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Brutes, Bosses and Crazy Girls

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Dr Keller barely heard the shuffling sound her feet made as they dragged slowly down the corridor to her quarters , her eyes were half-closed with one hand trailing along the wall in an attempt to keep her balance while fighting exhaustion .   She had just pulled a triple shift in the infirmary trying to patch up half of SGA-4 who had been caught in a village in the middle of a particularly vicious culling. All she wanted to do was drag her poor abused body to her bed for a good - she looked at her watch and groaned - 6 hours rest before attending her meeting with Woolsey and the other heads of departments. Food, which she would have recommended to anyone else having just had the day she had, would have to wait as would the training Teyla had scheduled with her  

Teyla, this is Keller,” she said tapping her earpiece   

Dr Keller, is there something wrong?”    

Y es, Jen thought,  I don’t foresee coffee in my near future  no, I just can’t do the training we were meant to do at 0700, do you mind if we reschedule?”     

Of course not”  came Teyla’s instant  reply  “ how about the same time tomorrow?”    

“Thanks, I’ll see you then”  Jennifer took a few more shuffling steps before furrowing her brow briefly, replaying the conversation in her head to make sure she hadn’t slurred her words , unfortunately, it seemed her memory had already gone to bed and it quickly slipped her mind. Making it to the transporter she stood for a few moments and stared at the panel of lights and symbols as she tried to remember what to do with it, pushing a button she was pretty certain was the right one she closed her eyes and leant against the wall. When she opened them again she was a little startled to see a chest where she was about to walk. Straightening and blinking sandy eyes she gave the science officer (whose name completely eluded her at that moment) a tired smile and managed to make it the rest of the way to her doors without getting any more funny looks. She was quite proud of herself.  

 

Getting up when her alarm sounded was a challenge she wasn’t entirely sure she would have conquered if she hadn’t kept the thought of a steaming hot shower in the forefront of her mind, which was why, when Rodney showed up at her door, she was dressed in a towel. “This had better be good” she growled at him trying not to notice his wide-eyed stare  

“I-I-I was going… breakfast?” Rodney’s eye’s flicked quickly from her legs to her face to her legs and back again “No” he said wisely, reading her expression and beating a hasty retreat.

Her shower, which was perfect in every way, took longer than expected and meant she didn’t have a chance to eat before rushing to make the meeting.  


After the usual thorough reports of the past few days including Dr Keller’s report on the two teams who had been under her watch, one of the many routine reports that showed nothing out of the ordinary, the group was dismissed. Woolsey called her over when she made to leave “I’ve had a request from SGA-8’s leader Lieutenant Barker, asking for some help from the med team. six of the village members from the settlement they are trying to have trade talks with have been sick for a few days and now two of their team are displaying possible symptoms” Dr Keller frowned in thought, her mind already thinking about what she would need “the trip from the village to the stargate is too difficult for them in their condition and there is no space nearby for a puddle jumper. The lieutenant will have two of her men at the gate to escort whoever you decide on to the village at 10   00 today”  

“I’ll go,” she said slowly, still in thought “I’ll go pack what I need now  - if there’s nothing else sir?” Woolsey shook his head and wished her well. It took all of 2 minutes for her to be halted by Ronon had been waiting in the corridor for her, breaking her train of thought “Yes?” she asked, trying to hide her exasperation. Ronon was good with the nonverbal communication but it was never particularly detailed, like now; she could tell he wanted to speak to her but the details were usually a little slow in coming. Ronon’s eyed her intently and she fought not to squirm. She was pretty sure she knew what was about to come.  

“Are you on your way to the mess hall?” he asked   

Jennifer exhaled loudly and approached the conversation head on “Ronon, the mess  hall is in the other direction ” Jennifer tapped down her exasperation; it had come to her attention a couple of weeks ago that some of  her team were conspiring together to make sure she ate at regular times. She did not appreciate the special attention.  

“And when was the last time you ate?” he asked as if he knew what her answer would be. Jennifer, who mumbled under her breath something about the fate of noses that get put in places they don’t belong, just turned around and headed to the mess hall.  

With a tray full of food she made her way over to the table already occupied by Teyla and Sheppard “Ah Chewie, you found her” Sheppard said with a smile at the man behind her. Teyla gave her usual smile of welcome and managed to portray both sympathy for what she was dealing with and  agreement with what the Neanderthals were doing. Jennifer huffed as she sat down and started on her bagel, admitting to herself that after smelling food her stomach had cramped with hunger. Something the boys were not allowed to know.  

The conversation around the table remained light, idle discussion about what peoples plans were for the upcoming week but when Jen mentioned her off-world excursion scheduled in a couple of hours she saw the men stiffen and glance at one another “what?” she asked confused “is there something I don’t know about?”  

Sheppard purposely stopped looking at Ronon who was scowling, “want some company off-world?” he asked, trying to make it sound casual “I hear that most of the planet is covered in forest, we could treat it like a holiday and let Rodney decide on the food. I’m pretty sure the whole teams free, in fact I’ll ask Woolsey now” Sheppard made to stand but Jennifer grabbed him by his belt and yanked him back down with a thud.  

“What’s going on? I don’t need babysitting” her eyes narrowed as silence descended over the table “I don’t!” she said indignantly.  

Sheppard looked at her with an arched brow and she hated him just that little bit more for being able to do something she had spent years as a child trying to master “you’re record for getting in trouble rivals Rodney’s. The team made a promise to never let you off-world without at least one of us, especially after the incident on PX-459” Jennifer winced as she remembered the time she visited a village who decided they wanted to keep her for her medical skills, guns were present for most of that trip, and they were usually aimed at her head, but she had made it out alive.  

With narrowed eyes, she looked at them all “No” she stated, having had enough of the big brother act.  

Ronon’s eyes narrowed to match hers and his voice was hard as he growled out his Yes.  

 

In hindsight her reaction wasn’t quite as  appreciative  as it could have  been, they were, after all, just concerned for her wellbeing.

It started with her voice rising in volume until she was yelling at them about not being a child and their behaviour being archaic , about then she stood up so she could tower over them as she told them about how she was an adult now, had in fact saved their lives more times than she could count and that if she had wanted to be treated like a china doll she would have stayed on earth with Greg or Fred or whatever the idiots name had been. She had then told them that she would be going on this mission without any of them there to hold her hand and when she came back unscathed they would apologise. 

Turning on her heels she had made a hasty exit, only just realising that the semi-filled room was silent and all eyes were turned on her.  

The remaining three at the table looked at each other stunned for a second “I don’t care what she says” Ronon said “we should still ask Woolsey-”  

“No” Teyla cut in “she is right, we are not treating her as an equal. We must leave her to prove  herself , it would be insulting to do otherwise”  

John sighed “sorry Chewie, she’s right, and besides, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to face her if she finds us waiting at the gate”  

Ronon and Teyla left a few minutes later leaving John to have his last-minute doubts over his decision. The Doc should be fine but if she wasn’t, he glanced at Ronon as he disappeared around the corner... the guilt would be the least of his problems.  

Chapter Text

Jennifer stepped through the gate and took a deep breath of crisp, clean air; this was what she wanted, a small reminder of the country home she left behind. “Dr Keller, shall we?” said a soft male voice to her left.  

She shot a bright smile to the pair of soldiers watching her and handed a bag to each of them before settling her backpack on her shoulders “lead the way gentlemen”.  

As Jennifer stepped across the almost physical invisible divide between clearing and forest her senses were assaulted. As her eyes adjusted to the dimmed and now very green light that filtered down from the impossibly tall trees the smell of soil, and moss, and life filled her nose, Jennifer couldn’t repress the content smile that bubbled up. The trees grew in what looked like natural rows and gave the forest a feeling of majesty, as if they were walking through rows of pillars in a magnificent hall.  

The wonder that flooded her was short-lived, however.  

The trek to the village was difficult; there were tree roots to trip on, branches to be hit with, thorns to scratch her arms and thorns to scratch her legs. The biting insects had her half terrified and half fascinated and appeared to be a monstrous cross between a mosquito and a dragonfly with a hum so low you could feel it reverberate in your chest. Keller decided to distract herself by questioning the two soldiers – Morgan and Reid – about the patients she was about to see. The 6 villages had been sick for 2 days before the SGA team turned up, starting with a fine rash over the torso and a loss of appetite along with lethargy, stomach cramps, headaches, and dizzy spells. The SGA members had been living in the village for a little over a day when two of them developed the rash. Adams mentioned that one of the villagers had had seizures throughout the previous night and Keller stepped up her pace. This was not good.  

 
They reached the village around midday and even in her rush to see her patients she had to stop to admire the village. It was no wonder the puddle jumper couldn’t get to it, the village was in the trees. Ghostly memories of childhood games flickered through her mind as she took in the thatched tree houses and the lattice of swing bridges. The people who lived in them were tall, graceful beings with long curly hair with leaves and flowers artfully pinned through it. One of the older members of the village made her way over to the group, Keller was soon introduced to the leader of the Mar’ah people and shown to the rope ladder that led her to the hut which served as their infirmary. 

It took all of that day and the following night for the doctor to start seeing any improvements from her patients. The 6 villagers, who had expanded to 8 when two more presented with the rash and then shrank to 7 when the elderly man with seizures had died, were now sleeping comfortably. the two team members were up and eating for the first time in a few days, having been less affected than most of the others they bounced back quickly with the meds and IV fluids they had been given. Finally satisfied with all of her patients, Keller headed out of the hut and made her way to what smelt like food and hoped that someone could help her find a bed.  

 

She was never sure where they came from exactly, or how many there were, but she remembered the sound of gunfire to her left as Reid, who seemed to be running for cover in the village, was hit. She watched as his legs gave out and his face went slack. There wasn’t more time to watch, for which she was secretly grateful. Then they came all at once and, it seemed, from every direction. Keller spun and raced back to her patients, two of whom were just strapping the last of their gear back on as she entered.  

“How many, and what weapons do they have?” one asked in that clipped military tone that forced an immediate response.  

 “I-I-I- I have no idea how many, maybe 10. I saw Reid get shot” her voice faltered for a moment and she took a  deep breath, trying to find the eerie calm that always took her when Sheppard used the same voice with her, “I think I saw knives on some of them as well" her tone strengthened as she slipped into battle mode "bring any wounded back here, I’ll set up what I can” they nodded once and made their way to the door “And boys" she called, catching them before they opened the door "I don’t want to see you back in here so stay safe” another nod, a quick tight grin and they left, leaving Keller to collect herself. She freely admitted that she wasn’t good in hostile situations and the sound of gunfire and cries for help made her hairs stand on end and jump at anything that sounded close. All her patients continued to sleep though, the sedatives she had given them doing their job.  

She was working on retrieving a bullet out of a young  Mar’ahian when two men burst through the doors, Keller, whose scalpel was too deep to shift her concentration and look, screamed when a shot rang out and her patient jerked before falling unnaturally still “hello, hello, hello, you’re a pretty one”  

Jennifer tore her gaze from the wide blank eyes of her patient and turned her blood-splattered face to the intruder “why?” she whispered, shocked at the amusement she saw in the man’s eyes. Fear took over her then and she stood up suddenly, knocking over the stool and table before backing away until the wall was pressed against her back. The two men in front of her were thuggish, thick of neck, arm and leg, both of them looked like they could break a man’s forearm with their pinkies. One had a scar across his neck as if someone had tried to slit his throat; the other carried a bloody axe as if it was made of plastic.  

“Now, don’t be like that” Scar said ignoring the question “there’s no escaping us little miss, if you come with us we might even spare your friends” Butch laughed as if his friend was making a joke and Jennifer's stomach lurched at the way the smile slide suddenly from his face as if it was never there. T here was no way she was getting out of this on her own, her only hope was if one of the SGA team came to check on her. As if reading her thoughts Scar burst that bubble “we have control of the village, there’s no help for you now”  

Jen fought against her panic and managed to speak, “What do you want?” although try as she might she couldn’t make her voice rise about a rasping whisper, her heart hammering at the possible answers that flew through her mind.  

“This is no time for talk, darling” Scar took three steps towards her and reached out to take her arm. Fight or flight kicked in at that moment and the hand which still had the scalpel whipped through the air and buried it in his forearm. The man howled and wrenched it out of his arm and tossing it aside “That was very stupid” he growled through gritted teeth before grabbing her. She tried to struggle, twisting and scratching, kicking backwards like Teyla was teaching her in their sessions but none of it seemed to work on the mountain of muscle

“O oooh this one’s a wild cat, the boss is going to have fun with her" Scar's breath ghosted across her neck "Berrin, why don’t you show her the cost of fighting” Berrin, formally Butch, hefted his axe and grinned slowly at her, making his way over and looking her in the eye “I do so like this part” his voice held a note of true pleasure. Keller closed her eyes and turned her head, expecting to feel the axe strike her but instead, she felt Scar’s laughter rumble against her back “no no Cat, not you” it took Keller a few moments to register what he said and when she did her knees gave out. Scar kept her upright and turned her head to make sure she had a good view as Berrin took his axe to her still sleeping patients. She struggled at first, screaming and begging for them to stop, but Scar’s grip was too tight and her pleas fell on unsympathetic ears. She soon exhausted herself and stood there in the circle of Scar’s arms watching in muted horror.  

