Summary – Some past lives aren't meant to be revealed but Rodney's is about to be brought into the open rather abruptly.
Rating – PG-13
Disclaimer – I don't own them, their creators doLegacy of an Ancient
At twenty-three minutes past eleven on a perfectly normal Atlantis morning Rodney McKay died.
Five minutes after being dragged through the 'Gate by Colonel Sheppard he bled out under Carson's hands with half of Atlantis watching.
Carson bowed his head, squeezing his eyes shut tightly as his shoulders sagged. He didn't even have time to break the news though because his hands hadn't had the chance to fall before the glow began.
A few seconds later Rodney was standing before them. His eyes darted wildly as he looked around, taking in the various numbers of Atlantis personnel watching with wide eyes. Slowly, reluctantly, he looked down and cursed violently.
"Wait here," he ordered, pointing at John who looked like he was about to faint. The pilot was clearly have severe trouble relating the Rodney he'd pulled through the gate a few minutes ago with the Rodney who had spent the last few seconds glowing slightly around the edges.
Luckily though, Rodney didn't wait for a reply, he simply vanished.
Elizabeth came up behind Carson who was still kneeling on the floor looking stunned. "Did we just see Rodney ascend?"
"Aye," Carson croaked. "I think we might have done."
"Holy sh-" a voice at the back of the room breathed but it didn't have time to finish as Rodney returned.
"How long was I gone?" he enquired cautiously.
Elizabeth checked her watch, more out of habit than anything else. "Less then a minute."
"Really?" Rodney looked pleased. "They've finally fixed the time dilation then, I have to admit, I'm impressed."
Suddenly John stopped staring and seemed to snap out of whatever world he'd been in.
"Rodney! What the hell?"
"It would appear," Rodney's tone and expression were sour, "that I have ascended."
"Perhaps," Elizabeth suggested, "this conversation would be better had in my office."
It was a lot easier to make their way through the varying members of staff who had arrived than John would have expected but they were all backing away as Rodney approached.
The scientist rolled his eyes. "Call Radek," he ordered a scientist John didn't recognise.
She nodded and sped off, obviously fighting not to look back at him.
Reaching Elizabeth's office John mentally ordered the doors to shut and lock but realised suddenly that Rodney had got there first. He obviously hadn't even thought about it.
No one else appeared to have realised that anything was off though (other than the obvious) because as soon as they'd sat down Elizabeth eyed Rodney seriously, cautiously. Her hands betrayed her concern though as she reached out tentatively.
"Who helped you?" she asked and John couldn't really blame her. If there was an Ancient helping her people ascend then that's probably the sort of thing they should know about but if he hadn't seen her hands he could have easily shot her for being so cold.
All John wanted to know was what was happening to his best friend.
Rodney rolled his eyes and reached out for her hand, squeezing lightly. "Help? I don't think so. I don't need help." He chuckled suddenly. "It's not like this is the first time I've done this."
Elizabeth dropped the hand as though she'd been scalded.
"Oh, come on!" Rodney snapped through the silence.
"You descended?" Teyla asked softly, obviously unsure if she had the right word.
Rodney grimaced. "Sort of, this is my punishment."
"Punishment?" John reared back. "What the hell did you do?"
"Let's just say that I'm about as much of a fan of my people's non-interference policies as Chaya and Oma."
"Your people," Ronon repeated.
Rodney looked at him but didn't reply immediately. When he did it was in a quiet voice that everyone had to strain to hear. "Oma skirts the edge of our laws, Chaya got Proculus… I made a deal."
"That's why you hated her." John didn't intend it as a question but Rodney answered it anyway, grinning sheepishly.
"Well, sort of. I knew who she was and I couldn't say anything, obviously, but… we used to date, it didn't end well."
"Tell me you're joking," Elizabeth murmured suddenly and Rodney looked confused and offended until he realised that Elizabeth wasn't referring to him dating Chaya. "All your life you've had memories of-"
Rodney cut her off hurriedly. "No, not quite. I didn't get my memories back until we actually arrived here." His eyes darkened. "Just after Carson's gene therapy, actually. You have no idea how angry I was that I'd been placed in a body that didn't have the natural gene. Let's just say that at that point it was a good job I didn't have my powers." His voice was as cold as his eyes and everyone at the table shuddered.
