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Captive

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Link To Me
by KJC
 
 

“Go, go!” Major John Sheppard yelled as his team raced towards the Stargate.  They reached the crest of a small hill that hid their view of the gate, and ran down it, gathering speed as they neared their destination behind yet another hill.

 

McKay, dial it up!” the Major ordered.  Dr. Rodney McKay had reached the DHD first, not having been encumbered by weapons.  Lieutenant Aiden Ford and Major Sheppard knelt at the top of the hill in front of the Stargate to aim their weapons behind them, releasing a deadly spray of bullets into the woods.

 

Thankfully, Rodney McKay was concerned enough about saving his own tail that he had forgotten about any sarcastic remarks he could have made, and grimly, he punched in the code.  The Stargate activated in a wash of blue light.

 

“Go, Lieutenant,” Sheppard ordered Ford.  “I’ll cover your back.”

 

Obediently, the young Lieutenant turned and raced down the hill to join his companions.  Sheppard began backing carefully away from the woods, down the hill towards the Stargate, his weapon aimed towards the trees.

 

“I think we scared them off,” he called over his shoulder.  “We’re going back anyways.”  He had neared the DHD by now, and turned to face his team.  “Go!  I’m right behind you.  Let’s move people!”

 

After a second of hesitation, Lieutenant Ford pulled on Teyla Emmagan’s arm and they disappeared through the Stargate together.  Rodney disappeared after them.

 

Suddenly, a spray of gunfire erupted against the earth behind Major Sheppard, and he bolted towards the Stargate, not taking the time to glance behind him at the unseen enemy.  As he neared the steps, an energy net enveloped his body, and he was sent sprawling to the ground, one hand on the threshold of the gate.  He twitched slightly, then was still.

 

A shadow approached his still form, nudged him in the side, and then knelt to turn him over.  Major Sheppard was out cold, but had known the instant he felt the burning of the energy weapon that his assailant was a wraith.  The wraith only used weapons to stun their victims, and Sheppard was familiar with their stinging bite.

 

The wraith dragged his body down the steps, and the Stargate deactivated, leaving a cold empty space in its wake.

 

On the other side in Atlantis, Doctor Weir’s heart fell, as did those of Major Sheppard’s teammates.  For the first time on Atlantis, someone had not made it through.

 

* * *

 

In the short experience he had had with the wraith, Major Sheppard had learned quickly.  He recoiled at the sight of their luminescent skin, backing up into the far wall of the tunnels they had brought him to.

 

They had dragged him away from the Stargate.  How far they had taken him he could not tell, for most of the time he had been unconscious.  Now, however, he had come to as they entered a rocky cave with tunnels extending deep into the earth.  Torches and small light sources had been placed along the tunnel’s walls, giving precious light.

 

There were four of them.  He managed to twist away from them and ended up backed against a wall.  He knew there was no way he could escape that many, and counted every second as his last.

 

They surprised him, however.

 

Swiftly, before he could counteract their actions, two took a hold of his arms, lashed a strange rope around his wrists, and pulled him through the tunnels.  The remaining two walked before and behind them as they made their way down a winding corridor.  They had not sucked the life out of him as the Major had expected.

 

It appeared they were deep underground.  The air was cool and damp, and the walls were made of solid rock.

 

Major Sheppard resisted them, pulling back as they stopped in front of a large opening one of the tunnels had led them to.  It was too dark for him to see inside, but his captors dragged him through the opening into an expansive room.  In the center was a raised chair, and a wraith sat imposingly in it, looking down on the human.  The wraith raised a hand in a silent gesture to the Major’s captors, and they pushed him to his knees in front of what Major Sheppard mentally labeled as “the throne.”

 

Stubbornly, he pushed himself back to his feet, keeping his eyes on the wraith sitting on the throne.  The wraith behind him kicked him behind the knees, forcing him back down, and then placing a not too gentle hand on his shoulder to keep him down.

 

“Can you understand me, human?” the wraith asked from the throne.

 

Major Sheppard gave the wraith a skeptical and distrusting eye.

 

“Can you understand me?” the voice questioned again.  It was a deep voice, full of authority and riddled with slight fluctuations that gave it a distinctly alien quality.  A strange echo seemed to sound inside of his head, prompting him to respond.

