Dancing Bears

Part One

Miosini Poison

"What do you think it was used for?"

Rodney huffed, purposefully ignoring Radek as the small Czech peered over his shoulder at the orb-like device sitting before them on the table.

It was small, nondescript. A pitiful thing that gave no hint of its use and looked of no importance. Except that Rodney was not so convinced, he'd seen many of the Ancient's devices, their technology was not always what one would call practical, or even safe. And they liked to disguise important pieces of technology as trivial things. Just last week, he'd picked up a thin pen-like device, only to have it shoot out some kind of electrical tranquilizer beam right into the face of Kavanagh. It had been a good day, especially since the tall, arrogant man hadn't been able to keep the drool running down his nerve numbed face long enough to avoid the delighted looks from Rodney.

"I do not think it is anything, Rodney. You should get back to power consumption." Radek said wearily, although he'd enjoyed the Kavanagh escapade just as much as Rodney, he was getting tired of the unexpected surprises.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Just like you, Radek, with your simple minded-ness, to look over what could be the most important discovery since Atlantis itself."

Radek looked skeptical.

"I doubt that." He mumbled, and wandered back over to his own workstation, where Miko was cautiously prodding a depleted ZPM.

"Hmph."

Hours passed, it was evening now, and Rodney realized he must have skipped lunch. But the possibility of discovering something of importance kept him from going and retrieving something as mundane as food. Of course, any other time and food would have been more important than a fully charged ZPM.

He still hadn't made any progress with the device, it remained inactive and still, hooked up to a mass of wires that trailed back to his laptop. He stared at it. He was smarter than this, he should have had it figured out by now.

A few minutes later Radek asked him to come to the mess, but Rodney declined, waving his hand disparagingly, and without looking up, told him he had more important things to do.

The lab fell silent.

It was kind of nice, the quiet. It gave him breathing room, time to think without interruptions. He smoothed a hand down his face, tired but not to the point of actually going to his quarters to sleep. That was boring, he felt like using his brain, not letting it sleep.

"I'll stay for just a few more hours." He muttered to himself, but without really hearing it. He liked talking to himself, because then no one would disagree with him. He started up his second laptop and rolled the orb device around in his palm, it was heavier than it looked, and fit snugly in his hand.

~OO~

He was dreaming of nice things, chocolate fountains and endless seas of pudding and cupcakes and flying ZPMs. He sighed contentedly, wondering why life was so pleasant.

And then he woke, reality falling like a curtain to smother the ZPMs and chocolate and he was left blinking hazily at the darkened lab with bleary eyes. He lifted his head and wiped his mouth, he'd drooled in his sleep. He looked around to make sure no one had been watching.

Everything was as it had been, except that his laptops had gone to sleep and the sound of a drip drip dripping alerted him that he'd tipped over yesterday's coffee and there was a large puddle of cool brown by his feet. He pushed his chair away from the mess, wheels skittering on the smooth floor, and blinked the sleep from his eyes.

It was still quiet, Rodney looked at his watch and saw he'd only slept for an hour, it was four in the morning. That was okay, he still had time to shower and eat before the next mission, and before Sheppard came with his unnaturally cheery morning self to tell him to hurry up.

He yawned.

He heaved himself out of his chair and sidestepped the coffee puddle, knowing someone else would clean it up before he got back from the mission. Likely they'd bring him a new cup as well, possibly. Maybe. Doubtful.

Atlantis was eerie in the morning, sometimes you would find people up and about, jogging or sharing a coffee or sneaking from one room to the next, half dressed and fearful of being spotted. Rodney always found it amusing to catch them at it, it meant they'd steer clear of him for several weeks, sometimes he'd find an extra cup of coffee at his desk of hastily scrawled note sitting on his laptop.

Ah, yes, the people of Atlantis were a finely tuned machine. And one only had to figure out how the pieces fit together to work it in their own direction.

He continued down the hallways at a lazy pace, not being able to muster much else. He took the teleporter to the stop closest to his quarters and stepped out, smirking when he caught the rather guilty looking Lisa Caine from biology slinking out of Lorne's quarters with her hair a mess and a gleam in her eyes. But he moved on, not bothering to detain her with threats and blackmail so early in the morning. Which was probably a first for him, but he didn't care.

