Title: The Human Body: Keep Your Head Above Water
Pairing: John/CarsonRating: R
Warnings: This story deals with the aftermath of non-consentual sex. Nothing is graphically detailed.
Summary: In the aftermath of "Irresistible" John realizes that something's very wrong with Carson.
The Human Body: Keep Your Head Above Water
It had come to John's attention that while Rodney was smart, he was not terribly clever. The subtleties of being subtle were completely lost on the man.
Hence the fact that it was unreasonably easy to trap him into admitting that he had kept some of that potion Lucius had used on everyone. He'd seen Rodney sniffing around the vial, so he'd just put that together with some grumbling Rodney'd been doing about having lost a jump drive somewhere in his quarters and viola. "I better get back to clean your quarters before the next scout." He knew he could count on the very chagrinned members of his team along with Carson and Elizabeth to deal with Rodney.
But as he loped down the hall something else began to nag at him. He'd been teasing Elizabeth about the way she'd literally hung on Lucius, and he'd been implying that she and possibly Teyla were still feeling the effects of the drug and longing for Lucius' touch.
So why had Carson answered him?
He made a left where he normally would have gone straight for his own rooms and let himself into Carson's quarters. He knew that with the humiliation of the whole situation, Carson would come home to hide his head in the sand for a while, until something else made better fodder for the gossip tree.
He grabbed a beer from the fridge and tossed his vest on the bed before collapsing on the couch. He really didn't like where his thoughts were taking him. He stared at Carson's bed – neatly made with Carson's book on his pillow. Nothing seemed out of place, but John had a feeling that that may have not been the case while Lucius had been in the city.
Carson came in and barreled right past him as he headed for the balcony doors. He froze, one hand on the glass, and turned back, John's presence finally registering. "Uh… hello." Carson seemed unsure of what to say.
"Hey there. I was waiting for you." John put on his carefully polished air of nonchalance, stretching his feet out and letting his arm drape across the back of the sofa.
"So I see," Carson dropped his hand, leaving the balcony shut, and instead went to open the window near the bed.
"You okay?" John asked. Carson was still acting skittish and nervous.
"Oh, fine. I've just been feeling a tad bit claustrophobic lately. Well, not claustrophobic exactly… I don't want the air to get too stale." Carson dropped onto the side of the bed.
"Afraid the pheromones will build up?" John asked quietly.
Carson shrugged, realizing how stupid that sounded.
John put a hand out. "Come here a minute."
Carson looked over at him, but didn't move.
Carson let out a sigh and moved to sit with John on the sofa.
"In all likelihood," John began, "I'm being paranoid as hell and making something out of nothing. At least I hope I am."
"But?" Carson put in for him.
John took a second to study Carson's posture. He looked like someone awaiting verdict at a trial. Or maybe someone who expected to be left by their partner. John sighed himself, realizing he wasn't making this easier on either of them by stalling.
"When I was teasing Elizabeth about wanting Lucius out there… Why did you answer me?"
Carson stood quickly and began pacing, running his hand through his hair. "Oh, that was nothing. It was just that he was… I mean you were saying… you know, that we may have still been under his influence or something…"
John snagged Carson's arm when Carson's pacing took him within reach again. He tugged Carson down next to him. "Did he talk you into doing something you didn't want to do?" He tried to keep his voice gentle and tried to keep Carson close without crowding him.
"Oh, you mean like bring him back to Atlantis so everyone could be at his beck and call? Like go on an off-world mission to a planet full of Wraith to get an herb for him so he could continue manipulating us? Like –"
"Like getting you into bed with him?" John cut him off, needing to get to the heart of the matter before Carson could make things even worse by verbalizing the list of things he blamed himself for.
Carson jumped up again. "Of course not, what would make you say that?" he asked, the quiver in his voice betraying him.
John didn't try and pull him back. "Because I think he may have done the same thing to Teyla and possibly Elizabeth." He hadn't actually thought it through until that second, but when Lucius had had him in that cell, he had commented about his six wives, and he realized now, that was when the idea of Lucious as a sexual predator had taken root. And now as he sat there becoming more and more convinced that he was right, John felt himself going tense, wanting to beat the shit out of that charlatan.
He took several deep breaths, willing himself to relax before Carson could interpret his hostility as anger at him and not anger at Lucius.
Carson hadn't answered him and was still pacing. "Carson?"
"It wasn't - He didn't - It wasn't like he –"
John frowned at the way Carson couldn't actually finish a sentence. "Like he raped you? 'Cause I'm starting to think that's exactly what it was."
Carson backed up until he was leaning on the wall near the open window. "It wasn't like that. I mean, it wasn't as if I told him not to," he finally whispered. "I'm sorry. I know that last year after I found out about that Mara lass, I lay down the law about seeing others. I didn't… I wasn't…"
John wanted to go to him and wrap him up in his arms, but he knew by Carson's posture that that wouldn't be welcome at that point. So he focused his energy on putting all the warmth and support he could into his words. "What I did last year was just stupid. Yeah, she was throwing herself at me, but I could have pushed her away. I didn't. You didn't have a choice. You think that because he didn't physically overpower you and pin you to the bed that you had a choice in the matter? He had you stoned on interstellar roofies. You weren't able to consent. You get that, right?"
Carson just shrugged and stared at the floor. John wondered for a minute if he was making things worse. Maybe it was easier for Carson to think he'd stepped out than that he'd been raped. But he knew that eventually Carson would have to stop lying to himself and deal with this – they both would – so it was better to just have it out and open between them so they could deal with it and be done with it.
He stood up and moved to the bed, sitting down near where Carson stood, but not touching him. "Did he hurt you?"
Carson shook his head and then leaned back so that he was staring at the ceiling, the back of his head against the wall, his arms crossed tightly over his chest. "In retrospect, as sex goes it was pretty awful," he gave John a slight grin, but still looked sad, "I guess I've gotten pretty used to having a partner who's in as much for me as himself. He was all hands and…" Carson shivered and then regrouped, "At the time," he said so softly John could barely hear him. "I thought I was so fortunate to have his attention. It literally never entered my mind that I was in a relationship with someone I love and that I was going to screw that up over him. Or if it did, I didn't care. I'm not even sure which anymore."
John held out a hand, hoping Carson would take it, but willing to accept that he might not. There was a long pause before Carson uncrossed his arms and took John's hand. He wouldn't let John pull him over to him, but he squeezed John's hand in his. "I'm not mad at you. I'll kill that bastard if I ever see him again, but I'm not mad at you. You were drugged. And I know you're pretty creeped out by everything now, but you haven't done anything wrong."
"Why doesn't it feel that way?" Carson asked flatly.
"Because no one likes being a victim," John said softly and then tugged on their clasped hands again. This time Carson sat next to him on the edge of the bed and leaned his head on John's shoulder. "It was out of your control. It wasn't your fault."
Carson nodded against him. "Perhaps." There was a long silence, more comfortable than not. After they'd watched the sun slip down a few more degrees through the balcony windows, Carson finally said quietly, "You're right about one thing, though."
John arched an eyebrow, surprised at the capitulation. "About what?"
"If he did it to me, he probably did it others."
John's scowl grew as he thought about Teyla, Elizabeth, Radek and others being at the mercy of that herb-enhanced freak.
