SUMMARY: Sometimes you need to accept the past and the present to see the future. Seige III tag.
SEASON/SPOILERS: Season Two. Spoilers for Seige III.
WARNINGS: Mention of canon minor character death and an OC death. Both occur before this story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I keep writing angst, but I felt Seige III needed a little more, considering how many people were most likely lost (comparative to Atlantis' size as well). So I tackled it from Carson (and Elizabeth's) POV. There is a mention of religion in this fic, but nothing too bad, I think for those who don't like the topic. Just me speculating on some background.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Stargate: Atlantis or anything associated with it. I'm simply borrowing, but I promise to return all in one piece. Eventually.
It was three in morning, Atlantis time, though in a place where a normal day lasted almost thirty-two hours, three a.m. had a completely different meaning.
Just like it did after a war that had finally been won, or won at least for the time being. No one could predict the future, only simply live for the now or worry about tomorrow.
Carson was too tired to worry about tomorrow. He was probably even too tired to live for the now, so he took a third option and just dealt with aftermath. Sorting through the current overload of patients, tagging those to go through the gate or with the Dedaelus, signing death certificates. Thinking about what to do with those fed on by the Wraith, aged years in minutes, then left dead with only a corpse behind that looked but a shell of the former life that occupied it.
He closed his eyes a minute. He'd need to talk to Elizabeth. They couldn't send those bodies home to their loved ones. Too many questions unanswered about how they died, but that wasn't really why Carson shuddered at the idea. To be frank, the damage was a gruesome sight and he didn't relish the thought of having such an image haunt someone for the rest of their lives.
He wasn't so sure how he handled it, and he wasn't related to any of these people. But he knew them, most of them, anyway. Knew their blood type, allergies, shared a few stories during exams, learned a few tidbits amongst the small talk. Knew who hated needles, who missed her parents' farm, who secretly indulged in romance novels, and who was the chess champion of his state. Small little things that give everyone a personality.
A soul, really.
And twenty-three of them were now gone forever.
Files would be moved into another drawer. New ones would most likely take their place as Atlantis recruited more people into her population. But the holes would always exist, and for Carson, never be forgotten.
But he didn't dwell. He couldn't really. Instead, he reviewed another chart, scrawled his signature across another line. He was exhausted, mentally and physically.
Zelenka popped in shortly after the Wraith had fled. The engineer's hands were shaking and he had circles under his eyes.
"I think it has worn off," the Czech said simply and Carson merely guided him to an empty bed and made him sit. He'd warned both Radek and Rodney of the side effects of stimulant use when he'd first given them the medication, but at the time the benefits far overweighed the consequences.
"You need to lie down," Carson told him and called for his favorite nurse. "Laurie?" Zelenka would crash and he'd run some IV fluids through the engineer while he did.
Carson heard a soft sigh behind him and another nurse appeared. Rachel, her name was Rachel. "Dr. Beckett. Laurie's..." Her voice trailed off and she swallowed.
He blinked. Laurie was gone. One of the twenty-three. Laurie from Oklahoma, who talked of her grandfather's farm and her town's yearly harvest festival. Laurie with her soft accent and who anticipated his orders before he even gave them. Who took the time to put a cup of tea on his desk whenever he'd been working a doubt shift.
He paused a brief second, then gave his orders to Rachel instead and turned back to get Zelenka settled, to get back to medical matters.
"Laurie was kind," Zelenka said softly, taking the blanket Carson offered him. "She was good person."
"Aye," he softly agreed. "She was." He'd have to make sure he said something about her at the memorial. He knew Elizabeth wouldn't let all these people go without an acknowledgement of their existence. But he couldn't think about it now; he had a job to do.
"Where's Rodney?" he asked. If Radek was crashing, the physicist wasn't very far behind.
"He's right here," Carson heard from behind him and turned to see Sheppard half-supporting a very drowsy Rodney. "He bit both Weir's and Caldwell's heads off, then started stumbling off. I figured he'd probably be better off here, where we could get a leash on him."
Carson nodded. "Find an open bed. I'll be there in a moment."
When eight a.m. rolled around, Carson didn't even acknowledge it. The infirmary had no windows so it didn't really matter what time of day it was. He'd spent a majority of the past five hours supporting Rodney while he vomited his stomach lining up. No antiemetic appeared to help. When he did finally glance at his watch, Rodney was miserable and Carson sighed, put his wrist down and started to get a second line into him.
A couple of hours prior, they'd opened the gate to Earth and sent through the most critically injured. He'd rattled off lists of vitals and shoved charts into his second-in-command's hands while Rodney missed the emesis basin and threw up on Carson's shoes.
