Pairing: None. Team gen.
Word Count: 5,193
Disclaimer: Not mine. Thanks for letting me play, though.
Content Notes: Some hurt, lots of comfort. Nothing triggery that I'm aware of.
Author's Notes: My deepest thanks to dustandroses for a last minute, yet thorough, beta. Thanks also to my husband for a final read through.
Summary: An accident that keeps the team apart, actually brings them closer together.
Teyla thought she would never stop coughing. The dust in the mine shaft took forever to settle, and there was still a haze in the air, refracting the thin beam of light from her helmet when she lifted her head to view the damage.
Ahead of her, she spotted another hazy glow of light and realized it was Rodney's helmet. He was no longer wearing it. It must have fallen off when the mine shaft caved in. She had grabbed Rodney's tac vest and yanked him back when she'd heard the groan of overstressed support beams and a horrible crack as the next section of the tunnel gave way. Their guides had been in that section when the roof fell in.
"Rodney? Ronon?" she called out.
She turned her head, and a sharp pain shot across her shoulders where a rock must have hit her. Biting her lip, she ignored the pain, turning her body so she could try and find her teammates in the darkness. She'd become disoriented during the cave in, and after losing her grip on Rodney, she'd huddled against the wall, covering her face with her arms, and waited for the rocks to stop falling all around her.
Rodney was nowhere near his helmet, but she saw Ronon unfolding himself from his position against the opposite wall farther down the tunnel. She shivered as she realized Rodney's helmet was next to Ronon. Teyla had been behind Rodney with Ronon behind her when the roof came down.
As she turned, more pains in her legs and back registered, but she couldn't deal with that now. The light from her helmet, as well as from Ronon's, picked Rodney out of the darkness, sprawled on a heap of debris, blood staining the side of face and matting his hair.
Teyla clambered over the rocks to get to him. She could hear Ronon coming up behind her as she finally reached Rodney and put her fingers to the side of his neck.
"Is he alive?" Ronon asked.
"Yes," she said, letting her relief show. Ignoring the pain shooting down the side of her neck, she directed her light up at Ronon. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm good."
"Ronon," she said, putting a warning in her voice.
Ronon shrugged, then grimaced, "I'm fine. I'm not bleeding anywhere, just some bruises."
She decided to be satisfied with his answer, but would make sure he didn't sneak away from receiving proper medical attention once they went back to Atlantis.
"What about you?" he asked.
"The same," she said, then ducked her head at his skeptical eyebrow raise. "I promise, only bruises. They are painful, but I can manage."
"Rodney! Ronon! Teyla! Come in! What's going on in there?"
John. Ronon and Teyla shared a look as Teyla reached up to tap her earpiece.
"There was a cave-in, John."
A jolt of pure fear went through his veins, but his training kicked in a moment later and his voice was calm when he replied. "Report. I'm coming in." John started toward the entrance to the tunnel.
"No, don't. It's too dangerous. The collapse was between us and the entrance. You need to establish a rescue operation immediately."
"How many of you are injured?"
There was a long pause. "Rodney's condition is the worst. He has a head injury and he's still unconscious."
John felt his fists clench. "You? Ronon? What about the guides?"
"Ronon and I are mobile, no major injuries, just bruises. We're examining Rodney now, but so far, he appears to have only the head injury."
"And a broken leg," Ronon cut in.
John cursed. He couldn't help himself. While he was outside, safe and sound, his team was trapped inside a mine tunnel, probably hurt a lot worse than they were saying.
"What's happening?" The High Chancellor asked as he picked himself up off the ground. John had managed to stay on his feet when the earth shook, and an awful noise had bellowed out of the tunnel. From the nearby mining encampment, men and women ran toward them, calling out panicked questions.
As the crowd gathered around him, John raised his voice to try and bring some kind of order. "Quiet down, everyone, let's stay calm. There's been a cave-in. I'm in contact with my team right now."
A woman spun on the High Chancellor. "This is your fault! My husband warned you many times that the mine was dangerous. We shouldn't even be here! We're farmers, not miners!"
