Word count: 11,096
Disclaimer: Not mine, only playing. No material profit made, only the social and cultural capital of fandom participation and creativity.
Summary: Atlantis is trying to tell Carson something important. Atlantis, it turns out, is not very subtle.
Author notes: SGA and McBeck were the reasons I started writing and posting fic, the reason I got a LJ account and began to actively participate in fandom. It's been wonderful to return to my roots so to speak and have one last opportunity to participate in sga_santa. Thank you so much for the organisers! And it is gratifying to know that there are still writers and readers out there who are into this particular pairing! So, flubber2kool I hope you enjoy this! It was supposed to be your original gift but as it turned out longer than expected you ended up with two. I'm sure you'll cope. Thank you to M for outstanding beta duty as always, and to N for cheerleading. I am indebted. Note that the fic is set in the early seasons.
It starts innocently enough; odd glitches here and there, little anomalies that don't even ping Carson's radar at first.
He's working late, typing up notes and case histories, cup of cold tea at his elbow and three monitors open at the same time. When one of them suddenly opens up a blank email message with Rodney's name on the 'To' field, Carson only blinks, closing it with a click. He must have pressed the button by mistake.
A few days later he gets to the sickbay only to be met with a confused frown from Dr Cheng.
"Is something the matter, Dr Beckett?" she asks, always formal when they are on duty.
"No. Why would anything be wrong?" He looks around, half expecting to see a Wraith assault in progress or beds full of people suffering from yet another mishap with Ancient technology.
"Because you are here six hours before your shift," Dr Cheng says, and then crosses her arms, looking politely annoyed. "Dr Beckett, I can assure you that I am more than capable of-"
"Oh, no, no, no, I wasn't implying otherwise!" Carson holds up his hands and takes a step back. "I just... I thought I was on early shift, I..." He pulls out his datapad, bringing up the medical staff rota. "Huh."
The rota clearly states that he is indeed on a late shift today, though Carson could swear that had not been the case when he'd checked it yesterday. "I'll just..." He makes a vague gesture toward the corridor, exiting swiftly and feeling Cheng's eyes burn a hole between his shoulder blades all the way.
Somewhat at loose ends, he dithers for a moment before heading toward the mess. Might as well get proper breakfast since he has the time.
Even this early, the mess is busy, the queue to the service counter snaking between the tables. The tail end of it is held up by one tired looking Head of Science.
"Rodney," Carson greets, settling behind him to wait his turn to decide between whatever the chefs are passing as breakfast items this morning.
Rodney turns around, looking like a startled owl, his hair standing up and uniform beyond wrinkled. "Hey, Carson," he says, attempting a wave and almost losing his balance and toppling face first into Carson's chest.
"Steady on," Carson says, grabbing his friend by the shoulders. Even stooping from exhaustion they are a rather nice pair of shoulders and Carson resists the urge to run his hands over them and around Rodney's back, to pull him closer...
Determinedly, he stomps on that train of thought before it gets off the station. Rodney is his best friend and just because his own traitorous heart - to say nothing of various other parts of his anatomy - has started to entertain impossible ideas, doesn't mean he should, or has any right to, act on them.
"You've worked through the night again without sleeping," he says instead, shaking his head unhappily. It's not a question because he can see perfectly well that Rodney's brain hasn't shut down for at least twenty hours if not more. "I've told you a hundred times! You can't keep doing this to yourself. Despite what you think, your brain is not actually independent from the rest of your body and if you insist on-"
"I did it," Rodney interrupts, beaming at him in a way that makes his tired face look years younger. "A portable shield. Now the Athosian settlement can have its own, and we'll be able to build more, given time and resources. Radek thinks-"
"That's brilliant," Carson says, because it is. They're not all that different, Rodney and him, both of them driven by the need to keep people safe as much as scientific curiosity. "You're brilliant," he adds, softly, because, well, Rodney is.
"I know that," Rodney says, looking pleased and surprised nonetheless.
