Thank you to everyone who has read, favorited, or left reviews on my previous stories. I'm glad you've enjoyed them. :)
The holidays played havoc with my writing schedule and this is much later than I expected. Hopefully, it was worth the extra bit of wait.
This follows s02e14 Grace Under Pressure, and dialogue from the episode was written by Martin Gero.
Special thanks as always to my beta reader, Lyn.
The rear hatch opened, and Radek looked up as he followed Colonel Sheppard out of the jumper. "Oh. Oh, my," he said in an awed whisper.
Even though their mission was one of life and death, Radek still felt a sense of wonder as he stopped short, staring up at the water held back by the invisible shield. He glanced down and scuffed his boot through the wet sand, disturbing a nest of tiny, opalescent crabs. The crabs settled near the edge of the shield, and Radek knelt, watching as they quickly burrowed into the sand again.
"Úžasné," he murmured to himself as the crabs disappeared.
"Radek?" Sheppard said with an impatient glance in Radek's direction.
"Yes, yes, sorry," Radek replied. He stood and tried to watch where he was walking and the water over his head at the same time as he followed Sheppard to the crashed jumper.
For just a moment, he understood why Rodney travelled through the stargate. Then he glanced at the rear hatch of the crashed jumper and decided he didn't need that much adventure in his life.
The jumper sat on a narrow shelf only a meter or so from the edge of a steep drop-off and looked in relatively good shape considering the pressure the ship was under and that it didn't have a shield.
If it had drifted only a little more, Radek thought, glancing at the edge of the drop-off.
Sheppard stopped in front of the hatch and tapped his earpiece. "McKay. Griffin. Do you copy?" he asked over the open channel.
Radek heard the tension in Sheppard's tone, but what surprised him was the undertone of concern in Sheppard's voice. He was used to seeing Colonel Sheppard in control of any situation. Throughout the rescue mission, Sheppard had sounded confident, in control. Now, as the silence grew and neither Rodney nor Griffin responded, Radek saw that same confidence give way to apprehension.
"Come on, Rodney," Sheppard muttered under his breath. If it hadn't been so eerily silent thanks to the shield, Radek wasn't sure he would have heard anything. "I know you're alive in there."
Radek gave Sheppard a startled glance, but Sheppard's focus was on the rear hatch. "Talk to me, buddy," he murmured.
"I'm not coming this far without doing something!"
Radek remembered Sheppard's comment while they searched for the jumper and swallowed convulsively. How can he be so sure Rodney is alive? Radek wondered with a glance at Sheppard's closed expression.
"Sheppard?" Rodney finally replied in a hesitant whisper.
Radek blew out the breath he'd been holding when he heard McKay's voice. Rodney sounded terrible, but at least he was still alive, Radek thought. He glanced at Sheppard and noted how his entire demeanor changed as soon as he heard Rodney's voice.
"Hey, buddy," Sheppard replied in a soft tone Radek had never heard before. "What say you open your door?"
There was another long pause over the radio, and Sheppard's look of relief shifted back to concern.
"Perhaps there is a way we can open the hatch from the outside?" Radek offered and ran his hand over the hatch.
Sheppard shook his head. "I already tried the remote. It didn't work. The only way into the ship is if -"
"That's … that's probably a bad idea," Rodney said over the open channel.
Radek heard a low, keening wail coming from somewhere off to their left and saw the water vibrate against the shield.
"Colonel," Radek said. "We don't have much time before the shield collapses."
"I know that," Sheppard growled at Radek, then turned back to the downed jumper. "Listen, long story short, we've converted the cloak into a shield and extended it around your jumper. I'm standing outside right now." He pounded on the hatch. "Come on, Rodney," he muttered. "Work with me here."
"What?" Rodney said, and Radek heard the confusion in McKay's tone as well as the pain and exhaustion.
Sheppard grimaced. "All you have to do is open your door and walk to my jumper."
"We know water has flooded the rear section of the jumper. It is possible the controls may be underwater," Radek suggested. "I am not sure Rodney even knows how to swim."
"Yeah," Sheppard muttered and glared at the sealed hatch in front of them. "Come on, Rodney. You have to do this."
They waited a few more seconds, and Radek heard the wail again, this time closer. "Colonel?"
Sheppard shook his head. "We aren't leaving him."
Radek nodded and stepped back.
