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Zombie Fever (or How Rodney's Bomb Saved Atlantis)

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Rodney McKay will spend what’s left of his life completely and utterly blaming Carson for his near death experience via cannibalism. Because in the end, Rodney believes, anything remotely resembling a medical crisis gone wrong is Carson’s fault. When Lorne’s team had arrived carrying Parrish to the infirmary Carson should have known something like this was going to happen. It was his job, after all.

Carson glares at him when Rodney decides to point this out. Rodney is too busy trying to hack into Atlantis’ security system and override the door locks to fully explain just why Carson should have known Parrish was going to try and eat everyone.

In the end it had taken John, a large number of grenades, and Lorne’s ability to sacrifice himself in a heroic way for them to get Carson and a couple of nurses out of the infirmary and into the residency section of the city. By that point the cannibal virus had infected over half of Atlantis’ population and Rodney secretly wonders if it had really been worth all the trouble, but then Carson starts bleeding from some unknown wound and Rodney feels kind of bad. Not guilty, but bad.

Sometime after that, the radios stop working.

“Will everyone please shut up?” he demands, not looking up from his laptop. “Do you want an Ancient gene carrying cannibal to unlock those doors? Just because the city is madly in love with Sheppard doesn’t mean it won’t happen!”

“Can we really call them cannibals?” John asks, checking his P-90 for ammo for the hundredth time. He clearly is beginning to fidget, which almost makes Rodney want to open the door just so the man can shoot something. “I think…I think they’re zombies.”

“Oh, please,” Rodney scoffs.

*

Okay. So John thinks Rodney is being a little critical because, clearly, they’re zombies. According to Carson they’re in some bizarre state of animated decomposition, or so the last scans of Parrish showed before the botanist started biting people. John has a feeling that Rodney is just upset that no one has tried to eat his brain yet.

After all, if Rodney’s the smartest man in two galaxies then his brain would be a rare delicacy.

“Maybe we should start making something with a sharp edge,” John says. “It takes too many bullets to get their heads to come off and not everyone can do headshots when the target is trying to eat you.”

That’s when Ronon starts pulling knives out of his hair. When John realizes Ronon is actually plans on sharing, well. He can’t be blamed for the massive mancrush he’s possibly developing.

Not that there is anyone in Atlantis who doesn’t have a crush on Ronon already.

“Could you stop drooling for five seconds?” Rodney demands. John gives him a look that is not a pout. “Look, I’ve scanned the city for life signs and found this cluster here in lab four. I’m pretty sure Zelenka is there with them.”

“So, you want to venture out into the zombie filled hallways to go rescue other people?” John asks. “I had no idea you were so selfless.”

“Nonsense,” Rodney says with an eye roll, “I just need Zelenka. Who else is going to help me build a bomb?”

*

Ronon’s not amused. One, he has to share his knives. Two, a tiny scientist just tried to bite him. And three, it turns out that trying to protect a Scottish medical doctor is a lot harder than it should have been.

Ronon doesn’t appreciate failure.

“I’ll be fine, lad,” Carson insists, inspecting his latest wound. Ronon thinks it’s just from the nails of the last zombie he had killed instead of the guy’s teeth, but he can’t be sure. He figures if Carson suddenly starts looking at him like he’s hungry then he’ll…well, maybe he won’t know, because Carson occasionally looks at him like that when the doctor thinks no one is looking.

Well, then. Ronon glances over at Carson and narrows his eyes in thought.

“I don’t see why they keep having to attack me,” Carson comments, plastering a bandage onto the cut and sighing. “Do I look edible?”

Ronon nods, because yeah…Carson really does look edible, even when he’s bleeding.

*

Carson’s feeling rather guilty, his mind racing with thoughts on how he could have predicted this and therefore prevented so many people dying. He tries to remember exactly what had happened, with explicit details, but all he can really recall is Parrish tearing the arm off of one of his nurses.

He shudders and unconsciously takes a step closer to Ronon. Ahead of them is a small clutch of Atlantis personnel, including a very angry looking Cadman who is wielding her knife and leaping on top of one of the former Marines with what could only be described as a war cry. Carson would be impressed, except he’s too busy fighting down a girlish yell as the being formerly known as Dr. Biro slams him into the wall and bares her teeth at him.

Ronon calmly picks Biro up and cuts off her head, ignoring the spray of blood. The large man turns to him, dark blood tainted with whatever virus that has infected these people flecked across his cheek. Carson swallows and wonders what sort of person he is that he finds the sight rather arousing.

And then Rodney is yelling about personal space as another wave of zombies explodes through one of the doorways.

“Shut up, McKay!” John orders over the roar of gunfire and screams of rage. John curses and throws the P-90 to the side, pulling out one of the knives Ronon had handed over earlier. He tackles the zombie that is threatening Rodney’s livelihood down, stabbing it viciously before remembering that he has to cut the head off to actually kill the poor bastard.

Carson pulls his eyes away from the sight of blood and terror and John checking Rodney over for damage. Ronon grabs his arm and hauls him up. “You okay?”

“Oh, uh, yes, I believe so,” he says. Because, truly, given the circumstances he could be worse off.

