Vir (2/?)

Title: Vir (2/?)
Rating: R
Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka, Rory
Warnings: part 2 of  #37 in the Ancient!John 'Verse (see part 1); 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); SGU thru "Air"
Summary: It takes ten times as long to put yourself together as it does to fall apart. Or: Evan's Dream
Notes: I have a feeling this is going to be a very, very long installment with lots of small chapters.

1) WWII-era service coat; 2) Aristaeus is the Greek culture hero responsible for Eurydice's death in myth. He is said to have invented bee-keeping, trapping, cheese making, animal husbandry, and much more. 3) The various city names of Cornubia and Cambria are the latin place names of various English/Welsh cities. 4) On Evan's family. 5) This is the book from the end. I chose it because its quite good, but also because it has a title that I think Rory might reasonably think implies B-rate Science Fiction, rather than a postmodern surrealist romance. Those familiar with the work might also conclude she's trying to tell him something.


An Ancient!John Story

{?} – {?}

In the beginning, it doesn't feel like a nightmare. It doesn't even feel like a real dream. All he knows is one moment he's laying in bed, trying not to fall asleep after a night of the best sex he's ever had because it felt too much like goodbye and he doesn't want this to be the end, and the next he's standing in an underground bunker that reminds him far too much of the SGC.

It's a bit of a jarring transition, not winning his brain any cinematography awards, and at first he thinks it's just his mind's way of coping with all the stress he's been under. After all, the Third Expedition is coming to Atlantis in two days and there's still so much for him to do, so many personnel files for him to read. Add to that the fact that, between the abandonment and the betrayals, the SGC has become the monster under his bed, and, well, nightmare about what the Air Force will do to him if he ever sets foot on Earth is just what he needs to make this day even better.

(Believe it or not, there was a time in the not so distant past when he slept nightmare-free, but that was another Expedition ago.)

Evan starts to realize things aren't all as they seem the moment he realizes it's not the SGC he's standing in or even a reasonable dream-facsimile of it. Don't get him wrong, it's definitely a nuclear fallout bunker and there's probably a military presence around somewhere, but the tunnels walls are angled more sharply than they are at the SGC and the coloured lines running the length of the halls and the bare pipes overhead have markings in a language he doesn't immediately recognize.

He'd write it all off as dream gibberish, the flotsam and jetsam of a busy mind, except it doesn't feel like a dream. Hell, it feels more real than some days he's had of late, but that doesn't mean he wants to stick around.

Just because he's lucid, though, doesn't mean he has any more control over his actions than he would if this were a normal dream. He tries to search for the exits and instead finds himself walking deeper into the underground warren of tunnels and unmarked doors, and eventually gives up looking for an escape route and decides just to play along. It's only a dream after all. No matter how strange it may seem, it's only a dream. So he returns the salutes of the few people he sees in the halls – all of them military, wearing what could possibly have passed for a World War Two-era service coat and slacks if they hadn't been ultramarine instead of the usual khaki – and swallows down the panic building within him.

All his walking leads to a door.

On the other side of the door is an office hardly bigger than a broom cupboard with a single desk, a single chair, and a desk lamp illuminating a computer terminal that looks like it was pulled straight out of 2001. Evan has no idea why his dream has brought him here, but his dream-self is filled with purpose. He flips switches and turns dials with practiced ease, so focused on his work that he manages to miss the heavy vault door open and close behind him.

"Just what do you think you're doing, Aristaeus?"

His dream-self spins around. Icarus, he wants to say, glad despite everything that's happened to see him. He may be terrified that his adoptive father's going to betray them again – that he's still betraying them, that somewhere deep inside him, Icarus still thinks himself a god and will move whole worlds to become one again, - but Icarus always knows what to do. He fixes things. He moves heaven and earth to bring everyone home. Despite everything that's happened, Evan still wants to believe that's true.

But that's not what he says.

Instead, in a voice he doesn't immediately recognize as his own, he says, "I have my orders, sir."

"The only person you should be taking orders from, tribunus, is me."

"This comes down directly from the Council. They know you have lost your stomach for the realities of war, so they gave the job to someone they could trust to get it done: me."

"The realities of war," Icarus repeats, the very essence of disbelief dripping from his words. "Aristaeus, they're hydrogen bombs. They're not designed for the quick and clean removal of some military target; the only thing they're good for is wanton destruction of anything and everything that lies in their paths. Do you have any idea how many city blocks they will flatten? How many children and civilians they will kill instantly?"

"You know what they did to Cantuaria. You saw what they did to Vigornia:

"They dragged old men from their homes and shot them in the streets! They ripped infants from their mothers' breasts and threw them into the Salopien Sea! And after they finished raping anyone left alive in the city, they gathered everyone they did not want to drag back in chains inside the cathedral of Iovis Torens, strapped bombs on the youngest of them, and blew the place sky high! The crater was still smoking when our transport landed!

"Do you remember what you said to me that day, sir? They must pay for this. That is all I am trying to do: make sure they pay for what they have done."

"We've done no better," Icarus says quietly.

