Category: Crossover with Stargate SG-1
Series/Sequel to: Perfect
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Daniel Jackson
Summary: After Aiden's encounter with the Wraith could things ever return to the way they were before?
"He was shocked, initially, to learn that I'd fallen in love with someone else, especially someone so much younger, but after a while I think he was glad I'd found someone and was genuinely sorry I lost you."
Aiden rolled onto his back as the words played once again in his head.
"Was being the operative word," Aiden said glumly. "...Before I bailed on him. Before I turned tail and ran off to Atlantis rather than risk the general's wrath. Before I got zapped by that Wraith and threw my career and my life away."
Aiden sighed deeply and tried to swallow the wave of emotion that threatened to overwhelm him, but the tears overtook him as he laid there in the dark. His misery was complete. At least before Daniel arrived in Atlantis Aiden could pretend that there was still someone out there he hadn't managed to disappoint. He'd assiduously avoided returning to the SGC for precisely that reason. He couldn't bear the thought of facing his grandparents. They would never know what had happened to him or what he'd done, but Aiden nonetheless no longer felt worthy of their unconditional love and support. He could never face his friends back in his old stomping grounds, the ones who'd teased him unmercifully when he joined the ROTC, the same friends who'd later confessed their unabashed pride when he returned to the neighborhood in his uniform. Nor could he ever look his old buddies at the SGC in the eye again. In all likelihood, none of them was privy to the details of Aiden's behavior in the Pegasus Galaxy, but that didn't matter. Aiden knew. He'd disgraced himself and the Marine Corps. No, he could never go home. Not to his family, not to his friends and not to Daniel.
Not that Aiden had any illusions that the latter was an option. But Daniel had come to Atlantis. Daniel knew what had Aiden had done and still called him a friend. Knowing him as he did, Aiden couldn't pretend that Daniel was anything less than sincere. That didn't alter the facts, however. Even if Daniel did still care for him on some level, even if Daniel wasn't involved with someone else, even if seeing Daniel again had awoken any number of emotions for Aiden...there was no going back. There was no way to undo the mistakes he'd made, beginning with walking out on Daniel in the first place.
"Maybe it was for the best, anyway," Aiden sighed. But after hours of lying awake trying to convince himself he still didn't believe it.
John stepped out of his room and nearly collided with Teyla, who was headed toward Aiden's room.
"He is not in the dining hall," she said by way of explanation. John quickly moved to block her path.
"Allow me," he said. "You go ahead and warn the kitchen." She smiled and turned back the way she'd come. When she was gone John sighed and went to Aiden's door, hesitating a moment before knocking.
John assumed that Daniel had found Aiden the previous night and that the two men had spoken. He wasn't sure what else he should assume, but he quickly concluded that it was highly unlikely that things had progressed beyond an awkward conversation. He raised his hand and knocked. He was about to knock a second time when Aiden opened the door, looking disheveled and only half awake.
"It's time for--you look like hell," John blurted before he could stop his tongue.
"I didn't sleep well," Aiden said groggily.
"Well, it's 0700; time for breakfast."
"I'm not on duty today."
"You still need breakfast," John said lightly.
"I'll eat later," Aiden said, turning away and heading back to his bed.
"You'll eat now, lieutenant," John said evenly, but there was no mistaking the command in his tone. Aiden froze. He sighed and turned around, sparing John an impertinent glare before heading for the bathroom. "I'll be back in ten," John said before he left Aiden's room. When the door shut, the façade fell and John frowned with worry. In all the time he'd known Aiden he'd never known him to oversleep, except for when he was sick or injured. John could only conclude that the younger man had had a rough night.
John couldn't help wondering what had transpired between Aiden and Daniel, but he tried to rein in his curiosity when he saw the anthropologist's door open further down the corridor. John stepped away from Aiden's door and returned Daniel's friendly wave. He watched as Daniel walked down the corridor, undoubtedly headed for the dining hall. John sighed again and turned his attention back to Aiden. He checked his watch and leaned against the wall to wait.
