Category: Stargate: Atlantis, McKay/Beckett, established relationship
Warnings: slash, angst, h/c, graphic horror
Summary: The aliens did it.
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.
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Website: Mice's Hole in the Wall https://www.squidge.org/mice
Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to many other people. But if they were mine, they'd be having very interesting adventures.
Author's Notes: For the ff100 prompt "children." What? I find them horrifying. Don't you? Beta by SGAtlantisLight.
"Raise the shield! Raise the shield!"
Colonel Sheppard's team came stumbling back through the gate under fire, Rodney propping Carson in his arms so he stayed on his feet. Elizabeth hurried down the stairs to meet them, her heart pounding. Things were looking bad, and Carson was bloodied, pale and shaking. "Med team to the Gateroom," she called, tapping her radio.
Ronon helped as Rodney and Carson sank to the floor, not quite tumbling. "Hang on, Carson," Rodney was saying as Elizabeth got to them. Carson's belly was bandaged haphazardly, still slick and wet with dark, fresh blood. He groaned loudly as Rodney held him, gentle but firm, trying not to cause more pain. Rodney's eyes were wide with fear.
"What happened?" Elizabeth knelt next to them, taking one of Carson's hands. It was cold and clammy. His head was lolling back against Rodney's shoulder, his eyes and teeth clenched shut in agony, and she could hear the sound of the med team's approach.
"The Revorgans put him in some kind of machine," Sheppard said, panting as he knelt with them. "We're not sure what happened." Carson shifted and gasped, his chest heaving, his hand gripping hard around Elizabeth's. The strength of his grasp was painful, pressing her bones together. "It drove this long spike into him."
Rodney started frantically pushing people away. "Give him some room to breathe, damn it," he barked. The med team arrived and Elizabeth backed off, watching as Biro took in the situation, asking quick, sharp questions, then helped shift Carson onto the gurney. Rodney dashed after them as they ran for the infirmary.
"Will he be okay?" Rodney asked as yet another med tech came out of emergency. They'd whisked Carson away from him the minute they got into the infirmary, and really, Rodney had expected that, but now he was jangling with fear and nervous energy because he had no idea what was going on.
The guy didn't answer and Rodney followed him, grabbing his arm. "I said will he be okay?"
The medic shook him off, still moving. "I'm in a hurry, I'm sorry. One of the docs will talk to you when we're done." He ran from the room and Rodney stood frozen in his tracks, just watching, wondering if his heart was going to stop. A moment later the man ran back through carrying something Rodney couldn't identify.
At least if they were panicking Carson was still there to panic over. He went over to the door, leaning against it, and tried to look through the dark stained glass window, but all he could see were shadows in motion. There was no sound through the Ancient architecture. Rodney could hear his own heart beating and the sharp rasp of his breath, but that was all.
The alien metal was cold beneath his fingers. It was the only thing Rodney could feel beyond dizziness and worry. The warm hand on his shoulder startled him, and he looked up. Teyla stood behind him. "Has there been any word?" she asked softly.
Rodney shook his head. "No, nothing yet, but he's still with us or they wouldn't be running around like that." Teyla drew him back away from the door and eased him into a chair.
"I have brought you coffee and some food," she told him, offering him a mug. He took it, trying to warm himself with the heat of the cup. The steam curled up around his face as he leaned over it, taking in the scent. His stomach lurched and he set the mug down.
"I can't," he said, "but, uh, thanks." He looked toward the door again, willing Biro or Harnell to come out and tell him what was happening.
"Doctor Weir would like to speak with you about the mission," Teyla said gently. "I know how difficult this must be for you. It is always very hard to see a loved one so badly injured."
"No, I'm not leaving," Rodney told her, "not until I know what's happening. Not until I talk to one of the surgeons." He looked over at her. "I have to see him."
"She has already talked to the rest of us." Teyla took his hand. "You were in the room with him. She needs to know what happened there."
*The clang of metal and the squelch of wet tissue as they closed the pod shivered down Rodney's spine, cold as the cuffs around his wrists. Carson's eyes were huge and terrified through the little window, and his scream--* Rodney shuddered. "They shut him in that thing. There was nothing I could do."
"No one is blaming you," she said, squeezing his hand. "But without your report, no one will know what happened."
"When I know how he is," Rodney insisted. "Not before."
Elizabeth was finally able to get out of her office about twenty minutes after Sheppard's team had debriefed. She needed to see Rodney and find out how he was doing, and discover what had happened when he and Carson were alone with the Revorgans. She found him pacing in the waiting area outside the emergency surgery. He looked haggard, blood still spattered on his clothing. Radek sat, silent and anxious, in a chair nearby.
"He has not stopped pacing," Radek said.
An untouched tray and a full cup of coffee sat on a side table. Rodney ignored everything around him, watching the door of the emergency surgery intently as he moved uneasily back and forth. "Rodney," she said, coming up beside him. His head jerked around.
"Oh, Elizabeth. There's no word yet." The dread in his eyes was open and painful. She took his arm, guiding him to a chair, and they sat. One of his knees bounced, unable to keep still. "Radek," he said, looking over at the little Czech, "when did you get here?"
"About five minutes ago," Radek told him. "I only just heard."
"How are you holding up?" she asked Rodney. The MRE looked cold and congealed. She suspected it had been there a while.
"Why aren't they done yet?" he asked, looking back at the door, rubbing his hands together as though they were freezing. "They've been in there for hours. What's wrong? I mean, maybe he's dying. Maybe the machine did something to him that they can't undo. Maybe he bled out. Maybe--"
"Rodney," Elizabeth said softly. It wouldn't do to let Rodney work himself into a greater state of panic than what she could already see in him. "It's only been two hours. I'm sure the surgeons have everything under control. Penetrating abdominal wounds are serious business, certainly, but Carson's people are the best at what they do."
Rodney finally met her eyes. "I suppose you want to know what happened."
She nodded. "Yes."
"The Revorgans appear to have fairly advanced technology," he said quietly. "I can't recommend their interior decorator, though. Tentacles everywhere." He shuddered. "Reminds me of Wraith organic technology in a lot of ways. Membranous panels, kind of..." He shivered. "Kind of slick and damp. I don't think we're dealing with Wraith worshippers here, but I suspect there's some influence on their culture, or at least on their tech."
Elizabeth leaned back in her chair. "Teyla says she doesn't believe they're entirely human. What's your assessment?"
"She's right. And if they're related to the Wraith at all, we could have problems. I didn't exactly get much of a chance to talk to them or examine their technology, though." He looked back at the door again, shifting his weight nervously. "Carson and I were separated from the rest of the team fairly quickly. The Chancellor offered to show us some medical scanning equipment and Carson perked right up." Rodney looked back at her, his knee stilling for a moment. "I should have known something was wrong. Nobody ever actually *wants* us to look at stuff."
She booted her notepad and started writing things down. Rodney was obviously in no condition to type up a report, so her own notes were likely to be the only input he'd have for a while. "What happened then?"
"Before we knew it, we were out of the building and off into a different complex. I was going to tell Sheppard where we were when a couple of the Chancellor's goons grabbed us. The Revorgans are big -- they make Ronon look like a wuss, seriously." He blinked a few times and shook his head. "We didn't have a chance. Next thing I knew we were cuffed and they were dragging us down into this underground chamber. Why the hell does it always have to be underground? Really? Because, I mean, nuclear Amish? The Hoffans? Please!" His hands were in the air now, waving with nervous, kinetic energy.
"Rodney, focus," she said, laying one hand on his knee.
"Ford and his underground wonder boys!" He gazed back at the door again. "Right, right. Anyway, they took us into this chamber. Creepiest damn place you can possibly imagine, right up there with Hiveship interiors. Tentacles everywhere. Looked like something out of Lovecraft, if you can stomach the purple prose." A deep breath later and he looked back at her. "The place was pretty much dominated by a large organic-looking machine with a pod in the center of it. Lots of dark colors, sinewy cables, blinking red lights. Very nasty."
"Did they say anything at all to you?" She tilted her head, watching Rodney's reactions.
"No, not really." He shook his head. His hands were in the air again. "The chamber, it was like it was growing out of the floor. I could tell it was at least partly mechanical, and the place smelled--" His face twisted. "God, it was horrible. You can't imagine the stench, like -- like rotting flesh. We were... Carson was really freaking out by then. You know how he gets."
