By Leesa Perrie
Set a few weeks or so after Trinity
"Sometimes it's hard to know where I stand,
It's hard to know where I am,
Well maybe it's a puzzle I don't understand"
Lyrics from 'Is It Any Wonder?' by Keane
Two weeks. Two weeks inside the prison. He was sitting on the bed with a blanket wrapped around him, shivering from the cold, hunched up, arms around knees, trying to keep warm and failing. The nights were cold and the prison had no heating. One blanket wasn't enough to keep him warm, but it was enough to stave off hypothermia. He shivered. Of course, he didn't get much sleep at night, slept mainly in the day when it was at least bearable, the blanket doing its job.
Food came twice a day. Well, he called it food. And it was edible, just. Not a lot of it, but enough to keep him from starving, and to keep the hypoglycaemia at bay. He was losing weight, though. Which wasn't helping with the heat problem, fat being insulating. Not that he was fat, far from it, but…every little helped.
He spent most of his time stuck in his cell, alone. Twice a week he was let out to shower and shave. Three times a week, to exercise in the yard with the other prisoners. At first, some of them had talked to him, but not now. The prison guards had spread tales of his crime, and the hatred was clear in everyone's eyes. The only reason none of the prisoners attacked him was because of what would happen to them if they did. The guards, they were monitored too closely by those in charge to get away with prisoner abuse. He supposed he should be thankful for small mercies.
One of the other prisoners, before he became a pariah, had told him how the system worked. If you had someone outside willing to pay a small amount of money every week, then you'd get another two blankets and food of a better quality, more of it, and three times a day. If you had someone willing to pay a little more, then you got extra privileges such as letters, both received and sent, the occasional visit, and small luxuries such as books or photos or maybe extra food.
He had no one outside willing to pay anything for him. No one on this planet would do that. He wasn't from here, so no family, no friends.
Not anymore, it seemed. He'd been left behind, abandoned to his fate. So much for never leaving a man behind, it didn't apply to him. It used to, once, and not all that long ago really. But not now.
Seemed he'd made one mistake too many. Doranda had been the first nail in the coffin. And he had no doubt it would be his coffin. How long before he became ill from lack of warmth, lack of decent food? How long before he died here, alone and hated?
So, Doranda had been the first nail. Or maybe it was a straw? And this mistake, here, on this pathetic world, had been the last straw, breaking not a camel's back, but the trust, the friendship, the respect, of everyone. Leaving him cast out, having to live with the results of his error. His terrible error, that had caused the deaths of hundreds here. No wonder they considered him a mass murderer. Though it was only partially his fault, and that was the only reason he'd escaped the death verdict; that he wasn't fully to blame.
The second nail, straw, whatever had been on M8Z-005. A weather control system, Ancient in design, had ensured that the world remained habitable. It hadn't been obvious what had powered it. Not a ZedPM, of that he was sure.
Of course, his attempts to locate the power source, in the hopes of being able to find a new way to power Atlantis, had ended up with him nearly destroying the world's finely balanced weather system. As it was, a particularly bad storm had passed over where they were, nearly destroying the Ancient device, and the building it was housed in, nearly killing his team and himself. They'd been lucky to survive with only a few minor injuries.
The planet's weather system righted itself as quickly as it had gone haywire, once he'd fixed his mistake, and they had left, without knowledge of how the device was being powered. He'd argued against leaving, even then, but the looks on the faces of his team had been enough for him to give up. They had not been pleased, nor had Elizabeth when she had heard about what had happened. Not a good way to regain their trust. To regain Sheppard's trust.
He'd just wanted to find a new way to power the city, but had nearly destroyed a world and its inhabitants, who fortunately were unaware of the device or the team's presence, or else that could have ended very badly too. Not to mention nearly killing his team. It hadn't been his finest hour, but not his worst either. No, Doranda or here were his worst, he just hadn't quite decided which as yet.
And so the final straw, had been here, on Kelther. A world with technology at about the same level as the early 1900s, but who had a shield left by the Ancestors, and had discovered naquadah, which was naturally occurring on their world. The shield covered an area about thirty miles in radius, and the Kelthans remained mainly within that area, with those that lived outside close by. Presumably close enough to escape if the Wraith came, as the control room for the shield also warned them of approaching ships. The gate was outside of the shielded area, but at least they were protected from the Wraith whenever they came. And eventually the Wraith always gave up and moved on.
There was a potential to trade for naquadah, as well as fresh food to supplement the supplies from Earth, and some medical herbs that had Carson excited, apparently they could cure an illness that was causing problems for one of our other allies in this galaxy.
The Kelthans had been trying to harness the power from naquadah, not as a bomb, but as a power source for their burgeoning society that was increasing looking to electricity instead of steam. But a tragic accident resulting in the death of twenty scientists and the destruction of their lab, which fortunately they had had the foresight to place outside of their inhabited areas, had brought this to a temporary stop.
