Summary:- Captured offworld, John and Rodney are sold into slavery. A Shep centred story with a whump or two.

Spoiler:- None really. Story takes place after Return Pt2 and before Sunday.

Rated:- T for violence and mild language.

Disclaimer:- I don't own Stargate Atlantis. If I did, Shep would be whumped more often and the series would have at least 10 seasons.

Sorry no beta so all the mistakes are mine.

The Price of Freedom

He let out a low moan and shivered violently against the bone chilling cold that seemed to be creeping into his body from every angle as it worked its way into the pores of his skin and the gaps in his clothing. As the irritation spread, his shivering grew more pronounced and he started to come out of his stupor. And with full awareness came a deep searing ache, making him wish that oblivion would reclaim him as every joint and every muscle made its presence known.

Although reluctant, he attempted to move in an effort to ease the discomfort, but his limbs refused to co-operate as the aches turned to a stronger pain. He gave up, as even a little exertion left him exhausted and in real agony.

So keeping perfectly still, he waited for the pain to ease and after several long minutes, the torment finally calmed down to a more bearable ache. After giving it a few more minutes, he cautiously lifted his head off the stone hard floor and tried to assess his surroundings. The dimly lit room gave him little to go by, but he seemed to be in a very confined stonewalled space.

A question entered in his fuzzy mind. Had he landed in a prison cell? However, any further attempt to concentrate proved difficult through his pounding headache, which was making his thought processes extremely sluggish and confused. He eventually managed to form a few more questions. Foremost of which was. Where the hell was he? Moreover, how in heaven's name did he get here? But even those few questions proved too much, leaving him even more perplexed. For a while, his hazy mind was overwhelmed, so he tried to switch off. However, something important was bothering him, something very fundamental. He closed his eyes and attempted to dig through his hazy thoughts and then suddenly, he realised that he didn't even remember his own name.

Panic began to set-in when he tried to focus on that memory. To dig up that vital piece of information from his sluggish brain. It took several minutes of hard concentration before the memory suddenly came to him like a switch being flicked. John. His name was John - John? He paused as the rest stubbornly refused to emerge.

John squeezed his eyes tightly until his head buzzed with a pressure that threatened to burst a blood vessel. Then it came to him. Sheppard…yes, he was John Sheppard of the United States Air Force. Service number? Service number? But for the life of him, that memory just would not surface, no matter how hard he tried.

The effort of remembering took a terrible toll on his well-being. He felt dizzy and his head pulsated with an unrelenting throbbing pain. So to ease his anguish, he let go of all thought and gave into the shadows. The pain gradually eased up enough to allow him to drift into a semiconscious state.

How long John laid there he had no way of knowing but finally his mind cleared enough to allow him to open his eyes once more. He was greeted with the same dismal sight even if it was somewhat lighter and John was able to make out slightly more detail. He moved his hand and carefully ran it over the floor. Its surface felt like concrete or smooth rock. It certainly felt hard enough beneath his sore and aching body.

The walls consisted of rough looking stone with a small window high up on one side. John turned his head with difficulty, causing a stabbing pain to shoot up his neck but he was rewarded with the sight of a simple door seemingly made of some kind of wood. A small barred window made up part of the door, so his first impression had been correct. It was a cell.

However, the memory of how he'd ended up here still refused to surface, so he had no idea how he came to be in this small and smelly prison. Then something did emerge through his lethargic thoughts. Afghanistan? He must have been caught by the Taliban, which meant he must have crashed his chopper. That would certainly explain his current physical condition. Not that he had had the strength or ability to examine his wounds until now, but the aches and pains were real enough to make him believe that he was injured. Reasoning that maybe he had the energy to evaluate his condition, Sheppard carefully eased himself up. The effort sent ripples of discomfort through his limbs, but it wasn't as unbearable as before.

Carefully propping himself onto his elbow, he looked down at his clothing and was surprised to see a pair of badly torn black BDUs and an equally ragged black t-shirt covering him. He was perplexed as he muttered. "What the hell happened to my desert combat uniform?"

When that answer refused to surface, John gingerly peeled back one of the larger rips in his T-shirt and prodded the nasty looking bruise beneath. He sucked in a breath at the pain but single-mindedly continued to investigate and prod other areas of damage. His whole body seemed to be covered in a multitude of bruises and abrasions. Fortunately, nothing appeared to be broken. Moreover, apart from some shallow cuts, there were no deeper wounds. He was darn grateful for that because an infection could have lead to untold problems and well, the stories he'd heard about the Taliban's' hospitality hadn't been all that wonderful.

