Category: First time
Summary: Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
It's been well over a month since I last posted. Work and other offline responsibilities have taken up a huge chunk of my time of late, and losing Jolly was the nadir of a really bad month. Thank you all for your kind words of love and support. It meant the world to me knowing that you kept us in your thoughts. By the way, I did find time to edit the previous chapters, so if you feel the need to go back to the beginning and get caught up, you'll find a few tiny improvements. Enjoy.
It was all too easy to succumb. Aiden was kissing him--every fiber of Rodney's being told him so. The taste, the scent, the feel of Aiden's body pressed against his own were all too familiar. He'd just experienced all of those wonderful sensations back on the planet and for a moment Rodney was unable or unwilling to make a distinction between the man in his arms and the man he'd been kissing on PX3-39. Rodney's body automatically responded to the irresistible stimuli, even as his brain dimly registered the fact that the Aiden he'd fallen for was back on the planet and he was kissing the duplicate. He was a rather convincing duplicate, but Rodney's war with his conscience was surprisingly brief and he pushed Aiden away.
“What the hell was that?” he spat angrily, averting his gaze so as to avoid every temptation to pull Aiden back into his arms. But he caught a glimpse of Aiden's reflection in the mirror over the room's small bureau and saw how the kiss had affected him. For a moment, Rodney stared at Aiden's slightly swollen lips, the heaving of his chest and, most damningly, the hurt expression in his eyes. “I came here because I was told you wanted to talk,” Rodney said. “Instead I was physically assaulted.”
“So you're going to deny it?” Aiden spat accusingly, wiping the corner of his mouth.
“This--this thing between us. I've felt it from the moment I first laid eyes on you.”
“No, Aiden, not us. Him! I'm in--.”
“Your body doesn't seem to know the difference,” Aiden said, turning to glare at Rodney.
“So I'm horny! Kissing Aiden does that to me. Apparently, kissing an incredibly accurate facsimile does the same thing.”
“I am Aiden!”
“Is that what you were hoping to prove?” Rodney shouted back. “You could have spared yourself the trouble. I knew who you were when I walked into the room.” He was still angry at Aiden's obvious attempt to manipulate him, but even angrier at himself for succumbing to it. “Let's focus on the real issue, shall we?”
“I'm trying to,” Aiden replied.
“Are you? It looked to me like you were just trying to get laid.”
“And it looked to me as though you were willing, until your conscience kicked in and reminded you that you were here to betray me.”
“I'm not trying to betray you, Aiden,” Rodney replied with a sigh. “In fact, I'm doing just the opposite.”
“Bullshit! You and the major want to send me back to that planet! You promised me that I could stay here!”
“I promised to protect you,” Rodney replied with forced calm, trying to settle the furious young man, “and that's what I'm doing.”
“By agreeing to give me up and send me back to those plant things Major Sheppard told me about?” Aiden cried incredulously.
“I didn't--. All right, I admit it; back on PX3-39, I did agree to return you. But I quickly realized my mistake, because you're right,” Rodney hastily added before Aiden could respond. “You don't belong there.”
“Well, tell that to the major! He's ready to yank me out of here.”
“No one's going to send you away, Aiden. I won't let them.” Rodney slumped against the wall and sighed again. “And the first thing we've got to do is find you a different name."
“You mean it? I can stay?” Aiden said hopefully. He took a few steps toward, Rodney, who straightened up and eyed him warily.
“Well, it's not entirely up to me,” he said, “but as you said earlier, I am not without considerable influence around here.” Aiden's smile practically made Rodney's knees go weak, but he reminded himself to resist. “And it's not going to be a cakewalk. I expect that there will be a few objections.”
“I can deal with Bates,” Aiden said, nodding.
“I know that, but he'll be child's play compared with the your biggest obstacle--the original Aiden Ford,” Rodney reminded him. Aiden's smiled faded.
“Yes,” Rodney replied, feeling unaccountably awkward.
“No--and don't even think about it.”
“I wasn't going to go there,” Aiden assured him. “I just--.”
“You'll get over me,” Rodney said, cutting off the discussion before it became even more uncomfortable. “The bigger problem will be learning to be your own man. If you are going to live in Atlantis, you can't live your life as Aiden Ford.”
