x_erikah_x: (rodney whump)
[personal profile] x_erikah_x
Title: The Caves of Ana
Author: [personal profile] x_erikah_x
Word Count: 7700
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Gen, H/C
Characters: John Sheppard and Rodney McKay, with appearances of Ronon, Teyla and Keller
Spoilers: No spoilers for anything, set anywhere in season 4 or 5
Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate. MGM, SciFi and some other people, aka TPTB, do. Unfortunately that means that I don’t make any profit from this.

A/N: This was supposed to have 500 words exactly, but I kinda got carried away so it ended up having 7000 over that. Oooops (Says the person running a drabble challenge, *lol*). Also, many thanks to [personal profile] wildcat88 for the wonderful beta.

Summary: Sheppard is whumped off-world. Rodney is there. Friendship fic.

THE CAVES OF ANA


Darkness enveloped him. He wanted stay there, but something wouldn’t let him. It lured him away from the shadows and back to awareness. Pain. A searing pain flared from his right thigh and made him squeeze his unopened eyes. It brought him immediately back as he grasped his leg, hoping he could tear it off.

“Breathe for heaven’s sake! Sheppard!” a panicked voice yelled in front of him.

Suddenly John remembered how to drag air into his lungs and managed to gasp in between bolts of lacerating pain. He bit his lower lip to stop himself from crying out, and the iron taste of blood was beginning to fill his mouth.

“Thank God! J-just stay with me here. Don’t you dare die now! Not after I climbed down through dirt and rocks to save your sorry ass!”

Air was still difficult to get in, and all John wanted right now was to go back to the darkness that had lured him a few moments before. Another quake shook the earth, and more rocks rained on top of them. John cried out as his leg spiked with pain - hot, white, blinding pain - which felt would go on forever. His grasp tightened to a point his hands were white and numb. More dark threads embedded him, and he wanted so much to let himself be carried away, but a constant whine insisted for him to resume breathing. For some reason he listened to the panicked voice and let the air flow agonizingly into his tightened chest.

“Yes, yes. Breathing is good. In and out, in and out.”

As the tremor stopped once more, the pain stabilized but was still barely below excruciating. He forced himself to continue taking deep breaths, even though they made his chest feel like it would be ripped apart. Sudden pain flared up from his thigh again, and he heard himself screaming before he could stop.

“Oh, God… this is…”

John wanted to crawl out of his body. He jerked away from the touch, and his lungs started burning even more. Sense told him that Rodney was only trying to help him, but it took a lot of conscious effort to make his body cooperate and stop trying to move away. He once more had to remind himself to breathe deeply not to pass out.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Oh, God… Who knew that after M46-999 you’d still have so much blood left?”

Rodney continued to apply pressure against John’s injured leg, sending more and more flashes of piercing agony. John banged his head against the rock under him again and again, hoping the faint throb it produced would distract him. When his leg was raised slightly to make room for the bandage, John’s scream came out as a weak whimper and wetness covered his eyes.

“Rod-ney...” He didn’t mean to sound begging, but that’s how it came out.

“Oh, God... I’m so sorry... I...”

More whimpers. More flares of pain from his chest that begged him to give up on breathing altogether, and his leg felt like it was being torn away in he didn’t even know how many places. Rodney insisted on moving it, raising it and lowering it again and again, making more tears come without his control.

“Please stop!” John also didn’t mean to yell but was thankful he did when the scientist suddenly stopped.

“Alright, alright, it’s done already. Just please don’t...” Rodney’s voice was begging and shaking. John recognized the brokenhearted tone.

John swallowed thickly and tried to regain some composure for Rodney’s sake. He had to keep himself together so he wouldn’t take his friend down as well. Now that his leg was stabilized, the pain at least didn’t make him react blindly and brusquely, and he was able to stop banging his head and open his eyes.

Three field bandages covered his swelled thigh, locking two metallic poles as splints, and his BDUs were bloody and torn open almost completely. A shaking hand, also covered in blood, held a canteen and brought it close to his lips. John drank, realizing that his mouth was dry. Drops came down his cheek as the bottle was taken away. His hand was shaking badly, and he could barely reach his face to wipe the water away.

He saw Rodney swallow hard and knew he was freaking out. Rodney was always very open with emotions, and his attempts at hiding them were pitiful, especially if the person who is supposed to be his emotional anchor is struggling hard against the worst goddamn busted bone there could be.

“I’m sorry,” John said in a shaky whisper.

He dragged in another deep breath, squeezing his eyes tightly to hold down whimpers that wanted to come. He had barely regained some of his self-control when the cave shook again, this time more violently, and sent a flow of rocks down from the ceiling. Most of them were tiny, but there were also some larger ones that insisted on hitting his leg despite Rodney’s best efforts to shield it. John cried out in pain and soon bit his lip to muffle the sound, transforming it to a pathetic whimper. When the tremor subsided it took him several extra seconds to stop wheezing and unclench his fists.

