
Summary: After John is taken hostage during supposedly peaceful negotiations, his captors learn the hard way that Rodney McKay can be a very dangerous man.
Central Character(s): Rodney and John, with Teyla, Ronon, Elizabeth, Lorne and Carson.
Category (ies): Drama, action, angst, h/c, friendship.
Placement: Season Three, not long after 'Common Ground'.
Rating: +15 because of bad language and implied torture.
Spoilers: 'Common Ground', but only a little one.
Author's Note: Okay, time for a slightly darker story, kids, so consider yourselves duly warned. As far as reasons go, I had a sudden desire to pick on John and this was the result. Moony suggested the creepy village leader and I thank her for that wonderfully twisted little gem as well as the excellent beta. Oh, and the badgers loved this. They clapped their little paws with wicked glee and did the Dinky Little Badger Dance of Happiness©.
As Rodney left the conference room, he felt like he was about to explode with rage. Three days. Three Goddamn days and Elizabeth still hadn't agreed to a rescue mission. What the hell was the woman waiting for? Engraved invites to a freaking tea party? Her so called 'negotiations' were going nowhere and it had been three fucking days since Lt Col John Sheppard had been taken hostage on M9R-721.
It was supposed to have been a simple meet and greet: a preliminary introduction with the locals to suss them out. Then, if things went well and both parties were amenable, they would broach the subject of a possible trade agreement. Rodney had been concerned in the briefing, but Teyla and Ronon had both assured him and the others that the Scaffians were an un-advanced but peaceful populace. They were a nomadic people, like a good portion of the other civilisations in the Pegasus galaxy, and were constantly trading with other travellers. That meant there was a very good chance that the Atlanteans' proposal would be accepted. Sheppard had mocked McKay ruthlessly about his anxieties, especially since everything had been friendly and relaxed to start with.
Or, at least, it had been right up until the moment that they met Jolyon.
McKay stormed out onto the balcony, desperate for a space to clear his head. He'd just berated Weir at the top of his voice in front of the senior staff and if he wasn't careful, he'd find himself permanently grounded. Why couldn't Elizabeth understand? How could she not see how badly this was affecting everyone? Not less than two months ago, Sheppard had struck a deal with a Wraith that had been feeding on him to escape Kolya and now they found themselves in a similar position. Rodney wasn't sure which was worse – being able to see what was happening to John (as he had when Kolya had sent the video transmissions) or not knowing (which was what was happening this time). Either way he hated it.
A ghost of a smile crossed his face as a thought struck him: they should just put a leash on the Air Force man to keep him away from the bad guys with the sharp, pointy objects. Either that or just visit uninhabited planets.
As he looked out at the ocean, his smile faded when his mind went back to their initial mission/reason for the screaming match. He'd been over it countless times, trying to remember little details – searching for anything whatsoever that might help to persuade Elizabeth to quit the chit-chat and green light a rescue detail. Leaning against the railing, he blew out a heavy sigh and let the scene play out in his mind once more.
SGA-1 had been welcomed warmly from the moment that they stepped through the Gate and were invited to join the natives in their settlement. As they had sat and sipped a kind of spiced tea (which thankfully contained no citrus), Teyla had been talking quietly with one of the men, who the boys assumed was the guy in charge. There had been a brief moment of confusion when they discovered that he was only an aide: according to their Athosian team-mate, there had been a change in leadership since she had last visited and she didn't know the new Chieftain. They weren't too concerned, though, because there was a pretty good chance that the head of clan would be as friendly as the rest of his people.
They couldn't have been more wrong, Rodney thought grimly.
From the moment that the villager's leader (or medicine man, or whatever the hell he was) had stepped out, Rodney had disliked him. Jolyon was a huge beast of a man, taller than Ronon and utterly repulsive in every sense of the word. Something about the man made McKay's skin crawl, and it wasn't just the obvious lack of personal hygiene. He'd sent Sheppard a glance that said quite clearly 'bugger the negotiations; let's just get the hell out of here while we still have legs'. John's reply was a sarcastic eye roll, but then he caught a glimpse of Jolyon and Rodney could literally see the gears in the pilot's head changing. He had looked back at the scientist, his hazel eyes voicing his silent reply: 'you may be onto something there.'
Carson had once told him that, occasionally, it was possible to spot the nutter in the crowd, the one who'd flip out at the drop of a coin. Rodney had listened with a morbid and horrified interest as the Scotsman recounted an incident back on Earth with a lunatic who decided to start a bar brawl. Beckett went on to describe how the man had seemed perfectly normal (if a little twitchy) right up until the point where someone had jostled his arm and spilt part of his drink. Seconds later, the guy had wigged out spectacularly, resulting in at least three critically injured casualties. What disturbed the physicist was the fact that it had taken five burly policemen to restrain the guy.
Jolyon could easily have been that man.
Rodney had always detested running. He hated how it made his legs ache, how his heart always felt like it was going to shatter into pieces, how sweaty and grimy it made him feel. He simply wasn't the 'running for enjoyment' type, but the longer he was around the tribal leader, the more he wanted to take to his feet and never ever stop. Some of his thoughts must have shown on his face because Sheppard had given him a sympathetic look and a quick, reassuring shoulder squeeze before introducing himself and the others.
McKay tried hard to fight down the urge to either recoil or grimace as Jolyon clapped him on the shoulder. However, in the interest of the negotiations and not wanting to provoke the brute, the Canadian had pushed his unease to one side. He ignored the whispers of doubt, fear and mis-trust in the back of his mind, gritted his teeth and tried his damnedest to be as pleasant as possible.