The door hissed as he waved a hand over the panel, in the back of his mind he giggled, reminded yet again of Star Trek. It was still in his room, the air dusty and stale, but neat and void of the usual clothes strewn across the floor and bed. Speaking of bed….but no, he had to get ready. There was no time for sleeping.

He sighed wistfully, but no matter how much he wished he could snuggled down in bed and pull the blankets over his head, he had to forgo it in favor of cleanliness and food. Which was easier said than done, he was barely managing to stay awake beneath the scalding hot, and strangely tiring, jet in the shower. The water reddening his skin and wrinkling his fingers.

But the thought of food spurred him on, with a growling stomach he hurriedly dried himself off and stepped out, donning a clean set of clothes that he'd have to wear off-world so he wouldn't have to come back after breakfast. With that in mind, he stuffed a few power bars from his supply, his tablet and scanner into his pockets and under his arm and off he went, hair still wet and boot laces tied messily.

His radio chirped in his ear.

"Dr McKay, this is Zelenka."

With barely concealed irritation, Rodney tapped the earpiece.

"Yes, Radek? I'm on my way to the mess, so this had better be important." He snarked.

"Yes, yes. I was only thinking where the device you were working on last night has gotten to. I was going to put it back in storage." Radek replied easily, used to his boss's attitude, especially in the morning.

Rodney stopped in the middle of the hallway, scowling. "And why would you need to know where it is? I haven't finished with it, who said you could put it away? You know, its acts like this that screw up experiments, It's a wonder you haven't ruined that ZPM already."

"It is depleted ZPM, Rodney." Radek said on a sigh that travelled loudly through the radio, "And I was only trying to help."

"Yes, well, your help is not welcome." Rodney thought for a moment. "And besides, I left it on my desk so I could work on it when I got back from the mission, so if I come back and you've already packed it up and sent it off to storage, I-"

"It is not on desk."

There was a pause.

"Hmm."

"Rodney?"

"Well, I guess I must have put it away myself, away from prying eyes and sneaky hands." He said, and tapped his earpiece before Radek could reply.

His stomach grumbled impatiently. He looked down at it.

"Yes, yes, I know, we'll go get something to eat now." He said to it, as if speaking to a child.

"Talking to you're stomach now, McKay?" Lorne's voice made him jump, and he turned to glare at the taller man.

"What? What's with you military people always sneaking up on the scientists, hmm?" He growled, but Lorne only smiled good-naturedly.

"It's fun to watch the rabbits jump, McKay, you know that." They walked down the hallway together.

"Yes, I suppose, its always good to keep them on their toes, never know when disaster might strike." Rodney agreed aloud, hiking the tablet higher into his arms.

"That's the spirit!"

It sometimes irked Rodney how much alike Lorne and Sheppard's sense of humor was, although when it came to Lorne, Rodney was never quiet sure if the man was actually joking or being serious.

The mess hall was close to being full when they arrived, and Lorne quickly made his way to the food spread out on the table, grabbed a tray, filled it, and went to join Caine, who was waving violently for him to sit by her. Rodney went a little slower, juggling his tray as well as the tablet and scanner, making sure there was no citrus in any of the fruit pancakes or cereal. As he always did. The chef gave him a dirty look when he commented on the status of the pancakes, claiming they were 'dryer than a dogs ass in summer.' And he quickly hurried to find a table. It was harder than he had anticipated, he couldn't sit with many of the groups around the tables, and received multiple glares when it even looked like he was about approach certain people. It didn't bother him, because Rodney believed that, if somebody didn't like you, they didn't deserve to be liked in return.

It was easier to believe that than the truth.

At last he caught sight of a free table, unfortunately it was outside, and it was raining. But it was better than nothing.

He almost lost hold on both tray and tablet when the open door let in the harsh wind, icy against skin and eyes. He grunted in annoyance but went out. The door closed behind him. He sat with his back to the mess hall, not wishing to look upon the people inside, warm and cozy and out of the wind and rain. Well, he wasn't exactly in the rain, but the wind pulled heavy droplets to splat on his tired face and food.

He ate his porridge in glum silence.

