Feedback: Please.

Acknowledgements: Kat, as always.

Note: written for sga_flashfic's Darkness challenge.

It was dark, oily, smelling of too much fear, of engine grease that couldn’t be here, of decay and screaming, burnt metal in the no longer filtered air, so strong that she could feel it on her tongue.

In nightmares as a child she had been in places like this: Trapped, shivering, the monsters outside the door, waiting, lingering, but ultimately - though toying with her fears first - coming.

Explosions, shooting, bodies falling, screams, inhuman screams of agony. Just outside her office door.

She was breathing hard, fighting against the fear that made her scalp prickle and her mouth dry and her body immobile. She had lectured on fear – a human response, asking for either fight or flight. But how was she to fight? The gun strapped to her thigh was biting her flesh but was ultimately not even powerful enough to slow them down.

Closer now. There’s scratching behind the door.

Flight – but where to? Her office wasn’t cramped but had only one way out - if she didn’t count the sickening plummet a hundred or more feet down into the ocean outside the window. When she had picked this office, she had been thinking of her patients, of the positive influence an unhindered view of the sun could have. From here, the spires of Atlantis weren’t visible; there was nothing to see but a broad expanse of darkening water, stretching toward the horizon and further.

Heavy, harsh breathing. A punch making the door rattle. But it’s holding. Still holding.

It wasn’t visible now – no horizon, and the water only when it was illuminated by the explosion of another Dart or a salvo of the weapons Colonel Everett had brought from Earth.

She had been deathly afraid of the dark as a child. Time and knowledge had eased that fear, if only rationalising it, not fighting it entirely. It was one of the reasons she had become a psychiatrist. Rationalising other people’s fears and helping them with their problems had been a sensible way to treat herself.

Angry snarling. The Wraith can smell its prey, just out of reach. Just behind this door.

There were therapies. Strategies against fear. She knew the physical responses, knew the chemicals emitted by the body, knew ways to work with it and against it and had helped many people fight phobias and traumata.

Yet here she was, staring at the small flashlight in her hands, her knuckles white from clenching it unconsciously, shaking uncontrollably.

Something crashes against the door, but Atlantis still protects her, gives its last dying breath to keep its inhabitants safe. The Wraith's snarling is furious now.

The attack had started hours ago and she had been trapped in her office, her radio not working after the city’s primary systems had failed. No way out. No way to call for help. The monsters outside the door, killing as they made their way to her. Unstoppable, inevitable. She knew what waited for her but wasn’t brave enough to make the decision Gaull had made.

She had rationalised Gaull's decision to McKay back then when he had come seeking her council.

Snarling and breathing and banging and taunting. It can smell her fear.

Rationalised it, like so many other things. Made him see the other side, fighting her way through the thicket of defense mechanisms that made McKay who he was. Fears. So many fears. She hoped she had helped him with a few of them. Him, at least, if not herself.

Another angry crash against the door and she can hear Atlantis failing, can see the door opening a tiny slit. Can smell. Can hear much clearer.

The flashlight began to flicker. She backed up against the window, as far away from the door as possible. Inevitable. Defeat was inevitable. Her fears came true.

As a child, she had always known she would die in the dark. As an adult, she had dismissed it as typical childhood fears. The child in her twirled a long blonde curl around her index finger and said, in a sing-song voice: I told you so.

The flashlight flickered a final time and went out.

The door opens a fraction more. She can almost feel the Wraith’s breath on her skin, can feel its hunger.

Fight or flight. She looked to the window, illuminated in a sudden violent burst of missiles and shots, colouring the sea below in the vibrant shades of the rainbow. It was beautiful, in its own way.

She raised the gun.

The door opens, Atlantis finally failing. She can feel the city’s remorse.

The shot was loud enough to drown the Wraith’s breathing momentarily.

It’s behind her now, stalking, exuding an almost arrogant calm now its prey is in reach and has nowhere to go.

Two more steps. Glass all around her, the noise of the battle outside washing over her office and deafening her.

It steps further, a hand reaching for her.

One step up. Onto the window ledge. Wind was greeting her, bringing not the fresh sea-air she was used to but the stench of burnt metal, propulsion fumes and death. The city below her was burning, a painfully beautiful sight in the oppressive darkness that was no longer dark.

What was there to fear? She wouldn’t die in the dark. There was light down there.

She feels the cold hand touching her arm and lunges forward, out of its reach into the darkness that is no longer dark. Opens her eyes in freefall and sees the light below: Warm, welcoming, soothing. Atlantis beckons.

The little girl her mind was smiling, curls flying wild in the breeze.



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