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In the Clutches of This Darkness

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You and I made a pact, a deal that as we lay dying, we’d think about each other then, and smile as we’re taken in. I listened like a little child, to the story of your earthbound pilot. He plummeted so violent, his parachute not opening, and rushing into oblivion, he broke into that knowing grin. I think about that a lot, ‘cause a lot is what I’ve not got, and a smile is what I least expect, in the clutches of this darkness. You, I was surprised to hear, your velvet birdsong in my ear. The phone broke its silent stint. I pulled the cord and I needed it. You billowed like a bowl of silk, and slowed me from my ruining.” ~Hey Rosetta!, “We Made a Pact”

 

John wakes slowly, his aching muscles a harsh reminder of yesterday’s ordeal. But yesterday had been a Test Day, as had the day before, which means that John has today and maybe tomorrow as a respite.

 

The small body curled next to him shifts and snuffles, and John pats his shoulder. “Sleep,” he murmurs, knowing that Timos needs as much rest as he can get.

 

John hears a squeak, and their morning meal is shoved through the flap in the door. John takes the tray and looks over their options. Breakfast is even more sparse than usual, and John makes a mental calculation. He’d give the entirety of his portion to Timos, but John needs his strength for the next Test Day.

 

And John is all Timos has right now, so it’s not like he can risk death, not until he’s sure Timos is taken care of.

 

John eats a quarter of the dried fruit and a few bites of the glue-like substance that’s probably supposed to pass as porridge. He doesn’t touch the bread or the milk. Instead, he shakes Timos awake. “Come on, buddy,” John coaxes. “Time for breakfast. You know it’s a lot worse if it’s cold.”

 

Timos uncurls slowly, yawning and stretching before he crawls into John’s lap to eat. Timos leans back against John trustingly as he scoops up porridge with his fingers, eating quickly, before moving on to the fruit.

 

After the first couple of days, Timos hadn’t bothered to ask whether John had eaten breakfast, but Timos watches John like a hawk during lunch and dinner, insisting that John eat as much if not more.

 

Breakfast is John’s only shot at making sure Timos eats enough, and he does his best to make his inroads into the meal obvious enough to set Timos’ mind at ease, even if he doesn’t eat much.

 

When Timos has cleaned the dishes of every crumb, John takes the tray and pushes it back through the flap, and then settles in one of the corners of the room. Timos settles in John’s lap again, his shock of dark hair tickling John’s chin.

 

“Tell me a story,” Timos demands with the assurance of a child who knows he’ll get what he asks for. “Please.”

 

“What kind of story do you want, kiddo?” John asks.

 

Timos winds thin, pale arms around John’s neck. “Tell me about your family.”

 

John smiles and settles Timos on his lap more securely, rubbing a soothing hand down Timos’ back. “All right, then. Once upon a time, there was a man named Rodney, who was brilliant, and Ronon, who was strong, and Teyla, who was wise.”

 

“And their leader?” Timos asks.

 

“And their leader, John, who was brave and sometimes stupid,” John murmurs. “And they never left a man behind.”