Vir (5/6)

The Ancient!John 'verse: Vir (5/6)
Characters: Ancient!John, Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne, Carson Beckett, Sam Carter, Ronon Dex, Kate Heightmeyer
Pairings: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka
Summary: It takes ten times as long to put yourself together as it does to fall apart. Or, John's Dream.
Series: Part 5 of #37 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1, 2, 3, 4) Part of Locality.

Notes: 1) We never find out what happens to the Nox in show, but I decided they were killed by Replicators back in "Legati". This takes in 'verse 21 January 2005, during the first year of the Expedition. 2) Some of the events listed appear in the timeline. Some you know from SG1/SGA/AJ. Others only Iohannes will ever know the truth of. 3) Anteaus appears in SG-1's "The Nox". Some of his dialogue is taken from that episode. 4) The first quote is Isaiah 14:17. The second is by Drake Graham. 5) The Latin is, "Have you come to put an end to it?"


An Ancient!John Story

20 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus

Iohannes can feel himself slip, slip, slipping away. He is mortal now, the atoms of his hands borne out of the heart of the star that birthed this world, twisted into strands of muscle and lines of bone and litres of blood. For the first time in twice the history of the universe, his flesh is more than light and memory. The head on his shoulders is made of carbon and calcium, the mind inside of hydrogen and oxygen and other things besides. He is finite and limited. One day he will die.

One day he shall die and his ashes shall drift out into the universe, until all that he is mixes with all that ever was, forming new stars and new planets, but for now he is finite, confined to flesh and blood and the limitations of each.

Try as he might, the knowledge he possessed as a twenty-seven billion year old Ascended being is too much for even an Alteran brain to handle. Like water in cupped hands, it proves impossible to contain, and Iohannes can almost physically feel the memories fall away.

And so he dreams.

He dreams of Auschwitz, the Fall of Tarquinus, and the Immolation of Gaheris. He dreams of the Twelfth Furling Civil War, the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, and Elizabeta's pointless, senseless, untimely death. He dreams of the Sack of Vigornia, the Scourge of Hanka, and the slaughter of the Abydonians during the battle of above their homeworld. He dreams of the bombing of Loegria, the destruction of Anbiya, and the downfall of Icarus Eosphorus.

And in the worst moments – the absolute worst moments, when he knows it's impossible to forgive himself for all that he's done, when the knowledge no one ever truly walks away from Haeresis weighs heavily on his mind; when he can't help but think the universe would be better off if he was no longer around to make bad situations that much worse, – he dreams of what he did to Rodney. The other memories will fade in time, but that one will haunt him forever.

But it's more than that. Iohannes can feel himself falling away with each new dream. Even the shadows of a billion years of horrors, however diminished, are too much for an Alteran mind to hold. Soon, the only thing he will be able to remember is hate and torment and enmity. He suspects his friends will be forced to end his life for their own safety long before he works up the courage to take it himself.

He doesn't want to die, but he's spent twenty-seven billion years seeped in pain and death and suffering. If he ever had the ability to do something good with his life, it's long gone now. He cannot close his eyes except to see blood and ash and bone. In the pulse of his blood he can hear the drumbeats and the screaming and-

{?} – {?}

-the shriek of Replicator cruisers as they decelerate rapidly in the atmosphere. They are such tiny things, barely thirty-five meters long – the Terrans have thalassic battleships ten times the size, and even their 304s are double that length, – but they howl as they pierce the sky, coming to a rapid standstill from gees that would have flattened an organic being.

There are so many of them, they darken the sky, making twilight out of midday. Any moment now, blocks that make up the cruisers will separate, reforming into the spiders that will strip this world bare.

Iohannes looks away quickly. He has seen this devastation play out on a hundred thousand worlds already. He does not need to see it again.

The man beside him follows his gaze to the distant mountains. Iohannes hasn't bothered to cloak himself in a mortal form this time – wearing another's body to communicate takes energy, and he is trying to conserve all that he can to Descend, the future he once left now not even two years away – but it doesn't surprise him that the Nox can see him. Their species has always had heightened perception.