Jennifer’s heart shattered over and over again. There was no sound apart from the thud as the axe hit its mark, none of them woke up, none of them struggled, and none of them had a chance to fight back, all held in the sedatives embrace. Tears streamed down Jennifer’s face and, although she finally remembered that she could close her eyes, it couldn’t stop the guilt that thrummed through her with each wet thwack.

By the time Berrin was done she was numb, nothing penetrated the haze that surrounded her, she was barely aware of Scar tying her hands behind her back or the decent down the staircase over his shoulder and the entire trip to the stargate she just replayed the same scene over and over again in her head. She knew a lot about the human body, had been studying it for the better part of her life and yet she was currently astounded by the colour of the blood. Had it always been that red? Had there always been so much to lose?  

Dr Keller didn’t have time to take in her surroundings when she reached the other side of the gate as a sharp blow knocked her to the ground and into blessed oblivion. 

 

Chapter Text

Floating between sleep and consciousness Keller slowly became aware of inconsistencies in her situation. She could hear the sound of dripping water to her left and two male voices to her right, neither of which should be in her bedroom, soon after this realisation she lost her grip and swam back into the safe darkness.

It took three more attempts before Keller became more aware of her surroundings; the water still dripped but the voices were gone, and she now felt pain in her head and arms as well as a bone aching cold. Still too groggy to open her eyes Keller tried moving to see if everything still worked, she froze as her struggles were met with the rattling of chains. Opening her eyes with great trepidation Keller looked around her. Darkness, so deep she questioned whether her eyes were open, pressed in around her “H...lo?” she rasped from a painfully dry throat. Clearing it and attempting to wet her lips with her dry tongue she tried again “Hello... is th -there anyone there?” Jennifer whimpered as her question was met by silence.  

As her memory of last nights (or what she assumed was last nights) events came back to her a crushing fear threatened to overwhelm her. Tears rolled down her cheeks and her breath came out in short gasps. Tugging against her restraints were useless but she did it anyway.

As the adrenalin faded and she began to think logically again she tried to take stock of her situation; she was in what smelt like a damp cave and, after feeling around herself,  decided she was secured with a short chain linking her hands to a bolt in the floor near what felt like a rock wall. Alone. She ignored the swell of fear and patted herself down awkwardly with linked hands to see what she had been left with. She still wore her trousers and the tank top, the vest and the knife she had taken to carrying strapped against her shin were gone.

It took three tries before she managed to get her feet under her, the cold of the stony ground sharp against her bare feet. It soon became apparent that the chain she was anchored with wasn’t long enough to allow her to stand straight however, she decided, standing hunched was better than being found on her knees.  

An itch sprang up under her arm and she twisted and turned desperately trying to reach it, with a groan she managed to twist herself whilst stooped over. She huffed and puffed, and then giggled at the absurdity of her situation. The laughter went on for so long her sides were aching and a distinct note of hysteria had crept into it. Here she was kidnapped by God knows who, for God knows what, for God knows how long and it was an itch that consumed most of her thoughts. Well done Keller, she thought to herself, you’ve definitely lost it this time.  

“Oh dear” A deep male voice drifted from the darkness somewhere to her right, freezing her “don’t tell me you’ve already broken, I do so enjoy that part of my job” a light flared to life exactly where her eyes were searching and she gasped with the pain that shot through her head. With her eyes screwed tightly shut and her face turned away she tried to track his footsteps towards her. She must have been off because the cool damp hand that caressed her cheek was a shock that set her heart racing with fear.  

“What do you  want from me?” she hated herself for the quiver that was obvious in her voice.  

She cautiously opened her eyes and blinked away the colourful spots in her vision. The man in front of her was tall and solid, arms like tree trunks and a face only a mother could love and blue eyes that were terrifyingly cold.  

“Eventually I want to know everything that you do about Atlantis, including all the codes to access it but I’m a patient man, I don’t expect you to give them up easily but I do expect you to do it eventually” he picked up his lantern and walked to the opposite wall “this female, however, I do not expect to give me anything, what do you think Doctor?”  

Jennifer’s back prickled as she squinted past the coloured spots in her vision to see the person on the other wall. It was Lieutenant Barker, the leader who had originally requested her presence “Lilly?” she whispered. The Lieutenant looked badly beaten, her lip was split several times, both eyes were swollen and one of her hands looked out of shape. Her clothing was shredded and Keller could see wounds under it.  

The man reached over and grabbed a fistful of Lilly’s hair  who groaned softly as she weakly tried to struggle, clearly not fully conscious, even then his eyes remained locked on Keller, “I played with her for 2 days doctor. Did you know? For 2 days she beg you to wake up but it seems the drugs we injected you with really do their job, it’s a shame we used the last of it on your trip here” he grinned maliciously and turned to speak in Lilly’s ear and despite the lowered tone Jennifer could hear every word “it’s clear to me you’re not going to give me anything my dear but I must say it was fun while it lasted” he pressed his face right up against hers and smiled slowly as the Lieutenant froze “is there anything you would like to tell the good doctor before I throw you to the dogs?”  

Keller’s breath came it short white puffs in front of her as she took in what he was saying “No, wait please  th -“  

“Doctor!” Lilly shouted as loudly as she could, ignoring the man as he started to unhook the chains “stop worrying about me and start worrying about yourself” she paused to catch her breath, clearly exhausted “I know that you know not to give anything away but it’s going to hurt. A lot. Always remember that if you break everyone on Atlantis is dead. You’re already dead” Lilly clenched her teeth around a sob, she had really liked the Doctor “don’t you dare take the rest of them down with you” she whimpered as the chains slackened and her legs were forced to take her weight. Lilly tried to harden herself against what was to be her death and only the beginning of Keller’s torture.  

“Bravo lieutenant, brave words from a brave woman” the big man started dragging her across the stone floor “it’s a shame Keller’s not as strong as you are” Jennifer sobbed in agreement.  

“But you’re wrong” Lilly mustered all her faith, hoping that it would be heard “Keller may not be trained but the knowledge that what she says could endanger the lives of people she respects and loves will stop her from betraying them” Keller watched as the man threw back his head and laughed.  

“I-I-I’m not sure I can do this Lilly” Jennifer admitted to Lilly in a hushed voice as she was dragged past

Time to change tactic then; “Jen, if you don’t your friends will die. John, Ronon, Teyla, even Rodney. You know what they’re like, they’ll all fight bravely and they’ll all willingly fall in battle protecting the people in the city. Carson will die in the infirmary while trying to save someone and Woolsey will be found as he hides under his desk” her throat closed for a moment as Boss-man switched hands to open the door “All dead because of you” Lilly finally managed, hating herself for saying it but Keller was one of the kindest and most stubborn person she had ever met. Using those qualities to cause her pain hurt Lilly more than she could tell but she knew Keller would understand eventually. Lilly squinted as the sunlight hurt her eyes, and despite her best efforts her heart sped up in panic as they neared the kennels.  

Keller understood what was going to happen to her, she had treated torture victims before, but her resolve shook when she heard Lieutenant Lilly Barker scream and her tears fell as the fear became too much. Only a sliver of hope remained; SGA could find her, save her. She only had to be strong until then.   

 

Chapter Text

"What do you mean she’s been taken?!”  

Woolsey’s Adams apple bobbed in fear and Teyla watched with sympathy as he tried to subtly shuffle so that his desk was between him and Ronon’s anger “there was an attack on the settlement she was visiting, we estimate it’s  been about 18 hours since the attack and all of the SGA team have been accounted for except Dr Keller and Lieutenant Barker. One of the few surviving locals report they’ve been taken through the stargate by the attackers, which is actually why I sent for you Rodney” Rodney’s worry-creased face turned to him “I want you to go to PX-837 and see if you can figure out which planet they dialled to”  

Rodney’s frown deepened “of course ,  but it’s not going to be as simple as you make it sound”  

Woolsey sank into his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose “of course not” he mumbled   

“I mean, first of all it’s going to take a lot more than just quick flick through to find the latest entry, it's ancients technology, not a cellphone and secondly they may have gated somewhere else straight after and it doesn’t take a genius like me to tell you that it could be a long time before we find her and even then she might not be-“  

“Rodney!” Sheppard cut in before he could really stick his foot in it “can you do it?”  

He gulped as he realised what he had been about to say “of course I can I’m-“  

“Then stop talking and gather what you’ll need. We’re leaving as soon as I’ve had a chance to talk to the remaining SGA-8 members” Sheppard had turned back to Woolsey just in time to catch an uneasy look  cross  his face “what am I missing?” he asked, his tension showing in his voice  

Woolsey was pale and Teyla was wondering if he was not about to be sick “you can’t talk to them” he said in a hoarse voice “none of them were found alive”  the crash of Ronon’s fist hitting the desk  and Sheppard’s string of expletives filled the office  

Sheppard spun to face Rodney and Teyla “be ready in 10 minutes. We’ll meet at the gate. Take supplies for a long stay” not bothering to check with the current leader of Atlantis before striding out.  

Teyla watched  for a moment  as Woolsey’s mouth opened and closed and opened again. He wisely chose to remain silent.  

 


 

Jennifer pressed herself as close to the cave wall as possible to escape the stench of Boss-man’s breath . It did little good. “I want the codes to allow safe access to Atlantis for me and my men, I want a detailed layout of the city and I want information on the people who inhabit the city. Now, I know you’re going to try and resist me, you’re going to try and play the brave soldier” his mocking tone indicated his opinion as he drew close enough that she could feel his heat against her face “but we both know you’re not going to last long” although the softly spoken words sent bolts of ice down her spine she sighed in relief as he drew away and resumed the pacing he had started after returning without Lilly.  

“I am a fair man” and against her will her hopes briefly soared “so I will indulge your play at bravery for a little while but remember, all it takes is the information I seek and I will happily set you free” the Boss-man smiled at her as if sharing a secret and then turned to the entrance of the cave and gave a call. Almost instantly two figures stepped into the circle of light created by the lantern now hanging from a hook in the ceiling, Keller shuddered when she recognised the two from the infirmary “these two fine men are going to warm you up for me, you could also see it as a pre-emptive warning. After this, I will ask you for answers and the end of each of our sessions, if you refuse, I will allow these two to apply their type of persuasion. But, for now, I will leave you three to get better acquainted”  

Just as he reached the exit he turned sharply and caught the eyes of both the thugs “I want her conscious when I get back, and try not to break the toy on your first turn” he wiggled his fingers to Keller in a mocking farewell and casually strode out  

Both men fixed their eyes onto her hunched form still hampered by the too-short chain to do much more than watch them warily. “Please,” she begged in a panicked whisper “please don’t do this”  

Berrin  hunkered down on his heels in front of her and picked up a pebble which he tossed up and down while Scar walked over to one of the walls outside of the lights reach “you’re about to be released  Wild Cat, please try to run, I do so love the chase” bile threatened to climb its way up her throat at the lecherous smile spreading across his face. When the ring on the floor sprung open it took Keller less than a second to pull back and make for the door, she fought the instincts screaming at her to just turn and run because she couldn’t see where Scar was in the inky darkness of the cave outside the light of the lantern.  

Her back felt like it was being torn as she straightened for the first time in what she could only guess had been many hours and her wrists chaffed against the cuffs still connected together by the chain in front of her. “run run as  fast as you can” Berrin  said in a singsong voice and Scar’s rumbling laughter came out of the dark and bounced off the walls until it felt like she was surrounded. The hairs on her neck and arms rose and fine shivers started playing across her back as she realised she had no idea where to go.   

The first punch can from the dark behind her, making contact with her ribs and causing her to cry out and stumble.  She straightened and whipped around, wide fearful eyes searching the dark for Scar.  

Nothing.    

Footsteps and a chuckle brought her attention back to the circle of light where Berrin was slowly making his way over “are you going to show your claws Wild Cat?” he stopped in front of her, close enough to smell the sweat and dirt and maleness that thickened the air around him.   

She tried to make eye contact to show him that he didn’t intimidate her but even as her eyes flicked up something inside her flinched and she glanced away again, inwardly cursing herself as she almost felt the cruel smile curve his lips. There was a slight shift in his stance that she noticed subconsciously, his right foot slipped forward and his fist came at her from the left, making contact with her cheekbone and throwing her to the ground. She scrambled up and ran, having no idea if it was the right direction.  

Scar came out from the darkness and stopped her in her tracks by wrapping his hand around her neck. Her hands came up and she dug her nails deep into his arm, raking her nails as far as she could reach, he let go with a curse. Coughing and gasping for air she scrambled on all fours for a moment as the dark spots retreated from her vision “Berrin, our Wild Cat does have claws” the laughter that bounced off the walls was disorientating and she had no idea where the walls were, let alone the exit which was why it was such a surprise when she collided with the rock. The pain was sharp and she could feel a warmth spreading down from her hairline, she diagnosed a deep laceration but it was the least of her problems at that moment.  

