Series: Moments Sacred and Profane

Title: Prelude 3: Adrift

Author: Mice


Category: Stargate: Atlantis, McKay/Beckett friendship

Warnings: pre-slash

Spoilers: Rising

Rating: PG13

Summary: After the Rising, there's a new life to embrace. 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: The story is set just after Rising.  Beta by the usual evil ones, Pas and kt4ever.




Cud pospolity:

to, ze dzieje sie wiele cudów pospolitych.


The commonplace miracle:

that so many miracles take place.

            ~~Wislawa Szymborska from Jarmark Cudów (Miracle Fair)~~


At last, he had a moment to breathe. Carson leaned against the balcony's railing, distracted as he listened to the people talking inside.


Yesterday, he thought they were all going to die. The city shuddered beneath them; people and equipment toppling like children's toys under the sweep of a careless arm. The shields about the great city of Atlantis were failing and the sea was rushing in and they were going to die.


And then Atlantis had risen.


The city shot upward from the depths, rumbling and shaking, and the screams of the people around him were still echoing in his ears a day later. His own screams had joined the terrified choir and in those last few moments before the towers began to break the surface, he'd thought of his mum, and Glasgow, and Skye.


The light had been breathtaking; gold beams through stained glass windows. He'd been sprawled on the floor next to one of the nurses -- Shel Tuchman -- and as the shudder of the city subsided beneath them they'd held each other for long moments, sobbing with relief that they weren't dead.


A few moments later, Carson had occupied himself with wondering if they weren't all going to suffer from a terrible case of the bends. That, however, never materialized and he was quite pleased it hadn't. Then the real work began.


"Hey, hey, Carson!"


Carson sighed and turned. "Yes? What, Rodney?"


McKay approached, hands in frantic motion. Carson wondered if the man would even be able to speak if his hands were tied behind him. "One of the Marines thinks he's found the infirmary." Rodney grinned. "Just thought you'd like to know."


Carson perked up immediately. He'd been wondering where they would set up, and had designated a room just off the Gateroom as a temporary sickbay for treating those injured in the Wraith attack on Athos and the chaos of the city's rise from the depths. "Oh, brilliant! Where is it?"


Rodney waved a hand. "Come on, I'll show you." He hurried off, Carson jogging at his heels. "There seems to be a good bit of Ancient medical equipment there. We haven't been able to get anyone with the gene in yet to initialize anything, but I'm sure even you would be able to manage that." Rodney didn't bother to look back at him as he rattled on.


"We're not sure what any of it will do, but my guess is that you've got some serious scanning and diagnostic equipment," Rodney said. His hands were still moving at light speed. "We might be able to replace your clunky x-ray machine with something far more efficient. Who knows what else will turn up? I hope they have some way of doing non-invasive blood chemistries." Rodney's voice was wistful. "I'd really love to avoid having your damned vampires sucking my blood out through a straw anymore."


"How far is it?" Carson asked, not daring to hope for working equipment.


Rodney turned a corner and gestured. "Here!" He led Carson through a door into what was obviously a medical center of some sort. There were offices and patient beds and shelves and banks of strange equipment all around. Carson turned in a slow, full circle, just taking it in.


"Oh my," he said softly. Rodney grinned broadly.


"Isn't this cool?"


Carson blinked, trying to absorb it all. "The word 'useful' comes to mind a wee bit more swiftly," he said. He wandered the area almost randomly, looking at things without touching them.


"Oh, come on," Rodney said, always impatient. "Try touching some of this stuff. See if you can turn it on."


Carson looked at him. Rodney was practically vibrating with excitement. He had to admit that an excited Rodney was far superior to an annoyed one. He let himself smile as well, already thinking about where to put things and which office he should claim for his own. 


"Are there research labs, do you think?" Carson asked. He looked around at the various doors leading out of the room in which they stood.


Rodney nodded. "Oh yeah, definitely. Through here." He pointed and Carson hurried to look.


There were half a dozen small labs in the infirmary area. Carson could barely contain his excitement. "Oh, my staff will be over the moon," he said, grinning. Rodney thumped his shoulder.


"I knew you'd like this," he said. There was a sparkle in Rodney's eyes that cheered Carson. The man had been excited but very anxious about coming to Atlantis yesterday, and their first day in the city had proven nerve-wracking to be sure. Carson was still terribly uneasy about the whole thing, but knowing he now had an appropriate base of operations left him feeling slightly better about the whole thing.


