Words: 3,481 (of 16,253)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Radek; John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: part 6 of #13 (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) in the Ancient!John 'verse. "First Contact"
Disclaimer: All characters, situations, quotes et al are properties of their respective owners and I am merely using them under Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine, without intents to infringe upon or defame anyone's legal rights.
Summary: An Aniversary
Notes: Holy Frak, it's done. Finally, it's done. I decided the ending I'd imagined would go better in a different story... but, thank god, it's finally finished. And to think, when I started this back in December I thought it would be a quick installment.
Oh, and all the Czech in this chapter comes from google translator and might actually be Slovac... but it's as close as I can get. Info on Diohantine Equations can be found here.
An Ancient!John Story
"So, if Terrans celebrate the anniversary of your births and the presumed anniversary of the birth of the son of one of your gods, does this mean that you celebrate the anniversary of the start of your relationships as well?"
Rodney looks blearily at John over the top of his coffee cup. They're sitting across from each other in the mess, John being his usual early morning self – which is to say he's been up for three hours already, doing God knows what with Ronan and the Marines and has pushed past his own early-morning dullness – and Rodney is trying to caffeinate himself into a state of alertness. He hadn't really meant to stay up so late fine tuning the designs for the ZedPM recharger but there were not words to describe how much he wanted it to work out perfectly, particularly given the disaster that he had made of Project Arcurtus. "What are you going on about?" he asks (fairly intelligibly, in his opinion).
"Terran celebrations, other than birthdays and Christmas."
"What about them?"
"What are they?" John says, an amused tilt to both his right eyebrow and the right corner of his mouth.
"What? Oh... graduations, anniversaries, various bank holidays – things like Easter, Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day. And believe me, if the idea of Christmas throws you for a loop, Easter is just going to confuse the hell out of you."
"Get Elizabeth to explain it to you. She might have a way of explaining that doesn't make it sound like our ancestors were on something when they came up with it."
John's eyebrow arches higher, looking at him like he can't quite believe what he's saying (Rodney's explanations of both pre-Copernican cosmology and social networking had garnered similar, utterly askance looks from the Ancient). "So I was right, then?"
"About what?" Rodney asks, somewhat confused by the sudden change of topic and downing the last of his coffee in attempt to rectify this. Really and truly, he'd worked on nuclear bombs on less sleep than this; a little exhaustion shouldn't slow his uptake this much.
John only laughs, the sound foreign enough that Rodney thinks he can hear the heads turning to look at them. They're at one of the balcony tables though – which is kinda stupid because it's the middle of the Lantean rainy season and, while it isn't raining now, there's a San Francisco-esque mist enveloping everything but the very tops of the highest towers – and there's not really anyone close enough to hear what they're saying. "According to the Terran calendar it has been three hundred and sixty-five of your days since we," he gestures between them with his fork, "became us."
Rodney blinks at him, does the math in his head, and then says, "Oh my god. You're a romantic. Why didn't I notice this before? I feel like this is something I should've noticed before." A flutter of panic beats against his chest. He'd thought that John really doesn't care about gifts or anniversaries or, hell, even the vocal acknowledgement of their feelings.
But still. These things add up and, even if they don't matter, they're a mark against him; a tear at the fabric of their relationship that their not caring makes even worse, because that means that neither of them would notice it start to unravel. And that cannot be allowed to happen 'cause John's the best thing to ever happen to him, the one and only person in the universe who, even if he doesn't understand Rodney one hundred percent of the time, gets him in a way no one else has ever been able to. And while Rodney suspects he'll never know all there is to know about Iohannes Ianideus Licinus Pastor or even his Americanized John Sheppard incarnation, he also knows that he's probably the only person who's ever tried.
(There's probably a word for what they are, what they feel, above and beyond amatores, which is the only label they've ever dared apply to themselves. Lovers seems too dirty, boyfriends too trite and partners both too much and not enough. But if there are any better words, they're in no language Rodney's ever learned.)
