Category: First time
Summary: Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
Author's Note: If you're just finding this story, start here:
“Tavis?” Elizabeth and John said in unison.
“Who is Tavis?” Teyla asked.
“Tavis Iagan Ford,” Carson replied, smiling, “is the name of Aiden Ford's twin.”
“Since when?” John said, frowning.
“I thought his name was Beta,” Elizabeth said.
“That was the name Aiden gave him,” Carson explained. “He's decided on his own identity.”
“And his name is...”
“Tavis Iagan Ford,” Carson repeated, turning to John, who shook his head.
“It means 'the fiery little one,' major,” Carson said.
“In what language?”
“It's Scottish,” Carson said sheepishly. “I only had a list of Scottish names to show him.”
“Whatever happened to the good old days when boys were named after the twelve Apostles?” John mused.
“I think 'Tavis Iagan' is a fine name,” Teyla said approvingly.
“Iagan?” John repeated incredulously.
“It's the Scottish equivalent of Aiden, actually,” Carson said, taking a seat.
“And Tavis?” Elizabeth asked, amused.
“It means 'twin.'”
“So,” John said, folding his arms, “'Tavis Iagan' basically translates to--.”
“Twin of Aiden,” Teyla said. Carson shrugged.
“I'm glad he's gotten all that spitefulness out of his system,” John said to her.
“You wanted to talk about...Tavis,” Elizabeth said, turning back to Carson.
“Yes; he's asked me to represent his interests in our discussions about his future,” Carson explained.
“He asked you?” John said doubtfully.
“Well, he hasn't been allowed to speak for himself up to this point, except when someone decided to ask a question or relay a bit of information to him. He wants representation in these discussions since he feels rather strongly that you are all biased toward Lieutenant Ford.”
“We have both men's interests at heart, Dr. Beckett,” Teyla said. “But I can certainly empathize with his concerns.”
“We were just discussing him, in fact,” John added.
“Tavis? What about him?” Carson asked, frowning.
“Teyla has suggested that both he and Lieutenant Ford be released from their confinement,” Elizabeth said.
“Excellent!” Carson said eagerly. “That's exactly what I wanted to discuss.”
“Well, we have a few concerns,” she continued.
“What concerns?” he asked, his smile fading.
“Teyla feels rather strongly that keeping the two men confined is counter-productive,” Elizabeth said. “But before I'll agree to her suggestion, I want to consider all sides of the issue.”
“Well, what's the worst that could happen?” Carson asked. “Now that it's been decided that Tavis will remain in Atlantis, why should he be confined to his suite? It's not as though his existence is a secret. People know about him; they've seen him.”
“The city is inhabited by adults, Elizabeth; highly educated scientists and experienced military personnel,” John added. “Given half a chance, they'll adjust to having two Fords around.”
“Well, I, for one, would like to assure a smooth transition for everyone,” Elizabeth said. “And I certainly want to avoid a repeat of last night's incident.”
“Ford's given me his word--. Aiden Ford,” John corrected. “No reprisals.”
“And I think I can assure you that Tavis won't strike out again, either,” Carson assured her. “Don't you see, Elizabeth? The man is frustrated. He's being held prisoner by his own people, as far as he's concerned, and he's done nothing to deserve it! It's not his fault he's a replicant. Why should he be punished for it?”
“No one's trying to punish him, Carson,” Elizabeth said with a sigh, “but you have to admit that his presence is problematic.”
“He's got a point,” John said. “We initially confined...Tavis when we weren't sure what we were dealing with. Now that we know, we have to start thinking about getting him out of that room and into circulation. And, speaking personally, I'd like to have my second back on duty.”
“Aiden is very eager to return to work,” Teyla said. “As for Tavis, I am certain that he is eager to taste freedom.”
“And the sooner he's allowed to engage with others,” Carson said, nodding, “the sooner he'll stop being fixated on Aiden and establish his own identity.”
“Aiden feels exactly the same,” Teyla said. “The sooner they are free to be themselves, the sooner things will settle down.”
“That's the sticking point, Teyla,” Elizabeth replied, turning to Carson. “Who is Tavis going to be?”
“If you'll allow it,” Carson said, “I'm sure he'll be himself.”
“Stop rubbing your eye,” Rodney said, dragging Aiden's hand away from his face.
“It itches!” Aiden complained.
“That means that the nanobots are working. Here,” Rodney said, handing him a mug. “Drink your coffee.”
“You told me to wait five minutes.”
“But the bots should no longer be in your mouth. It's okay to drink.”
Aiden took a tentative sip from the cup and sighed. He took another and then another. Rodney smiled.
“No. It still itches,” Aiden groused. Rodney took the cup from him and set it down. He turned Aiden's face to the window to examine him in the morning light.
“Wow! You can actually see them working in there.”
“Relax, I don't mean that literally. But I can see the bruising fade from your eye as we speak. The cut is sealed and fading as well.”