*

They discover Teyla in a hallway that appears to have once been overrun with cannibals—oh, alright, zombies. Honestly, Rodney doesn’t know why John gets to name their latest enemy, but that’s not the point. The point, of course, is that Teyla is standing in the middle of the hallway, surrounded by what used to be violent and hungry zombies, with a perfectly serene expression on her face as though this happens all the time.

If it wasn’t for the fact that she had apparently beaten the twenty or so zombies to their re-deaths via extreme head trauma and is now clutching her bantos rods so tightly her fingers are white, Rodney would feel annoyed by her calm.

“Have you come across any other survivors?” John asks. Rodney doesn’t bother with listening to the rest of the conversation and turns back to his laptop, configuring the details of the bomb he’s planning on building.

To be completely honest, Rodney isn’t sure as to why he thinks a bomb is the best way to fix this zombie problem of theirs, but he figures blowing a few of them up won’t hurt matters.

“I do not understand,” Teyla is saying when Rodney bothers to look up and join the conversation. “Is there no way to help these people? I had no choice but to harm them, but surely we can save the others?”

“If I had access to—“ Carson begins.

“Yes, yes,” Rodney interrupts, looking at them all with frustration. “There is analysis equipment in lab four so Carson can gather some samples along the way and try to come up with a cure of some sort when we get there. In the meantime, we’re standing in the middle of a hallway without any defenses! Am I the only one here that has a problem with this?”

“He’s a little stressed,” John explains to Teyla, who merely raises her eyebrow.

“I think the fact that I’m the only one worried is proof that I’m the smartest person standing here,” Rodney states, glaring at him.

“Now Rodney, there’s no need for insults,” John drawls.

And, really, Rodney wants to hit him. Just a little bit. He scowls instead, because the last thing he needs is to get into a fight with John. Normally fighting with John is fun, but not when there are zombies running around. He needs John focused.

After all, Rodney needs someone to protect him and John has always been up to the job.

*

John doesn’t really want to admit it to anyone, but he’s actually starting to enjoy himself. At first the whole zombie thing was a little freaky, even for a seasoned space explorer such as himself. Watching a mousy scientist that he once sent into a crying spell because he fixed her math turn into the type of creature that had no problem with, ugh, ripping someone’s flesh off their bones with their teeth? Well, that would freak anyone out.

Except, John is starting to really get into the violence. He doesn’t normally get to actually indulge himself very often, what with trying to be a leader and all.

Still. He’s fighting zombies. There is something distinctly awesome about that.

At least, it was awesome until Rodney gets ambushed by two former cooks. They leap out of nowhere, oddly fast for a species that did more shuffling than running, and tackle Rodney down to the ground in a tangle of limbs and screeches of outrage. Now, see, John has experience saving Rodney’s ass. He does it on a weekly, if not daily basis.

He tries to tell himself that that is why he feels like his heart is being ripped out when Rodney suddenly screams in pain. John brandishes his knife and wades into the wriggling mass of arms, legs, zombies, and Rodney. He does the only thing he really can do at that moment, which is apparently a lot of stabbing.

Finally, Teyla joins the fray and pulls one of the zombie cooks off of Rodney and beings beating the thing in the head with her bantos rods. Within minutes, it falls to the ground, its brain turned into mush from the force of Teyla’s hits.

John turns back to his own fight and effectively dispatches the last zombie. In the distance he can hear Ronon rumble in annoyance over yet another scratch of Carson’s, but John’s too busy staring at all of the blood to really care if Carson is going to have another scar to add to his zombie induced injury collection. He drops to his knees, leaning forward to pull back the material of Rodney’s t-shirt to reveal a nasty looking bite mark.

Rodney’s face is flush and he blinks up at John with glazed over eyes. “Am I going to die?”

“Nah, buddy, you’ll be fine,” John replies. Except he won’t be fine, because if it’s one thing they’ve learned in this single day of zombie fighting it was that biting is what turned a person. John draws in a breath, trying to calm himself. “We need to hurry.”

“Yeah,” Rodney agrees, though he doesn’t move.

John grabs his arms and starts to pull him up, pausing when Rodney squeaks in pain. “You’ve got to get up, Rodney. I can’t just leave you here.”

After a slow process, John has Rodney standing. Rodney looks at the ever-building carnage in the hallway, sighs, and turns his attention to his own wound. John watches, biting his lip, as Rodney lets out a sound of pure shock. “I think it tried to eat my nipple.”

*

Ronon is starting to wonder how it’s possible that Carson is managing to get injured like this. The man has more cuts, scratches, and bruises than any of them and yet he has yet to receive a single zombie bite. He wonders if it’s a certain skill healers have, because he distinctly remembers Melena stubbing her toe and running into doorways despite the elegance she had portrayed in helping those around her heal.

“How much longer do I have?” Rodney is asking, his tone impatient. For a guy who is most likely about to die, he doesn’t seem to actually care. Ronon isn’t sure if he should be impressed or worried. Rodney doesn’t usually just accept his fate like this.

