Carson was late, but not quite late enough to make John worry that he’d been stood up, so John figured that he’d been hung up in the infirmary with Lorne’s team.
He was studiously not thinking of this as a date. They were going to watch one of the movies that had been sent with the re-supply from the Daedalus. Just two guys who didn’t get to see a lot of each other outside of work, watching a movie. He studiously ignored that they’d all seen quite a bit of each other on the eighteen-day trip back on the Daedalus. He tried very hard not to think of why he and Carson had seen so much of one another other on the last part of the trip back, in fact. They were back on Atlantis now and their separate jobs had seen fit to keep them from even running into each other for three days straight. Hence, the email asking Carson if he wanted to come over to watch a movie they’d both mentioned wanting to see, but neither had time to actually rent while on Earth.
Even before they’d worked out a way to ‘Gate home, and get back, and not knowing who would make the trip if anyone did, Colonel O’Neill had had care packages put together for each member of the team and those had been unloaded as soon as the Daedalus had re-docked after they’d uncloaked following the last Wraith attack. There had been all kinds of things in their crates. Things from their apartments, letters from family and friends, movies, books, civilian clothes, music files, and all sorts of foodstuffs. John had been overjoyed at the three cases of beer that had been at the bottom of his crate. Not that that stopped him from bringing back three more when he’d gone home.
When the doorbell finally chimed, John jumped up to answer it instead of just hollering ‘it’s open’ the way he usually did.
“Hey, come on in.”
Carson smiled weakly, but didn’t move. “Actually, I was wondering if we might not postpone. I’ve had quite the long day and I’m afraid I’d end up being horribly rude and passing out on your couch.”
John studied him for a second before ushering him in anyway. “Tell you what, if you do, I’ll toss a blanket over you and let you crash.” He gave him a little grin, and hoped he’d be taken up on the offer. “Come on, we’ve wanted to see this movie for a few weeks now. I finally wrangled it out of Zelenka’s hands. But I have to give it back tomorrow.”
Carson shrugged. “Only if you’re sure you won’t mind if I don’t make it through.”
“Hey, how many times have I fallen asleep on your furniture?” John joked.
“Passing out in the infirmary hardly counts,” Carson responded lightly.
John just waved him at the couch, where he’d already set his laptop up on the coffee table with the DVD player pulled up and paused. “Want a beer? It’s American, but it’s a decent American beer.”
“Because I’m not going to have enough problems staying awake, you want to add alcohol to a sixteen hour day?” Carson remarked, but took the bottle he was handed anyway.
John sat down on the couch next to him. “Take your shoes off, get comfortable”, he said as he did the same. “Why such a long day?” he asked casually.
Carson sighed theatrically. “Do you know Rodney’s new assistant? Thomas?”
John nodded while he took another sip of his beer.
“Well, at about four o’clock this morning he fell off a ladder and broke his leg. They called down to the infirmary and had him transferred down there, and he was fine with all that, but then he refused to take off his pants in front of Dr. Chen. Apparently he has developed quite the crush on her during their trip out here on the Daedalus. Anyway, they called me to set his leg, because he was threatening to leave A.M.A. By the time I was done and we’d gotten the second set of pictures to be sure it was set properly, it was about half an hour before my shift started anyway, so I just stayed on. Then just as I was getting ready to leave, Major Farrell’s team came in.”
“Oh, I heard about that,” John said, setting his bottle on the table. “They going to be okay?”
“Aye,” Carson said, taking another sip of his own beer. “The burns aren’t so bad. They’ll start peeling in a day or so, which will itch like hell, but we’ve got creams and sprays for that sort of thing. They should just be glad the villagers weren’t exactly track stars or it could have been much worse. And it’s a good thing the Daedalus dropped off more uniforms. Theirs were burnt to a crisp. But they’ll all be okay.”
“Good. Ready?” John asked indicating the computer.
Carson nodded and John hit ‘play’.
They weren’t even a third of the way into the movie before John realized that no matter how funny the lines were, he was the only one laughing. True to his word, Carson had sacked out. They’d been back from Earth for a little less than a week. And while eighteen days cooped up on the Daedalus should have given anyone enough time for rest, they found that all it did was make them restless. Which, of course was only made worse by discovering, eleven days into the trip, that an alien computer virus that was attacking them and trying to hand them over to the Wraith. John sighed. He owed Carson a few sleepless nights anyway. The radiation from the star he and Rodney had almost been sucked into had made them both fairly ill for the last leg of their journey home.
