When Peter woke up, the first thing he felt was gratitude for the dim light. He was pretty sure a brighter one would have caused a first-class headache.
Then the surprise hit him: he was alive. When the outpost had started collapsing around him, he would have bet on his own death.
He mentally checked his own body and found that everything seemed to be as it was supposed to be. Apart for the vague certainty of a future headache, he couldn't find anything wrong.
Looking around, he noticed that he was alone in what looked incredibly like, now that he was paying attention, an Asgard ship.
The Asgard were there. They have saved him. They must have saved Atlantis as well.
A smile began to form on his lips, growing wider and warmer as images of all that he had thought lost rushed through his mind: McKay absentmindedly eating a power bar while connecting the dots of a new Ancient device; the Athosian kids running through the city; Lt. Ford hovering excitedly over a MALP damaged by some unknown explosive; Elizabeth sitting up in her office till late, going through personnel files to understand better her people's priorities; the Major taking a stunner blast almost happily if that meant protecting one of his people; and Radek, Radek taking off his glasses and looking at Atlantis with that childlike awe that Peter loved so much.
He hadn't lost them. He wasn't dead. He really ought to thank the Asgard... if only he could find them. He turned and checked the whole room once more just to be safe: no little cute grey aliens.
Maybe they didn't know he was awake yet. Or maybe there was only one - Thor was known to travel alone - and he was busy somewhere else.
Well, he was feeling perfectly okay and he had a basic knowledge of the Asgard ships, enough to move around them, so he pushed himself up carefully.
The room spun for a moment, as an odd hunger made itself known. Peter had never felt so empty before. It made him wonder how long he had really been unconscious. However, there was only one way to quell his doubts, so he walked out of the room.
Wandering around the ship he found his mind wandering through past memories as well. He remembered a discussion at the SGC about how odd it was that aliens as small as the Asgard should have such large rooms and tall hallways. But now, walking through them, he found that they were actually smaller than he'd thought.
As he proceeded, he noticed other things. He wasn't wearing the red coveralls anymore. Instead, he was wrapped in dark clothes a couple of sizes to small, judging by how tightly they clung to him. Even if he did feel great, he probably hadn't felt that way for some time, because his skin was the wrong color, too pale, almost greyish against the black of the clothes. And his hair... his hair was longer, he could feel it tickle the back of his neck. Add the ever increasing hunger and it was a safe conclusion that he'd been unconscious for some time.
A whooshy noise from a room a few feet farther down the corridor caught his attention. At last, he was going to get some answers.
He walked on and peered inside the room and there he was: an Asgard, just as he had suspected, working on a control pad by a couple of stasis pods.
For a moment Peter had feared he might have been wrong, but now he felt safe as he walked smiling into the room. He had heard Thor was kind and polite.
"Hi, my name is..."
And suddenly he was speechless. His head spun again and he staggered back. What was in the pods... That couldn't be right. It had to be the hunger: it was playing with his sight.
Peter turned towards the Asgard, looking for an answer, an explanation.
"You don't remember your name? That could be... expected." then the Asgard smiled and Peter didn't know why, but it scared him. "It's not really important. You are just perfect. Strong and healthy, and I think I've finally found the right balance between your genes. You haven't attacked me yet."
"Wh..." Peter tried to talk, but the words kept dying on his lips. No matter how much distance he put between himself and the pods, in his mind he still could see what laid inside them: in one pod his dead body, still dressed in red and, in the other one, a Wraith.
"Thor?" he found himself asking foolishly.
"Thor?" the Asgard smiled once again. "Oh, no, I'm not Thor. My name's Loki."
Peter woke up feeling much better than he had expected. Considering he should be dead, he suspected that 'much better' is some of an understatement. He had no idea whatsoever about how he survived the collapsing Outpost, but, as far as he can check, his body is in perfect shape: no scratches, wounds, or pain.
But the surprises didn't stop there. He was naked, no sign of the clothes he'd been wearing. The room, though, was warm and he had to admit he liked the feeling of the silky blankets on his naked skin.
Red silky blankets.
Peter frowned, wondering who'd saved him. None of the aliens they'd met so far seemed the red, silky blankets type, except maybe the Goa'uld, but the rest of the room didn't fit in with their style: too essential, practical. Too much grey and not enough gold. No, Peter felt he could write them off, as well.
"Welcome back." the deep voice coming from beside him startled Peter, but not as much as the man who was lying next to him.
Peter was sure he had been in bed alone a moment before.
"Yes, thank you--"
"Q." the man cut Peter short, roughly.
"What?" asked Peter confused.
"You can call me, Q." explained the man with a deep, theatrical sigh, as if Peter had just done something regrettable. "Do you like red?"
