We'll Meet Again

~ 1 ~

The bed was smooth, perfection in white sheets and creaseless pillows. The smell of something sweet and heady, left his head hazy and full. Pleasant, but unpleasantly so.

He curled his fingers, nails biting into the sensitive skin of his palm. No blood, though, only the deep grooves that tingled when his muscles relaxed. Unhinged, more than slightly detached from his surroundings, the white room left him feeling isolated, empty. He was alone, now, forever alone.

No windows, a texture-less cement curving the ceiling and walls. But one meter and a half meters wide, the room crawled with claustrophobia and suffocation. Yet it was cool and crisp, the air, pleasant as it hissed through his teeth to fill his lungs. He felt his chest rising and falling. Filling with air. Pushing out the air.

No door, endless, seamless walls. A cubicle, a lunchbox, a store box in a vault.

Rodney ran his fingers over the wall by the bed, feeling the little indents where he'd pushed his fingernails in, a mark for each day. A day that had not distinction from night. But a day all the same. Those marks agitated him, they marred the perfection of the wall, yet had they not been there, he would have been lost in the tide of unending hours and everlasting wakefulness.

Because without exertion, there was no need to sleep.

How long? Those marks, there were 52. 52 days. Almost two months.

Was it possible to survive two months with no social interaction? Without the warmth of human presence or noise? Surely not, surely he should have been dead by now.

On day 22 a plant had appeared. A strange plant, pink and vibrant and foul smelling. It had sat in a pot of mossy green dirt. It had been the only defining feature in a featureless, unchanging room. He had not liked it. It was ugly and its stench kept him awake when he wanted nothing more than to sink into the oblivion of sleep. Croaking about the unfairness of it all, Rodney had summoned the energy to stand, and had kicked it over. Smashing the strange pot against the wall. He had cut his hands, the blood had stained his otherwise pale skin. He had slept, and had then awoken to his once more bare room, hands wrapped in white filmy gauze.

Memory, a strange thing, he relied on it now. He remembered his home, his Atlantis. He longed to listen to the city's music as she spoke, as she watched him work or even when he slept. Without her awareness around him, the world felt empty and lifeless. He was alone.

Rodney did not know where he was. Hadn't tried to guess for a long time now, he hadn't seen his captors, no one had spoken to him, explained, summarized. Food appeared, a tray at the end of the bed. Never when he was awake, always when he was unaware. The longer he stayed away, the less food he was given. Not that he was hungry, he didn't move, much, so he didn't spend any energy. Soon it was too much effort to stand.

The water was odd. Tasteless, yet wrong. He stopped drinking it, only took sips when his throat became too parched or his head fuzzy. Pain was a constant, the silence hurt his ears and the emerging light burned his eyes. He liked to lie on his stomach on the bed, face pressed against the pillow and hands beneath his cheeks.

His nails were long now, he'd grown sick of biting them. His hair was longer, tickling his ears and stinging his eyes. An itch across his face, cheeks and chin boasting a beard. Thinner, Rodney could feel each rib pressing against his skin. It hurt. An uncomfortable sensation that made him nauseous every time he moved.

He made sure not to move.

His muscles grew leaden, heavy, in a way that made it impossible to lift his arms to scratch his neck. Made sure he couldn't raise his head to drink or eat. It would have been scary, had he the capability to feel such emotions. As it was, all he could do was lie there, wearily waiting for his eyes to slide shut and the darkness to pervade his mind.

60 days. Without marking the wall, he knew. He had nothing else to occupy his mind. He remembered the first few weeks. He'd been angry, ranting, screaming, pleading for answers. He had stormed around the room, thrown the food and drink offered to him. He stopped when there was no response, when the food and water would be cleaned up the next time he woke and soon his anger simply dissolved. It was replaced by a heavy, overwhelming kind of resentment. But soon even that left him.

Occasionally faces would surge to the forefront of his mind. Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon, Ford, Weir, Carson. However, they were empty, hollow, solemn. He began to wish they would leave him, it was hard to see them, to see them and know they weren't happy with him. Sometimes they were even mad.

"We'll meet again," Rodney would whisper, "Don't worry." He would say.

It was on day 60 that something changed.

The light around him flickered, dimming. Rodney did not move. He kept his face pressed to the pillow, allowing only one eye to watch the unimpressive change. Suitably unimpressed.

