Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka, Jinto, Sam Carter, Daniel Jackson, Vala Mal Doran, OC
Warnings: part 2 of #33 in the Ancient!John 'Verse (see part 1); everything thru "Sunday," and considers everything thru The Ark of Truth to have happened
Summary: It's the wedding of the millennium, which brings with it its own problems
Notes: I lied. I swore this would be only 2 parts, but it got long and when i hit 3k I realized I wasn't anywhere near finished, so... you now have part 2. I think everything is translated in context, but let me know if it's not.
1) The random list of Emigres is here. 2) The 1815 Philadelphia train incident was a thing. Technically it isn't a train accident at all - that honor goes to the accident that claimed Minister William Huskisson's life a few years later. There is a connection. Think about it. 3) Hibiscus is the latin name for the mallow plant. Hibisci means "Of mallow," and could vaguely resemble a real food. Althaea is their name for what we'd call marsh mallow. 4) That may be it.
An Ancient!John Drabble
17 May, 2007 / XXXI Iun. a.f.c. I – Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
"There's not going to be a war. Stop being paranoid; it's not a look that works on you. Leave the Cold War-era thinking to your better half and let me get back to work."
Radek makes an amused sound from across the room, where he's connecting the circuitry of what will be part of the master engineering systems display panels. "Does this mean I am no longer assigned to water treatment repair?"
"What? No. Where would you get an idea like that?" McKay asks, genuinely surprised as he edges out from under an environmental control console on the opposite end of the room. He looks tired – although, honestly, he's never quite stopped looking tired since his brush with Ascension a month ago. It makes Evan worry.
(Granted, sometimes it feels like all he ever does anymore is worry – about Atlantis, about Icarus, about Rory and anyone who's ever set foot near any of the three. But with McKay it's genuine concern, particularly when he watches the lights on the new Device sitting at the top of his spine flicker from green to red.)
"You called me the better half just now. Definite improvement over before."
Baldly, "Of course it's an improvement. It's not like you could actually get any worse. But that doesn't mean you're off the hook with the water treatment systems. You earned that punishment and, if I have anything to say about it, which I do, it will be your duty until the day you die. Or," he gestures sharply in Radek's direction, "you discover cold fusion. You discover cold fusion, and I'll let you off the hook with the water treatment systems."
"I am curious. This irrational hatred, does it make you mother- or father-in-law in this scenario? I only ask because-"
A pair of wire strippers, not particularly well aimed, goes flying across the room to land about three feet behind and to the right of Radek. He tucks his laguiole knife into his belt, plucks the wire strippers off the floor, and resumes his work with the proper instrument. "Is always a pleasure working with you, Rodney."
"This is why," Rodney declares, now waving a pair of needle-nosed pliers in his direction, "Carson is my best man, not you. Also, I reject your narrow-minded need to pidgin-hole John and I into the man and woman of our relationship. It's ridiculous and absurd and, being at least a two on the Kinsey Scale, you should know better. Or," the pliers turn dangerously in Evan's direction, "you should work on that."
"Is there any chance we can steer away from this deeply uncomfortable conversation," Evan asks instead, "and back towards the rather more pressing issue of the fact that your soon-to-be-husband, my adoptive father, and your," he waves an irate hand in Radek's direction, which surprises no one more than himself, "whatever-you-want-to-call-it is inadvertently trying to start a war with the one species left in the universe that is actually capable of doing us some harm?"
Ever the devil's advocate, Radek asks, "What about the Wraith? Or the Replicators?"
"We're already at war with them."
"Are we actually at war with the Replicators? I merely ask because I am curious, as they have not actually attacked us and we have done nothing more than spy on them from the edge of the Asuran system."
"If we're not, we soon will be."
"No we won't," McKay insists, climbing to his feet and dusting off his knees. He's not very successful, but luckily his clothes are a dusky shade of blue that hides the dirt well. A small blessing, in case he runs across any of the delegations in the city for the wedding later.
