c. arabica

~ Cowritten with Mice [website]
 
Notes: Written for kerry louise, as back-up for the Carson Beckett
Requestathon. She requested romance, h/c, angst, with the prompts: coffee and communication.

He'd brought it along, not as his one personal possession, but as a necessary part of his gear. A single piece of paper that he'd put up on his office wall as soon as he'd settled in. A single piece of paper that, now, he was no longer sure he had any right to have.

Carson stood in front of his medical license and stared at it. When he thought about the oath he'd taken upon receiving it, he shuddered. The paper didn't care. It hung there on the wall, mocking him.

He closed his eyes, not wanting to see it, but all he could see then was Perna, dying. Half a planet dying. He wished he could talk to someone, but there was no one here for him. For a time he'd thought perhaps Perna might end up being that someone, but...

Of course, before they'd come to Atlantis, he'd thought there *was* someone. Someone he'd been well on his way to being in love with. But since they'd arrived in Atlantis it was as though they'd never even been lovers, and some days Carson felt like he was the only one who remembered.

It had been hard, hiding their relationship back on Earth, in Antarctica, but they'd managed and Carson had thought that what they'd had had been... serious. But he'd discovered that Rodney had felt not at all the same. Never even a word about it, never a single glance that told Carson that maybe Rodney missed what they'd been.

They were still friends, a fact which Carson normally appreciated. Right at the moment, however, he needed something more than a friend. He needed someone to forgive him -- and he wasn't sure there was anyone alive who could do so.

He knew he would never be able to forgive himself.

With a sigh, he sat at his desk and buried his face in his hands. The day had been far too long, and even if he'd not just murdered half a planet, going through the Gate was unsettling. It left him feeling disoriented, a little scrambled. It was all psychological, he knew, but that never made any difference. He avoided the damned thing when he could.

Carson remembered how it felt when Rodney touched him. He missed it, missed the warmth of being so close to him. He hated that he still wanted that, still needed it, and that Rodney was oblivious.

It was hard, sometimes, being around him and remembering. He was able to remain Rodney's friend, of course. They'd been too close to forsake that entirely, but it had left a hole in him that he'd never quite managed to fill anywhere else.

He sat at his desk, not sure how long he'd been resting his head and trying not to think -- or to feel -- when he heard a soft noise at the door. He looked up, startled to find Rodney himself standing there.

"Rodney...can I help you?" For a moment he felt relief, seeing Rodney there. Carson wanted to go to him, hold onto him and let Rodney's arms around him give what comfort they could. But he stopped himself from even rising from his chair. Such things weren't his anymore.

Rodney looked at Carson, then down at the steaming mug in his hand. "I uh, I thought you might like a cup of coffee." He shrugged and set it down on Carson's desk. "Um... I think I put enough sugar in it." With an uneasy look in his eyes, he gazed at Carson for a moment then looked away.

"Rodney?" Carson was confused.

"I just... I... I came to see how you were doing."

Shaking his head, Carson said, "I'm fine." It was a lie, and an obvious one at that. But he didn't want to talk -- much as he wanted to talk to someone, and to Rodney in particular, this wasn't the Rodney he wanted. He didn't want Rodney the concerned friend. He wanted his lover.

"Are you sure?" Rodney asked, hesitant.

Carson blinked for a moment then snapped, "What are you doing here?"

Rodney looked startled. "I just... was concerned, is all."

"Concerned? You're 'concerned' -- that's bloody lovely. You couldn't be bothered before, but now you're 'concerned'." Anger sparked in him, and after everything that had happened in the last week, he couldn't control it. "Why do you bloody well care how I feel? It's not like we're together anymore!"

Rodney looked like he'd been slapped and Carson was tempted for just a moment to step over and do so for real. "But--"

"I don't need your 'concern', you self-absorbed arse. Ignore me without so much as a thank you, please, then now I kill half a planet and you're *concerned*. No thank you! Go away, Rodney, and leave me be."

"You're still my friend," Rodney said. "Don't I have a right to--"

Carson glared at him and Rodney stuttered to a stop.

He took a sharp breath and turned, stared at the mug. The steam curled up from it. His stomach curdled at the thought of the acid in it. He'd barely been able to eat since the Hoffans had started dying in their thousands.

