Title: Guilt, Pain and Fear
Warnings: Don't think so.
Tag to Phantoms. My first tag.
Summary: Beckett's thoughts on Barroso.
Characters: Beckett then McKay and Sheppard
Thanks: Go to NT and the others
All mistakes are mine.
Death and loss were selfish things. Selfish for the survivors. Allowing them to wallow in their own misery of how death affected them.
Grief and loss were self-indulgent emotions. You get wrapped up in the 'I' of the loss and spiraling grey thoughts of 'what if?'
Someone once asked him about the God Complex that Doctors and mostly surgeons could suffer. Was it true? Aye. God complexes were real. He understood they occurred but didn't comprehend why they did. Playing God struck him as tiresome and bore too much weight of responsibility. If someone died under his care, then they died with him fighting for every last beat of their failing heart and faltering lungs. He gave them his all before they died. He did it for both his patients, and today he realized for himself.
Saving lives was both a selfless and selfish act. He had never realized the selfishness of it until today or this evening.
Thick fingers with purposely blunted nails, gingerly gripped the heavy porcelain cup. Blue eye stare at nothing outwardly.
He had worked so hard to save Kagan, to carry him to safety, away from McKay and his seemingly limitless demands. He had saved Kagan and sacrificed Barroso.
It was one thing to lose someone under your care that you fought to save. Or struggled with the loss of someone that had predetermined they did not want revived. One had to respect the wishes of patients.
However, when the will to live beat with every fluttering, ineffective beat of a weakening heart, he fought for them, especially when his patients couldn't. He gave them his all. And if time was called, if the heart refused to beat again, lungs no longer filled and the brain ceased electrical impulses, then he would stop. Not quit. Certainly not give in; but simply stop. There was only so much a person could do to breathe or force life into someone.
The medical community and all its ethics and morality determined when enough was enough. Doctors didn't quit. They didn't just give up. They just recognized that death swooped down and took another soul.
But when it happened to him, to those under his care, then it was safe to assume he did everything in his power to save them.
Sometimes, on occasion, people still died.
It was once asked of him how he dealt with it, knowing that people died under his care, despite his best efforts. At first, when he was young and thought he could save the world, each death was like a personal blow. He let down a family. Whether it was a mother or father, a child, a brother or sister or uncle or aunt or even just a friend. He felt as if he had failed them. He had been taught that patients die despite your best efforts. Some patients weren't strong enough to survive. Sometimes the damage was just too great to repair. Sometimes a body was just beyond medical help.
Realizing people died and accepting death were far from similar. People dealt with it differently. Even with the passage of time, an individual adapted to it, morphing from one tactic to another. Some losses were just that, simply another body with a heart that wouldn't restart, a set of lungs that would not release another molecule of oxygen, or a brain that would no longer consume glucose.
It's just the way the world worked.
What was strange was that some deaths lashed so unexpectedly deeper and so much more painfully than others. While some patients passed away during the day or drifted away at night under the almost fanatical battle to save them, they still simply died. For better or for worse, they died. A sheet was drawn up over their heads, leads were disconnected, IVs removed and they were rolled to another room.
It was final. There was no going back. There was no 'Flag on the Play', no whistles claiming foul play, no repeated downs, or do-overs. Death was unforgiving and unremitting. Its permanence didn't sink until days later, often weeks.
And here on Atlantis, sometimes the deaths were for the better, but for the young people that died, it often was for the worse, despite the medical community's best efforts.
But there was always an effort.
A monumental effort was put forth to stave off death. Or a colossal struggle not to interfere with death and to respect the wishes of the patient. Sometimes it was a draw as to what was more difficult, fighting to beat off death, or allowing death to settle unchallenged over a young body.
Kagan lived. He fought long and hard. Carson fought long and hard to save the Lieutenant. His back muscles and quadriceps attested to his efforts.
Sergeant Barroso died. Without so much as an effort from his doctor.
Guilt hit him like a solid blow to the stomach.
Guilt wasn't a pure emotion. It intermingled pain and fear. They made a trifecta and they could bring the strongest person to their knees. And Beckett didn't believe he was a strong person. Not like the everyday citizens of Atlantis. He just wasn't that steadfast.
