Category: First time, pre-slash
Summary: Carson isn't always the caregiver. Occasionally, he's the patient.
The sound of something crashing to the floor distracted Radek from his calculations. He dropped his laptop on his bed and ran across the hall, where he used his override code to enter the room. He found its occupant on his knees amid broken glass and the remnants of a long forgotten meal. Radek rushed to his side, kicking the tray out of his way before he carefully pulled the Carson to his feet.
"It's okay. I've got you," he said softly. He drew the doctor over to the bed and sat him down. "Don't move."
Radek went to the bathroom and wet a towel. He returned and carefully cleaned Carson's hands, being sure to check them for broken glass. When he was done, Radek cleaned up the mess on the floor. As he finished up and looked around to make sure he'd gotten all of it, he heard a soft sob. For the first time he noted that Carson was crying and returned to his side. He sat down beside him, waiting awkwardly for the doctor to speak.
"What am I going to do?' he muttered softly. Radek sighed sympathetically and reached out to him, but not sure that his touch would be welcome, he let his hand drop.
"What are you doing in here?" he asked. "How did you even get here? You should be in the infirmary."
"That's the last place I want to be right now. It's unbearable, having everyone tiptoeing around me, as though I can't hear them whispering and clucking their tongues. I'd rather be here alone in the dark," Carson said bitterly.
"You are not alone," Radek said, compassion overcoming his fear. He placed a hand on Carson's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. He was slightly taken aback when Carson slumped against him, but he wrapped his arm around Carson's shoulders and took the weight.
"I'm bloody useless."
"Shh," Radek whispered soothingly. "This will pass."
"What if it doesn't? I cannot go on like this, Radek. I'm a doctor! I need the full use of my faculties! If I'm not fit to practice medicine what good am I? I might as well have died on that planet with him."
"No, no! Don't say that, Carson. His loss was tragic, yes, but he died saving you. You should should honor that sacrifice by embracing life."
"How am I supposed to live on with that young man's death on my conscience? And what's the point of living on like this?"
"Hush! Such words serve no purpose. You don't mean them."
"I do, Radek," Carson said. "I cannot go on feeling so--."
"It's only been three days. It will take time--."
"Time that I don't have," Carson replied exasperatedly. "Do you think the problems of Atlantis are going to wait politely while I recover? And what if I never do? What if--."
"Carson! Stop this! No more negative talk. I will not hear it!" Radek shouted, turning Carson's face to his, intent on drowning out his friend's self-pity. Carson sagged again. It seemed that only Radek's hands on his face held him upright. He sighed and bowed his head, as much as he could in Radek's firm grip. They sat in complete silence for a few moments.
"So how bad do I look?" Carson asked softly.
"I cannot tell. The lights are off," Radek said with a smirk. Carson lifted his head and frowned.
"You stupid li--."
Radek silenced him with a finger to his lips.
"You should be resting, Carson. Why don't I help you get into bed. Perhaps things will look better in the morning."
"If that's meant to be a joke, it's a bloody poor one."
"I'm sorry, my friend," Radek said reproachfully. "I did not mean it that way." Carson sighed and shook his head, then he wrested his face away and ran his hands through his hair.
"No, I'm the one who should be sorry; I don't know how to do this, Radek."
"Be a patient, you mean?"
"Aye. I'm good at giving orders and forcing others to take care of themselves, but when it comes to my own needs--."
"I will take care of you," Radek said softly. Carson shuddered when Radek's hand touched the small of his back and he sniffed to force back the tears of frustration that had begun to well up again. Radek reached out and cupped his cheek, turning his face and trying to peer at him in the darkened room.
"Leave me alone," Carson said in a whisper, but he made no move to escape Radek's gentle caress.
"No." Radek smiled and ran his thumb over Carson's mouth.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to see you in the dark," he replied. He let his fingers dance over Carson's face, gently wiping away a solitary tear. Radek continued his exploration, slowly mapping every inch with long dextrous fingers. "You don't look so bad," he said wryly before he abruptly rose to his feet and moved away.
"What--?" Carson asked in confusion, but Radek was suddenly there again. He tugged on Carson's shirt and helped him out of it. He gently pushed Carson's shoulder and he laid back. Radek removed his shoes and socks and fumbled around for the covers at Carson's feet. "Leave them. It's a warm night."
"Very well," Radek said, carefully sitting on the edge of the bed. "Do you need anything else?"
"Will you stay for a few minutes?" Carson asked as he blindly reached out in the dark. Radek allowed himself to be drawn into his arms. Carson slid over and Radek stretched out beside him in the small bed.
"Better," Carson said, comforted by the warm body beside him. "Just for a bit. I know I'm being a big baby and I'm sorry to be such a burden but I--."
"No apologies necessary," Radek said. "Being needed is not a burden, nor is it so unpleasant. We all need to be held sometimes."
"I promise to return the favor if you're ever in need," Carson said solemnly.
"I am doing no favor," Radek said. Carson frowned, but he was too weary to probe Radek for an explanation. He closed his eyes and began to drift, though sleep eluded him. A short while later he opened his eyes and spoke again. "What time is it?"
"Nearly midnight," Radek mumbled drowsily.
"Reach into my pocket, will you? You'll find a vial of eye drops and a tube of ointment." Radek did as he was bidden and Carson talked him through the process of administering the meds. When he was done, he rose and went to wash his hands. Carson was sitting up when he returned.
"Would you make note of the time? I'll need to have them again in two hours."
"I can remember," Radek said as he returned to bed. He set his watch alarm and settled Carson in his arms. "How long did Dr. Johnson say you needed them?"
"She said it would be about a week before my vision was completely restored."
"So...four, five more days. I suppose I can be both nurse and engineer for that long."
