Title: Some Desperate Glory
Disclaimer: So Not Mine. Title and one image from 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen. Quote from 'Star Wars' by George Lucas and god knows who else. Characters and setting by whoever the hell owns Stargate.
Notes: For the Dark Side challenge. This ambushed me as I went to bed. Like, I had to switch the computer back on and start writing. I love it I hate it.
Notes 2: There is a DVD commentary type thing.
Summary: Atlantis is in crisis. Again.
"I know how to save Atlantis," says McKay, and John groans.
His eyes don't want to open. He's allocated himself six hours of downtime, enough to shower and shave and sleep, just for a while, because he of all people knows how dangerous exhaustion can be. He can tell, by the light still slanting through his window, that he isn't more than halfway through that time, and here McKay is, invading his quarters and waking him up with yet another hare-brained scheme that isn't going to work.
"I mean it this time," says McKay, "I really do, I figured it out, but I can't do it on my own, I need your touch with the technology because it loves you, stupid thing, city should realise that I'm the one who keeps her going, but no, she just sits up and begs whenever you come back and you don't even care, you-"
"Rodney." John sits up. He knuckles his eyes fiercely, finally forces them to open and look at his friend. Less than an hour after his last stimulant shot, John estimates, from his knowledge of the schedules and from the way that McKay's hands are shaking.
McKay blinks. Wavers. "I can show you."
John groans again. Every once in a while, he finds himself incredibly, deeply resentful of the way McKay believes in him. John's a fuck-up and a waste of potential, and he's generally OK with that, but then things like this happen. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope," he mutters under his breath, and swings his legs out of the bed.
McKay is staring at him, when he looks up. There's an odd intensity in his expression - not that McKay isn't often intense, but this is something John isn't sure how to interpret. He flexes his thighs deliberately before he pulls on his pants, and he takes an extra second fastening his thigh holster. God, Elizabeth promised that he wouldn't be disturbed, and so did Lorne, and of course McKay is the only one who could get past their orders.
There's a guard outside his door, for pity's sake. John nods to the man as they pass - he's young, and obviously shell-shocked by the force of McKay's ranting, and probably mildly terrified at the impending evacuation and subsequent isolation from the Milky Way.
"I've really got it," McKay is saying, almost skipping along by John's side, "and I'd explain it if I thought you could follow the math, and that's not an insult to you because really, you're very good considering how little training you've had, and the fact that I'm saying that should tell you how excited I am, because, really, I don't go handing out compliments willy-nilly, and wow, I think I just turned into my mother for a second there and that's really not good, but never mind! Because, you see-"
John tunes McKay out. It's a skill he developed quickly, mostly in self-defense, because if he hadn't he might have ended up strangling the Chief Scientist, and that would have been bad. Probably. He's not sure he can remember why, right now.
It's the chair room that McKay takes them to, and John really isn't surprised.
"Sit down and do what you tell me, right?" He summons up a smile from somewhere, because they've done this before, oh and how they've done this before, and he doesn't want to remind McKay what he and Zelenka were saying two days ago. We can't do anything with the chair, they'd said, all the drones are gone, the other weapons are damaged, it's just a shiny interface that won't let us do anything useful. John wouldn't put it past McKay to have discovered another function, but there's nobody else here, and if this turns out to be nothing, John won't be in the least bit surprised.
Hell, he thinks as the chair tilts back beneath him, maybe he'll just go to sleep right here. McKay's probably the best guard he could possibly have.
He tunes back into what McKay's saying, because the city reaching out for him is waiting for instructions, and John doesn't actually know what he's supposed to be doing here.
"There's an emergency system, coded their equivalent of, well, of Top Secret and of Red Alert and of Last Resort Only And We Mean That, and I'd have thought they'd have used it before, but, well, they were all running away or ascending... and I guess that's kind of the same thing, there, really, because... never mind, anyway, you just have to concentrate on how we have no options left, OK?"
John can do that. John can really, really do that. It's all he's been thinking about for days.
"And you'd do another kamikaze run, wouldn't you? That self-sacrifice thing you do that pisses me off so much, you'd be happy to go that way, wouldn't you?"
John opens his eyes again. There's something... "Of course," he says.
He doesn't know what happens after that. But it hurts. It hurts a lot.
"I'm sorry," says McKay. "I'm so sorry, but it's the only way. You're the only one. I'm really sorry."
John's blood gargles in his throat.
"He made me tell him," says McKay. "He said it was his job to be the one... He said I had to stick around in case it didn't work."
"It's all right, Rodney." Elizabeth pats his shoulder in an attempt to soothe. "It wasn't your fault."
Rodney bows his head, and shakes, just a little.
He's the only one who knows he isn't crying.