Word Count: ~45, 600
Rating: PG-13. Genish. Various m/f pairings. No sex. See Author's note.
Summary: A head injury changes Sheppard's reality.
Spoilers: SGA through 5X01, SG-1 whole series.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: Forlostcityfound We'll-always-have-Pegasus challenge. Prompt: John Sheppard/Teyla Emmagan - a balanced ending (or beginning) between Pegasus and Earth, and hope for the future? Apologies to the prompter for how Gen this is, and apologies to Gen readers for how Het this is. Feedback is delicious.
“We couldn’t have picked a path with fewer slimy rocks?” Rodney McKay snapped, barely audible over the squelching of four pairs of boots in the mud that made up the ground between said slimy rocks.
“We’re almost to the ‘Gate,” John Sheppard said, unable to answer that question since he hadn’t picked this path. Ronon had, and he hadn’t fallen once. It was all rocky swampland, soggy and sloppy with tangled vines and fallen trees of a long dead forest. Sheppard and McKay were both covered in mud, front and back. Teyla, like Ronon, was aggravatingly graceful and clean. The next time McKay wanted to investigate vague energy readings in a place like this, Sheppard was going to let him go by himself and get eaten by Swamp Thing.
“There is a steep creek bank ahead,” Teyla announced. “You may hold on to me, Rodney, if you are afraid.”
“What?” McKay said, insulted. “No. I’m not afraid. I just don’t have the balance of two circus freaks like you.”
“You can hold my hand,” Ronon invited, and even though he was behind Sheppard, he knew the man was grinning.
He heard Rodney sputter in response. But he didn’t catch the man’s actual words. Sheppard’s front foot slid off of a rock and he stumbled.
“John?” Teyla said, sharply.
Sheppard tried to find traction, but instead he found the edge of the creek Teyla had warned about. He went to step back, but his rear foot slipped and sent him lurching forward.
“Ah, shit,” Sheppard managed to say, arms pin-wheeling. He felt one of his teammates’ hands grasp at his elbow, but it was too late. Sheppard grabbed for the hand, anyway.
Then he was falling, nearly headfirst, towards the mucky, rocky surface meters and meters below. Sheppard’s arms were still up, reaching out for anything to stop his momentum. He tried to get his hands down to protect his face.
Sheppard wasn’t sure what happened next. Pain sliced through his head. He tasted blood in his mouth. His vision was suddenly full of red and white fireworks that burned intensely and turned gray.
Then there was only blackness.
Sheppard woke up with a headache. A deep, throbbing one birthed from what felt like the center of his skull. It was the only thing he could feel, the rest of his body painless but also fuzzy and distant. He was on his back on a gurney, the somewhat familiar hum of medical instruments surrounding him.
There may have been tubes and instruments hooked up to him, but it was kind of hard to tell. Sheppard couldn’t move. He also didn’t really have the energy to try, though, and couldn’t keep enough focus to be alarmed about either. It was also hard to decide if he was fully awake or dreaming this strangely gentle paralysis.
Sometimes he was fairly sure he was awake. Genuine pain slipped through, clamping down on the bones of his skull like a vice. He could feel his body, then, heavy and dull limbs that still wouldn’t move. His eyelids were also heavy and he couldn’t always tell or control whether they stayed open or drifted shut as he blinked.
People were with him. Around him, a haze of voices and movements rarely distinct enough to identify. Keller, he figured. The infirmary staff. Maybe his team.
Eventually, Sheppard managed to both keep his eyes open and his thoughts focused enough to assess his surroundings. The agony in his head receded then, replaced by total, stunning astonishment.
Sitting by his bedside, right at his elbow and close enough to touch, was Aiden Ford.
Sheppard stared, seized by shock and confusion. Followed shortly by a tangle of guilt, fear, and anger. It was too much. His vision blurred and he fell back into the milky emptiness.
When he woke up again, Ford was still there. Sitting calmly, his face startlingly relaxed. He was almost smiling. Sheppard hadn’t seen that in so long. And it was nice, in as much as it wasn’t real.
He was talking, Sheppard eventually realized. It wasn’t taunting or recriminating, threatening or accusing. It was very hard to follow, but Ford’s voice sounded friendly and upbeat.
Ford wasn’t always there, but whenever he was gone he always came back. He kept grinning at Sheppard. The first thing besides pain that Sheppard could feel breaking through the cottony blanket that seemed to be covering his entire being was the pressure of Ford’s hand, resting lightly where Sheppard’s arm lay against the edge of the bed.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Sheppard’s voice returned.
He blinked up at Ford, his mind suddenly clearer. “Hey,” he said, hearing it come out as a croak more than a word.
“You’re awake!” Ford said, smiling broadly and leaning closer.
Sheppard swallowed, tried to clear his throat. “What the hell,” he said, coughing. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Ford went away after that.
Sheppard didn’t completely follow. Ford was replaced by a woman in a white lab coat. A doctor, Sheppard belatedly realized when she tried to blind him with a penlight. It hurt. He squeezed his eyes shut, tried to violently turn his face away. That hurt even more, so much so he could hear his own voice squawk hoarsely in protest.
“You need to keep still,” the woman said, and he could feel her hands on the side of his neck. “Shhh.”
Afraid she’d stick another fucking lunar eclipse in front of his eyes, Sheppard kept his lids tightly closed.
The doctor wouldn’t let him.
“Can you open your eyes for me?” the woman asked, gentle and coaxing like he was a child. “C’mon.”
