After finishing Among the Dead, I decided to write something short and not dark. Thanks to Kodiak for the quick beta. :)
Carson was half- asleep when he heard the door chime. Pulling his covers closer to him, he closed his eyes, determined to ignore it. The chime came again, followed by a loud, pounding knock. Groaning, Carson shuffled out of bed, keeping the blanket wrapped around him. Kneeling to the floor, he grabbed a discarded shirt, but didn't put it on.
"What do you want?" Carson asked, his tone harsh. He sniffled loudly, blowing his nose on the old, stained shirt.
Rodney, chin in the air, and completely oblivious to Carson's need for him to go away, took this as an invitation to enter. "I have a stomachache. Just lost half of my lunch, anyway, and I was worried maybe I had what you had. What do you think?"
Carson stared incredulously at the intruder. "This isn't the infirmary, Rodney. I'm sure Dr. Biro would be more than happy to--"
"Right. We both know I'm not going to let anyone but you practice any of your mystical medicinal practices on me. So go on, tell me, am I going to die?"
Carson, frustrated as he was, couldn't help but examine Rodney in a quick glance. The scientist didn't even look tired, much less sick. "Go away."
"Nope, sorry, I can't do that. Fact is that as long as you're skiving off from your infirmary duties, I have to bug you here. Sorry, but that's just the way it's got to be."
Carson moaned, his own sneeze interrupting him. He knew Rodney was obtuse, but this was ridiculous. He eyed his bed with longing and actually considered having the Marines throw his unwanted visitor out, when he realized something. Rodney talked as much with his hands as his voice, and yet his arms had stayed behind his back the entire time. Shifting slightly, Carson tried to catch a glance of whatever he was hiding.
Rodney, noticing this, backed away. "You're heartless, Carson, you know that? I could be dying and all you care about is yourself. Please, you only have the sniffles. And a fever… Is your skin normally that color?"
As he talked, he moved toward one of the counters, bringing whatever was behind his back in front of him. Dishes clanged together exacerbating Carson's headache.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"Making myself at home. Sounds like I'll be here for a while."
"Oh no you won't be. Do the words sleep mean anything to you?"
A strange scent filled the room. Carson tried to sniff, but his nose was too plugged. Nevertheless, some of the chicken aroma had gotten through. Before Carson could process this, Rodney held up a steaming bowl of soup with a spoon in it.
"I happened to stop by the mess hall on the way here and Elizabeth insisted I have some of her homemade soup. Of course, I wasn't interested. Since I'm here, I suppose you should have some. So come on already." He motioned to one of the chairs. "Eat."
Rodney set the bowl in front of Carson. Carson smiled. It had been a while since anyone had taken care of him. The soup, however, looked anything but appetizing. "I appreciate what you're doing, but I'm not hungry, and if it's all the same to you, I'd rather sleep." He was so tired, it was taking all of his energy just to stay awake. When he closed his eyes he saw dancing lights beckoning him toward the dream world.
"Food first, then sleep. Try to fight me on this, and I'll bring in Ronon. He's not as nice as I am."
With no other choices to be made, Carson reluctantly took a seat and brought the spoon to his lips. It took a few blows before the soup was cool enough to eat. After only two bites, he fell back against his chair, exhausted.
"Keep eating," Rodney ordered. He strode to the other side of the room and began placing scattered laundry in a nearby basket. He then grabbed a blanket and leveled it against the now clear floor.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"Well I have to sleep somewhere, don't I?"
"These are my quarters! Why would you sleep here?"
Rodney left his chore to take a seat by Carson. "Listen, I understand you not wanting to be in the infirmary, and I know you hate stuff like this, but you need someone to take care of you. Either I stay here or Biro drags your butt down there. Which do you prefer?"
"Aye, I get your point. Though it's just a cold. I don't see why all the fuss."
Rodney laughed, shaking his head. "Do you have any idea how many times Sheppard has told you the same thing? As have all of us for that matter."
Carson stared at the bits of chicken stock circling his broth, not wanting to have this conversation. He noted how cool it looked when the soggy carrots hit the peas. Sort of like mice running into walls.
He didn't remember closing his eyes, but he must have because he didn't see anything when he felt a hand touching his face. "Carson?" Rodney called, though his voice sounded a thousand miles away.
"Let me sleep," Carson mumbled, hitting the hand away.
"You're burning up. Did you check your temperature?"
"Fever. No big deal." Though Rodney's hand felt like ice and he felt so very tired. "Go away." He could still see the soup in his mind, but it now looked more like an abstract painting than food. The peas were smiling at him.
Something was shoved in his ear and Carson didn't object. The laughing carrots were so much more interesting anyway. There were a few beeps and then Rodney yelped about something and then started talking to someone completely different, maybe it was the carrots?
Rodney stared at the thermometer, terrified. "Dr. McKay to the infirmary."
"Carson's fever's spiked. 104.3."
"We'll be right there."
Rodney dabbed a nearby piece of laundry into his water glass then dabbed it against Carson's burning skin. This wasn't good. And what was he doing holding onto the sick man? "Oh no no no. I am not going to get this. I want absolutely no part in whatever the heck is wrong with you. I'm so doomed. You can't hear me, can you?" He looked at Carson, who, if not asleep, was at least motionless. "Of course you can't. You're sick and probably dying. Oh no, you can't…you…um…this sucks. Just, uh, hold on. They'll be here soon and everything will be good."
Dr. Biro entered with a medical team. They eased Carson onto a gurney and took off before acknowledging that Rodney had even been standing there. One nurse remained, a tall blond that Rodney secretly had a crush on. "You should probably come with us," Cindy said.
