A little, mildly light-hearted whump fic written for the Shep HC LJ "Addiction" challenge. Second chapter to follow shortly…
All feedback welcomed.
Sheppard had a headache.
Specifically, he had a self-induced headache and the knowledge that it was all his own fault did absolutely nothing for his misery – or his mood.
The computer screen was starting to blur, no matter how hard he concentrated on it. God damned paperwork. He hated it with a passion. It always seemed to accumulate faster than he could clear it and he had gradually found himself months behind and had taken the desperate decision to pull an all-nighter in a last-ditch attempt to get up to date and get his inbox cleared – even if just for one day.
And now the early dawn light was creeping in through the window, his inbox was still not clear and he was starting to seriously regret the several cups of coffee he had drunk in an attempt to stay awake. He didn't normally drink a lot of coffee and his pounding head was a painfully good reminder as to why; withdrawal's a bitch.
He rubbed his eyes tiredly and tried to concentrate on the latest survey report from the anthropology team stating the many and complex reasons why they wanted to schedule a long-term survey mission to planet MT6-84S. It appeared to have been written by someone who had far too much time on their hands and an over-used copy of Roget's thesaurus. He was pretty sure he'd spent at least five minutes reading the same sentence over and over and he still couldn't make head nor tail of it. He gave up with a groan, leaning back in his chair and arching his aching back, stretching his arms over his head, feeling the tension pulling in his neck and shoulders. This damn report would be confusing if he'd had a full night's sleep; as tired as he was, it was incomprehensible.
He stretched until he thought he heard something crack and then slumped forward in his chair, leaning his elbows on the desk and his head in his hands in a pose of abject despair. He decided to admit defeat; Paperwork 1, Sheppard 0. He glared at the computer screen with weak loathing and told it, "You win this time, my friend.. but the battle is far from over." He rose stiffly from his chair on legs half numb from hours of inactivity and shook his limbs out briefly, trying to get some blood-flowing, get some energy back into his tired body.
He checked his watch: 5am Atlantis time. Too early to be up and too late to even try and get some sleep. The pain in his temples throbbed and he thought briefly about heading to the commissary for more coffee but quickly decided against it; he'd only be delaying the inevitable and he'd rather deal with the caffeine headache now, while he had a free day, than be suffering while on-duty. He wandered his room restlessly for a moment, unable to settle to anything; the caffeine comedown was making him feel jittery and tense. He sighed in frustration.
To hell with this. He grabbed his water bottle and filled it up from the Ancients' idea of a washbasin in his bathroom, taking a quick swig before snapping the lid closed. He figured he'd go for a run – the exercise would do him good, wake him up a bit, maybe sweat some of the caffeine out of his system. He raised his legs one at a time onto the edge of his desk and stretched briefly, bouncing on his feet a little, loosening up his muscles.
The door slid open as he approached it, revealing the half-lit, empty corridors of a slumbering city. Water bottle in hand, John set out onto a familiar route through the winding corridors of Atlantis, quickly settling into an easy, loping stride. Focusing his concentration solely on the pounding rhythm of his feet hitting the floor, he pushed aside his tiredness, pushed aside the pain in his head, and lost himself in the soothing, oddly absorbing release of physical exertion.
Sheppard often took early morning runs, though admittedly not usually whilst wired on zero sleep and too much coffee, and over time had mapped out a couple of good routes through the city. Sometimes Ronon joined him on his runs, sometimes he preferred to be alone. This morning he took things at a gentle pace till he cleared the main area of living quarters and then took a sharp turn, picking up speed as he set out on a long, winding route that took in some of the remoter parts of this section of the city.. and some pretty awesome views along the way. He often chose this route on nights when he couldn't sleep; the distance was enough to be tiring, and was usually enough to burn off whatever stress or emotion was keeping him awake, and the views of the city on the return leg, as the sun began to rise over the liquid horizon, were stunning – and a timely and pertinent reminder of just how much he had to be thankful for, how lucky he was to be here in this incredible city and to have found a family of sorts amongst the disparate personalities of the expedition.