Sheppard hated being talked to like that, even if he had no idea who this lady was. So he did open his eyes – mainly to glare at her – doing it tentatively in case she decided flash bomb his retinas again.
“Okay,” she said, when he obeyed.
Sheppard squinted at her. He’d thought – maybe half hoped – that he was still muddled in the head and that when he looked at her this time, it’d be Keller. It wasn’t. This woman was brunette, first of all, and a bit older than Jennifer Keller. Her face was sharper, her skin olive. He’d never seen her before.
“How are you feeling, Colonel?” the woman asked. She put one hand out, pressed her fingers lightly against his face as she pulled down his eyelid and leaned in. Sheppard flinched, wanting to jerk away. But then her hand was gone and she extended her index finger a few inches in front of his face.
“Can you follow my finger?” she asked. “Without moving your head.”
Sheppard could. And he did, though it was actually kind of hard, and also frustrating.
“Good,” the woman said, and smiled.
Sheppard decided it was his turn to speak.
“Whass’ ere?” was what came out, so incomprehensible Sheppard wasn’t even sure what he was trying to say.
The doctor got up from her seat on a stool and vanished from his field of view. When she moved, Sheppard was able to look at his surroundings. There was an IV in his wrist, a bunch of monitors adjacent to his bedside. An oxygen canula – and another, thicker tube – was leading to his face. There was the strange weight of a catheter between his legs. He didn’t see the familiar architecture of the Atlantis infirmary. Instead, there was an earth-style medical blue curtain forming a room around him.
The woman came back with a cup of water and an emesis basin. He got to do the fairly disgusting process of swallowing or spitting, the combination of which eventually cleared his throat enough to speak.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“Okay,” Sheppard said, which was mostly a lie since his head hurt, he was really confused, and he had no fucking idea what was going on.
Maybe the doctor figured it out by the way he was blinking at her, because concern suddenly creased her face. She sat back down and leaned closer to him. “Do you know where you are?”
The woman nodded. “That’s right.”
Sheppard opened his mouth to ask his own question, but the doctor interrupted with a bunch more.
He answered – correctly – his own name, the year, and the president’s name. The standard litany for head injuries, which jived with the fact that his skull felt like someone had taken a sledge hammer to it.
“Do you remember what happened?” she asked, next.
Sheppard shook his head, which was a mistake because it only made it hurt more. He winced. “I fell,” he said, and it seemed pretty inadequate.
“You fractured your skull,” she corrected, and he grimaced. “You’ve been in a minimally conscious state for almost two months.”
“Minimally…” Sheppard echoed, stumbling over the syllables. “That doesn’t sound good.”
The Doc launched into a spiel that under normally circumstances probably wouldn’t have made a great deal of sense. Now, it was totally impossible to understand. Sheppard caught words – bad, scary words – about brain trauma, bleeding, swelling, and surgery.
He raised the hand free of IV-leads and lightly touched his head. He felt gauze and bandages, the stubble of shaved follicles.
The woman was still talking, though Sheppard wasn’t paying attention. He’d gotten the gist.
“Ow,” he said, when she finally stopped.
She kind of smiled, put a hand on his shoulder. “Yeah,” she said. “It’s good to have you back with us.”
Sheppard took another drink from the water she’d brought him. He took a deep sip, swallowed. His arms felt kind of rubbery and weak, and the doctor moved as if to guide his hand, but he could do it by himself. He let her take the cup when it was empty.
“Okay,” he said, and paused. “Um, who are you?”
The doctor looked startled, her head tilting to the side. “You don’t remember my name?” she said, sounding alarmed.
“No,” Sheppard said. He looked her in the eyes. “I don’t think we’ve met before.”
The woman’s eyes were getting a little big, her face sharpening.
“When I was conscious,” he amended.
The alarmed expression stayed. “My name is Dr. Carolyn Lam,” she said, in that falsely calm tone that all doctors used when they were trying not to scare their patients.
“Nice to meet you,” Sheppard said.
“I’ve been your doctor for several years,” Lam said, then, her voice honest and frightened. “We’ve met.”
What happened next was a blur. Lam mostly unhooked him from all the tubing. He only kept the IV and the oxygen, for reasons he didn’t quite understand. The catheter came out – fun – the thing in his nose – it burned like hell – came out, too.
Lam made him sit up, cranking the gurney so he didn’t have a choice. This made strange, unpleasant pressures form in his head, made him clutch at his forehead.
She did a bunch of neurological tests. Ones which were vaguely familiar, since unfortunately head injuries were also kind of familiar. He thought he passed them. It was hard to tell and he was feeling very sleepy.
They put him in a wheelchair without asking. Sheppard wasn’t sure if he could have walked. His whole body felt rubbery and strange, his movements clumsy and uncoordinated. Scarier, his thinking wasn’t much better.
Two large male nurses or orderlies lifted him out of the chair and into a big round medical machine.
“Brain scan,” Lam said, her voice cool and distant, filling Sheppard was instant, biting anxiety.
He almost fell asleep inside it. The interior was dim, and quiet until it activated. He could hear Lam’s voice, though, and she kept him awake by continuous questions. Simple stuff like his name, again.
It seemed like forever, but finally the machine powered off and the two orderlies extracted him and put him back in the wheelchair.
“How are you feeling?” Lam asked, taking him back to his infirmary room.
“My head hurts,” Sheppard said, honestly. “And I really don’t know who you are.”
Lam frowned. “You might be experiencing some minor memory loss,” she said. “That wouldn’t be unusual after severe head trauma.”