Carson tapped his radio. "Dr. Grodin, can you contact my staff and have them report to--" he looked at Rodney. "Where are we, then?"


"Section A-14," Rodney replied.


"Section A-14," Carson repeated. "Tell them to bring the patients and their gear. We've got ourselves an infirmary and labs."


He could hear a quiet chuckle in his earpiece. "Right, Dr. Beckett. I'll send them your way."


"Thanks Peter!" Carson sighed happily. Soon the place would be set up and all would be right in his universe.


Rodney gestured from a doorway. "How about this for your office?"


Carson went to meet him. The space was small but quite appropriate. Carson had never felt like he needed much when it came to an office. He was more at home in the lab anyway. All he wanted was a desk, a chair, and a little storage. "Oh, this'll be just grand," he said. "Thank you, Rodney. I may yet forgive you for making me sit in that bloody chair."


Rodney nodded. "So come on. Let's go have you touch some things. I want to see what the equipment here does."


Carson eyed him nervously. "You want me to touch things that haven't been used in ten thousand years? After what happened in Antarctica? You're daft, man."


"It's medical equipment, Carson, not weapons systems. What could it hurt?"


Carson shifted his weight and crossed his arms, not wanting to cooperate. "And what if it's got surgical lasers or some such thing? I don't want to be zappin' holes in the walls now, do I?"


"Oh please. Holes in the walls. Right." Rodney glowered at him. "You are so paranoid."


"And I've got good reason to be, wouldn't you say? Besides, I need to claim my lab space." He pulled a pad of sticky notes from his pocket and scribbled his name on one sheet, tacking it to the door of his office.


"You can do that later. We have things to initialize."


Carson scribbled on another sheet, slapping it on a lab door as he walked. "Toys to play with, you mean."


"Six of one," Rodney said with a shrug.


Carson snorted. He hurried about the place designating different labs and rooms for different uses. "This is important too," he said. "When everyone gets here, they need to know where to put their things." He looked up. "Oh, good. Isolation ward." He labeled that as well.


"Carson!" Rodney tugged at his sleeve, for all the world like a little boy demanding attention. "You can do this later. I don't have time to watch you tacking up signs that your underlings could be making. We need to go check out the equipment. That's why I'm here!"


Anand Chandrapurna arrived first. "Surgery's over there," Carson said, pointing to a doorway with a sticky on it.


"Oh, lovely," Anand said. He grinned. "I wondered when we would have a proper space for our work. In a city this size, there had to be at least one hospital."


"Yes, yes, how delightful for you," Rodney said. He grabbed Carson by the wrist. "Come on. You can let him do the rest of this crap. It's time to initialize things."


"If you want them done so badly, do them yourself," Carson snarked. Not that Rodney could, of course, but once the labs were set up, he'd be able to work on his ATA therapy. He was very close now, with successful mouse trials not long before they'd packed to leave Earth. He thought within a few weeks he might be ready for a human trial, and there'd be no pesky FDA regulations to keep him from it for a decade or more.


Rodney growled, "If I could do it myself, I wouldn't need you, now, would I?"


Carson just grinned. He did love baiting the man, and Rodney was so easy to annoy. "So why don't you go find Major Sheppard, then. He's got the gene much stronger than I."


"Yes, but he's busy right now trying to figure out what the hell it was he woke up. You, on the other hand, are running around the infirmary here slapping sticky notes on every available surface."


"Aye, Rodney, I am. And as soon as the rest of my staff gets here, you'll know it needed to be done. For a genius, you're a wee bit slow, don't you think?" He labeled the pathology lab as he walked by.


"I'll have you know my time is more valuable than this." Rodney tugged at his sleeve again. "Come on! I want to see what this stuff is. I can't imagine you don't, being as it directly relates to your professional voodoo."


"My professional voodoo, as you so like to call it, was a bit busy keeping people alive last night." Carson looked into another room, deciding it looked like ICU to him, and slapped down another sticky note.


"Carson!" Rodney huffed and then puffed up his chest like a rooster. "Really, if you're not going to do this, there are other things I could be doing."


