Revised on 1-17-06 due to beta's suggestions.
In some sick way, I'm glad. Glad the decision is out of my hands now. If there is a place you go for judgment, then I can say, "Hey, it wasn't my decision."
Hell, who am I kidding?
It didn't work for me before and it definitely isn't working for me now. No matter how hard I pretend.
You see, I'm trying to let go, give up. What else can I do here? I'm tied up and bleeding enough to turn the dirt near me into a muddy red. And no one knows where I am. Atlantis probably isn't aware that there's even a problem. What the hell else can I do?
McKay isn't here, with me or on this planet, he's back on Atlantis still looking over the Ancient technology. He's been at it since we got here and he hasn't even put a dent into his backlog of work.
Teyla is off with Halling somewhere doing God knows what trying to prove that she's not too changed to keep the respect of her people. If Halling and the others can't see that she's doing all this for her people, then they need their heads examined.
Ronon . . . Ronon is gone.
Five minutes after leaving the gate, he disappeared on me. By the time I noticed in the quick movement of the strange city, I was in too deep myself.
They came at me quickly and quietly.
Sons of bitches didn't give me a chance to do anything more than grunt when they took me down hard.
After being in some tight places on Earth and living in this open minefield of a galaxy, I thought I was better than this.
Hell, a pre-schooler with popsicle sticks would have put up more of a fight. Huh, that's a good one. I'll try to remember to tell McKay that one.
When he starts speaking to me again.
But I can't do that if I give up.
I remember that one time, well if I'm being honest with myself; it wasn't just that one time. It was that first time I crashed during training, back when I thought I knew everything and was still cocky as hell.
A little voice that sounds like McKay snorts in the back of my mind. Shut up.
I was upset that I basically slammed that sweet machine into the earth leaving nothing more than scrap parts and scorch marks. It was almost as bad as when Winnie Clemens broke up with me in third grade and started hanging around with Kyle Conway.
Both almost ripped my heart out.
Both made me question myself.
After the crash, I wasn't any better off than my poor machine. Internal injuries, busted bones . . . I wasn't too good for a long while.
My doctor was a good man. I had been in so many scrapes during training that we were practically on a first name basis with each other before the crash. He told me to forget the cost of the crash, forget being a disappointment to my instructors. I was alive and going to recover and that was good enough for now.
I found out later that he had been afraid that I'd give up and slip away on him in the hospital. Said I came in from the crash begging him not to let me die.
This confused the hell out of me. How could he think I'd give up when I was begging to live?
And you know what he told me? He said that patients who are so afraid of death, so desperate, are often right. Their body knows . . . something. They feel wrong and they can sense the darkness comin'.
He told me that for every time I asked him to save me, he'd pleaded with me not to give up, to help him help me.
I don't remember all of that, but I do remember feeling trapped. Feeling frantic deep down in my gut. Each time I breathed out, I could sense that if I just waited a moment I wouldn't have to breathe in again. Ever.
Then this wrenching scared feeling would come over me as every muscle I had tensed as if I were holding on hard to something . . . for dear life.
I guess that it was my instinct to survive. Something deep down that wouldn't let me go quietly. I had that and Doc Reynolds going for me after that crash.
But now . . . he isn't here. Who did I have this time to demand I keep breathing? To live?
Just me, my blood and the muddy dirt on some planet where I should have been more alert.
Where the hell is Ronon?
Of course, I haven't been too sociable these last few days.
I'm usually good at hiding the darkness from prying eyes. I have a good smirk and a nice smile and I use them to my advantage most of the time. I try to be positive and upbeat. It's good for morale, you know? If you asked, three out of four people would say I was laid-back and a nice guy.
Well, this time, my smile cracked and I let a few people see—
But it always pisses me off when people try to pat me on the head and tuck me in at night – like I need a babysitter or a confessor for what troubles me.
I can handle it if people would just let me alone. Give me time to get myself back under control.
It was bad. I did kill an innocent man during an off world mission.
Yeah, it was an accident. I know that.
I even talked to Heightmeyer about it a few times. She's still ticked off that I stopped the sessions.
I just couldn't talk to a civilian, someone who wasn't even there, about what happened in the middle of a battle without getting a burning in my gut.
Hell, I didn't go into that situation looking to knock off some poor shopkeeper that had a wife and six children. I didn't look forward to seeing my P-90 take the top of his head off and to see the blood spray the back of his shop. I hadn't planned to see his oldest son scream as he shook his father so hard that they both were covered in brains and blood.
Don't be sick, don't be sick. It wouldn't be good since I'm still tied up. It would probably choke me to death.
Ah, so the instinct to survive is still in me somewhere.
Even the shopkeeper's wife said that it wasn't my fault.