For all his self-proclaimed genius, Carson doesn't think Rodney has heard enough genuine praise in his life, the kind without any underlying motivation or jealousy. Which is why he considers it his job, as Rodney's best friend, to provide it every now and then. And if he also loves to see the way Rodney's expression softens into something almost shy and awkward as a consequence then that's nobody's business other than his.
"I mean, don't get me wrong: You're still an idiot for pushing your body to its limits and skipping sleep and as your doctor and your friend I'm duty bound to point that out." It doesn't do to let Rodney forget that someone cares about him beyond his intelligence either.
"Of course you are," Rodney says, some of his usual snark back in his voice, but he's still smiling, patting Carson's chest absently before turning to peruse the food items on offer.
Carson goes for fruit and porridge while Rodney piles his plate high with the Pegasus Galaxy equivalent of pancakes.
"Not one word about my arteries," he tells Carson as they sit down.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Carson says placidly, perfectly happy and content in that moment, watching Rodney shovel food into his mouth and explain the intricacies of his latest invention between forkfuls.
After they've finished their breakfast, Carson walks Rodney to his quarters, partly to make sure he gets there and partly just because he wants to.
"Are you going to tuck me in?" Rodney asks once they reach his door.
Carson is pretty sure the question is meant to be sarcastic but the effect is somewhat ruined by the massive yawn and instead comes out sounding almost plaintive. Carson is also pretty sure he shouldn't take Rodney up on the implied offer, no matter how tempted he is.
And oh he definitely is. Very. "I'm sure you'll manage that on your own, being a brilliant genius and all," he says instead, giving Rodney a gentle push across the threshold.
Rodney huffs but is too tired to even attempt a come-back and simply waves a good night, or a good day, however you look at it. Carson stares at the closed door for a few long seconds before heading back the way they came. It's been a good morning; an unexpected chance to spend time with Rodney and to indulge his own protective instincts when it comes to the other man - something he would have missed out on if not for the unexplained shift change.
After their shared breakfast it seems like Carson can't get Rodney out of his thoughts. This is probably largely due to the fact that he can't get Rodney out of his datapads, his work computers, his personal laptop, or his projector screen. It is as if a proverbial ghost in the machine has developed a crush on the man and keeps opening files, documents, emails, photographs, even films and music Carson knows are among Rodney's favourites seemingly at random. At first it's perplexing, then almost amusing, then finally just annoying as hell. And oddly embarrassing. As if the computers know how he feels about Rodney and are mocking him.
Which is of course completely ridiculous. Not to mention impossible.
Still, Carson puts up with it all, somehow reluctant to talk to anyone about the problem. Definitely not to Rodney.
Three days later, a misbehaving technology takes that decision off his hands.
"Dr Beckett?" Rodney's voice in his ear startles Carson in the middle of an intense game of solitaire which immediately tells him 'no more moves' and promptly closes. The formal address and the harried tone indicate this is a professional, rather than a personal, call and Carson is already out of his chair.
"Dr McKay," he says, automatically reaching for his medical bag. "What is it?"
The silence at the other end stretches long enough that Carson is all the way to the door before Rodney's confused "You called me?" comes through.
"What? No I didn't."
"Yes you did."
"Rodney, I definitely didn't. It's not like I... Oh."
"What? What 'oh'?" Rodney's voice goes suspicious and then increasingly high. "There is no 'oh', Carson! Don't you know that on Atlantis every single 'oh' usually precedes an immediate catastrophe? Are you having an immediate catastrophe, Carson? Do I need to come over there and rescue you?" There's a noise like a chair toppling over and Rodney says: "Screw this, I'm coming over and you are not allowed to touch anything or die in the meanwhile."
There's a sad, twisted part of Carson that is somehow gratified over the concern Rodney is inadvertently showing. He's not proud of it, but it's there. "No, no, stay there. Nothing's wrong, just..." And well, now he's gone and said it, he's going to have to follow through. "Just been having some... technical glitches lately."
"What about me makes you think that's reassuring?" Rodney asks, sounding slightly breathless. He's obviously still heading toward the medical bay at a clipped pace. "Tšernobyl had 'technical glitches' to say nothing of such occurrences on Atlantis, I can't believe you haven't mentioned this earlier! How long has this been going on?" Rodney demands indignantly.
