[identity profile] neevebrody.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] atlantisbasics
Recipient:  insight2
Title:  
Pas de Deux 

Part 1: Entrée, Part 2: Adagio Part 3: Solo Dancer – Rodney, Part 4: Solo Dancer – John, Part 5: Coda
Author:  
neevebrody
Rating:
(PG-13, maybe R for language)
Category:  (Gen – Slash – Hurt/Comfort – Team – First Time)
Spoilers:  (Season 3 – Up to Sunday)
Betas:  [profile] thepouncer  [personal profile] lavvyan  [personal profile] nora_charles
Summary: Of course it wasn't every day that John had to run off to another planet to rescue his best friend - although in Pegasus, it was more likely. 

 

Adagio – The Slow Build

 

“Teyla, do you know this planet we’re headed to?” John asked when they were settled in the jumper.  Major Lorne was in the co-pilot chair. Ronon was seated behind Lorne with Teyla behind Sheppard.  A team of Marines filled the rear compartment, including a medic.

 

“Yes, I have heard of it,” Teyla answered, “It is supposed to be a world covered by lush vegetation.  I believe it is uninhabited, at least my people have never mentioned an indigenous population.”

 

“But this planet has a gate?” Ronon asked.

 

“I believe the variety of vegetation that grows there is harvested and used for medicines and potions by many worlds.  The Athosians have harvested plants there for many generations.”

 

"But nobody lives there?"

 

"The climate's tropical," Lorne interjected.  "Really hot and humid."

 

"That's good to know," John said as he taxied the jumper out of the bay and down into the Gateroom.  "Everybody make a note to be sure and drink plenty of water."  John hoped Rodney would think to do the same.

 

“Good luck,” Elizabeth said over the radio.

 

“Right, don’t worry,” John answered.  “We’ll have McKay back in no time.  Dial us out, Major.”  He could just see Elizabeth standing at the top of the stairs, head slightly bowed, trying to work up one of those authoritative smiles.  He wondered if she was fairing any better than him in the guilt department.

 

Major Lorne pressed the symbols on the DHD and the wormhole engaged.

 

*****************

 

John Sheppard would never be anything but awed by wormhole travel.  By now, other things in Pegasus – including life-sucking space vampires - were second nature to him, but getting from one place to another via wormhole still thrilled him.  He had been apprehensive at first – at the way the wormhole would suck all the air out of your lungs – but he had come to love that feeling, to crave it.

 

He discovered that taking a deep breath as you crossed the event horizon gave you a real rush as the air was squeezed out of the lungs rapidly.  To him, it was the closest thing in Pegasus to pulling g’s.

 

They emerged on the other side in a world of lush greenery and tropical plant life.  According to the HUD, the temperature was akin to those found around the equator of Earth, if not hotter.

 

The planet mostly resembled a tropical jungle.  The trees were not overly tall like a rainforest, but the canopy there was dense.  The stargate and DHD were located inside a scrubby clearing about three hundred and fifty feet in diameter.  From the clearing off in every direction lay dense, green vegetation.  There was precious little room to land one jumper, much less two.  The jumper hovered there for a moment.

 

"What say we take a look from up top, kind of get the lay of the land, maybe pick up some life signs?” Sheppard asked no one in particular.

 

He tapped his earpiece.  "Stockton, this is Colonel Sheppard.  We're gonna take a look topside."

 

"Roger that, sir," came the reply.

 

John took the jumper up.  Once they were past the treeline, the planet resembled a vast green carpet.  John could just make out several cleared paths that extended from the gate clearing like spokes from the hub of a wheel.

 

"Looks like there's a few cleared paths down there.  That might make things a little easier," Sheppard said.

 

“It is beautiful,” Teyla commented, looking through the front of the jumper.

 

“Yeah, I wonder how dense that stuff is on the ground.  Lorne?"

 

"Pretty thick, sir," Lorne replied.  "It varies.  We tried to stay near the paths."

 

"Ronon, think you can track in this?”  Sheppard asked.

 

“No problem,” Ronon said confidently.  “Should be easy to find tracks -- or signs of a struggle.”

 

John looked over his shoulder and exchanged a half-worried look with Ronon.

 

“Well, we need to locate McKay as soon as possible,” John said.  "That is, if he hasn’t already wandered back to the jumper on his own wondering what all the fuss is about.”

 

John was still a little angry that Rodney had deliberately circumvented his orders and come on the mission to begin with – and going over his head to Elizabeth.  On the other hand, John thought, looking out over the landscape, if Rodney was lost in all of this, it was very likely he’d go into full panic mode – and that would only make matters worse.

 

John couldn’t help thinking if he’d just humored Rodney and taken a quick trip out here, he could already be back in Atlantis, having his nap.  This was his day off after all.

