"Dead or Alive"
by Grey Lupous
This was starting to get annoying, John thought as he opened his eyes. A merciless pounding in his head signaled to him that even though Vargas hadn't killed him, he hadn't gotten off easily. He reached behind his head to feel the extent of the damage, and his fingers come away wet and sticky. Great.
He quickly tested his vision, thankful that the hand he held up had only five fingers. He was pretty damn sure there was no memory loss, as he remembered with excruciating detail the fight, blow for blow, and McKay offering himself up as a sacrificial lamb.
Damn it. McKay!
He surged forward, only to have dizziness overcome him. He dropped to the ground for a moment, letting the world spin back into place. He used the trunk of the tree he'd been left at to help him stand, watching as the jungle swayed before him. Oh, he really didn't need a concussion right now. It was bad enough Kitty Kong had used him as a scratching post.
He needed to move as fast as he could to catch up with Vargas and McKay... speaking of, which way had they headed?
Gingerly he reached into his pocket and retrieved the life signs detector, watching as two white dots made their way away from his position. They were heading in a straight line, presumably towards the Stargate. If he hurried, he would still be able to catch them before Vargas had a chance to dial the gate.
He took a deep breath to steady himself, and shoved away from the tree, determined not to let McKay down a second time.
* * * * *
The Stargate loomed in the distance ahead, and McKay could feel his barely checked panic threatening to break loose. As they approached, the band across his chest constricted tighter and tighter, almost to the point where he couldn't breathe. If he went through that portal, the Genii were surely going to be on the other side, and he had a feeling they were about as forgiving as Vargas had been with Sheppard.
They would use him for his brainpower, he had no doubt about that, but he wasn't sure they would leave it at that. And if there was any chance Kolya had survived being shot in the shoulder... McKay shuddered at the thought. Sheppard would most certainly try to mount a rescue, but what chance did he really have, especially if the Genii were expecting them?
No, if he went through the gate, he knew there was no way he was ever going to see the light of day again. Vargas yanked them to a halt next to the DHD, and McKay's ankle throbbed in time with his heart. As the grip on the back of his neck loosened, he knew what he had to do.
He shook the grip off of his neck and made a break for it.
Behind him, Vargas roared in frustration. "You have tried my patience one too many times, little man!"
It was absolute hell on his ankle, but he kept running. He could hear Vargas's heavy footfalls pounding behind him, and rounded behind the gate, making a lap in front of the DHD. Maybe if he kept going, he could make a little merry go round of it, and during each lap plug in a symbol at a time of the address for Atlantis. Wouldn't that be a hoot?
His ankle chose that moment to fold under him, and he went crashing to the ground in front of the gate. If he could ever truly hate a part of his anatomy, he was cursing his ankle from here to the SGC. He felt the beefy hand grip the back of his neck, hauling him back to his feet.
"Can't blame a guy for trying," McKay chuckled nervously.
"I warned you not to try my patience, Mersir."
McKay's throat went dry, hoping to God that this was another one of Vargas's intimidation tactics.
"It seems you need some lessons in respect." Anger vibrated within the bounty hunter's tone.
Oh God, he wasn't joking this time. He really wasn't.
McKay struggled fruitlessly, Vargas holding him too close for comfort. "Let go!"
"And then you try and slit your throat so you can rob me of my just dues," Vargas hissed. "You make me spare your friend, and just when I thought we'd come to an understanding—"
"I'm w-warning you," McKay stuttered, trying to keep a hold of his rapidly diminishing courage.
"Warning me? What will you do, Mersir? You are too weak to stop me."
With his good foot, McKay savagely stomped on Vargas's foot at the same time as he rammed his elbow into the other man's crotch. The bounty hunter let him go with a cry of pain, and McKay quickly broke away, trying to remember everything he'd learned from Ford and Sheppard during those training exercises they'd forced him to go to.
Even as Vargas's eyes unwillingly watered with pain, Rodney could see the rage building, threatening to spill over. The bounty hunter rose up, clenching his jaw. With a step he was within striking range and flattened McKay with a fell swoop of his arm.
* * * * *
Sheppard broke the tree line in time to see the struggle happening in front of the Stargate. With no small amount of pride he watched as McKay managed to land a solid blow that actually made Vargas double over in pain, and jump back ready for the next strike. With each second he gained precious feet, but Vargas was a much better fighter than McKay. He was probably better than Sheppard even when the pilot wasn't injured. The scientist didn't stand a chance.
He watched helplessly, still running for all he was worth, as Vargas knocked McKay on his back. The bounty hunter reached for his knife sheath, and with a sick feeling he knew that the bounty that had protected McKay to this point no longer mattered.
Still too far away. Damn, damn, damn!
* * * * *
The breath rushed out of McKay as his back slammed against the ramp. He gulped in quick breaths for several seconds, not noticing the imminent danger he was in. Sheppard's voice roused him back to the present, and he couldn't help the small cry of terror from escaping at seeing the large blade rushing down towards him. He tried to roll out of the way, but somehow his feet got tangled up with Vargas's, and the bounty hunter came tumbling down on top of him, the machete getting flung to the side in the process.
He let out a grunt as the larger man used his ribcage for a landing pad. That was definitely going to hurt in the morning. Assuming he lived through this fight to see it. John needed to hurry up; he was not the action hero in their dynamic duo. Obviously, by the way he was getting the crap beat out of him. Vargas found his footing too quickly and hauled Rodney up by the collar of his jacket, bringing the scientist's face not even an inch from his.
Well, at least the machete was gone, that was a relief. Vargas let out an angry growl, and McKay wrinkled his nose as the other man's breath assaulted his nostrils.
"That really is bad hygiene. Doesn't your village have a dentist or something?" The words came out before Rodney even thought about stopping them.