"So if you don't believe in the non-interference policy then why won't you help us?" Radek demanded as he stormed into the office.
Rodney's expression grew fixed as everyone turned to him. "It's not that simple."
"Right then." Radek nodded peaceably. "Let us try some questions then. Do you know how to build a ZPM?"
Rodney nodded, wordlessly.
Radek smiled at him, it was a dangerous expression. "Could you tell us how to build a ZPM?" Rodney shook his head. "Could you build one for us?"
Rodney bowed his head and nodded reluctantly. "That was one of the conditions of my return. No using knowledge gained as an ascended or as an Alteran. That was what made it a punishment."
"What would happen if you ignored them?" Teyla asked quietly. "What would they do to you?"
Rodney breathed out heavily. "You don't need to know that right now. Let's just say that if I told you how to do half of the things I could… well, balance would be disrupted and it's entirely possible that you would destroy this galaxy and everything in it. You have to find out how we did. I know it sounds like an excuse but I'm serious, when you can work it out you'll be ready to know."
John looked furious, Elizabeth's face was set but Carson's expression was curiously sympathetic as Rodney dropped his head into his hands. "I sound like everything I've ever despised," he muttered.
"How could you stand it?" Carson asked eventually.
Rodney looked startled. "With difficulty," he admitted. "Especially when that stupid girl on Dagan took that ZPM. At that point I could cheerfully have killed her. She asked me what it was like and I couldn't tell her."
There was a faraway expression on his face as he continued. "Couldn't tell her about growing up on Atlantis. Couldn't tell her about everything I did in this city when I was a child, when I was a teenager and when I grew up. Couldn't tell her about the time when I was nine and hacked the lock on the gateroom door and dismantled the DHD. Couldn't tell her about the time I got stuck inside a transporter on my own for four hours when I was five. Couldn't tell her about getting a mini-Puddlejumper for my sixteenth birthday." He laughed softly. "I got into so much trouble in this city, I drove my parents mad.
Everyone was staring at him and he shook his head fiercely, shaking himself out of the daze he'd settled in. "But I couldn't tell her so she… hang on, that's a thought."
And he was gone, reappearing a few seconds later with the ZPM in his hand.
Radek gave a strangled cry and launched forwards. Rodney bit his lip and snatched at Radek's wrist as the Czech scientist reached for it. "Take care of it."
Radek looked up, obviously willing to agree instantly before he caught sight of Rodney's expression and paused. "I promise," he swore sincerely after a couple of seconds.
"Doesn't this break the rules?" Elizabeth asked sharply.
"Of course, but you should have it anyway. They're surprised at how good I've been actually, I think they're willing to overlook a little."
There was an awkward silence. Radek, surprisingly, wasn't staring at the ZPM, he was staring at Rodney. Rodney sighed. "Just ask it, Radek."
The scientist blushed slightly but set his jaw. "What of Arcturus."
"Let's just say that I was involved with that project the first time around. When they shut it down it just felt like everything was for nothing."
John flinched along with Ronon, they both recognised that tone of voice. John also recognised that this was probably a mistake but he couldn't help but ask the question. "Everything?"
Rodney's eyes frightened him when he looked up, there was so much pain in them. Everyone stayed silent waiting for the answer. They hardly seemed to be breathing as the quiet seemed to swamp the room.
"Did you die there?" Ronon asked eventually, his words seemed to spur Rodney to life as he laughed bitterly.
"No, but I should have. I was supposed to be there on the day it blew. Let's just say that Collins wasn't the only one to die because of it."
There was an awkward silence. "Did you know the information the Aurora was carrying?" John asked, trying to change the subject.
"No." Rodney's answer was short and not what he expected.
"I was an Alteran, John. I remember the day the Aurora didn't make contact. I remember how we looked for her. I had friends on that ship…" His eyes closed.
"You talked to the Captain before we left them, did you tell him?"
"Yes." Rodney looked satisfied suddenly. "I told him and I made them a promise."
"What promise?" Teyla whispered.
"I promised that we'd win. That we wouldn't run." His voice was dark and warm.
"How did you know him?" Ronon sounded suspicious, Rodney didn't know why but guessed it was probably par for the course for the Runner. Besides, he didn't mind, the question brought up happy memories and he chuckled, remembering.
