Spoilers: None, but anything up until the second half of season three is probably fair game.

Pairing: Sparky. Shep'n'Lizzie.

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. If I did, I probably wouldn't be THAT mean to Lizzie, I would just shove her mercilessly towards John and his adorable elf ears.


Her first sensation was pain- blinding pain. She couldn't remember anything as to why she was here, where she was, or what had happened. Her eyes opened and immediately shut; though the light was dim, it still hurt her eyes.

A cool hand enveloped her forehead and she cracked open an eyelid to see a young woman, twenty or so, directly above her. The woman was muttering in a different language, and she suddenly-

Atlantis. The names came unbidden to her, flowing as freely as they had before. Elizabeth. Layna. John. Rodney. Teyla. Freedom.

The woman- Layna —looked down at her, surprised to see her stirring. She whispered something else and smiled.

Elizabeth smiled back and promptly remembered she couldn't understand her. Another occupant of the cell- Ketna- came into her line of vision and smiled triumphantly. She spoke English, or some form of it. "You're awake!"

Elizabeth attempted to sit up, but Layna pushed her back down. "How long was I out?" she croaked, her voice weaker than she had expected.

Ketna's face did nothing to alleviate her fears. "Not that long."

Elizabeth looked back at her; the girl betrayed nothing. "Minutes? Hours?"

She looked back at her, confused. Of course. Ketna's planet used different time measurements. "You were out longer than before."

Elizabeth had figured out that last time she'd come back and promptly fainted, it had been about five hours before she had woken up. Not a good sign. Layna continued to push her down as she attempted to get up, but finally Elizabeth batted her away. "I'm fine," she told Layna helplessly, as if the woman would understand. "Really."

Ketna looked from Layna back to Elizabeth and bit her lip. "Are you? Or are you just saying that?"

Elizabeth glared at her. "I'm fine. A little sore, but I'll be fine." As she sat up, she involuntarily flinched as a wave of pain hit her. And with that, she remembered the torture and wished she hadn't. "I'm fine," she repeated, if only to convince herself.

Layna shook her head and muttered angrily, but the anger was directed towards the guards, not Elizabeth. She'd been here the longest- as far as Elizabeth could tell; Ketna tended not to say anything about her exploits here- and was the most valuable for her background in nursing. She helped all of them back to health. Before they were taken, of course. Their cell of six had dwindled to three, and soon someone else would be "taken", or, in Ketna's words, sacrificed.

As much as Elizabeth tried to keep an open mind, some societies were just stupid. She was pretty sure she had the right to say that when her back was still burning from the whip marks. She just didn't understand how anyone could think this was right.

Of course, the rulers didn't think it was right. They thought it was fun. They enjoyed hearing them scream and got some perverse pleasure out of their shuddering pleas. It made Elizabeth sick.

The guards' thudding footsteps stopped at the first block in the row, only two down from theirs. She didn't turn her head, for her neck hurt too much, but she could her the lock slide and the gate swing open. She closed her eyes as a girl screamed, being pried away from the prison's bars so she could be sacrificed to the gods. It was the only solution these people had thought of to keep their subjects thinking that they still believed in the gods. Elizabeth wondered idly if she'd be chosen this time. Probably not, because she'd just been beaten. They'd probably take Layna, since she hadn't been out of the cell for a while.

The second person was chosen, and despite herself, Elizabeth felt the rising panic she promised herself she wouldn't feel. She had told herself she wouldn't be scared of someone who could do precious little more to hurt her. Heaven knows she'd been beaten enough.

The guard's leering face appeared in the door's vacancy, and he scanned the three pitiful occupants. His eyes lit up upon seeing Layna, who avoided his gaze and kept her face downward. He grabbed her by the back of her dress and lifted her up to his level. He said nothing- they hardly ever did- but smiled and nodded politely at Elizabeth and Ketna, who glared as he retreated, locking the cell again with Layna still in tow. She wasn't screaming. She'd learned long ago that it wasn't worth it to scream. It just made it better for them.

The cell seemed smaller, somehow, even though a third of the bodies were gone. Elizabeth slumped against the back bars, immediately regretting it as her whipped back made contact with the shaped metal. She winced and shifted herself into a more sitting position, leaning back upon her hands. She didn't even notice anymore when the grain on the floor cut into her bleeding hands.

The guards were gone, taking their six and leaving the rest. Ketna looked positively frightened, though she was hiding it well. Elizabeth could tell after seeing hundreds of faces hiding grief.

"I want you to do something for me," Elizabeth whispered, motioning Ketna to come over with her head. Ketna crawled over to her, puzzled, but interested. "If you ever have a chance to get out of here- ever- I want you to take it."

"Where will I go?" she asked, sounding more like a child than she had before.

Elizabeth stretched across the cell floor (painfully) and reached under an unnaturally large pile of chaff. "Here." She extracted a small metal object. "If you have the chance, go to the Stargate. The-"

"The ring?"

"Yes. Go there and enter these symbols." Elizabeth drew them on the floor, her right index finger protesting the dirt in her open wound. "Then, once it's open, enter these numbers into this." She wrote her IDC next to Atlantis's address, her finger burning.

"Why?"

"That's my home. My friends will help you."

"What about you?"

Elizabeth sighed. "I'm afraid I'm never going to get out of here, Ketna. You've got the best chance. Can you remember those for me?"

She nodded and looked at her. "I'll go and get help for you, I promise."

"That's not the point." Elizabeth closed her eyes and opened them again. "Just help yourself, okay? My friends know when to launch a rescue operation and when not to. Just remember anything you can about this place and tell them, okay?"

Ketna nodded.

"And leave soon- during a busy time, even if I'm not here. Just take this and run. Don't worry about me."

She began studiously studying the symbols Elizabeth had drawn, frowning and concentrating. The next time she looked up to ask Elizabeth a question, she'd already fallen back into unconsciousness, her formerly beautiful face beaten and bloody.

She wasn't sure how much longer she'd last.


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