At What Cost by Nebbyjen

Summary: Caught in the middle of a bloody civil war, Sheppard and Beckett become separated from the rest of the offworld team. When a rescue team returns, only Sheppard is found. Ronon takes it upon himself to remain behind and search for the physician.

Season3/ Small Sateda spoiler

Categories: Hurt/comfort, angst, friendship, drama

Rated: T for dark content

Archived: Jumper Bay archive, FF, and my LJ

A/N: I just noticed that all the page breaks have disappeared. Hopefully I'll have them all back in within a day. Also, this is a bit different from what I usually put together. Honest criticism or thoughts would be welcome.

Warning: Darkfic. This story contains descriptions of torture and abuse. Not terribly graphic, but still to be safe, I'm giving you a heads up. It's not pleasant.

At What Cost

Part 1

Sheppard sat with his back to the crumbling wall in the damp, dark hellhole, his swollen eyes cracked open far enough that he was aware of every shadowy figure that moved nearby. The sound of many suffering in agony surrounded him. His own voice long gone, was wasted to a hoarse whisper as he tried to comfort the shivering figure huddled close to his side when the gate to the prison slammed open right on schedule. The harsh clang instantly caused the haunting moans to be stilled with fear of who would be taken next and he had to tighten his grip to keep hold of his charge when he felt the man's muscles tense and the trembling grow stronger. "Shh, doc," he ground out painfully, "help will be here soon. Just hold on a little longer."

Carson shifted fitfully, his filthy, swollen hand fisted in the colonel's shirt only tugged harder, pulling the ragged material taunt against the back of Sheppard's raw neck. Rope burn was a bitch but the officer remained silent, biting back a hiss before it could escape. Their situation was bad enough, he wasn't about to add more worries on the abused physician and have him pull away.

Over the past three days, they had come for Beckett and himself separately on four different occasions, every time leaving each man exhausted and physically unable to move due to pain from the beatings or whatever sick games the guards had inflicted. Sheppard still remembered the noose pulled snug around his own neck, the chair kicked out from under him, the coarse rope digging deeply a moment later. He felt the squeeze around his neck that made him struggle that much harder to survive as the guards jeered and spit on him before cutting him down at the last possible second. He could only imagine what they'd done to Carson, and since the doc hadn't spoken since being brought back after the second time, only his imagination could fill in the blanks.

The last he'd seen of the rest of his team was when a similar squad of angry soldiers had burst inside the small house they had been using as a shelter and grabbed Teyla. When she began to struggle, one man brutally struck her atop of the head and she fell without making a sound. Ronon instantly went for the assailant, breaking the man's thick neck with his bare hands. Calling for McKay to help her, the Satedean then cast a hurried glance to Beckett. "Stay behind Sheppard," he growled between strikes, taking a second guard to the ground, a third striking him repeatedly along his back with the thick stock of a rifle as the big man fought back.

Sheppard unfortunately was in the midst of battle himself with a pair of knife wielding goliaths, both of whom succeeded in inflicting at least one slice to each of his unprotected arms. Finally able to position himself in such a way as to sidestep the next strike, the blow instead plunging deeply into the second man, he grabbed the Scot by the arm and thrust him towards the rear door. "McKay, the gate!" he hollered without looking back, trusting Dex to finish off the remaining soldier.

By the time he'd made it to the side of the cottage, he'd spotted Rodney limping off into the protective cover of the nearby forest with Teyla draped awkwardly over his shoulder. Grabbing Carson by the sleeve, he motioned for the physician to follow before he returned to check on Ronon.

Moments later, he'd taken a shovel to the back of the final soldier's head, forcing the attacker to drop his strangle hold on Dex. The floor littered with unmoving bodies, the pair ran back out in time to see two more men race after their friends.

"I'll get Beckett, you get McKay and Teyla. Meet you at the gate," Sheppard yelled as he and Ronon split up.

