Title: Burning the Candle at Both Ends
Archive: Please ask first
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Summary: Beckett has his hands full Atlantis' most brilliant, most stubborn patient. Set just after Hide and Seek. (non-slash)
Spoilers: Hide and Seek
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, Sci-Fi and Gecko do. Just borrowing them for a while. I promise to give them back when I'm done, though I might keep McKay a little longer. ;-)
Author's notes: A great big thank you to Tipper for helping me find Carson's "voice" and Wendy for the wonderful beta work!
Burning the Candle at Both Ends
Carson Beckett sighed with exasperation as he looked at the man who had just walked into his infirmary. Rodney McKay glared back at him. The unquestionably brilliant how be it testy, irritating, infuriating and downright aggravating scientist had been showing up here with increasing frequency over the last couple of weeks. First, it was for "passing out from 'manly hunger'" and then for getting himself a good singeing from some sort of energy cloud thing. Then, he had to put in several stitches to patch up a gash scientist's hand when a control panel had been dropped and shattered all over the floor of his lab and then, he had shown up with burns all over his hands and arms from a piece of their earth equipment that had shorted out when it didn't like being interfaced with the Ancient's technology. Now, heaven only knew why he was back again.
"Rodney, what've you done now?" he asked, waiting to see if he needed a suture kit, x-rays, or burn cream.
McKay sighed deeply and shot a dark look at the slight built man that was pushing him most of the way across the infirmary. "I'm fine," he snapped, glaring at the man.
Zelenka, the man pushing Rodney toward him was Zelenka. One of the Czech scientists, well, engineers.
"Doctor McKay fainted," Zelenka announced.
Rodney flushed. "I didn't faint, I passed out," he blurted out and then cringed. "I stumbled. I didn't pass out. I tripped over a chair and lost my balance."
"And then laid there for what? Four…five minutes until you got your bearings by which time I come into your lab and find you," Zelenka said sarcastically.
"Yes," Rodney said grumpily, crossing his arms tightly across his chest, but Carson didn't miss the slight tremor in his hands.
"Sit," Carson commanded, pointing toward an exam bed in the newly discovered infirmary the Ancients had left for them.
Rodney heaved a sigh and sat. Carson watched out of the corner of his eye as he took a moment to cross the infirmary to get a blood glucose meter. He remembered bouts Rodney had already had on Antarctica with his hypoglycemia and/or hypochondria.
McKay sat slumped on the exam table, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.
"No, I want you working on the Jumper," Rodney was telling Zelenka. "If we're going to take those into the field, we're going to need to know what makes them run, and if the Wraith figure out we're here we need to be able to mount some kind of defense."
"But if we—"
"No," Rodney cut him off. "Zeunka"
"Zelenka!" the Czech corrected grumpy.
"Whatever," Rodney went on, not missing beat. "We need to know what those do and you're the best at figuring them out."
Carson started back over and Rodney's radio chirped.
"What?" Rodney answered it.
"McKay, where the heck are you?" Carson could hear the Major's angry voice clear across the room. "You were supposed to report Lieutenant Ford ten minutes ago."
Carson plucked Rodney's earpiece off before the other man could respond. "Major Sheppard?"
There was a pause and then in a much more subdued tone the Major responded. "Doctor Beckett?"
"Aye, Major. Doctor McKay is in the infirmary right now. Could you let young Lieutenant Ford know that Doctor McKay won't be joining him today?"
"Is McKay okay?" Sheppard asked, his tone moving over towards concern.
"That's what I'm finding out now, Major," Carson informed him. "I'll let you know more when I finish my exam."
"Thank you, Doctor Beckett, Sheppard out."
Carson handed Rodney back the earpiece and then snagged his hand, swabbing and pricking a finger tip in one quick move.
"Hey! Ow!" Rodney protested as Carson put a drop of blood onto the test strip in the scanner.
Next, he moved on to take McKay's blood pressure. Carson frowned at the numbers.
Rodney watched him. "What?"
"Your blood pressure's high." The glucose scanner chirped. "And your blood sugar is low," he added.
"Elyse?" Carson called and a petite redheaded nurse looked up from the stack of supplies she was stowing in one of the cabinets.
