Title: And the Rain Still Pours

Word count: ~10.000

Genre: H/C, Gen

Spoilers: Set in Season 5, anywhere after Whispers.

Disclaimer: Stargate and all related characters are the property of MGM. No infringements of rights intended.

Summary: The team goes to a planet and find it deserted. Is it really? Shep whump. Team fic.

A/N1: Written following the drabble of the same name I wrote a long time ago. The damn plot bunnies wouldn't leave my brain and I expanded it. Although the original drabble features character death, this story is inot/i a death-fic.

A/N2: Written for titan5 as part of the Sheppard_hc Secret Santa 08. The prompt was: "I'd like something with Sheppard either having headaches or some kind of head injury OR dealing with hypothermia."

A/N3: Thanks to ruffles for the beta!!!

_______________________________________________________

AND THE RAIN STILL POURS

By ErikaHK

The world spun. The rain poured heavily around him and plastered the black, thick hair to his forehead. His clothes were completely drenched and stuck to his skin. Through the confusion he saw only fog, water and sludge. His body swiveled in the air and mud splattered around him as he collapsed to the ground. The blood still oozed from his head and mixed with the puddles formed by rain and mire. In the brief moment of consciousness the only thought that crossed his mind was that he had failed his team and that they were dead because of it.

____________________________

Earlier:

The first thing that John Sheppard noticed when he stepped out of the stargate into P5X-080 was the rain. It wasn't heavy and certainly couldn't be described as a storm, but it was a persistent deluge of water from the sky. Behind him, the sound of the shimmering puddle announced the arrival of his teammates. The warriors came in full attention mode surveying the surroundings, while Rodney was simply his usual self.

"Great! It's freezing here! I don't understand why we had to come to this planet in such horrible weather."

"You know why, Rodney," John replied with a grin.

"Yes, I do. But I don't know why it had to be us."

"We're here to check the wonderful trade negotiation we were offered. Besides, it's not like you're gonna melt in the rain." John looked at the physicist.

"It's only a drizzle." Ronon gave a sideways glance at Rodney.

Rodney pointed a finger to the sky. "Drizzle or not, it's wet."

"C'mon kids, let's go," he said as he turned and walked away from the clearing, glancing back to make sure the team followed.

He led them through the single wide path going from the stargate. Forest extended deep from both sides. The trail looked like it was often used, covered with numerous tracks of people, animals and even narrow wheel marks. Several puddles of water were spread throughout with soft slippery mud in between. They made their way silently, the sound of rain peppering the ground occasionally interrupted by Rodney's indignant grunts.

By the time they reached the end of the path they were wet from head to toe. It was a good thirty minute walk from the gate but they finally arrived in a large village. It was the usual medieval set the team had seen a million times in the Pegasus Galaxy - mostly wooden constructions, very simple and wide apart. They walked down the silent main street, noticing the lack of activity.

"It does not appear to be anyone here." Teyla frowned as she approached one of the buildings.

"Empty," Ronon said while looking through a window.

John lifted his P90 slightly, feeling uncomfortable with the absence of a welcoming committee, and glanced at Rodney. "Any life signs?"

Rodney already had the life signs detector in hand when John turned to him. "Nothing in the vicinity of the village." Rodney raised his head to look at the others. "Wraith culling, maybe?"

"Don't think so."

"Ronon is right. There are no signs of a wraith culling. No bodies, tracks, or signs of a battle," Teyla said.

The team shared a moment glancing at each other until John signaled them to continue forward. They moved around the village, looking inside buildings, finally splitting up. John and Rodney went through the main street while Ronon and Teyla followed one of the side roads.

John peeked inside a building with the remains of a dinner table still set. He backed up, looking around the village and taking in his surroundings. Everything about the village had a murky tone. Rainy gray weather, mud everywhere, and even the wood used in the construction was dark and dirty.

"It looks like whatever happened here, happened in short notice." John said, heading for the next wooden cabin.

"Yes, it's kinda creepy." Rodney remained in the center of the path with scanner in hand, glancing up every now and again. "Where could they have gone to anyway?"

"Don't know."

"I hate abandoned villages." John sensed Rodney shudder. "In between plagues and cullings and killer nanites, so many horrific things could have happened."

John cracked a door open to peek inside a house. "Michael is gone, the replicators are gone, the wraith didn't do this, and the Hoffan plague leaves a few survivors, so none of these fit."

"Yeah." Rodney sighed. "Please let this not be caused by a brand new bad guy for us to worry about."

"Find any new life signs?" John asked as he moved back to the middle of the street and continued further.

"Oh yes, I just like to keep them for myself, you know."

John turned to face Rodney and walked backwards for a few steps. "Just asking," he said innocently.

Rodney didn't bother raising his head to answer. "When I find any, you'll be the first to know."

After a while searching, John stopped in the city square just as Ronon and Teyla were coming from their survey.

"Anything?" asked John.

"No," they responded in unison.

John started to walk to the opposite side of the plaza and jerked his head to prompt the others to follow.

"Wait." Rodney stopped. "I'm detecting something." He lifted his head to look at John. "One life sign. Coming from over there." He pointed to the street ahead.

John, Ronon and Teyla raised their weapons and followed the direction given by Rodney. Rodney took his own P90 with his right hand while still holding the detector with the left. The beep of the scanner grew louder and faster as they got closer to the last building of the town.

Rodney nodded and pointed inside. "It's in there," he whispered.

John positioned in front of the entrance while the two other warriors stood right behind him, one on each side. The door was partially opened and he pushed inside with his light on.

They proceeded from the front room to the next and stopped by a set of stairs indicated by the scientist. The team shared glances then climbed down. The wooden steps squeaked as they descended further into complete darkness. The air felt damper and hotter the closer they got to the basement. John's grip on the P90 got tighter every step down, his apprehension growing with the continuing silence.

