Title: Not Exactly Rodney's Favorite Planet
Word Count: 3500 wds
Summary: Rodney gets food poisoning on a mission. Just a bit of random Rodney h/c and general teaminess. (John POV)
Notes: May be hard to read for those with bodily function squicks (though it's really not graphic; I squick too easily for that myself *g*).
John first started to suspect trouble when he noticed that Rodney was being unusually quiet. Not that Rodney really had much to talk about with the residents of M45-P3Y -- there was little advanced technology here, and their mission was basically a simple trading trip -- but this didn't usually stop him from babbling on about anything and everything. As they sat around the fire in the Caledoni main lodge, however, sipping from small cups of a bitter tea, Rodney became more and more quiet and withdrawn, sinking into the cushions of the big Caledoni chairs.
No one else commented on it -- for all the the Caledoni knew, Rodney was like that all the time -- but John knew better, and he kept sneaking sidelong glances at his teammate, noticing Rodney's increasing pallor and the way that he clutched his teacup to his chest without sipping from it. Every once in a while he saw Teyla taking a surreptitious peek in Rodney's direction, too, so he wasn't the only one who was worried.
One of the Caledoni serving class -- young men and women from well-to-do families in the village, doing a few years of mandatory community service before settling down to marry -- bent over Rodney's shoulder with a fresh pot of tea, murmuring a question in his ear. John watched out of the corner of his eye as Rodney grimaced and shook his head, covering the mouth of his teacup in the evidently universal "do not fill" gesture. As the servant moved away, Rodney's face twisted again and he bent forward, curling an arm around his stomach.
Aw, hell, John thought, as Rodney rose a bit awkwardly. "Sorry," Rodney mumbled, "'scuze me," and he hurried off, hunched over, in the direction of the doorway leading to the main hall's latrines.
Due to the wide variety of unfamiliar foodstuffs encountered on missions, food poisoning and other digestive upsets were common enough for SG teams that there was a standard protocol to deal with it. Unfortunately, the first item on the list was "dial back and let Medical know about the situation", and this was going to be difficult -- P3Y was perfectly safe during the day, or so their hosts assured them, but at night, hordes of carnivorous bats took to the air. No one in the village seemed especially concerned, but they all stayed inside their lodges and the covered walkways between until the sun came up. John and his team had been informed that if they chose to stay the night, they'd need to stay in the village; he hadn't thought it would be a problem, and Atlantis wasn't expecting a check-in until noon.
Well, the whole point of the mandatory medical check-in was just to let them know there might be a problem -- most of these things cleared up on their own, just as they did on Earth. Both the SGC and the IOA wanted to be careful and not take chances with offworld microbes, but, John thought, the odds were pretty good that Rodney was just having a slight disagreement with something they'd eaten earlier. There had been a lot of things at the Caledoni banquet that he hadn't even been able to recognize, let alone identify, and after being reassured that citrus fruits were not even known on this world, Rodney and the rest of them had tucked in heartily.
The minutes wore on, and John found himself having more and more difficulty concentrating on Caledoni small talk. He didn't think it was just his imagination that Teyla looked a bit restless, too, and during a lull in the conversation, she leaned over and whispered in Ronon's ear. He nodded briefly, and rose to head for the latrines himself. Teyla glanced over in John's direction and gave him a little smile.
Best damn team ever.
Ronon was gone for a while, long enough for John to struggle his way through another cup of that goddawful tea (which he hoped didn't contain as much caffeine as the bitterness would suggest, or else he could forget sleeping tonight). When Ronon came back, he knelt down behind John's chair and stretched a long arm across the back of it, waiting until the Caledoni matron to John's right finished her story and then turned to speak to her husband after John made polite noises. With the attention of the room temporarily off him, John leaned back and murmured to Ronon, "Rodney?"
"He's pretty sick," Ronon muttered back. "Took him back to our room and stuck him in the latrine. I don't think we'll want him anywhere else for a while."
Great. Well, at least the Caledoni had, if not actual indoor plumbing, something kind of similar; the village was located above an underground river, and most of the houses had fairly tasteful bathrooms that deposited waste, outhouse-style, into the river. However, all four teammates were sharing a room, and John was having unpleasant flashbacks to college and having to deal with drunken roommates.
"Is he okay? I mean, basically okay."
Ronon lifted a shoulder in a shrug. "Yeah, just sick. I don't think there's anything seriously wrong with him."