"I built 'em and he flew 'em."
John sat up straighter, so did the others. "So, the Orion…?"
Rodney smirked. "Your 'Orion' was my ship. I designed her, just before I ascended. I never saw her finished. She's beautiful," he finished softly.
They hadn't known him, they hadn't know anything about him. They were all slowly coming to realise that.
"If ye knew ye were going to ascend then why were you so scared all the time?" Carson asked, his accent thickening.
Rodney's eyes were closed. This was the answer he'd been expecting to give since the 'interview' started. Not necessarily in response to that question though.
"Because the deal was that I leave when I die. I love this city, promise me you'll look after it."
"You're leaving now, aren't you?" Elizabeth asked the question on everyone's lips.
"Yeah. I got a little time to say goodbye and then…" Rodney waved his hands in a manner so familiar to everyone at the table it was painful.
"No!" John shook his head. "No. I don't know who you've been talking to, McKay but that isn't the way it works. You do not get to say 'I was an Ancient' and then just… leave. You don't get to come back and then just leave!"
"So that's why you weren't as shocked as you should have been. You thought you'd have time to get used to it," Rodney murmured. "I had wondered… Well, I'm sorry but you're not going to get used to this without me here. I have to leave. I'll try to come back but it took me ten thousand years to convince them to let me do this.
"I just want to do one last thing before…" Rodney didn't finish his sentence he just stood and walked over to the wall, placing his hands on it he closed his eyes.
Instantly the city fired, lighting like she never had for John or anyone else. Systems launched and calls started coming in immediately from all over the city. John, Radek, Carson and Elizabeth all ignored them.
Rodney only stood for a second before he pulled away.
"By the way, John, you're not going insane, she is talking to you. She only that to people she really likes." His smile fell. "She used to talk to me once, this time I wasn't strong enough."
John said nothing.
Teyla and Ronon were on their feet and walking towards him. Teyla pulled him roughly into a hug and then touched her forehead to his. "Your people were lucky to have you, Rodney McKay, just as we were."
He looked at her, surprised. Ronon didn't move but he nodded deeply to him.
"They're calling, aren't they?" Rodney looked even more startled.
Ronon nodded again. "You're glowing, McKay."
Rodney looked down, ruefully and then Elizabeth was making her way over before he could blink.
She too hugged him fiercely and, less shocked now, he wrapped his arms around her too.
"Remember to lean on the people around you," he whispered. "You don't have to carry everyone's burdens. You're an extraordinary woman, keep fighting the man."
She let out a sound that was more a choked off sob than a laugh.
"Ronon, Teyla…" Rodney turned to them. "You're right not to trust them, never let them forget that. You belong in this galaxy, you know it better than anyone. Trust your instincts.
"Radek…" Rodney squeezed his eyes shut, the glow was even more pronounced now and he was having to visibly concentrate on hanging on. "Take care of my city. You're one of the most intelligent people I've ever met, you'll be alright."
Radek flushed under the praise and shook the hand Rodney held out before he was pulled into a hug too.
"What was your real name, lad?" Carson asked, staying seated.
"Arrian," Rodney answered after a moment's hesitation.
Carson nodded. "I'm glad I could be there when you came home then, Arrian."
The flush of pleasure that Rodney felt upon hearing his name was short-lived as he looked at John.
The pilot was still seated, his face carefully blank.
"Just tell me one thing," John murmured eventually and Rodney tilted his chin. "Do we have a chance?"
"Yes, but you already knew that." And with that he hugged the Colonel tightly.
John's hands scrabbled unsurely for a second before he hugged his friend back, forcefully. "You've got more to live for than you know, John," Rodney mumbled into his shoulder before he pulled back. "I'll be seeing you, if you think you're getting out of the energy for eternity gig then you're mad."
John laughed, Rodney grinned at him and opened his mouth to say something and then he was gone.
John froze in shock, somehow no matter what Rodney had said it hadn't really sunk in. Looking stupidly at the spot where Rodney had been he couldn't really believe that the scientist was gone.
"I know that's more than people usually get…" He didn't realise that he was speaking out loud until everyone turned to look at him. "I know that we shouldn't really have even had the chance to talk to him or to say goodbye… so why do I feel like we've just been cheated?"