Title: The Secret Language of Grief, Book One
Characters: J. Sheppard, R. McKay, C. Beckett, E. Lorne, R. Woolsey, and various OCs
Warnings: Violence, Mentions of Major Character Deaths
Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis and her characters are the property of MGM. All I lay claim to is my passion for the show and the original characters within this work of fiction
Summary: 20 years after the Wraith decimated Earth in The Great Culling, the SGC is once again ready to resume the Atlantis Expedition. Top brass wants only one man for the job, unfortunately for them John Sheppard has been MIA since the end of the War. A slip-up reveals John's current location, but will he be able to forgive the ultimate betrayal and return?
When Carson Beckett had left the infirmary, all the chairs surrounding John had been filled. Yet when he returned a little while later after enduring numerous blood draws and a full body scan, Carrie was the only one left in the room. She had fallen asleep curled up on the bed beside John. She was just a wee little thing and hardly took up much room and Carson was careful to stay quiet as he transferred himself from bed to wheelchair under the scrupulous gaze of the tech that had helped him back to his room.
"D'ya not have somewhere else you need to be right now, laddie?" He snapped, batting the young man's hand away even as he tried to help him with a tangled IV line. The fact that he still had to have the damn thing at all was driving him mad and he knew he was just taking his frustrations out on everyone around him. Truth was, he was worried, more worried than he'd ever been in his entire life, and he didn't have any defense against it except for stubbornness and sarcasm. He knew it was driving the infirmary staff crazy, but he just couldn't help it.
Giving up on him with a sigh, the orderly left Carson alone in his wheelchair with the sleeping Carrie and disappeared past the thin curtain that cordoned off this space from the rest of the infirmary. Carson wheeled himself over to the other side of John, engaged the break on the chair with his heel then sat back with a dissatisfied sigh.
This was the one time where his skills as a physician were a curse, not the cure. He was well aware of the gravity of the situation. He'd seen John's charts and could read the signs in the falling oxygen levels and low blood pressure readings that the monitors above John's bed had started to squawk about. He could see it on the faces of the staff he'd handpicked himself as well, though they tried to tiptoe around the issue like they were afraid of upsetting him or something. They didn't want him to think that this idea of his had somehow killed John... but he honestly didn't look at it that way. The idea to bring him here to Atlantis had always been a shot in the dark, a Hail Mary play as they said, and it wouldn't be anyone's fault of it didn't end up working.
Well no, that wasn't quite true. The blame would fall to someone, not that it would bother them much. The man Carson would blame was dead and gone now. Lying on some cold morgue table and mourned by no one.
Carson cast tired eyes over to the stats broadcasted out across the room by John's state-of-the-art monitor (a new addition to the infirmary courtesy of the USSF) and tried not to worry about what he saw there. Each issue was being dealt with either by drug or by time and he knew there was nothing he, or any of them, could do for John now.
So many countless years of study, so many long hours honing his skills till his fingers bled, and for what? All he could do now was wait. Wait to see if John Sheppard would live. Wait to see if he would die. Wait to see if an impractical idea born from fevered dreams would somehow be enough to help his friend survive.
It was a shaky hope Carson clung to, but he grabbed hold of it with both hands and refused to let it go.
"I've been a doctor for a long time now, John," he started suddenly, white knuckling the sides of his chair like they could give support him somehow, "and I've seen things you probably wouldnae even believe to be true." Carson shook his head with a laugh. "I've watched men, some nowhere near as strong as you and twice as bad off, come back from the very brink of death. I've watched that happen with me own two eyes, laddie."
He sat forward and set a gentle hand onto one of John's blanketed calves.
"But you? You're somthin' special, aren't you? And I cannae help but think that if you were to leave us now, this place wouldnae be able to survive long without ya. As soon as we brought you here, I could feel her come back to life, you ken? And you did that. It was like she could feel that you'd finally come home and I think now she realizes that you arenae doin' verra weel.
They're never going to understand, are they? What it feels like to be called by this place. I know you feel it more keenly than I do, lad, but I want you to know that I notice it as well. And I think you're girl might be a carrier, too. Rodney thinks I should test her first, of course, but I've seen this place light up for her, John and we both know what that means, don't we?."