That wasn’t comforting at all. Sheppard let the orderlies transfer him back to the gurney and unfold his arms and legs to where they belonged.
“Why am I here?” he asked.
Lam’s eyes got bigger. “You had a head injury,” she began, tone irritatingly patronizing.
“No,” Sheppard said. “Why am I on Earth?”
The doctor sank to a seat on the stool at his bedside, reattaching his pulse ox and other monitors.
“Where else would you be?” she asked, more genuinely.
Sheppard turned his head away, tried to avoid the oxygen canula Lam was aiming at his face. His efforts were pointless, and resisting made his head hurt.
“Atlantis,” he said, when she retracted her hand.
Lam didn’t say anything. Her face was sharp with concern.
“What is it?” Sheppard asked.
“Can you tell me what year you think it is?” Lam replied.
“I already did,” Sheppard said. “Was I wrong?”
“No, you were correct.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” Sheppard accused. “Why aren’t I on Atlantis?”
“The Atlantis mission ended four years ago,” Lam said.
It got crazy after that.
Sheppard demanded to know what the hell she was talking about. Lam looked at him way too calmly and reiterated ‘minor memory loss’ like that made everything okay.
“The Atlantis mission is ongoing,” he snarled.
His heart rate must have spiked, because the machine at his bedside suddenly started making noise.
“Calm down,” Lam said.
“No! Tell me what’s going on!”
Lam was looking at the EKG machine with concern. “Sir,” she said. “You need to calm down.”
The curtain blocking off Sheppard’s room rustled. Both he and Lam looked up. Ford was standing in the opening.
“Just a second, Lieutenant,” Lam said.
“Maybe I can help,” Ford said, staying where he was.
On the gurney, Sheppard froze. He stared at Ford, emotions churning in his chest.
“You can see him,” he said to Lam, barely a question. The machine at his bedside continued to beep alarmingly.
Lam looked very confused. “That’s your teammate, Colonel,” she said, gently. To Ford, “Maybe you should go. He’s agitated.”
Replicators. That’s what was going on, Sheppard decided. Replicators fucking around in his brain. He shrank back on the gurney, suddenly feeling vulnerable as hell.
“This isn’t going to work,” he said to the thing pretending to be a doctor.
“What?” asked Lam. She had one hand up, palm facing Ford.
“Sir?” said Ford.
Sheppard’s eyes landed on a pair of scissors lying on the adjacent tray. One of the orderlies had snipped some tubing with them. He wished his arms didn’t feel like rubbery spaghetti; he didn’t trust his own body right now.
“I know what you are,” he said, voice low.
“What?” Lam regarded him. “I didn’t hear you.”
Sheppard focused on the scissors.
“Sir?” Lam said.
He didn’t answer. Sheppard lunged forward towards the tray. He grabbed the scissors by the handle, whirled, and aimed for Lam. The doctor gasped, tried to step away. She was too late. The scissors were open; one blade stabbed into the Lam’s lower arm. Sheppard saw a spurt of blood. Lam screamed and he was violently shoved away. Someone – Ford, maybe – was pinning him to the gurney and there were suddenly a lot more people in the room. Someone else forced his arm out and a needle pricked the inside of his elbow. The world blurred, and then melted away.
The next time Sheppard woke up, he was in four point restraints. The IV was back, in an odd position halfway up his arm since his wrist was ensconced in padded leather. He didn’t bother concealing his return to consciousness. Sheppard squirmed in place, testing the bonds. They were tight and secure; he wasn’t going anywhere. He took a deep breath, and then pointedly cleared his throat to attract attention.
Lam drifted back into his room. She had her arms crossed over her chest. He could see gauze wrapped around her arm where he’d stabbed her. There was a patch on it stained red, which didn’t mean anything.
“Colonel,” Lam said. She looked and sounded annoyed.
“Let me see it,” he ordered.
The doctor walked closer. “Excuse me?”
“The wound,” he said, jerking with his chin since he couldn’t move his hands. That made his head throb and he winced.
Lam paused, still feet away from his bedside. “What?”
“Where I stabbed you,” he said.
Total confusion filled Lam’s face. “Why?” she asked. “And why did you stab me?”
“Show me,” Sheppard insisted. “Prove you’re not a Replicator.”
Abruptly, Lam walked forward. She opened a drawer in a supply chest and produced a pair of scissors – probably not the ones he’d grabbed early. Without saying a word, she snipped open the gauze, pulled it away, and thrust her arm out for him to look at. There was a swollen and pink slice of skin against the pale flesh of her arm. It was pinched together with ugly black stitches.
“Satisfied?” Lam asked.
Sheppard wasn’t. At all. He pressed his chin against his chest, hoped it passed for a nod.
“Is that what you thought?” Lam asked. She went about re-bandaging herself, surprisingly smoothly for working with one arm. The scissors went back in the chest and the drawer got locked.
He didn’t answer.
“Ford here?” he asked, instead.
Lam nodded. “I think he went to the mess. I know he didn’t leave the base.”
Sheppard hadn’t actually cared. He just wanted to hear her answer that the other man was really there.
“I can get him,” Lam said, taking a seat on the stool again.
“No,” Sheppard said. He shrugged his shoulders, twisted his arms within the restraints. “Can you take these off?”
“I don’t think so,” Lam said. “I don’t want you to forget I’m not a Replicator.”
“Some disorientation is natural after the kind of head injury you experienced,” Lam said, gently. “Your wife is on her way.”