"I should make sure Kate calls us all in when she gets back on the Daedalus next week.
John could see that Carson looked distinctly ill at the idea of sharing what had happened to him with a member of his own staff. "Good idea. But until she gets back, you could always talk to me." He hoped that maybe if they could talk through Carson's own guilt about the whole situation before Heightmeyer got back, it wouldn't be so bad when he finally had to go in there.
John let the conversation drop at that point. It was enough that he'd gotten Carson to admit what had happened. Enough, for now, that John knew that he needed to tread lightly and carefully until Carson had had some time to put this whole miserable experience behind him.
After a while John pulled out a deck of cards and they played gin for a while, the sounds of the cards hitting the table the only noise. Normally they talked while they played, what John had seen in the field, how Carson's research was going, local gossip; but that afternoon neither of them felt much like trying to make light of what had been happening recently. John made a few abortive attempts at conversation but eventually gave up when he only got monosyllabic answers from Carson.
John won by a couple of points and as Carson put the cards away he suggested they go get dinner.
They ran into Elizabeth, Rodney and Radek in the mess hall. Once again, conversation was stilted and an awkward. John wanted to be able to tease them about their willingness to do whatever weird-ass things Lucius requested, but it wasn't funny anymore. In light of what happened to Carson, and likely others, none of it was funny anymore.
The awkwardness of it all, the frustration at not having seen what was happening began to grate on John's nerves. After he'd finished eating he excused himself and told Carson he was going for a run. Part of him felt guilty for leaving Carson alone, but he knew that the danger was gone – he'd dropped the sorry son of a bitch off in his little backwater hamlet full of vengeful women himself – but his protective instincts still told him to stay close to Carson, to be sure.
He consoled himself with the idea that maybe Carson could start finding out who else had been assaulted so they could begin helping each other patch things together. No one was going to admit to having been lured into that psychopath's bed with him sitting there. Not after as glibly as he'd been treating the whole thing that afternoon when he'd gotten back.
He changed into a pair of sweats and grabbed a water bottle before heading up into the rafters and catwalks where he could run and think and not be bothered.
He was just hitting his stride, the sound of his boots hitting the metal planks giving rhythm to his whirling thoughts. He was debating the pros and cons of asking Elizabeth for permission to go back and pull that bastard back in so that he could sit in a cell and rot for a few hundred years. He was just about to discard the idea since he was sure that Carson and the others wouldn't want to have him anywhere within the same solar system as they were when he heard another set of footsteps coming up from behind him. The steps were heavier than his and a little faster, just enough to totally ruin the meditative pattern his own footfalls made.
He stopped and leaned against a strut, taking a long pull off his water bottle. Ronon was gaining on him quickly, but slowed as he caught up. "I wasn't expecting company. What brings you up here?"
Ronon paced a small section of the catwalk, arms crossed, face tight. He seemed unsure of what to say.
"Ronon? You okay?" John pressed. He shivered at the thought of what Ronon would do if Lucius had pressed himself on Ronon the way he had Carson. There would be no stopping the Runner from hunting the man down and carrying through on the threat he'd started to make in the gateroom earlier.
"You look pissed."
Ronon glanced up at Sheppard for the first time. "So do you."
John sagged down to squat against the strut. "I'm starting to find out exactly how much damage Lucius caused."
Ronon leaned on the railing opposite him. "So am I." He started pacing again. "Look, I don't think I'm supposed to tell you this, but I'm not sure what else to do."
John raised an eyebrow. He wasn't sure he'd ever heard the other man admit to being at a loss.
"Remember him saying that he had six wives?" Ronon asked starting to pace again.
"I remember him saying he wanted to make Teyla number seven," John said as he realized that this was going exactly where he'd hoped it wasn't.
Ronon didn't say anything, he just ran his hand into the metal catwalk support. Barely opening his hand in time to turn the punch into an open-hand slap and avoiding broken knuckles.
John stood up and moved to stand closer to him, to try and look him in the eye. "She's not the only one," he said softly.
Ronon squinted at him. "You weren't under his influence."
"Not me," John said and he could see the minute Ronon understood what he meant.
"Is he okay?" Ronon said without elaborating or checking to be sure they were talking about the same person.
John shrugged. "He says he is, but who the hell knows."
Ronon turned and leaned on the banister, John wondered if he was making sure there was no one down there to hear him. "So does she. But I don't think she'd admit to being hurt if her arm were severed from her body."
"Get her to talk to Carson," John advised. "Maybe it'll help them both."
"She doesn't like people thinking she's weak."
"No one does. But it wasn't like he beat her up and held her down. She was under the influence. It's not her fault." John was starting to wonder how many times he'd have to repeat that.
Ronon nodded again, but didn't say anything for a long moment. "You gonna run some more?"
John nodded, "I'm only about a quarter of the way through my usual routine. You want to tag along?"
Ronon pulled his hair back and fastened it with one of the thongs around his wrist. "Race you to the south pier," he called out and then sprinted down the catwalk without looking to see if John was following.
Ronon beat him to the pier by more than a minute, but waited until John got there before heading back for the central tower. They walked back talking about anything and nothing, especially nothing that had to do with Lucius Lavin and his raging hormones and pheromones.
John wasn't surprised when Ronon went straight to Teyla's quarters. He went back to his own quarters to clean up and get a fresh change of clothes before heading back over to Carson's.
Carson was in a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and an old t-shirt when John arrived. He looked shocked to see John standing there when he opened the door.
Carson stepped back, letting John in. "I thought you'd gone for the night."
Nothing like getting to the point John wasn't sure how to address. "I figured I'd leave that up to you. Do you want me to stay tonight or would you feel better if I went back to my quarters?"
John wasn't surprised when Carson just turned his back on him and muttered something in a voice too low for John to hear. He was standing by the open window again when he turned back to look at John. With a huge sigh he finally said clearly, "Do what you like. I'm tired and I just want to go to bed."
John canted his head and studied him for a minute before moving in to sit on the couch. "I could crash over here, if you think that'll make you feel better," he suggested, trying for a middle ground.
Carson muttered again.
"I can't hear you, Carson," he said softly.
"I said, 'what would make me feel better is if you'd stop treating me like I'm going to break if you touch me.'"
John ran his fingers through his hair. He resisted the impulse to jump up and hug Carson – he knew that would simply seem patronizing now. He wondered if he could have screwed this up any more if he'd tried. "I'm sorry. That's not what I wanted you to think. But you keep standing by that window like you're afraid I'll get too close. I didn't want to freak you out."
"Any more than I already am?" There was actually far less bitterness than John had expected in the comment.
"Why don't you just tell me what you want tonight and we'll both stop trying to second guess each other," John suggested.
Carson held out a hand and John moved quickly to take it, but not any closer. "Will you stay tonight? Please? I'd like to think that this isn't going to change everything between us."
John did move to hold him then. "It won't. I promise. There may need to be a few changes in the short run, but in the long run, I'm going to be right here. Okay?"
Carson nodded against John's chest and John kissed the top of his head.
"Ready to go to sleep?"
John pulled the quilt and sheet back and held it while Carson crawled in. He hit the lights and crawled in next to him. He settled on his side, tucked up close to Carson, who lay on his back. He kissed his temple and laced his fingers through Carson's. "While I was running tonight I ran into someone else who was out trying to burn off some steam."