The High Chancellor lifted his chin high, but John could see the fear in his eyes as the gathered crowd began to grumble. "This is our legacy. We were a great people once because of these mines. Farms barely keep us alive, and hardly give any advantage with our trading partners."
He shot a nervous look at John as at least part of his agenda was revealed. Teyla had suspected as much, and had thoroughly discussed the High Chancellor's motives with the team. Rodney had agreed with Teyla and demanded a mine inspection before continuing any negotiations. The combination of the High Chancellor's haughtiness and obsequious fawning had disgusted Rodney, but it was the constant flattery that had finally pissed him off. Rodney loved having his ego stroked, but only from people he respected, and only if he thought he deserved it.
The woman suddenly lunged at the High Chancellor, but John caught her by the shoulders before she could claw his eyes out. "Hey, now, calm down. We don't need a fight right now; we have people trapped in that tunnel."
"John, what is happening out there?"
"Nothing you need to worry about, Teyla." John replied.
The woman clutched at John, her eyes hopeful. "You can speak to them? My husband is in there."
"And my son," an older man said, stepping forward.
John's stomach clenched as the crowd grew quiet, waiting for an answer. This could get bad, very bad, very fast.
"Teyla," John said, keeping his voice calm. "What about the two guides. Are they injured?"
Ronon broke in. "They're dead."
"Are you sure?"
It was either the question or his expression that made the woman start wailing, "No, no, no!"
The father of the other guide wrapped his arms around her, muffling her cries against his chest, even as tears flowed down his own face.
"I'm sorry," John said, helpless in the face of their grief. "I'm so sorry."
"John," Teyla said, "Rodney is regaining consciousness. Now would be a good time to contact Atlantis and start the rescue operation."
He hated the thought of leaving his team behind, but the only way to reach the 'gate without a day long trek on foot was to fly there. And if John didn't get the High Chancellor away from the mining camp, there wouldn't be much left of him by the time John got back.
"I'll try to maintain contact with you," John said, heading toward the puddlejumper, dragging the High Chancellor along by a handful of his elaborate robes, "but I may lose your signal the farther away I get."
John understood, too, but his entire being protested leaving his team behind.
Teyla was grateful that Rodney remained unconscious while John handled the angry miners outside. She tried to do as thorough an examination as possible in the feeble light of her headlamp. Listening to John, she worried the situation might spiral out of control.
The loose dirt and debris made it difficult to move around, and the pain and stiffness in her body made it dangerous to try to walk. Ronon had already moved most of the rocks off Rodney, uncovering his legs, and crawled over to the collapsed area.
After carefully looking over his broken leg, and knowing she could do nothing more than immobilize it until the medics arrived, she returned to Rodney's head. Pulling packets of antiseptic towelettes from her tac vest, Teyla started cleaning the blood and dirt from his face. Rodney started to moan softly, pushing toward consciousness, and she immediately informed John. She could hear the voices of the crowd fade as John headed toward the puddlejumper.
"Are you sure they are dead?" Teyla asked Ronon, already knowing the answer, but still hoping.
"There's a hand sticking out here."
There was a faint noise in her ear as John caught Ronon's blunt statement.
"We knew there was something wrong," Teyla said. "We had to find out what."
"True," John said. "But it should have been a team of experts."
Teyla sighed. Here was another thing John would blame himself for, ignoring the fact that Teyla, Ronon, and Rodney had all taken part in the decision. Rodney, particularly, had become impatient when the High Chancellor had answered his questions with platitudes and flattery instead of with hard facts. The man had painted a sunny picture with his descriptions of how the recently rediscovered mine would be the path to regaining the prosperity that his people had once enjoyed.
To Teyla, the Hanrians were already a prosperous people, with their acres of bountiful fields, growing enough to both feed themselves and trade what was left for what they needed. A year ago, the Hanrians had been thriving under the care of their former headman, a silver-haired man, full of wisdom, and a formidable negotiator. She had looked forward to sparring with him again across the negotiating table. It had been a unhappy surprise to be met by the High Chancellor, instead of the plain, bluff headman who had died while Atlantis was still on Earth.
