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Fanfiction: Broken Wings, Chapter 20

For author's note and disclaimer see Chapter 1

John came awake abruptly and only his training had him keeping still and his breathing even. A sharp pain arrowed through his forehead but he stifled the groan in his throat. He kept his eyes closed and assessed his situation through the rest of his senses first.

He was lying on a cold metal grille. The edges were hard and digging into his naked flesh.

Naked flesh.

That wasn't good. He took an inventory and realised he had no clothing but his snug black briefs. They'd stripped him. His wrists were bare of the leather bracelet and the watch he usually wore. The familiar earpiece was gone and there was no weight around his neck. The absence of his dog tags made him feel very vulnerable as though they'd stripped him of his identity in the act.

That was the point, John reminded himself. Prisoners were stripped and divested of personal items to make them feel vulnerable and off balance. He took a calming breath and continued his assessment.

He didn't think they'd been beaten up too badly; his body ached but he figured that was from the zat stun that had sent him to the ground. Maybe more bruising on his knee, hip and elbow from the fall, John guessed. There were no ropes or chains binding him. He would be free to move so he was probably in a cell – and not alone. He couldn't feel Mitchell next to him but he could hear him breathing – slowly and evenly so his friend was likely unconscious.

John focused on his hearing again. There was a heavy engine thrumming underneath him; the vibrations jolting almost imperceptibly through the grille. The sound was wrong for a plane; John knew that instantly. He concentrated calling to mind the room they had transported into, and wondered if they were on a boat. That would make sense, he mused, because they'd believed the seventh member of the cell had been on a boat.

He couldn't hear anything else; nobody else seemed to be in the room with them so no immediate guard. He cautiously opened his eyes. His vision swam for a moment until he blinked rapidly to adjust for the darkness and he took in his surroundings. The walls were metal; no window; there was a narrow strip of light near to the ground on his left that indicated the presence of the door. It provided the only light source to dissipate the darkness and allow John to make sense of the shadows. He turned his head slowly.

Mitchell was lying on the other side of the room; similarly stripped of everything but a pair of boxers and looking as vulnerable as John felt.

John took another breath and warily got to his feet. His stomach lurched and he steadied himself against the wall, the metal cold and unyielding against his palm. He breathed in deeply and wondered if the nausea was the underlying motion of the boat or a side effect from the zat gun. He checked over his body and noted the deep bruising on his hip; the scrape on his elbow. But otherwise he was uninjured.

'OK, John.' John whispered to himself. 'So far, so good.' If he ignored the being naked, captured and locked in a room situation. He managed to step over to Mitchell and crouched down carefully next to him to assess his condition.

Mitchell's knees seemed to have borne the brunt of the impact; both looked swollen and red. That wasn't good; if Mitchell had trouble walking it could impede any escape attempt they would make. His eyes flitted over the faint silvery lines of old scars and John winced inwardly at the visible sign of how much damage Mitchell's legs had already taken in the line of duty. He checked over the rest of Mitchell quickly but apart from a couple of cuts and bruises on his arms, there was no other sign of injury and his pulse was strong.

John started to make a tour of the room, using his hands to sketch over the walls tentatively in case he came into contact with something sharp. All he found was more metallic walls. He was able to make out the door but he knew trying it would alert someone that he was awake and he decided the longer he and Mitchell remained unmolested the better.

He also established that there were no bathroom facilities or running water of any kind in the room. That was bad. It made them reliant on their captors for basic dignity and for survival. John wasn't so much worried about basic dignity; it was humiliating to be left to soil the room where they were kept but it wasn't life threatening. The lack of water was.

John chewed on his lip for a while before conceding that their captors knew what they were doing. They would have to wait and see what happened. He started to make his way to the far wall.

Mitchell groaned and John diverted to go back to him. He crouched beside him again and placed a hand on the other man's shoulder.

'Mitchell.'

Mitchell gave another weak groan. His eyes flickered open gradually until they settled on John. John could see Mitchell start making his own assessments as he stayed quiet for a long moment.

Mitchell rolled onto his back and John withdrew his hand, staying ready though to help Mitchell if he needed support. Mitchell got upright and winced visibly as he placed his weight on his legs.

'Fuck.' Mitchell whispered.

John grimaced at the language; it meant the pain was bad if Mitchell was swearing. 'Can you walk?' He kept his own voice low. Hopefully, whoever was outside would be hard of hearing.

'Hobble?' Mitchell gasped. He flailed out with one hand and John took it, quickly shifting to wrap an arm around Mitchell's waist and help him to the wall. Mitchell sat breathing heavily for a long while before he collected himself. 'So how screwed are we?'

'Metal walls. No windows. There's a vent just above our heads on the other wall but it looks too small for us to fit. One door.' John reported briskly despite keeping his voice just above audible. He sat down beside Mitchell. 'I haven't tried it.'

