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Fic / Cover Art: Refining Gold

The Boys From The Banner 2
Title: Refining Gold
Author: danceswithgary (danceswithgary@yahoo.com)
Pairing: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Rating: R for language
Warnings: None
Spoilers: None
Word Count: 2610
Archive: Fine, just let me know
Summary: The crash had been a shock for all of them. The instantaneous loss of power had left John piloting the equivalent of a large rock. John and Rodney spend some quality time in the desert.


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As fire refines gold, so suffering refines virtue. : Chinese proverb


Refining Gold



"Get your fat ass off the ground, McKay. I'm not carrying you all the way back to the gate."

"My ass is not fat, Major...."

"Colonel...and you're right, it's not so much fat as...ripe. Like the world's most perfect peach, the kind with that soft fuzz you can feel tickling against your tongue before you bite...."

"All right! I'm up! And walking...see me walking towards the gate? And for the record, Colonel, no one will be left wondering about your stance on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' if you keep stumbling around composing sonnets about my ass."


. . .


The bleak landscape held no promise beyond a cryptic reference in the Ancient database about a weapon and the anomalous energy signature reported by the MALP. Sand and rock baked beneath a blistering sun, heat rising in a shimmering mirage telling lies of distant oceans. Reading the temperature from a remote gauge could never truly convey the impact of emerging into a blast furnace, the instant desiccation of delicate tissues nurtured in the soft air of a floating city.

"I know you're dedicated to the pursuit of physical fitness, Colonel, but there is no way we're going to be able to hike there in this heat." The querulous voice of the chief scientist disturbed the perfect silence of the landscape, an irritant demanding soothing before it escalated. "Not only do we not register on the life signs detector due to some sort of background interference, there's always the danger of sunstroke, sunburn, sun poisoning...."

Rubbing the back of his neck as if the stinging words had raised a welt, John squinted against the sun and uttered the necessary pacifying words. "I'd say 'it's not the heat, it's the humidity,' but we're missing half of the equation." Holding up a hand to forestall a new complaint, he laughingly reassured the other man, "Relax, Rodney. I'm not planning to re-enact Lawrence of Arabia, especially seeing as there's a distinct lack of camels."

"Camels?"

Ronon's growled question left the scientist and the pilot scrambling for an explanation, Rodney winning the contest with a smirk. "Remember horses? They were the animals the cowboys rode in Tombstone, which is, of course, one of the Colonel's favorite movies since it's filled with guns and death and mayhem and men coughing up lungs..."

"Rodney...."

Rolling his eyes at drawled warning, Rodney continued his convoluted definition, "...a camel is like a horse with a hump in the middle of its back where it stores fat. It's uniquely suited for deserts because it can go for long periods without food and water, using its stored resources instead of eating anything that isn't nailed down." A flinty glare made it clear that Rodney still hadn't forgiven the recent loss of his hoarded chocolate.

Ronon raised an eyebrow at John's badly suppressed laughter and interrupted, "A horse...with a hump."

"Yes, well, except for the fact that they don't have hooves, their tails are shorter and skinnier and their necks are longer and they spit and...." Rodney's voice trailed off as Ronon shook his head in patent disbelief and disappeared inside the jumper. Narrowing his eyes at John, he grumbled. "Fine, next time you describe one. After all, explaining why a laden swallow is so amusing worked well for you a few weeks ago."

John reached out and grabbed Rodney's shoulder, spinning him around to face the jumper's interior. "Go sit down, Rodney, so we can see if there are any sheiks with dancing girls waiting out there for us."

"Sure, that's all we need. I've always wanted to be staked out in the desert sun because a certain someone can't keep his hands off the harem."


. . .


"We really shouldn't be walking out here in the middle of the day, Major. It would be much more sensible to find some shelter and walk in the early morning and at dusk. Even the sunscreen I developed for myself can't cope with this level of UV exposure, not to mention the increased chance of dehydration...."

"How many times do I have to tell you that it's Colonel? You wouldn't have to worry so much about dehydration if you'd just shut the fuck up, McKay!"