"McKay? What's the hold-up? We need to do this sooner rather than later. The shield ain't gonna hold forever," Sheppard said, and Radek heard the desperation as well as the hint of command in Sheppard's tone.
"Okay," Rodney replied in a whisper. "Better stand back. We've taken on a-a lot of water."
Sheppard took a hurried step back, and Radek stared at the sealed hatch.
"Come on, come on," Sheppard muttered with a glance at the water overhead when the hatch remained stubbornly sealed. "I can't do this one for you, Rodney. You have to get that hatch open."
"The system may be too damaged," Radek said.
"I do not want to hear that," Sheppard growled in reply.
Radek heard a dull thump a moment later and saw the hatch crack open. At the same time, water cascaded out of the damaged ship. Sheppard grabbed Radek's arm, pulling both of them back a few more paces as the water puddled a few inches deep around their ankles, trapped by the shield.
The hatch settled in the sand, and Radek had his first glimpse of Rodney, alone, lying on his front, not moving.
"Rodney!" Sheppard exclaimed. He ran into the ship and knelt at Rodney's side as McKay started coughing up water.
Radek followed a few steps behind and crouched on Rodney's other side as Sheppard helped McKay roll over and sit up. Rodney leant against Sheppard's arm as he coughed up more water, and Radek saw the blood oozing from a wound near Rodney's scalp.
"Rodney, are you all right?" Radek asked, and could have kicked himself for the inane question.
He's wet, shivering, bleeding, and barely conscious. He's about as far from all right as he can get, Radek told himself as he pulled Rodney's arm over his shoulder.
"I will be," Rodney muttered and squeezed his eyes shut with a groan.
Sheppard glanced around the jumper. "Where's Griffin?"
Rodney swallowed and tipped his head back. "He was in there," Rodney whispered, his expression a mixture of sadness and confusion, and pointed at the sealed bulkhead between the rear section of the jumper and the cockpit.
Radek stared at the bulkhead as the implication of what Rodney meant sank in. Had Griffin died in the initial crash? he wondered. No. Rodney had said they were both alive when he had replied to Radek's initial hails.
So what … Oh. Oh, my, Radek thought as the realisation that Griffin had sacrificed himself hit him. Radek glanced at Sheppard and saw the moment Sheppard reached the same conclusion.
Sheppard glanced at the sealed door, then ducked his head. He blew out a breath a moment later and turned to Rodney. "All right, let's get you home."
Sheppard wrapped Rodney's other arm over his shoulder, and with a quick nod to Radek, they pulled Rodney to his feet. Rodney winced and squeezed his eyes shut again as he stumbled and moaned. They took a few steps when Rodney stopped, shivering and shaking his head.
"No, I-I need to decompress," Rodney said. "Carter told me to-to increase the pressure."
Radek exchanged a startled look with Sheppard. "Carter?" he asked as Sheppard started Rodney moving again.
"I mean, I did. I did. I-I told myself," Rodney muttered, and Radek nearly dropped him as McKay lost his balance. "Oh, my head," he whimpered.
Concussion, Radek reminded himself and glanced at the blood dripping from Rodney's face onto his uniform jacket.
Sheppard ignored the exchange and adjusted his hold on Rodney, taking more of his weight. They managed a few more steps when Radek heard the keening noise again, this time directly overhead. Radek looked up and saw the underbelly of a huge sea creature as it swam over them.
Rodney looked up too and almost fell backwards as he stared up at the animal. Radek groaned and took Rodney's waist in a tighter hold.
"Oh, see, pal. Sorry. You don't get to eat me today," Rodney told the animal as it disappeared into the watery darkness.
Sheppard tugged Rodney across the open ground between the two ships and into the rescue jumper. "He's the reason we found you," Sheppard said as he sat Rodney on one of the bench seats.
Radek glanced at Sheppard and shook his head. He knew that wasn't entirely true. The whale, or whatever it was, made for a convenient excuse, but Radek knew there had to be more to it. There had been far too many coincidences in this rescue for Radek's scientific mind to write off as merely good luck.
The mental link? he wondered, remembering the descriptions he had read in the diary. He glanced at Colonel Sheppard standing next to Rodney and hit the control to seal the rear hatch. Could they be using the link to communicate with each other?
"Really?" Rodney muttered with a glance out at the water.
"Almost thought we lost you," Sheppard replied. He gave Rodney a gentle smile and squeezed McKay's shoulder.
Radek caught another glimpse of that other, softer Sheppard before the mask returned, and Colonel Sheppard turned toward the cockpit.