He’d tried to tell Carson that he was okay with Dr. Madison from the Daedalus looking after him, but Carson had insisted that he didn’t mind. Then he’d pretended to be futzing with a monitor at the head of John’s bed and whispered, “Rodney’s insisting on having his doctor. But it’s alright, nobody else should have to be subjected to Rodney McKay when he’s not well. I’ve had enough exposure to become immune over the past year. Poor Dr. Madison wouldn’t stand a chance.”
John had laughed at the idea that a rather large, burly, Air Force doctor being intimidated by McKay and a bedpan before the medicines he was on kicked in and he’d fallen asleep. His last thought before surrendering was that maybe Rodney had a point. Maybe it was nice to be fussed over by someone who knew him.
Rodney’s kvetching had started as soon as they landed. He insisted that he couldn’t get out of the fighter on his own, so Carson sent a couple of medics to help him while he steered John over to an emergency scrub down station set up in the hangar. He was able to hand John the soap and point him to the cubical, knowing that Sheppard would know the correct procedures for removing any kind of radioactive material from his body.
Rodney, of course, had thrown a fit about being stripped on the hangar bay and manhandled through a shower by two medics in biohazard gear. For thirty minutes he ranted and raved about how much more he knew about radiation than anyone else in the bay, and then proceeded to start telling them everything he knew. John finally decided that everyone had had enough and turned to him and said, ”Rodney. Shut the hell up. Now.” Carson had been supremely grateful for John’s skill at handling the other man when he was panicking.
There were scrubs and gurneys waiting when they were done. Without a single protest, John pulled on the white scrubs and hopped up to sit on a gurney and looked at Carson, “How long ‘til the puking starts and the hair goes?”
Carson had already stripped off his hazmat suit as soon as the Asgard sensors had given the general environment the all clear. “According to the readouts we got from the fighter, it may not get as bad as all that. You’ll be sick for a few days,” he reached up and ruffled John’s unruly hair, “But the hair has a chance. Especially hair as strong-willed as your own.”
John smiled and decided Carson had the best bedside manner in the universe.
Two hours later he was not smiling. Carson had given them the run-down of what to expect: nausea, vomiting, bruising and bleeding, skin rashes or burns. He didn’t tell them about the less likely symptoms because he just knew that if he did that McKay would develop them by sheer force of hypochondria. John had lain in the Daedalus’ infirmary for the first hour and a half daring to hope that his symptoms would be extremely mild. He’d even pestered one of the nurses into going down to his quarters and getting his new John Grisham novel for him when he started getting bored. So far he felt okay. Most of what he did feel could be blamed on the let down from one hell of an adrenaline rush.
Adrenaline had never made him puke, though, so he knew he was about to start Carson’s promised three days of hell. He had both arms wrapped around a stainless steel emesis basin and he was pretty sure that the only thing left for him to bring up would be his left kidney, but that didn’t seem to stop his stomach from convulsing and sending a jolt of pure agony through his head as his gag reflex kicked in again and again. He was panting, trying to keep from inhaling the smell of the basin and setting off his system again when he felt a cool, wet cloth against his forehead. Then the basin was gone and he was being leaned back against the pillow through no effort of his own.
“Ready for that Compazine now?” Carson was asking as he finished washing John’s face.
“My turn, huh?” John whispered, making a face as his throat burned.
Carson glanced over to McKay, “Aye, your turn. Rodney let me give him some when he first started feeling queasy. You done arguing with me?”
John let his head fall to the side to look over at McKay. He’d been really hoping to get through this relatively unscathed. He’d felt just fine for the first three hours after exposure, so much so that he was really starting to think he’d get by without any serious symptoms. McKay of course was dying the minute he heard the word ‘radiation’ and Carson had taken pity on everyone else and sedated the physicist as soon as he started complaining of symptoms. John had waved off any kind of preventative medicine as long as he didn’t feel the need for it.
He actually hadn’t been thinking of Rodney, though. “Actually I was thinking that it was your turn to give me a shot in the ass for puking.”
