It Starts With An Earthquake
by Nel

Rating: R
Category: Angst, apocafic
Pairing: McKay/Sheppard
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: At end of fic.
Spoilers: Vague ones for Siege II and season 2
Summary: God. What kind of team were they, leaving one of their own behind?
Author's Notes: Thank you for Suz for betaing and holding my hand and reassuring me (No, it's not too melodramatic.") and to Kylie Lee for betaing (at superspeed none the less!) and holding my hand a little bit more.


"You need to calm down, Rodney." Only Sheppard would say something so unbelievably stupid in the face of more things going wrong than Rodney had ever imagined--even in his worst-case scenarios. They'd been separated from the others and ended up hiding in a small lab, Rodney locking the door behind them even though he could still hear faint gunfire and yelling. They'd lost contact with Elizabeth--with everyone, really; static was all they heard whenever they tried their radios. That could only mean that the control room had been damaged somehow, and Rodney tried, tried, really tried not to think of what that meant, to Atlantis and to him and to the colonel.

"You're not looking calm," the colonel said while slipping a fresh clip into his P-90.

"That's because I'm panicking, so would you shut up?" The console in front of Rodney's eyes seemed to swim, and suddenly the colonel was right next to him, clasping his shoulder, and Rodney could not for the life of him figure out how he'd moved so fast.

"Easy. Breathe, Rodney."

He closed his eyes and gulped in air, the colonel's hand feeling cool against his shoulder, but closing his eyes only enhanced the image of the last thing he'd seen before they started running. "Do you think Teyla is…?"

"That kind of thinking will get us nowhere," Sheppard said tightly, and it was a small but tangible comfort that Rodney wasn't the only one worrying whether or not the Wraith had gotten to Teyla's fallen body.

God. What kind of team were they, leaving one of their own behind? "We should have--"

"We did the only thing we could, and that's finding another way to stop the Wraith."

"Yes, well, without a shield, I think that'll be a little difficult," Rodney snapped. Their beautiful, shiny ZPM had cracked into pieces when the Wraith beam created an overload. The colonel had said that he recognized the beams from almost two years ago, when he and Teyla had gone off to gather information and had returned instead with a puddle jumper full of refugees. The Wraith must have developed the beam since then, considering they'd never managed to breach the Ancients' shield before. Rodney found it more than a little unfair that the Wraith decided that the time to be clever was when the overconfident humans had taken over the show.

"Teyla will be fine," Sheppard said quietly. "Ronon was right behind us, and he'd never let them hurt her."

A thought struck Rodney. "And you, what about you?" He eyed Sheppard's chest in worry. "I saw one of them touch you."

The colonel gave him a small smile and tugged his vest to the side to show that although his jacket may have been ripped, his chest was untouched. "I've found that the Wraith have a hard time eating with bullets in their gut."

"Good, that's…good," Rodney said, meaning it.

The colonel eyed him carefully. "So, you okay? Think you can get that brain of yours running?"

Rodney let out a laugh, and if there was a hysterical tinge to it, he figured he was entitled. "My brain never stops running, Colonel. I really wish it did."

Sheppard squeezed his arm again. "Well, personally, I'm glad it doesn't, but try to focus on smart plans instead of doom."

"Smart plans, right," Rodney muttered and focused on the console. They needed to know how bad the situation was, and they needed to get in touch with someone. There was an internal communication system in Atlantis's mainframe that they'd never used, simply because their own technology was easier to manage and didn't require hours of research. Occasionally, however, Rodney had tinkered around with it, and although he'd never gotten it up and running as it should, he felt as though he wasn't that far away. He didn't say that he was a genius for nothing, after all.

He didn't know how much time passed. The only thing he noticed was the system slowly unraveling, and Sheppard handing him power bars. He figured that Sheppard would tell him if he needed to panic or run or hide any time soon.

With a small cry of triumph--Zelenka so owed him fifty bucks--he watched as the screen lit up. Rodney tapped at the console and hissed "yes" as it blinked, waiting for his command.