When the lights dimmed, so did the walls. They glittered, became transparent, see through. The little markings on the wall disappeared. Never there. As if.

Rodney blinked at the movement beyond the walls. Tall, insubstantial things, peering at him with large, unblinking eyes. They wobbled and wiggled, like jelly, but not. Through their goopy-like bodies there could be seen a strange array of organs, some moved and churned, others remained motionless.

Rodney observed them with no more fascination than one might give a grain of sand. He did not want to look at them, but found himself lacking the motivation to turn away. There was no escape, however, because all four walls had gone, no escape. They were all around him.

One of the jelly people pressed itself to the glassy walls, raised a tentacle arm and tapped. Tapped. Tapped. It was vying for his attention. It wanted him to move. Like a child standing over a fish tank. It made Rodney think, although vaguely, that he was like an animal in a zoo.

It was quite possible. Very possible. He was an animal to these aliens. He was something strange and new and they wanted to watch him and be entertained by him. The clinical part of his mind told him he wasn't being very entertaining, the other part, the one that was momentarily numb to any feeling, told him to feel furious. Embarrassed. Depressed.

Rodney closed his eyes and forced himself to go to sleep, it was better that way.

There was a strange sound. It blurred into another, agitating him, getting on his nerves. Rodney grimaced, he felt strange, lighter. His chest was feeling freer, as if he had been constricted and was suddenly loose. It was warmer, too. The air shifted and swirled around him, a breeze.

Opening his eyes, Rodney gasped. It flew from his pale lips before he could think. The ground beneath him was green, not white. A vibrant, pleasing green. He buried his cheek into it, revelling in the softness and slick strands. It was grass, like home. Real grass. Beneath the grass was dirt, and it smelled wonderful to him.

Rodney, with renewed strength, pushed to his arms and then to his knees. Upright, he could feel the warmth of a sun on the back of his neck. But, turning, he found it to be just a large light, surrounded by a blue ceiling with painted clouds.

This was not the room he had been in, this was larger, brighter, airier, homier. It was like a miniature forest. Or a chimps enclosure. Large, the size of a house lot in the suburbs, there was a slope at one end, the trees thinned there, and a little playground set up was boasted. There was a pool, just a shallow hollow in the ground filled with crystal clear water. There was not much else, flat rocks, no flowers or insects. It was still empty, brighter, but still empty.

Rodney crawled over to the water. He swirling his hand through it, sniffed it, tasted it. It rolled over his tongue, cool and real tasting. He was in his new enclosure, Rodney mused silently. They'd figured out his needs or, at least, his minimal needs. A habitat worthy of a chimp.

It was then that Rodney noticed the alien, jelly body still, standing off to the side, by a large, opaque screen. Rodney froze, unsure. He hadn't been this close to a living, moving, thinking person in more than two months.

"What do you want?" He asked, voice hoarse.

The alien raised its arms slowly, the universal sign for, I mean you no harm. But Rodney still flinched, and scrambled back several paces. The alien advanced slowly, it blinked its huge eyes at him, seeming curious. Rodney noted the blue tinge to its jelly skin, the little tendril veins beneath. He shuddered and huddled in on himself.

"Why am I here?"

He got no reply, suspecting the alien had no mouth, Rodney sighed and scrubbed a hand over his bearded cheek. He didn't feel right, not like himself. Was something wrong with him? Had he gone insane?

The question was not a new one, and it came readily to mind. Rodney tossed it aside and watched warily as the alien approached.

It made no noise, save for the little slurp of its bulk on the grass. A mere meter from Rodney, it stopped, and seemed to crouch on thick jelly legs. It was so tall, almost twice the size of Rodney, even crouching it towered over him.

"What are you?" He whispered fearfully. "I'm not an animal, you can't do this to me."

The alien wiggled its arms a little, as if trying to communicate, but Rodney could think of nothing to explain the movements. He looked at the large eyes and then down at the hands waving in front of him. After a moment, the alien appeared to pause, and pulled from somewhere a little yellow square. It held it out to Rodney, offering.

A peace offering, he surmised.

Shaking. Weak, Rodney struggled back to his knees and shuffled forward. He was worried the alien would pounce, but it remained motionless as he came near. To it, he was nothing more than a frightened animal, and any sudden movement would scare him away.

