I've been dying for a tag to Submersion since I first saw the episode. This idea has been bouncing around in my head for awhile now, and finally, I was able to get it down on paper. Are there any other tags out there to this episode? I don't think I've seen any. Hope you enjoy this!!
TAG TO SUBMERSION
John Sheppard eased himself down on the bunk, feeling exhaustion rush in as he realized everyone was safe and the danger had passed. He should have known by now that nothing every worked according to plan in the Pegasus Galaxy, but a long forgotten underwater drilling station on Atlantis's homeworld seemed the last place any of them would run into trouble—especially trouble in the form of a Wraith Queen.
He pinched the bridge of his nose as the headache he'd been ignoring began to throb on one side of his head with increased intensity. Having a Wraith Queen in your head, then being thrown into a wall by an ocean rushing through the broken window of a jumper, then walking along the bottom of said ocean to the Wraith ship and back after having confronted the Queen, and all that time worrying about Teyla and Elizabeth and McKay and Ronon and Zelenka and all the other scientists…No wonder he was exhausted.
As Teyla and Ronon settled down on their bunks, he shook his head at Rodney McKay's energy and enthusiasm when the man rushed into the room dismayed at his team's lack of excitement over everything they still had to discover on the drilling station. It boggled John sometimes: for someone who complained endlessly about the physical exertions required of him, his stamina when it came to things scientific was unending.
Elizabeth—blessed Elizabeth—mustered up the energy to join McKay, which allowed the rest of his team to sink into their bunks. He smiled gratefully at her as they left, and she gave him an exasperated grin back. The release of tension he was feeling seemed to be reflected in her own face.
"Well, I for one intend to spend the next little while resting," Teyla said, bundling up her jacket and placing it at the head of her bunk as a pillow.
"Same here," Ronon answered. He was already sprawled on his bunk.
"Yeah, same here," John added. He leaned slowly back on the bed, wincing slightly as the pain in the side of his head spiked a little. A soft groan escaped his lips, but neither Ronon nor Teyla seemed to notice. At least, neither one of them said anything.
He closed his eyes as he struggled into a comfortable position, wondering if there was a switch somewhere that would turn the lights off. The rescue jumper would arrive within the hour, which gave John at least a few minutes to rest, maybe even catch a short nap. It wouldn't be anywhere near long enough to overcome the bone-weary exhaustion that was quickly overtaking him, but it would help. Just a little.
Teyla was dozing more than actually sleeping, so when she heard the soft footfalls enter the dark room, she immediately opened her eyes to identify who it was. A part of her was still a little ramped up from her encounter with the Wraith Queen, despite her certainty that there were no more Wraith nearby, and she was just managing to keep the guilt of allowing herself to be overtaken by the Queen in the first place at bay.
Radek Zelenka stood framed in the doorway. He seemed hesitant about entering the dark room, but given what they had all just recently experienced, Teyla could understand where he was coming from. Ronon shifted in his bunk, and she realized he was awake as well.
"Yes, Radek?" She asked quietly.
He jumped slightly at the sound of her voice, and she watched his silhouette nervously smooth down his jacket before responding.
"The rescue jumper has arrived. We are preparing to return to Atlantis."
"Thank you. We will join you in a moment."
The silhouette's nod was just barely visible, and then Zelenka disappeared from sight, presumably toward the jumper. As Teyla stood up and stretched, wearily brushing back her hair, Ronon stumbled toward the door and turned the lights on.
They were bright—too bright—after spending the last hour in a dark room. She squinted up at Ronon as her eyes adjusted, and saw him rubbing his eyes. He caught her looking at him, and grinned sheepishly.
"Sorry," he said, although he didn't seem all that remorseful. Teyla glanced at the bunk where John had laid down, expecting some kind of sarcastic remark or joke, and was surprised to see him still curled up on the bunk. He was facing the wall, his back to the rest of the room, and he lay there unmoving.
Teyla felt the first inkling of dread. John was a light sleeper, especially when he was away from Atlantis. He should have woken up when Radek informed them the jumper had arrived; he definitely should have woken up when Ronon flipped the light on.
