Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney McKay, Allina, sentient!Atlantis
Warnings: #32 in the Ancient!John 'Verse (see part 1, 2, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2); "The Tao of Rodney," thru SG1 s10e14 "The Shroud," SGU s1e01 "Air"; mentions of attempted non-con
Summary: Things Fall Apart
Notes: This is the last bit of chappie 3, I promise - though now in retrospect it was stupid of me to think I could get everything I wanted for c3 into 1 chapter. **shakes head** Anyway, the first part of this may seem familiar to you if you've read drabble 87, as I rescued it from the cutting room floor when inspiration hit after I posted it. Also, I'm not entirely happy with the end, but I decided that I might as well post it before I go mad. Oh, and for the few of you who guessed this was coming? Kudos.
19 March, 2007 / IXX Mai. a.f.c. I – Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
It was so easy to be brave, Before. The only thing he had to lose back then had been his life and what was that compared to the chance that Atlantis would be able to stand for a day – an hour – a minute more? She had done so much for him, though she would deny it all in all but her most petulant moments. His life was so little compared to everything she was, everything she would be. The consequences of her Fall would be beyond imagining, while his own death would have been such a little thing in the balance.
He would still die for Atlantis. He would still give up his life for any member of the Expedition, old or new, if that would insure their safety. That hasn't changed.
What has changed is the fact that he cannot die. He can never die, not until the others release him from his senseless punishment. Until then he has no choice but to carry on, watching helplessly as everyone he loves dies, again and again and again, until the only thing he knows is death and loss and pain.
And he has so much to lose now:
Losing Rodney terrifies him most of all. Rodney has been at the heart of every decision he was made since the moment his amator found him in the cathedra so long ago. Who he is, what he is, what he's willing to do – there is no aspect of his new life that Rodney has not had a part in. Iohannes isn't sure he wants to know what he'll become without him.
Oh, he'll survive Rodney's death. He somehow managed to survive the extinction of his race. He's sure he can do it again, if he has to. Survival is his best – and maybe only – skill. But he cannot speak as to the kind of man he'll be at the end of it. Even the mere idea of Rodney dying fills him with a white-hot anger that he doesn't care to examine too closely, for fear of what he'll find. The actuality only promises to be worse.
It's this fear that has him flickering to Rodney's side before the words medical emergency are fully spoken, without thought of the consequences.
It's this fear that has him falling to his knees beside his amator's sprawled body, hands aglow, without taking note of the scene around him.
It's this fear that turns his blood to ice when Rodney protests weakly, "No, stop," when Iohannes' hand touches his shoulder and attempts to shrug him off.
"Rodney," he entreats, removing his hand – and his healing power – with great reluctance. "It's me. It's Iohannes – it's John," he corrects hastily, not willing to trust Rodney's life to his reasoning abilities when he's four-fifths of the way to unconsciousness on the floor. "I just wanna help you, okay? Let me help you, please."
It is a minor lifetime before Rodney manages to breathe, "John?" eyelids fluttering but far from opening.
"Yeah, buddy. I'm here."
Not trusting his voice, Iohannes takes that as leave to do what he can to fix whatever it is that has Rodney all but passed out on the floor, not a hundred yards from where the party celebrating the coronation he neither wanted or required is still raging. Although he is expecting to find something catastrophic – poison, perhaps, or inflammation of some critical organ, or even an allergic reaction, – what he finds is a great deal of alcohol and a few bruises. Both of which are worrisome, yes, but neither constitute a medical emergency by any means. As relieved as Iohannes is, it doesn't make any sense.
"What happened?" Rodney asks tiredly moment later. He takes a long moment to decide that, yes, he wants to take the weight off the arm trapped beneath him and roll onto his back.
"I dunno. I was hoping you'd tell me."
"I'm not- It's all kind of a blur, really," he says, struggling to sit up. "I was, er, talking with Allina and then…" He makes a vague motion with the hand he's not using to push himself up with, which Iohannes then grabs and uses to haul Rodney to his feet.
Which is, naturally, when Carson and his team of scarily competent nurses come pouring out of the vectura, half-a-dozen medical bags and a back brace between them. After the most cursory of looks, they turn their attentions to the other person in the hall, the one Iohannes has somehow managed to miss in his panic to get to Rodney, despite the blood flowing freely the back of her head. The plaster is cracked above her, dented with an impression of her body that goes almost all the way down to the superconductive lining deep inside. Yet more blood stains the wall, slowly dripping to the floor, and when the medics take her away, he sees hairline fractures in the flooring beneath the puddle that had formed underneath her.
Oh, Iohannes thinks. This isn't how it is supposed to go at all.
"I'm fine, John," Rodney lies, staring at his hands rather than watch John circle the room like a caged animal, waiting for the chance to pounce on any hapless nurse to pass through the doors.
"I found you semiconscious with a blood alcohol level of point two six."
"Yes, but you healed me. I'm fine now."
John dismisses this out of hand. "You're not fine."
"Yes I am."
"It's cold in here," he says defensively, crossing his arms and tucking his hands into his armpits.
It's true too. Rodney's never been in an examination room that's a comfortable temperature, and this one is positively freezing. That would be Carson's doing, of course. Some absurd barber-surgeon belief that lower temperatures will reduce the chances of infection a way 'Lantis, with her force fields and impossibly advanced medical equipment, can not that he's managed to talk the city into going along with, probably. "Medieval medical sophistry," he adds, and this time Rodney hears the chattering of his teeth in his words, tastes the chill of his skin on his lips.
