artisticabandon: futuristic cityscape (atlantis)
[personal profile] artisticabandon
Title: Misdirection
Author: artisticabandon
Recipient: tepring
Word Count: ~17K
Rating: PG
Warnings: Mild language; some themes; some blood; no more than the usual episode. :)
Summary: Never trust uninhabited planets and natives who have the advantage of home ground. Or, the reason why Rodney never thought John would remember his password. Team fic. Shep whump.
Timing: Set most likely just after Critical Mass (2x13), but definitely before Quarantine (4x13). Aka vague S2 and S3 ish.
Beta: Many thanks to rosalee for being the beta for this story. I didn't always listen, but then I'm stylistically stubborn like that. All mistakes left are mine. :) More detailed notes and prompt at end.

Go back to Part 1

"I'm sure he's fine."

Rodney snorts. "Well, wherever he is, he's doing better than we are."

Teyla nods slowly. For relative degrees of 'better', on that she agrees with the scientist.

Being pushed off a cliff, even at spear-point, has to be better than this. It reminds her a lot of Olesia. Except, you know, better. They're tied up pretty much the same way, hands in front, elbows to rods behind their backs, and necks tied to the same rod. Each movement feels like being slowly choked.

Except this time the Dylosians have for each of them. Far too small to stand or lie down, so the most they can do is kneel if they feel like getting off their backsides. Or curl up in a ball, but that feels too vulnerable. And, they're being held in a tent, not a building about to fall down around their ears.

Rodney opens his mouth, then hesitates for a long moment. His words, when they come, are forced, and not because of the collar around his neck. "Do you think he—"

"Of course," Teyla interrupts swiftly. Because there is no other option believable. Of course Sheppard survived this 'gods' thing. He had to. He has to.

Ronon says nothing but shifts in his own cage, clenching and unclenching his fists. As much as he hates being helpless, this enforced stillness, he knows all too well the benefits of patience. Of waiting for an opportunity, then striking, fast and deadly. He thinks of himself like a tokrib, coiled, silent, deadly.

He will wait. And then he will strike.


In another tent in the Dylosian village, a much more somber conversation is being held.

"You are not comfortable with this," Elod da Dev, the Dylosian 'Able One' states calmly.

Jemac Gev Ca sips slowly at the hot drink in his hands, as much as to avoid answering as to think how to phrase it. One doesn't disagree with his village's Able One lightly. "You know my feelings on this," he finally answers.

"They are not the only ones you have not been able to talk with," Elod says astutely, leaning over to absently draw in the dust left by many feet. And notes that soon they'll have to move their encampment if they want the ground to recover, and leave no trace for the Wraith.


"I suspected as much."

"Then why—"

A dry shrug. "Because forms must be observed." At least this way, the three are under her protection. And this is the only they can challenge the leadership of Benaj Pat Lo, who'd led the team who'd met the offworlders and is getting rather more...annoying, of late. It doesn't help they haven't been able to talk to him.

"And if the offworlder is like the other three, he will survive it."

"That too."


It's not the dunking that annoys Radek Zelenka, although coming up coughing and spluttering to see the body of a giant cat under a meter away from him is definitely something he will remember. In his nightmares. For weeks.

It is such a shock, in fact, that he lets out a stream of czech curses and scrambles back.

"Its dead, Doc."

"You sure?" he queries, eying it doubtfully.

"Yep. Sorry about your glasses though."

"My— Oh." In his fright, he'd not noticed that his dunking had broken his glasses across the nose. And since they are still on his ears, he is sure he must look a sight. He glares at the Marine, and since he learned his glares from the knee of the McKay, he knows how to work them. "Tape," he demands.

The Marine quickly backs down. "Uh...tape?"

"For glasses. Now," he says firmly, extending his hand and making grabbing motion.

"Right. Sorry, Doc."

Its quickly handed over, and it doesn't take long for his glasses to be repaired. For a field repair, it will do until he can get back to Atlantis and do something more permanent. If only I could do the same for the DHD, he thinks mournfully, looking at what remains of his work-space.

Lorne jogs over, looking concerning, grip still tight on his weapon. "You guys okay?"

Zelenka sighs and absently rubs his glasses on his shirt. He has a feeling he will be answering this question for many days. "Yes, yes, skvělý," he says, hoping his tone conveys his sarcasm.

By Lorne's expression it does. "How soon will you be finished, Doc?"

He snorts. "Hours. The velká kočka, giant cat, yes? It destroy things. Will have to re-establish connection, re-test it. Then extract. Hours," he nods firmly.

The Major eyes the bodies of the two cats and makes his decision. "See if you can pull the crystals without destroying the data, doc. We'll do the extracting off-planet."

Zelenka's eyes light up at the challenge. "Velký! Is great idea!" He turns back to the DHD, working feverishly, dreaming of his lab and a warm shower.

Lorne doesn't have the heart to tell him that their destination will probably be the Gamma Site. He's not going back to Atlantis until he has Sheppard's team back.


When he wakes, it doesn't immediately register where he is, what's happened. What does register is something more immediate.

There's something on his face. Dripping into his face. His eyes. His nose. His mouth.


Rain? It's raining.

Water. And he's thirsty.

His tongues darts out to touch, to taste. And comes back with steel. Steel laced water.

Bloody water.

Blood...from him?


How long was he out of it?

He doesn't know. Its a blank place in his memory, an emptiness with nothing to fill it.

Then he breathes, and, yeah, okay, not good.

He's in trouble. Just breathing is an effort, sends sharp pains through his left chest wall. Obviously, the fall did something to him – more than just broken ribs, although he wouldn't be too surprised if he has that too. The sad thing is, he's been here before, and he's pretty sure he knows exactly what's happened.

Gently, careful not to jostle or in anyway use the arm on the side where the pain is worse, he sends his right hand in a querying touch of his left shoulder. It doesn't take long to confirm his worst fears. Even through the TAC vest, he can feel the bump in his shoulder, the place where bone fractured when body met rock.

