Rating: PG 13 (swearing, graphic injuries)
Disclaimer: I own many things, including a kick butt quesadilla maker and a Star Trek pizza cutter. None of those many things, however, is SGA.
Author's Notes: Thanks be to my fabulous betas, kriadydragon and sholio. You're both awesome. Thank you.
Summary: Rodney is all alone. Except he isn’t.
With a Parachute
Rodney leaps off the cliff without thinking about it.
One moment he’s standing on the periphery of their little tour — pretending to listen to Rilic drone on about the village’s recent harvest of syto beans, idly watching one of the village urchins chase a not-butterfly, and calculating whether it would be worth it to increase the jumpers’ shields at the cost of a little speed. (“A very tiny loss of speed, Colonel. Miniscule. You won’t even notice,” he’ll have to say, because Sheppard is bound to have issues with a drop of 50 km/hr.) The next moment he’s springing forward to keep said village urchin from following the not-butterfly right over the edge of the bluff.
Rodney knocks her to the ground, but he’s flung himself too hard, too fast, and momentum carries him forward. He tumbles over, somersaulting, smacking his head against rock with such force that he sees stars, actually sees stars, and has to will himself to stay conscious, to scrabble for purchase even as the rock face crumbles in his hands and a little tree growing out of the side of the bluff gives way. He somersaults again, slamming his chest this time, knocking the wind out of him. It’s slow motion after that: falling, fighting the fall, fighting to breathe, fighting to stay conscious, fighting to stay alive.
When he stops it’s because of pure, dumb luck, and he wants to laugh at that but can’t find the breath. A ledge juts out about a third of the way from the top, and Rodney lands on that, a final blow. He hears something snap.
The world goes black.
Rodney comes to facing the sky. It’s as blue as Earth’s, but cloudless. The wide expanse makes him dizzy, makes him feel like he’s falling again. He squeezes his eyes shut.
But that makes him focus on all things internal, and that’s its own special hell. His body is saturated with pain. Fire streaks through his arm and leg. His head pounds, and his face stings from what feels like a thousand tiny cuts. If he didn’t know better, he’d say an elephant was sitting on his chest. He can breathe, but only shallowly, and he wheezes on the exhale. He tries not to think about what that could mean.
Above him, someone is yelling. Maybe someone is yelling. It could be a native bird, or his imagination. Please, god, let it be someone yelling, searching for him, because he’s not sure anyone knows he fell. He was at the back of the group and it all happened so fast. He didn’t have time to call for help. And now he can’t call for help. It’s all he can do to breathe —
Rodney opens his eyes, hoping against hope that someone will be peering over the cliff edge above him. But all he sees is the clear blue sky.
And a bird circling.
Rodney inhales sharply. Then passes out from the pain.
“Klea thanks you.”
Half conscious, it takes Rodney a long time to make sense of the words. Even then they don’t make complete sense. He has no idea what a “Klea” is.
But the words bounce around in his skull. Ping-Ponging until they’re joined by other words.
“Hang on, buddy.”
“Fly you out of here.”
Oh, flying sounds good. Freeing. He opens his eyes and sees the sky again. There’s a cloud now, white and puffy, and he imagines it would be cool and misty on his hot skin. His right arm is bent at an angle where it lays across his chest, and he can’t move it no matter how hard he tries. But his left is easy, almost light enough to float in comparison, and he flings it out, thinking muzzily that somehow he might be able to fly.
Words buzz frantically. “No!” and “Don’t move!” and “Jesus Christ!”
Rodney lets his arm drift down, and the words calm. He feels a little like a conductor.
“You will be okay.”
“Just hang on.”
His head is fuzzy, but he’s pretty sure he can pick out different voices. Which doesn’t make any sense since he’s alone.
“Shep’ard?” he croaks. He licks his lips and gets the coppery taste of blood. “Teyla?”
Rodney’s rewarded with an excited “Yes!” that makes him wince. The movement jolts him, and pain lances his side.
“Where. . .” his breathing is even more shallow now, and it takes him a long moment to catch his breath enough to speak. “Where are you?” It comes out a near whisper.
“We’re right where you left us, buddy, when you decided to play Superman.” Sheppard’s voice.
“Super. . . didn’t work. . . so well,” Rodney manages to get out.
“It worked, Rodney,” Teyla’s voice. “Klea is safe and well.”
“Okay,” Rodney says faintly. He hurts and this small conversation has exhausted him. His eyes drift shut and he doesn’t force them open.
“Rodney? Rodney? ” Sheppard says. “McKay!”
Rodney opens his eyes, but there’s no one there. “Hm?”
“I need you to stay awake, all right?” Sheppard says. “Ronon’s gone to the gate. We’ll get a jumper and get you out of here, but I need you to stay awake for me.”
The request sounds urgent. Rodney wants to help, but his mind is fuzzy. Thoughts and intentions slip away like sand through a sieve.
“Where are you?” he asks.
