For Jackie, who sees life as it should be,

and Ariane, who navigates the rocky shore with grace.


Sound

"You'll find that empty vessels make the most sound." J.R.

Buzz.

Buzz.

Carson Beckett woke up with a violent start and reached for the non-existent gun at his bedside before realizing that it was just the phone vibrating on the nightstand.

His eyes adjusted to the shadows, heart pounding in his ears. The world slowly readjusted itself.

He was in his apartment. There were no Wraith, no Replicators, no medical emergencies. Just a dark room with doors he had to touch to open and the dull lights of Colorado Springs traffic on the street below. He could hear the refrigerator's muffled rumblings in the kitchen.

Home. Or what was supposed to be home, at least.

Buzz.

He cursed under his breath in Gaelic and let his head drop to his hands—they'd been on earth nearly a month now, and he still acted like Wraith were beating down his door every time something unexpected woke him up. He suddenly wanted more than anything to see his Mum.

Buzz.

The Scot took a deep breath and reached for his cell, clearing his throat in preparation. The red numbers on his alarm clock read 4:34. No wonder he felt so bloody tired. He didn't recognize the number on the phone display, but that had ceased to worry him weeks ago. Since the week they'd gotten back, members of the former Atlantis expedition had started calling him at all hours of the day and night from places he'd never even heard of.

Carson was glad to take the calls—he was silently relieved to discover that his friends hadn't stopped being his friends just because they happened to be scattered all over the globe. Besides, at the moment, being there for whoever was on the other end of the line was much easier than dealing with himself.

His voice was gravelly when he answered. "H'lo?"

"Carson!" came the cheery accented voice of Radek Zelenka. The connection was bad, filled with static, and Zelenka's words echoed slightly in the earpiece. Carson winced and plugged his other ear, trying to focus.

"Hello, Radek," he said with a smile. "I'd started to wonder about yeh."

"Yes, well, I am calling from a pay phone at the University. I have only just arrived." The Czech sounded tired.

Beckett blinked in surprise. "Only just? What kind of layover did they leave yeh with in Heathrow two weeks ago?"

The scientist chuckled darkly. "Oh, I landed here on time. I am afraid that my government had...a project I needed to work on. I cannot say more over an open phone line. But I told you I'd call when I was settled in, so..."

"Aye, it seems that's happened to just about everyone," the Scot sighed. "It's good to hear from yeh. I'd been thinking about tryin' to call."

"Ano," Radek murmured. "I have been unreachable. As soon as I have a real apartment, I will call you with my number." There was a half-second pause, one that Carson had become very familiar with from many other conversations much like this one. Radek, at least, got straight to the point. "Heard from anyone?"

Of course he had; he'd turned into the post-Atlantis switchboard operator over the last month. "Aye. Fifteen of us are still hangin' about in town. Elizabeth's still here as well. I've managed to get a hold of another dozen or so besides. Mostly the science folk; our military have gotten scattered all over the bloody planet in places that aren't supposed to exist. Most everyone I've spoken to is settlin' in."

Most everyone. That was probably generous, but the last thing Radek needed was more to worry about. Especially when he was stuck halfway around the world and couldn't do anything about it.

Beckett took a moment to catch his breath before continuing with what he knew Radek really wanted to hear. "They've given Rodney his own lab down in Nevada. John or I talk to him most every day; he's coming up this weekend for a visit."

Radek gave a sigh that blended with the static. "It is good he has you. How is he?"

Carson smiled despite himself. The two scientists may have had a volatile relationship, but the Scot knew that Radek and Rodney were good friends (and even better coworkers) despite it all. "Oh, he's managing things, in his own way. Terrifying his coworkers, complainin' endlessly about you bein' shipped halfway around the world."

"I admit, working with others is not the same. I can say that I miss being on the same wavelength with someone. Not that I would ever tell him this."

"It seems we're all expected to settle for less," Carson agreed sadly. He thought of Elizabeth, sequestered in her apartment with her phone unplugged.

Despite the bad connection and the sheer distance between them, Zelenka didn't miss his friend's tone. "Carson...do you want to talk?"

He sighed heavily and ran a hand through his already messy hair. "Ach, it's nothin'. Just feelin' a wee bit lonely, I suppose. Bloody ridiculous, feeling it here, of all places." Here as in the Milky Way Galaxy instead of Pegasus. He knew Radek would get it.

"It is not the same," Radek said with soft understanding. They shared a silent moment, and then

Carson couldn't help but yawn right into the receiver.

"Prominte!" the other man cried. "Carson, I am so sorry. I did not think. It is late there, no?"

"Actually, it's ungodly early," he said with a grin. "It's alright, Radek. I'm glad you rang."

"I will let you sleep," the Czech said firmly. "I will call you at a reasonable hour when I have an address. Remind me to get Rodney's number from you. Tell the others hello for me?"

" 'Course," Carson said. "Have a good day."

"Na shledanou," Radek replied. The line cut abruptly, leaving Carson's ears ringing from the sudden lack of white noise. He wondered for just a moment, what it would be like when at last the phone stopped ringing. He supposed he'd have to get on with his own life then. It was a terrifying thought.

Carson stared bleakly at the big red numbers on his clock. It was nearly five anyway; there was no point in going to bed when he'd just have to get right back up in an hour. Besides, it was Friday—he could sleep all he wanted tomorrow before Rodney came in.

It was an odd thing, having the weekends off. He almost missed being on call around the clock.

With a heavy sigh, Beckett hoisted himself out of bed and went to start the coffee.