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Prisoners

Author: Amalthia
Title: Prisoners
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Rating: NC-17
Warning: Rape
Word Count: 11,000
Summary: Rodney and John are captured by the Genii.
Author's Note: This is a revised version of the story I posted for the LJ sga_santa community over Christmas. At the time I wanted to have more time to work on fixing the story up but I was on a deadline and I wasn't entirely happy with the way the story worked out. Though I really have to thank Inyron for her beta reading the story on such short notice.

After the reveal on sga_santa, I decided to revise the story and enlisted the aid of fatuorum. If this story is any better than the original it's because of her hard work and willingness to not just go through two revisions but four. She picked the story apart, poked holes in it, and offered wonderful suggestions. If there are any errors in the story it's not from lack of trying to get rid of them.

Prisoners

"Rodney, come on wake up." John dribbled water onto Rodney's forehead, washing away as much blood before he checked the wound. Rodney twitched and muttered something indecipherable.

Cursing the Genii and their sneaky backstabbing ways, John hooked his hands under Rodney's arms and dragged Rodney to the pallet on the floor in the corner. The freezing concrete had already turned his feet to ice. Too heavy to lift, John rolled Rodney onto the thin mattress, which elicited another moan. John knelt on the mattress next to Rodney's hip, and tried to check his teammate again in the poor lighting.

Still breathing, pulse okay, and no sign of serious injuries except for the obvious head wound. With nothing left to do John sat at the foot of the mattress near Rodney's feet and curled his legs up to his body, trying to warm up in the frigid air. It wouldn't have been so bad, except the Genii had taken all his clothing - and as much as he liked Rodney, things weren't so desperate that he'd curl up next to him naked.

Time seemed to pass slowly in the cell. The light bulb swinging from the center of the room was dim, and the light barely reached the corners. The door was solid metal and locked from the outside, and their captors had generously provided a toilet, sink, and the sleeping pallet, which was kind of small for two grown men to share.

It was better than nothing, though, and who knew how long it would take Elizabeth to send a rescue team. He just had to hope that Teyla and Ronon made it back to Atlantis, to let the cavalry know about the Genii ambush.

"Um... where are my clothes?" Rodney slowly sat up, holding one hand to his head as if that would help the pain go away. "And where the hell are we?" A note of panic crept into his voice.

"Relax," John said in his most soothing voice. "The Genii captured us, took our clothing, and stuck us in this cell."

"Did they leave any food? How long was I out? Because I think I think I'm getting lightheaded already-"

John held up his hand, "Rodney! Stop! It's only been two or three hours. I think." He took a deep breath and tried not to think about how screwed they were as he tried to answer Rodney's rapid-fire questions. "Secondly, I'm sure Ronon and Teyla made it back to Atlantis, and help should be on the way. Relax and take it easy. Panicking will only cause your blood sugar to drop faster."

Rodney glared at him. "How am I supposed to relax? The Genii have us and any minute now they're going to arrive and probably pull out all our fingernails and maybe electrocute me for all the valuable information I have in my head!"

Rodney stopped and looked at the door, no doubt contemplating more worst case scenarios. The minute turned into another hour of sullen silence from Rodney. "Haven't these Neanderthals heard of heaters?" he finally muttered, curling his legs close to his body.

"I'm sure inventing heaters is next on their to-do list after building a nuclear weapon," John said snidely, the sarcasm of the remark somehow falling short of his usual bite. It's not like Rodney was the only one freezing here or had woken up unconscious in a cell. He paced the small room hoping the activity would warm him up, though if food didn't arrive sometime today or tomorrow he'd have to limit his activity to conserve energy.

Rodney rubbed his head again and glared at him.

A pang of guilt shot through John. It was his job to keep his team safe, and somehow the Genii slipped through. The only reason Teyla and Ronon weren't captured with them was sheer dumb luck. At least he hoped they made it back to Atlantis, otherwise Elizabeth won't know that they needed help until they missed their scheduled check-in, which was another twelve or thirteen hours from now.

The sound of a key in the lock alerted John of their captor's arrival. Rodney used the wall to keep his balance as he stood; the knock on the head gave Rodney a minor concussion. John offered a hand to help but Rodney waved him away. John let his hand drop but kept close, in case Rodney lost his balance, head injuries were funny that way.

Metal grated and the heavy door swung open, four guards spilled in the room, guns trained on them. John slowly raised his hands and Rodney followed his example. Kolya entered the room last, stared at them expressionlessly, sizing them up, before turning and leaving. Outside the door, he said, "Bring them."

The guards rushed forward and grabbed them by the arms and prodded them out of the room with their guns.

The air outside the cell wasn't any warmer, and with Rodney in the lead, John saw no other choice than to follow along. More guards lined the hallways, and he gritted his teeth when some of the female ones checked him out.

John counted guards, hallways, and right and left turns. Just in case. Kolya came to a stop in front of two heavy-duty metal doors; he pushed them open and led them into an Ancient science lab. The Genii had rigged up their own set of lights to illuminate the room while they tried to figure out the Ancient consoles. The air smelled old and stale, and John shivered, partly from the cold, and partly from the barrel of a gun digging into his back, pushing him forward.

The light blue floor in the lab was warmer against his bare feet than the cold concrete in the hall. In the center of the lab, Kolya turned to face them. The hum of the machinery clamoring for activation tugged at John's mind. It required all his concentration to ignore the Ancient machines and pay attention to Kolya's words.

"I'm sure you are wondering why you're still alive," Kolya said, as he swept his arm outwards, pointing at all the dead consoles. "We found this outpost and none of our top scientists are able to discern its purpose. In exchange for your lives, you will make this outpost operational again."

"So after we fix this problem for you, you'll let us go home?" John asked, as reasonably as he could.

Kolya glared at him like he'd asked for information on all the Genii's off world operations instead of a one way ticket back to Atlantis. "That decision is not mine to make."

"What about food and clothing?" Rodney butted in. His hands, normally the most mobile part of his body, were now hugged around himself for warmth.

"We will not starve you, food will be provided twice a day." Kolya stepped closer to Rodney, and Rodney held his ground, thrusting his chin out. "While you were unconscious, we transported you to the Genii home world. It is winter outside, the lack of clothing and a meager sense of self-preservation shall hopefully keep you two from wrecking havoc in my periodic absences. If your work is satisfactory, I may have my men provide portable heating for the lab and your cell."

"Dr. McKay needs food every six hours or he'll fall into a coma and die." John pointed out carefully; survival was their number one goal at the moment.

Kolya nodded his head, "Extra food for Dr. McKay shall be provided, assuming you make decent progress."

Rodney opened his mouth to protest and John glared at him to shut up. Rodney snapped his mouth closed and his eyes turned frosty.

