Characters: McKay, Beckett, Sheppard
Warnings: Smut, a bit of angst
Spoilers: Refences to Siege III
Summary: Something's wrong between McKay and Sheppard. Can Carson figure it out and fix it. First time. Not part of Broken Series. Sorry.
Disclaimer: The characters, the setting, etc. are NOT mine, even if I wish they were.
It had been one of those missions. Everything had been going well, trade negotiations progressing, Rodney making a survey of some Ancient ruins. Then the chieftain had decided that Teyla should be part of the bargain and John had radioed Rodney to meet them at the stargate. Negotiations were over.
The formerly Friendly Natives had objected to their leaving. John, Teyla and Ronon had been taken easily. Rodney had avoided capture for a few hours, then had stumbled into some native vegetation that had left him hallucinating and euphoric. They'd tossed him in Sheppard's cell, raving.
It hadn't been too much longer when Lorne's team had come through the stargate and kicked major Un-Friendly Native ass. But it had been too late by then. Rodney had rambled into dangerous territory with only John there to ground him.
When he'd come down from the high in the infirmary, Sheppard had been there, nervous, cool, and Rodney knew he had fucked up.
Carson had known something was wrong when Rodney didn't complain about everything. He had been remarkably quiet, actually. Then he'd watched Sheppard give Rodney a tentative "glad you're okay" pat and understood that there was something going on between the two teammates. He didn't push. Rodney would talk sooner rather than later.
He'd watched as the week ground by and still Rodney wasn't talking. He had seen how nervous Sheppard was around Rodney suddenly, seeming acutely aware of personal space. Rodney had withdrawn, fallen into a strange, disturbing silence.
It was Zelenka who had finally pushed him into action. "We cannot work like this. I know it seems strange to miss his tirades, but they encouraged us to work, to try harder. Now, he just looks at things and says, 'Yeah, okay. That's fine,' even 'Good job!' We are making mistakes because he is just going through motions."
"I'll talk to him," Carson promised.
He waited for Rodney to show up in the cafeteria for dinner, but his best friend didn't put in an appearance. He tried radioing, but Rodney never answered. He wandered down to the labs and found Rodney staring at a laptop which was showing nothing but the patterns of some screensaver.
McKay jumped, then reached out to the laptop, hitting a key, then entering his password to bring the screensaver off. Carson noted his hands were trembling. "What did you need, Carson?"
"When did you eat last?"
Rodney shrugged. "I don't know." He took in his trembling hands and pulled open a drawer, drawing a powerbar at random from the stash within. His head was tilted as if studying the screen of his laptop, but Carson could see his eyes were focused beyond it as if he could see through the screen, through the floor, and finally down into the depths of the ocean. He opened the thing automatically and began eating without relish or attention. "Was that all you needed?" he asked around a bite.
Carson considered him for a moment, feeling a strange, seething panic rise up within him at seeing the darkness under Rodney's eyes, the slump of shoulders, the wrinkles of clothing that were beyond the usual rumpled McKay style and smelling a stale, sweaty scent. This was the Rodney of three days of no sleep, knowing the wraith were coming, desperately trying to save them all. This was the Rodney of "Peter's dead and I couldn't do anything but watch." This was the Rodney of knowing a good friend was lost to you forever because some blips on the screen had disappeared. This was a Rodney he had never, ever wanted to see again-- one of panic, of fear, of sheer primal terror, of loss and grief and days of good men and women dying in his infirmary while he watched helplessly and tried to offer what little comfort he could. This was the Rodney of crisis.
But he knew there was no city-wide crisis, no imminent threat of death and pain and grief. No, this was something personal to Rodney and Carson felt helpless to even know what to say.
When he didn't answer, Rodney looked up at him and took in the look of fear and concern on his face. "Carson, what's the matter?"
"I don't know," Carson answered honestly. "You won't tell me."
Rodney looked away. "It's nothing. Just something we... I need to work through."
"Ye don't need to work through it alone, whatever it is," Carson answered, putting all his affection for the other man into his voice. "I've been told I'm a good listener. And I used to be your best friend that you could talk things out with." Before Atlantis. Before Sheppard. He'd never been jealous. He just missed the comfortable camaraderie of Antarctica, when he and Elizabeth Weir were the only friends Rodney had in the whole world.
Rodney flinched, regret flashing across his eyes. "I'm sorry, Carson. I--" He shook his head.
"Rodney, please, talk to me," Carson pleaded. "I had Radek Zelenka in my office today telling me how worried the whole science staff is for ye. Everyone's worried about you."
