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Ripples

This story was written for the 2011 round of sga_santa It was a gift for wickedwords
It is a fairytale of sorts
Set in Atlantis
It's Rodney/John although there is a temporay hitch as there always is in these kinds of story
Alas no sex, some drugs and absolutley no rock and roll
but there is a bit of swearing if that helps
And it answers one of the questions that has remaind unanswered since the days of SG1


Disclaimer:
I do not own SGA or SG1 they are the property of the writers and producers and directors and the actors who brought the characters to life. I wish I did own them because if I did there would be an SGA channel by now. As it is I am poor and do this only for fun so please don't sue me.



Rodney hated these meet and greet missions. Hated that he had to make nice with a bunch of people. He would much rather leave the making nice element of their mission in Pegasus to people much better suited to the role. Ridiculous people who thought the words Political and Science belonged together on the same degree.

Or people like Teyla, who had an innate grace that seemed to ripple around her and soothe the normally suspicious and grumpy inhabitants they would be meeting and trying to trade with.

Or people like Sheppard who seemed to treat the entire Pegasus Galaxy like his own personal little back book and could seduce pretty much anyone with a pulse into handing over their Tava Beans and Tormack.

But no here they were, because of a legend that Teyla had mentioned the other week. Something she had heard from her mother or Grandmother of a planet governed by three moons and one giant sun that has never been culled. A planet that was far at the edges of the galaxy. A people who were said to have been in the Pegasus Galaxy since before the Ancients.

And while they all claimed to take these kinds of stories with a pinch of salt it was slightly creepy how often there was something to these old legends, Which was how come Rodney had searched through the Ancient Data Base for a planet that matched those astronomical criteria and was at the outer reaches of the galaxy.

And here they were, being greeted by a trio of people dressed in the depressingly familiar fawn and gray that seemed to be such a favourite with the inhabitants of the Pegasus Galaxy that Rodney sometimes wondered if there was an intergalactic branch of the Sears catalogue company. But Rodney was distracted by the sudden realisation of the sheer amount of vegetation they were surrounded by. He could actually feel his sinus membranes contracting to try and protect themselves from the onslaught of alien pollen and allergens. He tensed. He could feel it coming any second. A monumental sneezing fit.....

Ronon leaned sideways and muttered, "Told you that bacon was bad."

Rodney turned and asked, "What?" Ronon could be incredibly weird at times.

"You look like you're about to fart or shit yourself McKay."

"I was simply preparing for the inevitable. All this," Rodney waved his arms to indicate the unspeakable green leafiness they found themselves in, "makes my allergies act up. Except..." He trailed off and pulled a tiny sensor from it's pocket in his tac-vest. It bleeped and bleated a couple of times and Rodney frowned at it and muttered, "Hhmmm."

Sheppard took a step back and glanced at Rodney and said quietly, "Is there a problem , McKay?"

Rodney glanced up at Sheppard then returned to reading the data on his gadget and replied distractedly, "No, no problem."
Sheppard took another step back until he was beside Rodney then leaned right into his personal space to peer at the incredibly fascinating blocky graph on the scanner screen, and said "O-Kay, so what's that?" as he poked his finger at the screen.

Rodney glared and tried to evade him, Sheppard simply had no respect for personal boundaries , unfortunately he had forgotten Ronon was right there, and Sheppard had to grab his arm to keep him from falling over.
"Just taking some readings on air quality." Rodney muttered.

"Oh yeah?" Sheppard smirked at him in that ridiculous way that implied he'd just made some kind of witty and sexy come-back.

"The level of allergens is unbelievable."

"Isn't that bad?"

"Unbelievable because it's so low." Rodney tapped at the gadget and it bleated again and three green lights winked on and off. It was unsettling. His brain was telling him that he was about to have the worst sneezing fit ever because there was a monumental level of flowers and foliage in close proximity to his delicate constitution. But nothing was actually happening. His eyes weren't beginning to itch, his nose wasn't beginning to twitch his throat wasn't beginning to ache. It was perplexing.

"I shouldn't stand so close Sheppard, McKay looks like he's gonna blow off any moment."

Ronon was laughing when Rodney turned the glare back on him. And Sheppard let loose with one of those horrendous braying laughs of his that caused everyone in the clearing to turn disbelieving looks his way.

"Will you two stop that!" Rodney muttered, but it was good natured grumbling. Rodney never really lost it with John, not any more. And no one could have been more surprised than Rodney when he realised that he and Ronon were friends too. That he felt the same kind of warm, fuzzy and protective fondness for Ronon that he had felt for his little sister, Jeannie, when they had been growing up, before their parents totally fucked up their lives.

The gadget squeaked and burbled again and Rodney gasped and looked up. Everyone on the team looked up, at the unbelievable sight unfolding before them.