 

Sheppard looked the wraith in the eye, and responded, “I can understand you.  What do you want from me?  Why haven’t you killed me yet?”  It was strange how he felt he had to answer the alien.

 

The wraith made no movement, but stared at him evenly.

 

“We believe you can be of some use to us alive for the moment,” the wraith said.  “Of late, your kind has proved to be more resistant to us than before.  This could be a problem.  We need to learn all that we can from you about these new humans who think they can invade our space.”

 

“We’re not invaders,” Sheppard protested.  “We’re explorers.  We didn’t come here to harm anyone, but that, obviously, is why you’re here.”

 

“We take what we need to survive,” the wraith stated nonchalantly.

 

“And that includes killing others?”

 

The wraith inclined its head, a look of faint curiosity entering its eyes.  “Who are you to judge us?” it asked.  “This is how we have lived for millennia.  It is how we survive.”

 

After a moment of scrutinizing the human before it, the wraith rose from the throne and approached the Major.

 

Silently cursing the bonds that encircled his wrists, every sense screamed at Sheppard to run, and he did the next best thing.  From his seated position, he flung out a sweeping kick, downing the wraith on his left.  With the momentum from the kick, he kept turning and flipped the wraith on his right hard onto the floor.

 

Lunging for the door, he was countered by the other two wraith.  Without hesitation, he yelled and rammed the one on his right, driving the wraith into a hard rock wall and leaving it disoriented.  Before he could attack the other wraith, a blow caught him on the back of his head, and he crashed to the floor, stunned.

 

A struggling fight emerged as the first two wraith’s the Major had dispatched leapt upon him in an attempt to check the human’s efforts.  If the Major had not been temporarily stunned, the fight might have lasted much longer.  As it was, he lost the upper hand almost immediately.  Feebly, he tried to pull himself upright, but a smashing blow to his temple knocked him unconscious to the floor.

 

The lead wraith approached the still human, looking coldly down at him.  It motioned to another wraith, who approached the Major.  The two who had subdued the man pulled him upright.

 

With hand extended, the wraith reached out to touch the Major’s now bloodied forehead.  It closed its eyes, concentrating, then snapped them open to stare fixedly at the human’s face.

 

“This one is more resistant than the others,” it murmured.

 

* * *

 

Major Sheppard knew he had to escape.  It was his duty as a soldier, and it was in his best interests to save his own life.

 

They had left him alone, and he worked furiously on the bonds capturing his wrists.  A complicated knot held the rope together, but there had not been a knot yet that he could not untie.  It took him five minutes to slip his wrists free, and he kept an eye towards the opening to the chamber to make sure no one was coming.

 

Quietly, he shoved the rope in one of his pockets, then crept up to the opening of the chamber.  Two of the wraith stood guard outside, facing away from him.  He knew he had to give his all or he would never get out alive.

 

Swiftly, before he could change his mind, he took up position behind the guard on the right, aimed low, and dealt a hook kick his Tae Kwon Do instructor would have been proud of towards the wraith’s knees.  Underneath the blow he thought he heard bone and cartilage snap—that is, if the wraith even had bones and cartilage similar to humans.  Still aiming low, he lunged towards the other guard who by this time had set himself in position to counter Sheppard’s attack.  The Major did not hesitate, but leaned low to avoid the blast of weapon’s fire from the wraith’s gun, side kicking the wraith in the ribs.  The blow was enough to throw the wraith off balance, and Sheppard skipped forward to deliver another side kick to the wraith’s knees, disabling the alien.

 

“I guess the knees are always the best thing to go for, even if you aren’t human,” Sheppard commented.  The wraith twisted in pain on the ground behind him as he raced through the tunnels, trying to retrace his steps and praying he didn’t meet anymore wraith.  The only way he had a chance of winning a fight with any of them was if he caught them by surprise, and he was sure they were all on the lookout for him now.  An uneasy feeling hit him at how simple it had been to take out the aliens, though.  Hadn’t one of the scientists back at Atlantis said that their physical makeup was capable of regenerating itself?  At any rate, he figured even if he had taken out two of the wraith temporarily, there would still be more to come.

 

Somehow, he found the entrance to the tunnels.  Making a quick survey of the land around him, he roughly calculated which direction he should take to the Stargate, prayed he was right, and began to run.  It appeared to be the middle of the afternoon, and he set out due west towards the sun.

