Could Have Been
by Jennamajig


SUMMARY: Getting thrown fifteen feet by a Wraith isn't without consequences. Carson whumping, a John/Carson discussion. Instinct tag.

SEASON/SPOILERS: Set season two. Spoils Instinct and S1's Poisoning the Well.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Two weeks without an eppy. This tag might be eaten up by canon later, but for now it works and hints at the episode to come as well. All medical stuff well researched, but I'm no doctor, so any errors, I apologize.

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.


--

Carson had his hands full before he even got back to the puddle jumper and through the gate.

Teyla had a head injury during which she lost consciousness briefly, Colonel Sheppard had blood running down his arm from where Elia had apparently tried to feed on him, and Rodney was still feeling himself up from his up close and personal Wraith encounter. Ronon, thankfully was unscathed. Carson didn't relish him as a patient again so soon.

Coupled with bundling up Elia's body and bringing it back through the gate so they could try and sort out what went wrong and fighting his own feeling of failure ala Hoff, the physician was exhausted when he finally set foot on Atlantis again.

The infirmary was the first stop.

Carson got Telya on one bed and convinced Sheppard to take another before going off to get his stethoscope and other supplies. He grabbed the first from his bag, wincing when he bent down. His back was killing him. He was sure that Wraith had left him with quite a bruise.

"What are you doing?"

Carson turned and spotted his medical 2IC, Mary Aters, standing a few feet behind him. She did not look pleased.

"My job," he responded. "Colonel Sheppard and Teyla are injured and Rodney...well, he thinks he's hurt. I could use your help." He reached for a BP cuff, but Aters stuck her hand out and stopped him.

"Oh no, you don't."

"Excuse me?" He shot her a look.

"Harper is checking the Colonel's arm. Jennings has Teyla. Dr. McKay and Mr. Dex can wait their turn. I, however, drew the short straw and got you."

"Me? I'm fine." He failed to mention his back - and stomach, really - were now starting to really throb.

Aters just raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? Then it was some other Scottish doctor that got thrown fifteen feet by a Wraith, then?"

Carson threw up his hands. "Rodney. That git. He can't keep his bloody mouth shut, can he?" he muttered.

Aters just smirked. "It doesn't matter if he can or not. Post mission checks are required. Made law, by you in fact. I'd be defying your rules if I didn't make you strip and give you the once over."

"Strip?" he repeated.

She shrugged. "It seems like the appropriate word. I could use another one. Something involving 'naked' if you want."

"Mary..." he started, pleaded really.

She just stared back at him. "Carson..."

He sighed. "Let's make this quick. I have an autopsy to assist with."

"Dr. Biro will wait. Take the bed next to Sheppard." She smiled. "Oh, and don't forget to strip."

"Bloody pervert," he grumbled.

--

Carson was regretting his standard post-mission checks the second one of his nurse started searching for a vein to draw blood.

"Ow! Watch where you're poking that thing!" He rubbed his left forearm. This was Rachel's third attempt.

She looked at him and he could clearly read the frustration in her eyes. "Dr. Beckett, if you'd sit still, I'd be able to get a vein
more easily."

"There's one right there. Plain as all day." He held out his arm, pointing.

"Fine," she said and drove the needle home with less care than he'd seen her use on patients. It hurt, but he bit his lip from commenting. He knew he was an awful patient. He preferred being on the giving end, rather then the receiving, when it came to medical care.

"Hurts, doesn't it, doc?" Sheppard said from the next bed where Harper was stitching up his arm. Teyla was off getting a CT scan.

"I could do without the comments, Colonel," Carson shot back, yanking his arm away from Rachel the moment she finished and applying pressure himself.

"Someone's cranky." Aters was back, hands in her lab coat pockets.

"I am not," Carson insisted and let go of his arm to pluck at the pair of burgundy scrubs he was wearing. "These aren't really necessary. I'm fine."

"He's so lying," Sheppard volunteered. "His back hurts."