***


Ow, ow, ow, stupid rocks from this stupid planet.

“Of all the stupid things!” Rodney yelled as he rubbed his back to ease the certainly many bruises left there when he had covered Sheppard’s leg with his body. “Only you would break your leg inside a cave in a ready-to-erupt volcano!” he heard himself shout before feeling incredibly guilty when he heard the panting coming from the man below him. “And you’re welcome,” he added more quietly.

He shook his head, and a rain of dirt fell to the ground around him. He wiped his hand as best as he could and removed the debris from Sheppard’s leg then the rest of his body. Rodney worked fast, trying very hard not to look up and see the face that never, ever, had gotten wet in the many years he had known him. He looked down at the splint he had done, making sure again he had completely covered the small portion of exposed bone.

“Thanks,” Sheppard’s low voice said, still breathless. “We have…”

“To get the hell out of here before the whole mountain explodes? Yes, yes, we do!”

Snapping his fingers, Rodney got up and started pacing to and fro, desperately trying to remember where he had seen the big plastic bag that had sprung to mind. He fidgeted around nervously and tried to force his hands to work their way through rocks and useless junk instead of rubbing impatiently against each other to remove the dried blood. More small vibrations under his feet hurried his pace.

The corridor was half buried in debris, but the small room to the side was unbelievably intact. Some dirt accumulated on top of the shelves, but he had already cleaned some of them when he had searched for Sheppard’s splints.

“God! Where is it?” he said as he fumbled through cans and more cans of whatever that slimy thing was. “God, I hope this isn’t acid or something equally horrific.” He cleaned his greasy hand on his jacket, promptly dropping half a dozen metal poles to the ground.

Finally he released a triumphant sigh. “Yes, yes. Now, I’ll just put this here,” he said as he went back to the injured man and opened the big sack on the floor, “and move you on top of it.” When he didn’t hear any response, he panicked. “Sheppard?”

Rodney knelt beside John’s head, already reprimanding himself from forgetting to check on his breathing again.

“What?” a tired voice asked as eyes slowly opened.

“Oh, thank God!” Rodney melted down to the ground. “Don’t ever stop responding to me! When I speak, you answer! Because if you don’t you’ll give me a heart attack and kill me along with your sorry-busted-ass!”

“Sorry,” Sheppard swallowed, “wasn’t paying attention.” He blinked tiredly.

“Hey!” Rodney yelled, “don’t you dare!”

“Bossy.”

Rodney stood up and grabbed Sheppard’s arms, pulling him on top of the sack. Sheppard swallowed a couple of grunts before failing and crying out in pain.

“I know, I know, I’m sorry.” Rodney released a strained breath but didn’t stop. “God,” he added as he felt the shaking in his friend’s arms, but the whisper ended up lost in the gripes and curses of pain.

He gently lowered Sheppard’s arms alongside his body and went to the injured leg. He swallowed and looked up to his friend’s face as it relaxed from its previously twisted expression.

“You’re not going to like this,” he said intending it to be in a warning voice but ending up more in a sorry-for-having-to-be-the-one-to-be-there-doing-it voice.

Rodney removed his vest and jacket and rolled both together, placing it next to Sheppard’s leg. He looked up once more, a little relieved to see hazel eyes already looking at him, bracing for what was to come. Rodney raised the leg in one surprisingly swift move, tuning out the noises and more ugly curses coming from near him, moved the bundle underneath it and lowered it again.

He silently watched Sheppard, giving the man a moment. John looked pale and sweaty and his hands trembled as he still grasped his leg. Rodney wondered if he really should torture his friend the way he was about to do. Another small tremor showered them with dirt and promptly ended his internal debate. Yes, he definitively should torture Sheppard by moving him through several hundred meters of uneven cave floor.

Giving himself no time to think, he moved to the front of the plastic bag gurney and started pulling both ends as hard and as fast as he could. The quicker they got out of there, the less time of agony Sheppard would have to endure.

***


Earlier:

He was the last one to exit the jumper and a hot breeze touched his face. He looked around and saw the large clearing he had chosen to land. It was surrounded by trees on one side, and a small stream in the other. Over a small distance a sole mountain stood proud. John put on his sunglasses and moved closer to Ronon and Teyla who were looking at a village nearby.

“Stupid people,” Rodney puffed quietly while glancing back to the mountain, “you know what that is?” he turned and asked John, waving a hand over his shoulder, “it’s a volcano. These stupid people think it’s wise to build their village on the foot of a volcano!”

“Maybe it’s dormant,” John replied nonchalantly.

“With our luck, probably not,” Rodney said while he retrieved the scanner from his vest pocket. “God, I really hope… great!”

John recognized the frustration in Rodney’s tone and smirked. He peeked into the screen of the small device and saw a ‘No Readings’ sign smirking at Rodney as well.

“Hey.” Ronon’s heavy voice took John’s attention back to the village.