Elizabeth was very familiar with Carson's reactions to the unknown, and to Rodney's, but she'd let him tell his story in his own way. If she tried stopping him, she'd never get him started again. "Of course," she said. "What else can you tell me?"
"They..." Rodney's voice cracked, softening now. "They uncuffed Carson and shoved him into the chamber. H-he was so scared, Elizabeth. He tried to fight them -- I tried to fight them, but they were... it was like..." He took a deep, steadying breath. "I couldn't even move. Did you know they have these little tentacles on their necks when they're angry?" Rodney closed his eyes, shivering. He wiggled his fingers near his neck, imitating tentacles. Elizabeth shuddered. "They cover up their gills. God, Elizabeth, they have gills. Of course they're not human! What kind of human has gills?" Rodney's voice got shrill again and he jerked out of the chair, pacing frantically back and forth. "I don't know what the hell they are, but they put Carson in that -- that *thing* and closed the door, and I could see--"
He fell silent, gasping for breath as he leaned against the wall, bracing himself with one arm. Elizabeth sprang from her chair and rushed to his side, taking his shoulder in one hand. Radek was on her heels. "Rodney, it's okay," she said. "You're not there anymore. You're home in Atlantis."
"We are here, Rodney," Radek added. "You do not have to do this alone."
Rodney's eyes closed and he nodded; quick, jerky motions up and down. "Yeah, yeah. It was... I mean, about that time, Ronon and the colonel came through the door and started shooting. Teyla, she got the cuffs off me and it..." He swallowed hard and opened his eyes, avoiding looking at her. "It took me about ten more minutes to get the damned chamber open and he was screaming the whole time, and... There was blood everywhere a-and... I... when I opened the door, this huge fucking spike -- it had grown out of the inside of the door and was buried in Carson's abdomen and..." Rodney fell silent, swallowing again as if to keep from vomiting, his eyes closing. He wrapped his arms around himself. "God, it was horrible." Radek's eyes widened and he reached out, touching Rodney's arm.
Elizabeth slipped her arm around Rodney's shoulder, feeling him shake. "Oh, Rodney." He leaned back against the wall. She hugged him. He was still for a moment then took her in his arms, still trembling. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." The picture he'd painted was horrifying and she wasn't surprised that he'd refused to leave the infirmary until he had word about Carson.
"I-I just want to know how he is," Rodney whispered, sounding more lost and afraid than she'd ever heard him. "I need to know what they did to him, whether he's going to be all right."
Elizabeth heard quiet footfalls behind her and the rumble of Ronon's voice. "Any word?" She turned as Rodney stiffened in her arms.
"Nothing yet," she told him.
Ronon grunted and sat. "Guess I'll wait, then." He looked up at them.
Rodney went over to the chairs and sat next to Ronon. "Yeah. Waiting. Been doing a lot of waiting."
"You didn't eat," Ronon said to him, gesturing at the cold MRE and the coffee mug.
Rodney shook his head. "Not hungry."
Ronon stared at him for a long moment. Elizabeth and Radek came to sit with them. "Did a doc look at you yet?" Ronon asked. "You're always hungry."
Rodney glared. "I'm fine." He looked up as Sheppard and Teyla entered. "I see the gang's all here."
Sheppard shrugged. "Wanted to know how Carson was. And you."
"Lousy, thank you. Biro hasn't poked her nose out of there since she took him away. Harnell's been just as scarce. Incompetent witchdoctors, both of 'em." Rodney gazed back at the door, looking lost. "I don't know how much longer it'll be."
"So we shall all wait together," Teyla said. She and Sheppard sat with them and the room quieted to the sound of breathing and the heavy weight of not knowing.
Carson woke slowly and painfully to the warmth of a hand clasped in his. "Carson?" Rodney. He should have guessed. His eyes fluttered open. It took a moment to focus in the dim light of the infirmary. For a moment, he thought he was still... somewhere awful.
"Ro--" he croaked. His entire body ached, even through the dull haze of heavy painkillers. The pounding in his head was bad enough, but there was movement just at the corner of his vision. When he turned his head, nothing was there but IV tubes and monitoring equipment.
"Don't talk yet," Rodney said. He brought a spoonful of ice to Carson's lips and Carson took it, letting it melt. The cold was soothing and helped him focus.
"Rodney," he whispered again, his mouth and throat feeling slightly better with the moisture.
Rodney looked terrible. There were bruised circles under his eyes and his hair and clothes were in disarray. "How do you feel? Wait, no, that's a stupid question; you look like shit. Of course you feel lousy. I just -- oh god, you're awake." He leaned down, one palm warm in the center of Carson's chest, and rested his forehead on Carson's. "You've been out for a couple of days. You've had a really high fever."
"Wha' hap'n?" Carson remembered disconnected bits of Revorga. A close darkness. Immensely tall, threatening figures.
Rodney shuddered. "They put you in this... this chamber, this pod-thing." Images flickered through Carson's head, scrambled and chaotic -- dark colors, slick, cold tentacles, red lights. "It--" Rodney swallowed hard and his hand tightened around Carson's. "We still don't know what it did to you. It drove some kind of spike into you, but Biro and Harnell said there was too much damage for just a spike, and in the wrong places. They... well they said it was like the thing had sprouted tentacles in there and--" Rodney stopped suddenly, his breath catching.
His head ached like burning sand behind his eyes. Carson could almost still feel something moving inside him, tearing his flesh, squirming between his organs. He shivered. "Rodney," he said softly. Exhaustion leeched the warmth from his bones.
"Sorry, sorry. It was just -- I can't get it out of my head. I got you out of there as fast as I could, but you were just, you were so badly hurt. You were screaming the entire time." Rodney had gone ashen pale, the dark crescents under his eyes brought into high relief.
"Harnell?" Carson wondered if the lead surgeon could give him more information about his condition. His gut ached, blazing under the muffled response of the medication. Surely they'd have got out anything that had been inside him. The urge to scratch his way into the wound hovered in the back of his mind. There couldn't be any tentacles left. Rodney would have told him.
"It's the middle of the night," Rodney said. "One of the medics is on shift, and the head nurse, if you want me to get either of them."
Carson shook his head gently. They could read his chart to him, but he wanted word from Harnell. He'd have been the one to do the surgery, Carson was sure. "T'morrow," Carson said. He squeezed Rodney's hand, but wasn't able to put much into it. He ached so, deep in his gut, and he was completely drained. "Hurts."
Rodney let go of his hand and reached over to the beside table. With a quiet motion, he wrung out a damp cloth and gently laid it on Carson's forehead. The cool made him shiver a bit, but felt good. "You're still pretty feverish," he said. "Biro said it was bad. You're fighting peritonitis. They don't know when the fever will break. They've got you on a truly immense amount of antibiotics. They did lots of tests to see what the hell that thing did to you, but so far they can't tell much past the physical damage and the infection from the intestinal perforations. I think half the city's been by to ask after you."
"Thanks," Carson said.
Rodney gave him a puzzled look. "Huh?"
"Y' got... me out." Speaking was an effort. Keeping his eyes open was even harder, but he wanted to see Rodney.
Rodney's eyes closed, his face tightening for a moment. He looked at Carson. "Not soon enough." Rodney's voice was rough with emotion, his eyes glimmering in the low light. "I swear, I can't take you anywhere without crap like this happening."
Carson reached out for Rodney's hand. Rodney took it again, exerting gentle pressure.
"You scared the shit out of me." Rodney's voice cracked. Carson sighed and his eyes slipped shut. "I don't want to lose you." Carson looked back up at Rodney, who was looking more exhausted by the minute.
"Sleep," Carson told him. Talking ached and he could barely focus. He wasn't sure he'd even remember the conversation later. The effort of it all was like an anvil inside him that he couldn't shift. Rodney shook his head.
"Can't. I've tried." Rodney shivered a little and reached out to turn the damp, warming cloth on Carson's forehead. "I've... I've been worried about you."
"Rodney." Irritated and distracted by his own exhaustion, Carson tried to turn onto his side. He gasped as a bolt of fierce pain shot through him, leaving him dizzy and nauseated, his vision going spotty as he squeezed his eyes shut. He hissed and froze, utterly sapped of his energy.
"No, damn it, lie still," Rodney snapped. "Nobody wants you pulling your stitches. God knows you lost enough blood before they got you into surgery."