"Sheppard's not." He could see from the look in Rodney's eyes after he said it that he hadn't intended the thought to be spoken aloud, but he'd said it.
It hung there in the air between them. Carson wanted to pounce on it, wrest an explanation out of Rodney, but the astrophysicist's eyes were full of pleading and fear. No, he needed to be gentle with this. He sighed. "Look. I've got some Divine hot chocolate in my apartment and some biscuits that need sharing. If I promise not to pry, will you just come and relive old times with me?"
Rodney's eyes softened and he relaxed. "I'd like that, actually."
Carson's apartment was comfortable in ways that few apartment in Atlantis were, even now that they were in contact with Earth. There were pictures of family and friends on the walls, a home-knit woolen throw folded on the back of the sofa, a soft Athosian rug on the floor to take off the chill, and scented candles that filled the air with the fragrance of apples and vanilla and buttercreme even when unlit. It was filled with warm colours-- golds and browns with splashes of red and orange. It felt like autumn nights by the fire. Rodney relaxed on the sofa, letting the peacefulness of the room begin to pull the tension out of him. He hadn't realised how much he missed watching Carson puttering around, chatting about nothing in particular in that pleasant brogue of his. He watched Carson heat milk in a small pan on an individual burner, then pour it into mugs and carefully add the hot chocolate mix.
Carson didn't do instant. Tea was never hot water poured over a teabag like the barbaric Americans did. And hot chocolate was never some mix that merely called for hot water. Indeed, Carson's usual brands had the added benefit of being a fair trade teas, coffees and cocoas. Rodney had heard the lecture on equitable trade with small-scale farmers in developing countries while they were still in Antarctica. It had fit Carson that he would consider such things.
"But it's more expensive," he had said.
"A wee bit," Carson had answered. "But I can afford it and I know I'm not saving a few quid at the expense of human misery and suffering."
Yes, very Carson.
Carson opened a cannister and filled a plate with Abernethy biscuits and shortbread, undoubtedly homebaked by his mother and carefully packaged to keep. Rodney remembered Muirne Beckett from the one time he'd accompanied Carson home on leave from Antarctica. She was a sweet, fierce woman who heaped more affection on Carson and his friend than Rodney, whose own mother had been cold and distant, could even comprehend or tolerate. She had backed off a bit when she saw the panic in him, but even then her emotion had felt like he was being slowly suffocated in marshmallow fluff, sweet but smothering.
Carson carried the plate and two mugs over carefully, set the plate down on the small table in front of the sofa, handed Rodney his mug, and settled on the opposite end from Rodney. They sat in companionable silence for a while, just enjoying the taste of home.
"So I take it your mother is well?" Rodney asked.
"Aye. Misses me terribly and all that, but I think it's been good for her."
"Why do you say that?"
"She keeps mentioning a friend-- Angus Graham. He's an old friend of the family. His wife died last year." Carson's eyes sparkled with humour. "I think she might be seeing him."
"At her age?" Rodney blurted out.
"I'll have you know my gran is still alive and kicking at eighty-nine. My mum's got a lot of years left in her if that's any indication."
"Sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
Carson waved it off. "And you? Did you hear from your sister?"
Rodney's laugh was bitter. "Oh, yeah. She was so happy I'd contacted her and wanted to assure me that all was forgiven."
"What did you do that needs forgiving?"
Rodney's looked away nervously and shrugged. "I'm me. You know, Captain Snark? What more do I need to do?"
Carson chuckled, but seemed to sense there was more there than what was said.
"She's got four kids. The second one, Lord help him, is named Rodney. Rodney Joseph Walsh. He's twelve and a freshman in high school. Seems I may not need to reproduce after all, which is probably a good thing, you know, with all the radiation and things."
"Ah, but being a father is more than just propogating your genetic material, you know. You've got life experiences that need to be passed on."
Rodney's felt the coldness in his gut. "I'll write a memoir. No kid deserves to be shouldered with my life experiences." Carson opened his mouth to ask, but Rodney held up a hand. "No. Don't. I shouldn't have gone there."
Carson nodded and stared into his cup. "Rodney," he said gently, "I know I said I wouldn't pry and I won't, but I wanted to offer... to ask. Is there anything I can do to help with... whatever's bothering you?"
Rodney stared at nothing, biting his lower lip. "I... I've lost him, Carson. And I don't even know what I said." He looked at Carson then, meeting eye to eye for the first time, and allowed his friend to see the depth of the pain, anger, and fear there. "And I'm afraid to find out. I'm afraid I may already know."
"You wanted to see me, doc?" Sheppard asked, leaning into Carson's office.
