All this feels strange and untrue
And I won't waste a minute without you
My bones ache, my skin feels cold
And I'm getting so tired and so old
The anger swells in my guts
And I won't feel these slices and cuts
I want so much to open your eyes
Cos I need you to look into mine
Tell me that you'll open your eyes
She'd been in this position before, tied up and in the dark. The difference now was that she was a lot more scared, terrified even. She'd been thrown into a cellar, pushed down the stairs and into darkness. Tumbling into the dirt, she'd heard the trap door shut and she hadn't seen sunlight since. The first thing she had done was undo the loose binds that had come away when she'd fallen to the earth.
She tried to get out. Screaming, shouting, running up the stairs and banging her fists against the wooden taps door until they bled, until huge splinters made their way under her skin. She scratched and pulled and tried to force the door open but broke nails, lost more blood. She was ignored, and food was brought to her by candle light, or firelight, at night when she was asleep. She tried, once or twice, or everyday for a week, to escape when her meals and water were brought to her by jumping out at whoever it was bringing her food. Tried to rush them, running up the stairs and crashing into them, trying to force her way out of the trap door, but she was always pushed back down by many others. On her fourth attempt at that, she fell, hit her head and knocked herself out. She didn't try it again, but they punished her anyway, leaving her without food for three days and water for two.
After three weeks, the real fear began to set in and it was nothing compared to how she had felt when she'd first been put in the cellar. No one was talking to her. She hadn't seen any faces of those who held her captive; she hadn't seen anyone since being thrown in here. No one had tried to rescue her, as far as she knew, she'd never heard commotion above, no shouting and gunfire, just silence.
She tried to remember what happened. Running the day over and over in her mind, just for something to think about other than why she had not been rescued.
She had gone off-world with Sheppard and his team, nothing she hadn't done before. She liked going off world, exploring more of the Pegasus galaxy with her leading team, her friends. She felt safe with them, felt safe on this world, quiet, uninhabited but with some interesting Ancient architecture for her to look at and decipher; even the possibility of some technology for Rodney to look at to keep out of everyone's way.
Sheppard and McKay bickering could be amusing, but not when she was trying to work.
They had settled onto the planet easily. Rodney had immediately set up camp at the site of what seemed to be a depleted energy source similar to the ZPMs but no where near as powerful. John, Ronan and Teyla did some exploring of the surroundings land, and Elizabeth was free to sit and translate the writings, and wait for her friends to interrupt her for lunch.
It never happened.
The planet hadn't shown any life signs, or any sign that anyone had been near it for years. It was sunny, peaceful, a light breeze blowing over meadows, moving long green grass from side to side. It was beautiful and all five of them had shed clothes in the warmth. She missed it, even before being locked away in the darkness; she had missed peaceful days in the countryside. Reading novels all afternoon and catching the sun. She had been starting to wish they'd brought a picnic, a real picnic, when she head shouting.
She was on her feet and running towards the noise before she even realised that the voices weren't that of her team. She joined up with Rodney who was holding his side arm tightly and together they ran towards the shouting, the angry voices carrying on the wind, running further from the ruins than they had anticipated.
Three men dressed in red and brown muted clothes, torn in places but still managing to look almost pristine came running towards them and it was soon very obvious that only one man was doing the shouting. Elizabeth and Rodney both stopped, unsure what to do for the moment. Rodney kept his weapon at his side and Elizabeth remained calm and decided to wait for the men to reach them. Rodney was telling her they should run, take cover, shoot even, because the man in red and brown was shouting "infidels' at them, over and over in a screaming tone that made them both think he was in pain. They were angry men, faces serious, contorted too, but she stood her ground with him beside her, convinced she could talk to these men. Bring calm to the situation.
As soon as the men were a few feet away they shot at them, opening fire with the long stick like weapons they carried like spears. Energy ran through Elizabeth like electricity and she jerked and burned, falling to the ground in a heap, but conscious. Rodney started shooting back, frantically firing without really aiming and she watched, immobilized and in pain as they grabbed her and went or Rodney too. More shots rang out, gunfire, and she heard more shouting, familiar voice this times and she felt relief, for a few moments, until the started running, her lifeless body slung over a strong shoulder. She could see, she could feel, but she was helpless to do any more than that. When Rodney was hit by one of the weapons, his body jerking the same was as hers had she wanted to scream, she tried to scream but couldn't. Instead she watched the others reached him while she was carried away over the brow of the hill.
