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What We Could Become

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Prologue:
She was sad. She was kissing him goodbye. The Daedalus was loading at the south pier, ready to make the three week journey home. She would be on board. And although they had had fun together, and had become close friends, the spark just never took off and became the flame she had wanted. She knew why.

“You take care of yourself,” he said softly as he gently caressed her cheek and stroked back her hair from her eyes. She loved his voice, so soft and caring and musical with his thick Scottish accent hitting every syllable like a lullaby. It was the first thing she had noticed about him. She had never met anyone with such an amazing voice. Then when he smiled and she saw the dimples, it was a done deal. She wanted her chance with him.

“I’ll be okay,” she said. “I’ll worry more about you! This place is a madhouse some days.”

He smiled and she took the time to bask in that glorious glow one last time. All those dimples and nice teeth and pure blue eyes that put the sky to shame, she still had it bad, but she knew she had hit ‘game over.’

“Won’t be the same without you,” he said. “Pray a little less fun, and certainly more mad…”

“Rodney can certainly bring the madness,” she laughed.

He took her hand and held it. He squeezed it lightly. She knew it was his way of trying yet again to apologize for something he had no control over and was never his fault. Hell, in fact it was probably her fault. Playing yenta for McKay while trying to maneuver herself in with Carson had been a monumentally bad idea. Dr. Zelenka had been right, neither she nor Rodney had been capable of thinking straight when they were sharing consciousness.

She should have known someone so amazing and perfect and smart and kind would have some hitch. Provided, she had asked around with the girls and vetted him carefully. As far as they knew, he wasn’t attached or gay. What they hadn’t known and were unable to inform her was that he was bi. And it was not that that should have mattered. Certainly, all that had mattered in that case was if he was unattached and if perhaps military girls turned him on.

She knew that he was McKay’s closest friend. What she didn’t know was there had been a latent attraction hiding in that obviously painful friendship. How else could the poor man put up with the abuse of Rodney’s arrogance and self-centeredness? McKay was undeniably a genius but he was never winning any popularity awards. No one on Atlantis understood why Beckett put up with McKay.

Well, now Laura Cadman understood. It was strange how she figured it out. They basically figured it out together, really. Kisses that should have turned from warm to red hot never even made it past slightly toasty. She couldn’t understand what it was at first, and she tried to fight it. She pulled every trick she knew to fight it, from seductive clothing to elicit tryst just a hair’s breathe away from full public exposure. That one had been perhaps the biggest failure. Carson was a very private man and couldn’t even begin to feel the kind of racy erotic excitement the situation was supposed to bring. Instead he just felt embarrassed and awkward.

Fail after fail, she began to understand something about them together. Every time they kissed, there was another person there, ever present and in the background and giving them his sourest, disapproving and petulant look ever. Rodney never left their kiss. He made it go from sweet to bitter in a matter of seconds. He was the cold, sobering wind that blew out their potential flame. It didn’t help that the man was unpleasant to her in reality. He seemed angry at her for what he considered to be the worst three days of his life. He resented her for hijacking his date with Katie Brown and for making him kiss his best friend in front of just about everyone on Atlantis. That kiss became a matter of official record. How awkward was that?

“Aye, I’m not lookin’ forward to any madness he has to dish out.”

“But you can take it and give it right back,” she said as she squeezed his hand back. “I’ve seen you do it. You are one of the few that can. He intimidates everyone else.”

“He’s all bluster and blow, but deep down, he’s only a wee bit of a mean-spirited arsehole, mostly.”

She laughed at his joke, but understood its deeper meaning. The fact that they were talking about Rodney, even now as they said goodbye was testimony to how deeply he had infected and disrupted their relationship.

She touched his face, running her hand against rough stubble. She loved the look of a man in need of a good shave. “He’s going to need you,” she whispered.

“I honestly don’t see that happening,” he replied a little sadly. He took her hand into his so now he held them both.

“I do,” she said. She looked him in the eyes. “I’ve been up in that mess of a head of his. He needs you.”

She felt the tears she had been fighting finally win and begin to spill from her eyes. She knew it was true. If McKay took a moment to stop viciously fighting his own deeply hidden low self-esteem, he would see. The man’s conceit was couched in fear, fear of failure, fear of himself and fear of feeling. Making himself believe he was the master of his universe was his way of running from all those fears and keeping others out, behind a wall of what he wanted them to see, the bright and shiny wunderkind who saves the day.

When she kissed Carson in Rodney’s body, she felt how Rodney reacted only because it was so sudden and violent that he couldn’t help but share. He had reacted with shock, anger, fear and hope. It was the hope that had surprised her. She had expected the indignant anger and the fear of what the others were seeing. The hope was this small little seed lost in the storm of Rodney. It wanted the touch and taste of his best friend. The hope wanted to feel close and secure in Carson’s love. The hope was afraid of being alone and it wanted Carson because Carson cared and could handle him and understood him when so many others didn’t.

Laura pulled Carson close and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Take care of each other,” she whispered against his skin before she let go and turned away. She picked up her ruck sack and practically ran down the causeway for the Daedalus bay doors.

~
Saturday night.

Rodney Had been looking forward to sleeping, so when he finally flopped back on his bed and wrapped his hands over his belly with a content sigh, he thought he was safe for another day. Sweet oblivion awaited with whatever dream entertainment his brain chose to regale him with that night. Life had evened out to a somewhat less chaotic pace, so he hoped that the nightmares fueled by his most recent escapades were on the wane. He would relax in the silent dark and feel comfortable enough to simply close his eyes and not think until tomorrow. That, of course, didn’t last.

“Dr. McKay, please report to the infirmary.”

“Oh for-God-sakes,” he protested softly to no one. He then pushed himself up off the bed.

He took his righteous indignation out on Hewston and Watson for this insufferable interruption of well needed and well deserved sleep by the city’s most crucial scientist. He half expected Carson to pull on his chain to make him heel. Carson didn’t. So, he must have been in his rights to give the pair the chewing out that they received. Acknowledging that, he decided to temper his ire with a little generosity, to show them he wasn’t a cruel tyrant. He tried to give them the next day off.

That was when they informed him that tomorrow was Sunday. Almost everyone had the day off. And that was when he realized in horror that tomorrow was The Day! He looked over at Carson who mimed reeling in a fish with a huge smile.

He had said yes because a very small part of him really wanted to. He wanted to spend some time all alone with Carson. They never really ever got time all alone. Someone was always on call, around a corner or half preoccupied with some work related bull. The crisis piled on too thick some days and they would only get a breath before they were pulled under again.

Rodney left the infirmary with a sense of doom hanging over him. His brain was moving a mile a minute. He flopped back down on his bed, but sleep was long gone from the realm of possibilities. His mind was still working in frantic mode but there was a constant refrain to his thoughts that went something like this: Not ready. Not ready. OhGod. Not ready….

He finally did fall asleep. However, when he woke up, he had made a decision. He had to get out of it. He just wasn’t ready to face what they could become.

