Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka
Warnings: #37 in the Ancient!John 'Verse; everything thru "Doppleganger," 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: It takes ten times as long to put yourself together as it does to fall apart.
Notes: Well... This chappie didn't turn out entirely as I'd planned. I'm not sure I'm happy with the second part, but I've rewritten this so many times it's either now or never. I've a feeling this arc will be a lot of short chapters.
1) Vir means man. It also has vaguely military overtones, in the sense than men can refer to soldier, as well as mankind, but I mostly mean man here. 2) Everything you ever wanted to know about Davidus Constantin. 3) Justinianus and Tribonianus are Justinian I and Tribonian, responsible for the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is the basis for most Western law. 4) I think that's everything.
An Ancient!John Story
15 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus
Consciousness comes slowly, in jerking fits and starts that gain him one foot of traction and cost him two more, but it does come. It brings pain in its wake, the sharpest edges dulled by exhaustion and analgesics, but still almost enough to push him back over the edge into oblivion. He struggles through it, clawing his way towards consciousness the way others might scale a cliff or tear down a fortress wall, and eventually wakes.
Opening his eyes is a herculean task. Iohannes cannot remember the last time his eyelids had so much weight. They are barely two millimetres of flesh and blood and nerves. They should not be like tungsten curtains across his eyes. They should not need this much effort to lift, but he manages it, if only barely, and through the sliver of light make out a blur of cornflower and turquoise and southern skies, mixed through with streaks of ruby and gold.
The hospital tower, he thinks, recognizing the mosaics Carson had so carefully installed before they'd opened the Imperial Heathcare Centre. I'm in the intensive care wing of the hospital tower. Why?
"What happened?" he asks, the words little more than a thin, weak rasp that can barely find their way to his own ears, let alone anyone else's. So it's a surprise when he get's a reply so sharp and cutting that he can all but feel the barbs digging into his skin-
"You mean after you went into cardiac arrest on the Conference Room floor?"
"Yes," Iohannes breathes around a shaky, dry cough that makes his lungs burn. "That's probably a good place to start."
Fingers push a chip of ice between his lips before, still cold and wet, brushing a lock of hair off his forehead. "You went into cardiac arrest on the Conference Room floor. Your heart wasn't getting enough oxygen – which, I might add, is entirely your fault. If you were going to Descend, you could at least have taken the time to put yourself together properly. You're mortal now. That means you die if your lungs have more holes in them than a Marine brigade's socks."
Iohannes manages the slightest of smiles. "I missed you too, buddy."
Through the slits of his eyes, he catches the look of fond exasperation Rodney gives him. "They had to operate on you more times than I can count. They had to sew up the holes in your lungs and take out part of one of the lobes, not to mention get your heart beating again. That, at least, is working correctly, but the rest of you… Your bones are more brittle than they were before. You managed to break both your fibulas and one of your tibias when you hit the floor; you've got five titanium pins in your legs now. Be glad Pegasus isn't as fond of metal detectors as Terran airports. Three of your ribs are fractured and one of them so shattered that Doctor Biro's not even sure she got out all the pieces out. More of your organs have been stitched back together than I would care to name… And, of course, you've been in here so long I wouldn't be surprised if you've got a terminal case of bed sores, which is no more than you deserve for doing this to us."
Iohannes feels the corners of his mouth twitch upward. Things can't be all that bad if Rodney's taking the time to insult him between explanations. "How long?"
"How long have you been in this hospital bed or how long were you missing, presumed dead you ungrateful, heart attack inducing moron?"
"You turned to dust on the twenty-ninth of June – thank you for that nightmare, by the way. As for how long you've been unconscious, you came back a week ago – and I mean a week Earth-time; we're still trying to figure out what to do about the local calendar. It's a little… different than what we were used to."
"Well, I suppose it was too much to hope that you'd keep other peoples' sleep cycles in mind in the midst of your delusions. At least it's a habitable planet – though did you know there's giant species of venomous snakes on the southern islands? A whole genus of them, actually. The biologists have already declared eighty percent of what passes for the mainland as a out-of-bounds."
"I'm sorry for that too."
"I sincerely doubt you meant to put us on a planet with man-sized killer snakes."
"Not for the snakes."
Rodney huffs and feeds him another ice chip as if to avoid an immediate answer. "I'm still angry at you about that, you know."
"But you're here."
"Yes, well," Rodney stammers, staring down at the cup of ice he holds rather than meet Iohannes' gaze, "you may be an idiot, but you're my idiot, so…"
"I love you," he tells him.
He can feel Rodney's hand on his face as unconsciousness drags him back under, his words, "I know," following him into his dreams.
Even so, his dreams are not dreams. They're not even nightmares. They're memories he cannot shake, visions he should never have seen; sights he should never have witnessed.
But the mind is a resilient thing, especially the Alteran mind. It can bury even the most horrific memories so deep that even it can become blind to the secrets it hides - particularly when doing so is the only way to maintain a grasp, however slight, on sanity.
But nothing can stay hidden forever.
16 July, 2007
"The office suites you."
Evan looks up, surprised but not startled to find Icarus darkening his office door. "I heard you'd escaped from the ICU. What are you doing here?"
"Can't an old man visit his son at work every now and then?"