~OO~

"Where have you been all morning, McKay?" Sheppard asked at six o'clock, standing before the Stargate, dressed in BDU's and a vest, P-90 held easily in his hands. Ronon and Teyla were talking quietly by his side.

Rodney hurried up to them, disgruntled at the cheerful smile on Sheppard's face and the way Teyla gave him that sympathetic smile when she saw him.

"How are you, Rodney?" She asked quietly, eyes tracking the dark smudges beneath his eyes and his frazzled hair.

"I'm fine." Rodney snapped, not liking the insinuation that he was somehow looking worse than he usually did. "Can we just go?"

"We've been waiting for you, McKay, so don't get all snippy with Teyla." Sheppard reprimanded, but without any real heat, Teyla hid a smile behind her hand. Ronon's expression didn't change.

Carter wandered over to them, a pleasant smile adorning her face. And Rodney had to admit that she looked lovely this morning, her blonde hair pulled up into a loose bun so that wisps settled around her face. He was sure he could stare at her all day, but he had more important things to do.

"Good morning, guys." She said, and they chorused a 'morning' back.

"Okay, okay, enough with the pleasantries lets just go. The sooner we go the sooner I can get back to work."

Carter gave him a look. "This is your work, McKay. Being a member of SGA: 1 is one of your job titles."

"Yes, but I'm a physicist as well. And you can't expect me to give one more time than the other." Rodney said haughtily. Man, he was still hungry. And tired.

"Alright, you guys have a go. And I want to talk to you after you come back, McKay. Not tomorrow. Not later in the week, today." Carter added sternly, pinning Rodney with a narrowed gaze.

"Yes, yes, whatever, lets just go." And he turned toward the 'gate.

The others nodded to Carter and turned as well, waiting silently while the address was dialed and the 'gate whooshed to life.

"And no starting any fights, this is a simple trade mission, you talk, you agree, and you come back. Nothing else." Carter yelled at them a moment before they stepped through. Sheppard chuckled but Rodney grunted, since when did things work out like that?

~OO~

Things were going surprisingly well, despite Rodney's earlier worries, as soon as they'd stepped through the 'gate they'd been welcomed by the Ashire people with open arms and excitement. Turned out they didn't get a lot of visitors, and welcomed the distraction from their day to day life.

They weren't an advanced race, they lived in wooden and mud brick houses and warmed themselves over sweet smelling fires. But they could easily grasp the concept of higher beings and technology, seeming eager at the possibility of others living throughout the galaxy. Although Rodney was not quiet sure they even understood what the hell a galaxy was.

They agreed to the trade, and all that was left to do was sort out what they would trade, and what would be given in return. Rodney and Ronon decided to leave that to Teyla, with Sheppard to watch over her, and asked some of the Ashire people to show them some ruins they'd seen on the way to the village. To Rodney's disgruntlement, several children volunteered immediately.

They were brick, the ruins, but not mud or wood or stick, and they jutted out from the muddy landscape like pillars of glacial ice. Unnatural and exciting. Rodney asked if they knew what had been here before.

"The old ones." A young boy replied, watching Rodney with fascination, as if he were some strange creature with three eyes and tentacles. Rodney scowled at him.

"What? And who were the old ones?" He asked. Moving closer to examine some markings on the wall. They looked like claw marks, huge, bloody, claw marks. He cringed and forced himself to look away, he didn't like to think what horrible creatures roamed this land. Maybe they had some sort of lion, or tiger, or bear!

Ronon appeared over his shoulder, gazing at the claw marks solemnly.

"What kind of creature made these?" He asked, and the children around them flinched, they hadn't heard Ronon speak yet, and his deep, gravelly voice had them staring at him now, instead of Rodney. Who sighed in relief.

"That was the Miosini. They're big, like, hut big. And they have these big claws that poison you with Kadisin if they hurt you." The young boy mimed a growl and curled his hands by his face into claws, the girl beside him giggled.

Rodney eyed them with suspicion, "You guys seem awfully cheerful about this, I mean, you're talking about a monster that can poison you with its claws."

"Well, they won't hurt you if you wear the Garalin charm." Small heads bobbed in agreement.

"What?"

"The Garalin Charm."

