Title: Safe Harbor
Word Count: 1200
Season: Season 3; spoilers for "Sateda"
Summary: Gen. Ronon and Rodney in a blizzard.
The snow fell heavily for three days, covering tracks and drawing a veil across the world. By the morning of the fourth, they were out of food, and Ronon went hunting.
He'd thought McKay was asleep, but the tightly wrapped bundle of silvery emergency blankets stirred, and a tuft of brown hair poked out the top, along with one fever-bright blue eye. "You'll never find your way back," Rodney rasped.
"Yeah I will," and the snow swallowed him, muffling whatever protest Rodney had made.
It was slow going, slogging through snow above his knees. Away from the trees, the drifts were bad -- some higher than his head. He stayed to the shelter of the forest wherever possible, using the line-of-sight travel technique that he'd been taught in his military survival courses on Sateda: line up one landmark with another (in this case, trees), make the second landmark and fix another beyond it. Looking back every once in a while to make sure that he could find and remember the previous tree, he let his trail spool behind him while the wind and snow silently erased his tracks.
It was at times like this -- sliding from tree to tree, becoming one with the forest as he'd been taught long ago -- that the past and present slid together, and he had to remind himself that he was no longer a Runner, no longer a man without a world, without a future.
It surprised him, just a little, to realize that there was no doubt in his mind that Sheppard and Teyla would find them. It might take awhile, but they would be found. He had learned that lesson on lost Sateda, when Sheppard and the others had done the impossible and brought him home. The snow was probably making it nearly impossible for the searchers, but once the snow stopped, eventually, Sheppard would find them.
All he had to do -- all they had to do -- was wait.
He feared, but not for himself.
Using strips of leather cut from the trailing edge of his coat, he set snares along some of the more obvious game trails, quietly castigating himself for not having done so before the heavy snow began. If he'd thought ahead, he might already have dinner waiting in a trap. Still, he startled a small creature from the shelter of an overhanging evergreen; as it streaked through the curtain of snow, he whipped out a throwing blade. The knife went home, severing the small animal's spine. The limp body scarcely filled his palm, but he could make stew of it.
A shot from his blaster might have been more certain, but he didn't know when he'd next have an opportunity to charge it. There were large animals on this world; he'd seen a herd of large beasts with spreading antlers in one brief, dizzying glimpse before impact. Once the snow let up, he'd go hunt them, and get enough meat to last himself and Rodney for months. The creatures' fur would be a plus, because the reflective silvery blankets of the Atlanteans weren't able to reflect enough heat on this cold world. Thoughtfully, he ran his hand through the rodent's dense, silky fur. If he could collect enough of these, he might make a blanket to serve them until he could bring down something better.
That this was his problem to solve, he did not bother to question. If they'd been confronted with a problem of technology, it would have been McKay's province, and Ronon would have stayed out of the way. That was what teams did.
What families did.
Suddenly renewed urgency hastened his footsteps through the snow as he followed his memorized trail back to the cave. The fire had burned low; McKay slept deeply, his hair plastered with sweat, half out of his wrapping of silvery blanket even though his hands were icy to the touch when Ronon wrapped him up again.
He stirred the fire back to blazing warmth, and melted snow in their improvised pan, which had once been the case of McKay's laptop. McKay hadn't liked breaking it up -- to say the least -- but Ronon made the decisions on this world ... and any object was more replaceable than a human life.
The core components of the laptop lay scattered by McKay's limp fingers. The scientist was convinced that he could build a signaling device. Ronon doubted it, but he wasn't going to deny an injured man something to keep him busy. Especially someone with a brain as fast-moving as McKay's; Ronon didn't doubt that Rodney could do himself physical injury just from the strain of trying not to think about things.
McKay's question was soft, weak -- much weaker than his voice had been only yesterday. Ronon merely nodded, and set the squirrel-thing to roasting over the fire. It would make a decent stew, and the snow would have another day to settle so that he could go and hunt for real food, food to sustain an injured man until help could come.
Rodney grunted softly, and curled back into the blankets without comment. Ronon didn't like that.
"You said you were going to teach me science."
After a pause, the blankets glowered at him irritably. "What, now?"
"What better time?" Reasonable question, he thought.
There was a long silence. Finally, Rodney's head emerged slowly and blearily from his cocoon. " 'Science' covers a rather broad spectrum of human endeavor; you do realize that, right?"
"I know." Ronon settled back against the wall of the cave, drawing his coat close about him. His leg rested alongside Rodney's blanket-wrapped form, feeling the faint vibration of the shivers passing through the scientist's body. There was nothing to do until the water finished melting, nothing to do but wait. "Something to help defeat the Wraith."
"You have a one-track mind," Rodney grumbled, shifting himself in fruitless search of a less painful position. He ended up with his head resting on Ronon's knee, which really couldn't be comfortable, but Rodney seemed to prefer it to the cold, rocky floor of the cave.
"Let's start with hiveship propulsion systems, then."
Ronon leaned his head back against the wall of the cave, and listened in silence to the not completely incomprehensible, but utterly boring explanations -- interrupting with questions when Rodney happened, by random chance, to hit on a topic that had actual meaning for him. When the scientist fell asleep between one sentence and the next, Ronon let his hand slip down to let his fingers wrap lightly around the back of his teammate's neck, cushioning it from the cold ground.
He wasn't sure exactly what drew his attention to the mouth of the cave. Maybe it was the faintest cessation of sound; maybe it was the stillness, where he'd been used to movement from the corner of his eye.
"Hey. McKay." Ronon jogged his teammate gently, his hand still curled under Rodney's neck. "Snow's stopped."
Rodney made a faint sound in his sleep, but didn't wake, his body settling more firmly against Ronon's leg.
Careful not to disturb him, Ronon leaned forward and fed the fire with his free hand. Then he settled back to wait -- to wait for the snow-water to finish heating in its makeshift pan, to wait for their friends to find them. Outside, the clouds began to break up, and for the first time in four days, moonlight skated across the silver, unbroken snow.
Note: This story was remixed by the lovely xparrot as Any Port in a Storm (the Cold Winds, Hot Air remix)