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Unseen Scars

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As always, if they had listened to Rodney, they wouldn't be in this situation. But as always, they decided to ignore everything he said, and here they were. McKay didn't know what kind of persuasion techniques he needed to develop for them to listen to him, and really, they accused him of complaining too much, but could they blame him. No. Rodney always had a good reason to complain- either be when on a mission in some hostile territories or heading straight into threatening groups of people. Rodney had a sixth sense for these kind of things, he could tell when everything was about to go south- but did anyone listen to him ? Of course not. They rather do as they wanted.

And when he said 'they' McKay meant Sheppard, of course. He hoped there was no confusion on this part. It was always Sheppard's fault. What with his big ego and suicidal tendencies. Everything wrong that happened on missions were most of the time because of Sheppard. Sure, McKay wasn't so much of a jerk to point it out every times- he did so enough by the past and could write a book of 'Sheppard's mistakes' by now.

Maybe Rodney was being a little mean here, but how could he not. They were locked up in a small cell with no way out and a nasty smell coming from one corner. Rodney wished he hadn't checked. Couldn't their captor put them in a cell with working toilets. Scratch that, couldn't they put them in a cell without a clogged toilet full of crap.

Rodney gagged at the only thought of it. This was disgusting, worse, it was inhuman and the team wasn't close to hear the end of his complains.

“Shut it McKay, you're killing my head.”

Rodney span around, glare fixed on Colonel Sheppard sitting on the bottom bed in the left wall. McKay would complain later about having to share a bunk bed with Sheppard. He would have picked Teyla any given time, if the giant Satedan hadn't beat him to it. Sure, Rodney didn't take real pride in his cowardice, but who could blame him. No one who ever faced Ronon Dex.

“Oh, excuse me. Am I being an inconvenience to you ? Well, if you had listened to me we wouldn't be here. Didn't I tell you I had a bad feeling about these people.”

“You always say that.”

“Oh hey, thanks big guy for picking this exact moment to decide to speak again.” Ronon sent Rodney such a glare that the scientist had to pretend he never said anything and refocused all his annoyance on the one and only Colonel Sheppard.

“Ronon's right,” Sheppard stood up, restraining a pained grimace and failing at completely hiding a limp.

McKay had to stop himself from giving the dirty eye to the Satedan. If it wasn't so life threatening, he certainly would have.

“You never feel good about any mission we go on.”

“Well, maybe because every single time there's trouble waiting for us.”

“Not every single time.” At least Sheppard didn't deny trouble tended to find them more than not.

“Fairly enough for me to have comparison points for our actual captivity's settlements. And let me tell you, this is one of the worst places we were ever detained in. I mean, we had to deal with pretty archaic prison cells and holding places, but at least they didn't have clogged toilets full of shit !”

Ronon growled at that, certainly not appreciating the reminder.

“Will you calm down.” Sheppard stopped sharp and went back on his steps, the smell from the corner too bad even for him to handle. “We'll figure something out.” He sat back on the bed, the stiffness of his body saying it all.

No one commented on it.

“Yeah, like what ? They took our weapons, even Ronon's knifes. All of them.” Rodney tried to hide how impressed he was by that. The look on the Satedan's face darkened at the fact. “And you've seen how fast these guys got us- they're pro, they know what they're doing.”

“Like a lot of the previous enemies we had to deal with.”

“See ! That's what I meant. Every. Single. Time.” At the murderous look Sheppard gave him McKay decided he had voiced enough of his frustration and sat with Teyla on the opposite bed.

“All we need is a plan.” Sheppard said, and Rodney restrained another sarcastic remark.

“And what would that be ?” He asked, because, really, he couldn't just stay quiet.

“I don't know yet. But I'll think of something.”

“Well, I hope it'll be before they decide to kill us.” Sheppard glared at Rodney again.

“Maybe if you helped me we could manage that.” He pushed himself up again, swallowing a groan of pain. “What about you, big guy, no brilliant idea to get us out of here ?” John smiled, though it held no humor.

“No.” This was very concise even coming from Ronon. The man usually was first in line when escape plans and weapons were involved, and Rodney didn't want to admit it freaked him a little.

Ronon had been unusually quieted since wakening in this cell, even from his standards, and McKay wasn't sure what it meant. Nor how bad it was for them.

“Come on Ronon. If even you don't work with me-”

“There's no way off this ship. I already tried.”

“Huh, excuse me. But when did you start time traveling without telling us ?” Rodney won a glare but for once managed to hold it more than a second.

“What is it, Ronon.” Teyla stood up, a hand on Ronon's knee. The Satedan tensed up, even Rodney noticed, and shifted on the top bed, looking down. “You have been very quiet and distant since we woke up here. What is the matter ?”

“Nothing.” Ronon jerked his knee, and Teyla let go. “I-”

Rodney was itching to make the Satedan talk. He hated these kinds of mysteries, hated being kept in the dark like this- mostly when his life was on the line. Besides, though he wouldn't admit it, he was curious to know what made the usual lay-back warrior so uncomfortable. McKay was a little scared to find what it was, to discover what could have affected Ronon to this point- but his curiosity was stronger. It could be nothing good, and it became more than vital for Rodney to get answers.

“This ship… It's a slaver ship. They captured me once.” Ronon made sure to avoid any eye contact.

Rodney's panic made a weird surge inside him, rendering his mind blank for a moment too long.

Slaver. Did Ronon say slaver ? He had to be kidding. After all this time, all these missions and troubles- they had to deal with being captured by slavers now.

If McKay wasn't so scared and annoyed, he would have laughed like a hysterical villain.

“Excuse me, slaver ship ?” Sheppard stepped closer to Ronon's bunk bed and pushed a hand against the top bar, supporting some of his weight off his aching leg. “You mean you were here before ?” Ronon nodded, avoiding eye-contact. “Why didn't you tell us sooner ?”

Ronon shifted, a proof of his discomfort and guilt.

“I didn't want to panic you.”

“Oh, great job big guy. I'm totally not panicking hearing it now. Maybe if you told us soo-”

“What would have it changed ?” He snapped, catching Rodney's gaze with a piercing, dark one. “We still would be locked up in this cell.”

“Well, maybe we would have been a little more proactive.” Even to McKay, Sheppard's respond sounded weak.