"Yes. Sure, but what--"
"Perfect." Approved the stranger, glee shining in his eyes. "I've got a thing for people who look good in red."
The man snapped his fingers and Peter frowned. One moment he had been naked in bed, a moment later he was standing by it, completely dressed in a sort of black and red pajamas. Puzzled he turned toward the man, but he wasn't in bed anymore.
"Just perfect," came the comment from behind Peter and when he turned... damn him if the stranger wasn't staring at his ass.
He woke up with a start. He felt as if his heart should be pounding, his breath short and ragged as when he had lost consciousness, but that was not the case.
He'd probably been unconscious for some time: the smell was already gone.
He looked around carefully, already knowing what he would see. He was inside one of the Wraith hiveships. He had made it and he felt deeply grateful that he hadn't ended in one of the storage rooms the others described in mission reports, the ones where the 'well' was kept.
He should have tried for the Jumper, but he hadn't. He still didn't know why.
He had been lucky. More than lucky. A jump in the dark, over such distances... it was a miracle that he was still alive and whole, a miracle for which he briefly thanked God.
The sound of footsteps coming his way woke him suddenly. He must have dozed off again.
Sweat covered his body and his heartbeat quickened. They were coming and he couldn't run. He was too weak.
He crawled back, hiding in the darkest corner of the room, and tried to disappear in the shadows, to melt into them.
The Wraith came, two of them, marching silently through the room.
A few seconds and they were gone.
He kept holding his breath a little longer.
They had not seen him. They had not...
He reached around his neck only to make sure: no chain, no holographic device, no hologram.
Peter Grodin, with his nice smile and unlikely, faked accent, was gone.
Kurt huddled closer in the dark, tail wrapped around his right leg.
Just for a moment. Later he would do something, when he wasn't so weak. Something.
Silently he thought of Earth, of the man who had given him the holographic device and offered him a place in his school, in his team of heroes. Maybe he should have accepted.
It wasn't as if his choice had turned out to be much safer.
Waking up, that morning, Peter had felt elated. The feeling had stayed with him trough his morning rituals, his breakfast at the Mountain mess hall, and his trip into town. He had even managed to keep it alive during the uncomfortable meeting he had just had and, now that it was over and he was on his way back to his car, he was working on bringing it back to full force. He was happily imagining all the new technologies that they were going to find in Atlantis, when the lift stopped.
"Oh no." muttered the man by his side.
The doors were staying closed. The numbers on the floor panel were all equally dark, but Peter was pretty sure they'd just passed the eighth on their way down. So, chances were that they were stuck somewhere between the eighth and the seventh floor.
Peter sighed, forcing himself to relax: there was still plenty of time. And it was probably just an glitch: the building was so old that this kind of things probably happened on a daily basis. Soon the lift would come back to life and resume its descent.
"Oh no, no, no, no."
Peter looked suspiciously at the other guy: long hair, short, but sturdy body, nervous energy coming off him in increasing waves. The only other person in the lift was a goth girl. She seemed pretty calm, though, so Peter decided to concentrate on the man.
"I'm sure it's nothing." he told him, using his best reassuring tone, the one a few lovers had found incredibly sexy as well. "They'll have us down in no time."
"No, you don't understand." A quick shake of the head sent curls moving all around and upped the energy waves another notch. For a moment Peter considered taking the man back to the Mountain and handing him to McKay as a possible substitute for a ZPM.
"No, really, I'm sure -" Peter tried again, but he didn't go far.
"He's gonna kill me, man. I should have taken the stairs like I did on the way up, but... it's nine floors!" explained the man to no one in particular, but looking for understanding all the same.
Peter tilted his head: that was some paranoid reaction to a lift stopping mid-floor. He was positive that not even McKay would suspect an attack to his oh-so-precious life only because a lift had stopped.
At least this was keeping the goth girl amused and focused on the other man. She was a beauty, sure, but the dark thing wasn't really Peter's favorite flavor and anyway it wasn't as if he was going to be around in a few hours.
And about that, maybe he should call the Mountain, let them know he was coming, not to worry. It was still five hours to Zero Hour and the Mountain was just half an hour by car. His stuff was already packed and ready to go. He had agreed with a couple of the Russian guys - or were they Czech? - to check the MALPs one last time, but they could do it without him. He just had to change his clothes and step on the ramp. That was why Elizabeth had let him go.
"Okay, no need to panic. We're getting out of this." Peter watched the other guy repeat self-reassuring sentences like that, then draw a few, deep breaths and finally take out his mobile and speed-dial a number.
"Hey, Jim. I'm -" the man frowned. "How do you know?" Peter observed the other man's eyes grow wider and wider as he listened to whatever was being said on the other side of the connection.
