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.
( Writing on the Wall - Part 1 of 2 )
Carson's head snaps up from the datapad he's reading and he takes an instinctive step back because no, no, not again, he can't deal with running into Rodney again, it's only been a few days since Atlantis decided a date-rape pollen made for a feasible matchmaking strategy and Carson is so not ready to...
However, instead of safety of the corridor, he bumps right into the transporter doors that have already closed behind him.
"Erm, Rodney, hello," he says, attempting to regain his balance and look like he wasn't just trying to escape. "Didn't see you there."
"I gathered," Rodney says and his voice sounds strained. He's holding himself stiffly in the farthest corner which isn't really that far at all considering their location.
Carson's immediate reaction is to ask what's wrong and his arm practically twitches from the suppressed instinct to wrap it around Rodney's shoulders like he's done countless times before. But he's afraid he wants to do that for all the wrong reasons now so instead he looks back down to the mission report he was reading.
Except it's no longer Sheppard's official one, but instead Rodney's 'for internal use only' science report. Carson definitely hadn't opened it. He frowns at the datapad, waiting for the transporter to make its customary arrival chime and then frowns some more when he realises it's not happening.
"Uh," he clears his throat, "Shouldn't we be there already? These things don't usually take this long, do they?"
Rodney's face contorts in annoyance and no little foreboding as he steps closer, reaching behind Carson to poke at the control panel. "No, they don't..."
The transporter makes an odd trilling sound and the ambient blue lighting switches to a red one. Rodney and Carson look at each other, the realisation dawning like a particularly unpleasant day, maybe one with a root canal and a five-hour budget meeting scheduled for it.
"Son of a bitch!" they say, at the same time, while the transporter remains stubbornly stationary.
Fifteen minutes later, they're both sitting on the floor, leaning against opposite walls, legs stretched out in front of them, close but not quite touching. Carson is more preoccupied by the two inch distance between his foot and Rodney's thigh than he is by their general predicament.
"...apart crystal by crystal, and if that doesn't help I'm going to take a good old-fashioned monkey wrench and hack until something falls loose, and reprogramme the whole thing from scratch until..."
Rodney has been alternating between blatant threats and detailed plans to redesign the whole of Atlantis into something that 'doesn't have more glitches than Windows ME' for a while now and he's looking flushed from his tirade, sweat causing his neck to glisten in a way that's making Carson rather hot under the collar as well.
He unbuttons his jacket, realising with a start that the temperature rise is not purely psychological. "Is it me or... Is it getting warm in here?" he asks, grimacing as soon as he realises it sounds like a bad pick up line.
Luckily, Rodney's self-preservation instinct is well-honed and he seizes onto the most pertinent information. "What? It..." He draws a few long breathes, looking increasingly panicked with each one. "The air con! Oh my god, we're going to die!"
"We're not going to die," Carson says, "Just... Get a little overheated maybe. There's no noticeable drop in the oxygen supply, it's just the temperature going up." By this point he's pretty sure that Atlantis is not actively trying to kill him, just slowly drive him crazy. "Take off your jacket, you'll feel better." He does the same himself, focusing on keeping his hands steady and not thinking about just how many layers he and Rodney may have to shed before the City puts Carson out of his misery.
Twenty minutes later they're both down to their under shirt and boxers. Carson tries not to stare at the little sliver of skin above Rodney's waistband, exposed because of the way he's sitting; knees drawn up and head resting on his folded arms.
"I'm sure Colonel Sheppard and the others will figure it out soon," Carson says, trying to inject more confidence than he feels into his voice.
"They probably haven't even noticed we're missing yet," Rodney grouses. "I had nothing scheduled for the rest of the afternoon so unless someone actively tries to find me..." He taps at his ear in vain. Both their com-units had fallen silent the moment the transporter had become their personal holding cell and it was safe to assume that nobody can hear them either.
"This happened the last time too," Rodney mutters, wiping sweat off his forehead and trying to pry the earpiece apart with his thumbnail. "In the botany lab," he adds like Carson needs the reminder.