The Caledoni matron, whose name John kept forgetting, leaned forward in her chair. "I'm sorry, I couldn't help overhearing. Is your friend ill?"
"Seems like something at dinner disagreed with him," John said as lightly as he could manage. The unpleasant sensation that always went along with having his team split up offworld fluttered in his stomach. At least, he hoped it was just concern; all they needed was for the whole team to come down with whatever Rodney had.
The Caledoni woman winced. "I'm sorry to hear it. We have some teas that are good for illness; would you like me to have some brewed and sent up?"
"Sure," John said, because while Rodney would probably hate anything they offered him -- especially if it tasted like the rest of the tea here -- it couldn't hurt to try local remedies on a local ailment. He fought off a fresh surge of discomfort at having the gate out of commission, albeit temporarily.
None of the three of them could concentrate on the trading negotiations; as little as John wanted to nursemaid a puking teammate, he didn't like the idea of leaving Rodney unattended for too long. The Caledoni, luckily, seemed to understand, and the meeting broke up for the evening. They gave John and his teammates a pot of tea that they assured him was helpful for stomach sickness, as well as covered jars of warm and cold water, and some towels. They were effusive with apologies, and promised that the Atlanteans need only ring the bell in their quarters for service if they needed anything.
The night outside was cool; the three of them hurried down the covered walkway between the buildings. The sides were screened, making John think of mosquito netting in tropical parts of Earth. Here, of course, it was meant to keep out a somewhat larger threat. Caledoni residences took the form of a hotel-style series of rooms with separate external doors, opening onto hallways running the length of the building; in his head, John found himself calling it the Pegasus Motel. He tapped lightly on their door and then pushed it open.
There was a single lantern burning beside one of the flat pallet-style beds that the Caledoni favored; its sheets were rumpled up. John took the basin of warm water from Teyla, and, somewhat unwillingly, peeked into the bathroom.
"Rodney? You in here?"
"Dying man here," came a moan from the darkness after a moment. "Just let me die in peace."
John relaxed a bit. "Brought you some stuff that's supposed to help."
"Keller with a jumper full of drugs?" Rodney asked in a small, hopeful voice.
"It's more of a local tea kind of thing, really. Vampire bats, remember? No gate."
Teyla leaned around the doorway to hand John a candle and a washcloth, then withdrew discreetly. John's first thought was an unkind Coward! -- but he realized that Teyla was probably thinking Rodney would feel more comfortable with a male teammate under the circumstances, and, he thought, she was probably right. Teyla had good instincts for those things.
Rodney was slumped over one of the stone Caledoni toilets in the classic pose of the physically ill. He'd been stripped to his waist; John supposed that Ronon had probably done that, and tried not to think about the probable reason why.
John sat down on the covered seat of the toilet next to Rodney's, and set down his burdens so that he had his hands free.
"How ya doing, buddy?"
Rodney raised his head. His hair was plastered damply to his forehead, his face pale and eyes bruised-looking. "How do I look?"
"Like hell," John said honestly.
"Excellent; truth in advertising, then." He groaned and dry-heaved several times over the toilet, then slumped limply against it.
John soaked the rag and held it out awkwardly. "Uh, you wanna get cleaned up?"
"Only if it helps me die faster," Rodney groaned, and then he sat bolt upright. "Oh, dammit, I need to -- out, out --" He was undoing the buckles on his pants, and John rose hastily.
"So, I'll just be outside if you need anything."
"Out!" Rodney said with as much forcefulness as he could muster in his present state, and John fled with as much dignity as he could retain.
He almost ran into Ronon and Teyla hovering outside the door. "He's, um, still Rodney," John said, pulling the door shut.
"How are you feeling, John?" Teyla asked. One of her hands rose as if she was contemplating feeling his brow, then dropped back down.
"Fine, so far. You two?"
"Just fine," Ronon said, and Teyla nodded.
"Well, there's that, then." John sat down on the nearest pallet and began to unlace his boots. They weren't going anywhere tonight, so may as well make themselves comfortable. He still didn't like the situation -- he'd rest a hell of a lot easier if he could call Atlantis -- but, for now at least, there wasn't much to do.