There was a ripple of colour and shape and the branches and trunks, and the foliage and flowers around them seemed to melt and flow, seemed to ripple and turn sideways and change until they resolved into the walls of a great hall. Walls dappled green and gold, like sunlight filtered through leaves. There were graceful columns, like the trunks of slender trees, and a high vaulted ceiling that spread out like branches of the trees they appeared to be formed from. There were many people in the hall, dressed in colours and textures that made them shimmer bright as jewels.

The party that had first greeted them stepped back and as they faded back towards the others who lined the great hall they raised their arms and it seemed that colour wove itself around them from the air, until they were clothed in bright colours instead of the drab grey they had worn to greet the team.

Four other people approached them from the centre of the hall. Three women and a man all dressed in flowing blue-green and shimmering silver. Rodney could almost believe they had chosen to wear these particular colours because they were a subtle reminder of Atlantis with her gleaming towers and stained glass windows, and that made him very suspicious. Because although this stargate address was recorded in the Ancient database the only information it showed was the planet was in a solar system on the far edge of the galaxy. It had three moons and revolved around a giant sun, and it had a terrestrial stargate and the planet would sustain life. There had certainly been nothing to suggest a direct connection to Atlantis.

Rodney pulled a second piece of equipment and began scanning for a power-source. He was pretty sure that they had been transported to this hall with some kind of beaming technology, but the readings were strange. No spikes of energy but a kind of wave effect that seemed to ebb and flow in a way he had never seen before. The first piece of equipment was still reading exactly the same environmental readings, even thought they had been transported from an outside location to an internal one. Possibly they were deep below ground, because that could explain why these people had never been culled.

Teyla had already moved ahead to meet the four, and offered a greeting. "Daione, Merrow, Roane, Leanan-She." She touched foreheads with each of them. "Forgive me, I had no idea this was your home world."

"Teyla, Lady of Athos we are delighted to welcome you and your companions."

Teyla turned and said. "My fellow traders are Colonel John Sheppard, Specialist Ronon Dex and Doctor Rodney McKay, we make our home in the Great City of the Ancients. These are friends and renown traders, Lord Daione, Mistress Merrow, Lady Roane and Leanan-She from The Far Hall. We come to trade, and hope to further our friendship with your people."

Then Sheppard added, "We have medicines and technology that we trade with many worlds, and we fight the Wraith so whenever we can we would share help and shelter with out allies."

The tall dark Daione nodded, and the regal blonde Leanan-She smiled. Rodney couldn't help but notice the way she was eying Sheppard, like she might want to eat him right up, starting with his ears. Those ears seemed to fascinate an inordinate number of alien princesses and priestesses, and it seemed Leanan-She was not immune.

Finally she replied, "We have no need of those, Ellylon, but there are many things we can share between our great halls."

Sheppard frowned a little at the odd way she had pronounced his name, but he nodded and said. "Yeah, sure, but there is one thing we don't do, no weapons. We don't trade weapons."

"We have no need of weapons, rest assured. We have our own ways to defend ourselves, Ellylon." Daione said to John. Then he turned to Rodney and smiled adding, "That is why the scourge never come here."

And Rodney's curiosity was further piqued, he had not expected these people to be so ready to open up, and although he was pretty sure what Daione had meant he still asked, "The scourge?"

"The devourers, the ones without a spark, the dark children." Roane spoke then, her face sombre.

"You mean the..."

Before Rodney could finish the elder, Mistress Merrow, spoke sharply,
"Alchemist! We do not speak that word here, to do so draws them closer. Also the name they have chosen for themselves offends us greatly."

"We did not mean to offend, Mistress." Teyla replied quickly, cutting off whatever Rodney might have said on the subject of superstition.

The older woman smiled at Teyla and then pulled the younger woman into a warm embrace and said "Teyla, you could never offend us. It has been long since we met last. Come and tell my your news while I instruct my kitchen to prepare a feast in honour of this day. I will let these younglings befriend your companions," She glanced back at Sheppard with a serene expression and an enquiring tilt of her head and added, "If that pleases you?"

John glanced at Ronon, who stared back giving nothing away, then at Rodney, who was totally focussed on the information scrolling across the screen of his scanner. Nothing suggested there was a problem, so he nodded and said. "Making friends is why we're here ma'am."

"Then come and make a friend of me, Ellylon Sheppard." Leanan-She had moved to his side with a sinuous grace, the colour of her dress seemed to shimmer and her hair seemed to ruffle gently as if she was walking into a soft breeze, and yet the air was still. John couldn't take his eyes off her as they walked across the great hall.

Roane approached Ronon, her earlier seriousness gone as she asked him with a saucy smile, "What kind of specialist are you Ronon Dex?"