Carson panted; short shallow breaths until the pain subsided and his muscles began to relax. "Ow."
Rodney lifted Carson's hand and kissed the back of it. "Don't do that again." Carson could hear the worry through the strain in his voice. He shook his head.
"No." He opened his eyes again. "Here," he said, gesturing with his fingers. "Close." He wanted Rodney near; wanted to be held. Perhaps it would make him feel better, or at least drive away some of the unsettled anxiety he felt. Maybe it would even out the jarring contrast of too hot and too cold flowing through his veins, help him find some equilibrium.
"I'd hurt you." Rodney pulled the cloth off Carson's forehead and put it back in the bowl.
Carson moaned, his voice quiet and tight as his abdominal wound loudly reminded him of its presence, roaring through the thick, woolly muting of the pain meds. "Please." Rodney paused for a moment then raised the head of the bed slightly for a better angle. The pain grew more diffuse and distant through his fog and the fever headache, but the weight of Rodney's arm on his chest was a comfort. Rodney's forehead touched his own.
"You're still way too warm," Rodney whispered. He nuzzled Carson gently. Carson reached up with his free hand and caressed Rodney's cheek. It was far more effort than he liked. "I'm gonna call the nurse."
Carson closed his eyes, unable to keep them open any longer. "Love you," he said softly, and faded into painful, uneasy sleep.
The next couple of days passed with Rodney working mostly out of the infirmary, with sporadic trips down to the lab to rip his staff new orifices when things weren't done properly or on time. Radek was diligent and efficient, and aside from a few quibbles about power resource allocations, things were smooth between them. His team was in and out of the infirmary checking on them, bringing him food and caffeine at almost predictable intervals.
The rest of the time he searched the Ancient databases or talked to Carson, though Carson wasn't awake very often. The fever came and went -- mostly on the 'came' side of the equation. It was getting increasingly hard to keep his eyes open, and he was worried about missing some obscure reference that might point to the nature of the Revorgans or their technologies. Eventually, Harnell threw him out and told him to go home and get some actual sleep. Rodney grumbled but assented, and Radek walked him back to his quarters. He drew the line at letting Radek make sure he actually got into bed.
Their quarters felt hollow without Carson, and the bed was colder and emptier than Rodney had ever known it. He hated it and wished he were still sitting in the infirmary, his hand in Carson's, head resting on his lover's bed.
Rodney took Carson home in a wheelchair. Yeah, he could walk -- sort of -- but nobody thought too much of it would be good for him just yet. And besides, that way Rodney didn't have to dawdle around in the corridors waiting for him as he shuffled painfully along.
The three days since Carson woke had been hard. The fever had finally subsided last night and he was looking entirely worse for wear. Rodney tugged at the blanket in Carson's lap. "Are you sure you're warm enough?"
Carson just rolled his eyes. "It's not that far. I'll be home in bed soon -- I hope with you there with me -- and that'll be warmth enough." Rodney smiled and pushed the chair along.
"Teyla's bringing some dinner over in a few minutes," he said.
Carson leaned his head back and looked up at Rodney. "She's not cooking it, is she?" Rodney grinned and shook his head no. "Oh, thank god. The woman's a right terror with food. I know I'm still on a liquid diet, but why does it have to be so bland? A wee bit of soup with actual flavor would be really nice tonight."
"I'm just looking forward to eating and working from somewhere that's not the infirmary," Rodney said.
Carson raised an eyebrow. "And whose fault was that?"
"Oh, don't give me that crap. Somebody had to be there to keep an eye on you so that Biro didn't decide to practice her autopsy skills prematurely."
Carson snickered and Rodney smiled, pleased to see Carson at least a little more animated today. He'd probably be worn out by the time they got back home. He still looked drained and far too pale for Rodney's liking. He'd lost weight as well, looking angular and drawn. Rodney didn't stop for anyone, though Carson wanted to, and a lot of people greeted them in the corridor.
As predicted, Carson was exhausted by the time they arrived. Such a short trip, and already he could barely keep his eyes open. Rodney knew it was the drugs -- they still had him on painkillers and antibiotics. One of the med techs would be along every morning for blood samples to check on Carson's progress, as some of the crap in his system was alien. Biro hadn't been able to culture it in vitro, so it definitely wasn't bacterial. She had no idea what it was. Rodney didn't like thinking about how it had got there.
Carson groaned and complained as Rodney helped him into bed, but sighed with relief once he was finally settled. The chime rang just as he tucked Carson in. "That's probably Teyla with dinner," he said, gesturing toward the living room. "I'll be right back."
Carson nodded weakly. "Right, then." He closed his eyes and his body sagged, loose-limbed, into the mattress. Rodney went to answer the door.
"I hope this will be suitable," Teyla said, bringing the tray inside. "There is madava soup for Carson. Ronon wanted me to bring more, but I doubt Carson will be able to eat more than this. It's very healing and has much more flavor than what he has been getting in the infirmary." She grimaced slightly. "I do not understand why it is considered good to feed the injured such bland dishes."
Rodney took the tray. "I like hospital food," he said. She raised one eloquent eyebrow at him. "Really," he told her. "And the jello. I love the blue jello."
Teyla just smiled. "How is he feeling today?" She tilted her head toward the bedroom door as Rodney put the tray down on the table in the little kitchenette.
"He's still a mess, but at least the fever's gone." Harnell had been really worried about how long it had lasted, but there didn't seem to be any permanent damage done as far as anyone could tell. "He's exhausted, though, but that's about par for the course. It's the alien whatever it is in his blood that has everyone worried. He seems to be getting a little better, but they can't seem to get rid of it. The infection from the peritonitis is pretty much gone, but the antibiotics aren't doing anything to the alien crap."
Nodding, Teyla asked, "Would you like some company, Rodney, or shall I go?"
For a moment, Rodney was torn. He'd spent most of his time with Carson for the last five days, with periodic visits from his team, Radek, and some of the others. He wouldn't mind a little company but Carson wasn't really in any condition for it. Teyla would probably want to visit with him for a couple of hours; Rodney just wanted to make sure Carson ate and slept. He shook his head. "Thanks, but not today."
With a smile, Teyla nodded. "I understand. Carson is in need of much rest. If you need anything, please let me know. I would be happy to help if you need it, or to watch over him when you need time to yourself."
"Yeah, great, that's fine." Rodney smiled back at her, knowing she actually meant it. She put her hands on his shoulders and he tilted his head down to touch her forehead; a weird gesture, but one he was more or less accustomed to now. In an odd way, it was kind of comforting. "Later," he said as she left.
He took the tray into the bedroom. Teyla had brought him something far more solid than Carson's soup. He recognized it as being Rodney-safe, Athosian, and fairly tasty; leg of bandark, was it? Some kind of chicken-thing in a cheesy sauce, at any rate.
"Carson?" He set the tray down on the bedside table and sat on the bed near Carson's hip. "How are you?"
Carson opened his eyes and smiled softly. "Better, now I'm home." He turned his face toward the tray. "That actually smells good."
"Madava soup," Rodney told him.
Carson nodded. "Oh, aye. That'll be lovely. Much nicer than what I got in the infirmary." Rodney rearranged some pillows and helped Carson sit so he could eat from the side table. There were a lot of grimaces and pained groans, but Carson was insistent that he would be just fine and could sit to eat, thank you very much. Rodney bitched him out about the stitches, but they ate together and Rodney was happy that Carson was finally home with him.
When they were done, Rodney took the dishes into the kitchenette and put them in the sink. He'd deal with them later. He'd barely slept at all since Revorga and, with Carson back home, he wanted to rectify that situation very much. Shucking his clothes, he tossed them in random directions and crawled in next to his lover.
Carson had already settled himself back down and he welcomed Rodney with open arms. They shifted together, Carson still making sounds of discomfort, until they found a mutually agreeable position that didn't make Carson hurt too much. Rodney closed his eyes. Carson's head rested on his shoulder, Rodney's body wrapped around him. Sleep tonight was going to be a very good thing.
*Serpents moved beneath his skin, burrowing into him under the blood-red light. Every breath was agony. They were tall and alien and watching without emotion as Carson writhed inside the Pod, pierced through and bleeding. He screamed.* His shout echoed in the room as Carson sat bolt upright, his gut blazing with the sharp pain of the sudden movement. Rodney jerked and gasped beside him, looking around the room frantically. "What? What?"