~
Sunday

He stood outside of the botany lab wearing his nice blue shirt that really brought out his eye color. He knew Katie was in there. He had asked around. If he got her to agree on a lunch date, he knew Carson would understand and wouldn’t get too upset. He thought about faking ill, but thought better of it. He was a lousy liar and Carson could read him like a book some days. Plus, it was never wise to fake ill before a medical professional. He’d spend his day in the infirmary strapped down to some diagnostic machine while Carson took notes and mumbled about allergens.

He was about to knock when he happened to think about the fact that Carson knew him too well. Rodney frowned. He hated that. Carson knew him so well that he cut him to the bone somedays, and Rodney couldn’t forgive him for that. Carson hurt him when he shone a light on some of Rodney’s shallow behavior and called him out for being too self-absorbed. Why should he spend his day with a man who could hurt him so casually?

It wasn’t casual, though. Carson got upset and perhaps a bit disappointed in him at times. Carson didn’t hold back, and he was always prepared to take Rodney to task for what he saw as bad behavior.

“I don’t have to answer to him,” Rodney told himself. He lifted his hand again to knock on the door. He hesitated, again.

So here he was at Katie’s door, so to speak, and what did he expect from her, other than the obvious excuse? She was the only woman on Atlantis who had expressed an interest in him. She was pretty and nice and she always smelled really good. Those were the plusses. He wasn’t sure if they had much in common. Rodney didn’t try to understand plants, beyond their usefulness in photosynthesis and as food. She seemed not to be that big of a fan physics or of music that he could tell, judging upon the short list of selections of music he had seen in her rooms. She didn’t like animals in general, let alone cats. He mentioned his cat once to her and her nose wrinkled briefly in distaste. That had been a disappointment.

Mostly, she didn’t get him. He would say something lightly or as a joke and she would give him a wide eyed, deer-in-the-headlights stare. It was disconcerting. It was nice that she liked him, but would that be enough.

Rodney knew what he was running from, but would running to her be any better?

He lowered his hand and walked away from the botany lab. He would just grab a sandwich and hide in his room for the rest of the day. If he was lucky, Carson would tire of trying to track him down and just go without him.

~
In the commissary, as he was grabbing a chicken salad sandwich, he was shocked but not surprised to hear that familiar Scottish accent just at his shoulder.

“Great minds think alike,” Carson said as he grabbed his own sandwich.

Busted, Rodney thought. No excuse, no Katie, no illness. He was just busted. Damn his treacherous stomach!

“Um…”

“This is going to be great,” Carson said smiling broadly.

He looked at his friend. That was his first mistake. Carson was smiling at him so happily. It had been a long time since he had seen the man truly happy. Any more, they spent a good deal of time getting on each other’s nerves. It was a miracle to Rodney that Carson wanted to spend time with him at all. Was it him, or the fish? All Rodney knew was that he was Carson’s first choice.

“Okay,” Rodney said with a defeated frown after listening to Carson gush about the fish they would find and how lovely the day was already looking to be.

He followed Carson out of the commissary and to the jumper that held the fishing gear Carson had packed the day before. He listened in dreary doomed silence as Carson rattled on about fish he had caught both back in Scotland and in Colorado. General O’Neill, apparently, owned a fishing Cabin not far from the Mountain that he let certain personnel use from time to time. This was going to be a long jumper ride.

They had only just landed when their radios sprang to life with the emergency tone.

“Oh no,” Carson said.

“Thank God,” Rodney whispered.

“Dr. McKay and Dr. Beckett, this is an emergency recall,” Elizabeth Weir’s voice came over the radio in a calm tone that only signified the depth of the emergency. Rodney sobered when he heard her voice. This wasn’t going to be something nice and easy, and they were about an hour out.

“We are on our way, Elizabeth,” Carson replied. “But we are already on the mainland, and hour or so out, Can you state the nature of the emergency?”

“There has been an explosion with many casualties, Carson. We don’t know much more than that right now. Updates are coming.”

Rodney looked at Carson who swallowed heavily but settle back in the pilot chair of jumper 4. Best possible speed, they could be back in about fifty-five minutes. Rodney’s frown deepened as he realized he was experiencing the old saying, ‘be careful what you wish for.’

The ride back was intense. Their silences were only broken by radioed updates from both Elizabeth and Sheppard. Teyla was one of the wounded. Rodney ground his teeth and willed the jumper to go faster. He wondered if it would wise to meddle with the propulsion to see if he could get just a few more horsepower out of her. But he knew that would be an inefficient waste. Anything he could do, he wouldn’t finish in under an hour’s time and they were already fifteen minutes into the flight.

John informed them that Dr. Harriett Hewston was dead, and from the forensic evidence gathered at the blast was exactly at ground zero. Then Radak Zelenka came on to inform them that she was more than merely at ground zero.

“It is as if she exploded!” Zelenka exclaimed over the radio.

“Hold on there,” Carson said looking as horrified as Rodney felt. “She exploded? Like some kind of bloody spontaneous combustion?”

“Much more violently than that…”

Rodney’s brain clicked on the name and the circumstances and the coincidence. He snapped his fingers impatiently as he tried to put his speeding thoughts into words.

“Last night, Dr. Hewston and Dr. Watson triggered a device emitting strange radiation in a lab they were investigating… Third level lab….”

“I have the location jot down in my daily reports from yesterday.” Carson volunteered. “I submitted those last night and should be in Elizabeth’s inbox.”

Bless the man, Rodney thought. He was always so thorough. The circumstances of all accidents need to be reported in the daily logs of all department heads, but Rodney was woefully behind on paperwork.

“Radak, just go in the lab and download the project data… and try not to activate anything,” Rodney said in a tired, condescending tone. He was answered with a string of angry Czech.

Ten minutes later, they had their answer. It was the Ancients’ idea of a biological weapon and the results were not pretty. It was tremendously dangerous and unpredictable and thus why the research had been abandoned all those millennia ago. Explosive tumors were difficult to time, and hard to identify in a victim, thus leaving both protagonist and antagonist in danger.

“Where is Watson?” Rodney bit out.

“They both scanned clean last night,” Carson said in disbelief.

“Obviously that was one of the biggest problems the research had. There was no way of knowing, no flashing red badge that said, ‘Danger Walking Bomb. Could Explode Any Second!’ Where is Watson?!”

“He was among the injured,” Elizabeth answered. There was a moment of dead-air over the radio in which he could hear her talking to others in the background. “Yes,” Elizabeth addressed them again. “He’s gone into emergency surgery only just now. His injuries were bad but not life threating.

“Who is on the surgery?” Carson asked.

“I believe it is Dr. Cole,” Elizabeth replied.

“Elizabeth, we need to get the medical staff out of there,” Rodney commanded into the mic.

“Nonsense, Rodney!” Carson admonished. “They’ve likely already started surgery, we can’t just let the poor man die. We need to inform Sarah that if she can, she has to open him,” Carson was saying.

“We are already on it Carson,” she replied.

Rodney looked at their distance read out on the HUD. They were still twenty five minutes out.