Carson looked over at him, waiting for him to finish.
"You aren't the only one this happened to," John told him gently.
"I doubted I was. In a way I'd hoped – I'd never wish this on anyone - but in another way, there's a kind of twisted relief knowing that I wasn't the only one he targeted that way." Carson knotted the sheet in his free hand, looking at it and not John as he spoke.
"I think as we move on we're going to find that this guy was a serial predator." John pulled him in close, turning him so that he could tuck Carson's back against his chest. "I want you to lean on anyone you have to while you get your brain around this, okay?"
Carson shuffled over to face John. "I think as long as I know that it won't change anything between us, I'll be okay. I spent a fair part of this afternoon worried that you'd be angry… that you'd leave, either because you blamed me for being unfaithful or because of some misguided sense of protecting me."
John snuggled him in close. "I'm right here. And I will be for as long as you'll let me."
"Get comfortable then," Carson said as he tugged the blanket up and closed his eyes.
John's hopes that the issue was sufficiently put to bed were shattered the next day. He woke up to find Carson up and gone. There were two little red pills and a note to come by the infirmary six hours after he'd taken them if he needed more. John sniffled and swallowed the pills dry. He wondered if his stuffiness had made him snore and if that had chased Carson out of the room so early.
He shrugged and trudged off to the shower figuring they could talk when he stopped by for more decongestant later.
John wished he was surprised to find that Carson was in his lab with orders not to be disturbed when John stopped by after lunch. Leslie handed him his pills and a cup of water and promised to tell Carson to contact him when he finally came out. Though, Leslie told him, Carson hadn't come out of there all morning and he'd been pretty terse with anyone who dared to go in.
John rolled his eyes knowing exactly why Carson was in such a foul mood, but not having any immediate ideas as to what to do about it. He decided not to aggravate the situation and just wait him out.
He waited for four days. They saw each other in meetings and Carson was cordial enough and John had managed (through carefully orchestrated stalking) to catch him in the infirmary instead of his lab just as his meds were wearing off. He knew there were some serious problems when Carson simply handed over the drugs without actually stopping to notice that John's cold had completely cleared up.
Deciding it was time to step things up, John went to Elizabeth.
"So… I have a few days leave time stored up," he said, leaning on her doorjamb.
Elizabeth glanced up at him. "Good morning to you too," she said sarcastically.
"Sorry," John backpedaled. "Good morning. I have a few leave days stored up," he said again.
"Something like two hundred and fifty days. I know you've never taken vacation here, but didn't you ever take them at home?" Elizabeth twirled her computer stylus around on her thumb with one hand and gestured to a seat across from her desk with the other.
"Oh, yes. Because both Antarctica and Afghanistan are both so well known for their spas and golf courses." John dropped into the chair.
Elizabeth returned his lazy smile. "Things are pretty calm here right now, so I really don't have any objections, but where are you going to go?"
"Just to the mainland. Few days of camping, just getting away for a bit." John sprawled out in the chair trying to look relaxed, but he knew Elizabeth well enough to know that the real questions were coming. He just wasn't entirely sure how he planned to answer them when they go there.
"Going by yourself?"
And there they were. "I thought I'd get Carson out of here for a while. He's been cranky since that whole thing with Lucius."
Elizabeth leaned back in her chair. "He's been in here twice now apologizing for that whole mess. I can't seem to make him understand that just because he fell prey first that that doesn't make this his fault."
John leaned forward, "Yeah, I know. I ran into Doctor Biro at lunch yesterday. She says he's been pretty hard on his staff. I figured maybe getting him out letting him just get away from everyone and all the talk and teasing and stuff…" John shrugged.
"Is there something else?" Elizabeth pressed, leaning forward, her elbows on her desk.
John shifted nervously in his chair. "If I say 'yes', can we just leave it at that?"
"Will getting him away from here help with that?"
John passed a hand through his hair. He hated this sort of verbal tap dancing, but he knew damn well that there would be no point in getting Carson to go to the mainland with him if the discussion started off with Carson pissed that he'd betrayed his secret to Elizabeth. "It would be helpful if, say, Rodney blew up a lab or something while we were gone so people had something else to discuss when we got back. He'd really like this whole sordid mess with Lucius to go away now. Failing that, I think it might help if he went away for a while." John looked at Elizabeth seriously, "Unless you have a better idea."
"I don't think I know the whole story – and I'm not asking, I'm sure if you could tell me you would and I trust that you wouldn't let a matter of base security go unaddressed – so I don't think I'm qualified to be making suggestions. How long do you think you'll need?"
Caught slightly off guard by Elizabeth's quick capitulation, John blinked for a second before finally saying, "Three nights? We'll be back on Tuesday?"
Elizabeth nodded. "Keep a radio at hand in case we need either of you or the jumper. If it looks like stretching things out a day or two more would be useful just check in."
"Colonel phone home," John said in his best E.T. voice as he pushed himself out of his chair. "Thanks Elizabeth."
"I'd say 'have fun', but something tells me this isn't that kind of trip."
John wasn't sure at first if Elizabeth was making an oblique sexual remark – and given the situation that idea made his skin crawl a little – or if she was just talking about a few duty-free days in the woods. He decided to take it as the latter before realizing that either way, she was right – this wasn't that kind of trip. He wasn't sure what it was going to take to break Carson out of his funk, but he was fucking determined to do it. "Yeah, something tells me it really won't be."
John walked back to his quarters to shove a few things into a bag, including his book and his tablet – even though it was vacation, he really needed to catch up on the reports he hadn't done in, oh, at least two weeks.
As he worked he debated the merits of actually taking the time to convince Carson that he needed this trip against packing for him and just calling him to the jumperbay and taking off. He didn't want to waste an entire afternoon arguing over whether or not Carson was uptight and in need of a break. But he also knew that with what had just happened to him, anyone trying to force Carson to do something he didn't want to do was going to go on his permanent shit list.
In the end he split the difference. He packed some clothes and the only book he found sitting on Carson's bedside table. He grabbed the portable DVD player from the closet and some DVDs they'd been waiting for a good time to watch and made sure the battery was charged. Because they were taking the jumper he didn't have to worry about getting everything they needed into a field pack, John grabbed Carson's pillow and the thermal blanket on the bed. Carson's one gripe about sleeping in the field was that he couldn't get comfortable in the impersonal bedding handed out in supply. Sleeping bags that any of a hundred people had used and pillows that blew up were just never comfortable. And if nothing else was accomplished on this trip, John wanted Carson to sleep. Without midnight calls from the infirmary or alarm clocks that were automatically programmed to go off every morning rain or shine.
He went to the mess and rounded up enough campfire-cookable food for a few days and then went to supply and got a few tanks of potable water and other camping supplies.
Then he squared his shoulders and went off to get Carson.
Carson seemed confused to see him when John came in. "Is something wrong?"
Deciding to take Elizabeth's tactic to such an abrupt greeting, John simply said, "Good afternoon to you too."
Carson scowled at himself. "I'm sorry. Did you need something?"
John mentally thought the door closed. He noticed how it made Carson flinch, but neither of them said anything about it, and Carson didn't think it back open. "I need you," he said simply waiting to see what the best tack to take would be.