"Good morning, Aiden. They have pancakes today," Teyla announced cheerfully as Aiden approached the table. John had gone to collect trays for the two of them.
"Swell," Aiden replied as he took a seat. His eyes were on a spot across the room where Daniel sat with Michael Forrester and Carson Beckett. He didn't hear Teyla's reply; he continued to stare until Daniel glanced up and caught his eye. Aiden barely managed a small nod before averting his eyes.
"Maybe he doesn't want raw liver with his pancakes."
Aiden looked up sharply and met John's impish grin.
"There; he's back," John said smugly as Aiden looked down at the tray that had been placed in front of him. It was crowded with a tall stack of pancakes, sausages, a dish of applesauce, a banana, a container of orange juice, and a large cinnamon bun. Aiden sighed and lifted his fork as John rose. "I almost forgot your coffee. It didn't fit on the tray," he explained before he headed back to the counter.
"You must eat, Aiden, if you want to maintain your strength," Teyla said.
"You say that every morning as though it's news," Aiden replied, cutting into his pancakes.
"It is as true today as it was yesterday and as true as it will be tomorrow."
Aiden managed a small smile.
"That's no reason for you to make a daily proclamation," he replied mildly.
"If you promise to eat your breakfast every morning I will promise not to say it," Teyla offered. Aiden sighed again, but he brought the fork to his mouth and tasted the pancakes. A tiny smile momentarily graced his face, causing Teyla to smile in return. "You enjoy pancakes."
"I guess I do," Aiden admitted as he lifted his second forkful. He ate it in silence as Teyla watched like a proud parent. John returned with another tray.
"Mandy sends greetings," John said as he sat down again and pushed a mug across the table to Aiden. Aiden noticed that all John had on his plate was a couple slices of toast with jam.
"Who's Mandy?" he asked.
"Oh, she'd be crushed if she heard you ask that," John teased. "Mandy is one of the new personnel assigned to the commissary. She's been making you pies, rice pudding, cinnamon buns..."
"...And she made mac and cheese especially for you last week," Teyla added.
"Everyone had mac and cheese last week," Aiden protested.
"But she made it because she knew it was a favorite of yours," she insisted. Aiden turned to look at John. "I think she likes you, Aiden."
"I think she needs to be reminded of the regs," Aiden deadpanned.
"Maybe," John said with a slight frown, although he thought the infatuation was harmless. She never approached Aiden directly and he did nothing to encourage her. More importantly, the quality of food in the dining hall had improved significantly she'd developed her crush and John wasn't about to do anything to discourage that. He shrugged and turned his attention back to the young lieutenant. "You haven't touched your applesauce."
Aiden picked up the dish and placed it in front of him.
"You eat it," he challenged. John opened his mouth to speak, but Teyla's look silenced him. John picked up a spoon.
"Thanks," John said with a false smile.
"Hey, lieutenant!" called Stackhouse from somewhere behind Aiden. "Do you think you could tell Corporal Burton that you like cheesecake?"
"Huh?" Aiden replied, turning to look at him.
"Or chocolate cake; I'm not picky," Stackhouse winked and took his leave.
"Who's Corporal Burton?" Aiden asked in confusion.
"Your friend Mandy," John said with a grin. Aiden rolled his eyes. "Eat your banana."
"And drink your juice," Teyla added. Aiden rolled his eyes again.
"Here; use it to take one of these," Carson said as he came up beside him. He placed a bottle of vitamins on the table. "I finally found them in the fourth crate of supplies."
"With everything you make me eat I need these too?" Aiden said uneasily.
"If these do the trick we'll be able to ease up on you a bit at meal time," Carson said reassuringly.
"I don't know about you but I kind of enjoy watching the lieutenant eat," John said with a wink. Aiden just stared at him for a moment. "Take your vitamin, Ford, and then you can have your cinnamon bun."
