Genre: Romance, a bit of angst
Spoilers: I don’t think there are any
Summary: An accident involving some Ancient technology lets Carson in on a secret of Rodney’s.
Disclaimer: Do I really need to tell you I don’t own them?
Notes: I know this is no excuse, but if parts of this seem a little odd, it’s probably because I wrote it non-stop for eight hours. I’d really appreciate feedback.
Carson rushed into the science lab and stared around wildly, “Where’s the emergency?” he asked.
Rodney looked up from a desk covered in what looked like junk that the Ancients had left behind, “It’s okay,” he said, “I burnt my hand on this…thing.” He pointed to an odd looking piece of equipment on the desk in front of him, “But it’s okay now.”
Carson stared, “You’re kidding. You brought me rushing all the way here for a little burn on your finger?” The mark was vaguely red and almost microscopic. If it hadn’t been pointed out to him, he would never have seen it.
“And you couldn’t have come to me? Instead of bringing me running through the corridors thinking someone was lying on the floor dying? I mean, come on Rodney, it’s hardly life and death.”
Rodney sighed, “Fine,” he stuck his finger in his mouth. “Next time I’ll come and see you. I was busy. And for the record, I never said it was an emergency.”
Carson sighed. To be honest, he was glad of the distraction. It had been a long and boring day, and it was barely lunch time. “All right, fine,” he said, “lets have a look at the burn.”
Rodney withdrew the finger from his mouth, wiped it on his jacket and held it out for inspection.
“It’s fine,” Carson told him after two seconds, “I’d barely even class it as a burn. You might want to run it under cold water for a bit.”
“Well, good.” Rodney turned away to continue with his work, while Carson stepped back and leaned against the desk, looking around the room. Among the Power Bar wrappers, soft drink bottles and coffee rings on the desk, was an assortment of odd looking equipment. He reached out and picked up the nearest object, a round, metallic thing, about the same size and shape as a cricket ball. There was an indentation around the edge that made it look as though it would open in two, but no hinges that he could see. “So what is all this stuff?” he asked. Casually, he tossed the ball in the air and caught it.
“I don’t know yet,” Rodney admitted, “I found it in an old lab and brought it here. I’m, hoping to work most of it out before Kavanaugh or someone takes it and shares it out.”
Carson grinned, “So that’s why you didn’t want to go to the infirmary. You’d have lost a few minutes of playtime.”
“I’m not playing, I’m working. I…” he stopped, pausing to wonder, “Why are you still here?”
Carson shrugged, “I’ve been bored stiff all morning. Dr. Weir had me writing out reports on all the injuries this past month. Since you brought me all the way down here expecting something to do, I thought I’d take a break before I go back. If that’s okay.”
“Oh,” said Rodney, taken aback, “Well, sure. If you want.”
“I want.” Carson looked at the metal cricket ball again, “So, any idea what this one does?” He tossed it into the air again.
Rodney turned to look, “No, I haven’t had chance to look at that yet.”
Carson turned the ball over in his hands. On the other side was a slightly raised circular shape. He ran his fingers over it and the ball opened into two separate halves. He almost dropped it in surprise, but managed to hold on. He and Rodney watched, open mouthed, as inside they saw a second, smaller sphere. This one glowing brightly, lit from an internal light source.
“Well, that’s…different,” murmured Carson. He was still holding the ball in one hand. The other he moved closer, planning to tap the smaller sphere with the end of his finger.
“Careful,” said Rodney warningly, “we don’t know what…”
Carson touched the sphere. Nothing happened. Encouraged, he picked it up and held it in his hand. The bright light seemed to glow brighter still. Then it exploded outwards, surrounding the panicking doctor in white light. Then, just as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone, shrinking in intensity until even the smaller sphere grew dull. Carson looked at Rodney for a second, his mouth opened as though he wanted to speak, and then he collapsed onto the floor.
A first he thought he was in bed in his own quarters. The light was brighter than usual for the morning, but maybe he had forgotten to turn it off last night. Carson turned over and tried to remember what he had been doing when he fell asleep. He had gone to bed as normal, he remembered. He had definitely turned the light off. And then he had woken up and spent the day writing boring reports, until…oh. Now he remembered.
