Please consider this an open playground for others to continue if you're so inspired.
Setting: Goes AU during Vengeance because McKay wasn't able to stop the shielding and warn Sheppard when he was looking for Michael.
Characters: John Sheppard, Michael, Carson Beckett
Disclaimer: Sadly these guys belong to MGM and not me.
Slowly the Undertow Creeps
There are noises in the dark, familiar; belonging to nightmares and fevered memories. Things he has done his best to forget but always fails to do so. The only thing that makes him realize that he's not caught in the middle of a dream is the hated tingling and fading numbness left over from a stun weapon. When he attempts to move his arms he quickly discovers that they’re secured to his sides, wrists cuffed into leather restraints belted around his waist. He slows rolls up on his knees to shuffle over to the wall and lean.
He tries to piece together the last things he can remember: searching for monsters and missing villagers, finding both along with a little bit of nightmarish flotsam and jetsam floating in a jar.
This place feels different, doesn't feel like he's underground so he's probably been moved to another planet because he knows that none of the buildings that the Taranians used were dressed in classic jail house dungeon. At least, he's not on a damn hiveship. He's alone in the cell and hopes like hell that Ronon didn't try to fight his way through Michael's science projects and got Rodney and Teyla to safety. There's no way to tell how they’d do that though. The control crystal was gone so they had no way to dial Atlantis (or anywhere else) for help and there's no way to know if Michael wasn't pissed enough to bring the entire catacombs down on their heads with a booby trap if they decided to barricade themselves behind a steel door until help did arrived.
His skin crawls at the sound coming from somewhere down the hall. Whatever those things are they aren't getting closer but he can tell that they’re not as mindless as he and the rest of his team thought because there's a response in return, lower and then another answer. They're fucking talking to each other. Somehow - he can tell that there are at least six of them going back and forth.
He shudders because it does more than creep him out. It fucking scares him.
The water-cooler talk dies down suddenly (as if they were holding their breaths) and he can hear someone's footsteps. He's completely unsurprised to see that it's Michael and not some stereotypical lackey who stops in front of his cell. "Colonel Sheppard, well rested I hope. Stun weapons aren't the most pleasant things to experience, as you know."
He shrugs. "I've woken up to feeling worse. No offense, but I was kind of hoping to never see you again. Where's the rest of my team," he asks, getting his legs underneath him and using the wall to push himself up.
"I had hoped just the opposite. In fact, I've been anticipating our meeting again," Michael opens the cell door and enters, "I'm sure they've made it back to Atlantis by this time. They were probably in a bit of a hurry. You see, Ronon suffered a few injuries trying to fight his way to you. I could hear your friends over your radio once Mckay was able to drop the shielding. I left a few creatures behind to keep them distracted and I could hear them calling your name, demanding that you respond. Not realizing you were already safely tucked away in my dart while I sent my creations to another world through the gate. Once I followed through after them, your teammates would have been able to use the gate to dial Atlantis and go home."
"How do I know you're telling the truth?" He hopes like hell that it is the the truth because he needs to believe it, needs to hope that his team will still come for him. His legs are still too wobbly and he sits back down on the floor before he can pitch forward.
"You don't. Consider their lives as a gift despite what you have cost me."
He wants to laugh but keeps it to himself, his expression blank. "Cost you? We tried to help you…" Michael reaches down and grabs him by the throat, pressing his head against the wall.
"You call experiments and lies helping me - I thought you were above such self-delusion, Sheppard," the fingers wrapped around his neck squeeze, "I cannot afford such luxuries. I cannot find any resemblance to peace with my own kind because they have rejected me and now hunt me as they do humans. At least the humans fed upon will continue to live on within the wraith they sustain but myself - I will only know annihilation. So now I strive to protect myself at all costs."
Michael releases him and he coughs but doesn’t look away. He wants to rub his hand where Michael had touched him, erasing the feel of the hybrid’s skin on his. In a way he’s glad that he can’t because he doesn’t want to show the bastard any fear despite the fact that his stomach is coiled tight with it.
"I will allow you two choices, Sheppard. Either come with me without resistance," Michael goes back to the doorway and signals to someone outside the cell and a little boy appears, well-dressed but thin and dirty, trembling as he approaches the hybrid who grips the back of the boy's neck almost gently, "or I can kill this child and then simply stun you. It would be a shame to do either of the other two."
Michael moves the two of them closer to him. The child is pushed down on his knees and he can easily see evidence of the boy’s fear and grief. Something he doesn’t have any defense against.
"The boy I can release back upon his homeworld, one which has defenses against the Wraith, with the promise of a long life and many children to follow him. Though I admit it would be much more simple to kill him, treat him as nothing more than refuse and fodder." The boy had been crying silently but with Michael’s duel edged promises he starts to sob and attempts to pull away until the grip on his neck tightens and he stills.
"I have long learned the benefit of going against simplicity. The easier path is seldom the correct one. This is your choice, Sheppard. You can choose to end this little one’s life," the hand moves from the boy’s neck to the top of his head, "or not."
