Tag Archives: rating…NC17

we are, for some reason, all the time, bleeding

Title: we are, for some reason, all the time, bleeding
Author: busaikko
Fandom/Pairing: SGA, John/Rodney (John/OMCs)
Summary: Lines are crossed, but not the right ones. For the IJ Porn Battle prompt "not what you expected."
Warnings: this is a threesome, voyeurism, sex toy-mentioning kind of story. It happened because my mind isn't organised enough to respond to meta about PWP stories with meta. . . so. It's a PWP, y'all. But I wouldn't say it's sexy.
A/N: The title is from Weekend in Western Illinois by The Mountain Goats.

we are hotly in love with one another
we've got an unquenchable thirst in our throats
we are for some reason all the time bleeding
and we are friendless
The Mountain Goats

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by whirlwind scattered

Title: By Whirlwind Scattered (5,700 words)
Team: Away Team
Betas: almost_clara and liseuse
Prompt: Dead Ringer, for 2008 McShep Match
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Rating: NC17
Warnings: trust yourself above all; character death of two utterly unnamed red-shirts
Summary: On the seventeenth day after the jumper crashed, Rodney realized that the man he was stranded with was not John Sheppard.

that no man passed through nor returned


On the seventeenth day after the jumper crashed, Rodney realized that the man he was stranded with was not John Sheppard.

In all honesty, he should have figured it out earlier. He was a little angry with himself for being so slow. There were extenuating circumstances, of course.

Rodney had hit his head when the jumper impacted. He still didn't remember much between going through the gate on P49-DLA and waking up half-buried under rations and supplies, with blood crusting around his eyes. John had been calling his name — Rodney? Hey. Rodney. Come on, Rodney, God damn it — and making little screaming grunts of pain that only made sense when Rodney managed to coordinate himself enough to roll over. John's leg was pinned by his chair, which had ripped loose in the impact, and any attempts John made to get free seemed to involve making his leg bend where it shouldn't.

So Rodney did his best to forgive himself for being unobservant for the first week. He had to drag John free and then dig around for the medical kit under all the stupid rations that some marine had deemed necessary for a ten-person space vehicle. John stitched up the gash that ran up from Rodney's eyebrow to his hairline, washing the blood off with medicated wet wipes that stung, and making an exaggeratedly serious face as he taped gauze over the stitches. Rodney read the section on broken bones in the official 150-page SGC first aid handbook. Mostly what it said was to stabilize the injury and get to a doctor. Ha. Ha.

They won't come looking for us here, John said, sounding weary. He had popped the DVD from the back of the book into Rodney's tablet and was watching the video file for techniques on how to remove a Gou'ald symbiote in the field. Rodney snatched the computer back — checked the power supply — and found fractures on the menu.

He had to tie John down when he splinted his leg, which was hair-raisingly horrific. John didn't have the courtesy to pass out. He even tried to tell Rodney what to do, when he wasn't trying to bite through his belt or doing Lamaze breathing to control the pain. Rodney thought John had one, maybe two broken bones, midway between knee and ankle, which according to the SGC manual meant both joints had to be immobilized. There weren't jagged bits of bone sticking out, which John seemed happy about. He called it a clean break; said he'd broken bones before, this wasn't anything too bad. Rodney muttered about how stupid the whole situation was as he splinted, and wrapped, and probably crippled John for life. There weren't enough bandages. Rodney ended up using duct tape to hold everything together. John made very lame MacGyver jokes, and Rodney threatened to break more bones.

Those were the highlights of the first week, really: pain and blood and bone. The rest of the time just flew by, a parade of one stupid thing after the next. John made Rodney collect firewood and take inventory. Apparently, they had been on their way to dazzle a refugee camp with shiny trinkets when they'd been ambushed: John wasn't forthcoming with the details about that. The jumper had plenty of MREs (food for a month if they stretched it, John said; Rodney said that presumed that the cheese and vegetable omelette was food). They had twenty blankets and towels, in an attractive olive drab color that would hide mildew stains well. They had one of the nifty medicine sample boxes that Carson put together for trade: a few tetanus shots, painkillers, remedies for diarrhea and intestinal worms, oral rehydration salts, and lots of antibiotics.