Unfortunately, this had proved to be easier said than done: the Scaffians' leader seemed to be very interested in him once he heard the word 'doctor'. It became even more taxing as he had tried to explain that he wasn't a doctor of medicine because the natives didn't really grasp the concept of advanced physics or wormhole technology. In desperation, Rodney had pointed to the sky and simply said that he studied the stars. Thankfully, the man got the idea and moved over to Ronon: for which the scientist had sent up a silent prayer of thanks to whatever deity was listening.
Once the introductions had been made, he ushered the team into a tent to discuss the trade proposition. His face was utterly inscrutable as he listened. The Atlanteans were offering medicine and training in exchange for a portion of the Scaffians' crops and/or livestock: the usual song and dance routine. When Jolyon had asked to see some of the medicines that they had spoken of, Sheppard had smiled that stupidly cocky smile of his and pulled out some bandages and antiseptics from his vest. He then proceeded to demonstrate how they worked, using a little girl who had cut her arm.
Rodney had shaken his head at how good John was with children, smirking a bit when he recalled how Jinto had taken to the feral-haired soldier and followed him around the city like an overgrown puppy.
If he'd been paying more attention, he would have realised that the chieftain's smile had taken on a more scheming edge as he eyed the supplies.
Demonstration finished, John had handed the reins over to Teyla – a wise choice considering past experiences. The woman's negotiation skills put Elizabeth to shame and soon the two were locked into a haggling session.
That was when things had gone way, way south.
The man leered none too subtly at the Athosian, his intentions more than clear on his ugly mess of a face. Teyla had shifted uncomfortably under the intense scrutiny and her three team-mates became defensive.
Looking back now, Rodney realised that it was an understandable reaction. Seeing someone stare at one of your friends as if they were a piece of meat would seriously piss off even the most mild-mannered person. It had been painfully obvious that Jolyon had some very questionable and unpleasant plans in mind especially since he promptly demanded that Teyla be included in the supplies they were offering. The Athosian had politely declined, tactfully stating that she wasn't for sale and that the Atlanteans weren't slave traders.
However, Jolyon wasn't the sort of person who took 'no' for an answer and had become increasingly insistent. The proceedings were starting to turn ugly so Sheppard had stood up and motioned his team outside. As they emerged from the tent, blinking in the sunlight, Jolyon had followed them, accusing them of trickery and deceit. When he reached for Teyla, they knew that they had a problem.
For God only knew what reason, Rodney had beaten John and Ronon to the punch and stepped in front of the Athosian, shielding her as best he could from the chieftain. Maybe it was the fact that he could spot the markings of a bully a mile away, or that his usual streak of self-preservation had gone on holiday. Either way, the thug had taken the move as an insult and began to get angry, but McKay stated in a calm voice that once again, his team-mates were not available and certainly not to be used as currency for backwards, inbred monkeys. He'd ignored the hissed protests from Sheppard and the warning growl from the Satedan, standing his ground as he squared up to the native nearly twice his size.
Before any of them could react, Jolyon had shot out his fist and beaten the scientist around the head so hard that he'd literally seen stars. Disorientated, he lost his footing and as his vision had dimmed, Rodney sank to the ground amid angry yells from the rest of SGA-1. Out of the corner of his eye he had seen John rush forward to try and reach him, but a couple of Jolyon's men had grabbed hold of his arms and yanked him away. Knives had been drawn and pressed into various parts of his team's bodies along with orders to stay still or lose said parts.
As McKay had shaken his head, trying to restore his blurred vision, the tribal leader sent a flurry of savage kicks to his abdomen that had caused him to double up in pain.
The scientist unconsciously rubbed his chest and sides, wincing as he came into contact with the bruises. By all rights, he should have been in the infirmary – and he would have been if Beckett had had his way – but there was little chance of that. Not while his best friend was still on Psycho World.
Things had gotten a bit fuzzy for him after the kicking as all he'd really been concerned about was forcing air into his screaming lungs and fighting off the nausea. The next thing he'd become aware of after the haze of pain had dimmed was the sound of cover fire and John tugging him to his feet, telling him to move. The team had made a run for the Gate, each of them stumbling at least once on the uneven ground of the forest. They heard enraged shouts and orders behind them and ran faster, hoping to lose their pursuers in the dense undergrowth.
It had nearly worked, but fate, it seemed, had other plans.
They hadn't been expecting the ambush, but weren't all that surprised when it happened: it was the Pegasus galaxy after all. Then again, things would have to be seriously out of kilter if people knew about surprise attacks in advance. It seemed to defeat the purpose of the act somehow. A group of Jolyon's men/guards/hunters/whatever the hell they were meant to be had managed to get ahead of SGA-1, forcing the team to dive back out onto the main path – directly into the sight of the others.
Rodney had found himself pushed into Ronon's arms and ordered to run while Sheppard covered them. He'd tried to protest, but as usual, John wasn't having any of it. As he was urging them to go, a small dart flew out of the trees and nailed the Air Force man in the shoulder. Tugging it out with a pained grunt, he had repeated his orders and turned back to their attackers.
And then he'd given a small groan and fallen bonelessly to the ground.