Rodney sat on the bench seat, muttering something Radek didn't quite catch as he followed Sheppard into the cockpit.
"We need to get him back to Beckett," Sheppard said with a glance into the rear section.
"Yes," Radek replied. He sat at the station behind the co-pilot's seat and typed a series of commands into the computer. The shield shrank until it only covered the rescue jumper, and Radek glanced at Sheppard. "However, we cannot ascend too quickly. Rodney has been at this depth for hours."
"Yeah, I know."
They lifted off, and Radek was surprised when instead of plotting a course for the surface, Sheppard circled the crashed jumper. They hovered in front of the downed ship, and Radek stepped forward, peering through the windscreen at the empty cockpit.
"The currents likely pulled out his body as the ship sank," Radek said in a low voice.
Sheppard grimaced and rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah," he muttered.
"Did you know Captain Griffin well?" Radek asked.
Sheppard stared at the empty cockpit. "Not really. He needed flight time on the jumpers and stayed behind after the Daedalus left."
The jumper hovered in place for a few more seconds, then Sheppard blew out a breath, turned the jumper around, and set a course for the surface.
An alarm sounded a moment later, and Radek turned back to the station behind the co-pilot seat.
"Gah!" Rodney cried from the rear section.
Radek glanced into the rear section and saw Rodney curled on the bench seat, holding his head in his hands.
"Radek?" Sheppard asked over the alarm. "What's the problem?"
"It is the shield," Radek replied and swallowed. "It is almost out of power."
"You need to find a way to power it," Sheppard ordered. "It's going to take at least ninety minutes to get back up to a depth where the pressure won't crush the jumper."
"Yes, yes," Radek replied and scanned the computer for options.
"Dampeners," Rodney muttered.
Radek looked into the rear section and saw Rodney trying to stand.
"Rodney?" Radek asked.
"Inertial dampeners," Rodney said, reaching for the control box. "Don't need them. Reroute the power."
Radek scanned the ship's systems and nodded. "Yes, yes, that could work." He typed a string of commands into the computer and turned to Sheppard. "Colonel, get ready," Radek warned.
"Ready for what?" Sheppard asked.
"Rodney is right. We don't need the inertial dampeners at the moment. I can reroute that power to the shield. But that will mean you will be fighting the currents as we ascend."
Sheppard nodded. "Do it."
Radek pursed his lips, went back to the computer, and typed another command string into the machine. "Switching power … now," he said a few moments later and pressed the enter key.
Radek felt the ship shudder as the dampeners shut down and the jumper fought Sheppard's commands.
The ship twitched again, and Radek heard Rodney's yelp of surprise turn into a groan of pain as he lost his balance and fell.
"Rodney?" Radek called and stood from the computer.
Rodney whimpered and pulled himself back onto the bench seat.
"Do what you can for him," Sheppard ordered, rubbing the back of his head as he fought the controls.
Radek nodded and braced his hands on the bulkhead to keep his balance as he walked back into the rear section. Rodney lay curled up on the bench seat, his eyelids at half-mast as he held his bloody head in his hands. Radek found a couple of blankets and a spare jumpsuit in the compartment under the other bench seat and pulled the first aid kit out of the netting over Rodney's head.
"Rodney?" Radek said and tapped Rodney's wet shoulder. "Are you awake?"
"Hmm?" Rodney mumbled. He opened his eyes, glanced at Radek, and frowned. "Zelenka? Why would I hallucinate you being here? Carter and I have everything under control."
Concussion, Radek reminded himself. "I'm sure you do," he said with a sigh. "I need you to sit up so I can take care of that head wound."
Rodney grumbled under his breath as Radek helped him sit up and moaned, "My head is killing me."
"I'm sure it is," Radek replied. "Let me see," he said as Rodney ducked away from Radek's hand.
He sat beside Rodney on the bench seat with the first aid kit balanced on the seat behind him. He peeled the blood-soaked bandage off Rodney's head and winced when he saw the long gash along Rodney's forehead and the purple-black bruise down the side of his face.
"This looks bad," he muttered.
Now he understood why Rodney had been hallucinating. How was he even still conscious? Radek wondered as Rodney started to list to one side. He wrapped an arm around Rodney's shoulders and pulled him more upright. "Rodney, stay with me," Radek said in a whisper and turned to the first aid kit behind him.
"Radek?" Sheppard asked.
