Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney, Jeannie/Kaleb Miller, Vegas!Rodney
Warnings: #26 in the Ancient!John 'Verse; "McKay and Mrs. Miller"
Summary: In which realities are crossed
Notes: This is the third of 5 stories written while I was in SEPS. The delay on this one is both for length, and the fact that I ended up rewriting one of the sections (as well as RL issues). This is both the last "McKay and Mrs. Miller" story (at last! I know) and fulfills a long-running dream I've had to explain Vegas!Rodney's comment about having met our version of John before in that episode.
'Alii' means 'Others'. (Interestingly enough, Alteran literally means "The Others", which makes you wonder about a species that would chose to call themselves that.) The Latirans are part of the Coalition in the episode of the same name.
My various speculations for the AJ 'version of 'Wormhole X-treme' can be found here. According to it, S6 of "SG1" would currently be on air.
The Latin Rodney uses at the end is firstly "Are you alright? What happened?" and "I'm sorry, I thought you'd be alright. There was no risk."
An Ancient!John Story
There hadn't even been a question about it: Iohannes had turned the third bedroom of his and Rodney's new suite into an office even before they'd officially moved in.
It is more of a question of necessity than design. As Head of the Expedition until such a time as the IOA named a proper replacement for Elizabeta (a process, Rodney assures him, which could take months, if not years), the amount of paperwork he is required to complete daily has tripled. And, lacking a proper replacement for himself as military commander of the city (while Lorne is away on Rory's shakedown cruise, at least), he still has all of his old paperwork to contend with as well. To say nothing of all the paperwork his new position as Emperor of Pegasus generates.
Bureaucracy. It doesn't matter what plane of existence he's on, he can't escape it.
He's ordered a pair of executive assistants to help him deal with it all on the next 'Daedalus' run, but that's still the better part of two weeks out. They tell him they're sending him a young seaman apprentice straight out of NTTC Meridian to take care of the military matters so that neither he or Lorne have to worry about it anymore (and to quell the Navy's complaints that their abilities were being under-utilised by the SGC) and a Russian anthropologist to handle the civilian-side of the paperwork (and to answer similar accusations from Russia). Rodney keeps telling him he should've held out for a third, to take care of all his 'king business', but none of the candidates the Terrans have offered him so far have seemed appropriate. Maybe he'll find someone from Pegasus to fill the billet, or maybe he'll stumble across someone tolerable when they go to Terra to accept the Fields Medal and Abel Prize in a few months.
Either way, all it means for the moment is that Iohannes has more paperwork to contend with daily than do some smaller Terran nations, and as a result spends most of his non-working hours in his office, plugging his way through it. In a way, it's fortuitous that he doesn't need to sleep any longer, as Iohannes wouldn't be getting much of it now if he did, but mostly it's just annoying. He's a man of actions, not words, and even with the translation matrix staring at so much English for so long gives him a headache.
Not that he really has a translation matrix at the moment, let alone a head to ache, but the basic idea is the same. He's pretending to be mortal, flesh and blood and all, and mortal ailments are a part of that.
Getting back to the point, however, Iohannes is in his office, working on paperwork regarding the authorisation of trade goods (read: basic medical care) to be sent to Winneka in exchange for one-half the planet's harvest of balinghoi (a cassava-like tuber) and one-third their harvest of tavabeans for two of Winneka's years. It's something which can be sealed with a handshake and a pot of stout tea in Pegasus but somehow requires over three hundred pages of paperwork for Terra, with Iohannes' initials on every one.
He's debating with himself on whether or not he can get away with filling out the rest in Alteran - an altogether simpler and easier script than this "Roman letter" business - or if doing so will just mean he'll have to redo it all at a later date when a shadow appears in the doorway. It's backlit at first but even before it moves into the light Iohannes recognises it. He'd know that form anywhere:
It's tall, solid but not thick, soft in all the right places and hard in all the others. It's not exceptionally fit, though the hips are narrower than they once were and the arms more toned. Most people would probably find nothing but faults with it - the thinning hair, the pudgy stomach - but that's not the stuff that matters. Not really. Not to him. It's the personality, the mind beneath that he needs. A different makeup, a different mentality, and it might be a different story altogether.
