By Enola Jones

The Jumper soared through the Gate onto PYM-493 and immediately cloaked. "What did you say this world was named, again?" John asked as he searched for an out of the way place to land.

"Socare," Teyla answered.

Ronon nodded. "That's what they called themselves when I passed through."

"You came here when you ran?" Rodney asked.

"About a year in. They kept me for a couple of hours – fed me, then led me to the Ancestral Ring. That was one of the more pleasant times I had."

"Any repercussions for the people?" Rodney asked.

Ronon smiled. "Nope. Wasn't there long enough. Wraith caught up with me on the next world – never knew I'd been to Socare. Never risked returning."

"Don't blame you, big guy," John muttered. "Socare, huh?" He smiled. "Batter than PYM-493."

Rodney hummed. "Maybe we should start limiting the computer designations to briefings and reports and using the native names. After all, we're Pegasus now, too." He frowned as he glanced around. "What?"

Ronon and Teyla were both smiling at him. Teyla's smile grew and she leaned forward, squeezing Rodney's arm.

"Found us a landing place," John reported. "Bit of a walk, though."

"A walk?" Rodney frowned deeper. "How – how much of a walk?"

A smile quirked at John's lips. "Oh, not much."


Two hours later, they were toping the rise overlooking the village. Rodney glared at John. "Not much?"

"So it was a few clicks," John shrugged.

"A few clicks?" Rodney squeaked. "Calling that a few clicks is like calling the Titanic a pretty little boat!"

"I liked Rose," Ronon rumbled. "She had spirit."

"Oh, please," Rodney huffed. "She wasn't even real! All the real drama on that ship and the director has to cook up--"

"Much as I'm enjoying the Siskel and Ebert routine," John interrupted, "just thought you'd like to know, we're there."

"Good," Rodney groused. "I hope they have masseuses – my poor feet will never be the same..."


The people of the village were friendly – but somewhat nervous. There was a definite feeling of being stalled going on.

Though the Daedalus made regular runs to Atlantis, there were still long stretches of time where they were on their own. And Atlantis simply refused to become too dependent upon Earth. Hence, the continued trade negotiations with Pegasus worlds.

As these rather frustrating negotiations dragged on, the Lanteans were served a sumptuous banquet in an upstairs room.

Rodney was the first one to the spread and he blinked, pulling back – visibly startled.

"What?" John asked, coming closer. "What is--" His nose twitched and he frowned. "Okay, that's not even right."

Ronon inhaled, growling, and Teyla frowned deeply. "The entire meal?"

"—is spiked with citrus," Rodney moaned. "I can't eat anything. I can't even drink the water," which had several slices of a lemony-looking fruit floating in it.

"The one of us who needs to eat is the one who can't," John snarled. "What the hell is going on, here?"

"I would apologise, Colonel." All four spun to the doorway, where the village's head man – Artel – stood. He raised his chin. "But I am not sorry. The tova juice we poured over your food did its job – alerting you to the fact that things are not as they appear."

"Artel?" Teyla asked.

Artel's eyes were on John's. "They have my daughter."

"They?" John snarled. "Who's 'they'?"

Ronon was looking out of the small window. "Genii," he growled.

"Artel," John's tone demanded answers.

Artel's hands clenched into fists. "We were to drug you and hand Doctor McKay off to them. Then they would return my daughter. I overheard Doctor McKay complaining to you, and thus I ordered tova juice to be poured over the table and tova slices to be put in the water. I knew it would alert you and thus I could tell you what was happening here."

"What is happening here?" Rodney blurted out.

Artel held out a fruit to him and Teyla nodded. "A primon. Quite safe to eat, Rodney. Not citrus, and holds enough sugar that you should remain all right."

Rodney nodded and took it. "Thank you," he said sincerely to Artel, who bowed his head.

"What is happening here," Artel said as he handed primons to everyone and bit into one himself. Only then did they begin eating. "Is that the Genii are using my people to get to yours. I find this unacceptable. I do not know a way out – they have my daughter."

John's voice was low and dangerous. "I'll tell you what we do. We get your daughter back."

There was an electronic whine as Ronon spun his gun, making certain it was fully charged. "How?" he asked.

John looked over at Rodney, who swallowed his mouthful of primon as his eyes went wide.


Artel approached the Genii soldiers, dragging a tied and visibly-ill Rodney with him. "Here he is," he snarled, shoving the other man to the ground. "Where is Srendal?"

The soldier in charge bent down and tilted Rodney's chin up. He noted the glazed, unfocused eyes and the too-shallow breaths. "What have you done to him?"

"Tova extract. To keep him docile. Do not worry – it will wear off by dawn. Where is my daughter?"

The soldier straightened. "Bring her."

Seconds later, the child – barely six summers old – was safe in her father's arms. Without a word, Artel lifted her and spun, racing toward the village.

"Coward," the Genii soldier sneered. "Bring him."

Two soldiers hauled Rodney to his feet, causing him to mumble something.

Frowning, the soldier in charge stepped forward. "What was that, McKay?"

Rodney's slack jaw closed. His feet planted and his body straightened in the Genii pair's grip. "I said," he snarled, his blue eyes suddenly clear and furious, "You lose."

Shocked, the soldier took a step back – and was stunned unconscious by a blast from Ronon's gun.

The remaining soldiers scrambled and returned fire. The pair holding Rodney released him. Rodney bolted for cover, caught the sidearm Teyla flung at him, and joined the firefight.