And Ronon, who had never told anyone on Atlantis what his title meant. Who had let them all assume it was a military rank, at first because he hadn't trusted them enough to tell the truth, and later because it had been a way to fit in, a way to meet the expectations they seemed to have of him. But for the first time in an age he felt the need to answer the question truthfully, so he replied, "War Poet. I fought side by side with my regiment, and after, I recited the honour of our victories and our defeats, and sang the names of the fallen so we would remember."

Roane nodded, her look full of admiration and said, "Then we have more in common than our similar names, I am called a Bard too. I write poetry, sometimes I set it to music, sometime it is spoken, and I recall the old songs, the memories of our people and of our past. Would you share some of your words with me?"

A few moments later Rodney looked up from his readings saying, "Sheppard... Oh." he fell silent when he realised his team-mates were already across the great hall and heading out, and had left him alone.

"Your people have many interesting things to share, Doctor Rodney McKay. You are an Alchemist are you not? Would you tell me of your machines and of your learning?"

Rodney hadn't noticed Daione waiting by his side. The man was smiling at him, an undoubtedly charming smile. His eyes were a deep dark blue and his hair was inky black and wild. And at any other time Rodney would have acknowledged that the man was very good looking, totally his type to be honest, and best of all, apparently interested in him. But the readings that he had been tracking on his scanner were so perplexing, so utterly different from anything that he had ever seen, that it was disturbing.

The energy he was tracking was impossible to quantify because it didn't seem to follow any of the laws of physics. If pushed Rodney would have classified it as a natural occurrence, maybe an organic source, some kind of bioluminescence or even a naturally occurring morphic field, but the output seemed random, and yet there was a pattern of some kind, and the power output was off the scale normally calibrated for background random energy patterns.

Rodney tapped a few more buttons, absorbed the readouts, then he input new parameters to run a further scan. After a while he looked up, and Daione's smile was softer, he was standing a little closer, and he asked again in a quiet voice, "Will you tell me of this machine?"

"It looks for energy sources, any kind, naturally occurring or generated. It measures power out-put and radiation. It can locate power sources even ones that have only tiny amounts of energy left, and it can trace energy signatures, even if the power source is no longer generating."

Daione's face lit up and he asked, "Can you see me with the machine's eye?"

Rodney tapped a few keys and turned the scanner towards the other man saying, "Yes it works as a life-signs...Woah!" The machine squealed
and he rapidly tapped another few keys, muttering. "That shouldn't have happened. Some kind of.... trying to dampen the background..... Hhhmm." He looked up and asked, "What power sources do you use here?"

"I do not understand what you mean."

"What powers the transporter beam that brought us here? What powers the lights in this hall? How do you keep the place warm? How do you cook your food? There must be machines that generate heat and light and power, what are they? Can you take me to them?"

Daione looked confused and said, "Everything is here, when we need it we take it, that is all."

"So it operates with a mental component." He pressed the communicator in his ear and said, "Sheppard, you didn't mention this place was Ancient."

There was a long pause and for a moment Rodney wondered if the power fluctuations were affecting their radios, but then Sheppard replied.
"McKay...It's not...Nothing Ancient here, buddy." Sheppard's voice was amused, slightly breathless, and he dragged out the syllables of Rodney's name in a way that was a little too relaxed. Because while Rodney teased Sheppard about being Captain Kirk, romancing his way across the galaxy, truthfully Sheppard was very conscientious and rarely let his guard down while they were off world, and certainly not on a first contact.

Rodney looked across the hall, but there was no sign of Sheppard. As he headed towards the last place he had seen him he asked, "Where are you Sheppard? Are you okay?"

And there was a hitch in Sheppard's breathing, his voice was just a little unsteady as he replied, "I'm fine. Just making friends, like the lady said. Check in with Teyla and Ronon. It's all good here."

Rodney didn't want to think it, he hated his mind was taking him there, but he was certain that Sheppard had been in the middle of having sex. Not that he actually knew what John sounded like when he was having sex, but he'd thought about it enough over the years. After all he had an incredible imagination, being a genius, and whenever he fantasized about giving Sheppard one of his amazing blowjobs, Sheppard always sounded exactly like that, in his head.

Rodney felt himself blush but whether it was from embarrassment, anger or misery wasn't clear, because he was feeling an uncomfortable mix of all three emotions. But following Sheppard's orders in the field was mostly second nature to him now so he clicked his communicator again, and asked Teyla, "Are you alright? Where are you? Do you know where Sheppard and Ronon are?"

Teyla's voice came back at once, "I am showing Merrow pictures of Torren while she arranges for a meal in our honour, I believe Ronon is sharing war stories with Roane and John is discussing a possible trade agreement with Leanan-She."

Rodney had always found Teyla to be unusually straightforward in what she said, it was probably a cultural difference in their use of language. So if she'd thought John was hitting the sack with his latest conquest she would have just said so.

