Stairs

~ Written for wesleysgirl for the Carson Beckett Requestathon

John was sitting in the living area, reading through some of the mountain of non-tree-based paperwork he had to plow through every week, when he heard Rodney's confused voice call out from the bedroom.

"Carson, sweetheart? What *is* this?"

John would have ignored him, but he heard, from the couch behind him, "Oh, crap." He glanced up to see Carson standing up and heading for the front -- not bedroom -- door.

"Tell him I was never here," Carson whispered urgently.

"Hell, no," John whispered back. "I'm not getting involved." He turned back to his laptop, but didn't even try to go back to reading.
He didn't blame Carson for wanting to run -- the only time Rodney used pet names was when he thought one of them had done something inexplicable and really just wanted it undone, rather than explained.

But Carson was grabbing his jacket and was at the door, sending one last pleading look back at John to keep his mouth shut and there might be something in it for him later, if he did. John didn't really have to weigh the benefit of sexual favours from Carson versus dealing with an irritated Rodney, himself.

"Carson?" Rodney's voice was louder -- coming closer. Carson quickly slipped out the front door and John watched as it slid closed. Two seconds after the door shut, Rodney walked into the living area. "Car-- Oh. I could have sworn he was here."

John turned his attention away from the front door -- thinking surely it was patently obvious where Carson had gone. But he hadn't actually decided whose side he was going to be on. Then he frowned at the item in Rodney's hands. "What's that?"

"That's what I want to know. His mom must have sent another box--"

"Is that where the cocoa came from?" John had found their supply had been replenished; the Daedalus had arrived yesterday and all their personal requisitions had been delivered and unpacked while he'd been on duty. He'd assumed Rodney had been responsible for restocking their kitchen, but if it had come from Scotland, it would explain why the brand wasn't their usual.

"Huh?" Rodney blinked, and looked at him like he'd only just realised John was in the room. "Yes, she sent... it's like she thinks we don't have grocery stores out here, or something. I swear that woman thinks we're starving."

John raised an eyebrow.

"All right, fine, she sends the good stuff which the SGC can't seem to find with a map, a flashlight, and three native guides. But..." Rodney glanced down at the item he was holding. It looked like fabric, folded over on itself. Clothing? Maybe. She'd sent them all sweaters, gloves, scarves -- despite Carson's telling her it didn't snow where they were.

None of them objected too strenuously because every time she sent care packages, she included sweets and food stuffs that made John wonder why he hadn't started dating Carson sooner. He walked over to Rodney, and took the fabric thing from him.

"It's a quilt." It was white, with curved lines weaving around making interlocking circles of multi-coloured patches.

"I know that," Rodney said in his usual 'and you're an idiot for thinking I didn't know' tone. "This was with it." He held up a note, but didn't hand it over as John reached for it. "It says this was Carson's grandmother's wedding quilt."

"Really?" John shook out the quilt. It actually looked big enough for their bed, which Rodney and John had built out of scavanged furniture from around the unused living quarters. The bed was big enough for three adults to sleep in without anyone being afraid to twitch in the middle of the night -- a good thing, John figured, since no matter who started out sleeping on top of whom, they always ended up sleeping more or less spread out evenly across the mattress.

It was wider than a normal king-sized bed, which made John wonder about Carson's grandmother. He looked up at Rodney, who grimaced. "She says she extended it on one side to make it big enough."

"That was nice of her." John turned the quilt in his hands, and saw the line where new fabric had been added. Almost an extra foot and a half, it looked like.

"You're missing the point!" Rodney snapped.

"Um... apparently." John gave his lover a look. "What's wrong?"

"She sent us a *wedding* quilt. From Carson's *grandparents* bed. Which Carson just threw on the bed without saying anything like 'oh by the way, my mother thinks we're married'!"

John looked down at the quilt in his hands. He bit back the reflex to tell Rodney he was being insane, because it was possible he had a point. "It could just be a quilt for our bed," he said cautiously. Secretly, he thought it might be kind of nice if *someone* thought they were married. But the idea still freaked Rodney the hell out, so John and Carson had decided not to try mentioning it, yet.

Besides, John figured they lived together, and everyone on Atlantis knew about it, so it was basically like being married already.

Rodney wasn't appeased, however. "Oh, and I suppose his grandmother's ring is just a decoration?"

