Rodney's eyes flew open and he found himself in the infirmary. The bright light hurt his eyes and sent a spike of pain through his head. He couldn't help letting out a small whimper, which drew some unwanted attention.
"Dr. McKay, are you all right?" asked one of the nurses. Rodney squeezed his eyes closed again and hoped she would leave. Instead, she pried one of his eyelids open to check his pupils with a penlight. Rodney couldn't help himself; he shrieked and tried to slide off the bed to get away. "Get Dr. Beckett!" he heard the nurse say to someone else.
His sudden movement made him nauseous. Rodney ignored the flurry of medical personnel around him and curled himself into a ball, trying not to lose his nonexistent lunch. He started to feel lightheaded and a roaring noise filled his ears. He realized he was only seconds away from passing out again.
A hand fell on his shoulder, warm and reassuring. Someone gently coaxed him into a sitting position and rubbed his back as he tried to get his breathing under control. "That's it, nice and easy," a voice soothed. After a few minutes of this Rodney was finally able to open his eyes again.
"Carson?" he whispered.
Rodney nodded. "How did I get here this time?" he rasped.
Carson pulled up a chair and sat down next to Rodney's bed. "What do you remember?" he asked.
"Nothing. Why else would I be asking you how I got here?!"
The physician smiled at his friend's irascibility. "Ah, Rodney. 'Tis good to see you feelin' more like yourself again."
"Very funny." He knew he wasn't fooling Carson with the grouchy act; the man could see through him very effectively.
"The last thing I remember was going to the southern corridors. We were going to inspect some storm damage..." Rodney's voice trailed off as memory returned, and a horrified look appeared on his face. "Oh my God, I almost drowned! What happened to the others? We..."
"Rodney, calm down," Carson interrupted firmly before the physicist could start hyperventilating again. "Everyone's fine. You got your people out of the area before the bulkhead sealed you in."
"How did you get me out?"
"We didn't." Carson slowly explained to Rodney what had actually happened.
"You're kidding me," said Rodney.
"No, lad, I'm not. You teleported yourself out of a water-filled room. Almost didn't make it, I might add."
Rodney's face paled. "How is that possible?"
"I don't know," Carson admitted. "And if I did, you'd probably accuse me of sheep-sacrificing, or some other nonsense like that," he said wryly.
"Probably," Rodney agreed absently. The physician snorted.
Rodney's tone changed suddenly. "So what happens now?" he asked, with an air of resignation.
"What do you mean?" Carson was used to his friend's non-linear thought processes, but that didn't mean he could always follow them.
"Well, I'm assuming that Sheppard won't want me on the team anymore, so..."
"Why would you assume that?" said a voice from behind them. Both Carson and Rodney turned to see John, who had walked into the infirmary without anyone noticing. "I'm not kicking you off the team. You don't get away so easily."
"You really want someone who might disappear into thin air on missions? I wouldn't."
John smirked. "You were disappearing into thin air long before this happened, Rodney. You always wander off to investigate weird energy signals without telling me. I'm used to it by now."
"Oh, great. So now I'm some sort of nuisance," Rodney griped. But he was trying to hide a grin.
"Definitely. So now that we've got that settled, how are you feeling?"
Rodney hesitated, and Carson gave him a look that said, you'd better tell the truth. "Exhausted," he admitted, "and my head still hurts."
The physician didn't look too surprised. "That's to be expected in someone who almost drowned. And in someone who was trying to cover up the fact that he hadn't slept in days."
Rodney glared at John, who didn't look at all guilty at having blabbed.
Carson stood up. "All right," he said in a businesslike tone. "Despite Major Sheppard's not kicking your sorry bum off his team, you're in no condition to return to work yet." He held up a hand to forestall the protest already on Rodney's lips. "We'll discuss it again in a few days. In the meantime, I actually do have a few tests I want to run. I don't know if you'll ever be able to jaunt again, but I'd like to know if it changed your brain wave pattern at all."
"Jaunt?" asked Rodney.
Carson grimaced. "Never mind; I'll explain later." He raised an eyebrow at John, who took it as his cue to leave. As the major walked out, though, he drew Carson aside.
"No sealed glass tanks, right?" John said. It wasn't entirely a question.
"God forbid," Carson said. "Now scram, Major."
One year later
Carson shook his head. Drowning was getting to be a bad habit for his friend. Radek and John had just rescued Rodney from a downed puddlejumper at the bottom of the ocean. All three of them had finished decompression, and Rodney was now occupying the same bed as when he'd teleported himself out of trouble a year ago. He'd never been able to do it again, even under the threat of death.
Once again, Rodney looked exhausted and haggard. The physician hated to wake him, but he needed to check his neurologic functions. Carson gently lifted an eyelid to assess Rodney's pupillary reactions, and expertly dodged the hand that shot out to smack him. Rodney was nothng if not cranky when first awakened.
"Sorry," the physician whispered. "I'll be done in a few minutes. Can you wiggle your toes for me?"
Rodney obeyed, although it was obvious to Carson that he still wasn't completely conscious. After finishing the exam, Carson turned to go, but was stopped by Rodney's mumbled, "Well, at least now we know one thing for sure."
"And what's that?"
"I obviously can't teleport at will. If I could, I would have done it instead of hallucinating blonde astrophysicists."
Carson snorted. "What goes through your mind, even concussed, scares me sometimes. Go back to sleep, Rodney. You just bought yourself another day of neuro checks."
He quickly left before the bitching could start.