“Here kitty  kitty   kitty ”.  More chuckling; Keller’s skin crawled and, fighting the instinct to run blindly around in the dark, she reached out her hand tentatively until it made contact with the cold stone wall. If she followed the wall around  she  should eventually reach the exit. Trying to decide on a direction took more seconds as she was terrified of going the long way around but the decision was made for her as she saw movement; moving as fast as she could while still keeping hand contact with the wall Keller headed left, acutely aware of the footsteps behind her.   

“Boo” whispered a voice in front of her. Eyes wide in panic she broke from the wall and tried to sprint away but a thick leg slipped between her feet before she could take 2 steps and she went sprawling to the cavern ground, winding herself and throwing up a plume of dust that made her eyes burn. Trying to get up she felt a boot on the small of her back which crushed her down “Now now, we have you at our feet, where a woman should be, let’s try to not ruin this moment shall we” a swift kick in her side silenced any sort of reply she might have given as she curled up on the floor. Having obviously gotten sick of playing with her, the two men set about doing what they originally planned to do. Kicks landed at the back of her thighs, two struck her shoulder blade driving the air from her lungs, another got a lucky blow to her stomach and, as she retched, a final kick struck the back of her head. Dazed, winded and ill she rolled limply onto her back, too out of it to try and defend herself any longer while she fought the blackness eating at the corners of her vision. More kicks landed but she was detached from the pain by then, her mind swimming in fuzzy darkness where she clinically categorised her injuries. Deep tissue bruising, concussion and a couple of sprained muscles but nothing was broken yet, her mind pointed out with satirical cheerfulness.  

A huge hand reached out from the darkness and lifted her by her shirt and she scrambled to get her feet under her. She needn’t have bothered for a fist struck her jaw within moments and she was back on the ground. There were voices talking above her but the sounds slurred in her head so she couldn’t make out the words. She floated on the dark fluffy clouds in her head until she felt pressure on her legs and opened blurry eyes that she didn’t remember closing.  

Seeing Scar sitting on her legs send her into a frenzy, using reserves of energy she didn’t know she still had as she clawed and hit and tried to kick and squirm her way out, fighting the restraints still attached to her wrists. Screaming reached her ears and it took a moment for her to recognise her own voice. One backhand from the man silenced her, robbing the breath from her lungs and he took the opportunity to rain more blows on her abused torso. One particularly vicious blow cracked a rib and she let out a cry of pain before another fist landed on her temple and oblivion swept her away.  

Consciousness was slow to return; piece by piece she put together what her senses were telling her. There were more voices, one of them angry and one of them... female? The confusion made her head swim so she ignored it. More information made itself known as pain flooded her all at once; a bone-deep ache suffused most of her body, the pain sharpening around her right ribs and her wrists, which were chained above her head and must have been holding all her weight while she was unconscious, her fingers now felt like lead.  

Sounds slowly became clearer and voices started to make sense. A male; Boss-man, she remembered him, was yelling at someone, furious that ‘she’ was unresponsive, that they had had too much fun with 'the toy'. Memories were starting to return and she realised they must be talking about her and the ‘playtime’ the two brutes had shared with her. Keeping her eyes shut seemed like a very smart idea.  

Jennifer frowned slightly as she noticed warm air currents over her face, the cave was cold and damp, what could be causing warmth? Oh god, her mind reminded her of all the wounds she’d treated over the years caused by fire. Scaring was inevitable. With trepidation, she opened her eyes noting first that she was again in the centre of the light from the lantern. The second thing she noticed was the dark eyes staring at her from not even an inch away, eyes that widened in delight as they meet her own. The dark eyes belonged to a woman who pulled away from her, revealing that they were still in the cave and the three men were to their left, two of them are looking at their feet, the other’s ridged back and shoulder showing his fury “she’s awake! Oh oh   oh she’s awake!” Jen’s eyes widened in horror as the woman bounced on her toes clapping her hands together as if she was a child who had just been presented with a new doll from her father.  

Skipping (skipping!?!) over to Boss she linked arms and giggled all over him, one hand running down his chest and wandered perilously close to his belt buckle before he caught it. Keller would be embarrassed for her if... well if they hadn’t kidnapped her, beaten her and had plans to torture her. Yeah, embarrassment wasn’t on her list of things she was feeling. Watching the scene before her she saw Boss twirl the crazy girl around in a parody of dance and glance over at Keller.  

“Do you want to be introduced my darling?” looking for  all the  world like they were a normal couple.  

Her smile was wide and bright, making her look beautiful and very young in the low orange light “oh could we?” his nod gained him a long and very intimate kiss.  

His smile as he led her over was full of genuine happiness “princess, this is your new toy, she was a doctor and seems to have a tendency to pass out so we’re going to have to be careful, Ok?” up close the girl was still beautiful but the guess at her age went from 16 to 23 as the dark eyes, olive skin and dead straight hair made her look ageless.  

She pouted at him but agreed. Keller’s skin prickled as she realised how bad this could get, between the two of them she wasn’t sure which was more dangerous now; the girl was obviously mentally ill and as such would be more likely to go too far. The man – Boss as she was calling him - was in control. He had the power to do anything he wanted and, she suspected she was also about to find out, that the torture was going to be this couple’s foreplay. a Chill ran down her spine.

"You,” Boss said pointing to Scar “bring me my tray and then you can leave, it’s our turn to play” Berrin, apparently over his reprimand, grinned lasciviously at Keller as Scar rolled a crude table over to his boss’s side and took his place by the exit. She could feel both sets of dark eyes watching her with a violent hunger even as her attention was drawn back to Boss and the table-of-undoubted-unpleasantness.  

The girl squealed in delight at the sight of it and left Boss’s arms to inspect the contents.

Not good.  

“Pay attention pet because I want you to fully understand what is about to happen to you” his eyes never left her face as he removed the cloth covering. Jennifer fought not to look, deep down already knowing what was on that table, but her eyes eventually flicked right and it took a long drawn out moment before her brain even registered what the objects were. Her eyes widened she broke out in a cold sweat, terror robbing her of her breath “That’s more like it” Boss murmured as he watched his lover stroke the torture devices like they were beloved pets “Now, time to get to work. Will you scream for me doctor?”  

 

Chapter Text

The jumper-sweep of the planet revealed nothing. SGA-1 watched in silence as Rodney’s device scanned the area, not even aa blip of residual technology let alone an unexpected tracking chip, apart from the gate this planet hadn’t been touched by the ancients. By the time the craft landed in the clearing by the gate, the tension had risen so high that even Teyla was fighting to keep herself in check. It was Ronon who broke the silence “so what do we do now?” His tone not allowing for inaction. 

“We, Chewie, go to the village and help SGA-4 and the surviving villagers while Rodney” Rodney raised his eyes from the computer pad “and Teyla go through the DHD and narrow down the addresses they could have taken them to. We’ll meet here and set up camp around 1700” Rodney was already at the DHD with the cover off when Sheppard and Ronon turned to make their way into the bush. Just before being engulfed Sheppard turned back and mouthed good luck at Teyla, she smiled and bowed her head in acknowledgement. It was going to be a long day for them all. 

Silence reigned while the two men made their way to the village. Both caught up in their worries for the doctor and the plans for her captors once she was found. Sheppard glanced at Ronon’s feral grin and decided he didn’t want to know what he was planning. Deniability was key when writing up reports. 

They reached the village within the hour and were hailed by SGA-4 who were conversing with the villagers “Colonel Sheppard, glad you’re here. The villagers have asked that we create a fire break around the settlement and then they’re going to burn it where it stands” 

Sheppard raised an eyebrow “I can’t see creating a fire like that, in the middle of a forest, being a good idea” 

“Please colonel,” said one of the villagers, stepping forward “we have lived here for centuries, we know what we are doing. If you could cut down the trees we mark we will do the rest. This fire will cleanse the site; the clearing it makes will become sacred ground. If we do not, our people’s spirits will never rest. We will do this without your help if we must co-” 

Sheppard held up a hand, cutting the man off “we'll help. We could both do with some manual labour. Where do you want us?”  

As the man showed them around Ronon walked nearer to Sheppard and leant closer “shouldn’t we be doing something to find Jennifer?” he hissed, anger at their inaction obviously boiling over “they don’t need us to cut trees, for all we know she’s being killed as we speak!” Sheppard noticed the hands balled into fists at his side 

Sheppard sympathised with him, their inability to do anything until Rodney had found the right address was hurting him too, but anger wasn’t the solution “what do you want to do Ronon? We have no idea where Jen is and until we do your options are to cut down trees or stand guard over Rodney. Believe me, the moment we hear anything we’ll be out of here but until then...” he trailed off, watching Ronon’s face as the frustration and anger turned into hardened resolve. 

“Where’s the axe?” he growled at the villager who took one look at him and scurried off to find one. With the biggest tree on the firebreak and a sharp axe, Ronon got to work hacking down everything in his path.  

At midday, Sheppard took a break, his back aching from the repetitive action and perspiration soaking his t-shirt. Thanking one of the timid villagers for the cup of water he made his way over to a group of resting villagers who were huddled together watching something off to their right. Noticing his approach one of the females turned to him and asked in a hushed tone “there is much anger in him, is he always like this?” Sheppard shook his head “well at least it’s being put to good use, most of us use two-person saws, it’s much faster, but he’s brought down just as many with that axe” 

Sheppard looked where they were looking and saw Ronon hacking at his next tree, having obviously paused to strip off his shirt but had been unwilling to stop. With a grimace, he explained “one of our team was taken by the ones who attacked you. The anger he shows is mostly against himself. He promised to protect her and thinks he's failed” 

The woman nodded sagely “Doctor Keller was a good woman,she helped my son; I hope you can find her and bring her back to her home” she hesitated and glanced back at Ronon “I was meant to bring him water now but the last two times he... refused, perhaps he will listen to his leader?” she offered him another cup with a desperate look. 

“Right, sure, I can do that” he tried to sound sure of himself. Getting nearer Sheppard could see the manic look in Ronon’s eyes. He was pretty sure Ronon wasn’t seeing a tree in front of him “hey big guy, stop for a moment would ya, I’ve got water for you” all he got was a grunted ‘not now’. Sheppard narrowed his eyes and looked at Ronon closer. He was sweating profusely, his lips parted to pant with each swing but his strokes were still even, still devastatingly accurate and strong however John could see that, in the state he was in, Ronon would cut down all the trees in the forest before realising he needed to rest. “Stop Ronon, don’t make me order you” one final swing buried the axe in the tree and Ronon stepped back still glaring at the wood and panting lightly. Sheppard, aware of Ronon’s fragile state, waited patiently for him to move again before handing him the cup of water “we’ve got another 4 hours until we need to start heading back to the gate do you think you will have worked through your anger by then?” 

Ronon handed him back the cup and wrenched the axe out of the tree “No.”  

 


 

“Teyla” 

“Yes Rodney” 

“Do you have a spare protein bar? I seem to have finished all mine” 

“Yes, Rodney... you do realise those were meant to last you all day” Teyla got up from her sunny spot on the stairs of the stargate to hand it to him. The withering look he sent her made her bite her cheek to hold back a smile “will you be much longer at your task Rodney? I fear Doctor Keller will not be...” she paused as she searched for an appropriate but kind word “well if we leave it too late” 

The look Rodney threw her that time was part exasperation, part knowing and part fear. If he didn’t work this out fast enough he would be responsible for Jennifer’s death “I’m working as fast as I can, this isn’t exactly remedial math I’m doing here, you have no clue at the complex nature of the algorithms I’m using and creating! to try and narrow down the addresses. Do you know anything about duodecimal systems? Base twelve maths? I can barely think past the equations going on in my head and if you keep distracting me with ridiculous questions like-” 

“Ok, Rodney I’m sorry, I will sit over here in the sun and be silent” she turned to walk back when a quiet voice spoke from behind her. 

“Umm, thank you. For... for the bar” 

Teyla turned and smiled at Rodney “you are welcome Rodney” 

*** 

Sheppard tugged his vest on over his t-shirt and walked over to Ronon “Let’s go Chewie, it’s time we head back”  

“Not yet” came the terse reply 

“Yes yet,” Sheppard said and then frowned “I meant yes now, come on we’ve got to head back to Teyla and Rodney, we need to check that they haven’t killed each other yet” 

“Of all of us she’s the most likely to withstand the urge,” Ronon said with a tired grin, finally stepping away from the nearly felled tree and rolling his shoulders. 

Sheppard chuckled “Yeah, well it’s your turn tomorrow buddy,” he said slapping him on the shoulder. The look Ronon threw him as he collected his stuff was entirely unfriendly and the rest of the walk was spent in exhausted silence, both of them trudging through the forest wondering when their packs had been filled with rocks. 