About seven minutes later Elizabeth was on the radio again. “Dr. Cole has located the tumor and is the process of extracting….”

A deep boom sound over the Radio.

“Elizabeth!” Rodney shouted at the mic.

“Rodney,” Elizabeth replied only a few heart beats later. She sounded a little shaken. “It… It must have detonated…. I don’t have details yet…. I’ll get back to you.”

“Oh dear God,” Carson said in a stricken tone.

Atlantis was dead ahead and only just visible on the horizon, but they both could see a heavy stream of dark smoke coming up from the south wing. As they got closer, it was obvious where the smoke was coming from.

“Oh dear Christ no!” Carson exclaimed as they both saw the hole blown out of the south tower medical center. Black smoke continued to billow out and stream up into the cheerfully bright afternoon sky.

~
Monday

He lost five people, five good people. And how the bloody hell was he supposed to deal with that? The infirmary was the last place on that base people expected to get blown up in. Some of the wounded were next door in recovery and many of them received fresh injuries from the concussive shock of the blast. Fortunately the outward facing wall gave way to take the force of the explosion out from the more densely populated parts of the infirmary. The oxygen supply that ran to the room had fed the explosion, making it powerful enough to blow a hole through that wall. The first explosion that day had only been loud. The second had shook the south wing and broke interior windows.

The fire was out and the bodies cleared. There was almost nothing left of Watson, like there had been very little left of Hewston. Dr. Cole, Dr. Nieve, Nurse practitioner Marie Song, and Surgical assistant Gina Blane had been inside the OR. Imaging tech Fiona Davis had just passed through the door. Out of all of them, Davis was the only one that was recognizable in any way other than general size.

Elizabeth didn’t ask for the standard full autopsies, which would have been required in such circumstances. All that was necessary was dental record identification. That had been a small blessing. Biro was beside herself in grief, and he wasn’t all that peachy at that moment either.

Carson stood next to Teyla’s bed, watching her sleep, grateful for the small mercy that the only thing she got from the second blast was a few torn stitches when she was jostled about. She opened her eyes and looked up at him.

“Hello, love,” he said.

“Carson.” She smiled at him. It was a wonderful smile. It was the smile of a person who saw that everything would be alright now that she was looking at her friend.

Her hand moved to reach for him. He grabbed it, taking it into both of his own.

“I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to take care of this for you,” he said.

“It is not your fault,” she said softly, her smile only dimming slightly. “I am all right. I was told that Dr. Biro handled my surgery.”

“She’s a fine pathologist, but an even better surgeon,” Carson admitted. “But in this place we all have to wear many hats, so to speak.”

She only looked confused for a second but Carson caught it. He often forgot that earth idioms were often lost on Athosians and other people of this galaxy.

“We have to do many different jobs around here, is what I meant to say.”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Are you in pain?” Carson asked. “We have you due for an injection in a minute.”

“I am fine.” She squeezed his hands. “How are you?”

Carson smiled at her. Teyla was always so caring of her friends. It was her nature to worry for those she cared for before herself.

“Don’t you worry about me, my dear. It’s been a long day, but I’ll survive.”

Teyla’s face furrowed to a frown. Her hand squeezed his tighter. “I had a strange dream, Carson,” she said softly. “I do not know how to describe it… it was… it was a bad dream… or a feeling….”

“Just the medication, love.” Carson reassured. “I know morphine is a bugger of a trip. When I take it, I wake up in the fetal position.”

“No, it was not like that,” Teyla said. Carson could tell she was swallowing her fear. “I dreamed… I thought that you had died….”

Lisa, the shift nurse was just approaching with the shot of pain medication. Carson stroked her hand in his. “Well, that is a bit of a scary dream.” He smiled at her. “But I’m here, love. It was only a dream. I’ll see about getting you on another pain med.”

He took the shot from Lisa who then prepped the IV port. Carson delivered the dose.

“For now, just relax and sleep. I’ll be here.”

~
Teyla fell asleep only a few moments later, but Carson was still by her side when Ronon Dex came into the ward room.

“Doc,” he addressed Carson. “How is she?”

“She’s restin’ comfortably for now,” Carson said on a sigh. “Wee bit of a fever, but we have her on an antibiotic. The post op infection was probably due to the torn stitches.”

“She’s going to be fine,” Ronon said as more a statement than a question.

Carson looked up at him. “Aye, she will.”

The large warrior was eyeing Carson closely as if he was divining something in him. Carson was never comfortable under scrutiny and Ronon was renowned for his intimidation factor. Carson shifted on his feet, wondering what it was Ronon was looking for. It was only a half second later that he spoke.

“You lost people yesterday.”

“Aye,” Carson replied softly. He looked away from Ronon feeling distinctly uncomfortable.

“I lost my whole platoon during that last fire-fight with the Wraith,” Ronon said bluntly. “I know how it feels to lose people under your command.”

Carson still couldn’t face the man. He could barely process what he was saying.

“Doc!” Ronon commanded his attention and Carson looked up sharply.

“If you need to talk….”

Carson understood and a corner of his mouth quirked up in a small grateful smile. “Thank you,” he said.

Ronon stepped off to leave, squeezing Carson on his shoulder with one massive hand as he passed. Carson’s smile grew. That had been very kind of the man.

~
He wandered down to the burnt out OR and recovery ward. The blast marks on the twisted metal of the outer wall was only partially covered by the plastic drop cloth that covered the hole. The cloth moved, sucking inward lightly and then sharply pushing out with the sea breezes that crossed the south tower. It reminded Carson of a ventilator on a critically ill patient. Each inward breath was not enough and each outward breath was too much.

On the charred tile floor, there was a metal box, a large tool chest the size of a child’s coffin, left by the damage control crews. By tomorrow, the place would be stripped bare and cleaning and repairing will begin. However, Carson did not envision that he would ever use the space as an OR again. How could he without thinking about Sarah, Marie, Robbie, Gina, and sweet little Fiona, five of the nine boxes sitting in the morgue waiting for transport back to earth.

He thought about what Ronon had said. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps Carson should talk to someone. He had never lost anyone under his direct supervision before. Perhaps he was experiencing survivor’s guilt. He wondered how military commanders like Ronon Dex and Col. Sheppard dealt with this constant strain.

Well, actually he did know that Sheppard didn’t always deal with it very well. He imagined that Ronon’s having spent seven years as a runner, he had had to put it all in perspective much faster to survive. Sheppard didn’t like losing people, and he went out of his way not to. However, when he did, you didn’t talk to him about it. You left him alone. The only people he would suffer to bring up the dead were his superiors, and he didn’t suffer that all too well.

There were no longer exterior door, so he didn’t hear when Rodney came in. Carson only heard foot falls crunching on charred and broken pieces of plastic debris that littered the two burnt out rooms. He looked up to see Rodney come into the OR proper. He walked over to the plastic covered hole in the wall, looking at the afternoon sunlight shining inside to light the blackened soot streaked remains of the room and the opaque view of the city and the sea. He then came over to the metal box and took a seat on the other end, his back to Carson’s.

