Category: First time
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Carson Beckett
Summary: What if the one you loved lost everything but you?
It was a quiet morning in Atlantis when John led his team through the gate on a survey mission to M3-889. When the gate closed behind them, Elizabeth retired to her office to read reports, leaving Peter to do a diagnostic of some of the city's backup systems.
"Don't call me unless all hell breaks loose," she said from the door. Five hours later, it did.
Carson Beckett was enjoying the relative quiet of the day. He spent the morning getting caught up on a few projects he'd been forced to abandon when the demands of his patients became too great. A few hours later, he and his staff were doing a complete inventory of supplies in the for-once-empty infirmary when the claxons sounded. Carson dropped the package of bandages in his hand and answered the summons to the command center. When he arrived he saw a clearly agitated Rodney pacing back and forth, babbling excitedly as Peter and Elizabeth tried to contain him. Carson noted the blood on his shirt and the right side of his face. He started to attend to his wounds, but Rodney pushed his hands away.
"Don't worry about me! Worry about them! They were taken by the Wraith! You have to go and get them before they--"
"Rodney, please!" Elizabeth shouted. "We need to know exactly what happened before we attempt any sort of rescue." She succeeded in quieting him down long enough to move up to the command center. "Now, start at the beginning, Rodney." Carson attended to the abrasions on his face as he spoke.
"We picked up some unusual energy readings when we stepped through the gate and decided to follow them back to their source. We walked about a mile or two until we found a building. It appeared to be some sort of research facility, like a small field laboratory. At first I thought it might belong to the Ancients, but the technology looked unfamiliar." Rodney paused to wince and once again he pushed Carson's hands away.
"We were investigating the lab when we heard noises. Two Wraiths entered the building, unwittingly trapping Ford and Teyla down a corridor. Major Sheppard told me to stay put and went to their aid. The three of them engaged the Wraith and were captured and thrown into a cell. I managed to get to them while the Wraiths were otherwise engaged, but I couldn't get the damned cell open. Major Sheppard told me to return to base for reinforcements. Now I've wasted enough time talking," Rodney said rising to his feet. "We've got to help them!"
"It may already be too late," Sergeant Bates said. Elizabeth and Rodney glared at him.
"Nonetheless you're going to take a team and go after them," Elizabeth said firmly. Bates nodded and turned to Rodney.
"I'm going to need a location," he said.
"I'll show you the way," Rodney answered.
"No, Rodney," Elizabeth and Carson protested.
"Look, we don't have time for this! Major Sheppard, Teyla and Lieutenant Ford need our help now!" Rodney said passionately. He strode down the stairs to the gate. Bates looked at Elizabeth. She nodded. He turned and followed Rodney down to the gate and into the jungles of M3-889.
Carson was summoned to the command center for the second time that afternoon when word came through that Bates' team had succeeded in retrieving the missing Atlantis personnel and was returning with casualties. He was standing by with a medical team when Teyla and Aiden were carried through the gate on stretchers. Carson immediately moved forward, kneeling beside Teyla to check her vital signs. She was conscious but dazed, her pulse erratic and shocky. Carson began to check her for other injuries when he was called to Aiden's side.
"Doctor, I think he's in a coma," the nurse said softly. Ordinarily, Carson would have summarily rejected such a diagnosis without conclusive evidence but this time he didn't bother arguing the point. He ordered both patients moved to the infirmary.
When they arrived, Carson got his first real look at Aiden. As with Teyla, there were no apparent injuries. He began a thorough examination of his patient and ordered a series of tests. An hour later, he went up to the command center looking for answers to a puzzle he could not piece together. As he approached the conference room, he heard John tearing into Bates. Carson momentarily forgot his own agenda and paused to listen.
"What the hell were you thinking, sergeant? We could have gone back there and learned valuable information about the Wraith! We might have found something that would finally give us a tactical advantage!"
"With all due respect, sir, my priority was to get us out of there in one piece and get us all back to the gate. I blew up the facility because that seemed to be the best means of assuring that," Bates replied defensively.
