Rating: R (for violence)
Word Count: 5,000
Summary:"You will do what is asked of you."
Rodney looked up at the woman who had become the center of his own personal hell, his blood soaked hands shaking. "As long as he lives."
Author Notes: Curia_regis asked for: "Plot-centric McShep fic. Cameos from any of the SG-1 crew would be a bonus, especially if you can work Jack in there somewhere. Or just plot-centric gen fic. I love dystopias and mindfuck fics. But if it's McShep, I'd like a happy ending."
I hope you like what I've put together for you.
"You will do what is asked of you."
McKay lifted his head, tearing his gaze from John Sheppard's face. "He will stay in the healing machine as long as I do?"
"That has been our arrangement all along, Dr. McKay."
"No one will touch him?"
"Your Colonel will be safe and in healing stasis as long as you do what is asked of you."
Rodney nodded. "As long as he lives."
The first day they had both fought and lost. His body ached with the remembered pain - broken bones, ruptured organs, and the knowledge that he was dying and that John was dying right beside him. Rodney had never known such agony and had never expected such peace at the end. The pain had drifted away in those last few moments as John's fingers had curled around his wrist for what he thought would be the last time. It fit, he'd thought. It fit that he would die with John because he couldn't imagine living without him.
Then they woke - whole, new, and very much alive. He'd turned and found John lying on the floor beside him. Rodney had never seen anything more beautiful in his life. It must have shown on his face-his relief, the love he'd never spoken aloud-because John's eyes had widened in shock and then settled into what looked like relief.
The second day, they had been left in peace. Rodney hated them for that perfect day. That beautiful day where John had sat beside him on the floor of their small, vividly white cell and held his hand. They had said little that was important, and had old arguments about Star Wars to pass the time. If he let himself think about it too hard, he could still feel John's hand in his because the knowledge of it was burned into his soul. He would remember that feeling always. That memory would be his forever, even in death, McKay was sure of it.
The third day, they had chained McKay to the wall in their cell and beat John to death in front of him. Then they had dragged them both down the hall and Rodney had watched John's body put into a machine that brought him back to life. He'd never forget the relief that had enveloped him as eyelids fluttered open and bright green eyes met his. Fury and hatred nested in his gut as they were taken back to their cell and left alone.
The fourth day, they used John's own gun to kill him. Five rounds in the chest. Then, as John lay dead on the floor of the cell-his life's blood pouring through Rodney's hands as he tried to needlessly stop the bleeding-their captors made a deal with McKay that he could not refuse.
"You will do what is asked of you."
Rodney looked up at the woman who had become the center of his own personal hell, his blood soaked hands shaking. "As long as he lives."
"What are you building, McKay?"
Rodney tore the lone piece of bread they'd been given and handed John a portion of it. "It's a device. Looks like Janis' work."
John closed his eyes. "Don't do it."
"We've been here ten days, John."
"So?" John demanded.
Rodney swallowed hard and wondered what was going on in John's mind that he didn't understand what that meant. "So, they've murdered you in front of me nine times. In the morning, they'll come in here and they will shoot you, or hang you, or beat you to death. Then, if I work, if I do what they say - they'll put you in the healing machine and you will be here in the cell, alive and whole when I'm finished for the day."
John reached out and took his hand. "They will come for us."
On the twenty-sixth day, Rodney stopped expecting to be rescued.
"You will do what is asked of you?"
Rodney pulled his gaze away from the blood pouring out of John's throat onto the too-white floor beneath him and stared at her with dull eyes. "As long as he lives."
McKay wondered briefly if the healing machine was anything like a Go'auld sarcophagus and if so was it slowly driving John crazy? He couldn't make himself feel very concerned about that prospect; at this point an insane John was better than a dead one.
In the five years that he'd known John Sheppard, McKay had come to know sacrifice and death in ways he'd never expected to. John wasn't a man to sit idle when he could be out doing something equal parts brave and stupid. So, a part of Rodney had always thought that Sheppard would die sooner rather than later. He just never expected to have a front row seat in the show of death that had no end in sight.
The lab he worked in was small, but well equipped. Rodney had bided his time; working on the device they thought wanted. The people that held them weren't as advanced as the barely functional Ancient outpost they called their home but they weren't stupid either. They understood enough about the plans they'd given McKay to know if he wasn't doing what was asked of him.