Ronon didn't bother answering, he just stared at the Colonel, meaning more than with thousand words. A shiver coursed down Rodney's spine, his legs turning weak. He sat on Teyla's bed, trying to not panic too much.

They were on a slaver ship, with no way out. Their most determinate warrior had already given up on the idea, and if Ronon himself didn't believe they would escape this ship, then there was no escaping this ship.

Okay, not panicking too much wasn't an option anymore. Rodney was going into full panic mode and there was nothing or no one that would stop him.

“Ronon,” Teyla's gentle voice carried through the cell, attracting the Satedan's attention. “Is there a possibility you missed a weak point ? Maybe with the four of us,”

“No. I was here for a month and a half, Teyla, and I couldn't escape even if I wanted to.”

“A month and a half.” Sheppard echoed.

“What do you mean by you couldn't have escaped even if you wanted to ?” Rodney looked up, but couldn't see more than the Satedan's boots' soles.

Ronon sighed, sounding tired and frustrated all at the same time.

“See these ?” He said, raising both arms he shook, and furrowing his brows, McKay stood up and widened his eyes.

“What ? What are those- when did you get them ?” Ronon's stare couldn't be more patronizing.

“Don't tell me you didn't notice.”

“Well, flash news Conan- I didn't.” Rodney refused to admit how stupid he felt because of that. How could he have missed them ?

“Maybe with our long-sleeves we did not see them.” Said Teyla, sliding a sleeve up to observe her wrist.

“Right !” Rodney snapped his fingers, thanking the woman with all his might. “They're really light, you barely feel them. It's only now I'm aware of them that I can feel them.”

“What are they ?” Asked Sheppard, observing the two wristbands on his wrists.

“It looks like-” Rodney ran a finger over the straps, feeling the smooth light design making one with his wrists. “Some kind of metal, but which one I wouldn't know. I never encountered such light material before. What are those for ?” He said, looking up at Ronon.

“They're trackers and stunners.”

“Stunners ?” McKay didn't really like the sound of it.

“Yeah. If you step out of an allowed area it stuns you. And before you ask, you can't take them off. I tried too, and it hurts.”

“Ow !”

“Sheppard ! What did he just say ?”

“What ? I was just checking.”

Rodney and Ronon rolled their eyes as Sheppard shook his hand, trying to work the needles out of his fingers.

“What's the deal with these things ?” He growled, glaring at one of the straps.

“I don't know. But it zaps you as soon as its not in full contact with your skin.”

“How many times did you try to come to such conclusion.” If Rodney sounded annoyed, he wasn't sure why himself. Maybe the fact anyone would be masochist enough to get zapped out of sheer stubbornness made him tick.

“A few. What, I had to try to get them off.”

“Of course.” McKay would never understand people like Ronon and Sheppard. These two had such blatant disregard for their own well-being when it came to getting out of a dear situation. Rodney's self-preservation instinct was too developed for him to ever relate with them.

Something must be wrong with these two.

“You said you were captured before,” Teyla said, looking up at the big Satedan sitting on the top bed. “Can you tell us more about these people ?”

“Like I said, they're slavers.” He said, shrugging a shoulder in what Rodney realized to be discomfort. “Commander Rarph is in charge, at least, last time I was here he was. He had a second in command, Captain Zhamsey.”

“Anything about them that could be of any help ?” Asked McKay, trying to keep the irritation at bay face to Ronon's lack of communication.

This man should really work on that. He always said the minimal, and sometimes it only served to frustrate people. Like Rodney. Ronon often frustrated him.

Shrugging, Ronon thought about it, and Rodney knew better this time than expect much. Certainly nothing more than a no or yes.

“Rarph's a cruel man. He doesn't really care about money. His thing is power, and if he's to kill a few slaves to maintain it he will.”

“Sounds like you speak from experience.” Sheppard said, but none of them expected Ronon's sudden change in demeanor. Rodney couldn't believe the first word that came to his mind, but he couldn't qualify Ronon's reaction differently.

Shame. Ronon looked ashamed besides uncomfortably awkward, and Rodney wasn't sure to appreciate the novelty. If this Rarph had managed to make such impact on their resident Conan, then he didn't want to find out how bad he was.

“I do.” Ronon shifted, his head low and gaze fixed on a spot on his crossed legs. “I told you, I tried to escape. A lot.” Sounded like Ronon. “After so many attempts, you kinda get the thing, and with some other prisoners I managed to get down to deck 5 before they caught us.”

“How did you do that ?”

“We had some help.”

Of course Ronon wouldn't say more about the matter. Really, Rodney was at that to pull his own hair out, if he had any hair to spare.

“Internal help ?” Asked Teyla, and Rodney could have thrown himself at her feet in gratitude.

“Yes.”

“What happened ?” Asked Sheppard, the always curious and not so tactful Colonel. If Rodney wasn't as curious as him he would have make a remark.

On the bed, Ronon shifted, several times, his hands clenching together again and again.

“What was your plan ? If you went that far, you had to have a plan.” Teyla said, saving Ronon from his own distress.

He nodded.

“Yeah. There's sprinters on deck 7. One of the prisoners knew how to fly.”

Nodding, Teyla put a hand on Ronon's shin and squeezed, comforting him without speaking. It helped Ronon to relax, and nodding, he rubbed his palms against his leather pants.

“Maybe we should-”

A trap at the bottom of the door opening cut McKay off, and stiffening, he looked over his shoulder just as four small pates were slid inside the cell. The time for Rodney to blink and the trap was snapping shut again, the sound of receding footsteps following soon after.

“Don't !” Ronon jumped off the bed, rushing to Rodney to grab his shoulder and pull him away from the plates.

“What ?” He yelped, almost losing his balance. “The hell is wrong with you, Conan ? You almost broke my neck.” The pair of dubious looks made him swallow and fidget. “What ? I could have fall.” Sheppard's look intensified.

“But you didn't.” He said, clapping him on the back, and if Rodney wasn't so stunned by the impact he would have start a rant. “What's the matter, Ronon ?” Sheppard and Ronon crouched before the plates, ignoring Rodney's mere existence.

“The food's poisoned.”

“What ?” He choked on the word, all the horror such information implied washing over him like liters of icy cold water.

“Are you sure ?” Teyla asked, stepping closer.

“Yes.” Ronon picked up a plate and handed it to Sheppard. “They use drugs to keep prisoners under control.” Rodney let a long sigh out in relief and Sheppard sent him a half puzzled, half irate look.