"There were only two of them," John persisted. "And you took them both out!"
"Dr. McKay said he only saw two Wraiths, but we don't know that there weren't more in there. We also don't know whether they had communications capability or even a self-destruct mechanism that could've destroyed the planet, sir," Bates replied.
"I have to agree with Sergeant Bates, John," Elizabeth said. "While I understand the frustration you and Rodney feel about the matter, the sergeant was right. I ordered him to extract your team and get back here. Protecting the lab wasn't even on the list of priorities."
"What a waste!" Rodney declared, shaking his head. Carson took the opportunity to step forward.
"Am I to understand that the laboratory you were held in has been destroyed?" he asked. Everyone turned to look at him. John was the first to speak.
"Yeah, unfortunately," he said, taking his seat. "How are Teyla and Ford?"
"Teyla is doing well," Carson said hesitantly as he also sat down. "She's resting comfortably and will probably be released in a day or two. As for Lieutenant Ford..."
"Doc?" John asked worriedly. Carson took a deep breath.
"I'm afraid he's--. Well, technically speaking, he's dead," he said solemnly. John and Rodney both jumped out of their seats.
"Dead?" Elizabeth cried, giving voice to what neither man could.
"Technically," Carson repeated. "For the life of me, I cannot understand why he's still breathing."
"I don't understand," Rodney said. "Is he or isn't he...dead?"
"He's brain dead. There are no signs of brain activity. He's shown no movement, no response to stimulation, and no brain reflexes; an electroencephalogram showed no electrical activity whatsoever."
"How?" John managed to say, but Carson hadn't finished.
"The thing of it is, he's still alive. Blood is apparently flowing to his brain and he's breathing on his own."
"How is that possible?" Elizabeth asked.
"I'm as stumped as you are," Carson admitted. "It defies everything I know about human physiology. There are no apparent signs of intercranial hematoma, aneurysm, or anoxia, and no signs of ischemia or a heart attack that might explain his condition. Everything I know about the human body says that Lieutenant Ford should either be utterly and completely dead or else he should be sitting at this table with us as healthy as he was when he woke up this morning. At the moment, however, he's both dead and alive. It's impossible. I've no explanation for it," he concluded, rubbing his eyes wearily.
"But there has to be an explanation," Rodney said, looking to John.
"Tell me what they did to him back there," Carson said, also turning to the team leader.
"There's not much I can tell you," John said. "We were all unconscious when we were placed in that cell. Ford was the first to revive; he seemed fine, then."
"Did he complain of headache, was he at all lethargic or--."
"No, nothing like that," John said. "He popped right up to his feet and went to see to Teyla. The Wraith came to take her and Ford tried to stop him--.."
"Did they do anything to him then?"
"He just pushed him to the ground," John replied thoughtfully.
"Did he hit his head? Was he dazed? Were his reactions sluggish?" Carson demanded.
"No, doc," John said helplessly. "He was completely normal. I swear. We sat there and talked for about an hour till they brought Teyla back. Ford was perfectly fine the whole time. Of course, I have no way of knowing what they did to him after they took him."
"They took him," Elizabeth prompted.
"When the Wraith returned with Teyla, she was in a dazed state, conscious but unresponsive. They left her with me and took Aiden," John said. "I didn't see him again till Bates' people raided the place and freed us. They told me they'd found Ford in another room." All attention turned to the sergeant.
"What was his condition?" Carson asked.
"We found the lieutenant in the main lab room," Bates replied. "He was strapped to a large table with a bunch of leads attached to his arms and chest. And there was some sort of thing--it looked like the front half of a helmet--on his head. We removed it as well as all the leads and got him the hell out of there."
"Was he conscious?"
"No, sir," Bates replied to the doctor's question. "He was out like a light."
"And the leads--what did they connect to?"
"I have no idea, sir," Bates said a bit uneasily. "I can ask Murray; he might have gotten a look at the panels before he--."
"Before he what?" John demanded.
"Well, he smashed them, sir. We didn't want the Wraith to be able to use that equipment again," Bates said defensively.