"Yes. Come in, Colonel. And shut the door, please." Carson saved his work and slid the laptop aside, standing to come around to the other side of his desk.
Sheppard did as asked, looking worried, then sat in a chair, unusually straight and attentive.
Carson regarded the colonel for a moment, settling on the corner of his desk, still not quite sure how to start this. He'd run through the scenario in his mind a hundred times, but now that Sheppard was here, he was suddenly unsure.
"So... what's up?"
"It's Rodney," Carson said, deciding to be direct. "He's not well and no one knows why." No one but you, he thought. "Dr. Zelenka came to me yesterday and told me his work's been slipping so badly the entire science team is worried."
Sheppard shifted uncomfortably, not meeting his gaze. "And you're telling me this because..."
Carson let out an exasperated sigh. "Because it started after you came back from your last mission. Something happened there, Colonel, something Rodney doesn't remember. But you, very obviously, do."
Sheppard crossed his arms, giving Carson a belligerent look. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Well, that's too bad, because you're the only one who can help him right now." Carson narrowed his eyes. "Are you enjoying seeing him fall apart?"
All the fight seemed to go out of the military man. "Look, doc... it's... it's personal, okay?"
"It's not personal if Rodney McKay makes some horrid mistake that kills someone, Colonel. What happened between you?"
Sheppard ran his hands through his hair to no effect and sighed. "He... he said some things, okay? Things about me, about us. Things I didn't know he felt."
Carson stared at him. "You're going to have to be clearer, Colonel."
"He..." Sheppard stood from the chair, pacing, practically pulling at his hair now. "He told me he wants me."
"He wants you?"
"Are you intentionally being dense?" he asked, sounding so much like Rodney that Carson might have laughed if the situation hadn't been so serious. "He wants me, okay? He wants to know me in the Biblical sense."
"But Rodney's not..." Carson's objection died as he thought about Rodney, really thought about him. "Oh."
"Is that all you can say?"
"I'm sorry. I just hadn't realised."
"Believe me, after listening to him talk about Samantha Carter, it was a surprise to me, too."
"And that makes you uncomfortable? That he's thought of you that way?"
"Wouldn't it make you uncomfortable?" Sheppard asked.
"That's not important to this conversation," Carson answered. "What is important is that the two of you get past this. You've known him for long enough to know he's not going to try anything with you, even if he does have the occasional fantasy. You need to trust him in this and stop treating him like he's contagious."
"It's not like that!" Sheppard objected.
"Then how is it, Colonel?"
Sheppard collapsed back into the chair and rubbed his face with his hands. "It's not that I don't trust him, doc. I don't trust me. Knowing what I know... It's just made it a lot harder."
"I see," he answered, understanding why the military man was always so closed off.
Carson nodded. "You're military."
Sheppard nodded. "And as much as I'd like to, I can't do that to him. He deserves someone he can actually be with."
"I'm sorry," he said genuinely.
Sheppard waved him off. "You learn to live with it."
Yes, Carson thought, you do. "So," he said, considering the colonel, "how do you get past this? Because you can't keep going like this. You'll kill him."
"I don't know!" Sheppard said in frustration. "It was easy when I thought he was straight, when he was off-limits. He was safe, you know?"
"I know." And Carson knew exactly, because there was a part of him that was panicking, even as the adrenaline rush of possibility hit him.
"But it's not like I can just forget."
"Is there any other way you would regard him as safe again?" Carson asked, trying to think outside the box.
Sheppard shrugged. "Not without him turning straight again. Or maybe if I knew he was with someone else. Someone who would be good for him."
Carson nodded and sighed. "I understand. Maybe if you told him..."
Sheppard shook his head. "Too dangerous. Confessions of mutual attraction just have a tendency to lead to... well... a situation I'm trying to avoid."
That made sense. "Can I tell him?" he asked.
"No! That'll just make things worse because then we'll both be tense around each other. I just need to work this out, doc. Okay? I'll get past it somehow."
"All right, Colonel. But, please, work it out quickly. And I'll try to hold him together."
Sheppard looked relieved and solemn. "I'll try, doc." He slapped Carson on the shoulder. "I'm glad Rodney has other friends to lean on. You're okay, doc."
Carson watched Sheppard leave, then tried to go back to his work. But the thought wouldn't let him go. The sheer audacity of it frightened him. How much he wanted it shook him to the core.
They were back in Carson's apartment, with coffee and almost-turkey sandwiches. They'd talked about their work that day, not understanding the details, but comforted in being able to talk through problems. In fact, Rodney paused at one point and emailed himself and Zelenka some thoughts he'd had while talking to Carson.
