The Hard Prayer

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Title: The Hard Prayer
Author(s): Rheanna
Date(s): 11 January 2009
Length: 30,334 words / 3:10:44 hours
Genre: slash, apocafic
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
External Links: The Hard Prayer (Archive of Our Own)
The Hard Prayer (Palimpsest)
The Hard Prayer (LiveJournal)
The Hard Prayer (podbook)
cover by Counteragent

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The Hard Prayer is a John/Rodney apocafic by Rheanna. The cover art is by Counteragent. The author later recorded a podfic of her story and turned it into an audiobook.[1] It's available at the Audiofic Archive.

Summary: One year after the end of the world, John meets another survivor.

Recs and Reviews

Unknown Date

You probably have already read this, because everyone and their cat has recced this one, but it is a great apocafic. A plague wipes out most of humanity, and I like this story for showing how surviving the apocalypse damaged them. [2]


The One That Teaches Us That Surviving the End of the World Ought to Be Featured Way at the Top of the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. With, Like, a Point Value of Nine Million. The Hard Prayer, by rheanna27. Stargate: Atlantis, Rodney McKay/John Sheppard. And we start with one that could not be more unlike a Harlequin AU. However, it also could not be more awesome, so that's okay. This is an apocalypse AU. Usually the end of the world makes me geechy - can’t imagine why! - and, in all honesty, this story did freak me out somewhat, and there were a couple spots I had to skim on account of my own personal issues. But. Wow. Seriously. So very, very worth it. I can’t even tell you how much. What I love about this story is what Rheanna does with the characters we know and adore. They've been changed, seriously changed, by what's happened - as indeed one would be. Live through the apocalypse, anyone's going to get a little twitchy, you know? And John and Rodney are indeed very, very twitchy. I found myself nodding along as I read this, thinking that this was totally how they'd snap, if they were going to snap. (And if I have a personal motto, it’s: once the world is over, you might as well snap. What, like it can get worse?) It's particularly interesting to me - and, upon reflection, totally right - that John is the one who can't handle the situation as well. John, in some ways, is a border collie: he needs a pack. Rodney just needs a goal. (And, of course, they neeeeeeeed each other! Look, sorry, I'm an OTPer by nature; I had to add that. It's in my OTP Fan Contract, right under "Sulk a little bit when your friends start writing other pairings.")(And, for the benefit of any readers who might be Best Beloved and thus even more allergic to apocalypse stories than I am: yes, it has a happy ending. Read this, damn it.) [3]
It's an apocalyptic AU. And so fascinating. If you like apocalyptic worlds, this one is for you. I'd even go as far as saying you'll probably love it even you've never seen a SGA episode in your life. Yes, it's that good. Why I'm reccing it: Because I was so moved by this story that I had *dreams* about this apocalyptic world. It sort of reminded me of I am Legend, the movie I mean, except instead of a very confindent Will Smith, we follow a very damaged John Sheppard, slowly losing the will to go on and his mind along with it. The writing is beautiful, the pacing is good. I never wanted these 3 hours to end. At some point, I remember thinking "Wow, this story doesn't even need to become slash !" because John and Rodney's relationship as strangers with nothing to live for but each other, doesn't need to be more than that. I'm not sure why, but this story is a little spooky too. [...] Well anyway, I can only urge you to read/listen to it now. [4]
A tough look at what it takes to be the only survivors in a world-wide epidemic, this story explores the despair, the coping mechanisms, the gritty reality of post-apocalyptic life. This is an AU where John and Rodney meet a year after everyone else has succumbed. There is a road trip during which they learn about each other's idiosyncrasies and how to trust in someone else again. The details of their lives, past and present, provide an uncomfortable glimpse into just how quietly, relentlessly horrifying their world has become. It's not an easy journey, but there's definitely hope for both of them at the end. [5]


Post-apocalyptic shorelines, admittedly, are one of my favourites. In The Hard Prayer, Rodney and John are both basket cases; that much is canon, but rarely do you see it delivered so well in fanfiction. Their journey for survival and sanity isn't an easy one, although I can promise you a happy ending. I was completely mesmerized by the description of the events and (unfortunately dead) people they encounter, some made me smile, most made me sad, and one made me cry. After read many post-apocalypse books and seen quite a few of those movies, I can honestly say The Hard Prayer is one of the best in this genre. Highly recommended! [6]


I love post-apocalyptic stories and his one is terrific: full of detail of the daily struggle to deal with the isolation and the devastation. Most of all what I loved was the poem quoted at the beginning which gives the tone and theme of the story itself:

After a long time of solitude, after many steps taken
away from one's kind, toward these other kingdoms,
the hard prayer inside one's own singing
is to come back, if one can, to one's own,
a world almost lost, in the exile that deepens,
when one has lived a long time alone. -- When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone, Galway Kinnell [7]


Why This Must Be Read: This is one of those stories that feels so real you can practically taste the hopelessness in the back of your throat. Rheanna27's language is that evocative and the premise and characters that well thought-through, right down to the neurosis each develops as a result of their circumstances. The apocalypse here wasn't anything violent -- there are no zombies or atomic bombs or giant storms to give people something to fight -- which gives the story a very eerie feeling. [8]


  1. rheanna. Podfic: The Hard Prayer, 11 February 2009. (Accessed 03 June 2011)
  2. Alternate Universe Recs for Stargate: Atlantis, Rat Creature
  3. Change is the Only Constant, thefourthvine, February 4, 2009
  4. killmelover. podfics recs, 28 April 2009. (Accessed 03 June 2011)
  5. danceswithgary in stargateficrec. The Hard Prayer by Rheanna (PG-13), 25 June 2009. (Accessed 03 June 2011)
  6. meishali in epic_recs. The Hard Prayer by Rheanna (PG-13), 14 October 2009. (Accessed 03 June 2011)
  7. Madrigal's Stargate Atlantis Recs, Archived version (2012)
  8. Stargate Fic Recommendations