Title: Rules of Engagement written for the Secret Santa exchange at sheppard_hc
Genre: slash with Team and Caldwell
Word count: ~18,600 (yes, I totally blew the 10,000 word limit)
Spoilers: Anything through Season 5 but nothing past The Shrine really.
Author Notes: This is based on the prompt by sian1359 and I was really bad and lost my prompt email between the time I wrote the fic and now. But what I based the fic on was her desire for McShep slash with Sheppard hurt by bad guys or tech but not trapped in the infirmary and Caldwell involved with the mission somehow and concluding that John isn't a screw up. (I'm paraphrasing from memory here!) I hope this fits the bill. Thanks as always to Koschka for the beta.
Summary: With Sheppard and McKay held captive by a hostile force, it's up to Caldwell to oversee their rescue.
Rules of Engagement
"Daedalus, this is Teyla. Come in."
With a nod of his head toward his coms operator, Caldwell opened the channel. "Go ahead, Teyla."
"We’ve lost contact with Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay." In the background, Caldwell could hear the sound of weapons fire. "The colonel was shot by a device that implanted itself into his shoulder and Rodney stayed with him to see if he could remove it while Ronon and I continued on with the marines to complete the mission."
"Have the charges been set?" Caldwell asked, before directing the helmsman, "See if you can lock onto Sheppard and McKay’s location."
"Yes," Teyla confirmed. "We have set the charges and they are programmed to detonate in three minutes. Unfortunately we have been cut off by the Burdack insurgents and Sgt. Millstone and Capt. Flores have both been injured. And since we cannot reach Colonel Sheppard…"
Caldwell stood from his seat and went to stand over the helmsman’s shoulder. "Copy that, Teyla. Stand by for immediate extraction."
"Sir, I've located both Colonel Sheppard’s and Dr. McKay’s transponders, but there seems to be some sort of interference and I can’t get a good lock. Both of them are clear of the building."
"Beam the team in the building directly to medical. See if you can boost the signal to reach Sheppard." When he was told the channel was open, the colonel called down to the planet. "Colonel Sheppard, this is Daedalus. Do you copy?"
"Dae…us, ..is She…rd."
"Colonel, we can barely read you." Caldwell waved his hand at coms to try to fix the link. "What’s your status?"
"We…cover… building. Mc…thinks…might be shielded."
"We’ve reestablished the link and can hear you now," Caldwell told them after the feed cleared. "Can you make it back to the gate? Try to dial out?" It was a long shot, seeing as the insurgents held the gate. But if they could make it there, Caldwell could possible call for backup from Atlantis to at least extract the men.
"Negative. They have us completely surrounded." Sheppard hissed in pain as he told Caldwell, "We aren’t going anywhere unless you beam us out."
When he glanced at the helmsman to indicate he should do just that, the man shook his head. "The transporter still can’t get a good lock on them because of the shielding. I’m attempting to boost the signal now."
"Stand by, Colonel; we’re working to increase the transporter strength to get you out of there."
"Like I said," Sheppard drawled, "we aren’t going anywhere."
"Teyla said you had been hit by some sort of device?"
"Yeah, well, you know how it is, Sir; can’t visit a new world without picking up a souvenir."
McKay cut across the channel then. "This thing isn’t coming out unless it’s surgically removed. It’s actually burrowed under his skin." The disgust in the scientist’s voice was obvious.
Caldwell couldn’t help his own grimace at the idea. "Do you have any idea what the mechanism is doing, Doctor?"
"My best guess is it’s a tracking device. Based on my readings, it seems to be receiving a signal and transmitting back. I’m thinking that’s how they were able to locate us so quickly."
"And if we transport you up to the Daedalus?" Caldwell asked. After all, unknown alien devices weren’t something you wanted on your ship.
"I’m hoping it will be enough to sever the link." McKay told him. "The signal range doesn’t seem to be that strong."
"Sir," the helmsman interrupted, "we’re ready to transport."
"Let’s hope you’re right," Caldwell told the men on the ground as he returned to his seat. "We’re going to beam you straight to the bridge."
A few seconds later, Sheppard and McKay appeared in a golden stream of light. And as soon as the Asgard beam reformed them, Sheppard started screaming, doubling over and collapsing against McKay.