"Get Murray in here," Elizabeth said to Peter, who rose to go fetch the young Marine while Carson continued his inquiry.
"That thing on the lieutenant's head; was it active when you removed it?" Carson asked.
"I honestly don't know," Bates replied.
"...And you blew up the lab so we'll never know what they did to Lieutenant Ford," Rodney said.
"Nor how to fix it, I'm afraid," Carson sighed. He rose and walked out of the conference room.
"Carson?" Elizabeth called. He turned around.
"I've got to get back to my patient."
"What's the lieutenant's prognosis?"
"I haven't a clue."
Carson returned to the infirmary and sat down beside Aiden's bed. He spent a few minutes studying the serene expression on his face before turning his eyes to the subtle rise and fall of his chest. It was a paradox, a medical impossibility, and yet the young man continued to defy the dictates of human biology. There was no electrical activity in his brain; he should not have been breathing.
"Doctor, here are the results of those scans you ordered," a nurse said, handing him a report. Carson read the charts, shaking his head. He'd had blood and urine drawn for analysis before he went to the command center. The results confirmed his earlier diagnosis, but Carson still couldn't explain it.
He observed Aiden's body a while longer, looking for any sign of movement. There was none, not the slightest flinch when Carson reached out and touched the back of Aiden's hand or gently squeezed his fingers. Carson shook his head and caressed the cool, dry palm. He pulled a probe from his pocket and lightly poked at it. Once again, there was no reaction.
"What on earth happened to you, lad? And how the hell am I going to bring you back?"
"Doctor Beckett," Teyla said softly as he approached her bed. John was seated in a chair beside her and Rodney was standing a short distance away.
"Teyla; how are you feeling?" Carson asked with an encouraging smile.
"I am feeling much better. How is Aiden?"
"I'm afraid there's been no change," he said, his smile fading.
"It's been about twelve hours now," John said. "Isn't there some sort of limit to how long you can keep him like that?"
"I'm not 'keeping him like that,' as you put it, major. I've done nothing but put him on an IV to keep him properly hydrated; other than that, all I can do is monitor him. The lieutenant is still holding his own."
"But that cannot last indefinitely," Rodney said. "At some point entropy has to set in."
"What does that mean?" Teyla asked.
"It's a fundamental principle of science. Every closed system inevitably and steadily moves toward inertia," Rodney began, but John grimly cut him off.
"It means that sooner or later--probably sooner--Ford's going to die."
"Is there nothing you can do to prevent it?" Teyla asked, turning to Carson.
"Teyla, at the moment I cannot even explain why he's not already dead. The lieutenant scored a three on the Glasgow Coma Scale."
"Which means what, exactly?" Rodney asked.
"No eye response, no verbal response, no motor response; under normal circumstances it would indicate a high probability of brain damage--in all likelihood severe and irrevocable. But the CT scan and MRI show no indication of any such damage, at least not at this point. If I only knew what had happened to him..." he sighed.
"The damned Wraith happened to him, that's what," John growled. But Carson turned to Teyla.
"What do you remember, Teyla? Can you tell me anything that might explain Lieutenant Ford's condition?" he asked.
"I cannot recall much of anything," she said regretfully. "I was placed on a table and strapped down. The Wraith asked me questions about the location of Earth. I told him that I knew nothing of Earth, but he insisted that I must know something. He--." Teyla sat up, frowning. John reached out to prop her up. "He said that he had been working on something that would tell him all that I knew."
"What did he mean by that?" Rodney asked.
"I cannot say," Teyla said. "I do not remember anything more until I came to myself here in the infirmary."
"Maybe that helmet thing Bates spoke of was some sort of mind vacuum," John suggested. "That would explain why you were in that dazed state when you came back from the lab."
"But that doesn't explain Ford's condition," Rodney said.
"It might," John argued, "if he was on that thing when Bates and his men barged in. You heard the sergeant; they ripped him out of that equipment without any regard for what it was or what removing it might have done to Ford. Murray said the machinery was still operating when he smashed it."