Collarbone 0, rock 1.

Or, really, Sheppard 0, cliff 1.

Blowing out a soft sigh, he lets his good hand fall to the side and gives himself a moment to lie here. In the rain. In pain. Later, when he's with his team, he can be stoic, he can be Colonel High Pain Theshold Sheppard, but right now he's alone, he's saturated, and he's in pain. He can allow himself this moment to feel, to hurt, before he shoves the pain away into its box.

Especially since he knows that getting his arm immobilized is going to a bitch, and, given the choice, he'd rather not feel that. Or, rather, he will, but he knows the techniques so that he won't. Much.

The first tier of pain suppression is replacement: to replace the emotion with something else. Adrenaline is the easiest, usually. And he knows exactly how to produce the required rush, despite being stuck on a ledge on a cliff, with no way off unless he does something about his shoulder. It's what he's been trained for, after all, even if he doesn't care to remember said training. Or how he learned what the training couldn't teach him.

It's not the easiest (nicest) thing in the world, after all, to learn the precise limits of one's threshold of pain...or how to surpass it.

Not that he's going to be doing much surpassing today. Just immobilizing.


First, though, he has to get some adrenaline flowing. Which is where his imagination, and experience, comes in. One thing the last few years has given him, is plenty of mental fodder. He closes his eye, clenched the fist of his good hand to help with the testosterone flow, and lets the images come.

It's not long before he feels the tightness in his chest and shortness of breath that herald a good rush. He opens his eyes and, yeah, he's got the whole clarity of vision thing going. He feels like he can almost see through the raindrops, if he could just concentrate enough.

Yeah. He's high. He's plenty high. High enough to do what he has to do, and have some left over.

He breathes in. Breathes out. Reaches over and grabs his left arm with his right. Breathes in. Then, before he can tell himself its a stupid idea, he shoves his bad hand into the opening of his TAC vest, against the zipper.

He's cursing a blue streak the entire time. Knows it. Doesn't bother stopping it. Because pain suppression is just that...suppression. Doesn't mean the pain isn't there. Doesn't mean that his shoulder isn't going to hurt to kingdom come when he finally comes down from the rush.

Which is why the second tier of pain suppression is expression: to let the pain out instead of letting it fester inside the mind. And why he's still cursing when he zips up his vest.

Now, he just has to get off the stupid ledge.

Well, okay, he has two options. He can go up, or he can go down. Either way, he's going to have to free-climb with what amounts to a bum shoulder. Yay. So not what I signed up for. Then again, he'd done his basic training on what turned out to be a broken foot, so this should be comparatively easy.

Yeah. Right.

In the end, he chooses to go up. It means less stress on his shoulder, for relative degrees of 'less'. Going up, his legs do most of the work: supporting himself while he searches for a hand-hold and then pushing his body up. Going down, he would've had to hang on while his feet did the searching, and that alone was a definite no-go with one shoulder out of action.

So up it is.

It just means that by the time he pushes himself up over the top, his thighs and calves are burning, bordering on cramping, and he's never been so grateful for all those runs with Ronon in his life. His legs are in the best shape of his life, and it shows. He knows all to well that this is a climb he would never have made had he still been on Earth, under the standard Air Force exercise routine.

That's the irony of the Pegasus galaxy: running from the Wraith is the best exercise routine ever. Hardly any members of the off-world teams are fat. Hell, its the same with all the natives they encounter. At least the Wraith don't like them for the quality of their meat.

But, now that he's finally above ground, he has another choice. He can go to the gate, or he can go the village. He can either go in with his men at his back, or go after his team himself. Reinforcements, or go solo.

He doesn't even really think deeply about it, before his steps turn towards the village, towards his team.

If nothing else, he can always claim he was doing recon before checking back in.

He knows he's made the right choice when he catches a glint of metal out of the corner of his eye, at the edge of the trail. Keeping hold of his elbow to keep his left arm close to his body and thus prevent his collarbone shifting too much, he carefully kneels down to investigate. And grins.

What caught his eye is a knife one of the natives dropped on their way back to the village. Or maybe it's the one he dropped in the fight, he doesn't really remember. In any case, it's not much, but at least now he'll be armed.

Finally, something in this day is going right. He lets go of his arm long enough to grab the knife and push it into his belt.

Carefully rising to his feet, he waits out the headrush and then keeps going. Somewhere at the end of this trail is his team. And he intends to find them.


When it happens, it happens quickly. There's no warning.

Benaj Pat Lo bursts into the tent of the Able One, backed up by the group of men he'd met the offworlders with.

At first Elod da Dev isn't worried, despite the fact that it's all her village's troublemakers in one spot. One does not, after all, rise to the rank of Able One without learning how to stay calm in all sorts of situations. She calmly puts down her cup of tea. Not even the fact that they are all carrying the strange pointing devices the offworlders had been carrying is enough to worry her. They mean nothing to her.

"Elod da Dev, we ask you relinquish your place and hand the offworlders over to us."

One eyebrow rises in response to their height of disrespect in addressing her without her title. But all she says in answer is, "No."

"We won't ask again."

She narrows her eyes. This is getting annoying. "My answer is the same."

They point the pointing-device-thing near her and do...something. She can't quite see what, and, moments later, she's grateful for that.

The sound of the...thing...discharging is loud and bright in her ears and she hears something whistle past her ears. disconcerting. And worrying. She can see why the offworlders were carrying these. They must make a good deterrent against the Wraith.

The troublemakers have made their point. But even in defeat, she is graceful. She gathers her robes and passes them by as she leaves her tent, making a point of looking each of them in the eye.

It is a hollow victory that none of these...usurpers...can maintain eye contact for long.

Her stride is long and confident, forcing them to catch up to. This too is hollow.