The look on Evan's face must say it all, because Icarus' own falls before he says-
"Yeah, I've not exactly been a shining example of parenthood lately, have I? I've yet to con you into helping me build weapons of mass destruction, so I suppose I've still got one up on Father, but definitely not Parent of the Year material." He pauses, breathing heavily for long moment before continuing somewhat musingly, "You remind me so much of your grandfather."
"I remind you of Janus?"
"No, not Father," he chuckles as he staggers gracelessly into the room, "though you have the look about you. I mean my half-brother, your five hundred thirtieth great-grandfather, Davidus Constantin. You remind me of him."
"It's my understanding that he was born after you went into stasis."
By this point, Icarus has made it over to the overdesigned monstrosity that the Ancients called a couch. He collapses on it, his skin ashen even from a distance and coated with enough sweat to make his hair cling, seemingly unnoticed, to his face. This is a man who has just spent a week in ICU, who has rebuilt his body from moonbeams and fairy dust and half-remembered biology lessons and it shows. Evan can barely imagine how he got out of bed in as much pain as he must be in, let alone made it all the way across the city to this office.
Still, Icarus shrugs, answering nothing.
Eventually he says, "I wasn't lying, y'know. The office does suit you."
"You're just saying that because it gets me to do all your paperwork."
"Your paperwork now. You're imperator, which means the bureaucracy is yours to deal with – which may be the one good thing to come out of all of this."
This is enough to startle Evan way from his paperwork – a checklist, really, of things that Gate teams are and are not allowed to trade for supplies from off-world, which has only been slightly modified from the earliest days of the First Expedition – and to his feet. "Look, we thought you were dead. I did what I had to do. But like it or not, the stability of this Confederation depends on you – on you being their living god."
"Yes, and that worked out so well for all us, " Icarus snaps, his voice sharper and more forceful than should be possible from someone in his condition. "Look," he continues, all strength having left his voice but none of the conviction, "I'm not a good person. We all saw what happened when I was given power: It destroyed me. It nearly destroyed everything I've ever cared about. If the Asurans hadn't attacked, I've no doubt things would not have worked out as bloodless as they did.
"But you… that other Davidus was a good man, a kind man. Genes like his, he could have conquered his known world if he wanted, but instead he brought a hundred years of peace to his region and laid the foundations for what would become the basis for most Terran legal code, though Justinianus and Tribonianus would get all the credit for it."
"And this is the man I remind you of?"
"A better man than I," Icarus agrees readily.
Evan finds himself at a loss. He's-
-standing behind his desk – the one that had until had until last month been Icarus', all glass and sleek lines, designed to impress and intimidate – his fingertips gripping and smudging the edge. His high-backed chair skid into the shelves behind when he stood, tipping over some of books and rattling one or two of the knickknacks left over from Doctor Weir's tenure that had found their way into this new office.
-three million light years from the planet he was born on. The alien who adopted him has recently returned from the dead and is now curled up on his couch, shivering despite the tropical breeze floating through the window and the borrowed robe wrapped tightly about him. Until he heard him alter McKay's memories, he would have died for the man; he'd already given up so much for him, giving up his life seemed the natural next step. But since then he's heard Icarus name himself a god and threaten everything they both hold dear. Evan doesn't know if he'll ever be able trust Icarus ever again.
-lost his past. He's loosing his future too. Radek has become distant since their arrival on this planet. Between Rodney's all-consuming grief and their recent relocation, his own amator had a ready excuse for why they can't spare more than five minutes alone together. Evan had been willing to accept this at first – work always will come before everything else with them – but now that things have started to die down, Radek has continued to pull away. It's as if seeing all the harm Rodney and Icarus are capable of causing each other has only encouraged Radek's absurd idea that they shouldn't let themselves become to close to each other. In fact, Evan's almost certain that Radek is going to put an end to any closeness before much longer.
-at a loss, and the only friend he has left – the only person in the universe with any hope of understanding what he's been through – is the one responsible for it all. He wants to believe that Icarus is himself again, but some part of him can't help but feel that this is all a setup. Sheppard may be mortal once more but that doesn't mean he's stopped being dangerous. Indeed, he remains the single most dangerous being in the universe. He's always been smarter than he appears and clearly remembers some things from his time as an Ascended being.
Icarus could be playing them. He could be setting himself up to Ascend again, this time with a stronger powerbase and fully-fledged delusions of godhood. He had said something about kick-starting the universe before he'd passed out, which is clearly something no sane person would ever do.
But maybe, just maybe, Icarus really has seen the error in his ways and, if he's taking responsibility for his crimes, who is Evan to deny him his chance at redemption simply because he fears he could be wrong?
Sheppard's never been a man to make the same mistake twice.
In the end, Evan does the only thing he can do, which is open one of the bottom shelves and pull out a blanket pre-emptively squirrelled away from occasions like these, but Icarus is already fast asleep.
Evan throws the blanket over him and lets him stay.
But his sleep is not easy. There's no violent thrashing, no shouted words in long dead languages, but only an idiot could look at him and not tell that something's wrong.
He steps out of the office to quietly call Doctor Beckett and let him know where his errant patient is – and where he'll probably require medical attention in the near future, but in the thirty seconds he's gone, Icarus disappears, the crumpled blanket at the foot of the couch the only sign he'd been.
That night, his own nightmares start.