Breathe Me

Disclaimer: I do not own anything regarding Stargate: Atlantis or the song used.

Lyrics are from Breathe Me as performed by Sia.

Warnings: Spoilers for the entire series. Character death. Some other things may be triggering (self-hurt). If there are any questions regarding content, please review or PM.

A/N: Apologies for OOCness.


Help, I have done it again

He struggles against the restraints, screaming and cursing when he can't break them. He kicks, overturning tables and trays set too close to him. With each hit, his rage increases until all that leaves his torn throat is a long wail. Words, never easy when people confront him, become impossible as his grief swells. Breathing becomes an issue.

I have been here many times before

Shadows stretch across the ceiling. He's been moved from the infirmary after kicking one too many nurses or doctors. His room isn't any better, but he is quieter. They all think he is mending. All except Rodney. For some reason the annoying, arrogant doctor sees through his complacency and returns every day at the same time to talk to him about chess and racing cars and the other games they used to play. He still has the restraints on, but every day he feels less like himself and more like a shell. Clichéd though it is, he feels the parts that made him himself drip away with silent tears and long hours filled with thinking of their deaths.

Hurt myself again today

Rodney doesn't seem surprised by the blood. If anything, he seems relieved. A makeshift bandage from an old shirt and a warm glass of water later, he still hasn't asked, hasn't judged. He removes every sharp object he can find, but he doesn't tell the medical staff. He pinches his lips tightly the next time he finds a wound, glares the time after, and finally looks worried the time after that. The next time he visits, he has a large white bandage tinged with red wrapped around his forearm. No explanations, no questions. Neither one cuts again after that.

And the worst part is there's no one else to blame

He's finally found the strength to break out of his room. His only intention is to visit Rodney because he hasn't seen him in forever, but as soon as he steps into the corridor, he is struck by a strong wave of vertigo and nausea. He stumbles against a wall, crying out as he jars himself. No one but Rodney and the occasional medical doctor has visited him, so really, he can't be blamed that he's almost forgotten so many other people exist. These people stare at him like he is an oddity, and only his desire to see Rodney keeps him moving. He can't find him. He isn't in his lab and he isn't in his room. The mess hall is full of staring eyes and unfriendly whispers. Overwhelmed, he returns to his room, hoping to have gone unnoticed, but when he opens the door, a medical team is waiting for him. They say nothing. Not even when they lead him to the infirmary and set a chair next to Rodney's bed.

Be my friend

They play chess. He is black and Rodney is white. Rodney falls asleep halfway through their game. He waits for him to wake up, but he is ushered from the room when the heart monitor goes haywire. Rodney has been in the infirmary for nearly three weeks. Atrophy, stagnation, deterioration. He tortures himself with all the words he knows apply to Rodney's condition. If only he were strong enough, sane enough, to go on the mission that will save his friend's life.

Hold me

It is simple enough. He knows the puddle jumpers inside and out. It is only a matter of sneaking a large crate aboard—changing Lorne's supply request—and then hiding in it. He is not sure who convinced Woolsey that this mission was the right thing to do, but he does not question it long. Instead, he practices his breathing to have enough oxygen on the trip. And when that fails, he injects himself with a sedative Rodney stole for him.

Wrap me up

If the other members of the off-world team see him, they ignore him. He keeps hidden though, until they all march to the village square where the mystical healer sits. She has told them on at least three other occasions that she cannot help Rodney because their need is not great enough. Then the team leaves again. He is left behind and yet not left behind, because the healer sends someone to collect him. She has been expecting him. He knows this instinctively. Her tent feels familiar and unfamiliar. Something out of a dream or a long forgotten mission. He sits, smiles, and waits. She waits too.

Unfold me

The pouch is heavy in his hand. If this will save Rodney, he doesn't know how. The healer never explained why she trusted him, why she felt his need for his friend was greater than the expedition's need of its greatest scientist. The medical team tries to take the charm from him when he makes it through the wormhole. He hunkers down, cries of fear welling from his throat. He isn't afraid of what they'll do to him; he's afraid they will destroy Rodney's only hope. What he can't know, what he refuses to know, is it's too late. Nothing he can do will save his friend...except this, this thing he's been told to do, to activate the antidote.

I am small and needy

By the time he is escorted to the infirmary, Rodney has already crashed twice. The doctors are losing him and there is nothing he can do. Except the one thing he does. He tears the pouch and pours the contents of a small vial in his mouth. He motions for the head doctor to open Rodney's mouth. Then he leans over the body of his—best—friend and kisses him, letting the powder mixed with his saliva slide down Rodney's throat. An elixir born of need, delivered by need. He backs away, trying to ignore the shocked gasps and horrified stares. He waits until the doctors confirm a strengthening heartbeat and stabilizing vitals before running from the room.