They say time heals all wounds, perhaps even deadens the pain.
If Heightmeyer was given the chance, she'd listen carefully, nod appropriately, take neat notes and then profess the healing tinctures that were found in the passage of time. Her science often reflected dermatology. There were multiple cures, multiple pathogenesis, multiple reasons for things to go wrong, and in the end when all else failed, dermatology reached for steroids as a last ditch effort…and for Heightmeyer, she prescribed Time.
Guilt, pain and fear were identical triplets that scoured their victim and hollowed them at the same time as filling them.
Guilt didn't travel alone. Often times it wasn't unfounded either. Misplaced guilt really didn't exist. Actions or lack of actions were the seeds for guilt and its playmates.
It struck viciously out of nowhere. The blow would land with an almost physical pain.
Fear encircled the core of the guilt and mingled with the pain. And the three bordered on the fine line of physical agony. Except there was no wound, no bruise, no blood. Nothing. Just an emptiness that filled one's core to the point of overflowing.
It was said that guilt was hollow. Beckett found himself drowning in it.
It was a sewer with undercurrents and he wasn't too sure at that moment how hard he should struggle.
There was nothing you could have done… The others meant well, but truth was there was a list of things he could have done. First and foremost, attend the wound; not ignore his patient, not turn a blind eye to him. A young man cut down in his prime.
Hallucinations, low impulse EM fields. It didn't matter. Not now, not sitting in the moonlit commissary. Nothing would change the fact that Sgt Barroso died, unattended, from a wound that might not necessarily have been fatal. Yet he died, sitting up, ignored, and very much alone, though his doctor, a man he had trusted implicitly, worked not a few feet from him. His doctor never even saw him or his wound for what they were. Dying and deadly.
You did everything you could---He hadn't done a thing. He hadn't even tried. He triaged the patient, slapped a compress on it and then ignored the patient and the wound.
Hallucinations nothing. He should have realized when the Sergeant headed for the mouth of the cave without so much as an ataxic or weak gait, that something was wrong. He should have recognized the hallucinations for what they were…. McKay had. McKay had known.
Guilt ate at him. It gnawed on his insides, eroded its way through his innards. He had done nothing, not even attempted to treat the wounds. Nothing. And that was contemptible.
With the guilt came the pain of knowing he failed in a fantastic and horrific manner. Fear settled along with the pain. Fear that others wouldn't trust his judgment, fear that he had made a grievous mistake, fear that he had let a survivable injury leach its way to fatal.
Fear bred guilt, which sparked the pain.
And he staggered in the despair that threatened to drag him down. He wasn't sure if he should fight it.
Time was supposed to heal wounds.
Often, he had wanted time to slow down, give him a chance to catch up, give him a fair fight to save a life.
Why couldn't time speed up now, fly by like it normally did when he was fighting the clock for a cure, or a vaccine or miracle drug? Where were the huge tracts of lost time that seemed to mark each and every crisis they faced here on Atlantis?
Let the healing begin, callous over the wounds that seemed too raw to even address. Why did guilt have the power to stop time? Why did death seem to speed it up? Why was it all so incredibly backwards?
"Hey, there you are." McKay strode into the room. He cut across the floor, dodging tables while holding his side. He pulled out a chair and dropped into it, pressing his hand tighter to his injured flank. "I still can't believe he shot me."
Beckett smiled sadly to himself without lifting his eyes from his mug. He couldn't help but think Rodney was lucky. He got shot. The pain was physical. It bled, it bruised and it would leave a scar, and people would see it and commiserate and even maybe understand. And there were little white pills that could knock it back.
"He shot me," Rodney stressed again.
Beckett continued to stare at his cold cup of tea and nod. Yeah, and the colonel apologized, McKay accepted and they worked it out. Rodney would milk it, make the Colonel's life miserable, but it would be fixed. How do you apologize to a young man who died not a few feet from you without the benefit of your help?
"Why are you sitting in the dark?"
