Two Moons

by Domenika Marzione

"Reilly, you are my hero," Nancy proclaimed as the nurse handed her the long-thought-missing crate of large sample cups. She didn't want to have to be the one to tell the marines that they had to pee in tiny little Dixie cups. She didn't want to be the one to tell the nurses that the marines had to pee in tiny little Dixie cups. "Marry me."

Reilly gave her a regretful smile. "I'm sorry, Doc, but I've promised my heart to Tomita."

"For what, human sacrifice? She's going to use it to open a hellmouth for her demon masters or whoever she really answers to. You know better than that."

"I do," Reilly agreed, resigned. "It was a moment of weakness. I should try to get out of it before the next full moon. Hey, Doctor S. Thought you were off today."

Nancy turned around to see Yoni standing in the doorway. He was holding a satchel and she didn't know if he was bringing it back to empty or coming in to fill it up. "Something up or are you here to beg forgiveness for sticking me with Yee?"

Yoni had switched shifts with Yee to go off-world with Lorne. Roberta was helpful and friendly colleague -- across the hall, in the research suites. Here in the infirmary, she was useless and timid and getting partnered with her meant having to do most of the work and all of the hard stuff. Thankfully, Reilly was the head nurse for the shift and not Birgita or, heaven forefend, Tomita. Tomita would more than pick up Yee's slack, but it came at a cost. Possibly your soul, but at least your peace of mind.

"Find Keller, tell her to set up the isolation room and clear out all inessential personnel, up to and including any patients who can be discharged today," Yoni told Reilly, who muttered an aye-aye and headed off, knowing better than to ask what was going on because it would all be imminently apparent. Nancy did, too, but that didn't stop her. Especially because Yoni was looking shocky and she knew it took a lot to rattle him.

"Who are you bringing back?" she asked, reaching out to grab Yoni's arm because he was turning to leave. It had to be someone from one of the off-world teams and there had been rumors earlier that Teyla had gone missing. "Yoni, what's going on?"

He met her eyes and she was surprised at what she saw in them. Grief. He said nothing, though, shaking his head and pulling free. He started to walk back through the infirmary and she chased after him.

"Wait! Hold on a second!" she called after him, but he didn't stop. "If we're getting a trauma case, at least let me know what sort of equipment to set up. Do I need to find Osterman?"

Kevin had been spending all of his time trying to read whatever he could find about Wraith reproduction, just in case his decade of professional baby-catching wasn't enough. The baby looked human on the scans, but who really knew? In lighter moods, they joked about V, but not with any malice -- just nerves.

Yoni did stop then, but he didn't turn around. "It's not Teyla and there's no visible injury. Just clear the floor, Nancy."

He left then and she didn't try to stop him again.

Jennifer showed up a minute later, concerned and confused. "What's going on?"

"Not a clue," Nancy confessed. "But it's not good."

They had four beds occupied, two of which they could empty out because they were occupied by marines being kept more to prevent them from doing more damage through recklessness than any real concern for complications. Yee, to nobody's surprise, volunteered to man the remote clinic, where all she'd have to do was dispense Tylenol and bandaids. Jen went across the hall to clear out the research suites -- Nancy's been on the receiving end of scatter orders before; they were either welcome or an annoyance depending on where you were in what you were doing -- and Lieutenant Osgeny radioed to tell them that he'd placed guards at the ends of the hallways that led to Medical's space to keep visitors out.

"Do you have any intel, Lieutenant?" Nancy asked, since he was technically in charge of city security. "It'd be kind of nice to know why we're creating a panic."

There was no city-wide announcement, but she knew that the entire city would be aware that something was going on by the time they brought whoever it was back. Atlantis wasn't that big and you couldn't clear the gate room and Medical without it being news.

"No, ma'am," Osgeny replied. "All I know is that Doctor Safir took some hazmat suits with him when he went back."

Which only confirmed what Yoni had said without adding anything to it. "Thanks anyway."

By the time Osgeny radioed again to warn them that the off-world teams were entering the city now, Carter had joined Nancy, Keller, and Reilly in the infirmary. It was a little like waiting for the bride to show up at a wedding, Nancy mused to herself as they waited for the procession to approach. The route to the isolation room from the gate room went past the infirmary and they all crowded near the doorway to watch it go by. There were four people in hazmat suits along with Yoni and Lorne and their marines plus an armed escort; Nancy could only see into the face shield of Sheppard's, but could tell that one was Ronon and the other probably McKay. So it stood to reason that Sheppard's team had gotten a face full of something (again) except that the fourth person in a suit wasn't Teyla. Carter didn't look surprised and neither did Jen, so Nancy figured that the rumors about Teyla were true and she sighed. This fourth person maybe had an idea where she'd gone. He -- it looked like a he from body type -- had had his head down as he passed.

