Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate Atlantis, etc.
Summary: Feeling angry and betrayed by the Atlanteans, Michael exacts justice in the most poetic way possible: by turning Sheppard into a Wraith, as he was turned into a human.
Genres: Action-Adventure, Angst, Character Study, Drama, Team
Spoilers: Up to Irristible, definately before Common Ground
Chapter 1 , Chapter 2 , Chapter 3 , Chapter 4
Chapter 5: Reclaiming a Life
Why did the guards always look at him so strangely? As Sheppard studied the uniformed men who were casually, but alertly, holding their P-90s, he wondered at their attitude. It didn’t matter which two guards were in the room, and indeed he rarely saw the same face twice; they all wore the same expression. Confusion and anger were prominent, mixed with distrust and worry. Harder to see, probably because the men were unaware of it themselves, were the pity and fleeting vestiges of hope. The first group of emotions he could understand. They were guarding a prisoner – how else were they supposed to feel? (Although why he was a prisoner was still in question.) But the nagging feelings that had led him here were growing rapidly inside him, causing him to associate more with the less violent responses from his men.
Sheppard caught himself mid-thought. He’d thought of them as ‘his men.’ A memory of standing before a room filled with men such as the ones guarding him, instructing them, ordering them, and receiving their respect hit him. He studied the memory in awe, taking in the relaxed ease with which he issued his commands. It wasn’t the threat of brute force the Wraith used to keep each other in line, but seemed to be based off a system of respect… and trust. At some point, these humans had trusted him. He was surprised at how good that made him feel, how at home, and how much he missed having it.
Sitting alone in a dark cell with nothing to do left him way too much time to think unhealthy thoughts.
The doors opened with a swish, and Sheppard looked up as a man and a woman rushed into the room, looking oddly hurried and wary at the same time. It was the most activity he’d seen since his arrival. Yeah… he was bored.
“Sheppard,” the woman addressed him. She was the first to do so by name since he’d arrived, with the exception of Teyla. Either they were finally starting to believe him, or she wanted something. Had she been Wraith, Sheppard had no doubt which one it would be, but humans tended to be full of surprises. “Do you remember me?”
Sheppard studied her carefully, not appreciating the way she held herself as though afraid he’d go on a rampage at any moment. He’d prided himself on self-control his whole life; he wouldn’t lose it now.
Wow, where had that thought come from? He continued to remain silent, disturbed by the reactions he was having to everything. What did she expect him to say anyway? No, but I know I belong here, so let me out of this damn cell and do my job! Somehow, he didn’t think that would fly. What was his job anyway? Ordering military men around… okay, so a general of some kind?
Lt. Colonel John Sheppard of the United States Air Force, spoke a voice in his head that sounded just like his own. Well, maybe a little different in tone, more like a human’s voice; but it definitely had an attitude that screamed him. For the first time he felt the coolness of the dog tags around his neck, reminding him of who he was. He could feel the presence of Lt. Colonel John Sheppard settling in behind his eyes, watching.
Taking his silence as a refusal to answer, the woman pushed on. “I’m Dr. Weir,” she introduced herself. “This is Dr. McKay,” she pointed to the man standing next to her. Sheppard remembered him from the planet. He had listened to him on the planet and was now staring at him like his next great science project. This man liked to figure things out, and was now trying to figure him out. Great, because someone needs to.
“Is everybody a doctor here?” Sheppard quipped. It was a useless comment, but something about this McKay just demanded he say it. The guards were obviously not doctors, and the belated introductions had annoyed him. When was she going to let him out of this cage?! He had to figure out what was happening to him, and he couldn’t do it locked up.
“Actually only about half of us can claim that honor,” McKay informed him. “The rest are your grunts.” Sheppard ignored the resentment he felt on behalf of his men. It felt so natural to ignore this man’s casual comments. Sheppard sensed he’d had a lot of practice with that.
“What do you say we get you out of this cell,” Dr. Weir offered the words he’d been waiting to hear. Dr. Weir continued talking, unaware that she’d lost Sheppard’s attention as a different memory of this woman drifted before him.
‘Dr. Weir is dead,’ said a cold voice in his ear. Suddenly the cold rain plastering his hair to his head stopped registering as rage consumed every sense he had available. She was dead, and he’d failed her. He would make that scum pay! Any last hope Kolya’d had of taking Atlantis vanished as Sheppard vowed to see the man dead in a very slow, painful fashion. He gripped his P-90 tightly, relishing the use it was about to be put to With an eagerness that surprised him, he shot the men who were hunting him through the base, eliminating the threat to his home while simultaneously reaping his revenge.
“If you will accompany Dr. Beckett to the infirmary, I think you’ll find it more comfortable there.” Dr. Weir concluded, her last words recapturing Sheppard’s attention.
He felt a sense of inexplicable dread at the mention of the infirmary. He didn’t think he wanted to go there with these people, being there meant he was hurt, but even so, anywhere had to be better than this cell. “Why now?” he asked. What had changed that they were willing to give him more freedom?