At Kolya's signal the door opened again. "I expect reports on your progress. We are monitoring all communications leaving this sector, if you are foolish enough to send out a distress beacon of any sort. You will not like the consequences."

Kolya left with more than half the guards, leaving four men and one woman still stationed around the room with their weapons.

Rodney breathed in deeply, closed his eyes, and whispered something like "I'm in a meadow..."

John hated helping the Genii, but it didn't take a genius to figure out this room probably held their best chance of escape or rescue.

"McKay, lets get to work." John ignored the guards and went to the first console. It only took a touch and a mental command to activate.

Rodney opened his eyes, rubbed his forehead again, and went to the other side of the room and began working. Of the five consoles stationed in the room only three came on at full power; one responded weakly to John's attempts to activate it, while the biggest console remained completely dead.

They spent the rest of the day figuring out what went wrong with the two non-functional consoles. Rodney wanted to know where the power was coming from but without their scanning equipment, they made little progress beyond their initial activation of the first three consoles. It was late when a new set of guards came to escort them back to their cell.

Rodney dragged his feet with exhaustion; his forehead wrinkled with pain. More than once today Rodney had stopped to rub at it.

While they were gone the thin tiny pallet was replaced by a slightly thicker and larger mattress with real blankets and two pillows. It still didn't look big enough for two grown men, but it was better than the previous option. A table now sat in the corner furthest away from the toilet and sink, plates of food already served. Rodney went straight for the food as soon as the door closed behind them. Stomach grumbling, and equally starved, John still made himself wash his hands before he went to the table and ate his fill.

Later John made the bed while Rodney washed up and took care of his business. "I'll sleep on the outside." John said and waited for Rodney to get into bed and face the wall before he also used the toilet.

John thought he should try and keep watch, but with nothing to bar the door and who knew how much time they had to rest before the Genii dragged them out again, he couldn't afford to weaken himself by losing sleep. Rodney scooted over when John slid in next to him.

Their sides touched and John fought hard not to lean into the warmth of another human body. But it was hard, all day he struggled against the cold in the air, the ground, and the stares of the guards. Rodney obviously felt no such restraint - his cold feet brushed John's calves and his ice block fingers managed to worm their way into the same pocket of warm air forming between their bodies.

And before John could try and formulate a game plan for tomorrow, Rodney had fallen asleep.

*****

John woke when the door to the cell opened and a guard entered, carrying a tray of food. "You have fifteen minutes to wake up and eat."

The door closed with a loud clang of metal grinding against metal. John had to unwrap Rodney's arm from off his waist before he could get off the mattress. He sat on the edge and rubbed his eyes, figuring he got at least six or seven hours of sleep by the amount of stubble on his chin. Bleary eyed, he took care of things before Rodney woke up.

"Rodney, wake up. We got ten minutes to get ready to go before the guards return."

Rodney groaned and rubbed his own eyes. "I need more sleep. Please tell me they have coffee?"

John, who made do with drinking the water from the sink, shook his head, before he realized that with Rodney's arm covering both eyes, he couldn't see. "That's a negative on the coffee."

Grumbling, Rodney stumbled out of bed, and careened off a wall before he made it to the sink, where he splashed a lot of cold water on his face.

John had almost finished eating by the time Rodney made it to the table. No chairs. Rodney grabbed what was left of the bread and cheese and ate everything in three or four bites, licking the crumbs off his fingers. Not long after the door opened and their escorts took them back to the ancient lab.

Four days passed without incident. Rodney with a task at hand seemed like his usual self, working steadily, opening panels removing crystals testing for faulty ones. They had a small box with dead crystals. Rerouting power with the ones that did work allowed them to get all the consoles to power up. They had food, and lots of it, bathroom breaks, time for sleep, if it weren't for the chilly air and constant nakedness John could almost forget they were prisoners. Almost. Because no matter how well fed or how much sleep they were allowed, he missed his freedom.

Rodney made it bearable; protecting Rodney gave him something more to focus on than sorting bad crystals from the good ones under the watchful eyes of the guards. He made sure Rodney took breaks to eat, got him water, and helped when he could. He also talked about movies he knew drove Rodney nuts with the bad science just to take Rodney's mind off their captivity, and because it was fun to listen to Rodney.

On the fourth day of their captivity, when the door to the lab opened John didn't look up from his current task of testing the maybe-crystals. The guards switched out every six or seven hours and took breaks. But today, a sudden sharp snap jolted him from his seat at the console. He looked towards the disruption and saw a man dressed in a uniform similar to Kolya's flanked on both sides by a new set of guards he didn't recognize.

"I'm Commander Kolya's replacement, Commander Halder," he announced, slapping what looked like a riding crop in his black-gloved hand. "I'm here for your progress report."

Rodney scooted out from under the console. He had dust smudged on one cheek, and when he stood more dust stuck to his back than the floor. He stayed near the console as he told the commander everything he knew, which in retrospect wasn't much. "We have minimal power to the consoles, and are currently trying to re-route the power to the one that we think is the main console." Rodney pointed at the console he'd just spent two days working on, one of the original two that had zero power when they started.

"Do you know the purpose of this outpost?"

Rodney shook his head, "Do I look like a miracle worker? I just told you the console's power is nearly dead and we have to re-route it before we can access the information. And guess what, I haven't found a room full of spare energy crystals either."

Commander Halder looked about ready to burst a blood vessel. John decided to step in before the man's instinct to kill Rodney overcame him. "Sir, we're doing the best we can with limited tools at our disposal. We are making progress."

"I don't think you're making enough progress," Halder spat and with a furious tick in his jaw pointed at Rodney with his riding crop. "Bend him over that console." Two of Halder's guards stepped out of line, grabbed Rodney by the arms, and dragged him to the console Halder had pointed at.

Before John had the chance to help, another three guards surrounded him. And with a gun shoved under his chin, he had no choice but to stand and watch as the two guards forced Rodney over the console.

"Let go of me! You oaf!" Rodney struggled; trying to stand, but the men had a good grip on his arms and held him down. Their original guards stood with their eyes wide and mouths open, but they held their positions, even the woman who glared at Commander Halder.

"I think you need a lesson in how serious I am. Kolya's been too soft on you two, and I think you're taking advantage of his generosity."

"Commander!" John yelled, "It's me you should punish. Rodney's too valuable to injure, and he won't be able to think if he's in pain."

Halder spared him a brief glance of contempt. "Shut him up," he ordered.

The guards holding him pulled a cloth over his head, forced his mouth open, and pulled it between his teeth. He screamed with frustration as he felt them tie the knot holding the gag in place. The last time he felt this angry, he'd killed sixty of these bastards.

