TITLE: Mirror, Mirror
AUTHOR: Wraithfodder
CATEGORY: Drama, heavy-duty angst
SPOILERS: Massive spoilers for season two episode Conversion.

Copyright Disclaimer: The Stargate Atlantis characters, as presented on the series, belong to MGM, Sci Fi, and other registered copyright holders. No copyright infringement is meant or intended by the writing and posting of this material. I'm just borrowing the characters and the universe for a piece of non-profit 'fan fiction' and will return in one piece (well, usually). However, all original characters and story material are copyright to author. Please do not repost this fiction, in whole or in part, anywhere, without expression written permission of the author.

SUMMARY: A missing scene from "Conversion." Sheppard contemplates his future as his body and mind succumb to the iratus bug retrovirus..

Mirror, Mirror


He ran a hand slowly down his chest, staring into the stark reflection of the bathroom mirror as his digits passed over the unfamiliar, gray surface that had once been his skin, until they touched normal flesh at the top of his belly. The retrovirus' malevolent effect was spreading quicker as each hour passed. At first it had been a spot on his arm, a weird bump with two little dots that looked oddly like tiny eyes.

Colonel John Sheppard could deal with the bizarre blemish, the gray scaliness that was infusing insidiously across his body: it had been watching his eyes mutate that had sent a chill through his very soul. He noticed the flecks of a gold an hour ago, not long after he and Carson had talked in the infirmary, not long after he'd driven his fist into the glass wall partition of Elizabeth's office.

He'd lost his temper at being denied what he'd felt was his right: to accompany his team on the mission to retrieve the iratus bug eggs. He'd sliced his hand as it impacted on the hard glass, but he hadn't noticed the gash until he'd headed back toward the infirmary. The guard followed him closely, no doubt tense and prepared to shoot him if necessary.

By the time he got to Carson, the wound had healed, and the lights in the infirmary had seemed brighter than normal. While Carson withdrew yet another blood sample from his arm – his good arm, as yet untouched by the creeping change – he'd studied the infirmary carefully from a strategist's point of view: the entrances and exits, the fragile equipment scattered all around. He'd stared at the guard until the man shifted uneasily on his feet, and then suggested to Carson that he stay in his room instead.

"All you're doing is taking from me," he'd pointed out bluntly. "Maybe this retrovirus won't kill me. It will be blood loss."

Beckett had frowned deeply at that remark, eyes reflecting a pain, not of being insulted but that he couldn't help; that everything he was doing was failing. He'd grudgingly agreed with the confinement, cautioning Sheppard that he would have regular visitors for blood draws and inhibitor injections.

"Fine," Sheppard had nearly spat out. Out of the corner of his eye he'd caught the hasty glance of one of the nurses: the petite blonde who'd always had a smile for him when he was a patient or he was visiting someone else. That smile was gone now, replaced by … fear. He knew it. She didn't show it, but he could sense it.

People were beginning to fear him. He stared at his mutated hand - the fingernails nearly black and as hard as carbon steel.

Fear. He was becoming a monster.

And the mirror now reflected back that monster. The gold specks had overtaken one eye, turning into streaks that all but blotted out the hazel that he'd seen virtually all his life. The elliptical pupil reminded him of the calculating stare of a poisonous snake.

As Beckett promised, someone came by regularly to check on him. He didn't care if they took more blood. The idea of passing out from blood loss or maybe even dying from it was becoming perversely appealing. He inanely theorized that the more human blood they took from him, the more the retrovirus took over.

Eerie eyes stared back at him from the reflection, with the flecks increasing in his left eye. Weren't eyes supposed to be the window to one's soul? If so, what did this mean for him? Was his soul half-gone already and when the other eye mutated, that would be it?

The inhibitor was being administered more frequently now. He'd become accustomed to the dark pain that rolled frequently across his head from its effects, like a threatening storm cloud. He could deal with it because the drug kept him lucid, kept the terrible darkness at bay, at least for the moment.

