Carson Beckett was enjoying day 12 of his 14 day holiday on Earth, when his phone began ringing off the hook. He pulled it out of his tackle box and checked the number.
Not recognising it, he let the call go to voicemail and readied another cast.
Only it happened again. And again. Always the same number.
Finally, on the sixth time in ten minutes, he answered. "Beckett."
"Doctor Beckett? It's Jeannie Miller."
"Aye, Rodney's sister. I remember." Then, reacting to something he heard in her voice, he asked, "What's the matter, love?"
She sobbed softly. "I've been told to come to Atlantis – Rodney's sick!"
Carson frowned. "Sick how, love?"
"They say he's got something like Alzheimer's!"
His fingers tightened on the phone. "Where are you, Jeannie?"
"At home. I'm to contact the Daedalus when I'm ready and they'll beam me to the mountein. But I had your number. Rodney said you were here...."
"I'll meet you at the mountain," Carson said. "Wait for me." He closed the phone and gathered his tackle.
Pulling his radio out of his pocket and fitting it into his ear, Carson activated it "Beckett to Daedalus. Medical emergency – beam me to the mountain."
The lake whited out and reformed into the dimness of the SGC. He blinked until his eyes adjusted, only to have them develop spots again as another flash of light delivered Jeannie Miller.
"Doctor Beckett," she sobbed, hugging him tight.
"Carson, lass. I'm Carson." He released her and turned to face Sargent Harriman. "When can we leave for Atlantis?"
In response, the massive Gate began to turn, accompanied by an electronic whine. Harriman's voice came over the top of it. "Just as soon as it connects, Doctor. Chevron One locked."
Carson took Jeannie's hand as the eight chevrons locked and the wormhole blossomed.
They walked through together.
Carson's first sight of the child-man Rodney had become chilled him through. He turned to Keller, who he'd left in charge while he was gone. "What happened?"
Keller just shook her head. "We – We're not--"
"It's Second Childhood," Ronon said, walking in with Teyla. "It hits the old, very rarely the young. It's fatal. Always."
Carson drew in a breath. "What causes it?"
"No one knows," Teyla said.
"All we could do was monitor him," Keller said.
"She's videotaped him," Ronon said. "Every day."
"Ronon!" Keller hissed, and Carson turned to her.
"Show me," he ordered. "Show me everything from when it started."
John came in as Carson reached the end of the tapes. "Any luck?"
He shook his head. "It began here?" He went back to the first tape.
John shook his head. "No, it started on our last mission."
Carson looked up at him. "Take a seat, then, and tell me about this mission."
He listened in dawning comprehension – which turned to a creeping horror as John recounted how Keller didn't catch Rodney's sudden calmness and cheerfulness as a symptom.
"She was delighted with it," John said. "And she wouldn't listen to us – until his power blipped out."
Carson's eyes widened. "His power? He can't create crystal?”
John shook his head miserably. “He's powerless.”
“And then she realised?”
“No,” John sighed. “She listened, but told us it was temporary and would come back. Only it didn't come back – and Rodney's intelligence and memory began to go.”
Carson shook his head. “But surely she ran tests --”
“All she did was videotape the progress,” John said.
Radek walked in at that moment. “Carson?”
“Yes, what can I do for you?” he asked.
Radek held out a flash drive. “I hacked into the medical files and pulled her notes on this – and the last tape.”
“Last tape?” Carson asked. “There's another tape?” He put it in and hissed as he saw and heard Keller trick Rodney into telling her that he loved her – all it would take was editing out her asking 'How would you say it?' and it would seem to be Rodney's idea.
Carson looked up at Radek, his normally warm eyes cold with anger. “Find why she would do this. Hack into everything you need to.”
Radek looked at John, who nodded. Radek strode out, and Carson looked over the private medical file.
John looked up as Carson began to swear in Gaelic. “Carson?”
“She found the cause,” Carson growled. “And kept it to herself. It's a parasite. It's a bloody parasite in his brain!”
John frowned. “Why would she keep this to herself?”
“I don't know, lad,” Carson snarled. “But I think we'll soon find out.”
Carson threw himself into test after test after test on the parasite. He had just discovered something promising when John walked into his office. “Any luck?”
“Perhaps,” Carson said. “What about you?”
“Well, Radek should be classified as a tactical weapon. Once Lantea knew what he was after, she helped us out.”
“So what did you find?” Carson asked.
When they told him, Carson's eyes narrowed. He stood and strode out of the office.
Lantea needed no persuasion from John to obey Carson's furious, *OPEN!* She overrode the lock on the quarters, and Carson strode right in.
Keller looked up from her laptop, visibly startled. She gasped, “Carson? What--”
“You are off Doctor McKay's case,” he informed her frostily. “For that matter, you're off each and every case. You're out of my infirmary and if I had the authourity you'd be out of the city!”
