Series: Moments Sacred and Profane

Title: Prelude 1: In the Beginning

Author: Mice


Category: Stargate: Atlantis, Beckett/McKay

Warnings: pre-slash, angst

Spoilers: none

Rating: NC17

Summary: How did Rodney and Carson first meet? And why is Carson so afraid of Ancient technology? A prelude to the Moments Sacred and Profane series.

Archive: If it's on your list, you can archive it. If it isn't and you'd like it, just let me know where you're putting it.

Feedback: Feed me, Seymour.

Website: Mice's Hole in the Wall


Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to many other people. But if they were mine, they'd be having very interesting adventures.

Author's Notes: A lot of people have asked me for a story about how Carson and Rodney first met in the MSP universe. This is how I think it could have happened. Beta and browbeating by Pas and kt4ever. Antarctic geeking and further beta by Kaneko. The story is set about eight months to a year before Rising. Because I can't get the SG1 timeline issues to resolve at all around this thing, I'm declaring this story slightly AU in timeline.




Look, beloved child, into my eyes, see there

Your self, mirrored in that living water

From whose deep pools all images of earth are born.

See, in the gaze that holds you dear

All that you were, are, and shall be for ever.

In recognition beyond time and seeming

Love knows the face that each soul turns toward heaven.

            ~~Kathleen Raine -- Message~~


The midnight sun glinted on the vast, stark ice sheets of Antarctica as the small plane drifted lower. There were a dozen passengers aboard, most of whom were dead asleep and had been almost since they'd left Christchurch. Carson Beckett stared out the window, wondering what had possessed him to leave everything for such a wasteland.


Maybe it was Weir, he thought. She'd got him a job with a Department of Defense funded private lab, doing genetic research that had led to his discovery of an anomalous gene in the DNA of an Air Force officer. The thing was vanishingly rare and he'd no idea what it did, but apparently someone did. A few months later, he'd been asked to do analyses of the DNA of several hundred people who were also apparently involved in the project. He'd been surprised to find that he possessed the anomaly himself.


"We need you, Carson," she'd said, and so he'd packed away everything in his Colorado apartment and called his mum and off he'd gone. Curiosity, he supposed, was the rest of it. She'd promised him answers to his questions if he signed onto this phase of the project. It was apparently classified Burn Before Reading, as the military personnel around him had been fond of saying.


Winter in the Colorado Rockies wasn't so different from summer in Antarctica, he thought. It was all cold and blazingly white. He wondered if he'd be seeing any penguins. Then again, why he'd want to go outside here if he didn't have to was beyond him.


Elizabeth had said she'd be waiting for him in Antarctica. He'd not had a chance to speak with the people on the plane for more than a few minutes before they'd taken off, and the noise of the engines was a bit discouraging of actual conversation. He'd spent most of his time staring out the window at cold blue water and icebergs. They'd be landing soon.


With a sigh, Carson traced an idle spiral on the window half-fogged by his breath.




He'd spent less than a day in McMurdo before he and several of the other folks who were on the plane with him were shipped off to someplace known only as 'the research facility'. The surface showed nothing but a dome and a few blocky outbuildings, but he was astonished when they entered a freight lift and began a long descent into the ice.


"Wow," one of the women said, shifting uneasily beside him. "I had no idea this was even here. I thought we'd be working at McMurdo." She was American by the sound of her voice. He couldn't really tell what she looked like, wrapped as she was in a mound of cold weather gear, most of her face covered by a scarf. She was dressed much more warmly than anyone else. He wasn't sure how she could see anything at all, because her glasses were steamed white in the warming air.


The rest of the people with him were mumbling among themselves as well. "Aye, so did I," he said. "Where are you from, then?"


"New England originally, but most recently Seattle," she replied. "Worked for the University of Washington until last month, teaching ethnomusicology." She held out one gloved hand. "Erin Siwicki."


That was a bit of a surprise. He'd no idea why an ethnomusicologist might be involved with any project he was connected to -- much less one with highly classified military and US government roots. He offered his own hand. "Carson Beckett. I'm from Glasgow, by way of Colorado Springs."


"Scotland's a beautiful country. Seems like a lot of the people I've met in the past week have been from somewhere by way of Colorado Springs, though." She chuckled softly, her breath still rising visibly in the air. "I sure hope it's warmer wherever we're going, or I'm never going to take my clothes off again."


"That'll make it a bit hard to take a shower, won't it?" He smiled.


She snorted and nodded. "Yeah, that would be the issue at hand."


"I'm sure it's warm enough wherever it is we're ending up."


She was silent for a moment, contemplating him. "I'm not sure 'warm' is a possibility here."


"It's feeling a wee bit warmer already," Carson said. And indeed it was. Their breath was no longer condensing as they spoke. "I suspect your personal hygiene won't be in any danger."


"That's a relief," she said. She tugged her scarf away from her face and grinned at him. "I'd hate to think I could never shower again." He grinned back.


When the lift finally got to its destination, he looked about in wonder and no little trepidation. The large room was filled with strange objects and a lot of technical gear that Carson hadn't a prayer of understanding. An alcove to the right of the lift was dominated by a large, odd-looking chair. "I wonder what this is all about?" Erin said, her voice hushed. "I was told I was here to do translation work. I'm clueless about the tech."


He looked at her. "I've no idea what all this is." He spied Dr. Weir approaching, followed by a tall, handsome, dark-skinned man with a clipboard. "But I think we're like to find out soon enough."


"Hello everyone," Elizabeth said, "and welcome to the research facility. I'm Dr. Elizabeth Weir, the project director. I know some of you will have a lot of questions, but many of them will be answered during your orientation. I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Peter Grodin, my aide. He'll be giving you the initial facility tour, but first things first -- you'll be taken to the barracks wing where you can leave your packs and freshen up."


"About time," one of the men muttered. "Gotta piss like a racehorse."


"Welcome," Grodin said. "Come this way, please." He had a smooth English accent and a lovely smile. He gestured and they all followed him. It was rather a bit of a walk, down a maze of corridors. Grodin gave a running monologue on the places they passed, though Carson wasn't sure he understood what most of it was supposed to be. Erin appeared to be just as puzzled, though most of the people with them seemed to understand the context.


As they passed one of the physics labs, he could hear a voice raised in anger. "No no no! Jesus, Kavanagh! Are you *trying* to get us all killed?"


"Ooh," Erin said. "That one's a charmer."


Grodin chuckled. "'That one' is Dr. McKay, the head of our sciences division. Avoid him if you want to maintain your sanity."


Carson shook his head. "And who's that he's shouting at?"


"Dr. Kavanagh," Grodin said. "He has a tendency to grate on people's nerves even more than McKay, if such a thing is possible."


"Oh, real winners," another woman added.


"You might say that," Grodin agreed. "Dr. McKay will be doing part of the orientation this evening."