“I thought for a second I would die either from starvation or poisoning, but it's just drugs.”

Ronon's head whipped around to pin McKay with a glare.

“Doesn't make it any better.” He said.

“I beg to disagree.” He swallowed, trying to ignore the dangerous vibes coming his way. “Poison means death where drug means, well, it can depends, but I'll presume some kind of relaxant or sedative is used, so at worse we'll be sleepy. So, death, sleep.” He said, balancing one hand and the other. “I think I'll pick sleep.” He made a step forward, and Ronon stood on his full height, growling.

Really ? Conan was growling at him now, like some kind of beast.

“You've no idea what you're talking about.”

“Actually,” He said with another step forward. “I do.” He slapped Ronon's chest with the back of his hand, smiling. “Chemicals aren't my specialty, but I know more than you do on the matter.” He went to pick a plate, but Ronon grabbed him by the scruff of his neck (really ?) and pulled him away. “The hell !” He snapped, arms flying and eyes closing.

“Seriously McKay ?” Sheppard said, standing up before him, scowling. “You're ready to eat drugged food ? When I offered you to try my cookies you reacted like I was trying to kill you.”

Sheppard's point wasn't obvious, as Rodney tended to believe his friend was more offended by the fact his cookies received a straight rebuttal than annoyed by the one he was up to put drugged food into his stomach.

“For one, how dare you call these things cookies ? They looked like burnt rocks- don't try to deny it. Two, I am a fully grown man, I can do what I want.” Ronon's grip tightened on his neck at that. “Three, I am hypoglycemic ! I need to eat.”

“The food's drugged !”

“I am ready to take the risk.” He cried back, trying a step towards Sheppard, but Ronon's grip held him back. With a glare, he managed to get free, not without a roll of eyes and shake of head from the big Satedan.

Rodney could live with that.

“Look,” For a brief second, he couldn't believe he was arguing his case over drugged food. It had been any other kind of situation, he wouldn't even have envisaged it. “I get it, okay. It's drugged, but Ronon said it himself, it's only to keep the prisoners in check. I don't think it's gonna kill me.” Sheppard gave him a dubious look, though he didn't jump at his throat for only saying that.

“You won't be yourself.” Said Ronon from somewhere behind him, and Rodney had to restrain a frustrated groan.

“As if I wanted to. Don't you see where we are, in what kind of conditions ?” He said, turning to Ronon before grabbing the plate from Sheppard's unprepared hands. “So if this can make me forget about this smell I am even more ready to risk it.” He took a spoon of he wasn't even sure what, grimaced at the poor visual and moved it to his mouth.

Ronon slapped the plate out of his hand along with the spoon. Shocked, Rodney could only stand there as the ex-runner kicked the other plates and went back to his bed. Apparently sulking. Rodney couldn't be sure. Didn't care.

What the hell just happened ?

“What was that for ?” He cried, looking at Ronon, but the man ignored him, his arms crossed over his chest.

“I think it's better for everyone.” Said Sheppard, patting his back.

“What ? How can it be better for everyone ? I am hungry !”

“You will be fine.” Said Teyla with a small smile, before going back to the bed she had woken up on, some very long hours ago.

“What is wrong with you all ? I need to eat. I will pass out if I don't.”

“We'll get out of here before you do.” Said Sheppard, hopping on the top bed.

Rodney's face reddened, anger at that to explode.

“And how do you plan to do that ? Big guy here said it himself, there's no way out of here. What do you expect from me, to starve to death ?” He couldn't believe it, didn't want to believe it, and he swore, if Ronon wasn't so tall and strong and frightening- he would have punched him for doing that to the food.

As it happened, he never had any suicidal tendencies (unlike Sheppard) and lacked the fighting skills (unlike Teyla) to face the Satedan in any kind of fight and so decided to lay back in bed. When he woke up there earlier, he found it awfully uncomfortable, and now he was so riled up and angry, it didn't feel any better.

Was there even any cushioning on this thing, or was it just made of stiff metal ? The rough fabric under his fingers said there had to be some kind of mattress, or the closest thing to it in some under developed part of the galaxy giving no mind to one's comfort and back issues.

Rodney was going to kill someone before they were out of here if things kept worsening.

Chapter Text

John was getting bored, and when John was getting bored then McKay was having the life out of himself annoyed and then everyone around them were getting annoyed out of their minds.

The two were engaging in yet another argument for the misfortune of Ronon and Teyla when some beep and clack was heard and the door slid open. Silence fell like bliss over the room, the previous childish arguments and fight forgotten in the face of imminent danger.

John made a move towards the three men entering, but Ronon came crashing off the bed and slamming him in the chest with one powerful hand before he could make more than one step. Winded, John stumbled back and blinked at his friend.

“Here.” He grumbled, looking down at what John thought to be some kind of aeration, but apparently wasn't. “It'll stun you if you step pass it.” He said, glaring up at the three strangers at the door.

The one John presumed was in charge grinned.

“How do you know that ?” He asked, still recovering from the impact of Ronon's hand on his chest.

“Look.” He said, showing him one of his wrist, and John realized it was glowing a faded orange. John frowned. “It starts glowing when you get closer to the restricted perimeter.” He said, looking at Teyla and McKay behind them.

John nodded in a fainted 'oh'.

“Looks like we have a regular here.” Ronon glared up at the man, snarling at him. “I remember you.” He said, chuckling at the reaction. “You were quite a handful. The Commander had to get creative with you.”

John didn't want to believe it, but it seemed Ronon shrunk a little bit on himself, shifting a half step back.

Whatever had happened here by the past had been horrible enough for Ronon to still be scared of the memories. Even the Wraith hadn't succeeded at doing so, and John got curious. Even if he didn't want to be the kind of guy to pry on stuffs like that. It wouldn't hurt to know what to expect on this ship.

“He's still here ?” Ronon said, voice low and dangerous, but John noted the hint of dread.

“Yes.” He said, huffing a chuckle. “You want to see him ?” If it was possible to associate a noise to Ronon's barely visible reaction was the one of a kicked puppy. John didn't believe one day he would associate this term with the big Satedan, but something in the way he had to hold himself screamed that at John, and more than curious he grew protective of his friend. More than ever.

“I'll like to.” He said, and Ronon couldn't tense more behind him. The man in charge smirked, looking at John.

