Spoilers: All through Season 1 - with future chapters having spoilersfor Season 2 Runner

Summary: The prospect of going home seemed surreal, but it was
happening. She just shouldn't have expected it to be that easy. Sorafic.

A/N: Thanks to Fanwoman and Ellex for beta reading this excellently.


Chapter 3: Running

The gate disengages soon after she stumbles out of the ring. As it turns out, her body can't handle walking very far at all. Her legs are weak, muscles deteriorated from abuse and lack of use.

She tries to cough but can't. She wants to vomit, to purge her body of what they put back into her at the last minute. She might have absorbed some energy, but she wants to rid herself of as much as possible. If she's lucky, she might succumb to death naturally – dehydration isn't pleasant, but she wants it to be over. She bites at the gag; she can't untie it, as they bound her hands loosely before she left. This was their plan, that she'd be incapacitated by the bonds long enough to digest all the food and then, when she worked her way free, they probably hoped she would have a hunger, a thirst for more. But she doesn't give up, and rips at it with her hands, her jagged nails drawing blood from her lips as she does everything she can to get it off.

The gag does come off eventually, soaked with her own blood, and the taste of it in her mouth is enough to induce the gag reflex – leaving her stomach satisfyingly empty and her body that much closer to death.

She crawls away from the gate after that, knees scraping over rough ground, – the bag of meager supplies abandoned. Staying there would mean she'd be easier to find, but she'd rather die away from the stench of blood and vomit. She wants them to have to make an effort, to prove she's still worth something when they come for the body in a few days time. They might as well take their time, because they can pretend all they like that they don't care, but she knows they do in some twisted way – they care enough to hate her, to ensure she dies the way they wish and to want proof she is dead.

Times passes slowly, and she has no clue how long she crawls until she rests, unable to make it any further for now. In truth, she knows she won't make it further at all, this is where she'll die. She might manage a little farther, but she's already lost a considerable amount of blood from her untended wounds, and her fragile body won't take much more. She yields to the urge to sleep, wondering if she will wake up.

When she does, he's there, towering over her, grinning viciously, disgusting teeth exposed. She doesn't know what to think, now death is here, but her body betrays her, heart hammering as she panics despite her wishes. She wants death, she wants peace, but this doesn't feel like either, and the instinct rises, body preparing for fight or flight when it can manage neither. The hand strikes down to her chest, tearing away the garment, the other hand following, fingers ripping into her flesh, razor sharp points digging in excruciatingly. This is when she wants more time, when she realises she wants to live. It's worse than she could ever have imagined, a strange sensation of suffocation, but it's not deprivation of oxygen. The life is torn from her cells, mercilessly extracted without contest, with relish. She can feel the satisfaction of the Wraith feeding, its hunger being sated as her strength wanes. Her mouth is open, but she can't find the breath to start screaming. If she could, she wouldn't stop until it was over. Death will end the agony, but now is when she suddenly feels what she has, as days are taken from her with each second, showing her just how much time she has left.

And then it stops. Through her blurred sight she sees a dark figure standing over the Wraith. She's still crying even though the pain is gone. She lifts her fingers to her face to find the skin still smooth, and it dawns on her this stranger has saved her, if only for a time – it's time enough that she isn't old yet, just older.

She blinks away the tears and sees the face of an Atlantean looking back at her. He's different than she recalls. Ford. Sheppard's Lieutenant, a member of their premiere team. He used to make jokes to pass the time guarding her and sometimes included her in the chats, careful not to say anything too specific. They had never trusted her enough to talk of Earth or of Atlantis, but he hadn't treated her like the enemy. It could have been because he never saw her as a threat. He should have, but from the moment he had met her he had underestimated her – she remembered how he'd second guessed her suitability for the allied reconnaissance mission during which her father had died. She had been incensed then, to be thought less than capable, but his friendliness had been appreciated on Atlantis.

"S...Sora?"

His right eye is blackened, the skin around it deformed somehow – she has never seen such an injury. But it is Ford.

"Yes... - no!"

"Can't make up your mind, huh?"

He smiles, like her indecision makes him forget everything else – that he is holding a piece of a Wraith in his hand, that she saw him extract with his bare hands after he defeated it alone, and that she is skin and bones, a person who let a Wraith take them with no fight at all. They seem as different as when they first met as Genii and Atlantean – but this time the fight is gone from her and his is increased two fold, a strange sense of balance achieved in the result.

And then the amusement disappears, giving way to a darkness.

"Where are all your buddies then? Waiting to take me down? Thought this would make a nice trap, right?"

His face screws up into a monster, and he pulls her to her feet ignoring that she cannot stand on her own anymore.

"Did Sheppard send you? Or Weir? McKay? They're really stooping low this time. You can tell them I'm not falling for it."

He drops her like a sack of rocks, and she finds herself winded. That's when the Ford she knows returns, some concern on his face at the damage he has inflicted.

It doesn't last long, the sound of his name being called distracts him. It's faint, she can barely tell what they are saying, but it sounds like "aedin" at which he panics. He flees, leaving her alone, alive and in the path of his team. All she has to do is wait and she'll be rescued. They won't find Ford, not if he doesn't want to be found, but they won't go back empty handed. She doubts she could move even if she wanted to – she can hardly resist them in this condition. The second chance she'd wanted has found her. She's not the same person who prayed for it from the Genii, but she would take it from the Atlanteans. Although it seems Ford is beyond saving, perhaps it might not be too late for her.