"Hey Rodney," he grins, throwing down his stylus.
"Hey John," Rodney yawns. He's wearing a soft blue shirt that proclaims resistance to be futile (if 1 ohm) and a pair of striped boxers that manage to class with it more utterly and completely than Iohannes ever would have believed possible. His hair is flat on one side, heavily cow-licked on the other, and there are lines across his skin from the creases in the sheets.
Iohannes wants nothing more than to kiss him, so he pushes himself out from behind his desk and does just that.
Rodney hums a little into his mouth, then makes a small, unhappy sound as he pulls away. "I thought," he asks, equal parts sleepy, weary, and irritated, "the whole point of us moving in together was so that we could actually sleep 'together'."
"We 'do' sleep together," Iohannes reminds him, lowers his hands to his 'amator's' hips and giving them a gentle squeeze. "Or have you managed to forget that somehow?"
Rolling his eyes, "You know what I mean."
"Yeah," he admits somewhat sheepishly, "I do"
"I know you don't need to sleep now - that you really can't - but you can't spend all your time working."
"Now that's a sentence I never thought I'd hear you say."
"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. But if I've got to take breaks, so do you."
"Oh, really?" Iohannes grins before pressing a kiss into his shoulder. "Is that so?"
"I could make it worth your while."
"Well... you were asleep when I got in, and I've never been one for somniphilia."
"I'm not asleep now," Rodney, voice husky from more than sleep, whispers, sliding his arms up Iohannes' back before wrapping them around his shoulders.
"No, you're not."
"No, I'm not," Rodney agrees, leaning in to kiss him with soft, comfortable intent that quickly shifts to something deeper and infinitely more profound.
'Lantis dims the lights in the office as Iohannes starts to walk them backwards. Their bedroom's not far, but the living room with its oversized, overstuffed couch is closer. Besides, 'Lantis can always warn them if it looks like Jeannie's going to try to leave the guest room.
"Y'know," John says, poking at the control interface they've setup in the Clean Room, "I've absolutely no idea how this is supposed to work."
Jeannie looks at him askance. "But you've been helping us with the maths," she reminds, gesturing pointedly at the flock of the whiteboards still filled with equations in the far corner.
"Doesn't mean I understand any of the science behind it."
"Don't listen to him," her brother grouses. "he's nowhere near as stupid as he likes to let people believe. Not that it's actually 'possible' to be that stupid and have made it past age twelve, even with a sentient city watching your back."
"Hey, I'm a numbers man. You wanna talk functional analysis or variational calculus, I'm your guy. But you wanna talk about exotic particles or alternate universes, I only know what you you guys tell me."
Rodney rolls his eyes, clearly having none of it.
Jeannie regards the Anceint thoughtfully. All the magazines she'd read back on Earth about John and his solution to the Riemann Hypothesis had made him out to be this highly educated man who'd felt so strongly that it was his his duty to serve his country any way he could that he'd joined the Air Force, regardless of the opportunities that existed for a man of his intelligence and skill in the civilian world.
She thinks the real story is much different. Not the intelligence bit - it's obvious that his IQ gives Mer's a run for it's money, or would if he let it. No, she gets the impression that John dropped out of school - or was made to leave it - early on. That, despite this, he'd managed to teach himself the things which mattered to him, which amounted to anything that 'didn't' matter to Janus, his father. No science, just pure mathematics and obscure, truly ancient Ancient texts. Maybe a few, cherished other things as well. Things that even Mer doesn't know about.
As for the military... Well, there's no doubt that he loves to fly or that he'd give his heart and soul to defend Atlantis, but the 'need' to serve isn't there. The need to protect, to guard, to make safe, yes, but if the Ancients hadn't been at war in his lifetime, Jeannie thinks he'd never have become a solider. She's not sure what he might have been instead - a mathematician, maybe, or something else entirely. All she knows is that the John she thought she knew and the John that really exists, while similar, are hardly the same.