Knowing that they couldn't make it back in time to grab the pilot and escape, Teyla had literally pulled Rodney and Ronon towards the Gate. Her immediate plan of action had apparently been to get back to Atlantis before returning with re-enforcements and lots of firepower. The Canadian had turned his head back, catching a glimpse of two men dragging John's unconscious body back towards the settlement. He'd been so engrossed in watching them that he hardly noticed the dart that hit his neck and turned his world black.
When he'd awoken hours later, he had found himself in the infirmary suffering from a concussion (complete with a killer headache from the depths of Hell itself), alien drug-induced grogginess and three broken ribs. And discovered that Sheppard was still on the planet.
That had all happened three days ago and Rodney was slowly going out of his mind with restlessness. Dammit, they had to do something, not sit around having a bloody pow-wow. He pushed himself away from the railing, closing his eyes as his head reeled, trying desperately to figure out a solution. Anything other than dwelling on what that madman might be doing to his friend.
His head jerked around and he saw Teyla standing in the doorway. For the first time in his adult life, words failed him and he looked back to the sea.
The Athosian walked over with her graceful stride, coming to a stop next to him. "We were worried for you. Are you…? Do your injuries trouble you?"
He shook his head. "We should be doing something."
Teyla sighed softly, feeling every bit as helpless as her team-mate. "I agree."
"I can't go through all this again," Rodney whispered. "I just can't." He scrubbed at his face, his broad back knotted tightly with tension. He glanced at his team-mate, relaxing slightly when he saw the same feeling reflected in her soft brown eyes.
"We will get him back," she said softly, placing an arm across his shoulders in an attempt to provide some comfort. "I promise."
"I really messed up this time," he replied, his voice hoarse after his earlier ranting. "What the hell was I thinking? I'm not like any of you! I'm a civilian. All I did was provoke the bastard and now Sheppard's..."
Teyla stroked his back soothingly. "Jolyon is nothing more than a bully," she told him. "You stood your ground just as any of us would and for that I am truly grateful. The way he looked at me…" She shook her head as her words trailed off, trying to banish the unvoiced fear. "I am ashamed that I thought of these people as friends. And while it is clear that you are not a soldier, your heart was in the right place."
"I wish I was!" Rodney snarled, anger replacing his guilt. "If I was in the military, this wouldn't have happened! Sheppard wouldn't be stuck on that hellhole; he'd be here where he's meant to be!" He shuddered, ashamed of his display, and covered his face with his hands. "Sorry," he muttered after a moment or two. "Is Elizabeth mad?"
His team-mate laughed softly. "No, Rodney. She understands how difficult this situation is for us. And Ronon agreed with you."
That caught the scientist off-guard and he raised his head to stare at his team-mate, his face shockingly young and vulnerable. "He did?"
She nodded. "He too was quite… adamant that we need to use brute force to rescue John, not words."
Rodney snorted. "At least I'm not the only one with my head screwed on straight. So what's the plan then?"
"Elizabeth has called for a short break in the meeting and asked that Major Lorne and his team be present when we recommence," she explained. "She also asked that you come back."
"I don't think that would be such a good idea," he replied. "In fact, I know it won't be. I'll probably end up yelling at her again and find my off-world privileges revoked."
"Rodney, we all understand how frustrated you are feeling," Teyla said firmly. "Believe me, I still have nightmares from the last time."
"Makes two of us."
"Then you should know that we cannot and will not proceed without you. Elizabeth would not have sent me to find you otherwise."
"Yeah," McKay replied, smiling ruefully. "Okay, you've got a point." He grimaced slightly, remembering the look on Weir's face when his temper had flared. "Guess I should apologise, huh?"
"It would not hurt."
He sighed, nodding. "We need to bring him home."
Teyla pulled him around, bringing their foreheads together. She held him there for a long while, offering silent support before straightening. Afterwards she took hold of his hand and offered up a brave smile. "Then we shall."
The next morning, Rodney found himself stood in the Gateroom with his team-mates, Major Lorne and his team, and a dozen or so Marines. Carson and one of his med teams stood in the corner, ready for any eventuality: the physicist could see the black body bag hidden under the field kits and fought off the urge to be sick. Instead, he swivelled his head up to look at Elizabeth – she had tried to convince him to stay on the base and let the others go, but he had been his usual stubborn self and refused point blank. He needed to do this. He had to.
Even Carson had been taken aback, too shocked by the intensity radiating from the Canadian to argue. He knew that Rodney was in no fit state to be running around in the middle of a potential fire fight but understood why his friend had to be involved with this particular mission. So, the physician had given McKay some heavy-duty but non-drowsy painkillers and told Lorne and the others to keep an eye on their resident genius.
"We're all set," Rodney called.
Elizabeth nodded. "Then you have a go. Bring him back." She felt a pang of fear as the physicist tilted his head and smiled darkly, his normally brilliant blue eyes clouded with something sinister. She had never seen that particular expression before and had a horrible feeling that McKay would do something terrible.
Before she could do or say anything, the Gate kawhooshed into life and they stepped through the event horizon.
Surprisingly, there were no guards stationed at the Gate on M9R-721, and the group encountered no one until they approached the natives' settlement. For Lorne and the others, the sight was a shock to the system. It was an incredibly primitive affair – tents and small wooden huts that had been hastily thrown together with whatever resources had been to hand, a small, inefficient campfire and a smattering of women and children undertaking various chores all indicated the Scaffians' nomadic lifestyle.
Signalling the others to wait in the cover of the trees, Lorne approached a nearby woman and whispered in her ear, bringing up his P-90 to illustrate whatever point he was making. The woman's eyes widened at the sight of the weapon and she nodded, pointing over to a nearby hut: the largest of the lot, which obviously belonged to their leader. Then she moved quickly and ushered the others away from the camp.