Trying not to groan, he opened his eyes to find himself in the infirmary. Nothing unusual about that, considering he worked there, but he wasn’t normally the one lying in bed. He sat up slowly. He felt fine, which was odd. He had no idea what had happened, but it was his experience that waking up in a hospital bed meant you weren’t well. It was that damn Ancient gene that had done it. That was what had set off the cricket ball, and that was what had made him a patient in his own infirmary. If it wasn’t for the fact that it could be useful from time to time, he would have been working on a way to remove the bloody thing.
He turned to see Rodney standing next to him, looking extremely relieved, “Looks that way,” he said. “Any idea what that thing was?”
Rodney shook his head, “No, I haven’t had chance to look at it. I’ve been here. The doctor wanted to know everything that happened, and then I stuck around. I don’t think I could have found anything out by looking at the object in the lab anyway. The important bit’s here.”
“It’s kind of, erm… Well, it’s…”
“Spit it out, Rodney!” Carson told him.
“Kind of embedded in your hand…” He rubbed his own palm with his thumb, and Carson lifted up his right hand to see the glass-like object was indeed sticking in his hand as though it had been surgically implanted, right in the centre of his palm. Only half of the sphere was showing, and he wasn’t sure whether the other half was under his skin or gone, but there was definitely a piece of Ancient technology embedded in his hand.
Carson gasped and gripped the object, trying futilely to pull it out. “What the bloody hell…?”
“Already tried that. No one had any idea how to get it out,” Rodney told him, “but Doctor Greening said it doesn’t seem to have done any damage, so that’s good. It… it doesn’t hurt, does it?”
“Well, no. I didn’t know it was there ‘til you told me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want it gone!” He tried to pull it away again, with no effect.
‘And people say I panic!’
“I’m not panicking.”
Rodney’s forehead crinkled in confusion, “I never said you were.”
Carson ignored him, he was staring at the thing stuck in his hand, “What’s it doing?”
Rodney looked at the object, “Nothing, is it?”
“It lit up. Just then. Didn’t you see it?” He stared at his palm, “It was white, like it was before, in your lab. Not as bright though.”
“Hmm.” Rodney looked, waiting for it to happen again.
It lit up again.
“There! See?” Rodney nodded. “And what’s Logan’s Run?” asked Carson.
“You said ‘Logan’s Run’, just as it lit up. I wondered what you meant.”
Rodney blinked, “It’s a movie,” he said, “I saw it years ago. That thing in your hand just reminded me of…” he broke off, “I never said it,” he said, “I thought it.”
They were interrupted at that moment by of Dr Greening, a colleague of Dr. Beckett’s, entering the room and noticing that he was awake. She immediately shoed Rodney out of the way to make sure her patient was okay.
It was true that doctors make the worst patients, and Carson wasn’t going to ruin a perfectly good stereotype like that. He managed to get himself released within a few hours, with strict orders not to work - something he was glad of, considering the mountain of paperwork he was supposed to be doing. However, he hadn’t realised quite how much of a workaholic he had become lately. He used to be able to sit and read for hours, without giving a thought to anything else, or take a walk, or have something to eat, or anything really, without thinking of work. Now though, told not to do it, work was all he could think of. Well, that and the other little problem. He looked at the palm of his hand and ran the fingers of his left hand over the piece of glass that was embedded there. It was annoying. He kept accidentally knocking it on things. Not only that, but not knowing what it was or what it did was worrying him.
Of course, he did have an idea what it did. It just seemed too ridiculous to mention to anyone. Especially a doctor, who would probably decide he should stay in the infirmary. His being the boss meant nothing to those people. Or maybe it did. Maybe they relished the chance to tell him what to do. Anyway, he wasn’t going to go back to the infirmary and tell people that he was reading minds. He didn’t even want to say it to himself. Still, there had been a few times since he woke up that he had heard someone speak and not seen their lips move, or answered them only to see a puzzled look on their faces.
He wandered aimlessly through the corridor. At least he had thought it was aimlessly. Until he arrived at the door to Rodney’s lab. He hesitated before going inside. What was he going to say? ‘Got any more weird things to stick to me?’ Or better yet, he could sit and complain.