 

“What’s that?” asked Ronan, pointing to what looked like half a dozen or more small circular clearings.  They seemed to be equal distance apart and all set along an arc.

 

The HUD immediately popped up.  On closer inspection, each small clearing had a small structure at its center.  Life signs were indicated amid the arc of clearings.

 

“You do not think…” Teyla began, “it is so far from the gate.”

 

“Makes sense,” John shrugged, “it’d be easy to get turned around down there.  Maybe McKay just kept walking until he reached one of those clearings.”

 

“But there are two life signs,” Teyla added.

 

“Maybe there are other people here gathering plants.” Lorne said.  “We can’t be sure if that’s McKay.”

 

Ronan stood looking out through the jumper window.  “There’s no where to land this thing,” he observed.

 

“Yep, we’re gonna have to set down outside the gate and walk back.”  John turned the jumper and headed back to the gate.

 

******************

 

Lieutenant Stockton greeted them.  While the Lieutenant filled them in on the progress of the search, John took the time to pack a couple of extra power bars into his vest and to check to make sure he had a full store of extra ammo. 

 

“Hey, Ronon, did you think to bring that Turkish salad chopper of yours?  Looks like we're gonna need it.”

 

Smiling, Ronan pulled a three-foot leather scabbard from one of the rear compartments.  He unsheathed a scimitar-like blade that glinted in the sunlight coming through the hatch.

 

Stockton finished his report.  The two Marines were still out looking.  Nothing had been reported so far.  John instructed Lorne to radio them to fall back to the jumper on the double.  There was no point in starting another search with people still out, duplication they didn’t have time for.

 

“We pulled up a couple of life signs on the HUD,” he told Stockton.  “About five hundred yards ahead is a series of small clearings.  Each clearing has a small building, kind of like an outhouse, in the center.”

 

“A couple?” the Lieutenant asked, “this planet is supposed to be uninhabited, sir.  Do you think one of them might be McKay?”

 

“I don't know Lieutenant, but at least it gives us somewhere to start.” John answered.  “There might be other parties here gathering plants.  The other life sign could be a good Samaritan that found Rodney, there’s really no way to tell until we get there.”   

 

It took only a few minutes for the Marines to emerge from the interior.  Sheppard and his team were then briefed regarding the terrain and the areas already searched. 

 

John tried to tamp back the rising unease in his gut.  Now that he was on the ground, looking out into the denseness, he couldn't shake the feeling that McKay was in trouble.  Rodney was too smart to go so deep into brush like this.  He’d been going on missions with Sheppard for almost three years; he would know better, John told himself.  Besides, Rodney was afraid of his own shadow.  Then John remembered the cave and the time dilation phenomenon.  If John had been alone then, no one would have ever found him.  He pushed back thoughts that Rodney would rush headlong into something like that by desperately clinging to the belief that Rodney would know better, dammit!

 

“All right, let's give these guys a break," John said.  "Lorne, you’re with me.  Teyla, you and Ronon.  We'll take the paths to start."

 

John turned to the Marines that had accompanied them.  He instructed their leader, Major Lewis, to start their search further to the east of where he and his team were starting.  Those paths would bring them out on the far end of the crescent of clearings.

 

"Stockton, you’re in charge.  If you see or hear anything, radio.”

 

“Yes, sir.”  Stockton answered.

 

Sheppard and Lorne took one of the paths that led away from the clearing. Teyla and Ronon took another some twenty-five to thirty feet parallel to them.

 

Underneath the verdant canopy of trees was like something out of a fever dream.  The air became dense and humid and smelled of green and earth.  The wings of insects and birds hummed around John's awareness, a Doppler buzz of approach and departure.  Between the heat and the humidity, John was soaked in sweat after only walking fifty feet in.  Their only saving grace was that the covering of trees and brush overhead blocked out the direct rays of the sun.

 

Traveling along the path approximately one hundred yards in, Lorne's voice disturbed John's concentration.  

 

“Sir?” Lorne called softly.

 

Sheppard turned and backtracked to Lorne’s position.  The Major pointed to several shiny metal objects littering the moss-covered ground just off the path.  They glinted in the spiky rays of sunlight that managed to stab through the dense canopy.

 

“Shell casings?” 

 

Lorne bent to retrieve several of the hollow bits of metal.  “Not ours, sir,” he said.

 

“No, and they're not rusted either,” Sheppard said looking around, “and in this climate-- what does that tell you, Major?”

 

“Weapons were fired here recently, sir.”

 

“Yeah,” Sheppard said thoughtfully, “but why?  And, if the planet has no population, by whom?”

 

"Maybe plant harvesters had weapons to protect against animals?" Lorne wondered. 

 

"Maybe," Sheppard said, but thought to himself that was a long shot.  At least he hoped so, especially the kind you might have to shoot in order to protect yourself.  Ever since they had run into that T-Rex-like thing, John had been rather skittish of local fauna. 

