Author's Note: This is all everybetty's and my roomie's fault. They got out their long pointy sticks and poked and prodded and egged me on to write this. Now, I need to get crackin' on 'Little Bear' before the roomie gets out the chair and whip...
Say, Wasn't This In 'Slither'?
The inertial dampeners only did so much, and John felt every bump and jar and shimmy and thump as the 'jumper slid through the tower. It came to a rest and his body, still tender from his rebarectomy patch-up a month ago and the marathon seizure not even ten minutes before, let him know that under any circumstances he was to never ever fucking do that again.
The day just kept getting better and better.
Ignoring every command from Woolsey to report, he quickly armed himself with a spare nine-mil and pulled the injector from his pocket. Thankfully it was still intact because he damn well knew he'd bounced off the controls a couple times during his landing. That had to be why his chest was hurting like a mother.
Yeah, he dreaded the paperwork for that little spur of the moment decision.
John opened the rear hatch and froze for a moment. It wasn't the sight of the big hole showing daylight that made him pause – though he had to admit that was pretty damn cool – but the veiny tendrils that covered every surface. He'd been in hive ships before, and Wraith bases, but the sight of the crap invading his Atlantis was just plain wrong. And the fact that this stuff just looked more, well, visceral didn't help the queasiness that hit him.
Gun ready John cautiously headed deeper into the tower. When he came to the central hub he resisted the urge to turn right to where he knew Ronon was. Getting the antivirus in Keller was the greater concern now. "Sorry, big guy," he barely vocalized as he took the left hand corridor. He knew Ronon would understand.
The closer he got to the isolation room, the more the shit was moving. Oh, this is just so fucking wrong, he thought as he carefully stepped over the tendrils. Carefully, because there was no way in hell he wanted to put a boot down on one of those things. The thick pulsing ones that looked like intestines were the worst, and for one crazy moment he could just imagine he was crawling through the gut of some giant alien critter. He grimaced at the thought and tried to focus on something a little more pleasant, like, oh, trying to convince Woolsey that when the delegates from M9Y-887 come next month to renew their trade agreement that painting the top of his head purple would be considered a compliment.
A tendril suddenly slithered under where he was about to place his boot and he flinched. Focus, John, he thought as he almost stumbled. He waited a moment for the thing to quit moving before continuing. Yeah, when this day was over he was going to filch a couple of the good pills, find an Ancient equivalent of a Jacuzzi, and sleep in the damn thing for twelve hours. "Damn it, Carson, you really could have warned me before I volunteered," he hissed through his teeth as he came to the door to the isolation room. "Ya know, just a little something more besides 'severe complications'." A couple heavy tendrils by the door swiveled his way and he clammed up.
If he thought the hallway was bad, the former isolation room was a writhing Technicolor mutant chitlin nightmare. Not only did he have to watch his step, but now he had to avoid the damn things snaking blindly through the air.
At least they seemed to be ignoring him. That was good. That was beyond good. That was fan-fucking-tastic.
John edged up to the bed, gun ready, his attention divided between the moving tendrils and the very still doctor. He finally focused on her and the sight damn near made him swear out loud. Her face was the only thing showing, and the shit was starting to take that away. But he could see a small bit of her neck. Okay – he could work with that.
He reached awkwardly over the main mass covering her body – again, no way in hell was he touching that – and the second he felt the injector connect he triggered it. The hiss sounded louder than a freight train whistle to him and he swallowed hard. This better God damn work.
Keller sucked in a breath, her eyes snapped open, and all hell broke loose.
The shit started screaming, and John backed up, heedless of what he was stepping on. The room was alive with motion which was why he didn't see the one tendril whip over Keller until it nailed him right in the gut.
John's mouth dropped open in pure surprise. Oh, you have got to be fucking kidding me. Twice, in one month? For a second John didn't want to breathe because he could feel the damn thing squirming just under his ribs and he swallowed hard. He grabbed it to keep it from burying itself any deeper, and that little sensation brought him to his knees. This is getting really old.
The tendrils were still whipping around like trees in a hurricane and not showing any signs of slowing. John tightened his grip on the one trying its damndest to dig its way to his spine and raised his gun. The pain – hell, the day in general – was making his arm shake, but if he had to, he knew he could take the shot. Atlantis depended on it, and no way in hell was he going to let a hive take over his city. His finger started to tighten on the trigger.
And deep down he knew he was the one who had to do this. If it was Ronon, or even Rodney…. Well, it would kill them. Him – just one more thing to put in a tidy little compartment in his head until the nightmares dredged it up from the depths again.
Keller suddenly went limp, and a moment later the room fell silent and still. John lowered his gun, his left hand still wrapped in a death grip around the tendril in his gut. At least it had quit moving….
