Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Carson, Cadman, Elizabeth, Michael; John/Rodney, Carson/Cadman
Warnings/Spoliers: part 5 of #15 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1, 2, 3, 4). General spoilers for "Michael," and little bit from "The Siege, Part 3;" minor character death
Disclaimer: Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine.
Summary: In which someone dies.
Notes: There is a word for this, one which I will not tell you now for fear that it will give all away.
But be warned, this is the result of me sitting down and writing for several hours straight. It is... well, I'm at the point where I'm tired enough not to spot obvious errors.
An Ancient!John Story
"Control Room, this is McKay. We've got three men down outside Michael's quarters," Rodney barks into his headset, running the last few yards faster than he ever has in his life. "One's been fed upon. They're all alive, but we're going to need a medical unit and a couple teams of Marines down here right away – and, for the love of God, don't send Carson."
Elizabeth's voice is calm and steady over the radio; if Rodney didn't know her so well, he'd could almost have said she's unconcerned. "Teams are on the way." She pauses. "Why not Carson?"
"Because," Rodney says, kneeling down beside the white-haired woman in the grey-on-black uniform of Atlantis' military contingent, "I'm fairly certain Captain Cadman is the one Michael fed upon."
This brings a quiver to Elizabeth's voice. "How is she?"
Pressing two fingers to her pulse point, "Alive, for the moment." He glances quickly up and down the hallway before pulling off his jacket and balling it under her head. Remembering Gaul, he grabs her pistol and (checking that the safety is most definitely on) tucks it into his waistband before continuing, "The other two are just unconscious. There's no sign of John, Michael, or the other SF."
"I dunno. John and I were in the transporter when the call came through – something about Michael resisting. Obviously he's reverted further than we'd-"
"-and I think Cadman's waking up. I'll let you know more when I have something." Rodney clicks his radio off without waiting for Elizabeth's reply. "Captain? Laura? Can you hear me?"
"Rodney?" she asks vaguely, voice as rough and faint as his chain-smoking Grandmère's. It's wrong in a way that he can't even begin to describe.
"Yeah, it's me. Just listen, everything's going to be alright-"
"Hey, you know me. Would I be saying it if it wasn't true?" he reminds her, brushing an lock of hair off her forehead. He may not particularly like the Captain, but apart from that whole incident with Katie Brown, she's a good egg – a pistol, as Carson would say – and John adores her in a way Rodney would be insanely jealous of if it wasn't so obviously platonic. She doesn't deserve this. No one does, and seeing her like this just reinforces the fact.
Laura's birthday is in two days. Carson's been planing a surprise party, as much as anything can be a surprise on Atlantis. She's supposed to be turning thirty and she looks like she could be ninety years old.
"Go. Help Sheppard."
"I'm not going to leave you here."
She gives him a smiled that could've been called teasing if it isn't so obviously pained, "I knew you liked me."
"Face it, Rodney, you're just one big softy."
"Lies." He's only doing this because of Gaul. And Ford. And Everett. And Sumner. And because he doesn't think he'll be able to sleep at night if he just leaves her here.
Besides, trying to help John chase down Michael is only going to get one of them hurt. No, it's better for everyone involved that he stay here and let the people who shoot things for a living do their jobs. Nevermind the fact that it'll be another minute or so before the reinforcements reach his position, or the fact that his job has taken a decidedly shoot things to live turn of late. He's staying here and that's that.
"You can't lie to me. I was in your head, remember?" she whispers, trying to raise a hand to his face. It falters before it's even halfway.
He takes her hand and pats it awkwardly before placing it back on her chest. "Yet you thought I was interested in Katie Brown of all people, so your judgement's obviously impaired, even for a Marine."
"Yeah, that was a bad call. Should've realized you were doing the Colonel."
"Yes, well, you live, you learn. So why don't you put a little more effort into the living and the less into the reminiscing, hmm?"
"We both know how this is going to end."
"Don't talk like that. You've still got years left."
