Disclaimer: I don't own them. You know that, I know that, and I'm certain MGM/Paramount knows that.
Characters: All. And I do mean all.
Spoilers: Straight through season 4. If you haven't seen Sunday, do NOT read this story. Genre/Rating: Gen/T (Mostly due to swearing. Believe me, you'd curse, too, if you suddenly... well, you'll see. :-)
Description: Remember when you were a kid and everyone on Sesame Street was convinced that Big Bird had completely made up Mr. Snuffleupagus because they never saw him and couldn't believe he was real? Yeah, well McKay learns what that feels like.
Everyone thinks McKay's gone nuts because he's seeing Carson. You know, the Carson who was blown to bits. My take on how to bring back Beckett. McKay whumpage, physical and emotional. Multiple chapters, so keep coming back!
A/N: I don't have a beta. . . any volunteers? Pay is lousy (nothing), but the hours are good (whenever) and you get all the bad dialogue, characterization errors, and spelling mistakes you can eat.
McKay should have known better.
The device was shiny, sure. Smooth. Sleek. Intriguingly shaped, a lot like a small football with little divots at either end.
But still, he never should have touched it.
He'd been exploring the west wing of Atlantis with Sheppard, Zelenka and Ronon, cataloging some of the rooms they hadn't had a chance to get to, what with the Wraith, the Replicators, the Genii, Carson's death, flying the city to a new planet, Weir's capture, that strange crystal plant that made evil dream Sheppard, the mass memory loss….
"I'm guessing an Ancient barbershop," Sheppard announced, cradling his P-90 while Ronon covered the door and McKay and Zelenka explored the room. "Or maybe a bowling alley."
McKay held up his scanner to check for energy sources. "You said that about the last room."
Sheppard rocked back on his heals, raised an eyebrow. "So they had two bowling alleys."
"Or this one's a tavern," Ronon suggested from the door.
Zelenka, who had crawled behind a console, popped his head up. "Oh, that would be good."
"I'd settle for a Zed-PM factory," McKay said. His scanner spiked and he followed the reading across the room. "Or a really good coffee shop."
"Nah, we aren't that lucky," Sheppard said. "More like an Ancient laundromat."
"Horse stable," Zelenka said.
"Broom closet," Ronon said.
"Waste reclamation — Ooh, hello." At the far corner of the room, McKay reached the source of the EMF spike. A single piece of tech sat on workbench. "I'm getting some low-grade power readings here."
Within seconds, Sheppard, Zelenka and Ronon were looking over his shoulder.
"Shiny," Sheppard observed. "What is it?"
McKay rolled his eyes. "Well why don't I just use my hidden psychic powers to glean the —"
"Let me rephrase the question," Sheppard said. "Zelenka, what is it?"
"I don't know, Colonel," Zelenka said, surprised. "We'll have to analyze it in the lab."
"Thank you," Sheppard said with a saccharine grin. "See, Rodney, that's how you answer a question without being snide."
"Oh, like you weren't asking for it. 'Ooh, shiny. What is it?'" McKay mocked.
And that's when — completely forgetting that his fake Ancient gene actually did work sometimes, forgetting that shiny things were also often dangerous things in Atlantis, forgetting that his luck generally came in one form (bad) — McKay picked up the device.
It turned on with a click and a hum. He had just enough time to think "Bad! Bad thing!" but not enough time to actually drop it and run. An energy burst blew him against the wall.
The world slowed.
Sheppard and Ronan lunged toward him. Zelenka yelled. The trio dropped to the ground. A second power burst from the device, and then a blue energy wave was rippling through him, his friends, the walls, the city.
Pinned against the wall, McKay felt the device thrum through his body, vibrating his blood, his bones, his cells faster, faster, faster, until he was sure he was being torn apart.
His hearing came back first, fading in and out like car radio trying to catch a signal.
". . . completely knocked out . . ."
" . . . lucky he didn't. . . ."
" . . . given him . . . ."
"Dr. McKay. Can you hear me? Open your eyes for me."
He cracked his eyes open, catching slits of light, blurry movement. He blinked, focused.
Dr. Keller smiled down at him.
"Hello," she said.
Instantly, he took inventory: two arms, two legs, one pounding headache. He was hooked to a monitor and a pair of IV bags. He felt sore, exhausted and generally like he'd been hit by a bus.
In other words, a normal day at the office.
"How long?" McKay asked, his voice hoarse. He cleared his throat and tried again. "How long was I out?"
"Barely four hours," someone said to his left. McKay turned his head slowly, trying not to anger his headache. Sheppard and Ronon stood beside his bed.
"Hardly enough downtime to make it worth electrocuting yourself," Sheppard said. "Welcome back."
"Electrocuted?" Well, that explained the hit-by-a-bus feeling.
Keller shook her head. "We're not sure what happened. That thing you found definitely hit you with some sort of power, but it wasn't nearly as damaging as electricity."