"Colonel?" Carter prompted. "What's going on."

"Hell if I know," Sheppard answered, coming to an awkward stop. "Hell if I know."

Nancy looked over at Jen, who had that slightly nauseated look she got when she realized she was going to have to save the day.

"You want first dibs at decon?" Lorne asked Sheppard.

"Nah, you guys go ahead, we'll get him set up," Sheppard replied.

"Let's go, guys," Lorne told his marines. "Doc?"

Yoni had been watching Sheppard escort their... guest? prisoner? toward the isolation room entrance.

"Coming," Yoni answered peevishly, but it was without actual annoyance and Lorne didn't react. Nancy didn't miss how spooked their marines looked, although they were hiding it well and Ortilla seemed more worried about Yoni than whatever had happened on the other planet. Lorne waved his hands over the door crystals for the decon tank room and turned back to where Nancy and the others were waiting. "Nurse Reilly, I think we're gonna need a couple of sets of bunny slippers and fuzzy pajamas, please."

"Already taken care of, sir," Reilly answered. He didn't need to 'sir' anyone anymore -- he'd been out of the Marines for years -- but he did it sometimes when things were going to hell. Nancy figured that boot camp had probably embossed things that no amount of time could erase.

"Come on," Carter said after Lorne's team disappeared, gesturing toward the observation room door. "I don't like mysteries."

Sheppard and the others had arrived in the isolation room by the time they turned on the lights in the observation room. Without the microphone turned on, it was like a weird pantomime play done by orange marshmallow men. Carter reached over and hit the audio button and it was all Nancy could do not to scream.

"--no sense, Colonel. Whoever's been leading up genetics since I've been gone can verify it."

"Oh my god," Jen whispered. "Oh my god."

Which was pretty much what Nancy would have said if she could have made her voice work because how the hell did Carson Beckett rise from the grave? She looked up at Reilly, who'd come in behind them. He looked down at her and shook his head in mute disbelief.

Carter, thankfully, was neither shocked nor speechless. "Right," she sighed as Carson pulled off the lid on his hazmat suit and revealed himself -- looking a little worse for wear, but a far cry from the bits and pieces the marines hadn't let anyone see after the explosion. "One of those."

"One of those what?" Jen asked in a squeak.

Carter laughed weakly. "I've been with the SGC for more than a decade, Doctor Keller," she said ruefully. "I've met alternate versions of myself many a time and welcomed back friends I've buried and mourned for, both the original versions and their alternates, too. Running between the stars does more than change your attitude toward your place in the universe."

Nancy vowed to quit the Stargate Program the minute she found herself any kind of blasé about dead friends coming back to life. "I'm going to go do the exams on Major Lorne's team," she said, gesturing over her shoulder because she couldn't turn away. Carson was being Carson, grimacing and gesticulating and it hurt to see how familiar it all was.

Under normal circumstances, she'd have cracked jokes about lamenting the lack of a camera when walking into a small room with five underdressed -- only Lorne had gotten as far as putting a shirt on -- and well-constructed men. But this wasn't anything like normal and so instead she gave them a wry smile of understanding at just how fucked up all of this was.

"Anything I need to know about before I start with the bloodsucking?" she asked. Even under these circumstances, she trusted Yoni to have been mindful of environment and contagion; there was a reason he'd put Sheppard's team in hazmat suits and why he hadn't felt the need to put his own and she'd accept that reason without asking what it was. "Anyone come into contact with anything they didn't mention earlier?"

Because she trusted Yoni implicitly, but Sheppard and team weren't the only ones who pulled crap like that.

"No, ma'am," Ortilla said. "Just the usual."

"At least something is," she said as she reached for the kit. There were no nurses beyond Reilly because of the scatter order and he'd gone back to the ward, so she would draw blood samples and label them herself.

"So is there anything I can ask about?" she asked, starting with Suarez because he was closest.

"You mean about the return of Doctor Beckett or where we found him?" Lorne asked ruefully. He didn't make Teyla's disappearance an option and so Nancy didn't pick it.

"Either/or," she said, moving on to Weimeier, who was looking the most confused and the least affected. He'd never met Carson, of course. She tapped his elbow, since he'd crossed his arms in front of his chest in an endearing display of modesty. Lori had christened him Sergeant Jailbait and the name was fast growing in popularity; Nancy thought he was cute, but maybe more cute like a puppy. "Come, Sergeant, this isn't the time to be the first bashful marine in the history of the Corps."

