“So, um… Dr. Keller? Can…can you answer a question for me?” Rodney heard the young Marine ask Doctor Keller.
“Sure,” she replied.
“Ok, this is a little embarrassing to ask, but do you know if Doctor Beckett is seeing anyone?”
The young woman was pretty with dark brown hair and light hazel eyes. She looked to be about twenty five.
“Carson?” Jennifer Keller laughed a tad nervously. “Um… well, actually yes,” she answered.
“Oh.” the Marine sounded thoroughly disappointed. She then added in a quick, apologetic tone, “Oh, Ah… Sorry! Is it you?”
Keller laughed lightly but still a little nervously. “No, it’s not me,” she answered.
“Okay,” the woman said. She looked away and blushed.
Rodney had just arrived at the infirmary after a short but critical debrief. He needed stitches for the cut on his jaw. He didn’t know this young Marine; it was the first time he’d ever seen her. She was getting her wrist examined for a sprain.
“He’s so nice… and he’s really super cute,” she said to Keller.
“Yeah, he gets that a lot,” Keller replied with a smile.
“Do you know who he’s with?” the girl asked.
“Ah… I’m not sure I should tell that,” Jennifer replied. “You know, not my place to say...”
“Sure,” the girl replied. “I get it.”
Rodney wondered if Jennifer knew. She probably did. Carson probably told her. Besides, it would be common knowledge soon enough when he and Carson moved into the larger suite on the west sector short tower. It was a nice set of rooms, not too far from where Carson had lived previously. The view was really nice and there was space for a tandem office area.
“All done,” the PA working on his stitches said. The local anesthetic was making his jaw tingle but he felt no pain from the gash he received from the Iratus Super Bug.
Carson was still in meetings with Elizabeth and John. The debriefing had been very intense with good reason. The last thing Carson needed to hear was that Michael was still alive and very busy. Carson recognized all the research that Michael had been up to as a derivative of his own. Then Carson had blamed himself for it all.
“All those people, those good people from Taranis are dead because of me,” he had said.
“This isn’t your fault,” John had said. “At least not yours alone,” he had added as he looked about the room. Ronon Dex had glared back at John meaningfully.
There were times Rodney wished he was big enough and bad enough to kick Ronon’s ass. Today was one of those days. He would have at least railed at him like he had done in times past but he knew it would have been pointless. Doing something like that would have only made Carson feel worse about all of this. What had happened only supported Ronon’s theory that the retro virus had been a bad idea from the start. Ronon had no problem with the idea of genocide. It was us or the Wraith as far as he was concerned.
Carson couldn’t live with the idea of killing a whole race of people. Carson truly believed in saving everyone he could save. He was a hopeless idealist and a dangerously compassionate being, and Rodney loved him.
Rodney hopped off the exam table and was starting to leave when Jennifer Keller grabbed his arm.
“Yes, Dr. Keller?” Rodney asked impatiently.
“Is it true? Michael’s still alive?”
“That would be the case,” Rodney replied maintaining the same annoyed tone. “Alive and well and making a bug army to eat us all.” Rodney gestured purposefully at the bandaged stitches on his face.
“Poor Carson,” she whispered.
“Yeah,” Rodney said letting true remorse slip into his tone. “Poor all of us if he succeeds.”
Keller frowned at him. “Do you know how long Carson agonized over that debacle?” She hissed at him angrily.
“Yes, yes I do! I was there!” Rodney glared at the woman until she dropped her gaze. “Now if you will excuse me, I have to go be there again.”
He left the infirmary.
Carson Beckett had never quit in his life. He often let his anger, his regret and his remorse fuel him. He was good at turning his emotions into action. So after Elizabeth and Lt. Colonel Sheppard left the conference room, Carson stayed. It was quiet there and he needed the quiet. He had his lap top open and he was looking up all the data he had gathered from examining the iratus stem cells. How was Michael making it possible for the bugs to easily incorporate the human DNA with just a few gorgings on human victims? Was there a viral agent involved that he used to prime them? Maybe he used a free-radical type treatment. It would be a lot more random, but if you didn’t care that you would throw away 30 to 60 percent of your results, it would be the fastest way to go. And considering that the bugs bred like bugs, in the hundreds and thousands per egg case, it wouldn’t be to terribly inefficient.
The door to the conference room slid open letting in the corridor’s brighter light. Carson looked up and blinked.
“Doc,” Ronon addressed him as he walked into the room.
“Oh, hello, Ronon,” Carson greeted him, only looking up at him briefly. He couldn’t meet the man’s eyes at this moment. Too many words had been said in that debriefing. And all though Ronon had aimed most of his anger at John Sheppard, Carson knew he himself was doubly to blame and Ronon must have known that.
Ronon was silent for a while, just standing a few feet from him and Carson began to feel nervous. He knew Ronon would never hurt him, but he was apprehensive as to why Ronon was there. He couldn’t imagine his presence in that room being for anything good.