The two men holding Rodney's arms smiled at each other as Halder pulled off his gloves one at a time. The riding crop made a slight whistling sound as it whipped through the air. It snapped against Rodney's back with a sharp crack, but Halder didn't wait before he pulled his arm back and hit Rodney again. "Oh my God!" Rodney gasped, and continued to struggle until a particularly viscous swipe belted him across the kidneys. Rodney's knees folded under him and he sagged against the console.

"Please, please, please," Rodney begged hoarsely for the pain to stop. Only he couldn't see Halder's expression and didn't know every plea for mercy fueled Halder's sadistic pleasure.

After an eternity Halder stopped swinging the crop. He stuck the crop back under his arm and slowly tugged his leather gloves back on before saying, "I expect a better progress report tomorrow."

John didn't know if Rodney could hear Halder over his ragged sobs. Halder signaled the guards to let them go and one of his guards punched him in the gut and pushed him, while another stuck out his leg and tripped him. He landed hard on the ground gasping for air.

Rodney slid to the ground, legs too weak to hold himself up without any help. With another glare of disgust, Halder turned and exited the lab. His posse of guards laughed at Rodney as they passed him on the ground.

Once the lab doors closed John wasted no time pulling the gag out of his mouth. He let the cloth fall to hang around his neck and rushed to Rodney's side. John helped Rodney sit up and quickly wiped away the tears staining his cheeks. Rodney wrapped his arms around John's waist, his entire body trembling.

"Here, let me check your back," John said quietly, and pried himself loose from Rodney's grip. Rodney's back was a crisscross of bruises, welts, and torn skin. John's hands shook with rage as he counted five lines of blood welling out of Rodney's back.

It took John a moment to notice a pair of shapely legs standing next to him. "Garvis, get a medical box, fresh water, and some clean wash rags," she ordered. "Take them to the prisoner's cell and be quick about it."

Without pause she turned her attention to him, "Colonel, you need to get Dr. McKay on his feet. You're done in the lab for today."

John wanted to wave away the woman's offer, but with Rodney rapidly heading into shock, he needed all the help he can get for Rodney. In a flurry of "ow's" and "oh shit's", they got Rodney up and moving. He clung to John which made it difficult for John to keep Rodney standing without touching his back.

"Jado, you stay here and tell the next shift we had to take the prisoners back to their cell."

The woman issuing all the orders ended up with one of Rodney's arms around her shoulder while John took the other. The trip back to the cell took fucking forever but by the time they got there the nervous young guard, Garvis, had beat them to the room. He had the blankets pulled back and the medical box on the table open and if John wasn't mistaken medical supplies from Atlantis were stashed in there, mixed with the Genii bandages.

They laid Rodney face down on the mattress. He looked across at the female guard, who frowned, staring at Rodney's injuries before standing up. "I'll clean his back while you go through those supplies and see if you recognize anything from Atlantis that might help. Infection is a real possibility with these wounds, and the dust."

Still angry, he went to the medical box and riffled through it, pulling out anything that looked useful. He found packets of Tylenol, iodine swipes, and muscle relaxant cream. He set those aside and watched as she used the clean washcloth to gently wipe away the dirt and sweat and blood from Rodney's back. Garvis and some other unknown pimple-faced guard stood in the room looking sick; John could have overpowered them easily, except he couldn't escape with Rodney in this condition. John went back to the box and dug until he found a tube of antibiotic ointment. It was better than nothing, and he felt strangely amused that he'd be grateful to find something the Genii had stolen from them.

He took the supplies to Rodney, set them on the mattress, and went to the sink and washed his hands. She finished and moved out of the way.

John knelt next to Rodney's hip, to get the best access to the injured back. Heat radiated off Rodney's back, and John cursed as he ripped open the iodine packet. "Rodney, this is probably going to sting," John warned as he gently wiped the cuts with the iodine. Rodney clutched the pillow under his head and winced, but otherwise stayed silent.

After he covered all the cuts with the iodine he set the used pad on the ground and grabbed a tube of antibiotic cream. "I found some Neosporin in their med kit. You have some cuts here."

"Colonel, please, I don't need the running commentary. Just do what you need to do." Rodney hissed when John's finger spread the medicine over the cuts.

"Do you have any cups?" John asked the woman at his side. "I have something he can take to help with the pain, but I don't think he'll be able to get to the sink to take the pills."

She turned to the young guard. "Garvis."

"I'm on it, sir."

John had finished covering the cuts on Rodney's back when Garvis returned with a cup, filled it with water, and brought it to John without being asked. Smart boy.

John handed Rodney the two Tylenol pills and the cup, and Rodney swallowed the pills. He took the cup from Rodney's shaky hand and stood up. The woman in charge had already cleaned up the used wrappers, placed the antibiotic swipes, and the Neosporin on the table next to bandages and a few more packets of Tylenol.

She packed the rest of the med kit herself. "This wasn't supposed to happen. I'll try and find out what happened to Commander Kolya. I'll see to it that your dinner and breakfast are delivered. If you need medical supplies again my name is Kaska." She snapped the box close and with a brief nod she turned and left the room, the other two guards following her. The familiar turn of the lock gave him some reassurance that he'd have warning before the other shoe dropped.

"What are we going to do?" Rodney twisted his head to the side to look up at him. "I don't know if I'll be able to work tomorrow."

"Hey, try not to worry about it right now, rest." John sat on the mattress next to Rodney and stroked his arm, trying to give what little comfort he could. "We'll make up something if we have to." John didn't want to tell Rodney that this new commander was one scary son of a bitch and that he'd met men like him who got off on hurting other people.

Rodney turned his head again. "What aren't you telling me?"

"Nothing." John reached for the blanket to avoid having to look at Rodney and lie to his face. "We'll be fine. Now stop talking and rest." John pulled the blanket up to Rodney's waist and felt utterly useless.

Rodney gave him a look like he was dumber than a kindergartener. "It's kind of hard to relax, when, let's see, my back is on fire!"

He winced. "Is the Tylenol working?"

Rodney shook his head. "I need morphine."

"Sorry buddy, all they had was Tylenol, and that stuff for muscle pain. I knew the Genii took a lot of our medical supplies but I didn't think they'd know what to do with half of it."

"It's okay. I think I'm building a tolerance for pain. I have to thank the Pegasus Galaxy; I don't think my life would have been complete without experiencing torture by crazy psycho people."

John didn't say anything and eventually Rodney fell into a fitful sleep.

*****

Overnight the inflamed welts had settled into deep purple and black bruises. John quietly reapplied the antibiotic cream over the cuts and helped Rodney to his feet. Rodney swayed but used the table to catch his balance. "Oh this hurts," he gasped.

Kaska entered with their tray of food instead of their normal morning guard. She set it on the table and left without speaking. With a lot of coaxing and bribery John managed to convince Rodney to eat something.

Another set of guards came to escort them to the lab, always the same set of five for the morning shift. A few didn't do a great job of hiding their surprise at the condition of Rodney's back, but they didn't say anything as Rodney shuffled back to the lab.

