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beth writing 30 days without

FIC SGA: The Dark Side of Any Moon is a Cold and Lonely Place, 1/1, PG

Title: The Dark Side of Any Moon is a Cold and Lonely Place
Author: maddie_amber(this will be stripped out until the reveals)
Genre:Angst
Prompt The dark side of the moon was especially cold at night
Word Count:7150
Rating:K+
Warnings:None
Summary:It was a simple mission - medical care in return for a source of high-grade naquada. But as Jennifer well knew, no mission labeled “routine” or “simple” stayed that way. A village decimated by an unknown and deadly enemy, and a blinding snowstorm quickly change “simple” into treacherous
Notes: Okay, this didn’t start out to be a Jennifer story but I don’t always have a lot of control over things like that. Sometimes the characters just have their own opinions about who should take the lead. And it seems the only part of the prompt I used was "cold." Some Rodney whump here.





The Dark Side of Any Moon is a Cold and Lonely Place

Falling ass over teacup seemed a ridiculous and wholly inadequate description of what happened. Of course that thought didn’t occur to him until much later. Cold, gut wrenching, out of control terror more accurately described his initial reaction. Blinded by snow and totally disoriented as he tumbled head over heels was the truth of the matter. That is until he came to an abrupt and excruciatingly painful stop. The full force of his weight and the inertia of his downward momentum impacting squarely on his right shoulder ended his downward fall. The sick, wet, popping sound that immediately preceded the pain would stick in his memory for a long time. Almost as long as the memory of the fiery agony that exploded from his shoulder to consume him, knotting his stomach in a nauseating wave. Drawing a deep gulp of frigid air and snow, he whimpered as the movement sent shock waves through him.

He lay perfectly still, trying not to breathe, or worse yet, shudder, knowing that any movement of any part of his body would result in another wave of pain. In the distance he could hear voices muted by the heavy snow. Opening his eyes, he felt a moment of panic. He was surrounded by unrelenting white. There was no sky, no trees, just snow. He blinked several times then realized his face was icy cold. Cautiously he raised his uninjured arm and brushed at his face.

“Rodney!”

He could hear them calling. Their voices less muted now.

“Dr. McKay!”

He wanted to answer, but his breath caught in his throat. There was a dull ache across his side that he hadn’t noticed for the throbbing of his shoulder.

Unable to speak he raised his good hand and attempted to wave. Maybe they would see him. Even that small movement brought waves of pain

“Rodney”. It was Teyla, closer now than she had been. Seconds later he felt her fingers curl around his outstretched arm. She slid to a stop in the snowdrift next to him and he could see her through the swirling wind driven gouts of snow.

“Dr. Keller,” Teyla shouted. “Here. Follow my voice.” Then she turned her attention to him. “Rodney, are you hurt?”

McKay felt his mouth open and close but no sound would emerge. Slowly he nodded once.

“Shoulder…” his voice trembled and he fought to keep from moving.

Hours later, actually his brain knew it was just minutes, he felt Dr. Keller next to him. She was asking him something and he fought through the haze of pain to focus on her words.

“Tell me exactly where it hurts Rodney. Dr. McKay,” her voice became stern as she waited for his response.

“Shoulder…right…but it feels like everything.”

“Dr. Keller,” said Teyla, her voice taut with need to move. “We need to keep going. This place is not safe.”

“I’m not moving him until I know what injuries he’s sustained.” Keller’s voice was also tense. “I know, Teyla, just give me a moment or two.”

Rodney felt hands fumbling with his jacket, felt the cold blast of frigid air as the zipper slid down. Her cool hand slid across his seemingly overheated skin. He yelped as she probed his shoulder. Don’t be a baby, he mentally scolded himself.

“Can you tell…?” Teyla had raised her voice to be heard above the howling of the wind. She didn’t finish her question.

Rodney managed to focus on the vicinity of Jennifer’s head enough to see her shake it in the negative.

“Not for sure. Not without X-rays and an MRI.” Jennifer, too, needed to shout to be heard over the storm.

“Dislocated?”

Jennifer snorted, “That would be relatively easy to fix. Judging from the angle of displacement of his collar bone, I’m betting he separated his shoulder. “

“Separated? “

“He tore the ligaments that hold the shoulder joint together and separated the collar bone from the scapula, the shoulder blade. Not good. And no easy fix.”

“Can he travel?”

“If I can stabilize the arm and control the pain, I think so, but I can’t do that sitting out in a raging blizzard. We need to find shelter. “

“There was a stand of pines back the way we came. Perhaps we can find some protection from the storm. But we will not be safe there for very long.”

