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FIC: Tabula Rasa -- Chapter Eleven - Hotitudinosity
fiction by jalabert
jalabert
jalabert
FIC: Tabula Rasa -- Chapter Eleven
Title: Tabula Rasa
Author: Jalabert
Category: First time
Rating: R
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Carson Beckett
Summary: What if the one you loved lost everything but you?


"Are you nuts?" Rodney cried.

"I didn't mean to--."

"Exactly what were you trying to accomplish, John?" Elizabeth demanded.

"I was just trying to cheer him up," he replied defensively

"By making him--"

"Hey! I was just trying to get him to eat. How was I supposed to know he'd freak out?"

"Major, everyone knows that migraine headaches can make a person nauseous," Rodney said exasperatedly. "Why do you think he puked his heart out the other night? Believe me; when I have a migraine I can barely think about food without becoming queasy."

"Really? I didn't think there was anything that could stop you from thinking about food," John quipped.

"I take it Carson was able to settle him down again," Elizabeth asked, with a warning glance at John.

"I didn't stick around to find out," John confessed uneasily. Rodney growled at him and walked away. John shifted his gaze from Rodney to Elizabeth.

"I suppose you're angry at me, too?"

"No, but I would have expected you to be more sensitive to the lieutenant's condition," she said frankly. John rolled his eyes.

"I was just--!" He sighed and fell silent as Elizabeth strode away. She caught up with Rodney, who turned and cast a withering glance over his shoulder.

**

"Have you been spying on me?"

"Oh, it's spying now, is it?" Carson replied, moving to turn up the ICU's night light just a bit. Aiden blinked as his eyes adjusted to the light. "Just a few days ago, I was simply being a good friend and a better doctor."

"Huh?"

"When you were first admitted, you needed round the clock care and I provided as much of it as I could. Since then, I've spent a good bit of every night here--when I left at all."

"Why?" Aiden asked quizzically.

"Why? Aside from the fact that you demanded it more often than not--."

"I did?"

"Aye, you did," Carson said wearily. "Look; to what do these questions portend?"

"You just said if one doesn't ask questions, one doesn't get answers, right? So what's going on?"

"What was in those meds Anne prescribed?" Carson asked. "You've been a feisty little cur all day!"

"Very funny, doc," Aiden said, slowly rising to his feet. Carson instinctively reached out but Aiden neatly evaded him. Carson didn't know what to make of that, so he simply answered the question.

"I was watching you sleep, or trying to."

"I didn't ask you to do that, did I?"

"No," Carson said bluntly. Aiden frowned in surprise.

"How long?"

"Come again?"

"How long?" Aiden demanded. Carson sighed.

"Aiden, I haven't a clue what you're asking."

"I'm sorry, doc," Aiden said softly, averting his eyes. "It's not important." He fidgeted with the drawstring cord of his pants. "And I'm really sorry if I was out of line the other night."

"Why are you apologizing again? I meant it when I said I forgave you."

"No, that was for yesterday," Aiden said. "I'm talking about the other night--when I ran away. After that."

"What do you mean?"

"Most of what happened that night is just a blur. Dr. Heightmeyer played some tapes of what I did that night. I don't remember most of it, especially the part about assaulting those two Marines. But I do remember one thing," he said, looking up at Carson. "I remember kissing you."

"And you're apologizing for it?" he asked, slightly crestfallen.

"Shouldn't I?" Aiden replied as he suddenly felt queasy; he grabbed his abdomen and took a deep breath.

"That depends--. Aiden?" Carson immediately became alarmed.

"I don't feel so good, doc," Aiden said, swallowing hard.

"Come on, then; let's get you back to bed."

"No, wait--we need to deal with this first."

"Aiden," Carson said impatiently as he drew him back over to the bed.

"Dr. Heightmeyer said that you were the most important person in my life and that I'd probably do better with therapy if I continued to have you as my anchor."

"If you value me so highly, you'll get back into bed before you decorate my shoes," Carson said.

