Rating: R (overall)
Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney, Helia/OFC, Radek Zelenka/Evan Lorne
Warnings: part two of #27 in the Ancient!John 'Verse (see part 1, 2); "The Return, Part 1"
Summary: A breakup.
Notes: Well, this actually is as long as it looked on paper.
This is also the last of the finished stories I wrote while in SEPS. Most of the first chappie fo the next installment is written out, though, so it might not be too long before you get more. Maybe. I have this crazy idea for the next one... so it might take a while.
As always, the family tree will probably prove immensely helpful if you're trying to figure out just who some of the Ancients are. I assure you that all those mentioned here have been mentioned in previous installments (continuity! Go me!) as well... (Also, I've now posted some helpful information on Ancient Naming Conventions that should untangle some issues that arise in this story.)
And, of course, I am a review whore. I judge my self-worth by the number of kudos, hits, and comments I get of my fics (I try not to, but I suppose it could be worse), so if you'd like to drop me a line and help with that, I'd be much appreciative. Even if it is just to ask a quick question, like "who the frack is that person?" or "what the hell are they talking about?". Because I love you all and love hearing from my readers.
An Ancient!John Story
"So, you are 'pastor'," one of the new Ancients says as he takes the seat across from him in the mess the morning after their arrival.
Evan sets down his coffee with a nod. He doesn't like these interlopers in his home or what their continued presence here might mean for the city, but that doesn't mean he won't at least try to be polite to them. "Yes. For a few months now."
"How curious," the Ancient continues, as if Evan were some sort of lab specimen and not a real, live human being. "I never would have imagined that such a weak, watered-down version of the activation gene could ever be strong enough to facilitate such an immutable connection as 'custodiae' and 'pastores' require."
"Not many humans have the ability. Our best estimates put the number of natural gene users at one thousandth a percent of Earth's total population."
The Ancient hums, considering this.
He looks so different from Colonel Sheppard, it's almost disconcerting - not that Evan expects all Ancients to be dark-haired and whip-thin, but this man is the original definition of forgettable. He's an indeterminate shade of dark blonde, with muddy brown eyes and washed-out features. The kind of person one never remembers meeting, even in the crazy, all-white alien getup he's wearing. Even looking right at him, it's hard to find out anything as memorable as a freckle.
When Evan says different, however, he means much more than just looks. It's everything about the Ancient - about all the Ancients, really. It's how they carry themselves so stiffly and how each movement they dare make is so perfectly controlled that it verges on robotic. It's how they blink slightly too often and breathe slightly too seldom. It's their vaguely Transatlantic accents and the way none of them - none - have yet to say a word to any member of the Expedition if they could possibly help it.
"I am Tomas Norens Nauta."
Well, at least now he has a name for this one. It's even a fairly normal, compared to some. "Major Evan Lorne."
Tomas hums again. It seems to be a thing with him. Maybe that will be enough for Evan to remember which of the
hundred odd Ancients now in Atlantis he is. "I was the pilot aboard 'Tria'. What is your purpose here?"
"I'm the acting military commander of the city, at least, I am for as long as Colonel Sheppard is in charge of the Expedition. I'm also captain of 'Aurora'. But I was a pilot by trade myself before coming to Atlantis. I mostly few C-130s the last few years." Realising this would mean nothing to the Ancient, "C-130s are incredibly versatile planes," he explains. "They were designed for troop and cargo transport, but our militaries use them for all sorts of things - aerial refuelling, search and rescue, tactical airlifting..."
Tomas looks distinctly unimpressed, though he manages a, "Your race has certainly come far since Atlantis left your planet."
"The Colonel seems to like it," he says evenly.
"It's what we call Sheppard - Iohannes, that is." It's strange to say his commanding officer's given name, even if 'Lantis helps him give it the right pronunciation (with more syllables than Evan would have thought necessary) for this Ancient, who clearly doesn't think much of Sheppard or Earth. "It's his rank in our military, roughly similar to your 'legatus', I think."
"My," Tomas shakes his head. "Licinus certainly 'has' gone native, hasn't he?"