Rodney sat on one of the chairs and directed John with the remaining repairs. It was slow going; Rodney couldn't see and John had to describe everything in careful detail because this could possibly blow up in their faces. Or at least ruin the work they'd already accomplished.

Lunch came and went as well as their next shift of guards, the same from yesterday. As the afternoon progressed John felt the knot of anxiety continue to grow. They restored power to the main console, but the power would flicker anytime they tried to access the information stored. Maybe he missed something? John was under the console this time when Commander Halder and his goons arrived.

"Colonel," Rodney kicked his leg. "We have company."

John let his hands drop from the crystal before he could remove it, and wiggled out of the confined space. He sat up and looked towards Rodney, still sitting where he'd left him, and even though he hated Kolya he wished it was him instead of Commander Halder standing in front of Rodney. For one, Kolya would not have a black riding crop pressed against Rodney's shoulder, or that smug expression of superiority on his face.

"I am here for my progress report." Halder said, softly tapping Rodney on the shoulder.

Rodney blanched and looked at John with barely concealed panic. "We made a lot of progress today," John lied with the same ease he flew the Puddle Jumper. "All the consoles are fully operational." At which point the one he was just under flickered off again.

"Well, mostly operational," he quickly amended. "There's a security protocol on this console that makes it shut off when you try to access the information. I'm this close to cracking it."

Commander Halder gave him a smile that never reached his eyes. "That's good news. Since you're 'this' close to cracking it I'll take Dr. McKay here back to his cell since obviously you're more than up for the task."

Two guards came forward and pulled Rodney up by the arms and started dragging him towards the doors. "Wait! We're working as a team. I can't do this without McKay."

Halder shook his head. "Maybe tomorrow. If you can't get it figured out, McKay can help you then."

One of the guards brought up his machine gun when John started forward. He had to back down and watch as they hustled Rodney out of the lab. Dammit.

The next two hours passed slowly as he fiddled with the controls. He had spoken the truth. Without McKay he had no clue how to fix this console. When it was time to go back to the cell, the guards had to hurry to keep up with him. Kaska unlocked the door and John rushed inside, barely noticing as the lock slid into place.

He saw the huddled shape on the mattress first. "Rodney," John breathed as he dropped to his knees on the mattress next to his unconscious friend. The neat pile of blankets and pillows from this morning lay scattered on the dirty floor, with boot prints and blood on some of them. John grabbed the blanket, shook it out, and quickly draped it over Rodney's shivering body. Parts of the blanket were damp and smelled like sex. The whole room reeked, and John flinched from the smell.

He rolled Rodney over onto his side, making sure to keep the blanket covering as much as possible, and started checking for injuries he could fix. Blood leaked out of Rodney's nose and dripped down the side of his bruised cheek. John used his thumb to wipe the trail away before it dripped onto the already blood-stained mattress. Finger shaped bruises stained Rodney's arms, shoulders, and wrists.

John's hands shook with anger as he continued his examination feeling sicker as lowered the blanket, a large red welt on the inside of Rodney's thigh radiated heat, he followed the line and discovered more welts covering his buttocks, he almost overlooked the large scratches bleeding slowly on Rodney's hips and outer thigh. Trails of bloodstained semen continued traveling down Rodney's skin onto the mattress, joining the smears of blood staining the sheets. Dried semen matted the hair on Rodney's thighs. When John pulled the blanket back up, Rodney's hand caught his eye, his knuckles had cuts most likely from punching an assailant.

For some reason those bloody knuckles hit him the hardest, and another wave of fury hit him. He gritted his teeth, clenched his free hand into a fist, and hit his thigh until his fist throbbed in time with the blood pounding through his head.

Only his advanced military training and years of experience kept him from completely losing his focus. He could not afford to lose control of his temper, he had a teammate down, and freaking out would not help Rodney. He set Rodney's damaged hand back down on the mattress, and got to work.

He pulled the pillowcase off the cleaner of the two pillows, wet half of it in the sink, and carried it dripping back to Rodney's side. It took five trips back to the sink before he felt satisfied that he got all of the mess off of Rodney. He wished the room had better ventilation, the smell made him nauseous, and it was in the bed, the sheets, and the mattress.

He used the same wet pillowcase to try and rub the white stains out of the blanket. He couldn't do anything about the mattress or the sheet under Rodney and he didn't want to take away all the covers.

Dinner arrived long after he finished cleaning as much as possible, Kaska agreed to leave the door open while he ate. Her nose wrinkled in distaste and she stayed out in the hallway.

He picked at his food, hardly able to stomach anything while Rodney lay unconscious, beaten, and raped. None of the heavy bruising lay near any vital organs so he could rule out any life threatening injuries. Kaska eventually had to leave, so she took the tray but left some food on the table in case Rodney woke up hungry. The odor lingered.

John paced the cell, unable to rest, unable to stop imagining what had happened to Rodney and how he failed to protect his best friend.

He was so focused on his own thoughts; he barely heard Rodney's dry whisper. "John."

"Rodney." In three steps, John dropped down on the mattress kneeling next to Rodney. He helped Rodney sit up.

"Are they gone?" Rodney asked hoarsely, his eyes blinked owlishly in the dimly lit room. He touched his nose. His eyes focused on his knuckles and the darkening ring of bruises around his wrist. His hand began to shake and he lowered it to his lap and clenched the blanket tightly.

"Yes, for now," John confirmed. "Let me get you some water. You've been unconscious for hours."

Rodney nodded and John quickly got water and grabbed some food. In the meantime Rodney moved until he could sit leaning against the wall the mattress was pressed against. He held the blanket against his chest and cried silent tears into his arm as his shoulders shook.

John stood holding the crappy plastic cup in one hand and a good sized chunk of bread with cheese in the other. "I got you food," he said, never feeling so inadequate in his life.

With no plate, he set the food back down on the table and brought the water to Rodney. He knelt next to Rodney and gently touched his bare shoulder. John should have been prepared for the fist that knocked his hand away. But he'd never seen Rodney move quite that fast before.

John backed away immediately, "I'm sorry." He said firmly while Rodney just stared at him exhausted and wildly afraid. John backed up further when Rodney slowly climbed to his feet and shuffled over to the sink and threw up, his hands gripping the edges for balance. John stood up and staying as far away as possible took the cup back to the table. It was impossible to ignore the sobbing between each bout of retching. It hurt too much to watch Rodney's grief so he turned away and placed his forehead against the cold cement wall and cursed the Genii for doing this.

He listened to the sink running for a long time before it finally turned off. Unable to avoid his responsibility he peeled himself away from the wall and turned around. Leaning against the sink, Rodney swayed a little, which prompted John to rush to his side, but he stopped shy of actually touching him. "Rodney..." he began and then stopped unsure of what to say.

