Words: 3,750 (of 16,253)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Sentient!Atlantis, Laura Cadman, Stephen Caldwell, Elizabeth Weir, Ronan Dex, Chuck; John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: part 2 of #13 (part 1) in the Ancient!John 'verse. Spoilers for everything through "Trinity," as well as "Critial Mass"
Disclaimer: All characters, situations, quotes et al are properties of their respective owners and I am merely using them under Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine, without intents to infringe upon or defame anyone's legal rights.
Summary: He's never exactly been one for the whole carpe diem crap but, with John, he can kind of get it.
Notes: I've a tendency to have to go to work just when I'm almost-at-the-end of these things, which explains why everything but the last 1k of this has been done for a couple of days and I could only put the final touches on it now. I'd also like to give a shout out to mckaysmonkey, who's wonderful comments helped keep me sane when things were crazy this week....
An Ancient!John Story
"Y'know," John says casually as he leans against the door of his lab, not succeeding in startling Rodney solely by the virtue of the fact that Rodney'd happened to be pouring himself more coffee from the pot one of his minions had left for him just inside the door (as if his lab is a dragon's den rather than a place filled with things they should not touch, ever), "it's a good thing I love you."
It's also a good thing Rodney hadn't taken a sip of his coffee yet, 'cause otherwise it would've ended up all over the delicate pieces of equipment so feared by his minions. "How so?" he asks, managing to keep something close to his normal tone (though he does set his coffee back on the table, to avoid any possible future incidents).
"'Cause it makes the fact that you've spent the last fourteen hours in here, working, rather than at my sickbed endearing rather than annoying."
"You were sleeping," Rodney accuses, trying not to think too hard on the I love you thing. It's not like it's a surprise or anything. He and John have been together for, God, almost a year now, ever since the Genii tried to take over the city during the Storm. He knows how John feels about him and vice versa. It's just neither of them have ever said it – things that amount to it, yes, but they've somehow managed to avoid those three words. It's kind of surprising to realize, almost as surprising as it is to hear, even if it's a known fact.
John sighs, pushing himself away from the door and moving to stand a little too close for work hours in front of him. "Having a couple terabytes of data squeezed into your head and slowly dribbled out is exhausting, what can I say?"
Rodney harrumphs because, honestly, it's the only thing he can think to say to that. He's just glad John's not dead or brain dead or otherwise impaired from the experience.
It's not until John laughs and pulls him into a tight embrace that he realizes he said all this aloud.
After a moment, though, John stops laughing and just holds him closer, burying his face in Rodney's neck. "I'm sorry I almost got you killed," he mumbles barely loud enough to be heard over the buzz of equipment.
This statement causes Rodney to blink once in surprise, then again in disbelief as he pulls back just enough to look John in the face. "Why on Earth are you apologizing? We almost die all the time. It's not your fault this time any more than any other. Actually, this might be the least your fault of all our near-death experiences – not that you should let that go to your head. You're still a self-sacrificing idiot who's going to get himself killed before I turn forty at the rate you're going."
"Lantea," John corrects mostly out of habit. "And that doesn't change the fact-"
He harrumphs again, this time in genuine annoyance. "We did what we thought was best and nobody died. Didn't your dad drill some sort of mantra into your head about how that's a good thing?"
"Something like that," the Ancient agrees, a smile just this side of dirty sliding onto his face. "What do you say we head back to your quarters and celebrate being alive for a while?"
"Ten thousand years," he snorts, "and that's the best line you can come up with?"
"Don't knock it. It works, doesn't it?"
Rodney's only response is to snort again and let himself be pulled along.
The thing is, John is going to get himself killed before Rodney turns forty. John has been at war with the universe since he was born, if not before, and sooner or later the universe is going to win. It is, after all, one of the few things out there older than John and, as John's occasionally fond of saying, always place your bets on the thing that's been around the longest.
Rodney's going to be thirty-eight next year. He's never exactly been one for the whole carpe diem crap – people who subscribe to it decidedly do not graduate MIT at seventeen years and fifty-three days old, let alone with a double major in physics and aeronautics/astronautics – but with John he can kind of get it. John is going to get himself killed, ergo spend as much time with John as possible beforehand. He can really get behind that one.
