Rodney dropped down in a chair beside the bed John had been put in. The remains of a meal lay abandoned on a tray table. He hadn’t seen the Colonel in over six hours because he hadn’t been willing to put Miko in the chair and then just walk away from her. Carson had used the data he collected on John to work up a plan to manage the symptoms of over using the chair and Miko had been fitted with an IV for fluids.
John shifted under the covers and turned in Rodney’s direction. McKay reached out and arranged his blankets around him carefully.
“He’s fine, Dr. McKay.”
Rodney glanced up and found one of the nurses standing on the other side of the bed. She had a tablet PC in her hand and was taking a series of readings from a panel by the bed. “Did you guys get any fun new toys?”
She smiled. “Well, we got this slick healing pod thing that came out of the wall in the back but unfortunately it doesn’t respond to any of our genes. We’re hoping to get the Colonel to try for us later when he’s rested up.” Marie motioned towards the panel above the bed. “This is a diagnostic panel. We knew about it before but there was never enough power to run them. It keeps an eye on all of his vitals for us.”
Rodney nodded. He’d been the one to restrict the use of the panels as an unnecessary power drain. The panels hadn’t done anything the nurses and doctors in the infirmary weren’t trained to do themselves. “It’s pretty cool that we can use them now.” He messed with Sheppard’s blankets again. “He’s really okay?”
“He’s doing great. He even ate his entire meal without complaint. This sleep is a natural one—he’ll be up in a few hours ready to drive you nuts.” Marie patted McKay’s shoulder. “Did you want me to get you a tray sent up?”
“No. I’m going to join Teyla in the mess hall in a few minutes. I just dropped Miko off for her check up. I think Carson fixed the problem that John encountered because she didn’t seem to have any muscle weakness like he did.” Rodney stood up and hesitantly trailed his fingers across the top of John’s hand. Then he tucked the hand under the covers. “There was a time when he would wake up swinging if someone touched him like that.”
Marie chuckled. “Maybe he trusts you.”
Rodney blushed and averted his gaze. “Thank you for watching over him. Can I come back after dinner?”
“I’ll get your favorite chair moved over here before you return.”
* * * *
It wasn’t often that he woke slowly. He’d learned a long time ago in places far harsher than the city of the Ancients to wake fast and get moving as soon as possible. John really didn’t know if his ‘instant alertness’ was more of a byproduct of training or because of going from having his own room, to sleeping in a room full of fifty strange men—some of whom thought it was great fun to tell John how pretty he was in the showers. Either way it had been that way for him since basic training.
He shifted slightly and turned his head to find Rodney in his chair. “Hey.”
Rodney looked up from his laptop and then set it aside with a sigh. “It’s like Geek Christmas all over the place. Atlantis is officially the coolest place in the universe to live and you’ve been asleep for ten hours.” He filled a cup full of water and pressed it into John’s hand. “And we’re ready to kick so much ass that it’s going to feel a little like we picked on the Wraith.”
John snorted. “It doesn’t make any sense that the Ancients would abandon such a weapon does it?”
Rodney paused and seemed to consider his options carefully before he spoke. “She didn’t give them much of a choice actually.” He sat down on the edge of John’s bed so he could lower his voice. “Near the end of the siege, the Ancients started talking about using a weapon that would… destroy the Wraith and most of the life in this galaxy along with it. Of course, they couldn’t have warned anyone because it could’ve gotten back to the Wraith.”
John’s stomach had tightened with each word that Rodney spoke and now he wanted to throw up. “God.”
“Atlantis would’ve been immune to the device.”
“And Ally made them leave?” John questioned.
“No, not Ally.” Rodney shifted on the bed and took a deep breath. “Theseus refused to participate in the deaths of millions of human beings even if it meant the destruction of the Wraith.”
“So they left?” John asked in surprise. “Just… just like that?”
“Ally didn’t give them a choice. She refused to act against Theseus as the Ancients wanted her to and eventually recommended that they retreat from this galaxy through the Stargate and return when they were prepared to fight an honorable war.” Rodney took a deep breath. “They agreed; and they mothballed the city and every research station they could get to in this galaxy before leaving.”
“And the device?”
Rodney took a deep breath. “It was the Arcturus project, John.”
