He was aware of the constant rhythm of movement.
The too tight arms wrapped around his body and the way his head lolled with each jolt on somebody's shoulder. He was tired, his limbs heavy and his eyes heavier. Each breath seemed to sap what little strength he had until he was but a boneless mass. Useless flesh and bone and muscle.
Rodney sucked in an icy breath and felt it stick in his chest. Lung clenching painfully, contracting.
And the cold, sinking deep into his skin and into his bones. He shivered violently, wanting to cry out but not having the energy.
Instead, he whimpered.
There was the harsh breathing in his ear, the feel of rough material rubbing against his chest but the warmth of skin on his cheek. It smelled like something clean, like soap and rain. He snuggled into that warmth, burrowed into it so that he could hear a steady thud-tha-thud.
He supposed it was a heartbeat. He couldn't quiet figure out why that mattered.
The smell of antiseptic roused him. Forced him to acknowledge the change of surroundings. He didn't like it, he missed the warmth and familiarity of a voice he couldn't put a name to. Without those tight arms, he felt like he would fall apart. Tears burned at the back of his throat and filled his eyes.
Yet he did not try to open them. For some reason he thought that, if he did, he might see something terrible. He was safer in not knowing, reveling in the peace of darkness and warmth.
Something stung his arm and he felt a swirling numbness creeping up his arm and to his shoulder. He began to cry, he was scared, and lonely. He didn't like it here, where the air felt strangely still and people spoke in hushed voices.
Unaware of the eyes watching him, he writhed beneath the oppressive feel of the drugs in his system and tried to speak out. However, the words he managed to string together were only half formed and meant very little was coherent.
Sheppard, he could say without even trying, but, Help, seemed to get stuck in his throat.
Sporadic sleep, waking to find himself once again wrapped in someone's arms and moving. However, it was a lazy, slow movement, round and round in circles. Not like before, when the air had seemed to rush by so quickly. And this time the arms seemed softer, thicker, and he was wrapped in something so soft and warm.
His mind went to his mother, but then, she had never been overly affectionate. This embrace was all encompassing, meant for comfort and not just practicality.
A hand was patting his back, and he hiccupped. Wheezing was his breathing, it seemed. His lungs felt incapable of drawing in a solid breath, and he would cough at times, so hard there would be panicked voices filling his ears and something cold would rest against his chest.
Time crawled. He still hadn't opened his eyes, he didn't really want to see anything, frightened as he was of the darkness, not knowing seemed better.
But then he found himself awake and oddly lucid and he did peer through his lashes. The room, large, round, hushed, had a warped perspective, like a bug's view of the world. He was alone, and he didn't like it. There was no one to hold him tight or rub his back, no one to hear him cough. Light shifted and wobbled above him.
Tears slid heedlessly down his cheeks, they blurred the room and he almost welcomed it. But he wanted to be not so alone. Something in his hand pulled, as if someone was pinching the skin to tight. He sniffled as he yanked his hand away and held it close to his naked chest. He watched something red and warm well in the sore spot and ooze down his arm. The blood was cool on his overly hot skin.
Shivering, wide eyes blinking owlishly at everything in the room, he spotted an indent in the wall, a door, and set his mind to go for it, the panic in his mind whispering to hurry, to escape.
But it was hard to get off the bed, it was so high, he struggled to cling to the bed covers but he still slipped and fell hard to the ground. It hurt, his knees clicked awkwardly on the cold floor as sat, rubbing his newly bruised backside and clutching his bleeding hand to his chest.
Dazed, he pushed to his feet and staggered over to the door. But there was no handle, he could see no way to slide the door open or to push. His body began to shake in earnest, he was still so tired.
Looking up, he spied a strangely familiar panel sticking out of the wall, he jumped up and waved a hand over it, hearing the shush of the door opening gave him a sense of satisfaction as well as relief. He thought that it sounded familiar, and maybe that was a good thing.
Out of the room, it was colder, clad in only a pair of too long pants, he managed to waddle down the corridor, gazing wide-eyed at everything and anything. But still, there was no one there, no one to stop him from being alone.
Where was he?
The transporters were only fun for a while, albeit a long while, being instantly teleported from one place to the next had a certain novelty that he found irresistible. But only until he realized he was well and truly lost. Every room and every hallways seemed to look the same and he couldn't even remember where he'd first come from.