"Colonel," Carson shot back, gritting his teeth. "Has Dr. Harper taken your blood pressure lately? I'm sure you could benefit from an IV drip and a night of observation."

"Nice try, doc. You aren't scaring me. You're not the one calling the shots this time," Sheppard replied, grinning.

"I'm still the CMO," he threatened.

"Not right now you're not," Aters put in. "Carson, I could use some honesty here. What hurts?"

"Nothing," he insisted, but as soon as he finished his statement he shifted slightly and sent a spike of agony down his back. He couldn't help closing his eyes and hissing. "Okay, maybe just a wee something."

"That's it. Lay down on your side, Carson."

He swallowed and obeyed without a protest, grateful that he could curl up into a ball if the need arose. He felt Mary draw up his shirt and sigh.

"What?" he asked.

"You have a bruise developing down the right side of your back from your shoulder blades to your tailbone," she informed him. "Can you roll over onto you back? Slowly, now."

Carson bit his lip, but managed to do what she asked. Her hands moved to his belly and he let out a short groan. She moved lower down and he felt himself blushing at the intrusion that he knew was perfectly warranted and necessary. He just hoped to God that Sheppard wasn't getting a free show in the process.

"Okay," he heard her say and opened his eyes again to look at her.

"I need a urine sample," she said. "You think you can manage or I can get-"

"You'll get nothing," he snapped, perhaps a little too sharply. But there was no way he was having someone stick a - no, he was perfectly capable. "I can do it."

She handed him a cup. "You know where the restroom is."

He nodded. "You think there's kidney damage, don't you?"

She let out another sigh. "I don't know. Could be just a deep bruise. You know I can't make any diagnosis without running a few tests."

Tests. Just lovely. A scan of his belly was probably next on the list. He pushed himself up and tried not to cry out, instead hoping to hide the pain and move on. Aters obviously didn't buy his fa├žade. She gently shoved him back down on the bed.

"I think I'll get you a urinal instead."

He closed his eyes again. This day had started so well. New Wraith discoveries. A chance to work with a living sample, to further develop his research and therefore come one step closer to unraveling Wraith DNA.

Now it was heading downhill. And quickly.

--

When Carson handed back the urinal, he saw red.

Literally.

Aters took one look at the sample and frowned. "I'm going to have Rachel put in a catheter. I need to measure your output and track the bleeding."

"Lovely," he muttered. "I'm bleeding internally."

She patted his shoulder. "It's probably minor. We'll run a urinalysis and I want to get a CT scan of your abdomen."

"Kidney laceration?" he asked, running through the symptoms and possible diagnosis in his brain.

"Maybe," she answered non-committal. "If it is, I'm betting it's no worse than a Grade II. Your BP is low, yes, but it's not bad. And only a few hours have passed since the initial injury. In the meantime, relax. You're probably a little dehydrated, so we'll get an IV going and that'll help."

He closed his eyes. "Fine." He hated IVs, possibly even more than Colonel Sheppard and McKay did, combined. But he knew it was needed. Aters walked off and Rachel reappeared, another needle in hand. He gave her a small smile.

"I'll stay still this time," he promised.

Rachel just shook her head. "No, you won't. But I'll still try and get it down in one stick."

Carson heard someone shift to his left.

"Sorry, doc." Sheppard, again. This time he was amble, arm bandaged and in a sling. Carson felt guilty. It was his drug that turned Elia into the primal creature that had attempted to feed on Sheppard in the first place. "I hope you feel better."

"I'll be fine," Carson said, grimacing when Rachel found a vein and jabbed him. "How's the arm?"

"This?" Sheppard lifted the sling. "Hurts like hell, but I've had worse. And it sure beats the alternative." He was quiet a moment. "She never would have come back willingly."

Carson stared at him for a minute. Sheppard words sounded unsure, as if he was trying to convince himself. "Aye, but you don't really believe that do you?"