"Look, I'm sure it's..." Carson trails off as he sees Rodney rounding the corner, looking harassed and worried and angry in equal measure. The overall impression should be amusing but instead it's hot which is just all kinds of wrong and effectively highlights to Carson just how bad he has it. "...harmless," he finishes lamely as Rodney pushes past him and into his office.
"Well," Rodney says, fists on his hips as he eyes the array of computers and other equipment dotted around, "what seems to be the problem?" Every monitor is showing the standard Atlantis screensaver and when Rodney pokes at the nearest keyboard experimentally, nothing but completely innocent medical databases and reports show up.
Carson sighs and resignedly explains the issues, mentioning about randomly opening files and emails, but leaving out the details about how they all seem to include Rodney in some form or another. Surely that's a coincidence. The man is a Head of Science after all, his name crops up in a lot of documents and emails, likely this is just some kind of statistical probability at work.
Rodney spends several hours in Carson's office, then a few more in his quarters, running every test and diagnostic on every piece of technology in both. It all results in a big fat nothing.
"I can't find anything wrong," Rodney declares much later. It's obvious that he considers this a great and personal insult. The look Carson's laptop receives is withering and he almost flinches in sympathy.
"I told you it was nothing," Carson says, passing Rodney a bowl of soup and a plate of sandwiches. After it had become clear that Rodney was going to spend an afternoon chasing the cause of the glitch, Carson had done a supply run to the mess.
"Hmph." Rodney pokes at his datapad a few times more but it's desultory and even Carson can see it's mostly for show. Then he relents, picks up the food and starts eating.
It's surprisingly comfortable, cosy even, to be sitting cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by the detritus of Rodney's investigative work and exchanging idle gossip. Carson honestly tries to feel guilty about hoarding Rodney's time and attention but can't quite manage it. And really, surely being best friends accords him some privileges, even if many others are firmly out of the question.
"Well, I guess I better put your things back together," Rodney says finally, eyeing the computer parts and power crystals and various complicated looking things Carson doesn't know the name of and resists the urge to call 'doo-dahs' because it's clear his friend has already suffered a traumatic stress event today on account of being unable to identify much less fix the problem.
"That would be appreciated," he says instead mildly, gathering their empty dishes while Rodney returns to work.
A half an hour later Carson is alone again. He turns around slowly, surveying his rooms and the technology therein. Finally he says, cautiously: "Well, maybe that's..."
His laptop chimes. Carson closes his eyes briefly, before daring to look. Unsurprisingly, Rodney's personnel file is flashing on the screen. In the corner of the room, the data portal starts scrolling through what looks like the translated Ancient database. It's open on the entry titled 'Human Sexuality'. Carson cringes. Apparently, the subtle part of the campaign is over, though in honesty it was never really there in the first place.
There is also no longer any use pretending all of this isn't deliberate. That there isn't some kind of... agenda behind it.
On his projector screen Love Actually starts playing.
"Oh come on!" Carson groans, burying his face in his hands.
After that, it's perfectly clear that Atlantis is trying to set him up with Rodney. Perfectly clear and perfectly ridiculous of course, but there you have it.
The thing with the randomly opening files and emails and com-links continues unabated and soon Carson realises that the quickest way to deal with it is to give in every now and then. He starts emailing Rodney random questions and observations, pretends he's just calling to remind Rodney to rest and eat. Their shift patterns magically synch overnight no matter how different they are to begin with and Carson is always off duty by the time Sheppard's team comes back from off-world. Provided there is no immediate medical disaster to deal with he and Rodney often end up unwinding together, sharing a meal or a movie or both.
It's wonderful. It's frustrating. Carson loves every minute of it almost as much as he hates it. He likes spending time with Rodney, of course he does - likes his brittle sarcasm and sharp edges that Carson can navigate with ease, likes his expressive face and hands, the way he talks with his whole body, how passionate he is, how smart and funny and sexy and... Yeah. That right there is the problem.