Carson shuddered, wrapping himself around Rodney and panting into his shoulder, trying to get the pain to abate. "Sorry," he whispered, "sorry."
"That's the third nightmare you've had in the two days you've been home," Rodney said, holding him, one hand stroking gently through his hair. "You really need to talk to Heightmeyer again tomorrow. She said it would be like this."
Carson just held on, eyes squeezed shut, clinging to Rodney as he nodded. "Right. I'll see Kate first thing." Maybe she'd have something for the nightmares, something that would help him sleep. The wound in his belly was healing, but he felt no better, no stronger than he had the first day he'd come home. If anything, he had been growing even more exhausted.
"I'm worried about you," Rodney said, his voice raw with his concern. It wasn't often he spoke that plainly of his emotions, and Carson took it seriously. He eased Carson gently back down into the pillows.
"I know," he said softly. "I feel awful. I can't get any rest, and the pain meds aren't helping that much. I ache all the way through so badly sometimes. I've no energy for anything at all, and I should be feeling at least a wee bit better."
Rodney sighed. "It's probably that alien crap they can't seem to get out of your system. Maybe if they try another antibiotic."
"We've been through three already," Carson said. "There are a few stronger ones left, but I suspect this is going to be resistant to anything from Earth. I'm starting to believe it's not an infection at all, to be honest." He nuzzled at Rodney's cheek and Rodney turned and kissed him carefully.
"You're going to get better," Rodney insisted. "Whatever they did to you, you'll get better. You have to."
Carson wondered if that was the case. Biro said the alien microbes -- or whatever they were -- weren't similar to anything from Earth. They weren't like anything they'd found in the Wraith, either. Frankly, she had no idea what they were at all. That made him profoundly uneasy. He couldn't shake the crawling feeling under his skin.
"Just hold me," Carson whispered. He shivered. "I'll talk to Biro and Harnell tomorrow as well, after I get done with Kate. I wish I felt well enough to look at the beasties myself."
"You need to rest," Rodney told him, stroking Carson's chest with one warm hand. "They're more or less competent. Not as competent as you, obviously, but you did hire them."
"You have to trust them," Rodney said quietly. It was an unusual statement for him, and indicative of how frightened he must be, if he wanted to trust anyone other than Carson about things medical. Carson sighed and settled, aching, into Rodney's arms. He didn't want to sleep. That would only let them in again. He fought the illusion of movement that fluttered in his belly and held Rodney close.
"The wound is healing, but you're not getting any better," Daymon Harnell said. "We don't understand why. Your blood chemistry is doing some pretty strange things, too. I've never seen anything like this before. I want you in tomorrow morning for some scans."
Carson nodded. He was on his feet a wee bit more often now, but walking was still a terrible effort. "I'll be here." He took a deep, painful breath. "The nightmares are getting worse. Nothing I've tried has helped at all. It's gettin' so I can't sleep at all anymore." Carson shifted uncomfortably on the exam table. "Rodney's hardly sleeping because of it either. It's been days, and we're both bloody knackered."
Daymon nodded. "You had a really traumatic experience. Nobody's surprised you're having nightmares, Carson. Sleep deprivation is contributing to what you're going through, but physically we can't make heads or tails of what's happening to your body."
He hated that thought. Puzzles like this could be fatal. "No anemia?" Carson asked. Daymon shook his head. "Ah, well. I'd hoped the exhaustion might be more easily explainable. It's... it's more than just sleep deprivation. I can feel it."
"I know. Your white cell count is sky high." Daymon made some notes in Carson's chart. "Come in about 0600 so we can get you prepped for the scans and testing."
"Right enough. I'll be here." Carson got to his feet with a grunt, leaning on the exam table.
"You want some help?" Daymon stood and offered Carson a hand.
Carson shook his head. Ronon would be waiting for him outside, as Rodney was dealing with an emergency in the jumper bay. "No, son, that's fine. We both know I need to move if I'm to heal properly." Moving gingerly, Carson left the infirmary for home.
Rodney arrived late from the lab, frustrated and feeling drained. Lorne's team had brought in a derelict jumper that had been floating near a space gate they hadn't opened previously, and he'd spent a couple of hours looking at that with Radek. His entire day had been spent dealing with brush fires and working his way around the Ancient database, looking for entries that might refer to the Revorgans in some way. Elizabeth had assigned half the linguistics department to the project as well. He dumped his laptop on the couch and stretched, trying to get the kinks out of his back and shoulders. With any luck, Carson would already be asleep, and there'd be no nightmares. Rodney was far more worried than he wanted to tell anyone.
Carson wouldn't admit it, but Rodney knew he was getting worse. He didn't have any energy. He was barely eating. Everyone asked after him, but Rodney had no idea what to say. He wanted to go back to Revorga and find out what they'd done, but he knew that wasn't going to happen. Elizabeth had already vetoed a return to the planet despite his strenuous arguments for it. If Carson's condition worsened, though, she might reconsider.
He dropped into a chair, burying his face in his hands. There had to be something he could do. It wasn't fair that he couldn't fix this.
*Rodney watched as blood trickled from the bottom seam of the pod's door. He screamed, his palms leaving crimson streaks on the inside of the pod's tiny window, and how he'd suddenly got inside, he had no idea. Pain tore through his body, spiking into his belly and crawling through his intestines like worms. He beat at the inside of the pod, gasping for breath in the tight, enclosed space.* Rodney's eyes slammed open and he stiffened in the bed, Carson shuddering beside him, whimpering in his sleep.
"Carson -- Carson, wake up." He shook Carson's shoulder, still feeling a horrible sympathetic ache in his gut from his own night terror. Carson snapped awake, still as death for a moment, then blinked and gasped.
"I was -- I was back in that *thing*," Carson groaned, tugging Rodney to him. "It was like... like worms crawling about inside me. Oh god, it hurt."
Rodney blinked a few times. "Worms," he whispered, his voice wavering.
Carson burrowed into his arms and nodded. "It was terrible in there."
"Too damned small," Rodney said softly, shivering. "Beating on the inside, and there's blood on the window." Carson nodded again, still trembling. "Oh, god, that's... that's... I had the same dream."
Carson stilled and looked up at him. "The same dream?"
"I started outside the thing, and there was... blood was oozing out the bottom and suddenly, I was inside..."
Carson swallowed, his eyes wide in the dark. "Rodney..."
Rodney shook his head.
"I don't know. This is ridiculous. We can't be having the same
Carson shifted, moving slowly and painfully. "Och, there's no way I'll get back to sleep now." He sat in the bed. "I might as well get ready for the tests."
Rodney sat with him, one arm around his waist. "This is just creeping me out." His fingers tightened on Carson's biceps. "Lie back down for a little while. It's not even four yet. You need to rest." And Rodney needed reassurance and the sensation of Carson safe beside him in the bed. He helped Carson ease back down into the pillows. Rodney's stomach churned, bitter and unsettled. He wondered if he'd ever be able to eat again.
Rodney sat with Carson in Harnell's office later that afternoon. Biro was there as well and both of them were looking grim. Carson looked pale and exhausted with dark, bruised shadows under his eyes, but that was no different than any other day in the past week and a half. What bothered Rodney most was how frightened Carson looked.
"How bad is it?" Carson asked softly. He took Rodney's hand and Rodney squeezed.
"We honestly don't know," Biro said. "The bloodwork is still inconclusive, but the scans showed, um, unidentified shadows throughout your abdominal cavity."
Rodney could feel his blood freeze. "But you used the Ancient scanners," Carson said, his brow furrowing. Rodney could hear the confusion and fear in his voice. "They should be able to tell you what was there."
Harnell shook his head. "Not if it's something the Ancients never encountered."
"There's nothing on the Revorgans in the database so far," Rodney added. "I've been looking since we got back. The anthro department has half a dozen people on it, half of linguistics is translating like crazy, and nothing."
Carson's cheek twitched. "Then this could be--"
"We don't know anything yet, Carson," Biro said. "But we want to go in and do a biopsy. We still haven't figured out what's happening, and we won't have any way to know without physically examining one of the masses."
That sounded bad -- really, really bad. "You think it's some kind of... of cancer?" Rodney asked, not wanting to hear the answer. He didn't look at Carson, didn't want to think of losing him; not like this.
"There's no way to tell," Harnell said, his dark brown eyes shadowed with uncertainty. "That's why we need to do the biopsy. We should know more after we get a look at what's actually happening in there."