John made Rodney take a full course of antibiotics and painkillers, and slathered Polysporin over the gash on Rodney's head every time he changed the bandages. For someone in pain, feverish, and unable to stand up on his own, John was really bossy. Rodney threw up more than he ever had in his life. Every time he did something to make their crash site into a more permanent camp, he got dizzy. Sometimes he fell down.

He slept a lot. He didn't think John noticed. John slept a lot.

The second week started with John announcing that he needed crutches because he was able to get up and walk.

"Lo, it is a miracle," Rodney said, not even looking up from his tablet. The jumper had been equipped with three standard-issue foldable solar panels, and Rodney had duct-taped them over the jumper to make his own personal power station. John'd rigged a frame from sticks and wire to hold the down-hanging ends of the panels out like the awning on a Winnebago; he'd been seriously pissed off when Rodney pointed this out (admittedly, calling the camp John Sheppard's Intergalactic Trailer Park might have been a low blow on the day they finished the last of the ibuprofen).

But the shady space under the awning was where they usually spent their days, just like any Hawaiian-shirt-wearing retired idiots. Rodney had made a fairly comfortable sofa by rolling a log up against the jumper and covering it with blankets: John occupied it like some Masterpiece Theater damsel on her daybed. Rodney made himself a desk out of MRE cartons and duct tape (they had a whole case of tape; Rodney didn't know why; he suspected divine providence), and he'd yanked out the chair that had fallen on John and turned it into office furniture.

Hey presto, instant home away from home.

With electricity and food taken care of, Rodney thought they were doing well. He tried to work out on his tablet just how they would escape the damned planet. For variety, he fiddled with and cursed the shattered innards of the jumper, which had spilled out along the gouge in the ground their impact had made. John cleaned his guns, sharpened his knives, and gave Rodney sad eyes until Rodney wasted power on recharging John's MP3 player.

It was domestic, it was safe, and there was nothing else that they could do. Rodney didn't think there was any need for unnecessary heroics.

"Heroic, my ass," John said, stretching and resettling on his side. "I don't want to climb the fucking mountains. I want to use the toilet without a chaperone." He moved his leg back awkwardly, wincing. "Maybe try some fishing."

"Have you ever fished in your life," Rodney said, switching back suddenly to his game of FreeCell: he'd just realized how to win in three moves. "What makes you think there are fish?"

John said something. Rodney missed it. One second, the deck of virtual cards was bouncing around on the screen; then, it was apparently a minute into the next game, and John was saying his name in that very annoying way he had, and trying to get up.

Rodney whipped around to glare. "Stupid heroics, damn it. Lie down, and stay down, and don't do anything that will break you worse."

"Crutches." John had got himself to sitting. He was shaking a little from the effort. "Because you're freaking me out, McKay."

"It's happening less and less," Rodney said. Which was an exaggeration: the episodes of lost time were fairly regular, once every day or two. Rodney was just fortunate to be away from the camp and John's irritating worry when they happened, off fetching firewood from the forest or hauling water up from the creek. He wasn't having seizures. He didn't fall over anymore; in fact, his body usually kept on doing whatever he was doing in the first place while his mind turned off. He thought it was stress, or maybe boredom. Nothing that he could do anything about, anyway, with all the psychiatrists on the other side of a space gate that they couldn't reach.

So Rodney made John some really uncomfortable crutches that, even with towel padding, gave him vicious blisters, and John made himself a fishing pole. The local fish had tentacles and too many eyes. They were pretty good skewered and cooked over a campfire. This was good: the MREs would last longer the more they supplemented their diet with local food. He tried not to notice that John was testing methods for drying the tentacle-fish. Thinking things like storing food for the winter made Rodney feel short of breath.

Maybe because they didn't talk about the big things — Atlantis, John's inability to feel or move his toes, Rodney's fugues, winter — all of a sudden John wanted to know all the little things. Every so often he'd take off his headphones and give Rodney a serious look, and then the questions would start. He asked Rodney about his childhood, about the house where he'd lived and his family.