"I know I've been horribly busy. I'm sorry, but I've been neglecting my research lately and Elizabeth said –"
John cut him off at that point, knowing damn well Carson was about to lie to him. "Elizabeth said we could take a long weekend on the mainland. Go down to the beach, do some swimming. Sleep late, watch birds, whatever."
"John, I can't. I have all this –"
"Is any of this going to blow up if you leave it for a few days or hand it over to someone on your staff?" John cut in.
"No, of course not, but I need to… We've yet to find out what is causing the Wraith retrovirus to have such a short effective time period. We know that Michael and the others were in contact with a Hive ship –"
"And you hiding in here has nothing to do with that! I'm the one person – as far as I know – who knows why you're hiding. The real reason. So let's go and get some distance so you can come back and quit freaking out your staff. You need some rest. You need some distance. And we have permission to go off and make sure you get both. Neither of which, will really be all that bad for me either."
Carson stiffened and turned his back on John. "You told her," he said flatly.
John could see the tension radiating off Carson. He moved slowly making sure he scuffed his feet so Carson would hear him coming. He rested his hands on Carson's shoulders. "I didn't tell her, Carson. I wouldn't do that. You don't have anything to be embarrassed or ashamed of, but I know you don't want anyone to know what happened to you. I swear I respected that. "
Carson didn't seem to be very relieved by his words. John gently spun him around. "She thinks that you're blaming yourself for bringing Lucius here. And I think that's part of it, but I know there's more and I think you need a few days to just decompress."
Carson sagged onto a nearby bench stool. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I said that. I trust you, I do, I… I don't know why I said that."
John leaned on the bench next to where Carson sat. "Because you're terrified that someone's going to find out that things got out of your control for a while. You're waiting for someone to slip. You or me, it doesn't matter." John hadn't really planned on having this out there or then, but it was out there now. "I think that if it did get out into the rumor mill, you might actually be relieved because then you could stop worrying about when it would happen."
Carson hung his head and shielded his eyes with one hand. John dropped into a crouch in front of him. "Come to the mainland with me for a few days so we can talk about this without being interrupted, without being overheard. Let's just go away and deal with this, okay?"
Wearily, Carson nodded. "I'm really terrorizing my staff?"
"I overheard someone in the mess the other day mentioning that he was just glad he worked for Rodney," John said with a smile Carson couldn't see. When Carson's head whipped up and he looked like a kicked puppy, John kissed his nose. "I'm kidding. I'm kidding, really. But everyone's worried. Let's go work on getting you back to your normal chipper self."
Carson nodded. "Alright. I need to go pack some things."
John stood and held out a hand. "I've got your clothes, your pillow, your book and some DVDs. What else do you need?"
Carson shrugged and indicated his computer across the room. "I should take my laptop. I have some charts to catch up on."
"Go pack it up. I'm going to radio Elizabeth and tell her we're out of here." John squeezed Carson's arm before heading out into the hall, giving Carson a minute to collect himself before being seen in public.
John landed the jumper on the southern edge of the mainland. Farther than any of the Athosians would come hunting, but in an area the botanists and zoologists had studied well enough to clear for hiking, camping and military training. There was a beautiful white sand beach that bordered a dense forest. Carson had checked out the provisions while John flew. He was so used to the minimalist style of camping that they usually engaged in on off-world missions where they were lucky enough to have the foresight to have tents and sleeping bags and a change of skivvies for the mornings. More often than not they were caught up somewhere and realized they wouldn't make it back to the gate before dawn, so they made a fire and slept on the ground as best they could.
Now he felt like he was on a photo shoot for Field and Stream. There was a little camp stove and a week's provisions. A tent and sleeping bags and John had even thought to grab their regular pillows instead of those heinous inflatable things that always stuck to the side of his face despite the flocking. There were a couple of folding canvas chairs and tucked into the sack for one of them was a pair of beach towels.
Clearly John had thought this through. Carson had never been much of an outdoors person before coming to Atlantis, and given that most of the time he was out in the woods it was to patch someone back together and hurry back through the gate, he still wouldn't call himself a woodsman, but he supposed that camping with all the comforts of home wouldn't be the worst vacation he'd ever been on.
They hauled everything a few dozen meters into the woods where there was a semi-permanent camp ground set up. There was a fire scar dug and lined with stones, flat ground cleared to set up tents and even a very crude outhouse a hundred or so meters away. John had had the camp set up when he'd started doing survival training with the Marines and field training with the scientists a few years ago, so the ground was well packed around the fire scar and there was a locked wooden chest with tongs and a shovel and other tools for fire building. John got a serious kick out of sending a pack of Marines off in search of a target for three days with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and three matches while he laid around the base camp, occasionally taking the jumper up to monitor their progress. So he'd done what he could to make the base comfortable.
Carson had only been out there once before – when he'd be called to collect a marine biologist who'd been stung by an insect and started swelling up like a balloon – so he hadn't had time to appreciate the camp.
John pitched the tent while Carson got the broom from the lock box and swept out the fire scar. For the time being he decided to push the reason for this impromptu vacation out of his mind and just enjoy being away for a while with no one hurt, no one in trouble and no immediate threat of Wraith breathing down their neck. When the fire pit was cleared, Carson set up the camp table and put the stove on it and the cooler under it.
John chucked their gear into the tent and then set up the chairs. It was just after noon and the late spring air was warm and clear. He was ready to either sit and talk or just sit and watch the clouds for a while. He hadn't been lying to Elizabeth when he said that he hadn't taken a vacation while at either of his last two posts. He could have taken a few weeks and gone back home after his first few months in Antarctica, but it had just seemed like too much bother considering he didn't have any family to visit and all of his friends were on some Air Force base or another. He'd never really seen the point.
But now, alone on a deserted part of a sparsely populated island, with someone he wanted to spend as much time as possible with… maybe vacations weren't so highly overrated after all. He wished they'd discovered that before they'd been forced to confront their current set of circumstances.
Carson took a canteen and filled it from one of the three-gallon water tankards. He downed about half of it before handing it to John and collapsing into the other chair.
John took a sip and set the canteen on the ground. "We couldn't have asked for better weather," he said stretching his feet out in front of him.
"Aye," Carson answered quietly, studying the white puffy clouds that drifted overhead not threatening rain in the least.
"I stuck your book in your bag. We could go down and read on the beach," John suggested.
"This is fine for now," Carson said, not taking his eyes off the sky. "It's nice just to sit still and not do anything for more than thirty seconds."
John got up and moved his chair closer to Carson's so he could hold Carson's hand in his. "Sounds good to me." He watched the clouds for a few seconds. "Wake me up if I start to snore."
Carson laughed. He knew John wasn't one to sit still for a long time very well. "Go get your book or something. I'm just going rest for a bit."
John squeezed his hand and went off to get War and Peace.
For the next several hours, John read and Carson watched the sky. They sat shoulder to shoulder in their separate chairs, just leaning on each other. Being indoors most of the time, Carson realized had made him miss the sky, the wide-open expanse. It wasn't that he couldn't get out to the balconies or anything while he was in the city, and he certainly had been getting his turn at going off world for missions lately, but somehow this was different. Being on solid land instead of in a floating city made him feel grounded, centered, calm in a way he hadn't been in a long time.
John closed his book and set it on the ground and stood up and stretched. "I'm going to gather up some wood and start a fire before it gets too dark."
