Title: Coniurati (2/3)
Words: 2,700 (of ?)
Pairing/Charecter(s): John/Rodney, Lorne/Zelenka
Warnings/Spoliers: part 2 of #18 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1); immediately before "Allies"
Disclaimer: Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine.
Summary: They've taken him.
Notes: I know, I know, I promised this would be a 2 parter, but this chappie was getting long and I've had a frak-it-all day and, well, need/want/require positive feedback to keep from going absolutely insane.
Myslel jsem to bylo všechno v mé hlavě is Czech for I thought it was all in my head. And the song that 'Lantis is teaching Rory is Loreena McKennitt's "The Gates of Istanbul," which probably makes this a good time to mention that her music is usually what I picture in my head when talking about Atlantis' song. Well, either that or the BSG soundtrack. It depends on my mood.
An Ancient!John Story
Rodney is sitting in the mess hall, head cradled between his arms, when he suddenly realizes he has no earthly idea how he got there.
Lantean, John would way. No Lantean idea.
Rodney suppresses the pitiful sound that's threatening in his throat and lets his forehead fall to the table. His fingers are freezing where the brush the back of his neck. He must be at one of the balcony tables - a foolhardy idea at best now that winter was coming to Atlantis, but John would always sit at one if he could help it... He has always secretly thought John does it so he can look out, see the sky, and remember exactly when he is, which is a problem sometimes when he's really tired and not thinking straight. He can't count all the times John's slipped into Ancient on him when they're in bed, all but asleep, and he's trying to steal back the blankets or extricate a sleeping limb. (Or the other times when John's slipped into Ancient in bed, right before-)
God. Just, God. If he can't get John back...
He has to. He will.
He doesn't realize he not alone at the table until his dining companion speaks, saying in the stilted, formal way all aliens but John seem to have, "I would suggest drinking your beverage while it is still warm, Doctor McKay. I have consulted with your culinary specialists, who assure me that it contains the most stimulants a human can healthily consume at one time, but I imagine it tastes much better hot than cold."
Rodney lifts his head and blinks. "What are we doing in the mess hall, Hermiod?"
"You," the Asgard says calmly, pushing a mug of coffee his way, "are attempting to ingest a highly suspect amount of artificial stimulants while I sample the culinary offerings the humans of this galaxy have to offer."
Rodney blinks again as he watches the Asgard take a hard-boiled egg from the bowl in front of him and swallow it whole. It's not a chicken egg - chickens, oddly enough, don't seem to exist in the Pegasus galaxy - but rather the egg of some sort of domesticated quail, but it's still impressive. And moderately disturbing, considering the pale blue shell he'd failed to remove prior to consumption.
He takes a large mouthful of coffee before asking, "And why are we doing this?"
"Because the medication that Doctor Beckett gave you for your headache when you went to relieve him of Iohannes Pastor's blood sample either was not the medication he claimed it to be or else you are experiencing one of its more unexpected side effects." Hermiod swallows another egg, shell and all. "You may also be curious to know that this is the twenty-third time I have answered this question for you and I am anxious for there not to be a twenty-fourth. Please, drink your beverage."
Rodney drinks his coffee.
"You may also be curious to know that your plan is, with the regrettable exception of your current state of disorientation, going according to schedule. At this point we are merely waiting for Major Lorne to wake, to see if the operation was successful. Doctor Zelenka will inform us as soon as he has."
"I see," he says, and continues drinking his coffee. It tastes like honest-to-God mud, but it's strong and he can feel his shattered thoughts starting to pick themselves up and dust themselves off, albeit reluctantly.
He remembers stirring, feeling John slip out of bed and thinking nothing of it - John makes a habit of getting up at absurd hours of the night that he even more absurdly insists on calling morning and running frankly ridiculous lengths with Ronon. He remembers hearing Atlantis' song shift suddenly and wakening fully, just in time to see a pure, white light fill the room. The fear and panic that comes after he remembers all too well.
"You have also said that twenty-three times."
"And yet you're still here."
"And yet I am still here," Hermiod agrees, blinking slowly. "Egg?"
"Er, no thank you."
"I find myself quite enjoying these myself. They are not as efficient protein or choline delivery methods as Asgard nutritional supplements, but find myself enjoying them all the more for that very reason." He swallows another egg. "It is quite curious the things one discovers are important when one is dying."