Carson sighed and nodded, his hand tightening around Rodney's. Rodney held on, trembling a little. "When do you want to schedule it for?" Carson asked.
"Tomorrow morning, first thing," Biro said. "Whatever this is, it's appeared in less than two weeks, and that's not good. The sooner we find out what it is, the better."
Biro and Harnell looked at each other. "We think you should stay here tonight," Harnell said. "It'll be easier on you."
"Right," Carson whispered. Rodney let go of his hand and put his arm around his lover.
"Do you want me to stay with you?" Rodney looked into Carson's eyes. "I can hand off everything to Radek for a few days if you want. Elizabeth won't mind. I'm sure Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon would come by and keep us company for a while. It's not like they're heading offworld without me."
Carson shook his head. "No, not today, love. You have things that need done, and I... I think I need some time to talk to Kate."
Rodney sighed. "Okay." He didn't like it at all, but it was Carson's decision. If things didn't go well, he could snap necks later. He kissed Carson's cheek. "I'll be back in a little while to have dinner with you."
"Okay, then." Carson gave him a weak smile. "I'll see you at dinner."
"Let's go get you settled in," Harnell said, rising and offering Carson a hand. Carson nodded and took it, standing slowly and carefully. Rodney watched, terrified, as Harnell led him back out into the infirmary.
"I'm afraid, Kate," Carson said softly, wringing his hands in his lap. "If even the Ancient scanning equipment doesn't know what it is, and I feel so awful, well, that's just not good news."
She sighed and nodded. "I know it seems hopeless right now. Maia and Daymon are doing everything they can to figure this out. Rodney's been doing his best to find information about the Revorgans. He's got half the science department on it when they have time, and has a couple of offworld teams out asking about them as well. I know he's tried more than once to convince Elizabeth to let him and his team to go back there and find out what it is they did to you."
"They're dangerous people," he told her. "I don't want him going back and risking his life for this."
"He loves you. He's feeling helpless and wants to be able to do something for you." She leaned forward, elbows on her knees. "And don't tell me you wouldn't be suggesting the same thing if your positions were reversed."
Carson looked out the window, gazing off into the distance. "All right, there's some truth to that." Moving took more energy than he had and he closed his eyes, leaning carefully back into the chair. "He's doing a lot for me, Kate, just by being with me. He's been here for me through all of it, and he's taken care of me as best he can. I know how hard that is for him, even with our friends dropping round to help." He opened his eyes a little, too tired to do more. "What if there's nothing to be done for me? What if I never get better?"
"It's too early to tell, Carson. The biopsy may be far more helpful than you anticipate. Working with whatever tissue they remove may give Maia enough information to help you."
"Or it could be some kind of alien cancer," Carson said. "I could be dying. Lord knows I feel like it most of the time."
"If it is some kind of cancer, we both know that a positive attitude helps a great deal. So does a good social support network. You have so many people here who care about you; anything you need, you know you'll have it. You have a fantastic support system." She looked him in the eye, her expression serious and intense. "We'll all help you get through this, no matter what happens."
That, at least, was true. Rodney was fiercely loyal and even through his emotional awkwardness Carson always knew he was loved. Their friends had rallied around them, bringing food, keeping him company when Rodney was away from their quarters and generally taking care of him in more ways than he'd ever imagined. The only thing he felt a lack of was his family back on Earth, but there was naught to be done about that.
"It's just hard," he said, laying a hand over the aching surgical scar. "It's so hard not knowing. And being a doctor myself, I know how badly things can go, and how little we really understand about what we're encountering out here. Even with Ancient technology and treatment protocols, there are no guarantees. It may look like magic sometimes, but it's not."
"Try to hold onto your hope, Carson," Kate told him. "We can fight this together."
*They watched, pleasure in their eyes, as Carson screamed, twisting on the spike through his gut. One of the Revorgans moved closer, caressing the Pod with a hand that had become tentacles. Inside Carson's body, things squirmed and writhed, moving, the agony blazing spiraling trails where they dug. They burrowed into him, tunneling through his body, expanding, sucking the life from him. Carson howled, terrified, his fists thundering against the inside of the Pod, and the tentacles on the alien's neck grew longer, reaching toward--*
Carson woke, his throat hoarse from screaming. "Dr. Beckett -- Carson!" Joseph Matube, the night nurse, was holding his wrists and trying to keep him from flailing. Carson's body spasmed with pain and he collapsed, gasping.
"J-Joseph." Carson panted and closed his eyes, barely able to speak through the agony he felt.
"You were having another nightmare," Joseph said. "Just try to relax, you are safe here." Carson nodded as Joseph's grip loosened and his body went slack, knackered after his thrashing.
As Carson lay there in a clammy, cold sweat, trying to catch his breath, Rodney came barreling into the room, barely able to stop before he ran into the bed. "Carson! Oh, my god, are you -- it was -- oh god--"
Carson looked at him. Rodney's face was pure panic and he ran his hand over Carson's belly, seemingly not even aware of the nurse's presence. "Rodney?"
"I just -- nightmare -- tentacles -- I mean..." Rodney poked at his own stomach with the tips of his fingers. "Crawling *things* in-inside, and--" He gasped, visibly trying to calm himself. "They were watching. They -- one of them reached out for the pod an-and... tentacles."
Carson shuddered. "Oh god, not again."
Rodney sat hard on the bed next to Carson, taking him in his arms and pulling him into a sitting position. "I was -- I thought. Oh god." Carson held onto him, his chin on Rodney's shoulder, the chill of shock starting to seep into his hands and feet, dizziness taking him.
"It's the same one," Carson whispered harshly. "You've had the same nightmare I did again."
Joseph backed away. "I'm going to go get Dr. Harnell," he said, looking disturbed. "This is all very strange."
"Are -- are you okay?" Rodney asked, his voice tight with anxiety and fear. He clung to Carson, shaking.
Carson shook his head. "I don't know. I don't -- I'm cold. Dizzy. I think I may be shocky."
Rodney let go and backed away a bit. "Shocky? Oh no. Lie down." He grabbed one of Carson's pillows and tucked it under his feet. "I'll get you another blanket. You just -- you just stay right there, okay?" He turned and shouted after Joseph. "Hey, bring Carson some heated blankets!"
Carson reached out and grabbed Rodney's hand. It was reassuringly warm in his own, even through the numbness he was feeling. "Rodney, please, calm down and don't shout. It's the middle of the night, and there are other patients here."
"Right, right." Rodney's thumb moved over the back of Carson's hand, caressing it softly. "It's just... you're all cold. God, that was a freaky nightmare. That was horrible. I couldn't... I didn't..." Rodney stuttered to a stop. "What the hell is happening to us?" he whispered.
Carson pulled Rodney's hand to his chest. "I wish I knew."
Rodney was almost reluctant to enter the private room where Carson was recovering from his biopsy surgery. Not that he didn't want to see Carson, but he was terrified of what Biro was going to have to say.
Three teams were still offworld looking for information about the Revorgans, but Elizabeth had been making noise at the morning briefing about cutting back on the efforts since there had been no progress. "It's been almost two weeks," she'd said, "and there don't seem to be any leads at all." Rodney had barely refrained from snapping her head off, and just pushed his people harder.
Radek had dragged him bodily from the lab about fifteen minutes ago. "You are too upset and unfocused to work," he'd said. "Go to Carson." Rodney had been unable to argue; it was true. He'd wasted most of his day too jangled to read, and translating Ancient had been out of the question. All in all, it was a net loss.
He sighed, looking in the window to Carson's room. His lover looked worse than he had last night after their shared nightmare. Carson lay with his face turned toward the window, eyes closed, his face tight with pain. "Carson," Rodney said softly, entering the room. Carson opened his eyes and looked up at him, not saying anything but opening his hand to him. It looked like it had taken all his energy just to do that.
Rodney blinked hard, forcing back tears he refused to let fall. He went over to the bed and sat near Carson's hip, taking his hand. He squeezed gently and raised it to his lips, kissing it. "I'm here." He rested Carson's hand over his heart.
"I feel so bloody awful." Carson's voice was small and weak and Rodney's stomach knotted.
"I know. I wish there was something I could do."
"You're here. It's enough." The hopeless look in Carson's eyes tore Rodney open. That he couldn't help left Rodney furious and frustrated.