“Yeah,” he said with a resigned sigh.
“I've got to stop calling you that,” Rodney said, shaking his head.
“What do you think I should be called?”
“We can worry about that later. Right now, I've got to go smooth things over with Dr. Weir.”
“What do you think is going on up there?” Aiden asked no one in particular. Carson and Radek exchanged a glance as Aiden continued to pace nervously.
“I have no idea,” Radek said.
“It's very likely your twin is refusing to return,” Carson said timidly. As he expected, Aiden spun and glared at him.
“Well, he's got no choice in the matter, Doc. He's not human. He's got to come back.”
“He is human, actually,” Carson replied. “I did every possible test on him, Aiden. He's as human as you are. In fact, he is you, down to the fingerprint. You have to accept that.”
“All right, so he's human,” Aiden conceded. “He's still one of them, isn't he?” Aiden looked from Carson to Radek and then turned to look at Werner, Johnson and Parrish for good measure.
“Aiden,” Carson said gently, “if he's human--.”
“You would not be happy if we left you here with eighty people who were rapidly evolving into plants,” Radek said bluntly.
“Are you suggesting that we keep him?” Aiden said.
“It may be the only option we have,” Johnson said. “It's the only humane option, certainly.”
“And when were you all planning to tell me this?” Aiden said accusingly. “You just went and said 'okay' when the alien dude asked for his boy back, knowing full well that it wasn't going to happen.”
“I don't think any of us stopped to consider the ramifications of returning him until after we agreed to it,” Carson said honestly. Aiden looked at each of their faces and then nodded dully. He sat down with his backs to them and they watched him for a moment as he scanned the area in front of the gate where several dozen Aiden-like creatures had gathered.
“Who's going to break it to them?” he asked.
“But how do we know this guy is--?”
“This guy is Aiden Ford!” John shouted exasperatedly. “What part of 'identical twin' don't you get, sergeant?”
“I understand that, sir,” Bates replied evenly. “But the fact remains that he is of foreign origin. He could still pose a security risk.” John looked to Rodney for help.
“He's Aiden Ford, sergeant,” Rodney said with a patience he didn't feel. “Is Lieutenant Aiden Ford a security risk?” He didn't wait for an answer. He turned to make one last appeal to Elizabeth. “The sergeant may be a bit slow on the uptake but surely you can understand the implications. We cannot send him back to that planet! It'd be tantamount to putting him into solitary confinement for the rest of his life.”
“...Unless he touches one of the other of his kind, right?” Bates asked.
“No,” Rodney snapped. “Well, actually, we don't know. We took every precaution to prevent contact because we didn't want to cause any cross contamination.”
“Then it may be possible for him to turn back into one of “the Aiden.”
“What difference does it make, Bates?” John cried. “We can't just send the man down to that planet and hope that he eventually turns into a tree like his brothers.”
“Major Sheppard's right, sergeant,” Elizabeth said. “But if we do keep the new Ford we're going to have to make a--.” She paused to rub her temple. “We're going to have quite a bit of adjusting to do. For one thing, how do we tell them apart?”
“We can let our Ford name him,” John volunteered brightly. “Of course, the new Ford will probably want to name himself.” Elizabeth smiled in spite of herself.
“What will the natives say when you tell them they won't be getting their Aiden back?” Bates asked.
“I have another question,” Elizabeth said. “How does the lieutenant feel about the prospect of having his twin as a permanent resident?” John looked at Rodney, who looked somewhat sheepish.
“That's next on my list.”
“Are you all right, son?”
Aiden looked up and saw Carson standing a short distance away. He nodded and Carson smiled, drawing closer but keeping a little distance between them, as though Aiden would bolt if he got too close.
“They're out looking at the weapons and other equipment the other me's have been dropping,” Aiden said, looking out over the glen below, where the members of the science team were studying what appeared to be a cluster of plants.
“So I see.”
“You know, I thought--.” Aiden fell silent and shook his head.
“You thought your problems were solved?”
“I--. Yeah,” Aiden said. “I've spent the last few days locked up just for being me. You have no idea how much that sucks.”
“Especially when people who you thought trusted you--.”
