"It hurts," Rodney says. And oh, it does. Like waves, crashing back and forth behind his eyes. The tide goes out with every exhale, spilling and drawing in pain. He is a cycle of pain, inexorable, relentless. Atlantis survived for ten thousand years, he thinks, down where it was cool and calm. And then they raised her up and now the sea crashes against her like its crashing through his head, and she must be so angry. So angry, from all that pain.
"Should have left her," Rodney says, trying to make John understand. But John just sits there and looks worried and doesn't understand anything. He's holding Rodney's hand.
"She's fine, Rodney," John says, but he doesn't understand at all, how much pain Atlantis is in. It's the sea, the sea is hurting her. But Rodney can't explain. The words dart around his head, murmur and hum like bees, crowd in his mouth and come out in the wrong order. Rodney can see them: yellow-jacketed words, hovering over his mouth, around John's head. But John doesn't do anything about them.
He should do something. Bees are dangerous.
"Stop the bees," he says, because it's important; he doesn't want John to get stung. "They're dangerous."
"There aren't any bees," John says. "You have a high fever. You're delirious."
Rodney can't answer because John's voice is like snow, stinging-cool where it touches, melting and running like rain. Rodney wants him to keep talking, but the bees have stolen his words again. The room moves when he breathes.
"Snow," Rodney says.
John exhales ice crystals. He closes his eyes and rubs his hand over his face. "I know," he says. "You're burning up. I'm sorry. Carson thinks he's got the right antibiotic now, though. You'll feel better by morning." He smiles like a lie.
"No," Rodney says. "No, the bees."
"It's okay," John says. "There--" He stops. "They can't get past the force field," he says. "You're perfectly safe."
"Oh," Rodney says. He didn't know about the force field, but he can see it now. It's made of pieces of John's voice, covering Rodney like ice. It's the only cool place in the room.
Atlantis had a force field, at the bottom of the ocean. That's what kept the sea back, why she didn't hurt there.
"Thank you," he says. But then he gets worried, because where's John's force field? "Bees will get you," he tells him urgently. He doesn't want the bees to sting John.
"I'm fine," John says. "Bees can't hurt me. I'm bee-resistant."
Rodney blinks at him. Of course he's bee-resistant. Rodney should have known that. Nothing ever hurts John.
"Nothing hurts you," he says.
John looks away, at the floor that's pulsing in time to the waves in Rodney's head. "Some things hurt me," he says. He holds Rodney's hand a little tighter, as if he knows Rodney will float away if he doesn't. Even though Rodney didn't tell him.
"You should sleep," John says. "Let the medicine work. You'll feel better in the morning."
Rodney doesn't want to. He needs to tell them to sink the city again, or turn on her force field to protect her from the waves. Something. But John's voice is cool and heavy and pulls him down, down, and then he's dreaming of spires gleaming in sunlight, reaching up to a clear, cool blue sky. Clear blue skies, just like John told him.
And when he wakes up the world makes sense again, and John is still holding his hand.
This was originally written as comment fic for a Live Journal entry by villainny, who had a headache. The images in this come directly from her.