 

“Well, we know one thing,” Sheppard said, pocketing the shells.

 

“What’s that, sir?”

 

“Whoever's on this planet -- they’re armed with more than crossbows and poisonous darts.”

 

“Sir--?” Lorne began.

 

“Major,” John said, “I think it's pretty clear now that McKay didn’t just wander off.” 

 

John felt the guilt gnaw at him again.  He tried to push it back.  Nothing mattered now except finding Rodney.

 

Sheppard and Lorne exchanged a long, pointed look before Sheppard tapped his earpiece.

 

“Ronon, Teyla… you guys got anything?”

 

“Nothing,” Ronon’s voice came through the radio, “not even fresh tracks, no tracks.”

 

“Lorne's found some ammo casings and I’ve got a real bad feeling.  You and Teyla head over to our position.”

 

“On our way,” said Ronon.

 

*************

 

Ten minutes or so had passed with ever-more doomsday scenarios spinning through Sheppard's head.  He had checked with Major Lewis, they hadn't turned up anything either.  Presently, he heard rustling in the nearby vegetation.  Cautiously, he and Lorne shouldered their P-90’s and took cover behind the overgrowth of plants.

 

“Ronon, here,” Sheppard called after seeing Ronon and Teyla emerge from the foliage.  He and Lorne stepped out into the open.

 

“I think our best bet is to head toward those clearings.” John said as they all converged.

 

John drew the casings out of his pocket and held them out for Ronon and Teyla to see.  “That's where we picked up the life signs.  I think we should take a straight shot through the brush.  Maybe we can find something along the way that'll tell us what happened to Rodney.  Teyla, you and Ronon take point.   Ronon, watch for anything in the underbrush – tracks, more casings, anything – Lorne and I will cover you.” 

 

Sheppard pulled the handheld life signs detector from his tac vest pocket – nothing, but he knew the range was only one hundred yards or so.  He had no way of knowing how close they were to the clearings.

 

The going was a bit tougher off the paths.  The constant brush of vegetation against his skin began to make John itch.  They had to watch their footing, it was easy to trip on the vines and fallen limbs.  Other than the incessant drone of insects and the loud call of birds, the only sound was the occasional rustle of vegetation being pushed aside, or in Ronon’s case, hacked away.

 

They had walked on for another hundred yards or so when Ronon’s hand went up.  Looking at the ground in front of Ronon, Sheppard could see the impression of footprints in the soft, moist soil.  Sheppard checked the life signs detector once more.  He shook his head at Ronon, who nodded and turned to continue tracking.

 

John was getting antsy.  They'd already detected life signs.  Why were there no readings on the handheld?  They had to be getting near those clearings - something was wrong. 

 

Finally, the team seemed to be reaching the end of the thick underbrush.  The life signs detector suddenly burst to life.  Startled, John nearly dropped it before pushing the button to silence it.  The others, who had obviously heard the beeping, turned toward him.  John raised two fingers and pointed straight ahead.

 

Together, they proceeded to the edge of the foliage.  Up ahead of them was a small clearing with a dilapidated wooden shack in the center.  There were no doors or windows visible from their angle.  John glanced at the life signs detector – still only the two dots.

 

“Ronon, Lorne -- you two go around to either side," John said sweeping the air with his arms.  "Teyla, you stay here and cover our six.  I’m going to check out the rear of the shack, see if I can hear anything.

 

“Ronon, stun,” John said and turned to Lorne and Teyla.  “You two, no shooting unless it’s absolutely necessary.  I don’t want to give anything away if we don’t have to.”

 

Ronan started to argue, but John cut him off.  “If one of these is Rodney,” John said holding up the life signs detector, “then the other one must be somebody who knows what the hell is going on – or not.  Either way, it helps during interrogation if the person is still alive to answer.  Stun!”

 

Ronan looked sulky, but he re-set his blaster.

 

John felt like he was working on auto-pilot – his mind calculating measures and countermeasures, ever mindful of a trap or ambush.

 

“Sir, you really think one of those is McKay?” Lorne whispered, pointing to the life signs detector.

 

John sighed.  “I hope so Major.”

 

“And the other, what, a guard? 

 

John shrugged.  "That's what you and Ronon are going to find out."

 

Sheppard carefully stepped into the clearing.  Ronon and Lorne set out in opposite directions.  Teyla walked slowly along the rim of the clearing, pivoting back and forth between the clearing and the foliage from where they had just emerged.

 

The shack was located in the center of the clearing.  Several paths from all directions converged on the small open space.  Maybe it was used by plant harvesters as a drying room or tool shed or something – that would explain the lack of windows.  Except it didn’t look like it had been used for anything in a long while.  The boards were weathered and splintered – the roof some sort of metal, long ago disguised by rust.  Heat rose from the roof in waves.  By all accounts, John thought, a good stiff wind would probably topple the whole thing.