 

Ten minutes into his flight, he realized the head injury he had sustained was going to be a problem.  The blood pounding through his body from his exertions increased the headache and dulled his senses.  Doggedly, he kept on.

 

Half an hour later, he estimated he had covered five miles.  In high school he had been on the track team and ran during cross season.  He was glad for that experience now.  The little tricks he had learned helped him to keep going.  He sang songs in his head, went through lists of people that he knew, and basically tried every mental game he could think of in order to keep running.  Running cross country had not been a great physical challenge.  Ninety percent of long distance running was mental, while the remaining percentage was physical.

 

The landscape around him had not changed much.  The trees appeared to be in the fall season.  Most had small, yellow leaves fluttering from their branches.  The colors of the leaves did not appear to be as brilliant as those on Earth, but the trees looked familiar, some appearing to be small birch trees, some looking like giant oak trees.  There was a considerable lack of bushes, and the ground was covered in long grass that left a trail behind him as he ran.  That would be a dead giveaway as to the direction he had gone, he knew, but if he could keep up his pace and stay ahead of them, there was a slim chance he might make it to the Stargate before the wraith.

 

After two hours, the running was beginning to exert him.  Pain that had started as a cramp in his side had dulled to a strange numbness.  He gasped for breath and struggled with every step.  The physical agony was beginning to overcome the mental agony of trying to push away the pain.

 

To make matters worse, it began to rain.  At first it was a cool and refreshing mist, and he could almost see steam rising from his body into the air.  After a time, however, he began to feel chilled, and tremors shook his body.  He locked his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering.  His breath hissed sharply through his teeth.  It did not occur to him at this point to find shelter and avoid exposure.  His only thought was to get back to the gate before he was caught once more.

 

When he reached three hours, he began to worry.  Had he gone in the wrong direction?  What if he was heading away from the Stargate?  They could not have dragged him this far unless . . .

 

Sheppard nearly groaned out loud.  Did they have a ship?  If they did, his plans were rapidly unraveling.  Was it too late to turn back and see if he truly had come the wrong way?

 

At this point, he estimated he had run a marathon distance.  His body was not used to such exertions, and he could tell that lack of experience was beginning to take its toll.  Numbly, he pressed on with wooden legs, his lungs heaving and feeling as though they had been ripped to shreds.  Dr. Beckett was going to have to do some major work on him when he got back to Atlantis.  Maybe he could convince the good doctor—or maybe one of the pretty nurses, if he was lucky—to give him a massage . . .

 

He had dropped almost to a walk.  In a painful, slow trot, as he made his way up a tall hill.  The hill seemed strangely familiar, and his heart leapt when he reached the top and saw the Stargate beneath him.

 

For the first time since his escape, he stopped, heaving for breath at the crest of the hill, his hands on his knees.  He used that time to survey the clearing around the Stargate.  The sun was just beginning to set on the horizon behind the gate, shining hazily through the drizzle of rain.  Seeing no movement, he made his way warily down the hill and began to punch in the code back to Atlantis.

 

Everything turned hazy at that point.  He thought he saw shadowy figures rising up out of the ground, blocking his way to the gate.  There was a bright light, then he thought he heard weapons fire through a thick cloud that seemed to dull his senses.

 

As he toppled to the ground, he heard a faintly familiar voice saying, “Major?  Major, are you all right?”

 

Then there was nothing.

 

Some time seemed to pass before Major Sheppard began to regain his senses.

 

“He’s not out of the woods yet,” a voice was saying over his head.  “He’s gone through a lot in the past few hours.  He sustained a concussion and some stress fractures.  I’ve done all I can for him for the moment.”

 

It took a moment for the Major to identify the voice as Dr. Carson Beckett.

 

“Hey,” Sheppard said faintly.  “I guarantee I’ll be functional at some point.”

 

“Major, you awake?”

 

Sheppard groaned.  “I am now, doc.”

 

“How are you feeling?”

 

Sheppard opened his eyes to gaze at the doctor and saw Weir standing at his side.  Taking a quick assessment of the wires and tubes taped to his body, he responded, “I’m hooked up to machines and IVs and I’m higher than the sky.  I feel great.  Can’t feel a thing, really.  That’s probably a good thing, right?”

 

Weir hid a smile and pulled up a chair.  “What happened out there?  Do you mind telling me?”