She didn't even know if they came running after her, chasing after her to save her, the pain became too much and she blacked out before they even got down the other side of the little hill. When she came round again she had a glimpse of light seconds before she was thrown into the cellar and her circle of thoughts started over again.
She kept track of the days by counting how many meals she had eaten. Meals of what she assumed were bread and something that tasted liked cheese. It was hard to tell in the dark, the black.
She started to remember how she felt as a child afraid of the dark, the feelings of fear became familiar as the dark started to close in on her and the hope that they were coming to rescue her was all she had to hold onto. Eventually they would come for her. Sheppard wouldn't stop and Rodney would be by his side every step. She didn't doubt that for a second that they had gotten away, she was sure they'd be in here with her if they had been caught, though she'd appreciate the company she didn't wish that on them especially on Rodney.
A month in and she could feel the darkness creeping in into her mind. Rodney was claustrophobic, and while he had a hidden mental strength, she didn't think he'd last. She didn't think she'd last and she wouldn't wish this on him or anybody else.
She missed him though. Missed her team, her home, tea, coffee, dignity.
She allowed herself moments of fantasy after couple of weeks, but now she was spending long hours in sunshine and she let herself consider all she sorts of things she didn't have time to on Atlantis and all the things she would do if she got out of the cellar.
When she got out of the cellar.
She tried to hold on that and have hope in the men that were looking for her, no matter how desperate that hope now seemed. She knew she could expect nothing less from Rodney, she suspected that he'd had about as much sleep as she had since she'd been thrown down here. While she didn't want him to suffer, she hoped he cared enough about her not to sleep. She had certainly had enough sleepless nights worrying about him.
She hoped he came soon.
Her mind began to play tricks on her when she slept, curled up in the corner furthest from the trap door, her arms rapped tightly round her middle, legs pulled up to her chest, head tucked between her knees, she dreamt of rescue. Dreamt of sunlight and gunfire, Rodney McKay pulling her to her feet, John, Ronan and Teyla surrounding her. She would climb the stairs towards freedom and wake up as she stepped through the trap door.
That went on for a month.
Another month and she dreamt of darkness and silence. She had stopped singing to herself, humming old nursery rhymes and singing Bob Dylan songs because she had forgotten the words and the tunes. She was starting to forget what her voice sounded like, and she was afraid to speak, just in case she couldn't. Just in case she was heard too. Her captors, the men in red and brown, had left her alone for so long without explanations or words - just food and water and all encompassing darkness.
Darkness crept into her mind but there was nothing she could do. During that first week she had explored the cellar in the dark, scrabbling around for a day or two, feeling every inch of wall and floor with her hands. There was no escape.. She could remember the sunshine but it took effort to remember sounds other than the crawling, and scrabbling noises she made moving around, the sound of her own breathing. She couldn't remember John's laugh, Rodney's annoyed 'tuts'. She could remember his smile though, she held onto him so much in her mind that some days he was all she could think about. To muster up any other image in her mind made her tired and she was already weak, even sleeping more as the days went by.
All though she still believed they were coming, after four months, she started to wonder if she would be alive to see them. See him. She started to wonder if she would dead by then. She wasn't worrying about it, and she didn't welcome it, it because a simple fact - four months was a long time.
She'd always been thin, but her ribs and hip bones had never stuck out like they did after four months eating one meal a day of bread and cheese, occasionally some meat. And something that didn't really taste of anything but had a crunch to it that made her think it might be some sort of vegetable.
She was tired, all the time and she was weak. It took a lot of effort to move. Crawling from one end of her cellar to the other, that short twenty foot scramble was exhausting and she needed to rest afterwards. She needed to sleep afterwards. Dreaming of darkness and strange vegetables that she couldn't see. She had nightmares that she couldn't see anything, when this was in fact the reality. Even when she dreamt of Rodney, she was only aware of his presence. She never saw his face or heard his face in her dreams. She just knew he was there.
He was always there.
Every time she fell asleep she wasn't all that confident that she would wake up again, but that thought alone was not enough to keep her awake. Nothing was. She spent more and more time asleep, curled up, than she did awake. She spent no time in fantasies, just a few thoughts of Rodney McKay, but no dreams of rescue. They were coming but she danced around the word in her mind. She played with the idea that he might find her dead and dirty in a dark damp cellar.
It never happened.
She hadn't opened her eyes for three days and when she finally heard gunfire she thought was suffering from auditory hallucinations. She was sure that this was her mind finally cracking into pieces. Crashing, and crying, and cracks of crockery falling from shelves above her. She was loosing it and soon she wouldn't even remember she had any sanity.
