* * *
Beckett's butt was sore. A good sore, mind you, but sore all the same, and despite the ointment he'd had applied in the morning, it still hurt. The sense of pain wasn't distracting him as much as the sense-memory.
John had been inside him. Loving him. Stroking him. John's arms fit perfectly around him, and Beckett had arched back, let himself be taken. Bigger men were in Atlantis--Beckett knew the girth of every male--Stronger men. But none fit him like John.
He was so distracted by the good things about pain he could list that he didn't realize for a few seconds that the elevator door wasn't opening. Frowning, he ran his hand over the activation button again.
Beckett pressed the panel, willing the cold machinery to bond with him.
"Oh dear, and I'm already late for work," he muttered, turning to lean with his back against the wall. The cool, sleek structure felt good against his butt. He slapped the panel one more time, and then shrugged. "Command?"
"Yes, Doctor Beckett," a male voice came over the speakers.
"I'm having trouble with the elevator in R-2."
"All right, doctor." Beckett hummed elevator music during the pause, and then the man at ops said, "I'm showing no errors. Here..."
The door slid open.
Beckett stepped in. "Infirmary."
The lift stayed still.
Beckett sighed. "Control?"
"Yes, Doctor Beckett. What's your destination?"
The lift began to move. Beckett exhaled. This morning wasn't shaping up as he had planned. At least, he thought, the anxiety in the pit of his stomach had distracted him from the pain in his ass.
* * *
Mid-morning, with the twinge in his stomach becoming a knot, and Beckett figured out how to accommodate the fact that the main medical panels were no longer accepting his handprint. Some devices still operated under voice command, and he could use hand-held devices. He felt as if the Atlantis computers no longer recognized who he was; or worse, they were rejecting him.
He felt the same. He looked the same.
Orderlies handled the major processes, and luckily, the infirmary load was light without any off-world missions. Beckett had time for research, which normally he would do at a computer, but he was reduced to theorizing, talking from his head, and those under his command diligently took notes.
Beckett wondered how diligent they would be when they realized Atlantis saw him as a pariah. He took his own blood and ran tests. His DNA was the same, with the ATA gene still intact, making him sigh with a relief he knew he shouldn't really feel, with the continuing problem of the computers.
His progesterone hormone levels were elevated. At 3.2 ng/ml, he should be diagnosing himself with ovulation, but since that was impossible, he... Well, he didn't know what to make of it. Another doctor should be seeing the records, but Beckett felt with a cold, sweaty nervousness, that he didn't know who to tell.
Self-diagnosis was failing, so he would put it out of his mind. He would get back to work. He was still the same Doctor Carson Beckett.
* * *
By nightfall, the fear in his stomach had become a full-fledged tumor, and Beckett knew he should get a consult. Instead, he went out to an outer deck to look at the ocean, hoping the peacefulness of the sea would calm him. His people were ancient sea-farers, and he had followed in their footsteps as an intergalactic traveler. If there was anywhere to feel safe and whole, it was here.
The darkness over the ocean was foreboding. He could swear the shield that protected Atlantis by keeping it invisible shimmered unnaturally before his eyes, making the darkness more vague. A fan blew overhead, recycling the sea air and the station air, and blocking out the sound of the waves. Beckett closed his eyes.
The wind that ruffled his hair grew colder, and he turned back to the station, shaking off the chill. John would know what to do. Their relationship... Beckett sighed. Their relationship was young, like John. Their trysts were still a secret. John usually came to his quarters in the middle of the night, and left by dawn. Their feelings had remained unvocalized, but Beckett had seen things in John's eyes, not just at night, but on missions to other planets, during crises in the infirmary, seen things that he could trust.
He moved toward the door leading back into the station, and nearly stepped into it. "Open up!" His fists hit the door, which remained unmoving, not fighting back, making him feel as if he were alien. As if he weren't there.
"Control room?" He called softly.
"Yes, Doctor Beckett." A different voice than in the morning.