Weimeier blushed and held out his arm, leaving the other crossed over his chest. Ortilla and Suarez laughed and he dropped it to his side. The tension in the room dropped a little and it felt like exhaling after holding your breath.

"About the former, not a clue," Lorne said. "Could be a clone, he could be Descended, could be from another universe, could be the real thing and we buried one of the above last year. Not sure which one of those is least bad."

She finished with Weimeier and moved on to Yoni, who held out his arm and made a fist without looking at her. She wasn't sure whether to laugh or hit him, so she settled for a finger flick as she finished and that, at least, got him to look at her. Glare at her. She stared back at him because, really, did he think she wouldn't notice how badly he was hurting if he pretended she couldn't see him?

He turned away to put a shirt on and she moved on to Lorne; Ortilla usually tried to position himself so that he was last and it had taken her a while to realize that it wasn't any fear of needles, but instead because he wanted to see everyone else get seen first.

"As for the planet," Lorne went on, "it was pretty hellish and we're going to need to send people back there. It was a lab and a prison and god knows what else."

"You going to need doctors?" she asked. She wasn't sure if she even wanted to go on such a mission or even if they'd let her; she was high on the list for 'hardship' missions, but that was different from poring over one of Michael's labs in situ. But this was Carson, who might've been in that prison for two years if what he'd said was true, and they never would have even thought to look, and that shook her badly. Badly enough that she was asking to be put in harm's way.

"I'm going," Yoni said and Nancy rolled her eyes at Lorne, who quirked his lips because, yeah, couldn't see that coming.

"Eventually, probably," Lorne said, flexing his fingers as she started to blood flowing down the tube into the vial. "Right now, though, our priority is getting Teyla back and seeing if we can't stop Michael."

"Good luck and godspeed with that," she said, holding the gauze in place until Lorne got his finger in. Behind her, Yoni had dug out bandaids and was applying them to needle sites. He'd pulled out a scrub top, which she took to mean that he wasn't going anywhere after they were cleared to leave. Which Nancy did after Ortilla was bled and bandaided.

Lorne issued instructions to his team and gave Nancy a questioning look, flicking his eyes to Yoni, who was rooting around in the one cabinet in the room for who knows what. She nodded, Lorne nodded in return, and he turned to go.

"I'll see you later, Docs," he said. Yoni didn't turn, but he held up a hand in farewell.

"What are you looking for?" Nancy asked once Lorne had left. They didn't keep much here since it was so close to the infirmary and it was really just a place to make sure that people were clean to return to the city.

"Nothing," he replied, closing the cabinet door.

"In that case, turn around," she said. Surprisingly he did, giving her a 'what the hell are you up to' look. She put her arms around him and, predictably, he spluttered and tried to fight her off.

"Stop it," she said and he did. Not out of obedience or submission, but because the words had come out as mostly sob (damned PMS) and he'd stilled. "You want to be manly man, tower of strength, 'I don't need nobody and I've seen this all before' Jonathan, then fine. But this is the first time I have seen someone I care about come back to life and you can spare a moment to comfort me."

He sighed and put one arm around her, shifting a little so the position wasn't so awkward for both of them. She rested her head on his shoulder and he let her. She took deep breaths because the sobbing thing had been unexpected and she prided herself on being more in control than that.

"We don't know it's him," he said quietly after a long moment. His voice was a little rough, but he was speaking at barely above a whisper and they could both pretend that that was why. "There are so many possibilities that the odds are that it's not. What he remembers does not line up with what happened to him here. There are explanations for that, too, of course. There always are."

She wasn't sure how long they stood there -- it couldn't have been that long; there was too much going on and they were needed in too many places -- before Reilly radioed her. He knew where they were, obviously, but this was Reilly, who had a heart in proportion to his mammoth (and well-tattooed) hide, and not Tomita, who'd have barged in and given them a look like she'd caught them having sex on the floor. Nancy hadn't realized how much Yoni had relaxed against her until he tensed up again. She dropped her arms and let him go and answered Reilly's page, which was about the blood samples and Sheppard wanting to take his team through decon.

Yoni went across the hall to his lab to get something to wear on his feet beyond hospital booties and Nancy went back to the infirmary to answer Reilly's questions and get a new kit so she could take blood from Sheppard, McKay, and Ronon.

By the time she got to actually 'meet' Carson, there'd been hours of discussions and lab work and they still didn't know whether it was actually him or a different him. They knew he wasn't a Replicator, which was a relief to them and a surprise to him because his memories of Atlantis ended before the Asurans had come into the picture.

