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Routine Mission

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Another routine mission to a routine planet carrying routine equipment to resolve routine problems. What Lorne's team had failed to mention when they set up this so-called routine trade agreement requiring Rodney's expertise with Ancient indoor plumbing was that it was a world with extreme climate shifts. Two weeks ago had been summer on the Callidions home world but the first snows of the long winter had already fallen when they stepped through the Stargate wearing clothing that was inappropriate for a plummeting temperature drop over those two weeks. His TAC vest offered some protection from the cold but his bare arms in a short-sleeved t-shirt were no doubt turning as blue as his lips.

Without even waiting for John to give the order, Rodney raced to the DHD and dialed Atlantis only to watch it fail to lock onto the final chevron.

"No. No, no, no." He tried again with the same result, growling when Ronon pushed him aside to try it himself, as if that would make any difference.

It didn't, with the chevron stubbornly refusing to lock. Gritting his teeth, Rodney knelt down in the deep snow, brushing aside enough so he could pull open the panel on the DHD, and he found the problem immediately.

"It's cracked," he stated, cold fingers fumbling as he removed the control crystal.

"You have a spare?" John asked, teeth chattering.

Rodney almost replied sarcastically but he could see John was visibly shaking from the cold, especially as he didn't even have a little extra padding anywhere on his lean body to protect him. Not that Rodney had much extra either as running for his life from angry natives had slimmed him down since coming to Pegasus. Ronon stood with his arms wrapped around himself while Teyla tried to appear stoic but was obviously freezing as she surreptitiously moved to use Ronon as protection from the even colder wind that gusted across the open land surrounding the Stargate.

"No."

"Then we have to move. Lorne said the village was a four mile hike from the gate."

"He also said to follow the track," Rodney stated while pointedly looking across the snow-covered land.

If there was a track then it was buried under two feet of snow so they didn't even know which direction to take, but Ronon pointed towards the trees lining the clearing.

"There."

Squinting, Rodney tried to see what had caught Ronon's eye. There was a gap between the trees but it didn't look much different from any other gap in the tree line. John nodded and started walking behind Ronon, leaving Rodney with no choice but to fall into line too with Teyla on their six. It was hard going but as they drew closer Rodney could see the gap was large enough for a cart to pass through. Ronon pushed on relentlessly with the rest of them literally walking in his footsteps. Rodney kept his head down as they trudged onward, keeping his hands pressed tightly under his armpits as he really didn't want to get frostbite. John was doing the same.

In good weather it would have taken them an hour to reach the village but the heavy snow slowed them down even beneath the trees.

Like a scene from a slapstick comedy, when Ronon stopped suddenly everyone piled into the back of the person in front but, fortunately, Ronon was big enough to absorb the impact without bringing them all crashing down into the snow.

"W-what is it?"

"Either a game trail s-stretching m-miles in each direction... or a f-frozen river."

"Lorne m-mentioned a f-ford," John stated.

Ronon indicated towards two upright poles either side of them, and then to the ones almost opposite about forty feet away.

"Did he happen... t-to mention how deep it was?" Rodney asked.

John shook his head. Rodney watched as Ronon snapped off a stout branch and began moving forward, prodding the ground in front of him. The ice was bearing his weight but it would be thicker towards the banks. The center would be another matter entirely.

"W-wait," Rodney yelled. "Give me the s-straps from the-."

"Yeah... g-good idea," John said, "And m-maybe I should go first as I'm l-lighter."

Rodney's frozen fingers found it hard to undo the straps but eventually they managed to tie them to form a safety rope linking them all together. Slowly they moved across the frozen river, listening intently for any sound of cracking that might be their only warning. It came suddenly, the ice breaking beneath John's feet, dropping him into the freezing cold water.

"JOHN!"

Recalling his Canadian safety lessons, Rodney dropped lightning fast, spreading out his weight while trying to anchor himself to avoid any more ice cracking and taking them all down. Both Ronon and Teyla followed his lead and between them they dragged John out of the water, thankful to the straps that had kept John from being swept under the ice within the flowing water, where he would have drowned for certain. John was in shock from the cold, his lips blue and skin marble white, and Rodney knew there was little he could do for him while they were still on the ice. Rather than go back, he belly-crawled around the thin ice in a wide arc, waiting for Ronon to do the same further on before they pressed onward, dragging an almost unconscious John along behind them. Rodney pushed back to his feet when the poles on the opposite side of the ford were barely feet away and between them, he and Ronon hefted John up and carried him to safety with Teyla following. Rodney knew they had to find somewhere fast as the freezing wet clothes would lower John's core temperature even more rapidly, increasing his hypothermia. He spotted a place beneath one particularly thick tree, where the branches were low to the ground.

"There!"

Rodney figured he could use his own body heat to keep John alive while Ronon and Teyla raced to the village for help. Just as he started to unbuckle John's TAC vest a shout rose up from ahead of them. One of the villagers had spotted them and raced forward, shouting back to others for assistance.

A few hours later he and John were mostly thawed out in a small guest room within one of the Callidion's home. John had come out of the ordeal worse but the warm broth, dry clothing, and heaps of thick blankets had brought his color back to almost normal. Ronon and Teyla had another room next door but they had gone to speak with the village elders, mostly to thank them for saving their lives even though they were strangers, leaving Rodney alone with John. He glanced across at him cautiously, trying not to get caught by John, but the fear from almost losing him was still holding him tightly in its grip. There was so much he should have said to John about his feelings, his love and respect, but a different kind of fear, of losing John's friendship to disgust or awkwardness had held him back.

"So what did you plan to do if the villagers hadn't found us first?"

"Huh?"

"Basic survival? Use your own body heat to keep me alive?"

Rodney could feel the heat in his face that had nothing to do with the warm fire heating the room.

"It's just," John continued, "I'm still feeling a little cold so..." He let his words trail off as Rodney looked up at him, startled, and even someone as emotional crippled as himself could read the desire in John's eyes.

He heard John laugh as Rodney stripped so fast he almost fell over dragging off his pants; he was naked, wrapped around John's equally naked body and still slightly chilled body beneath the blankets only moments later. Cool lips pressed against his as they found an easier and more pleasurable way to increase their body heat.

It should have been a routine mission to a routine planet, but Rodney decided having John naked and happy in his arms would never be routine.

END