That was the last he recalled until waking up in the current location with Beckett patting his face, calling his name over and over. "What happened?" he was finally able to ask as a little of the room came into focus. The telltale pounding to the back of his head let him know how they'd been able to take him down.

"There was a second squad," the physician whispered while wrapping torn pieces from his own shirt over the still bleeding gashes on Sheppard's arms.

"The others?"

Carson kept his head down as he shook it slowly. "I don't know."

It wasn't long after that that the guards had come and taken Beckett away, only to return him an hour later, tossing his limp form down on the filthy floor. The clothing that still clung to him was stained in dark patches and on closer inspection did Sheppard realize it was from blood.

"Doc?" he said softly, hesitantly rolling the injured man onto his side.

Carson cried out in pain, curling tight into a ball to protect his abused ribs and stomach muscles.

Trying to keep the battered man from the muck on the floor, Sheppard eased his bandaged arms underneath Beckett's shoulders and carefully lifted him to rest across his legs. "Carson, can you tell me how badly you're hurt?"

"Stomped on my foot. Broke…bone," the breathy reply mumbled after several long moments. "Second… second metatarsal… I think."

From the looks of it, a broken foot was the least of his troubles. "Anything else?"

"Used me…" he paused to cough painfully then spit out something that looked vaguely like a broken piece of tooth, "…like a bloody punching bag."

"Damn." The colonel knew he didn't fare much better and needed to tend to the physician. Tearing off a piece from the bottom of his own shirt, he used the scrap to wipe at the caked blood and dirt on the beaten man's face while looking for injuries. A nasty ragged cut across the right cheekbone still seeped freely so he tried to hold slight pressure without causing more pain. "Did they say what they wanted?" he asked when the Scot began to moan and breathe raggedly.

Carson swallowed, his arms wrapped around his gut in an attempt to stop another spasm. "No. Said…said I was prisoner of war." Not able to withhold the groan building in the back of his throat, he pressed his face against Sheppard's knees to stifle the sound.

"Doc?" All he got was a weakly waved hand in the air before it dropped bonelessly to the floor. Resting his own sore arm over the still form propped against him, he said the words he'd been telling himself since waking up earlier, "They'll come for us. Don't give up."

And now, two days later, Sheppard felt as though he had been saying those words for what seemed like forever. Carson no longer spoke, or made any noise for that fact. With the goon squad roaming the prison, picking out their next victims, even he was beginning to wonder what was taking Atlantis so long. Since waking up flat on his back, he hadn't seen any sign of Ronon or the others. Did they even make it back?

Beckett must have sensed his growing apprehension for the black and blue doctor eased his tight grip. The Scot's usually inquisitive persona had been beaten into a dull mask housing lifeless blue orbs. His head shifted slightly so that he could see the guards advance and when the menacing thugs stopped before the bedraggled pair, he struggled to stand.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Sheppard rasped, trying to tug him back down to the floor.

The dull blue eyes blinked back at him. With a shaking hand, he pointed to the infected, oozing wounds that marred the colonel's arms and then touched his own throat, slowly shaking his head.

"Carson," Sheppard ground out painfully, but it was too late. He watched the doctor being dragged away and there was nothing he could do to stop them. The clang from the heavy metal gates as they were slammed shut filled him with dread. Where the hell was Dex? Beckett wasn't going to last much longer. The physician was shutting down at a fast rate and Sheppard knew from having watched trained soldiers die under the similar conditions, that if the Scot hadn't broken yet, it would happen very soon.

"They are coming," he mentally told himself one more time. Exhausted, hungry, and so thirsty that the thought of the damp muck on the floor was beginning to have an appeal, he slid back to rest against the wall once more. The small amount of warmth that he'd shared with Carson quickly dispersed leaving him even colder, chills racking his fever-plagued body. With nothing left to do but wait until his friend was dragged back, he forced himself to rest and save his strength. For if there was to be a next time, he would be the one to go.