"Lovely," Carson mumbled. "Just bloody lovely." It sounded like the man was a right wanker.




Rodney sighed. He shuffled through his notes for the evening orientation meeting. Four people in this crew were unfamiliar with Stargate Command and the Ancients. One of them was Elizabeth's hand pick for Chief Medical Officer. There were also an anthropologist/linguist, an electrical engineer, and a nuclear engineer scheduled. The doctor had been working for the SGC without knowing it for quite some time. The others were new recruits to the program.


The whole alien thing was likely to get some eyeballs bugging. That part was usually amusing, at least.


Grabbing a fresh cup of coffee, he headed for the conference room. The new meat was already sitting at the table when he got there. Two women, neither of whom were blonde. Boring. Big buff guy. Eh. Moderately tall man with startlingly blue eyes -- not bad at all. He wondered which one blue eyes was.


"Good evening, boys and girls. I'm Dr. Rodney McKay, resident genius, and I'll be your guide to the wonderful world of the Atlantis Research Facility." He dropped his folder on the table, set down his coffee, and sat. "The first thing to get out of the way is this: I am God. Don't piss me off or I'll have you washing windows topside." He grinned at the raised eyebrows. "Now, who's who--" He looked at his roster. "Ngame Zununi?" Big buff guy nodded, of course. "You're the electrical engineer, eh?"


"Yes, Dr. McKay." The guy even sounded African, with a deep, melodic voice. Rodney didn't want to get any ideas in a fishbowl like this, but he could listen to that voice all night. Oh yeah. Down, boy.


"Wen Lin Yao?" One of the woman nodded. "Nuclear engineer?"


"Yes, Doctor."


"Erin Siwicki, Lingusitics and Anthropology," the other woman supplied.


"I'll do the talking here," Rodney said, vaguely annoyed. "You just say 'yes doctor'. Get with the program."


She snorted. "Yes, doctor."


"And you're Carson Beckett, our new Chief Medical Officer." Blue eyes grinned.


"Aye, that's me."


Oh god, that accent: to die for. Even better than the African guy's. Rodney suppressed a smile. "The next thing to clarify is that this project is highly classified, as I'm sure you've all guessed. I realize that what I'm about to tell you is going to sound ludicrous, but trust me, it's for real."


They all looked at him expectantly.


"The facility we are now in was built several million years ago by a race known as the Ancients. They created a system of controllable wormholes for interstellar travel called Stargates. You are here as a part of a project to analyze and utilize this technology as a potential defense in a war against a race of aliens known as the Goa'uld." He watched four jaws drop.


"Okay," the anthro geek said. "When did we drop into an episode of the X Files?"


"Did I ask for your input? No? I thought not." He glared at her and she rolled her eyes and leaned her chin on her hand. "We believe this facility holds the key to the location of the Ancients' lost city of Atlantis. Yes, yes. That Atlantis. It really does exist, but it's not what all the von Daniken freaks yatter on about."


Rodney went through the introductory spiel, only occasionally interrupted by one or another of his erstwhile charges. The slack jaws and glassy eyes told him he was getting through. That was the part he liked best. When he finished, there was a flood of questions, and he fielded them expertly. Naturally.


"Tomorrow morning you'll be reporting to Peter Grodin for your assignments. For now, it's dinnertime. You're all dismissed. Get out of here." He waved his hand at them and rose to go find food.


He watched as Beckett and the anthro geek talked together, heading for the mess hall. He walked behind them, appreciating the view. No sense in paying any real attention. The guy seemed pretty friendly with her. Probably straight as a really straight thing.


Besides, he made it a general rule never to get mixed up with co-workers. It always led to complications, especially when he didn't want to sleep with them again. Probably better that blue eyes was straight. It would be less of a temptation.


In the mess hall, he sat with Elizabeth. "So what did you think of the new people, Rodney?" she asked.


He shrugged. "Same as usual. Any particular reason for picking the head witch doctor?"


"He's the one who discovered the ATA gene," she said.


Rodney raised an eyebrow. "Oh, that was him?" He looked over at Beckett, who was sitting with the woman at a table on the other side of the room.


"Yes. He has it as well. Did you discuss that aspect of the technology with them yet?" She followed his glance. "He's really a very nice person, Rodney. I hope you'll give yourself a chance to get to know him. You'll be working with him in staff meetings."


"No," Rodney said. "They were already in shock from the whole aliens and the lost city of Atlantis thing. I didn't think complicating it with an explanation of ATA was useful at this point. They'll hear about it tomorrow." He eyed Beckett carefully. "So this means I finally get someone with the damned gene to initialize some of this stuff?" That seemed like reason enough to make nice with the Scot, pretty or not.


"It does," Elizabeth said. She was smiling when he looked back at her. "We're working on getting more people onto the project who do. There might be a dozen by the time we actually figure out where Atlantis is and get enough of the technology figured out to be useful once we're there."


"And Beckett doesn't know what the gene does?" Rodney dug into his meal.


"He's been kept uninformed for security reasons," she said. "I'll talk to him this evening. He needs to know about this as soon as possible."


"Oh, I agree," Rodney said. "The sooner, the better. When do I get him in my lab?"


"It'll be a few days before I can do that. He's got his own work to settle into."


"What, papercuts? Frostbite?"


Elizabeth gave him a look. "He's going to have to meet everyone, review all the medical records, do physicals on the new personnel and adjust to everything we've told him so far."


"Oh, yeah. Well, aside from that. The Ancient devices are far more important than routine physicals."


"Give him a little time before you bury him in technology. This is all new to him." Elizabeth finished her meal. "I'll see you at the morning briefing."


"Right, right. Morning briefing." He nodded absently as she left and turned his attention back to the man with the magic gene. The only person he'd ever met before who had it was Colonel O'Neill, and the man was hideously annoying. He had no appreciation for proper scientific procedures, though he did have the advantage of being in the same space with Major Carter on a regular basis.


Rodney wondered how powerful this guy's version of the gene was, or if that sort of thing even mattered. Actually, the only thing that mattered was that fate had dealt him an exceedingly sucky hand when it didn't give the gene to him. He deserved it most, after all. Accidents of birth shouldn't decide such important scientific necessities.


He grumbled to himself as he watched Beckett and the chick talking over their dinner. They were smiling at each other and laughing. He wondered if he was humoring her or if he was just an idiot. No anthropologist could possibly be that interesting. Hell, no squishy scientist ever had anything useful to say, not even Daniel Jackson. The only reason the man had the kind of standing he did in the SGC was because he was banging the Colonel, though nobody ever dared actually say it.


The main reason Rodney hadn't been considered essential to the SGC was because he wasn't the one on his knees for O'Neill. And of course, he'd been shipped off to fucking Siberia for daring to tell it like it was about Carter's idiotic assessments. Of course, rumor had it that he'd been banished for calling her a dumb blonde, but who could deny the truth? Well, maybe not dumb, but reckless. Definitely reckless. In a very loose and non-scientific way.


