The situation wasn’t what they were expecting. After two months of absolute quiet from the Wraith, and Michael had seemed to have gone to ground, the Mission was experiencing an unusual calm. That made everyone on edge and waiting for the storm. Sheppard had all of the military running preparedness drills. Elizabeth kept stressing vigilance. Carson was in his labs at almost all hours trying to guess Michael's next move.
So they were expecting something, and they knew it would be something big. But no one was expecting what Col. Ellis of the Apollo had told them. A preemptive strike on the Replicators was way off the Atlantis mission’s collective radar of possible big things to go down. It was big. It was life and death big, and everyone knew that the IOA in panic mode made terrible choices. When Elizabeth called a senior staff meeting about it, all Rodney could think was - We Are Royally Screwed.
The IOA, in their finest full committee, circle jerk of panic style, decided to screw the consequences to Atlantis and launch a bizarre surgical strike attack. Was the attack necessary? Yes. Was the plan to execute it sound? Mostly. Were all risk and factors analyze to see to the safety of all mission personnel in the Pegasus galaxy? No. Thus, Atlantis was screwed, fucked by the IOA using the Replicators as a long poking device.
No one was surprised that the Replicators retaliated.
Rodney spent the next twenty six hours running on caffeine and pure adrenaline. His brain was moving so fast that he was sure he was speaking absolute gibberish at times. However, amazingly enough, Radak Zelenka understood absolute gibberish and spoke it fluently back at him.
On the heels of the recommendation, the order came down to move the city using the star-drive. Rodney was so consumed with the fast moving amount of information that was rolling past him in crazy disarray that he almost missed Elizabeth’s next order about senior staff assignments. Non-essential and excess staff were to be sent to the Apollo. Col. Ellis suggested a senior staff liaison for those people. Elizabeth agreed. The multinational military liaison would be Maj. Lorne. The Civilian Science Liaison would be Dr. Beckett.
On his way back from checking systems at the star-drive's core at the base of the central tower, Rodney caught up with Carson in the infirmary preparing the leaving staff for departure and briefing the remaining staff on necessary moves and procedures. All city arm clinics were to close down and move essential supplies to the south-central tower infirmary. The medial skeleton crew was still twenty people strong and included two M.D. and an assembly of nurses, P.A. and surgical staff. Carson was leaving Jennifer Keller in charge.
When Carson saw Rodney, he pulled him aside and into a private consultation room he used sometimes to protect some of the infirmary’s patients’ privacy in the face of difficult diagnosis.
“Are you sure about Keller?” Rodney asked. “She seems pretty young…”
“Aye, she’s young, but she smart and not easily spooked,” Carson replied. “She’s a good head on her shoulders, that one. Give her a chance and she’ll surprise you.”
“I just thought Biro or McBride...”
“Biro’s can be a bit scattered when it comes to thinking fast in crisis situations. McBride will be with Jennifer, but he has already told me that he doesn’t feel he has been with the mission long enough to assume so much responsibility. You must remember, he only arrived three months ago.”
“I know…” Rodney shook his head and frowned.
“I understand that as a doctor I can only contribute so much, but I don’t understand why Elizabeth chose me to be in charge of the mission personnel on the Apollo?” Carson asked.
Rodney smiled at this comment. He had an explanation already planned. “Because, out of all of us, you are least likely to get in Col. Ellis’ face and read him the riot act if something goes off script,” Rodney explained. “And you are still high enough ranking in the Mission to have all the security codes for the city, something that even Major Lorne doesn’t have. Imagine if the city was captured somehow during our transport. We’ll beat the Apollo to the rendezvous. If you get there and find the city compromised, the Apollo can use your command codes to activate the city self-destruct remotely.”
“God forbid,” Carson said softly with a slight grimace.
“And Elizabeth can’t afford to have all of her best eggs in one basket,” Rodney finished. “It was either you or Teyla. She chose you, and not because she doesn’t need you, but because she needs you more on the Apollo.”
Carson sighed heavily. Rodney knew he was not completely buying the argument so he decided to just change the subject. After all, he did come there for a specific reason. He reached for Carson, grabbing the sides of his lab coat at the waist. He pulled him close.