McKay had been vocal in forming an alliance with these people. Access to naquadah in Pegasus, instead of relying on it being delivered by the Daedalus, was something well worth gaining. And in return, they could offer help in building generators.
Elizabeth had been unsure. Worried about the potential for the generators to be turned into weapons. He'd assured her that wouldn't happen, telling her of a generator design that had more than one mechanical failsafe built into it, making it impossible to overload, and removing them would stop the generator from working at all. The US government had chosen to use a design that allowed for overloading, having a power source that could be turned into a weapon outweighing any safety concerns.
Something they should all be grateful for, he'd pointed out, or did he have to say nanovirus?
Asked if he could build this safer generator, he'd said of course he could. Who did they think had designed it in the first place? After all, the US government might have had to agree to Russia having a naquadah programme at that particular time, but it didn't mean they had wanted them to have a potential weapon. Hence, after being sent to oversee things, he'd come up with this design. It gave the Russians a naquadah generator, and kept the Americans somewhat mollified as well.
They had offered this design and the help in building it, and they got a supply of naquadah, food and medicinal herbs in return. A win-win situation.
Or so it seemed.
Of course, when did anything go right in the Pegasus Galaxy?
The Kelthans had neighbours on another continent, not protected by any shield and left to the mercy of the Wraith; who were not known for their mercy. Many times groups of these 'Thaneks', as they called themselves, tried to take over the shield, but had never succeeded. However, it seemed that the Kelthans wanted to put a stop to the attacks, by having a weapon that would keep the Thaneks cowed.
At night, when Rodney was asleep, they would drug him and wake him. He then answered their questions, showed them new designs, and then would sleep again. When he awoke the next day, he had no memory of the events. He felt more tired than he expected, but had put it down to the stress of working with the Kelthans.
A week later, the Kelthans, being quick studies it seemed, had a working naquadah bomb that they used on the Thaneks. Hundreds were killed.
They had demanded answers from the Kelthans, answers which were given. And he knew he was to blame for everything. He had convinced Elizabeth that it would be safe, and he had been wrong. So very, very wrong. Again.
They were heading back to the gate when the Thaneks attacked. Instead of being cowed, they were after revenge. This time they came in great numbers, and took control, killing hundreds of Kelthans in the battle.
He'd got separated from his team, cut off from the gate. Sheppard had radioed him to say they were heading back through the gate and would return with jumpers, and that he was to sit tight.
They never returned, and he was captured. Put on trial and found guilty of helping the Kelthans to build their bomb, but because it had not been voluntary, they commuted his sentence to life imprisonment, not death. Though, really, it was the same thing in the end. He wouldn't last long here. Months maybe at the most. It was a slow death, that was all.
He'd been abandoned. Two weeks and no one had come. No jumpers through the gate. No rescue.
He was alone, in a cold cell, with horrid food, and hatred all around. And guilt to keep him company. Guilt; for all the things he'd done wrong in his life; all the truly bad decisions he'd made; all the deaths he felt responsible for; all the mistakes and all their consequences.
All the friendships he'd lost.
He didn't blame them, for any of this. It hurt, that they had obviously decided they were better off without him. His intelligence and knowledge not worth the problem that he was, certainly not worth the disasters he'd caused or nearly caused. He may have saved Atlantis or his team time and time again, but Zelenka was good. They'd manage. Better to manage without him than to have to deal with his messes.
He didn't blame them, despite the hurt. He had this coming to him.
It still hurt badly.
Another week passed, and he had developed a hacking cough that left him exhausted. They didn't waste medicine on prisoners, unless you had someone on the outside willing to pay for it. Which meant none for him. So his headache and cough didn't get any better, and in fact were getting worse. No fever as yet, no aches or pains, no sneezing or blocked nose, but a persistent cough, a headache that was threatening to turn into a migraine, and a lethargy that kept him to his bed most of the time.
The guards hadn't made him go out for the last exercise session, which he wasn't sure was a good thing or not. He felt too ill to go outside, but maybe some fresh air would help. Or maybe not.
He didn't want to die, despite the imprisonment and the abandonment. He wanted to live, even though he had no hope of rescue and little hope of release. But how long before he caught something that would kill him? Maybe he already had.
It was just so unfair. And yet even as he thought that, he remembered his mistakes, the people who had died, or nearly died, because of him, and maybe it wasn't so unfair after all.
A guard opened the door to his cell, ushering him out. He stood on unsteady legs and followed him. Was it time already for a shower and clean up? Or had they decided not to skip the exercise session like he'd thought, but to make him exercise alone so as not to infect the other prisoners? He didn't bother asking, he'd learned early on that his questions were never answered, and he needed to spend his energy on walking and not talking right now. The concentration needed to keep himself upright and moving distracted him from his surroundings, and he didn't notice that they were heading somewhere else instead. Not the bathroom or the exercise yard.