Her steps falter only a little when she realizes that she cannot see Jemac anywhere. She knows Benaj, knows his opinion of her and Jemac. He's likely already sent her Jemac to the gods already, and not the compassionate way she sent the offworlder one they called "John". No. He'll have used the Colac ca Loc...the Fall From Which None Return.

She forces her stride to resume. This time, she lets Benaj led. It's to no one's surprise that he takes to the Yeman tent, the one with the cages where they are keeping the offworlders. His only deference to her former position is that he ties her hands in front, makes her kneel, and then ties her hands to a spike he drives personally into the ground.

She knows better than most that she's going nowhere. There's a reason the village uses Benaj to swing the hammer and drive the tent pegs in whenever they move camp.

All Elod da Dev can do now is stare at the offworlders, all too aware of the language difficulties. There is no way she can communicate just how badly this day has gone for them and will go.


Given that they're the rescue team, Lorne tries not to think too deeply about how close they are to missing their own check-in as he dials the jumper's DHD. Or about why he chose himself for a task that could nominally be done by any other soldier in his command.

"AR2 to base, this is Lorne. How goes the line-dancing?" Even as he asks the question, he grimaces. Even though he understands and approves the need for security questions, sometimes the combinations are just ridiculous. Which is the point.

"This is base, we receive you AR2. And the dancing is lighting up the barn. How go you?"

At this, Lorne relaxes. 'Light' and 'barn' are the okay signals. If there'd been a reference to 'razing' or 'house', that'd been this week's sign of trouble on base and not to continue talking. Or, given that he has the feeling he's acting military commander, to drop everything and come back. "We're on stand-down at the Gamma Site, had to leave MX4-028 in a hurry."

"Wraith?" Elizabeth immediately asks.

"No ma'am. Large fauna, hostile feline variety. Looks like the Colonel's team ran afoul of at least one of them on their way to the gate. I have the scientists working on data we extracted from the DHD, trying to figure out where they went."

There's a small pause before Elizabeth comes back. "Keep at it, Major. If you can't make the first hop within three hours, I want you back here." Because if the team's traveled through more than one gate, then they've been taken by hostiles and they'll need all of Atlantis' resources to get them back.

"Yes ma'am. AR2 out."


Its dark by the time Sheppard reaches the village.

It's lit by flickering torches placed strategically around, and a big bonfire or brazier thing in the middle of the campsite. Its hard to tell exactly what it is from where he's crouching, but if it's anything like other Pegasus villages, it's bright, portable, and easily extinguishable.

Trying to get an idea of the layout of the village is hard from where he is. There are little things like tents in his line of sight.

He has no idea where his team is in all that. That should probably worry him more than it does.

What he's more concerned about is staying far enough away that he can't hear anyone and thus can't get a crippling headache. He's found, by trial and error, that if he stays just out of earshot, he has no problem. Any closer, then he's on his knees and begging for mental release – or painkillers. Nice. Big. Painkillers. Good ones.

So he stays further back, and its all good. Here, all he has to worry about is how he's going to do the rescue.

His trouble is they were basically stripped of their equipment by the "friendly" natives, which includes their packs. John has no idea where his pack is. All he has left is what is in his pockets, which seemed to confound the natives enough that they left them alone.

Thank goodness for BDUs and an abundance of pockets. Still, if he wants to mount a rescue – which he definitely does – he's going to have to do it with what he's got on him.

Atlantis being what it is, he's limited not by what he can carry, but by what the Quartermaster at the SGC sees fit to send them and by how well that spreads around his men. He absolutely refuses to send his men out without some necessary tool just because someone forgot to count or because his rank just happens to be higher.

He crashes to his knees more than falls, catching himself only enough not to jar his collarbone too badly, and starts rooting through his multitude of pockets and pouches. Surely, somewhere in here, he has something useful.

Vest. Binoculars. Life-signs detector. Field trauma bandages – complete with in-built gauze, one size of which does not fit all. Notebook. Pen and Sharpie. Fire starter kit. Waterproof matches. LED torch. Ammo clips for the P90, the 9mil – neither weapon he actually has anymore, thanks to over-enthusiastic natives.

Pants. Wire coil. Cables. Mini wire stripper slash pliers. Cork – good for stopping bottles, canteens, and making a homemade Shiv with a bit of wire. Leatherman. Tape. 100 mile tape. Two cigarrette lighters.

Extras. Assorted miscellaneous, like paperclips, pocket lint, cotton, chewing gum. Powerbars. Epi-pens.

He also has an MRE, but, yeah, no. If anything, he would be more interested in convincing the Dylosians to eat it than wasting the time eating it himself.

And, he has one slightly used knife.

The question is, what can he make with all this...junk...that would help him mount a rescue, winged as he is? With the added stipulation that the closer he gets to the village, the less he wants to hear?


They've been hearing gunshots throughout the long afternoon and evening. The lulls between the weapons fire is just long enough that they jump everytime that they start up again. Its entirely disconcerting, knowing that the shots are coming from their own weapons.

Rodney shifts when the gunfire starts up again. "What are they doing," he mutters, aggrieved, "trying to see how long it takes to empty one of those clips on single-shot? Seriously, if they want to know, they could just ask. Typical power-hungry idiots. Only interested in the next big boom."

The phrase 'just ask' triggers a thought in Teyla's mind, and she feels like kicking herself for not thinking of it earlier. Though, to be fair, she's been too worried about John. She turns to their new companion and slips easily into the trade language of Pegasus. "Do you know the..." and here she has to pause to think of the words John used to refer to the trade language earlier, ", ring talk?"

Elod nods slowly, and replies in kind. "Some. Not as much as Jemac. He learn me."

"Oh, great," Rodney snarks, in English. "Conversation for simpletons. What's next? Negotiations for morons?"

"Rodney. That is enough," Teyla says sharply, when the headache recedes enough that she can talk. At the moment, intel is what they need the most. She turns back to their new companion. "I am 'Teyla Emmagen'. I lead my people."