"His head is still bleeding," Radek said as he found an antiseptic wipe in the kit. "And there is a lot of bruising."
"Head wounds bleed," Sheppard said with a glance into the rear section, and Radek wondered who Sheppard was trying to reassure with the comment. "Do what you can," Sheppard added, rubbing the back of his head. "As soon as we're in range, I'll get Carson on the radio. Find out what else we need to do for him."
Radek nodded and started cleaning the blood off Rodney's face.
"Wh't'r yu do'ng," Rodney muttered. He tried to jerk his head out of reach and moaned.
"I'm almost done," Radek replied, ignoring the question as he cleaned the last of the blood off Rodney's face.
Radek finished with the wipe, hissed in a breath, and pawed through the first aid kit, looking for something large enough to cover the wound. The gash near Rodney's hairline was several inches long and still oozed blood. He found a large sterile pad and a roll of tape, folded the pad length-wise, and taped it over the gash.
"Hopefully, that will hold," he said to himself as much as to Rodney.
Rodney raised a hand, pressed his fingers against the pad, and winced. "Leave it alone," Radek admonished. "Are you hurt anywhere else?"
Rodney stared at him, and Radek tapped Rodney's arm. "Rodney?"
"Are you hurt anywhere else?"
Rodney shook his head and winced.
"Then let's see about getting you out of these wet clothes," Radek said and started to unzip Rodney's uniform jacket. He pulled off the soggy coat and tried to tug off the wet t-shirt, but Rodney slapped at his hands.
"Hey!" Rodney mumbled. "Le' me 'lone"
"Rodney, you are hypothermic," Radek patiently explained. "You need to -"
The jumper shuddered and dipped, throwing Rodney against Radek.
"Sorry about that," Sheppard said as he pulled the ship back on course.
Radek pulled Rodney upright and reached for his shirt again.
"I c'n d'it," Rodney muttered. He tugged at the wet t-shirt and glared at Radek.
Radek shook his head but stood with his back to Rodney. The jumper twitched, and Radek braced his hand against the wall between the cockpit and the rear section. He heard something wet land on the floor a few minutes later, glanced over his shoulder, and saw Rodney awkwardly trying to pull on the jumpsuit. McKay's hair stood up in short spikes, and once he had the jumpsuit zipped, Radek turned back around and wrapped the dry blanket around Rodney's shoulders.
"Better?" Radek asked as Rodney curled up on the bench seat.
Rodney nodded and closed his eyes.
Radek adjusted the blanket then walked back into the cockpit.
"How is he?" Sheppard asked as Radek sat in the co-pilot's seat and stared out the windscreen.
"Not good," Radek replied. "He is hypothermic, and thanks to the concussion, he isn't coherent. He is hurting, but the only medication we have is ibuprofen."
Sheppard grimaced and rubbed the back of his head.
That is the fourth time he has done that, Radek thought to himself. He looked from Rodney to Sheppard, saw Sheppard watching him, and swallowed the questions he wanted to ask.
"Umm, where are we?" he asked instead and looked out at the water. A school of silvery fish as long as his arm swam past, and Radek stared after them in amazement.
"We're at about seventeen hundred feet," Sheppard replied. "I don't dare go any faster."
Radek nodded and watched as a school of large, blue fish, that looked like a cross between a tuna and a swordfish, swam past, following the silvery fish. "In other circumstances, this would be fascinating," he said.
Sheppard smiled. "Rodney and I have been bugging Elizabeth for weeks to test one of the jumpers underwater." He glanced out the windscreen, then into the rear section of the jumper and sighed. "This is not what I had in mind."
"No," Radek agreed. "It is a shame we have no way to record what we are seeing. We will never have another opportunity for this sort of deep ocean diving."
Sheppard grunted, then checked the HUD and glanced into the rear section.
The next half-hour passed in silence. Radek divided his time between trying to catalogue any fish he saw swimming past and checking on Rodney.
"Rodney is asleep," Radek reported, walking back into the cockpit. "I also changed the bandage on his head. I think the wound has finally stopped bleeding."
"Good," Sheppard replied.
Radek glanced back at Rodney lying on the bench seat. "He is still shivering. I can adjust the temperature. It might help."
Sheppard glanced up at the HUD. "We're at fifteen hundred feet. We should be in radio -" An alarm cut him off.
Radek dove for the computer station and checked the screen.
There was a crashing noise from the rear section, and glancing back, Radek saw Rodney on the floor tangled in the blanket as he fought to sit up.
