Title: The City in the Sea
Author: Kodiak bear
Pairing: None
Rating: M, for language
Warning: Character death; permanent
Summary: When Rodney is killed, Sheppard has to find a way to live.
AN: After I wrote Walk the Line, Shelly begged me to write a different kind of deathfic. One where John has to live after losing McKay, and where there are no miracles. So, Shelly – here you go. You've made me grow and learn, and may you always keep challenging me! For those of you reading Runners – just a wee interlude, this is a quick short. Thank you Linzi for the fast beta!

The City in the Sea

By Kodiak bear

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
- Edgar Allan Poe

One

"John, you're not being fair."

I ground my heels to a dead stop in the hallway, and spun around, angry. She'd followed me from the briefing and confronted me in a public place instead of the semi-private room I'd just left moments before. "What part of 'he's a dick' is being unfair?" I replied, caustically. Clearly, I knew what part.

Elizabeth didn't even flinch. She stared evenly at the few people openly watching, until they retreated into their own business again, before turning her attention back to me. "Let me see," she mocked. "The part where you called him a 'dick' or maybe the 'incompetent buffoon' and 'self-serving ass'…did I miss one, because I've got the report right here." She held up the manila folder.

"Elizabeth," I stated, more calmly then I felt. "You asked me to make an assessment, and I did."

"An assessment, John – not a character assassination," she stressed.

I was tired, and I could see she was, too. This little face to face wasn't going to get us anywhere, but I had to ask. "What do you want from me? You want me to lie – pretend he's Mr. Incredible?"

The frown marred her face, and then it melted. The folder dropped to her side, held loosely in her fingers. "John, stop expecting them to be McKay."

As the words hit, I closed my eyes. God, I was so fucking tired. McKay – she'd said his name. Not many people dared to do that to my face. When I opened them again, she was still there, and the sympathy made me want to hit something. I leaned in, close, and gritted, "I don't expect them to be Rodney; that's the problem." I didn't give her time to reply, instead, I turned quickly back the way I'd been going initially.

"You need to talk, John," she called after me.

I kept walking.

OoO

"I tried out a new scientist today."

My quarters were dark; quiet. I liked it that way lately. Peace. I needed peace, but I knew why I was short with everyone, even Ronon and Teyla. I couldn't find peace. Not in the dark, in my sleep, in my room or through the gate. "The guy sucked," I continued, conversationally. "He thought he was God's gift to every science branch known to man." I laughed at the memory of the preening kid. Fresh out of college and full of memorized facts and useless information. And fuck him for reminding me of another certain arrogant scientist who'd thought the same thing.

Invulnerable.

Slamming the basketball against the wall, I swore, "Invulnerable, my ass."

I threw it again, harder than I should've, and the ball bounced high, over my head, and I was too tired to roll off the bed and retrieve it. Didn't matter anyway. The clock showed it was past time for me to sleep, but like everything else lately, sleep was hard.

Dreams…dreams were nightmares, and I couldn't get away from them. Nothing like closing your eyes and being transported back to that instant when your best friend had his life sucked out of him. And then reliving it over and over and over again, as if the first time hadn't been enough.

When Lorne arrived with Ronon, they'd busted in the room, and found Rodney's lifeless corpse beside me. If they'd taken just one more day to find us, I wouldn't be stuck living this pain every single day. One day longer. Then again, if they'd been a day earlier, I wouldn't be living this pain, either. Better to think the former, because the latter only made me murderous.

I don't remember much about the trip back to Atlantis. The week after. I guess I went a little crazy there for a while, and Carson sedated me. I often found myself wondering if maybe I'd had the right idea after all. Go nuts, get drugged, and not have to deal with any of this.

It wasn't that I hadn't lost friends before; I had. But not like this, and not…like this.

"You know the worst part about today?" I rolled and went after the ball. Sleep wasn't gonna happen. "The kid had the guts to tell me that I had a complex about you. That no one could ever live up to the 'great McKay' and maybe it was past time for me to start accepting the status quo." I laughed unpleasantly. "Twenty-two fucking years old, if a day, and he's telling me how to handle my life."

The ball slammed against metal with a satisfying smack. Maybe I should head to the gym – but as quickly as I considered that idea, I tossed it. Too many people. Too many Ronon's and Teyla's, more to the point. I locked my doors, and kept them out, but I couldn't always hide behind locked doors. They were driving me nuts. Hell – everyone was.

'Are you okay, Colonel' or 'if you need to talk, Sheppard' better yet, the most annoying one, 'get some sleep, John'.

"Did you catch the eulogy I gave you?" It'd been damn moving. Even impressed myself. "I made Kirk proud – something about 'you were the most human human', figured if anyone earned it, you did." He'd saved my life, after all. I supposed a damn good eulogy was the least I could do.

Screw it. I threw the ball again, this time intentionally savage, and it rebounded far overhead. I pushed myself off my cot, and ignoring my boots, padded into the hall, peeking for the very people I hoped to avoid. I needed the sea tonight.