There had been many surprises since returning to Pegasus little more than a month ago. The occasional visit from the Daedalus and Colonel Caldwell had only been partially successful in maintaining their trading partnerships. The ongoing fear that Atlantis might never return had damaged their credibility. As it was, it had taken Teyla, Woolsey, and a contingent of Pegasus diplomats to finally convince the IOA to let Atlantis go back where she belonged.
Now they were seeing the full extent of the damage their absence had caused. They didn't know who the High Chancellor was, or how he had become the leader of the Hanrians. If they had been in Pegasus, they might have been able to follow the political winds on this world, and been better prepared.
They had also been careless in not fully trusting their instincts. They should have taken things more slowly, asking more questions of people other than the High Chancellor. He had gone to great lengths in keeping them isolated, even going so far as to use their limited technology to call ahead and have the mine emptied of all workers before the team got there for the inspection.
There were so many warning signs, and though they were suspicious, the team had continued forward. It had just felt so good to go on their first mission together since returning to Pegasus.
Rodney's face was mostly clean. When he started to mutter, his eyelids finally flickered open. "Whaa -- "
"Easy, Rodney," Teyla said, gently grabbing his wrist as he tried to touch his forehead. "There was an accident. Don't move."
"Whaa -- happened?"
Rocks crunched and shifted under Ronon's feet as he approached, then crouched down next to Rodney, across from her. "You were right."
"'Course I was," Rodney said, "About what?"
"The tunnel. You said it probably wasn't safe, and that puffed up arka bird was lying."
"Right," Rodney said, then after a pause, "I should listen to myself more often when I'm right."
John made a soft sound in their ears, "You didn't know you were right at the time," he said, his relief palpable.
"Of course I knew I was right," Rodney said, his voice becoming faint. "Wait. What are we talking about?" Whatever relief Teyla felt disappeared as Rodney frowned in confusion, "The light hurts my eyes."
Teyla held his head in her hands as he tried to turn his face away from the headlamp. "Rodney, be still," she ordered.
"My head's on a rock, and the light -- "
Ronon gently pinned Rodney's arms down as he began to thrash.
"Be still," Teyla said, again. "I will turn the light so it doesn't bother you, but I can't move the rock. I can't let you move your neck, Rodney. I don't know how badly you are injured."
As she watched, the fight went out of him, more because he was exhausted than because he had understood her. He seemed frighteningly weak, which spoke of more injuries than the ones she had been able to find. She didn't want to think the head injury was worse than the cut and bruising on his forehead indicated.
"Ronon, hold his head. I want to clean and cover the head wound."
Shifting from his side to his head, Ronon framed Rodney's face in his hands, while Rodney muttered unintelligibly.
"I'm flying over the town now," John said. "I won't land until I reach the 'gate. It's probably not a good idea to drop off Lord High Muckety Muck right now, if ever. I'm sending him through to Atlantis."
"His people can decide what to do with him once they've calmed down," Teyla said, "Right now, they would probably act in the heat of anger, and regret it later."
"Agreed," John said.
When John finally landed, it felt like the flight had taken hours instead of fifteen minutes. He was surprised that he was still in contact with his team, but they'd finished the inspection and were on their way out when the tunnel collapsed. They must have been fairly close to the entrance, and since their radio signals were getting through, the rock fall might not be that difficult to remove. At least he hoped so.
During the short flight, the High Chancellor had tried to talk to him, but John had shut him down with a glare. The situation wasn't entirely his fault, but John wasn't feeling very charitable toward him at the moment.
It was a relief to finally hear Chuck's voice, and soon after, Woolsey's.
"There's been an accident. We need a special rescue team, and a medical team. Now."
As slow as the trip to the 'gate had felt, time seemed to speed up as John headed back to the mine, knowing that the two teams would be right behind him. One puddlejumper held the medical team, while the other was flown by Lorne, who would be in charge of the mission. John chafed at being just another cog in the rescue plan, but Lorne's geology degree, and years of experience at the SGC made him the best man for the job. Zelenka and a few engineers, mostly Marines, were also there for their expertise, as well as to help with the grunt work.
That's what John ended up doing, the grunt work.
