Title: Ice Storm
Summary: Sheppard's team gets trapped on a planet by an ice storm.
Author's Note: Originally written for SGA Saturday community on Livejournal for the prompt small. Many thanks to black_raven135 for the quick beta.
"Rodney, how much longer?" asked John as he walked up to stand beside the scientist working over the dark console.
Sighing and leaning his head back, Rodney rubbed the back of his neck a moment before dropping his hand to glare at John. "Strange as it may seem, this console still lacks a meter telling me how close I am to figuring it out. I do know that every time I have to stop to answer inane questions, it adds several minutes to my work time."
"It's really getting cold outside and it's raining. I think maybe we should call it quits and come back tomorrow," John suggested. They had come to M3X-449 that morning to investigate an outpost mentioned in the database. It had started as a chilly, windy day that had gotten progressively colder. The wind brought some dark clouds which then proceeded to drop very cold rain.
"It's raining?" asked Rodney with eyes wide.
"Yes, Rodney, it does that on planets sometimes."
With an exaggerated eye roll, Rodney leaned back over the Ancient equipment. "Yes, yes, I know that. I was just surprised since the sun was out when we got here."
"That was five hours ago," John said evenly.
The eyebrows went up for a second time, followed by Rodney pulling a Powerbar out of his vest pocket. "No wonder I'm so hungry." He bit off a huge chunk and chewed furiously as he returned his attention to the readings on his console.
"Are you listening to me at all, because I will send Ronon in here to stun you."
Pausing and taking a deep breath, Rodney's face took on his classic I work with morons expression before he slowly turned to glare at John. "Look, I'm at a crossroads, as such, and I just need a little longer to see if this is going to work or not. Then I'll leave willingly, without the need for Conan to stun me or any other form of physical abuse you can think of."
John stared at the scientist, meeting his glare with one of his own. "You have thirty minutes." Standing, he made his way out of the room before Rodney had a chance to argue. He was pretty sure he heard the scientist sputtering behind him as he walked the darkened hallway to the door at the end. Pushing it open, he stepped out into the rain beside Ronon and Teyla, both of whom were staring at the trees around the clearing, their weapons raised.
"Something I should know about?" John asked, shivering at the cold moisture wetting his hair and running down his neck. The wind was doing a fine job of canceling out any protection the small roof over the door provided.
"Thought I heard something," said Ronon.
A few seconds later, the foliage several feet in front of them shook and then three people emerged from the trees, an older man and two children. A boy of about 12 and a girl who appeared a year or two younger led the man toward the outpost, both of them chattering and pointing as he tried to keep up. Ronon and Teyla glanced at each other and then lowered their guns. It was several moments before the three arrived and John found himself mentally hurrying them along.
"Oh, greetings, I am Dall," said the man. He wore simple brown clothing that reminded John of the Athosians and his gray hair was cropped close to his head. Deep lines in his tanned face spoke of a life working outdoors in the sun. He and the two children were wearing thick overcoats which they now pulled closed against the dropping temperature. John shivered, wishing they had come as prepared for the cold, nasty weather.
With a nod indicating who he was referring to, John said, "This is Teyla and Ronon and I'm John." He offered nothing more, waiting to see what the man said.
Dall didn't look the least bit concerned that strangers were running around the Ancient outpost, but John was still on alert. The old man nodded at the introductions. "These are the children of my daughter. The boy is Kinnell and the girl is Keera. They told me they saw strangers heading toward the building of the old ones, but I did not believe them." He chuckled for a moment at the smug look on the faces of the children. "I guess you were right, aye Kinnell?" he asked, ruffling the boy's hair.
They seemed pretty harmless, and although John no longer completely trusted his first instincts since the Genii, he was cold and getting wetter by the minute. "How about if we step inside to talk," he suggested.
No one argued, so he led the way in, noticing that Ronon and Teyla brought up the rear of the group. Once inside, he pushed the door partially closed to cut off the wind while allowing enough light so they could see what they were doing. He ignored the curious glances of the kids and concentrated on the man.
"So, are we causing any problems by being here?" asked John.
Dall gave a tiny shoulder shrug. "Not that I know of. There are about ten other families that live around here and none I know of have laid claim to this land. I think some of them are afraid of it. There's a village, but it is half-day's walk from here. Others have looked around, but no one found anything of use."
"Others?" Ronon asked, stiffening to his full height.
Dall grinned when the girl pressed herself up against her grandfather, staring wide-eyed at the big man. "Not for many cycles of the moon, friend. You seem as if you are expecting trouble."
John let out a deep breath. "Yeah, well, we have a bad habit of finding it when we least expect it. Hopefully this won't be one of those times."
Dall's expression sobered as he glanced at the door, swaying with the cold wind slipping in through the opening. "I'm afraid the trouble you should expect is from the weather. I fear there is a winter storm coming, and coming soon."
"Then we should leave," John said, He wasn't surprised, as he'd seen the signs, but having his thoughts confirmed made him worry. "Ronon, tell Rodney we're heading for the gate. If he argues, stun him."
"Really?" Ronon asked with a huge grin.
"John," warned Teyla, her eyes narrowed at him.
"No, don't stun him. But get him moving, however you can."
"I'll get him moving," the big man said, still grinning as he walked down the hall.
"You are traveling to the ring of the Ancestors, then?" asked Dall.
"Yeah, we came through it this morning. We had . . . uh, some information that there was an old facility here. We explore, check out stuff like this. Try to see if we can learn anything." Even though John didn't feel the man and his grandchildren were a threat, he saw no reason to give them details. Getting burned every time he turned around in this galaxy was beginning to leave him gun shy.
The door blew open and slammed against the wall, making them all jump. Dall frowned as John pushed it closed again. "Our dwelling is much closer than the ring and I fear the weather will be dangerous soon. Perhaps you should come stay with us until the storm passes. We have room and the food stores are full." He grinned and patted the shoulders of his grandchildren. "We had a good harvest this season, aye?"
The children nodded and smiled back at him. "And we helped," said Kinnell.
"We very much appreciate your offer," said Teyla, glancing at John to see how he would answer.