"He's been a good commander," he defends. Yes, the Colonel's tendency towards suicidal self-sacrifice is troubling, but Evan can't think of anyone he'd rather serve under, to the point where he's going to have some long, hard thinking to do if they try to send him back to Earth next time his contract's up for renewal.
"Oh, I am sure. I am just surprised that he has managed to survive for - what is it again? two-and-a-half years? - under such primitive conditions."
"That's something you'll have to take up with the Colonel, but we've got electricity, running water, and three squares a day, which is a lot better than some places I've been stationed over the years."
"I am sure," Tomas repeats, poking a pair of chopsticks listlessly into a bowl of brown rice and tavabeans.
Evan's jaw tightens. "Was there something you wanted?" he asks as politely as he can manage.
"My wife - my late wife," he says, Tomas' voice betraying an emotion besides contempt for the first time in their conversation, "was this city's last 'pastor'. I was merely wondering who Licinus thought adequate enough to replace her."
"Yes. I am told she died during the Exodus - that she bled out from shrapnel wounds before Licinus regained consciousness. Thought I must admit I find it surprising that he, who never showed any interest in Ascension whatsoever (and, in fact, often spoke out against it), not only managed to survive for long enough for your Expedition to rescue him, but has since Ascended as well."
"How deep is the river if you cannot see the bottom?"
The Ancient inclines his head, giving him an appraising look. "I see you are not completely ignorant then."
"The Colonel," Evan tells him, feeling his jaw clench again, "has been teaching me about Ancient - Alteran - philosophy." He's still not sure if Sheppard had come up with the idea on his own or if Radek had nettled him into doing it, trying to encourage him to finally write his dissertation, but he's enjoying it either way, so Evan's decided it doesn't matter.
"I am sure he has," Tomas says meaningfully, picking at his breakfast again, but before Evan can ask what he means by that, another tray slides next to him.
"Hey guys," the Colonel says smoothly, kicking out his chair. "Getting to know each other, I see."
To Evan's great surprise, it's not Tomas' greeting the Colonel winces at, but his own.
"Lorne," Sheppard says, shooting him a 'play along with me' look, "I told you to call me 'Pater'." He turns his false smile back on Tomas. "I don't think I mentioned it yesterday, but I chose to adopt the Major here when I became 'Imperator'."
Evan's fairly certain he heard that wrong or that his translation matrix is acting up. As the Colonel continues, however, it becomes more and more clear that he had, in fact, heard his commanding officer correctly.
/Well,/ he thinks at Atlantis, /this is going to be hard to explain to my mom./
/It's okay,/ she assures him negligently, most of her attention on some project of her own she's refusing to talk about. /We understand./
He fights the urge to hang his head between his hands and tries to pay attention to what Sheppard's saying.
"After all, every ruler needs an 'heres' and its not like I'm likely to be having kids of my own in my current state. Besides, he was practically family before the whole Confederation thing happened anyway. Oh! His name in Alteran is Davidus Iohanideus Argathelianus Pastor if that's any easier for you - I know the Terran names can be a bit strange and hard to pronounce sometimes. Though I suppose you could just call him 'cousin' if you want. After all, this makes him your third cousin by marriage, doesn't it?"
Tomas' chopsticks fall to his tray with a clatter. "On second thought, I am not that hungry."
When he leaves, Sheppards turns back to Evan with an apologetic smile. "Sorry about that. The others won't ever respect a Descendant, no matter what his rank or position. Adopting you - or claiming to - makes you almost Alteran and gives you some reason in their eyes to tolerate your existence. Hopefully it will be enough."
"Enough? Enough for what?"
"I'm not sure yet," the Colonel admits, shrugging. "But Danelia is a Machiavellian 'futatrix' and Tomas... He's a yes-man to the bone. If his 'navarcha' ordered him to gather information on you - or worse - he'd do it, no questions asked."
Evan can't help but wonder if Sheppard is just that paranoid, or if there really is something monstrous in the survivors of the 'Tria' that only he can see.
"He just wanted to talk about this late wife," he tries to explain.
The Colonel's face immediately closes off.
There's no point in asking if he knew her. Instead Evan asks, "Were you two close?"
"Me and Nicolaa?" he asks, surprised. "The closest. We even were together for several years. And then we broke up and I went to Tirianus and she she married Tomas."
