Word Count: 9,300
Summary: Rodney and John are captured by the Genii.
Notes: Many many thanks to inyron for beta reading Prisoners. The story really is better because of her help. The rest of the mistakes are mine.
"Rodney, come on wake up." John dribbled water onto Rodney's forehead, washing away as much blood before he touched the wound with his hands. 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 floor had already turned his feet to ice. Too heavy to lift, John rolled Rodney onto the thin mattress, which elicited another moan from Rodney. 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, no signs 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 this clothing - and as much as he liked Rodney, things weren't so desperate that he'd curl up next to him naked.
Time passed slowly in the cell. The light bulb swinging from the center of the room was low wattage, 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 he really felt 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 reinforcements to rescue them. He just had to hope that Teyla and Ronon made it back to the jumper and to Atlantis, to let the Calvary know that the Genii had a secret base on the planet they had been exploring.
"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? Ronon, Teyla are they okay? Because I think I think I'm getting lightheaded already...oh my God the Genii are going to kill me by accident, I'll fall into a coma and one of the most valuable minds of this generation will be lost!"
John held up his hand, "Rodney! Stop! You're not going to die; 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 the Jumper, 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, and John turned to look as well. 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 snapped back, Rodney's complaints wearing on his nerves. It's not like Rodney was the only one freezing here or had woken up unconscious in a cell. He stood up and paced 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. He hoped they weren't captured, otherwise Atlantis won't know that they needed help until their scheduled check-in came and went, which was another twelve or thirteen hours from now.
The sound of a key in the lock alerted John to their upcoming visitors. Rodney used the wall to keep his balance as he stood; the knock on the head was probably a concussion. John offered a hand to help but Rodney waved him away. John got that.
It didn't feel right to meet their captors separated or sitting down. 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, staring at them expressionless before turning and leaving. Outside the door, he said, "Bring them."
The guards rushed forward and grabbed them by the arms, and with guns pointing at vital areas on their bodies, prodded them out of the room.
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, some of the women guards checked him out, and he gritted his teeth.
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 nozzle 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 had been. 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, 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 signals leaving this sector, if you are foolish enough to send out a distress signal 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 automatic weapons.
Rodney breathed in deeply 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 took the other side of the room, and they worked on the five consoles between them. Only three came on at full power; one only weakly responded to John's attempts to activate, 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 the new set of guards came to escort them back to their cell.
Rodney dragged his feet with exhaustion, and his forehead was wrinkled with pain. More than once today Rodney had stopped to rub at his forehead.
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 into bed next to him.
Their sides touched and John fought hard not to lean into the warmth of another human body. All day he fought 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 feed or how much sleep they were allowed, he missed his freedom. Missed flying, the sound of waves lapping against the sides of Atlantis. Teyla, Ronon, Elizabeth, and Puddle Jumper 1.
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. It only took two days before Rodney stopped blushing anytime a woman guard entered the room or ended up in their escort.
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 stayed on 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. He 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 the guards at Halder's side stepped out of line, grabbed Rodney by the arms, and dragged him to the console Halder had pointed at.
John didn't have the chance to help, before 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 manhandled Rodney to the console and bent him over it.
"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 took the order seriously and pulled a cloth over his head, forced his mouth open, and pulled it between his teeth. He wanted to scream 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, like a cheesy war movie villain. The riding crop made a slight whistling sound as it flew threw 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 of arousal and glee, and didn't know every plea for mercy fueled Halder's sadistic pleasure.
After an eternity, Halder finally stopped, and stood panting. "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.
Without the guards holding Rodney's arms he slid to the ground, legs too weak to hold himself up without help. With another glare of disgust, Halder turned and exited the lab. His posse of guards snickered at Rodney as they passed him sobbing on the ground.
Once the lab doors closed behind Commander Halder and his guards 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 and welts, and in some places, the crop had hit 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 help but with Rodney rapidly heading into shock, he needed her help to get Rodney on his feet again. In a flurry of "ow,"s and "oh shit"s, they got Rodney back on his feet. He clung to John like a Koala bear and John had a hard time helping Rodney stay 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 and at the woman 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 Neosporin First Aid 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 here of all places.
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 the Neosporin. "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 with the Neosporin and had moved onto a muscle relaxant cream with Aloe Vera that he carefully spread over the non-bleeding welts. 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 like a pro. 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, Neosporin, and the muscle relaxant 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." 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.
The next morning John checked Rodney's again, seeing the red welts and deep purple and black bruises his back had settled into overnight. John 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.
Their woman guard arrived with a tray of food that she set on the table, and left without speaking. With a lot of coaxing and bribery (two DVDs and half his coffee rations once they made it back home) 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 gracing 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 keep hurry to keep up with him. The woman unlocked the door and he 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 neatly pilled 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.
He rolled Rodney over on his back, making sure to keep the blanket covering as much as possible, and started checking for injuries. Blood leaked out of Rodney's nose and dripped down the side of his cheek. John used his thumb to wipe the trail away before it dripped onto the already blood-stained mattress. Bruises stained Rodney's arms, shoulders, and wrists. John shook as he continued his examination feeling sicker as he moved further down, noting the various new cuts and bruises.
It looked like the guards had pinned Rodney down and done something to him, either beat him or worse. Until Rodney woke up he wouldn't know for sure. Dinner arrived shortly after he covered Rodney and fixed up the bed. The pillows were dusty but still useable after he shook them out.
He picked at his food, hardly able to stomach eating while Rodney lay unconscious and beaten within an inch of his life. Internal bleeding, he could almost rule out. None of the heavy bruising lay near any vital organs. They must have punched Rodney or drugged him. John paced the cell, unable to sleep.
He was so focused on his own thoughts; he barely heard Rodney's dry whisper. "John."