"Dr. Heightmeyer said she knew how you felt about me," Aiden said shyly as he sat down on the bed. "She wouldn't tell me, though."

"So you accused me of spying on you?" Carson asked incredulously. Aiden shrugged and smiled.

"Must be the meds."

"Right," Carson said doubtfully, a smile tugging at his lips. "Into bed with you. We can play twenty questions tomorrow."

"She wants me to talk about my feelings," Aiden said as he laid down and carefully scooted over. "About you," he added softly.

"Does she, then?"

"She said that we have issues."

"What sort of issues?" Carson asked curiously as he reached across Aiden to retrieve the blood pressure cuff.

"Well, I guess she meant my shouting at you yesterday."

"We've resolved that, haven't we?" Carson said, satisfying himself that Aiden's blood pressure was normal. He reached for his wrist to take his pulse.

"She also said I have abandonment issues."

"Abandonment issues?" Carson asked, losing his count and looking at Aiden with a frown.

"Yeah; based on the fact that after our argument you turned my case over to Dr. Johnson."

"I haven't abandoned you, Aiden," Carson said, sitting down on the stool. He took up Aiden's wrist once again. "I explained why I turned your case over to Dr. Johnson. I simply want you to receive the best possible care."

"I know that, but she thinks I think you abandoned me. She thinks that I'm in denial. I guess she's right," Aiden concluded with a sigh.

"You feel as though I've abandoned you?" Carson replied.

"No, no! I don't feel abandoned. And even if I did before I certainly don't feel that way now," he said smiling. "Not after I caught you checking me out while I slept."

"I wasn't 'checking you out,' as you so colorfully put it," Carson said defensively. "As a matter of fact I was sleeping myself, till I heard you moving about."

"Admit it, doc," Aiden said, clearly feeling better--at least well enough to tease his companion. "You like watching me sleep."

"Actually, I prefer watching you when you're awake," Carson said without missing a beat. "You're one of the most boring sleepers I've ever met." Aiden's smile set his heart racing.

"Liar!" he challenged. Carson merely shrugged.

"It's your own fault, you know," he said. "At first you were so sick I dared not leave you alone for a second, for fear that you'd code on me. Then you revived and became so dependent I couldn't leave you alone even when I wanted to do so." Aiden's smile faded.

"Sorry."

"No need to apologize, lad," Carson said easily. He realized that he was still holding Aiden's wrist and made himself drop it, in spite of the fact that he still hadn't taken his pulse. "It's become something of a habit," he admitted, averting his eyes to the blanket. "It's as though I cannot sleep until I've seen you safely off to dreamland, isn't it? And seeing as you're such a boring sleeper I end up falling asleep myself, often as not." He looked up again. "I suppose it was only a matter of time before you caught me at it."

"Carson," Aiden said softly, reaching out and taking hold of his fingers. But the doctor decided it was time to turn the tables on the younger man.

"So if you aren't in denial about abandonment, what are you in denial of?" he asked. It was Aiden's turn to avert his eyes.

"I guess I've been in denial of a lot of things...have been for months now," he confided before hazarding a glance at Carson. "When Dr. Heightmeyer asked me to describe my feelings about you and our relationship I told her we didn't have one." He smiled when Carson began to laugh. "I know," he said. "She didn't buy it, either."

"We've both been in denial for some time," Carson admitted as he gave Aiden's hand a gentle squeeze.

"She already knows that, doesn't she?"

"Aye," Carson sighed.

"What did you tell her? No wait," Aiden said as he recalled her words. "She said that it's what you didn't say that told her what she needed to know." Carson shrugged again, a wry smile teasing his lips. Aiden returned it. "So..."

"So."

"So what didn't you tell her?" Aiden asked boldly. Carson reluctantly extricated his hand and rose to his feet.

"That's a discussion for another place and another time."

"Doc!"

"You may not be my patient any longer but this is still my infirmary," Carson said with a warm smile. "And I'll not tolerate any hanky panky on the premises."

"I not asking for any 'hanky panky,' doc. I just want an answer to my question."