Carson eyed him. "Then why don't you go and do them? I've enough to do here already. You can come back tomorrow and perhaps then I'll be willing to play games with your Ancient technology. Assuming I have time."


Rodney snapped something under his breath and hurried off, giving Carson the evil eye while he was at it. Carson just chuckled. The equipment would still be there tomorrow, and for the moment he had enough to do in getting his people and his patients settled. When Carol Bentz came in with the first of his patients, he pointed her at the main ward and kept right on working.




Carson sighed and settled back in his partly made bed. He'd not had time to do more than toss down a sheet and a blanket, being so exhausted. The day had been a long one, and the day before had been even longer. His first day in a new galaxy had been more than memorable, what with collapsing shields, underwater cities, and meeting a whole civilization of aliens. And then there were the injuries from Atlantis rising from her ten thousand year slumber in the depths.


Major Sheppard had brought back a Wraith arm as well, whatever in bloody hell a Wraith was. Something hideous; he knew that in his bones. All the Athosians seemed terrified of them, down to the smallest of the wee babes in arms. At least with his lab partly set up he could start on examining the arm tomorrow.


There would have to be a DNA analysis, among other things. The formation in the center of the palm was ugly as all hell, but fascinating. The Major had said it was how the horrid things fed; sucking up human life force like it was Irn Bru. Carson shuddered.


The city at night was bloody creepy. There were strange echoes and odd lights, and the stars overhead looked like nothing he'd ever seen. He wasn't a particularly superstitious man, but he felt as though the weight of millennia was resting on his chest. The Athosians spoke as though the Ancients still haunted the halls, and Carson was half willing to believe them. People would rush from one place to another if they had to walk alone after dark, or they'd travel in pairs or groups.


He'd hurried to his new room after he'd finally left the infirmary. The halls were still full of ten thousand year dead sticks in old pots. The Ancients had apparently liked their plants, but their dried carcasses just left things feeling like a desecrated graveyard.


Carson sighed and curled up on his side, tugging the blanket and sheet around him. He wished he'd made time to actually put it together properly, and now his feet were tangled in the sheet. With a frustrated grunt, he rose and made his bed as he should have the first time. Standing there, surveying his handiwork, he realized he wasn't going to be getting any sleep at all tonight.


Padding silently to the large window, he looked out into the wide darkness. Stars gleamed overhead in alien patterns. He wondered if the Ancients had ever named the constellations in these skies, or if they cared for such things at all. He braced one hand against the wall next to his window and looked at the faint reflection of himself in the glass.


He looked exhausted. There were dark circles under his eyes, deepened by the shadow in which he stood. He saw the faint outlines of darkened towers all around, barely noticeable except for how they blocked out the stars and the glimmer of the sea.


The silence unnerved him. He should be able to hear the sea all around him, Carson thought. The sound of the waves should be pervasive in this quiet, but his room was too far above the water, and he didn't think the window actually opened. Everything about the place felt... off. Wrong. He wasn't sure they should be here, in a city that had until yesterday been no more than legend.




And now he was one of the new Atlanteans. He wondered what his mum might make of a thing like that. She'd probably think him daft. He leaned his forehead against the window. It was cool, but didn't feel quite like either glass or plastic. He had no idea what it was made of. For him, there were no points of reference. Rodney might have some idea, but Carson was at a loss.


Would he ever see home again, he wondered. They'd all known, in theory, that the trip might be one way. They'd almost not survived their first day. Carson had never considered himself a particularly brave man, but the act of stepping through the Gate had placed him in that category, even if he never did another brave thing in his life.


What had he got himself into?




Rodney lay flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling of his new quarters. Carson hadn't cooperated at all with his plans to initialize the Ancient medical technology, despite the fact that Rodney was sure he'd be quite good with the stuff.


He realized he spent a lot of time thinking about Carson since they'd met, but even here it was hopeless. At the party last night, Carson had been staring at that Teyla chick and wishing he could make friends like that. God, the man was hopelessly heterosexual. Why Rodney continued to torture himself with fantasies about his friend puzzled him. They'd been friends since they met; Rodney appreciated Carson's sense of humor and the fact that he was at least in the same intellectual ballpark, though he'd never admit it aloud.


