Category: First time
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Carson Beckett
Summary: What if the one you loved lost everything but you?
"He's in a coma," Carson announced happily, "an ordinary, run of the mill coma."
"You once told me there was no such thing as an ordinary, run of the mill coma," Rodney replied.
"I'm speaking comparatively, Rodney," Carson sighed.
"And this is good news?" John asked hopefully.
"This is wonderful news," Carson declared. He knew he was probably grinning like an idiot but he was too damned happy to care. "I can deal with a regular coma."
"And his brain function is back to normal?" Elizabeth asked.
"For a man in an ordinary, run of the mill coma," Rodney added puckishly.
"Yes, Rodney, for a man in an ordinary coma, Lieutenant Ford's brain function is 'normal.' He's improved on the Glasgow Coma Scale; still no eye or verbal reactions but he rated a four on motor responses. That makes his score E1V1M4, or a six total."
"What's a passing grade on that thing?" John asked.
"There's no passing grade, major. The score is a composite of three indicators: eye response, verbal response and motor response. Ford was scoring ones--'no response'--on all three parameters till last night. Now he responds to pain at the fourth level. He's also showing generalized responses to stimuli. It's a strong sign of returning brain function."
"So he's gone from brain dead to--."
"His condition's still severe. But I suspect that since there's no apparent physical damage to his brain he’ll continue to improve."
"And his prognosis?" Elizabeth asked Carson.
"Unfortunately, there's still no way to know for sure. I still don't know why he's in a coma in the first place. What I can say for certain is that he's no longer in imminent danger of dying."
"Good work, Carson," she said with a smile.
"I honestly haven't done anything. It's all Ford," he said as the others began to rise to their feet. Carson rose more slowly, still exhausted due to lack of sleep. In the 60 hours since Aiden was brought through the gate, he'd slept fewer than five.
"Carson, get some rest. That's an order," Elizabeth said.
"That's exactly what I intend to do," he said tiredly. He gave her a weak wave and left the conference room. "But first I'll have one last look at him," he said to himself. When he reached the infirmary he saw a small group of Marines standing at the door.
"Is there a problem, gentlemen?" he asked warily.
"We heard there was some improvement in the lieutenant's condition," Sergeant Stackhouse said. "We were hoping to see him but they said he couldn't have any visitors without your permission."
"The lieutenant's still in a deep coma," Carson said apologetically, "but he has shown considerable improvement." He sighed, taking in the grim expressions of the three men. "If you come back tomorrow I'll let you have a brief visit--one at a time, mind you, and only for a few minutes."
"Okay, doc," Stackhouse said, with a relieved smile. "We'll be back tomorrow. Goodnight." He walked away but the other two men stayed behind. One of them was Corporal Murray.
"Dr. B?" he asked. "Is he going to make it?" Carson regarded him sympathetically, aware that he held himself responsible for Aiden's condition. The man beside him, who Carson didn't know by name, probably shared Murray's guilt. He wished he could do otherwise, but he told them the truth.
"I wish I knew." He patted Murray's shoulder and entered the infirmary. Bridget, the nurse who'd been keeping watch over Aiden, looked up as he entered the ICU. "How is he?" Carson asked, too tired to read the chart.
"No change, doctor."
Carson nodded and reached for Aiden's hand. He gave it a squeeze and smiled when he felt the muscles react. Plucking a probe from his pocket, he tapped each of the fingertips.
"Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in your life?" he said as each finger flexed in response.
"You're losing it, doc," Bridget replied with a smile. "You're getting excited over an autonomic response."
"I'm positively euphoric about it. A day ago I didn't dare hope to see anything so lovely."
Having completed all his preparations for the Atlantis expedition, Carson volunteered to help the SGC's chief medical officer conduct pre-mission physicals for the approximately 200 men and women who would be making the trip to the Pegasus Galaxy. Since most of the science and tech personnel were already done, the remaining personnel were mostly members of the military contingent.