"I think I need help." Rodney said listlessly, just before he began to fall, John caught him around the middle and they stumbled back to the bed together.

He helped Rodney down onto the mattress. His skin felt like ice so he quickly pulled the blanket out from under Rodney and wrapped it around him, but not too tightly. Rodney continued to shiver and shake under the blanket. "C..co..cold." Rodney stuttered.

"It's probably shock." John said tightly as he knelt next to Rodney. "It's colder at night too, which doesn't help. I'm going to have to lie down next to you, is that okay?"

Rodney nodded his head, "Just don't surprise me again."

Rodney scooted back on the bed and John lifted the covers and crawled in next to him. He didn't move closer to Rodney, he turned his back and let Rodney creep closer at his own pace. He almost flinched when ice cold fingers wrapped around his waist and Rodney's forehead pressed against the back of his neck.

"You cleaned me didn't you?" Rodney breathed against his back, his voice low and hoarse. His breath hitched and Rodney shuddered against him. John patted the hand on his stomach, careful with the torn knuckles.

John nodded his head, until he realized Rodney probably wanted a verbal answer. "I wouldn't let anyone else touch you."

"Thanks." Rodney said.

They didn't speak for a long time but John could tell Rodney wasn't sleeping from the constant shifting. "Go to sleep. I'm keeping watch." John said. It must have worked because within minutes Rodney fell asleep. John stayed awake the rest of the night waiting for the sound of footsteps.

*****

John was out of bed by the time their morning guards arrived with breakfast. He wanted to let Rodney sleep longer but he didn't want Rodney to miss breakfast. He woke Rodney and watched warily as Rodney's grief and pain from the night morphed into simmering anger.

The signs were obvious only to those who worked with Rodney often: his lips were pressed into a hard line, his hands didn't move as much, and his insults were snapped off viciously. John let the insults roll off his back and made sure Rodney got the best pieces of fruit and cheese. Eventually, Rodney ran out of steam and accepted the food with a mumbled thank you.

Rodney ate with his shoulders tensed, his eyes wary and bruised. He refused to meet John's eye and John let it go. By the time their escort arrived, Rodney had withdrawn into himself.

In the lab, John poked at the console listlessly; it didn't matter what he found. Commander Halder would use the 'progress reports' as an excuse to torture them. Rodney spent more time standing today, and his eyes remained distant. When John asked questions sometimes he had to repeat himself before Rodney would answer.

Conscious of the guards standing in the lab, John did his best to pretend to work. Lunch came and went and John forced Rodney to eat. When Commander Halder arrived, John stood in front of Rodney trying to protect him. It didn't matter - a rifle butt to the head and he woke up hours later when the guards dumped him into the cell onto the mattress next to Rodney, he passed out again after the lock clicked into place. Next time he woke he was alone on the bed.

He stared at the ceiling and tried not to move; the pain felt too big for his head to contain. Rodney knelt next to him, his jaw had new bruises forming but he handed him water and a Tylenol, and helped him sit up. Rodney must have cleaned up while he was unconscious, his chest was still wet and water dripped down Rodney's neck.

"I've been doing some thinking." Rodney said, "This Commander Halder is going to kill one of us if we don't do something to escape. Waiting for Atlantis to send rescue isn't going to cut it anymore. There's something about the lab I've been keeping to myself. I think I can get it fully operational but I'll need time." He paused and clenched his hands into fists, "John, I think Commander Halder is going to bring you back here tomorrow. He said some stuff this afternoon..."

Rodney stood up and went to the table leaving the rest unsaid. John touched his forehead and his fingers came away with blood.

"Hey, stay with me." John felt a jolt of surprise; he didn't remember seeing Rodney move from the table back to his side.

"You need to eat."

John let Rodney help him and prayed that Atlantis found them soon, he tried not to think of tomorrow. He couldn't believe it would happen to him. That night when Rodney pulled the covers up and wrapped his arm over his chest for warmth, John didn't pull away from the desperate comfort Rodney sought and offered in return.

 

*****

When they reached the lab the next morning Rodney went to work right away, moving slowly but steadily with a purpose. The Tylenol and the sleep helped Rodney somewhat. Rodney refused to tell him more in case the Genii had bugged their cell. The numbness of the previous two days had worn off and John was glad to see hints of his Rodney, down to the snapping fingers when he wanted something quickly.

When Commander Halder arrived that afternoon, Rodney froze, lowered his head, and hunched his shoulders. Only this time, Commander Halder ignored him and instead came to John. This time, he didn't even bother asking for a progress report. John didn't fight in the lab, not wanting to distract Rodney or cause any of the men to fire machine guns that might ricochet off the walls and hit the consoles.

In the cell, he drove his elbow up into the guard on the left side of his face, and the man let go and staggered back clutching his nose in agony. Five of the guards rushed in, and with the butts of their machine guns, beat him until he fell to the ground. They dragged him over to the bed and pinned him down. When Halder started opening his pants, John knew without a doubt what was coming and struggled harder.

*****

Later that evening, John woke up with Rodney on he knees next to him, using water from the cup and the corner of the blanket to carefully wash away the blood smeared on his face. He flinched and grabbed Rodney's wrist. Rodney paused until John had time to realize he was safe. John slowly released Rodney, and tried to control his anger and fear. It didn't help that the awful taste in his mouth wouldn't go away. Or every movement reminded him of what had happened.

"I guess it would have been too much to ask for you to not fight?" Rodney tenderly continued cleaning his face, staying away from his swollen nose. "I need you to be ready in three days. Don't fight and make them hurt you. Right now you couldn't run ten yards if piranhas were after you."

John almost smiled. "Wrong animal." He ran his tongue over his teeth, all accounted for. "Piranhas swim."

Rodney rolled his eyes and dipped the cloth back into the cup. "Cute, I try to give advice that can save your life and you make fun of me." The usual bite in Rodney's voice was gone, replaced by weary concern and a haggard face.

John ached all over, and burned in places he didn't want to think about, and he never wanted a scalding hot shower more. Rodney brought him food and water and helped him sit up. His back now had welts to match Rodney's, though not as many and not nearly as deep. He doubted he could do much in terms of fighting if Commander Halder returned tomorrow. His stomach twisted at the thought of Halder forcing him again. He had to get out of here, they both needed to escape. He looked down at his hands and the bruises ringing his wrists.

"His other men didn't touch you, did they?" Rodney sat back on his heels, "I mean..." Rodney's voice hitched and John realized that Rodney was about two seconds away from a panic attack.

"Rodney." John said before the meaning of what he heard hit him. He clamped down on the rush of fury and fear, pushing his emotions away viciously. "You can't panic. I'm counting on you to get us out of here." Desperation and fear bled through his pep talk, but it worked. Rodney calmed down, his hands wouldn't stop moving, but he wasn't freaking out.

