An Acceptable Sacrifice

Category: Slash Pairings > McKay/Sheppard
Characters: John Sheppard, Original Character, Rodney McKay
Rating: NC-17
Genres: Angst, Drama, First Time, Hurt Comfort
Warnings: Adult themes, Non-consensual

Summary: Sheppard and McKay are condemned to a brutal prison as murderers. As things go from bad to worse, McKay realizes how far he'll go to keep Sheppard alive.




Carson Beckett stared bleary-eyed at his laptop, but the results of the autopsy never changed. There was no trauma, external or internal, no diseased organs, the various blood analyses had came back and all of them indicated that the Genii diplomat Rueth had been in very good physical shape. All, that is, except one.

Carson rubbed his eyes and tried to focus on the screen. There was a massive amount of Digoxin in the man's bloodstream, almost one hundred times the normal dose--which was given to patients to slow and regulate a rapid and shallow heartbeat.

The massive dose of Digoxin alone would have killed the man, but added to that was the fact that the side-effect of a massive dose of Digoxin was anaphylaxis--which was the very thing that the diplomat had been suffering from, according to the statements of Rodney McKay and John Sheppard. OD-ing on Digoxin when he was already having a severe allergic reaction guaranteed that the poor man didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of surviving.

Carson lifted Rodney's spent Epi-pen, turning it slowly in his hand. It was one of theirs, but the traces of drug that had been found in the cartridge had been Digoxin and not Adrenalin.

"It just doesn't make sense." He spoke out loud to no one in particular. "Rodney must have been carrying this pen for months, so how in the hell did it contain Digoxin?"

A little nurse bustled towards him with a pile of invoices in her hand.

"Doctor Beckett?" she asked quietly. "Doctor? I've--I've printed out the invoices you asked for."

She held one piece of printed paper out to him while she clutched the others to her chest as though they were the equivalent of some sort of ancient shield.

"This one." She looked almost apologetic as she handed it over. "This is the batch that the Epi-pen belongs to, the date of delivery and the pharmaceutical company are also there."

Carson scanned the sheet. "Holy crap!" He exclaimed. "This was in a batch of two hundred. You!" he bellowed uncharacteristically at one of the more junior doctors, who jumped and dropped the rack of test tubes he had just lifted up from the bench.

"Yes? what?" he squeaked out as Carson moved towards him, feet crunching through the broken glass.

"Get down to the pharmacy storeroom and pull every one of these little fuckers out of there. I want each one tested to see if they've been tampered with. Take whoever you need to give you a hand--I want this done yesterday." He pushed the invoice into the man's hand and made his way back to his laptop.

The tiny puncture wound made by the needle was on the victim's right shoulder. Carson scanned the account that Rodney had given of what happened. Rueth had apparently been sitting with them at the banquet put on by the new Genii government when he had suddenly started choking and sweating. His lips had been tinged with blue before he slumped, unconscious, off of his chair onto the floor.

He had been flanked on either side by Sheppard and McKay, who jumped to his assistance as the man was falling.

Carson read on. Sheppard had checked Rueth's airway, noting that his throat was closing and Rodney had realised what was happening--Anaphylactic shock. Rodney lived with the threat daily, he was as much an expert on the signs and symptoms as Carson was himself. Rodney had done the only thing he knew would save Rueth: he pulled his Epi-pen from his pocket and plunged it into the man's arm through his clothing. It should have worked. The clerk had recorded everything that Rodney had said in his defence.

Carson rubbed his eyes. "It should've, Rodney. It would have if it hadn't been the wrong bloody drug."

Rueth had started to convulse violently as soon as the drug was administered, and died with John and Rodney kneeling beside him, Rodney still holding the pen.

An open-and-shut-case as far as the Genii were concerned. After all, Rodney had pumped a lethal dose of Digoxin into the man right in front of them.

***

Rodney couldn't even begin to express in words how totally fucked up life had became in the last forty-eight hours.

