Author: Taylor Dancinghands -firstname.lastname@example.org
Category: slash, established relationship, h/c, AU, sex with an AI
Rating: 'NC-17' for explicit homoerotic depictions
Archive: Generally yes, but please let me know where
Summary: "We have lost Colonel Sheppard and Dr. Zelenka's jumper," Teyla said at last. "They are gone, Carson. I am sorry."
Spoilers/Season: No specific references, though The background may be season 2-ish/ Mostly you will need to be up to speed with the rest of the Lonely City staories for much of this to make sense.
Author's notes: Now I'm just being evil.
Betas: Thanx to ankhmutes for her usual excellent advice and encouragement!
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, never will, not claiming to. Just wanna play with 'em a little. Can't I, can't I, huh?
What Lies Beyond Hope
by Taylor Dancinghands
"Dr. Beckett, can you please come to the Gate Control room right away?"
Though Teyla's request seemed ordinary enough when she called him in the infirmary that afternoon, there was something in her voice that had Carson worried from the moment he heard it.
"What do you need me for, lass?" he asked. "Should I bring my kit?"
The pause that followed only raised his anxiety, for it had been a simple enough question -unless this situation was a complicated one.
"We have... lost Colonel Sheppard and Dr. Zelenka's jumper," she said at last.
"What?" Carson asked, trying in vain to hold any number of dreadful speculations at bay. "What do you mean lost? Have they crashed? Do we know where they are?" Carson tried to narrow the focus of his questions to determine the capacity in which he would be asked to function.
"They were too high above the atmosphere when the jumper lost control," Teyla finally answered him, and it felt to Carson as though the floor had opened up beneath him as the full impact of what this meant came to him, even as Teyla made it irrefutably clear. "They are gone, Carson. I am sorry."
"Oh dear lord," Carson murmured, steadying himself against his desk as the magnitude of the tragedy continued to unfold in his mind. "Dear lord, Rodney..." he spoke his next thought aloud.
"He is here in the Gate Control Room," Teyla told him, just a tinge of exasperation in her force. "It is why I have called..."
Carson had the picture now and was already on the move. "Aye, of course," he interjected. "I'm sorry lass. I'm on my way."
Though their various communication technologies made it possible for news of any sort to leapfrog out to the farthest reaches of Atlantis in seconds, Carson noticed that the closer he got to the center of the Ancient city the quieter it got. The dire news had reached here most thoroughly and there was a positively funereal mood in the gate room. Atlantis had lost two beloved sons today and already the city mourned.
The mission that Radek Zelenka had left on a few hours ago, with Colonel Sheppard at the helm, was meant to be simple and not the least bit risky. The engineer had recently assembled an array of Ancient sensors which he wanted to use to test for certain potential flaws in the city's cloak, and Sheppard had volunteered to take him up in a jumper to make that test. Carson recalled hearing, about an hour ago, that they'd reached orbit and had run the city's cloak for about 15 minutes, but he'd thought little of it. It had all seemed so routine.
The occupants of the control room appeared shell-shocked. The gate technician stared disconsolately down at his console; Drs. Simpson and Coleman, who'd been working with Radek on his project, were quietly weeping over one another's shoulders, and Dr. Weir stood at the back, Teyla at her side, probably not having moved since she'd heard the news. Her hand was pressed up against her mouth, as though trying to contain something, and her eyes were wide with shock and grief.
Rodney sat unmoving near the front of the room, his laptop clutched in one white-knuckled hand and his gaze fixed on a display screen upon which a bright green line crossed at a diagonal and then abruptly ended. Carson did not have to ask the significance of what he saw there.
"Rodney?" Carson crouched at his friend's side, laying a cautious hand on his shoulder. "Will you come away with me now, luv?"
Rodney blinked and turned his head slowly to face him, his gaze devastated and lost. "Carson?" he asked.
"Aye, luv," he said softly. "I'm here for ye. Shall we take ourselves somewhere else, then?"
Rodney blinked, and seemed to have a hard time focusing, but he did at last manage to focus on Carson's face and nodded. "Okay," he said quietly.
Carson stood, holding out a hand to help Rodney to his feet, a hand which Rodney did not relinquish as the two of them left the Control Room. By the time they'd reached the residential corridors it seemed everyone on Atlantis had learned what had happened, and the hallways were all but empty, which Carson thought a mercy. He did not quite know their destination, uncertain where Rodney would prefer to be now, so he slowed as they approached the quarters Rodney had customarily shared with Radek. He heard Rodney draw a sharp breath as he realized where they were.
"I can't, Carson," he almost whimpered. "I can't... go in there... I can't..."
"Then we won't, luv," Carson soothed. "D'ye mind coming to my rooms?"
Rodney shook his head, desperately trying not to have a meltdown in the corridor. The man had very little left but his pride, and Carson would help him keep it any way he could.
