Theme: Elements (Western): Earth
Rating: PG for a little language
Author's Note: In the Wiccan tradition, each of the five points (angles) of the pentacle or pentagram is associated with one of the five elements. Earth is associated with the lower left hand corner, and represents stability and physical endurance. Earth is also associated with the compass point North and the colour green. More information can be found online at http://www.witchvox.com in an article called The Witches' Pentacle. Also, thanks go out to my darling saldemonium for the quick beta.
Rodney McKay was sure he'd been running for hours. His legs ached; his lungs were on fire; there was a stitch in his side that had been there so long, he almost didn't notice it any longer. He wanted nothing more than to simply flop to the ground and just stop.
Sheppard kept pace behind him, though, and really, that was the only thing that kept him moving. He could do this; he could, he had to. John wouldn't leave him behind, and he wouldn't let himself be the reason John didn't make it back.
So he ran, and he ran, heading in this planet's equivalent of due North, and behind him the voices of the angry villagers faded away to nothing. The Stargate had to be close, now, right?
He felt a hand on his shoulder, arresting his forward momentum, and gave a raspy yelp of protest as his legs wobbled and he hit his knees in the dirt. John was kneeling beside him instantly, reaching to hold him up.
"Hey, hey, easy, it's just me. You can stop now." Son of a bitch, he didn't even sound winded. How could he run like that, run like Rodney had just been running, and not even be out of breath? He opened his mouth to ask, only the world tilted and fuzzed out before he could form the words. He felt strong arms catch him as he started to topple over, heard John's voice worriedly calling his name, but blackness swallowed him before he could answer.
He came awake to the smell of woodsmoke and coffee. He blinked, tried to focus on whatever was in front of him, and saw John's worried green eyes peering back at him.
"Hey, buddy. Back with the world of the living?" Sheppard tried to cover his concern with gentle teasing, but his worry showed in his eyes.
"Huh? Wha... what happened? God, I feel like shit." Rodney lifted a hand to rub at his face, and frowned at how heavy his limbs felt. "What's wrong with me?"
John slid an arm under his shoulders and lifted him up a little, and held a canteen to his mouth. "Nothing's wrong with you that a solid day of sleep won't fix. Here, drink and then lie back... there. Are you warm enough?"
Rodney swallowed the water and let his head rest back against... there was something cushioning his head. Probably his jacket, since he wasn't wearing it any longer. "Sleep? Wait... the last thing I remember is running. We weren’t running long enough for me to need to sleep for a day."
John rolled his eyes and gave Rodney one of his you're-supposed-to-be-a-genius looks. "We were only running for about ten minutes. That's not the problem. When's the last time you got a full night's rest?"
"I... well." Rodney frowned again as he thought about it. "I had a nap at my workstation the morning before we left."
"A nap. Okay. When's the last time you slept for more than two hours at a stretch? For that matter, when's the last time you slept in a bed? You sure as hell haven't been in mine for over a week." John arched a brow at him, and Rodney closed his eyes.
"It hasn't been that long..." he began, but even as he said the words he knew John was right. "Okay, maybe it has. You should have said something if you thought I was ignoring you. I didn’t mean to..."
"Ignoring me? Rodney, Jesus, that's not what I mean. For a genius, you can be really, really dense. You aren't ignoring me. You're ignoring yourself. You can't expect your body to operate at one hundred percent on little to no sleep and a handful of PowerBars. And let's talk about what sleep deprivation does to your ability to think." John sighed and shook his head, and then pushed to his feet. "We’re staying here tonight. Teyla and Ronon got everything straightened out with the Laneians, and they're staying in the village. I thought we'd be better off out here."
Rodney pushed up on his elbows – ah, he was lying on one of the bedrolls, in their two-man tent. "Better off out in the boonies instead of in a nice, cozy log cabin?"
"Better off away from the noise and fuss. I've got food ready, which is why I woke you. As soon as you eat, you're going back to sleep. In the morning, when you're rested, we'll walk back to the village, finish up our business there, and then head back to the 'Gate."
Rodney opened his mouth to protest, but John pinned him with a look and he stopped, scowling. "Fine. But I'm not a child who needs to be told to go to bed early."
John chuckled, and that only made Rodney scowl more deeply. Which in turn had John holding up both hands in a placating gesture. "No no no, you're not a child. But you do need some reminding when it comes to taking care of yourself. And hey, lucky you, you have me around for just that purpose."
"What, so you're my babysitter?"
"Hey, you said it, not me."
"I don't need... you're so... why can't you just..." Rodney gave up with a wordless sound of frustration, and closed his eyes again as he sank back down on the bedroll. A moment later, he heard the rustle of John's clothing, and then felt warm lips brush his own. He pressed his lips together, refusing to give in, and felt John's lips curve into a smile. A tongue flicked at his lower lip, even teeth nipped at his jaw, and then John kissed him again. This time, he sighed and relaxed, kissing back with a soft groan.
John echoed the sound, and then broke the kiss so he could rest his forehead against Rodney's. "I worry about you, Mer," he said softly. "I know you have a lot going on, believe me, I know. You just... you need to realize that you're not Superman, and you do need to eat and sleep. You can't just keep pushing your body without taking care of it."
"I know. I just, there's so much to do, and everyone expects me to be able to just... to pull the answer out of my ass and fix everything right now, and... sometimes I don't have time to sleep." Rodney let his eyes close again as he spoke, but opened them at the feel of John's fingers against his cheek.
"We'll make the time," John said with a little half-smile. "Can't have you passing out on the job, now, can we?"
"Oh, ha ha, you're a comedian." Rodney groaned and eased himself up to sitting. "I get it, John. I... well, I promise to not bitch and moan too much when you come drag me out of the lab. And I'll try to listen when Radek shoos me out, too." He rubbed at his eyes, yawned, and dragged his hands through his hair. "Now that that's settled... you said something about food?"