Why is it? Why the fuck is it that even when you've been fighting to save someone's life, you can still end up in the biggest pile of shit in the galaxy? This is so fucking unfair, he thought, as both he and Colonel ('call me John') Sheppard were led up the stairs from their trial and herded, along with a mixed bag of deviants, into the back of a waiting transporter to be taken to the high-security prison they had been sentenced to.

Rodney had told them he didn't like the idea of dealing with the Genii again, even if Cowen was now very dead and all his followers had been rounded up after the coup. Why was it they never listened to him?

"It will be all right," Elizabeth had said as they were passing her, on the way to the Genii equivalent of Alcatraz. "Carson has already started his autopsy, and when he gets to the bottom of what really happened you'll be out of here. I promise, Rodney. Try not to worry."

"Worry?" He'd hissed back at her. "Worry? Oh please, that's just pathetic. You come take my place and see how me telling you not to worry helps."

In retrospect, it might have been a little mean.

She'd winced at his tone and turned her attention to John Sheppard. "I know you'll take care of him, John." She had given his arm a light squeeze, and John had given her his best, 'hey, everything is going to be just fine,' smile in return, while managing to position himself between Rodney and the Genii soldier who was their escort.

"I'll make sure he eats, sleeps and keeps his mouth shut so he doesn't end up in solitary," John had told her. "And maybe you could have ambassador Lorne take a look at the facts, just in case the good doctor and you run out of ideas to prove we're innocent. You know, he's almost as good a diplomat as you are yourself, Elizabeth." And he'd winked at Elizabeth, who had nodded and managed to say,

"You'll be home before you know it," as the soldier punched John on the shoulder, indicating that he had stalled long enough and that he was to move on up the stairs.

"So," Rodney whispered to him as soon as they were on the transport. "Do you think they'll treat us differently from the other prisoners--us being from another galaxy? Maybe they'll keep us away from the general riffraff. I mean, come on, do we look like the type of people who would just up and murder someone for no reason? Huh? Huh?" Rodney pushed his way into a vacant seat and John sat beside him.

"McKay," he said calmly, "we have been tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Somehow I don't think we're going to be getting any favours where we're going in the immediate future, do you?"

"But we didn't kill anyone!" Rodney blurted. "I was trying to save his life! Just look at us--do we look like we're capable of killing any..." Rodney's voice trailed off as the words coming out of his ever-moving mouth registered in his ever-active brain as he stared at John.

"Sorry," he mumbled. "I didn't mean, you know--you being a soldier and all--I didn't mean that you... That you look like you kill people. I just meant..."

One of John's chained hands came up and patted Rodney on the shoulder. "I know what you meant, McKay. No sweat, okay? Elizabeth and Carson are on it--we'll be out of here before we know it. And if not, well, Lorne might have a few ideas."

"Great." Rodney muttered to himself, along with references to pouches of bones and something about witch doctors.

After that they sat in silence throughout the journey to the prison, John wondering if others saw a killer in his eyes when they looked at him, and Rodney wondering just when he was going to stop putting his foot in his mouth when he was talking to the man sitting at his side. The man who was also his best friend, despite Rodney's never-ending lack of tact at times.

***

Stennat high-security prison looked as bleak and inhospitable inside as it had on the outside. It was situated miles from nowhere and was surrounded by barren wasteland, burnt dry by the sun.

When they approached the towering white walls, which were covered with razor-sharp blades that glinted in the sunlight, his heart sank a little.

It wasn't the best place to attempt a rescue mission of any kind--anyone trying to approach could be seen from miles away, and there was absolutely no cover from the several armed gun towers situated at key points along the walls.

Nope--if there was no choice but for Major Lorne to try breaking both John and Rodney out, it was going to take one hell of a lot of thought and planning. They weren't going to be home any time soon.

Inside the Genii prison there seemed to be very few guards. Of course, there didn't have to be, because the gun towers were full of them and what seemed like a hundred gun sights glinted in the bright light. The cells looked as though they had been designed like stables, only there were three floors. Those at ground level had doors which opened up into a big courtyard, whereas those above opened up onto metal catwalks surrounded by wire mesh, to stop prisoners dropping things on unsuspecting guards or other prisoners below them.