“Look doc, I know why you thought you had to do it,” Ronon began in a low rumble. “I don’t blame you for that.”
Carson looked up at the tall warrior critically at that. “But you should blame me. I’m the bloody soft hearted fool who can’t take killing creatures who are just tryin’ to survive.”
“They’re Wraith!” Ronon growled out as if those few words were condemnation enough.
“I know they tried to kill all your people. I know what they can do,” Carson replied, looking Ronon in the eyes. “I tried to reverse a process that maybe should never have happened…”
“Aye, yes, the ancestors,” Carson interrupted. “It started with them. Now there is something inside of those creatures that is still human. I can’t just stand by and allow genocide to transpire.”
“But you’d endanger yourself and everyone else trying to save a killer like Michael?” Ronon spat back angrily. “He could have killed you! He did kill all those Marines that were supposed to be protecting you. Did you forget that?”
“No, Ronon, I didn’t,” Carson replied just as angrily. “I’ll never forget that!”
It was quiet in the room for a few long moments as Carson looked down at his hands resting on his laptop keyboard.
“If something happened to you… I couldn’t bear it...” Ronon said very softly and then stopped. Carson looked up in time to see him turn swiftly on his feet and march out the conference room.
It was pretty close to a declaration. Rodney had suggested there was something about Ronon when it came to Carson. Even John had been convinced that Ronon seemed to have some complicated feelings for him. Carson hadn’t been present when Rodney had told Ronon about their relationship, but John had insisted on being there just for that reason. They were a team and John was their leader. He wanted to be there to be able to defuse any discord that would lead to disruption of the team dynamic.
Carson sighed and put his face into his hands. There was a headache starting just behind his eyes.
It was past midnight when Carson finally showed up in his own room. Rodney had been there since he had been released from the infirmary. He had only made a quick detour to the commissary to get them dinner. He was certain Carson would not feel like being social tonight. As the hours rolled on, Rodney began to wonder if he should go find him. However, Rodney knew better and stopped himself before that thought could become a plan. Carson would come home when he was ready. Trying to force him would only earn him a trip to Carson’s stubborn side. That side of him was as inflexible as all hell and is noted to have pushed even John Sheppard back hard.
Carson walked through the door holding his workstation laptop that he had had at the debriefing. His shoulders were slumped and he blinked in the light of the room, rubbing his eyes with a tired sigh.
“Hey,” Rodney stood up from where he had been sitting to come and greet him.
“Rodney,” Carson breathed out as Rodney came to fold him into his embrace. For a second, Carson rested his head on Rodney’s shoulder. Then he stood up straighter and backed out of Rodney’s grasp.
“You should be in bed,” Carson said. “It’s fairly late and you need your rest.”
“And so do you,” Rodney replied.
Carson sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes again.
“Have you even eaten?” Rodney asked.
“No,” Carson said plainly. “But I’ll be all right. I’ll just nip down to the commissary and grab a banana…”
“The hell you will,” Rodney interjected. “I have dinner for you here. It may not be as hot as it was four hours ago, but it’s still good.”
He went around Carson and grabbed him by the shoulders to guide him to the small meal table that sat next to the westward window. He snatched the computer from Carson’s hands and pushed him down into a chair.
“Shut up,” Rodney commanded. He then retrieved the dinner he had brought for Carson from the insulated bag.
Carson looked down at the now tepid chicken breast and vegetables. A small smile started to creep its way on to his face. Rodney sat on the chair across from him.
“You’re trying to take care of me?” Carson asked softly.
“Well… I thought… I mean… isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?” Rodney asked in turn.
Carson let his smile grow, his blue eyes lighting with love. Rodney felt his heart melt a little at the sight. Carson had a special magic in his smile. Rodney understood how some people’s hearts, like that young Marine, were easy targets for that charming smile.
“Yes, love, I suppose it is,” Carson replied. He then picked up his utensils to taste his cold dinner.
After Carson ate most of the dinner that Rodney had saved for him, they both got ready for bed. Carson donned his sleep pants while Rodney striped to boxers and a tee shirt. They lay together on the bed in their usual position with Carson on his side and Rodney snuggled up close to his back; not exactly spooning him but more curled up and pressed against him. Rodney’s face was pressed against Carson’s shoulder and the nape of his neck.
Carson was getting use to the feeling of Rodney 'snuffling' him, as Carson termed it. Snuffling was when Rodney alternated between sniffing and nuzzling. He was snuffling the back of Carson’s neck just then. Carson laid awake just taking comfort in the feeling. He knew this wasn’t Rodney’s favorite place to snuffle. Rodney particularly liked to bury his face in the crease between arm and chest and practically push his nose into Carson’s armpit. That was Rodney’s most favorite place to snuffle.
“You’re still awake,” Rodney said, his voice muffled by his proximity to Carson’s skin.
Carson snorted a soft chuckle. “So are you,” he replied.
“Brain won’t shut down,” Rodney said.
“I know the feelin’, love,” Carson replied.
