~ All mice's fault.

Elizabeth wanted nothing more right now than to go into her office and shut off the intercom.

She couldn't, because she had to stay here and make her people believe that they would rescue him in time. She couldn't because it seemed dishonest not to listen. If they didn't make it... she had to be here, to have heard every word.

It was going to be a long, long night.

It had started when Carson had called the control centre over the Atlantis intercom system. He'd been hurt and was trapped, and told them where he was to come rescue him.

They'd discovered immediately that he couldn't hear them when they called back. Elizabeth had sent a rescue team and medical team right away, and set Peter and Marjorie to trying to fix the radio somehow so they could contact Carson and let him know.

For half an hour they'd listened to Carson call for help. He described his injuries, detailed the sort of emergency rescue that was needed. When Dr. Wheeler had contacted the control room, she'd explained in a quiet voice that if they didn't get to him before morning, he wasn't going to make it.

The rescue teams had found where he'd been -- a lab where Carson had somehow triggered something. A safety device was the current theory, which had slammed down containment walls to protect the people of the city. Only they couldn't find the override, couldn't find the reason they'd come down, and couldn't cut through the damn things fast enough.

Walls plural, because they'd discovered that the lab was a series of rooms, and they'd cut through two bulkheads already.

Half an hour after calling for help, Carson had fallen silent. Elizabeth had fretted, tried not to badger her people for updates. Then Carson had started talking.

"Oh, no one's hearing me." There was a sigh, and Elizabeth had glared at Peter, who was ignoring her in favor of trying to get through.
Elizabeth remained silent, and they all did what they could. For most of them, that was stop what they were doing and listen.

"It's dark in here -- don't know what's happened. Power's out, I suppose. Would explain the radio not working. I suppose they'll come looking for me eventually. Someone's bound to notice I'm not anywhere."

Another sigh, then, "Bloody well hurts. Hope they get here soon."

There had been silence for a short while, and Elizabeth had contacted Major Sheppard. He'd let her know about the door, and the cutting torch they'd put into use and his sergeant's best estimate. At the time they'd thought there was only one door, and everyone was hopeful.

"It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't so boring," Carson had continued. "Sitting alone in the dark -- it's all right if you're got things to brood about and a pot of coffee to keep you company. Even a bit of paper or a laptop to pretend you're working. Well, of course, if I had a laptop I could probably send someone an email to come down here and get me."

Elizabeth had smiled at that, and given Peter a querying look. He'd shaken his head and Elizabeth had gone back to worrying.

"Well then, I've not really got a hand free to type an email. Remember, next time, when you go off into an unused lab to fret about things, to take a rescue flare. Or a walkie. Or don't go and stay in your bloody quarters where walls don't come crashing down." There'd been a pause. "Good lord, I hope they don't. I wonder... if it's not just here."

"Try now," Peter had exclaimed, and Elizabeth had nodded.

"Carson? Can you hear me?"

They'd tried several times before realising it wasn't working, and Peter and Marjorie had gone back to it. Carson was still talking.

"Wonder what's happened. Could be anything, I suppose. Another virus, maybe. Wraith attack? Someone hit the wrong button and hasn't any idea they've trapped me down here?" Carson made a noise that sounded like a laugh. But it also sounded like pain.

"Oh, hell, I hope they get here soon."

He'd fallen silent again, for long enough that Elizabeth had had to make the rounds of the control stations just to keep from pacing. Pacing anyway, but it looked like she was doing something. The rescue team called in to report they'd broken through the front door -- and found an empty lab, with a second barricade locked into place.

"Get to him as soon as you can," she'd told John, which she hadn't had to say because John was already on it.

They could hear Rodney and Radek in the background, arguing over ways to jury-rig the doors. She didn't care how they did it, as long as they did *something*.


Elizabeth had smiled briefly at the understatement.

"Caoch," Carson followed that up with, "Mo Chreach! This is possibly... no, not the stupidest thing I've ever done. If I knew what I did this time.... Coming to Atlantis was probably the most stupid thing I've done."

The sadness in Carson's voice had made Elizabeth open her mouth to console him. It wouldn't help with him unable to hear, but she'd made a note to talk to him after they got him out of there.

"I don't like it here," he'd continued, and he'd sounded like a young boy, lost and scared. "I don't like being afraid and unhappy and confused and what the bloody hell was I thinking when I let them tell me I had to go. I should have.... Well, no. There wasn't anyone else who knew the research on the gene, not well enough to let them be responsible for the whole expedition.

"I wish I'd never discovered the bloody thing. I wish I'd never accepted their offer, wish I'd never gone to medical school. Wish I'd taken Carol's da up on his offer and become a carpenter. I could have been married to Carol, had three kids -- and a mortgage, divorce, and no job since her da would surely have fired me after the divorce.

