Carson Beckett never celebrated his birthday
Acknowledgements: Kat, as always.
A/N: Loads of thanks to quiller77,
Auburn and Murron for beta-read and cheering
Written for the Beckett ficathon. I was
assigned scap3goat who requested Carsons birthday; despite the
fact that he never told anyone (they never asked) or gave hints,
and that there is some serious problem
Small warning - I took the "serious" problem part
a bit too much to heart. Blame Auburn for one suggestion and
a night out with Kat for the other.
It was a shock unlike any other.
They had lost so many - during the siege, during
several Wraith attacks, on missions, even in the city - but
never like this. It had never cut quite so deep, never felt
so personal to her.
Elizabeth stood with the others around the makeshift
isolation bay and looked through the shimmering forcefield,
not really comprehending what they saw.
The utter stillness of the body on the medical
bed felt alien - more alien than anything they’d come
across so far. If animation was the key to any living being,
then its absence could only mean one thing.
The body in the lab should be moving. The face
should be smiling, eyes twinkling; mouth joking easily or looking
But there was nothing - the face and body motionless,
void of personality, of soul, of life.
The heart-monitor wailed mournfully.
Elizabeth stared at the body of Carson Beckett,
her hand still burning from when she had blindly touched the
forcefield. It was wrong. More wrong than anything ever before.
This man hadn’t been supposed to die. He hadn’t
been made to be a hero.
Yet he had saved them all, even when he was
already infected he had never given up, he had managed to find
a cure with that one last shred of insight, of knowledge, or
maybe just that last bit of luck.
It hadn’t helped him.
His face, in death, looked peaceful, but nothing
like the Carson she had known.
“It was his birthday today,” one
of the nurses murmured, disbelief colouring her words.
Elizabeth turned on her heel sharply, unable
to take the sudden quiet after the wailing heart-monitor had
been turned off.
She choked. Walked faster.
Tears were not for the public.
But tears there were.
"Is there stuff going
on here that I don't know about?"
"Isn't there usually?"
The party is at its peak when Teyla steps up
to him, takes his arm and pulls him aside.
“Teyla,” he announces, surprise
soon morphing into concern, “Is there something wrong,
She appears uneasy and slightly confused. “I
“What is it, then? Can I help?”
He reaches for her arms and holds both of her elbows carefully,
a reassuring gesture.
“We are celebrating your day of birth
today, is that right, Carson?”
He nods. “Aye. But that is not for you
to worry about it, dear. It’s just me getting older.”
She smiles at that, that slow, cat-like smile
he has admired many times before.
The frown is firmly back in place after just
a moment, though.
“What is it really, Teyla?”
“I understand that it is a custom among
your people to give presents to the person celebrating his day
He smiles at her. “Generally, yes. If
you like the person.”
That doesn’t have the desired effect,
makes the frown on her face only deeper.
“I do not have a present for you. And
I do like you, so should I not be giving you one?”
Carson blushes a little and ducks his head.
“You really shouldn’t worry about that, love. It’s
not your custom and I don’t expect gifts from friends.”
He reconsiders and adds: “Except for Rodney. I fully expect
a great present for all the time he’s nagged me about
his small hypochondriac escapades since we set foot on this
She smiles, but doesn’t seem fully convinced
yet. Carson adds, “Look, Teyla, presents don’t have
to be material. Friendship is much more valuable than any present
I can open with my hands.”
She ponders this, her eyes searching his.
“We, too, have a custom,” Teyla
says, finally. She reaches for his shoulders and inclines her
head, offers him the traditional Athosian greeting. She’s
never done this with him before and he feels both honoured and
touched by the gesture.
They stay this way - foreheads touching and
hands resting on each other’s shoulders.
It is only when her hands migrate from his shoulders
to the back of his head that he knows there is a subtle difference
She pulls him down, fingers cool on his neck.
Searches his eyes again and he can’t read hers at all.
Teyla touches her lips to his carefully, a mere
whisper, barely there.
“Happy Birthday, Carson.”
He grins and can’t help but thinking that
Rodney can’t possibly come up with anything that would
Never could get the hang of Thursdays
Carson Beckett clings to a rock, fingers aching,
muscles in his arms straining, nothing but an abyss below, nothing
but a violently troubled sky above. His feet find no resting
place, the wind whips across his face.
