Spoilers: Siege, Part 3, Runner, Lost Boys
Summary: Aiden's recovery--told from John's point of view.
Author's Note: This is another cheat, I'm afraid. It's from a story I began writing before season two of SGA began Redemption and I abandoned it after two chapters when I learned that Aiden wasn't going to be coming back to Atlantis. It also depressed the hell out of me. The subject matter is painful stuff. This story uses two of John's monologues from the original story, as well as some new material.
It has occurred to me--after God knows how many encounters with the Wraith--that we've been going about fighting them all wrong. From the first moment a gun is put into a soldier's hand he's taught to aim for the largest target. I can still recall being told by our instructor that people only shoot to wound their targets in the movies. In real life, the whole point of shooting a gun is to eliminate the threat. Your goal is to bring down your target; therefore, you should always aim at the largest body mass and go for the chest. Of course, no boot camp instructor has ever encountered the Wraith.
Shooting those fuckers in the chest accomplishes nothing unless you hit them in one particular spot. According to Dr. Beckett, that sweet spot is approximately four inches square, which means that it generally takes a few dozen rounds to bring one of them down. We should be aiming higher. Blowing a Wraith's brains out of the back of his head is a lot more practical than shooting it in the chest. Even if it didn't kill the damned thing it would stop it from killing us.
I'm sitting here second-guessing my Wraith-fighting strategy as I contemplate how to deal with Aiden Ford, should we ever encounter him again. I'd say it’s a given--he seems eager to rejoin us, at least on some level. It's hard to know for sure what he wants; I'm not sure he even knows. All I know is that the next time I see him I'll have to be better prepared.
Twice I've had him in my sights. The first time I couldn't shoot. The second time, I wimped out and shot him in the leg. Neither time was I successful in preventing him from escaping. I was taught to aim for the largest body mass. I could have shot him in the heart. Hell, I could have put a bullet between his eyes. I didn't do it. I couldn't do it.
If I could be cured of the Iratus virus, Ford can be cured of the Wraith enzyme. I have to believe that. I have to believe that if we get him back there is something we can do to help him. He's not a lost cause. He can be cured. Aiden Ford is not a Wraith. A single bullet to his brain will undoubtedly kill him. But Aiden Ford can be saved. If not, I'll have to aim higher.
And I'll have to kill someone I've come to care too much about, and I don't think I can live with that.
No Man Left Behind
I've lost him again. This time, my failure had nothing to do with faulty strategy. This time it was intentional. I purposely abandoned him. I left Aiden Ford in the hands of the Wraith.
I was too wrapped up in my own survival; too busy trying to escape to worry about his fate. I was hell bent on retrieving Teyla and Ronon and getting back to the Dart so I could rescue McKay to think about the man who, in spite of all that has happened and all he's done, I still love. It took me a long time to come to terms with my feelings, but there's no point in lying about it now. I love him. Loved him.
I'm having a hard time living with myself at the moment. Elizabeth keeps trying to reassure me that I did the right thing. Caldwell's in complete agreement--there's a first! McKay, Teyla, Beckett; they all condone my behavior. They're all wrong, but I seem to be the only one who sees me as a failure.
I didn't even try to help him. From the moment Ford took us prisoner I was determined to escape. I wanted to grab my people and get the hell out of Dodge. He'd kidnapped and drugged us, and forced us to play along with his delusional plot to take down a hive ship. He was whacked out and dangerously crazy. But he was still Ford, my Ford--eager to prove himself, eager to rise to a challenge, eager to do the right thing, in his own sick and twisted, fucked-up way.
I could see it in his eyes--Aiden's still somewhere in there. The one I knew. The one I'd fallen for the first time he smiled at me. The one I didn't love enough to save. He truly meant it when he said he wanted to go home. But I didn't care. I'd already made plans. I was going to grab "my people" and go. When did Aiden Ford cease to be one of my people?