 

Sheppard paused, then shook his head, “No, not really.  Maybe later.  I’ll fill in all the details in my report, I guess.  What took you so long anyway?”

 

Weir shifted uncomfortably.  “I actually sent the team after you when you didn’t show up.  They couldn’t find you anywhere, and so . . . so I had to order them to come back.  When you dialed back but didn’t come through, we had a feeling it was you, so we came back.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“You’re welcome.”

 

Sheppard frowned and said nothing more.  Elizabeth looked around the room, not sure what else to say.

 

At that moment, McKay, Ford, and Teyla walked in.

 

“Hey guys,” Rodney waved.  “We’ve come to break the awkward silence.”

 

“Actually—”

 

“No need to say anything, Major.  We’re dropping in to see how you’re doing,” Rodney continued.  “So, how are you doing?”

 

“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” Sheppard asked with exasperation.

 

“We’re just curious,” Rodney replied.

 

“Well then, by all means let’s get this interrogation over with!” Sheppard laughed.

 

* * *

 

Two days later, John was back to his regular activities, though not yet on active duty.  Weir and Dr. Beckett told him to wait until he was absolutely recovered from his ordeal.

 

The problem was, Sheppard was starting to get bored.  Beckett had told him to get some exercise, and so he started an extensive exploration of Atlantis.  That task in itself took up a large margin of time, but not enough to keep his active brain from getting bored.  It was especially boring when he realized that Atlantis’ makeup was exactly the same as everything he had already known about the city.  The rest of the city seemed to be an exact copy of the areas that had been occupied by the humans from Earth.  It didn’t quite make sense.

 

Sheppard was wandering the halls absentmindedly when Dr. Weir approached him.

 

John, I need to talk to you about something,” she said.

 

“And I need to talk to you about going back to my regular duties,” Sheppard replied.

 

“That is partly what I wanted to talk to you about,” Weir frowned.  Dr. Beckett doesn’t think that you’re ready to go back to leading your team yet.  He wants you to wait another week.”

 

“Look, Doctor.  I am sick of sitting around doing nothing.  You aren’t letting me contribute to anything here.  I don’t see what the problem is.  My injuries were minor.  I’m better now.  So what am I doing walking around Atlantis fully healed and wasting time and energy by doing absolutely nothing?”

 

“Major—”

 

“No, you listen to me.  I put up with your—”  Suddenly, Major Sheppard began choking and doubled over, coughed convulsively.  Blood flecked the ground at his feet.

 

“Major!”  Dr. Weir tried to grab him before he collapsed, but his weight was too much for her as he slipped to the ground.  She slapped her portable radio.  “This is Dr. Weir.  I have a medical emergency on level four.  Repeat.  There is a medical emergency on level four.”

 

“It feels like my ribs are broken,” Sheppard managed to gasp.  “What’s . . . what’s happening?”

 

“I don’t know, John,” Weir said worriedly.

 

They managed to make their way halfway to the infirmary when the medics arrived, hustled Sheppard onto a stretcher, and wheeled him off at top speed.  The next thing the Major knew, Beckett was at his side, filling a needle with some liquid.

 

“What’s going on?” John asked hoarsely.

 

“You’re fine, Major,” Beckett said soothingly, rolling Sheppard’s right sleeve up.  “I’m giving you something to calm you down a bit.”  As the doctor applied the sedative and the world began to go hazy, John heard the doctor saying, “How long did he report he ran?”

 

McKay’s voice bit through the fog, “Thirty miles I would say . . .”

 

* * *

 

Twenty four hours later, the doctor released the major, shaking his head as he filled out a medical report.  “I don’t understand it, Major.  There’s nothing that I could find that would tell me why you suddenly started spitting up blood.  You’re perfectly healthy and yet you keep complaining of broken ribs.”

 

“Hey doc, I have a question for you.”

 

“Yes, Major?”

 

“Were you born in Scotland?”

 

The doctor puffed with pride as he responded in his thick Scots burr, “Indeed I was, Major, and lived there nearly all my life.  Why?”

 

John frowned, thinking.  “Oh, I was just thinking.  Never mind.”

 

Deep in thought, Sheppard made his way carefully to the gate room and stood at a console, staring at the gate for some time before Dr. Weir approached him.

 

“You look like you’re in your own little world, there, John,” she commented softly.

