“I know,” almost-Michael said impatiently, because he *did*, and he couldn’t bear the thought of things being done to his body without him being awake for it—once was one time too many, and his shape still wasn’t right. And anyway, pain didn’t matter. He knew at least that much about himself.
The technician studied him for a moment, as if gauging the truth of the statement, and nodded. “Face down on the table, then, and make yourself comfortable. Once I’ve started, you’re stuck.”
He followed her instruction slowly, aware of the soldiers watching him and their willingness (eagerness) to shoot him, should he give them any cause. The table was hard and cold and smelled of metal and harsh chemicals, and when he was in position, the soldiers strapped him down.
*I agreed to this*, he reminded himself as he listened to the technician fumble around for some piece of equipment. *I agreed to this*, as the markings were traced across his back in icy ink. *I agreed to—* and the world went white as the needle pierced his skin, like he could feel a little piece of himself being stripped away.
*I agreed*, he told himself every time the world shifted a little around him. *I agreed*.
And once it was finally over, once Michael’s skin was truly bound to him (and paid for, he couldn’t help thinking with bitter satisfaction), someone undid the straps holding him down, and he was free. But he didn’t get up, choosing instead to savor the dull fire burning down his spine—because it wasn’t searing pain, because he no longer had to take each breath with deliberate care.
“Hey, you okay?” The technician’s (*Jenny*, she was Jenny, and he needed to start learning peoples’ names if he was going to be living here, wherever ‘here’ was) hand felt cool and absurdly small against his shoulder. “Just move something so I know I didn’t paralyze you, okay?” She sounded almost as wrung-dry as he felt, so he flapped a hand for her, fingers brushing against her knee. “Okay,” she said, patting his shoulder a little shakily. “I’m going to let you rest now. Someone’ll be in to check up on you in a bit. Just yell if you need anything.”
He listened to the soldiers follow her out, the quiet hiss of the door sliding shut behind them, and wished they weren’t trusting him enough to leave him unguarded. Even the company of those who didn’t trust him was better than the company of no one at all. The empty room seemed to echo at him mockingly, and if he hadn’t been half-dead with pain and exhaustion, he never would have fallen asleep.
When he woke up, his body felt like it belonged to him, even the various aches and the still-present throb of his back. A solder named Goodman, with skin the color of half-shadows and a smile like pure sunlight, led him out of the now-familiar room and into the place that was—if all went well—going to be his new home.
He hadn’t expected it to be bright or full of people, and his first thought was *beautiful*. Standing in the middle of the hallway, shoeless and without memory of who or what he’d once been, utterly dependent on the generosity of those around him, he looked around him and knew that he had made the right choice.
*I agreed to this*, he told himself, and felt something akin to awe.
They have to put together a cover story, since telling everyone that he used to be a monster would apparently be a good way to get him lynched. And Michael finds that it helps a little, having a history, even if it’s a fake one. Keeps the voice in his head quiet during the long empty nights.
If anyone asks, Michael is like Ronon—a victim of the wraith, someone who’s survived through determination and being just that bit faster and stronger than the average person. (He discovers that fact about himself while sparring with Teyla). The main thing is to not give anyone reason to ask, but he’s never (he thinks) been very talkative, so that’s not a problem.
He gets a guard for the first couple of weeks: Goodman, who has skin the color of afternoon shadows and a voice that’s broken-in and comfortable sounding. Really, though, Goodman’s as much guide as guard, through all the foibles of Atlantis and its occupants. For the most part, Michael doesn’t have a whole lot of interaction with people, nothing much to occupy his time, although Sheppard teaches him various forms of poker in the evening and Teyla spars with him in the afternoon sun.
Dr. McKay tries to be friendly, and that’s how they discover that Michael can still read Wraith and is still familiar with the technology. Suddenly he has a job, if he wants one—which he does. Having something to do, some purpose, also helps keep him in his skin. It’s good to have something to do when he can’t sleep, and somewhere to go during the day. Goodman’s eventually removed from guard duty, although they remain friendly. Everything seems to be going well.
And then someone attacks Michael. Surprisingly, though, it’s not Ronon. Ronon actually steps in to help break up the fight. Before he does, though, Michael accidentally hurts the guy pretty badly, and so is confined to quarters. He spends the evening convincing himself that he’s going to be dumped somewhere—or shot, as a security risk. Not that the Lanteans seem to make a habit of such actions, but he’s just an experiment, and a more or less failed one, to boot.
Teyla stops by to visit him, after an hour or two, and tries to convince him otherwise, but he can’t quite bring himself to believe her. It is of some comfort to know he has at least one friend, though.
Late that evening, after dark, Sheppard comes by, and asks him what happened. Michael says he was basically jumped without warning, which he was, and Sheppard looks very tired, but says that’s what he thought. That the other guy’s being shipped back to earth with the Daedelus, because he cracked and attacked an unarmed civilian with no provocation.
Says he’ll understand if Michael wants to leave, either to the Athosians or elsewhere, and they’ll give him whatever supplies he needs.
Michael stares at him, horrified, because that’s the last thing he wants. He’s just finding his place here, finding himself. He knows he likes bananas and pancakes and ketchup, and it’s fun working in the labs. And Goodman gave him music to listen to, and he’s not got through it all yet.
Besides, he still has yet to beat Sheppard at Egyptian Rat Screw.
So he stays, and plays cards with Sheppard while everyone else is asleep, and by the time the next batch of personnel comes in, everyone’s used to him.
Atlantis is home, and he is himself, firmly in his own skin.
It’s a choice between his life and O’Mara’s and it’s no choice at all. Sheppard’s wrought better than he knew—better than he’d hoped, perhaps. Michael curses him for it now, but heaves O’Mara across the gap and tries not to feel bitter. He fails, but at least he’s got a pretty sunset to look at while he waits to die.
[Another one I really like, but I have no more story to go with it.]