Author: Ami Ven
Word Count: 700
Prompt: mcsheplets challenge 100 ‘how far we’ve come’
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Pairing(s): John Sheppard/Rodney McKay
Summary: When Rodney hit the rough dirt floor of their cell, he just lay there.
No Going Back
When Rodney hit the rough dirt floor of their cell, he just lay there, listening as the guards locked the door and walked away. He ached all over, but other than a split lip and what he was sure was an impressive collection of bruises, he didn’t think he was actually injured.
“Rodney?” said a voice, either softly or far away or both, and he ignored it.
He stared up at the ceiling – it was barely taller than they were, made of straw secured over wooden beams. Thatched, Rodney thought absently, like a charming country cottage. The planet was at a vaguely medieval level of technology, but it didn’t look like their Renaissance was anywhere in sight.
There was a scuffling noise from somewhere beyond Rodney’s line of sight, and he ignored that, too.
He wasn’t even sure why they’d been arrested. The locals had seemed friendly to Lorne’s team, generally disinterested in their technology and willing to let more of them come to explore the ruins of an Ancient outpost in their woods. But they’d apparently changed their minds sometime between when Rodney’s team had arrived that morning and when they’d left the outpost a few hours later.
“Rodney,” said the voice again, much closer this time. A hand brushed his knee, then two were running frantically over his body, “Rodney! Rodney, wake up, please…”
Unruly dark hair entered Rodney’s field of vision, just as a hand pressed hard against a particularly tender bruise and he yelped, “Sheppard!”
Rodney struggled to sit up, only just catching John by the collar of his t-shirt before the colonel pitched sideways.
“Sheppard,” he repeated. “What the hell are you doing! You’re supposed to stay still.”
“I thought you were dead!” John protested. He put a hand to his ribs, wincing. “They threw you in here and you weren’t moving!”
“Just savoring the afterglow,” Rodney drawled, and John snorted a laugh.
“Are you okay?” he asked, resting his other hand on Rodney’s knee.
“We’ve been captured by the Brute Squad and every inch of me hurts, of course I’m not okay,” Rodney snapped. “But I’m definitely doing better than you, Colonel Punching Bag.”
“In my defense,” said John, allowing Rodney to ease him back down to lie on the dirt floor, “I was only testing their patience and command structure. Turns out, not much of either.”
Rodney settled John’s head in his lap, running gentle fingers through his hair. “And you had to find this out by letting them kick your ass?”
The colonel frowned up at him. “It’s my job to protect you, McKay.”
“Of course it’s not. We’re partners, Sheppard, and that goes for everything. I get to protect you just as much as you protect me.”
“I like when you protect me,” said John, eyes closed. “You didn’t used to.”
“I—” Rodney began, but they were apparently being honest, now. “No, I didn’t.”
“Remember how you used to tell the Marines they were supposed to die for you?”
“That was before any of them did,” said Rodney. “I didn’t – it doesn’t make you feel important, someone making a decision like that. It makes you feel… undeserving.”
John caught his free hand. “How do you feel when I try, then?”
“Annoyed,” said Rodney. “You’re not supposed to be leaving me behind anymore. If you’re gonna die doing something stupidly heroic, we both will.”
“I’ll try to remember that.” They smiled at each other for a moment, then John added, “They got us right before we were due to check in. Someone will be here soon.”
“I know,” said Rodney. “That’s something else that’s changed – I’m not afraid of dying anymore. I mean, I’m not quite as readily suicidal as you are, but…”
“Hey,” John protested, and Rodney kissed him, ignoring the sting of his split lip.
“I don’t miss that guy at all,” Rodney said, when they broke for air, both wincing as their bruises shifted. “The old me.”
“No?” John allowed Rodney to reposition them against the wall, careful of their collective injuries.
“He didn’t get to make out with you,” said Rodney, and they were still kissing when Lorne’s team broke down the door of the jail barn.