John, however, doesn't seem to notice Rodney's panic attack. Or, if he does, he's kind enough not to comment on it. Instead, he just props his elbow on the table and his chin into his palm, and says, "I only ask 'cause I've got a mountain of paperwork that Elizabeta and 'Lantis are starting to call me out on and Lorne promised to do mine if I gave him the right week for Zelenka's betting pool, so I'm thinking this might be the right time to call him out on it... "
The vice around Rodney's heart loosens instantly. "And the romance is gone," he fake sighs, falling back on sarcasm as he tries not to sigh audibly in relief. Then the rest of John's sentence hits him. "And I thought you said you were going to close down Zelenka's betting pools."
Rolling his eyes, "I merely pointed out to him that if we ever came out," (he uses actual air quotes here), "about some of the kinkier ones his business would go bust with the odds. Most people," he explains, "seem to be of the opinion that our sex life is completely opposite to what is, enough so that paying off the people who do have it right would cost him five or six Daedalus trips worth of coffee and chocolate, not to mention half-a-year's pay."
"Can we not," he hisses, "talk about that in the middle of the mess?"
"Who'd ever have thought that any descendants of Father's could be such prudes?" John mutters to himself, shaking his head somewhat wonderingly. "But speaking of Father, hurry up will you? Daedalus is scheduled to leave first thing tomorrow and I 'spect you'll need all day to just to rifle through the drawers in his lab."
Rodney blinks at this. "I thought my lab now used to be his."
"His public one, yeah. But the one where he did all his secret experiments, the ones not even I was supposed to know about...? That's on the East Pier and, if it wasn't flooded too badly during the Storm, it should have what you need. If not, Forcul had a couple of workspaces that might still be intact, as did a few of the periti, so we'll probably be able to find at least some of what you need, but..."
"But?" he prompts.
John leans forward, his eyes (more mercurial than even his moods) a flinty grey-green above deeply pursed lips. He doesn't speak until Rodney's leaning forward too, so that their faces are only scant inches from each other and even then his words are discordantly harsh against the intimacy of their positions. "But there are things in these labs that should never have seen the light of day. Things born out of utmost desperation at the end of a war that started seventy-two years before I was even born. Some of it you might be able to salvage in time and turn into something we can actually use. But most of it..." John pulls back suddenly, eyes going to the ocean that is barely visible through the mist, and his whispered declaration, "There are things even I won't do to save this city," is so quiet that, save for the movement of his lips, he mightn't have said it at all.
Rodney, who has seen John Ascend and fly nukes into ships and kill sixty invaders without batting an eye, has never actually be scared of the prospect of anything they might find on Atlantis until that moment.
"I do these personnel evaluations out of necessity only," Radek says the moment Rodney enters his lab some time later, startling so deeply he'd have spilled coffee all over himself if he'd not finished his latest cup on the way up here.
"What's with the sneaking?" Rodney snaps when he has his breath back. "Trying to give me a heart attack? 'Cause don't think you'll be getting your hands on my research if I die. I've paperwork back on Earth that very specifically spell out that you're not allowed anywhere near it if it so much as smells like you've had a part in my death."
"No, no," Radek practically cackles, using a finger to push his glasses up his nose as he looks up from his laptop, "I've every intention of being L'Éminence Grise for as long as possible – the paperwork is most tedious but it is preferable to the running around like a headless chicken you must do."
Rodney resolutely sets down his coffee cup and goes about gathering the things he needs to rummage around more-potentially-dangerous-than-usual labs in search of copper wiring and superconductive material that could create a magnetic field of at least 43 Teslas at no greater than 55 Kelvin. Which is to say, a pair of gloves, some basic tools and, of course, his tablet and all the requisite wires and adapters that went with it.
And then, because he can't bottle it in any longer, " I don't run around like a headless chicken."
"I only mean the constant demands on your time pull on you, like marionette, only without the unfortunate puppet-master overtones. Myself, I prefer to stay on Atlantis and carry out my research uninterrupted."
"Yes, well, while your lack of multitasking skills explains so much, you still haven't explained why you're in my lab."
With a put upon sigh, "I told you. I am doing personnel evaluations."