He looked at where Ronon was pointing and saw three people coming to greet them. They were dressed in rough cotton and leather. The taller man had short sandy-almost-white hair and was in his early fifties. A younger woman, looking more like late forties, walked alongside in a long cream dress and dark blond hair. Another much younger woman walked grasping the man’s hand. She had a pretty smile and long straight blond hair. John took off his sunglasses to get a better look.

When they stopped, John put on his nicest smile. “Hi.”

The three of them nodded happily and smiled back. “Hello! Welcome to Anarcia, strangers! Are you from beyond the mountain?”

“A little farther, actually. We are peaceful explorers just passing by to check on the local people.”

“Very good!” the man said excitedly, “we have not had visitors in many generations. And you don’t look as bad as the old tales tell us!” The man smiled. “I’m Talus. This is my wife, Derma, and our daughter, Sisna. We represent the people of Anarcia.”

“Nice to meet you,” John said while extending his hand. Talus looked confused for a few seconds before taking the hint and shaking it.

“Is this your custom? Very nice.” Talus’ smile went from ear to ear while he shook hands energetically with John.

“I’m John Sheppard,” he said, breaking the contact. “This is Rodney McKay, Ronon Dex and Teyla Emmagan.” John waved at each of his team while he introduced them.

“Very nice. Very pleased to meet you. It’s an honor to receive you in our small village. I’ll show you around.” Talus stepped aside, motioning the Atlantians to follow him to the village.

As they began to walk, Talus continued to speak. “Where exactly are you from? You must come from far, very tired, no?”

“We are not from this world,” Telya answered. “We come from far, but it is not a hard trip.”

“You came from the vessel in the sky. I knew we didn’t need to worry. A few others began panicking, thinking that the horrible monsters from the old tales had come to take us away,” Talus laughed, “I told them your vessel was different from the ones in the old drawings, but they didn’t believe me. Bah! You probably don’t even know what monsters I’m talking about!”

“You mean the wraith? Oh, we know them. They’re very nasty.”

“You have seen the monsters from the old tales?” Sisna asked John in a surprised voice.

“Many worlds have been visited by the wraith who leave few survivors. We fight them the best way we can,” Teyla responded.

“So it is true!” Talus spoke again. “Frino will be glad to know his theory could be right. The caves of Ana,” he pointed to the mountain at their backs, “are used for storage, but they were used by our ancestors to hide from the monsters.”

“Yes, many worlds use this strategy. Is that why you built your village so close to it?”

“Yes, yes. According to the old tales, past generations were visited by these creatures and many would be taken away. So they moved here and built several tunnels inside the mountains to hide. They are not far. I could take you to see them. They have many drawings and all the accounts from those times. Very beautiful.”

John glanced at Rodney, who seemed not interested at all in visiting a bunch of caves, and smiled. Maybe the geologists and archeologists would find interest in it.

“We would like that,” John said, “Maybe more of my people could come to study it, if that’s okay with you.”

Talus smiled widely. “No problems my new friends from another world!” He waved his arms broadly. “Maybe you could find more about it that will help the village.” He pointed his index finger at John. “We could even become trading partners! We have not had one in over a generation! The other villages are so far away, we never had good profit from trades!”

They entered the small village and walked through the main street. Anarcia didn’t have more than a couple hundred people, all living in little wooden houses. Some had tiny gardens with shrubs and small vegetables, and others had a few animals that seemed like cattle. Some women worked in a central square, producing pottery and tapestries while children played and ran around them. Everyone greeted them with waves, smiles or small nods.

“Oh, joy,” Rodney said, looking at the women working with the handcrafts. “I don’t really know if we’re in need of any new pots or rugs. Maybe some corn. I hear you can make ethanol with those; we could try to make a plant to replace the ZPM.” Rodney glanced dryly at John.

John tried to give him a ‘behave’ glare, something a little hard to do when being closely watched by the tour guides. “I don’t know. I heard it’s cheaper if you use sugar cane,” John said.

“We can build a thermal power plant too. With us being so close to a volcano.” John noticed a special attention at the word volcano. “And I’m sure there must be a lot of extremely interesting fossilized lava rocks to collect. Those are also pretty valuable.”

“I’m glad you are interested!” Talus smiled. “We have many good things to offer. And we are also in need of many things. Good time to arrive! I was beginning to think we would not have crops for next harvest!” He laughed. “We can make a good deal now!”

“What’s wrong with your crops, Talus?” Teyla asked.

“Unfortunate drought. It began several weeks ago, but we were able to cultivate this harvest. But next one?” He continued to smile despite the seriousness of the situation. “Next one could be a problem.” He pointed towards the miniscule creek that was outside of the village. “That used to be a river, now look. It’s just a small stream.”

John saw that the tiny streak of water ran in the middle of what he assumed was a dry river bed. It looked very bad, and he frowned.