"No, no, no," Rodney muttered, trying to free himself. "Need to … Need to … do …"
"Radek?" Sheppard said.
"It is the shield," Radek replied and focused on the computer. "The power from the inertial dampeners is almost depleted. Power down to ten percent. We only have a few minutes before the shield fails. Maybe less."
"We're still too deep to risk the shield failing," Sheppard replied. "What else can we use to power it?"
"I-I don't …" Radek skimmed through the available systems. "We can use life support," he suggested.
"I think we kind of need that."
"Yes, but we don't need it for the whole ship," Radek replied, turning to Sheppard. "I can reroute resources away from the rear section, using that extra power for the shield, and we can seal the bulkhead, just like Rodney did. That will maintain minimal life support here in the cockpit but should give us enough power to get above the required thousand-foot depth."
"How minimal?" Sheppard asked.
Radek checked the system and grimaced. "It will probably get cold in here," he admitted.
"Great," Sheppard murmured. "All right, grab any more blankets you can find and get Rodney up here. Then reroute whatever power you can from the life support."
Radek nodded and hurried into the rear section. He found more blankets, dumped them in the seat behind Sheppard along with the first aid kit, then went back for Rodney.
"Come on, Rodney," Radek cajoled as he helped McKay stand.
"What?" Rodney muttered and tried to pull out of Radek's hold.
Radek picked up the abandoned blanket and wrapped it around Rodney's shoulders. "We all need to be in the front section of the jumper."
Rodney stared at him, then shook his head. "Can't. Flood-flooded w'water," he slurred and this time succeeded in pulling out of Radek's light hold. "Have a plan," he added in a conspiratorial whisper. "Cart'r doesn't tink it'll w'rk."
The pitch of the alarm changed, and Sheppard glanced into the rear section. "Hurry it up back there," he ordered.
"Yes, yes, coming, Colonel," Radek replied and guided Rodney toward the cockpit. "Everything will be fine," Radek promised McKay with a glance at Sheppard as he deposited Rodney in the co-pilot's seat.
Rodney shuddered as he glanced out the windscreen. "Underwater," he mumbled, clutching the blanket under his chin. "Too deep. No one will find you."
Radek slapped the control to seal the bulkhead, then sat in front of the computer at the station behind Rodney. "Ne, ne, ne," he muttered when the computer flashed an error message. "Já to vím, ty hloupá mašinko!"
"Radek? Any time," Sheppard said.
Radek grimaced and worked to hold his temper. "Yes, Colonel, I'm working on it. There are several safety protocols to prevent what I am trying to do." He glanced at the computer and saw the power levels drop below five percent. "Give me a few moments," he finished and typed another command string into the computer.
The jumper shuddered, and Radek heard Rodney muttering something about dying alone.
"I'm not sure we have a few moments!" Sheppard said.
Radek ignored Sheppard's comment and Rodney's muttering, and kept typing. The shield was seconds away from failure when Radek typed one last string of code into the computer.
"Life support power rerouted to the shield," he reported and watched as the power levels slowly rose back up to twenty percent. Radek slumped in his seat and added, "And the power should last until we are back above the cut off depth."
"Good work," Sheppard replied, adjusting their course.
"Thank you, Colonel," Radek replied. He rubbed his hands up and down his arms, then stood. He handed one of the blankets to Sheppard and glanced at Rodney.
"Thanks," Sheppard replied and wrapped the blanket around his shoulders.
The jumper dipped, and Sheppard gripped the controls, setting the ship back on its previous course.
"Should we let him sleep?" Radek asked when he noticed Rodney slumped in the co-pilot seat with his eyes closed.
"Leave him be for now," Sheppard said, and Radek noted the worried glance Sheppard gave McKay. "We should be in radio range soon. Beckett can tell us if we need to keep him awake."
Radek pressed his fingers against Rodney's cheek and frowned. "He is still too cold." He draped a second blanket over McKay and glanced out the windscreen as a dark shadow passed overhead. "What was that?"
Sheppard glanced at the HUD. "Not sure. Maybe it was Rodney's whale. Let's hope whatever it was kept going."
Radek nodded, picked up the last blanket and settled in the seat behind Rodney. "He is never going to let this go," Radek muttered a few minutes later.
"Who?" Sheppard asked.
"Rodney," Radek replied with a glance out the windscreen. "I told him … I told him I -"
"You told him you didn't like flying in general," Sheppard said.