"Carson?"

He didn't look up. He wanted Rodney to just leave, despite the fact he'd just been wishing he were here. This wasn't what he wanted. He wanted the Rodney who'd made him feel loved. "I'm tired," he said, too exhausted to argue further.

"But--"

He looked up sharply, mouth open to tell him off. His fist clenched the handle of the coffee mug, but as quickly as the anger flared it died again and Carson felt like his blood had been replaced with lead. "Please, Rodney. Just leave me alone."

Rodney's shoulders slumped but then he straightened up. "Yeah. Right. Leaving you alone." With a defeated air, he left Carson's office.

It was probably better that way, Carson told himself. Easier not to think about what he'd lost when it wasn't staring you right in the face.

Carson closed his eyes, the steam from the mug drifting up and warming his face. He stayed that way for a long time, the faces of dying Hoffans haunting him.

When he finally took a sip of the coffee, it was cold.


The next morning, Carson hadn't slept. He'd gone back to his quarters well after midnight and lain in bed barely able to close his eyes. Every time he had, he'd seen her face, seen Rodney's face. He'd dozed, once, and the dreams had woken him.

He'd finally got up and decided he had to do something -- even if he couldn't bear the thought of going to his lab, or the infirmary, to work. But he'd taken a shower and dressed, not looking too long in the mirror. Dark circles under his eyes made his face look pale as death.

His stomach rebelled at the thought of breakfast, so Carson thought he would simply go and grab his cup of coffee, carefully rationed by Supply. He could have made a cup of tea here, but he needed to get out, get moving so that maybe he would be able to put some of this behind him.

He'd barely got to the door when there was a knock. He put his hand out and it slid open. "Rodney?"

For a second, he thought Rodney looked like he hadn't had any more sleep than Carson. Then he was distracted by the mug Rodney was holding out. "You look like hell," Rodney said.

"What is--" Carson took the mug, and looked in it. Coffee. He almost smiled, wondering how Rodney knew how badly he needed it. Then he sobered. "What is this?"

"It's coffee," Rodney said in that long-suffering tone that Carson had once upon a time found secretly amusing. Before Carson could snap at him now, though, Rodney said, "I got my morning cup. Um. You know. From our rations. I thought... It's just coffee, all right?"

Rodney turned and walked quickly away before Carson could say another word. Carson watched Rodney's back receding down the corridor. He stared down into the cup, too confused to sip at it just yet. Rodney? Giving up some of his coffee ration? That was strange to the point of bizarre.

Their fingers had brushed when Rodney handed him the mug. He tried not to think about that, but the touch left trails along his nerves and shivered down his skin with the heat of the dark liquid.

Why did the man have to torment him so?

Of course, being Rodney, he'd have no idea what he was actually doing to Carson. Taking a sip, Carson headed off for a nearby balcony. It would be cool there, with the morning sun rising. Perhaps that would get his mind off of the events of Hoff, at least for a little while.

It wasn't until later that afternoon, when Carson was busying himself with as much paperwork as he could, that he remembered. A conversation they'd had, getting dressed one morning and talking about sneaking out of the room one at a time and meeting up for breakfast. Carson had been going on about the food, how he missed food that didn't taste like it had recently been in powdered form.

Rodney had countered by extolling the virtues of the coffee, and Carson had teased him. He couldn't recall his words now, but he suddenly remembered Rodney's quite clearly.

"I don't share my coffee with anyone, Carson. Well, maybe with my cat, but that's only because she's a higher life form." Rodney had smiled, the happy, smug grin that always made Carson want to kiss him.

But this morning, he'd brought Carson his coffee. *His*.

What was Rodney trying to say? You'd think a man who was such a bloody genius, who had so many words constantly flowing, would be able to say whatever was on his mind, but not Rodney McKay.

'We're still friends,' he'd said yesterday. That was true, so far as it went, but that didn't mean Rodney was going to share his *coffee* with Elizabeth. She was his friend too, after all.

Carson's brain stuttered to a stop.

Coffee.

Rodney's coffee.

What was going on?

