Chapter 1: At First
#1 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "Rising"
When I first met Major Sheppard, I thought he was goin' to hurt me - after all, I had just almost killed him with a missile. Not on purpose, of course, I think he knows that. At least, I hope he does. Or maybe it just got pushed out of his mind because of what happened afterward, what with us findin' out he had a fully workin' ATA gene and all of the equipment activatin' and all that.
I was so used to seein' flyboys running around the base in Antarctica, I'd been talkin' to him a good few minutes before it hit me that he didn't seem to understand what I was talkin' about. Not good when you're workin' on a project so secret even most of the government doesn't know you exist. But he was there, he was in uniform...and dammit! He was actually interested in hearin' what I had to say about the Ancients' machine we'd been workin' on, and let me tell you it wasn't too usual for someone to ask me a question but what bloody McKay wasn't there answerin' it for me in triplicate.
We aren't even goin' to talk about what happens when someone asks Dr. Jackson a question. I won't venture into his work area again without at least a packed lunch and a thermos of tea - man could talk the hind leg off a bloody donkey, but he's so friendly that you feel like an outright bastard if you cut him off. That's come in handy a time or two, though, since McKay and I found out that if we steered Dr. Weir his way she'd be out from underfoot for half the day at least. She speaks five languages, Dr. Jackson speaks all those and half a dozen or so more, so put them together and he'll keep her occupied until whatever we didn't want her seein' is over and done with.
Not that we'd been doin' anythin' for her not to see, mind you. We're all professionals here. And the Marines that were stationed here that one time can't prove anythin', and I'm fairly well sure they aren't plannin' on tellin' anyone anythin' either, considerin' what happened to them. I'm also fairly well sure they'll think twice next time before pickin' on someone who can't match them in a fair fight but has five times their collective intelligence.
Not that Rodney and I said that to any of them, of course. Not out loud, anyway.
I'm glad we had our fun while we could, because now we've got a new colonel, Sumner, takin' over to go with us to Atlantis, and he's the type I'd think might not take too well to bein' made a fool of. I know McKay's scared to death of him, although I don't think anyone else here has seen it.
It bothers me a bit that Dr. Weir hasn't noticed. Elizabeth's not always as observant as I know she can be, and I'm seein' that as a problem I might have to be watchin' out for in the future. And it'll be my job to watch her, and everyone else who's goin', since I'm the chief medical doctor for the mission.
I'm still tryin' to figure out how they talked me into that one. And into goin' on the bloody mission in the first place. I know Rodney says travelin' by Stargate is safer than flyin' in a plane or just about any other form of transportation besides walkin', but I just don't think I like the idea of bein' broken down into my component particles in order to get from one place to another. Rodney called me 'Dr. McCoy' for a bloody week after I said that to him, and he only stopped when I reminded him that there's one other person goin' on the mission who's as smart as he is and it's most likely not in his best interest to put that person in a vengeful frame of mind.
He got the hint, and I haven't heard him hummin' the theme from Star Trek under his breath in my presence since. Smart man. Especially as he was hummin' it off key, which was doubly irritatin'. If you're goin' to mock someone, you should at least do it properly.
I hope Rodney doesn't decide to start it up again in front of Sheppard, though. I mean, it's my hope that the man's not still holdin' a grudge about the bloody missile...but I'm not countin' on it. And we might be stuck on Atlantis together for a long, long time.
Chapter 2: Knowing You
#2 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "38 MInutes"
Oh yes, that's where I thought I'd find him.
Just holdin' back and watchin' seems my best bet at present. It's late, what I really want is to be in my bed...but there are certain responsibilities that come with bein' a medical doctor, you know. Stayin' up with patients is one of them.
Not that Dr. McKay would appreciate me callin' him a patient, of course. But he's my responsibility, and I would have come lookin' for him anyway. Even if Dr. Weir hadn't asked me to find him and see if he was all right.
I knew he wasn't, but it wasn't my place to tell her that. I also didn't tell her that I knew where he was, or what I knew he was doin' - had been doin', most likely for hours now. I watch him pick up a tool and use it, for what I can't be sure. But somethin' lights up on the open panel in front of him and he frowns over it and makes a note. Then it's a different tool in the same place; no lights and more notes, scatterin' back through the pages he's already got.
Doin' it by hand, no less, not a computer in sight. He's more scared than I thought.
I wait. And then I wait some more, and finally he drops the tool he's usin' and quick as a flash I'm right there to pick it up and hand it back to him. The way his eyes are all bugged-out right now might be funny some other time...but not now. I'd not have let Weir see him like this, she wouldn't understand and she'd be like to make it worse. He takes the tool from me and lifts it slowly back toward the circuits he's been testin' - slow like he's afraid I'm here to stop him.
The thought never crossed my mind. I pick up a different tool and hold it ready, and after a minute he starts to breathe again and turns back to what he was doin'. It takes about half an hour of him watchin' me out of the corner of his eye, but finally he goes back to the pace he'd set himself before and a little after that he starts askin' me to hand him this and that. I'm still waitin', I know he'll start to talk sooner or later.
I wait about a quarter of an hour, and then he starts to crack. First it's askin' me how the major is doin', and then he answers himself before I can and says Sheppard is fine, of course, or I wouldn't be here. He asks for another tool, I give it to him, and then he mutters, "No thanks to me, of course."
"Feelin' a wee bit ignored, are we?" I ask him, even though I know that's not what this is. Sometimes you have to goad Rodney into sayin' what's really on his mind. "He wasn't awake for enough of it to know what you were doin', you realize. Eventually someone will tell him, then he'll thank you."
"Thank me?" He snorts. "I need that other sensor...no, the orange one. Oh yeah, right, I expect him to thank me. That's a good one, Carson, really funny. I'll be surprised if after all the reports get in he doesn't try to kick me back through the wormhole - after he kicks me off his team for being a worthless panicky pain-in-the-ass idiot who almost got him killed, of course." I let some confusion show and, true to form, it irritates him. Which is good since I'd wanted it to. "You wouldn't understand, you weren't there," he tells me in his very best acidicly patient voice. "I panicked, I said we were all going to die. Even me getting the engines to retract was pure luck. And I didn't do a damn thing for him except try to ignore what was going on."
Oh bloody hell. I drop the tool before he can take it from me, grab his arm and shake him. "Bloody idiot, you were givin' him CPR when I got to him!" I snap. "He'd've been brain damaged for sure and all if you hadn't. You figured out how to get the jumper through the Gate, Ford told me that much. And you can't be blamin' yourself for that great bloody bug he'd picked up, since he was alone when it happened."
"I can blame myself for not being there to watch his back!" he snaps back. Och, here it comes; I can see the shimmer in his eyes. That's right, Rodney, let it out. ""I can blame myself for not being able to fix the jumper in the first place, for being a self-proclaimed genius that doesn't know a god...damned...thing!"
"I'll be sure to tell God that you're takin' over his province," I tell him, givin' him another shake. "You saved the man's life, Rodney. Surely even with you that counts for somethin'." I let some of the sympathy leach out of my voice so dry speculation can creep in. "Or maybe this is just catchin' - you catchin' it from him, I mean; he's been down in the infirmary kickin' himself because he wasn't able to do anythin' when the lot of you got into trouble."
He stares at me like I'd just turned into his Auntie Mary - have to admit, I kind of like seein' him bewildered a bit, it does him good. "What do you mean, he's kicking himself...you can't tell me that stupid bastard is laying down there with a...with a great big bandage on his neck and wires sticking all over him thinking he could have done something to fix the ship while some giant bug was sucking the life out of him?!"
Oh good, he's wavin' his arms now; means I've got him engaged, he's startin' to react with more than just his mouth. "What I mean," I enunciate very clearly. "Is that our major takes his responsibilities very seriously. He's not only in charge of everythin' military we've got, he's also the only person in the whole bloody city with a fully workin' ATA gene." I fold my arms across my chest and raise an eyebrow at him. "I think that's enough responsibility to drive most men bloody mad in a pinch, don't you?"
He staggers back a bit - I'd bet he hasn't eaten anythin' since he came down here - and he's lookin' right through me. I know what he's lookin' at, though; right behind me is where they had the major when I got on board. Not an easy thing, rememberin' what it feels like to be tryin' to push life back into someone's body with your bare hands. Not too easy for him especially, since he had to choose between goin' back to see if the lieutenant had made it or tryin' to save the major layin' there dead right at his feet. Not an easy thing at all. I let some of the sympathy come back. "First time you'd ever done it?"
I'm surprised when he shakes his head. "No," he says, to the spot on the floor and not to me. "No, I'd done it before - tried to, anyway." He swallows, and I'm gettin' a bad feelin'. "When I was...when I was ten. My mother had a heart condition, she'd had...rheumatic fever when she was young and her heart...her heart was weak. I tried so hard to save her, but I didn't...I didn't do it right and she died." That's when he looks up at me, and god that's a look I hadn't wanted to see on the man. "The doctor at the emergency room said I didn't do it right or she would have...would have come back. My father was there, he...he wouldn't talk to me for...for a long time. It was never the same after that. I tried...I tried to do everything right, to learn everything...but I could never make up for not knowing how to save her."
Oh bloody hell, wouldn't you just know it; I try to open the can to pull out one little worm and get a bloody shark instead. And the CPR hadn't been bringin' Sheppard back when I got to him - it wouldn't have, but Rodney isn't to know that, he's the wrong kind of doctor. And he for damned sure wouldn't have known it as a wee boy of ten, no matter how smart he happened to be. "CPR doesn't always bring them back, Dr. McKay," I tell him firmly. Got to correct for that doctor from all those years ago, and wouldn't I like to get my hands on him right about now. "What part of 'saved him from havin' brain damage did you not understand? If you hadn't done it right the major'd be about as lively as a boiled carrot in there right now, if I'd even been able to get his heart goin' again at all."
He looks at me again, and I can see the boy and the man tryin' to make sense of everythin' between them. It's the boy who asks me, "I did the right thing?"
"More than once, the way I understand it." Oh please don't let me get anythin' wrong, he'll be on it in a heartbeat. I tick off points for him on my fingers. "You helped get him back on the jumper, you helped the others take care of him, you got the ship through the gate, and you kept his blood circulatin' until I could get to him with my equipment - and let me tell you, Rodney, those three or four minutes before the ship docked were critical. And I believe you went over the ship lookin' for the missin' bug, and now you're here tryin' to make sure none of this ever happens again, am I right?" I wave my hand at the sheaf of handwritten notes. "Someone should have done this weeks ago, we've been fools to keep goin' out when we didn't know how to fix her if she broke."
"Yeah, I...I thought of that myself. Earlier." He looks more than a bit sick, which is how I'd imagine he felt earlier when he realized they'd been runnin' on a wing and a prayer all this time. "Or I guess you could say too late."
"There you go again." I resist the urge to shake my finger at him the way my mother would have done, and instead I wave my hand at the open panel. "Are you plannin' to keep goin' with this, or are we callin' it a mornin'?"
"Morning?" He checks his watch and makes a face, then rubs his hand through his hair. "I didn't realize." Blue eyes blink a sheepish sort of apology at me. "Sorry, I didn't mean to keep you up."
I shrug. "You didn't." Really he did, but I know that tellin' him it's part of my job wouldn't be any too good for him right now - he needs a friend, not a doctor. I'm about to redirect him to another subject...when my beeper goes off. Or at least, I think of it as a beeper; it's actually a fairly sophisticated communication device.
Whatever, it works. "Dr. Beckett," comes tinnily out of the tiny speaker. "You need to get back down here, his fever is going up again."
"I'm comin'." I've only taken three steps toward the open hatch when I realize that McKay is right behind me. Right behind me. "Rodney..."
His eyes are buggin' again. "Fever?"
"He's still fightin' off the effects of that creature's saliva." It hadn't had venom, thank all that's holy. I don't want to think what might have happened if it had. "And it had a dirty mouth, it's the bite that's infected. Listen, I've got to..."
"I'm coming too." I don't have time to argue with him; if it's bad enough for them to call me then I have to get back down there. He falls into step with me. "It's bad, isn't it?"
I'm hearin' the boy again, so that's who I answer. "No, not at all. He's on antibiotics and they're workin' just like they're supposed to. It's just that the whole process takes time." I shoot a glance over at him and address the man who just spent half the night tryin' to atone for not bein' able to know everythin'. Wouldn't mind gettin' my hands on his father, either. "I can use you, if you're willin' to stay and help. I gave him a mild sedative to help him sleep but he's still restless, he keeps wakin' part-way up thinkin' the bug is still there and all of you are dead."
The boy vanishes right before my eyes, and he picks up the pace, his jaw settin' in a way I've been learnin' means business. "I'll help. You didn't see the thing, Carson, it was more than worth a nightmare or two - and I didn't even have it attached to me."
Ah, yet another reason he'd been in there workin' and not asleep in his room; I file that one away for later too, with a note that I'll be needin' to watch Lieutenant Ford as well. "You'd most likely be more of a comfort to him than myself or any of my people, then," I tell him. "I'd welcome your help, I'm sure he would too."
Nothin' else is said until we get there. Sheppard is tossin' in his bed, not enough that he's in danger of fallin' out of it but enough that one of my assistants is standin' there tryin' to keep him still. I can tell McKay doesn't like that, the way she's holdin' him down. "He keeps goin' for the bandage," I explain. "We don't want him to hurt himself."
His jaw sets again, he mutters somethin' under his breath regardin' killin' the patient to cure the disease...and I have to hold my assistant back when he pushes her out of the way and just rips that bandage off the major's neck with a mutter of somethin' else that sounds like 'stupid' and 'idiot' before puttin' his hand flat over the nice neat stitches closin' up the wound. That surprises me; McKay's more than a bit squeamish, even when the blood's his own, but this time he didn't turn even a hair.
What surprises me even more is that none of us thought the bandage might be Sheppard's problem - that, and we kept stoppin' him from touchin' it. No wonder he thought the bloody bug was still there.
McKay is talkin' to him now, right down close by the ear on that side. "John, listen to me," he says. "Listen, the bug's gone, we got it off. Do you understand? We got it off." Sheppard's head tosses back and forth against the pillow, and he mumbles somethin'. I should've thought of that too, the fact that he might need to wake up and the sedative would keep him from doin' it. McKay's response is to grab one of his hands and put it on the spot where the gauze bandage had been taped, then to put one of his own hands over that to hold Sheppard's hand in place.
Sheppard's eyes open. It's takin' him more than a little effort to focus, but focus he does - right on McKay. Movin' a little closer, I can see his fingers flex under the grip McKay has on him. "No...no bug? You got it?"
"We got it. It's gone, John. Gone. All right?"
"Yeah." Another flex. Good god, I am an idiot for not realizin' he needed to feel that the bug wasn't there. "Rodney? What if it..."
"It won't come back, it got sucked out into space. On the other side of the Gate. Hard vacuum, it's gone for good." I push a stool up behind him and McKay sits down without takin' his eyes off the major - sits down a little heavier than I'd like, everythin' might be catchin' up with him. I wonder again if he's eaten at all since they got back; I'll have to be seein' that he gets somethin' soon, just in case. But now he's usin' his other hand to touch Sheppard's hair, strokin' his fingers through it. "It's okay, John. Just go to sleep, I'll keep watch."
"Know you will." Sheppard pulls his hand out from under McKay's and pats the back of it before lettin' it settle on his chest. "You're a good man. Wake me up for my watch, 'kay?"
"I can do that. Just go to sleep." McKay keeps strokin' his hair, and in only a couple of minutes Sheppard is back to sleep. Which is how he needs to be, of course.
I watch McKay's hands, one still layin' on the place where the bandage was, the other tanglin' in Sheppard's hair...and I find myself wonderin' what it is that he needs. Or if maybe this was it. And I've also got to wonder how I managed to work beside the man for over a year and then travel across the galaxy with him without knowin' him at all.
Chapter 3: Suspicions
#3 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "Suspicion"
I just turned my back for a minute and he was gone.
All right, maybe it was five minutes, or ten - I was back in the lab goin' over test results and comparin' Sheppard's to McKay's. The point is that I left him right where I wanted him to stay and when I came back he'd vanished like a bloody Wraith.
It's not like I don't know where he went, of course. Ford and Teyla haven't come back yet, McKay's been yellin' down the ceilin' about goin' back for them and Weir's been listenin' to that hairy-minded security officer of hers and won't budge an inch.
Did I really volunteer to possibly get stranded here for the rest of my life with these people? What was I thinkin'?
A control panel catches my eye, and I see the way the wall sweeps up from it with that sort of fluidity the Ancients seemed to favor in their architecture; there's nothin' like that on Earth. Oh yes, that's what I was thinkin', I was thinkin' that I'd be gettin' to explore the bloody final frontier. Where no doctor has ever gone before and all that.
I put down the test results and make a face. No astrophysicist either, but that's not necessarily a good thing. First the fiasco with the gene therapy and the personal shield, and then you'd just know Rodney would be the first person to get hit with one of the Wraith energy weapons. Of all the luck to be standin' on this side of the wormhole and be hit dead in the face like that! He went down hard, had his first seizure before we even got him out of the gateroom and then stopped breathin' before we'd got him to the infirmary. But once the shock wore off he started to come back, and by the end of the day he was up walkin' around and complainin' about his feet still feelin' numb and tingly. He didn't much appreciate me tellin' him how fascinatin' it all was, but I'm just bloody well glad he's alive to complain at all. There'd been a few minutes there where I thought we'd lost him for sure.
And then of course Sheppard took a hit square in the chest today, on their first day back out in the field since this whole mess started. He came out of it a lot faster than Rodney, presumably because the shot hit him where it was supposed to and just incapacitated him temporarily instead of shuttin' down half his cerebral cortex, but he still had all the other symptoms: numbness, dizziness, tremors, and Rodney's tinglin' too. All of which are damnably good reasons why the major shouldn't be out runnin' around the city right now arguin' with people. He'd only been in here for about three hours, I'm amazed he managed to get up at all, much less walk out under his own steam...
A thought hits me, and I scowl a bit. I'll be sure to be findin' out where bloody Rodney was when the major decided to release himself from the infirmary, and I'm bettin' it wasn't so very far from right beside Sheppard's bed. We need cameras put in here, that's what we need, so I can look at the recordin' and see what's gone on when I'm not in the room.
Might be a good use for that security fellow Bates after all, I'm sure he'd just fall all over himself for me if I said I wanted surveillance cameras. The smile on my face most likely isn't too nice a one right now, but what I'm contemplatin' isn't exactly a nice sort of thing either. I'll teach those two to conspire and sneak their way out from under my supervision - it's not like I don't know they'll do it again, especially since they got away with it this time.
I'm just wonderin' if Sheppard has any chance of convincin' Weir to let him go back after our missin' people when I hear the Gate activation alarm go off. Now since we don't sound the alarm when someone's goin' out...I start yellin' for my team to grab what we need and get down there, just in case. Our luck isn't runnin' too fair right now, better safe than sorry.
We're back in ten minutes with Ford, who's unconscious, and not fifteen minutes after that Sheppard shows up lookin' ruffled around the edges and does a bit of whisperin' with Rodney that gets him in the same state. Weir, has to be, and probably that security bastard too. I'm more than a bit occupied with figurin' out what's happened to Ford - because the security bastard wouldn't let Teyla come in here with him to tell me - but I'm keepin' enough of an eye on the other two that I notice when Rodney moves closer to Sheppard when he seems like he might be losin' his balance just from standin' there.
They both goggle at me like fish in a bowl when I stomp my way over to them and drag Sheppard back to his bed, forcin' him to sit down on it. "Stay," I order him, and then fix one of my mother's looks on his partner in crime. "You, go find somethin' to do - someplace other than here," I tell him. "You're not sneakin' him out of here again, he shouldnt've left in the first place."
Sheppard looks like he's a bit offended by that. "He didn't sneak me out!"
"I was in the control room when he showed up," Rodney agrees with a nod. "I thought you'd let him out." He makes a frown in Sheppard's direction. "Shame on you, Major, sneaking around like that."
Butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. Cameras, yes, I'm goin' to have cameras hidden in every bloody corner - he might've been in the control room when Sheppard showed up there, but I bet I'd have caught him right here in this spot not ten minutes before that. "Out," I tell Rodney again, and this time I point at the door for him. "You remember what it's like to feel like he's feelin', now get yourself out of here so he'll lay down and sleep it off."
God, if I'm not startin' to sound like my mother now. But it works, and he slinks off with his tail between his legs. Sheppard's just starin' at me - maybe I sound like his mother too. "Lay down," I say, and give a little push on his chest to get him movin' in the right direction. "I've got to be findin' out what's wrong with Ford, I don't have time to be over here messin' around with you."
He lays down, never takin' his eyes off me. "You'll let me know..."
"You'll be right here, I won't have to." All right, that did it - he'll stay put now. "Go to sleep, when he comes out of it I'll wake you."
Those brown eyes sharpen and squint at me a bit, like he's tryin' to look inside my head, and then they go soft again and close. He sighs and says in that blunt way of his, "Did anyone ever tell you you're a bully?"