John flinched. Arcturus was a sore point between them—mostly because Rodney hadn’t taken being told no on the project well at all. Elizabeth had initially agreed with Rodney on the importance of the weapon on Doranda but John had outright refused from the very beginning. The three of them had, had several long intense arguments over the mess until the stargate on Doranda just stopped working completely. The project had been stalled until they could get a ship to go out to the planet. “Ally broke the stargate on that world didn’t she?”
“When she realized that Elizabeth was going to side with me—she caused the stargate to overload in order to destroy the entire facility.” Rodney sighed and swallowed hard. “I can’t… I would’ve taken it as far as I could’ve. I know that about me and I wouldn’t have even considered what it would do until it was too late. Maybe too late for this entire fucking galaxy. I think that makes me a monster.”
John reached out and grabbed his hand. “If you’d known what it would ultimately do, would you have ever once considered turning it on?”
“No, of course not!” Rodney glared at him.
“Then you’re not a monster. You wouldn’t have built a device that would do that and sure as hell wouldn’t have knowingly activated something that would’ve killed millions of people.” John took a deep breath.
Rodney nodded and looked down at their joined hands. “So, they left that place just sitting there almost finished, like a gun pointed at the head of the entire galaxy and then they escaped to Earth. Maybe they hoped someone would find it and complete their work for them.”
“Then they ascended and never came back to help Theseus and Atlantis with even basic survival. They left them on the bottom of the ocean to slowly starve to death from lack of power.” John’s hands clenched into fists. “I’m surprised that she didn’t shake apart with outrage when I brought that bitch Chaya through the gate.”
“I wasn’t pleased,” Ally admitted and appeared beside the bed. “But I understood that you were being misled by her. There is more to her punishment than she told you—more that she did to deserve her being tethered to that world while the rest of her kind flits across the entire universe.”
“They integrated you into the city to control Theseus because he didn’t always listen to them, didn’t they?”
“He has free will,” Ally admitted. “My programming puts some limitations on me that he doesn’t have to bother with. It creates a dichotomy of sorts that, through discussion and often negotiation, we work out together for our mutual benefit. He has instinctual drives that I do not and at times that has served for our survival better than anything I could’ve anticipated. We are unable to act against each other—my progenitor made sure of that. So, when we do disagree—it’s in our best interest to meet in the middle.”
“The leadership didn’t get what they wanted with you, did they?” Rodney questioned.
Ally grinned then. “My father always went his own way—it was their own fault for giving him the task.” Her avatar flickered—an indication that she was receiving information from one of her systems as far John could tell. It was a pretty cool feature of the avatar because it provided feedback to everyone around her even when she didn’t. “The Wraith are moving. John, I need you in the chair if you are able. Miko does not have the mind of a soldier—I’d rather not make her kill. Not even Wraith if we have a choice.”
* * * *
John didn’t protest the wheelchair ride down to the chair room or the IV that Carson had demanded be kept in his hand. By the time they wheeled him into the chair room both Ford and Bates were on hand for orders. He took McKay’s hand and his assistance to get settled in the chair and didn’t let go of him even when the chair started to spin. Rodney followed the movement of the chair easily and didn’t release him until John relaxed.
“Bates, I want you in the gate room. Make sure every single civilian is accounted for and/or secure with you. McKay and Beckett are staying with me. Put Stackhouse and Markham on securing the hallway leading to the chair room. I want you to secure anyone except those that can’t be removed from the infirmary and arm everyone. If the civilians balk at a gun—give them Wraith stunners. Since McKay is busy with me—if you need help or advice or a miracle pulled out of an ass related to anything involving science—Radek and Miko Zelenka are your ‘go to’ options. Listen to Weir, and follow her orders as long as they don’t contradict her basic safety.”
“Understood, sir.” Bates reached out and touched John’s hand. “Keep your radio active and let me know if the shield starts to fail. We have the one rail gun that Zelenka built for us set up on the balcony off the gateroom so if any Darts make it through the shield—we’ll give them a fight.”
“Don’t let them take any of our people,” John said and met Dean’s gaze steadily. “And if they cull any of us—don’t let them keep us. Destroy the Darts—you don’t have a choice. If we let one person be taken captive they could give the Wraith the location of Earth.”
“Yes, sir.” Bates took a step back and Ford took his place.