As John reared up to fire, one of the Genii's bullets shattered part of the makeshift wall he was using as cover. John dropped back down and grunted as chunks of rock rained painfully down onto his lower back. The hardest one sent him flat, and he got back up cursing under his breath.

When it happened a second time, John realised this wasn't going to do any good and dove for a new cover.

He had almost made it when a Genii, falling from one of Ronon's shots, spasmed his finger on the trigger. The wild shot careened across John's lower back, making him gasp with the sudden agony. He landed flat on his face and lay there, panting.

John was struggling to his knees when another shot brought another shattering of cover. This time, a heavy chunk smashed into his lower left back to the side of his spine. The pain was so bad John screamed into the crook of his arm.

The battle was over surprisingly quickly after that. John got painfully to his feet and schooled his face into neutrality as he forced himself to walk over to the reviving leader of the soldiers.

The solder's eyes went huge, mistaking John's pain-measured steps for the stalk of an angry hunter.

John raised his gun and aimed it at the soldier. "Get. Out," he snarled. "Never -- Never -- return to this world. Do you understand me?"

The soldier sneered, but ordered a retreat.

Artel sent men to make certain they left. Then he reappeared, smiling. "Thank you – in honour of your bravery, I wish to invite you to real negotiations for trade between our two peoples."

John forced a smile, but inside he was groaning. His back hurt and he just wanted to go home.


Negotiations were going well – there were just a few minor details to clear up. Artel offered them lodgings for the night and seemed absolutely delighted when they accepted.

John wasn't feeling well. He slid into the bathroom – indoor plumbing never felt so good – and sleepwalked through using the facilities before he slipped to sleep to the tune of Rodney's mumbles.

Some hours later, a painful bladder woke Rodney. He walked into the bathroom facilities – and froze.

The nearly-toilet was full of red water.

Rodney took care of business and washed his hands, his brain whirling – possibilities rising up and being discarded quickly. Why would the water be red? They'd been given this room, in perfectly pristine condition. The water was clear in the nearly-toilet then.

Rust? No, not that amount and not that fast.

Blood? From who? He wasn't bleeding. Women in menarche left the water like that, but there had been no woman in their room. The only other person in that room was---

Rodney froze. His eyes went huge. "Oh, no." He was out of the bathroom like a shot and bending over John. He could feel the heat rolling off of the man in waves.

"Oh, no. Oh, shit!" He activated his radio. "Ronon! Please tell me you're awake!"

There was a low growl in his ear. Am now.

"Good, good! We have to get Sheppard back to the Jumper and Atlantis -- now!"

Why now? What can't wait till morning?

"He's got a fever and he's passing blood!"

Teyla's voice cut onto the channel. I shall remain and explain. Go.

Then Ronon's voice again. Open the door, McKay.

Rodney opened the door, and in Ronon strode. He moved right to John's bed, eyes widening as he felt the fever-heat. "Damn."

"Yeah," Rodney said, gathering up their gear. "We need to go -- now."

Without another word, Ronon lifted John and they were on their way.

When they were nearly to the Jumper, Ronon said suddenly, "McKay. He's awake."

Rodney was at his side in an instant. "What were you thinking?"

John smiled weakly. "Didn't want... to"

"Trade was all but finalised, idiot," Rodney snarled. "We could have left." He went on ahead and dialed Atlantis from the Jumper. "McKay to Atlantis – medical emergency! Sending IDC through now!"


Days passed – days of delirium and misery as the injured kidney protested vehemently the battering it had taken. But the body is a marvelous thing, and with the proper treatment John was finally on the road to recovery.

And having to face the music.

Rodney walked into the infirmary to find Ronon sitting beside John's bed and Teyla sitting on the foot of it.

John looked up at him and smiled tiredly. "Come to ream me out?"

Rodney tilted his head toward the rest of the Team. "What, they haven't already?"

"I was just waiting for your special brand of snark," John drawled.

That made Rodney huff, and he sat in the chair on the other side of John's bed. "You're out of luck, then," he said. "I'm going to spare your delicate ears this time. You're going to get something worse than my particular flavour of fury."

John cocked an eyebrow. "Oh? There's something worse than a full McKay rant?"

"Yeah," Rodney snarled. "A taste of your own medicine." He crossed his arms and glared at John, his voice deliberately soft and growling. "Don't you ever -- ever -- pull something like this shit again."

John gestured at himself. "Hey, I wasn't exactly planning to get my kidneys beaten up--"

"No-- but you went all soldier-y and stoic and we had no clue you were hurting so badly!" Rodney leaned forward. "We're a team, John. That's what you keep drilling into us. So it's high time you started acting like you're part of this team."

John looked at the nodding heads of his teammates, and turned back to Rodney, his mouth opening. Rodney pointed at him. "No. I'm right and you know I'm right!"

Rodney smirked as John's mouth closed with a nearly audible 'click'. John glared at him. "You're damned scary when you're all – what was that term? -- 'soldier-y'. All told, I think I'd prefer a patented McKay verbal lashing!"

"Which was why you didn't get one," Rodney grinned.

John "Hmph!"ed as the other three laughed.

The conversation buzzed around John as Carson came in and updated them. John wouldn't be released for a few more days – he needed to rest and fully recover.

John lay there with a full head as he studied his Team. Rodney had been completely right. He needed to start acting like part of this Team he belonged to.

No, he corrected himself. This family he belonged to.

That thought carried him off to a deep, recuperative sleep with a gentle smile on his face.


Return to The Stargate: Atlantis page

Return to The Realm