Disclaimer: The characters of Stargate Atlantis don't belong to me. This is a non-profit story, written pure for fun.
Beta: The amazing Starsky's Strut, who even went so far as to start watching the show after I started writing. Thanks my friend! And Llanea, who helped me restore my faith in this fandom.
Proofread: up to chapter 4 by AnCa, then Llanea took over.
Rating: A very high T, because of the whump.
Warnings: McKay and Shep whump, spoilers through season three. Please note that although it may seem like it this is NOT a death story

Setting:
This story is set in the second half of season three, before Carson's demise.
Characters: Emphasis on Sheppard and McKay and a fair bit of Teyla. But there's also a bit of Ronon, Weir, Carson and Lorne.
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Angst, Gen.
Summary: "There's no choice. Not anymore. You will work for us. You will sever all ties with Atlantis, be it in your heart or in your head, or we will sever them for you."

Author's Notes: Even though I've been writing for years in other fandoms, this is my first longer story in the Pegasus universe. And I can tell you that I'm very, very scared to post. I'm not a scientist and although I try to keep my facts straight, I try to focus mainly on the friendship between Sheppard and McKay. Those who know my writing, know that my stories usually contain lots of emotional whump and this one is no different. It starts with McKay whump and Shep Angst, but all too quickly turns around in Shep Whump and McKay angst...

EDIT: I have now re-edited the entire story. Apart from the title change in the early posting process, the most notable change I think is that I've deleted the prologue. It didn't really add to the story. I have also rearranged some paragraphs for story flow purposses, but nothing major. Hope you'll enjoy the story! And thanks for reading!

EDIT: 21 March '11. Tightening up grammar and story flow.


Chapter 1

"I don't like this," McKay uttered as they trod their way through soggy ground, the mud sticking to their airforce issue boots, attempting to hold them in place with every step.

The oppressive heat and high concentration of moisture in the atmosphere of this planet didn't do much for John's mood. Not to mention the numerous flying insects buzzing around his head fully intend on sucking every last drop of blood out of him. Still, trained to deal with these kind of environments, he dealt with it.

McKay on the other hand had no such qualms. "Really, Colonel," his voice ended in a grunt followed by a distinct slurp sound. John looked over his shoulder just in time to watch his chief scientist tug his boot free, lose his balance, and land butt first in one of the luckily shallow bogs.

The splash of water drew everyone's attention.

"Does the word, 'stealth and quiet' mean anything to you, McKay?" John couldn't help but snark with a grin.

"Oh come on!" McKay snapped, wiping the water from his brow only to leave smears of mud all over his face. "The bugs alone drown out any noise we might make. Besides, there's nothing on this planet! The scanner's a blank and the life sign detector's is useless thanks to all the wildlife. I fail to see what you hope to accomplish with a three hour trip through these marshlands from hell!"

"How about," Sheppard spoke annoyed. A sharp sting radiated from his neck and he swatted yet another one of this planet's local inhabitants. "I'm doing all this to torture you!" He reached out a hand to clasp it around Rodney's fist and then pulled his friend back onto his two feet.

McKay glared at him.

"Besides, Ronon's been here before, and he distinctly remembered an Ancient structure somewhere around," he waved at his surroundings, "here."

"I think it's this way," Ronon put in, having trudged back from the front of the group when he'd spotted McKay taking a dive.

Sheppard noted with grim amusement that the former Runner didn't seem bothered by the heat in the least. He looked obscenely comfortable, while part of John, he had to admit, agreed wholeheartedly with Rodney. A lone leafless tree appeared here and there in the ever present mist. The white moisture rolled over soggy, reed covered ground in waves giving the impression that it should be mind numbingly cold, instead of smothering hot. He looked up as the last member of his team appeared from behind Ronon.

"Colonel," Teyla spoke quietly as she moved closer. She seemed to negotiate the traitorous bogs with ease, her light weight making her glide over them with no slurpy sounds whatsoever. "According to Ronon," she nodded at the Satedan who was lifting a huge clump of grass from McKay's backpack, "we are very close, but we should proceed as quickly as possible now. It will be getting dark soon."

Sheppard agreed. He'd learned long ago not to doubt Teyla's or Ronon's survival skills. As a natural born leader to her people, Teyla seemed to have a instinctive grasp of the land's layout around them, of any planet they would find themselves on really, while Ronon, having been a Runner for a number of years, seemed to have a knack for sensing trouble ahead.

"Okay, Teyla, take point, I'm right behind you," John decided. Then looked back at Rodney. "Ronon, stick with McKay, make sure he stays upright."

"Oh yeah, like you're so steady on your feet, Sheppard!" Rodney pointed out, "If I hadn't caught you when you stepped through the Stargate you would have disappeared ten feet into the ground!"

"I was told the ground was solid!" John couldn't help but take the bait. The experience didn't sit well with him. He could still taste the foul water he'd involuntary swallowed as he'd stepped off the gate platform only to sink right through the sturdy looking grassland into the cold and horrifyingly deep bog. Luckily, McKay of all people had dived forward to grab hold of his TAC vest. And then it had taken him fifteen minutes to get back to Atlantis, change into dry clothing and gear, and head back out again.

Ronon grunted, clearly not happy with the job of having to watch McKay. "It was solid, last time I was here."

"The marshlands shift, colonel," Teyla put in. "They grow and shrink, almost seeming to… breathe. Apparently the grounds have changed in these last few years."

