Title: The Human Body, Part I: A Pain in the Ass
Spoilers: None, set somewhere nebulously near the end of season 1. When they still had time to go trooping around on planets, just for 'fun.'
Summary: Carson finally gets the flu that had been going around. Of course he's off-world when it happens.
A/N: Scap3goat did the beta for this one, so many thanks to her. This is the first story in the "Human Body Series". I've written some SG-1 in the past, but this is my first SGA story, so feedback of all kinds would be absolutely lovely. Thanks!
The Human Body, Part I
A Pain in the Ass
John set up the Sterno burner and and began dumping MRE stew into a camp pot. Rodney and Teyla would be back soon, Carson and Ford had returned to their base of operations with him a few minutes ago and Ford was setting up a campfire. Dr. Beckett was sitting in front of the stone fire ring, head in his hands, staring at the start of the fire.
"Using a firestarter is cheating, Lieutenant. Don't tell me you can't light a fire without one," John hollered from where he was stirring the stew.
"I can," Ford protested immediately. "But if I don't have to, I don't see the need to aggravate myself. Look, that day that Boughman and I helped find that kid who wandered off from the Athosian settlement, his mother wanted to thank us. So we each got a dozen candles. What are we going to do with candles? Other than make firestarters?"
"What, you don't need to hang on to them so you can seduce Dr. Hillary Ashman? Don't think I haven't seen the two of you in the mess. And in the hall and in the gym –"
"Okay, okay!" Ford relented. "Besides, when you came into the gym, it was strictly professional. I'm teaching her some of the advanced hand to hand techniques."
"So what were you doing on that balcony? Advanced hand to –"
"Hey now! You're only picking on me because I'm the one guy on the team who actually has a sex life." He glanced up to where Carson was still sitting staring at the embryotic fire. He raised his eyebrows suggestively at Sheppard.
"Hey!" Sheppard yelled in warning, looking to see if Carson was paying any attention. He debated using a well-aimed glob of still-cold stew to change the subject. Aiden had sworn not to be 'helpful', and one of the conditions of John telling him about his infatuation was that he was never, ever to bring it up, even obliquely, when anyone else was around. Especially the infatuation in question.
Aiden smirked and went back to fanning the fire. He glanced up at Carson. "You cold, Doc?" He'd noticed the way Carson had his legs drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around them a while ago, but now that he really looked, he could see that he was shivering.
John's head snapped up.
"I'm fine," Carson said, looking up to offer Aiden a small smile for his concern.
Ford looked at John and they both glanced back to the doctor, whose head was already back on his knees. Neither of them believed him.
John stirred the stew. "Dinner will be ready soon. If you just want to eat and crash, that's cool. Ford and I can wait for McKay and Teyla."
Carson turned his head on his arms to look over at John. "If it's all the same to you, Major, I'm not all that hungry."
Sheppard cocked his head. They'd been busy all day, searching for decent veins of Naquadah that they could use to build more generators for Atlantis. Not life or death, running from the Wraith kind of busy, but enough that even MRE stew was starting to sound good to John. "I know it's not Atlantis' finest dining, but we have to have covered over forty miles today on foot."
Ford was studiously staying out of the conversation, letting Sheppard be the one to call the doc a liar.
"I know. But I'm really not too hungry," was all Carson said.
John shrugged but didn't argue any more. "Ford, keep this stuff from burning to the bottom of the pot." He left the spoon he'd been stirring it with in it and got up. He moved to the pile of their gear on the FRED and rummaged around until he found Carson's pack. He unlatched the sleeping bag and brought it over to the fire. "Here," he said putting the rolled up bag next to Beckett. "Why don't you lay down on this for a few minutes and I'll set up one of the tents."
Carson let Sheppard tip him over and he settled against the sleeping bag, grateful to be lying down.
John could feel the heat coming off Becket through his uniform jacket. "You've got a fever!" he announced. "Do I need to send Ford back to the gate to get someone to come through with a jumper to get you home?"