However, what worried John the most was the fact that he still couldn't remember anything tangible. His head still ached but at least the throbbing pain had stopped. John vaguely wondered what had caused that, so he carefully lifted his hand and gently probed his scalp. He sucked in an, "ouch," when his fingers encountered a large egg shaped bump at the back of his head. He quickly pulled his fingers away and examined them. Thankfully, there was no sign of blood so the skin probably wasn't broken. John had no doubt that the head injury could have caused his memory loss but thankfully, it didn't feel like a concussion. Sure, his head felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool, almost as if he'd been drugged or something. He was also very thirsty, but he didn't feel nauseous or dizzy anymore.

John let a loud groan pass through his lips before easing himself higher to survey the cell more closely, mainly in the hope finding water. Then a realisation struck him; the room was completely empty. There was no bed or blankets, no table or chair, not a sign of water or food. Moreover, it was still darn cold, which probably meant that he was being held high up in the mountains somewhere. Not good for an extraction, he reasoned.

"Damn it! Why do these things always happen to me?" John muttered, before gently lowering himself back onto the stone hard floor. He was in a bad situation and he prayed that they wouldn't parade him in front of a camera before lopping off his head for all to hear about on CNN. His colonel father would not be pleased.

Several more minutes could have passed before John moaned and instinctively rolled onto his side to huddle together to form a tight ball. It helped to conserve what little warmth was left in his body, but the dying thirst and hunger was unrelenting and getting worse with each passing minute. He let his mind drift again. Forget the camera parading, he thought. He'd probably die of thirst if no one comes soon.

As if on cue, his ears caught the faint clacking of the door's lock being turned. Deciding it was best to feign sleep in order to gather Intel, John made himself relax and breathe evenly. Although how much information he could gather when he couldn't understand Dari, was questionable.

He stained his senses as he heard several pairs of feet approach. They came to rest near his vulnerable back and John braced himself. However, instead of the anticipated kick, a gruff voice in a language he'd never heard before started babbling loudly above his head. There appeared to be two men in the room. One had a deep and hard grating tone when he shouted at the other who replied in a softer more submissive voice.

Then unexpectedly, the gruff man suddenly switched to a language that John was very familiar with when he bellowed. "You are a fool, Tarmas! If we intend to make money out of this one, then you should have attended to his injuries when he was first brought here."

John had no idea what the hell the man was talking about until the submissive one answered and what he said made John's blood run cold. "I'm sorry, Marco, but this one gave us plenty of trouble and he put up quite a fight, but I promise to get him sorted out before the auction."

John's mind whirled. Auction? Didn't that mean selling things? Wait, I'm to be sold? Who the hell would be interested in buying me? Then a terrible memory came to mind. Terrorists like Osman Bin Laden were said to be holed-up in Pakistan somewhere. What if these people had contact to them. But surely, they wouldn't want to pay good money for a simple Air Force Major, would they? John's mind was so full of questions that he didn't even realise that one of the men now had his face pressed closely to his. Didn't realise it that is until the man's pungent breath accosted his nostrils.

John didn't really want to open his eyes but he was forced to do so when a rough hand grabbed him by the chin. "I know you are conscious so you need not pretend to sleep anymore." The soft-spoken one advised him.

Having no choice in the matter, John cracked his eyes open to look at his captor and was surprised to see a fair-skinned man of about his own age with cropped light brown hair. However, the steely blue eyes that looked back at him were hard and cold.

The man wasted no time when he suddenly grabbed John by his T-shirt and roughly dragged him over to a wall to prop him upright against the coarse stone. Although the action had sent pain ripping through his body, John attempted to rearrange the now very shredded T-shirt back over his chest. It was a useless gesture and John gave up when suddenly he found a cup of water being pressed against his dry lips. As the man tilled the cup, John drank greedily but before he could overdo it, the cup was withdrawn.

"That is enough for now. You will get some more once the doctor has looked at you." The man promised.

Saying no more, the one called Tarmas moved over to the other man and resumed conversing in the strange language again. John looked warily towards them and got his second surprise when the other man turned out to be ginger haired. What the heck? John thought. Are the Taliban recruiting westerners to do their dirty work now?

After a few minutes, Tarmas fumbled with the latch and opened the door. As the two men departed, John caught a final sentence from the redhead. "I hope the other is in a better condition?" The door closed before John could hear the answer.

Their visit left John even more confused but his lethargic mind could no longer process the many questions he still had. Feeling drowsy and light headed, he let go and drifted for a while until the cold forced him onto the floor where he instinctively curled up to conserve heat as oblivion reclaimed him.


The next thing he knew, a pair of rough hands grabbed him off the floor and before he realised it, he was being stripped of his shredded and dirty clothing.

He felt bewildered and overwhelmed by the whole process. Although, he was please to find that he felt marginally better than the last time he'd been conscious. Disappointingly, his memory still hadn't returned so he still couldn't remember how he'd landed in this crappy situation.

The two people who were stripping him quickly had him uncovered and he was mortified when he realised that one of them was a woman. Granted she was older, but he was still embarrassed by the process, especially when they started to wash him down with warm soapy water and none too gently either. Okay it was probably necessary when John realised, with further embarrassment, that the smell he thought was in the room was in fact emanating from him.