Yet despite what Teyla believed, Rodney was certain that was exactly what John was doing, but he didn't have anywhere to go with it. He didn't want to make a big deal of it. Maybe it wasn't a big deal. Except it felt like it was to him, a big fucking deal.

But Rodney forced himself to stop worrying at it, and wait until he saw John again. Because when John came back Rodney would know.

Back when he worked at Area 51 it had been something of an in joke, that this was Rodney McKay's real super-power. Not his unerring ability to make his minions cry. Nor his ability to turn almost anything, in the right combination, into explosives; although these were both among his many accomplishments because, after all he was a genius.

No Rodney had a weird sixth sense. While he would be the first to admit he was not a people person, and he was normally totally unaware that the people around him even had feelings, let alone what those feelings might be, the one exception was an uncanny ability to spot people who where getting it on with each other.

Even the most unlikely combinations didn't escape his notice. At Area 51 he'd actually been kind of popular so he hadn't minded the odd bit of teasing about it, because it had been good-natured. It was just that since his fall from grace with the SGC and his subsequent banishment to Siberia, it was something he had learned to keep to himself. So none of his friends on Atlantis knew, but Rodney had noticed the moment Lorne and Parrish had started their relationship, and when Ronon and Amelia got together, and he had never had any difficulty spotting Sheppard's hook-ups, even though they were all one night stands.

Daione did his best to distract Rodney, telling him about some of the planets he had travelled to and the strange things he had see there. Maybe he was a people person and sensed Rodney's unhappiness.

Teyla was the first to return to the Great Hall. She was smiling and relaxed, and she the unmistakable glow of pride on her face that was a sure sign she had been telling someone about her beloved son.

Ronon returned a few minutes later, and Rodney could see a warm happiness in his countenance that he had never seen before. He was smiling and somehow he looked lighter, as if a great pain had been lifted from his heart. Rodney figured that even if the rest of the mission was a bust it was worth it for that look on Ronon's face.

When Sheppard finally strolled into the Great Hall he was no longer wearing his Tac vest and had put aside his weapons somewhere, and he looked so young and carefree that Rodney almost didn't recognise him. The tension Sheppard always carried with him was gone. Responsibility, for his team, for Atlantis and for every planet the Wraith culled, usually sat like a weight on his shoulders, and the charm and the joking and the easy manner was the disguise Sheppard wore to mask it.

It could not have been more clear to Rodney now, that every choice Sheppard had made good or bad, every life he'd taken, every life he'd saved, or failed to save and every time he had faced certain death had been etched upon his face. And now it was simply gone. And Rodney understood that the beautiful untouched face he was looking at wasn't Sheppard at all. At least not the John Sheppard he had come to know and admire, and secretly fall in love with.

Leanan-She walked beside Sheppard, one pale hand laid delicately on his arm. He was gazing at her and Rodney's heart sank because he had seen that look before, when Sheppard had been completely besotted with Chaya Sar. Except somehow this felt worse.

By the time he reached the other side of the Great Hall Teyla and Ronon had joined Sheppard and all three were speaking quietly and it was so obvious that were all relaxed and happy that it made his own unease all the more apparent.

Ronon caught sight of Rodney and gave him a wide grin. He stepped in close and started tugging at the fastenings on Rodney's Tac vest as he said, "McKay, there's a big feast in our honour and food's getting cold. You can't sit down at the table dressed for battle."

"I can't?" Rodney asked, as he tried to fight off Ronon's helpful hands to no avail. As far as Rodney could tell Ronon had no sense of the ironic, seeing as he was normally armed to the teeth, or in his case the hair especially at meal-times.

At least Rodney managed to grab a couple of essentials for off-world dining from the various pockets of his vest, before it and all his equipment was laid in a recess along with what he now realised were Sheppard and Teyla's gear and Ronon's leather coat.

When some heavy wall hangings were pulled aside, Rodney had to admit that the dining hall was indeed set out as the most fantastic banquet, the kind of thing you never saw in real life. Sparkling glasses and delicate china, flowers and overflowing bowls of exotic looking fruit and the scent of roasted meats and fresh bread.

Teyla was speaking of the singing that would follow the meal. Ronon was talking excitedly about a Hero's Ballad that he and Roane would perform. Sheppard said he was looking forward to the dancing without a trace of sarcasm, and Rodney was the only one who knew that everything about this scene was wrong.

But Ronon clapped him on the shoulder, shoving him into the room and said, "Come on, McKay, it's like Night of Crows on Sateda. All the food you can eat!"

And Teyla turned to him smiling and said, "Please be at ease Rodney, I have known Merrow for many years, she is like a second mother to me. She has made some traditional Athosian dishes that I have not tasted since the Calling Eve I attended when I was a girl."

