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The Consequence Of Caring

Chapter Text

Carson Beckett decided he was a man who believed in miracles, perhaps no wonder seeing as he had already witnessed so many in their short time in the Pegasus galaxy. He sat back on his heels as Major Sheppard's stats slowly returned to normal; he was breathing on his own and while he was still unconscious and the bite on his neck looked bad, it could have been much worse. Beckett was confident he would be fine. Good news for the three people still in the jumper with him and his medical team.

Elizabeth sat on one of the benches in the rear of the jumper, her hands steepled in front of her face for a moment and her eyes closed. He heard her whisper something he didn't quite catch, then she took a deep breath and let it out slowly before she knelt down and touched Sheppard on the leg. She gave Beckett a nod and a smile then made her way out of the jumper.

Teyla sat on her knees next to the Major and now that his heart was going again, she held his hand and spoke softly to him. Beckett was fairly sure the words weren't in English and he smiled at the attention, something Sheppard would have laughed off if he were awake. He let her be for a moment as the medical team retrieved the gurney waiting in the bay. Miracle aside, the sooner he had the Major in his infirmary, the happier Beckett would be.

Which left Rodney. He heard a crash behind him and turned just in time to see him stumble over something on the floor of the jumper and give the offending item a swift kick before he continued pacing in the small space. As Rodney turned in his back-and-forth, Beckett got his first good look at his face and suddenly wondered if he was about to have another patient on his hands. Rodney kept staring at the unconscious Major, his mouth slightly open, his skin pale and sweaty, his arms clenched around his middle in a self-hug.

Instead of leaving the jumper, Beckett watched as Rodney wedged himself in a corner of the rear compartment when the medical team returned with the gurney. Rodney never took his eyes off Sheppard or the machine that reassured him the Major's heart was still beating. Beckett had never seen Rodney so upset in all the time he'd known the other man.

As the team loaded Sheppard onto the gurney and moved out into the bay, Teyla walked beside it, one hand on the gurney, the other still grasping Sheppard's arm. Rodney started pacing again as soon as the gurney cleared the rear hatch. Beckett stopped beside him and forced him to a halt. "Rodney? Look at me," Beckett said softly and put both hands on his shoulders. He could feel him shaking and it took several long seconds for Rodney to focus on him. "He is going to be fine. Do you understand?" He tried to look into Rodney's eyes, but Rodney kept ducking his head away.

Rodney just shook his head and tried to shrug off Beckett's hold on him and continue moving, but the doctor didn't let go.

"I almost b-blew it, Carson," Rodney said in a near whisper. "I almost lost one of the few people in this universe who gives a damn about me because I-I panicked!" He tried to pull out of Beckett's hold again.

"Rodney, don't do this to yourself, lad," Beckett said. He didn't like the stuttering, and he forced Rodney out of the puddle jumper and sat him on one of the medical cases still stacked outside. He knew Rodney's behavior was the result of stress and what he'd just witnessed; Beckett hoped getting him out of the shuttle would help pull him back.

"You don't get it," Rodney said angrily and tried to jump to his feet but Beckett stopped him. "I'm supposed to know these systems! I should have worked faster to get the pods retracted. But no, instead I kept s-staring at Sheppard lying on the floor, that … thing slowly k-killing him." He tried to stand again but Beckett kept one hand on his shoulder to ground him and keep him seated.

"Then I should have thought of blowing the rear hatch," he ground out. "I shouldn't need Kavanagh, of all people, to tell me about a basic law of physics," he continued his self-recrimination. "I just stood there and watched as Teyla and Ford tried to h-help him, not doing anything." He looked over at Beckett. "If I had managed to do any of those things we would have been back sooner and, and." His gaze traveled back to the floor of the jumper where the defibrillator and other medical equipment was still scattered; Beckett stepped into his line-of-sight to block his view.

The gurney had already left the bay and Beckett knew he had to get back to Major Sheppard. Unfortunately, there wasn't anyone left in the bay to deal with one man about to tear himself apart with self-doubt. "Rodney, listen to me," Beckett said with all the empathy he could muster in his voice. "Are you listening?" He ducked his head trying to catch Rodney's eye.

Rodney looked up at him and Beckett could see just how lost the man was at the moment.

"Major Sheppard will be fine," Beckett said and knelt in front of him. "You got him home. Do you understand me? He's home and he is going to be fine. And a big part of that is because of you."

Finally, Beckett saw the lost look dissipate and some of the usual Rodney reappeared as he scrubbed at his face for a moment then nodded. He still looked wan, but Beckett thought they were past the current crisis.

"All right, then," Beckett said and stood. "I want you to go back to your quarters, get cleaned up and find something to eat, your blood sugar is probably scrambled after all of this. I'll page one of the nurses to get you back to your room."

Rodney shook his head and slowly got to his feet. "I'll manage," he said and his voice sounded a bit stronger.

Beckett wasn't happy but realised Rodney needed to regain some control of his situation and this was a simple way to do that. "All right, then. I will call you in about an hour to let you know how Major Sheppard is doing. I want to hear that you've eaten something by then."

Rodney nodded as they made their way to the exit. "I can come see him, can't I?" Rodney asked as they reached the door.

"Course you can," Beckett assured him as they left the jumper bay. "But he might be asleep, so don't go waking him up."

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

John Sheppard knew he was lucky to be alive, talk about a Hail Mary. He distinctly remembered the way it felt to have the bug attached to his neck while the rest of his body slowly went numb and lifted a cautious hand to check it was actually gone. He remembered Ford trying everything he could think of to get it off and Teyla trying to keep him as comfortable as she could. He remembered the hard grip Rodney had had on his shoulder as if afraid what would happen if he let go. He also remembered the panicked look on McKay's face when he'd suggested using the defibrillator. McKay scared was fairly common but that was McKay truly terrified, not something he needed to see again anytime soon.

He'd fallen into a light sleep after the team left and he hoped they would get some rest of their own. Now he was awake again listening to the quiet of the infirmary wondering what had woken him up. He could tell from the quality of the silence around him it was late. The lights in the infirmary were in their low, night setting, and the nurses were huddled at the far end of the room. So why was he awake and his senses telling him something was wrong?

He listened and heard the slight moan again and then felt a weight on the bed near his hip. The moan turned into words and Sheppard heard a mumbled "two minutes, only two minutes" and realised the weight was Rodney, his head pillowed on his arms and his arms resting on the bed; he was still dressed in the clothes he remembered from the team's visit earlier in the evening.

"Rodney? What the hell?" he whispered and laid his hand on the closest arm he could reach. "McKay?" he called softly but the only response he received was that the murmuring stopped and Rodney settled.

"Major, you should be asleep," Beckett said in a low voice as he came over to the bed. He glanced at the side of the bed with a frown. "Oh, bloody hell. How did he get back in here?" The doctor tsked but didn't do anything to wake Rodney.

Sheppard glanced up at Beckett and tried not to move his neck. "I was sleeping, Doc, until my bedmate here started having a nightmare."

"I should have expected that," Beckett muttered, then added, "Part of me is just happy he's sleeping," Beckett said with a sigh. "You've both had a rough day."

"Tell me about it," Sheppard huffed and rubbed gently at the gauze covering his neck.

"Aye." Beckett checked the monitors near the bed, carefully moving around Rodney so as to not wake him. He made a few notes on the chart in his hand, then turned back to Sheppard. "How are you feeling?"

"I can feel, so that's a plus," Sheppard said with a wry smile. "The pins and needles numb feeling is finally gone." He wiggled the fingers of one hand to show Beckett, the other he kept on Rodney's arm. "Neck is stiff though."

"You were lucky, Major. That creature missed your carotid artery by millimeters. As it is, the punctures were deep so you'll need to be careful until the wounds heal."

Rodney sighed and shifted slightly on the bed.

Beckett looked down at him and Sheppard could see a worry line across Beckett's forehead. "You should have seen him, Major, when you first got back. I don't think I've ever seen him so upset."

Sheppard looked down at the sleeping man again. "Coming within seconds of dying will do that to someone, Doc." He'd tried for humor but it came off rather flat.

"True, but that wasn't the real reason." Beckett gave Sheppard a steady look. "And I think you know that."

Sheppard had the grace to look contrite, glanced away and ran his hands through his hair as he admitted to himself he probably did know. Hadn't Teyla spelt it out for him last month? Somewhere in the last four months, Rodney had gone from just an annoying member of the science team to an annoying brother. He smiled down at the sleeping man as he realised the feeling was actually mutual.

"Our Rodney discovered today he cares about someone else as much as he cares about himself," Beckett said with a tiny smile as if reading Sheppard's thoughts. "And he was afraid he might lose you, Major."

Sheppard glanced back down at Rodney as he started to mumble again and put his hand back on the arm.

"Chaguo ndugu," Sheppard said softly, his tongue tripping over the syllables.

"What was that, Major?"

Sheppard kept his hand on McKay's arm and looked up. "Hmm? Something Teyla said while we were trying to get Rodney and Ford out of that mine a month ago. She said it meant brother by choice." Sheppard felt his face redden with the admission.

Beckett nodded. "Smart woman, that Teyla," he said and started to walk away.

"Hey, Doc," Sheppard whispered. "We can't just leave him here."

"Like I said, Major, I'm happy he's at least sleeping. One night won't hurt him any."

"But what about me? He hogging that whole side of bed!" Sheppard sighed in mock frustration as Beckett went back to his office with a chuckle. "I hope you're happy, McKay," Sheppard groused even as he scooted over slightly so his friend had a bit more room.

John woke the next morning to find Rodney gone and was slightly hurt the man hadn't said anything before he left. He was finishing his breakfast when Elizabeth walked into the infirmary and over to his bed.

"How are you feeling this morning, Major?" she asked and smiled down at him.

Sheppard looked up carefully. "Oh you know, like a guy that had a vampire bug stuck to his neck and was dead for a few minutes." He watched Weir's face and when she didn't react to the joke he continued, "I'm fine. Beckett promises I can get out of here tomorrow if there's no infection or 'complications.'" He gestured quote marks around the last word.

"That's good news," Weir replied. "I saw Lieutenant Ford this morning, he seems to have recovered as well."

"Yeah, lucky guy. He didn't even have to spend the night."

"Well, I'm glad to see you're doing better, Major. I'll leave you to rest." She turned to leave then stopped and came back to the bed. "If I were you though, I wouldn't joke about the being dead part around Rodney. He was pretty scared yesterday; we all were."

Sheppard looked down at the bed. "Yeah, so I heard."

Elizabeth patted his leg. "I'll see you later, Major," she said and left.

After Weir left he had a steady stream of visitors for the rest of the day. Teyla and Ford stopped by to share lunch, the pretty blonde nurse came by every four hours to check the dressing on his neck and change it. Bates came by with some security reports so he'd have something to read at least. The only person he didn't see was Rodney, which hurt more than a little. Maybe that brotherly feeling wasn't as mutual as he thought.

"I have not seen Doctor McKay all day, Major," Teyla said when he asked her about him when she and Ford arrived again in time for dinner.

"I bet he's just been crashed in his room," Ford added. "He was so tired last night he barely ate anything when we went to dinner."

Sheppard looked up sharply at that news and winced as the movement pulled at his neck. "He wasn't eating?"

Teyla caught on to his worry and tried to reassure him, "To be honest, none of us ate much last night. It had been a very trying day."

"That's an understatement." Ford laughed as he cleared away the dinner trays.

Beckett wandered over to the bed with a tray of supplies. "Let's just have a look at you now, Major," he said as he set the tray on the bedside table and Teyla scooted her chair out of the way.

Sheppard winced as the tape came away from his neck and he held still as Beckett carefully probed at the puncture marks.

"Everything looks good," he said as he taped down the new dressing. "We'll check again in the morning, but I think it's safe to say you will be able to leave in time for breakfast in the mess hall instead of here."

"Great. Thanks, Doc," Sheppard said with a relieved smile.

"You're welcome, lad. Now for you lot," he turned to Teyla and Ford, "time to leave the Major to his rest."

"We will meet you and Doctor McKay for breakfast at the usual time, Major," Teyla promised as she put her chair next to the bed.

"See you tomorrow, sir," Ford added and they both left.

"Try to get some rest, Major," Beckett said and went back to his office.

Once again it was late when Sheppard heard distressed noises coming from beside him. He opened his eyes and carefully looked to his left to see Rodney asleep, this time his arms and head rested on Sheppard's bedside table.

"You can't keep doing this, McKay," Sheppard whispered with a frown. "What's going on in that head of yours?"

Before Sheppard could do anything else, a nurse came around and shook her head at Sheppard's late night visitor. "He shouldn't be here," she said softly and started around the bed.

"Let him alone," Sheppard hissed as the nurse reached out to shake Rodney awake.

She glanced up at the Major. "He can't stay like that," she explained as she gently touched Rodney's arm.

McKay flinched away from the touch and mumbled something about not fast enough but didn't wake.

"Hey," Sheppard said again, his temper rising. "I said, leave him alone. Beckett knows he's here," he added and hoped she wouldn't call him on the lie.

The nurse stepped back and he wasn't sure if she believed him or not, but she moved back around the bed and returned to the nurse's desk in the corner. Sheppard thought she looked anything but pleased.

"Now you've done it," Sheppard said and looked over at Rodney. "You went and got us both in trouble."

Rodney didn't answer, he just sighed in his sleep.

Next morning John once again woke to find McKay already gone, but a clean uniform was waiting in the vacated chair so Rodney knew he was being released this morning.

"Major Sheppard," Beckett said as he came over to the bed, a tray of supplies in one hand. He looked grim and Sheppard immediately looked around to see who on his team had been injured. "I had an interesting conversation with Sharon Peterson, my overnight nurse, when I came in this morning," he informed Sheppard with a frown.

Sheppard opened his mouth to reply but Beckett stopped him. "I don't want to hear it, Major. I won't have you snapping at my staff for doing their job."

"She wanted to wake him up," Sheppard said and pointed to the empty chair. He knew they both knew who the 'he' in the conversation was. "You said yourself he needed the sleep."

"Aye, so I did." He looked Sheppard in the eye. "So you explain that you don't snap at my nurses. Sharon is a good person, she was worried about Rodney's shoulder with him sleeping like that." Beckett set the tray on the table and started peeling off the dressing. "He's only been out of the sling for a little over a week, Major."

"I didn't think of that," Sheppard admitted. "I'll apologise," he said sincerely and sighed. After a moment he added, "I might be feeling a little …"

"Overprotective?" Beckett supplied with a smile.