John frowns. He pauses at the head of the examination table upon which Rodney is perched and, with a flick of his wrist, produces a heavy, impossibly soft blanket that bears remarkable resemblance to the one they'd once shared in his sister's guest room during John's brief visit to Earth so long ago. "It's eighteen degrees," he tells him, wrapping the blanket around him like an adult would do with a small child. Rodney thinks this should probably offend him, but he's too tired and cold to care right now. Maybe later.
"You're in shock."
"What?" Rodney squeaks. He knows it's a squeak, is mortified to say it same out of his own lips when he wasn't being tortured, or threatened with torture, or r-
His tongue trips over itself in attempt to avoid the rest of that thought.
"No. Of course not. What do I have to be in shock about? I mean," Rodney says more quickly still, "the IHC is just about the last place I want to be right now. It's coming up on 0300. I'd rather be in my own bed, asleep, than sitting here waiting for Carson to poke and prod me for no reason."
"Blood alcohol level of point two six," John reminds him.
"Which," he points out, "you took care of."
"Rodney," John says, framing his face with his hands and tilting it up so that Rodney has no choice but to meet his eyes.
Rodney has looked into these eyes time beyond number. He has met them across breakfast tables, sharing secret smiles. He has caught them off-world, when a glance is all he needs to know that they're about to try something stupidly reckless again and he best prepare for the worst. He has held their gaze while their bodies have been so tangled up in one another that it's impossible to tell where he stops and John begins. He knows their shape and colour and the weight of their gaze better than he knows himself, and yet-
Yet something is different about them this time. Galaxies swirl within their depths, telling the story of the birth and death of the universe. They speak of great, terrible age and loss – so much loss. They have lost everything as ten thousand years passed in darkness and silence, as the greatest civilization ever to exist fell to ruin and rumour; as the last survivors of his species choked on their own life's breath and blood.
Rodney knows this. He's known from the beginning that John's lost more than he will ever know, that he'd do anything to keep what he already does. But, like this, it's impossible to deny. As if it was possible any longer to forget that John is an Ancient, who he watched place a crown of stars on his own head while onlookers from a thousand worlds spoken in unison, "This we name you forever: Imperator. Imperator. Imperator," just fourteen hours ago; who committed genocide on his own species so that humanity might have its chance to prove itself a worthy successor to the races of the long broken Alliance; who's flesh is only a manifestation of his desire for a tangible body with all the trappings of mortality.
He resists the urge to close his eyes as John continues emphatically, "You threw a woman ten feet into a metal wall and dented the wall. Not even Ronon can do that. I don't know why that doesn't terrify you like it does me."
"I didn't throw anyone," he says, intending for it to be a forceful rejection of any and all parts he may have had in what happened to Allina, but what comes out of Rodney's mouth instead is a weak murmur at best, a thin protestation that all but confirms his actions. "I was drunk. The conversation wasn't making much sense. I couldn't figure what she wanted from me. And then-" he bites his lower lip and tries to turn away. John's hands come with him, but his eyes do not. "Then," it's easier to lie when he's not staring into those eyes, "things got a bit fuzzy and next thing I know she was across the room and I was on the floor."
"Fuzzy," John repeats impassively.
"Yes, fuzzy. As in: I don't know what happened. Maybe she threw herself into the wall."
"Allina certainly didn't throw herself into that wall."
"Maybe she did," Rodney insists, hearing his voice grow shrill. "Maybe it was a masochistic thing. Aren't religious types supposed to be all about the self-flagellation and the suffering?"
"Maybe on Terra, but not in Pegasus. Folks tend to be more of the eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die persuasion."
"Is that what you call it?" Is that supposed to excuse what that woman tried to do – what she tried to do in her god's name – in John's name? Is that supposed to make it okay? She never did more than stand too close, barely even touched, and yet it will never be okay, because who knows how many more like her are out there, just waiting for their chance to do the same? Not John, because if John were half the god people claimed he'd know already, he'd have stopped her before she even-
John's not the wrong one to blame, but it's John he's suddenly, inexplicably, stupidly angry at. His anger is accompanied by what can only be described as a twitch in his brain and-
John snatches his hands back as if burned.
After a long moment of silence, he says, "I am going to get Carson."
"He's probably still in surgery," Rodney reminds him dully, anger fading back to the deep and abiding sense of fatigue that has followed him since the hallway. He feels the start of a headache coming on too, which makes everything that much better.
"This is more important. Just-" he bites his lower lip, "Just don't go anywhere, okay?"
"I'm fine, John," he protests once more, but John still doesn't listen and flickers away a moment later. The blanket remains, as warm and solid as one can hope for.
Carson is reluctant to the point of recalcitrance to leave his patient, even after Iohannes uses a great deal of the excess energy the Coronation has given him to heal Alliana of the worst of her injuries. But eventually he does get the doctor to examine Rodney and it is exactly as Iohannes feared:
The devices Rodney placed in his brain have done more than allow him to speak with Atlantis. They have lightened the load, as it were, for the rest of his brain, allowing neurons that would otherwise have been bothered with base functions to lend themselves to higher functions. Synaptic interaction throughout his brain has skyrocketed. It's not quite at Alteran baseline, but already is well beyond normal Terran levels.
In short, Rodney is well along the path to Ascension, with every indication being that he shall be capable of doing so before long.
Iohannes has never heard worse news.