Sheppard woke to a sound he’d never heard before… Ronon screaming.
Actually, it wasn’t really a scream in the technical sense of the word, it was more of an exclamation an octave higher than the man’s usual speaking voice, and it was something along the lines of, “What the fuck?!?” But he figured that was as close to a scream as he was ever going to hear from the Satedan.
He’d actually never heard Ronon use Earth cursing either, but it seemed to be a day for firsts. It was also enough to have Sheppard staggering to his feet and reaching for his gun, only to let out a less than manly sound of his own when he moved his injured arm. Evidently the morphine they had given him after removing the arrow from his shoulder had worn off hours before. He was tempted to request another dose but seeing as he was the only one that carried it, that meant there was only one left. The drug was military issue, two injections per uniformed serviceman, and since he was the only one on the team that met that requirement that left the team as a whole at a disadvantage in the painkiller arena compared to the other away teams on Atlantis.
Actually, when he stopped to think about it, maybe it didn’t matter… Ronon would just refuse the drugs, Teyla had never requested it even when she had been shot before, and Rodney would be going for it every time he got a paper cut. Still a few more doses would be nice right about now but even though the pain was constant and throbbing, it wasn’t debilitating so he’d hold off as long as he could and settle for the milder pain meds Carson packed in the field kits in each Jumper. Besides, they were still in enemy territory, and given the way Ronon was reacting, it was probably a good idea to keep his wits about him instead of being looped out of mind on morphine.
“John, do not move your shoulder so much,” Teyla warned needlessly from where she stood beside him and he flinched away in surprise at the proximity of her voice.
Rodney was staggering to remain standing, tangled in his blanket, demanding to know as he blinked away lingering sleep, “What? What is it?”
“That,” Ronon pointed toward the front windshield to a group of large animals that looked like a moose covered in thick, brown wool with long, floppy ears.
It was obvious that the animals must have startled Ronon awake from where he slept in the front of the Jumper. They, however, seemed more curious than frightened by the craft, as one was rubbing its broad antlers along the window and another was happily licking the glass while the others tilted their heads as if to see what the two adventuresome beasts found out from their experimentation.
“I do not believe they are a threat, Ronon,” Teyla reasoned calmly. Of all of them, she was the least frazzled, which suggested she must have been awake when small herd appeared.
“I know that,” he snapped, covering his embarrassment at his outburst with irritation.
“Even if they were, it’s not like they could get to us here in the Jumper.” Rodney had finally extricated himself from the covers and was rolling his eyes.
“I know that, too,” Ronon ground out between clenched teeth, pushing past the scientist with a grumbled, “I need to take a piss.”
“Someone got up on the wrong side of the uncomfortable, non-reclining chair this morning,” Rodney observed as the Satedan shut the door behind him to the small bathroom, yanking hard on the closure that would usually slide easily aided by the power of the ship.
“He’s not the only one,” John grimaced as he sat down, cradling his arm in the makeshift sling.
“We should change your dressings.” Teyla retrieved the first aid kit without waiting for an answer.
The wooly moose licking the glass let out a guttural bellow that was echoed by the rest of the herd, before it returned to smearing saliva across the windshield.
The Athosian paused in opening the medical kit and smiled. “It appears the wildlife on this planet is fonder of us than the human inhabitants.”
“Maybe if they try to mate with the Jumper they’ll knock it free from the tree,” Rodney considered.
“Or we can send one to the gate like an alien Lassie,” John hissed as he tried to move his shoulder again.
The scientist snorted. “I can just see Elizabeth now… What is it girl? The team is trapped in a downed Jumper with no way out and we need to send Lorne and chainsaw to cut them free?”
“Something like that,” Sheppard agreed with a bobble of his head since shrugging was out of the picture. “Now you just need to teach one to dial the DHD.” He really wished they had something stronger than the limited painkillers Carson allowed in the kit.
Tilting his head to study the creatures as another one decided to sample the taste of the Jumper, McKay wished aloud, “Maybe we’ll get lucky and their saliva will eat through the windshield and we can get out. Of course then we’ll have to deal with acid-spitting killer moose and there is no telling what sort of squeal Ronon will let out when he’s faced with one of those.”
Evidently Ronon heard the comment, because something hard… John assumed it was either the warrior’s foot or his fist… impacted the bathroom door.
“And maybe if you piss off Ronon enough he can punch right through the glass for you,” Sheppard pointed out, trying to shift into a more comfortable position and realizing no such thing existed.
When Teyla saw his discomfort, she promised, “After you eat you can have some more medication for the pain.”
