Today was not going well for one Doctor M. Rodney McKay (Ph. D). He'd woken up to find that the last bit of his preciously hoarded coffee had run out three days before the Daedalus was supposed to return to Atlantis with the monthly resupply; he'd been told just the previous night that he had to deal with Kavanagh of all people on the next day's scheduled mission to P5J-491 (also known as Zhenabri), and now he was late for an impromptu meeting that was supposed to deal with some sort of supposedly 'groundbreaking' news that came in that morning's databurst from Earth.
Rodney made his way to Elizabeth's office, his computer tablet tucked into the crook of one arm while he tapped away at it with his free hand. There was some sort of power fluctuation going on in the Geophysics lab, and Doctor LaRue, the head of that Section of the Science Department, was starting to get on Rodney's nerves with her constant complaining about what was most likely a dirty or cracked crystal somewhere in the circuits. Rodney entered Elizabeth's office, only looking up when he heard Colonel Sheppard say, “Nice of you to join us, McKay.”
Rodney rolled his eyes as he took a seat between Ronon and Teyla on one of the extra chairs Elizabeth had set out, setting his tablet down on his lap. “Yes, well, I'm taking time out of my very busy schedule before we go to P5J-491, so make it quick.”
Elizabeth sighed softly but didn't comment on Rodney's brusqueness. “Most of the news that came in the databurst from the SGC was normal- things about the current state of the Milky Way and so forth -but what wasn't normal was this.”
She slid a folder over to Rodney, who caught it before it slipped off the polished surface of the desk. He scanned it and then stopped, his eyebrows rising as he looked up from the printed pages contained within the folder.
“I- Hmm. Well, this is unexpected. How'd it happen?” he asked, slowly setting the folder down on Elizabeth's desk. “What idiot managed to reveal themselves?”
“There was an incident in England,” Elizabeth replied. “A young dragon going through his first metamorphosis was filmed by a bystander with a camera phone, and then the video was uploaded to the internet. The major news companies picked it up from there.”
“Huh. And this sparked the discovery of all magical peoples. Lovely. What does that mean for us?” Rodney asked, looking from Elizabeth to John and then back again. John shrugged and then spoke.
“Well, for right now, the SGC is simply asking for those among us who can use magic or who are of magical backgrounds to make themselves known. It's supposedly entirely voluntary, but we figure that if those of the Senior Staff who're magical reveal themselves first, then it'll make it easier for everyone involved.”
Rodney snorted. “Please. How do we know that those names won't be used to round up everyone who has even a microscopic amount of the Talent and then have them shipped off to parts unknown for experiments? Does no one remember about the existence and machinations of the Trust and the NID? Not to mention the civilian organizations who would kill to get their hands on magical artifacts. So, no, I'm not going to write down anything if asked. I don't mind the voluntary revealing amongst Expedition members, but there's no way in hell I'm going to let the idiots back on Earth sanction a quite literal witch hunt just because we provided them with a list of people who may or may not have the Talent, and that's assuming they just want names of those who came from Earth and not our allies.”
“Sorry, the Talent? And there are people in Pegasus who are magical?” Elizabeth asked. She had been apprised of Rodney's magical background after the near-disastrous mission to Talva, but had promised not to spread it about, given that the magical community as a whole was not widely known to the general public, and no one wanted to cause panic if it was avoidable.
“The ability to do magic, among other things,” Rodney explained with a negligent wave of his hand. “And yes, there are. Not as many as say, a very small Earth town with a similar sized population to a given planet, but still, enough to make me wary of what organizations back on Earth might do once they find out that little tidbit of information. Anyways, I take it that there'll be some sort of city-wide mass e-mail explaining what happened?”
When Elizabeth nodded, Rodney pushed his chair back and got to his feet. “Well, now that that's taken care of, can I get back to the very important work I was working on? I don't really want to go off-world worrying about critical experiments that might explode while I'm gone.”
“Yes, go ahead,” Elizabeth said with a slight smile. “I still expect you and your team to go on the mission to Zhenabri, regardless of how this new information affects you.”
“Don't worry about it,” John said, getting to his feet as well. Teyla and Ronon followed after their teammates, saying their goodbyes to Elizabeth before leaving the office. Rodney headed back to his lab just in time to keep Doctors Gray and Christopolous from getting into a full-out brawl with one another over something having to do with a device the two had been running exploratory diagnostics on at Rodney's direction.