"Yeah, yeah, fine, whatever." McKay sighed. "Can we get going now? The sooner we find this so called structure and realize it's nothing but the Ancient version of an outpost complete with diner and toilet facilities the better."

Choosing to ignore that last remark, John started to walk. As they proceeded to follow Teyla on the small path she'd managed to find, he swallowed away the bile in his throat. What I should've done was visit the infirmary and let Beckett check me out. No telling what was in the water he'd swallowed. Still, there hadn't been time, not if he wanted to be back before night fall. "I don't understand," he spoke to McKay over his shoulder to get his mind off the foul taste. "Usually you're the first in line to explore an Ancient structure. I thought you'd be thrilled at the possibility of finding another power source."

Ronon nodded with emphasis. "Atlantis could use one."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Like I don't know that!" To John's satisfaction he kept his voice low. Despite his lack of training, the scientist was becoming better at picking up military techniques with every mission they went on. "Look, how many times do I have to tell you," he continued as if explaining it to a five year old. "There is nothing here. If there was we would have detected it the moment we stepped through the gate. But my scanner's a blank, no sign of anything remotely advanced, no force fields, no power and thus no Zero Point Modules."

In front of them Teyla froze. John immediately raised his fist, cutting off the conversation behind him as his people halted in their tracks and eyed their surroundings warily.

More trees had sprung up here and there, and the mist had grown thicker, clinging to their skin with wet and sticky fingers.

A twig cracked to the right of them.

John whipped around, just before all hell broke lose around them.


Rodney yelped as Ronon yanked him backwards, just as something rough passed his skin, burning his cheek with sharp intensity. Nets! Someone's throwing nets!

Around them figures appeared, seeming to drift out of the mist. White ragged clothing clung to skin blank from what looked like lack of daylight. Their features were twisted with something. Anger? Hate? Rodney lifted his 9 mm but their adversaries were too well prepared, merging with the fog before he could fire. These people can't be here! They didn't show up on the scanner!

Sheppard's voice broke his concentration. "Warning fire, only!" his friend sounded from somewhere ahead. "Back to the gate!"

Rodney peered into the mist surrounding him like a wall. "Which way! I can't see a thing!" Could he help it if his voice had a slight edge to it? No.

Teyla was suddenly there, running by him. "Rodney, move!"

He turned and started to run, desperately trying to keep up with the others. He could hear Sheppard covering their retreat, but the people who attacked them had a different plan in mind.

Suddenly a shape appeared in front of him. He turned on his heels only to find another ghostly figure closing in from behind. A WHEEZING noise sounded and again Ronon yanked him sharply to the side, keeping the heavy netting from descending on top of them both. Forced to veer off course, Rodney realized with horror that their attackers had succeeded in splitting them up.

He hit the radio in his ear. "Sheppard! Sheppard!"

"I'm fine! Can't see a damn thing, though. Keep running!"

The answer came through heaving breaths, telling McKay that John was still on the move. He had no time to feel relieved though. Ronon was still with him, urging him onward. Water splashed up to his knees as with every step he feared he would sink down into one of the bogs. Finally the Runner halted in his tracks.

Rodney, stood beside him, heaving, warm moisture dripping off his eyebrows. He wiped it away, while nervously keeping his gun trained on their surroundings. He had no idea where they were. Visibility was down to a couple of feet and the whiteness seemed to have thickened in the last few minutes.

After what seemed like ages, Ronon finally lowered his weapon. "I think we lost them."

THUD.

He whipped around to see his friend drop to the ground, hands clutching the spear lodged in his upper leg. "Ronon! Oh God!" More spears appeared through the air, fast, sharp and accurate. Ronon scrambled out of the way, while McKay frantically backed off, losing sight of his team mate. "Ronon!" Tendrils of mist swirled around him, keeping him from seeing anything. He heard a sudden plash. "RONON!"

The quietness of the marshlands revealed nothing.

He was alone.

"So not good, so not good." This reminded him of that bad pirate movie Sheppard made him watch last week. He distinctly recalled the crackle of the one eyed Captain, telling his men to move in quietly. 'They're way easier to kill if they're alone,' the pirate had hissed. 'Cut them off from each other, then move in.' The movie had excelled at showing the deaths of the victims in the most hideous ways possible: a sword coming from out of no where, a spiked pit piercing the unfortunate soul who fell in it, blades slicing the fellow in half. Was that someone laughing like mad? Or was it just his imagination. Anxiously watching his surroundings McKay hit the microphone again. "Sheppard, Teyla," he whispered as loud as he dared. "Ronon's down, where the hell are you?"

All he received was static.

"Sheppard!"

Nothing.

The fog clogged his airways, pressing in on him from all sides. He blinked away moisture dripping from his eyelashes, while trying to keep his claustrophobia at bay. Okay, clear blue skies, clear blue skies. He looked up. Who am I kidding? There's as much clear blue sky here as there's clowns in Sheppard's room! Oh, I'm so dead.

Something moved.

Trembling, he aimed at the white faced shapes closing in on his position. He turned, trying to assess their numbers. There were at least a dozen of them, some pointing spears, others carrying heavy nets.

"Uh, can't we talk about this? No? I mean, you don't have to use… those." Rodney eyed the spearheads warily. "I uh… don't suppose you'll consider telling me what you've done with the others? My team mates? 'Cos I'd really hate to be the only one to get… caught."

The ghostly figure closest to him pushed a spear into his chest.

"Right." Dropping his gun, Rodney raised his hands in surrender.


tbc