But still there are, well, not rules to their relationship but hazily-defined socio-cultural norms they try to abide by, even if it's another one of those things they've never directly come out and said to each other. They try to keep anything more intimate than a slap upside the head to off-duty hours and don't do much more than that off-duty either if they're in one of the public areas of the city. They don't do anything to make Caldwell think they're anything other than heterosexual friends who share a love for banter, Atlantis and SyFy, despite the fact John strongly believes the colonel couldn't care less about their bedroom activities. And, perhaps most importantly, when one of them is working on something important – like say, defending the city from invading Wraith or slugging their way through a deceptively simple formula for recharging the ZedPMs – they don't interrupt each other for anything short of vital emergencies.
As much as they both would much rather think otherwise, quickies are not emergencies and so it's with a sheepish, somewhat guilty feeling that Rodney sneaks out of his quarters afterwards, leaving John (unsurprisingly) asleep inside. It's his intention to work twice as hard as he already has been (and maybe even call in Zelenka to help, despite the fact that Caldwell has asked to keep this scientific discovery between himself, Rodney, John and Elizabeth until they have a better idea if it works or not, to avoid getting everyone's hopes up again so soon) when he gets back to his lab.
He's already lost in the equations before he makes it as far as the transporter around the corner, which probably explains how me manages to run into Cadman there. Well, that and the fact that the Lieutenant has Ford's old quarters, the ones at the far end of the hall. Despite that, however, he's been mostly able to avoid her by the sheer fact that she maintains a fairly predictable schedule. It must be later than he thought if he's running into her now.
She seems to know this and smirks at him as she waves her hand in front of the transporter door controls. "Hey Rodney."
"Cadman," he says stiffly.
"How's the Colonel?"
"Is that so?"
Rodney doesn't answer, trying not to bristle too overtly at her words (she can't have meant anything by it; she can't possibly know that John's tangled up in his sheets, in his bed right now rather than his own; she just can't, despite the lateness of the hour) and practically jumps out of the transporter when it deposits him by his lab. Still, he can practically hear the smugness in her tone as she calls out, "Bye Rodney," before pressing the controls for her own destination.
Except, of course, the transporter refuses to go anywhere. Its doors won't even close.
Rodney looks up at the ceiling and only just manages to stop himself from asking the city why she hates him so aloud. Maybe his spend as much time with John as possible plan is backfiring if he's starting to pick up his foibles. God knows he already has enough of his own to wrestle with.
More importantly, however, he has Laura Cadman to contend with at the moment and should probably get her on her way before he gives too much thought to his flaws of character – there's always a danger that some lingering connection from their brief body-sharing experience has lingered, unnoticed, and she'll pick up on them (his thoughts, that is) even if she's not consciously aware of what's happening. Last thing he needs is to give yet more ammunition to the ladies of Girls' Poker Night.
"I'll get my repair kit," Rodney sighs instead and heads for his lab, only mildly surprised to see Colonel Caldwell already there, fiddling with one of his computers as he waits. He dimly remembers that he's supposed to be updating him and Elizabeth at regular intervals but he hadn't thought it was that late yet, even if he had run into Cadman at the transporter. "I haven't made a lot of progress so far but if you give me like three seconds, I need to-"
And that's when Rodney notices that Caldwell's not just playing solitaire or paging through one of Rodney's files there, he's downloading it all. "Hey, what-?" he begins, thinking the worst – that maybe Elizabeth and Caldwell have decided to entrust someone else with the ZedPM research after his the incident on Doranda, that maybe he's being sent back to Earth-
-and then Caldwell's eyes flash.
The Goa'uld have infiltrated Atlantis.
What follows next Rodney never clearly remembers. All he knows is that, at some point, Cadman comes in to ask what's taking so long to find him spraying a can of solvent into the Colonel's eyes. He assumes there was the usual worship me and I might not kill you pontificating that the Goa'uld usually get up to and some less-than-diplomatic refusal on his part that led to that point but, as Rodney said, he's not really sure.
It's not exactly his finest moment.
"So, Caldwell's a Goa'uld," John's saying forty minutes later, after Cadman's subdued Caldwell (she shoots him three times then uses a malfunctioning piece of Ancient tech as a taser, which knocks him out long enough for her to call in reinforcements; it's equally parts very cool and incredibly scary) and the Marines have taken him to the isolation room. "Huh."
"I never suspected..." Elizabeth murmurs, looking oddly stricken as she turns away from the glass.
The game plan is apparently 1) remove bullets, 2) question Goa'uld-Caldwell, 3) remove Goa'uld from Caldwell, though the first part appears to be particularly slow going for no reason Rodney cares to find out. He has the start of a massive headache and, 'sides, medicine's nothing but voodoo anyway. Particularly Carson's brand of it.
