*Disclaimer – I do not own Stargate or any of its wonderful characters.*
Dr. Carson Beckett wearily rubbed his neck and blearily sought out the time on the wall. To his left, in mocking red letters, flashed the time 9:05. Carson sighed heavily; tonight's shift was scheduled until 11. Carson looked lovingly at his empty coffee mug and mournfully sighed. Sadly, no one would be bringing him a refill for at least another hour. After all, if he was going to keep telling the science department to respect the city's coffee rations it wouldn't do to be caught over indulging himself. Besides, tired as Carson was, he knew he only had himself to blame.
Yesterday had been a long day. Carson still wasn't sure whose brilliant idea it had been to mandate that all newer Lantean transfers, participate in combat training with Teyla and Ronon, but he was bloody well ready to strangle said anonymous idiot or prescribe them a few personal rounds of instruction with Teyla and Ronon!
Having found themselves in a rare quiet spell, many of the expedition's more experienced members had fallen victim to one of the most severe cases of cabin fever Carson had ever had the misfortune to witness. Prank wars, intramurals, and even the random flash mobs, which had been spotted throughout the city, had not managed to stem the overwhelming boredom which prevailed throughout the city. As a result, when the Daedalus arrived with a fresh batch of transfers, the entire city had launched themselves at the novelty of anything "new". Before they even had time to stow their gear, the new military personnel had found themselves being eagerly ushered into the gym for an advanced taste of their new fitness regime.
Needless to say, Carson had found himself having to call in extra nurses to deal with the subsequent overflow. To make matters worse, when Carson had gone upstairs to politely remind the involved parties that the point was to prepare, not pound, he had found Ronon eyeing up a pathetically shaking Kavanaugh, who had the misfortune of wandering in, with his already overdue departmental requisition forms for his department and seeking Rodney's signature. Afterwards, Ronon swore he was only messing with Kavanaugh, the gleam in his eyes though . . . . Bah, at this rate Carson was going to have to move up his fishing trip, he needed the vacation.
Carson looked over to where some of the more unfortunate trainees still lay, recovering peacefully from dislocated joints and one unfortunate concussion. He knew he could have, technically, released his patients earlier today but the lads seemed comfortable. Beds were in low demand right now and deep down; Carson felt a protectiveness for the newer expedition members that rivaled his care for SGA-1. Tonight he would let them sleep. Oh, sleep, aye that sounded glorious right now.
Ah well, t'was his own foolishness that found him in this predicament, as a grown man and possibly one of the few sane people left in the city, he needed to face up to the consequences of his own decisions. Following his wonderful shift of stitching up soldiers, Zelenka had popped down to invite him to geek movie night. Now, Carson was a proud member of the SGA-1 movie night, but geek night was the Holy Grail for all Lantean nerds. Geek night meant series marathons, dissecting plot lines, technical errors, continuity mix ups, and commenting on alien pronunciation, although this one had seen far more leeway as their experience in Pegasus grew, to Carson's inner geek it was heaven. Add to that, the fact that Zelenka had waved the Lord of the Rings extended version DVD's in his face, Carson knew he could not say no.
Oh what a night it had been. In addition to Drs. Biro, Kusanagi, Parrish, and Laura Cadman, Katie Brown, Rodney, Zelenka and himself all from the SGA-1 movie group, had also made appearances, and all were excited for the night's entertainment. There was popcorn fresh from the Daedalus, something vaguely recognizable from Zelenka's still, and plenty of good discussion regarding visual effects, book to movie inconsistencies, and hypothetical situations based on race lore and their survivability in daily Pegasus life. More than anything Carson had enjoyed the chance to sit back and relax amongst his colleagues and friends, basking in the freedom of a few hours without worrying which one would be the next to return to his infirmary on the brink of death yet again.
The biggest downfall to the evening had, sadly, been its length. By the time the credits had rolled and the conversation had quieted, the now weary group realized that the night was past and today's shifts had somehow managed to silently sneak up on the small group. Many now faced the reality of a shift fueled solely by adrenaline and caffeine. Carson, on the other hand, had been one of the luckier ones, finding himself with the 3-11 shift. As a result, he had managed to not only grab five hours of sleep but had also scrounged the time to enjoy a blessedly hot shower and a surprisingly edible meal.