"To spend in some backwoods nursing home under an assumed name, with my family thinking I got blown apart by an IED!" The force of her words sends Laura into a coughing fit which can only be more painful than it sounds. "I can't live like that, Rodney. You've got to promise me-"
Marines: martyrs, every single one of them. "I will do no such thing, Captain. You're going to go to the infirmary and are going to let Carson wait on you hand and foot until we find a way to reverse this. It's going to be as embarrassing as anything to watch, but you're going to let him do it and be happy about it, end of story. So stop talking like that."
"Pull the other one."
"Rodney," she says firmly, looking him straight in the eye (her own have never looked so bright, staring out at them from a body that's no longer her own; he wonders how he's never noticed they were such a remarkable shade of hazel before). "Promise me."
And that's when the medical team arrives.
Carson's clear-headed enough to let Doctor Biro run lead on Cadman's case, but not enough to stay in the treatment area while they take care of her. Instead, he checks the two SFs over – they turn out to be concussed but otherwise unharmed – before retreating into his office. And since Rodney's not actually as cold-hearted as he likes his underlings to believe, he follows after.
Still, just because he's emotionally aware enough to not want Carson to be alone after learning that his girlfriend has had sixty years of her life sucked out of her, he's not actually good at this sort of thing. It's all he can really do to pat the doctor's shoulder awkwardly and try to keep him from hyperventilating.
He doesn't know how long this goes on, only that it's long enough for John to show up.
"Hey Carson," John says softly, sauntering into the office with a quarter of his usual energy. "Laura's awake if you want to talk to her."
"I think she'd really like to talk to you," John continues, his voice slipping into a tone Rodney's only heard him use on Atlantis and Aurora. Cadman must be much worse off than Biro had let on if John's pulling out that one out. "It will probably do you a world of good too."
Gesturing with the wad of Kleenex in his hands, "I don't want to upset her."
"I think the only thing that would upset her is if you stay in here. It doesn't even have to be for long, just long enough to let her know you still care."
"Of course I care! Why else do you think I'm carrying on like this."
"I know that, Doc. But I'm not the one who needs to know."
Sighing, "Aye, you're right," Carson agrees. Then, hauling himself out of his chair, "I've dallied too long as it is. Does nae one any good for me to be moping about in here."
"I just came from talking with her. There's no one with her now."
"Thanks, Colonel – and you too Rodney."
"Yes, glad to help," he says, waiting until after Carson's out of sight before confiding, "Thank God you came when you did. I've no idea what to do when people start crying. I was about ready to call in Teyla for backup. So, you catch Michael? I've been off-radio since we got here."
John scowls, but there's no real heat in it. Even his hair looks depressed, laying entirely too flat on his head. "I got a whole clip in him, but it didn't slow him down in the least. He managed to get to one of the jumpers and dialled-out before we could stop him."
"How? He doesn't have the gene."
"Yeah, but the launch sequence is automatic, no gene required, and jumper's permutatum overrides the one in the Control Room, so..."
"So he got away?"
"Pretty much." John rubs a hand across his face. "We followed after, but he'd already ditched the jumper and gated to another planet by then. Zelenka collected the last fifty or so addresses, but it's a safe bet he went from there to a Wraith-controlled planet."
"Taking with him the knowledge that Atlantis still stands," Rodney finishes. This means another Siege. Maybe even another suicide run and another chance for him to lose John in a way a thousand times worse than Carson's losing Laura right now. Yes, they have a ZedPM now and a means for recharging the others almost completed, but so had the Ancients and they'd not been able to hold them off forever. They'd given up and fled – an option which the Expedition doesn't even have, not when the Wraith want nothing more than to follow them to a new, rich feeding ground.
"And he knows about me."
"You really think knowing that you're an Ancient will make that much of a difference when they come for us again?"
"Never underestimate the ability for the promise of revenge to paper over all other differences."
Frowning now, "Why do they hate your people so much? I mean, I get that you guys were at war, but I thought that was just a control of the galaxy thing. Why would they want revenge, especially when as far as they're concerned they won?"
"We made them."
"You what?" Rodney squawks. This is news. Deep and troubling news he should've heard about two years ago.
"It was an accident, of course. No one could've foreseen Larenta Eyno's research having the result it did. But the fact is we made them. And the created will always seek to destroy their creators."