"Yes, Doctor Beckett?" She came over to them.
"Could you draw some blood and have Jackson give me a CBC and Chem-seven on it?"
"Yes, sir," she said, going to work.
McKay grimaced as she took the sample. "Vampire," he groused under his breath.
The nurse just rolled her eyes and slapped a Band-Aid over the spot where she had drawn the blood.
Rodney gave her a wounded look, bending his elbow, keeping pressure on the crook of his arm.
Carson watched him. "When was the last time you ate, Rodney?"
McKay sighed. "Just a couple hours ago."
"It was food," Rodney countered.
"Real food or chocolate?"
McKay looked chagrined. "It was a powerbar," he started and then frowned. "I think it was a powerbar," he said, digging into his pocket and pulling out a candy bar wrapper. "Or not."
"And how much coffee?" Carson asked evenly.
Rodney squirmed. "Today, or since lunch?"
Carson groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Today."
"Counting half cups?"
Carson squeezed his eyes closed. "Round it."
"Fourteen, or maybe fifteen," Rodney said warily.
"Oh, for the love of Pete, McKay!" Carson snapped. "What're you trying to do, give yourself a heart attack?"
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Please, it was a long day."
Carson sighed. "When was the last time you slept?"
"Last night," McKay responded, a bit too quickly.
"How long?" he said slowly. This was getting to be pulling teeth.
"A few hours."
"Rodney," he said in a warning voice.
McKay sighed tiredly. "Two or three. Grodin and I were going over protocols for the gate room until two a.m. and then Reyborne woke me up around four with something he and his team found and needed someone with an ATA gene to turn on for them."
"Why didn't you tell them to wait until morning?"
Rodney grimaced. "I had a five a.m. briefing I was supposed to run. Didn't make sense to go back to sleep at that point."
"And the night before?"
The grimace turned into a frown. "About the same."
"Rodney," Carson said in a huff. "You're running yourself ragged."
"It has to be done, Carson. I mean, this is what I came here to do," he said, crossing his arms tightly across his chest again and then wincing as he pulled the tape still stuck to the crook of his arm.
"Not to work yourself to death, Rodney," Carson snapped. "I'm pulling you right now. You're in no fit shape to be ordering people around or working with machinery. You need rest and proper food."
Rodney hopped off the exam bed with a protest. "You can't do that!" he shot back, anger in his voice. His face suddenly paled and he leaned back heavily against the bed. "You can't," he said his voice losing its firmness.
"I can and I will. Now will you lay down before you fall down, you bloody fool," Carson said, pushing Rodney back on the exam bed. Zelenka moved into to help him get Rodney on the bed.
They got him settled, despite his protests, and Elyse reappeared with the results from the blood test Jackson had run for him. Carson shook his head. "Let's get him on an IV and get these electrolyte levels back up where they should be and let him get some sleep for a wee bit."
Carson came back over. "Rodney, have you had any problems with nausea from the gene therapy?"
He nodded a little, his arm draped over his eyes. "Probably too much coffee on an empty stomach."
Rodney grimaced. "I try not to." He seemed to realize Carson was glaring at him even though he had his eyes closed. "Off and on," he said. "I was going to ask you for something for it, but every time I started down here someone intercepted me."
Rodney's radio chirped and he sighed, reaching to tap the earpiece, but Carson snagged the earpiece, tucking it into his own ear.
"Hello?" the physician said.
"Um..hello?" a confused voice answered. "Who is this?"
There was the sound of someone fumbling with something. "I was trying to get Doctor McKay."
"Aye, this is Doctor McKay's radio. What do you need?"
"Um, I found something I needed Doctor McKay to check out."
"Do you have an immediate supervisor?" Carson asked.
"You mean a team leader?"
"Yes," Carson responded.
"Yeah, I'm supposed to report to Doctor Del Torro."
"Aye, then why don't you do that, laddy?" Carson responded.
"Well, okay, I guess. Yes, sir," came the slightly confused reply. "Mattox out."
"Who was that?" Rodney demanded.