"This is largely pro forma," Janet Fraiser confided. "All the Marines are former members of SGC away teams and have been regularly checked seven ways to Sunday." She told Carson what he should specifically look for and gave him a corner of the infirmary to work in. Carson picked up the first chart and began to read it when he heard a familiar voice.
"Hey doc! Can you take a look at this?"
Carson spun around and saw Aiden sitting on a gurney. He was grinning at Carson, who set aside the chart and walked over. As he approached, Aiden gingerly pulled off his tee shirt and Carson saw an ugly bruise on his chest.
"Hello, lieutenant. Fallen over another carton, have you?" he deadpanned, though his heart was pounding inside his chest. Aiden's laughter was music to Carson's ears.
"No," he said, growing serious. "SG-3 got into a firefight off world. This is the result of firing an RPG."
"A rocket propelled grenade; it's a shoulder-launched anti-tank weapon," he explained simply.
"And it does that to the man who fires it?"
"You should see the other guy," Aiden said with a slightly wicked smile.
"That looks very painful. You should put something on it right away," he said, forcing his eyes away from Aiden's shoulder. "Hold on." He went and got a nurse, who brought over an icepack. As he taped it to the bruised area, he learned far more than he ever wanted to about the potential damage that could be inflicted by an RPG--to both its target and its user, if he wasn't careful.
"So when did you get here, doc?" Aiden asked, abruptly changing topics.
"I arrived on Monday," he said. "I've been involved in briefings and last minute check-throughs for the past two days. There now; sit here a while and let that do its work."
"I've got to sit here and freeze to death for the next two hours?" Aiden protested.
"Is Lieutenant Ford giving you problems?" Janet asked as she came upon them.
"You know this young man, do you?" Carson asked.
"Ford?" she said with a warm smile. "He's in here so often I'm considering giving him his own bed."
"So he hangs about infirmaries here, too," Carson said teasingly. Aiden winked at him.
"I meet the nicest people in infirmaries," he said with a smile that went straight to Carson's heart.
"Shameless charmer," Janet smiled, continuing on to her next patient. Following her lead, Carson reluctantly did the same.
He listened with half an ear as Aiden chatted with a few of the other soldiers in the infirmary. He loved the sound of Aiden's voice; hearing it again made him realize just how much he'd missed the young man. After about twenty minutes, Aiden grew quiet, however, and Carson spared a moment between patients to glance across the room. Aiden had fallen asleep on his gurney. Carson went over and spread a blanket over him.
"Why don't you draw the curtain, too," Janet suggested. "I don't want my nurses getting any ideas about playing 'Sleeping Beauty.'" At Carson's shocked look, Janet smiled. "Don't tell me it didn't occur to you, too?"
Carson refused to face her again until he could be certain that his cheeks were no longer burning. Janet was clearly joking; there was no possible way she could know that he'd had precisely that thought. Oddly enough, it had never occurred to Carson to think about kissing Aiden before that moment. For the remainder of that day, he could think of little else. It didn't help that hours later Aiden joined him in the commissary.
Carson had taken a table in a corner of the somewhat empty room. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts. Seeing Aiden again, bare-chested, smiling, winking, gesturing with his hands, sleeping...it had all given him fodder for a year's worth of fantasies. Now that he had a few moments of quiet, he fully intended to indulge himself, just a wee bit. Nothing risque; after all he was in a public space. Maybe just a chance meeting in a coffee shop and a little flirtatious conversation...
"Is this seat taken?"
Carson looked up. Aiden was standing over him, holding a tray and smiling expectantly.
"Oh, by all means, sit down, lad! Oh, I'm sorry; I can't seem to stop myself from calling you that," he said hastily. That word always came to his tongue when he spoke to Aiden and it snuck out more times than he cared to admit.
"I don't mind it when you say it, doc," Aiden confessed. "I know you don't mean it that way."
"No, I don't mean it that way, lieutenant," Carson assured him, sitting up straighter in his seat.
"You don't have to call me that, you know," Aiden said.
"You don't have to call me 'doc,' either. My name is Carson," he said boldly.
"I like calling you 'doc.'"