Sheppard shrugged. "Maybe." He looked up at Beckett as the dressing came off. "I'm worried about him, Carson. I wake up to find him crashed here in the middle of the night, but I don't see him during the day at all. Teyla and Ford don't know where he's going or what he does all day and all they can get out of McKay's minions down in the labs is that he's working on something important but none of them will say what that is."

Beckett checked the wound and looked over at his patient. "Still no signs of infection, Major," he said as he taped on a new dressing. "Take it easy for a few more days and stop by tonight to have the dressing changed." He packed up the supplies as Sheppard threw back the bed covers. "As for Rodney, Major, I suspect whatever he's up to has something to do with what happened in the jumper. That might help narrow down for you where he might be hiding." He headed back to his office.

"Good morning, Major Sheppard," Teyla greeted as she and Ford walked into the infirmary.

"Teyla. Ford." Sheppard nodded to both and picked up the change of clothes. "Give me a sec," he added and went behind the curtain in the corner to change. He came out a few minutes later dressed in his usual grey and black uniform and glanced around the infirmary expectantly.

"I have not seen him today, Major," Teyla said apparently reading his mind as she watched him look around for their missing team member.

"He missed breakfast yesterday, too, sir," Ford reported.

It had become a bit of a ritual over the past month for the team to have breakfast together. It had started with Sheppard helping Rodney with the sling for his shoulder in the morning and then making sure he actually ate a decent breakfast per Beckett's orders. It quickly became a chance for the team to be together before separating to different areas of the city for the day. Now, a month later it was just habit, one Sheppard had hoped to use to get Rodney to talk to him.

Sheppard ran a hand through his hair and sighed. He'd just have to find his wayward scientist the hard way then and led the others to the mess hall.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Teyla watched as two Marines worked through the pattern of blocks and counter-blocks, the sound of stick striking stick or more often stick hitting body, echoed through the small training room.

Her breakfast with Major Sheppard and Lieutenant Ford had been pleasant as always, but she could tell the Major was concerned that Doctor McKay seemed to be ditching them as Ford had so eloquently put it. She remembered feeling frustrated with the scientist while they were trapped in the jumper; he had let his fears almost consume him at the time and she wondered if that was the reason he was avoiding them. Sheppard had promised to find Doctor McKay and talk to him. She hoped that would be enough.

"That is good, Corporal Sanchez," she praised as they finished the form and she focused on her students. "Sergeant Stephens, you are dropping your blocking arm, you must keep it here," she repositioned the Sergeant's arm, "or you leave your flank exposed. Please try again."

She watched as the two men reset to the first position and moved through the stick form again. This time the sticks hit only wood. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Halling enter the space and try to act invisible, no small feat for a man that stood close to six and a half feet tall. She nodded to him in acknowledgement and focused on the two Marines again.

The two men finished the form and Teyla said, "Well done, both of you. I think that is enough for today." After the Marines left, Teyla turned to Halling with a wide smile. "Halling, how are you? I haven't seen much of you these last few days."

"Teyla," Halling rumbled and stepped forward. "I am well, thank you." He hesitated and looked around the room. She knew Halling and a few others questioned why she was teaching Athosian stick fighting to the expedition members, but she hoped he wasn't here just to argue with her about it again. "I've come to tell you, Iranda is asking for you; she is worried," he said and stared down at her.

"Why would she be concerned," Teyla asked as she rubbed a small towel over her face and shoulders and led Halling from the room. "Is there something wrong with her daughter?"

Halling shook his head slightly. "No, the baby is not due for many days yet." He stopped walking and faced Teyla, his eyes intent and his posture stiff. "Iranda has had a vision. She says she must speak to you and Doctor Weir."

Teyla looked up at him her smile gone, replaced with a look of concern. "Doctor Weir? Iranda has had a vision about Atlantis?"

"She will not tell me." Halling looked away and Teyla thought he seemed frustrated with Iranda's refusal to confide in him. "Only that she must speak to you."

Teyla nodded. "Tell her I will be there as quickly as I can." She tried to smile again to make the man feel more at ease, but Halling remained stoic.

"Will you bring Doctor Weir?" he asked pointedly.

Teyla shook her head. "I will hear about the vision first, then decide. Doctor Weir and her people are not as familiar with Iranda's gift as we are. I will need to explain why her visions are important and her warnings always taken seriously."

Halling made a disgruntled face but didn't argue. "I will speak to Iranda and let her know. Do not take too long, Teyla."

"I will not, I promise." She watched him walk away with a frown. Her relationship with Halling and some of the other Athosians had suffered since they'd come to Atlantis several months ago. She knew moving to the city was the best option for her people, but she understood their frustration at being cooped up within the city's walls.

She quickly showered and changed into a formal Athosian dress and leggings then headed for the section of Atlantis devoted to the Athosians. She noticed the change in atmosphere as soon as she entered the corridor. All of the doors in this section were set to an open position and various types of cloth or furs draped the doorways. Candles were lit along the hallways and in the alcoves, the flames protected by glass shields. There was a calm here that she didn't find in the areas where the expedition members lived. In a way she missed it.

"Iranda," she called outside one of the rooms. "I am here, may I come in?"

"Teyla Emmagan," an older woman greeted as the red and gold cloth over the door parted. "Halling found you, that is good." She motioned Teyla into the small room. "I have made tea," she added and motioned Teyla to be seated on several cushions on the floor.

Iranda moved back to a corner of the room where a small heating element on a table held a whistling kettle. Teyla looked around the room seeing the small touches the woman had added to make it feel more like the tents they were used to. Colorful cloth hung from the walls, most of the regulation furniture had been removed and replaced with mats and the cushions she sat on.

"Tea sounds wonderful," Teyla replied as Iranda handed her a cup and sat on the cushion beside her. She took a small sip and savored both the earthy blend and the moment to feel connected with her people. "How is Isla?" she asked after a few quiet minutes.

Iranda smiled. "The baby is giving her much trouble these days. I have decided she is having a boy. He kicks and squirms so, she says her insides will be bruised before he is born."

Teyla laughed. "I am glad she is well and the baby healthy."

Iranda nodded, set aside her cup, and took a deep breath. "You need to warn the people here, Teyla," she said, her voice low and serious. "Trouble is coming."

Teyla set aside her own cup and took the woman's hands. "Halling said you had had a vision. What did you see?"

Iranda looked up at the patterns in the ceiling of the room. "I saw you, Teyla Emmagan. You appeared to be looking for something and the city was falling down around you."

Teyla let go of Iranda's hands and leant back on her cushions. "What was I looking for? What was happening to Atlantis?"

Iranda shook her head. "I do not know. All I saw was you running and the walls of Atlantis were crashing down around you. I believe Atlantis will fall in the coming days. You must tell Doctor Weir. You must explain we have to leave this place."

Teyla patted the woman's hand and smiled. "I will do what I can, Iranda," she assured the older woman as she stood to leave. "Thank you for telling me of your vision."

"Luck to you Teyla Emmagan," Irnada said and Teyla thought she sounded rather sad, as if the vision had already come true.

She stepped out of Iranda's room and found Halling along with several other Athosians waiting. She smiled and nodded to the group then pulled Halling to one side. "Why did you bring them here?" she asked him in a low voice.

"They have a right to know of the vision, Teyla, that is our way. We do not keep secrets," he said with a slightly superior tone.

"No, Halling, we do not. But I also do not want our people more frightened at the moment. You should have waited until I could talk to you to bring them."

Halling bowed slightly, but Teyla could see he didn't really accept her viewpoint.

She turned back to the small huddle of people waiting in the corridor. "Iranda wanted me to know of a vision she had regarding Atlantis," she told the group, her voice calm. "I need to consult with Doctor Weir about what Iranda saw."

"Are we in danger?" one female voice asked.

"Where will we go?" asked one of the men.

"We should have stayed on Athosia," someone else grumbled.

Teyla sighed. It seemed the level of discontent with Atlantis was growing. She had no answers for the questions the group asked and hoped such discussion would be unnecessary once she had talked to Doctor Weir. There was nowhere safe they could go that she knew of, and she hoped they would realise that in time and adjust to life in Atlantis.

"I must see Doctor Weir," she said again. "Once I have done so, I will come back and let you know what we must do next."

She walked through the group, grasping hands and patting arms, trying to reassure her people as best she could.

She made her way through the control room and stopped outside Doctor Weir's glassed-in office. She saw Sergeant Bates in the office with Weir and hesitated a moment before knocking. This was a conversation she would have preferred to have alone, but since the Sergeant was the new head of Security for Atlantis, he would need to know about the vision as well.

She knocked and entered as Elizabeth motioned her inside.

"Teyla, how are you?" Elizabeth asked as Teyla entered. "You remember Sergeant Bates?" Weir gestured to Bates and Teyla nodded a greeting. Bates stood beside Weir's desk ramrod straight with his hands behind his back. He gave her a studied look and her smile wavered slightly.

"Doctor Weir, I do not want to interrupt," she started and hoped Elizabeth would agree and set a time for her to come back later.

"It's not a problem. Sergeant Bates and I were pretty much done. Is there something wrong?" She waved Teyla into one of the chairs in front of the desk.

"In a manner of speaking, yes," Teyla said, and foregoing the chair, stood in front of the desk. "I am here because one of my people is concerned about Atlantis."

"Concerned? How?" Weir asked, her expression now solemn.

Teyla hesitated. She wasn't sure how to explain the vision to these people. "You are aware I can sense when Wraith are near, yes?"

Elizabeth nodded. "And you sense the Wraith now?" she asked and glanced up as Bates stiffened beside her.

"No, not at this time," Teyla assured them. "However, another of my people has a similar gift."

"Go on."

"Iranda has the gift of foresight," Teyla said calmly and frowned as Bates scoffed.

Weir glanced up at Bates. "Did you have something to add, Sergeant?"

Bates rearranged his face to a blank mask. "No, ma'am."

"I didn't think so." She turned back to Teyla. "Please, continue."

"Iranda had a vision of me … and Atlantis. She saw me running through the city trying to find something, and Atlantis was falling apart around me."

Elizabeth leant back in her chair. "I see." She paused for a moment. "Iranda has had these kinds of visions before?"

Teyla was relieved Weir was willing to listen to the possibility Iranda's visions were true. "Yes, Doctor Weir. Many times she has warned my people of coming dangers."

"And she told you nothing else other than Atlantis was in danger? She didn't say how or from whom?"

Teyla shook her head sadly. "I know it is not much, but I felt you should be aware of her warning."

Elizabeth nodded and sat forward in her chair. "Thank you, Teyla, for telling me." She looked up at Bates again. "I will make the security and science teams aware of this and hopefully we can stop whatever is about to happen."

Teyla bowed her head and left.

Chapter Text

Rodney never showed up for breakfast which had Sheppard both concerned and a little perturbed, though he admitted to himself the larger worry was the fact he wasn't eating. Teyla headed off to teach a stick class, Ford had paperwork to deal with, so Sheppard headed for Weir's office to find out what he'd missed the last two days and see if she had any idea where McKay could be.

"Major, come in," Elizabeth greeted and set down the report she was reading. "How are you feeling?"

"Good," he replied and slouched in the chair in front of her desk. He smiled slightly over at her and asked, "Anything interesting happen in the last few days?"

She shook her head. "Other than my premier team getting their puddle jumper stuck in a stargate, it's been pretty quiet."

Sheppard grimaced. "So much for that theory," he muttered under his breath.


"Nothing. Haven't seen much of Rodney. Thought it was because of some crisis."

Weir studied him for a moment then leant back in her chair. "I haven't seen Rodney since the night you all got back," she said and Sheppard heard a touch of concern in her voice. "Maybe he's just absorbed in a project," she suggested but Sheppard could hear the disbelief in her voice.

"Yeah. Maybe." They looked at one another for a moment neither accepting the idea Rodney was just wrapped up in a pet project and ignoring them.

Beckett had told him Weir had met them in the jumper bay when Jumper One finally came through the 'gate, that she'd witnessed his Lazarus act as much as Rodney had. She'd know how he had reacted as well as Beckett. No, McKay was intentionally avoiding them for some reason.

"Is there something I should know, Major?" Weir asked her voice changing from light to serious.

Sheppard shrugged. "I'm not sure yet. I'll let you know when I find him." He stood to leave.

"Take care of him, Major," Elizabeth said softly as he left.

He turned back, gave her a nod as Sergeant Bates arrived at the office door, and headed for Rodney's lab. The minions hadn't told Ford anything but Sheppard was willing to bet they'd give up their boss' location if he asked the right person and he had an idea who that person would be.

He was only a few steps away from Zelenka's lab when he heard raised voices. He'd been hanging around Rodney's people enough over the last couple of months to recognise Kavanagh's slightly nasal voice and know the scientist was on a righteous rampage about something.

"No," he heard the accented voice of the Czech say. "How many times do I explain, you cannot do that without overloading the system?"

"Your math is wrong," Kavanagh sneered. "I've had this same conversation with Doctor McKay, he didn't have enough vision to see it either."

"It is not lack of vision, Doctor Kavanagh, it is simple law of physics. You cannot reroute to have the power systems do that without an opposite reaction. In this case, the naquadah generator would simply explode. Catastrophically, I might add."

"Unbelievable!" Kavanagh yelled and Sheppard heard a hand slap on something, probably Zelenka's work table.

Deciding the engineer could do with a timely intervention, he rounded the corner of the door "Problem, gentlemen?" he asked nonchalantly with a pleasant smile.

He saw Kavanagh with his back to the door standing over Zelenka seated at the work table and knew he had to get the pony-tailed man out of the lab before he questioned the engineer about McKay. He wasn't going to give Kavanagh any ammunition to use against Rodney if he could help it.

A part of him knew he should be grateful to the arrogant scientist for helping them get home, but the man was the definition of weasel in Sheppard's mind. He figured the only reason Kavanagh was even part of the Atlantis expedition was because Stargate Command didn't want him anywhere near their own systems and considered the Pegasus galaxy a good distance to get him out of their hair.

He glanced at Zelenka and the engineer flashed him a nervous smile from where he sat behind Kavanagh. Sheppard genuinely liked Zelenka, not the least because he was the exact opposite of someone like Kavanagh. Zelenka was endlessly patient, he could deal with Rodney's moods, and he was very good at his job. He thought the Czech would be a good candidate for McKay's second-in-command and wondered if Rodney had ever talked to him about it.

"Nothing that needs a military mind," Kavanagh said dismissively and turned back to the engineer.

Sheppard saw Zelenka wince at that and decided exactly how to get Kavanagh out of the way.