"I don't want--."
"Ah, ah, ah!"
"Colonel Sheppard, I thought you wished to speak with Dr. Weir before today's mission," Teyla said with a stern look at him. John took the hint and rose to his feet.
"Hang in there, Ford," he said, pausing to pat the lieutenant's shoulder before he walked away. Teyla watched him leave before turning back to Aiden.
"Eat your cinnamon bun," she said firmly.
Out in the corridor John saw Daniel speaking with Sam. She laughed at something he said and then abruptly ducked into the dining hall. John frowned at the scene for a moment and then smiled when, seconds later, Rodney accosted Daniel and asked for her. Daniel feigned ignorance of her whereabouts--convincingly, John thought--and managed to steer Rodney in the opposite direction. When Daniel chuckled to himself and walked off, John moved to catch up with him.
"Morning doctor," he said easily.
"Morning...and I thought we agreed on first names."
"Right," John replied. "So, did you manage to find Ford last night?"
"Yeah; we talked a little," Daniel said cagily; John had no doubts that whatever transpired between the two former lovers would remain between them. He had no problem with that. His only concern was for Aiden's well-being.
"Good," he said. "I feel better knowing that you were able to break the ice."
"Breaking the ice is one thing. That doesn't mean that it'll be smooth sailing from here on out," Daniel said, picking up on the metaphor.
"It's a step," John conceded. "Keep at it...Daniel."
Daniel watched him go, questioning once again the extent of John's interest in Aiden. He wondered, in fact, if John was even aware of his infatuation. Daniel was beginning to believe that more than a few people in Atlantis were a little in love with the lieutenant. He could well empathize; he, too, had been caught up in Aiden's spell. He still was, though he didn't care to explore his feelings just then. Daniel's first priority was helping Aiden to cope with his extraordinary experience. He went back into the dining hall in pursuit of another cup of coffee.
"Here, Dr. Jackson; I just made a fresh pot," a young woman behind the counter said. Daniel smiled and held out his mug. After a few sips of coffee, Daniel turned and saw Aiden and Teyla sitting together at a small table on the far side of the room. Smiling to himself, he went over to join Sam.
"So what’s on tap for today?" he asked as he settled into a seat that afforded him a good view of Aiden's profile.
"I spoke with Elizabeth earlier. She said that Colonel Sheppard's team is going off world today to test that Ancient device I told you about. I'm going to join them."
"I'm sure Dr. McKay will be thrilled to hear that," Daniel said impishly.
"Oh, he's not so bad," Sam admitted, "…not when he's busy, anyway. How about you?"
"I'm heading back to the library. I'm still hoping to find another language key like the one we saw on Ernest's planet."
"Do you think it's likely? I mean if the Ancients had one I should have thought someone would have found it by now."
"I can dream," Daniel said with a shrug. "Actually, I think it's more likely that we'll find a map of their repositories of knowledge." Daniel was distracted by movement across the room. Aiden and Teyla rose with their trays and made their way toward the exit. As they passed Daniel's table, they paused just long enough to say hello.
"Good morning, Dr. Carter, Dr. Jackson," Teyla said.
"Good morning, Teyla, Lieutenant Ford," Sam replied.
"Good morning ma'am, Dr. Jackson," Aiden said formally. Daniel frowned as the pair left the room.
"What's wrong?" Sam asked.
"He seem a little stiff to you?" Daniel asked as he watched Aiden depart.
"Stiff as in…"
"Uptight; he looked a little--."
"He looked fine to me," Sam said, "but then I'm used to being addressed that way by junior officers."
"Oh; maybe that's it," Daniel said.
Twelve hours later, Aiden entered the commissary and looked around. Seeing none of his usual keepers, he went to the counter and picked up a tray. He scanned the choices available for the evening meal and opted for meat loaf; he was tired of eating the fish Carson and Teyla seemed to prefer. The airman at the counter loaded a plate with a thick slab of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and string beans before handing it to the lieutenant.
