[identity profile] roaringmice.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] atlantisbasics
Title: In Dreams

Author: RoaringMice

Written for: Rosie/LFD let_fate_decide

Rating: PG-13

Summary: “Now,” the man said. “It’s time for the trial to begin.”

Warnings: Swearing

Notes: Takes place early in Season One

Rosie’s request: Anything from season one, especially team!fic. (Ford!)

This is a pinch-hit, thus the lateness. Enjoy!

x-x

Ford’s fingers grasped at fabric as Sheppard pulled away. Ford froze, afraid that any movement on his part would only make things worse.

“Sir?” he said, keeping his voice purposefully low and even despite the mad beat of his heart. This was bad – the cliff’s edge was just in front of Sheppard, and Ford wasn’t sure of the stability of the terrain.



Sheppard turned to face him, his back now to the cliff, his heels directly at its edge.

Slowly, Ford held one hand out, motioning the other man forward, toward him.

Sheppard, eyes wide and dilated despite the bright sun overhead, took another step backwards, so Ford dropped his arm. Sheppard’s skin was paler than normal, his dark eyes and hair standing out in stark contrast to his ashen skin. Something was seriously wrong; maybe drugs, or who knows what, but the look on Sheppard’s face was just – well, he knew the major enough to know that it wasn’t Sheppard. He could see sweat beading on the man’s forehead, and coming through his shirt. Sheppard’s gun and jacket were long-gone, and he thought Teyla might have grabbed them en-route, but he couldn’t be sure. She and McKay were somewhere behind him, and he hoped they had his back, because right now, he had eyes only for his commander.

“Major?” he said. He heard something screech nearby – likely some sort of small animal in the woods rear of where he was standing – but he didn’t turn.

Sheppard simply stood there, arms at his sides, heels just at the edge of the cliff, sky spreading blue behind him. His eyes moved from Ford, to Teyla and McKay behind him. His hand shook.

Okay, shit. Right. This wasn’t good.

“John,” Ford said gently, dropping formality in his desperation. He took a careful step forward, right hand out, left holding his weapon against his chest. “Don’t.”

Sheppard’s eyes snapped to meet his. Then he looked over Ford’s shoulder, to Teyla and McKay, and his expression changed. He almost looked apologetic.

Before Ford could react, Sheppard had stepped back off the edge and was gone.

x-x

- Six Hours Earlier –

Ford smiled at the pretty girl who’d just settled beside him on the bench. She lifted her drink to his lips, and he took a surprised sip as she leaned into him. He could actually feel the heat coming off her, and he shuffled away with an awkward smile.

The party was swirling around him, and he jumped as someone brushed a hand against his back. Looking up, he saw a dark haired man smiling down at him, blue eyes sparkling in the firelight. Damn, these people were friendly. The girl beside him placed her hand on his thigh, and the man traced a gentle finger across the skin on his neck, and he stiffened in more ways than one. Shit, okay, maybe a bit more than friendly.

Muttering apologies, he stood and, his own drink in hand, stepped out of the circle of benches that had been placed round the fire. The night immediately enveloped him, and he blinked as he turned away from the flames, stilling himself as he let his eyes adjust to the darkness.

The party had actually been kind of fun so far, in its own strange way. It was all part of some sort of welcoming ceremony, which Sheppard had, somewhat uncomfortably, agreed to participate in. Since then, they’d been dealing: Teyla with her usual grace and charm, and the rest of them as best they could. These people may be overly-friendly, but they were rumoured to be excellent farmers, and getting on their good side could be worth some uncomfortable socializing. God knows, he could flirt with the best of them if it meant that he’d end up with something to eat beyond what they’d brought to Pegasus themselves, or had found so far on the mainland. But what he’d really been interested in, if he was honest with himself, was their local version of beer. Well, near-beer. It was some sort of wheat-like thing, fermented, and… He took a sip, because who cared what it actually was, stuff was good, and it had a very mild kick. He didn’t feel drunk so much as mellow.

After a moment, he turned his face to the sky. The fire behind him cast sparks up into a blanket of stars, and he smiled. That had taken some getting used to. Back home, it was too built up to have much for stars. Here, like elsewhere in Pegasus, there was a riot of them.

Someone behind him said something, and he turned back at the resulting roar of laughter. From across the circle, he caught Sheppard’s eye, and the major raised his glass in greeting.

Sheppard had been obviously uncomfortable at the start of the party, but now he seemed fine. Even genuinely social, which was unusual. Ford had worked with him long enough to know that his easy affability was often a front. But right now, it seemed authentic.