"She sent the *ring*?" John nearly dropped the quilt -- clearly this was far more serious than Rodney -- or Carson -- had let on. If Carson had told his mother they were...no, he would have mentioned it, wouldn't he?

But Rodney waved his hand. "No, I'm trying to make a point. Which is: Carson's mother seems to think we should have all the family heirlooms that you only pass on once your kids get married. *Married*."

Rodney folded his arms and glared, so serious and alarmed that John was tempted to tease him by asking if he'd missed the part where they'd exchanged their vows. But the closest they'd come to doing anything like that was swearing never to steal each other's cereal bowls in the morning, because each of them had turned out to be a little more territorial than any of them had expected.

Though John wouldn't have cared before he'd brought back his Batman dishes, and Rodney had that over-sized plastic thing that was thick enough to withstand an hour in the microwave. Carson had a ceramic, handpainted bowl with a chip on the edge which he'd never explained the origin of.

Privately, John thought both of them were a bit strange about it, but he conceded that if either of them used his Batman bowl, it meant *he* didn't get to.

"Maybe she just wants to clean out her attic?" John suggested. If he could get Rodney defused, he could go chase down Carson and ask him what he'd been telling his mother.

"Or maybe she thinks we're *married*," Rodney repeated. "Where the hell is Carson?"

John pointed towards the door. "He left right before you came out of the bedroom."

Frowning, Rodney asked, "Why didn't you stop him? Didn't you hear me calling him?"

"I bet you can get him on the radio," John said, not wanting to explain that he'd let Carson escape because just last week, Carson had done the same for him.

Rodney narrowed his eyes, but lifted his hand and triggered his radio. "McKay to Beckett. Where the hell are you and what the hell did you tell your mother?"

"Rodney, you're on an open channel," John whispered -- he'd heard the echo of Rodney's voice in his own radio.

"I know that. Carson! Get your ass back here!" Rodney tapped his radio again, switching it off.

John listened to his own radio -- a few noises that sounded muffled, someone talking rapidly to someone else not on the radio, the voice distant and faded, but it sounded like Elizabeth. Then a sharp sound, and Elizabeth's voice came over the comm. "We'd like to remind Atlantis personnel that public channels are to be used for official business only," she said in an almost prim tone.

John tapped his radio. "He can't hear you, he's switched his radio off."

"Is that Carson?" Rodney asked.

"No," John said, deliberately leaving his radio on. "It's Elizabeth, and she wants you to keep your domestic difficulties off the public channels."

"*My* domestic... excuse me, you're the one who started this in the first place."

John blinked. "What do you mean *I* started it?"

"Clearly," Rodney said, poking John in the chest with his finger, "This is all your fault for inviting us both to dinner two years ago."

"Clearly I should have my head examined," John agreed. Then he quickly reached up and tapped his radio off -- cutting off the sound of Elizabeth's laughter.

"I should go find him," Rodney said, and he took two steps towards the door before John caught his arm.

"Relax. He has to come home sometime. Let's just wait for him here."

"But--"

"You want to walk all over Atlantis trying to track down someone who's hiding from you?" Carson wouldn't be hiding anyplace obvious, like the infirmary or his genetics lab. He also wouldn't be anyplace obviously *not* obvious, like the Marines' barracks or Rodney's own lab.

Rodney closed his mouth and thought for a moment.

John added, "Even if he does sleep somewhere else tonight, like his office, he'll have to come back for clean clothes at least by the weekend."

"True." Rodney nodded. "All right, we'll wait. But if he isn't back by midnight, were drinking all the cocoa."

"*All* of it?"

"Well... we can invite a few people over. Radek and Elizabeth and Teyla."

"Too bad Ronon doesn't like chocolate," John said, not sure he wanted to be a part of a plan to get rid of English Cadbury's hot cocoa mix in a single night. "If he did, we could just invite him."

"Clearly an alien," Rodney muttered.

"Teyla likes chocolate," John felt compelled to point out -- as though they hadn't had this conversation before, every time Elizabeth invited her friends over for a social dinner featuring something complicated and chocolate for dessert.

"She's an intelligent woman," Rodney responded. "Whereas Ronon is..." Rodney trailed off, and after a moment, simply closed his mouth.