Rubbing his jaw, John leaned over to peek outside. The rain was still at a light drizzle, although the wind had picked up in the last few minutes. Still, they should be able to make it back to the gate in two hours, less if they could Rodney moving at something above snail speed. "I think we'll head back to the gate . . . uh, to the ring of the Ancestors. But we do appreciate your offer."
Dall nodded, not looking offended in the least. "I understand. It is always good to sleep in your own bed. However, let me show where our dwelling is in case you change your mind."
With a relieved smile, John nodded. "Probably not a bad idea, given our track record." He opened the door, allowing the others to precede him. Once outside, Dall pointed and gave instructions on where their house was. He even told them how to get there from halfway to the gate. John noted that Teyla was also paying attention, which was a good idea since the wind was making it hard to hear everything the old man said. By the time he finished, everyone's teeth were chattering, so the old man bundled the children's coats around them and the three of them headed back the way they came.
John watched them for a few moments, until the rain began turning into sleet. Turning abruptly back to the facility, he yelled, "McKay!" as he yanked the door open, almost causing Rodney to fall on his face as he reached for the handle. The scientist pinwheeled his arms a few times until Ronon grabbed the back of his collar and settled him on his feet.
"What . . . crap, colonel . . . what were you trying to do?" snarled Rodney, spittle flying from his mouth.
"It's about time," John said in exasperation. In truth, he hadn't meant to scare the man to death, but seriously, he was tired of waiting around for Rodney to follow orders. He'd spent almost half his life in the military and he wasn't used to the constant string of excuses and dawdling. When an order was given to leave, it was done immediately.
"What's the hurry? Chocolate cake for dinner tonight?" asked Rodney with a smirk.
John wasn't in a mood for kidding. The sky was getting darker and darker and he was getting a really bad feeling about the weather. "It's starting to sleet and we're in for a storm. Unless you want to be snowed or iced in here, we need to leave right now. I'm not asking, McKay."
Rodney held up his hands in a defensive posture, backing up a step. "Fine, Colonel Sheppard. I wouldn't want to disobey . . . what? It's sleeting?" His eyes suddenly wide, the scientist held out his hand and watched several tiny ice pellets bounce off his palm. "Why didn't you tell me?"
John sighed as both Ronon and Teyla rolled their eyes. "We just did. Do you have all your gear?"
Rodney pulled his jacket more tightly around him and shivered. "Yes, yes, we have everything. Conon helped me pack it all up. We need to hurry, it's cold."
John couldn't even say anything. He just let his mouth drop open and stared at Rodney. Shifting his gaze to Ronon, the big man shrugged one shoulder and slung the bag of equipment over the other. Teyla gave him a nod and wry smile. "Okay, then, let's go," he said with a shake of his head.
One hour later, he knew he'd made a serious mistake. The sleet had been falling steadily, sometimes mixed with freezing rain. The rough terrain was now covered with an uneven layer of wet ice. The wind made it even harder to keep their balance on the slick surface, resulting in several falls and lots of bruises for the whole team.
John stopped his advance and looked ahead. The sky was still dark, what he could see of it through the falling moisture that now included some snowflakes. Visibility was poor and the temperature had dropped at least twenty degrees since they arrived. His hands, feet, and face were numb. He was contemplating what they should do when Rodney suddenly slipped, his arms flailing out seeking an anchor. Teyla grabbed for him about the time his feet went out from under him, resulting in him taking them both crashing down to the ice. They slid several feet until they were stopped by a cluster of rocks.
John and Ronon exchanged a worried glance before both of them did a skidding slide to their teammates. Crouching down beside them, they began trying to untangle the knot of arms and legs.
"Ow, ow,ow," Rodney complained as Ronon helped him sit up. "I think I broke my ankle . . . or maybe my foot." He clutched at his leg just above his right ankle.
"Teyla, are you all right?" John asked, aiding her into an upright position beside the physicist.
"I believe I have injured my wrist," she said, cradling her left arm against her body.
"As in broken or sprained or bruised?" asked John.
"Sprained I think," she answered, her face tense with pain.
After carefully looking at her swelling wrist, John pulled a field bandage from his vest and began wrapping it. When Rodney reached forward like he was going to remove his shoe, John quickly intercepted his hand. "Don't."
"But it hurts and I want to see," pouted the scientist.
"If it's swelling and you take your shoe off, we'll never get it back on. Better to wait," John said as he finished tying off the wrap around Teyla's wrist. Just as he finished, there was a loud crack like a gunshot followed by something crashing through the trees.
"What was that?" Rodney asked, his eyes wide as he searched the forest around them.
John swallowed hard. "You know that freezing rain that's been mixed in with the sleet?"
Rodney's eyes widened. "Oh, no. We're surrounded by trees. All potential missiles. We need to hurry before we get crushed or skewered."
John stood and looked around. "The problem is that I think we're only about a third the way to the gate." The ice had really slowed their progress. "The weather is only going to get worse and now you two are injured." Another loud snap seemed to echo through the forest and this time they saw the upper part of a huge tree crash down to the forest floor. Now that he was looking for it, John could see the thick layer of ice covering most of the branches.
"Don't forget the trees are hurling giant ice-covered daggers at us," muttered Rodney.
"There is that," agreed John. "I think we need to take Dall up on his offer. I don't see us making it to the gate before hypothermia or impalement gets us."
"As long as it gets us warm, dry, and fed."
John glanced at Teyla and Ronon. They didn't look happy but they nodded their agreement. "Teyla, think we can find it from here?"
"I believe that we can," she said.
"Good. You and Ronon take the lead and I'll help McKay." He thrust his hand out to Rodney and the scientist winced as he was pulled to his feet. Rodney draped his right arm around John's neck and they began picking their way across the icy ground.
Thirty minutes later they arrived at a wooden cabin. It was almost dark outside, making the lights in the windows seem to glow brightly. A loud snap above their heads warned them of impending danger and they quickly darted onto the covered porch as a huge branch crashed to the ground at their heels. Keera's face appeared briefly in one window before disappearing amidst her calling for her mother as the front door was flung open.
"We've been watching for you," said Dall as he ushered them in and closed the door behind them. The warm air hit John in the face, making him sigh in relief. His whole body was numb with cold and he shuddered briefly at the sudden change in temperature. The fire burning in the fireplace felt like a close friend welcoming them home. He lowered Rodney into the chair a tall woman with dark blonde hair was herding him toward.