“I don’t rightly know, Rodney,” Carson says with a sigh, putting away his medical supplies and checking the bandage on Rodney’s chest one last time. Carson’s words are slightly slurred thanks to the swelling of his jaw due to the last zombie ambush. “Parrish was infected for at least five hours before the need to, uh, feed set in. It took as short as thirty minutes for some of the others. It really depends on the individual.”

“So, I might have time?” Rodney perks up at that and then his expression hardens. “I’m blowing this place sky high.”

“That would kind of kill the rest of us,” John points out.

“So?” Rodney sniffs. “You’ll all get turned, anyway, and as much as the idea of a blissful zombie existence with my team mates is entertaining I can’t help but think that we’d all be better off dead. Besides…Zelenka and I have been making blue prints for this bomb for months. How can I die before testing it?”

“We could survive, you know,” John says with an eye roll.

“Maybe you should go find someone to have sex with, what it being the end of the world,” Rodney snaps. John blinks at him, as though the idea hadn’t come to him before then.

Ronon wonders if it’s a good time to point out that this could be John’s chance to get into Rodney’s pants. He keeps his mouth shut. John tends to get finicky when that topic comes up when it’s just the two of them, so he can only imagine his reaction while in front of the object of his affection and the others.

“You know, Rodney, I would,” John drawls, “but there’s a good chance the one I’d want to do that with will be a zombie soon.”

“Well, that’s pessimistic,” Rodney points out as they turn yet another corner. “How do you know if she’s even been bit? Besides, since when do you like someone in Atlantis? You usually go for the busty priestess type. Oh. Wait, is it Teyla? She’ll probably kill you if you try anything, end of the world or not.”

Ronon shares a look with both Teyla and Carson. It’s not possible for Rodney to be more clueless.

*

Carson is ready for a nice bath, a tumbler of scotch, and a lovely foot massage by the time they make it to lab four. His body is itching where he’s been scratched, but he’s pretty sure he’s not infected. Not any more than Rodney is at any rate.

Speaking of Rodney, the man is starting to look slightly green.

“Do you have a universal scanner here?” Carson asks, dumping his case of medical supplies onto the nearest table. He looks around the lab. “I thought there were supposed to be people here?”

“Hmm? Oh.” Rodney pokes at his laptop, pauses and blinks like he’s about to pass out, before poking at it again. “According to this, they should be over…there!”

Carson looks at the small doors lining the wall. He watches, bemused, as John and Ronon approach the doors, knives at the ready while Cadman crouches next to a nearby desk. He doesn’t know why they bother, when it’s obvious that the others are most likely hiding inside the lockers. He turns to Rodney. “While the daredevils search for our comrades, perhaps I could get some blood samples from you?”

“What?” Rodney glares at him. “I am not some kind of experiment—“

“I need to analyze your blood so I can see just how the virus is taking hold, Rodney.”

“I really don’t see the point,” Rodney begins. “We’re all going to die, anyway.”

“As amusing as I find your fatalistic attitude, I’d like to try and save everyone,” Carson says. He turns to see Ronon helping Miko out of one of the lockers and sighs. “Though it doesn’t seem like it will be possible if this is all that is left of us.”

“Now who’s being fatalistic,” Rodney comments, before yelling for Zelenka’s attention.

*

Rodney is trying to not get annoyed with Carson, but he really can’t help himself. It’s not like there is any point to the man finding a cure. Besides, they have bigger things to worry about. He looks up from his laptop and clears his throat. When no one except for Zelenka looks over he clears his throat again and adds a few finger snaps for emphasis.

“What is it Rodney?” John growls.

“I just thought you’d like to know that the scanner I configured my laptop to be in sync with—remember, that was how I found Zelenka?—just picked up on a few more life signs,” he says. “Seeing how you and Cadman have nothing better to do than play poker, I thought you could go rescue our comrades.”

“Why haven’t they shown up before?” Carson asks, peering over his own laptop at Rodney.

“You try creating a brand new program under the strain of an impending zombie attack and see how smoothly it works!” Rodney snaps. “Atlantis isn’t recognizing those inflicted with the virus as non-human personnel, so the program has to differentiate between each individual and compare their markers with our own. That takes time. Now aren’t you supposed to be coming up with a cure instead of questioning my inventions?”

“Okay, people, calm down,” John interrupts before Carson can give Rodney a response. “Cadman and I will go hunt down the others. Rodney, maybe instead of focusing on your bomb you can have one of you work on getting the radios up and running again?”

“Yes, yes, Miko can do that,” Rodney says with a hand wave. John is halfway to the door before Rodney finds himself standing and hurrying over. He grabs John’s shoulder and clears his throat nervously. “Uh, try not to get yourself killed.”

“Don’t worry,” John replies with a smile, “I’ll be back before you start snacking on our friends.”

“Oh God, I was trying to not think about that,” he mutters, suddenly feeling sick. He can already feel the virus affecting him, though he doesn’t want to admit it. His vision is getting blurry and his concentration is more like that of the average person, instead of the greatest genius of all time.

“Hey,” John says softly, reaching out and cupping Rodney’s cheek. “It’s going to be okay. You guys build your bomb and I’ll go save the rest of Atlantis just to have you blow it up. That sounds like a good plan to me.”