 

Startled from his thoughts, John looked at her suspiciously.

 

“It’s all right, John.  I don’t bite,” Weir laughed.

 

“No, it’s not that,” Sheppard said, pacing from one console to the next.  “Something doesn’t seem right.”

 

“Well I’ll admit that you giving us a scare and then the doctor proclaiming you in great health is a bit weird, but that’s the world—err, galaxy—we live in now,” Elizabeth said.

 

John began to think out loud, ignoring Weir and still staring at the Stargate and then at the console before him.  McKay made a comment that put me on edge.  Canada doesn’t use English units.  They use the metric system.  He said something about 30 miles.  He couldn’t have converted just like that.”  He snapped his fingers for emphasis.  “He’s told me before it takes him a while to think it over in his head.  And me,” he looked at Weir and pointed to himself.  “Look at me.  Apparently, I’m perfectly healthy, yet I had an attack that felt like my lungs had been punctured and my ribs broken.  And Atlantis,” he gestured to the city around them.  “It’s weird.  It doesn’t seem right anymore.  What is going on here?  What happened to all those secret passageways and rooms?  I couldn’t find any of them anywhere.”

 

John, calm down.”  Weir seemed strangely composed.

 

“And you.  Why won’t you put me on any more missions?  It’s been a week, and I was perfectly fine before this.”  John began punching in buttons on the console, and unexpectedly, the Stargate began dialing.

 

John, no!”

 

The last thing Sheppard saw was Weir lunging toward him, then suddenly, there was a flash of light, and it appeared as though his world had tilted upside down into darkness.  He found himself breathing hard and lying flat on his back in the darkness, a cold, gritty floor beneath him.  Pain suddenly hit him in his chest, and he coughed spasmodically, trying to figure out what had happened.

 

There were shadows within the darkness that moved away from him, and he tried to control his breathing so he could listen, straining to hear anything that would give him a clue as to what had just happened.  Gradually, his senses adjusted to the sudden darkness, and his hearing and sense of smell heightened to compensate for what his eyes could not see.  He heard breathing other than his own, and could sense shifting of bodies within his general vicinity.

 

Suddenly, from the darkness, a voice spoke.

 

Major Sheppard, we did not realize you would fight us so quickly.”

 

John knew where he was the moment he heard the deep voice.

 

“What did you do?” he demanded.

 

One of the shadows detached from the darkness and stepped closer, kneeling by the Major’s side.  It was the wraith who Sheppard had guessed was the leader behind the group that had captured him.

 

“We wanted to play with your mind,” the wraith said.  “We have not had this opportunity for many years.”

 

“So not only do you eat us, you also like to play with your food,” the Major sniped sarcastically.

 

“It can be quite amusing at times,” the wraith went on, undeterred by Sheppard’s tone.  “You, however, are a challenge.  I would like to find more humans so we can see if this trait has extended to others of your kind as well.  You have proven to be quite stubborn.”

 

“Yeah, people have told me that.”

 

“You will remain with us for the time being,” the wraith said, standing and disclosing himself again into the darkness.  “Perhaps later we may feed.  There is still much to learn from you at this time.”

 

After straining to hear any sounds after the wraith’s last words, Sheppard deducted he was, for the most part, alone.

 

It took a long time for his eyes to adjust to the new darkness, longer than he would have expected.  There was a faint light source near an opening in the room he was in, and after a moment, he sat up and looked towards it, still listening for any movement other than his own.

 

After a time, his eyes could make out two faint forms standing in the doorway to the room he was in, and he realized that they were the guards from before when he had taken out the wraith in his alleged escape.

 

“It was all one big mind trick,” he mumbled to himself.  That meant they might know what he was going to do next.  “Time to get creative,” he mused, pushing himself to his feet.

 

Only four seconds passed before the idea came to him.  He sauntered closer to the doorway, watching the guards.  They faced inward now in order to keep an eye on him.

 

With a yell, Major Sheppard raced towards the doorway, looking as though he would ram the guards, then at the last second he veered to the cave wall and smashed into the hard rock headfirst.  With a groan, he slumped to the ground.

 

The wraith looked on with astonished looks on their faces, their weapons raised against the human who had apparently gone mad.