"Suit yourself, lad--lieu--."
"Right. Aiden." Carson felt himself blushing again.
"Come on, doc. It's not that hard a name, is it?" Aiden teased.
"You're a bit of a rascal, aren't you?"
"Who me?" Aiden said, the picture of innocence as he raised a heaping forkful of mashed potatoes to his mouth. Carson couldn't tear his eyes away; he could just imagine it melting on Aiden's tongue. He cleared his throat and lowered his eyes to Aiden's tray.
"Good lord, son, do you plan to eat all of that?" he said, noting the mountain of mashed potatoes topped with gravy, green beans and a slab of meat loaf piled on the plate.
"Watch me," Aiden replied, grinning. "So, doc, are you ready for Atlantis?"
"Yes and no. I--." He paused again as Aiden wrapped his mouth around a hunk of meatloaf.
"I really don't think I'm cut out for gate travel," Carson confessed when he found his voice. "I frankly find the prospect more than a little daunting."
"There's nothing to it. You just walk right into the horizon and you're there on the other side."
"How many times have you done it?"
"I've got 56 missions under my belt," Aiden said proudly.
"And how often have you come back with RPG recoil bruises on your shoulder?"
"Just the once," Aiden said with a smile. "And I already explained how that happened; those things are really difficult to launch on the run. I have had a host of other injuries, though," he admitted.
"So I gathered from Dr. Fraiser's comment."
"Injuries are inevitable on off world assignments, especially for the security teams. You'd better bring a lot of Band-Aids, doc," Aiden said warningly. "We're going to need them."
Carson sipped his coffee and watched him eat. It was much better than a fantasy, sitting there face to face with the object of his desire. Aiden asked him for news of people left behind in Antarctica and told him about his first encounter with an alien species on his first tour of duty with SG-3. But Carson would have no recollection of anything that was said. All he would remember was the warmth of Aiden's smile, the infectious cheer he seemed to infuse into every breath he took, and thrill of being the focus of his attention. Their chat ended all too soon for Carson's liking. They were interrupted by the intercom; Aiden was called to a meeting.
"Here, doc; have my dessert. I've got to go," he said rising. "Good getting caught up with you, Carson." He placed a thick slab of cake in front of the doctor and disappeared before he had a chance to speak. Carson stared at the door as it swung shut and smiled.
"Damn," he thought a moment later. "I meant to ask about his shoulder."
Carson took to sleeping in the infirmary, returning to his room only to shower and change. All of his time was spent in the infirmary, either at Aiden's side or in his lab trying to figure out what had happened to him. If any of the staff thought his behavior was odd, no one said anything. Carson was a very dedicated physician; this wasn't the first time he'd staked out a bed in the infirmary so he could keep watch on a critical patient. The fact that the patient on both occasions was Aiden Ford didn't seem to arouse suspicion. If it did, Carson was beyond caring; he was too damned tired to care about anything but resting just enough so that he could continue to function. He was snoring lightly when Dr. Anne Johnson paused at the foot of his bed.
"I don't suppose it would be ethical to tie him down and insist that he stay in that bed for eight hours," she said to the ICU nurse.
"Are you kidding? He'd chew through the ropes to get to--." She abruptly shut her mouth and averted her eyes.
"Nothing, doctor." She started to walk away, but Anne stopped her with a hand on her arm.
"A friendly word of advice--an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Got it?"
"Yes, ma'am," Denise said. "I didn't mean anything by it. It's just that he seems to have a really soft spot for the lieutenant, you know?"
"Don't we all?" the doctor replied knowingly. "Show me one man, woman or child in Atlantis who hasn't succumbed to his charm. I've even seen you rush to assist the lieutenant when he comes in for his post-mission check ups."
"Hey, you snooze, you lose," Denise replied with a wink. But she quickly sobered "I sure hope that the lieutenant recovers from whatever happened to him. Not only would it be a real loss for Atlantis if he died," she said leaning closer to the doctor and speaking softly, "I think it would break his heart." Anne glanced over at Carson and nodded.
