So I Married A Chair
Story 14 - Bittersweet
Rodney sulked as he hurried towards the control room. He sulked even more when he found that the transporter that he’d like to have used to half his travel time was offline. Cradled against his chest in a harness was his namesake, Meredith Beckett, who had wisely dozed off. This made it slightly more bearable, and to be honest, he was getting used to the comforting weight on his chest. At least Nena had done him the courtesy of showing him how to feed her.
“Your parents are impossible,” he rattled on, “and you should know, I’m never going to play hide and seek with you, because you can demolecularise in an instant and get absorbed into the walls. Which is totally not fair, because every time some nasty people chased me at school, I never got away.”
His eyes travelled down to her soft pink head and he couldn’t help it. Rodney beamed radiantly. He was about to continue on his way, when a faint whisking sound reached his eyes. Freezing, his gaze darted around the shadows. Seeing the barest of movement, he bent his knees and walked as quietly as possible until he was safely hidden behind a pole.
A Wraith emerged into the flickering light, hissing as it panned the area carefully. Rodney gulped, unconsciously flattening a hand over his chest. The movement might have stirred his precious cargo, possibly it was the sudden tension in the air, because suddenly Meredith opened her eyes and her mouth. Impossibly loud, she began howling. Rodney absently petted her back, face twisted into a scowl. “What I wouldn’t give to curl up in the foetal position right now…”
He peeked around the pole. The Wraith smirked back at him.
Rodney’s fingers began digging in his pockets. Once he palmed the bulbous item in his hand, he allowed himself a return grin. Counting down from three, he lobbed the engorged mutation of his hair and stretched his legs as far as they would go as he ran off in the opposite direction. The greys and blues of Atlantis’ interior structure suddenly shone with painful orange reflections. McKay sucked in a breath of air that seared down his throat. Neck and shoulders shaking far too much to turn around (he told himself and met no contestation with his small companion), he began the climb up stairs that smelt of fresh struggle.
“Does anyone know how to wipe up excrement?” Rodney demanded as he barged into the control room, eliciting quite a few stunned glances.
There were a few people gathered there, including Elizabeth and, thankfully, one particular Scot wearing a lab coat that had not a single clean patch – either singed brown or stained red. Carson turned, and Rodney had the smug delight of watching his eyes saucer so wide they were in danger of bugging out of his head. Rodney waltzed over, but remembered John’s absence. His heart sank. “John?”
“Both hive ships were destroyed in the blast.” Elizabeth avoided the question tactfully. “Whatever extra power you wired up to those bombs, Rodney…”
The scientist tried to smile, and failed, though he managed, “I’m just the kind of man who sacrifices everything to science, including my receding hairline. Carson, I believe this is yours?”
“What does he mean by his hairline?” hissed Grodin from the console.
No one paid him any heed, as Carson swept forward to examine the small bundle secured safely to his friend’s chest. Rodney wasted no time in unbuckling the harness and passing it over, adding, “Meredith Beckett. Not even an hour old and she’s had her first Wraith encounter. Not bad, eh?”
The CMO’s blue eyes shone with delight as he cradled his daughter. Wriggling his shoulders, he shed his soiled lab coat and slid a finger into the grasp of Meredith, who held the digit fast. He wrinkled his nose a little, and smiled.
“With yer permission, Elizabeth,” he turned his smile onto the expedition leader, “I’d like ta take this wee one down to the infirmary.”
Rodney seemed to struggle with something, then blurted out, “She likes it if you hum a bit of Pachelbel.”
Amusement passed over Carson’s lips and he nodded, before taking off in the direction of the infirmary. Rodney dusted off his hands and stood beside Elizabeth, frowning especially hard so that no one in the vicinity could mistake his past actions for any kind of glee. He closed his eyes for a moment, only to snap them open as the radio crackled, with some extremely good news…
“Ten fingers, ten toes, what a keeper.”
Carson tickled the feet of his daughter gently, to distract her as he pricked one of her toes for a blood sample. When he had finished that, he noticed her grey eyes disappearing beneath pale eyelids and took pity on her, carrying her into his office and fashioning a small bed by commanding his desk to morph. He was entranced for a minute or two, just watching her sleep, before he let himself back into the main area of the infirmary, again immersing himself in the task of caring for the wounded.