Bless Mary Aters. She shot him a look of sympathy, took the information, and headed for the Stargate. He figured that the fact that she'd been an attending in a Brooklyn hospital would be a plus when he hired her. Of course gunshot wounds weren't Wraith feedings, but nothing really prepared you for that. He was just grateful that nothing phased her and that she seemed to be able to work on little sleep without ever truly complaining.
She'd always just laugh. "Sleep? In Brooklyn? During residency in the ER? Right..." Then she'd pat his shoulder. "Carson, you're been behind a microscope too long. Doesn't Scotland have MVAs, GSWs, and
Of course it did, but that didn't mean he was always in the mist of
He was glad when he finally got a moment to sit in a chair next to Rodney's bed and scrub his shoes. McKay shifted and half-opened his
"Sorry," he mumbled.
"It's quite all right. Par for the course," he replied, just grateful Rodney had missed the rest of him. "You need to get some rest."
"Can't. Tired, but I close my eyes and my stomach hates me."
Carson sighed and gave up on his shoes. "I know." Rodney was allergic to Compazine (he'd discovered that nasty little surprise after treating him for post gene therapy nausea), and Phenergan didn't work. Carson had moved on to Benadryl, hoping it would help or the stimulants would work their way out of Rodney's system.
"How's..." Rodney lifted a lazy hand. "...everyone?"
Carson raised an eyebrow. "You're asking?"
Rodney tried to shoot him a glare, but it failed. "I care, you know."
"Zelenka's a few beds down. He's sleeping, which is what you should be doing. Elizabeth's been organizing a trip back to Earth with Colonel Caldwell and Major Sheppard was poking his head around here until I ordered him to go and get some sleep. Ford's..." He sighed.
"Gone," Rodney finished. "With a jumper. I should be working."
"And vomiting all over Atlantis in the process? I hardly think that's going to get much done. Not to mention the clean-up."
"Good point," Rodney agreed softly. "How many?"
McKay didn't ask how many what, but Carson knew what he meant. "Twenty-three. Plus Ford."
"Twenty-three out of two hundred and thirty-six. Almost ten-point-three percent of Atlantis' over all population."
Leave it to Rodney to put it into numbers. Carson nodded. "Aye." He glanced across the room, looking towards a couple of now empty beds. Colonel Everett and Sergeant Bates had been sent through the gate. He expected Bates to recover, although how well was still in the air and it would be a long battle. Everett, well, Carson feared it was only a matter of time. How much, no one could know, but it would be better spent on Earth with friends or family.
Rodney didn't reply and when he glanced back towards the man, Carson was grateful to see his eyes closed and breathing evening out. So Carson adjusted Rodney's blanket and moved on. The infirmary was finally quieting down.
Mary was back at the main desk, files laid out before her. The coffee pot was on and he could hear the liquid dripping from it. He frowned; they hadn't had used that pot in a couple of months. Not since the coffee supply had run out.
"The Dedaelus brought coffee," she told him. "Crappy coffee, but I don't care. It tastes like heaven." She raised her mug. "I sent Rachel to bed. She was exhausted."
"Good." He stared across the room into his own office. He'd left the door open and he could see his desk and could make out the teacup sitting on top. His mother insisted he take it. It was full of Athosian tea, he knew, because Laurie had filled it the last time he'd been in his office, almost three days prior.
Aters was frowning at him, her forehead creased in concern. "Have you slept?" she asked him.
"Have you?" he shot back.
"Yes," she answered. "Now answer my question."
He didn't. "I'm going to see Dr. Weir."
Mary sighed. "Carson..."
He brushed her off. "I'll be back."
"No, you won't. Get some sleep." She paused. "I could make it an order, you know. And I would."
He gave her a small smile. "I don't doubt it. But I do need to see Elizabeth." He walked away before she could answer, taking a slight detour into his office to dump his tea cup, and headed out into the halls of Atlantis.
Elizabeth was up. Carson half-hoped she wasn't; half-hoped she was. She probably needed sleep more than anyone and he doubted she got it. He'd reprimanded her several times and he knew she knew that he did have the power to pull rank on her if need be, but luckily, it had yet to come down to that. Elizabeth was quite the woman and Carson applauded her ability to keep it all together. She was also easy to talk to, though he rarely bother her for fear he was keeping her from a more important matter.
She was alone, which surprised him. He figured Caldwell might there, that the two might be bumping heads again, that she might be doing some other significant project. But instead she was staring into the bottom of her own coffee mug.
"Dr. Weir." He rapped softly on her door so he didn't startle her. She looked up and greeted him with a smile.
"Carson. What can I do for you?"
He held out a folder. "I made a supply list."
"Good. Although, you can hang on to it. I'm bringing my entire senior staff back to Earth. Yourself included." She traced the outline of her cup.
"Really?" It was more than he hoped for.