‘That’s very odd. I wonder what would happen if I…Maybe I should do this after I’ve had something to eat.’
Carson peered around the door. Rodney was alone in the room, looking at the metal container that had been the previous home to the thing now sticking out of his hand. There was no one else there, and as far as he knew the Canadian wasn’t in the habit of talking to himself. Besides, it didn’t sound exactly like speech, it was vaguely different.
Carson sighed. He was going to have to talk to someone, and as Rodney was there, and probably the most likely to work out how to get rid of it, it might as well be him. He stepped into the room “I think I know what this thing does,” he said.
Rodney listened with an expression somewhere between disbelief and amazement on his face. When Carson had finished, he sat back and took a sip of coffee. “Okay,” he said, “what am I thinking?”
He closed his eyes, and screwed up his face like a little boy trying to show that he was concentrating. It really wasn’t necessary, no one else had been doing that, but Carson didn't mind, it was cute, in a way.
‘13, 26, 39, 52, 65, this is stupid, he can’t read my mind, 78, 91, oh no! What if he can read my mind! What if he knows… 104, 117’
“Well?” asked Rodney, opening his eyes.
“It was a string of numbers. Thirteen, twenty-six…was it the thirteen times table?”
Rodney’s eyes opened wide, “There is no way you could have guessed that,” he said.
“I know. That’s what I mean. I can read minds!”
“This is…this is one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard of. We’ve got to get that thing off you! No, we’ve got to tell Dr. Weir, then we’ve got to get that thing off you.”
“There’s no rush,” Carson said, “I think I could have some fun with this.”
Dr Weir needed a demonstration similar to the one that he had given to Rodney. “Apart from this, you feel fine?” she asked afterward.
“Good. Well, we need to get it off you, obviously. I don’t think everyone should know about this, if possible. The best thing might be for you to leave your work to someone else until Dr. McKay works out how to remove the device.”
“Surely I can work and read minds at the same time!”
Weir smiled, “Maybe you can,” she said, “and if you want to try it, do. But I strongly suggest that you at least take a few days off. Rodney, you work on removing the device. Bring anyone into the loop that you think you need to, but make it as few as possible. We don’t want this disrupting things too much if we can help it.”
Carson agreed, and they left to return to the lab. “Are you going to go back to work?” Rodney asked.
Carson shook his head, “Not for the time being,” he said, “if something goes wrong and Dr Weir ‘strongly suggested’ I don’t, I’m going to look a right fool. Besides, a little time off should do me some good. If there’s an emergency in the next few days I’ll go back, but more than likely it’ll just be paperwork and minor injuries.” He glanced at Rodney’s hand, “How’s your ‘burn’, by the way?”
Carson grinned as they stepped into the lab. How bad could it be? A few days off, the chance to read a few minds and hanging out with a friend.
By that evening, everyone knew. No one was quite sure where the news had come from, but Rodney suspected Kavanaugh had overheard them talking, while Carson thought someone he had accidentally read before he realised what was happening had put two and two together. Either way, all of Atlantis was talking about it, and it seemed useless to deny it. So when people came up to him and asked whether it was true, Carson told them the truth. That done, they tended to make a hasty retreat. Everyone, it seemed, had something to hide. Some personal thought that they didn’t want someone else to know about. It was understandable. He wouldn’t want someone reading his mind either. It had seemed fun at first, but that was fast beginning to change.
He and Rodney tried different ways of removing the device from his hand, from trying to attract it back into its previous container to pulling it out with pliers. Nothing worked. Giving up for a while, they conducted experiments to find out its limitations. Carson discovered that any further away than ten feet, and he couldn’t read a person. He also discovered that whenever the half sphere embedded in his palm lit up, indicating that he was picking up a thought, Rodney blushed and sometimes backed away. Usually pretending he needed something at the other side of the room. Carson pretended not to notice.
After three days, what had seemed like an interesting diversion and an excuse for a break was fast becoming a nightmare. He knew now that he was able to function more or less normally, although it was disconcerting sometimes when he was around a lot of people, and had he had the choice, he would have returned to work just to alleviate the boredom. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the choice.