John stared at him for a few seconds, still startled by the changes in the young man who had jumped ass backwards through the gate. Aiden probably hadn’t smiled in months—at least not the kind of smile that he used to gift everyone with in the past. “Put a pilot in every Jumper and coordinate their patrols over the entire city. The city’s sensors are offline in a lot of areas—you know where the problem areas are. They’ll drop Wraith soldiers down if they can—don’t let them. No matter what it takes, keep the Wraith off the city. Ally doesn’t have the power to fight them off if they actually get a foothold.”
Aiden’s jaw tightened. “I won’t let them hurt her.”
“Let’s do this.” John closed his eyes and slid his hands onto the gel pads on the chair.
John let his mind sink into the chair interface without worry—innately trusting both Ally and Theseus not to hurt him on purpose. Various programs brushed up against his mind, updating him on the drones, the Jumpers, and the location of every living soul on the city. John relegated some of the programs to a terminal in the control room that Miko was attending to and several others to Radek so he could monitor power surges. He gave the shield over to Rodney’s console and then concentrated on the weapons systems. The laser cannons were all in place, and holding at fifty percent power each. They were surface-to-space capable so he knew if the Hives got close enough to fire on the city that they would be close enough for him to hit with lasers. The drones—their long range capability was nothing like he’d always thought.
“I could hit a Hive ship anywhere in this whole solar system with a drone,” John swallowed hard. “Seriously. The whole solar system.”
Rodney chuckled. “I thought you might like that. I extended the navigational programming of the drones while you were napping.”
“You always do great things when I’m napping,” John murmured happily and then he let the city take him.
* * * *
Dean Bates watched with shrewd eyes as Elizabeth Weir resolutely strapped on a 9mm. It was the first time he’d ever seen the woman put on a weapon though he knew she could use it—he’d spent enough time on the firing range making sure. He was more than a little concerned that if the time came she would be able to use it. Dean believed that Weir could fire on a Wraith but he wasn’t at all convinced she could fire on another human being.
“No.” Miko Zelenka pushed against Corporal Phillip Gallagher’s hands, effectively shoving the gun and holster he offered her out of her personal space. “I won’t wear it.”
Before Bates could respond Radek Zelenka rounded on his wife and took the gun from Gallagher. He pushed it against Miko’s chest and she caught it with both hands—a little squeak escaping her mouth as she did so. “You will wear it.”
“Radek, no.” Miko shook her head.
“You will wear it!” Radek shouted and everyone around them stopped moving. “If you let Wraith kill you and my child—I will never forgive you. You will wear it and you will use it if you must. Am I understood?”
She nodded abruptly, her eyes filling with tears. “Yes, I understand.”
Radek pulled her close and pushed his shaking fingers through her hair. Wordlessly, he held out his hand for the extra clip that Gallagher hadn’t given Miko and the Marine handed it over. “Come over here, and we’ll put it on together. Yes?”
“Yes.” Miko nodded, her breath hitching.
Dean watched the two scientists move to a small alcove by the stairs in shock. Miko and Radek had married with little fuss out of the blue one day during the first year of the mission. Neither had wanted a big party but they’d gotten one anyway which Dean remembered them enduring with a lot of goodwill. Still, there were no children on the city—at least none from Earth. There were family groups among the Athosians that lived on the city occasionally—especially if one of their parents worked as a native guide on one of the teams or had a series of off-world appointments due to trading. He turned to one of his men. “Jacobs, you’re by her side until this over. Anything happens to her or her baby—it’d better be because you’re already dead on the floor. Understood?”
He was relieved to discover that none of the other civilians fought putting on a weapon. A few requested a stunner instead of an actual gun but that was expected. With the stunners they could buy themselves time to get away and in some instances that was all they needed. Hopefully, the shield would hold and there wouldn’t be any call for the civilians to defend themselves against Wraith soldiers.
The city walls started to hum—literally—and everyone in the gateroom stopped moving. Dean tilted his head trying to figure out the song and then he laughed. “Leave it to Sheppard to be a fan of the Man in Black.” He looked towards Elizabeth Weir and found her frowning. “The city is humming Get Rhythm by Johnny Cash.”
Ally appeared beside him, her eyes were dark and serious. “As your William Shakespeare wrote—Cry havoc! and let loose the dogs of war, that this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial.”
* * * *
Teyla was sitting against the wall near the door when John opened in his eyes. Her eyes were shining with approval and affection. For a second, John felt that same little pull toward her he’d felt when they’d met. A beautiful woman had a way of burning right into a man’s soul and Teyla had certainly left her mark on his. Perhaps not the way some people thought but it was there all the same. Then Rodney moved into his field of vision and offered him his hand.