He sighed and finished his coffee. Staring at the new guy would do him no good. Elizabeth wasn't going to let him draft the man into initializing any of the Ancient technology for at least a couple of days. He wondered if he'd be able to sneak anything under the radar. He was a genius, after all.




Dinner was institutional, but Erin's company was pleasant, and Carson was chuckling as she related a tale about a woman she'd served with in the Navy who had been arrested for swapping dress uniforms with an Australian sub sailor one night in a drunken fit.


It sounded like the lass had lived a rather colorful life before settling into academia, though he wasn't entirely sure she'd slowed down even then. She seemed like someone he'd be pleased to get to know.


"The guy had a beard, even," she said. "I have no idea why the Shore Patrol arrested them. It was obvious they were both beyond blind drunk, and nobody would have believed the guy was a woman, or that he was committing espionage." She grinned broadly. "Then again, I've never had much trouble believing the military were a bunch of idiots."


"I can understand that," Carson said, nodding. "I've always believed the term 'military intelligence' was an oxymoron." He sipped at his tea, smiling. He paused for a moment and looked around, just trying to get used to the place. Being under the ice was a new experience for him, and he'd no idea when he signed up what he was actually getting himself in for with the project.


He trusted Elizabeth, though he was beginning to wonder why. All this rot about aliens and Stargates and Ancient technology and the whole Atlantis thing -- it was hard to credit. He'd never actually believed humanity was alone in the universe, but to speak with folk who said they'd actually seen and talked to aliens? "So what do you think of all of this?" he finally asked.


She sobered a bit, her smile fading. "I don't really know yet. It's not that I think anybody is lying to me -- I mean, this is all pretty damned elaborate to be some kind of ruse. But I've got no idea what to think about it. I feel like I've had the rug yanked out from under me. Like everything I ever thought was off bead by a few degrees. I'm not sure yet how to adjust to it."


He nodded. "I agree. I don't either. This, it's all so beyond my ken." He sipped again and sighed softly. "I've heard so many languages here, and I don't even know what some of them are. This must be an immense project. McKay was talking about how it was international in scope, but really, it was hard to fathom until I realized I didn't understand what a good half the people I've met today have been saying in the hallways."


"I suspect we'll settle in all right over the next few days. It's not all that different from fieldwork, really. A new language, a new culture." She shrugged. "The food could be better, but I'm not going to complain too much. At least it's not palmetto grubs."


Carson's stomach twisted slightly at that. "Oh, aye. Not palmetto grubs. I'll give you that one." He had no idea what would make a person eat a palmetto grub, and decided not to ask. He also hoped he'd never be in a position to do so. He was quite fond of his curry and tandoori, thank you very much.


Erin was a bit of an odd duck, but fun to talk with. She certainly had an interesting perspective on things. When he looked around the room again, he saw McKay watching him. He'd noted the man seemed to have no fondness for the medical profession, but then, he seemed to believe that everyone else on the project was incompetent. He'd been irritating at the orientation, but informative. Carson supposed he could live with that.


McKay got an odd smile on his face, then rose and left. Carson wondered about that. The man seemed like a schemer. He probably had some kind of nefarious plot up his sleeve. Carson hoped it would unwind far from him.


Carson settled down again, a bit tired. He'd not really slept well for several days before he'd left Colorado Springs. Sleeping in strange beds and knowing he'd not be in contact with his mum or anyone else in his family for at least a year had been disconcerting. He doubted he'd sleep well here the first few nights either but at least, as a department head, he'd have his own room. No putting up with snoring or any of the other annoyances of having roommates.


He turned as Dr. Grodin came up to him. "Dr. Beckett, Dr. Weir would like you to join her in her office when you're done with your dinner."


"Oh, well then, I'll come along now. I'm just having a spot of tea at the moment, and not really hungry anymore."


Grodin nodded. "If you'll come with me then."


"Right enough." He stood and nodded to Erin. "I'll be seeing you later, Dr. Siwicki. It was lovely talking with you."


She grinned. "Thanks, you too. And just call me Erin. The whole Doctor thing makes me twitch."


"Right then. Erin it is." He smiled and followed Grodin out of the mess. "Dr. Weir wants to see me at this hour?"


"She's got a few things to discuss with you that you really need to hear about before tomorrow."


"Ah, I see." Though, of course, he didn't. What else could he possibly need to know on top of all this alien rubbish?


He was quiet as he followed the handsome Brit to Weir's office. She gestured to the chair before her desk and he sat as Dr. Grodin left.


"Carson, I appreciate your joining me at this hour."


"It's not like I've anything else to do as yet, though I'll admit that getting a wee bit of sleep seems a good idea at some point." He stifled a yawn.


"I won't be keeping you long, but there is one aspect of the program that you, in particular, need to be aware of." He nodded, waiting for whatever it was she would be telling him. "The genetic research you've been doing, in particular the gene you discovered, is vitally important to the project we're working on."


He tilted his head. "Oh? How so?"


She folded her hands on the desk. "The Ancient technology that we've discovered has a limiting factor. That factor is genetic. The gene that you discovered, Carson, is the key that unlocks the technology. Only people who have the gene can activate it. Most of it can only be used by people with the gene, though some few can be used by anyone once activated."


He thought about that for a moment. "So you're saying that the people with this gene, they have something about them that makes them able to use the gadgets I've been seeing about the place?"


"Yes, exactly. We're referring to it as the Ancient Technology Activation gene, or ATA."


"Ah. Well that makes sense, I suppose. But there aren't many who have this gene."


"No, there aren't. But you're one of them. And we need you here not just for your research and your medical skills, but for that genetic advantage as well. Among your duties will be the activation of technology identified by Dr. McKay as important to our project. We're still working on getting people here who have the gene naturally, but we would like you to begin work on a process for synthesizing and transferring the ability through some kind of gene therapy." She leaned back in her chair.


He took a deep breath. "Is any of this technology dangerous?"


"Some of it is weaponry, yes. But it's all very carefully controlled. Colonel O'Neill has the gene as well, and we've seen what he's able to do with the artifacts. We need to be able to activate these things so that we can discover items that will be useful in our war against the Goa'uld. The Colonel is offworld too often and is too valuable to Stargate Command to make him a part of the Atlantis project."


"I'm a doctor, Elizabeth. I don't know why you want me near any weapons." He moved uneasily in his chair, fingers tightening on the arm of it.


"No one wants you to use any weapons, Carson. For all we know, we may also find medical technology here that will advance our understanding by hundreds or even thousands of years. We just need someone who can activate the artifacts. Dr. McKay and the others are here to figure out what the things do."


"And you've got linguists because?"