"That certainly complicates things."
"It does, doesn't it?" John laughs mirthlessly. "And here I am ten thousand years later, the only one left to clean it all up – and making the exact same mistakes."
"It's not your fault."
His words earn Rodney a sardonic smile. "It's adorable that you think that."
"I am not adorable."
"Of course you aren't."
"What is it with people thinking that today? Did I get the days mixed up? Is it April Fool's already? 'Cause, seriously, if anyone is going to be mistaken for adorable in this relationship, it's going to be you – and you're the one with the C4 fetish."
"What can I say? I like explosives. They remind me of Father." John glances quickly out the door, as if afraid someone might have overheard his reminiscing, and bites his lower lip.
It's then that Rodney remembers that Laura is their explosives expert, the one they'd gotten to replace Ford after John had been forced to shoot him. For a moment, John's whole friendship with the Captain suddenly makes sense. Not much, but enough.
"Cadman will be fine," he tries to assure his amator. They're hollow words, but John needs to hear them, looking sucker-punched as he does. But before he can think of better to say, there's a commotion in the main infirmary-
-and the call for paddles, asystole-
Laura Cadman is declared dead at 0952 local time, from heart complications arising from the Wraith feeing process.
He doesn't expect John to come to his quarters that night.
(Hell, Rodney hadn't thought he'd make it to his quarters that night, but Carson had insisted he didn't need someone to stay with him and, well, hadn't given him much choice about the matter.)
He's not asleep when John comes in. It's pitch black and he's facing away from the door, so he doesn't see him enter, but he can hear the shift in Atlantis' song when he does. It's less sorrowful, more concerned, and Rodney thinks this alone would've woken him if by some miracle he'd actually managed to fall asleep.
John, however, doesn't appear to realize he's awake. He just climbs into bed with him, barely pausing long enough to toe off his boots before plastering himself against him. John's arm is a little too tight around Rodney's chest and the buttons on his shirt dig a little too deeply into his back, but he scarcely dares to breathe, not with John like this.
It takes Rodney a minute or two, but he's fairly certain John's doing everything in his power not to cry.
And, well, that is unacceptable, so he tries to twist around to face him-
-and John stills immediately. He probably would've jumped out of the bed entirely if Rodney hadn't been holding on to the arm wrapped around him for dear life. "Ancient or not, you're allowed to have feelings," he says quietly.
"I just killed another one of my best officers, Rodney. Atlantis wouldn't still be standing if I let out everything I was feeling."
Rage, deep and instinctual, flares in his chest. "You didn't kill her, John."
"I convinced Elizabeta to let Carson test the retrovirus."
"It's not your fault," Rodney repeats as forcibly as he can.
(He wants to build a time machine so he can go back ten thousand years and let Janus have it for making his son believe that the entire universe was his responsibility; so he can go back twenty-three days and talk himself out of going along with Operation Bellerophon in the first place; so he can go back twenty-eight hours and set off the fire suppression system in Michael's quarters, personal consequences be damned, so he can't hurt Laura.
(He wants to march straight to Elizabeth's quarters and make sure that she knows exactly how much she messed up on this one; to track down Teyla and ask her if she still believes the Wraith are capable of compassion; to find a mirror and see if he can still look himself in the eye.
(He wants to take all the blame John's feeling and put it on himself, because John tortures himself enough already and he won't sit back and watch him do it again, for something for which he is completely blameless.)
"Michael killed Cadman, John. Her death is on his hands, not yours."
"No it's not."
"Yes it is."
"She asked me to do it."
Rodney freezes, suddenly very glad that John's grip on him has been too tight for him to turn around and knowing all too well what he's talking about.
"She said it would be more merciful to let her die – that if I didn't do it, she'd find someone else, some other way. That this way Carson would never have to know. That Michael may have taken everything else from her, but at least this way he wouldn't have won."
"Healing's difficult. It's easy to make a mistake, especially where something complicated like the heart is involved. I'm so bad at it, I didn't even have to try."
"Oh John," he breathes.
"It's alright. I owed her that much. I just..."
"It's still not your fault."