People who've never met McKay always have a hard time believing he would be the man their god has chosen to marry unless he looks half-divine himself. It has a tendency to cause problems, mostly of the sort where heads of state come to him suggesting that he push a more appropriate candidate – such as their daughter, or sister, or (in one memorable case) themselves – Icarus' way.
"We're building spaceships to bomb their planet back to the Palaeozoic, Pops," Evan reminds blandly. "I think its safe to say there will be a war,"
"And as I keep telling you: there won't. Not with the Replicators and not with Earth either. War implies a prolonged conflict between two more or less equal forces. What we're doing here is a building a technological smokescreen for the most powerful being in the universe to use to exterminate any entire sentient species he feels like in one fell swoop. That's not war. That's the definition of genocide."
"And we're just okay with this?" They may have had their disagreements with Earth, but they all have people they care about back there and there are plenty of people utterly innocent of any wrongdoing. To talk so casually, so openly about their annihilation… This is not what he'd signed up for.
(But, then again, it never is.)
"What? No, of course not. I'm just saying that, if Earth ever does try to go to war with us, the only question is going to be not, however will we survive, it will be, will we send the spaceships to do our dirty work or will John go himself?"
"And," Radek inserts, "it will never come to that, because nobody in charge wants a war. As long as Earth has access to Atlantis, they will not risk their golden goose."
Evan sakes his head, biting his lower lip and searching for words that will make them understand. "You didn't see the look on Colonel Carter's face."
"She's probably just jealous of how quickly we've built Victoria."
"She's probably just thinking of the best way to get a nuke past Victoria's shields," he counters.
"Oh, please," McKay snorts, "like you haven't thought about the best way to get a bomb past Daedalus'. You're military. She, more the shame, is military. It's something your lot does. Can we perhaps move on to more important questions, like why you're here, bothering us of all people with your paranoia? Or maybe where Kununsagi and what's-his-name went? You know the one I'm talking about. The smarmy computer scientist with the ridiculous French accent and the," he gestures at his chin, "Van Dyke who still thinks Fortran is the last word in programming."
"You mean Doctor Durand?"
"Yes," McKay snaps triumphantly.
Profoundly exasperated, "Durand is French," Radek reminds him.
"That doesn't make it any less-"
"You two argue like an old married couple," Evan says rather more waspishly than he'd intended, halfway to the door with a pair of long strides. "Maybe you two should be the ones getting married."
Jinto gives him his brightest smile when he walks into the wide stretch of hallway that doubles as the lobby to Icarus' public office. "Lord 'Helianus!" the boy begins, practically bounding from behind his desk to great him, "To what do we owe this wonderful-"
Evan steps around him quickly, taking the steps quickly as he heads for the door that will take him into Sheppard's office proper.
"-surprise," he finishes somewhat dumbly before regaining admirably with, "Lord 'Helianus, Sir! Lord Iohannes in the middle of a very important meeting and-"
Atlantis opens the door for him without even perfunctory pause, and leaves it open while he tells Icarus, "We need to talk."
"Alright," Sheppard agrees, sparing the time to give Evan a bemused smile before turning his guest and saying, "Minster Beade, I'm afraid I'm going to have to cut this short. It was nice to meet you and I look forward to working with you in the future."
The man – Minister Beade, who is, in all honestly, the prettiest man Evan has ever laid eyes on, all carved cheekbones and perfect skin and absurdly dark eyes – nods sharply, the sour look that momentarily overtakes his features not pretty in the least. The irritation is long gone by the time he says charmingly, "I quite understand, my Lord. It has been pleasure enough to finally have you to myself for even but a few minutes. I will see myself out."
Eyebrow rising of its own accord, Evan finds himself asking, "Who was that?" his ill humour momentarily forgotten as Atlantis closes the doors on them.
"Idris Beade, the new Daganian Minster for Enterprise and Innovation."
"What happened to Allina?"