"I am 'Elod da Dev'. I was our 'Able One'."


"The one who lead those who find you," Elod clenches her fists, wanting to gesture in frustration of how hard it is to communicate this way, but unable. If this is the trade talk, she has to wonder how people get anything done. "He is 'Benaj Pat Lo'. He...step me down and put here."


"I say..." she hisses abruptly, frustrated anew at this language. "I say to Jemac," she says slowly, as it's a process to translate from Dylosian to this 'ring talk', "to send yours to gods over short fall."

Ronon interrupts them then, speaking just as slowly, "You saying that you sent our man over a cliff?"

Elod nods. Slowly. Apologetically. "If by it you mean fall over edge, yes."

"Right," he growls and begins working in earnest on his bonds.

"To go to gods is to go over. But I say send to short one, so he may come back."

"May?" Teyla pursues, as ever alert to phrasing.

Elod nods again. "It has be that way before. If your man come in time, I step down Benaj, send you back." She pauses a moment and eyes Ronon. "By ring, not fall."

Teyla nods thoughtfully. There is just one last thing she's wondering about. "If I may, Able One, if you have all this plan, then why...step down when Benaj come to you?"

The Dylosian shrugs eloquently. "They had these noise things. Like Jemac say you had. I not say no to that."

Teyla's eyes widen. Its a coup d'état, as she has heard the Terrans refer to it, and they're caught in the middle. Worse, its being enforced with the team's weapons. And the weird part is, they're going to end up fighting back.

Elizabeth is going to kill them.

Elod confirms Teyla's worst fears. "Benaj may be kill Jemac already. Me next. Then you. Your...John is only hope."


It's not the best plan in the world, sneaking in to what amounts to an enemy encampment with his ears blocked.

But it's either this or suffer through headaches and head-bashing, and he'd rather prefer his skull intact. Well, as intact as it is, considering it's been aching since he hit the water earlier today and all the headaches and impacts since haven't helped any.

Still, it's the tactical equivalent of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, except he's got duct-tape in his ears instead of a towel over his head. It's still equally stupid, in his book.

And, yeah, okay. Make that definitely a concussion. His brain doesn't normally digress this much.

He lets out a soft curse when there's sharp, unmistakeable, cracks of gunfire within the village. Loud enough that he can hear them through the damn plugs, which means the shooters are closer than he likes.

Maybe it's the makeshift earplugs, maybe it's a tactical error on his part, or maybe it's his injuries talking, but the gunfire is the absolute last thing he's expecting. He didn't expect the Dylosians to go from spears to semi-automatics in a few short hours, but then he's seen the Genii. Maybe he should have.

He lets out a soft grunt of surprise when something throws him back against what he was leaning against – a tent maybe? – that gives a little under him. It feels vaguely like he's been kicked in the chest but from a distance. He knows his vest stopped most of it – he can feel the busted rib caused by impact trauma of a bullet hitting armor at high speed. More bruises.

Overall, though, the sensation isn't that bad. It doesn't really hurt. But then the bad ones never do.

It's trying to roll over that sends the alarm bells. Emphasis on the 'try' part. He never makes it. The effort leaves him still on his back with blackness in his vision, a hunger for air, and curses on his lips that he doesn't dare utter.

He knows instantly that he was shot by a P90. Its probably the only weapon in the entire galaxy that fires armor-piercing rounds, good for taking down Wraith in a couple of shots if you hit the right spot. The Genii, he knows, are nowhere near that level – their guns are more like shotguns going for collateral damage than the precision of the P90.

Although the armor-piercing thing is a problem.

The pain in his chest is sharp, where before his collarbone just...grated. Grated like a broken bone against bone. This is hole in the chest pain and it's kind of piercing. Obviously, the vest only could only stop the bullet so much, and his ribs and flesh did the rest. On the other hand, a few inches to the side, and it would've blown off his hand. Small mercy.

Gingerly, he unzips his vest and inserts his hand to feel around. And, yeah, there it is. There's a gsw on his chest, upper right quadrant. Experimentally he puts his hand over the wound, and lets out a soft curse when he feels air flow out the hole as he breathes. The diagnosis is easy, and disheartening. He has a sucking chest wound.

The problem with sucking chest wounds is that they suck.


It creates an air-entry point in a place where the body was never designed to have one. With every inhale and exhale, he can hear air hissing and his blood gurgling, his lung struggling to expand against the pressure of an entire world. It means his lungs are compromised. If he can just put pressure on the entry site, cover it over, he might be able to survive this – at least long enough to get proper medical care, which means the same thing.

It's cause once again to be thankful for BDUs and TAC vests with an abundance of pockets. He's learned enough from Pegasus to have a basic kit on him at all times, at least off-world. He has enough in various pockets to do what has to be done, but it'd be nice if he had like, oh, maybe another set of hands. With an associated team member to match.

Dressing. He needs... Gauze. Plastic. Tape.

Plastic. That, he has. He rips the cover off the mangled MRE and shoves the contents into a BDU pants pocket. It's the cover he wants right now, not the rations. Gauze. Field trauma bandages. Yeah, okay, that works. All he wants is a single layer for the dressing, and some to mop up what's bleeding out of him. Tape. That, he definitely has. Two types, even. His hands start shaking as he gets the strips ready, because he knows he won't have time to tear them off when he's doing the actual dressing.

He makes himself lie down. Not because he really wants to, because he'd rather see what he's doing, but because it'll be less stress on his already overworked lung. Unzips his vest fully. Pushes his shirt up to his neck. And now he's finally ready.

Applying the occlusive dressing on himself is by far one of the most strangest and grossest things he's ever done. It even beats that time he'd been forced to administer first aid to a guy with half his leg blown off in a 'helo taking fire in the 'stan. That had been hairy. This is just... gross.