Carson shook himself from the deep thoughts he'd settled into and rose as well. John waved him back down, "Stay here. I'm not going that far. There's usually branches and stuff downed from storms and whatever between the camp and the beach."
Standing anyway, Carson shook his head. "No, no, I'm fine. I'll go with you."
John shrugged and let Carson follow him back into the woods. They collected a few armloads of wood – enough that they could keep the fire burning through dinner and into the evening. Once the fire was good and started John grabbed the hotdogs he'd convinced the mess to turn over and began sharpening a few sticks with his bowie knife. He skewered a hot dog and handed it to Carson. "Dinner on a stick."
Carson laughed. Ever since Rodney's MALP on a stick, anything on a stick was funny. John had tried to relay a comedy routine he'd seen on t.v. once that had the repeated punchline of "jalepeno on a stick", but Carson had never really gotten the joke.
They made and ate dinner chatting companionably. Once they'd cleaned up, Carson sat in front of the fire growing quiet and thoughtful again.
John rinsed the last of the dishes in a bucket of hot water and sat down next to him, shoulder to shoulder again. "Penny for your thoughts?"
Carson smiled at him softly in the fading sunset. "I was thinking about the last time I remember the two of us sitting in front of a fire together."
John thought back, trying to remember when the last time he and Carson had both been out in the field together long enough to stay over night and not within the village they'd been visiting.
"It was… a little more than a year ago now, I suppose. We were coming back from setting up a trade agreement with a village quite far away from their stargate. I guess this was before we'd gotten in contact with Earth again – we were looking for Naquadah to make more generators while we looked for ZPMs."
John suddenly remembered the mission. "You were sick and weren't going to tell anyone."
Carson nodded, "Aye, that was the one."
John stretched out on his back, the fire on his left, thinking about that mission so long ago. How so very many things had changed since then. "Man, I can't believe how different things are now."
Carson had pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around them. He had his chin on his knees until John spoke and then turned to look at him, resting the side of his head on his knees instead.
"I mean, Ford was with us then. All smartass Lieutenant who was still trying to impress his C.O. We hadn't met Ronon yet. We didn't know about the Daedalus, and we had no contact with Earth." He gave Carson a warm smile. "I was still pretending that my interest in you was simply as a friend and colleague."
Carson wondered if the fire had suddenly flared up or if the heat he felt was his own blush. "Back then?"
John shrugged. "Yeah. I actually told Ford. It's a long and stupid story, but I told him on the condition that he never ever mention it around you. Or anyone else for that matter. And he said something that night that made me think that maybe I needed to stop being such a chicken shit." John shrugged against the dirt. "And then you got sick and something had to be done about that so…"
Carson shook his head against his legs. "I had no idea."
John smiled again. "I worked hard to keep it that way for a while. I had no idea if you'd be interested in me and I had no desire to look like an idiot in front of you."
Carson stretched out next to John, taking John's hand in his. "I'm glad you took the chance that you might look like an idiot," he said softly.
John rolled onto his side, sliding one arm over Carson's waist. "Me too." He kissed Carson softly before laying back down again.
Carson shifted up to lay his head on John's chest as they sank back into a comfortable silence, watching the flames and just enjoying their time together.
When the wood on the fire burned down to embers, John suggested they get to bed and doused the coals. He poked it with a stick a few times to get the bits underneath, but was careful not to flood the firepit. They'd need it the next day.
When everything seemed good and out, they headed into the tent. John hadn't bothered setting things up that afternoon. He'd just chucked in their sleeping bags and duffels and computer cases in a heap in the middle. He lit a lantern and hung it from the center hook of the tent. Carson began clearing their things off to the sides as John unrolled the sleeping bags. He had them out side by side when he thought to put them together. He came up behind where Carson was pulling out a pair of sweats and a t-shirt to sleep in. He wrapped his arms around his waist and kissed the side of his neck. He was very pleased when Carson didn't jump. "Want me to zip the sleeping bags together or leave them like this?"
Carson glanced down to where the bags lay side by side. His face twitched a little as he considered his answer. "Just to sleep, right?" he finally asked.
"Whatever you want," John promised.
Carson nodded then. "Let's put them together then."
John kissed the side of his head as he backed away. "Grab my clothes for me, would you?" he asked as Carson zipped his bag up and he bent down to arrange their bedding.
They changed quickly, occasionally bumping each other in the cramped quarters. With their uniforms folded and tucked to the side they climbed into the doubled sleeping bag. Carson raised his eyebrow as he saw the thermal blanket from his quarters inside of it. "Why didn't you just bring the whole bed?" he asked cheekily.
"Shut up," John said shifting around to get comfortable. "I'm trying to be nice."
"I know. And I do appreciate it." Carson shifted over onto his side, pressing his back against John's chest. John dropped an arm around his waist and they shifted and wiggled until they were comfortable. After they'd settled Carson let out a huge sigh. "This is nice."
John kissed the back of Carson's head. "Yes it is."
Carson shuffled over to face John. "You didn't have to go to all this trouble for me."
John brushed his finger down Cason's cheek. "Look at it this way: the last time I brought you out here to the mainland, I forced you to detox the hard way. I'm just making up for being a complete bastard."
Carson shrugged. "It had to be done. And if you were being a bastard, then I was being a baby. What Rodney went through after taking that Wraith enzyme was much worse. This was just…" Carson shook his head. "The whole thing seems a little surreal."
John just nodded not sure what to say since he didn't have the same perspective on the events as everyone else. He was literally the only on the expedition to have not have fallen under Lucius' spell.
"I should have known something was wrong… I never should have brought him back to Atlantis."
John stroked the back of Carson's head where it was tucked against his chest, Carson no longer able to make eye contact. Mentally, John let out a sigh of relief. They were going to get this out and hopefully done with. Then they'd still have a few days to just relax and he wouldn't have to spend the whole time looking for an opportunity to get Carson to talk.
"You didn't have a choice. He had you mind-whammied, for lack of a better word. You never would have done that on your own accord. I know you know that. You have better judgment than that – when you aren't being drugged by some hedonistic asshole."
Carson shrugged but didn't say anything. John tipped his chin up to look him in the eye, despite Carson's attempts to look away. "You did the analysis of that stuff he was drinking. You know exactly what it does to a person's brain. You know it wasn't your fault."
Carson sighed. "Intellectually, I suppose I do. But I still feel guilty as hell."
"Should Rodney and Ronon and Elizabeth and everyone else feel guilty for going along with him too?" John carefully left Teyla off the list – what had happened to her and Carson was a separate discussion.
The weak moonlight coming in through the tent window kept Carson's features in shadow, but John could tell he was struggling to find a way to say that everyone else was excused but that he was complicit in what had happened. He pushed before Carson could talk himself into some whacked out justification. "Are they? Elizabeth sent you and Teyla and Ronon off to get him that damn weed. I told her there were Wraith there and that there was too much risk involved in the mission. Have you ever seen Elizabeth ignore my recommendation to play it safe?"
Carson shook his head against John's chest, clearly not much more comfortable discussing other people's odd behaviors than he was his own.
