Characters: Ancient!John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Sam Carter, Evan Lorne
Pairings: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay, Sam Carter/Jack O'Neill (background)
Summary: Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from god.
Series: part 4 of #39 in the Ancient!John 'verse. Part of Locality.
Notes: This ended up being a lot more talking than I intended, but... what can you do?
1) The meds mentioned are real drugs. Lithium is a mood stablizier. Xomolix is a typical antipsycotic. Dalcipran is an SNRI antidepressant. While I've never been on any of these myself, my sister has, and so I've some experience with the RL side effects of these kinds of meds. 2) If your doctor assigns you meds, it's probably for a reason and you should probably take them. Do not follow John's lead.
7 August, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus
"So let me get this straight," Evan says, managing to sound exhausted despite the early hour, "Icarus thinks that you've found the location of a hidden Ancient fleet."
"Just how big a fleet are we talking about here, pops?"
"John says there were twenty-three ships in the Nebrian fleet before the city was destroyed. Depending on how many survived that battle, we could be looking at as many as twenty of those or as few as two or three. Odds are that it's not more than five or six, though – more than that and they wouldn't have retreated; less and they wouldn't have planned to counterattack."
"Still, even five or six lintres would double the size of the Argosy. If those ships are still there."
"That's the real question, isn't it?" Sam says, leaning forward to put both of her elbows on the desk in front of her. Vindicta had docked late last night, but the short rotation of Nova Loegria combined with the thunderstorm still raging and the excitement from the discovery on Erecura had made for a restless sleep.
She's been on Atlantis for a few weeks now, but she still can't get used to the idea of recovering an Ancient fleet without Daniel nearby, chattering on about the historical importance of their discovery, or Vala attempting to determine which bobble would sell for highest on the black market, or Cam trying so hard to fill Jack's shoes that she wants to take him aside and explain that he doesn't have to be Jack, that no one expects him to be Jack, so long as he does his job. She still thinks of SG-1 as her team. Her dreams are filled with a thousand fears, one for each and every way she's letting them down by being here, on Atlantis, instead of there, with them.
But she needs to be here. She was the only one the Émigrés would have accepted to lead the Third Expedition after the disaster that was Colonel Telford. More than that, though, it was time to move on. There wasn't much more she could have done at the SGC unless General Landry retired, but even then they'd never have let an O-6 have that command. Her choices had either been Atlantis or Area 51 and, honestly, she wasn't quite ready to stop going through the Stargate yet. Even if it meant leaving behind her family and her team to come to a sentient city in a distant galaxy controlled by aliens and alien-sympathizers with priorities so different from her own that it's sometimes a shock to remember that Evan, who is now imperator of Pegasus, was once the young, guileless, second-in-command of SG-11 she remembers from P3X-403.
He looks the part too. He's taken to dressing like John used to, in clothes that wouldn't have looked out of place in The War of the Roses. Today's selection is a dusky purple that brings out the shadows under his eyes – a realization which sends a stab of guilt into Sam's heart. She's supposed to be running the day-to-day operations of the city, not gallivanting across the galaxy, exploring abandoned outposts.
Maybe John's right. Maybe saving the universe – or whatever it is they're doing – is better left to the young.
(But if any of them really believed that, they wouldn't be here.)
"According to John, the place where they're supposed to be hidden is something like the Bermuda Triangle of the Pegasus galaxy. I looked it up on the flight back in the Vindicta's copy of the Ancient database. It's a minefield of class Ia supergiants and neutron stars, with the occasional G-type and brown dwarf thrown in for good measure. Even if the Nebrians decided to abandon what was left of their fleet there, which I doubt, it would be almost impossible to find an orbit that would be stable for ten thousand years in that kind of environment."
"So any ships that might've been there might have crashed into whatever star they were around," Evan sighs, as if he'd been waiting for the inevitable catch. (She feels ridiculous for thinking how much he's grown since P3X-403, but there it is. She can't imagine the Major she'd met years ago being so wary, but, then again, she can't imagine that man ever leaving the Air Force either.)
Rodney nods, running his hands through his hair nervously as he adds, "Or into each other, which is more likely, but if anyone could do it, the Ancients could."
"Can we even get there, though? If it's the minefield you say, can one of our ships even get to them – or get them out?"