Because Carson likes Rodney a little too much. A lot too much in fact. Definitely more than is within the safe parameters of 'best friends' and absolutely more than is good for Carson's heart.
Being this close to something he can't have is... Well, it's tiring, and Carson knows the strain is starting to show. He's snappy with his staff, with random people, with Dr Weir on one memorable occasion which led to a round of raised eyebrows and a public apology. And inevitably, he gets snappy with Rodney which... Is kind of mutual actually. Clearly, it's not just him who has had enough of company.
Carson starts consciously cutting back on the time spent with Rodney, avoiding him even when there are perfectly aligned free timeslots to share with each other, determinedly closing down every message window that pops up on his screens.
He half expects Atlantis to do something drastic but when nothing happens for a few days he dares to hope that the City's weird obsession has come to an end.
In retrospect, he really ought to have known better.
It's late, way past midnight, by the time Carson finishes his paperwork. He checks on Corporal Lund in bed three, feeling almost nostalgic for his early hospital rotations. The Corporal is recuperating from an emergency appendectomy which in the Pegasus Galaxy is almost novel in its utter normality.
Lost in his memories and the sudden, sharp homesickness for the echoing halls of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, he pays no attention to the softly lit hallways of Atlantis, following his feet to the nearest transporter and then out again, turning toward his quarters.
Except they're not there. Where his door should be there's nothing but a curving wall, and where all the other doors to other people's quarters should be there is nothing but more wall, sleek and dimly lit as far as the eye can see. Carson blinks and looks again but the scenery doesn't change. He turns around but the transporter door has also mysteriously vanished.
"Dammit," Carson says, knowing before he even taps at his earpiece that it's in vain. "What exactly is the plan here?" he asks, eyeing the corridor balefully. He pretends he's talking to himself but deep down knows he's also addressing Atlantis. It just doesn't do to actually admit such things. "Am I expected to wander around until the solitude makes me realise the error of my ways and..." Carson trails off, unsure even how to finish that sentence.
As if in response, the floor under his feet starts to glow. Carson jumps back, suspicious, but nothing else happens. He probes the tiles with his shoes, taking a tentative step forward. Immediately, a new section of the floor lights up, a few meters away. "Huh," Carson says. "Alright then." He follows.
Atlantis leads him through several intersections, going steadily upwards. Soon Carson starts to smell the ocean and behind the next corner the corridor opens up into a wide balcony. The view is breathtaking, the whole of Atlantis spread out before him like a jewel, glistening in the moonlight.
"It's something, isn't it?" Rodney is leaning on the balcony railing, already turning back toward the view.
"Rodney," Carson greets him, because of course. Of course. He goes to stand next to his friend, close enough to feel the heat of his body but not as close as he wants to. "I didn't know about this place."
"Why would you?" Rodney sounds oddly unsurprised by Carson's appearance.
"The transporter... I must have pressed a wrong button or..."
"A technical glitch," Rodney choruses with him.
"Uh, yeah." Carson sighs, resting his forearms against the railing. The wind is pleasantly cool, bringing with it the scent of an alien ocean; clean and tantalizing. He feels calm for the first time in days, the anxiety caused by the situation with Rodney lessening despite the man himself being a hair's breadth away.
They stand side by side, admiring the view as the moons slowly climb higher. They don't talk. A couple of times Carson almost asks if everything is okay. After all, it's not like Rodney to be this quiet and still, this... Content. There's a look on his face that quells Carson's questions every time they threaten to rise; a sort of calm acceptance that both reassures Carson and makes something ache deep in his chest. He doesn't ask what Rodney is thinking because he's not sure he wants to know the answer.
When the horizon finally starts to lighten, Carson turns to Rodney, taking his elbow gently. "Come on," he says. "We need some sleep."
Rodney nods and follows him out of the balcony, pointing out a transporter almost outside it that takes them back to the living quarters in no time at all. They part ways in silence, Rodney's smile genuine but oddly sad around the edges. Carson goes to bed head full of half-formed thoughts. He expects to stay awake for a long time.