Sheppard nodded. "Rodney may have mentioned it."
Radek sighed and looked down at his hands. "It was also my idea to try and repair the jumper using Earth-based technology instead of scrapping it and using it for spare parts."
"We don't know what happened, Doc," Sheppard said. "The accident could have had nothing to do with the repairs you made."
"It is a valid hypothesis," Radek insisted.
Sheppard glanced back at Radek, his expression serious. "You saved his life," he said. "Don't forget that."
Radek smiled. "I do not think that will matter."
"Hey," Sheppard said and waited for Radek to look at him. "It matters," Sheppard told him.
Radek studied Sheppard a moment longer, then nodded. "Thank you, Colonel."
Sheppard nodded and turned to Rodney with a concerned frown. "We're almost at twelve hundred feet. Didn't you say you were able to talk to Rodney and Griffin at this depth?"
"Yes, but the signal did not last long."
"We'll try it anyway," Sheppard said. He stretched his right arm and pressed one of the tiles on the co-pilot's panel. "This is Sheppard calling Atlantis Base. Please come in." He paused and tried again. "This is Sheppard. Is anyone reading me?" Sheppard looked out the windscreen and glanced up.
"I can try to boost the signal," Radek offered.
Sheppard shook his head. "I'll get us a little higher and try -"
"… pard? … tis … Base."
Sheppard glanced at Radek then over at Rodney. "This is Sheppard. You're breaking up."
"Colonel?" Elizabeth's voice ghosted out from the radio. "Can you read?"
"We read you," Sheppard replied.
"John, it's good to hear your voice," Elizabeth replied, then hesitated. "Did your plan work?"
Sheppard glanced at Rodney and shook his head. "Not exactly. The jumper was flooded by the time we found it."
"Doctor McKay and Captain Griffin?"
Radek hissed in a breath, and Sheppard glanced back at him.
Sheppard grimaced and glanced at the co-pilot seat when Rodney shifted and muttered something under his breath.
"We have McKay," Sheppard replied.
There was a brief silence over the radio, then, "Understood."
"Rodney is injured and hypothermic. I need to talk to Beckett," Sheppard said after a brief silence.
"He's here," Elizabeth said.
"Colonel Sheppard?" Beckett said a moment later. "What's Rodney's status?"
"Are we on open comms?" Sheppard asked.
"No," Beckett replied. "I'm on a secure channel in Elizabeth's office. What's happened?"
Radek stood and stepped between the two forward chairs.
"The good news is Rodney is alive, but he's not doing very well," Sheppard said. "He's got a pretty serious head wound. Took a while for the bleeding to stop."
"Was he conscious when you found him?"
"Yes, but he isn't now," Sheppard replied with a worried glance at Rodney. "He was saying something about Carter telling him to repressurise the jumper when we found him."
"Hallucinations from the concussion," Beckett replied. "And considering he was unconscious for an hour after the accident, not unexpected."
"The jumper was flooded by the time we got to him," Sheppard added. "He was soaked and coughing up water."
"Get him out of those wet clothes and wrap him in blankets," Carson said.
"Already done," Sheppard replied. "It wasn't long after that that he kinda crashed on us."
"After everything he's been through, that's not a surprise," Carson replied. "How is his breathing?"
Radek bent over Rodney and listened for a few seconds. "He is wheezing."
"Could be from the hypothermia or the water he inhaled," Beckett muttered.
"He is still shivering, and his skin is cold to the touch," Radek reported.
"The shivering is a good sign," Beckett replied. "It means his body is still active enough to try and warm itself up. Keep him wrapped in the blankets, but don't try to warm him up too much. The lower temperature may actually help as he readjusts to normal pressure."
"That will not be a problem," Radek said under his breath and clutched his blanket closer to his chin.
"Colonel, how are you and Radek?" Beckett asked.
"A little cold," Sheppard replied. "We had to take the life support down to minimum to power the shield."
"No dizziness or numbness in your extremities?"
Sheppard glanced up at Radek, who shook his head.
"No," Sheppard replied.
"Well, that's good at least."
"It's going to take another couple of hours to reach the surface," Sheppard said. "What do we need to do for Rodney in the meantime?"
"You're already doing it," Beckett replied. "Keep your ascent as slow as you can. That should help mitigate any decompression issues. Needless to say, you will all be spending the next forty-eight hours in the infirmary once you're back. As for Rodney, keep an eye on his breathing and let me know if anything changes."