"That's helpful, isn't it? I was trying to make the point that we're more likely to actually reach the gate alive if we try to take better care of ourselves along the way. You should drink something, too. No use letting yourself get too weak too soon. And no nonsense about saving the water for me and ending up dying of thirst with a full canteen...because I still have plenty left in my own canteens and you'll probably end up having to go on ahead without me and you'll need...."

"Not leaving you behind, McKay. Just keep walking."


. . .


"So I'm thinking that the only good thing about having a three-person team this time out is that we don't have to divide the food and water between four." Rodney's normally strident tones had softened to something just above a mumble, the words barely discernible with his forehead balanced on his drawn-up knees. The cold pack he was holding to the side of his head displayed a creeping pink stain, and John winced when he tried to imagine the headache that the other man had to be suffering from.

"No problem, McKay. If I get too hungry, I'll finally get to find out if you taste like chicken." Ronon's low rumble of laughter was severed by a hiss of pain as John tightened the bindings on the field splint supporting Ronon's broken leg. "I changed my mind, Sheppard. You're first on the menu."

"No, never mind, let's not talk about...." The sound of retching brought John to his feet, torn between helping to support Rodney's head through the heaves and adding to the mess decorating the jumper's wall. Fortunately, for all their sakes, he was able to quell his rising gorge and return to tending the rest of Ronon's injuries, ignoring his own bruises and strains.

After applying the last pressure bandage to the slash on the big man's arm, John patted his shoulder awkwardly. "That's the best I can do for now. Carson will fix you up better when we get back."

"And just how do you think that's going to happen? Did I miss something when we were assessing the fact that we're currently sitting powerless in the middle of the equivalent of an elephant's graveyard except it's the bones of darts and miscellaneous other vehicles that are scattered over a hundred square miles of desert?" Rodney's pain and nausea from his concussion had been pushed aside in favor of a tirade over their circumstances. Waving the cold pack around to emphasize his points, Rodney regaled the rest of the team with his prediction of doom. "Oh, wait! There's more! Anyone coming after us will either suffer the same fate or is going to miss us completely because we won't register on any detectors."

John didn't really blame Rodney for his dismal outlook. The crash had been a shock for all of them. The instantaneous loss of power had left John piloting the equivalent of a large rock. Gravity had won an uncontested battle, and they were damned lucky to be alive and conscious enough to complain. Sighing, John accepted the fact that he was the only mobile member of the team and declared, "I'm going outside to find a place to set up some shade. We'll boil if we stay inside here."

The silence that greeted his announcement didn't make him feel any better.


. . .


"Rodney, you're awful quiet over there. The heat getting to you?"

"Now you want me to talk, Major? What is it with you anyway? I seem to recall that you told me to 'shut the fuck up' not too long ago."

"It's Colonel...fuck...you know what? I don't care anymore, Rodney. Call me Major or Sheppard or...hey, what the hell...go crazy and actually use John for once."

"I've called you John before."

"Not very often, Rodney. We've been through a lot together and still...there you are...ten feet away. You'd be even farther than that, if it wouldn't move you out of the shade."

"Pot, kettle. It's not as though your barriers are down very often. Any time someone gets too close to you, I expect a proximity alarm to go off. 'Danger, John Sheppard. Danger!'"

"The whirling robot hands...jeez...your wrists really are limp, aren't they?"

"Can we go back to the metaphors using peaches, Major? That flight of fancy sounded a hell of lot less stereotypically homophobic. Better yet, take a drink and let's start walking again. Ronon's not going to magically heal himself and run there ahead of us."


. . .


"We don't split up the team, Rodney!"

"Colonel, it's the only logical thing to do. The search teams aren't going to find us here. They're going to head in the direction of the original signal, just like we did, but they aren't going to be tempted to explore the shiny place by the mountains, unlike a certain pilot who suddenly channeled a magpie." Rodney stood a few feet from John, his hands perched on his hips, blue eyes snapping with ill-temper. "The closer I get to the gate, the better the chance I'll have of being spotted from the air."

"McKay's right, Sheppard." The cough that accompanied Ronon's approval of the plan worried John. The larger man had taken the brunt of the damage, providing an inadvertent cushion for both Rodney's and John's tumble across the plummeting jumper. It was entirely possible the cracked ribs had managed to puncture something vital, and every minute they spent arguing wasted Ronon's waning strength.

