John had invited him to a couple of holes of virtual golf, and since Carson had left early that morning to check on some tissue cultures he had incubating in his genetics lab, Rodney figured - why not? Carson said he would meet him for lunch on the west pier.
“You need the sunlight,” Carson had said that morning. “You look as pale as a ghost, and I bet your vitamin D3 levels are deficient.”
“I’m fine,” Rodney had countered. “Just give me a supplement.”
“Why would I do that when there is perfectly good sunshine just outside the doors?”
“The UV index of this planet is…”
“Perfectly safe under moderate exposure. Now quit your bloody moanin’ and meet me on the dock.” Carson had marched out the door of their rooms without another word.
So, with that argument duly lost, Rodney took solace by hacking at a pixelated golf ball over a virtual Pebble Beach golf course. However, the consolation was more bitter than sweet when Sheppard beat him in fourteen out of eighteen holes and tied him at three.
“You want to go again?” John asked as he set up the program for a rematch. “It doesn’t have to be eighteen. We can do nine holes or even….”
“No,” Rodney answered as he stepped away from the console. “I have a lunch date with Carson. I can’t be late.”
“Sure you can,” Sheppard said nonchalantly. “He won’t care.”
“Yes.” Rodney frowned. “Yes, he will care. You don’t know Carson like I know Carson.”
Sheppard spun about on his chair and looked at Rodney with a mild smirk. “Seriously? Carson got you on a short leash these days?”
“No!” Rodney exploded indignantly. He then grimaced and shifted uneasily on his feet. “Well…”
“Come on, Rodney,” Sheppard said sternly. “Spit it out. How’s this thing working for you and him? If there’s trouble, it better not get in the way of job performance.”
“Nonono, nothing like that,” Rodney reassured. He hesitated again looking abundantly uncomfortable.
John voice switched from stern to compassionate. “You know you can tell me, Rodney. I’m your friend.”
“I don’t know,” Rodney said in a defeated tone. “There are times when I feel so crowded by him, and then there are times when I feel like my life is just so much better with him. It gets confusing. Somedays I alternate between wanting to kiss him senseless and wanting to strangle him with his own stethoscope.”
John sat back in his seat and regarded Rodney thoughtfully. “You know, I think that may actually be the sign of a healthy relationship. The day that the latter of those two impulses wins should be the day to worry. That should be a comfort.”
Rodney gave John a withering stare. “Thank you Dr. Ruth.”
“Hey, I’m just sayin’.” John shrugged. “Look, McKay, I failed at relationship 101; so I’m hardly one to pass judgement. All I know is that since you two have been together, you both have seemed… more at peace, I guess.”
“Yeah,” John said. “Like, just knowing you have someone there who totally gets you is a nice way to come home at the end of the day. I guess it comes with its negatives, like most good things.”
Rodney sighed softly and let his tense posture relax a bit. “Can you keep a secret?”
“No,” John said precipitously.
“I want to raise a child with Carson.”
John’s eyebrows raised at this comment. “That’s a big step, Rodney.”
“I know,” Rodney replied. He could feel the tingle and heat of a blush coming to his face as he smiled sheepishly at Sheppard. “I’ve just never been in a relationship that felt so… right,” he added. “I think we can do it.”
John smiled at him. “Well then you better get your ass out of here and off to see Carson for lunch. Sounds like you have big things to discuss.”
Rodney nodded with a big smile. He pulled his radio off of his ear and tossed it to the counter. He then turned to leave, bumping into Teyla as she was advancing through the door. He moved her carefully out of his way as he passed.
“No time to talk!” he said cheerfully as he left her standing at the door way.
Carson was waiting for him on the west dock, sitting at an edge with a picnic lunch spread out next to him. The air outside was brisk but not too chilly. It felt a little like autumn, but the sea breeze suggested that maybe it was just a brief cold front rolling through. The fast moving abundance of clouds in the sky seemed to suggest the same.
Rodney smiled as he saw Carson turn to greet him.
