Area 52 HKH

Clichés Work Best

by Elfkin

URL: http://www.area52hkh.net/ase/elfkin/cliches.php
Summary: Rodney's mistake during a mission leads to a lot of trouble, and even worse clichés.

I would like to ask the Universe if it thinks I am as screwed right now as I think I am. I would also like to ask the Universe why it hates me.

But that would be a cliché. And I hate those.

You know what though--cliché or not--I'm not at all sure how the Hell I get into these situations? Here I am, a perfectly reasonable multidisciplinary Physicist, with several specialties... Is the word "Crack Shot" listed anywhere in my qualifications?

No? Didn't think so.

So somebody care to tell me how in fuck's name did I end up with a career shooting at Vampiric Aliens in another galaxy on backwater worlds whose inhabitants don't even know what an electron is most of the time, let alone how one behaves? 'Cause that is the one thing I am certainly not qualified to do.

Someone care to tell me how I ended up stuck in a wet cave, in the side of a not-so-shallow ravine, holding Major John I-live-in-the-infirmary-Sheppard's head in my lap, trying to hide us both from said Vampiric Aliens while the rest of my team either finds us and then blows the fuck out of the Wraith or blows up the Wraith and THEN finds us. (If I were actually saying this instead of thinking it, I'd be out of breath. Thank God I only need oxygen in a secondary capacity to mentally rant.)

But this all brings me around to the fact that:
(a) I hurt. Bullet holes will do that.
(b) I'm very cold. This could be the wet cave, or the general environmental conditions on this planet that so shockingly resemble the Baskervilles. It could even be blood loss, and...
(c) The major has been shot too, so I need to take care of him on top of everything. Just when I would rather self-obsess to my little neurotic heart's content and make Carson give me some happy pills to make the agony in my leg blissfully disappear, I have to be RESPONSIBLE!

That's enough, right? That would normally ruin even the chirpiest persons' day? But of course, that isn't all. On top of everything, I haven't been this freaked-out since I was trapped in a Puddle Jumper lodged in a Stargate, half entrenched in a temporary wormhole event horizon, in orbit, looking at the real possibility of a violent, short, cold demise...

Last month, I believe. Yeah, life just sucks.

The major is stirring now and I'm sort of relieved. He's not dead...yet. Though I should feel guilty about wanting him to be awake to share this fun and frolicsome afternoon with me. At least while unconscious he wouldn't know what kind of doom we're facing here. And maybe he wouldn't be in too much pain--because that's no picnic either. But I'm shallow, okay. And fatalistic. I need him awake so that I know he's still with me and that I'm not sitting here freezing my ass off with the corpse of a man--that I happen to find myself liking--lying in my lap. I need him awake so he can tell me this is all gonna work out. (A walking cliché if ever I heard one.) I need company right now. Like it or not, he has this calming presence--on me at least--when I'm not blindingly annoyed with him, that is.

He's squirming and groaning a bit now. and shivering. But even if he was perfectly still, the grimace on his sweaty, white face would tell me how he really feels. John usually tries to hide things like pain, so I'm not sure he's even really awake quite yet.

"Lie still Major." I'm whispering in case any Wraith are hovering near. "You've been....no, make that we've been shot."

A few more minutes of his squirming and I repeat myself. "Major Sheppard...John, lie still. Please. You've been shot. You're making the bleeding worse." As if. I don't think lying still was helping all that much with the bleeding. What I really want him to do is stop moving cause it's killing my leg.

A few more moments, and I must have drifted a little because he's awake now and I missed it happening. John blinks up at me. "Shot?" he croaks. I can tell he's totally confused. That makes two of us--for different reasons, of course. He wants to know why he's got a bullet hole in him, and I want to know why the hell these things always have to involve me.

"Uhm. yeah, Major. Shot." I so do not want to go into this. A little sidestepping might be in order. "You know...with bullets." See, he's not the only one who can use humor to obfuscate.

He swallows thickly and is obviously trying to focus. "McKay, the natives here didn't have fire arms." He winces when he tries to shift up off my lap. And I pin him down by his shoulders, hard. Every time he moves it makes my leg hurt so bad I wanna puke. Plus I apparently was telling him the truth after all. Moving just made the huge crimson soak on his clothes a little larger.

"Yes." I grit through my teeth. "That would be correct. Now for the last time, lay still."