Carson smiled, remembering how John had put his field medicine to the test when Carson had gotten the flu while out in the field with the now-Colonel’s team. “Ah. Actually, you get off easy. I’m just going to put it in your I.V. port.”
“Well, if you insist,” John acquiesced and watched as Carson put the prepared hypodermic into the plastic port in his arm.
If ever asked, John would never have admitted how nice it was to have Carson sit on the edge of his bed, wiping his face and neck with the cool cloth again until he fell asleep.
He woke up to find Carson sitting on a chair between his bed and Rodney’s. He had his elbow on John’s mattress and his head rested on his hand. John’s book was in his other hand.
“Hey Doc,” he whispered and then winced as pain sliced through his head.
“Major – Colonel,” Carson corrected himself and was glad he did when he saw John smile dopily at him. “What do you need?”
John thought about it for a minute. He was fairly sure he was getting everything he needed – meds, fluids, rest. He realized it was about what he wanted. He wanted Carson’s attention. He couldn’t say that though.
He had to think for a minute before coming up with something. “Any chance I can get something to rinse my mouth out with? Tastes like I’ve been puking.”
Carson passed a hand over the top of John’s head as he stood. “Well, there hasn’t been any more of that lately, thank goodness. But I’ll see if I can’t get you something.
John closed his eyes and waited while Carson went to find him something that would get the foul taste out of his mouth. It had been a long time since he’d been a kid, stuck home sick from school, but now that he thought about it, being home sick had very little with the medicine his mother gave him and everything to do with her sitting by his bedside or on the floor when he lay on the couch to watch t.v., fussing with his blankets and stroking his hair. He wondered if there was some way of getting Carson to do that thing with his hair again. It felt better than it should have, mostly because it was Carson, but it also reminded him how long it had been since he’d been touched by anyone for simple comfort and friendship. He missed it. He liked being the military commander of Atlantis, but his status seemed to separate him from most other people, despite his efforts not to take himself too seriously.
Carson came back and handed him a small paper cup of something that smelled like mint and put a basin in front of him. “Rinse,” he said quietly, one hand helping him sit up, the other holding the basin.
John did as he was told, finding that no longer tasting his own vomit did help cut down on the current nausea. It occurred to John to wonder why Carson wasn’t passing some of the more minor tasks like that to the nurses on shift. He wasn’t complaining, but he wondered what was in it for Carson.
When Carson had gotten rid of the basin and the little cup, he came back and checked on Rodney’s monitors first, and then his. McKay was still asleep and John wondered if Rodney hadn’t been anesthetized or something. He’d been mentally bracing himself for three days of hearing every symptom that passed through either McKay’s body or his mind.
As Carson adjusted his I.V., John asked, “Is Rodney okay?”
Carson sat back down in his chair and folded his arms on the edge of John’s bed, bringing their faces very close. “Aye. He’s fine. I gave him some pretty strong anti-nausea meds because I knew that they’d help him get through the night.”
John nodded. He hadn’t wanted meds until they were absolutely necessary. Rodney would take anything that offered relief.
Carson shifted a little to lean on one hand, the other going up to card gently through John’s hair. “What about you? How are you feeling?”
John shrugged, not sure what kind of answer would keep Carson by his side running his fingers through his hair and speaking quietly to him like that.
“Still nauseous?” Carson asked.
“A little. Better now that my mouth isn’t so gross.”
John had to stop and think. “Not at the moment.” He remembered his head hurting when he’d been puking. “Actually, my hands hurt. That’s weird, right?”
Carson sat up and took John’s hand in his. John hid the pout that tried to surface when Carson moved his hand away from his head. “Not so weird,” Carson told him. “You have some slight burns on your exposed skin. Rodney’s face is starting to resemble a well-done lobster. He’ll be peeling in a few days. You don’t look quite so bad. Do you feel it on your face?”
John nodded as he realized Carson was right. “Now that you mention it, I do, a little.”
Carson squeezed his shoulder, “You're a little red, I’ll get you some cream.”
John fell asleep, despite his best efforts not to, to the incredibly soothing feeling of Carson gently massaging the lotion into his burned hands. With the moisture and the slight analgesic in it, the burn was relieved immediately and John was able to just appreciate being touched.
The next time John woke up, he was sure he was dying. Every muscle hurt. His stomach was threatening to rebel again even though he was fairly sure that it had been over twenty-four hours since he’d put anything in it. His head pounded and when he opened his eyes, the light sliced through him like a dull machete.