Once they had fled, Lorne motioned to the rest of the team, who stealthily made their way forward. As they approached the dilapidated structures, all hell broke loose.
Half a dozen men came running up from nearby, firing arrows, spears and a whole host of other projectiles, most of which were of the sharp and pointy variety. As the group dived for cover behind tree stumps, barrels and makeshift carts, the Marines let rip and soon the scene had turned into a fire-fight from hell. More natives appeared behind them, trying to outflank the group, but the Atlanteans had the superior weaponry. With luck, the fight wouldn't last too long.
Teyla made her way over to McKay, who was laying down cover fire for Lorne. "Rodney, go."
He nodded with a look of grim determination and carefully crawled out from behind the cart he was using as a makeshift barrier. The noise from the fighting filled his ears and he couldn't help but flinch whenever he heard the spray of a P-90 or the hum of Ronon's blaster. He tried to keep as low to the ground as possible, remembering Sheppard's defence lessons. If a hostile didn't get him, he could still get caught up in friendly fire and that wouldn't help anyone.
He was less than twenty metres from his destination when he found himself tackled to the ground. Hitting the floor with an audible 'oof', he struggled to roll out from under his attacker, to try and get back to his feet. He grabbed a handful of muscle and another of hair and pulled with all his might. As he rolled sideways, he felt a strange sense of satisfaction when his opponent let out a pain filled yell. The native was stronger than him but not as quick: as a result, the man could do little to stop the hard punches that landed on his face in quick succession.
It wasn't neat, wasn't pretty, but adrenaline fuelled the physicist's hand and it was nothing short of desperation that was driving him onwards. Rodney McKay was not one of life's natural fighters, preferring to use words instead of violence, but in this sort of situation he was frightening to behold. When his back was against the proverbial wall he had a wild, survival at any cost side that not many had seen. Fear and anger leant him strength, every part of him focused on the man beneath him – who was starting to fight back.
The native suddenly grabbed McKay's fist and yanked it to the side. As Rodney lost his balance, the man let out a savage kick to the physicist's shin. Taking advantage of his opponent's momentary confusion, the man reached out for the knife lying next to them. No sooner than his fingers encircled the handle, Rodney tore his hand free, swinging with all his might.
He yelped as his knuckles connected solidly with the man's jawbone, having completely forgotten that hitting bones hurt. He dragged himself to his feet, ready to dive for his P-90 and square off against the native, but was surprised when his opponent crawled away whimpering. He was still puzzling over it and trying to get his breath back when a flash of movement to his side caught his attention. He wheeled around to see Lorne pinned underneath two more natives, one of whom was trying to throttle the Major. With everyone else caught up in their own individual battles, the Major had no one to free him – apart from McKay.
A renewed burst of adrenaline shot through the physicist as he ran over to his colleague, the pain in his hand nothing more than a fleeting memory as he grabbed the closest thing he could – a large rock. Bringing it up, he smashed it down onto one man, hearing the sickening snap of bones as the stone broke the native's leg. The man howled in agony and rolled away, clutching ineffectually at his damaged appendage and muttering in his native language. Before he could call for help, Rodney kicked him hard in the face knocking him well and truly unconscious.
Meanwhile, and with the extra weight removed, Lorne redoubled his efforts and gained the upper hand. He brought his knee up, catching his opponent hard in the sternum. As the native doubled over with a surprised shout and gasped for air, the Major slammed the butt of his P-90 into the back of his attacker's skull, knocking him out cold.
"Thanks, Doc," Lorne managed to pant, rolling onto his hands and knees as he coughed and spluttered.
Rodney crouched down next to him. "Are you alright, Major?"
"I'm fine. Had worse playing football with my brothers," he quipped. He glanced up, seeing McKay still hovering with a concerned expression. "I'm okay, Rodney, just a bit winded. Go on. Find the Colonel. I've got your six."
The Canadian nodded and scooped up his previously dropped gun before sprinting to the hut.
As he reached to the cabin, he shouldered the door heavily when it refused to open. The old, almost rotten wood was no match for an astrophysicist hopped up on panic and adrenaline, and splintered dramatically. As a result, Rodney almost fell flat on his face when he burst into the small shelter but managed to regain his footing before meeting the floor. He let out a grunt of pain as his injured ribs protested loudly, but he ignored the dull throbbing and looked around, his eyes adjusting to the sudden change in light.
As his vision re-focused, what he saw made his blood boil.
John was hanging limply by his wrists from ropes that were attached to a ceiling beam, his knees buckled and unable to support him. The pilot's jacket, tac vest and weapons were nowhere to be seen and his t-shirt was in tatters. His upper body was a mess of cuts, bruises and blood, a roadmap of the pain that had been inflicted on him over the last seventy-two hours. He was so still that for one horrible moment, Rodney feared the worst: only the slow rise and fall of the pilot's chest told him otherwise.
Beside him stood Jolyon, who was holding a large and evil looking dagger. As he saw Rodney, the knife flew up towards John's throat and the monster of a man grabbed a handful of the pilot's hair, forcing his head up and exposing his neck.
"This is a surprise," he sneered, pushing the blade closer to John's vulnerable skin. "Of all the people I thought would come, you were not the one I expected."
"Let him go." Rodney's words were eerily calm and he pointed his P-90 at Jolyon's head, his aim as steady as a rock.