“Really? Cool!” Aiden replied as he extricated himself and slid off the bed to go look in the bathroom mirror. He tarried in the bathroom and after a few minutes, Rodney heard the shower start. He took the opportunity to stretch out comfortably on the bed and drink his coffee. He finished his cup and half of Aiden's and had nearly dozed off when Aiden called him. Rodney leapt off the bed and rushed to the bathroom, stumbling to a halt in the doorway as Aiden turned his head to look at him over his shoulder.
“Look, Rodney. Rodney!”
“What?” Rodney replied, “I'm looking.”
“Stop looking at my ass,” Aiden spat, lifting his towel. Rodney started to protest that if Aiden hadn't wanted him to stare at his ass he ought to have done a better job of covering himself before calling, but he caught sight of Aiden's face and was rendered speechless.
“Tavis,” Carson corrected.
“Tavis,” Elizabeth began again, with a nod of acknowledgment to him, “still needs a role in Atlantis.”
“Or off ,” John added. “Teyla's idea about settling on the mainland wasn't a bad idea.”
“He's considering it,” Carson assured him.
“I think that Tavis should take some time to consider all of his options before he decides,” Teyla declared. Carson smiled.
“Agreed,” Elizabeth said. “I'll want to talk to both Fords before we do this.” She touched the console panel and opened a link. “Sergeant Bates, will you come to my office, please?”
“You're as good as new!”
“That's what you expected, isn't it?” Aiden replied, turning back to the mirror and peering at his brow more closely.
“Yes, of course, but--.” Rodney turned Aiden's face to his and studied the unblemished skin. “It hasn't even been twenty minutes! It took nearly an hour for my cut to heal.”
“Maybe it's because I've got much younger skin,” Aiden replied wryly. Rodney rolled his eyes.
“Whatever it is, it worked. Maybe it was the hot coffee... This is a fascinating development.”
“Wait a minute--. You really didn't think this would--. You were using me as a Guinea pig.”
“Nonsense! I was absolutely certain it would work,” Rodney said unconvincingly. Aiden shook his head and pushed him toward the door. “What?”
“Get out of here so I can get dressed.”
“I thought you military types weren't shy,” Rodney teased.
“We aren't,” Aiden replied from the other side of the door. “Modesty has nothing to do with why you're out there and I'm in here and you know it.”
“What, you think the sight of your naked rear end is going to throw me into raptures?”
“You saying it doesn't?”
“I didn't get that good a look,” Rodney said, playing along. “Open the door and let me have another peek.”
“Dream on, McKay,” Aiden laughed.
“That's all I've been doing for the last--.” He paused when he was hailed on his com link. “Yes?”
“McKay, this is Sheppard,” John said. “Would you come up to the command center? We'd like your input on something.”
“I'll be right there, major.” Rodney closed the link and knocked on the door. “Aiden?”
“I heard,” Aiden called from inside. “Go on.” Rodney sighed and stared at the door for a moment.
“We'll have to postpone that talk until later,” he said. The door opened and Aiden, fully dressed except for boots, emerged. “We're still good, aren't we?”
“You tell me,” Aiden replied, moving into Rodney's personal space. Rodney took a tiny step and leaned in to kiss him.
“I'll be back,” he said huskily. Aiden smiled and sat down to put on his boots while he swaggered to the door. “We will have that talk today, I promise.”
“I'm going to hold you to that,” Aiden replied. Rodney nodded.
“I'll be back.”
“I'll try to clear some time in my busy schedule for you,” Aiden teased.
“You do that,” Rodney said as he touched the panel. The door opened and Rodney found himself face to face with a Marine. Rodney's smile disappeared.
“Pineda?” Aiden said as he quickly finished tying his boot and rose to his feet.
“Dr. Weir requests your presence in the command center, sir.”
“Right,” Aiden replied. He turned and reached for his hat.
“What's going on?” Rodney asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine, sir,” the corporal replied. If he thought anything of the fact that Rodney was in Aiden's room, his face gave nothing away. Rodney led the way and Aiden followed him to the transporter. When they stepped out on the other side, Aiden immediately spotted his twin, accompanied by Carson and another Marine.
“Hey,” Tavis said affably.
“Hey,” Aiden replied calmly. He strode past and continued on his way to the command center. Tavis moved to catch up, but rather than attempting to provoke Aiden, he merely stared at his face. Aiden ignored him, but Rodney watched the two of them anxiously and the guards closed in on the pair to prevent any trouble should it arise. The six men reached the command center without incident and all eyes turned to the twins as they entered. Teyla smiled a welcome, but everyone else simply stared at the two identical, identically attired men.
“Ford?” John said, looking from one man to the other.
“Sir?” the twins replied in unison. John moved closer.
“Which of you is Aiden Ford?” John asked as he peered closely at Tavis' face.
