A/N: Takes place in the first season, right after "Before I Sleep." Written for the Secret Superpower Challenge on LJ.
The bulkhead doors closed behind him with a resounding clang, trapping him in the control room for the rest of his short life. Rodney McKay stood on the balcony, watching the rapidly rising water with a mixture of fascination and dread. Next to him, Peter Grodin was doing the same thing. They'd tried their best, but it hadn't been enough. Hopefully Elizabeth at least had managed to get away, along with Major Sheppard and the fuzzy-headed guy whose name he could never remember.
How would it feel to drown? Would it be quick and painless, or was it going to be a nasty way to go? Beckett would no doubt be able to tell him, both from a medical standpoint and personal experience. The doctor had been scouting out the lower levels in search of an infirmary, and those had been the first to flood. Rodney didn't believe in an afterlife, but if there was one, he'd have to find the Scot and compare experiences. They'd already become friends during their short time in Antarctica.
The water had reached the level of his shoes, and Rodney could no longer see the Stargate. Grodin had shut his eyes, and his lips were moving in what looked like prayer. For the first time, Rodney wished he could at least pretend to believe in a deity. It would give him something to do other than just waiting to die and wondering if anyone on Earth would ever find out what had happened.
The water was now up to his chin. Desperately he tilted his head back to keep his nose out of the water for as long as possible. But the water continued to rise...
Rodney opened his eyes with a gasp, then groaned. This was the third night in a row he'd had the same nightmare. Ever since Elizabeth's double had told them her story, he couldn't stop thinking about how he'd died in the alternate reality. He knew he should probably talk to Kate, but thought of having to put this dream into words make him break out into a sweat.
Well, as long as he was awake, he might as well go check on things in the lab. Rodney reached out to grab his earpiece radio from the table next to his bed, but his hand closed on empty air. He fumbled around in the dark for a minute, then gave up and issued a mental command to turn the lights on.
"Okay, what the hell?" Rodney muttered as his eyes adjusted. He wasn't in his quarters at all. Instead, he found himself already in the lab, hunched over his computer. "I thought I left here." He eyed the cup of cold coffee on his workbench, then decided against it and left to go to his quarters for real. As much as he hated to admit it, he probably needed sleep more than a jolt of caffeine.
Morning found Rodney in the mess hall, feeling like someone had run him over with a truck. Despite forgoing the coffee, he hadn't been able to fall asleep again. Three nights without sleep were starting to take a toll, and he hoped he made it through the day without having to deal with paperwork, annoying underlings, or certain death.
"Hey, Rodney!" John Sheppard sat down next to him, displaying an inordinate amount of cheerfulness. "Are you okay? You look like crap."
"And good morning to you, too, Major," Rodney said irritably. Thankfully, snark was something he could do on autopilot. "At least my hair only looks like this when I haven't slept. What's your excuse?"
John snorted. "Ouch. I'm wounded." He started eating his breakfast, then stopped to give his friend a shrewd look. "Why haven't you been sleeping?"
Rodney was saved from having to answer by Lieutenant Ford's arrival. Aiden wanted to ask John about something in the armory, and the physicist took the opportunity to quietly leave the table. He didn't see John's worried look follow him out of the mess hall.
The bulkhead doors closed behind him again and the sea rushed in to fill the control room. Rodney had never realized how much he hated the water. He'd only learned to swim reluctantly, and he always avoided anything having to do with lakes or rivers or beaches. It was just his luck that the Lost City of the Ancients was located several hundred feet below the surface of an alien ocean. If he wasn't facing imminent doom Rodney would have started ranting in disgust.
Actually, now that he thought of it, he might as well start ranting anyway. Grodin seemed a decent enough guy; surely he wouldn't mind being yelled at in the last few minutes of his life. Rodney opened his mouth to complain about the pointlessness of his demise but was interrupted when one of the stained glass wall panels broke under the pressure of the water. He didn't have time to say anything before the roiling surf slammed him into oblivion.
This time Rodney woke up on his favorite balcony overlooking the East pier. His head was pounding and the cool night breeze made him shiver. Once again he wondered how he had gotten to his current location. Was his memory failing? Or worse, was he sleepwalking? If he was and if anyone found out, he could kiss his position on Sheppard's team goodbye.
By now Rodney was beyond tired and well on his way to completely exhausted. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. Sure, he'd pulled many an all-nighter in grad school and in Siberia, but he'd always been able to sleep without dreaming when he wanted to. His situation now was unacceptable. Radek had caught him starting to doze a few times, and Kavanaugh and his minions were no doubt planning a coup.
Oh, great. Now he was getting paranoid, too.
A glow on the horizon told him that sunrise was not far off. Rodney reluctantly got to his feet and began to walk down the corridors to his quarters. He concentrated on avoiding looking out the windows so as not to see the water surrounding the city.
Someone suddenly tapped him on the shoulder. "Rodney?"
The physicist jumped. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" he snarled.
"McKay, what the hell is going on?" Sheppard, on his early morning run. "I called your name three times and you just kept staring at the floor!"
"I didn't hear you," Rodney mumbled.
"No kidding. Seriously, are you all right? I'm getting worried about you. You didn't sleep again, right?"
"Yeah," the physicist admitted.
John sighed. "I'm no shrink, but..."
"No!" Rodney snapped. Then, forcing himself to calm down, he continued, "I know what you're going to say, and I don't want to talk to Dr. Heightmeyer about this. It's just some dreams, that's all."