Sheppard plastered a fake smile on his face and said, "I see." He gave Kavanagh a puzzled stare. "You are Doctor Kavanagh, aren't you?" he asked and tried to look innocent.

"Yes," Kavanagh said shortly and turned back toward the door. "Was there something you needed from me, Major?"

"No, not really," Sheppard drawled, still trying not to grin. "I just thought I heard someone down the hall saying something about one of your experiments about to go critical."

"What!" the scientist yelled. "I told them not to touch that." He pushed past Sheppard as he stormed out of the lab and Sheppard finally let the grin show.

"I assume there was no critical experiment, Major?" Zelenka asked, looking up from his datapad with a small smile of his own.

"No. Just thought you might like a rescue, Doctor Zelenka."

"Thank you, Major. Doctor McKay can be trying at times, but Doctor Kavanagh is never a pleasant person to be around." He glanced up at Sheppard. "Was there something you needed, Major?"

Sheppard could tell Zelenka was nervous about something other than Kavanagh and he suspected he knew what it was.

"Now that you mention it, I was looking for Doctor McKay," Sheppard said still playing up the innocence. "I need to talk to him. Thought he'd be down here working on some project or other."

Zelenka suddenly looked very interested in his computer. "No, no. Sorry, Major. I have not seen him."

Sheppard shook his head. The man was a terrible liar, but he was oddly pleased with Zelenka's loyalty to Rodney. "Okay, you haven't seen him," Sheppard said easily. "Any idea where I might look for him?"

Zelenka glanced up from the computer, "Not really?" He made the statement sound more like a question.

Sheppard closed the distance from the door to the worktable. "I really need to know where he is, Doctor," Sheppard said and knew he sounded more worried than he wanted to. "And I think you are about the only person in the whole city who can tell me."

Zelenka ducked his head and sighed. "He did not want you to know, Major," Zelenka finally admitted.

"Didn't want me to know what? What's he been doing the last couple of days?" Sheppard glanced up at the shared wall between Zelenka's lab and Rodney's.

Zelenka muttered something in Czech under his breath. "I told him you would find out eventually," he said and sighed.

"Just spill it already," Sheppard said, his impatience growing.

"He is down in the jumper bay." He looked up at Sheppard. "Taking Jumper Two to pieces," Zelenka added softly.

"He's doing what?" Sheppard exclaimed. "Why?"

The engineer stepped back around the table. Sheppard wondered if Zelenka was trying to escape and forced himself to calm down. "Why is he stripping one of the jumpers, Doctor Zelenka? We need those ships."

Zelenka looked back at him. "He said we were relying too much on seat of the pants engineering and we needed to know how the ship's systems actually integrate with each other and function."

Zelenka picked up the computer pad and used it as a shield. He studied Sheppard's face for a moment and seemed to find what he was looking for as he added sympathetically, "He does not want to be in that situation again, Major. Where he has to guess at what a system does."

Sheppard sat on the stool in front of the worktable. "Damn it, Rodney," he mumbled and rubbed absently at the bandage on his neck. "You can't predict everything." He scrubbed a hand through his hair, making it stand up in spikes. "Anyone helping him up there?" he finally asked and looked over at the engineer.

Zelenka shook his head. "He said he could work faster alone." He looked at Sheppard, a worried crease in his forehead. "I think he is trying to … what is the phrase? Bury himself in work?"

Sheppard stood from the stool and headed out of the lab. "Thank you, Doctor Zelenka," he said from the doorway.

"Major?" Zelenka called from inside the room. When Sheppard turned around, he continued, "He has eaten little other than power bars the last two days I think. You might want to take him lunch, yes?"

Sheppard nodded. "Good idea," he said heading first for to the mess hall and then the jumper bay.

Twenty minutes later Sheppard entered the jumper bay with a small box under one arm and looked around. Jumper One had been moved off to one side of the bay, waiting for repairs; it was easily identified by the long scratch down one of the drive pods. He ran a thoughtful hand along the damage, felt the slight dents in the metal structure. Stuck in a stargate, not a problem he would have ever considered before.

Jumper Two was in its usual spot across the bay. He could see through the forward windscreen pointed toward Jumper One and didn't see anyone in the forward section. He didn't see any evidence of someone working on the outside of the small craft, either.

He looked around the rest of the bay with a frown, still not finding his missing scientist or anyone else in the bay to ask if Rodney had been and gone. He was ready to continue his search elsewhere when he heard the clang of something falling and a curse coming from the direction of Jumper Two.

Sheppard looked back through the forward window, and when he still didn't see anyone, he walked around to the rear hatch of Jumper Two and looked inside. Rodney lay on his side on the floor of the jumper, his head underneath the front control panel and his legs stuck out between the pilot and co-pilot seats. His blue uniform shirt was untucked and slightly rucked up his back, the tan uniform jacket was haphazardly thrown over the co-pilot's chair.

A laptop was balanced on the pilot's chair with a number of cords and wires trailing out of it to the datapad propped near Rodney's head. One of the rear compartment benches was strewn with several crystals from the overhead control box, another datapad wired into those systems sat next to the pile of delicate parts. Most of the equipment from the cargo bins was piled on the other two seats in the front area of the jumper for some reason.

In short, Rodney had made a hell of a mess.

Sheppard shook his head and stepped into the jumper. He set the box of food on the end of the bench that didn't hold the crystals and computer and said quietly, "Whacha doin'?"

Rodney let out a yelp from underneath the console and wiggled out enough that he could sit on the floor between the two forward chairs the datapad on his knees.

"Major," he said and tried to act nonchalant, Sheppard thought his voice sounded brittle and he wasn't buying the act at all, especially since he could tell from his pinched eyes Rodney was fighting a headache. "Carson let you out I see."

"Yep," Sheppard said and sat on the bench next to the box. "You would have known that if you'd been at breakfast."

Rodney looked everywhere except at Sheppard. "I've been busy … with … things." His statement ended in a mumble and he rubbed absently at his temple.

Sheppard's worry ratcheted up another step at the half-hearted rebuttal; any time Rodney didn't have a sarcastic comment at the ready was cause for concern. "I see that. Wanna tell me why you've decided to dismantle the ship?"

Rodney glanced up at him and Sheppard saw him focus on the bandage peeking out from his collar. He adjusted the collar on his jacket to hide the dressing and Rodney looked back down at the datapad and tried to look like he was busy. Sheppard just waited, he knew he would say something sooner or later.

"Less than thirty seconds," he muttered into his lap a few seconds later.

"What?" Sheppard asked confused by the non sequitur.

Rodney glanced up at him, then back at the floor. "Less than thirty seconds," he repeated. "That's how much time was left before the wormhole shut down." He looked up and Sheppard was surprised at the haunted look lurking in his eyes. "There's cutting it close and then there's what …" He fiddled with one of the crystals lying on the floor next to him. "I should have had the system fixed sooner."

"Hey, you got it in the end, you know. I think I even thanked you for that." He tried to lighten the mood but Rodney was having none of it.

"That's not the point," Rodney barked, surged to his feet, and started pacing. "I didn't know what the systems back here did, or how they interacted with each other, do you get that? I could have opened the rear hatch by mistake, the hatch you were lying against, I might add, or shut down the power completely, or any number of other potential disasters." He turned to face Sheppard. "I was playing hunt and peck with all of your lives trying to get the drive pods to retract because I just didn't know enough."

Sheppard was startled by the outburst. He'd expected some residual fear from their close call, not guilt over not saving them fast enough. He watched Rodney pace from the back of the jumper to the control console a few times. Or maybe guilt and a different kind of fear, Sheppard thought as he remembered his conversation with Beckett.

Rodney continued to pace, his hands twitching as he glanced from the console to the control box. He picked up the light stylus attached to the control box and started checking the intricate crystal circuits still housed in the box.

"You need to sit down," Sheppard finally said and pointed at the other end of the bench he sat on.

Rodney ignored him and grabbed for the datapad hanging from the control box. He typed a few commands and waited for the data to change. Sheppard was sure Rodney hoped he'd take the hint and leave. Too bad he was terrible at taking hints.

"Rodney, sit down, would ya," Sheppard said quietly but insistently.

McKay glanced over at him obviously surprised at the use of his given name.

"Looking up at you is making my neck hurt," Sheppard added with a tiny smile.

Rodney clenched the datapad for a few more seconds then let out a tired sigh before he sat on the bench next to Sheppard.

"Thank you," Sheppard said. He waited for Rodney to say something and when he remained silent, he continued. "I don't know about you, but I could eat."

He turned to the box between them and looked inside. He pulled out two wrapped sandwiches and handed one to Rodney. "I talked to Doctor Zelenka," he continued. "He said you've been living on power bars the last couple of days. You need to eat something."

Rodney took the sandwich but didn't open it, instead he set it on the bench beside him and tried to get up again.

"Hey," Sheppard said with a hand on his arm. "Eat."

"There isn't time, I need to figure this out," Rodney said with some of his usual bite.

"And you will, but you won't figure it out in the next fifteen minutes." Sheppard handed him the sandwich again.

"No, I guess not," he replied and took the sandwich. He unwrapped a corner, took a bite, and in no time, it was gone. Sheppard silently handed him another one.

"I'm gonna share with you a lesson I learned the hard way in Afghanistan," Sheppard said as he ate.

Rodney looked over at him as he devoured the second sandwich.

"You can be the most prepared pilot in the history of the military and circumstances will still jump up and bite you in the ass."

"Thanks for the down-home wisdom, Major," Rodney snapped as he finished the second sandwich and stood again to check the datapad hanging from the control box.

"I mean it, Rodney. I know this mission scared you. Hell, it scared me." Sheppard made sure McKay was looking at him. "I get what you're trying to do here, and I even suspect why." Rodney flinched but Sheppard continued. "I agree we need the information," he said calmly. "I just don't want you killing yourself by not eating or sleeping to get it."

Before Rodney could challenge Sheppard's statement, his radio chirped.

"Doctor McKay, are you there?" Zelenka's accented voice asked.

"Of course I'm here," Rodney answered. "This better be a monumental problem, Zelemka, I thought I was clear I didn't want to be interrupted while finishing the schematics for the jumpers."

"Zelenka," the Czech muttered in a low voice.

"What?" he asked impatiently and Sheppard chuckled. He wondered if Rodney would ever bother to get Zelenka's name right.

"Nothing," the engineer said and Sheppard heard the resignation in his tone. "Yes, the problem is, as you say, monumental. We are getting strange reading from the stabilizers on east side of city."

Sheppard saw the impatience of Rodney's expression give way to genuine concern and followed him out of the jumper.

"What kind of readings?" Rodney asked and headed for the bay exit. "Nevermind, I'll be right there to see for myself."

He tapped off the radio and headed in the direction of his lab. Sheppard didn't think Rodney even noticed he was tagging along.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

McKay charged into his lab to find Zelemka and, unfortunately, Kavanagh waiting for him.

"Did we really need the military involved?" Kavanagh asked with a badly concealed sneer at Sheppard. "This is an engineering problem, after all. Nothing needs shooting at."

Rodney glanced behind him and discovered Sheppard standing slightly behind him. In his hurry to get to the lab he hadn't realised Sheppard had followed him. He noted the Major didn't plan on leaving so he just shrugged and turned back to the Kavanagh "It's Bring A Major To Work Day, Kavanagh. Didn't you get the memo?" he said sarcastically as he brushed past him and stopped next to Zelemka.

He heard Sheppard cover a snicker with a fake cough before he snapped his fingers at Zelemka to give him the datapad. His eyes widened when he saw the report. "You're sure about this?" he asked the engineer quietly as he tabbed through the data scrolling across the screen and tried to ignore the other scientist in the room.

Zelemka nodded. "Very sure," he said firmly. "It will go critical in the next eight to twelve hours unless we can find way to correct it."

"What's the problem?" Sheppard asked from where he stood near Rodney's work table.

"There's a stabilizer going haywire under the east side of the city," McKay told him, his tone distracted as he continued to read the report.

"Not just one stabilizer," Zelemka corrected. "That whole section is acting counter to the rest of the system."

"Okay," Sheppard drawled, his confusion clear in his tone.

Rodney looked up at him, and seeing his bafflement, actually tried to explain, "Haven't you wondered why no one is ever seasick around here, Major? We are in the middle of an ocean."

"I guess I just never thought about it," Sheppard replied. "I don't get motion sick."

"Lucky you," McKay mumbled, then louder, "there are stabilizer systems under Atlantis that work together to counteract the motion of the water so the city stays stable."

"Like fin systems on cruise ships," Zelemka added.

"I'll take your word for it," Sheppard said. "So I take it one of these systems has broken down?"

"Worse," Rodney said with a sigh. "If it had just stopped working altogether, we could compensate with the remaining sections of the system while we fix it. Instead, we have a whole series of stabilizers that for some reason are no longer in sync with the rest of the system. As the water moves and the other parts of the city compensate, this section is being torqued the other way. If we can't stop it, the city will tear itself apart."

He stared at Sheppard for a moment longer to see if he understood the gravity of the situation, then turned back to Zelemka and Kavanagh. "You two start working on scenarios. Figure out if this is mechanical or something in the programming. I need to talk to Doctor Weir."

He handed the datapad back to Zelemka and headed out of his lab, keying his radio at the same time. "McKay to Weir."

The pause waiting for her to answer gave him enough time to get to the transporter, Sheppard still on his heels.

"What is is Rodney?" she answered and he thought she sounded distracted.

"Are you in your office?" he asked curtly. "We have a problem."

"Yes, but I was about to start the weekly briefing with the botany team. How serious is this problem."

"If I don't get it fixed in the next eight hours, Atlantis will probably sink." He heroically didn't add 'Serious enough?' at the end of the statement but was sure Sheppard read the sentiment on his face.

"Understood, my office, then. Weir out."

Two minutes later he and Sheppard entered the glassed-in office off the control center.

"All right," Weir said once Rodney and Sheppard were seated. "What's happened?"

"We have a stabilizer out of sync on the eastern arm," Rodney said and stared at Weir expecting her to know what he was talking about.

She looked from Rodney to Sheppard. "Okay, can't we just shut the stabilizers down to effect repairs?"

Rodney scrubbed his hands through his hair; so much for her knowing what he was talking about. "No," he said shortly, "we can't turn off the one system that's keeping us up upright in the water." When Weir gave him a confused look, he scooted forward in his chair. "There is a whole series of stabilizers --"

"Think of fins," Sheppard said from the chair next to Rodney.

