It wasn't often any more that John spent the night alone. So he found himself feeling a little out of sorts when he realized that Carson hadn't come in that night.
Carson had radioed that evening to say that he'd be working for a while yet, but that he didn't expect to be terribly late. John had assumed that meant that he'd be coming in when he finally got away from the infirmary.
Feeling grumpy, John showered and dressed and made his way to the commissary for breakfast. Rodney, Radek, Elizabeth and Teyla were seated in one corner. John wasn't sure if he was grateful or disappointed when Elizabeth waved him over. He nodded, grabbing coffee and a package of cherry Pop-Tarts and joining them.
"Mornin'," he mumbled, breaking one of the Pop-Tarts into pieces before eating it.
Rodney wrinkled his nose, "Aren't you supposed to heat those things up?"
"This from the guy who eats MRE macaroni and cheese cold," was John's only answer. He dumped sugar into his coffee hoping to give himself an artificial energy boost.
"Someone got out of bed on the wrong side this morning," Elizabeth observed.
John ignored her and began breaking the remaining Pop-Tart in pieces.
"Speaking of getting out of bed, or in this case into it, how's-"
John cut Rodney off with a well-aimed piece of breakfast pastry.
"Hey! I was just asking!"
His relationship with Carson wasn't a secret, but the only time Rodney ever brought it up was to rib them about it, and John didn't feel like hearing it on a morning where he couldn't say 'at least I didn't have to sleep alone last night.'
"Did he even get out of the infirmary last night?" Radek asked from the other end of the table.
"I don't think so," Rodney said, "He said he was anticipating a difficult birth, so he wanted to stick around."
"Birth?" John asked, nearly choking. He couldn't believe he hadn't heard about someone being pregnant.
"Triplets he thinks, maybe more." Radek added.
Now thoroughly confused John headed off for the infirmary, the pieces of his breakfast completely forgotten.
The nurse in the main ward shushed him immediately. "He's back there," she whispered, pointing towards Carson's lab.
John stuck his head in and found the lights dimmed to about one-third normal and Carson studying his tank of white lab mice.
Everything clicked and John wanted to hurt someone, he just wasn't sure whom he should start with.
"This is our mother-to-be?" he asked exasperatedly. He rolled his eyes. Only Carson would stay up all night to watch a mouse give birth.
"Aye. She's been in labor for several hours. Should be any time now. And lower your voice, you don't want to disturb her."
"Has her water broken?" John asked snidely. Carson just made a face at him.
"Should we start Rodent Lamaze? Give her an epi-fur-al?" John peeked into the tank and wrinkled his face up at the tubby little mouse laying in the substrate.
"You're angry because I stayed here all night," Carson finally figured.
John sighed. He had been, but it wasn't fair. Carson took his patients seriously. All of them. "No… well… not any more. But you could have told me you were staying down here."
"So you could have made your snide remarks then?" Carson asked with more venom than John was used to being on the receiving end of.
Feeling himself get frustrated again, John scrubbed a hand through his hair. "It's a mouse. Don't they do this in the wild all the time… you know, without an attending O.B.-R-A-T?"
"Rebekah tried to kill her last litter. It's not uncommon with a first litter, and rarely happens with subsequent litters, but I wanted to be sure she didn't do it again. We need these critters if we're going to refine the ATA gene therapy." Carson moved to study the rodent from a new angle.
"You should start some Mousey and Me classes for her."
Before Carson could even roll his eyes, Rebekah started kicking at the cedar shavings.
"Oh, about time," Carson sighed.
John had run med-evac in Afghanistan and had had a woman give birth in the back of his chopper. He'd never been more glad to need to keep his eyes on the skies in his life. The medics in the back said everything had gone beautifully, but the wailing and screaming had convinced John that he really didn't ever need to see a living being come out of another living being.
The mice weren't quite as bad. At least Rebekah didn't scream and curse in at least two different languages. Though the four little mouslings were pink and squirmy and didn't look like they'd finished developing before popping out.
"Now what?" John asked.
"Nothing, we just make sure she nurses them instead of trying to eat them."
John didn't know what to say besides, "Ew."
After watching Rebekah dig around and then cover one of the babies John asked, "What's she doing?"
"Hiding her poor, wee children from the likes of you."
John stuck his tongue out at the back of Carson's head.
"They look healthy enough," Carson observed. "Though if you don't stop being an arse about them, I'll name one after you."
"Name one of them after McKay," John suggested.
"What? One beady-eyed little critter named Rodney isn't enough?" Carson asked as he grabbed his digital camera and made a few quick notes on his laptop. "Besides, I think Dr. Biro's already named one of her rats after him."
John looked at the camera, "Gonna take baby pictures? Maybe write up little-bitty birth certificates with little paw prints on the bottom?"
"You're just full of wit today, aren't you?"
John gave him a cocky grin.
"Rebekah is the first mouse to give birth after being given the ATA gene. We need to keep very specific records on which ones inherited the gene and which didn't and how they develop."
"Maybe the ones with the gene will be able to make the wheel turn with their thoughts."
Carson actually smiled at that.
"So… where's the new daddy? Shouldn't he be meeting the brood?"
Carson finished getting the pictures as best he could in the dark room. "If I put him back in there we'll be doing this again in three weeks."
"He'll get her pregnant again in three weeks? Man, most mothers I've known are still recovering from having one baby three weeks later. Rebekah, here, had four." John squinted at the mother mouse still busily burying her litter.
"She'll be giving birth again in three weeks. He'll have her pregnant again in just a few days. Mice don't cycle like humans. They can get pregnant at five weeks old and have a litter three weeks later. And if you don't take the males away, you end up with another group twenty-one days after that."
John moved to sit in Carson's desk chair. "Someone would make a fortune if they could ever figure out a way to make little mousey condoms."
Carson tried not to smile. The dumb mouse jokes were really bad, but he had a hard time not laughing at them. "They'd also have to invent little opposable thumbs if they were to have any hope of getting them on."
"You could teach Rebekah over there to put them on with her mouth."
Carson slammed the lid of his laptop down. "Okay, this conversation has officially gone too far." But he smiled at John to take the sting out. "Have you gotten breakfast yet?"
"I got something… but ended up throwing most of it at McKay. I could go for some cereal or something."
"Let's let the new family get adjusted then," Carson dimmed the lights a little more and the two of them headed out for the commissary.