"Okay, okay, but you can take... what? That's not fair, man, we're not even in Cascade! How was I supposed to --" The man closed his eyes, took in another breath and released the air slowly, before reopening them.
"But it was nine floors." he added then, almost mutinously, ignoring the puzzled looks both Peter and the goth girl were giving him. "And tell Simon to shut up, I don't even remember the last time he took the stairs."
Another pause; another grimace.
"Okay, I got it, not funny. You're on your way. Do we know who or why-- " Pause. "Jim?"
The guy glared at his mobile as if it had just betrayed him. "I've lost the signal." He turned expectantly to Peter and the girl. After a moment they both went for their cells.
He might as well call the Mountain and, while he was at that, ask them to thank Dr. McKay for having sent him panicking with his "all that could go wrong" speech the evening before. Peter hadn't considered it essential to review his will before that speech. Probably...
"I get nothing." said the girl. She had a nice, deep voice to go with the good-looking, if a bit pale, package.
"Err" Peter looked at his own mobile. "I don't have a signal either."
The other man slumped a bit. "He's probably jamming the signal."
Peter looked back incredulously at his mobile, bits of McKay's patented sense of impending doom flowing through him. And what was with being unable to form a single thought without having the annoying Canadian in it? He looked the stranger straight in the eye.
"How bad... What's going on?" Because I can't really stay here, I'm due to travel to another galaxy in a few hours, he thought.
"I'm not sure," the man seemed to hesitate, "but I think we've been taken hostage."
"What?" This time the word escaped Peter's mouth before he could squish it down. He couldn't be held hostage. He had to go, couldn't miss on this opportunity. They couldn't depart without him.
Suddenly the flow of panicked thoughts stopped, silenced by the simple truth: they would, they were going to, because he wasn't indispensable like McKay or Elizabeth. They had people waiting in line for these kind of things, even if he was pretty sure no one had considered hostage situations when they'd planned the procedure.
"There's more." The guy looked them up and down. Taking their silence as a good sign, he went on. "There might be a bomb."
"What?!" It was the girl's turn to exclaim. Peter just sank back and leaned on the wall.
"There's nothing to worry about. I'm a cop and my partner is on his way to help us. He's already pulled me out of a situation like this before. Nothing to worry. Really."
The guy was speaking at increasing speed, but Peter ignored him. It was a nightmare, had to be. A night before the departure sort of nightmare, like when you dream of arriving naked at your graduation the night before the big day. Any moment now he would wake up and see the grey walls of the Mountain.
"What happened?" asked the girl.
"Huh?" he responded.
"You said you've already been in a situation like this. Well, what was it? Bank robbing? Terrorists? What?"
"Ah, err, no, not that I haven't had trouble with terrorists, because I have, but I meant just like this one."
The goth girl raised an eyebrow at him.
"I was taken hostage inside an elevator blocked between floors and there was a bomb."
The girl frowned. "You're not very lucky, are you?"
And that was it. Peter realized he was going to die, because let's face it, how many chances were there to survive a situation like that twice? And if the other man was going to die in such a small space...
At least his will, the will he had ignored till the day before, was in order. He should have kept ignoring it.
"I'm Blair, by the way."
The other two were still chatting, seemingly untouched by Peter's silent desperation.
"So, Blair, what did you do the other time? Maybe we could do the same." asked Abby.
"I..." Blair hesitated "I did the Macarena."
Incredulous, Peter looked up. Oh, yes, he should have ignored the will. He was certain that if he had, he would have travelled to the Pegasus Galaxy, lived the adventure of his life and nothing bad would have happened.
He was floating.
It was cold.
And there was no air.
No air in his lungs, no air to be drawn inside them, no air whatsoever.
He had just enough time to think that he really hated suffocating, then he died once more.
No time to think about how the others were dealing on Atlantis; to confirm that sometimes being immortal was a pain; to admit that going to another galaxy to avoid the Game and being beheaded hadn't been his best idea; to wonder what was going to happen to him now. Would he float out there forever? Would some ship rescue him? Or would he get caught in some gravitational field? He was pretty sure not even he would survive the incinerate-entering-the-atmosphere thing.
No time to count how many times he had already died since the Wraith had destroyed the Ancient outpost.
And no air.
1 - this is easy, SG1.
2 - Star Trek, especially TNG, I know that Q appeared in DS) and VOY too, but my favorite Q is in the TNG episodes.
3 - X-Men, and Kurt Wagner is Nightcrawler.
4 - mostly Sentinel, with Blair Sandburg (and the bit about the Macarena is real, it really happened in an episode), but also a little homage to NCIS in the person of Abby.
5 - Highlander.