"I'm sorry."

The words were whispered, barely audible. The voice weak, cracked with pain and thirst. Yet, it demanded the attention of the two figures in the room. They both turned to stare at the man who spoke to them.

"What did you say?" Empir Zuggat leaned closer. His ear brushing the bloody crooked mouth.

"I'm sorry."

Zuggat pulled back and looked at the man restrained on the medical gurney. A harsh surprised laugh barked out of him.

"Don't apologize, just give us the information."

"No." The word was unexpectedly strong given the state of the man uttering it.

"Come, Dr McKay, tell us and your suffering will end." He waved a lazy hand towards Rodney. Gesturing at the bruises and cuts. The crudely splinted fingers.

McKay squinted up at him. The eye not blackened and swollen shut was a hazy blue. Despite the pain and mottled bruises, a wealth of emotions simmered on the scientist's face. Zuggat looked at him, searching for surrender. There was fear and suffering, that was expected. What was unexpected was the look of pity directed at him.

The Empir fisted his hand in McKay's torn shirt. His fingers pressing firmly against a jagged row of stitches. The touch elicited a sharp gasp of pain. Tugging he pulled McKay up as far as the restraints would allow. The gasp turned into a low guttural moan.

"Why do you pity me?" Zuggat hissed, roughly shaking McKay. "You are at my mercy, and I am not in a generous mood"

Rodney took a deep shuddering breath. His tongue gingerly skated across his lips spreading meager moisture. The deep breath turned to a rattling wheeze. Then harsh coughs wracked his body and bloody saliva flecked his chin. Zuggat watched impassively as Rodney struggled to catch his breath. As the coughs tappered off, Rodney looked up meeting his eyes.

"Because, he will kill you. And I'll let him." The look of pity was once again aimed at the Empir.

Unsettled Zuggat released McKay's shirt and backed away. He turned to the other man waiting patiently just inside the doorway.

"Chief Inquisitor, continue to question our guest."

Zuggat left the interrogation cell. A crescendo of tortured cries filling his ears and echoing off the stone walls. The sounds resonated into a name. This was not the first time the Atlantean had called out for a John. It definitely wouldn't be the last. They had many inventive ways of breaking recalcitrant subjects. And they had the time to try them all. What he had told McKay was correct. The Empir did indeed hold all the cards in this little game. So why did he suddenly feel uncertain and afraid?

**don't own them, I just play with them from time to time**