Title: Atlas (1/1)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Zelenka, Lorne; John/Rodney, pre-Lorne/Zelenka
Warnings/Spoliers: #16 in the Ancient!John 'verse; between "Michael" and "Inferno"
Disclaimer: Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine.
Summary: Anything involving the Stargate Program has a way of conflating emotions.
Notes: This is partically because of all the people who noticed my psuedo-subtle attempt at pre-Lorne/Zelenka in pt4 of "Fradator" and partically because I realized that, after so many fics of bulding up the ZPM recharger, I kinda actually need to do a fic in which we use said device for the first time. (I'm a genius, I know.) Anyway, I apoligize in the delay in finishing S2, mostly because this one took a while to get started, but also because I needed to write my McShep Match fic. And also because I'm a complete idiot and spent entirely too much time working on the soundtracks [S1, S2] for this 'verse. God.
Other notes include: 1) Hloupý...nevím translates to Stupid man. Sometimes it is like someone set fire to your personality and tried to put it out with a fork, it is so ugly. What the Colonel sees in you, I do not know in Czech. Imago Soni Magnetum is the closest I can figure to MRI in Latin. 2) For the part towards the end (and you'll know what part), the music I had playing on repeat was "Passacaglia," which might help you imagine that bit better. 3) This is also the first fic in this 'verse written completely on my new iPad, with a different word proccessing program than before. Which seems to think "Sheppard" is a mispelling and to which I cannot change things to British English, so... if there are issues on that, I've done my best to catch them, but may still have missed. 4) Oh, and Atlas was Titan who held up the sky/world, depending on the exact myth. He lends his name to Atlantis (which litterally means Isle of Atlas) and is the brother of Prometheus and husband to Clymene, a daughter of Ocean. In this 'verse, though it's not mentioned here, I intend for the Ancient of the same name to have been the inventor of the ZPM.
An Ancient!John Story
Evan rounds the corner just in time to see Radek step into the transporter. "Hey! Doctor Z!" he calls, hurrying to reach him, "Wait up."
Radek gives him a bemused look, but holds the door nonetheless. "Where are you off to in such a hurry, Evan?"
"Nowhere," he admits. "Just wanted to see if you were going down to the ZPM recharger test."
"Did you not hear? The Colonel has finally come up with a name for it. We are to call it ATLAS, all capitals. I do not know why."
He shakes his head. The Colonel has only been obsessing over coming up with a name for the device for weeks now. The fact that he hasn't bothered to tell any of them why the name is so important, or even why he chose the name he did, is just typical. But it's also not the point. "You on your way to the ATLAS test then?"
"I am on my way to pull the live ZPM for it now, yes. Why?" The Czech says, pressing the transporter controls that will take them to the ZPM Room on the third sub-level beneath the Central Spire.
Radek smirks. "So you just chased me down a hallway for no reason whatsoever?"
"Well," Evan back-peddles, flushing a little, "I wouldn't say chased."
Snorting now, "You have been spending too much time with the Colonel. Your excuses are starting to become just as bad as his."
The transporter disgorges them in the hallway directly outside the ZPM Room - which Colonel Sheppard has had under guard since the moment they started talking about bringing a Wraith test subject to Atlantis. Michael's been gone for two days - Captain Cadman has been dead for two days - but there has been no talk of removing the guards. He can only assume that Sheppard's been feeling the same sense of uneasiness Evan has ever since.
"I'm pretty sure that's not humanly possible."
"Perhaps," Radek concedes, stepping into the ZPM Room, "but your gene is the strongest of the natural carriers in the city after Doctor Beckett. So if possible, you are the most likely candidate."
"That is just mean," he laughs.
"But true." He taps his earwig. "McKay, I am preparing to pull the ZPM." He listens for a moment, then, "Fine, but next time you snap at me for not keeping you properly apprised of my work, I am reminding you of this. Hloupý člověk. Někdy to je jako oheň někdo nastavena na vaši osobnost a snažil se, aby to s vidličkou, to je tak ošklivý. Co plukovník vidí ve vás, já nevím."