"She couldn't think straight. None of you could. Rodney was about to go around handing out jumpers…" John took a breath, feeling his ire at Lucius rise again. He continued as calmly as he could. "This guy was a menace. He knew exactly what he was doing to people. He actually talked himself into believing that he wasn't doing anything wrong – that he was just a guy everyone wanted to 'help'. He knows he was a total loser before he found that herb and that he's going to get strung up by the balls by six very pissed off women now that he's without it again. As much as you don't want to think about it, you, Elizabeth, Ronon, Rodney, Zelenka – all of you – were victims. It sucks, but it doesn't make it your fault." He started rubbing Carson's tense back through his t-shirt.
"All of us, not you," Carson pointed out.
"I was sick. I couldn't smell him," John said apologetically. He knew that the fact that he had been able to keep his wits about him was Atlantis' saving grace, but in some ways he felt a little guilty now. Carson needed someone to commiserate with and it obviously couldn't be him.
Carson sighed. "I guess we should all be thankful for that."
"Hey," John said sincerely, "You fought back too. You were so pissed at me for 'kidnapping' you, but once we got enough of that crap out of your system, you found the solution for everyone else. Not to mention keeping up one hell of a good act in order to give him that neutralizer. Rodney told me that you had them totally snowed when they came to 'rescue' you. He was sure you were still drinking the kool-aide, so to speak."
Carson thought about that. John had a point. Coming off the drug in the middle of the damn woods without any kind of supportive care to minimalize the withdrawal effects had sucked. John going all 'tough love' on him hadn't helped either, but once his head had started to clear up a little and he'd realized how stupid everyone was acting he'd dedicated himself to taking the wind out of Lucius' sails in a way that he'd never forget. And it had felt good to give him that shot – telling him that he was getting the ATA gene when in fact he was stripping him of his ability to hurt people ever again. He blew out a breath and made a conscious decision to let it go. He needed to, even letting Lucius' insanity take over another five days of his life by making him feel guilty and confused and pissed was five days too many. That man didn't deserve being dwelled upon.
"I need to let it go, don't I?" he asked quietly.
John kissed his forehead. "Will staying hung up on it accomplish anything?"
"No," Carson answered quickly knowing that John was right. He settled himself a little closer to John, "I'm still a little creeped out that I slept with him."
John growled internally. He'd hoped Carson was lumping it all in together when he said that he needed to let it go. He hated thinking that Lucius had made Carson afraid of him. They'd been together just about a year. He really didn't want to think about having to back up and start over and win Carson's trust again. Part of him wanted to make a joke – tell him that Carson owed him one after Mara, but he knew this wasn't funny. He couldn't turn being assaulted into a punchline. "Again, not your fault. Just like it's not Teyla's fault. You don't blame her, do you?"
Carson was silent for long enough that John was able to figure out exactly what Carson was thinking. "Don't you dare think that it's different for guys. We both know Teyla could have kicked his ass with one hand tied behind her back if he'd tried something when she'd been in any frame of mind to refuse him. She about castrated him for talking around her and asking me and Ronon if she was 'taken'. Teyla can take care of herself when she can think for herself. She couldn't. Neither could you. He was a fucking predator. You should have seen that bastard's face when I cornered him on the six wives thing."
"Why? What did he do?" Carson asked.
"He said something to the effect of how he never made people do things that they didn't want to do. I mentioned his six wives and he got this disgustingly smug look and said, 'sometimes all at the same time'." John screwed up his face. "He was damn lucky that I was in a cell at that point because I would have wiped that fucking expression off his face. And that was before I even knew that he'd attacked people I care about." He took a few deep breaths. Few things riled him as much as sexual predators of any kind. And this bastard seemed to take pride in his ability to coerce people into situations they'd never have been in if they'd been able to think clearly enough to kick him in the balls for suggesting they'd be interested in him. "He took pride in it, Carson. He knew he couldn't snow me into thinking that he was just this winsome, handsome guy who got anyone he wanted through honest-to-god charm. So he took pride in being a sleeze ball. I still want to kick his ass for that smarmy look he got on his face when he talked about those girls."
John deliberately released the tension building in him as he thought about it. "I better never see that bastard again. So help me these aren't idle threats."
Carson grinned into John's chest where John couldn't see him. "My knight in shining armor, eh?"
John shrugged. "Tell you what, I'll hold him still and you can beat him senseless with that stupid plant of his, okay?"
Carson laughed a little. "I don't want that damn plant and that bloody fool in the same solar system ever again."
"Fair point," John agreed. "We'll bring Teyla's sticks."
"Alright, I'm sure she'll want to get in a few licks of her own," Carson agreed.
"Sounds like a plan," John said still rubbing Carson's back. They were silent for a few minutes, but John could tell Carson hadn't fallen asleep so he asked, "You okay?"
"Aye, better than I've been in a while. I just kept thinking that… there was something I should have done. That I should have recognized that I wasn't feeling quite right or something before I brought him back. I knew he was odd when I first got there. I never really noticed when I stopped thinking he was such a daft duck and started thinking..."
"Not. Your. Fault," John said again.
"I think I get it now." He stretched up and kissed John's lips softly. "Thank you. I guess I needed someone to hit me upside the head with the idea that I'm no different than anyone else and I don't hold them accountable for what happened while under his influence."
"Exactly," John said emphatically. He squeezed Carson tight. "You'll forgive me if I still defer to you for a bit? Knowing it wasn't your fault and not having a visceral reaction are two different things. I don't expect things to be back to the way there were last week just because we talked tonight."
"Fair enough. But at the same time, don't treat me like I'm going to break. That just makes it worse. It makes me feel like I might."
John thought about that for a second. He was going to be walking a pretty thin line for a while, but he knew that it would be worth it and it would only be for a little while. Carson was resilient as hell. This too would pass given enough time.
They fell asleep after that. John woke a few times during the night and found Carson pressed against him or tangled around him and found that he felt relieved each time. He hadn't realized that he'd started to fear that what Lucius had done really would come between them.
As was usual for him, John woke at dawn. He never could sleep when it was light out. Carson was still completely unconscious and showing no signs of wanting to move any time soon. John carefully extracted himself from both Carson and the sleeping bag and dug around in his bag to get a sweatshirt, a pair of socks and his tablet.
He slipped out, leaving the tent flap open so Carson would see him when he woke. He set the coffee pot up on the camp stove and found a granola bar. They had eggs and stuff for a real breakfast, but he'd wait until Carson woke up to bother with all that.
He was on his second cup of coffee and his third nasty email to team leaders who refused to fill out their requisitions and reports correctly when Carson stumbled out of the tent. John suppressed a laugh as Carson shoved his feet into his boots and stumbled up the path to the latrine. He had a feeling that Carson's eyes weren't even open yet.
He stood and made Carson a cup of coffee and left it on the end of the table near the empty chair before sitting back down in his and pulling up the weather reports he'd downloaded before they left.
When Carson stumbled back towards camp, John thought that he was going to climb back into bed, but Carson managed to find his way to the chair with his eyes still half closed.
"Go back to bed, Carson," John laughed. "Really, it's okay."
"I'm up, I'm up," Carson muttered.
John handed him the coffee. "If you insist."
Carson took the coffee and curled into his chair as much as anyone could curl into a collapsible chair. "What time is it, anyway?"
"Not that late. You can go back to sleep. Really." John studied him from over the top of his own coffee cup. Carson was trying to pry his eyes open, but comically when he got one eye all the way open, the other one closed.