“Speaking of breakfast…” Rodney rubbed his hands together in anticipation of the coming meal, pulling out a stack of MRE’s from one of the bins. Each Jumper was stocked with enough emergency rations to feed a team for a week off-world, longer if they limited allocations, two days if McKay were allowed to indulge his love for prepackaged meals. “Do you have a preference?”
“Yeah, fresh fruit and muffins on Atlantis,” John told him, biting his lip when Teyla started peeling away bandages that were sticking to his wound.
“Sorry,” she grimaced in sympathy. “Rodney, could you assist me, please?”
McKay took one look at the shoulder, turned slightly green, and put the MRE aside. “So much for breakfast.” But he did as Teyla asked and by the time Ronon came back out into the main compartment, John had a clean dressing on his wound.
Eventually Rodney’s appetite returned… pretty much when the others started eating their meals… and after devouring everything in his pack and half of Teyla’s, he returned to working on the Jumper.
Ronon was still grumpy and a grumpy Ronon, Sheppard decided, was one you didn’t want to be stuck with in confined quarters. However, given the circumstances, he didn’t really have much choice. Normally if Ronon were acting like this, John would have suggested he hit the gym while he promptly went in the direction furthest from it. But, once again, that wasn’t an option. The best that could be accomplished was Sheppard and Teyla sat in the back section of the craft, Rodney roamed from access panel to access panel, and Ronon slumped in the copilot’s seat and glowered at the animals.
John chatted with Teyla for a while, napped, and woke late morning to see Teyla helping Rodney. Or at least trying to help Rodney but obviously McKay was not very appreciative of the attempt.
“Look, no offense,” and it was never a good sign when the scientist started a sentence with that preface because nine times out of ten the person it was addressed to would take extreme offense by what followed, “but I have yet to meet an Athosian with a degree in mechanical engineering or quantum physics.”
“And what are you implying by that, Rodney?”
“I’m just saying that if you want to help, the best way to do it is to stop wasting my time by making useless suggestions.”
McKay studied the ceiling thoughtfully. “Well, let’s see, they are suggestions that I can’t use, so that, I believe, makes them useless.”
“Perhaps you are the one that is useless, Dr. McKay.” With that last statement, Teyla stood and stalked back to the bench opposite John’s.
Ronon evidently found the argument more entertaining than the herd of animals milling off in the distance and turned to watch it with an amused crinkle around his eyes. But McKay wasn’t the least bit amused by the observation.
“And just what are you implying, Teyla?”
The woman threw her arms wide. “It has been over a day since we were first trapped in the Jumper and we are still here. What does that say about the usefulness of your many educational degrees, Rodney?”
“If you think you can do better, then you’re more than welcome to try!”
“I did try but Dr. Know-It-All said I was useless!”
Ronon’s grin only grew as the two descended into an all out screaming match, but John’s head was already throbbing in time with his shoulder and, besides, it was only a matter of time before Teyla threw a punch and as much as McKay could probably use the sleep, being beaten into unconsciousness probably wasn’t the best way to achieve it.
“Hey, hey, hey! Enough!” When they went silent, Sheppard continued. “Don’t make me separate the two of you.”
His suggestion was answered with a snort and roll of blue eyes. “Good luck with that, Colonel.”
“Yes, seeing as we are trapped with no one able to get us out of the Jumper…”
“I am doing everything in my power to get this ship operational again!” Rodney’s glower had John standing between them.
“All right, that’s it! Teyla, you sit back here. Rodney, you go work on something up there.” The random flick of his hand toward the front of the craft had the scientist sighing in frustration.
Teyla sat on the bench, testily grabbed her pack and pulled out a magazine. John couldn’t help but raise his eyebrows at the sight of Teyla Emmagan, leader of the Athosian people, not to mention a person that kicked his ass on a regular basis, thumbing through a copy of Cosmopolitan in a snit. But he’d save that for later. First, he wanted to deal with McKay.
“So, how’s it going?” He did his best to squat beside the man who was digging through the crystals in the wall panel.
“Supremely shitty. How about with you?”
“Eh, I’ve had better.” Giving up on balancing, Sheppard sat on the floor and leaned against the bulkhead. “So, what do you think? Is there any chance of salvaging any of it?”
“Oh, so now you don’t think I’m capable of fixing the damn thing either?”
John watched the scientist as he pulled, studied, and replaced the crystals. He was pissed, no doubt about it. But he knew Rodney and knew that the anger wasn’t just directed toward Teyla or the natives that had shot them down in the first place. It was directed at himself just as much, if not more so.
“If anybody can do it, it’s you, McKay.”