No, while workin' with the military actually just the opposite, so I feel rather complimented - and I know he meant it as one, too. I pat his shoulder and let him hear the smile in my voice. "If you think I'm tough, you should meet my mother some time."
Chapter 4: Remembering in the Dark
Remembering in the Dark
#4 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "Poisoning the Well"
I didn't realize the lights were off in the lab until the door opened. I wasn't sittin' here in the dark on purpose.
Not consciously, anyway. But seein' as how the ATA gene lets some of us trigger certain systems with mental control alone...maybe I turned them off, I don't know. Don't really much care, either.
She's dead. Fifty bloody percent of their population is dead with her, and more to come, more to come. All because of me 'helpin their research to the next level'.
I've got all the research here with me, I know that eventually I can figure out what went wrong...but right now I'd like to shove it all through the bloody wormhole. They're all dead, or dyin' - fifty percent of them, anyway. Who knows what'll happen to the other half of their population, what the long term effects might be. We won't be goin' back to find out.
Not that I want to - go back, that is. Those people have no respect for individual human life left, none. Their whole civilization has been all about the good of the many, all about makin' sure the work they've done is saved for the survivors to pick up once the Wraith have come and gone. While I was on Hoff, Perna and I backed up our data not less than every half hour. It's the procedure there, you see, and they follow it religiously. They never forget that the enemy can be upon them with almost no warnin' at all.
She wanted to know about Earth. I told her about Scotland, and she apologized for makin' me homesick. I hadn't even realized I was homesick until that moment, but at that moment it really didn't matter so much to me that I was. It mattered to her, though.
It matters to me now. I want to go home. I want to be someplace where we're not makin' up the bloody rules as we go along. I want to visit Michaela and tell her what I've done, and what they did, and what I'd like to do to them for makin' me a part of it.
I want to tell her about Sheppard, and McKay, and Weir - and about Perna, so she can laugh at me. She'd think it was quite funny that I fell for someone on another planet the same way I fell for her. Our eyes just met...and it was done, and I only loved Michaela more the more we were together. Maybe it's a curse. I love them, and they die.
They die smilin' at me, even though they know I can't save them - smilin' as they leave me behind.
I wonder if Michaela knows where I am?
For a minute, just a minute, I think the two arms that wrap around me are hers. But then I remember the door to the lab openin', and the fact that I'm sittin' here in the dark on Atlantis in a different galaxy. And that even the Ancients with all their wonders couldn't bring back the dead - not Perna, not the fifty percent of the Hoffan population bein' sacrificed for false hope, and certainly not someone long dead back on Earth.
The voice in my ear sounds like it might be Teyla. It would be Teyla, wouldn't it? She was there on Hoff, she saw, she understood. And right now I need someone to understand, so I just lean into her arms and let her, knowin' that just right now in the dark it's all right to cry for thousands or even millions of people I couldn't save from themselves. And for Perna, who I couldn't save from herself either - or from myself, and my curse.
And for my Michaela, who'd forgive me anythin', even this. God, I so want to go home.
I'm just not sure that after this I deserve to.
Chapter 5: The Poisoned Well
The Poisoned Well
tag for CD#4, "Remembering in the Dark"
Author's Note: Carson's wife and the backstory for him as written here are my own creations, not canon from the show.
Dr. Weir was surprised when Teyla showed up at her office, especially since she had Major Sheppard and Dr. McKay in tow, none of them looking very happy. "Is something wrong?" she asked.
"Perhaps. We have a question to ask you," Teyla told her. "I was with Dr. Beckett earlier, he was...very upset." She came in and took the first available chair, sinking down into it with the fluid grace that Weir always envied. "He was asleep when I left him."
"He cried himself to sleep." Sheppard had planted himself on one corner of Weir's desk, disdaining the room's other chairs. He looked a lot unhappier up close than he had standing in the doorway. "I knew he'd be upset about what happened on Hoff, but apparently there's more to it than that. Teyla came to Rodney and then to me but we didn't have any answers for her, so we need to know if you know who 'Michaela' is."
Weir dropped back down into her own chair a little harder than she'd intended to, and from the spot where he was leaning against the wall McKay snorted softly. His arms were folded across his chest. "I'd say that's a big yes."
"That's...that was his wife's name," Weir said. "Michaela Beckett. I never got to meet her, but I've seen her picture in his lab in Glasgow."
Teyla nodded. "She is dead, then?"
"She's been dead for a long time." Weir wasn't liking this at all. "The way I understand it, they married young. Carson went to school to become a medical doctor, but when Michaela was diagnosed with cancer he started researching gene therapy to try to save her. She died two months before he found a possible cure, but he kept up his research anyway. He found anomalies in some of the DNA strands he was working with, and when he started asking around about...certain things the Stargate project recruited him and brought him to Antarctica."
"Recruited?" Sheppard's eyes had narrowed, and the word came out almost as a growl. "You mean the way General O'Neill 'recruited' me into the project, Dr. Weir?"
"All I did was ask him to talk to you about it," Weir rebutted calmly. She knew O'Neill tended to be a little less than diplomatic sometimes, but she seriously doubted he'd forced anyone to come on the Atlantis mission - although she knew he'd forced a few people not to come. "And no, nobody forced Carson to join the project and nobody threatened him. The university made it abundantly clear that if we stepped out of line with him they'd hang us out to dry in the international press. That's why they sent me in to talk to him, we couldn't risk creating an incident." She sat back in her chair, remembering. "He was in and out a lot between the lab and the work he was doing at the hospital, I think what actually happened was that I convinced his assistants he should join the project and then they convinced him. They even helped him pack up his things and take them to storage. There wasn't a dry eye in the place the day he left for Antarctica."
"It sounds as though he was very much loved," Teyla observed.
"He was. He found a cure for cancer and gave it to the world," Weir told her. Seeing that the other woman didn't understand she elaborated. "Cancer is one of the most deadly diseases on our planet. Dr. Beckett could have sold his discovery to the highest bidder, but he wouldn't do it. Every major pharmaceutical company was trying to get him to work for them so they could have the rights to his research, but he wouldn't do that either. By the time I got there politics had gotten involved, and about the only place a person could get the treatment was there in Glasgow or in Canada."
"My country has always been a little more...conscientious than the United States when it comes to the health of our citizens," McKay put in for Teyla's benefit from his lean in the corner. He answered the dirty looks he got from Sheppard and Weir with a contemptuous one of his own. "We're not on Earth now, I don't have to keep my mouth shut any more. And you know just as well as I do that one of the reasons the powers that be wanted Carson on the project was so he'd be under their control in Antarctica and not up in Scotland threatening to bring down the wrath of half the planet on the U.S. government and all their rich corporate bedfellows in the pharmaceutical industry."
Sheppard stood up, but to Weir's surprise his anger was directed at her. "Is that true?"
She'd taken on tougher opponents than him, and she met his angry glare without so much as blinking. "The FDA has to be careful..."
"Or in other words, it's true," he cut her off. "So who put the gag on Rodney? Not that I thought it was possible to shut him up, but apparently someone did so it must have been one hell of a threat. Was it us?"
Weir tried again. "Some issues are politically sensitive, so it was suggested to Dr. McKay that he not voice his opinions while he was working on the project. It was a reasonable request, considering the circumstances..."
"If it had been a 'request' it might have been." McKay was looking angrier now, although he still hadn't moved out of his spot. He switched his attention to Sheppard. "It didn't come from her, they just left it up to her to enforce it. NID put me on the Stargate project to begin with, they said they needed someone outside of the SGC who knew how the technology worked. It didn't take me long to figure out that I was working for the bad guys, but by then it was too late for me to do anything about it. I was told that if I didn't want to be kicked out in the cold - literally as well as figuratively - I'd better keep my opinions to myself." The arms he had wrapped around his chest tightened, not much but enough that Sheppard noticed. "I think I'd have preferred literally, to be honest. It would have been...quicker and less painful."
Sheppard gave him a long look, weighing that statement, and then nodded once sharply. "I can understand that," he said. "Do you know if any NID personnel came with us?"
"The only one I'm sure of is Bates, now that Colonel Sumner is dead." McKay rolled his eyes at Weir's sharp intake of breath. "Oh please, like you didn't know."
"I didn't know." Weir looked sick. She'd prided herself on building this team, her Atlantis team, and now she was finding out that it wasn't as much her team as she'd thought. Coercion, intimidation, planted personnel...and McKay's reason for the United States wanting Beckett on the project was ringing too close to true for her. She'd been sent to Glasgow with instructions to do whatever it took to bring the doctor on board, and had settled on persistent, friendly persuasion as the best counterpoint for Beckett's mild-mannered demeanor. And it had worked, and she'd never questioned why the lab assistants had been so amused every time she'd mentioned how even-tempered their boss was.
Then she'd gotten him to the base in Antarctica, and all hell had broken loose - quietly, Carson Beckett wasn't a loud man. He completely rearranged his lab, changed his staff assignments four times, and fired six people. When questioned, he'd patiently reminded her that she'd promised him complete control over his part of the project and then folded his arms across his chest, raised one eyebrow and asked if she'd been having him on about that. That was the first week. The second week he'd gone to work refining the research he'd already done, integrating in the new information they'd given him, and every time someone tried to talk to him he'd all but bitten their head off. Weir tabled all the complaints, noting that not one of them came from Beckett's own staff. Two weeks after that he'd presented her with a report about the ATA gene and submitted a testing schedule for project personnel to determine who had it and who didn't. He also demanded a weekend off for his entire staff, citing that they'd worked hard and deserved it. She'd approved it without question, and didn't ask why he hadn't put himself in for leave at the same time. She'd found out why the following week when he gave her another report, this one detailing the changes he wanted made to the base's medical facilities and containing a painstakingly specific list of reasons why the current ranking doctor needed to be transferred into a position where he'd have someone supervising him. Weir submitted that up the chain of command and wasn't at all surprised when Beckett put his staff to work making the proposed changes to the infirmary the minute the other doctor was gone.
By that time, she'd noticed that McKay started snickering every time he saw Beckett heading for her office. She'd been meanly glad when the astrophysicist turned out not to have the much-vaunted ATA gene and had done some snickering of her own when the second test he'd insisted on had confirmed the lack. What she hadn't realized was that McKay had become friendly with Beckett...until a certain unit of visiting Marines had started hiding in their temporary barracks and had all but run out to the transport sent to move them to their next assignment. No one would tell her what had happened, but she suspected it had something to do with the unit's very vocal dislike of civilian scientists culminating in an unknown incident that had McKay showing up in his lab one morning so on edge that every time someone walked past his door he jumped. Dr. Weir hadn't thought much about that at the time, passing it off with some amusement as 'just Rodney', but she had a feeling a certain Scottish doctor hadn't taken the incident so lightly.
By that time, of course, she'd realized that Carson Beckett didn't take anything lightly. The mild-mannered persona was just that - a persona, one he'd developed for the benefit of his patients. He was quiet, but that was because the force of his personality was such that he usually didn't need to raise his voice. And she had a feeling that the hand-picked members of his staff would happily take - or possibly even shoot - a bullet for him without a second thought.
Hence the laughter of the Glasgow lab assistants; they'd decided Beckett needed to join the project and had helped her convince him to do it, but they'd also known exactly what the project would be getting once it had him. And it also explained why the government had been so determined to get the doctor to Antarctica in person, even though he'd been more than willing to give them the research he'd already done with no strings attached. Carson Beckett was a tough, determined man. He'd have gotten fed up with the politics holding back his cure after a while and started talking to the press, or posting his findings on the Internet, or calling up the heads of the European Union at home on the weekends.
And by the time he'd gotten that fed up, it was likely he'd have discovered more cures to talk about. It would have been an international coup, it would have ripped the planet apart. But because Weir had done her job so well...just over a year later when the Atlantis team had left Earth it was still only possible to receive Beckett's safe, highly effective gene therapy in Scotland and in Canada. Most people in the rest of the world didn't even know a cure for cancer actually existed except as a supermarket tabloid rumor.
Elizabeth Weir had never really thought about that until now.
Teyla was talking to her again, and she forced her attention back into her office. "It appears there are other problems to be dealt with, but we mainly came here to see if there was anything we could do to help Dr. Beckett," the former Athosian leader was saying. "Knowing what happened to his wife, it is no wonder the deaths on Hoff affected him to such a degree, especially the death of Perna. So, Dr. Weir, what are we going to do about this?"
"I don't know." Weir had deflated to the point that she wasn't even sure she could stand up again. All her training, all her experience, was directed toward negotiating situations that involved large groups of people, entire nations, even entire planets; unless it was important to her goal she was used to dismissing problems on the individual level as unimportant in the larger scheme of things. She didn't know how to deal with a widower she hadn't realized was still grieving his loss. But she should have realized it, knew she should have seen it; after all, he'd had the woman's picture on the wall in his lab in Glasgow - not in his office, in the lab over a desk that no one on the staff would sit at. From what she'd understood, Michaela Beckett had spent every day in that lab with him right up until the week she died, helping wherever she could while her driven, desperate husband searched for the cure that wouldn't be found until it was too late.
And six hours ago he'd watched another woman he'd worked side by side with for a month and possibly been developing some deeper feelings for die from a cure he'd found too soon. Nowhere in her resume was a skill set that would help her repair the damage done by that kind of cruel irony, nowhere. "I don't know," she repeated again with more confidence. "I'm not sure there's anything we can do. I think we'll just have to watch and wait for him to come to one of us if he needs to talk."
It sounded ineffectual even as she said it, a cop-out of major proportions. McKay's response was to peel himself out of his corner and walk out of the room without a word, but when Weir started to call after him Sheppard's upraised hand stopped her. "I wouldn't. You might not like what he has to say - they're friends, remember?" He headed for the door himself, and Teyla rose from her seat as well. "Thank you for giving us the information you had, Dr. Weir. We'll take care of it from here."
The look he gave her as he walked out was somewhere between contemptuous and disappointed, but the one on Teyla's face was pitying when Weir turned back to her in surprise. "Their friend is hurting and they are upset, they wish to attack his pain as though it were an enemy and subdue it," the Athosian woman said softly. "But you feel you must focus on larger problems, those that affect your people as a whole rather than individually." She bowed slightly. "It is difficult to maintain a balance within your heart between the leader and the woman, I know. Sometimes, it seems impossible."
And then she was gone. Weir didn't try to call her back, she just sat at her desk, thinking about how very impossible that was - and how jealous she was of Teyla, who seemed to achieve that impossible balance so very naturally. But after five minutes of thinking about it she shook it off and started back in on her other duties, smothering her emotional indecision with the weight of larger, more objective responsibilities. Major Sheppard had said they would take care of it, she'd just have to trust that they would.
Just like she was trusting that by the time they finally got back to Earth, people would no longer be dying from cancer.
Chapter 6: Damage Control
#5 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "Home"
I was as relieved as anyone when the incomin' traveler alarm went off...but I didn't go down to the gateroom to see what was goin' on. I haven't been leavin' the lab much lately, not since Hoff, and I knew that if they needed a medical team they'd call for one.
So I was bloody well surprised when they all came troopin' into the infirmary wantin' me to check them over. They were all five tryin' to tell me what had happened at once, and I finally had to shout them down. "All right, shut up all of ye! I can't figure it out if you all talk at once, now can I?" That worked, but now nobody's talkin', wonderful. I point at Ford, he's the most succinct of the bunch. "You, tell me what's happened."
He swallows. "Apparently as soon as Dr. Weir came through the Gate we were all knocked unconscious - by the mist aliens, because every time someone uses the Gate it kills some of them, and if we'd dialed Earth we'd have killed millions. So they created these alternate realities for us - the mist aliens - inside our own minds, but the major was able to mess with his for some reason and General Hammond - I mean a mist alien who made himself look like the general - tried to tell us they were going to keep us there until we died, but Dr. Weir convinced him to let us go and we promised not to ever go back again."
Holy crap. I ignore the noises Sheppard's makin' about the boy namin' things again. "You all have been unconscious on the planet's surface for the past twenty hours?" I don't wait for them to finish noddin' before I'm yellin' for my team. "Everyone grab a bed and stay there!" They all do it, none of them a bit reluctantly so I know they can't be feelin' any too good at the moment. Rodney's movin' slower than the others, and he's rubbin' his head; I move him where I want him to be and sit him down myself. "Did you hit your head when you fell? Let me see."
"I don't think I did, there's no bump and I'm not bleeding." No, there's not and he isn't, so that's one good thing. "I just have the headache from Hell."
"Do any of the rest of you have a headache?" No one does. I think fast. Sheppard was able to disrupt the illusory environment...but he doesn't have a headache, because he's sittin' over there shakin' his head and lookin' disgusted at Rodney. I'll deal with that in a minute. First things first. Melissa, one of my P.A.'s, is hoverin' right at my shoulder, so I start givin' orders. "They all need water, and then I want a full workup on everybody before you give them anythin' to eat - except for Dr. McKay, get him one of those nutrient-replacement drinks right away."
That inspires a complaint. "Hey, why does he get to eat?" Ford wants to know.
"Because I don't want him keelin' over," I snap back. Time to lay this one to rest; Rodney tells everyone he's got low blood sugar, but that's not exactly his problem. "He's got a higher metabolism than the rest of you, he only needs four or five hours of sleep a day but he has to eat more often to compensate."
Sheppard doesn't look like he's buyin' that. "I thought people with a high metabolism were skinny," he smirks. "Rodney doesn't exactly fit that description."
I can see the others agreein' with that, and it doesn't make me any too happy at the moment. "Rodney, take off a few layers." He gives me a look like I just pointed a gun at him and asked him to dance. I don't give in. "I can't check you over through two shirts and a jacket. Do it."
He still doesn't like it, but he shrugs out of his jacket and then peels off his long-sleeved shirt so he's only wearin' his t-shirt, which is just a bit tight on him. Melissa's back with the nutrient drink - bloody nasty things, but Rodney absolutely loves them so I have to keep them locked up where he can't get at them - and once he has that he's not so upset. I go ahead and start Melissa takin' his vitals. "The rest of you need to take off your jackets too. And as you can see, he's not overweight," I point out. "Out of shape, yes - because until recently he did most of his work in a lab and not in the field. I'm out of shape myself for the same reason. And the last time I saw you professionally, Major, you didn't exactly have a set of six-pack abs to be braggin' about your own self."
"Sometimes I don't have time to get down to the gym..." Sheppard's blushin', though, and the others are laughin' at him, so that's one problem taken care of. Now on to the next.
I go over to the major, standin' out of the way of the tech who's takin' his blood. "Now I want you to tell me exactly how you were able to disrupt the illusory environment, anythin' you can remember."
He takes a drink of water, leans back and starts thinkin'. "I don't think I was consciously trying to disrupt it, I could just tell something wasn't right. General Hammond retired years ago, but I didn't think of that until a lot later - but it was him being so nice to me that got me wondering. He let Teyla leave the base with me, he gave us a staff car and a driver...that isn't normal."
"Sometimes for the SGC it was," comes from Ford. "But now that I think about it, I should have realized that it was weird General O'Neill wasn't there."
"So should I," adds Weir. "I was there when Hammond retired."
"And I should have thought something was wrong when they said the Asgaard were helping them," Rodney contributes. He's already talkin' faster, good. "Not to mention when all the documents they kept giving me were pure gibberish."
"Gibberish? As in total nonsense, just a hodgepodge of letters and symbols?" I ask him. He nods, and I slap my forehead. "Of course. Melissa, Dr. McKay needs 300 milligrams of ibuprofen, and we'll need to do some scans to make sure they didn't scramble anythin' inside his head..."
"Hey, now he gets drugs, that really isn't fair." Sheppard backs down a bit when I turn back to him, though. "You're spoiling him, he'll just whine more now."
"He was smarter than your mist aliens." That even gets a reaction from Rodney. "No, I'm serious. They were in all your heads, apparently, but they couldn't keep up with him so he was seein' things show up in gibberish. And that's why he's got a headache and the rest of you don't - partially, anyway. I'm bettin' the rest of it's got to do with his control of the ATA gene I gave him."
I hear a snigger from Weir and turn to frown at her, but she just smiles. "Oh, you mean that psychological component that keeps him from controlling it properly?"
The woman's got no shame. I know Rodney can be bloody well irritatin', but that's no call for them to pick on him all the time - and I'm also glad to see that Teyla is frownin' now, she's not findin' it funny any more. "Rodney, shut up," I tell the man before his mouth gets more than halfway open. "Yes, there is a mental component to usin' the gene, but I've come to the conclusion that it's my fault you haven't got full access to it, not yours." I turn back to Weir. "In effect, what I did by givin' it to him was to hook up hardware in his system without givin' him software to run it with - everythin's workin', but he's havin' to apply it hit and miss."
"But Major Sheppard can use his..."
"That's because he was born with it pre-installed." I hope my puttin' it in Rodney-terms is goin' to help him understand, maybe help all of them understand. "He's got the software already, don't you see? McKay's got the ability to do what he does, but he's goin' to have to learn how to do it all on his own."
"I am learning." A bit defensive, but that's just Rodney. "Some things are just...taking longer than others. I did finally figure out the personal shield."