When John's nosiness got to be too much to bear, Rodney would deliver the data-dump of the day: all the nonsense Rodney had in his brain from ghastly public school lessons in history, civics, geography, and government. He gave John tests as well, and marked him down for American spelling and John's stiff prep-school French. If they ever made it back to Earth, John would be over-qualified as a teacher in a Canadian junior high. Someday, if John got too obnoxious, Rodney planned on suggesting this. In the meantime, he was happy enough to make John memorize the populations of Canada's major metropolitan areas and draw highway maps freehand.

It wasn't until the end of the week until Rodney realized what John was doing, right in the middle of his sadistically enthusiastic description of every truck stop on his last drive up to Vancouver. John thought he'd suffered a head injury, Rodney realized, feeling shock, and embarrassing warmth, and strangling anger, one feeling tossed aside by the next. All the damn questions were a not-so-subtle way of finding out whether Rodney was scrambled, if his memory was intact. Rodney felt almost violent with frustration. He'd thought that John was. . . being friendly. But instead, even flat on his back, he was still playing the C.O., still Major John Sheppard taking charge (Rodney felt justified in purposefully forgetting the recent promotion, under the circumstances).

Rodney held his suspicions until that night after dinner. John sat on the sofa, whittling sticks — for arrow shafts, Rodney suspected, they had talked about hunting — and not looking talkative at all. Good.

"You think there's something wrong with me," Rodney accused, twirling his fingers at his head. "Amnesia or some other melodramatic staple of cheap airport thrillers."

John was still, unmoving; only his eyes raised to watch Rodney pace.

"I know you have amnesia," he said, finally, looking back down at the stick and the knife. He ran his thumbs down the wood, finding the place he'd left off, and started again, shaving off thin, fine curls. "You don't remember the mission, or the ambush. You don't remember coming here. You don't remember the second jumper."

The camp blinked around Rodney. He almost didn't notice the lost time — it couldn't have been more than a few seconds. John had straightened. The animal that was screaming in the woods sounded further away. Ha. Rodney was getting better. He rocked on his heels, and John dropped his work and pushed to his feet — foot — in alarm. Rodney wondered if the man really thought he could do anything to help if Rodney were about to collapse. Probably they'd both end up falling in the fire.

"Oh, for — " Rodney snapped, grabbing at John because he was not going to let him break himself all over again. He pushed him back down onto the sofa and made him lie down while he started checking the circulation in John's toes. John hated that. Rodney assured him he'd hate gangrene worse. "So. Second jumper," Rodney said. John dropped his forearm over his eyes as Rodney poked and prodded. John wouldn't say if it hurt; Rodney had to watch his mouth for any tell-tale tightening.

"Teyla's informant suggested that the people we were visiting might be amenable to relocation. Hence the second jumper. It also had the tents and more supplies, in case they didn't want to leave. But the camp was culled when we got there, and there were darts waiting for us, and we barely got back through the gate in one piece." John shrugged. "We tried to lose the darts with multiple jumps. I know when we came here the second jumper was ahead of us. I don't know if any darts came after us. We were falling."

"The radio's been silent," Rodney said, digesting this. "I have scanners on-line, but I haven't seen any other human-sized life signs, or energy signatures, not within scannable range."

"Probably," John said, his mouth stiff the way it was when he was in pain, "after the first few hours, or days, it wouldn't have mattered."

Rodney glowered down. "You don't have amnesia."

John's shoulders hunched inwards. "What could we have done?" he asked. Rodney knew he was thinking he should have done something more than stay put while people under his command died or. . . or whatever. But as long as John still had his bones duct-taped together, there wouldn't be any we involved in a fact-finding mission.

"Oh, no," Rodney said. "It's a jungle out there. Well, technically, a temperate mixed forest, but metaphorically a jungle. And you don't even have any idea — "

"Fine," John said, waving the fingers of the arm he was hiding behind. Rodney felt dismissed.