Finally, they reached the bottom of the stairs. John shed the light around and saw the shadow of a man slumped on the floor against the back wall. Narrowing his eyes, he crept towards the figure, one cautious step after another, until he froze on his tracks. His breathing matched the racing of his heart. Ronon and Teyla passed ahead of him and crouched beside the man, shining more light for John to fully see the creature.

"Oh, my God!" Rodney said dimly. "Iratus bug."

John continued to stare at the bug as memories of pain came back to him. The sound it made as it swelled and fed made him nauseous and he swallowed, hesitating to speak. Sweat joined the dampness of his forehead and he had a hard time taking his eyes away from the creature to look at the villager. The man was very little and slim, with sunken cheeks and eyes. His color was all gone and contrasted with the red dripping from the punctures to the neck where the creature drained, firmly attached.

"He will not last much longer," Teyla spoke, dragging John back to reality as she looked back at him. "John?"

The urgency in her voice focused him. It took John a second too long to realize that all eyes were set on him and he chastised himself for his lack of control. After a few more seconds, he finally found his voice. "Don't you think this is too familiar?"

"Michael?" Rodney questioned.

"We have to do something quickly," she urged him.

"We'll take him back to the 'gate." John swallowed. "Ronon?"

"I'll carry him."

Ronon picked up the cargo without any effort and the team went back up the stairs. They exited the house into the cold rain and walked quickly back way they had come. John tried to ignore the noises coming from the bug when it was exposed to the weather and kept going behind them. The water splashed beneath their boots as they hurried under the drizzle that started to pick up. As they were running in the storm that suddenly became a downpour, Teyla stopped.

She turned her head slowly widening her eyes. "I sense something."

"Is it Wraith?" John asked as Teyla narrowed her eyes.

"No, it is different." She continued to focus. "Weaker," she concluded.

"Wait!" Rodney was looking at his scanner. "I'm picking up life signs." He pressed a few more controls. "At least twenty approaching from the village. And coming in very fast."

"Let's move then," John said already continuing his way.

The team brushed fast down the slippery road, splashing mud around them. John's BDUs had slime collecting above the boots and more was thrown back by Rodney's foot as the scientist ran.

"They are almost on us!" Rodney shouted loudly to be heard above the rainfall.

"Hurry!" John shouted back when the physicist's speed didn't increase and had to slow down to remain at their six.

"I'm going as fast as I can!"

"Well, go faster!"

Roaring became louder and heavy footsteps approached from behind him. Soon a chorus of guttural growls joined and John knew he was in trouble. Suddenly, he felt something connect to his left side, throwing him far against a tree.

Stars danced in his vision as bright lights exploded in the back of his took a second for his vision to clear and when it did, it showed a creature coming in his direction. It was similar to one of Michael's early experiments, this time more human than Iratus bug, but still big and fast. He raised his weapon and started to fire, soon joined by the chorus of guns from his team, but it still plowed into him.

He landed on the soft mud, gasping for air with his finger still at the trigger, and fired again. The attacking creature growled and staggered back from its wounds, giving space for its companions to attack.

John crawled away and slipped in the slime. A creature charged, launching him forward, and his hands sunk in the mud with the impact. He turned, surrounded by dozens of them, and seeing he couldn't escape, locked his finger on the trigger and didn't stop shooting.

He tried to avoid the nails scratching him by firing more rounds at the creatures, but every time one stepped back, another took its place and they kept him pinned against the slimy ground.

A clawed hand was aimed right at his head when a bright red light rippled across the creature in front of him. The creature fell away, dead. The other creatures stepped away and threatened to lunge at him, but when more of them fell dead, the rest turned and ran.

John remained in the muddy puddle, groaning and shaking. He closed his eyes against the pain and stings from his wounds, trying to suck in enough air to satisfy his burning lungs. When he opened them, his team was kneeling around him.

"I hate those things!" he said with a shaky voice.

"Are you okay, John?"

John closed his eyes. He yelled, flinching as someone touched his chest. He definitely had a cracked rib along with stinging lacerations on his arms and a warm liquid running down the back of his head to his neck, contrasting with the chilly rain water.

"I am sorry, John. I'll try to be careful," Teyla said. "How are your injuries?"

Blood mixed with the mud he was covered in. "I'll live. We have to go before they come back."

Ronon offered an arm and John took in a few breaths before attempting to get up. The man Ronon had been carrying was slumped against a tree ahead.

"We have to go," John said, indicating the injured villager.

Ronon kneeled beside the man and started to pick him up, but touched his neck instead. "He's dead."

Rodney promptly gave a small step back, his eyes locked at the bug and his hands moving frantically. "It, uh…"

The bug stirred for a moment then let go. John's heart jumped. Ronon immediately bolted up and shot it at least three times with his blaster. John eyed it suspiciously after it stopped moving and found himself two steps back, behind even Rodney. He looked at the scientist and swallowed.

"Rodney, where are those life signs?" he asked when he regained his breath.

The scientist looked at the Ancient scanner. "Uh… moving away."

"Let's keep going; we have to ask for a jumper to be able to wipe out those things." John swallowed a grunt.

The rain was pounding now and the temperature had dropped. John shuddered as he marched, ignoring the pain in his ribcage. His happiness at getting to the DHD quickly was short lived when he saw its condition.

"Uh-oh." Rodney knelt down.

John simply closed his eyes. The device had several broken symbols and was smoking.

"Great!" Rodney exhaled in frustration. "Useless!" The scientist had several broken crystals in his hands. "That's never going to work again..."

"What's wrong with it?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Rodney waved his hands madly at Ronon. "It's broken! Maybe those things smashed it, or maybe a lightning..."

"I take it that it can't be fixed..." John knew the routine already.

"No way I can fix this any time soon!" Rodney snapped, having heard the hint of disbelief from John's voice. "We need a jumper and spare crystals to put this in working order."

