Characters: Ancient!John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Elizabeth Weir, sentient!Atlantis, the Genii
Summary: When it happens, this is how it happens.
Series: part 1 of #6 in the Ancient!John 'verse. Part of Locality.
Notes: This turned out almost nothing like I'd planned, almost got the name Obses for lack of anything better, and is possibly the 42nd draft of this story I've written, no joke. I'm begining to think copious amounts of ginger ale have a deleterous effect on the writing process, but that's all I can really drink at the moment, and, well, night shifts that are supposed to end at 11 and don't really until 1 the next morning. Which may be why sheer exaustion is a current topic-of-choice for most my stories. Well, that and the mono... Though Liberator means saviour in Latin.
An Ancient!John Story
When it happens, this is how it happens:
Iohannes has just shot Kolya twice in the shoulder, forcing him to drop Doctor Weir as a human shield before he falls through the open wormhole. It's not likely to kill him, not given the probable state of Genii medicine but it should put his gun-arm out of commission for a couple months. And that has to count as something at this late hour, with the storm raging all around them and the better part of a dozen dead bodies scattered throughout Atlantis.
Elizabeta is struggling to her feet, looking like she's still not entirely certain of what's just happened. Her voice is weaker than Iohannes has ever heard it and she's giving him The Look – the one descendants get when they first encounter his people and think them gods. He's never seen that look on Elizabeta before; it makes him uncomfortable in a way quite different from the chill setting in from his rain-soaked clothes and the ache starting in his over-taxed muscles.
Still, he runs up to her and asks if she's okay, (/Of course she's not,/ Atlantis huffs and so, dutifully, he asks how she is too. She ignores his question in favour of reminding him that not only are three more levels of the East Pier under water but there's the minor matter of a tsunami heading her way that she'd like taken care of before some of her more delicate towers snap at the base and crush what few organic inhabitants remain within her walls into several tiny, gooey bits.)
"No," she manages, looking faint.
"You will be."
She looks at him like he's mad but maybe he is. Then again, with all the emotions that are surely running wild beneath her skin, the very idea of ever getting over her first hostage situation has to seem like madness. But in time it'll pass. She'll probably even get used to it. After all, in a galaxy filled with Wraith, a single attempted takeover of Atlantis by a race of uppity descendants who think atomic bombs could destroy all their enemies is probably the least of things she'll see if she remains in the city for long.
But still, he has more important things to worry about than the mental health of one Terran woman, even if she is the praefecta.
"Come on," he says, grabbing her wrist and tugging her up the stairs. He drops her hand halfway up when he realizes that the inscriptions on the steps aren't even glowing underneath his feet and picks up his pace, never having known them not to react to his presence, even in the deepest parts of the Siege.
When he gets there, the first thing he notices is Lieutenant Ford yelling, "Wait! What are you doing?" at Rodney-
-who's hunched over the far console and typing furiously away at one of his tablets. He's just as soaked as the rest of them but it's obvious, even from across the darkened room, that what's soaking his right sleeve is blood, not water and it causes something to break in Iohannes.
As McKay answers Ford, not even bothering to look up, Iohannes crosses the room in a handful of steps, coming to a halt so close to the scientist that when he finishes his, "You got something else in mind?" comes out more uncertain than haughty. Not afraid or startled but decidedly uneasy, as if they were teetering on the edge of something forbidden that neither of them could name but both knew they shouldn't cross.
The, "John," that follows is scarcely more than a whisper, soft and reverent and little sad. Oh, he knows that they're all of three minutes away from a tsunami that, if it doesn't destroy Atlantis entirely, will certainly do it's best trying to, but all he can concentrate on a the moment is Rodney.
Rodney, who has somehow managed to find a way to save the city and trick the Genii all at once.
Who is bleeding quite profusely and paler than he ought to be.
Who Iohannes thinks he's been in love with since the moment he first saw him, a light in his eyes so curious and so alive that, even from his hospital bed, he was drawn like a moth to a flame.
Who Iohannes knows he's been in love with ever since day ninety-seven of this new life of his, when he'd woken from a doze in the middle of one of their movie nights with his head resting on Rodney's thigh, Rodney's fingers absent-mindedly carding through his hair and the thought this is the way I want to spend the rest of my life making its way across his sleep-addled mind.
Who is looking at him with such openness that, for a moment, Iohannes thinks he can see everything he's feeling now reflected back in them.
Before he can think better of it his hands fly to Rodney's shoulders, then up briefly to cup his face before running down his arms, probing for injuries he cannot see. He must be saying something, though he'll be damned if he knows what, because Rodney's whispering again, telling him over and over again, "I'm alright. I'll be alright," before what he's saying sinks in. Rodney's fine. He'll be okay. The only way he'll die right now is if their plan doesn't work and it will never work if he doesn't stop wasting their precious time and let McKay get on with saving the day.
Still, even knowing he should step back, Iohannes can't. He'd thought... He'd thought... He lets his forehead rest against Rodney's for a moment (it's all he'll allow himself) before pulling back and asking, "The shields?"
"I just need to raise them but the tracking system's down and Teyla and Beckett are still out there."
He looks around, surprised to see neither had slipped into the room while he was so distracted.