"It might have been better than this. Alone, trapped in an alien city with... things trying to kill us and even the bloody walls trying to murder us as we go on about our business. I... fuck, can't reach it. I-- ow! Caoch, fuck, hell."

He'd panted, then, and slowly the sound of pain had faded again.

"Where are they?"

Elizabeth had looked at Peter. Called John. No good answers from either of them.

"I don't want to die," Carson had whispered, and he'd fallen silent for too long. More than her had gasped in relief when he'd finally spoken again.

"I don't want to die -- not here, not alone, not in some bloody other galaxy. I want to die an old man in my chair with the dogs on the floor by the fire stealing all the heat and the radio on playing music that my grandkids call ancient because it's all of fifty years old. Grandkids -- well, them or the my niece's grandchildren. Though I suppose we'd adopt, eventually. If..."

"Right, Carson, that's the stupidest thing you've ever done. Worry over adopting children, when not only have you not got a boyfriend, but you're not even home to raise a family."

Elizabeth's eyebrows had gone up at that and she'd cast a glance at Peter -- who was staring at his control panel, working furiously. Marjorie had caught her eye and shrugged. So, at least she hadn't been the only one not to know.

"I wish," Carson had said, and then he'd trailed off. Thinking, instead of talking, because when he spoke again it was halfway through his thought.

"But there's no need. No point in worrying about it. Only-- Bloody hell. Where are they? I'm tired of sitting here. Tired of--" And he'd shouted, suddenly, "Come get me, already!" and it was followed by gasps of pain, and another muttered curse, then breathing that was loud enough they knew he was still alive.

Elizabeth had taken to clenching her hands together so she wouldn't start yelling at people to hurry. They knew -- and they found the third door and Peter and Marjorie weren't any further along and all Elizabeth could do was pray that the next door was the one. Five hours, now, and Dr. Wheeler had kept her appraised all along of the timetable as though they didn't all know. Assuming Carson's assessment of his injuries was accurate and there wasn't something more he couldn't feel.

"Christ, I just want to go home," Carson said, quietly, breaking into her thoughts. "I wish-- I wish so many things. I don't even mind dying so much, if I weren't stuck here. I don't like it so dark, I don't want to die alone. Only there's nobody out there and I can't get myself.... I just wish I could tell him I was sorry. Wish I could tell my mother it didn't hurt. Wish... wish I was strong and brave and that I'd done *something* right. I wish he'd said yes, just once. So I could remember. It wouldn't be so bad, dying, if I could remember him kissing me. Only he never did, because Rodney doesn't like me that way. Made it perfectly clear.

"He likes the brave, handsome ones, and not people like you who cringe away from anything remotely dangerous. If he could see you now -- crying in the dark because it hurts, because you're dying and you're afraid of being alone. Not sure there's anything there to fall in love with. Surely not without even a handkerchief."

There was a loud sniff over the intercom and it was echoed quietly by more than one person in the control room. Elizabeth only looked at Peter -- his expression told her everything. Over the radio, from the rescue team, she could hear Rodney shouting.

"Please, please hurry," Carson said. "I don't... I can't even tell him. No one listening to my final words. At least... they could believe him. He'd rescue kids, save the world again. Me, I fall down and trap myself and die of my own stupidity.

"Fuck, it hurts," he said, and his voice was growing quiet. Shaking, and Elizabeth closed her eyes.

"I wish I could say something. Only I don't know what it would be. I'm sorry? Brave last words. I want... oh, god. I want...."

He fell silent, and Elizabeth found herself unable to move. Waiting.

There was no more. Peter shook his head when she shot another look at him. He hand wavered over her radio, wishing she could call John and ask for an update -- but he'd have told her the second they'd broken through the door. She'd know if they had found him.

There was a loud crash over the intercom and Rodney screamed. Everyone jumped -- then froze again.

"Carson, goddamit! Where are you?"

There was a pause, then, "Rodney?"

It was faint. But Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut at the surprise. The happiness in one word.

Rodney's voice came again. "What the hell--" Then, "OK, OK," and the intercom shut off.

John called her a split second later. "We found him and Dr. Wheeler is checking him out before he move him."

"Thank you," Elizabeth whispered, then she took a moment to compose herself before passing the information along to the rest of the city. Then she headed down to the infirmary to wait.

Carson woke up slowly, recognising the sensation of being heavily drugged. He didn't mind; he could remember how much it hurt, and didn't want to go there. He felt tight, like something was holding him down -- and realised as he woke up a bit that it was the bandages.