“No, no, Doc. I know you all did what you had to do,” Aiden said unconvincingly. “Doc, if this guy stays, who's he going to be? I mean he can't have my job. He can't have my life.” Carson understood him better than Aiden suspected. He just didn't know how to reassure him without revealing the fact that he was aware of the attraction Aiden and Rodney shared.
“That won't happen, Aiden. We'll--. Things will work out; you'll see.”
“Yeah,” Aiden said, clearly not mollified by the doctor's assurances. He rose and flexed his shoulders, stretching and squirming in the TAC vest and jacket he found uncomfortably hot in the humid climate of PX3-39. “How can you guys stand it in those suits?” he said. “I'm--.” He spun around when the gate suddenly came to life. “Get back!” he shouted to the gathering of Aidens standing at the base of the ring. He shouted again and the aliens scattered only seconds before the whoosh of the old-style stargate burst through the aperture. Aiden sighed in relief and watched as first Rodney and John stepped through, followed by his twin, dressed in the standard away uniform of a member of the Atlantean forces. He swallowed the anger that rose up in him and then flinched when Carson clapped a hand on his shoulder.
“Let's go hear what they've got to say,” he suggested as he moved past Aiden, who stood his ground. Rodney turned and looked in his direction and Aiden began to move, slowly and unwillingly toward him. But Rodney moved, too, and when they were about ten feet apart, he gestured with his head and led Aiden toward the copse they'd visited earlier.
“Look, Aiden,” Rodney began, as soon as they were safely out of sight of the others.
“I already know what you're going to say,” Aiden replied dully. “He's staying in Atlantis.” Rodney shrugged.
“We have no choice. He's no longer one of them; abandoning him here would be--.”
“I know,” Aiden said, plucking a leaf and suddenly freezing, cognizant of the fact that he was possibly harming one of the planet's life forms.
“Aiden,” Rodney said, annoyed that Aiden was obviously being evasive. He grabbed his arm and Aiden turned, not meeting his eyes. “I'm--.”
“Don't apologize; it's not your fault, is it? In fact, this whole thing is my fault. I'm the one who imprinted on him and made him human, right?”
“That's not what I was going to say,” Rodney replied. Aiden turned away again. He had barely taken a step before Rodney leapt into his path, blocking his way. “Aiden,” he said impatiently. “Can we talk about this?”
“What's there to talk about?” Aiden spat back. “He's staying. What's there to discuss?”
“I may go insane before this is over,” Rodney said, mostly to himself. But Aiden heard him and jumped on his words.
“And exactly when will that be? Exactly when will all this be over?”
“I can understand why you're pissed--.”
“All right, no,” Rodney admitted. “But to my credit, I knew you would be. You fully expected that we'd just bring him back here and all would return to normal again. I'm afraid it's not going to be that simple.”
“No shit! Maybe I should just stay here,” Aiden said.
“Oh, yes, that would make perfect sense,” Rodney replied exasperatedly. “Avoid one Aiden by staying here with eighty more who look just like you!”
“They won't look like me forever! They're changing!”
“And he'll change, too,” Rodney shouted back. “Just give it a little time.”
“A little time? How much? I've already lost three days of my life to that guy!”
“Aiden,” Rodney said gently, reaching out to caress his cheek, but Aiden stepped backward and glared at him. “What?”
“He wants you,” Aiden said accusingly.
“And I've made it patently clear to him that I'd already chosen you,” Rodney replied, hoping desperately that Aiden wouldn't question him too closely. But his lover was not about to let him escape.
“What? That just came up in conversation?”
“It won't change anything, you know.”
“What do you mean it won't change anything?”
“I mean what you said is meaningless to him.”
“Why? What makes you say so?” Rodney replied with a frown.
“Simple! It's meaningless to me! Why should I accept that you want some other guy when I am that other guy?” Aiden demanded. Rodney blinked at him for a moment and then shook his head.
“Look, I won't pretend that I understand the inner workings of your mind. I can't help it if he won't accept the fact that I--. I'm in love with you, Aiden,” Rodney said shyly, his eyes averted. But he suddenly looked up and met Aiden's surprised expression. “I can't control the way he feels about me. I can't even control the way I feel about you! I--.” He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Look, all I know is what I feel for you. I don't feel that way about him.”
“He's me,” Aiden said, a confused expression on his face. “Everyone keeps telling me that he's me.”
