Title: The Kindling
Summary: Carson lends some words to John's needy ears. Season 5.
Characters: John, Carson & Teyla
He fiddled with the hair at his temple, closing his eyes as he surrendered momentarily to the exhaustion ravaging his body. He'd had a long day with three back to back missions in search of a new ZPM that would let Rodney whatever it was he wanted to do with it. Added to that, he'd only had about five hours sleep the night before because of the stifling heat billowing in the open window and the air conditioning that had broken down in his room.
He was sure Rodney had done it on purpose because John had stolen his last bar of Galaxy chocolate.
John looked up when a shadow fell over him and he smiled up at her as she stood with a full tray of food. He indicated the seat across from him and she sat tentatively on the edge of the seat, ready for flight.
"Not staying?" He asked as he thrust his spoon into his blue jelly but didn't eat it. She shook her head.
"Toren has not been sleeping well; he is teething and grumpy." John nodded in understanding. "I cannot stay."
"It's okay," he said with a tired smile and when he looked up to her eyes, she seemed to be looking at something he could see, eyes fixed on a point somewhere between her seat and the sea below. "You all right? You're a million miles away."
She turned to him with a ready smile and John frowned. She looked tired, probably more so than he knew he did. She ducked her head slightly and her smile disappeared, deepening John's concern.
"Not so far," she said quietly and John tried to think of something to say but came up blank. Things between them hadn't been the same since they'd rescued her from Michael. She had grown distant and he spent less time with her than he knew he should; he rarely saw Toren John and John knew it was wrong to not see his name-sake. He sighed slightly when she rose but didn't protest. "I should be going," she murmured and lifted her tray. "Good night, John."
John waved slightly and she smiled tightly before turning on her heel and leaving the mess hall. He watched her leave with a frown on his brow and sat back in his chair, wondering just when things had gotten so bad.
"You all right, lad?"
John looked up at Carson startled and Carson smiled down at him.
"Have a seat, doc," John said and indicated the seat Teyla had only moments before vacated.
"I really wish people would stop calling me that," Carson said lightly as he mixed the gravy into his mashed potatoes. John looked at him questioningly and Carson only smiled. "I'm not the doctor here anymore."
"Sorry. Habit, I guess."
"It's all right. I understand, I suppose. It's just strange." John imagined it would be but he didn't say anything. He'd tried to offer words of consolation to Carson when they'd removed him from the status chamber but the Scot had promptly told him not to embarrass either of them and that while he was grateful for the sentiments, he didn't want to continually be reminded he wasn't the real Carson Beckett. "You and Teyla haven't been getting on all that well, have you?"
John looked up at the observation but Carson was tucking into something that resembled roast beef, delightfully spooning thick dollops of gravied mashed potato into his mouth. John smiled; it had been a while since he'd enjoyed food as much as Carson obviously was.
"We get on fine," John lied convincingly but Carson simply graced him with a raised eyebrow.
"She told me herself you two haven't been talking so much and from what I just saw, I can tell it's not gotten any better, has it?"
John stared at the Scot for a long moment, trying to figure out something to say to contradict him. Instead, he sighed and dropped his spoon into the glass.
"I don't know what's wrong." Carson smiled sympathetically and John growled slightly as he shook his head. "Don't look at me like that."
"Sorry, Colonel." John shook his head slightly and sighed again, running his hand across the back of his neck, trying to ease some of the tension there. "I'll tell you what I think," Carson said after a long minute. John looked back up to the blue eyes of his friend and saw the serious look there, the folded hands on the worktop and John wondered – not for the first time – how anyone could say this wasn't the real Carson Beckett. "I think you're not used to sharing her." John made to speak but Carson held up a silencing hand. "Hear me out." John nodded reluctantly and leaned back in his chair. "You've always had Teyla to yourself and even when she went to visit her people, she always came back." John waited a moment, thinking it over before nodding. "And now she has a son and you – and not just you but Ronon and Rodney, too – you feel like you shouldn't intrude on her time with her son but I'll tell you this; you're isolating her, making her feel like you don't want her-"
"And when she goes to visit her people," Carson continued stubbornly and John glared at him through his frown, "you're scared she won't come back because she has something else tying her to them."
John sat forward and dropped his elbows onto the table and gripped his head in his hands. It was true. Every time she stepped through the Stargate to visit her people – sometimes staying for two weeks – John thought she wouldn't come back. She hadn't made her decision on whether she wanted to stay on the team yet and it scared him. But having someone point it out to him...
"I know this because you've all been doing it to me."
"What did I tell you?" Carson inquired lightly but there was an edge to his tone. "The only difference is, Teyla can return to her people. My family think I'm dead." John closed his eyes and bit his lip; now would be the perfect time to say something comforting but the words escaped him. "Out of all of her friends, it's the clone of someone she thought dead who she confides in." John winced. "And do you know why?" John looked at Carson's face and noted the anger there. He'd never seen Carson like that before. He shook his head. "Because I'm the only one who will talk to her about anything that matters."
"I don't... I don't know what to say."
Carson gave him a long lingering look but shook his head.
"You don't have to say anything; just listen to her when she wants to talk." Carson pushed at the food on his plate before pushing it away. "But it's not just you."
John thought about it; Ronon and Teyla were best friends and he'd always just assumed she was talking to him but if what Carson was saying was true, even Ronon had been 'giving her space'. It stood to reason she'd need someone to talk to after what had happened and John wanted to kick himself in the ass for thinking someone else would do it for him. And Carson... John looked up to the sad eyes of the Scot and winced. He'd spent some time with Carson but nowhere near enough and he knew that the reality had finally sank into Rodney and he'd been dealing with it in his own special way; by avoiding the issue completely. And that meant avoiding Carson, too.
John sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face.
"She's thinking of leaving Atlantis." John looked up at that, startled. "And I know how much you don't want that." John nodded slightly in confirmation and Carson smiled. "Get some sleep Colonel," he said lightly. "You look like hell."
John laughed at that and rose from his seat. He paused and looked down at Carson who was collecting his own plate.
Carson looked up and smiled. "Aye, son?"
John hesitated a moment before nodding slightly.
Carson only smiled and as John walked away, he resolved to try harder – for both of them.
In the morning, he'll ask Teyla to spar and if she wanted to talk, he would listen.
And at some point, when the memory of their conversation faded slightly, John would take Carson fishing.
But first, he would sleep.