SUMMARY: "He was winging it. That he knew."
SEASON/SPOILERS: Season 1. Small mentions of Rising 1 & 2, Hide & Seek, 38 Minutes, and Poisoning the Well.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My first attempt at Atlantis fanfic, which is a feat for me. I had to watch Stargate: SG-1 for three years before I could convince myself I knew the characters well enough to pen anything :). But I couldn't contain myself and needed to do something to tide myself over until July, so hopefully it isn't too out of character. This piece came out of a little introspection in Carson's medical background and finally got me to write something after a long writer's block.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Stargate: Atlantis or anything associated with. I'm simply borrowing, but I promise to return all in one piece. Eventually.
He was winging it. That he knew.
The text in front of front him blurred. He sighed, shoved the heavy book aside, and rubbed his forehead. A turn to the left confirmed it was after three in morning. Which for a planet that had a thirty hour day was very late. Especially since he'd already been up for the twenty-three hours when SGA-1 returned through the gate dragging a seriously injured Sheppard and McKay. And that was over six hours ago. Finally after an extremely difficult few hours, he could head back to his office, grab a volume off the shelf, and review procedure.
It didn't matter that he had other doctors on his staff. It didn't matter that they were a hell of lot more qualified to be treating trauma patients. It didn't matter that prior to coming to the Pegasus galaxy he'd spent more quality time with a microscope than a patient's bedside.
In the end, Carson found himself doing it all. Sure, he reluctantly agreed to be Chief Medical Officer when Weir offered him the position. He'd run the tiny infirmary in Antarctica without a problem. Of course, there he had spent more time with his microscope then with patients. He treated the odd minor injury here and there, but spent the majority of his day trying to isolate the ancient gene and create a therapy to the deliver the gene to those born without it, with was the majority. His flair with that kind of thing was exactly what had landed him in Antarctica in the first place. Not that he didn't have the training to practice conventional medicine, even quite decently, in fact. He went through residency and spent some years working in a hospital – the one closest to home at his mother's insistence - and that included a required stint in casualty. Therefore if there was a major problem in Antarctica, he could deal with it, get the patient stabilized and shipped off the better military medical facilities equipped to deal with such emergencies.
Of course, therein laid the problem. In Atlantis, the infirmary was the better medical facility. The only medical facility. He knew this going in, but all that anyone expected to deal with was studying the Ancients. He thought he could continue to spend the majority of his day with his microscope. No one thought of the truly unknown. That they'd wake up an entire race of creatures out to feed on the human race. From the moment Carson had discovered the ancient gene and that he himself was one of very few who possessed it, he knew there was no getting out of this. He took Elizabeth's offer, helped her recruit and select medical personal, and mentally designed a work schedule that never left him as the primary MD on duty.
Things changed quickly. First off, Rob Harper, his surgeon, while brilliant and a magician when it came to using a knife, had a bedside manor, that putting it mildly, left much to be desired and many a patient "miffed." When Dr. Hayden from linguistics, whom had the patience of a saint, expressed a complaint, Carson started to schedule himself on same shift as Harper. So instead of Carson sorting out paperwork, he usually turned the task to Harper and treated whoever filtered in. And was surprised.
He liked it. A lot. He'd forgotten that part, somehow. If he was being truthful, he hadn't truly treated a patient in at least a few years. Antarctica didn't count. Besides Rodney, who seemed to come in every day with some complaint or another, the infirmary merely served as first aid. In the six months Carson was there, the worst injury was Rodney's cut palm, which required ten stitches. Carson did the task without much thought, and Rodney had complained the entire time. Loudly. Thankfully, their friendship outside of the infirmary gave Carson a rare glimpse of a non-complaining or snappy Rodney McKay or he probably would have killed the man. On Atlantis, however, it soon became a different story. Not McKay's whining; no that stayed the same. But, along with minor cuts here and there, emergencies seemed an every day affair when the Wraith were invloved. Instead of spending all of his time analyzing the Wraith arm Major Sheppard had brought him, he often found himself in the mist of a trauma situation whenever a team returned through the gate. Particularly Major Sheppard's team, who seemed to encounter the Wraith every other mission they embarked on. And that encounter tended to bring back some sort of injury with it. And while Harper did all of the dirty work whenever someone required his surgical expertise, Carson often found himself calling traumas and even getting dragged in to assist Harper in the OR if needed. A far cry from his microscope and something that petrified him. He'd really only spent short rotations in the OR and Accident and Emergency department after medical school before turning to genetics. And that seemed like ages ago.
