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Week 22: The Service

Genre(s): Gen, angst, friendship
Rating: PG
Characters: John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Ronon Dex,
Spoilers: Tag to the episode: Sunday
Warnings: Might need a hankie….(or so the lovely sherry57 tells me after pre-reading for me. Much thanks.)
Word count: 2160
Disclaimer: I do not own them, I would have treated them better.
Summary: The last journey home for a friend.
Prompt: Week 22: Shake


By stella_pegasi

Somehow, before I even saw the church, I knew what it was going to look like. During the long trip from Colorado to Scotland, every time I closed my eyes I had visions of a small, unassuming gray-stone church, sitting in the rolling hills around Avonbridge, our destination. As I sat on the front pew, with the other pallbearers, I was stunned by how the church looked almost exactly as I had imagined it.

It was early spring, and the trees were only beginning to show the slightest signs of budding. The sky was clear, pale blue in the afternoon sun, and the temperature was about 50°F, a tad warmer than normal. However, we were numb to the weather; the events of the last seventy-two hours had shaken all of us.

When we arrived at the Edinburgh airport, I was surprised to see an honor guard from the Royal Air Force to greet us. Then I remembered that one of the reasons the SGC knew about Carson was that he had served as a consultant to the RAF. Group Captain Miles Stewart met me at the foot of the steps to offer his condolences and that of the Royal Air Force, just further proof that Carson Beckett had a made a lasting impact on all of us. He asked me if the RAF honor guard, all Scotsmen, could have the privilege of bringing their fellow Scotsman onto his home soil. Part of me didn't want to give that honor away, but this was Carson's home, and he would have been proud. I motioned for the others to join me on the tarmac, where we waited with his family.

His mother was as Carson had described her, a 'wee' little woman with snow-white hair framing a lovely, kind face and the same bright blue eyes of her son. She looked at me and said in her lovely brogue, "He spoke of you often in his letters; he thought you were the bravest man he had ever met, and he was proud to be your friend." I know that at times I appear that I can keep my emotions in check; the reason is I had learned since I was a kid to tuck my feelings away. However, as I looked at this strong woman, I felt the layers peel back and the raw emotion fighting to take over. I fought the feelings but not before I felt tears well up. I hadn't allowed Carson's loss to hit me yet; but it was close. Once again, I pushed it away. Mrs. Beckett hugged me then, and for once, I took solace in her touch, she had lost so much more than I had, yet she was offering me comfort. I knew now where Carson had gotten his compassion.

After greeting Dr. Biro, Lorne, and Radek warmly, Mrs. Beckett turned to Ronon. I could see the pain in the big man's face. She smiled at him, reaching up to touch his dreadlocks, and whispered something to him. That big solemn man grinned and lifted her off the ground in a huge bear hug. I was worried that he was going to hurt her until I saw the joy on both their faces. Whatever Ronon needed to hear she had given to him, and gotten what she needed in return. It was when she turned her attention to Rodney, that we all held our breath.

I haven't had many close friends, got tired of being disappointed and disappointing them, but Rodney McKay was different. He was a pain in the ass most of the time, bossy, boisterous, critical, complaining about anything and everything. Yet, I knew underneath that egotistical demeanor was a good person. How did I know that? Hell, I don't know…maybe it's my 'spidy sense.' Whatever the reason was, I felt there was something more to this man, and there is. While I consider Rodney my best friend, the best friend I've ever had, I never begrudged his relationship with Carson.

Rodney is the king of snark, something that puts most people off. Lorne has learned to deal with him but still becomes somewhat aggravated around him. Me? I love to needle him, push him, because I let what he says flow off my shoulders; well, most of it anyway. Carson was another story. Rodney bickered with all of us. Poor Radek got the brunt of it, but thank goodness, he was like me; he knew bickering was McKay's way of surviving in a world that he sometimes felt uncomfortable in. Where I allowed him to snark at will, reining him in only occasionally, Carson pushed back, forcing Rodney to view his surroundings from a different perspective. Carson once told me that I had made a big change in Rodney's self-esteem, but I think it was Carson's counsel that had given Rodney the ability to discover how strong he really was. Now, we watched as the mother of his friend approached him.

She didn't even bother to say anything to him, just drew him into an embrace. I felt my chest tighten, my throat constricting as Rodney, who had remained stoic and for the most part, in control during this entire horrible experience, drop his head onto Mrs. Beckett's soft white hair. He was facing away from us, but it was evident from his shoulders shaking that the emotions he had bottled up for so long were finally free. I knew how he felt. I'd never talked about my mother's death in any depth to my friends, but I remember at the funeral when I saw my aunt Adelise, my mother's sister. My father had been distant, avoiding me, while Dave remained at his side. Adelise, who looked so much like my mother, had grabbed me and I had cried the first time since my mother died. I wasn't certain if I would have ever cried unless I had her to cling to that day. I was certain that Rodney was feeling the same emotion, as was Mrs. Beckett. After a few moments, they parted, spoke quietly, then walked over to where I was standing. Rodney's eyes were red and I quickly looked away from him. As Carson's sisters and their families gathered to stand with us, I motioned to Group Captain Stewart that we were ready.