He tried to move and found his hand caught. It took him a moment to focus, then he saw someone's head on the mattress beside him and his hand held firmly. Rodney.

He frowned and tugged his hand again. It didn't budge and Rodney didn't move.

"Shh," someone said.

Carson looked over and saw Raj, one of the nurses, standing on the other side of the bed. Carson got as far as raising an eyebrow in question before he used the last of his energy and didn't actually try to talk.

Raj just smiled at him and patted his arm. "You should still be asleep, I think. But it's good to see you awake." He looked at something beside the bed -- monitors, Carson's brain sluggishly told him.

"You're doing quite well, all things considered," Raj told him, speaking quietly. "You are going to be fine, although you will be here as a guest for quite a while." He grinned again and his glance moved toward Rodney. "We haven't been able to shift him since you came out of post-op. We very nearly had to suit him up and let him into surgery, but Major Sheppard sat on him. Literally." Raj winked.

Carson suddenly remembered why he didn't find the fact of Rodney's presence all that comforting. It must have shown since Raj frowned at him.

"They have a long, pretty speech all prepared for you. But it's nonsense -- all they need to say is no one can hear how much someone loves him and keep pretending he doesn't feel the same."

Carson thought that he was probably still asleep. Or too drugged to understand Raj's perfectly-clear English.

Raj looked at the IV, then back at him. "I'll let them tell you the rest. You go back to sleep, now. And dream about the fact that he," Raj pointed, "Is not leaving until you boot him out. Which would be the only actual stupid thing you've ever done."

Carson wanted to ask him what he was talking about -- and realised that Raj had *heard* him. Then sleep snuck up and grabbed him, dragged him back into drugged silence.

"I don't," Rodney said, quietly.

John wanted to throttle him, or smack him, or just keep arguing with him because even when it was a royal pain to argue with Rodney, it was still kind of fun. "You do. And my saying I don't care doesn't seem to be having any impact."

Rodney scowled. "Because it's--"

"What, absurd that I'm open-minded?"

"No. Well, yes. But absurd that *you* would suggest...." Rodney trailed off without finishing the statement.

John was glad, because maybe it meant Rodney was finally *thinking* and not reacting.

He'd gone insane when they'd discovered Carson was still trapped despite opening one bulkhead door. At that point it had been a focused sort of insanity, with Rodney badgering Radek for offering anything other than perfect solutions.

Then they'd heard Carson talk about Rodney, and Rodney had stood still. Transfixed and John had watched him closely -- because he knew how Rodney felt and knew Rodney knew how Rodney felt, but neither of them had had a clue before then how Carson had felt.

Rodney had nearly attacked the door with his bare hands when Carson had fallen silent and John and Radek had had to hold him back while Sergeant Walker had finished cutting through the last door.

John had had to hang onto him again when they wouldn't let him into the surgery, which told John just how insane Rodney was. Not in a bad way, he reminded himself, except that the whole reason any of this was happening wasn't anything good.

But Carson had come through the surgery and Dr. Wheeler had announced he'd be OK, at which point Rodney had collapsed. They'd got him onto a bunk for a little while, then the second Raj had said "You can see--" Rodney had shot up and been at Carson's bedside ever since.

John had been arguing with him for the last twenty minutes. It was hard, since they had to keep their voices down so as not to wake Carson up. Hard as well because John couldn't just grab onto Rodney and shake him so he'd stop being an idiot. He would have if he'd thought it would work.

Luckily for him, Rodney was sitting there, looking like he was thinking things over. Still hanging onto Carson's hand and Carson still looked like death-warmed over, but John trusted the doctors and nurses not to lie to them about this.

"I don't see how--" Rodney began and John rubbed his forehead.

"Stop," he said. "Just -- stop. I'm going to say this in very small words, so that even a genius like you can understand. Carson loves you. You love Carson. I am not breaking up with you anytime this side of the century. You, as you have so clearly indicated, don't wish to break up with me, either. I don't actually have anything against Carson in any social, political, or personal manner. I've never kissed him so I can't tell you if I want to have sex with him and do not get me started on that again. It's a thing, it's my thing, and I deal with it just fine.

"You, on the other hand, have to accept the fact that you're stuck with two guys who think you're the greatest, if most annoying, thing in the galaxy. What you do about it is entirely up to you. But if you try to be noble or brain-dead about it, I'm going to take Carson away from here until he forgets all about you and decides he likes me better."

Rodney was staring at him, mouth slightly open. Exactly the stunned look he had which always made John want to put his finger on Rodney's lower lip and rub until Rodney sucked his finger into his mouth. Except half the time he bit, instead.