“Hey,” Rodney said as he came to a stop before the picnic lunch. He looked down on the spread appreciatively. “Oh yes! Chickpeas and olives salad, Strawberries and pulled buffalo chicken sandwiches! How do you always guess what I want to eat?”
“You are not that hard to please, really,” Carson replied truthfully. “You would have been excited if I brought out two MREs and a packet of crisp.” But he did smile lovingly up at Rodney.
“Ha ha ha,” Rodney said flatly. “I guess I should….”
Before Rodney could finish his sentence, the citywide emergency siren began to sound. Rodney whirled around in surprise looking back down the path he had just come. He was in time to see the bay doors slam shut with an air of finality that made him feel a small spike of panic travel from his gut to his throat.
They could still hear the alarms sounding indoors. Carson stood from where he was sitting and together they raced back to the doors. Rodney immediately tried to use the hand access release. The door didn’t move. Carson threw himself against the doors, pulling at the edges of the center indentation to try to pry them apart.
“They won’t budge,” he exclaimed as he tried again.
“Of course they won’t,” Rodney said in exasperated agitation. “This is a lockdown. It has to be a lockdown. There must have been another outbreak. The city has gone into quarantine.”
“Another outbreak?” Carson said looking back at Rodney. His voice had climbed and octave and Rodney knew from experience that that was not a good thing. Carson was clearly dancing between being angry and being alarmed. “How the bloody hell can that be? The last Marines that suffered have been clear of contagion for close to four weeks and the Kirsan fever has a fourteen hour incubation period.”
“I don’t know. Maybe it was someone who recently traveled. Maybe the strain mutated again!” Rodney practically shouted back at him. He then stopped, freezing in place as he often did when his thought processes crowded and coalesced around ideas and solutions.
“I left my radio,” he said at last.
Carson stopped working at the doors and looked at him. Carson then touched his own radio ear piece to activate it.
“Beckett to Dr. Keller…” There was silence. “Beckett to Col. Carter… Beckett to Col. Sheppard…”
“Here!” Rodney grabbed for the radio and pulled it out of Carson’s ear abruptly.
“Ow!” Carson scowled at Rodney as Rodney fit the ear piece into his own ear.
“Dr. McKay to Col. Sheppard… Dr. McKay to Col. Sheppard….” Still silence. “Dr. McKay to Dr. Zelenka…”
“I know quarantine lock down is supposed to isolate people physically, but why would communications be down too?” Carson asked. “That doesn’t make bloody sense at all.”
Rodney turned away in anger with himself and the situation. “I tightened and adjusted the quarantine protocols after the fiasco of the Kirsan Fever,” he said. “I just tweaked them a bit so we wouldn’t get caught off guard again.”
“So you fiddled with the city’s quarantine system? When did you do this, Rodney?” Carson asked critically.
Rodney sighed in frustration, turning back to Carson. “I just finished it last week.”
“Great! Brilliant! I suppose you manage to go a tad overboard on the tightening?” Carson exclaimed in aggravation.
“Oh come on! The next big outbreak that the city sensors didn’t catch would be all my fault. You know that!” Rodney yelled back. “And when you are up to your neck in sick people, you’d be the first person to grumble, ‘stupid bloody Rodney can’t keep the city systems working to save our asses!’”
“Damn it, Rodney, stop with the drama,” Carson yelled back. “Let’s just try to think of a way to get back inside.”
Rodney turned away from Carson feeling totally incensed at this point. “Is this how it’s always going to be with us? Every time I fail miserably you’ll be there with the cattle prod and the salt to rub in my wounds?” he shouted. “Thanks for the support, Dr. Guilt-trip. I’ll see if I can free up some time on my social schedule of pity parties.”
“Rodney!” Carson growled in an irritated tone.
“You can clearly see, I’m not good enough to solve all the problems that this huge, technologically sophisticated rat-trap has to throw at us! But you’ll be there right, by my side to roll your eyes at me and tell me how much of a total screw up I am!” Rodney yelled angrily as he looked back at Carson.