He didn't remember closing his eyes, so when the concussive force at the opposite end of the room blew the wall apart, leaving a big hole filled with lots of men carrying lights and guns, his groggy mind was no longer capable of comprehending that help had finally arrived. Moments later shouting voices echoed through the room, someone called out to him, hands touched his inflamed arms, and a mask was pressed over his face.

"Sheppard," one voice called over the persistent darkness that threatened to envelope him completely. "Sheppard, where's Beckett?"

That got his attention. Forcing his swollen eyes apart he tried to focus on the face only inches from his own. "Took him," he whispered harshly, his dry throat feeling raw as shattered glass. From out of nowhere the mask disappeared, water dribbled into his mouth, and he sucked at it greedily before it was pulled away.

"Who took him? Where did they go?" the voice demanded.

This time he recognized the deep tone and squinted at the face before him. "Dex?"


Sheppard ran his tongue across his dry lips as the mask returned over his face. Struggling to sit up against the hands determined to keep him lying down; he weakly lifted a wavering hand and pointed to the large gates. "Took 'im," he repeated with next to no sound left.

Ronon growled rising to his feet but stopped when Sheppard's hand flopped against his leg. His large hand grasped the colonel's cold fingers, "I'll find him." He received the slightest squeeze before stepping back and tossing his pack over his shoulder. Blaster in hand, those around him cleared a path as he stormed across the room, ignoring the activity and bodies surrounding him. And then in a move that surprised none of the rescuers, he shot the lock off the gate.

Moments later he was gone from sight.

Carson stumbled hard only to be hauled roughly back up onto his damaged foot, which then gave out on the next pain filled step. When the guards thrust him to sit on a rickety wooden chair that had one broken leg so that it tipped unevenly, he slowly glanced at the opposite wall and noticed the loops of heavy hemp rope hung on a rusty hook. He knew what it was for, and resigned himself to the fact that he was going to die. His body no longer feeling pain, a strange numbness flooding throughout his arms and legs, he sat and waited for them to wrap the rope around his neck.

Rough hands grasped him harshly by his shoulders and forced him to stand while another slipped the noose around his neck. Taunts and jeers filled the air as the men spat on him, called him a traitor to the cause, and then shoved him roughly to stand unsteadily on the chair. The first time they'd taken him, he tried to tell them they were mistaken but they'd refused to listen, instead calling him a spy. During his unfortunate return to the chamber of horrors, he again attempted to explain that he was a doctor and not a member of the opposite warring faction. A brutish guard sneered at him before dragging in another ragged figure to room; a battered man who begged for mercy while confessing to be a spy. By the time the guards were finished, the lifeless body tossed to the side of the room, Carson knew there would be no reasoning for freedom.

And now, with death at hand, the end to experiencing such horrors so blissfully near, he closed his eyes and waited. His mind accepted the final step and shut down just as the door to the cell burst open. He fell when the chair was knocked out from beneath him but there was no pull on the rope around his neck. Collapsing to the floor, his head came to rest on the blood stained stone. The coarse rope that had yet to be pulled taunt by the guards…slid off. For some reason he was free.

Dormant survival instincts kicked in as he crawled across the floor on raw hands and knees. Sharp chipped shards dug deep into his beaten flesh, brutal fighting waged around him, but the physician's mind locked it all out. Only two things filtered through the darkness: escape and water.

Part 2

Ronon not only heard but felt the satisfying snap of vertebrae from the figure pinned in the crook of his arm. Dropping the lifeless body to the floor, he growled and turned ready to take on another of the guards only to find the remaining occupants of the room had already been disposed of by his own hands. With the toe of his boot he flipped one corpse off a body that it had fallen over, only to reveal that it wasn't Beckett on the floor. His dark eyes blazed as he searched the area and came up empty before emerging back out into the flickering lights that entombed the narrow passageway that was littered with filth and death.

"Dex," the radio crackled from inside his vest and he recognized Lorne's voice. "We have Sheppard secure in Jumper One. Any sign of Beckett?"

He stopped to stand in one of the exterior exits, the warm afternoon sun forcing him to blink several times as his eyes adjusted to the brightness. "Yes."