John took it with a little sigh of relief and let himself be pulled out of the chair. His knees buckled but Rodney caught him. John laughed a little, a bit drunk with relief and exhaustion after the twenty hours he’d spent in the chair. “Hey.”
Rodney rolled his eyes at him but held him tight. “Hey, right back at you, Colonel Cash. No one is ever going to forgive you for teaching the city the entire Johnny Cash catalog by the way.”
“It was excellent Wraith killing music,” John murmured sincerely and then he let his forehead rest on Rodney’s. “Did we lose anyone when the shield failed? I stopped looking at the internal sensors so I wouldn’t lose my focus.”
“Three but no one was culled,” Rodney answered and swallowed hard. “Apparently Elizabeth is a crack shot because she took out two Wraith on the balcony above the gate.”
John lifted his head when someone touched him and met Carson’s gaze. “Hey, are you okay?”
“I’m good, lad. Let’s get you into the infirmary for observation. I have someone making you some food. Everyone wants to see you so be prepared to be stared at all the way there.” Carson motioned towards the wheelchair. “Rodney, help him get there.”
* * * *
Everyone that saw him, touched him, and it was unnerving as hell. John didn’t realize he was projecting this until Rodney kept Elizabeth from touching him by intercepting her hug and guiding her towards a chair at the conference table. John gratefully dropped into a chair near the end and glared at Bates when he started to take the chair that was clearly Rodney’s. Bates chuckled and moved down one with a little shake of his head.
Rodney took his seat and poured himself some tea without much of a complaint. It was caffeinated but it absolutely wasn’t coffee and they couldn’t even try to pretend it was. “Okay, we took some pretty heavy damage when the shield failed but Ally assures me with the right nutrients and supplies, full repairs are possible. To that end, she’s created a list of 911 supplies we need to gather for her and six of her mineral harvesters have already gone through the gate to start collections. So far she’s been able to choose uninhabited worlds for this project. That being said—we need to schedule a trip to the naquadah supply world and she’s made it abundantly clear to me that she’d prefer that John and I take that mission alone.”
Elizabeth nodded. “I’ve already discussed her reasons and I agree with her at this point. Captain Bates, did you send Stackhouse to remove the shield from the village?”
“Yes, and it’s with Dr. Zelenka getting a diagnostic. Initial tests indicate that the Wraith never even noticed the village. If that’s the case… those shields could make a really nice trade item off world. I don’t know how easy they are to make however or if the supplies to build them would be detrimental to our own repairs, etc. It’s just something to think about.” Bates poured himself some of the tea with a grimace. “Especially if we could find someone that has something like coffee. That would be great.”
“Hear, hear,” Radek Zelenka murmured without looking up from his tablet PC. “I should apologize, yes? For not telling you about the baby?”
Elizabeth sighed. “Well, it’s something we would’ve liked to have known as soon as possible, Radek. But, I don’t think we could’ve done anything different to protect her under the circumstances. Do you know how far along she is?”
“Just a week or so,” Radek admitted. “We did not even know ourselves until we were repairing a few of the LSDs and one kept showing a third life sign in the room.” He blushed. “It took us several hours to figure out that it wasn’t malfunctioning but had been set to a very high setting—high enough that it picked up the fetus.”
“Well congrats,” John said with a small smile. “I saw her in the infirmary getting a lecture from Carson but I couldn’t hear what he was saying.”
Radek nodded. “Miko is pleased. It is not what we intended but one can hardly plan for all that life will throw at you.”
Elizabeth smiled, her eyes a little sad. “Well, I’m thrilled to have something so wonderful come to light in an otherwise difficult time. We’ll do everything we can to get ready to welcome the little one to the city when the time comes. In the mean time, we need to square away a few details and Ally has requested a meeting with senior staff later in the afternoon to discuss our future on the city.”
* * * *
They’d lost two Marines and one scientist in the last few hours of the battle. Making the memorial arrangements was all too easy because they’d done it so many times before. All three had wanted to be cremated, which wasn’t as much of a relief as John thought it should be. The city had a very efficient incinerator and for the first time Ally was able to voice her concerns about what they were doing and why.
