His head pounded with the rhythm of his heart, blinding light filtered through his eyelids, and his mind felt as if it were wrapped in cotton, making it hard to think. There was something important he needed to report, something vital for the survival of the city, but it was just out of reach no matter how hard he tried to remember.
He groaned in frustration and was suddenly aware of something stuck in his throat, something strange and alien, and fear gripped him. He needed to get it out, but he couldn't move his arms. They were so heavy and almost felt as if they didn't belong to his body. He tried to make a noise, make himself heard, but whatever was stuck in his throat made that impossible.
But then someone touched him, running their hand over his arm, and a familiar accented voice flowed over him, calm and reassuring. He couldn't make out the individual words, but he felt himself relax and the panic subsided as the world around him darkened again.
A wraith was in the city.
The thought came to him all of a sudden, cutting through the darkness like a sharp knife, fast and painful. He had to warn the others, a wraith was in the city and he was the only one who knew about it. But before he could do anything about it darkness swallowed him again.
"Wraith," he croaked. His voice sounded just as scratchy as it felt.
"Welcome back, Sergeant." An unfamiliar woman with dark hair leaned over him, offering him a glass of water. "Drink this."
He blinked up at her, frowning. He couldn't remember her and that worried him. He'd made sure to familiarize himself with all the members of the Atlantis expedition. Maybe something was wrong with him.
"Wraith," he tried again, feeling the panic rise.
"There are no wraith here, Sergeant. You're safe here," the woman told him, smiling a reassuring smile that didn't reassure him at all.
"No, you don't understand." He knocked the glass of water out of her hands as he struggled to get out of bed. "There's a wraith in the city."
"Sergeant Bates, please, calm down," she said, pressing him back down onto the bed. She was stronger than she looked and he was weak and exhausted. "There are no wraith here. You're back on Earth."
"You're back on Earth. You're home."
"How are you doing, Sergeant?" Sheppard leaned against the doorframe, smiling casually, and he wondered again how someone like Sheppard had managed to get promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
"Better, sir. Still feels like someone's drilling a hole in my head."
"I bet," Sheppard replied, looking almost uncomfortable as he entered the room. He picked up the magazine Bates had tried to read earlier but had abandoned when the headache had gotten too bad.
"What do you want. Sir," he added as an afterthought when he noticed Sheppard's narrowed eyes. He doubted they would ever get along and, frankly, he was kind of surprised Sheppard even visited him. Dr. Beckett, Dr. Lam - the chief medical officer at the SGC - and Stackhouse had already brought him up to date with everything that had happened since the wraith had attacked him.
"Listen," Sheppard said, dropping the magazine back on the bedside table and crossing his arms in front of his chest, "I hope you'll decide to come back to Atlantis after you've recovered. We need good men like you."
That was the last thing he'd expected from Sheppard. "Uh, thank you, sir."
Sheppard nodded and left without another word. Bates wondered if hell had frozen over.
It was just after 9 am when Dr. Lam checked up on him, telling him that he'd be able to get out of the infirmary soon. He tried not to think about the Daedalus flying home without him.