Shouting, like that first day, shouting that was familiar, so wonderfully familiar and she knew she was hallucinating because it was still so, so dark but she could hear shouting and it was so loud it hurt her ears. She cringed; eyes squeezed shut, curled into a ball in the corner of her cellar.
Her cellar was her home now.
Through her eyelids she saw the light, sensed on her skin but was afraid of it now, it was unexpected. Through all the hope she had been counting on rescue, on Rodney, she'd forgotten about sunlight, about any light. Now it was flooding her darkness with bright white and she didn't know how to react. Only to curl up tighter into a ball because she couldn't trust her ears and she couldn't trust the light. She would only trust her team, only Rodney McKay, the people, the man, that she had been dreaming about since she had tumbled into the darkness.
The voices were familiar bit she couldn't trust their words and she jumped when somebody gripped her arms tightly. Hands that weren't her own just scared her, and she tried to move further back into the corner. There were more lights now, spotlights flashing around her, burning her eyes, her skin, and she though they were coming to interrogate her finally, finally! She would tell them nothing, ha! She had won, they hadn't isolated her long enough, she hadn't completely lost all hope, all sanity. If only they would get that light of her eyes, the noise to be silenced, it threatened to burst her ear drums but whoever was gripping her arms so, so very tightly wouldn't stop talking, wouldn't stop saying her name.
Her name, how did they know her name? She tired to concentrate on the noise; her eyes squeezed shut still to protect the brown iris' within.
"Elizabeth, Elizabeth. It's me, Rodney, open your eyes. Open your eyes!"
She deciphered his words, thought them over carefully, like she would've when translating Ancient.
"Rodney?" It didn't come out the way she intended, she hadn't said anything for over two months, her voice was cracked, weak, less than a whisper, and caught on the second syllable of his name but he heard her and he was here and how could she ever have doubted him, doubted this, but she hadn't. And her faith had been repaid.
"Open your eyes Elizabeth, we've got you. I've got you."
She unfolded her arms with slow minute movements, stretching out her arm to grab onto his but not with any real strength. Her hand rested on what she assumed was his forearm but either way he was real and she dared to open her eyes like he kept insisting.
Like unfolding her arms it took time, it took forever to open her eyes. The light burnt her pupils with a harsher intensity with every millimetre her eyelids lifted. When her eyes were as fully open as they could she found everything to be a blurry white, but she could make out his face, the outline of his jaw, his hair line, his eyes.
She started to cry.
"Shush," he wrapped a blanket around her, his arms with it and held her close, "don't cry, you're safe."
"It's the light," she coughed, "it hurts." He pulled back enough to wipe her eyes, smiling.
She pulled the blanket over her head and caught a glimpse of the rest of his team - John, Ronan and Teyla, all armed - and she was bundled out of the cellar, and into bright sunlight, Rodney almost carrying her up the stairs but knowing she'd hate that. Before she passed out, the last thing she saw was their smiles and she was so glad they hadn't given up.
She'd been under Carson's care in the infirmary for a couple of weeks, Rodney had been by her side for almost the entire time, and she was grateful for his constant company and all visitors she'd had over the fortnight. Carson had asked everybody to leave her alone at first, to rest, recover after her rescue and, after a few heated words; her friends had reluctantly filed out of the room. It had taken all the energy she had to reach out and grab Rodney with one pale bony hand, drip whipping to the side. She hadn't had the energy to ask him to stay but her point had been made and as she fell to sleep he went to get a chair, grumbling quietly about being on his feet all day. What she didn't know what that had been the first time Rodney had really complained about anything trivial since she she'd been kidnapped.
He hadn't spoken much at first; he just sat by her side in the darkened corner of the infirmary with her, as Carson helped her slowly readjust to the light again. Just sitting, watching her like she wasn't real. It hadn't taken her long to snap at him, tearfully, and almost beg him to say something, anything, confessing that she couldn't cope with any more silence. She wanted noise, chatter, anything.
She wanted distractions but she couldn't admit it just yet. Then he talked. Once he opened his mouth he didn't stop, telling her everything she had missed.
She had been kidnapped by people who had assumed them to be terrorists from a neighbouring planet, come to steal or deface or devalue the Ancient ruins that they happened to hold in high regard. They wouldn't listen to reason or negotiate and she was kept in the cellar because she'd had no trial, no conviction and didn't officially exist. None of the people dressed in muted red and brown were willing to put her through the system until Atlantis had given up on her.
"And that never happened," she asked.
