You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible
“Colonel, I’m stepping out into the open now. So, if possible, I’d appreciated it if you didn’t shoot me, okay?”
McKay’s voice carried over the storage bins that he was hiding behind to drop behind the ones I was using for cover and I gave a cynical laugh under my breath at his insecure addition of ‘if possible’. Anything was possible, I’d come to realize the past couple of days. Anything. Including things I would have considered absolutely impossible a few days before. Like Rodney not trusting me, and me not trusting him.
“Just keep your hands where I can see them,” I ordered, “and tell your escort to keep their weapons down or I take you out and finish off Ronon.”
I glanced back at the Satedan lying in a growing pool of blood beside me, some mine, mostly his, before turning my attention and gun back to where McKay had stopped crawling in the hallway at my warning. He was wearing a vest, more than Ronon had been wearing, but a head shot would stop his scheming pretty damn quick. It was tempting, so damn tempting, to put an end to his little plot. McKay may not have been the ringleader, but he was brains of the operation, I had no doubt. Elizabeth was the one that had come up with the plan to turn me over to the Genii in exchange for a free ride for Atlantis, but Rodney wouldn’t have let it happen if he wasn’t in full agreement with the arrangement.
The Genii needed my gene, they claimed, to power an Ancient weapon they had discovered that could take out the Wraith and the expedition had offered me up on a silver platter. As many times as we’d been double-crossed by them and they still believed anything those lying bastards said. As if I didn’t know Kolya was behind this whole plot and it was just another excuse to get his sadistic hands on me. With a bitter snort, I tightened my grip on the trigger of my nine millimeter and honed in on that genius melon of McKay’s.
Evidently Ronon saw my intentions, as well. “Sheppard, don’t,” he panted. “McKay’s not going to try anything.” One large hand splayed against the blood oozing from his side. “You know he wouldn’t do anything to hurt you. If you just think about it, you know it.”
“I know you tried to shoot me,” I challenged as I kept an eye on McKay where he stood looking warily toward where I was hiding.
“Stun.” Ronon licked at his lips and fought to hold his eyes open. “My gun was on stun.”
“Yeah, well your knife wasn’t, now was it?” The wound in my thigh throbbed as I twisted to better see McKay as he walked slowly toward us.
“You were… going to shoot… Teyla.”
“I was going to shoot you all,” I clarified so that he had no doubt that I wasn’t going to just sit by and be handed over to the Genii like a garden tool a neighbor wanted to borrow. Didn’t they know those things never came back the way you leant them out? “And I still will if McKay can’t get me out of here.”
They thought they were trading Rodney for Ronon, a hostage exchange so that Ronon could get the medical care that he needed. If that was all I wanted, I could have asked for Elizabeth or Carson. No, I needed McKay to get out of the city that had gone into lockdown as soon as I turned on them. Turned on them like they had turned on me. They were supposed to be my friends… no, my goddamn family. Well, if this is what family got you then maybe I shouldn’t have lamented the fact that I didn’t have any. I should have known that by now. But I’d let me guard down, trusted, cared. But I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. Ever.
Rodney finally reached the boxes, eyes widening when he saw Ronon and blinking when he saw my gun pointed at his head. “Sheppard, this wasn’t part of the deal.” Hands lifted higher to show that he posed no danger. But Rodney’s hands weren’t a threat, it was what I had my sidearm trained on that was McKay’s greatest weapon. “I promised I’d help you if you let Ronon go.”
“Then help,” I told him, not lowering my gun.
“Not like this. Not with you pointing a gun at me. You’ve already shot me once in the past; I’m not really inclined to have it happen again.”
“Last time I shot you, I wasn’t exactly in my right mind,” I reminded him. Although now I knew he was just as ruthless as any Taliban fighter I might have hallucinated him to be. “Not like today.”
“Well, I think the jury’s still out on that one,” he mumbled. Adding quickly when my eyes narrowed in on the spot between his own, “But that’s a deliberation best saved for another time.”