"Colonel Sheppard. What's your status?"
Crap. John really couldn't ignore Woolsey any longer. He took in a breath to reply and immediately regretted it. I will not puke.
"What…." The word came out as more of a choke than something coherent. I will not puke. "I've been better."
Well, let's see – I just did my best Bill Pardy imitation in a room of mutant chitlins that were growing out of the doc. Naw, as much as I want to…. John grimaced as another wave of pain went through his gut. "You better come get us." Damn, Ronon…. "Hey, Ronon. Do you copy? Ronon?"
"Scanners show he is alive, Colonel. Med team is on its way."
"Good. Left … the garage door open. Can't miss it." John carefully sat his gun on the floor and looked down. There wasn't too much blood, but no way was he going to pull the damn thing out. He knew better. He started to reach for his knife, but remembered he didn't have his gun belt on. They'd taken it away when they quarantined him, and after he'd woken up in the infirmary, he just hadn't had the time. Crap. He tugged on the tendril to get some extra slack so he could, well, collapse.
Another voice came over the com. "Colonel, this is Carson."
Yeah, like he'd never recognize that wonderful brogue. "Hey … doc. You, uh, might want to … light a fire under … that team's ass." He finally succumbed to gravity, and oh hell that hurt. The sounds he made weren't very dignified at all.
"Col … John. How bad are you injured?"
John could hear the definite sound of a 'jumper powering up over the link as it took him a moment to form actual words. "Eh, I've been … shiskebobbed. Not much bleeding." He rolled onto his back and that seemed to help with the pain some. "I'm good."
Carson's snort and unspoken not bloidy likely came over the com loud and clear. "And Jennifer?"
"Sorry. Can't tell … from this angle." What he could tell from this angle was that the ceiling looked like an exploded slaughter house, without the squishy stuff. Heh – The Atlantis Chainsaw Massacre. No no no – Nightmare on the West Pier. He heard someone say his name, and it took him a second to realize that Carson was still talking to him.
"Stay with me, John."
"Ain't going … anywhere, doc." He draped an arm over his eyes because the ceiling was just really starting to freak him out. The power came back on and he lifted his arm briefly. And regretted it – the light just made it look worse. "I take it … the stuff is dead?"
"We're sending a team via transporter for Ronon – he's closer to it – and one by 'jumper for you and Dr. Keller," Woolsey said.
"Cool." And that was the last thing John said for a few minutes while he concentrated on taking breaths that were shallow enough they didn't hurt, but deep enough so he wouldn't pass out, and making an occasional grunted reply so Carson knew he was still conscious. He kept his eyes covered until he heard rapidly approaching boots.
John lowered his arm and it didn't surprise him at all to see that Carson, despite the fatigue lining his pale face, was the first one into the room. Four Marines followed immediately behind and spread out, weapons raised. Everyone slowed to a stop, however, when they took in the scene. "Oh, dear God," Carson muttered, then he blinked, shook his head, and let the doctor mode take over. While the majority of the team went to Keller, Carson, one medic, and the Marines went to Sheppard.
John grimaced and waved them away. "Go … go see … take care of Keller. I can wait."
Carson just frowned down at him as he snapped on a pair of gloves and gently probed around the protruding tentacle. "You didn't pull it out. Good lad."
John drew his lips in and tried very hard not to wince at every touch. "Hey, believe it … or not, I did pay attention … in your field first aid classes." He still had a death grip on the thing with his left hand, and that was a good thing, too, because one of the med team caught his foot under the tendril and stumbled over it. It wasn't so much of a tug as a jerk, and it was enough to make John's eyes go wide as he let out a choked cry and partially sat up. That just made things worse, and he dropped back heavily, fresh sweat covering his face as he continued to make guttural noises.
Carson snapped his head around. "People! Watch your bloidy damn feet!"
John couldn't seem to keep his legs still as the wave of agony backed off. "Oh, fu … let's not do that again," he gasped out. "'Kay? You do … I shoot." One of the Marines dropped down, pulled his knife, and quickly sliced the tentacle off just above John's hand. John grunted, then looked up at the man as he wiped his blade off on his own pant leg. "Thanks, Sergeant." He finally released his grip only to have the medic grab it and start an i.v., the bag just sitting on his chest for the moment.
"No problem, sir." The Marine turned to Carson. "We can stabilize him for transport, doc, if you want to go help Dr. Keller."
Carson gave him that tight-lipped frown that said no bloidy way, but then he nodded. "All right." He glanced at the medic. "Get him something for the pain." Then he fixed the Marine with a glare. "As soon as he's stable, get him to the infirmary. Understood?" His tone brooked no argument.