"Fine, fins." Rodney nodded. "These fins counteract the motion of all this water we're sitting on. Without the system, the city would bounce with every wave. It also maintains the city's ability to float. Without it, sections would sink and flood with the ocean movement and take on water. More water, more weight, more sinking."

"I thought the city had inertial dampeners," Weir said calmly. "Wouldn't the Ancients need something like that for space flight."

"Yes," Rodney said impatiently, "but the dampeners were shut down, they took too much power. Soon after the city surfaced we found the mechanical system of stabi … fins. It used almost no energy from the generators, so we shut down the dampeners to conserve power."

"We could just turn the dampeners back on," Sheppard suggested.

Rodney rubbed his temple and could feel a headache building. "No, Major, we can't," he said shortly. "We still don't have the power to spare."

"So what happened to the stabilizer system and what does this mean for Atlantis?" Weir asked patiently, her voice remarkably calm for the news he'd just delivered.

"I don't know what happened yet," Rodney started to explain but Sheppard interrupted.

"Elizabeth, you don't seem too surprised by this," he said.

"What?" Rodney asked him, a bit startled. "Of course she's surprised. Why wouldn't she be? There's no way she would have known about this before we got here. I didn't know about this until ten minutes ago."

Sheppard glanced at Rodney and turned back to Weir. "She's maybe a bit surprised what the problem is, but she's not at all surprised there's a problem."

"Really?" Rodney asked baffled. He glanced from Weir to Sheppard. "How can you tell?"

Weir placed her hands calmly on her desk and Rodney noticed a change in her demeanor, almost a hesitancy to explain how she knew something was wrong. "Teyla was here about an hour ago," she said and looked down at her folded hands. "One of her people had a vision …"

Rodney snorted and rolled his eyes.

Weir glared at him. "One of her people had a vision Atlantis was destroyed," she said to Sheppard. She turned back to Rodney, "If what you're telling me is true --"

"Believe me, it's true," he interrupted.

"Then apparently the woman who spoke to Teyla was correct," Weir finished.

"There's no such thing as psychic visions," Rodney scoffed.

"Then how do you explain it, Doctor?" Weir asked with a frown.

"How should I know?" he exclaimed. "Maybe she went Princess and the Pea and felt some subtle vibrations as the system started to fail. Who cares! The point is I need to get it fixed."

Weir studied him a moment longer then asked, "Do you know what's wrong with the system?"

"It could be anything. Something with the integrated computer systems. Maybe something fell off the underside of the city, or some huge whale hit us. It's ten thousand years old, maybe the parts are finally out of warranty. I need to get down there and look at it before the torsion stress gets serious."

"All right. Take Zel --"

"No," Rodney butted in. "I need him and Grodin up here running diagnostics on the computer systems and running simulations on scenarios on how to fix the system if it's something mechanical. I'll go down there by myself."

"No, you won't," Sheppard said his face set, and his tone serious.

Rodney shook his head. "I'm not taking Kavanagh."

Sheppard smiled. "No, you're taking me. That area is still unexplored. No one goes into those areas without a military escort. Besides," he said with a smirk, "it's still Take a Major To Work Day."

Weir looked more than a little confused at Sheppard's last comment but only said, "Go" and both men stood to leave.

"I need to grab a few things," Sheppard said outside the office. "I'll meet you in your lab in fifteen minutes."

"Fine," Rodney answered, his mind already running through possible causes for the problem

"And Rodney?" Sheppard said and waited for him to turn around. "We aren't done with that other conversation either."

Rodney just stared at Sheppard for a moment then turned left for the transporter that would send him back down to his lab.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Sheppard stopped at the armoury for his sidearm and also pulled on a tac-vest over his t-shirt. If he and Rodney were going into an unexplored area of the city he wanted to be armed.

As he checked and loaded his weapon he heard a clicking noise coming from the back of the room. He looked around the corner and found Ford sitting at a table cleaning his P-90. He grabbed a backpack and a couple of spare magazines for the Beretta and stuffed the ammunition in the pack as he walked back to where Ford sat.

"Lieutenant," Sheppard greeted. "What have you been up to?" He glanced at the partially disassembled rifle.

"Target practice, sir," Ford said with a smile. "I had a bet with Corporal Davis about who was the better shot."

"I hope you won. Wouldn't want the reputation of our team to suffer," Sheppard said with a smile.

Ford grinned back. "Not to worry, sir. He kept getting distracted by the water, so I beat him easily."

Sheppard frowned. "What was the water doing?"

Ford shrugged and went back to cleaning his weapon. "No idea, sir. Davis claimed the platform kept jumping when he was shooting." Ford laughed. "I just think he was making excuses, didn't want me telling everyone even Doctor McKay is a better shot than him."

Sheppard's smile vanished as he remembered the Marines' makeshift shooting range was also on the east platform.

"Something wrong, sir?" Ford asked and eyed the water bottles and power bars Sheppard stuffed in the backpack.

"I hope not, Lieutenant. Rodney found something off with one of the systems. We need to go check on it."

Ford stood from his stool. "Do you want me to come with you, sir?"

Sheppard shook his head as he shouldered the backpack. "No need, Lieutenant. I think we got it handled. We'll check in with Doctor Weir once we know more about what's gone wrong."

He headed back down to Rodney's lab and found him in a heated discussion with Zelenka when he walked in.

"I do not think it is computer issue," Zelenka said as Sheppard came in and dropped his pack on the work table.

Rodney sighed. "It might not be the computers causing the problem, but why didn't we get some sort of warning the stabilizers were out of sync … What?" he added when Zelenka made a face.

"We did have warning … sort of." Zelenka looked away.

Rodney gaped and Sheppard saw him rubbing at his temple again. "We had a … when were you going to tell me the computer set off a warning? What was the determined cause?"

Zelenka looked like a deer in headlights as he looked at Rodney fuming in front of him. "It wasn't the computer," he said softly as if expecting the words to set off an explosion. "Doctor Weir had sent an email."

"How could she … oh, you have got to be kidding!" Rodney exclaimed and Zelenka winced. "She sent a memo about some Athosian psychic vision and you believed it?" He walked over to a nearby storage unit and pulled out his tools. He grabbed his custom combo-computer and some cables and shoved everything into a backpack.

Zelenka shrugged. "The email said there was a serious risk to the city. It did not say where she got information. We started diagnostics and found the stabilizer anomaly."

Rodney just stared at Zelenka as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing, then he turned back to the backpack and zipped it closed. "All the more reason to find out what went wrong with the warning systems," he finally said.

Sheppard watched as Rodney settled the pack on his shoulders and took a flashlight from the corner of the work table then turned back to Zelenka. "I'll radio once we're down there and let you know what kind of problem we have."

Zelenka nodded. "Peter and I will start on the diagnostics. I have Kavanagh working on mechanical scenarios."

Rodney glanced at Sheppard. "Coming, Major?" he asked and hurried out of the lab.

"So, what do you think happened?" Sheppard asked as they walked back to the transporter.

"I'm not sure," Rodney answered, his voice more hesitant now that he was away from the lab. "Like I said to Elizabeth, it could be anything, but I suspect there was water damage in that section from the city being submerged that's decided to rear its ugly head now."

Sheppard nodded as they exited the transporter and entered a deserted corridor. Since this was an area they weren't planning to use any time soon, the life support was minimal, no heat, only emergency lighting, and the ventilation system supplying fresh air into the area.

Rodney shivered and zipped up his tan uniform jacket before he pulled the datapad out of his pack and clicked on his flashlight. "There should be a mechanical room down that corridor somewhere with access to the stabilizer system," he said and pointed the flashlight down a hallway to their right.

"Okay," Sheppard said as he unholstered his gun, clicked on the small flashlight from his tac-vest, and took the lead. "Stay behind me, we don't know what's down here."

Rodney rolled his eyes but stepped aside to let Sheppard lead the way down the hall.

Rodney bounced his flashlight beam off the walls as they walked along. "There should be a door along here somewhere," he muttered and Sheppard glanced back to find him several feet behind, tapping at the datapad. He heard a slight creak and looked up at the ceiling then at the walls.

"Are you telling me we're lost?" Sheppard asked as he walked back to stand next to Rodney.

"Umm, no. Not exactly." Rodney looked up and flashed the light back and forth along the wall. "We've only mapped out the lower portion of the city along one of the arms so far, Major. This," he held out the datapad for Sheppard to see, "is based on that exploration. Things might be slightly different in different parts of the city."

They both looked up as the metal around them groaned again and the floor shook a bit.

"That's not good," Rodney said wide-eyed as he stared at Sheppard. "Really, really not good."

"Come on," Sheppard said and moved further down the hall. "The sooner we find this room, the sooner you can get it fixed."

They were at the junction of another hallway when Rodney said, "Umm, Major?"

He glanced back to see Rodney looking at the floor, the now wet floor, as an inch or so of water rolled past them.

"Where's that door?" Sheppard asked and looked back the way they'd just come.

"Here," Rodney said and waved the flashlight around. "It should be right here."

They heard the walls groan again, this time louder and longer.

"Rodney, we need that door open now," Sheppard said as he saw cracks start to form in the ceiling above them.

"I know, I know. Give me a sec."

"We don't have a sec!"

"Got it, here." Rodney bent over and started fiddling with a wall panel. A few seconds later he had the cover off, the crystals realigned, and the door open.

Sheppard took the lead again and had just crossed the threshold and started to sweep his light around the room when there was another, louder, creak from the ceiling above them. Rodney looked up and froze as the ceiling started to shake harder.

"Rodney, move!" Sheppard shouted and yanked him clear of the doorway just as the ceiling collapsed behind them.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Teyla was meeting with Halling and a few other Athosians about Iranda's vision when she felt the floor start to shake. She immediately excused herself and went out to the corridor.

"Doctor Weir, this is Teyla, please come in." She glanced at several fearful faces that peered out at her from various doorways.

"Teyla." Weir's voice came over the radio. "I take it you felt that as well?"

"Yes, we did. Is there anything I can do to assist you?"

"There is a meeting in the conference room if you care to join us."

"I will be there shortly. Teyla out." She turned back to face the hallway. "I will find out what has happened and return as soon as possible," she tried to reassure her people as she walked down the corridor to the nearest transporter.

Teyla entered the conference room next to the control room a few minutes later.

"... happened yet, but serious structural damage will start in the next few hours," an accented voice said.

"What about Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay," Ford asked, and he nodded to Teyla as she entered the room.

"We haven't had any response from them, yet," Weir admitted. "We're not sure if that's due to the lack of power in that section, damage from the recent tremor, or --"

"Or if something happened to them," Teyla finished solemnly. "Do we know where in the city they were working? Lieutenant Ford and I could go find them or try to reestablish communications."

Weir shook her head. "I don't want to send anyone else into the eastern arm until we know more." She turned to face a small man wearing glasses and a blue uniform shirt like Doctor McKay's. "Doctor Zelenka, is there any way we can get eyes on the area under the east pier?"

Teyla looked over at the man as he answered. "We are working on it, Doctor Weir," he said and Teyla recognised his voice as the same one she heard when she entered the room. "The problem is that entire area only has emergency power, getting systems up and running is taking time."

"I see." Weir made a note on the computer pad in front of her. "What do we know?"

"About what has happened, very little, unfortunately," Zelenka said. "We do know why we were not alerted to the problem earlier, however. Several subroutines were not re-initialised after Atlantis surfaced. There was a glitch in integration of our Earth computer systems with the Ancient system. We have discovered several early warning systems were not getting correct information about possible breakdowns."

"So there are other areas of the city about to go critical?" Weir asked and Teyla could see her clenched hands as they rested on the desk.

Zelenka shook his head. "We have fixed the glitch so this will not happen again. Good news is no other systems are reporting problems even with correct data."

"The bad news is, we already have a serious issue," Weir finished.

"Yes, that is true." Zelenka pushed up his glasses and glanced around the room. "Doctor Kavanagh is still working on what could have caused the stabilizer to initially fall out of sync." His glance stopped on Teyla for a moment and he gave her a tiny smile. "It would help if we could talk to Doctor McKay," he mused with a glance back at Weir. "Maybe we should send someone down to look for them, Elizabeth."

"Teyla and I could be ready in five minutes, ma'am," Ford added. "Once we get eyes down there we can work out a better rescue plan." He paused. "That is if we need it."

Teyla could see Weir wanted to send them, she just needed a good reason. "Doctor Weir?" she said, and waited for Elizabeth to focus on her. "We may be able to offer additional assistance with whatever their plan is to fix the broken system."

Elizabeth closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, Teyla knew the decision had been made. "All right. Teyla, Lieutenant Ford, go find your teammates, help fix the stabilizers, and bring them back. With all of you in one piece if possible. Doctor Zelenka, I want to be able to give Rodney and Major Sheppard options once Teyla and Ford reach them."

"Of course, Doctor Weir. We will work as quickly as possible." Zelenka nodded and the meeting broke up.

Teyla waited outside the conference room for Zelenka, and when he left the room, she smiled at him. "Thank you, Doctor Zelenka," she told him sincerely.

Zelenka gave her a gentle smile in return. "Just find them, yes?"

"We will," she promised and headed for the armoury where Ford was waiting for her.

"Do you know what supplies they had with them, Lieutenant?" Teyla asked when she met Ford in the armoury.

He handed her a tac-vest as he loaded a P-90. "I know the Major took a backpack with some water and power bars. I don't know what Doctor McKay had with him."

"We should have asked Doctor Zelenka during the meeting," she said as she zipped up the vest and took another backpack from the rack. "I will carry more emergency supplies."

"The med kit is probably a good idea, too," Ford said as he handed it to her while he shoved several portable radio repeaters and batteries into his own pack.


"Anything else?" Ford asked.

"I do not think so. However, I must stop and explain what has happened to my people." She shouldered her pack and took the 9mm Ford held out to her.

Ford shook his head. "I'm not sure we have time for that."

"It will not take long." She looked up at Ford as they left the armoury. "I made a promise to keep them up-to-date, Lieutenant. I wish to keep that promise."

Ford hesitated outside the transporter. "All right, but we need to be quick about it. The Major and Doctor McKay could be hurt."

Teyla smiled her thanks as they stepped into the transporter. "I will be quick, Lieutenant."

Teyla stood at the junction of two corridors and waited out the murmur of frightened voices after her explanation of what was happening. She noticed Halling dividing his attention between the cluster of Athosians and herself and Ford standing next to her.

"I know this is frightening," she said once a measure of calm had returned. "Doctor Weir's people are working as quickly as possible to correct the problem. They are confident it can be fixed before any serious damage is done to the city."