He's more confused now, not less. And it has the odd effect of making him seem--I don't know--young...or innocent...or just stupid. " Hmmm...the Wraith don't use projectile weapons either. So the Wraith didn't shoot me?" Okay, not so stupid...

"Well give the man a prize! He's a genius!"

"Don't be bitchy, McKay." Even in his current state he's managing a rather pointedly annoyed look.

I'm sighing again. Something I've fallen to doing a lot lately. Since when did I start being so resigned about death? "Fine, You weren't shot by the Wraith either."

My hand drifts to his hair, and before I know it I'm combing my fingers in the sweaty tufts. I shouldn't. My fingers are all sticky with blood, both his and mine. But hey, it helps keep my mind off the nightmare we're in. Besides, it seems to have made him lie very still of a sudden. And if it keeps him from moving, all the better. It's not much, but it's something.
"Rodney?" His voice sounds strangely loud in the quiet of our cave, perhaps all the louder for having come after a pause in our poor excuse for a dialogue. I'm not sure if he's fishing for more answers or if he's alarmed I'm touching his hair.

I think now might be a good time for me to panic. Do we get to choose panic times? I'm choosing now, apparently. My temper--usually a thin thing anyway--is suddenly cut thinner yet by a wave of guilt. And I can't hold it in. "Okay fine! Fine! I don't care if the damn Wraith DO hear me. I've had it with all this crap! You wanna hear me say it, Major? Fine! I shot us! Happy now?"

What the hell is wrong with me? I didn't intend to tell him all that just yet.

Now he's just looking at me. That way only he does.. It's creepy. My mouth doesn't follow orders when John looks at me like that. It wants to do rebel things...like kissing.

How cliché is that?

But it's not his fault, all this mess. And he's as screwed up or more so than I am. "Sorry, I didn't mean to yell."

"What happened?" He's asking in a low voice. I'm sure speaking softly makes him hurt less. But I entertain the illusion that it's for my benefit. No harm there, it goes nicely with the look he's giving me.

I'm having trouble focusing again, but I think I can pick up where I left off. "Apparently...uhm...the... The Stargate is not only bullet proof, bullets ricochet off of it. Which should have been a given, but I wasn't thinking straight." One of his hands drifts to the wet mess on his stomach. And he frowns thoughtfully as a shiver runs through him. I feel like saying Yes Major, I wasn't exaggerating when I said you have a big hole in you. But instead it's easier to make excuses. "The Wraith...they did that illusion thing...made me think I saw something coming 'round the corner of the Gate as we made it back there. And I...uh...fired at it. At least two of the bullets ricocheted off the Naquada ring-mount hitting you and me." It sucks to admit I was that stupid. But what really sucks is that thanks to my own--here to fore very rare--idiocy, I'm sitting in a cave, so cold right now that my teeth are nearly chattering. I know my balls must be frozen to the cave floor through my pants.

"Status." The major asks quietly, finally closing his eyes again.

"Us?", I snort. "Totally screwed." Is there any other way to call it? He looks like utter shit, and I have to wonder what I look like.

He smiles in spite of himself, and opens his eyes again...slowly. "McKay, I need a bit more than 'totally screwed'."

He's trying to sit up again and this time I can't hold in a loud gasp as his movement jars my leg--which makes him suddenly lay very still. I think the bit about the bullets hitting him AND me just sank in. "Status, McKay!" He's staring sharply up at me, brows furrowed sternly.

It takes me a moment to speak through the pain. "I'm hit in the leg. It's not broken, the bullet passed through. But it hurts like hell." He's giving me the 'get on with it' look. "You, on the other hand, are a bit more problematic. You're..."
"Gut shot. I got that part." The major growls for the first time and I wince at the tone. Which instantly changes his face--softens it. "Sorry, Rodney. This is gonna work out okay. Right?"

He reaches up carefully and pats my arm. And I think I actually feel just a bit warmer now. That's a really baaaad cliché--a sure sign of my impending death. I'm positive of it.

"What about the others?" The major manages the question free of recrimination--which is really nice. We both know this is my fault. His voice has taken on that patient matter-of-fact quality. Like the past is just the past. That's Major John Sheppard--never crying over spilt milk, even gallons of it.

