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[personal profile] windemere
Disclaimer: Not Mine.

Summary: But thou, like Moses, shall not live to know the fruited vineyards of the Promised Land.

AN: Uh…it happened in the shower. Because I am fated to start fics when I have no paper or laptop at hand. Needless to say, it was a short shower. Um…I am exceedingly happy, so I wrote angst. Could be set in season 2, 3 or 4 (since Sunday and First Strike never happened).

WARNING: Severe Shep-whump ahead; and I really really mean it.


January

“And yet thou leadest out these days of woe,
Through winter’s long captivity, by thy hand;
But thou, like Moses, shall not live to know
The fruited vineyards of the Promised Land.”

~excerpt from “January” by Edith F. Naylor


Every other planet they had visited in Pegasus was temperate. There had been the occasional one with snow on distant mountains or hills, but never one with snow under their feet. Rodney would later decide this should have sent up warning signals.

The city was at-best an approximate of 1750 New York City…in January. It was the kind of bitterly cold that was reserved for Canada or Siberia, and one of the things Rodney had been quite happy to leave behind, thank you very much. He’d been to New York once in January, but New York c.1750 would have been bad in June.

Their government was a form of democracy Rodney desperately hoped they never reverted back to on Earth, because otherwise he was moving – permanently – to Atlantis. Their medicine and science were somewhere around c.1600 Europe and their culture wasn’t far off, as far as he was concerned. They were, of course, quite eager to trade for anything resembling scientific knowledge or medical assistance. And despite the difference of about 300 years of development, they were still far more advanced than the majority of the Pegasus Galaxy natives.

John and team had trekked off to make first contact. The natives had been a little shocked to discover anyone stepping through the Ring, because even though they acknowledged its presence, they hadn’t yet figured out what it was for. A lack of anything resembling advanced physics…or really physics at all would probably account for that. But once they’d spent five minutes talking to what served as a Council of Representatives of various departments in the city, the natives had latched onto them like saviors. John had offered medical knowledge as well as medicine, and then he’d offered Rodney, because everything else was back on Atlantis and Rodney was right there.

Rodney has been annoyed for the first ten minutes. And then he’d been terrified ever since. They had been taken from the council rooms on a tour of the main areas of the city. The first building they had been lead to they’d been overpowered by at least twenty men - obviously the natives hadn’t wanted to take chances – and the next thing any of them had been aware of was pain and cold and awakening in small cells with no light except for what was filtering through the window of the jail cell.

It had been three hours before they had come for Sheppard.

*

Rodney McKay knew many, many things – too much, many would say – but none of it mattered for anything at the moment. Except for the knowledge that but for John Sheppard he would have been dead five days ago.

He was as sure of that knowledge as he was of E=mc² or that 599 was not a prime number, regardless of how many times Ford had thought it was. And it was the only knowledge that mattered since he was currently sitting on the floor of a 10x10 cell made out of something that would have made the Romans proud; dying of thirst, hunger and terror, and watching their captors toss Sheppard through the cell door for the tenth time in only half as many days, the usual end to a session of 20 questions that Rodney was positive Sheppard had answered all the same way.

It was the only knowledge that mattered because it was all that was continuing to keep him alive. And staying alive was all Rodney cared about. Except perhaps being alive somewhere else.

But the fact that they were still alive, no matter where they currently were was enough to keep Rodney hoping. And hope was all he needed. Every time they took Sheppard away he lost that hope, and every time they brought him back, still breathing, that hoped soared once again and for a few brief moments each time it was everything to him.

The brief moments never lasted nearly long enough.

“Colonel?”

John moaned in agony by way of reply, body devoid of even the strength to roll over. Rodney did it for him, reaching over to pick up his discarded jacket and bunch it up as a pillow under Sheppard’s head, just like he’d done the last nine times.

John seemed to be concentrating all his energy on simply breathing, and despite the million questions swimming around in Rodney’s head, he managed to restrain himself from asking any of them except one.

“Teyla and Ronon?”