"Yes, yes, I heard you the first time, but what is it and what does it do?" Rodney huffed, wondering why these kids were so slow. A simple upbringing, he guessed.

"It's a charm. And it keeps the Miosini away."

"And it comes from the trees on the river, but sometimes in the cold season we have to cross the big waters to get some. It takes a long time for some people to get back, and they say it's running out."

"But Mama promised the Miosini won't get us when the Garalin does run out, because the ruins protect us."

"No," the boy nudged the girl non-too gently in the side, frowning at her. "Not the ruins, she said the Temple will keep up safe, if we pray."

The girl pouted. "I don't like the temple."

Rodney waved their words away, feeling like the conversation was heading in the wrong direction. "Okay! Enough! Where is this Garalin, and where can I get some?"

Ronon raised an eyebrow.

"What?" Rodney hissed defensively. "I don't want to get attacked by this Mosoni thing."

"Miosini."

"Whatever."

"Don't worry McKay, I'll protect you." Ronon's smile was feral, but Rodney found it somewhat comforting. For some reason.

The kids looked unimpressed, however, and pointed out in speculative tones, "You won't be able to fight off a Miosini, they're real fast and not even arrows slow them down, and Pa is good with his arrows."

"Right, kid." Ronon grunted, but did not look put off in the least.

Things were looking as if they'd be heading in the wrong direction again, and Rodney clapped is hands together, drawing everyone's attention back to himself. But he didn't want to be stuck out in the open with only Ronon's blaster to protect all of them when the monsters came out to play.

"Ah, alright, people, lets head back to the village and see how the trade meeting is going." He ordered and the kids bounded off happily back toward the huts in the distance, easily skipping over muddy puddles and holes and the slippery grass. Rodney, however, had a little more trouble, and ended up grabbing a hold of the back of Ronon's shirt to keep himself upright. His exhaustion made it even harder to concentrate on every footstep and dip below.

"This is disgusting! Why did we even bother? I mean, yes, we wanted to see the ruins, but this mud! It's like quick sand."

Ronon remained silent, but there was a quirk to his lips that could have been taken as a smile, if Rodney had bothered to look up and see it. But he was too intent on his own footing to pay any attention to anyone, or anything, else.

"Ugh, my boots are going to be completely ruined now! And they were my good pair, too, where am I going to get another like this? I'm going to have to borrow some from somebody else, and I hate sharing shoes, who knows what germs are growing in them. Ugh." Rodney complained loudly.

Ronon kept up his unspoken agreement, keeping only half an ear on the conversation while he led the chubby scientist over the plains. It was strangely relaxing, listening. Because, despite Rodney's incessant chatter, his whining and arrogance, he was a man to be taken on his word. Ronon never had to worry about hidden meanings or veiled insults with Rodney, what you saw was what you got. And it had taken him a long time to realize that, but once he had, being around the other man had begun to get easier. More peaceful.

"I hope we get back to Atlantis in time, too, because I heard they're serving pudding for dessert, and I'm not missing out on that. And seriously? Why did they have to schedule pudding on a day we go off-world? So unfair." Rodney huffed.

Ronon had to agree, he'd grown to like earth food. Especially pudding.

"But I bet, even if we do get back in time for dessert, Carson will make us wait a few hours in the infirmary, checking us for stupid, impossible diseases and we'll miss out!"

By now they were at the village, the children waiting for them at the boundary, telling them to hurry up.

"It's time to eat!" They cried, some sulking and others eagerly bouncing on the balls of their feet. Rodney huffed in annoyance but followed them when they led Ronon and he through the maze of huts and trees, old women spinning scratchy looking wool into strange looking looms and odd little dog-like creatures yipping annoyingly.

When they entered the main hall, which had been set up with long tables and a fire pit burning sweetly in the center, Sheppard and Teyla rose to beckon them over. They sat beside the leader of the Ashire people, a tall, spindly man with a wide smile and a pleasant face. He also waved Rodney and Ronon over, as if they'd been good friends for years. Rodney didn't like that, he didn't trust people who assumed to be friends within hours of meeting one and other.

"McKay, Ronon." Sheppard nodded toward them, before raising his brow at their appearance. "Have a little wander in the mud while you were gone?"

