John chuckled, a fog of breath momentarily forming in front of his face as he kept a strong pace down the narrow, snow covered path. "I don't think I owe you any explanation, McKay." He glanced to his right, his gaze passing over a frozen lake, just down a steep embankment from the path they walked on.
"Yeah, I think you do," Rodney countered. "For the last two years you've done your best 'Man in Black' imitation but you show up in the gate room today with a royal blue scarf under your parka? And you won't say where you got it?"
For a moment, John thought about Dr. Alice Lindsay; blue eyes, nice curves, smart… Who knew a botanist could knit? "Nope," he answered.
"That is so not fair," Rodney muttered. "Wish Ronon was here. I'm sure he could get an answer out of you."
John just held his smile and didn't answer. With Ronon and Teyla off trading for the Athosians, it was just him and McKay left to take a quick goodwill trip to visit the Velunians.
"You know," Rodney's voice returned to regular volume, "you can't just... whoa!"
John spun just in time to see Rodney's foot slide along a patch of ice that must've been hidden by the snow. His arms waving, Rodney disappeared over the embankment before John could react. "McKay!" Wide eyed he watched as Rodney rolled down the steep grade and out onto the frozen lake. His momentum carried him across the slick surface before he spun to a stop. After a moment, he rolled over, sat up, and then looked up at John.
John stepped right up to the edge of the path. "You okay?" He called.
"NO!" Rodney answered, his tone clearly irritated. "My ass is freezing!"
John's lips twitched. Carefully stepping off the path, he turned sideways and stomped hard into the snow for traction as he slowly edged his way down to the lake. "Then get off the ice." He looked down at Rodney, watching as his friend struggled to turn around, before he stiffened and froze. John paused, his gaze narrowing. "Rodney?"
"Uhh… problem," Rodney's voice was as tense as his body. "I think the ice is a little… thin. Either that, or its just cracking because… well… it wants to…"
John quickened his pace down the hill. "Don't move!"
"Oh great, thank you for the advice! What exactly do you suggest I do? Besides not moving?"
"Shutting up until I get there would be helpful," John answered as he slipped in the snow before regaining his balance and making his way quickly down the hill. Stopping at the edge of the lake, John looked around, assessing the situation. Rodney's momentum had carried him about thirty feet out onto the ice and he'd managed to turn slightly so he was perpendicular to John's position. John looked down, his gaze scanning the smooth surface.
"Excuse me?" Rodney's voice grabbed John's attention. "Man in trouble here."
John waved at him. "Sit tight."
"Oh wonderful," Rodney snapped. "Brilliant idea. Have any others? Because I'm really not in the mood to sit here until the spring thaw!"
John fought the urge to go to his friend. If the ice was cracking under the weight of one of them, he really didn't want to test whether or not it was up to holding the weight of both of them. Unclipping his P-90, he knelt and set it aside. Arm resting on his bent knee, he locked gazes with Rodney. "Okay. You're going to have to spread your weight out as much as possible. Carefully turn over onto your stomach and work your way towards me."
"Yeah," Rodney looked around, his eyes wide as saucers. He jumped slightly at an ominous loud crack near his position.
Impatient, John tensed. "Sooner is better than later, McKay."
"Right," Rodney answered before he slowly turned over on his stomach and started edging towards John.
"That's it," John encouraged, leaning slightly forward. "Nice and easy."
"You know," Rodney started, falling into his habit of talking when he was nervous, "this isn't so bad. I think I'm going to be o…" his voice trailed off as the snap of ice echoed around them. "Shep…" Cracking sounds cut off his words as the ice under Rodney gave way and he disappeared in a splash of water.
"McKay!" John's gaze searched for his friend, even as his hands slid across the ice. He focused his gaze on Rodney's bobbing head that suddenly broke the surface of the water.
"John!" Rodney's voice shook in panic and in cold.
"Hang on!" John urged as he lowered himself flat onto the ice and pushed and pulled himself towards Rodney as fast as he could.
John stared at Rodney's hands, weakly scrabbling on the smooth ice, trying to gain purchase, only to slide backwards helplessly.
John redoubled his efforts, knowing the ice cold water could sap his strength in only a few minutes. Combine that with water logged winter clothes dragging him down…. "Almost there!" John called. "Rodney, you hear me? Just hold on!" He pushed himself through a thin layer of water that had splashed up on the ice and reached out, his hand not quite reaching Rodney's flailing one. "Rodney, I'm here. Take my hand." He scooted a little closer and froze as he felt the ice under him shudder and a large crack appeared near the jagged edge, just to John's right and in that moment, he knew he couldn't move any closer. Rodney would have to meet him half way, if John was going to be able to do anything to help him.
"C…cold…" Rodney's stuttering voice was weak.
"McKay," John caught Rodney's gaze and held onto it with an intense one of his own. He lowered his voice to a calm and reassuring tone. "Kick yourself up and grab my hand." He reached out his fingers barely touching Rodney's but couldn't get a solid hold. "C'mon, Rodney. Do it, now."
Rodney's eyes were already glassy as the cold sapped his strength. He sunk a little deeper and water lapped over his chin and against his bottom lip before he weakly surged upwards. "J…John…" His fingers brushed against John's.
"Again," John raised his voice slightly in urgency. "Rodney, kick then grab my hand, now!"
"McKay!" John caught two of Rodney's fingers and he held on tight but his grip through thick gloves was weak at best. "C'mon!"
Water seeped into Rodney's mouth and he choked suddenly, startling himself into a clear mindset, at least for a moment, and John took full advantage of the one, last chance he had.