/They're on their way,/ Atlantis informs him without needing to be asked. /They'll be in the Control Room in twenty-three seconds. The tsunami will arrive ninety-eight seconds after that. Tell your custodia to be quick about it when he raises the shields; we've already been damaged more than we would like./
/Rodney's not my custodia,/ he says to the city while telling McKay to, "Go ahead and raise the shields, Teyla and Carson will be here in a moment."
/What do you call it then?/
Iohannes doesn't know but he certainly isn't going to talk to her about it. She calls all those she loves custodiae and, despite the fact she's surely had organic relationships explained to her more than once over her millennia, she doesn't truly understand what it is. He doesn't even understand what this is. He'd seen Father go through amatores like other people go through clothes, never keeping any one lover for longer than a few months though there were always a few, Forcul foremost amongst them, whom he'd always go back to. And whatever Father might have felt for them, he doesn't think it's anything like what he feels for Rodney now because the very idea of ever leaving him, of losing him, is enough to make his heart stop.
But maybe that's what Father thought each time, for each and every one of the men and women who'd trotted through his bedroom door. Maybe Father had loved them all and it had just never worked out each and every time.
Iohannes really, really wants this – whatever this is – to work out.
If he can just get it to start to begin with, though he has a sneaking feeling he's just shown his hand in that.
He's happily distracted when he feels the shield rise. The crash of the waves against it is a different feeling than that of a Wraith bombardment but similar enough that it forcibly pushes all other thoughts out of his head. He is, after all, the pastor Atlantis and he has a job to do. Someone has to keep an eye on all the systems the Terrans' rather limited computers cannot, and if he just closes his eyes...
Iohannes lets his mind be overwhelmed shield diagnostics and tower integrity projections and tentative repair schedules for the flooded lower levels, and it's all so familiar that it's almost as if he never left the cathedra, as if Rodney and the Terrans and Atlantis' rising from the depths was nothing more than a dream created by a lonely and forsaken mind to stave off the encroaching darkness. In a way it's more believable than the idea that he could survive in the cathedra for ten thousand years and hardly age at all, or that he mind find companionship – and possibly even love – in the descendants who have discovered his city and he lets himself fall, deeper and deeper, until all he knows is the city, her systems and her shields and the endless stream of data and life that is Atlantis.
It's almost twelve hours later before he can pull himself out of Atlantis' mainframe, her systems desperate for a familiar hand to monitor them as they struggled to protect the city from the storm. It's another twelve hours after that before all the members of the Expedition are back in the city and the Athosians are back on the mainland. Only then is Iohannes able to return to his quarters and collapse because, well, it's been a stressful few days and, well, he's never been that good at moderating his own internal biochemistry and all the other nonsense the close-to-Ascension members of his race had been able to do with ease and so he's just as in need of sleep as the Terrans. So it's a surprise when there's a knock at his door right as he's about to climb into bed with the intention of not leaving it for several days.
It's even more of a surprise when he sees Rodney on the other side of it, particularly given the fact that he's had to have had even less sleep than Iohannes and worked at least twice as hard.
"Hey buddy," he says, letting the other man in before collapsing, boneless, on his bed. "What's up?"
Rodney says nothing for a long moment and it's not until Iohannes (with considerable effort) sits up does he give any indication of actually planning to. At long last, "I suppose this is the part where we talk."
"Talk? About what?"
Iohannes frowns. "I'm not mad or anything if that's what you're thinking," gesturing towards the bandage covering most of Rodney's right arm. "First rule of being a hostage, do your best to stay alive. Sometimes telling them what they want to hear is part of that."
But Rodney shakes his head and says, rather cryptically in Iohannes opinion, "Not that, the other thing."
"Okay..." He thinks for a moment because, really, he's that tired and parsing Terran innuendo is a little more work than he's capable of handling at the moment.
/He means your little freak-out,/ Atlantis offers helpfully after the moment has dragged on rather longer than is probably good and Rodney's face is starting to shutter in a way that's clearly meant to convey no emotion whatsoever but instead somehow manages to look angry and embarrassed and not a little put out. It's not at all like his normal flustered look and Iohannes hates the idea that anything could make the scientist look like this and hates himself more because he has the sneaking suspicion he's behind this current one.
/Oh,/ he says. /Stay out of this./ And then aloud, because Rodney's turning to leave and now that Iohannes has some vague idea what he's on about, he really doesn't want him to go. "Oh. What's there to talk about?"
"I just thought- You know what, never mind, it was ridiculous. I should have known it didn't mean-"
With energy Iohannes didn't know he had he rises to his feet and grabs Rodney's arm before he can make it to the door. "No. You were right. I just don't see what there is to talk about. I mean," he makes a face, "I'm not good with feelings or anything but I like you, you like me and we're both adults. Why can we just try this and see where it goes from here without talking it to death?"
Or, at least, that's what he's planning on saying but he gets about as far as I like before Rodney's mouth is on his and it's almost nothing like he'd imagined kissing Rodney would be like but so much better that it doesn't matter that they've not talked, like Rodney wanted to, or that they really probably should, however little Iohannes might actually want to, or that they're both exhausted and strung out on adrenaline, or really anything else at all because it's perfect.
And really, everything else can wait for morning.