Pairings/Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney, Teyla, Ronon, Elizabeth
Spoiler/Warnings: #22 in the Ancient!John 'Verse see part 1, 2); character death
Summary: Asuras still stands
Notes: You've no idea how much this one tried to kill me as I wrote it. This is like version 13,584,789 of this chappie alone. Thanks t popkin16 or all her help and general listen-to-me-whine-ness, though I doubt she expected this outcome. **runs and hides**
An Ancient!John Story
They've no sooner turned the corner before a great clap of thunder crashes all around them, shaking the entire tower.
Another quickly follows, impossibly louder, and then a third, this time accompanied by a great fusillade of lightning breaking and bursting down the halls, burning and blistering everything it touches.
It's too bright to watch. Rodney quickly buries his eyes in the crook of his elbow, pressing his hands to his ears in attempt to protect them from the deafening barrage. He doesn't know why his arms are suddenly free, only that he must do something against the onslaught. He thinks he might be on his knees, but that's immaterial with the way the floor is quaking - but that might just be him. The temperature in the hallway surges ten, fifteen degrees. The air is filled with the acrid smell of burned hair and melting plastic and if it keeps up for much longer, it's going to be impossible to breathe.
And then just as quickly as it started, it stops, the silence even more deafening than the thunder.
Cautiously, Rodney uncovers his ears. When that doesn't prove to be a heinous mistake, opens his eyes too.
He's kneeling in the middle of a nuclear winter: The walls are utterly charred. What remains of the furniture rests in piles of smouldering wreckage every few yards. The windows are all smashed, covering the floor in shards of multi-coloured glass mostly lost beneath the inch or two of ash that covers everything, even himself.
Elizabeth groans from somewhere to his right - at least, he thinks it's Elizabeth. His ears are still ringing and the sound of her agony is all but primal, nothing at all like the prim and polished diplomat of minutes before.
Slowly, carefully, he crawls towards her, hissing when a shard of glass he'd somehow missed buries itself in his palm. Rodney pulls it out as carefully as he can and tugs the sleeves of his stupid Ancient jacket down as far as they'll go, hoping the leather sewn into the cuffs will give him some protection. They do, but no where near enough, and so his fingers sport a dozen tiny cuts by the time he finally reaches her.
"Elizabeth," he coughs.
He gets no response.
"Elizabeth?" he tries again, shaking her shoulder.
This gets him an insensate moan, even more pained than the first.
Carefully, he starts brushing the ash and hair off her face. His comes away with blood, several inches of blackened hair, and pieces of charred flesh. "Elizabeth, can you hear me?" he asks, a frantic note in his voice now. He tears open his jacket and rips several inches off the hem of the shirt underneath, using the relatively cleaner cloth to dab at her wounds, but getting rid of the blood and ash only makes it look that much worse. As loudly as he dares, "Is anybody there?"
"Teyla? Is that you?"
"Yes," she chokes out around terrible, hacking coughs that make his own lungs ache with sympathy. "What was that?"
"No idea. A bomb maybe? All I know is Elizabeth is in a bad way over here. She's got some really bad burns and I think she must've hit her head when she fell, 'cause she's not waking up."
Rodney takes a second glance through the haze of smoke. "I don't see him. Or any of the Asurans."
"Nor do I. Ron-" she pauses for another body-wracking cough. "Ronon? Are you there?"
"I'm here," he grunts in obvious pain. "What'd I miss?"
"We are not certain, but Elizabeth is hurt and, last I saw, the Replicators have John."
"We've gotta get out of here."
"No go," Rodney tells him worriedly. "Elizabeth can't walk. Hell, she won't even wake up." She needs medical attention soon or there's no telling what state she'll be in when sh wakes up.
If she wakes up.
"We're dead if we stay here."
There's no denying that, but, "This place is crawling with Asurans."
"It's built just like Atlantis," Ronon says, his voice stronger, clearer, closer. "If you were going to hide there, where would you go?"
"Well that's completely different. Atlantis is mostly abandoned and-" He snaps his fingers as an idea hits him. "The underwater jumper bay. There should be no reason for the Asurans to be down there unless they've taken up an interest in oceanography. Which is doubtful."