"Dear Lord," Carson breathed. "They may have trapped his mind in there."
"And we have no way of retrieving it," Rodney said.
Carson retired to his quarters and stretched out on his bed still fully clothed. He was exhausted, but he knew that sleep would elude him. The medical mystery lying in his infirmary was only part of what was troubling him. The other part--indeed, the larger part--was the patient himself. Aiden Ford wasn't just another member of the military contingent, as far as he was concerned. He was a friend and, if he was forced to be honest, something of an obsession to Carson, who took a personal interest in the young officer the first time he walked into his biomedical research lab in Antarctica. Carson and his team were hard at work trying to identify SGC personnel with the ATA gene when he heard someone call his name.
"Dr. Beckett?" Aiden said.
"Here," Carson replied without bothering to look up. "Whatever it is, it'll have to wait. I'm in the middle of something terribly important."
"Is there another qualified medical doctor on staff, then?" Aiden asked politely. Carson raised his head and looked into the eyes of Lieutenant Aiden Ford.
"Why do you need a medical doctor, son?" he asked curiously. Aiden smirked at the word, but didn't seem to be offended by it. He raised his hand and held it out for Carson to inspect.
"Small accident in the loading dock," he said sheepishly. "Dr. Weir suggested I look for you."
"Didn't you jarheads bring your own medic?" one of the biologists spat from somewhere behind him. Carson saw Aiden's jaw tighten, but he showed no other reaction. Having already encountered several Marines who would have erupted angrily at the implied insult, Carson regarded the young man with new respect.
"Come with me," he said, leading Aiden out of the lab and into the room across the hall that served as a makeshift infirmary. "What were you doing, opening cartons with a sword?" he teased as he carefully cleansed the wound.
"No, doc," Aiden laughed; Carson returned his infectious smile. "I broke up a fight between two grunts. I found out the hard way that one of them had a screwdriver in his hand."
"This will require stitches," Carson said as he opened a cabinet and reached for a suture kit. "I'm afraid it's going to hurt a bit."
"I'm a Marine, doc," Aiden replied stoically. He didn't flinch when Carson injected his hand with anesthetic and watched with hypnotic fascination as the suture deftly wove in and out of his skin. "Will I be able to play the piano again?" he asked distractedly. Carson completed the last of the three stitches and cut the suture.
"That depends," Carson said with a wry smile. "Could you play before?"
"Yeah," Aiden replied, glancing up to smile impishly. Carson was utterly charmed.
"Well, then, you'll play again, lad."
"Lieutenant," Aiden said evenly.
"Forgive me, lieutenant," Carson said sincerely. "I meant no offense."
"None taken," Aiden said, his smile returning. "I'm just get tired of being called 'kid' all the time."
"That happens a lot, I take it."
"Incessantly," Aiden sighed. "Am I done here?"
"Aye; just let me put a bandage on that. I don't want you getting anything in those stitches and causing infection." He carefully wrapped Aiden's hand in gauze. "I'm afraid you won't be doing any hand-holding for a week or two," Carson said cheekily. Aiden smiled puckishly and raised his other hand.
"They trained us to improvise in the Corps," he said with a wink as he rose to his feet. Carson bit back the impulse to suggest he'd have any number of volunteers for the task and instead offered him something for pain.
"Nah, doc, I'm good," he said with a smile. "If I change my mind, I'll come back for it."
"You're a brave little soldier, lad," Carson said, immediately regretting it. But Aiden just laughed and lightly patted his shoulder as he headed for the door. To Carson's regret, he didn't return until the stitches had to be removed.
Carson saw Aiden frequently after that, in the corridor, in the dining hall, or occasionally at meetings. Aiden always made a point of speaking to him and the doctor became hopelessly infatuated with the baby-faced Marine. He was delighted, therefore, when he found out that Aiden Ford had been selected for the Atlantis expedition, even if it meant that Carson would have to become even more circumspect in his admiration.
Now, however, it was impossible not to give free rein to his emotions. Aiden was dying--or dead--and there was nothing he could do about it.