He gave up after a few futile attempts to roll over and sit up. He didn’t even try to open his eyes again. He just lay on his side and listened to the sounds around him. His heart monitor seemed steady enough. On his left a nurse was berating someone for not taking his or her asthma medicine and then there was the whir of some sort of machine that John presumed was for said asthma condition. On his right he could hear McKay complaining. He wondered if a trip to Kate Heightmeyer’s office was in order when he discovered that he found the sound of Rodney’s pissing and moaning comforting. He hadn’t seen McKay seriously hurt yet, but if he was like any of the other hypochondriacs John knew, once they were really and truly sick or hurt they didn’t complain nearly as much. That was when you started to worry. So as long as Rodney was whining, he couldn’t be as bad off as John was at the moment. And he was glad for that. No one should feel as bad as John did at the moment. Not even Rodney McKay who got on his nerves every chance he got.
“Look, I was already cursed with a receding hairline. I can’t afford for it to recede any more. There has to be something you can do.”
“Well, I think I have a bottle of crazy-glue I can get for you if you like,” Carson answered brightly.
“Very funny. It’s not your hair decorating the linens around here.” Rodney’s pout was audible.
“No, but I was thinking of collecting all of yours and weaving a tapestry from it. Something to brighten up my office in Atlantis.” Carson was clearly having a good time with Rodney. John sighed and got a little more comfortable to enjoy the show they didn’t know they were giving him. The distraction from his own aches and pains was nice. But it made him wonder if Rodney’s hair really was going and Carson was just trying to make it less of an issue. He couldn’t raise his arm up far enough to check to see if his own hair was still there. He also found that for the moment he didn’t really care. It would grow back in all it’s unruly glory once he got better, he knew. And for a few days he wouldn’t have to hear the comments everyone made when they decided that he let it stick up like that; like he had any choice in the matter.
Finally Carson sighed, John knew he’d reached the end of his rope with Rodney. “Now, other than the fact that you think your forehead is a few millimeters larger than it was yesterday, is anything else wrong?”
There was a long pause before Rodney finally muttered, “My head hurts. And I know you’ve given me like a gallon of that stuff for my stomach, but it’s still…you know. And I’m cold. Why is it that people always feel cold when they have a fever? That doesn’t make sense, does it?”
“Do really want the medical lecture, or do you just want me to do something about it?” Carson asked, sincerely wondering if McKay needed the information before he’d be able to stop running it around his brain.
“Just do something about it,” Rodney finally conceded.
John smiled a little. He’d have asked for both. But then again he was acknowledging that he was developing an acute fondness for Carson’s accent. He would have listened to the man read the phone book. He wondered if it was healthy to have a crush on his doctor. He knew that his interest in Carson went back quite a bit further than this recent illness, but the man was definitely seeing him at his worst. That probably wouldn’t bode well, would it?
John wasn’t sure if he was thinking straight given how lousy he felt, so he tabled the issue for a time when thinking about it wouldn’t hurt so much.
“Let me know if you need anything else,” Carson was saying when John tuned in again. He could hear him patting Rodney on the leg or shoulder. Carson was like that. He touched people all the time. John reminded himself of that and told himself that when Carson had sat with him the night before that it probably hadn’t meant anything special to anyone but him.
His eyes had opened just a bit as he heard footsteps approaching his bed. Carson took John’s hand in his and for a fleeting second John had thought that maybe he wasn’t wishing on a hopeless cause, but he got a quick does of reality as Carson turned his hand over and took his pulse. He hoped the flash of disappointment didn’t register on his face. He cursed himself for acting like thirteen-year-old.
“And what about you?” Carson asked quietly, setting John’s hand back on the sheet.
“Cold,” John mumbled the first thing that came to mind.
“I’ll get you another blanket.”
John tried to nod, but found it too hard.
When Carson came back he stripped off the blanket and sheet John had been using, and covered him with a heavy cotton blanket that had apparently been in some kind of warmer, before replacing the other blankets. John sighed, feeling the chill lift and his muscles soak up the warmth. “Thanks,” he whispered. He wanted to ask about the hot blanket and how to get another one when this one cooled off, but he didn’t have the strength.