Carson hadn't truly registered that it was dark. He looked up, gazed around the room. Long shadows folded over empty tables and chairs. Reflective moonlight brightened strips of polished flooring.
McKay sighed quietly. "There was nothing you could have done, Carson."
Beckett nodded absently. I could have tried. Guilt lashed at him like the sting of a knotted rope.
"You did all you could," McKay tried again.
Beckett nodded. He didn't do a thing. Didn't lift a finger to help Sergeant Barroso. Guilt flared searing the pain and fear into his stomach like a brand. He was a failure.
Nausea rolled forth.
"You saved Kruger," Rodney stated.
"Kagan," Beckett quietly corrected. And let Barroso die, alone with not attempt to help him.
"Whatever, you rather Kagan died?"
Beckett snapped his head up, blue eyes blazing with unfocused anger, "Ach, don't be daft, Rodney." Carson let the anger simmer, welcoming its brief flash as a reprieve from the burn of guilt. He sighed and dropped his gaze. Defeat blanketed him. "Go away."
"So you can sit here in the dark and feel sorry for yourself?"
And McKay hit the nail on the head.
Grief and loss were woefully selfish emotions. It was all about the survivor. Not about the dead. Sure, the dead were modeled before the living, pictures placed, possibly flowers and what-not. But it was the griever who got the attention, unwanted, undesired and inescapable. Survivors got comforted whether they deserved it or not.
How could someone possible share sympathy with him? He ignored a patient. Let them die without the benefit of aid. Pass away without any type of comfort or even basic medical aid other than a simple bandage lain over a projectile wound. What kind of doctor doesn't even try? There was no effort put forward to even try and save him.
The survivor wallowed and drowned in the rolling thoughts of tomorrow. The dead had no more tomorrows. The 'What Ifs' flared to life. And the guilt, with its pair of pawns, pain and fear, ripped their way through the survivor.
The guilt was not misplaced. He was culpable. And he was guilty of wallowing in it.
Pain and fear sparked. He rubbed at his stomach, hoping to ease the discomfort, but welcoming the ache that manifested. It was tangible. The tea he hadn't sipped since sometime before the sun set, tasted like acid on his tongue and burrowed a hole in his gut.
Where was his effort to save this young man?
"Jesus, Carson, you were talking to him. You thought he helped you save Culligan."
"Kagan, whatever." McKay jerked the table a little sloshing the cup of tea. "If you had known Barroso was dying, would you have helped him?"
Beckett lifted his gaze. Unshed moisture sat threateningly at the rim of his lower lids, "Aye, of course," he whispered.
"You didn't know," McKay vehemently stated.
"Ignorance is no excuse, Rodney," Beckett whispered. He didn't know, but it didn't wash away the fact he offered no attempt to save a young man's life. Not even comfort.
"No, Carson, ignorance isn't. If it was, Kavanaugh wouldn't be held accountable for anything."
"That's not fair," Beckett softly stated.
"No, Carson, it isn't. And what happened to Barroso wasn't fair." McKay hastily leaned back in his chair. "You honestly don't think life is fair, do you? You're smarter than that, Carson."
"He shouldn't have died, Rodney," Carson ran his finger along the edge of his cup.
Guilt was a brutal monster. And it packed its own demons.
"No, he shouldn't have, neither should have Grodin, or Dumais, or Gall or Sumner," McKay stated with brash confidence, "None of them should have died, but they did, Carson. We can't go back and change it. We can't bring them back from the dead and we can't change the events that lead to their deaths. It's permanent. You know that better than anyone. There is nothing that we can do about it. Nothing."
And the 'Nothing' hurt. It allowed guilt to settle and wrap itself with pain and fear. Helplessness and nothing were fodder for the trifecta.
The uncertainty was the spearhead of guilt. Guilt and hurt had a familiar courtship with fear.
"They're going to hold a memorial tomorrow for Major Leonard and his team and Barroso." Rodney leaned forward in his chair splaying his elbows on the darkened table. "You plan on going, right?"