"Okay, so what now?"

"We have to find shelter." Ronon looked at the road they had just come down.

"We've been here… what? Two hours?" John estimated.

"Less than that," Rodney replied.

"Okay, we're scheduled to check back in a little over four hours. We have to hold out until rescue comes."

"We better go into the jungle." Ronon tilted his head towards the heavy vegetation surrounding the gate.

"That army of monsters is probably all over the place! The town has plenty of shelter-"

"And they will expect us to go there," Ronon grunted.

"Ronon's right. We need to find a defensible position to hold until rescue comes, and the forest can provide shelter from the rain," John explained. "Let's go, and keep a close eye at those life signs." He turned and began walking.

____________________________

The walk through the jungle was torture. There was no path to follow and only Ronon to lead them through branches, leaves snapping all over Rodney's face. The rain from earlier had become a full storm and Rodney was glad the few lightning bolts and thunder claps were striking the other side of the forest. He was soaking wet, even with the heavy protection from the trees. The wind was blowing the tops apart which sent a continuous stream of water droplets impacting against his skin.

Rodney had given up jumping over the puddles and evading stray twigs. In between scanning for life signs it was impossible to keep an eye on all the obstacles in his path. And the mud was the worst part. He was afraid of what he would find when he took off his boots. He was shaking with cold and realized he wasn't the only one.

Rodney looked at the pilot behind him. Sheppard was walking slowly, favoring his left side, and Rodney could hear his breathing even above the noise of the rain. He thought it was a really bad idea for the man with cracked ribs to be walking in the heavy rain for hours, but they didn't have a choice. It was either that or waiting by the gate.

After an indescribably miserable walk, they found a cave hidden inside the vegetation. If it wasn't for Ronon showing it to him, Rodney would have passed it completely. Sheppard gave him one questioning look and Rodney swallowed heavily. He checked his life signs detector and breathed a sigh of relief when he found it clear.

The entrance was camouflaged by plants and undergrowth, and Ronon didn't cut them off in order to keep the protection. Rodney nearly tripped over a hidden log when he entered but was held up by Sheppard, who followed closely. Rodney could see the lines of pain in his face, even hidden in shadows.

When they reached the back of the cave, Rodney promptly sat down. "Oh God, I'm so cold!" He rubbed his hands on his arms and shuddered.

Sheppard sat down beside him, leaning back, eyes closed. Teyla was covering the entrance, a haunted look in her eyes, and Ronon was digging a pit in the center of the cave.

"What are you doing?" Rodney asked condescendingly.

"Making a fire," Ronon responded. Within seconds it was burning, smokeless.

Rodney raised an eyebrow, intrigued.

"You don't think Ronon spent seven years on the run without knowing how to make a fire." Sheppard quirked his lips. When he saw Rodney's thoughtful expression, he continued. "It's not so hard to make. Maybe I'll teach you someday."

"Really?" Rodney's face lit up a notch.

Ronon sat by the fire and eyed them, motioning them to join. Teyla came closer to Sheppard.

"How are you feeling?" she asked.

"M'okay," Sheppard answered with eyes closed.

Rodney simply had to huff loudly and roll his eyes at Sheppard's response. "Right."

"We should stay by the fire." Teyla still watched their team leader.

Sheppard opened his eyes and forced himself up, groaning with pain. He slowly walked towards the fire pit and sat . They all followed and warmed themselves.

"So, what do you think? More failed experiments from Michael?" Sheppard asked.

"Certainly looks like it. They look a little more human than bug-like, but still far from being one of his hybrids."

"And what about your sixth sense, Teyla?" Sheppard reached for his vest and took out a field dressing.

"Let me." Teyla got up and went over to the colonel, taking the dressing from his hand. She pressed it against the cut on his head and he flinched slightly. "They do not feel like Wraith, they are…" she said, narrowing her eyes, "different. Weak. I can barely feel anything." She shook her head.

"He must have a bunker in this jungle somewhere. The place is probably crawling with those things." Rodney shuddered internally.

"So we ask for backup, get inside his secret lab with a large group of marines and exterminate the bug army," Ronon summarized. "I'm up for it."

"Teyla!" Sheppard waved an annoyed hand, shooing Teyla aside as she tried to fuss over him. "I said I'm okay."

"You're in pain," she replied.

"Well, there is nothing you can do about that, is there?" The colonel shifted uncomfortably.

"You sure that rib isn't broken?" Ronon asked.

Sheppard continued to shift. "Dammit," he whispered. When he saw all eyes on him, he changed the subject. "We need to lay out some defenses just in case. Put some C4 in the trees outside and be ready to blow it up when those things approach."

"I can climb a tree to hide," Ronon said, playing with his gun.

"Teyla and I will cover the entrance of the cave. You stay hidden above us keeping an eye out for intruders, but don't fire until they're close." Sheppard turned to look at him. "Rodney, don't take your eyes from that life signs detector."

Rodney nodded. He had initially protested against going into the jungle, but now he had to admit that it was really much easier to defend.

After the defenses were placed outside, everyone agreed on which position each should take. They picked a tree for Ronon to hide without being too exposed to the weather.

"You'll be okay up there?" Sheppard asked Ronon before the warrior climbed the tree.

"Yep."

Sheppard nodded and Ronon proceeded, climbing up with a speed that surprised Rodney.

After a couple of hours of resting, chatting and friendly banter, a faint beep was heard coming from Rodney's hand. He stared at it with wide eyes.

____________________________

"How many?" John didn't have to ask what it was because it was obvious in Rodney's eyes even in the faint light.

"A lot." Rodney showed the scanner that indicated dozens of white dots coming in.

John promptly moved to his position and tapped his earpiece. "Ronon, you see anything?"

"I see movement." The runner paused for a few seconds. "Yep, they're here. Coming fast."

John glanced at Rodney, also ready at his position holding a P90 with one hand and the life signs detector in another.