Hopefully Elizabeth had gone to sleep, and this wouldn't arouse suspicion. "Can you open the outer airlock on Tray-9B?"
"Sure." The door slid open, and then the sleepy voice said in his ear, "Sorry about that, doctor. We'll have maintenance check it out in the morning."
"Thanks," Beckett muttered, and went to find John.
* * *
John was on top of his cot reading War and Peace when Beckett slipped into his quarters. "Hey, Carson," he'd called over the book, his tone casual, as if Beckett was unexpected, but welcome.
Beckett wanted to blurt out that his visit wasn't about sex, but he was blushing to even consider such boldness, so he stood awkwardly and said, "How's the book?"
John closed it and set it on his bedside table. "You would never think that a long book could actually feel so long." He folded his hands over his stomach and chuckled.
"I bet," Beckett said, looking around the room, anywhere but at John, who was still in a tee shirt and BDU pants, and the black fabric stretched across his chest in a way that made Beckett's mouth water. He'd never been good at this, not with men or women, and, he reminded himself, this visit wasn't about sex. He rubbed his hands together. "I never even got through the miniseries."
"There was a miniseries?" John sat up, his abdomen contorting in a way that made Beckett nearly pass out.
"Aye. It was 12 hours long, I think."
"That's long. That's really long. Maybe I should just admit I have the attention span of a goldfish and start watching cartoons."
"Goldfish can remember things for up to three months," Beckett said, clearing his throat and finally looking at John. John smiled, and finally, it seemed, focused completely on Beckett standing in front of him. Beckett found the attention comforting, as if, after a day of being ignored, someone could see him, rather than see through him. "John, I may have... a wee bit of a problem?"
John swung his legs over the side of the bed, planting his feet on the ground and sitting up straight. "What is it, Carson?"
"I... Atlantis doesn't like me anymore."
"What? Who doesn't like you? Did Elizabeth say...? Did McKay? You know McKay's just--"
Beckett put his hands on John's shoulders. "No, John. The station doesn't like me. The... Atlantis, herself."
"My gene isn't working, John." Beckett held up his hand.
"That...doesn't make sense." John's tone was guarded, and he looked away from Beckett, toward his bedside table. He leaned over to open the drawer and pull out a small cylinder. "Try this."
Beckett sighed and took the proffered item. The cylinder stayed inert.
John took it back, closed his eyes, and the cylinder began to glow and emit a humming sound. Satisfied, he deactivated it and put it back in the drawer.
"There's more," Beckett said, unable to keep his despair from entering his voice.
"It's even...non-genetically-coded devices. It's like...I've changed, and they see it."
"Have you had tests?"
"Yes. Well, I did them myself."
"Carson..." John's whole attention was his again.
"I know, I know. But I just... wanted to know what was going on before I told anyone. I don't know what's going on, John. I need your help."
John gripped his wrist, and pulled him onto the bed. Bckett sat with a heavy sigh. "I'll help," John said, leaning into Beckett's shoulder. "Tomorrow. Tonight, you just need to relax."
"It's hard to relax."
"I know." John nuzzled the side of his neck. "I'll help."
Beckett closed his eyes. Even as John touched him, he could hear John's mind turning. John was a thinker. He'd figure this out.
The hormone spike was probably an unrelated issue.
* * *
Beckett woke before dawn with the unfamiliar sensation of a warm, male body pressed against his back. He realized that since these were John's quarters, not his own, John probably wouldn't be leaving. Snuggled against John, blinking in the darkness, Beckett was wondering if he should be the one leaving when he felt another mostly rare sensation: nausea.
The nausea grew as Beckett bolted out of bed and scampered, naked as the day God made him, to John's small bathroom. He curled over the bowl and let loose, his stomach emptying with a ferocity he hadn't known his stomach muscles were capable of generating. By the second heave John was behind him, touching his back, calling his name.
Beckett flushed and straightened, turning to the sink to wash his face and rinse his mouth. "John," he finally said.
"What's going on?"
Beckett met John's eyes in the mirror. "Morning sickness."