"So you weren't fried," Sheppard said.
"Maybe sautéed," Ronon said.
And by their matching grins, McKay knew they'd been waiting for four hours to say that.
"Ha ha," he said sarcastically.
Dammit if their grins didn't get bigger.
"By the way, Zelenka took the device back to the lab," Sheppard said. "Said he was going to —"
But even as McKay tried to focus on Sheppard's words, he felt himself slipping away again. He blinked slowly once, twice, and when he opened his eyes again Keller was speaking quietly to Sheppard and Ronan at the foot of his bed.
"He'll be fine," she was saying. "No major injuries. No brain damage. He'll be restricted to light duty for a few days, but I'll release him tomorrow. Right now he just needs sleep."
Sleep. Sleep sounded good.
And he drifted off.
A tug on his IV line woke him.
McKay opened his eyes slightly, torn between sleep and curiosity. The infirmary lights were dim. He watched Beckett slip the IV needle out of his arm.
Closing his eyes again, McKay drifted for a moment.
He never had to worry when Carson Beckett was doing the IV. The Scot was always easy, careful. He missed that about his friend and doctor. Part of a long list of things he missed about. . . .
McKay's eyes snapped open.
Beckett was putting a small band-aid on his arm.
"Carson?" It came out so softly, McKay wasn't even sure he'd spoken until Beckett nodded.
"Aye, Rodney. Sorry to wake you."
McKay swallowed hard, cleared his throat. Couldn't be. "Carson?"
"Your drip was finished. I thought you'd be more comfortable with the line out." Beckett shifted the IV pole to the corner and continued in a whisper, "Go back to sleep."
And then Beckett patted his arm, his hand warm against McKay's cool skin. It was a simple gesture, one Beckett had made a hundred times before, a thousand. When he was alive!
Beckett jumped, startled. "Bloody hell, Rodney. What is it?"
Everything in McKay wailed "not possible!" and he scrambled back over the far edge of the bed, snapping the leads that connected him to the monitor. He crashed into a medical supply cart tucked beside his bed and stumbled, landing hard on the upturned cart and its contents.
"Jesus!" Beckett rounded the end of the bed and reached toward him.
But McKay twisted back out of his reach, dislodging some of the boxes of bandages and tape he was sitting on. His breath hitched in his throat.
"Your're — you're — "
Beckett's eyebrows knitted in concern. He held up his hands, placating. "It's all right, calm down. What's wrong?"
McKay stammered and sputtered, unable to catch his breath. "You're dead." Gasp. "Dead!"
McKay's brain automatically clicked through the possibilities. He was dead, dreaming, hallucinating, trapped in an alternate universe, suffering from an aneurysm, going crazy . . . .
Crap! He could figure this out. If only. He could. Breathe.
"Rodney, lad," Beckett crouched slowly in front of him, hands out, palms up, as if trying to coax a wary dog. "You're hyperventilating. You need to calm down. I'm fine. See? You're just waking from a bad dream."
McKay shook his head fiercely and winced as his earlier headache kicked up with a vengeance. "Not a dream." Gasp.
McKay couldn't stand to see Beckett watching him. He squeezed his eyes shut.
This couldn't really be happening. He'd carried Carson's coffin through the Stargate himself. He watched as he was buried. His best friend was gone. Gone.
When he opened his eyes, Beckett was returning from the back room with a paper bag.
"Here," Beckett offered. When McKay flinched away, he left the bag within reach and backed off. "Breathe into it. Slow, deep breaths."
McKay picked up the bag, covered his nose and mouth and tried breathing normally. But Beckett crouched in front of him again, eye level, and all he could think was dead, dead, dead, and his breath punctuated each word with a gasp.
He squeezed his eyes shut again.
"Rodney." Beckett's voice was low, calm. "Stay with me, lad. Everything's fine. Just breath to my words, okay? Nice and easy now. In . . . and out . . . in . . . and out . . . ."
And for a moment, McKay's chest unclenched, his breathing slowed.
Then he opened his eyes and Beckett smiled at him and all he could think about was burying his best friend all over again.
McKay was trembling, his breath coming in quick hiccups. He was going to pass out.
"Dammit," Beckett said. Apparently he knew it too.
McKay tossed the bag away. Eyes wide, he leaned his head back against the wall, almost panting in desperation to get air. "Not . . . working."
"All right. Okay." Beckett moved from McKay's sight, and for a wild moment he wondered if his hallucination — or whatever he was — had left him to pass out atop a mini mountain of medical supplies. The thought didn't help.
Beckett returned a moment later with a swab and a syringe.
"Rodney, I'm going to give you something to help you calm down. Okay?"
McKay edged back, pressing himself against the cold wall. He wanted to say no, to tell the hallucination to stay the hell away, but he couldn't get any words out anymore, and then Beckett was beside him, murmuring something, his movements slow, deliberate. Designed, McKay figured, not to spook small children or mentally unstable scientists.