Evan raises an eyebrow. "McKay being his usual charming self?"
"Worse, though I did not think such a thing was possible."
"Well, the whole Michael business has put everyone on edge, and you know just as well as I do that if we don't get the ZPM recharger - ATLAS device - up and running we're screwed the next time the Wraith decide to show up. Which they're bound to do soon now that Michael's probably told them how Atlantis is still standing." Evan hadn't been here for the Siege, but he's heard enough stories and fought enough Wraith to know it's one experience he'd rather not have.
Radek pulls the ZPM. "Is not that. Yes, people are uneasy, but McKay is just jumpy of late. The Colonel too, for that matter."
"Can't say I blame them. I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop myself."
"You think Michael managed to sabotage one of the city's systems before he escaped?"
"No. Not really. But I still feel like there was more to his escape than we know about."
Radek waits until they're back in the transporter - and out of the Marine guards' hearing - before continuing, "What are you saying, Evan? That somebody let him out?"
"I'm saying," he whispers back, "that we might not have been the only ones with plans to get rid of Michael."
Shaking his head, "I do not think Captain Cadman would have been so stupid as to allow Michael to escape, if only so as to kill him during his recapture."
"It was the Colonel's first idea." They'd talked him out of it, but that didn't mean that others hadn't had the same thought. Especially someone who, like the Colonel, had a tendency to see the military solutions to problems first.
Neither of them say anything as the transporter doors open.
"It was an an accident," Radek says after a moment, stepping out of the transporter and towards the clean room where Doctor McKay has been holed up for weeks, working on the ZPM re- on the ATLAS device. "An unfortunate accident. And that is the last we shall speak of it."
Evan nods. He doesn't like thinking that Laura was the agent of her own death anymore than Radek does, but the fact remains that the more he thinks about it, the more Evan knows it can be the only way Michael broke loose, no a matter how far he'd reverted back to Wraith form. And no matter her personal failings, she'd been a fine officer. Her death was a terrible loss.
"So, Evan, you still not have told me why you chased me down in the hallway."
"It wasn't chasing," he repeats with perhaps a touch too much vehemence. "I've just a got a strange feeling about the ATLAS test today and it's making me a bit twitchy."
"It is alright Major. I have worked for the military for over twenty years. I know how soldiers can get after they lose one of their own." Radek says this in such a way - sadly and with an almost wistful frown - that Evan almost asks about the soldier that he must have lost, but only almost. It's not his place to ask and, even if it were, they're almost at the clean room already and haven't got the time.
It's probably better that he not know anyway.
The thing is this:
Anything involving the Stargate Program has a way of conflating emotions. It's a natural reaction to intense situations. There's even a workshop to this effect that's part of the probationary period for all new recruits. It's a short workshop - only two hours long, most of it Q & A - and the lesson is simple: it's all only adrenaline until you've test driven it outside the mountain. If you still like each other in the real world, then feel free to give it a go.
Which is all well and good for people assigned to the SGC. It's different on Atlantis. There are no escape valves here for emotions. They just keep building and building, like feedback in a sound system, until something finally gives under the pressure.
Which is why Evan knows that his infatuation with Radek is just that: a stupid crush brought about by too much time spent working together and too little emotional distance and nothing more. It's only to be expected given the amount of time they spend working together. Hell, they've practically been living in each other's back pockets ever since Evan got to Atlantis in an effort to stay one step ahead of their respective COs, both of whom have a tendency to get so caught up in whatever they're doing that they forget everything and everyone else.
Which is why it's important to remember that whatever emotional intimacy he and Radek may have is a byproduct of their work and nothing more. By no means is it real intimacy. They're not even real emotions. At best, what they have is a close friendship that will withstand the distance that it'll face when one of them is inevitably transferred off Atlantis. At worst, it's a valuable working relationship that will fall apart whenever their bosses finally get the administrative assistants they so desperately need.