"Roger that. Sheppard out."
Radek sat in the chair behind Rodney and checked the computer. "Shield power at fifteen percent," he reported.
Sheppard nodded and absently rubbed the back of his head.
Rodney is hurting, and Sheppard is affected by that pain as well, Radek realised. The diary mentioned something about bonded pairs and sensitivity to various moods and feelings. Was that how Sheppard tracked McKay? he wondered. He felt Rodney's pain and followed that?
Radek shivered and knew the reaction wasn't entirely from the cold. What was it like to know how someone else felt at any given moment? To feel pain that wasn't your own and be unable to stop it? Once again, he was amazed that Sheppard and Rodney would have chosen such a path.
Sheppard glanced at him, and Radek shifted his attention back to the computer. In the weeks since Doctor Chaudhri had given him the translated book, Radek had searched through the Ancient database looking for more information about the link, with little luck. He had tried bringing up the topic with Rodney a few times, but McKay had refused to talk about it, changing the subject any time Radek started to ask.
The problem was, he needed someone he could talk to. Someone to whom he could ask for advice on how to proceed. If he had pieced things together, how many others had? Radek shook his head and glanced at Rodney slumped in the co-pilot seat.
Rodney could be hard to live with at times, but Radek considered him a friend. The last thing he wanted was to cause harm by saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. He suspected Teyla knew about the link based on her reactions after Sheppard and Rodney were freed from the Ancient memory device. Knowing how Sheppard's team worked, he also assumed that Ronon might know something as well, but he had refrained from asking either of them for more details. He wouldn't risk Rodney or Sheppard's well-being on a hunch.
Radek sat and watched Sheppard pilot the ship for the next thirty minutes, debating what he should do.
"We're passing one thousand feet," Sheppard said into the silence.
Radek checked the computer and then the HUD. "Shutting down the shield," he replied. He typed a series of commands, and the computer confirmed the shield was down a moment later. "Give me a few minutes. I will route power back to the inertial dampeners and the life support."
"Don't raise the temperature too much," Sheppard reminded him with a glance at Rodney.
Radek nodded. He spent the next several minutes rerouting the power, then sat back in his seat. "The inertial dampeners are now back online, as is full life support."
"Atlantis Base to Colonel Sheppard," Weir said over the radio.
"This is Sheppard."
"Checking to see how you're doing, Colonel."
"We're above the thousand-foot cut off," Sheppard replied. "Now, it's just a matter of getting back to the surface."
"And how is Rodney?" Beckett asked.
"About the same," Sheppard replied with a glance at McKay. "He's still out, but his breathing doesn't sound any worse."
"How are you holding up?" Beckett asked.
Radek twitched in his seat and focused on the computer so Sheppard couldn't see his face. Was Beckett's question merely seeking information, or did he know about the link? he wondered.
"I'm fine," Sheppard replied, and Radek wondered if he imagined the subtle bite in Sheppard's answer. "We should be back in the city in another hour or so."
"Understood, Colonel," Weir said. "Atlantis out."
They reached the surface an hour later, and Radek closed his eyes as the jumper left the ocean and the afternoon sunlight blazed through the windscreen.
"Atlantis Base, this is Sheppard."
"Go ahead," Chuck replied.
"We've cleared the water and are on our way back."
"Roger that, Colonel. Doctor Beckett has a team standing by in the jumper bay."
"Understood. See you in a few. Sheppard out."
Ten minutes later, the ship touched down in the jumper bay, and Radek blew out a silent breath of relief.
"Radek? Colonel Sheppard?" Carson asked as he hurried into the cockpit.
"Hey, Doc," Sheppard replied as Beckett knelt next to Rodney.
Carson pressed his hand against Rodney's cheek and forehead, then lifted an edge of the bandage and frowned. "Rodney? Can you hear me?" Carson asked and tapped McKay's cheek.
"Hungh," Rodney murmured and shifted in his chair.
"Let's get him back to the infirmary," Carson said with a glance at Jason standing in the doorway. "Tell Sharon I'll need blood samples, and I want a chest x-ray as well as a scan of his skull."
"Yes, sir," Jason replied.
Radek pressed himself into a corner of the cockpit as the med techs lifted Rodney out of the co-pilot's seat and carried him through the rear section to the waiting gurney.