“Do you really think anything is going to try to track us in this?”

“I am told the Mri are very good trackers.” Rodney could hear a rare touch of sarcasm in Teyla’s voice. “Wait here a moment. I will see what I can find.”

“Not goin’ anywhere,” Rodney mumbled then realized how stupid he sounded. He felt Jennifer gently turn his arm. He yelped again as she tucked his hand into the unzipped front of his jacket.

“That will have to do until I can get a sling on it. Come on Rodney. You have to get to your feet.”

Rodney wanted to obey. He even tried. But it seemed like every part of his body was connected to his shoulder and no matter what he moved bolts of pain shot through him. God, it hurt if he wiggled his toes, much less stood up.

“Come on Rodney. You have to help. I can’t pick you up on my own”.

McKay struggled to a sitting position, his head spinning and his stomach threatening to empty its contents. He felt Teyla’s presence before he heard her speak.

“I’ve found shelter. At least from the weather. I think we can ride this storm out there.”

He felt her gently encircle his waist with her arm. He didn’t remember getting to his feet, but there he was. Dragging his leaden legs through the thigh deep snow was almost more than he could bear, but with Teyla and Jennifer urging him on, he put one foot in front of the other. Once he was on his feet the fire of pain in his side ignited. Struggling to suck air into his lungs made his chest scream. He could barely take in enough air to keep his head clear.

He remembered to drag one foot in front of the other, but he must have blacked out, because he woke up in a dark place the heavy scent of pine filling his nostrils. The snow was gone, but he was so cold. He felt his body begin to tremble. God no! Don’t shiver. The involuntary quaking of his body sent waves of pain radiating from his shoulder and side to the tips of his toes. Then there was a flare of light. A fire!? He gasped, grabbing at the hands working at his clothes.

“Relax,” Jennifer urged. Her voice was gentle but demanding. “Just relax Rodney. Let me look at that arm.”

“Do you need my help?” Teyla asked. McKay turned his head to see her methodically feeding small sticks and twigs to her fledgling fire.

“He’s probably going to require surgery to repair the damage to his shoulder. All I can do his is control the pain and immobilize his arm. He’s not going to be able to use it.” He heard Jennifer sigh, her next rhetorical comment was directed to no one in particular. “This mission was supposed to be so simple.”

+ + +

“It’s really simple,” Rodney had been explaining several hours earlier, as they trudged along the narrow path leading to the Nasca village.

“If you happen to be a theoretical physicist,” Jennifer retorted.

The Stargate was three point five kilometers below the mountain top perch of the village. The Nasca people were a particularly superstitious clan, and previous exploratory teams had found them more responsive if technological intrusion was kept to a minimum, so they found themselves making the long trek up the mountain path to minimize the impact of their visit. The unexpected depth of the snow along their route had made travel difficult and they were not progressing as quickly as they had hoped.

She and Rodney had been engaged in a lively discussion about the probability of time travel, more to pass the time as they made the long trek towards the high mountain village, than because she had a burning desire to learn about time travel. In his enthusiasm, Rodney had launched into a lengthy description of the mathematical model he had been ‘testing’ using the computers on Atlantis. He had lost her after equation two, not because she was deficient in math, she had just never learned to think creatively in mathematical equations. Working problems in the classroom had never been difficult for her she just never took it any farther than textbook calculations.

Teyla, leading the way, constantly scanned the terrain for potential danger and the increasingly leaden sky for weather. Still listening casually to the conversation, she had occasionally interjected a question, more often than not about the ethical and moral ramifications of time travel in general. Jennifer assumed that Teyla was more disinterested in the calculations than she was.

Although their mission briefing had described their objective as ‘routine’ Jennifer knew that on Atlantis ‘routine’ usually meant you could almost complete your assigned task before disaster struck. On this routine mission they were to engage the Nasca people and in return for medical attention for their children, they were to be given access to a fairly rich deposit of naqueda on an ‘as need’ basis. She knew that naqueda generators were no substitute for a fully charged ZPM, but if you had enough of them, you could run many of the essential basic systems on Atlantis. Rodney was to collect samples for analysis while she tended to the children and they would depart.

Despite the ‘routine’ categorization of their task, Jennifer could not shake a nagging sense of urgency. Perhaps it was the overburdened sky. Or some intangible something that made her skin crawl with anticipation like the prickles of nerves she used to get before a major exam in medical school. No matter how thoroughly she knew the material, she still got the last minute jitters.