"Well, Right about the time I...uh...de facto shot us, things got a little confusing. Make that even more confusing. The Wraith were close, firing so fast that the lieutenant couldn't get to the DHD. And with no cover, it was merely a matter of time before we were being served as lunch. So he told me to scramble down the ravine on the other side of the gate and try to find some kind of protection for the two of us while he, Teyla and Stackhouse secured the gate. Like I could scramble anywhere in this condition!" I spare the major the statistical odds against a happy ending for Ford and the others. I'm sure he already has them calculated. Not to mention our rapidly diminishing odds...

The major just nods. He's studying my face again and I would probably do something inane like...oh...blush-- if it weren't too damn cold to pull it off. And damn it all! Now he's trying to lift his head and shoulders off my legs, carefully hoisting himself up without hurting me. That has to be hell. It takes ab muscles, or something...I think. Doesn't it? "Hold still, Major!"

He ignores me--again--and manages to slowly gain a sitting position. "How long ago did you last hear from them?" he grates out, hoarsely.

Oh Yeah, that hurt alright.

"Well...uh...I can't tell. I got us down the ravine and then you passed out from manly blood loss." That makes him smirk, even while sitting there with his arm wrapped tightly around his side, panting.

I must have just stared for a moment-- he briefly twirls his hand around to indicate he wants me to continue. "I...I found these weird caves in the lea side and then suddenly the firing slowed down. I was afraid it was over for them. Then, the lieutenant radioed me. He said they'd had to abandon the gate--for the time being--but that they were in a good position. He wanted to know if we'd found shelter." Watching him slowly adjust to sitting, I wish I had something for his pain. Hell, I wish I had something for mine!

"Are any of them down?" John asks, breathing a little easier now. He's slowly scooting closer, climbing carefully onto his knees, trying to hide his wincing as he goes.

"Uh, no. They're fine." I can't help but stare at him again, rather wide eyed, as he slowly crouches before me. "Uhm...Major, what are you doing?"

"Just finish reporting, McKay."

He looks like he's gonna pass out again and he's worried about a report! "Some perspective would be nice here, Major." I get the wry follow orders, please look. "Alright, alright. Ford said they could either swing around and join us or try to go the other way and lead the Wraith out, in which case we were supposed to try to get to the gate, dial home. and send back reinforcements."

John's looking me over critically. I'm shivering, he's shivering. We're both way too worn down, bloody, hurt, and utterly screwed. But he looks purposeful. He has that in control look. "Anything else?" He asks softly, reaching out and laying fingers to my neck. I think he's taking my pulse. I try to ignore him.

"Well, I...uhm...told him plan B was out of the question. I'm not in any shape to get myself or you to the gate. It's a very uphill issue." John nods as his hand drifts from my throat to my brow and he presses the back of it there--in that particular way people feel for a fever. He's checking on me! A bullet hole in his side and he's on his knees checking out how I am! There is something very wrong with this man that has nothing to do with being shot.

He motions for me to continue explaining again, and that trademark smirk takes over his white face for a few seconds. "So I...uh...I thought he was going to circle around and join us. But that was a while ago. And as you can see, we're here alone." This only garners a grunt from him. And by the look of it, he immediately regrets grunting.

Having gotten some telling measure of my status....the major takes a moment to gather himself. And Wow! That's one big knife he's pulled out of his flack vest. I think my testicals have now scurried back up into my body! He's placed the knife tip at the hole in my pant leg where the bullet went in, and I've decided that pissing myself is the probable outcome here soon. Only he doesn't hurt me. Rather he skillfully splits the fabric back and away from the injury. "If I was Ford," he says, breaking the tension. "I'd try to get a better position to take the Wraith out and then come for us."

"Really?" I chuckle thinly, slightly embarrassed that he'd scared me with the knife. "If I was him, I'd bed down, wait for the Wraith to get over themselves and then I'd go home later when all was clear."

The major stifles a snort/laugh, trying to save himself the pain. "Oh, I think you'd be a bit more proactive than that, McKay."

"Not really, that's what I'm doing right now. Hiding and waiting." I just noticed how colorless his lips are. They're turning into that wide smile. The genuinely warm grin, not the smirk that melts Elizabeth's toes. "And since when is 'proactive' a military word, Major?"

He ignores the jibe and points to our packs. I hand them to him one at a time. I don't miss the grunt of pain and the additional sweaty pallor when he takes them. "We can help by flanking this side." He says in a breathy, near whisper.