“Not to me!” Rodney replied fiercely. He grabbed Aiden's arms and pulled him close. “As far as I'm concerned, there's only one Aiden Ford in this universe and that's you!” He would have sealed his declaration with a kiss, but Aiden abruptly pulled away. Rodney was about to protest when he heard John's voice behind him.
“It's about damned time!” he said with a wicked grin. Rodney turned and glared at him. “Sorry to interrupt, but the natives are not terribly happy with us. I think we ought to pull out, ASAP.”
“What happened with the--?”
“I'll tell you later, McKay. Grab your gear--and your boyfriend,” he added impishly, “and let's move out. You two will have to finish whatever you started back in the city.” He turned and strode away, leaving Aiden and Rodney gaping at each other. After a second, Aiden took off after his commanding officer and Rodney hurried to catch up. When they reached the gate they saw that all the others had already gone through, save for Parrish and Durst, each of whom was brandishing a weapon. Aiden reflexively raised his weapon to the ready position.
“Is this display of firepower necessary, major?” Rodney asked. “I doubt that 'The Aiden' even know that they're being threatened.
“I'm not taking any chances,” John replied as he strode purposefully toward the gate. Aiden followed close behind, but stopped when he realized that Rodney was behind him.
“Move, McKay,” he growled. Rodney picked up the pace and they quickly reached the gate. John stopped to speak with the leader as Aiden gestured for the others to go through. Rodney paused, but Aiden's hand shot out and pushed him. Rodney stumbled through the event horizon and spun around as soon as he reached the other side. He instinctively took a few steps toward the gate, but Stackhouse shouted his name and grabbed him by the arm. An agonizing fifteen seconds later, John and Aiden appeared and the gate shut down. Rodney stared at Aiden, who walked past him and handed his weapons and vest to the sergeant. When he had divested himself of his gear he turned to Elizabeth.
“Ma'am?” he said. She looked back at him in confusion. Aiden cleared his throat awkwardly. “Should I remain for the debriefing or should I return to lock-up?”
“You may return to your own quarters, lieutenant,” she said, uncomfortably. “But I'd appreciate it if you'd remain there until we send for you.” Aiden nodded crisply and walked off, refusing to make eye contact with anyone else.
“Was that necessary?” John asked peevishly before he was even out of the gate room.
“It's only temporary, John,” she assured him. “Very temporary; I don't want to unleash two Fords on Atlantis without thinking through all the potential consequences. I also want to give everyone fair warning.” Aiden heard her but just continued walking. Rodney spoke up on his behalf.
“In the meantime, he's still a prisoner,” Rodney said bitterly. John clasped his shoulder.
“He looked like he was pretty hot under the collar. Why don't you go check on him while I get Elizabeth caught up?' he suggested softly with a slight squeeze of his hand. Rodney looked up at him.
“I want to know what happened back on the planet,” he said.
“I'll fill you in later,” John promised. “You just go see to Ford.” Rodney nodded and headed for his room.
Aiden reached his quarters and locked the door behind him. He stood there for a moment, looking at the familiar surroundings. Then he stripped out of his sweaty jacket and headed for the bathroom. He turned on the water and stuck his hand into the stall. The temperature of the spray automatically modulated to perfectly suit him. Aiden pulled his hand out and bent to undo his boots. He'd just kicked off the second one when Rodney knocked on his door. Aiden grimaced and ignored it until a second, more insistent knock forced him to respond.
"Whoever it is, can it wait? I'm about to take a shower," he said impatiently.
"It's me," Rodney replied.
"Oh, well that just makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it?" Aiden said sarcastically as he went to the door. Rodney heard him and was frowning by the time the door slid open. Aiden rolled his eyes at the sight and gestured with his head for Rodney to enter. He let the door close and then turned around to confront Rodney. But before he could form a word he
found himself pressed against the door with Rodney plastered against him. Aiden only spent a few seconds being amused. Then he gave as good as he got, drawing Rodney even closer as he plunged his tongue into Rodney's mouth. After a minute they were forced to come up for air and Aiden smiled crookedly at him. "Hi."
"Hi," Rodney replied hoarsely.
"Just for the record, I'm still pissed."
"I can live with that, surprisingly enough," Rodney said as he ground his hips into Aiden's. He began to nibble at Aiden's throat, just below his ear. "You know, you really, really taste good."
