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 Irresistible, definately before Common Ground
Chapter 1 , Chapter 2 , Chapter 3 , Chapter 4 , Chapter 5
Chapter 6: Mind Game
The humans had lied to him. For days, all he had known was their care, and he’d had no choice but to rely on it. But there was something they’d hidden from him, and he’d had to know. They’d done this to him. Tied him down and stolen his identity. Ripped him away from his kind and made him what he was not.
And Teyla? She’d said she was his friend. She had been with him almost constantly, and was the safe face among the unfamiliar crowd. He’d let her in, trusted her, and told her everything. She’d known all along. She’d let them do this to him.
He was surrounded by the enemy, and completely at their mercy. He had to get out of here. They were doing worse than killing him. They were destroying his soul.
Michael was standing at the edge of his bed, watching him. Sheppard watched him in return, neither saying anything. They didn’t have to; they knew.
The stethoscope was cold against his chest, but at least the sight of the tanned flesh didn’t disturb him anymore. Beckett was listening to whatever doctors listen for in their patients’ chests, and Sheppard relaxed as he did so. He’d awoken this morning completely and utterly human. Well, as human as he ever was, McKay had offered.
Said commentator peaked around the privacy curtain, making sure everyone inside was dressed and not in some embarrassing position. “Ah, good, you’re awake,” he smiled, entering with two covered trays, no doubt containing breakfast. “I figured you wouldn’t mind a little company while you eat. You are eating again, aren’t you?”
Sheppard stared at McKay, nervous about the answer. He knew he should eat, and he was certainly hungry, but yesterday’s attempts were far too fresh in his mind to be eager to try. Despite his protests that he wasn’t hungry, Beckett had insisted he attempt to eat a light dinner. Toast. Not too difficult, right? The bread had tasted like ash in his mouth and he’d been quick to return it to the floor, along with some pretty green bile for good measure.
Beckett had refrained from forcing the food issue since then.
The pain in his gut never let him forget that he was hungry, but he didn’t know how to feed himself. What was and wasn’t food was a very blurry line. If he closed his eyes, he dreamed of ripping the life right out of a person’s chest. But when he opened them, he saw his friends, not food. His brain had registered the toast as food, but the instant he’d tried to ingest it, his body had rejected it. He was so confused.
“Colonel?” McKay asked, sounding concerned. He was still holding the trays.
He was human; he knew that now. He had to eat. Rubbing his hand in circles on his stomach to sooth the cramping, Sheppard conceded. “Yeah, I’ll give it a try. What do you got?”
McKay smiled and offered the top tray to Sheppard. Lifting the lid revealed a bowl of oatmeal, a banana, and a glass of milk. Sheppard closed his eyes, easily dismissing the urge to feast on something less inanimate, and took a light whiff of the oatmeal. It didn’t smell too bad – for hospital food. Taking that as a good sign, Sheppard dipped the spoon in and slowly brought it to his mouth. Not daring to look at the other two men, he took the first bite, anxious of his body’s reaction.
It tasted wonderful as it slid easily down his mouth, even warming his throat pleasantly. John sighed in relief as he put the spoon down and went to work slicing the banana and adding it to the oatmeal. He looked up to see both Beckett and McKay smiling at him. It was a rather disgusting sight from Rodney since his mouth was filled with his own serving of oatmeal. “Know where a guy can get some coffee around here?” he asked.
Carson chuckled, releasing a tension he hadn’t even realized was there. “Aye Colonel, I’ll see what I can do. Try not to eat too much, though. We don’t know exactly how much your stomach can handle just yet.”
Sheppard toasted Beckett with his milk. “I’ll keep that in mind Doc.”
“So how are you doing, really?” Rodney asked as Beckett left.
Sheppard shrugged. “Not so bad,” he grinned, “really.” McKay snorted. “I know who and what I am. It doesn’t feel like someone’s trying to stretch my skin out or bend my bones in directions they don’t go anymore. I’m good.”
He didn’t mention the hunger that was still whispering in the back of his mind. He didn’t need to; it was ignorable. The oatmeal tasted good, and the cramps were finally going away. The hunger could go to hell.
“So tell me, what’s been going on while I was… away?” Sheppard asked, stumbling over what to call this event. It wasn’t exactly imprisonment, was it?
McKay happily launched into telling Sheppard about his lab exploits. General summary: he had made some major discovery (understandable to only the geek community), the rest of his department was incompetent, Kavanaugh had made himself an insufferable pig once again, Radek was pushing him around, pretending he was equally as intelligent as the indomitable McKay… a.k.a. the usual. Sheppard was relieved to hear every last story.
He didn’t want to kill her. Knowing that he was making her afraid was satisfying, and that was good enough for his revenge. Maybe he should feed off her. That idea had a sweet symmetry to it, but he dismissed it. He wasn’t hungry just yet. He wouldn’t kill her in cold blood; he wasn’t a monster.
