A/N – Hey everyone. This is by far the darkest, bleakest story I've written yet.

I blame it on the weather (I despise winter). I promise the next one will

be fun and sunny! Enjoy – and all reviews, good and bad, are always

appreciated.

Sacrifice

Chapter 1

Lt. Colonel John Sheppard was cold. The icy dampness of a stone floor seeped through his jacket, and he shivered violently. Opening his eyes, he bit back a groan of pain. Where the hell was he? He lay on his back for a few moments more, realizing that his head was cushioned by something. Reaching up, he felt the coarse fiber of an Atlantis jacket, and he almost smiled. Teyla. She would make sure he was comfortable, even if it was on a hard, cold, stone floor. He expected her beautiful face to hover over his any second now, smiling in relief that he was awake, helping him to sit up.

But no – the room was completely silent. Only the slow drip-drip of water echoed in regular beats. He strained his ears, listening for anything, and, faintly, he thought he heard…..screaming. John sat up, dizziness and nausea almost immediately overwhelming him. Taking huge breaths, he willed his stomach to stop heaving, and his brain to stop pounding. He braced his hands on the hard floor, propping himself up as he looked around the cell.

For that's where he was – in a rather primitive stone cell. Iron bars lined one wall, separating him from another empty cell. A small barred window was the only source of light. A large iron door stood at the far end, encased into the rock of the cave, apparently the only way in or out. The floor was a mixture of stone and dirt, and as he looked closer, he could see dried streaks of blood – fairly fresh.

John Sheppard stood up slowly, using the wall for balance. The room tilted and whirled, and his stomach roiled once more, and he was sure he was going to be sick. He fought against the nausea again, and won – barely. After waiting a few moments more, he leaned down and carefully picked up the expedition jacket. As he turned it in his hands, his eyes spied the patch: a flag consisting of a red maple leaf. Canada. McKay.

"Rodney?" he croaked, although he knew there was no one else in the room. He dropped the jacket, and walked to the iron door. Concern for his teammates now surfaced, and he pounded on the door with his fist.

"Hey! Hey! Open up!" John yelled, ignoring the bruising done to his hand. He shouted a few moments more, then, his mouth dry and his stomach again threatening to revolt, he backed away from the door. Sliding down the wall, he closed his eyes as he sat. He wrapped his hands around his knees, wondering why he felt so terrible.

The clank of the door caused him to forget his pain, and he staggered to his feet. The door swung open to reveal a short man, probably in his late forties. He was black, his hair shaved close to his head, and his eyes dark and hard. He wore a uniform, but there appeared to be no rank insignia, and he was unarmed. He entered the room alone, signaling to two men – guards – to wait, and then shut the door.

"I was afraid that your injuries might prove to be fatal, Colonel Sheppard. However, I see with time that you have started to recover." The man's voice was smooth, almost soothing, and John immediately felt his hackles rise.

"Who are you?" he asked. "And where's my team?" John remained leaning against the wall, his legs trembling from the effort to keep himself upright.

The man remained still, his eyes never leaving the Colonel. "I am Worner, chief interrogator. As for your team – well, that remains to be seen."

John swayed slightly. Chief interrogator. That didn't sound good. Reaching within himself to find some strength, he lunged for the man. The interrogator easily sidestepped John's attack, shaking his head in pity.

"Colonel, you can make this easy, or you can make this difficult. I see you prefer the difficult path. As did Dr. McKay." The man chuckled as John struggled to his feet again, anger clear on his face.

"Where's McKay? What have you done to him?" he demanded. John's eyes narrowed as the man continued to laugh lightly.

"You wish to see your teammate?" Worner asked, a strange glimmer in his eyes. Shaking down his revulsion at the man's gaze, John merely nodded.

"Yes. Now. I want to see him now."

"So be it," Worner said. He banged on the door twice, and with a rattle of keys, it creaked open. John peered around Worner's body to see two guards struggling to carry a man between them. Rodney.

John moved forward, ignoring his dizziness, as the guards dragged the limp form of McKay into the room. He gasped in horror; McKay was practically unrecognizable. His face was beaten and bruised, one eye completely swollen shut. His lips were split, his cheeks and forehead ran with rivulets of blood. As he caught the unconscious scientist, and lowered him gently to the ground, he glared at the interrogator.

"What have you done?" he rasped. The interrogator didn't answer, merely waved his hand again, and two jugs of water and a loaf of hard bread were dropped on to the floor.

"I'm sure you want to catch up with your teammate, Colonel. I'll give you both some time." With a final, feral smile, the man turned and strode out the door. John just watched as the door slammed shut, his hands clenched into fists at his side.

A low moan brought John to Rodney's side, and he grabbed up the jacket, carefully lifting the scientist's head, then placing it back down on the rough cushion. He grimaced as he took in McKay's condition; the man was badly beaten. He took off his own jacket, then tugged his black T-shirt from his pants. Tearing a strip off, he wet one end of the cloth, soaking it in the water jug. Carefully lifting Rodney's head, he squeezed the cloth, letting the water dribble into the scientist's mouth. Rodney responded, automatically swallowing the tepid liquid. He let out another moan before cracking open one blue eye.

"She..prd?" Rodney asked, his voice barely audible.

"Hey, McKay. Be still. I don't know how badly you're injured," John instructed softly. He ran his hands lightly down the scientist's arms and legs, searching for broken bones. He stopped as he saw chafing on Rodney's wrists; the man had been bound, and tightly. As John's hands prodded his ribcage, Rodney groaned and winced, gasping in pain.

"Don't…please…hurts…" Tears pooled in the scientist's eyes, and John immediately pulled his hands away, cursing to himself. He dunked the scrap of shirt again, then dribbled some more water into McKay's mouth as the scientist regained his breathing.

"Rodney, do you know where Teyla and Ronon are?" John asked gently. He wasn't surprised to see the physicist close his eyes and shake his head. "Okay, do you know where we are?" This time he was slightly relieved to see McKay nod once.

"3-5-8," McKay whispered. He closed his eyes again, and John let his friend rest for a moment. P6D-358. At least they were still on the same planet.

He leaned in to Rodney, taking in the bruising, the swelling, and felt rage course through him.

"Rodney. What do they want?" John waited a few long seconds before Rodney reopened his eyes, and frowned.

"Earth," he whispered.

TBC