Sheppard didn't say anything to him, but Rodney was sure he heard him whisper something bizarre that sounded like Keswick Hall, which made no sense to him at all.

The sound of laughter and the hum of conversations surrounded him as people made their way to the tables. They were stopping to wash their hands in silver bowls as servers poured scented water and offered towels for drying. It seemed out of keeping to Rodney, considering they obviously had some level of technology, and everyone clearly had access to baths or showers.

Daione leaned closer and said, "It is a tradition to use the bowls before an important feast. We do have proper bathing rooms. Hot water that cascades into marble basins and steam infused with herbs or spices. I could show you later if it would please you."

Rodney wondered when he had become so easy to read, he'd always taken Sheppard's teasing about his poker face as a leftover from the Military versus civilian, jocks versus geeks hazing that had categorised their early, uneasy friendship. He glanced at Daione, the man was definitely attractive. He was probably older than Rodney but his face had a charming open quality about it, with a delightful smile, and he was completely unabashed in what he was very obviously offering. But still Rodney could not accept the situation at face value.

Everything inside him was screaming that something was seriously wrong with this place and these people and with the rest of his team. But he had learned the hard way that making a huge scene wasn't always the best way to escape unscathed. That when things were not as they appeared, a disturbingly regular occurrence in the Pegasus Galaxy, sometimes it was best to simply pretend you hadn't noticed. Sometimes it was better to take the nice Amish Farmers at face value and not offer them C4 or make boasts about your prowess with nuclear bombs. Sometimes you really should not offer the desperate Hoffnan scientists advice on how to commit more effective biological warfare.

So here and now Rodney figured it was his turn to watch the team's back, because for some reason he seemed to be immune to the whatever was beguiling to the rest of them. And he figured the first step was not falling for Daione, no matter how tempting he was.

When they all sat down the team was seated at the high table, and Sheppard was clearly in the place of honour, between Mistress Merrow and Leanan-She. The food did admittedly look fabulous, but Rodney waited for Sheppard and Ronon fill their plates and take a bite of two of the food. He waited for one of them to turn and give him the all clear. In the end he was forced to ask, Ronon if it was okay.

Ronon looked up from his plate and nodded, saying, "I Haven't tasted Limma cooked in Bela cake since my wedding, you should try it."

And Sheppard peered round at Rodney grinning and said, "Tastes just like Beef Wellington."

So Rodney took that as an okay and filled his plate.

The first mouthful was pure heaven, the pastry was flaky and buttery and almost melted as he bit into it to taste the tender meat, he swallowed it down with a sigh. A sigh that seemed to cut off suddenly as his throat closed up completely.

For a second Rodney was still, his mind trying to process what had just happened but then panic set in and he scrabbled at the pocket on his cargo pants. Thankfully remembering that he had transferred the epi-pen and antihistamines there from his Tac-vest. Finally he got the pen out and stabbed it into his leg with as much force as he could manage, given that he was already trembling and his head felt like it was about to explode. The moment it hit his blood stream, the shivery sick feeling of an adrenalin rush began to spread through his body. A cold sweat broke out in the small of his back. He waited and waited trying to stay conscious, trying not to panic more, as he heard the distant boom of his heartbeat pounding inside the darkness of his head. Finally his throat began to relax and he gasped and gasped as he managed to breath again.

Then everything around him faded, the sounds of panic, a chair falling over. It al receded into a hissing numbness. The last thing he knew was strong hands grasping his arms, pulling him up even though his legs were shaking then he fell forward into nothing.



***************



The beep of a heart monitor and the sound of the medical staff efficiently going about their business were always comforting to Rodney when he woke up after an attack. Normally he complained bitterly about post mission medicals, but when he was feeling shaky and exhausted and the sheer horror of being unable to breathe was too recent to ignore, the sounds of the infirmary were deeply reassuring.

Rodney cautiously took stock of his situation, there was a slight headache, so he kept his eyes shut because he often suffered from light sensitivity, his chest was a little tight but not painful and his body was lax. He had a cannula feeding him oxygen, there was a cold ache in his left hand that was probably an IV drip and his throat was very dry. It was probably as good as he could hope after a severe attack. He heard a soft rustling, someone was shifting in the chair next to his bed. Sheppard was very predictable in this one respect, when any of the team were laid up in the infirmary.

"Sorry...." Rodney tried to speak but his throat was so dry he came out more like a croak. He felt a straw poke at his lips and he took several mouthfuls of blessedly cold water. He tried again, "Didn't mean to drag you away from your latest conquest, Kirk."

The amused sounding "You didn't." caused him to open his eyes, and that was a mistake because even though the lighting had been dimmed it made the painful headache spike for a second.

"Doc said you could take these when you woke up."

