Disclaimer: SGA belongs to other people. No profit is being made (it's laughable really). The actors belong to themselves, unless they'd like to belong to me? *blinks hopefully.* Yeah, somehow I didn't think they'd agree to that either.

Summary: Drowning had never been a fear Rodney needed to embrace. Trust, relying on others, and having to betray his own secrets, however, was something that kept him awake at night. Friendship, whump, genetic manipulation, homicidal tree huggers…

Rating: PG13

Spoilers: N/A

Genres: Science Fiction, Action & Adventure (it's like a two for one deal), Friendship, Angst…do I really need to keep going?

Author's Notes: I have had the first part of this story written pretty much before I posted my first SGA fic. What can I say, this story line just intrigues me (it might be a not so secret obsession, which I am aware makes me a very strange person) and it needed to be completed.

A big thanks goes out to Laryn for all the fine editing!  When I first told her about this idea she wasn't overly enthusiastic, so the fact that she is agreeable with it now makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. You also have her to thank for suggestions which led to more scenes. They're good ones, trust me ;)

Also, if you're interested in some mediocre, homespun art, you can find it at my livejournal, or at the link in my profile.

Please enjoy.

Treading Water

Chapter 1: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.

It wasn't so much the fact that Rodney didn't trust anyone… He did trust, or more specifically he could trust if he wanted to. After all, he allowed people to place their trust in him all the time. He knew that if trust had been given or received it could, theoretically, be counted on. But if there was one thing that life had taught him, it was that trust was also an illusion. It was a gift that people gave themselves so they could feel as though they had purposeful bonds with others, so that they could feel as though they weren't completely alone. Suffice to say Rodney didn't really trust anyone, but he worked hard so that he knew they could always trust him and he would never break that trust for as long as he could do anything about it.



"Is there anything we can do?" Sheppard asked loudly as he looked between Rodney and Radek, his posture straight enough to state the severity of the situation even without the hard edge in his voice.

"We have to get out now! There is no time to get SCUBA equipment here and even if we tried by then it would be too late to swim all the way down to that deck to fix this. We could not even get them air in time!" Radek yelled above the din of soldiers and scientists moving out of the corridor they were in. In a few moments they would finally be on safer ground. The Czech was completely soaked in saltwater, his hair was plastered to the side of his face and water droplets were stuck to his glasses obscuring his eyes. He made not attempt to try and clear his vision.

Rodney looked at Radek and then at Sheppard and Ronon. The water was beginning to rise past their knees, its chill seeping into his bones and doing nothing to ease his panic.

"Are you kidding me! We have to try! There are three people trapped down there!" Rodney loudly added his opinion and gesturing wildly to emphasize his point, almost smacking John in the face.

"I know!" Zelenka snapped back, desperation in his voice.

"Not good enough! Sheppard, if we don't shut the door to that subsection then we could lose this entire pier! We're talking about destabilizing the entire city here!" Rodney added fiercely

"We have no choice! We stay and we all drown!" Rodney didn't need Radek to tell him that, he already knew that. Of course he knew that! It was kind of difficult to miss, even for an idiot, but he was stalling. Rodney was being a damn coward and stalling so that he could work up the nerve to do what had to be done. He jerked when Sheppard's hand gripped his arm and he looked at his best friend, seeing the soldier in him already adding the two scientists and one marine to their losses. Casualties of a stupid accident that occurred for no better reason than that the city was old and shit happened.

"There's nothing we can do!" Sheppard determined loudly over the sound of rushing water, his eyes drifting momentarily to the stairwell where the water was seeping steadily in from the lower decks. It was where they had all just scrambled up to escape. "We're pulling back! We'll lock down this level and try to save as much of this section as possible!" He ordered and started to pull Rodney away from the flooded stairwell. Ronon and Radek began moving through the water with them.

There was no more time for stalling.

"No," he said, stopping in his tracks firmly and John almost tripped over his own feet at the abrupt change of pace. The solider turned angry eyes on him, eyes that spoke too much about the pain and regret and loss he clearly felt. Eyes that demanded Rodney not make this any more difficult then it already was.

"McKay," he started but Rodney was having none of it. He really had waited too long to act and he hoped to god he wasn't too late now. Coward he thought bitterly, and inhaled sharply through his nose to steady himself.

"You heard me, Colonel." He thrust his computer (why he'd held on to it for so long he had no idea) into Ronon's chest and then quickly plunged his arms beneath the cold water. Water that was almost at waist level now. He untied his boots enough to kick them and his socks off, hopping ridiculously for a moment as he accomplished the task.