Rodney had finally settled down, but Teyla kept touching him, straightening the long-coat that Ronon had draped over him, checking the pulse in his neck, touching his hair, all in an attempt to keep him from losing consciousness. She answered the questions from the doctor waiting outside the tunnel and followed his instructions, even though she was well trained in emergency first aid, and had already done what was possible with limited supplies and under these conditions.
She felt a pang at hearing Lorne giving orders to the rescue team, but she knew that was foolish. Lorne knew what he was doing, and she had every confidence in him. But she also knew that John wouldn't be happy with someone else in charge of saving his team.
Looking at Ronon, she saw he was no more happy than John. Lorne had made it clear in no uncertain terms that Ronon was not to help dig them out from their side of the collapse. Moving the wrong rock could cause even more debris to fall, endangering themselves as well as their rescuers. Ronon sat next to Rodney, glaring at the rocks blocking the tunnel. The rescue was moving quickly, but her heart sank when she realized that it would still take hours before they would get out.
Then John's voice came over their private channel, "What's Rodney saying?"
Startled, Teyla realized that Rodney was humming, then breaking into indecipherable muttering. Under Ronon's coat, his fingers moved against his chest, as if tapping out a tune.
"Rodney?" She brushed her fingers against his cheek.
"Tha shong. Sing that shong," he said, words slurring.
"I don't understand."
He seemed to gather himself. "That song you sing. Every year." His voice was a thin warble instead of his usual clear tenor as he sang, "Golden leaves... golden leaves... "
"I'm sorry, I still don't know which song you mean, Rodney."
"The golden leaf song," he said, fretfully, "Travel to the orchards. The leaves are gold in springtime instead of autumn." He frowned, "I like when you sing it."
Teyla smiled, suddenly knowing exactly which song he meant.
All activity paused as Teyla's voice sang out over the common channel, slightly rough from breathing dust, but no less beautiful for it, filled their ears. John couldn't help smiling as memories, some of them bittersweet, flooded his mind. Teyla sang that song every year at the Athosian's biggest harvest festival. The first time John had heard her sing it, Ford was with them, all of them still learning to work together as a team. The second time, Ronon was their new teammate, and still on probation with Elizabeth.
While the others went back to work around him, John stood and listened, wondering if Rodney felt as comforted by Teyla's voice as he did. When it was done, John switched them over to the private team channel.
When Teyla reached the final chorus, Rodney sighed, "That's the one."
"It is one of my favorites as well. I never mentioned that if your people had arrived a week later, you would have missed us. We only camp near the 'gate during the winter. We were getting ready to move to our spring encampment where the tarradesh trees grow."
"That song is about tarradesh?" Ronon asked. "We traded for the fruit, but I've never seen a tarradesh tree."
"Yes. One of our smaller cities was known for its many orchards, but only the tarradesh survived. The trees are hard to cultivate, but once they're established, they'll grow and propagate themselves for many centuries. It was one of our primary trading items."
Ronon turned away from his staring contest with the pile of rocks blocking their exit to fully face her. "You might have been one of our trading partners."
"Do you think so? I'd never heard of Sateda until I met you."
"Not directly, but possibly through one of your partners. We couldn't grow tarradesh on Sateda, no matter how hard we tried. The dyers never stopped bitching about it."
Rodney snickered, "You said bitching."
Teyla had to bite her lip, and even Ronon cracked a smile. John laughed in her ear.
"So, your dyers used tarradesh," Teyla said. "We sometimes traded dye instead of trading the whole fruit, but it was usually too much trouble."
"Believe me, I know." Teyla gestured for him to continue. "I worked for a dyer when I was a kid. I hated school and I wanted to earn my own money."
"Child labor," Rodney muttered.
"You either worked or you went to school. Doing or learning, those were the only choices. No one sat around with empty hands."
"What about retirement?"
Ronon snorted, "If you survived childhood, survived the three years required military service, survived raising your own children, survived the Wraith, lived long enough to sell your business or turned it over to your heirs, you became a teacher."
It was Rodney's turn to snort, "Not a nice thing to do to someone who lived to a ripe old age."
"My grandmother used to say, 'I should have died before my grandchildren arrived.' She got out of baby sitting duty as well as teaching in the schools by moving to the Denesta Lake District and giving guided tours of the best fishing areas to tourists."