"As for the pair of you," Carson said once the medical team left with McKay, "you need to be in the infirmary too. You both need to be on oxygen and under observation."
Sheppard nodded, and Radek thought he looked strangely pleased with the news they would be in the infirmary.
"What about Rodney?" Sheppard asked as they left the jumper bay, and Radek suddenly understood.
"I need to run some tests, but the fact that he was still mostly coherent when you found him is a good sign," Carson replied. "We'll get him warmed up, and that head wound will likely need stitches. Assuming there are no complications from the concussion or the decompression, he should be fine."
The door to the infirmary whispered open a few minutes later, and Carson ushered them inside. "Let Serafina check you over while I deal with Rodney," he said to Sheppard and nodded at Radek.
Sheppard nodded. "Thanks, Carson."
"You're welcome, lad," Beckett replied. "Once I know more, I'll let you know."
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
Several hours later, John sat in an infirmary bed and watched Rodney sleep in the bed next to him. McKay's face no longer had the pinched, in pain, expression, and his color had improved. However, his face was still obscured by an oxygen mask, and a large bandage covered his forehead.
"You need to get some rest," Carson admonished as he walked over to John's bed carrying a tablet computer in one hand.
John shrugged. "Not really tired." He nodded at Rodney and added, "How's he doing?"
Carson sighed and glanced at Rodney. "About as well as can be expected. His core temperature is almost back to normal. So far, he doesn't show any indications of decompression sickness, but I want to keep him on the mask until morning, just to be safe."
"And the rest?" John asked. "Before he crashed, he kept muttering about Carter telling him to do things." Among other things, John added to himself, remembering Rodney's mumblings about whales and water flooding the jumper.
Carson nodded. "He is definitely concussed. By some miracle, he didn't crack his skull at the same time. I stitched the laceration, but he's going to have to take things slow for the next week or so. He'll be prone to headaches for a while. Bright lights and loud noises, not to mention sitting in front of a computer for any length of time, will only make things worse."
John nodded and toyed with a loose thread in the blanket. He looked up when Carson tapped him on the leg.
"He's going to be fine," Carson said. "It's just going to take some time." He studied John for a moment and added, "As for you and Radek, it looks like the oxygen treatments worked, and you shouldn't have to worry about any kind of decompression issues. I still want to keep both of you the full forty-eight hours, just to be sure."
"And Rodney?" John asked.
"He's going to be here a few days. I want to make sure he's stable and that the concussion is resolving." Carson glanced at Radek sleeping in the bed across from Rodney. "Is everything else all right?" he asked in a near-whisper.
John nodded and rubbed the back of his head. "I haven't felt any spikes."
Carson shook his head. "That's not what I meant. I know Rodney is doing as well as expected. I meant you."
"I'm okay," John replied. "A bit of a headache, and the itch is there."
The infirmary door opened, and Elizabeth walked over to John's bed.
"I'll get you something for the headache," Carson said with a nod to Elizabeth.
"John," Elizabeth said once Carson was gone. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," John said. "Beckett says if we're good, he'll release me and Radek in a day or two."
Elizabeth nodded and glanced at McKay. "The weekly check-in with the SGC is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. I'll let General Landry know what happened and the loss of Captain Griffin. I was going to wait until the Daedalus returned to hold the memorial since he was a part of their crew."
"Sounds reasonable," John replied and glanced at the other bed when Rodney started to twitch.
McKay settled a few seconds later, and John looked up when he felt Elizabeth watching him. "What?"
Elizabeth pursed her lips. "Are you sure you're okay?"
John scrubbed a hand over his face. "This one was way too close," he admitted. "If Zelenka hadn't thought of a way to first switch the cloak to a shield and then extend that shield to cover Rodney's jumper …" John's voice petered out as he glanced at the other bed.
Carson walked back over to the bed with a paper cup. "Here," he said and handed John the cup. Elizabeth poured a glass of water and gave it to John.
"Thanks," John said and swallowed the pills.
"Don't stay too long," Carson said to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth nodded. "I should go," she said and took a step away from the bed.
"Have Ronon and Teyla checked in yet?" John asked.
"Yes," Elizabeth said, turning back to John. "And they know what happened. I told them you were all going to be fine. Halling and Teyla have a few more trades to make, and they will be back in a few days."
John nodded and rubbed his forehead.
"I'll let you get some rest," Elizabeth said, patting John's leg.
John watched her leave, then glanced at Rodney. "Way too close," he muttered and settled back in the bed.