"You can stop this," he tells him.

"I cannot," the man calmly disagrees, seemingly as unbothered by the imminent demise of his race as the incorporeity of his conversation partner.

"Maybe not by yourself, but there are enough of you here to make a difference. Send a signal to the Asgard or the Terrans. You know they'll send help, Anteaus. You just have to hold out long enough for it to get here."

Anteaus shakes his head, his hair flying in wild counterpoint to his solemn tone, "Our ways have served us for as long as our people have lived."

"Yes, well, your people are about to stop living if you don't do something, so forgive me for trying to do something about it."

"You are very young-"

Iohannes snorts. If he's very young, the universe is barley out of the womb.

"You are very young," Anteaus repeats, calm as the Replicator beetles and spiders begin to drop from the sky. The ground shakes when the heaviest fall. Great flocks of birds take flight across the forest as their treetop homes topple beneath them. Smoke can be seen in the distance. "Maybe one day you will learn that your way is not the only way."

"I'm not saying you need to change anything. Go on living in the forest, see if I care. All I want you to do is try to survive. You can at least do that."

"We are who we are, young Icarus. That can never change."

"So what? You're just going to bow down and accept your extinction? What good does that do anyone?"

"What good would fighting do?" he counters. "We will die either way. Why not go with peace and dignity?"

"Screw peace and dignity! Fight back. Don't just lie down and let them kill you. Fight for your life. Fight for your mother's life. Fight for your children's. Fight for your homes and your friends and your forests. Fight to buy time for the Asgard and the Terrans, who are searching for a way to destroy these god-forsaken creatures once and for all!"

Anteaus laughs, as if Iohannes' rage somehow amuses him. "Icarus, I am an old and, despite your years, I have lived far longer than you. So listen to me when I say there are few things in life we can control. We cannot choose the manner of our births anymore than those whom we fall in love with, but, if we are lucky, we can choose how we die. The Nox choose to die as we lived: in peace."

"If you're not going to fight for your lives, you don't deserve them. You're all just cowards and fools, preaching high ideals but without the courage or conviction to do anything with them."

"On the contrary: it takes a great deal of courage to let oneself be killed, far greater courage than it takes to kill."

"Don't do this!" Iohannes shouts, hearing the Replicators coming. "Fight back!" he screams. "Fight-!"

20 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus

"-back! Come on, you coward, fight back!"


He blinks. The forests of Gaia disappear. Atlantis rises around him, her towers unmistakable even in the predawn light. The memory already begins to fade. He will never have to experience the extinction of the Nox again with such strength and ferocity. All he has to do is let himself forget the smell of the smoke and the scream of deceleration and the sound that flesh makes when torn apart by metal, and it will all be over. Then he can move on to the next horror.

Iohannes turns around and leans back against the balcony railing, trying to take some of the pressure off his broken tibiae and succeeding only in shifting it to his battered and bruised ribs. Once he would have been able to heal his injuries in half a heartbeat, but now it is all he can do to stand up straight without passing out from the pain. "Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a wilderness, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?"

"I'm sorry, what was that?" someone asks, joining him on the balcony, while 'Lantis answers-

/Even the Devil was once an angel./

He snorts. "One day you're going to stop believing the best of me. I don't know what it's going to take, but you will." Maybe it will be the day he finally steps off this balcony instead of allowing this charade of life to go on.

/Never,/ 'Lantis promises.

It's only once Iohannes has finished making a rude gesture at the ceiling that he really notices he's no longer alone on the balcony. "Hey Carson," he says with forced cheer. "Sorry about that. I'm afraid 'Lantis and I are having a bit of a difference of opinion at the moment."

The doctor waves the comment off. "I'm more concerned about whether or not you've been eating."

"I've… eaten."

"It doesn't look like it, lad."

"I'm fine," he lies. He'll never be fine, but nobody needs to know that. Let them not know what's becoming of him until they have to put the bullet between his eyes. That would make things easiest for everyone.