“Well, of course it’s a good plan. The bomb was my idea.”

*

Normally John isn’t the type to actually dwell on things. He’s found that dwelling tends to lead to moping, which in turn leads to suicidal thoughts. And while John is perfectly aware that he has a fantastic pout, he prefers to not become depressed if he can help it. That is why the whole Rodney turning into a zombie thing is really throwing him for a loop.

He wants to claim that he’s upset simply because Rodney is his buddy, his team mate, and fellow controller of humans via video games. However, to say that would probably be a lie and John likes to make a point of at least being truthful to himself.

Yeah, okay, so he’s in love with the idiot.

“You don’t think we killed everyone already, do you sir?” Cadman asks as they pass yet another hallway dotted with dead zombies.

“Well, the Atlantis expedition wasn’t that big to begin with, but I hope not,” John offers, approaching the nearest transporter. “Here’s to hoping Carson comes up with something fast.”

They walk another level of the city in silence, trying to not attract attention to themselves. Cadman is good at sneaking and keeping to herself if the moment is right, just as she’s good at being a loudmouth when it results in a spot of humor. John appreciates that.

He mostly appreciates the silence, though, because it’s giving him the time he needs to think. In his head he can picture Rodney back in lab four with his minions rushing about doing his bidding. Carson is probably off to the side, occasionally begging a skin or blood sample off of Rodney. He wonders if Rodney is starting to feel the effects of the virus, if he’s starting to look at the back of Zelenka’s head with a sense of hunger.

John hates that there isn’t anything he can do about the matter. If Carson can’t come up with a cure in time, he’s going to end up with the job of shooting his best friend in the head. He doesn’t think he could handle handing the duty over to Ronon or Cadman, though he knows they would do it if asked.

Atlantis is oddly silent, like a city on the verge of death. He thinks this is probably what it had looked like just before the Ancients had abandoned it. Every corridor they pass he spots another body, another former friend or coworker that one of them had to kill. Occasionally an arm twitches, showing the last remnants of life. It isn’t enough to endanger them, so he and Cadman move on as they make their way toward the control room and one of the small rooms adjacent that Rodney’s scan had indicated contained life.

Full blown relief washes through him when his eyes finally land on the other survivors. He has never been happier to see Elizabeth’s face. Hell, he’s even happy to see Kavanaugh.

*

“You need a break,” Ronon tells Carson.

“I’ll be fine,” Carson says, not looking up from what Ronon thinks are medical simulations. He knows that Carson would prefer to be in a real lab, but computer generated scenarios of possible cures were all the man was going to get.

“No,” Ronon orders, grabbing Carson’s arm. He drags the protesting doctor to his feet and easily pulls him across the room, effectively separating him from his equipment. “If you get tired, you make mistakes. If you make mistakes, you could kill us all.”

“Aye,” Carson sighs, letting his head drop.

Ronon holds back his own sigh. Honestly, these scientists did not know how to take care of themselves. It was no wonder John was so obsessed with watching out for Rodney. He takes in the tension lining Carson’s shoulders and shrugs. Reaching out, he starts massaging the back of Carson’s neck with one hand.

There really isn’t much behind Ronon doing this. The way he figures it, if Carson’s too tense to think properly then they’ll never get a cure for the zombie virus. And Ronon, well, he really isn’t in the mood to turn into a zombie.

The sounds Carson starts making are pretty interesting, though. Ronon doesn’t bother to hide his smug expression.

Carson is clearly enjoying himself, which makes Ronon feel oddly pleased. He continues to massage the doctor’s neck, watching the others across the room argue about their bomb. It’s moments like this that you can see just how desperate people get in deadly situations where there looks to be no hope. Rodney isn’t normally the type to just want to blow something up. He loves to learn far too much to consider his own death an answer.

Yet, here he is, yelling at Zelenka about something involving heat waves or sonic waves or something Ronon doesn’t entirely understand.

Carson suddenly straightens with wide eyes. “That’s it! Oh, bloody hell!”

Ronon is gently shoved to the side as Carson rushes over to his simulations. He sighs, bored, and wonders if anyone will notice if he slips away to kill a few zombies.

*

There is a very good chance that his idea is going to utterly fail, leaving them all dying a horribly slow death. Carson is quick to point this out, knowing that if he doesn’t then Rodney will and that Rodney won’t be nearly as gentle on his ego. The others, however, seem to think it’s worth it.

When John shows up with Elizabeth, Kavanaugh, and Chuck in tow Carson prays that this means someone will listen to his doubts. While a part of him is sure his plan will work, a larger part of him doesn’t want to risk trying it out without some serious testing.

“Look,” Rodney says, “the simulations are all that we’ve got and they show a 97% success rate. You know I’m the last person in the world to play along with Carson’s voodoo practices, but I think this is the only chance we have to kick this cannibalism—“

“Zombies,” John interjects.

“Yes, whatever, zombie thing in the butt,” Rodney finishes.

“Alright,” Elizabeth nods, turning toward Carson. “Explain this to me one last time.”