"Yeah," Rodney replied, embellishing the statement with a lick to Aiden's earlobe. He felt his partner shudder and smiled. "There's a lot more of you I'd like to taste."
"I'll just bet there is," Aiden said, raising his head to allow Rodney more room to wander. "Of course, you won't be getting a taste of anything for a while…"
"What? Huh?" Rodney raised his head and stared at him in confusion.
"No," Aiden said firmly. But since he did nothing to stop the gyration of Rodney's hips, his comment wasn't taken too seriously.
"Aiden," Rodney whispered into the warm recesses of Aiden's throat.
"Forget it, Doc," Aiden said, gently pushing Rodney away. Rodney immediately reclaimed him, pulling Aiden into his arms again, although no longer with a sense of urgency. Aiden accepted the hug, nuzzling Rodney even as he rejected him. "No nookie until this thing is resolved and I'm no longer under all this scrutiny."
"That's probably wise," Rodney said softly. He lifted his head. "Nookie?”
"No nookie," Aiden repeated.
"Huh. That sucks."
“No,” Aiden repeated. “Nothing sucks, nothing licks, nothing--.”
“I get it,” Rodney said with a sigh. “Are you okay?”
“Oh yeah; I'm just peachy.”
“Your confinement to quarters will only last as long as it takes for--the other you to get squared away.”
“The other me,” Aiden said evenly. He pulled away from Rodney and went into the bathroom to turn off the water. He returned and sat down on the edge of the bed, where he dropped his head into his hands. "When--? How--? I mean what's it going to take to resolve this? Really resolve it, I mean, not just sugarcoat things and make it sound like a done deal."
Rodney walked over and sat down beside him. Aiden scooted over a tiny bit, both to give him room and to tacitly reinforce his “no sex” edict. For a few minutes no one spoke. Aiden flopped back onto the bed and stared at the ceiling and Rodney did the same.
“I don't know,” he admitted. “There are a lot of things to consider.”
“Like what?” Aiden asked petulantly.
“We have to establish a new identity for him, for one thing.”
“Maybe the doc could hook him up with some plastic surgery. You know, give him a bigger nose--or better yet, a skinny one, like Michael Jackson's. He can do his mouth, too,” Aiden teased.
“No! Doing anything to that beautiful face--especially that mouth--would be criminal!” Rodney cried.
“But it's not my face,” Aiden replied seriously.
“That's no reason to butcher it,” Rodney said.
“Hey, as long as it's not my face, why should you care?”
“You've got a cruel streak in you! Why have I never noticed this before?”
“No one's ever stolen my face before.”
“All right; he didn't steal it. The whole thing was an accident. That doesn't mean I have to like it.”
“No, but grumbling about it isn't getting us anywhere,” Rodney said, rolling onto his side to look at Aiden. “We need to come up with some answers.”
“We? As in me and you?” Aiden frowned at him. “Why?”
“Because the sooner we do, the sooner--.”
“You can get laid?” Aiden said with a smile. He reached out and lightly drew his finger along Rodney's jaw. Rodney grabbed his hand.
“Play fair,” he said. “And yes, that, too. But the sooner we take care of him, the sooner you'll be out of here.”
“Yeah,” Aiden replied, his smile widening. He sat up again and rubbed his hands together. “What kind of identity can we establish without surgery, then?” Rodney rolled onto his back again and folded his hands behind his head.
“Major Sheppard said you might want to name him,” he said. Aiden rolled his eyes.
“He can name himself. No wait--he'd just choose whatever I'd choose anyway, right?” he said, his frustration resurfacing as quickly as it had disappeared.
“Don't go there,” Rodney said, sitting up. “Just come up with a name. And while you're at it, he's going to need a job around here, too.”
“Everyone in Atlantis earns his keep, right?”
“I guess. So--.”
“So what else can you do besides blow up things?”
Aiden shot Rodney a dirty look and rose to his feet to pace the room.
“Before I got into demolition I did a stint in the motor pool,” he said. “I guess that wouldn't be much help here.”
“No, we left most of our all-terrain vehicles back in the Milky Way Galaxy,” Rodney said sarcastically. “Anything else?”
“Well, does he have to do skilled labor? Why can't he just be placed in the security detail?”