"Don't be. It all happened ages ago. Ten years before the Exodus even. Ancient history," he laughs humorously.
Evan doesn't know what to say to that, so he finishes his breakfast instead. It's a practice that's served him well in the past and will certainly continue to do so in the future, provided Pegasus didn't kill him first.
"Normally," Radek says, coming up to lean on the railing outside the Conference Room next to him, "it is considered polite to let someone know when he is working for one of both of your parents."
Evan shoots him a small smile. It's all he dares do considering just who is on the other side of the doors. "I only found out about the Colonel's plan this morning. I can't say I understand it, but he knows his people a whole lot better than I do. I have to assume he'd doing what he thinks best."
"That the Colonel thinks his plan best, I have no doubt. But at various points in time he has also thought piloting a nuclear bomb into side of Wraith hive ship and allowing Michael to escape so that he might be killed in the process to be 'best plan'."
"What are you saying?" he asks quietly, still on the defensive from Tomas' questions at breakfast. "That we shouldn't trust the Colonel?"
"No, no," Radek corrects hastily, somewhat aghast, "nothing like that. I only meant to say that his plans are often dangerous and depend as much on luck as they do skill."
"He's saved this city a dozen times over."
"I do not deny that. I just do not want to see you inheriting your new father's suicidal tendencies."
Evan snorts. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind."
"Good," Radek says with a grin just this side of manic, "I would hate to have to break in a new assistant."
Laughing now, "Assistant?" he asks. Is that what they are calling it now, this thing between them? They've not labeled it, trying to keep it from becoming too serious. He's still in the United States Air Force, DADT is still a thing, and pretences still have to be kept up. He's just lucky Radek understands (though in all likelihood Radek would be just as secretive about if they could tell - but that's just who he is).
"In the ongoing effort to keep our bosses - your new adoptive parents - from getting themselves killed in some foolhardy enterprise."
Evan stops laughing abruptly. "God. I have Colonel Sheppard and Doctor McKay as adoptive parents. Is that even legal? Doesn't it violate some part of your Declaration of Universal Rights?"
It could be interesting, possibly even amusing, to see Sheppard try hand at fatherhood. Never mind the fact that Evan is thirty-six and the Ancient in question is something like thirty-eight when all his years in stasis are taken out, he can see the Colonel taking the adoptive fatherhood thing pretty seriously. After all, he already takes the whole nephew business to illogical extremes, regardless of the five hundred odd generations involved; Evan can't think of any reason why adoptive fatherhood might be any different for him.
But Doctor McKay...
He really worries about child Doctor McKay might have a hand in raising. Not so much 'for' the child as for the rest of the universe, which is in no way, shape, or form ready for McKay two point oh.
"Back home, I do not know," Radek admits, his grin moving past manic and well on the way to maniacal. "But in this galaxy the Colonel's word is law. Congratulations: you are a prince."
"Very lucky you. It means that when the IOA forces the rest of us to return to Earth, you have a chance of staying."
"You think they'll actually do that? Pull the Expedition out?" Reduce it in size and scope, maybe, but not pull out.
"The IOA is made up of bureaucrats and politicians, and Atlantis is expensive and dangerous enterprise. If they can see a way to get all of her benefits with none of the risks, then yes, Evan, I think we will be recalled in heartbeat."
"I hope not."
Radek makes an indistinct noise. "All I know is that governments will do whatever it takes to keep themselves in power. Which will be easier to do if they are not spending billions of dollars they cannot account for on a program they cannot admit exists."
"I'm not disagreeing," even if, sometimes, he feels Radek's youth behind the Iron Curtain made him overly pessimistic. "I just think that the people back on Earth who in the know are smart enough to know that Atlantis is a lot more than just a black hole where their money goes."
"How a solider can be so naive," Radek says, shaking his head, "I do not know."
"The Air Force doesn't have soldiers. It has airmen."
"My apologies. English is my fourth language. I sometimes make mistakes."
Evan snorts. Because that's about as true as the Colonel's 'innocent alien' routine.
Radek continues to grin at him like some kind of love-drunk teenager.