“This virus spreads through the body via the nervous system,” Carson explains. “Through that the virus is able to take hold of the entire body. I was looking up some of my previous tests I had done on expedition members a while ago for cataloguing purposes and both Parrish and Rodney have very strong nervous systems.”

“I do?” Rodney asks, looking pleased.

Carson fights back the urge to roll his eyes and ignores him. “That’s why Rodney is still able to function normally despite having been bit over three hours ago.”

“How does that connect with Rodney’s bomb?” Elizabeth asks. And, really, Carson has never before been so happy to hear her clear-level voice, as compared to Rodney’s pessimistic demands.

“The virus is attacking the parts of the brain that trigger hunger and aggression, while at the same time killing off the rest of the body’s healthy cells,” Carson says. “It’s doing this through some sort of biological electrical attack. I can’t be certain of how it’s working, exactly, without access to my lab, but through the simulations I’ve found that the easiest way to kill it is to combat it with, essentially, it’s own medicine.”

“Which is where my bomb comes in,” Rodney says with a grin.

“Yes, we can create an electric pulse—“ Zelenka begins.

“Well, I wouldn’t call it that, exactly,” Rodney states, “but we can cause an eruption of electricity that works on the wavelength indicated by Carson’s simulations.”

“It will act as an electrical storm of sorts,” Zelenka adds.

“Wouldn’t that kill us?” John asks.

Carson sighs and rubs at his face. “I told you it wasn’t a good idea.”

*

Rodney thinks it is a brilliant plan. He just hasn’t got around to telling everyone else just how he is going to ensure that it worked. He is a genius for a reason and knows that he’s not going to be able to escape on a puddle jumper with the others. He’s going to have to undergo the exact same treatment as everyone else.

Which probably means he’s going to die.

Well, Rodney tells himself, at least he’ll get to see his beautiful creation go off up close and personal. Rodney takes a moment to pat the bomb fondly and pointedly ignores the teary-eyed expression on Zelenka’s face. Rodney will give the man some credit; he knows full well what Rodney is planning. A part of him is somewhat dismayed that he’s that predictable.

“So, we make it to the puddle jumper and set the bomb off as we leave?” John clarifies.

“Uh, yes,” Rodney states, turning toward his laptop and the scanning program. He knows if he looks up John will be able to sense something, because the man is utterly annoying like that. “I’ll have to do some final programming, of course, but I should be able to rig it to go off once you—err, we are at a safe distance.”

“Isn’t there a way we could test this?” Elizabeth asks.

“We don’t have the time,” Carson admits. “Rodney could fully turn at any moment and once he does…”

“We could test it on me, of course,” Rodney says, glancing up, “but seeing how I’m still mostly human it could just kill me straight off.”

There is a loud beep as the laptop before him signals yet another life sign. Rodney types away at the keyboard a moment, focusing on the screen. “It looks like we’ve got five more survivors. They’re a level above us.”

“Right,” John says, straightening. “How about Rodney and I handle this, we’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“What?” Rodney asks, narrowing his eyes. Funny, John used to not be that blurry. “Why do I have to go?”

“Because, I say so,” John replies, grabbing his arm and dragging him out of the lab. “It won’t take long, so quit your complaining. You’ve already built your bomb, it’s not like you have anything else to do.”

Well, that is a lie. Rodney can always find something to do, but John’s hand is warm on his arm and it would be nice to spend time with the guy before he dies. He just hopes Carson doesn’t feel jealous for not getting the best friend requirement of their last five minutes living spent together in friendly conversation.

*

John glances over at Rodney as the man rubs at his eyes for the third time in as many minutes. “Are you okay?”

Rodney scowls. “I’m fine.”

“Rodney,” John drawls out slowly, because he knows it will catch Rodney’s attention and annoy the hell out of him. “Let’s be truthful now.”

“Okay, fine, I’m feeling kind of…” Rodney sighs. “I think the virus is starting to really affect me. I might not have much time left.”

Without really thinking about it, John grabs Rodney’s arm and pulls him into the nearest empty room. He gently pushes Rodney back against the wall, eyes scanning his face as though that alone would tell him how much of a zombie Rodney already was. The only difference he can see is a vague glaze coating Rodney’s eyes and the strange greenish tint to his skin. Otherwise, he looks the same.

It’s still enough to make John worry. But he knows Rodney well enough to not visibly get upset. There’s no need to send the guy into hysterics. “You look like the same old Rodney to me. Though, I think you’ve gained a few pounds.”

Rodney frowns and moves to push him away, but John easily grabs him by the wrists. John watches as a series of emotions flicker across Rodney’s face, finally settling on a stubborn defiance that makes John chuckle. “Oh, nice, laugh at me.”

“I’m not,” he says, taking a step forward. Rodney huffs in response, but John just takes another step closer, invading Rodney’s space. “You’re going to be okay, Rodney. I’ve managed to keep you alive this long, haven’t I?”

“You can’t fight this,” Rodney mutters, refusing to meet his eyes. “I’m going to die. I’m probably going to try to eat someone while I’m dying. I hope I don’t take a bite out of Kavanaugh. I don’t want that to be the last thing I taste.”