There were three blocks like this, John noted, and a smaller building just to the right of the second set of gates they had come through. All the buildings were surrounded by the high white perimeter wall. Prisoners seemed to mill around, doing their own thing. Some exercised, some washed clothes in big tubs of water, and two men were beating the crap out of each other while a group of others watched. "Fuck," John swore quietly to himself.

All of this under the careful eye of the guards in the towers.

John and Rodney were taken to the smaller building with the other 'new arrivals.' Both of them were handed a blanket, a wooden plate, a wooden bowl, and something that resembled chopsticks.

"Break them or lose them and you sleep in the cold, eat with your fingers or off the floor. If you lose your drinking bowl it's just possible you'll die of thirst." The guard handing out the items smirked.

Rodney visibly trembled and John put a steadying hand on his shoulder but said nothing.

Laden with their precious possessions, they were then led across the courtyard to the building the furthest away from the gate. The guard pointed to one of the doors. "You two--that's your cell." The second-last cell on ground level. "When you hear the bell you make your way back to where you got your blankets. Food is given out until it runs out. If you're late you go hungry. If you're last..." He grinned cruelly. "You go hungry. Temal is top dog in this block--he is Leynar, one of about a dozen in this prison." The guard looked at Rodney. "I suggest you keep pretty boy here away from him," he said, meaning John. "Temal's partial to the ones with a good body, and from what I hear he just loves the ones that put up a fight."

Rodney made to open his mouth, but John pushed him through the door into the cell.

There were two cots in the cell, and a bucket. The floor and walls were made of stone and there were two very small windows three-quarters of the way up the wall to let in light.

The guard followed them but stayed at the door. "Put your stuff down and come over here if you want those chains off." Rodney moved towards the guard, who gave him a curious look, then lifted his hand and brushed it across Rodney's groin while watching John.

"Hey! Get the fuck away from him!" John growled.

The guard roared with laughter. "Oh, yeah. Temal is really going to love playing with you."

Rodney swallowed hard then turned his head to look at John. "Its fine, I'm fine," he said quickly, albeit with a tremor in his voice. He held up his wrists so that the guard could unlock them.

"Lockup is at sundown," the guard said. "Anyone in the courtyard after that won't be around to see sunrise." He guard looked over at John--who hadn't moved--as Rodney stepped away from him, rubbing his wrists. "You want to keep those chains on? A little word of advice--you want to survive here you need the use of your hands and arms."

John sent the guard a look which could have sunk a battleship, but nevertheless he moved forward cautiously and held out his wrists.

***

When John heard the bell he made sure that he and Rodney were in the line to be fed--there was no way Rodney would survive this place without regular meals. They waited in the all to be fed...Whatever it was. It resembled stew, but it sure as hell didn't smell like it. It was slopped onto John's plate along with something that resembled dry wheat biscuits, and once Rodney had a plateful of the same goop John steered them to a couple of empty seats and sat down. He slipped the biscuits into his pocket and at Rodney's questioning look merely shrugged and said quietly, "just in case we miss supper." Rodney nodded and did the same.

"Oh jeeze, this is awful." Rodney choked.

"Eat it," John said quietly, and lifted a chunk of meat. "First rule of survival McKay—all right?" Rodney nodded and forced down a mouthful of the revolting food, while John did his best to swallow the half-chewed meat.

"So, you're the off-worlders?" A giant of a man appeared beside their table. People to the left and right shuffled quickly away.

"Let me guess." John looked up into the ghostly white face of the massive man. "Temal, right?"

"And you're the Lantean, Sheppard?" Temal bent menacingly over John.

"Ah, that would be 'Lieutenant Colonel' Sheppard," John said, taking a drink from his bowl to wash away the taste of the food.

The man continued to stare at John. "I run this prison, Sheppard, and your reputation precedes you--not many men could take on a whole company of Genii. I think we could be friends."

John stood up, knocking his chair back onto the floor, and in an instant Rodney was on his feet as well.

"I don't think so," John drawled. "I kinda like to choose my own friends, if you don't mind. I find it works better that way."