John snuggled into the blankets, more relieved by the warmth than he had anticipated. He still felt like crap. But at least now he wasn’t freezing cold, shivering crap. And then Carson was brushing his hair back off his forehead again and John decided that for feeling like crap, life didn’t get much better.
“This is the worst of it,” Carson was saying quietly. “In a few hours the fever should break and you’ll be on the mend.”
“’kay,” John muttered hoping like hell it was true. He was quickly deciding that having Carson’s attention – even split between him and Rodney as it was – was a good thing, but he’d much rather have it when he felt up to actually appreciating it. Maybe they could watch a movie together when they got back to Atlantis. Or get dinner in the mess or something that wouldn’t involve them interacting in any kind of professional way. That would be nice, he thought as the gentle petting of his hair lulled him back to sleep no matter how hard he fought.
He leaned over and stopped the DVD. Zelenka wouldn’t mind him holding on to it for another day or two and it would be a good excuse to invite Carson back.
He stood up and went to the closet where he found the one spare blanket he knew he had, but no extra pillow.
One thing the military life had taught him was how to sleep under adverse conditions. And not having your pillow while inside, in a controlled climate while you still had covers certainly did not qualify as ‘adverse conditions’.
He set the pillow at the end of the couch. “Carson,” he whispered. Nothing. He shook his shoulder a little, “Carson?”
“Come on,” he carefully maneuvered his guest until he was lying on the pillow. He couldn’t help but smile at the look of extreme relief that passed over Carson’s face as he snuggled into the pillowcase, clearly relieved to not be forcing himself to remain upright anymore. “Swing your feet up,” he told him before Carson could fall completely asleep again.
Carson did as he was told and then frowned, “Oh… oh no, I fell asleep during the movie,” he muttered without opening his eyes.
“You warned me. It’s not a problem. We can try the movie again tomorrow.” John shook out the blanket and draped it over him. As Carson pulled it up to his chin, John noticed that he still had his earpiece in. John leaned over and gently removed it. “I’m putting your radio on the table,” he said as Carson reached up for it.
“Alright,” he murmured before wrapping one fist around the edge of the blanket, pulling it against his chest and rolling over a little to get comfortable.
John’s hand came to rest on top of Carson’s head. “You need anything else?” He remembered how much he had appreciated Carson’s simple touches when he’d been in the Daedalus’ infirmary, and wondered if Carson would feel the same way. He knew he was rationalizing; he liked touching people. Probably even more than he liked being touched. He just wanted an excuse to touch Carson. He ran his fingers through what was probably the thickest hair he’d ever felt a few times as Carson settled into the pillow a little more.
After a moment Carson managed to drag up enough energy to reply. “No. Thank you. I’m sorry to put you out like this.”
“What ‘put me out’? You told me you were tired, I insisted we watch the movie anyway. Now you’re crashed on the couch. I’m so not ‘put out.’ John let his hand drop to Carson’s shoulder and squeezed before standing up.
“Alright then,” Carson agreed, mostly just so he could go back to sleep.
“All right, then.” John agreed before grabbing his book and flopping down on the bed to read while Carson slept.
Carson had gotten some coffee and was trying to decide which of the breakfast offerings seemed the least unappealing. Deciding that an apple and some banana bread probably wouldn’t prove too lethal, even from a military-style galley, he headed into the mess-proper to find a table.
It was when he saw Teyla sitting alone that he remembered that they were supposed to have breakfast that morning. Waking up in strange surroundings had caused it to completely slip his mind.
Feeling chagrinned he set his tray across from her. “Teyla, I’m so sorry. I know we were supposed to meet,” he checked his watch – it could have been worse – “fifteen minutes ago. My apologies.”
She smiled at him over her cereal and tea. “It is alright. I went to your quarters, thinking perhaps you had over-slept, but you were not there, so I assumed you had been called to the infirmary.”
Carson put sugar in his coffee and stirred it. “Actually no, I went over to Colonel Sheppard’s to watch a movie last night and ended up falling asleep on his couch, so he just threw a blanket over me and left me there.” Something in Carson’s mind refused to categorize it as simply John not wanting to be bothered with getting him up and out. He was pretty sure it had something to do with the vague sense memory of John stroking his hair as he fell asleep. But that wasn’t something he wanted to move to the front of his mind, let alone explain to Teyla.