Carson froze for a moment as Rodney watched him. Then something changed and softened in his expression. Carson touched his arm, taking a hold of him. He turned Rodney back towards him. “No, love,” he said gently.
Rodney looked up into his eyes in surprise.
Carson pulled him into his arms and embraced him hard. Rodney let go of his anger as he laid his head on Carson’s shoulder.
“Every time I think I hate you, I wind of being in love with you again,” Rodney said.
“It happens that fast sometimes, I know,” Carson agreed. He began to rub Rodney’s back. “Maybe we should eat a little lunch.”
Rodney pulled his head off Carson shoulder to look at him skeptically.
“You know yourself that you work better when you have fuel in the tank. The whole bloody 'rat-trap' of a city isn’t goin’ anywhere and neither are we. Might as well keep up our strength.”
Rodney’s frown lifted to a small smile. “You always know….”
“What’s that now?” Carson asked.
“How to make everything a little better,” Rodney replied.
They moved their picnic lunch closer to the bay doors just in case. They ate in silence, and they both didn’t eat very much. The anxiety had sapped Rodney’s appetite and he was sure it had affected Carson’s too. By his reckoning, they had been locked out for just a little over three hours now. And there was no way of knowing what was being done to correct the situation.
“There are walk ways about the city’s outer plazas?” Carson asked.
“Yes, but that just means we can stroll about the outside of the city and take in the sights,” Rodney replied.
“The Jumper bay access portal?” Carson suggested.
“Central tower, over twenty stories up,” Rodney replied pointing straight up in the air. “Probably an hour and a half walk from here and then a completely vertical climb on titanium and polished stone.”
Carson looked at Rodney and sighed. “I need to get in there. If it is a medical emergency, if there is an outbreak, I need to do my job.”
Rodney’s mind was running over every possible scenario and seeing nothing but bleak outcomes, but he looked over at Carson who was looking longingly back at the doors. He needed to be in there, and Rodney knew that was true. It wasn’t just because the city needed Carson but because Carson needed to be needed. It was what fueled him. It was why his job was his passion as well. He couldn’t sit idly by while he could be helping and doing. This forced inactivity during what might be a medical crisis must be sheer torture for him.
Rodney reached over and took his hand. “Let’s not think about it for a little while.” Rodney tried to smile. “It’s like you said, the city isn’t going anywhere and neither are we.”
Carson chuckled softly at this and squeezed Rodney’s hand.
“Maybe we should just talk for a bit... you know, get our minds off of it,” Rodney added.
“Ok,” Carson said. “What shall we talk about?”
Rodney opened his mouth, and then hesitated, closing it again. The first thing that came to mind was what he had told Sheppard earlier, but he wasn’t sure if he was really ready to share that dream yet. Since he had reconciled with his sister and met his adorable, young niece, it had occurred to Rodney that maybe he did want to someday become a father. However, he didn’t know how Carson felt about the subject. Carson came from a big family; so the chaos of family life was nothing new to him. But that was coming from the wrong perspective. It was one thing to be a child and another to be a parent. One was the source of the chaos and the other one was the regulator of control.
What if Carson didn’t want children? That thought made Rodney feel just a little uneasy and a little more reluctant. He wanted to share his notion with Carson but the idea of its rejection made him feel a bit uncomfortable. He began to fidget as he sat, hovering in indecision. However, as he looked at Carson he knew that Carson knew he was nervous. He would have to come clean.
“What is it, Rodney?” Carson asked, regarding him thoughtfully.
Well, the only way he would ever know for certain was to ask.
“I was thinking… about someday…. Not today, of course. You know, the future…. We could raise a child? Together?” Rodney then braced himself for the reply.
Carson didn’t say a word. He just looked at Rodney in a manner in which Rodney knew was him being shocked beyond words.