The little yellow square was soft in his hand, surprisingly so, and he almost dropped it. The alien's arms wiggled as he sniffed the little thing, happy? Rodney didn't know what to do with it, he held it awkwardly in his palm and looked up helplessly at the alien.

As if to show him, the alien pulled a small packet out, tipped one of the yellow squares out, and pushed it against its jelly skin, below its eyes, where there would have been a mouth. The little square sank into the jelly, sat there a moment, and then began to dissolve. Rodney watched in fascination as the little specks moved downward and entered what he guessed was the digestive system.

"Food? It doesn't much look like food. Cheese, perhaps, but that's about it. And how do you know it won't kill me? We aren't the same, you and I, we can't eat the same things."

He sniffed the cube again, and then brought it to his mouth. It tasted like caramel, or a variation of it. As soon as it hit his tongue, it began to melt and dissolve, sliding down his throat and leaving a pleasant taste in his mouth. He made a sound of surprise.

The alien clapped, although the sound its jelly arms made was sloppy and odd.

Rodney, gathering his courage, got to his feet and took those final steps closer. He decided that, perhaps if these aliens thought him intelligent enough, they might let him go. It was a slim hope, but he had to try.

"I-I know you probably can't understand me, but I think there's been some kind of mistake, I'm not some show pony here for your entertainment. I have a job, I have a home, and I should really be getting back there. People rely on me. People need me..." He trailed off.

Were there people that needed him? Was Atlantis suffering without his great mind to care for her? Possibly...but possibly not.

Suddenly feeling dejected and depressed, more so than before, Rodney sank to his backside in the grass. He'd always thought himself an important person, someone who was always needed and who would always be referred to in cases of emergency. But it had been two months and his team had not found him.

Something solid and cold formed in the pit of his stomach then, made of ice and all things resentful. He tried to thaw it out, but it spread outward, a little, as if telling him it was there to stay. Rodney felt tears welling at the corners of his eyes. Was his team ever going to come for him?

Something cold and slick touched the back of his head, and he flinched. The alien was leaning over him, as if to offer some kind of comfort. It stroked his head, and then his shoulder. Each time Rodney flinched, expecting to feel himself covered in slime, but there was no trace of goop, and after a time he felt himself beginning to doze, sinking into the grass and burying his face into the crook of his arm.

"We'll meet again." He said. "Don't worry."

~OO~

There was night now. The light that served as his sun paled and turned into a white kind of glow light, the blueness faded from the painted roof and he was lying beneath a blanket of stars and little galaxies.

He was alone. The alien had left sometime during his sleep, and he was free to survey his enclosure once more.

Rodney cringed, he hadn't meant to refer to his new, albeit temporary, home as an enclosure. But really, that was what it was. A place replicating his old world, but a cage, a place he was never meant to leave. Not until he died. And then he would be replaced by the next, more interesting creature that wandered into the alien's clutches.

Feeling lonely and twitchy, Rodney wonkily made his way to his feet. He swayed, having not exerted himself in such a way for a long time. Ambling over to the little pond, he stooped beside it and, cupping his hands in the water, sipped it gratefully. He inspected the trees next, they were like miniature pine trees, and the smell was lovely, adding to his nostalgia and dreams of one day returning home, or even earth.

He picked off several spiky leaves and rolled them between his fingers, wanting to feel again.

In the end he sat on the little playground, almost like a short set of monkey bars. He let his feet swing beneath him.

Think of clear blue skies, Sheppard had once told him, clear blue skies and Ferris wheels.

But it was no use, not really. He was trapped in this bizarre situation, he could barely believe it, but he'd already come to terms with his imprisonment long ago, in that small, white room. Isolation had almost driven him mad.

Perhaps it still would.

And was it really so bad to go mad? Really?

A little piece of Rodney fell away with that thought, and the ice filled int he gap it left. He didn't notice. Didn't feel it.

Rodney had never felt so useless. He had always been capable, always had the chance to save someone else in Atlantis when trouble arose. But this, this was too physical. Sheppard was the fighter, the warrior, he always knew what to do in these situations. Had he been here, he'd have found a way to escape. He'd have been like McGyver, and jimmied open an invisible door with nothing more than tree sap and a paperclip.

Rodney was not this person.

The alien came to him there the next morning, watching curiously his motionless position on the play-thing. It was the same as before, at least he guessed so. It was blue, with the little veins, and it seemed overly pleased to see him up and about. It wiggled its arms at him.