He really has no idea how no one other than Colonel Sheppard has guessed they're together, for all their secrecy. (Though it 'is' a distinct possibility that anyone else who may have guessed is well-versed enough in American military politics - and well-mannered enough - not to mention it.
The Conference Room doors swivel open.
"...a huge mistake, General," Sheppard says sharply, following General O'Neill out of the room.
"We 'do' have our own galaxy to worry about, Colonel."
"I get that," he insists with the same sharp, fierce intensity, the kind that used to preclude all the worst possible things before he Ascended. (Torture. Assassination. Medical experimentation. Genocide.) Now... Now it is the one and only warning for the approaching wrath of a merciless god. "I really do. But the Wrath know about Avalon. If we cannot contain them here, Terra will be in danger just the same."
"Well then, Sheppard," O'Neill says, distinctly unimpressed in the way only a man whose faced down - and mocked - dozens of false gods can be, and pats him on the back, "you'll just have to contain them, won't you?"
He pulls away. "You're responsible for this. Not completely, but you bear at least some responsibility for the situation Pegasus is in. Terra cannot simply abandon its commitments to this galaxy."
It's Woolsey who answers. "This isn't our galaxy. This isn't our fight."
"You 'made' it your fight," the Colonel counters immediately, the storm in his face growing. He's always been a force of nature - there's no choice but to follow him, no matter what path he takes them down, - but it's undeniable now. Radek rattled off the numbers once: he's a thunderstorm, an earthquake, an atomic bomb held together by sheer force of will, and while Sheppard is one of the most stubborn men Evan's ever met, even his control can slip. (As Doctor Weir discovered.)
"Licinus," Captain Helia interrupts in a gentle voice that's rather at odds with her cat-who-got-the-canary smile, "they have made their decision. You must respect that."
"Stay out of this, Danelia. Haven't you caused enough trouble for one day?"
"The only thing I have been doing is abrogating the damage you have caused this city with your impulsivity and short-sightedness."
"I've been saving this galaxy."
"Pray tell me, just when were you elected our moral compass? Was it after your battle strategy caused Tirianus to Fall? Or did you wait until you thought the rest of us dead to place yourself on that pedestal?"
"I was the only one here, Danelia," he says with flashing eyes. "I got to make the choices because I was the only person around to make them.
"But if you want to start pointing fingers, why don't we talk about why 'Tria' turned tail mid-battle? Or why you chose to make for Avalon when you had to know there was no way you could make in your lifetime, not even with stasis and relativity working on your side?"
"The evacuation signal was given-"
"There was no such signal."
"Half the fleet had been destroyed. Tirianus was breaking apart in the atmosphere. Licinus, the battle was lost! It was only a matter of time before an evacuation signal 'was' given. If there was any chance of saving my 'linter' and my crew, we had to leave then."
"We lasted for seven years without you."
"We might have lasted seven hundred if we had not listened to your misguided belief that the Siege could be broken and the Wraith defeated if we brought Tirianus from Albion, where it was safe, to Lantea," she counters, crossing her arms over her chest and lifting her head with a jerk of her chin that makes her curls dance wildly, like they've a mind of their own.
"Oh, yes, because 'your' plan to reactivate the Asurans was completely sound and unlikely to end in the pointless slaughter of every Descendant in this galaxy."
O'Neill steps between the Ancients, forcing the cousins apart before the shadows can gather too thickly around the Colonel. "If I might be so bold, might I suggest you save this for some other time?"
Undeterred, "You can't do this, General," he repeats. "Pulling out this Expedition now undermines all of the sacrifices that we've made over the last two-and-a-half years to protect Atlantis and the people - all the people - on her. Look me in the eye and tell me you're okay with that."
"The order comes from high up the food chain, John," the General admits, sounding genuinely bitter about it. "There's nothing I can do about it."
"You're the commander of the Department of Homeworld Security. There 'is' no higher up the food chain than you."
"It's a civilian Expedition. The IOA gets the final say."
He turns to Woolsey. "Then 'you' listen to me. You can't do this-"
"The decision's been made, Colonel," Woolsey says, looking decidedly uncomfortable. He's right to be too: the last person that look was turned on died at Sheppard's hand not long after.
"Alright," he agrees, like it costing him the only price that matters. "But the 'custodiae' and 'pastores' stay."