"Uh, negative Major." Hello, can we say, Not a bat's chance in Hell? I knew you could.
"You should be lying down trying not to bleed to death, not digging around in our packs. And NOT trying to pretend you have even a snowball's chance in hell of getting up this ravine back to the gate."

"Why?" He's frowning at me, sitting back on his haunches, giving me a worryingly tattered version of what I call his Don Quixote look.

"Why what? Why shouldn't we try to flank the Wraith, or why should you lay down and reduce the chances of exsanguination?"

"The first one." John answers dryly and pulls out our smaller, personal med kits.

"Are you kidding me?" I gape at him. Then it hits me. "No, you're not! Okay. let's start with the basics. In case you've forgotten, you have a large hole in your side and I have a matching one in my thigh." John seems not to realize that he looks like a good stiff wind could come along and topple him. And he's picking through the med kits for something useful despite the fact that those things are like using plaster of Paris to patch a leaking Hoover Dam. They were plenty useless the last time we needed them, that's for damn sure.

"Agreed." He says, not looking up from the growing stack of spilled out med supplies. "So you wait here while I flank them." And John picks up a small bottle of astringent--alcohol I think--a roll of bandages, and a rather mad scientist grin.

I did not just hear him right! I must be losing my damn mind, because there's no way he just suggested leaving me here... alone... while he goes and dies, climbing the damn ravine! "Electron behavior in an electron cyclotron resonance microwave discharge sustained by TM, sub 11 mode fields of a cylindrical wave guide, has been investigated. The time averaged, spatially dependent electron energy distribution is computed self-consistently. At low pressures, approximately 0.5 mTorr , the temperature of the tail portion of the electron energy distribution exceeds 40 eV, and the sheath potential is about minus 250 V."

That got his attention and made me feel calmer.

"What the fuck was that, McKay?" John's looking at me as though my head just started twirling around on my shoulders like Linda Blair in 'The Exorcist'.

Ha! Smug...It's a warm, fuzzy feeling. "It's something I reiterate to myself whenever I get the urge to hit you."

"What?"

"It's tantamount to counting to ten backwards. And might I say, Major, I get to recite that on a daily basis at very least." He's clearly still not figured it out. "What part of 'You have a hole in your side' did you not grock!"

The major is frowning at me intently, and suddenly his face softens. It looks like he just bought a clue and I'd almost swear his expression is one of...compassion...bemusement? "McKay, I can get to the gate. Trust me."

"But I can't!" He doesn't seem to understand how terrified I am--for both of us.

"I know." And then I feel his hand clamped on mine. And as cold as his fingers are, the gesture is still comforting. "I'll come back for you. I promise." He says that like the conversation is over.

And then it is...

