Category: First time
Summary: Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
Aiden entered the infirmary with Bates at his heel and went directly to Carson's office, where he found the doctor engaged in a discussion with Radek.
“Oh, come in, Aiden, come in,” Carson said eagerly when he glanced up and noticed him standing just inside the door. Aiden reluctantly stepped forward and turned to look at Bates. “You can go, sergeant,” Carson told the head of security. “He won't be needing supervision.”
“I know that,” Bates said testily. “But--.”
“I can find my own way back to my quarters, sergeant,” Aiden said tersely. Bates glared back at him, but nodded and left. As soon as he was out of sight, Aiden rolled his eyes. “You wanted to see me, Dr. B?” he asked, suppressing his annoyance.
“Yes, Aiden. Please, sit down,” Carson replied. Aiden did as he was bidden, curious and a bit suspicious about what the two grinning doctors wanted from him. Over the past few days he'd been poked, prodded and subjected to more physical and medical tests than he could count and most of them were at their insistence. “Dr. Zelenka and I have been trying to figure out a way to permanently distinguish you from your twin and we came up with an idea. How would you feel about a tattoo?”
“A tattoo? You mean like a--?”
“A few months ago we found an implement we couldn't identify among the equipment left by the Ancients. We eventually realized that it was a tattooing needle. Apparently, the art of tattooing was as common in Atlantis as it is on Earth,” Carson explained excitedly. “We found beautiful and elaborate images in the database. People sometimes had their entire bodies done up in wild--.”
“You want to tattoo me,” Aiden said, his face contorted in a wince.
“Oh, it's perfectly safe and painless,” Radek assured him.
“And you know this because--.”
“Aiden, we're not suggesting that you have anything fancy--just a small symbol to distinguish you from Aiden Ford,” Carson replied.
“I am Aiden Ford,” Aiden said tersely.
“I know, son. You know what I mean,” Carson said sheepishly.
“Why don't you tattoo him, then?”
“I intend to do both of you. It's the only way to make certain that we know who's who. If I was just to have one of you done, the other could always just copy it.”
“Yeah,” Aiden said doubtfully. “Like I'd want to pass myself off as him.”
“And by having you done without his knowledge--,” Radek began.
“Of course, you wouldn't,” Carson said reassuringly. “But we have to be completely fair to both of you.”
“Well, why don't you practice on him first?” Aiden suggested.
“Don't be such a big baby!” Radek taunted. “You're a Marine, remember?”
“I know I'm a Marine. I also know that neither of you are experienced tattoo artists.”
“It's painless, Aiden,” Carson said with a sigh.
“Right,” Aiden said doubtfully, but his mind quickly turned to the possibilities. “So could you do a nice dragon or--.”
“I'm not an experienced tattoo artist, remember?” Carson replied wryly. “Besides, I thought we'd keep it simple.”
“An 'A' for you and a 'B' for him,” Radek said brightly.
Carson laughed and slapped Aiden on the shoulder.
“If you're ready, we can do it right away.”
“How is he, Rodney?” Elizabeth as as he took a seat.
“Oh, very stoic...but also pissed, annoyed, frustrated, bored, impatient, brimming with righteous anger and youthful angst,” he replied with a sigh.
“Sounds like his twin,” John drawled.
“There's a shock,” Bates said as he strode into the room.
“I thought you were with the lieutenant,” Elizabeth said.
“He relieved me of my duty,” Bates said, averting his eyes. John and Rodney exchanged a look.
“Relieved you?” Elizabeth repeated, frowning.
“He said he could find his own way back to his quarters, ma'am,” Bates replied evenly. “I chose not to gainsay him.”
“That was wise,” John said, a smile teasing at his lips. “The Fords are getting a bit testy.”
“We can't keep them locked up indefinitely, Elizabeth,” Rodney said. “What are we doing about it?”
“That's why we're here,” she said, turning to the business at hand.
“Where should we put it?” Radek asked.
“Well, as much as the idea of mooning Bates on a regular basis appeals to me at the moment,” Aiden said dryly, “I think my arm would be most appropriate.”