"John?" She said quietly, approaching him carefully and kneeling next to the bunk. She rested a hand on his shoulder. When he didn't react, she gently shook him.
"John? Wake up." She shook a little harder, this time earning a soft moan in response. When he failed to roll over or sit up, though, she called out to him again.
"John." She could feel Ronon hovering a few feet behind her. She could almost feel his worry; he, too, would know instantly that something was not right.
John did not respond. His breathing was slow and deep—obviously still asleep. Teyla pulled on his shoulder, rolling him on his back, and pressed her hand against his cheek and forehead.
"He feels a little warm, but not feverish," she said, glancing slightly at Ronon's towering figure behind her.
"I'll get someone," Ronon mumbled and ducked out of the room and into the hallway.
Teyla tapped John's cheek, and breathed a sigh of relief when his eyelids began to flutter. "John, wake up," she commanded.
John groaned again, but this time, he blinked open his eyes. He stared up at the ceiling of the bunk he was lying on as if he wasn't sure where he was.
He looked over at Teyla at the sound of her voice, and Teyla noticed it took him a moment to focus on her face.
"Teyla?" He whispered.
"Yes," she answered, and the huge weight that had been pressing on her chest lifted a little. "Are you alright? We had some trouble waking you."
"Uh, yeah. Sorry," John mumbled. He sat up slowly, succeeding only when Teyla grabbed his arm. She kept a hold of him as he swung his legs over the side of the bed.
"John? What is wrong?" She asked, noting how pale he looked. His eyes were squeezed tightly in pain.
John didn't answer. Instead, he lurched to his feet, swayed, and crumpled to his knees. Teyla, who'd still been holding one of his arms, quickly grabbed onto the other and guided him down as he sank to the floor.
"John, please, answer me."
"…stood up too fast…" he muttered. He was panting a little now, and he looked even paler than before.
Ronon and Elizabeth picked that moment to enter the room. They rushed over, and Ronon helped Teyla lift John up by his arms and walk him backward a few steps until he was sitting on the edge of the bed. As soon as he was sitting down, John doubled over and buried his hands in his face.
"What happened?" Elizabeth asked. She kneeled down in front of John, tapping his shoulder to get his attention. John sat up slowly, unable to stifle a grunt of pain. Teyla watched him carefully, waiting for him to pitch forward off the bed, and kept a firm grip on his arm.
"Just…a headache…I'm fine."
"John…" Elizabeth started, not believing he was anywhere near "fine."
"Little dizzy…," he muttered. "Stood up too fast."
Teyla glanced between Ronon and Elizabeth, but the other two just shrugged.
"The jumper is here. Let's get back to Atlantis and let a doctor determine whether or not you're fine." There was a note of finality in Elizabeth's voice, as if she expected some token protest from her military commander that he didn't need to go to the infirmary for a headache. Teyla expected it as well, but John was silent again. Although he was sitting up, his eyes were closed, and she wondered if he had heard anything Elizabeth had said.
"John," Teyla said softly, her head close to his ear, "the jumper has arrived to take us back to Atlantis."
John jerked at the sound of her voice and opened his eyes. He struggled slowly to his feet, grabbing onto Teyla and Ronon—who kept a firm grasp on him—to pull himself to his feet. He swayed a little, and the others tightened their hold on him until he seemed to have his feet under him.
Together, they moved out into the hall toward where the jumper was docked. John walked slowly, attempting to shake off Teyla's and Ronon's hands, but the jerking movement caused him to stumble. Had Teyla and Ronon not been holding on, he probably would have fallen flat on his face. Teyla shook her head at her team leader's stubbornness, but it was exactly that stubbornness that kept him upright and heading toward the jumper.
Elizabeth walked a little ahead of them, talking softly into her radio. For the moment, everyone was returning to Atlantis even though the small jumper would be significantly more crowded going up than the first jumper had been coming down. The bodies of the two dead scientists would be recovered at a later time. Teyla couldn't help but feel a pang of guilt at that, and she shuddered at the phantom memory of the Wraith Queen taking control of her mind.
"You okay?" John asked. His head was bowed toward the floor but tilted slightly in her direction.
