Zorin hated his life.
No, he did not hate it in the casual "oh, look, I stepped in meener droppings in my best pair of boots" kind of way, or even in the "my existence is dependent on ghost-like monsters forgetting where I live" kind of way. No, he hated it in the "Dokter Rodney McKay" kind of way. He had not known that definition to existence hatred before tonight, but he would never forget it, nor would he forget the angry little man he was pushing in front of him.
It had been absurdly simple to acquire the man. He had sprinkled a little sova powder into his escorts' drinks at dinner that night, ensuring they would not be a complication until the morning. He had contemplated sneaking into the Outsiders' hut to grab his quarry, but he had left on his own accord, apparently in search of an outhouse. Zorin had offered to guide him there, not believing his luck.
That belief lasted about five minutes.
It started with a, "Exactly how far is this bathroom supposed to be?"
It had continued with a, "I could have just gone in the bushes and gone back to sleep."
And progressed to a, "Okay, you know what? Bushes it is. This is just ridiculous."
It was at that point that Zorin had to pull out the weapon given to him by the Kepplerians. As a general rule the people of his village did not associate with their neighbors on the other side of the river. Their obsession with Ancestral technology would only bring the Wraith's wrath, and sooner rather than later. So the Elders said. The Kepplerians had arrived before Zorin had been born, and the power displayed by their weapons had swayed his loyalties.
Which was why he was currently kidnapping what had to be the most infuriating individual in the galaxy.
Ever since he had realized what was happening, McKay had kept up a steady stream of complaints and insults. It was only due to the chatter of nocturnal wildlife that his protests did not rouse anyone from the village. Zorin had the foresight to bring rope to secure his captive -- he had not anticipated the need for a gag.
Not even half an hour into their journey, he had started to see the folly in kidnapping this particular individual.
"My feet hurt."
"You shall live."
"No, I mean they really hurt. Possibly because you kidnapped me on the way to the bathroom. Had I been given some forewarning I could have grabbed a pair of boots."
Zorin had not known what to make of that. "My limited experience has taught me it is best to not warn someone of their capture."
"Yes, but had you warned me, we would at least be avoiding this conversation and the inevitable athlete's foot I'm going to pick up from this impromptu nature hike."
"You shall live," Zorin repeated, partly out of annoyance, but partly because he did not see why toning the muscles of the foot would be so offensive.
"Really? Will I now? Because you haven't explained why I'm trussed up like a Christmas ham being forced at gunpoint to take a not-so-casual evening stroll."
Crust-mussed... what? Zorin shook his head, because many of the Outsider's expressions made little sense. "The Kepplerians require your expertise."
Zorin had no desire to get into a long conversation about the history between his planet's two peoples or the compensation he would receive for bringing in his quarry. In fact, he had no desire for conversation at all, and had let McKay know that.
In retrospect, that was not the wisest thing to say. Apparently in addition to being loud and nonsensical, McKay had a tiny petty streak to him.
"And after Ronon is done with you, you're going to have to deal with Teyla. She likes to beat people. With sticks. Very long, hard sticks. Sheppard is like one giant bruise after their sparring sessions, and she likes him. Do you know who she's not going to like? Yes, yes, I won't keep you in suspense. YOU."
"Your escorts will not be coming for you," Zorin ground out after about the fifth minute.
"Now that's where you're wrong. They always come."
"I have taken care of them."
McKay had stopped walking then and Zorin, not expecting it, had walked into him. His posture was rigid and his voice had dropped low. Had Zorin been a lesser man, he might have even thought it intimidating.
"What the hell did you do to them?"
"I mixed a little sova powder in their drinks."
McKay spun then, eyes flashing with anger. "And what does that do?"
"It makes them sleep. By the time they awaken, we will have long since made it to the safety of the Kepplerian settlement."
"If you're lying to me..."
"You will what? Keep talking?" Zorin grabbed a hold of his captive and propelled him back onto the path. "I have resigned myself to that fact."
And for some reason, that had shut him up.
For five blissful minutes.
