Summary: In the back of his mind Carson still heard the crackle of crossfire
Disclaimer: Not mine, no money, no bad intentions
Spoilers: The Siege
Warning: Character death
A/N: Many thanks to quiller, who worked her magical beta-skills on this baby. Thanks also to eretria, for midnight feedback and unceasing support.
The bruise blackened his right temple and brow. It had to be painful, but for once Rodney didn't complain. He was, instead, utterly quiet.
"Close your eyes," Carson said, picking up his penlight.
"Now look at me."
Rodney opened his eyes and Carson flashed the light. The pupils contracted immediately like they should. He put the pen back in his pocket.
"Do you feel dizzy?"
Rodney turned his head away without answering.
"Rodney . . ."
It seemed futile to press on or speak, so Carson didn't. For a small while he contemplated Rodney and his listless hands on the large brown quilt. Carson thought, quite absurdly, that this quilt was awful. If misery had a colour, it would look like this. No doubt Rodney had bought the thing himself.
Carson's gaze strayed beyond the bed and across Rodney's room. The longer he looked, the more he was reminded of his grandmother's attic. Books were piling like mounds. Clothes spilling from a rack. Boxes that had not even been unpacked. More books.
Carson watched the dust-motes' drowsy tumble, feeling that time slowed down around and inside him.
Feeble light fought its way through a stained glass window. It was not late, not even afternoon, but the all around silence was comatose. Stifling.
In the back of his mind Carson still heard the crackle of crossfire, the shatter of glass and the nonsensical bawling of orders. He could still smell the acetone stench of the Wraith stunners and the reek of burnt wires.
It was a miracle they'd survived at all.
It had been . . .
. . . madness. Static and gunfire from the coms. Then a blast from one of the closer halls. Quiet. The lights in the control room flicker as somewhere in Atlantis another missile explodes.
Together they stare at the display where all the lines and lights have winked out. It's the radiation in space, or another Naquada generator blown to pieces. They can't say. They're not allowed to watch Major Sheppard die. All they have is the black screen and the vague certainty that somewhere, out there, John Sheppard falls out of the equation. It's a reality they cannot quite understand yet.
Carson stands rooted at Elizabeth's shoulder. His thoughts touch upon John, but that way lies only numb confusion. Instead his mind turns to a sensation more solid, more overwhelming, than anything else.
The fear is heavy in his chest, almost suffocating.
He dreads their question, dreads that moment Elizabeth's eyes will turn to him. If they ask, he knows he cannot give them what they need. He cannot fly that jumper.
He desperately wishes for someone else, anyone brave enough to take the responsibility. To save the day. He's not made for it, he isn't enough, he is frightened.
His gaze skims past Elizabeth's stiff spine, to the Canadian lad, Grodin's replacement, and to Rodney. Carson sees the grey and drawn face and tries to reconcile the picture with the man he knew from home. Rodney, who gets stupidly lightheaded over a pint. For a terrible moment Carson thinks that Rodney has the gene, too, and he is . . .
. . . relieved. Standing at Rodney's bedside, Carson remembered the ugly glimpse of relief. He steered away from it, he had to. The only other choice was to shatter at the edge of that memory.
There was a small syringe on the nightstand and Carson reached for it. He turned Rodney's arm, slapped a vein to the surface and inserted the needle. Rodney did not even wince. Afterwards he pulled his arm away and rested it across his stomach. Already his shoulders slacked, his chest heaved slowly, steadily, and Carson knew he'd be asleep soon.
Rodney should, perhaps, rest at the infirmary. But somehow Carson didn't have the strength to send him there. He was appalled by the idea of Rodney in that cold place, surrounded only by the wounded and the machines. He would sleep safer here. And apart from the bruise, Rodney wasn't hurt. He was just battered and tired and empty.
So empty in fact that Carson wondered if there was anything left. Anything he could reach or connect to at all. As it were, Carson felt only the gaping distance between them.
Though there seemed no sense in trying, he spoke all the same. Hoping dimly, irrationally, to fill the hollow with words of comfort. "Nothing could have stopped him, you know. He wanted to save us. Needed to." He almost took one of Rodney's hands. He wanted to, but didn't quite dare. Instead he said: "He was too brave."
"Yes. Good thing we're not all like him."
The cut was so swift, it didn't even hurt. At first.
Carson clenched his jaw, fighting the nausea that simmered in his throat. Panic throbbed and squirmed in the hollow of his chest. If he moved at all, he would lose his grip, his focus, his sanity.
Slowly his heart settled back into a normal rhythm. His grip had tightened on the syringe; now he eased his fingers carefully. It was time to move from the bedside. Instead he stayed and waited.
Rodney did not bother to look at him. He stared into the shadows of the room, his gaze darkened with thoughts, and Carson knew he was not really there at all.
At length Carson turned away. As he crossed the room, he picked up one of Rodney's discarded jackets and placed it on the desk where the rest of his med kit waited. He threw the empty syringe in a bag, zipped the bag closed and lowered the lid on his box of medication. A dull shimmer highlighted the lined-up bottles and Carson paused, staring at the tarnished flicker.
Three valium, the last of his stock. One he had opened just a few moments ago. He would have to apply more before evening came along. Then he would return to the infirmary to look what he could do for Aiden.
The boy didn't know yet. If he woke up somebody had to tell him.
He saved many lives.
He served a greater cause.
He died like a hero, son.
Phrases as empty as the secular husk of this city. Hero. If that word ever had a meaning, Carson had lost sight of it. Heroism had died in an hour of delusion which brought nothing but grief and shame. That hour had taken away his belief.
What was left then? Only empty places and losses that could not be undone.
Quite alone, Carson covered his eyes with a hand and wept.