It wasn't like there weren't others here he found interesting, or even attractive. He huffed a loud sigh and poked at his pillow, trying to get comfortable. There was so much more in this place than anyone had ever imagined. Samantha Carter would collapse in a regular geekgasm if she were here. There had been several moments in the past two days when he wished she were. It would have made his life ever so much easier. Surrounded by idiots -- he was drowning in the incompetent.


And then there were the unwilling, which brought him right around to Carson Beckett again. Rodney understood fear, he really did. Sure, Carson had had a few run-ins with incredibly bad luck when it came to Ancient technology, but damn it, the man had no appreciation for the gift he'd been given. Rodney would still be out there now, touching things and getting them to light up, if only he had the gene.


Maybe that was why he was so hot for Carson. Was it really just gene lust? No, it couldn't be. He'd been hot for the man before Elizabeth told him Carson had the gene. Life was so not fair. And that feral-haired Major, he had the gene too, and in the strongest form they'd found so far aside from O'Neill's; Rodney wasn't the least bit interested in the tall, skinny pilot, so that ruled out the gene as a factor in attraction. He shook his head and told his dick to stop bothering him but, as usual, it wasn't listening. The thing never did anyway.


"Peachy," he grumbled. He wasn't up for a cold shower, not that he ever liked them. Hot fantasy and a quick jerk were probably the only things going to get him to sleep tonight at all. He had a few favorites: Carson doing him up against a shower wall, Carson doing him over a lab desk, Carson with some kind of glowy Ancient... okay, so he didn't even want to admit that one to himself.


Hopeless. That's what he was. Hopeless.




Sheppard sat at the conference table staring out into the Gateroom. He had to choose three people for his Gate team. Teyla was a natural. He hadn't even had to think about that. They'd need a guide and she would be perfect for the job. She knew the galaxy, knew a lot of the different planets and people in it, and she liked him.


Okay, so the liking him thing probably had a lot to do with rescuing her gorgeous ass from the Wraith, but right now he'd take what he could get. So, that was one down.


Bates was going to be head of security. He didn't like the argumentative little Sergeant much, but the man would do a good job. That meant Sheppard couldn't take him offworld on the same team. Bates would end up leading his own team anyway, as would Markham and Stackhouse. Power and food were priorities now, because without a ZPM, whatever the hell that was, they'd never be seeing Earth again. Food -- well, if they didn't get back to Earth, they couldnąt subsist on saltwater and seaweed. There were probably fish here, but could they even eat them? What had these Ancient guys lived on, anyway? Air?


There were several officers that he could take for his team. Miller might do, but Sheppard wanted somebody a little younger, with more energy. Ford, the young guy who had flipped him shit when they went through the Gate; he seemed like a good choice. So that was two down.


But now he needed a geek. He wouldn't know a ZPM if it ran up and bit him on the ass, so a scientist was a definite need. Had to be somebody who spoke English. He had some Spanish and bits of things like Farsi, but that didn't mean he could speak them well enough for an emergency in the field. There had to be clear communications. That left out a third to a half of the sciences team right there. Not all of them spoke English, and quite a few of those who did weren't really clear. They'd learn eventually, especially if they were going to be here for the rest of their lives, but right now was not the time to learn.


So, English speaking scientist who knew Ancient technology. That left out the folks from the soft sciences, like anthropology and linguistics, and he flipped through the computer files, coming up with a short list of six people who fit his criteria.


Kavanagh was out. He'd seen the guy around a few times and the man was a supercilious bitch. Sheppard would probably frag the bastard himself in an emergency. Kusanagi spoke perfectly clear English, but she was a timid little thing, so no go there. He wasn't sure he knew Zelenka. The guy was a Czech, but his record said he spoke fluent English. Sheppard didn't want to take a chance that the record was wrong. Grodin was out because he had to deal with the Gateroom tech, and Elizabeth wasn't about to let her aide de camp see the other side of a Gate anytime soon anyway. Peterson? Again, Sheppard didn't know him.


And then there was Rodney McKay, the biggest ego in two galaxies. He was certainly out of shape, but that could be fixed. On the up side, he was also the biggest brain they had. If McKay was to be believed, he was the smartest man back in the Milky Way too, but Sheppard wasn't sure if he was ready to believe the Canuck's press, particularly since it all came out of his own mouth. Weir certainly trusted him, at least enough to put him in charge of the sciences division. That said quite a bit.