"I have to pee."
Zorin gave him a disbelieving look.
"What? In case you've forgotten how we began this little soiree, I was on my way to handle just that when I was so viciously attacked."
"You came willingly."
"You promised me a shortcut! One that, turns out, not so short!"
McKay sputtered. "You want me to--"
"You should have thought of that before we left."
His mouth shut with an audible click and a gloomy expression settled over his face. Zorin was starting to think that he had finally figured out how to handle his captive...
"You know, holding it in has some really negative health consequences."
It never stopped. It honestly never stopped with him.
Two minutes into the explanation Zorin untied McKay's hands and let him relieve himself a little ways off the path. He of course kept the Kepplerian weapon trained on the man at all times, just in case this was some clever ruse to try and escape.
"Okay, you know I get performance anxiety when people watch."
"I am not watching."
"Then why are you staring at my back? It's disturbing. Come on, it's not like I'm going to be able to find my way out of this forest."
"You are trying my patience."
"Seriously, it's why I don't use public restrooms, I mean other than the inevitable germs--"
"Would you prefer we move on before you finish?"
McKay then called him something that Zorin could only assume was unflattering from the tone of voice. It sounded like "Yer-in-uhl Not-zee", but with McKay, Zorin just did not know anymore.
They resumed on their way, after a loud squawk of protest about lack of hand soap and contaminants. With his captive now relieved of a full bladder, Zorin hoped that perhaps he could be a little more pleasant.
Zorin stared ahead resolutely, refusing to acknowledge that statement.
"I mean, I would have been fine had I been allowed to go back to bed, but there's nothing that makes me hungrier than being kidnapped."
There would be peace after they crossed the river. Zorin would hand McKay over to the Kepplerian scholars, and he would live the rest of his life in relaxation and contentment. And to try to erase from his memory the sight and sounds of this irritating off-worlder.
"I'm sure you don't understand the concept of hypoglycemia, especially since I'm not sure you grasp even the basic principles of hygiene."
Patience, patience, patience.
"So let me try to explain it in terms that you'll understand."
Maybe he would even find himself a nice Kepplerian girl who would cook for him...
"Once upon a time there was this thing called blood sugar, oh, wait, too complicated. Let's imagine a well, since I'm sure you have one of those things around your quaint little village."
She would have to do his laundry too, because he always wound up shrinking his tunics when he laid them out to line dry.
"When the well dips too low, you need it to rain. Wait, I'm complicating it again."
Maybe she could make his clothes smell like the fresh jeruk fruit that was found all over the forest. Its fresh, tart scent always seemed to prepare him for the day ahead.
"Let's forget the fairy tales and the analogies. Feed me now or I'll fall over and die before we make it to wherever the hell you're going."
Oh, for Ancestor's sake--
"Why can you not just be quiet?"
"Next time kidnap a mute!"
"I will take it into consideration," Zorin growled.
Apparently in addition to being petty, loud, and nonsensical, McKay might have been touched in the head a little. He matched Zorin step-for-step until they were almost nose-to-nose, beady eyes matching narrowed gaze.
Zorin could have hit him, really, he could have. But he had promised to bring the man in whole and unharmed. The Kepplerians had been very specific. That did not mean he had to be gentle when he "guided" his captive over to a tree and secured him tightly.
"Fine. I will find you food."
Zorin spun around, stalking off into the brush before the other man could utter another shrill word. During his vacation into foraging, which was mercifully silent, he reminded himself of the vast amount of riches that would be waiting for him at the end of his long journey.
He returned to his captive, face and hands scratched beyond belief from the thorns of a jeruk bush, but bearing an armful of its bright yellow fruit. "Enjoy."
He practically threw the jeruk fruits to the ground. McKay let out a piercing, unmanly shriek and jerked within his bindings trying to escape his midnight snack.
Tension began to mount behind Zorin's temples, and he started to rub them in earnest. He had to have gotten it wrong, and it was the wild-haired one that was supposed to be the intelligent master of Ancestral technology.