John simply nodded. Rodney interpreted that as ‘both alive’ because he wasn’t willing to consider any other option. Wherever the others were being held, it was not within shouting distance.

It was another ten minutes before John managed to get enough control over the agonizing pain wracking his body in order to form more than one-word sentences.

“They’ve stopped asking questions.” The first fully formed sentence out of his mouth was not the one Rodney was expecting.

“What?! You mean they beat you for kicks this time?”

John just nodded, because anything else would have escalated the conversation to include far too many exclamations of shock on Rodney’s part. Best to stop the outburst before it started; John was in no state of mind to deal with borderline-Rodney-hysterics.

“It means they’re getting desperate. It means neither Teyla nor Ronon have done anything to co-operate. It means they are losing control of the situation because it is no longer running in their favour.”

“It means you’re getting the crap beat out of you for no reason.”

John just looked at him.

“Alright, so there’s a reason. Care to share?” Rodney had been wondering when John would come up with a plan, seeing as he’d been beaten to a bloody pulp since their capture and not really in any position to dream up one of his miraculous escapes. Rodney had been a bit worried it would fall to him. Brilliant technological problems he could deal with…daring escape plans were not his forte.

“We’re locked in. There’s only one way out of this cell and that’s through that door.” He pointed to said door to emphasize the point. “They aren’t worried about us escaping because there’s no way out but that way. And we can only get out when they escort us out…heavily armed I might add.”

Rodney was beginning to wonder when the Brilliant Plan would come in.

“But on the other side of those doors there’s nothing. The hallways of the complex are pretty much empty. They are hardly any soldiers about, except for the ones that come to get me. If we can get past this door, I think we stand a pretty good chance of getting outside. Especially if we can pick up a few weapons along the way.”

Rodney stared in absolute dismay. From what little they had learned since they’d been captured, they were in an underground (why were they always underground?) complex that was a maze of twisting hallways; they’d been brought to their cells blindfolded, and unless they’d been taking Sheppard outside for their little tête-à-tête’s he had about as good an idea as Rodney of how the hell to get out of the place. And from there…the Gate could be miles away, depending on where in the city they were. Luck and stubbornness aside, they didn’t stand a hope in hell.

John was clearly waiting for an answer. For the first time in a very long time, Rodney didn’t have one. And the usual “are you insane?” just seemed too obvious this time.

John had the grace to look somewhat apologetic. “Alright, it’s a crappy plan, but after five days it’s the only one I’ve got. If they’ve been trying to negotiate it won’t work; Elizabeth won’t do it. If they could send a rescue, they would have by now. They could pick up our transmitter signals from the Gate, no matter where we are in the city and these people don’t have a hope of withstanding an attack by puddlejumper.” Which was true, because they’d barely mastered simple revolvers, a fact which Rodney had previously laughed at…he wasn’t laughing any longer.

“So how did you plan on getting out the door? Because you were a little unclear on that part.”

John took a deep breath and immediately regretted it. Doubled over in pain and coughing, Rodney could do nothing except stand there and wring his hands and wish to whatever god may or may not exist that Carson was there. Or that he’d chosen medicine instead of physics because the physics wasn’t doing him any good at all right now and at least medicine could have done something. It took a few minutes before John regained the breath to continue. “Yeah, I hadn’t really gotten that far. But since it’s locked from the outside that kinda limits us to waiting until they open it.”

“Right, when they come to get you so they can beat you to death again!” Rodney’s voice rose at the end and John breathed a frustrated sigh as the hysterics returned.

“I wasn’t planning on letting them do it again.”

Rodney paused mid-freak-out. “Right.”

*

Twelve hours later Rodney decided he was never ever going to trust anything John Sheppard ever said again. But he was still breathing, mostly, and so Rodney was still hoping.

He rolled his jacket up and slipped in under Sheppard’s head again, trying to not wince as the Colonel curled up in pain as agony flared across his definitely broken ribs.