"Sheppard!" the scientist yelled, unable to do anything more than drop the meter in his hand and fall to the deck along with the screaming man as Sheppard did his best to curl into a ball on the floor.
"Medical team to the bridge immediately!" Caldwell called into his own com link as he took a step toward the two men on the floor. The last time he’d heard a man screaming like this, the guy’s insides had been outside thanks to a bomb in Northern Iraq during Desert Storm.
"Stay back!" Rodney warned, doing his best to wrap around Sheppard, as if he could use his own body to shield his teammate from whatever was causing the pain. "It’s the goddamn device!"
Sheppard spasmed once… twice… and the screams turned into a strangled gurgling sound, his hand clutching McKay’s vest in a bloodless grip before he started going into convulsions.
"Oh, fuck me!" McKay exclaimed, tightening his hold on the man in his arms. "Send us back!"
"The medical team is on its way, Doctor…" Caldwell tried to rationalize.
"He’ll be dead by then! The device is going to kill him if we don’t get him back within range of the signal. So, send us back."
"Your location was compromised…"
"I know that!" Rodney obviously wasn’t going to listen reason. "Send us the fuck back!"
Caldwell took a second to weigh his options. He could try to send Sheppard back on his own; no use two men being taken prisoner. It was bad enough the insurgents would have the head of military operations of Atlantis without handing over the lead scientist, as well. But McKay was right that Sheppard was probably dead if he stayed and Caldwell seriously doubted he could separate the two men long enough for the transporter to distinguish one of their signals from the other.
"Now!" McKay ordered.
Caldwell grimly gave the command. "Do it."
McKay’s eyes held something between thanks and wide-eyed dread as they dissolved into the beam for the return trip to the planet. As they vanished from sight, Caldwell heard the medical team led by Teyla and Ronon enter the room to stare at the ship commander in confusion.
"What just happened?" Ronon demanded.
Caldwell wasn’t sure exactly how to answer that question. Chances were equally good he had just sent Sheppard and McKay to their deaths as it was that he had just saved Sheppard’s life.
"Sir, we just detected an explosion on the surface. The insurgent facility has been destroyed."
The report from the helm should have been taken as good news seeing as they’d achieved the mission directive. But considering they still had two men down behind enemy lines, Caldwell wasn’t ready to proclaim the mission a success just yet.
* * * *
John quickly came to the conclusion that this must be what it was like to be on fire. One minute he and McKay had been fine and the next he was apparently bursting into flames… and electrocuted all at the same time… while being beaten by a biker gang with crowbars. Because he had never experienced that sort of pain in his life. Never imagined that anything could hurt that bad because surely the human body would give up and pass out or something to keep from experiencing it. And then his brain pretty much shut down and quit thinking anything as rational as that and just went with STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP…
Somewhere in that blinding explosion of agony and wishing he’d just go ahead and die already, he heard McKay. Rodney was in full blown McKay freak-out mode, but it was something Sheppard knew, something he could cling to, so that’s exactly what he did. Instinctively he moved toward the voice, toward the body, toward Rodney. Because Rodney would fix this, Rodney would make the pain go away. One way or another, Rodney would make this whole nightmare just fucking stop.
And it did.
As quickly as it had started, it was gone. The flames scorching his skin, the electricity running through his system, all of it was gone, even though the memory of it lingered in every nerve ending in his body. He did his best not move, afraid it would start up again but his body betrayed him by jerking spastically on its own.
"John, breathe!" Rodney gave him a sharp shake and John’s muscles flinched even more in response. "Sheppard, take a fucking breath!"
Rodney… always with the good ideas, that one. So, John tried his best to do what McKay suggested and dragged in what felt like liquid fire to fill his lungs. But oxygen was a good thing and John kind of remembered it was pretty damn important if he wanted to live, so he tried again. This time the pain was a little less and Rodney’s head leaned heavily against his own.
"Yeah, okay, keep doing that."