"She's dead – boiler explosion during the demonstration of an experimental steam engine," he explains, sounding far from put out over the event. "It's all very tragic. Thirteen workers and members of the Ministry delegation were killed, including Allina, and twenty-five others were injured. But historically early efforts with heat engines are almost always tragic, regardless of planet or species. But Minister Beade was just telling me how he was chosen to replace her and asking that we send someone from the University over to help keep things from maybe being quite so tragic in the future."
"He seems very…" There is no polite way to end that sentence. His mouth seems to realize this before his brain and supplies the word, "symmetrical," before Evan can come up with anything better.
Sheppard laughs – honestly, brightly, awkwardly, as if they were fellow soldiers at a bar on leave in some city whose language they couldn't even speak and with unspent pay checks burning a hole in their pockets, instead of all the artifices that have risen up between them. "I think he knows even less about science than I do, which is something I hadn't imagined possible. Then again, I'm fairly certain he wasn't chosen for his abilities, if y'know what I mean."
"Oh, I'm sure he was. Just probably not the ones he should have been."
The laugh this startles out of Sheppard is even brighter still. "You're probably true on that one. But what is it that you wanted to talk about anyway?"
"Ah." He feels himself flushing unexpectedly. He's not embarrassed by his concerns, not really, but after even a momentary distraction his concerns no longer feel as pressing, as important. They seem, well, more like the overreactions Radek and McKay seemed to think they are and not at all like something worthy of interrupting a meeting with a man who will likely become the face, if hardly the brains, of the Moralist party now that Allina is gone. "It's your plan. I don't think it's working like you wanted it to."
"Is that so?" Sheppard asks giving no indication of is own thoughts on the matter.
"Yes, it's just, I know what you're trying to do here. You want to convince Colonel Carter and Doctor Jackson you're not a threat. But calling them out on their nuclear deterrents – which you and I both know Atlantis had no clue about until you mentioned them – and then showing them your spaceships, which are only second to you and this city in their destructive capabilities, is not the way to go about it."
"Maybe I'm just trying to put the fear of god in them."
Evan rolls his eyes at the joke. "You've spent too long trying to blend in to come out of the shadows now, Icarus. Besides, you care about this city too much to ever jeopardize her safety in any way, and starting a war with the Terrans would do just that."
Icarus has changed clothes since Evan's seen him last. He's geared for war, albeit luxuriously so, in a night black brigandine woven through with silver thread, with a long-sleeved tunic stiff at the collar with silver couching. Over this he wears his usual vambraces, the pitch black ones that reach from elbow to wrist, and it is the laces of theses he picks at while he fails to meet Evan's eyes. "I shouldn't have to convince anyone of anything. They should just be able to look and see that I'm only doing what's best for Atlantis – for all of Pegasus, even. That's all I've ever done. That hasn't changed."
"Yes, well, not everyone is just going to trust that the most powerful being in the universe has only good intentions at heart. Particularly not those still fresh off a war with the Ori."
"What is the use of power, the point in knowledge, unless those with power use it to help those without?" Sheppard says, eyes flinty when they – finally – meet his. "I have always believed that. And the Terrans had no problem letting me believe that when I was mortal and they were the ones reaping the benefits. The only thing that's changed since I Ascended is the amount of power and knowledge I can bring to bear – but obviously since it is the Descendants in Pegasus who are the ones benefiting most from my power and knowledge, it cannot be allowed, can it?"
"That's-" he doesn't finish the sentence. Because not true is probably no longer true itself. "You've got to look at it from their perspective. Anything SG-1 has seen over the past decade that's even superficially resembled a god has almost always been some megalomaniacal alien with superior technology out to feed their ego at the expense of everyone else. They don't know what to do with an unbelievably powerful being who's actually as selfless and righteous and kind as he appears."
"I know. Believe me, I know," Sheppard says, running a hand over his face. With a sigh, "What do you suggest then?"
It's what qualifies for winter at this latitude on Lantea, but that doesn't mean that the city's esplanades are anywhere near chilly. All that it really means is that they get about a tenth as much rain, none of the fog, and a pleasant northerly breeze that lessens the tropical heat, but Icarus calls it winter and the rest of them go along with it because it sounds better than the dry season.