"What happens if it can't be fixed?" a man from the crowd asked. "Where will we go?"

"We will look at our options if it becomes necessary," Teyla told him. "Doctor Weir, however, is hopeful it will not come to that."

She heard more mumbling at that until Olette stepped forward. "What can we do to assist with saving the city?" she asked and refused to look at any of the people standing behind her.

Teyla smiled at her gratefully. "Right now, everything that can be done, is being done." She glanced at Ford for a moment then continued. "However, we may need your help if we discover Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay are cut off from the rest of the city due to damage in the area where they went to investigate."

Olette nodded in return. "We will have groups standing by to help, Teyla Emmagan. Go. Find your friends."

Teyla gave the group one last look and followed Ford back to the transporter. "Do we know where exactly Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay were going to investigate the problem, Lieutenant?"

Ford shook his head and clicked on the light from his P-90 as the transporter opened on a dark hallway. "Doctor Weir said they were somewhere on the eastern pier."

Teyla looked around as they walked to the end of a short corridor that branched off in two different directions. "We could each take one of the hallways," she suggested, but Ford shook his head.

"No. Standing orders for unexplored areas is no one goes anywhere without a military escort." Ford looked down one hall and then the other. He shook his head and keyed his radio. "Ford to Doctor Zelenka."

They waited several seconds but there was no response. Ford glanced over at her as he tried the radio again, still not getting an answer.

"Doctor Zelenka did say the power down here was minimal," Teyla reminded him.

They turned back to the transporter and Ford tried again, "Doctor Zelenka, please come in."

They were only a few feet from the transporter when Zelenka's voice, gravelly with static, finally responded. "Zelenka here. Your transmission is very poor, Lieutenant."

Ford took one of the repeaters from his pack and wedged it into an old sconce on the wall. He plugged in the battery pack and tried again. "Is that any better, Doctor?"

"Yes, yes, much better," Zelenka replied, his voice much clearer.

"The corridor branches not far from our current location, Doctor," Ford explained. "Do you have any idea which way they might have gone?"

"We have not mapped that section of the city yet, Lieutenant," Zelenka said. "However, according to the maps we have for the area near the control tower, there should be a maintenance area along the eastern side of the corridor."

"Any idea which way is east down here?" he asked Teyla. She shook her head. "Is that left or right at the fork in the road, Doc?"

Teyla heard some faint muttering before Zelenka said at a normal tone, "Take the right-hand corridor, Lieutenant."

"Understood. We'll set up repeaters as we go. Ford out."

"I guess we go to the right," Teyla said and headed back up the corridor to where the hallway divided. She was about the turn to the right when she heard a faint creaking noise and looked around.

"I'm not sure we have a few hours," Ford said and led the way down the hall.

They hadn't gone very far along the new corridor before Teyla noticed the water on the floor.

"That's not the big problem," Ford said and pointed the P-90's light at the pile of debris blocking the hallway. "I think we just found out why they aren't responding on the radios."

Teyla nodded and keyed her radio, "Doctor Weir, this is Teyla."

"Go ahead, Teyla," Weir's voice ghosted from the radio.

"We have run into a collapsed area of the corridor where we think Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay were working."

There was silence over the radio for a moment. "I see," Weir finally said. "Is there any sign of either of them?"

"No, ma'am," Ford cut in. "It doesn't look too bad, Teyla and I should be able to move enough debris out of the way and continue the search. Doctor Zelenka thinks they are working in a mechanical room not far from our current location."

"Be careful, Lieutenant," Weir said. "If you can't get through quickly, let me know. We may have to reconsider how we can help the Major and Rodney."

Ford shook his head even though Weir couldn't see him. "If they are injured, we may not have time for that, ma'am."

"I won't risk you and Teyla on an impossible job, Lieutenant," Weir said and Teyla could hear the underlying worry in her commanding tone. "If you can't get through, you will radio and let me know, Lieutenant. Is that clear?"

"Yes ma'am," Ford replied but Teyla could see his expression was blank.

"We will be careful, Doctor Weir," Teyla added and they both tapped off their radios.

"We get through and keep looking," Ford said, his normally cheerful face deadly serious.

Teyla studied his face for a moment, then nodded.

Chapter Text

Sheppard shifted slightly as the crash of metal and glass ended and slowly opened his eyes. He was on his stomach, Rodney tucked under him, lying on his side. Sheppard kicked at something metal trapping his feet and did a quick mental check; he figured other than some cuts and bruises, he was relatively okay. He looked down at Rodney and was relieved to see his eyes were open.

"Are we alive?" Rodney asked and tried to look around in the dim light.

Sheppard chuckled. "It looks that way. What happened?"

"Torsion stress," Rodney explained and tried to move and groaned. "It's starting to pull this section of the city apart. Are you hurt?" he asked and Sheppard felt Rodney patting at the arm in front of his face.

Sheppard shook his head. "Just bruises, I think."

"What about," Rodney tried to look behind him but when he couldn't, he just pointed to his own neck.

Sheppard brushed a hand across the bandage on his neck but didn't feel any wetness. "I think it's fine," he said.

Rodney nodded at that then paused. "You aren't nearly as light as you think you are, Sheppard." And Sheppard felt Rodney trying to move out from under him. "Get off," he ordered and groaned again as he tried to shift onto his back.

"You're welcome," Sheppard retorted but slowly rolled off Rodney and sat on the floor next to him. He glanced around and found one of the flashlights against the wall. He picked it up and looked back toward the doorway only to find a haphazard stack of metal beams, twisted sheets of more metal, and broken glass blocking where the entryway used to be less than a foot away from where they lay on the floor.

He heard Rodney gasp slightly. "That was way too close," he muttered and looked up at Sheppard.

"Yeah, I noticed." He keyed the radio and said, "This is Sheppard, can anyone read me?"

The radio only replied with static. He fiddled with the unit for a moment and tried again. "This is Major Sheppard, is anyone receiving me?"

"It's not going to work," Rodney said bluntly still trying to roll onto his back. "Something's not right," he mumbled and groaned as the stack of beams in front of them shifted. "I can't move my leg," he added and Sheppard heard the note of panic overriding the pain in his voice.

Sheppard flashed the light back over Rodney and grimaced. "It looks like your leg is caught between a couple of these beams," he reported and stood to get a closer look. He felt something running down his arm and glanced at it long enough to see a sizable cut on his forearm. For the moment he ignored it as he played the flashlight over the pile of debris.

"What?" Rodney asked shrilly and started to jerk his leg trying to pull it free. "Ow! Ow! Ow!," he whimpered and tried to reach down his leg then froze as the room around them groaned again.

"Hold still," Sheppard admonished once the noise stopped and grabbed the exploring hand to keep it away from the trapped leg. "If it's broken, you're gonna make it worse."

"My leg is stuck under a collapsed wall," Rodney pointed out harshly. "I kinda need that leg."

Sheppard knelt down and ran the light over the girder and Rodney's leg, looking for a way to free him before he did something truly foolish.

"Just let me see what happened." He saw the leg was trapped just below the knee, but it didn't seem to be impaled by anything, so it was just a matter of lifting the right section so Rodney could wiggle himself out. "Okay," Sheppard said and stood. He set the flashlight on the floor with the beam of light pointed at the debris. "I'm going to try and shift some of this," he said. "When I tell you to, try to pull your leg out."

He quickly studied the fall of metal which resembled the world's largest game of pick up sticks, worked out the angles in his head, then picked the space between two beams next to Rodney's leg that would give him enough leverage to lift the girder trapping the limb. "On three. Ready?"

Rodney nodded. "Just do it already," he ground out.

Sheppard found another length of beam he could use as a lever and turned back to Rodney. "Okay. One." He shoved his lever in the space he'd chosen and set his feet.

"Two." He took a deep breath and hoped the whole pile wouldn't come crashing down.

"Three!" He put his weight into pushing down on his lever so the pile of metal rose slightly. He could only move the beam trapping the leg a few inches, but it was enough for Rodney to pull his leg free with a cry of pain.

Sheppard carefully let the beam settle back into its previous position then focused on Rodney who was curled in a ball at his feet, whimpering and trying to breathe through the pain.

Sheppard dropped to his knees and shined the light on the bloody pant leg just below Rodney's knee. He gently pushed Rodney's hands away and said, "Let me see it."

He got Rodney's pack off, set it aside, and rolled him carefully onto his back. Sheppard grimaced, took out his knife, and slit the trouser leg from hem to knee. "Oh that has got to hurt," he said sympathetically as he saw the bruising around Rodney's knee and down his calf. The skin was torn and bleeding and the knee itself was already swollen. He gently felt along the bone as Rodney balled his hands into fists. Sheppard felt him twitch a few time as his fingers touched one of the bruises but he reached Rodney's ankle and didn't feel any odd bumps. "Can you move your foot at all?" he asked.

Rodney closed his eyes and Sheppard saw his foot twitch even as he whimpered again.

"Well, the good news is I don't think anything is broken. But you're not going to be running any marathons any time soon."

Rodney snorted. "Like that was ever likely," he groused and lay quietly for a moment. "How bad is it?"

Sheppard smiled at him trying to distract him from the pain. "You have a lot of bruises and your knee looks swollen. You also lost a fair amount of skin."

Rodney scrunched his eyes closed and Sheppard could only imagine how much pain he was in. "I need to find the console in this room," he said hoarsely a few seconds later and he tried to sit up.

Sheppard shook his head. "What did I just say?" he asked but wrapped an arm around Rodney's back and helped him move.

Rodney slowly sat up and leant against the wall. He glanced at the bruises and the blood on his leg highlighted by the flashlight and swallowed, then looked over at Sheppard. "Hey, you're bleeding," he said and pointed to the blood still oozing from the cut on his arm.

Sheppard glanced at the cut again. "It'll be fine," he said absently and pulled some antiseptic wipes from a vest pocket. He cleaned up the blood, found where something, probably glass, had sliced the back of his forearm and wrapped a bandage around it.

McKay looked around the room before turning back to Sheppard. "I still need to get the stabilizers fixed," he pointed out and stubbornly started to move. "I can't do that sitting on the floor."

He tried to push off the floor to stand but Sheppard grabbed hold of his arm."Give me a few minutes to clean you up at least and stop the bleeding." He didn't think Rodney should be moving, but one look at his determined, if pale, face and he realised he'd never win that battle. He started unzipping pockets on his vest looking for more wipes.

"We don't have --" Rodney said impatiently and tried to move his legs. Sheppard saw him go white and grasped hold of Rodney's arms in case he started to topple.

"Rodney, you won't be able to fix anything if you faint from blood loss," Sheppard said once his color improved.

"Pass out," McKay replied. "And I'm not bleeding that bad."

"Maybe not," Sheppard agreed, "but you still need to let me clean you up a bit." Sheppard went through his vest pockets again and only found one more antiseptic wipe. He glanced up at Rodney then dug out one of the bottles of water from his backpack and one of the bandages from his vest pocket.

Sheppard tried to be as gentle as he could as he used the wet bandage to try and clean out the bloody scrapes and cuts but he heard Rodney hiss in pain and jerk his leg when he hit a few tender areas. Most of the cuts were thankfully shallow if long, but the knee itself looked like someone had stuck a tiny orange under the skin. Finally, he used his last antiseptic wipe to try and sterilise the cuts, wrapped them the best he could, and sat back.

"We don't have any ice for the swelling and bruises," he said and looked up at Rodney's still too pale face and noticed he was shivering as he handed him the other bottle of water and some ibuprofen. He hoped it was just the cool temperature in the room and not shock.

"Just get me up," Rodney said after he'd downed the pills with a swallow of water. He flinched and stared at the stack of beams as they shifted slightly then glanced up at Sheppard and continued, "There must be a console around here somewhere. I need to find it and see what the problem is."

Sheppard watched Rodney look around the dim room, his eyes skirting the blocked doorway and he saw him swallow again then deliberately look away.

"More light wouldn't hurt, either," he added as an afterthought and held out a hand for Sheppard to pull him to his feet.

Once up, Rodney managed all of two steps before his leg collapsed under him.

Sheppard grabbed him before he could fall and pulled Rodney's arm over his shoulder. "Of all the stubborn ..." he muttered as he handed Rodney the flashlight.

Rodney swept the flashlight around with his free hand until it lit up a console at the far end of the room near the wall. "I need to get over there," Rodney said, determinedly hopping on one leg to keep his weight off the damaged knee.

"All right. Take it slow." He grasped Rodney around the waist and they made their careful way across the room to the control console. Sheppard noted a chair in front of the console and deposited Rodney on it. He could see one or two tiles on the console were dimly lit, but most were dark.

"I need my pack," Rodney said absently as he started to look at the various tiles and crystals by the light from the flashlight. Sheppard retrieved the pack and stood back as he dug out the custom computer and cables. "I don't suppose," he muttered then closed his eyes and touched one corner of the console.

Sheppard saw his eyes pop open and then light up with self-satisfied delight as the console obediently lit up brightly as it came online with the recognition of McKay's ATA gene.

"Finally, something is going right," Rodney said and plugged the computer into the console.

Sheppard watched as he read the information on the computer screen then reset several crystals on the console. Suddenly, the room was flooded with light and they both covered their eyes as the room went from a dim glow to standard daytime lighting.

Once Sheppard could see, he noticed the room they were in was about the same size as the control center in the gateroom, they were even on an elevated balcony overlooking what appeared to be several different pieces of heavy machinery on the floor below. The biggest surprise, however, was the view. They were underwater.

"Never thought I'd see that again," Sheppard said and pointed out the nearest window.

Rodney glanced up at the window beside him then back down at the console in front of him. "Where did you think the stabilizer system would be?" he asked sarcastically.

Sheppard ignored the tone. "It's kinda pretty when you stop to think about it."

He turned around as Rodney snorted. "Right up until the glass breaks and we drown."

"Well, we're here to fix things so that won't happen, aren't we," Sheppard replied in kind.

Sheppard walked back over to the console and found Rodney resetting more tiles.

"Try the radio now," Rodney ordered as he slotted another tile back into place.

Sheppard tapped his earbud. "This is Sheppard, can anyone read me?"

A few seconds later he heard "Major Sheppard? This is Teyla. Are you all right? What of Doctor McKay?"

Sheppard grinned and looked over at Rodney busily checking and resetting more of the large tiles on the console. "We read you, Teyla. Rodney and I are both here, a bit banged up, but we're fine."

"Speak for yourself," Rodney muttered and went back to studying the console and the computer.