Rodney sounded as exhausted as John felt, and to be honest, Sheppard couldn’t tell if Rodney was shaking or it was just the tremors still running through his own body that he felt. Probably a little of both, he decided. But Rodney was warm, so goddamn warm, and if John could have crawled under McKay’s skin at the moment, he would have, shaking be damned. It was funny how he could feel so cold and on fire all at the same time. But none of this made a damn bit of sense so he pressed his face against the warmth of Rodney’s neck and held on to him like a fucking lifeline and concentrated on sucking in one ragged breath after another.
Rodney shifted and Sheppard tightened his hold on the other man’s vest, afraid McKay was going to loosen his arms that were wrapped securely around John. The logical part of John’s brains was telling him it was so damn stupid that he wanted to be held so badly ,because every touch hurt, even his fucking clothes felt like sandpaper on his skin. But Rodney was warm and he smelt of sweat and fear and maybe coffee and, more than that, he was real and he was Rodney. He was really Rodney and John needed that a hell of a lot more than physical comfort right then.
Rodney didn’t let go for long, just keyed his radio and then pulled John closer. Sheppard couldn’t decide if he wanted to whimper in pain or relief so he concentrated on the rise and fall of McKay’s chest against his and tried to match the rhythm of his breathing to Rodney’s.
"Daedalus, this is McKay. I think he’s stabilizing."
The Daedalus. That should mean something. Something important.
"Rodney, can you move from your current location? Perhaps reach the trees and hide there until we can determine how to get help to you to disable the device in John?"
Teyla’s voice had John trying to remember what happened. Where were she and Ronon? Why did they need to hide?
"What do you say, Sheppard?" McKay’s voice nearly choked as he half laughed the question and John realized Rodney was scared… scared of whatever it was they needed to hide from. "Up for a run through the woods?"
John attempted to pull away from Rodney, because he had to do that before he could even try to stand, but the best he managed was a shudder that coursed from his head down to his feet and back again.
McKay exhaled against John’s shoulder in response and mumbled. "Yeah, that’s what I thought." Activating his radio again, Rodney told them, "We’re not going anywhere."
John heard Caldwell’s voice next. "Dr. McKay, we can still transport you out." Rodney stiffened at the suggestion and John found himself torn between trying to speak to tell Caldwell to, yes, beam McKay’s ass out of there and fearing Rodney would voluntarily leave on his own. "As long as we have a lock on his transponder, we can always find Colonel Sheppard again."
"I said we’re not going anywhere and that meant back to the Daedalus, too. Not as long as Sheppard has this device in him, so I suggest you find a way to get it out of him and soon."
Stubborn son of a bitch, John thought, shifting his face so that his cheek lay against the pulse point on Rodney’s neck. And the feel of it racing madly had John attempting to speak.
"Not on your life," Rodney told him quietly.
"Rodney," Teyla spoke gently. "If the Burdacks capture you, they will most likely implant you with the same device as John."
"You think I don’t know that? Hello? Genius you’re talking to here."
"McKay, you come up and I’ll go down and stay with Sheppard."
Ronon’s suggestion had Caldwell arguing, "I’m not trading one man’s safety for another."
John agreed with the colonel’s logic. He didn’t want any of his team going through what he just had, what he still was. "Rod..d..ney…"
"Shut the hell up," McKay snapped.
"Excuse me?" Caldwell asked in surprise.
"Not you," Rodney tried to explain before shaking his head. "Actually, yes, you. All of you. Get a surgical team down here that can remove this thing, from both of us if it comes to that. Until then… you’ll know where to find us. McKay out."
John still hadn’t opened his eyes, but by the way Rodney’s arm jerked away before folding back around him, Sheppard figured the scientist had just tossed away his radio. That and the fact John could still hear the people up on the Daedalus trying to get Rodney to respond through his own radio.
He didn’t get a chance to even attempt to try to answer them because Rodney straightened then. "Shit, here they come."
That’s when John finally heard the sound of boots outside the room. A few bangs had the door open and then McKay was being pulled away from him and John lost his grip on Rodney and with it his bearings. The room was spinning and Sheppard pulled his knees up even closer to his chest in an attempt to curl inward and away from the chaos surrounding him. Voices all around him, people everywhere, and none of them was McKay. Where the fuck was Rodney? Finally, somewhere off to the side, John could hear him yelling at their captors to take it easy… Sheppard couldn’t tell if he was referring to John or his own self… because there were hands on him and they sure the hell didn’t belong to McKay. But John did know one thing for sure, that not having Rodney close was almost as bad as when they’d activated that fucking device in him in the first place.