When the two men reached the gates clearing they were greeted with the welcome sight of a campfire and their tents already erected. Teyla, having gone out of her mind with boredom, had gone hunting and found a bird that looked a lot like a pukeko but was twice the height and had a vicious hooked beak. It was now on a roasting spit with a pile of blue feathers smouldering in the fire. Letting out identical groans both the men took a seat around the fire, joining Teyla who was looking after the bird and glancing Rodney who still had his eyes fastened to his computer screen. “Any luck?” Sheppard asked in a tired voice, giving his left shoulder a rub as he tried to ease the ache. 

Teyla’s worried eyes met his over the fire “Not yet, Rodney says he is nearly there, it should be one more day, we have just got to be patient” 

“Patience is my middle name” quipped John. Rodney snorted. Pulling a face at him seemed too childish but it took more effort than John was willing to admit to hold one back. 

“Food should be ready in a minute or two” Teyla cut in “now that you are here you can make some soup from the rations packs Ronon” he looked at her wearily and then hauled himself to his feet and trudged off to find the supplies. “John, did you find anything out about the people who came?” she asked with concern, knowing that Dr Keller’s treatment would be dependent on their attitude. 

“Yeah” he sighed, running his hands through his hair “they were brutal, the only villagers left alive were the ones who weren’t in the village at the time. All of the Atlantis team were killed... except the two women” John’s eyes met Teyla’s for a second before returning to the fire. They knew what that probably meant; a moment later Rodney stood up and walked away, muttering something about cables. Teyla cast him a guilty look. 

“He is stressed” she explained to John “and terrified he will not be quick enough to get us there before she is...” Teyla looked uncomfortable 

“Yeah” Sheppard sighed “before there’s no point mounting a rescue” 

“Yes,” she said softly and there was no more conversation for the rest of the night, all of the team wrapped up in their own thoughts and plans. Teyla and Ronon went to bed soon after sunset leaving Rodney, who was still bent over his computer, and Sheppard who had the first watch. 

Standing to do another patrol of the clearing's edge he leant over Rodney and laid a hand on his shoulder ignoring Rodney’s flinch at the unexpected contact “you should get some rest Rodney, a fresh mind in the morning could make all the difference” 

Rodney raised his gaze from the tablet and frowned at John “not yet”. The shock of Ronon’s words on Rodney’s lips kept him from commenting, instead, he cast him an odd look and walked off to do his circuit. By the time he got back, Rodney was in bed, torchlight illuminating the walls of his tent. 

 


 

As Ronon’s watch came to an end he went to wake up Teyla, passing by Rodney’s tent. A whispered curse stopped him before he went much further and, retracing his last steps, he stuck his head in Rodney’s tent. 

Rodney looked up from his computer and Ronon saw the desperation in his face as well as the dark circles under his eyes, only accentuated by the light shining from the screen. With a nod of approval, Ronon left without a word to wake Teyla. Rodney gained  ‘Brownie’  points in his opinion... whatever they were. 

 

Chapter Text

“Will you scream for me doctor?”  

Jennifer watched him as he stood calmly in front of her, his girlfriend behind him picked up a short, thin knife and rubbed her cheek against it.

Medically she knew that the term 'crazy' was frowned upon but, dear God, this girl was crazy.  

“Can I doodle?” Crazy asked pleadingly, twirling the small knife between her index fingers “I bet she has such a nice smooth back” Keller’s wide eyes stared at her in horror but the girl never made eye contact, instead she bounced over and grabbed Boss’s hand and fluttered her lashes at him.  

He looked down at her with something akin to love in his eyes “there’s something I want to do first but I’ll leave the back clean for you shall I?”  

She squealed and kissed him deeply before twirling away to dance, the knife waving through the air in front of her. Boss reached out, picked up a serrated kitchen knife and turned to her. Keller’s panic heightened and she could feel her heart thudding in her chest so hard it hurt “please” she whispered futilely “please don’t” tears rolled down her cheeks and he raised the knife to catch one on the tip, her breath hitched and the broken rib sent a stab of pain through her.  

A chuckle met her pleas and he lowered the knife out of view, her relief was shortlived however as she felt the cold metal lift her shirt and trace a circle around her bellybutton. Trying to shy away from it did no good; the chains were pulled too tight for her to do anything. She glanced up at him watching her, a smile on his face “so much fear and we haven’t even started yet” with a sharp jerk the knife tore through her shirt, splitting it from sleeve to hem . Two more slices and he had the shirt off her and Keller was bare from the waist up apart from her plain black bra.   

The new level of vulnerability had her immediately on edge and colder than she was before, goose-bumps breaking out all over her. A small hand came from over her left shoulder and traced its way up her arm to where her wrists were anchored to the cave roof, the rest of the girl moulding herself against her back as traced patterns over Keller’s cold arm. Keller could feel her small breasts pressed against her shoulder blades, putting pressure on the deep bruises there but what she found more uncomfortable was the leg the girl had wrapped around hers, putting her off balance and meant there was more strain on her wrists. She would have tried to adjust the feeling of the cold steel against her stomach scrambled her brain. “Oh I do so like this one” The girl murmured against her ear “could we maybe keep her?”  

“No” Jennifer snapped before she could think “I am not a toy, I’m a human being” pain blossomed across her face as Boss backhanded her before she could say anything else and Jen gasp as the shock of pain, one quick flick of her tongue confirmed that he had split her lip. The warmth at her back had disappeared and when she looked again Boss was kneeling at her feet with the knife. The man took the cuff of her cargo pants and slid the knife up them, watching her expression to let Jen know he enjoyed the tremors of fear it caused. With one long slice of the knife, he split the pant leg right up to the waist, repeating it on the other and then standing so close that only his hand, still holding the knife, separated them. His eyes watched her intently as he ran the flat of the blade along her stomach before sliding it into the waist of her pants. His face held a hunger that terrified her, a flash of something twisted and furious crossing his features as he jerked the knife and cut away the final piece of fabric. He let the rags fall to the ground but did not immediately move away. Keller shivered against him, now clad in only her black bra and panties and probably in shock, fear not doing anything to improve her outlook. The heat from his skin did nothing for her chill but made her acutely aware of just how close he was; his breath would disturb the loose strands of hair hanging around her face and his eyes, close enough that if he was going to kiss her it would have been polite to have them closed by now, bore into her own and showed some of the delight he was getting out of her situation. 

“Can I doodle now?” a petulant voice broke the spell, causing him to pull away from her and smooth his clothing down as if suddenly self-conscious

“Of course my dear, patience should be rewarded. Have you chosen what pen you want to use?” she sauntered over waving the little knife from earlier in her right hand. “Perfect” he exclaimed and with a hand on the small of her back he guided her behind Jennifer and out of sight.  

Fear crawled its way up Jen’s body, making her break out in a cold sweat and settling around her chest like a band, constricting her breathing and making her head spin. Her entire focus was on her what was behind her, her imagination running riot. She jerked violently when a warm finger traced a pattern over her back, snaking its way up her spine and fanning out from there. More small patterns were drawn, these dotted all over. She could imagine the look of concentration on the girls face as she planned what she was going to do and decided she had to make one last attempt at reason before anything irreversible happened. “Look, really, if you let me go I will make sure no one ever tries to hunt you down, I promise, please, just let me-” her last word was choked off as Boss’s fingers wrapped themselves around her neck from behind  

“you’re going to not say another word about being released” he hissed in her ear “if you do, the second beating I let my boys do will be twice as bad” he tightened his fingers to make his point “do I make myself clear?” he waited until Jennifer nodded before letting her go. Air rushed into her lungs too fast and her broken rib protested sharply.  

Not a moment later she cried out as the girl started slicing into her back. The pain was unbearable, nothing like any knife wound she had experience before as this one was done with slow and deep precision. She tried to twist herself away, desperate to evade the knife but Boss came around the front and held his knife against her throat, his eyes silently begging her to squirm.   

Keeping still took masses of concentration, sweat poured off her as she tried to maintain focus and she managed it for a while however after what felt like hundreds of cuts to one small area of her lower back she stiffened and let out a strangled cry as the knife was replaced by something warm that scrapped against all the cuts and caused them to flare with new pain. Unable to control herself she arched her back away from the girl, causing Boss’s knife to slice her neck lightly.  

His eyes narrowed at her but held a spark of humour “what did you just do to our toy my dear? She seemed to enjoy it”  

A giggle sounded behind her “I licked my picture, it tasted salty”  

Jennifer’s eyes closed in disgust, missing the look that passed over the man’s face “I think I want to watch you work, just give me a second would you sweet?” Jen's eyes flew open as she felt him step close to her again “I need you to keep still so that my darling can work and I don’t think you’re capable of that so I’m going to have to quieten you” Jen’s gaze slipped to the knife in his hand “don’t worry I’ll be gentle” and with that his fist can out of nowhere, hitting her right where Scar got her before, leaving her dazed but awake.  

Time passed, she wasn’t sure how much. She remembered him lifting her face to see if she was still conscious, she remembered a male voice trying to ask her questions but her mouth wouldn’t do what she told it to, the sound of a woman humming twisted through these memories but mostly she remembered the pain. Her lower back was now one long hurt and she remembered distinctly being told that they would have to finish it another time. Then the restraints keeping her up were released and she fell into darkness.

 


 

Just before dawn broke over the trees Rodney burst out of his tent waving his computer in his hand and shouting “I’ve got it, I’ve got it!” it took only minutes for the team to radio to Atlantis, pack up their gear , load it all in the jumper  and dial the gate, all the while each of them praying it was quick enough.  

 

Chapter Text

“No” Ronon growled “your scanner is wrong, she has to be here somewhere”   

Teyla lay a calming hand on his arm “This just means they’ve taken her through the gate aga in. Rodney will do what he does best and we will find her” her calm assurance eased some of the tension in the room but Rodney still had to say his piece .  

“Yeah, but how many more gates will they have taken her through, it’s going to take me just as long as it did for the last one” he ran his hands through his hair and muttered something about recycling algorithms and a man called Atlas .  

As Sheppard lowered the craft to the ground in front of the ‘gate Teyla tried to relieve some of the d esolation  in Rodney’s eyes “it would be peculiar for them to travel through more than two gates. I have faith we will find her in time Rodney. Is there anything we can do while you are working?”  

The door of the shuttle opened and desert air blew in. Rodney groaned “Just don’t interrupt me. Did I even mention that I had hot weather? It does havoc to my-”  

Ronon gave him a shove out the door “you complain about all climates, even Atlantis, just do your maths thing so we can get Keller... and Barker” he added quickly

Two hours later a sputtering Rodney was turning red and glaring at Ronon who looked ready to hit something or someone “Ronon” Sheppard barked from under the lone tree “Drop it, Rodney’s not one to tarnish his reputation by slacking off now. Come on, we’ll tug off a couple of branches and you can take a swing at me, Teyla can take over when I’m out cold” he joked while shooting Teyla a pleading look. She looked relieved.  

“Sparing sounds like a good idea, it would be a welcome change for a while; however this heat would not make it wise to spar for long”    

Without a word, Ronon strode over and tore two long thick branches off the tree, stripped the twigs and tossed one to John. One look at his face told John he was in for a workout but in all honesty, he was just as frustrated and infuriated with the situation, trying to hit someone might relieve some of that but the guilt would stay with him, with both of them.  

Rodney watched as John and Ronon started trading blows and rolled his eyes “Neanderthals the pair of them”  

 


 

Jennifer sagged against her arms, still chained high above her, throat raw from screaming and begging and swearing, now too exhausted to do more than moan in agony as another slice was made in her back. Tear tracks, long since dry, left trails of clean skin on an otherwise dirty face and gave her a macabre look.  

When the torture had first begun Jennifer had tried to keep her wits about her, attempting to estimate time of day by the rotation of guards, study the behaviours of the few people she had contact with and imagine the herculean effort Atlantis would be going through to get her back but as the days wore on her strength drained, the constant dark, damp and cold, coupled with the pain of her injuries took its toll and she started to lose hope that she would ever be found. It was such a big universe and she could be anywhere in it, besides, Carson was back in Atlantis, eventually, HQ would order them to stop.  

Her eyes burnt but tears didn’t come, her tear ducts having exhausted their supply what felt like hours ago. A murmur behind her and a girly giggle marked the end of this session, the sudden release of her restraints confirming it.  

Hitting the ground on all fours, trying to ignore the jarring of her ribs, Jennifer attempted to crawl away into the dark in the hopes that they would be too wrapped up in each other to remember her, it had happened before. Escape wasn’t the plan, she knew the exit was guarded constantly but a quiet place to rest without being attached to either the floor or the ceiling would be welcome.  

He had other ideas.   

“No, no, no,” he said cheerfully while reaching down to grab a fistful of Keller’s hair “up we go!” he lifted her bodily until her feet were under her. “Don’t worry I’m going to forego the questioning this session. Princess” he said to his prodigy who was twirling so that her skirt flared “what do you say we take our pet for a walk?” the spinning stopped immediately.  

“Oh yes, please! Can I hold the leash this time?” when he looked like he was about to shake his head she pouted “but you never let me hold the leash, not even with the last pet and she was so weak she had to crawl” The crazy girl wrapped her arms around his waist and looked up at him pleadingly.  