“You really aren’t listening are you?”

The question startled Jennifer and she felt herself start to blush. “I really was, Dr. McKay. At least until you started the mathematical proof part.”

McKay gave her a disparaging look. Jennifer wasn’t sure if he was disappointed in her lack of interest in his theories, or if he thought she wasn’t bright enough to follow. At first she was somewhat annoyed by his assumption, then reminded herself that this was Rodney McKay, overlord of all things science outside of Medical, whose caustic defense of his pet projects frequently had his own people cowering.

She just looked him in the eye and replied, “About the same way you would lose interest if I went into a lengthy and graphic description of most surgical procedures, like say, amputating a limb.”

McKay blanched slightly, and Jennifer knew she had hit the appropriate nerve. For all his gruff and sometimes overbearing behavior in his own labs, his squeamishness about most things medical was well known.

As quickly as he had begun the discussion he dropped it. McKay directed his next question at Teyla. “So, tell me again why we are walking up this mountain instead of having Sheppard land us in the middle of the village.”

Teyla glanced over her shoulder. “Had you not been late for the briefing Rodney—“

“I was at a critical juncture in my research.”

Teyla nodded knowingly. “Had you not been late, you would have heard Major Lorne’s recommendation to minimize the use of ancient technology particularly of the jumpers. Flying machines apparently are viewed with a great deal of distrust by the Nasca people.”

“Understandable,” added Jennifer, “since most cullings involve the use of airborne craft.”

“And, since the Nasca are a matriarchal society,” Teyla continued, “it was thought best to limit the number of males in the away team.” Teyla scanned the sky again.

“So Colonel Sheppard and Ronon are waiting at the Stargate for us,” Jennifer finished the thought again.

They continued to trudge along in silence. The upward slope of the path had increased dramatically in the last half kilometer, and Jennifer found herself more winded than she wanted to admit. She was definitely not in top form. “At the risk of sounding like the kid in the back seat,” Jennifer said, “Are we there yet?”

Teyla looked over her shoulder. “Soon.”

There was a cautious tension in the Athosian’s eyes, and although nothing in her tone betrayed concern, Jennifer felt a renewed prickle of anxiety. Did Teyla sense something the rest of them did not? Wraith perhaps?

After a few more minutes of silence, Teyla raised her hand and they abruptly stopped. They had rounded a curve in the path and were looking down into a small valley nestled in the craggy peaks - an idyllic location for a small mountain village, except that this village was anything but idyllic and Jennifer suddenly knew what had Teyla so on edge. The smell of smoke from the smoldering fires was just a hint in the air. The prevalent air currents from the cliffs overhead had funneled most of the smoke away from their present location. Something or someone had devastated the village. Bodies were evident in public spaces, houses had been gutted and burned, a few stray goats wandered aimlessly amidst the destruction but otherwise there appeared to be no life.

Jennifer heard Rodney’s sharp intake of breath behind her. “What the…”

He didn’t finish his sentence but Jennifer mentally filled in the blank. She looked at Teyla whose face was a grim mask. “We need to see if anyone is still alive.”

“We need to be cautious in case they are still present.” Teyla responded. “This could be a trap.”

“Wraith?” Rodney asked. He was fumbling to pull something from his backpack.

“I do not sense the presence of the Wraith,” Teyla answered flatly. “Someone else is responsible for this.”

Jennifer heard a soft bleep and realized Rodney had activated his Life Form Detector and was scanning the surrounding area for signs of those responsible for the carnage beneath them. His face was grim as he studied the readout. Then his face brightened slightly.

“I’m picking up one life sign. Very faint.” He nodded towards the village.

Without thinking of the potential danger, Jennifer was two steps ahead of her companions when she felt Teyla’s iron grip on her arm. She turned and Teyla nodded sternly.

“I will go first. And make sure the way is safe.”

“But,” Jennifer protested, “Rodney said he didn’t detect any other life signs.”

“Booby traps do not leave life signs,” Teyla said.

From past experience, Jennifer knew Teyla would accept no argument on the matter. Reluctantly she fell in step behind Teyla. When they reached the outermost wall Teyla slowed. Carefully she picked her way through the litter that choked the narrow cobbled roadway. Bodies lay twisted, blank eyes staring in death, mouths silently agape. There where people of all ages, men and women. No one had been spared. The only sound beyond the plaintive bleating of the wandering goats was their own breathing, the crunch of their boots on the frozen ground and Rodney’s occasional comment as he directed them towards the single faint life sign. Jennifer had dared to tear her eyes from the dead long enough to glance at McKay. His face was pale, his mouth a taut, grim line, as he kept his eyes focused on the instrument in his hand.