When he was led into another room with a table and two chairs, one on each side of the table, he was surprised, confused and worried. He collapsed into one of the chairs, and was left alone.
Just what was going on?
He crossed his arms and laid them on the table, laying his head down on them tiredly. A coughing fit made him sit back up, but once it was over, he laid his head back down, and waited.
A few minutes passed, and then the door opened and someone came in and sat in the chair on the other side of the table. The door closed, and he forced himself to raise his head and look at the person opposite him.
"Hey," the man paused, looking him over critically. "You look like crap, McKay."
"Then I look how I feel, Major," he answered, wondering if he was hallucinating. "Why are you here?"
He noted that Lorne looked confused at his response.
"Why do you think? To get you out of here."
"Oh," he frowned, but a coughing fit interrupted him before he could say any more.
"That sounds pretty bad," Lorne stood up, moving round to perch on the table next to him. He then slipped a transponder onto McKay's shoulder, and waited for the coughing to abate. "Think you can stand?"
"Because you'll fall on your ass otherwise when we beam aboard the Daedalus."
"Oh, right," Rodney was struggling to come to terms with his rescue. Why had they come now? Had they changed their minds? Had something gone wrong that only he could fix? That was most likely, he figured. He stood slowly, with Major Lorne offering a steadying hand. Once upright, Lorne contacted the ship and they were beamed to the infirmary. Where he collapsed into darkness.
He surfaced from time to time, aware mainly of Carson's brogue, though sometimes there were other voices too; Sheppard, Ronon, Teyla, Elizabeth, Radek. But he couldn't work out what they were saying, and could only shiver or cough and fall back into sleep.
Of course, the dreams came when he slept. Nightmares and memories, of being abandoned to his fate. Of his team, his friends; all of them with angry faces. Berating him for his mistakes, and turning away. Leaving him behind, because they could no longer put up with his errors. Anger and hatred, where there used to be friendship and trust. His whole world falling to pieces. Being left alone, to be hated, as he deserved. Guilty as charged, people had died because of him, and no one would help him now. He'd made too many mistakes, gone too far.
He didn't know that his nightmares became words, slurred and broken, delivered in a fever to those that listened, and who hurt for him. All his guilt and fear, all his insecurities in himself and his friends, all his loneliness; all this was laid bare.
And they realised that this arrogant, egotistical and abrasive man was fragile underneath, something they had never truly realised before. They knew he cared, knew there was more beneath the surface, but never had they thought he would be so fragile, so vulnerable, so unsure of himself, and of them.
Recent events had knocked him off balance more than they had known. He'd hidden his growing guilt, his growing uncertainty in his abilities, in their opinion of his abilities, his growing uncertainty about his worth, in their eyes and in his own. Fever and weeks of believing he had finally be deserted, finally been left behind to face what his guilt told him he deserved, had opened him up to them. And what they saw was heart-breaking.
They needed to plan a response. Needed to reassure him, but in a way that he would accept, a way that would not make him suspicious of their actions. To reaffirm him, but carefully.
He needed to know that they valued him as a person, not just for his intellect or his skills. But it would need to be done in a way that seemed natural for each of them to do. It would not work if they suddenly acted out of character around him; each would need to find their own way.
It would take time, a lot of time, but they were determined to make sure he knew beyond a doubt that they would never, ever abandon him. That they would always fight to find him, save him, if ever he was lost again.
And yes, each had their own issues to face concerning his actions of late. Such as trust, forgiveness, and accepting that he was not perfect, as no one ever was; that he was not infallible.
He could never, ever know what they had heard, that he had laid his soul bare to them. It would only do more harm than good, and he had suffered enough harm. They would shield him from any more by this one act of silence.
One of the first things that Sheppard said to him when he finally awoke and was aware, was that they had not abandoned him. That the gate on Kelther had been damaged and they had been forced to wait for the Daedalus to return from Earth. That they had come as soon as they could, only sending Lorne for fear of any of the team being recognised and captured.
And that he was not to blame for the actions of the Kelthans. The deaths were not his fault.
It was a start.
"Some long ago when we were taught
That for whatever kind of puzzle you got
You just stick the right formula in
A solution for every fool"
Lyrics from 'Least Complicated' by The Indigo Girls
wildcat88 on LiveJournal kindly wrote a missing scenes fic for 'Prison' that I can't highly praise enough! 'The Whole of Life' tells the team's side of things and is from Ronon's POV. Please go and read it, you won't be disappointed.
http : / / community dot livejournal dot com / sheppard underscore hc / 188863 dot html
(remove spaces and replace dot with period/full stop and underscore with an underscore!!)