“I'm not sure you realize what meeting the Commander means.” The wicked glint in his eyes intensified as he looked up at Ronon. “But ask your friend, I'm sure he'll be happy to share his experience with you.” John didn't like the sound of it, but he liked even less the vibes he was getting from his friend.

He was used to Ronon's aggressive reactions, knew to expect and fear them at times. This frightened, more submissive one took him by surprise, and he wasn't sure how to deal with it. His instincts screamed at him to protect Ronon, but his confusion pushed too many interrogations at the forefront of his mind.

“Why are we here ?” Asked Teyla, stepping around Ronon to be seen, and the bastard on the other side of the invisible barrier leered at her.

It was official, John hated this guy.

“He didn't tell you ?” He shot back, nodding at Ronon, and Teyla's expression darkened.

“I am aware this is a slaver ship, but I am not sure you know who we are-”

“Oh, but we do.” John stiffened, not enjoying much the turn of event.

Not only he was trapped behind an invisible barrier and couldn't do shit against this man, but they captured them knowing fully what they could get themselves into in doing so.

All in all, it didn't announce anything good.

“And the Commander looks forward to selling you. You two are wanted men, and whoever is after you is willing to pay a lot. Or so we believe.”

“I don't think we interest them that much anymore.” The man smiled at John.

“We think you do, but in case you don't, there is still other alternatives.” He eyed John, and the gleam he saw there almost made him squirm. Instead, he scowled at the man and stood taller. “We'll always find a buyer, and with a mind like yours,” McKay cowered on himself a little, hiding behind John without much shame. “You could be very useful to some of our customers.”

Still smiling, the man glanced at the floor, then up at them. The expression change was impressive, and John caught himself bracing himself for an attack.

“Who did that ?” He asked, the amused lightness gone from his voice.

John made sure to glare back and move as close as he could to the invisible barrier in case this guy would try anything. Behind him, he could feel Ronon radiating with tension, and John knew it wouldn't be long for things to go south from this point.

“It's you, isn't it ?” He said, staring at Ronon, and John stiffened, shielding his friend some more with his smaller frame. Ronon's answer was a low snarl to which the man took a step closer. “Of course it's you. You were always trouble.”

“It was me.” John said and tried to not flinch at the hand following on his shoulder.

Ronon should be more careful with his strength, because he was certain he would have a bruise where he grabbed him.

“He's lying.”

“Ronon.” He growled, trying to push him back, but the big Satedan was stronger and had no real problem moving forward.

“Very touching.” The man said scornfully, his expression still as dangerous. “You know what happens when food is wasted.” It wasn't a question, and Ronon wasn't about to answer. The way he froze was enough for John, and he hoped he could do something. Anything. “I wouldn't have thought you to be so selfish to put your friends in this situation.”

“No !” Ronon almost stepped passed the perimeter but stopped himself in-extremist.

The man smirked.

“They didn't do anything. I did. It's on me.”

“Ronon-” John didn't know what the punishment was for wasted food, but he knew he didn't want Ronon to endure it. Nor anyone of his team. If someone had to be punished it should be him, he was the leader, and the responsibility laid on him.

“Stay out of this Sheppard.” He growled, not even looking at him. He was too busy glaring at the smirking man before him.

“If you think-” He started, a hand clamping over Ronon's arm, but he turned around and stared straight in his eyes.

“You want McKay and Teyla to be punished.” He hissed, lowly, and John didn't miss the touch of panic in his voice. “Stay out of this, and they'll be fine.” He said, more like a growl than anything, and John was stunned as Ronon turned back to the man and waited.

“Alright.” He said, an arm stretched out on his side, and one of the guard got something out of his pocket and gave it to the leader. A few seconds later he said, “Move.” And Ronon stepped forward, passing the invisible barrier to stop before the bastard in charge.

One of the guard put his weapon away to step closer, a pair of thick handcuffs in one hand.

Glaring at them, Ronon needed another moment before turning around and placing his hands in his back. John met his gaze, trying to understand and scold at the same time, but Ronon let nothing out. His face was stone like, his muscles taut. John wondered for a second why he didn't fight, or tried to, but then, he guessed whatever was awaiting him was horrible enough for him to not want to risk McKay and Teyla's safety.

“Ronon.” He tried, but the guard's hand wrapped over Ronon's elbow and pulled him away.

“Ley missed you.” Was the last thing the leader said before the four were out of the cell and the door was shut again.

Clenching his fists, John was itching to do something, but what. Checking his wrist, he narrowed his eyes at the colorless strap and guessed it meant the barrier was gone. Or he hoped so as he stepped forward.

Breathing out, he closed his eyes and tried to think.

“John.” Teyla's hand fell gently on his shoulder, but he was so tensed.

“I should have stopped him.” She squeezed his shoulder, knowing him too well by now.

“There is nothing you could have do. Ronon would not have let you.”

“Still-”

“Still what ?” Said Rodney, his voice shakier than before. “You want us to endure whatever he's gonna endure ? Whatever you would've done, it wouldn't have made a difference for him.”

John whipped around, the look in his eyes murderous.

“So what ? Everything's peachy because you've got to avoid punishment.”

“Yes !” He yelled back, having none of John's anger. “Open your eyes Sheppard, playing martyrs won't have make anything better.” John gritted his teeth, trembling. “You want us to escape,” The words hit him in the sternum. “How do you plan to do that if we're all incapacitated ? Don't think I enjoy knowing Ronon's enduring God knows what, but if it means we got to keep our strengths and think about something- then I'm glad. I'm glad he didn't let you play hero like you always do. We need to figure a way out of this ship, and we need to do it together. Ronon bought us some time, don't let it go to waste.”

As much as John hated the situation, McKay was right, and he hated him for that.

“Fine.”

:::

Ronon hadn't forgotten anything about this ship. Even after so many years, he still remembered every corridors as if it was yesterday he was walking them. In his dreams, he walked them often, but one would have thought after so much time passed bits would have gotten lost.

None were.

Ronon remembered everything. From the direction they took to the doors' numbers they passed and deck they went to.

Deck 3. The medical bay, where Rarph' scientist's team worked on many things Ronon certainly didn't know about and wished didn't get to experience. Out of the elevator, if they went left, they would reach the infirmary and decontamination room.

They took right.