Weir smiled tightly. “We know who you are now, John. We had to be sure first; you understand.” Sheppard looked down at his arms, remembering them turning grey and shriveled, trying to hide them from her sight as he approached her in her office. His body may have been mutated by some virus, but even so, they’d been coursing with power that she had refused to let him use, even to save his own life. And she’d expected him to understand.
But she had let him go in the end. And Beckett had done… something to him. His arms had stopped being grey like a sickly Wraith’s. Beckett had made them pinkish again, like a human’s. He’d had human arms, and been overcome with relief to have them back.
Sheppard felt the blood retreat from his brain as his mind whirled. His chest froze, but his mouth worked overtime, breathing in air too quickly and expelling it before it could reach his lungs. He heard someone cry out as he dropped to his knees, losing all connection to his body. It couldn’t be true… it wasn’t possible…. He could barely form a complete thought, let alone wrap his brain around the horrifying concept.
He was, or had been, human.
NO! It wasn’t… he wasn’t…. He shook his head in denial, closing his eyes and shutting out the world, but it wouldn’t go away. “Colonel Sheppard!” someone was calling him, but he wanted nothing to do with it. He wasn’t human. He wasn’t. He was a Wraith. His name was Sheppard and he was a Wraith.
He vaguely felt Teyla’s warm mental presence trying to comfort him, more than aware of his distress, but he lacked the power to acknowledge it. Instead, he repeated his denial like a mantra, desperately trying to hold his reality together. He was unaware of the cold sweat covering his skin, or the gentle prick in his arm, but he was more than welcoming of the oblivion that soon reached out to him.
“When’s he going to wake up?” Rodney asked, staring at the shaking form on the bed. Normally infirmary patients look young and peaceful when they were asleep. Sheppard just looked haggard and in pain. It was not the way McKay expected to be reunited with his friend.
Beckett sighed, rubbing his forehead. “I’m keeping him sedated while he undergoes the majority of the reversal. It’s got to be confusing enough for him; I think this is kindest.” For all of us, he silently thought. Calming a hysterical half-Wraith Sheppard was not a task he cared to undertake. Maybe he was just taking the coward’s way out by keeping Sheppard asleep.
“If it’s making it easier for him, then why’s he shaking so much?” McKay demanded. Since Sheppard had gone into a screaming fit in the cell, his body hadn’t stopped shaking. The infirmary bed was rattling under the stress of his trembling. McKay had an inkling that if Sheppard weren’t sedated, he’d be all out thrashing.
“He’s in pain, both physically and mentally, and his body’s reacting,” Beckett supplied, taking the Colonel’s temperature for what must have been the third time in the past ten minutes. Despite Sheppard’s obvious distress, Carson needed to reassure himself that he was really all right, and under his care. He owed the Colonel a lot for this fiasco, and he always payed his debts.
McKay grunted, but left Beckett alone. Cautiously he set his arm against the Colonel’s, feeling the quivering ease under his touch. Rodney smiled. It felt nice to be able to offer his friend some comfort while he was out of it. The two men sat vigil, watching the slow changes in Sheppard’s palor, feeling one step closer to regaining their friend with each human feature that emerged.
He heard his own breathing resounding in his ears, strong and steady. The deep breaths brought with them an antiseptic flavor that stung his nose, but cleared his nasal passages right up. Without opening his eyes, he knew he was in the infirmary.
He knew this, because he’d been here many times before. On Atlantis. It was where he normally expected to wake up after a mission, rather than in that cell. If only it had been a dream.
John Sheppard swallowed convulsively, forcing the muscles in his arms to relax, releasing the crisp sheets he was only just starting to clench. He was all right; he was safe. Beckett wouldn’t let anything happen to him in the infirmary of all places. John focused his attention on his breathing, counting to three as he breathed in, then released. He would not lose control over himself and need to be sedated again.
Slowly opening his eyes, he blinked at the familiar white ceiling and its pastel green border. Grit was caked lightly around his eyes, and his lips were parched, so he’d obviously been out for a while. All his muscles ached as if he’d been lifting something twice his own weight. Even his bones felt like they were on fire. Over all though, he just felt funny. Wrong. He felt like he was in someone else’s body.
His hands started rubbing up and down his arms, creating a soothing friction. The motion started as a gentle pressure meant just to ground himself, but it was rapidly turning into nails dragging along skin hard enough to draw blood. Feeling the slickness, John looked down at his arms, and felt his breath catch in his throat.
It was one thing to remember that he’d been human… it was quite another to see the evidence right before his eyes. Both the Wraith and human part of him knew that what he was looking at was just unnatural, and both were equally horrified by the sight of his arm. Long rivets of red smeared by his still scratching nails covered a peachy arm mottled with blue bubbly patches.