“No,” Lam said. It was her turn to look confused. “I don’t know who that is?”
“I’ve been divorced for over ten years,” Sheppard said.
“I went to your wedding,” Lam corrected.
Dread settled heavily in Sheppard’s stomach.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” he said, miserably. He squirmed in the restraints. “Fuck, my head hurts.”
“John?” Finally, a familiar voice. Sheppard looked to the parted curtain. Teyla was standing there in the gap. He barely had time to register that she was wearing green and black, the colors of the
“Uh?” Sheppard tried to jerk away, succeeding in sending another jolt of pain through his head and knocking his nose sharply against Teyla’s temple. “What the hell?”
Alarmed, Teyla jumped back. When he could see her face, her eyes were shiny but her expression was hurt. “What is wrong?” she asked. She turned toward Lam. “Why is he in restraints?”
Lam put a hand on Teyla’s arm. “I should have spoken to you alone. He’s having some memory issues. He was violent earlier.”
Teyla tilted her head. She stared at Sheppard. “Do you not remember me, John?”
“I remember you,” he said, evenly. “But I don’t remember being allowed to kiss you. What the hell is going on?”
It wasn’t Replicators. Sheppard didn’t think so, anyway. It was too chaotic and too human, too emotional and too ineffective. He also did a second test and bit an orderly that tried to adjust the canula in his nose. The guy bled and got so pissed off he barely restrained himself from thumping Sheppard in the face. He saw Lam clean the wound – saw the wound stay.
He couldn’t think of anyone else. It wasn’t the Genii’s style. It required way too much work and a level of technology he didn’t think the Travellers had.
But the strategy was clear.
“Why don’t you tell us what you think is going on?” Lam tried.
And Teyla was sitting at his side, trying to hold his hand. That was just weird and wrong, and he couldn’t move his arm away.
“No,” he said. “I don’t think I will.” He grit his teeth together, tried not to look at Teyla’s upset face.
Head injury, bullshit. More likely they’d cut him open and poked at his brain. This was a hallucination. They’d put something in his head to make this seem real.
“Why not?” asked Lam, rather blankly.
Teyla leaned her face into his field of vision. “You are afraid,” she said.
Sheppard would have gone with angry. “I’m not telling you anything,” he hissed.
“You think this is a trick,” Lam finally caught on.
“John,” Teyla said, leaning even closer. “I am real.” She was still holding his hand.
“Uh-huh,” Sheppard growled, sarcastically. “Sure you are.”
And that was when Ford walked through the curtain and made the situation even more hysterical.
“He doesn’t believe this is real,” Lam said softly as the man entered.
“Yeah,” Sheppard said. “Especially you!”
Ford was standing there with his face as young as ever, clean and unscarred. Shock settled over his features, smoothed away in the next second.
“John,” Teyla said, sounding just about as sad as he’d ever heard her.
Sheppard looked away. He found Lam’s face, mostly because she only looked slightly nonplussed about the whole thing.
“It’s not going to work,” he said, fiercely. “You might as well just let me go.”
“You remember me, son?”
Sheppard remembered General Hank Landry. He’d known the guy during his brief stint at the
He’d never had a conversation with the guy while restrained to a gurney, though. Lam stood by the curtain, monitoring the visit. She said sending his heart skyrocketing like he kept doing was bad for the recent surgery he’d had. Sheppard didn’t believe her and he also couldn’t calm down, so fuck that. Teyla and Ford had been taken away, but not before Teyla actually started crying.
Sheppard nodded, unwilling to say anything since the half of his brain that operated on automatic was trying to stand up straight and call him ‘Sir.’ The other half wanted to scream accusations like a maniac and punch him in the face. He wondered which half his captors had messed with.
“I’m your boss,’ Landry provided when Sheppard wouldn’t answer.
Sheppard just nodded again. He had no idea what he should do, but talking to these people wasn’t high on the list. Glaring balefully and scowling were his instincts, and he was going with them.
“Dr. Lam said you’re a little unclear on things,” Landry continued.
Sheppard stayed silent.
“If you know who I am,” Landry said. “Let me tell you who you are.”
He walked closer to Sheppard’s gurney. “Your name is Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard. You’re married to the very lovely Teyla Emmagan. You’ve worked at this facility for the past five years; she’s been here for the past three and a bit. You head a team called SG-5.”
The urge to deny it was strong, but Sheppard kept his lips together.
“That,” Landry went on, tipping his head towards Lam. “Is my beautiful daughter, Carolyn. I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t try to stab her again.”
“Replicators don’t bleed,” Sheppard spat.
“Tell him to stop biting my orderlies, too,” Lam volunteered from her position at the entryway.
Landry raised his eyebrows. “Stop biting her orderlies,” he said.
Sheppard just glared.
“Is that what you thought?” Landry asked. “We haven’t had a Replicator problem in some time. You’re confused.”
Still, Sheppard refused to answer.
“Anything else you’d like me to clear up?” Landry said, but it was only half to Sheppard.
“He mentioned Atlantis,” Lam said. She shrugged, like it didn’t mean anything to her.
“Atlantis?” Now Landry looked surprised. He turned back to Sheppard. “That was a long time ago.”
It was yesterday, but Sheppard ground his teeth together and didn’t speak. “The Atlantis mission was five years ago,” Landry said. “It was a massive failure.” He paused. “Well, you met your wife, but for our purposes it was an extremely expensive and pointless fieldtrip.”
“What?” The question escaped Sheppard’s lips without permission.