"Yes, yes. That you said," (Rodney is not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and ask why Radek was doing them, as they are something Rodney had been putting off since before the first test of the Arcturus weapon), "but why are you doing them here?"
"Because my lab shares servers with the other science labs," is all the explanation the Czech gives. Which, upon reflection, is really all that's needed. As much as the people who work for him are idiots, most are competent enough to write a program that could find their specific evaluation and change it to make them out to be far more competent than they actually are.
"Well then. You have fun with that. John and I are off to rummage through some of the labs for components for the ZedPM recharger."
"Do you need any help?"
Thoughts drifting back to their conversation in the mess, "I think John would prefer it if it were just the two of us, actually."
Radek gets that slightly manic expression Rodney's privately labelled his demonic Czech yenta look. "Enjoy your date then."
"It's not a date. It's two people who happen to be romantically involved digging through junk drawers, looking for parts to build a device that could change the face of the universe as we know it."
"Date," Zelenka repeats with greater feeling.
"I guess if you're going to insist on calling it that, you can also handle any world ending crises that crop up between now and, oh, 0800 tomorrow morning."
Radek's demonic Czech yenta look shifts into the pained one he gets when asked to build nuclear weapons while hopped up on methamphetamines or extract the consciousnesses of Marine lieutenants from his boss's brain post haste. "I am happy for you and the Colonel, I truly am, but, z lásky k bohu, I neither need nor want to know the details of your sex life. Není-li jsem kdy chtějí mít možnost podívat se jeden z vás do očí znovu."
One of these days, Rodney resolves, he's going to learn Czech, if only so he can know what Zelenka is going on about when he lapses into his native language.
But still. "If you don't want to know the details of my sex life, why do you have a betting pool on it?" he accuses.
The other man doesn't have the grace to blush. "I do as the market requires," he shrugs, looking back at his laptop and typing something in. "And is not like I sit around all day, pestering you for confirmation of any of it, as others would so it works out for the best."
"I'll be the judge of that. But, if you really must know, today does turn out to be our anniversary or something – by Earth's calendar, at least – so if you could just pay Lorne his winnings, he can start on John's paperwork and then, maybe, John and I can actually do something about it."
Radek unexpectedly flushes at this, but after a moment manages, "Really? I wondered why Evan had placed his bet for this week. I should have suspected he was getting inside information – most people go for the weeks right after we arrived on Atlantis, or else right before the Siege."
"Huh," he says, because, really, what else can one say when being told about how the outside world views one's relationship? After a minute he manages, "Well, as interesting this is, I'm supposed to be meeting John in the Control Room and God knows what he'll get caught up in if I don't get down there soon."
Zelenka mutters, "Ano. Budeme mluvit zítra," which must be some kind of acknowledgement, because that's all he gets.
"We are not calling it a ZPM recharger," John says earnestly half-an-hour later, after Rodney's saved him from death-by-requisition-forms (in the shape of the new logistics specialist, who had more interest in her CO than Rodney is anywhere comfortable with, even if it appears mostly professional), while they're walking down a seemingly endless corridor on the third floor of one of the East Pier's taller towers. Despite its height – and its distance from the edge of the pier – there's a waterline a foot or so above their heads from the storm surge that had hit the city before they could get the shield activated during the Storm. Hopefully the water will not have ruined anything of importance in the lab John's taking him to – if, that is, they ever get to it.
"That's not a reason. It's an adulteration of the English language."
"And ZPM recharger is a debasement of the Alteran."
Rodney blinks at him. "I can't believe you just used the word debasement in a sentence."
"It's called a translation matrix," John sighs, coming to halt about twenty meters from a dead end.
"Yes, yes, but still. There had to be a twenty-five cent word going in to get a twenty-five cent word coming out."
John gives him one of his I've no idea what you're talking about but I guess I love you anyway looks and picks up a fallen sconce off the floor. He examines it for a moment, turning it over in his hand several times before hanging it back on the wall, taking great care to make sure it hangs level.
The sconce is so pleased to be back in place, it actually gives off a faint tone.
It's actually mildly troublesome to watch and Rodney can't help but wonder if Atlantis' apparent mania with interior decorating has finally gotten to John.