Accompanied by the mournful wail of bagpipes, the RAF honor guard carried Carson's casket from the tail of the US Air Force plane, and placed the casket into a waiting hearse. We got into the black sedans that the SGC had arranged for us, and followed the procession to the funeral home in Bathgate. After taking the casket into the parlor at the funeral home, Stewart told me that they would be at the service the following day. He offered to leave an honor guard over night but Diane, Carson's oldest sister, said the family would be taking turns sitting with Carson. I knew we would be with them as they kept their vigil.

Mrs. Beckett insisted that we come to her home in Avonbridge for a meal, by then it was nearly 1800 hours. With Millicent, the youngest sister, her husband, along with some other cousins staying the funeral home, we agreed to join the rest of the family for dinner.

Carson's family home was nestled on a quiet street lined with row houses. Mrs. Beckett's whitewashed home was bathed in late-afternoon sunlight, an arched trellis of flowers marking the entrance to the walkway. The house wasn't large, and I remember Carson telling me that while they were crowded, it was a fun and loving house, usually in disarray from the whirlwind of four sisters. As I entered, the first thing that I noticed was how tidy Mrs. Beckett kept the house was now that her children were grown. Another indication that when they were growing up, she was more concerned about the joy of life rather than the tidiness of life. I could only think of how I wished my father had been that way.

None of us had eaten much since the explosion, but the warmth of the Beckett household brought back our appetites, at least it brought back mine a bit. We ate a wonderful meal of scotch broth, roast venison, vegetables, and scones, followed by all kinds of shortbread, while we traded the stories that we could about Carson. Biro and Radek both nearly gave away Atlantis on a couple of occasions but caught themselves. They were obviously embarrassed about the slips, but Mrs. Carson had smiled, assuring them she was used to Carson's inability to tell her what he did. I saw the haunting look in her eye, and I knew that look; I had seen it in my ex-wife's eyes. It was assurance that they understood, while their eyes betrayed the fact that they didn't. Carson was lucky; his mother never walked away.

After dinner, it was time to return to the funeral home. That evening other family, friends, and the community were to pay their respects. I watched McKay as he entered the parlor where Carson's closed casket rested, his face pale but composed. We spent the evening meeting Carson's past; former schoolteachers, vicars, the local shopkeepers, some of his former cohorts from medical school, the lads he pub-crawled with as a young man. Lorne had a great conversation with those guys. I was shocked to meet a lovely woman by the name of Laura, who was introduced by Millicent as Carson's first love. She was a redhead, with large blue eyes and an infectious smile. I could easily see why Carson had fallen for her; I think we all fell for her just a bit. Now married, her husband a tall, distinguished attorney, she sat for a long time with Rodney talking about Carson. I decided that maybe she, perhaps better than anyone, might help Rodney understand Carson a bit more. Maybe learning more about his life would ease Rodney's pain, although I doubted it would ease mine.

We stayed until nearly 0300 hours when two of Carson's brothers-in-law told us we needed to get some rest. Seth, Diane's husband, quietly and gently pushed, "You've done enough; you brought him home. All of you need to get some rest for tomorrow."

On the way back to the Avonside Inn where we were staying, I kept thinking about what Seth had said. Did we do enough? I don't know. Rodney blamed himself because he didn't recognize the stupid tumor bombs for what they were and for not going fishing with Carson, which would have kept them out of the city during the explosion. I blamed myself because…well…I wasn't certain how I was at fault, but I was responsible for the well-being of the people on Atlantis, and I had failed Carson. Elizabeth and Teyla both told me that Carson's death was no one's fault, that it was a tragic accident. But the truth was I should have stopped Carson from doing surgery. Yeah…right,…I know better; no one could have stopped Carson. Saving lives was what he did, even if it cost him his own.

Now, with bagpipes playing, as we carried Carson into his childhood church, the RAF Honor Guard lining the narrow walk, the reality of what had occurred was beginning to sink in. Our friend was gone and within a short time, we would say goodbye. Listening to the vicar, I heard the words meant to comfort but now, as when my mother died, I realized there is no comfort, only time can ease the pain.