"So no more need to take trips down memory lane," Rodney said, making sure to get the last word in before going to see what data he could rip from the HUD.

It took him no time at all to get results, and the wait for John to get back from fishing for lunch just about did him in.

John finally came into view when the sun was at a bit before noon. Rodney already had the fire going, the wood piled, the thorny weeds that John insisted were a vegetable boiling, and the laundry hung. He hated, hated, hated being the good wife in their domestic scenario.

"Okay," Rodney said, marching up to John with angry satisfaction. He snatched the bag of fish out of John's hand and forced himself to walk at John's pace. "Okay. I think I found the other jumper. At least, I found its speed and trajectory from the gate. I'm going to assume that it just fell, carried by the blessed laws of physics, because if the engines worked well enough to actually land then they'd work well enough to go back through the gate and bring help." He knew there were holes in his logic, but if he just kept talking John wouldn't have time to protest. "That way," he said, waving his hand with a slight skip towards the second northernmost mountain. "The western side of that."

John paused, squinting in the direction Rodney had indicated. He had his calculating face on: Rodney supposed that he was making an equation of the terrain, the forest density, the weather, and Rodney's own field-tested ruggedness.

"Day and a half to get there," John said, finally, and started crutching back to camp again. Matching his slow pace made Rodney itch with impatience. "It'd be easiest to follow the stream to that outcropping. Safer than just cutting through the woods. Once you're on the ridge, you should have good visibility. Coming back will be faster, it's downhill." John leaned on the crutches in a way that suggested brooding. "I should go with you."

"If I had to describe you in one word," Rodney said, "I'd be torn between predictable and stupid."

"Right," John said. He waved Rodney on ahead, as if he were tired.

After lunch, John hopped, in his slow, careful way, into the jumper to pack Rodney a bag with thorough military efficiency, while Rodney made sure that the two-way was operational.

"It's not like I'll be taking risks," Rodney said into the tense darkness as they settled into their bedrolls for the night. "This is me we're talking about." He shifted, trying to fluff the blanket he used as a pillow. "I can't believe you waited this long to tell me."

John grunted as if he'd been hit. "Well. This is you we're talking about," he said. He sounded as if he hated Rodney.

Rodney turned towards him to argue, because he didn't deserve that; and John's hand bumped into his arm, traced up to his shoulder, found his jaw and curled there, warm and inexplicable.

Then John kissed him, and oh. Rodney suddenly understood. He didn't know if any kiss was strong enough to erase all John's self-hatred for putting Rodney's survival over that of his own men, but he tried. With the right amount of oxygen deprivation, and maybe adrenaline and endorphins, he might just be able to induce a little amnesia of his own.

John's other hand pushed down under the blanket, finding the waistband of Rodney's boxers and rubbing his fingers just under the elastic. Rodney was too busy with the kissing to realize that this was a question, but his hips answered for him, surging into the touch. John changed the angle of the kiss, restless, and reached down to wrap his hand around Rodney's dick, which was already hard and wet. John pulled back; Rodney made a little bereft noise.

"Move up," John said, sounding even angrier. "Up, damn it, come on," and he slid his hand back, shoving the boxers down and tugging at Rodney's ass. Rodney didn't know what he wanted, plus he knew that his bedroll would get hopelessly tangled, but he moved in the direction indicated, wondering if it would kill the mood if he told John to get back to jerking him off, already. "Right, okay," John said, and Rodney was the one who hadn't seen this coming — bad pun — hadn't anticipated John's kiss-warm mouth sliding tight down over the head of his dick, down further than should be humanly possible. One of John's hands held Rodney down; John knew, probably, that Rodney would try to follow him when he pulled back. John's tongue mapped him in broad strokes and hard fine lines, curling around the head of his dick and lapping like a cat before starting another long slow glide down.

Rodney was making desperate noises, because while slow and tight and wet and hot were good, spinning him on the edge, he wanted to be pushed over, and didn't John know it was possible to die of frustration? And then John would be all alone.