"Yes, John. I am fine. It has just been a very long day."
He snorted in response and kept up his slow but steady pace. When they reached the jumper, everyone else was already inside, anxious to return to the surface. Rodney McKay stood outside the door, and stepped toward them as they approached.
"What's wrong with you?" He asked, and Teyla winced at the shrillness of his voice.
John brought a hand up to his forehead. "Shhh…," he grumbled. "Headache."
Rodney opened his mouth to retort, but Teyla shook her head, pinning him with a look. He folded his arms, but Teyla could almost feel the worry radiating off of him. As they entered the jumper, the other scientists and newly arrived Marine squad stared at them with open curiosity and concern. Teyla glanced at John, grateful that his eyes were still focused on the ground and putting one foot in front of the other.
Zelenka, sitting on the edge of one of the benches jumped up, and Teyla and Ronon guided John to the empty seat. He sank onto the bench so fast that for a moment, Teyla thought he might have passed out, but then he gripped the edges of the bench with white knuckles and remained stiffly upright, his eyes again squeezed tightly in pain.
The throbbing in John's head had reached epic proportions. It was quite possibly the worst headache he had ever experienced, and he wondered briefly if maybe he'd suffered some kind of concussion when the rush of water had thrown him into the wall. He'd been frustrated at Teyla's and Ronon's steady grasp on his arms as they'd walked toward their rescue jumper, but the dizzying throb on the side of his head had prevented him from putting up too much of a fight. If he was honest with himself, it was their hold on his arms that had probably prevented him from being carried flat on his back onto the jumper.
Besides that, his vision was zoning in and out. The lights had taken on a weird zig-zagging quality, like he was looking at everything in slow motion. The pain and double-vision had led to nausea, and with the heat of so many people crammed into the small jumper increasing, it was all he could do not to gag.
As the jumper got underway, the soft buzz of conversation picked up around him, and he felt a modicum of relief that the others were at least trying to make an effort to not stare at him. The scientist sitting next to him stood up, and Teyla sat down in his place. John felt her more than saw her, not daring to open his eyes. Teyla rested her hand on his shoulder and leaned in to whisper to him.
"May I get you anything?"
John shook his head, instantly regretting it. The pain spiked and he swallowed desperately against the bile churning his stomach. The last thing he wanted to do was throw up in a crowded space at the beginning of an hour and a half trip. He gripped the edge of the bench even tighter.
Teyla said nothing more, but stayed close, resting her hand on his back or shoulder to check on him. When he leaned back on the bench, she was suddenly supporting him and shoving a folded up jacket behind his head to lean on.
"Thanks," he whispered. He didn't dare open his eyes. Already, the light peeling through his eyelids was too bright. His head pounded in time with his heart. He tried to relax, but it felt like his stomach was just waiting for him to unclench the muscles before expelling all of its contents.
The jumper felt like it lurched to the side, but then John realized it must have been himself. He swallowed convulsively as his stomach bucked, forcing the bile that made it all the way to his mouth back down to his stomach. He opened his eyes, aware that people were staring at him again. Elizabeth, Rodney, and Ronon stood protectively in a loose semi-circle around him. There was a strange, shimmering aura around them, making them look like they were out of focus and shaking. He reached out in an attempt to grab onto something steady, and Teyla's strong, warm hand wrapped around his own.
"Your hand is like ice," she said, shocked, and even though she had spoken softly, John winced at the sound.
"I, uh…I think I need to lie down," he admitted, his whisper strained. He felt badly enough now that he didn't care if anyone stared at him, if they had to carry him off the jumper, or if he ended up in the infirmary—all three possibilities that were most likely in his near future.
People shuffled around quietly, and somehow made room at the back of the jumper. Ronon and Teyla guided him gently to the floor when his knees buckled and leaned him against the closed hatch. Someone—Elizabeth—placed Teyla's jacket behind his head. He closed his eyes against the dizzying double vision. McKay was talking to the pilot at the front of the jumper and someone on Atlantis, probably a doctor, and even from that far away, the sound sent stabs of pain through his head. He groaned, wishing he would just pass out.