"What do you want?"

The alien went to the smooth, opaque screen. At once it was not opaque, beyond the screen there was a hallway. Like a tunnel, there were many aliens lined along the screen, peering in with their too large eyes and their arms pressed to the glassy wall.

Rodney stared at them, slightly disgusted. Many of them were eating those little cubes, different colours, but mostly yellow. Some of the aliens were smaller, he supposed those were the children, with their parents standing just behind them.

The blue alien, he supposed he should refer to it with a name, Bluey, was moving back toward him. It reached out and touched his foot, and then motioned to the crowd. When he did not move, it threw a yellow cub to the ground, close to the screen.

"I will not go fetch a piece of food like a dog!" Rodney barked in annoyance, crossing his arms over his chest.

Bluey took another cube and held it up to him.

"Now that is much better." He said, snatching it away and popping it into his mouth.

The crowd behind the glassy screen clapped their hands, bobbing their huge heads at one and other.

"So am I on show now?"Rodney asked, "Am I supposed to do tricks and dance? I think not."

He sounded angry, the tone of his voice proved that, but inside there was only that icy bitterness and the feeling of homesickness. He sighed and crawled down from the monkey bars. He went to stand by Bluey, slightly behind, not wanting to stand directly in front of his audience.

Bluey was waving its arms through the air, as if speaking without words. It was fascinating, but at that moment Rodney just didn't care. He watched those aliens watching him. Eyes narrowed.

"Stop staring." He hissed between gritted teeth.

They, of course, did not understand.

Bluey wobbled away from him so he was standing directly in front of the crowd. He straightened, even in his soiled uniform, trying to retain the rest of his dignity. His bare toes curled into the grass.

His skin itched as their eyes ate at him.

"What's so interesting about me, hmm? Haven't seen a human before? So you lock me up and put me on show, real great way of getting to know each other, yep. Great way." Rodney said, his voice dipping up and down. "And soon you'll see I'm not that entertaining and you'll all want to get rid of me and get a Dancing Bear in here."

He folded his arms over his chest. His stomach rumbled and he looked warily up at Bluey, wondering if he was going to get any substantial food. His mind automatically went back to those days when he would sit in the mess hall, almost beating Ronon with his tray full. He missed coffee, and he missed brownies.

"Do I get any food? Any at all? If you want me to live, you're going to have to give me something more than candy."

Suddenly Rodney was jerked from behind, a yelp tossed out as his feet left the ground. The feel of rubbery tentacles pulling at his clothes had him squeaking and scrambling in indignation. The alien, however, seemed intent on ripping him free of his clothes.

It was not Bluey, it was standing slightly in front, arms waving violently through the air. Rodney was set back on his feet, now bare, and attempted to cover himself as best he could. He huffed and puffed but ultimately, was scared of the bigger, taller alien behind him. It was coloured a dull grey, and had thick tentacles. A manly alien, if he had to guess.

"Why the fuck did you have to do that! Is it not enough to be held captive like this, let alone be NAKED while doing it? What's wrong with you! Are you sexually curious or something?" Rodney shrieked, feeling his face flush as he tried to hunch over his nakedness. In the back of his mind he knew he shouldn't have bothered being embarrassed, these were aliens, they wouldn't even understand his nakedness, let alone laugh at him for it.

He shuffled away from the massive grey alien and hurried into the trees. He huddled there, wanting to cry, wanting to scream and shout and hit something. He was out of his element, so badly, so out of it. But he couldn't scream and he could cry, because that place inside, that iciness was creeping outward, spreading through his veins and his muscles like a poison. Like a disease.

Rodney stayed there the rest of the day, back pressed to the rough bark of the tree and chin resting on his arms. He was staring, eyes unfocussed, at the surrounding trees. If he didn't think, he could almost imagine he was back on earth, camping, hiking. But the sounds were missing, the chirping of insects and hooting of birds. He barely noticed when the 'sun' faded and the stars came into view.

So empty.

Alone.

There was a little shuffle on the grass and he turned his head fractionally to watch Bluey approaching, his clothes held awkwardly in its tentacles. It laid them down beside him, as if unsure why he needed them.

He said nothing, didn't acknowledge that Bluey had done anything at all and, after placing a yellow cube beside his foot, left him alone.