"Rodney." John knelt next to Rodney and helped the other man sit up.
"Are they gone?" Rodney asked hoarsely, his eyes blinked owlishly in the dimly lit room. He touched his nose.
"Yes, for now." John promised. "Let me get you some water. You've been unconscious for hours."
Rodney let go of his hand and John quickly got water and grabbed some food. In the meantime Rodney moved until he could sit leaning against the wall the mattress pressed against. He held the blanket against his chest and he was crying silent tears into his arm as his shoulders shook.
John stood uselessly 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 useless in his life. No amount of training in the Air Force prepared him for this.
With no plate, he set the food back down on the table and took the water to Rodney. He knelt next to Rodney and gently touched his bare shoulder. When Rodney didn't scream, or yell at him, he patted him trying to offer what comfort he could. It was the least he could do, since it was his screw up that landed Rodney into this awful situation.
John's legs had fallen asleep by the time Rodney lifted his head. "I'm okay," he said, and took the cup of water John had forgotten he was still holding he drank it all in one gulp and handed the cup back. "I just need to be alone." He lay back down, this time on his side, and pulled the covers up over his head.
The next morning it was Rodney that shook him awake. Unable to lie down until hours after Rodney had fallen asleep, John didn't think he'd gotten more than an hour or two of sleep. But he'd gotten less and managed.
At the table Rodney stood munching on bread, one of the Tylenol packages was open and the pills were missing. Rodney refused to meet his eyes and by the time the guards came and escorted them to the lab, Rodney had withdrawn into himself. In the lab, John poked at the console listlessly; it didn't matter what he found. Commander Halder used the 'progress reports' as an excuse to torture them. Rodney spent more time standing today, but 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 stared at the ceiling and tried not to move the pain felt too big for his head to contain. Rodney handed him a cup and a Tylenol, and helped him sit up.
"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 grabbed his hand, "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, because he didn't need to say more. 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. 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 offered.
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 his 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 to the bed and pinned him down while Commander Halder slowly removed his clothing...
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.
"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. Rodney brought him food and water and helped him sit up. His back had welts to match Rodney's now, 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 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." He cupped the back of Rodney's head and pulled him down. "Let's get some sleep. I'm tired." To the bone exhausted.
Rodney let his head rest on John's chest right over his heart for a quick moment before he pulled back. "I got to clean up a little."
John watched as Rodney placed the food he didn't eat back on the table, and dumped the bloodstained water into the sink and rinse out their only cup. With nothing else to do Rodney joined him on the mattress. This time it was Rodney's turn to pull the blanket up over the two of them.
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 a alcove in the wall. Yep, definitely only room for one. John wanted to hurl something at the wall. He wanted both of them out of here. He didn't want to leave Rodney at the mercy of Commander Halder, yet he had the best chance to make it to the Stargate, go to the Alpha site, and contact Atlantis.
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.
"You're stronger, faster, and are combat trained. You can make it." 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?"
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 what we have at Atlantis."
"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 scrapping 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, stomach trembling and 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 Ronon jog out of the forest with Major Lorne at his heels.
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 GDO 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 let Rodney slide to the ground. 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 did *will* be punished. 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 Lorne, 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 had checked them out for parasites, Goa'uld, or anything else that could go wrong.
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 and get some sleep. 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 yelling at him that the waiting room wasn't the Holiday Inn. Then he offered him coffee and a peak 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 had never seen a lovelier sight.
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 let John hold his hand and listened while John talked about the day. He didn't mention their time in captivity or that he already had an appointment to see 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...I can't talk about what happened. But remember that woman guard? The one that helped me that first time? Well she organized the rest of the guards that didn't approve of Commander Halder's methods, and she and the others rescued me. I was kind of out of it for a few days. When Kolya came back I'd never seen someone so furious before. He'd lost you, 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. Kolya blamed everything on Halder. Anyway, they were going to keep me and fix me up- they had doctors too- and they were going to force me to help with some other programs they had. But they weren't going to do anything to punish Halder even though he'd screwed up. Kolya came by the cell where they'd put me again, and with a few of his guards, got me to the surface and dragged me through the snow to the gate and with the equipment they'd stolen from us. He let me enter my G.D.O code, and here I am."
"I have a hard time believing he helped you escape out of the goodness of his heart."
"I don't think it was that at all. You see, Commander Halder was back in charge again. I think it's going to look really bad for Halder's record when I turned up missing from my cell. I get the feeling that Kolya hid the fact that he didn't leave the planet and stuck around to fuck with Halder's head. I could be wrong about it though, maybe he did stick around to help. He did seem more upset than I expected him to be when he saw the tapes."
"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."
The next day Elizabeth gave the order to escort Kolya to the gate room and out of Atlantis. She approved Rodney's request and joined in escorting Kolya out of the cell which had all the comforts of home, minus a TV and Playstation console.
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 held 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 a notepad to John and John passed it to Kolya. The man didn't look entirely happy or unhappy either.
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."
John stayed with Rodney. "Music? Huh. Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"I was afraid you'd laugh." Rodney rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I didn't really believe it at first myself; it seemed a bit overkill to have that much power to play symphonies. Though I suspect they used that lab to help develop technology. Maybe with time the Genii will get some use out of it. But I didn't want some other poor schmuck kidnapped because their scientists are too stupid to figure it out and I knew the answer but didn't tell them."
"You're a good man." John said, bringing over a chair, and pulling a deck of cards out of his pocket.
"Want to play?"
Rodney grabbed the cards out of his hands. "I'm dealing. Honestly, a real friend would have brought me my laptop, or pudding cups! You bring cards." He scowled like John purposely bypassed the pudding and went straight for cards.
Even with the shadows under Rodney's eyes, and the bruises fading away from Rodney's arms, for the first time John let himself hope.