The giant nodded, and John made to move past him, but before he managed another step a fist slammed hard into his back, knocking the breath from his body and sending him splayed onto the floor.

He could hear McKay's protests, even as he rolled forward to get himself back onto his feet. His head was down when he rammed the man--who must have been seven feet tall if he was an inch--in the stomach. Chairs and tables flew and broke around them. A booted foot caught John painfully on the thigh, but he managed a punch to the side of the man's head before he went down. Something hit him in the temple, and that was the last he knew until he slowly and painfully opened his eyes, to find Rodney McKay rinsing a cloth in some water before attempting to clean the many lacerations that covered John's face.

Rodney sat back when he saw John had come to.

"What time is it?" John managed to rasp out. His chest was killing him--he had either taken a few punches or a few kicks to his ribs, but it must have been after he'd blacked out.

"It's after lockup," Rodney said quietly. "You've been out for a hours. The guards had a couple of prisoners carry you in here after Temal and his men finished beating you into the ground. Can you move? Do you think anything is broken?"

John attempted to sit up and cried out as pain from his broken collarbone shot up the side of his neck and head, adding to his already thumping headache.

"Fuck!" he fought to breathe, then he coughed and his mouth was filled with the metallic taste of blood. Broken ribs, definitely. Internal bleeding from somewhere, too? He didn't want to think about that. He spat the blood onto the floor. "Get me the hell up," he ground out at Rodney.

"You're too badly hurt," Rodney said. "Just rest for a while." Rodney drew the cool cloth over John's lips, wiping away the blood. "Do you think you would be able to take a drink?"

John lifted his head just a little and Rodney held the bowl to his lips. "Take your time," Rodney soothed. A few minutes later the blood on John's face had all been washed away, but only to reveal the vivid bruising which was developing more quickly than Rodney said he had thought possible. John let his head fall back again onto the mattress and closed his eyes.

***

Rodney watched the sleeping soldier throughout the night, grimacing himself every time the man moved in his sleep and moaned in pain. Why the hell did Sheppard have to provoke Temal? Why couldn't he just have gone along with him and joined the happy gang of thugs?

Rodney tucked the blanket in around John's shoulders. Rodney let his head rest on his arm, which was supporting him as he sat on the floor by John's bed. Exhausted, he let his eyes close. His last waking thought was, "You better not die on me, Sheppard."

At sunrise, all the men were dragged from their cells by the sound of a claxon, accompanied by the rattling of keys and the dulcet tones of a number of guards.

"You two!--out for morning slop-out and exercise," the same guard from the day before shouted from the door of their cell.

Rodney jumped up off of the floor while rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He glanced down at John, whose eyes were open but who was holding his arm tightly across his chest. His face was pale, with vivid black and blue bruising down one side.

"Help me up," John wheezed, but Rodney turned to the guard.

"He's in no state to get up, can't you see that?"

"Not my problem, McKay." The guard shrugged. "Get him up."

Rodney turned back to John, whose eyes locked onto his own as if he were attempting to draw on some of Rodney's strength.

Rodney bent over and slipped his arm under Sheppard's neck, his other hand and arm sliding behind Sheppard's knees. Slowly, legs first, he slipped John's legs over the side of the cot. Then Rodney brought up his other hand and held John's arm tight against John's chest.

"Ready, Colonel?" John nodded and took as deep a breath as his broken ribs would allow, before letting Rodney pull him to his feet.

Slowly, Rodney helped John to the door of the cell.

"Bet your glad those chains are off now, Sheppard." The guard smirked.

John merely met the guards eyes for a second before moving painfully passed him.

Once in the courtyard, they joined the rest of the prisoners.

"You know the routine!" one of the guards shouted. "Three times around the outer yard!" He glanced at Rodney, who was practically holding John up. "No exceptions. Move!"

They were herded through the inner set of gates so that they were in a sort of 'no-man's land' between the outer wall and the barbed wire fence.

"He'll never make the full three laps," Rodney overheard one guard saying to the one who seemed to be in charge of the lower cells.

"I think he will," the other answered.

"Wager?"

The other man nodded. "Three?"