Frowning at the bitter choice he was being forced to make, John closed his eyes and nodded in defeat. "All right, you win. This is how we're going to do it."


. . .


"Prime. You know, Rodney, I'm really not homophobic."

"That's good to hear, Major. That means there'll be one less person to avoid late at night when I'm walking back alone to my quarters."

"You...you're...."

"Yes, Maj...John. It's never been a big secret that I'm bisexual. I just don't make it a habit of shouting it on high. God, we're friends, you're probably the best friend I've ever had and, after all your flirting and innuendo and teasing...I'm honestly surprised that it surprised you. We've come pretty damn close more than once, and you're the one that keeps backing away."

"I...I wasn't...I mean...."

"Relax, John. I'm not going to jump you when your guard is down. I know the difference...and I know you're not really interested in me that way. Just...take another drink and put on more sunscreen...so you aren't courting skin cancer so diligently. We still have a long way to go in this heat."


. . .


By the time the first few miles had unwound beneath his scuffed boots, the jumper had disappeared in the jungle of derelicts, one of many come to grief on the desolate planet. John had to agree once more that Rodney had been right; the search teams would have missed them too easily in their sweeps. The open desert was their only hope for rescue. He hiked the pack higher on his shoulder and kept walking in the direction Rodney insisted was correct.


. . .


"I am interested, Rodney. I have been, right from the beginning. It's just the rules...my career...I could lose any chance to fly...."

"Sometimes you just have to decide whether something's worth the risk, John. Your life can't always be settled by the toss of a coin."

"Where do you get off telling me...."

"You think I don't know what it's like to take a chance? I walked through the gate knowing there were some pretty high odds that I might never come back. Hell, I know that I'm a coward most of the time, but I also know that at least once...I weighed the options and took a life-altering risk. Funny thing is...it turned out that walking through gates behind you gets easier every time I do it."

"Damn it, Rodney. I don't think you're a coward, it's just...has it been worth it?"

"Will my answer make a difference?"


. . .


"Carson, he's waking up!" John's lips twitched into a painful smile at Rodney's stage whisper. His voice, along with the sounds and smell of the infirmary, meant they'd made it back. He could detect the other man's body hovering next to him, even with his eyes closed.

He and Rodney had walked through the desert together.

"Made it." The croak of his voice was startling. He'd sounded better out under the sun.

"Actually, not really." The strained note in Rodney's voice induced John to open painfully sore eyes, and he blinked up at lights much kinder than the rays that had blistered his face and seared his eyelids. "We picked you up about ten miles short of the gate, three-quarters dead and hallucinating. Rodney's face still telegraphed his thoughts, even under the thick coating of anesthetic cream coating his sun-reddened face. When John smiled in sympathy, he could feel the same preparation adhering to his own skin and lips. Grateful for the understanding, Rodney continued, "Still pretty impressive, the number of miles you did manage to cover. I have to admit that I would never have made it that far. It ended up being a good idea...having me stay behind with Ronon."

The ice chips Rodney carefully placed on his tongue helped moisten the parched tissues of John's throat enough to allow him to ask his burning question, "How?"

"I did some extrapolation based on what we'd been able to see before we crashed, correlated that with the scatter patterns, and found the transmitter buried under an enormous cairn. After I was able to shut it off...."

"You should see the walls of the jumper. They're covered with numbers. McKay is weird." John turned his head toward Ronon's gravelly voice and smiled to see the other man lying in the bed next to his. "I never did get to find out what he tastes like...."

"And thank you, Colonel, for leaving me alone with this galaxy's answer to Hannibal Lector. I was sure I was going to wake up and find myself garnished with fava beans...."

John rolled his head back and tried to dam the flood of relieved babble. "Rodney."

Rodney's eyes had never left John's face, as if he were afraid John would disappear if he looked away. "Of course, I probably would go well with Chianti...."

"Rodney."

"Colonel?"