"I'll get us out of here." Rodney said with conviction. They both knew the stakes if he failed.

 

*****

The next day John didn't fight. Nor did he fight the day after that, even when it was as bad as he predicted.

*****

The day after, John stood in the lab with Rodney. Not fighting left him fewer souvenirs, but the guards hurt him in deeper places.

"Have you seen or read about Goa'uld rings?" Rodney asked quietly, while they stood at the main console. It was furthest away from all the guards in the room.

John remembered a report about transport rings that the Goa'uld used to travel from ship to ship or from ship to planet. "Yeah."

"This lab has a ring, and the console shows where the other ring is located." Rodney didn't activate the map on the screen. "It's in a good location and it responded to my remote test." Rodney twisted his lips into a bitter smile.

"But there's a catch?" John put his hand over his eyes. "There is, isn't there?"

Rodney nodded. "It's small." He didn't look John in the eyes.

Translation, could only fit one person at a time. Shit. Rodney used the motion of rubbing his nose to point at the coffin-sized alcove in the wall. John wanted to hurl something at the wall. He wanted both of them out of here.

John rubbed his eyes. They had maybe two or three hours before Commander Halder and his goons would visit. "Are there any other options?" He didn't like this plan at all.

"I'm staying." Before John could formulate a rebuttal, Rodney continued. "You're stronger, faster, and combat trained." Rodney didn't look up from the console. "Besides, who else is going to stay behind and scramble the signal so they can't just follow you?"

"You can show me how to do that." John countered.

Rodney tilted his chin in his stubborn, I'm not changing my mind, no matter what, angle. "They will kill you if I escape. They won't kill me because my mind is valuable to them." The utter certainty in Rodney's voice is what convinced him.

"Okay," John said grudgingly, hating the plan fiercely. "Are you sure this is the only way?"

Rodney looked up at him with deep dark circles under his weary eyes, "I can't think of anything else. This lab is older than the ones at Atlantis which is why they have the trans...um, rings, instead of our version of an elevator."

"So you figured out the purpose of this lab?" John leaned closer to look at the display screen, Rodney shifted to give him more room. Not that it did any good. He couldn't read the Ancient text displayed across the top. And there was nothing in the room besides the consoles and the one transport ring. No tables, no holographic image display crystals, and no other gadgets.

"Yeah but you won't like the answer and neither will the Genii. They probably won't believe me when I tell them either. And except for the ring, there's nothing else here."

"So is it ready?" The guards weren't close enough to listen but John's heart pounded against his ribcage gearing his body for possible flight and fighting. He didn't feel good, but adrenaline would take care of the rest.

Rodney nodded his head. "Are you ready?" He gave a pointed look at a welt that wrapped around his hip. John covered the welt with his hand carefully.

"It's fine. I barely feel it anymore," he lied badly.

Rodney sniffed and reached over to the box of crystals that were semi-useful. "Go over there with this box, take a few of the crystals out and fix the alcove, and make sure you keep your hands and feet as close to your body as possible, or this is going to be a very short trip for you."

Rodney didn't wait for John to protest, he just shoved the box into his hands and went back to pressing buttons on the console. None of the guards paid them any attention, as Rodney and John had already explored this part of the lab, and they thought nothing of it when John set the box down, removed the crystals, and stepped into the alcove.

John turned to face outside the room, his stomach trembling waiting for one of the guards to realize they were about to make an escape attempt, and yell for help or start shooting. Rodney didn't look worried when he gave him a tiny smile and pressed a button on the console. Everything went white, and the next thing he knew he was knee deep in snow and fifty feet away from the Stargate, which was half hidden by tall pine trees. The cold hit him like a slap in the face, but he didn't wait, and as soon as the metal rings had fallen back into the ground, he ran. His back felt like there was a giant target painted on saying 'Shoot Here.' He felt even more naked without any weapons than without the clothes. He fell more than once, tripping over half-buried tree trunks and branches, the snow scraping his hands bloody, and by the time he reached the gate dial, he had lost all feeling in his feet. He quickly slapped in the Alpha site address and waited, nerves strung tight and his chest burning from the cold. He stumbled up to the event horizon and fell through, barely holding onto consciousness.

On the other side it was green and so much warmer than the Genii home world. "Sir!" Someone grabbed his arm and pulled him the rest of the way through the gate. He heard the click of a radio. "Major Lorne, this is Lieutenant Halloway. Colonel Sheppard just came through the Stargate. I have the gate covered, and he is alone and requires medical attention ASAP."

Someone covered him with a blanket, but he didn't see who. He lost consciousness once he saw Marine uniforms.

 

*****

The next time he woke he was in the infirmary in Atlantis. He recognized the ceiling. Elizabeth sat in a chair next to the bed reading on her laptop, a pen flicking against the touch pad in that way she did when she was nervous.

"Elizabeth," he said, surprised at how weak his voice came out. She glanced at him, and her face lit up.

She set aside the laptop, slapped her headset. "Carson, he's awake!"

She grabbed a cup of water sitting on the stand next to his bed, and gave it to him. His hands trembled but steadied under her watchful gaze, and he drank until the cup was empty.

She took the cup from his hand and set it down and helped him fluff his pillows so he could sit up more. He glanced down and was relieved to see even hospital clothing. His feet hurt like a sonofabitch, but that's a good sign right?

Carson entered the room out of breath. "So how's my patient?"

"We have to get to the Genii home world and rescue Rodney," John said firmly. "I need to save him."

"The Genii home world?" Elizabeth's mouth pressed together in displeasure. "John, we've visited the Genii. It's not snowing anywhere near their gate."

John couldn't say anything as it hit him. Kolya had lied. He clenched his fist and hit his thigh. "God dammit! I left him! He thinks we're going to come rescue him." On the heart monitor the beeping noise spiked.

"John, calm down." Carson patted him on the shoulder, before he reached over for a syringe. "I'm going to give you something to help you sleep. You've been through an ordeal."

Before John could voice his objection Carson had injected the drug into his IV.

*****

Two days later, John was back on his feet so to speak, though he was still using the wheelchair to get around Atlantis. He really had almost lost his feet and Carson said they needed more time to recover, but there was no way John was staying in the infirmary while he could be overseeing the search and rescue operation for Rodney.

They started searching for planets that were hip deep in snow near the gate; it narrowed the options down but none of the winter planets they'd found were the one he recognized.

John rolled the chair out to the balcony overlooking the Gate room. Carson didn't want him anywhere near the control tower but Elizabeth overruled him, he could love her for that alone. There was no way he'd get any rest until they found Rodney. He tried not to think of what Commander Halder might be doing to Rodney in retaliation, he could only pray it wouldn't break Rodney.

