So I Dated A Chair
Story 6 - Role Play
There is a universal theory. Just when you think you’ve learned all there is to know about another galaxy, and taken every new experience available to you and turned it into a daily occurrence, there will always be something to jump up and surprise you. While those that maintain this theory are few in number, owing to the lack of inter-galaxy travelling, they consist of some of the smartest minds that a bipedal humanoid species has to offer. In other words, you should at least pretend that you agree with them or risk being thrown into the biology department as a social outcast.
Carson Beckett’s life followed a fairly stable routine, although he was wise enough not to delude himself into thinking he was safe from peculiarities. There were random bursts of light that squealed out of long abandoned consoles, the echoes of what sounded like laughter from Athosian children that incidentally turned out to be Dr Zelenka chuckling evilly – oh and, not to mention the fact that Carson had found himself married to a chair.
Not that this particular fact was of any consternation to him.
No, the most bothersome thing he had to worry about was how the biology department was coping with the nuisance he had sprung on them for an impromptu exchange of knowledge. Generally, on Earth, no one would dare to raise a hassle with the man in charge of holding big scary needles. But this wasn’t Earth, due to one very big scary difference. And that difference was Dr Rodney McKay.
“Don’t worry about McKay,” Major Sheppard assured one morning as he was taking a breather from his jog outside Carson’s quarters. “I’m sure he isn’t likely to raise a fuss about you committing mutiny in his precious Black Hole of Calcutta.”
Carson kneaded his eyebrows. “I would hardly call the biology department that…”
“Well you should, because you just sentenced Dr Biro to a slow and lingering death.”
“I’m sure Rodney will put the lass out of her misery,” Carson remarked, unconcerned.
John stopped jogging on the spot and stared at him, before dropping one leg into a stretch. Wincing as he pulled a little too hard on his hamstring, he abandoned the exercise and deliberately reached out to lock Carson’s door. He was so used to using that trick on certain members of the expedition (he had lately taken to locking an unsuspecting Bates into transporters) that he didn’t expect anything to mess with his perfected prank.
Carson absently stroked the door and it opened. John gawked.
“What’s wrong, son?” Carson asked, but with a smile. “Run out of puff already?”
Never one to have his physique critiqued, John blew out his chest indignantly and shook his head. “Are you kidding? This is nothing. And since when did you get so good at using your ATA gene?”
“Maybe I just ask nicely.”
“Yeah, sure,” John said sceptically.
Two pairs of light feet padded around the corner, followed by two earnest grins and two very sharp sticks. Seizing on the distraction, Carson elbowed ahead of John and greeted the newcomers with a broad grin of his own. “Hullo Jinto, hullo Wex! Did ye know that Major Sheppard here has quite a story to tell ye about his latest encounter with the Wraith?”
“Really?” Jinto glanced over to his hero. “Cool!”
John started slicing his hand in front of his face in what could only be construed as a desperate “stop this OR DIE” gesture. But wearing his best innocent-but-devilish expression (possibly picked up from a certain entity’s hologram), Dr Beckett half-turned to allow John into the conversation. He prompted, “Well, then? I’m sure ye’d love to regale yer brave tale to these two adoring fans of yers.”
Wex nodded quickly. “Please? Please? Can we have chocolate too? Dr Beckett gave us this huge stash and it didn’t last very – ”
Carson coughed loudly and the boy dropped off guiltily. A tense second passed before Jinto tugged hard on his friend’s sleeve. Catching the nod that Jinto made in the direction of the intersection further down the corridor, Wex piped up, “Uh, we gotta go.”
“Yeah, we want to check out this monster we found!” Jinto called, already skirting down the corridor. “Tell us about the bug thing another time!”
John’s face seemed to have trouble settling on blushing or going deathly white. He struggled in silence for some very precious seconds before shouting after them, “Whatever you do, don’t use salt!”
Carson tried to hide the dimples cratering over his cheeks. The Major scowled.
“Just how does this stuff get around anyway?” John complained.
“I imagine Teyla is quite the proficient storyteller.”
“No way, it’s gotta be McKay. When I get my hands on him…”
Static growled fiercely back at Nena when she tried to reason with the particularly nasty system failure that had crept up on her overnight. Well, not really overnight. The problem had started pinging her attention a week ago, but she had been very enjoyably occupied at the time with her husband. And then there had been the near miss with Major Sheppard’s team, which not only made her worry for the safety of the humans on board the Puddlejumper, but caused some anxiety for her when she realised she couldn’t link up with the ship’s systems and fix the problem herself.
Although Carson had quietly asked her for the best methods of bug-begone, Nena had found herself had quite a loss. They certainly hadn’t had any of those under the ocean – and she was sure she would have remembered something like that at the various outposts she had docked at over the course of her life, though admittedly the past ten millennia had been devoid of exploring.
