Disclaimer: The following story is a work of fan fiction, and as such is for fan enjoyment only. All recognizable characters/settings are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is made. I still don't own any of 'em. I will one day though. You'll see. RODNEY, JOHN AND CARSON WILL BE MINE! MINE I TELL YOU!
Summary: Being trapped alone in a cell is no way for a man to die.
Central Character(s): Rodney, John and Ronon – but other well known faces get a mention too.
Category (ies): H/C, friendship and a good ol' dollop of angst thrown in for good measure...
Placement: Late Season 4.
Rating: +15 for implied torture and mildly naughty words.
Spoilers: A couple of really teeny tiny ones for 'Sunday' and 'The Kindred Part 2'.
A/N: ZOMG, I'm BACK! It's been FAR too long since I wrote anything, let alone made a new post so I thought I'd get with the programme and get my lazy bum in gear. (I still can't believe how long ago it was since I completed my 'Atlantis Infirmary Guide'...) I could sit here and reel off a long list of excuses about new jobs, less time and other such nonsense, but I can't be bothered.
Anyways, this is only a wee one-shot, but at least it's SOMETHING, right? I'm officially back on the horse, gang. :3
*smiles awkwardly and points at the big shiny review button*
The concept of time had always held a degree of puzzlement for him. As a child, he often wondered why it would play tricks, always speeding up and slowing down, forever running away from him, only ever moving forwards and not back. Good things ended far too soon while the more unpleasant moments seemed to stretch into infinity.
This was one of those moments.
He had no idea how long he'd been in the small, damp, stinking pit of a cell but it was far longer than was comfortable. He struggled to remember what it was like to see daylight, to breathe fresh air, to be clean. There wasn't a single part of him that didn't hurt, ache or bleed and the cramped conditions made the pain worse.
Of course, he'd have new scars and bruises to add to his ever-increasing collection by the end of the day. Well, that was what he assumed to be the end of the day, when he was brought food and water. And that in turn was assuming that you counted a tiny slab of stale bread and half a cup of water that wouldn't be fit for even rats to drink as nourishment.
He knew that they were just trying to break him, to wear his defences down. He'd been told repeatedly every time he'd been beaten that no one was coming for him. There would be no rescue, no return to the Ancient city that he called home. If he was one of the lucky ones, death would find him.
Strong word, if.
Oddly enough, the thought that he might die here didn't trouble him as much as it should have done. He wasn't afraid, wasn't clinging on desperately like a drowning man would a life preserver. He wasn't resigned to the fact either, more sort of... indifferent to it all. There was still a small part of him that wanted to go on living, that thought dying alone in a cell was no way to exit this world but... It was becoming more and more like an uphill struggle. Every day he felt as if a small part of him crumbled away.
Soon there won't be enough of 'me' left to rescue, he thought, shifting on the small wooden pallet that served as his bed. He tried to find a position that was more comfortable but quickly abandoned that notion in favour of finding a position that didn't hurt quite as much as the others. He shivered in the dampness, letting out a soft groan as his head reminded him none too subtly why he shouldn't be doing things like that. Lifting a hand, he gingerly prodded around his temples, wincing as he came into contact with one of the newer cuts that marred his normally handsome face.
He'd gotten past the hallucination stage – he'd been hit in the head so many times that it seemed to have switched that particular function off. It had been nice for a while, even though it was disturbing, to see his subconscious mind manifest itself in the shapes of his friends.
He had relished the company.
Mainly, it had been Sheppard – and the verbal sparring had been a welcome relief despite the fact that deep down, he knew he was simply arguing with himself. God, how he wished that cocky, goofy-haired flyboy was here for real. Him and Teyla and Ronon... He wanted them all to be there.
Well, no, that wasn't completely true – what he really sought was their company in a much more hospitable environment. He didn't want them to be stuck in this stupid rotten cell with him because that would mean that they weren't on the outside looking for him. He wouldn't even have minded if all they did was tease and taunt him. He missed the constant banter, the spark and snap that he had come to associate with his team – his family. He missed them more than he would ever have thought possible.