However, five hours does not refresh a worn out body. Carson rolled his eyes at the irony of being caught in the very situation he often berated Rodney for landing himself in. After a full shift of increasingly reckless 'cabin fever' injuries, seriously how does a knitting lesson break out into an all out duel, Carson was regarding the last minuscule drop of coffee in his mug with increasing longing.
Quietly glancing back towards the clock, Carson audibly groaned to see 9:15 flashing at him, mocking him. Would this shift never end? Carson laid his head on his arms and considered banging his head upon the desk a few dozen times to help pass the time. Melissa, the sole nurse on duty with him, smirk in an attempted sympathy before wandering off to clean bedpans.
As Carson lay on his desk, he found himself suddenly overwhelmed, that aroma, the bitter scent filling his nostrils, could it be? Somebody had fresh, hot coffee in his infirmary!
"Eh hem? Dr. Beckett? Sir?"
It was a goddess, a vision of beauty with two mugs of glorious coffee; it was Kaylee Frye from Serenity?
The young women was a picture of nervousness "I'm really sorry to disturb you Doctor, but everyone said you'd be down here and you didn't make it to orientation and I was hoping to meet you before my first shift tomorrow. I brought coffee." She gave a helpless shrug and sat the mug on Carson's desk.
"Bless you lass, but if you don't mind me asking, you're not a hallucination are ye?" Carson's hands had already encircled the mug and he was inhaling deeply while gazing half-awed at his fantasy crush, in the flesh. "Wait a wee minute, if ye are a figment of me exhausted brain could you wait until after I've finished this glorious, though potentially imaginary coffee, to ruin my unexpected moment of joy?"
"Right, a Colonel Sheppard and Doctor Meredith, you know, I'm not convinced that's actually the man's name, although a pleasant scientist with a Czech accent assured me it was. They all seemed a little too excited for me to call the man by that name, you know. I mean, the Colonel kept smirking at me, like there was some big joke. Anyways, they warned me you might ask some odd questions, said it was a hazard of the job." Her face scrunched in concentration. "Still . . . I have to admit being called a hallucination is kind of a new thing for me."
"I'm sorry lass. We don't get a lot of new faces around here, transfers being kept to a minimum due to the highly specialized nature of our work and such. I mean, between the gene, our long-term research, and the obvious distance and logistical issues, it just isn't practical to rotate staff as often as you may see on Earth. Besides, you are just the sort of wonderful loveliness my tired brain would dredge up to keep me company,"
"Alright then" the woman blushed slightly, reddening her very confused and skeptical features. "I think I've decided to take that as a compliment."
"Aye, that's what I meant it to be; not in a creepy manner, or, I mean, not to be offensive" Carson shook his head in an attempt to clear it and hopefully end his tired rambling. Pausing suddenly, Carson's face became alert and his eyes narrowed "If you're not a hallucination, do ye mind telling me who ye really are? Oh no, I've done it again. . . . I've been talking to an alien." Carson's face grew panicked as he jumped to his feet. "I've gone and blown it now, and after the Lucius incident, I mean. Ach, Dr. Weir is going to kill me, if Colonel Sheppard leaves anything for her to find." Carson buried his face in his hands.
Now it was the woman's turn to jump back in fear "No, no, Doctor. You have it all wrong. I'm not an alien. I'm Dr. Jennifer Keller, the new medical transfer. I arrived yesterday . . . on the Daedalus." Dr. Keller began to wring her hands "I was going to introduce myself yesterday but then the whole training session fiasco happened and things were so chaotic. So I decided to try again this morning but I, um, sort of overslept. I'm assuming it's just the release of actually having arrived and being done with all the preparation, my body catching up and all. I'm usually punctual, honest. I'd never miss a shift or something without a good reason. So, I came now. I hoped the coffee might smooth the introductions, maybe?"
Carson had slowly calmed down during Keller's fumbled explanations and was now feeling like a total idiot. Not only had he thought one of his subordinates was a fantasy but he stood there like a complete fool while she apologized for his failure. This needed to be ended now.