The man was a whiner but from what Sheppard had seen, he had a sense of humor that made up for it and if he was a little chicken, well, that wasn't bad in a geek who had probably never picked up a gun even once in his life. He'd probably at least be smart enough to take cover and let the professionals handle it.


So okay: Teyla Emmagen, Aiden Ford and Rodney McKay. He'd see how it worked and swap people around if need be, provided they survived their first offworld mission. He hoped Bates, Stackhouse and Markham were having equal success in picking their own Gate teams.


Now to go inform his vic... team mates of their 'honor'.




Radek Zelenka sighed and examined his tablet again. The crystalline circuits of the newly named Puddle Jumpers were complex and he was trying to learn what he could before an emergency happened. It was, after all, inevitable.


Ten thousand years. It was a very long time for something to be in storage and he was astonished the equipment worked at all. These Ancients, he would love to sit with one of their engineers for a few months and talk over tea or perhaps some vodka.


He'd barely had time to settle into his new quarters last night before he'd passed out from exhaustion. It was true that Atlantis was unnerving, but the sunlight -- oh, the sun when the city rose from the depths -- that was memory enough for a lifetime. The memory of that light would live in some corner of his heart forever.


He and Geoff had been together when the city rose, getting ready for Dr. Weir's ordered evacuation. They'd clung to a crate together, trying to stay on their feet but failing. Geoff hadn't cried out, but he'd been pale with his fear as Atlantis shuddered around them. Radek hadn't been so stoic in the face of it, screaming once as he fell. Geoff had fallen near him, taking his hand when they thought they might die.


If he had to die, holding Geoff's hand was a better way than most, Radek supposed, but still, he was most pleased that it hadn't come to that. He raised his eyes as he heard McKay approach.


"Zoloko, what can you tell me about these things?"


Radek sighed and rolled his eyes. "It is Zelenka, Dr. McKay, and I have not yet had enough time to trace basic circuit pathways. It will take days to get enough information for even the most basic maintenance and function. Please do not bother me until I tell you I have this information."


McKay snorted and Radek poked his probe back into the bank of circuit slabs. "I want daily reports," McKay snapped. "These are probably the most important technological discoveries aside from the Gate and city controls, and we need to figure out what they're capable of."


Radek didn't bother looking at the man. "Yes, yes, I know. This is why I was assigned to the project." He turned to Valentina Kaminski and spoke to her in Russian. "I wish he would go away."


McKay's large hand closed around his wrist. "I speak Russian," he growled.


Radek looked down at him from his perch on the box. "Oh." Kaminski just snickered.


The moment didn't last long, though, as one of the military officers entered the Jumper bay. "Hey, McKay."


McKay turned, fire still in his eyes. "Yeah, what?"


"Need to talk with you."


"What do you want, Major? I'm a bit busy here." McKay planted his feet like they were the roots of a tree and crossed his arms over his chest.


"I want you to join my Gate team."


"Gate team?" Radek could hear the excitement in McKay's voice, even though he couldn't see the man's eyes widen or the expression on his face from where he stood. "You mean, go through the Gate? Like Col. Carter? Um, uh, well of course!" He took a quick, nervous breath. "Of course you'd need me," he continued, brash overconfidence falling into its usual place. "How else would you identify any technology you might come across? And finding a ZedPM? I'm sure you wouldn't recognize one if it tripped you."


That, of course, was McKay to the core.


"Right, McKay. That's sort of the point. You're the geek here, not me." Radek could see Sheppard's wicked grin. This might be fun.


"Oh, now just a minute. Let's not start with the name-calling."


"You're the one who implied I wouldn't know a ZPM if I fell over it."


"What is this, grade one?" McKay leaned forward, pressing his bulk in an attempt to be intimidating. Sheppard didn't even flinch.


The Major shrugged, still grinning. "I've already talked to Teyla and Lt. Ford. We'll meet after lunch to discuss our first offworld mission. Weir's set us up to go through the Gate tomorrow. It's a simple trading mission for food. Should be harmless, and if the team doesn't really gel, we can see about shifting personnel."


"What?" McKay said. "Already? I mean we haven't even got offworld yet. You can't replace me before our first mission!"


"Who said I was gonna replace you?"