Please work…Nena found herself begging, and was aghast. What am I doing? I shouldn’t be trying to talk to it. Oh no…I’m turning into a human!
Although, she had to admit that when watching humans trying to coax their computers into working properly, the process seemed to somehow work. Just one those many perplexing abilities humans possessed that seemed to smooth out the wrinkles of any technology. Well, most anyway. She had it on good authority that Carson’s laptop would never ever play anything but a certain song about red balloons since she caused a glitch in the computer waking him up one morning.
Her husband had not been…too pleased with that. He’s even tried to soothe his computer with softly spoken words in that deliciously warm accented voice of his…
With a voice like that, he would have convinced me to start functioning properly! Nena declared.
This system failure had nothing to do with the wellbeing of Atlantis and inhabitants. She felt guilty for even attempting her current scheme. It wasn’t so much a system failure as it was a prohibiting barrier that had strict instructions to halt any such mischief. But Nena wanted this very desperately. Although she was more than certain that Carson loved her, he just wasn’t the same if they couldn’t…
Nena expelled an electronic sigh that shook up a few monitors in the control room. This was so frustrating! She concentrated on the rebellious piece of machinery and called sweetly to it, with promises of being allowed to roam and mutate its purpose after she was finished with it. That last bit seemed to get the machine’s attention, as she thought it would.
This has to work, she thought sadly, or I should just vaporise my existence the way the Ancients would have by now.
When Carson entered the infirmary that morning, he became distinctly aware of a collective breath held by every single other member of the staff present. Glancing out of the corner of his eyes at the nervous expressions that gleamed on their faces, he couldn’t help but pop a small smile.
He cleared his throat. “Alright, ladies and gentlemen, ye can stop stepping on eggshells. I’m not sending anyone else to the Black Hole of Calcutta. And besides which, it’s a joint research project with the science department. Nothing sinister at all.”
“Tell that to Dr Biro,” someone whispered loudly.
Carson felt his neck reddening and cast a stern glance around the main room of the infirmary. Slowly, faces turned away as people returned to their work. Determined not to let this new piece of expedition gossip get to him, he crept into his office and shot a few guarded looks around before opening up his new laptop. He leaned back in his chair to plug the computer into an accommodating socket in the wall.
He couldn’t quite explain it, but since he had married Nena, everything in the city had worked better for him. While it bothered him that all of a sudden, it was as if he could feel certain fluctuations in the systems, it did make life a little easier for him. Especially in this latest case, when he’d started to feel light headed around a piece of machinery in the domed room, next door to the where the secondary chair was housed. Further inspection had revealed it as some sort of blacklisted device in the Lantean database, where strict coding forbade any tampering or reading. Naturally, this piqued his curiosity, to the point that he finally realised what Nena had been trying to do.
“Merging of genetic material…” he muttered under his breath.
Holding out his finger in front of him, he pricked at the skin and dabbed a drop of his blood onto an Ancient scanner. The device flashed green for a few seconds before settling into a calm blue. Carson nodded over it, satisfied, and began correlating the data on his laptop. He was fairly certain he could try to get away with this without her finding out, but you never knew…
The coffee machine gave him the warning with a slight hiss. Carson glanced up guiltily and when he looked back down, a message was scrawling across his laptop.
What are you up to, you naughty boy?
“I thought we agreed ye weren’t ta call me that.”
No. You said I shouldn’t, but I just love that look on your face when I do. What are you doing with this machine? I told you it wasn’t going to help with any diagnosis.
“Private project?” Carson tried hopefully.
Nice try, my love. It won’t take me too long to figure it out.
Carson’s eyes widened and he flew backwards in his chair, tugging valiantly at the socket where he’d plugged his laptop into. But he was too late. The laptop sparked and began whirring uncontrollably. Gazing helplessly at it, he crossed his fingers. The silence was blissful, but he knew he couldn’t trust it. Then again, maybe it wasn’t so bad. Maybe he could deal with it this time.
“Ninety-nine red balloons…” the laptop began singing, somewhat evilly he thought.
“Oh my God. Ye didn’t. Not again. I’d only jus’ started using that laptop!”
“Don’t ye ‘oops’ me.”
Would it help if I pouted?
Carson considered this. “Aye, ye’d most likely found some way to wrap me around yer finger.”
Have I told you this morning that I love you?
Chuckling uneasily, he crossed his arms and waited for her to finish sorting through his laptop. He wasn’t quite expecting the song to abruptly cut out. That was new. That song was the most persistent of all, so naturally Carson wasn’t sure if he wanted to trust this sudden cease fire. Especially since he had started regarding all German pop songs as computer viruses in disguise. Then the screen stopped flickering rapidly.
WHAT are you doing?
“Just a wee project,” Carson said carefully. “Don’t get too mad, my dear. I just thought I’d found a way for us to…conceive.”