His dream-self turns away angrily, gripping the desk tightly for one breath, then two, until he can type in the last code needed to arm the warheads with steady hands. "Orders are orders, sir."

"Think about what you're doing, Aristaeus. It's called mutually assured destruction for a reason. You fire these missiles at Triverium and Dubris and they'll have their own heading to Cantuaria and Vigornia and Llundain before the bombs have even fallen. You do this, and you'll turn Loegria into a radioactive wasteland from which it will never recover. You'll kill eight billion people and doom the survivors to wandering the stars for the rest of eternity. We'll never rest. We'll never stop. We'll never forgive ourselves. We'll spend the rest of history trying to make up for what you're about to do."

Icarus is desperate, his voice just a shade shy of pleading – a tone Evan has never heard him use, not even with Rodney when he was trying to convince him of his innocence not so long ago. But Evan's dream-self – Aristaeus – doesn't care. He simply presses the return key, the last step needed to deploy the six missiles this launch control centre houses, and seals them all to their fate.

It takes Icarus a second to realize what's happening. Indeed, no lights or sirens activate to tell the world what his dream-self has just done, but the look of utter devastation that crosses his face is telling enough. He throws a hand into the air, ruin twisting into resolve as he attempts something Evan cannot see but causes the telemetry readings to go crazy – the missiles are turning, speeding up, hurling themselves rapidly into space where their effects will be severely negated.

The sensors pick up something else too: the enemy, whoever they may be, has already begun launching their own missiles in retaliation. They too start to turn, but there are too many, coming from all corners of the globe, and Icarus cannot hold it.

He loses control.

The missiles come hurtling back to earth, detonating where they land.

And that's when the real nightmare begins.

17 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus

Point of fact: Evan has never been religious. His dog tags, his original set, say CATHOLIC, because his father came from a long line of lapsed Roman Catholics and it was easier to put down a religion – any religion – than none at the time. After the stigma had faded, he'd never bothered to update them. It just hadn't mattered, even when he was filling out forms naming his half-sister Robin his next of kin and ticking all the little boxes on the forms that asked what kind of funeral he wanted if he a) died in service of the SGC and b) his body could be returned to his family c) without needing to be cremated to protect state secrets.

After he'd been read-in on he existence of alien beings that called themselves gods (lowercase g) and been adopted by a being who called himself God (uppercase g), Evan had continued to feel no particular religious inclination, either for or against. The goa'uld are only gods in the any sufficiently advanced technology sense. Even The Ascended Ancients, to include both Icarus and the Ori, are only sufficiently advanced extra-terrestrial intelligences and their powers, while undeniable, had still fallen short of actual divinity.

If pressed, Evan would have defined actual divinity as utter indifference to any and all of the universe's inhabitants.

His logic is this:

God, by more conventional definitions, is conceived to be omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal. As such, there is nothing that humans (being rather ignorant, incapable, and transient in comparison) could ever do that might interest said God.

It is not until he wakes up, drenched in sweat and biting back a scream, that it occurs to Evan that the opposite of a disinterested God is an attentive Devil, and that no being had ever been as interested in humanity as Icarus was before his Fall.

Second fact: Evan rarely, if ever, remembers his dreams. And he's certainly never woken up, drenched in sweat and biting back a scream, from one either. That this one pulls out all the stops – from rapid pulse to heavy breaths to thrashing about the bed like a man possessed – is only a side bonus.

Lastly: The bunks aboard Aurora are not designed for tossing or turning, especially when more than one person occupies them.

He hits the floor hard.

Rory winces audibly – a riot of sour notes in the middle of an achingly beautiful coronach for lost Lantea, lost Loegria, and all the other homeworlds that are homes no more – and trails a gentle melody over the edges of his mind, as if to soothe away all his pain. As young as she can seem, her maternal streak has grown a mile wide between everything that's happened of late. It makes her seem older. Already he misses the child she once was.

Sometimes he feels like the universe is changing around him and he's the only one standing still. Rory grows up. Icarus betrays them. Radek looks for ways to leave him.

/Are you hurt?/ she asks, her words a smooth whisper of silk and sitar.

Evan doesn't answer for a long while. Part of it is because he cannot remember how to make his voice work – his throat feels red, raw, useless; destroyed by silent screaming as the fires in his dreams hit, burning and consuming everything that lay in their paths. The rest is because he's having a hard time believing that he is actually awake. His dream had felt so real – real to the extent that he can still feel the radiation leaching into his skin – and reality seems so much like a dream.

/Argathelianus?/ she calls out, nudging his thoughts a little more firmly.

"I'm fine."

"That's not what I asked," Radek says uncharacteristically sharply, "though is good to know."

Evan stifles a groan. He loves Radek, he really, truly does, but sometimes talking to him is like walking blindfolded and barefoot into a minefield. Sure, there's a way through it, but even if they find it everybody comes out feeling singed at the end. "Sorry. What was it you were saying?"

"I asked if there was any ice on this ship."