He closes his eyes, taking a deep breath and accepting that he’s chosen his own destruction. "Fine. You promise to take the kid home where he’ll be safe and I won’t fight you."
Michael lifts the boy up before reaching down to his own arm and easily pull him to his feet. "Wise choice, Sheppard. Follow me and I will see the boy home."
As they reach the hallway, he looks down and can see gratitude in small brown eyes and he looks away because he has no idea if Michael will honor their agreement. But he hopes and prays that he does only for the little boy’s sake and the sake of the boy's people when he tells them of where he was taken. If they take precautions against further visits from Michael then whatever is going to happen to him will be worth it.
There are cupboards filled with chemicals lining the room, the counter tops adorned with vials, equipment, and jars holding the remains of embryonic monsters. It’s only slightly different than the room where they’d found Teyla in the catacombs below the empty Taranian settlement. The difference being that its him strapped (shirtless and face down) to the table.
"Tell me, Sheppard, when you first began to change into an Iratus how did it feel to see the revulsion on the faces of those you called friend, those you commanded? I doubt that it would ease the pain of those memories if I told you that I understand after seeing it upon those in my hive." Michael moves around the table as he speaks, making it hard to see what he’s doing.
"Not really. Though to be honest, that really wasn’t what we had in mind." He turns his head as Michael picks up a tray and brings it closer to the table.
"No, your goal was to wipe out any trace of my species within me. But even when I was outwardly human, I still saw those same looks. Hatred I didn’t remember or understand." The tray is placed on top of the wraith console beside the table and he can see several syringes lying on it.
There really wasn’t anything he can think to say to that because it was true. No matter how much Heightmeyer had coached them on how to act around Michael something of their animosity and fear still made its way to the surface whenever Michael was in the room.
"Dr. Beckett made amazing strides in his retrovirus after your transformation, did you realize that? If it were not for you becoming infected he would not have been able adjust his formula enough to test it on a live subject - me. Did you know that he tried to persuade me from experimenting with the Iratus and human subjects?" Michael laughs at the ridiculousness of the idea. "But if he hadn’t I would not have realized what I needed to do, who I needed."
He shudders when Michael looks him in the eye. "When we had our temporary alliance, his research into the retrovirus made for interesting reading. Only he hadn't realized that he gave us much more than was offered for our agreement."
Ignoring the urge to jerk when hands that could easily have been human ran from top of his head to small of his back, he holds his breath until it moves away. "We should have taken our chances and just shot your hive out of orbit. And will you just get this over with without boring me to death. I hate a talky bad guy."
He almost thought the statement was ignored until fingers grab his hair and pull his head back. "Yes, you should have." His chin clips the edge of the table when his hair is let go.
"The descriptions of the physical changes within you near the end of your transformation were beautiful and if I hadn’t spent some time with Dr. Beckett I would almost call them poetic. Your strength and speed contained within a human form is what I was striving for with my experiments. I did not think I could find a way to capture you, safely. The probability that Atlantis would somehow trace our location was too great but I took the chance when presented the opportunity. There were too many factors falling in my favor. You are going to help me build an army."
"Jesus, you killed all of those people just so you could make…" He feels like he’s going to be sick.
Michael reaches for the first needle on the tray. "Do you think you can hold yourself still?"
He can’t keep from looking away from the tray. "Depends on where you plan on sticking that thing."
Michael touches him at the top of his spine and he shivers. "That would be a no."
Stepping away to the counter for a moment, Michael returns with some kind of strap or harness. "Lean your head forward, Sheppard. I promise that I will make this as painless as possible."
"I really doubt that," he says but does as he’s told. Michael clips one side under the edge of the table and fits it around the back of his head and tugs downward before clipping the other end near the first. He tests the strength of the harness and isn’t too sure if he’s glad that he can’t move his head in any way.
Out of the corner of his eye he can see the needle being picked up. "I will do as promised and give you as little physical pain as possible, Sheppard," The door to the room opens and he can hear someone enter, "but there are other types of pain that I can easily inflict upon you."
"Dr. Beckett, I see that you have recovered from your squeamishness." Michael reaches over him and moves to where he can see that the wraith is no longer holding the needle.
"I had him brought from one of my other facilities in order to assist me once I’d ensured that there was no way for either of us could be followed. He fought against it, recreating the version of the retrovirus that initially affected you when I told him of my plan. Didn't you, Doctor?"
"Michael, you don't have to do this, any of this," Carson pleads over him and he didn't think things would hurt more than they do at hearing his friend's voice.
"Remember our agreement, Dr. Beckett." Michael squats down until he is eye level and states, "He also argued against the creation of the Hoffan virus at first but he is a man who allows his love of humanity and life rule him," Michael looks up to the doctor standing on the other side of the table, "Do it."
Reason escapes him and he shouts as much as he can to keep the needle away.
There is sharp sting and for a moment the only sensation he can feel is something he can only describe as ‘burning cold’, as if he’d touched a wet hand on ice, running down his back. He can hear Carson murmur, "You're doing well, lad," before the needle is withdrawn and Michael stands to trade the doctor the second syringe for the used one. The sensation and whispered assurances continue until all five syringes are lying empty on the tray.