The Ancients had apparently never used the incinerator for cremation. Once she understood, she made the process, which had been lengthy in the past, very quick. Maybe it had come and gone too quickly, John thought. He’d always used that time—standing in front of the incinerator—to steady himself but now it had been cut down to nothing.
Everyone put on their best clothes and assembled in the gateroom for the memorial service and the beautiful music that Elizabeth had picked out wept gently out of the walls—Ally’s contribution to a ritual she did not understand but supported the best she knew how. Words that had once been hard for him to say flowed easily out of his mouth now—practice makes perfect and all of that utter bullshit.
He spoke of the things everyone wanted to hear—service, honor, and sacrifice and all the while his mind was full of how fucking amazing it had felt to kill all of those Wraith. He wished he could share the feeling with everyone on the city—so they would feel as sated and relieved as he was.
* * * *
“You want to make us Ancients?” Rodney repeated with a frown. “Seriously? Because I got the impression that you didn’t like them much.”
Ally matched him frown for frown. “We don’t want to turn you into them. We want to give you the gifts that we gave them. Do you think they advanced as far as they did on their own? They really weren’t all that different from you—the technology that they brought with them from Altera was different than yours but not so advanced. They were capable of space travel because of Theseus and the rest of his species. I am a powerful weapon and I can make other powerful weapons—I told the Alterans that if they wished me to make ships for them that they would have to accept a gene therapy Theseus created. This gene therapy would allow them to control the technology I was developing. They agreed.”
“The Ancients had a variety of gifts,” Elizabeth edged. “Telepathy, telekinesis, hands-on healing, just to name a few. Were those side effects of the gene therapy?”
“The Lantean gene therapy did alter their physiology and parts of their brains that had lain dormant came alive,” Ally admitted. “It was not the intention of the gene therapy to make these changes and I cannot control what sort of gifts will emerge from an individual’s mind. I can make predictions based on their brain chemistry and biology but it’s not one hundred percent accurate.”
John shifted on his feet and then walked to the end of the balcony. “You said there were two kinds of gene therapy?”
“Yes, eventually Theseus produced two. One is the basic ATA genome, it will allow the control of most of my technologies, and a limited range of mental and physical abilities often emerges in the carriers. Additionally, it will reverse the cell damage of aging, extend the lifetime of the individual, and promote very fast healing. The second is an advanced ATA genome—it is basically admin level access to my systems and any technology I create for you that requires the gene. Carriers of the advanced genome will have more advanced mental gifts as well. Theseus has given me the right to determine which gene therapy will be offered to each individual and I’m afraid you’ll have no say. You can refuse it, of course, but you can’t demand certain individuals get one or the other.”
“What will you base your decision on?” Elizabeth questioned.
“The job the individual does on the city and in the field plus physical and genetic analysis. Not everyone would be suited for the advanced genome as it makes far more complicated changes to the body than the basic ATA therapy.” Ally paused. “I’ve made a list of people already and what version of the therapy they will be offered. I’m prepared to offer it some of the Athosians but not all—they have religious ideas about me and about the Alterans that make Theseus very uncomfortable. He is old but he remembers very well how his kind were hunted to near extinction by religious zealots in Altera. He requests that he not be asked to house such people now or in the future.”
Elizabeth nodded. “We understand. Will you tell us which gene therapy we’ll be offered?”
“All three of you require the advanced gene therapy in order to function properly in the various sections of the city that are currently locked down,” Ally admitted.
“You said Theseus creates the therapy,” Rodney finally said. “What you mean is that—the gene therapy comes from him. It’s not something he designed in some secret lab that we can’t access—he excretes it physically.”
Ally inclined her head. “Yes, that would be an accurate assessment of how the gene therapy is created.”
“That’s what creates the mental synergy between gene carriers and Lantean technology?” Rodney pressed. “People who have the gene—even the watered down version that John has now—are connected to Theseus on a genetic level because he shared his DNA with the Alterans.”
Elizabeth inhaled sharply and John had paled further with each word Rodney had spoken. “I… Atlantis, is Rodney correct?”
“Yes. All of the gene carriers on the city carry DNA markers from Theseus. We eventually worked the requirement for the gene therapy into all of the technology implanted into his super structure.”
“Which forced the Alterans to take the gene therapy if they wanted to live and work on you,” John said with a lift of his eyebrow. “Will you put such a decision on us? Will those of us who have no expression of the gene therapy eventually be asked to leave?”
