The First Day Minus One: ...and all the seas
"McKay! What's the hold up?!"
"Despite what you're apparently thinking, yelling at me every few seconds to hurry up--"
"--Is actually counter-productive! I am working as fast as I can!" Another panel glowed amber, another sector was breached, but he ignored it. He was concentrating everything -- shields, power, everything else -- on the control tower, working as quickly as his fingers would move.
"Rodney!" Elizabeth shouted.
"Goddammit, McKay!" Sheppard's bellow cut across the din -- the voices of the last residents gathered in the 'gate room, the alarm klaxons, the distant explosions, all of it.
"I said I--" The last connection glowed green and Rodney interrupted himself. "Got it! Clear the 'gate!"
He'd never dialed a 'gate address as fast in his life as he did Earth's. He had a moment of panic that it wouldn't work before it did, the 'gate whooshing open as he sucked in a gasp of relief. He had the IDC ready to go and hit the button even before the wormhole settled. He felt everyone's gaze on him as they waited an eternal two seconds for confirmation. "Go!" he shouted as the acknowledgement finally came across.
The last few dozen of them left on Atlantis, all pushing or pulling equipment and pallets, began running through the event horizon to Earth. It was orderly chaos; they'd done little but practice for this moment for the last week and a half, as the war between the Asurans and the Wraith consumed their part of the Pegasus galaxy. Rodney didn't watch, didn't need to -- instead, he focused on the power levels from their last, weakened, ZedPM. It wasn't going to be enough.
"I can't hold it! Hurry!" he yelled. The drain was too much, they'd already overtaxed it by sending as many refugees as they could round up to the Milky Way. Keeping the control tower under the shield was going to kill it... He was manually adjusting the size of the shield in order to stretch energy, but it wasn't going to last, it wasn't going to...
"Rodney! Come on!" Elizabeth yelled.
Rodney glanced up, surprised to discover she was the last one in Atlantis, her and Sheppard... and himself. "Go! I'm babying it but I don't know how long! Go Elizabeth!"
He was splitting his attention between the power console and the 'gate room floor. "Throw her in if you have to but do it NOW!" he bellowed and a part of him was amused to see Sheppard do practically that, shoving her through so hard she probably flew halfway down the ramp at SGC.
"C'mon, McKay!" Sheppard shouted, but it was too late. The last of the power blipped away and the 'gate shut.
"Oh, shit," Rodney breathed. No more ZedPM meant the shield around the control tower was gone too, because their last Mark II generator couldn't handle that at all. He hunched his shoulders, expecting to feel the Asuran weapons any second. They'd already caused massive damage on the remote piers but he knew what they wanted -- total destruction of Atlantis. He'd been hoping to take a few of them out with her, but now...
Sheppard leapt up the steps. "What... where? Are we...?"
"Yeah, we are," Rodney said, desperately trying to scratch one last erg from the ZedPM. "It was too much..."
Before he could say anything else, the city rocked under an explosion. Then another came and, in short order, three more. "We've got to get out of here," he said, on the verge of panic.
"Can you dial Earth?" Sheppard said, holding on to a console for balance and looking up at the ceiling. "Dial it!"
"I can't! The ZedPM is gone, there's not enough power!"
Sheppard opened his mouth to say something but a squealing alarm from a nearby console made them both jump. Rodney staggered to it, barely able to keep standing from the repeated explosions. They hadn't hit the control tower -- yet -- but it was only a matter... "Oh, no. This is bad. This is--"
Rodney gave him a panicked look. "The ballast tanks are breached, they've all but ripped off the east pier, we're sinking, we're sinking!"
Explosions cut off anything Sheppard could say in reply. The control tower was swaying in an alarming fashion and Rodney had the definite feeling they were dropping towards the ocean. Sheppard ran to the window and confirmed Rodney's feeling with what was probably very heartfelt swearing he couldn't hear over the noise. "We're going to be underwater in two minutes!" he shouted. "Will the 'gate work underwater?"
"Yes, yes, of course it can but the DHD--" Rodney's jaw dropped as he realized what Sheppard meant. "Go! Take my pack! I'll arm the self-destruct and get on once you're down! You might have to blow--"
"I know, McKay!" Sheppard yelled as he grabbed Rodney's backpack and sprinted for the stairs, crashing into the wall next to it as another series of blasts rocked the remains of Atlantis. Rodney nearly gave himself a concussion crawling under the DHD but he managed to pull the extra control crystal -- destroying the DHD in the process, but it was never going to be used again anyway.