"That's just around the corner then," Carson said, though he knew that Rodney was perfectly familiar with the location of his quarters. "We'll be there in a just a bit."
He maneuvered Rodney to his sofa as soon as they stepped through the door, lowering him carefully to sit there, and carefully prying the laptop out of his hand. He set it on a side table, then stepped away to gather the essentials: a blanket, a bottle of water and a box of kleenex. It was as he was just returning that he saw Rodney slowly collapse, folding up as though he had no strength left in his body, and burying his face in his hands.
"Oh, luv," Carson cried softly as he hastened to his friend's side, draping the blanket over Rodney's shoulders and then quickly depositing the water and kleenex on the table. Sitting beside Rodney on the sofa, Carson gathered the man into his arms and Rodney laid his head on Carson's shoulder, too distraught to object to the closeness.
"They're gone..." he whispered unsteadily, clutching at the fabric of Carson's shirt. "Oh god, they can't be gone... I can't lose him; I can't... Oh god..." and then Rodney was sobbing, his whole body wracked with the force of them as Carson held him tight. It was not long before Carson was weeping himself, and he made no effort to hold it back.
He wept for two friends -good friends that he would never see again- and he wept for two more good friends who'd lost lovers today. He wept for Atlantis, who had lost a wise leader and a man more indispensable to her than anyone would have ever imagined. Not even Carson, who now (he realized with another twinge of grief) possessed the most powerful ATA gene in the city, could interact with Atlantis as Radek had. He felt the city's sorrow though, and wept for her as well.
The bitterest and deepest of his sorrows, though, were for the heartbroken creature weeping hopelessly in his arms now, who had lost both his lover and his best friend. Deep inside Carson feared that his friend might never be made unbroken again after this and if that was the case then this tragedy would reach far beyond him, and beyond Atlantis even. If Rodney McKay could not be unbroken then the tragedy could very well extend to two galaxies.
Lost so deeply in grief, even time had no dominion, and ceased to exist in some sense, to Carson's mind. Some part of him might have been aware of the sun leaving his windows, and the stars coming to replace it, but none of that had any meaning to him. Sorrow was all he knew, his own and Rodney's, and tears, his falling unchecked onto Rodney's shoulder, and Rodney's dampening his. Hours that Carson had no awareness of passed, bereft of everything but grief.
Time started again with the sound of a loud sniffle, and Carson realized that Rodney's sobs had been gradually decreasing for some time. Hoping that Rodney had perhaps cried himself out for now, Carson came to take the amount of time passed into account, and he realized that he would need to set his own grief aside and be Dr. Beckett for just a bit.
"Rodney luv," Carson spoke softly, lifting a hand to stroke his fingers though Rodney's hair. "I know it's nothing you want to think about now, but it's been hours since you've eaten last and you need to eat something before you make yourself sick."
Rodney slowly loosened his grip on Carson's shirt and lifted his head, sniffling again and lifting a hand to wipe his cheeks with the back of it. "Okay," he said quietly, almost meekly, sitting back to let Carson rise from the sofa.
"There's a lad," said Carson as he pushed himself to his feet, turning quickly so that Rodney would not have to see him blinking back tears again. Carson was glad not to have to butt heads with him over food, but this quiet, acquiescent Rodney was so very wrong. It hurt to see him so, almost as much as it had hurt to see him broken and weeping. Carson found a napkin in his kitchen area to dry his own eyes with as he rummaged in his cupboards to find a couple of power bars. Behind him he could hear Rodney blowing his nose voluminously, and was sure to bring a wastebasket back with him as he returned to the sofa with the food.
Rodney deposited a handful of sodden tissues into the basket with a sheepish and grateful smile as Carson sat beside him again, obediently taking the power bar Carson proffered. They ate in silence, and Carson was running over the possible sleeping arrangements in his mind when there came a knock at the door.
"Dr. Beckett?" It was Teyla's voice that followed the knock, and Carson stood directly to open the door for her. "I am sorry if we have disturbed you," she said as she and Dr. Weir entered, "but Elizabeth wished for some medication to help her sleep and had hoped to find that you had some here, rather than having to go all the way to the infirmary?"
"Aye, of course, lass," Carson said, heading into the bathroom where he kept a lock box with a few odd supplies and drugs against local emergencies. "I've got what you need here. Would you like one as well, Rodney?" he called back from the bathroom.
"Yeah, okay," he heard Rodney say in a resigned sort of voice.
Elizabeth was still standing by the door, arms wrapped unhappily about her waist as Carson returned and slipped the medication into her hand. "If you want another tomorrow ye need only ask," he said, taking her hand to hold for a moment, "but I'll not give you more than one of these at a time."
"Thank you Carson," she said in a quiet, tear roughened voice, then looked over at Rodney where he sat on the sofa, studiously flattening his power bar wrapper on his knee.
"Rodney?" she called, crossing to sit by him and lay a cautious hand on his shoulder.