“Straight ahead,” he said, nodding towards the building fifteen feet in front of them. “Whoever it is, they’re straight ahead.”

Teyla held her hand up signaling them to halt. “You remain here until I tell you it is safe.”

Jennifer watched as Teyla carefully picked her way through the broken remains of crushed lives that separated them from their goal. She mentally willed her to move faster, but knew Teyla would not put their lives at risk. She disappeared inside the building, then moments later came out of the door and signaled to them.

“Follow in my footsteps.”

Jennifer resisted the urge to rush forward and cautiously stepped where the Athosian had left clear footprints. The snow had begun to fall more heavily, quickly filling those footsteps. She could hear Rodney's breathing as he followed behind her. What they found was barely enough to be called human. Beneath the blood and filth Jennifer could tell that it was a middle aged woman, but she had been brutally attacked. Both of her arms had been hacked almost completely through, half her scalp was gone, and through the rents in her clothing Jennifer caught the distinctive odor of bowel. She did not need to look to know the woman had most likely been eviscerated.

Jennifer fought the bile rising in her throat. She had seen death, more than a doctor should but this level of brutality was beyond her scope of imagination. Without hesitation and with all the clinical detachment she could muster, Jennifer began to triage the woman's injuries. She felt the woman's glazed eyes clear and focus on her face, felt their power bore into her.

“What is your name?” Teyla asked gently.

Jennifer looked at Teyla questioningly. Can’t that wait, she thought. Working feverishly, Jennifer began to prepare an IV drip so she could stabilize the woman's vitals as quickly as possible.

Teyla must have sensed her silent question. “There are certain rituals among my people for which a name is needed,” she said softly. Resting her hand ever so softly on the woman's shoulder Teyla waited until the woman looked at her.

“Adrian.”

Teyla nodded. “We are going to do our best to help you, Adrian.”

“There is no help.” Her back arched as a spasm of pain gripped her, but she did not make a sound. “They will return. You must go.”

“Who?” Teyla asked in the same quiet voice she had used to ask Adrian's name.

Jennifer knew it was not the Wraith who had destroyed this village. The Wraith did not inflict such brutal wounds. They just left withered husks where living, breathing people had once been.

“Mri.” The word was a rasping breath escaping from Adrian's lips. “From the south. They come only to plunder. Violence for the sake of violence is all they understand.” She struggled to gasp out her words of warning. “You must go. Run from this place.” She took a shuddering breath. “Only death lives here now. Go before you also leave the realm of the living.” The woman’s eyes rolled back in her head even as Jennifer was making the final connections for the IV drip. Her body contorted in one final paroxysm of pain and then she lay still.

Jennifer felt an overwhelming rush of helplessness as Adrian's life slipped from her grasp. It had taken only minutes. She rested back on her heels, IV tubing still clutched in her hands. Teyla reached out and calmly closed the woman's eyes, mutter a soft prayer of which Jennifer heard only “Adrian.”

“I think we have company.” Rodney's tense voice brought Jennifer back to the present. In her haste to help Adrian, she'd forgotten Rodney was there in the background. For his part, he had stayed as far away from the scene as he could, and this time Jennifer did not begrudge him his squeamishness. “Multiple life readings on the other side of the village. Human readings.”

Jennifer could here the fear in his voice.

“Perhaps it is time to contact Colonel Sheppard.” Teyla said. “There is no longer a need for him to remain out of sight at a distance.”

“Don’t you think I’ve been trying?” This time Rodney’s voice rose, more than a touch of panic in his tone. “I haven’t been able to make contact.”

“Do you know why?” Teyla asked as she helped Jennifer collect the last of her gear.

“A combination of things. We’re in a valley surrounded by mountains, filled with heavy metals that dampen communications signals. Like being inside a lead box. The weather isn’t helping either.” He adjusted his life signs detector. “We need to move now! If these are the same people that destroyed this village, we don’t want to be here when they arrive.”

Teyla was already at the door, quickly surveying the immediate area. “How quickly are they moving?”

“They are fanning out, moving slowly. Looking for survivors or looting. I don’t know. But they are coming this way.”

The snow had increased in intensity, a solid cloak that enveloped everything. Jennifer could barely see two feet in front of her and feared she would loose Teyla in the obliterating white.

“We’re going to leave tracks they can follow.” Rodney spoke in a stage whisper as though afraid to raise his voice.