It seems like every bit of blood he manages to wipe away with his little wad of gauze is immediately replaced by twice as much. It's a sign, he knows, that he's probably bleeding internally and well on his way to developing a haemothorax. It's not something he cares to think about too deeply, beyond the fact that he needs to dress this wound right now, while he still has the strength to do so.

In the end, he just gives up on the blood thing. Its the dressing that's more important at this stage, not trying to mop up blood from an untreated wound. Besides, it already feels like something is sitting on his chest and he has to focus to see past the black motes in his vision.

Not that dressing the wound – that he can't even see – is much better. He ends up using the tips of the fingers on his bad hand to kind of track the hole's location while his right hand places the single layers of gauze then plastic. worse than flying blind or by instruments, its their bastard child on steroids and he's navigating without a flightplan.

Taping up the dressing, at least, is better. In the sense that all he has to do is hold the gauze and plastic in place – with his bad hand, no less – and put tape around all but half of one edge. Compared to everything else he's done today, this part is easy.

His hands are still shaking by the time he's done.

High pain thresholds don't mean he doesn't feel pain; they just mean he has to feel a lot of pain before he lets himself keel over. Right now, he's kind of regretting that fact. He's also not ashamed to admit that he'd do almost anything for some morphine right now, particularly a battlefield dose from one of their field kits.

He lets his head flop back on to the ground and focuses on his breathing. In. Out.



He's pretty sure that now that he has the dressing on, this breathing thing should get easier.





. . .


Somewhere after night has fallen, Elod da Dev is taken from the tent.

By force.

After she leaves, it is just the team.

There is the sound of a piercing scream, cut short.

After that, there is silence.

No one in the tent speaks.

They know they're probably next.


There's one thing about Zelenka, Lorne reflects to himself. His degree of excitement is proportional to his command of English.

"Našel jsem ji! I found it! I found it!"

Lorne hurries over from doing yet another perimeter sweep to where the scientists are gathered around the computer. Not that the sweeps are necessary, this being the Gamma Site, but it's still something to do.

"Where?" he says, cutting to the chase.

"MP8-391. See?" Zelenka says, and points to address on screen.

To Lorne, it looks like any other list of symbols. He nods anyway. "You sure?"

Zelenka shrugs fatalistically. "Is only one on week's Random List."

That settles it for the Major and he looks at his watch. If they hurry, they'll make it within their three hour limit. "Pack it up, people! We've a team to find."


It takes longer than he likes for his breathing to settle, for his strength, such as it is, to return. For his vision to clear from foggy gray to colors and then shapes that he can recognize.

He realizes then that he's lying against a tent at the edge of the Dylosian encampment. Not really a good place to be, but then he hadn't had much choice at the time. Way to go, John.

Standing up feels like he's peeling himself up off the ground, like peeling the skin of a piece of stonefruit or something. It's messy, and not just because he's feeling something trickling down his chest again. He's dizzy and the gray is sneaking back over his vision. His body definitely is not welcoming the change and the world is surely spinning in sickening circles. Or maybe it's him.

That's what makes the decision for him. Next tent he finds, or rather, next tent opening he finds, he's going inside and sitting down for a while. This rescue business is hard work.

Which is why he simply goes around the tent he's leaning against. Right now, one tent is as good as another. He pauses a moment to take the duct-tape out of his ears, hears nothing, then stumbles through.

His eyes adjust slowly to the interior. He blinks again to make sure, and breaks out into a slow smile. "Well." He breathes again to get enough for air for few more words. "Fancy meeting. You here." And then sitting down is more urgent, so he does. There's some kind of crate helpfully placed near the entrance, and that's what he ends up on. Helpful people, the Dylosians, he decides.

"Sheppard!" "Colonel!" "John!"

His team. He's found his team. In cages, tied up, but he's found them.

"What happened to you?" Rodney asks, peering at him. "You look like you've been through the mill. Actually, I think the mill would've been a kindness and I never understood that saying anyway. You look like you've been spat out of a shredder and rolled through the dust of the armpits of a thousand camels."

Sheppard grins. He actually missed this. "Thanks Rodney."

"For what?"

"I must look pretty good, then." He pauses. "But...camels, Rodney? Seriously?"

"Made you pay attention, didn't it?"

"Yeah," he breathes. Then coughs. And has to decide between grabbing his chest or grabbing at his shoulder. His shoulder wins.

"Are you okay?" Teyla asks, her voice firm with that do-not-lie-to-me tone that he kind of hates.

He considers lying anyway, going with the standard 'fine' answer, but he's never really been able to lie to his team off-world. It's kind of one of his own personal Rules. "Not really. The cliff didn't like me."

"John."  Teyla pushes, now in do-not-make-me-come-over-there.

He sighs. "Collarbone." Which is far more important than a few busted ribs and his chest wound, in his opinion, because of how much movement is restricted.

She nods, satisfied, and shifts enough to face him fully in what light there is. "John. You have to free us as soon as you can. It is a...a koo de eat—"

"Coup d'état. Its French, means a decisive change of government by force," Rodney explains automatically, then makes a face as he realizes what he just said.

"Yes, thank you, Rodney. I strongly suspect they have already killed their leaders, and we were warned that we would be next."

Ronon peers at him through the cage network of bars. "You have a key?"

Sheppard wants to shake his head, but he has a feeling that if he did he'd fall over. "No." But internally, he's kicking himself. Of all the things he forgets to pick up, he always forgets the key.

"Brilliant, Sheppard," snarks Rodney. "How do you expect to get us out of here, then? With the skeleton key in your back pocket? Or did you happen to accost a thief in your way here and manage to pick up a pair of lockpicks? Or perhaps you found a helpful villager and..."

He tunes out the rest of the rant, because it triggers a memory. He rummages around in one of his vest pockets for a moment, and holds up his items triumphantly. "Aha! Knew I had some."