Once John was able to regain his breath again and his face was no longer stark white, Rodney couldn’t help the sarcasm from returning. “Any other brilliant plans, O Master of Escapes?”

John really didn’t think that warranted an answer.

*

In the end it was Ronon who came for them. Five hours later and just before the guards returned to take John for another round.

Rodney heard the bolt slide back and was in the process of drawing together the courage to put up a fight because John wasn’t going to survive another beating, when Ronon’s shadow stepped through the door. He was sweaty and bloody and Rodney had never been gladder to see anything in his life.

Ronon’s eyes focused on John, who was curled up on his side, the same position he’d been in for the last five hours, and barely conscious. Rodney was pretty positive he was bleeding internally from all the beatings, and he was just as positive that John was going to die. Except Ronon was there now and their cell was unlocked and maybe they all had a hope in hell of getting out of this alive.

Ronon didn’t say anything, just picked Sheppard up off the ground and stomped back through the door and Rodney couldn’t do anything except grab his jacket up off the floor and follow. Teyla was outside, revolver in one hand and keeping watch. She was bruised and bloodied as well, but she nodded to him that she was fine.

Ronon led the way, and Rodney couldn’t drum up the mental focus to wonder how the hell Ronon knew where to go.

They were outside in minutes, no soldiers along the way, and then all of Rodney’s hope suddenly died, because they were nowhere near the Stargate. The central council building, the only truly distinguishable feature in the entire city was in front of them by a long way and with its distinct architecture features Rodney knew without a doubt that the Gate was on the direct opposite side.

They were never getting out of this alive.

Ronon turned around and headed the other way. They were fairly close to the outskirts of the city, an area dominated by scattered farms and parks. There were fewer people in this direction and they made it to the safety of the surrounding countryside without being seen. Rodney did a rough estimate in his head, and decided that if they didn’t get caught it would still take them over an hour to reach the Gate, which would probably be guarded by now.

John struggled back to consciousness in a blaze of pain. Ronon dropped to the ground beside a tree and laid his burden down. John’s eyes flickered open. It was all Rodney needed to know, and his heart suddenly stopped beating in his chest because there was no way this was happening, not when they were actually free and had a half-assed chance of getting to the Gate and back to Atlantis.

John coughed and then started to choke. Rodney dropped to his knees beside the man, reaching out to offer comfort that wasn’t going to make a damn difference. John Sheppard was dying. Right here, right now in front of Rodney’s eyes. It not for John Rodney would have been dead, because it was John that had lied to their captors, had presented him as a scared scientist who didn’t know anything and wasn’t going to be any use. And then he’d put himself forward and allowed them to take him and beat him again and again and again so that Rodney wouldn’t have to go through it. He’d saved Rodney’s life and now Rodney was sitting in the cold snow under a tree on a planet on the other side of the galaxy from home and he couldn’t do anything to save John’s life in return.

*

If not for John, Rodney wasn’t sure any of them would have made it out. But just as help had come; just as they had made it to freedom, John Sheppard died in the snow on a world Rodney didn’t even have a name for.

Many many years later he would look back on it all and see the cruel irony.

Date: 2007-02-19 10:09 pm (UTC)
ext_1358: (Default)
From: [identity profile] grav-ity.livejournal.com
Next verse
Same as the first
A little bit louder
And a whole lot worse.

Yeah...I suck at poetry.

Date: 2007-02-19 10:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eldanna.livejournal.com
yeah, you really do

Date: 2007-02-21 11:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ch1pper.livejournal.com
ow, ow, ow, ow, OW!

*cries*

Couple of grammar bits: If we can get passed this door; passed should be past

and nowhere is all one word.

Otherwise, excellently written. Sparse and clean and cutting.

Date: 2007-02-21 11:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ch1pper.livejournal.com
one other nitpick, sorry: It means they are loosing control of the situation because it is no longer running in their favour.”.

losing is the appropriate verb. only one o.

Date: 2007-02-21 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eldanna.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading!

::goes off to track her beta reader down and have a talk::

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