“Guro went upstream to find the problem a week ago,” Talus continued, “and he said that the river is turning into smoke. He said that the water is hot and that animals died drinking it.” He stopped in his tracks and faced John. “If it continues, we will not have any water in a short time. We do not drink from the river anymore, only from our reserves.” He sighed. “We pray for the Ancestors everyday to bring the river back, but I think we have done something wrong and that they are mad at us. Malus says it was pride. Perhaps she is right.” His head was down, and he exhaled loudly. “But,” he said, looking up and smiling again, “Now you are here and can help us, no?” He gazed expectantly at the four of them.

“We’d be happy to help. We could have a look at the mountain and figure out why the river is drying up.”

“Guro can show you the way!” Talus beamed. “Derma!” he shouted louder than needed since his wife was nearly on top of him. “Call Guro for me, please. And Sisna, fetch some water for them to take!” He then turned back at the team. “The trip is not long. The sun will barely have moved by the time you get there.”

Talus’ grin was so gigantic that John would hardly say no even if he wanted. He quirked a side of his lip and glanced at Rodney, knowing the scientist must have a frown as big as Talus’ smile.

***


“Am I the only one who thinks that man is annoying?” Rodney asked at the first opportunity he had.

“Look who’s talking.”

“I mean, he’s Mister-happy-beaming-even-though-the-village-is-about-to-die-from-drought-and-quite-possibly-face-volcano-extinction! Nobody can be this happy!”

“Some would say the same about your doom-sayings.”

“Right, and doom-saying or not, drying river is bad. In fact very bad. And I don’t look forward to climbing up the mountain to be poisoned by sulfur!”

“Like in Dante’s Peak,” Sheppard said, grinning.

“Oh yes, because that film was so accurate!”

“I didn’t see anything wrong with it.”

“Oh, please! Like driving a car over a river of flowing lava and only having a few flat tires? That’s ridiculous!” Rodney raised his voice.

“Other than that,” Sheppard conceded, nodding.

“You know what? Maybe we should call a team of geologists to evaluate the mountain. They can climb up and have a look at the poison-stricken mountain and save us the trip,” Rodney said, because if there was any way to avoid spending hours on a useless journey just to look at a dry river, he would take it. But knowing John Sheppard he would probably make Rodney go up there only to piss him off.

“I’m not calling the geologists before I have a look at it myself.”

“Alright, then go have a look at it yourself and let me stay in the jumper.”

“You’re coming, Rodney,” Sheppard said in his ‘it’s settled, Rodney’ tone. “Like you love to remind everyone, you are the smartest member of the team, so you’re going to come and give me your expert opinion.”

“What expert opinion? I’m not a volcanologist!”

“Even not being one I’m guessing you are smart enough to know better than any of us.”

Rodney simply puffed at that because Sheppard was right. He was the smartest one and even his inexpert opinion would count more than any of theirs. He crossed his arms.

“Fine.”

“Ronon, Teyla, you stay here with Talus. See if can you can find out more about what’s been happening,” Sheppard said before turning to follow Guro who was already waiting ahead.

***


Later:

Rodney needed a break. He stopped and cracked his back, thinking of the hours of physical therapy he would need to put it back into place. He didn’t give himself another second and re-started his task.

He had pulled Sheppard for what seemed like hours but was in fact only thirty minutes. Sheppard released grunts and whimpers of pain whenever the cave floor got bumpier and only made Rodney hurry up more, pay less attention to the ground, and consequently make the journey even bumpier. He was reminded of this fact every time he heard the loud cry it produced. When he slowed down he felt guilty for taking so long, and when he hurried up he felt guilty for making Sheppard go through more pain. He could never find a balance.

Rodney knew that Sheppard was holding down the screaming because of him, and truthfully, he was a little thankful. Rodney saw each time John lifted his head stiffening his posture in pain. Drops of sweat ran down from his brow and he squeezed his eyes as his lips turned into a line. If even John Sheppard, with his high threshold of pain, could barely keep from yelling in agony, then things were bad enough for panic. Rodney was amazed at himself for holding on so long. But John needed him now. He needed Rodney to singlehandedly carry his busted ass out of this damn mountain and to the skillful care of the Atlantis’ medical staff. Rodney wasn’t going to fail. He couldn’t. He would never be able to live with himself knowing he had failed probably his best friend ever.

So he concentrated on each step. Right foot back, left foot back, right foot back, left foot back. First right foot back, then left foot back. Again and again. Even though John cursed from below, swallowing his screams, Rodney would continue to walk backwards all the way out.

Because he had to.

***


Earlier:

“Are we there yet?”

John glanced back and saw Rodney with hands on his knees, breathless. His face was red, and he was sweating.

“Because if we’re not,” McKay panted, “I’ll die,” more panting, “right here.” The scientist sat down on a fallen trunk in the forest covering the mountain.

John looked ahead and saw that Guro had stopped and was waiting for them. John knew that the spring must come from nearby because the dry bed was getting smaller and he could see some steam coming out of the water.

“Come on, Rodney, we’re near.”

“Just give me a moment.”