“Don’t think that I won’t kill you, McKay. The jury’s still out on that one, too.”
He seemed to relax a small amount at the threat and offered a hand down to help me stand. “Well, that’s good to know.”
“That I may kill you?” I took the hand and used it to heave myself to my feet.
“That you haven’t decided yet. That means there may be a bit of the John Sheppard that I know still in there somewhere.”
I almost laughed in his face, almost told him that the only people who had changed were him and the others, that they were the ones that were willing to throw me to the wolves without a second thought. But then he did something that had the words faltering on my tongue. He deliberately stepped between me and any line of fire the men behind the other boxes might have had on me.
“Come on,” he coaxed. “Ronon needs to see Carson and I don’t want any of the marines over there thinking now would be the time to pay you back for a bad performance review they may have received.”
I had planned to leave the area with a gun to his head and a threat to anyone trying to follow us. But instead I found a strange twist in my gut that if someone got trigger happy, he would be the first to go down. “McKay?” I asked quietly, fighting the feeling that could only be an instinct from all the years we had worked together in the field. “What are you doing?”
“What I always do, Sheppard, looking out for our team. Ronon’s hurt, you need help, that’s what I do. Remember?” He shook his head in exasperation. “Evidently you don’t or you wouldn’t still be pointing a gun at me.”
My gun lowered a small fraction as if of its volition before I brought it back up and shook my head to clear away the feeling that I could trust him. Because how could I trust him when he was going to turn me over to Kolya? “Can you get me to the Jumpers?”
Blue eyes rolled at my question. “Now I’m insulted. It’s one thing to forget our friendship; it’s another entirely to forget my intellectual brilliance. Of course I can get you to the Jumpers.”
“Then do it before I forget why I never shot your arrogant ass.”
“Down the hall to the nearest transporter,” he directed.
I nodded, my gun still on him as we moved down the corridor. And McKay only looked back once to make sure the medical team was helping Ronon.
Me, I never looked back at all.
x x x x
The transporter took us to the wing just south of the JumperBay but instead of exiting when we arrived, I turned to address Sheppard. “Let’s get your leg bandaged up first.”
The grip on his gun tightened when I went to for the field dressing in my vest and I slowly pulled the package out to show him I wasn’t trying to trick him and fast draw a miniature Wraith stunner from the small pouch. I was all for delusions of grandeur, but only when I held them myself. To have Sheppard think I was capable of taking him down with something in my field vest would have been flattering if not for the fact that it was being brought on by extreme paranoia. And the fact that he seemed genuinely shocked to see nothing more than a bandage in my hand only solidified that opinion in my mind.
“You just don’t get what’s going on here, do you, McKay?”
Squatting, I wrapped the cloth around his leg. Ronon could have taken him in the throat if he had wanted to kill him, even lying on the floor with a bullet in him, but fortunately, he’d just wanted to throw off Sheppard’s aim so he wouldn’t kill Teyla. “I think I understand what’s going on here better than you do, Colonel.”
“Oh, yeah?” He hissed as I tied the ends tight to curtail the bleeding. “What exactly do you think that is?”
“I think Ladon Radim asked us to look at a piece of technology they found and you jumped to some very big conclusions.”
The barrel of the gun pressed into my temple and not for the first time today I thought the world had been turned upside down because there was no way in hell Sheppard would do something like this. “You just try and deny you were planning to send me to the Genii.”
“You’re right, we were going to send you… and me and Ronon and Teyla and Lorne’s team to watch our backs while we watched yours.”
“Bullshit. I should blow your brains out right here for lying to me like that.”
The gun pushed harder and I instinctively found myself cowering against the wall of the transporter. “Christ, Sheppard, do you really think we’d let you go anywhere near the Genii by yourself? After what that son of a bitch Kolya did to you last time.”
“Then why were you even considering helping them?” He demanded, bending down closer.
“Because Ladon helped us find you!” I blurted out as the pressure of metal against my skin increased. “If it wasn’t for him we never would have. We owe him for that if nothing else.”