Experimental room S was well known to Ronon. How many times had he spent here by the past. A good part of his captivity on this ship had been spent here, on deck 3 in room S.


Ronon hated this place. He hated this room and hated everything happening in there. In the blur of his memories he had too vivid ones of the pains and torments he endured there, and if Ronon shivered he wouldn't deny why.

This place had been his hell, and he hadn't expected to be back so soon. Not that he could have avoided it after wasting the food like he did, but he had refused to think about it.

Sheppard and McKay's bickering had been enough distraction to not focus on what was to come.

But now he was here.

Ronon wanted to fight, but he knew too well how much more worse it was here after being stunned. He was always so much more sick and in so much more pain. He rather save himself as many torments as he could. There was no one to judge him here anyway, and even if there was- they knew nothing of what he was about to endure, and he didn't wish for them to find out.

Captain Zhamsey had left him with three of his guards. Ronon hadn't been handcuffed, he could have take them. But he knew by experience fighting brought nothing good. These things on his wrists even prevent him the satisfaction of hurting these people before being stunned. He didn't know this technology, didn't know how everything worked, but somehow, it was impossible to attack any of the ship's crew. Ronon always ended up passed out on the floor before he could hit any of them, and more than annoying it was frustrating.

The younger guard unlocked the cuffs, and Ronon wasn't even allowed the time to relax his muscles that he was pushed to the table and ordered to lay down. He hesitated only a second before doing as told.

Memories came crashing back in his mind. The cold of the table brought him back years ago, in a room filled with pain and screams and horror and insanity.

Ronon's eyes snapped open, his breath coming out hard and short. He tried to wipe the sweat on his forehead, but his hands were already secured to the table, and the realization he wasn't even aware when it happened panicked him.

He needed to get out of here.

Another guard stood beside the table, at Ronon's head level, and glaring at him, he jerked away from whatever he had in hand.

“Captain's order.” Said the man before someone grabbed him by the dreadlocks and forced his head still.

The leather blindfold pressed against his eyes and tightened against his skin as it was secured at the back of his head. Some hair got pulled and stuck, but Ronon was too lost in his growing panic to mind the sting. The blindfold threw him back years ago to his most vulnerable moments, when he was powerless and helpless and could do nothing but beg to be saved.

Nausea hit him, and if he had eaten earlier he would have threw up.

Waiting was never Ronon's strength. Like McKay would say, he sucked at it, and he had no shame admitting so.

Expectation was worse.

It played with his fears and triggered his panic like no other thing. Ronon wasn't good at this game, he was a man of action, and the mental shit the Commander enjoyed so much was never in his range of skills. He couldn't handle it well back then, and he knew he wouldn't now. No matter the years passed and experience gained, there was just things out there Ronon would never be able to handle with his teeth gritted and resistance strong.

He knew what to expect, knew what to fear, and it made it all so much worse.

The tingle in his wrists was warning enough, and tensing up, he cursed the guards just before the energy ripped through his body and forced him into unconsciousness.

He had expected cooperating would avoid him that, but it was underestimating the Commander's cruelty, and Ronon would beat himself later for only thinking he could make things a little more bearable for himself.

Right now, he was out cold on a table, tied and vulnerable.

:::

When McKay got tired of complaining about being hungry, he started complaining about the uncomfortable bed he couldn't find any sleep on. When that too was met with disinterest, McKay started pacing the room, complaining and cursing every time air moved his way from the corner and brought along the awful smell of the toilet- which brought complaint's topic number… whatever, John had stopped counting a long time ago. He got a little hopeful when McKay ranted about a detailed and very persuasive argument to get their captors to fix the toilet- but then John remembered where they were, and he just sighed in despair at the thought of being locked up for longer with McKay and his insufferable personality.

The trap opening was enough to shut Rodney up, though John didn't appreciate more having drugged water offered to him. He guessed they didn't have much of a choice, though he ordered that no one touch it. Teyla agreed with a nod but McKay whined and complained and John hopped on the top bed and laid down with his back to the room. With little luck, Rodney would tire from speaking into empty air.

Sure enough, five minutes later silence fell over the room and Rodney took place on the bottom bed, sighing deeply. John made sure to ignore it and pretend to be sleeping. If he was engaging anything with Rodney he was good for another trail of annoying complaints.

The door opened when John was drifting in this relaxing state of pre-slumber. He doubted he would be able to sleep, but resting wasn't so bad. They would need their strengths to get out of here.

He sat up at the first sound of the unlocking door and stared at the Captain from his perch. He was feeling lazy, despite the situation, and a single glance at his wrist was enough to know he wouldn't be able to get near these people even if he wanted to. So better save his energy and relax.

“Yeah ?” He said, raising a brow. John could feel McKay's glare from under even without looking at him.

The man looked at the floor were the pouch of water was still lying then up at each one of them. Teyla barely reacted as the man's intense eyes fell on her and remained sit on the opposite bottom bed. Rodney squirmed, which wasn't surprising. John glared back, challenging the man to say and do anything about it.

The Captain grinned, a menacing glint in his eyes.

“I will say it only once-” John tensed up, bracing himself for the upcoming confrontation. “Drink. Or you'll join your friend.”

“Well, I was about to ask you to get us to him, so that's perfect.”

“Sheppard.” McKay hissed, more whimpery than threatening, though the menace didn't go completely unnoticed.

“I'd listen to your friend if I was you, Colonel.” John had to restrain himself from cringing at the only idea. Him, listening to McKay ? He had been forced to do so for the past few hour or so, no way he would do any more.

He was about to say just that, or something as smart when Teyla stood up and said, “Colonel, maybe we should listen. Ronon would not want that.”

As much as John hated it, and hated the smirk on the Captain's face, he knew she was right. Knew Ronon's sacrifice would mean nothing if he dragged the whole team in the same situation he was in. If Ronon was so determinate to avoid that from happening, it wasn't for nothing, and John knew it.

He knew it- it didn't mean he liked it.

With a low groan and sigh, he closed his eyes, griped the bar of the bed tighter and breathed in. Teyla was right, but God it annoyed him. He wasn't the kind to just follow orders, and even less from slavers intending to sell him- but Teyla was right, and he couldn't (shouldn't) risk his team's safety in the name of his ego.

He had been alone, he would have rubbed every sarcastic and mocking remarks he had in these people's face. But he wasn't alone, and he had to prioritize. The team's safety was number one. Getting Ronon back was number two. Getting back home was number three.