They both flush and avoid each other's eyes.
"Well," Carson says after another minute of strained silence, "no exotic flowers here. It could be worse."
Rodney's head snaps up, hand reaching toward Carson's face as if to gag him. "Oh my god, don't-!"
A sudden strum of guitars makes them both jump.
"Oh fuck no," Carson says, eyes widening in horror as the strains of a hideously familiar song fill the transporter.
'I feel it in my fingers', Marti Pellow croons, 'I feel it in my toes.' For the first time in his life Carson is embarrassed for his native land. Still, it could have been worse, he thinks. There's a selection of Scottish folk songs somewhere on the Atlantis database. Now at least the connection to Carson is less obvious.
"I feel like shoving a fork into my ears," Rodney comments, looking vaguely nauseous. "They are already bleeding. Here," he says, offering Carson his side-arm handle first, "stun me. Didn't you take an oath to stop unnecessary suffering or something? It would be an act of mercy."
Carson considers it. The song urges them to just 'come on and let it show'. Rodney looks like he might take matters into his own hands any second now and not in a way that has featured frequently in Carson's daydreams either.
There's a polite cough somewhere to their left. Both men turn to look, taking in the suddenly open transporter doors and the small crowd gathered outside it, just as the song reaches its crescendo.
"Erm, sorry to interrupt... Whatever this is," Sheppard says. His gaze flicks from the pile of discarded clothing to the gun in Rodney's hand, the corner of his mouth twitching with amusement. "We got a little worried when both the CMO and Head of Science dropped off the radar... But if you prefer, we can just..." He gestures at the transporter pane, "close the doors and let you finish your... discussion."
"No!" Rodney is already up, tugging on his trousers and jacket, red faced with fury and not a little embarrassment. "Quite done, thank you very much." He launches into the rant about taking Atlantis apart subroutine by subroutine and enjoying every minute of it and stomps away without so much as a backward glance at Carson.
"You alright, Doc?" Ronon asks, holding out a hand and hauling Carson to his feet when he accepts it.
"Sure, sure. One of those things..." Carson waves a hand, pulling his clothes on at a much more sedate pace. Medical School and years of rugby had effective abolished any lingering body issues and he was much less concerned about his semi-naked state than Rodney.
Or maybe it wasn't the situation so much as the company that had gotten to him. It wouldn't take the rumour mill any time at all to circulate the story, especially considering the botany lab incident last week. Carson fully expects to hear a significantly more x-rated version of 'Beckett and McKay in the transporter with no clothes on' by dinner time. No wonder Rodney was irate. A rumour like that would certainly decrease his chances of advancing any real romantic plans he might have.
And wasn't that a depressing thought. Carson nods his thanks to Sheppard and rest of the rescue crew, resuming his day with considerably less spring in his step. Perhaps it was time to have a serious chat with Atlantis.
The problem with that plan is Carson doesn't exactly know how one would go about communicating with the whole City, without, well, communicating with the whole city. It's not like he can put a public announcement up requesting Atlantis to stop setting him up with Rodney. Well, he could, but he sure as hell isn't going to.
He thinks about finding a remote tower and shouting his demands to the wind, but that seems a tad over-dramatic, plus Atlantis would probably take that as an invitation and beam Rodney to the same roof or something.
In the end he decides on the low-key approach, settling in front of the data terminal in his own quarters. The location doesn't matter. After all, Atlantis is everywhere; surrounding and sheltering them all with its walls and technology. Carson opens the City schematics on one terminal, accessing the Ancient database entry for 'communication' on the other. He figures it's enough to be the equivalent of a polite tap on the shoulder.
Preparations done, Carson stares at the monitors, then at the walls, the ceiling, and finally at the vista of spirals and towers that opens up outside his windows. "Erm, hello," he says, feeling immediately foolish.
There's no reply, but the air surrounding him feels somehow more... attentive. Carson forges on.
