Warning: Both name and the occupation of Dr. Carson Beckett belong to MGM. But in this story he can do as he pleased – he is free. Dr. Carson Beckett in this story has nothing to do with the sweet little doctor who would step over the decisions of Geneva Convention and the Hippocratic Oath without as much as a sneeze.
Authors Notes: 1. I am grateful to S W for editing this story.
2. Joe the Wraith is friend of Tlanti tlanti livejournal com).
3. This AU is pretty close to the Universe of the Old One, but doesn't seem to be identical.
It is of no use to be sad and complain and feel justified
in doing so, believing that someone is always doing something to us.
Nobody is doing anything to anybody, much less to a warrior.
It all happened so fast – Major Sheppard walked into one of the empty rooms of the abandoned Wraith facility, and next second he was flying through the air his back first. The Wraith was dressed in nothing but rags, very skinny and good half-foot shorter than the human, but his strength was unbelievable. The creature growled like a wild beast and smashed its claw into the major's chest. Nothing happened. Besides the pain in the back of his head from the collision with the wall, Sheppard felt nothing. He was just surprised, how many details the human eye can catch in one moment. Desperate determination in the dark eyes of his enemy… the Wraith's hair, matted, dirty and cropped unevenly – barely covering the creature's right ear, touching the shoulder on the left… How skinny the Wraith's arm was – half as thin as his own…
The Wraith retrieved his claw and observed the palm with disgust. Sheppard looked down in horror and saw the clear feeding mark over the chest of his uniform.
"It is my blood, not yours," the creature said in almost human voice. "What are you waiting for?"
Sheppard could never explain what he was waiting for. Why didn't he just pull the trigger of his P90 during that long second before the Wraith closed his eyes and collapsed to the floor? May be it was a thought… no, image …
Major Sheppard pulled small pliers from his military vest pocket, and without taking his eyes from the immobile body on the floor stepped to the wall. There, behind the half-open cover he noticed cables, wires running from the ceiling to the hole in the floor. He cut a decent bundle of wires, and walked back to the unconscious Wraith. The major crouched over it, brought the creatures arms behind its back, wincing at the sight of deep gashing wounds where the feeding slits should be, cuts running along the arms towards the… 'salivary glands', as Beckett called the Wraith's enzyme-producing organs. Sheppard put the Wraith's hands palm to palm and slipped the wire-ring on his wrists. Then he twisted the wire with pliers until it held the prisoners hands very tight, hesitated for a second and turned it couple more times, then slipped on the second wire-ring. And one more, and more…
Sheppard knew that Wraith didn't smell. This creature... smelled. The major wouldn't call it a stench, not as such, so non-human it was - salty, metallic, oily - smell of a new P90 right from the armory, not of the living thing.
John, this is the dumbest thing you ever did… Just shoot damn thing and let's go… Why, why the hell are you doing this? It'll die anyway…
And among all that mental garbage, clear and annoying like the pain in the back of his head was the thought. No, image: "He was just a kid…" Jack O'Neill grimacing and turning his face away…
The major tied up the prisoner's ankles and knees, then hoisted the body onto his shoulder and walked down the corridor, staggering under the creature's weight.
"Sir?" Lieutenant Ford looked at his superior officer wide-eyed, when the major unloaded his 'kill' on the floor of the puddle-jumper. "Is that... what I think it is?"
"No idea," Sheppard shrugged and rubbed his shoulder. "But damn thing must be made out of lead. I'll ask Rodney to run some test – it's half my size, but I almost keeled over trying to carry it!"
It was an awful, deafening, soul-ripping scream. The creature twisted and trashed on the floor of the puddle-jumper, trying to free itself from the bonds. Then it froze, looking at the humans in horror, shaking, wide eyed.
"Not gonna promise that your kind will catch me and slit my throat?" Sheppard grinned.
The prisoner blinked, but didn't seem to understand the words. He looked around and tried to crawl to the very back of the transport, as far as he could from his captors.
"I do not have my kind," he said quietly. "No one will seek revenge for my death."