Rodney scowled. His boots squelched with every step.

"Oh, ha ha, Colonel, that's so very witty of you. And no, we did not wander, we were exploring. There just happened to be a hell of a lot of mud between us and the ruins." Rodney spat, but he sat beside Sheppard with a sigh of relief, glad to finally be out of the chilling wind and even colder mud. It was toasty by the fire.

"Are you okay, Rodney?" Teyla leaned around Sheppard, peering at Rodney with gentle eyes, Rodney suspected she was mocking him.

"Yes! Fine, I'm fine, I just have a lot of mud in places mud aught not to be."

Sheppard wrinkled his nose up, "Ew, McKay, too much information."

"Hmph. Well, at least you-" Rodney began, but the Ashire leader spoke over him, addressing the now full hall in a ringing voice.

"My people, we are honored today to host guests from beyond our village, even far beyond the Janshire village, over the vast waters. They come to trade, and we are most happy too, now, we shall eat!" A cheer rose up among the people before the sound of knives and forks scraping against bowls filled the room. The team did not join in the festivities immediately, they knew better than to assume all food was good food, even when offered in friendship.

Sheppard traded glances with Rodney, both wondering silently whether this mission would end in anaphylactic shock. But then Ronon and Teyla were gingerly tucking into the bowl of stew, made from some unnamable meat that looked suspiciously like beef. Sheppard shrugged and did the same.

Rodney sighed, lifted the bowl and sniffed it warily. Tasting it seemed the only way to determine whether it was safe and, looking at the others, he judged that it didn't taste too bad. He could hear Ronon eating noisily beside him and took some comfort from that.

"So," Sheppard said through a mouthful, "What did you find at these ruins?"

Rodney recoiled. "Ugh, please, Colonel. I don't need to see what you're eating while you're eating it. And I didn't find anything in the ruins, but I suspect they're of Ancient origin, judging by the small amount of structure I was able to see and the materials used to build it. I got no powers readings, but…"

"But?" Sheppard asked, chewing a little slower.

"Nothin'." Rodney sighed. "Just some big ass claw marks from a big ass creature that poisons you if it attacks you."

Sheppard paused, looking apprehensively from the Ashire leader to the people eating and chatting casually around them.

"Are we in any immediate danger?" He asked.

Rodney rolled his eyes, if there'd been any immediate danger, wouldn't he have said something sooner?

"No, not as far as I can tell, and Ronon said he'd handle anything that came near me, so… you know." The fire was so warm, he put it bowl down and settled back in his seat, feeling like he could fall asleep right there and then.

He didn't see Sheppard's amused grin at the mention of Ronon protecting him, nor the fire turning suddenly from yellow to pink. It was the dark, anxious mutterings through the hall that drew him out of his doze, and he looked to Sheppard for a hint. But the Colonel was too busy speaking with Teyla and the Ashire leader. He looked at Ronon.

"What's going on?"

The tall man shrugged, looking vaguely disgruntled at being disturbed from his meal. Rodney leaned into his arm a little, and peered at the rest of his team. Sheppard and Teyla were frowning at the Ashire leader, clearly confused about something, but not angry. Rodney sighed, groaning like an old man when he stood and felt his knees complain.

He went to stand in front of Sheppard, so that he could hear all three of them speaking, he could feel Ronon at his back, breathing on his like the mammoth he was. The Ashire leader looked flustered.

"It has always been this way, we are alerted by the Gods of flame when the Miosini are on the hunt, and we knew to stay indoors until the fire returns to its yellow color or sinks into embers."

"But how does it possibly work?" Sheppard asked, and judging by the Ashire leader's expression, it was not the first time he'd asked.

"The Gods of flame will it, and so it is. They protect us."

"Hmph."

They looked up at Rodney. They looked at him with an expression, as if to say 'have you got a reasonable explanation for this?'. Which of course, Rodney didn't. He might have if he weren't so tired, but as it was….

"So, we gotta stay inside? For how long?" Sheppard queried, casting a quick glance to his watch. And Rodney wandered whether Sheppard knew about the pudding. Just the thought of it made him feel a little more awake.