"Thanks," John breathed out, suddenly exhausted. He glanced up at a grinning Dall. "Okay, go ahead and say it. You told us so."
The kids giggled as Dall beamed. "Aye, I did. One thing I know is the weather."
"We were beginnin' to get worried," said the woman.
"This is my daughter, Mayin," said Dall.
John nodded at her. "Pleased to meet you, ma'am. I'm John. This is Rodney and that's Teyla and Ronon. We appreciate you taking us in like this."
The woman smiled as she pushed several strands of hair that had escaped her ponytail behind her ear. "We can't very well leave you to the storm. I've got some warm contra brew and supper will be ready in a bit. Make yourselves at home." With a tiny nod, she headed for the kitchen, which was the back quarter of the large room they occupied. About half of the room was a living room and the other half was divided between the kitchen and a dining room.
Now that John was beginning to feel his hands again, he kneeled in front of Rodney. "You ready to check out that ankle?"
Dall stepped up to stand behind him. "Was he injured?"
"He and Teyla had a bit of a fall. Teyla hurt her wrist and Rodney injured his ankle." John finished unlacing Rodney's boot and looked up at the scientist, whose face was twisted in pain.
"You know, this probably isn't such a good idea. We should wait until we're back in Atl. . . I mean, back home. And I've had some nice painkillers administered."
John shook his head. Atlantis had called shortly before their arrival at the cabin and John had explained they would be waiting the storm out with a local family. "No, that'll be tomorrow at the earliest. We need to get your foot out of this boot and get it elevated with some ice on it." When Rodney opened his mouth to argue, John just pulled the boot off. He managed to keep a straight face as Rodney gasped and groaned and panted. He didn't know whether to be worried or grateful that the scientist was too distraught to complain. John peeled the sock back to reveal a swollen foot already well on its way to turning purple. "Ouch."
"I'll get some ice," offered Dall as he grabbed a bucket from the corner and headed outside. Rodney just groaned.
"Here," said Kinnell, pushing what appeared to be a crude footstool toward the chair. "He can put his foot on this. When I hurt my foot during harvest season mom made me prop my foot on this stool cause she said it would help the swelling. We didn't have ice then because it was still warm, so she dipped a cloth in the spring water." He leaned forward to study the discolored appendage now nestled in a soft pillow on the offered stool. "Does it hurt much? Because it looks like it would hurt a lot."
John had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. He wasn't sure what was more entertaining, Kinnell's rambling commentary or the confused look on Rodney's face. The scientist stared at the wide-eyed boy for a moment before shifting his eyes to the pilot, eyebrows raised. John took pity on him.
"Hey, Kinnell, thank you for the stool to prop Rodney's foot on. How about getting him something to drink while I get his ankle fixed up?"
Kinnell nodded and jumped up from his position kneeling by John. "I can do that! I'll bet Mr. Rodney is thirsty after all that walking on his hurt foot." He raced off to the kitchen area and immediately began relaying the drink request to his mother. Mayin looked around and smiled at John, gave a slight nod, and then went about convincing the boy he needed to return and help her finish preparing the evening meal as soon as he delivered the cup to Rodney.
"Aw, mom. I want to watch Mr. John fix Mr. Rodney's foot," the boy whined from across the room. "He might even scream if it hurts really bad."
"What?" Rodney's head shot up almost as fast as his eyebrows. "I can't believe he just –"
"Rodney," John drawled, giving his voice a bit of an edge. "He's just a kid. Be good or the nice people might throw us back out in the snow and ice with the missiles disguised as tree branches."
Slamming his mouth closed, Rodney grimaced in what seemed to be a combination of fear and pain and anger. Then he blew out a huff of air and nodded. "Fine, fine. I definitely don't want to go back outside. It's got to be below zero."
"It's not that cold," John said as he wrapped Rodney's ankle with the bandage Teyla handed him. Dall had returned and was in the kitchen putting the ice he'd collected into a bag. John looked up to find Rodney looking at him like he was a moron.
"Zero degrees Celsius. I'll never understand why you Americans insist on using your antiquated system of measurement when the rest of the world uses the International OW! What are doing? Maybe we should wait and let Carson play doctor instead of you." Rodney closed his eyes and sagged back in the chair as John finished tying off the bandage.
Teyla reached out to grip his shoulder. "Rodney, are you all right?"
"No," he replied without opening his eyes. "I'm pretty sure I'll be crippled for life after this."
"He's fine," John quipped, earning him a stern look from Teyla. Dall draped the tan cloth bag of ice across Rodney's ankle, causing the scientist to shiver briefly.
"Rest, Rodney." John adjusted the pillow and shifted the ice pack into a more stable position before standing. Rodney just grunted and closed his eyes, muttering under his breath.
A loud snapping sound echoed around the forest, followed by the swooshing of the branch falling through the surrounding trees. Teyla shivered and cradled her left arm to her chest.
"You ready to let me look at your wrist?" asked John.
"Yes, but as I told you earlier, it is fine. I believe I simply twisted it." Teyla held her arm out and John gently took her hand in his. After removing the field bandage, he began slowly turning her hand over, causing her to hiss and pull back.
John smiled, unable to stop the smug expression he knew was plastered across his face. But seriously, how often were their roles reversed. He had to take advantage of this rare situation. "So, it's fine is it? I assume you're using my definition of fine and not yours?"
Teyla, being Teyla, refused to rise to the bait. One eyebrow flinched before her face settled into her typical expression of peace. "Perhaps it is a little swollen."
"I'd say so," John said, still grinning. "Let's get it wrapped and I'll go fetch you some ice for it."
"I can wrap it," offered Ronon. Teyla signed.
"Thanks big guy," said John, pulling a bandage from a pocket of his vest. "I'll be back in a jiffy," he said after handing off the dressing to Ronon and grabbing the bucket Dall had used earlier.
"Don't go too far," said Dall as John opened the door. "It is still dangerous outside."
"And supper is about ready," added Mayin.
"Good, I'm starved," said Rodney from his chair.
