Title: VOICES CARRY
Disclaimer: None of them are mine. :pouts:
Rating: Adult - for language
Summary: John gets whumped. What? Like you're surprised?
"It's a waste of time!" Rodney declared.
John glared at him then ignored him as Weir's voice came over his ear piece.
"Problems, Major?" she asked.
"Not really," John replied. "Just checking in with you before closing the deal. I want to make sure you approve."
There was a moment of silence then Weir's voice came through sounded a both surprised and amused. "I appreciate you asking first," she allowed. "So what is the deal? Do the Cerulin's have anything worth trading?"
John smiled at his teammates before replying. "We hit the motherlode," he proclaimed, then he waited a beat before adding, "In fruit."
"Fruit?" Elizabeth's voice echoed back at them.
"All kinds of fruit, ma'am," Ford interjected. "Stuff that tastes like apples and oranges and bananas and bunches of other things."
Another silence before Elizabeth replied, "Really?"
John chuckled. "Really."
"I'm assuming you've tasted it even though it wasn't tested yet." Elizabeth's voice sounded disapproving.
"Taste tests work best," John replied. "Besides, we didn't do it on purpose. We were invited to supper and they served us the fruit. The Cerulin's have been eating it for centuries and they're perfectly healthy."
"Sounds good then," Elizabeth allowed. "So what do they want in return?"
Rodney piped up. "Bonding."
John was about to explain when Weir spoke again.
"Did I hear you say bonding?"
"You did," Rodney replied. "They have some kind of ceremonial ritual to complete a trading agreement. They want Major Sheppard to bond with their spirits." Rodney's tone made it clear he thought the idea was ridiculous.
Teyla jumped in to explain further. "The Cerulin's culture is firmly based in their spiritual beliefs. They are more than willing to trade with us and ask only for our understanding of their beliefs, our friendship and for Major Sheppard to take part in the bonding ceremony."
Elizabeth released a sigh loud enough to echo through the ear pieces. "Okay. What does the ceremony entail?"
"I believe Major Sheppard will be required to drink some Hilia Juice from the sacred bowl then he will join the spiritual leader, Kethen, in the chambers below. Sacred chambers. They will meditate for a few hours then return and the agreement will be concluded and we will be on our way."
"There isn't anything funny in the juice, is there?" Elizabeth queried.
Teyla shook her head then realized Weir couldn't see her. "No. We had some of the juice with our meal. It is harmless."
John decided to jump in at this point. "So...what do you say, boss? Sound like a plan?"
"Are you okay with this, major?" Elizabeth countered.
"A few hours napping..I mean, meditating, sound like a mini vacation to me."
"Waste of time," McKay interjected in a stage whisper.
John glared at him again. "I'm sending McKay and Ford back. They don't need to stick around. Teyla can keep watch while I'm meditating and we'll be home in a few hours with our first basket of fruit."
A short moment of silence then Elizabeth replied, "You have a go, Major. I'll be expecting Dr. McKay and Lt. Ford to be on their way. Weir out."
"You're really going to meditate for fruit?" Rodney was shaking his head in disbelief as he stared at Sheppard.
"Why not?" John shrugged. "Everybody loves fruit, Rodney. You were scarfing down those things that tasted like bananas."
Rodney looked insulted. "I was not scarfing. I was trying not to be insulting. I didn't want the Cerulin's to think I didn't like their food."
John snorted. "Well...I think they got the hint. There weren't any crumbs left on your plate and you did a clean sweep of most of the platters."
"I was hungry!" Rodney grumbled. "I didn't get to eat lunch before we came here."
"You made up for that," John teased, then he turned to Ford. "Listen...head back to Atlantis with McKay. Teyla and I will finish up here and see you back there in a few hours."
Ford nodded. "Yes, sir. Come on, Dr. McKay."
Rodney waved a hand at him. "Yes, yes...coming." His attention was focused on the scanner he was holding."
"Anything?" John asked, out of curiosity. McKay looked very intense all of the sudden.
"Nothing." Rodney was frowning. "I thought I detected something but it must have been my eyes playing tricks on me. The data is showing nothing."
John was relieved to hear that. Just once it would be nice for a mission to run smoothly. "Okay then...see you later."
Rodney nodded and headed off after Ford.
"Kethen is waiting for us," Teyla said, quietly, from Sheppard's shoulder.
"Let's go then," John replied. He rather liked this place and its people. They reminded him of gypsies. They had swarthy skin and dark hair and they dressed in colorful clothing. They're village was sheltered within a mountain pass and the huts they lived in formed a circle, caravan style. They looked mobile to John so maybe the Cerulin's were nomadic. He couldn't blame them. No reason not to keep on the move if it would keep them ahead of the Wraith. Only John knew there was no escaping a culling.
He shook off such dark thoughts as he and Teyla crossed the compound to where Kethen stood before what his people called the temple. Basically, it was an opening in the side of the mountain. Or, rather, it was an opening dug out from what looked like several rock falls. It had been stabilized by thick tree branches. At least John hoped it was stabilized. Because it was there he would have to enter and go below to the Chambers.
Kethen was smiling as they reached him. He had a full beard and a thick mustache and his long hair was pulled back into a pony-tail. He wore a red robe trimmed with purple over his trousers and shirt. "Are you ready, Major Sheppard?" he asked.
"As ready as I can be," John allowed.