“I know I promised to go wherever you go, but I think I’ll have to break that promise now,” Rodney said softly.
“Oh love,” Carson said and cupped Rodney’s face in his hands tenderly. They kissed for a sweet, slow moment, and Rodney reveled in the taste of Carson once more. He wrapped his arms about Carson’s waist and pulled him closer.
“I don’t want to be without you,” Rodney whispered between soft kisses. He rested his head against Carson’s.
“You’ll be too busy to notice,” Carson replied with a gentle smile.
“You underestimate my ability to multi-task,” Rodney complained. “It’s the curse of being so gifted. I’ll be able to worry about a lot of things and still miss you too. I once wrote an algorithm for determining the rate of decay in a pulsar’s radiation based on its nascent electromagnetism at each cycle, corrected a string of code a colleague erroneously submitted to the Keck astronomical telescope at Mauna Kea, and still managed to worry about my cat Dirac who was going under the vet knife for bladder stones.”
“It won’t be for long, baby,” Carson said with a small chuckle in his tone.
“You know, I’m beginning to realize that this nickname of ‘Baby’ has a double entendre for you as an endearment and as a mock,” Rodney said a little critically.
Carson chuckled again and shook his head. “It’s a spot better than some names I could call you. Well then, my fine multi-tasking genius, give this a go,” Carson said. “Keep track of every time you honestly miss me and let me know when we are together again. For every time, I’ll owe you a full massage.”
“Therapeutic or sensual?” Rodney asked looking hopeful.
“Your choice, love. But don’t try to pull shite with me. You know I’ll know better,” Carson replied.
“Of course,” Rodney managed to look a tad wounded at the suggestion that he would lie to Carson.
“Dr. McKay, Please report to the control room.” Chuck’s voice came over the citywide.
Rodney looked up to complain at the voice over the citywide com. “Seriously? It’s going to begin this soon?”
“We’ve got a lot to do, love,” Carson said. He stepped out of Rodney’s embrace and turned towards the door.
“Carson!” Rodney called to him with a small note of panic in his tone. Carson turned to him swiftly just as the room door opened revealing the infirmary in utter organized chaos.
“Be safe,” Rodney said.
“And you, love,” Carson replied. He then smiled and added, “Be brilliant too.”
“In the face of impossible odds, that’s my norm.” Rodney smiled back. “Not necessarily my comfort zone, but certainly my expected standard operating norm.”
Carson shook his head again as he chuckled. “Baby…” he said and then turned and left the room.
Rodney followed and left the infirmary.
The first time he truly wished for Carson’s presence was after the central tower was grazed by the Replicator’s beam and he saw the carnage around him and below. He saw Elizabeth on the lower level floor in a mess of broken glass and twisted metal and inside his heart he screamed for Carson to come and save her. He, however, instead practically screamed into the citywide, “Medical emergency team to the control room stat!”
Rodney watched McBride and Keller roll her away on a gurney surrounded by P.A.s as he wave away two medics who tried to assess his injuries. He wanted Carson so bad he almost told Sheppard as much, but that would have been pointless. He went back to the task at hand of keeping them space-worthy. Then they had dropped out of hyperspace short of their goal.
The second time he wanted Carson was when Sheppard came up with his crazy idea of manning all the available jumpers with ATA positive mission personnel to play the real life version of Asteroids, a game Rodney knew he sucked at.
This time he didn’t hold back from John. He told him point blank after he told him he once scored zero at the video game.
“I wish Carson was here. He could handle this. He’s a better pilot than me.”
“If he was here,” John replied. “He wouldn’t be in here. He’d be with Elizabeth.”
They looked at each other in a silent moment of wishing and worrying about Elizabeth. If only Carson had been there. Rodney was sure that both he and John would have felt just a tiny bit better about her chances.
“Look on the bright side,” Sheppard added. “I’ll count this towards your combat pilot experience.” He then patted Rodney on the shoulder and left the jumper to board his own.
The third time he wanted Carson was when Keller approached him about the inactive nanites in Elizabeth’s body. He remembered what Carson had said about Jennifer Keller:
Aye, she’s young, but she smart and not easily spooked. She’s a good head on her shoulders, that one. Give her a chance and she’ll surprise you.