Rodney sighed and his shoulders sagged as his body slumped, his back made contact with Carson’s.

“It was a stupid mistake on my part,” Rodney said.

Carson frowned trying to see how that statement made any sense. “How is this your mistake then?” he asked critically.

“I should have been absolutely clear about protocols when entering new and unexplored labs in this city. Think of how many times this has already happened.”

“I don’t see your meaning,” Carson said.

“Hm… you don’t remember the personal shield? The ascension device? The nanovirus? The mistakenly called civilization simulator game?” Rodney ticked off points on his hand as he continued in his usual condescending tone. “And the beat goes on.”

“None of this was your fault, Rodney.”

Carson heard Rodney snort contemptuously. “Oh yeah? I’m their boss. I’m supposed to lead by example. Look at the example I set for them, stumbling from one ten thousand year old mouse trap to the next. I feel distinctly like a hypocrite right now, and I know I’ve had my more than my fair share of over confidence that has led us down the merry path of ‘Oh Fuck! We’re all going to die!’”

Carson sighed. There was no getting through to the man when he was on a rage. It was best to let him get it all out of his system.

“Ronon was looking for you,” Rodney said, shifting gears to a calmer tone.

“I saw him,” Carson replied. “He caught up with me at Teyla’s bedside.”

“Oh,” Rodney said calmly. “Good. Is she still good?”

“Aye, still a little shaken, but she’s tough as nails. Bonny lass.”

“What did Ronon want?” Rodney asked.

“He knew this was the first time I’d ever lost personnel under my command, so to speak. He wanted me to know that he understood and could talk to me… if I needed that.”

“Yeah,” Rodney said. “Not that I’m keeping count like this is some macabre competition, but I’m still eight body bags ahead of you.”
Carson grimaced and turned to McKay. “Rodney!”

“I’m just saying, I understand too,” he corrected.

Carson turned back around, still a little disgusted with Rodney’s statement. After a moment, he felt Rodney straighten his back, but he did not get up. Instead, he leaned a little back against Carson so that their backs were against each other in a comforting alignment of constant pressure. Carson leaned back against him, equaling the pressure until they were supporting each other. They stayed that way for a while.

~
Tuesday

Even in the midst of his own personal pain, Carson was still able to provide comfort. Rodney knew he couldn’t imagine his life now without that comfort. He came pretty close to throwing that comfort away. He could have easily just walked into the botany lab on Sunday secure in the knowledge that he would always have Carson as his friend to watch his back, but have Katie too. But as what? A distraction? A trophy?

And what if it had been Carson in that OR? Rodney shivered at the thought. A life without Carson Beckett sounded a lot more bleak than Rodney wanted to imagine. Life was so short and so fragile, and true friends were so very rare. Now Carson was preparing to take Dr. Sarah Cole’s body through the stargate. She had family in Arizona, her father and a brother. Carson was taking her home personally. She had been a good friend of his.

Rodney was not accompanying any of the personnel he lost through the gate. He had too much to do here on Atlantis, and although he was their boss, he was never their friend. That was how he liked it too. He liked the distance. It kept them all competitive. It kept them all sharp. And although he had let a few slip past the first barrier, like Zelenka, the fortress McKay was still sound.

His team was another story. They were not his subordinates, so it seemed only fair and reasonable to count them as closer. They were what Rodney would call the inner circle of the board of directors. But If John, Teyla and Ronon were the inner circle, then Carson was chairman of the board.

They had become a surrogate family to him, as he had told Jeannie once. He couldn’t imagine facing the loss of any of them. With that in mind, he started his day by visiting Teyla in the infirmary. She was recovering well but was still fighting a small post-operative infection. She smiled at him, that smile made of pure Teyla sunshine. It wasn’t the forced smile she sometimes gave to others she wanted to reassure. The nurse was about to clear her breakfast tray when Rodney made a grab at her uneaten berry and yogurt parfait.

“You’re not going to eat that?” he asked wistfully. She laughed as she assured him that he could indeed have her parfait. And it was mostly to hear her laugh that he made that silly play for her food. He knew his appetite was a running joke with the team. Nevertheless, he shoveled the breakfast treat in as he tried to explain to her how he planned to dismantle that weapons lab.

He was finished and she looked tired when he saw Carson come through the ward past the far right divider. He was not wearing his standard issue uniform but a nice dark gray suit and tie. It looked so out of character on him that Rodney gave him a double take.

Rodney pet Teyla’s hand and she smiled up at him with sleepy eyes, but her eyes slipped to her left meaningfully and then back up at him. Rodney smiled in what could have been construed as an acknowledgment. He left her side to walk over to where Carson was, standing before his small work station downloading data onto a flash drive.

“Hey,” Rodney said cautiously.

“Oh, Hello, Rodney,” Carson replied as he swung about briefly to acknowledge him. He was wearing a baby blue tie that brought out the color of his eyes, but it was pitifully ill tied.

“Good God, look at that tie!” Rodney admonished. “I thought surgeons were supposed to have excellent manual dexterity. If you can suture an artery, you should be able to tie a tie.”

Carson turned back to address him and Rodney grabbed the tie before he could react. He pulled the small end out of the knot and yanked the knot clear.

“Never got use to wearin’ the bloody things,” Carson complained. “I miss the clip-ons one could get away with when I was just a lad.”

“You’re a Physician. You’re supposed to look professional.”

“Were I come from, a tie doesn’t necessarily make you a professional.”

“I guess not. I suppose a professional is someone who knows how to link sausages and which bladder to use to make the haggis.”

Carson sighed, dejectedly as if he didn’t even have the energy to give that last comment the reply it deserved, but he let Rodney retie his tie. Rodney pulled the new knot up snug but not too tightly and checked the small end’s length. He then tucked it into the tie tag to keep it neat. The new knot was just small enough to be smart and professional. Rodney preened it a few seconds more making sure it was straight and symmetrical.

“There!”

Carson blinked and pulled at his collar with a finger.

“Hey hey hey!” Rodney snapped impatiently. “Don’t mess up all my good work.”

“It’s damn tight!” Carson groused. “Are ya tryin’ to cut-off the blood supply to my brain?”

“Now who’s being a baby?” Rodney said but reached for the tie. He readjusted it a tad looser before Carson could reach up and wreak it.

“Hey,” Rodney said in a softer voice. “You okay?”

Carson looked up and looked him in the eyes. “I’ll be fine, Rodney.”

Rodney smoothed down his tie one more time. Carson turned and ejected his flash from his work station lap top. He popped the lid back on it.

“Just some reports I thought I’d present personally while I was back,” he explained. Rodney nodded in understanding.

Over the past few years on Atlantis, Carson has taken some serious blow to his sense of ethics and his ego as a skilled geneticists. He had lost people he had felt personally responsible for and people he had learned to care about. But then again, they could all claim much of the same guilt and trauma. Rodney had had some pretty sobering moments over the years as well. The loss of Mark Collins and Peter Grodin were only just a few highlights into McKay’s personal hubris collider. It was like a particle collider but instead it broke a man’s ego down to the Quarks of his character, the Charms of his shame, and the Neutrinos of his id.