McKay turned away. He just couldn't look into the eyes of his dead best friend.
He didn't feel the needle go in — like he remembered, Beckett was that good — but warmth suddenly spread through his veins and the floaty feeling followed a second later. McKay didn't particularly care about his breathing anymore, but heard Beckett sigh with relief.
"Aye, that's better."
Hallucination Beckett — that was a good name for him, McKay thought, like Space Ranger GI Joe or Malibu Barbie — grasped his arm and helped him up. McKay didn't care about pulling away anymore, either.
Settling him on the bed, Beckett pressed the inside of McKay's wrist and cursed softly. "Your heart's still racing. That must've been one hell of a nightmare."
McKay shook his head, the headache moving like a wave inside his skull. "I'm telling you, s'not a dream. You're dead. You're really dead." And then, because Hallucination Beckett was frowning at him and 'You're dead' suddenly seemed like a rude declaration, McKay added, "I'm sorry."
Beckett took a deep breath and blew out the air in exasperation. "Your chart didn't say you'd hit your head that hard."
"My chart?" McKay was enjoying the floaty feeling, but he had the vague sense that he and Hallucination Beckett weren't quite on the same page with things.
"Aye, Dr. Biro took care of you after your accident this morning. Do you remember that? I just got back from Scotland, heard you were in the infirmary and came to check on you."
For the first time, McKay realized Hallucination Beckett was dressed in civilian clothes — jeans, a black sweater. He noticed a black duffel bag had been tossed on the chair across from his bed. So his addled brain had not only conjured his dead best friend but also sent him on vacation. Huh.
Beckett touched McKay's shoulder to get him to turn his head. "Here, Rodney, look at me for a second."
A penlight flashed McKay's eyes before he had a chance to protest, the stab of pain clearing the haze for a moment. When the light retreated, he found himself looking right at Beckett's face.
It was completely, incomprehensibly impossible.
The sob came out of nowhere, catching in McKay's throat. He saw Beckett tense, ready for another round of Rodney-can't-breath. Then the tears came and Beckett softened.
"Hey, what's this about now?"
"We've all missed you," McKay said.
"Oh, Rodney," Beckett said, reaching to retrieve a box of tissues from the bedside table. "I swear to you, it was just a dream."
McKay sniffed and accepted a tissue, embarrassed but also not embarrassed because whether he was crazy or dreaming or hallucinating, this was all in his head and why not tell Beckett what he'd been wanting to tell him? "It's just not the same here without you."
Beckett's eyes danced with amusement. "In your dream Atlantis fell apart without me, huh?"
McKay sniffed again, waved vaguely. "Aw, Keller's all right. Kind of young. She's just not. . . not. . . ." He yawned. "You."
"Dr. Keller?" Beckett asked, frowning again.
McKay nodded absently and closed his eyes. "I'm sorry I didn't go fishing with you, Carson. I would have, you know. If I'd known."
Beckett chuckled softly. "That's okay. Sleep now. I'm not going anywhere. Everything will look better in the morning."
"Yeah," McKay said, drifting off to sleep again, "I doubt that."
When Keller woke him the next morning, McKay was torn between abject relief and utter disappointment.
So Beckett's appearance had been a dream. McKay had been nearly electrocuted by an Ancient device, after all. Certainly possible to get a nightmare or two out of that. Or maybe it was a hallucination, a side effect of whatever drugs Keller had given him.
Either way, all in his head.
"Uh, so, Dr. Keller," McKay started as she checked his vitals. But then he didn't know how to finish the sentence. He had the feeling Seen Carson around lately? would land him in the middle of various unpleasant medical tests, as well as several sessions with whatever shrink the SGC could round up the fastest.
"Yes?" Keller was looking at him, waiting for him to finish what he was saying.
"Um, yes, well, never mind," he said. "My tests all good?"
She unwrapped the blood pressure cuff from his arm. "You're good to go. Light duty for the rest of the week, no going offworld, and check in with me once a day. You'll be pretty sore for a while, but if you feel any unusual pain or get a sudden headache, blurred vision —"
"You'll be the first one I call."
She smiled. "I know."
Keller left him to get dressed.
He quickly realized she wasn't kidding about being sore. It took him a full five minutes to pull on his pants, almost as long to ease his t-shirt over his head.
When it came time for his shoes, McKay sat on the middle of the bed and gingerly pulled them on, pausing for a break before going through the ordeal of tying the laces. That's when he noticed the small band-aid on his right arm, just where the IV had been yesterday.
Funny, Keller didn't use band-aids. She preferred gauze and tape.
Carson used to use band-aids.
His gaze slid to his left arm. A puncture mark stood out stark against his pale skin.
Right where Hallucination Beckett had sedated him.