“Like I said,” Rodney added in a quick, desperate rush of words to fill the void. “It wouldn’t be right away… I mean, there will probably be a time in the future when we’ll be ready. And… and there are a lot of orphans in this galaxy… and in our galaxy. It doesn’t have to be a little baby… but I don’t want to start with a teenager either… although, if the teenager seemed smart enough and was a good fit, I guess it would be okay. Or we could just take what we can get… you know that old saying: beggars can’t be choosers… It's not like with all the love-making we do we’re going to make a baby together…”
“Actually, I’ve been thinking on that,” Carson broke in to Rodney’s ramble in a soft, thoughtful tone.
“Huh? What?” Rodney looked at him in sudden surprise.
“It may be possible,” Carson said, “to make a baby. Of course we would need the help of one of our close female relatives, your sister Jeannie or maybe my sister Beth.”
“Are you talking about surrogates?”
“No, not like that,” Carson went on thoughtfully. “Let say for example, your sister Jeannie allows us to harvest her eggs. It would not be too terribly difficult to extract the genetic material out of the ovum’s nucleus. We would replace it with the genetic material from one of your sperm.”
Rodney noted optimistically that Carson was now talking in lecture mode which meant he was in his element and well warmed up for some brilliance.
“We would use Jeannie’s eggs because of the mitochondria DNA,” Carson continued. “As you know, the ovum contains all of the mitochondria to be used by the developing zygote and will become all the mitochondria present in the cells of the fetus for its whole life. The mother is the only donor of mitochondria. That means the mitochondria present in you is the very same that is present in Jeannie, given to you both by your mum.
“Self recognizes self, so the best fit for haploid genetic replacement in the ovum would be the haploid genetic material in the nucleus of a male sibling’s sperm. With that accomplished, it would be only a matter of in vitro fertilization.” Carson finished looking at Rodney.
“How would you accommodate for sex determination?” Rodney asked. “You’d be playing with Xs and Ys when it comes to my sperm. I don’t think a Y gamete ovum would turn out well if a Y gamete sperm wins the race.”
“There are very very slight differences in spermatozoa size and speed between X carriers and Y carriers. We would work only with potential Xs with both sperm donors to assure viability.”
“So we could have a little girl.” Rodney smiled at this thought.
“Aye, that would be the safest bet.”
“Could you really do it? I mean replace a whole nucleus’ genetic material without significant genetic damage?”
“I believe so. Removing and replacing the nucleosomes and chromatids would be less like the threading-the-needle work that I do when I replace base pair sequences in retro viral RNA to insert whole locus on just one or two alleles in a chromosome. The resulting gametes may be a little less stable, but feasibly viable.”
Rodney looked at Carson in complete and utter awe. It was times like these when Rodney could appreciate just how extraordinarily brilliant Carson was, and how out of all the beings in this universe, no one was a better fit for him intellectually. However, the moment was disrupted and they both flinched, startled when a new alarm siren began to sound. They both stood from their seats and looked back at the doors.
“Oh no!” Rodney said in a small, dismayed voice.
“Isn’t that the city’s self-destruct alarm?” Carson asked a little shakily.
“Yes,” Rodney replied in despair.
After about ten solid minutes of the self-destruct alert, the alarm suddenly ceased. Carson looked at Rodney expectantly and Rodney looked back, still frowning.
“That might be a good sign,” Carson said hopefully.
“Yes, or that might just mean that the people in the Control Room got sick of hearing that alarm and put it on mute.”
“How long do we have?” Carson asked.
Rodney shook his head dejectedly. “It’s hard to say. The shortest amount of time it can be set for is three minutes. The longest amount is forty eight hours. I think we can safely say that the three minute option has been eliminated. Without access to a computer interface, we may never know.”
The gentle tone of Carson’s voice captured Rodney’s attention immediately. He turned himself to look at him completely. Carson took both of Rodney’s hands into his own.