Carson sat up abruptly, recalling something his mother had told him decades earlier. Where there's life, there's hope. He scrambled off the bed and returned to the infirmary, determined to do whatever it took to save Aiden Ford.
"The Wraith stunner impedes the firing of neurons just long enough to temporarily paralyze the target."
"We already know this, Carson," Rodney sing-songed impatiently. "Why are you--?"
"Shut up, Rodney," John spat.
"Shut up, Rodney?" the affronted man repeated.
"I'm talking about Wraith stunners because I believe they might provide the key to what happened to Aiden," Carson said, coloring slightly when he realized that he'd referred to his patient by his Christian name. No one else seemed to notice, so he cleared his throat and continued. "Perhaps the machinery that was used on Lieutenant Ford and Teyla worked in a similar fashion."
"I've been hit by a stunner and I never lost brain function," Rodney interrupted.
"Lucky us," John said sarcastically.
"Carson, are you suggesting that Ford's just been stunned?" Elizabeth asked with a warning look at John.
"No; a stunner doesn't seem capable of producing Ford's condition," the doctor replied.
"Then my question still remains," Rodney sighed, "why are we discussing stunners?'
"It's the technology, Rodney," Carson replied. "Don't you see?"
"Apparently not," John quipped. "Maybe his brain function is impaired."
"Understanding the technology that causes the neurological disruption is the key to figuring out what happened to Ford. The stunner is designed to incapacitate the target. According to what Teyla's been able to piece together, the machine in that laboratory was designed to retrieve information. If we could dismantle and study one of the stunners we might gain some idea of how--."
"I've got a better idea," John interrupted. "Let's go back to the planet and see if we can recover any of the equipment in that lab."
"It's a wreck, major!" Rodney protested.
"We don't know that! Did anyone go back and take a look?" he reasoned.
"Maybe the Wraith did--or has that possibility occurred to you?"
"Well, we should at least try to find out if--."
"If you two don't mind," Elizabeth intervened. "Carson, do you really believe that there's something to be gained from retrieving that equipment?"
"I won't lie to you, Elizabeth. It might well be our only hope of saving him. Ford's running out of time."
"John?" Elizabeth said, turning to give him a go for the mission. He immediately rose to his feet. But Rodney hesitated.
"Wait a minute," he said. "Far be it from me to cast a shadow on your brilliant plan, but even if we manage to find something worth salvaging in the wreckage, have you got any idea how difficult it can be to backwards-engineer a piece of alien equipment? First you've got to dismantle it into its essential components and analyze each piece individually and in combination. Of course, that's assuming we can find the right bits in the first place. Then you have to--."
"You're wasting valuable time Ford doesn't have," John snapped. "Let's move." Fifteen minutes later, he had a dozen men waiting for Elizabeth's sign that it was okay to go through the gate. She descended the steps and walked toward John, who went to meet her halfway.
"Aerial surveillance shows no sign of Wraith, but there's a lot of damage to the facility. Still, Peter thinks that there may be a chance that something of the lab is salvageable."
"So we're good to go," John said. She nodded and John turned to his team. "All right, team, move out."
"You just make sure Carson takes care of our boy till we get back," John replied.
"I will." Elizabeth waited till the gate shut down and went to the infirmary. "How's the patient?" she asked a nurse as she walked through the infirmary toward the corner of the room where Aiden was ensconced in the intensive care suite.
"The lieutenant's still holding his own," she replied. "I'm not so sure about Dr. B. He's wearing himself out worrying over the lieutenant," she confided before blushing crimson and scurrying away. Elizabeth frowned and looked through the glass. Carson was sitting beside Aiden's bed, rubbing his eyes and clearly fighting sleep. She hadn't realized how tired he was during their meeting earlier. She entered the ICU and placed a hand on his shoulder. He started and turned to look up at her sheepishly.
"When was the last time you slept?" she demanded.
"I can't sleep, Elizabeth, no more than Ford can wake up," Carson confessed. "This is something the likes of which I've never seen. I've got to figure it out."
