Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka, Colonel Ellis, Teyla Emmagen
Warnings: #34 in the Ancient!John 'Verse; everything thru "First Strike," and considers everything thru The Ark of Truth in SG-1 to have happened (i.e., everything but Continuum, which I consider to be post-SGA S4).
Summary: The centre cannot hold.
Notes: I KNOW. It took forever to write this chappie, largely because I had a number of false starts and was overly perfectionist about it. It's not entirely what I had planned (I'd wanted to go a little further, but this seemed as good a point as any to end) but it does bring S3 to an end. Hopefully, S4 will not take anywhere near as long to write. Just know that, from the moment I decided to end S2 the way I did, this was the inevitable conclusion I was working towards. So please don't stone me. Unless it's with reviews. Stoning me with reviews would be okay.
According to my handy dandy timeline, the events of SG-1's "Unending" occur on 17/18 April 2007. The events of The Ark of Truth take place on 3 May, 2007. John and Rodney's wedding occurs on 19 May, 2007. The events of this fic, and "First Strike," take place on 29 June, 2007, about 3 years and 3 weeks after the events of "Rising".
An Ancient!John Story
28 June, 2007 / IXXX Qui. a.f.c. I – Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
Iohannes has never been more certain about anything in his life.
In precisely four hours, Victoria and Vindicta will launch, to join Thetis and Aurora already in orbit. Together, crewed by a handful of gene-bearing Émigrés and the first graduates of the preliminary military training facility on the Genii homeworld, and they will head for the Asuras. Once there, the four vessels will take equidistant positions around the planet and proceed to reduce it to such desolation that even servola like the Asurans will have to forsake it.
It shouldn't be hard. His people have succeeded at nothing like destroying everything they ever touched and the Descendants share their blood. Between their combined primitive desires and the most advanced weaponry to be built since Atlantis was completed sixty-five million years ago, they should have no trouble turning a green and fertile living world into ash and dust and devastation.
He will return in triumph. When he does, they will finally understand that, for all his power, for all his knowledge – for all his divinity – nothing about him has really changed. He is still their John Sheppard, their Colonel, their commander, their last living Ancient; their martyr. All that he does and all that he ever will do is to protect them. Only the tools at his disposal have changed.
And then Rodney will forgive him.
And then his reign can truly begin.
"This is possibly the worst plan we've ever come up with," Rodney calls out from the bathroom as he finishes getting dressed. The door is open so that Iohannes, from his position just inside the doorway to their bedroom, can watch whips of steam swirl around him and fog the mirrors. One of them reflects a smudged image of Iohannes himself, and it is this whom Rodney addresses as he shrugs into his jacket.
"What? Are you kidding me? This is the best plan we've ever had. For one thing, it's an actual plan."
"Alright, I'll give you that one," he agrees, making quick work of the buttons down the front before striking out on the laces that secure the attached leather braces, "But you know what they say, no plan survives contact with the enemy, especially when part of that plan has me sitting in the pilot's seat aboard Victoria and the rest of it has an anthropologist doing the same on Thetis."
"Doctor Morris isn't that bad."
"Again, anthropologist, not pilot."
"She's a better pilot that Carson," Iohannes shrugs. "You want some help with those?"
Rodney's reply comes almost before the question is finished. "Oh god, yes. What is it with your people and laces? Really, a billion years of scientific and cultural evolution and you couldn't come up with something a bit more user-friendly than laces?" he asks, trusting his arm at Iohannes. "No, what am I thinking? Your language is about as impossible as explaining colour to the blind."
"I wouldn't go that far," Iohannes says, swiftly setting the lacings to rights. "Yellow is the warmth of sun on your face on a cloudless day. Blue is the cool of the ocean when you stick your feet in on a hot day. And I love you means the same whether I use English or Alteran or Tuyuca or goa'uld."
"That was almost poetic. Who are you and what have you done with my husband?"
Iohannes rolls his eyes. "Hilarious. Left arm please."