Keller watch in horror, realisation hitting her like physical blows; the last one had been Lilly but there had also been others who had come before who had never been rescued, who had shared the same fate she was facing and it made her ill. The psychologist’s voice in her head pointed out that sharing control of her was obviously a struggle for him but it did her little good, especially when he seemed to overcome it “of course you can Princess” The girl kissed him and skipped off into the dark returning moments later with 3 metres of fraying rope and gave it to him.  

He watched Jennifer carefully as he let go of her hair and tied a loop in one end of the rope “this is going around your neck one way or another, which will it be?”Jennifer debated it for a moment but the possibility of seeing sunlight was too much to pass up and she bowed her head and let him slip it over her head.  

Humiliation boiled in her; to be leashed like a dog, and willingly too, was painfully sharp but it was worth it to see the darkness of the cave lessen until all at once, stumbling around one last corner, she stood in full sunlight. The pain of it was too much for her eyes, too long in the dark but she closed them and let the heat soak into her skin. This moment didn’t last long as the woman/child started tugging on the rope as if Jennifer was a distracted puppy “Come on! ” one extra strong pull sent Jennifer staggering towards her, her eyes flying open. S quinting  with a swelling eye was painful but preferable to falling on her face.  

 As she was led down a dirt path she became aware of eyes on her, glancing up she saw a well-established campsite with men watching her openly, their eyes hard and their mouths smiling. One wolf whistle followed another, chuckling over what was obviously a joke at her expense, followed her down the line of tents and past the fire pit.  

One man was bold enough to come up and stroke her arm, obviously enjoying the fear in her eyes as he licked his lips suggestively. Before he opened his mouth Boss grabbed his shoulder and pulled him away and stood between them; the fear in the unknown man's eyes made her skin crawl as if fear on that hard, scarred face was so unnatural her brain couldn’t process it. No words were exchanged, no blows but all the same Keller got the distinct impression she was being labelled as Boss’s property. Eventually, the men backed off and she was led on, the girl humming quietly to herself.  

After circling half the settlement, and Jen getting a distinct impression she was being shown off as a prize, she was taken to the latrine allowed to use it; Jen, trying to maintain some dignity, closed the rickety door to the hut but moments later the girl had it open again, a curious look on her face broken by a smile that told Jennifer she knew exactly how uncomfortable she was making her captive.  

The man met her eyes over the girl's shoulder, silently daring her to say something.  

Keller could feel herself flush, the act of willingly revealing more of herself to them was a humiliation she would desperately like to have foregone but nature called and so she averted her gaze and did everything as fast as she could.  

When Jennifer stood up the man was holding the end of the rope, the crazy girl storming off in the direction of the tent. Jennifer guessed she wasn’t happy with having been made to give up her toy.  

“I have one more thing to show you and then we can head back inside for some entertainment,” his smile told her exactly what sort of entertainment he meant, the reminder causing the wounds on her back to throb sharply.  

Stumbling and staggering along the stony path whenever he tugged the rope, she kept her eyes downcast, knowing that the fury they held would cause her trouble. He gave the rope one last tug sending her crashing to her knees and turned to face her wrapping the rope around his hand, shortening the leash.  

Keller’s focus had been on keeping upright during the walk which, she figured, was why she hadn’t heard the dogs until now “the horror on your face is delicious, did you know?”  

Keller couldn’t tear her eyes away from the dogs snarling and  salivating  a mere metre from where she was kneeling.  

“I just wanted to introduce you to my dogs and assure you that your fate won’t be the same as Miss Barker’s” Jennifer glanced up at him then, unsure where this glimmer of humanity had come from “I have other plans for you my dear”  

As she was lead back to the cave Keller shed what she was sure must be the last tears she possessed. Her resolve finally broken as hopelessness crashed in, there was no rescue. She was going to die by his hand and he was going to make it last as long as possible. The hopelessness made her listless and she let herself be lead back and chained back onto the floor, not even reacting to the caress he ran over her shoulder instead, continuing to stare blankly at the wall.  

 

The next time Jennifer’s mind surfaces the girl was crouched in front of her, staring “I brought you food and water” she said eagerly placing a bowl of gruel and a glass of water on the floor within reach. Keller reached out and snatched the glass of water draining it in one go but it did little to slake her thirst. As she reached for the bowl something shifted in the girl’s demeanour and Keller eyed the bowl sharply, hunger gnawing at her. Deciding it was too great of a risk Keller pushed the bowl away and mumbled that she wasn’t hungry, not missing the disappointment that flitted across crazy girls face but the sound of footsteps stopped her from trying to convince Jennifer of anything, she wondered in a detached way whether it was poison, drugs, metal shavings? she would have to double-check everything she was given. She wondered if Boss knew what his girlfriend had tried to do.  

“Boys get her up and hung on the other chains if you would, we’re going to have a bit more fun” throaty chuckles rung out as the ring in the floor snapped open and she was kicked in the hip.  

“Get up” Scar’s voice ground out beside her. She must have taken too long because meaty hands wrapped around her arms and hauled her to her feet. The bruising grip didn’t let up until she heard chains rattle above her. Her whimpers were met with amused silence and when she fought the chain on her wrist getting attached to a hook she received a sharp slap which stunned her long enough for the hook to be raised, her hands with it.  

There was a muttered conversation outside of the lantern light, male voices and male chuckles making her shudder with fear. Scar stepped forward and faced her “Boss has asked me to make certain you will stay still of our little waif” he stepped closer and took a deep breath, letting it out with a groan “ mmm  you smell of fear” with no warning his first punch landed on her cracked rib and she heard it break with a sickening snap, driving all the air from her lungs.   

He punched like a barroom brawler; wide swings that seemed to hit everywhere at once. Her stomach took a punch and she was glad she’d skipped the food or it would have made a reappearance. Her ribcage took the brunt of the damage but he thankfully missed her broken rib again. One blow to the jaw snapped her head back and the rest became a pain-filled blur.  

 


 

The pain of the knife was dulled, something she was immensely grateful for, however, it was still all she could concentrate on. The feeling of a blade digging into you back and dragging against the skin made Jen's stomach flip when she thought about it too deeply but she wasn’t worried about that as much as the burning feeling that was slowly spreading across her back. It was inevitable, she supposed, in such bad conditions with no medication or sustenance infection was bound to set in.  

Jennifer noticed it now, the hot shaky feeling that she had thought was from a lack of sleep and food and the dizziness which had been with her since before her trip outside. One way or another she would most likely be dead in a matter of days. The fear she felt at that realisation was expected.  

The relief was not.  

 

Chapter Text

Jennifer slept heavily where she had been dropped; slumped against the rock wall with the sharp stone edge pressed against her bare back and her arms held in front of her, still bound by chains now attached back to the floor. The discomfort of her position went unnoticed as she dreamt of home.  

 

 Th e light and airy corridors of Atlantis stretched out before her, people strolling along chatting or with their head buried research papers, all happy to greet her with a smile. She made her way down the corridor, took a right and found herself in the mess hall. Jennifer scanned the room looking for a familiar face to have her meal with. Eating alone had been the worst part of high school and had become something she avoided in her adult life.  

Ronon’s large hand rose in greeting from the far corner and she smiled gratefully at him, making her way over. The Satedan  had been so imposing when she had first met him, his size and gruffness had made her very aware of her limited physical ability but over time she began to understand the man. It didn’t make him seem any less gruff or threatening but she now knew the life that had moulded him and she understood that the threat was to anyone trying to hurt the people close to him.  

“Keller,” he said in greeting  

“Ronon” she responded, “sent anyone new to the infirmary since my shift ended last night?”  

His grin was wide as he replied “only a couple” it had become a running joke between the two of them, a greeting which held equal parts teasing and truth “so what brings you out of your  offi -”   

 

Pain erupted from her side and the dream shattered. Cold flooded her senses as she curled up around the pain, a booted foot brushing against her knee as it swung back “Rise and shine Wild Cat, it’s time to play” Jennifer’s mind scrambled to make sense of everything as she shuffled backwards away from the man standing between her and lantern. His silhouette towered over her and she flinched when he shifted his foot again.  

As was always the case when the two brutes came to play with her, her restraints were free from the ring in the floor and she was allowed to roam the cavern as they administered their beating. A swift kick landed on her shoulder and sent her sprawling on her back, a hiss of pain from the open knife wounds escaping her lips as she lurched to her feet and tried to run.  

Days without food, minimal water, sleep deprivation, beatings and torture caused her movements to be sluggish so when Scar foot tripped her she was a fraction too slow and her weight wasn’t evenly distributed when her arms came out to catch herself. Pain flared from her wrist and she lay on the dirt floor for a moment. The doctor took a second to flex it and reassure herself that it wasn’t broken, fractured probably, but not broken.  

Rolling onto her back with her wrist cradled against her chest she saw Berrin standing over her “get up” he said with a gleeful sneer  

Jen, too tired to bother objecting, got laboriously to her feet. A presence behind her gave a seconds warning but its wasn’t enough for her fuzzy brain as two large calloused hands snaked around and twisted her arms behind her back. No amount of weak struggling could get her free and then her focus shifted back to Berrin who was stepping towards her cracking his knuckles. Keller would have sniggered if she had the strength. He looked like a cliché mobster, if a little underdressed.  

Her vision swam for a moment, legs giving way under her, causing her shredded back to rub against Scar’s shirt as he tightened his grip to keep her upright. Bile crept up her throat but her whimper was drowned out by the sound of Berrin's fist hitting her face.  

Her head snapped to the side and the cave blurred around her. Her inner doctor was telling her it was only to be expected with an infection raging through a human body unhindered by medicine or a healthy immune system but most of her mind was crying out   as blow after blow fell on her already battered body. A blow to her stomach caused her to retch but her stomach didn’t have enough in it to do more than send acid to burn the back of her throat.   

Another particularly vicious punch landed just above her already broken rib and she felt the sickening snap as another broke, the gasp of pain only causing more pain to flood through her as her lungs tried to expand, making the bones grind. Tears sprang to her eyes as she prayed silently for a miracle.  

“Boys stop” Boss’s voice rang out from behind her “leave her there, Tern wants to see you both outside”  

The hands holding her suddenly disappeared and she dropped unceremoniously to the floor. Closing her eyes she pretended she was unconscious, even with her mind clouded with the beginnings of a fever and another blow to the head she knew being tied back up was a bad thing, the thought of them touching her again also made her skin crawl. A mumbled conversation occurred over her and a hand reached down to grip her jaw hard. All Keller’s concentration went into keeping her eyes closed and her face relaxed, her heart pounding in fear until she felt them move away.  

First one eye and then the other opened as Jennifer searched the darkness for any signs of movement and when she saw nothing she slowly got onto all fours. A groan of pain escaped as one of her ribs shifted and she froze, ears straining for any hint of a guard alerted to her conscious state. Nothing.    

Jen crawled forward, one hand sweeping in front of her until she found the rock wall which she used to inch her way up onto her feet. Once standing she took a few careful breaths, trying to stop her head spinning while not provoking her ribs. Finding the exit was the first step in her plan... of one step. She honestly had no idea what to do if - when she found her way out. She had never been trained for this, never been told what to expect or how to react or how to survive. Tears of frustration made her eyes swim but she forced all her doubt down “just find the exit Keller, deal with everything later” she muttered to herself.  

A giggle slipped out as she thought about how mad she must look talking to herself and she had to wrap an arm around her ribs. One step at a time, the other hand trailing against the wall, she walked around the outside of the room. She ground her teeth as her little toe found a rock on the ground but she kept going slowly, determined to try to escape, it was egotistical to think that Atlantis was trying to rescue her.  

Eventually, Jennifer had to take a break and sat on the ground, trying to ignore the feeling of the cuts on her back pulling. She was so tired. Exhaustion clawed at her and she knew that if she stayed much longer she would fall asleep and never find her way out of this hell hole. Up once again, one hand around her ribs and the other on the wall, she set off and it wasn’t long before she could make out vague shapes. At first she thought she was imagining it but another few metres she could see her hand against the rock and eventually she was standing in sunlight.  

Which way to the stargate?  

Jennifer’s eyes widened as she realised she had no idea where she was going to go but the camp she had been lead to was to her left behind a corpse of bushes so she turned right and made her way over the rocky ground and into the forest. Maybe she could escape.  

Moments later Jennifer was tearing through the undergrowth, fully aware that she was leaving and pretty obvious trail in her wake, one that the men tracking her could easily see, but she didn’t care She ignored the branches that whipped her face, the knowledge that the new cuts she had gathered were leaving drops and smears of blood every once in a while that could be seen if they searched hard enough. None of that mattered.  

Because she could hear the dogs .  