"Not exactly," Rodney seemed ashamed to say the words, "we, I, never gave up, nor did Sheppard, and the others but he was only left in charge for three weeks."
"Colonel Mason?" She asked, talking about the man who she had seen watching as she had returned through the gate for the first time. The man who currently occupied her office.
"Not at first. General O'Neill came on a temporary basis. Until the IOA could find someone they liked." He slumped in his chair, avoiding eye contact with her and Elizabeth really wished he wouldn't. He looked pale, tried and drained of all his life. His skin had a sickly yellow tinge to it, the result of too many pills and coffee and other stimulants. His eyes were bright though, still, and they shone in her dark infirmary corner.
"O'Neill let us look, as long as I worked on some other projects too."
"You're in demand."
"Hm, yes, anyway," and he continued with his story, smiling at her.
Mason came in after another month, as a replacement for her. Not O'Neill, her, and the word made her feel a little sick because, after all that time in dark, dreaming about Rodney McKay and home, she found another man in her place, in her office, giving out her orders.
But she was back now, and she had drifted off while Rodney had been telling her about how they had found her. He'd still been there when she'd woken up, when the entire infirmary was dark, to find him lightly dozing in the chair beside her, snoring and snuffling in his sleep. She hadn't wanted to wake him, and she left him, and had him fill her in on the rest of the story in the morning. Teyla's intel, the huge argument in the middle of the control tower, Sheppard's' reprimand, his warning from the IOA (which, no one had really thought it had meant much), all mixed in with grumbles and moans about how much his back hurt from spending the night asleep on a chair.
"It's Teyla you should thank," he said, a sad tone in his voice, the smile disappearing, "she was really convinced the information was correct and was the one who won Mason over," she could tell he felt like he'd let her down, like he should've been the one to convince Colonel Mason to come look for her. He pulled a granola bar from his pocket and offered her a bite before taking one himself when she refused, "personally, I think he has thing for her," he said, through a mouthful of the bar. She smiled, she'd missed him.
When she told him that, said those words, he had stopped, swallowed hard (and almost chocked) and smiled at her. He didn't believe her, he didn't have to ask 'really?' for her know that.
"I need to get out." With a little effort, she was able to swing her legs her bare legs over the edge of the bed.
"Anywhere, outside, just go get me some clothes."
"Ah, okay, don't move, I'll be right back." He glanced at her thin frame, wondering for a brief moment if any of her clothes would fit, and disappeared out of the infirmary.
Twenty minutes later, and with Teyla's help with the clothes, Elizabeth was standing out on a balcony, with Rodney holding onto her arm firmly but gently, like she might bruise if he gripped her as tightly as he had on the day he'd found her in the cellar. She walked to the edge and held onto the railing, taking deep breaths of the sea air. She'd missed this too. It was bright, and the crashing of the waves against the city was loud enough to give her a headache but she didn't mind. She stood her ground against it all.
"Oh I need this." Rodney didn't reply, instead taking a careful look at the woman he's spent four months trying to find. She could feel his eyes on her, and knew what she looked like. Her clothes hung off her a little, she was still so white she was almost ashen grey, and she definitely needed a hair cut. Lost in her thoughts she jumped when he reached out and felt a few curls, running his fingers through them and smiling, seemingly approving of the extra length.
"Sorry." He looked away. "I missed you, ah, we missed you."
"We?" She sighed, frustrated. "Do you know what got me through Rodney?" She snapped and he shook his head. "You did." She shook off his arm so she could turn away. "I thought about you a lot." she continued.
"I thought about you all, and I knew none of you would give up on me, but in the end, I just thought about you." She wasn't sure she wanted to tell him all this, but it was done now, and she was tired - tired of dancing around their feelings. She wanted to know how much he had missed her.
"I thought you were going to say Sheppard."
"I care about John, but I needed to see you the most."
"Me?" She smiled, no longer frustrated, and reached out for his hand.
"Yes, Rodney, you!" Still weak, she squeezed his hand with what strength she had left for the day, "thank you. I knew you'd come for me."
"Of course." He was indignant with that, "four months or four years, I wouldn't stop." She wanted to cry, but she'd cried when he had found her and didn't want to again, not so soon, not when she was supposed to be recovering from an ordeal. "And that's probably the most romantic thing I'll ever say." She laughed and kissed him on the cheek.
"I don't need romance Rodney, just you."
"Oh, that's good then." Awkwardly he leant forward and kissed her on the lips and she fell into him, his arms going around her like they had in the cellar, protective, warm.
Whatever happened from here on in didn't matter because this, this was home.