Title: The Kindling, part 6
Summary: Winter had finally released its cold harsh grip on Atlantis, the long icy nights melting into spring time warmth and sunshine.
Characters: Carson, Lorne, Teyla, Torren, Sheppard, Rodney & Ronon
Pairing: Teyla-Carson, Teyla/John, Carson-Lorne
Rating: K+

Notes: For YappiChick's birthday – happy birthday honey!
Notes2.0: Also, there is no slash or pre-slash, just close friendship.

Winter had finally released its cold harsh grip on Atlantis, the long icy nights melting into spring time warmth and sunshine. As Carson watched, the piers of the city burst into life, people rediscovering the beauty of the sunlight on the city. Throngs of people moved along open air balconies, stopping for a moment to forget their duties and revel in the fresh air that warmed their faces, tablets and weapons hanging loosely in their arms for a few moments of unbridled ecstasy. On the far end of the pier, the green patch of grass that the botany lab had planted the year before was lush and thick, a few dots of yellow and orange and purple blowing freely in the wind.

Carson breathed in deeply, revelling in the refreshing breath that filled his lungs. They had all spent too long cooped up in the city, the artificial warmth keeping the frost at bay. For those who were not on active team, the breaking of the winter chill had been long awaited. The sky had cleared of its thick clouds, the threat of frost and the sapphire sky glowed brightly, the white heat of the sun finally touching cold fingers.

It had been a long time since he'd enjoyed spring time this much. When he'd been a boy, the moors had come alive with lamb and the surrounding farms had bustled with activity as the cattle calved and chicks hatched, as the young tendrils of new heather poked through the mossy overgrowth. His teenage years in the city had lessened spring times beauty, the flowers planted artificially, the calves and chicks he saw were on the front of spring time cards and in the newspapers. Spring time in his adult years had passed by like all the others; he bustling from hospital to hospital, shift after shift stopping only to revel in the feel of food in his stomach.

It was his new found idleness that had him transplanted to the balconies, overseeing the growth of warmth and life and although it often left him pining for the rolling moors of his home, of the comfort of his family, he didn't really mind.

People came and went, nodding to him, smiling and sometimes stopping to exchange a few pleasantries. He enjoyed their company, the way they broke his day up and he never asked them to leave, or keep walking, but their duty called and Carson was left to his watching once more.

"Hey, Carson."

Carson blinked once and turned his head lazily to the young Major and smiled on his direction.

"Evan," he replied, noting the uniform the soldier wore, the P-90 machine gun strapped to his tactical vest. "Couldn't resist?" He asked and Lorne shook his head.

"Winter here lasts too long," he said jovially and Carson nodded, turning back to the view before him. Lorne settled against the railing in front and to the side of Carson's deck chair, and Carson could see the young man close his eyes and breathe in deeply. Carson felt a strange pang in his chest at that and he trained his vision back on the hazy horizon. "Looks like half the city is out here," Lorne 

commented some time later and Carson opened his eyes to look down onto the pier below him. Indeed, the pier was much busier than it had been a few hours before and Carson could see three figures moving about on the plane of grass at the end of the pier. "The Colonel, too."

"They've been out there for hours," Carson replied and he could see Lorne's mouth twist into a smirk and he lowered his eyes and fingered the edge of his vest. In the distance, an oblong shaped ball moved in a lazy arc across the air and a tiny figure chased after it, a larger one following close behind. "It's good that Torren can get out now the weather's better."

Lorne nodded.

"It's good for us all." He turned back to Carson and leaned his elbows against the railing for support. "How long have you been out here?" He asked suddenly and Carson raised his eyebrows slightly, noting a tingling in his forehead as he did so.

"Since this morning, why?"

Lorne smiled lightly and lowered his eyes.

"You're sunburned."

Carson reached up and stroked his face, feeling the heat radiate into his fingers. He grimaced lightly but shrugged and settled back in his chair, shifting his sunglasses.

"Hopefully it'll tan," he said quietly and Lorne puffed out a small laugh. "Either that or I'll go and nab some of Rodney's sun block."

Lorne laughed again and Carson cracked an eye open to peer at him questioningly.

"I walked by his lab on the way out here; he's complaining already about the radiation from the sun." Both men rolled their eyes. Silence descended between them and Carson could sense the tension that the Major was trying to stall but he didn't think to break it. He was relaxed and happy; the first time in over a year and he was in no rush to erase the feeling. "It's a shame they couldn't schedule you to be here for the whole summer; you'll miss a good fall."

Carson sighed loudly and sat forward, propping his cheek on his upturned palms and stared past the Major to the two figures chasing one another across the grass, the third sitting back lazily watching them.

"At least I'm here for the spring and the first half, eh?" Lorne nodded, albeit tersely and glanced away from Carson's face. "Besides," Carson said as he leaned back in his chair, "it's not as if there's many tress to watch turn and that way, I'll miss Rodney complaining about the humidity as well."

Lorne smiled and let out another airy laugh and Carson smiled.