Everyone on his team seemed to be having a good enough time. Teyla was near Sheppard, nodding with others as a woman, light hair glowing in the firelight, spun a story. McKay, closer to him, seemed to be happily chatting with another man, who was listening attentively. Every once in a while, McKay would tug something from one of the many pockets on his vest, and show it to the man, who’d nod and smile, nod and smile. A rapt audience – McKay must be in his glory. And Sheppard…

Letting his eyes take in the circle of people, he realised suddenly that Sheppard was nowhere to be found. Probably taking a piss, although it went against protocol to be going off by himself. Realising that meant that Sheppard had probably done so on purpose, perhaps to get Ford to step away, too, he moved out of the firelight and turned toward the darkness.

Eyes adjusting quickly, Ford took in his surroundings as he strode away from the crowd. He saw only the dark silhouettes of trees and small houses. No signs of movement. He held himself still, quieting his breathing as he listened. The noises of the party at his back; the sounds of the wind in the leaves of the trees; the scrabbling of a small animal nearby.

“Lieutenant.”

A voice out of nowhere, scaring the hell out of him.

Heart in his throat, hand on his weapon in its holster, he turned to see Sheppard standing directly behind him. Of course.

“Sorry,” Sheppard said, giving him a wry smile.

“I strongly doubt that,” Ford said in response, relaxing his grip on his weapon before tacking on a “Sir”.

“So, what do you think?” Sheppard added quietly, nodding in the direction of the crowd.

“Seem nice,” Ford said. Then he smiled. “Nice change.”

“Yeah,” Sheppard replied, probably thinking back on their most recent missions, none of which had gone smoothly. “Kind of refreshing. Anyway, take it easy with this stuff, just in case,” he said before taking a sip from the cup in his hand. He raised an eyebrow over the rim.

“No problem, Sir.” Ford glanced down at the drink in his hand. “So far, not even a buzz.” He looked up again, eyes moving to the party around the fire. “I’m having more of a problem with the, um…” Lost for words, he shrugged, feeling a blush rising to his cheeks.

“Attack of the pretty people?” Sheppard said with a smile. “I admit it’s a little weird, but they seem to take ‘no’ fairly well.”

“Doesn’t stop them from trying, though,” Ford said, nodding toward where Teyla was sitting. A man had sat beside her, his thigh brushing her own, while on her other side, another was threading the ends of her coppery hair through his fingers.

“She’s the leader of the Athosians,” Sheppard said, also watching the activity around Teyla. “She’s probably used to this sort of thing.”

Teyla looked up and caught his eye. Raising a brow, she smiled tightly.

“Although even the leader of the Athosians may sometimes need rescuing,” Sheppard added with a wince. He walked toward the fire, threaded his way through the crowd.

Ford watched as Sheppard took a place standing directly behind Teyla. That is, until one scantily clad man wiggled himself into the small space between Sheppard and Teyla and, turning to face Sheppard, ran his finger up Sheppard’s arm. Ford watched the play of emotions cross Sheppard’s face: surprise, then discomfort, quickly covered when Sheppard took a full step backwards with a polite smile. The man leaned in and appeared to whisper something in Sheppard’s ear. Then the girl on his other side whispered something in his other ear, smiling all the while. Sheppard raised an eyebrow, but he laughed. Nodding to the girl, he stood and turned to Ford. He indicated one of the small houses to his left, and raised a questioning brow.

Ford nodded and, sipping from his drink, made to follow.

With that, one of the men, who’d been introduced earlier as some sort of leader, stepped into the middle of the circle, quite close to the fire. He smiled broadly and clapped his hands together.

The crowd fell silent.

“Now,” the man said. “It’s time for the trial to begin.”

Ford didn’t even get a chance to ask, “What trial?” before whoop, and darkness.

x-x

Ford woke with his face pressed to the dirt, feeling like complete and utter shit. He rolled himself onto his back and, when the nausea hit, realised that moving was a bad, bad idea. Deep breaths. Deep. Breaths. Okay. Blinking slowly to clear his vision, he saw the brightening sky soaring above him. Twilight. No, wait, that was impossible. It was just night. Sunrise? Yeah – he could smell wet ash, so someone had put the fire out pretty recently, and it was still darkish. Birds were a mass of sound around him. Sunrise.