He hears the distinct hum of Ronon's energy weapon being readied. At least they have one gun between them. "How far is it?"
"About fifty stories and half-a-mile from where we are now - if this place really is designed just like Atlantis."
"Good enough for me."
"And me as well," Teyla agrees, suddenly appearing out of the smoke. She's missing about half-a-foot of hair and has a nasty welt on one side of her face, but other than that she seems reasonably unharmed, considering the circumstances. "Ronon, if you will carry Elizabeth, I'll take point."
"You have a weapon?"
"Only my boot knife. The guards took the rest when they captured me and I do not see them here now."
"Take my gun," he tells her, handing it over as he too appears at Elizabeth's side, bleeding from half-a-dozen different cuts on each arm. "What about you, McKay?"
"I've got a life signs detector, but I've got no idea if the Asurans will even show up on it."
"Keep an eye on it just in case." He lifts Elizabeth into his arms, bridal style, and asks, "Which way?"
Rodney fumbles as he pulls the LSD out of his jacket, fingers slippery with blood and sweat. "What about John?"
"We're no good to him until we get Elizabeth someplace safe."
"But-" they can't just leave him. John would never leave any of them, not if there was a snowball's chance in hell they were still alive, and maybe not even then.
"He is an Ascended being. He will be able to take care of himself until we are in a position to help him. Now, which way to the underwater jumper bay?"
"Rodney, we will come back for him," Teyla promises, placing a hand on his shoulder before gesturing down the hallway with Ronon's gun. "Now which way?"
Rodney runs a hand across his face. "Alright. You're right." He points down the far end of the hall, away from the Council Room and the source of all this destruction. "There should be a secondary staircase not far from here that will take us most of the way. Come on."
Rodney's never been more glad for John's habit of never taking the same route twice as he now. Between the knowledge of various shortcuts and secondary hallways he's gleaned from John's walkabouts and the LSD, they're able to avoid most of the Asurans they'd otherwise have run across on their way to the underwater jumper bay.
But one misstep is all they need, which is how they wind up trapped inside one of the jumpers as water floods the bay. The water doesn't seem to be any more of a deterrent to the Asurans' progress than the doors they'd been able to short circuit shut behind them, but the jumper's cloak seems to be giving them pause. (The cloak frequencies probably disrupt the bonds between nanites somehow - which, while worth noting for the Anti-Replicator Guns he's most definitely going to start working on the second he gets back to Atlantis, doesn't really change the fact that they're stuck.
(Or that the Replicators are bound to adapt to this impediment long before the cloak gives out.)
"Can you fly this thing?"
"Theoretically? Yes. When somebody's taking pot shots at us? Not so much."
"Are we not cloaked?" Teyla asks, riffling through the contents of the jumper, looking for something - anything - that they can use.
"Atlantis can detect a cloaked jumper. I'm betting these B-list wannabes can too."
"We must do something," Teyla declares, dropping the box she'd been digging through. "There is nothing here which we can use to help Elizabeth. We have to get back to Atlantis or, barring that, the nearest friendly planet."
"No hyperdrive," he reminds her.
"Then our only hope for escape is through the Stargate."
"Then we must find a way to do so, and quickly. Elizabeth has not yet woken and her pulse is getting slower. I fear that if we do not get her medical attention soon, we will lose her."
Rodney feels the blood rush from his face. Yes, as soon as he'd seen the extent of her injuries, he'd feared possibility, but to have someone else say it aloud brings it from justified fear to cold, hard reality. It's bad enough that John is gone again, captured by the Asurans this time, but if Elizabeth does die...
No. She can't die. She just can't. She's more than their leader, she's...
She's the one person who believed in him after that mess with Teal'c and Colonel Simmons a few years ago. She pulled strings and got him recalled from Russia without ever having met him. She had him instated as the CSO of the Expedition within an hour of their first initial interview. She changed his life, bringing him to the Pegasus galaxy. She gave him Atlantis. She gave him John.
Elizabeth can't die. She may be hopelessly, annoyingly, ludicrously naive; she may be physically incapable of seeing the bad in anyone or anything; she may be stubborn at the best of times and sanctimonious at the worst, but without all of those qualities, they never would have made it this far. Not by half.