She smiled. "Because the Ancients had their own language. We're teaching the linguists to do translations. We've found some small databases, and with the information stored there, we may be able to determine the purpose of many of the artifacts and learn how to use them safely."


"Oh, well if it comes with an instruction manual, so much the better," he said, relaxing a bit. "As to being able to synthesize the gene, that'll take time. It could be years before we've a gene therapy ready to use for human trials." He thought about the complexities of developing a gene therapy for a newly discovered, apparently alien gene. Carson could appreciate the intellectual challenge of it. In fact, it excited him a bit, but it would certainly be time-consuming. "If you want me to be doing that, are you sure you think I'll have time to be heading up an entire medical division as well? Research isn't something to be played at in odd moments between other jobs. And we shan't even mention the bureaucracy involved in such a thing. The FDA would be highly unlikely to approve such a therapy, perhaps even for decades."


"I'm quite confident you can handle everything I have for you, Carson. You're a brilliant man -- one of the finest geneticists on the planet. People have been following your career for several years now, and you wouldn't have been brought into the project in the first place if I didn't have absolute confidence in your abilities."


He felt himself blushing a bit at the effusive praise. "I'm flattered at your high opinion of me, Elizabeth. It does my heart good, and I've not had such high praise before."


"You're very young to be so prominent in your field," she said, gesturing with one hand. "You're not even forty yet. Believe me, even if you've not heard the praise, it's been there all along. Most of your peers believe you're likely to be a Nobel winner at some point."


That brought out a furious blush. "Oh, now, that's just rubbish. I've not been doing the kind of work that leads to prizes like that. I'm just a curious man, and methodical."


"Your discovery of the ATA gene has importance beyond our planet."


"I'm still finding it a wee bit difficult to wrap my brain around that one."


She nodded and grinned at him. "It's all right. I'll let you sleep on it. Please report in for the morning staff briefing at 0800, would you?"


"Aye, Elizabeth, I'll do that." He stood.


"Sleep well, Carson."


"And you." He smiled and turned to find his quarters.




It was a day and a half before Rodney was able to get Beckett and an Ancient device in the same room together. Elizabeth still hadn't given the go ahead to him, but the item was small enough to be inconsequential. All he really wanted to do was see if Beckett could actually turn the thing on. Rodney had no idea what it was, or really if it even functioned, but it was worth a try.


He sauntered up to Beckett. "Hey there."


Beckett looked up, a bit surprised. "Oh. Hello there, Dr. McKay. Are you feeling well?"


"Why would -- oh, right. The doctor thing. I'm fine. I just wondered if you might try turning this on for me?" He pulled the little device from his pocket and held it out.


Beckett eyed it suspiciously. "I've no idea how I'm supposed to do that. And what does the wee thing do, anyway?"

Rodney shrugged. "Not sure. Not that it matters. I'm sure it's harmless."


Beckett looked up at him, those blue eyes doing something to Rodney's gut that he really didn't want to think about in a place like this. "I don't suppose there's an instruction manual anywhere," Beckett said.


"Instruction manuals." Rodney snorted. "Yeah, right. The Ancients seem to have neglected that particular aspect of technology. For all I know, they learned by osmosis, or telepathy, or some other weird-assed thing we know nothing about as yet. They're notoriously bad note-takers. Can't be bothered to leave any truly useful information in their databases."


"Dr. McKay," Beckett said, sounding a bit put out, "If you've no idea what it does or whether it's dangerous, why on Earth would you want me to turn it on?"


"To see what it does!" The man was obviously a blithering idiot. Hot, but a blithering idiot.


Beckett tilted his head. "And would you be quite so eager to risk your own skin if you were able to turn on any old bit of rubbish lying about?"


Rodney blinked at him, unable to fathom the question. "If I could do this?" His jaw hung open for a second in astonishment. "If I could do this then hell yes, I'd turn on every damned thing I could find to see what it did!" He was waving his hands in the air now, utterly taken aback at the man's stupidity.


"Even knowing that some of these things must be weapons or bombs?"


Rodney stopped for a moment. "Well yes, yes, obviously I wouldn't turn on something that looked like it would explode."


"And you can tell that just by looking?" One eyebrow was raised skeptically.


"I built a nuclear bomb when I was eleven, Beckett. I think I'd recognize something that was likely to make a crater." Rodney's hands rested on his hips as his irritation rose. He held up the device in his hand and shook it at the man. "*This* does not look like a potential crater."


"Well then," Beckett said in a reasonable tone, "what do you think it does look like?"


Rodney looked at Beckett and then down at the device. He looked between the two several times. "Honestly? I have no idea."


Beckett laughed. "I thought not."


"But hey! Hey! I can still tell it's not something dangerous!"


Beckett's laugh broadened into a grin and Rodney desperately told himself not to make a pass at the man. Bad news. Always trouble fucking co-workers or straight men, and this would be a terrible case of both.


He sighed and straightened his shoulders. "If I could do this myself, believe me, I would. You have no idea how much I wish I could do it. I wouldn't need half the mentally challenged chimpanzees I work with. And this stuff?" He held the device up by his face. "Most of the things we find are going to be piddling little shit. Can openers. Diagnostic equipment. Cheap AM radios or the Ancient equivalent. The stuff that people just leave lying around. Trust me -- the really dangerous stuff? It's all tucked away in labs behind locked doors we can't open yet." He held the thing out to Beckett. "So really, it's not going to blow up. Would you just *try* to turn it on?"


Beckett's smile faded but didn't vanish. "Right enough, then." He held out a hand. "How am I supposed to do that?"


Rodney shrugged. "We're not entirely sure," he said, handing it over. "Maybe just try thinking *on* at it?"


Beckett gave him an odd look, but nodded and said, "Good enough, I suppose." He looked at it and nothing happened.


"Try it again. Concentrate harder, okay?" Rodney waved his hands at Beckett.


Beckett looked up at him, then down at the object. He closed his eyes and Rodney could tell he was trying hard to focus as his brow wrinkled. A moment later, the little box lit up.


"All right!" Rodney shouted. "Yes!" He grabbed the thing and looked at it. "Okay okay, what do you do?" As he asked the question, a green laser light shot out of the thing, striking Beckett in the chest. They both jumped, but nothing actually happened. A little light panel on the side of the thing changed, displaying numbers in Ancient. "Ohhhh..." Rodney turned it so that the laser was pointed at something else, and sure enough, the readout changed.


"Numbers, numbers," he muttered. "What would it be..." He turned it on something else and noted that the numbers shifted in proportion to the distance from the device. "It's a tape measure?" he said incredulously. "Oh, great. Beckett, you were afraid of a tape measure." Rodney snickered and stuffed the thing in his pocket. "Great! Wonderful! At least now we know you can actually do this. I have definite plans for you and that magic gene of yours."


Beckett sighed and rolled his eyes. "Dr. McKay, while I appreciate the importance of your discovery of..." He looked Rodney in the eye. "A hyper-sophisticated tape measure, I really don't have the time to be at your beck and call at all hours. Elizabeth warned me about you."