As soon as he felt more settled, he pushed himself to sitting and rubbed a dirt-crusted hand across his face, and up through his hair. He could feel dirt on his scalp, and he ruffled his short hair, vaguely wondering when he’d lost his uniform cap.

Teyla was just across the circle from him, lying on her side. She was stirring, coming awake. McKay was just beside him, and he gave the man a not-so-gentle nudge with his boot, gaining a grunt in response. And Sheppard was –

He jerked his head around, looking for his commander. Another bad idea, as his stomach started to rebel, but he held it down. He didn’t have the time.

Sheppard wasn’t there.

He stood up, stumbling, relieved to find himself still armed. He was in severe need of a piss. How long had he been out? He looked at his watch. Jesus. Five hours. Must have been drugged. No way they hadn’t been drugged.

Teyla sat up, rubbing the back of her neck as she did so. “Major Sheppard is gone.”

“I know,” Ford replied.

“What do you mean, gone?” McKay asked.

“Not here,” Ford snapped, unable to keep the annoyance from his tone. And then he could have kicked himself. He was usually a lot better at dealing with McKay – he must still be feeling the effects of the drugs. He knew McKay had simply asked in order to calm his own nerves, so he rephrased. “I think we were drugged. He’s been taken.”

“There is a trail,” Teyla said. She waved a hand to her right, then stood slowly.

Ford looked in that direction, and was surprised that he hadn’t seen it earlier. He must really be out of it.

There was a fresh trail leading away from the fire circle and through the nearest grassy field. It was well matted and wide, as if the entire village had up and walked away, leaving them behind. Which, from the deserted look of the area, was probably true. The path appeared to lead toward the woods, maybe half a click away.

“So now what?” McKay asked, pushing himself to standing. His wrapped his hand around his own gun, as if for reassurance.

“We follow,” Ford said bluntly.

x-x

Ford stepped out of the woods, the rest of his team following close behind. As they entered the clearing, he quickly realised that they’d actually reached the edge of a cliff. The trail went off in both directions, tracing the edge of the precipice. To the right, as far as he could see, was nothing but forest and grass. In front of him was nothing but sky.

“Aiden,” Teyla said, her soft voice coming from his left. He turned and looked where she was pointing. The rock face curved around and disappeared behind some trees, but there, just at its edge –

“Sheppard,” McKay murmured.

The sun rose over the cliff’s edge, haloing Sheppard in bright light.

Something was off. Ford wasn’t sure what, but this just wasn’t right.

Squinting into the sunrise, Ford took a moment to get the feel of the situation. The man had his back to them, but even without seeing his face Ford could tell that he looked rough, his uniform dirty and torn. There was a dark stain on one hand, dried in a trail leading from under his wristband – maybe blood. His gun was no where to be… No, it was just there, on the ground. Teyla moved toward it, and Ford’s eyes went back to the major.

Sheppard was looking down off the cliff.

McKay made to approach with a loud, “Major! We’ve been looking for…” when Ford yanked him back bodily, by the arm, with a hissed, “Shut up,” followed by a belated, “Sir.”

Sheppard didn’t move.

Ford could feel his own heart beating as it hammered in his chest. Something was wrong. From the gun on the ground to the man not responding to the blood, something was seriously wrong.

Exchanging glances with McKay, Ford took a careful step forward, and when Sheppard didn’t respond at all, kept going. Slow and steady, until he finally stood beside him, maybe an arm’s length away, and glanced down. Best he could tell, it was a sheer drop of at least 400 yards, a good football field. Okay. Right.

“Major,” he started, keeping his voice low. “Major, why don’t you…” He reached out a hand in an attempt to grasp Sheppard’s arm.

The other man stepped away, moving quickly and twisted out of his grip. Ford froze when he realised that Sheppard now stood with his toes over the edge.

Ford took a slow and deliberate step backwards. Shit, maybe Teyla should have done this.

“Sir?” he said, keeping voice purposefully low and even.

At that, Sheppard turned around and, heels at the edge of the cliff, faced him.

Okay, at least he was getting some sort of reaction. Ford held one hand out, motioning other man forward, toward him.

Sheppard took a step to the side and away, pupils wide and dilated despite the sun, which was now almost overhead. Ford could see sweat beading on man’s forehead, and staining his shirt. His gun and jacket were long-gone; Ford thought Teyla had grabbed them, but couldn’t be sure. She and McKay were somewhere behind him.

“Major?” he said. Something screeched nearby, maybe some small animal, but he didn’t turn.