"It's really good, tonight, sir," the young man said. "Enjoy."
"Thanks," Aiden replied. He grabbed a dish of chocolate pudding and picked up his tray, intent of finding a seat near the window.
"Wouldn't you rather have a nice piece of chocolate cake instead of that pudding, lieutenant? A little bird told me it was your favorite."
Aiden looked up at the pretty young woman behind the counter. She smiled and held out a plate bearing a huge slice of chocolate cake covered in rich, fudgy icing.
"Thank you," Aiden said with a hesitant smile.
"You could have both, sir," she suggested as she made room for the cake on Aiden's tray.
"Just the cake, I think," Aiden said diffidently. The server pouted slightly, but removed the extra dessert.
"Enjoy it, sir," she said, brightening.
"Do good friends of the lieutenant get chocolate cake, too, or is it just for him?" a voice said from behind Aiden. He turned and saw Daniel holding a tray and smiled as the young woman produced a second piece of cake.
"For you, Dr. J, of course," she said. Daniel noticed that his slice of cake was somewhat smaller than Aiden's.
"My pleasure," she said. Aiden nodded curtly and backed away from the counter.
"Mind if I join you?" Daniel asked, following.
"Sure," Aiden said. He found an empty table near the window and sat down.
"Where are all your friends? You always seem to be surrounded at meals," Daniel observed. Aiden gazed out the window.
"I think Dr. B is on the mainland. The others are on an off-world mission."
"Oh, that's right. Sam went with them," Daniel said easily. "Shouldn't you be eating that?" he prodded gently.
"Yeah," Aiden sighed. He dug into his potatoes without enthusiasm. Daniel tried the meatloaf and was pleasantly surprised.
"How is it possible that food tastes better here than at the SGC?"
"Does it? I don't remember."
"Oh; it has been a while for you, hasn't it?" Daniel said. "Well, take my word for it. Back home I would have assiduously avoided anything purporting to be meatloaf."
"Home," Aiden said wistfully. Daniel cringed inwardly, realizing that he'd touched on a sensitive topic, but Aiden abruptly smiled and began describing the many variations on meatloaf he'd encountered in his travels. Daniel relaxed and the pair talked comfortably while they ate dinner. When they turned to their cake, a dish of ice cream appeared on the table, courtesy of Radek Zelenka.
"Mandy said she forgot to give this earlier," he said with a wink. Aiden colored slightly when Daniel smiled knowingly. He pushed the dish to the center of the table so that they could share it.
"Chocolate cake, pudding, ice cream... So tell me about you and Mandy," Daniel said before slowly licking his spoon. Aiden just stared at his mouth for a moment.
"Uh... She likes to feed me," he said with a shrug. He picked up his fork and focused his eyes on his cake.
"Seems to be a popular sport around here," Daniel said as he sat back to observe his former lover.
"The doc thinks I don't eat enough," Aiden admitted softly.
"Neither does Mandy, apparently," Daniel grinned. Aiden shot him a look and rose to his feet. They stowed their trays and left the dining hall. "So that's why you're surrounded by people at every meal?" Daniel asked seriously.
"If I don't eat enough they make me," Aiden admitted. Daniel acknowledged the issue with a brief nod and dropped it.
"So where's this balcony I got lost on last night? It took me nearly twenty minutes to find my way back to my room after you left."
"It's this way," Aiden said, nodding in the direction of the transporter. "But we can go somewhere else if you like."
"Somewhere closer to civilization? That might be a good idea," Daniel said dryly. Aiden smiled and led him to another balcony. "This is nice. Why would you ever want to travel all the way over to west of nowhere?"
"It's more private over there, for one thing," Aiden said. He leaned on the railing and stared out at the setting sun. "This is a nice, quiet spot--hardly anyone ever comes up here even though the lower deck is always full of people in the evenings." As he spoke, Daniel looked over the railing and saw a handful of scientists out enjoying the evening air. They were at least twenty feet below, however, affording the pair plenty of privacy. "And I like the view of the stars over there," Aiden continued. "The colonel and I have been charting and naming the constellations in that quadrant."
