1. Always carry an extra clip
He's not even sure how they got into this mess. One minute he was enjoying the sunrise during the most boring camp watch ever, and the next he was providing cover fire for one Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard.
"This will be a cakewalk mission to warm you up for the Pegasus Galaxy, Captain." Major Lorne had said. "Just be the backup for Sheppard's team in case they get in trouble."
Some of the men had laughed at that. They had said it meant he would most certainly need to take an extra clip for his P90. Matt would have laughed too if he hadn't thought it was somewhat pathetic to think that their CO had this reputation around the base. Corporal Silva had smirked and packed his extra clip, handing Matt another one. Matt had looked at it unbelievably, wondering if they were really serious about this. But he was the newbie and had simply shaken his head in disapproval before tucking the clip into his vest.
Now, it looked like they had been right. At least eight men had appeared out of nowhere and Matt had barely had time to register their location before the dirt around him erupted with enemy fire.
Matt had shouted above the noise but wasn't sure if anyone had heard him. It didn't matter. Major Nelson emerged from inside his tent, vest unzipped and boots unlaced, P90 in hand and demanding the status of the situation. He ducked past the bullets buzzing around their heads.
"I count at least eight from the east side, sir!" Matt yelled as his team leader crouched low with him behind the log. "Don't know where they came from!" A bullet blasted the bark in front of him and sent dust and splinters towards his face. He brought his hands up and cursed under his breath. "Colonel Sheppard is at our two o'clock, pinned from all sides!"
"Shit" Matt heard Sergeant Ferreira crashing to the ground behind the cover of a large tree. More dirt spurted as bullets hit. "Shit! How many?" Ferreira shouted.
"I see seven!" Corporal Silva yelled from a position behind Matt.
"Negative, there's one at our three o'clock!" Major Nelson waved his hand indicating the direction.
Matt turned to his three o'clock and saw the shadow of a man circling around the underbrush, ready to take Colonel Sheppard from behind.
Typical! Always the cover fire for the flyboys.
Matt rose to one knee and fired in that general direction to alert his CO. Matt couldn't see Sheppard except for his inappropriate tuft of hair, but spotted a slight movement in his underbrush indicating that he got the message. Matt ducked another spray of bullets then rose again to fire. A couple of his shots hit, but the enemy still moved, now faster than before. He saw Sheppard fire his P90 before the hostile threw himself on top of him.
Both struggled for several moments and Matt couldn't get a clear shot at the enemy. He decided to focus on the other seven men, but kept glancing back to keep updated on Sheppard's situation. After several seconds, Matt turned back to see both still fighting. He could tell that not only had the attacker been injured before the struggle began, he was also much smaller than Sheppard. Matt was somewhat disappointed that it took his CO so damn long to shoot the bastard dead with five short bangs from his sidearm.
Matt returned his full attention to the other seven. One of them was now shooting erratically and missing his marks more often than before, making Matt conclude that he was injured. He decided to focus on the other six.
"Shit! Shit!" Ferreira groaned and grunted another few curses.
Matt turned and saw him clutching his thigh, eyes tightly shut.
"Cover me!" the major shouted beside Matt.
Matt rose from his log and fired one burst after another while Nelson ran towards Ferreira. When he got there, he hid behind the same trunk as the lieutenant and fired against the aggressors, giving Matt time to reload. He did so quickly then took over the firing along with Silva, while the major split his focus between Ferreira and the hostiles.
Silva took two of them down with a risky move that could very well have ended his life. Matt smiled briefly thinking of the smug grin the corporal must have at that moment. Matt took the opportunity to rise and fire, taking another one down. He looked back to get a glimpse of Silva's smirk.
Four were still firing at full strength and Matt turned around to check Sheppard's position, only now noticing the lack of bullets being shot from where he had last seen him.
Seconds stretched to minutes. His gun clicked empty and Matt reloaded again. There were still two of them left, and they were good at firing and taking cover. Silva yelled in pain behind him, and Matt leaned his back against the log to look at him. Silva frowned slightly before hiding back behind a rock in the middle of camp, but soon re-emerged to continue firing. Tough son of a bitch. Matt breathed a sigh of relief before turning again to shoot.
An abrupt burst from a P90 near the position where the hostiles were made Matt raise his head. He only had time to see the last two men going down before silence finally settled in.
"All clear!" Major Nelson shouted.