Teyla was angry with him. She was telling him that he was betraying Atlantis by returning to the Wraith. Ha! The irony. Why was she so convinced he owed Atlantis anything? They’d all but destroyed him in their need to play God. The day the Wraith finally crushed that horrid city would be holiday for all time. Nothing good ever came from Atlantis.
Listening to her pleading with him tore something deep inside him. He just wanted to go home, but in order to do so, he had to endanger her life. She was a good person, or so he’d thought. He still couldn’t find it within himself to hate her. She’d betrayed him… but she’d still shown him more kindness than any of the other humans.
Had she been a Wraith, he could have loved her….
Sheppard looked up from War and Peace to see Teyla approaching his bed. In a reflex action he couldn’t explain, he felt his mind reaching out for hers. He touched it, but it had no more substance than steam. He was surprised to realize he missed it. “Hi Teyla,” he said aloud instead.
If Teyla had felt the ghost of his fingers on her mind, she did not mention it. Instead she asked the dreaded question, “How are you feeling?”
Sheppard rolled his eyes, but kept a firm control on his temper. “I’m fine. I just can’t wait to get out of the infirmary.” He’d been cooped up for another day since he’d first woken up. Beckett wanted to run his tests ‘just to be sure everything was normal’ again. The sad part was even with his confinement, he was still only up to page thirty-four.
“Did not Dr. Beckett say you would be free to leave in the morning?” Teyla asked.
“Yeah, yeah…” Sheppard mumbled. Teyla chuckled, and Sheppard watched her laugh. Had Michael enjoyed that laugh as much as he did? He thought about how much Teyla had been there for him when everyone else had been willing to let him rot in that cell. That kind of loyalty… he didn’t deserve her. Figuring he should tell her thanks or something, he tried, “Look, Teyla… this whole Wraith thing…”
Teyla seemed amused by Sheppard’s inability to articulate, but at least she wasn’t filling in his sentences this time. “I just wanted to say, well, thank you,” he managed, desperately trying not to stumble too badly. God this was embarrassing. He knew he’d failed to convey just how grateful he was, but words had always failed him, and he could no longer just project the feeling into her mind.
Teyla just nodded, looking at her lap. “You’re welcome, John.” She shrugged it off as if it was nothing, but Sheppard couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by her faith in him. She’d shown no fear of him when everyone else thought he was a Wraith! Maybe her ability to feel his mind had helped her to understand his plight. He’d really have to reconsider this telepathy thing.
“If I may ask, Colonel,” Teyla began warily, looking at John for permission to continue, “How did they treat you aboard the hive-ship?” She was curious to know if they’d treated him like a human, or spat on him as Michael had told her the Wraith on his ship had done to him upon his return.
Sheppard’s eyes grew distant as he tried to explain it to her. “They treated me like another Wraith. I trained with them, played strategy games with them.” I hunted with them he refused to say aloud. That was a shame he was taking to his grave. “But it was rigged, Teyla. All the Wraith knew what was going on, what I was. It wasn’t real.”
Teyla nodded, accepting Sheppard’s testimony as truth. Taking a deep breath, she asked the question she fear most. “Did you feed? Did…”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he cut in abruptly, his good mood over. Teyla nodded, correctly interpreting his anger. He’d fed, and he was ashamed. He really had been one of them.
Saying a polite farewell, Teyla left, leaving Sheppard staring at her retreating back.
We’re going to need to order more punching bags the next time the Daedalus comes though here, Sheppard thought as Ronon continued to knock the crap out of the gym’s current one. The runner’s face was set in rage as he continued clobbering the bag like it was the cause of all his troubles.
“Hey big guy,” Sheppard called out as Ronon stopped for a breath. Ronon turned around, leaning his back against the wall while watching Sheppard. “Did that bag insult you?” he asked, trying for levity.
Ronon grunted, taking a big gulp from his water bottle. Sheppard frowned at his closed body language. Sure Ronon never said much, but usually his grunts weren’t quite so hostile. In the two days he’d been stuck in the infirmary, Ronon hadn’t come to visit him. Sheppard refused to feel hurt by it, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t seek the Satedan out on his own.
Except that Ronon was gathering his things, clearly preparing to leave the gym. Sheppard tried to keep pace beside him, but Ronon’s longer legs carried him farther, and he made no move to slow down for John.
“Ronon, hey, wait up,” Sheppard called as Ronon started getting ridiculously far ahead of him.
Ronon turned around and pinned John with a heated glare that he’d never been subject to. “Stay away from me,” he warned.
Sheppard blinked in surprise. “What?”
“Teyla told me what you did. You fed, Sheppard. You were one of them. Just stay away from me, or I’ll kill you.” Ronon warned.