Half dozen possible answers suggested themselves. It was an apology. It was nothing. It was... everything. He felt his heart thud hard in his chest and Carson told himself it could well be something quite trivial. The lads in the kitchen might not have believed Rodney that he'd wanted a cup for Carson, so they'd taken the coffee from Rodney's own ration. Maybe it was Carson's ration, and Rodney had misspoke.

But he'd said it was his... then he'd said it was nothing, just coffee.

Carson shook his head, told himself he was getting himself worked up for what might well be nothing at all.

Except... Rodney had never been terribly good with words. With science, yes. With himself?

Carson decided to go find the man and find out what was going on.


Of course Rodney was in his lab. Not that Carson could ask the questions he wanted to there, surrounded by Rodney's staff. The fact that he tended to refer to them as 'minions' was worth an eyeroll, at least the first time he'd said it. Carson remembered Rodney once saying that he'd wanted to be a Mad Scientist when he grew up. Apparently, in Rodney's mind, he'd succeeded.

"Rodney."

Rodney looked up, surprised. Something flashed in his eyes but he covered it quickly. "Carson?"

"Could you take a break for a few minutes?" Carson tugged at his sleeve.

"I'm in the middle of... I mean... I suppose..." Rodney didn't look all that certain, and Carson suddenly doubted just what he'd meant earlier. He was reading too much into it, Carson told himself.

"Just a few minutes," Carson said, though it was on the tip of his tongue to say never mind, and leave. But Rodney nodded and stepped away from his work so Carson turned and walked out with Rodney
following.

Now that he'd got his attention, however, Carson discovered he didn't have any clue what to say.

"I... ummm..." Rodney walked along beside him. "You look like you didn't sleep last night."

Carson sighed and nodded, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his lab coat. "I didn't. I can't stop thinking about what happened."

Rodney made a soft sound of agreement. "Yeah. I, ah, didn't sleep much either."

Carson looked over at him. Rodney stared at the floor as they walked, hands in his pockets, shoulders down. "Why?" he asked.

"Why what?" Rodney replied. He looked up and met Carson's eyes.

"You once you told me you don't share your coffee with anyone."

Rodney shrugged, looking away as though with guilt. "I don't. It was just... does it matter?"

"I don't know, Rodney," Carson said calmly. "Does it matter?"

There was no response for a moment, then Rodney looked up at him again. "Look, Carson, I don't... I'm not good at this, all right? I can talk physics until people's ears fall off, and I can insult everyone on the planet in my sleep. But this... I can't do it, all right? I just... I'm gonna mess it up if I try."

The feeling of hope that had started to grow dimmed again. "You can't do what?"

"I can't... tell you things. How I... you know. How I feel."

"So instead you bring me your coffee."

Rodney hesitated, nodded. "Yeah."

Carson's heart skipped a beat. "I thought... I mean, after we got here you stopped... we didn't even talk about it."

Rodney looked around. "So now you want to? Here in the corridor you want to talk about this?"

"Oh. Well, no, not as such." Carson sighed and took a chance, reaching out. He grasped Rodney's elbow gently. "Maybe we should find someplace a little more private to talk, then."

"Oh, god, not with the talking. I'm lousy with talking."

"Rodney, it's not the words that matter. Don't you know that?" Carson could hear the ache inside him in his own voice. It was frightening how much there was, how much of him stood, naked, in those words.

"Are you kidding? That's how I screw up every single-- Really, it's better if I don't," Rodney half-pleaded.

"I would rather you say every bloody thing wrong," Carson said, keeping his voice quiet but unable to keep the force of his emotions out. "It's better than not being with you at all."

At that, Rodney gaped at him. Carson pulled at his arm and Rodney followed, stumbling as he walked. Carson dragged him down the hall into the first empty room he found; one of the engineering labs that was, for the moment, unoccupied. There he let go of Rodney and paced, trying to marshall his thoughts into something that would make sense.

"I missed you," Rodney said, quietly.

Carson stopped dead in his tracks. He turned and looked at Rodney. "You did?" He couldn't keep the disbelief from his voice.

Rodney nodded.

"I don't understand. Why did you stop seeing me, then?" Carson shook his head, trying to clear away the confusion. "Even if all you wanted was a fuckbuddy, why couldn't you just say so? I thought--" Carson stopped and blushed. Had he said too much?

Rodney's eyes widened. "No! No, that wasn't it at all. See? This is what I mean. I always fuck things up."