“I have that authourity,” John said from behind him. “You are leaving my city in ten minutes, Do--”
“Miss,” Carson corrected.
“Miss Keller,” John finished. He gestured at the pair of Marines that Carson hadn't even registered had joined them. “And these gentlemen will ensure you don't try anything until then.”
“If you will excuse me? I have a patient to check on,” Carson said. “I'll see you at departure.”
“Carson!” Keller cried as he turned to go. “Carson, wait! Carson, please!”
Carson just kept walking. It nearly ripped him in two – but he kept walking.
The wormhole engaged and John said, “Atlantis to SGC.”
Moments later, Landry's voice came through. “Hello, Atlantis! We weren't expecting to hear from you for awhile!”
“We've had a situation,”John said. “We're sending through a Trust agent. She has tried to kill Doctor McKay through medical neglect and, failing that, plans were being laid for him to be tricked into permanently returning to Earth.”
“And you have proof of this?” Landry asked.
“Iron-clad,” John replied. “We're sending it to you now.” He nodded at Campbell, who sent the contents of the flash drive Radek had put together through.
“We have it, sir,” they heard Harriman say.
A moment later, they heard Landry whistle. “I see. Send her through.”
John nodded, and the guards escorted Keller through the Gate.
Silence for the long subjective time it took for the intergalactic journey, then Landry reported, “We have them, Atlantis.”
“Thank you, SGC,” John said. “I trust she'll be well taken care of?”
“Most certainly. SGC out.” And the wormhole closed.
John looked to the doorway and met Carson's eyes. Carson nodded and left the Control Room.
His job was far from over.
John caught up with Carson just outside the infirmary. They walked in to find Ronon and Teyla keeping silent vigil over a sleeping Rodney while Jeannie and Laura sat close by, talking in whispers.
When they saw Carson, both women stood. “Is she gone?” Laura asked.
“Permanently,” John said.
“Good!” Laura and Jeannie said in unison, then Jeannie added, “You said you might have some good news?”
“Aye,” Carson said. “as I told you, it's a parasite inside Rodney's brain. It's very active and growing, which is what's causing his rapid decline. However, it's all in one piece, so if the little bugger can be persuaded to leave Rodney alone, we can be nearly 100% positive it will all be gone.”
“Yes, but will Rodney be all right?” Laura asked.
“Once the parasite is no longer pressing on brain tissue – yes, he should be,” Carson assured her.
Ronon frowned. “Wait – you mean you can cure Second Childhood?”
Carson met his eyes. “I can get rid of a parasite and mitigate its effects. If that is Second Childhood, then, yeah – I suppose so.”
Ronon and Teyla looked at each other, then Ronon wiped a hand over his mouth and chin and leaned against the wall, blinking suddenly wet eyes. “My...My grandfather...” he gasped out. “Second Childhood took him. If-If you can cure it...”
Teyla put a hand on his arm, and he stood. “I gotta....” And he left the infirmary.
Carson took a step after him, and Teyla shook her head. “He needs to be alone. Carson – how did you realise Jennifer was not as she seemed?”
Carson's eyes darkened. “She made a tape where she coached Rodney into telling her he loved her – and thought he always had.”
“What?” Laura yelped.
Carson nodded. “All it would have taken was a few moments of editing...”
Laura growled. “I'll kill her! I will track that bitch all the way back to Minnesota and I will snap her damned neck!”
Joanne squeezed her shoulder. “Honestly, after the SGC gets done with her, she may wish you had!”
Carson looked at Teyla. “Go find Ronon – I'm going to need him.” She nodded and left the room. Carson then touched his radio. “Marie? I need you to prep Rodney for immediate surgery.”
After all that happened over the last 24 hours, the nine hours of surgery were so routine as to be nearly anticlimactic.
Ronon entered the operating theatre – sterilised and holding his blaster – at Carson's request when he was nearly done. They watched the now-oversized parasite emerge from Rodney's head and blindly grope its way to the floor.
That was its last act. Ronon blasted it to a crisp.
Then, all that was left to do was to close Rodney's head and wait to see how well he'd heal.
It was a full twenty-eight hours from the ending of the surgery before Rodney opened his eyes.
And it was ten hours after that that a beaming John walked into Carson's office and announced, “Rodney's gonna be just fine.”
Carson looked up and grinned at him. “Shouldn't I be the one to make that determination, Colonel?”
John laughed. “Yeah, but I know.”
“And how do you know?”
John's smile widened as he raised his right hand. When Carson realised what he was looking at, he bolted into the room to examine Rodney – because it seemed John was right.
Encircling the black wristband John wore on-duty on his right wrist was a rather misshapen bracelet.
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