“I am,” his twin replied. John turned to Aiden.
“Didn't you have the start of a black eye last time I saw you?”
“Yes, sir,” Aiden replied. “Dr. McKay can explain that.” John spun around to look at him. Rodney sighed when he was caught in the major's glare.
“Medical nanobots,” he said simply. John glanced at Carson, who appeared to be as surprised as he was. “We've been testing a device we found in one of the labs that manufactures them,” Rodney explained with a shrug.
“Why is this the first we've heard of this?” Elizabeth as she moved forward to examine Aiden's face for herself.
“It's still in the testing phase,” Rodney replied. “We would have presented our preliminary findings at this week's meeting, but we've been somewhat preoccupied,” he said with slight nod at the twins.
“And it really works,” she said with a smile at Aiden. Tavis peered at Aiden's eye.
“Yeah,” he said. “Maybe you could get your friend here to help a brother out.” Aiden rolled his eyes as Tavis raised his hand and flexed his battered knuckles. Rodney promptly stepped forward and pulled out the canister.
“Open,” he said.
“Huh?” Tavis replied. Rodney quickly sprayed the nanobots into his mouth. “Hey!” he cried, wiping his lips exactly as Aiden had done.
“It's that simple,” Rodney said smugly, turning to Elizabeth. “Now, why are we here?”
After forcing him to explain what he meant and what he had done, Elizabeth suggested that they all adjourn to the conference room. John remained standing, but the others sought seats at the table. Aiden and Tavis moved toward the same seat and then paused to glare at each other.
"Oh, would you two just sit," John said with a sigh. The twins took seats beside one another.
“We've been having a little chat this morning about how to deal with the two of you,” Elizabeth said once everyone had settled. Both twins rolled their eyes, much to her amusement. “You know, it's been a few days since I last saw you together. It's still amazing!” Aiden and Tavis exchanged a glance and averted their gazes to their neatly folded hands. John observed the pair with interest. He'd fully expected Aiden to behave but he was intrigued by Tavis' calm demeanor. “The reason I called you here is that Teyla has made a very eloquent and compelling appeal on your behalf.”
“You mean his behalf,” Tavis said with a pout.
“I mean both of you, Tavis,” Elizabeth replied. Aiden looked up.
“Tavis? Who's Tavis?”
“I'm Tavis,” his twin replied.
“Since when?” Aiden said, wrinkling his brow in confusion.
“I can name things, too, you know.”
“Must be a family trait,” John muttered.
“Tavis? What kind of name is Tavis?” Aiden persisted.
“It's my name,” his twin replied defensively. “That's all you need to know.”
“Yeah, well you'll always be 'Beta' to me.”
“And you'll always be--.”
“Gentlemen,” Carson said sternly. The twins quieted and Elizabeth and John smiled like proud parents.
“So what was this eloquent appeal?” Rodney asked, turning to Teyla.
“I believe that both Tavis and Aiden should be released from their confinement,” she replied. “That way, Aiden can return to work and Tavis can take some time to decide about his future.” Aiden and Tavis smiled even as Bates began to protest.
“You're not seriously considering this, are you?” he asked Elizabeth. “We don't--.”
“Why not?” John asked. “We can't keep the two of them locked up forever.”
“And there is no reason to do so,” Teyla added.
“Well, I think it's risky,” Bates said. “We need to think about this. How do we know what we're unleashing on the city?”
“Excuse me, sergeant?” Aiden spat with a glare that promised payback.
“Begging the lieutenant's pardon,” Bates replied, although he wasn't sure which Ford he was answering, “but there are still a lot of unknowns here.”
“Such as?” Tavis challenged.
“Look,” John said, “I was all for figuring things out before we made any moves, but Teyla's right. There's no real reason to wait. I say turn let's just them loose and deal with the consequences on the fly.”
“I agree!” Aiden and Tavis said in unison.
“That has got to be a first,” John teased.
“What's your take on it, Rodney?” Elizabeth asked.
“Don't you want our take on it?” Tavis interrupted.
“In due time, Tavis,” Elizabeth replied indulgently.
“Tavis,” Aiden repeated, disdainfully shaking his head.
“Lieutenant,” John said sharply. Aiden nodded and straightened up in his seat. When Tavis began to sneer, John stopped it with a look.
“I think it's an excellent idea,” Rodney declared.
“I admit to having a few concerns of my own, sergeant,” Elizabeth admitted, “but, on the whole, I am inclined to agree with Teyla on this.”
“So you're willing to release them and allow nature to take its course?” Carson asked. The twins smiled in perfect unison.
“Not so fast,” Elizabeth said. Aiden and Tavis sighed and rolled their eyes. Elizabeth frowned and looked at Carson, who was gazing at the pair.
“I would have expected them to stop doing that by now,” he said mostly to himself.