His radio has fallen. His team is trapped on
the top of the cliff, unable to help.
All that because of a well-meant inoculation
mission he could have sent any of his staff to perform. But
he had wanted to go, do something special on this day.
Carson Beckett clings to the cliff-wall and
thinks that this wasn’t the way he had thought his birthday
would be. His first birthday in the Pegasus galaxy.
He thinks of his mother’s birthday pie
and wonders why he ever came here in the first place.
He hasn’t even had the not-really tea
in the morning.
Days like this, he’s sure the universe
Finis coronat opus
The cake said: Happy birthday, Carson! It had a sloppily
written 38 on it that had visibly been a 37 before someone had
told the chef that even doctors returning from the Pegasus galaxy
were getting older, not younger.
Carson still couldn’t believe his luck.
Cake. This was a real cake. Complete with white icing and green
and pink writing and candles, burning steadily, their wax slowly
dripping on the cake’s surface. This was a real cake back
on earth. With real earth ingredients. It would taste just right,
just that little bit like caramel, exactly the way he liked
it in a chocolate cake.
He hadn’t cut it yet, but he knew it would
be perfect, knew with a certainty because his mother had baked
it. Yes, the icing was wrong, and he could just envision how
she would have whacked the chef with one of her big wooden spoons
for even suggesting that a chocolate cake needed a sugar icing,
but right now, Carson didn’t mind that at all.
It was his mother’s cake.
She couldn’t be here now - didn’t
have security clearance - but when she had met him yesterday,
fussing and smoothing down creases in his shirt and complaining
about his stubble and repeating just how proud she was of her
lad, somewhere in-between, she had given him the cake. Said
that he should have a nice morning with his military colleagues
and didn’t that friend he told her about, Dr. McKay, enjoy
He hadn’t had the heart to tell her that
Rodney was back on Atlantis and wouldn’t be there for
his birthday, but he decided to keep a few slices after all,
give Rodney something real to eat.
He would meet his mother this afternoon for
a small celebration, but this morning he was needed to debrief
the medical staff of the Cheyenne Mountain base about the details
of Atlantean medical technology and how it could be used in
their infirmaries as well.
The candles were burning steadily; a warm glow
on the metallic surface of the table. The other doctors around
the table were joking, laughing, unsuccessfully hiding little
Carson was infinitely grateful for the fully
charged ZPM that had made his trip back home possible. He felt
a grin crinkling the skin around his eyes - too many of those
crinkles now, he’d noticed this morning - when he thought
about how Elizabeth had told him that he could go back to earth
for his birthday. “I know wishing someone a happy birthday
early is supposed to bring bad luck, but I’m not superstitious
enough to believe that. Happy early birthday, Carson. Now go
and pack. And bring back chocolate.”
And indeed he had. He had bought several supermarket-size
boxes of Swiss chocolate bars (and some Belgian because they
were Elizabeth’s favourite). Now he only had to find a
way to bring all those decidedly heavy boxes back to Atlantis.
His thoughts were interrupted when all the doctors
in the room rose from their chairs and broke into a terribly
off-key rendition of “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.
They had made it to the second time of repeating
“That nobody can deny” when the door flew open,
banging against the wall. The singing slowly ebbed and everyone
stared at the person who had entered the room.
Carson felt elated and in high spirits. He looked
at General O’Neill and said with a broad grin: “I’m
glad to see you have accepted my invitation, General. I was
just about to cut the cake, so why don’t you grab a cup
of coffee and sit yourself down?”
His smile slowly waned when O’Neill didn’t
answer. The man just stood in the doorway, pale and solemn,
hair appearing more grey than ever before.
“Ladies and gentleman, I’d like
to talk to Dr. Beckett alone, could you please vacate this room
There was something in O’Neill’s
voice that didn’t allow any kind of resistance, so Carson’s
guests pushed their chairs aside and left the room, calling
quick “Happy Birthday’s” over their shoulder
and hurried “See you later’s."
O’Neill closed the door after the last
of the nurses had left. “Sit down, Dr. Beckett.”
Carson didn’t like his tone. It didn’t
hold any of the sarcastic and playful mockery that was so typical
for the general. He kept standing, his grip around his warm
mug tightening. “What is it?”