"It's a very nice thing you're doing," he says, "Very... considerate. And kind." It's always better to start with a positive, his mum used to say. "I guess it can even seem like the logical thing." It's an argument he's rehearsed himself, on those rare occasions when he's entertained the idea of actually telling Rodney how he feels, explaining how the two of them would make perfect sense. They have a long and solid friendship, they get on well but are different enough to be complementary, to push each other to improve and take risks when necessary.
"But human relationships... They're complicated." Carson leans on the window frame, watching the way the setting sun makes the City gleam like a jewel. He's speaking softly now, less concerned about whether Atlantis is listening and simply relieved to be saying these things aloud, even if it just to stone and crystals, and an AI with an agenda all its own. "I like Rodney," he says. "He's my best friend. Anything else... You can't force it. You can't keep trying to push us together. It won't work and it's awkward." Carson takes a deep breath, glancing at the silent walls. "It hurts", he admits quietly, because it does. Because he can't have it. "Do you understand?"
Behind him the data terminals flicker, programmes closing down one by one until both are dark and silent. Carson watches them shut down, feeling almost sad.
Guess that's his answer.
The silence lasts for a few seconds. Then the door chimes, announcing a visitor.
Carson already knows who it is but he opens the door anyway, resigned.
"Hello Rodney," he says, taking in the uncomfortable way Rodney is standing, shifting his weight from foot to foot. "What can I do for you?"
"I uh... Need that report on Ancient technology and cell regeneration you mentioned in this morning's meeting."
"Alright..." Carson frowns, walking back into the room. "I have it here somewhere..." He starts going through things on his desk, somewhat surprised to hear Rodney follow him in and the distinctive hiss of doors closing behind him. "Ah, there you are." He locates the datapad and turns around to find Rodney fidgeting in the middle of the room, looking almost as uncomfortable as he had a few days earlier, escaping from the transporter.
"Spit it out," Carson says, sounding snappier than he means to but having the man twitching all over his rooms not a minute after he'd been trying to convince Atlantis that some distance might be for the best is wearing on his nerves to say the least. "You could have easily asked me to email the report to you if it was that urgent... Which leaves me to think you had something else on your mind, Rodney."
"Well, yes, no one ever accused me of being subtle," Rodney mutters. He runs an agitated hand through his hair, leaving it to stick out in a way that makes Carson's fingers itch. "I wanted to apologise," Rodney finally huffs out.
Well, that had been low on the list of possibilities. Carson feels his eyebrows climb up in surprise. "What for?" he asks.
"For... The way... I wasn't... Atlantis is driving me crazy!" Rodney exclaims, arms spread wide to presumably indicate his level of frustration. "All these... glitches. Nothing life-threatening of course, simply... annoying."
Carson nods in agreement because he knows exactly how Rodney feels.
"So I wasn't exactly at my best the other day, in the transporter. I'm sorry." Rodney's gaze is fixed on the back wall and his face is set in grim determination as if he doesn't expect his apology to be accepted but he'll ask for it anyway. "I shouldn't have taken it out on you, it's not like the situation was your fault."
The way Rodney emphasises the word 'your' as if to indicate that there is someone at fault, just not Carson, strikes him as curious but before he has a chance to ask about it Rodney has already switched gears.
"Anyway, that's what I wanted to tell you. So, um, I'll just..." He wiggles his fingers in the direction of the datapad meaningfully.
"Yes, of course." Carson hands it over but doesn't let go immediately. "And there's nothing to apologise for," he adds. "It was a... stressful situation. I didn't take it personally."
Something about the words makes Rodney flinch. It's subtle but definitely there if only momentarily. But again before Carson can pursue it further the moment seems to pass.
"Alright, thanks," Rodney says, taking the datapad and clutching it to his chest like a shield. He hesitates for a moment like he's about to say something but in the end only turns around and walks to the door with a little wave.
Walks into the door, in fact, because it doesn't open.
"Ow," Rodney says, rubbing his forehead. "What the hell?" He frowns at the door with a look of concentration.