“Since the day I meant you, you’ve taken hold of my life and my dreams. I never knew I could be so wonderfully and madly consumed by another soul,” Carson continued. “I just want to apologize. Sometimes I feel you are so much a part of me, I see you as an extension of myself. Sometimes I think that’s why I can be a little hard on you. I want to hold you to standards of behavior that are my own personal ones. But you’re not me, love. You are you, and I love you just as you are.”
“Don’t do this, Carson,” Rodney said softly. “Don’t give up. You’re the one who’s supposed to stay hopeful while I fall apart and moan about the monumental unfairness of it all, like a full-on human version of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.”
Carson smiled at him gently, showing Rodney those adorable dimples he enjoyed so well. Rodney could not resist. He kissed Carson deeply and passionately, letting his tongue slip hungrily into Carson’s mouth to taste him. He still tasted like comfort and the color blue and all the things that made Rodney’s heart smile.
They ended the kiss and Carson reached up to tenderly touch Rodney’s face.
“I don’t know about this ‘me being the hopeful one’ crap,” Carson said. “I’ve been known to panic in a mighty fine form, from time to time.”
“I always see hope in those eyes,” Rodney said softly. “Even when your voice goes up an octave.”
“You would make a fine and bonny father someday, Rodney,” Carson said, stroking his cheek tenderly. “If we live to see past the next forty eight hours, I would love to raise a child with you.”
“Technically it would be forty seven hours, thirty six minutes and…” Rodney checked his watch. “Ten seconds.” He then cupped Carson’s face in his own hands. “You make everything better… even imminent and unstoppable doom.”
They kissed again. They kissed for a while, and Rodney began to wonder if he could convince Carson to allow them a 'quickie' before they were blown to bits. He had just ended the kiss and was about to ask when they both heard the sound of the city powering down abruptly.
Rodney looked up at the doors expectantly. “What was that?”
They were still for a long moment more, just looking at the doors that were locking them out. Then there was a whooshing sound of the power being restored. In the next thirty seconds, the bay doors slowly opened revealing the inner corridors of the city.
“Oh!” Rodney said.
Radek Zelenka had apparently saved the day. Rodney went with Carson to the main infirmary simply because it was on the way to the Control Room. They had met with Col. Carter on their way there. She informed them of Radek’s apparent heroics. Sheppard was going to meet with Radek in the central power core and see how he was doing. The computers were up and the self-destruct was cancelled but communications was still partially down over most of the city.
When they reached the infirmary, they were met by two severely dented walls, a heavy mobile scan unit on its side, a wrecked pharmacy cabinet, and one oxygen tank damaged beyond repair. In the middle of the disarray stood Jennifer Keller looking very sheepish at Carson. Ronon Dex hung about close by just looking nonchalant and yet he seemed to hover just a little too close over Keller.
“My hospital!” Carson gasped. His voice had gone up that critical octave.
Col. Carter accompanied Rodney back to the Control Room to assess the overall damage and try to get the systems back on line, including long range scanner which were critical now after the city’s automated beacon had been activated. Samantha also informed Rodney along the way that the malfunction was not due to anything Rodney had done but by a radiation spike of the system’s sun that created an intense magnetic storm in the planet’s ionosphere.
As soon as she said it, Rodney began to brainstorm work-arounds to predict critical spikes and shut down certain system in a rolling sequence to protect from overloads that could disrupt city sensors. He immediately began to bounce those ideas off Samantha who responded quickly, helping him to refine and hone in on critical and necessary system protocols they could put in place. The rest of Rodney’s day was consumed by that.
That evening, however, he came back to the rooms he shared with Carson holding a commissary insulated carry bag with dinner. He knew Carson had already left from the infirmary and labs for the day. He had called the infirmary as soon as he established communications between there and the control room. Keller was just on her way out as well, but she told him that Carson had planned on checking his samples one last time and then heading out.
Carson arrived at their rooms only a few minute later than Rodney.
“Hey,” Rodney said.
“Hello, love,” Carson replied with a gentle smile. They stepped into each other’s arms for a sweet, brief kiss.