"And lose my hold over your Dr Weir? We are not as backward as you think. Your medicines and weapons are far more advanced than our own. Why trade away our food when we can simply take what we want?"
Rodney's vision narrowed to the sight in front of him, the sounds from outside fading away until all he could hear was the rapid beating of his heart. "Let him go now, or you'll be shot."
The chieftain let out a savage laugh. "Who will shoot me, star watcher?" he taunted. "You?"
A deep fury coursed through McKay's body, red, fiery, primeval, and for a split second he felt like dropping his gun and ripping the man apart with his bare hands. "Yes, me. Now do as I say and maybe… maybe … I'll let you off with a flesh wound."
Jolyon's eyes narrowed and he pressed the knife closer, drawing a thin trickle of blood that made John whimper.
The sound made the physicist's stomach perform somersaults. Lt Col John Sheppard was not the type of man who whimpered. He taunted his enemies, knowing that by smiling at them while they attacked, he put them off-balance. He did NOT whimper…
"You really don't want to push me right now," Rodney stated, in a voice far too controlled to be sane as he tightened his grip on the gun in his hands. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he felt the anger screeching for blood and for a split second, he almost gave into it.
The rational side of him fought back, staying his hand. He had to give the man the choice… "Trust me, it's in your best interests if you just co-operate." Behind him, the sound of gunfire continued, interspersed with cries and shouts, but his only concern was for the two men in front of him.
"And how do you know that you will succeed?" asked Jolyon. "How can you be sure that you will not miss and hurt your Colonel?"
At the mention of his rank, John's glazed expression seemed to clear and he looked over to Rodney. He moved his mouth as he tried to speak, but no sound came forth. His message was clear, though, and McKay could see it written all over Sheppard's face.
I'm not worth this. Leave me, Rodney.
The Canadian scowled and shook his head slightly. He'd done that once and he wasn't about to do it again. Instead, he shifted his gun and moved to the side slightly. "Do you trust me, Sheppard?" he asked quietly.
The pilot blinked and nodded ever so slightly, aware of the blade on his neck.
It was all Rodney needed. He brought his P-90 up and fired two single shots.
Jolyon dropped the knife with a surprised shout and staggered backwards, looking down at the bullet holes in his arm as if he couldn't quite believe what had happened. For most people being shot at such a close proximity would have been more than enough to make them stay down or surrender, but there was always an exception to every rule… and in this case it was the chieftain. Letting out an enraged scream, he charged at Rodney like a monster from a B movie, his eyes murderous. He hadn't gone more than two steps when the physicist reacted.
The man's body jerked like a marionette as McKay fired another round into his chest, none of his shots missing their target. Jolyon's gaze shifted back up to the Canadian, a look of disbelief and pain crossing his face as he let out a wet gurgle. Then he folded up completely, collapsing to the ground in a bloody heap.
"Because I happen to be an excellent shot," Rodney said in a quiet voice as walked over serenely and proceeded to empty the rest of the clip into the man. Somewhere in the depths of his mind, he could hear the rage howling in delight.
Sheppard had taught him once that everyone had something of a beast within them, even the most gentle of souls. "It'll come when you need it," the Air Force man had said. "You can tame it, hold it back, but it'll be there when the time's right."
Rodney hadn't understood it back then, but got the impression that John didn't expect him to. Now, though, he felt it baying inside him, wanting vengeance and blood, so he did the only thing he could to sate the beast: he kept firing.
He only stopped when he felt a hand on his arm.
"It's over, McKay," Ronon grunted. "He's dead. You can stop now."
Rodney was startled by the Satedan: he hadn't realised that his team-mate had entered the hut or that the fighting had stopped. Now that he listened, he heard nothing but the occasional barked command or order for medical assistance.
The weight of the situation hit him hard and he staggered backwards. The blind fury left him as quickly as it had arrived, the angry beast shackled once again despite its protests. In its place came shock and then disgust as the brevity of his actions caught up with him. He'd killed a man. His head began to swim as bile crept up into his throat, but he pushed it aside.
He'd killed a man…
'No,' he told himself firmly, 'I killed a monster.'
"I'm fine," the scientist mumbled, his voice hollow. He shook his head, trying to reassemble his scattered thoughts, before moving over to Sheppard.
Giving his gun to the huge Satedan, he tugged out a knife and cut the bonds that were holding John upright. As the pilot's knees crumpled beneath him, they caught the Air Force man and gently eased him to the ground. "Go and get Lorne," Rodney hissed as he quickly untied the ropes on Sheppard's wrists. "Tell him we need Beckett and his med team over here now."
Ronon nodded silently and with a swift pat to the physicist's shoulder, sprinted from the hut. Neither John nor Rodney saw the worried look on the big man's face.
Rodney turned his attention to John, tugging bandages and cloths out of his vest as he tried to clean up the damage. The Colonel was shaking violently, clearly in shock as he gasped and sobbed: the sight made McKay's throat tighten. Sheppard was normally so composed, so confident – so strong – that to see him reduced to this state was terrifying. John wasn't a crier period and Rodney could only guess at what had been done to his friend to leave him in this state.
None of the images his imagination supplied were overly pleasant.
The physicist did what he could to stop the bleeding, but he was no MD. He was unsure of whether his actions were causing his friend pain, or for that matter whether they were doing any good, so once he'd cleaned up as much as his shaking hands would allow, he slapped dressings onto the worst of the pilot's injuries.