Of course, in between all this he developed his gene therapy further, tested it on Rodney and had it work. He also dealt with the repercussion, from treating Peter Grodin's sprained wrist to Rodney's fainting spell, which despite McKay's hatred of the word was the proper term and therefore the one noted in his chart – twice. He accompanied Sheppard and crew through the Stargate to help Perna and Hoff develop their deadly drug, an experience that made him view his microscope in a whole new light. And somewhere along the way, everyone seemed to believe he could do it all. Be the great scientist who could spend hours developing some drug or studying Wraith cells. And of course, like everyone else with an MD, be an experienced emergency care doctor as well. When he'd spent an very distraught half-hour trying to save Sheppard when he was attacked by the bug creature, he'd had Mary Aters, his real emergency care doctor, next to him, but he was still the person Sheppard asked for and the first person Elizabeth had called for. And he had, at first, headed down to the control room by himself. He wasn't thinking like an emergency care doctor. It didn't matter that he was able to get Sheppard back when he entered the jumper bay with no heartbeat or respiration. He had a fabulous staff. He'd be lost without them.
In fact, when the Major was stable, he simply backed off, stumbled into his office, where he tried to calm his shaky hands and nauseous stomach. He was no good at these things, just like he was no good at using Ancient technology. At that moment, he considered suggesting Elizabeth give the job of Chief Medical Officer to someone else. He even went as far as to try and talk to her about it, but she simply smiled and told him what a good job he was doing. She only seemed to trust him more, treating him as he was the leading medical expert in everything. She needed that confidence, that he could handle it all – that he saw, and perhaps she even knew that he saw it.
Now he needed the confidence in himself. Sure he was all business when it came to anything medical. He shouted out orders, smiled, and always tried to say the right thing, all while hoping against hope that it was the right thing. He often found himself turning back to the stack of medical textbooks that he thanked his lucky stars he'd put on the infirmary must bring list. He'd fallen asleep in his office in middle of the emergency procedures volume more than once.
Which brought him right back to his current task. Another glance at the text beside him revealed once again he was too tired for it to make sense. He supposed it didn't matter much; the item he was reviewing he'd already put into practice on Rodney while Harper and Aters dealt with the Major's severe internal bleeding. He'd taken McKay on because he was the less injured one. Was being the important word. Until Rodney's blood pressure took a dive and Carson was forced to drag the most competent nurse on his staff he could find into the second of the infirmary's tiny makeshift operating rooms to perform his first solo emergency exploratory laparotomy. Just as he was finishing, Mary came in with word that Sheppard was stable and Harper was cleaning out the edges. Taking one look at Carson, she stepped in and offered to close. Grateful, Carson stepped aside, stripped off his gloves and left, pausing outside to take a couple of deep breaths. Even later, after checking on McKay himself in recovery and getting a thumb's up as Harper inspected his handiwork, Carson still stumbled to his office, threw up, and opened his text. Rodney was fine. Would be fine.
Speaking of which, he needed to brief Elizabeth. If he knew her, she was probably pacing her office by now. He took a deep breath and gathered himself together.
"I was told you were in here."
Startled, Carson jumped a bit at the voice. He looked up to find Elizabeth.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you." She paused. "How are they?" She could have easily gotten an answer from Aters, who was currently pulling shift, but she'd taken the time to seek him out.
He shoved the textbook aside again and gestured to the chair in front of his desk. Time to be professional. He looked at her, doctor gaze in place. "I was just on my way to see you. You saved me a trip. Rodney is going to be fine. He gave us a scare and required surgery, but in few days he'll be up and complaining as usual. The Major is a wee more problematic, but Dr. Harper assures me that he will be up and around in few days. In a few weeks, they'll both be as good as new."
"Good." Another pause. He watched as she let out a sigh of relief and sat back. He didn't notice her eyes wander until they stopped on the textbook he had lying open on his desk. He closed it hastily.
"Late night reading," he explained, his professional gaze wavering. She simply nodded and started to get up. He turned.
"Carson." He started again; he thought she'd left.
He turned back to her, weary. "Aye?"
"You're doing a great job. Really." The words were simple, but held greater meaning. She met his eyes and he knew. He knew she knew. And for a second he saw the same uncertainly in her eyes. He wondered if she ever doubted herself. If she did, she tried very hard not to show it. He relaxed a little.
He smiled. "Thanks." She smiled back, and he promised to give a full report at a decent hour. They each told each to get some sleep, knowing that each of them would most likely not listen to the advice. She left and Carson stared back down at the book on his desk.
He closed it. He was done. For now at least. He knew it wouldn't be last time he turned to the volume.
He got up and went to check on McKay and Sheppard before crashing in the uncomfortable chair he positioned between the two of their beds.
He was winging it. That he knew. But maybe he wasn't the only one.