"You'll be better able to think with a few hours of proper sleep, Carson. You can't go on like this."
"I wish I could sleep. I've been poring over the details of what Teyla's been able to recall as well as everything we know about Wraith technology. I've even consulted the Ancients' medical database. I fear that the equipment they used on Ford was new, possibly even experimental. We may never be able to figure it out, assuming Major Sheppard can find it intact."
"Don't give up yet, Carson," Elizabeth said with a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Lieutenant Ford is young and strong. He's one of the most resilient people I've ever met."
"Aye, he's certainly that and more."
Carson was in the infirmary unpacking equipment when Aiden walked in.
"Doc, can I tear you away from that for a minute?" he asked. Carson turned at the sound of his voice. Though Aiden sounded completely fine, his slightly disheveled appearance told another story.
"Breaking up fights, again, lieutenant?"
"This time it was an errant carton," he replied. "I fell over it and twisted my knee." Carson eyed him doubtfully. There had to be a better explanation than that.
"And the eye?" he said. Aiden frowned and raised his hand. Feeling nothing, he shrugged. Carson gestured with his head toward the other eye. Aiden's hand came away bloodied.
"Yes, that. Would you care to change your story?"
"No," Aiden said with a pointed look at the doctor. Carson got the message and reached for a pad and some antiseptic.
"Let's take a look at that eye first," he said. Aiden sat on the examination table and Carson cleaned the small cut over his eye. "It's not too bad," he murmured. "...Shouldn't even leave a scar." He took hold of Aiden's chin and eyed the cut critically, letting go abruptly when he felt Aiden's eyes on him. He turned and reached for an adhesive bandage. "May I put this on or are you too macho?" Aiden smiled and Carson's mouth went dry. He applied the bandage and busied himself clearing away his supplies while he composed himself. "All right, drop your pants," he said after taking a deep breath for strength.
"I need to examine your leg. I don't have x-ray vision, man."
"Oh," Aiden said, rising and undoing his pants. "That would be cool, though, wouldn't it? It would save you a lot of time diagnosing broken bones and stuff."
"It would get me into a world of trouble," Carson muttered. He tried not to let his eyes wander when Aiden's pants hit the floor. "Sit down," he said, extending the table so Aiden could stretch the leg out. Carson found his well-turned thigh--Aiden was too well-sculpted to be called skinny, he decided--extremely distracting as he bent to examine the injured knee. He palpated it and Aiden hissed. "So what does the other guy look like?" he asked conversationally.
"Who said there was another guy?" Aiden asked.
"Lieutenant, you aren't going to convince me that you sustained that cut falling over a carton."
"Actually, I did," he said earnestly. "Honest!" Carson stared at Aiden, who didn't back down.
"I see," Carson said, feeling along Aiden's knee till he hissed again. "You've twisted your anterior cruciate ligament. Nothing serous, I suspect. Just some ice, elevation, and a bit of rest should resolve it in a few days." He rose to fetch a bandage.
"A few days? I'm supposed to return to the SGC tomorrow."
"There's no reason you can't fly out, lieutenant," Carson replied as he bandaged the knee.
"But I won't be put on the duty roster," he pouted. "I don't want to return to Colorado Springs and sit on my ass."
"So your tour of duty here is done, then?" Carson asked, trying not to let his disappointment show.
"Yeah; I probably won't see you again till we ship out to Atlantis," Aiden replied. Carson thought he saw a hint of regret in his eye but he told himself he was imagining it.
"All done. You're on medical...whatever," Carson fumbled. He hadn't learned the proper military terminology yet. "I want you to rest that leg; ice it down when you get back to your room and elevate it as much as you can. Here are two cold packs," he said, handing Aiden a package. "Each one will last about two hours and I want your leg iced twice before the end of the day. Two hours on, two off. I can give you crutches if you need them."
"I'll definitely be off the duty roster if I arrive at the Springs on crutches," Aiden protested.
"Probably," Carson said as he watched Aiden draw up his pants. He turned away and reached for a form.