'Good thinking.' Mitchell said easing his legs out in front of him. 'I take it they've only left us with, uh, our underwear?'

John nodded. 'They're pretty good at this.'

'Yep.' Mitchell breathed in deeply and his left hand crept down to massage the abused flesh of his knee.

'Are you going to be OK for an escape attempt?' John asked bluntly.

'I'll crawl if I have to.' Mitchell stated with enough determination that John believed him.

'I think we're on a boat.' John continued. 'They must have had someone on the Odyssey.'

'Not to mention another cell in play.' Mitchell added. 'Those guys that attacked us at the airfield.'

'Yeah.' John felt a surge of guilt. They should have thought of that and come up with a different plan; a better plan than the one he'd come up with. Instead, they'd gone with his plan, missed vital information and ended up captured.

'This wasn't your fault.' Mitchell's quiet words jerked John out of his contemplation.

'My mission, Mitchell; my responsibility.' John retorted, folding his arms over his chest. The goose bumps breaking out along his forearms made him realise he was cold. His activity had kept him warm but the room was cool. They weren't going to suffer from hypothermia any time soon but it was uncomfortable.

'We wouldn't even have attempted a mission if I hadn't decided I couldn't wait for them to attack first.' Mitchell grimaced. 'And nobody anticipated them having someone on the Odyssey to intercept the emergency beam-out.' He sighed. 'I guess we can't assume that we're going to be beamed out any time soon.'

'Rodney will find us.' John said confidently.

'The Atlantis sensors.' Mitchell remembered, changing hands and legs; his right hand massaging his right knee.

'Um, no.' John grimaced and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. 'Those only tracked us in the States and since the last time we heard the seventh member was on a boat somewhere in the South hemisphere…'

'So, how's Rodney going to find us?' Mitchell asked clearly bemused.

'He'll come up with something.' John said again. He nudged Mitchell's arm. 'You don't think Sam won't find us if Rodney can't?'

Mitchell's expression cleared as he got the message; their teams would be doing everything they could to find them.

'We just need to stay alive long enough for them to find us.' John continued. 'Or, you know, find a way off the boat ourselves.'

Mitchell rested his head back against the wall and stared up at the ceiling. 'Before we got stunned I recognised the woman leader; it's Allia.'

'Allia.' John's eyes widened. 'Allia as in the Allia who is supposedly secreted somewhere with Landry?'

'That would be the one.' Mitchell frowned and lifted a shoulder in a half-shrug. 'Either Landry was duped by someone pretending to be her or…'

'Or he's somewhere on the boat.' John finished. He turned it over in his head. 'I don't think he's here. Landry calls in for reports with the SGC and Homeworld Security. If he was being coerced, he would have used a code word.'

'Maybe he's brainwashed.' Mitchell pointed out.

John acknowledged the issue. 'I still think someone duped him into thinking she was Allia. He hadn't seen her before had he?'

'I was the only person to see her.' Mitchell admitted with a sigh. 'If someone did dupe Landry, then they had to be close enough to Allia to make it work.'

'So she's here for revenge.' John wasn't surprised. From what he knew of the Alliance it fitted with their modus operandi.

'It explains why I was Allia's focus. She knows me already.' Mitchell grimaced. 'I am not looking forward to this reunion.' He banged his head against the wall.

John considered the sudden tension in Mitchell's face. 'She tortured you before she agreed to give you what you wanted and you left it out of the report.'

Mitchell's lips tightened. 'Not exactly.'

'And by not exactly…' John pressed ruthlessly but he needed to know whether Mitchell was going to break or not.

'Before I spoke with Allia was this,' Mitchell explained, with a wave that encompassed his relative nakedness, 'I was stripped, thrown into a cell without anything.' He wet his lips. 'Allia tortured me after she gave me the intelligence I was after.'

'After she gave you Ba'al's location.' John deduced.

'We made a deal.' Mitchell said dully. 'She likes pain games.'

John didn't say anything; there was nothing to say. Mitchell was a grown-up; he'd taken the risk when he'd agreed to Allia's terms. And John wasn't sure he wouldn't have taken the same deal.

'It wasn't…bad.' Mitchell added after a while. 'She whipped me mostly. Then she had one of her minions, a tame Goa'uld who'd entered her service for protection, heal me using a Goa'uld hand device and she let me go.' He grimaced as he moved his legs. 'It was either that or she would have killed me so…I couldn't put it in the report.'

'You don't have to justify anything to me.' John assured him. They all made decisions in the field that sounded crazy when they were safely back at base and, most of the time, the brass didn't want to know despite the standing order that the reports be as complete as they could be.

'I guess you understand more than most.' Mitchell commented quietly. 'There are some orders that shouldn't be followed.'

John stiffened, thinking it was an allusion to his black mark.