"I think I like your grandmother," Rodney said.
"She was tougher than Athosian travel jerky."
Teyla leaned over to lightly smack him on the arm. Ronon rubbed his arm as if she had given him a mighty blow.
"Were you an apprentice to the dyer?" Teyla asked.
"As the Marines say, not only no, but hell no."
Teyla laughed, and could hear John laughing with her.
"I spent a whole summer with my fingers dyed yellow from peeling the skins off the fruit. It's thin, and once you break the surface, the whole thing becomes slippery. It was enough to make me go back to school. Some of the other kids made fun of me because it took weeks after I quit for the dye to wear off."
"Did they call you Goldfinger?" Rodney asked, with a smirk, "Did you hear that, John? Ronon is Goldfinger."
"Yeah, Rodney. I heard that. I predict a James Bond marathon in our future."
"Gold... finger... first."
"You don't want to watch them in order?"
It took far too long for Rodney to answer. John had been lulled into thinking his teammates were okay, and nothing would go wrong while the rescuers worked to get them free.
Ronon rarely talked about Sateda, so John had hung on his words, all but committing them to memory. And for all that Teyla went to great lengths to share her customs and beliefs, there was still so much about her that he didn't know. He'd had no idea how close they'd come to missing the Athosians when they'd first 'gated to Athos all those years ago. How different their lives might have been if they had. How different John's life would have turned out without her and the rest of his team.
Rodney's answer to the question was a soft moan.
"Rodney, what's wrong?" Teyla demanded.
It frightened her how long it took for Rodney to gather the strength to talk. "When I fell, something hit me in the stomach, a rock or maybe a boulder."
Her hands tightened on Rodney's arm. "You should have told me."
"To what purpose?" Rodney said, peevishly. "There's nothing you could have done about it. And the rescue team can't work any faster than they already are." The small burst of energy seemed to drain out of him, "I didn't want to worry John."
Teyla slipped her hand under Ronon's coat so she could lay it against Rodney's abdomen. He whimpered, even though she didn't press down; his abdomen was taut and obviously tender to her careful touch.
"Teyla, what's going on," John broke in. "What's wrong with Rodney?"
She didn't want to worry John, either, but the medical team on standby needed all the information they could get if they were going to help Rodney once they reached him.
"There may be some internal bleeding, John. At the very least, abdominal bruising."
With the new information about Rodney, John had switched them over to the medical channel, which included Lorne as the leader of the mission. "Did you hear that, Major? We don't have much time."
"Yes, sir, I heard. We'll be breaking through any minute."
As fast as everyone was already working, they somehow managed to speed up, while not having Lorne chide them for taking risks. Then Lorne called out, "We're through!"
He thought it might kill him not being the first one in. John understood the reasons, but he hated to see Lorne, Zelenka and another engineer go in first to make the area as safe as possible. To make matters worse, he couldn't stay at the hole and peek in because the medical team was parked there. An interminable length of time later, Lorne called the medical team in and John refused to wait any longer. He literally entered the space on the heels of the technician pushing the stretcher through the hole.
Teyla could hear them, the sound of the rocks being removed, and eventually the muffled sound of voices just on the other side of a layer of rubble. Ronon chafed at not being able to help from their side.
She was looking down at Rodney when there was a loud scraping sound and a bright streak of light beamed through the air over their heads from a fist sized hole in the rock fall. Rodney startled badly, blinking up at her. "What? What is it? Where are we?"
"Shhh, easy, Rodney. They're almost here," she said.
"'bout time," he grumbled, and closed his eyes.
Teyla and Ronon watched as the hole got bigger and the light brighter, showing the full extent of the devastation. They'd been very fortunate. In the brighter light, she could see the strain on Ronon's face, but before she could prod him about it, the light was suddenly blocked by Lorne pushing through a pack of equipment, then coming through with Zelenka and another man behind him. It was all very loud and confusing after that as the two archways that had saved them were inspected, and more rock moved out of the way to let the medical team through.
She was exhausted, and for the first time acknowledged how much pain she was in. She didn't want to leave Rodney, but she was eventually maneuvered out of the way so he could be examined and put into a neck brace and back board.