“While I’m gone, please stay out of trouble, will ya? It’s a bugger of a headache worrying about what kind of mischief you can conjure when I’m here let alone when I’m away.”

“No monkey business, I promise.” Rodney smiled at him and smoothed the tie just one last time.

“Good. I’ll have Ronon keepin’ an eye on you for good measure,” Carson said.

“Oh because he never gets us into any trouble,” Rodney said sardonically.

Carson snickered at that but then gave Rodney a final nod and a squeeze on the shoulder. Rodney watched as he walked away, heading out of the ward. Before he reached the doors, he was stopped by his colleague and protégé Jennifer Keller. She caught his attention and they walked out together with their heads close together in a private discussion.

~
Friday

Arizona had been surreal to him. He had never been to this part of the United States and he had never seen a place so different as Tucson. The yard of Mr. Cole’s small house did not have grass. However, the landscaping was done in an interesting decorative gravel with a few fat, lovely cacti and bright desert roses. It was oppressively hot. Carson had made it through the funeral, sweating beneath his suit jacket, wondering why people would choose to live in that kind of bloody inferno heat.

But Sarah’s family had been kind, and everywhere indoors was mercifully air conditioned. Now it was Friday and he was back at the air force base, thankfully in a shirt and khakis. His suit was on a hanger and covered by a clear plastic bag. It was the best he could do on short notice.

Just as everywhere else indoors in Arizona had been air conditioned, the small terminal at the base was not. One really couldn’t call it a proper terminal, however. It was more just a building with offices next to the hangers and the tarmac.

Inside, the airman manning the desk was brisk and friendly, especially after Carson opened his mouth and spoke. A lot of Americans were instantly charmed by the sound of his accent. To them, a Scottish accent was exotic. It was Braveheart and Rob Roy and Brigadoon, and Scotland was a land of kilts, bagpipes and high adventure. But Carson knew it also could be a land of football hooligans and ugly, slur-spitting bastards in small dirty pubs in muddy villages. That was the local color at its not-so best.

But Carson was polite about the instant appeal Americans seem to have for him due to his accent. He answered questions about where he was from in a friendly and courteous way. He tried to keep up the myth of the beautiful highlands, land of adventure, as best as he was able. It was always best to keep up the myth. It only served him, and he was sure, many of his other countrymen who passed through.

In this case, he used his charm and his talk of glassy lochs below wild mountains and heather covered foothills to get the airman to find him a faster ride to Cheyenne Mountain. He was in luck. A pair of F-22 Raptors were flying his way. He had been cleared for a seat on a transport plane that was already running two hours late, but the airman saw his credentials, security clearance, and the detail that listed him as a combat tested pilot and pulled some strings. Carson hadn’t realize that little detail of ‘combat pilot’ was now on his military clearance until just then and he wondered who in the bloody hell was responsible for that little piece of balderdash shite? Was it Sheppard, being a cheeky little prick? Or maybe it had been Sgt. Bates in some sort of mistaken idea of full disclosure. Whoever it had been, it didn’t matter now. He was climbing into the jump seat of the cockpit of an F-22 that was firing up to head north.

That was a blessing. He didn’t fancy sitting in that oven of a terminal for an extra two hours with nothing to do but think. Whenever he thought, his thoughts brought him back to Rodney. It had been roughly a year since The Kiss had started them all down a rabbit hole that Carson would have never predicted for his love life. It had been about five months since Laura said goodbye. He wondered how she was doing. But it had been two days since Rodney touched him last and asked if he was okay, and that memory burned in him hotter than Laura’s last kiss.

Laura had been right to point out to him that he had probably always had a crush on Rodney. But for the life of him, he couldn’t understand why. From the first, the man had been abrasive, condescending and a bit of a bully. But then there were moments, like that Tuesday before Carson headed out with Sarah’s coffin, when Rodney was fixing his tie. His hands moved with the gentle certainty of someone who was touching a person they knew they trusted and who trusted him. The dark blue of his eyes had been like the velvety color of the ocean before dawn. There was just something there in the very line and posture of him. Carson had seen it times before, like the time he tried to stop Carson from taking an MK-16 and head out to fight the Wraith and the time he had pushed him back down into the control chair and told him with firm conviction that he knew Carson could do it. He believed in him and he knew that he could make the chair do the right things.

Rodney affected him, and he guessed, in a small way, he affected Rodney. However, Rodney would never admit it. He had all but ordered him to pretend that The Kiss had never happened. Embarrassment and disgust had shone all over his face the one time Carson had brought it up, but he was sure the magnitude of the reaction had been a show for Sheppard and Elizabeth.

“Heading back to NORAD, doc?” The pilot asked as he strapped in.

“Aye,” Carson replied as he adjusted the helmet so that the respirator dangled closer to his mouth. He knew he didn’t need it yet, and he knew the pilot would tell him if he needed to strap-on, but he just wanted to know it was ready and close when the time came.

 

“We are going to do a near vertical burn so you’ll need the mask for takeoff. Once we level off at cruising altitude, I’ll let you know if you can take it off,” the man said.

“Thank you,” Carson said, feeling more and more anxious about this.

“So what do you do at NORAD, or is that classified?” The pilot laughed.

“If you only knew the half,” Carson chuckled.

The pilot didn’t say anything more and the canopy closed them in. Carson imagine Rodney would have been as antsy as a ewe at a rugby game after party in that tight cock pit. But Carson strapped in and strapped on and settled himself in his seat as they taxied out.

The vertical burn at take-off was breath-taking literally as they pushed close to 10 Gs. Carson now understood why he had to put on the G suit as he felt the legs of it inflate incrementally to decrease blood flow to his lower extremities. But they leveled out soon enough and Carson was actually enjoying his ride. He didn’t mind flying as long as he wasn’t the person at the controls. He realized that the swiftness and crazy maneuverability of the jumpers made the F-22 feel like a prop plane. If it wasn’t for the excessive Gs, Carson would have been laughing about how babyish the ride felt. Give these things inertial dampeners like the X-302s and Carson was almost certain he could learn to fly one.

However, he didn’t say any of that to his pilot who resumed with the small talk as soon as they were at cruising altitude. So it was back to ‘Scotland the Brave’ talk and dancing around what a Scottish doctor was doing at Cheyenne Mountain in the first place.

~
Rodney spent two days stalking around the labs, quizzing every one of his personnel on proper procedure and reminding them daily that Atlantis could be a potential ten thousand year old booby-trap if they were not careful and they did not follow safety protocols. The only one he didn’t berate regularly was Zelenka. The man had triggered his own fair share of fun stuff to earn the exemption from the Rodney McKay, safety tyrant show.

When Rodney wasn’t being the safety tyrant, Rodney and Zelenka were donning rad suits and going down to that weapons lab. The dismantling was slow going mostly because the science behind the weapon was so very fascinating that they were often stopped in amazement just soaking in aspects of the specs.

