"Carson . . ."
"God, just . . .don't move. Don't. . .move." There were sound of shuffling about and curses in the dark.
"Rrrr – rodney what . . ."
"I said don't move, dammit!"
He couldn't move. Well, he could move a hand. But he couldn't see. And the air was thick and dusty.
And he hurt. He hurt like hell.
"Help's coming. Just hang on."
He sounded scared. Fucking terrified. "I'm fine."
"If you could hear yourself, you'd disagree. Hell, if you could see yourself you'd laugh . . . or have a coronary . . . no, don't do that, just relax. Sheppard's coming, they'll get you outta there."
Out of where? All he knew what that he hurt, he couldn't move, that his chest pained him, and he felt embarrassingly wet. And he hurt. God, he hurt!
Rodney gritted his teeth as he continued to dig his way to his friend. Damn tunnel, damn tunnel, couldn't stay up, no, decided to choose today to fall, of all days, today. Fucking stupid city with it's fucking stupid failsafes and fucking idiotic traps that Kavanaugh should be in, sorry ass, for stealing the last of his Butterfingers. He had a stash hoarded away in his office for the late night hours. And Kavanaugh didn't suffer from hypoglycemia. Just an ass. An ass who should have been in his hole with him, and caught in that tunnel instead of Carson, of ALL the fucking people, why was it Carson? "I'm going to tell you just once more, keep still, dammit! You'll bring this whole thing down on us, and then how the hell am I supposed to rescue you?"
"Just want. . . the glory," came a small voice from the dark.
"Yeah, I staged this so I can crawl on my ass and subject myself to intense claustrophobia, because I'm just craving a hero cookie! Now for the last time, stop moving! I may not can see you, but I can hear you moving, dammit, so keep still!"
His arms ached. His shoulders were cut by the sharp metal edges that had just five minutes earlier formed a circular wall around them, edges that now curled inwards like overgrown fingernails. He bumped over pieces of . . . something, and was forced to roll over onto his stomach as the space constricted around him. Black didn't begin to describe the lack of light.
"Of course," he muttered, "if you want to you can tell me about your childhood or something, because that's what people do to pass the time when trapped, right? I mean, all those movies and all that, they carry on this meaningless conversation that suddenly has these deeper undertones and they find out they're in love or long lost brothers or have the same make of refrigerator at home. Course what we have would qualify more as an icebox I think . . . Carson? You with me?"
"Keep talking, Rodney."
"I'm not the one who's supposed to be talking! You are, you're the one who has to stay conscious! Of course, if you want to put the burden on me to keep you awake, fine. I seem to be the reliable one around here anyway, overworked and underappreciated unless there is a crisis. Well buddy, I think we can call this a crisis. Don't you? Carson?"
"Right. Because I have just so much to say." Rodney stopped crawling to catch his breath. "You know," he said, "I really think this tunnel is shrinking."
He lowered his head and winced. "Oh yeah, thank you for that, huh? And I was all worried about you. You're obviously just fine, why the hell am I subjecting myself to this to save your sorry ass?" He grunted and used his elbows to drag himself further into the tunnel. "Course you never were one for tact. 'I am manipulating your DNA. Here we go!' Just as chipper as you please, with absolutely no regard with what might happen, not to mention your first human ancient gene experiment happens to be the head scientist of the whole Atlantis expedition! Not a smart move there, Dr. Moreau!"
"And as I've said before, I like to hear myself talk."
"Okay, now you're sounding just way too drowsy. Can you tell where you're bleeding?"
"Just . . .wet."
"Well, I suppose it would be. Can you be more specific?"
Rodney sighed and reigned in his frustration as he forced himself another few feet forward. One arm reached out as far as he could push it, and managed to lightly brush the sole of a boot. "There! Carson, can you feel that?" He pushed on the sole.
" . . . maybe."
"That's an answer? How about something I can work with?" He pushed again.
"There you go." Rodney pulled his arm back and grunted as he shoved his elbows beneath his chest, raised up, and pushed forward. His head bumped hard against hard, and he yelped.
"I'm okay, I'm okay, just had something penetrate my skull. Nothing to worry about I'm sure, it's only my brain we're talking about."
"Can't see . . ."
"I know, I know." Rodney stopped moving, stopped bitching. A sorrowful gaze settled on what he hoped was the trapped body of his friend. "Look, it's not much longer now, okay? We're gonna get you outta this." His voice broke slightly, and he let it.
Silence followed. Rodney allowed his head to drop down on his arms. He tried to ignore the pressing feeling of his surroundings, the dusty feeling of minute debris floating in the unsettled air. The fact that he was unable to back himself out, that he was as trapped as Carson, but there was no way he would let the man know. Nor would he let Carson know that he had no way to contact Sheppard, that he had no idea if help was really on the way. He knew the sluggishness he felt was stale air. He knew Carson was bleeding badly, and knew there was little chance of survival without almost instantaneous assistance. They would suffocate, his lungs were already struggling, his wheezing loud in the confined space. He was worried that he couldn't hear Carson's, and assumed the pinned man was taking very shallow breaths. That was it. That had to be it. "Carson, you with me?"
"Carson?" The request was timid.
And he let the tears flow.
The rush of air startled him. Carson gasped, feeling a cold sensation rush into pained lungs. He looked up blearily at the nurse holding a mask over him, telling him to do something, but he couldn't hear for the rush in his ears. His body felt too light. His head throbbed like a mother. He blinked sore eyes, brittle and dry. His skin clung tightly to him, a withered shell.
The next time he woke the lights were dim. Everything was crisp and white, bordered by grey, like his vision. It was only a moment, and it disappeared.
The third time was painful, and filled with clarity. He jolted awake as his surroundings tumbled in on top of him, and he cried out, and heard Rodney's cry in the back of his mind, a fearful shriek that told him they were in trouble. But it wasn't sharp metal that pressed him down, it was a firm hand and a calm, cool voice. There was a moist sensation on his lips, satisfyingly cool, and he licked at it like a kitten sampling for the first time. The water was a shock, and more refreshing than he realized. He opened his eyes fully.
Dr. Weir was looking down at him, cup in hand, a sad, gentle smile on her face. And one question rose in his mind. "Where's Rodney?"
A sad, gentle smile.
And Carson crumpled inside.