John stumbled back. "That's..."
"The tests don't lie."
John furrowed his brow, but before his mind could process the realization of Beckett's lie, and the only viable solution, Beckett put the words in his mouth. "We have to tell Elizabeth."
* * *
Elizabeth paced the command center with unusual agitation, pausing at the end of her walk, as far away from Beckett as she could get, before saying, "You're pregnant."
"My body's reacting as if it were, aye."
"And the station thinks you're a threat," she said.
John stepped forward, between them. "Now wait just a minute... This is Carson we're talking about."
"Exactly." McKay rolled his eyes.
"Hey," John said, turning and waving a finger at him.
"Hey!" Elizabeth moved back into the circle of her command staff. "The fact that we have something weird and presumably alien going on here is not unprecedented. We'll deal. Doctor Beckett, I want you confined to the infirmary for the time being. You can keep working, but...I want you to stay there."
"All right," Beckett said, feeling somehow ashamed that he was causing such trouble, and wishing he knew exactly how he was causing it.
"Hey!" John yelled again. "It's not fair to treat him like--"
"Stop saying that," Elizabeth said, turning to face him. "We have to figure out what's going on."
John's shoulders slumped. "I know."
"I should be in on the tests," McKay said.
"No," John ordered, followed by, "Ew."
"Look, Colonel, if it's some sort of alien technology..."
Beckett looked at the ceiling. "He's right."
"Let's go then."
"Carson," Elizabeth called to him as he and McKay headed toward the lift. He turned around, and she gave him a weary, faint smile. "If you were a woman, I'd be asking... about the father."
Beckett managed, though it took all the strength in his being, not to look at John, as he answered, "I don't know, Doctor. Let's... just see what the tests show."
She nodded, granting him that much.
* * *
"So, Carson, did you do it with a bird?" McKay said, a jolly ring in his voice that irritated Beckett. He ignored the question.
"A snake? A lizard?" McKay went so far as to poke Beckett in the arm, which was unkind, as Beckett was strapped to an examination bed and couldn't kick him in the balls.
"What are you talking about, Doctor?" He asked, instead.
McKay leaned over Beckett, and said, while meeting his eyes. "You have an egg."
"About the size of a lemon," a medical doctor called helpfully from behind McKay.
"What? How? McKay..."
"Snakes have live young."
"Oh, really?" McKay stepped back from the bed. "Gross."
Beckett rolled his eyes. "How do I have an egg?"
"That's a good question."
"Well, we could biopsy the egg, but...there's life inside." The medical doctor handed Beckett the print-out of an ultrasound. "A biopsy might harm it."
"I don't believe in abortion," Beckett said.
"What?" McKay lunged forward again, grabbing his shoulders. "It's an alien lifeform, living inside of you."
"Instead of taking some of my nutrients and building a home...a nest... for itself... It's not harming anything."
"Except Atlantis obviously thinks it's a threat."
Beckett ignored him. "What's the gestation?"
"Looks like three months."
"There's something else, doctor..."
McKay threw his hands up. "There's always something else."
"It's doing things to your abdomen. I think..." The doctor looked around, and spoke more to the computer terminal than Beckett when he said, "...There's going to be a pouch. To house the egg."
"Oh, God. Oh, God, God." Beckett covered his face with his hands.
"Still opposed to abortion?"
"Shut up, McKay," John said, entering the infirmary. "Is this thing a risk?"
"No," said the doctor.
"Is it going to take over his brain?"
"I...don't think so."
John folded his arms. "Then let Carson do whatever he wants."
"There's still the matter of him not interfacing with the systems," McKay said.
"Can you fix that?"
"Well... yes. It's just a matter of re-coding him in to bypass the security. Our security, by the way, not the Ancients'."
"So we locked him out?"
McKay looked away. "Well, yes."
"For crying out loud, Rodney."
"I didn't know he was pregnant!"
"Guys..." Beckett groaned through his hands.