Just chalk another mistake up to Sheppard as he cowboys his way through the Pegasus Galaxy like a mixed up combination of John Wayne and Billy the Kid.
Not his brother and son; no they didn't say I wasn't at fault. They looked at me with hot eyes and I knew that if wishes could kill, I would not have stepped off that planet alive.
They met later with Elizabeth and they tried to convince her to give me up for a trial. I was willing to go. Hell, at that point, I welcomed it, but Elizabeth said there would be no justice in a court run by the victim's family.
It was my job to protect Atlantis, but she said it was her job to protect me.
Well, where the hell was she when everything went down the drain in a little shop of a poor family? She hadn't been able to protect me then.
The anger was just another thing I needed time to overcome. And the bitterness. Just give me a week or two and I'll once again be a slightly beaten up version of Pollyanna.
They wouldn't leave me alone and that's when my mood darkened. I started snapping at everyone that dared to get in my way. Heightmeyer hadn't helped and no one who witnessed the shooting was spared my wrath.
The cracks were getting deep and I stopped caring if anyone noticed or not.
That could be why I'm here on this planet with just Ronon. Hell, that could be the reason Ronon disappeared before we even got into the main part of the city.
I should have gone back with the man's family. Maybe after a nice little trial I would have straightened up my act days ago. Given my anger and guilt an outlet and let the family rant and rave at me as I deserved. Afterwards, I would have figured out something to keep out of their jails or their gallows. Maybe.
Like I said before, the decision seems now to be out of my hands as I feel my life draining out in red rivers. All alone.
Okay, I was wrong. "Yeah?"
Well, that wasn't sparkling conversation, but I'd take anything right now.
"Sheppard, are they here?"
I shifted as much as I could in the bindings, ignoring the momentary pain and stiffness so that I could take a look around the area.
I didn't see any of the bastards, but who knows? They could be in a hidey-hole somewhere just waiting to finish me . . . us off.
"Doesn't look like they are," I almost whisper, trying to get my voice to work without moisture.
Ronon just grunted.
I think I understand him when he grunts now, which is a little freaky. Almost as freaky as understanding Rodney's little unmanly squeals of glee when he figures out something Ancient.
"You been back to the gate?" I had to know if he's talked to Elizabeth. I can just imagine it in a dark corner of my mind: Elizabeth demanding a detailed report and Ronon just grunting. Funny.
And that was that. Hell.
No back up was coming.
"You gonna go back if I tell you, order you, to go?" I ask in exasperation. I don't need the both of us dead if it can be helped.
"Great. Carry on then."
Well, it's not like I don't want to be rescued now that he's decided to show up. I'm not that fatalistic. At least, not yet.
For a big guy, he's quiet.
Then I feel a blade at my wrists. Just motion really. I lost feeling in my hands and forearms a while back.
A large hand grips my left shoulder and he rolls me over.
Ah, there's the sky.
Ronon doesn't ask me any questions because he's not stupid even if he does little more than grunt when asked questions.
He was working for his military and running from the Wraith long before I showed up in this neck of the woods.
The big man just gets rid of all the raw leather bindings and then he comes in close to see where all the blood is coming from.
Well, he can take his pick of injuries. I have plenty to keep Beckett happy if we make it back to Atlantis.
My vest and supplies are long gone, so nothing is available to make me stop leaking. Unless Ronon stopped by a local 7-11 and picked up some goodies.
"No," he grunts again. Just no. Big talker.
Now he's looking at me with that look. That's okay because now I'm giving him a look of my own.
We both know what's coming and neither one of us are happy about it.
"Over the shoulder." That's a statement, not a question. I know I'm not getting out of here under my own power.
He just nods and gets to work.
I take a moment to look around again. Damn. This is gonna leave him wide open to attack having to lug me around.
I've been carried before. Hell, since Ronon's shown up, he's done most of the 'cart around the colonel' duty.
He gets me vertical and I almost lose it. I have grey and silver patterns trying to eat up my vision and I can hear my blood pumping in my ears.
Before I can recover, I'm over his shoulder and looking at the bloody ground.
Ohhh, head rush.
I want to ask him where the hell he's been, but I'm afraid his answer will make me feel even more of a jerk than I've been in the last few days. I also want to ask him why he's come back . . . but again, the whole jerk thing.
For the next few minutes, I concentrate really hard, trying not to throw up on Ronon. I hope he appreciates how hard I work to save his leather wardrobe.
He's not talking and I'm a bit blurry, so it's a surprise when he stops, shifts and then puts me back on the ground.
Head rush, again.
I must look green, because he steps back with a wary look.
Maybe he's expecting orders now, not that he follows most of them. He's not getting any from me right now. Ronon was a Runner for years, I trust him to get us out of here without much meddling from my addled brain and me.