Silence is perhaps one of the most unnerving sounds in the universe, and Carson took the brunt of it right then. He shifted his feet and glanced down at his watch, though the bloody thing had decided to fall silent as well, whereas it usually ticked noisily. Whatever higher power was trying to unsettle him, it was working. His resolve failed him.
“I jus’ thought maybe, if ye were alright with it, that we would start a family…”
“Please don’t lock me out of my room.”
“Shutting up, love,” he said meekly.
I was already working on this. I guess I should have spoken with you about it, but I didn’t want to get your hopes up. Although it seems you’ve made greater progress than I have.
Carson nodded and sat down in front of the laptop, smoothing out a hand over the smooth surface of his desk. Various readouts started flashing across the screen, too fast for the eye to track, but he was sure he recognised the notes he’d made in his research. He tapped the desk loudly enough to get her attention. The screen stopped whizzing.
Carson, do you know how brilliant you are?
“That depends. What type of brilliant are we talking about here?”
“Ye barely know the man. How can ye epitomise brilliance on him?”
Shush you. This can work, but…
“But? But doesn’t sound good.”
Not that! The reason it can work…is probably the same reason that will explain some of your initial amnesia.
“Oh?” Carson sat up, eyes narrowing.
I may have…inadvertently…
I did not realise that by connecting with you I was changing your life signature.
World weary, Carson slumped back in his chair and rubbed his temples. He wanted to jump around and scream like a madman, but that wouldn’t help. Although, to be honest, he was daft enough to be locked up in a white padded room anyway. Or so he thought so, and some of his older brothers had thought so. He searched around his muddled thoughts for any signs of shock, even pinching his arm just to make sure. Shock wouldn’t be too helpful at this point. Concluding that he wasn’t suffering that affliction, Carson dropped his hands into his lap.
“I’m not surprised,” he commented. “My gene has been working exceptionally. I have felt some…peculiar things as well. I was just about to run a check on my DNA, just in case.”
The latest genetic material scan popped up on screen and Carson nodded agreeably. That just seemed the way to deal with things now – smile, nod and just accept it because no matter how much you could prepare yourself against the unknown, it still had a way of worming into everyday life. There was nothing out of place with his blood work that he could tell, but it was obviously making Nena very excited. Carson stretched out his arms and tucked them behind his head.
“I can’t bring myself to be surprised, but then I guess I don’t mind terribly much. As far as I’m concerned, I’m yers. And I can’t help but get my hopes up. A baby…a wee bairn!” he finished faintly.
All of a sudden, Carson found himself practically bouncing off the walls. He careened about wildly, completely unaware of the shadow that formed across the doorway to his office and said loudly, “Imagine that! This is wonderful, love. I’d find it hard to keep this to myself. I jus’ want to stand on top of a table in the mess hall and shout myself hoarse…”
“This is worse than I feared,” Dr Heightmeyer announced from the door, eyes wide.
Carson stopped dead. “What are ye doing here?”
“Some of your colleagues have become concerned with your behaviour. And you haven’t turned up for any of our scheduled appointments over the past few weeks.”
“I haven’t been hearing any voices!” Carson exclaimed, panicked.
“Then who were you just talking to?”
“Myself!” he said hotly. “Is that going to qualify as crazy? If so, ye ought to start with Rodney. He’s quite good at that.”
Heightmeyer frowned. “Regardless of that, it seems you have been under a lot of stress lately. I think we should talk about how you’ve been treating your staff.”
Crap. He should have expected this. Rumour had it that Biro had some very powerful friends, and this had to be the most powerful – the one person in the entire city who could officially classify him as off the deep end. This meant only a few things and none were very appealing. So Carson chose the easy way out. He grabbed his laptop and bolted.
“I’m not crazy, perhaps a bit daft, but certainly not crazy,” Carson said breathlessly.
His audience of two exchanged glances. Then Zelenka asked, “What can we do for you?”
Pacing in front of them, he shrugged helplessly, and became aware of two incredulous stares passing over him before noting the track he was wearing into the floor. Carson wrung his hands. “I don’t want ye to ask questions. I just want ye to find an excuse for me to be talking to nobody.”
“Role playing!” Zelenka immediately enthused.
His companion rolled his eyes. “Please, you can’t know much about role playing if you think it can be used viably as an excuse, because there is a fine line between talking to yourself and role playing. And that fine line just happens to involve other people participating.”
“You know much about that fine line,” Zelenka pointed out, possibly smirking. “What is your idea, Rodney?”
There was a brief pause.
“I’m…in the process of concocting one right now.”
“Oh, of course!” Zelenka snorted.
Rodney’s eyebrows formed one angry line above his nose. “Assuming Carson has at least a few brain cells to rub together, I should be able to instruct him to perform a believable stream of dialogue consistent with theatrical performance.”
“In other words, role playing.”