Atlantis is all about changing, she's discovered. The city may be older than humanity itself (and doesn't that give her pause), but it's always changing. John and Mer claim it's alive, and while she doesn't 'quite' believe them, she can see where they might get the idea:
There's something ancient and eternal, delicate and insubstantial, dangerous and stronger than the foundations of the earth about Atlantis. Towers like glass spindles rise from pale waters to scrape empyrean heights. Piers unfold like petals, long and low, to reach for the sea. It is a glistening gem in the daylight and a shining beacon at night. But for all this, it's terribly ephemeral for such an eternal city, never quite the same from any one moment to the next.
It changes people too. It's changed her in the short amount of time she's been here, Jeannie knows. But it's changed nobody as much as it's changed Mer.
Or maybe not. She'd barely been in 'maternelle' when Mer had gone off to MIT and had only rarely seen him after that. Even when Mom and Dad died and Mer had become her guardian, he'd still been separate. Apart. In the rare times Jeannie actually had seen her brother, he'd appeared to her to be like one of those scientists of old, caring more for the science than the practical applications of his work. Bombs, spy satellites, computer viruses - 'what' the things he'd built did never seemed to matter as much to him as the fact that he was able to build it.
Now it is real for him. He sees the people his bombs kill when they work and the people that got killed when they dodn't. It's not immediately obvious, but Mer clearly cares for each and every soul in the city, perhaps almost as much - or even more so - than John.
Or maybe Mer had always cared, but never let himself show it before now.
Or maybe she'd just never seen.
Jeannie doesn't know. Her brother is a bigger stranger to her than his alien boyfriend is and 'he's' telling no secrets.
At least, not the ones that matter.
"Please," Mer says, "your dad worked on problems twenty times more complicated than this all the time and you helped him with those."
"With the maths."
"Even so, 'some' of the science must have stuck."
"Well, yeah, but nothing that does anyone any good."
"I think I'll be the judge of that."
It's John's turn to roll his eyes. But, "Look," he says resignedly, " it's not like I remember anything specific, like the formula for growing new control crystals or anything. But off the top my head...? Well, I remember that if you want to move backward or forward in time, you've got to do it in big increments - a couple of thousand years at a time, at least." He waves his hands in a decidedly Mer-like manner, "It's something to do with folding the fabric of space-time. I dunno. It was a long time ago and it's not like I ever really paid that much attention anyway."
Mer sets down the tablet he's holding. "Janus built a time machine?"
Jeannie thinks the more pressing question is why time travel had been the subject on the top of his head to begin with, but doesn't get the chance to say so.
"Yeah, but the Council made him take it apart after the first test flight. Why?"
"You really don't read any of the mission reports from Earth, do you?"
"No. I don't want to spoil the future seasons of 'Wormhole X-treme'."
"You don't want to-" he sputters. "You're impossible, you know that?"
John beams at Mer. "And yet somehow I manage to go on existing."
Her brother gives him a glare that could melt glass before turning huffily back to his tablet, muttering something under his breath that sounds particularly despairing of John's parentage, upbringing, and self-sacrificial habits.
"And on that note," Jeannie says into the silence that follows, "let's just say that this bridge pulls zero point energy from a parallel space-time without the fear of generating exotic particles that could destroy our universe."
"Works for me," John shrugs, trusting her explanation implicitly. "What's your testing plan?"
"We'll hold at ten percent of capacity for a couple of days, shut it off, and analyse the results. Depending on the readings, will try again at twenty-five percent afterwards and go from there."
"Cool. Well," he says, jabbing a thumb the door, "tell me how it turns out. I've gotta get back up to the Gate Room. Lieutenant Miles' team is about to head out and we're expecting the delegation from Latira sometime in the next hour. Caileon told them about our little Confederation and they want to sign up."
"That's great," she tells him.
"No. It's diplomats' work. And I am no diplomat."
"Well, I think you're doing just fine."