McKay didn't hold much faith in memorial services or other such foolishness, but he knew Beckett did. Needed to. It was another fundamental difference between the two of them. Beckett needed his family and friends. He had no family here, so his friends had to fill the role. It was a brutally difficult job at times. Friendship came about as close to volunteer duty as Rodney ever hoped to come.
McKay, at times, thought Beckett should have brought an Uncle or Aunt or Cousin as a personal item. His mum? No. Mrs. Beckett was either tough as nails or truly pure as driven snow. Either way Mrs. Beckett would be a lose-lose situation for McKay and Atlantis.
McKay often times wondered how Carson made it as far as he did, and as successfully as he did, knowing what a homebody he was. Beckett didn't have the biting, clawing drive, or the ruthless ambition to battle his way to the top of his specialty. Yet, there he sat. Nice guys finished last. That was true more times than not. Carson came across as one of the nicest. He should have been beaten down, and trudged into the mud and smeared on the underside of other lesser researcher's shoes. He wasn't.
McKay often wondered if one of Carson's many uncles or herd of cousins secretly followed him around and made sure that the cutthroat competition that went hand and hand with research didn't attack Carson. People as softhearted, no matter how determined, were often buried in the rabid community of scientific discovery.
"The memorial service, Carson," Rodney repeated. "You plan on going, right?"
Beckett refused to look up. Guilt knotted itself in his stomach, dragging pain and fear right along with him. He hated it, but welcomed it.
Go to the memorial service. No. How could he possibly attend? How could he look at the friends of Barroso and express his condolences? He hadn't even tried to save him. The young man was dead due directly to his inaction. Would they glare back at him with contempt and mistrust? Did he deserve any less?
Fear flared, twisting guilt into a painful knot.
His stomach ached. He rubbed at it, wishing the pain would fade but accepting the physical discomfort. He wished he had been shot. Ronon and Rodney seemed to get all the luck. Teyla didn't strike him as being terribly fortunate. Legs were needed for every day use. It seemed grievously wrong that she got shot.
"Hey!" Sheppard's voice boomed from the entranceway.
McKay snapped his head up and around. Beckett ignored the call. He should have found a balcony. Maybe, deep down, he wanted to be found.
"What are you guys doing sitting in the dark?" Sheppard asked. He gracefully moved between chairs and tables, flirting with moonlit stretches of floor and gliding back into shadows.
"Carson's sulking," Rodney informed the colonel.
Beckett lifted his eyes only slightly and glared at the other man. No, he didn't want to be found…just made another poor choice.
"There was nothing you could have done, Doc." Sheppard dropped into the chair beside McKay.
I could have tried. I could have put forth an effort.
"You shot me," McKay pushed on Sheppard's shoulder. "Go sit somewhere else."
"I should have busted your jaw," John muttered.
Would have made life easier for the rest of us. Guilt flashed at the uncharitable thought.
"Doc. Carson." Sheppard leaned forward in his chair. His profile dipped into beam of moonlight. "Biro just finished her postmortem report." He pulled an unevenly folded and partially crumpled piece of paper from his pocket, opened and slid it across the table to the CMO. "Said something about the subclavien vein being nicked at the juncture of the superior vena cava. Or some such nonsense. " Sheppard leaned back in his chair and watched Beckett read the report in the dim light. "Morrison, your surgeon, said nothing short of emergency surgery was going to save him." John squinted his eyes and stared critically at Beckett. "Biro said Barroso was sitting up, because it was easier to breathe that way."
The colonel shared a quick glance with McKay. Rodney merely raised his eyebrows and shook his head. The Colonel turned back to Beckett, "Unless you brought a surgery team with you and all the stuff you need for thoracic surgery, blood transfusions and whatnot….Barroso was dead the moment the MP-5 round hit him. He and you just didn't know it yet."
Carson read the digitally signed report. It was official. There was little he could have done to save Barroso life.
Relief flooded him. Which sparked a tremendous flash of guilt. Guilt intermingled and blurred with fear and the ever-present pain.
Why couldn't time pass quicker—just this once?
"Memorial service is tomorrow," John stated. "Elizabeth expects us to be there." Sheppard scrutinized Beckett.
The CMO had yet to raise his eyes from paper he no longer read. Carson merely dipped his head, noncommittal.