Sheppard took a few steps away from the console. "We made it to a maintenance room and Rodney is working on figuring out what happened to the stabilizer system."

"Lieutenant Ford and I are trying to make our way to your location, Major, but we are running into difficulties."

He could hear the strain in her voice and a loud thump in the background and imagined they were having a hard time getting through the corridor. He wondered just how much debris blocked their way out and marvelled that Rodney hadn't realised just how trapped they might be in the maintenance room.

"We had a few of those difficulties ourselves," Sheppard said and glanced from the pile of beams to Rodney's bloody pant leg sticking out from the side of the console. He knew he should probably elevate Rodney's knee, but didn't see anything he could use for the job. He also realised the room was noticeably warmer and Rodney had stopped shivering.

"Major, Doctor Weir would like to talk to you," Ford cut in.

"Major? Rodney?" Weir's voice came over the radio, sounding slightly hollow. "Doctor Zelenka just informed me of a power surge on the east platform, can I assume that was you?"

"Of course it was us," Rodney interrupted impatiently. "And we're fine by the way, thanks for asking. Where is Zelemka? I need to know what he's found out about the malfunction."

Sheppard could almost hear the eye-roll Weir must have made at that sort of reception, but a few seconds later, yet another voice joined the conversation.

"Doctor McKay?" Zelenka said. "I am here. Do you have updated diagnostics?"

"Do I have … Does this mean you still don't have any ideas on what happened?" Rodney frowned up at the ceiling. "What have you been doing up there while I've been getting my legs crushed?"

Several voices tried to speak at once over the radio and Sheppard winced at the noise.

Finally, Weir's voice won out, "Rodney, how badly are you injured?"

McKay ignored her and spoke to Zelenka, "Zelemka, what have you found out?"

"There are too many variables," Zelenka explained as the other voices died out to vague mutters. "Doctor Kavanagh suggests something damaged the system when the city rose to the surface of the ocean. Rodney, how badly --"

"That just confirms he's an idiot," Rodney said shortly as he ignored the implied question and winced as he jarred his leg. "If that were the case, we would have sunk months ago as the stabilizer tore itself to pieces."

"I agree," Zelenka said. "This is something recent."

"How does it work?" Sheppard asked suddenly and looked over at Rodney who just gave him a harassed look. "This stabilizer system, how does it work?"

"Zelemka, hang on, I need to give the Major a basic lesson in physics."

Sheppard rolled his eyes as he moved to stand next to Rodney.

"I thought I explained this already," Rodney groused as he tried to stretch his knee.

"You're gonna make it worse you keep doing that," Sheppard said but changed the subject when Rodney just glared at him. "You explained what the stabilizers do. I'm asking how do they actually work?"

Rodney stared at him for a few seconds then called up a schematic on his computer. "The fins are controlled by what is, in essence, a laser," he explained with rare patience. "The laser is focused on a surface, something like a mirror, that's on the fin. As the fin is moved by the surrounding water, the laser measures that deflection and the computer," he pointed at the Ancient console, "tells the fin how to compensate for the change in movement. Simple."

"Okay," Sheppard said and he leant over the back of Rodney's chair as he studied the schematic for a moment. "What's that?" he asked and pointed to one of the many tubes in the drawing.

"A vacuum line. The laser has to be in a vacuum … to get … an accurate …" Rodney stopped talking and Sheppard noticed a faraway look on his face. He glanced back up at Sheppard for an instant, snapped his fingers, and tapped his radio. "Zelemka, check the integrity of the vacuum lines for the east platform," he ordered.

There was a pause before Zelenka replied, "We are not getting any reliable data, which could mean --"

"It means the system's sprung a leak," Rodney interrupted excitedly. "We can't get data and neither can the stabilizer because the laser is being diffused by seawater in the system."

"Yes, yes, yes. That makes sense." Zelenka paused. "How do we fix it?"

Rodney sat back in the chair and Sheppard watched as his momentary elation was replaced with frustration. "I have no idea." He looked up at the ceiling again. "And we may be running out of time." The room creaked and groaned in agreement.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

"We need to get to that maintenance room," Ford said as the radio conversation stopped. "It sounds like they're gonna need our help."

"Agreed," Teyla replied and looked down the corridor they were following. "How much further do you think it is to where they are?"

Ford shrugged. "Major Sheppard, come in," he called over the radio.

"Sheppard here. What's the news, Lieutenant?"

"Well, sir, Teyla and I are trying to reach you but we aren't sure how far away we are. Can you give me an approximate distance from the transporter to your location?"

"Hard to say, we did a lot of stopping and backtracking," Sheppard replied. "I'd say we're at least several hundred feet down the right-hand corridor from the transporter. I can tell you the corridor and part of the maintenance room itself collapsed --"

"On us!" Ford heard McKay yell over Sheppard's radio.

"You have your own radio, Rodney. You don't need to yell over mine."

"Tell Ford to hurry up. I have an idea, but we're gonna need a few things," McKay yelled over Sheppard's frequency again.

"Did you get that, Lieutenant?" Sheppard asked and Teyla could hear the exasperation in his voice.

Ford grinned. "Yes, sir."

"As I was saying …" Teyla heard him pause and she could imagine him glaring at Doctor McKay. "... the corridor and part of the maintenance room itself collapsed so that should be a fairly large debris fall. You find that, we're most likely behind it."

"Got it, sir. We'll get there as fast as we can. Ford out."

Teyla smiled. "It sounds like they are both well," she remarked as they moved down the hall. She heard the ceiling groan slightly and paused to look up at it warily.

It took them another fifteen minutes and one last clearing of rubble to reach what they thought was the maintenance room. Ford looked at the pile of debris and whistled.

"Major Sheppard, come in," Teyla called as she stared at the criss-cross of beams and twisted metal.

"Sheppard here," he responded.

"Major, we think we are right outside the maintenance room but there is a lot of debris."

"Hang on," Ford said to her and keyed his own radio. "Major, I'm shining my barrel light through the pile the best I can. Can you see it?"

"Yep, I see it. Just a second," Sheppard said over the radio.

A few seconds later Teyla heard Sheppard's normal voice near her. "Hey, guys," he said. "Nice of you to join us."

Teyla bent slightly and peered through the tangle of beams. After a few seconds she spotted Sheppard's face looking back at her. "It is good to see you, Major," she said and waved.

"Is that them," she heard McKay call from further in the room. "It's about time."

Teyla heard something move inside the room.

Sheppard turned away from Teyla and said, "Rodney, stay there. That leg isn't going to hold."

There was a crash and a yelp of pain from the other side of the rubble pile and Sheppard disappeared.

"Are you all right?" Sheppard said in a worried tone.

Teyla squinted through the hole where Sheppard's face used to be and watched as the Major knelt next to McKay who was lying on the floor holding his leg.

"Do I look all right," McKay ground out and she could hear the pain in his voice. "That really, really hurt."

"I told you not to move," Sheppard said and carefully helped him sit up.

"Really? I'm in excruciating pain and you're giving me the I told you so's? Thanks a lot, Sheppard."

Sheppard said nothing he just checked the bandage wrapped around McKay's leg. "Come on, I'll help you back into the chair," Sheppard said and pulled McKay to his feet and together they got Rodney back to a chair in front of a console. "Do you have that list ready?" he asked once McKay was settled.

Rodney took a couple of deep breaths then nodded and pointed to a scrap of paper on the console. "Tell Ford to get that to Zelemka and he needs to hurry. There's only a few hours before we hit that deadline if we're lucky. I don't know if I can deal with another last-second save."

Teyla frowned at that comment but before she could say anything, Sheppard was back pushing the list through a gap in the debris.

"Sheppard, stop!" McKay yelled and Sheppard jerked his arm back.

"What's wrong now?" Sheppard demanded and glanced behind him.

"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" McKay ranted and even though Teyla couldn't see him at the moment, she was sure he was glaring at the Major.

"Don't stick your arm through there, are you insane?" McKay continued. "What would you have done if the weight shifted? Are you trying to give me a heart attack? Find something to attach the note to and push it through that way."

"Okay, okay, calm down. I'll find something," Sheppard said and Teyla heard him moving around behind the rubble.

A few seconds later, a piece of paper wrapped around a piece of metal poked through a hole between a pair of beams crisscrossed over the entryway. Teyla took the paper and read it quickly.

"Rodney says give that to Zelenka and tell him we're running out of time," Sheppard said. He glanced behind him and lowered his voice. "And tell Beckett he's going to have a patient when we get out of here."

"Major?" Teyla asked, worry clear in her voice.

"His leg was caught in this." Sheppard waved his hand at the pile of beams. "I don't think it's broken but Beckett will need to check it to be sure."

"I will let him know," Teyla said and turned to leave.

She was a few feet up the hall when she heard Sheppard say, "Okay, Ford, let's see what we can do about this mess."

Teyla hurried back up the corridor, the trip much faster now that she knew where she was going and the debris was out of the way. "Doctor Weir, this is Teyla," she said into her radio as she ran.

"Go ahead, Teyla."

"We found Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay in the maintenance room, however, they are currently trapped by a debris fall." She entered the transporter and a moment later she raced up the corridor to the control room. "Doctor McKay has an idea but needs some supplies. I will be at your office momentarily."

"Thank you, Teyla. We'll be waiting."

Teyla signed off the radio and for a fleeting moment wondered who the 'we' was waiting for her.

She stopped just outside the control room to catch her breath, then walked across the bridge to Doctor Weir's office. Weir was standing waiting for her and waved her in. She saw Doctor Zelenka and Sergeant Bates already there.

"You said Rodney has an idea?" Weir asked as Teyla moved to the desk.

"Yes," Teyla reported and she was happy to hear her voice was calm. "Though he did not say what the idea is, merely that I was to give this to you," she said as she handed the list to Doctor Zelenka.

Zelenka read through the short list quickly and nodded. "Yes, yes, I think I see what he wants to do, but it could be very dangerous. I will need to talk to Doctor Beckett."

"Carson?" Weir said confused. "Why Carson?"

Zelenka looked over the top of his glasses at her. "Because he has the items Rodney needs," he said simply.

"I want to know exactly what you think this plan entails, Doctor Zelenka," Weir said then keyed her radio. "Doctor Beckett, please come in."

"Aye, here, Doctor Weir. Have you heard from Rodney and Major Sheppard at all?"

"In a manner of speaking. Can you please come to my office."


A few minutes later Doctor Beckett entered the office and Teyla could see the worry in his eyes. "Where are they, then?" he asked as he looked around.

"Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay are trapped in one of the maintenance rooms under the eastern arm of the city, Doctor Beckett," Teyla said.

"Are they all right?"

Teyla shook her head. "Major Sheppard said Doctor McKay has injured his leg. They were caught in the debris when the room they are in sustained damage."

Beckett made a face and reached for his radio.

"However, that's not why I called you here, Carson," Weir said before Beckett could summon a medical team.

Teyla watched as Doctor Beckett's face went from concerned to angry. "Not why you called me here?" he said and Teyla noticed how his accent became more pronounced. "Why would I be here if it weren't because Rodney managed to get himself into yet another scrape?"

Weir stayed calm in the face of Beckett's outrage. "Because Rodney needs your help to solve a bigger problem, Carson."

"What sort of bigger problem would that be, then?" Beckett asked his arms crossed and his face still rigid.

"Doctor Zelenka?" Weir said and the engineer stepped forward.

"Doctor McKay has a possible solution to our stabilizer issue but we need some medical stores," Zelenka said and handed over Rodney's scrap of paper.

"One twenty-two gauge needle, portable oxygen, valve stems, tubing, waterproof tape," Beckett mumbled and looked up as he read the list.

"I think we have waterproof tape down in one of the labs," Zelenka said straight-faced and Bates snickered.

"What does he want this for?" Beckett asked and Teyla could see he looked a bit bewildered.

"Good question," Weir said and looked at Zelenka.

"Oh, yes, well," Zelenka said. "Doctor McKay wanted me to run diagnostics on vacuum system for the stabilizers. We could not get clean data and Rodney and I think the system has been contaminated with seawater."

"Where does the oxygen come in?" Weir asked.

"I think Rodney's plan is to flush the system using the oxygen. That will allow laser to receive correct data again."

"You said this could be dangerous," Teyla prompted.

"Yes. It will depend on where the leak is and how much of the oxygen McKay will need to use to flush the system."

"Oxygen is an oxidizer, lass," Beckett said and at Teyla's puzzled look, he continued. "If any of the machinery were to spark, the concentrated amount of oxygen would let any sort of fire start quicker and burn hotter."

Zelenka nodded. "Yes. There is also the concern of the machinery itself and how easily Rodney will be able to access the parts of the system he needs to in order to access the vacuum lines. Not to mention …" He hesitated and looked at Teyla.

"Yes, Doctor?" she asked, seeing the worry in his eyes.

"Doctor McKay and Major Sheppard are right on top of the stabilizers. If the system goes critical while they are trying to fix it." He stopped again, pushed up his glasses, and glanced at Weir. "The room they are in would be the first to flood," he finally said. "We would never be able to get them out in time."

"Doctor Zelenka, do you see any other way to fix the stabilizers?" Weir asked into the silence from the engineer's dire prediction.

Zelenka shook his head. "If Rodney is right and the vacuum lines are contaminated, this is the fastest way to correct it."

"Speed may be of the essence, Doctor Weir," Teyla added. "The ceiling and walls are already damaged and Doctor McKay thinks it may be getting worse."

Weir looked around at the people in her office. "All right. Let's get this list put together and get everything back down to the east pier. Sergeant Bates, you will accompany Teyla back through the damaged sections."

"Yes, ma'am," Bates said.

"I'm going with you," Beckett declared.

"Carson --"

"We know Rodney is hurt, Elizabeth. It wouldn't surprise me if Major Sheppard is injured as well and just keeping mum. Which by the way I only released him from the infirmary this morning with orders to take things slow. I'm going." Beckett looked Weir in the eye. "Besides, if you want my medical supplies, you get me, too."

"All right, go," Weir said. "And be careful," she added as Beckett led the way back to the infirmary for the supplies McKay wanted.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Rodney paged through the stabilizer schematics on his computer looking for the best way to access the vacuum system. It was a welcome distraction from the ache in his leg, the creaking of the ceiling and walls around him, as well as the clunking and banging as Sheppard and Ford tried to shift the debris blocking their exit. He glanced back at the work around the door and tried not to think about being trapped.

"So what do you think?" Sheppard asked a few minutes later and Rodney jumped.