Carson shook his head. "It's nothing serious. Just that damn bug that went around a couple of weeks ago. Fever, nausea, headache, muscle aches… nothing serious. And not much to be done for it."
"With a virus, you treat the symptoms, right?" Sheppard asked sitting on the ground next to him. "Did you take any aspirin or anything for the fever?"
Carson nodded against the sleeping bad. "Aye, when we stopped for lunch I took a couple of Tylenol."
John bit back a rather sharp remark about him continuing to hike for so long after he'd started feeling unwell. He turned back to their gear, and said instead, "Well, I think they've worn off. Let me see what's in my first aid kit."
John was digging through his pack when Teyla and Rodney approached the camp. He glanced up. "There's stew," he said when they neared him.
Rodney perked up. "Stew!" He made a bee-line for the camp kit Ford was watching. With a bowl in hand he looked up and saw Carson lying in front of the fire. "See, that's the problem with people who don't go off-world very often. A little walk in the woods does them in."
Ford wondered if Sheppard meant to sound so menacing when he grumbled, "Leave him alone, McKay."
Fork half-way to his mouth, McKay turned to glare at Sheppard. "I'm just kidding," he said slowly as if he couldn't believe they didn't know that already.
"He's a little under the weather. Leave him alone," John repeated, finally finding the Tylenol in his own first aid kit and grabbing his canteen.
"Should we not take him back to Atlantis?" Teyla asked, accepting her own bowl of stew.
"He doesn't want to go. Maybe the fresh air will be good for him. He'll let us know if it gets serious," John raised his voice, even though he was sure Carson was listening. "Won't you, Doc?"
"Aye," Carson muttered from where he lay. "I will, but seriously, I just need some rest."
John sat down on ground next to Carson's head. "Here." He held out the two pills and when Carson had taken them he unscrewed the cap to his canteen. He helped Carson sit up enough to swallow the pills without choking.
"Physician, heal thyself," Rodney quoted.
"McKay," Sheppard warned.
McKay glared back at him, "Okay, okay, geez."
"Ford, save me some of that stew, I'm going to set up one of the tents for the doc."
Carson turned over. "Don't bother. Really, I'd rather stay by the fire. Thank you anyway."
John dropped the pack he'd already been disassembling. "You sure? We've got to set them up anyway."
"I'm sure. It's warmer over here."
John shrugged and made his way back to the fire, taking the bowl Ford handed him. "If you've got a fever…" he wondered out loud.
"Seriously, Major, I appreciate your concern, but I am the doctor here. I'm fine without dinner, I'm fine without a tent and I'm fine by the fire. Now you've been very studiously keeping everyone else from bothering me -" Carson cut himself off. "I'm sorry. Oh bloody hell. I don't know where that came from. I'm sorry."
John sat down next to him. "It came from you being sick and me being a pain in the ass," he smiled to take the sting out of it and felt relieved when Carson smiled at him.
Everyone was quiet while they finished eating and Teyla and Ford cleaned up the campsite. When all the dishes had been accumulated, Teyla volunteered herself and Rodney to walk to the river a couple hundred meters away. John had tossed his canteen to Rodney as they collected everything. "Here, fill this, would ya?" Twilight was setting in as they hiked out of the prairie they were camped in and headed for the treeline.
Carson was tossing and turning as if he couldn't get comfortable on the ground any more.
"You okay?" John asked, risking being yelled again.
Before he could answer, Carson jumped up and headed for the trees, about forty-five degrees north of the direction Teyla and McKay had gone with the dishes, as fast as he could move with a body that was clearly in rebellion.
When Sheppard figured out what was happening, he stood up as well. "Ford, give me your canteen."
Without asking questions, Ford followed orders and watched as Sheppard chased the doctor into the woods.
Carson was leaning on the first tree he'd come to, barely avoiding his own shoes as he retched. He was dry-heaving by the time Sheppard caught up to him.
John threw the strap to the canteen over his shoulder and reached out to catch Carson as he wavered. "Hey, hey, hey… easy."
Carson looked both mortified at having an audience and grateful for some assistance. He wasn't sure he was up to walking back to the campsite on his own.
