Category: First time
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Carson Beckett
Summary: What if the one you loved lost everything but you?
"Would you like to talk about Carson now?" Kate asked when the doctor was gone.
"You never quit, do you?" Aiden said testily.
"Would you like me to give up on you?" Kate asked. Aiden glared at her. "Aiden, I'm on your side here."
"Why are you trying to get into my business?"
"I'm trying to help you, Aiden. I can't do that until I understand what's going on in your head," she said with a sigh.
"I'll tell you what's going on in my head. I just don't want to talk about Carson."
"Why is it so important to you?"
"We've already discussed this, Aiden. I thought you understood the relevance of--."
"I did, I did. I just--."
"Why are you so resistant? I thought we'd made begun to make some real progress; now you seem to be crawling back into your shell."
"You want to know about me and Carson," Aiden said awkwardly. "I don't even know about me and Carson yet."
"Yet?" she replied. Aiden rolled his eyes. He knew the minute the word escaped his lips that she'd jump on it.
"All right," Aiden groaned. He got up and went to make sure that the door was closed and no one could see into the room. "I don't know about us yet because we can't--. I'm still in here and he's my doctor, you know? And that's all I'm going to say about it."
Carson was at his desk working when Kate stopped by. He glanced up and sighed, his earlier embarrassment returning.
"Have you got a moment?" she asked. Carson nodded.
"Come in," he said resignedly, rising to offer her a seat. "If this is about what happened earlier..."
"I wanted to apologize for laughing at you," Kate said. "But Aiden expressed an interest in knowing what was going on outside the infirmary. I suggested that he take a look for himself."
"He wasn't going anywhere, Carson. He knew that there was a guard outside. I just wanted to let him take a look at the world he hasn't been a part of for more than a month."
"And my appearance ruined things."
"Not for Aiden," Kate replied. "On the contrary; he was probably glad to see you in spite of his blustering tone. You're precisely what he wants to see whenever he's confronted with something potentially frightening and dangerous."
"He's got to be weaned from his dependence," Carson said.
"Eventually, yes," Kate said. She sighed and shook her head. "He's very...tenacious."
"Let's call it pig-headed and be done with it," Carson said with a fond sigh of his own. "But he's trying, Kate. I know he is. Aiden desperately wants to be well again."
"Yes, I know he's trying his best. He just won't let himself--. You know, if we were back on Earth, I would send Aiden to a rehab center far away from anything related to the military. I'd sit him down for daily sessions and painstakingly work through his resistance. I'd probably keep him away from a military base for at least another month before I allowed him to return to active duty. But we don't have that luxury here. There's no way we can keep him in here another month. Now that his headache is abating he's starting to climb the walls. If we don't find a way to resolve his problems soon he's going to end up running away again."
"Aye. You've got the right of it," Carson agreed. "Aiden's never tolerated being idle. So what do you propose?"
"I don't usually do this, but you've got to admit this is no ordinary situation. Moreover, I'm afraid that time isn't a luxury we can afford."
"You don't usually do what, Kate?" Carson asked, frowning.
"Aiden's still adamantly resistant to therapy. He actually wants to go through with it; I think that on an intellectual level he knows it's necessary. But emotionally he's rejected every attempt I've made to get him to open up."
"That's normal, isn't it?"
"It happens on occasion, but in Aiden's case I don't think we can afford to be conservative. I'm going to need your help, Carson."
"And I still have no idea what you're driving at, Kate."
"We can't keep him in here. It's not fair to keep him cooped up like a prisoner when he's in perfect health. He needs activity, physical and mental stimulation. So..." She rose and began to fiddle with a pen on Carson's desk. "I was wondering if you'd like to help with an experiment."
"What manner of experiment?"
"I don't know if Aiden's quite ready for it yet, but whenever he is, I'd like you to take him out of here--for a walk, perhaps."
"What did you have in mind?" Carson asked suspiciously.
"He needs to be reintroduced into society, Carson. And I'd like it to be in the company of someone he trusts. Aiden has to feel safe in his surroundings."
"Won't that increase rather than decrease his dependence on me?"
"One thing at a time, Carson," Kate said. "Of course, I could probably get Major Sheppard or--."
"No, no, I'd be happy to do it. Just let me know when."