“Yes,” Teyla agreed. “Let us hope the snow covers them before the Mri, if that is who they are, find us. We only need to get to the top of the rise to communicate with the Jumper. Am I correct, Rodney?”

“I hope so,” Rodney responded. “I can’t be sure with this weather. Even if we do reach them, I’m not sure even Sheppard could fly in this.”

“We will just have to hope he can.”

Despite Teyla’s words, Jennifer was pretty sure he would not be able to navigate in weather this heavy. Her father had a private pilot’s license and she learned at an early age that no one watches the weather like a pilot. Meteorological vagaries and inconsistencies were the bane of every pilot’s life. Sheppard would not fly in this. He could not fly in it. And if he did he was crazier than she sometimes thought he was. She did not voice her thoughts, but she knew they would have to make their way to the Stargate on foot. The best they could hope for was that Sheppard and Ronon would be able to offer protective fire on the final leg of the journey, if they needed it.

In silence they continued to toil up path that had led them into the village. Even in the worst winter she had ever experienced Jennifer could not remember snow piling up this quickly. The path was rapidly filling. She hoped enough to cover their tracks, but they were blindly stumbling forward.

“Oh, crap,” Rodney said. He voice was muffled by the engulfing snow. “Whoever they are, they’ve reached the building where the woman was.”

“Are you sure?” Teyla asked. “How can you know the readings are correct when the radios cannot work here?”

“Line of sight,” Rodney answered plainly. “There is still nothing between us and the village except snow. Not until we top the crest of the path wherever that is.”

“It is not much farther.” Teyla continued to plow forward. The snow deepened as they climbed. It was past Jennifer’s knees. The storm must have come over the mountain, starting to accumulate behind them as they had walked towards the village earlier today. Now they were walking back into the full force of the squalls enveloping the mountain peak.

“Stay as close as you can,” Teyla called back to them. “”We are coming to the narrowest part of the path. There is a steep drop to the left.”

“Oh, God, no,” Rodney blurted.

“What?” Jennifer half turned toward him.

“They’re starting up the path. We have to move faster.”

“Teyla,” Jennifer said sharply.

“It is difficult to move faster in this snow.”

Jennifer knew that snow was a rarity on Teyla’s home world and the Athosian woman must be struggling despite her excellent physical condition. “Do you want me to lead? Break trail for a while so you can rest.” The path was very narrow near the top of the incline they were climbing. Jennifer saw Teyla turn towards her as if to speak, the saw her eyes grow wide with alarm. Jennifer turned quickly expecting to see their pursuers. And instead she saw no one. It took a moment for her to realize that Rodney was no where to be seen. He had been a couple steps behind her. “Rodney?” she called in a low voice, afraid to attract the Mri if she shouted too loudly.

“He’s fallen over the edge,” Teyla said as she came to Jennifer’s side. “I turned just as he slipped.”

“Oh, my God! How are we going to get down? We can’t see.” Jennifer felt a rush of panic. They had to find Rodney.

“The path here was narrow, and the slope was steep, but not a sheer drop.” Teyla answered. “We can still see where he fell, and hopefully can follow the trail he left. But we must move a quickly as possible before the snow obscures that trail.”

Stepping carefully into the deep snow, Teyla leaned backward, counterbalancing the angle of the ground with the angle of her body. Jennifer struggled to follow, the weight of her pack causing her to lean back more acutely.

“Rodney!” Teyla called out into the white.

“If he’s unconscious he won’t answer, but the Mri might here,” Jennifer cautioned.

“It is a risk we must take,” Teyla’s voice sounded grim.

They descended more quickly than Jennifer had expected. But where was Rodney? Snow still swirled madly around them, obscuring everything. Then she saw it, a dark object against the whiteness. She reached out to nudge the Athosian woman, but Teyla had seen it too and increased her pace. Jennifer felt as though she was careening down the side of the mountain. She would have given just about anything for a pair of skis
Moments later she heard Teyla call to her and within second she was at Rodney’s side. He was in pain but awake.

* * * *

Teyla’s worked to feed the fire as Jennifer settled Rodney as well as she was able on the cold ground.

It was amazing how quickly the small fire warmed the enclosed space. Teyla had found a large pine whose lower branches, overburdened with snow, had drooped low to touch the ground. There was just enough space underneath to provide shelter for all three of them. The snow, which had become such a nemesis, had built up on the branches and the surrounding ground, effectively sealing the small interior space, keeping out the worst of the weather. Like an igloo, Jennifer thought.