Rodney sat there for a moment, then popped the cube into his mouth and pulled on his pants. He was too tired to crawl into his shirt, and he was beginning to feel to warm, anyway, so he simply bunched it up to use for a pillow, and curled around it.

Sleep came easy, but it was a restless sleep, one that left a sour taste in his mouth when he woke.

The light bit into his eyes, made his head spin. His stomach was aching and that familiar feeling of loneliness hit him almost immediately. It stole his breath and made him want to curl back up, but he wanted, needed, a drink.

Crawling over to the little pond had sweat dripping down his face and beading on his exposed skin. He was trying to remember the last time he'd eaten, the day before he been brought to the new enclosure. Other than the little yellow cubes, two days without food.

His head spun.

The pond water cleared his head somewhat, and he managed to get to his knees, but his body felt incredibly weak. Not wanting to deal with the prying eyes of his adoring public, Rodney huffed back into the forest and resumed his earlier position, curled around his shirt with his nose buried into the crook of his arm.

He didn't sleep, but neither did he remain entirely awake.

His mind wandered an odd path, strolling through his time in Atlantis. He kept hearing whispers, shouts, screams. They told him to get out. That he was no longer welcome. They hissed that he was useless and that they could survive without him. They didn't need him, they were better off without him. Atlantis laughed in her musical way, but whether it was a spiteful laugh, or a sympathetic one, Rodney could not tell.

"We'll meet again," Rodney muttered. "But I don't know when."

He laid there for the remainder of the day, muscles twitching. Mind spinning.

Bluey came to visit, it's odd little clap sounding right over his head, but he ignored her, and only waited until she'd left to eat the yellow cube. She tried again, later on, to lure him out of the miniature forest, throwing cube's in a line up to the glassy screen. But he only grunted his amusement and curled up all the more tightly.

It was when the 'moon' came out that he realised he'd sunk deep into depression. That iciness was all through his veins, his bones, his muscles, coiling tightly in his stomach to accompany the hunger pangs. He was poisoned, for good, now. His body began to shake, and tears welled in his eyes.

But Rodney never cried, he never cried...

Strength waning, Rodney lifted his head. Spinning.

He reached out and snagged another yellow cube. It melted on his tongue. Oh, how he missed coffee. And brownies. And chocolate cake. And...

There was a strange snapping sound. His body jerked to awareness, having fallen into a deep kind of stupor. He sat up slowly, and moved out of the little forest to watch several aliens, huddled around something, wobbling into the centre of the enclosure.

Rodney crept out farther, curious.

Bluey approached him, arms waving excitedly through the air. It touched Rodney's arm and began to lead him forward, where the circle of aliens were watching him inquisitively. Large eyes blinking softly.

"What are you..." Rodney froze, then, his hart skipped a beat. "Sheppard." He breathed, unable to believe his eyes.

He swayed dangerously on the spot, before collapsing to his knees beside his still friend. His hands hovered over Sheppard's body. Unsure. Desperate. This was real. Sheppard wasn't really there. With him. He could feel tears running down his cheeks, cool over his flushed skin.

He heard the aliens moving around him.

"Get away!" He cried, pulling Sheppard's still form into his lap, not wanting them to touch him. Even if he wasn't real. "Get away!"

Bluey patted his head gently. Then he was alone. Alone but for the figment that was Sheppard. Because Sheppard couldn't actually, couldn't possibly have been there. Not really. Not Sheppard.

Feeling his body shaking, sweat stinging, heart thumping painfully in his chest. Rodney wanted to lie down. He laid Sheppard gently on the grass and curled up beside him, waiting for the morning when he would be able to see that he was truly alone.

~OO~

Sheppard woke with a groan. His head was killing, fiery spikes of pain that shot from the base of his skull to his eyes. He reached up and rubbed his forehead. Another groan slipped from his lips.

There was something cool and soft beneath him, grass. His chest felt heavy and he patted the TAC vest with one hand, quickly feeling the gun still attached. A dull memory throbbed in the back of his mind, but he didn't press it, waiting to remember it naturally.

It was odd, he knew he wasn't in Atlantis, knew he wasn't safe. Yet he still had his weapons, and he was untied and seemingly free of any bindings. Despite the agony in his head, Sheppard sat up quickly, eyes snapping open.

He was in a forest...no, that was not quite right. There was a glass wall to one side, and the blue sky was definitely not real. It reminded him very much of an animal pen at the zoo.