“I’ve got dinner,” Rodney said.
“Oh, aye, that’s a blessing,” Carson sighed. “I’m too exhausted to go back out.”
Carson stepped over to their shared office space and opened his work station computer there. He leaned over it and began to type.
“Let me send these emails out… Bloody infirmary is a shambles after Jennifer and Ronon decided to reenact the final scene of the movie ‘Jaws.’ It’ll be a good week and a half to get it all sorted out.” Then he stopped typing and smiled, looking up at Rodney. “But something nice came out of it.”
“Something nice?” Rodney said skeptically. “Like what? Ronon learned the term contributory criminal negligence?”
Carson frowned at Rodney and shook his head. “No.” But then he continued with a small chuckle. “Although, I never knew Jennifer would pull such a wild stunt. Ronon has quite the influence on her. I believe they may have had a moment.”
“What moment?” Rodney frowned.
“A romantic moment,” Carson replied looking both amused and mildly exasperated by Rodney’s apparent obtuseness on the subject.
“That’s disturbing,” Rodney replied.
“And why?” Carson asked looking a little perplexed.
“If the two of them can do that much damage to the infirmary when they were only alone together for four and a half hours, imagine the havoc they will wreak together if they start to see each other regularly,” Rodney replied.
Carson laughed and Rodney smiled seeing him laughing at what he said. He stepped over to Carson.
“Look, Carson,” Rodney said sobering. “I just want you to know something.”
“Rodney?” Carson said, looking into his eyes.
Rodney looked away from that sincere gaze feeling a little unworthy of the love he saw there. “You know, sometimes I say things. In my mind they sound really clever and funny and lucid, but after they leave my mouth, sometimes I realize they just sound mean-spirited and hurtful. I don’t have a really good brain to mouth filter I guess. I just wanted you to know that I never meant to hurt you or call you names… or accuse you of things that I know you are probably not doing to me... at least not on purpose…. I’m… I’m sorry.”
“Oh, love,” Carson whispered and pulled Rodney into his arms.
“Did you really mean what you said about us raising a child together?” Rodney asked as he nuzzled the side of Carson’s neck.
“Of course I did,” Carson replied.
“Is the having a ‘genetically ours’ baby something that may be on the table someday?” Rodney asked.
“It would be very difficult and require the full cooperation of one of our sisters. Ova harvesting is not a pleasant process to endure and can leave a woman infertile in some cases. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is a nasty side effect that can be caused by the medications used to cause hyperovulation. The whole process has its fair share of risk. And then we would have to find a surrogate to carry the fetus.”
“Ok, off the table,” Rodney said.
“For now,” Carson added. “Let me think on the problem some more.”
“No rush,” Rodney said.
“Aye, there’s no rush,” Carson agreed. “Let’s just work on here and now… and dinner.”
“Great, I’m starved,” Rodney said pulling out of the embrace. He went to the table where he left the insulated bag. “They had some sort of sweet and sour chicken and that was just disappointing. It smelled fantastic but I’m almost positive it has citrus. Why can’t the commissary make one decent chicken dish without squeezing a lemon all over it. They hate me. I know it.”
Carson came over to join him as he pulled the two covered containers out. He laughed softly as he rubbed Rodney’s back tenderly in solace.
“So I got the enchilada meal for myself and picked up a sweet and sour chicken for you. But I bet whoever packed this wasn’t paying attention and there will probably sweet and sour glaze in my enchilada’s chili sauce. It's only fortunate for me that my significant-other can save me from the severe anaphylactic shock I'll soon experience.”
Carson laughed again. “Aye, we do have quite a bit to work on, now do we, Eeyore?”
Rodney looked at him with a frown that quickly turned into a smile. “Ha! I imagine we do.”
Rodney recalled what Sheppard had said earlier. Maybe he had been right. Maybe Rodney did feel more at peace just knowing he had Carson, someone who totally understood him. It was a nice way to come home at the end of the day.