"John. Call me John." He reached out to cover Rodney's hand where it clenched tight around the bed's safety rail, the bruised fist white with strain. Rodney's eyes widened and he glanced around the infirmary, checking for any witnesses other than Ronon, who had the nerve to grin at both men. John chuckled and squeezed with sore fingers. "I have my answer, Rodney."

Rodney was obviously baffled, on the verge of calling Carson in to check his patient. "J...John? I don't understand."

"It's okay, I do. I thought about us...out there...and there were no coins involved."

A laser-sharp gaze studied John's face, missing nothing. A smile lifted the corners of Rodney's mouth and his other hand crept up to stroke John's sun burnt knuckles gently. "And the answer?"

"You're worth the risk."


fin

Remix Refining Gold (Beautiful Mess Remix) artword - 012 Challenge

***

Notes: Submitted for sga_flashfic's 'Burning Up' Challenge.

Standard Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters herein. The characters of Rodney McKay and John Sheppard as well as any supporting characters are the property of their creators and MGM Television/Sony Pictures Television/Associated Production Companies. Any deviation (or deviant behavior) from the originals, however, is mine.

Feedback is both welcome and appreciated.


Comments

( 16 Danced — Dance with Me )
ailurophile6
Apr. 28th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
beautiful :)

funny and poignant at the same time, how did you do that?
danceswithgary
Apr. 28th, 2008 01:29 am (UTC)
I try to make funny/sweet balance the sad, hopefully enough to ensure a happy ending. Glad you enjoyed the result. :-D Thanks!
fays
Apr. 28th, 2008 12:15 am (UTC)
I really need to stop drinking things when I read fic!

"Colonel...and you're right, it's not so much fat as...ripe. Like the world's most perfect peach, the kind with that soft fuzz you can feel tickling against your tongue before you bite...."

I can actually picture him saying this, which made it pretty much the greatest John line ever!

"No problem, McKay. If I get too hungry, I'll finally get to find out if you taste like chicken." Ronon's low rumble of laughter was severed by a hiss of pain as John tightened the bindings on the field splint supporting Ronon's broken leg. "I changed my mind, Sheppard. You're first on the menu."

This story seriously all out wins at having great lines. It's quite possibly that I'm in love with this <3333
danceswithgary
Apr. 28th, 2008 01:30 am (UTC)
I think the snark possibilities are one of the attractions of this pairing for me. :-D Glad you enjoyed and thanks!
pisces227
Apr. 28th, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)
McShep rules! Well done.
danceswithgary
Apr. 28th, 2008 10:50 am (UTC)
They do! Thanks!
winter_elf
Apr. 28th, 2008 08:26 am (UTC)
Oh John - takes a conversation with your imaginary alter ego to make you see things. Great job. And yea, worth the risk.
danceswithgary
Apr. 28th, 2008 10:53 am (UTC)
Indeed, a very useful bit of alone time. :-D Glad you enjoyed. Thanks!
enderwiggin24
Apr. 28th, 2008 08:51 am (UTC)
your cover is lovely!
danceswithgary
Apr. 28th, 2008 10:54 am (UTC)
Thanks, I'm really pleased at how it came out. :-D
theeverdream
Oct. 10th, 2009 09:48 am (UTC)
I thought about us...out there...and there were no coins involved.

So sweet!!
danceswithgary
Oct. 10th, 2009 11:32 am (UTC)
Thanks! So glad you liked it. :-D
qzee
Sep. 18th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
I like Ronon's promise/threat to eat John and/or Rodney should things go bad. And I agree with Rodney, he'd taste good with chianti or chocolate body paint or, well, anything really.
danceswithgary
Sep. 19th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
I would also agree with Rodney about the tasting good. After all, John already thinks he's quite like a peach in certain ways. :-D Thanks!
outsideth3box
Oct. 7th, 2012 02:28 am (UTC)
Just rereading this and realized I never left a comment, so sorry. I love this fic, I like the way it's written to make us think the guys really are together walking through the horrible desert. I love Rodney's snark, even in John's head. And I love a little bit of Sheppard-whump to liven things up, heheh.

Really lovely story, thanks for sharing!
danceswithgary
Oct. 7th, 2012 02:49 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for commenting - I needed the smile! :-D
( 16 Danced — Dance with Me )

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