"Remind me to tie a bell around your neck," he grumbled and Sheppard grinned.

"Here," Sheppard said and held out a power bar. "You need to eat something."

Rodney took the offered energy bar and nodded his thanks, opened the bar, and took a bite. "What do I think about what?" he asked after he swallowed.

"You said you wanted to flush the vacuum tube using oxygen gas," Sheppard said as he ate his own power bar. "And you've been staring at the schematics for the past twenty minutes, so what do you think? Will it work?"

Rodney sighed and finished the power bar. He looked over the console again and finally met Sheppard's eyes. "Look, I'm not saying it's a good idea, I'm just saying that it could, potentially, be a … not-totally-terrible one."

"Uh, thanks?" Sheppard replied, confused. "How not-totally-terrible is this idea of yours?"

"Assuming Carson has what I need, and assuming we can get it in here …"

"Ford and I have made a pretty sizable hole. Not enough to fit a person through but he should be able to get the tank and other stuff to fit." Rodney started to say something and Sheppard held up a hand "I know, he won't use his arms. There's some short piping on his side of the fall he can use to push the stuff through."

Rodney nodded, rubbed at his leg, and tried to hide how much it hurt.

"I told Teyla to have Carson standing by to take a look at you once this is fixed and we're out of here," Sheppard said and Rodney had to smile.

"Thank you," he said simply and stuffed the crumpled energy bar wrapper in a pocket.

"You're welcome?" Sheppard replied. "What are you thanking me for?"

"I just told you this idea was thin at best, but you just assume it's going to work."

"Your plans have a habit of working out in the end," Sheppard said with a smile and rested a hand on Rodney's shoulder. "So, what exactly is this idea?"

Rodney turned back to the computer. "The vacuum lines are here," he said and pointed to an area of the schematic. "In order to reach them, I'll need to remove these two cover pieces and reach between this actuator arm and the wall of the machine. Then it's just a matter of connecting the oxygen and not blowing anything up."

"There's one big flaw in that plan that I can see," Sheppard said after a moment's pause.

"One?" Rodney snorted. "Try about seven."

Sheppard waved that away. "No, the biggest flaw is the part where you're doing the work."

Rodney stared at him, mouth agape. "You just told me the door wasn't going to be cleared in time for anyone else to get in here," he said. "That means no Zelemka or, god forbid, Kavanagh is going to come in here and do the work for me. Just who do you suggest?"

Sheppard frowned. "Come on, McKay, you're a smart guy. I'm sure you'll figure it out."

"You? No." Rodney shook his head. "This is my stupid idea --"

"Rodney, you can't stand, much less get down those stairs and tear apart machinery," Sheppard said patiently. "This isn't that different from bleeding a brake line on a car, just walk me through it."

Rodney sat and fiddled with one of the tiles from the console.

"Hey," Sheppard said softly, "I trust you, understand? It'll work."

"Major?" Teyla called from the doorway. "We are back with the supplies Doctor McKay requested."

"We?" Rodney looked up at Sheppard. "Did she say 'we'?" He turned to the door. "Teyla, you need to leave the stuff with Ford and take whoever the 'we' is and get back to the control tower."

"Rodney?" Sheppard said, drawing out the name. "What's going on?"

"One of the seven things," he answered. "I'm serious. Whoever's out there tell them to drop the supplies off with Ford and clear out. Once Ford feeds you the tank and other things, he needs to leave as well."

"All right, spill. What's the part of this plan you're not telling me?"

Rodney sighed. "Haven't you been listening?"

Sheppard looked puzzled. "Of course. I heard everything you said about how to fix the stabilizer."

Rodney shook his head. "For once I'm not talking about listening to me." He waved a hand around the room. "I mean the creaking, groaning, and other sounds of our imminent demise."

Sheppard glanced at his watch. "I thought you said we had twelve hours. It's been barely four."

"I said eight to twelve and apparently I was wrong. Don't get used to it." Rodney glanced at the ceiling as another low groan came from the supports. "If we don't get this fixed in the next hour, the system is going to go critical and this room is going to be the first casualty."

"What about the rest of Atlantis?" Sheppard asked.

"If the stabilizer shreds itself, that will solve the problem for the rest of the city; it won't be counter-rotating since it will be gone and the torsion stresses will stop."

"But this whole arm of the city will be either flooded or sheared off?"

"That's about right. Now, do you understand why they need to leave? The only reason you're staying is because there's no way I can get you out."

Sheppard stared at him for a long moment and Rodney looked over at the computer to escape the scrutiny. "I'm sorry," Rodney said softly.

"For what, exactly."

"For not thinking of a better plan or a way for you to get out with everyone else," he admitted.

He felt Sheppard's hand on his arm and glanced back. "We will talk about this later," Sheppard promised. "After we're both out of here."

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Sheppard headed for the blocked doorway to deliver McKay's ultimatum.

"Teyla?" he called once he reached the debris pile.

"We're here, Major," she replied. "Why does Doctor McKay wish us to leave? Lieutenant Ford and Sergeant Bates have a plan for removing the rest of the debris that is trapping you. We could work on that while you both work to fix the stabilizer."

"He knows," Zelenka said quietly from behind Teyla. "He knows this arm will flood if the stabilizer goes critical."

"Hang on a minute," Beckett interrupted. "I thought there was still plenty of time."

"We don't have time for a coffee klatch," Rodney yelled from the console. "Zelemka, give the stuff to Ford and explain the realities of life on your way back to the control tower."

Ford, Teyla, and Beckett all looked ready to protest his demand, even Bates looked surprised. Zelenka just sighed and seemed a little sad.

"Ford, find something to start pushing the supplies through to me," Sheppard ordered before anyone could say anything. "Then all of you need to get to a safe distance."

"But Major --" Carson started to say.

"No buts, Doc," Sheppard said. "If this goes sideways, Rodney is right, you guys need to be clear of this area." He smiled. "However, when we have this all sorted, I'll radio you and once we're out of here you can read him whatever riot act you like."

"You'd better, Major. There are a few choice things I plan to say to both of you." Beckett stepped back from the small hole as Ford bent down and showed Sheppard the backpack ready to go.

Sheppard reached for the backpack tied to the pole Ford fed through the widened hole in the rubble. Once the tank had followed, Sheppard nodded to the huddle in the corridor. "Go on," he said with a smile. "We'll be right behind you."

He watched as Teyla, Ford, and the others walked back up the hall, then turned and headed back to the console.

"Finally," Rodney muttered and took the backpack. "I say we're on a short clock and everyone wants to sit down and chat." He pulled out the syringe, tubing, tape, and the rest of his requested items.

"If you want to be useful, you can go down and start removing the housing covers on the mechanism in the corner." He vaguely waved at a grey lump near the lower windows, pulled a pair of needle nose pliers and a screwdriver from the set of tools next to him, and handed the rest to Sheppard.

Sheppard nodded and headed for the stairs behind the control console.

"Just take off the housing covers," Rodney reminded. "The actuator arm is going to be moving in there. I'm going to have to work with the system up here to keep it out of your way while you work inside the machinery."

Sheppard headed down the stairs and over to the housing Rodney had indicated on the schematics. He heard the room creaking again as he reached the lower floor and glanced up as he heard telltale cracking. He saw Rodney doing the same thing and he stared down wide-eyed as they both realised the glass from the window near Rodney's console had cracked.

He found the right piece of machinery without any trouble and studied the housing in front of him. It wasn't as elegant as other pieces of Ancient technology found in the city; it looked almost Earth-like in its bulkiness. The housing came up to his chest and was a dull grey. As he looked it over, he noted the arm Rodney had mentioned sticking out from one side presumably attached to the shaft that descended into the floor and worked the fins. It had a bulbous piece in the center sticking out the top of the two housing covers he needed to remove. The problem was he didn't see anything like a screw holding the housing to the frame of the structure.

He stuffed the tools down the front of his vest and walked around the whole thing once looking for some way to get it open. Then he remembered the door panels he'd seen Rodney pry open around the city. Looking closer at the edges he finally found a piece with a seam and he pulled off the cover to find two latches underneath. Moving to the opposite end, he found another little panel and disconnected the latches he found under that one as well. Then he carefully removed the housing cover itself. He repeated the process for the other side and once he had the covers off, just stared at the inner workings of the system.

Okay, this might be a little different from bleeding a brake line, after all, he grimaced. While the schematic was nice clean lines, the actual stabilizer itself was less so. He could follow some of the tubes and lines snaking out of the dome in the middle, others were a complete mystery.

The room creaked again and shuddered slightly and Sheppard noticed cracks in the windows near him as well.

"Sheppard?" Rodney called and he could hear a note of rising panic. "Do you have those covers off yet."

"Yeah," Sheppard answered. "What do I do next?"

"First you come back up here and get the oxygen tank," Rodney said and Sheppard saw him leaning over the console to look down at him.

"Rodney, sit down," Sheppard ordered as he headed back up the stairs. "Beckett already plans to give you a piece of his mind for making him leave," he added as he stopped next to the console. "You mess up that leg even more and he won't let you out of the infirmary for a week."

Rodney sat back in the chair with a grunt and Sheppard noted the thin sheen of sweat on his face.

"Take this," Rodney said as he handed over the tank and a roll of waterproof tape. At the end of the tubing opposite the tank valve was another smaller valve and a makeshift holder for the small injection needle at the end of a narrower piece of tubing, all of it was heavily wrapped in the waterproof tape.

"When I tell you to, you need to gently insert the needle into the vacuum line."

Sheppard glanced down at the spaghetti bowl of tubes and wires.

Rodney must have read his mind as he added, "The vacuum line will be a clear, narrow line running from behind the actuator arm, probably along the stabilizer shaft."

"Got it," Sheppard said.

"Once you get the needle in, tape it down and open the valve for the tank then slowly open the smaller one. The second valve is acting like a pressure regulator. We don't want to blow the lines, but there is a balance we need to find so the oxygen flushes the water without damaging the rest of the system. Use the waterproof tape to hold the needle in place once you're done."

The room shuddered again and the window near Rodney's head cracked further.

"We might want to hurry this along," he said and looked up at Sheppard.

Sheppard could read the combination of fear and worry on his face. He met Rodney's eyes, nodded and tried to give him a reassuring smile before he turned back to the stairs, the tank under one arm.

Sheppard went back to the uncovered piece of the stabilizer system, set the tank down and looked into the mass of wires and tubes. He followed the actuator arm and found the small, clear tube that had to be the vacuum line. The arm was currently blocking his access to the line.

"The actuator is in the way," he called up to Rodney. "I can't reach the vacuum tube."

The room groaned again and Sheppard saw a sheet of water start to run down one of the windows in front of him.

"Give me a second to realign it," Rodney said. "Wait for my signal, otherwise it could take your hand off."

He waited and watched the water flow down the window faster as the crack widened in the window. And then the actuator arm slowly moved.

"What are you doing?" Sheppard asked as the arm slowly cleared the area he needed to access.

"Manually moving the fins," Rodney replied. "The good news is they are now rotating with the rest of the city, the bad news is without the laser it won't last so work fast."

The actuator moved a little bit more, then Rodney yelled, "It should be clear now. Insert the needle."

Sheppard moved the oxygen tank until it was right beside the clear tube and wedged it in place between the stabilizer and the solid wall. He glanced at the arm and selected a section of the vacuum line away from the play of its movement so the arm wouldn't break off the needle. He slowly inserted the needle along the tube and taped it down as the actuator fought whatever Rodney was doing to hold it away from his hands.

"Okay, the needle is in place and taped down," he told Rodney and moved his hands out of range of the arm as it snapped back to its previous position over the line. He quickly replaced the housing covers and turned back to the oxygen tank. He opened the main valve then slowly started to turn the smaller valve.

"How's that?" he asked.

The walls shuddered again and more water poured in from the crack in the window in front of him.

"Not nearly enough. Open it some more."

Sheppard turned the small valve until it was almost fully open. Before he could confirm with Rodney the oxygen was working, the window next to Rodney's console blew out sending him to the floor in a torrent of water.

"Rodney!" Sheppard shouted and made for the stairs. He fought up the stairs against the flow of water pouring in from the broken window and found Rodney trying to sit up, a red welt already forming where his head had hit something on the way down.

Rodney looked up at him, his eyes slightly glazed, then at the water coming in. "I guess we weren't quick enough," he said sadly as Sheppard knelt beside him.

"None of that," Sheppard said gruffly as he checked the welt. "We have a few minutes before the water reaches this level, we can still get out." Sheppard stood and reached down to pull Rodney up as well. "Grab your computer and let's get out of here."

Rodney shook his head but let Sheppard pull him to his feet. Once upright he wavered for a moment, balanced against the console and rubbed at the welt above his eye. Sheppard watched him visibly shake off the dizziness, then he grabbed the computer, stuffed it back in his pack, and powered down the Ancient console to its previous low setting. The lighting in the room returned to the dimness of when they'd arrived and Sheppard thought it made the water flooding into the downstairs area seem louder.

There was another, muffled bang as the window downstairs broke as well, and the water started rising faster.

"Come on," Sheppard said and pulled Rodney's arm over his shoulder. "Time to go."

"Past time if you ask me," he replied and grabbed up his pack in his free hand.

They were almost to the debris around the door when Sheppard saw one side of the pile start to shift, then fall in at them. He skipped back balancing Rodney against him and wondered if a window in the corridor had broken as well and more water was about to pour into the room.

Instead, he saw Ford with Bates next to him, pry bars in hand, waving him out to the hallway.

"Major, you gotta hurry, sir," Ford said in obvious relief as he handed off his pry bar to the Sergeant.

"Ford?" Sheppard asked confused, as he looked through the newly created opening.

"The bulkhead that way," Ford pointed in the direction opposite the corridor with the transporter, "is already closed but Doctor Zelenka said this area was starting to flood. If we don't leave now we'll be trapped when he has to close the other one."

By now Sheppard was at the door with Rodney still gamely hopping next to him, looking exhausted. The narrow passage wasn't wide enough for both of them so Sheppard maneuvered Rodney through the hole first to Ford. Ford took the backpack from him and gently pulled Rodney through the remaining debris blocking the doorway.

Once Rodney was out, Sheppard followed and Ford reached back through to grab his arm and pulled him out as well. The water was up to their level now and gently sloshed around their feet as Rodney sagged against the far wall.

"How far to clear the bulkhead, Lieutenant?" Sheppard asked as he resettled Rodney's arm over his shoulder.