McKay's back straightened. "Oh, so you mean you might replace the alien bimbo or the boy wonder?"


Sheppard rolled his eyes. "I'm hoping I won't have to replace anyone."


McKay nodded. "Right, right. Not replacing anybody. That would be ideal."


Sheppard smiled. "Great. Just so we're on the same page. I'll see you after lunch in the conference room." The Major turned and left quickly.


McKay turned to Radek and Kaminski. "What are *you* staring at? Get back to work. I want those schematics the nanosecond you get things sorted." He hurried off before either of them could reply.


Valentina shrugged. "Well," she said in Russian, "at least he won't be bothering us so often if he's on another planet."




"Okay, Carson, you are so not fobbing this off for another day." Rodney wasn't going to let the man get away with ignoring him this time. The patients still remaining were all in beds and if there was anything else that needed doing, Carson's minions could take care of it. "Come on. You're going to initialize some of this medical equipment."


"Oh no you don't," Carson started, but Rodney cut him off.


"Oh yes I do. We need to know what this stuff is, and you know as well as I do that it could save somebody's life. Maybe mine. Therefore, get with the program."


Carson blinked at him. "Your life?"


"Yeah, I'm on the new Gate team. Major Sheppard's taking me offworld." Rodney grinned. "So if I end up coming back looking like a pincushion, it's your job to know what the hell this stuff is."


"Why would he take you offworld?" Carson asked, looking genuinely puzzled.


Rodney waved what he thought might be a portable medical scanner at Carson. "Hello. Technology. We're looking for ZedPM's, tech, food, whatever. They need a scientist on the team so we won't ignore tech if they trip on it."


"Oh, right enough then."


Rodney was sure that was an edge of panic in Carson's eyes. "What?"


Carson sighed and shook his head. "I'm just glad it's not me they're wanting."


"Oh, right. You and your Dr. McCoy thing."


Carson rolled his eyes. "It's not bloody sane, stepping through that thing."


"Stepping through that thing is why we're here!" He waved the scanner again for emphasis.


"Why you're here, perhaps. Me? I'm just along to patch people up." Carson turned back to his paperwork.


"You lie like a rug, Carson. A particularly threadbare one, to be certain, but a rug nonetheless."


"Do you have a point here, Rodney? Because if you do, I'd appreciate you gettin' to it."


"Initializing your equipment, Carson." He handed the scanner to Carson. "Starting with this."


Carson looked at the device, startled. "Oh, no, not that again."


"Yes, that again. I'm not going away this time. You're doing paperwork. *Paperwork*! Come on, this is way more exciting."


The Scot glared up at him. "Right then. If it'll shut you up and let me get back to work, let's get on with it."


"All right!" Rodney bounced on the balls of his feet, excited as Carson stood, turning the device over in his hands. "Just think about turning it on."


Carson made a frustrated sound, closed his eyes, and screwed up his face in concentration. A moment later, the thing lit, blue.


"Oh yeah!" He grabbed it. "So what is it? What does it do?" He looked at it, turning it over and examining every angle.


"Will that be all, then?" Carson asked, a hopeful tone in his voice.


"No, no, no. This is just the beginning. We've got tons of stuff for you to start up." He grabbed Carson by the wrist and dragged him into the main exam area. "Over here. Touch this." He slapped Carson's hand onto a large piece of equipment over a table.


Carson jerked his hand back. "Now just you wait a minute, Rodney. You've no idea what this beastie does."


"It's a scanner, Carson. Look at it. It's hanging over an exam table. What the hell do you think it does?"


"Maybe it's... I don't know! And that's exactly my point! We don't know!"


"Well when you turn it on, we *will* know. Or at least we can find out. Which is part of the scientific process, may I remind you. Then again, as a voodoo practitioner, you're probably unfamiliar with the scientific method."


Carson glowered at him but Rodney was undeterred. "Now, hand on the equipment. Turn the damned thing on. We don't have all day." He crossed his arms over his chest, staring at Carson and tapping one foot impatiently.


"I really do have to check on my mice," Carson said.


"Oh, bullshit. Your mice will be fine for the next couple of hours. Light it up."


With a defeated sigh, Carson put one ginger hand out and touched the scanner cautiously. He closed his eyes and focused again and the thing lit.