Another doctor quickly examined her and urged her to toward the hole, but she refused to leave before Rodney. So did Ronon. Then John was there, just as dirty and disheveled as the rest of his team. She waited until Ronon, with a big grin on his face, finished thumping John on the back before moving toward John to touch her forehead to his. When he moved back, she could see the question in his eyes.
"He will be fine, John. We will all be fine."
She had faith that Rodney wouldn't make her a liar.
"Of course we don't have to watch them in order. We don't have to watch the George Lazenby movie at all," Rodney said smugly.
"It wouldn't be a proper James Bond marathon without George," John said, putting his booted feet up on Rodney's hospital bed. Rodney huffed in irritation, and pointed a finger at John's boots until he lazily put them back on the floor.
"There are too many Bond movies to watch in one evening anyway." Rodney said.
"That's not a problem since you won't be out of here for another few days. And the doctors want to keep Ronon an extra day, too."
Ronon scowled from the next bed, his lower lip poking out in a way that John didn't dare make fun of. But he wanted to. He'd share the joke later with Rodney.
Rodney had no such hesitation, or possibly no survival instinct. "Hah! That'll teach him to hide his injuries," Rodney grinned at Ronon, "They always find out, and when they do, it's bed rest and bed pans until they think you've learned your lesson."
Ronon growled, grabbed a magazine from his table, and tossed it at Rodney who batted it away with one hand. "Hah, again, Mr. Broken Collar Bone."
"Kids, kids, enough. You don't want the nurses to come in here and make you go to bed early, do you?" John walked over and picked the magazine up off the floor. It wouldn't do for the nurses to discover their precious, and only a few months out of date, copy of Vogue magazine being abused in such a way.
Rodney looked subdued. He was still pale and tired easily. It was probably too soon for any kind of marathon for him, but Ronon definitely needed the distraction. There was already a betting pool going for exactly when Ronon broke out of the infirmary. The marathon was a good way to keep Ronon parked in his bed until morning when John could collect on the pool.
Just as John finished mentally counting up his future winnings, Teyla pushed through the privacy curtains carrying a tray. Rodney and Ronon immediately perked up.
"What have you got," Rodney asked, as she set the cloth covered tray on his table.
"A rare treat," she answered.
She took a corner of the cloth between thumb and finger, and waited, as Rodney and Ronon stared at the tray in anticipation. With a smile, Teyla whipped the cloth away.
On the tray was a ceramic pot with a matching plate heaped with homemade Athosian bread. "I've already checked with your doctors. You can have one slice, Rodney, and no more. Ronon, you may have two. John and I will both have one."
"Why does he get two," Rodney demanded.
"Because he is faster than all of us when it comes to food. But if he tries to take mine, I will give him a broken collar bone he will never forget the next time we spar."
"I won't be forgetting this one," Ronon said.
Rodney didn't say anything, he was looking a little gray around the edges. He might not be up to a movie marathon which meant that Ronon would be out of the infirmary by midnight. Which meant that Teyla was in line to win the betting pool. John turned to glare at her, but was met with a knowing Mona Lisa smile.
"Can we have the bread now?" Rodney asked, plaintively.
"You get the first piece," Teyla said, removing the lid from the ceramic pot. Inside was a yellowish jelly substance.
"Tarradesh jam!" Ronon exclaimed. "How did you get your hands on a jar of tarradesh jam?"
"Now that would be telling," she said, picking up a knife to slather jam on the bread.
John moved to Ronon's bedside to set the magazine down on his table. Teyla talked quietly to Rodney, reassuring him that the jam was completely citrus free, in spite of what its color might indicate. Ronon leaned toward John and whispered, "I hate the stuff. Never could stand it after working for the dyers."
John repressed his grin. "You have two choices: you can act like the big, tough guy that you are and admit it to her, or you can be a big weenie and eat every jam covered crumb."
John moved out of arms reach. By the look on his face, Ronon was going to be out of the infirmary sooner rather than later, and John better not be anywhere Ronon could find him once he'd escaped.
He moved closer to the temporary protection Teyla might offer. "I can't wait to try some of that. I hear it's delicious."