"John can do it. He's been there before."
"John's lost a ship there before," Sam corrects, feeling bad for doing so. But John's Tethys had been lost, with only twenty-three of the original four hundred hands surviving. Her attempts to learn more had been blocked by every terminal she's tried it on, the Ancient database proclaiming that she doesn't have a high enough security clearance to know just how John managed to escape his ship and return to Atlantis.
Sam will give him that, at least.
Evan shakes his head, pausing when a thought appears to strike him. "Where is Icarus anyway?"
Rodney glances at the rain lashing the widows for a long moment before answering reluctantly, "He has good days and bad days…" He trails off, glancing back at the storm. "We were lucky to get as many good days as we did."
"No, no, nothing like before. He's sane, or sane enough, but the drugs Doctor Porter has him on are pretty strong. He's in no condition to be going anywhere for a few while."
"There's no hurry. Those ships have been there for ten thousand years. I'm sure a few more days wouldn't hurt," Sam reminds them both, knowing that she needs to be the realistic one here. Evan has swallowed the dream of the Pegasus Confederation whole and Rodney… well, there will never be a day when Rodney doesn't believe in John, no matter what he does, no matter what lines he crosses.
"Unless Icarus remembered about Erecura when he did for a reason," Evan finishes with another sigh. "I'm going to go talk to him."
Rodney pushes away from the table. "I'll come with you. He's… He's not entirely himself right now."
Sam doesn't ask to go with them, only allows her chin to rest on her palms. She knows they'd refuse. Friends they may be, the new Lanteans are still wary of her – and protective of their former emperor. They make for a strange family, but she's seen stranger.
She is still part of stranger, even if the rest of them are three million light-years away.
A boy, not much older than ten, bounds up to her office door. Sam knows enough about Pegasus culture to pin this boy as one of Jinto's cadre of merchant's sons and tradesmen's daughters, who serve as messengers and runners for the Émigrés until they're old enough to be apprenticed as technicians or hydroponics specialists or students in Atlantis' fledgling university. This one appears vaguely Polynesian, his pale grey eyes standing out starkly against his dark skin, and wears a beadwork belt across his otherwise Athosian clothing that must be a relic of his original homeworld. His smile is more gaps than teeth, but he's utterly formal when he announces, "Colonel Carter: incoming wormhole. Lady Teyla wants permission to bring guests through."
"Tell her to go ahead – and tell the security teams to stand-by."
The boy salutes raggedly before running off.
Sam still doesn't' know what quite to make of Atlantis, but one thing's sure: it's not the SGC.
He's always tired these days. It's understandable after a mission, particularly one bookended by twelve-hour trans-system flights, but less so otherwise. He's always tired. He's always lethargic. He's always nauseated. He's always one bad day away from being placed back in isolation for his own protection, with more tubes running out of his arms than some of the cybernetic monsters that fill the Terrans' silver screen.
He knows it's the drugs. The Expedition doctors have him taking seventeen pills on any given day, most of them supplements to make up for the damage he'd done himself Descending haphazardly, but there're are others: lithium, to keep him from becoming manic; Dalcipran, to keep him from killing himself; Xomolix, to keep the ghosts of millennia past at bay. Iohannes submits to these last because the doctors insist, not because he sees any real need for them. Depression and mania are largely Terran constructs to him. The ghosts of his Ascendancy are beyond his recall.
Dysphoria he can handle; so too the nausea and anxiety and lethargy. But the near-perpetual vertigo is where he draws the line. Vertigo is impossible to disguise – and, worse still, means he cannot fly. Had Erecura been halfway across the galaxy instead of just across the system, he'd have been unable to pilot Vindicta at all.
He clutches the bathroom sink, fighting back a wave of dizziness.
He can't go on like this.
8 August, 2007
Although the worst of the storm has long passed, irrational squalls of rain still plague the city, causing Rodney to regard the strip of clear sky beyond the open hangar door with distrust. A little rain won't harm Aurora, but lightning is another story altogether. Lightning can garble even the most sophisticated sensors and trigger problematic emergency systems, which is why even now most aerospace engineers recommend not launching during a storm like this.
"Storm's letting up."