The look John gave his friend was sympathetic but firm. "All right, but this can't go on much longer. One more sleepless night and I'm dragging your ass down to the infirmary. You can talk to Carson if you don't want to talk to Kate."
"Fine," Rodney said irritably. "Dreams, voodoo, should be right up his alley."
John shook his head and gave a slight smirk. "One of these days he's going to kick your ass for saying stuff like that." As Rodney started to walk off, John stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "Hope you feel better soon."
The disaster hit late in the afternoon. A work crew was repairing residual storm damage close to the water level in the southern part of the city and Rodney had gone with them. ("To make sure they don't re-sink the city," as he explained later.) No one was really sure how it happened, but a small area of structural instability suddenly gave way and seawater rushed into an abandoned lab. Rodney got the other scientists to safety but was trapped himself when part of the ceiling caved in and prevented him from getting out before the city sealed off the area.
At the time, John was running some of the marines through a weapons drill. He only realized something was wrong when he heard Elizabeth calling for a medical team. He ran as fast as he could to the site of the accident and met Carson and Radek there. Both men looked grim.
"What happened?" John demanded.
"Rodney is trapped inside flooding compartment," Radek replied. "He is also not answering his radio."
Just like before, he was locked in a room that was rapidly filling with water. The room was much smaller this time, though, and his claustrophobia was beginning to kick in. He had been pinned by a piece of falling debris and his radio had been smashed. And if that weren't enough, he was bleeding profusely from a gash on his scalp.
It was ironic, really. The elder Weir's sacrifice saved him from drowning when they first gated into Atlantis. Now it seemed like fate or the universe wasn't going to be cheated of its prize. Here he was again, facing death by drowning, and unfortunately it wasn't a dream this time.
The water was extremely cold. He had been shivering heavily at first, but now he had stopped and was getting drowsy. The part of his brain that was still functioning screamed that this was a Bad Thing, that hypothermia was obviously setting in. He wished he had paid more attention during Carson's first aid lectures because he had no idea if there was anything he could do to stave off the process. So he just sat there as the water reached the level of his chin and crept higher.
Rodney closed his eyes and fervently wished he was elsewhere.
John looked at two of the engineers who had pried open a wall panel and were rearranging the control crystals. "Has anyone with the gene tried to get in there?"
"Carson tried, of course," said Radek. "The city would not listen to him."
"Bloody-minded Ancient technology," Carson muttered.
"Your gene is stronger," Radek said to John, with an apologetic look at the physician. "Perhaps it will..."
A sudden blast of air was the only warning they got. The next instant, Rodney materialized directly in front of the three men. His lips were blue-tinged, and for a long minute he didn't seem to breathe. Then he started coughing violently.
"Holy Mother of God," Carson whispered, staring at his friend in disbelief. Then he shook himself and started barking orders at the medical team. The medics swarmed over Rodney, applying monitor leads and starting intravenous lines. One of them turned Rodney on his side as he coughed up seawater; the physicist's breathing improved rapidly after that. They loaded him onto a gurney and whisked him away to the infirmary before John could finish rebooting his brain.
It was several hours before Carson let anyone in to see Rodney. John spent all of them in the waiting area next to the infirmary. The rest of the team had wanted to stay, too, but the medical staff had shooed them out. John promised to let everyone know the minute he learned anything new.
After the second hour, Radek joined John in his vigil. "We have seen some strange things since we arrived in Atlantis," said Radek. "This certainly tops the list."
The corners of John's mouth twitched. "Stranger than life-sucking alien vampires with bad teeth, bad hair, and a lousy fashion sense?"
Radek laughed. "You do have a point."
A nurse finally came to tell them that they could go in. They found Carson standing next to Rodney's bed. "He's lucky to be alive," the physician said without preamble. "A few more minutes and we might not have been able to revive him."
John had to admit that Rodney looked pretty bad. He was covered from head to toe with heating blankets, and an IV line carrying warm fluids snaked underneath a blanket in the vicinity of his arm. His breathing had a congested sound to it. John supposed that he would be in a good deal of pain if he wasn't unconscious. "You give him something to keep him out, Doc?"
"No, actually. I think this is sheer exhaustion."
"He hasn't been sleeping well for the last few days." John observed. "Something about nightmares, and he was seen returning to his quarters from unusual places. But he said that he really didn't want to talk to anyone about it."
Carson sighed. "Of course not. I've never seen anyone who can complain as much about small things yet be totally silent about problems that really matter."
They stood there, just looking at Rodney sleep. Finally John asked the question that was on all of their minds. "How did he manage to teleport out of a sealed room?"
"Jaunt," said Radek.
"Jaunt," Radek repeated. "It's from a book I read a long time ago. A science fiction classic. The main character could teleport, initially only when his life was threatened, then later he could do it at will. They called it 'jaunting'."
"Rodney's life was most definitely threatened," Carson said.
"Yes. Ironically enough, when it was first discovered that the character could jaunt, scientists tested him by putting him in an unbreakable glass tank, permanently sealing it, and filling it with water. Fear of drowning did the rest."
Carson shuddered. "Well, I don't think we'll be doing that to Rodney. His nightmares probably caused him to, um, jaunt subconsciously. Though I do wonder if he'll be able to do it again. I guess we'll have to wait until he's in another life-threatening situation to find out."
"Around here, that probably won't take very long," John said grimly.
"Aye," the physician agreed.
A/N: The book to which Radek is referring is, of course, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. It really is a classic, and I highly recommend it.