"Doesn't look like that either. Come back with me to the IHC. You've been in the wind for four days. I need to make sure you've not torn any of your stiches or reinjured your ribs."

Iohannes doesn't have the energy to fight him. He doesn't have the energy to anything except just accept the memories as they come, washing over him like an endless wave of pain and suffering and hate that he can feel changing what little of himself still remains.

He lets Carson drag him off to the infirmary, tutting over his injuries like the mother hen Rodney has always claimed he is. "You shouldn't be walking, let alone running about the way you do. The pins in your legs are to help you heal, not to give you an excuse to go hurting yourself again."

"I'll be fine," he says flatly.

"No you won't, not if you keep going about it like this. You might as well have been held together with duct tape and paperclips they way you came back – it was like you'd forgotten all those physiology classes I gave you when you first Ascended. It's a miracle I was able to put you back together at all."

"I know. Rodney told me."

Carson sighs, pausing in his poking and prodding to say, "And yet, you've rebroken one of your ribs. I'm going to have to set it before it splinters and hits something important. Now," he holds up a syringe this here is an anaesthetic that will let me set your ribs without you moving about."

"That's really not necessary-" Iohannes begins, but the needle's already in his arm and a cool wave of something that is decidedly not anaesthesia is washing through his veins, pull, pull, pulling him down into darkness, where the dreams wait for him.

"Well," Evan says tiredly, moving away from the windows that overlook the isolation room, where Icarus is strapped to a bed below, "I can definitely say this isn't how I'd anticipated spending my day."

Rodney doesn't even turn away from the glass. He just says, "Evan, please, do us all a favour and shut up for a moment."

He doesn't even waste a glare – Rodney's had his eyes glued to Icarus in the room below since the moment they entered the observation room – and stalks across the narrow space. There's a couch there, but Ronon's already sprawled across it, so Evan settles for perching atop one of the empty packing crates that line the remainder of the wall. "This doesn't just involve you, you know."

"Of course I know," Rodney snaps. "Our lives have never been our own for the entire time he and I have been together. Just give me a minute to deal with the fact that my husband's strapped to a gurney on suicide watch. Then the rector of Atlantis will help the new imperator of Pegasus figure out what do about the fact that his predecessor has gone completely around the bend."

There are people on the stairs. "In Lord Icarus' defence," says one, "I don't believe that he's truly insane."

Evan jumps to his feet, less for the speaker than the woman behind her, twenty years of ingrained habit showing through despite almost a year since his illegal dishonourable discharge. He covers it up as best as he can by way of greeting, "Doctor Heightmeyer," as graciously as possible.

Heightmeyer, bless her, knows when to play along. "Lord 'Helianus," she counters with far greater poise, the corners of her lips turning upwards.

Ronon snorts at their ridiculousness.

Rodney ignores them all.

"I hope you don't mind my delay," she continues. "I thought it would be best if Doctor Beckett was involved in this discussion, as well as Colonel Carter."

That manages to grab Rodney's attention. "What?" he asks, spinning around. "No."

Evan sighs. "Pops-"

"No. I will not have this turned into another round of Lantean-Terran one-upmanship. This is John's life we're talking about, not trading rights or staff appointments."

"I promise," Colonel Carter says, holding up both her hands in a universal I come in peace gesture. It's a little strange seeing her in the command red of the Third Expedition, rather than the green or black uniforms the SGC prefers, "I'm only here to help John."

"I'm sorry, did you get a medical degree while you were away?"

"Pops, Colonel Carter is the new Head of the Expedition, remember. We may need her help to help Icarus."

Rodney snorts, turning back towards the glass and the isolation room below. "The only thing that can help John is taking Janus' time machine and going back long enough to keep Ganos from Ascending him in the first place."

"I have an idea about that, actually."

All of them save Rodney turn towards Doctor Heightmeyer. By this time, she's cleared out a space for herself on Ronon's couch, the dark cobalt skirts of her houppelande arrayed around her. Not for the first time, Evan thinks the city psychologist is the sort of woman who needs to be painted, and by a better artist than such as he.

