Confessions of a Tortured Soul
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've only borrowed them and I am NOT promising to put them back when I've finished playing with them…
Summary: When an off-world mission goes horribly wrong, it's McKay who suffers the consequences. With hostiles closing in and help a long way away, John has to care for his team-mate.
Central Character(s):John, Rodney, Teyla, Ronon, Carson.
Category (ies): Drama, Angst, H/C, friendship
Placement: Season Two, sometime after 'Critical Mass'.
Rating:+15 for cussing (c'mon, you know who I'm talking about), brutality, blood… Like most of my fics then!
Spoilers: 'Trinity', 'Redemption'.
A/N:This is for Terri who wanted a birthday fic with lots of Rodney whump! Hope you like it, my dear! As usual, I want to remind you all that I have never been and will never be a medic, so any and all mistakes should be either ignored or brushed under the carpet. (Unless there's something glaringly wrong that is.)
One last note – Terri, I don't know if this is what you had in mind when you let me adopt this plot bunny, but my militant badgers ran with the idea so I blame them. (They like it when I'm beastly to Rodney, you see…)
Special thanks go to Moony, who did a lightning quick beta on this one – you rule, sugar!
Chapter 1: Trade Negotiations
"So, remind me again why we're here?"
Lt Col John Sheppard let out an exasperated sigh. Leave it to Dr Rodney McKay to make even a simple mission difficult. The man might well be the smartest guy in two galaxies and John's best friend to boot, but he was still a pain in the ass. "We're here, Rodney, to establish a trade settlement with the locals. You're supposed to be on your best behaviour, remember?"
The Canadian shot an evil look back at John. He recalled the meeting that they'd had earlier, back in Atlantis – the one in which both the kamikaze Colonel and Elizabeth had decided to talk to him like he was an unruly schoolboy. All he'd done was ask why he had to go to the planet when there was nothing even remotely scientific about the place. No Ancient technology, no hidden labs, absolutely nothing of any interest to him at all – Christ, the place was a backwater, primitive hellhole of the worst possible kind! That one simple, perfectly innocent question and the pair of them had leapt down his throat as if he'd just told them he was a Trust operative. Maybe next time, he would… just to see their reactions. Purely for scientific purposes.
Even worse was the fact that Rodney knew that he was no good at negotiations. He didn't have the patience and tended to dislike ignorance and deceit. More often than not, that usually resulted in him telling people that they were idiots who didn't even possess the IQ of a kumquat – to their faces. Not exactly the best way to start an alliance…
"Yes, Colonel, I'm well aware of the conversation that took place," he growled. "And for the record, this bites."
Dammit, he's in one of his pissy moods again, thought John to himself. Shaking his head, he thought for a moment before replying, "Look, all we want is to set up an agreement. You know damn well we need the food so be a man and suck it up!" Seeing that McKay looked suitably chastised, he jerked his head in the direction of the village. "Shall we?"
He started to trek along the small gravel path that led away from the Gate and towards to the Gandarians' main village. McKay followed, grumpily fiddling with his life signs detector, muttering under his breath about the cornucopia of projects he'd had to leave. Behind him, Teyla and Ronon simply exchanged a knowing and frustrated look and continued after their team-mates.
M4R-390 was not the most exciting of places that Team Sheppard had ever visited. Thinking about it, John was always confused as to why all the planets seemed to look the same - trees, fields, rivers, mountains, more trees… Just once, Sheppard thought to himself, just one damn time it'd be nice to go to a world that looks a bit different. According to the font of knowledge that was SGA-1's resident geek, it was because the atmospheres of the planets were similar to Earth or something. Regardless of the reason, it drove the Colonel nuts. On the bright side, however, it wasn't raining.
And according to Teyla, the locals were a welcoming sort of bunch. The Athosian had both traded and had dealings with their leader on several occasions, and as such, was going to be the one doing the negotiating. That was fine and dandy with John – he couldn't really picture Ronon or Rodney in a negotiation without laughing. McKay would open his mouth and the whole world would go to hell in a hand basket, while the Satedan would probably end up shooting anyone who looked at him funny. The last time John had tried it, they'd ended up offering C4 and nuclear bombs to an unstable, militant group with none-too-subtle plans for galactic domination. No, after the Genii, Sheppard was never, ever going to negotiate again.
At least not for food.
He came to a halt as the team were met by a young man.