Ronon dropped a couple of tablets into his hand and poked the straw towards his mouth again, allowing Rodney to take what he hoped were painkillers. Once he had swallowed them he asked, "How long?"

"Two months." Ronon answered.

Rodney felt panic rise up and squeeze his heart, and as his heartbeat sped up crazily it fed back to him from the beep beep beep of the heart monitor, and the dull roar of blood rushing in his head, which made him panic even more. He swallowed and tried to speak, but fear had seized his voice.

Ronon gripped his shoulder and said, "Calm down McKay, you're fine."
And amazingly that reassured him because Ronon wouldn't sugar coat it, if Rodney was screwed he'd say so.

There was a swish as the curtain around him was pushed aside and Carson said, "Now now Rodney, everything is fine, brain, heart and lungs are fully functioning, and you'll suffer no long term effects from this episode."

Carson always gave him a rundown like this to pre-empt the things Rodney needed to know most urgently whenever he work up in the infirmary.

"But two months? It can't have been two months. It feels like it happened yesterday."

"Aye lad, I'll admit you gave us a scare."

"Why don't I remember? Usually I remember some of it. How can I have lost two months?"

"You were very poorly when Ronon carried you through the gate, I had to resuscitate you the first time in the gate room."

"The first time? My heart stopped more than once?"

" Five times. By then it was all we could do to keep it going until we got you into Stasis."

Rodney swallowed thickly. The idea of having been in a stasis pod was horrific to him. He imagined himself frozen, staring out unseeing.

He imagined people coming to gawp at him, maybe people who hated him coming to sneer or to say things they would normally be afraid to say to his face, or maybe just to laugh at him. And he would be trapped with no way to defend against it. And now when they looked at him, these people who hated him wouldn't see Rodney McKay the genius, the most brilliant mind in two galaxies, the man who could make them cry with a few well chosen remarks. They would see him slack jawed and vacant eyed, and defenceless.

Carson must have read something of what he was feeling because he added, "No one but the medical staff, Mr Woolsey and your team saw you."

Rodney, turned to look at Ronon who nodded and said, "We kept the rest of them away." And there was a sly amusement in his face, as if he'd thoroughly enjoyed scaring off Rodney's minions.

"That's okay then." Rodney replied. Glancing back to Carson he asked, "So what was it, poison?"

"No, a fatal anaphylactic reaction."

"But you said it was okay!" Outrage and hurt battled inside Rodney as he looked at Ronon, "Sheppard said it was okay. Teyla watched them prepare the food, why didn't she say something?"

"It was okay. No citrus." Ronon answered.

"But."

"The lad's correct, Rodney, it wasn't citrus."

"Marvellous, so there's even more things out there that can kill me. Am I suddenly allergic to alien pastry now?"

"No it's a seasoning. A spice they use in all their food to make it more appealing."

"Dra'ocht dust is their name for it. I am so pleased to see you recovered, Rodney." Teyla spoke as she reached his bedside, then smiling warmly she leaned down and surprisingly kissed his cheek before pressing her forehead to his in the more traditional Athosian style."

"They put dust in their food! I knew there was something wrong with that place. No wonder I was ill. But the rest of you are okay, you and Sheppard and Ronon?"

"Yes Rodney, Ronon and I suffered no ill effects."

There was strange pause, as if everyone was waiting for someone else to say something and Rodney couldn't help but notice the glaring omission in what Teyla had said. He could no longer ignore the fact someone was missing from the scene, so he began to ask.
"What happened to ..."

But then Carson said, "I know you have a lot of questions, but I want you to eat something, and get some rest first. The sooner I can see everything is functioning normally the sooner I can discharge you." With that the doctor left.

And at the same time, Teyla said, "Mr Woolsey is on his way he will be able to explain what has happened. But there is no reason for you to be concerned, your people are delighted."

Ronon simply nodded. But Rodney could see he wasn't entirely happy with the situation, and something about what Teyla had said seemed off-key. So he tried again, "Where's ...."

But at that moment the curtain was pulled aside again and Richard Woolsey stepped through.
"Dr McKay, how marvellous to see you well again."

He was a little taken aback because Woolsey was usually more reserved. But Rodney figured he would finally get some answers from Woolsey, so he immediately asked. "Where is Sheppard? No one seems willing to tell me."

"Ah, yes. I imagine they did not know where to start. Indeed I don't really know myself, it has all been so incredible."

"But he's not..." And Rodney was horrified to find he couldn't actually say the word. But he must have made his meaning clear because Woolsey answered him.

"He is fine, of course he's fine, I'm sorry I had no idea you would think
otherwise."

"But he's not here?"

"No. But it's not anything to be worried about, quite the reverse in fact, it's an amazing opportunity. Maybe I should ask Dr Jackson to come and talk to you, he would probably explain things better than I can."