"And I'm going to have to disappoint you yet again," Carson said from a safe distance. But Aiden leaned forward and Carson, fearing that he was about to fall from the bed, moved forward to block him. He belatedly realized that he'd been trapped when Aiden grabbed his hand. "Sneaky little devil."

"Don't get your knickers in a twist, doc," Aiden said with a smile, using one of Carson's more memorable expressions. "I just want you to answer one more question and then I'll let you go."

"Ask away," Carson said.

"You said this was a discussion for another place and another time. When and where?"

"When you're out of the infirmary," Carson replied. "You can name the place." He gave Aiden's hand a squeeze and started to pull his own hand away but Aiden held fast.

"Are we good, doc?"

"That's another question," Carson replied teasingly, though he was more than happy to linger at Aiden's side for a few more seconds.

"Humor me."

"Aiden, you're insane to worry about such things. Now I've said all I'm going to say on the subject."

"You haven't said a thing!"

"Go to sleep," Carson ordered. "I'm going to go do the same."

"Aren't you going to stay and watch?"

"I think I've had my fill for one evening," Carson replied.

"Your loss, doc," Aiden said with a smile. "I think I've got some very exciting sleep ahead of me tonight." Carson thought it safer not to even think about that so he just smiled and attempted to extricate his hand once more.

"One more thing, doc," Aiden said, tightening his grip on Carson's fingers.

"You do know how to count to one don't you, lad?"

"When do you think I'll be out of here?"

"That's between you and your doctors."

"And you wouldn't be disposed to put in a good word for me?"

"Aiden, you just do what you have to do to get well. I'll be waiting."

"Promise?"

"Another question?" Carson cried. "Let go of my hand, you little--." Aiden released his hand and Carson quickly shoved it into his pocket. But he moved closer to the bed and gazed into Aiden's eyes for a moment. "Sleep well."

"You too."

Carson reached out and lightly stroked Aiden's cheek before heading for the door.

"You kissed me back," Aiden said softly, closing his eyes.

Carson turned and smiled at him.

"So I did."

**

Carson left the infirmary with a smile on his face. He nodded at the security detail outside the facility and made his way to the transporter. When he stepped off, he saw Rodney and Elizabeth down the hall but, intent on finding his bed, he ignored them and turned in the direction of his quarters. They spotted him, however, and called his name, eager to get an update on Aiden's condition. But Carson didn't hear them.

As he turned toward the residential wing he caught sight of Sergeant Bates speaking with a technician. Carson forgot about sleep and headed over to the sergeant, who caught a glimpse of him over the young woman's shoulder.

"Dr. Beckett," Bates said after excusing himself and stepping forward. Carson gave him credit for not attempting to hide his guilt, but that didn't make him any less angry.

"What in bloody blazes were doing in the ICU after Dr. Heightmeyer specifically told you to stay away?" he demanded. "Do you have any idea what sort of damage you might have done?"

"Dr. Heightmeyer didn't tell me to stay away, sir. She merely suggested that I wait a while before visiting the lieutenant."

"And you interpreted 'wait a while' to mean three hours?" Carson shouted.

"Whoa!" Elizabeth as she reached the pair. "What's going on?"

"He was fine, sir. I only stayed for a minute or two," Bates replied, ignoring her.

"Really?" Carson shot back. "I have to wonder when you found the time to slip back through the gate and go to medical school so you'd be qualified to make that assessment."

"Dr. Beckett!" Elizabeth said warningly.

"I mean it, sir. He was fine!"

"He was traumatized, sergeant!" Carson replied. "I don't care what kind of brave face he put on it."

"Wait a minute," Rodney said. "You went to see Ford?" Rodney demanded, turning to Bates. "Has everyone in Atlantis gone insane?"

"What were you thinking, sergeant?" Elizabeth asked. "You know that the lieutenant has been in a very delicate state since the incident on PX3-889."

"He's suffering from debilitating migraines, sergeant," Carson said, moving closer to the target of his anger. "Your thoughtless behavior put him in such a state in the first place. Did you return to finish the job?"