"Elizabeth..." he answered, looking up to meet her own heartbroken gaze. Their embrace was awkward for a moment only, and then they were two people joined by grief, fresh tears starting in both their eyes.
"Oh, Rodney, I'm so sorry..." Elizabeth murmured, her breath hitching.
"Yeah," said Rodney unsteadily, "me too."
"Listen, Rodney," Elizabeth spoke again after a moment, drawing back to meet the man's gaze again. "I know it's... it's going to be hard at first, but the one thing I want you to remember for the next few days, is that you're not alone." She paused to wipe the tears from her face with her fingers and Rodney handed her a kleenex. "You're not," she continued adamantly, "and if you need anything, from anyone, you know there's not a man or woman on Atlantis who wouldn't do anything for you."
Rodney's gaze dropped, but he still had one of Elizabeth's hands in his. "Yeah, well..." he said after a bit, "the same goes for you too, you know. Don't you forget that either."
Teyla and Elizabeth soon took their leave and Rodney contemplated the tablet that Carson had given him and finally swallowed it, washing it down with water from the bottle on the side table.
"Before you settle down for the night, Rodney," Carson said, sitting beside him on the couch again, "I was thinking it might be a good idea if you left some instructions about who... who you wanted to take charge in the labs in the morning?"
As he feared, Carson saw Rodney's face crumple and fresh tears start in his eyes as he once again confronted who would never again be there for him to count on. He reached for a kleenex to dry his eyes and then swallowed to bring his voice under control.
"Probably a good idea," he sniffled.
"I can send the message for you," Carson offered, reaching for Rodney's laptop, "just tell me who it is you think it should be."
Rodney frowned, struggling to think clearly for a moment through the haze of grief and the growing effects of the sleeping pill he'd taken. "Simpson and Coleman have the seniority... they're both competent enough to keep the lid on for a while. I don't know, Carson..."
"That's all right, luv," Carson calmed him with a hand to his shoulder. "Do they work well together?" he suggested. "Maybe you could have them work as a team, run the labs jointly. D'ye think that'd work?"
"You know," Rodney looked up at Carson thoughtfully, "it might at that. Plus, it lends to the impression that no one person can do my job."
"Aye, I suppose it does, ye great sod," Carson said with a smile, giving Rodney's shoulder a squeeze as he turned to address the laptop and open Rodney's email.
"You'll need to send a message to both of them," Rodney instructed him, "and send a cc to the science department's general announcement list."
Carson nodded as he typed the addresses in.
"Say that Drs. Simpson and Coleman are appointed by me," Rodney dictated as he lay back on the sofa, "to the positions of Acting Department Co-Heads until such time as I return, quit, die or appoint someone else to do the job."
Carson wrote that Drs. Simpson and Coleman had been appointed joint Acting Department Heads until such time as Dr. McKay returned or some other arrangement was made, and sent the email.
Rodney yawned enormously as Carson set the computer aside and asked him if he'd like a clean t-shirt to sleep in, which Rodney accepted, and then went off to the bathroom to change and prepare for bed. While Rodney was thus engaged Carson went to retrieve a second blanket, a quilt that his gran had made for him as a lad, and which was one of the first things Carson had sent for when the Daedalus had begun delivering personal materials. Carson always swore that he could feel the care that had gone into every stitch of that quilt and he figured Rodney could use all the care he could get just now, even if he'd never admit that such a thing could come from a piece of cloth.
Shuffling out of the bathroom a moment later, clad in a t-shirt and boxers and his clothes bundled under one arm, Rodney looked like he was liable to drop at any second and Carson stepped forward to help his friend to the couch.
"Are you sure you wouldn't prefer the bed, luv?" Carson asked him. "I truly don't mind sleeping on the sofa for a night or two myself."
Rodney shook his head, drawing his legs up to lie curled on his side on the sofa. "Bed's too lonely," he said, his voice catching just a bit as he closed his eyes.
"Aye," said Carson sadly, blinking back fresh tears as he spread the quilt over Rodney's shoulders. "I can see how that might be."
Rodney snuggled into the soft depths of the quilt with a poignantly childlike motion, fresh moisture showing at the edges of the dark lashes lying against he cheeks. Carson felt his heart ache anew and leaned over to lay his hand on Rodney's shoulder once more.
"I'll be going to bed myself now, luv," he murmured, "but if there's anything you need -anything at all- you mustn't hesitate to wake me. Alright?"
"'Kay..." Rodney was already half asleep, but Carson wasn't concerned. The meds would likely keep Rodney down for eight hours or more, and Carson knew himself to be a light sleeper (a habit every medical intern learns). In the mean time, sleep would be a blessed relief for both of them, and for a few hours neither of them would have to think about what they had lost today, or how they would manage to go on without them tomorrow.
Yes, I'm going to make you wait for the next one, (didn't I say I was being evil?) but not too long.
And at last... Here's Chapter 2!