“Why did no one think to dismantle this lab before?” Radek asked as they worked.

“Probably because it wasn’t very high on the priority list with that big bad war going on, taking most of their attention,” Rodney replied.

At night, Rodney laid on his bed and he worried. Sometimes when he closed his eyes all he could see was Carson’s face on that day when they had sat in his burnt out OR. His eyes had looked glassy and red-rimmed. He had looked heart broken and defeated and Rodney wanted to do something, but he just couldn’t. Instead he had leaned against Carson and let him lean back. And that stupid body bag comment was the most asinine thing to escape from his mouth ever.

Well, there was nothing to gain by kicking himself over it. He just had to do better by Carson. Lord knew the man didn’t deserve half the shit he has had to put up with. Between the constant push of trying to find a way to help in their effort against the Wraith and madness of dealing with the chilling new illnesses and mishaps that can be caused just by being in another galaxy, Carson was on the receiving end of all their worst clean-ups sometimes. Rodney had seen why Carson had thought his solution to the Wraith problem had been better than causing the extinction of an entire race of people out of self-preservation. Genocide was ugly, and the war against the Wraith in the end was only just that. To stop the culling, they all had to die, or change. Carson opted for them to change. But what happened with Michael had only broke his heart and practically his spirit all over again. As if the disaster of Hoff just hadn’t been enough.

But Carson hadn’t broke. Thank God, Carson hadn’t broke and it only showed to Rodney how very courageous his often times timorous acting friend was in reality. That courage was part of what attracted Rodney to him.

It was interesting to Rodney how Carson dealt with him. He let Rodney rant and ramble, and nearly never tried to stop him. He pushed back only gently, in a way that made Rodney leave in a huff with an irritating little thought stuck in his head, making him think, making him see past his own self-conceit. That thought was almost always planted there by Carson. If there was a person who brought out Rodney’s so-called ‘better angels,’ it was him.

That Friday night before Carson was due to come back, Rodney tried to replace that vision of a heart broken Carson with another. The one that came readily to mind was him in his nice gray suit with the baby blue tie that accented his eyes. How could one burly, ex-secondary school wrestler-looking man with a constant 5 o’clock shadow have such beautiful eyes? Oh, and the dimples, Cadman loved his dimples…. Dammit! He was thinking of The Kiss, now. Why did that always happen? He blamed Cadman.

But he had to admit, she had made him see his friend in a different, and a perhaps slightly uncomfortable new light. Rodney had always fought the homosexual urges. After all, he liked girls well enough. He figured it had been some crazy phase thing he just never grew out of after adolescence. He never personally asked anyone else but he figured other guys got man-crushes too. Hell, look at the way Sheppard followed Ronon around. That had to be a man-crush, right? It was a real Bromance by all standards.

The thing was, with Carson, it was becoming this big, all consuming thing. He wanted to like Katie Brown right back, but he couldn’t. He wanted to fantasize about Sam Carter but he didn’t. He just wanted to be near Carson. That was what he was afraid of the most. Despite what was said that night at dinner with Sheppard and Elizabeth, there was no way that Carson felt the same. And this stupid crush was threatening to kill Rodney. He couldn’t live with him and he couldn’t live without him.

What if they had made it to the fishing on the mainland? He would have listened to Carson ramble on about everything and nothing while Rodney’s heart silently shattered with no words, no sound, no clue to the love that was killing him. He loved Carson.

Rodney sat up in bed as he let that realization sink in. If he had not said yes to that trip he could have remained safe for a little while longer. If he had just knocked on the botany lab door, he would have held this all at bay for just a few days or weeks more.

~
Saturday

It was well after lunch time when Rodney reported to Elizabeth that the weapon’s lab dismantling was complete and he and Zelenka were heading out. She had asked them both report to the infirmary for a final check-out, just to satisfy her worry.

Radek shrugged at him after he took off his rad-suit helmet. Rodney shook his head and sighed but told her that they would comply.

What they found at the infirmary looked like the results of a mission gone south, and in the middle of the mayhem stood Carson Beckett. He was calmly looking over a Marine who was holding a bloody four by four sterile gaze pad against his forehead and had an impressive black eye. Off to the side, leaning against a wall stood Ronon Dex, arms folded with his usual enigmatic frown. There were four more marines, three on other exam beds and one standing next to two nurses with a mobile equipment cart.

“What the hell happened here?” Rodney exclaimed as they walked in. “Oh, and welcome back Carson. Didn’t expect you to be back on the job today.”

Carson looked over at Rodney and gave him a half-smile. “Got in this morning, and dinnae fancy sitting on my bum for the remainder of the day. Hello to you too, and you, Radek.” He slung his stethoscope around his neck and took a step towards them.

“This lot are just a few marines that Ronon here took upon himself to school in the art of falling down.”

“Someone’s gotta teach the children,” Ronon rumbled deadpan, but it was easy to see the amused twinkle in his eyes.

“Aye, and I’ve had school masters who would have scared the piss ‘n snot outta you too,” Carson said back with a chuckle. The big warrior smiled warmly at him.

“Good, doc. Maybe I’ll see you in the gym sometime. If you survived them, I’m sure you’ll survive me.”

“That I certainly doubt,” Carson replied.

“I think he does it to have an excuse to come down here and give us a hard time,” Dr. Keller added as she was helping a marine who looked to have dislocated his shoulder.

Ronon shrugged. “It’s a hobby.”

“What’s that then, bustin’ heads?” Carson admonished.

“No, giving medical personnel a hard time,” Ronon replied. He then shrugged himself off the wall he was leaning on and walked past Carson, patting his shoulder as he passed. “Let me know when you’re ready for that spar, doc.” He then stalked out of the infirmary past Rodney and Radek.

“Carson’s gonna get his ass kicked,” Keller sing-songed softly with a giggle.

“Cheeky lil’ bugger, and you! Behave!” Carson pointed a finger at the other doctor. He then turned back to Rodney and Radek. “What can I do for you, gentlemen?”

“Elizabeth sent us down for a screening as a precaution,” Radek replied. “We just finished with the tumor weapon lab.”

“All right then,” Carson said briskly as he motioned for one of his lab techs. “Over here and give Maddie some blood.”

“What are you looking for,” Rodney asked.

“Well, based on the bloodwork that was able to be done on Dr. Watson before he went into surgery, his blood showed acute deficiency in sodium, phosphorous and magnesium. You have told me that the weapon drew trace minerals and element from the person’s body to create the tumor. Not only are those elements essential in tissue making but also have potential explosive properties when combined with common compounds…”

“Such as water,” Rodney finished for him.

“Aye, it’s not much to go on, but it’s better than nothing at all.” He said.

Rodney began to roll his sleeve back to submit to the blood test. The lab tech, Maddie was already working on Zelenka’s arm. Carson reached for a fresh collection needle in her carry tray.