Fortunately, John was either psychic or knew exactly what he was doing, because just as Rodney was on the verge of begging, the pressure of John's hand restraining him was gone. Rodney pushed into John's mouth once, tentatively; John purred his approval in a hum that made Rodney's toes curl with pleasure. Rodney thrust harder the next time, and deeper, and John could take it, John was fine, but Rodney — Rodney wouldn't last, it was just too good. He twisted one hand into John's hair, trying to anchor himself, but his body didn't want to hold back. His body was driving forward into pleasure, into John, into the blessed falling relief of absolute mindlessness.

A mindlessness, he thought, his thoughts still floating detached in the wake of orgasm, that he'd really needed, something to drive out the fear and the tedium and the hopelessness.

John had let him go and rolled onto his back, and Rodney could hear his rough breathing and the sound of John jerking himself off hard. Rodney reached down, finding John's stomach. John jack-knifed at the touch as if he'd been punched; Rodney ducked, not really wanting a black eye from some mid-coital head-butt.

"Sorry," John bit out; it sounded as if his teeth were clenched. Rodney slid his hand down, figuring a firm touch was less startling than a light one, and covered John's hand with his own. "Fuck," John said, losing his rhythm, tangling his hand with Rodney's so that Rodney's fingers were right there, held tight around John's dick as John started sliding his hand again. Come, John was saying, desperately, over and over, but when his body tightened and he did come, what he said, almost too low to be heard, was come back.

Huh, Rodney thought, flailing out into the dark until he found one of the ugly towels. It was rough, so he shoved it into John's hands, not wanting to risk accidental abrasion in sensitive places. He could still hear John panting. He straightened his bedroll out as best he could in the dark; after a minute he heard the sound of the towel being tossed, and John resettling himself in his own blankets.

He almost said, you've done that before, except that sounded like an accusation, and he wanted John to do that again, with him. Rodney hadn't had sex with a man before, hadn't even considered it, but he saw the appeal now. He thought about mentioning how he appreciated John's lack of a gag reflex, but he had no idea about the etiquette of discussing the blowjob technique of someone who was his colleague, and his team leader, and his best friend. Completely unknown territory. He wondered if John was as lonely and scared as he was. He didn't think so, but he hadn't ever thought John knew how to give really good head, either, which was the last thing he thought before falling asleep.

John woke him before dawn, and Rodney left after breakfast, weighted down — as usual — with his backpack and tac vest, and the addition of John's P90. He was disturbed by many things as he walked with the sun shining down gentle and warm. One of them was the fact that he agreed with John's description of the terrain as easy. There was evidence of glaciation everywhere: Rodney felt perfectly at home, remembering summers spent with his grandparents in Alberta. Granted, back then he'd been more interested in staying indoors with his two-meter transceiver than in hiking in the mountains, but he'd been forced to go out occasionally.

He was also disturbed by the fact that the universal standard for Ancient-habitable perfection seemed to be Canada. He supposed that, if he ever got home, he could make a fortune for the tourism board. Why Ascend, when you can go to Canada?

When he got home.

The stream twisted south where it met the outcrop of granite that John had pointed out to Rodney from the camp. Getting to the top took too much time. When Rodney finally pulled himself up, one look around showed him that he could have saved a lot of effort by taking the long way around and climbing up from the slope on the east. Annoyed, he called John to check in, and then made camp for the night.

The next day, he resolved not to go anywhere until he had his bearings. The mountainside was gouged out in a trough; the walls were steep but not impassable, and would give him a good view of the land.

He found lots of scary-looking caves, several old landslides, and the second jumper, just visible inside a slice of singed, felled forest. That didn't give him much hope, which turned out to be good, because when he got there it turned out that the jumper had apparently gone nose-down into the ground, crushing the pilot and co-pilot, ripping off the engine nacelles (which appeared to have exploded), and splitting open the hull like an overripe fruit. There were boxes scattered around the clearing. Some of them were ruined, but most of the MRE cases were still good. Leave it to the Americans to develop indestructible food.