"Didn't the Ancients leave star maps?"
"Yeah, but they didn't identify constellations the way we do. All the stars just have numbers. They're as boring as SGC planet designations," Aiden said distastefully. He sat on a bench at the end of the balcony and Daniel joined him.
"So you and the colonel--."
"You aren't going to start--."
"No, no; I just want to hear about your constellations," Daniel assured him. Aiden shrugged.
"It's no big deal. It's just something we started doing for fun. I even named one after you," he said with a smile.
"You named a constellation after me?"
"Yeah; it's called 'The Geek,'" Aiden said. Daniel squinted at him a moment.
"It's a pair of glasses," Aiden explained. "The colonel wanted to call it 'Zelenka.' It's a small constellation, but it's got the hottest star in the system--so not Zelenka." He shrugged again and Daniel sat back smiling.
"Well, that makes all the sense in the world," he said. They sat for a while enjoying the sunset while Aiden reeled off a few of the other more interesting constellations they'd found. During a lull in the conversation, Daniel found an opening. "Look, Aiden, I was hoping we could talk about something you said last night." He saw Aiden stiffen involuntarily, but he pressed on nonetheless. "You said that you never told anyone about your experience with the Wraith. I thought about that after you left me and I realized that you still haven't."
"Huh?" Aiden said quizzically.
"You know what I mean. You told me how you were initially infused with the Wraith enzyme. You told me about your recovery. You told me about how your friends supported you through the ordeal. Dr. Beckett could have told me all that," Daniel said, watching Aiden for a reaction. But he remained silent, staring out at the night sky. "Look, I'm not trying to force you to confide in me. Believe me, no one knows better than I do what they do to after something like this. I've been through it more times than I care to think about." Aiden averted his eyes and shifted uncomfortably as Daniel continued. "They poked me and probed me seven ways to Sunday, debriefed me till I was too hoarse to speak and then they sat me down in front of a shrink who wanted to know what it felt like to die and ascend." Aiden looked up.
"What was it like?" he asked. Surprised by the question, Daniel was stumped for a moment.
"I don't know, really. I have no memory of it," he said with a frown.
"I do," Aiden said, wrapping his arms around himself protectively. Daniel was stunned by Aiden's revelation.
"The Wraith put his palm on my chest and I felt myself weakening. Then I was falling; I couldn't hear anything after the blast. It was so odd, sort of surreal, slow motion--hitting the water and sinking. I could feel the Wraith still clinging to my body and I felt the cold water. Then I became aware that we were drifting and I knew that I couldn't stay in the water like that or I'd drown. But I couldn't move. We were in there for a long time--."
"Over an hour and a half, according to the reports," Daniel said. Aiden looked up.
"Yeah," he said absently. "It was like being in suspended animation. I could feel the water, the Wraith... I could feel the fish swimming around me. But I was also--it was like I was sleeping, you know?"
"You were apparently in some sort of stasis. It's what kept you alive."
That single word, barely more than a whisper, chilled Daniel to the core.
"I died. I felt it. I felt my heart slow to a stop, I felt my bowels evacuate, my brain function slowing...every nerve ceasing to communicate. I don't know how long it took, but it felt like an eternity. And I was still out there in the water. I was still aware," Aiden said. "For a long time afterwards I thought I'd just imagined that. I thought it was a dream, one of those out of body experiences people have, you know? But it wasn't."
"How can you be sure?"
"Well, I didn't, till it happened again. It was aboard a Wraith vessel. I was cornered and they stabbed me with something from behind. I felt the hole being bored through my chest and I began to bleed profusely," Aiden said swallowing hard. "I felt the pain and then I could feel--. They thought I was dead. But I wasn't; I was in that same place between here and there. Just me floating in the nothingness... They didn't try to drain me. They just left me for dead, but I revived and got the hell out of there."