“I agree,” Carson said, taking hold of his left arm. “I was thinking here, just inside the wrist. That way it'd be both discreet and accessible. Does that suit you, Aiden?” He nodded grimly.
“Are you sure you guys don't want to practice on someone else first?” he said uneasily.
“Dr. Stratton already tried the needle on herself. She put a very pretty rose on her--.” Radek snapped his mouth shut and the other two men gaped at him. “She asked me not to tell.”
“You aren't going to leave this room alive unless you do,” Aiden said, smiling evilly.
“I agree,” Carson said. “And between the two of us we can be quite lethal.”
“No need for dramatics,” Radek said easily. “It was just her ankle.” Aiden and Carson returned looks that clearly expressed their disbelief. “She only wanted it kept a secret because she feared others would want her to do tattoos.”
“Others do,” Aiden replied. Carson nodded.
“Get her in here.”
“We discussed a few possibilities, but it wasn't very productive,” Rodney was saying up in the conference room. “His only suggestion was putting his twin in the security detail, but we immediately abandoned the idea as unfeasible.”
“Good,” John and Bates said in unison.
“Well, what else can he do?” Elizabeth asked.
“Well, I did try asking the other Ford,” John began. All eyes turned to him. “He said he's a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and couldn't see why that needed to change.”
“So which one are you?” Eve Stratton asked as she peered into Aiden's eyes. She'd heard about the twin Aidens through the grapevine and was excited by the prospect of meeting the clone.
“He's the original, Eve,” Carson said, suppressing a smile. He knew that the young sociologist had a longstanding crush on Aiden. She was at least seven years his senior, although that didn't pose as much of an impediment as Aiden's sexual preference. Carson was in no position to reveal that to her, however, so he bit back his comment and suggested that she get started.
“We have a really cool database of Ancient fonts,” she said as she took hold Aiden's hand, ostensibly to examine his wrist. “I think we should use one of them.”
“Why can't we just use a good old American font?” Aiden sighed impatiently and gently withdrew his hand.
“Lieutenant Ford, a tattoo is a piece of art! It's permanent--it ought to be beautiful, full of cultural significance. And it ought to say something about you.”
“All it has to say is that I'm the real Aiden Ford,” he replied.
“He is also the 'real' Aiden Ford,” Radek reminded him, but Carson silenced him with a look.
“Can we just get on with this?” Aiden said. “I don't care if it's Ancient or American or Arabic or Aramaic--just do something and let me out of here!” Stratton looked slightly hurt and Aiden looked contrite. “I'm sorry. I'm just--. Could you just--?” She smiled at him and promised to return shortly. As soon as she left the room, Aiden banged his head on the table.
“Don't hurt yourself!” Radek cried. “McKay will have our heads!” Aiden sat up abruptly and stared at him. Carson shut his eyes and shook his head. Radek took the hint and quickly changed the subject. “Aramaic? What do you know of that language?” he improvised.
“Nothing,” Aiden said, “except that the eggheads back at the SGC seemed to talk about it a lot when we visited one particular planet.”
“Ah. It is the basis for modern Hebrew, you know.”
“I don't care,” Aiden said with a pout. Carson patted him on the shoulder and left the office. Radek followed him, leaving Aiden to his thoughts.
“Are you insane?” Carson hissed as soon as they were a short distance from the door. “He has no idea Rodney has a crush on him.”
“Does he know he has a crush on Rodney?” Radek asked puckishly.
“What?” he spat back. “Look, let's not agitate him any more than need be, all right? The kid has had a difficult time of it.” Radek shrugged and turned to smile at Aiden, who was eying them suspiciously. Stratton returned with a notebook and a box containing the tattooing implement. She sat down and opened the book.
“Here,” she said, turning to a page of drawings. This is the Ancient letter 'A.' Isn't it beautiful?”
“Stunning,” Aiden deadpanned. Stratton pouted and Aiden pasted on a smile. “If you like it, I'm game.”