"You're not fucking this up," Carson said. "Not yet, at least." He forced a small grin, and Rodney didn't look entirely reassured. "Tell me what you want. Do you want to have sex again?"

"Yes! God, yes, Carson." Rodney looked relieved, and Carson felt anything but.

"Is that all you want?" he asked, hating the way his voice died to a whisper, but he couldn't bring himself to say it any louder.

"No."

He waited, but Rodney didn't say more. Carson stared and Rodney began to look afraid. Carson hesitated, then held out his hand, grasping Rodney's fingers. After a moment, Rodney clutched at his hand. "Can we be more?" Carson asked.

Rodney blinked, looking terrified, but nodded. "I... yeah. I mean, I hope so. If that's... I mean, what do *you* want? What can we..." His voice fell to a whisper. "God, I missed you."

Carson moved closer, raising one hand to Rodney's face and Rodney leaned in, slipping an arm around his waist. He pulled Carson to him, careful, tentative. They stared into each other's eyes, nose to nose.

"Carson?" he said softly.

"I love you," Carson said, saying the words he'd been feeling, and fighting, for far too long.

"Oh, god," Rodney whispered, and Carson felt him sway. "I... love you, too. I... I was afraid I was going to... I couldn't... I knew I'd mess up and hurt you and you'd leave, and I didn't want..."

There were two ways to stop him, Carson knew. One was to tell him to hush, and the other one... well, it stood a chance of actually working. He tilted his head and placed a very light kiss on Rodney's lips.

Rodney pulled him in, bodies close, and kissed him like it was the last kiss he'd ever have. He moaned, soft in Carson's mouth and Carson melted into it, shaking at how much he'd missed this. His hands moved, sliding over Rodney's shirt, fingers fisting in the material as they clung to each other like drowning men.

"I think... we should adjourn this meeting to...your quarters are closer," Rodney said, breaking apart just enough to speak. He still clung to Carson as though one of them might bolt.

"Yes," was all Carson could say. Another kiss then, hard and desperate, and he forced himself to let go. The walk to his quarters might be shorter than to Rodney's, but it was still far too long to make it look like anything other than what it was, if he didn't stop now.

Rodney nodded twice, sharp, and almost ran for the door.

"Rodney."

Rodney looked up at him. "What?"

"Making it into a hundred-metre dash isn't subtle."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "You try sprinting when your dick is this hard."

Carson grinned, just for a moment, and glanced down. The tent in Rodney's pants was painfully obvious. "There is that."

"You could lend me your lab coat."

"And then how would I hide my own?"

"We could lock the door and have unromantic sex on the table here," Rodney suggested. "I'm not sure who uses the lab, and frankly I don't care."

"Hmm." Carson considered the situation carefully. Unless they found a bucket of ice in the lab, there was no way to get from here to anywhere without telling anyone who saw them exactly what they were doing.

He looked at the door. "*Can* you lock it?"

Instead of replying, Rodney walked over to the door and pushed a button on a recessed panel. Then he turned, facing Carson, mouth half-open, his expression one of sheer want.

Carson looked at him, stunned by the intensity in Rodney's face. The man's eyes were dark as he moved toward Carson. "Rodney," Carson whispered. And Rodney's hands touched him, slid around his waist and pulled him close as Rodney kissed him again. He held nothing back and Carson was breathless with it, unable to hide his own need and desire.

Rodney groaned, his hands tugging at Carson's lab coat, pushing it back, pulling at the hem of his shirt until they found skin. Carson thought he might die if Rodney stopped touching him. His own hands moved under Rodney's shirt, slipping down under the waistband of his trousers. It had been so bloody long since he'd touched the man like this. He'd missed it, missed Rodney so much.

Rodney's mouth moved, trailing kisses down Carson's throat as he sank slowly to his knees, mouthing Carson's shirt as he went. His hands tugged at Carson's belt and the next thing Carson knew, Rodney had his trousers open and was reaching into his pants, caressing his hard, aching shaft.

"Oh, god," Carson whispered, clutching at the table behind him, praying his knees wouldn't give out. Then Rodney's mouth was on him. He forced himself to stand still, fighting the urge to push forward as Rodney's tongue swirled around the cockhead. Noises curled in Carson's throat and he fought against them, half-afraid someone would pound on the door demanding to know what was wrong.