Atlantis paused, her eyes darkening. “If we are to be allies in the war against the Wraith then we must trust each other. I will leave you so that you may discuss it. I won’t monitor your conversation but I can’t prevent Theseus from eavesdropping.”
* * * *
The debris of the Wraith fleet drifted above the planet. Occasionally a large piece would breach the atmosphere and give them a little bit of a fireworks display before it disintegrated from the heat of reentry. John leaned against the railing and watched McKay pace back and forth on the balcony. Elizabeth was curled up in a chair not far from them. None of them had left the balcony in the two hours since Ally had left them to discuss her proposal and they hadn’t been talking to each other either.
The offer that Ally had made to them had been shocking at first, but John had already decided that he would do it. He figured McKay would as well—he’d always been envious of John’s gene and what Atlantis was offering was so much more than the simple gene therapy Carson had developed.
Elizabeth had been enamored with the Ancients from the very beginning, and John doubted she would pass up a chance to be part of a new generation of their race. Still, it was a daunting prospect—giving up one’s humanity.
While they would not lose themselves, physically they would be altered in such a way that they wouldn’t be able to pass as just human under a medical scanner at the SGC. That is, if they ever allowed themselves to be returned to Earth. He didn’t think he’d ever willingly leave Atlantis and he didn’t doubt for a second that McKay felt the same way. They’d discussed it once off-world when they’d both been a little drunk from an Alien Ritual Gone Bad™. It had taken Bates four hours to rescue them so they’d had plenty of time to drunkenly confer on the subject of Atlantis. He’d been relieved to know that Rodney felt weird at night when they had to sleep away from the city, too.
Rodney stalked off the balcony but John didn’t call him back. He figured Rodney would return after he had more time to think so he was surprised when he returned within minutes. He had six pieces of broken crystal in his hand.
“Okay, so I think we all have made our decision already and none of us want to say it because we don’t want to pressure each other either way.”
Elizabeth nodded reluctantly. “Solution?”
Rodney handed them both a green crystal and a red crystal. “Green is for yes and red is for no. Obviously. So both of you turn your backs and then keep your choice in your right hand. We’ll reveal at the same time.”
“And if we don’t all agree?” Elizabeth asked softly.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” John murmured. He would never force her to change her mind but he knew he would be doing it regardless of their decisions. The safety of their people and their city depended on the ability to interact fully with Atlantis. His decision had been made for some time.
When John turned back around, his gaze connected with Rodney’s. Blue, he thought. His world had been filled with blue since he the first time he saw Rodney McKay. Amazingly smart, straight, and totally oblivious to the fact that John Sheppard was in love with him. He opened his hand and looked down. Three bright green pieces of crystal sparkled between them.
“Thank God,” Elizabeth murmured. “I didn’t want to go first.”
Rodney laughed. “I’ll go first.”
“No.” John shook his head. “I’ll go first. If there are any problems…”
“No, Rodney, the city needs you far more than me,” John’s hand curled around the crystal. “If something goes wrong—Carson and Atlantis can fix the gene therapy and try again. I won’t risk you or Elizabeth on an untried process.”
Rodney glared at him. “You are not expendable, John.”
“I could question that but I won’t. What I do know, is that you are mission essential around here. You have been from day one and that means—no unnecessary risks for you.”
“For the best,” John interrupted. “Don’t argue with me, Rodney. It won’t do any good.”
“I’m monitoring the entire thing and I reserve the right to pull the plug at any time if I think something is wrong.”
* * * *
As it turned out, Ally was more adamant about safety protocols than both Carson and Rodney combined. The scans, bloodletting, and examinations that she insisted on, crossed all boundaries and left Carson feeling as if he’d missed vital parts of medical school or that maybe Rodney had been right about Earth medicine being essentially voodoo.
Equipment rolled out of the walls in the infirmary at an alarming rate, giving them all an in-depth analysis of John’s central nervous system, cardiovascular health, and everything in between. She left no cell unexplored and it was a week before she let him in to what she called the Citizen Induction Center.
The chair in the center of the glass chamber looked a great deal like the control chair. John glanced briefly at Rodney who was in the observation deck and then at Carson who was attaching monitoring equipment to John for his own piece of mind. The city hadn’t protested this and John figured that mostly Carson was just very curious.