Carson assumes he's trying to consciously tell it to open because that's exactly what he's doing. He feels inside his head for the gene-activated presence of Atlantis, finds it with ease, but fails to have any impact on the door either. For the sake of scientific enquiry he switches the lights on and off a few times and turns on the data console at this desk - no problems there.
"It was fine a minute ago," he says, rather inanely considering Rodney knew that perfectly well, having used the blasted door himself.
In fact, Carson is rather surprised he isn't already subjected to a scathing remark about his tendency to point out the obvious.
A glance at the door finds Rodney not dismantling the console like Carson half expected but instead leaning his forehead against the wall next to it. He appears to be muttering to himself.
"Rodney?" Carson asks, going over and laying a tentative hand on his shoulder, the muscles as rigid and unyielding as the door. "Are you alright? I'm sure it's just another glitch. We'll call Radek or the security and-"
"No, no, no," Rodney says, shaking his head in exasperation, his forehead rolling against the wall in a way that looks quite painful. "I'm not okay and it's not a glitch, she's doing it on purpose!"
Carson blinks, taking a step back as Rodney finally turns around and pushes past him, starting to pace the room. "Who is?" Carson asks, even though he has a horrible feeling he already knows the answer, that he has, in fact, known it for a while now.
"Atlantis!" Rodney says. "She... It... Whatever, is driving me crazy, trying to push me to... to..."
"To what?" Carson asks, but that question comes out much quieter, his mouth suddenly dry. It couldn't be...
Rodney ignores him, instead casting a malevolent glance at the ceiling. "Okay, okay, fine! I'm going to do it, Christ!" Then he closes his eyes for a moment, takes a deep breath and visibly steels himself.
For a few seconds there's silence and Carson is just about to clear his throat or touch Rodney's arm for attention or something, when he suddenly blurts out: "Carson, you're my best friend, you know that right?"
"Aye, and you're mine," Carson says, because it's the truth.
"Good, good. That's good." Rodney rubs his palms together nervously, a brief smile flashing across his face at Carson's words, before fading away. "Erm, you see, here's the thing."
Carson holds his breath until his chest aches from the strain, eyes locked with Rodney's who for once seems to have run out of words. When the lights start to blink they both startle.
"Son of a bitch, just give me a minute here!" Rodney snaps at the room at large, presumably addressing Atlantis. "I'm trying! I'm trying to..." He turns to Carson, takes a step forward, then another back, and says, in one long breath: "I would like to get into your pants. God, that sounds juvenile. I mean, have sex. I find you attractive, sexually. Obviously. But, but, but not like in a sleazy one night stand or a friends-with-benefits kind of fuck, though I'd probably take those too because I just... What I mean is that..." His gaze roams over the room, landing on Carson every few seconds, but not staying for long, almost as if he doesn't really want to see his reaction.
He sure as hell doesn't pause long enough for Carson to comment, instead continuing: "What I'm trying to say, Carson, is that I really like you. Probably more than like. And I would definitely want to do the whole dating, relationship thing too except I'm really bad at it as I'm sure you know. And I'm sorry for springing this on you, I would have never said anything and I'm only telling you this so that she," Rodney looks up at the ceiling again and waves his arms around expansively to encompass everything that surrounds them - walls, technology, towers - "stops playing yenta because I can't deal with my screen saver being changed to a picture of us, or the way my shower or room is never warm anymore - I think the city is trying to give me a cold so that I have an excuse to see you. And this enforced proximity! Torture!" Rodney points an accusatory finger at the locked door of Carson's quarters, the control panel still blinking red at them like a tiny, vicious star.
"I swear, if we get stuck in a transporter or puddle-jumper or fucking botany lab again after today I won't be held responsible for my actions! Last time I came this close," he holds a thumb and forefinger barely apart to indicate a gap that is very narrow indeed, "to just... I don't know, kissing you! Or getting down on my knees and offering to suck you off or something!"