Occasionally, Sam had shown up with her annoyingly positive attitude, and still wearing far too many clothes for his liking. He would have probably been more tolerant of that particular aspect if her temperament had been better. For some unknown and slightly perplexing reason, his mind had decided that she would be grumpy and hormonal. It was probably due to the fact that the last time he'd seen her, she had been in that mood.
Other faces had appeared as his body struggled to keep him sane – Zelenka, Lorne, Elizabeth... even Grodin had made an appearance. It was like they all seemed to represent his rapidly fracturing psyche, their ghostly images seeming to correspond to different aspects of his personality, and for a while, he had wondered if they were all make believe to start with. He had quickly shoved that particular thought into a box in the furthest corner of his mind, especially when he realised that it was not helping his current situation any.
There had been one that was different though, one delusionary vision that stopped him from losing himself completely. Once, just once, it had been Carson.
Carson, who was dead and buried, who had been returned to them only to be cruelly taken away again – dear, glorious, brilliant Carson with his stupidly winsome grin and lilting Scottish brogue. It was the Carson he knew and loved, who told him to fight, to keep hoping, to not let the bastards grind him down. Carson, who reminded him that the others would find him, that he hadn't been abandoned.
He felt the tears stream down his face as he struggled to recall the voices of his friends. He couldn't remember them, he realised with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't remember what they damn well sounded like. To be honest, he could only just remember their faces. Time had played yet another spiteful trick, blurring everything together, making him forget – making him sob at the cruelty of it all.
If only he could start hallucinating, then maybe everything would be alright again. He'd remember and it would be okay. He closed his eyes, hoping that if he wished or concentrated hard enough he would find himself back in his lab, not stuck in the nightmare. It hadn't worked the first hundred or so times he'd tried it, but maybe he hadn't been desperate enough back then.
Pity it still wasn't working.
He couldn't even recollect how he had ended up here. He'd tried until his head ached, but the memories were simply lost – probably driven out by the violence inflicted upon him by the guards. It drove him mad, trying to work it out. If he could only remember or determine what his so-called crime had been then maybe he could find some consolation, some meaning behind all the abuse.
Had he done something terrible? Potentially...
Had he caused someone's death or destroyed something that was beyond value? Probable but unlikely and certainly not intentional if it was the case...
Or had he simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time and said the wrong thing? Most likely...
The door opened and he sighed, resigned to another interrogation. Maybe they'd let him go, or at least hit him hard enough to make him lose consciousness. His body protested violently as strong hands dragged him to his feet unkindly and for a moment, the world tipped and swayed alarmingly. He felt his knees buckle but at the last moment he managed to right himself, knowing that if he didn't he would be punished for it.
Please let this be over with quickly, he silently prayed. Please...
He wasn't that lucky.
He'd really pushed it this time and he'd been made to know it. His refusal to speak led to the fingers on his left hand being broken savagely. The pain was almost unendurable, cascading up and down his entire arm like lightning across a stormy sky. There was nothing he could do but gag slightly as he glanced down at his mangled digits. Each one of his long, nimble fingers was a swollen and bruised mess.
He had nothing to splint them with, nothing to take the pain away, so he simply sank down onto the floor of his cell and cradled his shattered hand as best he could. He began rocking slightly, softly keening as he kept it as close to his body as was possible. God, he wanted this to be over already, wished that his captors would just put him out of his misery and take the pain away with it.
All the rage he'd felt when he'd first been thrown in here was long gone. All his fight had slowly been dragged away, kicking and screaming as it went. His resolve was all but spent, his morale long since shattered. He had nothing left to give and even less for his guards to take away from him.
No one was coming.
He knew that now. If he was being honest with himself, he would have admitted that he'd known it for some time, but up until this point had always refused to accept it. His keening morphed into moans that he couldn't keep contained any longer. It felt like the world had fallen away from under him. His last anchor to Atlantis, to his friends, his home, had finally given way and for the first time since his ordeal had started, he felt adrift in a sea of desolation.
They've left me, he thought miserably. They've given up and left me to rot here.
They aren't coming for me...