"Yeah, you did." Sheppard isn't needlin' him now. To hear him tell it that incident scared him half to death, turnin' around just in time to see Rodney walk down into the middle of that energy-suckin' black monster and disappear...and then reappear a few minutes later unconscious on the gateroom floor with his personal shield completely drained of power. "You haven't ever gotten it working again, though."
Rodney smirks at him. "You're just jealous because it won't work for anyone but me. When it's working, that is."
"Yeah, when it's working," Sheppard tosses back at him. They're playin' now, which is what I wanted to see - between he and Sheppard, anyway. I don't think Elizabeth can tell the difference, which is a problem we've had from the beginnin'.
A problem I'm not goin' to be solvin' today, I've got other things to worry about - things like five people that were layin' unconscious on an alien planet for twenty hours and one of them that's got symptoms the others don't have - just because I think I've figured out why he's got them doesn't mean I don't still need to check him over twice to make sure.
I might check them all twice, for that same reason. Elizabeth might be able to get by with overlookin' things because there's myself and Sheppard and even Rodney to catch what she misses...but there's no one here who can do that for me. I've come to more of a realization of the responsibility I'm carryin' here...and I'm not goin' to miss anythin' else if I can help it.
Chapter 7: Storm's Passing
#6 of The Carson Diaries, from the episodes "The Storm" and "The Eye"
Och, does my head ever hurt.
Somethin' hit me...all right, it was most likely someone that hit me. I didn't see them, they must have snuck up behind me.
Remind me to leave the fightin' to the soldiers from now on. I'm a doctor, not bloody Rambo. As Ford can well attest after today. Is that him I hear goin' on about somethin' over across the room? If my head didn't hurt so much I'd lift it to look, and I'd give him a look of my own. He'd no call to be such a bastard about things earlier. There might be a barium enema someplace down in the infirmary with his name on it, for later when he's not expectin' me to get even.
Oh, laughin' wasn't such a good idea - I think my head just exploded right out through my stomach. Good thing there's a wastepaper basket right here beside the console. Bloody concussion.
When did I get up and start movin' again? I guess it doesn't matter that much, and whoever's helpin' me stay upright is keepin' their voice down. Voices, rather. Teyla and...Rodney? Not bloody Ford, good - I've heard enough from him for the time bein'. And I seem to remember Sheppard sayin' somethin' about goin' to fetch someone back from Menara. I might have heard him wrong, though; I can still hear the storm goin' on, and we can't be bringin' everyone back to the city until we're sure it's over. Not to mention that we don't know how many soldiers might be waitin' on the other side of the Gate. It'd be too dangerous to just stroll through hopin' for the best.
It was dangerous enough when we flew back over ourselves from the mainland, even though part of that time we were in the eye of the storm. Didn't really have a choice in that, though, it was an emergency. I don't think we've got an emergency goin' on right now...oh. Oh yes, layin' down feels good, very good. I think my head would feel much better if I could just get some sleep. My stomach too, as convenient as that basket was I don't want to be visitin' it again just now, even if the floor was nice and cool.
Oh wait, isn't there some reason I'm not supposed to be goin' to sleep just now....?
Ouch. Bright light, and someone messin' with my eyes...I try to move away and they stop me. Oh, right, concussion. So this is why people are always givin' me that dirty look when I try to check their pupilary response. It's bloody well annoyin', and it hurts. I'll have to remember that later. For now, I blink a little so I can see who's here. There's the infirmary ceilin'...oh, and here's one of my people. "Melissa?"
She's lookin' a bit worried. "Dr. Beckett, do you know where you are?"
"The infirmary." Concussion, right. I know this drill. "How long has the storm been over? Is everyone back already?"
"It isn't, but they say it's dying down. And nobody's back yet but me, they're still trying to sort out the situation over there." She's checkin' my pulse now. "You've got a concussion, I'm going to have to keep waking you up until I'm sure you're all right. Do you want something to drink before you go back to sleep?"
My stomach says that isn't too good of an idea, so I just close my eyes. Sleep, yes, that's what I want. But if the storm isn't over and there's a mess to deal with on Menara, how did Melissa get here?
When I wake up all the way, finally, I realize I've got an IV stuck in my arm and that there are a lot more people around. Storm must be over, then, and so must everythin' else. I don't see Melissa, but Jonathan comes over and runs me through the drill yet again. It's bloody well annoyin' is what it is - as was bein' woken up every hour or two for who knows how long. Maybe the Ancients had some better way of watchin' a concussion; I'll have to ask Rodney to keep his eyes open for anythin' that looks like medical equipment, maybe we'll get lucky. "Jonathan, have you seen Dr. McKay?" I ask.
He moves to one side and points, and wouldn't you know it there's the man himself. "Some of our equipment is still acting up because of the power surge that ran through the city," he tells me. "That's the last one in here that's not working."
I squint, seein' that the panel Rodney's swearin' over isn't lit up - and that it's the one that controls one of the doors, which looks to be stuck half open. But I also see somethin' else. "What's that on his arm?"
Jonathan shrugs. "I don't know, he had that bandage on when we all got back. He must have put it there himself."
I frown at him. "I'd bloody well hope he did that himself, seein' how it's wrapped over his sleeve," I snap - and then wince a bit. Gettin' angry on the tail end of a concussion isn't the best idea, apparently. "All of you know better than that. Did anyone ask him about it?"
"I don't know, I don't think so." He's lookin' a little bit worried now, and not about me; I'm not all too forgivin' of carelessness around my infirmary - or my lab either, for that matter. "Everyone probably thought someone else did it."
"Get him over here, the bloody door can wait." I push myself up just a bit against the pillows I've got and try to get control of the poundin' in my head. At least it's not as bad as I remember it bein' before, and if I squint just a bit the lights aren't so much too bright.
Rodney comes runnin' over, lookin' worried half to death. "Carson, what did you need?"
He looks so worried - and so glad to see me - that I almost don't want to tear into him. Almost. "What did you do to your arm?"
"Huh?" He actually has to look down at it to remember. "Oh, that. It's okay, I put alcohol on it before I wrapped it up."
Look at him, he's just as pleased with himself as if he'd done somethin' right. I sigh. Bloody fool probably thinks he did. And I've got no way of knowin' how long my people have been back, might not have been so long that someone would have had a chance to corner him about it. "Jonathan, go get what's needed for this," I say, and he darts off. I take hold of Rodney's hand to hold his arm still while I start unwrappin' the bandage, notin' that his fingers flex in mine and that they're warm but not hot or swollen. Hopefully it's nothin' too bad...but then the bandage comes off and I see the size of the gash in his sleeve and how much blood is dried on the material - and on the skin underneath. I give him a dirty look. "Get that jacket off now. And why didn't you ask someone to help you with this?"
He blinks at me. "I...I just didn't think about it. You were hurt, and the lightning strike knocked a lot of systems offline. I've been running from place to place...and I did wrap it up so it wouldn't keep bleeding."
"Yes, that was good thinkin' - but you don't wrap things over your clothes unless you don't have a choice." I raise an eyebrow at him and try to ignore the fact that it hurts to do it. "Yes, you did have a choice; you could have asked one of my people to do it."
He shakes his head. "I, um...the storm didn't break for quite a while, and it was only about an hour ago that we could start getting everyone back into the city. So they've only been back for a little while, and we've been trying to get everything working..."
"So why didn't you ask Melissa?" Then I remember somethin'. "How exactly did she get back here, anyway? She was here before everyone else, and I remember her sayin' the storm was still goin' on and no one else was back."
"Um, John went over to Menara with a jumper and brought her back. It was...too important to wait, we needed her." Now he looks really uncomfortable, and he shrugs out of his jacket so he won't have to look at me. "I'll remember to put the bandage under my clothes next time."
I reach for him again, and this time I grab his wrist instead of his hand and use the old bandages to wipe off the blood that's startin' to well up again. It's a deep, messy hole he has in his arm, one that starts shallow and gouges down...my god, I know what this is. "A knife did this, Rodney!"
"Commander Kolya, he was...trying to get me to talk." This time the eyebrow goes up easier, and he gives in to it again. "I held out as long as I could, but I just...couldn't hold out very long."
Bloody hell. And there's bruisin' all around the cut, damage that didn't come from a knife too; looks like the sadistic bastard made sure Rodney kept talkin', or maybe that was shuttin' him back up once he'd talked enough. I think I can even see some light bruisin' on his face. Och, I wonder if Sheppard knows about what went on? Most likely not, given how Rodney's actin' right now. And why didn't Weir help the man with his arm? She bein' held hostage with him, she had to have known he was hurt - not to mention how he got that way. I sigh; looks like I've got some work to do once this bloody concussion has run its course. "I'm glad you couldn't, I'm tryin' not to imagine how much worse this could have been," is what I tell him, keepin' my eyes on the cut and not on his face to spare him any more embarrassment. "You're lucky the cut didn't go deeper than it did. It's still goin' to need a stitch or two, though, if you want it to heal up right." I scoot over just a bit and tug on the wrist I'm holdin' to make him sit down on the side of the bed. His pulse is slowin' down now, good. "Once Jonathan takes care of it, you can be on about fixin' things again. And then I can go back to sleep."
He makes a face. "You look like you need to."
And then he shivers, and I realize that he's not lookin' any too good himself and that he's sittin' just a bit hunched over like his stomach hurts him. But before I can ask him what else went on, Jonathan is back and we're busy with takin' care of the knife wound and gettin' it wrapped up properly. Rodney surprises me, though, and stays where he is when Jonathan finishes and goes off again. "Somethin' you want to talk about?" I ask him, keepin' my voice low. My hand is still on his wrist, and I feel his pulse rate go up again. Damn. "Is somethin' wrong, Rodney?"
Like I don't already know somethin' is, but sometimes it's better to ask, to give him a choice in answerin'. He makes that face again. "I...can I ask a favor of you, Carson?"
"Of course." I'm gettin' a bad feelin' now, because he wouldn't be askin' any kind of a favor of me right at this moment if he thought he could twist himself up to do it another time. "What do you need?"
Rodney takes a deep breath and looks around the room before lookin' down at me, and I don't like what I see in those blue eyes when they get here. "If something happens to me...could I get you to take care of something for me?"
I nod immediately and tell him of course, but inside I can feel my blood pressure goin' up and the poundin' in my head starts to get a little louder. Not because of Rodney, oh no. The only thought runnin' through my mind right now is, Oh bloody hell, she's done it again...
Chapter 8: Repairs
tag for CD#6 "Storm's Passing"
It took him longer than he wanted to find Rodney.
In fact, it took him almost two hours. Everyone Sheppard asked had 'just seen him'. A few hours ago. Or yesterday. Or late last night. And all of the reported sightings were accompanied by the sighter pointing to something that was now working but hadn't been before; Rodney was leaving a trail of repairs in his wake, and apparently had been for the last couple of days. Sheppard finally just started going wherever he knew there was something that hadn't been fixed, and in the end that got him where he wanted to go.
Of course, it hadn't hurt that Rodney had notified Dr. Grodin in the Command Center about the repair he was trying to complete at grounding station number three. He'd needed a particular set of circuits shut down so he wouldn't electrocute himself.
Sheppard all but ran to get there, and then he had to take a few minutes to get his breath back before going outside. He needed to be casual about this, because if his teammate was half as skittish right now as Sheppard thought he was and someone came running up to him...well, he'd probably be fishing Rodney out of Atlantis' not-so-warm ocean. So he composed himself, and then he just strolled out onto the platform like he was out for a walk.
Rodney still tensed up all over. Sheppard pretended not to notice. "Hey," he said. "What'cha workin' on?"
Blue eyes flicked up to him and then just as quickly dropped back down to the damaged console. "I'm trying to get this panel repaired. We might need it operational again someday."
"Oh." Sheppard had already settled on a plan of attack. He walked right up behind his target and bent to peer over his shoulder at the exposed circuitry, then moved to one side and squatted down for a closer look. "Need any help?"
Another sideways flicker of blue, and now that he was close Sheppard could see the uneasiness there - not that he couldn't feel the tension radiating off the other man. "Um, no, not really. Did you need me for something else?"
"No, not really." Sheppard smiled and stayed where he was, watching, and after a minute he said, "I just had a couple of questions I wanted to ask you, that was all."
He'd only thought Rodney was tense before. "Oh...okay. Ask away."
Careful, John, be careful, he warned himself, then took a breath and started in. "Well, it's really just some information I needed to get," he explained. "I realized there were some areas of your training that I was kind of fuzzy on, and since I'm your team leader I really need to know." He shifted just slightly, keeping his eyes on the panel. "I don't suppose you remember when it was that your training officer discussed how to handle hostage situations, do you?"
There was a moment of silence, then, "Major, I'm a civilian, remember?"
Sheppard rolled his eyes. "Oh that's right, you wouldn't have had a training officer, would you? Okay then, I know you went to college; how much do you remember from the class you took, you know the one where they teach you about being a prisoner of war and how to handle torture and all of that?"
Rodney turned to look at him in complete disbelief. "They don't teach courses like that and you know it!"
"Yes, I do know it." Sheppard held his eyes, letting the other man see that he was serious and not screwing around with him. "But I wanted to make sure you knew that I knew it." He put one hand lightly on a tense shoulder. "You did good, Rodney."
Even more disbelief. "I told them where you were!"
Sheppard didn't so much as blink. "I think they made you do that, am I right?"
The other man's eyes went back to the console, but he wasn't seeing it. "It didn't take a lot of...persuasion."
"I don't know, I think it took way the hell too much." The major reached over and grabbed his teammate's right arm. "How many stitches, Rodney?" When all he got in response was a flinch he shook the arm he was holding. "How many stitches?"
"Five." The word came out like it hurt. "It took five stitches, all right?"
"No, it's not all right." Sheppard let his fingers tighten on the arm he was holding, albeit carefully. "After the knife, what else? Did they keep messing with it after they cut you?" A nod. "What about knocking you around, did they do that?" The next nod was more of a flinch. "The whole time?"
"Off and on." Rodney shrugged, still not looking at him. "It doesn't matter."
"It matters to me," Sheppard snapped at him, letting an edge of anger sharpen his voice and steeling himself against the way that made the other man jump. "One of my people gets captured, beat up and tortured, you damn well better believe it matters to me. And I'm about halfway pissed at you for not telling me what went on."
He was a lot more pissed than that at Weir for not telling him about what went on, but he wasn't planning to share that with Rodney right now. Someone else he was pissed at, though... "Of course, if I hadn't had my head up my ass that day I would have noticed something was wrong - that bandage wrapped around over the arm of your jacket should have tipped me off for sure."
Rodney's chuckle sounded a little watery; Sheppard ignored that too. "Carson wasn't too happy about that either."
"I can just imagine." And he could - he could imagine that the doctor had been a hell of a lot more restrained with Rodney than he had been with him two hours ago Sheppard was pretty sure that if he looked behind himself he'd find part of his ass missing. But that was another thing he wasn't going to go into with Rodney. "He's really not too happy with Ford right now either, I guess I wasn't the only one with my head up my ass that day."
Another chuckle, this one more amused than forced. "He kept muttering about that when Teyla and I took him back to the infirmary. Lieutenant Ford might want to watch his back for a while, Carson can be pretty creative when it comes to revenge." Rodney extracted his arm from Sheppard's grasp, picked up a tool and held it up to the console. "So you aren't...tossing me off your team, then?"
"Never even considered it." Sheppard waited until the tool was actually in use before following up on that. "So that's what you thought when I wouldn't take you back to Menara with me to get help for Beckett? You thought I didn't trust you to watch my back any more?"
"Something like that, yeah." Rodney pried wires apart with his fingers and dug the tool deeper into the circuitry. "You do, though, right?"
He was trying so hard to sound like it didn't matter, but the faint tremor in his voice told the major just how much it did - as did the next nervous glance sideways from those worried blue eyes. "Of course I do." Sheppard rolled his eyes, injecting enough exasperation into his tone to let his teammate know he thought the whole idea was stupid. "But I needed you here to get things running again - and to be my backup in case something went wrong on Menara. It's not like there was anyone else here who could have come after us, right?"
Just the barest hint of a smile. "I guess not, since I was the only one left who could fly a jumper. Could you hand me those pliers, the small ones?"
"Sure." Sheppard handed over the tool, then shifted so he was sitting flat on the floor just like his teammate was. He started making small talk about the number of repairs that had been done, that still needed to be done, that were less than critical...and then just as soon as Rodney had relaxed again he dove back in. "So since I'm here, why don't you go ahead and give me the report I never got from you about the takeover attempt?"
Rodney froze in mid-cut on a twist of crimped red wire, and it was all Sheppard could do not to grin at how blindsided he looked. "What report? I don't..."
"I know you don't, but you're supposed to - I wasn't there, you're a member of my team, I need your report on the situation." He patted the other man's shoulder. "I know I haven't made you debrief before; it's okay, I'll walk you through it. Just tell me what happened chronologically, the facts and anything you observed. If I have a question I'll stop you, otherwise just keep going." Sheppard smiled into Rodney's wide blue eyes and waved his hand at the open console. "You can keep on working. Sometimes it helps if you have something else to focus on."
More disbelief, but the scientist did as he was told and went back to work as he started outlining what had happened, starting with the Athosian code coming in from Menara that had prompted them to let down the shield. Sheppard made encouraging noises where appropriate, forced him to backtrack for more detail in a few places, but for the most part he just listened and filed it all away for later consideration. He really had needed the report, and if he'd been thinking straight two days ago he'd have realized that Rodney needed to debrief to get the whole situation into perspective. Sheppard wasn't going to forget again that he was dealing with a civilian, even if it was an arrogant pain in the ass of a civilian...who also happened to be at least as loyal to him as any soldier in the city. He knew for a damned fact that Rodney wasn't that loyal to Weir.
Of course, by the time the debriefing was half over Sheppard was starting to wish he could pitch Weir over the nearest rail into the ocean. She'd told him about what had happened, or so he'd thought, but what she hadn't told him was what he'd really needed to know. Like the details of the torture that had made Rodney give away his position, or the fact that Rodney had saved her life twice by getting between she and Kolya, or the physical abuse Rodney had been put through at the mad commander's hands. And the list went on.
In short, in Dr. Elizabeth Weir's version of the story Rodney McKay had been a background figure, not very important and certainly not worth worrying about. Sheppard understood much better now why Beckett was so angry about the whole situation; he was angry himself, even furious. The scientist might be an arrogant pain in the ass, but he was Major Sheppard's arrogant pain in the ass and he was damn well indispensable to this mission.
He was also John Sheppard's friend, whether he knew it or not. And John protected his friends at least as well as he looked out for his men, usually better. Knowing that he'd let Rodney run all over Atlantis for the past two days, hurt and alone while he tried to fix the whole city at once...well, it just wasn't acceptable. And it wasn't going to happen again, either. Ever.
The debriefing finished, Sheppard asked a few clarifying questions about certain incidents, drawing out the details that might be important, and then he wrapped it up. "You did good," he told the still-working scientist, patting his shoulder again. "I've got career military guys here who can't give me a report that well when I ask for it, I'm impressed. Now sometimes rehashing everything can be tough, it kind of makes it all real again; are you okay?"
"Yeah." No hesitation this time, good. Rodney made one final adjustment, then started screwing the cover panel back into place over the waterproof seal while Sheppard handed him screws. "You were right, focusing on something else helped." The last screw went in, and he traded his screwdriver for his communicator. "Control room, you can turn the power back on. I think it's fixed now."
You'll know for sure in a minute, Grodin's amused voice came back. All right, switching the circuits back over...now. And I'm not hearing anything explode.
"No, you aren't - nor are you hearing screams of pain or the sound of people jumping into the water in fear," Rodney quipped back. "It's fixed. Now I think someone said the lights weren't all working in the..."
Sheppard snatched the communicator out of his hand before he could finish. "Wherever it is that the lights aren't working, tell them to get some candles," he told Grodin. "I think the Repair King here could use a break - as in, he's off duty until tomorrow."
He could almost hear the smile in Grodin's voice. Understood, Major. I'll route any other repair requests elsewhere until tomorrow after breakfast.
"Thanks, Sheppard out." He clicked off the communicator, then hauled himself to his feet and held out a hand to help the wide-eyed, open-mouthed scientist to stand as well. "Come on, pick up your toys and let's go put them away, then we'll go find some dinner." He frowned, though, when Rodney had a little trouble getting his balance on standing up. And didn't the man look a little flushed? But he'd only been out here, outside, for a couple of hours...
Sheppard could have kicked himself. Today he had...but two days ago during the storm he'd been out here in the rain for a lot longer than that. And with most of the power off in the city, it hadn't exactly been warm inside either. He had a hand out to touch Rodney's forehead before the man could duck away from him, and what he felt made his frown deepen. "Hey, you're hot. Are you sick?"
Rodney waved it aside. "It's nothing, I've been taking cold medicine. I'm just due for another pill now, that's all."
"Oh, that's all," Sheppard echoed. "Okay, then on the way to dinner we'll just swing by the infirmary and get your next dose from Beckett." He had to grin when Rodney's face fell. "You didn't tell him, did you?"