Next came the hard part…
Not knowing what to do or how to comfort Sheppard, Rodney pulled the pilot against his chest and held onto him in an effort to try and ground the man. He tried to ignore the sticky patches of blood under his fingers and his own aches and pains. There would be plenty of time to get those sorted out: his priority right now was his team-mate.
"It's okay," he croaked. "It's all okay now."
"I… I thought…"
"Everything's gonna be fine, Sheppard. I've got you."
"He... Did you kill him?"
The question made Rodney's stomach lurch. "Don't think about that. You're gonna be alright."
John's boyish features crumpled as more tears clouded his hazel eyes. "Rodney?"
"I'm right here, Colonel. I've got you and everything is going to be just fine." McKay's voice cracked slightly and he swallowed hard.
"He... He… Oh, Jesus…"
"Come on, Sheppard," Rodney said, trying to sound more like his usual grumpy self. "Enough, okay?"
"He hit me," Sheppard said, his sobs finally subsiding. "A lot. Used all k-kinds of things. I thought… I thought he was gonna kill me." He suddenly lurched forwards out of McKay's grip, landing hard on his hands and knees. "Christ… Where… where is he? Is he here?" He looked around with wild eyes, not really seeing anything. "Don't let him find me. He'll kill me, I know it."
The Canadian scooted around in front of his friend and grabbed hold of the pilot's shoulders. "Sheppard? Sheppard, look at me." He waited until John's eyes moved to his before continuing, "It's okay."
John shook his head. "No, no, he'll find us. He'll come back, I know he will…"
Rodney let out a growl of frustration and shook the Air Force man. "No, dammit, listen to me. He's not here. He's not going to find you. It's just you and me, alright?"
"He'll hurt me… hurt you… God, McKay, you… you don't know what he's like…"
The pilot was on the verge of another panic attack and McKay knew that if he didn't de-rail it, he'd never get his friend out of here. Taking a deep breath, he lowered his voice. "Sheppard… John, I need you to listen to me. He's not going to hurt you any more. He'll never hurt anyone ever again, I promise. Okay?"
Finally, recognition and relief flitted across Sheppard's bloody and bruised face. "Okay."
"Good." The physicist pulled on a crooked smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Let's go home, hmm?"
"H-home…" John curled up into a ball, still shivering. "I wanna go home…"
"Come on then." Rodney moved his arms under the Colonel's shoulders. "Think you can stand?"
"M-Maybe," Sheppard replied. "I'll try."
"Attaboy. Okay, on three. One, two, three…" McKay straightened and got to his feet, pulling John's uncooperative body with him.
The world span alarmingly for the Air Force man and he almost fell back to the floor as his knees buckled.
"Oh no, you don't," McKay gritted out, shifting his team-mate so that he could get a better hold on the man. "C'mon, you big lug. Think you can help me out a little here? You're heavier than you look and this isn't helping my back any." He worked an arm around Sheppard's waist and used the other to tug the soldier's arm across his back and shoulders. His ribs screamed angrily and other parts were on the verge of cashing in their chips, but he ignored the pain and fought off the approaching blackness. Instead, he focused on getting John out of the hut and himself as far away from Jolyon's corpse as possible.
In an effort to keep himself from falling flat on his face, Rodney decided to maintain a steady stream of chatter. "Jesus, Colonel, what the hell have you been eating? Cement? No, damn you, stay with me. I need you to help me with this one."
"Don't feel so good," John whispered.
Rodney groaned inwardly. "I know, Sheppard, but I can't do this by myself. Come on, you know how to walk. I've seen you do it. Left, right and then left again. Even a toddler can do this. And for your information, when we get back to Atlantis, I'm gonna make sure Beckett gives you the extra large needles…"
He didn't know it, but his exaggerated protests were more calming than John could find words for. "I knew… you'd… come back for me," he grunted.
"Yeah, we did," Rodney agreed. "Just don't make a habit out of it, alright? Now let's get out of here. You've got a date with our resident witch doctor."
They made their way out of the hut and into the sunlight.
When John awoke later, he found himself in the infirmary and let out a relieved sigh. He blinked lethargically, feeling the effects of Carson's 'good' drugs and listened to the reassuring beeping coming from somewhere off to his side. Turning his head slightly, he saw a familiar figure in the ever-present visitor's chair snoring softly. Rodney looked like an overgrown cat the way he was curled up, and that thought made the Air Force man grin slightly.
"Welcome back, son," a lilting voice said.
John turned back and saw Carson perching on a nearby cot. "Hi, doc," he whispered, frowning at how hoarse his voice sounded.
Beckett chuckled softly and padded over to him, producing a cup of ice chips from somewhere. Sheppard was convinced that the Scotsman had been a magician in another life, but hummed contentedly as the cool liquid soothed his sore throat. He returned his gaze to McKay.
"He hasn't left once since you've been in here," Carson explained, looking down with exasperated fondness at the sleeping man. "Not even the usual threats of a shot in the bum could shift him."
"Yeah, well, you know McKay," John replied with a smile. "Not one for following orders."
"No, I suppose not."
"Where is everyone? They okay?"
Beckett smiled. "Everyone's fine, lad. They're all in bed, I hope. It's the middle of the night, you know."
"Ah. Explains the lack of concerned friends bearing gifts then," Sheppard quipped. His face grew serious. "He saved my ass, Carson."
"Aye. And I for one am bloody grateful that he did," the physician agreed as he performed a quick check of John's vitals. "He was like a man possessed when he got you to me."