He turns to look at Evan, who's walking down the gangplank in fresh clothes, hair still wet, carrying a gym bag. "You know there are about five thousand empty rooms in the city, right? You don't have to keep living aboard ship."
Evan shrugs. "Rory's a good roommate."
Rodney decides he doesn't want to touch that one with a ten-foot pole. Luckily he doesn't have to, as Evan continues-
"You'll take good care of her, right?"
"Of course I will. What kind of question is that?"
"I mean it, pops. Take care of her."
"And I'm offended you even felt the need to ask. I might not be as close to Rory as you are, but I'm still a pastor. She still means something to me, even if she doesn't have me convinced she's John's long lost Palantis-class daughter like she has the rest of you. And besides, do you honestly think there's any chance of me going anywhere on any spaceship that I've not checked twice over from bow to stern?"
Evan has the grace to look abashed. "Yeah. Sorry. I've just not gotten used to the idea of you guys taking Rory anywhere without me."
"Yes, well, John's been piloting since before anyone on our planet had so much as come up with the idea of the written word, let alone that it might take something more than wax and chicken feathers to get off the ground, so I think she's in safe hands. Besides, we need you on Atlantis, doing all the Imperial things that keep us in the copper wire and titanium-yttrium alloy I need to take care of this demented spaceship.
"Calling Rory demented doesn't exactly fill me with encouragement."
"Well, if she stops calling me her evil stepfather, I'll stop calling her demented."
"Pick the battles you can win, pops. Though speaking of fathers-"
"John's fine," Rodney insists rather more harshly than he'd intended. As much as he loves John, he's getting tired of having to defend him at every turn – and as much as he would love to say that isn't his fault, it is, because John's the one who went Ori, John's the one who tried to kill himself; John's the one doing the tightrope act between genius and insanity.
Evan readjusts the bag's strap. "Are you sure, 'cause when I talked to Icarus yesterday, he seemed…"
"As high as a kite?" Rodney offers.
"I was going to go with not entirely himself," his adopted son says honestly, "but that works too. You know what he said? Yesterday, I mean, when I went to talk to him?"
"Nothing sensible, I'm sure."
"He told me he held time in his hands and watched it slip away until he had dissevered the equations that could predict the future – those were his exact words, dissevered the equations. Couldn't remember them, of course, but said things should end well for all of us if he'd crunched the numbers right. If."
"Well, he does have a Fields Medal. Odds are he didn't make too many rounding errors."
Rodney, agitated, throws his hands into the air. "What do you want me to say? That my husband – the idiot who adopted you – has gone completely around the bend? Maybe he has, but truth is we don't know. Maybe he was around at the beginning of the universe. Maybe he started it all off or maybe he was just along for the ride – I don't know. I don't think we'll ever really know. But what I do know is that somewhere, deep inside, John's still John, and we'll never get anywhere with him if we try to lock him up and throw away the key. Best to just treat him as we always have and keep an eye out in case things start to go wrong."
"I'm not disagreeing," Evan says quickly, holding his hands up in mock surrender, "I'm just saying maybe, after this is over, try to get him to take some more downtime between missions. Ease him back into it."
"This is Pegasus."
Wryly, "Well, try anyway." Evan starts to walk away, only looking back after he's taken a handful of steps towards the nearest ring transport. "Oh, and another thing."
"Icarus told me I could stay in your guys' spare room if I promised to look after the repair 'bots you picked up Erecura."
"So are they supposed to be pets or did you guys go a little crazy at the adoption agency?"
That… is not actually a question Rodney knows the answer to. For his own sanity, he says, "Pets. Let's go with anything smaller than Rory being a pet."
"Easier to clean up after then after a dog, I guess."
"You haven't seen the oil stains yet."
"I'll take your word for it."
"As well you should. Now go. Get out of here. Stick around any longer and they'll start sending out search parties. Then we'll all be roped into whatever insanity you're supposed to be dealing with today."
Evan wrinkles his nose at the reminder. "It's supposed to be confederation talks with that group Teyla brought in from Cyzicos all morning then trade talks with the new Daganian Minister for Enterprise and Innovation all afternoon. Don't ask," he adds quickly, when he sees Rodney about to ask what the hell Dagan wants now. "Just don't."
"Good. 'Cause I don't know if I could explain it if I tried."