Author's note: For the endlessly patient TBiscuit, who won this story in the savecarsonbeckett auction ages ago. Hope it was worth the wait!
Carson dreamed that he was once again eight years old, sitting on the high stool in the summer canning kitchen, watching his mother put up preserves. Steam from the great stockpots filled the room with the scent of malt vinegar. Mum would skin the boiled beetroot and pack them into wide-mouth jars. Next came the vinegar, and finally the special lids that popped when you opened them. Carson never liked pickled beetroot, but as he grew older and traveled all over the world, the smell of vinegar never failed to take him back to the old kitchen and the memory of his Mum, limp-haired and sweating but singing cheerily as she worked, proudly wearing the hideous paisley apron he'd picked out for her birthday.
Mum was like that, Carson mused as he lay in a sprawled heap, smelling pickled preserves but tasting dirt. An angel from heaven – unless you threatened the family. Mothers protecting their children were often described as grizzly bears, but Carson had actually heard his mother growl, and it was a truly frightening thing. In fact, he thought as he weakly spit sod out of his mouth, he was pretty sure he was hearing it right now.
"Steady on, Mum," he muttered. "Got a headache."
The growl got louder. Lord, but the woman could get stroppy.
"Leave off, Mum!" Carson whined.
"Damn it, Beckett, WAKE UP!"
Carson lifted his head and immediately dropped it again, panting his way through a swell of nausea. Bile collected in his mouth that he didn't dare swallow, instead letting it drool into a puddle beneath his cheek. Whimpering, he dug the toes of his sneaker into the dirt and waited for it to pass. Once his stomach was reasonably under control, he cracked open one eye. He was obviously concussed. That explained the pain, nausea and blurred vision, but why did he still smell pickled beetroot?
"C'mon, Doc. Need your help."
Now that he had his wits about him a bit more, Carson recognized Ronon's voice and heard the strain in it. "Coming," he wheezed, his mouth and throat as dry as a desert. He wiped grit out of his eyes with a none-too-steady hand and raised his head again. Looking slowly to his right, he could just make out a long, dark blur. It took a moment or two to coordinate his limbs, much longer to crawl inch by agonizing inch until his fingers touched leather.
"You look bad."
Carson blinked rapidly and managed to bring the Satedan into almost-focus. "I'll live. Where are you hurt?"
Pushing himself to his knees, he ran an experienced eye over the thigh clutched in the warrior's big hands. "This is going to hurt a bit," he said apologetically, shifting Ronon's hands away and replacing them with his own. "What happened? And why the bloody hell do I smell pickles?"
"Wraith. Generator blew when the culling beam hit it. We landed in a food cellar."
Carson's battered brain clearly recalled a crowd of thin but happy children lined up to receive immunizations and candy. Ronon, still mending from the injuries he received at the hands of the Wraith on Sateda, was there to act as his bodyguard. The big warrior had been a surprise hit with the kids, who traveled in his wake like pilot fish following a shark.
Now there was a palpable lump halfway down his thigh. Carson prodded it gently, visualizing the broken ends of the long bone and the location of the femoral artery. Sitting back on his haunches, he looked around the cellar for anything he could use for a splint. A pile of firewood against one wall provided two long sticks. Beckett dragged them over and began unlacing Ronon's boot. The Satedan was unable to suppress a hiss at the tiny movement.
"Sorry, son, I know it hurts but you need to be very still for me." Boot off and sticks in place, Carson set about improvising the necessary straps. He sighed. There was nothing for it. Sliding Ronon's knife out of its sheath, the doctor sliced the sleeves off his favorite T-shirt and cut them into strips. He tied the sticks to the broken limb and tied a hitch around the ankle. "All right, lad, this is the hard part. Ready?"
Ronon was breathing through his teeth, his face a mask of fierce determination. He nodded. "Do it, Doc."
Beckett pulled steadily on the ankle strap with one hand, using his other to monitor the break. When he felt the ends of the bones slip into alignment, he tied the strap to the long end of the stick. He sat back and observed his makeshift traction splint with satisfaction. "It'll do," he declared. "How are you holding up?"
Ronon's face was pale beneath smudges of dirt and a sheen of perspiration. "M'okay," he muttered. He let out a shaky breath and wiped his forehead with the back of his wrist. "Okay," he repeated, sounding a bit more convincing the second time around. His dark eyes turned to Beckett. "How's your head? Your eyes look weird."
Carson raised an unsteady hand and gently probed his scalp. "Ach, I've a lump the size o' Rodney's ego, and a headache to match, but I'll live." Something swam into his vision and he crawled into a dim corner of the cellar. A black nylon strap was protruding from a mass of broken clay jars and pickled preserves. He snagged it and pulled his pack loose. "Bloody hell," he moaned as he made his way back to Ronon's side. Fumbling with the closures, he opened the bag and emptied its contents on the floor. "I'm sorry, lad," he said as he found a pre-loaded syringe of morphine and injected it into Ronon's uninjured thigh. "If my brains weren't so rattled, I'd have looked for this earlier and gotten you some pain relief before setting that leg."
"S'okay," the Satedan said, "I've had worse."
"I'm very sorry to hear that." Carson shook out three Tylenol and swallowed them dry. With his head injury, he didn't dare take anything stronger, much to his regret. Slumping against the wall, he closed his eyes and tried not to think about the nauseating pounding in his skull.
"Your leg's bleeding."
Beckett forced his eyelids up. There was a large rent in the side of his trousers, just below his hip. He gave the shallow laceration a cursory glance and closed his eyes again. "It's nothing. Just a scratch."
He could hear Ronon sifting through the medical supplies, then the sound of paper tearing. "Even a scratch can get infected," the warrior recited. Beckett's grin at having his words quoted back to him quickly morphed into a grimace as he felt the cold sting of antiseptic against the cut. Fabric ripped as Ronon widened the tear for better access to the injury. The Satedan paused in his ministrations. "Interesting scars."
"I was in an accident some years ago, an auto crash."
Ronon made a noncommittal sound and covered the scratch with a bandage. "It's quiet up there. Wraith are probably gone."
"I'll check, give me a minute, Mum."
Carson opened his eyes and looked around, momentarily bewildered at not finding himself in the canning kitchen back home. "Where am I?"
There was no disguising the concern in Ronon's face. "Doc?"
"Beetroot… " Beckett scrubbed at his face with a heavy hand. "Why does it smell like pickles in here?"
"You asked that already. The Wraith attacked, remember? We fell in the –"
"—Root cellar, aye, I remember now. Sorry, lad. My head's achin' somethin' fierce."
"Stay with me, Doc. Think you can make it up the stairs to take a look around?"
"Aye." Carson twisted his body until he was on hands and knees, then began a slow crawl towards the debris-covered stairs.
Pausing, the doctor glanced over his shoulder. "Yeah?"
Pain and worry creased the Satedan's face, but his eyes were twinkling. "Do I really remind you of your mother?"
Carson grinned in spite of himself. "Oh, you're not nearly as scary."