Title:Collateral Damage

Rating:K +

Warnings: None

Summary: Experimenting with the Chair, both Rodney and Carson are caught in an explosion. Rodney is left in a critical condition, Carson is hurt, and the Chair is badly damaged. An investigation suggests Carson caused the accident, and soon he is fighting not only to save his friend's life, but to clear his name, and save his career. Then John makes a discovery that shocks them all!

Disclaimers: I don't own any of the Stargate Atlantis characters, but I hope I've given them a fair representation in this story.

Characters: All especially John & Rodney, Carson-centric.

Spoilers: As yet, I'm not sure if there will be any references to actual episodes. If there are, I'll warn you in advance.

I'd like to thank TJ who is once again acting as beta for this.

oOoOoOo

Carson had to concentrate hard to read Major Lorne notes from an earlier examination. The solider had returned through the Stargate with a very interesting rash. Well Carson thought it was very interesting but Lorne wasn't quite so enamoured of it. The patient in question perched on the edge of an infirmary bed, slyly trying to scratch through the padding of sterile dressings he'd been swathed in, without drawing attention to himself.

"Stop it!" Carson admonished absentmindedly and without looking up, Lorne glowered at him.

"Can't you give me something to stop the itch, Doc?"

"Aye," Carson responded. "But I need to find out what caused the itch in the first place. If I give you the wrong thing son, it might make it worse."

"Now that's a cheerful thought," Lorne responded, fighting a losing battle from giving into the urge to scratch his own skin off.

Carson smiled sympathetically over at the major and turned back to his notes.

"Carson!" Rodney's voice sounded over the comm-link. For a moment the Scot considered ignoring his friend's voice, but Rodney had other ideas.

"Carson," his voice was even more insistent this time. "I need you in the Chair Room now, so put down whatever voodoo text book you're studying and get your rear-end over here."

"Rodney," Carson said, trying to keep his tone even. "I'm dealing with a patient just now. I'll help you when I'm free."

"And I know you Carson," Rodney replied instantly. "You're never free. You always have someone who needs your attention, notes to write or some medical journal you need to read."

"Aye, that's true," Carson said, with a wink at Lorne, distracting the soldier from his itch for the moment as he enjoyed the exchange. "But we can't all lead the life of leisure that you physicists enjoy."

The expected explosion could probably be heard through the walls without the aid of technology. Between splutters, Rodney accused Carson of everything from malpractice to necrophilia, and all points in between. In the background, the physician could hear familiar muffed laughter; no doubt Radek was also enjoying his success at winding Rodney up. Eventually, the tirade faded to a mere trickle of insults and eventually ceased.

"Have you quite finished insulting me and my entire family now, Rodney?" the doctor asked.

"For the moment," the Canadian replied.

"Good, seeing as you asked so nicely, I'll be with you in about half an hour. Would that be okay?"

"It'll have to do, I suppose," the other man replied with a sulky reluctance.

oOoOoOo

By the time Carson had got Lorne settled, and some soothing lotion applied to his itch, almost an hour had passed. As he made his way to the Chair Room, he realized just how weary he felt. Glancing at his watch, Beckett realized 27 hours has passed since he'd last slept. Long shifts without sleep and unsociable hours were in the job description but they took their toll after a while. He wasn't a twenty-something intern anymore. Beckett had always had a problem with delegation, particularly now he was CMO. 'Lead by example' his old mentor had said, he felt responsible for everything that happened in the Infirmary. In fact, if the Scot was truly honest with himself, it wasn't just the Infirmary or even the wider boundaries of Atlantis itself; he felt responsible for the Athosians and any who might be in need of his services. His mentor had also warned him not to 'try and carry the weight of the world on his shoulders'; maybe he should start listening to the rest of his advice.

"No wonder I feel so bloody tired," he muttered to himself.

"And where have you been?" Rodney demanded as soon as Beckett entered the Chair Room, sounding to all the world like a scolding spouse.

"Sorry, I'm late," Carson said, nodding to another scientist as they left the room, obviously happy to escape. "Lorne took longer to diagnose then I thought."

"Well, now that you've finally decided to join us, I want you to test something out for me," Rodney said, his head not lifting from the laptop he was holding.

