It takes a full ten minutes to reach the bottom of the shaft. Ten minutes alone in a steel coated, lead-lined box. By time he was half way down John was reaching out mentally to find someone, anyone, a single string of emotion. By the bottom John was shaking with the need to connect. He felt like a drug addict in withdrawal.

Christ the people who designed this place didn’t have auto-empaths in mind, this is torturous.

Seconds before the doors opened John’s mind slipped back in time: A young man, a teenager really, is in a box filled with salt water. The water is cold and deep, every second breath was taken half under water. He can’t hear anything, except for his own breath but even that is dulled like the walls of the box are absorbing it. Every time he breathes the air gets thicker, heavier. His head is throbbing and with every throb, pulse, beat, stab of pain he reaches out. It’s like his mind is scrabbling against the walls of the box, clawing until the edges of his mind are bloody and raw. His air is getting thicker and his head is spinning. The salt is making his eyes sting. The water is filling his mouth, he has to pant through his nose. His legs ache so much that he can’t push himself up and out of the water. Time is meaningless he knows that it’s been more than  10 minuets but beyond that he doesn’t know it could have been hours. His head drops fully below the water and he tries to fling himself up. His body protests but he rises slightly coughing. Gasping a breath. His mind shoves against the walls and the boy screams. His head is under the water and he can’t push up any more. Water fills his lungs as the scream ends his mind falters and goes quiet and he finally sinks through the water.

John jerks, head slamming in to the wall behind him. He breathes heavily leaning against the wall as the bell dings and the doors start to open. Head spinning slightly and shakes abating, John steps out and feels McKay’s mind seconds before the man’s voice fills the air. He closes his eyes, breathes deep and Reaches.