His stomach sunk.

Sheppard stood and, with his fingers resting easily on his P-90, began moving around the strange room. There was a little hole of water, a set of bars and a forest. It looked right, but it felt wrong.

"What the hell is this place?" He muttered, bewildered.

Something jabbed his shoulder.

Sheppard spun wildly, bringing the gun up to chest height he stared in confusion and surprise at the figure swaying before him. And he was swaying, very drunkenly so.

"McKay?" He whispered, disbelieving.

Shirtless. Barefoot. Longer hair and a beard well past trimming point. It was McKay, but not his McKay. His eyes were glassy and unfocussed, gazing at him in an eerie way, as if he were waiting for Sheppard to disappear. He was twitching, too, skin beaded with sweat. Clammy.

"So my name is remembered. Hmph. Should have expected that, but, well, I really didn't." McKay said, sounding strange and vague.

Sheppard grabbed his friend's shoulders, drew him in for a hug, feeling the heat and seeing the violent flinch. He recoiled, slightly, worried.

"What happened, McKay?" He asked softly, and his friend gave a mirthless little laugh. His lean frame heaved with the effort, ribs protruding.

"Whatever do you mean, Colonel? Isn't it obvious? Can't you see? We're animals, we're pets." McKay swept his arms out to encompass their surroundings. "They watch us like we're monkeys, soon they'll be forcing us to dance and making us jump through hoops!"

McKay laughed at that, his words ending in the choppy little hacks that made Sheppard wince. McKay was sick, that much was clear, but whether it was simply physical, and not mental, he did not know. It seemed both. He just didn't seem right, as if he didn't believe anything around him was real, yet, also, as if everything were too real, and he didn't know how to cope with it.

"Who's going to force us? Who's doing this?" Sheppard asked sternly, trying to get McKay's mind to focus. McKay looked consternated, bottom lip trembling as he wrung his hands.

"Aliens, Colonel, who else? In a room for two months, white, all white. But they were watching, all the time. And then this, the grass, its not real enough, though, and I don't like the look of the sky, either. Did you notice? Did you notice the clouds? They don't move at all, and the sun never wavers or dims. Only when the moon comes out, and that's barely any realer. It bothers me, it does. Especially when they took my clothes. Pah! Insensitive jerks! Hmm, but they don't wear clothes, I suppose it could be a-"

Sheppard cut off McKay's rambling with a tight lipped look and a hand on his shoulder. McKay flinched.

"Calm down, McKay. Just...calm down, okay?" He said quietly. He shot a look around, at the forest and then at the glass window. "They aren't watching us now."

"Yes, they are." McKay hissed in dismay, pointing to the little orb-like object attached to the 'sky' by the window. "Always watching."

"Okay. Okay, then let's just...let's just go into there, where we've got some privacy." He motioned toward the forest, and McKay hurriedly complied, muttering under his breath about 'hallucinations' and 'overbearing ghosts'. A shiver ran down Sheppard's back, raising the hairs at the back of his neck. He cast a surreptitious look behind him, at the orb object, before turning away.

Once they were in the forest, McKay settled down, and Sheppard, after a long pause, crouched down beside him. He studied his friend openly, McKay was too out of it to notice. Sheppard wasn't going to voice the fears he felt, about the sudden, strange situation he had suddenly been thrown into. It was crazy, things like this didn't happen, even in this galaxy.

Maybe it was a dream, or a delusion. A dream. Nightmare. It just couldn't be real.

He pinched himself, but was sorely disappointed when all he got was a small bruise on his arm and a strange stare from McKay.

"Do you remember how you got here?" Sheppard asked him.

McKay shrugged. He looked down, scratching at the messy beard across his face. "No. Should I? I've been here forever! So long! Ha!" And then he focussed, for a moment, eyes growing sharp and clear. "But I remember water. Water and cold. We were trying to run, but something was chasing us. I just can't...remember...can't remember what it was." He dug his fingers into his temples. Hard. Enough to draw blood.

"We'll meet again, Sheppard. I don't know when, and I don't know where. But we will." McKay choked out, as if he was having trouble breathing.

Sheppard gently pried his hands away, keeping a grip on them. He noticed, with a feeling of guilt, that that small amount of clarity was gone from his friend's eyes, and he was once more that distant, rambling man. He did not recognise the memories of which McKay spoke of, something inside he broke apart.