Then the Wraith drew the deep breath and smashed his head against the corner of the bench. Dark blood splashed over the bench and the wall, Ford screamed: "Oh, shit!" and grabbed the stunner, but before he could immobilize the prisoner, the Wraith managed to repeat the procedure…
"Hey, you," Sheppard was sitting on the floor in front of the cage.
The prisoner slowly brought his body into the crouching position and examined the part of the Universe available to him, carefully turning his head around, half of his face covered with a glistening, bloody mask. Then he cautiously reached with his hand, trying to touch the cage bars. Sheppard saw again the deep wound where feeding slit should be, the row of parallel cuts on the creature's wrist scored with the wire…
The force-field hissed and stung the Wraith's fingers, but he seemed to be insensitive to pain. He just turned his hand palm up and studied the tips of his talons.
"I'll make sure the doctor will come to see you," the major said, grimacing involuntarily.
"No one is going to experiment on me. Not any more."
Sheppard's heart sunk from the sound of the icy determination in the creature's voice. The Wraith crawled towards the bars and leaned against them, letting the power of the force-field run through his body.
It was more of a scratching, than the actual knock. Major Sheppard slipped into Dr. Weir's office and halted at the door, looking confused and stubborn at the same time.
"What is it, John?" Elizabeth raised her eyes from the papers.
"I need Beckett."
"No. Yes! I brought the prisoner, but he's hurt. And he tried to kill himself. Twice."
"Then go and talk to Carson."
"I can't. You know how he's been recently…"
"I know. We all feel bad. But unless you talk to him, he is not going to change towards you."
"I tried." Sheppard shut his eyes for a second. Damn doctor actually did it – threw the damned flask at him. The major shuddered, recollecting the shower of broken glass and some stinky liquid, large greenish stain on the white wall of infirmary, the doctor's scream: "Out of here! And don't you dare to cross the doorstep unless you're hurt or sick!"
"I'll try again, then," said Sheppard and left the office.
"Carson, I caught something." Major Sheppard sat on the gurney, cautiously looking at the doctors back.
"Again? What are the symptoms?" Beckett didn't even turn his head. Instead he took fresh 96-weller, Pipetman, and began loading the samples. Shot-off pipet-tips made annoying 'ping, ping, ping' noise against the plastic walls of the waste container.
"What?" Sheppard pushed the gurney, trying to hit the equipment bench behind him. He succeeded, some small beaker tipped dangerously and almost fall down. The major caught it just in time and placed it farther from the edge. Then he stole another careful peek at the doctor.
"Stop playing. You'll break something," said Beckett without looking around. "How many times did I ask you to wear protection, when you're… dealing with the indigenous people? I am not so much worried about you, but one day you will cause a pandemic. I am not living through another Hoff. Thank you very much for the first one."
"Now, Hoff wasn't my fault! Those guys were suicidal maniacs… Anyway, that's not what I'm talking about. I caught some sort of creature. A Wraith… maybe."
"Indeed? Again?" It was so much sarcasm in the doctor's voice, that it sounded almost kind.
"But he looks… different. It seems like he was abused…"
"You mean before you abused him?"
"Before. And he can't regenerate properly. We had to stun him, and he still didn't recover."
"The Wraith can wait," the doctor continued with his experiment. "I need to finish this first."
"He can't wait. He seems to be dying."
The doctor didn't respond. He put loaded Elisa plate aside and took the fresh one. 'Ping, ping, ping,' used tips fell into the waste container one by one.
"Just tell me, what're you accusing me of?" Sheppard pushed the gurney again. It hit the bench, extracting a sad chime from the glassware.
"I am not accusing you of anything."
"Then what's wrong?"
The doctor turned around. "We didn't even go to check on them," he said evenly.
Sheppard shrugged: "I did."
"Somebody leveled that civilization. I don't even think that Wraith did it. It didn't look like their doing at all. Nothing was left there."
Beckett gave the major a long, expressionless look. Sheppard felt that he was about to see the doctor's back again.
"Why do you blame me for that?" The major looked right in his very calm light-blue eyes.
"Behind the every awful thing that happened here…" Beckett began.
"You are! I don't have the… education! The knowledge! You was the only one who was qualified enough to stop it! You could say 'no' anytime!"