"Don't worry about it," Carson said. "Use your people, Rodney. They're highly trained and capable or they wouldn't be here."
Rodney leaned back into the bed with a groan. Carson chuckled, draping a blanket over him. "You just rest and—" he let his voice trail away, noticing Rodney had already fallen asleep.
Carson noticed Zelenka hovering a bit. "He'll be fine," he assured the man. "He just needs to rest a bit."
Zelenka nodded. "Good. I leave him with you now," he said, turning to go.
Carson picked up Rodney's jacket from where he had thrown it at the foot of the bed. Something in the right pocket pulled at it awkwardly and Carson fished out the device, Rodney's PDA. The radio he had confiscated from the man chirped again and Carson keyed it. "Beckett here."
There as a pause. "Carson? I thought I was trying to call Rodney," Elizabeth Weir's voice said.
"Aye," Carson said, lowering his voice when he saw Rodney's face tense and he slipped back to his office so not to disturb his patient. "I've got Rodney's radio and him down here. I'm pulling him off duty for a couple days."
"Why?" Elizabeth said in concern.
"He's run himself ragged and he's had some problems with nausea from the gene therapy that's got me a bit concerned. His electrolyte levels are all over the place, his blood sugar is more than a little low, and his blood pressure would do nicely for a set of all season radials, but not for the human body. Not to mention the simple fact I want to get him detoxed from all the bloody coffee he's practically been living on since we got here."
"I didn't realize it was that serious," she commented. "He's been looking a bit tired."
"More than a bit, Doctor Weir. According to what I could get out of him, he's been working on two or three hours sleep since we got here. He's setting himself up for either a stroke, heart attack or nervous breakdown." He grimaced, he was exaggerating a bit, but he was trying to make a point.
"Doctor Beckett, I'll leave this in your hands. I didn't realize that Rodney would need supervision as to his personal habits."
Carson sighed and turned Rodney's PDA on, paging through screens and then to the other man's date book. "It's not that, Doctor Weir. I think we've all got too high a priority on what we want him to do and we're not taking into account what he can do. I've already fielded two other calls on his radio and he's only been here about fifteen minutes. Also the reason he's not getting enough sleep is people are coming and waking him up at all hours of the night." He frowned and scrolled through the schedule Rodney had planned out for himself and swore softly.
"What?" Elizabeth's instant voice brought him back to himself.
"I was just look at Rodney's schedule on his PDA. He's got meetings with you and several different department heads, training sessions with Lieutenant Ford and Major Sheppard, work in the gate room with Doctor Grodin and half a dozen other projects scheduled in here from five a.m. this morning until after midnight tonight. With nary a break or meal worked in." He scrolled back through several other days, shaking his head. "Every day for the last week is pretty much like that."
Elizabeth was quiet for a moment. "Understood. Let me know when he wakes up."
"Yes, Ma'am," Carson said.
Carson plucked Rodney's earpiece out of his ear and laid it on desk then heard it chirping again. He started to pick it up again when he saw someone headed into the infirmary and making a beeline for Rodney's bed. Carson hurried out of his office to stop him.
He didn't immediately recognize the pony-tailed man, but his blue and khaki jacket marked him as one of the civilian scientists.
"Excuse me? Can I help you?" Carson said intercepting the man before he could get to Rodney.
The scientist frowned, looking rather put out at Carson. "I need to talk to Doctor McKay."
"Is something about to blow up?"
The man blinked at him. "No."
"Is the city in danger of sinking?"
"No," he answered again.
"Are the Wraith about to come charging through the gate?"
Confusion wrote itself plainly on the man's face. "No."
"Then it can wait until tomorrow, Doctor--?" Carson looked at him.
"Doctor Kavanagh, Doctor McKay needs to be left alone to rest. He's had nasty touch of something resulting from the ATA gene therapy and I would suggest you leave, unless you have a medical emergency."
"Well, not really, but I do need to talk to Doctor McKay. It will just take a minute—"
"Doctor Kavanagh, didn't I make myself clear? Doctor McKay is not available until tomorrow. Now either you leave of your own accord or I'll have Elyse here call security," he said nodding to the nurse. She, in turn, glared at Kavanagh.