Rodney continues drinking his coffee. He's starting to remember distracting Carson so Zelenka could make off with John's blood sample. He's even starting to recall the conversation he had with Hermiod to get him to help in the first place - and the conversation Zelenka had had with Lorne trying to talk him out of it, if one could call it a conversation at all. But he doesn't remember anything about Hermiod being on his deathbed and says as much.
"As you are well aware, Doctor McKay, my species is dying. It is unlikely we will live to see the end of this decade. Some Asgard persist with their futile search for a cure for the disorder we have coded into our very genes. Others obsess over preserving our legacy so that you, the Fifth Race, might preserve the future and, perhaps, learn from our mistakes. Myself, I am learning to appreciate the multitude of small things which I took for granted all the many years of my life. Three thousand years and thirteen clone bodies and I have never before taken the time to consume something for the mere pleasure of the act."
"Not once," Hermiod repeats, blinking solemnly. "And I would not have thought have thought to do so even now if Iohannes Pastor had not suggested it."
"To take time, as you would say, to smell the flowers."
His head starts spinning again at this. "John said this?"
"Well," the Asgard concedes, "his actual words were lightning flashes, sparks shower, in one blink of an eye you have missed seeing, but I believe the meaning is similar."
"That doesn't sound like something John would say either." Any other Ancient? Yes. But John? No.
"We are all the products of our environments, Doctor McKay. Iohannes Pastor may not be a typical example, but he is still an Ancient."
Rodney frowns. He's fairly certain that Hermiod is trying to tell him something, but it's all he can do to keep up with the conversation, let alone read between alien lines at the moment. "What did Carson give me?"
Sounding highly put upon once more, "Sumatriptan."
"And the plan is working?"
"So far, yes."
Well, that's something at least, even if things aren't making complete sense yet. "I'm going to get more coffee, and then you're going to fill me in on all the things I apparently missed."
It starts like an ache near the top of his head, a slow building pressure that Evan might have mistaken for a budding migraine if he'd not been expecting just such a thing. It grows into a vague sense of unease - of voices just out of hearing, of ghosts just out the corner of his eyes - and a faint, panicky feeling of doubt and distrust.
And then the data starts flowing in, slowly at first but quickly building speed until he's drowning in all of it. Planetary weather reports, orbital tracking data, transporter logs, energy usage reports - any and every piece of datum a city the size of Atlantis generates every second rushing through his head too quickly to comprehend in any meaningful way. It floods his mind, all of his senses (though some part of Evan recognizes his breath is shallow and labored and entirely out of his control), until-
-until the dam breaks and there is nothing but blissful peace as he concentrates on evening out his breathing. Atlantis' song is still there and, for a moment, it's as if nothing has changed at all.
Evan thinks he can hear singing.
/See there, past that far-off hill, a tower held in the sky,/ a woman sings and, God, if her voice isn't the the most amazing thing Evan's ever heard. It's rich and refined and, if he'd any actual knowledge about music beyond what a few weeks as Atlantis' custodia has taught him, he'd know the right words to describe it. But he doesn't, and all he can think is amazing and maybe beautiful.
The singer stops singing. /Your turn,/ she says, and for a horrible second he thinks she means him, and then-
/See there,/ repeats another voice, sweeter and softer and just a little bit wild, /past that far-off hill, a tow-er-/
/Tower,/ the first corrects.
/Tower,/ the second says, struggling to string the syllables together, /a tower held in the sky./
/Very good, Aurora. Next line: Hear there, in that dark blue night, the music calling us home./
/Hear there, in that dark blue-/ The song suddenly stops and the music shifts, like cymbals crashing before shifting into something more ingenuous and atavistic. /Ma-ter! Ma-ter! He's a-wake! He's fi-nal-ly a-wake!/
Amused, /Remember what we said about pastores, Aurora?/ the first - Atlantis, Evan realizes - asks gently.
/That they are rare and del-i-cate and we must be care-ful not to break them,/ Rory says dully, like a student reciting a hard-learned lesson. Then, returning to full volume almost immediately. /But he is our mar-i-tus, Ma-ter! We have wait-ed and wait-ed and wait-ed for a pas-tor of our very own, and now he is here and-/
/And we still must get your pater back./
The music sinks. /We'll nev-er get him back, Mat-er. Peop-le al-ways leave us./
Evan gets the sense that Atlantis wants to agree, but refuses to do so openly, though whether for her sake or the ship's, he cannot say. /We will get him back, Aurora./
/People al-ways leave,/ she repeats, and Evan gets the sense she's slinking off somewhere to sulk on her own, even if the where part doesn't make much sense.