Chapter Text

F ear was driving her further than  she could ever have gone alone. The adrenalin burnt in her veins and she was sure that once she stopped there would be no chance of her remaining conscious. Already she could see flashe s  of light and colours that she knew didn’t exist anywhere except in her head, the fever was starting to get to her ... or maybe it was her mind finally snapping under the stress. She couldn’t think about that yet, first, she needed to run and she knew she wasn’t fast enough. She had tripped often enough that her hands were covered in scrapes and leaf litter, her knees in a similar  way but also with a collection of bruises. Her wrist was aching from when she had tried to use it to crawl under a fallen tree earlier and her chest was burning but she knew she couldn’t stop.  To stop was to get caught. To stop was to die.    

Footsteps were closing in on her left and she could hear the snuffling of the dog as he tracked her. Frustrated tears ran dow n her cheeks and she knew there was no way she was going to be able to outrun them. She dodged behind a tree and her foot landing on a log which immediately rolled under her, sending her to the forest floor.

L ooking up at the canopy of leaves,  blink ing  away the pretty lights flashing in her vision Jen tried to remember what she was meant to be doing .  

“Need a hand up Doc?” Jennifer’s eyes widened as her focus slipped from the hand being offered to her and up the wrist, over the shoulder and to the face of John Sheppard “are you going to stare at me until the men find you or are we going to get you out of here?” her eyes skimmed over the rest of the team surrounding her, guns at the ready and facing the sound of approaching feet . Tears of relief rolled silently down her cheeks, she had been so sure she was going to die and now the heady feeling of safety washed through her  brin ging with it a renewed strength and her first smile in days.  

“Yes,” she cried and reached to take his arm , her shackles clinking melodically . She  frowned as her hand met air “what?” she glanced up and saw only Rodney standing 5 trees ahead of her, beckoning madly for  her to run towards him. She frowned but struggled to her feet,  wrapping an arm around her ribs, d etermined to keep up, determined to survive .  

Running was difficult now,  her legs were cold and stiff and  the rest of her b urnt with an unnatural heat  but she pressed on, desperate sobs escaping her lips  as she struggled to reach Rodney , still too far away, the rest of the team only half visible as they ran on, guns out and ready.  

W ait” she called  out g asping for air that burnt her  lungs.  Her thoughts shifted like mercury in her head; confusion over why her friends couldn’t wait for her, dangerous relief over her rescue that whispered false safety to her, fear that burnt at her core threatening to overwhelm the last of her control, and  what was a giraffe doing over there? Jennifer could  feel her feet being torn up further by the rock s  she wasn’t bothering to dodge  but it didn’t matter if she could keep up with the team and escape. She could rest then, heal then, b reak down then but not  ju -  

Jennifer’s foot twisted under her  and she crashed to her knees, the jarring of her ribs robbing her of even the breath to whimper in pain. The ground she knelt on was covered in loose rocks and sticks, and a n  upended tree with its roots still spread out around its base explaining why the ground was so uneven . She looked up and caught Rodney ’s eye from in amongst the trees in front of her, he looked apologetic as he turned his back and ran on . Jennifer’s hea rt died with her hope so it was almost  tedious when a snarling heavyweight collided with her back and the breath was driven from her lungs again . She knew she was going to die as the claws dug into her back and teeth scraping against her neck. The dog's muzzle got caught in her matted hair  but even as the fear in her swelled and spilled from her throat in a hoarse scream she felt the weight lift from her . When she instinctually curled up with her arms over her head she heard a throaty chuckle and  a hushed conversation which was mostly drowned out by snarls and growls of the feral beast that had nearly severed her spine . When she heard footsteps retreating and the noise of the dog turn back into the echoing barks she  relaxed enough to sit up, arms braced behind her.  

Berrin stood in front of her alone, the dog on its way back with it s minder to report her retrieval. His eyes had a wild look in them and he towered over her, tall even when she wasn’t splayed on the ground. He looked as if he had taken a light stroll rather than just been running for miles, no twigs or pine needles in his hair, no scratches or grazes where a branch had caught him. At that moment he reminded her of Ronon, completely at home in the wild, skilled at the hunt and fierce She remembered seeing Ronon  in the trees and now she r emembered her hand passing throug h J ohn s arm, remembered the way the team blurred when her mind cleared for a few moments from the fuzzy heat the enveloped her.  

Oh God, they weren’t real.  

The spell broke when he spoke, a cruel eagerness evident in his tone “ look what I have here  my little wild cat the two of us in the middle of a forest  all alone. Can you just imagine the fun we could have?”  

Jennifer could, which was why she was quietly sobbing, her breath hitching every now and again as another bout of shivers shook her body . He took a step towards her and  she crawled backwards, ignoring the pain in her wrist and chest as they supported her weight.

“Sadly Boss-man has claimed you on his girlfriends' behalf and so I’m not allowed to ‘ruin’ you” his heated gaze over her half-naked figure told her exactly what he was being prevented from doing. He took another step towards her “But I do have something in mind, something that the Boss won’t like but” he leant over her and whispers “what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him” he   watched her intently for a moment   “Run”  

Her eyes were wide “What?”  

“Run,” he said again, sounding impatient now “ run little girl” he took a step forward and was pleased to see that she flinched “I want proper sport. You can’t imagine the pleasure I get from hunting people. So much more of a challenge” he took another step forward and she scrambled back to avoid being stood on “so run. I’ll even give you a head start” he pointed to the trees behind Jennifer “the stargate   is  that way. If you can reach it before I get you, you’re free”  

Keller couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Instinct  told her to make a break for it; that she now had a chance to es cape and should be thankful. Logic, however, told her that it was too good to be true, there was no way this man was going to let her run off, besides, look at him!  

Jennifer ran anyway.   

Trees flew by as she raced across the  rocky ground, both arms at her side and the chain  connecting them  slapping against her thighs, t he pain in her ribs had increased without the support but it wasn’t as important as speed , i f she could just get far enough ahead maybe she could make it. Another branch projected out from a tree to her left and she was forced to duck under it with a pained groan when it made her ribs shift.  As a doctor she was worried about them, if they took too much more punishment she would puncture a lung and then there would be no hope of surviving this but there was nothing she could use to bind them with, all her torn clothes had been removed on her first day of consciousness and hadn’t been seen since . She also noted that she was sweat-soaked, perhaps understandable considering the exertion she was facing but she knew it was excessive for someone with as little clothing on as she had.  

Glancing around herself as she ran Jennifer noticed no sign of Berrin; it seemed he was true on his word when he said she would have a head start. There was a first time for everything it seemed.  

Doc ” a hushed call came from her left “quick over here” she looked over at John crouched behind a tree.  

Her pace faltered but she continued running “go away” she hissed “you’re not real”  

Teyla stood  ahead of her, a hastily wrapped wound on her side “Jennifer, please I cannot stop the bleeding” Keller closed her eyes for a moment as she forced herself on, ignoring her instinct to help.  

It was a few metres on that she saw Rodney’s frightened eyes watching her from a cluster of ferns “Jennifer what are you doing out in the open? You should be taking cover” secretly she agreed with him but she pressed on muttering “not real, not real,  not  real” to herself like a mantra.  

She carried on and relaxed slightly, it seems her subconscious had got the message for which she was grateful.   Her focus turned back to trying to escape and she took a sharp right figuring  that running in a straight line was a bad idea. Not for the first time did she wish she had had more training for this sort of thing .  

The cru nch of a twig from behind alerted  her  to his presence and she forced  herself to go faster, darting around a moss-covered stump to find the groun d beginning to rise. She could  feel her calves burning, h er lungs labouring as she forced  herself further up the incline, her body pushed to its limit.  

“Faster Keller” Ronon growled from her side   

“No” she managed to groan between pants “not you too” she didn’t have enough concentration to cast a glance at him but she knew he would be easily keeping pace with her. Damn him and his stamina. “ You’re a figment of my imagination, so go away”  

Ronon chuckled and sped ahead of her “I can see him  slowly catching up ” he informed her as he paused and looked behind them “if you don’ t try harder he’s going to get  you”  

She looked at him aghast for a second before snapping her eyes back onto the forest floor “shut up”  

You’re  too weak to evade  him; you know that, I know that. So just stop, take a breath. Any last thing you want to do before you get dragged back to hell?”  

Keller secretly agreed with what he was saying , unsurprising since he was her “I am not going to allow myself to get captured just so I can fulfil some ridiculous crush” if she wasn’t already running a fever she would be blushing, it seemed her subconscious wanted to embarrass her. Goody.   

Suddenly Ronon appeared before her, arms folded across his chest, stance firm, cocky smile fixed firmly to his face. Keller sped up and closed her eyes just before she would have hit him.   

Her foot met air and she fell.  

Stupid brain, stupid hallucinations, stupid... brain.   Keller lay on her back with twigs and pebbles sticking to her burning cuts as she  cursed herself. After a moment she  looked up at B errin’s face as it swam in her vision, his grin warping into a grotesque parody of a pure emotion. Just behind him was the side of a small gully in which she was now lying. Stupid hallucination.  

She could see Berrin’s mouth moving, no doubt saying something that would make her skin crawl but all she heard was a soft rushing sound. She watched as his mouth moved, tongue flicking out every few words to wet cracked lips. Her gaze shifted to over his right shoulder and her eyes met Ronon’s, watching her from not two metres away and looking disappointed in her “why?” she murmured, her lips feeling numb.  

Berrin laughed and the hum got louder but she  ignored  both as she watched Ronon walk over to her ,  seemingly oblivious to the mountain of a man orating in front of her. He crouched down and placed his  lips right by her ear ,  his words almost drowned out by the increasing hum “you didn’ t try hard enough Keller . Those who fall behind get left behind”   

Blackness swallowed her.  

 

Chapter Text

Her head bounced against something warm and the world was upside down. Voices were speaking and she could feel the rumble of the words vibrate through her.   

“What happened?” a man with a stern voice says.   

She tripped” Jennifer felt the words travel along her sternum “head hit a rock”  

There was a small soft hand stroking her face as a quiet voice consoled a pet.   

Darkness swelled up again.   

 


   

She woke unable to breathe. Fear and pain assaulted her as she opened her eyes, only to find herself held up on her knees by Boss’s hand wrapped securely around her neck. Taking control of her orientation alleviated some of the pain but his grip was still tight enough that she struggled to breathe. He forced her to look him directly in the eyes as he spoke: “you’ve learnt your lesson now haven’t you, my dear?”  

Jennifer nodded hastily in the hope that he would remove his hand, chains rattled at her wrist 

“Good,” he said, not moving at all “we wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself again would we?” his lips twisted in what he must have intended to be a smile, the results were stomach-turning.

A rattle of chains above her signalled Boss to back off as her hands were dragged up above her head and then higher. Soon her options were to swing off her aching arms and fractured wrist or try to stand. Still unsteady on her feet, Keller staggered back to her knees twice before she managed to stay upright, whoever was pulling the chain didn’t stop to let her adjust and soon most of her weight was taken by her wrists and tiptoes    

“Please no further, please! No, don’t” she looked pleadingly at Boss as he stood in front of her, watching closely.

“Higher” he commanded to someone out of sight.    

She could feel the pain intensify as the chain jerked but she stopped begging, there was clearly no point, so she reached up and grabbed the chain with her uninjured hand trying to take as much of weight from her fractured bone as possible. When her toes finally left the ground she ground her teeth trying to ignore the terrible pain as she hung from a quickly weakening grip.   

“You know I was hoping you would see the opportunity for escape that we gave you, I really did” Boss grinned knowingly at her

She stared at him horrified as her dirt-crusted, sweating hand slipped slightly on the chain, causing her to gasp.  

His grin was malicious “you didn’t guess? Oh, how delightful” he rubbed his hands together “did you really think I would be stupid enough to leave you unchained and unguarded, even if you were unconscious? Please, I was hoping for a little more faith from you” he looked behind him and smiled at someone outside of the lantern's light “but my boys had their fun and the dogs got their exercise”   

Jennifer glared at him and spoke through clenched teeth “fuck you”  

He looked startled for a second before his smug grin took hold again. Sweat broke out on Jennifer’s forehead with the effort of holding herself up by one arm as she prayed the taunting would stop and they would let her down “ok, well, my angel wants to play with you for a little bit so how about we gag you” he waved Scar over who wrapped a dirty rag around her head and pulled it tight, forcing it into her mouth. She shook her head at him... and her hand slipped further down the chair. Her arm was throbbing bad enough to be seriously distracting but she still noticed the girl slip out from behind Boss. As Jen watched, she ran the blunt edge of the knife down Boss's chest and Jennifer could see them both shiver and, despite Jen understanding that this was some sick sort of foreplay, the hunger in the girl’s eyes when she turned was still startling.  

It wasn’t long before the girl was behind her again. The wait between losing sight of one of her torturers and the cutting starting were almost as agonising as the torture itself. Jennifer tried to control her breathing, the gag made it difficult but she knew she needed to keep her concentration if she was going to keep her weight off her wrist.  

The first cut was between her shoulder blades today and she bit the gag to stop the reflex jerk that made her muscles quiver.   

Her hand slipped a little more.   

Boss stood directly in front of her and started to talk, pacing and gesticulating as if he was giving an important speech to a roomful of people “do you know what hope does to a person?” he paused as if to see if Keller would answer.