Rodney didn't hesitate. He'd planned on going anyway. On the trip to the infirmary he called Sheppard and company to let them know what was happening. Five minutes later they were all there and waiting for news.
One hour later, they were still waiting.
"Do I feel warm to you?" Rodney asked Teyla, scooting closer to her so she could feel his forehead.
"You feel normal."
"You sure? Because it's warm in here. Definitely warm, maybe even hot."
He thought of Carson, burning up somewhere. The nurses had been seen carrying cooling blankets behind the curtained area. What if Carson's brain fried?
Two hours later, Dr. Biro left the secluded section. Rodney and team stood up. "Did you really have to wait this long to tell us anything. I mean, that seems cruel, don't you think?"
"Rodney," Sheppard warned beside him.
Rodney opened his mouth to speak again, but the doctor cut him off. "We've managed to bring down the fever, but we haven't found the cause. Our only clue is that Atlantis's quarantine procedures haven't activated, so it's probably not an airborne virus. I'll let you know when we know more."
Rodney, Ronon, Teyla, and John all exchanged worried glances.
"Can we stay with him?" John asked.
Biro smiled, knowing full well the relationship Carson had with Sheppard's team. "Sure, I don't see why not."
It had only been a month since Rodney had overdosed on the enzyme. Carson had stayed by his side nonstop. Of course, Rodney hadn't been aware of it at the time, but when he had found out…well, it had meant a lot.
Watching Carson, sick and fevered, Rodney was determined to return the favor. It wouldn't be the same. For one, Carson wasn't shouting ridiculous, horrible things at him, but it was something.
Rodney grabbed a nearby magazine and began to read, until he had finished all that were available. The infirmary lights dimmed. Even his team had bid goodnight. Still, Rodney sat there, staring at his friend, holding his hand now that no one else could see the gesture.
For two days he refused to move, accepting only offers of coffee and jello.
"You're going to make yourself sick," Biro told him, but Rodney refused to listen. Carson's fever, though controlled, was still averaging 102.6 and a cause was yet to be determined. John, Teyla, and Ronon came and waited throughout the day, but Rodney alone stayed through the night. Normally, they would have done shifts, but Rodney insisted on staying and no one was going to make him leave.
Biro's patience was waning, and she now seemed as determined to kick him out as he was to stay. "I mean it. I don't need two patients. Go to your quarters. Rest."
"You can't make me."
"No, but I can." It was Ronon, backed by Teyla and John. All of them were staring at Rodney as though he were the sick one.
"Rodney, please, you cannot continue to do this," Teyla pleaded. "I am sure Carson would not want you making yourself ill."
"I said I'm fine!" he shouted louder than he had meant to. Truth was, he was feeling tired and achy, his body never meant to stay in one place for so long. Mostly he kept thinking about all the wonderful things Carson had done for him and how, if given the chance, he'd gladly take his place.
His team left at some point, leaving behind a hot bowl of soup, which Rodney couldn't bring himself to eat. Then he turned his focus back on Carson, grabbing his hand once more.
Rodney had never had a best friend before, much less five of them. He felt a terrible pain in his stomach every time one of them was ill. He'd do anything for them. Anything, especially if it would make them better. And Carson…Carson had been his first real friend.
Ronon returned an hour later. "Either eat or I carry you out of here."
Rodney didn't understand the fuss. Did they not often have late night sessions watching over one another? True, Rodney was refusing any break, but he had thought his team would understand.
On the third day, Biro explained that they were no closer to figuring things out than they were on day one. The team did not leave that night.
On the fourth day, Elizabeth and Radek had joined their vigil, though few words were spoken between any of them. Even Rodney remained silent, no longer feeling the energy to talk. It looked as though they'd really lose him…
On the sixth day, Carson's fever began to drop. Rodney was the first to see his eyes open, filled with a clarity that hadn't been there over the last week. Rodney squeezed his hand before letting go and waking the others.
"You lot haven't been sleeping in my infirmary, have you?" Carson chastised, though his voice was weak and there was no real frustration in his voice.
"And sleep on one of your backbreaking cots?" Rodney asked. "I don't think so."
Secretly, he was so relieved he felt he could jump over a thousand walls and take down a Wraith or two along the way. Where the doctors could find no cure, apparently Carson's immune system had fought the good fight and won. It made sense, really, that Carson would heal himself against all odds since he'd done it for others so many times before.
"Aye, well you've been here long enough. Go get some food in you, and don't bother coming back until you've had eight hours rest or I'll have Biro throw you out."
Rodney smiled. Even as a patient, Carson sounded like a doctor.
Rodney returned to his quarters shortly after and slept. Flashes of his stay in the infirmary, crazed and yelling, continued to haunt him. When he awoke, he found himself back at Carson's side.
Carson's eyes were closed, his breathing even. "I never got to thank you for um…you know…after the enzyme. If it weren't for you, I'd be… I should probably apologize for the things I said, but you know me, coward." He waved his hands in the air before finally pointing at himself.
"You're not a coward and there's not need to apologize."
Rodney jumped back. "Oh, you're awake."
"Oh. Um, I wasn't actually talking to you, I was…"
Carson emerged from beneath his blanket, blinking tiredly. "The important thing is that you survived the enzyme, Rodney. Anything you might have said, it doesn't matter. And you're welcome, by the way. I wasn't going to not stay by you, though, you know that."
Rodney clenched the side of his chair, his eyes downcast. "Yeah. Thanks."
"Now if you don't mind, I'd like to sleep."
"Right. I'll just be going then." He moved to leave, but Carson's hand grabbed for his arm.
"Thank you, Rodney."
"For everything. Now go away."
Rodney took his cue, leaving the infirmary feeling a little lighter. Carson was recovering and so was he. Soon all would be well.