O’Neill took a deep breath. “I’m
sorry that of all days, this had to happen today.”
“There has been an accident on Atlantis.”
Carson felt a surge of fear prickling in his
neck. “Accident? What kind of an accident? Is someone
hurt?” After a couple of more frantic seconds he added:
“I need to go back. They’ll need me if there’s
been an accident.”
“You can’t go back.”
“I … What?!”
“As far as I could tell from the sketchy
report, there has been a malfunction in the Atlantis defense
system. Some kind of computer virus.” O’Neill moved
his hand dismissively, indicating that the why wasn’t
Carson felt the prickling move up to his skull,
his scalp tingling. "What happened?”
“Atlantis turned on them. Scanned the
whole city, detected the people who had been given the artificial
gene and declared them impostors. Only kept those alive who
naturally possessed the gene or didn’t have it at all,
labelling those without it prisoners. Half of Atlantis is locked
away behind forcefields. It's refusing to let anyone dial into
His mouth was dry, too dry to swallow. The question
came out rough and disbelieving: “What about the other
O’Neill’s gaze flickered away from
Carson, unwilling to speak. After a long while, it settled back
on him. “Atlantis decided that the impostors were a threat.
It killed them all.”
The mug clattered to the ground, spilling milky
tea on the grey floor.
The candles in the cake drowned in their own
wax when O’Neill left the room.
Not merely impossible but
The infirmary was long since dark. On days when AR-1 was on
off world missions, Carson usually had a more quiet time, dealing
with nothing but the occasional broken bone, singed skin, light
electric shock or running nose.
Days like this gave him the chance to concentrate
on his research, something he otherwise barely had time for
His office was quiet. The ventilation hummed
It was silent and he enjoyed that, enjoyed working
on his actual field of expertise once again.
He sipped from the tea one of the nurses had
brought before ending her shift and wondered why, despite the
rare opportunity, he wasn’t enjoying it as much as he
Of course, that it was his birthday and no-one
had said a word so far could play into the discontentment.
He wondered if Major Sheppard knew. After all,
he had moved heaven and hell to find out Dr. Weir’s birthday.
But even if he knew, it didn’t make a difference, now
did it? Sheppard wasn’t here. Rodney, who was generally
oblivious to personal matters might have been roped in by the
Major, but that didn’t matter as well - they were both
He sighed miserably into his tea. It shouldn’t
matter as much as it did. Besides- ever since he had first seen
a baby delivered - Carson had always believed that a birthday
should be a day of celebration for the mother, not only for
And still. Back home, his mother would be slicing
the pie now.
A candle would be burning. She would be bustling
around him enough to make him smile at her eagerness.
The empty office and the lack of good wishes
from anyone made him miss Earth, miss Scotland, miss his home
He sighed, deeply, once again wondering why
he came to Pegasus in the first place. Once the first thrill
was gone and the life-threatening situations became the rule
rather than the exception, Carson often though that he was in
the wrong place.
A sound interrupted his thoughts - quiet, but
He looked up from his flat screen, seeing no
one in the darkness outside his office door.
“Hello?” His own voice echoed in
the corridor beyond the door, a hollow sound.
This city scared him sometimes. The thought
of a sentient computer watching over all of them was not as
reassuring to him as it was to Rodney and the major.
One time in his youth, his father had taken
him to a haunted castle near Pitlochry and they had spent the
night there. Ever since then, dark old places made Carson uncomfortable.
The sound came again, more pronounced, clearly
discernible as a cough this time. Not a ghost, then. He breathed
a sigh of relief.
“If you need something for that cough
you should come where I can see you.”
Nothing. No movement. Just another cough.
“I promise to keep the needles in their
wrappers, now step up already.”
Again, nothing. He scrubbed a hand over his
face and pushed his chair away from the desk, rising slowly.
“If this is a prank, I will get out the big needles after
all. Consider yourself warned.”
He took a few steps into the darkness of the
corridor and felt the distinct hum of Atlantis as he passed
the door. Here in the infirmary, she was his - a reassuring,
considerate assistant, smoothing the way for him, helping him;
for once not frightening.
He rounded a slight bend of the dimly lit corridor
and was met by a cloud of fine smoke that immediately triggered
a coughing fit on his part.