“Maybe if they weren't both equally pissed,” Rodney replied puckishly.
“I'm not pissed,” Aiden said. “I'm just tired of being jerked around.”
“Ditto,” Tavis said.
“No one wants to jerk either of you around,” Elizabeth assured them, “however, this is an extraordinary situation.”
“I disagree,” Carson said.
“So do I,” John and Teyla said at once.
“Well, I think we shouldn't rush into anything,” Bates insisted.
“You had us locked up for days and you think this is rushing?” Aiden replied.
“We still don't know if we can trust you,” Bates said.
“Don't you mean him?” Aiden replied, gesturing toward Tavis, who grinned wickedly.
“That's my point! How do we know which of you is which?”
“You might try asking, sergeant,” Carson said wearily.
“Yeah,” Tavis quipped, “I like that idea a lot better than being locked up indefinitely.”
“And they've been given tattoos to help distinguish them,” Carson continued with a warning glance at Tavis.
“If Aiden Ford--and Tavis, is it?” Rodney began. “If Ford and Tavis are identical, we know exactly who to trust: both of them.”
“Ford's a good man,” John said, patting Tavis on the shoulder. “Now we'll have two good men.” Tavis looked up and smiled.
“So you think 'more is more,' then,” Bates said, unconvinced.
“I think it's time to move on,” John said simply. “Elizabeth?” She looked around the table and noted each person's expressions. All but one looked hopeful. She smiled.
“Your dissenting opinion is duly noted, Sergeant Bates, but I'm going to release the twins.” She turned to the grinning pair. “I'll want a private meeting with each of you later, but for the time being, lieutenant, you're released from your confinement to quarters and can return to duty immediately. Tavis, we'll have to find you permanent quarters.”
“I'll take care of that,” John volunteered.
“I'll make an announcement introducing our new resident,” she said with a nod at Tavis. Carson rose to his feet.
“Thank you, Elizabeth,” he said quietly.
“Yes, thanks Dr. Weir,” Tavis and Aiden said before exchanging exasperated looks.
“Get them out of here, please,” she said good-naturedly. “I'm getting another headache.”
The twins quickly rose and headed for the door. As they strode out of the conference room the two Marines awaiting them snapped to attention.
“Stand down,” Aiden said. “You've been relieved of guard duty.”
“Sir?” Pineda said with a confused look at his companion.
“You heard the man,” Bates said. “The two lieutenants are no longer confined to quarters. You're off duty until your next shift.”
“Yes, sir,” the Marines said smartly. Bates huffed and walked away with one of the Marines, but Pineda tarried.
“No hard feelings, sir?”
“No, Pineda,” Aiden said gently.
“Speak for yourself,” Tavis said. Pineda looked from one man to the next in confusion. He nodded curtly and walked away.
“So what did you get?” Aiden asked. Tavis showed him his tattoo and Aiden showed his in turn.
“Not as cool as mine, but it'll do, I suppose,” Tavis said. “By the way, Dr. Stratton expects to have a drink with you sometime soon.”
“What?” Aiden sputtered as the other man walked away smiling. Carson and Rodney emerged from the conference room. Carson spotted Tavis and called him back as Rodney abruptly grabbed hold of Aiden's face.
“See?” he said. “It's perfectly healed. I have to wonder if the extra heat was a factor, but that's something we can test for.” Aiden rolled his eyes but stoically endured the examination. Carson carefully touched his face.
“How does it feel?”
“It's fine,” Aiden replied. “I can't even remember what it felt like earlier. It's as though it never happened.”
“And your headache?” Carson asked as he turned his attention to Tavis' hand.
“Excellent. How's the hand, Tavis?”
“Almost as good as new,” he said, as if only just remembering that he'd injured it. ” Carson took hold of it and examined the knuckles.
“Incredible,” he said. “I want a look at the manufacturing process, Rodney.”
“Come to the lab,” he replied. Aiden and Tavis watched as the two men walked away deep in conversation. They exchanged a look.
“Want something to eat?” Aiden said.
“Yeah, I could eat.” The two men headed toward the dining hall, ignoring the stunned or amused looks of people they passed in the hall. They also ignored Elizabeth's broadcast as they loaded their tray with breakfast foods and settled at a quiet table near the window. Teyla and John entered the dining hall a minute later and stared at the pair for a moment.
“Shall we join them?” she suggested after making a cup of tea.
“I think they need a little privacy,” John said. He took his cup of coffee and moved to a table that gave him a good vantage point from which to view the twins.
“What do you think they are talking about?”
“Who knows?” John said with a shrug. “Guy stuff.”
“It is interesting; less than twelve hours ago they were fighting like children. Now, they are talking like two mature men.”
“That's what brothers do.”
“Hey! Take it easy on the syrup,” Aiden said. “You know I don't like that.”