Biro knocked on the wall next to the door and came in as Rodney looked up. The expression on her face chilled Rodney to the bone. "You're here, good," she said. She sat in the chair next to the bed as Harnell followed her into the room.
"Well?" Rodney asked, his voice sharp and harsh, even to his own ears.
Biro shook her head. "The alien microorganisms in your blood," she said to Carson, "are the same matter making up the mass we removed from your liver this morning." She took a deep breath. "We still haven't got a definite identification, but at the moment we're forced to assume that it's some kind of alien cancer, and that it metastasized before it began forming the tumors. We do know that the masses have increased in size, even since the scans yesterday. They involve all your abdominal organs."
Carson's hand tightened around Rodney's and Rodney could feel both of them shaking. "That's it, then," Carson said. "How long?"
"Wait a minute -- what's 'it'? Cancer is treatable!" He glowered at Biro. "What about chemotherapy and radiation? What--" Rodney stopped in mid-rant as Carson tugged gently at his hand.
"Rodney," he said softly, "it's the only thing that makes sense. And if it's metastasized and the masses are growing that fast, I don't have long left."
"We can try chemo and radiation," Harnell told them, "but it will have to be very aggressive, and we'll have to try surgery again very soon. Even with those measures..." He paused, looking uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, Carson. We're looking at two to three weeks at best."
Carson closed his eyes, tears running down his face. "No!" Rodney shouted -- he wasn't sure at whom. "You have to fight this! There has to be something we can do! What... what about Tok'ra healing technology? What about sending you to SGC and getting one of them to come and treat you?"
Carson looked up at him. "Do you know how hard it is to get the Tok'ra to use that? The negotiations involved?" He looked over at Biro and Harnell. "I don't see them doing it for me. You may as well start the chemo." With a sigh, he pulled Rodney's hand to his chest. "I'm sorry, love, but I'm not important enough for the SGC to get a Tok'ra to Earth for."
"Not important enough?" Rodney let go of Carson's hand and stood, too furious to even see clearly now. "Not important -- just who the fuck do they think is the biggest fucking expert on Wraith biology in *two galaxies*? Do they think people like you grow on trees or something?" Rodney's arms were flailing and he was screaming and he really wasn't even sure at this point what he was saying, all he knew was that his life was falling apart around him and Carson was *dying* and he didn't think he was *important enough* for the SGC to want to help him.
He wasn't sure when Kate Heightmeyer had joined the discussion, but there was a sharp prick on his shoulder and suddenly he started getting light-headed. Crap.
Carson was dying.
Carson had expected the bad news, really, though he hadn't known Rodney's reaction would be so... dramatic. They'd sedated Rodney and brought another bed to Carson's private room, then set up the first run of chemotherapy. He felt worse now than he had before, but chemo did that. It was nothing more than a crude attempt to poison the cancer before the cancer or the chemo itself killed the patient.
He didn't really believe he had enough time left for the chemo or the radiation to work, but he had to try. It was against his nature to just give up. Carson spent most of the next several hours trying to vomit up his spleen. Now he was just exhausted and in agony, his body slicked with sweat. Rodney was finally stirring, and that was the only thing in Carson's world that seemed good.
He watched as Rodney's eyes opened. Rodney blinked, obviously disoriented for a moment, and then a look of abject horror settled onto his face. "Carson," he said, his voice cracking. He sat. "Oh, god."
"Rodney," Carson murmured, too tired to move.
Rodney tossed his covers aside and glowered down at the scrubs he'd been dressed in. Taking a deep breath, he got to his feet and wobbled over to Carson's bed. "I'm so sorry," he whispered, lying down next to him. He slipped one arm around Carson, just holding him carefully, avoiding the IV lines and the surgical site. "I'm so sorry."
"Love you," Carson told him, unable to hold back tears. Rodney's breath hitched and he closed his eyes and sobbed, burying his face against Carson's neck.
"You can't die," Rodney insisted, choking out the words. "I don't want you to die. There has to be something we can do." His hands moved softly on Carson's body, caressing, his fingers tightening in the hospital gown Carson wore. "I can't lose you like this."
Carson nuzzled Rodney's hair, kissing him softly. "I love you," he said again, knowing that nothing else really meant anything now.
Rodney sniffled and wiped his nose on Carson's shoulder. Tears ran down his cheeks as he kissed Carson. It was careful and gentle, as though he were afraid of hurting Carson even more. Carson slipped one hand up into his hair and opened his mouth to the kiss, just letting himself feel Rodney's tongue moving softly against his own.
His lips traced Carson's, wet and too warm, and Carson opened his eyes, looking at Rodney's tear-stained face. A moment later, Rodney opened his eyes as well and they lay there, noses touching. "I... Carson, I just... Look, Carson, marry me, okay?" Rodney's voice was rough with emotion, but the look in his eyes was open and honest and it made Carson ache inside.
"Rodney," he said, and then paused for a moment, not understanding. "I'm dying, love. Why do you want to marry a dying man?"
Rodney's eyes flashed with pain. He sniffled again. "I've... I know I've never been good at telling you how... how much I love you," he whispered. "I'm just lousy at it. B-but this is... Carson, it's all I have left to give you. Nothing else matters anymore, and I just... I want you to know how much you've always meant to me."
The effort of taking Rodney into his arms drained him, and he wept as he held him. "Yes," he said, "of course, love." He'd never doubted that Rodney loved him, no matter how rarely the man said it, but this was so unexpected and so touching that Carson hadn't the heart to refuse. Rodney was right -- there was nothing else they could give one another now, and it was a precious thing to be offered, shocking in its generosity.
Rodney nodded, the answer seeming to calm him a bit. "I'll, uh, talk to Elizabeth in a little while." He kissed Carson again. "I'm going to take a leave of absence," he said, "until... um... until this is over. I'll be here with you. I promise, you won't be alone."
Carson nodded slightly. "Thank you." Rodney wrapped himself around Carson, still careful of the pain he was in, and they lay together quietly for a long time.
Elizabeth had heard the whispers before Dr. Biro had come to her office. The look on the pathologist's face left her reeling, hoping this was no more than a bad dream, but there it was -- Carson Beckett was dying. Biro and Dr. Harnell estimated that if the chemotherapy and radiation didn't slow the progress of the alien masses growing in her CMO's body, he had two, perhaps three weeks left.
Rodney had taken it very badly and had to be sedated. She knew he'd be in her office as soon as he recovered, requesting another trip to Revorga. Even Colonel Sheppard agreed that another mission was too dangerous; there was nothing that could be done from that end, no matter how she hated the idea.
She saw Rodney rounding the corner along the walkway outside her office. Tapping her radio, she said, "Hold all my pages, Sergeant." There was a quiet, "Yes, Ma'am," from her aide, and Rodney entered the office, closing the door behind him. He looked like he'd been crying. She'd never seen him cry, not even after he'd been tortured by the Genii, and the idea left a cold lump in her stomach.
"Rodney," she said. "Dr. Biro and Dr. Harnell were here a couple of hours ago. I-I'm very sorry. Is there anything at all that we can do for you?"
Rodney looked over at her, not bothering to sit down. "Surprisingly, yes. You can get the paperwork together for Carson and I to get married: the sooner, the better. It's not like we have a lot of time to waste."
She blinked. That was one she hadn't seen coming. "Married?"
"Yes. You know, that legal thing people do. 'Til death do us part and all that crap, except Carson's--" Rodney's voice broke. "Just do it," he rasped. "It's legal in Canada and the UK, and I don't particularly care which country you register us in. Whichever one will be fastest."
"O-of course," she stammered. There would be an unscheduled dial-in to SGC tonight about this, then. "I'll take care of it as soon as we're done here."
"And I want to request a leave of absence," Rodney continued. He paced back and forth, staring out at the gate. "I... Radek can handle whatever comes up. I just can't leave Carson for hours at a time while I'm at work, and there's no way I'm going to be able to get anything done while I'm with him."
"I understand." She stood, walking over to meet him near her door. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she said, "I know you're going to ask about another mission to Revorga, but you know I can't authorize it. I can't risk losing anyone else. They're far too dangerous."
He met her gaze, desperation in his blue eyes. "Elizabeth, please. There must be something we can do. There has to be a way to get the information from them. We've sent people onto Wraith Hiveships before! How is this dif--"
"I'm sorry, Rodney. Colonel Sheppard said he'd talk to you about it if you want, but this is not the same thing as a rescue mission. We don't know that the Revorgans are even capable of reversing whatever they've done to Carson."