Landry looked at him, openly assessing the undisguised desperation Sheppard heard in his own voice “The mission failed,” he said. “They never found the city of the Ancients, lieutenant. The only thing the mission found were those nasty Pegasus creatures – what are they called…” he trailed off, glanced at Lam. She shrugged again.
“Wraith,” Sheppard said. Then he slammed his teeth shut, because this was exactly what he wasn’t supposed to do. They were tricking him into filling in the blanks.
“Wraith, right,” Landry said. “Space vampires.”
He looked at Sheppard, waiting for a reaction. Sheppard tried not to give him any.
“This ringing a bell?” he asked.
“No,” Sheppard growled, even though he knew he shouldn’t.
Landry paused, concern replacing the calm he’d come in with. “Nothing?” he asked. The man glanced backwards at Lam. “What happened to him, again?”
“He hit his head on a rock,” Lam said, flatly.
Rage surged through Sheppard. He felt like he was being mocked, mocked by the fake fucking people who had captured him, tied him up, and played Dr. Mengele in his skull.
What made it worse was that no one was else was mad. Everyone was confused. Concerned. Awkwardly sympathetic. Not one of the avatars his captors had adopted was acting pissed off at him and his refusal to cooperate. It was sneaky, it was infuriating, and it was scary because it was designed to make him believe them.
Ford was the worst. It was like cheating.
Lam still hadn’t untied him and she seemed to think he still wanted to throttle her. Which was perceptive, because he did. She’d threatened to reinsert the catheter, extracting a general promise that he wouldn’t try to kick her in the face while she attended his bedpan needs. He acquiesced, mainly because he felt okay lying to her and arguing about it was humiliating.
She wouldn’t take his restraints off. It made eating hard. Here, the illusion made less sense. They were feeding him mild, bland crap. And not a lot of it. Lam said his digestive system needed to adapt to eating solid food. She said he’d been on an NG-tube for the past couple of months.
That meant he only got to eat pureed crap, evidently.
Lam fed him by spoon, careful to keep her fingers away from his teeth. He wasn’t going to bite her, but apparently there was a sign on the door warning all potential caregivers not to pet the Sheppard.
Ford was among those caretakers. He showed up with a tray at dinner time and Sheppard completely lost his appetite.
“Hey,” Ford said, as he entered.
He dropped into the stool next to Sheppard’s gurney, put the tray on the swing-topped table.
“You remember me?” he asked, voice totally earnest. “You know who I am?”
Sheppard deliberately didn’t look at his face. Using Ford – using his young, healthy, smiling form –was fucking evil.
“Yeah,” Sheppard said. “I know you are.” He stared at the wall past Ford’s head.
Ford paused. “You don’t remember us being friends?” he guessed, after a few seconds.
“We’re friends,” Sheppard concurred, tightly. He still wouldn’t look at the other man.
“Hmm,” Ford said. “You’re acting real friendly.”
“I’m tied to a bed,’ Sheppard retorted, and his eyes shot over to look at him.
“You tried to hurt people,” Ford said, sounding totally reasonable. He looked reasonable, too, like a normal thirty-year-old guy questioning why his boss – why his friend – was being mean to him.
The image messed with Sheppard’s head, as it was supposed to, of course. Sheppard went back to looking at the curtain walls and didn’t say anything.
He heard the spoon clinking against the tray.
“I’m not hungry,” Sheppard said. The thought of eating nauseated him. He wasn’t going to go along with this ruse with Ford, of all people.
The spoon continued to clink.
“Okay,” Ford said. “Doc says I should talk to you about stuff to help you remember.”
Sheppard stopped looking at the curtain, redirected his gaze to the leather restraints on his wrists. “Don’t want to talk,” he snapped.
“You don’t have to,” Ford said, breezily.
Sheppard didn’t. Ford launched into a monologue about their alleged recent adventures together on SG-5. It was all made up. Sounded like a conglomeration of various mission events in Pegasus coupled with vague stuff having to do with the
“So,” Ford was saying. “That was a fun mission. What with the snakes and all.”
Sheppard blinked at him, tried to keep his fact totally blank.
“Um, so that’s work stuff,” Ford went on. “Personally, we are friends, Colonel. Even if you don’t remember. I stood up at your wedding!”
“My wedding to Teyla?” Sheppard snapped, incredulous.
“Yeah,” Ford said, staring at Sheppard with big eyes. “Teyla. You made her cry.”
“I’ve never seen Teyla cry,” Sheppard replied. He clicked his teeth shut, knowing he shouldn’t try to argue with these goddamn things. But he had never seen Teyla cry, didn’t believe for a second that they were relying on anything more than a predictable reaction to a crying woman. Using Teyla’s form was a mistake for that.
Ford got a little mad. “She was upset that her husband – who just almost died – doesn’t remember her.”
“I remember her!” Sheppard shot back, apparently throwing the not talking plan out the window since he couldn’t get himself to shut up. “What the hell is she doing here, if this is Earth, huh? The Milky Way? If the Atlantis mission never happened? Nice try, but she’s in the wrong galaxy!”
Ford’s eyebrows shot up. He leaned back, almost wobbling on the stool.
“You really don’t remember?”
“We brought her back with us,” Ford said. “From Pegasus.”
That was the stupidest thing Sheppard had ever heard. He shut his eyes, pressed his head back against the pillow.
Sam Carter showed up next. She had much shorter hair than she should have, which was kind of weird. She also wasn’t a full bird colonel. The thing mining data in his head must have been a little out of date.