He tried to push the constant buzzing of incoming darts out of his head, because it only drove icy fear into his heart and kept directing his gaze longingly back to his office. Briskly winding bandages around a wounded marine’s leg, he forced himself to not pull too tightly, even though his hands were trembling.
A few tense minutes passed, and then the most extraordinary sensation ripped through him. Not unpleasant, much like getting a rush of pins and needles up his spine, Carson stood upright and stared dazedly into the distance. The city responded to his touch, reaching for him in powerful excitement. He stumbled.
“Dr Beckett, are you alright?” asked one of his senior staff.
Carson leaned heavily on them, breathing, “Aye, a good deal better than I’ve ever been.”
When the shield activated around him, it was a rushing of orange energy that doused his nerves in a calming wave. Maybe it was over now, maybe things could just go back to the way they were. Except he knew that was impossible…because everybody knew. Every single person knew. And soon…Stargate Command would know.
John Sheppard had the distinct feeling that he was a walking dead man. If not for the miracle of Asgard technology, he’d be nothing but a few scattered atoms burning up in the atmosphere of…whatever this planet was called. Even more unsettling was being confronted with a much older Colonel Everett, whose acceptance did little to ease John’s state of mind. But he alighted upon the CMO, who swept from patient to patient without pausing to take a breath.
“Hey, Carson, congrats,” he called out. “Rodney told me. Says her name is Meredith?”
Far from leaping with joy, Beckett’s mouth hung open in shock. After opening and closing his mouth several times, he sprung a hug on unsuspecting John and snapped, “Don’t ye ever scare me like that again, ye mad Major. And aye, I’m a father now.”
John shrugged out of the hug easily. “Duly noted and taking into advisement. So, this girl of yours – can I see her?”
“Should I be worried about that Sheppard charm?”
“No way, she’s a little young to be my type.”
They started off towards the office, but another doctor informed them of the Deadalus beaming a patient straight into the infirmary under the supervision of some marines. Carson tapped his radio. “Doctor Beckett here, we’re ready. Beam away.”
His guts squirmed uncomfortably just a split second before the Wraith appeared, and he jerked back in shock. He led the collective gasp that went through the infirmary. “Aiden! Good Lord. Someone help me get this off him.”
Ford was anxious to wake up fully at the first flash of light sneaking in beneath his eyelids. He pushed open his eyes impatiently and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. As he made his way from the bed, he encountered the slim figure of Nena hovering. She blanched at his approach and warned, “You should not be up so soon, Aiden.”
“You had the baby?” Ford ignored her, studying her stomach.
Nena quickly fired off a warning to her husband, who appeared from this study instantly. Carson rested his hand on her hip reassuringly. “Our lass is waking. She’ll need to see her beautiful mother.”
A band of static slid over both their images and Carson winced. Many of the city’s systems were completely shot, and might never recover. He waited until Nena had disappeared to take care of their daughter before addressing Ford. “Ye suffered a massive hit of Wraith enzyme. I’m sorry but I can’t let ye back onto active duty until we’ve managed to wean you off it.”
“I feel fine, doc!” Aiden exclaimed irritably. “Do I look anything but?”
“Have ye seen yerself in a mirror, son?!”
Ford paused, then shook his head. “What I look like is not important. The Wraith are still bearing down on our position, aren’t they? Atlantis needs all the manpower it can get, and I’m feeling great. I just need some more…more enzyme.”
“We have a plan,” Carson told him confidently.
“Bullshit, doc! Twelve hive ships and you think they’re got a plan? We have to think about protecting the people here – I can’t believe you would trust them with Nena’s and your daugher’s lives!”
Ford strode determinedly ahead, even when the CMO stepped in front of him. The image of Carson crackled and spat, giving way to the Lieutenant as he passed through as though the doctor were made merely of air.
“Bloody fool!” growled Carson and stalked out after him as Aiden left the infirmary.
Haywire circuits made it impossible to track Ford’s movements easily, and Carson had very little warning that his quarry had doubled back to the infirmary. The first flash of warning that he did receive came from the Atlantean version of a coffee machine that he’d secretly kept in his office. It warbled distantly on the recesses of his mind, and its intent was clear.
Danger. Danger. Guns.
