There's a handcuff still dangling from Rodney's wrist. I grab the key from Lorne's hand and release it then toss the key back to him.
Rodney rubs at his wrists and offers me a grateful smile.
"You okay, buddy?" I ask and he nods but I can see the fear in his eyes still, the fear that tells me he thought we wouldn't get there in time.
There's a cut above his left eye, dripping blood down his face and I grab a tissue out of my pocket and dab at it, apologizing when he winces and jerks away.
"They killed Matthews," he whispers harshly.
I try not to look at the blanket-covered corpse on the floor but find my eyes drawn to it anyway. "I know. Nothing you could have done."
He nods at that then coughs and grabs his ribs.
"Hey, let me see." I pull up his shirt and frown at the bruises peppering his skin.
"Boots," he says succinctly as he tugs his shirt out of my hand and back down.
"Yeah, I can see that." Anger flares within me and I wish I could shoot the bastards who did this again. Instead I tamp the fury down and put an arm around his waist and lead him out of the cell that's been his home for the past week.
A week later the bruises are just yellow reminders of the pain Rodney suffered and I plant a gentle kiss on each and every one as we lie in bed. He's refused to talk much about what happened on that planet apart from the dry, unemotional report he tendered once he was out of the infirmary and I've tried to honor that, wanting nothing more than to get things back to the way they were as quickly as possible.
"You're a softy," Rodney says but he cards his fingers through my hair and pulls me closer to him when I start to move away.
"You're the only one who knows it," I say, mimicking locking my lips with a key.
"Of course I am," he replies. "You should get an Academy Award for acting the big, tough Colonel."
"Yeah, I should." I prop myself up next to him then lean in to kiss him, glad beyond measure that he's here, warm and alive in our bed. I should feel guilty for being glad it wasn't Rodney we brought home in a body bag but I can't, though I'd give almost anything to have gotten there in time to save Matthews too. "Hey, I'll have you know I played in Cinderella in grade school," I tell him, wanting to distract myself from the memories of that mission, wanting to just forget and pretend it had never happened.
"Riiiight," he drawls. "You were the one in the lead part wearing a pink tutu, weren't you?"
"I was one of the Ugly Sisters," I admit ruefully. "No pink tutu for me."
He snorts out a laugh at that then pulls me down for a deep down and dirty kiss. "Hand me those tarts you got me from the mess hall and then you can re-enact your role for me." He waggles his eyebrows. "I'll be Prince Charming, of course."
"Who else would you be?" I reply, reaching behind me to grab the plate off the bedside table and handing it to him.
"Good point," he says. "Hey, these aren't the lemon spread ones, are they?" he asks, holding a pastry aloft. "You know I'm fatally-"
"Allergic to citrus. Yes, Rodney, I know. These are the pineapple ones." I plant a kiss on the end of his nose. "No way would I risk lemon. Don't want to kill you now I've just got you back."
He's silent for a long time. Suddenly he hands the untouched plate back to me and sits up on the edge of the bed. "Matthews was a good man."
"Yes, he was." I climb up behind him, on my knees, and wrap my arms around his shoulders, pulling him close against me.
"I'm sorry." His voice is husky and I can feel his tears dripping wetly onto my hands. "I just- Can we not pretend it didn't happen?" he asks. "It doesn't seem right somehow."
"What do you want to do, Rodney?" I press a kiss against his neck and he turns his head enough to claim my mouth in a gentle caress.
"Can I tell you what happened?"
I pull him back onto the bed with me and hold him in my arms and listen, just listen.