"This is no time to have a fit, McKay," Sheppard snarled and went to grab Rodney's arm again, but Rodney, using reflexes he was slowly honing through training with Teyla, grabbed his wrist before he had a chance to make contact and he looked John right in the eye.

"I'm going back, and I'm going to fix this." He said firmly, hoping the tremble he felt in his throat didn't carry to his words. He let go of John's arm and then pulled his blue shirt off, ignoring the shocked faces of those around him. He couldn't really blame them for their reactions; he'd probably think his friend was crazy too if he started stripping down in the middle of an emergency. But that was where the show stopped and after making sure his tool belt was still secured to his waist he stepped back from his little group.

"Rodney, what the hell are you doing! We don't have time for this!" John was snapping, and there was a hint of panic in his eyes. "This is suicide!"

"No, it's not, John. Trust me," he pleaded, hitting below the belt and knowing it had the desired effect as John recoiled slightly, his eyes widening. Ronon wasn't as affected by the words and he moved forward with the obvious intent of dragging Rodney out of there with or without his consent.

"Trust me," he said again, stepping away from them and closer to his target, trying to hide his own fear, fear that wasn't what they thought it was. He looked Ronon in the eye. "You're a runner, Ronon. I'm a swimmer." That stopped the big man, and it was enough that Rodney could take the three giant steps to the stairwell and squeeze through the almost shut door. He dove without hesitation into the cold water and began swimming down the stairs, further into the deepwater. Despite all of the water the city's lights were still illuminating the way. John screaming his name echoed painfully in his head.


Colonel John Sheppard rushed the door that a shirtless, shoeless Dr. Rodney McKay had just disappeared through, yelling out his name. Rodney had asked him to trust him, and he had…for three seconds before common sense took over and he realized that allowing his friend to go on a suicide run was the last thing he should trust Rodney about. He could still stop him. He could still see him swimming, his bare feet kicking swiftly beneath the swirling water, and if he could see him, he could get to him and drag him back to the proper side of sanity because he was not about to lose Rodney! He wasn't!

"Sheppard!" Ronon bellowed and grabbed him bodily, his thick arm wrapping around and across his chest as Rodney's feet disappeared around the bend in the stairwell and John was dragged away from the door. "Let him do what he has to do," Ronon growled in his ear and John twisted sharply, shoving the enormous man away from him with an ease born of adrenalin, but he didn't rush back to the stairs despite the desperation he felt. It was too late now, Rodney was gone. He was gone, and they hadn't done anything but listen to his pleas to let him go.

John took a deep breath, shoved his wet hair roughly out of his eyes and, without a word, began forcing his way through the waist high water to the next stairwell. Rodney had already closed off this corridor, all they had to do was make sure everyone was in the stairwell and they could close that off as well. The water couldn't go anywhere else, at least not immediately. They hoped. Silently Radek and Ronon followed him; they were the last to leave and John, signing the death warrant on his friend, closed the door and began to ascend the stairs.

There were cases where cold water drowning victims, being pulled up from the deep after forty minutes, had still survived. It was rare. They were usually children. Rodney had a large lung capacity, but even the best-trained swimmers, the Navy fucking Seals, couldn't hold their breaths as long as he needed to now. Christ.

At the top of the stairs it was a matter of minutes to make sure everyone was accounted for, ensuring they made it into the transport and back to the safer areas of the city.

"Sir," Major Lorne called out as they approached. He had been at the lead of the escaping group, helping everyone find their way. He stopped and looked at him, his frown increasing as he took in the other two members of Sheppard's party. "Where's McKay?" The few scientists left, waiting for transport, stilled at the question and looked over at them, their eyes widening.

"Not now, Major," he ordered and Lorne, knowing what the look in his eyes meant, stood taller and didn't say another word. In the time it took to ascend the stairs John had developed an obsession with checking his watch. Six minutes had now passed since Rodney had disappeared under the water.

Another minute ticked by before they spilled out of the transport closest to the control room. A deep silence had settled between them as Sheppard led Ronon, Radek and Lorne (the other two scientists having gone to the labs) into the control room to see the expected flurry of activity on the upper level. John could feel a coldness seeping into his bones as every second passed. He couldn't trust Rodney, he couldn't trust the man to not do something stupid like this. And for what! He looked at his watch, his eye twitching against his will. Nine minutes.