The scientist huffed and turned on his heel, storming out of the room. Carson went to check on Rodney and the man was dead to the world. He was doing what he needed to do the most right now, sleep.
Carson heard a commotion behind him and turned to see Major Sheppard, Lieutenant Ford and Teyla coming into the infirmary. Lieutenant Ford had a handkerchief held tightly to his nose and Teyla was hovering around him, apologizing profusely.
Carson walked over as Doctor Jackson tended to Lieutenant Ford's bloody nose as Sheppard watched on smirking. "I told you she's fast," Sheppard commented to Ford and the young man just looked chagrined while Teyla continued to look embarrassed.
Sheppard smiled at Carson as he came over. "Minor sparring accident," he explained. He looked over Carson's shoulder to the sleeping scientist beyond. "McKay okay?"
Carson nodded. "Exhaustion and a bit of dehydration. He'll be fine in a couple days, but he's got to stop working himself the way he is." Carson saw another of the scientists heading into the room and heading in Rodney's direction. "Holy crap, can't they leave him alone for ten minutes?" he grumbled, hurrying off to cut off the man.
Sheppard wandered over just as Carson was explaining that Rodney wasn't available.
"But he's just over there. This will only take a minute. I just need him to check over some calculations for me," the man insisted.
"Unavailable, means unavailable," Carson said firmly.
"Maybe I can help you," Sheppard said, holding out his hand for the man's paper work. The scientist eyed him skeptically but handed it over. Sheppard stared at it a moment and then pointed to a section. "This is the part you're having trouble with. You transposed the last two numbers."
The scientist snatched the papers back, glaring at Sheppard. "Thank you, Major." He glanced at the numbers and then paused. "Oh. Yes. Thank you," he said his tone softening. "Yeah, I see. Thanks," he said hurrying out of the room at a trot.
Carson glanced at the Major and he just shrugged. "I'm good with numbers."
The physician just nodded and then let out a soft growl when he saw another scientist holding a PDA approaching.
Sheppard frowned. "You want me to put someone on the door?" he asked. "Give you guys a break."
"That would be much appreciated, Major. This is getting distracting, not to mention irritating."
He nodded and headed off to intercept the scientist.
Carson sighed. This was going to be a long day.
Carson glanced around the room they had been using for meetings. The Ancients had a lovely eye for architecture, but this was a bit much. The table was shaped rather like a horseshoe with a table set in the open area giving room for people to walk around the center area and for those sitting at the table to have an unobstructed view of them. The set up reminded him of the courts back home, only the main table wasn't elevated, nor was the open center area recessed, nor—Well, it wasn't really like the courts. He…he sighed and gave up trying to figure it out and glanced across the open area to the person who was the object of this meeting.
Rodney sat glaring at the table top, a petulant frown on his face. He picked up a stylus and started stabbing violently at his PDA. Carson winced a little. Rodney had gotten the wrong idea about what was going on, this wasn't to punish him, this was to help him, but that was a bit of cold comfort to the man's fragile ego.
The door hissed open and Doctor Weir entered, Doctor Grodin and Doctor Zelenka following her, sheepish expression on their faces. They each took a seat around the table.
"Carson," Elizabeth greeted, getting herself settled and he nodded to her. She turned McKay. "Rodney." He just glared back at her.
The door hissed open again and Major Sheppard trotted in. "Sorry, got tied up with some of Teyla's people. I hope I didn't miss anything."
"No," Rodney said, tightly. "You made it just in time for the start the inquisition."
Elizabeth sighed deeply. "Rodney, that isn't what this is."
He sat back in his chair crossing his arms tightly across his chest, his blue eyes blazing. "Really, now? Then what is it?"
She took a moment to compose herself. "I've been going over your schedule with Doctor Grodin and Doctor Zelenka." Rodney's cold blue eyes flicked to each of the men as if to say 'et tu?' and they both ducked their head guiltily. Elizabeth cleared her throat to get his attention again. "What you're trying to do is admirable, Rodney, but not reasonable. I understand the responsibility you feel for the expedition members' safety. I'm sure Major Sheppard and I, of all people understand this, but," she paused.