Then Rodney shut his mouth and glared again and John knew he was right back in the middle of the argument. "Aren't you forgetting something?" Rodney demanded, gesturing at Carson. "I think his opinion counts. If--" Rodney stopped and looked scared all over again.

Which, really, John understood. If Carson said no -- one of them was going to lose. Two, really, if not all of them because whoever Rodney stayed with would end up wondering if he didn't regret the choice.

John forced himself to smirk. "You think Carson would turn down the chance to share you with *me*?"

"Oh, for," Rodney rolled his eyes. "There really isn't room in this relationship for two egos this size."

"What size?" John held up his fingers, indicating a span of about four inches.

"I'm serious," Rodney said, though not about the egos.

John nodded. "I know. But why don't you just ask him, instead of worrying about it?"

"Because he's asleep, you moron," Rodney began.

And Carson said, "Ask me what? Rodney, are you ever going to let go?" He lifted his hand a bit.

Rodney jumped backwards -- letting go of Carson's hand and John noted Carson's unhappy frown which followed.

"John has this amazingly stupid idea that you two could share me."

Carson blinked. He looked at John, who gave him a shrug. Carson looked back at Rodney, frowning like he wasn't sure he was really awake yet. Then he looked surprised and said, "I didn't dream that, did I? You... heard me?"

Swallowing, Rodney stepped forward and reached for Carson's hand -- then stopped himself. "We heard everything. God, Carson, we tried to get there sooner. Tried to fix the damn intercom, but we couldn't. We heard everything." He put his hand on the side of Carson's face and looked at him, and John was really glad he'd already seen that look before or he'd be sneaking out of the infirmary to find a bottle of Athosian cider to drown in.

"Why--- why didn't you ever say anything?" Rodney asked.

Carson just still looked confused. "You said no. Was I supposed to keep asking?"

"I... crap. No, I guess... I just didn't... last year was really not a good time for me, you know? I didn't... I figured you just wanted something quick and easy, and I just... didn't want to do that with a friend. I didn't -- don't -- have so many friends I can just sleep around with them."

"Oh." Carson didn't look like he completely understood -- but John figured it might still be the painkillers. On the other hand, he'd heard this before, five times just today. Carson finally asked, "What does he mean, then?"

"Oh, you know," Rodney said, breezily, nervously. "You, me, John. All agreeable in whatever permutations we deem appropriate. Because you both like me which is understandable and I like both of you, again, showing my excellent taste and judgment and John admits to the possibility he could be persuaded to like you as well, but I think it may require you promising not to ever cook."

Carson stared at him. Then he stared at John.

John said, "I like my food not burnt."

Carson shook his head slowly, glancing back to Rodney again. He sighed, and said, "I think maybe I liked Raj's version, better."

"What? Why, what did he-- is *he* after you, too?" Rodney demanded.

"No," Carson replied, and he looked up at the ceiling. "He said you loved me." He closed his eyes, then, and looked like he was falling back to sleep.

"Oh." Rodney jerked forward, stopped, then bent down. John watched as Rodney placed a kiss on Carson's lips. Carson opened his eyes again, but Rodney didn't break the kiss. He put a hand on the pillow and John couldn't figure out why Rodney had ever thought he didn't need to be with this man.

It occurred to him he could still walk out and leave them to it. Make it easy for them. But Rodney lifted his head just then and said, "I love you both."

And he sounded like he was going to break because of it. So John had to go over to his side and take Rodney's hand -- the one Carson didn't have -- and he had to give Rodney the same kiss.

"I *told* you," John began.

"You're never right," Rodney said, vaguely repeating words he said a hundred times.

"So listen to someone smarter than me," John told him. He looked at Carson. "What should we do?"

Carson just considered them for a moment. Looked at his hand in Rodney's, and Rodney's hand in John's. "I don't think we have a choice," he finally said.

"Excellent," John said over Rodney's protest. "Here comes Dr. Wheeler to do some doctory thing. I'm going to take Rodney down to get breakfast, make him take a shower and change clothes, then I will bring him back here so he can sit in the chair for the rest of the day."

John looked at Rodney, who frowned, but didn't object. He looked at Carson, who looked... bemused.

"All right," Dr. Wheeler said. "Time's up. My turn -- you two, go." She gave them a smile. "And be back in forty five minutes."

"I don't think you two know what you're doing."

"Shut up, Rodney," Carson said.

"Yeah, shut up, Rodney."

Rodney paused, then frowned. He opened his mouth, stopped, the closed it again.

Then he sighed. "Crap." He let John take him out of the infirmary to get breakfast and John thought that maybe he'd see about getting that do I or don't I kiss from Carson.

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