Carson took a breath. "I guess what I'm tryin' to say to you, oh so ineloquently John, is that you cannae give up on us just yet. We all need for you to try and fight this thing.
I know you've lead a hard life son, and that it would be so easy just to let go and get to that place where Ronon and Teyla are but if you've got any fight left in ya at all laddie, use it now, a'right?
But, if you have to go John..." he let his head fall, but only for a moment and only to regain his control, "...just know that weel all take good care of her for you. Weel watch over her and make her safe... and I dinnea just mean you're city, John. You have my word on that, laddie."
"Carson, what are you doing?" A strangled voice asked from behind him and he stiffened slightly.
"What does it look like I'm doin', Rodney?" He replied with a weary sigh, and Rodney walked over to dump an armful of junk food onto the foot of John's bed.
Carson was expecting some kind of argument to erupt, but Rodney stayed silent for a moment before rounding the edge of the bed to shake Carrie gently awake.
"We're back," he said with a soft smile when the sleeping woman finally roused. "Why don't you go join TJ in the mess and take a break for a while."
Rodney suggested it innocently enough, but Carrie looked back and forth between the two of them, picking up, Carson figured, on the sudden tension that had flared up between them. She seemed to understand then what Rodney was really asking of her and she nodded with a slight knowing smile. This woman was learning all of their little idiosyncrasies fairly quickly and she breezed out of the room a moment later after making them both promise that someone would come and get her should anything change with John.
Carson watched her leave, deciding in that moment that he genuinely liked that woman, and pretended not to notice when Rodney turned his way with angry hands on his hips.
"What's going on?" The astrophysicist demanded. "Why are you saying goodbye to him?"
"Dinnea be daft, Rodney," Carson let out, folding his hands in his lap and scraping the bottom of his barrel for the strength he needed to have this conversation.
"Well it sounded to me like you were saying goodbye," Rodney retorted a little petulantly. "Now, what's going on? What are they not telling us?"
Carson was used to this. As a physician he'd dealt with his fair share of irate families, but with Rodney, it was different. The scientist had to be handled with kid gloves at times and Carson knew what loosing John again was going to do to him.
"Rodney, John's been shot..."
"I know that!" he interrupted angrily and Carson slammed an open palm down onto the arm rest of his chair.
"Damn it man, d'ye want ta hear this or not?" It shut Rodney up and the man had the good sense to hang his head.
"Look, John's been shot, Rodney. His body has suffered a trauma that someone even half his age would have a hard time comin' back from. Now, I brought him here in the hopes that Atlantis would help, and maybe she is, but righ' now he isnnea doin' very weel and we need to prepare ourselves for what might come next."
"And what, say our goodbyes? Give him permission to go?" Rodney lost his battle with calm and let his voice rise. "Cause I'm pretty sure that's what you just did, Carson!"
"Aye laddie, I did." Rodney threw his arms up in a huff and stalked away to the other end of the room. "But only after I practically begged him to keep figthin'! It's out of our hands now, Rodney."
"Well, I don't accept that." Rodney was facing the wall, shoulders heaving, and he didn't turn around.
"I know you don't, lad."
"Then why do you? It's a crock of shit, Carson, and you know it!" Though Rodney stood facing away from him, Carson could still tell that he was on the verge of yelling again.
"You are not responsible for any of this, Rodney. You know that, right?" Carson asked carefully, feeling the familiar tug of déjà vu. He'd had this same conversation with John a week or so ago.
The tension in Rodney's upper body fled and he sagged forward with palms pressed into the wall.
"How can you say it's not my fault?"
"Because its the truth for one thing."
"It was my plan Carson. Fuck, I'm the one who dragged him into the Atlantis project in the first place!"
"Bloody hell, Rodney. Where do you think Lorne is right now, hmm? He's probably off hiding somewhere in the city and blaming himself for everything tha' has happened. And d'ye not think that I don't blame m'self as well for missing all the signs that that kid was a fake? He fooled everyone, Rodney! John included, and no one person gets to shoulder all that blame alone! We're all of us responsible for what's happened here and I'll not sit idly by while Sean Fitzpatrick destroys us all from beyond the grave. I won't have it, Rodney! I won't!"
