This was started years ago for kriadydragon, who wanted John not fighting a dragon.
The first gauntlet comes off so that he can scratch his nose without accidentally removing it; the second quickly follows because he feels unbalanced wearing just one. They hit the ground almost silently, like pieces of cloth rather than leather and mail. (He doesn’t look back, but if he did, they wouldn’t be there for him to see.)
Somewhere a bird whistles, just off-key, like Ford when he belts out Happy Birthday: deliberate in its awfulness. If John could see it, he’d throw a rock at it. But he can’t, so he grits his teeth and hums Johnny Cash songs, rough but perfectly pitched, and refuses to let himself be spooked when the bird begins echoing him. Just starts singing out loud instead.
Eventually the rest of the armor follows, because it’s hot and heavy and not made for climbing and he can’t remember why he’s wearing it in the first place. (Some little part of him clears its throat at that, but he ignores it; there’s also panic brewing somewhere, and he’d really rather head that off as long as possible.) He drops it behind him, piece by piece, buckles bent and leather straps cut, like some demented (and equally futile) version of Hansel and Gretel’s trail of breadcrumbs.
The climb goes faster then, though he couldn’t say whether from an easing of the slope or the shedding of so much weight. Speed seems vaguely important, although the mountain peak is too shrouded in cloud for him to gauge his progress.
Sometime later, he thinks to wonder why he’s climbing the mountain at all.
There’s a dragon, that little part of him helpfully supplies, except that’s ridiculous, even for the Pegasus galaxy. Villagers in trouble, it tries then, but that doesn’t make any sense either, not when he’s been climbing for so long. Unless the village is actually above him instead of below, as he’s been thinking (it’s not), there’s no reason for the dragon to bother them. And certainly no reason for John to be climbing the mountain entirely by himself: if ever there was excuse for taking a puddle jumper for a spin, this is it.
Well, yes, the knowledgeable part of him admits. But—
But what, he prompts, and refuses to consider the possibility that he’s finally gone mad. If (when) he does have a psychotic breakdown, he’ll wind up shooting precious ammo at imaginary Wraith (or Kolya, because that bastard’s still out there somewhere), not having arguments with himself while partway up an unnamed mountainside.
A pebble bounces down the mountainside toward him, narrowly missing his right thumb, raucous in the near-silence; John pauses his ascent long enough to look up to see what made it fall and promptly wishes he hadn’t. There, as though summoned by his passing thought, stands Kolya, large as life, gun in hand. He looks almost . . . bemused? But that’s probably just because John’s squinting up at him and holding his breath in a futile attempt to blend into the mountainside. Five minutes earlier, when he’d been fighting his way through some really nasty bushes, he might have been successful. Now there’s nothing but rock and some lichen, and John’s nowhere near dirty enough to pull that off.
“You will need my help if you are to slay the dragon,” Kolya says with impossible sincerity, hand still extended.
John ignores it and levers himself up beside Kolya, just out of reach—as far away as the outcropping will allow. His arms feel like jelly and his left knee has been complaining with increasing vehemence for the past half hour (or so; his watch is inexplicably missing), but he’s not about to drop his guard around Kolya—not when he owes Kolya a bullet in the shoulder.
“Am I to slay the dragon?” he asks, settling himself as nonchalantly as he can currently manager. It wouldn’t do to let Kolya see how utterly exhausted he is. “I don’t remember being given instructions. And why exactly would you want to help?”
“Why else would you be climbing this mountain?” Kolya counters easily. “And I am on the same mission as you: it is only practical to put aside past differences and work together.”
“I wondered when you would get here,” the dragon says amiably, and disappears back into the cave with the grinding of scales against rock. John stands frozen in shocked silence for a moment because a) the dragon is about four times bigger and spikier than he’d expected and b) it sounds exactly like his grandmother, only down a couple octaves. The effect is . . . eerie. Perhaps even disturbing. “Please, come in,” it continues, voice echoing through the cave like thunder on a summer evening. “There is a storm coming and you will not want to be outside when it arrives.”
He follows, although something at the back of his thoughts suggests it's a bad idea. The cave entrance seems smaller than when the dragon walked through it, low enough to brush the top of John’s head.
The blood on his hands glistens, still bright red and wet and sticky and dripping: a medical impossibility. “Dream, then?” he hears himself say, as though he were in another room. “Or hallucination?”
“Both and neither.” The dragon cocks its head at him, like the wire-haired terrier his grandmother had when John was very young. “You already know what’s really going on. Remember, I’m a part of you.”
“Right,” John says, because he’s still not sure he buys it, but he does take a moment to think. ‘Both and neither’. . . . Eventually something at the back of his brain clicks into place. “So what, I’m in the Matrix?”
“More or less,” the dragon agrees. “Though I’m afraid you can’t do kung-fu any more than you could in real life.”
And that finally sells it, because either the dragon’s telling the truth or it’s telepathic, and since there’s no way for John to tell the difference he’ll just go with the one that gives him the lesser headache.
He hears machine gun fire in the distance, echoes rolling around the mountainsides until it sounds like an army playing at war. The dragon takes no note of it, though, and John takes his cue from it, asks, “Why Marmar?” Because that’s been nagging at him from the start; he’s never associated his grandmother with dragons or much of anything except gardens and pie and home.
“Why not?” the dragon/his subconscious replies, but adds, “Summer camp, when you were twelve,” which is enough. John had forgotten that incident, and he’d really rather not remember it again. Not because of his grandmother; because of everything else.
“What’re you doing here, Ford?” he manages to force out despite his mouth feeling (and tasting) like the inside of his combat boots. Here as opposed to out there, where assumably Teyla and bad guys and gunfire are; as in why aren’t you doing your job?
“Got winged, sir,” Ford says with a forced smile, like that’ll make it true—the wad of cloth he has pressed against his shoulder is bright red and beginning to drip. “And some one needed to keep an eye on you.”
“Teyla? McKay?” He tries to sit up, but stops when the room swims. Instead, he cautiously rolls over on his side so at least he isn’t staring at the ceiling any more. (Gray, irregular tiles. Stained with something rust-colored, and he’s not going to allow himself speculation beyond that.) There are straps hanging off the table beside him, buckles cut away. And tubes. His skin seems to be in one piece, but once again, he makes himself stop there. Right now his job is to ascertain what the situation is and then find a way out of it: there’s no visible blood (aside from Ford’s), he doesn’t seem to be attached to anything, and that’s all that matters at the moment.
“McKay got the door mostly closed, so Teyla can hold them off as long as she has ammo, or until the extraction team shows up, which should be in about fifteen minutes.”
[I do regret not getting this one to work. The idea, I think, was that John got grabbed by the locals for whatever reason, and strapped into an examining/dissection table thing--the whole dragon scenario is happening inside his head as the tingly little Alert! Alert! part of him tries to wake the rest of him up, except that's the part that looks like a dragon and the sneaky drug/mental suggestion/whatever bit trying to keep him asleep is disguising itself as prudence. Or something along those lines. I never could figure out the surrounding scenario, and that pretty much killed the story, alas.]