"What time is it?" Carson asked again.
"Not quite nine," John said consulting his tablet.
"That's three hours more than I'd be getting back on Atlantis," Carson said as he sipped his coffee.
"Yeah, but something tells me that the last few nights you may not have gotten much sleep. You probably have some catching up to do."
"I'm fine," Carson insisted.
John shrugged and let it go. He turned his tablet around and offered it to Carson, the weather map still displayed. "I downloaded this yesterday. It's going to be pretty warm this afternoon. I figured we'd get done whatever work we needed to do after breakfast and then go swimming after lunch."
Carson took the tablet and looked at the display. He was glad the meteorology department had taken to posting the weather updates in both Farenheit and centigrade, because he was reasonably sure he couldn't do the math at that particular moment. And the idea that it was going to be ninety-one degrees centigrade didn't make much sense at all. Thirty-two made much more sense. It also meant hot. Swimming would be good if he was awake enough at that point. "Okay," he finally replied to John's plan, his eyes slipping shut again.
John watched him for a minute, knowing Carson was oblivious if not asleep. He'd asked John not to treat him as fragile, but he was really starting to think that Carson had dragged himself out of bed simply because John had gotten up. He went to the lock box and found a small tarp and spread it on the ground near the fire scar. He then took the sleepingbags from the tent and folded them over to make additional padding. He took the coffee cup from Carson's hand and put it on the table. "Come here," he said softly as he led Carson to lie down on the pile of bedding. "Go back to sleep. I'm going to be right here finishing my reports."
Curling up on his side, Carson nodded.
John shook his head. It probably would have been easier for them both to have gone back into the tent than for him to drag everything outside, but Carson was dead to the world again, so John figured he'd done the right thing.
He knew it would be a few weeks of finding these little compromises until Carson felt a little more secure and actually believed all the things he'd said that night about understanding that none of what had happened with Lucius being his fault.
John figured that the afternoon would be interesting – Carson would eventually figure out that John hadn't packed swim trunks for either of them. He wondered if Carson had ever gone skinny-dipping with anyone before. He guessed he could find out once Carson had gotten a little more sleep.
Carson slept for the better part of another hour. He woke to the smells of bacon and eggs. He eventually dragged himself up off the pile of blankets and stumbled over to where John was reheating the coffee and making breakfast.
He blinked at the bread. "What happened to the toast?" he asked, his voice still scratchy from sleep.
"Nothing happened to it. I cut a hole in it." John held up the piece he was working on, the middle neatly torn out.
"Why?" Carson poured himself another cup of coffee.
"Haven't you ever had a toad in the hole?"
"Oh aye, in the creek near my house when I was a boy. What's that got to do with what happened to the toast?" Carson was trying to hide his grin behind his coffee. He'd seen what John was doing – using the holey bread with bacon under it to contain the egg as he fried everything up at once. Now he was just having fun with him.
"Were they good eating too?" John quipped sliding the concoction onto a plate and handing to Carson while he set up his own. "There's all kinds of fruit in the cooler," he said as he flipped his toad in the hole over.
Carson dug out a few oranges from the cooler and handed one to John as John put his egg on a plate. "Feel better?" John asked as he flopped into his chair and dug into his breakfast.
"Aye. Sorry I fell asleep again. I told myself I wasn't going to do that." Carson shrugged.
"No big deal. I got two more reports done. And you look a lot better than you did before. You couldn't even keep your eyes open."
Carson blushed and hung his head. "I don't think I've slept this much at a stretch since before going to Antarctica in the first place."
"You needed it," John said pulling his bowie knife out of his boot and cutting into his orange.
"Oh now that's not very sanitary," Carson griped.
John rolled his eyes. "What? Afraid I'll die of eating foot fungus?" John sliced his orange the other way.
"Now that's just bloody disgusting," Carson said tearing into the peel of his orange with his nails.
"I figured if it hasn't killed me in almost twenty years of active service, it's not likely to." John made sure Carson was looking before biting into the orange he'd just cut with his very unsanitary knife.
"I should make you rinse your mouth out with peroxide before you get any grand plans about kissing me." Carson shook his head and went back to peeling his orange.
"Because I suppose you scrubbed your hands with surgical soap before doing that," John shot back.
"That's different. Do you know how many germs live in shoes? You could have at least passed the blade through the fire on the stove. Killed off the surface layer or something…"
John just popped another slice of orange in his mouth. When he was sure Carson wasn't looking, he bit into the pulp and wrapped his lips around the rind so that it covered his teeth. When Carson looked up again John gave him an orange peel grin.
Carson nearly choked on his own orange at the sight. "You're a great big six-year-old, you know that?" Carson asked him, still laughing.
John just shrugged, keeping the orange in place and bouncing around in his chair. Carson threw a piece of his orange at him. John looked for something to throw back but had eaten all of his breakfast. He bit off the pulp and swallowed it and spit the peel back onto his plate. "Made you laugh," he said with a real grin.
"Aye," Carson said with an answering smile. "I suppose it did."
They did the dishes and dragged the sleeping bags back into the tent before they both finally climbed out of the clothes they'd slept in and put on jeans and t-shirts. It wasn't even noon yet, but the day was already promising to be quite warm.
They grabbed the beach towels and headed up to where there was a small grassy meadow a kilometer or so away to get their work done for the day. John had a few more reports to read and sign off on and Carson had patient charts to review and update.
They lay head to head on the towels poking at their computers and occasionally grumbling about people in their various divisions who couldn't seem to get things right. After about three very productive hours, the heat and the need for lunch brought them back to camp.
Cold sandwiches and chips were sufficient for lunch. Neither of them wanted to stand over the campstove or start a fire. The each got another hour of work done there in camp before deciding they'd done enough for a day they were officially off duty.
Carson stood up to tuck his computer back in its case and John came up behind him and rested his hands lightly on Carson's hips. "Want to go swimming now?"
Carson straightened up but turned slowly to stay in the circle of John's arms. "I looked for a pair of shorts in my bag this morning and didn't see anything."
John kissed him softly. "Who needs shorts?"
Carson realized what he was saying immediately. "Oh, you are not suggesting…"
"Why not? There's no one out here."
Carson took half a step back. John let him go, but kept his hands on his hips. "John," Carson warned sternly.
"I'll behave," John promised. "But come on, when was the last time you got to go skinny dipping?"
Carson studied the dirt under his feet and muttered something.
"What?" John asked, an impish grin still on his face.
"I said," Carson enunciated clearly looking up to look John in the eye challengingly. "I have never been skinny dipping before. Alright?"
John tugged Carson back in. If Carson balked one more time, John would let him win. But he'd said he didn't want to be treated as fragile and little innocent skinny dip would be a good way to show that he wasn't going to do that. And by behaving himself he'd show that he wasn't going to push either. "Then it's about damn time you tried it. It's fun. Come on."
Carson stood rooted to his spot, clearly thinking about it. "I'm not going to get bit on the arse by some kind of mutant shark or something?"
"If that's what you're worried about, do you really think a pair of Speedos is going to matter?" John teased.
"Do you actually think that I'd be caught dead in a pair of Speedos anywhere at any time?" Carson teased back.
"I rest my case. Come on. Grab your towel and let's go."
Carson sighed. "The things I let you talk me into."