Fresh tears spilled hotly down his grime and blood streaked face as the stark reality of his situation began to sink in. There would be no happy ending for him, no last minute heroic rescue. Not this time. He'd never been one for optimism or excessive hope – it was too dangerous and always led to being let down – but for a while, he had allowed himself to take comfort in the fact that no one was ever left behind.
John never left a man behind...
Well he has this time, the little voice in the back of his mind taunted maliciously. They've all left you. What made you honestly think you were any different? You're not worth it. You never were. They're better off without you and you know it. Better get used to it, pal.
He bit his lip to try and stop the howl from escaping him. He could feel it building in his chest, the unimaginable despair almost overwhelming him. I just want to go home...
A sudden burst of gunfire and a scream jolted him from the brink. He often heard it – some other poor wretch being taken away for execution – but this sounded different. It was too rapid to be the shotguns used by the guards. In fact, it was almost like P-90 fire but that was impossible.
"Where is he, you son of a bitch?"
He lifted his head – the voice sounded familiar, but it couldn't be. It wasn't... Hardly daring to breathe, he felt his pulse racing as he waited to hear it again but there was nothing except more gunfire and distant shouts. His heart finally broke and he tried to swallow against the lump that suddenly formed in his throat. He must have been imagining things...
"Sheppard! He's down here!"
Another voice, deeper than the first, followed by the hint of a light shining under the cell door. He let out a soft, broken whimper – it couldn't be... He shook his head, trying to clear it as he wondered if he was hallucinating again.
"Get that damn door open now!"
The cell door was almost literally ripped off its hinges and he couldn't stop the small squeak of alarm as a huge shape loomed in front of him. He couldn't focus properly, couldn't get his body to react fast enough. In desperation, he cowered in the corner, trying to push himself away from whomever it was that had just forced his way in.
"No, no, no, not again, no, it's not my turn, leave me alone," he whispered hoarsely, trying not to scream as the brickwork dug into the lacerations across his abused back. "Please no, not again..."
"Ronon? Have you found him?"
"He's in here!"
A second figure pushed past the giant and crouched down near him.
"Not my turn yet," he croaked, curling up tighter. "'S not my turn, leave me alone." He shook his head, pushing himself further against the wall as if he could somehow pass right through it if he tried hard enough. It couldn't be him. It just couldn't…
"Rodney, it's me. Everything's okay, buddy, we're not gonna hurt you. We've come to take you home, Answer Man."
"H-Home?" he asked, his voice barely audible.
He felt confused, not sure what to believe anymore. Rodney – that's your name, he thought to himself. Dr Rodney McKay, astrophysicist – you're the Chief Science Officer of Atlantis... It had been so long since anyone had said it aloud that it felt strange, almost alien.
Again, he shook his head softly, not wanting to believe what his senses were telling him. It wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening. They'd left him, hadn't they? They'd given up looking for him, they weren't coming.
But they're here, a new voice cooed. They've come back for you...
"That's right, little man," the giant said, who had also crouched down. He had dreadlocks, this one, and a strangely wolfish smile. Something kicked deep down in McKay's brain but he was too disorientated to pay much attention to it. "C'mon," the stranger continued, "we're getting you out of here."
He felt, rather than saw, the hands moving to lift him and instinctively, he panicked. "N-no, let me go! Not my turn, no!" Said hands were quickly removed and held up in a placating gesture.
"Sorry, McKay," the big man said. "Didn't mean to spook ya."
The other man gave the giant a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. "Ronon, go find Teyla and get her to dial Atlantis. Tell her to get Keller organised with a med team."
The dreadlocked Goliath grunted and left the cell.
"It's okay, Rodney," the remaining man said softly. "We're not gonna hurt you, I promise. No one's ever going to hurt you again. I won't let 'em." There was a strange undertone in his statement, like he was upset and angry and relieved all at once... McKay felt both scared and strangely comforted by the conflicting emotions that seemed to emanate from his apparent rescuer.
Rodney tilted his head slightly, blinking to clear his misty vision. The man crouched in front of him had a mess of tangled dark hair and a boyish face. Again, something kicked in the back of his brain, trying to get him to wake up and pay attention – and this time he did. As he stared at the apparition, a name slowly clawed its way up from the darkest recesses of his memories, a name that was more familiar to him than that of his own sister. "J-John?" he tried hesitantly.
