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He feels the time passing, but only one moment at a time. Sound of his heartbeat slow rushing in his ears, blood vessels in his eyelids a red tracework against a murky light. A single rise and fall of his chest, disconnected from any exercise of will.
Patches of sensation: in this place cold, over there wet. At times his skin twitches involuntarily away from one or the other, and all over the gluey strands clinging remind him. Something shrieking rises up climbing in his throat. The moment passes, his numbed skin forgets, and the sound falls silently back down into his lungs.
Sometimes there are noises outside, real ones, and sometimes the light changes. The walls whisper and breathe around him, and the footsteps going past make promises of release. He is awake, he thinks. This doesn't feel like dreaming.
He remembers only distantly, until all at once there's a sound like skin ripping and a slap of cold wet air against his face, and then everything rushes back in tangled. Teyla's eyes reflecting silver in the forest, light against her dark skin. Coffee in the morning with the sun rising behind the city. His muscles like water as they thrust him carelessly into the niche. The hiss of the engines overhead and a child in his arms, crying. Trees, autumn wind laced with smoke, fragrant needles crushing under his boots. Long sticky trailers of spun-silk coming down on him like rain.
He's naked and staggering, Rodney and Ford holding him up together, their arms laced behind his back. His hands clutch at their shoulders with no strength. His legs bend away in improbable curves when he tries to take some of his own weight. Up ahead, Teyla's light is playing will-o-wisp over the walls.
"We've got you," Ford says.
"Keep going," he says.
The floor of the jumper is cold and hard, but they cover him with their jackets. Ford tilts up his head to give him water, and Teyla peels away layers from his skin, like sunburn. "This could be a short trip," Rodney says from up front, putting in his code, and he understands they came for him without permission.
They glide into the gate and out the other side, though, and there are more hands waiting to lift him; alcohol sharp in his nostrils as they scrub him clean. And afterwards they lay him down on straight white sheets, under the high soaring ceilings, full of sunlight.
= end =
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