John just grinned tightly. Ah, Carson – damn I missed you. Then the medic injected something into his i.v. port, and a moment later his grin relaxed with a shaky sigh. "The good shit," he said with a faint smile.
Carson snorted and gave his shoulder a squeeze before he stood and left.
The Marines did a pretty damn good field triage, and it wasn't until someone draped a blanket over him that John realized he was shivering. They loaded him onto a stretcher shortly after that, and as they were carrying him to the 'jumper he finally started to gray out. Yup, the good shit. Gotta love it. He wasn't quite completely under when he heard one of the Marines say, "Didn't we see this shit in 'Slither' last month?"
John grinned like a sloppy drunk. "I'm Bill Pardy," he slurred out before he faded out completely.
John was comfortably riding a wave of pure drugged out bliss when a voice started intruding. It wasn't an annoying voice – oh, no, it was actually quite nice – but the words were indistinct and seemed to be coming from down a long hallway, and they were really killing his groove. Then slowly his brain kicked its universal translator into gear and the words suddenly had meaning.
"Colonel. Colonel? Time to wake up now, sir."
John felt something tight wrap around his arm and he grimaced as he fought his way up out of the fog.
"Well, you're frownin' – that's a good sign. For you, anyway, sir."
Yeah, he knew that soft Southern drawl all too well now. He was working at opening his eyes, but at the moment all he seemed to be doing was lifting his eyebrows.. He heard a soft and definitely amused snort, and that gave him the impetus to crack open his left eye. His vision was blurry, but he could make out the flash of white teeth in mahogany features. "Nrrgh," he said as he brought a hand up to rub the gummies away.
"Very good, sir. Now, perhaps we can try an actual word with syllables. You know the routine."
John snorted himself. Yeah, he knew the routine. Too damn well. "I m'wake. I m'wake. Jeez," he croaked out. He dropped his hand back down by his side and fixed both eyes on the nurse. "You're getting cheeky, Lieutenant." He cleared his throat but it didn't help with the bone dry burning.
The nurse smiled at him. "Well, now, sir. Being as you can't seem to stay out of my sight for more'n a month, I think I'm entitled." She was holding the Blessed Cup of Ice Chips and John gratefully accepted a spoonful.
Yup, routine. Another amused snort made him crane his head back around as far as he could and he saw Carson approaching. Then he slumped back into his pillows – his neck was killing him. Hell, every muscle in his body seemed to be phoning in a complaint right now. At least the connection was long distance. Carson came into a more comfortable line of sight, and John pointed accusingly at Lt. Harrison and tried to look put upon.
"I heard Cadence," Carson said as he grinned down at John. "And I have to say, she sounded perfectly reasonable to me."
"Why thank you, doctor." Cadence gave the thank you that distinctive Southern twang as she beamed at Carson.
John swallowed. "You would take her side," he grumbled. Carson snorted again as he pulled back the blanket and gown and checked the dressing. John suddenly became very interested in the ceiling. "So, what are the damages this time?"
Carson tucked everything back around John. "You were very lucky – the end of that thing was actually fairly blunt, so after it penetrated your clothes and skin, it lost momentum and just, well, pushed its way in and missed tearing anything vital. We pulled a good nine inches of it out of your gut. I don't expect you to be in the infirmary for more than a couple days." He winked at Cadence. "I'm sure that's good news to more than just you, Colonel."
John grimaced rather guiltily at the nurse's curt nod.
Now Carson crossed his arms and fixed John with that tight-lipped frown that made his dimples come out. "Now, speaking of last time…." He just let the sentence hang until John started to squirm. "I don't suppose yae need to hear me tell you that was a bloidy daft thing to do?" John quit squirming and set his mouth into a tight line and met Carson's glower. The tense silence stretched for damn near a minute, and Cadence made herself busy checking tubes and equipment until Carson let out a deep breath. He clasped John's shoulder and gave it a hard squeeze. He had to swallow before he spoke, and the words came out subdued. "But bloidy damn brave. All three of yae. Thank you."
Every bit of tension just leached out of John. He drew his lips in and gave Carson one short nod.
Carson gave John's shoulder one last squeeze then pulled back and rubbed his hands together. "Right, then." The words were a little rough and he had to clear his throat. "Cadence, love – as soon as his oh-two stats are above ninety-five, you can send him out onto the floor. Oh, and go ahead and remove the Foley."
John sighed in pure relief. "Thanks, Carson. And you get some rest, too – you look like I feel."
Carson's eyebrows rose. "Bloidy hell. That bad?"
John and Cadence both nodded.
Carson rubbed his face and ran a hand through his hair. "All right. See you in the morning."