"Until the fire turns back to yellow." The Ashire leader said patiently, and swept his arms out to encompass the hall, where everyone was settling down for the long haul, pulling blankets over shoulders and sleepy children onto laps.

"And how long do you think that will take? We are expected back home very shortly." Teyla said, trying to keep the strain from her voice. She was usually very good at it, but it seemed a whole day of bartering and conversing with the Ashire people had tried her patience.

The Ashire leader just shrugged. And then he stood, motioned for their team to get comfortable, and walked over to his wife. Rodney watched with narrowed eyes as they settled down before the fire. He was beginning to think this man was a rather incompetent leader.

"So," he said, settling back into his seat, squashed between Ronon and Sheppard. "What do we do now? I mean, it's pudding night!"

"Is that all you think about, McKay? Food?"

"No! I just…I just want to go home, okay?" That wasn't strictly correct, he wanted to go home, yes, but more than anything he wanted to sleep. He wanted to sleep in his own bed with no weird colored flames and Miosini creatures out on the hunt.

Sheppard sighed and ran a hand through his hair. And then he nodded reluctantly, they hadn't intended to stay for so long, the sky outside was now dark, signifying they'd stayed the whole day, instead of a few hours. Carter would have their guts for garters when they got home.

"I hope we are able to leave before the morning, I do not wish to stay here for the night." Teyla said quietly and Rodney frowned at her, usually she was the one trying to calm everyone down, and keep the peace. Not that he didn't agree with her.

"Yeah, can't we just, like, creep to the 'gate or something?" Rodney suggested hopefully. Not really considering the idea of skulking through the cold darkness, surrounded by huge, poisonous creatures before he voiced it.

"Yeah, and you had such a good time trekking through that mud on the way here, I'm sure you'll be fine when the monsters come out to play, McKay." Sheppard said sarcastically. And he sighed again. "It's okay guys, we'll just…stay here until the fires goes back to normal."

"And what about Carter, hmm? She said not to get into any trouble, what's she gonna do if we don't come back on the scheduled time?" Rodney asked, trying to muster some anger or annoyance, but only managing a weary sort of tense manner.

"It's alright, she'll call in soon and we can explain the situation. It'll be fine, McKay." He added, seeing the doubtful look on McKay's face. "So just make yourselves comfortable, and try to get some sleep, I'll keep watch and wake you when we've got the all clear."

No one moved for a moment, and then Rodney sighed, and the others, with the blankets the Ashire leader quietly handed to them, pushed the chairs further away and settled onto the soft dirt floor. He grabbed on of the blankets and balled it up into a pillow, and lay down between Sheppard and Ronon. Teyla wrapped hers around her shoulders and curled up closer to the fire.

They were close enough that they could watch each others backs, but not so much that it looked like they had any reason to fear those around them. None of the others were really going to try and get some sleep, but Sheppard had taken one look at Rodney and knew the scientist hadn't got a full eight hour sleep, hell, he even doubted he'd gotten two hours.

But Rodney took him at his word and closed his eyes, feeling his mind quickly begin to drift into that peaceful state between consciousness and sleep. In the back of his mind her heard the others talking quietly, their voices framed by the soft crackle and hiss of the fire. And then all her could hear, and see, was a pleasant, chocolate coated cupcake wandering across the fields in his dreams.

He did not, however, manage to sleep for very long. Perhaps an hour or two passed before his body woke him up. The hall was quiet but for the occasional shift of someone beneath their blanket or a cough. No one spoke, nothing disturbed the air around them, and the fire still burned pink.

Rodney was warm, more so than he would have thought he could be in this cold, primitive planet. He shifted slightly, and felt the softness of something beside him. He sighed a little, almost about to fall asleep again, before his body reminded him why he'd woken.

A hand descended on his shoulder and squeezed slightly, running up and down in comforting manner. At first he thought it was Teyla, and was about to move away a little, before realizing that it had been Sheppard sitting next to him when he'd fallen asleep. He relaxed a bit, feeling more at ease around their team leader than the other two, perhaps it was because Sheppard was his best friend, or maybe because he had trouble trusting people and things had just turned out like that.