"McKay! God damn it, kick yourself up and take my hand, right now!" He shouted, never letting go of his tenuous grip.
Rodney's eyes widened a half second before his body surged upwards and his hand latched onto John's wrist.
John returned the grip, held tight, and pulled for all he was worth. He reached up with his other hand and dug his fingers into Rodney's upper arm, still pulling with all he had. "C'mon, buddy," he urged. He twisted his body, using his own weight and torque to pull Rodney up onto the ice but he couldn't get any grip against the smooth surface and instead, felt himself being pulled towards the hole. "Rodney, you gotta help me. I can't get you out on my own. Fight, McKay, give me a hand here."
Rodney's nod was jerky but he kicked as best he could while John threw his weight backwards, pulled and prayed the ice would hold. Every muscle in his body screamed at him but he didn't give up until Rodney's body slid up out of the hole. His legs worked weakly as he tried to move on his own, and John synched his own movements with his friends as they slowly worked back towards shore. When John reached the edge, he dug one hand into the snow and pulled Rodney the last few feet onto solid ground.
For a moment, he sat there, Rodney's head on his heaving chest, before he nudged his friend. "McKay, stay with me here. No sleeping."
"Unnn…" Rodney's voice was weak.
"McKay!" John poked him a little harder before struggling to sit up straighter. "C'mon! I didn't just drag your lazy ass out of the water only to have you quit on me now. Wake the hell up!"
"St-stop y-yelling at… me," Rodney lifted his head.
John exhaled quietly in relief before he reached up, quickly shedding his TAC vest and then unzipping his parka. "Sit up," he said, helping Rodney to sit up straighter. He removed Rodney's TAC vest, soaked parka and shirt before he pulled his parka off and wrapped it around Rodney, hastily shoving his arms into the sleeves and zipping it up to his chin. John unwound the blue scarf from his neck and wound it around Rodney's covering his nose and mouth. Left in just a thin turtleneck, he exhaled sharply against the cold as he pulled off his gloves and shoved them onto Rodney's hands.
"Sc-scarf… tell me… where y-you got it-t…"
One side of John's mouth turned up in a quick smile. "Only if you stay awake and work with me." He quickly put his TAC vest back on, grabbed his P-90 and clipped it to the vest. He shifted himself into a crouch. "Upsy daisy. Gotta get you back to Atlantis."
John shook his head as he pulled Rodney to his feet and ducked under his arm. "Gate's closer." Digging the toe of his boot deep into the snow, he started up the embankment, back towards the trail. For his part, Rodney seemed to really try to walk on his own, but in the end, John mostly dragged him up the hill so by the time they reached the path again, he definitely wasn't cold anymore. Turning back towards the gate, he shifted Rodney's arm up further on his shoulder. He held tight as Rodney's knees buckled, before he caught himself. "One foot in front of the other. You can do this, McKay."
"Enough of-f th-the mot-ivat-ional t-talks," Rodney snapped weakly, "j-just st-start walking."
John smiled slightly and set a slow but consistent pace as Rodney stumbled along next to him. "Dr. Lindsay," John said.
"Wh-what?" Rodney lifted his head, his gaze slightly clearer.
"The scarf," John explained, never looking down at him. "Dr. Lindsay in Botany gave it to me."
"Sh-should've… known," Rodney answered, "D-Don Juan…"
John rolled his eyes and arched a brow at Rodney. "Don't think I'm going to get dragged away to hell for accepting a gift." He took a deep breath of relief as the gate came into view. "We're here."
"Th-thank god…" Rodney answered. "D-don't think I'll ever b-be w-warm again."
John stopped in front of the DHD and reached to dial, only to be stopped by Rodney's voice.
John looked at Rodney. "What?"
Rodney started at him for a moment before he finally spoke. "Th-thanks." His smile was weak, but genuine.
John smiled back. "Place wouldn't be the same without ya."
"Y-you'd never… survive," Rodney quipped weakly.
Holding his smile, John quickly dialed Atlantis. Sending his IDC and ordering a medical team to the gate room, John helped Rodney the last few feet home.
"You've got to be kidding me?" From his infirmary bed, Rodney glared at John who stood nearby.
John arched his brows. "What?" He abruptly turned his head away and sneezed violently. Looking back at Rodney he sniffled once.
Rodney just glowered at him. "I'm the one that took the ice water bath, and you're the one with a cold?"
John pushed down mild irritation and swallowed against his scratchy throat. "You want it too? Because I'll gladly sneeze on you and share the misery."
"Get away from me with your germs! I'm lucky I don't have pneumonia from that grand little adventure! This is all your fault you know."
John stiffened. "My fault?" he answered indignantly. "How is your clumsiness my fault?"
"If you would've just answered my question on who gave you the scarf, in the first place, I wouldn't have been distracted and fallen." Rodney relaxed back into his pillow, his expression smug.
John just stared back at him. He could think of a dozen arguments to rebuff Rodney's accusation, but he just let it go. For a moment, the memory of Rodney's glassy look as he sank deeper into the water, flashed across John's mind and the sobering thought of almost losing his best friend took all the fight out of him. He beat back the memory, replacing it with the image of his very healthy and recovering friend staring back at him from his bed. A smile turned up John's mouth and he just shook his head. "Get some sleep, Rodney." He turned and headed towards the exit.
"Sure, leave now because you know I'm right!"
Rodney's voice followed John out the door and John decided that it was the best thing he'd heard in a long time.
AN: Quick little ditty for Pocus' prompt of "Must include snow, a blue scarf, sliding on a lake and the sniffles."