Because when he lets my fingers go he grabs a hold of my leg, good and hard, lifts it to angle and pours the alcohol straight into the wound.

~~~

"Rodney? Ya there, buddy?"

Wow...I can feel again. I think. Yeah...I feel his cool fingers lightly tapping my cheeks. The darkness around the edges is starting to fade into something a little brighter, but... "Ow! Ow! Ow! " My leg feels like he cut it off!

"That's it, big guy. Rise and shine."

"Knock it off, you psycho!" I bat at his hand. Then I realize I'm lying flat on the ground now. And his coat is rolled up under my head. I must have fain... passed out.

"You fainted, Rodney." The shit-eating grin is there as usual, tired and oddly white, but real. The major looks like he's about physically done himself in. Wavering where he's sitting, his washed out color is making his eyes and hair look especially dark. But the eyes are still sharp, still alert.

"Fuck off, Sheppard!" I look down and find my leg is still there despite sensations to the contrary. It's bandaged neatly. A sizeable pile of soiled, red gauze pads prove what he was up to while I was out.

"You ought to be alright till this is over. Here, eat this." And he hands me a Powerbar he's unwrapped for me. I take it, watching his hand shake even more than before.

"You're not going up that ravine." My voice is surprisingly forceful, considering how I feel.

"I know." It's all he says. Then he slides down against the wall next to me. He isn't capitulating because I need him to stay here. He simply can't get up that ravine to the gate, and he knows it.

He's leaning there with his back to the wall, his head tilted back. And he lets his eyes close. There's this odd silence. "Major?" God, I hope he hasn't passed out again. But he doesn't answer me, and so I sit up carefully and wrap the powerbar up, tucking it into my pocket. "Major!"

I reach out for his shoulder and then he finally speaks. "Relax, McKay. I'm still here." But his voice is alarmingly weak and distant sounding.

"Major...I...You...You should lie down." I am getting really sick of feeling powerless in these situations. He's gonna die and I am gonna have to sit here and watch. I just know it.

"Naw, I'll fall asleep. Shouldn't do that right now." He cracks his eyes open and smiles halfheartedly. "Besides, I kinda need your help." His voice is little more than a whisper .

"Help?" How the hell can I be of any help right now?

"Yeah, I got your leg dressed, but I'm outta juice. And I'm makin' a puddle here."
I'm trying to figure out what he's saying and then it hits me. "Shit! Part of me knew we...that you...I needed to. But I.... Fuck! I screwed up again!" And then I'm sitting up--too quickly, of course--fumbling through the stacks and rolls of gauze and all the other crap.

"Rodney."

Not now, Major, I'm busy trying to have a panic attack mixed with acute onset of guilt-itis. "Here you are patching me up and feeding me and I'm just...." I grab the half empty bottle of astringent and I almost spill it getting the lid off.

"Rodney!" I jump at the sudden volume of his voice.

"What? Can't a guy self castigate in peace?" I was perfectly serious but John seems to think that's funny. In fact he's curled in on himself because I made him laugh.

"God Rodney, don't do that! It hurts."

"I'm sorry you find me so funny." I deadpan, and he glares at me, trying to hold in more laughter. Hey, this could be an asset.

He uncurls slowly, and is apparently not about to let me wallow. "Rodney, you were in shock, it's okay. People in shock don't think clearly. You're still in shock. But you need to help me out here. And then you need to eat that Powerbar you squirreled away. I have a drink in my pack you can wash it down with."

Okay, now that I didn't expect. Usually he's making fun of me when I complain about needing to eat. "Shock, huh?"

"Yep." He eyes me purposefully. And somewhere in there... I sense a plea.

"How do you know?" I would rather he not make up some half assed excuse to let me off the hook for not handling this better.

"'Cause you didn't know. Add it up, McKay. Confused, cold, hurt, afraid...It all equals Shock. I didn't hear one bitch from you about the situation."

"That's because I was internalizing. Trust me Major, I was bitching in my head."

"Another point. You don't internalize unless you're traumatized. A healthy Rodney is a mouthy one." I should tell him fuck off, but I just don't feel like it right now.

Hey! Maybe he's onto something there.

I gesture at the mess of bandages and other supplies in my lap. "Okay, what should I do here?"

"Same thing you'd do for yourself."

He's joking, right? "What, leave it till you bleed to death?" I know I just squeaked. I hate squeaking.

"Cute" He snorts. But then he looks at me, drags his head slowly up off the wall and makes me feel like he's looking right into me--cliché as that is. And I know he's asking me to help him live through this. He's not got much more bleeding he can do. And I have to do something.

But I was serious about not knowing what to do. My brain just isn't working right now. I know I've had Carson's patented first aid training. It's come in handy before. But I can't seem to recall what I'm supposed to do this time. "I mean it, Major. I need you to tell me."

"I kinda got that. Okay, you start like this." And John's pointing to the right supplies, explaining what I'm supposed to be doing to make this better until Beckett gets ahold of him. It's coming back to me a bit. But in the end, there's pitiful little to be done. Really, if I'd done it earlier it might have mattered. At this point, I'm not so sure. I don't think he is either.

I help carefully maneuver him to lie down next to where I am, sliding his rolled up jacket to be under his head. And I'm appalled at how soaked he is in his own blood. "Damnit, damnit, damnit!"

"Problem?" He asks casually.

"Other that the fact that you're redder on the outside than the inside--No."

"Focus, McKay." He growls the word, but I can tell he's not really angry. He's trying to help me motivate. Trying to keep my mind on track.

On track... Yeah, right! Fat lot of good it's going to do you, Major. And it'll be my fault, from beginning to end. I'm the idiot that succumbed to the Wraith phantoms. I'm the idiot that fired at the Stargate and got us hit with our own ricocheted bullets. I'm the idiot that stuck us here in a cold cave and then didn't do the least bit of first-aid on either of us.

I took off his flak vest back when he was unconscious, I can't remember why. I do remember thinking that the bullet must have bounced up from a low trajectory angle to get him where he seemed to be hit. I'm glad I took it off then--so I didn't have to put him through that at this point. But now I'm faced with at least a couple of layers of sticky, cold, wet shirt. I steel myself and lift the ruined cloths, pretty damn sure it's a good thing I didn't eat the power bar.

Another cliché to add, this fine day. Blood really does have a coppery smell. But what they don't tell you is that when it's been saturating clothing for a while, it gets cold and slimy. I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment and pant through my mouth, hoping to put off the nausea.

"Rodney, you with me?" His hand wanders up and brushes mine where I'm holding his slippery shirts up away from his belly. And the sound of my name uttered grounds me.