Warm me up

His room is quiet. So many days spent locked inside, even though he really can't lock his door. No one talks to him. The doctor's staff evaluates him once a week, but, like he was right after her death, there's nothing wrong with him. It's all in his head. He's so screwed up he wants to jump off a balcony or throw himself into the sea. Something, anything, to get away from the thoughts pinging around his brain. So many negative thoughts. He wonders, Why me? Rodney doesn't visit. And that hurts so bad he finds solace in gnawing at his wrist. Where's chess now? Can't they still race cars? Play a warped version of Rodney's Dungeons and Dragons? Spar, physically or mentally? Is he really so different now that Rodney hates him?

And breathe me

He stares at the tray, willing the food to disappear without his eating it. He's not hungry. Hasn't been for a long while. Maybe it's the medicine that made Rodney better. Maybe it's the pain from losing another friend. He wants to sweep the tray off his bed, knock the dishes to the floor, scream and cry and laugh and go insane. Except, he's already insane. He covers his face with his hands, whispering the Fibonacci sequence, knowing how jealous Rodney would have been once upon a time to realize the—former—military commander knew quite a few numbers past the normal genius's concentration. The shadows taunt him with their freedom. They aren't confined, restricted by anything. They invade his mind, his body, and he spends much of the next few days trying to tear them from his veins.

Ouch, I have lost myself again

He sees their faces in his dreams. All the dead people, all the people he's killed or let die. Rodney isn't on the list, but that small comfort is lost when the ghosts surround him at night. He spends as much time awake as possible, falling asleep only when he can't force his tired body through another adrenaline rush. The medical team expresses concern at the deep wounds covering his arms, but they can't give him anything or his heart will explode. He wants to tell them to do it anyway, to let him die, but he hasn't spoken since that day with the mystical healer. He lacks the want to speak, not to mention the company.

Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found

On the wall next to his bed he keeps track of the wounds he makes, smearing a streak of blood with every fresh cut or bite, but the desire to hurt himself is fading. Rodney visits again. They don't speak, at least not with words, but he can see in Rodney's eyes a sadness deeper than the ocean surrounding the city. Maybe it has something to do with his recent illness. Or maybe it's you, his mind laughs. Sometimes he thinks the only part of his body not out to get him is his left foot. Of all the things he does to himself, somehow he cannot bring himself to damage Rodney's favorite of all his appendages.

Yeah, I think that I might break

He covers his eyes, waiting for the burning tears to come. Rodney was supposed to be here half an hour ago. He knows the scientist is busy, just like he knows life goes on with or without the people he loves, but this is the third time. Rodney promised to be on time. He stands, pressing his back against the corner he usually sits in. His hair, growing longer now since he won't let anyone come at him with a pair of scissors, hangs in his eyes. The chessboard sits untouched on the desk. The last game they played was when Rodney was sick. He takes an unsteady step towards the door. He hasn't been outside of his room since he administered the medicine. Every day, Rodney once said, if you don't use it, you lose it. Don't lose it. The door slides open before he reaches it, and Rodney enters.

Lost myself again and I feel unsafe

The tea soothes his throat. He is unbelievably happy, having spoken his first words in over three months to Rodney. His friend smiles, a sandwich in one hand. He tears off bites to feed him, and the awkwardness that should exist fades with the little strength returning. The medical staff hovers, devices beeping, nervous warnings spinning through the air. He can't keep the smile off his own face, sipping tea, eating food he actually wants, and just hanging with his best friend. He does not want it to end, but he is tiring quickly, and the medical staff warn Rodney of overfeeding him. A bedtime story, Rodney laughs suddenly. Goldilocks and the Three Bears. He leans back, clapping when Rodney begins pantomiming the characters. He falls asleep watching Rodney.

Be my friend

Fire licks at the door, sweeping across the floor to suffocate him in his corner. He wakes screaming. Before he can move, before he can make sure he is okay, Rodney drops onto the bed with a conversational, So. They spend the next few hours talking about dreams and what makes them good or bad. He finally tells Rodney, says with such a small voice, I'm ready. He wants to explain that it means he's ready to leave the room, to start over again, to be himself again, but Rodney doesn't understand him. He thinks he means he's ready to sleep and leaves with a quiet good night. He doesn't want to, doesn't mean to, but he does. And when he falls asleep, the fire comes back and makes him melt. And Rodney doesn't rescue him.