The Genii leader was far from my favorite person, but aside from trying to take over Atlantis on behalf of his then commander, Kolya, and threatening to kill Sheppard then me during his coup against Cowen, he’d been one of the few trustworthy Genii we’d run across. Of course working with the Genii was always a little like housebreaking a rabid Rottweiler… chances were you were going to end up in mounds of shit but you just considered yourself lucky if you made it out alive with all your limbs attached.
“And just how did Ladon know where to find me? Because he’s working with Kolya, that’s how. But you knew that already, didn’t you? You and all the others. And you’d rather give me over to the Genii than face them yourselves.”
He’d been against helping the Genii ever since they’d made contact that morning. He’d seemed a little adamant, which was odd. But when you got right down to it, it wasn’t something that I could blame him for, given that the last time he’d dealt with them he’d been fed upon by a Wraith.
“You don’t really believe that, do you?” I opened my eyes to look into hazel ones boring into me in anger… no, not anger, betrayal. Hurt and betrayal. “What the hell did those people do to you?” Those people being Lenowens, the race we had met the day before the Genii made contact.
No, I couldn’t blame him for not wanting to work with the Genii. But I could blame the Lenowens for taking that distrust in the Genii and turning it into distrust of everyone that he knew and counted as friends.
“They opened my goddamn eyes.”
Funny he should mention his eyes. Those were the fist sign that something wasn’t quite right when he’d emerged from the Lenowen Proctor’s tent. He was a cross between holy man and magistrate for the desert-dwelling nomadic people. They were known for their trade of exotic herbs and Carson was curious to obtain some that he had heard tale of on another world. So, we had gone to their home world and just as Teyla had said they would, they took Sheppard, our leader, aside to ascertain we didn’t have ulterior motives for the herbs. Evidently some of them were rather potent and the Lenowens wanted to make sure the traders that came didn’t have nefarious plans for their use. Teyla had no idea how they determined that, but somehow they always seemed to know when someone was lying to them.
I had sat with Teyla and Ronon, sweating against the beating sun, seeking shelter under a simple lean-to they provided, and waited for nearly two hours for Sheppard to reappear. When he did, he seemed to sway slightly as he stood next to the happily smiling Proctor who proclaimed us trustworthy and led Ronon and Teyla to another tent to retrieve the plants.
“Sheppard, what happened?” I asked when he just continued to stand there, his sunglasses dangling unnoticed down his chest. And that’s when I noticed his eyes. The pupils were almost fully dilated and he didn’t even blink against the brightness of the afternoon sun. “Sheppard?”
Finally seeming to see me for the first time, he shivered in the oven-like heat reflecting off the sand. “Where are Teyla and Ronon?” There was an edge to the worry in his tone, like it wasn’t for his team but against us.
“They went with the guy in the robes to get Carson’s herbs,” I dismissed with a frown. “What did they do to you in there?”
“Nothing much.” He put on the sunglasses and shook his head. “They put some drops in my eyes, rambled on about seeing the truth of my soul, asked me a few question and said we were good to go.”
“It’s taken them that long to ask a few questions?”
He shrugged at my disbelief. “Fifteen minutes isn’t that long to cool your heels, McKay.”
“Colonel, you’ve been in that tent for almost two hours.”
With a crinkle of his brow that was more suspicious than confused, he shook his head. “There’s no way I was in there for that long.”
But he had been and when Carson ran blood tests when we returned to Atlantis, he found elevated levels of a dopamine-like substance in his system. The more we asked him about his time in the tent, the more defensive he became.
“Why are you so concerned with what they asked me? I’m fine, we got the plants, the mission was a success. End of story.”
“John,” Elizabeth had started calmly from her usual spot at the head of the conference table, “you were drugged. We just want to make sure you’re all right.”
“Do you think I told them something I shouldn’t? That I compromised the security of Atlantis?”
“Possibly.” My response had the others looking at me in disapproval and Sheppard scowling where he sat. “What? He lost an hour and a half, there’s no telling what they could have been asking him.”