I'm waiting for the world to quit spinning before I open my eyes. When it does, I look at his face first. He's staring up at me, again...worried. "Hey Rodney... Rodney, if you need to lie down, just let this go." His hand slides up my arm and squeezes my bicep. "I'll be okay, just lay back and wait for Ford to come get us."

No! As much as I want to, I can't just lie down. Not yet. He's probably already gonna die because I shot him. I owe it to him to try.

His eyes read mine for a moment. And then he seems to steel himself, frowning. "Keep it together, McKay!" He's apparently intuited that I need orders, not whatever he was doing before. Calling me by my first name was undoing what little control I could muster. It was making all this blood too...intimate, too close. Maybe he's just good enough at reading others to pick that up. The blatantly military habit of using last names, the masterful tone, the no-nonsense look....It suddenly all becomes a comfortable distance for me. I can pretend it won't matter to me when I fuck this up. I'm just following orders. For the first time ever, I understand the relief of blind obedience to ranking personnel. I always thought military grunts were idiots to sign their wills away. But now I get it. Guilt free actions--I can take an order, do the task and it isn't my fault. I can keep those walls up so that if he dies I won't be so wrecked. I won't really care.

I'm good at that--distance, that is. And working with the military only improved the skill. I've lived my life being the first one to withdraw, the first one to call something quits when emotions started to be unpredictable. Better that than being the one rejected, for whatever reason. Does he know this? It's possibly his officer's training. That must be it. Surely if you're trained to be an officer they teach you about human motivations...how to use them to greatest effect. Either that or somehow he's reading my damn mind. Why else would he be letting me do what I need to, letting me pull away when he has this horribly strait track record of getting under my skin? So I can manage what I have to for the both of us?

I clear my throat, hoping my mind will follow suit. "Major, I think this is gonna really hurt."

"Uhm, yes." He cracks a grim smile.

"Are you gonna pass out?"

He chuckles weakly. "I may. But I'll try not to. If I do, you have my full permission to slap me really hard and then mock me for fainting." How can he joke like that at a time like this?

"How about not? Are you ready?" He nods. I wish I was. I hesitate for a moment and then start. I do what I need to--to take care of this mess...take care of him...as quickly as I can. It doesn't take long. When I finish, he's covered in a thin, cold sheen of sweat, shaking and gasping, and I think he's really trying hard not to yell. But he's kept his word, he hasn't lost consciousness.

A part of me breaks at that moment. And distance be damned, it hurts to see him suffering. So I grab one of his clenched hands and unfurl it, wrapping it in mine. And he squeezes the hell out of my sticky fingers, riding out the pain. "John?" Apparently my mouth has mutinied again, and is all for ditching the distance too.

"That sucked." he gasps at length.

"Yeah." I agree and release his hand. After a moment to collect myself, I make it worse for him by applying a pressure dressing. This time he groans loudly and squirms...a lot. One of his hands scrabbles franticly and finds my jacket sleeve, clenching it tightly.

I get it done. It feels like it took forever. I am so worn out. And I hurt. This was a sucky thing to do on a fucked up leg. But it's over.

I find myself touching him again, in a way that I'm sure is very against Air force regulations. Stroking his hair, his cheek, his hands, his chest... anything to make it better. For which of us, I'm not sure. I don't know if he's allowing it for my sake or his, or maybe he just doesn't have the strength resist. Maybe he can't stop me. It's kind of like tactile babbling. But whatever the reason, as I calm down, he begins to relax too. And finally I stop it all.

"Don't." he rasps. His voice sounds like he's hoarse from yelling, though he was nearly silent through the worst of it all.

"Huh?" I'm poleaxed...formally.

"You don't have to stop." He gasps out.

Okay, that was the last thing I thought I'd ever hear from an Air Force officer. "But..."

"It's okay, Rodney. Really, I get it." And he's trying to put on a very withered version of that damn smug grin of his. He pretty much fails at it. The shaking and the cold sweating ruin it.

"I don't need you to fucking understand!" Arrogant ass, how dare he try to empathize with me at a time like this.

He sighs. "Alright then, how about, it feels nice for me. That suit you better?" And he's shivering again, so badly this time that I can believe he really does need the contact .

"Considerably so." I snort indignantly and down next to him, carefully pulling him close to me. My head is not ready for the enormity of this cliché, but apparently some part of me is. And we aren't anything resembling comfortable on the damp, hard cave floor. But lying here like this makes me feel like we might just make it. You want to explain to me how sharing personal space changes a hopeless situation into one that is beginning to resemble tolerable?

Then suddenly the moment is broken by our radios going off. It's Ford.

"Major? Dr. McKay? Status!" The biggest part of me wants to jump around shouting hallelujah...if I could stand. But there is that very small part of me that wishes he'd go away for five more minutes.

But he won't, and I really want him to come get us. John has already keyed the radio to respond. "Sheppard here. What's your 20, Ford?"

There's a heavy sigh of relief from the speaker. "We're 'bout a click north of the gate, Sir. It's good to hear your voice Major. "

"Yeah, yeah...save the small talk, Lieutenant. What's the situation with the bogies?"

"Bogies, Sir?"

"Fuck! Sometimes I forget you're not Air Force. Don't be a pain in the ass, Ford. Where the hell are the Goddamn Wraith?" You know I'll never understand the banter between Major Sheppard and Lieutenant Ford. They sound like snarky teenagers sometimes.

I hear Ford snicker over the radio. "They're taken care of, Sir. Sorry it took so long. There were enough of them that it wasn't easy."

"Understood. ETA?"

"Eight minutes to the Gate, Major. What's your Status?"

"A.F.U. Ford. Copy?"

"Affirmative, Major. Hang in there. I'll have Teyla dial Atlantis and go for help while Stackhouse and I come after you."

"Sounds shnazzy. Sheppard out."

And just like that John lets his hand fall lax. And he turns his head to me. "It's gonna be okay Rodney." And he closes his eyes.

I don't even bother shaking him, or calling out. I know he's finally run out of strength. So I sit back up and pull him back onto my lap--the way we were before he woke up.

And I wait.

If I believed in God I'd pray. But no dogma I've ever come across ever accounted for Aliens and livable planets in other star systems or anything else science has ever shown me. However, science can't cover the enormous maelstrom I'm feeling inside me right now. And I need something mundane to anchor to. So with John laying limp, ostensibly in my arms, and probably dying--I close my eyes and hope there's somebody out there who has a fondness for Air Force major's with delightfully bad hair. Yep, I, Dr. Rodney McKay, am searching for God on the off chance he exists...just to save the person currently in my lap.

I'd bet my life God doesn't exist, but I won't bet the major's. I won't bet John's. Cliché. Cliché. Cliché. Cliché.