After what turned out to be a rather therapeutic bout of yelling at Gray and Christopolous, Rodney got a call from John to come to the armory to get ready for the mission. Rodney stopped by the lab Kavanagh had been assigned to work in after the whole almost-torture debacle a few weeks ago and found that Kavanagh had already left. Wondering where the pony-tailed scientist could be, Rodney headed to the armory to find that Kavanagh had already been kitted up with a complete off-world kit and TAC vest, and was waiting with the others in the Gate Room.
He quickly got ready and joined his team (and their plus-one) in the Gate Room, ready to go off on yet another adventure in the Pegasus Galaxy. The 'gate dialed and the familiar blue-white kawoosh roared to life and then settled back to its normal quiescent state, awaiting the first of the day's travelers. The team stepped through, scientists in the middle of the group, and into a bright early morning-lit landscape filled with tall, wind-shaped rocks and mountains looming in the distance. They headed towards their destination (which was under a mountain about a mile or two away from the 'gate), all hoping to get something worthwhile out of the trip.
Rodney woke up with a massive headache and groggily tried to figure out where he was, what had happened to him, and why he wasn't dead. Funny how a lot of his more recent memories were like that. This took some time, as the last thing he remembered was a lot of rocks falling and people shouting in alarm. He must've made some sort of noise, because there was movement beside him, accompanied by a soft white glow that Rodney didn't recognize. It didn't have the chemical harshness of a glow-stick, nor the bright sharpness of a flashlight. No, the light seemed almost organic in nature, rather like candle- or fire-light.
“Hold still, McKay,” a voice said from nearby. “You were hit by some rocks. I'll see what I can do for that headache of yours.”
“What? Kav-?” Rodney tried to say, but his head was pounding too hard for him to make a coherent sentence. He heard Kavanagh moving around nearby, and then felt a cool touch on his forehead as Kavanagh placed one of his hands there with a surprising gentleness. The thundering pain and accompanying dizziness that Rodney was experiencing slowly ebbed away, until there was only a faint echo of the symptoms as a welcoming coolness spread through Rodney's aching body.
Kavanagh removed his hand from Rodney's forehead as quickly as possible once the headache was gone, leaving Rodney to lay there on the hard stone that formed the floor of the underground tunnel system they had come to Zhenabri to explore. It had definitely been man and/or Ancient-made, but since the planet had been uninhabited for several hundred years, according to Teyla's knowledge, there was the slight chance that there could be some Ancient-y goodies stashed away somewhere inside the labyrinthine snarl of tunnels.
Rodney slowly sat up, waving away Kavanagh's hesitant helping hand in favor of pushing himself up off the ground. He looked around to see three small and hollow cube-shaped crystals floating nearby; each emitted the soft golden light Rodney had awoken to. Rodney turned to look at Kavanagh, who shrugged as he pulled a fourth crystal- which, like the others, was about three inches in total volume -from a pocket in his TAC vest, lit it up with a tap of a finger, and then sent it aloft. He watched it join its brothers, a slight smile on his face making it apparent that he was capable of more than his default 'I-just-ate-something-that-didn't-agree-with-me' expression.
“You have the Talent,” Rodney said flatly.
“Why do you think I'm so good with computers, especially Ancient ones?” Kavanagh said, looking away from the floating crystal. “My parents' Clans' Talents- and by default, my own -tend to run towards power over most anything that's crystalline or mineral based. I learned various programming languages for my degrees, of course, but I've always had an innate talent for repairing and programming anything with electronics in it.”
“And the healing?”
“A trick taught to me by my mom. Rock can take a lot of pain before it breaks, and it can give health back just as readily. I just transferred some of your pain in exchange for a little healing. You'll have to go to Doctor Beckett once we get back to Atlantis, of course, but you should be good for right now.”
“Why did you do that?” Rodney asked, his brow furrowing in confusion. Kavanagh just shrugged.
“Wouldn't do me any good if you were incapacitated or worse. I may not be your biggest fan, but I don't want to see you dead, McKay,” Kavanagh replied. “I'm not an idiot, as much as you might think me one. Come on; we can't get out that way, so we'll just have to follow the tunnels out some other way.”
“Where's the rest of my team?”
Kavanagh shook his head as he got to his feet. “I don't know. I do know that they're not trapped under that pile of rubble, though, so we can assume that they're alive.”
“How do you know that?”