John tried his hardest not to cry out when they scrubbed his bruises and minor cuts. "Haven't you heard of the Geneva Convention?" he muttered, as they roughly finished drying off his skin.

They stopped to stare at him as if he was crazy before handing him a piece of white cloth about the size of a bath towel. John was grateful for that small concession and he quickly fixed it around his waist.

The moment he was finished, he found himself being pulled out of the room on shaky legs. Luckily, they didn't make him walk too far before he was pushed into a white walled room and made to sit on a couch that was placed against the furthest wall. It looked suspiciously like an examining table, but then John remembered the soft-spoken man saying something about getting him sorted out.

John remained alert while he waited on the couch trying his hardest to resist the urge to lie down and rest his aching body on the soft padded surface. Fortunately not long after his arrival, a white haired elderly man entered the room, somewhat reluctantly it would seem. The man was moaning to someone beyond the door but John couldn't catch what he said.

Eventually with a disgruntled huff, the elderly man shut the door and ambled over to him. He wasn't big and didn't look very strong so John weighed up his options of trying to make a run for it. Although how far could he get in his current condition, with just a cloth tied around his waist, was questionable.

The doctor must have guessed his intent because he suddenly spoke up. "If you think you can escape, I am afraid to say that there are guards posted outside the door. I would help you, but they would have my head for such an action. Now could you please lie back so that I can examine you?"

Reluctantly, John complied hoping that he would get a chance to escape later. Lying back on the soft couch, he remained alert but was surprised when the doctor pulled out various old-fashioned bottles and instruments from a nearby cupboard. They looked like something out of an 19th century medical drama or a museum. This made John wonder even more about his location.

Without a word, the doctor gently examined John's cuts and bruises, with only the occasional, "tut tut," passing through his lips. He opened one of the bottles and applied it to the worst of the cuts. It stung like hell and smelt vaguely like iodine.

"Well, you will live." The doctor announced, after a while. "You are lucky, as although there is extensive bruising and abrasion, there is no sign of an infection. They certainly must of giving you a sound beating."

"Yeah, so it would seem but I can't remember a thing."

"Really? You have lost your memory completely or just the events surrounding your capture?"

John looked at the doctor wondering just much how information he should really reveal. "Recent events only," he supplied. "I'm John Sheppard – Major - United States Air Force, service number…service number?" But for the life of him, John still couldn't recall that piece of information and his dog tags seemed to be missing.

The doctor looked at him as if he was deranged or something before shining a light into his eyes and muttering. "I did not understand what you just said apart from your name. This United States…err…what is that?"

It was John's turn to look perplexed. "The United States of America. You know, the folks that invaded your country recently to oust the Taliban."

The doctor looked astounded. "We have been invaded?"

John was beginning to grow concerned. "Yes. This is Afghanistan isn't it?"

The old man shook his head. "I do not know what you are talking about? And I am sorry but I can not reveal our location."

"Why not?"

"I can tell you this. You were captured and brought to this place to be sold. I do not like the practice, but there is little that I can do about it." He gave John a sad glance before continuing. "Apart from the bad bruising, a few cuts and the side effects of the drugs you were given, you are in excellent health. Maybe a little on the slim side for some people's liking but I am sure they will pay a good price for you."

John looked at him in shock. "I am not for sale," he emphasised.

"Sadly, that is what they all say. Your memory should return once the drugs have left your system completely. However, that could still take days," he told John, before quickly packing away the bottles and instruments back into the cupboard. "I cannot tell you anymore, as I must go now. The guards will take you back to the holding cell."

John desperately wanted to ask more but the doctor quickly slipped out of the room allowing two huge guards to enter behind him. Weighting up his options once more, John decided that he certainly wasn't strong enough to take them on, just yet. Nevertheless, as they led him back towards the cell, John became more determined to escape this place before he ended up someone's slave.

Upon reaching their destination, John was forcibly shoved back into the small cell and the door secured behind him. He turned to curse the guards but they had already left.

Sighing loudly, he moved away from the door and got a mild surprise to find that a narrow bed had now been placed along the shortest wall. Straw had been scattered in one corner and a bucket placed nearby. John looked at it with revulsion and he wondered if he was meant to use it as a toilet. Looking away, he carefully peered under the bed and found a small mug and a jug of cold water. Picking up the jug, he cautiously sniffed it. The water seemed fresh enough and as he was still very thirsty, he poured a small amount into the cup and drank greedily.

John noted that a rough tunic made of some kind of linen material and a few coarse looking blankets had been placed on top of the bed. He didn't need much encouragement to quickly don the garment and wrap a blanket around his shoulders. It was still darn cold in the little room and the whole matter of visiting the local quack had left him fatigued both physically and mentally. So settling down on the hard bed, he curled up on his side and fell asleep almost the minute his head made contact with the thin mattress.