"Do you need a med team to your position or can you get him here on your own? This place is going to hell in a hand basket fast and we need to get out of here ASAP." His words were highlighted by a pair of 'thump thump' blasts from an energy weapon firing at the jumper.

"Negative. I… lost him."

There was a brief silence over the radio before the major returned. "Understood. Report back," his orders left unfinished as another volley of energy bursts hit the jumper. "Dex," greater urgency now filled the major's voice, "we have to scrub the mission. Get your ass back here. We can't hold them off much longer!"

Ronon knew he didn't have a choice. Sheppard's rule of no man left behind reflected his own beliefs. A lone energy burst hit close to where he was standing, showering him with fragments of stone and debris, effectively cutting off his escape, making the decision for him. "No."

This time when the signal returned, the runner could hear the whine of the Jumpers as the small ships prepared to lift off. "There's another bag of gear stashed on the southwest corner of the courtyard under a pile of bodies. You do know Weir's not going to be too happy with you staying in the middle of a civil war, don't you?" There was a brief pause before he continued, "Find him and bring him back. Lorne out"

That was all he needed. Quickly retracing his steps, Ronon made it back to the cell where he'd first seen Beckett, giving the area another sweep before making his way out to the courtyard for the remaining gear. Several guards attempted to stop him, never to make the same mistake again by the time he was finished. Minutes later, the supplies added to his own and tossed over his shoulder, he slipped away from the prison to begin his search.


Carson laid perfectly still, his eyes closed as he mimicked the dead bodies surrounding him in the dark hallway. Their gruesome twisted faces so close to his own that even behind his eyelids, he could still feel their stare upon him. When rough, uncaring hands grabbed him by the arms and then tossed him into the back of the wagon with the rest of the day's victims, he didn't emit a sound. Spent to the point of not caring, he felt the jolt and jostle of every step by the animals pulling the cart. When it came to a halt some time later, he was tossed to land in a crumpled heap, another tossed on top of him. And then another. Eventually he lost track of his surroundings, his mind refusing to recognize the horrors of his situation any longer.

And then there was silence.

After an unknown period of time, he stirred. The weight of the others pressed against his battered body stole his strength, every breath he labored for a pull of fresh air. The overpowering putrid stench of death and decay made him gag as he struggled to move, to emerge from the pit. It was the need for water that overrode all other instincts and soon he found himself free on the far end of the pile.

Weak from hunger and thirst, his every move sending waves of discomfort through bone and muscle, he made it to the edge of the torn up field on his hands and knees before he latched onto a tree and pulled himself to his feet. The world spun dizzyingly and he blinked to clear the black spots forming across his vision.

It was then that he got his first real look at his surroundings since… since he couldn't remember. Images slipped through his mind of faces that he couldn't put a name to, brief clips of voices without names. Instead all he had was a torn apart field, ragged from the wages of war filled with broken trees and sparse scrub grass, dry bare earth without life, and…. His eyes shifted back to the hole from which he'd climbed out. Suddenly awash in his most recent memories, he dropped back to his knees, his sides resisting the dry heaves that wrenched mercilessly on his sore stomach muscles. Empty, with nothing to expel, and exhausted beyond belief, he collapsed back onto the ground to stare up at the blue sky shining brightly overhead.

Large white clouds floated lazily high above reminding him of another place with wide open skies. Crinkling his brow, he tried to remember, only to catch glimpses of dark water reflecting the sun and the smell of… of what? Inhaling, trying to catch the memory, he instead smelled something that made him drag himself to sit up. His eyes wide as glanced over the surrounding field from his hidden position, he spotted the grey/black plumes rising high to mar the peaceful horizon.

'Smoke' his mind informed him as he whispered the word without sound. He knew enough that where there was smoke, there was danger, and he needed to get away. Using every last ounce of strength he had left, he worked his way back to standing, warily sending one last glance over his shoulder, before moving slowly in the opposite direction.