Carson can feel his eyes getting wider and wider the longer Rodney's tirade goes on, but the last point makes his jaw drop. "I... You, what?" he asks, groping behind himself for the table edge to keep himself standing. No matter how physiologically inaccurate Carson knows it to be, it sure as hell feels like most of his blood just rushed southward, leaving him light-headed and with trousers that fit far more snuggly than usual.
"You heard me," Rodney says, managing to sound belligerent and vaguely hurt at the same time. "More importantly though; the City did too."
He crosses his arms and turns around in a tight circle, addressing the walls of Carson's living room: "There, are you happy now? I did it, you can stop with the... hinting already. I've humiliated myself and blurted out all my unrequited stupid feelings and probably ruined a perfectly good friendship in the process!" Rodney is getting louder with every word, his face angry red.
Carson is in love. He should probably say something about that soon but as usual, it's difficult to get a word edgewise once Rodney gets going. Also, he's still trying to catch up.
"So... Open the fucking door!" Rodney shouts at the ceiling.
The front door stays stubbornly shut but behind them, the bedroom door slides open with a discreet hiss. In the background, the gravelly voice of Bryan Adams urges them to 'search your heart, search your soul'. Apparently, Atlantis has moved from Scottish soft rock to Canadian. And isn't that telling in its own way.
Carson bites his lip, hard. There's a part of him, a big part, that just wants to collapse in a heap and give into the giddy hysteria bubbling in his chest. It has been a rather stressful few weeks and laughter would probably bring some much needed relief.
Then again, it appears he has other, far more appealing options, available for that now.
Also, Rodney looks like he's about to either have a fit or blow up the whole god damn city, possibly both. And there's something Carson really needs to clear up here, and fast.
"Atlantis!" He shouts, unable to help the grin that's spreading over his face like spring after a long winter. "Will you please stop it with the music? Contrary to what Earth film industry would have you believe, not every moment needs a soundtrack. I..." Carson takes a step closer to Rodney, putting a hand on his shoulder, partly to keep him still, partly to anchor himself, "...am going to kiss him now," he says, voice breaking only a little bit. "But I sure as hell won't do it to the strains of Bryan bloody Adams!"
The song cuts off suddenly and completely like someone had pulled the plug or possibly taken a sledgehammer to the recording.
"Ha!" Rodney shouts gleefully, and then: "Wait, what?" His eyes are wide when he takes in their relative position and they get wider still when Carson cups his jaw with one hand, thumb brushing over a cheekbone.
"I'm going to kiss you," Carson repeats, "if that's okay with you?"
"What?" Rodney blinks at him like a confused owl, which shouldn't be nearly as adorable as it is. "You want to...? Why?"
Carson huffs out a laugh. "Yes I want to. And I want to because... Well, I want to because I want to. Because you're my best friend and more than that. Do you think Atlantis would flog a dead horse? Think about it. Appalling taste in music notwithstanding, she, it, whatever, has intelligence that's alien sure but undeniably vast." The more Carson thinks about it, the more it makes sense. "Atlantis wouldn't... Conduct an experiment where there wasn't at least the potential of positive results."
"...Positive results?" Rodney asks. Carson can feel the shape of the words against his palm, Rodney's breath ghosting over the inside of his wrist. The room is still silent except for them, though Carson is loath to test Atlantis' patience.
"Hypothesis confirmed," Carson says. "It wasn't just you Atlantis was... nudging in a certain direction. I was always a safe bet," he adds softly.
"Oh," Rodney sighs, something very much like wonder spreading across his features.
"Yes, oh. Now can I kiss you before we get assaulted by another rock ballad? Because I don't think I-"
Carson doesn't get to finish the sentence but he empathetically doesn't mind. Rodney's kiss is hesitant to begin with but growing bolder and pushier by the second, his wide mouth slanting over Carson's like it was meant for it. His hands, his broad strong hands that Carson may have fantasised about for months now if not longer, clutch at his shoulders, arms, waist, finally burying under Carson's jacket. There's something desperate and frantic about the way Rodney is touching him and Carson tries to gentle the kiss, he honestly does, but ends up biting Rodney's bottom lip instead. Rodney whines, the noise making heat pool in the bottom of Carson's stomach, and then his own hands get busy pulling Rodney's jacket off him.