"Carson!" Elizabeth cried as she moved to intervene before they came to blows. "Rodney!"

"Got him, Elizabeth," he replied as he took Carson's arm. Carson immediately became docile and allowed himself to be led away. "Have you got some sort of death wish?" Rodney asked as they walked toward Carson's room. "That man is a Marine, Carson!"

"He went to see Aiden, after both Dr. Johnson and Dr. Heightmeyer specifically told him not to do so," Carson replied. "And I'm sure I also made it clear to him that I was against the idea."

"How is he?" Rodney asked, damping down his temptation to join Carson in condemning Bates' behavior to focus on the more important matter.

"He made a valiant attempt to pretend everything's fine, but the lad was obviously rattled," Carson said worriedly.

"You helped him through it, though, didn't you?"

Carson turned and eyed Rodney suspiciously.

"Naturally, Rodney. What else would I do?"

"I was afraid you might, you know..."

"I don't know, Rodney," Carson said with a sigh. He suddenly felt very tired. "And frankly, right now I'm too tired to care. I'm for bed."

He left Rodney at the door and entered his quarters. As soon as he doors closed behind him he sighed and closed his eyes. He stood absolutely still for a few moments, just basking in the serenity. He opened his eyes and pulled off his lab coat before going into the bathroom, where he stripped out of his clothes and took a hot shower. Carson carefully avoided thinking as he let the hot water wash away his anger and soothe the tension in his muscles. By the time he dried off and pulled on his pajamas he felt like a different man. It was only then that he allowed himself to think of Aiden. But as he slid into bed, it was not their most recent conversation that came to mind; rather it was one that had taken place three months earlier.

**

"You okay, doc?" Aiden asked softly as he approached Carson on the balcony. He stood some distance away, as though he was afraid of encroaching on the doctor's space. Carson turned and offered him a weak smile.

"No," he said frankly. He turned back toward the railing and continued to stare out over the night sky.

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry."

Carson turned again, this time to stare at Aiden quizzically.

"Whatever for, lad?"

"I know you wanted--. I know you tried to save those people," Aiden said hesitantly. "Look, the Hoffans were determined to use the serum, even if you hadn't warned them--."

"You don't understand, Aiden," Carson said, turning away. "I'm the one who made it possible. I gave them what they needed to make the serum 'viable.' What an ironic term for it; the damn thing probably killed more people than a Wraith culling."

"It was their choice."

"That won't help me sleep tonight," Carson snapped. He looked up apologetically; Aiden forgave him with a brief nod of understanding and moved a bit closer.

"You cared about her," he said gently, leaning on the railing. "Perna; she was a nice lady." Carson ran his hand over his face. It was yet another thing to regret, another mistake he'd have to live with.

"Aye; she was a nice lady. She didn't deserve to die. And I shouldn't have--."

"You've got to stop blaming yourself, doc."

"Why should I? If I hadn't been so bloody foolish I might not have been blind to the potential consequences--."

"Sometimes you have to follow your heart," Aiden said with a shrug. Carson stared at him incredulously. The young Marine hadn't a clue as to what was going on in the doctor's head. Aiden had no idea that Perna had been nothing more than a diversion for Carson. He liked her a great deal; in time he might even have grown to love her. But in his heart she was mostly a last, desperate effort to rid himself of his hopeless infatuation. Carson had used Perna to forget Aiden, the very man who'd come to console Carson over her loss.

"Had I followed my heart this would never have happened," Carson said softly.

"I'm sorry, doc," Aiden repeated. He placed a hand on Carson's shoulder. "If you'd prefer to be alone..."

"Actually, I'd rather you stayed for a bit," Carson admitted. He felt wretched and ashamed, and would be a long time before the sense of guilt would fade into its proper perspective. But he needed Aiden and welcomed his friendship and support.