Three days later, and at his wit end, they had an off-world gate activation. Rodney's IDC signal came through. "Lower the shield," he ordered, grabbing his crutches and going out to the balcony just in time to see Kolya and Rodney come through the gate. Kolya had his arm around Rodney's waist, supporting him. Rodney was naked as the day he was born and freezing. "Get medical down here!" he yelled, and made his way down the stairs. Elizabeth rushed in from the side entrance.

"Rodney!" She stopped when she saw Kolya.

"I'm unarmed!" He shouted and carefully let Rodney slide to the ground before he raised his hands over his head. The marines quickly secured the prisoner. Medical arrived and put Rodney on the gurney, and wheeled him out of the room like the practiced professionals they were. Torn between following Rodney to the infirmary, or interrogating Kolya, John stuck with duty and ordered his men to take Kolya up to the conference room. He entered last.

Elizabeth and Major Lorne stayed standing. Kolya sat on a conference chair with his hands cuffed behind his back, but even in that benign position, a strong sense of revulsion and shame hit John when saw the brown uniform. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He'd told Carson after they had rescued Rodney he'd talk to Heightmeyer but he didn't think it would really help.

"What happened after I escaped?" John was surprised at how calm his voice came out.

Kolya stared at him, studying him, and John forced himself to meet that gaze. He would not let what happened to him turn him into a coward, he would get answers. Kolya nodded, "I was not there during your escape, however I did see the surveillance videos of the lab and your cell. The guards pulled Dr. McKay away from the console and questioned him with force. McKay programmed a sub-routine into the console that prevented my men from following after you. After they ascertained what had happened, they took him back to the cell."

"That does not explain the extent of Dr. McKay's injuries." Elizabeth said pointedly.

After a long pause Kolya said, "Commander Halder was not happy that he lost you on his shift. I was performing duties for my people off world. Not all the guards participated in the torture or gang rape. The ones who have been guarding you two from the beginning led a mutiny against Commander Halder, and with Wraith stunners rescued McKay from the cell and hid him until I returned two days later."

Elizabeth's face lost color and John refused to look at Major Lorne. "I watched the tapes of everything. Commander Halder did not follow my orders, took matters into his own hands, damaged the most valuable prisoners we had, and proved to be a liability. He's been stripped of rank."

"So you brought Dr. McKay back out of your own good will?" Major Lorne asked sarcastically.

"McKay was dying and he promised if I returned him home he'd tell me the purpose of the lab. Our medical facilities are nowhere near as advanced as Atlantis. My honor demanded that I come myself instead of one of my men."

This didn't quite explain why Rodney didn't have clothes or why Kolya looked out of breath when he came through the gate. John couldn't shake the feeling that Kolya had lied about something.

"So what planet were we held on?" John asked. "It obviously wasn't the Genii home world."

"You'll have to torture me for that information." Kolya said.

Elizabeth shook her head, "I don't think it's that important. Major, please see to it that Commander Kolya is escorted to one of our cells." She turned and left the room walking quickly.

John grabbed Lorne's arm, "No harm is to come to him," he ordered.

Lorne nodded, tapped his headset and ordered four of his men up to the conference room. John let Lorne handle the arrangements as he made his way to the nearest transporter.

*****

Rodney was in surgery for nine hours; it was touch and go there for a while, as the beating had caused some internal bleeding. Ronon and Teyla returned from a planet they were scouting and joined them as soon as the other doctors finished their post-mission screening.

They all sat in the waiting room. Elizabeth squeezed his hand every time she had to leave to take care of business elsewhere in the city.

Carson came out of surgery and told them to go back to their quarters. Rodney would survive.

Relief hit him hard and his eyes burned even as he smiled when Ronon picked Teyla up and swung her around. Elizabeth heard the news through the headset and she also told them to go get sleep. He was never the best at obeying orders and stretched out on the chairs. He must have fallen asleep though, because the next thing he knew Carson was telling him that the waiting room wasn't the Holiday Inn. Then he offered him coffee and a peek at Rodney.

John stood at the foot of Rodney's bed and stared. Rodney's body was covered by the blanket and he had tubes going everywhere, his face marked with a few new bruises. John lost track of time staring at Rodney, until a nurse arrived to check Rodney's vital stats. She smiled nervously after she filled out her chart. "Colonel, visiting hours are over..." He turned and left.

Two days later, Rodney was awake and not happy about it. He complained about everything, the food, the water, Carson's stupid hair, the bed, the ugly nurses, but when John came by to visit Rodney fell silent and listened while John talked about his day. He didn't mention their time in captivity or that he already had an appointment with Heightmeyer in three days, or that he'd never been so scared in his life when he couldn't find the planet.

Rodney knew about Kolya's lie even before he helped John escape, John still had trouble wrapping his head around it.

One step away from strangling the other man for not telling him, Rodney replied simply, "I knew you wouldn't leave me there if you knew the truth. You are thickheaded when it comes to these sorts of situations. So of course I lied. Besides, they wouldn't have killed me. My brain is more valuable than yours." Unable to say anything else John turned and walked away.

The next day he visited again and in the middle of telling Rodney about filling out stupid reports for cleaning equipment, Rodney grabbed his hand. "John, I want to talk to Kolya."

"What?" John sat on the edge of the bed. "He's the one responsible for this mess."

Rodney nodded. "He saved my life even though he didn't have to."

"What really happened?"

"Well they weren't happy." Rodney chuckled, "Not that I can blame them. You should have seen their expressions when you disappeared like that. They shook me a bit and I told them they couldn't follow after you, so they took me back to the cell. Commander Halder..." Rodney faltered and he gripped the sheet with his hand until his knuckled whitened.

John's throat dried up and he froze, remembering in his own experience. Rodney, seeing his reaction and no doubt remembering the same things, gave John an indecipherable look. John lowered his eyes first. Neither of them was ready to talk about the rapes just yet.

Licking his dry lips, Rodney slowly let go of the sheet. "Kaska saved my life. She organized the guards on her side and rescued me; the next few days are fuzzy. Kolya returned three days after your escape, I think it's safe to say he wasn't happy. You were gone. I was one step away from dead, and he'd seen the surveillance tapes. I guess it was rather obvious that Halder was only interested in the torturing, not the interrogation aspect of the job." Sweat beaded on Rodney's upper lip and he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Halder wasn't reprimanded and had replaced Kolya as head of the project. No one cared what Halder did to us. 'A necessary aspect of war' I heard more than once."

"That's bullshit! There is no excuse.."

Rodney gave him his 'No shit, Sherlock,' look.

John glared at Rodney, "I still have a hard time believing he helped you escape out of the goodness of his heart."

"Oh, he didn't. Originally, he planned to shoot me in the head." Rodney grabbed his cup of juice and drank. He stared at the empty cup on his lap for a moment before he tilted his head and stared at him. Half defiant, half confused, half daring John to ask for the rest of the story.