“Just trust me, McKay. We should get moving, but first, we should leave a note saying we're going to look for another exit.” Kavanagh pulled out a piece of chalk, of all things, from another of his TAC vest pockets and scrawled a message on the flattest bit of wall he could find, signing it 'Dr. P. Kavanagh' and marking an arrow in the general direction of the tunnel at the back of the cave.
“What, were you a Boy Scout or something in another life?” Rodney asked, a little dumbfounded at Kavanagh's forethought.
“Eagle Scout, actually,” Kavanagh replied almost absentmindedly. “Let's go.”
Rodney followed after Kavanagh, still not entirely sure if this was the best idea, but not wanting to be left alone in the dark. Still, it was the only option he had at the time, and honestly? He'd rather take his chances with Kavanagh than whatever might be lurking in the darkness of the tunnels.
“You know what I want to do when we get back to Atlantis?” Kavanagh said suddenly some time later, startling Rodney out of his thoughts about what he would rather be doing right now than traipsing through what seemed like endless underground tunnels with one of his least favorite people on Atlantis. Food featured heavily in the scenario; plenty of lovely citrus-free food. Oh, and ZedPMs. Lots and lots of those, too, shining fully powered all around him.
“And what would that be?” Rodney asked, not bothering to keep the heavy sarcasm out of his voice.
“Well, now that we don't have to hide ourselves, I really, really want to go flying around the city,” Kavanagh continued on, ignoring Rodney's sarcasm. Rodney caught a glimpse of a grin on his fellow scientist's dirt-streaked face. Two smiles in one day from the man; who would've guessed? “I haven't been on a proper flight in years. It'd be good to stretch my wings again. I'd bet my last cup of coffee that the others would want to do the same.”
“Hmmph. Maybe. We'll see when we get back to Atlantis. If we get back,” Rodney said. “Wait, you've got coffee?”
“Ha. And here I thought I was supposed to be the pessimistic one,” Kavanagh said with a soft laugh, trailing the fingers of one of his hands against the tunnel wall and totally ignoring Rodney's question about the coffee. “Don't worry; I think we're almost out.”
“And how, exactly, would you know that? It's not like we've got a map of these caves on this thing,” Rodney retorted, brandishing his sadly useless LSD at Kavanagh.
“Relax, McKay. I can sort of sense where this tunnel's going to lead, thanks to the rock.” Kavanagh gently tapped a staccato rhythm on the tunnel wall. “Besides, the floor of the tunnel's going up, and given our starting position, that's a good thing. Hey, I wonder if there're any living quarters in Atlantis meant specifically for Guardians.”
“What?” Rodney was thrown by this sudden non-sequitur. “What are you talking about?”
“Well, it would make sense, wouldn't it?” Kavanagh continued on, keeping in contact with the tunnel wall and occasionally marking arrows with the chalk on it, the tips pointing in the direction they were headed. “I mean, if you're going to have people who can turn into dragons in your city, you're most likely going to want to have- turn left here -big enough places for them to live. My guess is that it'd probably be up high somewhere, like an eagle's aerie. Most likely, it's somewhere we haven't explored yet. Just think of the possibilities, McKay.”
Rodney had to admit, Kavanagh did have a valid point, though he was a little miffed that he hadn't thought of it first. As they continued walking on, Rodney noticed two things: one, that while the rubble-strewn floor of the tunnel was slowly going up, there didn't seem to be an end in sight, and two, Kavanagh was limping a bit. It wasn't particularly noticeable at first, and the fact that Kavanagh wasn't complaining about it probably meant that it wasn't hurting all that much. Still, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on his fellow scientist, just in case it turned out the injury was worse than it seemed.
Just as Rodney was about to ask Kavanagh if he had anything to eat- his hypoglycemia was starting to kick in, making Rodney feel more irritable than usual -the tunnel they were in abruptly opened out into a much larger cavern. Kavanagh stopped Rodney with a sudden upraised hand.
“What? Why're we stopping?”
Kavanagh indicated the deep chasm in front of them, a sardonic smile twisting his lips.
“That's why,” he said, lowering his hand. “It looks like there used to be a bridge here, but obviously ten thousand years of neglect and seismic shifts haven't been too kind to it. However, it looks like the tunnel continues on at the other side.”
“And how do you propose we get across, Kavanagh?” Rodney snapped, definitely feeling the effects of his hypoglycemia now. Kavanagh sighed exasperatedly and rolled his eyes.