John laughed before stepping outside. A step away from the porch had the icy wind numbing his face and stealing his breath. He suddenly wished he'd taken time to grab his jacket. Light from the house cast weird shadows among the trees. John had to dodge fallen branches the size of small trees. Giant icicles hanging from the roof of an outbuilding looked perfect for breaking up to fill an icebag, so John headed toward them.
The blowing snow hit him in the face, making it hard to see. The snow on the ground was over his ankles, making it hard to see where to step and resulting in his getting his feet tangled in some snow covered branches. He went down hard, tossing the bucket in a bid to get his hands in position to catch himself. Grumbling, he wiped his cold, wet hands on his shirt and got to his feet. At least no one had been around to see, although he'd have to explain why his pants were so wet at the knees.
"Great, John. Now where did the bucket go?" He looked around while rubbing his hands together. He was freezing. He was about to give up when he spotted it overturned in the deepening snow. He took one step and heard a sharp crack right over his head. Crap. He started to run at the sound of a large branch crashing down toward the ground. Movement from his right caught his attention just before something slammed into the side of his head and darkness descended.
Ronon handed Rodney a plate of food and went to look out the window. "Sheppard should be back by now."
"I agree," Teyla said, joining him to stare into the dark.
"I'm going to check," Ronon said as he walked out the door. He could hear Teyla talking to Rodney as he left. Most everyone else had begun to eat, but Ronon had been waiting for his friend's return. Sheppard had been gone for nearly fifteen minutes. "Sheppard," he called, but the wind blew his words back in his face. He moved away from the house, looking for tracks that had been all but obliterated by the falling snow. It took him a moment to find the vague remnants that seemed to lead toward a wooden shed.
"Sheppard, where are you," he called as he picked his way through the debris littering the ground. As he started to go around what appeared to be the entire top of a tree, he saw something in the shadows that didn't look right. Climbing over part of the fallen branches, he spotted Sheppard's hand sticking out from underneath.
"Sheppard . . . John, can you hear me?" Crawling partway under the limb, he found Sheppard's head. He was on his left side, blood smeared across the right side of his head and face, running down his neck. Ronon felt for a pulse while holding his breath, letting it out only when he picked up a steady heartbeat.
"John," he said, tapping the man on the cheek. Sheppard groaned and his eyes fluttered a moment before opening. "John, it's Ronon. You need to tell me where you're hurt."
The pilot didn't react to Ronon's request, so the Satedan leaned over his injured friend to ask again. John immediately jerked back and then gasped in obvious pain, groaning as he scrunched up his face. "Sheppard, it's me, take it easy."
John's expression relaxed a bit, probably as the pain ebbed enough for him to catch his breath. He licked his lips and tried to look around. "Why . . . why's it s-s-so cold?"
Ronon's gut clenched a little, but he reminded himself that Sheppard probably had a concussion and the disorientation was to be expected. "We're on M3X-449, remember? McKay was investigating an outpost left by the Ancients and the weather turned. We're holed up with Dall until the storm is over."
"Don't . . . don't remember. Cold. Why'm I . . . under a tree?" John shivered and then yelped in pain.
"What's wrong? Sheppard, the ice is making tree branches break off and fall. That's why we took shelter, it was getting too dangerous. This one fell on you, hit you in the head. Are you hurt anywhere else? We need to get you inside." Ronon watched as John swallowed a few times, as if fighting to gain control. There was something else wrong besides the head injury.
"L-left leg. Think . . . pinned ." John began panting as soon as he'd finished talking. Ronon moved around where he could see a little better, pushing part of a branch out of his way. One of the broken branches had been driven through Sheppard's lower leg like a spike and had him pinned to the ground.
"Ro . . . Ronon?"
The Satedan sat back and looked down at his friend. Sheppard was injured, bleeding, cold, and probably going into shock. He needed to get him back inside and fast. "Hang on, buddy. I need to cut off this branch to get you out and it's probably going to hurt."
"Figures. Do it."
John's eyes had cleared a bit and he gave a tiny nod, reinforcing his instructions. Ronon nodded back and pulled out his knife. The wood emerging from the underside of Sheppard's leg appeared to narrow to a point that had been driven into the ground. It only took a minute to saw through the tree limb, but he knew it was hurting the pilot from the way his breathing hitched a few times. Now he had to figure out how to get his friend out of the middle of a tree.
Five minutes, a lot of maneuvering and a few groans later, he had Sheppard's arm around his neck and they were staggering through the snow toward the house. Ronon was grateful when the door opened and Dall stepped out. "Did you find him?"
Before Ronon could answer, Dall apparently saw them because he yelled into the house and practically ran over to help shoulder the colonel's weight. Sheppard kept trying to pull away and asking who he was until Ronon yelled at him to stop fighting them.
When they got to the house, Mayin was standing in the door. "Dad, take him to my bed. I can sleep with the kids."
It took several more minutes to get Sheppard through the house full of people yelling questions and into the bedroom. They lowered him to the bed and Mayin carefully lifted his legs onto the bed. She had a towel placed under his injured leg so he wouldn't bleed on the covers. "What happened," she asked.
"Looked like the whole top of a tree came down on him," Ronon said as Teyla came up beside him.
"Are you all right?" she asked, nodding toward several scratches on his neck and hands.
Ronon brought his hand up to study the blood-welling wounds on the back of his hands and wrists. In all the excitement of weaving Sheppard out of the downed foliage he hadn't even noticed what the tree had done to him. "It's fine, just some scratches. But Sheppard's in bad shape."
"That will have to come out," Mayin said as she leaned over to study the branch protruding from the pilot's lower leg.
"We should wait until we get back," said Teyla. "Pulling it out could cause more damage."
Mayin huffed and put her hands on her hips. "Well, unless you plan on takin' him back to where you came from right now, he'll bleed to death. If you're plannin' on waitin' the storm out, which is the smart thing to do, we need to get that thing out of him and stop the bleedin'."
Ronon looked down at the blood soaking into the towel beneath the wound. "She's right. He won't make it through the night and there's no way we can get him back by morning."
Mayin nodded. "I'll get some clean bandages and water ready. Pa, you need to get the fire rod to heatin'."
Ronon winced at the thought of what they were about to do. Sheppard had passed out and the Satedan hoped he stayed unconscious.