A distant memory of the mark Elia had left on his arm surfaced, making him want to just tear the arm off. Why was this happening to him again? The arm was still obviously Wraith in structure, but that was human blood bleeding over human skin he was seeing.
“Sheppard?” A voice tentatively interrupted his very narrow universe.
Slowly, Sheppard lifted his head from the horror of his body, seeing Beckett watching him from the foot of the bed. “Beckett,” he rasped, holding up his arm for the man to see. “What’s wrong with me?”
Carson surged forward at the sight of the bloodied arm, tutting, “What have you done to yourself this time, Colonel?” He disappeared briefly to fetch a washcloth and some bandages. Sheppard incredulously found himself almost smiling at the familiar unguarded tone from the Scot. It felt so good to be addressed normally.
“I’m human,” John offered dumbly when Beckett returned. In his head they’d just been words, but saying them aloud made the truth of them inescapable. John bit back hysterical laughter, trying desperately to stay calm.
“Aye,” Beckett agreed, placing the roll of bandages on the table next to the bed. He pulled up a stool and seated himself next to Sheppard as he began to clean away the blood. Sensing Sheppard’s growing panic, he continued to talk as soothingly as possible. “You’ve been in the infirmary for about a day, maybe a little less. I thought it best to let you sleep through most of the transformation. I imagine the in between stages would be the most confusing for ya.”
Sheppard settled under Beckett’s compassionate care, feeling his mind drift as his arms were wrapped. It felt odd escaping the I.V.s he always seemed to wake up with. None-the-less, he was relieved when the wretched site was gone. Maybe he should ask Beckett to wrap his hands as well so he wouldn’t have to deal with their misshapenness as well. Once again, he was a freak.
“Do you remember who you are, son?” Beckett asked.
“Lt. Colonel John Sheppard, United States Air Force,” he answered automatically. Even he didn’t know how much he truly remembered. He found himself answered both Beckett and his own mind at the same time. “I remember you and Atlantis.” Feeling a more thorough answer was needed, he added, “I’m basically remembering things as they come up. It all seems like too much to try and remember my whole life story all at once.”
“Where were you stationed before you joined the Atlantis Expedition?” Beckett quizzed, testing the limits of John’s memory.
Sheppard frowned as he remembered the vast empty coldness of perpetual ice. Right along side that was an equally raw memory of another vast emptiness of heat and sand. Two extremely different lands, but both where no one in their right mind wanted to be. “Antarctica and Afghanistan. I remember Earth.”
He remembered his hands covered in blood and desperately trying to keep a grip on the controls of the helicopter. The children in the back who he was supposed to be bringing to medical attention was echoing in his ears as he mentally resigned himself to the fact that they were going to crash. He had to do what he could to make sure as many survived it as possible. Mitch and Dex were in the back with the kids… they’d do their part to keep them safe. The screaming got louder until suddenly there was none, just the shock of impact as the last blade separated from the propeller and crashed into the windshield.
“Son?” Carson shook Sheppard’s shoulder, jarring the man out of whatever unpleasant memory had taken him. The Colonel jerked out of his reverie, staring at Carson uncomprehendingly. “Easy, it’s alright,” Beckett soothed, patting his shoulder. Sheppard’s breathing slowed, and Beckett offered him a glass of water.
Sheppard stared at the cup like it was an alien artifact before bringing it to his lips and taking his first drink since he’d become a Wraith. The water felt strange sliding down his throat, and he realized he’d forgotten how to swallow. He choked, feeling the water hovering in his throat, caught between descending down his esophagus and the back of his mouth.
“Colonel?” Beckett noticed his distress and clapped him soundly on the shoudler, causing the water to choose a direction. It dribbled out of his mouth in an embarrasing stream, leaving him panting for air. Some water had gotten down his throat, assuaging a burn he hadn’t even realized was there.
After the coughing fit passed he cautiously took another, smaller sip. Beckett reached out a hand to his thoat, rubbing it as he drank again, reminding his muscles of the actions they needed to take. Closing his eyes in relief that he hadn’t choked that time, Sheppard managed to finish off the cup without Beckett’s assistance. When he was done, he nodded his thanks while carefully studying his lap.
“It’s all right Colonel,” Beckett tried to reassure the man. “That was your first drink in a while, wasn’t it?” Sheppard nodded as color rose to his cheeks, still not looking at Beckett.
The silence lingered for a moment before Beckett tried steering Sheppard’s wandering mind in a more pleasant direction. “Do you remember what you like to do on the mainland on your days off?” he returned to his quizzing, allowing himself a friendly smile.
Sheppard grinned as he imagined the wind spraying water onto his face, replacing the feel of sand baked into his skin, as he’d lain for hours in the hot sun waiting for a rescue that had never come. “Surf.”
Beckett chuckled as he sat with Sheppard for over an hour, reminding Sheppard of his life on Atlantis, and doing his best to avoid what was clearly an unhappy before.