Word Count: 1,049
Prompt: Lorne Fest, Lorne/Sheppard - John's been missing for some time - first night back on Atlantis/out of the infirmary; hc_bingo, isolation/accidentally locked in
Notes: And we're back to whumping John!
Evan woke with a gasp to the sound of strangled screaming.
John was thrashing in the sheets, arms flailing out, yelling loudly. Sweat ran in tracks down his face. He was fast asleep.
“John,” Evan said, reaching across the middle of the bed. As soon as he touched John’s arm, the other man jerked awake, flinching back from Evan’s touch. “John,” he said again, more firmly, resting his hand lightly on John’s wrist. “It’s me, it’s Evan. You’re in Atlantis. You’re safe.”
As he spoke, Evan thought at the lights, which came on dimly. John’s eyes were wide and panicked in a look that Evan had never seen there before. He was breathing in shallow gulps of air as he glanced around. Slowly, too slowly for Evan’s liking, John calmed, evening his breathing as his pupils shrank.
“Evan,” John said, and his voice was almost normal. “I’m in Atlantis.”
“You’re in Atlantis,” Evan affirmed.
“I am.” Evan moved closer to John slowly until they were seated side-by-side, legs touching. John closed his eyes and leaned sideways into Evan.
“Eight weeks,” John said dully. Evan felt his stomach twist.
“Sixty days,” Evan confirmed softly. “I’m sorry, John.”
John nodded once against his shoulder. “I know.”
Evan shifted his arm and set it lightly around John’s waist. “I won’t ask you about it,” he said finally. “Not because I don’t want to know, or because I don’t think you should talk about it. If you want to tell me, it’s your choice and I’ll listen, but I’m not going to push you.”
John nodded again, just once, and they sat in silence for a long time. Evan watched the shadows appear on the ground, lengthen, shift as the sun climbed above the horizon. It was a long time before either of them spoke again.
John finally broke the silence. “They had me alone in a cell.”
Evan nodded to show he was listening. They’d found him there, locked in the back of a dilapidated compound, on a world that they’d been on only by chance. They hadn’t expected to find him there; they’d only heard that the place was a prison, that people were kept there before being sold as slaves, and that though it was highly illegal, the townspeople looked the other way because the people who ran the place were dangerous. Evan had taken his team in, intending to free whoever was destined for the slave market, and had found John in the back of the building, in a cell by himself.
Dr. Keller said that he was, physically, fine. She’d kept him under strict observation in the infirmary for a week, but concluded that other than being malnourished, there was technically nothing wrong with John.
Except for the screaming nightmares, of course, but there was nothing Keller could do for those.
“For the first few days they kept me with a bunch of other people.” John shifted against him and Evan stayed still, afraid that moving might cause him to flinch or recoil. John slid down the mattress and laid his head on Evan’s thigh, staring across the room. Evan settled his hand on John’s back, stroking up and down soothingly. “It wasn’t even a week before they threw me in by myself. I kept trying to get the others to make an escape plan.” His mouth twisted bitterly.
“They moved me to the cell in the back after about two weeks,” John continued. “There was a little window in the top of the cell, maybe a six-inch square cut out of the wall, but enough for me to see the light from outside. If it hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have been able to keep track of time.”
Evan forced his hand to keep moving, knowing what must have been on John’s mind. It was protocol that he’d written himself, during Evan’s third year on Atlantis: in the event that a member of the expedition goes missing offworld, the search for that person will continue for six weeks. After that time, the expedition member will be declared killed in action, and appropriate actions will be taken.
John had been gone for eight weeks. Evan hadn’t stopped looking, would never have stopped looking, but as John had lain in that cell, counting days by the sunlight in his window, he hadn’t known that. Evan was certain that the words that John had written had played through his head on repeat.
“Some days they’d feed me,” John went on. “Some days they wouldn’t. There was no pattern to it, or at least none that I could figure out. They never stayed long, even when they did feed me. At one point they didn’t come in for nine days.” He laughed and the sound was harsh in the room. “If it hadn’t poured down rain around the fourth day, I would’ve died in there.”
He was silent for a moment before looking up at Evan. “I expected to die in there.”
Evan’s hand stilled on John’s back. “I was still looking,” he said quietly. “I know I was supposed to declare you dead at six weeks, but I talked Woolsey into extending it. Since it was you.” He waited until John leaned his head back and met his eyes. “I would’ve kept looking anyway. There’s no way I’d leave you out there.”
John closed his eyes and set his head back down. “Those rules are in place for a reason.”
“You’re the military commander of the base,” Evan returned. “It wasn’t hard to bend them.”
“In the future, six weeks is it, Evan. No matter who it is.”
Evan started to run his hand up and down John’s back again. “You have to know, John, that I’d search for you for as long as you’d search for me.”
John was quiet for a moment. “That’s a long time.”
“I know,” Evan said.
The silence stretched out again. Evan estimated that almost an hour passed before John spoke. “I’ve decided that I really hate being alone.”
“Don’t be alone, then,” Evan suggested lightly. “Keep yourself surrounded. Shouldn’t be too hard here in Atlantis.”
“I’ll just stay here,” John said softly. “For as long as you’ll stay with me.”
“As long as you need,” Evan promised. “I’ll be right here.”