2. Check on the injured before checking on him
Matt carefully surveyed the area. Slowly, he approached the location where the fire had come from, his P90 still raised. The enemies were down and none of their chests were moving to indicate life. A snapping branch made Matt whirl and skirt around the bushes and undergrowth.
Colonel Sheppard stood hunched, his weapon hanging from his vest and hand clutching his left side tightly. Blood oozed between his fingers and his face scrunched in pain. Matt lowered his weapon and stepped towards him. Sheppard breathed heavily and Matt thought he heard him hiding a groan.
"What's the status of your team?" Sheppard panted.
"Lieutenant Ferreira was shot in the leg, sir." Matt eyed the colonel. He could see a trail of blood coming from behind and around him where Sheppard had circled the enemies to get a shot. "Sir, you need to bandage that." Matt nodded towards the wound. Sheppard looked like he would collapse any second.
"Huh?" Sheppard swayed around for a few seconds then started walking to the camp.
Matt also noticed the absence of the rest of Sheppard's team.
"Major, how is he?" the colonel asked.
Major Nelson was bandaging Ferreira's thigh with a field dressing. The lieutenant looked okay, but his lips were a fine line as he clenched his eyes shut from the pain.
"Just a minor wound, sir. Didn't hit anything vital."
Sheppard breathed heavily and moved his legs to keep his balance. Matt figured that adrenaline was the only thing keeping the man upright.
"Good." The colonel nodded.
Silva approached and Matt saw a dressing around his bicep. "You should sit down, sir."
"No time for that." Sheppard shook his head slightly. "We gotta get back. My team--" Sheppard swallowed a grunt and panted for a few seconds before continuing. "My team was captured… they don't have time." He held his P90 and raised it slightly.
Nelson got up, done with the bandaging. "What happened, sir?"
"We got ambushed. Teyla and McKay fell into a trap in the ground." Sheppard stopped to breathe. "Hostiles showed up and surrounded us pretty quickly. We-- were outnumbered... I got shot, Ronon was thrown into the hole and… I managed to escape ahead of them." He shook his head. "Gotta get back."
Major Nelson wiped his hands on a piece of gauze with antiseptic and handed the first aid kit to the colonel. "Here, sir."
Sheppard took out a package of sterile gauze and tucked it under his shirt, holding his breath as he did. Matt saw the tip of a field dressing drenched in blood, and more that had dripped down his pants, forming a large smear. That was no minor wound, and Matt wondered how much more blood the colonel would lose with that sloppy bandage.
"Let's go." Sheppard said, holding up his gun and starting to walk. "Corporal, you stay behind with the lieutenant."
The team exchanged glances before Matt and Nelson followed.
3. His team comes first
They walked through the forest for about thirty minutes. Sheppard slowed them down considerably with his careful walk and more blood could be seen on the hand covering his injury. Matt kept exchanging glances with Major Nelson, but all of them remained quiet the entire time.
When Sheppard stopped and held onto a tree, Matt though he was just resting. When Matt took a few more steps, he saw a deep hole on the ground and several tracks around it.
"Crap," Sheppard said, breathless. The hand holding the tree was white.
Nelson stepped closer to the hole and looked down. Matt imitated and saw it empty.
"Do you know where their camp is, sir?" Nelson asked.
The colonel nodded. "That way." He pointed with his gun to a path farther ahead. "Approximately twenty more minutes. About ten men are left there if no reinforcements have arrived in the meantime. Easy to break into."
Matt looked at his team leader and saw a mirror of his own dark expression.
"We can take 'em." Sheppard said.
"You're injured, sir." Matt didn't think Nelson had needed to remind the colonel, but agreed that Sheppard would be a liability.
Sheppard waved a hand. "Had worse. C'mon." He started walking, making Matt and Nelson exchange looks for the hundredth time that day.
Matt rounded the hole after Sheppard. "Sir," Matt started. "We would be outnumbered even if you weren't injured. We should ask for reinforcements."
"Negative, Captain." Sheppard's voice came a bit sharper. "They may not have that time. Besides, I have an idea." Matt could hear Sheppard's breathing, loud in the silence of the forest.
Major Nelson jumped over a fallen trunk. "Care to share, sir?"
"When we get there."
4. It’s all about good strategy
They got there after another silent walk. Crouching low behind the undergrowth, the three men surveyed the enemy camp. It was small, with five wooden cabins, and a small cage where Sheppard's team were. Matt counted eight men outside the cabins.