"Now!" Rodney shouted.

"Fire in the hole," John said out loud, after tapping his radio to make sure Ronon also heard, and detonated the C4.

The explosion shook the jungle and left a slight ringing noise in John's ears. After a brief silence, a new warning came from Rodney, and John detonated the other batch of explosives.

All the C4 gone, John narrowed his eyes down his weapon's sight, ready to fire at the first sign of the enemy.

Soon, the cave exploded into action. The P90s fired continuous rounds at the creatures and the red light from Ronon's blaster hit its mark every single time. The mutant creatures came in using their numbers, speed and agility to their favor. And it was working.

The attacking force jumped over their fallen ones and reached the entrance with one single leap. They were surrounded quicker than John thought was possible. A creature lunged and threw him violently against the back of the rocky cave and no amount of resisting kept away the darkness that enveloped him.

____________________________

Pain was the first sensation that came back to him. Pain coming from his head, from his chest, from his whole body. Then he felt the cold. Hard as it was, he was finally able to shift to a more comfortable position, groaning as his body protested.

Slowly, he cracked his eyes open. Darkness and silence surrounded him. After a few seconds, he realized that he was covered by dirt from the back wall of the cave. He sat up dizzily, and let it fall around him, ruffling his hair with one hand.

"Rodney, Ronon, Teyla?" he called, swallowing back his nausea.

No response came.

He lit up his lamp and waved it through the cave. It was empty. His heart started to race. He braced against the cave wall and rose to his feet, stopping until the cave settled horizontally. Hugging his chest, he stepped drunkenly towards the entrance and stopped by the position they had defended from the creatures. John looked down, swallowing the rising bile.

He looked for any signs of his team, finding only tracks exiting the cave. He knew his team wouldn't have left without him. That left only one other alternative. He closed his eyes, taking a few seconds to clear his mind and to process the information.

When he started to sway, he opened them again and shook his head, immediately regretting when it spiked with pain and his dizziness worsened.

He swallowed as he tried to focus again. If they had been captured, they were as good as dead.

John stared dumbly at the tracks for a few seconds then shook his head when his vision started to gray around the edges. He didn't have time for a concussion. He didn't have time for broken ribs. He had to find his team. Taking one step forward, he started to follow the tracks towards the road they came from.

He walked slowly and held onto the trees with one hand. He had no idea what good he would be for his team like that, but the gate was out of question. It was either staying in the cave when every minute counted or trying to do something, even if it was simply going back to the road.

Swallowing hard, he exited the jungle and hesitated. Which way to follow? He shook his foggy head once more and squeezed one last step.

The world spun. The rain poured heavily around him and plastered the black, thick hair to his forehead. His clothes were completely drenched and stuck to his skin. Through the confusion he saw only fog, water and sludge. His body swiveled in the air and mud splattered around him as he collapsed to the ground. The blood still oozed from his head and mixed with the puddles formed by rain and mire. In the brief moment of consciousness the only thought that crossed his mind was that he had failed his team and that they were dead because of it.

____________________________

Rodney woke up in a dark room and blinked several times to make sure his eyes were really open. He heard moaning next to him that he quickly identified as Teyla and Ronon. Rodney tapped his body and found all his equipment gone. He was about to call his team when he heard it. The creepy noise that could give anyone nightmares. His heart immediately started to pound heavily, trying to jump out of, his chest and he bolted to a sitting position, listening intently as more started coming.

"Oh, my God!"

He crawled backwards against the wall until he reached a corner. He turned his head in all directions to get a glimpse of the invisible threat, but all he got was darkness. The noise grew closer.

Soon he heard a grunt from Ronon, a disgusting smashing sound and heavy thuds of a boot against the floor. The noises grew closer. Teyla started emitting her own sounds of struggle. Rodney gulped as panic set in. He felt little feet climbing on him and flailed his arms madly. He instinctively got up and started throwing them away, kicking around and smashing one or two.

"Oh, my God! Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!"

"Try to find a way out!" Ronon shouted.

"Oh God! And how do we do that? It's completely dark!" he said as he waved madly to remove a bug crawling up his torso.

Rodney continued to flap around even without feeling small legs on him and stepped back until he met another rocky wall, his breathing hitching so fast he was on the brink of hyperventilating. He walked along it until he almost fell backwards when it curved around a corner and held onto the rock to regain his balance.

"I think I found it!" he yelled as he extended his arms to feel his way around.

"Follow me!" Ronon said as he brushed past Rodney.

Rodney immediately grabbed the big man's arm and felt a touch on his back. He squeaked then jumped away from it, his heart beating faster than it ever had before.

"It is me, Rodney," Teyla's voice assured him.

Rodney sighed in relief as the hand went back to touching his shoulder. "You should warn me before giving me a heart attack!"

"I am sorry. It is dark. I did not see you."

They hurriedly felt their way through a long corridor as the noises of the Iratus bugs fell behind them. They sometimes encountered a lost one on their path, but Ronon's boot was merciless. The squishy sounds were beginning to make Rodney sick.

"Oh, God! We're never getting out of here!"

"Yes, we are, Rodney. We got here somehow and we will find the way out." Teyla's voice was poised and comforting, making Rodney wonder how she was able to stay so calm.

Rodney followed Ronon closely and almost lost his footing when the floor disappeared from under him on a step down. He met the ground again as water splashed around his boot.

"Oh, great. I was just wondering how we could make this journey more pleasant," he complained as he felt the water up to his ankle.

____________________________

A drop of water splashed his face. John kept his eyes closed, wanting to go back to sleep.

Another one came. He shifted his head and moaned his displeasure. His head spiked, making him inhale sharply and open his eyes.

He found himself staring at a gray sky in between far away tree tops. It took a few moments of staring to realize why the trees were so far away. He was at the bottom of a well. That's when he felt water surrounding his shivering body.