"I'll let you decide when," Kate smiled. "You have the inside track here."
"I'm not a psychologist, Kate," Carson replied. "And I'm certainly not Aiden's." Kate considered his words for a moment and then sat down again.
"I think you are. In fact I think you're the key to his recovery. You always have been."
"We just agreed that Aiden should be weaned--."
"One thing at a time," Kate repeated. "First things first; Aiden needs to regain his ability to function out there. I think you can help him do that a lot faster than I can. See how he reacts. And if he does well, you can expand his world bit by bit. Once he's able to deal with real life outside these walls again, you can decide whether or not you want to wean him."
"Whether or not?" Carson asked suspiciously. Kate's smile made him self-conscious. He knew what she was thinking before she said it.
"Carson, I know the two of you want to be together. Aiden all but said as much today."
"He--?" Carson stared at her, momentarily stunned by her revelation. "And you're encouraging this?"
"You're obviously good for each other," Kate acknowledged. "He thrives in your company in a way that I've never seen before. Even when he was being surly earlier, it was clear that he was enjoying your presence. And you're a different man with him as well." She would have elaborated, but for Carson's surprised expression. "I can't officially condone it, of course, but I certainly wouldn't discourage it, either."
"Oh," Carson said, wonderingly. "I--." He paused when he was hailed on his com link.
"Carson, would you come up to my office?" Elizabeth said. Carson closed his eyes and sighed.
"I'll be there in five minutes," Carson said. "I've got to go." Kate nodded and rose to her feet.
"Think about what I said, Carson. I think Aiden was right after all. You're the one he needs to get him through this. You do your part and I'll continue with the therapy. I'm hoping that if we each do our part, we'll get him back on his feet and back on duty as soon as possible."
Carson, still stunned, nodded and went to meet his fate.
"What on earth were you thinking, attacking Sergeant Bates like that?"
"What was I thinking? What was Bates thinking when he went lumbering in there without a moment's thought about what he might be doing to--." Carson firmly shut his mouth and forced himself to calm down.
"Are you all right?" Elizabeth asked as she watched him rub his eyes and take a deep breath.
"I'm tired, Elizabeth. I'm exhausted. I've been working round the clock for the better part of the last six weeks to piece together the shattered psyche of Lieutenant Ford and in a moment of--."
"Carson? What's gotten into you?"
"I'm sorry." Carson wearily got to his feet. "I'll go and apologize to the sergeant."
"I'm not asking you to apologize to Sergeant Bates. For what it's worth I thoroughly chewed him out for his actions. But I can't have the senior medical officer of Atlantis picking public fights with the head of security in the middle of the corridors, Carson."
"It won't happen again, Elizabeth."
"I hope not. I realize that Aiden's very special to you, Carson, but you're going to have to be a bit more discreet."
"Discreet? If you think I would have been any less angry had Bates pulled that stunt with any other patient, you're greatly mistaken, Elizabeth! I won't have the wellbeing of my patients--any of them--endangered by the reckless actions of anyone," Carson cried passionately.
"I didn't hear a denial in that statement," she replied wryly.
"My personal feelings have nothing to do with this," Carson insisted.
"I believe you," Elizabeth said. "But my advice still stands."
Aiden was sitting cross-legged on his bed drawing in his sketchbook when Rodney appeared at the door. He looked up and self-consciously closed the book as he entered the room.
"Hey, Dr. McKay," Aiden replied, stretching out his legs and setting the sketchbook aside. "You're back early."
"Yeah; Major Sheppard thought it would be best if we didn't tarry. We took a few men along to P4X-337 with us to help with the loading and came dangerously close to participating in our first interplanetary shotgun wedding, if you take my meaning. What have you got there?" Rodney asked, noting that Aiden kept his hand protectively draped over the book.
"Just a sketchbook. I like to doodle occasionally," he replied modestly.
"Really? I had no idea."
"Have you, uh...got a picture of me in there?"
"I do landscapes, mostly," Aiden said, smiling as Rodney made a show of glancing around the room. "Well, this is sort of a landscape, if you think about it. The only one I've seen in a while, at least."
"Yes, you have been in here too long."
"I've been saying that since I came out of the coma."