He stumbled until he could no longer see where he was going, sagging to the cool ground beneath the shelter of a large tree. Several times he had heard voices of people speaking from somewhere nearby and he froze so as not to be found. Each time the voices continued on past.

Night rapidly filled the dark sky with bright stars and a small sliver of moon, its beam casting brief comfort over the bedraggled figure huddled beneath the tree.

But there would be no rest for Carson, for the deep hollow growl of hunger made sleep impossible. His injured hands curled and held protectively against his chest, his knees drawn up to his elbows, his chin falling to his shoulder, he watched the darkness fold around him. What willing sleep would not grant him, his body decided on its own and shut down, leaving him with little to do but breathe until morning.

And when the sun returned, warming his chilled body, he could no longer move.

Part 3

Ronon didn't sleep that night; instead he combed the edge of the prison, searching for any sign of the missing physician. When he came upon one of the wagons filled with bodies, he followed it at a distance and then stood in the shadows to watch as more victims of the planet's useless war were disposed of. Fifteen minutes later the cart was gone and he worked his way to the edge of the pit. No matter how many times on countless planets he'd come across something similar, the brutality of a species against itself left him cold inside. What would they do if they saw their families culled right before their eyes, the wraith not caring who fought for what side. A warm body was nothing more than a meal.

Walking the perimeter of the pit, he used a flashlight to scan the lifeless faces, searching for what he dreaded he might find. Small animals quickly scrambled from the bright beam to burrow deep under the bloated corpses or scurry past his feet. Beckett deserved better than this.

A surprised squeak from one of the rodents as it was carried off by a larger predator caught his attention and he tracked its movement before it disappeared into the surrounding darkness. Only then did his eyes fall upon a small scrap of grey material along the ground. Picking it up between two fingers, he rubbed the fabric and recognized the texture as that worn by the Atlantis members. Spurred on by his find, he scoured the surrounding ground in search of another sign of the physician.

It was his tracking abilities, honed by years of avoiding the wraith, which guided him to the disturbance in the dry grass that led away from the pit. An occasional handprint and scuff marks could be seen, a drop or two of blood, more crushed grass from where someone had fallen. Soon after, he came upon the tree along the edge of the field. Here he discovered where the individual had been sick, more blood marred the ground, and yet another ragged, stained scrap of cloth.

His gut told him it was Beckett. Eyes to the ground, he found and followed every hint of a trail, winding his way through another field, alongside a road, and then to an ancient orchard now filled with barren trees. As the morning sun broke the horizon, he eventually spotted the missing physician.

Dropping to his knees, Dex hesitantly reached out to touch the exposed side of Beckett's neck, searching for any sign of life. Relieved to discover the barest thrum beneath his fingertips, he sat back on his heels and took stock of their situation.

First things first, he needed to get Beckett warm. It would be unwise to light a fire for he didn't know how far away some of the others might be, and he had a feeling they were close. His long coat would have to supply the heat necessary and if they were spotted, it wouldn't bring attention like an emergency blanket. Later he'd scavenge some clothing and get rid of the uniform, or rather, what was left of it.

A quick rummage through his pack, he located the small rolled case of first aid supplies that Lorne had left for him. With care that would surprise those who knew him, he tended to the one who had first freed him from a life of running.


Carson woke slowly to unfamiliar surroundings. The cumulative effects of the previous days of abuse left him weak and numb to the point of no longer caring if he stayed on the damp ground. His face pressed into short tufts of grass and the smell of bare earth brought on a bought of claustrophobia forcing his short breaths to increase, but he was unable to pull himself away.

A voice rumbled from nearby, a hand touched him briefly and he shuddered. His right eye, not pressed to the ground, flickered open in panic to reveal a large man seated mere inches away.

"Calm down, Doc. I'm not going to hurt you." Ronon watched Beckett's face for any sign of recognition and quickly realized that the physician was lost. "Name's Dex, from…" he paused, not wanting to cause further confusion, "Atlantis. Same as you."