"You just revived?" Daniel asked in spite of himself. He'd meant to remain silent and let Aiden tell his tale but curiosity got the best of him. Aiden nodded.
"It took a while. I don't know how long. One minute I was gone, dead--or 'not dead'--and then I sat up, fully healed again."
"This is what you haven't told anyone," Daniel surmised. Aiden nodded again.
"When they brought me back and gave me that antivirus they'd developed..."
Daniel held his breath and waited for Aiden to speak. But Aiden just shook his head. Composing himself, he stared out at the sky. Daniel exhaled and waited a few seconds more before he grew impatient.
"When they gave you the meds what happened?"
Aiden laughed mirthlessly and turned to look at him.
"You know how they say that if something doesn't kill you it'll cure you? Well, Dr. B's meds did both."
Daniel sat forward and gaped.
"At first the drug made me extremely violent; then I went into a cardiac arrest. For the ten minutes they spent trying to revive me, I was in that place between. Everything was gone except my mind. I could sense them out there pounding on my chest, defibrillating me--the whole nine yards. Dr. Beckett called it and then I gasped and opened my eyes."
"That might have been a completely normal experience--well, a more 'normal' out of body experience. People who've had a close brush with death have often reported--." Daniel fell silent when Aiden shook his head.
"I'll never know, will I? I'll never be able to tell if I'm having a typical reaction or a Wraith-enhanced one. I'll never be normal again, Daniel," Aiden said bleakly.
"You think you're still--. Aiden, you've got to speak to the doctor about this.'
"No way," Aiden said.
"Aiden, if you think there are any lasting effects from the Wraith enzyme your doctor should know," Daniel repeated urgently.
"Why? So they hook me up to those machines again? So they can poke me and prod me seven ways till Sunday? They did all their tests. They came back saying that I was normal."
"But you don't believe it."
"I'm not sure I know what normal is, anymore. For three months I thought it was completely normal to run from one planet to another killing Wraith and injecting their blood into my veins. I thought my behavior was sound and reasonable and productive and I... I couldn't understand why no one agreed with me. I thought..." Aiden look sickened and he turned to the railing. Daniel leapt to his feet but Aiden recoiled at his touch. "Don't, man."
"Aiden," he said softly as he pulled him into his arms. Aiden struggled for a moment, but he relented when he began to cry.
"I'm scared," Aiden confessed an hour later. He was sitting next to Daniel on the bench, Daniel's arms protectively wrapped around him. They'd been like that for some time, though Aiden had no memory of returning to the bench or sitting down.
"You're afraid that you're still part Wraith," Daniel concluded. He'd spent the last ten minutes trying to process all that he'd just learned after Aiden broke down and told him everything he'd been keeping inside for the last six months.
"I know I'm still part Wraith," Aiden said firmly. "I'm afraid I'll never be me again. They want to send me home. They told me to take a month off and spend it with my family, go and see my old friends. But I can't. I can't go back to Lancaster and let my grandparents see me like this."
"You look fine, Aiden," Daniel assured him. John had mentioned Aiden's altered appearance, but there was no evidence of the transformation in Aiden's face. To Daniel's eyes, which had extensive and intimate knowledge of Aiden's face, Aiden looked just as he had the first time they met.
"You don't get it," Aiden said. "I may look like the old me on the outside, but in here," he said, thumping his chest. "In here it's different. I'm not the person they think I am anymore."
"Were you ever the person they thought you were?" Daniel asked. Aiden angrily pulled away.
"Don't give me that psychological bullshit," he spat.
"No bullshit," Daniel replied. "Fact; they don't really know the real you."
"The hell they don't!" Aiden turned away.
"Do they know you once tried pot in the tenth grade?"
"Do they know you joined the military to escape your boring hometown?"
Aiden shook his head.