Getting them in an unknown dangerous position was nowhere on the list, and he hated how powerless it made him feel.

“Fine.” He said, trying to relax his grip on the bed.

Teyla nodded, a small smile of support flashing on her face. John barely noticed it, though it helped. McKay didn't waste much time and stepped as close as the wristbands let him, eager to eventually hydrate himself.

The Captain waited for John to jump off the bed and stand behind McKay and Teyla to nod at one of the guard. The man picked up the pouch and threw it at their feet. John had to grit his teeth and restrain himself from glaring too much at the three on the other side of the invisible barrier. The guard's smug smirk did nothing to help, and Teyla had to place a hand on his arm and force his attention on her to calm him down.

“Drink.” Said the Captain, and McKay picked up the pouch, opening it almost hastily.

John had to bite back a comment about the man and his previous warning. Had it been any other kind of situation, he wouldn't have think twice, but here, at the moment, all he could do was watch his team drink drugged water before doing the same. He wondered how little he could drink without looking suspicious.

“More Colonel.”

Swallowing a growl and glaring at the Captain, John drank more, hating how good it felt to finally have some water.

“You too.” The man said, nodding to Teyla, and she accepted the pouch with a solemn nod. “Good.” He said once the pouch empty, and John couldn't believe he was already feeling the effect of the drug.

Whatever it was, it worked fast. His senses numbed, his mind slowed and his eyelids became heavier. He hated the sensation, but what he hated more was to know how vulnerable they all would be from now on and there was nothing he could do about it.

“We'll be back soon.” The Captain said with another smile, and the man was almost out the door when John reacted.

“Wait !” He said, almost stepping passed the perimeter. Teyla holding him back was the only reason he didn't end up stunned on the floor. “Where's Ronon, what have you done with him ?” Was it him or his speech was slurred. John worked his tongue, but it felt puffed and numbed.

Turning around, the Captain smirked, eying him. Whatever he saw pleased him, and John wanted to punch this annoying face.

“Take it easy, Colonel. Lay down and rest your eyes. We wouldn't want you to collapse where you stand.” On these words, he walked out of the cell with the guards and let the door slide shut after him.

John was too slow for a return and just stood there, dumbstruck and confused.

“Colonel.” Teyla's touch was gentle, but it sent a shiver down his spine. “Come, sit down.” She led him to Rodney's bed where he sat, head spinning and skin burning.

“Is it me or it's got awfully hot in here ?” He fanned himself with the collar of his shirt, but the temperature kept rising.

“It's the drug.” Said McKay. “I'm getting hot too.”

“Me too.”

John didn't like it. He didn't like it but had no other choice than endure it. Releasing a shaky breath, he unbuttoned his shirt and took it off, hoping to cool down his heated body. It felt better, but the warm inside him remained, making him light-headed. It became hard to only think.

“Perhaps resting will be good.” Teyla said, already moving to the other bed, and John nodded his heavy head.

Gosh, was it even his head, it felt like twice its usual size.

“Hey-” Rodney slurred, but John was already lying down with his eyes closed and only felt a tugged on his leg and ignored it.

Somewhere in the distance, he thought he heard McKay's voice, but he was already drifting away, too far away to understand or even care.

Chapter Text

Ronon regained consciousness in a room smelling antiseptic and bad memories. Flashes engulfed his mind. Flashes of pain, of fear and rage. He remembered being tied to this very same table he was currently tied on. Remembered the straps around his wrist and ankles- the way they had to rub his skin raw when struggling too hard and held him prisoner no matter his efforts. He remembered the pinch of needles in his arms, remembered the burn of unknown liquids injected into him, remembered fevered hallucinations and torture, remembered being powerless and desperate to just make it stop.

For a brief moment, he had no memory of what happened. How did he end up here, in this room ? 

Then it came back to him, and Ronon had to fight to keep the panic at bay.

He had been held prisoner on this ship for a month and a half (some several years ago, a few months into being a Runner) but these weeks had been the worst of his life. Ronon had believed nothing worse than the Wraith could happen to him. He was wrong. Crossing Ruwold's path had been his greatest misfortune, but ending in the claws of one cruel and sadistic slavers had been above anything he ever experienced until then.

Commander Rarph was a man like Ronon never met before and wished he never had. Of course, he got himself in such situation with his own stupid naivety. By then, he should have known better than trust anyone, should have known no one could help him. Today, he put it on his inexperience as a Runner. He still had to learn everything. It was only after this experience on Rarph's ship that Ronon became the man he needed to be to survive seven years as a Runner. In some twisted way, he had the Commander to thanks for that, though he never would admit it. Never would acknowledge it.

This man had tortured him days in and days out for the majority of a month and a half, and Ronon made sure to keep such information from his team. They didn't need to know what this monster did to him, didn't need to know what could be awaiting them.

Oh please no, McKay wouldn't handle it. And the last thing Ronon needed was a freaking out little scientist.

He hoped Rarph would be satisfied with his pain and leave his team alone, though by experience he knew the man wouldn't hesitate to hurt them to get to him. Another thing Ronon had kept from his team was how close he was to some of the people he tried to escape with. Two of them to be precise. They had bonded almost instantaneously over Wraith hatred and destroyed worlds. They were very similar in their different way. The three of them shared the pain of watching their people being culled and killed by one entity they hated with their whole being.

The two had became friends, and Ronon had promised himself to get them out of here. No matter the fact he had no real future with this tracker in him, he would make sure at least the two got one. Make sure the Wraith hadn't won completely. It had been his mission, his goal- and he had failed and watched them die because of him.

It had hurt. Almost as much as watching Sateda fall. They had been everything he had lost- friends, family. They trusted him, counted on him, and he had let them down. He always let everyone down. At some point, even his team would fall victim of such curse.

Ronon was no good to be around. All he brought was pain and destruction- and as much as his years in Atlantis had managed to change such belief, Ronon never really forgot the threat hanging above their heads. He was nothing more than a plague to people he loved, and he shouldn't have think anyone could change that. Shouldn't have think this curse would leave him alone.

He was back on this ship after all, at the mercy of Rarph, a man he had learned to fear and hate too soon in his Runner's life.

“You awake ?” Ronon jerked his head away at the voice, pulling out of his tormenting memories.