Instead he falls asleep almost immediately.
He doesn't see Rodney for almost two weeks after that, largely due to the fact that Rodney is stuck off-world when a standard trading mission turns decidedly nonstandard, even by Pegasus Galaxy rules. Carson is worried at first but then he discovers that Dr Weir and Sheppard's team had known to expect trouble, had in fact gone in seeking it, and he gets pissed.
Not because Rodney had knowingly done something dangerous - waking up in the morning in Atlantis meant deliberately putting your life at risk and they all did it because the rewards were more than worth it - but because he hasn't told Carson. In retrospect, it explained Rodney's quietness the other night but understanding was a poor substitute for having his best friend there to shout at.
And Carson really, really wants to do that. He's going to, as soon as Rodney gets home.
Unfortunately, the circumstances effectively derail his plans. While Sheppard's team get back more or less uninjured and victorious, they also get back high as a group of carnival kites.
"What the hell did they give you?" Carson asks though the question is largely rhetorical.
"They gave us hugs," John says, grinning from ear to ear and swaying a little, "Very huggy people, the Veriaani."
"Rogers," Carson shouts at the harried nurse, "Skin swaps of everyone please, it might be... Teyla, no!"
It's too late though because Teyla has already wrapped herself around a startled looking Dr Weir who has come to assess the situation. She pats Teyla's back awkwardly, shooting questioning glances at Carson over her shoulder.
Carson sighs, hoping whatever the team got dosed with won't transfer skin-to-skin any further because otherwise they're in for an interesting afternoon.
"I do not like this hugging thing, it's restrictive," Ronon comments from the other side of the room. His arm is wrapped securely around John's waist though and shows no inclination of letting go. John doesn't seem to mind, busy as he is inspecting Ronon's dreads one by one and giggling softly to himself.
"Dr Beckett," Rogers says, wiping sweat off his brow and balancing a tray of blood samples, "Dr McKay refuses to be seen to by anyone but you. He's getting a bit... agitated."
And alright, so maybe Carson has been avoiding Rodney, focusing on the other members of the team, but it's purely out of self-preservation. Because if the drugs have made him as affectionate and tactile as the others, then it's not something Carson wants to subject himself to, not when his own emotions are so dangerously close to the surface; a confused mix of anger and heartache threatening to spill over.
"Dr Beckett," Rogers says again, then gentler: "Carson. He's distressed. I can't get him to calm down. I don't know what-"
"I'll take care of it," Carson interrupts, feeling suitably chastened. What kind of doctor lets personal feelings come between him and patient care? He should've...
"Carson!" Rodney exclaims, the relief flooding his face obvious and painful to see. "You're here." He grabs hold of Carson's sleeve, bringing his hand to his chest and almost cuddling it. "I don't think I'm quite compos mentis at the moment," he whispers as if imparting a grave secret.
"I think you're right," Carson agrees, resisting the urge to smooth his fingers over the skin under Rodney's eyes where it's thin and bruised-looking. Instead he pulls the stethoscope from around his neck with his other hand. "Come on, Rodney. Let me listen to your heart."
Luckily, there was no indication that the drug placed any undue stress on the heart or respiratory system but until the blood and skin swab tests came back Carson can't do much more than monitor the effects.
"Alright," Rodney says, obediently releasing his grip on Carson's hand and starting to unzip his jacket. It's eerie how agreeable he is and Carson mentally ups the drug from something simply happy-making to a substance that could very easily be used for less pleasant purposes.
"It's probably a little fast," Rodney comments when Carson has the end of the stethoscope pressed against his bare chest. "On account of you," he adds, and then honest to god flutters his eyelashes at Carson.
"Um," Carson says intelligibly, staring down at his best friend who is slowly leaning closer as if he means to-
"Dr Beckett!" Rogers interrupts, "The results are back."
Carson jerks back, grateful beyond belief. "I'll be right back," he tells Rodney, hardening his resolve against the stricken look on his face. 'It's the drugs,' he reminds himself, determinedly turning to follow Rogers.