"I'll go re-engineer the entire security grid for Mr. Mom, then," McKay said, and stomped out of the infirmary.
The doctor also moved away. "I'll..." He retreated into another office.
John approached the bed, reaching for Beckett's hand, and then thinking better of it, and resting his palm on Beckett's stomach. "Carson... Is any of this my fault?"
Beckett chuckled. "Do you mean, are you the father of the lad?"
"No. It's not your DNA. We ran the chromosomes against everyone on the station."
"Oh. So if it had been..." John cleared his throat.
"Aye. McKay would have known."
"I could have lived with that. I mean, it would have been fine." John patted Beckett's stomach. "Do you need your rest?"
"Aye. I've got a lot of reading up to do, I think. And they're not sure what to give me for the morning sickness, because this little guy's biology is so different."
"Okay... Carson, I... I'll let you rest."
"Aye." Beckett closed his eyes, not wanting to see any disappointment or retreat on John's face.
John leaned over and whispered against Beckett's ear, "Come over tonight."
John patted his stomach, and then Beckett heard footsteps, and the swish of the door, and for the first time, Beckett was alone with the creature growing inside him.
* * *
John had been waiting for him when Beckett finally slipped through the doorway and went to the bed, settling down on the side and wringing his hands. John looked sideways at him. "How did this happen?"
"I have no idea," Beckett confessed.
"Maybe it's in the water."
Beckett shrugged his shoulders. "Have you ever gotten a man pregnant before, John?"
John seemed to think about it before answering, "Well... no."
"So, sad to say I'm afraid, you're not the father."
John didn't say anything, and Beckett finally glanced over at him. "Does that bother you?"
"Well, no." John gave Beckett a weak smile. "I mean, it shouldn't, right? What am I thinking? God, what am I feeling?" He flung himself backward on the cot. "I'm happy for you. For whatever it is... What is it?"
"Too soon to tell. We don't know if it's sentient, or just...larval." Beckett leaned over John, looking into his face.
"Does it hurt?"
Beckett smiled. "No."
John reached up to cup Beckett's cheek, rubbing at the scruffy stubble. "Can we...?"
"Aye." Beckett tilted his head to kiss John's palm. "I asked."
John grinned. "You did not."
"It's medically responsible."
"And they say doctors make the worst patients..." John said, sliding his hand down Beckett's neck, to his shoulder. Beckett was already getting hard, his cock rising in his scrub pants, seeking the warmth of John's body under him.
"Is that what they say? It's a wee bit unfair." Beckett said, but he was smiling as he let John guide his head down for a kiss.
Beckett lingered on John's lips, teasing his tongue, pulling at the soft skin, before kissing his way down John's throat. John arched into Beckett, and said, "Two men and a baby. Great." He laughed and Beckett lifted his head, to find his eyes.
"You're really on board with this?"
"Carson... You're a good man. A great man. I want to see you through this."
Beckett nodded. "Then, you will. And I..." His words cut off as he pressed his mouth to John's bare belly, and slid lower, brushing the lump in his boxer shorts.
"You what?" John's voice was hoarse as he buried his fingers in Beckett's short hair.
"I'd like to thank you," Beckett mumbled, and then, he was too busy to say anything else.
* * *
Three months later...
"Just doing my hourly check-in," Beckett said in his Scottish brogue over the walkie-talkie to the command center. He was on the far side of the station, going through the un-powered decks set up as refugee camps that were currently holding a hundred people waiting for relocation from a Wraith world.
"Acknowledged," Elizabeth said, leaning over the microphone. "Carry on."
"Aye, doctor," Beckett said, and then the line clicked off.
McKay wandered over to John's side. "Should he really be working so close to his due date?"
"Shut up, Rodney."
Elizabeth turned around. "It's a legitimate question, John. How's he doing?"
"He's fine. Look, if he were a woman, he'd be working right up until labor. It's the aftermath that sucks."
McKay was giggling.
"Labor, Carson in."
John rolled his eyes.