"What I mean is, since when do you care about the debasement of the Alteran language?" Actually, what he means is why do you hide yourself like this? Why do you insist on pretending to be dumber than you are to almost everyone who isn't me? Why am I different? Why are you showing me this place if you're afraid of what we might find there? Why do you think you have to buy my love when it should be obvious I couldn't not love you if I tried? But it's easier to ask about the words John actually uses than the sentiment behind them. To do otherwise would be to invite sullen looks and shrugged explanations that would only make Rodney blindingly angry at the man who was John's father in name only.
"Always," John says blandly, picking up a second sconce and repeating the process with it. It, too chimes with happiness when properly hung. "Why do you think I wouldn't let you call the puddle jumpers gate ships?"
"Because you instinctively hate any name I come up with?"
"Which is why I'll be naming the kids."
"Ha, ha. Very funny, John."
"You laugh, but my appreciation of Terran culture does not extend to your names. Some of them are tolerable but others... I mean, do you have any idea how many Michaels and Davids and Roberts there are on this base alone?"
"Says the man named John."
"I'll have you know I was the only Iohannes on Atlantis," John sniffs dramatically, eyes casting about for something – which, as Rodney finds out a moment later, turns out to be yet another light fixture. "Not my fault that your lot bastardized it and turned it into the commonest thing under your sun."
Favouring John with a fond, if exasperated, look, Rodney silently vows to find a way to deal with the city's interior design mania without resorting to paint swatches as he watches John hang the final sconce. "Maybe it is. Your dad's hologram did say he would miss you and the fact so many of us have the ATA gene means he must've had at least one kid while on Earth... Is it possible that he could've named that kid after you?"
John wrinkles his nose. "That's hardly Father's style. He'd have saddled the kid with some ridiculous Alteran name that none of the locals could pronounce and only have mentioned my existence in the whole even my dead half-wit son could do better than that sort of way."
"Seriously?" As much as Rodney couldn't imagine never not loving John, he just as equally can't imagine anyone else not loving him either. Hell, he'd known John's relationship with Janus was the very definition of strained, but there were also times when Rodney'd gotten the feeling that it was John and his father, raging together against the universe.
John pointedly ignores the question, fiddling with the final sconce. After what might be ages but is probably only minutes, he says, "Father's secret lab is on the other side of that wall if you still want to see it," and, well, there's really nothing Rodney can say to that either that won't make things worse.
"I love you," Rodney says an indeterminable amount of time later, when he's given up hacking into Janus' notes for a time when he actually, well, has time to do so, in favour of opening up all the cabinets and seeing what's inside.
John's sitting on the floor, on a spot near the door with a tablet perched on his knees and doesn't look up or even acknowledge he's being addressed.
"I love you and it's not contingent on you being a genius or saving my life or anything else. I love you because you're you and, okay, maybe you felt you had to buy your father's love but you don't have to with me."
"That's not-" John begins, cutting himself off quickly once he apparently realizes he'd spoken aloud. His eyes – impossibly bright and shining, even from across the room – flit briefly between Rodney and the ceiling before boring holes into his tablet.
It's an unconscionable time later when John, voice hoarse, asks, "Does that mean you don't want to see the general theory of Diophantine equations I've been working on?"
"It means you're an idiot with worse interpersonal skills than me, as astounding as that may sound."
There's a beat.
"And what do you mean general theory of Diophantine equations? I thought that sort of thing was impossible – you know what, don't tell me. Let me finish raiding your father's lab and maybe building the ZedPM recharger, then dazzle me with your brilliance. It tends to be very distracting and I'm behind enough on things as it is."
John laughs and, just like that, things are back to normal between them.
Neither of them notice one of Janus' devices silently activating in the corner.
Zelenka's Czech:z lásky k bohu - "For the love of god" Není-li jsem kdy chtějí mít možnost podívat se jeden z vás do očí znovu. - "Not if I ever want to be able to look either of you in the eye ever again." Ano. Budeme mluvit zítra - "Yes. Talk to you tomorrow."