She sat next to Rodney monitoring his vital signs until she assured herself he was stable and the pain was manageable. She did not like how he labored to breath. Keeping him warm was paramount. Even as she was forming the thought she felt Rodney stiffen. His eyes flew open, a startled look on his face and he gasped sharply.

“Rodney?”

“Chest…my chest hurts.” Rodney breathed in short shallow gasps.

“Does it get worse when you breathe in and out?”

Rodney shook his head negatively. “It just hurts.”

Jennifer had her stethoscope out and was listening to his breathing. “Damn…” she muttered.

“What is wrong?” Teyla had moved closer to Rodney’s side.

“Pneumothorax.” Jennifer answered.

“Pneumothorax?”

“Collapsed lung. From blunt force trauma.’

“What must we do?”

Jennifer shook her head. “Not much I can do here. Without an x-ray I can’t tell how acute the condition is. We need to keep him still. We’ve probably already done enough damage by moving him here. Any additional exertion could aggravate the situation if his ribs are broken, and not just cracked.” As she spoke she administered a pain killer that would alleviate most of the discomfort and help him to relax.

“It will be dark soon,” Teyla said, interrupting Jennifer’s thoughts.

“Can we reach the Stargate in the dark?” Jennifer asked.

“It would make a dangerous journey, treacherous.” Teyla seemed to be considering their options. “It would also provide cover from pursuers. But the combination of snow and darkness…” Teyla shook her head negatively without completing the thought. “Will Rodney be alright?”

“Until morning? Yes, he’s stable. His injury isn’t life threatening as it stands, just very painful. As long as we keep him still he should be okay. But I don’t know if he will be able to travel through this snow in the morning either.”

“It will become colder after the sun goes down,” Teyla said.

“Colder than a well digger’s boot,” Rodney said then giggled.

Teyla frowned quizzically.

“It’s the painkillers,” Jennifer explained.

“We all know Rodney doesn’t handle drugs well,” Teyla said with a small, reassuring smile.

“Still colder than a well digger’s boot,” Rodney continued unfazed.

“An old earth saying,” Jennifer said, “It’s colder than a well digger’s boot on the dark side of the moon.”

Teyla raised one eyebrow.

“I guess it makes sense when you’re loaded with painkillers.”

Teyla nodded and Jennifer saw her expression change from concern to determination. “I think you can remain warm as long as you have some wood to burn.” Teyla began gathering her P90, placed her sidearm in Jennifer’s cold fingers and shouldered her pack as she spoke.

“Whoa,” objected Jennifer reaching out and grabbing Teyla’s arm. “You’re not thinking of going back out into this storm. Not in the dark.”

“I think it would be best if one of us continued on to the gate.”

“But if you go you leave us with no protection.” Jennifer felt a swell of panic building in her chest as she thought of Adrian, brutalized and left for dead.

“Even if I stay, we do not have enough firepower to defend ourselves should the Mri truly be in pursuit. The sooner we reach Colonel Sheppard, the sooner we get Rodney to safety.”

It was difficult to argue with Teyla’s logic.

“We should stay together,” Jennifer added weakly. First rule of planetary exploration, don’t lose the rest of the team.

“I agree,” Teyla said, standing as best she could in the confined space. “But Dr. McKay is injured. You said he should remain still. Even if we tried to take him with us he would slow our progress. I can travel more quickly alone. We should be able to remain in radio contact until I top the crest and start down the other side. If it is too difficult I will return here and wait until morning. The jumper can’t be more than two kilometers away. With luck we will be back long before daybreak.”

With those final words, Teyla slipped out into the darkness. Jennifer stared at the branches still quivering in her wake. Oh, my God, she thought. Her heart pounded and she fought to quell her fear. You can do this, she said to her self, repeating it like a mantra. You can do this because Rodney needs you to do this. And if you don’t being him back alive, no-one on Atlantis will ever put their life in your hands again. She admitted, in her heart, that she was terrified of the Mri. The image of Adrian was burned into her brain. She had no intention of ending up the same. A soft groan from Rodney snapped her back to the reality of the problem at hand.

“Yes, Rodney, I’m here.”

“Cold,” he murmured, his speech slurred by painkillers.

“I know,” she said softly. She rummaged through her medical bag and found two mylar blankets. She tucked one blanket in around Rodney, and then she fed more wood into Teyla’s fire. Just enough for warmth, not enough to burn down their shelter or smoke them out of its embrace. Just the right amount. When she had it burning she sat down beside Rodney, pulling the second blanket around her self. Resting her leg against his good shoulder, she leaned against the trunk of the tree to await Teyla’s return. This way she hoped she would be able to stay awake, and would be aware of any movement Rodney made. “Be safe,” she muttered, thinking of Teyla struggling through the blizzard.