Which is why he really should be avoiding Radek at all costs, and not chasing him down hallways or asking him personal questions about long lost loves.
The ATLAS device looks like the love child of a wood lathe and a toaster oven, and this is almost a literal syllogism. The dead ZPM sits in a cage of copper wire balanced between two thick slabs of something that may or may not be the Ancient version of polystyrene. The live one goes into a recessed slot that kind of looks like the science fiction version of an automotive cup holder. Enough wires run between it and the half-dozen or so laptops scattered carelessly throughout the room to circle Atlantis a couple times over, giving an added Frankenstein's monster feel to the whole thing, to say nothing of Doctor Frankenstein himself, who looks about three seconds from cackling it's alive.
Evan says as much to Colonel Sheppard a few minutes after he and Radek arrive in the clean room.
Someone must've told him about this bit of Earth culture before, because his laughter is such that it draws Doctor McKay's special brand of attention their way. "What the hell is so funny?"
"Didn't you say something about the guiding principles of the universe being simple and beautiful once? 'Cause, for the machine that you're sure is going to win you that Nobel Prize, ATLAS doesn't look all that pretty."
"And whose fault is that?"
"Yours. You're the one who designed it after all."
"Ah, I see how it is now," McKay huffs, sliding the charged ZPM into place, "it's my tech when it's not living up to expectations but it's yours when the time comes to claim all the credit."
"Exactly," Sheppard says smugly, kicking his feet back and forth a little from his perch atop of one of the workbenches.
McKay rolls his eyes and mutters something unintelligible (no doubt exceptionally rude, but extremely accurate, about the Colonel's parentage) under his breath.
Radek just shakes his head and says to both of them, "Please warn me if ever you ever decide to have children. It will take time to set up the fund they will need to pay for all their psychotherapy." He then thrusts a data device at McKay. "Double check these numbers please?"
"Yes, yes. Very funny. Absolutely hilarious. Just remember that just because you're less brain-dead than the rest of the so-called scientists the SGC keeps sending me doesn't mean you're irreplaceable, you know. There are trained monkeys out there who could do your job better, faster, and with less back-talk than you," McKay retorts carelessly, the majority of his attention going to the data device in his hands.
"Yes, but you could not afford their salaries."
"I'm sorry, I thought this was a high-energy physics lab, not some amateur comedy club. Now how about you put a little less work into your one-liners and a little more into, I don't know, your actual job?"
"Ah, but Rodney," Sheppard inserts, jumping off the workbench, "you make it so easy that it doesn't take any effort at all."
McKay levels an accusatory finger the Colonel's way. "Don't encourage him. You're what makes my minions think they can get away with behavior like this in the first place."
"It's not my fault you're so much fun to rile up," Sheppard says, coming up to hug McKay from behind, chin perched squarely on one his shoulders. "Though I don't suppose you could hurry things up a little?"
"And to think that if someone had asked me two years ago what I thought the Ancients might be like if we found any when we got to Atlantis, patient would've made the top ten."
"If you immediately know the candlelight is fire, than the meal was cooked long ago."
McKay snaps his fingers at him. "Yes. Exactly. That too. Jackson quotes that all the time. What the hell does that even mean?"
The Colonel appears to contemplate it for a second before saying, "Its the kind of thing, I think, that doesn't mean much until you figure it out for yourself."
"Well that's spectacularly unhelpful. Thank you for that."
Evan snorts, which once more draws McKay's attention his way. "And you. Why are you even here? Unless you've got some advanced degree I don't know about, stop distracting my second and get out of my clean room."
For a moment - and only a moment - Evan considers mentioning the PhD he'd been working on before he'd been sent to Afghanistan, but he knows that admitting to being a philosophy major can only make things worse for him in McKay's eyes. So he beats a quick retreat instead, not even pausing to see Radek's take on all this.
Evan used to be good at shoulds and needs and musts.