The doctor lowered his gaze for a second then looked at the major again. "Very well," he stated quietly. "I am saying 'no'. Never in my life will I experiment upon the intelligent being again. Here is my oath instead of a broken one. I'll rather die then violate it once more. So remove your sorry ass from my sight, and take the bloody creature back where you brought it from."
Sheppard got to his feet. "You don't understand. If you hate me so much, just shoot me with something that'll make me puke for a couple of days. Satisfy your spite and be over with it. But that creature is dying. He was tortured by his own kind and left behind to die. So go and look at him… Doctor."
"All right. Where is he?"
"In my quarters."
Dr. Beckett looked at him in shock, his jaw dropping. "What?"
"Don't ask idiotic questions, Carson. You'll not get idiotic answers. He's in the cage." Somehow Sheppard felt that he is going to win this round. He sat on the gurney again. "And Ford has been trying to feed him with candy the entire morning."
"Ford? With candy?"
"I saw couple of Toffees on the floor of the cage. I can hardly picture Bates doing something like that. And it is bad. First, I have no clue what all that sugar would do to damned creature if he'll try to feed on it. Second, if Rodney finds out about it and tries to… rescue the sweets, I don't know how I'll stop him."
The prisoner raised his head, then slowly picked himself up from the floor. His every move was awkward and unsure, for his hands were cuffed behind his back, and a very short chain connected his ankle to the metal ring in the middle of the cage floor.
"He bit the veins on his hands, Sir," Bates responded quietly. "Before we noticed…" the Sergeant made frustrated gesture, indicating the large dark stains on the cage floor. "So we stunned him again, bandaged his wrists and handcuffed him. Seems to me though, that the boy made up his mind…"
"Thank you, Sergeant. Carson…"
Beckett wasn't listening. He was looking at the childishly-slim, unbelievably stubborn creature in front of him… Thinking…
"Mom, I'm going to play ball!"
"But, Joe... Your heart… Listen to Carson… Please, stay home…"
"Mother, I'd rather die."
"Fit of nymphomania, ah, John?" Beckett said without taking his eyes from the prisoner.
"You…" the major stepped towards him.
The doctor turned his head slowly. His eyes were so pale, that in the dim light of the cell they looked silvery. They were emotionless and unsettling like eyes of those northern dogs John hated since the childhood. 'Just give me an excuse. One little excuse,' was barely hidden behind that calmness. Somehow the perspective of giving that excuse didn't look appealing at all.
'Isn't he supposed to be shorter than me?' Sheppard tried to hold that stare but failed, looked aside. "For all we know, this guy could be ten thousand years old…" he muttered stubbornly. "And I'm not trying to humiliate or torture him – I'm trying to save his damned life! Which he's been trying to terminate (rather skillfully, mind you) since the moment we met!"
The doctor turned his head back to the prisoner. "So," he said evenly. "What…"
The Wraith in the cage narrowed his dark eyes.
"…sort of creature are you?"
The Wraith snorted. "Our name is not the speak-word anymore." He tried to imitate the growl of his 'cousins', but failed – his voice sounded almost human.
"So you are Wraith. You look different."
The creature didn't respond.
"Why are you trying to kill yourself?"
"Listen to me, Joe. No one is going to hurt you here."
"Did he die?" the creature cocked his head to one side.
"Who? No!" Carson shook his head. "At least not before I moved here. He just has a heart condition. He can't really run, or play… Other kids aren't always… kind towards him because of it…"
"Somebody hurt him?"
"No. He was born… different. It happens to humans."
"It happens to us too…" the little Wraith sighed and lowered his head. "I am different. But I do not want to be experimented upon anymore… I cannot…"
"You can call me that name, if you want," the Wraith looked at the doctor and down again. "People are blind. They need speak-names. I soon will be blind too…"
"Joe, no one here is qualified to experiment upon you, but me. And I am not going to. But if you will die, I will cut your body open and study it all the way through. So if you do not wish to be experimented upon, you will help me to make you well. Do we have an understanding?"
The little Wraith considered it for a while, then looked at Beckett.