“I got it, Carson,” Dr. Keller said, taking the needle before he could and grabbing an evac-tube. “You really shouldn’t be here. It’s your day off,” she added. She bustled Carson out of the way and grabbed Rodney’s arm.

“Stop harrying me, woman! I’ll not be ordered about my own hospital like a first year resident,” Carson complained. But Dr. Keller only grinned at him.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” she said. “Why don’t you go and take a breather, maybe head down to the gym and let Ronon throw you around for a little.”

“You’d pay a pretty penny to see that, I’m sure,” Carson replied. He still sounded peevish but his eyes twinkled with laughter. They continued to banter, paying little attention to McKay as Dr. Keller drew his blood with deft efficiency.

It was then that Rodney realized something. He wasn’t competing with just the memory of Laura Cadman for Carson’s attention any more.

“Ow!” Rodney groused as she extracted the needle. “If you two are done playing footsie while you jab me with a monster needle, I’ll be off.”

“Not so fast, Rodney,” Carson said as Keller bandaged him. “You’ll tell me if you develop any headaches, weakness or trouble breathing.”

“Yes-yes-yes-yes, of course,” he replied impatiently.

“All right, off with you both,” Carson said to both him and Zelenka.

~
When Rodney got back to his lab, he realized with a jolt of disbelief that turned to dread, that it wasn’t just Jennifer Keller who had been flirting with Carson. Ronon may have possibly been flirting with Carson too!

That was it. He didn’t have a snowball’s chance. He was doomed.

~
Sunday (one week later)

Teyla was released from the infirmary, but it would be another three weeks before she was to be cleared for active duty. That meant the team had down time, which was good. Some of Rodney’s personnel had come across data in the city’s archives about a mobile deep sea laboratory. It was a tremendous find and it promised to hold a lot of fascinating data concerning the Ancient’s research into alternative energy sources.

He had all the time necessary to make sure they did this by the book! He had plans and he was assembling a team.

“Drs. Dickenson, Esposito, Simpson, Coleman and Grayson… er… Graydon? Whatever.”

Yes, it was Sunday again, but no one seemed interested in taking a mandatory rest day this time. It seemed that they all collectively decided to just live with the five day work week schedule their department heads handed to them and worry about having city wide holidays some other time. The last Sunday-holiday had just been too brutal for some. The pain and loss was still too raw.

Rodney was only working because the discovery of the sea lab was just too exciting to ignore. It was possibly the hugest find yet in available geothermal energy if they could access it and get the systems back on line. The possibilities were major. Proper channeling could solve their city shield problem and maybe even make it possible for them to shield and cloak at the same time!

It was pretty close to lunchtime when he realized he had a horrible headache. Normally, Rodney would have taken two ibuprofen and then wandered down to the commissary for a bite. Many of his headaches were cured easily enough by pain meds and food. It was one of the reasons Rodney never ignored hunger. This time, however, he recalled Carson’s warning. Rodney made his way from his labs to the infirmary in near record time.

Carson was there.

“I have a headache,” Rodney said. “Do you think I’ll explode?”

Carson looked at him. “Well, we’ll run some test to be certain, but your blood value levels yesterday were fine.”

“Yeah, but that was yesterday,” Rodney could hear his own voice squeaking a bit in anxiety.

They took more blood and then Carson himself ran the imaging on him. Rodney noticed that he shooed the other techs and nurses out casually, sending them on various errands and assignments. He calmly and casually cleared the ward in a way that no one would ever know was an actual safety precaution. Rodney knew, though.

“I’m not seeing a tumor forming behind either the left or right upper lobe of your lungs. A far as my scan can tell, you are as right as rain, Rodney.”

“Then why the headache?” he complained from his place on the imaging table.

“When was the last time you ate?” Carson asked.

Rodney frowned and thought about it. Just then, his stomach growled loudly.

~
Carson went with him down to the commissary where they grabbed a few sandwiches. He then suggested that they go and take their lunch on the west pier.

“The fresh air will do you good, Rodney.”

Rodney frowned at the thought but followed Carson any way. The west pier was a popular dinner spot due to the spectacular sunsets, but now, at lunch, it had only a handful of other diners. They took a seat at the edge, away from a group of three young mission scientist who were enjoying the sunshine.

“It’s a gorgeous day,” Carson said with a content sigh as he looked out at the blue sky.

“It was a gorgeous day last Sunday too,” Rodney said a bit sullenly.

They were quiet for a while, finishing there meal and sipping on their coffee.

“You’re certain I haven’t developed an exploding tumor,” Rodney said after he finished his coffee.

“I’m certain,” Carson said simply.

Rodney thought about it. Of all the thing Carson could have said, of all the way he could have had a bit of fun at Rodney’s expense with this, Carson didn’t. It was too soon to be light about it. He looked over at his friend, feeling gratitude at that moment.

“Thank you,” Rodney said.

Carson looked back at him and smiled. They were sitting close, their shoulders almost touching. Carson looked back out across the waves, but Rodney felt him lean just a bit so that their shoulders touched. Carson stayed that way, firm and comfortable and Rodney leaned back against him so that they were supporting each other’s weight again.

“I suggest you take the rest of the day off, Rodney,” Carson said. “That headache was probably mostly stress.”

“When am I not under stress?” Rodney groused. “In my lab or in my quarters, I’ll be stressed.”

“Then get out. Get a change of scenery,” Carson suggested. “You can come with Teyla and me to the settlement.”

“You’re going to the mainland today?”

“Aye, she wants to spend a part of her convalescence among her people. I thought it was a brilliant notion, and I know there’s a lad there she’s been moonin’ over.”

“Um…” Rodney snapped his fingers as he tried to recall what he had heard. “Kanaan… I think.”

“You know about him?”

“She’s one of my team,” Rodney said in explanation. “We know a lot of things about each other.”

Carson chuckled. “I didn’t know his name,” he said.

“Oh.”

“Well, a nice trip to the settlement might do you some good, and you can give me a hand with Teyla and her things. She’s bonny strong lass but this injury has done her in more than she would care to admit.”

“Yeah, well, internal bleeding is nothing to take lightly,” Rodney replied with light sarcasm.

“Then you’ll come?” Carson asked.

“If you think it will help this headache, then sure,” Rodney replied.

~
“Are you sure I’m not going to explode?” Rodney asked as they put Teyla’s bags into the jumper. Teyla was talking with Elizabeth and would be down to the jumper bay shortly. Carson had volunteered himself and Rodney to take her luggage to the ship.

This time Carson huffed in annoyance and gave Rodney a threatening glare. “Would I really be loading you into a jumper with myself and Teyla and transporting you away from modern medical facilities if I thought for a second that you were about to bloody explode?!”

Rodney frowned and shrugged but he didn’t reply. He just continued into the jumper with Teyla’s bag.

“What has she got in here? Bowling balls?” he complained.

Teyla appeared at the back of the Jumper as Rodney was sitting the bag down. “There are some essential tomes of agriculture that are needed by my people in that bag.” Teyla replied.

“Books?” Rodney said peevishly.