That earned him a dazed blink, but nothing more. Reaching for his canteen, he frowned when Beckett's single eye widened in fear. "Water," he reassured, pouring a small amount on the ground between them. Slowly extending his arm, he held out the container. "Thirsty?" Judging by the gaze locked on his offering, he eased closer.

"We found Sheppard." Keeping his voice low, he held out his hand and waited until the eye glanced at it, paused a moment, and then returned to the water. "Lorne took him back on a jumper." His fingertips touched the filthy matted hair pressed to the ground. "McKay had Teyla to the gate when I met up with him." Nudging the bruised jaw, he tipped the Scot's face up and dribbled a small amount of liquid over the parched lips.

Carson's eye closed as he savored every drop. Greedily, he forced both of his puffy lids back open, hoping the man understood he needed more. Another trickle crossed his tongue and slid down his parched throat. When it stopped, he didn't understand why.

It was disconcerting to Ronon that Beckett had yet to move. His eyes narrowed, studying the bruised face before him. During the early morning hours he'd been able to clean most of the blood and grime away, but the pungent odor of the prison remained. "Don't mind me saying, Doc, but you could really stand to wash up a little." The comment that would usually provoke a verbal sparring match rewarded him with only a dull gaze.

"Hungry?" He rifled through is pack and withdrew a small purplish fruit. "Called a plum," he said, continuing to talk quietly. "I helped myself to a few from the commissary before leaving." He slipped a thin small knife out from the sheath at his waist to pare the treat but stopped when the doctor scrunched his eyes shut. Making quick work, he slivered the fruit into several small bites before tucking the blade away.

"Beckett, you need to eat something." Holding out a small piece of fruit, he let the juice drip on the doctor's mouth.

Carson lay still, letting the drop slide across his lower lip before he hesitantly touched it with his tongue. The taste was sweet and his long empty stomach wanted more. Daring to crack his gaze back open at the strange man, he eyed the fruit hungrily.

"Thought so." Piece after piece Ronon slowly fed the silent man. Once it was gone, he let the doctor have some more water before he put the canteen back in the duffel. "I need to get us some supplies. I won't be gone long." He settled the coat high enough to cover most of Beckett's curled figure then waited patiently until the sleepy gaze met his. "I will be back soon."

For some reason in Carson's muddled mind, he believed the big man, for the stranger made him feel safe. He watched through one eye until he could see him no longer, and then for the first time in he didn't know how long, sleep came easy.


It didn't take Ronon long to come up with several pieces of dry clothing liberated from unattended wash lines. And when he actually walked away from a bustling market place with a simple hand cart, no one stopped him. His rugged appearance blended with those filling the streets, his penetrating gaze daring anyone to question him.

He weaved his way between several sparse stalls, deliberately avoiding the occasional soldier who passed nearby. Purchasing a stiff loaf of bread with money he'd slipped from someone's pocket that'd walked by wearing an ill fitted cloak, he added it to the small pile of goods he'd accumulated. The warm sun high overhead, shadows small on the ground, he knew that the morning had passed quickly and it was time for him to return to Beckett before the physician awakened. They would need to remain out of site during the remainder of the day and move after dusk so as not to rouse suspicion. If successful, he'd have them both at the gate waiting for Weir to receive their IDC in less than twenty-four hours.

The road back to the orchard was marred and pitted with holes, years of neglect leaving it impassable to mechanized vehicles. Beasts of burden and weary foot travelers were sparse, giving him time to scout for a better location if they needed to relocate before sundown. He'd discovered from eavesdropping at the market that there was a lake within a short walking distance. Perhaps, for now they could move to a new location along the shoreline, giving him a chance to get some of the grime and stench off Beckett, and maybe find out what else was tormenting the doctor into not talking.

Ronon found his charge just as he'd left him but due to the warmth of the midday and the filthy condition becoming even more intolerable with sweat and body odor, a cluster of insects now crawled through the doctor's short dark matted hair. A swat to shoo them away caused a small swarm to erupt and then settle once again. When he pulled back the long coat in a sweeping motion to further scatter the pests, he woke the sleeping man instead. Startled, Beckett's eyes blinked open in fear, so he quickly put the coat back. "Doc?"