He couldn't see a thing, and he didn't need long to remember the blindfold.

Of course.

Rarph loved blindfolding him. He had a thing for it and Ronon wished it didn't scare him so much. The pain was always greater when he couldn't see.

“I'm impressed, you know.” A finger moved up his arm to his neck were it pressed against his tattoo. “Impressed to see you still alive, free from the Wraith and your fate.” The hand moved around his throat to the back of his neck, and Ronon tensed up. “Who took it out ?”

He wasn't surprised Rarph would be curious about that. After all, his butchers had tried to remove the tracker twice before giving up. Before Rodney healed the scars, he had them to prove it. Carson had been right when he said no doctor would do such a job, and he had Rarph' scientists to thanks for that.

He had passed out both times they opened him up and poked around in search of the tracker.

“You don't have a scar.”

“He was a really good doctor.” He said, snarling at the Commander.

He hated having these hands on him, hated having this man around.

“Is he dead ?”

“Yes.” Ronon still hurt thinking about his lost friend. Even if Carson was still there in some way, as a clone, it wasn't all the same. Ronon never allowed himself to believe too much Carson was back -dead people didn't come back, though he couldn't deny it felt comforting somehow to know the still existed in some way.

“Such a shame. I would have loved to meet such talented man.” Then Ronon was glad Rarph never would. “What are those ?” The Commander's hand moved over the scars on Ronon's chest, bringing back unwanted memories.

“None of your business.” He could hear the man's smug smile, and stiffened.

“Come on, Ronon, we're way passed this, aren't we.” Ronon gritted his teeth, distracted by the hand tracing the scars on his chest.

He could almost feel the Wraith' maw sucking the life out of him and giving it back, again and again.

A shiver crossed his body a the memory of the enzyme filling his being and taking over his mind.

Never again. He would never again fall so low.

“These were made by Wraith.” It wasn't a question, and Ronon wished this man would just disappear eventually. “What is strange though is,” He leaned at Ronon's ear, and he froze. “How are you still alive. Judging by the amount of scars, you should be dead. Unless,” He straightened up again, hands flat on Ronon's scars. “I met worshipers, too many in my liking, and one of them had similar scars. He showed them proudly, claiming he had received the gift of life. It seemed to make him feel special, though he was nothing more than a slave. No matter how highly your Master hold you, you are and will remain a slave, no matter what.”

The words echoed within Ronon in a way he didn't want. Even after years as part of Sheppard's team, there was still this side of him that couldn't get ride of this feeling. When he was a Runner, he refused to succumb to his statue, fought against his enslavement. Once free, it came lurking back at him, haunting him in his thoughts and dreams. He was not a slave anymore, never wanted to consider himself one -but years later, after eventually recovering his freedom he was still haunted by the ghost of enslavement.

“Am I not right, Runner ?” Ronon startled, pulling on his restraints, but they held and Rarph grinned. “Looks like you were granted the gift of life too, how proud you must be.”

He couldn't hold back the low disgusted snarl.

Hands still flat on Ronon's scars, he rubbed his fingertips on the bump of healed skin then dug his nails into it, scratching down his chest.

Ronon gritted his teeth, clenched his fists and held his breath, waiting for the pain to pass.

Rarph' hand clamped down his jaw, forcing his head up, and Ronon found it hard to swallow.

“You have no idea how much money you made me gain.” He said to his ear, grip tightening under his jaw.

Ronon tried to inhale, but most of the air was blocked out of his throat.

“These drugs we tested on you,” Ronon couldn't tense up more, remembering the torture he had went through, and Rarph smirked, “You remember, don't you. The needles,” A finger pushed against his jugular, and a memory flashed through his mind, almost swallowing him all. “The pain. The burn. You screamed so hard,” He breathed a chuckle at Ronon's ear, reliving the memory. “You begged me to make it stop. Begged me to take the pain away. But you don't remember that, do you ?” The finger adopted a lazy rhythm against Ronon's jugular, caressing it up and down and again. “You would've done anything for me to make the pain stop.” Ronon didn't like the dark chuckle following. “You did everything for me to make it stop.”

He didn't want to believe the man, didn't want to listen to him, but he had no memory of that, no memory of screaming himself raw -though he remembered waking up to a sore throat and lost voice. He wanted to believe this man was just playing with his mind, making these things up to hurt him -but deep down, he knew the truth, and it hurt. Hurt to think he had fallen so low, reached such pathetic point.

“Do you remember ?” The hand under his jaw moved down his throat to his chest and lower. Ronon was frozen in place, lost in a tumult of memories and tortures. He didn't want to believe this man, but his mind was filled with screams he could only associate to his owns, of humiliations he didn't know he underwent, of words he didn't want to hear from his own mouth ever again. “You remember, don't you ?” Rarph said, hand in Ronon's hair to keep him still while the other was moving on his stomach, tracing muscles and going always lower.

Ronon wanted to scream. He wanted to scream and fight and kill and never think about all this ever again.

“Stop !” He shouted, mind flooded by images and feels he wasn't sure were real but were as torturous nonetheless. “Stop !” He repeated, trying to turn away from the breath on his cheek and the hand on him.

Rarph worked Ronon's pants' button, popping it free, and the Satedan pulled so hard on the straps that he could have broke his own bones.

Jerking his head aside, Ronon fought against the consuming rage and panic, but with this man's hand on him, implying such a thing, he had no real control over his feelings. They were wild and overwhelming, and the roar coming from deep in his chest came through clenched teeth and parted lips.

He would kill this man. Would kill him and watch him die.

The hand flattened on the hem of Ronon's pants. For a second, he forgot how to breathe or think. All there was was this hand too close to his crotch and this panic refusing to let him be.

Rarph leaned back at Ronon's ear, though the ex-runner pulled away as far as he could, still fighting the restraints and straining his every muscles to get free.

“I like them desperate.” He said, catching Ronon's full attention. The hand moved up his hip to his side, clamping in an unwanted intimate way before moving up to his stomach then chest and throat where it pushed slightly. “Willing to make the pain stop at any price.” Rarph's thumb rubbed against the tattoo on Ronon's neck, feeling his pulse.

The Commander straightened up, sliding his hand off Ronon's throat, and the recover of his personal space wasn't something he thought would feel so good. He had almost suffocated under the man's presence.

A hand appeared on his shoulder, and he stiffened, bracing himself for more torment.