She swears she can hear Mer roll his eyes behind her. "Stop trying to butter him up. It's unnecessary: he already likes you. Now get back here and take a look at these readings, which are supposed to be the whole reason you're here."
Askance, "You already turned it on?"
"You would have noticed if you weren't being such a Chatty Kathy."
"God, you're such a child, Mer."
"Takes one to know one. Now get over here and start being useful or start packing your bags. Contrary to popular belief, this is a laboratory, not a social hall, and as someone with nine-tenths of a proper degree, you should at least have the integrity to treat it as such."
It's Jeannie's turn to roll her eyes, but she goes over to look at the numbers regardless. She'd hate for the universe to be destroyed because they were all too busy bickering.
Iohannes can feel his eyes glazing over. He's never been so bored in all his life - and that includes the time Ganos' teaching hologram had decided to lecture him on Second Wave idyllic poetry when he'd been about ten or so. That had been last class had ever attended with the hologram and, with luck, this delegation would be the last he'd ever have to deal with too.
The problem is, Teyla's the one who's supposed to be dealing with this - these issues of accession to the Confederation, - but ever since her people had moved off the mainland and onto New Athos, she's been spending a lot of time off-world helping them get settled. (Well, that, and getting to know one of her old childhood friends again. Not that she mentioned any of the time she was spending with Kanaan Cebrene, but, truthfully, he thinks Teyla's coming back far too chipper lately for a woman 'not' in a serious sexual relationship.)
"...would be greatly humbled," the Latiran High Ambassador seems to be winding down, "if your Apostolic Majesty would consider our application for entrance into your most illustrious Empire."
There's a pause. Iohannes blinks rapidly. It's probably time for him to say something. "Well, yes," he begins, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, "we'll definitely think about it. But realise there are certain trade and, er, legal obligations Latira will have to agree to before you can become a full member of the 'Confederation'."
"Yes," the ambassador nods grimly. "Caileon Pero told us as much."
"Of course he did."
The ambassador looks at him curiously, as do his two very young, very attractive aides (who, it must be said, seem more intent with playing with their hair than actually aiding the ambassador with anything). "My Lord? Is that a problem?"
"No, no, it's just... Teyla is far better at explaining the details involved than I. For instance, your people's system of debt bondage would have to be dismantled before confederation could take place."
There's a knock at the door and a tentative, "Colonel."
"'Alleluia'," he mutters before turning thankfully towards the door. He'd almost welcome a Wraith attack at this point if it means cutting this meeting short, that's how dull the Latiran's are. "What is it, Chuck?"
"Doctors Beckett and McKay are requesting your presence in the Observation Room."
"The Observation Room?" What could possibly be going on that Rodney and Carson would want him to go there? Iohannes glances at the ceiling, but 'Lantis offers him nothing more than an amused snort, which he doubts she'd do if anyone is seriously hurt, but it's sometimes hard to tell with her. Atlantis loves all her inhabitants, but she cares for some decidedly more than others. It's one of her more annoying traits, especially when it comes time to go off-world, but one to which he's become long accustomed.
He turns his eyes back to Chuck, who somehow realises the city gave him no answers. Or, at least, no helpful ones.
"Yes sir. It sounds quite urgent too."
"Well, in that case..." Iohannes claps his hands together as he rises from his chair in the office he still rightfully considers Elizabeta's. "Sorry to cut this short, but I've got to run. Sergeant Campbell here will take care of getting you settled until Teyla can be brought back to go over the rest of the details with you."
He ducks out of the back door as quickly as he can to avoid their protestations and taps his earwig the moment he's out of mortal hearing. "Rodney, what's going on?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Iohannes snorts. He's a ten thousand year old Ascended being from a species more advanced than even Rodney can quite imagine: there's very little he would not believe at this point. "Try me."
"I'm having a hard time believing it myself, but I've put the entire matter bridge project on hold until we can get a handle on the situation."