"Are you trying to kill me, you sadistic hijacker?"
It was not like he had thrown the fruit that hard. Zorin was starting to suspect that perhaps McKay just liked to hear the sound of his own shrill, irritating voice. "As tempting as that is starting to sound, no."
"Then what the hell are you doing with those?" He pointed at a particularly vicious and angry jeruk fruit that gently rolled around to touch his boot. He yanked his foot away as if he had been burned.
"I'm not eating that."
The tension in his temples was slowly giving way to an angry pulse, and Zorin closed his eyes as he began to rub his forehead in earnest. "I thought you were hungry."
"Oh, I'm always hungry for anaphylactic shock!"
Zorin's mother had always instructed him to be kind to those with mental deficiencies. Something he was quite sure of for the man in front of him, who talked with nonsense words and babbled about hams mussed with crusts. In fact, Zorin was starting to wonder if perhaps the escorts had actually been caretakers, and he was starting to regret the fact that he had drugged them into oblivion.
Because he had not wanted to assume their duties when he had taken on this job.
With his mother's words in mind he tried to force a smile for his off-kilter captive.
"Okay, first off, that's just hideous. Second, what are you doing? Put that down! Don't you understand anaphylactic? Oh, right--I keep forgetting who I'm dealing with. Here's a word you have to understand: POISON."
"The jeruk fruit are perfectly safe."
"Maybe to you. I'm sure you are also lacking the understanding of food allergies, but if you want me alive for the Kappa Delta Phi--"
"They are actually quite tasty," Zorin said, as if were speaking to a child
"I've changed my mind, I'm not hungry anymore."
And if the knife he used to release McKay's bindings to the trees came startlingly close to that obnoxious mouth, it could hardly be Zorin's fault.
They continued on their way, and McKay continued to recite his long list of complaints about his treatment, his captor, and generally anything that seemed to cross his mind and irk him.
It ranged from:
"But does anyone ever stop to consider that maybe I don't want to be kidnapped? Noooo."
"I have very specific care instructions that no one ever seems to take seriously."
"I mean, it's not asking much. If I have to be kidnapped, why can't it be some beautiful alien female wrapped in leather? Why do I always get the stinky, ill-mannered brutes with the IQ of zucchini?"
"I mean, I just broke in Sheppard and then you go off and put some powder in his drink that could turn him back into a bug. Did I mention he turns into a bug-man when mad?"
"Not even an intelligent zucchini, but one of those rejects at the bottom of the pile that no one wants."
And so on:
"And he's going to be pissed when he wakes up. The Hulk has nothing on him when he goes into a buggy rage. I hope your life insurance premiums are paid up."
And so on to the highest number:
"And of course it would be zucchini because I can't stand the taste of any sort of squash and--oh, God! It's a bee!"
At that point McKay had given in to his inner madness and tossed himself to the forest floor, trying to get away from the night wasp that lazily floated its way by.
As he rolled on the ground in the leaves, Zorin turned his attention back to the tiny insect. "Why?"
"Hello! Have you already forgotten the long list of allergies I made you recite?"
Zorin watched as the wasp continued to circle them, as if it were taunting the hapless individual on the ground.
"You have, haven't you? What kind of kidnapper are you?"
Before Zorin could answer, McKay continued.
"Okay, refresher course. Bees bad!"
The wasp lost interest at that point and moved on. With the sigh of the aggrieved, Zorin hauled the downed man to his feet once again. "Your games grow tiring."
"Games? You think I'm joking?"
"We are almost to the river."
"I'm jumping for joy. It just so happens to be hampered by the muscle cramp I just gave myself trying to escape Death on Wings a few seconds ago."
"Your stalling does not deter me. I will complete my task."
Because after what he had been subjected to, there was no way Zorin was going to miss out on his reward. Apparently someone up above took that as a challenge. With a great clap of thunder and lightning that lit up the treetops, it began to rain.
That was also about the point that Zorin started actively hating his life.