Sheppard stood there, arms at his sides, heels just at the edge of the cliff, sky spreading blue behind him. His eyes moved from Ford, to Teyla and McKay behind him. His hand shook.

Okay, shit. Right. This wasn’t good.

“John,” Ford said gently, dropping formality in his desperation. He took a careful step forward, right hand out, left holding his weapon against his chest. “Don’t.”

Sheppard’s eyes snapped to meet his. Then he looked over Ford’s shoulder, to Teyla and McKay, and his expression changed. He almost looked apologetic.

Before Ford could react, Sheppard had stepped back off the edge and was gone.

Ford darted forward as he heard Teyla’s shout, and McKay’s yelp. On his knees at the cliff’s edge, he looked down. No, no no no. This wasn’t possible. He’d seen people killed before, but this was his first time seeing someone he knew, seeing someone deliberately –

Just then, he was surrounded by singing. Human singing. Fucking Whos-down-in-Whoville singing. It came from the forest behind him. He turned, frightened, his weapon drawn and at the ready.

The villagers were flowing out from the treeline, still in the clothes they’d worn last night, and every last one of them was singing. Their leader raised his arms slowly, and the tone followed, voices reaching higher as they approached Ford’s team.

It would be pretty if it weren’t for fact that his commander had just stepped off a cliff.

They stopped singing and stood, staring.

“Ford,” Teyla said from behind him, and the sharpness of her tone caused him to turn his head toward her. Then he saw McKay’s expression as he stared at something behind them, and forget security, he turned his back on the villagers and looked.

What he saw amazed him.

There, before him, was Sheppard. The sun was rising behind him, cresting the cliff. Ford had only a second to wonder why the sun was rising again, when it had only just risen moments before, before the shock passed and he realised the import of what he was actually seeing. Sheppard was standing there like nothing had happened. Still looked blitzed, sure, but unquestioningly there, and alive.

Teyla whispered, “I turned away for a second, and then he was there.”

Ford smothered a swear.

“The sun…” McKay said.

“I know,” Ford replied softly.

McKay murmured, “I think we should go.”

“Yeah,” Ford said. He nodded as crisply as he could.

Teyla went to Sheppard’s side, and this time, he didn’t flinch away. She held out her hand, and he took it, smiled at her, and let her lead him away from the edge.

Ford noticed McKay surreptitiously taking readings of the area with one of his devices. McKay raised an eyebrow in clear surprise just before he tucked it away.

Ford turned to the villagers behind them. “Um, we’re going to leave, now.”

“You’re welcome back any time,” the leader said. The man actually had the audacity to smile. “Anyone who passes the test is more than welcome to return.”

“Thank you,” Teyla said diplomatically, cutting off what Ford was about to say in response. She grabbed Ford’s arm with her free hand and nudged him forward.

Together, they headed toward the ‘gate.

x-x

“That was a test?” McKay sputtered in amazement. He turned toward the iris, which snapped closed behind them.

“I’m not sure of what,” Teyla added, guiding Sheppard toward where Weir was standing near the waiting medical team.

“Yeah,” Rodney replied. “Maybe Elizabeth can figure that one out, because…”

Ford’s attention was on Sheppard, and Teyla’s hasty explanation of what was wrong, so he only caught the end of what McKay said next.

“…power source. Must be malfunctioning. If we could get back there –”

Sure that McKay was referring to the readings taken earlier, and sure that he didn’t care, he cut McKay off. “They tried to kill Sheppard.”

“Not really, no,” McKay replied. Then, at Ford’s sharp look, he winced. “Well, yes,” he said, hands flying, sculpting the words as he spoke. “But not deliberately. I suspect they’ve never had anyone actually die off that particular cliff.” He frowned slightly. “I’m not even sure any of that actually happened.”

Ford looked over at Sheppard, who was letting himself be lead away. Nothing on Earth or Atlantis could get him to go back to that fucked-up place. “They drugged him, maybe all of us,” he said.

“Sure, there is that.”

“They drugged us,” Ford said, more vehemently, eyes drilling into McKay. “I’m not even sure if what I saw was real, or –”

“Right, right,” McKay shot in. “Maybe it was all imagination, anyway.”

“Imagination?” Ford spat. “Drug induced visions, maybe. Or some sort of mass hallucination, but imagination?” he asked, twisting that last word in pointed amazement.

Another voice interrupted. “I don’t think so, Rodney.”

Ford turned to see Weir there, beside Teyla. He wasn’t sure how long she’d been there, or how much she’d heard.

“But –” McKay tried to cut in.