“I also thought you might like this one,” she said, buoyed by his smile. “It's from an illuminated manuscript we found on Level 10. I think this is beautiful as well. Of course, yours wouldn't have color. We haven't been able to replicate the Ancients' colored ink and --.”
“That's all right. Black is cool,” Aiden quickly assured her. “Go for it.”
“Wait, I have a few more designs I want to show you.”
“Choose one,” Aiden said through his teeth. His smile remained intact, but his tone had an edge that clearly showed his impatience.
“I'm sorry, lieutenant,” Stratton replied sincerely. “I know this must be frustrating to you. Why don't I just stick to one of the simpler designs and get this over with.” Aiden smiled sincerely then, and she selected an elegant design. “This one,” she declared. Aiden looked at it and nodded. Carson swabbed the area to be inked with an antibacterial agent and she began to draw.
“Why don't you try talking to him?” John suggested as he and Rodney made their way down the corridor. “He prefers your company to mine--he'll probably listen to reason if you--.”
“Thank you, no,” Rodney replied, cutting him off. John frowned but then realization dawned.
“He's into you, too,” he said. “Wow. I mean--how's that working out for you?” Rodney shot him a look.
“It's not,” he said. “Contrary to what you may think, having two Aiden Fords hot for my bod isn't my idea of fun.” He paused and sighed audibly. “It's not fun for Aiden, either.”
“I noticed that,” John replied.
“I meant my Aiden,” Rodney said, huffing just a bit. John smiled at his possessive tone.
“So you finally staked your claim,” John said. “I'm glad. Maybe the two of you will stop staring at each other all the time.”
“We do not--. Do we?”
“Well, you stared at him all the time. To be honest, he was a lot more discreet,” John said. “Anyway, neither Ford is a happy camper and won't be until we get them settled.”
“We have found a way to distinguish them,” Radek said, approaching the pair with a wide grin on his face.
“What?” Rodney replied.
“How?” John demanded.
“Tattoo,” Radek declared proudly. “It was my idea.”
“Tattoo?” John repeated. “You're giving Ford a tattoo?”
“Which one?” Rodney demanded.
“Both of them, naturally,” Radek replied. “That is the--.”
“Where?” Rodney demanded.
“He chose a lovely little design, much better than our original plan of just a letter to designate--.”
“Where?” Rodney repeated with a growl.
“In the infirmary,” Radek said. Rodney immediately turned and walked away. Radek watched him go and then turned to John, who was grinning. “I miss the joke.”
“I don't think he was asking for Ford's location, Dr. Z,” John said before he continued on his way.
“That doesn't hurt, now does it?” Stratton asked with a fluttering of lashes. Aiden stared at her for a second and then shook his head.
“Good. Let's look at it one more time...” She drew his hand a bit closer and peered at his wrist. Aiden sighed and was about to shut his eyes against an encroaching headache when he caught a glimpse of Rodney barreling into the infirmary. Aiden did close his eyes, then, bracing himself for what was to follow, but he opened them immediately and saw Rodney being directed to the office by a nurse. Rodney spun around and spotted him. Aiden sighed again. “Oh, come on, lieutenant, that's just a--.”
“What's going on?” Rodney demanded. Aiden flinched slightly at his sharp tone and Stratton gave his hand a squeeze.
“Now lieutenant, you've got to stay still or you'll end up with a thunderbolt instead of a curved leaf.” Stratton glanced up. “Hello, Dr. McKay,” she said easily, ignorant of the jealous glare he was aiming at her back. “I'm giving Lieutenant Ford a tattoo.”
“You're a tattoo artist and a sociologist?” he asked sarcastically. Aiden looked up at Rodney and smiled in amusement, but Rodney's eyes never left the hand Stratton was holding.
“I consider myself more of an ethnographer,” Stratton replied as she continued to ink Aiden's skin, launching into a lengthy explanation of how she learned to do tattoos while studying for her doctorate. “Some cultures use skin to record their histories the way we use paper or the data chip,” she said. “I spent six months living among several different tribes...”