Sheppard was quiet a second before responding. "I don't like believing it. And I knew there was more to Elia than meets the
eye. Your drug doesn't work."

"I never said it did," Carson defended. He had wished it did. Hoped, even. Dared to think about the possibilities and the
research. Instead, they were shattered. It was like Hoff all over again. No there wasn't massive destruction, but there was a life lost. Whether or not he could ever understand the possibility of a Wraith trying to fight her instincts to feed, realizing it was wrong, using the human part of her to see that, he knew Elia was a loss, too. One he couldn't fix. Instead, he had created a super Wraith. It didn't matter if she was dead. She existed.

A horrifying thought. And there was no telling if her attempt to feed wouldn't come back and haunt Sheppard - or himself, for that matter - in the future.

"True, you didn't. But you wanted it to. Just like McKay wanted that power source to work. Well, maybe not exactly, but super Wraith..." Sheppard trailed off.

"I get the idea," Carson finished. "I got a wee too excited. It was a great scientific opportunity."

"Yeah. But you can't save the world. Or the Wraith. You can just try and save yourself. And even then, it isn't so easy. Besides, maybe the Wraith aren't worth saving."

"No, maybe not," Carson agreed reluctantly. He wasn't so sure about that statement. As a doctor he was taught that everyone had a right to be saved. "But the Wraith aren't Ford, are they?"

"No," Sheppard said softly. "Could this help him?"

Carson sighed deeply, wincing when the action caused a slight flare of pain. "I have no idea. I'm hoping someday it will. If we ever find him."

"Oh, we'll find him." Sheppard's eyes were determined and Carson didn't doubt his intentions. "I've got a briefing to go to. Guess I'll tell Elizabeth she can stop by and get your report later?"

"Aye." Carson watched Sheppard start to walk away. "Wait."

The Colonel turned around to look at him.

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry that things got out of hand."

Sheppard gave him a small smiled. "Nah. Twelve Hive ships is something getting out of hand. One Megawraith? Not so much. Besides, she's dead. Not worth thinking about what ifs."

"Perhaps." Carson couldn't help back think of what ifs. He spent entire days in the lab consisting of nothing but what ifs.

What if was a nagging question. It was one that never completely disappeared.

--

Carson was spending too much time thinking about Elia, life, Hoff, and scientific discovery when Aters approached his bedside again.

"It's a laceration to your right kidney. Minor. It fact, it really barely qualifies as a Grade II and the parenchyma isn't affected."

Carson breathed a small sigh of relief. At least the functional part of the organ was fine and that meant surgery wasn't going to happen. No dealing with Harper and his less than desirable bedside matter. Of course, the diagnosis still meant he was a prisoner of his own infirmary for a few days.

"I'm stuck her for at least three days, aren't I?"

Mary nodded. "Afraid so. It may be closer to five, depending on how long you continue to bleed. You're dehydrated, like I expected, and your hemoglobin and hematocrit are low."

"Of course they are. I managed to tear my kidney. My red blood levels aren't going to be normal." Any doctor knew that.

"This from the man who only three hours ago told me he was fine? Carson, you're a great doctor. But you suck at recognizing your own poor health. You should have come through the gate immediately."

"I don't need a lecture. I am still your boss, you know."

She just laughed. "Oh, Dr. Beckett, I've had many bosses. And while you have your downright scary moments they are nothing compared to my attending in New York. You, at least, can forgive." She turned serious. "I don't think it'll happen since we caught it early enough, but you know there's a possibility you might need a transfusion. And the next few days you'll-"

"Feel like crap. Aye, I know. And I'm stuck with the IV and catheter and the monitor." He sighed. "I suppose it could be worse."

"It could be," Aters agreed. "Get some rest."

Carson watched her walk away. It really could be worse. Elia could be roaming the galaxy and his retrovirus could be doing more harm. It could have been Hoff all over again.

Yes, it could have been.

Still...

He closed his eyes.

In the end, what ifs never went away.

End.