“No,” Weir said firmly. She stood straighter and gave each of them a firm look. “Infirmary. Now, people. We can talk about this later.”

Knowing she was right, Ford nodded sharply and headed out.

x-x

Ford strode through the infirmary, then poked his head through the privacy curtain that had been drawn around one of the beds, only to be pinned in place by a set of sharp hazel eyes.

“Major,” he said in shock. “You’re up.” He was surprised to find Sheppard awake and looking pretty alert, all things considered. If he ignored the IV line and the fact that the man was sitting in a hospital bed while dressed in scrubs, Sheppard actually looked pretty normal. You’d never know that he’d been drugged, had maybe jumped off a cliff, maybe died and come back to life (or maybe not), and had been pretty much out-of-it in the infirmary for three days.

“Apparently so,” Sheppard said, a wry glint in his eye.

“I was just checking up on you,” Ford said awkwardly. He had been, at least twice a day, as if checking that, although his own senses and perceptions had come into doubt down on that planet, at least this was real. Sheppard was here, and alive, and that was real. But now that the major was awake, he felt like an idiot.

Sheppard’s smile softened. “I could use the company.” He waved Ford in and toward the chair at his bedside. As Ford settled into the chair, Sheppard asked, “So how’s the team?”

“Good,” Ford said, and he meant it. He hesitated. “What do you remember?” he finally asked.

“A party. Pretty boys and girls.” Sheppard rubbed a hand across his eyes. “Things get fuzzy after that. Heard we’d been drugged, maybe.”

“Maybe,” Ford replied as the image of Sheppard stepping off the cliff flashed before him.

Just as well Sheppard couldn’t remember.

“Strange dreams,” Sheppard added vaguely.

Ford worried the fabric of his jacket with his hand. He could still feel the roughness of Sheppard’s shirt against his fingers from when he’d tried to grab him. And strange dreams, yeah, that wasn’t the half of it. That night in the infirmary had been weird and full of dreams. They’d all been kept overnight, and it had taken them a good few hours to get to the point where the drugs or whatever were no longer affecting them, which was odd, because their tox screens had come back clean. Technically, best Carson could tell, they hadn’t actually been drugged. Still, Weir had placed that ‘gate address off-limits.

That night in the infirmary had been weird and full of dreams, that was for sure. Most of them, for Ford, were still just as vivid as his memories of seeing Sheppard step off that cliff, his memories of the helplessness and failure he’d felt as he’d looked over the edge.

If Sheppard didn’t remember, it was just as well. Teyla could tell him. She was good at that stuff.

He’d rather not remember it himself.

“We’re good,” Ford said, standing quickly. Sheppard frowned, obviously surprised at how Ford was acting, but Ford couldn’t help it. He needed out of there.

“Lieutenant,” Sheppard said, just as Ford stepped to the curtain.

Ford turned back slowly. Sheppard met his eye in an obvious invitation to talk.

He hesitated there for a moment. Sheppard might be willing to listen, but Ford wasn’t quite ready to talk. Not yet. And maybe never to Sheppard. Man was his superior. Bad idea to talk about stuff like that with your boss. Better to talk to someone else, someone who wasn’t in the chain of command. Someone who’d probably been through this sort of stuff before.

“Glad to see you awake, sir,” Ford said firmly, snapping off a quick salute as he turned and left.

Across the infirmary and out, Ford headed for the gym. He was way too keyed up. He needed something, a release, a way to forget for a few minutes. Get away from himself. Gym would be perfect or no, better, maybe Teyla would be willing to spar.

He stopped in his tracks. Teyla. He wasn’t ready to talk right now, but when the time came, if he still wanted to: Teyla.

He turned and headed for her quarters. For now, sparring.

Sheppard was okay. That was all that mattered. He could deal with the rest of this later.

x-x

End

Date: 2007-09-13 04:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thepouncer.livejournal.com
Yay for Ford! I'm so pleased that he's at the center of this story - I miss him still (even though I adore Ronon. why can't we have both?). And I love the mystery of it, the uncertainty of what really happened, or more probably, how it happened. I suspect Ancient trickery, even if Ford hasn't thought of that. So many spot-on observations about Sheppard and Teyla, and that sense of duty and pragmatism that made Ford different from the rest of the team.

Thank you so much for the wonderful pinch-hit!

Date: 2007-09-16 08:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] let-fate-decide.livejournal.com
I agree with [livejournal.com profile] thepouncer's comment: yay, Ford! I loved this. Thank you :D

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