Carson couldn't hold back the groan, even if he had been expecting this. "Can't Colonel Sheppard help you?" he asked, still trying to get out of having to sit in the damnable contraption again.

"Sit in the Chair, Carson." Rodney said, in a firm, but resigned tone.

"You know that it's not that I don't want to help, Rodney," Carson said, feeling he needed to explain yet again. "It's just ye see, the Chair and I don't quite agree with each other. Bad things tend to happen when I sit in tha' thing. Are you forgetting a wee incident with a drone and…?"

"Carson SIT!" Rodney ordered.

Almost automatically Carson sat, looking like a child being made to take foul tasting medicine. Perching barely in the Chair he folded his arms to prevent himself from touching the activation pads.

"Why am I here, exactly?" he asked Rodney, unable to keep a slight note of resentment out of his voice.

"We found something in the Ancient's records that suggest the Chair might be able to re-charge a ZPM," Rodney replied, in a matter-of-fact voice.

"Really?" Carson asked, suddenly interested. His eyes lit up at the thought. The need to conserve energy had hindered them all since they'd arrived on Atlantis, and not just when they were trying to defend the city against the Wraith. But the excitement at the benefits of what they might achieve was soon taken over by his intense dislike of connecting to the Chair. It reminded him of when he was learning to drive a car, or a Puddle Jumper for that matter. He never felt completely in control. He felt the Chair was the one in charge, and he was just going along for the ride.

"All you need to do, Carson," Rodney continued, getting Carson's attention again and speaking to the Scot like he was a petulant child. "Is to connect to the Chair and then concentrate on the ZPM."

"But what if I do something wrong?" Carson asked. "You know my track record isn't exactly good. I could destroy the ZPM."

"It's not one of our main ZPMs," Rodney reassured him. "It's one we found from the list that the Ancient Elizabeth gave us. But it was almost completely depleted, so if you destroy it, it's no big deal."

Carson still didn't look particularly reassured.

"I'm still not all that happy to be doing this, Rodney," he said to his friend. "Can't Colonel Sheppard help you? He's much better at this sort of thing than I am."

"John is taking supplies to the Athosians," Rodney said dismissively. "You're it, Carson, so just get on with it. I don't have the time to waste holding your hand, figuratively speaking of course. So sit back and concentrate." He shoved Carson back into the chair for emphasis.

Resigned to his fate, Carson took a deep breath, placed his hands on the arm panels and willed the chair to 'turn on'. He cautiously allowed himself a wee moment of satisfaction when the Chair almost immediately responded, the back rest reclining as it activated. Closing his eyes tightly, the Scot concentrated on opening his mind to make the link with the Chair. He felt the familiar, almost overwhelming sensation of energy rushing up through his hands, small hairs on the back of his neck standing to attention as the alien and almost eager 'presence' of the chair flooded his mind. Settling himself and almost confident he was in control, he tried reaching out to the ZPM which Rodney had installed in front of him. His mental reach was tentative, hesitant, but he could feel the Chair recognize his intentions and enthusiastically rush to make the connection, almost dragging him along for the ride.

As Rodney watched, Carson's eyes flew open, burning bright blue. The scientist watched, worried for a moment. He'd never seen that particular look on the doctor's face. Just as he reached out to touch Carson's arm, the ZPM started to hum. It was a strange, resonating sound. Rodney turned to look at it in fascination as it started to glow.

"Carson!" he said excitedly. "It's working! It's really working! Of course…I knew it should work in theory, but I didn't think you'd manage to make it work. But it's working…"

He turned back to the doctor only to find his friend's face was contorted in pain. A look of agony contorted the Scot's face.

"Carson?" McKay's earlier was enthusiasm forgotten in concern for his friend.

As Rodney watched, the doctor's body tensed in pain, back arching off the seat as he let out a groan that seemed to reverberate through his whole body.

McKay started to reach for his comm-link to call for medical back-up but before his hand reached his ear-piece, all hell broke loose. With Carson still connected both the Chair and the ZPM started to vibrate, the noise level increasing exponentially. The doctor let out one last groan of agony, then slumped into unconsciousness. At almost the same instant, the ZPM exploded; catching Rodney in it's full blast, a wave of energy throwing the helpless man across the room to connect with the wall and slide boneless to the floor. Silence and darkness fell, engulfing the room.