"Out of the question. We need Doctor McKay back at Area 51."
The Colonel's jaw twitches, but he presses on. "Major Lorne then. He's 'pastor' and 'heres'. He stays."
"That okay with you, Major?"
"Yessir," Evan says before he can even think through his answer. Atlantis is 'home'. He belongs here more than he ever did back in San Francisco, or Afghanistan, or the SGC. He would gladly stay here, even if it means resigning commission and never seeing Earth again-
-which it might very well. For all the noises Captain Helia has made about cooperation, everything she's done and everything Sheppard has said about her have indicated otherwise. Even if she doesn't actively hate Earth, she still dislikes its people for being 'Descendants'. Humans had been barely more than hunters and gathers when she'd been born; even now they are hopelessly unadvanced compared to the Ancients at their nadith. They would never be good enough for Helia and, if ever the Tau'ri were to return to Atlantis, it would likely only be after her Ascension.
And, surprisingly, Evan's okay with that. He loves his family and what friends he has back on Earth, but Earth's not Atlantis. He'd be okay with a only letter from home once or twice a year for the rest of his life if means he gets to stay on Atlantis.
The only problem is Radek. He'll be going back to Earth. They've been trying to keep things from becoming too serious between them (because one of them being recalled has always been a possibility, because General Landry is one of the last proponents of the old guard and believes in things like DADT to the depths of his bible-thumping soul; because they've seen what happens to people who care too much in Pegasus), but Evan would like them to be one day.
Would have liked them to be one day.
General O'Neill turns back to Sheppard triumphantly. "You can have him."
"And," Woolsey adds carefully, albeit with a detectable air of smugness, "remember that Captain Helia has agreed to leave a liaison from the IOA behind."
"Forgive me if I'm not jumping for joy, but I've seen how this game ends. Living through the extinction of my race is not something I'd planned on doing a second time, but seeing as how every semi-intelligent species I come across seems intent on letting itself be slaughtered, it looks like it's something I'm going to have to get used to"
Radek looks like he's about to say something about the Colonel's own self-preservation instincts - something untoward in Czech about how he's never met a suicide mission he doesn't like, perhaps - but before he can Sheppard stalks off in a shower of sparks.
"Well, that went well," O'Neill say, clapping his hands together.
Woolsey looks at him, askance. "I'm almost afraid to ask what would qualify as 'not well'."
"Dead usually covers it, wouldn't you say, Major?"
"I'd say so, Sir."
The General, to his great surprise, gives him a warm smile and, to his even greater surprise, a claps a hand heavily on Evan's shoulder as he passes. "Keep an eye on our boy for me," he says quietly, as if he too has some idea of just how bad this might get before it starts getting any better.
They give the Expedition fifty-six hours to pack up, and since the Colonel places him in charge of overseeing the recall, the time seems to fly. There are barely six hundred people in the city, less than some of the FOBs Evan's been stationed at, but it's amazing how much 'stuff' there is to send back. Computer servers and medical equipment, stacks M2s and crates of M9s - all things the Ancients have no want or need for. It's all got to go. And be inventoried, packaged, transported onto 'Daedalus', and reinventoried.
There's no time to think, to process, to breathe, and next thing he knows, Evan's watching the people he's lived and worked with for years disappear through the Gate forever.
Colonel Sheppard and Doctor McKay are whispering intently off to the side, continuing the 'discussion' they've been having for days. Evan can't hear what they're saying, but he can guess. Everyone can.
"So I guess this is goodbye," Radek says, walking up behind him with a suitcase in hand.
He wants to disagree. He wants to say that their exile won't be forever. That this isn't the end.
But he doesn't, because this 'is' the end. Of their relationship. Of the Expedition. Of everything. And there's nothing that anyone can do to stop it.
"I guess so," Evan manages, shoving his hands into his pockets. "It's been..."
"Yes," Radek agrees awkwardly, pushing his glasses up his nose with his free hand. "It has." He takes a deep breath, then, "Goodbye, Evan."
"Goodbye, Radek."And then the only man he's ever loved walks through the wormhole, dragging a protesting Doctor McKay with him, and it really is the end of an era.