He doesn't mean to sound testy. If anything, he's grateful to be out of that awful meeting. It's just that he's so little patience these days - for the natives who call him Lord and pray so guilelessly to him; for the politicians who call him Majesty and see his Confederation as a means to their own ends; even for the Terrans, who still call him Colonel but want so much more from him than he can give. Iohannes wants answers, not games. He wants black and white, simple and clear, right and wrong, all laid out before him so he doesn't have to stop in the middle of signing paperwork that will essentially bind another eighty thousand souls to his fate and wonder if he's doing the right thing; if he's not making a huge mistake; if he's not walking down a path he cannot turn back from; if the moment he stepped down this road to 'Haeresis', however unwillingly, his fate was decided and he'd no choice but to become a monster no better than those that drove his people from their own galaxy billions of years ago and the Terrans are battling now. He's not god material. Hell, he's not even 'leader' material. He's a solider. He's meant to take orders, not to give them. He's middle-management material, nothing more - a 'tribunus', not a 'praetor' or 'prefectus'. He's certainly not a 'imperator'. But-
But Iohannes has to think he's doing the right thing. He 'is' doing the right thing. His people had been so afraid of the 'Haeretici' for so long that they'd allowed their fear to blind them to all the possibilities that playing god offered them. Like Hermiod had said, so long as he doesn't actually believe that he's a god, it's not really 'Haeresis', and Iohannes has been taking every chance he can get to remind those who wish to worship him that he's only Alteran. After all, Teyla started out believing him to be divine and look how she's come around. Give the rest some time, teach them a little bit of history and science, and, well, they'll stop worshiping him soon enough. And then they'll all see.
Then the others will see that he's been right all along. That he's been right to interfere with the Terrans. That he's been right to build this Confederation. That he can be a god without falling prey to 'Haeresis'. That he can stay the person he was before now that he's Ascended.
He 'is' right. Iohannes knows he is. He just has doubts sometimes, when the hour is late and Atlantis is almost as silent as she was during that awful, dark time between the Exodus and the Terran's arrival. In the light of day, when he can see all the good work he's doing, those nightly fears give way to certainty such as he's rarely known.
Yes, he's made the right choices. Even if it 'does' mean he has to listen to people like the Latiran Ambassador call him 'Majesty'. Or his temper is a bit short sometimes.
"Well, good news? The matter bridge works. It's shunting all the zero point energy straight into the empty ZedPM we got from the Genii and keeping all the exotic particles on the other side," Rodney says excitedly through the headset, apparently not noticing anything untoward in his voice. "Bad news? Apparently the parallel space-time we tapped into wasn't as uninhabited as we hoped. Turns out there's another Atlantis, even another Expedition, on the other side of the bridge and it's causing some serious repercussions in that universe. End of the universe type of repercussions, actually. Which sucks for them, but doesn't actually effect us in any way so far as I can tell."
He steps into the 'vectura.' "How d'you know? I thought the containment field you guys set up was meant to contain anything that might come through to our universe, messages included."
"Was that 'science' I just heard coming out of your mouth?" his 'amator' mocks. "Somebody, please, stop the presses."
"Shut up." Iohannes sputters, glad the hallway the 'vectura' has deposited him on is devoid of anyone who might see his flush.
"I can't. I feel like I should mark the calendar: 13 October, the day that John Sheppard finally admitted he knows some science."
"Shut up," he repeats, "and answer the question."
"Oh, fine: they managed to send an actual person across the bridge."
He whistles. That's some serious stuff. "Anyone we know?"
"I'd hope so - it's their version of me."
His Rodney's eye roll is audible. "Get your mind out the gutter, John."
"Please," he snorts. "Just because he's some universe's Rodney McKay doesn't mean he's you, Rodney. Why would I want to be with him if he's not you?"
There's a quiet, "Oh," and a pause before Rodney gets on with his explanation. "Anyway," he says with the air of someone trying to shake off a shock, "their me came here with some kind of warning and only wants to talk to - and I quote - 'whoever's in charge around here' before he'll tell us anything more than the fact that we're apparently destroying their universe."
"I'm almost at the Observation Room now."
"Good. I'll meet you at the door."
Continue to Part 2