Rodney takes back his right arm and presents him with the left. "Look, I'm not saying it doesn't need to be done. The Replicators are machines gone wrong. They're not like 'Lantis or Rory. I saw the dead-man's program your cousin sent them: all they're doing is building up their fleet so they can go out and wipe out all the inhabited planets in the galaxy in one fell swoop. But…
"But it's a good plan. A good plan that shouldn't be ruined by me in one pilot's seat and an anthropologist in another."
"The lintres are finished now."
"The lintres can wait until the end of time," Rodney spits back, mimicking his inflection closely, if clumsily, "if that's what it takes for us to be ready."
"They can," he agrees, quietly lacing the vambrace, "but we can't."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I would love to give Doctor Morris five more weeks of flight training and maybe some practice in the cathedra, but the Asuran fleet will be ready within the week." Rodney breathes in sharply at this. He had not guessed. "Our forces are formidable, but their numbers would be overwhelming. If we're to have any chance of succeeding, we must do it now."
"How'd you know? Why didn't you say something?"
Tiredly, "You know how I know, Rodney. And I didn't tell you because you always get this look when I use my powers – yes, that one. The one that makes you look like I'm drowning kittens in front if you."
This earns him the most half-hearted of glares. "I don't think you kill kittens. I just worry about you, that's all."
"I'm the last person in the universe you need to worry about," Iohannes says, wiggling the fingers of one hand as if to remind him of the power there. He does not call upon it to induce the harsh, cold light that is his power – the last time he had done so, even in jest, had been enough to trigger Rodney's memories of his time in the Higher Planes. Iohannes had been forced to wipe his memories for a third time that day.
"You've been very free with you're powers since the Sangraal destroyed most of your people, and one day those that are left are going to come for a reckoning.
"There's nothing to worry about."
"That's very reassuring," Rodney says dryly.
"I love you. I won't let them harm you. I won't let anyone harm you."
"Now that's more like the John Sheppard I married: sentimental and vaguely terrifying all rolled neatly into one rakishly-haired package."
"I love you," he repeats, adding a swift kiss to his declarations, "And I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe.
"That? That right there? That's the vaguely terrifying thing I was talking about."
"C'mon Rodney. Let's get going. We have a planet to destroy."
They rain fire and ruin upon Asuras, taking not a single hit and decimating five continents in the process. If even one Asuran survived the holocaust, Iohannes would be surprised to the point of stupidity.
29 June, 2007 / XXXX Qui. a.f.c. I – Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
The Argosy returns home in quiet triumph, docking in the hangar bay just after midnight, scarcely twenty hours after they had left.
Iohannes is among the last to disembark, remaining aboard Vindicta for some time afterwards, not quite trusting himself to be around other people. His heart has never been so light after a battle. Never has a mission gone so well for him. Never has any victory been anything other than Pyrrhic. He wants to laugh from the sheer joy of success and hides himself away in his sea cabin until he's sure he can talk about the mission without grinning like a loon. Or a madman.
When he finally is, he finds that the members of his crew – of all four crews – have formed ranks on either side of the gangway. Row after row after row of soldiers from a hundred different worlds stand at perfect attention in crisp grey uniforms trimmed with black moquette. Ronon has made an army out of warriors and militiamen and it shows with every step he takes down the aisle that extends from the gangway. It seems more like an inspection than celebration, but perhaps that is what he needs: sobriety in the face of yet another genocide, albeit it one sorely wanted and gladly done.
But Iohannes cannot help himself when he sees Rodney, 'Helianus, and Doctor Morris standing at the crossroads of the aisles connecting their lintres' gangways. With a mad grin on his face, he quickens his pace until he is able to pull Rodney into his arms. "We did it," he says-
-but his voice is drowned out as the crowd, which had been so quiet the moment before, begins to cheer. And then they are swept up, into the arms and onto shoulders of the soldiers, almost before the kiss ends.
Iohannes can't help it any longer: the laughter pours from him, bright and honest and true, utterly lost beneath the noise of the crowd. He has never been happier than he is now.
