Carson groaned minutely. He quit. He was finished, over, past done. There wasn't a thing in heaven or earth . . . or anywhere else, that could willingly pull him from the sublime peace he was feeling. Except the pain. Very intense, sudden, frightening pain. His eyes opened reluctantly to see a figure bending over him, looking more scared than a man had right to be. Rodney. It raised an element of concern in the medical doctor, and a vague image of shock ran through his mind. "Wh – ?"
Rodney sat back on his heels with a sigh, running a shaky hand through his short hair. "Oh thank god," he muttered, breathing heavily. "Thank god. For a moment I thought I was going to have to do CPR, and that wasn't going to be pretty."
CP . . .what the devil was he talking about? "I believe we've been there already, haven't we?" Carson struggled to say.
Rodney's hand flapped in the air in disgust. "Oh, yeah, see, you had to bring that up, and what impeccable timing! I mean, here we are, trapped in some kind of Kitchen Aid toaster, and the first thing that presses on your mind when you wake up is my kissing you. . .Cadman kissing you." He huffed. "I mean, guess I must've left quite an impression, but then I'm known to do that."
Carson knew better than to get Rodney talking. "God above, you're not helping my head any." He felt a hand close on his arm, and sat up with Rodney's help. "Where are we?"
"Well," Rodney made a show of looking around him, "we started out in my lab, and . . . that's about as far as I've gotten."
Carson squinted at the man supporting him. He was blurred around the edges. "Are you saying we're not in your office anymore?"
"In a word, look around you."
"That's more than a word."
"Carson . . ."
"Alright, alright, I'm looking." The pitching eased as the room came into focus.
Nothing was familiar.
For one, the walls were metallic; a dull sheen that looked like thick aluminium. For some reason, considering the smell, he had expected to be in a cave, it had the same damp, oppressive feel to it. But this room was metal, and small. "Rodney . . ."
"Yeah, I know. We didn't fall through the floor or anything. I think somehow I must have activated a transporter of some kind."
"So you're saying we're still on the station." He leaned back against the wall, his eyes wide with shock.
"More than likely, though I've yet to figure out where."
Carson put a hand to his throbbing head. "And just how did you accidentally operate this transporter?"
Rodney stood and went right into smirk mode. "Interesting question, glad you brought it up." His finger raised to lecture mode. "Do you by chance remember that orb device I was looking at? The one that I picked up on MJ4-112?"
"And do you by chance remember coming up behind me and scaring the living CRAP out of me?"
A hint of pleasure crossed Carson's lips. "Yes, I do remember that."
"I dropped the damn thing right on the console." He sighed again, looking around him. "Must've hit a switch or something."
"Thank you." Rodney looked back at his friend, his face flooded with concern. "You're bleeding pretty bad, you know."
"I can feel it, yes." How could he not, he kept wiping it from his eyes. "I don't suppose you happen to have some sort of cloth on you?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't think to grab my pack when we were suddenly and mysteriously transported from my office!"
"It was a legit question. Some people carry a hanky."
"A HANKY?" Rodney laughed, but it was brief. His expression turned serious, and he looked around the room. "Nothing here." His gaze fell on his friend. "Listen, lately you've been talking about wanting one of those dark jackets instead of this beige thing, right?" He squatted and tugged at Carson's sleeve, then peeled the jacket off. "Now you have an excuse." He bundled the material and pressed it to the wound over Carson's left eye. "So. . .just keep this here." Rodney stood and brushed off his pants, not necessarily from need, as he gained his bearings. There wasn't much to see.
He sighed despondently. "Figures, you know. Everything was so off today."
Carson frowned, shifting the jacket and reapplying pressure to his wound. "How do you mean?"
"I mean," Rodney winced into the air, as though looking for words, "you know how you have days when everything clicks, when you say just the right thing and people understand you, and you feel useful and productive and feel like you can do no wrong?"
He was still wincing. "This isn't one of those days."
Carson managed a smile, despite himself. "Aye. I have days like that, where all I want to do is curl back up in my bed with a good book that I can escape into. Or maybe some music."