I once risked a court martial to save "my people" from an almost certain death in Afghanistan. I was willing to risk both my life and my career because I firmly believed that no man should be left behind. Why wasn't I willing to take the same risk for the sake of Aiden Ford? I might have brought him back along with the others and turned him over to the docs. It never entered my head.
I've violated my own principles more than once in my life. This time I simply ignored them. I left a man behind. I left Aiden Ford to die at the hands of the Wraith.
I still don't know how Caldwell's people found McKay. When we met up with their ship we just turned toward the nearest gate and headed for Atlantis. No one suggested we go back for Aiden. None of us paused to ponder his fate. We were all too glad to be free, too anxious to get Teyla and McKay and Ronon back to base for treatment.
No one doubted that they were worth saving. No one questioned the decision to come looking for the rest of us after McKay told Elizabeth that the three of them had been doped up with the enzyme. We weren't abandoned. And yet Aiden Ford was declared a lost cause, a casualty of war. Elizabeth quietly moved his name from the MIA list to "Presumed Dead."
And I'm the one who left him to die.
He's still alive...if the term "living" properly describes Aiden's existence since leaving Atlantis. I'm not sure if it's a blessing or a curse. If I'd been in his shoes I'm not sure what I'd call it.
The Wraith did a number on him. He'd been tortured, apparently in a misguided attempt to find out what made him tick. They probably also wanted to learn the location of Earth, as if he could explain it. None of us can answer that question; it's not as if we all carry a star chart in our heads. Even the gate address for Earth eludes most of us.
Ironically, they turned Aiden into a runner. Some sick fuck implanted a chip in his back and turned him loose for sport. When we stepped through the gate on P3X-727 we found no fewer than eight Wraith bodies before my life signs detector led us to him. In all, he'd taken down a dozen Wraith before he passed out. The hunted became the hunter and they all got what they deserved.
Following Dr. Beckett's instructions, we sedated Aiden and brought him back through the gate along with the enzyme sacs harvested from all the corpses. The doc said he might need them to survive. Aiden apparently hadn't fed on any of the Wraith he'd killed. He was in an induced coma so it was impossible to ascertain whether it was because he hadn't had time to juice up or if he simply chose not to do so. The doc said that the Wraith had been killed over the course of several hours. I doubt that Aiden had been pinned down and unable to harvest the enzyme during that whole time. We eventually decided that Aiden hadn't fed by choice.
I spent the next three days trying to figure out what it meant. It certainly didn't mean that the Wraith had suddenly become altruists and cured him of his addiction. The doc said he was suffering from withdrawal when we found him. Was he trying to quit on his own? That didn't seem likely, even if it was possible. After mulling over every conceivable scenario, I could only come to one conclusion.
He wanted to die. He'd embarked on a slow, deliberate and agonizing suicide. Dr. Beckett agreed, though we kept our theory to ourselves. As it was, I had to restrain myself from punching Ronon's lights out when he idly suggested that bringing Aiden back to Atlantis was a waste of time and resources. I expected Teyla to hit him, but I was surprised when Rodney was the one to dive for Ronon's jugular. He actually managed to land a few blows before Ronon calmly plucked him away. Then Elizabeth tore our newest addition a new one for being so insensitive. Her invective hit home for all of us; we all left the conference room feeling more than a little guilty.
We'd all let Aiden down. We'd allowed other priorities to let us lose sight of what was truly important. Not once, in any of the times we'd had contact with Aiden did we bother to tell him that he didn't need to prove himself. We never told him that we would be happy to have him back just as he was. We were so determined to bring home the freak of nature he'd become that we lost sight of him, of the man who had always been there for all of us. We'd always taken him for granted. He was competent, reliable and ignored. Aiden was willing to risk life and limb in a deranged attempt to show us all that he was worthy of us; in truth, we're all unworthy of him. We failed him. I failed him. I didn't save him. I merely collected what was left of him. He'd given up hope and lost his will to live. And when and if he ever awakens again, he faces an even crueler reality.