Stepping out of the transporter for the hundredth time, he let an annoyed breath hiss through his teeth. And then he started coughing and didn't stop until a gobbet of something thick slid up his throat and he spat it on the ground.
His head was hot, but the rest of his body was cold, sweat tickled down the back of his neck and he shuddered
"Sheppard." He croaked, knowing the word was easy and smooth on his tongue, an unknown familiarity.
Rodney looked around the hallway blearily.
Wherever he was, it was light and airy. At one of the large, blue-tinted windows he saw the ocean, the blue sky studded with little fluffy clouds and the warm sun parching any moisture from the air.
It scared him a little, that he seemed to be so fascinated by the sky, by the swiling of the water below. What was wrong with him?
The prickle of fear ran over his skin, raising hairs and making his heart race.
He woke a long while later.
Curled weakly by the window, he didn't remember lying down. The sun was gone, the moon seemed to have swallowed up the light and stolen the blue from the sky, leaving only a deep black in its wake. The air was stale and cold.
He sniffled and rubbed at his nose, his hand was shaking, he noticed. He closed his eyes and drifted into an exhausted daze, anyway, mind conjuring up a scene of flashing and light and noises that burned his ears.
There were footsteps. They seemed to rock the world, like an earthquake, but he was only half listening, too tired to lift his head or take any notice. He pressed himself against the wall and hoped they wouldn't hurt him.
They pinched his arms and hands with more things, something hard and uncomfortable went under his nose, he heard the muted sounds of doors opening, something beeping, the scratch of pen on paper.
A hand, warm and solid and slightly clammy, ran down the side of his face softly. It smelled like antiseptic and something sickly sweet, but he leaned into willingly. He wasn't alone now, not with that hand touching his face. Rodney welcomed the contact.
They spoke with a bur, but for all he understood, they could have been speaking another language. The hand pulled away from his face and touched his forehead, smoothed the sweat-slicked locks of his hair away from his face and then pulled open his eyelids. The light hurt when it was flashed into his eyes, he blinked painfully but did not try to move. He felt so weak, so vulnerable that it scared him. Something didn't feel right.
He started to cry, heavy, silent sobs that wracked his achy chest and filled his eyes until the tears spilled down his cheeks in a hot wave. He lifted a limp hand and swiped at his face. He wanted that hand to come back, wanted someone to make him not so alone.
"Sheppard?" He croaked.
But the soft reply was, "Carson."
It was easier to cling onto Carson than the elusive Sheppard.
Carson was always there, he would talk to him in a low voice, he did not understand the words, but knew the tone to be comforting. Carson lulled him to sleep, woke him when he began to thrash in the throes of a nightmare and held him tight when he could not help but sob painfully as he tried to forget them.
And there was always the pain, always the weakness in his limbs that held him immobile. It scared him and often he would stare up at Carson, large eyes pleading, begging him to make the pain and the weakness and the cold go away. Carson could make the pain go away, but not the weakness or the cold, no matter how he was bundled up or cuddled tight. He was limp and shivering, for so long he simply was.
And then he slept for so long that not even Carson could save him from the nightmares.
Wraith stalked him in the dreams. They grinned at him with frightful sharp teeth and glittering eyes.
"Food." They hissed and he stumbled back and tripped. The hand descended and he watched with horror as his life was sucked from his body, a scream silent on his lips.
He did not know why this was important. How this could be real. He didn't want this to be real.
Everyone was dead in the dreams. Pools of impossibly red blood widening around their still forms. He crouched beside them and stared into their faces. He recognized them, or rather, knew that he should have recognized them.
They meant something, but what that something was, was a mystery to him. He felt no repulsion as he curled up between the dead bodies and stayed there, eyes wide and sightless, until the dream ended.
It was snowing in the dreams. White dust shifting from the sky while he stumbled over the slow rise.
He made little distance slowly, hands tightening on the thick rope wrapped around his numb hands. He glanced back to make sure all the bodies were still attached to the rope and was pleased to see that they were.
He kept walking with the dead people on the rope until he breasted the rise, and collapsed to his knees. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he saw that he was kneeling in a sea of blood and the bodies were floating around him, barely managing to keep their faces at the surface as they stared unblinkingly up at the sky.