"You got it?" Rodney hadn't noticed Sheppard moving. How could he do that--move like that?

Rodney shook his head to clear it and refocused on the screen. "We should be able to hail any part of the city now."

"Try the control room first," Sheppard instructed.

Rodney punched in the commands and held his breath. As the seconds ticked by with no response, he calmed himself with the fact that it didn't mean anything if they didn't hear back. If the normal radio channels were too badly damaged, it might mean that Atlantis's communication system was too. He very carefully didn't think of how the people inside the control room might have fared if the equipment that had lasted for ten thousand years had received so much damage that they'd stopped working.

He started explaining his theory to the colonel, who nodded and interrupted. "Yeah, I'm with you. Try something else. Try the infirmary."

Rodney tried again, altering the command slightly. Then he repeated the sequence. Again. Again. Three more times.

He looked at Sheppard, who didn't look worried. "They're probably moving around to avoid being captured," Sheppard reassured him. "Try the labs next--they're in a better defensive position."

Rodney cleared the screen and input a new sequence. He didn't think about what it would take for Carson to move--or leave behind--critically ill patients.

When there was an answering scratch of static at Rodney's hail, his body couldn't seem to decide whether or not to be relieved, but when no other noise was forthcoming, it decided to slump forward. A spike of fear-fueled adrenaline had raced through his system at the sound of static, and now it settled in his stomach. "No one's answering? Why isn't anyone answering?"

"They're not really in a position to sit tight and chat, Rodney." Sheppard sounded firm, in control, but Rodney knew it was a lie.

He stared at the colonel, and it was funny; in his three years on Atlantis, he thought that he'd felt all the different kinds of fear there were--apprehension, dread, alarm; fright, panic, horror; terror so profound and deep that he couldn't move.

That was nothing compared with what he was feeling right now, though, because he suddenly knew, with complete and chilling certainty, that he and the colonel were the only ones left on Atlantis. And the thought that this was it, that he wasn't the only one that was going to die, they were *all* going to die (they were already dead, all of them)... Everything they'd seen and discovered, gone except for a database back at the SGC. Teyla teasing, Ronon baring his teeth in what Rodney had come to recognize as his smile, Ford--Ford, who'd gotten lost and never gotten back. And of course Elizabeth who looked a little worn and a little older every day, but who always smiled at them when they came back through the gate, and Carson, whose eyes weren't as naive as they'd been when he'd first gotten here, but whose solidness still comforted Rodney when things got to be too much.

Sheppard, staring at him with dark eyes, the only one left.

"It's all right to be scared," he said softly, and that was not what Rodney wanted to hear.

"Shut up," he spat. "Shut up, you bastard. You do not get to be human. It's too late for that. You do not get to play hero, get to fly away on suicide missions, get to throw yourself--" running out of breath, trying again, "throw yourself in front of--"

"Shh," Sheppard said, uncharacteristically soothing, and Rodney--shamefully--clung to him as Sheppard pulled Rodney close. He realized that his eyes were burning, hot tears dreadfully close to the surface, and he put his face down so Sheppard wouldn't see, the material of Sheppard's jacket coarse against his face.

He couldn't hide. It didn't matter if he hid his face. Everything had just ended, and they were the only two left. So Rodney lifted his head and kissed Sheppard, and Sheppard didn't push him away or punch him or do any of the things Rodney expected him to do. Instead he ran his fingers gently through Rodney's hair and kissed him back, his tongue hot inside Rodney's mouth, lips chapped but soft, his mouth tasting sweet, so sweet…

Rodney jerked back, staring at the colonel in horrified realization. "I never told you, god, I never told you."

"Shh," Sheppard said. "It's okay. Everything will be okay." And Rodney allowed himself a second--a second of that mouth, those hands, those eyes looking at him as though he was important for other reasons than him being a genius. Then Sheppard drew back. "We need to get out of here."