"What Doctor Weir is trying to say," Sheppard cut in, "we'd rather that you be alive and able to help us than to have all this stuff you figured out and you not here to explain it." He frowned a little, looking a little confused at what he said.
Elizabeth struggled to hide a smile. "Yes, thank you, Major." She looked back over at Rodney. "We're worried about you," she said and then glanced over at Carson. "Your recent visit to the infirmary being the perfect example. You've got staff, Rodney, use them." She turned to Grodin and Zelenka. "We've worked out a tentative plan for division of authority in your teams, utilizing our resources and not putting so much pressure on you." She held up a hand to forestall his protests. "I know, you set up the system you're using now, but we weren't expecting the sheer amount of work or resources Atlantis would have for us when that plan was made." She slid her PDA around the table to him and he glanced at it. "It's all pending your approval, of course," she said.
He huffed and picked up the PDA and said, "Of course," a bitter edge to his voice. He scrolled through the data and sighed. "It's a reasonable division of responsibilities," he said, putting the PDA on the tabletop and sighing in defeat, a look of resignation written clearly across his face.
Carson glanced at Elizabeth and she nodded. "Rodney, no one is faulting you."
He just sat back in his seat, his arms crossed tightly across his chest.
"We're just worried about you, Rodney," Carson started and Rodney shot him annoyed look.
"I think you've already established that!" he shot back and then flinched a little at the anger in his voice and hung his head a little, scrubbing his hands over his face. "Sorry."
"Can't have member of my team overworked, overstress, and overcranky," Sheppard quipped. "Weir said you're having problems with people banging on your door in the middle of the night to turn stuff on since you got your gene." Rodney glared at Carson and the Doctor just shrugged. "You could do what I do," Sheppard said, ignoring the little exchange. "Lock my door and then I just tell them I'm really groggy when I get woken up and I sleep with my P90 under my pillow. Wake me up in the middle of the night and I just might think the city was under attack by the Wraith and who knows what could happen." Weir shot him a horrified look. "I just said I might," he said quickly. "I'm actually a rather light sleeper and I keep the P90 in the armory. Now, the beretta. I keep on the nightstand." He caught the glare Elizabeth was still angling at him. "The safety is on! Anyways, it's nuts to sleep with a gun under your pillow, good way to blow your brains out."
Carson saw the corners of Rodney's mouth twitch as he tried not to smile. The physicist coughed quickly to cover it.
Sheppard shrugged and sprawled back in the chair, crossing his arms and ankles loosely. "You're a smart guy, McKay. You can think of something."
"I know I can," Rodney replied with a smirk of his own.
"See, there you go," Sheppard said with a lopsided grin.
"No one is questioning your abilities, Rodney," Elizabeth continued. "As Doctor Beckett has pointed out, we've all," she said, glancing around at the gathered scientists and military personnel, "got to start pacing ourselves. Atlantis has been here for more than 10,000 years. We're not going to be able to figure out everything here in just a few weeks."
Reluctantly, Rodney sighed and nodded. "There's just so much here and so much we've learned already. We are in way over our head here and we're just starting to try to play catch up on this. The knowledge and technology the Ancients left here is way beyond anything we ever seen before."
"And that's is exactly why we need to proceed carefully and safely," Elizabeth soothed.
Rodney nodded. "Fine."
Elizabeth glanced over at Carson. "Is he ready to go back to duty?"
"Aye," Carson said. "With regular rest and proper meals, yes."
"Good," she said, slapping her palms lightly on the table and standing. "I've got reports to review. I'll see you, gentlemen later."
Carson gathered his things and watched Rodney stand, Zelenka and Grodin approaching him cautiously. He rolled his eyes at them and then they were off, already in deep discussion about some new piece of technology that had been discovered.
"You think he's going to listen?" Sheppard asked, unfolding himself from this chair.
"Aye," Carson answered. "He's like a terrier when he gets himself on the trail of something, but he's got friends now who'll keep an eye on him that he'll come to no harm."
Sheppard smiled crookedly. "Yeah. I guess he does."
Carson smiled to himself, as Sheppard lead the way out. An odd warm sensation in his heart.