It was more of the mental echo than the actual word: "Yes."
"Stop! Stop it!" the Wraith squealed and twisted, trying to free himself from the restraints fastening him to the bed.
"Calm down! It was just a dream!" Carson grabbed the patient's shoulders, pushing him back to the pillow. He could feel every bone through the thick material of the military jumpsuit the creature was wearing.
The Wraith's eyes flew open. In the bright light of the infirmary Carson noticed that his eyes were not black or brown as he thought before, but rather the deep shade of purple. The Wraith's pupils narrowed into vertical snake-like slits, almost invisible against the dark surface of his irises.
"It was… so real…" he whispered and turned his head away. "So real… I do not wish to be restrained anymore. Let me go."
"So, you changed your mind."
"About experimenting. The previous… experimenters had made almost human out of me already. I feel it is quite enough…"
Carson slapped his hands in frustration. "How many times should I tell you, lad? I just stitched up your wounds. If you keep jumping they'll never heal. And for the thousandth time: no one is going to experiment upon you!"
"You are not… the leader here."
"I am not – that's true. But people here depend on my help. And I promise you, if someone hurts you, I will never treat any one of them again. Do you believe me?"
The Wraith studied him for a long moment, then said "No," and closed his dark eyes. Carson was almost sure that he saw a brief smile flashed through his patient's features. "You can not refuse treatment to anyone."
Dr. Beckett stood by the bed, looking down at the delicate Wraith's face, his unevenly cropped hair, thinking... who knows what about.
Joe the Wraith sighed. "Carson? Can you untie me?"
"Please… for a short period of time… I will not try to hurt anyone, I promise. And I cannot, anyway." Joy turned his bandaged hands palms up.
"You tried to kill yourself. The fact that I am keeping you restrained has nothing to do with your… ethnicity. If your favorite major tried to bite his veins out he'd end up just like you."
"I told you why I did it! They tortured me… for fifty of your lifetimes. I was afraid! I will not try it again, I promise."
"All right… But you are staying in bed." Dr. Beckett brought the key and unlocked the restraints.
The little Wraith groaned and curled into the tight ball on his side, then turned face down and hid his face in the pillow. He kept whining quietly, rocking side to side.
"I can't sleep on my back," he said through the pillow. "My body feels unprotected and scared. I am having nightmares because of that."
"You're having nightmares because you are partially human now. I doubt that dreams are a Wraith thing."
"Why do you hate him?" Joe was still hiding his face in the pillow.
The doctor sighed and sat on the gurney next to the Wraith's, then lay down and put his hands behind his head. "I don't. And I'm not in the mood for an argument."
"He is not a bad man…" The Wraith rolled to his side, grimaced in pain and shifted his body slowly, trying to find a less troublesome position.
Carson gave the ceiling a humorless grin. "He's bad, all right. But who's better? Elizabeth, who authorized that… Bacchanalia? Me, who is responsible for death of an entire planetary population?"
"Shadow people killed them, not you…" the little Wraith whispered. "I heard my kind talking about it…"
Carson glanced at his patient out of the corner of his eye.
The Wraith continued: "Hoffans possessed the forbidden technology. Shadow people were very angry."
"We gave them that technology. I did. Was it a conflict?"
The Wraith looked at the doctor and said in a matter-of-fact voice: "One can not be in conflict with Shadow people. One can ask and listen for the answer."
"You provoke him. It is childish and indecent." Joe propped his head on his bandaged hand.
Carson chuckled. "Give him some credit. He didn't buy it so far. With all the bad things I can say about him, he is a clever little bastard. He knows what's coming. I don't know how he knows that, but he hasn't done a single filthy thing since..." Beckett sighed and glanced at his patient. "He just goes around and gives me that 'I'm a cute little puppy' look. I half-expect him to get himself hurt on purpose, to crawl in here and show me the entire 'dying parrot' sequence."
"So, why do you hate him?"
"I don't. But… I used to be scared all the time. I was afraid to die, to be hurt, to disappoint those I called my friends… I considered it to be strength, but it was a weakness. He knew I would not be able to say 'no'. He knew…" The doctor drew a deep breath. "It was too late when I realized that blaming somebody for my own actions will get me nowhere." Carson fell silent and closed his eyes.