Teyla nodded in that sage way of hers. “You have been working very hard since your return from Earth. No doubt you needed the sleep.”
Carson apologized once again for being late before they turned to other topics of conversation.
Carson was glad that it was impossible to slam the doors in Atlantis. No doubt the one to his lab would have been knocked off its hinges. He watched silently as Rodney slammed the crystal that shut the door for those not born with the ancient gene. Or in Rodney's case, clearly so pissed that he'd forgotten that he'd been given it.
"So!" Rodney huffed as if that explained his sudden appearance and impossible mood.
Carson spared a worried glance for all the glass on the shelves. "Something I can do for you, Rodney?" he asked quietly, hoping his friend would calm down before something was broken.
Rodney grabbed the only other stool in the lab and put it down right in front of Carson. "So," he said again.
Carson raised his eyebrows, but waited patiently. Rodney would explain himself soon enough.
"So, when were you going to tell me?"
Carson was starting to wonder if he needed to run a CT on the other man. "Tell you what?"
"'Tell me what?' Come on, Carson! I told you about Katie. You could have told me. I thought we were friends." Rodney was staring at Carson, daring him to deny that he knew exactly what he was talking about.
"Told you what, Rodney? I haven't a bloody clue what you're on about!" Carson yelled, his patience with McKay's nonsense reaching a quick end.
Rodney looked back and forth as if expecting the mice in the corner to over-hear and pass gossip. "You're screwing around with John Sheppard!" he hissed.
Carson felt distinctly lightheaded and somewhat sick. "Excuse me?"
"Teyla told me. She said –"
Carson held up a hand, "Wait, wait… Teyla told you I was… What did she say exactly?" He started to see exactly how their breakfast conversation could have morphed into… into Rodney standing around ranting because Carson hadn't mentioned that he was sleeping with John Sheppard. When he was doing no such thing. Except literally. Carson's head started to throb.
"I saw her come in at breakfast, she asked if I'd seen you. I said I didn't. When I saw her again this afternoon I asked her if she'd found you and she said that she had and that you were late because you'd been sleeping with Major Sheppard."
"Colonel," Carson corrected instinctively.
"Whatever!" Rodney screamed.
Carson sighed wondering how many people had heard this rumor and how much damage control he needed to do. He sighed again. This was going to get messy. "Rodney, calm down before you give yourself some kind of aneurysm," he said. Trying to wrangle his thoughts under control with Rodney flapping around like a teenager with bathroom-wall gossip was turning his headache into a full-blown migraine.
"Aneurysm? Seriously? I could do that?" Rodney's hands flew to his chest then to his head.
Carson just rolled his eyes. "I am not," he said slowly, only planning to explain this Rodney once, "not having sex with John Sheppard. I slept over there last night. I fell asleep. On the sofa. He left me to get some rest. That's why I was late to meet up with Teyla – he doesn't use an alarm clock and he got up and left without waking me, so I overslept. I slept with… no, I'm not even saying it that way. I fell asleep over there. That was all."
Rodney looked completely deflated. "Oh. You know that's not nearly as interesting as the way Teyla made it sound."
Still feeling somewhat mortified, Carson muttered, "Yes, well, no one ever said my life was interesting."
Rodney actually looked like he felt bad and Carson wanted to say something to get that look off his face. It wasn't Rodney's fault that Teyla misspoke or he misinterpreted and it wasn't his fault that he was sorely wishing that there'd been some truth to Rodney's rumor.
"Oh my god," Rodney whispered, his previously animated form now slumped over the stool. "Nothing did happen… but that's not to say that you weren't hoping otherwise?"
Carson rolled his eyes, "Rodney…"
"No, no, I get it now. You want to… with…"
"Rodney, stop. Alright? There's nothing going to come of it, so just stop. Please." Carson hadn't meant to sound so plaintive. He didn't need McKay making fun of him. The only thing worse than having an unrequited crush was having a friend who knew you had an unrequited crush. Especially one who talked as much as Rodney McKay.
"You seem awfully sure of that," Rodney said, studying his friend.
"He's U.S. military, Rodney, so…" Carson shrugged, letting Rodney fill in the end of his sentence.
"He doesn't care about that."
"Oh, and you know." Carson said acerbically as he got up and moved to the small lab sink and started rinsing out test tubes just to that he didn't have to look at the almost-pitiful look Rodney was giving him.