He found a few tents as well, in carrying bags and scattered in pieces. He made himself a travois out of tent poles and canvas and sorted the wreckage into piles of things to be taken now, and to be taken later. He had only a few hours of daylight left, enough time to get back to his camp, he figured, when he finally checked the interior of the jumper. He had thought it would be depressing. His expectations were exceeded: every part that he needed for repairs, and many others that he'd wanted spares of, had been broken, pulverized, or warped out of true.

He imagined he should be grateful for the food, and the tents.

He wasn't, much.

But at least, he thought, John had been all worried about nothing. Rodney hadn't seen any predators, and he hadn't lost any time. Maybe he was over his trauma. Maybe he was better. Maybe he'd just needed John to kiss it and make it all better —

And on the heels of that thought, epiphany, bright and sharp as razor wire encircling him, cutting off his breath, ripping him inside out.

Maybe John wasn't a witness to Rodney's fugues. Maybe he was the cause.

Find the medical kit, John said, and when John slapped Rodney awake, there it was.

Find the solar panels, or the firewood, or the fish — find the god-damned second jumper, John said, and the world stuttered to a stop, and there they were. Every time, unfailing, as if the world reshaped itself according to John's will.

Made to order, Rodney thought. Made to John's order.

Which would mean.

That John.

Was not John.

And Rodney couldn't believe that it had taken him seventeen days to realize this, because it was so clear, so striking, so unnatural that he got vertigo just thinking about it.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

He wished Occam's razor worked in Pegasus, but there were too many impossibilities that were possible. He could think of five in the space of a blink.

The Wraith.

The Ancients (category A, Ascended; category B, at large, subcategory alive, subcategory hologram).

Nanites, or a nanovirius, or even some Pegasus nano-organism, some kind of Replicator which fucked with the head.

Some accidentally-activated Ancient device for military training, or sight-seeing, or to induce Ascension through virtual reality.

It could even be something truly alien, a sentient mist or a brain-eating virus.

If he had to describe his nightmares in the Pegasus galaxy in one word, he would have to choose baroque. Some alien other — some captor — spying on him, on his memories and his work, in the guise of a seductive John Sheppard. He remembered, in crystal detail, the lectures he'd given on Canada, and he imagined someone using that information. Imagined Wraith and Replicators in downtown Vancouver. Imagined Jeannie confronted with those horrors, imagined knowing he was responsible.

He didn't know who had captured him; he didn't know what they wanted. He paced his breathing, stared up an the fine wispy clouds breaking over the sharp mountain peaks (and he did not wonder if those mountains had been programmed into a VR or hallucinated into being from his childhood memories; did not want to wonder that at all). All he could do. . . .

He could only do one thing.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

He would call John, buy some time, lie. He would move the supplies into one of the caves. He would return to the camp, take everything he needed, and hide. Whatever John was, he obviously needed Rodney's cooperation.

Rodney needed to stop cooperating.

When Rodney walked into camp three days later, John was sitting at Rodney's desk. He was working intently on the tablet, but he must have heard Rodney approaching because between one second and the next John had a gun aimed right at Rodney's middle.

"Some welcome home that is," Rodney said, his heart stuttering in his chest and his knees sagging. His mind had resolved that he could carry his plan out, but his flesh was in serious denial.

John shrugged and set the weapon on the desk. "Yeah, well," he said, but the way his mouth curled up suggested that he wanted to apologize nicely to Rodney for scaring twenty years off his life. Rodney went to go stow his bag in the jumper; John intercepted him with a quick arm around the shoulders that was either the prelude to violence or the John Sheppard version of a hug. "This okay?" John asked, looking down at Rodney's vest as if it held the answers to everything and then raising his head quickly and kissing Rodney on the cheek.

"Whatever," Rodney said, which John seemed to interpret as please shove me up against the jumper and do pornographic things to my mouth. At any rate, that was what happened. Rodney didn't get a chance to unpack, but when he grumbled about wanting a bath to wash off the dirt of travel, John was behind that idea one hundred percent. John was all for the mutual sponge-bathing, and the reciprocal towelling, and for encouraging Rodney to lay him out on his side and fuck him (and how convenient was it that they had condoms and medical lubricant?). John shook and shoved back, taking Rodney as deep as he could, ordering Rodney not to be gentle. Rodney completely forgot that he probably ought to get John off. John came anyway, just from having Rodney's dick in his ass.