Her teeth ground against the gag

“It infects them with weakness. People do stupid things because of hope and it winds up getting them, or others, killed” his eyes gleam with joy “the taking away of that hope, crushing the last sliver of light in a person’s heart is the most...” he took a deep breath and licked his lips as if savouring something particularly sweet “stimulating experience” Keller swallowed the bile in her throat and twitched as her attention was drawn away.  

She felt as the knife sliced its way around her hip and slid forward towards her belly button. Jennifer looked down to see a line of red being drawn across her stomach and around in a swirl, red slowly crawling down her belly as the wound bled sluggishly. The girl looked up at her from her crouched position at Jen's feet, the tip of her tongue poking out as if in great concentration and then back down at what Keller could see was a sweeping cut ending in a curl just above her bellybutton “Done” the girl said with great satisfaction and stepped away “Now all we have to do is clean it and its all finished” she looked behind her at Boss who was beaming like a proud father.  

“The water and brush are just over there” he pointed behind Jennifer “I cannot wait to see the finished picture darling”   

Jennifer’s eyes were wide as she realised what was about to happen. Sure enough, there was a sloshing noise out of her line of sight and then a scrubbing brush was applied to her back.   

The pain was unbearable and she screamed into the gag, unable to control herself as she tried to twist away from the bristles and ice-cold water.  

Her hand slipped.   

She heard a snap.

She welcomed the darkness again.   

***   

“I’ve done it” came the surprised whisper followed by “I’ve done it!” shouted as loudly as he could.    

Rodney stood up and started shoving things into his bag as the rest of the team hastily packed up around him. He stood up and dialled the gate, his hands remaining braced against the activation button a little longer than necessary as he fought a wave of exhaustion. It had taken a day longer than he had expected to find the address, the possible repercussions of which he was trying hard not to think about; difficult with a mind as brilliant as his.    

The jumper sped through the wormhole and rose to show them a view of another forested planet, Rodney muttering over the scanner already in hand. Beep... Beep... Beep.    

“Yes!” he shouted “she’s here, she’s... oh” he frowned at the display    

“Oh?” Sheppard asked, making it clear that 'oh' was not something he had wanted to hear.    

“Well she’s – oh, no she’s fine, well, I think” 'he assured them when he saw their worried faces “the tracker would tell me if she was dead... Can’t do anything else but I have this theory that - ”    

“Rodney” Sheppard barked before he went any further off track “What’s the oh for?”    

“She’s about 60km away, we’ll need to use the jumper to get as close as possible or it will take us all day to get there,” he said simply    

Without a word, Sheppard landed in front of the gate, already dialling Atlantis to set up communications while Teyla made Rodney sit down beside the gate and eat another protein bar with the last of his water. He had been impossible since the first address turned out to be only the halfway point. He had refused rest, claiming that he could sleep when it was all over. She had caught him taking a pill while she was on watch which she had confronted him about on their second night. He had confessed that he had resorted to caffeine pills to keep himself awake but assured her that he was fine.    

Now that they were close she could see the strain starting to show. His eyes were circled with dark smudges and his hands trembled as he lifted the flask to his mouth, Teyla was impressed he was still coherent... well, as coherent as Rodney ever was.    

The gate deactivated and Ronon and Sheppard came over to fill them in.    

“Carson’s coming through now. Once he’s here we’ll cloak and fly over, land as close as we can and take out anyone who gets in our way” he looked each of them in the eye “Any objections?”    

Rodney nodded absentmindedly, only half aware of the discussion. Teyla raised a brow at Sheppard’s lack of remorse but she couldn’t fault it so she remained silent. Ronon, on the other hand, had a feral grin on his face, clearly longing to have an opportunity to beat the living daylights out of someone who wasn’t his boss while he tried to ignore his worry for Jennifer which sat like a rock at the back of his mind.    

Sheppard looked up at the slowly sinking sun. Assuming things still worked the same as on earth, they would have about 4hrs of useable light left “Rodney” he bumped his shoulder with his knee “Rodney, how long should it take for a jumper to reach Keller?”    

Rodney's brow furrowed in calculation and John noted it took slightly longer than it should have“should be there within an hour, give or take 10 minutes depending on the wind currents”    

The Stargate started dialling behind them and they all moved off to the side as the vortex sped out. Moments later Carson was in front of them laden with bags of medical equipment “John, Teyla, Rodney, Ronon” he said, greeting each of them with a nod “Shall we?”    

They all made their way into the jumper, Sheppard and Ronon taking the front seats while Teyla, Rodney and Carson sat in the back compartment with all of Carson’s medical equipment.    

 

“Dear lord lad” Carson exclaimed to Rodney “what have ye done to yerself?”    

Chapter Text

Jennifer’s head lolled backwards between her arms, her groan of pain was strained as she finally started to regain consciousness. She was drenched, the agonising scrub her back had received only part of the problem as she could now feel sweat prickle her skin and soak through her matted hair.  

“Cheer up Keller, it could always be worse”

Jennifer rolled her head forward again and glared “No Sheppard, I really don’t think it could”

He looked her over, thoughtful for a moment, before frowning at her “No, maybe not. Did you tell them what they wanted to know?”  

“No!” she cried out “I would never put Atlantis in danger like that. You’re my brain, you should know that!”  

“Are you sure?” Sheppard looked apologetically at her “You have a fever, what if you gave them the codes without realising it? Can you trust your memory?”   

Jennifer threw him a withering look “you know as well as I do that the codes were all changed the moment they knew I was captured. I’m worthless”  

“To these brutes” Sheppard corrected “I know you know the teams searching for you”  

Sheppard carried on talking but he began to blur at the edges as a figure stepped through him trembling with barely suppressed rage “are you telling me you know nothing?!” Boss’s voice shook and Jennifer flinched as she watched as the fury was swept across his face “I have a plan for you and it's going to be” he took a deep breath and smiled at her in a way that made her tremble “breathtaking”  

Keller did something unexpected as he stood directly in front of her, she giggled, and the rage was back in his face. Jennifer watched as the tiny blue fairy continued to pull faces at him while sitting on his nose.

The man strode off into the darkness and Keller turned back to Sheppard “you know this is all your fault” she said with a tired sigh  

“Yes” he said without apology “but I’m you so really you should be blaming yourself”  

“Shut up”  

Jennifer heard a click and she drop to the ground, her wrist clutched to her chest as the drop jarred the fresh break “Get up” Boss commanded from the darkness but the room swam and her attempts just caused her to fall over “Get up!” he demanded as he twisted his hands in her hair and pulled her to her feet “walk” he barked and shoved between her shoulder-blades.  

Sheppard kept pace with her, walking backwards to watch her every now and again as she stumbled along out of the cave and towards a cleared patch of land. twice she reached out with her chained hands to accept assistance when she stumbled, forgetting momentarily that he was made of memories and fever.  

Boss caught her arm, making the bones grind together, and tugged hard as he told her to stop. After biting back the pained yelp and taking some deep breaths to stop her head spinning, she glanced at him to see a satisfied grin on his face. A well of deep-seated fury flowed through her as she realised he had grabbed the arm with the broken wrist on purpose. Her Sheppard rippled and turned into a Ronon who stood in front of the oblivious man and growled a nearly unintelligible “hands-off” Jennifer’s smile was not for Boss.  

“I want you to dig” he handed her a small shovel and she swayed as she took it's weight “Right there” he pointed at the rocky ground at her feet “And I want you to make it as long as you are tall” Jennifer stared at the ground in horror “and then when me and my beloved come back we’re going to have a little ceremony. Unless you have some useful information with me” he turned to walk away but halted, not bothering to face her “if you think you’ll get out of it by not digging or trying to run, then remember this,” he paused for effect “my dogs haven’t eaten in days” he strode away chuckling.

Jennifer was torn between despair at her situation and laughter over his ridiculously sinister laugh.  

“You know you’re not going to survive this” Ronon said from on top of an old tree stump. Jen stabbed her spade into the ground one-handed and tried to ignore him “why are you bothering to do this?”  

She struggled to lever the dirt out without the use of her other hand and worked on not hearing Ronon’s question. It didn’t take too long before she broke, “because I don’t want to get torn to pieces by dogs. I feel that it’s a reasonable reason” Ronon just frowned at her and fell silent, watching Jennifer work.  

It took a whole 10 minutes before she was too exhausted to carry on shovelling, her whole arm aching from having to do double the work and her back burning just that little bit more from the sweat that was now glistening on it. With a huff she sat on the ground beside the tree stump Ronon was on and looked at her handiwork. The soil was damp, as if it rained a couple of days ago, and almost sandy in consistency so it hadn’t been as difficult to dig the Jennifer-long and Jennifer-wide hole as she thought however, it was only a spade length deep and she had no spare energy to use “I can’t do it” she said with exhausted tears in her eyes.  

Long fine legs swung over the side of the stump by her head and Teyla lowered herself in the dirt beside her “if you wish it then you can. I have heard Major  Lorn  say on many occasions something that I assume is a common phrase among your people ‘you can do whatever you set your mind to’”   

Jennifer smiled tiredly at Teyla and tilted her head back to rest against the coarse bark, not noticing as it dug into her wounded back   “I imagine he said that rather loudly”  

Her comment was met with a chuckle of agreement “yes, usually at the latest batch of men he was training. I suspect they would break out in a sweat if it was even whispered around them now”  

Jennifer laughed hard enough to hurt her ribs ,  her hiss of pain bringing an apologe tic wince to Teyla’s grin but the smile  soon fell “I’m not getting out of here am I?” Jennifer whispered with defeat, her eyes seeking Teyla’s.  

Rodney looked at her from his seat in the dirt and frowned in disapproval “you can do whatever you set your mind to Jennifer you are a doctor, after all, it's  widely considered to be a highly intellectual profession. Mind you ,  astrophysics makes it look like child play and...” he trailed off as he looked her over, his smugness evaporating “Come on I’ll give you a hand”  

Jennifer snorted “you? Do manual labour?  You  volunteering  for manual labour?  Now I know my brains fried” her hallucination gave her a hurt look and produced another shove from behind the stump before getting to his feet and offering her his hand. She looked at it and then back at him pointedly “Right” he said with embarrassment and withdrew the offer “I should know that. You know Jennifer, I’m insulted on my real self’s behalf that you didn’t imagine him smarter than that”  

Keller grumbled something about getting the ego part right and painfully got to her feet, shuffling over to stand in the shallow hole and pick up her own shovel. The next few hours were full of Rodney’s babbling and jokes, prodding her to work when her strength failed her or her spirits flagged. It was to this scene that Boss and Crazy Girl came to at the end of the day, Jennifer chuckling at Rodney who was freaking out at the line of blue penguins marching past the hole.

The hole was now up to her shoulders and the strain was evident all over her body, sweat glistening through the new layer of dirt she had acquired but she happily chatted away to her unseen friend, seemingly oblivious to the work she was doing.  

The Girl skipped over to the edge of the hole and lay down so  her face was level with Jen's “did you know your hole is the biggest any of the pets have made. I wish I could keep you” she glanced at Boss but he shook his head and she sighed gustily “but I’m not allowed” the pout was spectacular “you were a good pet. I will miss you” the words sounded sincere and the pat on the head she received was gentle.  

A lump formed in Jennifer’s throat at the only sign of affection she had received in days, immediately berating herself at accepting comfort from the person who had wielded the knives.  

“Get out” he commanded, wrapping his arm around the girl who now stood at his side, both watching as a weak and fevered Keller struggled to climb up the crumbling walls of her tomb. When she lay panting on the ground he raised a brow, silently commanding her to stand. With narrowed eyes Jennifer got on swaying legs, hating that she did what he wanted without being asked “will you tell me what I want to know?” he said with finality. It was clear that this was her last chance.  

A wave of nausea flowed through her and she shut her eyes and ground her teeth against it, forcing herself to remember Lilly’s words ‘ Jen, if you don’t your friends will die... All dead because of you’ the screaming reverberated around her head before she could mentally turn it off.  

“No” she was certain, she was afraid, and she was trying desperately to stop the world from spinning so she could look the team in the eyes and see their approval.  

The man rushed at her with a snarl and with both hands shoved her with such force that she heard the wind whistle in her ears as she fell. The pit gaped behind her and soon one of her feet found only air but it was what happened with the other that later made her ask where her luck fairy was that day because the other foot stayed on solid ground for a fraction too long. The instinct to twist had gone the way of her energy reserves and un-fevered brain, which was why Keller heard a pop and a fresh bolt of pain as her hip dislocated on the way down.  

She lay at the bottom, thankfully stretched the length of it face up and not in an awkward heap, the pain and exhaustion overwhelming her as her focus narrowed to breathing in... Breathing out... Breathing in... Breathing out  

A sniffle drew her attention to the top of the grave and she saw the girl at the... Christ  is that a veil?