But he didn't pass out. He lay on the hard floor of the jumper with his arms wrapped around his stomach and his eyes squeezed shut. Someone shuffled through the medical kit kept onboard, but they must not have found what they needed because the sound came and went without John being pricked with a needle or forced to swallow a pill. Another jacket was laid over his face, blocking most of the light in the jumper, and he whimpered at the little bit of relief that provided.
It was impossible to tell how long he lay there. It felt like hours, but logically, he knew it couldn't have been more than one hour. The jumper pilot announced that they would be landing in Atlantis in a few minutes. A second later, John felt arms behind his head and back, supporting him in an upright position as the back hatch was lowered. He'd never realized how loud it was before, and he whimpered again as he was gently lowered back to the floor.
People shuffled around him again, and someone new kneeled next to him and removed the jacket. They felt for his pulse, then ran light fingers through his scalp feeling for any bumps. A blood pressure cuff was wrapped around his arm, and the cold metal of a stethoscope slid under his shirt. He was awake and aware of everything, unable to pass out and for once wishing he'd arrived in Atlantis oblivious to the world.
Someone—Doctor Keller, he realized—peeled back one of his eyelids and shone her penlight in his eye. The effect was instantaneously. He jerked up, both in surprise and at the excruciating agony that whited out everything. A second later, he was gagging everything that he had managed to keep down during the long trip home. More hands than he could count were suddenly all over him, rolling him to the side. The acrid smell of vomit reached his nose and he retched again and again.
When the gagging and retching finally stopped, he was rolled back, this time onto a board, then gently lifted onto a waiting gurney. Doctor Keller spoke quietly to him, reassuring him, but John couldn't focus beyond the pain in his head and track what she was saying. The gurney moved, and he opened his eyes a slit to see the disjointed zig-zagging lights of the hallway whirl around him. He moaned, slamming his eyes shut again and wondering, wondering why he couldn't just pass out.
A small hand touched the side of his face, then covered his eyes, blocking out the light. Teyla. He recognized her hand, and knew instinctively she was there next to him. Rodney would be somewhere close behind her, and Ronon would be somewhere close behind them all, overlooking the entire scene with his protective streak in full force.
The gurney stopped, and Teyla stepped away. The light—red against his eyelids—pierced his head, and the throbbing ache renewed itself with intensity. He felt the nausea surge upward, and he twisted in vain on the gurney in an attempt to alleviate his churning stomach. Hands held him stationary, and through the haze of pain he felt a sharp pin prick in his shoulder. Finally, he felt himself sinking into dark oblivion.
Teyla sat in the dark room at the back of the infirmary, tracing with her eyes the faintly visible outlines of the Sheppard-shaped lump under the blankets on the bed and listening to the steady breathing of deep sleep. She was alone in the room with John, the only one of her teammates able to spend long amounts of time with their team leader without disturbing him. She could sit quietly and completely still. Ronon could sit quietly, but he couldn't stay still, and Rodney could neither sit quietly nor still. Teyla grinned softly to herself. Rodney could not sit, she amended
She leaned forward, acutely aware of her chair creaking, and paused to listen to John's breathing again. It remained steady, and she let go of the breath she was holding. It had been a rough two days for him. Teyla did not understand everything the new Doctor Keller had explained—something about a severe migraine as a result of the Wraith Queen's probe, or hitting his head on the wall, or both—but she did understand John's agony every time he woke up. He could hardly put two coherent words together, but it was clear that any kind of light or sound aggravated his already excruciating headache. Keller had moved him to the back of the infirmary where it was quietest and where they could keep most of the lights off.
Ronon and Rodney came and went, checking to see how Sheppard was before scurrying away for fear of making things worse. Mostly, they checked with her, since she had rarely left his side since their return to Atlantis and knew almost as much—if not more—as the nurses or doctors on John's condition at any exact moment. They had tried, in the beginning, to get her to leave—to get some rest or some food, or to just take a break—but she had refused, driven by some sense of guilt that she had caused this in the first place so she would be confined to the infirmary as long as John was.