“We are nearly there, just after the curve.” Guro had appeared behind John and was pointing up. “Just a few more steps, my tired friend, and you will see the river turning into clouds,” he said, grinning a little.

“Oh, joy, I always wanted to see that,” Rodney said, still panting.

“Yes, look.” Guro pointed at the stream. “See it? It’s happening here, too. Can you feel how the air is hotter?”

“I certainly can,” Rodney complained before drinking water from the canteen.

“Break’s over,” John informed him. Without a nudge, Rodney could stay sitting for hours.

True to his word, Guro showed them the river spring, just a few meters above where Rodney had rested. It was now a small pond with nearly boiling water and a lot of vapor surrounding the place. It had been a big spring before, but it was only a tiny one at the moment and still dying.

“God! This place smells!” John heard Rodney’s muffled voice and turned to look at the scientist. Rodney had his nose and mouth covered by the sleeve of his jacket. “Let’s get out of here already before we drop dead from gas poisoning.”

“Was it always like this?” John asked Guro.

“No, I came here several times before, and it was never like this. It used to be a lake, and there were no clouds or smell. The air was cool. It became like this when the river started dying, many weeks ago.”

John nodded and felt suddenly dizzy. His legs wobbled for a second then stopped. It took him an extra second to realize the others had experienced the same effect.

“The Ancestors are mad. We should leave before they strike again.”

Another second went by, and another tremor shook slightly.

“This is bad,” Rodney said, reading John’s mind.

He’d better call a team from Atlantis.

***


“Yes, sulfur oxide levels here are really high,” Doctor Pecci said, reading her scanner. John saw her pursing her lips. She looked up to face John. “From the local accounts I’d say way above normal.”

“Is it bad?” He knew her answer would probably be yes, but he wanted to know just how bad.

“Very. My team set up some Ancient equipment to measure the mountain’s swelling and that, along with the other evidences, tells me that it is very bad. In fact imminent disaster kind of bad.” She wiped a dirty hand on her cheek, leaving a smear there. “The growing frequency of tremors, the release of gases, increase in temperature and the drying of the river clearly indicates that magma is pooling right under the crust. Our readings aren’t so accurate because of interference, but…”

“Do you know how long?”

“There is no way, even with Ancient technology, to predict exactly when it’s going to happen unless it is only minutes away, but it is imminent.”

“Alright, we need to evacuate these people. Gather your team; set up what you need to monitor this thing from a safe distance,” John said before turning to exit the cave and inform his team of the situation.

He tapped his radio. “Teyla,” he said, hearing some static coming through the comm.

“This is Te-la. John, is that –ou?”

“Yes, we need to prepare to evacuate the villagers to another location as soon as possible. The doc says it could happen any minute.”

“Yes, John, I wi-- inform Tal-s and begin prepa-ations. Teyla ou-.”

John turned off his radio, sighing in frustration. Thankfully they had arrived before the disaster and could help these people.

He just hoped they would have enough time.

***


Another tremor shook the ground beneath his feet. The quakes were getting more frequent by the minute, and Doctor Pecci said it was starting.

“C’mon!” John shouted above the noise of the villagers.

“I cannot find Jada, my youngest daughter,” Talus said in a desperate voice that was completely unlike his earlier happy tone. He ran off to his house, looking at all sides. “Jada!”

A young boy, no older than eight ran by, and Talus grabbed him.

“Jobu, have you seen Jada?”

“No, Uncle.” The boy’s eyes were wide in fear. “I have not seen her since this morning,” he swallowed and widened his eyes even more in sudden realization, “but she said she wanted to see the clouds inside the mountain. She,” the boy gulped, “she said she was going to ask Ana to give the river back. I told her not to, but she-”

“She is stubborn.” Talus finished the sentence, frustration in his voice. He got up and turned around, a hand ruffling his hair.

John approached him. “I’ll find her,” he said, comforting the man with confidence in his tone. “What does she look like?”

“She’s Jobu’s age,” he said, his voice shaky, and held the boy’s shoulder, “and has long hair as bright as the sun and…” He turned and kneeled before the boy again. “What was she wearing?”

“Uh, d-dress, yes, she had on her new dress,” Jobu said nodding.

“Okay, you get the rest of your family to safety. I’ll find Jada.” John turned around and tapped his headset. “Teyla, I’ll take a jumper back to the mountain. There’s a girl missing. Make sure the villagers are all beamed up.”

“Are you crazy!” John recognized Rodney’s voice. “That thing is going to blow any minute!”

“Yes, Rodney, and there’s a girl up there,” John said, already running to the jumper.

“I’ll go with you.” This time Ronon spoke.

“Where are you, Ronon?”

“By the river, helping a family load their things.”

“No, you’re too far out; I’m on the far end of the village.”

“You should not go alone, John.” Now it was Teyla’s concerned voice. “The mountain is dangerous, and you will need help to find the girl quickly.”

“Are you near?” John asked.

“I’m afraid not. I’m close to Ronon, but you can come and get us.”