Two days later, Carson strode out of a weekly meeting with his staff and returned to the infirmary. Aiden's condition had remained stable, showing moderate but steady signs of improvement. Carson was eager to get back to him and read the results of his latest tests. He entered the ICU and saw Rodney sitting beside Aiden's bed, reading a book.
"I thought I'd take a turn at sitting with him," he replied sheepishly. He hadn't been in to see Aiden as often as the other members of Aiden's team, though he'd shown just as much concern for his fallen teammate. "He's been...quiet. Amazingly quiet."
"He's in a coma, Rodney," Carson said with an amused smile. "Have there been any changes in his behavior?"
"What 'behavior'? He's in a coma!" Rodney replied. Carson chuckled and reached for Aiden's chart. Rodney sat back and pulled an energy bar from his pocket. "You aren't supposed to be eating in here, Rodney."
"Oh, Ford doesn't mind if I have a snack, do you Ford?"
Aiden's fingers twitched and then flexed a little. His head twisted a bit to one side and he made a faint noise and stilled. Carson dropped the chart and grabbed his hand.
"Aiden? Aiden, can you hear me?" Carson said urgently. "If you can hear me, give my hand a squeeze. Can you do that for me?"
"What is it? What's happening? Is he all right?" Rodney exclaimed, dropping his book and joining Carson at Aiden's bedside.
"Give me a minute," Carson snapped. "Aiden! Come on, lad." Rodney held his breath for a minute, till Carson sighed and dropped Aiden's hand. "Nothing."
"What? What happened?"
"I'm not sure. He moved just now and made a sound. I was trying to determine whether he was reacting to your voice or simply shifting in bed."
"Either way it's a good thing, yes?"
"Yes, Rodney, the fact that he's moving at all is significant in and of itself." Carson explained that significance as he thoroughly checked Aiden over. "Here, why don't you try again?" Rodney looked slightly apprehensive. "Go on, just talk to him. He might prefer a familiar voice."
"You've got a familiar voice," Rodney replied as he switched places with Carson and took hold of Aiden's hand. "Ford? Aiden, buddy...uh, McKay here. Rodney," he said with a look over his shoulder. Carson silently urged him to continue. Rodney shrugged, at a loss as to what to say, but he soon found his stride. He told Aiden about what he'd eaten for dinner the previous night, reminding the comatose man that they shared a mutual love of meat loaf. After a few minutes, however, he gave up. There was no movement.
Carson sighed heavily and fell into the chair.
"So the good news is that he continues to improve," Carson reported. A week had passed since Aiden fell into a coma and Carson was giving the same progress report he'd given the past two days. "He continues to withdraw his hand in response to pain but--."
"When he wakes up he's going to punch your lights out, doc," John said. It was a testament to Aiden's improved condition that he was able to tease Carson, and that Carson was able to laugh in return.
"I'd welcome it, major," he admitted. "Right now, though, there's still no eye response and aside from that one occasion, there's been no verbal response. He's still E1V2M4, for a composite score of 7."
"Is there anything else we can do?" Teyla asked. She was standing at the head of Aiden's bed, lightly stroking his hair. Carson swallowed an impulse to say something inappropriate and urged her to continue what she was doing.
"All of you," he said. "Continue to sit with him, talk to him. Touch him. Surround him with familiar stimuli. I cannot promise it will help, but research suggests that it does." Realizing that he'd been staring at Teyla's hand, Carson averted his eyes and left the ICU. He slipped out of the infirmary and took a walk to clear his head.
He'd noticed it earlier--Teyla's almost possessive behavior toward Aiden. Carson knew that all four members of the team had grown close since they started working together months earlier. He learned firsthand how close they'd become during the storm that isolated half of them on the mainland. Carson painfully recalled that day, when a bad case of nerves led him to butt heads with Aiden in a very ugly way. It left him with a very different image of Aiden Ford, one he could not be completely comfortable with. He went out on a balcony and found a place to sit. It was the same balcony where he and Aiden sat down to talk late that night after everything had settled down.