A sudden noise made him snap his head around. It was the creepy chirping sound that lived in his worst nightmares. Very close. He bolted upright and recoiled against the wall, staring at the little sewer entrance where the sound was coming from. He swallowed thickly and squeezed his eyes to shave off the dizziness and the hot poker inside his skull. It didn't help all that much.

He looked up. The well was surrounded by slippery rock covered in moss and didn't have any room to climb. And even if it had, he wouldn't risk it in his condition. His attention went back to the source of the rattle as his breathing accelerated.

Snapping to action, John removed his tac-vest and crawled towards the tiny gap. He tucked it in the entrance, making sure he left no space for anything to come in and went back to the opposite wall without taking his eyes away from it.

Several seconds passed as John tried to refocus his mind. He risked another glance around. Wherever he was, someone had put him there. Probably those Michael things.

John shuddered. The water was cold and the rain was pouring heavily. His head throbbed mercilessly in chorus with his chest cage. No matter which position he sat in, everything still hurt like hell.

Resisting sleep, he rested his head against the rock behind him and hugged his bent legs. The temperature had dropped and night was beginning to crawl. John glanced up. Heavy gray clouds blocked the little sunlight was left before dusk and a strong wind blew leaves and snapped branches into the well.

The rain quickly progressed to a full blown storm as thunders roared in between flashes of bright light. Drenched and shaking, John continued to eye the blocked pipe as the crawly sound came and went, half expecting the wind to blow his vest away.

John trembled as he squeezed his hunched body. Water cascaded from the sides of the pit and flooded it. The one inch from before had already doubled and redoubled in an incredible speed. Mix the cold with the possible concussion he'd sustained and he could barely find the strength to resist the gray edges invading his vision. He shook his head again, hoping the spike in pain would keep him alert, then forced his mind to focus by creating a mental sudoku for him to solve.

He crossed his arms and supported his head on the wall ignoring the waterfall sliding down from it. Thunder roared and snapped him from slumping down.

He decided to try an easier puzzle.

____________________________

"Can you stop bumping my back?" Ronon grunted angrily.

"You shouldn't stop so suddenly!" Rodney said in an angry whisper. Because really, he was forming a bruise on his nose from hitting the runner's back so often. Of course, the big guy would barely feel anything under so much solid muscle, but his poor nose was consisted of only a thin bone and soft cartilage.

"It's dark. What do you expect?"

"Maybe a warning. Or maybe you could go slower and let the non-runner members of the team catch up before-"

"Shhhh, do you hear that?" Teyla interrupted them.

Rodney quieted and heard a soft rasping noise that was similar to the sound produced by the Iratus bugs. He swallowed thickly. That could only be bad. It silenced and, for a moment, the movement of the water around them was the only sound that existed.

Soon the water began shifting again and Rodney felt the runner's back fall away from his hand. He quickly stepped forward, afraid to lose the connection and be lost in darkness forever. They followed slowly and quietly for several meters until Rodney saw light briefly reflecting on the black surface of the water before it all dived to blackness again. It came from a small opening on the wall. As they got closer, the sound of thunder and the brightness of lightning filled the stillness of the channel once more. A huge storm appeared to be happening outside.

The team proceeded forward and knelt by the small shaft. Ronon peeked inside and Rodney resisted the urge to ask what he was seeing. Rodney was about to break the silence when Ronon turned back with a finger on his lips indicating the hole. Rodney closed his mouth and knelt close to it. One of the creatures was on the other side.

He swallowed in nervousness. It was injured, nursing a bleeding limb, but he couldn't see anything past it. It seemed like it wasn't inside a tunnel, but an open channel. Rodney took that as a small sign that they were close to getting out.

Rodney turned back and followed Ronon's gestures to continue the journey. More small shafts passed, mostly empty. On one occasion Ronon tried to fit his head in the hole and Rodney had to roll his eyes at the stupid attempt. Even Teyla would be too big to fit in there.

"We can't be too far; let's just continue following this path," Rodney said.

Ronon simply kicked at the stony wall and grunted. Rodney was about to snipe about stupid cavemen and their barbaric tendencies when a rock fell off the top of the duct and splashed into the water. He raised an eyebrow and in the brief light saw Ronon smirking at him.

Ronon repeated the action with more strength than before, aiming a kick right by the place where the first piece had fallen. Another one came down. Teyla joined in and soon they were all kicking and dropping rock after another until a passage big enough to crawl in was open.

Ronon was the first, followed by Rodney then Teyla. Rain splashed on Rodney's head. He looked up and saw the top of a deep hole surrounded by slimy stone.

"Great! How are we supposed to get out of here now?" he complained loudly.

"I can climb this," Ronon said as he moved to the wall opposite the passage.

"Yes, and you can also fall down and break your neck."

"I just need some support; we're not so deep. Probably four or five meters."

"There's no leverage and it's wet-"

"We could make a tower," Teyla interrupted. "You can climb and stand on Ronon's shoulder then I'll climb you both and make it to the surface. I'll try to find some rope in the village and return to get you out." She looked at each of them, waiting for agreement.

"Great," Ronon said, already kneeling and motioning Rodney over his shoulder.

"Wait just a minute. I can't stand on Ronon's shoulders! What if I fall? And what if you fall? What if we all fall down and break our backs?"

"Do you want to stay in this pit and simply wait for one of those creatures to get us?" Ronon asked, annoyed.

"I can't hold Teyla's weight."

"I am the lightest of us all, Rodney." Teyla explained calmly.

"I'm sorry for being the only voice of clear reason in here. The banging in the head thing must have obviously affected your brains!"

"Our combined heights will be sufficient to get me high enough, Rodney. Do you not look forward to being out of here?"

"What about Ronon? Can he stand all of our weight? This is crazy!" Rodney raised his voice.

"I can, but not for long. Teyla, you'll have to be quick."