“Just relax, John.” Ally’s voice was soothing and melodious. He wondered if it had been modeled after the creator’s lost child as well. The chair shifted under him, tilted back and gently turned in a full circle. The familiar motion forced him to relax even further. He knew this—he’d sat in the Ancient command chair more than once.
He knew what was coming—the injections, six total, that the chair would make. Carson had carefully detailed the changes that would take place in his body, everything from higher brain function to bone density. Cognitive abilities would increase and once the changes were complete, he would enter a holographic stimulator where he would learn to use his new mental abilities in a controlled environment.
Others, in the future, would have to go through intensive morality testing but Atlantis knew John—she had observed him for two years and she knew what he was capable of and what he would do to keep her and his people safe. Hours passed, and it wasn’t until the city released him from the chair that he realized how long it had been.
Rodney was there as he stumbled from the chair. “John?”
Carson was talking quickly but none of the words he was saying were actually making it into John’s brain. Emotions from Rodney hammered on his mind and John closed his eyes in an effort to get control of himself. Theseus had told him that his empathic abilities would be advanced but not so strong that they would work against him.
However, McKay’s concern and worry were overwhelming—and what was more shocking was the love that poured out of his friend. It was startling, and little horrifying to realize that Rodney had no secrets from him. Every desire, every emotion that the scientist had buried was laid bare before John. But there was more—brilliant no longer felt like the right adjective for the man. McKay was far more than that.
It felt invasive and so wrong. He steadied himself and stepped away from Rodney. Immediately, he gained some perspective and when McKay’s hand fell away from his shoulder all of the emotions bled away leaving John alone in his head.
“Easy lad, you’ve been in the chair ten hours.” Carson gripped his elbow as he started to list and John was relieved that he didn’t get anything but a low level of concern from the doctor. Nothing overwhelming, nothing he couldn’t handle. “You need some food and rest. You’ll be doing both in the infirmary.”
“Let me help,” Rodney reached out and John jerked.
“No!” John coughed. “Sorry. Fuck. Christ, McKay, your brain is like getting high and riding a roller coaster. How do you function with all of that going on?” It wasn’t the real reason—but John couldn’t say what he was really thinking. How the hell could he justify what he now knew? Knew because even after hours of training, he’d invaded Rodney’s mind the moment he could. One glance at Rodney’s pale face told him he’d revealed far too much anyway. “I’m sorry.”
Rodney nodded his eyes dark with temper and hurt. “Go with Carson, John. You need to eat.”
* * * *
Rodney sighed when Carson Beckett sat down beside him in the observation deck above Sheppard’s isolation room. “He seems better—less upset than before.”
“The city has erected barriers to allow him to relax. He can’t pick up any stray thoughts from anyone right now. Apparently that was pretty overwhelming at first,” Carson paused. “I imagine doubly so for being in the room with that big head of yours.”
Rodney frowned. “Yeah, he seemed really upset with me.”
“I think just upset in general, lad. He’ll be right as rain soon enough.” Carson patted his knee.
“He knows I’m in love with him,” Rodney murmured. “That’s why he’s upset—I don’t think he expected to see that in my head when he touched me and now he’s all freaked out.” He waved a hand in defeat towards John’s still form. “I’m going to lose my best friend, Carson.”
“The Colonel is a good man. He isn’t going to hold that against you,” Carson admonished but Rodney could hear the shock in his voice.
“Maybe not hold it against me—but that doesn’t mean he’ll treat me the same as before. It’ll always be there between us.” Rodney closed his eyes. “I don’t… it’s just really unfair. I didn’t imagine he would be overwhelmed with gratitude and fall into my arms but I did hope I would be able to keep it from him.”
“That’s why you really wanted to go first,” Carson surmised. “So you could have shields in place to hide how you feel about him.”
“That was the idea,” Rodney admitted and blushed. “I didn’t have much of him before this, Carson. I had some of his free time and his friendship. I was content with what I had. Of course, I wanted more but I would’ve lived my whole life as his best friend… and now this is here between us and I’m not even going to get to keep that.”
Carson made a soft sound of distress. “Rodney.”
“No, it’s… I’ll be okay. If this is the sacrifice I make to keep Atlantis safe then it’s just something I’ll have to live with.” Rodney stood up and stared down at John for a few minutes. “I just really hope he doesn’t hate me when this is all said and done.”