"Do they know that you sat through that 'ER' marathon with them even though you despise that show?"
"They're my grandparents! I'd do anything for them!" Aiden laughed. Daniel smiled wryly.
"Do they know about us, or about your involvement with any other man, for that matter?" Daniel asked calmly. Aiden's smile dissolved.
"No," he said softly. "It'd break their hearts. They want me to get married someday and settle down...give them a few great grandchildren."
"And it's never occurred to you to try and tell them how you might feel about that prospect," Daniel said.
"What's your point?"
"You know my point, Aiden. Yes, they might be disappointed if you told them. You being gay might come as a shock to them. It might go against everything they believe. But do you honestly think that they'd turn against you--that they'd love you any less?"
"Not wanting to tell my grandparents I'm gay isn't the same thing as telling them I'm half alien."
"You're not--. Look," Daniel said with mild exasperation. "I'm not suggesting that you tell them everything. You've never told them everything, not about your work, your love life, your aspirations… All I'm saying is that your grandparents love you and deserve to see you again, whether or not they know the truth. And you deserve to see them, too."
"How can I pretend that--?"
"Why do you have to pretend anything?"
"Oh, man; this is such a load of crap," Aiden said dismissively. He rose to leave, but Daniel prevented him.
"Wait!" he called. Aiden stopped and turned around. "I'm sorry, Aiden. I didn't mean to upset you. Look, all I wanted to do tonight is hear you out. I wanted to know what was going on in your head."
"Well, now you know, doc."
Aiden turned away again, intent on leaving.
"Don't I get to tell you my story?"
"What story?" Aiden asked, turning back again.
"I've been through a few weird experiences, too, you know. Being an ascended being has got to trump being part Wraith," Daniel said, attempting to lighten the mood.
"You think so?"
"I know so. Sit down. Come on, sit down."
Aiden reluctantly settled on the bench.
"I want to tell you about something that happened to me the first time I died. It was about a year after I joined SG-1. We went on a mission to planet P3R-636. It was the site of a former Goa'uld mining colony; the natives had overthrown their overlords and freed themselves and we thought they might make good allies. We were walking through the woods on our way to their city when I saw a flash of color a short distance away. I followed it and saw a woman who was apparently about to throw herself off a cliff. Jack ordered me to stay put, but I rushed out of the clearing and stopped her." Daniel went on to explain how Shyla, the daughter of Pyrus--ruler of the colony--declared him her savior and brought him to her father's court. The rest of SG-1 was sent to the naquada mines. "It turned out that Pyrus was no better than the Goa'uld he'd rebelled against; he'd adopted their ways, enslaving his own people to work the mines. His guards even wore the uniforms of the Jaffa and carried their weapons. Worst of all, he and his daughter used a sarcophagus as a restorative, the way you or I might take a hot bath at the end of a long day and they encouraged me to do the same," Daniel said with a slight shiver.
"I became addicted to its effects," he said, after explaining how he'd been crushed to death by a rock fall and revived in the sarcophagus. "Continued use of the sarcophagus had the same effect as a powerful stimulant. In fact, Janet told me that its effects were similar to those of crack cocaine. I ignored everything except my own need for another rush. And when Jack pointedly reminded me of that fact I insisted that I was doing everything in my power to help free him. He finally managed to get through to me and I convinced Shyla to let them go. Actually, I agreed to marry her if she'd let them go," Daniel admitted uncomfortably.
"You two--." Aiden looked at him oddly.
"We weren't lovers, no. She was in love with me; I wasn't in love with her. If anything, I was obsessed." Daniel shook his head. "It's a bit fuzzy now, but I was just like you--convinced that I was thinking rationally and doing the right thing. It wasn't till I was back at the SGC and going through withdrawal that I was made to realize the full weight of what I'd done. I'd abandoned my friends, forgotten my obligations to my wife, the SGC... "
"You were never a security risk or a threat to your home planet."