"Why don't we just go look for Carson?" John suggested, thinking maybe it would be safer than giving away their best chocolate.


Carson stepped away from the microscope, slipping his finger into his mouth. It wasn't bleeding much, but the sharp edge had sliced rather deeply. With his other hand, he pushed the tray with the broken slide towards the center of the table, out of easy reach. Luckily the slide was unused and still sterile -- or he'd have already hollered for assistance.

"What's wrong with your finger?"

Carson half-turned, intending to ask John if he'd got clean away -- then saw Rodney standing beside him. Carson looked at his finger, checking the flow of blood. "Just sliced it, is all. Just a scratch." He told himself he was not at all nervous, despite the fact they'd both come after him and located him so quickly.

Not, he reminded himself, that he was hiding. He'd just decided to get some work done, and deal with Rodney after he'd had a chance to forget about whatever had set him off this time. He glanced at John, but couldn't tell from his expression if he'd come along to support Rodney, or Carson. Or possibly just to watch.

"And you were *sucking* on it?" Rodney chortled. "You're standing in the middle of a fully-staffed and stocked, state-of-the-art infirmary, and you *suck* on a cut?" Rodney laughed again, and Carson waggled his still-slightly-bleeding finger at him.

"See if I ever suck anything for you again," he warned.

Rodney didn't look worried, and John just said, "He does have a point, *Doc*. Don't you people have bandaids, at least?"

"I only just cut myself," Carson said, stifling a sigh. "I've barely had a chance to stand up, much less bandage myself." He headed towards one of the first aid kits, closer than going all the way around to where the full supply cabinet was.

"Hang on," Rodney said, putting his hand on top of Carson's, preventing him from lifting the first aid kit down. Before Carson could ask him what he was up to, Rodney turned his head and yelled, "Hey, can we have a nurse over here?"

"Rodney!" Carson yanked his hand away. "It's a *cut*."

"So says the man who fussed for five minutes over John nicking his hand."

"With a kitchen knife, that had food on it," Carson said. "This was a clean, sterile piece of glass."

"In a medical lab," Rodney said, waving his hand at the room. "Who knows what sort of horrible germs are floating around." He paused, suddenly, and frowned. "You weren't working on anything--"

"I was *going* to clean it first," Carson said. Then he sighed as Devorah walked up.

"What seems to be the trouble?" she asked in her best, professional nurse tone.

"It's nothing," Carson began.

"He's bleeding," Rodney said, grabbing Carson's hand and lifting it, showing Devorah the injury on Carson's finger. "Very serious, could go gangrene, rot, and fall off."

"Thank you for the image, Rodney," John said, dryly.

"I doubt it's going to do anything of the sort," Carson said. "Although I seem to recall *someone*--"

"Why don't we clean this and bandage it up?" Devorah interrupted.

"I can take care of it myself," Carson said, trying not to snap at her. But she didn't let go of his hand. She did, however, open the same first aid kit Carson had gone after. Carson gave Rodney a smug look as she opened it and removed a small alcohol wipe and a bandaid.

"At least I can trust her not to put it in her mouth," Rodney said.

John opened his mouth, and Rodney turned to him. "Do not say a word." John slowly closed his mouth.

After a moment, Carson opened his own mouth. Rodney pointed at him. "You, too."

"Can I say it?" Devorah asked, as she finished putting the bandage on Carson's finger.

"Don't you have real work to do?" Rodney asked her. She gave Carson's hand a pointed look, then closed up the first aid kit and replaced it on the shelf.

"If you have any trouble," she said to Carson, "you know where to find the doctor on duty."

As she walked away, Carson scowled at Rodney. "You realise there's going to be *paperwork* for this, now. You just gave us both reports to file."

"Even for just this little cut?" John asked, walking over and picking up Carson's hand. He inspected the small bandaid, then lifted Carson's hand to his mouth -- and sucked the finger next to it.

"I... for... yes," Carson said. "The SGC... requires... fuck, John, not *here*."

"Isn't there some sort of incident critical point where you don't have to file reports for anything less than, say, a missing limb?" Rodney asked, frowning thoughtfully.

"I don't want to know why the science department files 28% fewer reports than any other department in Atlantis," John said, still holding Carson's hand.