"Yeah. Just let me..." Rodney mumbles, gesturing to the panel over Teyla's head. "The jumper's DHD should override the one in the Control Room, but we're going to need shields if we're going to try to fly this thing straight through the centre of the city to get there."
"I know, I know, just... five minutes. I need five minutes if we're going to have a fighting chance of pulling this off."
"Pull what off?"
All three of them currently capable of it spin around to face the figure currently standing in the cockpit, looking as casually immaculate as he had when he'd stepped through th Gate.
"John," he breathes, unable to do or say more as relief floods through his veins. Elizabeth may still be in danger, but at least John's alright, so that's one less thing he has to worry about. It doesn't matter that John's Ascended now - that he's essentially invulnerable, - it's impossible not worry. Especially when the last he'd seen of his amator had been while the Replicators were doing their utmost best to test that invulnerability theory in the seconds before that bomb, or whatever it was, went off.
John beams at him before accepting Ronon's back-slapping hug.
"Sheppard, how'd you escape?"
"I'm an Ascended being-" he starts, smirking, before sputtering to a halt when his eyes fall on Elizabeth. "What happened?" he demands, brushing past Ronon and Teyla to kneel beside the bench where they've lain her.
She's almost as pale as what remains of her Ancient costume - what of it that isn't burned or bloodstained, that is. She's not showing any signs of stirring yet either, and is so far gone that even attempting to tend her injuries elicits little more than a faint, instinctive hiss of pain.
Teyla's right: Elizabeth is going to die and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it. Not even a man worshiped by half a galaxy as a god.
"A bomb went off as we were leaving the Council Chambers..." she begins slowly, as if she knows beforehand what weight her words will have.
John immediately blanches. "No," he says, hands already alight with his Ancient healing powers. "No, no, no."
"It wasn't a bomb. It was me."
Ronon looks at him skeptically. "You mean all that thunder and lightening...?"
"Was me, yes."
"My control slipped. Just a little. But, I mean, I was kinda worried about what the Asurans would do to you guys. I mean, their programming kinda make the Wraith look cute and cuddly, so it it was an understandable worry, but I never meant for anything like this to happen."
Teyla kneels next to him and - gingerly - places an arm around his shoulders. "I know, John. You would never knowingly hurt any of us. But set that aside for the moment and think: is it possible for you to heal her?"
Already Elizabeth's burns have disappeared, leaving no trace of ever having been beyond the swaths of shiny, fresh and new pink skin on her face and peaking through the places where her clothes have burned away. But John bites his lower lip and shakes his head. "Something's still wrong. Her brain, I think. It's... swelling and I don't know how to reverse it or make it stop. We've got to get her back to Atlantis as soon as possible." He swallows audibly. "Carson will know what to do."
"McKay's working on it."
"What?" Rodney blinks, turning back towards the crystal panel he'd all but forgotten about in the aftermath of John's return. "Yes. Right. Give me another minute."
Ronon scowls at him. "You said it would only take five."
"Well forgive me for getting distracted!"
"Elizabeth doesn't have time for distractions!"
"Knock it off you two," John orders, climbing to his feet. "She's stable for now, so stop arguing and tell me how you wound up down here and what your plan is to get back to Atlantis." He pauses. "You guys do have a plan, right? 'Cause the only way out of here I'm seeing involves me really losing my cool and dipping into my reserve power, which basically gets twenty-seven planets the Death Star treatment, care of the knuckleheads upstairs. And as much as I like you guys, I promised I'd try to avoid that route if at all possible."
Ronon leans against the one of the bulkheads and crosses his arms. "We were going to fly through the Stargate."
"Asuras' porta?" he appears to consider this. "We'd need to convert the cloak into a shield-"
"McKay's working on it."
"-and a hell of a good pilot."
"We've got you."
"I am the best."
"So, do you think it can be done?"
"We're about to find out."
Turn's out, it can be done, if someone's crazy enough to fly a jumper through the Control Room window while the Gate's still dialling. Especially if their opponents are distracted by volleys of the drones John fires in their wake.
But there's nothing that can be done for Elizabeth. Not by that point. She'd been as good as dead the moment her head hit the floor and no act of god could ever have saved her.