"What kind of music?" Rodney prodded, seeing Carson slowly pale at what had to be turning into intense throbbing.
"Whatever suits me at the time. I have rather eclectic tastes." His voice roughened with pain.
"Fine then, don't answer. I don't care." Rodney was already distracted from the conversation, running his fingers over the smooth walls.
Carson removed the jacket irritably. "You might care if you took the time to listen. Why ask a question if you don't want the bloody answer?"
Rodney walked by and plopped Carson's hand back up to his wound before examining the wall behind him. "There aren't even any seams, no real corners," he said. "Look at this, the wall just curves down into the floor."
"You're a real joy when you're hurting, you know that?" Rodney walked the perimeter of the small space. "Question is, what is this room for?"
"Rodney, will you please sit? You're making a vibration in the floor, it isn't helping my head."
"Vibration? Really?" Rodney jumped.
"RODNEY! – ow . . ."
"Sorry." He stopped and sighed. "Your head exploding won't mean a thing if we starve first, of course. I mean, damn." His eyes widened. "We really are screwed! I don't even have a powerbar. I have nothing."
"Not worried about running out of oxygen, then?"
"Oh, that's crossed my mind too. I'm just . . . trying not to think about it." He slid down the wall opposite Carson, his back bearing his weight. He landed on the floor with a soft thump.
Carson looked at him with one eye. "You're taking this rather well."
"Well of course I am! It's the McKay trait."
A small, self-deprecating smile found Rodney's face. "Fine. I'm terrified."
Now that he looked, Carson could see the signs. The almost imperceptible flutter of his dark shirt as his heart thumped heavily. The way his hands were restless while the rest of him stayed disturbingly still. "No way out?"
"No idea where we are?"
Rodney snorted. "You know, let me just grab my binoculars and look out the nearest window."
"You think we were transported?"
"How else would you explain it?" Rodney snapped, finally revealing his discomfort. He clamped his mouth shut and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and resting his head back against the wall.
Apparently Rodney had already suffered his panic attack, before Carson woke. Thank god for small favors. "Colonel Sheppard will find us," Carson said.
Rodney's eyes snapped open, almost frightening in their intensity. "Oh yes, quick, let's entrust our lives to him just one more time, shall we? Because personally I get a big kick out of watching him gloat."
"He doesn't gloat!" Carson was caught by the glare, and wondered what issues Rodney had with the colonel.
"Oh come on, of course he does! That smug smile, that way he has of crossing his arms when he makes a point." He frowned. "It all smacks of one-upmanship."
"It takes two to play that game. Besides, you've saved us too, you know. Wasn't aware you were running a bloody tally."
"We have marks on the walls in the restroom. He's up by five." Carson wasn't sure if Rodney was joking.
He decided to stand. Anything was better than just sitting there.
A minute later he was on the floor with Rodney bending over him. "Dammit, Carson! What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I thought I was standing."
"You're enough to drive a man to drink." He was about to reapply pressure to the head wound, but stopped, his head jerking around at an invisible sound. "You hear that?"
"Listen." His attention focused. The men were quiet. Carson made a movement, and was halted by Rodney's upraised hand. The sound was now faint, but perceptible.
"What is it?" Carson whispered.
"I don't know."
They continued to listen, and realized it wasn't one sound they heard, but two. The first was a muffled thump, the second a shuffle. No, a slide. Thump . . . slide. Thump . . . slide.
"This can't be good," Carson muttered. Rodney just pressed the jacket to him, saying nothing.
The noise continued, growing louder. Coming closer.
"It's in the wall!" Carson exclaimed, and Rodney threw his hand over his friend's mouth.
"Shut up unless you want to die!"
They huddled together, with nowhere to go, darting glances around them. The sound was now causing vibrations in the room, vibrations that set Rodney's nerves on edge and did nothing for Carson's head. The thump sounded more like a pound, followed by a grunt.
"Oh god . . . god, god, god . . ." Rodney muttered, and placed himself in front of Carson.
There was no warning, there was no way to see what was coming, no way of knowing how it would get in. There were no seams in the wall.