“We don’t have time for that, and you’re busy with the villagers. Just make sure they’re all safe.”

“No way I’m letting you go up there alone, Sheppard!” Rodney’s exasperated voice filled the comm. “I’m on my way to the jumper. Someone’s got to make sure you don’t do anything stupid.”

“Like what you’re doing now?”

“God, I’m so going to regret this!” Rodney said right before turning off the comm.

***


“Jada!” John shouted inside the cave. He turned back to Rodney. “Anything?”

“No readings. This damn place is interfering with the life signs detector. We have no way to know where the hell the little brat is.”

Normally John would call Rodney on his treatment of kids, but he just happened to spot a footprint in the cave at that moment.

“She went inside,” he said, indicating the print. “C’mon.”

He turned on the light of his weapon and surveyed the entrance for more prints. He stepped in, following them carefully. He sensed Rodney close at his side, breathing loudly.

“Why did she have to go in?” Rodney said in his sorry-for-himself voice.

“Jada!” John shouted once more.

Still without an answer, John pressed further into the darkness, ignoring the near constant presence of barely felt tremors.

***


John held out his arms for balance as a great quake rumbled. Dirt rained on them from the ceiling.

“We really need to go now,” Rodney said urgently.

“What about the kid, Rodney?”

“Not even a child is stupid enough to stay here under these conditions!”

Another violent tremor. Rocks came down on them. John took cover by bending his body down to cover his and Rodney’s heads. It quieted after a few moments.

That’s when a giant tremor hit the ground. A loud noise filled John’s ears as the whole cave shook and trembled violently. Rocks, dirt and debris started to come down in bunches, and he jumped back as a boulder nearly hit him. In an instinctive move, he grabbed Rodney by the vest and yanked him away from an avalanche of rocks.

“Let’s get out of here!” John shouted, pushing Rodney by the vest he still hadn’t let go of.

They both ran, lungs burning, jumping away from the showering cave as the ground and ceiling gave away behind them. The network of tunnels was collapsing, and John could see the passages on their right appearing in between gaps of rock and dirt. It was slightly below their level and beginning to take the ground away.

“Oh, God! We’re going to die!”

“Just move and stop complaining!”

“I knew we shouldn’t have come! I’m never listening to you again!”

“Faster!”

“Trust me, I’m going as fast as I can!”

“Rodney!” John shouted then pushed Rodney far ahead as the ground shook harder and started crumbling beneath them. His adrenaline-induced strength sent Rodney spinning away from the gaping hole, but John was caught in it and felt a sudden loss of weight.

Before he could react, he was being carried down by an avalanche of debris. Rocks passed over and under him, some pinning him down, making it impossible for him to move away. He tried to crawl and felt his upper body being carried in a different direction than his leg.

Snap.

His world blanked out in a resonating cry of pain, and all went black.

***


“Oh, God! Ohgodohgodohgod!” Rodney kneeled at the edge when he realized Sheppard had gone down. “Sheppard!” he shouted.

No response.

“Sheppard!”

The tremor had subsided, but Rodney knew another one would come any second.

He tried the radio, knowing it was a fruitless effort. “Sheppard!”

He gulped, desperately looking down the giant hole that had formed inside the cave.

“I’m so going to regret this,” Rodney said before sitting on the edge and starting to climb down.

***


Later:

The tremors were constant now but still small. Debris fell down and made Rodney pay extra attention to his surroundings. At least so far their path had been fairly clear.

John’s condition had deteriorated. The rough grunts of pain had turned into whimpers, until they finally silenced.

“Not too long now,” he panted in between his efforts to drag the not-lifeless body.

Pant, step, drag, pant, step, drag.

Look at the footing.

Check for stability.

Right foot, left foot.

Pant.

Drag.

Pant. Cough.

Right foot, left foot.

Pant.

Drag.

Stop.

Kneel.

Check pulse.

Look at chest.

Still rising. Still breathing.

Stand.

Pant. Cough. Wheeze.

Right foot, left foot.

Pant.

Drag.

“You know, Sheppard, you may look skinny, but you’re really damn heavy,” he panted as he spoke. “Maybe you should wake up now because I liked you better when you were complaining about agonizing pain.” Right foot, left foot. “At least that way I didn’t have to stop to check if you’re still alive.” Drag. “And you’d better be!” Pant.

Faint light illuminated the environment, and he looked back.

He could have melted in relief.

“Thank God!” He stopped to catch his breath. “See, John, I did it!” Right foot, left foot. “Just a few meters until the jumper, and I can breathe poisonless air.” Drag.

He pulled Sheppard out of the cave and turned around to locate the jumper. The sight nearly took his breath away. He could barely see it between the ash and smoke covering the whole place.

“Oh, my God!”

He coughed and covered his nose and mouth with his hand to take a couple of breaths.

Pant.

Right foot, left foot.

Drag.

He panted. “I’m going to make it,” Rodney kept reminding himself. “Just a little bit farther.”