“Oh, I know,” Tavis replied mischievously. “I'm trying to cultivate my own palate. Besides, we both know that you'll eat whatever is put in front of you, no matter how much or how little syrup is on it.”
“You got that right! Never waste food, especially if you don't know where your next meal is coming from. You know how hard and deep Grandma drilled that into my head,” Aiden said with a fond smile.
“No,” Tavis said, frowning. Aiden looked up.
“I don't know what Grandma drilled into your head.”
“You don't?” Aiden sat back and regarded his companion curiously. “I assumed that you knew everything I did.”
“Not by a long shot,” Tavis admitted. “It's weird. The family--for example, I can see Grandma and Pops, but I have no memory of anything they said or did. I'm sure I wouldn't even recognize their voices if I heard them,” Tavis explained with obvious frustration. Aiden was intrigued.
“They're very familiar and yet they're complete strangers at the same time. I may be totally you on the outside, but I'm only partially you on the inside.”
“Huh,” Aiden said. “So you don't really know that much about me, do you?”
“Oh, I actually know lots of stuff. Dr. Beckett theorized that I know everything that was in your conscious mind at the moment of my creation. And you carry a surprising amount in your head, apparently. But a lot of it is abstract--information without context, like the fact that you dated Keisha Brown and could tell her from her sister Katrina when no one else outside her family could. I knew that, I can picture them, yet I have no real memory of the twins themselves. I knew about Buster running away but I can't remember what it was like to play with him. It's like I have this huge photo album in my head. I can see images of your past, but I don't feel any real connection to them. I don't have any sense of the experiences you had.”
“That is weird,” Aiden agreed sympathetically. “What about the present?”
“Now that's different,” Tavis said, visibly relaxing. “I know everything in your entire--.” He paused and looked up at a pair of Marines who were gaping at him. The twins sighed in unison.
“What is it, private?” they said exasperatedly.
“Uh, nothing, sir...sirs,” the taller of the two men, replied. “We were just--.”
“Which of you is the real Lieutenant Ford?” the other man asked.
“Wrong question, Callahan,” Aiden replied curtly.
“So you're the real one,” the tall Marine said smugly.
“Is that your final answer, Riordan?” Tavis asked.
“Holy shit!” Callahan blurted out before he could stop himself. “Sorry, sir...sirs.”
“You're going to be even more sorry if you two don't disappear,” Aiden said.
“Now,” Tavis snarled.
“Sir, yes, sir,” the two Marines shouted before beating a hasty retreat. The twins smiled and resumed their conversation.
“That was interesting.” John shifted in his seat and raised his coffee cup.
“Indeed. I'm still curious as to what they are talking about,” Teyla said.
“Who knows? It's not as though they have anything in common,” he teased.
“So what are you going to do?” Aiden asked sometime later. John and Teyla had left, as had just about everyone else so that the twins virtually had the place to themselves. “You going to take that job on the mainland?”
“I've been thinking about it, but I'm not sure.”
“You just want to stay here and be a pain in my ass.”
“Well, that would be a bonus,” Tavis admitted. “But I feel as though I belong here, you know? I'd like to think that I could put my talents to use here in the city.”
“You mean my talents.”
“Hey, they're mine now, too.”
“Maybe they are,” Aiden said. “Just don't go thinking that you can lay claim to anything else around here that's mine.”
“Like McKay?” Tavis said softly, glancing at the hall's only other occupant. He was well out of earshot. “Don't worry, man. He's only got eyes for you. Hard to believe, 'cause I'm so devastatingly handsome and all--.”
“But seriously,” Tavis said, “the guy's totally into you.” Aiden sat back and stared at his twin. “What? Is that news to you?”
“You had to know. I knew it. You'd kissed him for the first time the day I was created. It was weighing heavily on your mind. I felt that from the get-go. You two had finally gotten off the fence--.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Aiden said sheepishly, attempting to cut off the awkward discussion. “You know, sitting here talking to you about this--. Talking to you about anything is like--.” Aiden gestured with his hands and Tavis nodded. But he dismissed Aiden's discomfort to pursue his point.
“So did you ever tell him?”
“Tell him what?”
“You know, that you dug him. You wanted to take him to that beach and tell him.”
“We never got to the beach.”
“Too bad,” Tavis said, glumly. “I know you were really ready to make your move.”
“So what happened?”
“You happened. Life got a bit complicated.”
“Yeah, but that'll change soon enough.”
“Yeah,” Aiden said, nodding.
“Just tell me if you two decide not to get together.”
“Why?” Aiden frowned. “Oh, I get it. You want him.” Tavis rolled his eyes.
“I don't even know what I see in him! Yes, he's smart as hell, and I find that really sexy, and he's funny and--.”
“He's wants you, Aiden, not me.”
“But you want him, anyway.”
“Hey, I can't help it if I was born in love with the guy,” Tavis said defensively.