Rodney paused, took a breath as if to say something, then dropped his head. “Then I guess nobody can do it.”
“Yeah,” he admitted quietly, “that bad.”
“Well, don’t worry, you’ll think of something.” He patted the man on his shoulder. “Besides it could always be worse.”
“Oh, yeah? How?’
“I’m sure you’ll think of something in that arena, too. That is if you don’t piss off Teyla to the point that she rips your brain out by the spinal column.”
“Yeah, okay, that could be worse.”
With a grunt, Sheppard pushed himself to a stand. “See, I’ve already proven you wrong about one assessment, see what you can do about not being able to fix the Jumper.”
Rodney scowled in frustration before sitting back and going to work in his computer. And John decided he’d do what he could to keep McKay’s spinal chord and attached brain securely in place.
Rodney seemed to be deep in thought, making entries in his pad. So, Sheppard turned his attention to Teyla.
“Anything interesting in the magazine?”
She didn’t look up, just continued to flip the pages with sharp, staccato motions. “Yes, there are many interesting items in this magazine.”
John waited for her to elaborate but when she didn’t, he tried again to make conversation. “So, where did you get it, anyway?”
“Elizabeth lent it to me.” Three more pages snapped past and she said no more.
“Do you always bring fashion publications with you on away missions?”
She sighed in irritation of his continuing questions. “Is that a problem if I do?”
“No, no, not at all. I was just curious is all.”
“If you must know the details of the situation, Elizabeth gave it to me when we returned from our last mission. I simply slipped it in my pack and forgot to remove it.”
“Well, then, lucky you.”
“Yes,” she gritted, “lucky me.” Finding something that caught her eye she inquired, “Do you have a pen or pencil?”
“What?” Why in the world would she need a pen?
“A pen,” she reiterated with absolutely no patience. “A writing utensil, a tool with which to make a permanent marking on a piece of paper or other surface.”
“Uhm, sure. I have a Sharpie in my field vest.” If he had been able to back away from her a little further, he would have. Unfortunately the bulkhead was in his way.
She retrieved his vest from where it was folded on the floor, found the marker, and returned to her seat, starting to make notes in the magazine. John decided, wisely so, that it would probably be best not to interrupt her.
When Teyla snorted to herself for the third time and accentuated what she had just written with a violent stroke of the pen, not to mention gleam in her eyes, John figured it would be a good time to go see what Ronon was up to where he sat with his feet propped up on the front console of the Jumper.
The moose were still outside and the Satedan seemed to be studying them intently. Just as Sheppard was about to stand, Ronon leaned forward and breathed on the glass of the window in front of him forming a hazy film of condensation on the windshield. He then used his index finger to draw an image that John couldn’t make out from his seat. Curious, Sheppard moved up behind his teammate, tilting his head and squinting, trying to see the artwork.
“What are you doing there, big guy?”
At the sound of John’s voice, Ronon reached out a hand and smeared the picture away before he could see it.
“Just cleaning the window,” he said abruptly.
Sheppard decided it was probably for the best not to call him on the lie. “Ah. Trying to get a better view of the moose?”
“Moose? Is that what those animals are called?”
John sat in the pilot’s seat and cradled his arm in the sling. “Well, there’s something similar back on Earth called a moose, only less… fluffy.”
Ronon considered the animals for a moment before asking, “These moose, are they domesticated and ridden like your Earth horses?”
“Not that I’ve ever seen. Although the person to talk to is McKay; he comes from moose country.”
Rodney rolled his eyes but didn’t look up from his computer. “Yes, there’s a special battalion of Mounties that ride moose. They used to be an elite fighting force but now their role is much more ceremonial. They act as an honor guard for the Prime Minister on national holidays and when dignitaries like the Queen and Celine Dione are in town.”
Evidently Ronon missed the sarcasm in Rodney’s comment because he pursed his lips and nodded his head in consideration of what he had just learned. John started to tell the Satedan that McKay wasn’t really serious, but, not wanting to have the man lock himself in the bathroom again for being made fun of by the scientist, he kept his mouth shut. He did, however, shoot McKay a nasty look for being a smartass.
He also figured it would be a good idea to change the subject. “So, see anything besides the moose?”
Now it was Ronon’s turn to receive the ‘you’re being a smartass’ frown. “Anything besides the blatantly obvious?”
With a dramatic crane of his neck to take in the entire Jumper, the large man answered, “No.”
Okaaaay, so much for having a conversation with Ronon. John stood again as he told him, “Nice talking with you, Ronon.”
He received a wave of a hand without a look back in response. When Ronon was pretty sure Sheppard was out of viewing range, he breathed on the windshield and started sketching once again.