Neither Aiden nor Rodney paid any attention to her. Rodney stared at Aiden's hand and Aiden stared at Rodney, who finally looked up after several minutes. Aiden winked at him and Rodney relaxed a bit. They stared at each other while Stratton, oblivious to the tension between them, continued to talk.
“All done, lieutenant,” she announced after another few minutes. Aiden began to withdraw his hand, but she pulled it toward her and raised it to show Rodney her handiwork. “In some cultures, you know, this would constitute an engagement,” she said, smiling at Aiden.
“Really,” he replied evenly, withdrawing his hand to admire the artwork for himself. “This is beautiful. Thank you, ma'am,” he said formally. He rose as Carson returned.
“Let's have a look at you, then,” he said, reaching for Aiden's arm and studying the art. “Lovely; looks a bit Celtic. Let's put some gauze on it. I don't want that skin irritated...” He went off to fetch supplies as Aiden turned to Rodney.
“What do you think?” he asked puckishly.
“You don't want to know what I think,” Rodney replied evenly. Aiden smiled affectionately, but Rodney was only slightly mollified.
Carson returned and lightly bandaged Aiden's wrist. He also gave him a short list of instructions to which he paid no attention. His head was throbbing and he was anxious to leave. Stratton invited Aiden to join her for a cup of coffee in the dining hall and he politely declined, pleading a headache. Carson offered him something for it and Aiden gratefully accepted.
“See him back to his quarters, will you, Rodney? The poor lad's been through the wringer today,” Carson said with a wink. Rodney's eyes widened for a second, then he nodded and steered Aiden toward the exit with a hand on his shoulder. As soon as they were out of the infirmary, Rodney opened his mouth to speak but Aiden shook his head and they made their way back to his room in silence. When the doors shut behind them, Aiden went straight over to the bed and crawled onto it. He carefully turned over and looked up at Rodney, who was eying him worriedly.
“Are you all right?”
“Oh, I'm just dandy,” Aiden said, squinting up at him. “Could you do me a favor and turn down the lights?”
“Lights, right,” Rodney muttered. He hit the switch and then the door panel. As it started to slide open, Aiden raised himself up on his elbows.
“Where are you going?”
“Come here,” Aiden said, carefully laying back down. Rodney locked the door and walked over to the bed. “I don't think it'd be a good idea to stay too long, but you don't have to leave right away, do you?”
“No,” Rodney said, sitting on the edge of the bed. Aiden settled in and shut his eyes.
“What did you expect? I leave you alone for an hour and return to find you holding hands with a blonde.”
“Hey, she was holding my hand,” Aiden replied. “I wasn't holding hers.”
“She obviously wants you,” Rodney said petulantly. Aiden shrugged.
“So she's got good taste,” he said with a small chuckle.
“I'll give her that much,” Rodney conceded. Aiden sighed and reached for him. Rodney took hold of his hand and entwined his fingers with his own.
“If it'll make you feel any better, I started to tell her I was spoken for, but I figured she'd ask too many questions.” Aiden's words had the desired effect. Rodney smiled briefly, but he suddenly remembered something and turned the tables on his companion.
“Hey! Don't talk to me about jealousy! You were all over me a few hours ago about--.”
“Shh,” Aiden said softly. “Headache.”
“Sorry,” Rodney whispered. Aiden tugged on Rodney's hand until he got the hint and moved to lie beside him on the bed. Aiden shifted over to make room. “Your head really hurts, doesn't it?”
“You think I was faking it back there?”
“Sorry,” Rodney replied. “I guess I was a bit of a goon.” Aiden lifted his head and stared at him.
“A goon?” he said curiously. Rodney pulled him into his arms and Aiden rested his head on Rodney's chest. “Oh, hey; check it out! I came up with a name for the guy. Get this--Beta.”
“Beta? What kind of name is that?”
“It's an appropriate one,” Aiden replied. “I'm the Alpha Ford. That makes him the Beta.”
“You don't like it.”
“I don't have to like it. He does.”
“He'll hate it,” Aiden said with certainty. “So what happened up there in that meeting? Did they come up with anything?”