"Yes," she said. "I'm hoping you'll be able to help me select some new members for your medical staff."
At the mention of his staff, he sagged. "Right."
Elizabeth let out a small sigh. "Sit, Carson." He did and placed the folder on her desk. He watched her trace the rim of her mug yet again.
"I'm sorry to hear about Laurie," she said. "I didn't know her very well, but she seemed kind."
"Aye, she was." He paused a moment. "Actually, that's why I came to see you."
He nodded. "I wanted to, well, write or say something to her..."
"Family?" Elizabeth finished.
She gave him a small nod. "I'm sure they'd appreciate that. She's from-"
"Oklahoma, I know. Grandfather owns and still runs a farm. She used to help him when she wasn't working." It was funny, really. Such trivial things, he knew. He didn't know her deepest fears or desires, didn't even know her favorite color, but her loss was still great to him. Atlantis was so small that any loss was great.
"Sounds nice," Elizabeth said softly and he noticed that she was peering into her mug again. Carson considered himself fairly observant, so he wondered how he missed it. Hadn't the same object been upsetting him?
"Peter was a good man." He was. He was wonderful at conversation. Carson often had lunch with him and was captivated by Peter's ability to tell a story.
Elizabeth looked up, surprised. For a moment, Carson saw something in her shift, saw just glimpse of grief in her eyes. Then she swallowed and gave him a tight smile.
"He was a very good man," she said. "Always brought me a cup of coffee, you know. Not in his job description at all, but I don't exactly have an assistant and he always had better things to do. But still...two sugars. He always put the right amount of sugar in it. Or the right amount of the mainland's equivalent, anyway."
"It's not Earth sugar," Carson agreed, glad to see her opening up, it only a little and only about coffee. It was much more than a cup of coffee. Just like it was much more than a cup of tea.
"No," she agreed.
"Laurie brought me tea. No honey, but she always managed to find my tea cup, no matter how far I'd buried it under paperwork." He leaned forward. "But it's not really about tea. Or coffee, for that
"Causalities of war," she told him, but he knew she didn't believe it.
He smiled. "Perhaps. But friends, too. But we can't-"
"Dwell on it," she cut in. "Atlantis is an amazing place. I can't say I wouldn't give up the world for it."
"You almost did," Carson pointed out. "And in another life, you truly did. Kept it going. Still do."
"No." She shook her head. "We all keep it going. Don't sell yourself short, Carson. You often do." She shifted in her chair. "We can all only do so much."
Liar. He saw it in her eyes. "Aye, but I think I could believe that
if you could. Which you don't."
"It's hard to ignore 'what ifs,'" she admitted. "What if the Wraith won? What if you all had drowned the first time and I didn't fix it? What if..."
"My mum always said 'what ifs' give you headaches. That sometimes fate just happens regardless of what you do, so that even if you did something - anything - different, it wouldn't matter. Same outcome."
Elizabeth met his eyes. "Do you really believe that?"
"I'm not sure," he confessed. "My mother is very religious and was extremely distraught when my da died. It helped her cope."
"Did it help you?"
"I was six. I don't think I really understood what happened, let alone how to cope."
"I'm sorry," Elizabeth said and she sounded genuine. He touched her hand.
"No need, luv. Can't be distraught over something you can't really remember." That wasn't completely true, but he'd made peace with it years ago, and that was what mattered. The details were unimportant.
"You said your mother is religious. Are you?"
Carson thought about the question a moment before answering. "Yes, but differently, I think. It helps to believe there's a place beyond this life. The alternative..."
"I don't like thinking about the alternative," Elizabeth said. "Are you Catholic? I'm guessing. Scotland."
"Aye, Catholic. At mass every Sunday. Well, used to be."
He raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
She smiled. "Hard to believe, right? My parents are extremely conservative and every Sunday morning my father would get the whole family up and into the car to go to nine a.m. mass. I hated it. Still do. But religion is comfort. Even to non-believers, who seem to be the first to ask God for help in crisis, even when they say they don't believe in him."
"Maybe. You're quite the philosopher, Elizabeth."
She picked up her mug. "I studied religion in college. You can't help being a philosopher." She gave up from her chair and headed over to a cabinet, opening it, grabbing another cup and something else, then returned to her chair. She plopped a bottle down.
"Whiskey?" He looked at her in disbelief.
"I know. No alcohol. This..."
Elizabeth didn't finish her sentence, instead opening the bottle and filled the cups in front of her. She extended one to Carson. He took it, not sure what to say. He watched he pick up her mug.
"To Laurie," she said.
He smiled and lifted his cup. "To Peter."
Together they drank, to lost lives, to lost souls, to those remaining.
To moving forward.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
from 23rd Psalm