"Come here." John wrapped his other arm around Carson's waist and led him over to another tree a few meters away and propped him up. "Here, rinse out your mouth." John didn't take his hand off Carson's arm as Carson did as he was told. Unfortunately the water set off another round and John found himself dropping to the ground with Dr. Beckett as the man heaved again and again.
John rubbed his back through his jacket and pulled the occasional stray lock of sweaty hair out of Carson's face. "Take it easy."
Carson just nodded, clearly not having the strength for much more.
John set the canteen next to him. "The water's here if you think you're up for it." He returned his hand to Carson's back, hoping that the gentle circles he'd been rubbing were helping. He put the back of his other hand against Carson's cheek the way his mother had when he'd been sick as a kid. "You're still a little warm. You sure you shouldn't go back to Atlantis? Have one of your guys give you a going over?"
"It's just the damn flu," Carson finally managed to say. "And honestly, if I go back to that infirmary, someone's going to overlook the fact that I'm fairly well useless right now and ask me to 'just look at this one thing'. I won't get any rest there. I promise, if I get bad enough to need I.V. fluids or something, I'll let you know. But right now, I'd really, really like to just curl up in my sleeping bag and try to rest."
John didn't look happy about it, but he let Carson diagnose himself and nodded. "All right. Your stomach done?"
"Aye, more than done." He rubbed one hand across his protesting abdominal muscles.
John picked up the canteen and helped Carson stand. When Carson's hand went straight to his head and he started to lean, John pulled him in and held him close against his own body. "Doc?"
"Dizzy, is all. It'll pass in a minute." True to his words, Carson pulled himself up a little straighter after a moment and nodded, but didn't try to dislodge the supporting arm around his back. "Alright then."
"All right, then," John agreed and they made their way back to camp.
"Sit here," John instructed as they got back to the fire. He undid the elastic ties on Carson's sleeping bag. "You're sure you don't want to sleep in a tent?" he asked.
"It's not going to rain, is it?" Carson asked without breaking his intent stare into the fire.
"Not that I know of."
"Then I'll stay out here. It's a really nice night, actually."
John spread out Carson's sleeping bag next to the fire and thought about what he'd said. It was actually a good fifteen degrees cooler than it had been during the day, so if Carson wasn't complaining of feeling cold any more, his fever must have broken. He wondered if that might have been what had precipitated the vomiting. He'd been warm while they were out in the woods, but now that he thought about it, it wasn't the searing heat that he'd felt through his jacket earlier. "Here you go."
Carson scooted to his bag and sat on the end where John had unzipped it part way for him and unlaced his boots. He kicked them off and turned around and gratefully pulled the bag closed around him. He was reasonably certain that his fever was abating, but his stomach was still rebelling. He made a face, wishing that he'd been more able to hold down the Tylenol. His head hurt and his back and legs were starting to bitch and moan about how he'd curled up so tight while everyone else ate dinner. He rolled onto his side and concentrated on taking slow, deep breaths and tried to put the pain out of his mind. He was exhausted. All he needed to do was get just a little more comfortable and he'd be able to fall asleep out of sheer necessity.
John sat quietly on the other side of the fire until he was sure Carson was asleep. Ford had apparently set up the tents during his and Carson's unexpected trip into the woods. He walked over to where the three of them were playing cards by camplight. "Where's my gear?"
"I put your stuff in with Dr. McKay's over there," Ford said tossing down a card and taking another one from Teyla. Sheppard glared at him, knowing full well that Aiden had set up the tents precisely to avoid being stuck with McKay as a roommate.
"Thanks," he muttered, shooting Ford a look that said he'd be getting his later.
John moved to the second tent and grabbed his sleeping bag out of it and headed back to the fire. As he passed his teammates, Ford jumped up and started walking with him. "You need something, Lieutenant?"
Ford leaned in close, as if he had a secret. "Just wanted to save you the time of plotting your revenge on me, sir. I knew that if Dr. Beckett was going to sleep by the fire, you would too. Which means we all get spared from having to bunk with McKay."