Someone makes a frustrated noise and then there’s a rustling sound. “We are on the radio,” Teyla tells him. “The rocks are not stable and we cannot climb down without risking you further injury. But help is coming.”
Her voice is soft and soothing. Rodney thinks he could fall asleep to the sound of her voice. Sleeping is bad, though. Someone just told him that, he thinks. But he’s tired. So tired. And —
“I hurt,” he says. He hates that he sounds like he’s whining. He needs them to know he’s not just complaining. “I think — I think I broke my arm, maybe.”
There’s another rustling sound. “That’s okay. You’ve probably got a few boo-boos there. We’ll get you patched up,” Sheppard promises.
“Boo. . .boos,” Rodney says. He has to pause between words to breathe. “You’ve been. . . hanging around. . . Torren.”
He expects Sheppard to huff a laugh, but what he gets instead is an agitated, murmured conversation too low for him to fully understand. He nearly drifts off when Sheppard comes back. “Does your chest hurt?”
Now Rodney wants to laugh. “Everything. . . hurts,” he says.
“I bet it does, buddy. But I need you to focus on your chest right now. Is it a sharp pain? Or a pressure?”
No, no, no. Focusing on pain is bad. Makes it worse, everyone knows that. He feels a sudden rush of anger. If Sheppard wants to know how badly he’s injured, he should come down here.
Rodney closes his eyes. His whole body thrums with pain.
“Rodney? Can you hear me?”
Unconsciousness would be good right now.
Really, really good.
Rodney winces again, and again the movement sends spike through his side. “Go away,” he hisses.
“I can’t do that. I need to know about your chest. Is it a sharp pain or pressure?”
“Go away!” Rodney shouts as loud as he can. It’s a mistake. He knows it immediately. But there’s nothing he can do but ride out the wave of pain that radiates from the center of his chest outward. It feels like his whole body is clenching around fire, and he shakes from it, groaning and whimpering in turns.
“It is all right, Rodney. Help is coming.” Teyla’s voice is faint through the fog of pain, but it’s there, soothing. “I know it hurts. We are coming. I promise you. We are coming.”
“Where are you?” he whispers when he can.
“We are coming,” Teyla promises.
He wonders if they actually are, or if they’re just saying that to make his last moments less fearful. The thought makes him more scared than he thought possible. Not dying. Dying alone.
“I am so sorry, Rodney, but we need to know,” Teyla says. “Do you have a sharp pain in your chest or a pressure?”
Rodney opens his mouth to snap at them that he doesn’t know and to let him go to sleep already, but the questions bring Rodney’s attention to his chest, and after that he can’t not think about it.
“Pressure,” he says finally. “And I . . . wheeze when. . . .”
“We hear,” Sheppard says, getting on the line. He doesn’t sound happy. There’s more rustling and Rodney’s just about to ask what that noise is when Sheppard comes back. “Listen, I’ve got Carson patched in and he says your breathing is nothing to worry about.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire, Rodney wants to say. Then he thinks maybe they’ve all been spending too much time with Torren.
“Carson’ll fix you up as soon as we get you home. But he says you need to stay awake and calm,” Sheppard continues. “The jumper is twenty minutes out. We’ll fly down and grab you, but you can’t have another episode like that, okay? Just hang on for twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes,” Rodney repeats. Twenty minutes is an eternity. And what if in twenty minutes they say it’ll be longer? “I can’t,” he says in despair.
He doesn’t know what the alternative is, but he can’t do it. Not hurting like this. Not alone —
“You can,” Sheppard says firmly. “You can, McKay.”
“I can’t,” Rodney whispers. Tears pool unbidden, unwelcome, and he squeezes his eyes shut against them. His next breath sounds a lot like a sob. He hates himself for this weakness.
If they’d never come here, he’d be in Atlantis having lunch right now. Sheppard would be stealing his French fries. Teyla would be regaling them with stories of Torren’s latest toddler antics. Ronon would quietly slide one of his two desserts over to Rodney’s tray because Rodney’s almost done fixing his blaster and chocolate is the best thank you either of them can think of.
If he’d been injured at the top of the cliff, he wouldn’t be giving in to tears right now. He wouldn’t have the chance. Teyla would be keeping up a conversation, prodding him to stay awake, to keep his attention focused on her while Sheppard did his field medicine thing. Ronon would clasp him on the shoulder before taking off for help.
Rodney swallows another sob before it can escape. He spends a long moment floating in a haze of misery until, slowly, he realizes Sheppard and Teyla are taking turns talking to him over the radio.
“We’ve got a chess game to finish back home, buddy. Or are you forfeiting?”
“Torren is looking forward to movie night tomorrow. I believe you promised to bring Star Wars.”
“Never thought I’d see the day Rodney McKay gave up.”
“We need you.”
“You can do this,” Sheppard repeats. “You can.”
Rodney opens his eyes. The tears fall. “I need. . . I need. . . .” He has no idea how to finish that sentence.
He doesn’t have to.
“We are here,” Teyla says.