Under normal circumstances, he really liked these late evenings offworld, when the day's mission was over -- whatever it had been -- and his team was settling in for the night. John usually brought a book tucked into his pack or tac vest; Ronon generally brought out something to whittle or the Gameboy he'd won off one of the Marines in a poker game, while Teyla might settle into meditation or read a book of her own, and Rodney would have his ever-present laptop. It always gave John a peaceful, content kind of feeling; it reminded him of studying with buddies in late-night dorm rooms, or, even farther back, settling into a hotel room with Dave on one of their parents' innumerable trips, back when he and Dave still got along and it was an adventure to have a hotel room all to themselves.
Tonight, Teyla curled up with a dog-eared paperback novel, probably something she'd picked up from the book-share box in the reading library. Ronon sat cross-legged on his pallet, knife in hand, working on a lumpen piece of local wood. John opened up the fat Heinlein paperback he'd stuffed into his vest, but his eyes kept going to the empty pallet. Every once in a while, a particularly miserable-sounding groan drifted, muffled, from the bathroom.
"He should not stay in there all night," Teyla said, looking up from her book.
"You want him out here with us?" Ronon pointed out.
Both of them looked in John's direction, with what he had begun to think of as the "our team leader will fix this" expression.
"Guys, he'd probably rather be left alone. I know I'd want to be left alone." Luckily, it had been awhile since he'd been that sick, but he sure as hell didn't like people hovering over him when he felt the way that Rodney obviously did at the moment.
Still, they kept staring. John dealt with it by reading another page of his book, because damn it, nobody ever said anything about mopping the fevered brows of puking teammates when he took this job. Generally, in his experience, if you pretended that you didn't know there was a problem, someone eventually took care of it so you didn't have to.
After a long silence, John saw out of the corner of his eye that Teyla was rolling her eyes, with a look that clearly said Men. She rose and stood over John until he eventually, reluctantly, looked up from his book. "Help you?"
"Rodney should have the bed closest to the bathroom."
Okay, yeah, that made sense. He hadn't really thought about it. "Good point," he said, and rose to move to the other unoccupied bed, stretching out with his book.
"In my childhood, I often shared tents with other small children," Teyla said, and while John was trying to figure out if she was merely explaining her expertise at handling sick roommates or if he'd just been insulted, she pulled the top blanket off the pallet and went to let herself into the bathroom.
John could hear quiet voices murmuring in the bathroom, and once Teyla's voice raised in exasperation: "Rodney, you cannot remain in here all night; other people need to use the facilities as well, you know!" Rodney's reply was unintelligible, but the peevish tone came through clearly.
The outcome was a foregone conclusion, though, and eventually Teyla emerged from the bathroom, assisting a shaky Rodney with an arm around him. She'd wrapped him in the blanket; he looked pale and miserable, and didn't put up resistance when she helped him lie down, where he curled up into a pitiful lump underneath the blanket.
"You'll be sorry when I have to get back in there and can't make it in time," the lump declared in a weak, petulant voice.
Teyla sighed, marched into the bathroom and emerged moments later with an empty water basin, which she set down next to his head. "Here. You may use this, if you need it. And you should drink some water."
"Yeah, right," the lump mumbled. "That sort of thing hasn't ended well so far."
John rolled over and propped himself up on an elbow. "If you get dehydrated, Rodney, we'll be hauling you back through the gate in a swarm of alien vampire bats. Doesn't that sound like fun?"
Teyla quietly brought him a cup of water and the tea prepared by the Caledoni, now undoubtedly stone cold, leaving them by the head of the pallet before going to sit on hers. She folded her legs into a lotus position and closed her eyes. John got the impression that she was trying to ignore the males in the room.
Rodney eventually uncurled enough to poke his head out and take a few sips of the tea before pulling back in, turtle-style.
"Don't know about the rest of you, but I'm sleeping," Ronon announced, rolling up in his bedroll.
Teyla rose and blew out all the lamps but one. "Rodney, do you need anything?"
"A quick painless death?" the lump under the covers asked hopefully, after a moment. John thought he sounded a little less miserable, though.
Teyla patted him on the shoulder -- or somewhere in the shoulder region, anyway. "Good night, Rodney. Ronon. John."
John laid his book down and tugged a blanket over himself. "If we catch what you've got, Rodney, I'll find a way to make you pay."
Rodney stuck his head out of the nest of blankets. He definitely looked a little better, though he was still pale. "What, this isn't punishment enough?"
"Depends on how contagious you are," John said, and reached over to pat his leg. "Go to sleep, Rodney."
"I am so totally remembering the massive amounts of sympathy I'm getting here the next time you're sick," Rodney grumbled, and curled up again.
If he could complain, John thought, he was probably okay.