* * * *

Huddled against the trunk of the tree, pistol gripped tightly in one hand, Jennifer listened to the howl of the wind outside. Rodney had finally succumbed to the drugs and slipped into a restless sleep. It was the best thing for him right now. Their shelter was comfortable if not balmy and as long as she stayed wrapped in the mylar blanket she was warm. She hoped the snow was thick enough over their shelter to block any light from her tiny fire from shining through the branches and provide a beacon for their pursuers - if there were pursuers. She had convinced herself that there would be no Mri hunting them. Why should they, unless they hunted purely for the sake of hunting? She shivered, not from the cold. Alone in the silence, she found her thoughts returning to the ruined village, to the destroyers who so callously ended innocent lives, to resources wasted, opportunities missed, and her own close encounter with savagery. It would be many months before her thoughts were not haunted by the devastated image of Adrian and her people.

Deeply absorbed in thought, she barely noticed the slowly diminishing force of the wind, but some time after Teyla left a hushed and eerie silence settled over them as though the world were muffled by the depth of snow covering it. Jennifer swore she could hear the mice breathe in the deathly silence, assuming this planet had mice. She did hear Rodney's breathing, slightly labored even as he slept but he remained stable. He stirred occasionally, muttering then settling into a deeper sleep. Jennifer had not heard from Teyla and could only assume that her radio was still not functional. Time crawled and checking her watch repeatedly only attenuated the slow passage of time. Thirty minutes passed then an hour and two. Teyla should have reached the gate by now. She hoped Teyla had reached the gate by now.

She forced herself not to look at her watch again. It did no good. Teyla would come when she came. Jennifer shifted, trying to ease the tension that tightened her shoulders. She had been sitting huddled against the tree long enough that her legs had begun to tingle from lack of circulation. She needed to move. What harm would it do, she thought, if she stepped outside? She might leave tracks the Mri could follow to their hiding place, but if there were no Mri in pursuit, it would not matter.

Slowly she rolled her body so she was on her knees next to Rodney. He continued to sleep. Placing her fingers against his throat, she found a strong steady pulse, his slightly labored breathing the only sign that anything was amiss. He would be alright if she stepped out of the shelter for a few moments, and she might be able to see some sign of Teyla, John and Ronon. Adding her blanket to his, she made sure the edges were tucked in so he would stay warm. He had lost his headset when he fell down the slope, so she had no way of listening to him while she was out of sight, but she would not go far enough to be out of shouting range.

Carefully, she pushed her hand trough the snow covered branches in the place where Teyla had exited. The snow was surprisingly light and it took little effort to create an opening she could pass her body through. The night had completely transformed from the raging whiteness to crystal clarity. The storm had passed, leaving the sky clear, the moonlight, bright enough to see without needing a flashlight, cast sharp shadows from the trees around her. It was breathlessly quiet. Jennifer walked a short distance from their shelter, straining her ears to catch the slightest sound. She had convinced herself that she was completely alone when she heard the first branch crack. Freezing in her tracks she waited. Had she imagined the sound? She heard it again, audible only because of the deathly silence and her hyper sensitivity to sound. This time the sound came from her right.

She tightened her grip on the pistol and crouched low. What had she done? Had she lead the Mri right to their hiding place? Is that who it really was, or was she hearing the approach of her rescuers. The sounds were closer now and from more than one source. Her heart was pounding and despite the cold, sweat slicked her palms. Tightening her hold on the pistol she held it two handed as she had been taught, but her arms were quivering so badly she doubted she could shoot. And what if she shot at her own people? Positively identify your target, she told herself. Be calm and logical, just like in surgery. But this was not surgery. Then she thought of Rodney. She had left him alone and helpless. If he woke up and made any noise it would travel through the still night like fire through dry straw. If this was the Mri and they found him, would they show any mercy? No, was her firm answer. In her mind she had two options. Return to Rodney, hope they didn't follow and hope she could defend them both if they did, or move away from him and pray, if it was the Mri, they did follow her.

It took only seconds to make the decision. She began to move away from the sheltering pines, back toward the open slope Rodney had tumbled down. Whether she was being followed by the Mri or the team from Atlantis, that was not a bad place to be found. Moving through the thigh deep snow proved more difficult than she had expected. Although the last layers of snow had been light, the under layers were packed and difficult to traverse.