He took the stairs to the control room two at a time and paused at the top, quickly scanning the group before waiting to be acknowledged by Weir so he could report. It seemed the other three in his entourage were completely willing to follow his lead as they froze there as well, crowding behind him and having nothing else to do. Well, Radek probably did, but he had been close to Rodney as well and John was willing to let this slight in professionalism go due to shock.

"It seems to be working!" The Canadian at the console, who had Weir practically draped over his shoulder as she studied his readings, yelled out. Then in an enthusiastic move he jumped up, his chair just missing the city's leader as it rolled back. "It's working! He did it! He actually did it! Water intake has been halted and there's still enough air in the room for them to keep breathing for another few hours. By then the draining systems should be working and as pressurization increases the water will be forced out of the city. They're going to be fine!" Cheers went up all around and John was having a really hard time understanding what was going on, and frankly, as long as the crisis was averted he didn't care. He was desperately trying not to care about anything right now.

The world record for holding ones breath, while free diving, was just under ten minutes.

"Elizabeth," he called, and cursed when his voice actually cracked slightly. She looked over at him, a smile on her lips.

"Colonel, I don't know how you managed to get the equipment to Rodney in time, but you did a damn fine job!" She enthused and he stared at her. He tried not to hate her for being so happy while in ignorance over what they had lost.

Whom they had lost.

"I'm sorry, Dr. Weir, but we didn't get any equipment to Rod-Dr. McKay," he pulled himself to his full height and refused to look her in the eyes. "We were unable to stop Dr. McKay from heading back into the water. I don't know what's going on, but it wasn't Rodney. He…" John stopped, took a breath and forced himself to look into her green eyes. He shook his head, trying to convey his message in silence. Her eyes widened and then she looked back at the lieutenant's console that lay before her and back at John.

"What are you talking about? Rodney reached the subsection and managed to manually override the doors. He closed them," she declared and John frowned as Radek decided to speak up.

"No, is impossible. It is maybe six, seven minute swim to reach and then two minutes work. Rodney has large lungs, but even he cannot hold breath that long." He declared and began moving past John and into the control room. "You must have done something here to shut door."

"We didn't do anything sir, it was all Dr. McKay." The Canadian Lieutenant declared, beginning to look confused. "I'm sure he'll tell you all about it," he said, trying to lighten the air and John looked at him sharply, shutting him up instantly.

"It's impossible," Radek said again.

"McKay didn't have a breathing apparatus, Elizabeth. There is no way he could have made it to that subsection," John said and hated the dawning confusion that was slowly replacing her previously relieved features.

"That's impossible," she breathed out.

"Dr. Weir-" he started again, because she had to understand what had happened and she wasn't listening to him.

"No, Colonel, I'm telling you that's impossible," she pointed at the console before her. "Rodney made it there, and in a few minutes he'll be back to your last location, where he split off from you."

"Sensors say this?" Radek demanded and he practically shoved the Lieutenant and Weir out of the way to get to the computer. All of Sheppard's attention honed in on the scientist as his eyes, reading rapidly across the screen before him, searched for answers. Then he looked up and blinked. "Is true, sensors have located Rodney's bio-signature and tracked him. He is still moving, he is still alive. They are all still alive" he declared. Sheppard didn't waste another second as he turned and practically jumped to the control room floor, following Ronon as the large Satedan sprinted to the nearest transport with Lorne hot on their heels.

"Beckett! Medical emergency!" He declared and finished spitting out the directions just before the transport door closed and then opened again. The three soldiers were down the stairwell they had come up ten minutes before in record time and, with a powerful, desperate thought from Sheppard, the door at the base slid open. The water was already lower than when they had left and was lowering even as they rushed towards the partially closed door at the end of the hallway. It refused to open more for John as he approached, being well and truly stuck. He looked around.

"Zelenka! He's not here!"

"He is still approaching Colonel, though his movements are slowing. He is almost at stairwell below you!" The man's accent was so thick with tension John barely understood the Czech, but he heard enough. Water swirled around their knees as they studied the partly opened door.

"Where is he!" Carson suddenly bellowed as he burst into the flooded corridor, "and what the hell is going on!" John didn't bother answering. He wanted this door opened more, and if it wouldn't respond to his mental command then he would open it himself. He grabbed onto its edge and pushed with all his strength, feeling it slide half an inch. A second later Ronon and Lorne were joining him and, with a few big grunts, they managed to force the door almost halfway open. It was enough. John was through it and staring through the choppy water for any sign of his friend.