After sitting back down on his bench, John considered his options of what he could do to entertain himself. None of his teammates seemed to be in a talkative mood. He couldn’t clean his weapon or much of anything else with a bum arm. He’d just woken up from a nap so he couldn’t go back to sleep and it had only been a couple of hours since they ate.
“Hey, McKay, do you have anything to read in your pack?”
“Do I look like a public library?” the scientist snapped irritably, continuing to make notes on his tablet.
“Excuse me for thinking you might have a scientific journal or something.”
“Well, regardless of the fact that some members of the team feel my work is subpar, I don’t actually carry study materials with me when I go off-world.”
Teyla’s only response to his meaningful glare was to flick to the next magazine page.
“What are you doing anyway?” He hadn’t even peered into one of the control panels since John had sat and talked to him.
“Oh.” McKay seemed a little caught off guard by the question. “I’m making mission notes.”
“Mission notes? Well, give me a turn at making some mission notes.”
“Sheppard, you have no intention of entering any mission notes. If I give you this computer, all you’re going to do is play Tetris.”
“Rodney, my right arm is clipped. I can’t run the controls for Tetris with just my left hand. Besides, as the team leader it’s my responsibility to keep a log myself.”
“There’s hardly any battery time left, barely an hour.”
“All the more reason that I do it now.” McKay seemed to consider and John pushed his advantage. “I won’t even use half the time, I promise.”
With an exaggerated sigh, Rodney handed over the tablet. “I swear to God, Sheppard, you better not waste this playing Tetris.”
“Scouts honor,” he promised with fingers raised and took the computer with a greedy grin.
John rolled his eyes and pulled his blanket closer around himself. “I’m not asking you to have a friendly chat with me, McKay. I’m asking for options.”
The option in question was how to keep from freezing to death overnight. The temperature had dropped significantly with the setting sun and the wind had picked up suggesting bad weather was moving into the area. And although the Jumper offered protection against the howling outside, the small opening in the back hatch was enough to let frigid currents of air whip around the inside of the craft and cause John to shiver violently whenever they did.
“Well, we could turn on the heater.” Rodney raised a finger in mock discovery that could just be made out in the faint moonlight that came through the windshield. “Oh, wait, the Jumper doesn’t work, and now that I don’t have a computer to use to fix it, since someone ran down the battery playing games, I guess I won’t be able to get it up and running again.”
“Christ, Rodney, I said I was sorry. Besides, it’s not like you were actually getting anywhere with it anyway.”
“I could have a stroke of genius in my sleep tonight, you never know… and now you never will because if I do I won’t have use of my computer to bring our salvation to fruition, now will I?”
“You could also have a stroke in your sleep tonight,” John grumbled with a frown, “and the results would probably be the same.”
“Oh, so now you want me to have a stroke?”
“Only if it affects your ability to speak,” Ronon countered from his seat in the front.
The moose had moved on by lunchtime and the Satedan had spent most of the afternoon watching for their return, which never happened. The rest of the time he had spent pacing the small space and making John want to crawl out of skin watching him do it.
“And just what does that mean?” the scientist demanded as he stood from the bench beside Teyla.
“It means, Rodney,” the woman told him with long abandoned patience, “that we have heard how displeased you are with John’s selfish behavior and there is nothing more you can contribute to the discussion on the fact that your computer battery is dead.”
“I wasn’t being selfish.” Sheppard’s defense was met with three snorts. “I wasn’t. If anybody was being selfish it was you three.” He tilted his head at each team member. “Teyla, you had your magazine. And, Ronon, you had your moose. And you had your computer, McKay.”
“Not any more,” he pointed out angrily.
“Okay, fine, I was a selfish bastard. You can give me the silent treatment all you want, Rodney. In fact, I welcome it. But you getting all fired up isn’t actually helping the heating situation in here. Does anyone have any ideas that don’t point out the fact that I ran the battery down on the laptop?”
Ronon turned and spoke from his seat. “We could use some of the blankets to stuff up in the opening to block the wind.”
“But that only leaves one blanket each if we do that,” Rodney pointed out. “Even without the wind I doubt that will be enough for tonight.”
“We share. Double up,” the Satedan shrugged.
“Body heat could work,” John considered and decided it was probably a really good idea when another gust blew through the Jumper.
Snapping fingers indicated McKay had an idea and John turned his attention to hear it. “I call dibs on Teyla.”
“What?” the Athosian demanded with raised eyebrows.
“You can’t just go and call dibs on Teyla.”
Teyla sat back now that Sheppard had defended her honor. “Thank you, John.”