"Here," Rodney said, holding up a bag. "Maybe these will cheer you up. Or," he said as Aiden drew one of the large pink melons from the bag, "maybe you can do a still life as a change of pace." Aiden chuckled at the suggestion.
"You look rather chipper."
"My headache is nearly gone. I feel like a new man."
"You've been a new man lately, Aiden. I have a decided preference for the original."
"I'm doing my best, doc," Aiden replied. "I'm beginning to feel like the old me. I just need to pull myself together and get myself out of here."
"How's that going?" Rodney asked carefully. Aiden shrugged.
"Well, hang in there. I know you'll make it through."
"Thanks," Aiden said diffidently. "That really means a lot."
"You mean a lot to us; you do know that."
"You know, when you get out of here you're really going to owe us all big time," Rodney said teasingly. Aiden laughed.
"So what, you're saying I have to do your laundry for the next three months?"
"I wasn't thinking of myself, actually. I was thinking of Carson. You know he's bent over backwards for you," Rodney said earnestly. "Really went the distance." Aiden sighed.
"Here we go again..."
"I'm just saying that he's a great guy and you should appreciate him."
"I do appreciate him."
"I mean you should really appreciate him."
"I do really appreciate him."
"He cares an awful lot about you, you know," Rodney said. "He thinks the world of you, in fact." Aiden rolled his eyes.
"I know. Look; why are we doing this again? I got it the first time."
"What first time? I'm just telling you that the guy's had a rough time of it lately and you should return the favor and be nice to him once you're out of here."
"I'm nice to him now--well, most of the time," Aiden confessed somewhat sheepishly.
"That's what I mean," Rodney said. "Right now you're not really in any condition to--."
"Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?"
"I don't know what you think I'm suggesting," Rodney said with a confused look.
"Right," Aiden smirked.
"Did you know that last night he was ready to fight Bates over you?"
"What?" Aiden sat up abruptly, rubbing his temples when his head began to throb anew.
"Carson was apparently seriously PO'd after finding out that the sergeant had snuck in to see you. On his way to his quarters last night, he ran into Bates. Carson went ballistic; he confronted the sergeant without any regard for his own personal safety. You should have seen him, Aiden," Rodney said with a crooked smile. "He was amazing--like a mother hen protecting her chick. Not that he thinks of you as a chick..." Aiden leaned back against the pillows and laughed.
"I can't imagine that."
"Well, if you ask me, Carson's probably a better lover than a fighter," Rodney said. "Maybe you should convince him of that."
"You are trying to hook us up."
"I am not! I--. Well, you have no idea how much--."
"McKay, let it rest, all right?"
"I just meant that you should discourage him from fighting. I--. Here, have another melon," Rodney said rising to his feet. "Oh, by the way, Teyla said to tell you she'll stop by when she gets back. The minute we returned from P4X-337 she got a call from Halling and took off for the mainland. I think she took Carson with her." He started to move toward the door, but Aiden called him back.
"Hey, you don't have to leave, doc."
"I think I've said quite enough."
"Stay anyway. Maybe I'll draw you," Aiden said with an irresistible smile.
"Oh!" Rodney said happily. "Well... I've got a few projects pending so I can't stay very long, but I don't mind staying for a few minutes. Would you do it from this profile? I look rather better from the left, don't you agree? What do you think?"
"I think you should sit still, doc."
When Carson and Teyla returned from the mainland they headed straight for the infirmary, Teyla to see Aiden and Carson, ostensibly to tend to other things, though he nonetheless followed her to the ICU.
"Hey, Teyla, doc," Aiden said as Teyla entered the room. Carson remained at the door.
"Are you behaving yourself, lad?" he asked. Aiden returned a smile that Carson couldn't quite read.
"Of course I am. How about you?" he replied cryptically. Carson frowned curiously. Shaking his head, he turned and went off to his office. Aiden smiled and focused on Teyla. "Hey, how are you doing?"
"I am very well. And you are feeling better," she said. "I can see it in your eyes."
"You can actually see my eyes because the lights are on," Aiden returned cheekily. "What's happening on the mainland?"
"Rova and Deron have been blessed with a new baby. Dr. Beckett and I went to see it this afternoon."
"Boy or girl?"
"It is a boy. They named him 'Beckett' because the good doctor was so helpful when Rova was with child."
"Why didn't they call him Carson?"