"Mirror, mirror on the wall… who's the most dangerous one of all?" Sheppard abruptly rammed a fist into his image, shattering the reflective surface into a myriad of sharp fragments that scattered noisily about his feet. He stared at the drab wall behind the mirror, the lack of his reflection, of how quickly he'd eradicated it. At how quickly the retrovirus was eradicating him.

His distorted image glittered back to him from the scattered fragments. He bent down and grabbed a large jagged shard, then squeezed his hand tightly around it. Pain permeated his hand but it was oddly tolerable, unlike the brief spurts of pain that lanced through him periodically, evidence of the retrovirus' increasing spread. Blood began to leak out slowly from between his fingers. He opened his hand, letting the wet fragment fall to the floor, breaking once more. Crimson liquid dripped from the deep cut that scored across his palm and several fingers. He stared mutely at the wounds, watching as over a period of not less than two minutes, the wounds sealed up as if they'd never existed.

He'd seen that once before. On the Wraith keeper he'd shot through the hand as she had been sucking the very life out of Colonel Sumner back on that hive ship. A bloody ragged hole one minute, smooth skin the next.

He rinsed the sticky blood off his hand. It wasn't that he cared about it, but he didn't want the next doctor to see it, to speculate that the violence was escalating. That thought might make them decide to lock him up in the Ancient holding cell deep within the bowels of Atlantis, or strap him down like a wild animal. If were put in that cell, he'd never get out. He knew that without a doubt.

He paced around his quarters, staring bleakly at the various remnants of his past life. As each minute passed, the possibility of a reprieve from a hellish new existence seemed further away, a dream that if he grasped at it, would slip like smoke through his fingers. He waved his hand over the light sensor, plunging the room into a twilight state of shades of blue and black. Even in the dark, he could still see as well as before. Was the creature he was turning into a nocturnal dweller? Besides losing his humanity, would he even lose the joy of the warmth of daylight, consigned forever to skulk around in the dark?

The guitar was still lying against the wall where he'd put after bringing it back from Earth. He'd barely had time to play it, and now… it would join the body board, something else he'd planned on using. He had some time off coming. He'd thought about cajoling Elizabeth into letting him borrow a jumper, go to the mainland, find some great waves and have a fun weekend at the beach. Would he ever like the beach again? Didn't those damn iratus bugs have an allergy to salt water?

He tore his thoughts away from the taunting memories of what might have been, ripped his gaze away from the bathroom and the unseen shards of sharp mirror that he knew lay on the floor.

He sat down on the bed, staring at the photo on his bedside table. At least he didn't have any family for Elizabeth to inform of his fate.

Dr. Bristol arrived, a small medkit gripped firmly in his hand. Sheppard knew it contained a syringe to draw blood, another syringe with inhibitor, a rubber band to cuff his arm, and an alcohol swab. It was so repetitious now that he could do it himself, in his sleep.

Beckett had jaunted off to Wraith bug world, going spelunking for bug eggs. Wasn't that was people who went into caves did? Spelunk? Weird word. He was surprised that Rodney had gone along. He didn't know why, just that the thought of the scientist willingly walking into a nest of potentially lethal iratus bugs – he just couldn't see it. Two days ago Sheppard would never have contemplated going anywhere near even one of those damned bugs; now, he'd risk walking into a nest of them. The worst they could do was kill him.

He prayed that the mission would be successful. If it wasn't, he didn't know what he'd do.

Bristol offered a wan smile as he placed the small vial of blood in the medkit case, saying that he'd be back soon. Sheppard didn't acknowledge the man's departure. The wall was a more pleasant companion to stare at it. Bristol excused himself, and Sheppard knew he'd back in an hour, if not sooner depending on the test results. What did it matter if his manners were deteriorating, or if Bristol thought he might be getting depressed? Being depressed was the least depressing thought in his mind.

He heard the guard leave, and then shut the door behind him. The doctors brought the guard in with them now since his eye had changed. Safety in numbers. Safety with a gun.

To Be Continued