Rodney was sleeping in a limp heap, tangled in his blankets, when John woke up. He looked flushed and unhappy, but he was breathing easily, so they left him alone while they ate breakfast with the solicitous Caledoni and finished tying up the loose ends of the trading agreements.
John had to admit that, while he wouldn't have wanted to plan it this way, having a sick teammate seemed to help quite a lot at getting a good deal in the negotiations. The Caledoni were obviously worried that Rodney's illness would jeopardize their alliance, and agreed willingly to all of Teyla's additional requests.
After arranging to come back in a week with jumpers to deliver the promised supplies and pick up their share of the fruit harvest, they returned to their room to collect their belongings and a drowsy Rodney. "I am never coming back to this planet again," he informed Teyla as he leaned on her while John checked around the room to be sure they had everything they'd come with.
"I do not blame you," she said, reaching up to brush his sweat-stiffened hair back from his forehead. "The Caledoni are very apologetic about your illness."
"They'd better be," Rodney muttered, "since they poisoned me."
John tossed him a canteen. "Drink, McKay. You look like hell, and if you pass out from dehydration between here and the gate, we get to carry your heavy ass."
Rodney glowered at him, but sipped from the canteen. "It ought to be easy for you; I think I lost ten pounds last night."
"You think you can walk on your own, or need help?"
"Oh please," Rodney scoffed, and leaving Teyla's support, veered in a crooked line and ran into the doorframe. "Ow."
"Right," John said, and nodded to Ronon, who caught hold of Rodney's shoulder and gently steered him outside.
John followed; Teyla brought up the rear and closed the door to their room. "All in all, we have had worse missions," she murmured, nudging him in the arm.
John gave her a lopsided grin. "Don't let Rodney hear you say that. Food poisoning's no fun; I've had my share."
"Yes," Teyla mused, "I had noticed your people are very ... intestinally fragile." To John's ongoing annoyance, neither Ronon nor Teyla seemed prone to the food-incompatibility issues that plagued the rest of the Atlantis teams. The medical staff explained that it had to do with resistance to local strains of bacteria, and thought it was fascinating; John just considered it vaguely irritating and yet more proof that the galaxy hated them.
"Well, if you're done insulting my people ..." John shoved up his sunglasses, nudged her back, and went to join Rodney and Ronon. "How's the patient?"
"Not very patient," Ronon said, supporting Rodney with an arm around him.
"Was that a pun? It was, wasn't it? Oh my God, as if puking out my guts all night isn't bad enough, now I'm being tortured with bad puns."
John patted him lightly on the shoulder, and nodded to the canteen dangling from Rodney's hand. "Hydrate, Rodney. Ronon, make sure he drinks occasionally. I don't want him keeling over between here and the gate."
"Right here, hello," Rodney muttered, and took a sullen sip. "Can I just stay here while you get a jumper?"
John considered it, shook his head. "It's only a mile to the gate. Let me know if you start feeling bad, though."
Rodney glared at him from eyes rimmed with bruised-looking shadows.
"Worse, feeling worse," John backpedaled hastily. "I meant worse. Look, if you start having trouble, Rodney, seriously, just sit and we'll bring a jumper. I don't really want to scramble a medical team if you can walk to the infirmary on your own, though ... do you?" He grinned, and bumped Rodney's arm. "Think about how badass it'll look if you come walking through the gate under your own power. Chicks dig tough guys."
"Yeah," Rodney said, "that'll last until I tell them exactly what happened to me."
"Yes, but compared to being wheeled in on a gurney?"
"True." Rodney drooped. "Right, let's get this show on the road."
"You're feeling a lot better," Ronon remarked, leading him off down the trade-road towards the gate.
"Compared to being nearly dead? Gee, thanks a lot, Doctor Dex; what Crackerjack box did you get your degree out of, again?"
John watched them sharply until it seemed that Rodney was, indeed, walking under his own power -- leaning on Ronon mostly for show, it appeared -- then smiled and fell in beside Teyla. She gave him a brief grin.
"Everyone is fine, John. You need not worry about us as you do."
"No idea what you're talking about." He settled his sunglasses on his nose, hiding anything that might be showing in his eyes. "Let's move out."
To his surprise and amusement, Teyla snapped off a quite credible salute. "Moving out."
"Have you been hanging out with the Marines again?"
Teyla just smiled, as John eyed her suspiciously, and stepped out with a brisk stride, following their teammates down the road.