"I do not think they know his first name. Besides," Teyla said with a smile, "they like the name Beckett." Aiden returned the smile. "Many people in the village asked for you. I was happy to be able to tell them of your progress."
"Thank you. Please give them my regards next time you're there."
"I will do so." Teyla reached out and plucked something off of Aiden's tee shirt. "I see you have been eating umbagwa."
"The melon we brought back from the planet we visited this morning. We call the fruit umbagwa."
"Oh," Aiden replied. "I just call it--."
"I know what you and Dr. McKay call it," she said archly.
"I call it pink melon. McKay has his own terminology," he insisted. Teyla smiled indulgently.
"Did you enjoy it?"
"Yeah; I shared it with everyone in the infirmary. We all took an umbagwa break together."
"That was most generous."
"Remember the first time we tried it? We all sat in a big circle under that tree and feasted on it," Aiden said wistfully. "I'd give anything to see that place again."
"And its women?" Teyla said teasingly. Aiden smiled.
"I wouldn't be averse to seeing them again, either, but mostly I just want to sit under that tree again, feel the breeze on my face, stare out at that big blue sky..."
Teyla looked at him sadly.
"You are bored," she concluded. Aiden laughed at the understatement.
"Hello handsome," Anne said when she encountered Aiden wandering around the infirmary later that day. Everyone on staff had grown used to Aiden wandering about. They'd taken to bringing him books and magazines to read and DVDs to watch. But he was still restless, so he'd begun to do a bit of exercise as his headaches allowed. Now that he was virtually pain-free, his restlessness was increasing.
"Hey, Dr. J," Aiden replied. "Where's Dr. B?"
"I believe he's in the examination room."
"With a patient?"
"Yes, with a patient," Anne said wryly. "I don't suppose I can do anything for you?"
"Nah, I was just looking for someone to talk to."
"Oh. Well, too bad I have so little experience in that area," she deadpanned. Aiden got the point.
"I'm sorry, doc, I didn't mean it that way," he said hastily. "It's just--."
"I'm not the one you want to talk to," Anne concluded. Aiden winced uncomfortably, unable to deny the accusation. "I'm not offended, Aiden. If I were twenty years younger and devastatingly beautiful I'd attempt to distract you until he was free. Unfortunately--." Aiden leaned forward and kissed her cheek. She touched the spot, blushing like a schoolgirl as he returned to the ICU. A few seconds later, Carson emerged from the examination room with his patient. He gave her a packet of meds and turned to Anne as the patient left.
"Anne? What's the matter?" he asked worriedly. She turned to him and smiled.
"Not a thing," she said. "Oh, Aiden's looking for you."
"Thanks," Carson said. He watched her walk away and then headed for the ICU, where he found Aiden staring at the ceiling. "You haven't eaten your dinner," he observed.
"Not hungry," Aiden said dully. He sat up and looked at Carson. "I'm bored."
"Good," Carson said, pulling up the stool to sit. "That's a good sign that you're making progress." His smile faded. "It's also a good sign that you're really you."
"What does that mean?"
"You've never been able to grasp the notion that patience is a virtue, have you?"
"Oh come on, doc! Get real! You can't keep me on medical leave!" Aiden protested.
"Lieutenant Ford," Carson said sternly. "I've just examined your shoulder and reviewed your x-rays. Your arm is not ready. You cannot return to full duty. Besides, Major Sheppard is still recovering from that--."
"Oh, for the love of--! Look!" Aiden pulled off his tee shirt and dropped to the floor before Carson could reply. He began to do push-ups. Carson was mesmerized, as was Anne, who came upon the extraordinary scene.
"Why doesn't anyone ever drop and give me twenty?" she mused. Behind her, Denise stared at the sight of Aiden, clad only in pair of gym shorts and socks, effortlessly doing push-ups with mechanical precision.
"Whoa!" she breathed.
"Should he be doing that with a dislocated shoulder?" Anne asked after several seconds. Carson came out of his reverie and demanded that Aiden stop. He promptly got to his feet and glared at the physician.
"The shoulder's good as new," he insisted. He glanced beyond the doctor and took in his audience, but he was too focused on proving his point to be embarrassed.