The healing machine was Ancient and after watching it in action so long-Rodney understood that he worked for him and for John because of their Ancient genes. Their gracious hosts might have understood how it worked but the machine didn't work for them. Probably hadn't worked for them in generations. Most of the equipment in the outpost hadn't been used or turned on in over two hundred years. It had been at least that long since they'd had a gene carrier among their population. Their understanding of the Ancient's written language wasn't perfect either and that had been abundantly clear from the start.
They wanted weapons to fight their enemies but like most people in the Pegasus galaxy, they simply didn't understand how insidious their Ancestors were. Rodney understood-he'd had years to figure it out. The Wraith, stored energy creatures, the Replicators, nanite viruses, exploding tumors, overloaded Stargates called an 'unforseen side effect'... he knew the true fucked-upness of the Ancients on a level rare in the Pegasus galaxy. So, he alone understood what he was truly building and he only hoped that they didn't figure it out before he was done.
On day forty-two, they killed them both and as Rodney choked on his own blood, he wrapped his fingers around John's wrist and he hoped like hell he wouldn't wake up again.
"You will do what is asked of you?"
Rodney ground his teeth together, the echo of John's screams still vibrating inside of him. "As long as he lives."
"Christ, no," John whispered hoarsely. "Let me go, Rodney. Please let me go." John's fingers scraped weakly against the floor as he fought for breath. "If you love me, make it stop."
"It's been fifty-two days, John."
Rodney said nothing else as John was rolled onto a stretcher and carried from their cell. He let his gaze drop to the smear of vivid red blood that marred the perfect bright white floor where John had fallen.
"Come, Dr. McKay, your work awaits you."
Rodney got to his feet. "What would you do for love?"
The woman paused, obviously stunned by the question. Her expression turned thoughtful and then her eyes hardened. "What would you do for love, Dr. McKay?"
He met her gaze for the first time in weeks, his eyes clear and just as hard as hers. "There is nothing I wouldn't do for love."
On day fifty-six, he finished the device. A device that had been designed to kill the Wraith but never finished. McKay knew why, of course. He knew why even crazy ass Janis hadn't finished building it. A device that could be calibrated to seek out Wraith DNA and eradicate it could be recalibrated to seek out all types of life and kill it. It was worse than exploding tumors or nanites. It was worse than nuclear weapons. It was worse than blowing up five-sixths of a solar system. It was worse than anything Rodney knew but he'd stopped caring about any of that around day five.
The Malorians thought the device would work like a gun. They thought would be able to point it at their enemies and kill them. Rodney hadn't bothered to explain how wrong they were. Which in hindsight, was a personal milestone for him. There was a small twitch of worry just before he turned it on. If he'd gotten it wrong, it was going to be a pretty fucked up day for him; but considering the last fifty-six days of his life maybe that was okay.
The device hummed happily, and Rodney felt a surge of pride that he'd actually accomplished it. Then the two men guarding his door started to scream and pride gave way to a soul-deep satisfaction as they both fell to the floor and blood poured from their eyes and mouths. No alarms sounded, no one came running and after an hour - he turned it off, pulled the control crystal from it, and put it in his pocket along with the data crystals he'd already gathered from the various systems around the room.
He stopped to take the handgun from one of the guards and then grabbed a second one off the other guard. It was similar to Ronon's gun and maybe John would like it. Everyone knew that Sheppard had a serious hard-on for that gun. He ignored the puddled bodies in the hallway and headed for the stairs.
On the second level, he found the medical room and John was still in the healing device that he was absolutely not going to call a sarcophagus. It was no wonder. He'd been beaten again that morning. Rodney touched the tempered glass shielding that separated them and then took a deep breath. He couldn't risk them staying, but there was no way they could wait until John was completely healed to leave. The range of the device had only been a few hundred feet. This meant that the people in the town were still very much alive.
He checked the screens and found that nearly all the organ repairs were done and seventy percent of the bones mended. With that many broken bones, he couldn't risk pulling John out of it early. His memories of arriving on the planet were sketchy, but he did know that the Stargate was actually in the outpost. A rare arrangement but as it was clearly one of Janis' secret labs-perhaps not such a surprise.
McKay lowered his head and rubbed his beard with his free hand. It had stopped itching after the few two weeks. It had been years since he'd had facial hair for any length of time and he knew why. He hated it. His fingers flexed around the gun in his hand and he looked at the healing chamber. John's eyes were open.
Rodney reached out and put his hand on the glass and John mimicked the action. Then the glass slid free. "It's too soon."
"Nah, I'm good." John rolled his head and started to stretch. "I've been making it go slow for the past few weeks. I sped things up when I saw you sitting there." He slid out of it and stumbled briefly. "You're free? Do I even want to know how?"