He ran for a long time, his rhythm steady, his feet pounding the floor. Before long he was breathing hard from the exertion but his breaths remained even and controlled. This was part of what Sheppard loved about running – the chance to switch off, to forget his fears and worries and just lose himself in motion and the rhythmic, controlled push and pull and stretch of muscle and sinew. He felt strong and sure and in control when he ran, perfectly in tune with each movement of his body.
Sheppard ran and ran and forgot about paperwork, forgot his tiredness and his headache. His body moved in its own instinctive rhythm and he let himself get carried away by the drumbeat of his feet hitting the floor, his heart thumping in his chest. He sped through the waking city like a silent ghost, passing through empty corridors, deserted passageways, only vaguely aware of the bright, warm light of the rising sun starting to filter through the patterned glass of the many windows as he headed back into the inhabited areas of the city.
Naturally quick reflexes and years of training had honed his reactions so much that he responded instinctively when a door suddenly opened as he approached it, swerving aside without even making a conscious decision to do so. Not fast enough however, at the speed he was moving, to completely avoid the figure that stepped abruptly into the corridor and right into his path. He had a brief impression of brown hair and a blue science shirt before he slammed heavily into the man and the two of them went down in a tangle of limbs.
Jesus, that hurt. He'd taken the brunt of the fall, twisting instinctively to try and minimise the damage to his unfortunate victim, and his body seemed to ache all over from the impact. A tender throbbing area at the back of his skull informed him in no uncertain terms that his head had hit the floor with a fair amount of force and his caffeine headache had decided to reawaken and join in the party of pain. He groaned softly as a heavy weight lifted itself from across his legs.
"OW! Dammit, Sheppard! Are you trying to kill me?"
He dragged his head up enough to see Dr Rodney McKay clambering awkwardly to his knees whilst giving John a filthy look and launching into what promised to be a lengthy tirade. Sheapprd let his head sink back with a groan.
"What the hell were you doing running around the city at this hour of the morning? And have you never heard of looking where you're going? Ow! I think I've twisted something. This is all your fault, Sheppard! I'll have you know I bruise very easily, you could have done untold damage. Honestly, you military types with your running and your exercise.."
John lay still and let the angry flow of words wash over him. His head really hurt. His body felt bruised and battered, his muscles stiff and painful. Movement seemed like a really bad idea right now.
"Sheppard? Colonel?" McKay finally seemed to have noticed that his angry lecture was not getting much response from John and his words petered out as he crawled over to peer down at Sheppard with something approaching concern. "What's wrong with you?"
Only McKay could make concern sound like an accusation. John shifted weakly. Much as he hated to move right now, lying here on the floor for any length of time was not really an option. With an effort of will, he managed to roll over onto his side and had to stop for a moment, breathing heavily as his vision swam and his head pounded dizzily.
He swallowed. "I'm good." His voice came out sounding oddly thick and slurred.
"You don't look good. You look as white as a sheet." The accusing tone came back with a vengeance, "Are you sick? Why are you out running if you're sick?"
"I'm fine. S'just a headache." John planted a hand firmly on the floor and pushed himself up, clambering slowly and unsteadily to his knees and, with the aid of the nearest wall, eventually to his feet. He stood swaying queasily, not quite feeling secure enough on his feet to let go of that wall just yet, and listened to McKay panic.
"A headache? You went out running with a headache? What are you, insane? Okay, who am I talking to here? Forget I asked that. Only you would think a 5 mile jog is an ideal treatment for a headache. Oh, wait. Did you have the headache before you went jogging? Or only since.. oh, god. Did you hit your head? Are you standing there being all stoic about a serious concussion? I'm calling Carson.."
"No. I'm good. Just gimme a minute.."
The look on McKay's face was profoundly sceptical. "I don't think your definition of good and mine are quite the same, Colonel," he stated a little sharply.
John sighed. His head really did hurt. And the corridor was developing a disturbing tendency to sway gently. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to see Carson, maybe get some Tylenol and then hit the sack; he was starting to feel more than a little the worse for wear for his sleepless night. He looked up to see McKay regarding him with narrowed eyes, his hand hovering over his earpiece.