“Your mind is so limited, Zelema,” Rodney informed him gravely, “Can’t you see beyond the simple and ineffective routes?”
“It’s Zelenka. And I believe role playing is best solution. Less is more. What do you think, Carson?”
Carson started in surprise. Without realising it, he had started to nod off. “Erm, aye. Sounds good.”
“Yeah, for a Neanderthal,” Rodney muttered under his breath.
Zelenka rolled his eyes.
There were few things that could surprise Peter Grodin anymore. Calmly roving his eyes over the flashing console as some systems decided fail, he settled back in his chair and considered hunting down some tea. He cracked his knuckles and entertained himself by wondering who Dr McKay was sending to tears. Ah. A truly marvellous day...McKay mysteriously missing from his daily diatribe about the many failures of the people running the control room.
“Hey Grodin, did you hear about the role playing group?” another technician piped up from beside him.
“Role playing group! I heard Dr Zelenka set it up.”
Grodin raised his eyebrows. “Alright. If you say so, Campbell.”
“No, really!” Chuck insisted. “Even Dr Beckett got involved.”
Now that was surprising. Either this wild tale was getting out of hand along the line from wherever Chuck had heard it, or this galaxy had decided to mess with the order of things. Peter tapped his radio. “Dr Zelenka? Are you currently busy?”
“Busy, busy,” Zelenka’s voice crackled back at him.
“…ah, role playing.”
“Ano, why wouldn’t I be? Is there emergency?”
Grodin sighed and was about to shut off the connection when he heard a shrieking sound in the background. “What the hell was that?”
“Oh. That. Rodney doesn’t want to play a girl, though Carson agrees with me that he is well suited for it.”
Chuck gave him a grin. “So there.”
“Oh shut up, Campbell.”
All seemed right with the galaxy once again. Grodin tilted back in his chair and sighed happily. As luck would have it, the next thing that happened involved a squealing through the air, following by a strange sound. He jumped off his chair and hurried over to Chuck’s work station. It sounded like a woman…singing?...over the PA system. Grodin concentrated on the sound.
And then a confused expression crossed his face.
“You and I in a little toy shop...” sung the voice.
He knew that song, somehow. It had been one of those horrendously overplayed but catchy tunes. Then he smiled. Ah. He threw back his head and belted out in time with the song, “Ninety-nine red balloons go byyyyyyyyyyyy!”
“Is this your doing?” Elizabeth Weir demanded from behind him.
Peter wheeled around and shook his head quickly. “No, of course not. But why waste the opportunity?”
She fixed him with a stare.
“There have been several strange occurrences around the city today,” Gordin spoke fast in his best business voice. “I guess that's just one of them.”
“Fix it. Now.”
“Yes, Dr Weir.”
While many humans on Atlantis stuffed fingers vainly into their ears, and while many others started singing along without realising, there was one who seemed wholly unaffected by all this. Carson Beckett sat back in the secondary chair of Atlantis and smiled up at the lights dancing over his head.
What’s troubling you?
“Hmm?” He blinked. “Oh, jus’ that we might have ta start thinking up names for our baby.”
There are many to choose from.
“I guess I’m not too fussy, so long as we don’t name our child after Rodney.”
Next time I have the urge to do so, I will make sure to delete that thought process.
“I figure we’re safe so long as he doesn’t find out.”
Nena hesitated. What do you plan to do about the others? And our secret?
“Love, I barely got away from Heightmeyer’s clutches as it was. I’m not ready to go through any of that again. I love ye, and I wish I could tell everyone just how much, but each man has his limits.”
If they have even half the heart that you possess, I’m sure that they will accept me.
Touched, Carson rubbed his hands over the arms of the chair. He promised himself he would get around to explaining this fine mess to everyone later – much later. But for now, he had some precious moments to spend with his wife. Well, if he could just manage to turn that annoying song off.
It’s not that bad, chastised Nena.
“No? Have ye ever had to sit through yer college room mate playing it non-stop when ye were supposed to be studying?”
Aww, your poor thing. How shall I ever make it up to you?
“How much longer do ye plan on having the song running?”
Hmm, is one hour long enough for you?
“Perfect. Now just how were ye planning to make it up to me…oh!”
Dating in the Pegasus Galaxy might seem an entirely new experience from those that humans have to suffer through on the planet Earth, considering that this courtship comes with a new set of dangers and rules that must be observed. But whether or not your partner looks like a human, or a chair, or a Wraith (it could happen), there are several things that must remain the same. There is still the stigma of craziness that one can attach to love, as such an emotion is irrational – enough to stir a sentient city into causing an ice age, for example.
It should be noted that however rocky the courtship stage of a relationship is, there’s always something more tangible look forward to. And Carson Beckett reckoned that despite stretching the boundaries of the tangible aspect, he had some of the best years of his life ahead of him.
If she would just stop playing that bloody song.