* * * * *
John had known something was wrong as soon as the world stopped spinning. It wasn't the fact that Ronon
was snoring loud enough to wake up the village, or that Teyla was buried far beneath her blankets and pillows that no rousing would wake her. It wasn't even the fact that John had a hell of a hangover despite having not drunken anything alcoholic the previous night.
It was the fact that Rodney's bed was empty, and all of his equipment including his radio sat in the same spot from the night before.
John's head pounded mercilessly as he staggered from the tent after a few fruitless tries at waking the rest of his teammates. He almost staggered back into the dark safety of the tent as the bright sunlight tried to stab its way into his brain. He shaded his eyes with his hand as he continued to stagger almost-drunkenly around the village.
This wasn't quite as bad as when the team had split a few jugs of Athosian Ruus wine at the last Tendol Feast... but it was close. His stomach roiled as he tried to find some sign that Rodney had just stepped out to escape the Snore That Deafened Tokyo. He closed his eyes as a wave of nausea passed over him. This wasn't helping.
A scuffling from the trees in front of him forced him to cautiously open his eyes. Although he wasn't sure if he was still drunk on whatever had caused his hangover. One hand massaged his forehead, as the other tried to wipe away the grit in his eyes.
An angry, muffled curse met his query.
He dropped the hand from his eyes just in time to see a bound and gagged scientist flying towards him. He caught him, barely. John's precious equilibrium was upset by the unexpected force and he wound up on the ground with a lapful of angry, squirming Rodney as the world began to spin anew.
The desperate shout sent another spike of pain through John's skull and he was unable to suppress a groan.
"Please, I cannot take it anymore."
An elbow jabbed into John's ribs, causing him to dump the bound individual from his lap gracelessly on the ground next to him. He didn't feel one iota of guilt for the indignant grunt that met the rough treatment.
"There are no rewards great enough in the universe to balance out this... this... this..."
Finally, John managed to open his eyes without being assaulted by the sun, scientists, or bony elbows and took in the situation before him. The man in front of him was a mess. Half of his body was soaked while the other half was caked in some strange red dirt. An angry bruise was forming around one eye, almost overshadowed by the multiple welts covering the man's face and arms.
He slid a look over at Rodney, slightly damp, but no worse for wear other than the rope securing his wrists behind his back and what looked to be a strip of the scientist's own shirt gagging him.
"What the hell?" The question came out as a croak, and possibly sounded more like the dying words of Kermit the Frog than a demand for an explanation.
"He is 'allergic' to everything
!" The battered, raving lunatic tittered. "Hungry all the time, but you can only feed him certain things! I do not know how you do it
"Afraid of his own shadow! A strix owl hoots above our heads and he
lets out a scream that could curdle blood! I think I am half-deaf at this point."
The frustration in John's "Me too" seemed to be lost on the incensed villager.
"Then he somehow manages to upset a nest of night wasps, and then uses me
to shield himself from their stingers!"
That... sounded like Rodney.
"And of course he falls
into the river. Have you ever dived into a raging torrent, Sheppard? I can now say I have. It is not fun
John shook his head, regretting the action as the pounding in his head started anew. As he rested his head in his hands, the rant above him continued.
"He never shuts up. Even when gagged."
Well, John could have told anyone that.
"I even tried to leave him at one point," the man giggled hysterically, "but then he started following me, claiming that if he was going to die in 'this stupid excuse for an Endor rip-off' then he was going to take me with him."
The pounding receded to a dull ache, making it safe for John to open his eyes. "I'm... confused."
"I do not care!" The man raged, causing John to wince. "I have already decided to turn myself in to the elders. Any punishment they have could not possibly be worse than being stuck with him for another minute!"
And with that the man stormed off, leaving John blinking owlishly at the muffled cursing scientist, still trying to muddle through what had just occurred. The glare of the righteously outraged was turned on John and despite the angry gnome pounding away in his skull; he found himself grinning as he finally deciphered the crazed rant he had just been subjected to.
"Did you just manage to annoy your kidnapper into giving you back?"
His answer was another muffled curse.