The antsy feeling Evan's been having only grows worse after the first test of the ATLAS device. Nevermind the fact that the test was successful and that they now how have a second charged ZPM at their disposal, he's gone from feeling like he's overdone it on the coffee to feeling like he literally has ants crawling around in his skull, which even he has to admit goes beyond normal anxiety.
He's not been in the infirmary for more than ten minutes before Sheppard shows up, rubbing the back of his neck and looking like he's just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
"Sorry about this Major."
"Sorry about what?" Evan asks, bewildered.
"'Lantis," the Colonel says. "She has absolutely no understanding of personal boundaries." He rolls his eyes at the nearest wall sconce when it begins to flicker. "Well you don't. If you did, you wouldn't have told about what Carson found on the imago soni magnetum he just took." A pause, then, "Look, carissima, if you want to really be helpful, talk to Rory and explain why she can't go and do things like this without warning people. Sorry," he repeats, looking at Evan this time.
"For the fact that the city is spying on me? Doesn't sound like something you can help, Sir."
With a small smile. "Actually, it's not 'Lantis doing the spying - though she did tell me what was going on when Carson ran the scan. It's Rory."
"Aurora's been spying on me?"
"You've been spending a lot of time aboard her, playing light switch for Doctor Z. What can I say? She's grown attached - to both you and the good doctor. But you're the one with the gene, so she's rather more attached to you than Doctor Z."
"Really," Sheppard confirms, edging a stool over to Evan's bedside with the toe of his boot.
"That's... cool, I guess." Cool, but kind of weird. Though why Sheppard would be apologizing to him for it now, when he's in the infirmary with a headache that could drop a Wraith at forty paces, as opposed to the other day, when Radek had dragged him here following the incident with the navigation controls, Evan hasn't the slightest idea. Which is kind of weird in and of itself.
"I'm glad you think so, 'cause it means that, in her grand scheme of machines and men, she's decided to make you her maritus."
Evan blinks and waits for the punchline. None is immediately forthcoming. Eventually Shepaprd's silence compels him to say, "I've no idea what that means, Sir."
"It means husband - but," he continues quickly, as if to make up for his earlier reticence, "before you get yourself too worked up, it doesn't really mean anything. Not in the conventional manner, at least. I mean, she calls me her pater and 'Lantis her mater, but that doesn't mean Rory actually thinks... Well, I'm reasonably certain she doesn't think anything of the sort, but she has spent a lot of time on her own and her databanks are corrupted, so she might very well think lintres are what happens when a pastor sits in the cathedra. Honestly," he confesses, making a face, "it's one of those things I've been trying to avoid thinking about."
He has absolutely no idea what the correct response to this news is, and tells the Colonel as much.
"I find creeped out to be a perfectly valid life choice in moments like these."
"Have a lot of them, do you Sir?"
"Major," Sheppard says honestly - so honestly that it makes him wonder about all the conversations they'd had before, how many of them were real and how many of them were pretend, and if he's ever really known the Ancient they call John Sheppard, - "I'm sitting here having this conversation with you. What do you think?"
"You may have a point there, Sir," he flinches - which has nothing to do with the words themselves and everything to do with the pressure in his head suddenly ratcheting up five clicks.
"Of course I do. My natural propensity for pointedness is well-known - which, ironically enough, isn't the point. Which is that, 'cause Rory likes you so much, she's decided to adopt you into this seriously dysfunctional family she's made for herself. The upshot of which is that she wants to make you a custodia."
Brow furrowing in confusion, "You mean like Doctor McKay? The music you guys sometimes talk about but not the words?"
"Yeah. The words, as you say, require a couple hundred thousand tiny robots to be implanted into your head. But the music... well, anyone with the gene and the right kind of connection with Atlantis - or Aurora - can hear that."
"Seriously cool, in my book."
"So what's the catch?" At Sheppard's expression, he continues, "You wouldn't have come in here apologizing if there wasn't a catch."