**

It was after that incident that Carson gave up trying to fight his feelings for Aiden. Though he knew that he would probably never act on them, he vowed never to allow anyone else to suffer because of them. Carson quietly nurtured his feelings for Aiden over the next few months, never daring to hope that they might one day be requited. But everything changed when Aiden acknowledged his feelings--well, at least he'd admitted that he'd been in denial about the nature of their relationship. But that was enough to buoy Carson's spirits. He smiled as he pulled up the covers around his ears and turned off the lights with a thought.

In the ICU, meanwhile, Aiden was also smiling. His head still hurt and a bit of queasiness lingered but, all things considered, he felt better than he had in some time. It occurred to Aiden that nothing had been resolved, but that didn't matter. He and Carson had reached an understanding. He would get out of the infirmary and they'd talk. Aiden would be able to finally tell Carson how he felt about him.

"But first I have to get out of here," he said.

**

When Aiden awoke the following morning, the first thing he saw was the back of a grey jacket. He sat up and scooted back on the bed. John, who'd just reached the door, turned and looked back.

"Ford? Oh, you're awake." Aiden just stared at him. "Ford?" John said worriedly as he drew closer. Aiden swallowed hard, but he forced himself to look up at John's face.

"Major?"

"Yeah; are you okay? Want me to get the doc?" John asked gently. Aiden shook his head. He took a deep breath and swallowed again. John started to back away, intent on finding Carson. Aiden seemed to be under duress, but he shook his head.

"No; please...stay," he said weakly.

"Okay," John said slowly. He sat on the stool at Aiden's side and observed him closely. Aiden shut his eyes and seemed to visibly relax. "What's going on?"

"It's the uniform," Aiden replied, opening his eyes.

"Oh! Damn, I didn't even realize! We're going off world this morning--leaving in a few minutes, actually--I stole in here for a sec hoping to see you so I could apologize. I didn't even think--."

"It's okay, sir," Aiden said with a smile. "And I'm the one who should be apologizing. I was really out of sorts last night."

"Hey, don't let me off the hook. McKay read me the riot act when he found out what happened. He was right--I should have been more sensitive. I apologize for my obtuseness last night...and this morning."

"We're cool, sir," Aiden said leaning back against the pillows.

"Good," John said, relieved. He reached out and patted Aiden's arm as he rose. "I've got to get moving."

"Where are you going?" Aiden asked as Denise brought in his breakfast tray.

"Back to that planet where the--," John began. He paused and waited till the nurse left the room. "...The one where we get the melons and bananas that resemble the natives." Aiden laughed and shook his head.

"I still can't believe that McKay said that out loud," he chuckled. "But he was right; the people on that planet were extraordinarily...endowed."

"We're going there to get wood for some scientific study, but I'll bring you back a couple of melons," John said with a wink.

"Just promise you won't throw them at me," Aiden deadpanned. John smiled and left. As soon as he turned his back, Aiden's smile faded and he stared at the retreating figure. He closed his eyes when John was out of sight and then opened them again to stare at his hands. Carson entered the ICU several minutes later and found Aiden in that position, his eyes focused on his hands in his lap. Since coming out of his coma, Aiden generally noticed Carson at the door and reacted immediately, thus his behavior was out of the ordinary.

"Good morning," Carson said after about fifteen seconds. Aiden looked up and smiled warmly.

"Morning," he said.

"You're not eating."

"So you're still part of the food police, eh?" Aiden replied, drawing the table closer and lifting the lid on his breakfast. "Holy shit! Real food!"

"Lieutenant! Such language!" Carson teased.

"Man, I've never been so glad to see a sausage in my life!" Aiden glanced up impishly and saw Carson carefully avert his eyes as he tried to suppress a smile. "Toast!"

"All right, I get the idea," Carson said. "Eat."

"I'm eating! Man, the eggs are just as bad as I remember. This is great!"

"You're in a good mood, aren't you?"

"Shouldn't I be?" Aiden asked. He looked into Carson's eyes and the doctor felt the warmth of all the words that could not yet be spoken aloud. But Carson was first and foremost a doctor, so he steered Aiden back to what he'd witnessed earlier.

"You seemed a little out of it a few minutes ago."

"Huh?"

"When I came in; you didn't even notice I was here till I spoke. Where were you?"