“Ronon, it was all just a mind game, meant to mess us up,” Sheppard said incredulously. “Do you think for a second I enjoy remembering what I did?”
Ronon just continued to glare at him for a moment, before loping away.
Carson fingered the plastic surrounding the turkey sandwich, trying to decide if the turkey or roast beef were more edible. He missed his mother’s cooking, pure and simple. Settling on the roast beef, he continued to the end of the cafeteria line, grabbing an apple along the way. Glancing around for a familiar face among those seated at the tables, he frowned to see Colonel Sheppard sitting alone at a corner table with his head in his hands. Concerned, Carson made his way over.
“Colonel Sheppard?” he asked. Sheppard’s head lifted from his hands, revealing bloodshot eyes. Beckett quickly sat down opposite the man. “Are you all right?” he asked.
Sheppard looked at him, lost. “Do you think I’m a monster Carson?”
Baffled, Carson shook his head without hesitation. “You’re the last person I would think that of, son. Where’d you go and get an idea like that?” he demanded.
Sheppard shrugged. “When I was on the hive-ship… I did terrible things. I’ve seen some pretty bad shit in my day, but nothing compares to this. I… fed. I fed off living humans who begged me not to. I flew a dart during the cullings. I helped feed the other Wraith, not just myself. And what’s worse, I enjoyed it.”
“Colonel,” Beckett interrupted, trying to swallow his own misery, “it wasn’t your fault. Michael turned you into a Wraith. You were acting as a Wraith should. Think about it. You’re a strong warrior. As a human, you fight the Wraith, and often enough you win. As a Wraith, you fought humans. It’s only natural. You did what you had to to survive. You’re not a monster.”
Sheppard looked unconvinced. His mind reached out to Beckett’s, but was unable to even feel his presence. He pulled away from the lingering Wraith instinct, looking forward to the day he would be free from this last reminder. His face returned to hiding in his hands. The doctor in Beckett couldn’t help but notice his untouched turkey sandwich.
“I owe you an apology Colonel,” Beckett continued. “This whole mess happened because of my formula. When Michael interrogated me on that planet… I told him everything I knew about it. I couldn’t help myself. I’m sorry. I wish I’d never created the damn thing.”
Sheppard lifted his head up so that it still rested on his hands, but his face was free. He stared at Beckett for a moment before sighing. “It’s not your fault Beckett. This is a war; bad things happen. We just have to live with them. You’ve given us the best weapon we’ve got against the Wraith. I wouldn’t trade that for a whole Daedalus load of P-90s.”
“It wasn’t your fault either Colonel,” Beckett said again. Neither of them seemed to believe the other, but both needed to hear the forgiving words. “What a pair we make.”
No, please, don’t. She was crying, terrified, and about to die. His hand fit against her chest like it belonged nowhere else, and the sweet life filled him as he tore through her. This was why he lived. The hunger eased, but never disappeared, as the human crumpled beneath him.
“I want more,” he told Michael. The other Wraith just grunted with impatience. He always wanted more. How many humans would it take before this need would leave him in peace?
He watched himself leave the room, but in his dream he remained with Michael. The other Wraith left through a different door once Sheppard was gone, and entered a long hallway where dozens of Wraith were feeding on the herd they had just culled. Shoving one Wraith away from its prey, Michael took its place, taking the human’s life force before another Wraith could. There were never enough humans to feed them all.
Michael fed again and again over the next few days from the cocooned humans, despite telling Sheppard that there was no feeding in between cullings. What Michael had meant was there was no feeding for the weaker Wraith. Only the strong survived amongst them. Sheppard had been left to curl up in pain from hunger as Michael feasted behind his back.
“It was not always so,” Michael told him. The two watched the dream versions of themselves moving around the hive-ship. “Once, there was enough food and we could all feed. Now there’s not enough for any of us. We’re always hungry, Sheppard. Can you truly blame us for the steps we must take? You only experienced the hunger for a few days. Imagine suffering it for hundreds of years. It’s torture beyond your comprehension.”
“So take the drug, be human,” Sheppard argued, “then none of you will have to go hungry ever again.”
Michael shook his head. “Would you wish to be a Wraith again, even if there were enough food? Now that you know what you are, could you ever give it up? Even as a Wraith, you knew something was not right. No, it’s no way to spend a life. And a very short life at that.”
“Is this real?” Sheppard asked. “I’m not a Wraith anymore. I can’t communicate this way.”
The image of Michael faded away, along with the rest of the hive-ship. He blinked, and he was in the infirmary, watching Teyla awkwardly retreat from him. He blinked again and he was in the hallways of Atlantis, watching Ronon walk away from him, rage and disgust painting his face.
“I am not a monster,” Sheppard whispered in the empty corridor. “You hear me? I’m not a monster!” His voice echoed around him, condemning him a liar.