Ford kept the backpack and led the way back up the corridor. Bates brought up the rear carrying the pry bars and other tools they'd used to break up the debris around the door. "It's about fifty feet, Major, in the next corridor. We lost one or more of the repeaters through here though so there's no way to let Doctor Zelenka know when we're clear. Teyla is waiting at the transporter and will let him know when she can see us."

"Or when the water gets too high?" Sheppard glanced over at Ford.

"Or when the water gets too high, yes sir," Ford confirmed.

"Bates," Sheppard called as the water was now above their ankles. "Go tell Teyla we're on our way." Hopefully, that would buy them a little extra time if she knew they were out of the room.

"Yes, sir," Bates confirmed and squirmed past Ford.

The water was rising faster as they turned the corner from the maintenance corridor and Rodney moved more slowly as a result. Sheppard readjusted his hold on him as Rodney leant more and more on him as the weight of the water pulled at his injured leg and sapped what energy he still had.

The water was over their knees when they cleared the bulkhead and turned the corner for the transporter where Teyla anxiously waited. Sheppard saw her key her radio and say something to someone on the other end and a few seconds later the barrier slammed closed a few feet behind them. Sheppard let out the breath he didn't realise he was holding as the water stopped rising. They were still a hundred feet or so from the transporter and Sheppard half carried Rodney the rest of the distance. Once they were all inside, there was still a standing pool of water in the transporter with them and Rodney had enough energy to make a face at Sheppard before he closed his eyes and leant against the wall.

The transporter opened on the corridor leading back to the control room with a near silent whoosh and the water that had transported with them sloshed out onto the waiting welcoming committee of Weir, Beckett, Zelenka, and a medical team. Sheppard grinned slightly as he watched them dance out of the way.

Ford helped Sheppard get Rodney out of the transporter and over to the waiting gurney; he was asleep on his feet. As they helped Beckett get him situated, Sheppard said, "I'm going to assume his plan worked?" He took a towel Weir held out to him and dried off his face and hair. He and Rodney were both soaked, Ford, Teyla, and Bates only slightly less so.

"Yes," Zelenka replied. "The oxygen flushed the seawater out of the system and the laser is tracking again. There is an engineering crew suiting up now to fix the leak permanently."

Sheppard nodded and followed the gurney to the infirmary, Teyla and Ford in tow. "Better get another one ready to go fix the windows down there," Sheppard said.

"Already in the works, Major," Weir assured him. "And Doctor Zelenka thinks he can rig up a pumping system to clear the water down there once it is watertight again." She stopped at the door to the infirmary. "Once Carson clears you, get cleaned up and we'll meet in my office."

"We will see you later, Major," Teyla said. "I need to let Halling and the others know the crisis is past."

Sheppard nodded and allowed himself to be led to the bed next to Rodney where he was groggily complaining about being wet.

"He gonna be okay, Doc?" he asked as Beckett examined Rodney's knee.

"I think so, Major," he started to say before Rodney interrupted.

"Did anyone bother to ask if my plan worked, or are we all just waiting for the inevitable?" he asked and tried to sit up.

Beckett pushed him back down.

"Yes, Rodney, the plan worked. Zelenka has a team going out now to fix the leak and check on the damage to the east pier."

"Good … that's good," he slurred and Sheppard noticed the syringe in Beckett's hand at the same time Rodney's eyes closed.

"I'm going to need to drain that knee, Major he'll be much happier not feeling it," Beckett explained.

"But he's going to be fine?"

"Oh, aye, I'll do a scan just to be sure, but I don't think he did any serious damage to the bone or ligaments. He can spend the night here, and I'll release him in the morning."

"Good," Sheppard said and started for the infirmary door.

"Just where do you think you're going, then, Major?" Beckett asked as he stood in Sheppard's path.

"Elizabeth wants to meet about what happened," Sheppard said and tried to dodge around Beckett.

"Yes, well, you can do that after I take a look at that arm." Beckett steered him back to the bed. "Did ya think I wouldn't notice, Major?" He removed the hasty dressing on the arm as well as the one on Sheppard's neck. "And I'd like to know exactly how you think running around getting yourself half drowned is taking it easy."

Sheppard didn't even try to answer that one, he just sat, rather meekly, and let Beckett fuss. He was fine, Rodney was fine, and Atlantis was safe. He couldn't ask for much more.

Chapter Text

The next day, Teyla led Doctor Weir through the Athosian area of the city to Iranda's quarters. She tapped on the doorframe and called, "Iranda? It is Teyla. I have brought Doctor Weir with me. May we enter?"

"Teyla Emmagan, come in, come in," Iranda said as she pushed aside the colorful door hanging. She and Teyla touched foreheads and Iranda turned to Weir. "Doctor Weir, I am honored by your visit, please enter."

"Please call me Elizabeth," Weir said as she ducked under the door hanging and sat on a cushion next to Teyla.

"Elizabeth," Iranda said with a smile. "I have tea, would you like some?"

"I would love a good cup of tea," Weir replied.

Iranda nodded and went to the corner where the kettle whistled. Teyla wondered how she always managed to time that so well.

"Is Isla still well?" Teyla asked as the older woman poured tea into three cups.

"Isla?" Weir asked as she accepted her cup.

"My daughter," Iranda explained, "she is with child and due soon." She passed a cup to Teyla. "Yes, she is well, thank you. I think she will deliver early; the baby is squirming more than ever."

"Have you asked Doctor Beckett?" Weir asked and sipped her tea.

Iranda shook her head. "There is no need, this is not Isla's first child and Olette is a midwife."

Teyla watched as Weir accepted this and said, "We came to thank you, Iranda."

"Yes," Weir agreed setting aside her cup. "I wanted to thank you for telling Teyla of your vision. Without your warning, we may not have discovered the stabilizer problem in time to fix it."

Iranda bowed he head. "And I thank you, Doc -- Elizabeth, for taking the warning seriously." She glanced at Teyla. "Some of my people were unsure if you would heed the vision."

Elizabeth met Iranda's eyes. "I hope Halling feels differently now."

Iranda laughed. "Well done, Elizabeth."

"I do not understand," Teyla said as she looked from one woman to the other.

"I take it Halling has not talked to you about what happened while you were trapped in the jumper?" Weir said to Teyla.

Teyla shook her head in confusion.

"He wanted to perform a ceremony to allow you to prepare for death," Weir explained. "I refused to let him, saying we didn't give up and I wouldn't tell all of you to expect to die. He didn't take it well." She touched Teyla's arm. "I hope you can understand why I had to do that."

"I see," Teyla said calmly and tried to hide her frustration with the man. This explained, at least in part, his continued pushing of tradition while she dealt with the latest crisis. "I do understand your reason, Doctor Weir, and I apologise Halling and the others put you in that position in the first place."

"Halling and the others grow restless, Teyla Emmagan," Iranda told her. "They are men and women used to hunting and farming. They do not know how to make themselves useful in the city of the Ancestors." She glanced around the room. "I'm not sure how much longer they can carry on here," she added sadly.

Teyla nodded. Iranda wasn't saying anything she wasn't already aware of, she just didn't know what to do about the growing feelings of dissent; the city was at least safe from the Wraith, not something she could say about any other planet in the Pegasus galaxy now.

Elizabeth must have sensed the tension in the small room as she quickly finished her tea and gracefully stood. "I should be going," she said. "Iranda, please know if you ever have any other visions regarding Atlantis, you can come to me." She turned to Teyla. "Teyla, I will see you later?"

Teyla shook her head and stood as well. "I will walk with you, Doctor Weir." She bent and touched foreheads with their host. "Iranda, thank you for the tea," she said softly with a smile.

Teyla's pace was slow as they left the Athosian living areas. She gazed around at the candles, the colorful hangings. She inhaled the sense of peace and sighed.

"Teyla?" Weir asked as they walked back to the control room and Weir's office.

"It is nothing, Doctor Weir," Teyla said with a sad smile. "Iranda has said nothing that I did not already know. We must do the best we can in the current circumstances. It is not safe for my people to leave Atlantis."

"If there's anything I can do to help …"

"Thank you, Doctor Weir," Teyla replied and turned down the corridor to her own quarters. Some time in meditation might help her settle her mind.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Rodney sat out on one of Atlantis' balconies enjoying the warmth, a set of crutches propped against the wall beside him and his legs resting on another chair in front of him.

"You missed breakfast again," Sheppard said from behind him as he closed the balcony door and set a cup of coffee on the table next to him. Sheppard pulled up another chair and sipped at his own cup. "How's the knee?"

Rodney shrugged. "It'll be fine. Assuming, of course, I can stay away from Carson. That man has far too many needles for my liking."

Sheppard smiled. "Had to drain it again, huh."

"Yeah, but hopefully that's the last time." He looked over at Sheppard. "How's the arm?"

Sheppard glanced down and the fresh bandage on his arm and shrugged. "Beckett had to stitch it closed, but he says it'll heal fine."

They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes.

"Ran into Zelenka in the mess hall getting the coffee," Sheppard said. "He tells me Jumper Two is all back together again."

"Good. Carson wouldn't let me do it; he won't let me do anything really for at least a week. This way Zelemka will know that system almost as well as I do."

Sheppard shook his head and smiled. "You do know the man's name is Zelenka, don't you?"

"It is?" McKay said, surprised. "Why can I never remember that?" He took a sip of coffee. "Anyway, I had Zelenka," he emphasised the correct pronunciation, "rebuild it. Should be good as new. Well, as good as ten-thousand-year old technology can be at least."

Sheppard gave him a sideways look before he asked, "Did you get what you needed?"

Rodney snorted. "How subtle of you, Sheppard."

Sheppard smiled. "I told you we weren't done with that conversation yet."

Rodney picked up his cup of coffee and stared out at the water.

"I was absolutely convinced you were gonna die because I couldn't get you back to Atlantis," he said in a near whisper. "We were stuck with the 'gate counting down to automatic shutdown, that bug-thing was doing god only knew what to you, and I couldn't do anything to help either situation." He glared over at Sheppard and said louder, "and then you go and get that hare-brained idea of shocking yourself and you really were dead." He slammed the cup back on the table and sloshed hot coffee on his hand. "Gah!" he yelped and wiped the coffee off on his trousers.

"It all worked out in the end," Sheppard said as Rodney looked at his red hand.

"It all worked … that's your take away from this? I'll keep that in mind the next time you're three seconds from death," Rodney said and realised he was still yelling. He took a deep breath and tried to calm down.

"That's part of my job, Rodney," Sheppard said. "My job is to keep this city and its people safe. If that means I have to die to do it … well … I admit that wouldn't be my first choice, but it is a choice I'm willing to make. Do you understand that?"

Rodney shook his head and watched the water. "Everything was easier when I didn't care," he admitted softly.

Sheppard nodded and replied in kind, "Maybe that's true, but did you really like living like that?"

"I'd been doing it for so long it was just habit." Rodney sighed. "I haven't talked to my sister in over four years, did you know that?"

Sheppard shook his head.

"Even when we were kids, we weren't that close. It sounds petty, I know, but our parents just liked her more than me." He stared out at the water. "Taking me to special classes and schools was a chore for them. They would constantly fight over whose turn it was to deal with me that day. Even with the scholarships to university, my parents still saw me as a burden. Jeannie, though, was different. Maybe it was because they'd already been through it once, who knows." He picked up the coffee cup and drained it. "It was a relief when I could finally get away from their anger."

Sheppard didn't say anything, and Rodney wondered for a moment if it was such a good idea giving someone this much power over him. He'd never dared share so much of himself before to anyone fearing they would just use it against him. Sheppard seemed different though. He'd trusted the man almost from the moment they walked through the 'gate, and he was shocked to realise he'd never really questioned why. Now, months later, he couldn't imagine trying to live in the Pegasus galaxy without the cocky pilot.

Then they were attacked by the Wraith, the jumper got stuck in the 'gate, and Sheppard was dying in front of him and Rodney realised something else, he cared, damn it. His friend, his best friend even, could have died while he stood there and watched.

Rodney shivered and said quietly, "There was this feeling I had after we got you back here and before Beckett got your heart going again. Like everything had just stopped and I wasn't sure how, or even if, I wanted it to start moving again. I didn't feel that way when my parents each died. But you … I … " He glanced over at Sheppard as he stumbled to a stop.

"Chaguo ndugu," Sheppard said softly and looked McKay in the eye. "I guess she was right."

"What?" Rodney asked, confused. "Who was right? About what?"

"Something Teyla said to me last month." He glanced over at Rodney. "While we were digging you and Ford out of that mine."

Rodney shuddered at the memory of being trapped and his absolute certainty no one would bother looking for him.

"She said we were chaguo ndugu, brothers by choice. I guess she was right."

Rodney mouthed the strange words and pondered what Sheppard had just said.

When he was a child he'd dreamt of having an older brother, someone to protect him from bullies, someone who took an interest in what new discovery he'd made. Of course, then he'd conclude said imaginary brother probably would hate him as much as the rest of his family and the pipe dream would fade. Instead, he learned to protect himself, usually by keeping everyone at arms-length, or even further if possible.

Sheppard, however, knew him and actually seemed to like him. He'd told Rodney he would always help him out of trouble and he did seem interested in whatever project he was working on when Sheppard wandered down to his lab. More to the point, Rodney discovered he wanted to be around Sheppard as well, he wanted someone to talk to about things other than physics and engineering. He could just be Rodney with Sheppard, with all his faults, and not Doctor McKay. He felt lighter, happier, since coming to the Pegasus galaxy, and a large reason why was sitting next to him.

Chaguo ndugu …

Rodney smiled. "Never had a brother before. Might be kinda nice."

Sheppard's grin looked slightly evil as he said, "Oh, I already have one younger brother. I know exactly how older brothers are supposed to treat the younger ones."

"Jeannie is younger than me, I know all the tricks," Rodney smirked.

"Yeah, but sisters are different from brothers," Sheppard replied.

Rodney's smile slipped and he looked away. "Just promise me you'll try and lay off the self-sacrifice stuff," he said softly a moment later. "I can't keep watching you die."

"You're one to talk," Sheppard retorted. "What do you call that stunt in the maintenance room where you tried to get everyone, including me, out of danger while you stayed behind?"

"That was just logic," Rodney replied.

"No, that was you doing what you thought you had to do to protect someone you cared about," Sheppard stated. "I already told you I can't make that promise, for the exact same reason you can't."

Rodney sat back in his chair. "Chaguo ndugu. The consequence of caring, I guess." He looked over at Sheppard. "I can learn to live with that, I think."

"Good," Sheppard said and Rodney watched as he leant back and closed his eyes. "I think I can, too."