"I do know. We've talked about it." Rodney moved into the more comfortable chair Carson had vacated.
"You talked to him – about – you talked –" Carson knew he was stuttering, but couldn't seem to get a full thought out.
"Not about you," Rodney said with a roll of his eyes that clearly said that he couldn't believe Carson thought he could be that cruel. "Just in general. It started when Peter Grodin started dating that marine girl. The blond one with the big –"
"Rodney!" Carson knew whom he was talking about and cut him off before it got vulgar.
"Anyway, we were talking one day about how if we were, you know, stuck here indefinitely that people would eventually start forming relationships. And we were talking about what do we do if it's a military and non-military person together? What if it's people in the same chain of command? " Rodney wound up with, "What if it turned into an issue of 'don't ask don't tell'?"
Carson put the cleaned test tubes into the rack that would go into the sterilizer. "And?" he said when Rodney didn't seem to be getting to the point.
"And he said that as long as it's not causing trouble at work, as long as no one's being pressured into something by a superior officer or something, he doesn't give a damn who's doing who." Rodney had picked up the small jar of hard candies from the corner of Carson's desk and was fiddling with the way the light bounced off the few bits of decorative metal.
"Yes, well, that's all well and good, but that doesn't actually mean that he's interested in men in general or me in specific." Carson rinsed out the second set of tubes and shook them so hard that one slid out of his wet hand and smashed into the wall.
Rodney bolted up, staring at the mess and shaking his head.
Carson sighed and grabbed a pair of thick rubber gloves used for handling hot glassware and started picking up the pieces out of the sink.
Rodney put the candy dish down after helping himself to a peppermint and stood behind Carson. "Look, I may be talking out my ass, we both know people aren't my thing, but I was there when you got sick on that planet and I was in the Daedalus' infirmary with him… Let's just say that if I were you, I wouldn't give up." Rodney squeezed his shoulder and left him to think and clean up the splinters.
Carson wondered which was going to be harder. Cleaning up the aftermath of Rodney's rumor or keeping Rodney from trying to clean it up… with the truth. He finished rinsing the last of the glass splinters down the drain, glad that at least one mess was fairly self-contained.
As for the other… At least he knew where he had to start.
"Ah, Colonel," Carson said as John stepped into the lab. "Thanks for stopping by."
"No big deal. Something wrong?"
Carson indicated the stool Rodney had left near the desk as he took a seat. "There seems to be a little bit of a problem."
John leaned forward, propping his elbow on the edge of the desk. "Something wrong with my bloodwork or –"
"You bloodwork?" Carson asked, his mind so singularly focused on Rodney's little rumor that he'd forgotten for the moment that when most people were called in to talk to a doctor, it was about something medical. "Oh, no, nothing like that. Nothing like that at all." He was babbling, he knew, but he couldn't find the words to explain what he needed to.
John suddenly grinned at him, "Oh! Then this is about McKay going around telling everyone we're sleeping together?"
Carson couldn't reckon the bright, sunny grin with John already knowing about Rodney and Teyla and the whole damn mess. He'd expected John to be furious and demanding that they both put and end to this nonsense once and for all. "So you've heard about that?" he asked meekly, no longer sure what to expect and trying extraordinarily hard not to allow the fact that John wasn't pissed let him start thinking that Rodney was on to something.
John sobered a little and took a deep breath, before going out on a limb, "I'm sorry… it didn't bother me. I guess I didn't stop to think that it might bother you. I've been accused of way worse than sleeping with an attractive guy before. So when McKay went all, 'aren't we teammates and don't teammates tell each other everything?' on me I just gave him real non-committal answers. Just to see what he'd do. I meant to wind up McKay, not you. I'm sorry, I should have thought…" John reached forward and put a hand on Carson's arm.
Carson was still wrapping his brain around the idea that John had said he was attractive and that he wasn't disturbed by the idea that people might think there was something between them.
"Well," he finally said, blushing, "You did a good job of it at that. You should have seen him in here, accusing me of keeping secrets from him and spouting all kinds of nonsense."
John grinned. "So we're good."
Carson smiled back, "Oh, aye. We're good."
John started for the door, but turned back before it could close behind him. "By the way, I still have that movie."
Carson smiled. He'd certainly had worse days.