Rodney nodded. Back to business, yes, it was time to get back to business, even though Sheppard hadn't pushed him away. "Okay, yes, yes, you're right. We need to destroy the stargate."

"We need to destroy Atlantis," Sheppard corrected.

"But we can't do it from the control room."

"We'll have to get access to one of the labs."

It was almost freaky how well Sheppard followed Rodney's line of thought sometimes--they'd always made a good team. "It'll be hard to get there."

"You leave that to me. I get you there, you do the blowing up."

Rodney nodded, feeling strangely calm. He wondered why it had taken shock so long to set in. "Let's go."


Sneaking through the corridors of Atlantis and waiting for the Wraith to discover them wasn't as frightening as Rodney had thought. He was too distracted by the bodies to be frightened. Most of them were of people he didn't recognize, since he had a hard time picturing dried-out corpses as young, healthy soldiers. He'd never really learned all their names.

When they got closer to the labs, the corpses weren't all soldiers anymore. He found it hard to breathe when he spotted Simpson; her shirt wasn't any different from any of the other scientists, but he recognized the red scrunchie she wore in her hair, a trivial detail that, at this exact second, hit him in the stomach. She'd flipped him off earlier that morning when he'd commented that she should just come out and admit that she'd been dating Kavanagh.

They were almost at the lab that they'd decided was the best option when Rodney stopped and stared at a body at the far end of the corridor. He couldn't make out who he was, but he felt like he was supposed to.

"Rodney?" Sheppard asked, looking behind him urgently, then noting Rodney had stopped. "Rodney." Yes, right, they needed to hurry. With a last long look at the body (Johnson? Lorne?), he followed the colonel the last few meters to the lab.

He'd expected the doors to be locked, but when Rodney tried the control, the doors slid open smoothly, like it was just another day and everything was fine.

For some reason, he hadn't expected that there would be bodies inside as well.

If Sheppard hadn't been there, he would have lost it. These were *his* people, and he hadn't been there when he was needed. He could have gotten them out...somehow. He was a genius. He'd failed them because he hadn't been with them, like he should have. Rodney wasn't big on dying, but it would have been…proper. Like the captain going down with his ship, only less moronic.

"Go," Sheppard said, hand on the butt of his weapon, and he stalked around the perimeter of the room, stepping over bodies. Hands only shaking a little, Rodney typed quickly, the sound of the tapping loud in the absolute quiet--no chattering, nobody asking him stupid questions. The firewall he'd put up around the main control structure--the structure that held the self-destruct system--was almost impossible to break through, but he'd designed it, after all. He wouldn't be outsmarted by himself.

The code display popped up just as Colonel Sheppard turned abruptly and started for the door. "Colonel?" Rodney asked.

Sheppard's eyes looked worried. "I thought I heard something. Didn't you hear it?" He stopped by the door, hand out, as if he was going to reach out, press the control, open the door, and leave, leave Rodney alone with the bodies and the self-destruct.

"Um, I don't think leaving me here is such a good idea." Because he would lose it then. Definitely.

"I'm just going to take a look outside," Sheppard said firmly. "I'll be right outside. I would never leave you alone."

Rodney stalled. "What about your code? I need your command code to initiate the auto-destruct. You know I need your code."

Sheppard raised an eyebrow. "You saying you don't know it?"

Well, okay, so maybe he did. He refused to be embarrassed that he'd memorized them all. Just in case. On further thought, considering the situation, he probably didn't need to be embarrassed.

He gave in. "Okay, Colonel. But just outside. I'm going to set it for twenty minutes."

Sheppard nodded sharply, and then the door slid open and he was gone. Rodney was alone. All he could hear was his own ragged breathing.

He closed his eyes and took a second to focus his mind. He just had one more thing to do, and then the colonel would get them out of here. Just one more thing, so that his friends could be buried. And if a few Wraith got caught in the blast, that was just a bonus.