When the sandwiches were demolished and their cups refilled, Rodney regarded Carson quizically. "You talked to him, didn't you?"
"I did, yes."
Carson sighed. "He asked me not to tell you. I have to respect his confidentiality."
"Oh, come on, Carson! I have the right to at least know what I did even if you can't tell me what he said about it."
"I suppose you do have that right, yes." He looked at Rodney's face and saw the tension there.
"And?" Rodney said impatiently, making a circular motion with one hand.
"You told him... you... wanted him."
Rodney's face turned white. "Oh, God! It's worse than I thought. No wonder he hates me."
"He doesn't hate you," Carson said, knowing he couldn't say much more. "He just needs a little time to adjust. All right?"
Rodney wrapped his arms around his chest. "He's got to know I wouldn't do anything! He knows that, doesn't he?"
"Rodney, what he said was confidential. I can't tell you."
"Dammit! I've lost him, haven't I? He'll never trust me again."
"It's not that bad," Carson tried to reassure him.
"I mean, it's not like I expected anything from him. I know the odds. And he's military, which means it's even less likely. I was satisfied with the friendship. Do you know how few true friendships I've had in my life?"
"At least two," Carson answered quietly.
That brought Rodney screeching to a stop. His eyes went wide and he looked at Carson. "Carson... I... Oh, God. I've been treating you like shit. I'm sorry."
"No, Rodney. You've been treating my like a friend, someone you trust your troubles to."
There was a flash of panic in Rodney's eyes. "You're not going to... I mean... It doesn't bother you that I'm...?"
"It only bothers me that ye didn't trust me enough to tell me, but then, I haven't been entirely honest with you, either, so..."
"What? What do you mean?"
Carson let out an exasperated sigh. "I tried to tell you a few times, but..." He leaned across the couch and kissed Rodney, quickly, just a brief brush of lips.
Rodney stared at him, wide-eyed, fingers touching his mouth as if to verify he hadn't mistaken the sensation. "You're...?"
"The word you've been avoiding saying all evening is 'gay,' Rodney. And, yes, I am."
"Perna and Cadman--"
"Are... or were... very lovely ladies. But they're not my type."
"And your type is?"
"Someone a might taller than me, with blue eyes, and a bit of padding. Someone who would be comfortable to snuggle with all night. Smart, with a sense of humour. Someone I can enjoy spending time with. Handsome. Oh, and male. Very definitely male. Preferably also gay. It makes the sex a wee bit easier." Rodney was still staring at him in shock. "That would be you, Rodney."
"You... you think I'm handsome?"
"Oh, very definitely."
"And you... Sex?"
"Yes. As often as I can get it." Carson smiled at Rodney. "Or was that an invitation?"
"Um. M-maybe. Wait. Maybe we shouldn't."
"Why not?" Carson asked.
"Because we're friends and friends shouldn't... you know."
"Fuck?" Carson provided, watching Rodney flinch. "And who should you fuck?"
"Ah, well, it's just... Oh, God. It's just that I always manage to screw up relationships. So, I just never..." He swallowed. "I've never fucked a friend before."
Carson met his eyes, understanding a little better the bundle of contradictions that was Rodney McKay, his best friend. He reached out and ran a finger along Rodney's jaw, feeling the tension underneath. "I won't push this, but I want you to know that I want this. I want you. Bloody hell, Rodney, I've even taken you home to meet my Mum."
"But what if it... what if we ruin everything? I can't..."
"Rodney, if you've never been with a friend, then you can't know that it'll ruin a friendship. Maybe you've always started out in the wrong place-- with the sex instead of with the relationship, with the icing instead of the cake. What we've got already is the cake. And I'm very thankful for it." He cupped Rodney's chin and held him when he tried to look away. "I love you."
Rodney let out a ragged breath, then pulled him forward, lips meeting his.
In some theoretical gay romance novel, the kiss would have been perfect and the slow slide to lovemaking would have been without tentative questions about who would be in what position, awkward elbows, stubborn condom packages, and embarrassed laughter. They would have climaxed together amidst cries of eternal devotion. Reality was better than that, because it was a real flesh and blood man who shared his bed that night, who shared his body that night, too tentative in his thrusts at first and then a bit too hard and aggressive as he approached climax. Carson was still hard and needy after Rodney throbbed into him, his only vocalisation a long, low moan, and then slowly, regretfully, pulled out his softening member before he lost the condom.
"Trash can is under the bedside table," Carson said, rolling over and slowly pumping his cock.
