Title: Mindscape

Author: Illman

Category: gen, h/c, post-episode

Rating: FRT-13

Beta: DianeM

Date: 07/12/06

Feedback: All comments are appreciated.

Warnings: some violence, drug use

Disclaimer: It's their universe, not mine.

Summary: Theeach memberof theteamhasto deal with the lingering consequencesof Ford's actions.Post TheHive story.

Anger

Ira Furor Brevis Est

oOo

"What was your first impression of Lieutenant Ford?"

That was an easy question for John Sheppard. It was later that everything had gone so wrong.

"He was a good marine." It wasn't what John had wanted to say, but it was all he could say without having to give the doctor insight into his thoughts. Dr. Heightmeyer would ask more questions. Psychologists got paid to dig deeper, especially after missions like these where everything had gone wrong. Dr. Weir had been adamant; John was going to see Dr. Heightmeyer, the number of sessions to be determined by the psychologist.

"What made you choose him for your team?"

Good. John could stick with the facts. Ford had come to Atlantis with a perfect record.

"Ford is...was a quick thinker, he had a good service record, experience with off-world activity." He had made a good impression on John during that very first mission, when Colonel Sumner had still been alive. But John didn't dare mention him. Since his memorial service, no one had mentioned him again in John's presence. John didn't want to discuss Sumner's death with Heightmeyer. Maybe some day, after enough Athosian moonshine...

"How was your relationship with Lieutenant Ford?" If Dr. Heightmeyer was bothered by his short answers, she didn't show it, but she probably got a lot of that in her job.

John had been Ford's CO, but there also had been the video nights, the Athosian moonshine and that fact that they lived in a closed community on the lone outpost of humanity in another Galaxy. There had been no contact with Earth in their first ten months on Atlantis and John had had the impression that Ford had missed his grandparents a lot. When Rodney had found a way to send a message to Earth, Ford had volunteered to tape the messages. It had been important to him.

But because they had been all alone in a strange galaxy, possibly for the rest of their lives, they had all grown closer together. Ford had been also a friend to John.

"Ford was a friend."

"When he left Atlantis, how did you feel about that?" Kate smiled, but John knew she wanted to hear him say that he felt angry about what Ford had done.

"It wasn't his fault. The Wraith did this to him," John began. He didn't know what had driven Ford to steal a Jumper and flee from Atlantis. Dr. Beckett and the rest of the medical staff had tried to help him and they might have succeeded eventually.

When John had become infected with Beckett's imperfect virus, the subtle changes to his body and mind had frightened him like nothing before in his life. He had been powerless to stop to transition into a creature he didn't recognize and couldn't control. The Wraith had changed Ford on a physical level, maybe irreversibly so. John could understand why Ford might have run from the people he had known.

"I didn't understand why he ran away. We wanted to help him, but I think he knew we couldn't," John finally answered.

"So, you did everything you could to bring him back to Atlantis?" Dr. Heightmeyer asked in friendly tone, which didn't quite fit the question.

The search for Ford hadn't gone ideal. They had soon picked up his trail on a planet exposed to extreme UV radiation, but finding the missing Lieutenant had been challenging, to say the least. The arrival of the Wraith at long last had only been the final straw.

"The conditions were difficult. Ronon took us by surprise and Major Lorne lost a lot of time searching for us instead of searching for the lieutenant. If it hadn't been for Ronon, the Wraith wouldn't have shown up and Ford wouldn't have jumped into the beam."

Difficult conditions were how people got killed.

Ford wouldn't have jumped into the beam if John hadn't pointed an automatic weapon at him, but damn it, Ford had almost killed McKay. What other choice had there been?

But that was it about choices. Nobody ever had another choice and this was where it had gotten them. The Stargate might have sounded like a good idea on paper, but the universe was not a friendly place. Out there were the likes of the Goa'uld, Wraith and Genii waiting for them.

"In light of what happened to your team, do you wish you had stopped Lieutenant Ford from escaping you on that occasion?"

She hadn't asked him how he felt about what Ford had done to them. John had expected that question first in line, but maybe she wanted him to tell her on his own. Of course he was angry. Ford had had no right to take them prisoners and drug his team with the enzyme even if he had planned a strike against the Wraith. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

But not if those friends were a gang of megalomaniacs with gung-ho tactics led by a former marine, hopped up on Wraith enzyme. Thanks, but no thanks.

"I didn't think he'd survive being transported aboard a Dart." John evaded the question. "At the time, I wouldn't have shot a friend."

Ford had been a friend that night and only as a last resort, if Ford pulled a gun on him, John would have shot him. Colonel Caldwell's orders had been different; he had wanted Ford recovered at all cost. For him the lieutenant had become a security risk, but John hadn't agreed, not then. Only later, when he had looked Ford in the eye and realized that he wouldn't let them go, he had known that Caldwell had been right. Ford had become a threat.

"How do you feel about the Lieutenant's death?"

"He deserved better. I'm not condoning what he did after he left Atlantis, but he was a good man."

It wasn't that simple. The Wraith had changed Ford, but the enzyme could only have amplified what had already been there. Others had joined his group and had chosen the enzyme and it was also a choice Ford had made. Maybe. On the ship, when they had run out of enzyme, John had thought Ford was about to die, but he had hung on to life with determination.