"Ronon, would you please explain what is happening to Rodney while I help with John," asked Teyla, moving over to sit on the bed beside their team leader. Only then did he realize Rodney was yelling at them from the other room. He considered refusing, preferring to help Sheppard than deal with a panicking McKay, but the expression on Teyla's face kept him quiet. He took a good look at Sheppard, how pale he was, the bruises and oozing cut on the side of his head. Both Beckett and Keller had worked with Teyla to improve her field medical skills.
"What about your wrist?" he asked, nodding at the wrapping around her arm.
"It is a mild sprain and does not hurt much. It will not hinder me." McKay yelled again from the other room.
"Okay, but you owe me," he finally growled.
Teyla smiled sweetly. "Of course." He growled again as he headed for a bellyaching McKay. He could tell there was no way was he getting anything for this.
"Of all the . . . won't tell me anything and just leave me here to . . . " Rodney continued to mutter as he pushed himself to his feet. They all but carried Sheppard across the room bleeding and incoherent and then refused to tell him what happened so he'd just find out himself. Then his foot hit the floor and it felt like someone was stabbing him in the ankle. He yelped and flailed his arms to get his balance back, but it did no good. As he fell back towards the chair, sure that he would knock the thing over backwards and break his neck, strong arms grabbed him under his arm pits and eased him back down.
"Take it easy, McKay. You're going to hurt yourself."
Rodney looked over his shoulder to see Ronon frowning at him. "Yes, well not one of you would be so courteous as to explain what's going on so I was trying to find out for myself. So, what's going on with Sheppard?"
Ronon sat down next to Rodney and explained what had happened and what they were going to have to do. As he finished, Dall propped a metal rod in the fireplace. Rodney gulped and stared wide-eyed at Ronon. "Is that . . . you're really going to use that to . . . I think I'm going to be sick." His stomach churned dangerously as he closed his eyes and tried really hard not to think of all the movie scenes that involved cauterizing wounds in the field.
"Gotta be done or he'll bleed to death," said Ronon, his voice calm like they were discussing the weather.
Rodney opened his eyes and stared at the metal rod, the end beginning to get red. He tried to imaging having it jammed into a wound and had to clench his teeth together to keep from gagging. Ronon chuckled and that turned his fear to anger. "You think this is funny?" he snapped.
"Try not to think about it, McKay." The big man's expression sobered under Rodney's glare. "Sheppard's unconscious right now, probably from the head wound. Chances are he won't even know what happened."
"I hope," said the scientist.
"Me too. I'll be holding him down. You need anything?"
Rodney sighed. "You mean besides for this mission to be over? No. Even when nothing blows up and the natives don't chase us down with spears, the weather attacks us. How does this stuff always happen? That was a rhetorical question, so don't answer. Go, hold Sheppard down while people torture him. I'll just sit out here and listen to him scream."
Ronon snorted in a way that told Rodney he didn't appreciate his teammate's comment, but Rodney was too freaked out to be afraid or even to care. He closed his eyes again. Please let this be some weird nightmare. I'm going to wake up and be back in Atlantis. He opened his eyes to see Dall using a thick towel to grab the end of the metal rod that wasn't red and turn the thing over.
Teyla was cutting and removing the pant leg around the branch sticking out of John's leg when he suddenly sat straight up in bed, his right hand rooting around for his gun, eyes wildly scanning the room. Fortunately she had already removed his gun and holster.
"John? Everything is all right. We are safe," she said in her best calm, but firm and reassuring voice. "Do you hear me? Everything is okay."
John apparently heard her because he turned his furrowed brow her direction. "Teyla?"
"Yes," she said, sitting on the edge of the bed and slowly putting her hand on his arm.
"Where . . . where are we?"
"We are in the house of a man named Dall," she said, gripping his arm a little more tightly. "He is giving us shelter against the winter storm outside. You were injured by a falling tree branch."
John tilted his head a little as he looked at her, his frown deepening. "I can't . . . " He lifted his left hand to rub his temple for a moment, then his eyes rolled around in their sockets and he fell back against the pillow. The others coming into the room startled her.
"Were you talking to Sheppard?" asked Ronon.
Teyla watched Mayin carry supplies to the other side of the bed. "Yes, he woke for only a moment. I have the fabric cut away from the wound."
Mayin nodded. "We may as well get this over with. Won't be pleasant for any of us. Ronon, you and Teyla hold him still. Pa?"
Dall came in carrying the metal rod, one end glowing red. Teyla silently asked the Ancestors for strength as she prepared to help Ronon, thankful that she did not have to do what Mayin did.
Rodney was a ball of nerves as he sat staring into the fireplace and waiting on screams of agony. It turned out there were no screams, just one loud yell that brought back memories of Ford and being trapped in a stuck jumper with an iratus bug and a hovering deadline. Emphasis on dead if he didn't figure out a solution before the gate closed. He shuddered. It didn't matter how much time he put between himself and that event, it still gave him the shivers.
He shifted around to look over his shoulder at the door to the room where they had the colonel and ended up letting the icepack slide off his foot. Well crap. Leaning over, he stretched as far as he could, his fingertips barely brushing the edge of the cloth bag. When he tried to reach a little farther, he upset his balance and almost tipped out of the chair. During the scrabble to keep from face planting, a strong hand grabbed his arm and levered him back into the furniture.
"Are you trying to hurt yourself?" asked Ronon as he grinned down at him.
"What? No, of course not. That's the colonel's niche. Uh, speaking of which . . . how is he?"
"He'll be okay. It wasn't as bad as I thought."
Rodney snorted. "How's that? You thought he'd scream more?"
Ronon looked at him so intently for a moment, that Rodney started to squirm in his chair. When the big man turned and walked back to the bedroom, Rodney thought he'd really pissed him off. But Ronon returned carrying a tree branch, undoubtedly just yanked out of Sheppard's leg. He sat down in the chair next to Rodney and held the piece of wood out.
"This is the part I saw," Ronon said, pointing to the end that was almost four centimeters in diameter. Then he flipped it over. The other end had split, with a bloody sliver about one and a half centimeters at the wide end, narrowing almost to a point at the other end. "This small part is what actually got driven into his leg."
"Small?" Rodney squeaked.
