"This is exactly what I was afraid of." Ronon looked at the figure standing in front of him, the miraculous resurrection of a friend thought lost. Now he was about to lose Carson Beckett again. He swallowed thickly. This was why a warrior should never get too close to anyone.
Carson looked back, his blue eyes filled with both sadness and compassion. "I know, big man. I'm sorry."
Ronon wanted to howl and beat his fists against something. How could Beckett be dying? Right now he barely even looked sick! And on top of everything else, he was apologizing for causing pain even as he was about to enter a long sleep from which he might never wake. It was too much.
Not knowing what else to do, Ronon stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Carson in a bear hug. Ronon could feel the doctor trembling from the effort to remain on his feet, and realized that he must be feeling much worse than he let show. He drew back and turned away, unable to watch as Carson entered the stasis chamber.
Behind him, McKay was rambling on about dreams and massage therapists. Ronon composed himself and turned to face the chamber again. Carson looked at all of them one more time and set his shoulders. "See you all later."
After a brief pause, McKay sighed and pushed a few buttons on the pad he was holding. There was a flash of light as the stasis field enveloped their dying friend.
No one moved at first; they just stood there staring at the frozen figure. Then, abruptly, Ronon turned on his heel and left. If he didn't keep moving, he was going to go crazy.
Jennifer Keller watched as Ronon strode out of the room. Just as Carson had taken the loss of every patient to heart, Ronon also suffered deeply when a comrade died. And she knew he had a great deal of respect and fondness for the former Chief Medical Officer. Watching him die once had been horrible. Twice? She couldn't even imagine how he must be feeling right now.
Jennifer started to go after Ronon but was stopped by John Sheppard's hand on her shoulder. "Let him be, Doc. I don't think he wants company right now. If he's gone too long, one of us will go looking for him."
Part of her wanted to protest. I care about him, too! But she said nothing and simply stared in the direction he'd gone.
Ronon sat slumped against an outside wall of the city, legs stretched out on the balcony in front of him. After leaving the room with the stasis chamber, he'd run as far as he could before a cramping pain in his side forced him to stop. He wasn't even sure where in the city he was, although he thought it was somewhere by the east pier. He knew someone (probably Sheppard) would follow him out here, but he should have a little time to himself before that happened. Time to feel the wind on his face, stare out into the night, and think about his friend.
Have you looked outside, big man?
Ronon laughed softly to himself. Carson had uttered those words on Taranis, trying to convince a stubborn villager to evacuate from the impending volcanic eruption. Said to an outsider, "big man" had sounded sarcastic; this time it had been affectionate. Carson had frequently grumbled about "tough, big men who didn't have sense enough to rest when they were hurt," and scolded him in particular for refusing painkillers when the physician thought he needed them. Didn't we have this discussion already? It's not like you need to be holding a gun on me anymore, right?
Ouch. The Doc had never let him live that one down. But he himself had fun reminding Carson that the physician had aimed a jumper drone at him on Sateda, and he pretended to ignore the sputtering about "aiming at the bloody Wraith, thank you very much."
Sateda. Ronon's laughter trailed off as he realized that this version of Carson would not have those memories. Carson's capture by Michael on M8G-352 predated the team's return to his home planet, so the clone Beckett couldn't know what had happened. All of a sudden, the wave of grief that Ronon had been trying to hold back crashed down on him. He clenched his fists with the effort not to cry out.
Even if this Beckett did manage to come out of stasis, he still wouldn't be the Beckett everyone remembered. The six months between M8G-352 and the original Carson's death were no longer shared experiences. Add to that the fact that this Carson had been the prisoner of the sadistic Michael for two years, and it was obvious that they would have to get to know the good doctor all over again when he was revived.
Footsteps interrupted Ronon's brooding. They approached, then stopped short of the balcony. "Sheppard?" he rumbled.
"Yeah." A Sheppard-shaped patch of stars was briefly eclipsed, then John sat down next to Ronon. "You okay, buddy?" he asked after a minute.
Ronon laughed humorlessly. "I suppose so," he said, "considering everything that's happened."
"I know what you mean." John sighed. "We lost Carson last year, we lost Teyla this year, we both gained and lost Carson again in less than a week..."
"We'll get her back!" Ronon snapped, a little more forcefully than he intended.
John looked at him shrewdly. "Just her?"
He sighed. "Even if Keller is able to stop whatever's killing Carson, is it really him? I mean, I know it's him, but... If a man is the sum of his memories, then the person we just put in stasis isn't really Carson Beckett."
The corner of John's mouth lifted slightly in a smirk. "Don't let Rodney hear you being philosophical like that. He'll start insulting your intelligence again." The smirk faded. "You heard the last thing Beckett said to me, right?"
"Yeah. He practically ordered you to bring Teyla home."
"And you don't think that's the real Carson Beckett? He told me once that she reminds him of his younger sister. There isn't anything he wouldn't do for her." John shook his head. "No, that's our Carson. After all, the person that died and the person currently in our stasis chamber shared all but two years' worth of memories."
"Hell, I'm probably not explaining myself very well. I guess, when it comes down to it, that it's more than just memories that make someone who he is. In every way that matters, the man we put in stasis is Carson. And we'll get him back, too."
They sat in silence for a while, until John gave a faint snort. "I wouldn't even be here if he hadn't almost blasted me out of the sky."
Ronon grinned. "I wish I could have seen that."
"He always hated using his gene," said John. "I think you and Zelenka were the ones he most wanted the gene therapy to work on. The team would have more technology-using capability if you had the gene, and he thought that McKay might finally leave him alone if he had an ATA-positive Zelenka to boss around!"
"Now that's a frightening idea." Ronon thought for a minute. "He really gave me hell after Olesia."
It was John's turn to chuckle. "I remember that. I can't imagine why he was so upset about a little thing like yanking a barbed arrow out of your leg."
Ronon shrugged. "Used to do it all the time when I was running."
They continued trading Carson stories. "And then, of course, there was the kiss. That I'm sure he remembers! I think I'm scarred for life," said John.
Ronon gave a mock shudder. "So is everyone else." He hesitated for a long moment, then asked, "Are we going to tell Lieutenant Cadman that he's back?"
"Shit," John said. He hadn't really thought about all the implications of the physician's "resurrection." It was one thing not to tell the man's mother because she didn't have security clearance. (And how ridiculous was that?) There was no excuse to not tell his former girlfriend, a member of the Stargate program. They'd stayed friends after the breakup, and Laura had been devastated when she'd learned of the explosion.
"Yeah," Ronon agreed. "That's pretty much what I thought."
"This Carson didn't break up with her. I think we probably owe it to both of them to tell her, but not until he's out of stasis."
Ronon firmly squelched the part of his mind that said "if."
Neither of them said anything for a long time after that. Finally John stood up and stretched. "Come on, 'big man,' let's go back. Keller was getting worried. I swear, she's almost as much of a mother hen as Beckett was... is."
Ronon smiled at John's use of the present tense. The man was an irrepressible optimist, but who was he to argue?
Summary: Ronon ponders the meaning of loss. Spoilers for Kindred II.