A few hours later, they have figured out the drug's chemical composition and thus the best way to flush it out. Sheppard and his team are resting relatively comfortably, having progressed to a sleepy and shivery stage thanks to the intervention. Carson is sitting next to Rodney's bedside, making notations on his datapad and keeping an eye on his friend.
"Hey." Rodney turns to look at him, movements slow. He pulls the covers tighter around himself, clearly cold despite the sweat beading on his forehead.
"Hey yourself," Carson says, leaning closer. "Thought you were asleep. How are you feeling?"
"Loopy," Rodney says and then rolls his eyes. "As you can tell from my stellar vocabulary. I can't believe I..." He blinks, eyes suddenly unfocused again, gaze wandering all over the room. "Did you redecorate?" he asks. "I like the purple. It's... luxurious."
Carson frowns, glances at the back wall and then looks again. He could've sworn it was the same nondescript blue-grey as rest of the sickbay. "Atlantis," he sighs.
"Yeah," Rodney agrees like he has any idea what Carson is talking about. Then he grabs Carson's hand again, says: "Don't be angry," and promptly falls asleep.
Carson sits there for the longest time, arm slowly going numb from being twisted at an awkward angle, and stares at the purple wall. He's not sure what he feels anymore but it's definitely not anger.
In the grand scheme of things the whole 'under the influence of alien drugs' incident is nothing out of the ordinary of course; away teams in particular tend to get exposed to more mind-altering substances on a regular basis than your average university student. However, unfortunately for Carson, Atlantis seems to regard it is a source of inspiration.
He happens to be nearby when the call comes through about an accident in the botany lab, though of course 'coincidence' is a relative concept on Atlantis. It doesn't sound too serious; Dr Laitila simply alerting the medical team that she's sliced open her palm - something about a broken beaker - and that she'll probably need stitches. Carson taps his ear piece, saying he's practically around the corner and will pop by to assess the situation.
He gets to Lab 35 in under a minute, finding Dr Laitila holding her hand up, wrapped in a blood soaked t-shirt which presumably comes from her shivering lab partner.
"Let's have a look," Carson says, gently prying Laitila's hand open and cleaning the wound that indeed looks deep enough to require stitching.
She hisses slightly in pain but otherwise seems mostly pissed off; the injury is in an awkward place and will probably prevent her from working for a couple of weeks. Her colleague - a thin pale Swede by the name of Jönsson or Jonasson, something like that - looks far more shaken by the incident. He keeps hovering over Laitila like an anxious puppy and Carson makes an executive decision to send both of them to the med bay. "Why don't you escort Dr Laitila?" he suggests gently, nudging the two of them toward the door. "Blood loss can make a person feel a little woozy."
Laitila casts him an exasperated look but allows herself to be herded out of the door.
"Good call," Rodney's voice drifts from under the workbench, making Carson jump.
"You're here," he says, bending down to peer at Rodney who is ensconced in a mess of wires, gutting the insides of some machine Carson doesn't know the name of but looks like a hybrid of human and Ancient technology.
"Well yes," Rodney says, sparing him a glance. "They had some problems with the equipment and Manning's down with the flu... Aha!" He triumphantly holds up a tiny crystal, rolling out from under the desk. "I knew it was something to do with- What's the matter?"
"You're here," Carson repeats slowly. "And I'm here." His gaze drifts around the otherwise empty lab. Suddenly he has a very, very bad feeling about this. "The door," he finally says, eyes landing on it, "is shut."
There's a beat of silence and then they both try to make a run for it even though it's clearly so very, very late: Lab 35 has been sealed, with Carson and Rodney securely inside it.
"Sheppard?" Rodney is tapping at his communication unit, his voice getting increasingly high at every attempt. "Radek? Teyla? Chuck? Anyone?"
Carson doesn't even bother. There's no point. They're stuck here until whatever Atlantis has planned plays out. He trails Rodney to the middle of the room as the man gives up on hammering at the door and moves on to rummaging through the work tables in the hopes of finding something useful.