Rodney nodded, sliding the condom off and depositing it carefully in the trash, arranged such that it wouldn't spill its contents. He lay, catching his breath, and watched Carson masturbate, then picked up the lube. He scooted to the end of the bed, pulling Carson's legs apart so he could sit between them. "Let me help," he said, lubing up his fingers and then easily sliding two into Carson.
"Nngh..." Carson said appreciatively.
Rodney slowly explored till his fingers brushed Carson's prostate, as indicated by the Scottish doctor almost levitating off the bed in pleasure. "Is that good?"
He added a third finger then picked up the rhythm of Carson's strokes.
The fingers inside him, brushing him, exploring him, shooting waves of pleasure through him, were almost more intimate than the thrust of Rodney's cock had been. Carson closed his eyes, hips thrusting his cock into his hand and onto Rodney's fingers.
"I never imagined you'd look so hot," Rodney said.
Carson opened his eyes and took in the sight of the man who was more than a friend now. Rodney was watching him with lust and awe. The look went straight down his spine and into his balls and shooting out his cock in spurts of white pleasure. He didn't call out Rodney's name as he covered his belly and chest with globs of semen. As Rodney carefully slid fingers out him, conscious of how sensitive the body could be after orgasm, he did, however, sigh, "Rodney..."
The look Rodney gave him was almost childish in its happiness, as if saying, "Wow! I did that?!"
"Thank you," Carson breathed. "Thank you for trusting me."
Rodney smiled. "My pleasure. Literally."
And when they had cleaned up and slipped into each other's arms in the narrow bed, Rodney's slightly padded solidity was just like Carson had always dreamed it would be.
"Hey, doc, do you--" Sheppard started as the door to Carson's office slid open, then fell silent, shocked. McKay and Beckett in each other's arms, mouths joined.
Of course, they'd broken apart as soon as they realised he was there, but he had seen it. He stood and gaped at them.
"Colonel," Carson said in annoyance, not a twinge of embarrassment in his voice, "ye can't come barging into my office without knocking. I might have been in the middle of a delicate consultation."
"Uh. Yeah. Sorry. Should I...?" He waved at the door behind him.
Rodney looked like he was soon going to hit full panic mode, his eyes watching John for any sign of disgust.
"What did you need, Colonel?" Carson asked.
"I was just going to ask you if you knew where Rodney was. I guess I've got the answer to that question." He smiled uncertainly, fighting the tightness in his chest. Rodney and Carson... He turned to Rodney. "I was wanting to talk to you. You've been rather... hard to find the last few days." He had some guesses for why that was.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" Rodney asked.
He couldn't very well tell Rodney what he'd been planning to tell him. He fixed a charming smile on his face. "I wanted to apologise to you for being an ass, okay? It wasn't you, really. I just... had some things."
"Okay," Rodney said, doubtfully.
"So... um... You two... You look good together. Just... really good."
"So this doesn't offend your American military sensibilities?" McKay demanded.
"Rodney, you're a Canadian astrophysicis and he's a Scottish geneticist. What the hell do I care what the American military thinks of you two together?"
"Very broadminded of you," Rodney said sarcastically.
"Rodney," Carson said, squeezing his arm warningly. "The colonel came to apologise to you. Stop being so difficult."
Rodney deflated. "Sorry."
Sheppard waved it off. "Hey, I was headed to lunch. You two want to join me?"
"Oh, I've got a pile of reports to go through," Carson begged off.
Sheppard turned to McKay. "Rodney?"
Rodney looked doubtfully between the two men. "You don't mind?" he asked Carson.
"Go. I'll see you at dinner," Carson answered, regretting missing lunch with his lover.
"Great," Sheppard said, slapping Rodney familiarly on the back. "Let's go."
As Rodney walked away, John turned back to Carson. "Be good to him, doc... Carson," he said quietly, regret in his eyes.
Carson nodded. "Oh, I will. And... John?"
Sheppard lifted his head, surprised to hear Carson use his first name. "Yeah?"
"Just remember, one day... one day they'll learn. One day you'll be free to be your true self."
"Hey, are you coming?" Rodney called impatiently. "Because I have better things to do with my time than stand in a hallway and wait on you."
"Coming, Rodney," Sheppard answered, grinning.
"So, what kind of crap are they serving in the cafeteria today? Your favourite meatloaf?" Rodney asked as they walked away.
"You should talk, Rodney. You actually like hospital food."
And as the two friends walked down the corridors together, snarking quite happily at each other, everything was suddenly, unaccountably, right with the world once again.