"No no no. Not all hours. Just a couple of hours a day, I swear."


"I know it's part of my duties here, but it can't be interfering with my research or my duties as a physician."


"Medical research," Rodney snorted, waving a dismissive hand at the thought. "I'm sure it's not nearly as important as activating the Ancient technology."


Beckett just looked at him, his face a mask of irritation. "Considerin' that Dr. Weir asked me to research a gene therapy to transfer the ATA to a non-carrier? I'd say my own work has a wee bit of relevance."


Rodney blinked. He blinked again. "A gene therapy? To give it to people without it?"


"You do understand English, don't you?" A wry half-smile crept onto Beckett's face. "Because I'm sure I didn't stutter."


"Why are you standing here?" Rodney snapped at him. "Get back to work!" He turned on his heel and dashed off to play with the laser gauge.




The past week had been a blur of medical exams, paperwork, getting used to the idea of actual aliens, and spending time learning about the Stargate program Carson had been working for, unknowing, for almost a year. Life settled into a strange but reasonably easy routine. In the mornings he attended the daily staff meeting and was harassed by Rodney McKay. After that, he did his paperwork and saw any patients that needed to be seen. McKay would frequently show up with a medical complaint or bringing some small item for Carson to 'just touch' to make it light up. Afternoons were genetic research and two hours spent in McKay's company messing about with Ancient devices.


Carson was sitting at dinner with Erin, Kate from psych and Geoff, a geologist, when McKay approached, tray in hand. "Anybody sitting there?" he asked, gesturing to the seat beside Carson.


"Only yourself," Carson said, waving a hand in invitation. The man was an arse, certainly, but at least he was usually an interesting one. Erin rolled her eyes but said nothing. Geoff just shook his head silently and gave Carson a wry grin.


Peter Grodin was sitting next to Osbourne. "McKay, are you sure you're not needed elsewhere?"


"Nope. Not at the moment. I can focus a portion of my vast intellect on dinner." He looked at Carson as he set his tray down and sat. "And perhaps you could join me afterwards. We've discovered some new corridors in the complex with doors that won't open. You can probably unlock them for us."


Carson sighed. Every time he'd gotten some bloody thing to light up or a door to open, he'd felt a disconcerting rush of power. It made him right uneasy most of the time. He did have to admit he was starting to get used to McKay's presence. The man wasn't quite so bad as some folk made him out, so long as you were in his intellectual league. He'd be much more pleasant if he didn't insist on his superiority so stridently.


Sniping with McKay was actually fun sometimes. He was fairly easy to cut down a peg or two. Watching him deflate was quite amusing. Unfortunately, most of the others seemed either intimidated or utterly annoyed with him and didn't bother with bantering. Carson felt it was his duty to keep the man in his place.


"So you want me to unlock some doors for you, then?" Carson asked, arching an eyebrow over his mug of tea.


"That would be the general idea." Rodney rolled his eyes.


Carson sighed. "And have you got any idea what's in these rooms as yet?"


"Not really."


Geoff looked at Carson. "That sounds a bit risky to me."


"No risk, no glory," McKay said. "I sincerely doubt we're going to have five million year old zombies popping out from behind the doors."


"What's the point, if you can't have five million year old zombies?" Erin asked. "That doesn't sound like any fun at all."


McKay glared at her. "You," he said, "are weird. But then, one has to expect that from the squishy sciences. No discipline whatsoever."


She gave him a distinctly evil grin. "Oh, I have plenty of discipline, McKay, but unfortunately I left my flogger at home."


McKay flushed bright red and stammered something unintelligible. Geoff just snickered behind one hand.


"It's all right, McKay, I'll open your doors for you," Carson said. "But you owe me."


"Owe you?" McKay looked relieved to change the subject. "This is part of why you're here!"


Carson sipped his tea and set the mug down. "I'm willing to be at your disposal during the hours Elizabeth assigned me to work with you, but if you want me to do things like this on my own time, you do owe me, right enough. We'll negotiate my price later."


Rodney blinked for a moment then said, "Um, p-price. Right." He was still blushing a bit from Erin's comment.


"I'm thinking fresh fruit," Carson said with a grin. It was in desperately short supply under the ice.


"What, you want a banana every time you open a door?" McKay gave him an incredulous look.


"It'd be a lovely start," Carson said, smiling.


Geoff looked at him. "If you start collecting fruit, I'll be following you around like a groupie."


Peter shook his head. "Never happen. McKay's too cheap."


McKay snorted. "I don't bribe people to do what they're here to do." He glowered at Carson. "You know you want to come open the doors for me. You're just as curious as everyone else around here."


"Curious, aye," Carson said, "but not suicidal. Who knows what you're like to find behind a door that's not been opened for a few million years?"


"Technology and a lot of dust," McKay said. "And while the dust will no doubt aggravate my allergies, the technology is more than worth it."


"We've not found dust in any of the sealed rooms when they've been opened," Peter said.


"Right," McKay growled. "Make light of my allergies. I'll just fall over and suffocate, thanks."


"I wish you would," Peter muttered, barely audible.


"Your allergies aren't that bad," Carson said, shaking his head. In the week he'd been at the Atlantis research facility, he'd quickly come to realize that while McKay did in fact have medical problems, he was quite the hypochondriac as well.


McKay just glared at Peter. Huffing, he turned to Carson. "Yeah, well anyway, you need to come with me when we're done eating. There's far too much to do to confine your assistance to two hours in the afternoon." He grabbed Carson's sleeve. "I can't possibly impress upon you how important all of this is."


"If it's that bloody important," Carson said, "and it's been here for a few million years, then surely it'll still be here tomorrow afternoon." He finished his dinner and got up. "I'll see you tomorrow, Dr. McKay."


"Later, Doc," Erin said. The others bid him goodnight as well, while McKay just stewed. Carson waited until he'd left the mess hall before he let himself grin. There was just something deeply satisfying about giving McKay a hard time.


He'd been settled in his quarters for about an hour, reading, when there was a quiet knock on the door. "Just a moment." McKay was standing in the corridor. "Dr. McKay, what can I do for you at this hour?"


McKay held out a plastic bag. "Bribery," he said. "Come open some doors for me."


Carson took the bag and looked inside. There were two oranges and a banana. He raised an eyebrow. "I think perhaps we can talk." He smiled.


"Talk nothing. I want doors unlocked." McKay crossed his arms over his chest. "And don't peel those oranges around me. I'm deathly allergic to citrus. I don't need the oils flying around while I'm in the same room."


"Oh, you're a charmer, aren't you?"


McKay snorted. "I don't need charm. I need doors opened. Screw being nice. This is the best I can do until the next shipment from McMurdo."