"Then drink." Kethen accepted a glittery bowl from a young girl and held it out to Sheppard.
John accepted it and recognized the pale pink liquid as the Helia juice they drank at supper, just as Teyla had mentioned to Weir. So John smiled then took a swallow before handing the bowl back. He watched Kethen do the same then the Cerulin was leading him to the opening. John paused to look at Teyla. "Be back soon," he promised, then he stepped inside.
Three hours later John and Teyla stepped through the gate, lugging a huge basket between them, overflowing with fruit. They were greeted by Weir and a couple of marines and the horticulturalist. She ordered two of the marines to grab the basket and follow her to her greenhouse. Weir had given her permission to take samples from all of the fruits.
"Well done, Major," Elizabeth offered in greeting.
John smiled at her. "Thanks. I wish all of our mission were this easy and this successful."
Elizabeth nodded. "Amen to that. Ford briefed me on the mission and after you check in with Carson you can fill me in on the ceremony. It went well, I take it?"
"I think I slept through most of it," John admitted, feeling a bit sheepish. "Kethen asked that I not talk about the chamber, so I can't give you details, which are pretty fuzzy anyway. It was dark for the most part anyway. But then we sat down and we were supposed to meditate and I dozed off. Which, luckily, didn't seem to offend Kethen. Then we came back out and Teyla was waiting with the basket of fruit." John shrugged. "There you go...you've been briefed."
"Good enough," Elizabeth allowed. "Just write it up when you get a chance." She nodded to him and Teyla then strode off.
John knew she was a very busy woman. He rolled his shoulders, which felt a bit stiff, then rubbed the back of his neck.
Teyla was watching. "Are you all right, Major?"
"Just a little achy. Probably from sitting in the same position for so long." John smiled at her then gestured toward the stairs. "Ready to get poked and prodded?"
"Ready," Teyla confirmed.
So they headed for the infirmary. Fifteen minutes later, Teyla was released with a clean bill of health.
John wasn't quite so lucky. He frowned as he watched Beckett take a blood sample from his left arm. "Why am I the only one who has to give blood?" John protested.
"Because you're the only one that drank from the ceremonial bowl," Carson replied, pleasantly. "And you're the one with glassy eyes and suffering some aches and pains."
"I have a headache, big deal!" John shot back. He would have said more but his stomach suddenly roiled and he clamped a hand over his mouth.
Beckett recognized the signs and grabbed for a basin. He got it under Sheppard just in time.
John heaved until he felt like his stomach was going to come out through his nose. By the time he was finally done, he felt sweaty and shaky and he was more than willing to lie back against the pillows. A nurse brought him some water to rinse his mouth and John was grateful. Then he asked, "Anyone got a piece of mint gum?" Gum had always helped to settle his stomach.
"In my desk drawer," Carson told the nurse, then he grinned at Sheppard. "So you know that trick too?"
"By accident, but it works," John replied, his voice sounding hoarse.
Carson nodded. "Aye...it does."
The nurse returned with the gum and John thanked her then popped it in his mouth. "Much better," he sighed.
"I think I'm going to keep you here at least overnight, major," Carson stated. "You're a bit dehydrated so I'll give you an IV and I want to make sure you don't have some kind of virus or a flu bug." He pressed a hand to Sheppard's forehead. "No fever."
"Isn't that the unorthodox, and highly ineffective, method of checking for fever?" John teased.
Carson made a face at him. "It's effective if you know what you're doing," he shot back. But there was a glint of merriment in his eyes. "Janice will bring you a set of scrubs. Get changed and then I'll get your IV hooked up. After that you can rest."
John didn't argue the point. He wouldn't win even if he did and, truth be told, he felt worn out enough at this moment to be willing to stay where he was. He didn't have the luxury of being sick, so if a night in the infirmary could help him feel better and be on his way in the morning, so be it.
So when Janice brought the scrubs, John got changed. Then he slid under the covers and watched as Beckett hooked up an IV. By the time it was in he was drifting off to sleep.
John came awake with a jolt. He could feel his heart thudding hard in his chest. He could feel the way his pulse was racing and he was breathing fast, trying to gulp in air, but his lungs felt as if they wouldn't expand enough to let him breathe deep. It was as if he was suffocating.
He looked around and everything looked pale and faded and unfamiliar. He lifted a hand to his face and it came away wet, and there was a tug of pain in the back of his hand and he realized something was taped there. He yanked it off him, ignoring the pain and scrambled off the bed. He didn't know where he was. But he could hear his heartbeat in his ear, it was getting louder and louder and John was terrified. He backed himself into a corner and huddled down into it. He had never been so scared in all his life. He didn't even know what he was scared of. But the fear wrapped around him, squeezing him, suffocating him. A whimper escaped him and suddenly hands were on him and he jerked away.
"NO! NO!" John tried to back up but the wall was behind him.
"Major...it's okay, laddie. It's me. It's Carson. You're okay."
He recognized the voice. It was familiar and he stared at the man and he knew him but the terror intensified instead of receding. So John pushed him away and tried to step over him, tried to run. He had to get out of here only he didn't know which way was out. He stumbled over something and fell to his knees and before he could get up something heavy pinned him down. John tried to struggle against it but the fear had paralyzed his muscles. He couldn't move. Couldn't scream.
A prick in his shoulder, a cold rush in his veins, then darkness swirled him away.