"Come on, come on, there's got to be something here other than plants..." Rodney mutters.
"Well," Carson points out, "It is a botany lab." It comes out with a definite bite of irritation and Rodney's eyes narrow.
"Thank you, Dr Obvious!" he snaps over his shoulder. "If you have better ideas... What is that sound?"
Carson hears it too: a low hissing sound like air being slowly released from a high pressure environment. Both of them turn around in a cautious circle, trying to identify the source.
"There," Rodney says, grabbing Carson's arm tightly. Despite the circumstances it feels... kind of good.
He points at one of the large display and examination cases, integrated long rubber gloves indicating that whatever is inside clearly requires care and isolation to be handled. Which makes the fact that the top of the case is slowly opening seem doubly ominous.
"What did you do?" Rodney breathes, gripping Carson's arm even harder.
"What?" Carson says absentmindedly, watching as a trail of something thicker than air snakes out of the glass case. Incongruously, it is the exact same shade of purple as the newly decorated wall in his infirmary. Then Rodney's question penetrates. "What?!" he demands, turning a narrow-eyed stare in Rodney's direction. "I didn't do anything! It's more likely that you touched something you shouldn't have when messing with the equipment!"
Rodney rounds on him so fast it pulls both of them off balance. His hand grips like a vice; a hot brand of iron that burns Carson even through the sleeve. The gasp that escapes his mouth is not entirely for surprise or pain.
"Fuck you!" Rodney all but shouts and the way his mouth stretches around the profanity is obscene. "We wouldn't even be in this situation if you hadn't taken up home visits. What are you, Dr Quinn Medicine Woman now?" He shoves Carson back and somehow the separation hurts more than the edge of the lab table that hits Carson's hips.
Objectively, the accusation makes no sense but Carson flushes with guilt and anger anyway because he knows he - or his stupid, embarrassing infatuation with Rodney - is the reason for their current predicament. "I was in the neighbourhood!" he snarls, blood pounding in his ears and hands curling into fists. "I'm hardly going to ignore it if someone's injured!"
A few steps away Rodney snorts, throwing his head back contemptuously which coincidentally displays the long bare column of his throat and Carson wants to bite, to sink his teeth in and push Rodney to the floor and make him understand...
With a shock he realises he's hard, painfully so, cock pressing against the zipper of his trousers. Carson shifts his weight and the small amount of friction of cloth against skin startles out a helpless moan. His vision is starting to go hazy red around the edges but he can still see the exact moment Rodney's gaze drops to his groin, the way his pupils dilate, expression changing to one of pure hunger.
Carson doesn't know whether he wants to fuck Rodney's face or slam his fist into it. Both sound equally good right now. Distantly, he's aware that there's something wrong about their reactions, the way they are so clearly teetering on the edge of either violent sex or outright violence, but Rodney is already taking a step closer, his fingers like claws reaching out for Carson's heart and-
There's a flash of light and the distinctive sound of Ronon's gun. Then everything goes black.
Much, much later that day Carson regains consciousness in his own sickbay. The blurry figure next to his bed slowly resolves into the apologetic looking Dr Laitila and groggily he listens to her babble about how she is sure she'd secured all the samples before leaving the lab but apparently not and how very sorry she is for what has happened. Almost happened. If not for timely intervention. She blushes delicately as she says it, not quite meeting his eyes.
Carson can't exactly blame her, seeing as he doesn't feel like meeting anyone's eyes at the moment either. He's still mostly out of it and nauseous to boot, only taking in maybe a quarter of Dr Laitila's explanation. It's enough for the words pheromones and aphrodisiac to sink in though and Carson has never been happier about Ronon's 'stun first, ask questions later' policy.
The thought of what could have happened if the rescue team had shown up even a minute later makes Carson's insides feel cold and hollow. He doesn't think that having sex whilst under the influence of alien fauna, no matter how awkward or borderline non-consensual, would have been enough to break the friendship between him and Rodney.
Carson's own heart though is a far more fragile thing.
( Writing on the Wall - Part 2 of 2 )