"Why don't you give it a shot anyway?"

"Well. I suppose the first thing is should ask you is what do you recall of the mission SG1 went on to the planet when they found Earnest Littleton the first modern man to travel through the stargate? Dr Jackson discovered the repository of ancient knowledge there, but it was lost when the tower housing it collapsed."

Rodney honestly couldn't say he'd read all the reports SG1 had generated over the years. But he remembered this one because later, when they had begun to discover more about the Ancients from the outpost in Antarctica, he had gone back and re-read all the oldest reports to see if they contained information that was more useful, given his greater insight into ancient technology.

And he remembered quizzing Jackson on what he recalled, in case there was some small detail that might not have been included in the reports. As far as Rodney remembered Jackson had been his usual enthusiastic but not especially helpful self, because his approach to the problem was woolly-headed and unscientific. Not that Rodney was really surprised because it was just the kind of thing he had come to expect from the soft sciences.

"They found a repository of knowledge that mentioned a great alliance between five races, the Gate builders, the Nox, the Asgaard, the Furlings and a mysterious fifth race. Quite a few idiots assumed that we were the fifth race, the Tau'ri, but there was no definite evidence of that, more wishful thinking."

"Well your team has now made first contact with the Furlings. They are know as The People from the Far Hall in Pegasus." Woolsey replied.

At any other time Rodney's mind would have leapt forward into working out the incredible possibilities contact with the fourth race, the mysterious Furlings meant, but he had other things on his mind, so he reminded Woolsey, "That still doesn't explain where Sheppard is."

"No. Well. Once we discovered who we were dealing with, the SGC and the IOA decided that we needed to negotiate a formal treaty. They sent Dr Jackson and a team of political advisors."

"And what, they were taken hostage?"

Woolsey looked affronted as he replied, "Of course not. The negotiations were text book. We managed to agree the most favourable terms."

"What. Happened. To. Sheppard?" Rodney was beyond any semblance of patience he'd allegedly ever had.

Teyla spoke up then, using the calm down and stop threatening us with spears voice, "They are an honourable but traditional people. Our dealings with them have always been honest and open. They have a tradition called Wardship. When they make a treaty with a new ally, they offer their best items in trade and in return ask a trusted member of the new ally's hierarchy to take a place in their court. This person is protected and honoured as one of their own nobility. And a noble of their court goes to live with the new ally. After six months the treaty is binding and the Wards can return to their own people."

Rodney glared at Teyla. He distinctly remembered receiving a similar trustworthy, honourable traders spiel about a group of simple Amish-type farmers known as the Genii.

"So you sold Sheppard into God knows what, a Furling harem probably. Seriously, do you people really not get it? He never sees it coming, and consequently had no defence against it. I hope you got something good in return for his virtue."

"Rodney!"

"Dr McKay, I have never heard a more preposterous suggestion!"

"Told you he'd be pissed."

Teyla, Woolsey and Ronon all spoke at once, but before they could say anything else Carson was bustling back with a tray for Rodney. He was complaining loudly that they were all keeping his patient from his rest, and would they kindly clear out of his Infirmary.

Woolsey headed out right away, lips pursed with displeasure.

Teyla leaned in and said softly to Rodney, "They really are good people, Rodney. There is no need to fear for Colonel Sheppard."

Rodney sighed, he understood that Teyla believed what she was telling him, but at the same time he was certain something was wrong with this situation, so asked, "Who did they send to us? Not your friend Leanne, I bet."

Teyla never gave anything away, and as usual her countenance was serene, but her voice had an unfamiliar tone when she said, "Her name is Leanan-She, and no, another was chosen to come here."

Before he had a chance to say any more, Carson swung the hospital table across Rodney and said, "You'll have plenty of time to catch up tomorrow."
Teyla nodded and squeezed Rodney's arm then left.

Carson stood at the side of the bed, he seemed to be waiting for something. Finally Rodney figured it out and picked up his spoon and tasted the soup. He was pleasantly surprised to find it tasted exactly like Heinz oxtail, which he'd probably last tasted on a visit to his granny's house. He grinned at Carson, who nodded and said, "Even now I always feel better if I have a taste of the soup my mother used to feed me when I was poorly as a lad. I thought this might be familiar to you, being a Canadian.

"Well my mother usually fed me a line about sickness being the sign of a weak mind. But I spent all my holidays with my grandparents and granny fed me a tin or two of it."

Carson patted him on the shoulder, Rodney shrugged and gave him a tight smile. He never said much about his childhood, although anyone who had ever met him probably figured out it must have been pretty fucked up. But since they got Carson back Rodney had been careful not to turn his friend away. Because the guilt he felt on the day they lost the original Carson still hurt.