“Well, if you don't mind, I'd like to assume responsibility for the testing phase of the nanobots, Rodney,” Carson said as he peered at the machine that had produced them.
“Of course,” Rodney said. “As I said earlier, I had every intention of sharing this with you at our next meeting.”
“After you tried it on Aiden Ford.”
“And myself,” he said, pointing at the spot where he'd cut himself days earlier. “I tried it out last night on that cut you didn't deem worthy of your attention.”
“I doubt that it warranted the aid of nanobots, but they could prove to be invaluable for serious injuries and ailments,” Carson said. “And since it can be dispensed in spray canisters, we should consider putting it into first aid kits for the away teams.”
“Yes, yes, we already considered that,” Rodney replied impatiently as he flopped into his chair. “Zelenka and I are already working on improving the canister.”
“What's wrong with it?”
“Nothing; it's our own design and we want to tweak it a bit. The Ancients preferred a nasal spray for delivering their nanobots. We felt a mouth spray would be more sanitary. In any event, we ought to have it ready in a few days.” Carson turned to him, frowning.
“Hmm?” Rodney said absently as he fiddled with something on his desk.
“Is everything all right?” Carson asked as he set down the canister in his hand and walked over.
“Everything's fine. I'm fine,” Rodney said unconvincingly. “Why?”
“You seem to be a bit on edge; in fact, you seem downright nervous.”
“Me? What do I have to be nervous about?” Rodney asked too hastily.
“You tell me,” Carson replied as he sat on the edge of the desk. He hesitated for a moment before asking what was on his mind. “Does it have anything to do with Aiden Ford?”
“What about him?”
“Oh, for heaven's sake, Rodney! I'm not trying to pry; I just want to help if I can,” Carson said exasperatedly. Rodney looked up, frowning.
“Well, that depends on what's wrong.”
“But you don't want to pry,” Rodney said disbelief apparent in his tone. “There's nothing wrong, all right?”
“Never mind, then,” Carson sighed, rising to his feet. But he tried again, anyway. “Look, I know you have feelings for Aiden. I'd long suspected it, but your certain knowledge of his identity and your unerring support during this recent trial convinced me that you're positively in love with the man.”
“I didn't realize I was that transparent,” Rodney said sheepishly.
“Only to those of us who are very close to you, Rodney,” Carson assured him. “And for what it's worth, we're glad of it. Being in love has made you a better man.” Rodney smiled crookedly. “Look, now that things are beginning to settle down, why don't you speak to Aiden? I know for a fact that he's smitten with you. I'm sure he'll be receptive.” Rodney didn't respond, so he patted Rodney on the shoulder and walked to the door. It opened before Rodney spoke again.
“How do you know?” he asked, turning to look up at him. Carson closed the door and returned to him.
“He told me.”
“Aiden told you he was smitten with me?”
“I'm sorry. I meant Tavis.” Carson sat down again. “We were discussing the pros and cons of moving to the mainland. He doesn't want to go, Rodney--well, no more than Aiden would, I suppose. But he thought it might be for the best if he did.”
“Because he feels what Aiden feels,” Rodney said evenly.
“And he knows how you feel about Aiden.”
Silence prevailed for a minute, during which Carson watched Rodney's face morph through a range of expressions. He finally settled on a smile.
“Thanks, Carson. You're a good friend.”
“Then follow my advice. Go and talk to him, man!”
“If I tell you that we've already reached an understanding will you leave me alone so I can get back to work?”
“Oh? When did that happen?” Carson asked before he could manage to still his tongue.
“A few days ago. We finally... Or at least, we would have... Then he left for P3-39 and came back twins.”
“Twins under a great deal of scrutiny,” Carson added. “But things will settle down now, right?”
“Yes, and if I can get through the next few hours of work I intend to...”
Carson smiled and left before he finished the sentence.
“Come in, Tavis,” Elizabeth said as she took a seat at her desk. “You are Tavis?”
“Yes, ma'am,” he said. He pushed up his sleeve and showed her his tattoo. “This is how you'll recognize me. He's got a lame--.” He smiled impishly. “I think it's a puppy.”
“I was told that it's the Ancient equivalent of a wolf,” Elizabeth replied with a smile. Tavis shrugged and sat down. “How are you enjoying your freedom so far?”
“It's a great relief, Dr. Weir,” he said, growing serious. “Being confined to quarters was really hard. On the one hand, I understood why you had to do it, but at the same time it was frustrating and demoralizing to know my own people distrusted me.”
“Yes, that's what Lieutenant Ford said. In fact, that's exactly what he said,” she mused. “I'm still amazed at how you two do that.”
“Speak to Dr. Beckett, ma'am. He's got a zillion ideas about how this all works. Long story short, he thinks that the more time we spend together, the more we're likely to think and speak alike.”
“You're still absorbing his personality,” Elizabeth ventured. “That would be consistent with the constant evolution of the Aidens back on that planet.” Once again, Tavis shrugged.