Ronon pointed to the larger piece. "This was the alternative. If the whole branch had been driven into his leg, we'd be talking lots of muscle damage and probably broken bones." He stared at Rodney, practically willing the scientist to get it.
Rodney swallowed hard. "He'd have been lucky to walk again, much less remain in the Air Force."
Rodney sighed and rubbed the side of his face. "Then we didn't need to do all that . . . barbaric removal ritual if it was that little."
Ronon was shaking his head even before Rodney finished speaking. "No, it still had to come out. He was losing too much blood. I think a vein was damaged. Don't worry, I doubt he'll remember any of this."
"I hope not," Rodney said. I know I wouldn't want to remember it.
"Teyla and Mayin are cleaning and bandaging Sheppard's leg. He should sleep for a while. Do you need anything?" asked Ronon.
"You mean besides being in Atlantis with some good drugs so my ankle doesn't hurt?" Ronon stared at him until Rodney said, "No, I don't need anything."
John's leg and head throbbed in time with his heartbeat. Keeping his eyes closed, he tried to go back to sleep. At the moment he wasn't sure what was going on, but the sense of near-panic that was usually there when they were in trouble was absent. He took a deep breath, expecting infirmary smells, but that was not what he got. Instead he got clean covers, wood, and a smoky fireplace odor.
He opened his eyes, curiosity getting the better of him. It was dark, but the gray light of early morning was beginning to peek in through the window. Blinking, he let his eyes adjust a moment. The room began to take shape, a small bedroom in what appeared to be a wooden cabin. As his eyes began filling in the detail of the room, his mind began filling in the details of what had happened.
"Sheppard?" John jumped and then groaned. His name had been spoken quietly, but Ronon's voice was always strong. He turned his head to the left to see the Satedan in a chair with his feet propped up on the end of the bed.
Ronon put his feet on the floor, glancing up at the window. "Almost. How do you feel?"
"Like a . . . tree fell on me. . . in a freezer."
Ronon chuckled. "Piece of it got driven through your leg and you lost some blood. Hit you in the head pretty good too. Whole side of your face is turning."
John sighed. That explained the splitting headache, no pun intended. "How're Teyla and McKay?"
Shrugging his shoulders, Ronon leaned forward to rest his arms near his knees. "Seemed okay when we shut down for the night. McKay whined a lot so I figure he's all right. Atlantis should call soon. You, uh, remember anything . . . about us fixing your leg?"
John narrowed his eyes a bit at Ronon. The big man looked worried and John was beginning to put some of the pieces together. "Dream maybe . . . kind of fuzzy . . . I remember people holding me down and it felt . . . felt like they were cutting my leg off with a hot knife." Grimacing at the memory, John looked at Ronon. "Cauterizing the wound?"
With a huge sigh, Ronon nodded his head once. "We had to. You were going to bleed out before we could get you back. I was hoping you wouldn't remember."
"You did what you needed to do," John said, recognizing the guilt in his friend's voice. "I'd rather sort of remember the pain than be dead. Besides, it's all kind of fuzzy, like a really weird bad dream. I'm not going to be traumatized for life or anything."
Ronon snorted. "Didn't think you were. Just . . . I just wanted you to know we only did what we needed to save your life."
"And I appreciate that," John said, a little sing song in his voice to lighten the mood.
The door creaked as it was pushed open and Mayin peeked around the edge. "Ah, I see you boys are awake," she said, moving into the room. She placed the back of her hand briefly on John's forehead and smiled. "Only a little warm. That's to be expected after such a trying night. Do you feel like eating something?"
John resisted the urge to groan at the thought of food. His stomach felt uneasy, probably because of the hit on the head, but his mouth was incredibly dry. "No food, but a drink maybe?"
Mayin nodded. "Aye, I'll bring you some water and then get breakfast started. I think your friend Rodney is already very hungry," she said with a grin.
"When is he not?" said John. "I am surprised he's up this early though."
"I believe father woke him when he was waking the fire. I'll just fetch your water."
Ronon watched her leave and then turned to John. "Rodney and Teyla slept on pallets by the fireplace."
Teyla came in a few minutes later with a cup of water. "Mayin said you were thirsty," she said, sitting on the side of the bed. "How do you feel this morning?"
John lifted his head to sip some of the water and then lay back down. "Not bad as long as I don't move. How's the wrist?"
"Better," she said. "I believe it is a mild sprain. Atlantis called before I came in. The storm is over so they are sending a jumper. Dall believes the closest place to land is about one klick from here, as long as the storm damage is not too great."
"Great," John said, his voice thick with sarcasm. "I don't suppose Carson will be bringing me a set of crutches for the trip to the jumper."
Teyla arched an eyebrow at him. "Do you believe you could make it that far on crutches? Remember the ice and snow, as well as the tree limbs that will be scattered across the ground." She was definitely giving him the are you really going to be this stupid look.
"Maybe," John said in his best defiant voice. "Possibly . . . you know, with a lot of rest stops and falling down and such. Okay, probably not." If he was honest with himself, he couldn't make it to the door of the room. He was weak and half dizzy and hurting. And that was lying down. Okay, so being carried on a stretcher it was. He closed his eyes and groaned softly. Some days it just didn't pay to get up.
Familiar voices brought him back to awareness. John blinked several times to bring the room into focus. Lorne was standing at the foot of the bed talking to Ronon and Dall. Ronon saw his eyes open and nodded his direction which prompted the others to halt their conversation and look his way. Lorne grinned.
"Hey, sir, we were just talking about the best way to get you to the jumper. It's pretty rough out there with all the storm debris and ice."
John cleared his throat, wishing he had a drink of water. He thought maybe he felt a little stronger than when he'd first awakened that morning. "If you have crutches . . . " John drifted off as Lorne shook his head.
"No sir, I mean it's a mess out there. There's almost a foot of snow hiding patches of ice and broken branches. Mason already fell and scraped himself up. No way you or Dr. McKay can make it that far on crutches."
Dall nodded his agreement. "No offense John, but it is rough going to any who are whole of body. Your Major Lorne and I were just discussing the conditions. Our largest tulock tree was broken into many pieces by the storm. I believe if we clear the land, there will be enough room for your flying ship to land."