Glancing over Vargas's shoulder he could see John was almost there. Almost was still too far though. Now panicked, McKay began pulling and kicking, and doing everything he could to escape the other man's grip.
Behind him he heard the whirring sound of the Stargate as the chevrons quickly locked into place. His eyes widened as he realized exactly where he stood. This really wasn't his day.
* * * * *
The last chevron locked into place as Sheppard began to close in the last few yards separating him from the struggle. The gate came to life, sending out the giant wave of energy that signaled the opening of a wormhole, and Sheppard skidded to a halt, feeling his stomach drop. McKay had gone into morbid detail on wormhole physics, and especially the destructive effects of the wave that formed the event horizon.
Time slowed to a halt as the wave rushed past Vargas and McKay. He'd been too late. Only a few more seconds and he would have been able to steal Vargas's attention, and possibly even be able to escape. It didn't matter now. Vargas was gone, but so was Rodney.
The wave receded, leaving the shimmering pool of energy that made the event horizon.
John slowly walked forward, needing to see what was left.
All that remained of Vargas was his boots, the rest of him had been obliterated. Good riddance. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see Rodney's military-issue boots or perhaps some more leftover parts. Something on the ground let out a pathetic whimper, and his eyes snapped open.
There, lying as flat as possible against the ground as he could get, was one shell-shocked scientist. His jacket was gone; presumably he had wriggled out of it in time to avoid the wave. John felt a relieved grin spread across his face as he sidestepped Vargas's boots and knelt next to his friend.
"Hey, Rodney, it's all right." He let his hand rest on McKay's shoulder, hoping to bring him out of his shock.
McKay continued to stare at all that was left of the boots, not able to get out an intelligible noise. John glanced up at the active gate, and realized that he had no idea who would be coming out of it. He'd better get at least some distance away so he could defend them in case Vargas had somehow managed to get a hold of the Genii last night. He hauled McKay off the ramp, watching the gate the entire time.
Once they reached the ground, the first figure stepped through. Sheppard instinctively grabbed for his P-90, only to find it absent still. All he had was the knife Vargas had tried to use against him. He brought it to bear, only to let it drop back to his side as he recognized the broad grin and bill-cap that greeted him. Moments later, Teyla followed Ford, and the gate shut off after her. He felt the tension drain away as Ford trotted the rest of the way to them, somehow missing the disembodied boots still standing tall on the ramp.
"Well, Lieutenant, I have to say that I'm glad it was you coming through there." He glanced back at McKay, who, though still staring at the boots, was starting to come out of his shock. "You cut it real close this time."
"Sorry, sir, we got held up by some unhappy natives," Ford grinned, before the meaning behind Sheppard's words sank in.
His eyes flicked back towards the ramp, and he finally saw the boots that Teyla was staring at with a mixture of fascination and revulsion. Realization dawned on him, and a sick look settled on his features.
"You mean I—that was—?"
McKay's eyes finally snapped from Vargas's remains to Ford, and narrowed as he finally came out of his shock. "You!"
Ford whipped around to look at McKay. "Me?"
"You tried to kill me!"
"I didn't meant to—"
"Now, McKay, how could he have known you—" Sheppard started only to be cut off.
"I can take being poked at, cut, trying to be eaten by a feline ape, and manhandled in ways that I wouldn't even allow Colonel Carter to do! I can even take the very sick intentions of a crazed mood-swinging kidnapper—" McKay poked a finger into Ford's chest. "But when my own friend tries to obliterate me—"
"McKay, I swear I didn't know you were in the way!" Ford pleaded, glancing between the irate scientist and his team leader, hoping for some help. Sheppard shrugged and smiled. By now Teyla had joined them, and watched the exchange with confusion.
"Now if no one has any complaints, I'd really like to get back to Atlantis and start forgetting I ever left on this godforsaken mission!" McKay ranted as he limped towards the DHD. He reached for the first glyph, but stopped and looked sheepishly over his shoulder. "I'm pretty sure Vargas had my IDC when he went poof, otherwise its back in that hellish jungle."
Sheppard joined him at the DHD, leaning on it partly in friendly gesture, and partly because he was about to collapse. All of the adrenaline that had been keeping him moving had drained away and he barely had enough energy to keep standing. "You want to borrow mine?"
McKay eyed him suspiciously. "I don't have to tell you some embarrassing secret to use it, do I?"
"Nah, this one's a freebie. The next one though..."
"Indian giver. I can't even use it. It's keyed to your hand."
"How about I send the IDC through so none of us go splat?"
"Works for me," McKay sighed and started punching in the address back to Atlantis.
"Doctor McKay, Major Sheppard," Teyla asked cautiously, taking in their battered, bloodstained conditions. "Are you all right?"
McKay and Sheppard exchanged a glance, and before McKay could go start yelling at Teyla for asking the obvious, John shouted back, "Just fine, Teyla. It's nothing that ol' Beckett can't fix!"
"You go first," McKay said, punching in another glyph. "He might become so distracted with those claw marks that I might be able to slip away unnoticed."
"Don't you mean limp away?"
"Limping or slipping, I'm sure I can get away."
"You know, I've been racing around the past day and a half trying to save your sorry ass, you can at least return the favor!"
"Exactly what do you call that little demonstration back in the forest?"
"Completely and utterly stupid."
"It saved your life didn't it?"
Sheppard and McKay continued arguing as Rodney finished dialing the sequence. When the address was complete, the gate hummed to life. As the water-like energy rushed past him, McKay quieted for a few seconds, watching it with trepidation.
"And who exactly were you calling Monkey Man, huh?"
McKay snapped out of his stupor. "No normal human being can climb down a tree like that!"
Ford and Teyla exchanged a look and sighed, before each one helped their injured, still-bickering teammates through the gate. This was going to be a long debriefing.