A/N: Tissue alert! (Sorry, Dani.) The dialogue from The Shrine came from GateWorld.

Thanks go out to the one responsible for giving me the idea for this story. I won't say who you are so a certain someone won't be upset with you.



What If - The Shrine of Talus

Chapter 1

Rodney sat on the floor moaning in pain watched over by Teyla and Ronon as John, Jennifer and Jeannie quietly conferred on how to help the physicist.

"…If we don't try, he's dead." Jennifer hadn't felt this helpless since she'd had to stand by and watch her mother slowly dying from ovarian cancer. She'd been thirteen and couldn't help her mother but had to find a way to help Rodney. Atlantis needed him. She needed him. When did Rodney become so important to me?

"Well, what do you need?" John asked urgently.

"To operate? I already told you."

"No. Bare minimum, what do you need?" The military man almost looked desperate. Jennifer had never seen him like this and it made her more nervous than she already was.

"More than I have in my medical kit. I mean, I'd need a scanner to find out the location of the parasite. I'd need the proper tools to cut his skull open…" she trailed off at seeing the light come on in John's eyes.

"All right. I've got an idea." He turned to Jeannie. "Keep him as far away from this thing as he can stand. We'll be back in twenty minutes."

John led Jennifer out of the shrine as Jeannie went to the others to help Rodney to his feet.

"Where're they going?" Rodney asked, pain making his voice rough, one hand still pressed to the side of his head over his right eye.

"Don't worry, Mer. They'll be back soon."

"Good, 'cause I'm ready to go home now." He groaned as his sister and friends hovered over him as if he were a newborn. It warmed his heart to know they cared so much that they'd risked their lives for him.

Jeannie smiled sadly at him, giving his hand a squeeze. "We'll be back in Atlantis before you know it." She turned to look out the opening carved in the stone of the shrine watching the water in the cove at the bottom of the waterfall, looking back over her shoulder at him.

"I mean Earth. After this, I'm taking a long vacation on a beach with a fiber-optic hook-up."

Jeannie came to sit next to him on the boulder as far from the radiation source as possible. It was right at the edge of where he'd begun to feel the pain when Jennifer tested her theory about the parasite. It had hurt worse than anything he'd ever experienced before but he understood that it was the only way to get the information she needed quickly with the limited resources available.

He passed his hand over his forehead wiping away sweat. Now that he thought about it, he felt warm all over and a somewhat familiar tightness in his chest. Fear, he thought as he rubbed a hand up and down his sternum. Without warning, his stomach clenched and he pushed off the rock just barely managing to get out of sight before he lost what little was in his stomach.

Ronon followed him, gripping his arm as a wave of dizziness almost caused him to pitch head first into the wall. "Come sit down."

For once Rodney didn't argue. He let the Satedan lead him back to his sister's side but before he could sit down, a moan was forced out of his mouth and his legs gave out. "Can't (gasp) breathe…" Black spots obscured his vision. "Tell Jennifer…" An overwhelming sense of terror washed over him just as his consciousness faded out. He wasn't sure, but thought he heard Jeannie calling his name then…nothing.

"Mer!" Jeannie was at her brother's side instantly as was Teyla helping Ronon ease Rodney to the floor and roll him onto his back. "Oh, God! He's not breathing. Mer? Meredith!" She slapped him on the cheek but his head just lolled to the side, his eyes open a small slit.

Teyla touched two fingers under his right ear. "He has no pulse."

"We need Jennifer now! I'll start CPR." Jeannie ordered. Ronon was one step ahead of her.

"Ronon to Keller. McKay's collapsed." Ronon didn't bother with further conversation as he crouched near Rodney's feet watching Jeannie and Teyla doing chest compressions and breathing for the physicist.

They hadn't been at it long but Jeannie was already beginning to tire. She would've asked Ronon to take over but refused to stop. He was her brother and she loved him. She had to do this.

A shout came from outside and John and Jennifer returned a few moments later. The others quickly got out of the medical doctor's way so she could work. Shrugging off the medical kit, she opened it and pulled out a device the size of a football with pads attached by wires. Before using the defibrillator, she performed the same rituals they'd seen medical professionals do hundreds of times before with speed and precision. No unnecessary movements or wasted motions. Her hands-on assessment done, she handed John a pair of scissors. "Open his shirt."

He knelt down across from her, grabbed the upper edge of Rodney's shirt and slit it all the way to the bottom and parted the edges. She placed one of the pads on his chest and the other on his left side under his arm. Behind her, she could hear Jeannie's strained voice whispering, "Come on, Mer. You can do it."

"Clear!" There was a thunk and Rodney's body twitched. The display jumped, there were a few blips then the flat line appeared again. She did it several more times but no more blips appeared on the screen. Just the straight, flat line.

When she powered up for another try, John reached out to stop her with a hand on her arm. "It's no use, Doc. He's gone."

"No! There has to be something more we can do." She pulled the medical kit to her, dumped the contents on the floor and began rummaging through the syringes, vials, gauze, alcohol pads, suture kits and other items. But there was nothing there that could help save the life of Doctor Rodney McKay. "Anything. Th-there has to be s-s-something…"

Now Jennifer was crying, too. John brought her to her feet, her strong surgeon's hands digging furrows in his forearms that he barely felt. Teyla came to Jennifer's side, a slender arm going around her shoulders to lead her away from the still form of their friend. He glanced over at Jeannie who had her head on Ronon's chest, the big man's arms across her back holding her close while her body shuddered.

Watching his friends give and receive comfort without a second thought made him wish he was capable of doing the same. Instead, he went to the shrine's opening and gestured several of the soldiers over, had a quick whispered conversation with them and stood back so they could enter. More gently than anyone would have guessed, the Marines lifted Rodney and, without a word, carried him through the forest to the Jumper.