Whatever or whoever he was, though, he was still Carson, like there was some platonic ideal of Carsonhood and he'd gotten all of the basic elements from that.

"How're you doing, lass?" he asked her the first time they were in the same room together.

"You mean about this or in general?" she asked. The business of the day had done wonders for her composure, but it was still rattling to see him and hear him.

"Both," he answered with a small shrug. They'd let him get changed, but they weren't moving him into any public spaces just yet. There were marine guards in front of the doors to both the isolation room and the observation room; the scatter order was done with, but Carter and Sheppard had decided to keep a lid on things for the time being.

"In general, pretty good," she said, racking her brain for innocuous news from the last two years. They weren't allowed to share any sort of sensitive information with Carson yet. "Couple of vacations involving tall cliffs and good cheese; some journal articles -- including that godawful one for JCEM that you had to read six times; a conference in Bern where I assured myself of never, ever getting a job in Europe by accidentally humiliating the head of U Heidelberg's immunology institute. You know, same as ever."

Carson smiled warmly and she felt her heart break a little. "I'd have hoped that you'd rub off on Yoni rather than him on you."

"I did it by accident," she retorted. "He'd have done it on purpose."

But she smiled back at him anyway, because the Bern thing was almost funny now (Yoni, of course, had always thought it was hilarious) and because it was a moment of almost normal. Like Carson had been on leave and not dead.

"Aye," he agreed, but then his smile faded. "How's he doing?"

Yoni had been in and out of the isolation room all day and Carson would have had ample time to talk to him. Which was different from Yoni answering, but if this was their Carson, or even any other Carson who'd dealt with any Yoni, then that didn't matter.

"Better than when Major Lorne's team was kidnapped," she said with a shrug. "But nothing you'd confuse with 'okay.'"

Carson nodded. "We'll keep at it, then."

"Yeah," Nancy agreed with a sigh. She gestured to the tablet in her hand, which was the reason she'd been allowed to visit in the first place. "Wanna see some of your results?"

"Of course," Carson said eagerly. "I'm as curious and confused as everyone else."

It was a while longer before they realized that Carson was not their Carson, but instead a clone. A clone with a death sentence. Carson took it as best he could, which was all any of them could do.

All of Medical knew by now -- all of the city knew by now -- and none of them could come up with a quick way to recreate Michael's serum. In the end, they were forced to put Carson in a stasis pod. He was well enough to take one final tour of what was once his domain, getting to say the goodbyes nobody had had a chance to say the first time. It was cathartic even though everyone knew that this was a proxy for the real thing, but this Carson still had memories of them all and, for that, it was real. Nancy wept openly when it was her turn and Carson chided her for making him cry, too.

"You'll come up with the serum," he assured her, petting her shoulders as she tried not to sniffle on his shirt. "You are all too brilliant not to."

"I hope so."

"I know so," Carson said firmly, stepping back a little so he could see her face. "You'll take care of yourself, okay?"

She nodded, not wanting to start crying again. He leaned forward and kissed her hair anyway.

"And you'll keep an eye on him, yeah?" he asked, not really making it a question. She didn't know if he'd been to see Yoni yet. "Stubborn bastard's going to spend the next fortnight trying to get pulverized by Ronon."

"Probably," she agreed. "I'm inclined to let him."

Carson smiled and shrugged. "Why not? You're his friend, not his keeper."

"That's what I tell everyone. Eventually maybe someone will believe me."

Carson chuffed a laugh, then stilled. "Goodbye, Nancy. For now."

"Goodbye for now," she repeated, biting her lip because she was starting to cry again.

He left and she tried to work for all of fifteen minutes before giving up, going down to Little Tripoli, changing into workout gear, and hitting the running trail. It was not a regular PT hour and, thankfully, none of the platoons were out doing fitness drills, so while the gyms were still full, she had the blue path to herself. Twenty-five kilometers of no-thinking-allowed later, she felt better. Not good, nowhere near good, but not as brittle or fragile as before. Strong enough to deal with Yoni and to find Lori, who was going to need a shoulder to cry on and, unlike Yoni, was perfectly willing to accept one if offered.

There were far more marines about now and they all nodded to her, aware that she was going through something they were all too familiar with. She nodded back.

It was late enough in the day that she could see the moons rising, reminding her -- as if she needed it -- that life around here was strange with or without a crisis to manage. She took one last look at the city skyline set against the beautiful blue sky, then headed inside.

feed me on LJ?


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11 October, 2008