A countdown. How quaint. Numbers running backward. Rodney had set it that way, of course. He didn't know how the Ancients would have done it. Maybe they would have just pushed a big button, and boom, just like that. He watched the digital numbers slip, one number silently turning into another.

Then he heard the door, Sheppard came back in, and Rodney felt muscles he hadn't realized were tensed relax. "All clear?" Rodney asked.

"As far as I can tell." Sheppard studied Rodney. "How are you holding up?"

Rodney stared. "That's an idiotic question, even coming from you."

Sheppard didn't rise to the bait. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah. Let's get out of here."


They'd gotten as far as the commissary when they ran into a Wraith. Rodney didn't have time to think. He just drew his weapon and fired, point blank, into the chest of the Wraith giant, his shots matching the rhythm of the colonel's. Rodney wondered if they'd surprised the Wraith, if it had believed that all the humans were gone. He supposed that they'd never know; there was no way to tell from the expression on its face, which was covered by one of those masks. Just to be certain, he fired four bullets into its skull. He didn't feel any pleasure. He'd thought he would.

Sheppard's hand touched his arm. "Don't waste bullets."


They'd made it to the shuttle bay, and now that they were there the terror that they wouldn't make it suddenly gripped Rodney. Sheppard seemed jittery too, eyes everywhere as Rodney tried to get the doors open. These doors, unlike those of the lab, were locked, and Rodney wondered if it'd been the last thing Radek or Elizabeth had tried to do. He hoped not, because it was pretty pointless, wasn't it? It wasn't like the Wraith could use the jumpers themselves.

Or maybe…

"They know."

Sheppard frowned. "What?"

"The Wraith. They know. They know we're here. Why would the doors be locked? The only ones able to use the jumpers are us."

"If they know, they don't know exactly where we are."

"But what if they know the moment I open the door? What if--"

Sheppard nodded. "They've got it on alarm." He made a face. "Well, I don't think we have a choice. We might let them know where we are, but as soon as we get in a jumper, we're out of here. Maybe the control room is too messed up for them to be able to detect us."


"We don't have much time, Rodney. Time to make up your mind."

Rodney took a deep breath. "All right."

He bent over the controls. It only took him a minute to override the lock.


They took the emergency jumper, the one already packed with supplies. Rodney ran inside just as the hatch began to close behind him, hands full of tools he'd snatched from the jumper bay. He sat in the passenger seat and turned impatiently toward Sheppard. "Well? What are you waiting for?"

Sheppard hesitated, and something started hurting in Rodney's chest. "Rodney, I need you to fly out of here," he said.

Rodney frowned. "And leave you behind? I don't think so."


"What possible good would that do anyway? We're already blowing them up." Rodney leaned toward him. "We're blowing up the bastards, John."

"Rodney," Sheppard said in that voice that always made Rodney shut up. "You need to fly out of here. There isn't enough time."

"Not without you," Rodney said stubbornly.


"I'm not going anywhere," Sheppard whispered.

Rodney frowned. "You're not leaving the jumper, or you're not leaving Atlantis?"

John just looked at him. Rodney started breathing faster. That body at the end of the corridor…


"You know I could never make it without you, right?" he said, and he didn't quite recognize his voice.

John smiled at him--the rare smile, the real one. "I know. I'm not going anywhere."

"Good. Just so we're clear." Rodney stood and moved over to the pilot's seat as John slid out, rubbing his eyes. His fingers were wet as he took hold of the steering column and activated the jumper.

He wondered if they'd make it.


Rodney watched the explosion below as the jumper soared through the sky safely, without a scratch. Some buffeting air--that was it. He looked over at John, sitting in the passenger seat. He wasn't wearing his uniform anymore, just that black sweater that Rodney had always wanted to run his hands over, and those pants that always seemed about to slide down too far.

"How are you holding up?" John asked, touching Rodney's white-knuckled hand, still gripping the steering column.

Rodney swallowed. "Fine, as long as you're around."


Warnings: Death fic


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