Summary: Written for the prompt: John/Rodney/Ronon/Teyla, cold (warm them up)
A/N: The title is from an Iron and Wine song. And I had Rodney make a Firefly reference.
There was dirt in her mouth, and Teyla coughed and spat, rolling her head away from the muddy ground. She lay still, shivering hard, tasting the grit on her tongue and testing the ropes around her wrists and ankles. The ropes were strong, and tied tightly enough that it would take a long time to loosen them enough to free herself. She didn’t think that she had that much time. Her uniform was gone, along with any convenient knives, and her fingers were already half-numb with cold. She could see her teammates lying bound and naked in the mud next to her; none of them seemed to have regained consciousness. They were all breathing, and Teyla couldn’t see any obvious injuries, so she allowed herself a small sigh of relief.
The sun was high in the sky, much higher than it had been when the stun grenade had gone off, and Teyla tried to calculate how much time had passed since they had arrived on Dall. She was sure that they had missed their check-in time, but by how many hours?
The Palnary leader was shouting, and Teyla turned her head in his direction. She squinted her eyes against the sunlight, ignoring the way it made her headache increase in intensity. The man was pacing among the huddled Dallans, occasionally slamming the butt of his rifle into an unsuspecting victim’s head. His breath puffed out in clouds, and a thin woman, one of the Dallan elders, leaned away from it when he pulled her up against him by the hair, before shoving her back to the ground.
“Those Wraithlicking fools you call your leaders thought they could change the conditions of our deal, and they’ve changed them all right! Turns out we’re going to need twice as much rathel now, after all the time and weaponry we’ve wasted here today.” The Palnary leader’s snarl changed abruptly into a chilling grin. “But first, let’s have a little demonstration.”
“Teyla,” someone whispered, and Teyla turned to see John watching her. She could see that Ronon’s eyes had slitted open as well, and Rodney was moving his head out of the dirt and blinking rapidly. They all looked as bruised and cold as she felt.
“Can you –” John started, but then the Palnary leader said loudly, sounding much, much closer, “We’ll start with your mercenaries,” and large, rough hands grabbed Teyla’s ankles, and suddenly she was being dragged across the village circle.
She gritted her teeth and made no sound, even as she was yanked across rough pebbles and roots. Her head throbbed harder with each bump, and she closed her eyes to control her dizziness, trying to twist onto her shoulder and keep her head off the ground. She could hear John swearing and Rodney yelling, but she still did not understand quite what was going on until after one final hard drag, the hands released her and she was rolling down a steep incline. She reached the bottom and came to a stop, thudding against what felt like a dirt wall.
Teyla breathed for a moment, deep and even, and didn’t vomit by pure force of will. The fact that the pit that she was now in stank of piss and rotting things did not help. Blinking up at her surroundings, she realized that she had been thrown into the dirt hole that the Dallans used to punish petty criminals, usually by leaving them in it for a day or two to be mocked and pelted with garbage by all those who passed through the village circle. A few moments later, there was movement at the top of the hole and Rodney came tumbling down, slamming painfully into her side. Teyla grunted, biting her lip to hold in the sound she wanted to make. Rodney’s knee had hit a particular tender bruise that had already been scraped against a rock.
“What the fuck –” Rodney gasped, and then said, “Sorry, Teyla, sorry,” but she didn’t have time to answer him before they were joined by Ronon and John. There wasn’t really enough room in the pit for four people, especially when they were all bound hand and foot and sprawled on top of each other. By the time Teyla finally managed to sit up, she was covered in mud from head to toe and had collected even more bruises. She was only slightly less cold, both from the exertion and from the press of Ronon’s thigh against her leg and John’s back against her own. She leaned into her teammates’ skin and tried to stop trembling.
“Okay,” John said, twisting his head towards them, “we need a plan.” His teeth were chattering and one eye was swelling shut.
Rodney grimaced, but Ronon said, “McKay, start untying my hands,” and John nodded and fumbled for Teyla’s wrists. She held her hands out from her body, trying to help, but then froze when the Palnary leader appeared at the edge of the pit, staring down at them.
“You look cold, hirelings,” he said, tilting his head.
“Gee, I wonder why,” Rodney muttered.
“When our people get here, you’re going to be in a world of fucking hurt,” John said, and Teyla felt his fingers pulling harder at the ropes around her wrists. “But hey, maybe if you get us out of this hole, we can sit down and talk things over –”
The Palnary leader ignored both of them. “Don’t worry. You won’t be cold much longer.” He waved at someone out of their sight, and Teyla felt her stomach twist with cold, creeping fear. She could hear Ronon breathing, too loud, too fast, and Rodney’s eyes were huge and so blue, staring out of his muddy face. John’s fingers were practically tearing at the knots now, and she said nothing when his yanking made the ropes burn against her skin.
“What the hell does that mean?” Rodney said, his voice not quite a whisper.
He was answered a moment later when two Palnaries leaned over the top of the pit and sloshed the contents of two wooden buckets down onto them. Teyla closed her eyes and twisted her head away in time to keep from getting a face full of the liquid, but it dripped down through her hair and her body was covered with it, coating her skin and trickling into every crevice. Black and oily, with an acrid stench that burned in her nose and throat and made her cough, made every muscle in her body tense up with panic.
Pitch resin, the fuel that the Dallans used to light their torches and their lamps. Rodney was talking, or screaming, and she couldn’t understand what he was saying over the rushing in her ears. Teyla gasped, and gasped again, trying to get a full breath, trying not to move because she could still feel John’s fingers scrabbling at the ropes that kept her bound.