“I'll come back when the pain's too bad.” He said, squeezing Ronon's shoulder.

A door opened, and Ronon drew in a breath, recognizing the approaching footsteps too much for his mental well-being.

The new person he knew was the scientist prepared his instruments, the syringe moving from a metal plate to another. Ronon felt fingers in the crook of his elbow, and no matter how much he wanted to fight, this part of him knew it was of no use. That no matter what, this man would inject whatever he wanted inside him. He had tried too much by the past to avoid it, had fought it, and the only result he got was a broken wrist and skin rubbed so raw that it bled.

The scientist picked up the syringe, and Rarph' hands fell on Ronon's shoulders, holding him down with little force.

His respiration had turned shallow, making him feel lightheaded. Ronon wished he could pass out. Could avoid the coming torture, but he knew himself stronger than that, knew he couldn't just let the darkness claim him -no matter how much he wished it would.

Ronon stayed painfully conscious as the needle pierced his skin and entered his vein. The burn was icy cold and spread through his whole arm almost instantly. He couldn't remember experiencing something like that before, and he had to fight a scream. The pain grew fast, took over his chest and guts. Made him feel like acid was melting him from the inside before freezing them into sharp pieces.

“We've been working on new drugs.” He heard at his ear, distantly feeling the man leaning over his face and squeezing his shoulders. “You better enjoy them.” Rarph squeezed his shoulders again, and Ronon screamed.

And screamed again.

And again.

Until he couldn't stop screaming anymore.

 

:::

 

Rodney was floating, or, it felt like he was. When his knees met the floor way too hard and fast, reality came like a slap to the face, and he startled to awareness. Groaning, he pushed himself on his hands and blinked, trying to make sense of what had none.

He was on the floor, that, it was nothing new. Thanks Sheppard for that. The asshole had stole his bed and fell asleep on it, disregarding Rodney's incapacity to get up the top bed in his drugged state. It was already hard to haul his ass up there when in full possession of his capacities, so with most of them numbed- the floor became Rodney's only friend. And what a mean friend it was. His back would make him pay sleeping there for the rest of the day, if not week, and Rodney could only curse Sheppard for that.

What was going on already ?

Ah, yeah- he didn't know. He was on his hands and knees on the floor, with said knees throbbing in pain and he didn't even know why.

“Get up !” Oh God, who was here ?

McKay startled so hard that he almost fell on his ass. He hadn't been drugged and so slow, he certainly would have.

Hands wrapped around his biceps, pressing against already sore spots, and Rodney had to wonder why his arms hurt in the first place. He hadn't been drugged, again, he certainly would have know. As for now, he couldn't think passed 'my knees hurt' and 'I want a sandwich' and would have to do with it. The hands around his arms forced him up on his feet, and McKay didn't like how nauseating the motion was.

Just let him down again. The floor was a hundred times better than up there, even if his back hurt like hell and was complaining at any movement. Not throwing up was atop painful backs. Rodney considered this room stunk enough like that, he didn't need to add to it.

“'o'dney ?” Was it Sheppard ? He couldn't be sure, and like opening his eyes wasn't an option, Rodney could only relay on his other senses. His ears weren't that functional, and all he heard was- well, he wasn't even sure if he was hearing anything besides his own breathing.

Maybe he should open his eyes.

No, no. Everything was spinning too bad, and he wouldn't keep his stomach content down if he was opening his eyes.

Just keep them close then, and- what ? He wasn't even sure what he was thinking about prior to- whatever.

Rodney was tired, he wanted to sleep.

“Move.” Who was that ? Rodney didn't know, and it scared him a little, mostly when he started moving and the hands around his arms tightened some more.

He would get bruises. McKay hated bruises.

“Move it !”

Rodney tried to say something, but it came out like 'gnu gnu' instead of anything intelligible, so he gave up speaking. Maybe he could fall back asleep- despite the nauseating movement and throbbing pain in his arms. If he focused a little, maybe-

Dammit ! Who thought it funny to shove him into a wall ? Sheppard, he would kill the man.

A hand between his shoulder blades kept him up against the wall, and as much as the impact was unpleasant, now Rodney wasn't moving anymore the cool metal against his cheek felt good. So good and relaxing.

“Hurry up ! We should be there already.”

A voice in the distance replied something Rodney didn't catch nor cared about, and by the time he was close to falling asleep again the hands pulled him away from the wall and started moving him again.

McKay hated these people.

 

He came back to it when he was sat on what he thought a bed and his clothes were taken from him.

“Hey hey,” He tried, but he was no match and ended up in his only underwear.

What-

Fingers prodded at him, and he batted them away. They came back. How annoying was that, for sure, it could only be Sheppard.

“Get off me.” He said, voice low and slow.

Hands moved his head and opened his eyelids, and McKay was at that to bite these damn fingers. He hated being touched, and even more by he wasn't even sure who.

The prodding continued for another moment, and half way through it Rodney ended up laying down and relaxing. That was, until something jabbed into his arm and made him yelp in discomfort and annoyance. The pain was dull and distant, and when the needle pulled out McKay was hauled back in a sitting position before being forced on his feet again.

He almost threw up.

The hands around his arms were back, supporting him on his feet and taking him somewhere else.

He hoped home, but he doubted it.

They walked for too long, and his numbed legs had a hard time following. Rodney tried to explain in his condition he couldn't move so much, but all that came out was soft noises with no meaning. He wasn't surprised when the two escorting him just ignored it.

Next thing he knew he was pushed against yet another wall and hosed like some freaking animal. It hurt and froze him to the bones, but no matter his yells the assault continued. Rodney was shivering on the floor by the time it was over and the hands hauled him back up.

He was handled like some rag doll another time and found comfort in the fabric now covering his body, though said fabric was rough and irritating. It was still better than naked.

They brought him back to the cell and lowered him down to the floor, where they certainly found him. McKay could have complain about that, wanted to complain about that, but his coordination brain-mouth was messed up, and all he got out was a soft moan of disapproval.

Before he closed back his eyes and welcomed back unconsciousness, he saw the two faceless men haul Sheppard off the bottom bed. Rodney found it fascinating, somehow, as they stabilized Sheppard on his feet and took him out of the cell.

His last coherent thought was how far the bed was, and that despite how uncomfortable the floor was, he rather stay here than move.

He had no doubt next time he was awake he would regret it.