"Then what happened?"
"I quit being scared." Beckett smiled without opening his eyes. "Better late then never, ah?"
"That is why I can hear you?"
"No. You can… hear me because I modified my body. I was working on the drug which would do what your kind was trying to do to you – change Wraith into human."
"All the way?" Joe gasped, his dark eyes almost round.
"Yes. Then I realized that the easiest way to alter the reality is to alter myself. So I modified my body. But I had to change my soul first. And I did that without any drugs."
"But if he is right? If the things you prevent him from doing would save this place? If my kind will come…"
"They will not."
"How do you know?"
"I told them. And as you mentioned yourself, one cannot be in conflict with Shadow people."
"I did not hear… I am growing blind and deaf…" Joe turned face down again, and hid his face in the pillow.
"You will not go blind. Nor deaf. But we need to work on it together."
"There are many interesting things we can do together…" the Wraith's voice sounded unclear through the pillow.
"ARGH!" Carson sat bolt-upright on his gurney, his cheeks blushing, observing the image that floated into his mind. "Are you trying to seduce me, you little twerp? Remove it at once!" and he pointed with his finger into thin air in front of his face. "It is definitely the time for you to be restrained again!"
"Carson, please… I did not know it would work… I did not intend to offend you." Joe turned his head and looked at the doctor out of the corner of his eye.
Joe sighed and rolled on his back, allowing the doctor to put his wrists and ankles into the restraints.
"Carson…" the little Wraith tried to catch Beckett's eye. "I did not try to compromise you. I just… really, really like you…"
"I know, lad," the doctor sighed and brushed silky strands of colorless hair from the Wraiths face in almost absentminded gesture.
"What is it?" Joe the Wraith, wearing a khaki military jumpsuit, was sitting on the gurney, cross-legged, with the opened cardboard box standing in front of him.
Carson turned from his work to look at his patient. The little Wraith was feeling much better recently. They made couple short walks throughout the City during the last week. Joe still got tired pretty fast, and his nightmares were reluctant to leave him, but his digestive system seemed to be better adapting to the human food day by day.
"Where did you find it?" Carson pointed at the box with his chin.
"On the shelves. What is it?"
"My… memorabilia. Things to remember."
"Can I look?"
"You're already looking."
"What is this?"
Carson turned around. In his outstretched hand Joe was holding something that looked like small piece of fur with the long naked tail. The Wraith rolled the tail-tip between his fingers, studying the object with mixture of fascination and disgust on his face.
"It's the pelt of water-rat," Beckett grinned humorlessly. "When I was a kid, I found the recipe how to cure pelts. But I didn't have a pelt to experiment upon. Once I was playing by the river and saw that creature. I killed it. With the stick." Carson fell silent, looking in front of him with unseeing eyes.
The cranberry-red bead dangling from the rat's nose, 'tup' – small bright spot on the grayish ice.
"And then?" the Wraith was looking at him, curious.
"Then I took the pelt, and cured it, and I carry it with me ever since."
"To remember, that not every research is worth killing for. And I managed to forget about it anyway." The doctor sighed, and turned back to his work.
"I want that recipe," the Wraith mused quietly, placing the animal fur back into the box.
"Can I have a Wraith pelt?" Joe, hunched like a gargoyle, was sitting on the stool next to Carson's work-bench.
"Wraith hide. Term 'pelt' refers to a skin of small animal," Carson noted absentmindedly, not raising his eyes from his work.
"Can I have a Wraith h…"
"It's unethical. What do you need it for, anyway?"
"I want to be just like you. I will cure it, and carry it with me everywhere." The little Wraith nodded couple of times.
"Then I will ask Major Sheppard," Joe said in little, but very stubborn voice. "He will get me one."
The doctor stared the Wraith right in the eyes until the creature frowned and looked aside.
Then Carson snorted, very Wraith-like: "He just might. So go and ask him. But do be so kind as to tell him, that if he will go on with that project, I'll make hairy drum out of his scalp. And give it to the Athosian children to play with."