"I was... I am fine."

"Are you?" Carson said doubtfully.

"Yeah; I was just thinking about something," Aiden said before he resumed eating.

"Are you going to tell me what it was or do I have to guess?"

"It's no big, doc. It's something I'll have to speak to Dr. Heightmeyer about."

"Okay," Carson said, a bit taken aback by the statement. Aiden noticed his reaction and tried to set things right.

"I'm sorry, Carson. I didn't mean it like that. I just mean that it's something I probably have to deal with in therapy," he assured the slightly offended man. "I was just wondering how I'm going to get past this whole uniform thing. I saw one this morning and it gave me the creeps."

"There are several techniques she can employ--."

"Never mind," Aiden said suddenly. He sat back and smiled. "Let's not talk shop."

"'Shop'?" Carson smiled. "And this has to be a first; you stopping me from answering a question."

"I'm glad to see a smile on your face, lieutenant," Elizabeth said as she entered the ICU with Anne. "I understand you had a rough night." Aiden flicked a glance at Carson.

"I'm fine, ma'am," he said.

"I'm glad to hear it," Elizabeth replied. "How's the headache?"

"I'm feeling very good this morning. This is the first real meal I've had since--." He glanced at Carson.

"It's your first full meal in six weeks, probably," he said.

"No wonder my clothes are falling off me."

"We'll have to fatten you up, then," Elizabeth said cheerfully.

"There isn't enough food in Atlantis to work that kind of miracle," Anne quipped as Elizabeth listened to a private message on her com link.

"Well, I've got a meeting, but I promised Dr. McKay that I'd look in on you. He and the rest of your team are off world this morning."

"I will be returning to my team, ma'am," Aiden said. Carson glanced at Elizabeth. Aiden's statement was half question, half declaration. She smiled and nodded.

"I look forward to that day as much as you do, Aiden," she said firmly. Carson sighed in relief. He doubted she would say anything else, but he hoped that she wouldn't give him a vague response. Aiden needed clarity and he needed to focus on the future. "Take care," she said as she headed for the door. "Oh," she said, pausing. "Teyla also sends her regards. Both she and Rodney will visit when they get back."

"Thank you, ma'am," Aiden replied.

"Carson, I'd like a word with you later."

"I'll come up when you're done with your meeting," Carson said, knowing that he would be called on the carpet for his behavior the previous night. Elizabeth nodded and left.

"I'd better come back when you're done eating," Anne said. "I wouldn't want to come between you and that fork." She left the ICU and Carson also rose to go.

"Doc?" Aiden called.

"I've got sick people to worry about and a month's worth of work to catch up on," he said.

"You aren't mad at me, are you?"

"Why on earth would I be mad at you?"

"I didn't offer to share my sausage," Aiden said with the wickedest smile Carson had ever seen. He opened his mouth and then shut it again, shook his head and left the room.

**

"How's your head this morning?"

Aiden looked up at his visitor. He turned off the music and pulled the buds from his ears.

"It's much better," he replied. "The drugs are really kicking in. The doc said that migraine attacks tend to last for a few days and I may be nearing the end of this one."

"Good. I hear you had a couple of strange encounters last night," Kate said as she sat down. Aiden shrugged. He was sitting on the bed cross-legged dressed in jeans and a tee shirt. He looked relaxed and comfortable, Kate noted as she turned on the recorder.

"It was quite an evening," Aiden agreed. "I had three rather interesting discussions."

"Three? I only heard about two."

"Maybe you ought to fire your spy, then," Aiden quipped. "Who's been giving you the 411?"

"I have my sources," Kate replied.

"Who?"

"Well, Dr. Johnson told me about Sergeant Bates and Major Sheppard stopped me in the dining hall and told me that he upset you during his visit last night."

"Oh," Aiden said.

"Why don't we start with that? What happened?"

"What did he tell you?"

"Aiden--."

"Okay. I just lost it. He was trying to get me to eat. I didn't want to eat and I lost it."

"How did you feel?"

"I had a bad headache."