* * * *
Steven Caldwell knew how to keep his head in battle, he knew how to fly craft that most people had never laid eyes on, and he knew how to command a kick ass intergalactic battle ship. He’d worked hard his entire career to reach the position he held, had trained hard to learn these skills, and more than that, he enjoyed it. What he didn’t enjoy was playing diplomat. If he could shoot an enemy vessel out of the sky, great. If he had to give fair warning of his intentions to shoot an enemy vessel out of the sky, fine. But any talking beyond that tended to get on his nerves. And tap dancing around a supposed ally who wasn’t giving them the information they needed was starting to piss him the hell off.
Woolsey couldn’t come. The insurgents held the gate and it wouldn’t be safe for anyone from Atlantis to come through. Sure, a Jumper could make it through no problem, but what would the rebels do to Sheppard and McKay if they felt the threat was too great to keep them alive? And seeing that Atlantis was a twelve hour round trip away, and the nearest planet with a gate was two hours to reach, the decision had been made for Caldwell and Teyla to try to gather as much information as they could from the Burdack council and then report back to Atlantis. But after almost an hour with little new data gained, Caldwell was starting to think the trip to the nearest gate might have been a better use of their time after all.
Teyla took a deep breath and tried to reason with Haras, the Burdack lead council member once more. "We understand your need to protect your intelligence on the insurgent forces, but Atlantis responded to your request for help at great personal risk to our own people. The fact that two of our men are currently prisoners should show that you can trust us with the information that we are requesting."
"You have two men held prisoner and we lost ten in the attack on the facility so that your people could gain entrance," Haras argued. "Our loss far outweighs yours."
"From what I’ve been told, your intel was bad," Caldwell countered from his seat, finally breaking his silence. There were always rules of engagement to follow when confronting a potentially hostile adversary. It didn’t matter if you were facing off with guns or words, certain protocols should be followed. However, sometimes you just needed to toss those out the window, cut through the bullshit, and speak your mind. "We’re lucky the entire mission wasn’t a bust."
Haras crossed his arms defensively. "Are you suggesting my men were responsible for the deaths?"
"I’m suggesting that if not for my men, a hell of a lot more would have been dead."
"We agreed to give your troops the lead in the mission."
Caldwell bristled at the accusation behind Haras’s statement. "And we put our best man in charge and now he’s been captured ensuring the facility was destroyed."
"Both Atlantis and Burdack have endured great challenges in this mission," Teyla cut in, trying to smooth the ruffled feathers of both men. "And as I have said, we are truly sorry for your loss, but the destruction of their primary weapons facility will strike a serious blow to the insurgents and save many more of your people."
"Laydon Radim said you could supply us with the explosives we needed to destroy the facility. We never asked for your people to participate in the raid in the first place."
The Genii leader had come to Atlantis to request their help for one of their allies. Caldwell understood the concept of the enemy of my enemy is my friend and unfortunately it worked about as well as the friend of my friend is my friend… not always the case. Especially when you had a very shaky relationship with your supposed mutual friends to begin with.
Caldwell gave a minute shake of his head. "Laydon Radim should know better than anyone that we wouldn’t just turn over one of our weapons to you. If he suggested otherwise then you were mislead just as we apparently have been when he told us you would be willing to assist us in any way possible."
Haras narrowed his eyes at the accusation. "I have already told you all we know about the tracking devices the insurgents use."
"No," Caldwell countered, "you told us our men are as good as dead which suggests you’ve come across the devices in the past. My guess is you have one around here somewhere."
"We have lost several people to the trackers." Haras shook his head in disgust. "They died in horrific pain."
"But you recovered the devices from their bodies," Caldwell concluded.
When Haras nodded silently, Teyla placed a hand on the councilor’s arm. "Then you must give us what you have to study and learn what we can about them to prevent the same from happening to our people. I promise whatever we learn from the device we will share with you so that you can prevent any others from falling victim, as well."
"Our best scientists have studied them thoroughly. If there was any way to stop them, then we would have found it by now."