“They didn’t ask about Atlantis,” he insisted to everyone in the room. “They asked questions about fears and deception. Was I hiding something from them? Was I afraid of being found out? Think about what scared me most. Crap like that. It just seemed to go a lot faster than it actually did is all.”
“Dopamines are known to increase agitation and paranoia,” Carson provided. “If they were trying to see if we had illicit plans for the herbs, they may have used them to bring that out in Colonel Sheppard to determine if he was trying to lie to them.”
“Would they have forced him to tell them something he didn’t want to?” Elizabeth asked.
“No, I don’t believe so. I think they would have judged him more on his reactions than what he actually told them.”
Carson’s explanation had Sheppard standing and leaning intently across the table. “I didn’t tell them anything.”
His defense had Elizabeth looking uncomfortably to Carson before trying to appease the man glaring at her. “John, I know you never would intentionally…”
But Sheppard had no intention of listening to her. “Are we done here?”
Elizabeth turned her attention once again to Carson. “How long before the drugs exit his system?”
The physician prefaced his answer with a hesitant tilt of his head. “A few days, perhaps. I can monitor his blood chemistry and tell when they’re gone.”
“I’m not going to stay in the infirmary,” Sheppard told him with little room for argument.
“Colonel, I think it would be best if…”
Cutting off Carson’s protest, I stated. “Actually, I could use Colonel Sheppard’s assistance in my lab this afternoon with some modulations I’m working on with the sensors.” A quick glance at Teyla had her catching on to what I was trying to do.
“Yes, and I was hoping he could help me this evening with the Athosian children that are coming over from the Mainland.” She smiled at Sheppard. “They do enjoy your stories.”
Sheppard rolled his eyes and looked at Ronon. “Anything you desperately need my assistance with?”
“I haven’t kicked you ass in the gym for a while,” the Satedan offered.
“No thanks. I don’t need an ass-kicking, I don’t need babysitters, and I don’t need to be in the infirmary.” Turning he started for the door. “What I need is for you all to leave me the hell alone.”
“John, where are you going?”
He turned from where he stood in the doorway and regarded our expedition leader. “What? Now I have to report in on my exact location? Not that it’s any of your business, but I’ll be in my quarters. And don’t worry; if I decide to plot the destruction of Atlantis, you’ll be the first to know.”
With that, he stormed out of the room and was gone. The rest of us sat and watched him go. “Well, that wasn’t exactly a raging success.”
My observation had Carson shaking his head. “It’s the drugs; they’re still wrecking havoc with his system. He should be back to his old self in a few days.”
“And in the meantime?” Elizabeth asked.
“Try to stick to as normal a routine as possible,” Carson suggested. “No off-world travel, of course. But don’t exclude him or hover too much or give him reason to feel more paranoid than he already is.”
Elizabeth nodded her head in understanding. “Is he a danger to himself?”
“Is he a danger to us?”
“Rodney,” Teyla chastised at my question.
“It’s a valid question. He obviously trusts himself more than us,” I pointed out.
“Which is why we need to do everything possible to assure him that we aren’t a threat,” Carson added. “But watch for any signs that the symptoms are getting worse and let me know immediately if you think they are.”
So we tried. I tried. I think I failed. Looking at where we were right then, in a transporter with Sheppard’s Baretta pushed against my head, I was pretty damn sure I must have failed. And now I had to do everything I could to convince him that the Lenowens hadn’t opened his eyes to the truth, they had opened his mind up to facing his worst fears. Fears that I had thought revolved around the Genii and Kolya and the Wraith. Fears that I realized actually revolved around being betrayed by those he trusted… had trusted. And if I couldn’t convince him to trust us again, I was going to be dead, Sheppard was going to be gone from Atlantis and when he eventually came down off the drugs and understood what he had done, he was going to be gone permanently.
“Look.” I forced my fear into anger, something I was spectacularly adept at doing. “If you want to get out of here, you need me. You know that, else you wouldn’t have asked for me in exchange for Ronon. You may be paranoid but you’re not a moron.”