"on some bongo—" It instantly derails Rodney. "Wait. What? How do paperclips help?"

"Lockpicks," is all Sheppard says, and gets to work. He'd rather do this with the extra help of a hammer, but all he has is some pliers. It works...well enough. A few minutes later, and he's the proud holder of a crude lockpick and tension wrench.

He goes to Ronon's cage first. Mainly because it's closer, and he's not that picky. He'd have gone to whoever's cage was closest.

The roughness of his work on the picks means that he has to be extra careful at the lock. It takes a little longer than normal, mainly because these are lockpicks from paperclips than because he's doing this one-handed. He's lockpicked one-handed before, that's not the issue here. As long as he holds the tension wrench with his little and ring fingers, it works well enough. The problem is that the paperclip metal is more malleable than the standard pick, and even as he's forcing the lock he's being careful that the pick maintains its shape.

It takes, he estimates, three minutes to do the lock. Not that he's timing it or anything.

"That's...rather impressive."

Sheppard snorts. "I'm out of practice." He hasn't picked a lock since Afghanistan and his skills are rusty. Also, it may be possible that the gunshot wound is starting to affect him. The dizziness is getting worse. He does his best to hide it, but going inside the cage, he has to hold onto the cage door to keep himself upright. And when he uses his trusty (purloined) knife on the ropes, his fingers feel fat and clumsy and the knife impossible to handle. He keeps cutting anyway, all too aware of how little time they have.

Once he's through the ropes around Ronon's wrists, he leaves the knife beside Ronon and goes to the lock on the next cage. Not only because Ronon is better with a knife – which would be true even if he wasn't injured and Ronon was the one with the chest wound – but because at the moment his skills are better suited to lockpicking. And lockpicking, by its very nature, hides how much his hands are shaking.

Even though he knows now what he needs to do on the locks, his time remains about the same. The brain can only overcome the failings of the body so far, and his body is failing rather rapidly on him.

Ronon comes behind him, cutting ropes (vines?) and freeing his team. After the last cage, John decides its a perfect time to sit down on his crate. It's either that or fall down, and he's done enough falling today.

When everyone's free, they all look at each other.

"I want—" "How about—" "But—"

John's tired of the confusion within moments. Its making his head hurt. Hell, its making his ears hurt. He whistles, and everyone else shuts up. He glares at them for good measure. "We'll call a vote on where we go from here."

"I want my gun back," Ronon states. Which is his standard answer in this situation.

"Atlantis," Rodney volleys back, thinning his lips and crossing his arms. It's also pretty much Rodney's default answer.

John has to think about it. He's all for going back for their weapons, and, yeah, he's pretty sure they have a Rule somewhere about not leaving weapons with natives (there's a separate one about trading weapons that he suspects Elizabeth made up just for him). On the other hand, he really wants to be back in Atlantis in an infirmary bed. So in the end, he only has one answer. "I abstain," he says simply.

Teyla has the deciding vote. Ever the peacemaker, she decides on both options. "Rodney, take John with you back to Atlantis. Ronon, I will go with you to retrieve our weapons, and we will follow you when we can."

Although Sheppard hates splitting the team like this, it's a sound plan, and the only way to satisfy everyone at the moment. "Yeah, okay," he decides.


The trek back to the gate is just that. A trek. In John's memory it will forever stand out as one of the hardest and most difficult parts of this crazy, mucked up day. Ironically, it will also be the part he remembers the least.


Walking, Sheppard decides, is hell.

Every step seems to jar his collarbone, no matter what he does. Even gripping his bad arm and holding it against body doesn't help that much. Its doing something to his wound, too. It feels like a vise is clamped around his chest, and its getting tighter with each step.

He's so focused on the effort to breathe that its a surprise entirely when another part of his body gives way and his legs dump him to the ground, although in hindsight he should have expected it. Oxygen deprivation. All the blood flow is going to his torso, not his limbs. Probably not his brain either, which might explain why his vision's going as well and his thoughts are moving like molasses.

He blinks. Yeah, he's on the ground, looking up at a panicked Rodney. He can hear rustling, and tapping, and cursing. Maybe something to do with the scanner? Then Rodney's unceremoniously dragging him back, off what little trail they were following back to Atlantis and moving into the jungle. What part of Sheppard can still think agrees wholeheartedly, that a little cover is better than none, and he makes an effort to help.

"Stop helping, Sheppard. Seriously. You're flailing like a bleached whale. Its worse than watching Kavanaugh trying to avoid our plumbing problems. And how heavy are you anyway? What are you carrying in that vest? Enough weapons for a war? Another Athosian, maybe? There is no way a guy as slim as you should be this heavy."

"S'Muscle," he says. Or slurs the syllables that sound vaguely, possibly, maybe like that.

He blinks. Rodney fusses with the vegetation. Creating shelter. Covering their tracks. He's come a long way.

He blinks again. And suddenly Rodney's leaning over him, tapping his face. He has the feeling, judging by Rodney's expression and the feeling of his cheek, that he's been tapping for a while. "Sheppard. Sheppard. Come on. Wake up now."

"M'here." He forces his eyes open wide, not sure if he should let himself blink again. Strange things happen when he blinks.

Rodney gets in his face. "Colonel. Tell. Me. What's. Wrong."

He breathes and hears plastic crinkle, takes care to get the words out clearly, "I may...have been...shot..."

"What?!" Rodney half-shouts, remembering at the last moment to modulate his voice. "And you remember to tell us this vital piece of information now, you half-brain-dead idiot?"

"Tellin' now." Breathe, John. Breathe. "And wasn't...biggie, before." Getting his team free came first. Always would.

"You've been shot," Rodney hisses. "I think we can establish that your processing facilities are below par."

"Hey... Coulda been... Mensa."

"Operative world being 'coulda'. Now shut up and tell me where."