"No, but I'm sure you will." Rodney rolled his eyes, but Sheppard thought he looked somewhat relieved. "All right, I'll go down there - but you're sticking around while he tears me a new one, I'm not going to be the only one who suffers."
Sheppard slung one arm around his shoulders and grinned. "You won't be," he assured the other man, steering him through the door that led back inside. It was an assurance he felt pretty safe in making, considering how pissed off the doctor already was - with good reason, as Sheppard now knew. "And I'll stick around, I don't want to eat alone and Ford is," he essayed a mock-shudder, "bouncy. It's bad for my digestion to eat with Ford. Maybe we can scoop up Teyla along the way, she doesn't bounce either." He glanced down and winked. "Not that I'd complain if she started to, of course."
Rodney sniffed, but he was smiling. "I wouldn't either, but I don't think it's very likely. And if she caught us staring she'd kick both our asses." It was his turn to wink. "But what a way to go, eh?"
Sheppard laughed out loud; Rodney was going to be okay. There was a little glimmer of satisfaction in his brown eyes that the other man didn't, couldn't pick up on, though, and that didn't have anything to do with Rodney directly at all. Sheppard had all the facts about the attack and subsequent hostage situation now, more facts that Beckett or anyone else was privy to, and he was going to get a lot of pleasure from making sure their protectively angry revenge-minded doctor was filled in on every last little ugly detail. They would pay closer attention to Weir's interactions with Rodney from now on, and between the two of them they'd make sure this sort of thing never got past them again.
Chapter 9: Confrontation
#7 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "The Eye"
I've been tryin' to corner her for a week, and now I've got her in my sights. No gettin' away now, Dr. Weir.
I walk out on the balcony and let myself admire the view of Atlantis' ocean for a moment before goin' over to the rail and leanin' on it, right next to her. "We've got a problem," I say.
She sighs. "Something biological? Don't tell me we've got a virus or something on the loose. And you said Dr. McKay's cold was just a cold."
"It is, you don't have to worry about that." I'd like it more if she was worried about it, considerin' how he got it, but that's not what I'm out here for. "No, we've got a problem with a member of the staff." I don't look at her, even though now I know I've got her attention. "We're in a very dangerous situation here, Doctor, one where it's entirely possible that someone you know today might not be alive tomorrow. And we've got someone who's not handlin' that very well."
Another sigh. "Everyone handles death in their own way, Carson. It's their business..."
"That's the problem," I interrupt her, and now I do turn to look. "The person I'm speakin' of isn't handlin' it at all, and more than that she's keepin' others from handlin' it too."
She looks right at me, and it takes her a minute to understand that it's her I'm talkin' about. She tries for offended. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"You most certainly do." I keep to my lean, look back out at the waves that we know now can turn so deadly durin' a storm. "The first time, I thought you'd just been in a panic and I let it go. Then I found out there'd been a second time, same incident with that bloody bug and the jumper stuck in the Gate. And now I hear you've done it again, this time to McKay." I slant a disapprovin' glance at her, one I'd seen my mother use on my dad to great effect. It works even better on Weir because she wasn't expectin' it, and while she's still shocked I stand up straight and face her, movin' a little to block her from takin' off on me. "Dr. Weir, I understand you don't want to see any of these people die. I don't want to myself. But by denyin' them the right to have their last say, you're in effect tellin' them they have to face death knowin' their unfinished business won't be taken care of. And you're also tellin' them that you don't care how they feel about it, only how you do."
She straightens up and does her best to look like the person in charge. "I just don't want anyone giving up when they still have options..."
"Askin' someone to take care of somethin' for you if you don't make it is an option, it's not givin' up," I correct, a little more sharply this time. I knew she'd be stubborn about this, but I can't afford to let it go. I take a step forward, puttin' myself right in her personal space - might work better if she wasn't taller than I am, but it'll do. "Do you know what it was that the major wanted so bad to say that time, Dr. Weir? Remember, the time you kept cuttin' him off...right before I had Ford kill him?"
All right, that won me a flinch. Good. She shakes her head, so I keep on. "He wanted you to pass a message on to his mother, if we ever made it back in contact with Earth," I tell her harshly. "He wanted you to tell her - in person, mind you - that he was sorry he didn't get to say goodbye." I cock my head at her, lift an eyebrow. "I'm sure you've seen everyone's record, but did you ever bother to try diggin' around beyond that, Doctor? Did you really think all these people volunteered for a mission they were pretty sure they wouldn't come back from just because it was goin' to be some big bloody adventure?"
That found her tongue. "Major Sheppard didn't even want to come at first. I asked him."
Nice try. "Major Sheppard wasn't sure he wanted to come," I correct. "The way I understand it, General O'Neill gave him just half an hour to decide - either come with us into the great unknown or lose his career to another black mark." I let just a hint of a bitter smile show. "And all he wanted from you was your word you'd find a way to pass on a message to his mother, since that bloody bastard of a father he's got wouldn't let him speak to her before he left." I let the smile widen, not in a nice way, at her look of shock. "The first black mark, you know. He disobeyed a direct order...and got disowned for it."
She flounders a little. "I didn't know."
"You didn't need to - all you had to do was swallow your own fears and grant a dyin' man's request." I cut her off before she can try to correct me. "He was dead when he got back here, Doctor. And if it hadn't been for McKay knowin' CPR, he'd have stayed that way no matter how much you didn't want it to happen."
I'm not goin' to address what she might or might not feel for Sheppard, or whether he feels somethin' in return. And there's no way in bloody hell I'm goin' to start speculatin' on what Rodney's thinkin' about the whole thing - like half the time I'd even be able to guess at what goes on in that mind of his, since half of every time I try he's surprisin' me again. I know she's goin' to ask me, though, and she does. "Do you ...do you know what it was Dr. McKay wanted to ask me?"
"No." What a great bloody lie to pack into that one little word. Of course I know, but I'm not tellin' her. If she really wants to know let her butt heads with Rodney her own self and see how she comes out of it. I fold my arms across my chest and frown. "I only told you about Sheppard so you'd understand what kind of damage you've been doin' - and because even though he asked someone else to do it when you wouldn't, you're the one they'll have to come to to get it done."
I know she's dyin' to ask me who that person is, but I'm not givin' her that one either. Hopefully she'll never have to find out. "I think I understand," she says slowly, thinkin' it over as she lets the words out. "So you know about Teyla's people's request?"
"Yes. And I was bloody well disappointed in you for imposin' your own fears on them as well." I haven't left off the frown yet. "Don't let it happen again, Dr. Weir. Because if it does, I'll be relievin' you of duty for bein' unfit until I'm sure it's sorted out."
Her mouth drops open, then snaps shut into a scowl of her own. "You don't have the authority to do that, Dr. Beckett."
"Not officially, no." I've got another smile for her, the one my grandmother always said looked like the devil inside of me showin'. "But you can ask any person in there," I wave in the direction of the city we're standin' outside of, "and they'll tell you to a man that I can do it. I guarantee you they all firmly believe I have that authority, and because they believe it, I can do it. So don't give me cause, Elizabeth, because I won't hesitate. The well-bein' of these people is my responsibility, and I won't let somethin' go on that could hurt them if it's in my power to fix it."
She doesn't have an answer to that, and I don't expect her to for a little while at least, so I turn away and walk back the way I came so she can be alone. Her voice stops me at the doors. "And just how do you know everyone believes in this authority you don't really have, Dr. Beckett?"
She's a stubborn woman. I smile but don't turn around, and throw over my shoulder as the doors slide open, "That's easy, Doctor - thirty-five years of Star Trek."
Chapter 10: Cooling Off
#8 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "Hot Zone"
"Whoever created it, we'd better hope they're not still out there."
Rodney's pronouncement falls into the room like it was weighted with lead. Of course, after ten thousand years I think we'd already know it if they were still around - I think they would have been here waitin' for us. But I'm not goin' to say that, our good Dr. Weir needs to be focusin' on somethin' other than the root cause of the bloody mess we just pulled out of.
And on somethin' other than tryin' to blame part of it on Major Sheppard, of course. Our showin' up right when we did, Rodney and I, it wasn't exactly an accident. I'd already talked to Bates, and he told me what had happened; he was a bit conflicted about the whole thing, I straightened him out. I may not always see eye to eye with the man, but this time he did the right thing and I told him so. Rodney did too, which like to surprised Bates right into havin' an expression on that dour face of his. But then Rodney's been surprisin' a lot of people lately.
And he's about to do it again. Weir's makin' noises about not borrowin' trouble and I can tell she's about to flow into a speech about bein' more careful when we explore the city - no doubt aimin' to spread the guilt around a bit more - when Rodney pulls out a folded sheet of paper and lays it on her desk. She frowns at him as she picks it up and opens it, not likin' to be interrupted. "What's this?"
"It's a list," he says, in that way he's got like it's nothin' much to him at all except for bein' irritated that he has to explain it to you. "Of all the people who would have died if Major Sheppard hadn't been in a containment suit and free to move around when the city locked us down."
Och, that one hit her - twice, since I know Zelenka's name's at the top of the list, Rodney did it in reverse order for just that reason. Before she can recover I'm puttin' down my own folded paper right where his had been. "And here's an outline of the revisions we need to be makin' with regards to our quarantine procedures," I say, and how I manage not to smile at the look on her face I truly don't know. "The city's automatic internal defenses can be a wonderful thing for us, but we're goin' to have to plan around them to prevent another accident like this one from wipin' us out. It was sheer blind luck we were able to get out of this one, and far too bloody close to us losin' even more people than we did." I turn a sharp look on Sheppard, who's as wide-eyed as I've ever seen him; I don't want him chimin' in on this, I need him focusin' on somethin' else too. "Major, I thought I gave orders for you to be off to bed?" I scold. "And tomorrow you're comin' in so I can check you over properly - just because the shieldin' on the jumper supposedly protected you from the worst of that blast doesn't mean you're fine. Tomorrow mornin' just as soon as you get up, do you hear me? You can have breakfast with me when we're finished. Now get goin' before I decide you need to sleep in the infirmary where I can keep an eye on you."
He goes right along with that and pushes himself up out of the chair, grumblin' at me. "Yes, Mother, I'm going to bed now. Do you want to come tuck me in?"
"Rodney can do it." I wave toward the door, makin' sure the gesture includes the both of them. "He's headin' that way anyway, he's got to be goin' to bed himself - and he'll be joinin' us for breakfast, I've got to give him another check-over tomorrow too."
Rodney goes wide-eyed on me as well and with even more reason, since I know he was plannin' to go right back to buryin' himself in work once we were done here, but after just a moment of shock he hauls out the sarcasm and raises one eyebrow in a very characteristic fashion. "Well Jim, it looks like Dr. McCoy has spoken."
"Yes, Spock, it looks like he has." Sheppard nods to Weir, then to me. "'Night Dr. Weir. Good night, Bones."
I let it slide; it's been a rough few days, they're entitled. "To bed with you both - I'll be by in a bit to check on you, just in case either of you have trouble gettin' to sleep."
"If Captain Kirk here has trouble sleeping, I'll just use the Vulcan nerve pinch on him," Rodney tells me, very seriously.
"And then when I wake up, I'll stun your Vulcan ass with a Wraith weapon," Sheppard shoots back. But he claps Rodney on the shoulder and leaves his hand there as they walk out of the room - keepin' his balance, I surmise, he's that tired right now. Neither of them looks back.
I do smile now, just a little bit - mostly because of how flummoxed that little exchange made Dr. Weir, but she's not to know that. "Did you have anythin' you wanted to ask me before I go back to work?" I ask her.
I know I've got that look again, but Elizabeth still hasn't learned to recognize the devil inside me peekin' out at her - which is all to the good, of course. She flutters about with the two papers a bit. "I don't...do you really think we need to revise our quarantine procedures?"
"I think the last twenty-four hours have shown us that it's imperative we do so." I'm not smilin' now. "I wasn't part of drawin' up the last set, and no one had any clear idea of what we'd be dealin' with before we got here. We should have been revisin' these sorts of things months ago, I consider it a personal oversight that I didn't think of it - and believe me, when the city wouldn't let even those of us who were suited up out of the contaminated area, I knew just how big of an oversight it had been. I'll get back to you on when we can meet to go over everythin', but right now I've got autopsies to finish up - and while I'm thinkin' about it, Dr. Peterson died from the nanovirus, not from the major's shootin' him." Considerin' what got set into motion when Dr. Gaul's body came back, I'd already made up my mind to be headin' off this witch hunt before it can start. "So there's no need for an inquest, Dr. Weir. All the deaths this time are on the heads of whoever created those wee deadly little machines."
"I wasn't planning on questioning that." I cock an eyebrow at her, lettin' just a hint of disbelief show, and she frowns at me. "I was just talking to Major Sheppard about him trusting me. Do you and I need to talk about that too, Carson?"
Bless her, she's tryin' to pull the same thing on me she was tryin' to pull on him. Pity it won't work. I shrug. "Maybe it's somethin' we all need to talk about, Elizabeth - trust is a road that runs both ways," I tell her. "That's another thing we should have been workin' on months ago and haven't, don't you agree?"
She just looks at me for a long minute, and when I don't give way she drops her eyes back to the papers and sighs. "You know, I think you might be right."
I don't say anythin'. Because I know I am.
I leave right after that, not havin' anythin' more to say to her right now, but before I can head down to the major's quarters I find myself bein' waylaid by Dr. Zelenka. Took me a bit to figure out what he was so bloody excited about, but then he finally said somethin' that I recognized. "Wait, you mean that thing Rodney wanted you to tell someone if he died?"
"Yes, yes, that!" He's all but hoppin' up and down - I suppose I should be glad he's found somethin' to keep his mind off almost dyin'. "Rodney gave me his notes right after you cleared me to come back to this part of the city, he said someone else zhould know vhat he was doing, just in case - he had his vork hidden, you see, and he knew he didn't haf time to tell me how to get at it." All right, maybe I was glad too soon. "I'd thought he vas just...vell, being Rodney, but this..." He shakes a sheaf of papers at me. "Dr. Beckett, he may not be inches from the theory of unification, but he's not more than a few feet off at best!"
I will not laugh, I will not laugh...but I have to smile. "And so he's sharin' it with you?"
"Yes!" He shakes the papers again. "I'fe got to go through it more thoroughly, of course, this is just a synopsis of his notes that he printed out for me to look over; but if we can crack this, powering the zhield - or the Stargate - might cease to be a problem."
"Just make sure you remember to eat and sleep while you're tryin' to crack it," I tell him. Although if he's workin' with Rodney I won't have to worry about him rememberin' to eat, since Rodney never forgets that himself and doesn't let his people forget either...
Rodney's people...half of whom are waitin' to be buried. I've got to go, now. I pat Zelenka on the shoulder. "I've got some things I have to be checkin' on, but I'm glad he's lettin' you help him." I lower my voice. "You just be sure to keep it away from Kavenaugh, he'd snatch it out from under the both of you if he got the chance."
Zelenka nods and makes a face, clutches his papers tight to his chest and takes his leave of me. Young Dr. Kavenaugh hasn't exactly endeared himself to a lot of people since we got here - includin' Dr. Weir, thank goodness. He was the one pushin' for the inquest after Dr. Gaul died on the last mission, tryin' to say that Rodney had somethin' to do with it - tryin' to get rid of Rodney, if you ask me, but I couldn't make Weir see that. When she forced Rodney to testify to everythin' that had gone on leadin' up to Gaul's suicide, though...well, I caught her givin' Kavenaugh some interestin' looks he seemed like he'd rather not have gotten.
They were nothin' to the look Sheppard was givin' her, though. Not that she paid any attention to that - or maybe she did, and her tryin' to emasculate him just now was payback.
She barely acknowledged what effect the whole thing might have had on Rodney at all, just like she didn't this time. He'd still been mostly in shock when they'd gotten back from that crashed-Wraith planet, and after bein' forced to recount the whole incident leadin' up to Gaul's suicide under questionin' like that...well, the major and I dragged him back to Sheppard's quarters and got him drunk. It was either drunk or sedated, and drunk is less damagin' to a man's ego.
With any luck, Sheppard is protectin' his ego from bein' damaged again right now, which is what I'm really goin' down there to check on. I'm not sure where they've got the still stashed away, but what they've been makin' isn't all that bad. My own still makes better, of course, but I'm not about to tell them that - mine's for medicinal purposes, meanin' I want to have it to fall back on in situations like this in case somethin' happens to theirs.
I know this won't be the last time, you see. I'm just hopin' and prayin' that this will be the last time it happens to Rodney for a while. I have to admit I'm worried about how calm he's been. I don't think anyone who was there failed to be impressed by how well he handled himself today, but half his team is dead, he came just that close to almost dyin' himself...and a man can only take so much.
Not to mention that he stood right there and lied about what he wanted them to tell his sister. I know what he really wanted, because he told me right after that big storm and all the mess that came with it got done rollin' over us. I've got a message to pass on to his sister, all right, but it doesn't have anythin' to do with some story about him savin' children or what scientific breakthroughs he was this close to makin' - what it does have to do with makes me wish I could put his father and Sheppard's into a room together and...
And find that bloody missile in Antarctica again, the one I activated by accident before and almost blew Major Sheppard and General O'Neill out of the sky with. Hmm, maybe I could get the general locked up in the room too, I think he'd feel right at home there with the other bastards. I always pitied poor Dr. Jackson for bein' at the mercy of the man the way he is, and there's what O'Neill did to our major too. Yes, he'd feel right at home. And while I'm at it, I could push in Dr. Kavenaugh, and perhaps if she keeps bein' so pig-headed even Dr. Weir...
Holy crap, would you listen to me? I think maybe it's all startin' to get to me too.
I'm in front of Sheppard's door now, and I announce myself at the same time I knock. "It's Dr. McCoy, open the bloody hell up."
The door slides open, and I have to smile at the looks I'm gettin' from the both of them. "Don't get used to it, I'm just humorin' you because I need a drink," I warn as I drop into the empty chair and hold out my hand for the glass Sheppard is rummagin' for - no more lab work for me tonight, the only place I'm goin' from here is to my own bed. "Straight up, no ice."
"I wouldn't mind some ice, but we don't have any," the major tells me as he hands over my drink. "I miss ice."
"You should have said something, I could whip you up an ice maker no problem," Rodney tells him, sippin' from his own glass. "I could even make us an ice cream freezer, but we don't have anything good to put in it."
"I'm sure we could find a cow somewhere." Sheppard settles back on his bed, lookin' thoughtful. "Or a cowlike animal..."
That wins him a snort. "With our luck it would turn out to be carnivorous and the milk would have mutagenic properties."
Sheppard just nods. "True, but that might make interesting ice cream all the same. Not for us to eat, but we could go through the 'Gate and sell it to people we don't like."
"Now there's a plan. Get rid of the bad guys and make some money at the same time, I like it." Rodney smiles just a bit. "We could paint one of the jumpers white and play "It's A Small World" over the external speakers, really drive them crazy."
He's smilin' and playin', yes, but he's also rubbin' his arm, the one with the knife scar. Damn it all. I stretch out in the chair a bit, makin' myself more comfortable, and trade a look with Sheppard. "Arm botherin' you, Rodney?" I ask casually.
"Hmm?" He stops rubbin' it. "Oh, that. No, it just...itches sometimes."
"Scars like that do." Sheppard sound just as unconcerned as I do, but I can see that he's payin' close attention - I know he hasn't forgotten the strip I tore off of him after that hostage incident. Unlike Dr. Weir, our major is quick to learn from his mistakes. "Have a few myself, they start bugging me at the weirdest times."
"I've been...noticing that." Rodney looks down into his glass like he's expectin' to find somethin' swimmin' in it. "When are the funerals going to be, Carson?"
I allow the subject change. "Day after tomorrow." I know he hates it that we have to bury them at sea, but there's nothin' else to be done with them here. Let's change the subject again, shall we? "I'm just glad there aren't more to be buried. Oh, and that reminds me...Rodney, did you tell the major here about the door controls yet?"
All right, that bucks him up a bit. "Oh, no I hadn't." He takes another drink, but this one is to wet his mouth. "The only lockout that would have kept Peterson confined was the one the city instituted, John - like I tried to tell Dr. Weir, he knew almost as much as I did about Atlantean technology. Just having the power off wasn't going to stop him."
"And neither was reason," I put in. Best to hit our major with both barrels at once, blow away the guilt trip Dr. Weir was tryin' to settle on him. "It wasn't just the nanites affectin' him, he'd cracked under the pressure." I cock an eyebrow at Rodney. "You knew that about him already, I think."
"He was quiet a lot, I'd been...keeping an eye on him." Rodney shrugs. "It's the ones who don't complain that you have to worry about." He sees the look on Sheppard's face, rolls his eyes and groans. "Go ahead and say it."
The major grins. "Then I guess we'll never have to worry about you, will we?" Rodney sticks his tongue out at him, and Sheppard chuckles into his drink. "You told me to go ahead and say it."
"Just once I'd like to make that offer and have nobody take me up on it."
"Then quit giving me such perfect openings." Look at him battin' his eyelashes like that, the man has no shame. "You bring this on yourself, you know."
Rodney's tryin' not to smile. "I hope you know that paybacks are a bitch. Right, Carson?"