Regardless of the actual temperature, Evan uses it as an excuse to light a bonfire, dragging an old oil drum somebody turned into a makeshift barbecue in the first year of the Expedition out to the far edge of the North Pier. It's hardly a beach, but its close enough that it reminds Evan of the times his parents would take him and his brother and sister to the ocean when they were little, in those summers hazy with nostalgia in his mind. There's no sand, certainly no sandcastles, and the ocean is a good sixty-foot drop below, but it's comfortable.
"Where on Lantea did you find hibisci?" Sheppard asks Vala, pawing through the basket of foodstuffs she'd brought with her.
"Which one-?" she begins, turning from her conversation with Doctor Jackson, only to swat him on the head and snatch back the small clay jar he's holding. "John Sheppard, you get your nose out of there this instant. If you want to give people your germs, there are much more fun ways to go about it."
Sheppard rolls his eyes, but thankfully says nothing to remind everyone that he's Ascended and therefore, in all likelihood, germ-free. "I'm sure there are, gemma, but monogamy suits us both just fine."
"Spoilsport," she says, her laugh belaying her pout as she investigates the contents of the pot she's stolen back. "And I found it in that marketplace of yours. This woman who couldn't have been even five feet tall well selling it along with a whole bunch of other sweets. She called it malvalekker, but it reminded me of this dessert they used to make on my home planet before I was taken as host. Mehalabeyya, we called it. Of course, I think this version uses agave nectar and dried cranberries instead of honey and dates, but its close enough."
"It is hibisci then. I've not seen it since I was a kid. My people were never big on sweets," he explains, handing back the pot's wide lid, "but we used pretty much every part of every plant we grew in the greenhouses. Althaea roots, when we had them, were a welcome change to the rice and beans and bean pastes that were normal fare for us after the city was submerged. Of course, they stopped making it after Nicolaa stopped attending classes. Hibisci is a children's food, and as she was the last child…"
Evan watches Vala and Jackson watch Sheppard with rapt fascination and doesn't try to supress his smile. It could easily have gone the other way, inviting their potential enemies to the Colonel's bachelor party, but so far things seem to be shaping up well. They have a bonfire, beer, and the unveiled stars above them. Maybe they can prevent war after all.
"I know what you're doing."
"And what's that, Colonel Carter?"
"Trying to make us forget that John isn't human. You might even succeed."
"Bully for me."
"You misunderstand me. I want to like John, it's just..."
"He's not human? That doesn't make him automatically evil, you know," he reminds her, continuing to feed the bonfire. It doesn't need it, but Sheppard doesn't need to overhear this conversation either.
"It does make him automatically good either." She glances at the others, who are now laughing as they deal out a pack of cards and break into Vala's supply of sweets. They look happy. They look normal. "When I first met John Sheppard, I knew even then that he was a good man, a kind man. Maybe even the best man in universe. To sacrifice so much for Atlantis and, later, for people he barely knew, he had to be."
"He's still that man."
"Is he?" Carter asks. "Don't get me wrong, that's all still there. I don't think anything could ever separate him from his need to keep this city safe.
"But look at him, Major: He's Ascended since then. He's emperor of a billion people and god to an entire galaxy. He is temporally, spiritually, and practically the most powerful being in the known universe. And you know what they say about power."
"Icarus is not corrupt. He's not going to go corrupt."
"I'm sure people said that about the Ori, once."
"Icarus knows he's not a god."
There's only the briefest of hesitations before Evan answers, "Yes," because Sheppard has to remember the truth, but that's answer enough for Colonel Carter.
She puts a hand on his shoulder, which Evan would be quicker to shrug off if the angle of her body wasn't shielding the thumb drive she slips him with her other from Sheppard's sight. "Enjoy the party," she tells him before walking away and joining the others at their card game.
Evan pokes at the fire for another minute or two before dealing in, the USB safely in his pocket. He has no idea what's on it, let alone why Carter might want him to have it, but if she risked so much to get it to him…