“Damn, who pissed in your cornflakes this morning, McKay? There's a reason we've got wings, you know.”
Rodney ran a shaky hand over his face, his exhaustion getting the better of him. He sat down on the ground and pulled his last powerbar out of its pocket before unwrapping it and eating it. Kavanagh joined him after a minute, arranging his long legs in a loose tailor's seat. They sat there, resting, in silence for some time, each lost in his own thoughts. The sound of water echoed up to them from far below; it was a dull rumble that they could just barely hear.
Eventually Rodney started to feel more like his normal self, so he got to his feet, stretching a bit as he did so. Kavanagh, who had been eating on a powerbar of his own, finished his snack and shoved the wrapper into a pocket. He stood up, joining Rodney on the narrow ledge overlooking the large underground canyon.
“So, flying?” he asked, carefully taking his glasses off and tucking them safely into yet another pocket.
Rodney sighed. “Looks that way. You go first.”
“It was your idea,” Rodney said, crossing his arms over his chest. “Of course, if you're too scared to go, then I'm sure we can find another way around.”
Kavanagh gave him a narrow-eyed glare, an annoyed scowl briefly twisting his lips before he grumbled in defeat and moved up to the edge of the cliff. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and then stepped off, changing in midair as he fell. Rodney watched as Kavanagh rose back into view, noting the various aspects of the computer engineer's current form. As a dragon, Kavanagh was long and lean, much like his human form. His hide was a slate blue-gray, nearly matching the rock surrounding them.
It took Kavanagh the space of a few heartbeats to reach the other side of the cavern, back-winging rapidly in order to be able to land on what remained of the bridge. He scrambled far enough into the tunnel to allow Rodney room to land, his left hind foot just clearing the edge before the remnants of the bridge fell into the chasm below. Kavanagh collapsed in relief on the smooth floor before changing back to human and putting his glasses back on. Two of the crystal lights that had been floating near Rodney all the while zipped over to join Kavanagh, while the remaining two stayed with Rodney.
It was a neat bit of magic, Rodney had to admit, and the thought that maybe he could badger Kavanagh into teaching him it crossed his mind right before Rodney changed into his own dragon form and launched himself off the edge of the cliff, gliding across the cavern before landing neatly on the narrow ledge at the other side. The crystals followed him across, rejoining the others in a small circle in front of Kavanagh, who got to his feet as soon as Rodney changed back to human.
The two men continued on, Rodney noticing that Kavanagh's limp was starting to get worse the longer they continued on. It got even worse when Kavanagh caught his foot in a rough pothole and fell sprawling to the floor with a surprised cry, which turned into a pain-filled yelp when he examined his ankle.
Rodney crouched down next to Kavanagh, looking over the pony-tailed scientist's injury with a critical eye. Kavanagh's ankle didn't look broken, but it was swelling up pretty rapidly.
“Oh, this is just great,” Kavanagh groused, gritting his teeth against the pain. “Just what I wanted to happen.”
“Can't you just do that healing thing you did for me?” Rodney asked, straightening up to his full height once more.
“Not right now, and not for an injury like this,” Kavanagh replied with a shake of his head. “That sort of healing is usually for minor injuries. Besides, I'm not that strong of a healer.”
Rodney sighed exasperatedly. “Okay, then just change to dragon form so you can heal faster. The tunnel's wide enough for both of us to go dragon, if we really wanted to,” he said. “You can still tell where we're going in that form, right?”
Kavanagh shrugged. “It might even be a little easier,” he replied, collecting his lights, turning them off, and then pocketing them, leaving Rodney to pull out a flashlight and turn it on to light the way. “I'll do my best.”
With the familiar shimmer of air, Kavanagh changed back to his dragon form, and Rodney noticed that up this close, Kavanagh resembled the more low-slung Asian dragons than the traditionally bulkier Western European ones. Rodney wondered if it meant anything, but then decided against asking, not wanting to bother with getting into an argument with an injured and probably pissier-than-normal Kavanagh.
Once Kavanagh was up on three of his four feet, he and Rodney went on their way, Rodney taking over the job of marking their route with the chalk, though it was highly unlikely that, should a rescue party follow them all the way to the chasm, they would be able to continue on to the other side without help. Still, it was something to do, and it kept Rodney's mind off the continual state of vague annoyance he always felt in Kavanagh's presence. They walked for what seemed like forever, but was only about twenty more minutes according to Rodney's watch, when their progress was aided by the sight of daylight ahead.