“I’m not paranoid!” The wild gaze and fly of spittle didn’t exactly help his argument. But I wasn’t about to call him on it.
“Fine, you’re not paranoid, but you’re still not an idiot. If you want me to help you, put the goddamn gun away and let me help you.”
He held the gun as steady as his eyes on mine before finally easing it back and at least pointing it at the floor instead of me. I propped up a little straighter where I sat on the floor, touching a finger gingerly to the spot where the barrel had been pressed, willing my heart rate to slow down out of the imminent cardiac arrest range. “I’m going to have a bruise, you son of a bitch.”
“Yeah, well that’s better than a gaping hole.”
“For someone whose ass is pretty much grounded without me, you sure like to throw that threat around.”
“What do you mean grounded?”
I rolled my eyes, in effect telling him that maybe he was a moron after all. “You were locked out of the system the minute you went rogue, Colonel. The Jumper won’t even open its back hatch for you at this point.”
“Then override the lockout.”
“I can’t override the lockout without Elizabeth’s password. Two senior staff are required to cancel any security shutdown. That’s the protocol you put into place.”
Throwing up his arms in annoyance that he had to all intents and purposes trapped himself, he asked, “Don’t you know her password?”
“I did,” I grumbled in my own irritation, “but she found out and changed it. Now she changes it at least once a week.”
“Then just how the hell did you plan to get me out of here?” Hazel eyes narrowed and the gun crept back up. “You didn’t plan to get me out of here, did you?”
“I take it back; you’re an idiot. I’ve seen mathematically-challenged fry cooks put two and two together faster than you.” Speaking slowly so that even his drug-befuddled brain could follow what I was saying, I told him. “You can’t fly the Jumper, but I can.”
“The hell you will,” he snorted.
I shrugged, rubbing at the sore spot on the side of my head. “Suit yourself. You can stay here and let the drugs wear off or you can let me take you off-world and let the drugs wear off. Either way, you’re stuck with me until they do.”
“The drugs wearing off won’t change the fact that you were going to turn me over to the Genii.”
Actually it would. At least I hoped like hell it would and this wasn’t going to be something permanent. But if it was, then it was all the more reason why he couldn’t be allowed to leave Atlantis by himself. “Then they’ll be sending the both of us, because I’m not leaving you alone.”
His upper lip curled in a snarl. “Why should I believe a word you say?”
“Because I’ve never lied to before, have I?” When his face softened into something closer to frustration that he couldn’t argue the point I had just made, I continued. “You’re just going to have to trust me.”
“After what you and the others did, I don’t think that’s possible, McKay.”
What we had done, what he thought we had done, would have been all but unforgivable in his book. Hell, I don’t think I could have ever forgiven myself for doing something like that to anyone, much less my best friend. He just needed to be reminded that what was really impossible was that we would ever consider doing something like that.
“Walking through a stargate and coming out in another galaxy is impossible, Sheppard. Defeating a ten-thousand year old Wraith is impossible. Using the electricity from the lightening of a hurricane to save the city while it’s under attack is impossible. Holding off a Wraith siege with a depleted ZedPM is impossible. You returning from a suicide run to a Hive ship is impossible. Me coming up from a Jumper on the bottom of the ocean is impossible. Getting an Aurora class battleship out of the crater of an active volcano is impossible. Taking over a Hive ship bound for Earth is impossible.” I threw my arms wide in exasperation. “The impossibilities are endless, Colonel. And yet we’ve done them time and time again. I think trusting the person you did all those things with might be easier than you give yourself credit for.”
He stared at me for a few seconds before using the heel of his free hand to rub at his forehead. “Sheppard,” I asked in worry, “are you okay?”
Straightening, he used his gun to irritably wave me out of the transporter. “Are we going to get out of here or not?”
I stood then, doing my best not too grin too smugly that I had apparently made at least some progress with him. “I thought you’d never ask.”
And within a few minutes, I had us inside the JumperBay.
x x x x