Carson let him squirm for a moment then smiled. "Right then, come in while I put this somewhere." He gestured with his chin and McKay entered, closing the door behind him.


"The quarters here are so small I have no idea where you could store a peanut, much less anything larger," McKay said. Carson set the bag on his desk.


"I'm sure I'll think of something. I'm a resourceful man." He turned back to McKay. "I suppose I can help you out for a bit tonight."


McKay smiled. "Oh yeah? Great. That's, that's great. So come on." He was bouncing just a bit as he stood near the door, practically bursting with excitement. There were moments when he reminded Carson of an over-stimulated toddler.


Carson tugged a jacket on. "All right. Let's be off. Where are these doors you want opened?"


McKay yanked the door open. "Come on, come on. This way." He dashed back out into the corridor and hurried away. Carson trotted to keep up with him. McKay rattled on, mouth moving like lightning, muttering things Carson only half caught. He had to admit McKay at least wasn't boring.


He was almost out of breath when they finally reached the corridor in question. "...and that's why I have to get you into that chair at some point," McKay said, gesturing to a random door. "Here, start with this one."


"Well, what do I do?" Carson asked.


McKay tapped the panel next to the door. "Put your hand here and think 'open,' I suspect."


"Are you sure that's it?"


McKay shook his head. "No, I'm not sure, but I have a very strong suspicion."


Carson sighed and put his hand on the panel. He closed his eyes and thought 'open' as hard as he could. After a moment, he opened one eye. The door was still closed.


"You're not trying hard enough," McKay snapped. "Think harder."


Carson closed his eye again and focused, trying to put everything else out of his mind. There was a hiss, and he opened his eyes. The door was open and McKay already had his head poked inside the room. "Oh yeah," McKay said, excited. "This is great! I knew you could do it!"


"So what is it?" He took in the dim room, which appeared to be full of parts and bits and geegaws.


McKay didn't bother to look back at him. "Not sure. Maintenance area, maybe. There are enough spare parts lying around. This could be really useful."


"Well don't you even be thinking about me lighting up any of those bits, do you hear?"


McKay looked at him. "Not right now. There are a lot more doors to open before I get started on that."


Half an hour later, a dozen doors were open and Carson had worked up a sweat. He was out of breath from having to focus so intently for so long. "Do you think we could stop now," he asked. "I'm really getting tired."




"And I've got a bit of a headache. This takes more effort than you might think."


McKay frowned but capitulated. "Yeah, okay, all right. I guess a dozen doors are good enough for now. But tomorrow we're coming back to open some more."


"Lovely," Carson muttered. He turned and headed back down the corridor. McKay stood for a moment then hustled after him, still bursting with energy and excitement.


"This is great. You're doing a great job. I can't tell you how pleased I am with our results tonight. My people are going to have a lot more to work with now, thanks to you." McKay's crooked smile was engaging.


"Aye, and you'll no doubt exhaust every last one of them," Carson said.


"What do you expect from lesser men?" McKay snorted. "Nobody ever manages to keep up. It's a miracle I ever get anything done around here."


It was obvious McKay's ego wasn't suffering from his isolation at this godforsaken outpost. "Right, and I'm sure you do everything yourself."


"Well, no. Not everything." He grinned wickedly. "I make Kavanagh bring me my coffee."


Carson snickered. He'd had a few run-ins with Thomas Kavanagh. The man was unpleasant. McKay wasn't the world's most pleasant man, but Kavanagh was like McKay on his worst day, cubed.


McKay walked back to his quarters with him. "Hey, Beckett."




McKay shuffled slightly, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "Thanks. I appreciate your help."


Carson smiled. "Thanks for the fruit, Dr. McKay." He stepped inside and closed the door.




Rodney lay in his bunk staring at the ceiling. Beckett -- damn, the man drove him to distraction. With a sigh, he tried to push the sight of Beckett's hands from his mind. They were strong hands but delicate. He had wonderful fingers. Rodney didn't think about what they'd feel like touching him.


Carson Beckett. What kind of a name was Carson, anyway? Way worse than Rodney. He sighed again. "Carson," he whispered, trying the sound on for size. He liked the Scot's accent, too. Damned hard to understand him sometimes, but he'd happily let the man rattle on for hours if he could just listen to him.


He'd spent most of the week resisting the urge to jack off while he thought about Carson... about Beckett. It really was counterproductive. The guy was *straight* and he was never going to even look at him.


And yet -- god, those blue eyes. He had an amazing smile. The man's ass was equally amazing, at least in the glimpses he'd got now and then when Carson bent over.


He closed his eyes still trying not to think of the man. Hopeless. It was fucking hopeless.


Rodney wasn't thinking about Carson when his hand slipped into his boxers. Really he wasn't. Okay, so maybe he was. Maybe if he gave in to it, he could get Beckett out of his brain and get some sleep.


Or maybe he'd end up fixated on the man.


Like he wasn't already. God, he was doomed.


Carson's skin would be soft. Rodney could imagine the warmth of his breath, the wet heat of his mouth when their lips met. He would taste good, smell good. Their tongues would touch, twining together as their arms slipped around each other.


Oh, god. Rodney whimpered, stroking himself slowly. He could almost feel Carson's fingers moving slow on his skin. He shivered, trailing the fingers of his other hand over his chest, wishing they were Carson's.


He wondered what Carson would look like naked. It was hard telling with all the clothes everyone wore here to keep off the cold. But Carson had broad shoulders, a good chest. He could tell that much. He was just the right height, a little shorter than Rodney. The scruffy bit of beard was good too, really good.


Rodney took a deep breath, letting himself visualize the situation. Carson would tug the dark blue sweater over his head then unbutton the shirt beneath it, moving slowly, kissing Rodney as he undressed.


Rodney's hands would move on his skin, caressing carefully. He'd be pale, no doubt, a little hair on his chest. There would be small, dark nipples, enough flesh on his body to be comfortable. Rodney would lean down and kiss them, licking for a moment before he sucked at them, and they would peak with Carson's excitement.


He knew how salt tasted on skin. Carson had been sweating earlier, unaware of its effect on Rodney's libido. He thought of how Carson would look, lying on his bed, a fine slick of sweat glistening under the dim light of his quarters. Yes -- Carson, nude and moaning softly, arching into Rodney's touch.


God, he wanted that. He knew it could never last, could never be more than a few hours together, but he wanted it badly. Carson's cock would be hard and leaking and Rodney would suck him, licking the length of his shaft. Rodney pulled at his cock, hard and aching, wishing it was Carson's hand instead of his own. He groaned quietly, whispering Carson's name again.


He could almost taste it, almost feel the heat of Carson in his mouth as he stroked himself. He'd ask Carson to fuck him, kneel in front of the man, ass in the air, legs spread, open and wanting. Rodney sucked his fingers, getting them wet, then traced his anus with his fingertips. Carson would touch him like that, fingers moving gently, edging into him one at a time.