"Aiden, put your shirt back on," Carson said. Aiden continued to stare for a few seconds, then he sheepishly complied with his request. "Now sit down." Aiden did so. Carson looked over at the two women, who suddenly recalled that they had other things to do besides gape at Carson's patient.
"Doc," Aiden began as soon as they were gone, but Carson stopped him with a raised hand.
"It's my turn to talk," he said. "First of all, how does the shoulder feel?"
"Good," Aiden answered a little hastily. Carson nodded.
"Of course. What if I were to tell you that you just undid all the good a week of forced downtime accomplished?"
"Doc, I feel fine! You can't make me sit on my ass for another week!"
"You needn't sit on your ass, Aiden. There's nothing wrong with your posterior," Carson replied, shutting his eyes tightly for a second as he became conscious of his words and fought back the image they provoked. "You can get out and exercise all you want. You are simply not allowed to stress that arm any further."
"You nearly wrenched it from its socket when you blew that hatch and held on till you cleared the gate. Another few seconds and you would have been looking at rotator cuff surgery."
"Just because you can tough it out doesn't mean you should," Carson concluded. Aiden sighed deeply. "I'm sorry, lad."
"I'm dying here, doc," Aiden whined. Carson smiled, in spite of the fact that Aiden returned an expression that would probably have reduced a raw recruit to tears. "What?"
"I'm very glad you survived your ordeal," Carson said gently. "And I'm very glad you're sitting here giving me grief about your forced medical leave." Aiden averted his eyes, moved by Carson's words.
"Thanks, doc. So--."
"But I'll not budge an inch."
Carson smiled fondly and Aiden squinted at him suspiciously.
"If you're about to give me that, 'You're a Marine, suck it up, lad,' speech again, I'll pass."
"You'd make an awful Scot with that accent," Carson said, wincing at Aiden's imitation.
"You'd make a worse Marine," he countered.
"Granted; I'm a healer, not a fighter."
"That's not what I heard," Aiden said, sitting up eagerly. "I hear you were ready to go at it with Bates last night." Carson frowned and looked out into the infirmary before he answered.
"Where'd you hear that?"
"Eyewitness account, plus a little eavesdropping; would you really have decked him if they hadn't intervened?"
"I had no intention of engaging in fisticuffs. I was merely trying to make a point," Carson said passionately. "Sergeant Bates had no right to be in here bothering you!"
"It's all right, doc," Aiden said, settling back. "It made me really uncomfortable at the time, but I'm glad it happened. We talked about it this morning, Dr. Heightmeyer and me. I think it was for the best. It helped me put things into perspective, you know? I really hope it helped the sarge, too."
"So do I, lad," Carson conceded.
"It's kind of cool you were all ready to fight over me like that, though," Aiden teased.
"Fight over you? Is that what you think I was doing?" Carson shot back. "I was only there standing up for a principle."
"Oh," Aiden said. "And here I was beginning to think you liked me."
"I'm beginning to think so, too," Carson said with a smile.
"So eat your dinner and then I've got an interesting proposition for you."
"Here? In the infirmary?" Aiden said incredulously.
"Not that kind of proposition, you cheeky little bugger."
"What then?" Aiden asked as he reached for his tray. Carson drew the table nearer and adjusted it for him. "So what's this proposition?"
"I had a talk with Dr. Heightmeyer this afternoon. She said she thinks you might be ready for an experiment."
"Details, Carson," Aiden mumbled around a mouthful of pasta.
"Finish eating first." He rose and headed for the door. "I've got to take care of something." By the time Carson returned a few minutes later, Aiden had managed to wolf down his dinner and was polishing off the last of his chocolate bar. "Good God, man! Did you use a shovel?"
"What's this experiment?" Aiden demanded, ignoring the remark.
"We're taking a walk."
"Cool!" Aiden immediately started to rise, but Carson grabbed his arm and held him in place.
"A few ground rules first; Dr. Heightmeyer suggested that we make it a short walk; just something to get you out and let you stretch your legs. We won't be going far; and when I say it's time to come back, I'll brook no arguments from you."
"Now that I know that you're 'Battling Beckett' I'm going to have to behave, aren't I?" Aiden said puckishly. Carson rolled his eyes. "Okay, doc," Aiden said seriously.
"I've decided on a particular path and we'll stick to it."
