A ghosting touch of presence, a spectral outline of a building overlaying his vision, the soft hum that vibrated under his skin, a bright flash of colour from behind his eyes.
The noises started then.
An echo of a whisper of a sound, one voice rising and falling, twisting round and through another, with a third, deeper and harsher than the others, mimicking the first. And behind them all a canopy of speech, a blanketing background of incomprehensible words from which those three distinct voices crept into his awareness.
Carson tried to ignore it, tried to focus on reality, on the scene before him, attempting to listen to the readings that Radek was relaying, to the theorising monologue of Rodney, but his concentration was impaired. He was just so tired. And slowly his mind started to blank, to turn inward, and in doing so the voices became clearer, became discernable, and Carson realised that he knew the languages in which they spoke.
Ancient, comprised the majority of the sound, which though he didn't understand he could recognise, the sibilant flowing words bringing back memories of finding the hologram on the first day in Atlantis. There was Gaelic being spoken as well, the familiar cadence of the language of his home, present as a harmony of male and female voices, igniting a spark of homesickness.
A deep voice spoke too, the sound of Swahili bringing back old memories of humid climes, desperate actions, and of pain. The long-lived, heart-wrenching ache of grief, that never leaves, though it may fade with time, flaring back into full force and joining with the physical feeling of his muscles contracting tightly and the dead nerves in his back igniting into burning pain, as he fell into the memories of fire: flames and weaponry, of twisted metal searing into his flesh, of the sweet sickly scent of blood, and of the blank stare in familiar eyes.
Seconds passed as though they were an infinity and then slowly the mind numbing pain receded to a dull throb, that flared agony bright with any movement.
The hard planes of the Chair beneath his shoulder blades became apparent as his awareness returned, he blinked several times, his eyes dry from the length of time they had remained open and unfocused. Gradually his sight began to clear and the world around him resolved, he could see Rodney typing away on his computer, was surprised to find that John Sheppard had replaced Radek.
The Major was leaning back against a workbench, arms folded across his chest, nodding absently to whatever Rodney was saying. Sheppard's attention however was focused completely on Carson, forehead creased in concern, eyes flickering up from staring at his white-knuckled grip on the armrest to rest on his face. Their gaze met and Carson watched as recognition of his newly awakened state spread across his face, before phasing into a soft smile of greeting.
He's surprised that McKay hasn't noticed.
Normally he wouldn't be, after all the physicist isn't renown for his interpersonal skills, and though Beckett is his friend, probably his best friend in fact, he would be unlikely to notice if something was wrong unless confronted with an obvious effect.
But McKay is a scientist, and therefore trained to observe, and so really he should have seen that something was definitely wrong with Beckett, even if just within the context of the experiments he was running, because John's been there for half an hour, and if he hadn't been concerned before, the unfocused pain filled expression on Beckett's face would have guaranteed that he was by now.
Its been a week and two days since his mild concern had blossomed into full blown worry, since the day he had walked with the Doctor to the Chair and seen the trepidation and pain that sitting in the appliance caused him.
The Scot looks small, smaller than he really is, semi curled up in the overly large seat, left arm wrapped tightly around his abdomen, hugging himself, whilst his right hand maintained a strong grip on the armrest, tendons and bones standing out in sharp relief, white against his already pale skin.
He would look like he was asleep if it wasn't for the tension in his body and the haunted look in empty eyes. He does in fact, if John stops to think about it, look as though he were dead. So John splits his attention, watches the random clenching of his hands, focuses on counting the movement of the Doctor's chest, rising and falling with each shallow breath he takes, all the while half listening to the things McKay is saying, and wondering how much longer the astrophysicist is going to keep Beckett in that damn Chair.
Beckett's eyes widen slightly, his breathing hitches, stutters, and resumes at a faster rate. John manages not to take a step forward, forces himself to remain where he is, nails cutting crescents into his palms as he clenches his own hands in response to the blanching of the Doctor's face.
He doesn't relax until a spark of life returns to eyes that had been more a grey than their usual sparkling blue, only to be momentarily hidden as eyelids swept closed and then open once more.
He nudged McKay then, a quick mostly gentle elbow to the ribs, causing the physicist to interrupt himself in order to utter a startled yelp, and, turning to face John, launch into a tirade about, if John guessed correctly from the opening scowl, "how easily he bruises".
"McKay" John drawled, eyes boring down at the seated man until he became silent, "McKay, have you finished with the Doc, cause he's just sitting there and I…"
"Of course he's just sitting there Major, that is what he's here for, it's not like I'd let a witch doctor, even Carson, actually experiment with these devices unless I had to. They are complex scientific…"
"But" He continued unperturbed by the interruption, "In answer to your question, yes, I currently have the data I require, so go… What is it you want Carson for anyway?"
John shook his head, amused by his teammates verbal antics, but didn't reply. Instead he pushed off from the bench against which he rested, rocking forward onto the balls of his feet and taking the few steps needed to bring him level with the Chair.
Beckett had pulled himself into a more upright position than his previous recline, but he still looked a bit unsteady and detached from his surrounding. John squatted down besides the man, his hand coming to rest on his knee, the uniform trousers doing little to hide the tremors that he could feel running through the muscles of the Doctors leg.
"C'mon Doc, lets hit the cafeteria."