"I will." She motioned Rodney to go to position.

"Look, I don't know-"

"Just do it!" Ronon growled as he glared at Rodney.

Rodney huffed and looked up again. His mental calculation indicated that their height would be enough to get Teyla out. Also, he knew Teyla was agile and could climb them fast and that Ronon, with his Conan strength, could stand their weight for a few seconds. In the end, with two against one, he conceded, knowing he would regret this immensely.

"If this doesn't work, I won't take the blame," Rodney said, stepping on Ronon's shoulder.

He gripped the rocky wall firmly and breathed fast as he let go of the safety of the firm ground. His foot didn't reach the other shoulder and he quickly gave up. "I-I can't do this."

"Yes, you can, Rodney," Teyla said firmly and calmly. "Just let go, I will hold you. I will not let you fall." She looked into his eyes and held his gaze.

Rodney swallowed thickly and took a deep breath. He didn't give himself another second to build up courage because he knew any extra thinking would make him give up completely. He held Teyla's hand and continued to grip the wall with the other. He closed his eyes and, on a leap of faith, forced his leg all the way up. He opened his eyes and tried to control the rapid intakes of air he was taking.

"Oh, God! I can't do this, Teyla," he panicked as Ronon got up.

"Just close your eyes, Rodney, and pretend you are on firm ground. And grasp the wall tightly so I can step on your arms."

"Okay, firm ground, firm ground, firm groundfirmgroundfirmground..."

Suddenly, he felt a strong squeeze on his shoulders, a giant boot certainly leaving a huge bruise on both arms, then light weight soon followed by immense pain on his shoulders that lasted less than a second before it vanished.

"I am on the surface," she shouted above the rainfall.

Rodney heard Teyla's voice from over his head and turned up, an "Oh" forming on his lips. "That was fast," he said not loud enough to be heard.

"Rodney, you can climb down from Ronon now."

Rodney felt a sudden loss of balance as the runner lowered to a kneeling position again. Rodney quickly went back to standing on real firm ground. He rubbed the sore spots on his arms and saw Ronon twisting the shoulders Rodney had stood on.

"I will return as fast as I can."

And then she took off.

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Roars of thunder followed flashes of light continuously. The water level had risen nearly to his knees and John had to concede and remove the vest blocking the drain. He placed it back after the water receded a little, but left a small space for it to drain. He remained sitting to conserve body heat and almost started to fall asleep again. He shook his head, but the effect only lasted seconds. He was shivering violently, exhausted, and knew it was only a matter of time before his body gave up on him.

Foggy as his head was, he couldn't come up with any puzzle to keep himself alert. Instead, he caught his mind drifting away.

He shook his head. He couldn't give up. Not now, not ever. They were coming for him.

"T-they'll f-find me," he breathed out. "They're a-all r-right." He trembled through the gush of fierce wind still blowing in the intense storm.

He just had to wait through the worse of the cold until help arrived with a blanket to take him home in the back of a warm jumper.

"S-some hot ch-chocolate would b-be nice." John smiled.

His teeth clattered and he rubbed his arms against each other close to his chest. He was drenched and his clothes were heavy. He could barely see past the constant dripping in front of his eyes. He looked up and wished someone would just turn on the hot water already.

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Teyla hurried down the slippery rock as large drops quickly drenched her clothes. Water ran freely beneath her feet and carried leaves and branches down the narrow channel in the direction she was heading. She slowed down as she approached another hole and passed around it, careful not to fall in.

She wanted to go faster, but the darkness and the storm made it too dangerous. Her path became illuminated every few seconds following the roar of thunder. She used the lightning flashes to get a good sense of her surroundings, yet she could not see anything beyond trees and heavy raindrops.

Another pit suddenly appeared, making her stop near the edge, her breath catching in the shock of slipping on a few stones. She took a calming breath then looked down. Another rumble shook the air and her heart jumped in surprise as she abruptly glimpsed a shadow moving on the bottom. She tilted her head, waiting for another strike of lightning to look at it again.

A few seconds later, she distinguished a shape before blackness enveloped it again. When light blinked again, this time a few times in a row, she realized it was a person trapped inside. She knelt by the edge and recognized the uniform as lights flickered once again.

"John?" she shouted.

The head slowly turned up, but if he said anything it was missed by her.

"Are you hurt?" she raised her voice even more in concern.

Lightning struck again and she missed his answer, but was almost sure he said something.

"Just hang on, Ronon and Rodney are not far from you, I'll tell them where you are."

She waited a few seconds to get a last look at him then turned around and went all the way back.

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Rodney sat on the pile of rocks inside the not really dry corridor. His clothes were completely soaked and there was nothing more uncomfortable than wet socks. It hadn't been long since Teyla had left. He imagined he still had some time before she returned, which she would. He had to keep telling himself that or Ronon would give him that glare with a grunt stuck in his throat. She was just running in the dark night in the middle of a storm, surrounded by trees while lightning kept striking every second, without having the slightest idea the direction she should go, with huge beasts out there hunting any humans and tossing them to be eaten by bugs, while the gate was not operational and help was still probably hours away, without even knowing if she would be able to find anything of help them out of this damn hellhole.

No big deal.

They did this all time.

She would be fine.

"Maybe one of us should continue ahead and see if there's a way out," he said simply to have some kind of conversation.

"We shouldn't split up," came the short response.

Rodney nodded. "If she found a way out she would come back and tell us..."

Ronon didn't turn from his position halfway outside. "Yeah." He looked up.

Several more seconds passed in silence then Rodney nearly jumped when the runner patted his back softly.

"Hey, Teyla's back."

"Already?" He followed Ronon out.

Rodney saw Teyla knelt by the edge with her head bent low. "Ronon, Rodney, I found Colonel Sheppard two holes ahead of you," she pointed to the direction the tunnel followed. "He seems to be trapped inside," she shouted but Rodney still had to turn his head slightly to hear her.