He stopped to spot the jumper again and make sure he was on the right path. Smoke filled his nostrils, and he coughed out ash. A new tremor made him lose his balance briefly, and he kneeled instinctively before moving to protect Sheppard. Several seconds passed before the tremor subsided.

He stood and turned abruptly when he heard a long thunder getting louder by the second. The view made him freeze in place momentarily.

A giant wave of rocks, dirt and debris was coming down the mountain in a huge avalanche.

He stepped back, panic-stricken, and lost his footing, falling down. He stumbled up and, faster than even he would give himself credit for, wrapped a hand under Sheppard’s arms and brought him up. He heard a groan coming from the Colonel but promptly it ignored for the sake of a greater good.

He looked between the jumper and the cave, knowing that the jumper would be their only way out, but it was still way too far. In a split-second decision, he realized their best chance of escaping the avalanche would be going back inside the cave so he started moving.

The ground trembled beneath his feet, and he needed an extra effort to keep standing while carrying - or rather dragging - Sheppard along. He hurried up his pace as the avalanche closed on them and brushed against his footing right before it covered the cave’s entrance, trapping them both inside.

Darkness enveloped him and only the faint light of Sheppard’s lamp hung loose on the pilot’s vest. He gulped and panted, trying to focus on his next course of action. He laid Sheppard down.

Rodney stood up and swallowed thickly as he looked around the enclosed espace. He tried to control his breathing and closed his eyes.

‘Do not panic, do not panic, open wide fields, open wide fields…’

‘Breathe.’

‘Yes, in and out…’


He opened his eyes again, in better control of himself.

A moan brought his attention back to Sheppard.

“Ro-ney,” Sheppard whispered, “leave… dig your way out.”

“What?” Rodney asked, momentarily confused. “So you’re conscious now? No way I’m going to abandon you after dragging that heavy body of yours for an hour!”

“It’s your,” John panted, “only way out.”

“No way!” He looked around, thinking on how to convince Sheppard to stop being a hero. “You’re stuck with me, Sheppard; you’d better accept it! I’ll just go find another way out.” He hoped he had conveyed enough confidence in his heroic moment. “Now if I remember correctly, there was another corridor coming out a hundred meters further. I’ll just have to drag you that way and hope it goes out to a not completely blocked exit and to a not-disastrous side of the mountain.”

‘Piece of cake,’ he added internally.

“Yes, piece of cake,” Sheppard murmured.

Rodney kneeled down as he saw Sheppard close his eyes.

“Sheppard?”

No response.

Heart skipping a few beats, he went back to check for pulse and breathing.

Rodney began breathing again after he double checked that Sheppard was still amongst the living. He stood up and rubbed his hands as he prepared to throw his back out of alignment for the rest of his life.

***


“God!” He swallowed, awash in relief. “Thank God!”

Rodney dropped Sheppard’s arms and took a better look at his surroundings. Heavy smoke covered the air, and a layer of ash made it look like it had snowed for hours. The trees on his left side were nearly completely covered by the avalanche.

“Great!” he puffed. “The jumper is buried, and there goes our quick ticket out of this nightmare.” He looked at the way down but couldn’t see much past the smoke. “So,” he spoke as he turned back to the still form, “back to dragging.”

He had barely moved a couple of meters when a bright white light appeared right in front of him, leaving Ronon, Teyla, Jennifer and some other medics behind.

“Oh, my God!” he said, surprised. “How did you…” He couldn’t complete his question in his hysteria.

“Doctor Zelenka was able to get past the interference,” Teyla said, approaching both of them.

“What happened?” Jennifer asked, running towards Sheppard.

“He broke his leg in the earthquake. I think he must have damaged some ribs, too.” He stepped back as the medics surrounded John.

Teyla took something out of her vest and handed it to him. Rodney instantly recognized it as a signal booster for transport and took it. He saw Jennifer taking another one and laying it on Sheppard.

“Daedalus, this is Keller. Beam us directly to the infirmary.”

The bright light enveloped them, and the next second Rodney was inside the Daedalus infirmary, being shoved aside and assaulted by nurses putting an oxygen mask over his face, not letting him follow Sheppard as the pilot was taken away.

***


Rodney got up so fast from his chair when Jennifer left the infirmary that he nearly passed out from the wave of dizziness. She caught his arm and balanced him. He swallowed before barraging her with questions.

“Is Sheppard going to be alright? I mean, did I make him worse when I moved him? Because I know you can’t move an injured man without knowing the extent of his injuries, but I had no choice, but it happened that I totally forgot the correct procedure on how to do it and-”

“He’s going to be okay,” she interrupted him. “I know that you had to do it, and you did a good job.” She smiled. “Anyway, he’s got a broken femur; a few cracked ribs, one broken; a nicked lung; not to mention all the smoke and ash you both breathed, but a few weeks rest and he’ll be as good as new.”

“Oh, thank God!” he said before melting back in the chair. He got up straight away, remembering his next question. “Can we see him?”

