Characters: Ancient!John, Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne, Carson Beckett, Sam Carter, Jennifer Keller
Pairings: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka
Summary: Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.
Warnings: Minor character death.
Series: #38 in the Ancient!John 'verse. Part of Locality.
Notes: 1) I know this is ridiculously short, but I'm having a crisis of writing faith right now and if I didn't post, I might well have deleted everything I've ever written and gone off and unwisely confronted the interns that have taken over my building about their slamming of doors after 11pm and use of firecrackers in close proximity to, well, anything. 2) I might still have deleted it all if not for popkin16, who held my hand throughout most of this. 3) Miles is soldier. The fact that it looks like mile comes from how the Romans used to tell distance - a mile is 1000 paces, or was once. 4) It's a lot of talking, I know. 5) Ha-Satan in Hebrew means The Accuser or The Adversary. 5) Please do tell me if it sucks. I think it sucks. God help me.
An Ancient!John Story
21 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus
It's the scars that convince him.
It's the scars that convince him because other lies can be perfected, other questions explained away, but scars are forever and his skin is a map of them.
Most of them are faint, imperceptible to the point of imagination, lines healed away by people more skilled at healing than he: There is where Diana de Aynecuria Immunes had reset half the bones in his right side after the incident with the autobirota, pushing those that had pierced his skin back into her place with bare hands until the best healers could arrive. Those small ridges, all but invisible beneath his hair, are where Father drilled into his occipital bone to insert the nanoids that allow him to talk with Atlantis. They tell him that this is real, that this is something beyond the delusions of an anxious and lonely mind.
But it's the scars he doesn't remember that hold Iohannes' attention. The most obvious is the angry, livid cicatrix running from the dip of his collarbone well past the bottom of his sternum, the purpose for which he can only assume to be to give some primitive doctor access to his chest cavity, but there are others as well. A set of three matched scars, red and tender, has caved out places on both his legs near the ankle – two on the outside, one slightly higher on his inner left. Older than these but still unknown to him is the small scar, made as if by a miniature Wraith feeding slit by lacking the corresponding finger pad marks, on his neck.
And the wounds he expects? The jagged, raw lines of new-formed skin where glass from the auxiliary control room had been plucked out of his skin are there, just not raw or new. They're faint, hidden beneath a tan he did not have when the city was submerged, and old – old enough for him to believe that three years have passed.
/It has been more than three years,/ 'Lantis corrects gently, brushing against his mind like silk and secrets and sunshine on clear spring days. She is afraid for him. She is afraid for him and Iohannes doesn't know why.
"I can't believe Colonel Sheppard would actually try to kill himself," Keller says, moving to stand at his side, clearly trying to be comforting but going about it in all the wrong ways. Rodney wishes she wouldn't. Jennifer Keller is a beautiful woman, exactly his type in every way possible, and an exceptional doctor, but sometimes he finds it hard to be comfortable around her. It's not an issue of attraction (Rodney's married, not blind, but he's never felt compelled to act upon it), it's that she tries too hard. She tries to be less attractive than she is, less intelligent, less of anything that might cause her to be singled out in a crowd, as if she's afraid of being noticed, let alone noteworthy.
John has always done the same thing, but whereas he plays a game of smoke and mirrors, letting people see only what they want to see, Jennifer tries to fit herself into the box she's created in the image of so many less remarkable people. The real John is still there for people find if they look hard enough. But the real Jennifer is slowly disappearing, lost as she cuts everything which doesn't fit away, and it makes trying to carry on a conversation with the Third Expedition's Chief of Medicine an uncomfortable task even at the best of times.
At least, Rodney finds it uncomfortable, even if no one else does. It's like watching someone slowly kill herself, one bloody inch at a time, and he's already seen more than enough of that today.
Radek makes a noise of disagreement, tapping his fingers against the back of one of the waiting room's couches. "I do not think the Colonel was trying to kill himself."
"He tried to stop his own heart," Evan points out from the couch opposite, rather more sharply than is his wont – Rodney has not been keeping up with that soap opera and doesn't know if they've broken up or are on the verge of it or what anymore. "People who want to live generally don't do that."
"What you forget is that Colonel Sheppard is very much smarter than he wants us to believe – and I am not speaking of book smarts, though that is true also. He was in an observation room in middle of IHC in a room filled with people. He had to know that the moment he attempted anything an army of doctors would descend upon him, regardless of DNR, particularly with Rodney there."
"You're suggesting that he wanted us to save him," Sam considers out loud, leaning forward so that her elbows brush her thighs. "More than that, he wanted us to shock him specifically."
Keller shifts beside him. "Why would he want that?"
Why would John want that indeed? Rodney can understand the subterfuge: If John's plan had been to have increasingly high voltages sent through his body, he had to have known Rodney would do everything in his power to stop it. Yet what purpose would that serve? Amnesia seems an unexpected and undesirable outcome, but what other change had there been? Had he simply reached the point where the burden of memory become too much?
Sam reaches the same conclusion half-a-second later. "You think he's attempting a full system restore."
"It is only conclusion that makes sense. Sheppard is self-sacrificing, not suicidal. He would not have bothered with the formal abdication otherwise."
Evan nods thoughtfully. When he speaks, his tone is more reasonable, almost as if he cannot be bothered to be impolite while he has a problem to turn over in his mind, "When I asked him what he was doing before I called the rest of you, he was writing down things he needed to remember. He knew he was going to forget."
"But why would he do that?" Keller asks, finally moving from her place at Rodney's side to sit near Evan on his couch. "Forgetting three years of your life on purpose, it doesn't make any sense. I'm not saying those three years were all a bed of roses, but it does seem a little extreme."
"Because it wasn't the last three years he was trying to get rid of," Rodney snorts, speaking up for the first time since this whole wretched conversation began. "It was the last twenty-seven billion years."
"So you think Sheppard was telling the truth about creating the universe?" Sam questions, sounding condescending only by incident.
"I don't know. But he certainly believed it."
"Well, it would make sense, wouldn't it?"
"In the dreams I had," Evan offers, "Icarus always took an adversarial position to those in power. He was always trying to convince them not to do something they believed to be good and righteous – the will of god, so to speak. If that's any indication of the way he spent all the years from the dawn of creation to now, who's to say some of that didn't trickle down into recorded history? Open the box. Eat the apple. Fly towards the sun."
"So what?" Sam asks, less confrontational than curious. "Your argument is that because there are myths about Satan, Sheppard must be telling the truth?"
"I'm saying that because Ra was a goa'uld and Thor was an Asgard, it's not outside the realm of possibility that the universe's last Ancient – who might very well have gone mad prevent all of the horrible things human beings have done to each other in the name of their gods – could be the original Ha-Satan."
"It has precedent," Radek admits.
"It's insane," Rodney counters, but is spared from having to point out just how completely absurd it really is by the door from the hallway opening and Carson entering. "Finally. Do you have any idea how late you are? I've had to sit here and listen to this lot decide that, since it's debatable that John is actually crazy, he's probably just the Devil instead. Wait," he catches himself, watching Carson sink tiredly into the first chair he comes across – the stiff, uncomfortable one near the door the rest of them had purposefully avoided – and rub at his eyes with one hand. "What's wrong? Don't tell me with have another crisis going on because I, quite frankly, am at the end of my ability to deal with anything more complicated than the Valium addiction I see myself developing after this week."
Carson sighs heavily and, somehow, Rodney knows what's coming before he says anything. Not the specifics, but the general shape of the newest disaster they must face. "Kate didn't show up for her shift. When she didn't answer her comm, Amanda went by her quarters. They found her in her bed; she'd already been dead for hours."