"You know, Rodney goes to visit him... He surprises me sometimes." - Jennifer Keller, "The Seed"

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The overhead lights automatically came on as Rodney entered the stasis room. He walked over to the chamber and, without looking at the occupant, started checking the readouts. First and most important was the power supply. The indicator light glowed bright green. He wasn't surprised, since it was tied into the ZPM. Barring any unforeseen accidents or disasters, the chamber could maintain power indefinitely... or, at the very least, for 48,000 years.

Next were the readouts representing the occupant's vital signs. Rodney grumbled under his breath. They looked okay to him, but who was he to say? He wasn't a medical doctor. "Voodoo and shamanism," he muttered, swiping angrily at his eyes. Damned dust speck. Yes, that must be it.

The last set of readouts was the most difficult for Rodney to look at. Elapsed time for the occupant. Every minute that ticked by was an agonizing reminder of how long their friend had already spent suffering at the hands of Michael, waiting for a rescue that would never come. Every minute was an accusation that they hadn't done enough to help him. Fortunately, the elapsed time was still quite brief. Although several weeks had passed on the outside, the slowed time in stasis meant that the occupant was only about an hour older.

They could still fix this. They had to.

Rodney finally took a deep breath and raised his eyes from the instrument panel. "Hi, Carson," he said softly, forcing himself to look the physician in the eyes. They were the same brilliant blue they'd always been, but they were unnaturally still now. "I... um... I'm sorry I haven't been down to see you in a few days. You know how it is. Missions, paperwork, trying to keep the morons from blowing up the city." He snorted. "Yes, yes, I know I'm not supposed to call the science staff morons. Force of habit."

Rodney tapped his chin. "Let's see, what else can I tell you... Oh, yes. Teyla's baby is doing fine. I told you that she named him partly after John, right? Hmmph. After all I did delivering him, too. I wish you could see the little guy. Teyla was...pretty damn shocked when we told her about you. I know she's really missed you." Rodney blushed a little as his voice trailed off.

"Keller's doing everything she can to find a cure for you. She thinks it may be in the information we found in Michael's database... well, I found it, really," Rodney said smugly. "Anyway, she's been a good Chief Medical Officer. I wasn't sure at first, but she turned out okay. She's not as good as you, though, so quit slacking off and get back to work, will you?" Rodney sighed unhappily. "Carson, I'm sorry I didn't go fishing with you... well, the other 'you.' Oh, hell. Cloning really screws with the pronouns."

The physicist was silent for a minute, then forced a note of cheerfulness into his voice. "The grapevine is alive and well. Sheppard supposedly had some sort of romantic dream about Teyla when he was buried in the rubble of Michael's lab. That got the Sheyla rumors going, let me tell you... Radek's switched from lusting after Elizabeth to lusting after Sam... And last but not least, I think Jennifer's got a crush on..."

"What are you doing, Rodney?" said Keller's voice from behind him.

Later, Rodney told himself that he absolutely did not jump and squeak like a mouse. Really. Instead, he turned around in a dignified fashion and looked at the source of the voice.

Okay, he actually whirled around and glared at her, but that was no reason to quibble.

"What am I doing? I'm checking the stasis pod! You know, the delicate piece of medical equipment that's the only thing keeping Carson alive?!"

Jennifer gave him a look of fond exasperation. "Rodney, nothing's going to happen without us knowing about it. Do you know many failsafes the Ancients built into this system?"

"Hello, Ancient technology expert here!" he snapped. "Of course I know. But it never hurts to double check. One of your medical minions should be doing the same thing, and by the way what are you doing down here?"

Jennifer looked at the physicist for a long moment. "It's okay to miss him, Rodney," she said gently.

He flushed. "It's not a question of missing him. It's just..." his voice trailed off.

"What?"

He closed his mouth with a snap. "Nothing," he said firmly, then turned on his heel and walked out the door.

Well, that could have gone better. Truth was, Jennifer hadn't been expecting to meet anyone down here, either. She'd been taken by surprise, too.

She sighed, then smiled ruefully. "Hi, Carson," she said. "I'm sorry I haven't been down to see you in a few days..."

FIN