"He's dying." Rodney's face tightened and it was obvious he was trying to hold back tears. Elizabeth felt them welling in her own eyes.
"I know." Rodney closed his eyes and Elizabeth hugged him. "I'm so, so sorry, Rodney." They stood there, arms around each other, unable to say anything more.
The next morning, Radek went to the infirmary to visit Carson and Rodney. He'd been surprised last night when Rodney came to him and asked him to serve as a witness to their marriage. Though he was surprised, he could not refuse such a request. If it would make Carson happy and it helped Rodney at all, that was good enough for him.
Only Elizabeth, who was acting as the official for the civil ceremony, and Colonel Sheppard would be there. Carson was far too ill for company now. They had not arrived yet when Radek knocked on the door to Carson and Rodney's room.
"Come in," Rodney said. He sat on the bed next to Carson, who looked very much like he was dying. It hurt somewhere deep in Radek's chest. He had always liked Carson a great deal, and when he found out that Rodney had become involved with him, he had thought it a very good thing for both of them.
Rodney did not look well either. "Rodney, Carson," he said. "Were you able to sleep last night?" he asked.
"More nightmares," Rodney told him. Carson said nothing, holding Rodney's hand. Radek walked over to the bed and knelt down next to it, taking Carson's other hand gently.
"My friend," he said, "you know that if you need anything from me, you have only to ask."
"Thank you," Carson said, squeezing Radek's hand a little. "You're a fine friend, Radek." He looked up at Rodney then back at Radek. "You'll take care of him for me, aye?"
"I will," Radek whispered, his voice catching in his throat. Rodney just looked miserable.
Colonel Sheppard entered and Radek stood, putting an arm around Rodney's shoulder. "You know I am here for you," Radek said softly.
"Hey, Rodney," Sheppard said. "Doc." He came and sat in one of the chairs next to the bed. Even Sheppard's hair looked subdued this morning. Radek didn't think anyone in the city was in the mood to celebrate. Carson was too well loved, and would be sorely missed. Despite the fact he was still under treatment, even Carson and Rodney did not seem to believe he was going to survive this. It had stolen the heart from too many in Atlantis.
"Elizabeth will be along in a minute," Rodney said. "All you guys have to do is sign the papers."
Sheppard nodded. "Yeah, I know."
"Did you bring them, Radek?" Rodney asked.
Radek put his hand in his pocket. Teyla had delivered them from the mainland this morning, though they had been a last moment request. "Yes." He pulled out the rings. "I believe they will fit properly."
"Okay, good." Rodney nodded. He looked up as Elizabeth entered.
"Good morning," she said. She set a folder on Carson's bedside table. "I know that you don't want anything complicated, Rodney. We'll just go through the basics."
Rodney nodded. "Thank you, Elizabeth," Carson said. It was terrible to hear his voice so weak.
"We have Canadian papers," she continued. "The International Oversight Committee will get them pushed through the moment we get them back to the SGC in the databurst. You'll be legal in Canada by tonight."
Rodney took the folder and looked through it. "Good." He looked up at her. "Shall we?"
"You're both certain you want to go through with this," she asked.
"Yes." Rodney's voice held no room for disagreement. Carson just nodded. Rodney helped him sit, adjusting pillows behind him for his comfort.
"Very well, then. As Governor of the Atlantis Expedition and a legal representative of the Canadian government in the Pegasus Galaxy for the purposes of this ceremony, it is my pleasure to join you, Meredith Rodney McKay and you, Carson Douglas MacCrimmon Beckett in marriage under the provisions of Canadian law. Do either of you have anything you'd like to say at this time?"
Rodney held out a hand and snapped his fingers. Radek gave him the rings. "Carson," Rodney said, hesitant, "I... I've loved you for a long time. I never thought we'd do this, but I guess I always thought I'd get eaten by a Wraith before we'd have the chance." He took Carson's hand and slipped one of the rings on his finger. "I just wish..." His voice broke and he took a deep breath, closing his eyes until he steadied again. When he spoke again, it was in a whisper. "I just wish we were going to have more time together."
Radek was not doing a very good job of keeping his emotions in check. He held his breath as Rodney handed Carson the other ring. "Rodney, love," Carson said quietly, "you've always meant the world to me. Thank you for this. It means more to me than you'll ever know. It's... it's an honor to marry you." He put the ring on Rodney's finger. The two exchanged a gentle, chaste kiss and Rodney held Carson to him as though he were fragile as glass.
Radek had never seen them kiss before, aside from the time Cadman "borrowed" Rodney's body. They had always been quite discreet. The sight of it left him devastated; the emotion behind that simple gesture was more profound than he had ever guessed. Knowing they were lovers and seeing them like this were two entirely different worlds of experience, and he suddenly realized just how profound Rodney's loss would be.
No one spoke for long moments, not wanting to interrupt what was happening between the couple. Eventually Elizabeth picked up the folder, and it was time to sign the forms. Radek barely made it out of the infirmary without weeping.
"The nightmares are horrible, Kate," Carson said, miserable as he lay in his bed. "It's eerie, how Rodney and I are having the same, identical dreams. I'm terrified to close my eyes." He looked over at her, weary beyond words.
"We've tried every sleep aid we have available," Kate said.
"I know." He shook his head, just a tiny motion, and even that was exhausting. The past week of chemo and radiation had taken its toll on him. "Last night was bad, with the... the *things* tryin' to claw their way out of me, but I think the one I had earlier today was the worst of all." He rested one hand on his abdomen; he could feel the tumors now, and at odd moments he could almost swear they were moving beneath his fingers. "I was lying inside the Pod," he said. "Only this time, it was open. The Revorgan, it... it extended its tentacles and they were sharp, Kate, li-like knives." He held his breath for a moment, trying to quell the rising feeling of panic at the image flashing through his mind. "It drove them into me and I could feel them moving in-inside me."
Kate shuddered. "Were you able to do anything with the lucid dreaming techniques we discussed? Anything at all to change the outcome?"
"No." Carson let his eyes slip closed for a moment. His fingers pressed at one of the lumps in his belly. The image terrified him. "In the dream, it was like... like one of those parasitic wasps back on Earth. You know the ones?"
"What do you mean?"
He opened his eyes again, his heart beating wildly. "They lay eggs in a caterpillar. The eggs hatch, and the larvae, they... they eat the caterpillar from inside."
She blanched. "I can see how your subconscious would draw that parallel. What they did to you in that pod has certainly spawned something just as fatal."
"I feel like it's eating me alive." Carson wished Rodney were with him, but Kate had suggested that he spend at least a little time in private counseling every day. Rodney took an hour with her by himself as well. Most of the time it seemed to help both of them at least a wee bit, but right now he truly just needed Rodney with him. "The pain is horrible. It's so hard, with the nightmares and seeing how it's hurting Rodney as well. I just... I just wish it was over."
Kate took his hand gently. "You know that Daymon and Maia want to do surgery tomorrow to see if they can remove the tumors, but from what Maia said about the one they biopsied, it's going to be very difficult. The tumors have sent... tendrils of some sort into your organs, and she's not sure if the surgery will do more damage than the tumors themselves."
"Aye," Carson whispered. He was less afraid of dying than the constant agony that blurred his entire existence. The only time he felt human anymore was when Rodney was with him, holding him. "But we both know I'm likely to die during the surgery. It's just..." He couldn't keep his tears from falling again. "Having to say goodbye to Rodney; it's so hard. So hard."
That, Carson thought, was the worst thing of all.
Rodney sat in the mess, his team surrounding him. Carson would be with Kate for another fifteen minutes or so, if he stayed awake that long. The surgery was scheduled for tomorrow, and Rodney knew that his husband was unlikely to survive it. The past week had been miserable. The shared nightmares had only gotten more and more terrifying. Both of them were afraid to sleep, but Carson was too exhausted to stay awake for long anymore. Even drugged, the nightmares continued unabated.
He felt like a shell of himself. It was as though both of them were being consumed, eaten from within -- Carson physically and Rodney emotionally. Nothing anyone said or did could possibly help, and Rodney found himself wondering if he even wanted to go on without Carson. Surviving the mutual nightmares had forged a more intimate bond between them than Rodney had ever believed he could have with anyone.
