Warnings / Spoilers: #23 in the Ancient!John 'Verse; "Progeny," but some "Lifeline" too
Parings / Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney; sentient!Atlantis
Summary: The aftermath of Elizabeth's death
Notes: Just in case you weren't heartbroken enough after "Daemones," here's this. It made me sob pretty much all afternoon yesterday and some of today.
"Cor Leonis" means "Lionheart" in Latin. I know it's not exactly in keeping with the religious-themed titles of S3, but it IS the epithet of Richard I of England, who was the first knight-king by modern understanding. An interesting quote about him that you might find helpful to understanding the naming of this fic is by Steven Runciman, a historian, about Richard the Lionheart: "he was a bad son, a bad husband, and a bad king, but a gallant and splendid soldier."
An Ancient!John Story
"To think," Iohannes remarks to the empty office, "they say the definition of immortality is never dying." He picks up one of the figurines on the desk and, after a moment's unfruitful examination, places it in the box with the rest of Elizabeta's personal belongings. "What they should really say is that it's dying over and over again and being forced to carry on anyway. Again and again and again."
The lights dim sympathetically.
"It's punishment, isn't it?"
"No," he corrects, shaking his head and boxing up another figurine. "Well, yes. Obviously. But I mean the fact that I've managed to survive long enough to Ascend in the first place."
/What do you mean, pastor?/ the city asks curiously.
"It's not like I've lived the safest of lives, is it? I should've died at the Palamede with everyone else when the Wraith captured Tethys, but I didn't. How d'you explain that?"
/You are a valiant, courageous solider and the most capable of commanders,/ Atlantis asserts without hesitation, though a hint of confusion colours her words. /You escaped capture and rescued those you could by skill alone./
"Maybe," he shrugs. "But what about Tirianus? I should have drowned with her when she Fell."
/You were rescued and resuscitated. There is no miracle in that, only good fortune./
"Oh? Then how'd I manage to stay in stasis for so long without ageing, huh? Answer me that."
/We do not know for certain-/
Iohannes thrusts a triumphant finger into the air, thinking his point is made. "Exactly!"
/-but there is surely some explanation - some scientific explanation. Never before has a pastor spent so long in cathedra. It is possible that your nanoids effected the stasis process in a way that no one had thought to expect./
"But you don't know."
'Lantis sighs, air recycling units clattering loudly for a few moments and sending a burst of cold air into the room. /What is your point, pastor?/
"My point is," he says fiercely, slapping the palms of his hands onto Elizabeta's desk - the desk she'll never sit behind again, because she'll never be able to sit anywhere again, because she'll never be able to do anything ever again, because she's dead and gone forever and it's all his own thrice-damned fault. "That I should've died a dozen times over the last two years alone, and instead I somehow manage to survive while everyone around me - everyone I care about - dies. Because of me."
"No. Don't you 'oh, pastor' me, carrisima. I know it's my fault. Ford, Cadman, Elizabeta - they're all dead 'cause of me."
/You know that's not true./
"Isn't it?" Iohannes asks sinking into the desk chair and burying his hands in his hair. "I shot Ford."
/The lictor was out of his mind with Wraith enzyme. You did what you had to do to protect us and the Terrans,/ the city reminds him with gentle patience.
"I killed Cadman."
/That was mercy./
"Some kind of mercy," he mutters, digging the heels of his palms into his temples.
/You used to believe in that kind of mercy./
"I know. And it was the right thing to do, it's just... I'm so tired of destroying everything I care about."
/You've not destroyed us, pastor. You've not destroyed Moreducus./
"Not yet." But he will, Iohannes knows that now. It will be terrible when he does, the absolute end of all things, but when it's all over and the smoke has cleared, he'll be forced to continue on. Again and again and again, until he's utterly annihilated all that he loves in the universe. That is his real punishment. Not his Ascension, but being forced to see the consequences of his good intentions carried a thousandfold through the generations and knowing he could have prevented it all, if only he'd been a proper Alteran and not interfered.
/We know you, pastor. You are a good man. You are selfless and righteous and kind. You gave ten thousand years of your life to protect us, and gave the Terrans a home when they were cut off from theirs. You have all but given your life in service to others - though not for lack of trying. You should not doubt yourself so./
"You'd think that, wouldn't you? But Elizabeta is," he ignores the embarrassing way his voice cracks, "dead 'cause of me. So what does that tell you about how 'good' and 'righteous' I am?"
/It was an accident./
"That doesn't change anything. I still killed a friend because I couldn't control myself."
/And you tried to save her./
/No one is perfect. We all have our failings. We all make mistakes./
"Only mine get people killed."
The water ballasts burble worriedly. /You did everything you could, pastor. You cannot ask more of yourself than that./
"None of this would ever have happened if the others hadn't Ascended me, y'know," he tells the city, angrily rubbing at his eyes. He has no time or use for tears. Unless the SGC decides to suspend him for his part in Elizabeta's death, Iohannes is in command of the Expedition until the IOA assigns someone to replace her - and the IOA has never been known for making quick decisions. He has to be strong for the Terrans and the threats they will certainly face now that the Asurans know Atlantis still stands. He can grieve after he's found someway to make her most pointless of deaths 'mean' something. "You said it yourself: I'm not perfect. Yet what have they done but given me all of the power of a god when I'm the farthest thing from god-like anyone can be."
/Pastor-/ she protests.
"I'm jealous and unforgiving," he interrupts before the urbs-navis can spin anymore lies, lifting his head out of his hands to stare intently at the coving opposite. "I'm petty and vindictive and emotionally distant. I'm a bitter old solider in a young man's body and I destroy everyone who gets in my way, whether I mean to or not. So don't try to tell me that I'm a good person, 'Lantis, or that I'm doing these things for all the right reasons. I know who I am.
"And y'know what?"
/What?/ the city asks carefully.
"I don't care. I am who I am. If they want to punish me for that, they can go right ahead. And if the others aren't going to leave the Descendants out of it, well, I'll just drag them into this further and interfere with their development until I can't interfere any more. They wanna make me a king? I'll be the best king this galaxy has ever seen. They wanna make me a god? I'll be the kind of god Elizabeta always wanted my people to be. I'll turn this Confederacy in to the most impressive empire the universe has ever seen, even if I have to kill every Wraith and Asuran in Pegasus myself. Those bastards are going to regret the moment they decided to Ascend me so badly that they'll be begging me for the chance to turn me mortal again."
Atlantis doesn't immediately answer. Even her song is oddly quiet, making Iohannes' words ring in the oppressive silence of the smallest hours of a Lantean morning, when even the Control Room beyond is darkened and skeleton-staffed.
/You know we will walk with you down whatever path you choose, pastor,/ she says at long last, her words soft but impossibly sincere. /To any end./
He lets his gaze drop at long last. "Thank you," he breathes.
He remains like that for a long time, until Chuck comes to tell him that the last of Elizabeta's possessions have been packed. They're ready to dial Terra and tell them the news.