Things had reached the point where people were avoiding him as though he carried some deadly virus. Walking down the corridor, he had seen more than a few people that he considered friends turn around and walk in the other direction to avoid passing him. Working would be impossible, if he entered the infirmary, most likely everyone would leave. He didn’t know whether he could take that.
He lay on his bed flicking through a book but not really taking in anything printed on the pages. He had moved his bed to the centre of the room to avoid accidentally picking up thoughts from his neighbour or anyone walking past his door. He had picked up more than a few accidental thoughts over the past few days. He didn’t like it. It felt like an invasion of privacy. It was an invasion of privacy. The fact that he couldn’t help it didn’t make it any better.
He was the kind of person that everyone spoke to, and that spoke to everyone; now the only person he had even seen in the last few days was Rodney. It was strange. It would have been easy enough for Rodney to do most of his work alone. The only reason he needed Carson was to try out his latest plan. But despite that, the scientist had insisted on keeping him close by. Just in case, he said, something happened. Carson didn’t know why Rodney seemed so eager to spend time with him. Well, that wasn’t true. He did know why. The thought made him smile, made his chest tight with excitement and nervousness. The most likely reason Rodney stuck with him would have to be dealt with. Later.
He knew why, but he didn’t quite understand. Rodney didn’t know that his secret had already been discovered, he spent most of his time worrying that it would be, but still he continued to bring Carson into the lab while he worked. Not that he minded.
The doorbell rang and Carson opened the door. It was Rodney. This was new. Okay, having him there as he worked he could explain away, but not this. “Rodney. Hi.”
“Hi,” he stood at the door awkwardly, “Can I come in? I brought food.”
For the first time, Carson noticed that he was indeed carrying two meals. He stepped aside to let him in.
“I’ve got some kind of soup or what I think is macaroni and cheese. I’ll eat either, which would you prefer?”
Carson blinked and then closed the door, “Either,” he said, “the soup.”
Rodney looked at him, “Are you okay? You seem a bit…different. Nothing’s happened, has it?”
“No,” Carson assured him, “I was just wondering what you were doing here.”
“Oh, sorry. You want me to leave?”
“No.” He really didn’t. “I just meant why are you here? Why aren’t you staying ten feet away like everyone else?”
Rodney put the two meals down on the table, “I asked whether you’d been to get anything to eat, they said no. I thought you might be hungry.”
“Well, I was. So thanks. But no one else brought me dinner.”
Rodney smiled, “Just because when I was stuck with an Ancient device, everyone was happy to let me starve to death doesn’t mean I’ll do the same.”
Carson rolled his eyes as he sat down to eat his soup, “So you’re helping me so you can take the moral high ground?” he asked.
“Yes. And because you’re one of the few people who doesn’t run and hide at the thought of spending time with me.”
Carson winced, it all made sense now, “Well, for the moment at least, I can say the same.” He sighed and looked down at his food, “Thanks.”
“No problem. After all, it was that bizarre character trait that got you in this mess in the first place.”
“This isn’t your fault, Rodney.”
Rodney shook his head, “No, of course it isn’t. I warned you not to touch that thing as I remember. But I’m sure someone will come up with a way of twisting things around so it is.”
“Well, anyway. I’m grateful for the food and the company. I never thought having time to myself could be so…”
“Well, I’m hoping we can do something about that,” Rodney told him, excitement creeping into his voice, “I was down in the lab looking at some of that other stuff I found, you know, the other junk that your mind reading thing was with? I’ve been ignoring it because I was concentrating on your problem. Anyway, there was another one there. I opened it, just to see if it was the same, but it was empty. This one looks different though. I know they’re related somehow, so I’m hoping this other container do something.” He shovelled the last fork full of macaroni and cheese into his mouth and sat back, “Come by the lab first thing tomorrow,” he said, “and we’ll see if it works.”
“Why not now?”
“Now? Well, I suppose we could. I didn’t think you’d want to go back down there after being there all day. It might take a while.”
Carson shrugged, “I don’t think I’ve got anything planned. I want this thing off me”
“Well great! Let’s go.”