Sheppard grinned. "You know, for a Marine, you're pretty smart."
Ford smiled back, "Thank you, sir. Nice of you to notice."
"Go play cards, I'm going to crash."
Ford trotted back to the tents as Sheppard set up his sleeping bag near Beckett's, their heads not too far apart. As he got settled, John looked up to be sure that Carson was still asleep and not in any obvious distress. In the orange light, Carson actually looked healthier than John was sure he felt. John had gotten the flu early on in it's migration through the city and he'd spent the better part of a day in the infirmary while Carson's staff pumped him full of pain-killers, antiemitics and fluids to replace those he was losing every hour or so. Carson had stopped by to explain that none of it was absolutely necessary, he'd probably weather the bug well enough in his quarters with a bottle of Gatoraid and some aspirin, but that he'd be a lot comfortable if he let the nurses fuss over him for a few hours while the worst of it passed. A few hours had turned into a full day, but he'd slept most of it away anyway, so he really didn't care.
He wished he could have done the same for Carson. He shrugged, having already resolved to do what he could, he let himself fall asleep.
When John woke up he noticed that the card game had ended and the camplight had been put out. He couldn't see, but he assumed everyone had retired to their own tents for the night. He lay still wondering what had woken him. He knew he'd be up at dawn – he never could sleep when it was light out – but the fire had barely banked, which meant he hadn't been asleep for long.
A few seconds later he heard Carson roll over. A few seconds later, he heard it again. A few seconds after that, Carson was scrambling to get out of his sleeping bag and getting tangled.
"Doc?" he cried out.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," Carson mumbled as he shoved his feet into his boots but didn't bother lacing them. "Sorry," he said again as he ran off in the general direction of the trees again.
He didn't even make it half way there before he dropped to the ground and began vomiting again. Sheppard had been sleeping in his boots and had been right behind him, so he caught him as he dropped and lowered him down. "Again?"
Carson nodded, his stomach continuing to spasm even though he'd already expelled the little that had been in there. When it finally paused he managed to whisper, "Still, I'm afraid. I've been nauseous all night."
John rubbed Carson's back as he waited for the other man to feel ready to head back to the camp. "You got anything for it in that handy little medical kit you shlep around everywhere?"
Carson shrugged, feeling a little stronger and sitting up. "Aye. I have some Compazine, but I don't think I can hold down the pills and it's right difficult to give yourself a shot in the arse."
John raised an eyebrow and thought about what he was about to say next. "Look, before I was sent to the Antarctic, I was in Afghanistan. I've had several field medicine courses and when you get into it and a medic says 'here do this' you do it and you don't bitch that you aren't trained for it, so you learn a lot on the fly."
Beckett looked up and considered what John was saying to him. "You know how to give inter-muscular injections?"
"I've done it a half-dozen or so times. No one's died on me yet. I'm not sure I'm terribly good at it… but if you can get your stomach to calm down, you might be able to get some sleep."
After a few seconds thought, Carson laughed. "Well, then, I'm game if you are."
The walk back to the fireside was longer than Carson remembered it being when going the other way. John kept his arm around his back and Carson kept finding his head listing off to rest on the other man's shoulder before he jerked it upright again.
He collapsed gratefully on his sleeping bag while John went back to find his field medicine kit.
"Here. You up to finding what you need and loading the dosage?" John set the whole pack in front of him.
"Aye," Carson said before shifting onto his side and rummaging through the kit. He found the vial and the proper syringe and, squinting into the firelight, drew the correct amount.
He handed the syringe and an alcohol wipe to the major and rolled onto his stomach.
There was a pause.
"Go on, then, get it over with."
John bit his lip trying to figure out the best way to say what he needed to say.
"Um Doc… I never figured I'd be the one saying this to you… but I need you to undo your pants."
Even in the dim firelight, John could see Carson blush. "Oh, of course."
