|I Remember The Alamo (But I Don't Recall Who Won)
He dreamt about drowning and thought he was dead. He dreamt of walking through the stargate and finding the event horizon as thick as quicksand, water pulling at his clothes and his arms and his legs, dragging him down.
When he woke up in the infirmary, he had a couple of minutes before everything changed, and Aiden sucked down fresh air because he could still feel the water in his lungs.
The city was quiet -- quiet like it was normally quiet, and the last thing he remembered was huge noise, explosions over his head and the taste of fear in his mouth, choking him before he even hit the water. He could hear his own breathing, his own heartbeat, the sound of the ocean against the edges of the city, but nothing else. No screaming. No bombs.
He wasn't dead. He had all his limbs and all his fingers. (He couldn’t see his toes.) Somewhere, behind a screen or through a doorway, he could hear Major Sheppard's slow drawl and Dr. Beckett's thick accent, low and quiet, concerned. He lay in the infirmary bed and closed his eyes again and counted to 50, breathing in and out slowly, and then he opened his eyes and tried to sit up.
Aiden knew what it meant to wake up in the infirmary after a battle. He knew his body wouldn't move like he wanted it to, only it did. There was something humming under his skin, an unfamiliar feeling like goosebumps or fear crawling up your spine or all the hair on your arms standing on end.
He didn't feel like himself, entirely.
But he expected that -- somebody had knocked him out while he was fighting, something had happened. It took time to get back on your feet. He was a soldier -- he knew as well as anyone that sometimes your body didn't feel like your own.
Aiden couldn't shake the feeling that he was drowning -- still drowning, his mind said -- and he couldn't shake the feeling that he wasn't quite himself.
His skin fit him all wrong.
He didn't figure out what that feeling meant until much later, and he dreamt of drowning every time he slept.
The first night he was gone from the city, he dreamt about Atlantis. He dreamt that he was climbing to the highest spires, stories and stories above the piers and the ocean and the rest of the people in the city, and he couldn't breathe, but he couldn't stop climbing. He slept in the back of the puddlejumper and in his dreams he heard the sound of the ocean.
The further he climbed, the more he could feel the water in his lungs.
In his dream Major Sheppard was standing on the West Pier, hundreds and hundreds of feet below Aiden, and in his dream Major Sheppard was calling to him. When they'd first gotten to the city, they'd tested the distance, the acoustics of the city -- Aiden had climbed to the top of the highest spire and Sheppard had stood on the West Pier, and Sheppard had shouted up at Aiden.
Aiden hadn't heard anything but the sound of the ocean against the city and the wind in his ears, then, but in his dream he could hear Major Sheppard like he was standing on the spire. He could hear Major Sheppard, but Major Sheppard couldn't seem to hear him. Sheppard shouted, "Ford! Ford! Where are you?", over and over again, and Aiden shouted back to no response.
In his dream he turned at the top of the spire to climb back down, and there was a Wraith in the doorway. Outside, Major Sheppard was still calling to him, and Aiden tried to shout, tried to use his comm to call for help, and he couldn't say a word. It felt like he was drowning, and when the Wraith soldier reached out for his chest, he couldn't move.
He woke up, sweating and shaking, alone in the back of the jumper. He didn't want the enzyme and he didn't want to want the enzyme, but the desire was there, running under his skin like fear or lust, only more, greater, bigger. When Aiden injected it under his skin, the desire slid back, released the grip it had on Aiden's throat, and he could breathe again.
When he slept again, it was dreamless.
When he woke, he felt almost like himself again.
Sheppard was in all of Aiden's dreams. Sheppard was logical in these dreams, telling Aiden that nothing had changed and nothing would change and everything was the same, and in these dreams Sheppard always faded away into mist before Aiden could tell him that nothing was the same and everything had changed and Aiden couldn't come back to Atlantis no matter what Sheppard said.
Things were different, but it wasn't bad. The longer the itch, the need, the overwhelming desire to have the enzyme, the longer it hummed underneath his skin, the better he felt. Everything'd changed, but not for the worse.
In his dreams Sheppard told Aiden that it was all for the worse, for the worst, and in his dreams Aiden never had a chance to tell Sheppard differently.
He couldn't trust anyone, in his dreams or in his waking life.
When he saw them again, they had the runner with them. The runner looked Aiden up and down, assessing, and Aiden had a fleeting moment of fury, that he'd been replaced, that all the things Sheppard had said in dreams, in waking, -- come back, you're our friend, we want you to come home -- were lies.
But Aiden's life was better, now, better than the rest of his old team's lives, and he knew this was true, even if no one else recognized it.
That was another thing the enzyme had given him, another thing that no one else could recognize: he could see the truth of the situation, more clearly than anyone else can.
He dreamt, but his dreams were lies, and he still woke with the feeling of water in his throat.
In his dreams Sheppard told Aiden that Aiden was lying, that all of this was just a feeling, made from unnatural drugs. He hadn't dreamt of Sheppard since the Wraith Dart sucked him up, but on the first night that the team was under his protection, Aiden dreamt of Sheppard again, and of Atlantis. Sheppard's face in the dreams was wide open, not guarded the way it was in waking life, and for the first time, he plead with Aiden and did not order.
The dream was so different that Aiden woke up shaking. The runner was in the sparring room, even though the light hadn't broken on the horizon, and Aiden could see why Sheppard had chosen him for the team. The Marines all had deceptively open faces; Aiden saw their distaste, their discomfort, as they stood in the gate room and watched him leave. The runner's face was shadowed, fierce and closed-off, and he gave nothing away to Aiden at all.
The only time he fought the runner, the sparring room was empty, everyone else sleeping around them, the sort of sleep that Aiden slept the first few weeks. Deep and full of dreams -- Jace was mumbling in his sleep when Aiden passed his alcove, thrashing and twisting the thin blankets around his legs. The enzyme built you up and broke you down, and Aiden had never dreamt as vividly as the first weeks -- months -- on the enzyme.
He fought the runner -- Ronon, Sheppard called him, and Aiden knew that the runner had a military title, too, but Sheppard doesn't use that, and it's another way Sheppard was stepping back from Aiden, because all Sheppard called Aiden was Lieutenant -- and the fight was a draw. The runner wiped blood from his mouth with the back of his hand, and Aiden felt a bruise blooming deep in the muscle of his thigh, but these things would heal.
The runner said, "He asked. Not me."
"I know," Aiden said, but he really doesn't.
After they fought, Aiden slept again, and he dreamt of Earth, of Bud Lite and hamburgers and the new baseball stadium in Houston. He didn't want to go home, remembered his grandmother saying that home's the place they always have to take you in, and when he woke from that dream, he didn't dream again, until later.
Home's the place they always have to take you in.
Except that he was out all of his homes -- not Earth, not Atlantis, not this misfit band of enzyme junkies. End of the line. Nothing but dreams and dead Wraith left.
On the hive ship, he thinks of death, and he dreams of water, and of Atlantis, and he does not know if he'll wake from this dream.