"You will stay here for the next few hours while we monitor your vitals," Michael says as he begins to undo the straps holding his head in place. "There were some minor adjustments to the formula that needed to be made in order for you to be of use to me after the change is complete, but I believe we struck the perfect balance -- though I doubt you'll be as pleased."
"What adjustments?" He jerks uselessly in the restraints and a small part of him says he should have fought harder instead of giving up for one little boy.
"You have no need to worry about becoming a mindless creature whose only purpose is to feed and mate and provide for its queen. No, you will remain quite lucid once everything is complete but the other instincts will remain. You should start to find that you want nothing more than to protect and provide - for me," Michael chuckles, "I can see the horror on your face. It is no different than what I felt when I saw the video tape of you holding me down, giving me my new name."
Sometimes he would imagine that his arm, the spot that was still scarred with the faintest trace of blue, itched and he thought it was a good thing his hands were kept shackled at his sides (in restraints he continues to try and break) or else he'd tear away the skin trying to find relief.
He couldn't see the changes this time when they began because the injection site was at the base of his skull. Michael’s reasoning that he would transform more easily if the retrovirus was introduced into the spinal fluid.
Even though he couldn't see what was happening to his body yet he could feel the changes. The way his shirt snagged on the raised ridges on his spine he brushes his back against walls or bed bolted into the floor. He couldn’t find escape in sleep, his restless energy keeping him pacing endlessly back and forth.
Carson had only accompanied Michael once to evaluate his progress after he’d been returned to his cell. Lying strapped to the bed, he listened to his old friend clinically describe the differences between now and the first time he was infected; how much more quickly some things were progressing. He looked up when Carson addressed him to gauge his cognitive abilities, tears belying the detached tone in his voice. Apology written in every gentle touch.
He wants to tell Carson that he understands, that he isn't worth the innocents threatened. What's happening to him is nothing compared to what Carson is going through. All he has to do is lie back and take it.
Fear seems almost like a distant memory despite the fact that when he felt the sting of the needle there wasn’t a part of him that didn’t give voice as he screamed at Michael to keep the needle away from him only two days before.
Michael’s other monsters are holding court in every cell lining the hallway. He lifts his head, tilting it as he listens closely, understanding them. Understanding their hunger, their need to be out of the confines of metal walls, to move freely and give themselves to the hive; and something deep inside wants to be with them, cold loneliness making him feel claustrophobic.
Closing his eyes, he rocks on his heels in the corner. His blood rushes as he breathes fast in and out in and out in an attempt to ignore the others.
He turns his head toward the door as it opens for Michael. Jumping up he moves to slam himself into the wraith only to have his rage at the other man crushed and he stops several inches away; panting and fighting a near silent war between want and need.
Michael tilts his head, as if studying him. "You can’t attack me, can you? I can see that your longing to kill me but cannot act on it. One of my own additions to Beckett’s formula. Don’t worry, soon that desire will fade away and in its place will only be the desire to protect and obey me."
"Just go ahead and kill me, you’ve had your fun you son of a bitch," he can barely recognize his own voice now.
Michael’s hand moves, touching the side of his neck as it arches away, almost human looking fingers tracing up his neck to just under his chin and lifting it up. "I do not do this for my amusement, John. You are privileged to be a part of something grand. An evolutionary shift that was long overdue in this galaxy and I should thank you and the other Lanteans for showing me my path. Between the two of us we will create a new species to rival both humans and wraith and drive them out of existence."
Jerking his head away from Michael, he laughs humorlessly. "You are so nuts that there isn’t even a scale to measure it."
His head snaps back a second before his body is knocked across the room. He doesn’t move, doesn’t see any use of trying to defend himself against further attack with his arms locked at his sides. When Michael doesn’t advance toward him, he turns his head to look across the room. Leaning against the wall he shifts his body to get up on his knees.
Michael smiles. "As I said, John, you won’t think so much longer. In fact, according to Dr. Beckett, before the changes have completed two days from now - you will believe I created the stars if I told you so."
"Well, screw you both," he answers and spits blood out on the floor. He fights the urge to lean back against the wall again because he thinks he can sense the others on the other side and wants to get closer.
Michael turns slightly, as if realizing something at the raised voices of his other creatures. "You can understand them, can’t you, John?"
He twitches and keeps silent.
Moving across the cell, Michael picks him up off the floor and leads him out of the room to the nearest door, unlocking it. As the door swings out, the sounds of the others falling silent. He wants to run back to his own cell but steps forward instead. Michael’s hand stops him for a moment before he notices that his hands are suddenly free, the belt restraint falls to the floor and Michael gives him a gentle shove and he continues inside. He can feel the other man watching carefully as large hands move from the darkness, touching his head, his arms and legs before he falls softly to his knees. The cell door shuts and the darkness welcomes and comforts him as the others take turns making him feel at home.
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