She came with breakfast: a glass of orange juice and some goopy oatmeal.
“Hi,” she said when she entered, in the same bright yet hesitant way that everyone greeted him.
“Hey,” Sheppard answered, grumpily because this was already getting really old and he was getting more and more pissed off about being tied to a bed with fucking bedpan service. When Carter paused, he spoke first. “Yes, I know who you are,” he said.
Carter sat down, put the breakfast tray on his table. “But you don’t believe I’m real?” she asked. Cutting to the chase was kind of nice.
“I’m having some doubts.”
Carter nodded. “Think this is an alien illusion? Hallucination?”
“Those are good options,” Sheppard agreed. He shifted in bed as Carter tilted her head to the side and almost smiled.
“Well,” she said. “Unfortunately, I understand why you might be inclined to think that.” She smiled wider. “But it’s not.”
Sheppard scowled at her.
“Right,” she said. “Want some oatmeal?”
“No,” he said, since he didn’t and even if he did he wouldn’t want it spoon fed to him like an infant.
“Okay,” Carter said. But she was playing idly with spoon, sticking it in the oatmeal and swirling it around.
“Teyla’s really upset,” she said, almost casually.
“Yeah?” Sheppard asked. He tried very hard not to care. “She okay?”
“She’s tough,” Carter said. “You know that.”
“She could come back,” Sheppard muttered.
“I think everyone decided that based on the way you reacted that that might not be such a great idea,” Carter replied, evenly.
“I don’t think any of this is a great idea,” Sheppard retorted.
Carter looked taken aback. She forced a smile on her face.
“I’m supposed to help you remember,” she said, changing the subject. “But I’m really not sure what to say.”
“You could take my restraints off,” Sheppard suggested. “That would help.”
“I don’t think so,” Carter laughed.
And then she started talking. She said a lot of the same crap Ford had. Their stories were straight, at least. He headed SG-5. Carter wasn’t on it – she was still on SG-1 – but apparently they worked together in the form of mutual rescues from alien baddies from time to time. It sounded believable, of course. Carter had that seasoned note of experience in her voice, the one that made even preposterous situations seem utterly normal and even kind of funny. It was the way she always talked, basically photocopied from his memories with the details changed.
Well, she was a little more relaxed. A little less formal. Maybe because she wasn’t his boss in this illusion.
Carter studied his face.
“You don’t believe me,” she said, flatly. “You don’t think any of this is real.”
Cameron Mitchell was next. It was a strange choice, since the guy wasn’t high on Sheppard’s list of…people he expected to show up and try to convince him it was all real. He’d expected McKay or Lorne, first.
“Hey,” Mitchell said jovially, as he entered. He had lunch, of course, a dish covered in plastic on a tray that went on its usual spot on Sheppard’s table.
Sheppard grunted more than answered.
“Lunchtime,” Mitchell said, still cheerful.
“No thanks,” snapped Sheppard.
Mitchell settled himself on the visitor’s stool. “Lam said you don’t eat it, she’s putting your NG-tube back in,” he warned.
Sheppard frowned. He’d refused his past three meals, after putting up with one spoon-feeding session from Lam.
“What is it?”
Mitchell lifted the plastic covering of the plate. “Um.” He made a face. “Looks like…boiled chicken and rice?”
“Sounds delicious,” Sheppard muttered.
But Mitchell was reaching out and undoing the restraint around Sheppard’s right wrist.
“You’re untying me?” he asked, skeptically.
“You look pissed,” Mitchell said, releasing the belt and moving to Sheppard’s other arm. “Also, if you try anything, I think I can take you.”
Sheppard scowled. “Yeah?”
“Uh-huh.” Mitchell shoved a plastic utensil between Sheppard’s fingers. “All the same, please don’t try to spork me to death.”
He looked down; it was indeed a spork.
“Lam just sewed your melon back up,” Mitchell continued. “I’d hate to split it open again.”
That made Sheppard scowl again. But he wrapped his fingers around the spork and reached for the tray.
“NG-tubes suck,” he said, in case Mitchell though he was cooperating for any other reason.
“Yup,” Mitchell said, but he was grinning like he’d just tricked Sheppard into something.
The boiled chicken was bland and rubbery. But Sheppard’s stomach actually growled at the first bite and he dug in.
“So,” Mitchell drawled as Sheppard stuffed his face. “You remember me?”
“Hrmf,” Sheppard said, with his mouth full.
Mitchell interpreted the noise correctly, dipping his head in understanding.
“Well,” he said. “It’s good to have you up and awake. Even if you’re being an ass to everyone. Especially your wife.”
It was hard to scowl around a mouthful of shitty chicken.
“You and I,” Mitchell continued. “are friends, in case you didn’t know.”
Sheppard swallowed. “Bring me a hamburger and I might be convinced.”
Mitchell smirked until it grew into a grin.
It felt…okay, it felt really fucking weird. The man’s presence was easy and friendly. More natural than it should be, since Sheppard could count the number of times they’d met on two hands.
“You’re really missing some time, huh?” Mitchell asked, then, with the gentle casualness of a guy trying for sensitive.
It shouldn’t have worked, but it did.
“Yeah,” Sheppard said, and then hesitated because he really shouldn’t say anything. “Looks like a couple of years.”
Mitchell waited a few seconds.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked.
Sheppard frowned. “Nothing that makes any sense to anyone,” he settled on, unwilling to reveal anything but satisfying the stupid urge he had to confide in this guy.