But this is only the beginning. The universe is at is feet, as shining and golden as a summers day. All he has to do is reach out his hand and take it. One planet at a time.
Around them the crowd cries, "I-CAR-US! I-CAR-US!"
"How was the mission? Was it a success?" Teyla asks, rising. She'd been seated behind the desk in Elizabeta's old office with a pot of tea and a guest on the near side, but Iohannes ignores all this in favour of sweeping her up into a hug as well. He's feeling positively effusive today, as if he will burst from all the feeling inside of him if he does not find some way to express it. It is a strange feeling, one he's quite unused to. He's not quite sure he likes it yet, but if it is the price he must pay for success he will gladly pay it a thousand times over.
"You mean you couldn't hear the celebrations from here?" he laughs, spinning her in a circle that has Teyla swatting at his shoulder but laughing along with him. "It was amazing. It won't be winning any awards for Best Special Effects anytime soon, but we got the job done and the only casualty is a hastatus from Thetis with a broken arm that he got falling down an access ladder when Doctor Morris came out of hyperspace a little too heavy on the breaks. And space battles are always more exciting on TV than in real life anyway and, really, why do we even have access ladders? The only thing they're good for is breaking peoples' arms and, really, I can fix that in two-seconds flat, but why should I have to? I don't like doing it and they don't like having their arms broken, so let's cut out the middle man and just keep everyone uninjured."
"I see," she says with remarkable restraint, a smile tugging at both corners of her mouth after he sets her down. She had looked so tired when she'd arrived back in the city this morning, to watch over Atlantis while he and Rodney and 'Helianus were away, but Teyla looks almost happy herself now. "And were you planning on returning to the celebrations," she asks, glancing behind him at the small coterie milling about the Control Room, "or do you have time to introduce yourself to your guest?"
He flashes Teyla and her guest his best company smile. "For you, my lady? Anything." His smile gets brighter as he watches her fight the urge to roll her eyes – something he fears they've both learned from Rodney. Speaking of which, "Hey, Rodney!" he calls through the open door, "Want to meet the latest diplomat Terra's sent to try to paper over their mistakes?" He doesn't wait for his answer before slinking across the room and sinking into the couch along the far wall.
It is a good couch. A fine couch. He should have it moved into one of his offices rather than left to rot here, in a room no one but Teyla – on the rare occasions she's in the city – uses anymore.
"I am no diplomat, Colonel Sheppard. I am Colonel Abraham Ellis, captain of the Apollo."
"So that's what they've decided to call the new ship? You'd think that with all the gods and goddesses that have turned out to be Asgard or goa'uld, they'd stop naming one after the other and risk having a ship named after an alien despot."
To Colonel Ellis' credit, he doesn't start when Rodney slips into the room behind him or twitch when he joins Iohannes on the couch, sitting rather closer than he's found most Terran officers are entirely comfortable with. He merely blinks and continues undaunted-
"I hate to break up your celebration. It sounds like you gave the Replicators exactly what they had coming to them. But it is imperative that I speak with you – and Colonel Telford and Majors Lorne and Teldy – immediately."
"Sure," Iohannes shrugs. "Teyla, d'you mind?"
"Not at all," she says, and ducks out of the room. She won't have to go far to find Evan – he and Radek were part of the group that followed him up from the mess hall, to give the enlisted personnel space to celebrate away from their officers – but he doesn't want to be the person who has to wake up Major Teldy on her night off. He may be a god, but Teldy is scary when she wants to be.
He leans back against the couch, settling his arms along the back of it, taking up as much space as he possibly can. Rodney snorts at him, seeing his ruse for what it really is: a chance to make this Colonel Ellis as uncomfortable as he can and touch Rodney in public both.
"So, you going to tell us what this is all about, or…?"
"I believe I should wait for the others."
"Alright, but you get to be the one to explain to Major Teldy why you pulled her out of bed at midnight for something less than the end of the world. Y'know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say she was Matertera Catalina come back to torment me for not having paid better attention to what she tried to teach me as a child."