Rodney raised up to prop himself on an elbow and look over Carson. “I know you want to blame yourself for this. I know you are. But this isn’t just about you, you know. We all had a hand in it.”
“Except Ronon,” Carson amended for him. “He knew it was going to be a disaster.”
“Screw Ronon!” Rodney exploded. “What the fuck does he know! All he knows is his own hate! Well, you know what? We can hate too, but that isn’t going to save us in the end! Viable solutions are going to save us in the end. Looking for new ways and angles will save us in the end. The goddamn Ancients couldn’t kill the Wraith, and they had hundreds of years to try. What makes him believe that the same ol’ kill ‘em all strategy is going to get us anywhere now?!”
Carson sighed heavily and rolled over on his back to face Rodney. Gently, he touched Rodney’s face, a loving gesture to soothe his anger.
“Hush love,” Carson said.
“There are days I wish I could sock that sword-wielding Wookie in the jaw.”
“Be kind,” Carson whispered.
He watched Rodney’s expression change as he looked down on him. It went from anger to adoration. His blue velvet eyes shone, making Carson look back into them in wonder.
“I love you,” Rodney whispered. He then lowered himself to give Carson a soft, sweet kiss. He then raised up to look at him again. “Why are you so good?”
“I’m not good,” Carson replied with a smile. “I wanted to punch him too.”
“I can’t imagine you punching anyone,” Rodney said with a chuckle.
“I’ll punch you right quick if you don’t hush up and try to get to sleep,” he replied.
“Getting tough on me again, Dr. Rambo?” Rodney’s smile grew. “No wonder everyone wants a piece of this!” Rodney’s other hand snaked under Carson to quickly goose his ass.
“Hey now!” Carson jumped a little. “What’s all this about then? Who wants a piece of me?”
“Just this pretty lady Marine in the infirmary today was quizzing Keller on your relationship status.”
“Seriously,” Carson frowned. “As soon as you get attached, they all climb out of the woodwork,” he grumbled. “Hey!!!” He jumped again when Rodney pinched his ass.
“They better crawl right back in,” Rodney said with a smile.
Carson touched his face again, carefully tracing his jaw and brushing lightly over the bandaged stitches.
“Ronon….” Carson hesitated, weighing whether or not he should share his next words with Rodney. He looked up into Rodney’s eyes, so loving and sweet in that moment. “Ronon told me that he couldn’t bear it if something should happen to me. I think he thinks I’ll sacrifice myself to save us from Michael.”
“You know, I’m a little afraid of that too,” Rodney said softly the smile leaving his face.
“Rodney,” Carson whispered emphatically. “I told you I wouldnae leave you; not now, not ever.”
“Even to try and fix something that could potentially bring about the horrible deaths of thousands all over this galaxy?” Rodney asked critically. “I know you Carson. You won’t think its suicide, and you won’t call it suicide, but it’ll be pure out and out suicide. Your risk assessment sucks.”
“Oh and yours is better then?” Carson argued.
“Better than yours, Dr. Rambo, let-me-take-this-big-ass-assault-weapon-and go-out and-get-in-Teyla-and-John’s-way!” Rodney sniped.
“Oh, aye and you, who can barely shoot straight let alone fly straight is going to school me in combat?!”
“No,” Rodney replied irately. “I’m not. But I have certainly seen more combat than you! Having seen it, I can safely say you wouldn’t last a minute…”
“I’ve lasted this long in a lot of the same situations as you… Not to mention I’ve got bloody combat pilot experience as well!”
“Oh! I wondered when you were going to pull that little gem out your ass!”
“Aye, and it still amazes me that you feel so threatened by that fact!”
“Threatened?! I’m not threatened!” Rodney snarled. “You are just projecting now because you don’t want to admit that maybe I have a point! Ever thought about that?!”
Carson blinked and looked into Rodney’s eyes, which were a light with the fire of his anger. It amazed him that they could still get under each other’s skin the way they did. Carson reach up and tenderly touched Rodney’s face again. Rodney blinked in response as if he was just shaking off a dream. He frowned down briefly at Carson, but the frown softened.
“I love you,” Rodney whispered after a moment.
“I love you too,” Carson whispered back. “We’re tired, love. You just step back through the gate from a nightmare and haven’t slept in twenty six hours. I’ve stressed myself to a terrible headache.”
Rodney lowered himself down to the bed and up against Carson once more. His face pressed to Carson’s chest, he turned into him, nuzzling closer and sniffing at his underarm. He was snuffling again. Carson exhaled and relaxed. He wanted to sleep and he knew they both needed to sleep. Worrying would be for tomorrow. He kissed Rodney’s head tenderly.
“I’ll not leave you, ever,” he whispered one last time.
“Good.” Rodney’s muffled voice answered back from against his skin. “’cause I’m going wherever you go from now on.”
Carson smiled into the darkness of the room and wonder if Rodney could actually do that, make it a requisite that he come anywhere and everywhere Carson went off-world. Rodney was the mission’s chief scientist after all.