Mitchell nodded, shocked Sheppard by not pushing. “It’ll come back.”
Sheppard didn’t want it to come back. He wanted to go back. He wanted to close his eyes and wake up in the Atlantis infirmary.
“Who’s next?” was all Sheppard said.
“Who’s bringing me dinner?”
It was Major Evan Lorne, it turned out. He didn’t bring a hamburger, said he’d sneak a decent one in from the outside.
“I don’t think the ones in the mess are actually made from cow,” he said, apologetically, as he took a seat on the stool and dropped a tray with a plate of something white and green on Sheppard’s table.
It was so close to what the real Lorne said while bitching about the lack of beef in hamburgers in the Atlantis cafeteria that Sheppard froze for a second.
After Mitchell had left, Sheppard had used his freed hands to undo the straps on his ankles. But he stayed on the gurney, behaved himself nicely enough that when Lam showed up to check on him she was surprised to find him untied. They reached an accord where, provided he didn’t attack anyone, he was allowed to get up and use the bathroom like a big boy.
Sheppard didn’t think it was worth trying to escape. He was pretty sure there was an airman guarding his room, even if he could move around now. If not an airman then a fucking alien or something. And he didn’t feel particularly up to making a break for it. His head still hurt. Constantly, like a background, thrumming pain. He wasn’t sure escaping the infirmary had any point, anyway.
Lorne was Lorne. He was the same friendly, respectful guy. It was more awkward than with Mitchell, though. Maybe because whatever force was simulating this reality didn’t know Lorne, like it didn’t know Ford. It was close enough to feel almost right and yet be so weird at the same time. He liked Lorne, but ninety-percent of his interactions with the guy involved getting sniped at for not doing his paperwork or for ordering or tricking Lorne into doing it for him. There was none of that teasing frustration at his bedside. Maybe that was why it felt weird.
He’d brought Sheppard buttered spaghetti with peas, which was really totally disgusting. And he was apparently supposed to eat it with another spork.
Lorne was sitting there kind of awkwardly, like he knew he was supposed to say stuff and he didn’t know how.
“How are you feeling, sir?” he settled on, eventually, after just enough time had passed for it to sound even more awkward.
“Like a Mack truck ran over my head,” Sheppard answered, honestly.
Lorne made a noise, half of acknowledgment and half of surprise.
“I look like Frankenstein, don’t I?” Sheppard said, when Lorne didn’t come up with anything to say in response.
“Little bit, sir,” Lorne admitted, nodding his head. “But it looks better than before.”
“Yeah.” Lorne looked at him. “When it was all…bleeding.”
“You were there when that happened?” Sheppard asked.
Confusion filled Lorne’s face. He paused, then spoke: “Yes, sir. I was. I’m, um, on your team. We were all there.”
“You’re on my team?” Sheppard asked. He watched as Lorne’s forehead creased.
“You, Ford, and…” Sheppard prompted.
Lorne just blinked at him.
“Teyla?” Sheppard guessed. .
“Uh? No,” Lorne said, quickly. “That wouldn’t be appropriate. Uh, we have an anthropologist named Lucy Hurst.”
“I have no idea who that is,” Sheppard said. He didn’t. It was the first thing in this whole scenario that was completely new.
“She’s been here a while,” Lorne said, incredibly awkwardly. “She’s nice. We make lots of I Love Lucy jokes about her.”
Sheppard ignored him. “Tell me about Atlantis,” he said, instead. Lorne hesitated for a second. “You were there, right?” Sheppard prompted.
“Um, no.” Lorne’s face twisted.
For a second, Sheppard stared. And then he realized, of course, that Lorne had arrived a year or so into the mission. He’d just forgotten that these people thought the mission hadn’t lasted that long.
Lorne didn’t call him on his confusion. He shifted on the stool. “But I know some stuff,” he said. “What do you want to know?”
“Just talk,” Sheppard said. He wasn’t going to lead.
“Okay.” He paused. “They…you never found the city, sir. There was no Atlantis.”
Sheppard kept his teeth together to avoid spitting out a denial. “Go on,” he ordered.
“Um.” Lorne searched for words.
“We went through the ‘Gate,” Sheppard prompted. “Where did we come out?”
“Oh, okay.” Lorne nodded, glad to have a place to start. “You came out of a ‘Gate in the middle of nowhere.”
“Nowhere?” Sheppard demanded.
“It was a desert,” Lorne said. He shrugged. “This was a really long time ago, sir. You don’t talk about it a lot. You said the weather was shit. It wasn’t safe to stay there. Radiation or something? There was no city. Just a ‘Gate.”
“Yeah. Sand, wind, hot as hell.” Lorne shook his head. “Like
“The mission left ASAP,” Lorne continued. “Dialed the ‘Gate at random to find some place safer.”
“That’s how they met the Athosians.” Lorne let out a bitter laugh. “And then, immediately after that, met the Wraith.” He paused. “You don’t remember any of this?”
“Not like that,” Sheppard allowed. “Go on.”
“The Wraith attacked,” Lorne said. “They fought back, you know, but no one had any idea what they were dealing with.” He swiveled in place on the stool. “Teyla told us later they don’t like it when you do that, funnily enough.”
“Yeah,” Sheppard muttered.
“It got way out of hand,” Lorne continued. “The civilians were sent to hide in the caves and eventually the military had to retreat, too. We lost a lot of people.”
Sheppard nodded. Minus the part where they were pretending Atlantis didn’t exist, that sounded very familiar.
