Author's notes: 1. This story was written for the 'criminal challenge' at SGAflashfic.
2. I am grateful to Ayla (kibousueshijuu) for editing this story.
"Everything about him is likely to suggest desirable and superior human qualities, a robust mental health."
Hervey Cleckley, M.D., The Mask of Sanity
He shifted a little, making himself comfortable, glanced at the man peacefully sleeping next to him, then looked at the ceiling.
He had known he was different as long as he could remember. But he had made an effort to keep it from others; getting into spotlight was never a survival trait. Funny, but the only man alive who had managed to guess who he truly was, was the man who didn't understand him at all: his father.
"Hope you'll fall on your arse one day, you little manipulative freak."
"Freak," he chuckled, closing his eyes. It wasn't like he didn't know what emotions were, he just couldn't experience some of them. Oh, he was perfectly familiar with the full spectrum of frustration, from the blinding supernova of anger somewhere near his solar plexus, to nagging toothache of annoyance. He lived for a thrill of flying. He could be sexually attracted to other human beings - women as well as men. He learned to predict not only what people would do in a given situation, but to recognize the very emotions motivating them. He just couldn't feel what others were feeling.
But his father was so wrong about him. Yes, he despised people, but all the men around him - soldiers and civilians, saints and criminals, smartasses and fools - were useful. For they knew something he didn't – what it was like to feel. He could ask them to explain, learn from them, adding this new knowledge to his mimicry camouflage.
Some were gifted in such explanations, like that boy he met 35 years ago in elementary school, who told him that fear feels cold. Some were pretty dumb, like McKay - he gave a sidelong glance at the dark head on the next pillow - who told him that love feels like a weird memory lapse, where you forget how to breathe.
It wasn't easy, but he managed without falling on his arse. The only people who ever sensed his alienness were his COs. "Some 'military intuition' or something," he shuddered. But all of them were long gone. All, but his father.
"You know what, Dad? You can go screw yourself with your 'long term goals'." His fingers twitched minutely, making quotation marks. "Every minute of every day I can live to my fullest. Think you can top that?"
True, there were a lot of people in the Air Force who never thought he would make it past Captain. But he did. He had everyone just where he wanted them. He could do whatever he wanted, and he didn't even have to rationalize his behavior, or explain himself anymore. People did it for him.
He could make them do anything he wanted. Manipulating even smart ones like Weir or McKay was as easy as MENSA. 'Is the picture below of a left eye or a right eye? What is the number which, if divided by four, is equal to 1/6 of 84?' Little smile here, little pout there…
And yet emotions posed problems more often than not. The primordial soup of hormones and neurotransmitters made people tick, and twitch, and change their minds, and there was only just so much he could decipher logically. What made the doctor oppose him when he wanted to kill those converted Wraith? Beckett invented the damn virus! And God's witness, it did take but a little push to make him break his Oath.
He wondered idly if Beckett was a war criminal. Technically, yes. He had read about Nuremberg Trials, and what the good doctor did here didn't differ much from what he had read. But those guys were tried, and found guilty, and prosecuted. Beckett, on the other hand… They didn't arrest him, didn't try to take his license, he didn't even get yelled at by Weir. And you ain't criminal if you ain't caught.
But the question remained, what had made Beckett say 'They're my responsibility' - what exactly did he feel? Doc seemed to be the perfect guy to ask, patient and intelligent, he'd find a way to explain what was happening inside that head of his. But there was never time, and now the betrayer of the Oath was dead, blown into a million pieces, useless.
He smiled a little, dismissing the thought, letting his consciousness slide into a peaceful, dreamless sleep. He guessed he could live a little longer without knowing what it was like to feel shame or remorse.