For a moment his brain gets stuck on the logic fallacy and he lets out a hoarse chuckle. "Lung." He tries to gesture, to point out where, but his hand feels like it weighs a ton and he has the suspicion that it doesn't quite work. "Already...dressed."

"Well of course you're already dressed," Rodney mutters, setting about unzipping the vest to take a look himself. "What do you think you are, running around buck naked? Seriously, the mentality of the military mind. Maybe I'll tender a hypothesis with my next paper, that they lose IQ points with each—oh." When he brings his hand out from under John's t-shirt, its stained red.

"Oh." He stares. "I'm guessing...that's not good." Maybe he should have told Teyla about the chest wound thing after all...?

"No. Not really. I don't suppose you have a kit on you."

He huffs a laugh at this. "In my pack."

"Which is..." he scowls. "Funny, Colonel. Hilarious. What about the bullet? Do you know if there's an exit wound?

"I—I don't know?" He lets his breath out in a hiss. The pain's coming in waves now, and there's nothing he can do for it but ride it out, and that, more than anything, is what annoys him. With no packs, they have no first aid kit, and that means no morphine. "T—Talk to me, Rodney."

"About what?"

"I don't know." He bits his lip at a new wave, and feels sweat bead on his forehead. Yeah. This is not going to be pleasant. What he needs is medical help. What he needs, failing that, is a distraction. When the wave passes and he can think again, he grits out something he's fairly sure will get Rodney going. "What about...your new password."

"My new..." There's a pause, just long enough for Rodney to breathe. And then the ranting starts. "What do you mean, my new password? Why should I have to make up a new password? For that matter, I don't see why it should be us that have to change our security."

Despite the pain, John grins. Of course Rodney would never let something like a mission gone wrong shut him up. "Because... Its SOP...after a foothold," he replies patiently. Well, as patiently as he can, considering the pain in his chest, his general lack of air, and the fact that this is a discussion he's been having with Rodney ever since Elizabeth discussed with them the need to change all passwords at their last senior staff meeting three days ago. Actually, changing passwords is just the beginning. What they really need to do is overhaul the OS they use to interface with the Ancient database, especially since the one they have has been copied into enemy hands. John figures Elizabeth is leading the scientists up to that one, though.

Rodney frowns. "If anything, it was more a bridgehead than a foothold. A foothold implies the capture of our territory, while a bridgehead implies a defensive post against the enemy."

"So? Security...on our end was...c—compromised." Breathe through it, John. "Changing the very least...of...what we...need to do." Actually, when John starts thinking of all the things they need to do to prevent this sort of thing happening again, he starts getting headaches. The list is too long, and he's not set up for intergalactic policing, dammit. Right now, he'll settle for inter-team policing. Or some morphine. Hell, he'll even take some codeine.

Mainly because he's really not looking forward to the paperwork he's facing when he get's back from this mission, but that's another story. Because if he manages to escape the infirmary inside a week after this, he'll be very surprised.

The next wave takes him by surprise, and he barely manages to ride it above the darkness he can feel beneath. He doesn't know how long it lasts. All he knows is that when he can finally open his eyes, he's spent, his energy exhausted. Either way, it won't be long now.

The sound of a jumper is something he knows deep in his bones, and would reach him anywhere. Same with the tickle of Ancient tech in the back of his mind. Especially off-world, where there's no interference from other devices and Atlantis herself. Its unmistakeable.

He clenches at Rodney's wrist, and doesn't have to see the look on his friend's face to know there's no strength in his grip. "Help's...coming," he gets out, and his words are no more than a whisper.

"What took them so long?" he hears Rodney snap, and then he goes under the wave.


The next few days are a blur.

He fluctuates between inhaling shards of glass when he breathes or floating in the warmth of some heavy duty drugs. There's heat and cold, heat and cold, a cycle that never settles anywhere in between.

In between that, there's some totally surreal conversations.

There's one really freaky one about Einstein, Newton, and geek jokes that he has with Rodney. There's one he has with Elizabeth discussing the fate of the melodies of the world. And never ending ones with his doctors. Teyla just keeps patting his wrist. Ronon looms.

There's beeping. Lots of beeping. Tubes going everywhere and nowhere. Not enough air. And darkness. Smothering darkness.

After a while he stops feeling like he's inhaling shards of glass. The change is enough that he surfaces more fully.


That's one thing about Atlantis. With the infirmary in the military base, they have an abbreviated release process. As soon as he's awake and lucid for more than a few hours, Carson is making noises about getting him out of his hair. They haven't yet had enough Daedalus trips that they have enough beds for an emergency, and Carson likes to play it safe.

Not that Sheppard's complaining, because the infirmary is always the last place he wants to be (company aside because despite his occupation, Carson's a good friend), but he has rather clear memories of being in a lot of pain. The kind of pain that usually mean surgery and a long recovery.

"Nope," Carson answers, when he finally tentatively brings it up during his release. Its also the first time that Carson's schedule has meant he can spend any real time with him. "The worst you had was the collarbone. Broken in two places, not uncommon, but bad enough."

"And the bullet?"

"Easily enough removed when I was putting in the tube." The doctor taps monitors to turn them off and removes his pulse-ox, his last monitoring device. "What's the clearest thing you remember?"

"Shards of glass," he replies promptly. "Felt like I was breathing them in all the time."

"Aye. That would be the chest tube. I'm told they can be a mite uncomfortable, which is why we tried to keep you sedated. 'Cept you kept trying to wake up, but that was the fever and shock talking." Carson sits on the bed, still cheerful. "Lean forward for me lad, but let me do the work. Your shoulder isn't up to working yet."

It's disconcerting, leaning forward under someone else's power. He does his best to relax into it, and concentrates instead on his view – really up close and personal – of the fibers of Carson's white lab coat. "I ran a fever?" he mumbles into the coat. Would explain the heat and cold thing in his memory.

"Mmmhmm. Deep breath for me lad, and I'll have a listen."