"Doc? Do you have to file a report?" Aiden asked worriedly.
"Aren't you military types the ones who generally insist on documenting everything?" Carson replied warily, although he readily succumbed to Aiden's gentle plea. "I'll make you a deal," he offered. "You tell me what really happened and I won't file an incident report. Come on, man; you can be assured of my discretion. You're my patient."
"All right; it was an accident," Aiden confessed. "Dr. Travis--." Carson's eyebrows rose. "Well, let's just say that those rumors about her being a lesbian are untrue. The part about her being on the roller derby circuit, well, that's another matter entirely. She definitely has the moves of a jammer."
"She assaulted you?"
"She came onto me; said she was hot and horny and I was just what the doctor ordered," Aiden said with a smirk. "She's forty-five if she's a day! She was all over me, doc, like--. She wasn't interested in rejection and the lady has no ear for subtlety. Now I know why they drill it into our heads that 'no means no' in all that sexual harassment training. She didn't back off, so I did. That's how I managed to fall over the carton. She fell on top of me--actually, she might have dove. Anyway, someone was coming so I started struggling to my feet so I could get the hell out of there. When she recognized Dr. McKay's voice she elbowed her way past me and ran down the hall. God's honest truth, doc."
"I suppose we don't need this after all, do we?" Carson suppressed a small smile and placed the report back in the drawer. "But how will you explain your injuries?"
"I guess I'll have to suck it up and deal," Aiden said with a shrug. "I'll manage. Thanks a lot, doc."
The following morning, Carson was at the helicopter landing site to greet an arriving member of the biomedical team. He caught a glimpse of a familiar face out of the corner of his eye and turned to see Aiden walking toward him. To his astonishment, he showed no sign of a limp, although Carson could discern the effort that it cost the young man to maintain the charade.
"Morning, Dr. Beckett," he said cheerfully.
"Good morning, lieutenant. You're looking well," Carson replied dryly.
"Never felt better," Aiden said stoically. "I'll see you back in the Springs. I just wanted to thank you for everything." He extended his hand and Carson took it. Aiden smiled and took his leave. Carson didn't see him again for another three weeks.
He opened his eyes at the sound of Teyla's voice.
"I am sorry to disturb you," she said softly. "I have just been released from the infirmary and thought I'd come and visit Aiden for a while."
"Be my guest, lass," Carson said in a sleep-hazed voice as he got to his feet. "Here, sit; you should be resting."
"As should you, doctor. I will sit with Aiden while you go and rest, if you wish."
"That's all right; I've got work to do around here."
"You will be of no help to Aiden when he needs you if you are unable to perform your duties due to exhaustion, Dr. Beckett."
"You have the right of it," he admitted gloomily. "And yet I can't sleep."
"You were doing a perfect imitation of a sleeping man a few minutes ago," Teyla said wryly. Carson chuckled at her humor. "There are empty beds here in the infirmary. You need not go far. I will call you if you are needed."
Carson checked his watch. Thirty-six hours had passed since Aiden returned from M3-889. He didn't want to sleep but Teyla's words had affected him deeply. He was emotionally and physically spent and of no use to Aiden in his present condition.
"Aye, lass, thank you. You'll wake me--."
"Of course," Teyla said, gently pushing Carson toward the door. He walked over to the nearest bed and collapsed into it. His mind and body welcomed the release and he promptly fell into a deep sleep. He remained where he fell for the next four hours, till he was gently shaken awake. He looked up to see John standing over him. He sat up abruptly, but instead of asking for a report on John's mission he scrambled to his feet and went straight to the ICU.
"There is no change," Teyla said sadly.
"And we had no luck," John said. "Bates' people were very thorough. Everything in that laboratory was shot to hell."
Carson closed his eyes and sighed heavily. He opened them again just as a small blip appeared on the readout of Aiden's electroencephalogram. He felt his heart leap and he held his breath as he stared at the monitor. There was a second blip before it flat-lined again. But Carson's spirits were buoyed nonetheless.
Aiden was alive.
On to PART 2