“No. I did find out what happened back on PX3-39. Among other things, your twin managed to piss off the leader of 'The Aiden.'”
“How'd he do that?”
“Well, according to Major Sheppard, your twin basically--.”
“If you think he's going to hate the name, maybe we'd better think of something else,” Rodney suggested as gently stroked Aiden's back.
“No! You said I could name him and I did. His name is Beta,” Aiden insisted. “We just call him that until he's stuck with it. He won't have any choice but to accept it.”
“Damn; remind me to stay on your good side.”
“Why start now?” Aiden teased lightly as he tickled Rodney's ribs. Rodney squirmed until he nearly bucked Aiden from the bed. He apologized and pulled Aiden back into his arms, where he settled comfortably. “You know, we still have to talk about this thing between us.”
“What's to talk about?” Rodney replied. “I've already said all I had to say on the subject. Besides, action speaks louder than words.” Aiden raised his head to look at him.
“You really meant it, then.”
“Yes, I meant it,” Rodney replied defensively. “Do you think I go around declaring my--.” Aiden quickly covered Rodney's mouth and glared at him.
“This is something we don't need to share with the rest of Atlantis, okay?” he whispered sternly. Rodney nodded and Aiden released him.
“You're okay with this, right?” Rodney asked worriedly. Aiden stared into his eyes for a moment and a smile slowly crept across his face.
“Maybe? What do you mean 'maybe'?”
“Doc; inside voice, okay? You've got to tone it down. So you're really into me,” Aiden said impishly. Rodney groaned and closed his eyes.
“You're going to torture me, aren't you? I knew I should have kept my big mouth shut,” he muttered. Aiden giggled lightly.
“How do you know?”
“How do I know I should have kept my big mouth shut? I've got the living proof of it staring me in the face,” Rodney spat back. Aiden smiled and kissed him. It was a sweet, lingering kiss that took all the fight out of Rodney, which was exactly what Aiden intended.
“I'm serious,” he said a few moments later, when Rodney finally gave him a chance to speak. “How do you know you're in love with me? I don't think I've ever been in love before. Not really, anyway.”
“Oh,” Rodney said, shifting slightly. Aiden knew he was about to withdraw and held him in place.
“Have you ever been in love before?” he asked gently. Rodney stilled and laid his head back.
“Yes. Once; maybe twice, although there was a good deal of lust involved. Maybe mostly lust...”
“How do you distinguish between the two? How do you know you're not just lusting after me?”
“I'm definitely lusting after you,” Rodney replied. “What are you doing?”
“Lusting, too,” Aiden said, leaning in to kiss him again. “Definitely lusting.”
"And that's it?” Rodney asked, as a lump began to form in the pit of his stomach. Aiden reached out and touched the sensor panel to turn up the lights a bit.
“No, no, never mind,” he said, gently extricating himself and sliding off the bed. “I withdraw the question.”
“Why don't you just relax and take care of that headache? We can pick this up another time,” Rodney said as he moved toward the door. Aiden sat up, but the pain that welled up in his head slowed him down. Rodney had the door open before he could reach it. “Feel better.”
“Doc,” Aiden sighed. He leaned against the wall and shut his eyes tightly. “Damn.”
“Just the man I was looking for,” Elizabeth said when she spotted him fifty yards down the corridor. “Have you eaten yet?”
“No,” Rodney replied dully.
“Good,” she replied with a smile. “I'm buying.” She wrapped an arm around one of Rodney's and led him toward the dining hall.
“Why were you looking for me?” he asked as they loaded their trays with plates of food, drinks and pieces of fruit.
“Well, we didn't make much progress earlier,” Elizabeth replied. “I thought we might brainstorm a little. We've always seemed to come up with good solutions that way.”
“Right,” Rodney said. He led the way to a table and they sat down. He poked at his meatloaf while she observed him for a moment.
“Rodney? Is everything all right?”
“Hmm?” He looked up, wondering if he'd missed something she said. “I'm sorry; I was thinking.”