“Yes, you can see him, but he’s still sedated and will sleep for several hours.”

***


Awareness came slowly back to him. First, a faint noise. Then a beep joined it, and a hush of voices. Next came sluggishness as he tried to command his body to move. Softness beneath his body. He ignored the faint light invading his closed eyelids. Haziness took over his brain. He decided to go back to sleep and try to wake up later.

Next time he woke up, the haziness was completely gone. As he opened his eyes and the Atlantis infirmary came into focus, John made his usual check to find out why he was there this time.

Village. Volcano. Girl. Cave. Earthquake.

He breathed in the oxygen provided by the nasal canula, feeling a small pull on his chest. He winced slightly and tried to move. His leg was unusually heavy and reminded him of the pain of an exposed fractured femur.

He turned his head and caught Rodney dozing off in the chair at his bedside, drooling slowly out of the corner of his mouth. He seemed exhausted with shadows under his eyes and his hair looked like it had taken a few lessons from John’s. John smiled briefly and cleared his throat.

“Rodney,” John called.

Rodney nearly jumped out of his chair.

“Hey, easy there. Didn’t mean to startle you.” John smiled.

“Of course you did,” Rodney said, wiping off the drool.

John’s smiled widened. “Of course I did.”

“So, how are you feeling?”

“Hmmm, not bad, but I think the good drugs are wearing off,” he said, holding in a wince as he commanded the bed to sit up slightly. “What about you?”

“My back is permanently damaged, thank you.” Rodney rubbed his shoulder. “Anyway, Jennifer said you’ll be fine in a few weeks, that you’ll need physical therapy and that you were very lucky to have me there to pull your extremely heavy body away from further damage by Anarciaquake and Ana explosion. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.”

John nodded. “Thanks.”

“You’re also lucky that I didn’t listen to your pain-induced mumbling and didn’t leave you behind,” Rodney said with an annoyed voice. “And I’m sure I’ll regret it eventually.”

John smirked, but it soon faded. He rested his head on the pillow behind him.

“What about the girl?”

“Oh, the little brat is fine. Ronon found her running in the forest crying her eyes out and scared to death that she upset the Ancestors and brought their wrath down on the village.”

John raised his head and looked at Rodney.

“Yes, that’s right, Sheppard. We went there for nothing,” Rodney said. “Stupid child,” he added under his breath.

John smiled. “At least she’s okay.”

“Yes, and she went to visit you on the Daedalus, sobbing and everything. She drew you this.” Rodney took a paper from the side table and gave it to John.

It was a drawing of a crying little girl next to what he believed was supposed to be him, lying in a bed with a big white cast on the leg. John chuckled.

“And the villagers?” John asked.

Rodney rolled his eyes. “They’re all okay. The only one not okay is you with your big hero complex.”

“Well, apparently I’m not the only one,” John said, teasing.

“Yes, well, I saved you, and you’re welcome. Now you own me a month of chocolate pudding.”

“A month! That’s hardly fair, Rodney. I saved your butt enough times, too, and never asked for a month’s worth of desserts.”

“Hey, that’s your problem. Also, I saved your butt more often than the other way around.”

“No, you didn’t. I’m always the one having to shoot our way back to the gate while you get shot in the ass, making me carry you back.”

“Do you have to keep bringing that back? That happened once, okay. And how many times have my heroic efforts prevented you from being blown sky high, hmm?”

“Okay, we’ll call it even then.”

“No, not even. You own me your dessert.”

“Don’t make me beat you, Rodney.”

“With what? Your IV pole?”

“I’ll… kick you! With my cast. That’s gotta hurt. With the proper aim you could be damaged for life.” John raised an eyebrow.

“You wouldn’t dare. Jennifer will kill you if you do.”

“I would kill you both actually,” Keller said, surprising them. “Actually I’m having pretty strong urges right now.” She fixed them both with the fierce doctor eye. “You, Rodney, should be letting my patient rest and not demanding dessert.” She turned to John when she heard his chuckle. “And you, Colonel, should be resting and not making physical threats to the visitors who spent day and night without leaving your bedside.”

“Right. Sorry, Doc,” John said, going back to being grown up.

“Do you need anything?” she asked, checking over his canula and the machines next to his bed.

“No, I’m good.”

She made the I-know-you face and put a hand on a soft spot on his chest that nearly had him jumping to the roof.

“Shut up, Rodney,” John said when he heard the laugh next to him.

“I guess I’ll be back with some pain meds,” she said before turning to leave.

John lay back, still glaring at the chuckling scientist. The scientist who had dragged him and saved his life. John smiled. Maybe he would eventually give Rodney some of his pudding. But he didn’t have to admit that right away.

The End

Date: 2009-05-03 04:54 pm (UTC)
queenbarwench: (rock is dead)
From: [personal profile] queenbarwench
When it comes down to it, Rodney's a good guy, really. Both J and R are very in-character here. I like :)

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