"Is he alright?" Rodney asked loudly.

"I do not know, I could not hear or see him properly. You should go to him. He has been in the storm for too long and was already injured before. He is in the second pit after this one."

"Okay, we'll go there!" Rodney waved his arms to get her back on her way.

Dripping from head to toe, Rodney shuddered with the cold of the rain and hurried ahead in the tunnel, splashing water as he raced.

He wondered how long Sheppard was outside all wet. If he had been in that monsoon for more than a few minutes it was more than likely he would be freezing cold and in bad shape. Rodney quickened his pace, trusting that the passage was just a long straight line, and held onto the wall for support. He heard Ronon close behind him and in fact could almost feel his breath on his back.

Rodney knew they were passing the first drain when he heard the sound from outside growing louder then lowering as he continued onwards. He counted his steps until he slowed down to a quick walk as he approached the second hole. He turned his head abruptly when he felt Ronon holding his shoulder, then stopped.

His breath quickened when he caught the rapid clattering coming from somewhere in front of them. Frozen in place, he sensed Ronon going past him quietly and slowly. Thunder rumbled and the faint flash produced from the tiny gap was barely enough for Rodney to see the Satedan snatching the bug with both hands. Rodney heard the warrior squashing its underbelly in a disgusting squeezy sound and scowled in revulsion.

"Sheppard," Ronon called. He waited a few seconds before trying again, louder this time. "Sheppard, you there?"

Rodney bent down to try to look through the hole, but saw nothing. In another flash of light, he caught Ronon's hand removing something blocking the drain.

"Buddy, you hear me?"

"Ronon?"

Rodney sighed in relief when he heard Sheppard's voice. It was weak and slurred. "Oh, thank God!" He stepped closer. "Yes, Sheppard, it's us. Are you alright?"

"C-cold."

"Teyla's gone for help. She'll be back soon."

"Saw h-her. T-thought I was d-dreaming." Rodney could almost hear a faint laugh in the weak reply.

"Just hold on, buddy. It won't be long now."

"K-kay."

The short response made Rodney's chest tighten. He could clearly hear Sheppard's loud breathing trembling violently and shuddered himself in his own damp clothes.

"You guys k-kay?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Yes, Sheppard, we're all fine."

"G-good."

"Hey, Sheppard, step aside for a moment for me to try something."

Rodney saw Ronon's big silhouette standing by the wall and stepped back. He heard Ronon grunt and kick the stone a couple of times. A few more kicks were thrown, but no rocks fell from their places. It didn't slow the runner down and he continued the tactic, focusing on one well aimed spot, his strength never faltering.

The big heavy bricks were large and that weakened its structure. It took a lot of spanking against the same place, but Ronon succeeded in removing one small chunk of stone. Rodney hadn't given much thought about the strategy Ronon used on their previous experience, but now stopped to analyze the numbers. Repetitive strain against the weak center of each square would make the material that kept them glued together collapse under the stretch, but the effort Ronon was giving this time indicated it would take longer than it had before.

After a couple of minutes and several centimeters of progress that still weren't enough, Rodney asked Ronon to stop for a while to check on Sheppard.

"Sheppard," Rodney called. "Sheppard, still there?"

"Yeah," a weak response came. It was almost not loud enough for Rodney to hear.

"We're coming for you, alright? Just hold on for a little bit longer." Rodney waited for an answer that didn't come. "Sheppard?"

"I-I'm... h-here." Rodney could barely make out the words in between the stuttering and shaking and swallowed in concern.

He backed away again to let Ronon resume his beating on the structure. A splash announced another brick falling, but as time passed with very little progress, Ronon's strikes were getting more violent with the growing frustration. Rodney could hear the growls increasing in ferocity and asked for another timeout. A loud grunt followed his request and water splashed on his BDUs.

"Sheppard, you there?" Ronon asked, his voice rough with controlled anger.

A second passed until they heard the sluggish answer. "M'here."

"We're almost through. Just a couple more minutes, okay, buddy?"

"Mmm..."

Rodney swallowed hard against the bump in his throat, almost feeling the hypothermia creeping up on himself. He shuddered. Sheppard didn't have much time.

"Just hurry up," he said softly so only Ronon would hear.

Ronon attacked the wall with more powerful blows and brought down two more big chunks in one go. Light flashed through the passage and on the next blink, Rodney saw Ronon passing to the other side. Rodney continued to eye the reflective surface of the water with apprehension. He was opening his mouth to call out when he heard the splashing of water bringing both Ronon and Sheppard back inside. He went to help.

His chest tightened as he touched the shivering body. The man was soaked. Rodney grabbed one of the pilot's arms while Ronon carried the other and they pulled Sheppard against the opposite wall. As the corridor brightened briefly Rodney could see his pale features.

"Hold him," Ronon said as he kept the pilot propped up against the rocky surface.

Rodney supported the slippery dead weight as water surged from each centimeter of Sheppard's clothes. He hugged the man to get a better grip and pass some of his own body heat. It wasn't an easy task with Sheppard trembling badly and curling on himself.

Rodney heard Ronon piling up rocks then was led to it. Sheppard was heavy and his uncoordinated legs only kept getting in the way. Rodney almost tripped but breathed in relief when he caught his footing. Slowly, he felt his hands slipping because of the water. He panicked before squeezing the pilot more so he wouldn't fall and would have failed if Ronon hadn't appeared suddenly to help.

"I got it," the grave voice said.

Light blinked again and Rodney saw Ronon sitting down on top of the bricks and placing their team leader against his body. As they lay down, Rodney removed the man's drenched shirt. His clammy skin was freezing cold and stole Rodney's heat each time he touched him. In another flash, he noticed that Ronon was now also bare-chested as he moved to envelop the shaking man with his big arms. Rodney stripped his own upper body and covered Sheppard with his leather jacket, then lay down to embrace him as well.