Hold me

Life loses interest again when Rodney loses interest in him. All the little things he did to entertain himself in the dark period before irritate him. The only soothing thing is walking along the absolute edges of the piers. So far, he has visited each one twice, almost fallen off a million times, and screamed made-up obscenities into the wind. He holds his breath until blood pounds in his ears, runs until his heart threatens to rebel, and vomits constantly. He can't keep anything down, although it doesn't help that he spends all his free time, aside from the piers, swallowing all kinds of things that never should ever even be called food, like the chess pieces and board. That was the first abnormal thing he ate. Since then he has moved on to bigger and better things. The medical staff stays absolutely worried and shocked at what he digests, fails to digest, and throws up all over their ward. The infirmary becomes his home again.

Wrap me up

He sees dead faces again, hears their accusing voices. The only way to make them stop or disappear for even a few seconds is to move constantly. He trips nurses and doctors when he paces through the infirmary. But still, they don't let him go. He can't talk to them; his throat was damaged when a small piece of metal he swallowed became lodged and had to be surgically removed. Every once in a while he sees his old team cycling through the infirmary after being injured on missions. He nods at them, but he doesn't stop moving. Teyla tries to help him when she is near, but her hands, so warm, so comforting, make him nauseous. He doesn't deserve anyone's sympathy since he's done this to himself. Rodney finally realized it, and now Teyla needs to, too. Ronon doesn't talk to him. He doesn't even grunt in his direction. Teyla says it's because he can't handle what's happening to him, but he knows, feels, it goes deeper than that. Ronon blames him, just like everyone else does. Just like he does.

Unfold me

Rodney sits by his bedside almost every time he wakes up now, and, considering the medical staff keeps pulling him in and out of medically induced comas to help his body deal with the toxins he ingested, Rodney spends at least half a day every day waiting for him. Sometimes, when he's just waking up, he thinks he hears Rodney crying, but that's impossible: Rodney has become the strongest person he knows. Even Teyla, infinitely better in the time before, has paled in comparison to his friend. But everyone has a breaking point, he knows this best of anyone, and Rodney deserves his own. He is too selfish to tell Rodney to scram.

I am small and needy

The wind, the rain, the invigorating feeling of running. He's missed this so much. He makes it to a top tier of Atlantis and turns back to see Rodney a few feet below him struggling to grab a slippery ledge. Before he falls, he grabs his wrist and pulls him up. They stand, Rodney slightly cowering behind him, facing into the wind. He loves the way it buffets his body, tugging him closer and closer to the edge. Only Rodney's hand on the small of his back, clutched in the jacket with a loop on the back, keeps him grounded. When a particularly brilliant strike of lighting cuts the sky, he opens his mouth and yells. Alive, alive, alive, his heart pounds. Rodney whimpers, Okay, okay, okay. He turns back to Rodney, embraces him.

Warm me up

The towels lay on the floor. Rodney lies on top of them. He's asleep, flat on his back, for once not complaining of needing his prescription mattress. He lies down next to him, sets his head on Rodney's shoulder and closes his eyes. He doesn't dream.

And breathe me

Rodney sings Happy Birthday under his breath while he arranges boxes on the desk from largest to smallest. There are seven in all. One for every other month he's been stuck in this damaged state. The first one is a remote control car painted like an McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, the second is an RC helicopter painted like a red Ferrari Enzo with the number 7 scrawled on the side. After a new chess set, a pillow for back problems, various packages of foods he used to enjoy, and a small pocket watch, the final box contains another box, this one velvet. He stares at it, weighs it in his hand. What's inside? He's scared to look. Rodney waits, patiently it seems. He looks up, holds the box up, and sets it on a shelf...for later, he promises Rodney and himself.

Be my friend

Rodney is on an off-world mission when he opens the box. A simple ring with the words I promise engraved inside. Silver. It fits on his index finger, probably would fit on his ring finger but he doesn't want to insult Rodney by assuming that's where it's supposed to go. His room, steadily smaller since he first realized to defeat his demons he needed motion, stifles him. The hallways are completely deserted—so he thinks—as he makes his way outside. Behind him, he doesn't notice several scientists and military personnel following him. He doesn't notice the medical team keeping an eye on him. He only thinks of his friend and the games they'll play when he returns.