Ronan too looks unimpressed and slumps onto one of the nearby couches, not even pretending to look at the monitors. "What's a Goa'uld?"
"Only an alien parasite that can likes to wrap itself around peoples' brain stems and take over their bodies."
"That doesn't sound pleasant."
"It isn't," John says, cocking his head to the side as he watches the goings-on down below. He's oddly awake for a man who's spent the better part of three days in a near-coma. "I've read enough SG mission reports to know I want nothing to do with them and that was before I asked 'Lantis to look up what we had on them in the database."
Moderately surprised, "There's stuff on the Goa'uld in the Ancient database?" Rodney asks. He'd rather thought the Ancients were before their time.
"There's something on everything in the database. Or so I'm told."
"No late nights combing through the database as a kid then?"
"Only the F's."
It takes Rodney a moment then he groans, asking, "Why am I not surprised?" as he collapses into his own chair.
"I don't get it."
"Trust me," Rodney says, turning towards Ronan with a very put-upon expression on his face, "you don't want to."
Elizabeth, however, knows almost as much Alteran as Rodney does and only takes a little longer to recall the only word starting with F that might interest an Alteran boy. Sounding a lot more like herself she admonishes, "Gentlemen, if we could get back on track for a moment? What are we going to do about this situation?"
"Well," John drawls, "I've already placed the city on lockdown and ordered everyone from the Daedalus confined in the mess until we can get them under the scanner. Carson's people have already cleared Lorne and I've got him organizing teams to search the city for any obvious signs of sabotage.
"Oh, and 'Lantis hasn't noticed anyone messing with her coding but I'd like Rodney and Zelenka to check her out as soon as possible."
Elizabeth looks mildly impressed. "Looks like you've got this pretty much taken care of, Colonel."
He shrugs, "It's no problem. 'Sides, I thought there was something off about Caldwell."
She blinks. So does Rodney. Ronan, however, looks like he might be asleep. "Really?" she asks.
"Yeah. But I thought it was 'cause he's human, not 'cause, y'know, he had a snake in his head." He shrugs again, raising his hand halfway through the motion to answer his radio. "Sheppard here," he tells whoever is on the other end, "Yeah. I'll be right there... Anyway, the Daedalus' XO is demanding some explanations so I better go before we add mutiny to the list of today's Lantean firsts. Call me when he's ready for questioning."
Rodney and Elizabeth remain, blinking at each other for several minutes. Then, "Just when I think," she says, "I get a handle on the Pegasus galaxy it goes and throws a day like this at us." Then she starts laughing and only stops herself when it starts to give way to tears.
It occurs to Rodney that night, in that long dark stretch between midnight on the Terran clock and midnight on the Lantean, when no amount of coffee could keep you awake if you weren't completely and totally immersed in your work, that Elizabeth is the most competent, brilliant person he's ever worked for. Yes, she sometimes makes mistakes but she does the best she can with the information she's been given and gives her all to the city with a level of selfless dedication that borders on even John's extreme.
It also occurs to Rodney he'd be exactly like her – lonely as hell and living only for his work – if he'd never met the Ancient named Iohannes Ianideus Licinus Pastor, who's changed his life in so many ways that it would take another lifetime still to list them all.
Rodney goes out of his way to track John the next day. Even then, though, he doesn't find him until about half-an-hour before they're all supposed to be in the conference room to go over what their teams have found out about the Goa'uld in Caldwell and what it might've done to the city, and that's only because he checks the office John hardly ever uses on the off chance the Ancient might actually be there.
John's sitting at his desk, scowling at his laptop, when he comes in and is immersed enough in his work that he doesn't realize he's no longer alone until Rodney asks, "What on Earth are you doing here? I thought you hated this place."
It's true, too. The office had once been John's praetor's, which meant it was the rough equivalent of General Landry's offices back at the SGC, albeit slightly larger and with a rather more interesting decorating scheme. John hates it because it feels pretentious, despite the fact that, as the military commander of Atlantis, it's his by right.
"Lantea," John corrects around a yawn. "And I kept falling asleep when I tried to do this in my quarters. Can't fall asleep here. I still feel like Gulcherius Col is going to jump out of the woodwork at any minute and demand to know what I'm doing in his office."