 

In the darkness, Major Sheppard peeked at the wraith guards through his eyelashes, hoping his acting paid off.  If he truly had hit the wall with his head at that speed, he would have been lucky to walk away with normal brain activity.  He hoped it was dark enough that the wraith didn’t notice he raised his hands to protect his head at the last second.

 

The wraith entered the room cautiously, weapons held ready.  One poked the Major in the side with the end of its weapon, and Sheppard made no sound or motion.

 

Suddenly, Major Sheppard burst into action, rolling away from the wall and kicking out towards one of the wraith, connecting firmly with the alien’s knees.  The other wraith had time to raise its weapon to fire at the human, but John kept rolling, narrowly avoiding being shot.  In one smooth movement, Sheppard rolled to his knees and tackled the wraith around the waist.  The two went down wrestling over the weapon.  Sheppard managed to twist the gun out of the wraith’s hands and whacked the alien over the head with the end.  For good measure, he leapt off of the wraith and snap-kicked towards its knees with a disabling blow.  Panting, he made sure the aliens were down for the count, then he backed away and raced through the twisting passageways, hoping he was heading for the entrance.  He slung the wraith weapon across his back, guessing it would come into good use.

 

Eventually, he did manage to make his way out of the caves, following the few lights that were scattered within the cave walls.  That victory was hard earned, however, as he encountered over a dozen other wraith.  They were easily dispatched with his new weapon.

 

When he did manage to make it to the outside of the caves, everything was as before when he had thought his previous escape was reality.  The trees looked the same, the grass was the same—even the weather was the same.  A slow drizzle had descended, misting the ground.

 

“Here goes nothing,” he muttered, and, fixing the gun to his back, he began to run west through the rain towards the Stargate.

 

Two miles into his flight, he began hoping the Stargate really wasn’t as far away as it had been in the altered mind reality he had experienced.  Breathing was painful, and he began to suspect he had a few broken ribs.  From what, he couldn’t entirely remember.  Reality had meshed over into non reality.

 

He kept running, remembering that running was merely a mental activity, one that forced a person to push themselves to limits they never had thought were possible.

 

John Sheppard was a stubborn man from a long line of stubborn Scots and Irishmen.  It was only his stubbornness that kept his mind focused.  If he had been a weaker man, then quite possibly he would not have made it, but it was not only his stubbornness that kept him going: his courage and determination factored into his survival.

 

Thirty miles later, Major John Sheppard stumbled down a hill to face his goal: the Stargate.  Heaving for breath, he approached the DHD and began punching in the familiar symbols back to Atlantis.

 

He had only made it halfway through the code when the ambush he had expected came.  Four wraith rose up out of the long grass, surrounding him.  There was still a clear path to the Stargate, though, and the Major ducked and punched in the rest of the code.

 

As the Stargate activated, weapons fire erupted towards him from the wraith.  Major Sheppard knew he would never make it to the gate.  At that point, he began to wonder why Atlantis had not sent a rescue team.  Were they attacked when they came through to try to find him?

 

The DHD offered little protection, and Sheppard was exhausted enough not to want to make any strenuous movements.  From his left side, however, one of the wraiths attacked him directly, a long knife in hand.

 

Sheppard fell backward with the wraith on top of him, the knife glinting dangerously in the dwindling twilight.  It took all of his dwindling strength to keep the wraith from stabbing him in the side, and with a wild, desperate throw, he managed to reverse their positions, chopped at the wraith’s wrist, and dislodged the knife from its hand.  The wraith didn’t seem to want to kill him with the knife but had been trying for a disabling blow.

 

Behind him, the Stargate deactivated, and he hoped that Atlantis had at least got the message that someone on this planet tried to get through.

 

As the Major and the wraith wrestled on the ground, he heard a shout from behind, and another wraith approached, an angry look on its face.  In an unintelligible tongue, it screamed orders at the other wraith, who aimed their weapons at the Major threateningly.

 

Sheppard froze, then backed off of the wraith beneath him, his hands raised in surrender.  He knew when the odds were against him.

 

In a lighting quick movement, the wraith beneath him reached for the knife and swept it in a clean arc behind the Major’s left knee.

 

With a cry of pain, Sheppard felt his leg give way, and he realized with horror that the wraith had severed his hamstring.  Blood spurted freely from the wound, and he sank to his right knee, clutching at his left in an automatic effort to stave the pain and reduce the blood flow.  Fire bloomed from his knee down through his foot and up into his hip.  The pain from his leg overcame every sane thought he might have had.  There was nothing to fill his mind but the pain.  It was unbelievable that the human body could sustain such a pain and still function.  He felt as though he could never move again.