"I finished the device."
"What does it do?"
"Destroys life by disrupting it on a cellular level. I configured it to kill everyone within the facility that didn't have the Ancient gene."
John's mouth dropped open. "Rodney."
"I couldn't let you go, John." Rodney cleared his throat. "But, I made them stop killing you." He lifted John's hand and pressed the stolen gun into it. "We have to go now, Colonel."
John looked at Rodney, took in the lines around his eyes, and the haggard drawn expression that had long replaced the jovial and arrogant expression that he had so often worn. He gave Rodney a small smile and nodded.
"Thought you might like it."
John grabbed his arm as McKay tried to move away. "I could have made this machine stop healing me at any time, Rodney. I didn't because I couldn't let you go either. I don't know how I ever could."
"You can begin at any time, son."
John sat down in the chair he'd been provided and stared at the narrow table that stretched briefly between him and General Jack O'Neill. "How is McKay?"
"His medical evaluation is finished and he's resting. We'll debrief him after we are finished here." Jack glanced briefly at Major Evan Lorne who was standing by the door.
The call to come to Atlantis had come from him; and it had been a surprise. Everyone had believed Sheppard and McKay dead, killed in a Jumper explosion off-world. No one had doubted it or even questioned it. Lorne had requested O'Neill come through the gate and conduct the debriefing personally. Jack hadn't understood at first, but looking at Sheppard, he was beginning to.
"Routine mission." Sheppard closed his eyes. "McKay and I were doing a survey of a planet because a probe had sent back some readings that he found super exciting. He was bouncing around the damn Jumper like a kid at Christmas." He smiled. "It's kind of hard to be pissed at him when he gets like that, you know."
"I do know." Jack smiled back. He'd spent years being caught up in Daniel Jackson's zeal for knowledge. His knees might not miss the adventures but his heart and mind certainly did.
"We zeroed in on the reading and set down to investigate." John reached for the water bottle that had been left for him and twisted off the cap. "I remember an explosion, and I remember McKay yelling for me. The next thing I know we are both being dragged through the Stargate and we're in some kind of Ancient outpost." He grimaced. "Fucking set up. These assholes, they get it in their head that McKay can solve all of their problems. They hear half-assed stories from people and they think he can fix anything. They think he can make their lives safer. So they try to take him from me and sometimes they fucking succeed and I have to watch them force him to work like he's a slave, like he has no value beyond what he can do for them." He took a deep breath. "The first day they beat us both to death."
Jack O'Neill reached out and grabbed John's arm. "Colonel, you're very much alive."
John laughed sadly. "Don't I fucking know it? They had some Ancient sarcophagus thing. Kept throwing my broken, bleeding body into the damn thing and the next day it would be the same."
"How many times, John?"
"McKay-they did it to him twice. The rest of the time, he just had to watch them kill me. Then, if he did what they wanted, they would put me in the machine. I got lost a little in the middle but I'm sure McKay can tell you how many times they did it and how many different ways. I remember being shot, stabbed, strangled, and beaten. I was beaten a lot. I think that was their favorite thing to do. They had these batons that felt like iron and they weren't quick about it." John took a long drink of water and closed his eyes. "Started with the feet and worked their way up. Sort of wished they would just leave me dead near the end but Rodney was working so hard to keep me alive that I couldn't make the machine stop healing me."
"And you could have?" Jack asked.
"It was Ancient," John said in the way of an explanation.
"What did they make McKay do?"
John grimaced. "Not sure exactly but they sure as hell didn't get what they expected. It was a Janis device and from what I could gather, it was incomplete but they had the plans for it. They made Rodney complete it and then he used it to... melt them from the inside out." He shuddered. "Everyone in the damn outpost was dead-just puddles of flesh and blood." John paused. "We blew the outpost as we were leaving; must have buried their gate in the rubble because we couldn't dial it later."
"Would you like to take a break, John?"
John shook his head. "No, I'm good. Let's get this done because I'd rather not talk about this fucked up experience ever again."
Jack nodded. He got that. "Okay, let's start with the first day. What do you remember?"
"They killed us. Beat us to death." John stared at the water bottle in his hand. "I was glad it wasn't just him because I don't think I could have lived with that. It was okay because-you know-it was both of us. I could deal with that."
And Jack understood. He glanced briefly at Lorne and nodded. Evan closed his eyes in relief.
"Rodney, you can start at any time and if you need a break just let me know."
Rodney nodded. "Thanks, General." He glanced briefly at Evan Lorne who had brought him into the room. The major was pale, rigid, and holding up one wall of the conference room. "Evan, why don't you sit?"