Mitchell sighed heavily, acknowledging the sudden tension between them. 'I didn't mean that as a criticism, John.'

'I know.' John said automatically before he realised he did know. 'It's just…' he shrugged and rubbed his upper arms, hoping to get some warmth back into his limbs.

'You got a raw deal.' Mitchell looked over at him earnestly. 'Geez, Sheppard, you went back for three men against orders because you held firm to the notion of not leaving them behind. Most people would have awarded you with a medal.'

'Not the ones who focus on the disobeying orders part of it.' John said dryly. He tried to relax but he never talked about it and wasn't about to start. The issue had never been because he'd disobeyed orders that one time; it was because he'd disobeyed orders on multiple other occasions and he'd had to finally pay the price. All in all though, his punishment could have been worse; he could have been discharged. As it was, he'd ended up in the right place at the right time and found himself with a command that he loved and a team – friends – that he considered family. 'It's OK. Ancient history.'

Mitchell's eyebrows rose a little but he acquiesced to the change in subject. 'I'm sorry about Maggie. She must have been shot up pretty badly.'

John closed his eyes as the memory of their final moments in the plane flooded through his head; the echoing tear of metal as the bullets ripped through her. They were lucky that their attackers hadn't truly been aiming to kill them. He wondered if she was salvageable; if she could be repaired. It was only a plane, John thought furiously. He'd only had her a short time; he shouldn't be so attached. Hadn't he made himself promise when he'd left his father and brother after the argument that had led to their estrangement that he wouldn't get attached to anyone or anything ever again?

But he had.

He'd gotten attached to Atlantis as soon as he'd stepped inside the city with the steps lighting up as he walked. He'd gotten attached to Ford who had hero-worshipped him and who'd had the makings of a fine officer but who he hadn't been able to save; to Elizabeth who had given him the chance to prove himself but who he had lost; to the original Carson who had saved John's life and who had died in a senseless, senseless way. And he was still attached to Ronon, Teyla and Rodney despite the knowledge that their lives were drifting from John's with the advent of romantic partners and children. No doubt he'd lose them too one day.

Just like he lost everyone.

'John?' Mitchell's hand landed warm and heavy on his arm. 'You OK?'

John avoided Mitchell's concerned gaze and nodded. 'Just…thinking.'

Mitchell looked as though he was about to argue but he removed his hand and slumped back into his previous position. 'I meant to ask,' he said quietly, 'why the name Maggie?'

John's body tensed again and it took an effort for him to unclench his jaw to reply. 'My mother's name.'

'Oh.' Mitchell grimaced apologetically. 'I didn't know.'

'No reason why you should.' John murmured. He changed position, trying to ignore how much his body ached. 'I thought with Dave giving me the plane…it seemed right.'

'I don't think I've heard you mention her before.' Mitchell said.

'She died a long time ago.' John said sharply. He sighed, unhappy with the hard tone he'd used. 'Sorry.'

'My fault.' Mitchell replied apologetically. He shifted against the wall, trying to find a better position. 'I shouldn't have said anything.'

Mitchell sounded so miserable that John hurried to reassure him. 'No, it's…' he stopped, 'it's hard to talk about, you know? I mean, I was eleven.'

Mitchell stayed silent but John could almost feel his curiosity; the repression of the usual question of 'what happened.'

'It was a car accident,' John said eventually, 'the brakes failed; we went off the road and hit a tree. I managed to get Dave out and I went back for her but…' he wrapped his arms more tightly around himself, lost in the memories of the heat of the explosion and flying through the air, 'it was too late.'

He couldn't look at Mitchell. He didn't want to see condemnation or, worse, pity, in the other man's eyes.

'You have to know it wasn't your fault.' Mitchell said softly. 'You were eleven.'

John didn't know how to reply. It was his fault; if he had been smarter, faster, better…

'Didn't your Dad tell you that?' Mitchell continued.

John laughed harshly. 'Actually, he told me it was all my fault.'

'He what?' Mitchell said, shocked and furious.

John waved a hand in Mitchell's direction and stared at the shadows on the far wall. 'That was our last conversation. Him telling me it was my fault my mother was dead and my telling him that I'd stay in Antarctica for the rest of my life if it meant that I didn't have to have anything more to do with him.'

'Shit, Sheppard…' Mitchell reached out and clasped John's shoulder.

John finally looked over at him.

Mitchell's blue eyes gazed back sympathetically at him. 'Your Dad was a grade A bastard.'

John nodded, his throat suddenly tight with unexpected tears.

Mitchell let go of him. 'I'm pretty sure we can get Maggie fixed up.'

'Maybe.' John managed to reply, grateful for Mitchell changing the topic.

'Is it me or is it cold in here?' Mitchell asked abruptly, rubbing his arms furiously.

