He opened his eyes to darkness. The air was stifling, the heat intolerable. Rodney realized the odd stench that wouldn't go away was the smell of his own sweat, humidifying the air with fear. That was when he remembered. He was trapped. He wasn't getting out. He had pressed against that wall with everything he had, scraped against the stone until his fingers were bloodied, and screamed until his lungs burned and his throat scraped. After several hours, he had collapsed in terror.

And now he was awake again, and the lovely dreams he had dreamed weren't real, they were painful reminders of a life he would never again see, a life that was going to continue outside that room, on the other side of that wall, without him. He was alone, he would die alone. He cried out once again and pressed at his tomb. It had been too long. He knew that; the last time he had lit a match he watched as it slowly burned, then flickered out quickly, too quickly. He was running out of air.

He walked in a circle as he had done before, and long before that. For the days he had been trapped down there. His matches had run out, he burned them all in a desperate attempt for light. No one was coming for him. His stone room served as his burial chamber, he wasn't even supposed to be there in the first place, he hadn't told them of his discovery, his curiosity got the better of him. He had to make things right, he had to take the initiative, he had to explore and come back with news. If only he had listened when Sheppard talked, but no, he charged off in a temper, imagine that, and found the ruins inside the cavern, and here he was. Surely they knew he was there, even though he told no one where he was going. Surely they would come for him. They were his friends. Damn it, They Were His Friends!

His hoarse screams echoed back at him, taunting him, laughing at him, and all he could do was scream back, but that was taking up his precious air. Why did he come here, why, whywhywhywhywhy . . .oh god why . . .he could no longer wring his hands, it hurt too much, and it wasn't long after that, that he couldn't move.

He wanted water. Just a drop, a drop was the entire ocean, swimming in his memory.

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He was long past crying. The hours dragged on. The air grew heavy, his limbs sagged, his mind detached from his situation and started thinking on more lovely things, like sunshine, clean air, the rolling waves crashing against a city he would never see again. And yet he was there, standing on one of the many balconies, and John was with him. He could feel the wind tousle his hair, he could see John smiling. He suddenly wanted to say the name he had never uttered, the name that suddenly meant more to him than anything, the name that would have finally closed the distance between them. "John," he whispered, his eyes closed, and in his mind his friend's smile lit the waves below them.

His fear was eternally tinged with regret.

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John stood back as they pulled the body from the chamber, three days later. He was in shock. He could only look for a moment, at the greyed skin, the slitted eyes, the matted, dried hair, then turned away, unable to believe they had looked for a friend, and found a corpse. Carson seemed at a professional loss. "Some of his hair is missing," he said in a low, shocked voice. "I think . . ." he shook his head and walked away. Ronon just stared. Teyla's back was rigid. The body was carried past them, and John felt himself overcome with the need to see where Rodney had spent his last days.

He walked inside with a flashlight, and choked. Blood covered the wall that had closed him in, explaining the condition of Rodney's bone-exposed fingertips. The place smelled like hot iron disguising something rotten, and underneath that, the tang of human excrement, vomit, any and all bodily fluids that had fled the scene since the corpse couldn't. It wasn't how he wanted to remember Rodney. Not this panic, this fear.

He fought to breathe. His light found patches of hair on the floor near the wall that had closed him in. He had pulled it out in his fright He started to back out, when his light fell on one word, one word desperately scratched out onto the rocks, no longer in blood but chipped white bone...JOHN.

Lorne caught him as he fell back, and helped him outside. John fought for breath as Lorne re-entered the chamber. It was some time when he exited, and he walked right over to John, who was carefully sipping water as he tried to steady his nerves. "Sir," Lorne said, "I . . ."

"Report," John said tiredly, though he didn't want to know about Rodney's struggle. And Lorne's news paled him, and he could do nothing but return to Atlantis.

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Elizabeth Weir stared at the report in her hands, her eyes wide and teary in horror. Her hands trembled, and the paper fell to the desk as she sat there, unmoving.

"Dr. Rodney McKay was pronounced dead upon arrival. It is evident by the markings around the chamber in which he was imprisoned that he made every effort to escape. There are clear indications of blood and even bone on the wall that closed him in, left by his desperate attempts to claw his way out. The degree of fear at this point can only be imagined.

"He was so intent on moving the wall that trapped him, that there was one area he missed, hidden away in a corner, and if he had simply reached out, he would have found a hole that led to the mouth of the cavern, and outside . . . ."