"Dead or Alive"
by Grey Lupous
"What would the Genii gain by ambushing us?" Teyla asked aloud, watching as the last of the sun's light disappeared through the bush.
"My guess is, if the Genii are involved, and these guys are working with them, they want McKay."
"That would make sense," she admitted, even if the idea of a trap being set up for the sole purpose of setting up the scientist did not sit well with her. "And they wanted to make sure that none of us returned to Atlantis to let anyone know what happened."
"That just doesn't seem right," Ford shook his head. They had seemed like such nice, if really boring, people. But here they were, hiding out in a cave.
"I have been thinking," Teyla said after a few moments of silence. "Do you remember hearing Doctor McKay punch in the address?"
Ford frowned. That wasn't exactly a detail of the day that he'd chosen to keep entrenched his mind. "Not really. Why?"
"I heard him start dialing..."
"You could hear that from where you were?"
Teyla raised an eyebrow at being interrupted. "Yes, Lieutenant. I'm sure you heard too, as it was very quiet."
With a sigh, Ford went over their encounter at the gate in his mind, and when he thought about it, yeah, he thought he could remember McKay stopping dialing. "Okay, right, he stopped dialing after a few symbols."
"Exactly. What if he had started to dial Atlantis?"
"What?" Ford leaned forward. "Why the hell would his kidnapper let him dial home?"
"He wouldn't," Teyla corrected, using the light from Ford's P-90 to sketch the symbols out in the dirt on the cave floor. "These four symbols are also part of the address to Atlantis."
"Is it possible to have a planet with that similar of an address? That's a hell of a coincidence."
"Coincidence or not, if we start with these four symbols, then there are only a handful of combinations that we could try."
Ford studied the symbols. "I think you're right. We wouldn't need to dial Atlantis and wait for them to try and find it in the database."
"Dr. Weir would want to be apprised of the situation," Teyla frowned.
"And then we'll have to wait just that much longer to go and help Sheppard and McKay. If they had been able to get back to Atlantis by now, I'm sure they would've dialed in and radioed us," Ford met her gaze evenly. "They need our help. They've already had to wait long enough for backup."
Teyla still looked uncertain, but nodded. "I hope that you have a plan then."
Ford studied the darkness outside and slowly smiled. "I think I might have an idea or two."
* * * * *
"There," Sheppard finished wrapping McKay's ankle with what field dressings he had in his uniform. "That's the best I can do with what I've got on me. I'm sure if Beckett were here he'd have me fashion you a hammock or something, and make me drag your ass back to the gate in a travois."
McKay had alternated between glaring petulantly at Sheppard and his ankle.
"Come on, cheer up. This is tough terrain, you can easily trip if you're not watching every step."
"McKay, first you don't complain about an injury, now you're speaking in single syllables. What the hell is wrong?"
"So if I don't prattle on like a hypochondriac there's something wrong with me?"
"No, but I know you well enough that if you aren't talking a mile a minute then something's bugging you."
"Really? Know me so well, Major?" McKay turned his angry glare out to the surrounding canopy.
"I'd like to think so," Sheppard shrugged. "All kidding aside, if there's something bothering you, I'd like to know."
"I'm just peachy, Major. I've been kidnapped, had a knife at my throat, been dragged around half a jungle by a man with very questionable sanity, been nearly torn apart by a freakish half-monkey, half-jaguar, shot my very first person today only to have him rise from the damn grave, twisted my ankle, had to climb a freaking thirty foot tree on said-ankle—"
"Okay, so you haven't had the greatest of days."
"I haven't had the greatest of days? That's the understatement of the freaking millennium!"
"At least you're speaking full run-on sentences now."
McKay harrumphed and crossed his arms.
"Look, McKay, I just want to make sure you're all right. In case something happens tomorrow, I need to know exactly how much I can count on you," Sheppard watched as an anguished look flashed across McKay's face. What the hell?
"I won't let you down," he said, the bristling in his voice sounding forced.
"You haven't yet," John assured, watching his friend's face intently. He saw a flash of guilt that was quickly replaced by another frown.
He racked his brain, trying to think of any instance McKay had cause to feel guilty for. Planet with kids, shadow monster, with the Genii and—oh—crap. The last time he'd been around knives and Genii was during the invasion of Atlantis. He wasn't still feeling guilty about telling Kolya about the plan, was he?
"McKay, I thought we went over this. Kolya was a master of torture—"
"I know that!" He snapped, his gaze whipping back to fix Sheppard with an intense look. "Look, I don't want to rehash that ever again, so if you would stop bringing it up, I'd really appreciate it, Sheppard."
Ooh, last name. He was pissed. "I'm not going to shut up until you tell me what's going on in that head of yours."
"Please, you wouldn't be able to last one minute in my mind."
"Probably not, if your rapid fire speeches are anything to go by. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop picking it." Sheppard leaned his arms back on the wide branch, since he'd chosen to prop McKay against the trunk.
"You are so annoying!"
"But very lovable."
"If my uncontrollable urge to shove you out of this tree counts as lovable, then yes."
"Love hurts." Sheppard shrugged.
"Not until you fess up."
"If it wouldn't hurt my ankle, I'd kick you."
"Just sing a little song, McKay."
"I can keep this up all night."
"I'm not talking to you!"
"Except that you are."
"That was the last thing I was going to say, except that was. Not talking anymore."
"Well if you're not going to talk, guess I'm not going to share this delicious peanut butter Power Bar. Food of the Gods."
"That's not fair."
Sheppard started to peel away the wrapper seductively, and took an experimental whiff. "Mm... smells as good as Reese's."
"Did I say loathsome earlier? I actually meant pure evil!"
Sheppard feigned taking a bite, but stopped and grinned at McKay. "Want?"
"I'm going to tell Carson you denied a sick man nourishment!"
"Yes, but, by then, I'll still have eaten. You'll just be an empty shell of a man, a—"
"FINE! I didn't want to stop for the night! I want to keep going!"
Sheppard started to hold out the power bar, but as McKay made to grab it, John pulled it back. "And why is that?"
"I despise you." At Sheppard's look he reluctantly continued, "I don't trust Vargas."
"Who would? Why?"
"I'm not going to spell it out for you!" McKay spat viciously. "The man is more unstable than Windows XP!"
"Home or Pro?"
"Home! Worst operating system ever!"
"You're changing the subject," Sheppard reminded him.
"Of course I'm changing the subject! I don't want to talk about this! Now give me the damn power bar! Forced confessions make me hungry."
"Everything makes you hungry," Sheppard handed over the Power Bar. "You're a walking black hole."
"Forced confessions make me hungrier!" McKay snatched it from his hand and tore off a third of the bar in one bite.
"Forget cat-monkeys, your appetite is scary."
"Shut up, you got your confession. Let me eat in peace."
"I said share."
"After that? Not a chance. Just be happy I didn't eat your hand too."
Sheppard sighed. "Look, McKay, I'm sorry about that, but I can't have you holding anything back on me. What if one of those cat things had been stalking us this afternoon?"
McKay glared and chewed on his enormous bite of energy bar.
"If you're that worried about what he's going to do to you, you can stop. I won't let him hurt you."
McKay snorted, and around his mouthful of food. "Again with the knight in shining armor routine."
"I'm serious. He won't lay a hand on you. I promise."
"I'd love to take you on your word Major, but not even you can keep that promise."
It was Sheppard's turn to glare. "Watch me."
No one laid a hand on his geek. If Rodney was that afraid that Vargas would do more than collect his bounty, then he'd just have to kill the bastard before he could try.