Rodney just waved a hand in the air. "As if we have time for reports when we're constantly saving the city, or the planet, or the galaxy, or--"

"We get the picture," John interrupted.

"What the hell is with that quilt?" Rodney suddenly asked.

Carson stared at him for a moment, wondering if the touch of John's mouth on his hand had disoriented him that much. "Quilt?"

"On our bed. That your mother sent."

"What about it?" Carson had put everything away when the boxes had arrived, knowing that Rodney wouldn't even notice the new pairs of socks or the refilled tin of tea. John would simply never get around
to completely unpacking anything, so Carson had taken to putting everything away without bothering to let them know what they'd got.

"He means," John said, "that it appears to be more than just a quilt. Like why would your mother send us your grandmother's wedding quilt?"

Carson blinked. Perhaps his brain really wasn't functioning just yet. "You... don't like it?" He'd grown up used to seeing it at his grandparents' home. He remembered being scolded for spilling food on it more than once, and for using it -- unsuccessfully -- as a parachute on one rather memorable occasion.

"It's very lovely," Rodney snapped. "That isn't the point. Why is your mother using the word 'wedding' to refer to a family heirloom she's passing on to us?"

Perhaps it was Rodney's brain that wasn't functioning, Carson thought. He could warm up the scanner and take a quick peek at Rodney's skull. "Because that's what it's called?" Carson looked from Rodney to John. They both seemed rather concerned about a simple comforter. Then he realised what was probably wrong. He smiled, and shook his head. "Did you happen to notice the pattern of big coloured circles?"

"Yeah." Rodney and John were both looking at him like they suspected a trick.

"That's the quilt pattern. It's called 'double wedding ring.'" Carson crossed his arms, and waited. Rodney and John exchanged a look, clearly debating if they believed this explanation.

"It's just the name of the quilt?" John asked.

"It is," Carson confirmed. "She's working on enlarging a second one, I think it's the log cabin quilt -- and no, it doesn't mean she thinks we ought to build one."

"Oh, thank god," Rodney breathed. "So she doesn't.. I mean... your mother doesn't think we're married."

Carson rolled his eyes, giving Rodney just enough time to relax completely, then said, "Of course she does. We've been living together for over a year, now. What else would she think?"

Rodney and John were now both staring at him, open-mouthed. Carson looked at them sternly and waited.

"You... couldn't have just told her we're just living together?" John finally asked, sending a worried glance towards Rodney. Carson knew exactly what he was thinking.

"Oh, yes, tell my own mother I'm living in sin? I don't think so." Carson had to fight to keep a stern look; he frowned harder, to prevent himself from laughing. "Besides, I didn't tell her anything other than I fell in love and how bloody hard it is to share a bathroom with two people in the morning. She figured the rest of it out."

"That's not the same thing as 'married'," John pointed out, but Carson was watching the slightly stunned look on Rodney's face.

"Were you planning on moving out, then?" Carson asked him. They'd had this discussion before, when Rodney was safely tucked away in his lab. He knew John's answer, but he was a little tired of waiting for Rodney to get a clue.

"No." John shook his head.

"Ever?" Carson asked, trying again not to smile as Rodney's eyes went even wider. If he got any more pale, though, Carson was going to have to make him sit down.

There was a pause, then John said, "No. Never."

"Then what's the problem with my mother thinking we're married?"

"Could we please stop using the 'm' word?" Rodney asked, faintly.

"Mother?" John asked. Rodney just glared at him -- but his color was returning, so Carson relaxed.

"Moving?" Carson offered, and this time he did smile when Rodney scowled at him.

"None of us is moving out, we're *not* having any sort of ceremony, party, or ritual, and if your mother ever sends any more of that jam I'm keeping it all for myself."

"There's a jar in the cabinet," Carson told him. "Two, actually; I told her you liked it."

"We could have a party," John said. "Elizabeth says she has a new cheesecake recipe she wants to try out."

"Dinner," Rodney said promptly. "Friday. And Radek is bringing the pizza, because he finally got the big oven working again."

"Fine, fine. Now if the pair of you would clear out, I have work I'm trying to get done."

Rodney and John began moving away, still discussing who should bring what and who should be sent to the other side of the city so they wouldn't show up uninvited. Carson watched them go, and tried not to think of what his mother had said in her last letter.

Perhaps he'd mention the rings to them next year.