"Perhaps one of us should travel with you?" Teyla glanced between Sheppard and McKay, a concerned frown creasing her forehead. "You're not well, Major --"
"What're a few broken ribs and a flesh wound between friends?" Sheppard said airily.
McKay stared at him thoughtfully. "Painful? Incapacitating?"
"Well... a little bit." Sheppard reached out and patted Teyla's arm. "Thanks, but we'll be fine. We'll travel back the way we came; you with Ford and Marco; me with McKay and --"
"Two corpses," McKay said glumly.
"Yeah." Sheppard turned and walked into the shadowed recesses of the puddle jumper. "If you've got a problem with that, Rodney ..."
"No, no problem." McKay hurried after him, leaving Teyla to shrug, smile, and turn away. "Really. I love travelling with dead bodies piled up behind me."
Sheppard sat down in the co-pilot's chair with a small sigh, cradling his injured arm. "Well, if you don't, and I have to say I detected some sarcasm there, you've got fifteen hours to get used to it. I'm not leaving them behind."
"I didn't think that you would," McKay said, which was true. "Sentiment aside, Beckett will want to examine them, I'd imagine. Gaul was only partially drained, and there's the paralysis." He rubbed his fingers together, remembering the way they'd become numbed and clumsy after tearing away at the cocoon over Gaul's face. "He'll probably find it all fascinating and spend long happy hours doing whatever it is he does."
"Can we not mention that?" Sheppard screwed up his face. "Autopsies; not my favourite thing."
"I don't think the dead people mind. It's not like it hurts when they're sliced open --"
"Rodney. Shut up."
"Oh, so you're allowed to have irrational feelings that have to be respected?" McKay stabbed at something on the control panel and regretted it a moment later as it did something to his seat that meant he suddenly had less leg room.
"As long as you admit that you're being just as irrational, I don't mind," Sheppard said amiably.
McKay snorted and adjusted his seat. "I'm a scientist. I'm never irrational."
"Right." Sheppard drawled the word out and gave it more syllables than it was entitled to. "I believe you."
McKay twisted around to glare at him. "Clearly you don't."
"Rodney. Don't spoil the moment." Sheppard nodded at the control panel. "Get us up in the air, will you?"
"Do you want me to do it?"
"Actually...." McKay gave Sheppard's injured arm a speculative look and then sighed. "No, I think I can manage."
"You'll be fine."
"I will?" The jumper lurched to the side and McKay yelped. "Is it supposed to do that?"
"No." Sheppard leaned forward and did something that made the jumper settle down and purr, or the mechanical equivalent. "Just get us out of the atmosphere, and then it's routine."
"Oh, you had to say that, didn't you?" McKay said bitterly. "We'll probably get kidnapped by little green aliens now."
"Well if we do, just remember that you're the one who brought them up first."
"Anyone ever mention that you're persistent in a yappy little dog kind of a way?"
McKay smiled. "That's a compliment, right?"
"Only you could think so."
"Now, see, you're trying to distract me and it won't work." McKay frowned at the controls. "Does this thing have an autopilot?"
"Why would you want it to?" Sheppard shook his head. "You're flying a space ship, Rodney and you're bored already? You have no romance in your soul."
"I do, I just save it for more appropriate moments. Like when... " Rodney tried in vain to think of one that had actually happened to him and gave up. "Flying a vehicle isn't romantic. Point A to point B. Whether you do it in a galleon, a spaceship or a sedan, it's still long hours of doing very little and wishing you were either at point B, or hadn't left point A. What moment?"
Sheppard stood up. "I'm going to check on the body bags."
"You'd rather look at dead bodies than answer a simple question?" McKay gave Sheppard's back an incredulous look but was prevented from leaving his chair because he wasn't sure what would happen if he did. Space was big and empty -- relatively speaking -- but that didn't mean that he couldn't crash into something, and if he hurt the jumper, Sheppard wouldn't be pleased. "Are they moving? You'd tell me if they were moving, wouldn't you?"
"They're not moving, and it's not a simple question," Sheppard said, coming back and sitting down heavily. "Rodney -- Elizabeth's going to want to know about Gaul. You told me he shot himself; you didn't really say why."
"I should have thought that it was obvious."
"He wasn't dead; Beckett may have been able to do something."
"Something." McKay poured a gallon of scorn over the word. "Did you see him? The way he looked?"
Sheppard's fingers clenched into a fist on his knee and then relaxed before McKay had time to do more than give them a startled glance. "His head was blown half-off, Rodney."
The even tone of his voice did as much as the memory of a ruined face to make McKay shiver. "I know. But he was -- he wasn't going to get better and he knew I wanted to go."
Sheppard's eyebrows drew together. "You didn't want to stay with him while he was dying? I know you've got a thing about death, but that's a little selfish even for you."
"I'm sorry; did you just call me selfish?"
Sheppard leaned back in his chair and gave him a sidelong, challenging look. "Yeah, I did."
"We both wanted to save you," McKay said, biting his lip because his voice sounded shaky and that wasn't something he intended to permit. "You were in trouble and we wanted to help. Gaul knew I wouldn't leave him and so he -- you know what he did. And then I could go after you." He jerked his head up. "This is the part where you're falling over yourself to apologise and feeling really sorry."
"It is, is it?"
"Yes," McKay said uncompromisingly.
McKay waited expectantly and then gaped at him. "That's it? That's all I get? I saved your ass out there, Major."
Sheppard smiled condescendingly, the Compleat Soldier, deluxe edition. "I was managing just fine."
"You needed me." Why was he bothering? "Fine. Have it your way. Brave Major Sheppard saved the day while the terrified, pathetic scientist floundered around in the sand trying not to --"
"You were very brave, Rodney."
Sheppard shrugged carefully. "You heard me."
"Yes, but are you just saying that?" Rodney frowned suspiciously. Hard to tell with people sometimes. Humour; sarcasm... such a thin dividing line when you weren't all that good at the first, and owned the copyright on the latter. Safer to assume people didn't mean it when they were being nice.
"Nope. You had my back and I appreciate that, and what Gaul did, too. That took guts."
"Oh." McKay thought about that for a moment. It was better than nothing. Not quite the fulsome gratitude he'd wanted, but he could be realistic about it. He brightened. "We took down a Wraith."
A satisfied, reminiscent smile spread over Sheppard's face. "Yeah."
"I didn't run away." McKay cleared his throat and offered up a smidge of honesty because he guessed Sheppard already knew it. "Possibly because I was frozen to the spot with fear, but still..."
"No." Sheppard reached over and patted his knee. "You stood your ground. Distracted him. Slowed him down. All good things."
"And not just any old Wraith either," McKay said, his voice rising and quickening as he remembered. "A 10,000 year old cannibal Wraith --"
"With super powers!"
"Super powers," Sheppard said firmly.
McKay smiled indulgently. "He did seem trickier than usual..."
"See?" Sheppard said lying back in his chair and sighing happily. "We're back at the moment. Did I tell you how I hid the grenade?"
"I had to be really careful how I balanced the radio --"
"Rodney." Sheppard looked reproachful. "Moment."
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