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Five ways Carson Beckett never celebrated his birthday

Feedback: Please.

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.


Memento mori


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 concerned.

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.

Carson.


"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, love?”

She appears uneasy and slightly confused. “I … Maybe.”

“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 of birth.”

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 base.”

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 this time.

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.”

She smiles.

He grins and can’t help but thinking that Rodney can’t possibly come up with anything that would beat this.



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 hates him.



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 cakes?

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 wrapped presents.

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.

“General?”

“Ladies and gentleman, I’d like to talk to Dr. Beckett alone, could you please vacate this room ASAP?”

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.”

“Happen? What?”

“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 important.

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 the city.”

His mouth was dry, too dry to swallow. The question came out rough and disbelieving: “What about the other half?”

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.”

Carson swayed.

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 clearly insane


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 anymore.

His office was quiet. The ventilation hummed low.

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 should.

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 off world.

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 the children.

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 even more.

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 audible.

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.

“Elizabeth.”

She was still coughing and shaking her right hand.

“What are you … are you all right?”

“Fine, fine.”

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, you can.”

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 freckles.

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 nearest colleagues.”

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 made it.”

“You did?”

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, it is.”

“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.”

“Rodney?!”

“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 friends.”

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, Carson.”

It was explanation enough.

Finis


 
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