Just when he finally gave up on all of us, we found him and brought him home. When he chose to die, we chose to force him to live against his own inclination. He'd been a victim of the Wraith; now he's become a victim at the hands of the people who should have protected him. We should have saved him. At the very least, we should have let him die with dignity. Instead we've violated him all over again.
And I'm ashamed to say I'm glad we did. I've come to hate myself over these last few months, but I love him too much to let him go.
I stand before the glass that separates Aiden from the rest of Atlantis. Only medical staff are allowed inside the containment booth. Dr. Beckett discovered it shortly after we arrived in the city but he'd never figured out what it was for until we brought Aiden back. Now it's abundantly clear--it was meant to contain a Wraith, probably one of the Atlantean experiments. The glass partition wasn't unbreakable; in his present condition, Aiden would be able to smash through it easily. However, if he did, he would release a gas that would kill everyone in the room within sixty seconds unless someone outside the suite released the antidote. Fortunately, he was in no condition to break out of his cell.
The first time he came to, he tried to kill himself. Aiden pulled out his breathing cannula, ripped out all the leads to the monitors tracking his vital signs and tried to gouge his wrist with the needle on his IV. Fortunately, the guards--on the scene at Elizabeth's insistence--were able to stop him before he did serious damage. Carson warned him about the containment unit and he settled down. The doc instinctively knew that Aiden wouldn't do anything that would cause harm to any of us.
Weaning Aiden off the enzyme made him vulnerable to an opportunistic infection He developed pneumonia and it nearly killed him. That Wraith shit played hell with his immune system as well as his brain. Somehow, he found the strength to rally and he's nearly recovered from the pneumonia. But the addiction is still his greatest challenge. Delirium tremors constantly wrack Aiden's body and Carson spends hours just sitting with him, talking him away from whatever demon's got a hold of him. I want to be in there. I want to help, too, but Aiden refuses to acknowledge my presence. He won't speak to Carson, either, but he's allowed himself to accept Carson's support and for that I'm grateful.
I have to give the guy credit--Aiden nearly killed him twice, but Carson still had the balls to go right in there and fight to save Aiden's life. I knew that I wasn't the only person in Atlantis who'd fallen for Aiden, but until now I hadn't realized that there was someone who loved him as much as I do. I'll worry about what that means later. The important thing is that Aiden survives this ordeal. Even if it means ultimately losing out in the end, I can live with that, as long as Aiden lives.
Right now I'm having doubts about his chances. He's trashing around on the bed in the throes of a nightmare. It's like he's on some crazy rollercoaster ride--up one minute, down the next, without any chance to regain his balance before the next dip or climb. Sometimes he talks to himself, awake or sleeping. Sometimes he opens his eyes, but I'm not sure what he sees. Sometimes he refuses to open them, as though the reality of his situation is just too hard to face. But it's his screams that sends chills down my spine. Through this wall of glass they are silent and heartrending. Aiden just sits up and screams himself hoarse and I never hear a sound. I feel cheated, somehow, as though I need to have a greater share of his suffering. I feel responsible.
Carson was finally able to get him to sleep. I studied Aiden's face as he laid there, for once lying still and apparently untroubled. Sleeping, Aiden looked so innocent and harmless. It was difficult to reconcile the man before me with everything we'd seen in the past six months. I must have been staring so intently that I didn't see Carson leave his side. I started when he touched my shoulder.
“Why don't you go in and sit with him for a while,” he suggested softly. I looked into his eyes and I knew then that he understood.
“I don't think he--.”
“If he's going to survive this he'll need both of us, John,” Carson said.
He didn't give me a chance to argue the point, not that I was going to refuse. He led me to a prep room where I was told to change and scrub up so I wouldn't expose Aiden to germs. When I was ready, I turned to Carson for instructions, but he just smiled.
“Take good care of him,” he said as he prepared to leave. One of the guards opened the containment unit and I stepped in. Carson nodded encouragingly and I moved toward Aiden's bed and sat down.
“This time,” I said to myself.