Carson had been right as usual, and he wished he could tell Carson that even as he told Keller that she was a genius.
The next time he needed Carson came almost on the heels of that third time. When he confronted Sheppard about activating Elizabeth’s nanites, Sheppard metaphorically ripped off his head and shit down his neck. Dr. Keller didn’t stick around for the dress down, even though it had been her initial idea. Carson would have stepped up and gone toe to toe with Sheppard. Rodney had a vision of a fiery eyed, defiant Carson in his mind when he tried to stand his ground against John’s excessive anger. He tried his damnedest to be worthy of that vision.
After those times, he could honestly say he was truly too preoccupied to think no more than a fleeting thought about Carson. He was sure Carson would say those didn’t count. The Jumper hyperspace jump and the Replicator planet was a crazed blur of quick and dirty code writing and systems engineering acrobatics. No one could multi-task love through that scenario without being a Replicator themselves, which put Elizabeth’s extraordinary sacrifice into perspective for Rodney. When the Apollo appeared from nowhere to rescue them at the eleventh hour, his relief to be rescued was so great that the fact that Carson was aboard the ship came only as a fleeting but pleasant after thought.
On board the Apollo and safe, after all the talking, and giving Samantha Carter and Bill Lee the last know location of Atlantis, and the careful check and diagnostic analysis of their heisted ZPM, and the small debrief and medical check in the Apollo’s infirmary, Rodney was finally released to get some rest. There were no other beds on the Apollo other than in the infirmary. So Rodney stretched out uneasily on one that was in the furthest corner of the central ward. He must have fallen asleep for he awoke abruptly when a hand touched his.
He looked up suddenly into the light blue of Carson’s eyes. Carson sat down next to him on the bed, his hand never leaving Rodney’s. The ward lights were now dimmed to simulate night time so as not to disrupt circadian rhythms of the crew convalescing there. In that subdued lighting, Carson looked softer and much more dreamlike. However, his eyes were bright blue pools of grief, and Rodney knew why. Rodney was too tired and too much in shock to let the grief hit him yet, but looking at Carson tore at his heart unexpectedly. Rodney sat up in the bed, crumpling in on himself, he fell into Carson’s chest with a sob that was wrenched from his gut. The grief had come at last.
Carson folded him into his embrace. He laid his head on Rodney’s as he held him. He said nothing. He simply held him. After several minutes, Rodney began to get a hold of himself again. He pulled himself up straight, holding on to Carson still. He looked him in the eyes and took a deep shaky breath.
“You were brilliant, love,” Carson said softly. “As always.”
“Wasn’t enough,” Rodney rasped out.
“It was plenty, I’m sure. I’m sure that Elizabeth was sure too.”
“I needed you exactly four times,” Rodney said abruptly, not looking Carson in the eyes any more. “Considering the circumstances, you can see that you command a great deal of my mental energies.”
“Do you think it’s a bad thing?” Carson asked seriously.
“No!” Rodney looked back into his face in shock. “No… I… I don’t want it any other way.”
“Four times then?” Carson smiled slightly. “Why don’t we make it six massages… just for the circumstances. I’ll never let it be said that I made you think of me under duress without some level of fair compensation.”
Rodney looked at Carson for a moment longer than normal as if his brain was still processing what was just said to him; then he nodded.
“That’s fair,” he said.
“Get some sleep, Rodney,” Carson said softly.
Rodney laid back on the bed again but he took Carson’s hand once more.
“Stay a little?”
“I’ll be here, baby,” Carson whispered.
Rodney continued to hold his hand but he scowled as he closed his eyes. “Don’t think for a minute that I don’t get what you are doing there with that nickname.”
Carson only chucked in response.
“Nighty-night, Doctor Rambo… and by the way, I’m a combat pilot too now,” Rodney said with perhaps just a micro-smidgen of spite.
Carson didn’t reply. He let him have the last word and Rodney knew that Carson knew that was just what Rodney needed at that point. Rodney’s frown slipped away into a little smile of simple contentment and he squeezed Carson’s hand. After being adrift for longer than he ever cared to be, Rodney felt anchored once more.
They were going to Atlantis. They were going home.