He gasped as he breached himself, one knee in the air, stroking himself. "Oh god, yes," he gasped. It was good, really good, and he could almost feel the fire of Carson's skin on his own, almost feel the man moving against his back as he thrust into Rodney's ass. He moaned loudly, stroking harder, slipping another finger into himself, then a third, thrusting as best he could from the awkward angle.


"Oh, god -- god, Carson." Rodney bit back a moan as he came, shuddering, his hips jerking. He pulled his fingers out, trying to catch his breath.


He felt better. A lot better, really, but it hadn't helped get Carson Beckett out of his head. Frustrated, he cleaned himself up with a tee shirt and rolled onto his side, facing the wall.


As he slipped into sleep, Beckett's smile haunted him.




"Bloody hell, not again," Carson muttered as McKay approached.


"Hey, Beckett. I've got some stuff I want you to initialize for me." He waved at Carson from across the mess hall.


"I just sat down to lunch, McKay," Carson said, disgusted.


McKay plopped into the seat next to him. "It's okay. I can wait a few minutes. You'll be done soon." He leaned on his elbows. "We've found some really interesting stuff in the workshops you opened yesterday."


Carson kicked McKay's chair in his annoyance. "Leave me alone. You'll get your two hours this afternoon."


"Yes, yes. And since the time is now 12:47 p.m., it's officially afternoon and I need those two hours." McKay's mouth widened into a crooked grin.


Carson sighed, covering his face with one hand.


"Come on, it's not that bad." McKay's hand lit on Carson's shoulder. "We know what most of this batch is, we just need it activated so we can work with it."


"I just want to eat my lunch in peace," Carson said, trying hard not to whimper. The man had been after him every day since Elizabeth had cleared him to work with McKay in the afternoons. It wasn't all bad, but it did tend to be somewhat stressful. Carson never knew from one moment to the next what he'd have stuffed into his hand.


"That's fine," McKay said, "eat. I'm not trying to interrupt that." He stared at Carson, fidgeting.


Carson put a bite in his mouth, but just couldn't handle McKay *staring* at him like that. "Oh bugger it all. McKay, I can't eat with you right there half in my lap like that! Would you please go bother someone else until I'm done?"


"What? This is no bother. I'm just waiting."


Carson snorted. "Well wait over there!" He pointed to the next table over with his fork.


"But--" Carson poked McKay with his fork. McKay yelped. "Okay! Okay! Jesus, I'm moving!"


"Thank you," Carson said graciously.


McKay glowered at him. "Now I'm gonna need a tetanus shot."


"Whiner," Carson said. "Hypochondriac."


"Look at this!" McKay said, holding his hand up from the safe distance of the next table.


"You're not even bleeding," Carson told him.


"I'm bruised!"


"You're not." Carson shook his head. This was getting far too close to a Monty Python moment for his comfort.


"I can't possibly work with my hand mangled like this." People were looking at both of them. Several had started snickering behind magazines or their hands.


"Next you'll be tellin' me it's an ex-parrot," Carson mumbled.


Rodney glowered. "I heard that."


"Glad to know your ears work, lad."


"Will you *please* finish your lunch so you can bandage my mangled hand and we can go initialize some Ancient technology?" McKay sounded desperate.


"If you can give me five -- no, even three minutes of silence, I'll go with you when I'm done."


McKay raised a finger and opened his mouth.


"Silence," Carson reiterated, waving his fork. McKay's mouth closed and he eyed the flatware. "That's better." He tucked into his lunch before McKay changed his mind.


Carson ate quickly, watching McKay out of the corner of his eye. McKay was glaring at his wristwatch. Carson grinned. He'd no doubt get three minutes to the microsecond.


"Three minutes," McKay muttered.


"Almost done," Carson said. He finished up his meal and carried the tray to the kitchen counter. "All right then. Let's get this over with."


"I fail to see why you treat this like it's some horrible chore you have to finish before your brain explodes." McKay was already standing behind him, hovering.


"I suppose it's not so bad as all that." He looked at McKay. "I'd appreciate it if you'd let me get to it in my own time, rather than following me about like some lost pup."


"You're the only person I have with the gene right now. This is important, Beckett. Why can't you just accept that?" McKay had a hand on his wrist and was tugging him along into the hallway. Carson sighed and let himself be towed.


"I know it's important," Carson said. "And I know I'm the only one."


McKay sighed and shook his head. "I wish you weren't. I wish I had the damned thing myself. Are you sure those test results were accurate, that I don't have the ATA?"


Carson nodded. "Oh, aye, they're accurate. I'm sorry." The worst of it was, he truly did feel sorry for McKay. Those moments when an initialized doodad worked for him, McKay almost glowed with joy. It truly did offset the worst of his temper. Carson actually thought the man might make a decent friend if he were like that a little more often. There was some bit of childlike wonder in him in those moments that was delightful to watch.


"Most of what we have today are some kind of maintenance devices," McKay said. "I think they'll work for people without the gene if you can just get them initialized. I could really use some of this equipment for my other work."


"It's all right," Carson said. "I'm not going to refuse. I just wish there were others you could turn to for it. My research is going to be slow enough as it is without these interruptions, and I know you'd like me to have it done already."


"If you ever get that gene therapy figured out, I'll be the first in line for it."


Carson believed him. A few minutes later, they entered McKay's lab. There were about a dozen people working there. Some were talking quietly, others were examining bits and pieces of Ancient technology, and others were typing away at computers. Carson wasn't entirely sure what was happening, but he knew it didn't much matter. All he was there for was to make a few things light up. If he was lucky, the chosen items would light easily and he could get on with the rest of his day.


McKay walked up to a desk where one of the scientists -- Kavanagh, Carson thought -- was working and snagged a couple of pieces of god only knew what.


"Hey, I'm not--" Kavanagh started.


"Oh, do be quiet," McKay snapped, and handed one of them to Carson. "Here, light this one up."


Kavanagh made a grab for the item. "But--"


"Shut up," McKay repeated, and Carson focused on the item.


It lit and a split second later there was a hideous screeching nose. Power shot through him, raising the hair on his arms and he knew something had gone horribly wrong. Smoke rose from the thing and Carson dropped it just as a light shot out of it. The beam struck one of the scientists, who fell with a scream. "A dhía!" Carson yelped as everyone ducked. He covered his head by reflex, rolling behind a desk.


"Turn it off! Turn it off!" Kavanagh screamed. Carson gasped and made a grab for the horrid thing, thinking *OFF* as loudly as he could. It fell silent and Carson ran for the fallen scientist, slapping his radio.


"I need a med team to Dr. McKay's lab, stat!" he shouted. He dropped next to the fallen man, making a quick exam. There were extensive burns and a huge, nasty looking, cauterized gash in the man's side and back. The cloth around the gash was still smoking. "Oh, god, I'm sorry!" Carson said as the man moaned, clutching his arms around himself. Carson thought it was Dr. Zununi. He was crying out in some language Carson didn't recognize.