"I do not believe that Icarus is truly insane," she says. "He's fully able to distinguish fantasy from reality. The problem, however, seems to be one of an excess of reality."

Ronon, still sprawled across the remainder of the couch, looks intrigued. "What d'you mean?"

"I have spent much of the morning speaking with Lord Icarus. From what I am given to understand, during the period we thought him dead he entered the Higher Planes and eventually destroyed them. The resulting cataclysm rewound time, if you will, and created the universe in which we now live poste facto."

"And you believe him?"

"I have no reason not to," Heightmeyer answers honestly. "We know very little about Ascension and even less about those who voluntarily choose to Descend. Furthermore, he shows none of the usual affectations of psychosis."

"And yet," Rodney says with a level of brusqueness prodigious even for him, "you have him strapped to a bed and are pumping him full of SSRIs."

"There are many different kinds of mental illness, Doctor McKay. Icarus may not be psychotic, but he's definitely experienced a significant amount of trauma in the time he was gone – specifically, twenty-seven point five billion years worth of it."

"So what?" Evan asks, "Are you saying he has some sort of posttraumatic stress disorder?"

"It's far more complex than that."

"How so?" Carter asks.

"Isn't it obvious?" Rodney counters, turning away from the glass only to lean back against it, allowing himself to slide down to the floor in an ungraceful tangle of limbs and fabric. "John's not the type to sit back and watch others suffer if he can help it. So he went around to the places where the suffering was the worst and tried to stop it. And failed. Over and over and over again, for however long there have been sentient beings in the universe. Or who knows, maybe he tried to get the amoeba to get along too."

Heightmeyer is clearly surprised by this observation, as it takes her a moment to answer. "Yes. How did you know?"

Rodney snorts, but it's half-hearted at best. "I married the idiot, didn't I?"

"It's as Doctor McKay says," Heightmeyer continues, re-gathering steam, "For the last billion years or so, he's gone around trying to stop the biggest tragedies he could find – from the nuclear bombing that destroyed the original Loegria until the present day."

Realization comes all at once and has Evan halfway down the stairs before he can put words to his thoughts. Waving aside the nurse at the isolation room door, he hurries to Icarus' beside and is lucky enough to find him awake despite the heavy level of medication the doctors have him on.

"Ei finem facere curabas, Argathelianus?" he asks, oddly calm despite the padded straps holding him to the bed and the IV line running half a hundred prescriptions into his veins.

"No. I need to you answer a couple questions: What was the name of the man who set off the first nuclear bombs the day Loegria was destroyed?"

Icarus head falls back against the gurney. His eyes roll back into his skull just in time for the folks with medical degrees to arrive, but before they can add still more medications to his saline drip, he answers in surprisingly steady voice, "Aristaeus. His name was Aristaeus of Vigornia, a tirbunus in the army of the Cambrian Empire. I begged him to stop, but he wouldn't. I tried to stop the bombs, but I couldn't. Two billion people died instantly. The rest followed within a matter of weeks."

Evan closes his eyes. It is exactly like in his dream. But he must be certain. "And the doctor you spoke with at Auschwitz?"

"Eduard Wirths," he answers after a shorter delay. "He was the SS-Standortarzt of the camp. He wouldn't stop his experiments. That's all I asked, but he wouldn't do it."

"I know," he says with what he hopes is reassurance.

"What was that about, Major?" Colonel Carter asks.

He's too tired to remind her that he's not a major anymore, that her Air Force stole that from him while he was busy doing the right thing. Instead he simply says, "I think we may have a bigger problem than just Icarus: I've been dreaming of the things he's seen. God knows how many others have too."

I have no idea what's going on, but I am completely intrigued by it nonetheless. And I'm super pleased that at least everyone knows what's going on with John now - at least in part, about him trying to fix all the tragedies of the universe - even if they don't know how to help. Poor Iohannes :(
Indeed. If it helps any, bear in mind that this is a "Doppleganger" rewrite. But mostly, other people are having John's memories. There is a reason for this. But it's not entirely healthy for everyone else, as you've seen.