~~~

Ford's come along with Stackhouse, gently nudging my shoulder. I must have slept for a while because several others are here too, including Carson. And I'm being poked and stabbed and prodded and separated from the major-- which is freaking me out, to say the least. So now feels like a good time to let all this catch up with me. I'm throwing a bit of a fit.

Carson has finally stopped everyone from pulling the major out of my arms and he's got my face, turning it towards him. He's flashed one of those damn pen lights in my field of vision and now I can't see. But I can hear his thick, soft brogue, no matter that he sounds so far away. "You did a good job, Rodney. But now we need to get you both out of here. Do you understand?"

I do. But we've been stuck here together for what seems like several damn years and I can't let him out of my sight.

"I know." Carson's rubbing my shoulder briskly. "It took us a while to get down the ravine. But if you let him go with us, Rodney, we can help him. We need to get you both back to Atlantis. I know you've been through a lot. Let it go, son." I must have said that last bit aloud because Carson doesn't read minds. I'm sure I'd know if he did.

So I nod and kiss John on the top of his head-- letting go of his limp form. It's all the penance I can bear to do right now. I feel a sharp poke and hear Carson calling out about hypothermia. And strong hands lift me. But I can't seem to stay awake. I have to hope everything will work out right.

John promised. And he always keeps his promises. Which has got to be the mother of all clichés.

finis

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