Lots of thanks to my beta reader "The Wishyles"! All remaining mistakes are mine.
Beckett, used to the dim light in the infirmary, watched his patients in their beds.
Their ribs moved softly up and down, an unmistakable sign of live. Of course, an alarm would sound the moment they stopped breathing or their pulse ceased. But Beckett felt more comfortable seeing it for himself.
A bed creaked. McKay. The Canadian tossed and turned and when he started to groan Beckett raised his morphine dose.
Tense, the doctor watched his friend slowly go back under and his breathing steady. Beckett went back to his office.
Roberts, the nurse on watch, sat at the desk filling in medical reports. "You're looking tired, Doctor. Why aren't you resting? It's been a bad day."
"The other doctors are as shattered as I am." With a sigh Beckett let himself sink into his chair. "And I've so much adrenaline in my blood that I wouldn't sleep anyway."
The nurse nodded and pushed a file towards him. "You still have to fill in Miller's death certificate. Maybe…"
Beckett took the file, "Aye, I'll do it," he said in a sad voice.
Miller was a young soldier, not long in Atlantis. The mission today had been both his first and his last mission. He had been on one of several teams ordered to storm and blow up a Wraith outpost. They succeeded – but at a high price. Many serious casualties were returned to Atlantis. Not all survived.
There had been so many of them that there just weren't enough medical personnel. And Miller… It had been Miller or McKay, and Beckett hadn't hesitated.
Afterwards you could say it was a logical decision. McKay was the head scientist. The genius who made the impossible possible. Indispensable to Atlantis, indispensable to the fight against the Wraith.
Beckett left the office without filling in the death certificate. Quietly, he approached McKay's bed. The scientist slept calmly, saliva running out of the corner of his mouth. The blanket was out of place so Beckett straightened it.
He walked back to his office. "Are you seeingDr Heightmeyer tomorrow?" the nurse asked.
She pointed to Miller's file.
Beckett wondered whether he could explain to Dr Heightmeyer that his decision to treat McKay and not Miller hadn't been based on professional concerns. That he hadn't considered logical, ethical or medical factors, but had made his decision entirely because this arrogant and annoying man was his friend? On the other hand, who could he tell if not her?
Beckett rubbed his eyes. They were burning from fatigue. He looked up and noticed Roberts still watching him. "Aye, I'll be seeing Dr Heightmeyer."
Nurse Roberts said with a certainty that could only be based on experience, "You'll feel better afterwards."
"I hope so."
For a moment he stared out the door to his patients. Then he pulled the death certificate over and began filling it in. While he was writing he realized one thing: he might regret that he couldn't save Miller but he didn't regret saving McKay.