It’s three in the morning and John’s fingers are warm on Rodney’s hip, his breath even puffs stirring the hair by Rodney’s ear, and outside water is licking, violent against the glass shell of Atlantis.
“The ocean is swallowing us, essentially,” he’d told Elizabeth. “Only a matter of time, but –“
The ocean is a mouth that is opening all around them, hungry tongues and teeth to shatter the towers, one by one, and beside him, John’s chest is salty from sweat. There is nothing they can do.
“Atlantis was designed to be underwater, right?” John asked, brown eyes and tapping fingers as he stared at the rain. “This isn’t a problem, is it?”
“Under full power, no, it wouldn’t be.”
They started evacuating ten minutes later, alarm claxons echoing through the walls, bounding and rebounding through the cavity of the gate room. Three quarters of the science staff got out, and a half of the Marines.
In the dark, Rodney can still smell lightening, and sex. He remembers John’s face when the blue light of the gate gave out, when the back up generators turned on and the fluid yellow emergency lights poured from the ceiling, illuminating the powerless ring in the gate room.
“Try it again,” Elizabeth had said over and over, and Rodney’s hands started to cramp around the waves of wires in the console. Zelenka’s shaggy head shook twice, and he pulled Rodney away when his fingertips started to bleed.
Rodney watched from behind a wall of window when a waterspout tore the energy routers off the city, saw them spin out into the frothing white of the waves. John’s hand was warm on his shoulder, strong and squeezing.
“Rodney,” John said, “Rodney,” until he snapped back into the room, took John’s warm hand and dragged him away.
“It isn’t safe here,” he’d said, and John had only watched him with his dark eyes in the flashing of light from the storm.
John stirs, and his mouth is wet against Rodney’s temple. His fingers flex on Rodney’s skin, but he doesn’t wake. Rodney’s hands are drawn to the tide of John’s back, the rise and swell of it, and he breaths the thin air of the stock room.
“We can power one pier, keep it water tight, and there will be enough room, but time –“ the hand drawn schematic of the city was dusty and blue on the powerless console, and Rodney’s finger looked so pale as he traced the lines of it. “We’ll need to work fast to get enough food inside.”
Elizabeth nodded jerkily, drawn and tired. “Do it.”
Four hours. Four hours of lifting, and packing and stacking, four hours with no noise but the sounds of booted feet, snapped commands, and the sloshing of water. Rodney watched his hands and the disappearing food, the bags of flour, boxes of meat, bottles of clear, harmless, necessary water, and thought of the purple wreaths of seaweed littering the mainland shore.
His room is beneath the surface now, his books, his clothes, his bed. He thinks of the sheets waving with the currents, the small bodies of alien fish flitting through his closet – the gleaming metal floors dull in the dark, storming ocean, the shipwreck of their city graceful and still with death. He had forgotten his laptops, but they hum across the closet he’s sharing with John, where John put them when they quartered down for the night.
Rodney stood by the wall, with his face pressed against it, cool from the wind, and the floor beneath their feet vibrated with stolen power. “I have to –“ he started.
“I have to get to the power source here and –“
“—maybe find some kind of meteorological predictor, Doppler radar for the Ancients and –“
Rodney pressed his eyes closed and listened to John’s breathing, his own, harsh pants, choppy gasps, and John’s steady sweet rhythm and again John’s hand touched Rodney’s shoulder. “Rodney.”
“What?” he ground out, not turning, not opening his eyes. “What?”
Fingers tightened on his shoulder, pulled him around inexorably, and John waited, a breath away until Rodney’s eyes swept open against his will. John watched, open, exhausted, the lines of his face tight and hurt.
“There’s nothing you can do,” he said, and each word fell like a stone in the small room. “We just have to wait.”
Rodney’s mouth was parched, empty, and when he spoke it rasped. “It’s killing us.”
“We’ll make it through this, we’ve survived other storms.” John pulled him close, until Rodney’s dry eyes and dry cheeks rubbed rough against the fabric of John’s jacket. “We’ve made it through before.”
“I meant the wait,” he whispered, and John sighed low, in time with the keening of the storm, and John’s lips brushed against his cheek, his neck, his eyes. He let himself be pulled into the bed, and slipped beneath John’s urgent hands; Rodney let himself be washed over, and tried not to drown.
Now, Rodney watches the clock, and the rise and fall of John’s chest. He watches John’s turbulent sleep, and he closes his eyes, waits his own way for the ocean to clench and swallow around their small bodies, the hard hull of their safe haven. He waits for the water to sluice off, and spit them back up toward the sun. He waits for the power to run out, and John’s breath to still.
He waits for John to wake up, and he listens to the sounds outside. There is nothing else for him to do.