John laughs, but finds the sound choked, like he’s holding back tears. Which is ridiculous, because he doesn’t cry. Except, apparently, when it comes to Rodney dying from a fucking zombie virus of all things. He stares down at Rodney, wondering how in the hell this man had managed to get under his skin so easily. Rodney was brass and egotistical with what could probably be labeled as a god complex. That shouldn’t have been attractive, but John doesn’t care. Because it’s Rodney.

And that, John will later claim, is the thought that makes him lean forward and kiss Rodney on the mouth. Rodney makes a small noise of shock, but doesn’t push him away. John can almost hear Rodney’s mind racing through everything, cataloging their conversation and creating various scenarios of what will happen if he reacts a certain way. Seconds later, Rodney slowly relaxes into the kiss.

John releases his hold on Rodney’s wrists, reaching out to plant his palms against the wall and effectively blocking Rodney in. He presses his lips more firmly against Rodney’s own, tilting his head to deepen the kiss slightly. He feels the heat of Rodney’s hands as they rest on his arms and a small sound escapes Rodney’s throat.

He moves closer, pressing his body in against Rodney’s shorter, but wider frame. He parts his lips, taking a moment to bite down on Rodney’s lower lip. Rodney jerks in response, his fingers digging into John’s arms. Their mouths open, deepening the kiss, and John’s tongue has barely grazed Rodney’s when the other man pulls away.

“Wait, wait,” Rodney hisses, head hitting the wall when John attempts to kiss him again. “John, stop!”

“Why?” John asks, fighting down any sort of reaction to what could be Rodney rejecting him.

“I’m sick, John,” Rodney snaps. “If the zombie virus transmits through a bite then it’s probably rooted in the saliva. So kissing you is probably a bad idea right now. While I might not be that bad right now, I’m pretty sure you’d make a horrible zombie. ”

“Oh.” John slowly takes a step back and scratches nervously at the side of his head. “So, that wasn’t protesting the kissing, just the idea of me getting the virus, too…right?”

“Yes, you idiot,” Rodney says, exasperated. “We can make out like teenage girls after my bomb takes care of everything.”

“Oh,” John beams, “that’s okay, then.”

*

Ronon hasn’t been able to stop touching Carson for nearly an hour now. It’s not that he’s trying to actually seduce the doctor; he just feels a strange urge to keep him calm. Ronon isn’t one for talking, so instead he brushes the tips of his fingers along Carson’s arm or rubs the back of his neck when it looks like Carson is getting a headache.

The idea of impending death doesn’t really frighten him. He’s known of worse futures. The idea of Carson and the others dying, though, sparks something inside of him. Maybe it’s protectiveness, maybe it’s simply loyalty. Ronon doesn’t know. He doesn’t care.

What matters is that he keeps them calm and when the time comes, he’ll ensure their survival.

*

He needs a moment alone, though he knows it’s a bad idea. If Carson is alone then he’ll start doubting this ridiculous plan of theirs. Yet, if he doesn’t get a moment to just breathe, Carson thinks he’s go mad. Somehow he manages to escape to the small office at the back of lab four and the only one that follows has been his shadow since John and Rodney has left. Carson wants to tell Ronon to leave him be, that he’s fine, but he’s too tired and sore to make the command.

Not that Ronon is known for following a doctor’s orders, anyway.

He sits and stares down at his arms. His white coat had been destroyed during one of the many zombie attacks he’s endured since Parrish brought in the virus. Carson sighs and picks at one of the bandages, which decorate his arm as though he were a cheap imitation of a mummy.

“I suppose it’ll all be over soon,” he says.

Ronon grunts and sits down across from him, long legs sticking out. Otherwise, the man makes no move to join the conversation. Carson has no problem with speaking for the two of them, though.

“I have a feeling this is going to end badly,” he admits. “If not for us, then for Rodney. I’ve known Rodney a lot longer than most of the people around here. I know he’s planning something that will probably get himself killed.”

Ronon shifts in his seat, which is all Carson needs to know he’s listening.

“I understand as well as Rodney that the only way to fully kill the virus is if everyone and everything that’s infected remains in the city when the bomb goes off,” he says, frowning. “Which means Rodney will have to remain here. He might not survive. We don’t even know for certain that those fully submerged into the infection will come out healed, or if they’ll just be dead bodies. The fact that Rodney is still mostly…well, human means he’s got less of a chance of survival.”

“Sheppard won’t be okay with that,” Ronon states. Which, yes, Carson was perfectly aware of this. John will most likely throw a fit when Rodney attempts to sacrifice himself for the greater good. That’s what usually happens, at any rate.

“And yet, he’s never been able to stop him before,” Carson says sadly.

*

They’ve rescued five more people and are on their way to the jumper bay. Rodney is busying himself with his bomb, pretending to make last minute adjustments. He can feel John’s eyes on him, as well as a tingle that is spreading down his spine. Which is rooted more in the fact that he’s starting to think taking a bite out of Zelenka’s shoulder is a good idea and less in the lustful thoughts he probably shouldn’t be having about the Colonel.