Caldwell leaned forward in his seat. "No offense, but your scientists couldn’t come up with a way to destroy the facility without our help. We might have a little bit of an advantage over your people when it comes to technology."
Haras considered for a moment before finally nodding. "Very well, I will arrange for your scientists to see the devices we have, but only here in our research facilities."
"But we will lose several precious hours transporting our scientist from Atlantis to here," Teyla tried to explain. "If you would permit us to take one to them…"
"This is the only way I will allow you to see them," Haras told her with finality. "You will not risk others having access to your explosives, we will not risk others having access to such a potentially devastating weapon as the trackers."
Teyla looked to Caldwell in frustration, both realizing this was the best they were going to get out of Haras. "Very well," Caldwell relented. "We’ll return with our science team in four hours." Keying his radio, Caldwell called, "Daedalus, Teyla and I are ready to return to the ship."
Back on the bridge, Caldwell ordered, "Set a course for PX9-598. Contact Atlantis and let them know we need a science team to study the device on Burdack as well as a field surgical team waiting for us there."
Teyla followed after him, waiting expectantly as he retook his seat. "Was there something else we needed to discuss?"
Honestly, he was expecting her to chastise him for being so confrontational with the Burdack leader, so he was a little surprised by her response.
"I just wanted to thank you for what you said regarding Colonel Sheppard’s role on this mission."
With a bit of confusion, Caldwell told her, "As far as I can tell, Sheppard didn’t do anything wrong down on that planet."
"No, he did not." She hesitated before admitting, "It is just that you and Colonel Sheppard… in the past… have not always seen eye to eye regarding his role on Atlantis."
While it was true that Caldwell had wanted Sheppard’s position early on, there was no way he or anyone else could think that John Sheppard had anything but Atlantis’ best interest at heart with all he did. There was also no way anyone could say every decision Sheppard made was a good one. But if they were honest with themselves, those same people could say the same thing regarding their own decisions, Caldwell included.
"The only thing I have ever had issue with is Colonel Sheppard’s experience base and his ability to hold such an important position given his limited years of military service. I’ve never once questioned his dedication to Atlantis or any mission that he’s been associated with during his time in Pegasus."
Teyla ducked her head. "Of course, Colonel. If you will excuse me, I should go inform Ronon of our course of action."
He watched her go then stopped her right before she left the bridge. "Teyla, thank you for your help down there."
"There is no need for thanks. I will do whatever I can to ensure Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay’s safe return."
"I’m not giving up on getting them back," he promised.
She forced a smile at his reassurance. "I am well aware of that fact, Colonel."
When she was gone, Caldwell sighed, checked his watch, and set in for the two hour trip to the rendezvous point with the Atlantis teams.
* * * *
When John woke, he was laying on what was little more than a wooden slab with a thin pad on top that was smaller than the beds on Atlantis, if that was even possible. The coarse coverlet draped over his legs did nothing to keep out the chill that had soaked bone deep into him and he reached down to pull it up to his shoulders with a groan. His muscles ached like they had the time he’d come down with strep so bad in college he’d nearly ended up in the hospital. No, this was worse, he decided. This was the worse he had ever felt in his life including the time Todd had pretty much sucked him dry.
Looking around the room, he saw that there was a bucket in the corner, another by the bed with water… their captor’s equivalent of indoor plumbing he assumed… and nothing else but nondescript gray walls. Nothing at all, including McKay. And that had him gritting his teeth and forcing himself to sit up. Once there he paused to catch his breath then managed to push up to his feet and stagger across the room with the blanket wrapped around his shoulders to bang on the door.
"Hey!" John cleared his throat against the hoarseness in his voice when he attempted to speak. "I want to talk to whoever’s in charge!"
Leaning against the door, Sheppard waited for a response that never came.
Banging again, he demanded, "Somebody open the door and let me see the man who was taken prisoner with me!"
Still no answer.
"Just let me know if he’s okay!"
Pressing his forehead against the door, John closed his eyes. "Please."
Apparently, no one was out there or they were ignoring him. Either way, it didn’t make him feel any better about Rodney being gone. And that left him nothing to do but shuffle back to the wooden cot and lie shivering on his side with the blanket wrapped around him and wait. Eventually he drifted back to sleep, waking to the sound of a tray of food being slid across the floor.