"Shit." He scrambles to his feet, deciding to contribute the spots that flare before his eyes to Rory having chosen that that same moment to raise the lights to fifty percent. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"Your elbow clipped me, I'll be fine. Is there any ice?"

"I don't think so. We can check Rory's infirmary, but I don't think ice was anywhere on the Ancient's list of standard medical equipment."

His amator hums. "What about you? You fell. Did you break anything?"

"Only my pride." His hand hovers over the Radek still holds to the right side of his face. "Let me see?"

"Perhaps you should, ah," Radek hisses as he lowers his hand. It's all Evan can do not to hiss himself, unwilling to admit but unable to deny that he caused the rude red bruise that is rapidly swelling the eye closed, "invest in railing. "

"Or," he suggests mirthlessly, "a bigger bed."

"There are plenty of beds in the city."

The memory of the dream is still too close to the surface Evan to even begin to parse the meaning of his words. They could just as easily be an invitation to Radek's bed as a reminder that he is imperator now, mortal, and lacking in an heir. "We should get you to the IHC," Evan says instead.

"Is not my first black eye, Evan."

"I might have broken something."

"Nothing is broken. All I need is ice and ibuprofen."

"You're not that kind of doctor, Radek."

Sighing, Radek slips past him and starts picking up the clothes that had, invariably, ended up in a pile halfway between the bed and the door. Evan's offered to let Radek keep an extra set in his quarters for occasions like these, but he won't have it. They have known each other in the most intimate ways possible, but allowing their processions to intermingle is a bridge too far. He'd rather wear yesterday's wrinkled clothing than admit that what they're in love with each other.

Evan thinks its love, anyway. Radek's never said a word either way.

"I'll get Carson to take a look. But," he adds, rather more forcefully then someone with a black eye should be able, "you stay here."


"I know you've not been sleeping. The next two days before the Expedition arrives are going to be busy. Get some sleep while you can."

"Radek," I'm not going to sleep. I'm not going to sleep ever again. I saw eight billion people die on a world I never set foot on but which felt like more of a home than Earth ever did all the same. Only two billion perished in the initial blast, but fire took care of the rest, and radiation, and the black rain. And for the unlucky few who managed to live through that hellish trifecta, well, the movies did not do the horror of nuclear winter justice. Starvation, dehydration, and disease took the rest, and I saw it all with my waking eyes.

"Evan," he counters, the corners of his lips twitching into a smile.

"Please." I held the blackened and charred hands of strangers as they died. I saw children too weak to cry as they lay in the arms of the mothers I had killed. I watched the living eat the dead for lack of alternative. Amid the chaos and the madness and the savagery, I somehow managed to stay untouched, the sole witness to the end of a civilization. "I love you and I did this-"

Radek's quick peck silences his protests. "I can take care of myself," he says when he pulls back, "and you need sleep."

"I know-" Evan begins, but Radek is already out the door.

He should go after him. It's the right thing to do – the thing he wants to do – but Radek doesn't want his company and showing up at the infirmary will only serve to irritate him and hasten the ending that has been threatening ever since Evan gave the first indication their relationship means something to him.

But Evan has never known when to quit, when to cut his losses. Drawing things out will only extend the pain of the breakup over weeks, until his heart is worn raw and damaged beyond all repair.

He doesn't know how he's supposed to do this – any of this. He loves Atlantis and Radek and Rory. He loves this galaxy and his job and the people he works with. But he doesn't know how he can do what needs to be done and keep everyone he loves at the same time.

/Argathelianus?/ Rory asks tentatively after he's sat on the edge of the bed for some indeterminable eternity, unable and unwilling to do anything beyond simmer in his own folly. He needs to get up. He needs to do something. He needs to start acting like an adult with responsibilities and not… Not whatever it is he is now.

"Yeah, Rory?"

/We know you are busy, but…/

"But what?" Evan asks tiredly.

/Will you read to us, like you used to?/

It's not the question he was expecting. His ascent falls from his lips before he even thinks to look at the time. "I don't think I have anything laying around you've not heard before, though."

/Mater has thousands of Terran books in her databases./

"Of course she does," he says, standing abruptly. It takes him a moment to find a tablet with most of its charge, but find one he does before returning to the bed. "Pick one and download it to-" The tablet dings as the download finishes. "Alright then. Let's see what we're reading today:

"Sputnik Sweethearts by Haruki Murakami. Chapter One. 'In the spring of her twenty-second year, Sumire fell in love for the first time in her life. An intense love, a veritable tornado sweeping across the plains – flattening everything in its path, tossing things up in the air, ripping them to shreds, crushing them to bits…'"

I am so, so curious about Evan's dreams and what they mean. Since they feel so real, my guess is they really ARE. Memories, perhaps? Or something. Though why Evan would be reliving someone else's memories is beyond me. A premonition? But why? And again, why Evan?

Radek's refusal to admit they are in love hurts me. Poor Evan! RADEK WHYYY.
They are real, or real enough. As for why, well, that will come soon.

And Radek's refusal to admit they are in love is done to try to keep himself from being hurt. Obviously, it isn't working that well.