"As far as I can tell, no," Daniel admitted. "Is that what's bothering you? You still feel guilty about your behavior?"
"I pulled a gun on Dr. McKay! I might have shot him."
"But you didn't. And you didn't shoot Colonel Sheppard or any other of your friends. They shot you," Daniel reminded him. "You know, I tried to shoot Jack once," he said bemusedly. "Funny how you can forget something like that."
"You could forget something like that?" Aiden said incredulously.
"What I remember most about the incident is that he shot me," Daniel replied. "Yet another thing you and I have in common, being shot by our own. Now that I think of it, he shot me because I was a potential threat to our home planet. It happened a month or two after you left for Atlantis. After Anubis's defeat we believed him to be dead. In reality, he'd simply ceased to exist in corporeal form. His 'essence' briefly possessed my body and I tried to shoot my way out of the SGC. I managed to shoot two SF's before Jack stopped me. And unlike you, I didn't have the benefit of Wraith enzymes to help me heal. It hurt like a bitch for weeks."
Aiden reached over and squeezed Daniel's arm, his hand instinctively finding and rubbing the exact spot where Daniel was wounded. He dropped his hand after a moment, and Daniel felt the loss.
"I was trained to be the good guy," Aiden said dejectedly.
"And in your own little warped way, you believed you were the good guy. And you were; you killed a few Wraith, pissed off a lot of people...probably caused a few hairs to turn grey--including mine--but essentially, you did little actual harm, Aiden. The person you've most disappointed was yourself. That's certainly how I felt. I always thought I was a much better person than the man I proved myself to be. That scared the hell out of me."
"Me, too," Aiden admitted. "Still does."
"You'll get past it. I'd like to help, if you'll let me."
Aiden shook his head, but he was smiling as he did so.
"What?" Daniel asked.
"You're still a dreamer, doc."
"Because I think you're salvageable? Why don't you just call me delusional and be done with it?" Daniel teased.
"I should," Aiden said soberly. Daniel threw an arm around Aiden's shoulders and pulled him closer.
"I'm not delusional, Aiden. I know you. Regardless of what you've been through, regardless of what's floating through your veins, I know you. And as much as I hate to admit it, I'm not the only one around here who can say that. You're surrounded by good people who believe in you. John, Elizabeth, Teyla, Dr. Beckett... They've always believed in you. They never gave up on you, no matter what you did or how badly you think you disappointed them. And your grandparents have never stopped believing in you, Aiden. Maybe they can never know what you've been through, but I doubt that their love for you would waiver one iota if they did."
"I wish I could believe that," Aiden said.
"You do believe it, Aiden," Daniel insisted. "None of this is about what anyone else thinks of you. Hell, everyone I've met thinks the world of you. What you have trouble believing is that you deserve our love and support."
"Maybe I don't," Aiden said, slumping into Daniel's shoulder. Daniel shifted him so that he leaned against his chest and then wrapped his arms around him.
"If there's one thing I learned from that experience it's that no one is unsalvageable. I hated myself after what happened, but like you I had the good fortune to be surrounded by people who loved me enough to help."
"General O'Neill?" Aiden said. Daniel nodded.
"Yes, and Sam Carter and Teal'c, and George Hammond, and Janet Fraiser, and several others who cared more for me than I thought I was worth. Look, Aiden: we each had something terrible happen to us and we each became a victim. Neither of us asked for it, and neither of us handled it particularly well. It's time to deal with it and move on."
"I can't," Aiden said, shaking his head.
John stepped out on the balcony and caught a glimpse of Aiden and Daniel huddled together at the far end. He took a step backward and retreated. He'd purposely chosen this deck because he thought Aiden and Daniel might be on the balcony at the other end of the city. He might have stayed; the deck was large enough to allow the others their privacy, but he was expecting Rodney and Carson to join him shortly. They didn't know about Aiden's relationship with Daniel and John didn't want to accidentally out them.
On to Part 4