"Hey!" he called as the door shut and the lock snicked securely into place. "Wait!"
Once more there was no answer to his hail and John sat up once more and stared disinterestedly at the food on the floor across the room. He seriously doubted he would have wanted to eat even if McKay had been there, but seeing as he wasn’t, the thought of a meal caused Sheppard’s stomach to roll queasily. Rodney had been home free. He had been safe on the Daedalus and only came back and ended up captured because John had gotten himself shot with a fucking tazer on crack. And if McKay had ended up hurt or tortured or… worse because of him, Sheppard wasn’t sure he ever cared to eat again.
But about an hour later, the door opened again just enough for Rodney to be shoved into the room. He sidestepped to miss the tray on the floor, letting out a relieved, "Oh, thank God," when he saw Sheppard was in the room. "I’ve been trying to get them to let me see you for hours now."
John sat up straighter, which wasn’t saying much, as he demanded, "Where the hell have you been?"
"Interrogation and implanted with a tracker of my own." Rodney turned his shoulder as if John could see through his shirt to the device underneath. It was then that McKay noticed what he’d nearly tripped over on the floor. "Hey, is that food?" Picking up the tray, Rodney took a bite from the bread there. "God, I’m starving. Where’s yours?"
"That is mine," Sheppard pointed out. "Or both of ours. Hell, I was starting to doubt I was going to see you again."
"Me too," McKay told him around a mouthful of bread. "I kept asking where you were and they would just ignore me. Like you didn’t exist." Rodney moved and sat beside John on the bed and Sheppard instinctively leaned against him, soaking up what warmth he could. Rodney didn’t move away, in fact, he scooted a little closer. "Here, you should eat something, too."
John looked at the food with a wince. His fucking teeth hurt just sitting here; he could only imagine what trying to chew hard bread was going to feel like. "I’ll pass."
"Seriously, you really should eat. You probably need it to regain your strength after the whole short circuit your body went through."
Sheppard raised his eyebrows in surprise. McKay not stealing your food was a sign that he valued your well being almost as much as his own. Rodney not only sharing his food but actually coaxing you to eat it was paramount to taking a bullet for you… or maybe a marriage proposal. Which, having seen Rodney on the verge of proposing marriage, John had a feeling that bullets and engagement rings were practically the same in McKay’s mind.
When McKay pushed the tray at him once more, John eyed the lump of green mush in one corner that looked like it might be the Burdack equivalent of mashed potatoes. That was something he could probably manage to swallow down with minimal chewing and he reached a hesitant finger toward the pile, pulling it back and gripping his blanket tighter when he saw how badly his hands were shaking.
"Need some help?" Rodney scooped some of the green stuff onto a spoon and held it expectantly.
Oh, Christ. Rodney was offering to feed him. The minister would be stepping in with the rings at any minute. Either that or the sun would extinguish and the water would turn to blood.
John leaned forward enough to take the offered food. Yeah, it hurt like hell but the stuff wasn’t nearly as disgusting as it looked. "Thanks."
Rodney shrugged off the thanks and took a bite of the stewed meat after sniffing at it. "So how are you feeling?"
"Like shit," Sheppard told him honestly, still slowly moving the food around in his mouth. "Hurt all over and can’t get warm."
"Probably cold hypersensitivity." McKay presented another spoonful of the mashed vegetables. "Your nerves don’t know what to do since that thing zapped you."
John forced himself to swallow down what was in his mouth before taking the next bite. "Did you take up practicing medicine when I wasn’t looking, McKay?"
"Well, you know, I read it in one of Jennifer’s journals while I was waiting for her to go to lunch."
"Ah, I see."
The thing was, John could see why Rodney would be interested in Keller, at least more than he had with Katie Brown. After all, they had ended up a couple in the alternate universe Sheppard had accidently stumbled onto when he traveled 40,000 years into the future. And Jennifer and Rodney’s temperaments were much more closely matched than McKay’s had ever been with Katie. But that’s where things seemed a little… off to John. A year ago, Rodney had been ready to propose marriage to Katie, although John had no clue when the two had been dating seeing as McKay seemed to spend most of his free time hanging out with Sheppard. And now Rodney was totally smitten with Keller, had been flirting in the horribly inept McKay manner for months, and it all seemed kind of desperate to John. It was like Rodney felt like he had to find a woman to settle down with happily ever after and the only prerequisite was that she could tolerate being in the same room with him.