"Yes, well... the thing is that Rory's never exactly made a custodia before. According to what 'Lantis picked up on your brain scans, she's kinda been going about it in the wrong way. Nothing serious, just wrong - an old way the urbes-naves abandoned long ago for a faster, more direct way. All of which boils down to the fact that, now that 'Lantis has caught it, she's going to finish the job as quickly as possible. Apparently the side effects are likely to be nosebleeds, fever, and a craving for paprika and pumpkin seeds."
"Good source of potassium."
"I think I'll stick with bananas, if you don't mind."
Grinning broadly, "You mean you'll do it?"
Evan looks at him like he's stupid - which is a stupid way to look at one's commanding officer, though Sheppard doesn't seem to mind. "Of course I want to do it." He loves Atlantis, loves Aurora. He'd never truly felt like he belonged anywhere until he set foot in this city. He's never felt so alive as when he's standing the Control Room when the Stargate activates or piloting a jumper (or when he's sitting on the balcony outside Radek's makeshift distillery, sampling his latest product and commiserating over the latest stunt their bosses have pulled, though that's something he chooses not to examine too closely if he can help it). "Just one question."
"This doesn't mean I have to call you dad now, does it?"
Sheppard's laughter is what finally draws Carson's attention their way.
There are no words for it:
One moment there is silence. The next there is music.
Perhaps if he, like Doctor McKay, had studied music, he'd have a way to describe the song that creeps into his head and tangles itself in his very soul, so much so that it's impossible to tell where it stops and he begins.
But he doesn't. All Evan knows is that, the moment he the music flares to life in his head - a stubborn, repeating bass from something that sounds a little like a cello but cannot, possibly, be anything of the sort; a weaving, darting, teasing melody that could've been from a flute, or a violin, or maybe some exotic form of clarinet; and there, on the edge, just beyond hearing, the suggestion of some sort of harmony, of words and phrases and lyrics he could never, would never, know - he feels alive. Alive in a way he only feels when flying a jumper or standing in the Control Room when the Stargate activates (or sitting on the balcony outside Radek's makeshift distillery, sampling his latest product and commiserating over the latest stunt their bosses have pulled).
But those are only words and they cannot tell the whole story. So Evan doesn't even try, and just lets the music wash over him until he arrives at a place where he can hear past the music to the world which is really there.
"So I hear you got married," says a voice when he's finally able to hear something more than the roar of music in his ears. (It's still there, the music, but he can think around it now, and over it, and through. It is there, but only as much as Evan wishes it to be.)
"It was a political move," Evan says, his own voice sounding strange to his ears. "I plan on having love affairs with each and every piece of Ancient technology we stumble across."
Radek snorts, bemused. "That is good to hear. I had worried I would lose my favorite light switch while you locked yourself away aboard Aurora and did unspeakable things to her control panels."
"Favorite, huh?" he asks, still too out of it to think better of it.
He's not, however, out of it enough to miss the blush that stains Radek's cheeks before the good doctor busies himself with polishing his glasses with the hem of his shirt. "You have been out for quite some time," he says, changing the subject without subtlety. "How do you feel?"
"Like the morning after shore leave. How long was I out?"
"Six hours and change. You missed much excitement."
"Oh yes. McKay and I did another test of the ATLAS device, so now we have three fully charged ZPMs, which he and the Colonel saw as a perfect reason to plug in all three and start running tests on what city systems we hadn't been able to activate yet. Naturally, they did this without informing anyone before hand, and so we did not know what was happening until the consoles in the Control Room began to go crazy..."
Evan leans back and lets Radek's words wash over him, melting and mixing and joining until it seems a natural part of the music that surrounds them and Evan is how privileged enough to hear.
It is the most amazing thing he's ever heard.
There are other reasons, of course, nothing can ever become of the attraction between them - and he's pretty sure that it's not all one-sided - but the fear that it is could all be an adrenaline-fueled folly is the biggest one. Even bigger than the Uniform Code he's subject to or the fact that he's never been attracted to another man before.
But, in the moments he allows himself to dream, it's the most brilliant thing in the whole universe.