Rodney can only roll his eyes, even if it always causes something to clench in his stomach every time John mentions his life Before. He's gotten good at ignoring that by now and manages to keep his voice steady and even when he asks, "What's so important that it can't wait an hour for you to take a nap? It's another month until our next dial-in to Earth and it's not like you're going to chew yourself out for not getting your paperwork turned in on time."
"It's my write up of what I learned from Caldwell's Goa'uld. It calls itself Zu, by the way, and works for something call the Trust but other than that I got a whole lot of nothing out of him. It. Whatever. I don't think it had time to do much more then that, though."
"I didn't find any signs of tampering either," Rodney says, closing the office door behind him.
John just raises his eyebrow – at the door-closing, he thinks, and not the lack of tampering – and says, "Speaking of dialling Terra, did you email Jeannie for me while I was in the infirmary? You know she'll panic if she doesn't hear anything from us. I think she thinks we're in the middle of some war or something on your planet, and like you said, it's another month 'til our next dial-in."
"I did," he sighs. "Even got Carson to give me some kid-friendly options of what Jeannie can pick up for the brat from us. Though you do realize Madison's just three and won't remember if she doesn't get a Christmas present from us, right?"
"She'll be four next month. And that's not the point."
"And what, pray tell, is?"
"She's a good kid. She misses us. If getting her a present as part of some bizarre Terran holiday will make her happy and help her remember her uncles care for her even if we can't be there all the time, what's the problem with that?"
"There's no problem, it's just..." Rodney doesn't know what it is, really. It's just all so domestic, them arguing over what to get his niece for Christmas and John saving the last muffin for him on mornings when he wakes up late and he's still not sure how they got to this point, only that they have and it's amazing and exhilarating and a little bit frightening to think about. He thinks that most people who've been together for almost a year aren't so at ease with each other, let alone their extended families, but it's so them and Rodney doesn't know what he'll do if he ever loses this, which he inevitably will because John isn't John, some lieutenant colonel from Sausalito, he's an Ancient with different priorities than anyone else alive who just so happens to answer to the name John Sheppard and likes to pretend he's nothing more than a simple, rakishly-haired American Air Force officer.
"Rodney?" John prompts after what must have been a long silence. He's rising from his chair, looking more concerned than the situation really warrants and it's all too much, and words just burst out-
"I love you, you know that, right?"
John's expression shifts from concern to genuine worry, which isn't exactly the reaction Rodney's been hoping for. "Of course I do, Rodney."
"It's just, I realized the other day that I'd never said it and wanted to make sure you knew."
"Rodney," the Ancient says, oddly serious as he steps out from behind his desk, "I'm hell of a lot worse with feelings and things than you are and you know how much I care for you, right?"
"Right, I just-"
"Then believe me when I say that I don't care how long it takes you to tell me you love me or if you never do. I already know it and don't want you saying it just because I did and you feel like you have to, oh, I dunno, return the sentiment or something."
Frustrated now, "It's not like that. You know it's not. It's just, like I said, I realized I never said it and I don't know why that is but I should've done it earlier and now I have and now can we just forget all this," he gestures at the space between him, "'cause things are starting to get a little too after-school special here."
For some reason, John starts to laugh at this, his whole face breaking into one of the most genuine smiles Rodney's ever seen before he slings an arm over his shoulder and says, "Sure thing, buddy," before dragging him out of the office and towards the conference room, a warm, fuzzy feeling he'll never admit to rising in his stomach.
They never make it to Elizabeth's meeting.
That's not their fault, though – it's Chuck's, because just as they walk into the Control Room the technician says, "I was just about to radio for you, sirs. We've got a situation."
John immediately tenses. "What kind of situation?"
"A hyperspace window just opened on the edge of the system. We're tracking a ship. A large one. From what we can tell it doesn't appear to conform to any known Wraith or Goa'uld designs."
Rodney feels his blood run cold. "Are they broadcasting an IFF?" he asks, practically shoving another tech out of the way so he can look at the data on their computer.
"They are," John says, just as Rodney's about to ask if he wants to head up to the Chair Room while he gets the cloak in place.
"How can you tell?" one of the newer gate techs asks. Actually, it's a question Rodney wants to ask too – John may be a pastor but he can't pick up radio signals with his nanoids any more than anyone else can and they're definitely not picking up anything.
John just grins and starts to walk over to the Gate Room stairs as the space in front of the Stargate is suffused in bright white light. "Someone radio Elizabeta? Tell her the Asgard have decided to visit Atlantis."