John held hands with him as they made their way down the short path to the beach. It was kind of nice to be able to do all the things they couldn't do in Atlantis without having to worry.
When they got down to the beach, John led them about twenty meters down the beach to where a tree limb grew low and parallel to the ground. "Towel rack," John said as he tossed his towel over the limb and started stripping out of his clothes.
Carson still thought this idea was a little daft, but he fatalistically shucked his shirt and shoes. John was bareass naked and wading in the surf by the time Carson decided to just grin and bare it.
The water was refreshingly cool as he caught up to John and they both moved out until the water was ebbing and flowing around their chests. When the waves came in, they jumped up letting the wave carry them up and back before being set down gently a little closer to the shore. When they got too far back they waded back out and did it again.
After a bit John noticed the waves coming up a little higher down the beach. "Let's go down there."
They half-swam, half-waded a few hundred meters down the beach to where the waves were kicking up higher, but not dangerously so. "On the western shore the waves come up and hit a reef or something – I want to get my surfboard out there some day," John said as they jumped the waves.
"Have fun. I'll be on the shore waiting to put you back together when you hit that 'reef or something'." Carson had hit his risk-taking limit for a while.
John just smiled at him as the next wave came in. Carson, apparently distracted didn't jump in time and the wave washed over his head. John reached out and grabbed his arm. The water wasn't deep enough that Carson wouldn't be able to get his footing again, and there was no noticeable undertow, but John took advantage of the chance to grab hold of Carson and pull him up against his body. When Carson looped his hands over John's head and kissed him, John slid his arms down and around Carson's waist, holding him tight. "Having fun?" he asked when they came up for air.
"Aye. I suppose I am," Carson said kissing him again.
"Want to go a little further down?" John stepped back just a bit for Carson before he had to deal with his body wanting to do what it usually did when Carson was naked and pressed against him.
"Sure," Carson said, taking John's hand as they headed another half-klick down the beach.
They'd lost track of time somewhere and when John looked up again, he noticed that the edge of the sky was starting to turn lovely shades of pink and orange and yellow. He pulled Carson in for another kiss. "We should head back." He pointed to where the sun had started to slip below the water.
Carson looked up, following John's finger, but it was what he saw when he turned the other way that made him worry. "Oh bugger. We better do it soon, too."
John looked up and saw the large dark storm clouds that had started to appear behind them. He'd thought it was only getting dark because it was getting late. "Uh oh… looks like we may get even wetter," John said fatalistically.
They swam back along the shore at a decent rate, but the storm clouds moved faster and all at once they were getting wet from above and below. When they got back to where they'd left their clothes, everything was soaked, including their towels. "Aw hell," John said laughing as he collected his sodden things.
"Bugger," Carson agreed getting his things and shoving his feet into his wet shoes. He wrapped his wet towel across his middle and headed back up the path behind John.
When they got to their camp, John pulled on his wet shorts and t-shirt and ran about making sure the camp stove was collapsed and he tossed the tarp from that morning over the fire scar and the small pile of wood they had collected earlier. Carson struggled into his wet jeans and then took some of the larger rocks he found and pinned down the corners of the tarp.
He folded up the chairs and laid them under the table, not really sure if that would be helpful or not while John dragged the cooler and dry food box next to the tent.
The rain was coming down in torrents when they dove into the tent.
"Oh holy hell," John laughed as he reached up to fasten the tent flaps. The rain was loud over their heads, but they were safely out of its reach.
Carson quickly kicked his shoes over to the corner and shimmied out of his wet pants before looking around for something he could use to dry off.
John shucked his clothes and then gathered up both his and Carson's soaked things and tossed them back out into the rain. "We're going to need to rinse all that off tomorrow and get some plastic bags out of the jumper for them." He dug through his bag until he found the small towel he'd wrapped his razor and comb and soap bar in. He handed it to Carson. "Here."
Carson passed it over his hair to keep it from dripping into his eyes any more than it had and then dried his face. He flopped back on the sleepingbag. "Well, that was a rather unexpected end to our swim."
John took the towel and dried his hair and face as Carson had and then tucked laid it over his bag to dry. "You're covered in goosebumps," John observed, tracing one finger over Carson's arm.
"It got a mite chilly when that rain started," he answered.
"Come on, crawl in," John said as he scooted into his own side of the sleeping bag. Carson did the same and curled up against John's chest. He was shivering from the cold, such a stark contrast to when they'd been in the meadow hot under a bright sun.
John ran his hands up and down Carson's back trying to warm him. "Well, I'd say that put a dampener on our day, but that would be a bad pun."
"And of course, you'd never make a bad pun," Carson agreed sarcastically, pulling the thermal blanket closer around himself and John.
"Of course not," John said and just as he leaned into kiss Carson, Carson let out a jaw-cracking yawn. "Tired?" he asked instead.
"I know I shouldn't be. I slept all bloody morning," Carson said as he covered his mouth from yet another yawn.
"It was a bit of an exciting afternoon. Long swim followed by a mad dash." John shrugged, still rubbing Carson's back trying to warm him up. "You want me to get you some dry clothes? You're still cold."
"I'll warm up in a minute," Carson said plastering himself against John even tighter.
John wrapped his arms tightly around Carson. "You want me to grab you something to eat before you fall asleep?" John asked as Carson yawned yet again.
"I don't know what my problem is," Carson complained.
John kissed his forehead. "You didn't sleep for four days is what your problem is. Don't worry about it. It's not like we can go out and do something right now anyway. Go to sleep," John said quietly settling them into a more comfortable position.
The rain beat a steady tattoo on the dome of the tent for most of the night. John lay still until he was certain that Carson was sound asleep again before he grabbed his computer and balanced it on his bag and played Solitaire until he felt himself lulled into the same calm, drowsy place the rain had led Carson to.
They had two more days to lie around and talk. Maybe go swimming again if they walked down to the jumper and checked to be sure there weren't any more flash storms brewing. And, he hoped, Carson would be in a better place when he got back. The talking they'd done the night before seemed to have made a world of difference in Carson's mood. John shut his computer and curled back up with Carson, tugging Carson's arm around his back as he settled Carson's head on his shoulder again.
He squeezed him tight and dropped a kiss onto his temple. He could feel the softness of the muscles in Carson's shoulders and back. Such a stark contrast to the way he'd been when John had held him the night before – all tension and anxiety. John let his hands drift over the smooth, warm skin. Carson mumbled in his sleep, shifting a little before getting comfortable and dropping back off.
He knew that recovery from something like what Lucius had done wasn't accomplished with one conversation and a few days on the beach. But it looked like those things could make for a very good start. And Carson was resilient as hell, he'd get past this soon enough. He took heart that Carson was ready to run to him now instead of away from him as he had at first.
Kate would be back on the Daedalus tomorrow and if Elizabeth hadn't filled her in on the insanity that had been life around Lucius Lavin, John and Carson could bring her up to speed when they got back. And then Carson would have at least three people he could talk to when he needed to: Kate, Teyla and himself.
John hadn't realized how much the whole situation had made him tense. He could feel a looseness in his muscles that he hadn't felt in days. It was good to be getting back to normal. For whatever passed as 'normal' in the Pegasus galaxy, anyway.
He kissed Carson's shoulder. "I love you," he whispered and he swore he felt Carson's arm tighten around him in response even though the other man never woke.