Sheppard was still rubbing his arm, and Rodney began to suspect that the Colonel didn't realize he was, in fact, awake. He lay there for a few more minutes, soaking up the physical contact before he had to move. And when he did, he felt a little groan slip from his tired lips, and sat up. He was still so tired, and now his back was aching. No thanks to this god-awful dirt floor and scratchy non-supportive blanket for a pillow deal.

"McKay, you awake?" Sheppard asked quietly, he was sitting cross-legged, back slouched and chin resting on a clenched fist. Mortified, Rodney realized that he'd been curled around the Colonel like a dog seeking warmth in the winter. He coughed uncomfortably.

"Yeah, why else would I be sitting up?" He asked, trying to sound irritated.

He saw Sheppard's mouth twitch. "You sat up a few times before, you said something about 'drowning' and 'chocolate'."

"Hmph. Well, I was having such a nice dream."

"You actually dream about chocolate? Jeez McKay, you really are food oriented." Sheppard chuckled quietly.

"Yeah, what the hell do you dream about?" Rodney asked in exasperation, struggling to pull on one of his mud clogged boots that must of fallen off when he was asleep. He didn't bother even trying to re-tie the laces.

"Ugh, you know, the usual stuff." Sheppard hedged, before asking, "Why are you awake, I was sure you'd sleep till morning if I let you."

"Need to pee."

"But you can't go outside." Sheppard said with some amusement.

"Well, I'm not peeing in here." Rodney huffed, struggling to stand.

"Why not?" Sheppard said, but stood, and helped Rodney to do so also.

"Ha ha. No, I'm just gonna pop outside and relieve myself, and then be back in as soon as I can, 'kay? No problems. See you soon." And he began making his way around the silent, sleeping forms of the Ashire people, standing on the edges of blankets and unsuspecting fingers. Although no one complained.

"Wait! Hang on, I'll come with you. I don't want you eaten by this beast while I'm not looking." Sheppard followed close behind him, much lighter on his feet than Rodney.

Rodney huffed a laugh. "Thank you for that, but these Miosini don't eat people, they stab them with poisonous claws." He paused. "At least, I don't think they eat people."

"Hmm, well, I have a gun. I'm sure I can protect you from anything smaller than an elephant at this stage."

"Maybe….maybe that's not so comforting. I hear they're big. Big-big." Rodney whispered as he peered around the open door to the hall. An icy wind chewed at his skin and ruffled his sleep mussed hair. "If we had Ronon's blaster we'd be cool, but as it is…."

"I somehow don't think the big guy would be okay with us borrowing his precious blaster for a potty run." Sheppard intoned, also peering through the door, wondering what was taking Rodney so long.

"McKay?" he asked, finally, growing impatient. Although, to be honest, it was good to finally stretch his legs and back after sitting still for so long.

"I, er, I think its clear." Rodney whispered breathlessly, and stepped out onto the mud as if he thought any quick movement was going to draw the creatures attention.

"Yeah, well, we're going to be quick, anyway. So hurry up." Sheppard said and began ushering the chubby scientist outside and toward the edge of the building. He made sure to close the door behind him.

It really was cold outside, if he'd been on earth he was sure it would be snowing. He pulled his jacket tighter around himself and continued prodding Rodney forward. They stopped at a tree sitting at the corner of the building. And Rodney went to do his business. Sheppard dutifully turned away, fingers sitting comfortably on his P-90. He surveyed the area. There was no movement as far as he could see, except for the wind trying to tear the trees apart and the thatch and mud roofs from their walls.

"Done yet?" He hissed to Rodney, suddenly feeling the inexplicable urge to get back inside.

When there was no answer he turned, Rodney was still standing there, except he was facing the wrong direction, his body still and tense. Sheppard slowly raised his P-90 and flicked on the flashlight.

The beam hit a pair of very large, very white eyes. And then everything went to hell.

~OO~

Gah! I'm sorry! I couldn't help it! I know I should really be finishing my other stories but this got stuck in my head.

If you're in the know, you'll remember the brief fics that I deleted, and promised to rewrite.

Well, guess what? Here they are! Together! In one big, whumpy story!

And I promise, there will be a lot of whump. A hell of a lot.

So I hope you enjoy, and tell me what you think!

- Alerix