Rodney's fingers cupped his balls, teasing lightly and Carson couldn't hold back a groan. His head fell forward and he stared -- Rodney on his knees, taking Carson's cock into his mouth.

"Fuck, Rodney, I'm not..." Carson whimpered, and Rodney just sucked him harder. Tugged at his balls, and it was embarrassing how soon he was going to come if he didn't get some control of himself.

None of it seemed to bother Rodney, who just teased him more until Carson fell, panting, over the edge, his heart in his throat. He came with a strangled cry and Rodney made satisfied sounds, fingers teasing Carson's balls and slipping into the cleft of his ass.

Carson leaned back against the table, knees wobbling, as Rodney looked up. There was a wicked glint in his eyes. He let Carson's come run from his mouth into his hand and tugged his own trousers open. "I want you," he whispered, his voice dangerous. He slicked himself with Carson's come as Carson tugged at his own trousers, letting them drop around his ankles. He turned over and lay his chest on the lab table.

"All yours," he said, fairly sure the invitation wasn't necessary, not with the way Rodney's hands were already on Carson's arse. He could feel Rodney behind him, close but not yet -- then the tip of his cock was there, a light, ghosting touch, just enough to warn him.

Then Rodney began pushing in and Carson groaned, loudly. This time he didn't try to force himself to hold still; he leaned back, and Rodney slid inside.

"God, Carson," Rodney breathed in his ear, hands gripping tightly on Carson's hips. He pulled back, not enough to slip out but enough to make Carson open his mouth to tell him 'fuck me already;' then he thrust in, all the way. Carson cried out, hearing Rodney's voice echo his own.

He'd missed this more than he could ever have known. Rodney, thrusting into him, his body responding, bucking back against his lover. God, his lover. He moaned, braced against the table, relishing the feel of Rodney's body pressed to his, Rodney moving in him, hot breath in Carson's ear.

"Oh, god, love you," Rodney moaned, his voice ragged. "Was so afraid I'd hurt you, didn't want... oh god..."

He was pounding harder, hands running up and down Carson's sides, his voice incoherent now. All Carson could hear was the want in it, the need -- the love. He shuddered as Rodney came in him, both of them gasping. Rodney's hands were tucked under his arms, fingers wrapped around his shoulders, and he thrust a few more times, almost weeping as his breath caught.

"Love you," Carson whispered as Rodney stilled, then he swallowed and said it again. "Love you."

"I'm sorry I didn't... I should have..." Rodney stopped, and Carson could feel him pulling away. Carson reached for his wrists and held him still.

After a moment's hesitation, Rodney leaned against Carson's back, and stayed there.


His heart was pounding as he opened his eyes. Dark, it took Carson a moment to focus. His room, his bed -- his memories, wrapped up in dreams that held soft voices, whispering to him. He rolled onto his
side, trying not to gasp out loud. He could still hear Perna's voice, clear among the thousands he'd never even met.

"Carson?" Another voice, in the room with him. "Carson." Rodney's voice.

Oh, god, had it been real? One strong arm curved around his chest, pulling him close. "What's wrong?"

"I can't get their voices out of my head," Carson said, trying not to let the sting in his eyes spill over into tears.

Rodney pulled him closer. "I'm sorry."

"You think I'm not?" Carson snapped. He rolled over to face Rodney, miserable and angry and aching with it. "You think I wanted to kill half a bloody planet?"

Rodney nuzzled against him. "Of course not. But it's not like they gave you a choice."

"I could have--"

"You could only do what you did."

Carson burrowed into Rodney's arms. "I should have--"

"Should nothing." Rodney stroked his face, brushing tears away. "You tried to help. You're just like that." When Carson opened his mouth to object, Rodney kissed him. Carson held on, needing the kiss, needing Rodney, like he needed air.

When he let go, the voices in his head hadn't quieted any. He tucked his head down, pressing his forehead against Rodney's shoulder. He felt Rodney's hand on his head, brushing gently through his hair.

"I wish...."

"I know," Rodney said.

Carson closed his eyes, and held on. He didn't fall asleep for a long while, but when he did, Rodney was still lying there, holding him.