“Maybe; I'm no scientist.”
“Well, given what you just said, perhaps it'd be for the best if you two spent some time apart.”
“Ma'am?” Tavis licked his lips and sat forward. “If you're talking about Teyla's suggestion...”
“I don't want to leave Atlantis, Dr. Weir. At least not on a permanent basis. I feel as though I belong here.”
“I got the impression from Dr. Beckett earlier that you were eager to establish your own identity.”
“I am! I was,” he said, confused by his own ambivalence.
“Perhaps you only feel drawn to stay because you've been in close proximity to Lieutenant Ford.”
“No, ma'am. I am Lieutenant Ford--I have the same sense of commitment and dedication to the city as he does. I don't think that is going to change,” Tavis said. “Separating us may make it easier for you to tell us apart. I'd develop my own personality, be a civilian and the like. But underneath it all, I'm still going to be Aiden Ford. The fundamental values aren't going to change. Atlantis is my home. The people here are my family.”
“I understand,” Elizabeth said gently. “So what would you do in the city?”
“Well, I have an idea and I discussed it with him, but I'm not sure anyone else is going to want to go along with it.”
“What's your idea?”
“I'm a trained Marine, ma'am. I'm an expert in weapons and tactics and demolition. I can help you defend the city and it doesn't make any sense to ask me to do anything else,” Tavis said earnestly.
“You want to remain in the service,” Elizabeth surmised. He nodded. “That's the one thing everyone agreed you shouldn't do.”
“Why not? Think about it; you could have a fourth away team, or relieve Sergeant Bates of his team so he can concentrate on security full time. I'm even willing to be here on a part-time basis and split my time between the city and the mainland. I would like to help train the villagers to defend themselves and teach the kids how to read.”
“And you discussed all this with Aiden? What was his take on it?” she asked. Tavis smiled impishly.
“Well, it's hard to argue with your own brilliance...”
“But it wasn't his idea.”
“On the contrary; he admitted that it's exactly what he would have come up with. You can ask him, if you don't believe me.”
“Oh, I believe you, Tavis,” Elizabeth replied. “I'll have to take this up with Major Sheppard.”
“Of course, ma'am,” he said, rising.
“Has he found you quarters yet?”
“Yes, ma'am. Of course, I haven't got anything to move or unpack or wear, so...”
“We'll try to scrape together some gear for you,” she said.
“Thank you, ma'am.”
“You're welcome, Tavis.”
“I don't know if he can be a lieutenant, technically,” John said. “He doesn't even exist, according to the United States Marine Corps.”
“Does he need to be a member of the military?” Carson asked. “Why can't he just do the job, as Teyla does?”
“Well, he can, but we'd still have to sort things out if and when we ever get back to Earth,” John explained. “Especially if he wants to get paid.”
“Will the men actually respect him as an officer if he hasn't got legitimate authority to command?” Elizabeth asked.
“Oh, they'll respect his command,” John said with a smile.
“Indeed,” Teyla said. “We have already seen it. They will respect Tavis Ford as much as they respect Aiden Ford.”
“All things considered, I think it's a good plan.” Shocked eyes turned to Bates.
“You do?” John said incredulously.
“Dr. Beckett was right--we can't afford to pass up an opportunity to add to our numbers. Lieutenant Ford is a fine soldier,” Bates said, having begrudgingly accepted the fact that Tavis Ford might be given a role in the defense of Atlantis. “Having two men of his caliber can only be to our advantage.”
“Two hours ago you wanted them both locked up!”
“No sir. I wanted to be sure that the new lieutenant could be trusted.”
“What changed your mind, sergeant?” Elizabeth asked curiously.
“I did,” Radek said, with a wave of his hand. All eyes turned to him.
“What did you use, hypnosis?” John quipped with a wink at Bates, who averted his eyes with a wry smile.
“No,” Radek replied. “I merely showed him compelling evidence that, molecule for molecule, Aiden Ford and Tavis Ford are the same man.”
“I was nearly buried in printouts,” Bates admitted, with another rare smile. “I concede that I was wrong to question his loyalty.”
“Getting back to the point,” Elizabeth said. “I don't think we can give Tavis Ford another rank. The military personnel know Aiden Ford as a lieutenant--.”
“And Tavis Ford is as much a lieutenant as his twin,” Carson added. “To give him a different rank would be unseemly, not to mention confusing.”
“Agreed. Anything else to consider?” she asked. John shook his head.
“We spent days mulling over all the difficulties,” he said, “only to come full circle and decide that it was all as simple, didn't we?”
“And we are doing exactly what we thought was impossible,” Teyla said, smiling.
“The impossible seems to work well around here,” Radek said wryly.
“Shall I give Tavis the news or would you like to tell him?” Carson asked.