John grimaced as he assessed how cold he felt. 'It's not you.' He pushed off the floor and hauled himself to his feet. 'Come on, we need to move around and get warm.'

Mitchell took his hand and used the wall for support as he got upright. They both began pacing, Mitchell hobbling with every step.

Stop thinking of the past, John instructed himself briskly. They had to find a way to escape especially as it was unlikely that they would be beamed out. 'You know what I don't understand,' he said out loud as the thought formed in his head, 'why attack us at the airfield? If they had someone on the Odyssey, why didn't they target us straight away and beam us out days ago?'

'Access?' Mitchell suggested with a pained shrug. 'Maybe they're not used to the targeting system either. Maybe they had to get us to a predefined location.'

'So how did they know where to find us?' John asked, stopping for a moment, his hands on his hips as he thought it over. 'Only us, Sam and the airfield guys knew we were scheduled to fly into Colorado, right?'

'Right.' Mitchell sighed and rested up against the wall. 'Maybe it was the airfield guys. Maybe someone called them pretending they were the press and wanted an exclusive photo of the elusive owner of Sheppard International. They probably didn't realise the danger.'

'I don't know…' John began, thinking it was unlikely that the airfield staff would have said anything to the press but a sound outside the door made him stop. He raised a finger to his lips as Mitchell went to ask him what was wrong and pointed at the door.

They silently signalled a plan; John would hide behind the door and take out whoever entered; Mitchell would be bait. They positioned themselves quickly and the sound of bolts drawing back had John's heart rate escalating. He drew a careful breath and waited in anticipation as the lock released with a rusty click. The door moved outward but before John could move the lights were switched on, flooding the room and almost blinding John as someone stepped inside.

He tried to blink the glare out of his eyes as he went to attack but the bulky form spun and sent him spinning into the wall and crashing to the ground.

'Don't!'

The sound of a zat being armed stopped Mitchell from attacking the guard. John raised his head and realised that he was the intended victim of the zat not the other Colonel.

'Allia wants to see you, Mitchell.' The guard's form solidified in John's vision; male, built, close cropped hair and a tribal tattoo on his arm. He motioned for Mitchell to step out of the room.

Mitchell glanced towards John.

'I'm OK,' John assured him, gingerly touching the back of his head.

'Allia doesn't like to be kept waiting.' The guard snarled and raised the zat at John again.

'OK, OK.' Mitchell held up both his hands. 'I'm coming.' His blue eyes met John's briefly; they exchanged an unspoken promise that if either escaped they would find the other as he limped past and out of the room.

The guard threw a bottle of water at John. 'Here. She wants you alive.'

John caught the plastic bottle before it hit his face. 'Thanks for the room service. I'd tip but I seem to be without my wallet.'

The guard leered and stormed out. The door clanged shut behind him and a second later the lights went out.

He moved so he was sitting back against the wall again and opened the water. It could be drugged, he considered thoughtfully, in all probability it was but he needed water to live. He took a couple of careful mouthfuls and set the bottle aside. Hopefully, it wasn't drugged and if it wasn't, Mitchell would need some water when he returned.

If he returned.

He should have done something more to stop them from taking him.

'Stupid, John.' John muttered under his breath.

The light seeping in under the door mocked him.

He banged his head lightly against the wall. Allia wouldn't kill Mitchell. She wanted him to get to Landry and whoever it was that was pretending to be her. Clearly that someone had a death wish, John mused. Did Landry know that it wasn't Allia? Was that why he'd kept Mitchell out of it? John got the impression that Mitchell was perplexed by Landry's decision not to confide in him and John was too.

Landry wasn't a bad CO. John had served with enough to know the difference between bad and good. And Landry was a good CO on the whole; he just didn't trust John all that much. John felt a moment's shimmering hurt about that because he was good at his job and he wanted his CO's trust. But he figured Landry respected him – enough to keep John in Atlantis – which maybe wasn't a bad trade-off. By comparison, John believed Landry both respected and trusted Mitchell. And Mitchell probably hadn't given Landry cause not to do either. Even if Mitchell had omitted various things on official reports, well…they all did it. Sometimes the crap they encountered off world, the decisions they made, didn't need to make it on paper for some pencil pusher to judge.

John grimaced, remembering Mitchell's admission about Allia and her pain games. He wondered if Allia was going to try the same kind of deal again. He doubted Mitchell would take it again. John wondered what kind of deal Allia was going to offer him; he assumed Allia wouldn't simply use him as leverage to try and get Mitchell to do what she wanted; John wasn't unaware that he had value as the military leader of Atlantis.

He wet his lips and glanced at the water bottle longingly. He didn't feel any different so there was hope it hadn't been drugged. He shivered. He should get some rest and get prepared to make another attempt at freedom when the door was opened again.

Or, hopefully, it would be Mitchell the next time coming to save him. John closed his eyes.


Chapter 21



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