He coughed then, oxygen unable to get in around his boiling emotions and Rodney rushed back over to kneel at his side.
"Shit," the scientist muttered as Carson continued to struggle for breath. Rodney ran back over to the bed to retrieve the oxygen mask Carson had left sitting there. He held it to him with shaking hands and Carson grabbed for it eagerly, pulling at the cold and steady flow of air until his lungs remembered how to work again.
"Sorry..." Rodney said a few minutes later when Carson had regained his composure again and he set the mask back down in his lap.
"There's nothing to be sorry for," he said genuinely and Rodney offered a weak smile back before collapsing onto the edge Carson's empty bed. There was no fight left in him now.
"I just don't think I'm ready to say goodbye to him yet," Rodney let out on a shuddering sigh, chin falling to chest as he stared at the hands he had clasped between his knees.
"None of us are, laddie," Carson said quietly, trying to catch Rodney's gaze again. "I think that's what maybe makes this part so difficult. We all get so wrapped up in worries about how his death will affect our own lives, that we forget to think about what's best for him." Carson inclined his head in John's direction and Rodney finally looked up. "This isnnea about us, Rodney, It never was, though I know it's hard to remember that at times."
"So you're saying I should let him go? Just like that?" Rodney's eyes were wide and lost but they held no hint of anger now.
"No, Rodney. That isnnea what I'm telling you at all," Carson sighed. "All I'm saying is that you should make your peace with the fact that he might not pull through this, then let things happen as they will."
"So you want me to have faith then?" Rodney's eyes narrowed.
"Aye, in a way."
"Carson, you're not making any sense." Rodney shook his head with a tired laugh then looked away again.
"I dinea know, Rodney. Maybe, I'm not. But they're doin' all they can for him medically. So maybe now it's time to just sit by his side and be there with him through whatever comes next.
And if me telling him that I'll protect what he's leavin' behind helps him in those last few moments in any way, weel then, I willnea apologize for saying it."
Rodney lifted his chin and regarded him heavily. Something shifted between them then and Carson felt the pull of it deep at his center.
"I'm just not ready to say goodbye to him yet, Carson," Rodney said again, barely louder than a whisper.
"I know, laddie." Carson replied, just as soft. "I know."
A crescent moon hung in the sky over the San Francisco Bay. It's ghostly shape lay reflected in the agitated surf beneath her balcony and she watched it try to mingle with city lights in the water below. They reached out from the shore with luminescent fingers that raced across the rolling surface of the water like the lights of a passing party boat. The current tried to bring them in even closer, waves broke against the side of Atlantis in a futile attempt, but they just didn't reach that far.
Carrie stood on the upper most level of the tallest most tower she could find and let the California December wind mess her hair. Every so often a gust of it would whip up around her tower and lift the hair framing her face, strands of it getting caught in the wet tracks left behind by her tears.
No particular plan in mind, but desperate to feel anything other than her grief, Carrie placed two trembling hands against the cool metal of the balcony railing to try and connect with the energy that thrummed there beneath her palms. Everything around here thrummed and she didn't know if it was something that came from within Atlantis herself, or if it was just perhaps an interesting effect created by the water lapping up against the submerged sides of the city. But whatever caused the strange vibrations, the hum was sad, and she let it make a mournful circuit throughout her body.
It carried off little bits of her in the process, but always left something behind in return for what it had taken.
"I miss him too," she whispered out into the wind, running a hand lightly along the railing. Maybe it was stupid and maybe it was all just a figment of her imagination, but Atlantis felt like she was listening.
Carrie closed her eyes and a fresh wave of tears crested her lids and slid down her cheeks, turning icy as they went in the wind.
"He's not doing very well and they say it won't be long now. So help him if you can, okay?" she pleaded quietly, sending out through her hands what she felt in her heart, and Atlantis stilled beneath her palms.