"If it would make you feel better?" Evan asked.
McKay laughed, more than a little bitter. "Not really but do it anyways. We're going to be here a while and it's not pretty."
"Okay, let's start with the mission."
"Fucking trap," Rodney muttered. "They used a nearly full ZPM to lure us to that planet. Once we sat down; they blew up the Jumper and took us hostage. They took us to an Ancient outpost-and I realized pretty quickly that it must have been one of Janis' secret labs. They threw us into a holding cell about half the size of this conference room and then four men came in. We tried to fight them but they used some kind of stunner to subdue us. Then they beat us to death."
Jack flinched. Hearing that for what seemed like the tenth time didn't make it any easier to hear. He was no stranger to being killed and revived over and over again. It never occurred to him that hearing about it done to someone else would be so painful. He wanted to go kill the hell out of the people who had done this and the only satisfaction he got out of the situation is that McKay had already done it.
"I was sort of relieved," Rodney admitted. "I mean - it was nice to know that we weren't going to be waiting long to figure out what would happen to us. I've never been good at waiting. It was straight and to the point. I kept thinking that it was okay-it was okay because at least I wasn't going to be the one left alone. Dying with him just seemed the only viable option."
He paused to study the coffee in his mug and cleared his throat. "I woke up in the cell a few hours later-alive and John was asleep beside me. Our clothes were caked with blood so there was no thinking that it hadn't happened. We were completely healed. They left us alone for a full day. We only saw them once, and that was when one of them brought us food."
"The next day they came in, stunned him, and started to hit him with these baton things. I tried to stop them and they chained me to the wall. After they were done-when he stopped breathing-they picked him up and took us both to this small room. There was a machine inside they called 'the healer'. They threw him in it and made me watch while it healed him. It took hours and while I watched she came and explained what they wanted from me and what I had to do to keep John alive."
"What did she want you to do?"
"There was a device that was supposed to kill the Wraith. It would prevent the Wraith from ever coming to their world again. They'd been told by the Genii that I could fix it; that I could make it work. So, that's what they asked of me."
"And you agreed?"
"As long as Sheppard was allowed to live," Rodney murmured. "The next morning they came in and shot John with his own gun. Five bullets. Point blank range. He was dead before he hit the floor. They took us both into the healing room and put him in the device. When it started working, the woman turned me and said that John would be allowed to remain in the device and heal if I worked. If I stopped working or failed to do as I was asked they would take him out of the device." He took a deep breath. "I agreed."
"How many times did they murder Colonel Sheppard in front of you, Rodney?" Jack asked softly.
"Fifty-five. Every day save the second day, which was on purpose." Rodney looked away from them. "She gave us that pain free day so that we'd have something to remember. Something to hope for. Cruel bitch. Christ, I hope she suffered."
Jack hoped so, too. "Colonel Sheppard said they killed you a second time."
"Yes, on day forty-two." Rodney cleared his throat. "I lost my temper late in the afternoon the day before and I threw a tool at one of my guards. My punishment was being repeatedly stabbed in the chest. They took John that way, too. I don't think I'll ever forget how it sounded to listen to him drown in his own blood." He lifted his cup to drink from it and then sat it down abruptly when he realized his hands were shaking.
"I finished the device on the last day. I'd calibrated to encompass just the outpost. There was a town several miles away from the facility; I could have taken them, too but I ... there were probably children in the village and I couldn't justify that to myself." He looked away from them. "Instead of programming it to kill Wraith-I programmed it to kill anyone within one thousand feet that didn't have the Ancient gene. It killed everyone in the outpost but me and John."
"How did it kill them?"
"The device was designed to destroy life at the cellular level. It emitted a pulse that rippled out in waves. All biological life that fell within its perimeters was disrupted. They basically melted from the inside out."
Jack took a deep breath. "Did you bring the plans for the device with you, Dr. McKay?"
"No. I pulled historical data from the consoles and then deleted the outpost's databases. I pulled their ZPM because I figured I'd earned it and then rigged the systems back-up power source to explode. It went up within minutes of us leaving."
"And the device itself?"
"John destroyed that personally. He said that no one needed that kind of obscene power."
O'Neill agreed but he wondered how the IOA would react. "Would it have been possible for you to bring the device back with you?"
"No. It would have never fit through the gate," Rodney lied without blinking an eye. "And it certainly couldn't have been left in the hands of the people on that planet. It was just as much a threat to Atlantis and in turn Earth, as the Wraith is."