"AlrtllgoseeCarsn," he mumbled a little resentfully.
"What was that?" McKay needled.
He glared at McKay, who wasn't even trying to hide his smugly superior expression. He knew damn well Rodney had understood his response but the scientist just couldn't resist revelling in his victory.
With a resigned sigh, John turned his back on McKay and set off in the direction of the infirmary. He had taken no more than five steps when the corridor abruptly spun around him and he listed suddenly to the side, dizzy and off-balance. He was vaguely aware of a yelp of surprise from McKay as he stumbled into the wall and then Rodney's face was peering concernedly into his, the scientist's features oddly blurred, as John slid slowly down the wall, McKay's hands on his arms trying to control his descent as his legs gave way beneath him.
The dizzying sensation was making him nauseous and he found himself panting heavily, trying desperately to quell his rebellious stomach. He was distantly aware of McKay's voice, sounding oddly distant even though he could still feel a steadying hand on his shoulder, speaking to someone over the radio. Probably calling Carson. For once Sheppard felt crummy enough that he didn't bother protesting. He really was feeling quite incredibly bad just now; the pain in his head had spiked again, building to a throbbing crescendo, and his vision refused to stop blurring and twisting. He tried closing his eyes to shut out the sight of the corridor swaying and moving but that just made him feel even worse as his screwed-up equilibrium intensified the sensation of falling and spinning, making him swallow convulsively as his stomach roiled.
John's attention was so focused internally, so much concentration required just to breathe though the pain and the nausea and to convince his body not to throw up, that he kind of zoned out a little, losing track of the passage of time as he half-sat, half-lay against the wall with McKay hovering anxiously over him. It seemed to John that he'd only just heard McKay telling Carson to "get down here" when he was startled out of his fugue by a gentle touch lifting his eyelids and a bright light shining into his eyes. He cringed away from the painful light, unable to hold back a cry of pain as his headache surged unbearably, and lashed out blindly, trying to push the flashlight away.
"Easy, son." His wrist was caught in a firm grip and he blinked away the glaring after-images from the flashlight to find Carson's piercing blue eyes peering down at him. John swallowed thickly as the doctor's face blurred and separated into two separate, distinct Carsons before he blinked again and found them quickly merged back together.
"Hey, Doc…" Was that really his voice? It sounded odd - weak and slurred.
Carson's fingers were firm on his chin, holding his head still and the doctor was asking him questions – did he know who he was, did he know where he was – and telling him to follow the unsteady blur of his finger from left to right and back again. He tried his best to comply, his breathing rapid and shallow as he tried to stave off the rising nausea.
"I think he hit his head." Rodney's words floated down to Sheppard from somewhere far away and then hands were leaning him gently forward, fingers running through his hair and he hissed out his pain as they found and probed the tender lump at the back of his skull.
"Okay, let's get him on the gurney."
There were more hands on him now; gripping his arms and his legs, supporting his head as he was lifted bodily into the air. The ceiling swung around dizzily overhead and he groaned, screwing his eyes shut.
"Is he okay?"
"Does he look okay, Rodney? He has a concussion, from the look of things a severe one at that. I need to get him to the infirmary."
The nausea was rising again and John began to struggle against the hands holding to the gurney, trying to roll onto his side, instinctively wanting to curl around his queasy stomach.
"Colonel Sheppard, I need you to lie still for me, son."
John opened his eyes to find two Carsons looking down at him. He blinked owlishly; still two Carsons. John grimaced. "I don't feel so good, doc.." He had trouble forming the words, his voice slurring almost drowsily. His head was pounding horribly. He closed his eyes for a moment as his stomach spasmed, his body twisting involuntarily as he pushed down the urge to retch. When he opened his eyes again there was only one Carson standing over him as the hands pushed him flat on his back and fastened straps to hold him in place.
"I know, son." Carson's voice was calm, as gentle as ever, but there was a frown on the doctor's face and for a moment John's blurry vision cleared enough for him to see the traces of concern in those sharp blue eyes.
"Let's get you to the infirmary and get you checked out."TBC…