“Good,” she said, smiling. “So what do you think the new Ford should do? You gave me Lieutenant Ford's opinions but not your own. I have to admit, I agree with the general sentiment that Ford shouldn't be assigned to a military position.” She threw down her napkin in exasperation. “Can't we come up with another name for him?”
“He already did. My--. Our--. I mean--.”
“Rodney, are you all right?”
“Sorry; all these Fords... It's been a long day, Elizabeth, I'm sorry.” Rodney had no idea if that even sounded like a plausible excuse, but he pressed on. He knew from long experience that the longer he talked the less likely anyone was to question him. “The original Aiden Ford came up with a name for his twin--Beta.”
“Beta? Where on Earth--.”
“Alpha, beta--you get the drift. I thought it was kind of clever, except for the fact that Ford is convinced that his twin will hate it. The lieutenant has a strong Machiavellian streak in him that we've never seen before.”
“I'm sure he's never had any incentive to use it before,” Elizabeth laughed. “I kind of like it as a name.”
“Well, good, because Ford insists that we use that name until his twin accepts it, whether or not he likes it,” Rodney said with a wry smile. Elizabeth smiled as well.
“Well, in all fairness, 'Beta' should have the opportunity to name himself. But I don't see why we can't use that name until he chooses his own,” she suggested.
“Fair enough,” Rodney said pensively.
“Why don't you ask him what he wants to be called? He seems to relate to you better than the rest of us.” Elizabeth took a sip of water and frowned thoughtfully. “You know, I've never noticed that before.” Rodney set down his fork.
“You never noticed what?” he asked carefully.
“That you and Ford were--. Well, I'm assuming that if Beta Ford relates well to you, Aiden Ford must relate to you well, also.”
“Well,” Rodney said, averting his eyes, “we've been working together all this time. We've become...friendly, after a fashion.” He caught a glimpse of Elizabeth's smile out of the corner of his eye and frowned at her.
“Nothing! Well, actually I was just thinking of something John said earlier. Oh, hello, Teyla,” Elizabeth said, looking up at the new arrival. “Please join us.”
“Teyla,” Rodney said distractedly. He wanted to find out what had been said but feared raising the issue in front of Teyla, whose forthright manner might expose him to more scrutiny than he was prepared to handle.
“Good evening, Dr. McKay. How is Lieutenant Ford?” she asked.
“He's...fine, I guess. Actually, the last time I saw him, he was suffering from a headache,” Rodney said as thoughts of his last words with Aiden crept into his mind. He quashed them and attempted to focus on Teyla's response.
“I have given some thought to his situation,” she was saying. “Perhaps Lieutenant Ford's twin might want to work on the mainland with my people.”
“Oh, Teyla! That's an excellent idea!” Elizabeth replied. “It'd kill two birds with one stone--more than two, in fact. It would give them both some breathings space and allow the twin--.”
“Beta,” Rodney said automatically, belatedly realizing that he'd already tacitly conceded to abet Aiden's plot.
“...Beta to develop his own personality. More importantly it would also allow our Lieutenant Ford to regain some semblance of a normal life. And just as importantly, it'd avoid us having to deal with all the confusion that's sure to ensue if two Aiden Fords suddenly began showing up around the city.”
“What would he do on the mainland?” Rodney asked.
“I do not know,” Teyla admitted. “But I am sure he would find something to engage his interest. I should think that he--.”
“Beta,” Rodney and Elizabeth said in unison, exchanging a grin.
“Beta?” Teyla repeated, testing the word on her tongue. “I should think that Beta would be more comfortable on the mainland, where he would not be constantly be compared with Aiden Ford.”
“Except that Aiden Ford is as known there as he is here,” Elizabeth said pensively. “Still, it would be an opportunity for him to become his own man.”
“There's only one problem with this idea,” Rodney replied.
“What is that?” Teyla asked.
“As sound an idea as it is, everything I know about Beta Ford tells me that he's going to hate it.”
“Well, Rodney, I'm making it your job to talk him into it,” Elizabeth declared. “If anyone in Atlantis can do it, you can.”