“I don't think that would work, Aiden,” Rodney said diplomatically. “You're a lieutenant in the Marine Corps. How would you feel if you were kicked down to grunt status?”
“So you're saying that he not only has my face, but my ego as well.”
“Don't,” Aiden said sharply. He returned to Rodney's side and sat down again. “I'm sorry, Rodney, I just--.”
“It's okay,” Rodney said, sitting up to wrap an arm around his shoulders. He kissed Aiden's temple. “Exactly how big an ego are we talking about?”
John strode into the suite where Aiden's twin was still being housed. Aiden rose to his feet, looking past John as he drew near. John glanced over his shoulder and then back at him quizzically.
“Where is he?”
“Where's who?” John replied. Aiden glared at him. “You mean your twin? He's back in his quarters.”
“And I'm still here,” Aiden replied dully. “That's not fair, sir. Why is he free while I'm still under confinement?”
“We haven't got any other place for you yet,” John reasoned. “We're working on it,” he added hastily. “Look, it may take a day or two to get you settled.”
“And meanwhile, I'm still a prisoner.”
“You're not a prisoner, Ford,” John said, sitting down.
“No? Then I can just walk out of here?”
“And go where?” John challenged.
“Can I or can't I leave?”
“I'd prefer that you stay put for now,” John said sheepishly.
“So I'm right. I'm still stuck here and he's--.”
“...Confined to quarters.”
“How long am I going to be stuck here, sir?”
“How come I'd never noticed how stubborn you were before this?” John asked.
“I've never been sufficiently provoked before. Look, sir,” Aiden said, taking a seat, “how's this going to play out? Am I really going to stay here in Atlantis or what?”
“You spoke with Dr. Weir. You were there when I told the chief of 'The Aiden' that you were staying with us, weren't you? What do you think, we're going to dump you on the next planet we come across?”
“I--. I don't see how this is going to work, sir. I mean with the two of us here.”
“Well, he's not leaving,” John said.
“And he was here first.” Aiden looked John in the eye. “Dr. McKay said he'd be the biggest obstacle.” John nodded. “He also said that I can't live my life as Aiden Ford.”
“No. You'll need to establish a new identity, get a new assignment.”
“Is that it?” Aiden asked. John shrugged and ran a hand over his face.
“I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it'll be a lot harder than it sounds, no matter what anyone says.”
“Hey!” Aiden said, pushing Rodney off of him. A gentle tease had turned into rough-housing, which had turned into tickling, and before long the two men were kissing ardently. “You never quit, do you?”
“Well, if you'd stop being so damned tempting--.”
“Oh, this is my fault, is it?” Aiden replied, extricating himself and sitting up. “As I recall, Dr. McKay, I said no.”
“As I recall, Lieutenant Ford, you kissed me first.”
“In your dreams! And you talked about my ego!”
“You did!” Rodney protested, sitting up. “If you weren't so damned good at it I would have stopped you before--.” They were interrupted by a knock on the door. They exchanged a glance before Aiden leapt to his feet to answer it.
“Who's there?” he said, clearing his throat and praying that they hadn't been heard by their visitor.
“It's Sergeant Bates, sir.”
Aiden and Rodney exchanged another look. Rodney quickly rose to his feet and straightened his clothes. Aiden quickly glanced down before opening the door but Rodney knew that he would be unable to hide the evidence that was plain on his face. Rodney would have said Aiden was radiant, had the unfortunate young man not been about to expose himself to the head of security. He shut his eyes against the inevitable as the door slid aside and Bates stepped forward. But the Marine didn't even look at Aiden.
“Dr. McKay, Dr. Weir requests your company in the conference room to discuss Lieutenant Ford's--. Uh, I mean the other Lieutenant Ford's--.”
“I get the picture,” Rodney said, quickly cutting him off.
“Why did you come for him?” Aiden asked, suspiciously.
“I didn't, sir. I came for you. Dr. Beckett wants to see you in the infirmary.”
Aiden and Rodney exchanged a look. Aiden sighed deeply and went to fetch his shoes. That got Bates' attention and he turned to look at Rodney with new interest. Rodney shrugged and excused himself. He headed for the conference room more than a bit curious as to why Carson wanted to see his partner.