Soft rustling beside him made Matt turn slightly. Sheppard had cleared a small circle on the dirt and was holding a stick. Matt followed as Sheppard started drawing the camp. He placed the hostiles in their positions and the three of them outside.
Sheppard pointed at Major Nelson and then to one of the three dots. Then, he drew a line around the camp with an arrow to a position closer to four of the hostiles. Next, Sheppard pointed at Matt and his corresponding dot. The line the colonel drew went all the way around, almost on top of two hostiles and close enough to the other two. Matt nodded in understanding. On the last dot, Sheppard traced an arrow that entered the camp from a nearly unguarded area, taking him close to the cage.
Sheppard looked up and lifted his P90, pointed at himself and then pointed the finger up to show that would be the signal. They nodded in agreement. He covered the plans with dirt and waved them to their positions.
Matt took the longest to get to his mark. He had to go a long way around to avoid detection and had to be the very definition of stealth to get near enough to make the plan work.
Once he was in position, he couldn't help but smile. He could not only take down his four guys, but he also had a clear line of sight to nearly all the camp, and could easily cover for both Nelson and Sheppard. His CO had been right. They wouldn't need reinforcements.
Matt watched as Sheppard began to silently walk towards the back of the cage. He waited until no guard was looking and crossed to another cabin. Matt realized Sheppard was trying to get them free first. That would greatly increase their odds of success. Since he had Nelson and Matt covering him from strategic positions, he would be able to get to his team fast even if he was spotted.
Matt controlled his breathing. Sheppard was injured and couldn't move very quickly. Matt saw an opportunity lost and pursed lips. Several seconds passed before another one came, and this time he watched as Sheppard made it to the last cabin before the cell. The colonel clutched his side and Matt almost stopped breathing when he saw Sheppard slowly falling forward. Matt shook his head. Everything would be lost if Sheppard decided to pass out at that exact moment. Matt's own heart beat fast as Sheppard slowly rose. Matt didn't even register a break before the colonel ran the last few meters, hiding only behind Ronon's big body and the corner between the bars.
He would be seen any second now. Matt narrowed his eyes on the sight of his own P90, positioning it to take down the closest guard on the shortest notice. Sheppard whispered something, gave Ronon his sidearm and they moved away from him. Giving up on stealth altogether, Sheppard rose to one knee and fired at the lock on the door.
All hell broke lose at that moment. Matt didn't waste any time and promptly fired his gun in two rapid bursts, taking down two guards. The other two ran towards Sheppard's direction and hadn't noticed Matt. He fired and they came down before two more guys emerged from inside their cabins. Ronon quickly disposed of them using Sheppard's sidearm.
The fight was over before the enemy had even noticed there had been one.
5. Check him back when everyone is safe
They stayed in the enemy camp for a few minutes. First making sure all hostiles were down, then to wait Teyla make Sheppard a new bandage. Matt didn’t think it was a coincidence that he happened to be away checking the perimeter with Major Nelson when that happened.
They made back to their camp slower than before. Matt glanced at Sheppard from time to time, uncomfortable with the way the colonel hunched even after the new tight bandage. Matt swallowed and let himself fall at their six along with Major Nelson. He shared a look with his team leader, not breaking the silence that had fallen upon them ever since they had left. That had been nearly thirty minutes ago.
Matt honestly had no idea how Sheppard could still be walking after losing all that blood and being in so much pain. Matt had been shot a few times in his life and his worst experience was when he was shot in the exact same spot as the colonel. It wasn't a fun ride. Walking hurt, moving hurt, breathing hurt and twisting his toes made the wound hurt too. Walking non-stop for an hour for the third time since being shot while leaving a trail of blood behind was the very definition of “keep going despite injury” that Matt had been taught in training. With the difference being that Matt was a Marine. Sheppard was a pilot. Just a pilot.
When they made it to camp, everything was already packed and ready for them to return to Atlantis as instructed by Major Nelson via radio.
The gate was another twenty minutes away. They paused for a few moments for a rest that didn’t look nearly long enough to have Sheppard recover his breath, but his team only exchanged glances and continued. If they, the ones who had worked with him for five years, knew better than to ask Ronon to carry the man back, then Matt wouldn’t say a word about it.
The new bandage was drenched again by the time they arrived in Atlantis. Sheppard left a trail of blood drops all the way to the infirmary.