Hold me

Numbness. Shock. Fear. Sadness. Hate. Anger. Love. Loss. Blood pounds in his ears. Tears streak his face. The wall is covered with blood from his fists. No one says anything, lets him scream and fight the immovable structure. So sturdy, like the fact. He can't do anything. He can't breathe, he can't speak, he can't see. Pain, pain, pain, pain. Pain is the only thing that is real, but he doesn't know if it's the pain in his hands or his heart that makes him cry. The ring cuts through his flesh, pocking the wall in its stainless steel fury. He sobs then, falling against the wall, arms spread to embrace the cold.

Wrap me up

He wears the ring on a chain around his neck while his fingers heal. He doesn't move from the chair the medical team sat him in when they finally sedated him. He hasn't eaten for nearly a week, but he doesn't feel hungry. Beside him, torn open by an optimistic nurse, is a bag of popcorn. The sight of it makes him sick, but he is physically incapable of standing and walking away from it. He doesn't have the energy. He starts when someone sits next to him, blinks blearily at her. Wasn't she dead? Weren't they all dead? She opens her mouth to speak, but he drops his head, covering his ears. This isn't real, this isn't real, this is just not real. He jumps up, sweeping the popcorn onto the floor and throwing the chair across the room. He falls to his knees, screams already spilling out of him, ripping, tearing, burning. He doesn't notice her leave, and he doesn't care. She's dead, they're dead. Rodney's dead.

Unfold me

Warm tea, warm sun, warm blanket. He glances at his companion as they sup quietly. It's the little girl who healed him on that planet with the time decompression thingamajig. He'd thought she'd ascended with the others, and she had, but she also says they can return to people who need them. Ancients. Meddlers without meddling. Where's the fun in that? At least he is calm. Nothing hurts today. It's as if Hedda is healing him right now. She giggles when he selects a straw from a tray Teyla left him and blows bubbles in his cup. The froth spills over, running down his hand, and he swears it's fingers ghosting over his flesh. He freezes to savor the touch. Is it Elizabeth? Ford? Carson...the real Carson? Rodney? A tear rolls down his cheek as he sips the tea. It's just his imagination.

I am small and needy

Everywhere he goes, people shout at him, yell things he can't hear. He's trying to outrun his demons again. All the faces of people still alive stare in confusion as he rockets around a corner, spinning and pushing off the wall to avoid slamming into a young scientist. He hurdles over a military man who is already used to dropping to the floor so he can vault over his body. He climbs things too, startles Woolsey on several occasions when he slips over railings or pulls himself through narrow openings. But still, aside from the commotion he causes sometimes, no one stops him, no one talks to him. The first time he slips and falls, the medical team tsks at him, but they don't tell him not to keep climbing. And so he finds himself stranded at the top of the central tower, clinging desperately to a thin rod as the wind picks up.

Warm me up

Woolsey paces in front of the bed, lecturing and lecturing and lecturing. He wonders when he'll run out of breath. It amuses him to see Woolsey so rattled, all because the Daedalus had to rescue him. Ronon sits quietly on one side of the bed while Teyla sits on the other. They have been assigned to keep him from escaping or causing more mischief. He doesn't bother to tell them that they don't need to worry. On the tower, before he let go to fall and the beam swept him into the infirmary, Rodney appeared, told him he was stupid and selfish. Woolsey snaps again, irritated by what can only be his lack of attention with his commanding officer. He holds up a hand, leans forward, after Ronon helps him sit up, and opens his mouth. The words are soft and barely there, but Woolsey recoils like they're snakes. Teyla looks shocked, and Ronon backs away. I'm sorry, he repeats, turning from one to another.

And breathe me

Something has changed. Life will go on, and he will move on. Their deaths won't ever stop hurting, but he won't stay curled on his side, sobbing for the care he'd meant to show them. No one looks at him without concern or fear anymore, and he is being discharged as soon as he is able to transport back to Earth. He will miss Atlantis and the people he met. He goes for one last run before his final check-up. Three hours and a clean bill of health later, he's strapped into the Daedalus, humming a nonsense song of people's names. Strength, his heart beats. Courage, wisdom, survival. He leans back, closing his eyes, breathing deeply, and letting go. Goodbye.

oo The End oo

A/N: This is something that I feel could potentially have happened during the series, as supported by Sheppard's actions (mostly off-screen) in Epiphany:

Teer: I'm glad I finally got you outside. You've been in your room for so long.

Sheppard: I'm being depressed.

He also used running to help work through his abandonment issues.

Again, I apologize if this story is off-putting to anyone. Like always, comments are welcome: if you have something to say, please leave a review.