"Greetings, friends!" he called, smiling at them. "Gandaria bids you welcome and safe passage. My name is Eren and I..." He stopped as he studied the group closely, then his smile split into a huge grin. "By the moons! Teyla!"
Teyla returned his grin with a dazzling one of her own. "It is good to see you again, Eren," she said, clasping the boy's hands in her own. "It has been far too long. Look at you! You were just a child when I saw you last!"
Eren looked slightly embarrassed. "It has been many cycles," he agreed, "but you are just the same as I remember."
Sheppard and McKay shared an amused look as Teyla blushed.
"Allow me to introduce my friends. This is Lt Col John Sheppard, Dr Rodney McKay and Specialist Ronon Dex." As she spoke, the boys all raised a hand in greeting.
"Welcome to you. Come. The Chancellor is expecting you." Eren turned on his heels and led them into the village, linking arms with Teyla as he regaled her with tales.
John estimated that they'd walked for about a mile and a half before they finally approached the settlement. It had been a pleasant enough trip – the sun was warm, verging on uncomfortable, but there was a cool breeze and a scent similar to Lavender permeated the air. Even McKay hadn't complained about anything (not even his numerous allergies), choosing instead to talk to their guide or play with his scanner.
But despite the relaxing atmosphere, Sheppard felt tense. His instincts were telling him that regardless of the peaceful appearances, something wasn't right. As they reached their destination, the feeling intensified.
Expecting only a few dozen at most, the boys were surprised by the sheer number of people occupying the small settlement. Men, women and children of all ages were milling about, trading goods from market type stalls, drinking at what appeared to be a tavern, or simply catching up with local gossip. There were so many people that Rodney came close to being swamped – luckily, Ronon caught hold of the physicist's collar to stop him from being enveloped in the crowd.
Sheppard counted at least thirty in the first couple of minutes alone and his unease grew. He turned to McKay and leant in close. "How many life signs are you detecting?" he asked quietly.
Rodney, who was hunched over the scanner, looked up at him in amazement. "I'm registering at least a hundred in this section alone." Turning the small doohickey to show John, he pointed at the mass of blue dots crammed onto the tiny screen. There were so many that it was difficult to make any one individual out and trying to do so made the Air Force man's head hurt. "And this is in a one hundred metre radius," the physicist continued. He glanced at Teyla, who was chatting animatedly with Eren just ahead of them. "I thought she said the Gandarians were a small society?"
Sheppard shrugged. "It has been a while," he admitted. "After all, she said the last time she visited was a couple of years before we arrived."
"Yes, but what about the Wraith? They wouldn't have just ignored this place, would they?"
"Doubtful," Ronon muttered, eyeing the crowds warily. "There are too many people here." He let out a grunt as they continued to fight their way through the masses. "The Wraith wouldn't let a population get this big."
"Maybe," agreed Rodney, "but isn't it true that sometimes they leave their feeding grounds for several centuries? You know, to let the…livestock…" he paused, grimacing as he said the word, "…multiply?"
Ronon shrugged. "Sometimes."
"But there's a whole lotta hungry alien vampires awake at the moment," John said. "Somehow I don't think that they'd let these people off the hook. Too many mouths to feed, not enough food to go around, remember?" He glanced around, taking in the appearance of the crowd. "And I don't think these people are refugees, either."
"Could be a market," Ronon supplied. "There's a few that I know of that draw a lot of people."
"Possibly," Sheppard conceded, "but there don't appear to be that many stalls. I'm guessing that these markets tend to have a lot?"
The ex-runner nodded. "Yeah. Normally there's anywhere up to three or four hundred. They're held in bigger places than this too."
"So you can see why this doesn't make any sense," McKay continued.
"What about something technological?" John suggested.
McKay shook his head. "No, nothing like that. There's no sign of anything that could be a shield or weapon. They clearly aren't a technologically advanced people and I would have picked up any energy readings by now."
"Could there be a hidden Ancient lab nearby or something?" asked the Colonel. "We've seen that before. They might not even know it's here."
"Already considered that," the Canadian replied. "Like I said: no energy readings. Even if it was dormant, I'd still be able to pick up something." He fiddled with the LSD, changing its settings before turning it back around. "See?" He pointed to the blank screen. "Nothing."
Sheppard's eyes narrowed as he thought over the implications. "Then that begs the question…"
"How the hell have they managed to avoid the cullings?" Rodney completed. "Truthfully, I have no idea whatsoever." He pointed to the landscape, his frown deepening. "Look over there. Notice that?"