Each time she glanced over her shoulder, she saw nothing, and the only sound she heard was her own breathing. Each time she saw nothing she grew more convinced she was alone and running from shadows. Surely, if the Mri were as formidable she had feared, they would have easily overtaken her once they discovered the trail she had made no effort to cover. She had to be in the clear, she reasoned, if there had ever been anything to be clear of. The shadow that planted itself in front of her had moved with the stealth of a ghost. Jennifer was on top of him before she was aware of his presence and a startled yelp escaped her seconds before an iron hand locked around her wrist knocking the pistol free of her hand.

The rest happened so quickly she barely had time to think or react. Her perception of her adversary was a series of blurred impressions, a fiercely painted face, corded muscles on arms thicker than Ronon's, shimmering trinkets braided into a thick rope of hair, the scent of smoke and rancid oil and the metallic tang of blood caked on a fur robe thrown over one shoulder. Jennifer pulled against the hand holding her wrist, twisting as Ronon had tried to teach her, to again any advantage, but her captor was too heavy and her efforts proved futile. She jammed an elbow into his ribcage and attempted to bring her knee up, but the deep hampering snow absorbed any force she might have mustered making the move ineffectual. Within seconds she was on her knees and both wrists were circled by one large hand. In the other, Jennifer saw the wickedly curved blade of a sword, the moonlight casting the weapon in a ghostly blue light. She looked into the face of her adversary, a grin curving his lips upward, exposing his teeth in a gesture that was as much snarl as smile. The sword rose slowly until it hovered in the air over her head. One swift blow and she would be dead, unless he chose to make her die more slowly.

Jennifer was certain the sound of her nervous giggle surprised her would be attacker as much as it surprised her. He could not know what caused her response. He could not see the bright red dot centered in the middle of his forehead, precisely between his eyes. How could he know that behind the bright spot of light was a targeting laser, attached to a P90. He never would know. For a split second the downward motion of his arm stopped then as his sword arced downward toward her upturned face, the bright red dot became a crudely defined hole and he fell backwards as she dove to one side to avoid the now lifeless arm that dropped towards her.

Moments later hands were pulling her out of the snow. Teyla was before her asking if she was alright while Sheppard, Ronon and a half dozen marines scanned the area around her for any additional enemy warriors.

"Rodney," Jennifer gasped, sucking in the cold air, realizing she'd been holding her breath. "I'm alright, but we need to go back and get Rodney."

"Dr. McKay is fine," Teyla assured her in a voice Jennifer called her 'soothing the hostiles' voice. "We have him. He is in good hands. He will be onboard the jumper in a few minutes. We were concerned when you were not with him."

"Are there more of them?" Jennifer pointed to the dead hulk now lying face up, the snow quickly darkening with his blood.

"We observed several others in the area," Teyla answered, "but they were moving away from where I'd left you and Rodney. We had to move cautiously to avoid them or we would have arrived sooner."

Jennifer sighed with relief. "Doesn't matter. You arrived."

"Ladies," Sheppard interrupted tersely, "shall we continue this conversation in the jumper?"

Jennifer did not have to be asked twice. She was on her feet in an instant. "Just lead the way," she responded whole-heartedly.

* * * *

After she assured herself that Rodney had suffered no additional harm, Jennifer gratefully accepted the blanket Teyla wrapped around her shoulders and the warm drink she placed in her hands. She was somewhat surprised to see Rodney more awake and alert than he had been since his unfortunate fall. Awake, alert and complaining she noted. He was asking questions, whimpering in pain, berating Sheppard for taking so long to find them, and grumping that he was hungry all in one breath. Yes, Jennifer thought, Rodney sounded more like him self. He would still require down time in the infirmary, and surgery as soon as his lungs were able to tolerate the anesthesia, but she was confident he would not only survive the trip home, but make a complete recovery.

Strapping herself into the seat closest to where Rodney lay she settled in for the brief trip home to Atlantis.



Comments

sga_newsletter: July 13, 2011

User dossier referenced to your post from sga_newsletter: July 13, 2011 saying: [...] : The Dark Side of Any Moon is a Cold and Lonely Place [...]

Rec: The Dark Side Of Any Moon Is A Cold And Lonely Place by Maddie Amber

User nuetronorange referenced to your post from Rec: The Dark Side Of Any Moon Is A Cold And Lonely Place by Maddie Amber saying: [...] Rodney, Jennifer, Teyla, John, Ronon Pairing: None http://maddie-amber.livejournal.com/19707.html [...]