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Close Call

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The problem with forming a habit depended on whether it was a good habit or a bad one. In this case it was a bad habit of being too engrossed in each other, in debating the merits of one superhero over another instead of paying attention to their seemingly kind and welcoming hosts as they wandered back towards the Stargate, buoyed by a new agreement for some of the Ardani fruit crop in exchange for medical aid. It was like the Genii all over again, with cassock robes whipped off to reveal brown military uniforms hidden beneath, and the sudden production of projectile weapons that were not too dissimilar to weapons from Earth's World War 2.

John had shoved him hard, and Rodney had fallen behind the cover of the trees but even as he fell he saw John jerk as he was struck by at least one bullet, the piece of fruit he'd been enjoying only moments before tumbling from his lax hand.

"John!"

Rodney tried to crawl back to him but bullets kicked up the dirt and splintered off the branches and trunks of the surrounding trees, forcing him to pull back.

"Doctor McKay, you will throw out your weapons and come out with your hands raised... Or I will kill Colonel Sheppard."

Makram, the Ardani headman, aimed his gun and took a single shot that kicked up the dirt barely inches from John's head so Rodney knew he had no choice but to surrender. He thought of other times when they'd been captured, and John's words echoed through him now. 'Do as they say. While we're alive we can find another way out.'

"Or wait to be rescued," he added in a soft murmur, knowing they were already overdue for a check-in and Woolsey would wait only so long before sending in a reconnaissance party. "I'm coming out," he called, un-clipping his P90 and throwing it into the clearing. His hand gun followed.

Raising his hands Rodney stepped out, his attention caught between Makram and the figure lying too still on the ground close to his feet. From the brief glance he could see no obvious bullet wounds... until he noticed a pool of blood spreading from under John's head. His stomach lurched, more terrified by the lifeless body on the blood soaked ground than on the threat of armed men standing before him; he dropped to his knees, desperate.

"John?! Please don't be dead."

Makram shouted some order and moments later Rodney was being dragged back by two of Makram's men but not being he saw the slightest movement and heard the softest groan. John was alive, and Rodney felt sick with relief. As he was half-marched, half-dragged away he glanced back over his shoulder to see two of Makram's men pull John up and half-carry, half-drag him along too. They forced Rodney onto the back of a cart and practically threw John on the cart with him. Rodney scrabbled to catch John and settle him, finally able to check out the head wound. He could see the furrow from a bullet creasing John's left temple. Just a centimeter to the right and he would have lost John forever. Another low groan pulled his attention back and he pulled John up so he was braced against Rodney's chest as one of the Ardani smacked at the yak like creatures pulling the cart. The cart rocked and yawed, finding every bump and pot hole on the rough track leading back to the village, or so it seemed to Rodney.

"Going to be sick," John murmured and Rodney had just enough time to help John angle his head far enough to retch onto the track instead of inside the cart.

Once they reached the village they were manhandled off the cart and back inside the small hut they had shared as guests of the Ardani only the night before. This time guards were posted around the hut, though for all Rodney knew the guards had been there all the previous night to prevent them from slipping away. Fortunately the hut was just as they left it earlier, with fresh water and a bowl of the strange citrus-free fruit they had bartered for the night before. He guessed the deal was off now, which was a shame as the fruit was succulent, a cross between a peach and a pear, but the fruit had now lost its appeal for him anyway. He knew he would forever associate it with the sound of gun fire, and the way John's body had jerked and dropped to the ground seemingly lifeless.

The Ardani hadn't relieved him of everything he carried fortunately so he pulled out the small first aid kit from one of his pockets so he could treat the head wound, checking for any bad signs of something worse than a concussion, like bleeding into his brain.

"Sorry, sorry," he muttered and winced as John hissed with the gentle pressure of an sterile wipe cleaning the wound.

Rodney recalled Carson once saying, 'head wounds bleed like a bitch' after his own head injury at the bottom of the Lantean Ocean in a downed Puddlejumper.

Rodney dressed John's wound carefully before shaking out two painkillers and handing them to John along with a cup of water. He watched as John took them with a grateful smile before settling back against the cushions, eyes half-closed. His face was pale and a little sweaty, and without conscious thought Rodney gently dabbed away the streaks of blood from his face, carefully avoiding the bandaged area. He saw John's eyes fully close and very gently pressed two fingers against John's throat to check his pulse. It was steady and strong despite the head injury, affording Rodney some relief, though he knew he couldn't allow John to sleep too long when he had a concussion.

The next hour passed too slowly and a sound from just outside the hut had Rodney straightening, placing himself between John and the entrance. He sighed in relief when the door flew open and framed within it was the familiar stocky build of Major Lorne. A Puddlejumper stood uncloaked in the center of the village and none of the Ardani moved as John was swiftly moved on-board with Rodney.

Hours later Rodney sneaked into the infirmary and stood over John's bed, watching him sleep.

"I thought I'd lost you," Rodney confessed softly, only noticing he was wringing his hands when John laid his hand on them to still the movement.

John opened his eyes fully and beckoned Rodney closer as if he planned to whisper something, only to gently turn Rodney's face to kiss him softly on the lips.

"I thought you'd lost me too," he confessed.

END