I have to laugh, rememberin' what we did to those Marines back in Antarctica. It seems like a bloody lifetime ago. "I'd have to agree," I say, noddin'. "Poor little Johnny here wouldn't know what hit him." I let the devil peek out again. "Or should I say, poor little Jimmy?"
Sheppard pouts. "A man makes one little comment about some monster being on his ship..."
I shake my finger at him. "Oh, you mean sort of like the one wee comment I made about not likin' to have my atoms scattered out across the galaxy to get from place to place?"
"Or someone's unfortunate word choice in the infirmary the time I passed out?" Rodney's own devil is showin', and I'm glad to see it. He stretches out a bit more in his chair, settlin' himself more comfortably, and I know the alcohol is kickin' in. Good, that means we'll have him to sleep soon; he needs it. Sheppard needs it too, but he's half there already and I'm just countin' on the alcohol to keep him under long enough so he'll sleep himself out.
I drain my glass and wave off a refill; I have to get up early in the mornin', sleepin' myself out isn't an option. I've got other people to check on besides these two, autopsy results to go over, burial arrangements to make, and a new set of quarantine procedures to wrangle out the fine details on. I wonder if somewhere in this city there are more containment suits, or somethin' we could use as containment suits...
A little snore shakes me out of my thoughts - and probably keeps me from fallin' asleep in my chair as well. It looks like our major has lost the fight to stay awake, and Rodney's not too far from losin' it as well. Time to put him to bed. I pry myself up out of my chair and stretch, then lean over to shake Rodney just a bit. "Rodney, let's get you to bed."
He blinks up at me, then when another little snore comes he sits up to get a better look at Sheppard. He starts to laugh, but it turns into a yawn. "Oh damn I'm tired."
"We all are. Now let's get you back to your room - if you fall asleep in that chair your back will hurt like bloody blazes in the mornin'."
"Don't I know it." He lets me haul him up out of the chair and steady him until he finds his balance, and then we turn down the lights and leave the major's room. I notice that Rodney uses his ATA gene to lock the door behind us, but I don't comment; I'll be usin' mine to lock his door as well once I drop him off, as I've no doubt that so soon as I've dumped him on his bed he'll be out like a light.
I'm not any too certain that sleep will be comin' so easily to me, however. And once it does come, I must admit I'm just a wee bit afraid of what it might be bringin' with it - these two aren't the only ones who've had a bloody awful couple of days.
Maybe I should have taken that refill after all.
Chapter 11: Interference
#9 of The Carson Diaries, from the episodes "Sanctuary" and "Before I Sleep"
Rodney's been hangin' about down here in my lab a lot ever since...well, ever since Proculus. Major Sheppard still isn't talkin' to him if he can help it - and the few times he couldn't, I've caught some remarks about Mr. Spock that definitely weren't their usual playin'. And a few other remarks as well that were even less friendly.
Whatever it was Chaya did to our major, she obviously didn't help him understand that Rodney was just tryin' to help. And for someone who could read minds, she obviously didn't try to read Rodney's to see why he was so afraid for his people and so determined to protect them even if it made him look crazy - he's still reactin' to that nanite incident, to losin' half his team. But then, Dr. Weir hasn't said word one to him about it either and she bloody well knows all of the above.
But then, that's just Dr. Weir. And I won't say that Rodney's not goin' halfway out of his way to annoy Sheppard at this point - the best defense bein' a good offense, you know. And our Rodney's always been very good at offense, very good indeed.
So good that Dr. Weir didn't seem overly upset that he was dead in that other reality. Or that I was, either, for that matter, but then I'm not too bad at offense myself. As she's found out a time or two. Or five, maybe ten -I'm not countin'. She might be, though.
Major Sheppard certainly is. I never should have listened to bloody Rodney when he said he didn't want anyone to know I was helpin' him figure out what Chaya was up to, never. I'd noticed somethin' off about her from the first, see, and not just because she was in such too-perfect health. No, it was my reaction to her that caused me some concern; when she was in the infirmary I was just as taken with her as I could be, but even at the time the feelin' didn't sit quite right. And when I saw the way the major was actin', I tested myself and found some pheromone action goin' on that I didn't much like the look of. Then Rodney showed up askin' me to look him over...well, it was the same thing, he was just havin' a different reaction to it. A bad one. I mean, Rodney can be lackin' in interpersonal skills sometimes, but he's not that lackin'.
They all know that, of course, they just ignored it because Sheppard did. Not that he could help himself. It took me a bit, but I finally traced the reaction back to the ATA gene and after that the way our major was actin' made perfect sense. Of all of us here he's the one closest genetically to the Ancients, that had to be the reason she picked him. And the reason she disliked Rodney so very much, enough that she tried to put the blame for them not bein' willin' to help us on him.
I was patched in to his laptop, see, the one he took to that last meetin' with him to run his scans. He was feedin' me the data, and I was tellin' him what it meant. He didn't want anyone to know I was on the other end of things, though...and now I know why. I didn't realize how far the team had pulled back from him - because of Major Sheppard, you understand - until Dr. Weir set them to explorin' the city and the man refused to let Rodney come with them. 'I don't want any casualties on this mission, thanks,' those were his exact words. Said it in front of the control center staff too, he was meanin' that one to hurt.
It did. As near as I can tell, it still does.
I say as near as I can tell...because Rodney's not been talkin' to me all that much either lately, in spite of the fact that he's been showin' up in my lab so often. And that worries me, it worries me a lot. But there's nothin' to be done about it, at least not until I've found a way to fix the ATA pheromone problem and fix Major Sheppard along with it.
Luckily, at present that's about the only serious problem I've got to deal with - other than the Wraith, of course. Elizabeth seems to be handlin' everythin' all right, in fact I'd even say her meetin' with her other self was a help to her in some ways. She's a bit more confident now, and a bit more far-seein' when it comes to the people around her than she was a week or so ago. She did pick almost everyone who came to Atlantis, of the science teams anyway, and I think it did shake her a bit that in that other reality she was the only member of the expedition to survive.
It shook me a bit as well. And Rodney...well, like I said, he's been quiet. Busy, but quiet; the last time he was tryin' to find out everythin' about the way the jumpers worked, this time he's obsessin' over the emergency fail-safe systems inside the city. It's another one of those things that we most likely should have been doin' months ago. And since now he knows his supposition about rotatin' the power sources will work, he's refined his instructions for keepin' power on in the city - or at least, the most important parts of it - for up to a year.
I just wish he wasn't bein' so obvious about the fact that he doesn't expect to be here to do it himself. Those instructions he's been writin' out...they're all in layman's terms, or as close to it as he could get. I'd have been happier about that if he'd had Sheppard or Ford help him simplify things, but I think the one he went to was Bates. Who has really come around lately, I'm happy to say, and who of all of them would be the most likely to understand Rodney worryin' about lettin' a stranger run all around the city and find out everythin' about us. I believe it's due to Bates' influence that Dr. Weir didn't give Chaya full run of our computers - intentionally, anyway. I've no doubt the woman could have accessed anythin' she wanted to with only a thought.
I'm almost sorry she didn't. She might have learned somethin' about us.
Of course, that's wishful thinkin' on my part. From the story the other Dr. Weir had to tell about the Ancients, they were arrogant, prideful people. She may have realized it at the time, that the man who helped her was doin' it for his own reasons and not necessarily because it was the right thing to do for us, but after ten thousand years and a healthy dose of senility...well, he'd become idealized in her mind, they all had. We all had too, I think, up to a point. She'd had to dream about somethin'.
And when she woke up, I think it was still a dream to her. Elizabeth couldn't see it, Sheppard and the others didn't want to...but Rodney kept diggin' around in my scans when he thought no one would notice, he knew she wasn't all there. He didn't say anythin', though. Most likely he knew no one would listen to him except me, and preachin' to the choir isn't somethin' he wastes his time on.
Actually, he doesn't waste his time at all, if he can help it. Which makes me wonder why when he's got a bit free from the fail-safes he's been spendin' it down in that room, pickin' apart the systems connected to the chamber that kept the other Dr. Weir alive for ten thousand years so she could save us. He asks me questions from time to time, but he won't ask me to help him or tell me what he's hopin' to find out. I have a bad feelin' about that. But they're to start checkin' out the offworld locations where the ZPMs are supposed to be soon and I know Dr. Weir will insist that they take Rodney with them, so maybe after bein' thrown into close contact with his team for a bit he'll start openin' up again.
I just have my fingers crossed that the opposite won't happen.
Chapter 12: Familial Connections
#10 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "The Brotherhood"
All right, that's it. I've had enough.
This is the third night runnin' that he's not had any sleep. I don't have to ask to know it's nightmares doin' it, and seein' him rub his arm all the time I don't have to ask what they're about. I don't have to ask...and I bloody well can't, since he's still not talkin' to anyone. Even moreso now than before.
It ends tonight - this one part of it, anyway.
The corridors are quiet this time of night, and a bit spooky because of it, but right now I'm not bothered by that. I find the door I'm lookin' for and bang on it with my fist. Wasn't all that long ago I was knockin' on this same door on another quiet night to check on the major and Rodney, after that mess with the nanites, but that's a far cry from what I'm doin' here now. I don't announce myself this time, I just use my fist to take out my frustrations on his door. The noise I'm makin' should fluster him some and I'm countin' on it, I want him off-balance so I can get the upper hand.
And once I've got it, he'll not be gettin' it back tonight.
Sure enough, the door slides open and he's all set to start yellin' at whoever's disurbin' him...and that's when I grab his arm and just haul him out of the room into the corridor. He's dressed for bed, barefoot, and he's every bit as flustered as I could hope - too flustered to fight back as I drag him around two corners and up to another door. This time I don't knock, I just trigger it with my ATA gene and it slides open for us.
We're inside Rodney's room before Sheppard can form a coherent sentence. "Dr. Beckett, what the hell..."
"Look around," I growl at him, givin' him a shake by the arm I'm still holdin'. "Go on, take a good look and tell me what you see!"
He glares at me, but as I've noted before our major's not stupid so he starts to look. It takes him a few minutes, but when he stiffens a bit lookin' at the bed I know he's seen what I wanted him to and I drag him back out again without another word. This time, though, he pulls against me when we're halfway down the next corridor. "Would you just tell me what the hell is going on?!"
I don't stop. "If you'd been doin' your job I wouldn't have to. Now come along, we're not done yet." Into the infirmary I drag him, and through it into my lab where I shove him down onto a stool in front of my laptop. And wait.
He's givin' me a very suspicious look, and I notice him tuckin' up his feet on the lowest rung of the stool to keep them off the cold floor. But he looks, and starts back a bit in surprise. "Hey, isn't this..."
"The scannin' program Rodney was usin' durin' your last meetin' with Chaya," I answer before he can finish. "You didn't think he was interpretin' that data all on his own, did you? I was tapped in to his laptop with mine, sittin' right here listenin' to everythin' that went on. I thought it was especially interestin' when she tried to make it his fault that her people weren't goin' to help us - especially since she already knew why he'd been actin' like he had." I hit a button and flip out of the screen he's lookin' at to show him another. "There, read that and then you'll know too - if you didn't already, that is."
Look at those eyes widen. They'll be wider still in a minute, once he realizes what she did to him. And once I'm sure he's realized it...I finger the syringe I had layin' ready on the other side of the table. Like I said, it ends tonight.
I move around behind him, readin' over his shoulder, and when he gasps I say, "Learned somethin' of interest to you?"
"She was..." He looks up at me over his shoulder. "She made me..."
"It was affectin' me too," I tell him. "And Rodney as well, just in a different way because his gene isn't natural. I believe that's why they took such an instant dislike to each other, in fact." My hand tightens on his shoulder. "What was it she did to you when you went back, John?"
Every time I've asked him, or Dr. Weir has, he hasn't answered. He blinks, then looks back at the screen. "She...we joined, that's the only way I can explain it. It was a hundred times more intimate than sex, it was like we became each other. We knew everything..."
"No, only one of you did." I stab the needle into his arm, usin' my hand on his shoulder to keep him from jumpin' up - not that he was havin' much luck with his feet tangled up under the stool like that. "You'll be catchin' up now, I think. I found the answer I was lookin' for yesterday, already used it on myself. This has gone on long enough, and I'm tired of it."
He looks up again, wide-eyed and confused. "What did you just do to me?"
"Cured you." I wave my hand at the screen. "It was a pheromone reaction caused by the ATA genes we all have, it was a little bit like bein' chemically brainwashed. I just corrected the imbalance, put you back to normal." I raise an eyebrow when he starts to look a bit too relieved and give him a little shake. "Don't you go thinkin' that gets you off the hook with me," I tell him harshly. "She was brainwashin' you, yes, but you went along with it - and you've been goin' along with it ever since, even though without her around to reinforce it it's been wearin' off little by little. It wasn't all her, John, and I'll not let you pass it off like it was. You're goin' to have to take responsibility for the way you've been actin' and just hope to hell it does even the least little bit of good."
It's plain he doesn't understand. "What do you mean, even a little bit? Once you explain this to McKay..."
"He already knows." I give him one of my mother's looks, the one that makes you think you should crawl into a corner someplace. "He's known since the beginnin', obviously - he came to me and had me check him over the day you brought her back here, he knew somethin' was wrong with the way he'd been feelin' and actin'. There was just nothin' to be done about it."
That stands him up. "Where..."
"The same place he's been the past three nights." Not that I'm goin' to tell him where that is, not tonight anyway. I'd sent Bates out to find Rodney earlier, which he'd been more than happy to do; he's still not any too happy about Chaya's influence over our major either, especially since it just kept goin' on. "You saw his bed."
"I saw that it hadn't been slept in for a while, yeah." His bare feet make almost no sound on the floor as he paces. "Are you sure he isn't..."
"Sleepin' somewhere else, like in his lab?" I snort. "Dr. Zelenka tells me he sees Rodney nod off at his desk and then jerk awake, he's never out for more than five or ten minutes. And I can't let it go on any longer, it isn't safe."
He nods, as much to himself as to me. "True, if he's not firing on all thrusters he might break something, or overlook something..."
"Or he might not be thinkin' clearly and he might do somethin' stupid, like handin' himself over to a madman who's already tortured him once." He doesn't have to be facin' me for me to know that made him flinch. "Or tryin' to take the blame for your not gettin' this last ZPM - I was at the briefin', remember? And he would've gotten away with it if Elizabeth of all people hadn't stepped in and told him to stop beatin' himself up, that there was no way he could've known a simple comment about not bein' born here would have that effect on those people." I step in front of him, stoppin' the pace. "Not to mention that you tried to make it sound like he'd been inappropriate with that Allina woman, accusin' him of makin' your mistake when you bloody well knew he'd not even been aware she was comin' on to him until after the fact. I don't think Teyla's any too happy with you over that one."
"She was kind of quick to correct me at the briefing." He makes a face, shifts his weight from one foot to the other. "Ford didn't say anything, though."
"He won't take Rodney's side over yours and you know it." The lights in my lab are dim this time of night, and the blue-white light from my laptop screen has this lookin' like a scene from an old movie - half of everythin' in shadow, the other half picked out with a sharp edge like somethin' cut from a magazine page and stuck down on a different background. Somehow it seems fittin' to me that we're havin' this conversation in such a dramatic settin', even though I didn't do it on purpose. "Although his report has a note in it that he wasn't sure the way you split your team for searchin' was the safest way - keepin' he and Teyla with you and leavin' Rodney on his own."
"Weir already said something to me about that," he shoots back. "But I had my reasons, and I stand by the decisions I made on the mission - interference or no interference. And it is McKay's fault we didn't get the ZPM."
"Dr. Weir disagrees with you, so do I," is my response. I fold my arms across my chest. "Rodney doesn't. Even though he was so tired when she asked him the question that he barely remembered answerin' it, he blames himself for slippin' up at all. I guess neither of you ever considered that Allina's people might've double-checked with the Genii before they decided to hide our only hope away for another ten-thousand years, did you?"
He mimics my pose, foldin' his own arms in a stubborn gesture. "It wasn't our only hope, Doctor, we've still got four more addresses to check..." He trails off at the look I'm givin' him, realizes his mistake and backtracks a little. "Oh, right. Four more."
"Four more." I don't soften a bit. "And tomorrow mornin' I'm recommendin' to Dr. Weir that your team not be allowed to go offworld to look for them, to let another team do it, and I'll be bringin' along the information I've got about the ATA-linked pheromone reaction to show to her so she'll know why it's important."
That startles him. "You mean you hadn't told her already?" he all but squeaks.
"If I had she'd have grounded you 'til I came up with a solution, which I wasn't sure I'd be able to do. I took a risk, countin' on you to be the man I know you to be, and now I know I was wrong to do it. I'm sure she'll be havin' a piece of me over that tomorrow, and she'll be right." I abruptly unfold and turn my back on him, goin' back to my laptop and sittin' down. "You can go back to your quarters now, Major. I'm done with ye."
A soft slide of bare skin against metal; he's shufflin' his feet. "What about McKay?"
I know better than to take hope from the question. "What about him?"
"Are you going to cure him too?"
See? "I don't need to," I tell him, not turnin' around. "It's not doin' him any harm. In fact, it's rather useful; he knows the signs now, if you ever again run into one of the Ancients, he'll know it and he'll put everyone on guard." I hear him take a breath and interrupt. "Yes, I already talked with him about it."
He's quiet for a moment. "But if this thing affects the way he interacts with me..."
"It doesn't." Thought you'd get out of it that easy, did you? Not hardly. I snort. "You're not an Ancient, Major; you just have a tiny bit more in common with them genetically than the rest of us do. If Rodney's reactin' to you differently, you'd best look to your own actions for the reason why."
More quiet, then... "When he found out I'd passed the Mensa test but didn't join, he looked like I'd kicked him in the gut."
I'm not sure if he's tryin' to understand or just fishin' - but I lean toward fishin'. "His intelligence is the only thing Rodney has." It's pitiful but all too true, from Rodney's perspective anyway. "You'd be lookin' sick too if one of your best friends just told you the only thing you had to offer wasn't good enough for him."
"I never said that!"
"No, but it's what he heard." I turn around partway then, lettin' the light from the screen flow past me as I look at him. A little more drama can't hurt, might make this conversation stick in his mind a bit longer, even. "And unless you explained it to him later, what he heard is the only thing that matters."
I don't have to ask to know he didn't say word one about it. "Yeah, I guess it would be." He looks at the floor, scuffles his feet again. "Even the least little bit of good, huh?"
"Your guess is as good as mine." You're lucky to have one chance at gettin' someone like Rodney to trust you; expectin' a second is askin' for a bloody miracle. But it won't help any for me to say so, so I turn back to my laptop and start pretendin' to do somethin'. "Good night, Major."
He hesitates, but then I hear him leave and once I'm sure he's gone I shut off my laptop and stand up. It's just dark in here now, a lot like the other times I've sat in my lab alone of a night to think, and I can hear the quiet all around me. I know it's not quiet or dark where Rodney is, out on the groundin' platform with the waves and the stars, but I suppose he thinks better out there where he doesn't feel so closed in. I won't disturb him tonight; Bates said he was just putterin' around out there so I know he's not up to anythin' I need to be worried about.
Yet, anyway. The waves and stars are fine, but if he keeps up pokin' around at that suspension chamber with its three thousand year wakin' cycle...then I'll worry. He's said before he wouldn't leave the city unless he was sure he'd be comin' back, so after what's gone on the past few weeks I wouldn't be puttin' it past him to be lookin' for a way to stay here after everyone else leaves. It's the sort of thing that would make sense to him, givin' himself what he wants and punishin' himself at the same time.
Tomorrow I'll have to try talkin' to him again. As much homesick as I am, if he tried to stay behind I'd have a hard time leavin' without him - we're sort of like family after all that's gone on. Maybe he needs to hear that, and I'll just hope it helps when he does.
Chapter 13: Goodbyes
#11 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "Letters from Pegasus"
I helped Ford edit the video we were goin' to send, just finished with it a few minutes ago and now Rodney's got it and settin' things up to send it. I edited his message myself, cut it all out except for what he said to his sister, Jeannie - not that I didn't know he'd been meanin' for that to happen anyway, if not to have his message cut all together. We had to have Dr. Zelenka redo his entirely, poor man had recorded an absolutely glowin' account of Atlantis risin' from the sea. I had Ford save that, though, and noted it to go to Dr. Jackson instead of Zelenka's family. He'll appreciate it, I think, and it was far too eloquent to go to waste. Pity we couldn't say the same about what young Dr. Kavenaugh recorded, but I think after General O'Neill reads the mission reports and personnel logs he'll know exactly how much importance to give Kavenaugh's thoughts.
Listenin' to all the messages for our dead personnel's families, though...well, that almost did me in. It was the second time Ford had heard it so he was a bit better off than I was, but he was quiet all the same. Markham was a friend of his.
I'm tryin' not to wonder if there was anythin' I could have done to save him. Sergeant Bates said there wasn't and he's probably right...but I still wonder.