"I agree, but it will take a while," said Lorne. "Everything's frozen over. Several of those branches are more like trees and they all have at least a half inch of ice covering it. It's going to take hours to cut it up enough we can move the stuff."
Ronon crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. "You have a better idea?"
Lorne gave a single nod. "Just clear away the tops of the tall stuff and let me hover the jumper over the rest. We can be out of here in an hour." He looked around to his commanding officer.
John lifted his hand to rub his face, but stopped at a tug on the back of his hand. "Is that an IV?" He was a little concerned that he could have slept through that.
"Yes sir. Dr. Beckett. He's checking on Dr. McKay and Teyla right now."
Sighing, John dropped his hand back to his side. "Okay, let's do it. Dall, we'll be sure to come back and help you clean up when some of this ice has had a chance to melt."
"Not necessary, I assure you," Dall said with a smile.
"No, but it's the right thing to do," said John. "Thank you for all your help." The older man nodded.
"Take it easy sir," said Lorne. "We'll be back in a jiffy to get you out of here."
"You know where to find me," John said with a small wave of his hand.
"Need anything?" asked Ronon.
"Na, I'm good." John really didn't hurt nearly as badly as he thought he should. He could hear Beckett's Scottish lilt drifting in from the other room. "Carson gave me drugs, didn't he?"
Ronon answered with a grin. Well, that explained a lot. "You guys be careful out there," said John. "We don't need anyone else hurt. That's an order."
"I'll pass that on," said Ronon with a chuckle as he walked out the door, Dall right behind him. John lay there looking at the ceiling for a moment before he felt his eyelids getting heavy. What a mission. Ronon was the only one not injured, although he had looked scratched up for some reason. On the plus side, though, at least they had some new allies. You never knew when that could come in handy, especially in the Pegasus galaxy.
The unmistakable feeling of being in motion snapped John awake to realize he was being carried out Dall's front door on a stretcher. Sudden intense light had him slamming his eyes closed and then slowly opening to a tight squint. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the bright glare and focus, but once it did, it took his breath away.
White was everywhere, with the sun's rays bouncing off the snow and ice like delicate glass ornaments. As he was carried toward the jumper in the front yard, light twinkled and glittered. Everything seemed clean and fresh, from the cold air to the bright blue sky above. He could see tree branches littering the ground in every direction, some of them quite large, all of them covered with a layer of ice.
"It is beautiful." Teyla's voice floated from somewhere ahead of him. He could almost hear the awe and appreciation in her voice and smiled.
Rodney's shrill voice cut through the silence. "Beautiful? You try navigating through all this ice and snow with crutches. I'll probably break my neck and then who'll save the city every other day? Why does Sheppard get to ride and I have to sludge through this mess like a . . . like a . . . I have no idea, but I'm sure this isn't fair."
"Shut up, McKay or I'll stun you and throw you over my shoulder."
"Doing okay, sir?" Lorne asked, appearing at his side.
"Fine," John said. "Any trouble?"
"Piece of cake," Lorne said with a big grin. "Stackhouse is keeping the jumper steady for us."
"My team giving you any trouble?" John asked, thinking about the conversation he'd just heard.
"No more than usual," replied Lorne with a smirk.
"Hmm, good." As the marines deposited him in the back of the jumper, Carson began checking on his IV and John let his eyes drift closed. His people had everything under control and the drugs were making him sleepy.
John looked at the ceiling a moment, confused about the change until he realized he was back in Atlantis and not in Dall's cabin. His mouth was dry as desert sand, but he tried to lick his lips anyway. Letting his head shift to his left, he found Ronon sitting in a chair grinning at him. Rodney was on the bed behind him in scrubs, staring at a computer screen.
"Teyla went to get Beckett," Ronon said, causing Rodney to look up.
"What? Why? Oh, he's awake." Rodney slapped the laptop closed and turned partway around. Although the scientist didn't have an IV, his ankle was bandaged and had been propped up on a pillow. He seemed to notice John looking and waved his hand at the injured limb. "Sprained, not broken. Or so the sheep herder says."
"No, that's what the Ancient scanner says," said Beckett as he approached John's bed with Teyla beside him. "Good to see you with us, colonel."
John patiently waited through the doctor checking him over and was rewarded with the head of his bed being raised and a sip of water. He was still a little sleepy, but he felt more clear headed than he had in a while.
"What's the damage?"
"Not as bad as usual," Carson said, which John wasn't sure how to take. "Looks like you had a mild concussion from the hit in the head, along with some contusions and a cut that required ten stitches to close. The leg was bit more problematic. The scanner showed some debris left in the wound track, some wee splinters if you will, so we had to clean all that out and repair some muscle tissue. You'll be off your feet for a while. Good news is no sign of infection and we've been replacing your fluids."
"Rodney and Teyla?" he asked, looking at the bandage around Teyla's wrist.
"Not bad at all," said Beckett. "Mild sprain for Teyla and a wee bit worse of a sprain for Rodney. He needs to stay off the thing for a day or two and then use crutches when he's moving about."
John glanced at Rodney, surprised that the doctor was keeping the scientist in the infirmary for a sprained ankle. He was about to ask if there was anything else when Carson rolled his eyes and explained.
"The only reason Rodney is being kept in the infirmary is because he is convinced he needs to. I tried to release him to his quarters and he refused to leave."
Rodney frowned. "How am I supposed to take care of myself if I'm supposed to stay off my ankle? The best thing is for me to stay here so your staff can care for me while I work."
"Best for you," Carson muttered, making John grin. "You Colonel Sheppard, however, will be my guest a few days to make sure you've recovered from the blood loss and that you actually ido/i keep off that leg. Once it's healed, you'll probably be in for some physical therapy as there was quite a bit of muscle damage."
"That's what happens when you let yourself get skewered by a tree branch," said Rodney. When everyone turned to stare at him, he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.
"Let myself?" said John with a scowl.
"Ignore him," said Ronon. "That's what I do most of the time."
Carson sighed. "I think I would agree with Ronon." With a shake of his head, he turned back to John. "How's the pain?"
He thought for a moment before answering. "Head and leg are throbbing, but it's not bad. I'm good."
"Of course he is," muttered Rodney, followed by everyone glaring at him again. "What? Don't tell me you didn't expect him to say he was fine or good or whatever."