"Why? Yes," Aiden sighed when Carson raised his eyebrows.
"It's just a precaution, lad. I don't want your first trip out to go badly in any way. If it's successful we'll extend it a bit next time, I promise. I'll go get a wheelchair and then we can be on our way."
"You said we were going to take a walk!"
"And we are. I'm just bringing it along in case you need it."
"I won't," Aiden insisted. "Please, Carson." Carson sighed and relented.
"I suppose I can always send for it if we need it," he replied. Aiden lit up like a Christmas tree and Carson returned his smile. "Got your glasses?"
"Doc, it's night. Isn't it? I don't know anymore."
"Actually, it's early evening," Carson said, "but I'm more concerned about the lights in the corridors. They're fairly bright and your headache isn't completely gone yet."
"Good call, doc," Aiden said, reaching for his shades. He followed Carson to the door.
"Are you ready?"
"Hell, yeah!" Aiden replied enthusiastically. Carson smiled briefly.
"Are you really ready? Last time we tried this you freaked out," he said soberly.
"That was weeks ago, Carson. I'll be fine this time," Aiden said confidently. Carson nodded and walked to the doors. He looked back at Aiden, nodded once again and stepped through. Carson watched carefully as Aiden put on his glasses and followed him. Unfortunately, the glasses prevented him from fully gauging Aiden's expression. But the smile that slowly formed on his lips was all the indication he needed.
"Let's rock." They walked in silence for a minute or so before Aiden spoke again. "I'm okay," he assured Carson with a smile, aware that the doctor was anxious on Aiden's behalf. "You had them evacuate the area, didn't you?"
"You had them clear the halls," Aiden said. "We've been walking for five minutes and I haven't seen a living soul other than you."
"I did ask Elizabeth to clear the area of military personnel for a half hour," Carson admitted. "Just as a precaution; she must have taken the request a bit farther."
"Quite a bit. I was hoping to see people out here. The place looks deserted."
"I'm sorry, Aiden. I didn't know--."
"No big, doc. I'm just glad to be out of the infirmary. So where are we going?"
"I thought you might like to get outside for a breath of fresh air," Carson said, but even as he said the words, Aiden spied the doors to the balcony and rushed forward to press his face to the glass. "Go ahead," Carson said. Aiden put his hand on the panel and stood back as the doors whooshed open. He pulled off his glasses and stepped out onto the balcony.
"Yes!" he shouted joyously. "Yes!" he turned to face Carson, beaming. Carson returned the grin and went to peer over the railing, where approximately three stories below several fellow Atlanteans milled about, looking around for the source of the shouts. He turned back to Aiden laughing out loud.
"Wow," Aiden said, looking up at the stars.
"Wow, indeed," Carson said. "It's been nearly six weeks since you were last out of doors." Aiden shook his head and walked over to join him at the railing. He looked down at the people below and smiled.
"This is so cool," he said.
"Unfortunately, Anne said we shouldn't keep you out too long. Migraines can make one extremely sensitive to atmospheric pressure. The humidity out here, when compared with the relative dryness of the infirmary, is bound to send you into a tailspin."
"So that's why I feel like shit," Aiden quipped. He was smiling, however, as he said it. "Thanks for this, doc."
"You're welcome," Carson said. "It's great seeing you out of doors in the real world again."
"I kind of like seeing you in the moonlight," Aiden replied softly, leaning against the railing to gaze back at him.
"Flatterer," Carson said, suddenly gripped by shyness. It was ridiculous, he thought to himself. He'd been besotted with Aiden for the better part of the past year, never daring to hope that his feelings would be returned. Now that Carson knew better, however, he'd begun to doubt himself. He wondered at the idea that Aiden truly wanted him when he might have had Teyla or any other man or woman in Atlantis.
"Not at all," he said. "It's a good look on you."
"I think you've been in the dark too long," Carson said self-effacingly. But Aiden, as forthright and decisive as ever, simply opened his arms, and Carson forgot his doubts as he walked into them and was enfolded in a warm hug.
"You're the best, Carson," Aiden said as he held him tightly. Carson felt Aiden's lips on his throat as he spoke, the sensation sending tremors through Carson's body. He lifted his head and turned his face toward Aiden's to speak and suddenly they were kissing.
On to PART 13