I did take a bit of hope when Major Sheppard came back, though, he was that upset that he'd lost two men and no one had told him about it; I hope that means he's findin' his way back to what he was before. Teyla seemed a bit distant with him, though, so I'll have to make it a point to listen in on their briefin' so I can find out what went on. Score another one for Rodney, after that mess with Chaya he set things up for me so I can eavesdrop on the conference room any time I want, and scan whoever's sittin' in it too with no one bein' the wiser. Accordin' to him Dr. Weir came all too close to not lettin' him do the scans the last time, and that's a risk we can't afford to take again.
I have to agree. We know now that the Ancients had enemies out there who used nanotechnology, and that they themselves had ways of influencin' others as well. The more I find out about them, the more I suspect that our ancestors may not have been as superior to us morally as they were technologically. The way Chaya acted only confirmed that suspicion for me; if the story she related to the major was accurate, she was punished by the other Ancients for lapsin' into what we'd consider moral behavior, not out of it. The implications of that are enough to keep me up nights.
Not that I'm not up nights anyway lately. In two weeks, give or take, the Wraith will be here. I still haven't been able to solve the problems with the Hoffan serum that would protect all of our personnel, and I also haven't been able to turn it around to make somethin' that we could use as a biological weapon against them that wouldn't kill all of us as well. And I don't even want to think about the casualties we're goin' to have, the people we're goin' to lose...
The ships that are goin' to blow up in midair after one hit from a Wraith dart.
I wish I could have told my mother goodbye.
Chapter 14: Signs and Portents
Signs and Portents
#12 of The Carson Diaries, from the episode "The Gift"
Author's Note: This is where the series goes AU - like you didn't see that coming, right? Well, I didn't plan on it happening, believe me, but the little Scottish plot jackalope had other ideas and who am I to cross him? So if you're looking for canon, it ends here! The last episode of the show that I've seen is the one this installment is a tag to, not counting the teasers for the finale, so beyond this point I'm just following the jackalope tracks.
I've been sittin' here for a good half-hour now, just starin' at the walls and not thinkin' of anythin' good or pleasant. And even though I feel quite a bit like continuin' to do just that, I've got to pull myself together, right now. Rodney's on his way, he called down only a few minutes ago to see if I was busy, said he wanted to go over some findin's with me. He probably does, but he most likely mainly just needs to talk. I don't mind, I could stand to talk myself. To him, anyway.
The bloody Wraith will be here in a week...and we've got no place to evacuate to, none. Oh, poor Sergeant Bates is tryin' his best, but three out of the last five planets he's taken his team to they've either met with the Genii or the Wraith, and the others were uninhabitable for various reasons. Unless he gets lucky, we're pretty much stuck here waitin' for the monsters to come wipe us out. No one at the last big meetin' Dr. Weir called had any answers for her.
She didn't call me to the meetin', or anyone from my staff; not that we had any answers to give her either, but it didn't go unnoticed that none of us were there. And when someone asked her if she wasn't goin' to wait for someone from the medical team to get there before they got started...she told them that 'wouldn't be necessary'. Thank God mine and Rodney's eavesdroppin' setup is still workin' in there - and thank God she hasn't found the bloody sensors. I shudder to think what her reaction would be.
Bates knows; he's all for it, said he should have thought of that his own self. And after yesterday he might have to be makin' use of it, since yesterday he got himself on the wrong side of Dr. Weir and Major Sheppard all at once. Pity that havin' some forethought is likely to cost him his spot in Weir's inner circle. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's even helped me out a bit, since now he's bringin' his news to me instead of to her. And what news he's had...
Our major has been back to Proculus again. He'd been improvin' since the talk I had with him - and since I injected him with the counteragent for the pheromonal reaction Chaya had set off in him - but then all of a sudden he turned right back around and was twice as bad as he'd been before. I couldn't understand it, I even tested myself again to make sure the treatment had stayed effective...and then Bates comes sneakin' down here last night and tells me that he's overheard Ford tellin' someone that on their last trip through the Stargate Sheppard had taken off in the jumper and been out of contact with he and Teyla for a few hours. I guess Ford thought it was funny that Sheppard had gone to visit his 'girlfriend' on the sly like that, but Bates didn't think it was funny at all and I had to agree with him. I wrote the major off then and there as a lost cause.
Neither of us told Dr. Weir; we both knew it wouldn't have done any good. I'd already gone to her after my little 'discussion' with Sheppard and told her about the pheromone reaction and the behavioral changes, and I'd given her my recommendation that Major Sheppard needed to be grounded until we could be sure the reaction had worn off for good and his reasonin' was back where it should be. I also let her know that until we were sure we simply couldn't trust the man around Rodney, and I was a bit worried about how he might be influencin' Ford and Teyla as well.
She sat there and nodded, and I thought she was takin' me seriously...until she called in Dr. Heightmeyer. Katie's assignment to the mission was one I never approved of, wasn't consulted on either; she's here because she was a friend of Elizabeth's and Elizabeth wanted her here, no other reason. I'm not sayin' the woman isn't good at what she does, not at all, it's just that what she was doin' before she got here was talk therapy for civilians in government service. She's got minimal experience workin' with the military and none at all when it comes to dealin' with combat situations, she's exactly the wrong person who should be overseein' the mental health of the personnel on this sort of mission. I've sent people to her, yes; I've sent the civilian scientists who never go offworld to her and she's done all right with them. But the soldiers and the civilians like Rodney who go out with the missions, I'd always sent them Major Sheppard's way when they need to talk to someone.
Lately, of course, I've been sendin' them to Sergeant Bates. And if he's not available, he's set up two other experienced soldiers I can use that way instead, and he makes sure that at least one of them is always in the city just in case. He wasn't over-happy about Katie Heightmeyer bein' assigned to us either, even moreso than myself since he'd been servin' in the SGC for a time and knew firsthand how badly any mission like ours needs a full-fledged medical-doctor psychiatrist, someone who can tell the difference between a psychological problem and a neurological or chemical one and knows what to do about both. Not to mention that Katie, thanks to Elizabeth's influence, no longer seems to know her own limitations.
That was very much in evidence that day. I repeated what I'd already told Dr. Weir, the two of them sort of looked at each other...and then Katie said she didn't think Cheya's interference with the major was really a problem. In fact I'm not sure she even believed a word of what I'd just told her, because she immediately started goin' on about the stress gettin' to everyone and different people reactin' to it in different ways. Then Elizabeth asked her what her recommendation was. I almost had to pick my jaw up off the bloody floor when she said that she thought the best solution would be to let Sheppard's team keep doin' their job and goin' through the 'Gate...and to let Rodney do his here, in the city.
And Elizabeth agreed with her. Then Katie suggested that Rodney needed to be comin' in to talk with her so they could sort out the problem...and Elizabeth agreed to that too, with a nasty little smile in my direction that I understood all too well. I've gone against her successfully time and again since we've been here, and I know it must have been eatin' at her - Elizabeth doesn't like to lose. And she knew she couldn't go after me directly, not and get away with it, so she was goin' to get her own back by goin' after Rodney instead. She would have called him in to tell him right then, over the open communication system, if I hadn't jumped in to stop her and said I'd tell him myself. I held back the absolute rage I was feelin', and the horror at what I'd just set into motion, and I reminded Katie about how much antipathy Rodney has for the mental health profession and convinced her that he might take to it better if I took a bit of time to talk him around to the idea in private. She's not a bad person and she's not out to hurt him, so she agreed that might be a good idea and gave me a time to get him to come in...and then Elizabeth dismissed me like she'd been doin' me a favor by lettin' me come talk to her in the first place.
I knew I'd lost - that round at least - so I came back to my lab, called Rodney down, and then just sat there and shook until he showed up. Bless him, he was more worried about me than he was about himself; once I'd told him what had gone on, he said he was just glad she hadn't tried to force me into therapy sessions too. That surprised me, especially since I'd never even given it a thought. And he was confident in his ability to run rings around Dr. Heightmeyer, who in his opinion wasn't very bright to begin with although he did note that she was nicely decorative.
I warned him not to underestimate her. She's not as smart as he is, true, or even as diabolically intelligent as Dr. Weir has proven to be, but she's been trained to manipulate people into talkin' about things they'd rather leave silent and she's fairly good at that. He thought on that for a bit, and then he smiled that mischievous lopsided smile at me and said that if it was talk she wanted he'd be more than happy to give it to her - after all, wasn't everyone always tellin' him to shut up? He'd just let her help him with that.
We laughed over that one, and then I had another idea. Since Dr. Heightmeyer would have to take notes of everythin' he said, what if he made sure to include all the little incidents there'd been with Sheppard since they'd encountered Chaya? He'd have to expose himself more than a bit emotionally to do it, but technically it was the problem he was bein' ordered to see her about and then if it ever cropped up again we'd have her records as well as mine to prove there'd been a problem in the first place...and to prove that Elizabeth had known about it and refused to deal with it in any sort of logical fashion. I knew it would be hard on him to do it, especially knowin' that Katie would share everythin' he said with Elizabeth and then Elizabeth would find all sorts of little ways to use it against him...but it might be the only way we could use the situation to our own ends and get somethin' out of it that was of value.
A couple of days later, he came into the lab and asked me if I'd ever been tested for prescience. We didn't know it at the time, but it was the same day that Sheppard had gone back to re-visit Chaya on Proculus; all we knew then was that he'd turned into a right bastard again. And now this last mess with Teyla...well, if I hadn't been before, I'm now convinced that most likely Sheppard is beyond savin', and I'm not even considerin' tryin' to cure him again. I've got more important things to worry about, like gettin' everythin' I can ready to move if Bates can find us a place to move it to. And preparin' for casualties if he can't, not to mention continuin' my research on the Hoffan serum and tryin' to turn it into somethin' we can use. And then there's the anomaly in Teyla's DNA...
If Sergeant Bates hadn't been a bit prescient himself, that could have ended up very, very badly. It's bad enough as it is, what with the Wraith knowin' everythin' about us that Teyla knew. Rodney spent all of last night changin' every password, every security clearance, everythin' she might have come in contact with since we've been here that the Wraith might possibly be able to use once they arrive. And then he said he needed to talk with me this mornin' just as soon as I had a moment to spare for him.
I didn't have to ask to know he hadn't slept at all. He's not really slept in days, except for the occasional catnap on his desk. And when he mentioned that at Dr. Weir's farce of a meetin', she had the bloody gall to ask him what he had to show for it. The way I understand it from Dr. Zelenka, even young Dr. Kavenaugh wasn't any too happy about that one. And since Teyla caught Rodney comin' out of Dr. Heightmeyer's office a couple of days ago...well, I've no doubt she'll tell Sheppard and Ford, and they'll tell everyone else. So I made sure Zelenka knew that Dr. Weir had ordered him to go in for sessions because of the problems he'd been havin' with Sheppard - and I also made sure he knew that Sheppard hadn't been made to go in for anythin'. Elizabeth's not the only one who can play nasty.
Rodney comes in before I can get in any sort of a good gloat about that, closin' the door to the lab and then droppin' into a chair like his legs just can't hold him up any more. It doesn't escape my notice that he's locked the door as well, and now I know it's somethin' important he's got on his mind. "Tell me," I say.
He sighs and scrubs at his face like he's tryin' to wake himself up. "What do you want first, the bad news or the worse news or the news that's just generally crappy and disappointing?"
"Start at the beginnin'," I tell him. "Is it all related?"
"In a way." He sighs again. "We'll start with disappointing first. I'm as finished as I'm ever going to get with that clandestine project I've been working on. You know we found a couple of those chairs, like the one I made you activate in Antarctica, right?" I nod. "Well, I also found something else; it's sort of a chair, but what it controls is the shield, and the submersion process for the city. And all it takes to activate it is an ATA gene, no ZedPM necessary."
I raise an eyebrow at him. "And this is bad because...?"
"Because it drains off the life-force of the user in order to work." He runs a hand through his short hair and grimaces. "As near as I can tell, sitting down in the damned thing is pretty much a death sentence...unless of course you happen to be an Ancient from ten thousand years ago who will just Ascend into whatever happy level of arrogant hell it is they go to. Or if you happen have a handy-dandy Ancient medical staff hanging around who can bring you back, either way. That suspension chamber the other Dr. Weir was in? It's entirely possible the thing's real use is to hold patients in stasis until a doctor can figure out how to save them."
"That could be a very useful thing," I say, noddin'. "If we're still here a week from now, you'll have to be showin' me how that works."
"We won't be here a week from now, trust me," is his reply. He leans back in the chair. "All right, on to the next. I was going over more of what we found on that Wraith scientist planet, and I noticed that the technology we found there was very similar to the Ancient technology found on Earth. So I dug a little deeper and found that the Wraith systems were actually incorporating components of Ancient design - actual parts, Carson, not just copies or similarly designed technology. And I thought, well, they'd been fighting the Ancients, maybe they were stealing their stuff at the same time, right?"
I nod. "That's a reasonable supposition, I'd say."
"That's what I thought, but it isn't - it's just the most obvious." Normally he'd be startin' to bounce right now, but he's so bloody tired that he's barely even gesturin' at me. "Once I was really looking at things, I realized that even though the parts were old they were obviously original equipment. So next I took the samples of the Wraith language down to Barrett in Linguistics and asked him what he made of the similarities there - something Dr. Weir never did, by the way. And he said that it wasn't some sort of pidgin language at all, like we'd all first thought; it's actually a dialect of the Ancients' language." He leans forward again. "And now we find out that Teyla has Wraith DNA incorporated into her genetic code. Can you see where this is leading, or am I really just nuts?"
Through the shock I feel a little frisson of anger stir up again; he'd not be doubtin' his sanity if it wasn't for Dr. Heightmeyer. But I'll deal with that in a bit. "I can see it," I assure him. "I don't like it, but I can see it. What do you think they were tryin' to do?"
He just melts back into his chair, so relieved that it makes me even angrier. "I think they were trying to create - or rather, they did create a race of supersoldiers to use against the other humans in the galaxy. They made something that was vicious and merciless and able to regenerate itself until it was practically immortal, and then they stuck them in these huge hive ships and scattered them all over the place so they could be awakened from hibernation and show up anywhere they were needed within a matter of hours. But they'd made them too smart, too self reliant, and after who knows how many years the Wraith got away from them and then got the drop on them...and that was all she wrote."
"Wasn't it, though." My God, I just know he's right. And that would explain why the Wraith don't appear to have any offspring, and how they managed to gain the use of the Stargates here in the Pegasus galaxy even though they're not able to use other Ancient technology. "So you think the experiment all those generations ago on Teyla's ancestors..."
"I think it wasn't really about improving feeding efficiency," he tells me. "That theory fits the evidence we found, but if you think about it for a while it doesn't really make sense. But if the Ancients had been behind the experiment, it does; it makes sense that they'd be trying to gain any advantage they over this perfect enemy they'd created, and that little settlement was a good place to try things out. And I think they planted false records just in case one of their other enemies - or worse, one of their allies - found the place, did their best to make it look like the Wraith were in charge and then killed all the humans when the experiments didn't work." He sighs again. "I've no doubt that the Wraith really did kill everyone they could find on the planet, but that was because they'd figured out what was being done there and knew they had to put a stop to it."
I can tell by the look on his face that there's more, and I take a guess at it. "And you're thinkin' this is the same thing they did on Hoff, am I right?"
"Exactly - except that on Hoff, the Wraith showed up and ran the Ancients off, leaving the Hoffans to spend generations diddling around with the genetic mess of a project they'd left behind." He gives me an apologetic look for that, but he's still not done. "And...well, there's no easy way to say this; I screwed up before, big time. Now that I know what I know, I went back and took another look at the nanites we stumbled onto and...well, they were created by the Ancients too."
I should be surprised, but I'm not. "Which would explain why they didn't attack anyone with the ATA gene, yes; it was a genocide weapon." I shake my head. "And you didn't screw up, you just didn't have all the information you needed to come to the correct conclusion. I didn't think of it either, you know."
He looks at me a moment...and then he nods. "I'm not going to tell anyone else."
What he's not sayin' is that he knows they wouldn't believe him even if he did, but I hear it loud and clear. And the truly unfortunate thing is, he's right. I doubt they'd believe me either. "So what are we goin' to do, Rodney?" Now it's my turn to lean forward, catchin' his eyes. "What do you want us to do?"
"Nothing." He slouches a little further into the seat, rippin' his eyes away from mine to stare at the ceilin' with a look so hopeless it hurts. He waves his hand, aimlessly gesturin' at the whole of Atlantis around us. "This whole beautiful city, it's just...a monument to evil," he whispers. "And all the remnants back on Earth too. I have to wonder what they did there, what kind of future the Gou'ald spared us by taking over and wiping the Ancients out."
I can only imagine, now. And I certainly wish that I couldn't. But now's not the time to be dwellin' on the sins of our forebears - or rather, of my forebears, since Rodney was only adopted into this nasty genetic family. "There's one thing," I say. "There's one thing you've got to tell them, Rodney." He looks at me, and I put all the confidence I have into it. "You've got to tell them about the chair, about the shield." I hold up my hand when he starts to protest. "I know," I tell him. "I know that as irrational as Weir and Sheppard have been lately it's takin' a huge risk; I won't pretend that after what I saw and heard the past few days I don't positively know that they'd both be ready to sacrifice someone to get that shield up." I wait until he looks at me. "I promise, Rodney, I won't let that sacrifice be you."
He sits up slowly, an odd look crossin' his face...but then it's gone again before I can identify it and he's shakin' his head. "I'd rather it be me than...anyone else, Carson." He cocks his head, thinks a minute, then shakes his head again. "You're right, you usually are. I'll put together a report and have it to Dr. Weir this afternoon."
I stand up when he does. "Do you want some help?"
"I'd love some, but you're not qualified." Rodney smiles at me then, a real smile if a bit sad. "I'll let Zelenka in on it, if his name's on the report our good Dr. Weir won't be able to dismiss it out of hand," he says, and then his smile takes on just a bit of a wicked tilt. "And if Dr. Heightmeyer comes around looking for me...tell her I said she's fired, okay?"
"Aye, I can do that." I smile back, but so soon as he's gone it falls off. I don't know what it is, but somethin's wrong. I think there's still somethin' he's not tellin' me, or maybe several somethin's. And seein' as how I'm right now the only person in the city that Rodney trusts completely...I think that's a very bad sign. A very bad sign indeed.
Chapter 15: Decisions
tag for CD#12 "Signs and Portents"
Rodney McKay finished the notes he was making and saved them, then sent them to three different people: Zelenka, Kavenaugh, and Carson Beckett. Carson wouldn't understand them, he knew, but the doctor would keep the information safe if something happened to the other two. And considering what had been going on around the city lately, something happening to just about anyone was all too likely. Especially since Rodney himself wouldn't be there to run interference any more.
He sort of regretted that...but not for long. He was protecting them in a different way now.
Closing down the laptop, taking a last look around to make sure everything had been packed up and labeled, the astrophysicist couldn't help but feel a pang at the thought of never seeing it again - this lab, the city, all of it. He'd liked it here, more than he'd liked just about any other place he'd ever been, and at least until recently he'd felt like he belonged here. Rodney shrugged. In a weird way, considering that, it was sort of fitting that he was going to die here, with the city. And a small, arrogant part of him thought that having the entire lost city of Atlantis as a tomb just for him was fitting as well.
He decided to hang on to that thought for a while; arrogance and ego, he knew from experience, could get you through tough situations when real courage was nowhere to be found. It made you look bad afterwards, but it worked and that was what mattered, right? And Rodney was all about results, especially right now.
He tore himself out of the lab and started carefully sneaking down to the lower level where his destination - and eventual demise - was located. It had only been a week ago that he'd taken Zelenka and Kavenaugh to Weir's office and presented his report on the new find and its implications to her, and wonder of wonders she'd accepted it. She'd even congratulated them, although she hadn't been too happy when Zelekna had sort of gotten up her nose about he and Kavenaugh having only gone over the report to check it, pointing out that it was Rodney who'd done all the work. And then Kavenaugh had chimed in with a pithy little comment about guessing that Rodney really did have something to show for not sleeping, and that had really shocked her; she apparently hadn't realized just how badly she'd pissed the rest of the science staff off by getting nasty with him during that last briefing.
Not that they hadn't been kind of pissed off already, of course. Carson had seen to that.
In the darkness of an empty corridor, Rodney smiled to himself, just a little sadly. Carson had been coming to his rescue ever since that...incident in Antarctica, and the Scottish doctor was going to be furious when he got Rodney's message and found out what he was doing. It would be too late to stop him by that time, of course, but that couldn't be helped; given half a chance, Carson would stop him. And Rodney couldn't let that happen, because Carson had the ATA gene and he was scared to death of the damned control chairs...and Rodney knew that it would give Weir and possibly even Sheppard a real kick to force the doctor into one of them.
Especially this particular one. Rodney didn't think it had ever occurred to Carson that he was infinitely more dispensable than the mission's chief scientist; there were, after all, several other doctors on Atlantis, and everyone who could be given the artificial ATA gene had already gotten it. He'd reminded Carson of that in the message he'd left him, the one the doctor would be finding about ten minutes from now when the city's alarms woke him up.