Along a tree-lined fence near the church, we laid Carson to rest beside his father. Rodney and Mrs. Beckett were the last to leave the gravesite as we waited near the cars. Dr. Biro had broken down, and Radek had taken her for a walk down the lane leading from the church. They had just returned as Rodney helped Mrs. Beckett into her car.

Rodney walked toward me; I could see his lower lip was trembling, but he kept control, "He would have been proud, John."

I squeezed Rodney's shoulder, "Yeah, Rodney; he would have been proud."

After the service, we joined the family at the Beckett home, then, late in the evening, we returned to the inn, this time not to sleep but to drink. We raised a few pints to the good doctor's memory. The next morning we had breakfast with the Beckett family, then took Dr. Biro back to the Edinburgh airport, she was flying to London to visit with some old friends. We were to meet up with her back in Edinburgh in a few days for the flight back to Colorado. The rest of us, well, we decided to pay the best tribute we could think of to Doctor Carson Beckett. We were going to visit every pub in Scotland that we could in that short time. The good doctor would have been proud.

The end…


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC)
Beautifully written!
Oct. 26th, 2011 12:41 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, I really appreciate your comment. So glad you enjoyed.
Oct. 25th, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC)

Oh, so very nice... I've always loved Carson's family... you know they'd welcome everyone and not lay any guilt on anyone.

Very nicely done!
Oct. 26th, 2011 12:43 am (UTC)
Thanks. I agree about Carson's family, I've always thought what a warm, loving group they must be. I'm glad you enjoyed.
Oct. 25th, 2011 11:07 pm (UTC)

This is a lovely. It is so true to Sheppard and to the circumstances he is forced to deal with.....It reflects beautifully the person Carson cared so deeply about, his mother, and his friends of Atlantis..............

"....I felt my chest tightened, my throat constricting....."

I recognize only too well this feeling as it reminds me of the memorial services that I attended for those we lost.......
It always featured distinct memories, heart wrenching feeling of loss..We always wore aviation shades so we could remain anonymous to any stranger's stare, who might be unaware of our pain.
Oct. 26th, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
Thank you; the fact that you recognize the emotion I was attempting to convey that Sheppard is going through, as what you have experienced in these kinds of services, means a lot to me. Thank you so much for your comment.

It's funny, as I wrote this I imagined Sheppard waiting for Rodney by the car, shades on.

Thanks again!
Oct. 26th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC)
"....as I wrote this I imagined Sheppard waiting for Rodney by the car, shades on."

No kidding?? I guess I am not surprised.
Oct. 26th, 2011 04:01 am (UTC)
This is such a lovely tribute to Carson. He was so underrated as a character on the show, but was nearly my favorite. This is exactly how taking him home would have been. Of course there would be a whole town full of people who loved him. This is where I first got a bit choked up: "He had asked me if the RAF honor guard, all Scotsmen, could have the privilege of bringing their fellow Scotsman onto his home soil. Part of me didn't want to give that honor away, but this was Carson's home, and he would have been proud."
Oct. 26th, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I always loved Carson as well. It was when he died that I realized how important Atlantis and these characters had become to me. I sobbed for an hour after the show ended. I couldn't believe they had killed him off. At least, we got him back.

I'm pleased that you enjoyed, thanks so cuch for the comment.
Oct. 26th, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC)
I was always ambivalent about Carson in canon; sometimes he irked me, sometimes he charmed me.

This story gave a weight to the character and a tangibility to his death that the show did not. Thank you for this.
Oct. 27th, 2011 08:48 pm (UTC)
I so glad that this story gave you a bit more depth to Carson..at least my take on Carson. He's always been a favorite of mine, and I was very upset when TPTB killed him off.

Thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it.

Oct. 27th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
A lovely tribute story. I especially liked your descriptions of Carson's childhood home, and the moment between Mrs Beckett and Ronon was very touching.
Oct. 27th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
I always thought from Carson's descriptions that he would come from a small village in Scotland...so I found a little village that seemed to meet the description and used it. Glad you liked the moment between Ronon and Carson's mom.

Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed.
Oct. 27th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC)
Beautifully set and written!
Oct. 27th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much. I'm so glad that you enjoyed!
Oct. 28th, 2011 02:08 am (UTC)
Sniffle, need kleenx.....such a lovely written tribute to Carson and those who cared about the man.....

Oct. 28th, 2011 03:22 am (UTC)
Passes hanky...so glad you that you liked the story.

Thanks so much; I really appreciate the comment.
Jul. 19th, 2012 01:20 pm (UTC)
Absolutely heart-wrenching and yet healing at the same time. Loved seeing Carson's family and childhood surroundings. Seeing him finally come home to rest, accompanied by his two families, brought a tear to the eye and a wobbly smile to the lips. Thanks.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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