“Oh, thank God,” Kavanagh said, shuffling eagerly towards the exit. Rodney hurried alongside Kavanagh, his hand going to his radio in an effort to contact the rest of his team. No one answered after three tries, so the two scientists continued on, trying to find their bearings in relation to the primary entrance to the cave. They had come out in what looked to be some sort of shallow valley, with low foothills to the south, west, and north. Given that the 'gate had been to the east of the main entrance, they headed that way, though soon the valley petered out in a blind box canyon.
“Damn,” Rodney muttered, trying to figure out what to do next. It soon became apparent that there was only one option: they had to take to the skies. Kavanagh seemed to come to that conclusion at the same time Rodney did; while Rodney changed to his dragon form, Kavanagh scouted around to find a large enough place for them to be able to get airborne.
It didn't take long to find a large enough space for the two Guardians to take off, so they quickly headed up into the sky. Kavanagh, being smaller and lighter than Rodney, climbed upwards a bit faster than his fellow scientist, but soon leveled out some five hundred feet above the ground, Rodney joining him shortly afterward.
They followed the curve of the mountain until they spotted the wind-carved rocks that surrounded the 'gate. It hadn't been really noticeable from the ground, but now that Rodney and Kavanagh had an aerial view, the rocks looked like they were in a tight spiral pattern. Whether that had occurred naturally or if the rocks had been placed like that to deter Wraith Darts, neither one of them knew.
“Down there!” Rodney called, banking when he saw the three familiar forms of the remaining members of SGA-1. They were accompanied by a team who were working on clearing what looked to have been a truly impressive rockfall a little ways into the entrance of the tunnel system. Kavanagh dipped one wing in response to Rodney's announcement and followed Rodney's lead in a slow, lazy spiral that got them ever closer to the ground in careful increments.
There was the sound of surprised shouts when the people working down below spotted the two dragons coming in for a landing. Rodney and Kavanagh landed a hundred feet or so away from the others, Rodney quickly changing back to human form so that he and Kavanagh weren't accidentally shot or stunned. John, Teyla, and Ronon came running up, Carson hurrying along a few feet behind them with his medkit in hand. Kavanagh just watched, seemingly content to stay in dragon form for the time being.
“What happened to you?” John asked Rodney, coming to a halt next to his friend and teammate.
“Well, since the rock fall of doom blocked our way out, we had to find an alternate route back to the surface. It took us a while, but here we are,” Rodney told him as Carson checked him over. “We didn't find anything useful in there.”
“There might've been something in some of the tunnels we didn't go in, McKay,” Kavanagh said, trying to find the most comfortable position for him to lay in. He eventually settled down with a sigh, curling up the best he could without bothering his injured foot any more.
“True,” Rodney agreed. “Well, since we marked our trail, it should be relatively easy to map out the rest of the tunnel system.”
“Yes, well, it'll have to be another team at another time,” Carson said as he finished looking over Kavanagh. “The both of you will be my guests for a few hours, if not longer. Peter, lad, I'll need you to change back to human, though. I don't have enough room in the infirmary for you like this.”
Kavanagh nodded and followed Carson's directions, ending up in a sitting position when he did so. Carson helped him up, bracing the younger man when he swayed dangerously as he came to an upright position. Carson enlisted the help of one of the rescue team members to help get Kavanagh safely back to the 'Gate, as Rodney was able to make it back to the 'gate under his own power. Seeing as they had what they had come for, the joint rescue teams returned to the 'gate, dialing Atlantis and heading back home.
Rodney sat on the infirmary bed Carson had assigned him, typing away on his laptop, since he couldn't be in the labs at the moment. Kavanagh lay drowsing on the bed next to him, taking advantage of the relative quiet of the infirmary. The soft hum of the Ancient technology surrounding them was a welcome ambiance, one that both Kavanagh and Rodney were grateful for. Even though they both thrived in the noisy confines of the science labs, the two men could appreciate a bout of silence every now and them.
The sound of soft snores made Rodney look over to see that Kavanagh was now entirely asleep, his glasses slightly askew on his face as he slumbered. Rodney gave a soft huff of amusement and then returned to his work, glad to be home and safe, even if he had to stay in the company of Kavanagh. Then again, if Kavanagh stayed asleep, it might not be so bad after all.