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.
Series: part 2 of #38 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1) . Part of Locality.
Notes: Again, this is awful short but I feel real good about what I've decided to publish, but what was going to be the second half of this I didn't like as much, so.... you get this.
An Ancient!John Story
21 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus
"Now I've got a question for you," Icarus says, examining the lunch tray in front of him with some curiosity.
With the last three years of his memories missing, it's entirely possible that Icarus is unfamiliar with most of the foods. While cuisine in the Pegasus galaxy has always had a decidedly Levantine bent, Evan knows Ancients never ate what they could not grow themselves, and that the existing greenhouses weren't designed to be orangeries. As the botanists are fond of bemoaning, they can cultivate low-lying plants like chickpeas, cranberries, and rice in highly-automated masse, but anything that grows on trees, like olives or cacao, or even large shrubs, like coffee or tea, is beyond their capabilities.
(Which is not to say that botanists aren't trying. Half of them are trying to develop a new cultivar of coffee that grows more like a blackberry bramble. The rest are working with the engineers to try to convert one of the city's atria into a proper conservatory for the purpose.)
So, fully prepared to explain what pearl millet and pepper and even cheese are, Evan pushes aside his own lunch and says, "Only seems fair. We've been asking you all sorts of things all morning. Go ahead."
His mouth twitches upwards in a familiar, easy smile. That's not changed, at least. That was always true. "You said your name is Argathelianus. Who adopted you?"
And that is… not the question he was expecting. "You did, actually."
"I sort of figured," Icarus shrugs. "No one else you've introduced me to has an Alteran name. So tell me about myself, Argathelianus: why did I adopt you?"
That's something Evan's still trying to figure out. He settles on, "It's complicated," as the best explanation.
Radek, sitting at the opposite end of the table, makes a noise he has to have picked up from Rodney. "He did it to mess with your head – to mess with your head and everybody else's."
"Yes, but I try not to ascribe base motivations to everything people do."
"People are base motivations. Looking back over human history, is almost impossible to believe that a species as murderous and perfidious and bloodthirsty as ours managed to make it through two world wars and the invention of the hydrogen bomb without destroying ourselves."
"Well that's a cheery thought. Thank you for that, Radek. I was trying to give Icarus a good impression of humanity."
Snorting, "He knows exactly what humanity is like. He's spent the better part of the last three years going up against our irrational instinct to fear what we do not understand."
"Yes," Icarus says dryly, "but you'll notice I don't actually remember any of it, so feel free to go on misleading me about what a benevolent and peaceful species you are."
"Ah, but the Major here introduced himself as Evan, not Argathelianus. You remembered that on your own," Radek announces triumphantly, "which means your memories are not coming back or else not entirely gone. Which means that the answer we need may yet be in these papers."
Luckily, Icarus looks amused rather than exasperated, and accepts the stack of papers Radek hands him – luckily, because there is no doubt in his mind that Icarus would deliberately misconstrue, intentionally mistranslate, and outright lie anything he might translate if he thought the Émigrés or the Third Expedition were a threat to Atlantis. "Let's see then…."
The top sheet is the paper with the nine chevron Gate address.
Icarus runs his fingers along the lines of text, yesterday's frantic writing having left deep impressions on the cheap paper. "Freedom, Chance, Discovery… These are the six satores sent out from Avalon to confuse the Haeretici if they ever tried to find us. Discovery reached the Asgard galaxy during the Fifth Wave and they tracked it back to Avalon to find us. The Unfurlers used Freedom to find us during the Sixth Wave. That follows with what's written here, so I guess Integrity got caught up in a supernova somewhere called NGC 5236-"
"It is galaxy," Radek interrupts. "We also call it Southern Pinwheel. Is about," here he pauses in the notes he's taking on what blank sheets of printer paper remain, "sixteen million light years from here. Probably sixteen, maybe sixteen point five."
"Alright then, Integrity probably got caught up in a supernova in your Pinwheel, so that's three satores accounted for. Four, if you count Audacity flying into a black hole somewhere you call NGC 4945."
"Another galaxy – it doesn't have a name, but is known to have black hole at its centre."
"So," Evan says, "four of these satores are out of commission. What about Chance and Destiny?"
"I guess Chance went off course – that's the best I can give you with what's here. But Destiny…" Icarus taps the dots and squiggles in the middle of the page. "You need nine chevrons to dial from Aethiopia to the satores. Aethiopia has the only porta the satores can be dialled from. The porta there is also the only one in Avalon the satores can dial. Odds are that this is the address you'd dial aboard Destiny to get you back to Avalon – either that, or it's the ravings of a madman. Even money either way."
"Doesn't do us much good if we can't get to Destiny."
"Can't tell you what I don't know, Doctor Z."
"Then how did you know you sometimes call me Doctor Z?"
"Do you want me to help you or not?"
"Maybe the answer is somewhere else," Evan says diplomatically. "What about Aethiopia? Any clue where that is?"
"Somewhere near Terra," Icarus says dismissively, leafing through the rest of the papers. There are sixty-five total – an impressive amount considering the timeframe they'd been written in. Only the first is in English. The rest are a roughly even split between cramped lines of Alteran script and equations of shaky Arabic numerals. "These are equations used in intergalactic navigation – between your experience with Daedalus, Apollo, and Odyssey, you should be able to figure those out on your own."
Radek kicks him under the table, offering him a brilliant, joyous smile that says see, see, he remembers Daedalus and Apollo; his memories are coming back; our John isn't gone forever for the three seconds it last before hardening. Its looks like these that let Evan know that Radek still loves him, that this forced coolness between them is equally uncomfortable for the both of them. He wishes Radek would just let go of this image he has of love having to be something grand and harsh and fated. Love doesn't need to be like that. Love hardly ever is like that, whatever examples Rodney and Icarus may leave for them.
Love can be quiet too. It can be safe and certain, sneaking up on people where they least expect it. For every Sheppard and McKay, there are a hundred more stories like their own, where friends become lovers without the stars aligning for them to find each other. Love doesn't need to be a repeated tale of loss and tragedy and stolen moments of happiness before the headsman's blade or asp's bite.
Every love story is dangerous, but rarely are they so dangerous as that.
"And these ones here," Icarus continues, "seem to be an algorithm for a pseudo-random number generator using a combination of discrete logarithms and quadratic reciprocity… Very inefficient, even with something like Atlantis' processing capabilities, but it fits in with the extreme paranoia of my ancestors."
Evan turns back to Icarus, somewhat startled by this offhand expression of intelligence. "I'm sorry, was that English or is your translation matrix on the fritz again?" He knows, objectively, that there is more to Icarus than meets the eye. He is layers upon layers, depths within depths; the abilities he shows are only a quarter of those he truly processes. He cares too much and shares too little and understands retribution better than redemption, but underneath it, Icarus is only a man – a gifted solider with human failings, tortured by genius that was stifled by war.
"It seemed perfectly sensible to me," Radek says.
"You two are hilarious. Why am I helping you again?"
"Because you like us?" Evan offers with a grin.
Iohannes smiles, one of those bright, self-effacing smiles that are impossible to tell apart from the real thing, "I'll take your word on that," he says. And Evan has no choice but to do just that.