If he wasn’t being overtaken by a zombie virus, he probably would have difficulty keeping the two feet distance he’s managing to hold between John and him. Rodney isn’t sure if he shouldn’t actually be thankful for being infected, because while a last minute foray into gay romance right before his possible death sounds like a good idea, most likely he would just embarrass himself.

They make it to the jumper bay and set the bomb up near the middle of the room. Rodney knows that he could have made a remote for the damn thing, which would have allowed him to hop onto the puddle jumper and set off toward the mainland, ensuring his own lack of death. But, well, Rodney also knows that if he goes free then the virus will as well.

Rodney may be selfish when it comes to a lot of things—jell-o, his position as Chief of Science, and keeping everyone around him away from citrus in order to ensure he doesn’t have to die via anaphylactic shock—but one thing he isn’t selfish about is the lives of the people he actually cares about. It takes a lot for him to admit to liking someone, so he’s not about to let the ones he’s developed an attachment toward actually die.

He hovers outside the puddle jumper’s doorway, watching as John ushers the last of Atlantis’ survivors into the aircraft. He winces when John turns to look at him. “Rodney?”

“You know I can’t go,” he huffs, “I’m carrying the virus, John, so don’t be stupid.”

John stares at him, realization dawning on his face. Rodney is kind of shocked that John hasn’t realized this before then, but sometimes John can be obtuse when it comes to the people he loves. Not that Rodney thinks John loves him, but the idea is nice.

“I’ll give you ten minutes,” Rodney continues. “That should be enough time to get away. Zelenka will keep track of the city’s readings and let you know when it’s safe to return.”

“Rodney, you could die,” John says, walking towards him.

He steps back, trying to keep the distance between them. He doesn’t think he can do this if John makes a big deal out of it.

“If I let the virus survive inside of me, I’ll die anyway,” he replies.

“There might be a way—“ John starts.

“Just, don’t,” Rodney says. “I’m already upset enough about not getting my Nobel Prize. I can’t go with you. I’m getting hungry, John. Desperately hungry.” John’s eyes widen and Rodney is glad that he doesn’t have to explain further than that. “Just let me do this.”

“You’ll be fine,” John says, moving backwards toward the puddle jumper’s ramp. There is more pain showing in John’s eyes than Rodney appreciates. He feels bad enough as it is. “We’ll come back and you’ll be fine.”

“Of course,” Rodney agrees. He watches John enter the puddle jumper and waits until they are gone before he moves toward the bomb. He glances at his watch, before closing his eyes, letting his mind count down the minutes remaining of his life. He wishes he had let Miko finish fixing the radios, because then he would have been able to talk to someone. Instead, he’s stuck with his own thoughts and the bright red button waiting to be pushed.

*

The water is speeding past in a blue blur that John barely notices. He’s counting down the minutes, his brain trying to come up with some way to fix the situation.

“Three minutes and counting,” Zelenka states, eyes focused on his laptop. The man’s accented voice sounds clipped and John has a feeling that he’s trying to hold back tears.

They all are. The only surviving members of the Atlantis expedition have fit into a small puddle jumper. Even if the bomb cleanses the bodies of those infected and they are able to live, there are others that won’t be able to come back to life. John’s mind flashes onto the image of Lorne being torn apart as they rush from the infirmary, the man’s screams echoing through John’s head.

He draws in a deep breath and glances over his shoulder at the others. Elizabeth and Teyla sit side by side, blank looks on both of their faces. He knows they’ll wait until later to break down, when no one is witness to it. Across from them Ronon is hovering next to Carson, like he’s not sure if he should be doing anything else.

John sighs, skims the other faces, and turns back to piloting.

“One minute.”

“Are we far enough away?” he asks. He sees Zelenka nod out of the corner of his eye and immediately spins the puddle jumper around one-hundred and eighty degrees. They now face Atlantis, looking no bigger than a dot in the distance.

He thinks of what ifs. What if he had admitted to his feelings sooner? Would he have been able to spend Rodney’s last moments alive in bliss, before it all came crashing down?

He blinks and almost misses the charged eruption before them. In the distance it looks more like a giant firework setting off, white and blue as it glows and sparkles. John swallows, thinking of Rodney standing before that bomb, waiting for his death. The puddle jumper rocks slightly in response to the shockwave, but otherwise they are unaffected. Physically, at any rate.

*

Ronon doesn’t mind the Athosians and appreciates their desire to help them while they are stuck on the mainland, waiting for Atlantis to be livable once more. Ronon had overheard the remaining scientists argue over how long it would take the city to stabilize, but he hadn’t understood half of what they said so he doesn’t bother to try and figure it out.

He feels oddly disconnected, more so than usual. He wonders if this is the result of losing two homes in a row.

Ronon sits next to Carson at the village bonfire. He doesn’t really leave Carson alone anymore, not in the weeks that they’ve been with the Athosians. He knows he’s just trying to hold on to the people around him and Carson is the most accessible. He isn’t bothered by the thought, though, because Carson doesn’t seem to mind his presence.

At least with Carson he can feel useful by taking care of the man when he forgets to take care of himself. Watching John Sheppard slowly collapse into himself makes Ronon wish, desperately, that he could do more. In the end he knows only Rodney or time will be able to fix John.