“And the Athosians,” Lorne said, softer. “Were wiped out.”
“What?” Sheppard sat up abruptly.
“Except for Teyla,” he said. “It was a clusterfuck. Sumner tried to move them out in the open…” Lorne frowned. “If you don’t remember, you should read the report.”
“Get it for me,” Sheppard said, “and I will.”
“Okay,” Lorne said. “I’ll do that.”
After Lorne left, Sheppard felt strange. Awful, actually. A cold pit formed in his stomach. He tried to remember that this wasn’t real. That some alien techno-probe was scanning his memories. But using those first few days in Atlantis – using them and making them even worse – really bothered him. And for that, it was brutally effective if the intention was to remind him of how rough and traumatic the beginning had been. But he didn’t understand that as a goal of interrogation.
A short time later, outside the curtain drawn around his bedside, Sheppard saw a slender shadow move up to the big bulk that was probably the airman guarding him. He looked at the figure for a while; the person was just standing outside, not trying to enter. It was clearly a woman, and not Lam.
“Teyla?” he called.
He was right. Her dark little hands parted the curtain and then she slipped inside.
“Hey,” Sheppard said, trying not sound weird. It probably didn’t work.
Teyla was wearing jeans and a plain blue t-shirt. Jeans. He’d never seen her in those before. She looked drawn in the face and her movements were hesitant.
“Hello, John,” she said, softly. She walked towards the stool but didn’t sit down. “How are you?” It was a stiff, awkward question.
“The same,” he said, honestly. He wiggled his wrists. “Untied.”
Teyla nodded and forced a smile. “Good,” she said. But she sounded miserable. She looked miserable.
“You still do not remember?” she asked, keeping her voice mild.
Sheppard shook his head. “No,” he said. “I’m sorry.” The apology escaped his lips involuntarily. Using Teyla was also cheating. Using a Teyla that looked horribly betrayed and sad was just mean.
“You were badly injured,” Teyla said, gently, forgivingly. She reached out a hand like she was going to stroke him, then abruptly jerked her hand back as if just realizing the gesture wouldn’t be welcome. “Your friends have told me they are trying to help you remember.”
“Yeah,” he said. He didn’t tell her it wasn’t helping. At all. “Lorne told me about the Athosians, Teyla. I’m really sorry.”
Confusion drifted over her face. Eventually, she nodded. “That was a long time ago,” she said, finally.
“Yeah,” he said. “But your people. That’s terrible.”
Teyla put her hand up to her face, smoothed her hair back.
“You do not remember anything?” she asked.
“No,” he said. “Not what people keep telling me happened.” The urge to be honest with Teyla was stupidly strong.
Unfortunately, Teyla picked up on what he wasn’t saying. “What do you mean?”
“Nothing,” he said, quickly. “The past five years…I don’t have any of it.” And that was a lie, and Teyla was looking at him like she knew it.
“But you know who I am,” she said.
“Yeah,” he said. Sheppard knew he shouldn’t tell her shit. She was the perfect ruse. When she looked that unhappy, all he wanted to do was fix it. “I hit my head really hard,” he forced himself to say.
Unfortunately, Teyla wasn’t buying it.
“Sam says you believe this is an alien hallucination.”
“It’s not out of the realm of possibility,” Sheppard replied. And then he felt guilty, because she frowned and looked down.
“To what purpose?” she asked.
“To trick me into compromising the security of the city,” Sheppard answered, reasonably. Because it was reasonable and it was the only thing that made any sense right now.
Teyla blinked at him. “What city?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Like that.”
“Hmm.” Teyla dropped her hands and again reached for him. She deliberately stopped herself and folded her fingers around the railing of his gurney. “I will not ask you any questions like that, then,” she said. “Does that help?”
He wanted to believe her. Not because he wanted this to be real, but because she was Teyla, or at least looked, talked, and acted exactly like Teyla.
“It can’t hurt,” he said.
She dipped her head, accepting if not enormously pleased with that answer. “May I sit with you?” she asked.
Sheppard shrugged. He tipped his head toward the stool. “Okay.”
Teyla settled herself down, crossed her legs.
“You been hanging around outside the whole time?” Sheppard asked.
“Some,” Teyla admitted. “I went off-world yesterday. My presence was needed and I was advised it would take my mind off…” she paused. “You. It did not work very well.”
“Yes.” She didn’t elaborate until he blinked at her in total confusion. “I work with SG-13,” she said, realizing that he, in fact, didn’t know. “We were concluding trade relations.”
That didn’t really make much sense. Teyla was a Pegasus native; the Milky Way was pretty damn different from her galaxy. And he tried to imagine the IOA bigwigs approving the mission bringing back a Pegasus alien in the first place, let alone assigning her to a SG team.
She was watching him, maybe realizing he was trying to assess just what the hell was going on.
“Lorne’s going to get me the reports,” he offered. “So I know what I missed.”
“Good,” Teyla said, trying to sound upbeat. “That will help.”
She stayed for a little while after that. Not really talking, just sitting there. It was both comfortable and not. He could feel that she wanted to speak, maybe wanted to question him, too, but didn’t want to scare him.
Eventually, he offered her an out.
“I’m kind of tired,” he said.
Quickly, Teyla rose. “I will let you rest,” she said. “And come back tomorrow.”
“Okay,” he agreed.
She leaned down, and he almost jerked away because he thought she was going for a kiss. But Teyla just lightly brushed her forehead against his, straightened back up, and walked away.
~ please feed the author~