But Matertera Catalina Ascended and, like so many others, had been destroyed when SG-1 deployed the Sangraal too soon. All that is left of his family among the others are a few exceptionally distant cousins; his paternal grandmother's sister, Athanasia Aquilidea; and a rather less distant cousin in the form of Joseua Lal Tribunus, who must certainly be at lose ends since his mother returned to the home galaxy to battle the Abomination Adria until the end of days.
But that doesn't matter anymore. He and Rodney are married now. 'Helianus is their adopted son and, for all the fuss both of them make over their relationship not meaning anything, Radek is as good as his son-in-law. Rory is the daughter he never knew he wanted and 'Lantis remains, as always, his constant companion in all things. They are his family, not those self-righteous imbeciles who would never be able to see there is no use in power, no point in knowledge unless those with either use them to help those without. They may have Ascended him, but he will never be like them.
He is Iohannes Ianideus Icarus Imperator, The Star That Fell From Heaven, The Lord of the Land Beyond Death, The Father of All Men and Maker of All Worlds. He will save this galaxy and all of its people, regardless of whatever this Colonel Ellis wants from him.
Evan and Radek slip into the room while he's lost in his thoughts. "Really, Icarus," the former says as the latter takes up a perch on the arm of the couch, on Rodney's other side, "you'd think you didn't like Anne the way you go on about her."
"I can like her and be justifiably terrified of her at the same time."
'Helianus snorts and inclines his head slightly in Ellis' direction. "Colonel."
"Major," he answers, doing much the same.
It occurs to Iohannes that this may be the first time anyone from Terra has addressed Evan by rank since they dropped him from the rolls. For some reason, this strikes a sour note with him, and has him asking:
"So where's your ship, by the way? She wasn't in the hangar when we docked and I don't recall seeing her in orbit."
"I left orders that the Apollo was to remain out of sight behind this planet's moon until I had received word that your mission was a success."
This strikes another false cord with Iohannes, though he cannot honestly say why. The 304s are nothing compared any of his lintres and the shadow of the moon would have been as good a place as any for them to hide in safety if trouble had followed them back. But he can't help but feel that part of the story is missing.
"Yes, well, that's partially your own fault, y'know. You knew what we intended and still arrived, what? Three days ahead of schedule. Impressive, but stupid."
Rodney rolls his eyes. Vigorously, "I'm sure they just wanted to show off, being a new ship and all. Give Caldwell a run for his money, or something."
"I don't think so," Iohannes says lightly, examining Ellis.
He stands straight-backed, in the manner of men who are used to standing at attention but who rarely demand attention of themselves. A bit proud, maybe, but rightly so. Stubborn, yes, but not to the point of being uncompromising. He believes what he believes because the universe has given him no reason to think differently; he will kill for his beliefs but will not die for them. An upstanding officer, if standoffish.
In short, colonel Ellis appears to be everything a man of his rank should be – everything that Iohannes has ever been faulted for not being. And yet, at Iohannes' question-
"Why are you really here, Colonel?"
-he glances towards Evan, a man who had been two ranks bow him before the Air Force had dropped him from the rolls for his part in the Hegira, and waits for his slight nod before answering.
And it is then Iohannes knows that something is well and truly wrong, before Ellis even speaks, before he sees the subtle twitch of fingers towards holsters that follows closely on its tail.
"As you well know," Apollo's captain says, "SG-1 brought the Ancient artefact known as The Ark of Truth back with them after dismantling the Ori religion. What you do no know is that, before their return, they were also able to find and retrieve the Sangraal built by Doctor Jackson several months earlier. I have both of those items now in my procession aboard the Apollo and have been authorized to use either as I see fit if you will not relinquish your hold over this galaxy. You may either abdicate your throne now in favour of your legally recognized heir, Major Lorne, until such a time as you can be brought to justice for your crimes, or I can exterminate you and all that remains of your race where you sit."