He might have been able to overcome the changes the Wraith had done, if he had only wanted to. But Ford had relished the increases in strength and speed the enzyme brought; he hadn't wanted to go back.

"What would you say to him if you could?"

That was unfair.

"We said everything we needed to say," John replied and got up. He had talked enough. He would never forget Aiden Ford as long as he lived. The young man had faced a brilliant future, and like so many before him, war had cost him everything.

He would recall them as separate entities. The young, eager lieutenant with a penchant for naming things. The angry, manic guerrilla leader bent on waging war against the Wraith. They weren't the same person.

John left Dr. Heightmeyer's office and headed for the gym. He knew he would see Aiden Ford again.

The gym was empty in the morning during the first shift of the day. John hadn't slept very well and it seemed like he couldn't even recall the last time he had felt well rested. In the past two weeks, he had always forced himself to get by on as little sleep as possible, just enough to remain alert. Sleep meant loss of control in a situation where control was at a premium. He hadn't been in a control, Ford had been.

John ignored the headache that had been lingering since their attack on the Wraith ship the previous day and started to warm up. He hoped that the physical exertion would finally allow him to get a few hours of rest. He hoped that a good workout and a few hours of restful sleep would do the trick. He didn't plan on going to the infirmary because of a headache and, truth be told, he just didn't want to see anyone for a while, after over two weeks of being stuck together with the rest of his team or Ford every minute day and night.

John would have to see Dr. Heightmeyer. That had been Dr. Weir's condition. If the psychologist agreed, he could go back to his desk duties the following week. Caldwell and the Daedalus were needed back home, so Major Lorne had taken over the day-to-day duties as military commander. John normally wouldn't have envied him for the job - the paperwork was a bitch. But right now, faced with the prospect of five days of unoccupied time, performance reviews and training schedules sounded exciting—anything to fill the time. Passing time was a skill the military cultivated, but John had never become very good at it. He had learned to control himself outwardly. To anyone else, John seemed to master the art of staying at rest and being ready for action at the same time.

John hated waiting. He had learned to make it bearable by occupying his mind. At McMurdo, he had spent the first month working out the number of floor tiles at the base.

Not by counting, that would have been boring; he had measured the size of one tile in an opportune moment and calculated the rest, in his head. The ceilings had been next.

Every man needed a hobby and there was only so often that you could watch College Football Classics.

John's first punch was hard and oddly satisfying. With the tension of the last two weeks behind him and no other way to unload, John peppered the bag with punches. He normally preferred running for a workout, but this time, every time his fist connected with the sand bag, John felt a sense a reassurance and calm.

He was only distantly aware of pain from his beaten hands as he worked himself into frenzy. He was angry. He hadn't wanted to admit it to Kate, but he felt anger, even rage at Ford for what his team had gone through because of him.

Ford could have stopped it at any time, and he hadn't. John hadn't been able to stop anything. He had been powerless, a pawn in Ford's game. He was as angry at Ford as at himself as he pummelled the bag mercilessly.

John didn't relent until his strength left him completely. His mind was still going strong, but his body betrayed him when his knees folded under him.

John hit the floor hard and fell into darkness.

oOo

John opened his eyes and was right where he had been before everything had gone black. The only addition to the scene was Major Lorne, kneeling right next to him. The usually chipper man was wearing an expression somewhere between surprise and shock, as he was reaching for his radio. John reached to stop him.

"Wow, Colonel." Lorne startled, staring at John. "I don't know how to say this, sir, but is everything all right?"

It was a dumb question. Obviously things were not all right. John recalled the workout, but he wasn't so sure why he had ended up on the floor. He did have one hell of a headache and his hands were killing him.

"I think you should see Dr. Beckett." Lorne interrupted his thought and for once John couldn't find a good reason to disagree.

"Yes. Help me up." John made a move to get to his feet, ignoring protests from pretty much every part of his body, but Lorne wasn't helping. He looked hesitant.

"I think I should call for Dr. Beckett." Lorne looked uncomfortable.

"Major?" John wasn't in the mood for this. His head was killing him as was every muscle in his body. He felt like something big and bad had eaten him whole and spit him out again.

"I'm calling Dr. Beckett." Lorne said and tapped his radio. "Dr. Beckett, this is Major Lorne."

"Major, what is it?" John heard the familiar voice over the radio.

"Doctor, we need you here in the gym. I think you'd better come alone."

John felt grateful. For some reason this had been important, but he couldn't remember. He remembered working out earlier, but the memory was starting to blur as his head ached ferociously.

John closed his eyes just for a second, to dim to headache. Lorne was talking on his radio, but the words were like white noise to John as he drifted off again.

oOo

"Colonel, Colonel Sheppard! Come on, open your eyes." The Scottish accented voice sounded familiar, which made no sense whatsoever because there were no Scots in the Air Force. What the hell had happened?

"Come on, Colonel Sheppard, I can tell that you are awake." Colonel Sheppard? That wasn't right either, but John's head hurt too much to launch much of a protest. He groaned and gave in to the insistent voice only to regret it immediately.

The penlight light trick, he had forgotten about that. Considering how badly his head hurt, John was surprised that he could remember his own name. His head felt like it was about to explode. Passing out again almost seemed like a good idea. Anything to kill the headache.

"Colonel, I need to have a closer look at you in the infirmary." Someone was worried.

"I better call for a gurney." Oh no.

TBC