Carson raced back in the direction of his infirmary, trying several times to shimmer the way there. His legs burned and stung with complaint and he cursed himself for becoming far to accustomed to appearing wherever the hell he felt like, instead of mustering the motivation to walk. That was something John would hark on about later, he knew, but for now – he had to get back. He skidded into the door.
“He took the enzyme!” Nena cried as soon as he appeared.
Carson hurried to her, finding Meredith fussing in her arms. Wrapping a hug around both his favourite lasses, he murmured, “Are ye alright? Did he hurt ye?”
Nena shook her head, but indicated the wall which had a couple of chips from an obvious gun fight. No one seemed hurt, but plenty of patients and couple of his doctors looked shaken. Carson withdrew and made his way into his office, giving special attention to one particular item. He grumbled, “A city full of alien surveillance technology and the best warning I get is from a coffee machine.”
“Any sign of Aiden?” Carson asked as he entered the control room.
Manning the life signs detector, Grodin spun in his chair and shook his head. John and Teyla stopped with their quiet conversation and the former waved Carson over. The doctor complied, smoothing out his shirt, still rumpled from his failed chase of Ford through the city. Sheppard enquired in concern, “Nena and Meredith okay?”
“Aye, they’re fine now.” Carson sighed. “I should have been able to keep him in the infirmary but…”
Teyla stopped him with a touch to his shoulder. “Carson, you are weakened from the attacks. You cannot blame yourself for what you could not control.”
Elizabeth Weir abandoned her futile scanning of the city from the main window of the control room and moved over to join them. Her eyes were still sharp, despite the shadows gathering underneath them. She nodded at Carson. “We have decided on a course of action, one which will require your…unique assistance. When the hive ships arrive, we plan to simulate the city’s destruction. Rodney says we can switch between the shield and the cloaking device, if it is timed right.”
“They won’t believe it,” Carson objected.
“With my help, they will,” Teyla interceded. “I feel that I am able to access their minds and project the image of us evacuating prior to the self-destruct.”
Beckett knew better than to disagree – Ford’s words echoed through his head menacingly. He would be a fool to refuse Teyla’s help when it could save his family. But Aiden had been wrong about one thing. Carson let out a breath that had settled heavily over his heart. “I trust ye…I trust ye with all our lives. Come on, love, let’s find someplace quiet.”
In the midst of good planning, even the slightest thing can go a wee bit wrong. Just as he was holding a cup of water to Teyla’s lips, Carson felt the gateroom explode with power and energy. He’d felt the Stargate activate before, but this time the city groaned with indignation around it, stretched beyond its limits as Rodney tried to coax more effort out of a singular ZPM. Panic began to overtake him, but he willed himself to keep still. This brave woman had just taken great pains to save his family – he would not abandon her.
“What is it?” Teyla asked.
He didn’t answer, but she saw the anxiety swirling in his eyes. She ordered, “I am fine – go!”
Aiden Ford kept still as the king of Atlantis materialised in the co-pilot seat of the ‘Jumper. Carson clutched his chest as pain bloomed in his rib cage. Although the power to shimmer had been restored to him, it cost him a lot of comfort to accomplish. Ford, without even flinching, or diverting his eyes away from the heads up display, snapped, “Don’t even try to stop me. I need to do this. I need more enzyme, or I’ll die.”
“You’ll not die, Aiden!” Carson said urgently. “Ye can’t leave now – yer alerting the Wraith to our presence. Please, son, have sense. I need ye here to help me.”
“No, doc. The best way to help you out right now, is to get as many of those sons of bitches are possible.”
Carson gritted his teeth. “That’s nonsense.”
“No, no it’s not,” Ford intoned. “It makes perfect sense. Best defence is an offence. Goodbye, Carson.”
At the last possible second, Beckett felt his physical form give way and he dropped through the floor of the ‘Jumper, barely steadying himself in time to land in the gateroom. He stared in horror as Ford disappeared through the event horizon, and the room darkened once more without the light of the ‘gate.
“Bloody good I am,” Carson growled helplessly.
He wished he’d never told Ford anything, any of his secret. Because in some twisted way, the Lieutenant saw himself as protecting that secret, and Carson’s family. This thought came on a tide of emotion – neither relieved, and neither angry. Carson turned back to the control room.
God, he could really use a coffee from his office right now…