/We apologize for Aurora. She is... very young./
"I don't mind."
/You should,/ Atlantis snorts before seeming to deflate, whatever good cheer she was keeping up for the spaceship that considered herself her daughter crumbling away. /Thank you for doing this for us./
"I wanted to." More than anything in the world, he's wanted to hear her voice since the moment he first heard her song - if not the very moment he first stepped into the city.
Softly now and openly melancholy, /We know. We just wish it had been under better circumstances/
There's a long silence. He has no clue what to say to break it.
/Find the custodia and the praefecta,/ 'Lantis sighs at long last. /You can act as our mouthpiece. We think we only have it in us to tell this story once./
"Okay," Evan says, and opens his eyes.
The sickbay is dark, illuminated only by the recessed lighting underneath the wall cabinets that line the room. He's still laying on his side on the main operating table in the centre of the room, in the deepest of the shadows, and his left hand would be hanging over the side if it wasn't clasped in Radek's as he dozes at his bedside.
For the first time in what feels like years, Evan smiles.
"Radek," he says.
There's no answer.
"Radek," he tries again, shaking their joined hands.
Still no answer.
Grinning now, Evan pushes himself up onto his elbow and pokes the other man on the shoulder. "Radek."
Radek's head snaps up and he almost falls out of his chair, he's so startled. "Evan," he says slowly, eyes somewhat glazed behind his glasses, "you're awake."
"So are you."
"Are you...? Did it...?" he continues with an odd tentativeness that worries Evan for the half-second it takes him to realized that, shit, Radek must have been even more worried about this than he'd thought.
"I'm fine," Evan tells him, getting the overhead lights to come on slowly so he can see the truth for himself. "I'm fine and it worked."
"Any... side effects?"
"Well, it's certainly strange." He's fairly certain that he could start rattling off any number of the data sets Atlantis and Aurora are constantly generating, if only he reached out with his mind for them. And though Evan's now able to hear both AIs' voices, they, like with their music before, seem to be nicely tucked into the back of his mind when he's not in direct conversation with them - a noticeable presence, yes, but not a bothersome one. "I'm not even sure if she particularly wants me-"
/We want you,/ Atlantis interrupts suddenly, her voice slamming into the forefront of his mind, panicked and desperate. /We wanted you as pastor from the moment you became custodia. Never think otherwise.You are our daughter's husband, our Iohannes' nephew, and love us like a true-born son: how could we not want you? It is only the circumstances that we wish were different./
Evan hisses at the sudden onslaught, almost losing his balance, still propped up on his elbow as he is. "Strike the last," he breathes, moving to sit up properly-
-but Radek's hand is squeezing even as he asks, voice deceptively even, "Are you all right, Major?"
"I'm fine. 'Lantis just surprised me, that's all," he says almost distractedly, glancing down at their still-joined hands. And, when he looks up, Radek's gone as white as a sheet, and suddenly everything clicks inside in his head in a way Evan's never been able to see before. "You were worried," he says slowly. "Not about the procedure, but about me."
Radek tries to pull his hand away; Evan doesn't let him. "You are my friend," he insists, coloring slightly. "A very close friend."
Evan's gaze drops back to their joined hands. "You're my best friend, Radek." There are a hundred reasons why this is a bad idea, but none of them seem to matter anymore because Radek is worried about him and if the procedure had gone wrong Evan never would have known. He would have gone all his life without something he wants so desperately because he was too afraid to take a chance that wouldn't have been a chance at all, because no one worries like this for someone they only have heat-of-the-moment feelings for; no one feels sucker punched like this at seeing someone else's worry unless they truly care for that person. The only bad idea anymore is not taking the chance. "Your friendship means everything to me, but I think we can have a lot more than that, if you'll have me."
He looks up at Radek's sharp breath. "Myslel jsem..." he's saying so softly that, close as they are, Evan has a hard time hearing him, "Myslel jsem to bylo všechno v mé hlavě," but that might be because he's too busy looking at Radek's eyes, which are Triomphe Blue and shining in the half-light and seem a little bit like coming home.
Then Evan tugs at their joined hands, just enough to get Radek closer, and uses his other hand to bring him closer still.
Then he kisses him, and it's better than Evan could ever have imagined.