"You're right," John said with an impish grin. Ronon and Teyla exchanged confused looks. John took a deep breath and then moaned as loud as he could, flailing his hands towards his injured leg. "My leg, my leg, it's killing me," he wailed, scrunching his face up. "I'll never walk again. Carson, are you going to have to amputate? Ohhhh, my leeeeggggg." He abruptly stopped, tilted his head to one side, and grinned at Rodney.
"Very mature, colonel, " Rodney sneered as everyone else laughed. "I'd get up and leave but, that's right, I can't."
Teyla walked over to put her hand on Rodney's shoulder. "We are sorry, Rodney. It is just so unlike John to behave this way and that makes it humorous."
Rodney huffed. "Yes, because he is so funny. I do not whine like that."
"Of course you don't," said John. "I was merely, uh, doing the opposite of what everyone seems to expect. No one seems to believe me when I say I'm doing okay. It was just a small hole in my leg, no big deal."
Rodney's mouth dropped open. "Just a small . . . that's like saying the disaster that stranded us there was just a small winter storm."
"It could have been a lot worse," said Ronon, lifting his eyebrows as he looked at Rodney.
The scientist swallowed and seemed to shudder. "Well, that's certainly true. Okay, fine. But I still resent that rather unflattering imitation of me."
John grinned. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
John slipped on his sunglasses as he limped down the back hatch of the jumper. He thought Lorne had landed the jumper in the same spot as three weeks before when he'd come to collect his team after the ice storm. He'd been a little out of it then so he might be wrong.
Stepping off the ramp, he looked around, pleased at the work of his marines. Once the ice and snow had melted, Lorne had been charged with bringing enough people back to clear the yard of debris. They had done an excellent job. A huge stack of wood stood near the house indicating they had put the fallen trees and limbs to good use. Although the ground showed no evidence of the recent disaster, the tops of trees were ragged and broken. At least it looked as though his people had removed any hanging limbs so they wouldn't turn into missiles when the kids were playing outside.
"Are you just going to stand there? It's cold out here," said Rodney, brushing his arm as he went by. They made quite the pair hobbling to the mess hall this morning. He was pretty sure Ronon had made a joke at their expense to Teyla, but it must have been a Pegasus thing because it hadn't made any sense to him.
"I was just admiring the work my guys did clearing the yard," John said as he joined his team walking to the house.
"They did do an excellent job," Teyla said. "I'm sure Dall is most grateful."
Before John could reply, the front door burst open and two kids shot out, yelling and waving their arms as they called out to their visitors. Dall and Mayin appeared behind them, laughing.
"Welcome," Dall said as Teyla greeted Mayin. "Good to see you up and about, Colonel Sheppard," he said as he bowed his head a moment. "You as well, Rodney."
John bowed back. "It's good to be up and about. What happened to calling me John?"
Dall flushed as he wrapped his arm around one of the poles supporting the front porch. "When you were here before, I did not know you were an important man, a leader of your people. I heard your men talking when they worked on clearing the trees left from the storm. They have great respect for you."
Now it was John's turn to blush. He could see Lorne and Ronon grinning at him from his peripheral vision, but he chose to ignore it. "Yeah, well, I don't really stand on formality too much and you're not exactly in my chain of command, so how about we stick with John."
Dall cocked his head as if thinking, then finally nodded. "Alright then, John it is."
"Thank you. It looks like you guys are doing well."
"Very well since your people did such a fine job of cleaning up for us. It would have taken us weeks to do the work they did in a few days. We can't thank you enough," said Mayin. "But we can try. Come in for some hot toleara and warm yourselves."
Rodney's head shot up and his eyes widened. "Oh, that's the stuff Sgt. Marshmallow said tasted like coffee. And really good coffee."
John furrowed his brow and looked at Lorne. "Sgt. Marshmallow?"
Lorne managed to keep his expression neutral, but his sigh sounded exasperated. "Sgt. Mellow, sir. Dr. McKay insists on calling him Marshmallow."
Rodney waved his hand in the air as they entered the cabin single file. "Mellow, Mallow, Marshmallow, whatever. You know who I mean. The important thing is there's coffee."
"I honestly don't know how you guys do it," Lorne muttered as he rolled his eyes.
Ronon chuckled. "I threaten to shoot him a lot."
Teyla frowned and nodded. "Yes, he does that frequently."
John grinned. "And I threaten to let him."
"Sometimes you yell at him," offered Ronon.
John shrugged his shoulders. He couldn't really deny it because it was true. As they all gathered near the kitchen area, John walked over to where Dall and Mayin were preparing the drinks. "I never really got the chance to thank you for taking us in and for saving my life. I just wanted you to know that I'm grateful for everything you did."
Mayin looked up with a smile. "Well, I would say you have more than repaid us and more. We are always willing to help others when we can."
"We have found that not everyone feels as you do," said Teyla. "I am also grateful for the help you gave us. I am always honored to make new friends."
"As are we," said Dall. He laughed and nodded toward the front of the house. "Especially when they can save us weeks of work."
Mayin handed Teyla a mug. "I believe you prefer the contra."
Teyla nodded and accepted the cup. "Yes, it is very similar to the tea I grew up with."
"I want the coffee . . . or rather the toe learner," said Rodney. Taking the mug Mayin handed him, he closed his eyes and took in a deep breath and then a sip. "Mmm, better than Starbucks."
"It is toleara," Mayin said with a smile. "We harvest the beans from deep in the forest of the valley. It is much warmer there. Perhaps we could show you."
Rodney just groaned as he took another sip. John laughed. "You might need to find a room, McKay." Turning to Dall, he accepted his own cup and took a drink of the hot beverage. He looked up and met Rodney's eyes, not missing the smug expression. "So, Dall, how do you guys feel about arranging a trade?"
This was motivated by a huge ice storm we had a few years ago. I'll never forget that first night, lying in bed in total darkness (electricity was out everywhere) and listening to trees break and fall. It sounded like gunshots going off every few minutes. Very creepy! It took weeks to clean up. Some of the broken branches had been driven deep into the ground and were hard to remove. I kept thinking how dangerous it would have been to be standing outside while that was going on.