“Yeah,” Ronon agreed… sort of. “What gives you first choice of Teyla?”
“Exactly,” John piped in.
“Because I called it.” Rodney seemed genuinely confused that they would question his methods.
Realizing what the men on her team were doing, Teyla stood herself. “Do I not have any say in this matter?”
“Well, you would have, if you had called dibs on someone first,” McKay explained.
“Then I call dibs on Ronon.”
“Sounds good to me,” Ronon concurred with Teyla’s declaration.
Rodney just shook his head at the way her hands landed on her hips. “See, it’s too late. I already called it, end of story.”
“And why call Ronon?” Sheppard asked with a slight pout. Evidently no one wanted to share with him. Granted, it had been a few days since he’d showered, but that was the same for all of them.
Teyla grimaced at the hurt in John’s voice. “It is meant as no offense, John. But you are injured and I would fear that I might cause you further pain if I were to accidentally jar your shoulder.”
“Oh, I see, it’s not me, it’s you. Haven’t heard that one in a while.”
“Then why not me?” McKay’s sulk was even more pronounced than John’s had been
“Principle,” she told him as she crossed her arms.
“You know what? Fine, go ahead, snuggle up with Ronon.” Rodney waggled a finger at her in warning. “But if you’re missing in the morning, I am not going into his hair looking for you.”
Ronon let out a growl of warning from where he was shoving blankets into the cracks and Sheppard stepped in before the man could do anything more. “You won’t give off a lot of body heat if you’re dead, Rodney, so stop trying to provoke Ronon.”
“Oh, I’m not sharing my body heat with you. Not after what you did with my computer.”
“Don’t you think it’s a little harsh to sentence both of us to hypothermia over a couple of games of Minesweeper?”
Rodney tossed his blanket at John. “Here, take them both. It will be a nice, peaceful, relatively quick death for me as opposed to the misery of the long, drawn-out one I’d have to spend dealing with you three.”
“McKay,” Sheppard sighed in frustration, “enough. All right?”
Normally he would have just handled the scientist’s tantrum the way he usually did… ignore it until it had run its course or Rodney became distracted by something else. But seeing as there really weren’t any distractions in the Jumper, a fact which had been a direct contributor to the fit in the first place, and he was getting cold and didn’t have time to wait McKay out, he decided he’d have to swallow his pride and grovel.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I was a selfish bastard and ran down the computer battery playing games. It was wrong of me and I fully understand your anger. You have every right to be pissed at me and give me the silent treatment. But I’m not asking you to carry on a conversation with me, I’m just asking you to sleep with me.”
Christ, it was a good thing the computer was dead, John decided, because this was not something he wanted to show up in the mission report.
“Now that’s something I haven’t heard in a while,” McKay admitted as he considered and finally sat reluctantly beside Sheppard and draped the blankets over the two of them.
“What? Not speaking is a concession people often have to make when faced with sleeping with you?”
“More like a condition they set on me,” he clarified as he slumped down and leaned back against the bulkhead.
Sheppard pulled the covers up to his neck, already feeling warmer with McKay next to him. “Hey, Rodney, when we get out of here, you aren’t going to mention this is the mission report, are you?”
“Oh, God, no,” Rodney snorted vehemently. “I have enough trouble getting laid as it is without adding rumors regarding my sexual preference to the fire.”
“Who knows? Maybe this could improve your reputation.”
“Ha! Improve the odds that I’ll be asked to test for STDs before they come near me is more like it.”
“So, I take it you won’t still respect me in the morning then?”
“I don’t respect you now. Why would the morning be any different?”
Ronon grumbled as he settled into his spot beside Teyla, “I thought you weren’t going to be speaking, McKay.”
Rodney opened his mouth to protest but John realized if he did they’d never get any sleep tonight. “Ronon’s right; we should get some rest.”
“Yes,” McKay countered dryly, “because we have such an event filled day planned for tomorrow.”
Ignoring the comment, Sheppard called out, “Goodnight, Ronon.”
“ ‘Night, Sheppard,” was the mumbled response.
“Sleep well, John,” she answered.
“Goodnight, Rodney,” he concluded.
In the dim light he could just make out McKay rolling his eyes before the man turned to his side. “Goodnight, John-boy.”
John leaned slightly against his teammate’s back with his good shoulder, fighting the wince settling in brought to his face. Rodney shifted, but it seemed to be to keep Sheppard’s elbow from eating into his spine than to protest, so John figured he was good.
And he actually slept well considering he was bedding down with his best friend who was a guy, in a Jumper that was crashed, with a shoulder that was shot.