“What the bloody--“
He stopped dead in his tracks when the face
of Elizabeth Weir looked up from the ground.
She was still coughing and shaking her right
“What are you … are you all right?”
Carson bit back a grin. She was apparently spending
too much time around Rodney.
“What are you doing here, then? Anything
I can do for you?”
A light blush covered her cheeks. “Yes,
She bent down again and reached behind her,
revealing a small cake with … unidentifiable discoloured
objects sticking from it. Straightening, she pushed the plate
in his direction. “Hold this, please.”
He noticed that there were spots of black on
her cheekbones. She fiddled with an Athosian lighter, trying
- and failing - to light the objects on the cake. A grin started
to spread over his face.
“Don’t laugh. I promise, Carson,
if you laugh I will take this whole cake and eat it myself.”
He schooled his features back into a neutral
mask and held the cake obediently.
“Dr. Haber promised me those would work
just like regular sparklers,” she groused while still
trying to light the sticks, “he just forgot to mention
that it would need nothing short of hellfire to light them.
And that they had a tendency to go up in nothing but smoke.”
Carson smiled. After all, it was rare to see
Dr. Weir so unguarded. Bent over the cake, she was frowning,
forehead furrowed, hair falling into her eyes. Close enough
to him that he could see the freckles she usually hid under
her make-up. Carson always considered that a shame - he liked
Finally, after a few awkward moments, the sparklers
were lit and Elizabeth looked up, straightening her back.
“Well. That surprise was thoroughly ruined.
Nevertheless: Happy birthday, Carson.”
He was silent for a moment, watching the sparklers
release their magic into the semi-dark corridor. Through the
dance of electric-seeming sparks he held Elizabeth’s gaze,
trying to convey what this meant to him.
“I thought no one knew.”
“No one did,” she said as the sparklers
slowly died. “But since major Sheppard is always a man
on a mission, he decided to find out all the birthdays of his
She smiled, one of those rare, full-blown smiles
that made her look years younger.
The cake was heavy in his hands, and a hindrance.
All he wanted to do was swoop her in a bone-crushing hug, because
finally, finally someone had remembered something that was personal
and not just professional.
He didn’t trust his voice, ducked his
head and continued to smile until his cheeks hurt.
“Aren’t you going to cut the cake?”
Ever the diplomat, Elizabeth apparently noticed his turmoil
and took his arm, steering him back toward his office.
Carson cleared his throat. “Of course.”
After they had sat down and Carson had cut slices
for the both of them - carefully scraping off the powdery and
crumbling remainder of the sparklers - he
leaned back in his chair, watching Elizabeth
tuck into the cake.
“Where did you get it?”
She took a sip from the glass of purple juice
he’d still had sitting in a jug on his desk. “I
She raised an eyebrow. “Is that so unlikely?”
“No, no.” He retreated frantically,
afraid of insulting her. “It’s just that …”
He took the first bite, then rolled his eyes in surprised delight.
“This is chocolate!”
Elizabeth really had to be spending too much
time around Rodney because that grin she flashed him was downright
smug in a way that would have made Rodney proud. “Yes,
“But … but … how? We ran out
of chocolate two months ago!”
“Never underestimate friends, Carson.
Especially when their names are John Sheppard and Rodney McKay.”
“Yes, Rodney. After a few talks with John,
he brought me some of his emergency chocolate rations. Told
me that if I messed up that cake he’d personally feed
me to the first Wraith he met. And that he fully expected you
to save a slice for him and John.”
“Rodney gave up some of his last chocolate
for this cake? For me?”
“As I said, Carson, never underestimate
She rose from her chair, and he did so as well,
etiquette getting the better of him. Elizabeth walked around
the desk, reached up and planted a kiss on his forehead.
“Happy birthday again,” she said
while putting her arms around him for a hug.
She may have intended for the hug to be quick
but Carson didn’t let go. Buried his face in her shoulder
and whispered a quiet and heartfelt “Thank you”
while squeezing his arms tighter around her slim frame.
“Did you really think we would forget?”
she asked when he finally loosened his grip a little.
"I just didn't think anyone would know."
Reaching both hands up and framing his face,
holding his gaze steadily, she said: “You’re family,
It was explanation enough.