These Dark Days by AndromedaMarine

Silent Halls

No commotion rocked the halls of Atlantis. As Doctor Meredith Rodney McKay stumbled down one corridor towards the transporter, the only thing that beat upon his eardrums was silence. Silence scared him. The realization that no one else but him wandered the internal streets of the Ancient city caused terror to course through his veins. Rodney thought back to the horrific incident with the Keirsan Fever, thanking whatever Deity out there that it was only midnight. But several glaring facts remained.

He must find Jennifer.

He must speak with Jennifer.

It did not matter that Atlantis was dim with the dark hours; it did not matter that Jennifer might be asleep. All he knew – and he hoped he wasn't infected again – was that he had to be with Doctor Jennifer Keller. Rodney tripped into the transporter, his body slamming against the wall. He didn't know if he could take much more of this agony... He pressed his forefinger to the correct glowing dot, and instead of the Hall of Science Labs, he saw the Hall of Quarters.

She would be in hers, hopefully, and if not, in the infirmary. But Rodney really didn't want to fight his way through the silence again. Not after about forty hours of straight work in his lab. Zelenka had shoved about three cups of coffee into his hands that morning, but nothing good really came of it.

Rodney waved his hand over the door sensor repeatedly, hoping she would wake and let him in, and terrified that she wouldn't.

Jennifer had just barely pulled the covers over her body when the door sensor went off. She gave a sigh, tossed the blankets towards the foot of the bed, and forced herself to her feet, crossing the room to the door. When it opened, she blinked in surprise to see Rodney McKay in front of her, paler than a ghost and obviously haunted by something invisible. Yet when their eyes met he visibly relaxed. Somehow Jennifer sensed that ordinary medicine wouldn't be able to quell these fears.

The physician reached out with both hands and placed them over his arms, her heart immediately saddened when she felt him trembling. She knew the first question to ask would be what was wrong, but her instinct told her to leave questions for later. Jennifer pulled him across the threshold, and palmed the door shut again. Waving her hand over the light sensor the room became faintly brighter than before, just enough for the two to see each other.

She looked into his shimmering blue eyes, and saw pain there, sadness, and loneliness. Yet that was the definition of life in a different galaxy. The American wrapped her arms tightly around the Canadian's body, pressing him close, hoping to banish the negative emotions. Rodney needed happiness. He needed love.

Rodney returned the embrace, relieved she hadn't pushed him away or left him in the hall to suffer alone. He opened his mouth to speak, but Jennifer beat him to it.

"Don't apologize, Rodney," she whispered, her palms flat over his spine. "You're here, and that's what matters. There's no need for sorry." She focused on the sensation of his body against hers, holding him tight so he wouldn't pull away. "Just tell me what's wrong."

He whispered with fear in his voice. "If I fall asleep I'll see him there. And he'll blame me. They always blame me."

Jennifer felt her own tears on her face, the stinging in her eyes having become too much to hold in. He blamed himself.

Rodney continued. "But he won't disappear. He sticks around, narrating as I watch them all die, over, and over... He always starts with Grodin. Jennifer... I don't want to fall asleep. It's like if I fall asleep...I won't wake up. And then I'll have to face him for real. I'll have to answer to all of them. I'll have to face Elizabeth."

At this Jennifer's grip tightens around him. "Elizabeth was not your fault, Rodney McKay!"

A shudder passed through Rodney's body. "He makes me believe it is. He tells me it's all my fault."

"You know, deep down, that he would never force you to believe you're to blame for all of it, Rodney, never. He was a good, honest man – he wouldn't blame you. He wouldn't." Jennifer turned so her nose pressed against the soft skin of his neck, hoping he would understand and believe her words.

"But it is my fault."

She had to rebuke him. "I read the mission reports, Rodney – it was nothing you could have prevented! Don't forget I did the autopsy. Don't forget my role. It wasn't your fault."

Rodney pulled in a deep breath. "Not everything goes into mission reports, Jennifer. It's my fault he died."

Jennifer released her hold on his shirt and pushed away from him so she could stare him directly in the eye. "Nothing short of pulling the trigger yourself makes you to blame. So don't tell me that John died because of you. You came here for comfort, and I want to help you, so, so badly, but there's a limit. The constant thought that you essentially killed your best friend is unhealthy to the extreme, Rodney. Don't beat yourself up over it. John died because that Genii asshole had a gun in his hand. Not because you were thoroughly distracted by a ZPM energy signature."

At these words Rodney collapsed in a fit of sobs, finally coming to terms that silence was the worst way to deal with grief. Finally coming to terms that he didn't pull the trigger. Finally realizing that life could never be the same, just because some Genii hack with a gun aimed at and murdered Colonel John Sheppard. He was too much for Jennifer to keep upright with her own strength, so instead of tumbling on top of him, she pulled him in the general direction of her bed.

Jennifer maneuvered herself and Rodney so that they lay parallel, though the latter still felt visceral, nauseating tugs in the attempt to comprehend the hole left behind by the colonel. She let one hand stroke his hair, soothingly attempting to calm him, and placed a kiss on his temple. He would fall into the haunting realm of slumber here, desperate to avoid the dream-John who blamed him for each and every death on Atlantis.

Yet despite the fact she lay next to him, her body heat mixing with his, a new image formed in his mind. He could not block out the dream-Jennifer, who pointed with one accusing finger at his heart – he could not shut his eyes to the image and voice of a Jennifer who repeatedly blamed him for her death.

And in that realm of unconsciousness, he wished the silent halls could replace his nightmares.