"That thing," Rodney leans back enough to get the words out, "I said about... Fuck!"
Carson is raking his nails across Rodney's chest, through his t-shirt, but even that is enough to make Rodney arch; shoulders curving back and his nipples hard and pressing against the fabric. "You didn't say anything about that yet," Carson points out. He can hear the way his own voice has grown rough around the edges, accent deepening. "But I'm amenable," he adds and watches with pleasure the way Rodney's mouth goes slack with lust.
He visibly shakes it off, catching Carson's hands before they have a chance to reach skin. "No, no... I mean yes, absolutely that, but the other things. About this not just being about..." He waves an awkward hand between them, casting a meaningful glance at the front of their equally tented trousers.
The feeling in Carson's chest expands, until his breath catches with unbearable joy and tenderness, and he says: "Everything. I want all of it," and he kisses Rodney again, slow and sweet and thorough.
"Great," Rodney says some seconds, minutes, years later, sounding gratifyingly dazed. "That's... great." He blinks, nips at the tender underside of Carson's jaw hard enough to make his knees buckle. "But maybe we could do this first?" he asks, rubbing the heel of his hand against the length of Carson's erection through his trousers.
It's Carson's turn to curse. "Sounds like a plan," he says and pushes Rodney toward the conveniently open bedroom door.
Rodney goes willingly, grinning wildly as he pivots Carson around neatly once they reach the bed and shoves until he's sitting down. Then Rodney drops to his knees in front of him, nothing smooth or practiced about the move, simply pure, single-minded determination. His hands are opening the fastenings of Carson's trousers before he's had a chance even to draw breath.
"Lift," Rodney tells him, tugging at his waistband, and Carson does, allowing Rodney to pull off his trousers and underwear, socks and shoes, until he's naked from waist down and Rodney is staring at his flushed cock with a look Carson recognises from the botany lab. Except this time all the chemical reactions responsible are fully natural.
"Do you have any idea how long I've wanted this?" Rodney asks. It's absentminded, clearly rhetorical, but Carson answers it anyway.
"Yes, I think I do," he says, stroking trembling fingers through Rodney's hair, over his face, tracing the bow of his mouth. "Can't be as long as I have though," he adds, and then has to stop talking because Rodney sucks his fingers in, effectively rendering him incapable of constructing coherent sentences.
Rodney licks and sucks and nips at his fingers, taking in three at a time and encouraging Carson to push them deeper, faster, until he's more or less fucking Rodney's mouth, watching in fascination the way his eyes grow glazed. "Please," Rodney says, garbled and thick, "Let me."
There's no power in the universe strong enough to compel Carson to refuse this from either of them. He pulls his fingers out, settling his spit-slick hand at the back of Rodney's neck, not pushing just... resting. Rodney needs no direction. With a deep groan of pleasure he leans forward, guiding Carson's cock to his mouth.
It takes all of Carson's self-control to let Rodney set the pace. His muscles are vibrating with the effort to keep still; the swipe of Rodney's tongue, the tightness of his lips, the shadows his eyelashes cast over his cheekbones as he takes Carson deeper and deeper, humming in obvious enjoyment as his nose finally brushes Carson's pubic hair... It's almost too much and Carson throws his head back and moans and the sound ripping out of him is a wrecked plea and an awed praise, all in one. "Oh Christ, oh fuck, Rodney," he groans, hips stuttering up helplessly as Rodney pulls almost off, before sliding back down, his hand wrapping around the base of Carson's cock and keeping up the rhythm.
It doesn't take long, can't, not with months of wanting and denying himself. When Rodney speeds up his movements, telling Carson to let go with every look and touch, he can do nothing but fuck gracelessly, desperately into Rodney's wet, beautiful mouth, spilling inside it within minutes, his fingers still buried in Rodney's hair, his blood like fire in his veins.