"Good, good. Excellent. Come on. We have a whole clinic full of stuff to start." He tugged on the sleeve of Carson's lab coat. "The sooner we get at it, the quicker it'll be over with and then you can go play with your rodents."


"I wish it was over now," Carson muttered.


Rodney grinned. "Patience, Grasshopper."




"Oh god oh god, they're tall and ugly and huge and... and... and *life-sucking*!" Rodney stammered as Carson tried to listen to his heart and lungs.


He huffed and pulled his stethoscope from Rodney's chest. "Oh, do stop whinging. You're not hurt. You're not even winded. You saw the bloody thing from across a field."


"It was a small field. A very, very small field. I swear; I could count the dredlocks on their heads!"


"And my mum was servin' tea to 'em, I'm sure."


"Well, they were pretty far away," Lt. Ford added.


Rodney scowled at him. "I don't need your help. Our lives were in serious danger."


"Sure, doc." Ford laughed. "They didn't even see us."


The Athosian lass, Teyla, rolled her eyes. "We left quickly. I do not believe they were aware of our location."


"That's only because the life sign detector alerted us to their presence before they could swoop down on us and suck us up with those... thoseŠ transport beam things of theirs."


Carson chuckled. "Your precision astonishes me, Rodney." He patted Rodney's shoulder. "Now if you'll be quiet for a moment so I can listen to your chest, I'd greatly appreciate it."


He could almost feel Major Sheppard's silent laughter behind him.


"Oh, don't you start too," Rodney grumbled at Sheppard as Carson slipped the stethoscope under Rodney's shirt again. "Hey! That's cold!"


"I freeze it just for you," Carson said. He grinned.


Rodney's face crumpled in disgust. "You would."


"If you just shut up for two minutes, you can leave." Carson leaned in and stared Rodney in the eyes. Rodney opened his mouth, raising a finger, but shut it again. Carson finally finished his exam. "Right then. You can go now."


"Thank you!" Rodney got up and bolted from the room.


"That goes for the rest of you lot, too. You're all fine and free to go."


Sheppard laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "Thanks, Doc. I appreciate it."


"It's no trouble, lad. I hope all your missions are this uneventful."


Teyla nodded. "So do we all."


He watched as the rest of Rodney's team filed out of the infirmary. Carson had the uneasy feeling that this was going to be the exception rather than the rule.




Going offworld had been frightening but Rodney was excited too. He wondered if this was how Samantha Carter felt when she first started doing it. Then again, not so much. She was military. She did guns, and Rodney, well Rodney didn't.


Despite having been in mortal danger from the Wraith, Rodney knew he wanted to be back out there. Stepping through the Gate was like nothing else, ever. There was so much to learn, so many things to explore. He wanted it all, wanted to know everything he could about the galaxy they found themselves in. And he had to find a ZedPM, because if he didn't, they'd never go home again.


He wondered if he could handle being stranded here for the rest of his life. Rodney rolled onto his side and stared out the window of his quarters. Strange stars shone in, and the dim light of two moons.


If he were stuck here, he'd never see Col. Carter again; no short blonde hair and perky tits, no arguments over wormhole physics, none of that animal magnetism they shared. Never have another Big Mac. Never watch another new movie or hear a new song. Hell, he'd probably never get laid again, either. Then again, some of the Athosian chicks thought they were pretty cool and that might last for a month or so. He wondered if he could take advantage of the attitude before it evaporated like liquid nitrogen on a sunny day.


If he were stuck here, he'd be faced with Carson every day. Painfully hot, painfully straight Carson.


He was in hell.


Rodney groaned out a heavy sigh. Even if by some miracle there were other not-so-straight people here -- and he kind of suspected Osbourne -- he doubted any of them would give him the time of day, much less take him to bed. And that -- oh, that was another issue all on its own. Not to mention the general attitude of the US military toward people of his persuasion.


No. He had to stay in his own little personal closet as he had been for years now. Except here there were no places he could go for an anonymous bit of relief. That was going to get uncomfortable eventually, but he didn't have any real choice in the matter. Rodney was nothing if not practical, particularly when it came to self-preservation.


Brooding about it wasn't going to help, even though Rodney was something of an expert in the art. Being alone was nothing new, and he'd had most of a year in Antarctica to get used to being alone with Carson under his nose. He'd live.


He always did.