"Yeah, we were on a planet, you said you detected an energy source and we were heading out." Sheppard began uneasily, sinking back into the memory.

McKay was scrambling ahead of them, clearly excited.

Sheppard remembered turning to Teyla, sharing a smile, before hurrying after him. The ground was slick and slippery with mud, but none of them had so far managed to fall.

"We're getting closer!" McKay had shouted back, Ronon grunted, decidedly unimpressed with the lack of action on that particular venture. But he didn't complain, choosing to remain silent and on the lookout.

Sheppard would have been watching too, had he not been too worried about McKay getting lost in the dense forest around them. The scientist was no known for his balance, nor his attention to the world around him. Sheppard was concerned his friend would find himself in a sink hole.

"Wait up, McKay!" He hollered, and ran after his stray team member. "How close are we now?"

"Close, very close. In fact, we should be standing on it, right, about, now-"

Sheppard had woken a while later, face pressed into the mud and muscles aching from the cold. Spitting up dirt, he struggled to his hand and knees, and then to his feet.

Teyla and Ronon were there, limp forms surrounded by mud, bodies shivering, but they did not wake for several minuted, even with Sheppard shouting and shoving. He began to panic when he saw no sign of McKay, and staggered around the area, calling his name in increasing desperation.

They returned to Atlantis as a team of three.

Sheppard blinked, gazed down at McKay in surprise. His friend was curled up on his side, head cushioned on his shirt and body wracked with shudders that danced from his feet to his shoulders. His head was clenched in his hand. Asleep, but fitfully so.

Sheppard sighed, he didn't really want to stay awake alone, but McKay seemed exhausted, and the guilt he felt at not being able to help his friend sooner, kept him from waking him.

He settled back against one of the trees, the rough bark digging into the back of his head and neck. He decided to treat it as a hostage situation, the enemy were keeping them out of their depth, without any knowledge of their whereabouts or the reason for their capture.

A little groan slipped from McKay's lips, from somewhere deep in his throat. Sheppard got up and crawled closer to his friend, placing his hand on McKay forehead and grimacing at the heat emanating from him. McKay shifted a little, and then settled with his head resting on Sheppard's thigh.

~OO~

Sheppard woke several hours later, disoriented. Uncomfortable. He stifled a yawn and blinked away the sleep. He hadn't meant to sleep, but once he had, he'd dreamed of his time back on Atlantis, when they had all believed McKay to be dead.

"John, you need to eat, you need to rest." Teyla's worry did not to console him, he found himself staring at the peaceful waves lapping below. It seemed implausible that the world be so calm and serene when inside he was chaos and pain.

It was his fault. His fault McKay was gone.

If only he'd paid better attention. If only...

"John? Please? Come join Ronon and I for dinner." But he ignored Teyla's words and only spoke when the swish of the doors signalled her departure.

"I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry." The words felt bittersweet on his tongue and he had to swallow quickly to keep the bile from rising. McKay shifted restlessly against his leg, whimpering in his sleep.

He began to claw at the ground beneath them, muscles twitching as if he were trying to move, but could not. Sheppard leaned over him, about to comfort, when McKay's eyes snapped open and he stared in dull eyed horror up at him.

"No! Nonononono! Not again!" He cried, fighting to get up, but his body was too weak and he managed only to writhe slightly on the ground.

"McKay! It's me! It's alright!" Although it wasn't.

Sheppard grabbed McKay's face between his hands and held him still, staring into his friend's eyes, steady. McKay stilled, body quivering. Another whimper crawled up his throat.

"How ya feeling, buddy?" He asked soothingly. It was hard not to notice the sweat running down his skin, the pallor, the heat. McKay was sick, and Sheppard was scared.

"Alright," He muttered when McKay simply stared at him, mouth slightly agape. "You...you have allergies. But that's just with citrus. You have hypoglycaemia, which could account for the clammy skin and fever. When was the last time you ate, McKay?" He asked a bit louder.

"N-not really eaten. Fudge." McKay stuttered awkwardly, beginning to shudder in earnest.

"What?"

McKay was save from answering, however, when something large and transparent appeared at the edge of his vision. He recoiled as if struck, raising his P-90 with his finger inching toward the trigger.

He barely registered McKay's weak, "Bluey." Before the sound of gunfire deafened both of them.


Yeah...I don't know...

*Sheepish grin*