The door to the commissary slid open again. "Ronon, please stop following me." Teyla's voice sounded strained. "I do not need your continued assistance. Major Leonard shooting me was no one's fault but the Wraith and Genii." The rubber thunk of crutches herald Teyla's movements. "Why don't you go find Colonel Sheppard and blame him for shooting you?"
"It was an accident!" Sheppard pushed back from the table throwing his hands into the air.
"Why are you sitting in the dark?" Ronon asked.
"Carson's wallowing in self pity," Rodney offered.
Beckett raised his eyes from the report and tossed an annoyed glare at McKay.
Rodney met the doctor's annoyed glance and challenged him. "Tell me I'm wrong."
"Just go away, Rodney."
"Trust me, Carson," Sheppard intoned, "that doesn't work worth a damn." John leaned back in his chair and linked his fingers over his midsection, "I shot him and he still follows me around."
McKay snapped his attention to Sheppard, "I do not follow you around."
"Barroso is dead. You can't change it. Let it go," Ronon said. He pulled a chair out for Teyla who collected her crutches into one hand and settled into the chair thankfully.
"Dr. Biro said he would have died with or without your intervention." Teyla stared at Carson, holding his eyes.
"Dr. Morrison said the wound was not survivable without immediate surgery and with a surgeon of his skill." Ronon sat making sure Sheppard could see his bandaged upper arm.
"God, Rodney, he sounds like you." Sheppard tilted back in his chair. "I'm hungry. Anyone else?"
Beckett shook his head 'no' just as his stomach growled.
"Oh that was believable, Carson," Rodney retorted.
"I could use something to eat." Teyla lifted herself slightly from her seat, relieving pressure from her injured thigh.
"I want brownies if they got some back there," Ronon stated without making a move to stand.
"Me too," Rodney added. The group stared expectantly at Sheppard.
"Why do I have to get it?"
"You shot me and McKay," Ronon pointed out with a broad smile, with no hint of bashfulness.
"Yeah," McKay confirmed.
Teyla quirked an eyebrow at the colonel. " I would have to eat the brownies in order to carry them in here."
"Come on, Doc, that leaves us." Sheppard pushed himself to his feet as if they had asked him to run fifteen miles with a rusack loaded with rocks.
"I'm not hungry," Beckett answered.
"Didn't ask you if you were," Sheppard stated with a hint of seriousness. Coffee and tea had been the content of Beckett's diet for the last two days.
The CMO scowled in his customary manner that herald back to easier times.
The two left the table and headed toward the kitchen area.
"Frosting. Don't forget the frosting," Ronon called after them.
"Chocolate," Teyla added.
"And ice-cream," Rodney added.
The colonel flipped them the finger just before the door swung shut behind him.
"Do you think they'll return with the brownies and ice-cream?" Ronon asked.
Teyla and McKay sat quietly for just a moment. Then all three, suddenly pushed themselves to their feet and hurried to the kitchen door.
They found Beckett and Sheppard sitting at the small table the cooks used to eat their meals, about to dig into a plate of leftover desserts.
Ronon scrounged through a refrigerator and found a plate of meat and some bread. He hauled them out along with mustard and mayonnaise and ketchup. The former runner had developed a taste for ketchup. It bordered on repulsive.
The colonel watched Beckett cut into an open roast beef type sandwich. His first meal in two days. He chuckled at something Ronon said to Rodney, which had the astrophysicist babbling with indignity. Sparking more laughter and bigger smiles.
It wasn't a cure, but it was better. Nothing would stop the sudden, abrupt painful blows of guilt that would ambush him but time, and even then it just deadened the blow, not eliminate it. The colonel figured Carson was no stranger to guilt and all its vulgarities.
Sheppard understood all about guilt. He never got that free drink in Kandahar, but he did get a trial. He didn't save his friend, but he managed to save Teyla. It had to mean something.
Carson saved Kagan but he lost Barroso. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than nothing.
Beckett had to recognize it. It would just take some time to accept. And time was not a prescription any of them embraced.
It took too long. Sometimes a lifetime.