Rodney literally sprung to his feet. Carson stood more slowly but no less enthusiastically and they walked to the lab, where Rodney had already set up some equipment, the purpose of which Carson could only guess.
“This is the other one.” Rodney picked up an empty case, similar to the one that Carson had been messing with days earlier, “See? It’s black inside instead of silver, and there’s this bit here.” He pointed inside, where there was an upside down cone shape, with the wide end protruding from the ball, the cone shape was made of thin metal and was hollow. Carson looked at the thing embedded in his hand. The circumference looked the same size as that of the cone.
“I’ll just try the obvious first,” Rodney said, “but if it doesn’t work, I’ve got more ideas.”
Carson held out his hand and Rodney moved the object closer to it, and fitted the cone over the half sphere. Nothing happened. Carson sighed with disappointment and moved his hand away. Rodney grabbed hold of it to stop him moving. “Wait,” he withdrew his hand and his cheeks reddened, “I want to try something else,” he added. There was a raised area on this ball just as there had been on the other. Experimenting with the first one, they had tried this same thing. It hadn’t had the desired effect.
Rodney pressed the button and Carson’s eyes widened in shock, “That hurts!”
Rodney didn’t move. At this point, any change was good. They had to see if it worked before stopping. Carson made a valiant effort to say standing, but it was impossible. He took the device from Rodney just as he fell to the floor, unable to support himself by grabbing the desk or a chair. He sat on the floor, eyes tightly closed, trying to hold the metal device to his hand for that bit longer. Not wanting to give up on the first thing that had shown a hint that it might work. He screamed and let go, slouching forwards as the metal object fell away and rolled across the floor. Rodney ignored it. He crouched down next to Carson, “Are you okay?”
Carson took in a deep, shaking breath, “I think so,” he said. He lifted his head. His eyes were bright with exertion and tears were running down his cheeks. He turned his right hand over and looked at it. “It’s gone,” he said, barely able to believe it. The hand looked as good as new, as though nothing had ever happened.
Rodney glanced over that the discarded device, no longer glowing, lying on the floor and smiled. He helped Carson to his feet and brought him a chair, which he collapsed into gratefully, “Sure you’re okay?” he asked.
Carson nodded, “Never better.” He took a moment to run his fingers over his right palm and smiled, then frowned, “Try it,” he said.
“Think something at me.”
Rodney closed his eyes and screwed up his face again, concentrating hard on whatever he was thinking, “Did you hear it?” he asked.
Carson grinned, “No, not a thing! It’s gone!”
“Do you want to go to the infirmary? Make sure you’re okay?”
Carson shook his head, “I’m fine, Rodney. Much better than I was five minutes ago, that’s for sure. I just want to bask in the normality.”
“Okay,” Rodney picked up the Ancient device from the floor and put in on the desk. He would deal with it tomorrow. Right now Carson was right; it felt good just to know everything was normal again.
He looked up from the pile of Ancient technology on the desk, “Hmm?”
Carson bit his lip. He needed to say this and now was as good a time as any. Better, probably. If he left it until tomorrow he might never get around to it. “You know I could read thoughts when the person wasn’t screwing up their face and concentrating on sending them, right?”
“Yes, of course. I was just trying really hard, to make sure that…” he sighed, “Are you trying to tell me I looked ridiculous?”
“No. Um…” Carson ran his index finger over the smooth palm of his right hand, “It’s just that I got some thoughts off you. Stuff you didn’t mean to send. Stuff about how you feel? About me.”
Rodney’s mouth dropped open and he blushed beetroot red, and then rushed out of the room.
Things were starting to get back to normal. He was working again, people were willing to stay in the same room as him, he was beginning to feel like himself again. Except for one thing. Rodney.
Over the past few days, he had grown accustomed to the other man being there, and now he wasn’t. It was strange, and he didn’t like it. He missed him. Of course, it didn’t help that whenever he saw him, the scientist would duck out of the way. It was like a reversal of people’s behaviour over the days previously. Before, everyone but Rodney tried to avoid him. Now everyone else was back, but there was no Rodney. And somehow that was worse.