Teyla tentatively reached for his hand, knowing she risked waking him up. She didn't want to wake him up to the world of pain he endured for the few moments he managed to stay conscious, but she found she couldn't help herself. A part of her needed to touch his hand, to feel it warm beneath her fingers to know he was still alive.
John shifted slightly in the bed, grunting a little. Teyla had the urge to rip her hand out of his, but then wondered if that would make it worse—if moving her hand again would be the movement that would awaken him completely. So she froze, leaving her hand in his and breathing quietly in relief as John seemed to settle down again.
John's whispered voice startled her. She had been convinced he was still sound asleep.
"Shhh," she soothed, brushing his hair back away from his forehead.
"Yes," she breathed. She squinted at his face, trying to make out his features in the dim light and looking for the wince of pain at even the sound of her low whisper. His face was flushed, but Doctor Keller had explained it was a side effect of some of the medication she had given him and not because of a fever.
"Still here?" John's voice was low and strained. "Always here…"
"I am sorry, John," Teyla choked out in a whisper, and the guilt she had been feeling over the mess on the drilling station was compounded by the sudden fear that John was angry with her, or blamed her as well, or didn't want to her to be around. "I will leave you to rest."
She stood up, chastising herself a little at the lump building up her in throat as tears threatened to spill over. She was normally not one who cried easily. As she moved to extricate her hand from John's, however, his grip tightened on her fingers.
"S'okay…stay," he mumbled. He squeezed her hand and shifted so he was facing her a little more. His grip tightened and he groaned at the movement, and Teyla saw the features of his face pinch in pain.
"Is it your headache?" Teyla asked quietly, leaning close to him in order to keep her voice as low as possible. At John's tight nod, she reached over for one of the slim packets on the bedside table that the nurses had left for just such a situation. Teyla peeled pack the wrapper and gently pressed the sticky side of the thin sheet against John's forehead. Within seconds, she could feel the sheet turning cold beneath her hand. John sighed a little at the cold compress and sank deeper into his pillow.
Teyla sat back in her chair, her spirits lifting a little at the sight of John reaching a hand toward her. She took it, absently rubbing the back of his hand with her thumb as he seemed to drift back toward sleep.
The image of him in the drilling station, pale and groaning as she attempted to rouse him from the bunk, flashed through her mind, and her heart twisted a little in pain. She'd sunk deeper into guilt on the trip home, with John laid out in the back of the jumper looking half dead to her eyes. Hour after endless hour in the infirmary hadn't really alleviated that guilt, regardless of what she kept trying to convince herself of, and when the bodies of the dead scientists—finally recovered from the drilling station—had been wheeled through the infirmary on their way to the morgue, she had lost it completely. She'd sat in John's dark room and sobbed as quietly as she could, grateful that he was drugged into oblivion and unable to hear or see her.
"Not your fault," John said, and again, Teyla jumped at the sound of his voice.
"John, if I hadn't…" Her voice trailed off as John waved at her, and for a moment, she thought the sound was causing his headache to worsen.
"Ssshhh…" he said, and Teyla felt the familiar cold weight of guilt press into her chest and down into her stomach.
"Sorry," she mumbled.
"Don't say it. Not your fault," he breathed out. He lifted his head slightly from the pillow, his hand in hers shaking with the effort. A second later, he groaned in pain and dropped back onto the bed.
"Worse headache of my life," he muttered.
"Should I get Doctor Keller?"
John paused, licking his lips. "Skin is tingling like I was stunned maybe…throat and chest feel a little tight." In the dark room, Teyla could just make out his eyes open a slit and looking up at her, as if he was waiting for her to confirm whether or not he needed Doctor Keller.
"Doctor Keller explained those were side effects of the medication she is giving you to fight off your headache," Teyla whispered. "I can call for her, though, if you would like me to."
"No…s'okay…" John's eyes slid closed again. "It will go away eventually."
Teyla nodded, keeping a firm but gentle grip on John's hand. She checked the cold strip on his forehead, satisfied that it was still providing a little bit of the relief John was so desperate for. His headache would go away eventually—Doctor Keller had already told her that John was improving, albeit slowly—and she felt the load of guilt she was carrying lighten just slightly.
That, too, would go away eventually, she hoped.