Afterwards, Rodney was so spent he was hollowed out inside. He wondered what John was, and he missed his John in a way that hurt like grief and anger.

The person who was not John muttered in his sleep and shifted closer, pressing his unbroken leg against Rodney's and his face into Rodney's shoulder.

Rodney fell asleep planning his escape.

It was very easy.

He had to assume that all the electronic devices were monitored by his captors. He considered breaking them, but finally decided that as long as he didn't work on any sensitive information, the psychological benefits of having work and entertainment outweighed the risk.

So on the second morning after coming back, after John kissed him goodbye and headed down to the river to fish, Rodney folded the solar panels into their carrying cases, gathered up all the guns and knifes and the remaining few MREs, took the tablet and John's MP3 player, and piled them on the travois that he'd hidden just beyond the treeline, along with as many blankets and towels as would fit. It was very heavy, and awkward to pull over the uneven ground. He was leaving a track, but he'd assumed that he would: he headed straight east, towards an overgrown ridge where he could hide everything until it could be carried up to the cave.

Part of him wanted to watch John return to camp, to see his face when he realized that Rodney was gone. Whatever John was, he would be angry, Rodney decided. Confused, hopefully. He didn't know if John had some means of tracking him. He assumed that he had an implant somewhere. He'd even considered cutting open the scar on his forehead to check, but he thought his captors were probably cleverer than that. He'd needed to be injured simply because John was injured, either to hide the fact that John couldn't leave the camp (which Rodney hoped was the case; it made sense, if John were actually an Ancient, or a hologram of one) or to seduce Rodney with his vulnerability. Or, Rodney supposed grimly, they might not be that creative at all. It could simply be that the real John had been injured when they were captured, and their captors just lacked creativity.

Huh, Rodney thought, shifting the weight in his hands. He hadn't even considered the Genii. But if they could cobble together nukes, they might be able to run a sophisticated trap like this.

He'd have to think about it.

It took him two days to get everything into the cave. The next day, he found an even better cave, high enough inside that he could stand up, about a quarter of a mile up the mountainside, with the entrance half-buried behind an old landslide and hidden by bushes. It took a day and a half to move again, but he was satisfied. The cave was only accessible from above. There was no way John could manage the climb, even if he found the way down. Rodney felt safe.

John showed up when Rodney was cleaning the last traces of his habitation from the old cave. He yelled every few minutes, looking for Rodney. If Rodney lay flat on his stomach, he could see out without being seen, so he kept watch. He had the P90; he was glad of that.

He thought John was being stupid. He was obviously following Rodney's trail to the second jumper, but on crutches it would take him a week. Longer, perhaps, and there was the danger of falling and undoing any healing that had taken place. Without MREs, Rodney wondered what John was eating. His winter supply of dried fish, probably.

Not that Rodney cared what happened to him. The sooner John suffered a fatal error or became unable to spy on Rodney, the sooner Rodney's captors would be forced to change tactics. Surely by now they realized that he was onto their mindgames.

McKay, he heard John shout — bellow, really, a big noise, full of impotence and anger. There were more words, threats and promises and appeals to Rodney's non-existent better nature, but Rodney decided not to listen to them, to just let the words flow away, meaningless. He thought he lost a little time, there. Which figured.

He trained his weapon on the clearing below and stayed still, controlling his breathing.

John came into view, moving slowly.

Rodney measured time in slow breaths.

He would be fine.

He hadn't broken.

This wasn't real.

Rodney breathed, and kept John sighted, his finger on the fire selector, poised to turn the safety off. Sometimes the spaces between breaths seemed longer. He wished John would stop trying.

John hadn't succeeded. John wouldn't succeed.

Game over.

Reset, damn it.

Reset.


Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:

And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.

. . . . .

But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate. (Zechariah 7:9-14)