"Weir is going to be angry."
Well, hell, of course she is. This was just supposed to be a breather mission with just me and Ronon to see if I could get my head back on right. To 're-examine my priorities and my position as the ranking military officer' is the way she put it. She was just as ticked as the others were when I wasn't fine after killing an innocent man.
Excuse the hell out of me for needing a few measly days to tamp it down.
She definitely wasn't expecting me to get the life beat out of me because I'm too stupid to keep my guard up on a milkrun mission.
If I wasn't groaning before, I am now as I imagine her expression.
"I'll worry about that when we get back to Atlantis." Hey, that sounds pitiful, but it's the best I can do right now.
I don't even want to think about it. I could be on foot patrol duty for the next four weeks and she'll probably ban me from the transporters the whole time.
Ronon looks directly at me for the first time in days. "Sheppard?"
Oh. Oh, no. Don't ask me. Help a fellow man out by not bringing any crap up that involves feelings and talking. Please.
He doesn't seem to understand my silently beseeching eyes.
"All wars end up taking some innocents. The first time can be . . . bad."
Thank you, Mr. Obvious. I didn't know that.
"Who said it was the first," I muttered in disgust at his breach in manly protocol.
Really, who said? If he was listening during those first moments after it happened I would think it would be clear that this isn't the first time something like this has happened to me.
If I make it out of here and live, it probably won't be the last time, either.
Now he's patting down his pockets and he pulls out this vial of purple stuff.
Great, purple stuff.
He doesn't mention what it is and I don't ask. I don't want to know at this point.
Beckett's going to kill him when we get back to Atlantis and he tells the good doctor that he gave me purple stuff.
"Drink," he demands.
He has to help me since I still can't feel my hands and forearms.
Mmmm, tastes like roasted peanuts and gives me a faint buzz.
"You want to talk about it?"
Now he looks slightly pissed. This is the first time he's come right out and talked to me since the whole thing happened and maybe he thinks I should be more receptive to a fellow soldier.
I ignore his look since it's not the first pissed off look I've received since I arrived here in the good ol' Pegasus.
I do realize that he's bigger than me, faster than me, stronger than me . . . hell he's probably even a better soldier than I am. I'm just not gonna talk about it right now. I still haven't fixed up my cracking façade.
He eyes me a moment and I'm pretty sure I'm giving him my 'hard ass colonel' look. Even with my good buzz going.
Ronon finally shrugs his large shoulders and slings me across his back.
Back on the move.
Wheee. It's more fun with a buzz making the pain into dizziness with every step he takes.
Beckett once mentioned that I have a high threshold for pain. It's true most of the time. It really depends on what mood I'm in, where I am and who I'm with.
I deal with pain differently if I'm with Rodney than when I'm with Teyla or Ronon.
Right now, the whole thing is moot since I'm feeling pretty good.
"Who did this?" rumbled Ronon and I could feel the sound in my stomach.
"The family. I think it was the son and the brother. They were . . . mad."
Ronon grunts. "You get enough of a beating to stop being an ass about it?"
Huh. Did I get beat enough as punishment to stop feeling as if I've paid my dues? Enough to make my guilt go away? Enough to feel as if the family has had justice for a stupid mistake that happened in all of three seconds?
"I don't know. I'll have to think about it."
Ronon sighs. "You better think hard. McKay is thinking of stuffing you in a 'broom closet' for a couple of days until you cool off and stop acting like an ignorant ass."
Ah, that sounds like Rodney. He's tried to talk to me a few times. He was there when The Incident happened. He made the mistake of mentioning Sumner and I blasted back that Sumner wasn't a civilian and he definitely wasn't an innocent bystander.
After that, I wasn't too . . . receptive to talking to him and I said a few abrasive things.
I'm surprised I wasn't locked into my bathroom for the next few days without food from the way Rodney gave me the evil eye when we parted company.
God, I missed McKay. And Teyla. And Elizabeth. Hell, even Ronon.
"Okay, I'll think about it."
I don't know, but he seemed surprised that I agreed so quickly.
"The gate is near."
I tried to nod but ended up dizzy again.
Weir is gonna kill me and Beckett is gonna kill Ronon.
But it was some nice purple stuff.
"You dial the gate; I think I'm gonna go to sleep now," I say in a tired voice.
Between not sleeping, not eating and bleeding, I'm pretty tired. And don't forget the amazing purple stuff.
Really, the sleep is calling my name and I don't think I can stay awake for the initial blasting I'm going to get when we open the gate.
Elizabeth will just have to wait until I wake up in the infirmary.
He grunted again.
"I think . . . I think I would like to talk to you when I wake up."
As he dials the gate, the whooshing lulls me to into a more peaceful sleep.