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Alive, Sane, Whole

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John came to with a groan and took cautious stock of his body. The chains on his wrists and ankles clinked as he wiggled his fingers and toes. They hurt, but he could still move most of them, so no paralysis, and they all appeared to be in the right place. Granted, most of them were broken and hot spikes of pain shot through them as they wiggled, but given his situation, that was preferable to the alternative.

The familiar buzz of everyday chatter, faint electronic humming, and clanking machinery was still there, as though he needed another reminder of where he was. He had tried yelling, in the beginning, hoping that he was imprisoned near a civilian area. The only results were a raw throat and a broken wrist, courtesy of his captors. If the garrulous voices were civilians, they either couldn't hear him or didn't care. Given the callousness and medical precision of his captors, John was inclined to believe the latter.

The thick walls he was chained to were packed clay, and initially he had held a hope of tunneling to freedom, like a bad prison movie, but after two or three sessions with his captors, those dreams had faded. Now he stuck to medical tests: wiggle your fingers and toes, focus on one spot to check for concussion, try not to move and make the bleeding worse. He just needed to keep himself alive, sane, and whole – enough – as long as possible for his team to rescue him. Because if he knew anything, he knew that they were coming for him. You didn't leave a man behind, and you definitely never left him in the hands of the enemy. No, they were coming for him, and he just had to be strong until then.

Footsteps approached in the hall, and John quickly closed his eyes and tried to even out his breathing. Sometimes they left him alone if they believed he was still unconscious. After all, what was the fun of playing with him if he couldn't feel the pain? The snick of the window opening echoed loudly in his ears, but he maintained his breathing. After a long moment, it slammed shut and the footsteps retreated. John waited until they were completely silent before allowing himself a small sigh of relief. He had made that mistake once, and had paid dearly for his deception.

Keeping his eyes closed, John willed himself to sleep, knowing that he needed it to keep his strength up. Finally, the pain in his body faded, and he slipped into uneasy dreams.

oOo

"McKay, keep your eyes open," John warned, glancing around the thick forests. Something wasn't right.

"Colonel, there's nothing on the Life Signs Detector!" Rodney protested. "The only blip I've got besides the four of us is the large, Zed-PM-like energy signature that we are heading towards."

"I know that," John told him, "but I've still got a really bad feeling about this."

"I am uneasy as well," Teyla said.

John glanced at Ronon, but the Runner didn't add his opinion, merely switching his gun from stun to kill. That was enough confirmation for John, and he lowered his voice. "Who knows, Rodney. Maybe they have a way to shield themselves from the Detector. Let's just get there quickly, okay?"

"Okay, okay," Rodney said, his voice taking on a hint of the anxiety the other three were projecting. "The signal is still straight ahead."

"Okay, let's go." John replied, resuming his point position.

Unfortunately, a minute later his gut hunch was proven correct, as the ambush was sprung. Amid the sounds of battle, John realized that their weapons were useless against the numbers they were facing. For every attacker he shot down, another appeared, and eventually his magazine was going to run out.

The last thing John knew was a stinging in his neck, and then his world had gone dark.

oOo

When he woke, John found himself back on the cold metal table in their so-called 'confessions room.' Though his eyes were covered, the faint whir of the fans and the crackle of the fire in the fireplace confirmed it. The horrible taste on his tongue told him that they had drugged him while he was asleep - they had started doing that so as to have an easier time of dragging him between cell and torture chamber. Apparently, they weren't used to their prisoners putting up much of a fight during transport.

Without warning, a hot, searing pain jabbed into John's thigh. "Where are the others?" the high, thin voice of his main torturer demanded.

John bit his lip, refusing to give them the satisfaction of a scream, or an answer.

Another burning jab. "Where is the city?"

John's lip began to bleed, but he still didn't make a sound. His defiance wouldn't last long, but it was all he had. That, and the knowledge that the others were out there, coming back for him. If they weren't, he wouldn't constantly be asked about his team's location. It was a slim hope, but the only one he had.

oOo

When John woke again, he knew he was back in his cell. The sounds, the smell, the pain: they had become familiar to him over the past few weeks. He was unsure how many days had passed, as he never saw a window, but some of the cuts to his face, acquired during the ambush, had begun to heal over before he lost the ability to lift his hand to his cheek, or to feel anything but pain with his fingers.

They never touched his face, and John had no idea why. For a while, he had believed that it was to leave him recognizable, as some horrible symbol or warning to the rest of Atlantis. But when the days, weeks, maybe months dragged on and the questions never changed, he discarded that idea. For all he knew, he was simply a plaything, the questions a part of the game, and messing with his face would ruin the fun. He was pretty cute, after all.

A change in the noises around him drew John from his thoughts. Footsteps - lots of them - and shouts. A burst of gunfire and something that sounded suspiciously like Ronon's blaster. It was muted by the thick walls, but it was out there. Quickly, John tried to check his fingers and toes, but the pain in his thigh made it impossible to tell if anything lower was functioning. This could be a trick, but if it was his team, he wanted them to know that he had survived for them. He had known they would come, and he had endured: alive, sane, and whole enough.

The window snicked open, followed by a gasp - a gasp he knew better than his own harsh breathing. Hands fumbled at the lock, and suddenly the door was opening. "Colonel!" Teyla was crying, and though his eyesight was a bit blurry, John recognized her shape, and the color of her auburn hair and she knelt beside him.

"Hey," he croaked. "Good of you to come." Speaking caused a tightness to form in his chest, but he had to let them know. He was here, waiting. Alive, sane, and whole enough.

"Oh, ha ha!" Rodney's voice came from the doorway, accompanied by the familiar jingling John associated with the guard's keys. "I'm so glad to know that torture hasn't made you lose your sense of humor."

John wanted to reply, but the pressure around his ribs was growing, and he couldn't breathe deeply enough to form the words.

"Lay still, John," Teyla said, her hand gently pressing against his chest and easing some of the tightness. "Rodney will have you free in a moment. Lieutenant Lorne is waiting outside the base with a Jumper. You will be home soon."

"Yeah," Rodney's voice was much closer, and John sensed movement near his hands. "Though you know Carson isn't going to let you out of the Infirmary for a year this time."

No objections here, John wanted to say, but the relief was making him woozy. Or maybe that was just the ever-present pain.

"Hurry, Rodney," he heard Teyla chide, but it was distant, as though she was speaking through a tunnel. As the sounds and sights of the room faded, John let himself go. They were here for him, and he was going home.

oOo

John awoke to pain. Pain, a familiar clay ceiling, and the buzz of voices and machinery beyond the walls. He tried to move, but pain and the cool pressure of his chains stopped him. He was still here; still imprisoned. Still alive, sane, and whole enough. John tried to stay positive, but deep within his heart, he now knew.

They weren't coming.