He'd told Carson a lot of things, actually. Not everything, but a lot of things. Like how much he'd hated forcing the doctor into that weapons control chair, and why he'd had to do it - he'd needed to be sure he'd reconnected everything properly, because that was how he'd reconnected the other chair, the one he was headed for now. The one Sheppard had put himself in a week ago, raising the shield and submerging the city, supposedly to save everyone from the arriving Wraith.
Rodney had known better. He'd known that it wasn't about the city or the people in it or the damned Wraith, it had been about Chaya and her influence. He suspected that the last time Sheppard had snuck back to visit his 'girlfriend', as Ford called her, she'd probably done something to him so that once the chair killed him he would Ascend and then she could have him forever.
But Rodney had decided he couldn't let that happen. It was...obscene, that's what it was, obscene. He knew that Carson could cure the major again, he had once before, and he knew that once everyone was at the new beta site Bates had found Sheppard would stay cured because there'd be no way he'd be able to get away to Proculus again. In spite of everything Sheppard had done lately, how much of an asshole he'd proved he could be, the man still didn't deserve to be shackled to that evil bitch Chaya for all eternity just because she was lonely and thought he was cute.
He'd told Carson that in his message too. The doctor was really pissed off at Sheppard and had said he wouldn't try to cure the major again...but Rodney knew that since he'd asked him to, Carson would. Carson was going to be pissed at Rodney too, but after he'd read the message through Rodney hoped his friend would understand why he'd had to do what he was about to do, and why he hadn't been able to tell anyone.
Because he knew Carson Beckett...and he knew that the thing that would piss the Scott off most was that Rodney had been alone at the end. Carson knew how Rodney felt about being alone. Sheppard being there didn't count. Sheppard being in the room might not even have counted if the man had actually been conscious, which he wasn't.
And Rodney knew this because he was right this minute standing in the doorway looking at him, having just slipped inside the little silver box of a room that housed the chair and all its machinery. No one else was there, thank god; it was late, and pretty much everyone who wasn't asleep was packing things up, getting ready to evacuate the city. They weren't in too much of a hurry just yet, because according to the readouts the shield was going to be up for a month or two at least, but Weir in an uncharacteristic burst of good sense had insisted that they not wait until the last minute to get things ready for getting out, just in case.
'Just in case' was about to become a much more immediate reality. Rodney hoped Weir would appreciate how good he was about to make her look in the eyes of all the pissed-off people in the city...but he was pretty sure she wouldn't. The same way he'd been pretty sure that she'd have happily sacrificed everyone in the city but him to the chair; in spite of what Carson thought, Rodney knew that he was the only one in the city with the ATA gene who wasn't really expendable. They had other engineers, other soldiers...
Other doctors. But Rodney was going to make sure that wouldn't be a consideration. He'd left his notes on the chair, yes, including the calculations that could be used to figure out how long someone could occupy the chair before you lost the option of removing them alive...but those notes didn't describe what he was about to do. Once he finished rearranging the connections and took Sheppard's place, the chair would never again accept another user; Rodney would be the last sacrifice made on the dark altar of Atlantis, he'd made sure of it. He wouldn't have to die worrying that someday Weir would stand in this room's doorway gloating while soldiers forced a frightened Carson into the chair to buy them another month of shield time.
Rodney knew that he himself would be lucky to give them two weeks, but that didn't matter. It would be long enough for everyone to get out of the city, not long enough for anyone to figure out what he'd done and undo it...and it wouldn't mean anything to him personally at all, since he'd most likely be unaware of the passage of time anyway.
He finished the reconnections, made a few adjustments, and now he was standing over the chair looking down at John Sheppard's still, expressionless face, remembering. He remembered waking up in the infirmary to find Sheppard standing there beside his bed, remembered the day Sheppard had showed up at the grounding station to talk him through what had happened with Commander Kolya, remembered sitting in Sheppard's quarters on different occasions drinking the product of their clandestine still...remembered going to Proculus, where Sheppard had met Chaya.
Rodney didn't have any good memories involving Sheppard past that. They'd been friends, which was more than he'd ever expected, and due to his past experiences Rodney had never really thought that would last anyway. He just hadn't expected it to be snatched away from him quite so abruptly.
He sighed, taking hold of the other man's arm to pull him out of the chair...and then he hesitated. He didn't think Sheppard was aware of anything, didn't think Sheppard could hear him, but just in case... "John," he said quietly. "Have a nice life - a nice life as a human, if you would please, not as some disembodied sex toy for a deranged Ancient. If you're that lonely you can sleep with Weir instead, okay? You've pretty much screwed everything and everyone else all to hell lately, but right now everyone hates Weir too so you two have something in common. Tell her you passed the Mensa test but refused to join, that should impress her. I know it made...an impression on me; at least now I know why you had so much contempt for me." He cleared his throat, swallowed. "I wish things could have been different...but I guess I shouldn't have expected them to be, I shouldn't have expected it all to last. And I hope you don't screw up again, because I won't be there to save your ass the next time. Find your way back to being Captain Kirk, okay? You might have taken it a little too far...but you were good at it."
Time was up; if he didn't do it now, it couldn't be done at all. Rodney pulled Sheppard out of the chair, dumping him carefully but unceremoniously onto the metal floor, and then quickly slid into chair himself as the alarms started to sound, closed his eyes and thought of his ATA gene as hard as he could. Lights flashed, the city shivered, and then the chair started to hum. The hum was irregular at first, almost as though the device was confused by the change of occupant, but then it smoothed out and built into a constant, steady vibration that felt like it was permeating every individual cell in his body. Rodney's last conscious thought, directly related to the horrified realization that Chaya must have altered Sheppard more than they'd thought she had, was...
Oh God...it hurts...
Chapter 16: In the End
In the End
#13 of The Carson Diaries AU
Author's Note: This is my version of a 'season finale' for CD, but it is by no means the end of CD! Just so you know.
I know they're comin'.
As I sit here, watchin' monitors that don't need me to watch them, even though we're so far below the active part of the city that there's no possible way to hear what's goin' on above, I know they're on their way down to get me. I even know who it is - Dr. Weir and Major Sheppard, and possibly Lieutenant Ford as well, for backup.
I pat Rodney's hand. I knew they'd come, it's not important. And I'm not goin' anywhere.
They come in cautiously, almost creepin' around the corner like they're afraid of what they'll find - and yes, they did bring Ford with them. Fully armed, too. Dr. Weir is tryin' to focus on me so she won't have to look at Rodney. "It's time, Dr. Beckett. Are you ready to go?"
I sit back a bit more in my chair, lettin' my body language answer for me. Sheppard's lookin' around the room - although lookin' at Rodney doesn't seem to be a problem for him - and I see his eyebrows go up when he spots the box of supplies I've left sittin' against the wall. "O-kay," he says. "Maybe we had a little miscommunication here, Doc. We're leaving now, as in almost everyone is already out of the city. We're not staying until the shield fails, you didn't need to lay in food and stuff to wait it out."
I stay right where I am. "Actually, I've just got enough there to see me through as long as Rodney's got left, which is all I'll be needin'. I didn't take much."
Weir tries to look sympathetic, antsy as she is; this obviously isn't goin' the way she wanted it to. "How long does he have left?"
I don't even hesitate. "Six days, ten hours, and approximately 17 minutes." She goggles at me a bit, and I point up to one of the monitors. "The city's keepin' track. It's all automatic, you see."
"It's okay, we can take the supplies with us," Sheppard says. "But once the Gate is shut down it's going to stay shut, so we've really got to get a move on." He checks his watch. "We've got about twenty minutes of our window left, give or take."
Ford chooses that moment to pipe up, checkin' his own watch. "We really do need to head back up there now, Dr. Beckett. I can carry the box..."
"The box isn't goin' anywhere - and neither am I." I cross my feet at the ankles and settle in a bit more, curlin' my fingers around Rodney's unresponsive hand. "Like I said, I've got enough laid in to do me until it's time, so you can just be on about your way."
"Okay, maybe you still don't understand." Sheppard's smile is a little tight now. "There won't be any more trips, once that Gate shuts down there won't be enough power to activate it again. Now I know this is probably some doctor thing, but your patient there is asleep and feeling no pain..."
"He is, actually." That stopped him, now it's his turn to goggle at me. I raise an eyebrow. "Major, you seem to be forgettin' that Rodney's not an Ancient, he's just a regular Earth human with an ATA gene that I gave him. You weren't in pain; he's in bloody agony and unable to do anythin' about it." I point to the monitors again, a different one this time. "Right there, see?"
He tries to argue with me, but I expected that. "No, you must be reading that wrong," he tries to scold me. "Chaya said it wouldn't be much different for him..."
"I'm sure she did," I break in. So the bastard did manage to get off to see her again, so much for Rodney's plan to save him. "I also know she despises Rodney because of the bloody gene therapy, so I'm not havin' much faith in anythin' she says that might affect him."
"Now where did you get something like that from?" Sheppard wants to know. "Chaya's never said anything about that, and there's no way she could know how McKay got his ATA gene anyway. She'd never..."
"Oh really?" I ask, not even tryin' to keep the contempt out of my voice. "You were so smitten that you didn't notice the way she looked at him, were you? She knew, Major, most likely from the moment she set eyes on him - she knew he wasn't truly one of you, not an Ancient at all. Why did you think she tried to turn all of you against him?"
It makes him angry when people talk about her, like she's somethin' so far above everythin' else that even sayin' her name wrong can make him scowl. He's definitely scowlin' now. "You know, in spite of what McKay might have told you, he was an asshole almost from the moment he met her. So what, next you're going to say that he 'sensed' something about her was off and that's why he acted that way?"
He's tryin' to pick a fight but I don't fall for it, I just catch his eyes and hold them. She can't have driven everythin' I told him out of his head. "Even Rodney didn't know why he took such a dislike to her, actually. I seem to remember tellin' you that he came to me after gettin' back from Proculus, askin' me to check him over." I squeeze the hand I'm holdin'. "That's when I discovered the pheremone reaction, of course - somethin' you also already know about. But there wasn't any way I could tell him or anyone else that another part of his problem was just plain simple jealousy."
The major looks quite funny when his mouth falls open like that, pity I'm not in a laughin' mood. Dr. Weir's not much better off than he is, but she finds her voice quicker. "Wait, you're saying that Rodney..."
"Dr. McKay to you," I snap. She's not entitled to be familiar with him, not here, not now. "And I said a good part, not all; so far as the rest of it went his instincts were chimin' right in with mine that somethin' was wrong about the woman - which is why he was feedin' the data from his scans to me through his laptop, remember? I'm the one who told him what she was. He just didn't tell you how he knew it." I squeeze his hand again. "He didn't want either of you to know I'd been in it with him, you see."
Major Sheppard finds his voice, or at least part of it. "So Rodney was...but I'm not..."
"He knew that." This time I scowl at him. "Just because he knew nothin' would ever come of it doesn't mean he didn't have feelin's for you." I wave my free hand, encompassin' the room and what it means. "He cared enough about you to trade his life on a chance to save yours, you stupid bastard."
That knocks him back a bit. "But once he got me out, we might have been able to get everyone out..."
"No." Thank God for Rodney's last letter, he made sure I'd know why he did what he did...because he knew he couldn't tell me himself and still get to do it. "He'd checked every possibility, there was no way to save everyone without someone keepin' up the shield." I smile at him, not a nice one. "He worked out a way to get you out tryin' to save you, Major; he took your place to save everyone else."
It's good to see him flinch, even though I know it doesn't mean anythin'. "He should have told someone. There might have been a way he didn't think of."
The guilt is good too. But not good enough, not for me. "There wasn't - and there wasn't time to find out. If he hadn't gotten you out when he did, there'd have been no gettin' you out at all. Not alive and human, anyway. Your Chaya saw to that."
I know I sound bitter, but that's because I am. Weir jumps back in. "Carson..."
"Dr. Beckett to you."
That made her mad. Good. "All right, Dr. Beckett," she starts back in, but with more of an edge this time. "Dr. McKay made his choice, for whatever reason: he's as good as dead. And from what the major here said about his time in this room, he doesn't even know you're here. So why exactly is it that you're staying down here, hmm?"
Oh, Elizabeth - she never gives up tryin' to get the upper hand. She just wants so badly to trap me into sayin' that I have it for Rodney the way he had it for Sheppard. And what a pity that isn't true, because I might have been able to save him if it had been.
But in the absence of that... "I won't let him die alone," I tell her, very calmly. "Perhaps what the major didn't see fit to tell about this machinery was that once the city can't use the person who's sittin' here any more, it will release them - most likely with the intent that someone else will be there to take their place and someone else will be there to try to save them. Rodney will wake up, for a short time, right before the end. And I refuse to let him wake up with the water crashin' in all around, too weak to move, and spend the last few moments of his life alone and scared in the dark."
She steps back from me, white-faced, and the look she gives Sheppard is full of horror. I wish the major had the same look, but he doesn't; whatever it was that Chaya did to him, he's not the same man poor Rodney once admired so much, maybe even loved so much. He's not the same man I trusted, either. Elizabeth hasn't seen the whole reality of it yet, blind as she likes to be, so she's in for a rude awakenin' sometime in the near future when it just gets too much to ignore. Like maybe the next time he stands by and lets someone die like it's nothin' so very important, like he's doin' right now. "That would suck," he says in a flat voice, not so much sarcastic as just plain bored. "But then again, it's going to be over for him whether the city lets him go or not - and he'll only have a few minutes tops. You, on the other hand, don't have to die. And we need you, Dr. Beckett."
Weir does nod at that. "We do need you. You have the ATA gene, and you're our chief medical doctor..."
"I'm not your only medical doctor." Rodney pointed that out to me in his last letter. I smile again, and have the satisfaction of seein' her step back a little farther. Looks like she finally recognized that devil, if a bit too late. "And you do need me, but I'm sure you'll figure out a way to get by. As to the ATA gene, once this city is gone you won't be needin' it so much any more - and if you do, you've got the major here and the few others who've got the misfortune to be related to the Ancients."
Sheppard's frownin' again, but just when he's startin' to gesture to Ford I let go Rodney's hand and take hold of somethin' else. And doesn't it look like our major doesn't much like havin' a stunner pointed at him. If Weir's eyes get any wider I think she might lose them. "Car...Dr. Beckett, what are you doing?" she all but whispers.
I can't help but roll my eyes. "Stayin' here," I tell her. "Did you think I was stupid, then? That I wouldn't realize you'd try to take me out by force? Woman, I think you've underestimated me one time too many."
"You won't..." Sheppard makes a move to attack, thinkin' she's got me distracted, and I pull the trigger; he goes down twitchin', much to everyone's surprise. "You...you shot him!"
"Of course, he was about to jump me." I've still got the weapon raised, pointin' at them - and at Sheppard, because I may not know exactly what Chaya did to him but I know she did somethin' that affected his ATA gene and the way he can use it. So I won't be takin' any chances that he's not really out, and I'm fairly certain a second shot won't kill him. Fairly certain. I'm not any too worried about it at the moment, I've got people still left I want rid of so I can be about my business. "All right," I tell the other two, gesturin' with the stunner. "You've said all the goodbyes I want to hear from ye, so pick him up and get out of here."
Weir hesitates but Ford doesn't, and when he hisses at her she snaps out of it and helps him pick the major up. Both of them still have their eyes on the stunner, though, and they stay on it until they're out of sight. I stay where I am for a good half hour past that, just in case, but no one comes so after that I go back to makin' preparations.
Yes, preparations. I'll die with Rodney if that's the way it has to be, but we won't be dyin' here in this tomb of a city, this monument to a race that cloaked its evil with bright light and beautiful architecture. Another check of the corridor, and then I'm into the darkest corner of the room and haulin' out somethin' I found and plan to use in six days, ten hours, and about 5 minutes give or take.
Why did it never occur to anyone that livin' underwater the people here must have had some way other than the Stargate or surfacin' the city to get out? I had to look around a bit, but I finally found the suits and the pods and the underwater exits that go with them...and I found out from Rodney's notes that I can have him mostly in a suit before the fact without disruptin' anythin' or hurtin' him. I wouldn't hurt him for all the world.
But I also won't let him die if I can help it. And if he does, it won't be alone.
Chapter 17: Arrival
This story marks the beginning of "Season 2" of The Carson Diaries - no connection whatsoever to the second season of the actual series.
I’ll admit to bein’ a bit put out right at this moment.
I mean, after all that, makin’ it out of the city, havin’ the pod automatically bring us to dry land, gettin’ Rodney here alive at all…you would know that after all that, he’d stop breathin’. It’s occurred to me that the suit might have been keepin’ him alive on the way here, so some of that upset I’m feelin’ is at myself for bein’ so quick to take him out of it. And the rest of it’s aimed at Rodney himself for never bein’ one to do anythin’ like you’d expect a normal person to – includin’ live and/or die, apparently.
This is the third time, you see. It’s why I suspect the suit factors into this somehow, because he stopped breathin’ the first time right after I peeled him out of it. I didn’t have anythin’ of what I’d brought with me ready at that point, so I got him goin’ again the old-fashioned way and yelled at him between breaths hopin’ he’d hear and come back. And he did, and I was able to get the oxygen on him.
And then a bit later, he stopped breathin’ again. I was ready with the bag that time, and more yellin’ for good measure even though I knew he didn’t deserve it. He was just so bloody tired and weak, you see, he didn’t have anythin’ left to keep goin’ with. But he came back that second time and breathed for me a bit longer, and the third time he gave out on me it only took two puffs before he was tryin’ to get out from under the mask. It was barely a twitch, to be truthful, but to me it might as well have been a full-out Rodney tantrum – and the look on his face told me quite plainly just what he thought of my mask, most likely because of the nasty rubbery smell the thing has. That sort of wrung a chuckle out of me, a watery one, and I patted his cheek and told him that if he’d just keep breathin’ I’d not have to use the mask again.
He kept breathin’. It’s not much, but it’s somethin’ – it’s enough to tell me he’s still in there, anyway. And that he can hear me, even if he’s too weak to open his eyes. He did try to open them right after I got him breathin’ again the first time, and after watchin’ him struggle for a bit I told him to give it up, there wasn’t anythin’ to see anyway.
Which wasn’t exactly true. It had been dark when we docked, but then the sun started comin’ up and that’s when I’d gotten my first inklin’ that we most likely weren’t on the mainland. There weren’t any trees, you see, just sand and short brush and the wide Atlantean sky.
And a path, overgrown but still visible, leadin’ uphill away from the dock. So just so soon as I’m feelin’ ready to move Rodney – and I’ve figured out the best way to do it – we’ll be seein’ just what the pod brought us here to find.
Chapter 18: Rain
It’s rainin’ again.
It’s hard not to notice, the sound of it hittin’ the roof. We couldn’t hear the rain in the city, you’d just look out and see it comin’ down or you’d find one of those little froglike beasties that sometimes come down with it stickin’ to a window or lyin’ in a puddle on one of the balconies, and that’s how you’d know the rain had come and gone.
Froglets, that’s what Lieutenant Ford called them. Froglets. Some of the people in the city had taken to keepin’ them as pets, cute harmless little things that they were. Until we found out that they metamorphose into somethin’ like a cross between a leech and a piranha, that was. I went back and checked the data the biology people had on them after we found out about Teyla’s DNA, and sure enough there were matches. I’d done the same with the DNA samples left behind from the major’s blood-suckin’ bug – match again. Whoever spliced the Wraith genome together had an evil imagination.
I wish the Wraith ship I saw fly overhead yesterday had been a product of mine. But I know better. It was real, meanin’ they’re still here, still lookin’.
Lookin’ for us, for survivors, have to be. Because I’ve no doubt they know the city is gone now. Most likely the only thing keepin’ them from goin’ down there to loot the place is the saline content of the water – which thanks to someone splicin’ them with the aforementioned blood-suckin’ bug is fairly well damagin’ to them.
Or in other words, we could have stopped them on the ground with a lot of bloody water pistols, never mind the real guns. I passed that along to Dr. Zelenka before they left, maybe it’ll give the mission’s survivors a fightin’ chance once the Wraith catch up to them.
They might have more chance than Rodney and I have, at that. Yes, the pod brought us here – wherever here is – and there are buildin’s with power and water…but I don’t have a water pistol, just the stunner and a handgun, and I won’t leave Rodney. If the Wraith decide to land here, or if they pick us up on their sensors…we’re bloody done for.
I can’t run and take him with me, you see. I got him moved to this buildin’, because it was the first one we came to, but I don’t dare shift him again. He’s stable now, just barely, and I want him to stay that way.
Now if he would just bloody well make up his mind to wake up…well, we could listen to the rain together.
And listen for the Wraith, too. Maybe it is better that he’s not all the way awake, at that.
Chapter 19: The Healing Touch
A whimper jerks me out of a sound sleep I hadn’t meant to be in, and I reach out with one hand while rubbin’ sleep out of my eyes with the other. Rodney’s upset, from the sound of it, but he’s not hyperventilatin’, thank God – but then he may have been gettin’ ready to panic and feelin’ my hand on him just headed it off. All to the good. I tell him it’s all right, that he’s safe, and then I start rubbin’ his stomach and I feel him relax just a bit.