John looked away as a completely inappropriate smile threatened to bloom. He wasn't at all aroused by the prospect of seeing Carson's butt under these circumstances – in fact, these were probably the least sexy circumstances he could think of – but there was some kind of cosmic justice in Dr. Beckett being embarrassed to show his ass to someone in the name of medicine.
When the rustling of cloth subsided, John turned back. He was able to pull the loosened pants, and the doctor's underwear out of the way far enough now. He put the needle on his lap and opened the alcohol wipe. He paused again. Despite it being his idea, this was still striking him as odd. He hesitantly touched the large muscle at the top of Carson's left buttock. "Here, right?"
Carson nodded into his sleeping bag. "Aye."
John scrubbed the skin and did what needed to be done.
Carson yelped as John stuck him. "A little warning would not go amiss here!" he complained.
John flinched, but carefully didn't jostle the needle. "Sorry. Did I mention that my previous experience with stuff like this was on guys who were unconscious?"
Carson wasn't sure if that was a joke or not; he was just relieved when it was over.
"Doing okay there?" John asked as he rifled through the first aid kit and came out with a small band-aid. He ripped open the package and covered the small puncture. "There you go. All done."
Carson shifted on to his side and fixed his clothes as John repacked the first aid kit. When it was closed and set aside, John regarded him solemnly. "So… how'd I do?"
"I'm not ready to make you one of my nurses, but in the field, I'll know who to count on when I need help. Medically or personally," Carson added as an after-thought.
John was sure he was blushing now. "Any time," he answered because he couldn't come up with anything better to say.
"Seriously," Carson said, studying John's face. "I appreciate the way you've looked out for me tonight. I know I get to be a bit of a pain in the arse when it comes to fieldwork. And I'm a textbook case of doctors making the worst patients."
"I go into the field on a regular basis with Rodney McKay," John said defiantly. "You're a picnic compared to him. I mean, all you've really wanted tonight is to sleep off this damn bug. Can you imagine if McKay came down with this while he was out here?"
"I don't have to imagine it. I lived it for three days in my infirmary," Carson commiserated.
"McKay may be good at what he does, and in general he's not a bad guy, but when he's feeling sick or gets a damn papercut, he's impossible," John added.
"Aye. I wonder sometimes if that was the only way he could get attention for anything other than his academic achievements when he was growing up." Carson's stomach was slowly unknotting and he knew the Compazine would have him knocked out soon, but he was enjoying the quiet of having a conversation with John Sheppard that had nothing to do with either of their professions per se, in a place where they weren't likely to be interrupted before he had to fall asleep. He wondered if he really wanted to spend this rare moment psycho-analyzing Rodney McKay, but as a topic of mutual interest it would suffice.
John stretched out on his stomach on his sleeping bag, propping his head on his hands, so he could see Carson. "Could be. I guess sometimes it's easy for us normal people to forget that being really, really bright – and having no social skills – can be a little isolating."
"Believe it or not, he's actually gotten a little better since the first time I met him. Not to say he doesn't still have his moments, but when we arrived at the SGC before shipping off for Antarctica I was seriously contemplating how much trouble I'd get in if I managed to slip him a good dose of diazepam when he wasn't looking."
John wrinkled his forehead. "Diazepam is…" He knew he should know that one, but it was late.
"Valium. Sedative. Only bloody way I could figure on shutting him up. If I had to hear one more time about how he'd been at the SGC already and how Dr. Samantha Carter couldn't get enough of him… It was going to get mighty ugly." Carson felt himself starting to flag and let his eyes drift close even as he fought to preserve the moment.
"When we were getting ready to ship out, General O'Neill took me out to dinner with his SG team. Dr. Samantha Carter didn't want anything to do with him," John shared.
"Well, like I said, he's no longer as bad as all that." Carson was pretty sure he wasn't going to be able to force himself to stay awake another minute.
"Thanks for looking out for me tonight. I really do appreciate it."
"Not a problem. And you know, you can call me John. After all, I've given you a shot in the ass. If that doesn't entitle us to lose the formality, I'm not sure what does."
Carson smiled as he drifted off. "Well then, in that case, you could call me Carson."