John took in the bruises that peppered Rodney's face and hands and grimaced. "How is he?"
"Exhausted, hurting," Beckett replied. "He's got a few more bumps and bruises to add to his collection, but he'll be alright. He's as stubborn a man as I've ever met and I don't doubt he'll be up to his usual tricks soon enough."
"That's good to know," John said as a large yawn overtook him.
The Scotsman patted his friend on the shoulder. "Get some rest, son."
John watched as Carson pulled out a blanket and draped it over Rodney with an affectionate smile before making his way to his office. The pilot closed his eyes and let the warmth of his bed and his team-mate's snores lull him back to sleep.
Two weeks later, John had been well enough to be released from Carson's care under strict instructions to resume light duties only. He'd lost a lot of blood and been badly beaten, but none of the damage would be permanent and the scars would fade over time. Mentally, he'd been better, but his experience had been no worse than some of the things that had happened to him back on Earth.
Sheppard was very good at compartmentalizing unpleasant memories, always had been, and had already locked his time on M9R-721 away in a box marked 'NEVER OPEN'. It really was as easy as that for him. Occasionally, the bad things would rear their ugly heads and leave him with sleepless nights, but for the time being, he was okay. Besides, he had promised to go and see Heightmeyer if he needed to and that little concession had finally convinced the over-protective Scotsman to let him leave the infirmary.
The fact that he had no intention whatsoever of seeing the shrink was something he'd wisely kept to himself: he had a healthy fear of Beckett's needles and for good reason.
Being cooped up in the infirmary had meant that the Air Force man had had a lot of time to think about what had happened: or rather, why it had happened. As far as he understood it, Jolyon wasn't accustomed to not getting his own way and had decided on tried and tested torture in an attempt to make the Atlanteans buckle to his outrageous demands. The longer Weir held out, the more he took his frustration out on John. It wasn't the first time the Colonel had been used as a punch bag, but he'd never met anyone as mentally unstable as the chieftain. He was sure that sometimes Jolyon hit him for enjoyment alone, but that thought was very quickly put into the same mental box as the rest.
The attempt to wear him down hadn't worked though. He'd explained that to Elizabeth after he'd finally gotten fed up of being asked if he was alright or if he needed a spell of down time. John had known that his team would find some way to rescue him, that he hadn't been left behind - and he was right. Rodney and the others had come back for him even though the physicist should have been in the infirmary himself. Dragging Sheppard around hadn't helped any: two days after their return, his injuries had finally caught up with him and cashed in their IOUs with a vengeance. He'd collapsed in the lab and been rushed to Carson, but a course of painkillers, anti-inflammatories and enforced rest had soon healed the Canadian's wounds.
Despite all of Beckett's reassurances, John was worried about his friend. After his initial vigil and brief infirmary stay, the pilot hadn't seen Rodney at all. Normally the man had to be pried away with a crowbar, but as soon as the scientist had been discharged, he promptly vanished. While he'd been laid up, John sent Teyla and Ronon to keep an eye on his geek. However, even with their combined tracking skills, the pair had been hard pressed to find him. Radek confirmed that the scientist hadn't been holed up in the lab working on a project and stated the he hadn't seen him for nearly two days. It was clear that the Czech was as worried as John. Eventually, Elizabeth had confessed that McKay had requested a brief leave of absence to which she had consented.
That scared the living shit out of Sheppard. Rodney McKay did not do breaks.
Now that he was a free man again, John was on a mission to track down his errant scientist. At least, that was stage one. The next part of his plan wasn't quite so clear cut.
Once he'd discovered what his friend had done back in the hut, John's gut began to writhe. McKay had calmly killed a man, something he'd hoped would never happen. It was self-defence when all was said and done, but that wasn't the point. He knew what an action of that magnitude could do to someone who hadn't been trained and that Rodney would have a hard time coming to terms with it.
Okay, he'd killed a Wraith before, but taking a human life… That was altogether different, self-defence or not. John knew it could destroy part of a person's soul if they let it and was determined not to allow it to eat away at Rodney.
In Sheppard's mind, every time Rodney fired a gun (whether he hit a target or not), the scientist lost a small part of what made him fundamentally... him. His friend was slowly but surely turning into a soldier and John hated it just as much as McKay hated firing a weapon. He wasn't naïve enough to hope that none of them would have to fight, but knew that he had to do everything in his power to ensure that McKay didn't change completely. After all, what the Canadian was loosing was something that couldn't be replaced or found again.
He strolled along the corridor leading to the east pier, mindful of the aches he still felt. According to his many and varied sources, McKay had headed out this way a little over an hour ago and hadn't been seen coming back. He reached the door and waved a hand over the sensor.
Stepping outside, he let the ocean air wash over him for a moment before looking around. Sure enough, Rodney was sat with his legs dangling over the edge of the pier, looking out across the water. John walked over and took up a seat next to him.
"Bet there's good fishing to be had down here," he said conversationally.
"Could be," Rodney agreed, his eyes not moving.
John sighed. "We need to talk, buddy."
"Okay, enough of that," the pilot growled. "The Rodney McKay I know doesn't use two words where ten will do."
The physicist's head dipped in submission. "What do you want, Colonel?"
"We were worried about you. That little disappearing act of yours scared a lot of people."
"Maybe I just want some time alone."
"Bullshit," John snapped, wincing when he saw his team-mate visibly flinch. "Look, we just wanted to know that you were okay."