With Rodney sitting in front of him in mostly one piece, it was easy enough to restrain the urge to send a nuke to the Genii homeworld, "Well, why didn't he?" John ignored how his voice broke.

"I convinced him that if he helped me escape I'd give him detailed information about the lab."

Smart move, John thought.

"I didn't really think it would work, but it did." Rodney's voice wavered and his fingers trembled. He didn't have to say it, John knew how close Rodney had come to not coming back home at all.

John took the crumpled cup from Rodney, let it fall to the floor, and grasped his hand. "You did good, Rodney. What you did took a lot of courage and nerve." John just hoped his words helped.

"Thanks."

"Now about Kolya, Elizabeth wants him gone from Atlantis, but she doesn't want to give the order to kill another human," John said.

"She's a good woman." Rodney tilted his head back against his pillow and closed his eyes. "I'm tired." He sounded exhausted.

John got off the bed, but was stopped by the sound of Rodney's voice. "John, I still want to speak to Kolya before he leaves. Please let Elizabeth know."

"I will."

*****

The next day Elizabeth gave the order to escort Kolya to the gate room and out of Atlantis. She approved Rodney's request to see Kolya. John joined the marines in escorting Kolya out of the cell and through the halls of Atlantis.

Rodney was awake and alert when Kolya entered the infirmary. His bed was adjusted so he could sit up more comfortably. "You wanted to see me?" Kolya asked, as he stood at the foot of the bed acting like he didn't care that two guards were holding guns on him.

John kept watch on Kolya too, feeling more self-assured, now that he was regaining more of his strength every day. He could already walk around without the crutches, and his back was probably not going to carry any scars, though he still had to be careful about bumping against anything hard.

"Yes, I wanted to tell you about the lab."

Kolya stood up straighter and his eyes focused sharply on Rodney.

"It's a music lab. Each console has a display screen with every instrument created programmed in, and it's for kids to learn music composition. The head console was the teacher's desk that monitored their progress. I think at one point there were headphones of some sort, and I know there are speakers of sorts in the walls. The ring was there because I think the lab was designed for the most musically gifted children on that planet and they needed an easy way to reach it from everywhere. The only useful thing in that lab is the ring device, which connects to thirty locations on the planet. I remote tested each and only two are down. I wrote instructions on how to use them here." Rodney handed the notepad to John. Without looking at the notepad, John passed it to Kolya.

"Music?'" Kolya said flatly, looking up from the notepad.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Complex music can be translated into mathematical equations. I didn't exactly have time to fully research everything and you'll need someone with the gene to operate the consoles to their full extent. However the rings, once activated, should stay activated."

Kolya nodded. "Is that everything?"

"Yes, you can go now."

The two guards escorted Kolya from the room.

John stayed with Rodney. "Music? Huh. Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

"At the time it seemed like a good idea. If you didn't know anything they couldn't torture you for the information. It's good that I didn't mention anything, the bugs were audio and visual." Rodney avoided his eyes, but not before John saw a flicker of guilt.

"You saw the tapes?" John couldn't believe how dry his throat became.

A brief nod and a guilty glance in his direction answered John's question. "Not everything." Rodney tried to re-assure him. "I didn't even know what I was seeing at first because there were too many guards in the room and I was hurting at that point. I think it was there to keep the other guards on edge while waiting..."

"Rodney..." John's throat closed as his mind flashed back to the cell and guard's hands holding him down, the mattress pressed against one cheek, the taunts, the rage and helplessness when Commander Halder touched him.

He'd done his best for the last week to push all his memories aside, focusing only on rescuing Rodney, but it didn't stop there because Rodney almost died, Kolya had to be taken care of and now when he could finally give himself time to process what had happened, the emotions were too strong. John couldn't afford to break down, the Wraith, Caldwell, and the Genii, despite Kolya helping them this once, did not mean they were no longer a threat, he couldn't afford to let what had happened affect him or his job. Unlike Rodney, he was expendable. Caldwell would be more than happy to replace him as the military leader of Atlantis. Sheer force of will kept him rooted in place instead of hitting Rodney, the wall, himself.

Rodney sat there silently while he regained control, "John..." he grabbed John's hand. "Will you sit down?"

John sat on the edge of the bed facing away from Rodney, trying to calm down. Rodney gently petted his back, and with each downward stroke John found he could breathe more easily. "I'm sorry." He said, but he wasn't sure for what.

"I understand." And the real shitty part was Rodney really did understand this time. "If I had the energy I'd probably have a nervous breakdown too."

"I'm not having a nervous breakdown." He did not have nervous breakdowns, not matter what happened.

"If you say so," Rodney agreed too quickly.

John twisted around to face him. "You aren't going to have a nervous breakdown either, both of us are going to get better, and get out there and fight the good fight."

"John..."

It sounded like Rodney was going to disagree with him so he played his trump card, "I can't deal with this without you," John said vehemently. "You didn't give up on the planet and I won't let you give up now." His expression fiercely determined, he pushed on, grappling for something to say. "I- I won't let you go back to Earth-"

Rodney held up his hand, "Stop. You had me at 'I can't deal with this without you.' Besides, I'm much too important to Atlantis and probably our best shot of winning this war against the Wraith. I won't leave." Rodney didn't add he was too proud to let the Genii scare him away.

Tension temporarily defused, John snorted, "I didn't think you watched sappy romances?"

"Stop trying to change the subject." Rodney said but was quick to add, "I only saw it once, on a date."

"You don't have to explain yourself to me." John tried to give Rodney his best 'I'm innocent' look. Only everything was off today and Rodney saw right through his attempt to deflect.

"John, I don't know how long..." Worry creased Rodney's brow.

"Take it easy. I'm willing to wait until we're both ready. Besides I don't think Elizabeth is going to let us go off-world without Heightmeyer's approval."

Rodney relaxed back into his pillows. "Yeah, you're right."

John reached for his crutches, "You look tired and Carson is going to give me hell if I don't let you rest."

Rodney grabbed his wrist, "Wait, there's something else I need to say."

John let his hand fall back.

"I just wanted to let you know that I'm sorry I didn't tell you about Kolya's lie, Elizabeth told me about how awful you felt when you realized. I feel kind of bad about that, but I'm not sorry that I stayed behind in order to let you escape. I don't regret that decision, not now and not when Halder and his goons fell upon me. So don't beat yourself up on my account."

John wanted to tell Rodney the truth, that'd he always feel responsible for what happened because it was his job to keep his team safe, not let them get captured, raped, or tortured.

"Apology accepted," Pasting on a smile, he lied, "I won't beat myself up."

Rodney frowned looking like he didn't quite believe him.

This time when John reached for the crutches Rodney didn't stop him.

-The End -