Rodney felt the cold body against his and heard teeth clattering loudly in front of him. Cool air came on his face from hitched breaths and he could feel Sheppard's every single muscle shivering. He held on tighter, offering as much warm skin as he could, feeling Ronon doing the same from behind.

He saw Sheppard's paleness every time light flashed. Each time, Rodney noticed droopy eyelids fighting to stay open, refusing to shut. Sometimes they would get so close Rodney thought John had given up, only to be proved wrong when they snapped back a few millimeters. The little slit that remained open contained the essence of that annoyingly-positive-we-gotta-fight-this-thing-shut-up-Rodney-and-solve-this-damn-problem-in-a-few-seconds-because-I-believe-in-you friend that Rodney had. So Rodney kept hoping.

____________________________

Rodney had lost track of time. It seemed like an eternity had passed.

An eternity in which Rodney had spent watching his friend shiver and shake.

Sheppard's breathing had slowed and the trembling had stopped.

But his skin was still icy cold.

Rodney heard them long before he saw them, so when water began to stir and splashing became louder, he looked up, ready to slam them all with sharp words for having taken so damn long.

His words fell flat and Rodney didn't reprimand them for focusing in someone other than him.

Because they were busy saving John's life.

And breathing for him.

And performing CPR.

Again.

And again.

Until they placed his friend on a gurney and hurried out of there, shouting instructions and words that made little sense to Rodney.

They raced.

They ran so fast, Rodney could barely keep up.

His blanket fell from his shoulders and he didn't notice.

His hands twitched. They were shaking.

But it was not from the cold.

He didn't notice when Radek passed by him and placed a hand on his shoulder before proceeding towards the sewer system with a squad of Marines.

He barely even registered the back of the jumper, numb and wide eyed as the medics hung IVs and continued to layer his friend with blanket on top of blanket.

Rodney didn't twitch when Teyla wrapped him up in something warm to replace his lost blanket.

But he did notice when Sheppard's face switched away from discomfort to form the faintest smile as if to whisper I knew you would come.

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Warmth. That was the first thing John noticed. A warm and pleasant sensation that made John want to remain in this haziness forever.

He took his time embracing it, remembering how it was not to feel cold.

But cold didn't exist.

There was just being surrounded by soft and cozy warmth.

He didn't fight the sluggishness.

He welcomed it.

"Colonel?" A soft female voice invaded his moment.

He ignored it.

"Come on, Colonel..." The voice was insistent.

He continued to ignore it. He just wanted to stay asleep.

"That smile you had earlier and this growing frown tells me that you are awake but don't want to be," the familiar voice continued. "I hate telling you this, but you can't stay asleep forever."

"I can try," he mumbled without being sure anything coherent made it out of his lips.

He heard Keller's chuckle then Rodney's voice.

"Don't you think you've slept enough?"

John didn't bother articulating a response. He just made some sound with his throat and hoped they got the idea.

"I take that as a no?" the scientist continued.

Again, John just kept his eyes closed and tuned out.

"Alright, guys, let's just keep Mister Sleepy over here rest some more."

Finally, silence settled in and John let himself go back to sleep.

____________________________

Rodney entered the infirmary, balancing a tray of food and a laptop in one hand and two extra servings of fruit cup in the other. He handled those to Ronon and Teyla then set the food on the side table, careful not to drop everything. He heard a laugh and scowled.

"So, have you decided to wake up for good this time?" he asked Sheppard who grinned in response. "Want it?" He took another fruit cup from his tray and waved it at him. The pilot took it without any second thoughts.

"What happened on the planet?" Sheppard asked with a mouth full.

Rodney set the tray in front of himself. "It was raining and you were left out in the cold?"

"I know that part. I mean with those creature things." Sheppard waved his plastic spoon around.

"We found the lab and Lorne blew it up," Ronon informed.

"That's it?" Sheppard stared at Ronon then at Rodney.

Rodney swallowed his food. "According to the data we collected, it was the rain," Rodney began. "Michael set up the place inside the drainage system those people used to store water from the rain. He did his little experiments which didn't come out as he expected because the creatures ended up being too smart and dumb at the same time. So he left them in stasis pods deep underground. In fact so underground that all the water that entered wasn't drained out. They got damaged, so the things escaped all at once and exterminated the people." Rodney took another bite.

"So why aren't we dead?" Sheppard had the dumbfounded look.

Rodney didn't bother swallowing this time. "Like I said, those creatures ended up not being as smart as he wanted. They were brighter, easier to control and less violent than his previous attempts, but not cold blooded killers enough." Rodney swallowed. "They were more about strategy than anything else, but the problem was that they were too dumb too, so the strategies weren't actually very good. I think they just wanted to preserve us to eat later, that would be consistent with the bodies we found."

"So why are the villagers dead?" The same look remained on Sheppard's face.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Because...they were stupid villagers. Or they were overwhelmed by surprise, or got too scared and panicky, or didn't have any stupid space heroes to lay out C4 to blow them up, or...whatever." Rodney said while he moved his fork around.

Sheppard simply nodded.

"There were no survivors," Teyla said in a tone of understanding that took Rodney a second too long to notice.

Sheppard nodded as his eyes turned inwards in thought. He looked up again and smiled. "Thanks for showing up." He turned at Rodney and Ronon. "And thanks for saving my ass. I would have frozen to death in that rain," he said lightheartedly.

"I can't see it happening any other way," Rodney said before realizing he needed to rephrase that. "I mean, we are a team, that's what we do, isn't it? Rely on each other's strength and brilliance to defeat any problem that is stupid enough to challenge us?"

Sheppard smiled and sank into his pillow after finishing his cup. "Yes, we are. We are a team."

The End

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A/N: I hope you liked it, titan5, and I hope you don't mind I put both head injury and hypothermia in the fic. xD I couldn't resist. #^_^#

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