"Well you can tell everyone that it's none of their damn business," Rodney hissed. "I don't need to be molly-coddled or babysat twenty four seven, okay?"
"Okay." Sheppard tilted his own head, trying to keep his voice light. "I know what you did back on the planet, by the way. Ronon told me what happened. I'm not here to yell at you," he added as he saw the scientist start to form the beginnings of a protest. "It took guts. I'd hoped you wouldn't have to do that, but…" he trailed off, shrugging. "This galaxy's a fucked up place."
"Can't argue with that," McKay replied.
The Colonel sighed, wishing he knew what to say or that he was better at this kind of thing. "You know I suck at this, but what I'm trying to tell you is that you can't let this change you." He leant forward, his arms resting on his legs. "There's the usual bullshit I could sprout, like it gets easier, or the guilt goes away, or, God forbid, you'll get used to it, but you're too smart for that. Besides, if I patronized you, I'd only end up regretting it. He who controls the hot water rules the city."
Rodney chuckled softly. "I see you finally figured that one out then."
"What can I say? I'm a slow learner with some things. I guess… I just wanted you to know that I'd have done the same thing. All I will say is that the first one's the worst." He let out a sigh, shaking his head. "I promise you that I will do everything I can to make sure that you don't have to do it again."
"You're not a God, Sheppard. Somehow I don't think you'll be able to hold up your end of the arrangement, but… I appreciate the sentiment."
John had been expecting a very different Rodney McKay to be out here, one that was in a mess or on the verge of a breakdown. He'd seen that a lot, even in the most battle-hardened soldiers, and if he was honest with himself, the scientist's coolness was frightening. "If it helps, it was self-defence. A kill or be killed situation. You did the right thing."
His team-mate's reply surprised him.
"I'm okay with it, you know," Rodney told him, his normally strident voice soft and unsteady. "With what I… did… back there. It's not like I enjoyed it or anything but…" He let out a shaky breath, blinking as he thought over John's words. "I find myself having to agree with you. It was the right thing given the circumstances and I'd do it again if I had to. And… I understand now. About the rage. When you told me I didn't really see, but for a moment in that hut… I felt it. It was…" he trailed off, shaking his head.
"You're not controlled by it, Rodney," John replied. "You use it; make it work for you, not the other way around."
"I can do that," the scientist said. He finally looked over at his team-mate properly, his blue eyes full of the things he'd never say... the things he couldn't say. Instead, he settled for saying, "I guess Jolyon should've learned rule one."
Puzzlement crossed John's face. "And what would that be?"
McKay smiled darkly, the same look he'd given Elizabeth before stepping back through the Gate and John found himself shivering. "Never anger a geek."
"I don't disagree with you on that one," Sheppard replied. He looked back at the sea, leaning back on his hands to let the sun warm his face.
"You really need to stop getting your ass kidnapped," Rodney blurted suddenly.
"I'm serious. First Kolya using you as Wraith kibble to blackmail us and now this. I don't know what kind of point you're trying to make, but enough already." The Canadian sounded small and frightened. "Enough. You have no idea what it was like sitting here not being able to do anything. I can't deal with shit like that, okay?"
John sat up again, his hand automatically reaching out to grasp Rodney's shoulder. He could feel the tension in the man's muscles, how the physicist shook minutely. "Okay, buddy," he said. "I can't make any promises, though."
"Just keep out of trouble for a week. That's all I'm asking."
"You've got a deal," the pilot agreed, squeezing his friend's shoulder reassuringly. "And thanks, by the way."
Rodney swallowed heavily before offering up a crooked grin. "You're welcome. It's your turn for the heroic rescue next time and the time after as well. And maybe even the time after that. I'm thinking at least four or five turns to square us up."
John laughed, relieved when McKay joined in. "Sounds fair enough to me. So, we good?"
"I'd say so." Rodney flushed as his stomach growled loudly. "Want to get some lunch?"
"Good plan." Sheppard stood up and offered a hand to McKay. Once they were both on their feet and heading for the mess, he bumped the scientist's shoulder. "A couple of little birds told me that you've taken some official leave."
"Yeah. Just a couple of days so I could get my head straightened out." He growled. "Would one of these birds be of the female persuasion per chance?"
"I'm not at liberty to state my sources," John told him, trying for an innocent look but knowing that he'd been rumbled. They walked in companionable silence for a few minutes before he nudged his team-mate again. "I'm only on light duty at the moment, so I was thinking…"
"That must have been painful."
"I was thinking," John continued with a mock glower, silently whooping at the verbal comeback, "that maybe we could find an empty corridor or two and have a race."
Rodney grinned, knowing that John was referring to their home-made remote controlled racing cars. "Maybe set up an obstacle course or time trial?"
"Yeah. And then we could grab Ronon and Teyla, head over to the beach on the mainland and just chill for a while."
"Conan the Barbarian's been on at you for weeks to teach him how to surf."
"And you were going to show Teyla the attraction of building sand castles."
The boys laughed as they stepped into the transporter. "You know, Colonel, that sounds perfect," McKay said, hitting the screen.
It was perfect, John decided. An afternoon in the sun with his friends and a few smuggled beers was his idea of heaven at that moment. And later on, when the four of them were sat around a barbeque teasing Rodney about his homemade sunscreen, the Air Force man let out a contented sigh.
Twice he'd been lost, but both times he'd been found by his team – his family – and that was enough to keep the demons and nightmares away.
Wow, that was pretty intense, even for me! And look – even more Shep whump!!! Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it…