"Let's make it five." Their guard grinned. "He's taken a beating, but he's stubborn."

Rodney clenched his fist to his side and tried to take as much of John's weight as he could. Most of the younger, fitter prisoners were able to do the run with ease. The older men made their way more slowly around the track. Rodney managed to get John around the first lap, setting the pace as a slow trot, but keeping them moving forward all the time.

On the second lap, John was staggering and Rodney was taking more and more of his weight. He was about to just stop and give in to whatever fate awaited them, when he saw a prisoner stumble and hit the ground up ahead. Rodney watched, horrified, as three guards, armed with what looked like cattle prods, crowded over the man, sending jolt after jolt of what looked like a pretty severe discharge of electricity into the man's body. Their torture dragged ear-piercing screams from the fallen prisoner's lips, until he managed to crawl away and get back onto his feet.

Rodney pulled John tighter against his body. There was no way John Sheppard could take a punishment like that in his condition.

"I can't make it, McKay. Drop me and go on," John said. He was breathless and shaking.

Rodney ignored him. "We've got to keep moving, Colonel," Rodney said. "We just need to get around this last lap--it doesn't matter how fast we go, we just need to get around."

John grit his teeth. "that's an order, McKay!"

Rodney pulled John forward. "In case you forgot, Colonel, I'm not military. You can't order me around. Now, keep going."

Slowly, Rodney half-carried, half dragged John around the last lap. His lungs felt like they were ready to burst and the sweat running down his face stung his eyes, but they made it back to the inner gate where the last two guards were waiting for them, the ones who had placed the wager.

Rodney watched as the guard he considered 'his' opened his hand and the other guard placed five small white pills in his palm.

"Same tomorrow?" the loser asked with a sly grin.

"Nah," the other said. "He won't survive tomorrow."

***

Rodney helped John back to the cell and put him down onto the cot just as the first meal bell rang. He looked towards the door then down at John. He hated to leave him, but he had no choice--he had to eat, and he had to see if he could make John eat anything, to help keep up what was left of his strength.

"I'll be back as soon as I can," Rodney said gently, while covering the shaking colonel with a blanket.

Much as Rodney didn't feel like eating, and as much as he wanted to stay with Sheppard, he knew that if he didn't eat he would be of no use to either of them. He took his place in the food line, slipping an extra couple of the dry biscuits into his pocket to take back to John. He made his way over to an empty table and sat down. He pulled his half-chopsticks, half-forks from his pocket and dug into the grey slop on his plate. He was pleasantly surprised because it had absolutely no taste, so he shovelled in mouthful after mouthful.

"You did well, getting your friend round the track today, offworlder. I'm impressed." Temal sat down opposite Rodney.

"Yes, well, no thanks to you," Rodney shot back.

Temal just smiled. "He won't make it tomorrow, no matter how much of his weight you carry. My men got a little too enthusiastic and hurt him a bit more than was necessary."

Rodney looked up and dropped his wooden sticks onto his plate. "It wasn't fucking necessary at all! We only just got here. We're prisoners, just like you, you asshole. Shouldn't it be the Genii you're beating on?"

Temal grabbed Rodney's wrist and squeezed it painfully. "Word of what Sheppard did in the ancient city got here before you did, McKay. He was getting to become quite a hero. So you understand, I had to remind people who's boss."

Rodney winced, but bit his lip to stifle the cry of pain. "Fine, fine. You're top dog. We understand that now, so just leave us alone, okay? We don't want any trouble."

He started to rise and was just about to lift his plate and leave when Temal said quietly, "I can arrange it so that you don't need to exercise tomorrow morning."

Rodney lowered himself back down onto the seat. "How?" he asked, his voice thick with apprehension.

"I've never had a descendent of the ancients under me before," Temal said. He looked straight at Rodney, who suddenly realised what Temal was suggesting. "You keep me happy, McKay, and I keep Sheppard off the field. He won't survive those shocks, and you know he won't make three laps tomorrow. Think about it--an hour before lock up and he's off the hook."

Temal rose and left Rodney sitting on his own at the table.


Chapter Two