"What the fuck just happened?" McKay asked, hurrying to Carson's side and helping to hold the injured scientist still. "Did you break the damned thing? What the hell did you do to it?"


Kavanagh ran over in a rage. "I tried to tell you, McKay, but you never fucking listen! The thing is *damaged* -- it never should have been initialized in the first place."


McKay had no answer for that, and Carson worked quickly, trying to ease Zununi's writhing and get a closer look at the burns and the wound. "This is all my fault," Carson said. "God, I broke it, I hurt someone, I should never have touched the bloody--"


"Jesus, Beckett, do you think you could freak out *after* you save him?" McKay asked. "This isn't the time to run around assigning blame." He poked a finger into Kavanagh's face. "And get that thing to maintenance right now. I want to know what the hell went wrong." McKay turned to help him.


Carson paid no further attention to the other scientists but set to working with his patient. The wound was very bad, though there was only minimal bleeding due to the cauterization. He hoped his medics would arrive soon. "Easy, Zununi, easy," he said softly.


Zununi was curled into himself and Carson and McKay gently eased his arms away from his abdomen. "Come on, Zununi, hang on," McKay said. "Beckett'll patch you up." McKay looked at him. "You will, right?"


"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Carson said quickly. "I'm doing all I can. Where are they?" He slapped his radio again, about to call for the medical team, when a herd of medics came rushing through the door.


Carson helped them heft Zununi onto the gurney and hurried off to take care of the injured man.




Rodney had spent the better part of the last four hours listening to Kavanagh bitch and moan about how he should have asked before randomly handing Beckett Ancient technology. Unfortunately, for once the pony-tailed menace was right. It was his fault Zununi was in the sick bay. Beckett had been freaked by the entire incident, though he'd pulled himself together quickly enough once he had his hands on Zununi.


He turned the device over in his hands. Parts were blackened and cracked from the power that had burned through it when it was initialized. It was a wonder Beckett hadn't been hurt as well, and that made Rodney nervous. Kavanagh shoved a probe into his hands.


"Use this. And next time, ask."


Rodney glared at him. "You've been saying that ever since the damned thing blew. Shut up already."


"It's not every day I get to watch the Great and Powerful McKay fuck up in *quite* such a spectacular fashion. I should be leading this project, not you." Kavanagh's eyes narrowed behind his glasses.


"Get out," Rodney growled. "I'm sick of listening to you. Just get out."


"Somebody has to figure out what's wrong with this damned thing."


Rodney slapped it into Kavanagh's hands and stomped out of the room. He could almost feel the smoke rising from his ears. One of these days, he was going to deck that bastard. It galled him that Kavanagh was right for once. He wondered if they could leave the man behind if they ever actually got to go to Atlantis. If they ever found the place, that was.


He stopped by the sick bay to check on Zununi. He'd looked quite a mess when Beckett and his team had taken him out of the lab. Beckett had looked really upset too, and that bothered Rodney more than he'd realized. He hoped both of them would be okay.


Beckett was sitting alone in his office, face in his hands.


"Hey," Rodney said quietly.


Beckett looked up at him. His face was grim. "Dr. Zununi will heal, but he should be sent back home as soon as he's able to travel. He's off the project."


Rodney sat in the chair in front of Beckett's desk. "I'm sorry," he said.


"I knew this was a very bad idea."




Beckett waved a hand. "This. Coming here. This... this Ancient technology."


Rodney shook his head. "No, really. We need you here. Accidents happen, and I'm the one who handed you the wrong item."


"But I was the only one who could have caused the accident, now, wasn't I?" Beckett looked devastated. "I nearly killed a man, just by thinking. You can't possibly have any idea how that feels."


"You can't let this get to you. This project needs you. Hell, the whole damned planet needs you. Do you have any clue how important all of this is? I mean, I'm sorry Zununi was hurt, but this project is more important than any of us." He wondered how he could get through to the man.


"Dr. Zununi may never walk again, Dr. McKay. That's what's important. That's what I did by turning on some bloody thing nobody understands." He closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands again. "I put people together again, McKay, I don't kill them."


"It's not your fault," Rodney insisted. Beckett was really taking it hard.


"No, but close enough, don't you think?" Beckett's voice was muffled by his hands. "I've got to write up a report on this for Elizabeth. God, what am I going to tell her?"


"The same thing I did -- that this was my fuck up." Rodney edged the chair closer to Beckett's desk and reached out hesitantly. He paused a moment, then put a hand on Beckett's arm. "This wasn't your fault."


Beckett sighed. "It doesn't really matter whose fault it is, does it? Zununi's not goin' to care." He looked back up at Rodney. "I don't think I'll be able to look the poor man in the eye."


"Look, Beckett... Carson. I'm sorry. I mean, I don't say that very often, but I'm really sorry this happened. For a lot of reasons. I'm sorry it was in your hands when it went off. I'm sorry Zununi got hurt. I'm just... I'm sorry, okay?"




Rodney lowered his eyes. "Rodney. My name's Rodney," he said softly.


Carson nodded. "Rodney then. I don't know what to do about this. I shouldn't be going near that stuff you muck about with. It's all too bloody dangerous."


It bothered him that Carson was so upset. "You're the only one who can do this. We'll put some further precautionary protocols into place. We can make sure this doesn't happen again. And... I mean, accidents happen. Somebody could fall off a ladder. A person could get burned with a welding torch. I could eat something I'm allergic to and go into anaphylaxis. This was just another accident, Carson; it could have happened to anyone."


"Not anyone, Mc -- Rodney. It happened to Zununi, and it happened because I have that blasted ATA gene. Without me in the equation, none of it would have been possible."


"So it would have happened to whoever we had on hand with the gene, then. But you were right there when it did happen, and because of that, Zununi didn't die on the spot. He may never walk again, but at least he'll go home alive."


Carson sighed, looking defeated. "Okay, you're right about that. He's alive. He might not have been if he'd not got prompt treatment. That at least takes some of the sting from it."


Rodney got up and went to Carson's side. "Look, why don't you come down to the mess hall. I'll get you a cup of coffee. I hear there was a shipment of fresh fruit today. You can write the report in a couple of hours. We can talk to Elizabeth before you do."


Carson lowered his eyes to his desk for a moment then took a deep breath. "All right," he said. "I suppose that's a better idea than my sitting here beating myself up over it." He looked up and Rodney put a hand on his shoulder and smiled at him.


"Good, good," Rodney said. "You're right. You shouldn't beat yourself up over it." Coffee. It cured so many of the world's ills. It wouldn't fix Zununi, but it might help Carson, and that seemed like a really good plan.


Rodney was a genius, after all.




Gaelic in the story:


A dhía -- oh god