 

John stood at the back wall.  There were no voices or sounds of movement from inside.  Trying a few of the boards, he found one loose enough to offer give him a glimpse inside.  He eased the board aside as far as he could and peered through the crack.   

 

There, on a mound of earth in the center of the structure was a figure, slumped down.  Hundreds of tiny spears of daylight stabbed crazily through the gaps in the structure.  That was the only illumination, and John really wouldn’t have used that strong a word.  As his eyes slowly adjusted, he froze.  Even in the dim light, John recognized the jacket that lay crumpled at the figure’s side.

 

John’s heart thundered against his chest.  McKay might be hurt.  Unconscious.  His head spun.  All he had to do was wrench the boards away.  His instinct to get in, to get McKay out, warred with his knowledge that he had to be careful not to alert the guard.  Still mindful of an ambush -- they may have already given themselves away.  They'd have to fall back and plan their assault.  Backing away, he signaled for Lorne and Ronon to follow him.

 

“I'm pretty sure it’s McKay,” he whispered, answering the question in Teyla's eyes.

 

“Is he all right?” she asked keeping her voice low.

 

“Can’t tell. He’s down, not moving.  I couldn’t risk going in.”

 

Just then, Lorne and Ronon walked up.

 

“Sir,” Lorne said quietly, “one guard – armed.”

 

“Is it him?” Ronon asked.

 

“Yeah, I think so.  There are a few loose boards at the back," John whispered, looking around at them to make certain they all heard him.  "Shouldn't be a problem for Ronon here, but—"

 

"Let's go get him."  Ronon's voice was low and rumbling.

 

"But, we can’t risk a breach with the guard there.  We need to disable him long enough to get in and get McKay and get a good head start back to the gate.”

 

“We’ll take care of it, Sir.” Lorne said, looking over at Ronon who nodded. 

 

Sheppard took up his position at the rear of the shack and waited.  The fact that Rodney was just lying on the ground, instead of sitting there bitching or pacing and bitching disturbed him more than he cared to admit.  He watched as Lorne and Ronon converged on the rear corners of the shack.  Ronon peered around the corner on the left side.  He turned and signaled to Lorne, and they stepped out to make their way to the front. 

 

*************

 

Lorne, his back to the wall of the shack, edged his way along.  The quiet of the clearing was disrupted by the loud trill of birds and the incessant thrum of insects.  Sweat followed a trail over his temples and across his cheeks.  The salty taste teased him as a stray drop found its way down the contours of his face into the corner of his mouth.  He stopped just long enough to wipe one hand and then the other, gaining a clean grip on his weapon.  The heat made the short distance seem that much longer, but at last, Lorne found himself at the front corner.

 

He slipped his penknife from his pocket and used the blade to check the guard’s position.  He was still there.  He counted to twenty and hoped Dex had had enough time to get into position.

 

***************

 

Ronon heard the sound of a weapon being cocked.  He wheeled around the corner to see the guard step in the direction of the noise.  Ronon shot a stunner blast directly to center of the guard’s back.  He fell without a sound.

 

**************

 

The high-pitched whine of Ronon's blaster filled the air.  Seconds later, John looked up to see Ronon dragging the guard around the back corner followed by Lorne.  Ronon dropped the guard and stood there.  He seemed rather proud of himself.

 

The guard didn't look like a soldier.  He was dressed in a tan button-up shirt and slightly darker canvas-like pants.  His boots were brown leather – very worn.  There were large dark crescents of sweat under each of the guard’s arms and a dark patch down his front.  His hair looked almost completely wet.  John figured the guy was close to passing out from the heat even before Ronon had stunned him.   

 

Walking past where Ronon stood, John looked toward the front of the shack then turned back to Ronon.

 

"What?" Ronon asked, stepping over to peer around the corner.  He turned to Sheppard.

 

"What?"

 

"Ronon, it was good thinking to drag the guard back here," John said calmly like he might speak to a child, "that way if anyone checks up on him they might just think he's off takin' a whiz.  But," he said pointing to the ground.  Long drag marks were evident like a beacon in the dry dirt of the clearing.

 

"Oh, right," Ronon looked sheepish.  John watched him follow the marks, sweeping them away with his foot before turning to Lorne.

 

"The door?"

 

"It's got a lock on it." The Major answered.

 

"A lock?" Sheppard asked as he bent down to check the guard.

 

"We already checked, sir – no key."

 

"Ronon could blow the damn thing over like the big bad wolf," John said, "why the hell lock it?  I don't get—"

 

The sound of splintered wood and twisting metal upset the relative quiet of the clearing.  John started and turned to see Ronon peeling off another loose board from the back wall.

 

***************

 

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