“Go ahead, Carson,” Elizabeth decided. He rose and excused himself. “We'll have to have a formal ceremony to celebrate, I think. Major Sheppard, will you take charge of the arrangements?”
“It'll be my pleasure.” John rose and left the conference room. He strolled down the corridor, ostensibly headed for the dining hall, but his feet and his curiosity, led him to Rodney's lab. He entered and found him at work on the nanobot machine. “McKay? You missed our meeting.”
“I got a note,” Rodney said sarcastically. “Elizabeth told me you were deciding the fate of Tavis Ford. What was the result?”
“He's staying in Atlantis.”
“Well, that's anticlimactic.”
“I meant he's not going to the mainland--at least not on a full-time basis.”
“Ah. So what is he going to do?” Rodney asked, looking up for the first time.
“He's going to be a lieutenant in the Marines, be part of an away team, protect the city and help out on the mainland in his spare time.”
“Has anyone told the original Lieutenant Ford?”
“I was thinking you might like to do that,” John replied.
“Why? Are you expecting him to take the news badly?”
“No,” John said, leaning against a bench. “But I couldn't help noticing that you two seemed to be somewhat at odds last night. I thought--.”
“We're okay,” Rodney said, turning back to his work.
“Are you sure?”
“We've talked a bit. We'll talk more later.”
“Why don't you talk to him now?” John suggested. “Tell him there's going to be a party for him and his brother this evening after dinner.” Rodney turned back and looked at him, slightly crestfallen. “What?”
“We sort of made plans for--.”
“All right, then. The party will be tomorrow night. Never let it be said that I was an impediment to true love,” John said teasingly as he headed for the door. Rodney resumed working, but only a few minutes later he gave up and left the lab. He went to his quarters to shower and change. Then he went looking for Aiden.
Instinctively sensing that he'd be anywhere except his quarters, Rodney sought him out in one of his favorite haunts, a small dock off the southern end of the inhabited part of the city. It was technically off limits, but John and his team often ended up there whenever they felt the need for solitude. Sure enough, Rodney found Aiden sitting on the steps staring out at the water. He made a point of making his presence known so as not to spook him.
“Hey,” Aiden said, glancing up.
“Hey, yourself,” Rodney replied as he lowered himself onto a step beside him. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Aiden said, smiling. “It feels good to be out here again.”
“You look happy.”
Aiden turned and gazed at him for a moment.
“Good. I hope your mood won't be ruined when I tell you what your twin has managed to talk Dr. Weir into doing.”
“He's staying in the city,” Aiden said calmly. “I know.”
“We discussed it after that meeting this morning. I assume he got his way and will be serving under Major Sheppard, too.”
“That's going to be confusing to the men.”
“Nah; I've been on posts with two or three guys with the same name and rank,” Aiden said.
“And the same face?” Rodney said, reaching up to gently caress Aiden's cheek.
“I guess not,” Aiden admitted. “They usually split up twins.” They sat and looked at the water for a few minutes.
“So you two have made peace,” Rodney said, breaking the silence.
“I guess we did.”
“Now it's our turn.”
“I didn't realize we needed to make peace,” Aiden replied.
“Well, I at the very least owe you an apology,” Rodney said, as he patted Aiden's thigh. Aiden took hold of his hand and intertwined their fingers.
“For telling me you loved me?”
“For making you feel uncomfortable about it.”
“Hey, you're the one who ran away,” Aiden said with a squeeze of his hand. “I wasn't making fun of you, Rodney. I just wanted to understand.”
“Yeah, I realize that, now.”
“I needed to know what you were feeling so I could know if what I was feeling was what I thought--.”
“Never mind,” Rodney said, turning Aiden's face to his for a kiss. “I love you, Aiden Ford.”
“I love you, Rodney McKay.”
“You don't have to say that,” Rodney replied. Aiden covered his lips with a finger before he could continue.
“I wouldn't have said it if it wasn't true.”
“No, you wouldn't,” Rodney said after gazing into Aiden's eyes for a moment. Aiden pulled him into his arms for another kiss. After a few minutes, they settled into a comfortable position against the railing and stared out at the water. “Oh, by the way, Major Sheppard wanted me to let you know that they're going to have a celebration for you and Tavis tomorrow.”
“Why don't we have a private celebration of our own tonight,” Aiden suggested. But they were too comfortable to move just yet.
“What are we celebrating?” Rodney asked teasingly.
“How about the fact that it was me who got replicated instead of you?”
“Are you kidding? Think of the potential benefit to the city if there were two of me!”
“Think of the poor planet with eighty of you!”
Aiden laughed heartily, and kissed away his pout.
“I'm very glad you're one of a kind, doc.”
“I guess it's not such a bad thing,” Rodney conceded. “I have you all to myself.” Aiden kissed his forehead and pushed him gently. They got to their feet.
“Come on, Doc. Time to get that party started.”