Carson comes back in stages, watching the way Rodney keeps nuzzling and licking his softening cock, each touch sending little jolts of after-pleasure that pierce him like arrows; sharp and almost painful. Eventually, he pulls Rodney off and up, bending to kiss him thoroughly, tasting himself and feeling the hot line of Rodney's cock pressed against his leg.
"Come on," Carson urges, shuffling back on the bed until he's lying down, Rodney climbing on top of him, unwilling to end the kiss. "Yeah, yeah, that's it," Carson murmurs against his lips, snaking his hand between their bodies and undoing Rodney's trousers just enough to pull his cock out. It's thick and perfect, already wet with pre-come and sliding into Carson's fist with urgency that's more than a little flattering.
"Oh fuck, oh please," Rodney chokes out, weight resting on his forearms and face buried against Carson's neck. "I can't, I want to... Please, fuck, please." His voice breaks as he moves faster, rutting into Carson's hand and the hollow of his hip.
Carson tightens his grip, swiping a thumb over the head of Rodney's cock while his other hand reaches around to grab hold of Rodney's arse, pulling the two of them even closer together. Rodney comes like that; held securely between Carson's arms, moaning his name into the scant space between their mouths, more gorgeous than Carson ever could have even imagined.
After a minute or so of simply breathing Rodney lifts himself enough to roll off and flop next to him. "Oh my god," he groans. "I think you killed me." It's difficult to take the complaint seriously though when it's delivered with a grin bright enough to rival the afternoon sun.
Carson huffs in amusement, tucking Rodney close and reaching to pull the covers over them. "Atlantis?" he calls out tentatively. "How about...?"
The windows grow tinted, dimming the bedroom light levels comfortably while one opens a fraction to let in the fresh ocean air.
"Perfect," Carson says, smiling, his arm still wrapped securely around Rodney who doesn't comment. He's already asleep.
A few hours later, they have relocated back to the main living area and are enjoying an impromptu picnic on the floor.
"Seriously," Rodney is saying, waving a piece of fruit - not citrus - around illustratively, "every time I turned a corner you were there. I thought I was going crazy. I must have walked miles just to avoid running into you... Not that it made any difference in the end."
"Well, all things considered..." Carson clinks their glasses, smiling in a way he suspects is downright sappy but that can't be helped.
"Yeah," Rodney grins in response. "So all those emails you-?
Carson jumps, reaching for his abandoned communicator on the nearby table. "Dr Weir?" he asks, already getting up. "Is something wrong?"
"John?" Rodney is also climbing to his feet, looking worried and talking into his own radio. Both of them receiving calls at the same time and this late in the evening is unlikely to be good news.
"No, no, nothing is wrong," Dr Weir is saying in his ear. She sounds... amused. "I do believe congratulations are in order. Although," she adds, more seriously, "why you and Rodney didn't feel like you could confide in me earlier...?"
"What do you mean?" Carson asks, confused, while next to him Rodney says: "What the hell are you talking about, Sheppard? That's not funny. I don't..." He trails off, suddenly blanching white as a sheet.
Carson can relate. Elizabeth's explanation is making his own ears ring in that distant way he usually associates with immediate loss of consciousness. "I'll... call you back later," he says faintly, signing off at the same time as Rodney.
Together they reach for Carson's laptop, identical looks of horrified apprehension on their faces.
And there it is. Sitting proudly at the top of the citywide announcements is a notice decorated tastefully with blue and silver borders. You are cordially invited, it reads, in a beautiful flowing cursive, to the wedding of Drs Carson Beckett and Meredith Rodney McKay. Underneath the date and time - which is in less than two weeks Carson notices with vague alarm - there is a picture of them smiling together, taken sometime during the past few weeks. Underneath that, the same text is provided in Ancient.
For a few, infinite seconds Carson and Rodney simply stare at the screen. Then, in perfect unison, they turn their eyes - and angry, ineffectual fists - to the ceiling, yelling "Atlantis!" with all the indignation of men already resigned to their fate.
And perhaps not too unhappy about it after all.