"There's nothing there, McKay," Ronon replied as he scanned the hills and woodlands surrounding the settlement.
"Exactly. There's no evidence of any kind of cave network, or for that matter, underground structures, no real cover of any kind save for all the trees... Geographically speaking, these people have nowhere to hide."
Sheppard nodded. Over the last year and a half, he had learned that it paid to listen to the physicist on certain subjects. "I think we may have a little chat with the Chancellor about that," he said.
"Teyla!" a voice boomed.
The Athosian spun around, beaming as she saw the voice's owner. "Chancellor Yerdin!"
In front of them was a huge man, as tall as Ronon and probably as wide, grinning as if he'd met up with a long lost relative. "It is good to see you, my dear!"
Teyla gave the man a quick hug and then turned back to her team-mates. "Allow me to present Chancellor Yerdin," she said. "These are the friends I spoke of. The ones who wish to trade."
Yerdin clapped his hands together. "We welcome any and all trade," he replied. "You must be weary from your trek. Come inside!"
As they were led through to an official looking room, introductions were made and pretty soon, events had turned to the business in hand.
They were all seated around a long table on top of which were a variety of exotic looking foods. Ronon, John and Teyla had all tried the samples, but Rodney had declined. Quite politely too, John noted with a grin. The Chancellor had looked slightly affronted by the scientist's actions, but once Teyla had explained in layman's terms about citrus-induced anaphylactic shock, he had smiled at Rodney and begged forgiveness. McKay had again shocked Sheppard with the lack of any acerbic comment – he had simply smiled and dismissed the episode good-naturedly.
"Before we start, Chancellor, I'd like to ask you a question if I may," said Sheppard.
"Of course," Yerdin replied, smiling good-naturedly. "If we are to trade, there must be no secrets between us."
John took a deep breath. Here goes nothing… "Uh, we were wondering whether you've had any problems with the Wraith at all."
Yerdin's face was unreadable, but Sheppard noticed that he visibly stiffened. "No," he replied. "They do not trouble us."
"I'd hardly call them a 'trouble'," Ronon grunted.
"Any idea as to why?" asked Rodney hurriedly, scowling at his team-mate. "I mean, you have such a large population and no visible means of defence…" He received a quick kick to the ankle under the table from John and realised that he'd said the wrong thing. "No offence intended or anything," he added hastily.
"The Wraith have not visited us for many moons," the Chancellor stated. "They have chosen to leave us alone and we are thankful for that." He frowned at the Atlanteans. "We do not question, merely accept the gift that our Gods have chosen to bestow upon us."
"Of course," said Sheppard, not liking Yerdin's tone of voice.
"What my friends are trying to say is that they did not mean to anger you or the Gods," Teyla replied smoothly. "They are a curious people and unaware of your people's customs."
That seemed to be all the explanation needed to satisfy the man and soon, he and Teyla were discussing the finer points of the trade.
Elizabeth had sent them to gain a portion of the Gandarians' crops in exchange for medical supplies and training. From what John could tell, the negotiation seemed to be going pretty well – in fact, in a little over twenty minutes, both Yerdin and Teyla were smiling and shaking hands.
Job done then.
The team rose from their seats. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you, Chancellor," Sheppard said with a smile and a head nod.
"The pleasure has been all mine, Colonel Sheppard. Please, won't you stay for a while? My aides are preparing the afternoon meal and there is more than enough for you all. It has been so long since we have had guests."
If John had been listening to the small voice in the back of his head that was yelling for him to run like hell, he would have spared his team an incredible amount of pain. Instead, he pushed it to one side, looked at his team and shrugged. He was just being paranoid. What harm could it do? Besides, he reasoned with himself, the food they'd tried was a hell of a lot tastier than the MREs in their backpacks. Sharing a look with his team-mates, he slowly nodded. "Sure. Why not? We're not due back for a while anyway."
Yerdin grinned at them. "Excellent!" He gestured to one of his aides. "Beya, please show our friends to the guest rooms and be sure to inform Tullo down in the kitchens of Dr McKay's requirements."
"Hope we're not putting you to too much trouble," John told him.
"Not at all! Please, make yourselves comfortable."
As the team trooped out of the room, the Chancellor turned to a young woman who stood behind him. As soon as he was confident that they were out of earshot, his smile fell and an icy expression took its place. He nodded to her. "Contact Tarin. Tell him that our guests have what he requires."
Uh-oh, looks like there may be trouble up ahead…