The cool touch of the stethoscope on his back. Breathe. In. Breathe. Out.

Carson leans him back against the pillows. "Sounds clear. You're good to go."

Sheppard just nods, and knows that from here, it's an easy ride out the door. An abbreviated release schedule means that, for the most part, there's no paperwork. Not that they'd know what to do with said paper if they had it, or how to generate it. Atlantis is far more paperless than Earth will ever be.

Then Carson dumps some blue...thing on his bed.

Sheppard pokes it with his finger. Its all straps and vinyl and more straps. It looks complicated. "What's this?"

"Your sling, for your shoulder. We can't set shoulder bones, so it'll support you while it heals. I'll help you put it on this first time, but you'll be doing it yourself afterwards. Only take it off to shower."

"Um, shouldn't I be unhooked first?" he asks, waving his hand where the IV is still running in.

"Trust me son, I'm doing you a favor. Take a moment to enjoy the relief. Because after this, you'll be changing it on oral painkillers." Carson pauses a moment. "That wasn't supposed to sound threatening, by the way."


He shuts up then, and lets Carson work. He takes note of where every strap goes in the sling. To him, it works much like his thigh holster does, except it's for cradling his bad arm and the straps go around his chest and over his shoulders. It may take some practice to do it one-handed, but he knows instantly that he can do it. That is, his brain knows the moves, it may just take a while to teach it to his body.

He's finally unhooked from the IV, the cannula's out, and his clothes appear. Freedom inches that little bit closer.

He gains a whole new appreciation for the benefits of said sling when Carson helps him get dressed. He's had enough injuries in his career that it's not the first time he's done it one-handed, nor is a broken collarbone new to him. Last time he'd had this...brace thing. The sling is far more comfortable and supports his elbow a lot better. And as long as he doesn't move the arm – like when he instinctively went to put it through the arm of his shirt – he's okay.

"Ah," tuts Carson, more annoyed with himself than Sheppard. "That's what I meant to tell you. Don't move the arm. You'll be off duty for a month, light duty for two weeks after, minimum. Move that arm like that, and it'll be longer."

"Six weeks?" he asks, when he speak again.

"Could be up to ten, maybe even three months. Depends on how well you heal," Carson shrugs, even as he buttons the BDU top the team had provided over the sling. The arm on his bad side hangs loose until it gets tucked into his pants. "Now. You have a concussion, broken collarbone, and broken ribs. All of which will take time to heal. Come back every week, earlier if you have any unusual symptoms, and we'll re-scan things and see how you're healing. Now, get," Carson says affectionately. "I don't want to see until next week."

He gets. "Yes, sir," Sheppard grins, lobbing a lazy salute as he leaves.

The first thing he does is head to the Mess. Not because he's hungry – although he probably will be soon, jokes about infirmary food aside – but because he craves association. He wants people, to be surrounded by the people of Atlantis and watch the people of Atlantis. He wants it like a drug, like he's missed his hit for days and its an empty ache within.

Not that he knows what addiction feels like. Yeah. No. Not admitting to anything.

He pauses a moment on the threshold of the Mess to listen to the chatter, and feels something ease within him with the realization that his city's ok, everythings safe. He goes inside, and habit makes him go to the chow line and take a tray. He goes down the servers, pushing his tray along, chatting easily. Yeah, this is definitely just what he needs, this reconnection.

Its only when he has all his little compartments loaded, and is looking between his tray and the coffee – seriously, its coffee, there's no way he's going without that – that he realizes what he's done. He has one hand, a fully loaded tray, and a desire to commit murder if he doesn't get his coffee right now.

Except that if he wants it, he's going to have to find a table, put his tray down, come back to the coffee, make it up, re-find his table, and then have it. Calm down, John. You waited this long. You can wait five minutes.

Right. He can do this.

First, he just has to pick up his tray.

Instinctively, he goes to pick up, and—

He bites his lip to keep from swearing loudly and viciously. His left shoulder is reminding him long and loud that the bone is unset, and won't heal at least for another six weeks. Damn. It's gonna be a long six weeks. If he hadn't just come from Beckett's clutches, he'd forget all about the stupid tray and he'd be heading right back begging for relief. As it is, he forces himself to breathe through it.

But before he can talk himself into picking up the tray, its whisked away from beneath him. He – carefully – turns to look, and Teyla is standing next to him, holding the cursed thing. Ronon's doing something at the coffee table, and Rodney's loudly telling him what he's doing wrong wrong wrong. Before he knows it, Teyla's carrying his tray and leading the way to the table, Ronon's cradling his coffee with all the reverence it deserves, and Rodney is ranting about his minions and passwords and updating him on all the latest gossip.

He follows along, feeling finally at home, reminded all over again that his team is made of awesome.


Team. Sheppard powering through illness or injury. Gunshot wounds and action. Like Shep to have to deal with an injury (physically and emotionally) without "professional" help. I.e. in the field or away from safety. Bonus points if team thinks shep is dead for short time but he then surprises them or makes it home or has pulled a clever stunt etc. (like in Midway).

I think I got most things. Out of them all, finding a way to get Shep shot was actually the most difficult, lol. The rest was easy, compared to that, especially since I regard action writing with the affection of having my wisdom teeth pulled. :) I went with the off-world option, because yeah, I (probably mistakenly) thought doing it on Atlantis woulda been too easy. I hope this satisfies. I did try for all the bonus points, but I wasn't quite sure about the 'clever stunt' thing. It was gonna be homemade flashbang :), but I think I wrote myself out of that. :)

Interesting point to note: the conversations between the Dylosians and Sheppard's team use only the thousand most common english words, if you discount the names (and Rodney, lol). If you don't believe me, you can run them through .

Also, apologies if its a little...rough. You wouldn't believe the things that happened to me while I was trying to write this. Not to mention, this is my first SGA fic ever, and if its any good, I owe it all to my beta. :-)

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