Sixteen minutes had passed. He was desperate, and while he doubted he would see the man, he was willing to believe anything for a few more minutes of hope. He heard the two medics arrive after Carson, asking where to put the gurney and then, suddenly, Rodney appeared around the stairs bend and was approaching him with wide eyes, his hair swirling around his head like a halo with every stroke.

John leapt into the water, probably doing more harm than good as he went under the surface a few feet and desperately grabbed for Rodney. Finding a solid arm and shoulder he heaved him up the rest of the way.

They broke the surface with John gasping for air, and Rodney gripped in his arm so tightly he'd most likely have finger shaped bruises the next day. Everyone was silent a moment, and it took a second, until McKay took his first deep lungful of air for the shocked spell to break. And Rodney grinned at John, but there was no real humour in his eyes.

"I'm a swimmer," he shrugged, and John sitting on his ass on two steps that were underwater, already shivering from the cold, dragged Rodney into a hug, audience be damned. He didn't know what else to do, he just, he was having a bit of trouble following the events that were currently taking place around him even though his mind and body appeared to be functioning fully. It was while he was holding a startled McKay, who was just beginning to hug back (tentatively) that he realized three things: One, his friend wasn't dead. Two, Rodney was shaking rather violently in John's arms and three, he had very purposely placed John between himself and everyone else crowded just behind John, waiting to help/rescue him.

He let go and slowly pushed Rodney back, holding him at arms length. Rodney's bare arms felt like ice under his hands.

"How are you not dead?" He demanded, his voice rougher than intended.

"Yes, and while you're explaining I would really like to get you out of that water so I can check you out properly," Carson's worried voice ordered from behind him. Rodney's shivering increased and he made no move to follow the physician's request.

"Rodney, we need to get you out of the water," John insisted and Ronon was swiftly slipping into the water on Rodney's other side, intending to help with this task when Rodney jerked back violently, holding his arms out warningly with a slightly panicked look in his eyes.

"Wait, wait. I'm fine, I'm good. There's no need to worry or anything. You didn't by any chance bring my shirt back, did you?" His shirt? Sheppard's eyes narrowed at his friend, his worry increasing. Of all the stupid…

"You know, somewhere between the time you killed yourself and then magically came back to life I must have misplaced it," he snarled, because it was either act worried and aggressive or cry, and John Sheppard did not cry. Rodney flinched away again, not meeting their gazes. It reminded John of trying to settle a beaten animal. What the hell was going on? "Rodney?" He asked, and his desperation to know things were okay must have leaked through because crystal blue eyes suddenly focused their entire intensity on him and John watched as a flurry of thoughts and emotions crossed the scientists face before he settled on determination, and licked his lips.

"You trusted me," he declared quietly and looked over at Ronon as well, and then at Beckett. His gaze lingered the longest on Beckett until the Scottsman cleared his throat.

"Aye, I've always trusted you Rodney, even when yer actin' like a right git." Rodney snorted before nodding his head decisively, a bit of the uncertainty leaking away and his normal persona coming through.

"Then it's time I finally trusted you." He declared and squared his shoulders. What the hell? John thought. What did that mean? McKay hadn't trusted them before?

"Sheppard," Ronon growled and John looked at him, and then at the water where he was pointedly staring. It was turning a light pink. Christ.

"Okay, McKay, it's time to let Beckett fix you up now." Rodney looked down at the water, saw its tint and shrugged, becoming self-conscious again.

"Its okay, it's normal," he declared, but he didn't get much more out as John and Ronon both grabbed an arm and gently dragged him from the water. In three swift moves they had him lying on the stretcher and several hands were holding him in place as Beckett immediately dove on the source of blood, which was smearing with the water running down Rodney's bare stomach.

"What the hell?" Lorne hissed in surprise as Beckett worked efficiently. Sheppard stared, unable to stop himself even as he felt Rodney's eyes on him, and swallowed thickly. The blood was coming from three long gashes that ran along his side and, as the scientist breathed, they lifted and fell gently, small trickles of water leaking out from them. Looking across the pale torso that saw too little sun he saw the exact same thing on the other side.

"Rodney, I need to know what this is lad," Carson asked as he carefully dabbed at the blood while a medic took his pulse and blood pressure. Rodney snorted.

"Well, if that hasn't become obvious to you yet, I think I want another doctor. Maybe a zoologist," he joked, but it sounded hollow and fell flat.

"Rodney, please,"

"They're gills, you're not imagining anything, Carson. Now, if it's all right with you, I think I'm going to pass out now," he declared, and then did just that.



I just love science fiction! I hope you do to 