“We traded with the Menarians for this knowledge. The climate and soil type on the mainland makes many of these methods relevant,” she said.

Rodney gave a put-upon sigh but arranged the bags in the back hold. He noticed how differently Teyla was moving. She was just a half beat slower and moved more gingerly, perhaps. She wasn’t her pure panther grace and raw strength self. The internal injuries had affected her even more than Rodney had been aware. It was a bit disconcerting.

He gave the co-pilot chair to Teyla and he took the seat behind the pilot chair.

“So, where will you be stayin’, if you don’t mind me askin’?” Carson asked Teyla once they were twenty minutes into the flight.

“Halling, has offered to put me in his tent, but I may stay with Morgina,” she answered. “Her mate is out on a long hunt, and is not expected back for many days. Morgina is expecting her first child. I think she will appreciate the company.”

“You’ll not be staying with your young man then?” Carson asked with a playful smile.

“Carson,” Rodney scolded.

Teyla laughed. “We are not quite at that point yet,” she answered. “I wonder if we will ever get there now that Ronon has informed me that as I no longer have an adult male relative to scrutinize potential suitors, he will be taking up that role.”

“And John and me,” Rodney added. “Gotta walk him past John and me as well, for sure.”

Teyla laughed again. “And what will you be looking for in any potential mate for me?” She asked.

Rodney thought about it. “Well, he’s got to be smart. If he’s as least as smart as Zelenka or Carson, that’ll do. I don’t expect you’ll find any one as smart as me... except me, of course.”

Carson chuckled and shook his head. Teyla laughed more.

“Good provider,” Rodney continued. “Good temperament. Hot heads need not apply. See, someone like Ronon would never make it past the front door if it was up to me.”

“You do realize that when he’s not bustin’ heads, Ronon can be an amazingly kind and caring person,” Carson said.

“And how would you know?” Rodney asked a little resentfully. “He’s my team mate. Have you suddenly developed a deep and personal relationship with him?”

“I wouldn’t call it that, but we talk now and again,” Carson said.

“Hmph!” Rodney snorted.

“Is this you being jealous again?” Carson asked lightly.

“What? No!” Rodney protested. “I just wondered how you became so authoritative about the life and times of Ronon Dex.”

“It does sound like you are jealous,” Telya agreed with a giggle in her voice.

“I’m not jealous,” Rodney grumped peevishly. “And anyhow, watch yourself, missy, or I’ll give ol’ Kanaan the thumbs down.”

“How did you hear his name?” Teyla swung about on her seat in surprise but there was still a smile on her face.

“A little bird may have told me,” Rodney replied a little sheepishly.

“By bird, do you mean a certain Lt. Colonel who certainly has a command of flight as well as any real avian?” Carson said.

“Oh! Sheppard!” Teyla growled, slapping a balled fist into the palm of her other hand.

“Don’t be so upset,” Rodney said. “We’re your team; you are our family. We care.”

Teyla smiled again and laughed. “I could not ask for better brothers, but like true sibling, you still drive me mad.”

~
There was already a jumper in the landing clearing, but that wasn’t unusual. There could often be as many as four jumpers on the mainland on any given day. Carson grabbed his medical bag and slung it over his shoulder before he picked up two of Teyla’s packs. Rodney grabbed the bag with books again.

Halling met them at the clearing, touching his forehead to Teyla’s and directing Jinto and another young man to take Teyla’s things from Carson and Rodney. Teyla thanked them both and let Halling lead her away to settle her in her temporary home.

“Now what?” Rodney asked as he turned to Carson.

Carson looked at him, he could tell just by the less creased condition of Rodney’s forehead and the color in his cheeks that the headache was on the decline. It was amazing how very readable Rodney was. The thought made Carson smile.

“What?” Rodney said accusatorily.

Carson sighed. “Ah well then, I’m just going to check on the clinic for a second. You can come if you want.”

“What else have I to do here?” Rodney asked testily.

“I don’t know. Enjoy the sunshine? Talk to the folks? Or sit in the jumper and sulk. It’s your choice.”

“I don’t know why I let you talk me into this,” Rodney grumbled, but he followed Carson.

The clinic was manned daily by two nurse practitioners and visited twice a week by an Atlantean physician. Carson was not due to visit yet, but he knew better than to stop by the mainland and expect to not be needed or wanted.

On the whole, the Athosians were a very healthy people due to their diet and excellent immune systems. That still didn’t stop the occasional accident from happening. Also new to the Athosians, from their contact with the earth expedition culture and use antiparasitics and of antibacterial agents has been an increase in childhood allergies. Immune systems with nothing to attack will soon attack the self. It was the risk they took when the introduced antiparasitics such as Ivermectin and Rifampicin to the Athosians.

Carson knew as soon as he got there, word had spread that he was on the mainland. The clinic, which normally saw only a few patients a week had at least three families already within. He knew these families. They all had young children with health conditions, two of which were the new allergy sufferers. Carson went to the nurse on shift, an American named Adam.

“They just get here?” he asked.

“Am-hm,” Adam nodded in affirmative.

“Ok,” Carson said as he handed him his bag. “Let’s see the wee one first. I imagine there has been an issue with her formula if her mum has her here so soon.”

Carson looked over in time to see Rodney cross his arms and glare at a young boy who was looking at him in interest while casually picking his nose. Rodney was not very good around children and Carson knew this. He expressed a universal dislike of children in fact, with the only noticeable exception being his niece Madison who he claimed “isn’t so bad once you get use to her.” However, the Athosian children were well behaved and well under the control of their parents who often caution them firmly about being disruptive when adults are doing important work.

Despite the apparent crowd, it only took Carson a few hours to consult with all the patients and patients’ parents as to needed changes, adjustments or additions to health regimens. Only one had to have an appointment made on Atlantis for follow-up testing to be done at a later date.

It was late afternoon when they finally left the clinic and headed back to the jumper clearing.

“Well that was a complete waste of my afternoon,” Rodney said as they settled in for the ride back. But Carson could tell by the look in his eyes and the brisk way he moved, his stress headache was gone. Mission accomplished. The flight back was the proof that Rodney was feeling much better as he went on about the new find that his team of scientist where working on. Carson just allowed him to continue on about the undersea geothermal platform and all the potential it had for them in future energy gains. He made sure to sound reasonably interested, even asking questions about it as would pertain to his section’s usages of the new power. However, what Carson was really listening for was any little stressful squeak or change of tone in Rodney’s voice that could indicate that something about this project was causing him grief enough to give him other headaches and upset stomach. The enthusiasm was good, but the stress was bad, especially for his blood pressure. Carson had considered putting him on blood pressure medication but figure it would be counterproductive in the long term. The hypertension was only borderline but if given a new reason to worry about his health, Rodney would push it well past the line in a matter of days.

They landed in Atlantis near dinner time.

“Thank you Carson for a thoroughly unproductive waste of a day,” Rodney said before he stormed off towards the commissary.

Carson watched him walk away with a small smile that shone more in his eyes than on his lips.