Ronon has to be satisfied with focusing on his doctor.

*

Carson sits back after placing the last of the medical supplies in his pack. He scratches idly at one of the fading scabs on his arm and glances in the direction of his hut’s doorway. For once Ronon isn’t there to stand over his shoulder. He doesn’t mind the man’s company, but it was becoming obvious that Ronon was going stir crazy just following him around as he did routine medical surveys on the Athosians.

He takes a moment to stretch before heading for the door, knowing that Ronon will be back from his hunting excursion soon.

He draws in a deep breath, trying to fill the hollow sensation in his heart with air. It doesn’t work. Carson isn’t expecting it to. He can see Ronon, John, and Cadman in the distance, returning with the Athosians that had led the recent hunting trip. He debates walking toward them and following the few Athosians who gather to see what they have caught.

Instead, he makes for the edge of the village where the puddle jumper rests. He can see Zelenka sitting off to the side, laptop resting on his knees. Carson walks over, remaining silent so he doesn’t intrude on Zelenka’s work.

They sit, not saying a word, for some time. It doesn’t take long for Ronon to show up and Carson acknowledges him with a sad smile. After a few more minutes, Carson becomes aware of a distant beeping noise. “What is that?”

The three men look at one another, before Zelenka is leaping to his feet and running for the puddle jumper. For a moment, Carson is frozen, before Zelenka starts shouting in Czech, so excited it’s obvious he forgot to speak the words in English. It doesn’t take long for John and Elizabeth to show up.

They crowd into the jumper, watching as Zelenka grabs John and begins to order him to trigger displays. Carson clears his throat. “What’s going on?”

“It’s the radio,” Zelenka replies, grinning. “From Atlantis. Someone is trying to contact the puddle jumper.”

“But that would mean…” Carson trails off, unable to say out loud exactly what that could mean. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up. He couldn’t take it if he is wrong.

“There is no other explanation,” Zelenka says. “The communication system was completely down when we left. The only way for it to be up now is if someone was alive on Atlantis to fix it. Now, bring me my laptop. I must reconfigure the puddle jumper to accept the new transmission’s wavelength.”

Carson can’t bring himself to stand there waiting for them to set things up to receive the signal. He returns to his temporary hut and grabs his medical supplies, knowing that the moment it was deemed safe that they would be returning to Atlantis. He enters the puddle jumper alongside Teyla, just in time to hear the sound of static followed by a voice that has John collapsing into the pilot chair in relief.

“You can hear me, right?” Rodney demands, the signal momentarily breaking up. “I really don’t want to have to repeat all of this.”

“We can hear you, Rodney,” John says, “We can hear you loud and clear.”

“Oh, well, good,” Rodney replies. “So, the bomb worked. Obviously. It had a few interesting effects. It looks like a good third of the zombie population returned to normal, as good as new. I’m sure Carson will have a heyday experimenting on all of us as a result.”

“Is that all that have survived?” Elizabeth asks. “One-third?”

There is a moment of silence. “I’m afraid so, and that’s not counting the people who were, uh, eaten. We’ve closed off a few rooms with the bodies. I wasn’t sure what you’d want to do with them. From what I can tell we were all unconscious for a good three weeks. It has taken us the last week to get everyone together and communication up and running again.”

“Do you think it’s safe for us to return?” Teyla asks.

“Why else would I be trying to contact you?” Rodney says, his voice indicating that he’s smiling.

*

Rodney thinks it says something about his will power that he’s able to remain his usual self when the others return to the city. He sits through their meeting, helps set up a cleaning crew to go through every hallway and remove every last sign of the zombies, and he lightens Elizabeth’s workload by preparing the report for the SGC.

He knows, deep down, all of this is to distract him from grabbing John and celebrating actually being alive. They have jobs to do and a city to restore to a semblance of normalcy, or whatever could be considered normal when their expedition has been lowered to a mere fifty-four. He doesn’t have time for sex, even if the sight of John’s neck is starting to get distracting.

Days pass and now John has started to give him a hurt look when he thinks no one is looking. Rodney can’t stand it. It’s not like their kiss didn’t mean anything to him. Quite the opposite, in fact. He just can’t bring himself to get around the fact that he nearly died. He had nearly turned into a flesh eating zombie. By all rights, he should be dead.

The idea is daunting and he can’t stop it from flashing into his thoughts in the middle of his work, catching him off-guard and causing him to fall silent. His minions, the few that have survived, have even begun to notice his behavior.

His days are spent working overtime, with an occasional hour here and there to rest. It’s the same for everyone as each person takes on a load meant for four or five. Suddenly, he actually feels like a zombie. His brain works on autopilot and he eats, moves, and breathes without thinking. He’s so out of sync with living that he barely notices the presence in his room weeks after the eradication of the zombie virus.

He does, however, notice being grabbed and pinned to the nearest wall.

This time, John isn’t gentle or careful with him. This time, John knows that he wants to be kissed and touched. Rodney can only moan softly, mouth opening up to John’s demands.

Finally, John pulls back to allow them to breathe. “You promised we would make out like teenagers. I got tired of waiting.”

Rodney can’t help but laugh.