So at least once a week Rodney made sure he and Carson ate lunch or dinner together. Dinner often led to sharing a few drams of Carson's Vintage single Malt or Rodney's premium Russian vodka, and Rodney sometimes found himself opening up about himself a little.

Carson stood for a few more minutes watching his patient. After a while Rodney let his spoon fall back into the bowl and glanced up.

Carson nodded like he had made a decision and said, "It's good to have you back, lad. How do you feel Rodney?"

"I feel pretty okay. It's surreal actually. I can't quite grasp that I've been what? In a coma? Do you call it that when your patient's in stasis?"

"It's as good as any other word." But Carson still looked uncomfortable and Rodney knew his friend well enough now to keep quiet, because Carson always needed to fill the quiet.

"You're not wrong, Lad."

"I rarely am, being a genius."

"We did get something very good. One thing in particular was priceless, and when he heard exactly what they were offering, what it might mean, what it has meant as it turns out, Sheppard wanted to go. He really did."

"But?"

"No buts, it was worth it. John believed it was worth it. And now standing here I know it was worth it."

"Still sounds to me like there's a but at the end of that sentence."

"Aye well, I cannae help that. Get some sleep Rodney. If I'm satisfied you're well rested and you eat a good breakfast I've a mind to discharge you in time to catch John's scheduled weekly check in."

"Oh well I suppose it's something that the over eager idiots who negotiated this mess insisted on regular contact, and didn't just throw him to the wolves."

"On Sateda, first rule of hostage taking, if they don't ask for regular proof of life, hostage's worthless,"

Rodney hadn't realised Ronon was still there.

"Aye, Ronon and Vala were most insistent on that point." Carson added.

"Vala Rodney was dismayed at the way he'd squeaked her name, but while he'd normally be delighted if a beautiful woman wanted to chase after him, the dark haired former Go'uld was completely terrifying and he was man enough to admit it.

Carson patted his arm and said, "She came with Daniel, but don't worry, Teyla squared her up, she won't trouble you or me while she's here."

Ronon spoke up from the visitors chair, big smirk on his face, "It was fun to watch."

Rodney imagined it was, he asked casually, "Were they in the main gym?"

"Yeah." Ronon confirmed.

Rodney decided that once their current problems were resolved he was going to find the security tape of that particular sparing session. Because he had no doubt Teyla had taught Vala her lesson with the Bantos rods, Teyla taught all her best lessons that way. And he was also confident one of his minions would have already posted the footage on the Atlantis net.

But he still had their current problems to worry about and he had Carson hanging over him looking like he wanted to tell Rodney something but was afraid to. And Ronon was watching over him like he might break out of the infirmary at any moment, and frankly the level of angst he was sensing was getting exhausting.

He looked up at Carson with a raised eyebrow and asked, "So?"

"Aye." was all Carson said.

Rodney tried again, "What aren't you telling me? Surely the fact we swapped Sheppard for some magic beans or whatever is as bad as it gets!"

"Magic?" Carson glared at Rodney, "You already knew?"

"What?" Rodney was seriously beginning to wonder if he was in fact still in a coma for all the sense the doctor was making.

"The Furlings, what they gave us, Radek can make no sense of it at all. But it gave us the chance to heal you, so I dinnae care if it is advanced science or blasted magic."

"But obviously it wasn't actually magic! I appreciate on occasion I accuse you of being a Voodoo practitioner, but even you must have basic grasp of science and physics. Just because we don't understand their science and technology doesn't make it magic. After all if a cave man stood in the middle of...."

"Aye Rodney I've had this lecture before. The modern technology we take for granted would seem like magic to a cave man."

From the visitors chair Ronon muttered, "But he could still beat an astronaut."

Rodney decided he was just going to have to sort this whole mess out himself. Carson was as woolly as the sheep Rodney habitually accused him of molesting so he wouldn't be getting any real sense out of him. While Ronon's only interest in any civilization no matter how advanced seemed to revolve around their cuisine and weaponry. And while recognising your strengths and having focus were both admirable traits, it wasn't always useful. But on the off chance this time might have been different he asked, "Ronon did you ask The Furlings to magic up a few copies of you big ray gun?"

"I asked and he said some stuff about creation and destruction. But he did trade me couple of knives. Beautiful craftsmanship, thin as paper and a perfect edge."

Rodney decided there probably wasn't much more he could learn that night. And from the hovering and the angst coming off Carson there was probably no chance of escaping the infirmary either. Plus Ronon was on guard duty.
As he thought about it, he realised he was surprisingly tired.

Clearly being in a coma was less restful than he would have expected. Not that he had spent that much time thinking about being in a coma, per se. But it was Pegasus, and it was a well to cover all your bases considering all the weird shit they'd found. He closed his eyes, just for a minute while he thought up a plan to get Sheppard back.


link to Ripples part 2