He knows he shouldn’t react. Not more than necessary. Nothing more than the cursory, faked responses needed to convince them he’s still alive and feeling, so they don’t push to see where he is.
He knows he shouldn’t show anger. He knows he shouldn’t show despair. He knows he shouldn’t show fear. He’s been trained, trained and drilled and god - one horrible time before they arrived here in the Pegasus galaxy, back on Earth, he almost went through this. Then it hadn’t been quite so hard, the prospect of torture. It wasn’t as if he had all that much to lose, anyway. Not that he didn’t appreciate what he had, just that it was… it seemed less important than it did now that he’d been living on another world for so long, stripped of so many of those tiny little things he’d taken for granted. Now that his death was a very real prospect each day.
And back then, it had just been him and Them. And he could take whatever it was They gave to him, because he was strong. Ready. Prepared. He even thinks he could take what They are giving here and now, if They were giving it to him.
But They aren’t. They’re giving it to Rodney instead.
“It was not wise of you to cross the Genii,” Kolya tells him, not even giving him the courtesy of eye-contact, so the cool, hard rage in John’s eyes goes wasted. He’d be thankful Kolya couldn’t see how much this was affecting him if he didn’t know that the commander had already realised.
“We didn’t exactly cross you, actually, and if you’d been there at the time and able to see past your own nose you might have—”
McKay’s diatribe is cut short with a quick slap around the face - the gesture dispassionate and sharp. It’s more of an insult because Kolya isn’t angry here, Kolya isn’t acting out of temper. It just makes John’s cheeks burn more to know that, that Kolya’s the one in control of himself, as his own blood runs hot and cold.
“You will tell us how to produce our own supply of C4, Doctor. And then we need never speak of this again.”
He knows the score. Forever moving in ever more confusing circles, denying any real sense of logical progression to the debate, making Rodney’s head snap back and forth in an attempt to keep up - so that when things settle into a semblance of coherence, he’ll be all the more willing to co-operate and comply.
He wants to tell Rodney, to warn him. For all the man is brilliant, a self-confessed master of everything he puts his mind to, John knows that Rodney’s experience in resisting this kind of compulsion is limited - and for all his bull-headed obstinance and arrogance, John can’t help but worry he was going to snap.
Like he did during the storm, some unkind part of him helpfully points out, and he squashes that thought as soon as he can.
That was the name of the game, of course: divide and conquer. That was why he was here, in the room with them as Kolya interrogated Rodney. It wasn’t so he could be questioned too - oh no, Kolya was too clever for that - it was to use them as weapons against one another, to weaken their mutual defences. To humiliate them. To break them.
John knows that. He isn’tt stupid. Time for some show of solidarity, then… He smiles, politely, Reservedly. “I’m afraid the recipe’s a family secret, Kolya, and you aren’t family.”
Another slap across Rodney’s face, as Kolya smiles back at him, now. It isn’t at all a pleasant smile.
“I was not addressing you, Major Sheppard.”
John’s own smile is fixed in place and he watches out of the corner of his eye as Rodney silently wipes what he hoped wasn’t actually blood from the side of his mouth. John’s nostrils flare in annoyance he can’t quite hold back.
“I’m sorry, but I am the designated negotiator,” he says, even as Rodney cringes visibly, expecting another blow.
Christ but Kolya was one clever bastard.
“I told you already, Kolya,” came Rodney’s acerbic voice, giving them both an excuse to turn their heads - which neither of them take immediately. “There really aren’t either the resources or the necessary tools to make the C4, and we’re running low ourselves - or we’d be trading with you, wouldn’t we?”
John isn’t entirely sure if Rodney is bluffing now, but he thinks he might be. He grits his teeth together hard as the Genii’s attention moves from him again, he tries to keep his breathing calm.
“I do not believe you. You must have some comparable artillery, if nothing else. I do believe you are lying to me.”
“I’m not! Not that you’ll listen to me anyway, but I’m not! The supplies we brought with us are all we have, and when that’s gone we’re screwed, alright?”
Way to go McKay, make us sound an even better target before long…
John stops that line of thought before it can get any further, too, hating the way this was working them both.
“Then Atlantis will be all the easier to take from you, and anything else you have, when such a depletion takes place,” Kolya replies, and John has to admire the way the man’s mind works, after a fashion.
If it were just John and Kolya here, the chances are high he’d have had the shit beaten out of him already for either his insolence or his silence. If it were just Rodney… John has no idea.
Rodney had told Kolya about their plan to temporarily raise the shield, yes, but he’d also managed to bluff to the very end about the status of the shield and saved his, Ford, Teyla and Carson’s asses. He’d suffered under their hands but still managed to stand between Elizabeth and certain death.
Rodney had given part of the plan away under duress, it was true - and probably a hell of a lot more just by letting his ego take control over the table in the first place when they’d accidentally wound up in the super-secret-underground-bunker. But he’d stood up to Kolya, on Dagan, he’d stepped out into the light and offered himself as a trade for his team - for John’s team.
As annoying and frustrating as that had been, John can still remember how… proud he’d been. That Rodney would do that, for them - knowing the risks involved. That Kolya hadn’t broken him, and that Rodney was able to face his bete noir. Rodney hadn’t broken, and now it was going to be hell on both of them, because he strongly suspected that McKay was far more resilient than anyone else back in Atlantis had begun to suspect.
“This is all so amazingly stupid,” Rodney was saying, his voice rising with a tinge of panic that John isn’t sure was such a bad idea right now. “All this time and effort is counter-productive in the extreme. All the men and ammunition we’re using on one another that we could be using at the Wraith instead,” he goes on, gesturing with his hands in a way he hadn’t since they’d first been captured and brought here.
“And yet again, Doctor, I must remind you which of our peoples it was who began this…”
Round and round in circles, and John is getting a sinking feeling in his stomach about the way this was going to go. It was too late now, though, because he’d already shown Kolya precisely what he needed to know, the first time he’d unceremoniously back-handed the scientist; the very manner of the blow itself as painful an insult as the impact itself must have been.
“It wasn’t ours,” Rodney grits out, and John wants to laugh and cry at the futility of it all, the circularity of the debate. His trespass. His call. His lousy fault. Over and over until there was no one left to complain.
“We’ve been here before,” John says, canting his head this way and that, unable to keep it in any longer – even though Kolya slaps Rodney again, hard enough to make him cry out this time. Every time, Every time John and his big mouth and his big feet get in the way. And Rodney grits his teeth and says less each time, building the walls around himself to keep from caving in.
He’s so proud of him, for not breaking, for not speaking. But at the same time, he wishes he would, just once, so this is all over. So he can stop watching Kolya torture his friend. So he can stop needing to… talk.
The way to hurt John was through Rodney, and now, watching Kolya turn to him again, Major Sheppard was seriously beginning to wonder which one of them was going to break first.
For once, he thinks it might be him.
Summary: Whilst captured by the Genii, John and Rodney have a few questions to answer. Not all of them are Kolya's.