The communications link clicked back to life. "Okay," said Beckett's voice. "I'm done here, am heading back. Hold on..." The speakers transmitted the sounds of a shuffle, and then Beckett said, "I had to let one of the guests let me onto the lift. Looks like my identity is in question again."
Elizabeth frowned. "What's going on?" She asked the operations officer.
"I don't know, Doctor. We don't have control over that part of the station. Our power grid doesn't extend that far. It's only Atlantis auxiliary power that handles the lift and the minor environmental systems."
"So, whatever we fixed three months ago didn't actually affect the Ancient systems?"
"I don't know." The officer hunched over the controls, frantically trying to re-work power.
"So he's going to be stuck in the elevator?"
"Um, guys?" Beckett's voice came over the speakers.
"What is it, Doctor Beckett?" Elizabeth called.
"My stomach hurts," Beckett said.
McKay folded his arms. "I tell people to be careful of their glucose levels, but do they listen?"
"No, I mean... My egg sac hurts," Beckett said.
"...And there's another problem."
Elizabeth bit her lip. "What's that, Carson?"
"The elevator's stopped."
Elizabeth looked sharply at ops.
"It's stuck between relays. I don't think the Atlantis system knows quite what to do with him. Maybe the baby is a strange lifeform its never encountered, and its quarantining."
"So maybe he brought it from Earth?" McKay frowned.
John shook his head. "Have you ever seen anything like this on Earth?"
Beckett screamed through the comm, and then said, breathlessly, "Sorry about that. I think it's trying to...peck through my skin." He panted.
"Where is he?" John leaned over the operations console.
"Deck T-1, shaft A."
John took off running.
"John!" Elizabeth called after him as he rounded the catwalk railing. He paused and looked back at her. "I'll have a medical team meet you there," she said. John nodded and disappeared from view.
* * *
John saw the lift, stuck halfway between T-1 and T-2. He knelt on the floor, and could see the top of Beckett's head through the glass. "Carson!"
Beckett looked up, and then, it seemed to John, tried to scramble to his feet, but winced in pain, and slumped back to the floor of the lift.
John tapped his radio. "Can't we beam him out?"
"Not yet. We've been trying," McKay's voice came back.
"Damn." John pounded on the door. "It'll be all right, Carson. We'll get you out."
Beckett gave him a pained smile.
John switched his radio to a more private signal, and said to Beckett, "How are you feeling?"
"Oh, God, it hurts. I didn't know it could hurt this bad. I've delivered babies, but I didn't know... Oh, John."
"I'm here," John said.
"I'm bleeding. This thing is ripping through my skin. After all I've done for it, this is the thanks I get?"
"The doctors are on their way."
"Oh, thank God. John.. It's... "
John could only watch helplessly as Beckett reached to his abdomen and gave a tug with both hands, and then laid a bloody, writhing mass on the floor next to him. Then Beckett sagged onto the floor.
The lift began to move.
John slammed his hand on the panel to stop it. The lift doors opened and he jumped in. "Are you all right?"
"Take off your shirt," Beckett gasped. "Wrap it around that..."
John pulled off his tee shirt. "What about you?" He knelt next to the small ball of feathers and draped the jacket over it. The creature immediately nuzzled into the fabric, and seemed to inhale.
"I'm fine." Beckett pressed against his abdomen. "It... It recognizes you. I think... You've been singing to it, talking to it..."
"Is it sentient?"
John cradled the creature in his arms, and studied the small head. "It... She? He? Looks like you. It kind of has this wiry, Scottish glare in its eyes."
Beckett laughed, and then winced in pain. He reached over to grip John's forearm. "Our son. You know...It has your smile."
John grinned, and then cringed as the creature pecked at his chin.
"See? Like twins. Thanks..." Beckett said.
"For what?" John glanced around the bloodied, still elevator. His heart was still racing from the run across the station, and the fear of seeing Beckett like this, in pain, alone, and not being able to reach him. Survival wasn't much to be thankful for.
Beckett smiled anyway. "This moment."