 

Still, a dogged determination filled his heart, and with everything within him, he pushed to his feet, every muscle straining in the effort to stay upright.  The wraith stood silently around him, watching.

 

Sheppard’s sight was clouded from the pain, and tears began to fill his eyes, reducing his sight even further.  He was standing, but barely, a hand firmly clutching the DHD.

 

Why were they not moving in for the kill?

 

God, how could there be such pain?

 

The wraith moved towards him, roughly grabbing his arms and dragging him forward, away from the Stargate and back towards the woods.  He felt as though he was about to pass out.  The pounding that had filled his head when he ran returned in a roar now, drowning every other sound out.

 

The wraith on either side of him suddenly stopped short and released his arms, and he swayed, attempted to remain upright.  A bright light flashed at his side.  In front of him, he could dimly make out the silhouette of one of the wraith.  Its form shimmered, then fell.

 

Delirium had set in quickly, he figured.

 

Why didn’t they just finish him off and put him out of misery?

 

“Major!”

 

He started at the sound of the familiar voice.

 

Ford?” he murmured.  He felt a hand on his arm, and he shivered, the tremor rocking his body.

 

“Major, it’s okay.  Looks like we got here just in time.”  Ford had an arm across his shoulders now, supporting him.  “Can you walk?”

 

Sheppard nodded numbly, not sure if he really could walk, but determined not to let on how bad off he really was.

 

Teyla came up on his other side.  “Major, we disabled one of the wraith.  The rest have fled.  Where are you injured?”

 

Sheppard shook his head, unable to speak for fear that his voice would give away the pain he felt.  He locked his jaw in an effort to keep it from trembling from the pain.

 

The woman gently touched the wound on his head, quickly looking him over, then spotted his blood soaked pant leg.  She let out a soft exclamation, kneeling to probe the fresh wound.

 

At her touch, Sheppard gasped and collapsed, nearly taking Ford with him.  Shivering, he pressed back against Ford’ strong grip, trying to remain upright as the younger man pulled him back up.

 

“I believe this wound is quite grave,” Teyla said quietly.  She left to two men and began dialing in the code back to Atlantis, then clicked on her radio and spoke into it, “We need a medical team to stand by.”

 

McKay approached, a gun hanging awkwardly from his hand.  “Need I point out that we need to get out of here ASAP in case more of those wraiths are hanging around?”

 

“Get over here and help me,” Ford ordered, pulling the wraith’s gun off of the Major’s back.

 

Rodney slid an arm around Sheppard’s waist and used his other hand to grip John’s arm.  In an awkward, hopping walk, they made their way to the open Stargate.  Teyla followed them through as they stepped through the event horizon.

 

* * *

 

Dr. Elizabeth Weir wasn’t quite sure what to expect when her team came through the Stargate.  Her tension relieved when all four members came through.  Major Sheppard was standing, though supported on both sides by Lieutenant Ford and Rodney McKay.  His face was stiff in an expression of pain, his jaw locked with a slight tremble.  His complexion was deathly pale, and he was soaked to the skin.

 

As Ford and McKay helped the Major down the ramp, Dr. Weir noticed the stiff extension of his left leg as he hopped with effort on his right leg down the ramp.

 

“What happened?” she demanded as she approached the small group.

                                                                                                             

“It’ll all be in my report,” the Major said tightly, gritting his teeth.

 

Dr. Beckett pushed by her with a cart and a medical team.  “No questions now, Doctor,” Beckett said.  He helped Ford and McKay lower Sheppard to the cart, and in a quick visual assessment added with a shake of his head, “Major Sheppard, you got yourself in quite a fix.”

 

“Yeah, doc,” Sheppard said faintly.  “Just get me a blanket.”

 

“He’s going into shock,” the doctor stated.  “Let’s move, people.”

 

Dr. Weir caught a glimpse of the Major’s pale face as he was rushed out the door.  His eyes were closed tight against the pain, but there was a look of relief in his features as well.  He was home and alive, and Dr. Weir was relieved her team had remained intact.

 

With a last glance at the still and silent Stargate, Weir followed Sheppard’s teammates to the infirmary.