The rest of the morning was spent getting themselves cleaned up. After changing the bloodied bandage wrapped around his thigh, Sheppard poked at his ribs, trying to determine the extent of the damage. Lorne, meanwhile, was taking care of his own injuries. He painstakingly inspected the cuts peppering the left side of his neck and face, where he’d been hit by shrapnel when making a break for the gate. John had noticed throughout the morning that he kept his arm held close to his side, like it was hurting him. After watching the Major wince yet again when he stumbled over a patch of uneven ground while pacing around the small clearing they’d holed up in, the Colonel sighed and waved the other man over.
Raising an eyebrow at his second-in-command, he asked, “Why didn’t you tell me you hurt your arm?” Lorne shrugged, trying to hide his wince as it jarred his arm, and replied:
“It didn’t seem important at the time, sir.”
“If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard that…” Sheppard sighed, remembering all too well the numerous times he’d said those exact words. Pushing himself up into a sitting position, (he’d been lying on his back) he met the shorter man’s eyes and asked dryly, “Any other injuries I should know about? ‘Cuz if there are, let me know, ok? I really don’t wanna have to drag your ass back to the gate. Hell, at least you’re not Ronon.” He made an exaggerated face at the thought of dragging the significantly larger Runner back to the stargate under the present circumstances.Lorne smirked slightly at that.
“Says the man that tells everyone he’s fine, no matter how fucked up he really is. I’m pretty sure Beckett’s about ready for a permanent vacation, what with having to treat stubborn jackasses like us all the time. I think he hates you the most, though, because he patches you up, releases you, and within a day or two you’re back for another round. He says you keep stuff quiet, and then when your common cold turns into pneumonia, it’s because, and I quote, ‘He’s a stubborn arse an’ refuses ta do what’s good fer him.’” That earned the brown-haired airman a good-natured grimace from Sheppard.
“It’s really not my fault, I just have a high pain tolerance… his version of fine is way different from mine. I don’t hide things, per say; I just don’t mention them if I don’t think I need to. I mean, do you give the Doc a detailed list of every bug bite, scratch, and bruise you’ve gotten on a mission?” Major Lorne made a face, conceding the point.
“True. Though the fact that you’ve come back shot full of holes, broken bones galore, and still insisted that you’re ‘good’ doesn’t really help your case, sir,” he replied, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards into a slight smirk. It really was surprising, how at ease he was around Sheppard. The man was his commanding officer, perfectly within his rights to have called several of his comments thus far for insubordination. That is, if he’d had no sense of humor, he could’ve, and gotten away with it. As it was, he had something of an agreement with his men; they showed him the proper respect when it was due, followed orders without hesitation in a combat situation, proved that they were every bit as capable as they’d been said to be, and he returned the favor in his own way.
Which was usually in the form of allowing his men to be relaxed with him, and showed them the same courtesy he did to everyone else. It definitely helped that the Colonel was so easy-going; if he’d been shy (a rarity among commanding officers…) or lacked a healthy sense of humor, he’d have lost his easy camaraderie with his men a long time ago.
Evan was torn from his contemplation of the Colonel’s methods by the sound of the brush off to his right rustling, as if something large were heading in their direction. A couple hundred feet off, the undergrowth was disappearing and being shoved aside as something made its way towards them, making steady but rather slow progress, as if slowed by the amount of resistance it met from the forest’s plant life.
Both of them had their weapons up in a flash, at the ready despite their wariness of shooting if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. They had no way of knowing if it was a hostile or just a native forest animal, so they ducked down, taking up the most defensible positions they could find and checking to see if their safety was on or not. With a deliberately small movement, Evan flicked off the safety and rested the barrel of his P-90 on top of the stump he was taking cover behind, just in case.
The footsteps approached rather slowly, as if whoever (or whatever) it was, it wasn’t really sure where it was going. Then, out of the dense underbrush, lumbered a shockingly misshapen creature that closely resembled a leathery, scale-armored lion with a frill of needle-sharp spikes ‘round its neck and a set of eyes that gleamed savagely with some indistinguishable emotion. The beast moved fairly slowly, padding forward on disturbingly well-equipped feet, its two-inch claws sinking into the forest floor and spearing leaves on the razor-like tips. It was panting heavily, the smell of blood and rotten flesh thick around it, almost strong enough to make their eyes water. John, taking care to move slowly, brushed a hand over his forehead to get rid of the sweat threatening to run into his eyes. Bright yellow eyes locked onto the movement, and the creature opened its mouth, hissing viciously as it hobbled forward.
Acutely aware of his heart hammering in his chest, John moved his hand again, distracting the beast. He glanced over at Lorne, who’d remained frozen in place and was now drawing one of his knives from its sheath on his belt. As if sensing that something wasn’t right about the situation, the beast lurched forward and attempted to latch onto Sheppard’s forearm, effectively ripping his P-90 out of his grasp.
The giant lizard-feline lunged again, clamping down on the soft flesh of his upper right forearm. The Colonel threw a right hook at the beast, hitting it square between the eyes. It loosened its grip momentarily, shaking its head, a low growl escaping its throat. Taking advantage of the brief respite, John threw himself to the side, leaving the way clear for Lorne to take a shot at the creature. It started after him again, and, desperately, Evan whistled sharply, not really trying for a particular noise but rather making whatever sound he could force out.
Growling, the lion-like lizard changed direction faster than they would’ve though possible, now the polar opposite of its previous sluggish pace. It was upon him faster than he’d anticipated, and had to dive to the side to avoid the set of well-equipped jaws aimed for his neck. It did, however, lash out with a foot and catch him across his collarbone, opening up a gash almost two inches long and sending his P-90 flying into the underbrush, out of reach. He rolled with the impact and was on his feet again, throwing himself into action, several motions smoothed together into one swift, fluid movement.
Gripping the comforting weight of his stainless steel blade in his left hand, he rose up into a half-kneeling position, took careful aim, and whipped the throwing knife straight at the juncture between the beast’s torso and head, stabbing it clear through the neck. Gurgling, the creature dropped, still struggling forward in one last desperate attempt to attack.
“You alright?” came the Colonel’s strained voice from the other side if the mound of flesh. Lorne shrugged, then remembered that the Colonel couldn’t see him.
“I’m fine sir. What about you? It looked like it did a real number on your arm…” he trailed off as he stood and made his way over to the creature, wrenching his throwing knife from the beast’s neck. He then proceeded to wipe it meticulously on the grass, the animal’s hide, his sleeve, anything to clean it up. Most airmen didn’t care throwing knives; that was more the Marines’ specialty, but Lorne was deadly accurate with them and used them with the same efficiency as his 9mm or his P-90. And that was definitely saying something, considering he was one of the more accurate marksmen on the expedition. You didn’t get to be second-in-command by sitting on your ass and filing paperwork, after all.
So it was that they spent even more time bandaging wounds and cleaning gashes and cuts that morning. The Colonel had received an impressive set of teeth marks on his arm, close to his elbow, and a few new bruises, scrapes, and a very sore trigger finger from having been pulled the wrong way. (The gun had gone one way, his body the other.)
Lorne allowed the Colonel to clean up the gash on his chest with a minimum of fussing, and then they decided to find somewhere else to camp out. Since they couldn’t risk a fire and there was no way that they were going to eat raw, bloodied meat, they left the carcass for the scavengers and moved deeper still into the woods. The Major blazed the trail for them both, being careful not to leave too obvious a path, with his CO hobbling along behind him, trying to hide his limp and failing miserably.