John was saying, “Fuck, fuck! Rodney, shut the fuck up and get Ronon untied!” and she could feel Ronon kicking, trying to free his feet.
Ancestors, ancestors, please. Teyla never prayed out loud anymore, and she didn’t now, resin running down her face and over her lips. Instead she said, as steadily as she could, “Rodney, calm yourself, Atlantis will be here soon!” Her voice shook, but she could blame that on the cold.
And then she heard gunshots, the familiar, so very welcome rattling sound of Lantean machine guns, and she nearly collapsed, had to concentrate to keep from slumping over onto John and the dirt wall of the pit.
The gunshots continued for a long time, both Lantean and the louder, shorter sounds made by the Palnary weapons, and the sounds of people screaming and crying that were most likely the captive Dallans. Teyla hoped, vaguely, that most of them had managed to escape being caught in the crossfire. They were not to blame for their leaders’ decision to use her and her teammates as unwilling protectors against the predations of the Palnary.
She didn’t worry too much about the Dallans, though. Instead, she waited, leaning against Ronon’s shoulder and nudging her feet against Rodney’s. She listened as Rodney told them about his latest idea for the jumpers’ power regulation in meticulous detail, his hands picking carefully at Ronon’s ropes. John continued to work at the knots at her own wrists, and she did not say anything about the way his fingers shook, or how his hands sometimes stopped moving and just wrapped tight around her own. It was, after all, very cold. Teyla was numb with it.
Major Lorne and Sergeant Marroum appeared a few minutes after the gunshots stopped, just after Rodney had finally managed to get the ropes off of Ronon’s wrists. Teyla was tugging at the ropes around her ankles, the slickness of the resin on the ropes and her cold fingers making it more difficult than it should have been. She looked up when she heard Sergeant Marroum say, “Motherfucker.”
Sergeant Marroum sounded astonished, but she looked furious, her hands white-knuckled on her weapon. Major Lorne was pale and grim, but his voice was perfectly bland when he called down, “Colonel? Anyone need immediate medical attention?” Teyla imagined the sight they must be making, all four of them naked, battered, and filthy with mud and pitch, and was distantly impressed with the Major’s restraint.
“No, Major,” John said, his voice hoarse. He cleared his throat and continued, “We’re – fine. Be nice if we could get out of this hole, though.”
“Yes, sir, I –” Major Lorne turned to Sergeant Marroum, but John spoke again before he could say anything.
“You had really, really good timing today, Lorne. Thanks.” His voice didn’t – quite – crack. Ronon moved like he was going to touch John’s shoulder, but leaned his elbow against the side of the pit instead. Teyla closed her eyes, let her hand rest on John’s cold, muddy ankle. Fuck ‘em, as Lieutenant Cadman would say.
“Yeah,” Rodney said, exhausted but as sincere as Teyla had ever seen him, “big damn heroes, Major, seriously.”
They were not kept in the infirmary very long. Aside from many, many scrapes and bruises, there was not that much wrong with them. No one even had a concussion, although Rodney had a tiny crack in one rib. They arrived back in Atlantis at 1100h, and by 1700h Teyla had returned to her quarters and decided to spend the rest of the day in her shower, letting the hot water soothe away some of her aches. She had to scrub for nearly half an hour to get all of the pitch resin out of her hair, but she was still cold when she finally stopped the water and stepped back into the main room.
Teyla put on her warmest, softest sleep clothes, wrapped an old shawl around her shoulders and curled up in bed, burying herself beneath the covers. She wished that Torren were on Atlantis so that she could hold him in her arms and feel his heartbeat, know that he was safe and close. Her hands and feet still ached with cold, and her thighs itched with it. She pulled the blankets tighter, and did not sleep.
Ten minutes later, her door slid open, and she heard footsteps as someone walked across the room, and the bed dipped gently. Teyla opened her eyes and watched as Ronon slid beneath her blankets, lying down on his back. She moved closer and rested her head on his shoulder, wrapped an arm across his chest and felt it rise and fall with his breath.
“It’s good that you are here,” she said. “I’m cold.”
She did not expect him to answer, so when he said lowly, “Me too,” her lips curled up in a small, surprised smile.
The bed dipped again a short time later, and Rodney grumbled, “This is going to be hell on my ribs, you know. Not to mention my back.”
Teyla laughed quietly, and wriggled closer to Ronon to make more room. Rodney was warm at her back, and she slapped his leg when he pushed his cold nose into the back of her neck.
“Hey, bruises!” Rodney said, and Ronon growled, “Go to sleep, McKay,” but he sounded more sleepy than threatening. Rodney huffed and nudged his knees closer to Teyla’s, and Teyla closed her eyes again.
She was dozing when John came in, watched through lidded eyes as he walked in and hesitated in front of the bed. He finally climbed in next to Rodney, who said, “Took you long enough,” into Teyla’s hair. Rodney shuffled forward, throwing a leg over Teyla’s calves, and Teyla listened as the blankets rustled.
“Cold! Cold feet!” Rodney whisper-shouted, and John said, “Hmm?” in an innocent tone. Teyla snickered helplessly and buried her face in the pillow when Ronon snuffled and moved his arm.
She fell asleep to the sound of Rodney’s sotto voce outrage and the tentative weight of John’s hand on her hip, the rhythm of Ronon’s breathing and the warmth of her team all around her.