"Tis okay lass, calm down a wee bit, I'm not going to bite you" Dr. Keller smiled tentatively at his remark but didn't relax. "I'm the CMO here; the fact that we weren't properly introduced is a terrible oversight on my part, not yours. I hope you'll forgive me ill manners. Now calm yourself before my nurse begins to mistake you for Dr . . . Meredith." Carson tried hard not to snicker, he knew that John, Zelenka and himself would probably lose hot water for a week over this one, but Rodney had been rather smug regarding the supposed superiority of Arwen over Eowyn in last night's debate. Rodney must realize he had something coming to him in retaliation and this was too tempting to pass up. If worse came to worse, Carson could always snag a few showers here in the infirmary.
Carson, now mostly renewed by the infusion of java, stopped to take another good look at the young woman who was now finally beginning to relax, before him. Thinking back to his first assessment, Carson quickly realized the reason for his earlier confusion and exhaustion wasn't the only culprit. The lass was the spitting image of Kaylee. Why, Dr. Keller could easily pass for the identical twin of his favourite young television mechanic. Carson's mind went back to his defense of the young girl a few weeks prior at movie night. Suddenly, remembering his friends reactions to his accidentally revealed crush, Carson began to wonder if John's earlier smirks had been at Rodney's, Keller's, or his own expense. How could he have hired this vision of beauty and not remembered?
Carson's mind quickly sought out the last round of medical profiles he and Dr. Weir had sorted through in the New Year. One candidate had shone above the rest. Obviously brilliant, wonderful credentials, pleasant personality, ah the lass had some vertigo but it wasn't like he sent his staff out of the city on a regular basis, so that wasn't an unworkable problem. The only thing they didn't have was a picture of the candidate.
Some of the computer technicians had been running a new program, which unfortunately identified all JPEG's within the system as potential threats and promptly began to eliminate them. Dr. Keller's candidate picture had been an unfortunate casualty, as had Carson's hearing when Dr. McKay had gotten a hold of those responsible for upsetting his precious systems. Although most files were restored within the hour through the networks extensive backup network, the latest candidate pictures would have to be resent in the next data burst. As a result, Carson had hired the young doctor, sight unseen, so to speak.
"Dr. Beckett? If this is a bad time, I can always come back another time Sir." Dr. Keller nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and began to bite her lip.
Keller's comments shook Carson from his memories "I'm so sorry lass, you just caught me a wee bit off me game is all, a long couple of shifts, I'm sure ye've been there yourself many a time." What was it about this girl that kept throwing him off his best; it had to be the lack of sleep.
"If you'd like Dr. Beckett, I could cover the last hour of your shift for you. You really aren't looking all that great to be honest and I'm sure I don't need to remind you of the dangers of exhaustion to your overall well-being. We obviously need you too badly around here for you to be allowed to neglect yourself."
"I take it you saw the training session itself and not just the aftermath then?"
Keller wrinkled her nose in disgusted response.
"The lads are usually far better behaved, they just get a bit rambunctious when there isn't much going on." Carson quickly did a self evaluation; yes he was only tired, no real danger yet. Turning back to Keller he smiled "No lass, it's my responsibility and the lads are merely sleeping, well within my capabilities for the wee bit of time left on the clock."
"If you'd like I could always stay and keep you company." Dr. Keller dropped her eyes and winced, how could she be so stupid. Dr. Beckett was going to think she was a teacher's pet or worse, that she didn't think he was able of performing his duties. Of all the stupid -
"You would do that for me?" Carson looked at the young girl incredulously.
"Of course, I would. Why wouldn't I?" Dr. Keller stared at Carson like he had grown a second head "You're The Dr. Carson Beckett. I have so many questions and I mean, this is really Atlantis, the lost city, everything's so new, so exciting, so overwhelming. To be truthful, I'm not sure if I belong here. Don't get me wrong, I know how to do my job and do it well, but this is a different galaxy. How do you prepare for that? Can you prepare for that?"
Carson regarding the young women with a careful expression "Why did you accept the posting if ye didna' think you were up to life out here."
"I didn't say I couldn't do it. I just, I mean I've only ever done the things I knew 100% that I could do and do well. I need this, I need to find out if there's more to me than just that girl. A bit of a fresh start I suppose. Oh no, you're going to send me back aren't you. Please, just give me a chance." Keller's eyes once again hit the floor.
"Dr. Keller" Carson raised his hands, in what he hoped, was a soothing manner.
"Jennifer, my name's Jennifer."
"Jennifer. I'm Carson. Pleasure to meet you." Jennifer slowly raised her eyes to meet Carson's a slow smile gracing her face.