John had been down that road before. Hell, he’d walked down that aisle before. Maybe not for the exact same reasons, but he had ended up married to a good woman who he really liked but never really loved and who probably deserved better than she got from John. And John hated to see Rodney heading for the same heart ache and disappointment because he was going after something he thought he wanted, probably did want, but without giving himself the time to find the right person to have it with.
Yeah, if John kept telling himself that was the reason and jealousy had absolutely nothing to do with it, things would be fine.
Just fucking hunky dory.
But instead of thinking about that now, John settled on shivering and sucking on a glop of lime green alien potatoes and expressly did not think about how warm Rodney was beside him as the man spoon fed Sheppard another bite.
"They’re actually kind of interesting." McKay felt the need to explain the articles he’d been reading. "Despite the lack of any substantial math beyond a few statistics."
"You must really like her if you’re willing to make a sacrifice like that," John told him.
Rodney shrugged. "She’s nice, pretty, smart, braver than she likes to admit."
"Kind of like dating yourself." Sheppard didn’t realize what he had said until it was already out of his mouth.
Apparently, McKay took the admission as sarcastic instead of sincere. "I’m feeding your sickly ass, aren’t I?"
And John decided it would be best just to play along. "Well, feeding implies there is actually food involved. I’m not sure if flavorless green paste qualifies as food."
When John screwed his face and shook his head to dismiss the next bite, Rodney sighed. "Maybe the next meal will be more to your liking."
"Hopefully, we won’t be here that long." It was amazing how exhausting eating a few bites could be. Hell, it was amazing how exhausting just sitting could be. Well, technically he was slumping, but no use arguing semantics at this point. So, John leaned his head back against the wall and let his eyes slide shut.
"The Daedalus medical staff can’t handle something like this, and it’s at least four hours before they could get a medical crew from Atlantis back here," Rodney pointed out. "Not to mention, it wouldn’t do us any good to have the entire Mayo clinic here if they don’t have any idea how these trackers work. For all we know, just cutting them out could kill us."
"They’ll figure it out," Sheppard insisted. Atlantis hadn’t ever let him down yet.
"If they do, it’ll take time."
The way McKay said it, like they may not have the time to wait, had John cracking an eye open. "What did they interrogate you about?"
"The usual… who are you? Why are you helping the council? Where did you get the explosives? Can you make us some?" Sitting the tray on his lap aside, Rodney rubbed at his forehead. "Are you willing to watch your companion die if you don’t?" Leaning his own head back against the wall, McKay turned to give John a small, disheartened smile. "You know, the usual."
"Could you make them some?" Honestly, at this point, John wasn’t sure if he wanted the answer to be yes or no. Because as much as these bastards didn’t need a big batch of C-4 or something similar, if they killed him, their next victim would be McKay if he didn’t give them what they wanted.
"With the right chemicals, sure. Problem is, I have no fucking clue what they have and neither do they. I got the impression most of the brains of this operation went up with the facility we blew. It would be like you demanding I tell you how to mix up some plastic explosive when you have no idea what the chemicals are that are part of the composition."
"Ammonium nitrate, anhydrous hydrazine, and aluminum powder," John mumbled, closing his eyes once again.
"Okay, so you’re a bad example. But try explaining that to Ronon maybe. These guys aren’t into the whys of how things work; they just want to know it works good. So getting them to understand what I need to make it work won’t be easy."
"Then stall them." Sheppard shivered again and didn’t realize he’d slumped down even further until his head hit Rodney’s shoulder. But McKay was warm and more comfortable that the wall and John wasn’t inclined to move and Rodney didn’t seem inclined to make him.
"Well, yes, of course that’s the plan," McKay answered testily, which was good. If Rodney was pissy that meant he wasn’t completely convinced they were totally screwed. And John drifted off again to the sound of McKay bitching about the mindboggling stupidity of the people holding them prisoner.Part 2.