"'Night, doc," John said and sank back into his own pillows. He heard Carson's grunted reply as he closed his eyes. A few minutes passed, and he cracked an eye back open. "Um, the Foley?" he prompted.
Cadence didn't even lift her eyes from the chart she was writing in. "Patience, sir. You know the routine."
John sighed. "Yeah, unfortunately." Then he grimaced miserably. "You're gonna make me cough next, aren't you." That was by far the worst part of surgery – getting the damn anesthetic cleared from the lungs. Especially with a gut incision.
Cadence made a soft mm-hmm as she snapped the stainless steel cover on the chart closed. She sat the head of the bed up a little and handed John a spare pillow, then gave him some more ice to wet his throat.
"Gee, thanks," John said around the ice as he cradled the pillow against his gut.
"Don't mention it, sir."
It was shortly after dinner – which he was actually allowed to eat for a change – and John was riding quite the little pain killer/muscle relaxant high when he heard someone shuffling through the infirmary like a whiney Frankenstein in Vibram soles. He cracked open his eyes and saw Rodney coming towards him, every movement apparently a herculean effort. "Hey, Rodney. You're moving kinda gimpy there."
Rodney stopped by the bed. "And you're obviously Pink Floyding right now." He eyed the chair that Teyla had vacated only ten minutes before. She had stopped by with the little guy earlier, and that'd cheered him up considerably. But then, again, it could be the drugs. Rodney finally sighed and sank into the chair with a grimace and a whimper. He pointed to his neck. "I, ah, took the cure."
John just lifted his eyebrows and chin.
Rodney rubbed his neck and grimaced rather dramatically. "They only gave me two Myoflex. Two! Man, I haven't felt this cramped up and sore since I tried to crawl into that dog carrier…." His words trailed off as his eyes widened. "Um, never mind. Just, just forget I said that."
"Too late." John grinned like a maniac.
"Ah, crap." Rodney slumped a little in the chair. "How are you feeling, besides small?"
Rodney sighed and rolled his eyes. "Well, I can see any intelligent conversation with you right now will be a chore."
John snickered and closed his eyes.
Rodney groaned his way up out of the chair. "I'll come back later when there's more coherency and less drooling. So, are you all the way through the first disc of 'The Wall', or have you made it into the second?"
"Mmm, think I'm up to 'Run Like Hell'."
"Well, I'll let you enjoy your little concert and escape before the laser lights and floating pigs show up."
John's eyes suddenly snapped open and he glanced around. Then let out a sigh of relief. Rodney's back was to him, but he wasn't walking away yet. There was more than just tension in the line of his friend's shoulders. "S'up, Rodney?"
Rodney's shoulders dropped, and when he turned around he was chewing on his thumbnail. "Can I ask you something? That is, if you can answer without drooling."
John was too comfortable to be irritated. "Sure, pal."
Rodney fidgeted a moment before he spoke. "When you had that shot earlier, did you have, um, anything weird happen? You know, while you were twitching?"
John's expression actually grew a little serious. "Yeah. I heard everything."
"Huh." Rodney crossed his arms and rocked back and forth faintly. "That was the, the worst thing I've ever experienced in my life. Even worse that being trapped in a Hive Ziploc baggie. Or, or even Freshman initiation. I got cornered in the gym locker room and was forced to wear…."
"Rodney…." John didn't have to try very hard to sound exhausted.
"Oh, sorry." He fell silent, his lips drawn into a crooked grimace. When he spoke, the words were very soft. "It was like being trapped in the bottom of the deepest cave on Earth and covered with a hundred blankets."
John nodded. "And overdosed with Novocain."
"Yeah." Silence fell between them, but it wasn't uncomfortable. "Creepy."
"Yeah," John echoed.
"Well, um, I'll let you get some sleep since you can't seem to keep your eyes open there without duct tape." He pulled a blister pack and rattled the pills. "I have a date with these and my bathtub."
"You, uh, might want to take those after the bathtub, or you'll drown."
Rodney looked down at the two pills. "Good shit, huh?"
John nodded and grinned drunkenly. "Really good shit."
"Huh." Then Rodney just gave his head a little twitch and shuffled off.
John snickered softly and found the controls to his bed. The only person who hadn't stopped by was Ronon, and from what one the nurses told him he was probably in his quarters having his own Pink Floyd moment. Oh, and Woolsey. Well, he'd probably see him in the morning anyway. He could only imagine the paperwork that desk jockey was compulsively going through right now.
For some reason that thought left a smirk on his face as he fell asleep.
End Note: I want to thank everybetty and kristen999 for their permission to use Lt. Harrison in this. She is such an awesome character, and she just had to live on in fanficdom. MWAH