Carson warily looked at the man hunkered down at his side before brief glimpses of earlier flickered through his mind. Memories of water and fruit made his stomach growl and he looked hopefully at the empty hands open before him, then meeting the man's gaze.

"Figured you'd be hungry by the time I got back." Dex grunted, twisting off the canteen lid. He held it out to be taken but Beckett remained still, his eyes focused on the container. It was disconcerting not hearing the odd accent…and fact that the doctor had yet to move. Deciding to get a better look in the sunlight he lifted the coat to examine Beckett's hands that were twisted tightly against his chest.

Bruised and swollen knuckles, broken nails, and painful red welts that appeared to be burns were visible even with the filth. Anger washed over the runner and darkness flushed his face, once again causing the other to close his eyes in fear. Realizing what had happened, Dex reined in his fury and tried to appear calm. "You going to let me help you?"

Carson cautiously opened one eye and then the other at the sound of the big man's voice. The angry expression was gone and he had his hand out once more, almost touching Carson's face. He watched it move closer, holding his breath, waiting for the painful strike that never happened. Instead, it slipped beneath his head and lifted him gently. Warm water then trickled over his lips and he opened his mouth, allowing the heavenly liquid to spill over his tongue.

This time, the large man gave him enough to fill his mouth so that he could swish it over his teeth. The dry sticky feeling erased, he closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensation of it washing down his throat as he swallowed, then almost painfully hitting his empty stomach.

Dex watched closely, when Beckett appeared ready he gave him more. The frown that appeared and then look of distress took him by surprise. The return of the small amount of water left both men staring at one another before he lifted the Scot and supported him sideways until the bout of coughing subsided. "Guess a little less water," he mumbled.

Now that Beckett was a slightly more vertical, Dex decided to roll him onto his back and prop him up using the pack. When he felt no resistance, he soon had him sitting part way up. "Feel better?"

Carson pondered his surroundings. Spying the two-wheeled cart, his breath hitched in fear and his heart began to race. Memories of another cart and dead people pressing against him, not being able to breathe stole his breath once more. It was the rumble of the large man calling to him that pulled him from the horror of the flashback.

"Breathe. Take it easy." Ronon repeated until the frightened blue eyes eventually turned to stare at him and then warily flicker back to the cart. "I'm not taking you back. Just thought I'd use it to make your trip to the gate easier."

The gate. That sounded familiar. Closing his eyes, Carson searched the dark void inside his head for something and came up with water, lots of water. Confused, he blinked and discovered the man cutting another of the small fruit. When the dark eyes looked to him, the brows scrunched in question. 'Wa…' he tried to say but only puffed air.

Dex leaned closer. "What?"

The physician's eyes glanced away, tracking the ground while he mentally searched for more of the memory. A second look found the man still close at his side waiting. 'Water,' he mouthed completely. That earned him a grunt and a smile.

Taking one of the slivers of fruit, Dex fed the physician. "Water? Atlantis is a city on water. Do you remember Atlantis?" When one of the many little bugs tried to land on the plum, he brushed it away. "Water is also used to wash in. Any memories in your head about being clean?" When another bite was gone, he added as a second thought more to himself, "Be glad McKay is nowhere around."

Carson swallowed and then waited while more images ghosted through his memory. He didn't know 'McKay' but the name felt … felt like he should know it. Sighing heavily, he found the man watching him again. What was his name? When more plum was held out, he paused. 'Name,' he mouthed.

The curiosity returning in Beckett's expression made Dex roll his eyes. "'bout time," he grunted. "Knew you had to be in there somewhere." Slowly he continued, feeding bite after bite as he carefully explained who they both were and where they were from. "I'm here to take you back to Atlantis," he finished, tossing the plum pit casually into the weeds behind them. When he heard a rustle in the dry grass, he lifted a finger to his lips while slipping free the blaster at his side.