Since Carson's return from Michael's clutches and the discovery that he was a clone and while his old friends had struggled to maintain their amiability with him, he and Lorne had struck up a surprise friendship. Although friends before, Carson and Lorne spent a lot more time together than they had before, sharing anecdotes of youth and missions, ailments and flirtations with alien women. And Carson was glad because, while his friendships with the others had returned to quasi-normality (not like they had been normal in the first place), he felt that defining himself again as Carson instead of 

Doctor Beckett was easier with the people he hadn't been as close to as the ones he had. Lorne had accepted him quickly, as had Teyla and Carter and even Woolsey, and it had made his transition easier.

It also helped him define himself from the other Carson – the original.

His 'new' friends didn't call him "doc", or catch themselves when they talked about events the 'other' Carson had experienced, or give him the look of sympathy, of longing. They accepted him for who he was and not who he had been.

His time held captive by Michael had changed him; the others sometimes failed to see that.

It was good for him. To not be best friends with Rodney, to not have to patch up the team members who came back from mission, bloodied and battered, torn and broken.

"When you put it like that, being cooped up on the Daedalus for three months at a time has its upsides." Carson could practically hear Lorne's smile in his tone.

And that was the other thing; the others had questioned and pestered him to explain why he hadn't taken up the permanent research position in Atlantis, why he had chosen to live part time on the Daedalus as their medical consult, why he chose to return to Earth and work for the SGC every few months. Why he had chosen to leave them behind.

They didn't understand that he had to. He had to get away because the looks they exchanged, the forced cheer when the anniversary of that Sunday rolled around. He'd made sure he wasn't here this year for that particular date.

It also meant he got to go home every now and again. He may not be able to go and see his mother – he'd made that choice and he'd stuck by it, no matter how difficult it was – but Earth was Earth and it was still home. He'd even made it to a few Scotland football matches – one in France, a Croatian friendly and, if things worked out well, he'd be seeing them qualify for the World Cup.

The others didn't get that.

Teyla and Lorne did.

"You know," Lorne said and Carson focussed back on him, blinking the thoughts away. "It's Torren I feel sorry for," he said as he watched the toddler chase after the rugby ball again, the corner of his lips turning up as he watched Sheppard chase after him.

Carson smiled through his frown and quirked an eyebrow.

"And why is that?"

Lorne turned to him and quirked his own eyebrow and Carson's smile grew.

"He has us lot raising him; Sheppard's down there playing football with him but you're telling him the sport is named after a different sports and that football is more like rugby." Carson laughed lightly and nodded. "And then Rodney is teaching him about quarks and the boy can hardly speak, while Ronon is trying to teach him how to fight, the marines are teaching him how to hide while Teyla is trying to keep him spiritual and grounded."

Carson smiled again and looked down to the three blobs as the two plopped down next to the third and he could imagine the laughs. He was glad Sheppard had finally accepted Torren and re-accepted Teyla for who she was. He had been one of the first to accept Carson back.

"He'll love it, I'm sure. Either that or Teyla will be quick to tell us to back off," Carson told him as he smiled shifting in the seat again.

He chose to ignore the knowing smirk on Lorne's face as he murmured,

"She'll tell some of us to back off first."

Carson frowned at him, crinkling the corner of his eyes and Lorne simply shrugged innocently and lifted his hands, palms up, quirking a grin at him.

"I'm choosing to ignore that statement, Major," he said as he closed his eyes.

"You were there for her when some of us weren't." Carson felt something in his chest tighten at the memory of long nights of conversation, her wavering voice as she told him of her insecurity in Atlantis, her feelings of loneliness as her team froze her out. "That means something; that's all I'm saying." Carson opened his eyes and looked down to the grass mount and watched as a tall, dread locked figure made its way towards them. "I'd better get back to work."

Carson waved him off as the Major re-entered the city, watched as he addressed an approaching group of young officers. As the Major faded into the city, Carson stood and folded his chair, tucking it under his arm and moved through the city.

As he walked along the pier, the sun warm on his back, he could see four figures lounging on the grass, a smaller one running around their feet. He smiled. They were his friends, he couldn't change that and he had made a promise to spend more time with him when he was there.

Sitting alone on a balcony did not constitute that.

The smaller figure thumped into his legs and he dropped the deck chair, and scooped the toddler up into his arms, laughing as Torren cuddled into his chest, garbling on and on at one hundred miles an hour.

The others sat up and greeted him, warm smiles stretching across their faces. Teyla stood and moved to him, touching his upper arm as she stroked Torren's head.

"I wondered how long you would sit up there," she said as Torren wiggled to get down. He ran straight to John who groaned and rolled over, tackling Torren to the ground. "It is a good day," she said as she sat back down and Carson settled next to her, smiling as she reached over and tickled Sheppard in the way he was tickling her son.

He sighed and leaned back, folding his hands behind his head, letting the unfiltered warmth wash over him.

He'd missed them, while he'd been gone. His absence made him appreciate them even more.

Something heavy landed on his stomach and he opened his eyes, eyeing the bottle of sun block on his chest. He turned to Rodney, an amused glare making its way across his face.

"Can't have you getting any more burned than you already are."

As he flipped open the bottle he sighed again, shaking his head as Rodney grumbled about the overhead sun.

Maybe he missed some more than others, he thought as Ronon retaliated with a splash of water from his bottle.

This was Atlantis, this was his family.

This was home.