"Do you mind?" Carson asked. Radek raised his head and smiled, although it was impossible for Carson to discern it in the dark.
"I am a wonderful engineer, but probably a lousy nurse. Do you mind?"
Carson smiled for the first time since the incident on PX5-883 that had left one man dead and several wounded, including himself. He was the worst off of the injured--a stun grenade had temporarily blinded him and left him with lingering vision problems. But beyond the physical injuries, Carson had fallen into a deep depression over the loss of the young Marine who'd pushed him out of the way of a Wraith blast and died while Carson fumbled around on the ground, powerless to assist him. He took no comfort in the fact that Morgan had died instantly; he'd been inconsolable.
"I don't mind at all. You've got a very gentle touch."
"Flattery will get you nowhere," Radek said with a laugh. "I will not give up a career twenty years in the making to start changing bedpans."
"I'm not that helpless," Carson said, petulantly. Radek immediately sought to distract him.
"That is a good thing. Under such circumstances, I would be a very lazy and incompetent nurse, indeed."
"I cannot imagine you being lazy or incompetent," Carson replied earnestly as he lifted one of Radek's hands and examined it by touch. "You're always so capable--so sure of yourself." Radek laughed.
"Capable, perhaps. But sure? Perhaps I am a better actor than I thought." He abruptly moved, carefully extricating himself from Carson's arms to climb out of bed.
"You're going, then?" Carson asked, disappointment evident in his voice.
"I left my computer running," Radek said apologetically. He slipped out of the room and Carson sighed. He draped an arm across his eyes and tried to sleep but he could not ignore the loss of Radek's warm and reassuring presence. After a few minutes, he rolled over and laid on his side for an indeterminable length of time. He heard the door open when Radek returned, muttering something in Czech. He closed and locked the door behind him.
"Sorry; that took longer than I thought," he said apologetically when he saw Carson turn over and lift his head. "I glanced at my notes and saw an error; I had to fix it. Anyway, it is time for your medication."
"I assumed you weren't coming back," Carson admitted as Radek carefully dabbed at his eye with a tissue.
"I am a lousy nurse, but I can tell time," Radek said as he turned off the light.
"You can hear an alarm, you mean."
"I am getting comfortable," Radek said, ignoring the comment. He pulled off his shirt and tossed it onto a chair, then undid his trousers and stepped out of them. "Your room is very warm."
"I've been meaning to complain about that," Carson said, not fully understanding what was happening until Radek climbed back onto the bed. "In fact, the next time I get hold of an engineer--." His hand made contact with the bare skin of Radek's chest. "Are you naked?"
"No; but I could be with sufficient provocation," Radek said teasingly. He stretched out his legs and settled comfortably. Carson was quiet and very still for several minutes. "Carson? Have I made you uncomfortable? I can put my pants back on--."
"Perhaps you should help me take mine off, instead," Carson replied. Radek sat up and looked at him for a moment. Then he climbed off the bed and started to reach for Carson's waist. He withdrew his hands and frowned.
"Maybe it would be easier if you stood up," he suggested. Carson got up clumsily and Radek helped right him. Carson undid his own waistband and let the pants drop. Radek bent to help him step out of the trouser legs and Carson placed a hand on his shoulder for support. When Radek stood again, they were face to face, but in the dark, Carson was completely dependent on his other senses to find him. He reached out and touched Radek's shoulder.
"I'm probably blushing," Carson confessed with an awkward smile.
"Too bad it is so dark. I should like to see that," Radek replied deeply. He took Carson's other hand and raised it to his face. Carson caressed Radek's stubbled cheek, his other hand joining the first after a moment. His hands moved skillfully over Radek's face, pausing to remove his glasses. Carson handed them to Radek and resumed his search for familiar features. He ran his fingers through Radek's hair and found his ears as Radek reached out to set down the glasses. His hands came to a stop on Radek's cheeks once more and Carson laughed.
"You look a fright."
"Truly? Well, I actually lied earlier," Radek shot back. "You have looked much better."
"Undoubtedly," Carson conceded with a smile. "I've been bloody miserable, I've not slept a wink in days and my eyes are probably swollen. It's a wonder you can bear the sight of me."
"As you can no doubt tell, I am forcing myself to remain in your presence," Radek said dryly as he snaked his arms around Carson's waist and drew him closer.
"I'd better make sure you don't escape," he replied, mimicking the gesture. "...Just to be on the safe side. I'd be lost without you."
"It appears that I am stuck here, then," Radek said. "My body does not seem to mind too much," he said glancing down.
"Nor mine, it would appear--. To one who can see, that is."
"Some things do not require eyes," Radek said. "Come back to bed." He drew Carson to the bed and laid him down. Carson instinctively reached out to him and Radek settled himself in his arms. "This is still not a favor, Carson."
"I am beginning to understand that, now," he replied. He reached out and toyed with a strand of Radek's hair. Radek endured it stoically, listening to Carson's heart beating in his ear. It was poignant and reassuring, a wonderful sound. Radek smiled and reversed their positions. "What did you do that for?" Carson asked.
"Listen," he said, cradling Carson's head to his chest. Carson did as he was bidden and after a minute he smiled.
"You're alive!" he teased.
"You are, too, Carson. You are, too." Radek turned his face up to meet his and kissed him. Carson blinked and sighed softly, leaning forward to kiss him again. They teased each other with brief, tentative kisses, but when Carson rose up and leaned in for more, Radek reluctantly held him at bay. "We should probably sleep now," he said regretfully.
"Aye," Carson said. "As much as I'd like to stay awake..." He found himself yawning and turned his head to cover his mouth. Radek raked his fingers through Carson's hair.
"Parts of me want very much to be awake right now, but as your nurse--."
Carson silenced him with another kiss. Then he rested his head on Radek's heart and slept for the first time in days.