"Now, as for feeling unprepared, you do realise if we sent back every person who felt inadequately prepared for a life in a different galaxy, there wouldna be anyone left to staff this city."
"Huh?" Jennifer's eyes widened in surprise.
"Nobody felt adequately prepared for life here. The trick is to find the courage to press forward, the grace to accept help, the humility to admit your faults, and the wisdom to learn from them. You know a very wise author once wrote, and mind you I'm paraphrasing a wee bit, but that if you felt yourself able, t'would have been proof you weren't".
"So the fact that I feel like a freshman and that I'm in well over my head . . ."
"Shows me that you have the potential to do quite well in Atlantis. I know you have the ability, your resume and references prove that. You do realize that you've made quite the impact on your professors and department heads."
Jennifer blushed in semi-amazement.
"All that remains to be seen is if you have the perseverance for life here. One day an emergency will arise, a situation will happen, I won't be there, and you'll be forced to make the tough decisions. Only time will tell if, in those moments, you'll have that inner mettle to survive here.
"But I still feel like I'm such a child."
"Aye, and you may far awhile yet. My goodness look at SGA-1. They face death as part of their regular routine and yet they are the most childlike people we've had on the base, including the actual children we hosted for a time! They've just proven they have the ability to rise above their fears, doubts, and distractions when the time comes."
Unwillingly, Jennifer let out a small yawn, once again turning bright pink and ducking her head. Carson looked at the clock which now read 10:40. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Melissa and her replacement finishing his no longer necessary 10 o'clock coffee.
"It's getting late lass. Maybe it's about time you headed off for some sleep. I know I'll be heading straight to bed myself in about 20 minutes."
"Perhaps, it's just, I still..." hesitance coloured her voice.
Taking in her appearance, Carson made a snap decision, "Dr. Jennifer Keller, would you do me the honour of joining me for a wee bit of breakfast tomorrow morning before your shift?"
Jennifer smiled "I don't know. I hear my boss can be a little strict, if I was late . . ."
"Not a problem, me and him, we go way back. Just leave the old tyrant to me."
At this Jennifer burst out laughing "I didn't say he was old!"
Finally the lass was capable of relaxing and holding a normal conversation. Carson smiled, encouraged by her show of confidence "Thank ye lass, comments like that certainly do a weary man's ego good once in awhile. Still, no sidetracking, my offer's sincere. I have a few stories about life here that may prove helpful to the newly arrived transfer looking to acclimate."
"Really you would do that, for me?"
"You're one of my staff and, if you wish, a friend. I'm here to help you, support you, and . . . protect you, in any way that I can. We're family here on Atlantis; just don't ask anyone to go fishing, unless you want to clear the room, bunch of spineless wimps they are when it comes to the noble sport of fishing."
Jennifer laughed again, "Then I shall see you at 7:30 tomorrow morning," with that Keller grabbed her mug and headed out the door, a small smile continuing to grace her face.
Carson began clearing his desk, and writing a few last minute notes for the next shift. Aye, the lass was a dead ringer for Kaylee but she was certainly her own person, and not nearly as prepared for her own life 'in the black'. She was more hesitant, more careful, had led a far more sheltered life and yet, if you looked closely enough, through the reddened cheeks and averted eyes, Dr. Keller held the undeniable potential of becoming a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Carson suddenly felt himself overwhelmed as a rush of protectiveness washed over him regarding his newest staff member, vowing then and there to do whatever it took to protect the young girl and help her find her way.
Grabbing his own, empty coffee mug he turned out his office light, said goodnight to the staff, and headed back towards his room. As he walked down the hallway he spotted, young Dr. Keller saying a quick goodnight to an obviously flabbergasted "Dr. Meredith", he really did have to set the lass straight on that one, sooner rather than later, by the look on Rodney's face. Much as he enjoyed a good joke and keeping Rodney off balance, he wasn't willing to let Dr. McKay tear a strip out of his doctor because of John's boredom.
A.N. This story was originally posted under my old account River's Dream, switching things over as I don't use that one anymore
Carson paused for a minute and watched the door Dr. Keller had just entered; yes he would protect the young girl for as long as he was able. With that thought Carson felt a sudden, strange sense of foreboding creep over his shoulders, chilling him to the bone. Shaking off the ominous sensation, Carson allowed himself one final smile before heading off for a well deserved rest.