"Could you build it again?"
"Not if my life depended on it," McKay murmured. "Janis did the bulk of the work; I just did the clean up and finishing touches."
Jack knew instantly that McKay had just told the biggest lie ever but he relaxed. He was prepared to let that be the final answer and he only hoped no one at Area 51 or the Pentagon decided differently in the future. "Okay, McKay, you're officially off-duty for the next week. The SGC would like a detailed written report within the next few days if possible but considering the circumstances I doubt Landry will have a full grown cow if it takes longer."
John paused in the act of ringing McKay's door. It had been over two hours since his debrief had ended and John hadn't bothered to check the LSD to see if Rodney was alone in his quarters. He sucked in a deep breath and took a step back. The last thing he wanted was to interrupt something if Keller was in there. Anger tightened in his gut at the thought and the turned to leave.
The door swished open and John jerked around. "Hey..."
"Come in." Rodney snagged the sleeve of his shirt and pulled carefully. "I can't sleep."
"Yeah." John took a deep breath and followed McKay into the room. "I contacted New Athos and left a message for Teyla. She wasn't there and Halling had no idea where Ronon was. He left there about a week after he left here and hasn't been seen since. I think Teyla will be able to find him."
Rodney nodded. "He would make sure of that so she wouldn't worry." He sat down on his bed and dropped both hands to his knees. "O'Neill didn't spend a lot of time grilling us."
"No, it's not his style. I think that's why Lorne asked for him - everyone got the facts and we didn't get treated like enemy combatants." John grabbed Rodney's desk chair and dragged it over. "I thought Keller would be here. She seemed excited to see you in the infirmary."
"Yeah." Rodney looked away. "I heard she gave a really nice speech at our memorial service."
John snorted before he could help himself. "Shit, you know that shouldn't be funny."
"No." Rodney chuckled. "It really shouldn't but you know I've always sort of suspected that we'd have a joint funeral."
"Yeah, me too." John sighed. "Since the beginning, really, when Elizabeth would yell at us-it was always like our names were one word. It wasn't John and Rodney; it was JohnRodney."
Rodney laughed softly and then sobered slowly. "I miss her. She would have hugged us when we came through the gate. Lorne would have been yelling at her to stop because you know we could be just about anything from clones to replicators but she would have hugged us tight and told us how much she missed us."
"Yeah, and then she would have had us inspected as thoroughly as possible for everything known to man or alien."
"I miss Carson," Rodney admitted. "I know we have... well it's just not the same. Our Carson wasn't held prisoner for two years by a Wraith hybrid. He's not our Carson no matter how much we all wish that he were. It'll never be the same." Rodney waved his hand in defeat. "I miss Aidan. Sometimes I dream that we find him and he can be saved like Ronon's friend was saved."
"Yeah. I've had that dream a few times myself."
"I never let myself think about what it would be like if you were taken from me. Not even when you tried to kill yourself by riding a nuclear weapon. I never let myself think about it."
"I'm right here, McKay."
"Yeah, but you were also dead fifty-five times right there on the floor, too." Rodney closed his eyes. "And every time I wished I was dying right along with you and the two times it did happen that way-it was just this immense fucking relief."
"Rodney." John reached out and grabbed his hand. "I don't know what to say here."
"That's okay because I have no idea what I want you to say." Rodney turned his hand over under Sheppard's threading their fingers together. He watched their fingers curling around each other and then cleared his throat. "I told Jennifer I couldn't... that I wouldn't be seeing her anymore. There she was telling me how thankful she was that I wasn't dead, how much she missed me, and loved me and all I could think was that I wished she would shut up so I could find you."
"Well, I didn't tell her to shut up." Rodney laughed sadly. "Near thing, though. Very near thing. I just couldn't let her stand there and make plans for us like nothing had happened-like I hadn't just spent the last two months watching the love of my life murdered every day in front of me and it's okay if you don't feel the same, John. It's okay, really. I just can't pretend anymore. I can't pretend Jennifer is enough for me when she barely scratches the surface."
John lowered his head and released the breath he'd been holding. "If it had been you dying instead of me I would have gone insane. I never could have... there is no way."
"I think I could sleep if you were with me."
"Yeah, okay." John let Rodney prod him into the bed and when they were spooned together, hands joined just like they had slept in that cell every night they both relaxed. "I always thought flying was my best thing. The one thing in my life that I couldn't live without. I was wrong. You're my best thing."
"So we're okay?"
"Yeah." John pulled him closer and tucked his face against the back of Rodney's neck. "We're very okay."