"How did you feel, Aiden. Tell me what was going on in your head. Were you angry, frustrated..."

"I was angry and frustrated. I was tired of being in pain and I was tired of everyone tiptoeing around me all day. I was--."

"Why were people tiptoeing around you? Because of the headaches?"

"No, I think they were trying to help smooth things over after I found out about the--you know, the thing with the Marines. Hey," Aiden said, sitting forward. "I saw a uniform today and I didn't freak out. Well, I didn't freak out totally. I admit I was really freaked, though."

"Another Marine came to see you?" Kate asked, ready to read the riot act to the entire contingent for violating her orders.

"No, no; it was Major Sheppard. He came by this morning on his way to the gate room. He didn't even think about the fact that he was in uniform," Aiden said with a shrug. "I was freaked, like I said, but it passed in a minute or two."

"That was probably because you recognized your friend," Kate said. "Although with friends like that..."

"Hey, he said he was sorry. The major's a bit of a goof, but he's good people, doc. Really."

"You like him."

"Yeah."

"And you're close to all the members of your team?"

"Yeah; we've been through a lot together. They're all good friends."

"Good. Maybe that'll help your recovery, then. If seeing your friends in uniform doesn't freak you out, perhaps that will help desensitize you."

"So you want them to wear their uniforms when they visit?"

"What do you think of that idea?" Kate asked. Aiden bit his lip.

"I don't know. I had another idea," he said shyly. Kate prompted him with a look. "I was thinking of taking a look at my own uniform. I mean if I can't face my own uniform I'm never going to be able to get out of here, doc. I've got to be able to cope with all of it; not only what they did to me but the fact that I'm a part of them. ...That I might have been in their place and done the same thing. I thought about that a lot last night after Gene left."

"Sergeant Bates?"

"Yeah; Carson said that he recommended that all the guys in the rescue unit get counseling," Aiden said sadly.

"Have you ever undergone counseling for that sort of thing?"

"No," Aiden said quickly with a guilty glance at Kate. She nodded knowingly.

"I thought not. So let's talk about your third visitor," she said. Aiden groaned and shook his head.

**

"How's Lieutenant Ford?" Radek Zelenka asked as he and Carson walked down the corridor toward the infirmary.

"He's continuing to improve," Carson replied. "I'd like to think he'll be able to leave the infirmary in a week or two."

"That is good news. Please, give him my regards," Radek said as they reached the infirmary. He turned to continue on to his office. The doors to the infirmary slid open and Carson found himself face to face with Aiden. Behind the doctor, the security officer on duty jumped to attention.

"You can tell him yourself, before he returns to his bed," Carson said, staring Aiden in the eye.

"Hi doc," Aiden said sheepishly.

"Inside," Carson replied.

"I wasn't leaving."

"Now."

"Doc!"

"Aiden," Carson growled, stepping forward into his personal space.

"I was just--." Aiden sighed and turned away. He took a step or two and then turned to look at Radek. "Hey, Dr. Z."

"Hey," Radek said, waving as he watched Carson lead Aiden back to the ICU by his ear.

"Ow!"

"Just be glad I don't take you over my knee and spank you," Carson growled as he released Aiden's ear and pointed toward the bed.

"Dr. Heightmeyer, would you tell him that I wasn't trying to leave?" Aiden said as he massaged his sore appendage. Carson spun around and saw her sitting in the corner, smiling.

"He just wanted to take a peek outside," Kate replied, obviously amused at Carson's expense.

"Next time I'll get a note, all right?" Aiden said as he climbed onto the bed and sat.

"I'm sorry," Carson said sheepishly. "I had no way of knowing--."

"I told you, like three times--at least I tried to," Aiden said petulantly. Carson shot him a guilty look, his face red with embarrassment.

"May I ask why?" he asked, addressing the question to Kate. But he abruptly turned back to Aiden, conscious of the fact that every action was open to interpretation by the psychologist.

"I just wanted to see what would happen," Aiden sighed. "I should have guessed that you would show up. You always do."


On to PART 12

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