He can’t move, you see; he’s too bloody weak. When I finally got us settled in here the first thing I did was strip him down so I could examine him properly. The second thing I did, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, was cry over what I was seein’. He’s down to skin and bones. I’d known he’d been losin’ some weight since everythin’ went to Hell in a handbasket on the bloody mission, but this…it’s no wonder the city let him go, there’s just about nothin’ left of him.
And what’s worse, with no instruments, no infirmary…I’ve got no way of findin’ out exactly what kind of damage that infernal machine did to him. I know he’s in pain, I can see it in his face, but I’ve no clue where it’s comin’ from. There’s nothin’ I can do for him except sit here, rubbin’ his stomach and talkin’ to him in hopes that I can soothe him back to sleep. It’s what’s worked before, that time he’d been hit with the Wraith stunner through the Gate. His motor cortex had been paralyzed and he hadn’t been able to move – hadn’t been able to feel anythin’ either. And I hadn’t expected him to wake all the way up until the effect had worn off a bit more.
That was before I’d fully realized that Rodney doesn’t do anythin’ the way you’d expect, of course, and before I’d known he had a flat-out phobia about bein’ paralyzed. He started comin’ around while Sheppard was in checkin’ on him, and like a bloody fool I told the man to stay back from the bed and not touch – I was afraid it would alarm Rodney if he saw we were touchin’ him but he couldn’t feel anythin’. So I told him he was goin’ to be all right, and then Sheppard left and I went to check on another patient. I ignored Rodney callin’ for me; I was hopin’ that what with bein’ bored and not able to do anythin’ about it he would go back to sleep.
Again, more the fool me. What he actually did was have a panic attack that set all the monitors screamin’ and almost sent him back into respiratory arrest from hyperventilatin’ – I’d said he’d be fine, not that he was fine. Melissa got him back on oxygen and turned the alarms off, but he still wasn’t calmin’ down and his heart rate was to the point it was frightenin’ me. Sedatin’ him was out of the question…so what we’d ended up doin’ was touchin’ him. All over. I knew the effect was wearin’ off, so there had to be a spot somewhere that he could feel. It was Melissa who finally found it, on his stomach, and I sat there a good twenty minutes and rubbed that spot like he was a wee baby with colic, talkin’ to him, soothin’ him, until he finally calmed down and fell asleep.
And when I’d stood up, Major Sheppard was standin’ in my infirmary’s door, watchin’ me…watchin’ Rodney. The alarms must have drawn him back, most likely in a panic himself thinkin’ the worst had happened, but when I said everythin’ was under control he just nodded and left again without a word. And I’d been glad that someone else had a care for what happened to Rodney, I’d had some faith then that the major would be lookin’ out for him.
More the fool me, like I already said.
Chapter 20: Remembering
Rodney was remembering.
There really wasn’t much he could do besides remember. The pain was like a soft, heavy curtain falling all around him, dulling his senses and clouding his thinking. He would push his way through it at irregular intervals, but that was mostly because of Carson.
Rodney remembered Carson most of all. Remembered the doctor ‘disarming’ the Marines in Antarctica, remembered forcing him to test the control chair, remembered sharing the products of various illicit stills late at night while Atlantis lay silent and dark and overpoweringly alien all around them, remembered waking up in the infirmary on half a dozen occasions to the reassuring purr of Carson’s voice and the soothing touch of his hand…
It was that voice, that hand, that made Rodney push even as much as he did. For himself, he would have been content to drift on the tide of weakness that rolled under the pain, but it wasn’t only himself and he knew it, and that meant he had to make an extra effort to break through, break free, and rejoin the land of the living.
Because Rodney also remembered what had happened after the city had let him go. He remembered being freed from the shield, coming back to outside awareness in the dim room and hearing the city around him groan as it was invaded by the crushing weight of the sea that had sheltered it. He’d been terrified, unable to move, knowing he was going to drown…and then Carson had appeared right beside him, calling his name. The doctor had told him not to worry about anything, had sealed up some sort of helmet over his head and then tossed him over one shoulder and started moving. Rodney remembered seeing the water flow over his helmet, watching little pieces of debris swirl lazily past his eyes, and then sometime after that everything had gone dark and still.
His next memory was a lot stranger. He’d been lying on something that was rough and soft at the same time and had a minimal sort of give to it, no more helmet, and someone was shouting at him. He’d recognized his name, after a few more yells had recognized Carson’s brogue…and then he’d recognized the feel of someone’s mouth touching his. He’d wanted to respond – you were supposed to respond to that, right? – but had discovered that before he could respond he needed to breathe. His chest had felt like a sack of mud was sitting on it, but after a few tries and some help he’d managed to fight the weight enough to draw in a shallow breath. The yelling became Carson’s voice encouraging him: Come on, Rodney, you can do it. You’re not goin’ to give up on me now, right? Come on, just a few more and I’ll have the oxygen for you, that’ll make it easier. Just keep breathin’… Breathing, right. Keep doing it. Carson had sounded almost plaintive and that had worried him, so Rodney had put all the effort he could muster into drawing in one breath after another despite the heavy weight on his chest. Then something had touched his face, cold not warm and smelling of plastic, but with it came a cool breeze that seemed to flow down into him and lightened the weight considerably. And once all his concentration didn’t have to be focused on breathing, he’d found himself a little more alert and had even tried to open his eyes. It hadn’t worked, but from the sound of things Carson had been able to see that he was trying and after a minute or so had even told him he could stop, that it was all right and there was nothing to see anyway. And Rodney trusted Carson, so he’d stopped trying and had eventually fallen asleep or something like it with the doctor’s soothing voice still humming in his ears.
After that things got disjointed. He’d have little snatches of awareness descend on him without warning out of the blackness and then fade away just as abruptly. Something was always touching his face; cool plastic, a warm hand, and a few times something that was an in-between sort of temperature and smelled strongly of sour hot rubber, something that forced the returned weight off his chest a lot less pleasantly than the warm mouth or the cool breeze had. Rodney hadn’t liked that one, and after the first encounter with it he’d tried to get away from it when he’d noticed it again. Surprisingly, that hadn’t seemed to upset Carson at all; during one exceptional moment of clarity, he remembered hearing the doctor chuckle and tell him that if he’d just keep breathing they’d put the horrid thing away for good. Rodney hadn’t realized he hadn’t been breathing, so that had come as something of a surprise to him. But he’d tried to keep it in mind whenever he could, and the more he tried the less often he found the rubber thing there so trying seemed to be working. And eventually he’d stopped even having to try, and that was when a whole new set of sensations had started intruding on his temporary periods of awareness.
Not being able to move was the worst. The first time he’d realized he couldn’t move, Rodney had panicked; he’d thought he was back in the city again, back in that dim, cold room in that awful chair with the hum in it that hurt so much. But then he’d heard Carson’s voice in his ear and felt a warm hand rubbing his stomach and he’d done his best to calm down, knowing that if Carson said everything was okay then it would be. He’d still panicked the next few times he’d awakened, but after a while he’d started accepting what Carson was telling him; they weren’t in the city any more, and everything was going to be all right.
Accepting it hadn’t stopped him from remembering in his sleep, though. Everyone has nightmares – not bad dreams, but fears which run so deep and strong they only surface in the very worst and rarest dreams of all. Stephen Hawking skirted the jagged edges of Rodney’s worst nightmares, the brilliant mind confined within a helpless, unresponsive body personifying his deepest fear. So all those months ago when he’d awakened in the infirmary flat on his back, unable to feel, unable to move, unable to talk …Rodney hadn’t even realized he was panicking until it was too late to stop.
There had been loud noise and voices, but he hadn’t been able to understand what they were saying; all he’d known was that he was trapped, trapped in a body he couldn’t control in a world he couldn’t communicate with. Floundering in nothingness, he’d felt insanity oozing in around the edges of his frantically grasping mind...and then he’d felt something else, and all the panic and creeping madness was slammed back with the force of a piledriver as his entire intellectual being had clenched around the sensation of a hand touching his skin.
The voice he couldn’t understand had gotten closer, very close, and even though he still couldn’t fully comprehend what it was saying there was no mistaking its reassuring tone, or its rich, warm accent. Carson. And the more Rodney had listened, the more he’d been able to relax, and he’d eventually drifted back to sleep without even realizing he’d done it.
Carson had apologized to him when he’d woken up. Not letting anybody touch, and leaving him alone, had been the doctor’s idea to keep Rodney from freaking out, in the hopes that he’d just go back to sleep from boredom and not wake up again until the side effects from the stun blast had passed. Carson hadn’t known about Rodney’s greatest fear, and he still didn’t know how Rodney had gotten it.
Rodney wasn’t planning on sharing that with him anytime soon, either. Not that he could share anything right now, but he had hopes that he’d be able to eventually because Carson kept reassuring him that he would and explaining what had happened – repeatedly, since Rodney tended to drift back into the blackness without warning. They’d used an underwater escape pod, and it had brought them to dry land somewhere that didn’t look like the part of the Atlantean mainland they’d been familiar with. They were currently staying in one of a little compound of simple buildings not far from the place the pod had docked, buildings that still had power and provided adequate shelter in spite of millennia of abandonment.
Rodney had known about the power already; he could feel it and it hurt, a pervasive humming hurt like a dull echo of what he’d felt in the chair. But he had no way of telling Carson that either, and he wasn’t planning on doing so even once he could manage to hold his eyes open for more than a few seconds and force out some words.
Because complaining wasn’t the way you thanked someone for saving your life at the expense of their own. Rodney remembered that too.
Chapter 21: Revelation (Carson)
It took me too bloody long to figure it out. Some doctor I am.
Rodney hasn’t been improvin’ the way I’d expect him to. I’ve checked him over and over again and not found anythin’ that could be the problem, not one single bloody thing.
Until just a bit ago. I was fiddlin’ with the light controls and he made this little sound like he was uncomfortable, so I turned to make sure he was all right…and my hand slipped a bit on the knob I’d been fiddlin’ with, turnin’ it up quite a bit more than I’d intended. And that’s when I saw him wince. In his sleep, no less.
My first thought was that it just couldn’t be. He’d been failin’ to progress, not regainin’ his strength, it had to be that infernal machine that’d messed him up somehow, right? It couldn’t be so simple as him bein’ over-sensitized to the bloody EM field from the Ancients’ systems. Just the thought that I could have overlooked it for so long gave me this sinkin’ feelin’, and then I had it again when I realized that to find out for sure I was goin’ to have to hurt him on purpose…but I had to know. So I twisted the knob back the other way. And he winced again, and I yanked my hand away from the panel like it’d burned me.
Oh hell, all this time…it’s been the bloody buildin’s. Or rather, us bein’ inside with the power runnin’ through them. Atlantis’s power, that he’d been hooked into so intimately. The same power that’s givin’ this little buildin’ we’ve been stayin’ in water and air conditionin’ and lights and whatever that helpful little box is that keeps the food from rottin’ but isn’t cold, power that’s given us all the conveniences of home, or just about. That’s what’s been keepin’ him in constant pain, which in turn kept him from gettin’ better. The pain must just be wearin’ him down so much that he can’t even begin to come back.
So that means we’ll be movin’ tomorrow. Wraith or no wraith.
Chapter 22: Revelation (Rodney)
Rodney realized they were outside exactly three hours and twelve minutes after Carson moved them down to the beach. He realized this because Carson told him, and for once he’d been able to not only stay awake long enough to hear it all but he’d also been able to retain what he’d heard. The painful humming had lessened considerably, which he thought was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him. It wasn’t entirely gone, but it was down to a level he could endure.
The next day, he realized that Carson was building a hut. This was so interesting that it kept him awake for several non-consecutive hours, watching. If he could have hummed the Gilligan’s Island theme song…well, he still wouldn’t have, because Carson was still having to do absolutely everything for him and you didn’t thank someone for becoming your personal nurse by annoying them. You also didn’t thank them by complaining, so when Carson started enacting daily torture sessions he called ‘physical therapy’ Rodney decided that lying was called for. Every time, Carson would ask if what he was doing was painful, and every time Rodney would respond by shaking his head.
This would have worked a lot better if it hadn’t started hurting so much that he couldn’t keep the tears back any more. Carson’s response was to frown and roll his eyes and call Rodney a bloody pain in the ass, and then he backed the physical therapy down to a more manageable level and started following each session up with a brief massage to smooth out whatever pain he hadn’t been able to avoid causing. And then Carson would go back to work on Gilligan’s hut again, or he would go catch some fish about ten feet away in the other direction, or he would sprawl out on a blanket in the shade and talk to Rodney about what they were going to do and about the shield he suspected was covering their little island because the Wraith on their regular flybys weren’t seeming to see the island at all. He just couldn’t figure out what was keeping the shield powered, and he was afraid that someday it could go out.
Finally one day Rodney couldn’t take the worrying anymore and dredged up a response for him. “Geothermal,” he rasped out, and then smiled and nodded when Carson sat up and stared at him. “Won’t…go out, unless the…planet does.”
Carson was still staring. “You’re positive?”
Rodney nodded again. “Yes.”
And that was when Carson all but jumped on him and hugged him so hard Rodney thought he felt his ribs creak. But he didn’t complain, even then.
Because Carson was crying, and there was no way Rodney was going to interrupt that for anything.
Chapter 23: Cold Comfort (Carson)
All right, winter is officially here.
We’re back in the buildin’s now, and just in time, too: the first big storm hit the day after we moved off the beach. Luckily, thanks to Rodney knowin’ the Atlantean weather patterns and me knowin’ how to smoke fish and dry fruit, we’ve got a decent supply of food laid in. Of course, we’ve also got the equivalent of an Ancient refrigerator that can hold food in a sort of stasis until you take it out. I’ve loaded up the refrigerators in the other buildin’s with fruit and tubers and fish as well, so we’ll be sittin’ pretty for a good while so long as the power stays on.
Which it should do another ten thousand years, accordin’ to Rodney – he thinks the power on our island is bein’ generated geothermally, so we’ve more to worry about equipment wearin’ out than the power givin’ out.
Apparently ten thousand years did wear on some of the systems after all, however. The heatin’ systems bein’ among them. Or else the planet had cooled down significantly over the course of the millennia, and the systems’ settin’s were just a reflection of what the climate had originally been like. Whatever the reason, though, it’s still cold.
I’m cold. And Rodney’s bloody well freezin’ – he’s got no body fat left to speak of, and our two blankets aren’t nearly enough to compensate. He’s gettin’ progressively more lethargic, and I don’t think it’s just because of what bein’ inside is doin’ to him.
If I can’t get him warmed up, keep him warmed up…I’m goin’ to lose him. His body will just shut down, he’ll fall asleep and never wake up again.
No bloody way in Hell am I goin’ to let that happen. Not after all I’ve gone through tryin’ to keep him alive up to this point. He’s just goin’ to have to live with the solution I’ve come up with, and that’s all there is to it.
Chapter 24: Cold Comfort (Rodney)
I don’t want to wake up.
I’m warm, again. I’m comfortable – as comfortable as I can be with the pain that’s a part of being inside an Ancient building. That’s always going to be a part of it, I know that. I can only imagine what kind of hell it would be to be inside the city right now, with the power flowing everywhere through the walls and the ceilings and the floor. At least in here, it’s only one wall and the door. Painful, but not unbearable.
Cold, though. Or it was, until Carson came up with his brilliant plan – the kind of brilliant plan any eight-year-old who’d ever been a boy scout would have thought of in ten seconds flat. It took Carson a couple of days.
That right there, that’s proof of his ability to be oblivious for you. Hard evidence.
Ouch. Okay, bad thought, bad thought. I’m not…I’m too tired to…well, maybe just thank whatever for the small favor of being just a little over half dead, still. It’s terrifying and it pisses me off to be so helpless, to be so dependent…but it’s sure doing me a favor now.
That doesn’t help in any way but physically, though. Which is the part that truly sucks. The more warm and comfortable I get, the more alert I get and then I can think instead of just laying here half dead asleep. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be able to think…but I just keep remembering my dream of being warm and cuddling with someone who…well, who actually wants to cuddle up with me. With me, because I’m me, and not for any other reason.
It was such a nice dream. I wish I didn’t have to wake up and find out it’s only half real.
Chapter 25: Seeing Clearly
It’s not like there’s anythin’ else to do, so the futility of workin’ on somethin’ no one’s ever goin’ to see doesn’t bother me so much as might be expected. And who’s to say a thousand years from now someone won’t come along and find this island, find my laptop here, and take a look to see what I was doin’ with my time? In a millennia, I could be bloody well famous – dead, but famous.
I put the thought of dead out of my mind as quick as I can – because there’s no doubt in it that I’ll be alone here when it happens. Rodney’s not goin’ to be outlivin’ me by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve thought about what I might do, the options I’ll have to consider, but I don’t want to be thinkin’ about them now. That’s one I’ll leave the contemplation of for when I’m fishin’ down on the beach in the sun, if you please. It’s dark enough in here.
I’m tired of workin’ on my future scientific immortality, though, so I start goin’ through my files. If anyone ever does find this, I’ve bought a completely different sort of immortality for Dr. Weir, what with all the records I made about what was goin’ on in the city. Readin’ through it all at once…well, the picture it all paints is even shockin’ to me. Pity we’ve no way to get this back to Earth, I find myself hatin’ to keep such well-deserved infamy away from her.
I’m readin’ the letter Rodney left for me, there at the end, before the chair, when somethin’ strikes me as odd. At the time I’d got the letter everythin’ was in an uproar; alarms were blarin’ all over the city, people were runnin’ through the corridors yellin’ misinformation to each other, Dr. Weir was tryin’ to give orders and demand answers at the same time over the citywide communications system…it was chaos. I’d only gotten so far in the letter before I’d realized what Rodney had done and raced down to the lower level after him. Too late, of course. I’d scanned over the letter later on to see if there was anythin’ in it that might help me to help him, but there wasn’t and I was more than a bit busy with other things at the time…so I’d saved it and forgotten about it.
And now I know that the first time…I read some of it wrong. Not any part that could have made a difference in what went on, not those; what I’d got wrong was his reasonin’. I’m seein’ now that he wasn’t so afraid for what was happenin’ to Major Sheppard as he was afraid of what might happen later to the rest of us – to me in particular. He knew I was expendable in the grand scheme of things, and because of that I was a perfect candidate for keepin’ the city submerged for just a while longer.
Thinkin’ of the chair makes a shiver go up my spine. He’d known that too, that I was afraid of the chair and what sittin’ in it meant. And he’d known how much pleasure Dr. Weir might have gotten from makin’ me sit in it – especially knowin’ that once I was there I’d not be gettin’ up again. I’d countered her time after time, stood up to her when she didn’t want to be told she was wrong…yes, she’d have had a fine time watchin’ me die, I think. I’d seen enough the last month we were in the city to know she’d slipped that far.
It’s a pity I hadn’t seen Rodney so clearly, until now. I read the last bit he’d written three times, then close up my laptop and just sit here, watchin’ him sleep. He’s not restin’ well, I can tell he’s uncomfortable and he shivers from time to time. I’ll go get him warmed back up in a moment, but for just right now I’ve got somethin’ to try to wrap my mind around. I’ve said before I was a bloody fool, but I believe I’ll have to amend that to imbecile and blind besides.
Because now I know that it wasn’t Major Sheppard Rodney was in love with.
Chapter 26: Spring
Spring is here. In fact, it’s almost summer. We’re back on the beach, finally, and Carson is repairing the hut he built. It held together surprisingly well through all the winter storms, he mostly just has to replace the roof and patch a few holes.
Next spring, I hope I’ll be able to help him with that. Not that I know how to build a hut, because I don’t and I honestly don’t know why Carson does either, but I’m a genius so I’m sure I can figure out something.
I already figured out that I can’t get us home. The Gate will work underwater, of course, and it probably still has enough power to establish a one-time only wormhole, we could even take the pod through…but I’d have to be in a suit, working the Gate controls, and I’m so hypersensitized to Atlantis’s power frequencies – Carson called it an EM field, he’s just adorable when he tries to do real science – that I’d never make it all the way down there conscious, much less be able to function at the capacity I’d need to for getting the Gate running. While swimming, thousands of feet under the ocean in a flooded city, while wearing a pressure suit.
Yeah, it was pretty much an impossible idea even without my…physical infirmity to complicate things. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have tried it anyway if it meant a chance at getting Carson home. I know better than to tell him that, though – he’d yell, I know he would.
That’s one of the things I love about him, actually. That, and he has no idea he’s a knight in shining armor – mine, to be specific.
I was worried, at first. I was afraid that he was…well, settling. We’re the only two people left on the planet, after all; he’s kind of stuck with me. But being the intuitive little bastard he is, he guessed that I would be worried about that. So he cuddled up to me one day back in our winter quarters and very calmly listed all of the reasons he had to…
Crap. I have no emotional control left at all. Thank god we’re alone on the island; there’s no one here to use it against me. I swipe my eyes with the back of my hand and settle back in to watch the man I fell in love with over a year ago work on our house on our beach on our private little sanctuary of an island. That he discovered completely by accident, because dumb luck just works for some people.
It had never worked for me before. Until now.