There were words being said over her in a velvety female voice but Jennifer couldn't focus enough to hear them, she did notice as two white flowers fell from the girl’s hands and twirled through the air to land on her stomach. Numb hands reached up to stroke the velvet petals of something resembling a perfect fusion of a lily and a daisy. Keller decided she hated lilies and daisies. The girls face withdrew and Jennifer let her final tears fall, the crushing isolation and the certainty of her death becoming too much for her. Not even her hallucinations made an appearance.  

She was startled out of her misery by a spray of dirt hitting her feet. She looked up again to see the man obscuring her view of the setting sun with another shovel full of dirt already falling “no last words you would like to say?” he asked with mock sincerity “No secrets you would like to get off your chest before you die?”   

Jennifer just lay there.  

His face twisted in fury and her legs were soon covered in soil.   

Jennifer watched over his shoulder as the sun sank lower in the sky.  

It took a few moments but she realised a conversation was happening above her, focusing on the pair Keller soon realised what was going on. The crazy one was pressed against Boss’s chest and having the life snogged out of her. She, in turn, had her thumbs hooked in his waistband and gave a tug in the direction of the settlement when they surfaced for air.  

Jennifer wasn’t sure whether to be relieved when the man gave her a measured look and then promptly dismissed her, disappearing from view . She would live a few hours longer, yay ... or she would live a few hours longer,  nooo . At this point, Jennifer wasn't sure what she was hoping for. 

Her mind drifted as she lay there, unable to move with both an arm and a leg out of action. Her body ached, burnt and shivered as her various ailments, illnesses and the cold that comes as the sun finally sets behind the trees soaked into her bones, leaving her in ever-increasing darkness and the sharp sounds of birdcall.  

This is nice, Keller though, half-heartedly trying to find a silver lining – her character shining through even to the last; a funeral at sunset and near certainty that she wasn’t to be eaten by dogs, it was more than she had expected... well, apart from being rescued but beggars can’t be choosers.  

Gunfire and panicked shouting sounded in the distance. Keller groaned as she tried to ignore the newest auditory hallucination, going as far as attempting to block her ears when she thought she heard Ronon roar and then shouts becoming shrill. It took a couple of minutes but soon everything was quiet again, the gentle hum of birds and bugs the only thing to break the silence. 

Footsteps approached.  

“Keller?” Sheppard called out. He was  loud.  

“Go away,” she said in exhausted exasperation, curious in an abstract way as to why her hallucination wouldn’t know where she was.  

“Jennifer!” another shout and then a spray of dirt fell on her as Rodney wind-milled at the edge of her grave, Ronon’s arm appearing to grab him at the last possible moment.  

Five faces peered at her over the lip of the hole   

She smiled up at them “Why couldn’t you ’ve  be en  the penguins again, at least they don’t stare at me like they’ve seen a ghost”  

Chapter Text

With the last of the men taken care of by Teyla the team spread out and soon found the tracks that lead to the cave. What they found inside made Sheppard’s stomach turn. Chains hung from the ceiling with hooks at the end, links in the floor, embedded in walls, and an SGA uniform torn into rags and discarded in a corner. Their torches illuminated a pitch-black cave with drag marks and patches of blood... but no body “where is she?” Rodney asked the suppressed anxiety evident in the waver his voice held.  

“Not here” Ronon ground out  

Rodney’s head whipped around to glare at him “Don’t you think I see that? And why aren’t you putting your comparatively small mind to the task of finding Jennifer? Fetch boy!”  

Ronon took a menacing step towards him and it was to Rodney’s credit that he didn’t  flinch

“Guys!” Sheppard shouted in exasperation “not the time. There are tracks leading off to the right with a small barefoot, likely the Doc's since I can see her boots in the corner, we’re all going to spread out and search” he watched as the staring contest lasted another few seconds before Ronon broke contact and strode from the cave, tailed closely by Rodney who wasn’t about to let the Satedan  show him up.  

Sheppard Carson and Teyla shared a glance and followed the other two out and over to the sparse scrubland where they fanned out.

“Keller” Sheppard called from Rodney’s left and he held his breath as he heard a faint answer. Scanning the area he could just barely see a silhouetted mound of dirt with a darker patch beside it.  

“No” he whispered and sped towards it, his hast noticed by the others who all made their way over “Jennifer!” can’t be dead, can’t be dead, can’t be dead. At the edge of the pit he stopped short, a split second slower than Ronon when Rodney nearly dove in face first. A  croaky voice drifted up from the hole ... was she talking about penguins?  

The team shared questioning looks but Carson soon took charge “we need to get her out now, Ronon, you’ll need to climb into the... hole” he couldn’t bring himself to call it a grave “and lift her out, I can’t work from in there” Ronon crouched a Carson caught his arm before he dropped in “be careful son, we don't know what injuries she has” Ronon nodded silently and lowered himself in the hole.  

“How are you feeling Jennifer ? ” Teyla asked from about as Ronon crouched over Jen and reached out to lift her into sitting position  

“Oh you know no different from-” Jennifer’s reply was abruptly cut off as Ronon’s hand made contact with her side “Oh my god” she whispered her eyes wide as she stared at him  

Ronon snatched his hand back “What’s wrong, have I hurt you?” he couldn’t see well by the torchlight shined from above but he hadn't noticed a wound.

“You’re... you’re real?”  

Her voice was so small and so scared Ronon swore silently at how quickly he had killed them all “Yes” and proved it by wrapping his arm around her and pulling her up so she could sit. He noticed how tenderly she treated her wrist and the hiss she had made when his hand had tightened around her right ribs but she didn’t complain so he turned to the task of digging her legs out, trying to hide the fury building at the realisation that she had been half-buried. The conversation Teyla tried to hold with Jen was sporadic and he could tell both of them were struggling to understand the other.  

Finally her legs were free and he crouched back over her, unhappy to see the way she pressed herself against the wall of the pit to gain more space “can you stand?” she shook her head slowly. He shifted her hip and slid in beside her and with one arm across her back and the other behind her knees he lifted her up and out to Sheppard, noticing how hot her skin was in the crisp night air.  

He jumped out of the  hole himself and saw Jennifer lying there with her eyes screwed shut, breath coming in short gasps as she fought obvious pain. Carson knelt beside her and started checking her over “what can you tell me?” he asked, trying to gauge her mental state  

“Arms broken” she stammered between short gasps “at least 2 ribs on the right” she cried out when Carson prodded her side and he winced in apology “and my hip...” Keller’s voice petered off and Carson had to coach her back to consciousness  

“What about your hip love?”  

“I think it’s dislocated”  

Carson looked concerned “How long ago was that, do you remember?”  

Jen opened her eyes at last and frowned “when I was thrown in my grave, ask Rodney, he was there”  

Rodney opened his mouth to contradict her but he met Carson’s eyes and left it “love, we need to put your hip back before we move you”  

“I know” she whispered and shut her eyes tight again  

Carson turned to the rest of the team “Sheppard I want you to kneel at Jennifer’s head and hold her shoulders, Ronon you’ll need to hold her hips. It takes an extreme amount of force to relocate a join and the hips the worst of the lot, if she shifts part way through and I pinch a nerve or get it wrong it will have to be undone” both men looked queazy but nodded and took their place, Rodney and Teyla watching on feeling helpless “ready lass?” Jennifer nodded and held her breath.  

A scream tore the air and she strained against the strong hands holding her down as her hip popped back into place “Love, what’s the pain like now?” Carson asked hurriedly  

“Better” Jen gasped through the tears “ it’s better” she gave a sob and curled up on her side “can I go home now?”  

Sheppard stood and looked at Jennifer with concern “that sounds like the best idea yet. Can she walk doc?”  

“I wouldn’t recommend it for at least a week”  

“Right,” Ronon said and swept Jen up in his arms. He didn’t stop walking to the jumper as he called over his shoulder “coming?”  

Jennifer  lay her head against the cool strength of Ronon’s chest and let his heartbeat echo through her head; Safe, safe, safe, safe... her eyes skimmed the hillside, the inky darkness of the cave mouth standing  out against the  glow of the   orange sunset and she saw something that made her grasp at Ronon’ s arm  for reassurance. There, against the dark gaping hole stood one figure watching them, her long hair loose over her shoulders.  

It doesn’t matter Keller thought and turned her face into Ronon’ s shoulder , I’m going home.  

 


 

Sheppard was in the cockpit with Rodney who had been kicked out of the back by Carson after he questioned his methods one time too many. The rest of them were in the back, Ronon and Teyla looking on with a mix of relief and shock, and in Ronon’s case anger too, as Carson tried to assess their friend.  

It wasn’t until halfway through the flight  that Ronon noticed the streaks of blood on his arms from where they had held her back “Doc, you might want to roll her over” he said urgently  

Carson looked at him with a frown but tugged a half-conscious Jennifer onto her side and squinted at her back “lass, is that...?” he reached out and lightly touched the layer of dark dirt, causing her to flinch so violently she knocked over her I.V. “I need ta have a look at it Jennifer” 

She glanced at him over her shoulder and relaxed infinitesimally which he took as a sign to approach. As gently as he could he cleaned the dirt from her back, a pile of saline, dirt and blood-soaked gauze growing as he slowly revealed what had been done to her. Fine cuts swirled over her back in various stages of healing, stretching from the waistband of her underwear to the tops of her shoulder-blades. Dirt was imbedded in them and Carson could see a worrying amount of reddened and puckered tissue. This was the source of her infection and it was worse than he had imagined, there was no way it wasn’t going to scar “Christ, we need ta hurry Sheppard” he called over as he wrapped the thermal blanket tighter around Jennifer and prayed silently  

“We’re going as fast as we can. 5 minutes until we reach the gate”  

Carson looked over to the thundercloud that was Ronon’s face, his eyes flicked to the patterns on Keller’s back, and then Teyla whose knuckled where white where she clung to her seat, face impassive as she fought her emotions “I need you both to get her ready to move” the two sprang into motion, both grateful for the chance to do something, and if they took a few moments more than was necessary so they could touch her and reassure themselves that she was still alive he didn’t mention it.  

 


 

Lights flashed overhead as she was wheeled through the halls with a whirlwind of noise.   

Lots of voices welcoming her home.    

Hands grasping hers.    

Tears shed for her, by her, with her.   

Everything turned fuzzy for a while and the next thing she remembered was the team saying goodbye. Teyla took her hand and told her they were glad she was back. Rodney stuttered something equally nice but, as wide as his smile was, she could see the worry around his eyes. Sheppard assured her they would be there when she woke and to enjoy the ‘good stuff’ while it lasted. Ronon just stood there leaning against the wall as the others filed out and either the drugs were making her think things or she saw pain under his usually stoic mask “it’s not-“  

“I’m sorry” Ronon cut in  

Jennifer stared at him in foggy surprise, tried to work out how it could possibly be anyone’s fault and wondered whether she had ever heard those words pass Ronon’s lips “its.. .  you didn’t... no one... that wasn’t the deal” she ended on emphatically hoping he would remember the last time they spoke.  

He frowned at her but s he  just grinned as the world went fuzzy again, finally understanding why John always   commented on ‘the good stuff’ “night” she managed to mumble before curling up and letting the drugs send her to dreamless sleep  

***  

Ronon  watched as  Jennifer’s  body slowly relaxed and Carson swept in with a n  army of nurses  who rolled her to her stomach and started the long process of cleaning and sterilising the mass of cuts that littered her back and sides  

As much as he didn’t want to leave her he knew it was inappropriate to remain, Carson’s raised brow when he finally noticed he was still against the wall was enough to allow him to leave. He brushed past a gaggle of nurses comforting each other in the hallway and headed for the south tower balcony, a place he found could ease some of the sharper edges on his emotions before he took it out on someone on the training mat.  

The wounds themselves weren’t what had caused him to react, he had plenty of scars from various situations and for the most part, was proud to carry them but he knew what Jennifer had had to go through to get hers. He  knew the pain she experienced... h e knew it intimately ,  and the thought of  the doctor having to go through that... His hands clenched into fists and by the time he reached the stair and started running up them, his arms were shaking from the effort put into not punching anything . Those cuts were all at various stages of healing. It had been done to her over and over and over and... Ronon paused halfway up the 4 th  flight of stairs  and forced himself to stop repeating that at every step he took . If he wound himself much tighter he was going to snap.  

Soon he  reached the right floor and nearly threw himself through the doors so he could feel the cold bite of the wind, his hands wrapped themselves around the metal railing and his knuckles turned white. Slowly the tension drained from him, the cold seeping in to smother the burning fury and he was able to relax his cramped back and shoulder muscles.  

“Beer?”  A voice offered from the other side of the balcony Ronon looked over at the Colonel who held up a green bottle which Ronon took and drained while Sheppard looked on unsurprised “I’ve got more in my quarters” was all he said and went back to staring out across the dark water. 

G ood” Ronon grunted and took another bottle, this one he took back to the rail beside his commander.   

Sheppard raised his beer and thought for a moment “to a successful mission, to the recovery of a friend and to a night we’ll hopefully not regret in the morning”   

Ronon tapped his bottle to Sheppard’s and took a swig. To Jennifer, he thought with valid concern, may your spirit heal as fast as your body will. 

I’ll be watching.