It was almost 3am and Carson was sitting in his quarters, reading the same page of the same book he had been failing to absorb the night Rodney had come by with dinner. He put the book down and stood up. He had to do something about the situation, and now was as good a time as any. For him, at least. He just hoped Rodney wouldn’t be too angry at him for waking him. He opened the door and strode purposefully out into the corridor. Rodney’s quarters weren’t far from his own; he reached them in five minutes and pressed the bell. There was no answer. He tried again, then knocked, still nothing. Rodney must be a heavy sleeper. He sighed to himself and left, fully intending to return to his quarters and sleep, but sleep was the last thing on his mind. He needed to burn some energy first.
Rodney wandered aimlessly. It was late, almost 3am. On earth most towns and cities would seem completely quiet and deserted, no one around. Not here though. True there were fewer people. Most of the scientists had long since gone to bed. Most of the military too, for that matter, but there were still people about. People on duty. It was annoying really. He wanted to be alone, but he didn’t want to be in his quarters. He reached a point sometimes when he was just tired of looking at the walls, he needed to get out. And so he walked, eventually coming to the door of the mess hall. He hesitated. He wouldn’t necessarily be alone. Someone might go in, but it wasn’t very likely. And he was a bit hungry. He opened the door and stepped inside, grabbed a sandwich, opened the bag and sat down to eat.
“Eating this late isn’t good for you, you know,” Carson had opened the door and was standing in the doorway watching him.
Rodney looked up, “Go away.”
Carson shook his head and walked closer. He sat down opposite the disgruntled scientist, “As much as you wish it was, this isn’t your quarters,” he said, “I’ve got as much right to be here as you.”
Rodney’s eyes rose to meet his accusingly, “How do you know what I wish?”
“Figure of speech. Maybe not the most appropriate, given the circumstances.”
“Fine,” Rodney stood up, pushing his chair out of the way with he backs of his knees, “If you won’t leave, I will.”
Sandwich in hand, he strode out of the room. Carson followed behind him, “Rodney, come on. Can’t we just talk?”
He ignored him.
Half way to Rodney’s quarters, Carson stopped. Surprised by the sudden disappearance of his shadow, Rodney almost turned around, but stopped himself in time and carried on walking.
“So that’s it, is it?”
Rodney sighed and slowed down, “What’s it?”
“The end of our friendship?”
“I wasn’t aware we had a friendship.”
“Bollocks you weren’t! What would you call it?”
Rodney stopped walking and turned around, “Okay, and what? You think we can just go back to how it was before? Now you know what you do?” He shook his head, “Do you really think that’s possible?” His voice was scornful, but there was a hint of hopefulness in his eyes that broke Carson’s heart.
“No,” he admitted, “no, they couldn’t”
“Then why do…”
“But maybe they could be more.”
Carson cut Rodney off mid word, leaving the astrophysicist, mouth open, staring at him, “What?”
“The way you feel…” Carson sighed. The thought was difficult to put into words, he didn’t want to chase Rodney away again. Not now he was actually listening to him, “You’re not the only one who feels that way.” There was a long pause as he waited for a reply that never came, “Do you know what I mean?”
Rodney shook his head, “No. Someone’s put you up to this, haven’t they? Who have you been telling? Whose idea was it? Sheppard? Ford? Who was it?”
“No one. I’m just being honest with you. I know I should have done that from the start, but…” he looked around, suddenly acutely aware of their surroundings, “do you really want to have this conversation in the middle of the corridor?”
“Just tell me what you’re saying.”
Carson sighed. For a genius, Rodney could be pretty dumb sometimes. He stepped closer to reduce the possibility of being overheard, “I feel the same way about you,” he said.
Rodney shook his head, “I don’t believe you.”
Of all the idiotic, pig headed… “Fine,” he said. He took the final few steps forward until he was standing next to Rodney, held him by the arms to stop him from backing off, and kissed him. Hard. The kiss seemed to go on forever, Rodney found himself lost in it. The thing that he had wanted for so long, but in his inability to imagine anything good happening to him, had almost pushed away. Another person might have given up after the first five or so rejections, but not Carson.
He eventually pulled away for air, breathless and dizzy with exhilaration, “Is this really a conversation for the middle of the corridor?” he asked.
Carson smiled and they walked side by side to Rodney’s quarters.