When he stood back up, the sound was even more deafening -- water pouring in, explosions, alarms, the screeching of metal and the groans of Atlantis in her death throes. The ceiling opened with a protesting squeal and Jumper One floated gracefully down, her inertial dampers keeping her steady even as everything collapsed around her.
The back hatch was open. "McKay! Get in here!" Sheppard yelled. Rodney could see him dialing.
Rodney quickly entered his command code into the laptop and hit enter to start the self-destruct countdown. He half ran, half fell down the steps and leapt onboard the 'jumper as the 'gate belled open. Water was pouring in everywhere and the big window behind the 'gate suddenly shattered, flooding the 'gate room. "Go!" Rodney screamed, closing the back hatch.
"Roger that!" Sheppard said and smoothly accelerated through the stargate.
It was night and Sheppard brought the 'jumper down under the canopy of some huge trees, keeping it cloaked. "Where are we?" Rodney murmured. The silence was almost deafening after the cacophony of a dying Atlantis.
After a few moments, Sheppard said, "What's that?"
Rodney looked down at his hands, which still cradled the control crystals from Atlantis' DHD. "The control crystal. So we can dial Earth."
"Oh." Sheppard paused. "Can't do that without a ZPM, though, right?"
"Maybe we'll find one." Rodney finally turned to look at Sheppard, who looked just about as shell-shocked as Rodney felt. "I should be freaking out. Why am I not freaking out?"
"I don't know. I'm not either."
"Delayed reaction, you think?"
They were quiet for a long minute before Rodney said, "They probably think we're dead."
"Maybe," Sheppard repeated, in a tone that said 'probably.'
"The SGC won't risk the sending the Daedalus, not with the Asurans and the Wraith basically destroying Pegasus."
"No, it's not worth it. And they wouldn't know where to find us, anyway." After another moment, Sheppard added, "Did you set the self-destruct?"
"Yeah. The Wraith won't get anything out of it."
"Or the Asurans."
"They already know."
"Oh. Yeah. Forgot that."
"At least we got as many out as we could." The Athosians, some Satedans, Manorians, Dabilis, even some Genii, the last of their people... they'd relocated hundreds to planets in the Milky Way, planets which were safer than those in Pegasus. Especially since the Asurans had apparently discovered a way to make an ordinary G0-type stars go nova. The Wraith seemed to really hate that.
"Yeah." Sheppard took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. "Maybe we'll find more we can help."
"Maybe we'll find a ZedPM, go back to Earth."
"Hey, we got front-row seats for when the Asurans and Wraith Kilkenny-cat each other to death."
"And excepting their nails and the tips of their tails," Rodney murmured.
"Instead of two cats, there weren't any." Sheppard snickered, which set Rodney off. Soon they were laughing out loud, deep belly-laughs which were more than half-hysterical but what the hell. They were alive. They were trapped in a galaxy not their own, Atlantis was dead and they had no way to get back to Earth. But they were alive and in the long run, Rodney realized, that's all that counted.
Sheppard stood and stretched. "C'mere." He held out his hand to Rodney. "Let's find something to eat and... something."
"Rest, maybe." It had been a long few days. Rodney stared at Sheppard's hand for a moment before taking it and letting Sheppard haul him to his feet. "Elizabeth won't give up." He put the control crystal gently on his chair.
"No. She won't."
Rodney straightened. "You think we're ever going to be able to go back to Earth?"
"I don't know. Maybe someday."
They stood toe-to-toe, and Rodney realized he still held Sheppard's hand. Rather than feeling self-conscious, rather than feeling awkward, it felt right. Sheppard -- no, John -- was giving him a look Rodney almost understood. "I--" he started, then cocked his head to the side. He looked, maybe for the first time, really looked at John. "Hm."
Rodney reached out and cradled John's face in one hand, gently urging it down until there was nothing between them but a few centimeters of air. "Oh," John breathed, before crossing that little space and kissing Rodney.
As first kisses went, it was pretty damn good. There were more kisses and other things that night, but surprisingly few words -- especially when considering it was Rodney, the guy who wouldn't even let eating stand in the way of talking.
And when the sun came up the next morning, they got up and started living again.