Teyla sat next to him on one side, her hand rubbing slow circles between his shoulder blades, and Ronon sat on the other. The huge Satedan let Rodney lean against him. Ordinarily, Rodney would never have leaned on someone, but right now, it was about all that was holding him up in his numbness and exhaustion. Sheppard sat opposite, his eyes fixed on the coffee mug in his hands. None of them had said anything for the last twenty minutes.
Rodney didn't feel like he even wanted words anymore, because nothing could possibly express how broken he felt, how lost he was now. When Carson died -- and it was a when in his mind now, no longer an if -- everything that made Rodney's life worth living would die with him.
Radek's voice was urgent on Rodney's radio. "Rodney -- we have found -- you must come down to jumper bay! We have -- there is information now on Revorgans -- proto-Revorgans -- we know what has happened to Carson!"
Rodney's head snapped up. "What?" he bolted to his feet. "How do -- you have news?"
"Somebody's got news?" Sheppard said, looking up.
Rodney kicked his chair back and ran from the room, heading for the jumper bay. "Radek, tell me what's going on!" His team were on their feet and running after him only milliseconds later.
"Is old log from derelict jumper," Radek said, too excited for his English to be very clear. "Carson must try surgery immediately. This is bad, Rodney -- very, very bad."
The surgery had taken hours, but it had felt like days dragging by as far as Rodney was concerned. He stood outside the isolation room with Elizabeth and Radek and his team around him, his palms planted on the window that allowed him to look, but not touch.
"His immune system has taken a terrible beating," Harnell said. "We've got him in isolation to avoid any risk of infection. He's too weak to fight anything off right now. It'll be a few days before we can let anyone in."
"Can I... I don't know, wear a biohaz suit or something?" Rodney asked. "I just want to be in there with him."
Biro shook her head. "No. Anything beyond medical care is going to be too stressful for him right now. We lost him once during surgery, and ironically, that's what saved his life." Rodney's fingers pressed into the glass; he wanted to dig his way through the damned window to be with his husband.
Everyone looked at her. "Dying saved his life?" Elizabeth asked.
Harnell nodded. "The fetal Revorgans had embedded their tentacles into Carson's organs. When he was shocked with the defibrillator, the current killed them, causing them to relax their grip and the tentacles to retract."
"The largest of them was about the size of a grapefruit," Biro added, looking a little too fascinated for Rodney's tastes. "His bloodwork came back clean after the surgery. There are no alien microorganisms left in his system."
"Good, this is good," Radek said. "We were not sure, from the report, what was going to happen, but we did know we had to get Carson into surgery immediately."
Rodney still felt ill from listening to the report from the derelict jumper that Major Lorne's team had brought back. "I need to see him," Rodney insisted.
"The doctors do not believe it would help him right now," Teyla said softly, resting one hand on Rodney's shoulder. "I know you do not wish to endanger his life after you have both had such a terrible ordeal."
"Actually," Harnell added, "you should try to get some sleep, Dr. McKay. Without the nightmares that the fetuses were triggering, you should be able to rest normally for a change."
Rodney shook his head, feeling a little dizzy and disoriented. "I can't leave him. What if something happens? What if there are complications, or something goes wrong? He could still die." What was a little more sleep deprivation or hypoglycemia in the face of Carson's isolation? He wanted nothing more than another opportunity to touch his husband, just to feel the steady pulse under his fingers.
"You need sleep, McKay," Sheppard said. "You falling over into a hypoglycemic coma isn't exactly gonna help him."
"Come on," Ronon said. "I'll walk back to your place with you." Ronon wrapped a massive hand around Rodney's elbow and tugged him away from the window. "You sleep a few hours and then I'll wait here with you until the Doc wakes up."
"He's stable for now," Harnell said, "just very fragile. We want to be certain he's going to be all right before we take him off the ventilator. Go home and rest, or I can sedate you and you can sleep in the infirmary -- but not here in the waiting room."
Rodney liked the idea of sedation even less than the idea of leaving Carson like this. "Right," he grumbled, acquiescing only because he knew Ronon was going to drag him away bodily in about three seconds. "I'll go home and sleep. But I want to see him when I get up."
"We'll see how he's doing when you come back." Biro nodded curtly and turned away to go.
Harnell stood next to Rodney a moment longer. "I know this has been very hard on you, but really, you'll feel much better when you've had some sleep. Carson will need you, and you'll need to be in good enough shape to help him."
"I will walk with you also," Radek said as Ronon pulled Rodney away from the window. "It is in Carson's best interest that you get some rest, but you cannot seriously believe you are in any condition to stay awake right now. Come and sleep, Rodney. It will make all of us feel better."
With a sigh, Rodney let Ronon and Radek lead him back home to sleep.
Rodney held Carson, sitting in the infirmary bed with him as he slowly woke again. "Rodney." Carson's voice was soft, but stronger than it had been for more than a week.
"Carson," Rodney replied, equally quietly. He kissed Carson's temple, one hand caressing Carson's chest. "How are you feeling?"
"A wee bit better, finally." There was hope in his voice for a change, and Rodney smiled.
"Good," he said, "good." Rodney took a long, slow breath. "I've missed you the last couple of days. Sometimes I just wanted to claw my way through that damned window so I could be with you."
"Wanted you here," Carson said, obviously still tired, though doing better. He took Rodney's wrist and squeezed. "I'm still not entirely clear on what happened. Daymon told me about the surgery, and that the tumors were really... fetuses." He shuddered in Rodney's arms. "But how did you find out?"
"You remember that jumper that Lorne and his team found floating over PPG-201?" Carson nodded. "Apparently, the Ancients ran across the ancestors of the Revorgans there about fifteen thousand years ago -- five thousand years before they abandoned Atlantis. None of them survived the experience, but one of them lived long enough to escape and get into orbit before she spaced herself to keep the things from hatching inside her. She left her report in the jumper's main logs, hoping that Atlantis would find it."
"So that's how they breed, then?" Carson asked. "They're parasites?"
"Yeah." Rodney's stomach curdled a bit, thinking about how Carson had been the host to seventeen of the damned things. "They're apparently a semi-telepathic species. The microorganisms in the host's body that help the fetuses... drain them boosts a certain amount of latent telepathy." He snuggled Carson closer. "It seems that if the host has a strong emotional connection to someone else, the nightmares bleed over to that person through the activated telepathic latency."
"That's very strange," Carson said. "We're not still--"
"No." Rodney shook his head. "The microorganisms are all dead. Nothing's left in your system."
"I was so afraid." Carson turned a little onto his side, letting Rodney wrap him in his arms. "But you were here for me. I'd never have made it through without you, love. The pain was so much, I'd surely have given up if I'd not had you."
Rodney bowed his head and kissed Carson softly. "No dying. We haven't had our wedding night yet. Or our honeymoon." He grinned.
Carson smiled back at him, blue eyes half closed. "It'll be a couple of weeks before I'm up for anything of the sort, but we could make some plans."
"There's this tower down on the south pier that has a fabulous view of the stars at night," Rodney said. "It's a clear dome, nice and warm. The botanists have been planting a garden up there. I could bypass security and get us in for a little rumble in the jungle." He chuckled.
Carson looked at him. "You're daft."
"What? You know I could get past security blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back."
Carson snorted softly. "Rumble in the jungle? What kind of a thing is that?"
"It's better than sex outside because, hello, no bugs for me to be allergic to."
"And what if there are pollinators? And what about the pollen?"
Rodney blinked. "You mean they'd put bees up there *on purpose*?"
"Most plants don't pollinate themselves, love." Carson's face pressed into Rodney's neck and he kissed Rodney slow and soft. "And where do you think our honey supply comes from, anyway?"
"Okay, so maybe we won't try for sex in the garden. There must be something." He held Carson tight, just savoring the feel of his husband in his arms.
"Home in our own bed would be more than enough for me right now," Carson told him, his voice muffled against Rodney's skin. "And right here, just having you hold me, feels better than I thought I'd ever have again when I went into surgery."
Rodney's arms tightened around Carson again, his heart pounding fast and hard. He never wanted to let go. "Okay, yeah. Bed. Bare skin. Wild, frantic sex ten times a day."
Carson snorted. "I always knew you were daft, but I wasn't aware you were delusional, love. Neither of us is that young anymore."
"Maybe not," Rodney said, "but we can try."
"Oh, aye, we can try."
Rodney kissed him again.