The man gave him a beaming smile, but the concern was etched in the slightly too bright hazel eyes. "That's right."
McKay took a shuddering breath, allowing himself to hope just for a moment, to let himself relax just a fraction. "Is… is it really-really y-you?" He tentatively reached out with his good hand to touch John's face, letting out a small, broken sound when he connected with solid flesh.
Sheppard swallowed hard, gently taking his friend's hand in his own. He was shocked by how cold the Canadian was but managed to school his expression. "Yeah, Rodney, it's really me," he replied, his voice strained. "I need to take a quick look at you, alright? I won't touch, I promise," he added, holding up his hands as McKay unconsciously flinched away. "I just need to look, to see..." To see how badly those bastards have hurt you, he added silently as he clenched his jaw to keep his anger in check.
Rodney bit his bruised and bloody lip, his breathing becoming irregular as he struggled to take everything in. After a moment, he nodded almost imperceptibly and the last of his defences finally crumbled. Fear and doubt gave way to relief and the tears began to flow freely once again. John moved closer, gently reaching out an arm and pulled the physicist away from the wall into a gentle hug.
"Shh, Rodney, it'll be okay," he soothed, gently stroking McKay's matted hair, mindful of the damage. "I gotcha, buddy. It'll all be alright."
Rodney's tears turned into full blown sobs as the reality of what was happening hit home. All the fear and pain and frustration flooded out in torrents. He cried until he didn't even know why he was crying anymore and his shoulders shook uncontrollably.
He's here, he's come for me. I'm going home, it's all over...
John tightened his hold fractionally. "It'll be alright, Rodney," he repeated. "I promise. Everything's gonna be okay. I'm so sorry we couldn't get to you sooner. Believe me; I would've fought my way through a whole damn Wraith fleet if it would've meant that I got here quicker. I'd have done anything, buddy. You know that." He rocked his distraught scientist slightly, trying to calm him, knowing that he needed to get this out of his system. "Let it out," he encouraged. "There's no one here but me. Let it all go. It's over now."
Finally, Rodney managed to gain some control over his ragged emotions and quieted. He clutched Sheppard's jacket with his good hand, almost as if he was afraid that the pilot would disappear the moment he let go. "I... I w-waited for you," he whispered with a small hiccup as his breathing settled slightly. "I w-waited but... they-they s-said you weren't c-coming..." It was a statement not an accusation.
"They lied," Sheppard said, still holding onto his damaged geek. "We never stopped looking for you, Rodney. Never."
"I w-want to... want to go-go home," McKay whimpered.
John gave him a warm smile. "Attaboy," he encouraged. He looked at the myriad of lacerations and contusions covering the physicist and again fought hard to keep in a growl of anger. He hadn't failed to notice the damage to McKay's left hand either but decided that was a conversation best left for a later time. "Can you walk?"
Rodney nodded determinedly and got to his feet, but his knees buckled and he started to fall. Sheppard caught him under his arms and readjusted his grip so that he had an arm around Rodney's waist. He gently tugged the physicist's other arm over his shoulder and held onto the wrist, feeling McKay's pulse fluttering erratically.
"Easy boy," he muttered softly, "we're gonna go nice and slow, okay?"
"We're... w-we're going... h-home?" the Canadian asked, his rough voice making John wince internally.
"You bet," the soldier declared confidently. "We'll get you patched up, give you some of the good drugs you seem to like so much and grab a load of food from the mess hall." He gave Rodney a cheeky grin, knowing that the banter was as good as any medicines Keller could administer. "Then I think we should steal the best of the DVDs from the rec room and just kick back somewhere warm and comfy. What do you think?"
"I-I could e-eat," Rodney said, sounding more like his old self than the terrified wreck of a man that Sheppard had found in this underground pit.
John gave him a huge grin. "Come on then, buddy. Let's blow this joint."
They made their way out of the cell towards daylight – towards home... together.
Like I said, I know this was a bit of a short one but it served its purpose! Let me know what you think. :D