"Hey, doc," Aiden said softly, startling Carson out of his reverie. "Sorry, I didn't mean to--. Hey, if you'd rather be alone, I'll--."
"No. No, it's all right," Carson said hastily. "I'm glad you're here, in fact," he said. "Sit down, lad." Aiden frowned suspiciously and sat down. Carson stared out at the water and took a deep breath. He cleared his throat before he spoke. "I owe you an apology. I was nervous today, you see. First with the storm and then the search for--I tend to blather on when I get nervous."
"No shit, doc," Aiden said with a smile. He started to say more but Carson continued to apologize.
"You kept demanding things of me and I've never been very good with maps and I don't know a thing about firing guns. I only went hunting with my grandfather the one time and when my mother found out he'd put a gun into my hands she pitched a bloody fit that the neighbors talked about for--."
"Are you nervous now?" Aiden interrupted with a smile.
"No, lad...yes," Carson sighed.
"Why? I'm off duty now." Aiden laughed. "We both are."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, when you're on duty as a doctor and I'm your patient in the infirmary, you're in charge and I follow orders. When I'm on duty and we're engaged in a military operation, I'm in charge. I give the orders; you follow them. You don't talk back and you don't blather on."
"You made me nervous!" Carson shot back. "I talk when I'm nervous!" Aiden smiled disarmingly.
"I'm sorry, Carson," he said. It was his turn to feel awkward, and he averted his eyes to the night sky. "I didn't mean to make you nervous. I was just trying to do my job. We were in a very serious situation--."
"No need to explain, lad. I had a talk with Major Sheppard earlier. He said I should consider myself fortunate that I didn't have to deal with Colonel Sumner or some other hard ass today. I would have had my head handed to me for speaking out of turn out there. I didn't think you'd been very easy on me, but he insists you were a pussycat, comparatively speaking."
"I don't know about that," Aiden laughed. "I'm just glad we all made it in one piece. We lost two men and McKay was stabbed, but all things considered, we acquitted ourselves pretty well out there today."
"Aren't you forgetting something? I was clocked pretty hard on my head, you know," Carson reminded him. Aiden winced, although whether it was in empathy or at the realization of his omission, Carson couldn't tell.
"How are you feeling?" he asked solicitously.
"I've got a bit of headache," Carson admitted.
"Shouldn't you be in bed, then?"
"Probably," Carson said, resting his head against the wall behind him and shutting his eyes.
"Have you had a doctor look at you?" Aiden persisted. Carson opened one eye and squinted at him. He looked very worried and Carson wanted to reach out and caress his cheek, but he didn't dare.
"I am a doctor, lad," he said with a small sigh. He closed his eye, literally removing temptation from his sight.
"So if you had an appendicitis attack you'd do your own surgery?"
Carson opened his eyes again.
"No more arguing tonight, lad," he said tiredly. "I've had my fill."
"Right," Aiden said as he, too rested his head against the wall. "Sorry. Relax a while, doc, and when you're ready to go in, I'll walk you to your quarters."
"I'm--." Carson stopped himself from saying something he might regret. "I'm in no rush if you aren't."
"Fine by me, doc," Aiden said before closing his eyes. They sat together for several minutes, neither man speaking. Carson felt amazingly content. He opened his eyes and stole a glimpse of Aiden, who was staring at the full moon. Carson quickly averted his eyes, afraid that Aiden might catch him, but Aiden's focus was elsewhere.
"You know I saw a TV show once that said that earthquakes, storms, and tsunamis like the one that hit Atlantis today are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon," Aiden said. "Of course, they were talking about Earth and its moon, but the same theory ought to apply here if the moon over Atlantica was--."
"Well, that's what I call it," Aiden admitted sheepishly. "No one's been able to tell me what the planet's real name is. I thought I'd just give it one."
"I see," Carson said wryly. "Go on," he said, not really caring one whit about the origin of catastrophic weather. He simply closed his eyes and basked in Aiden's comforting presence. Unfortunately, they were interrupted by the arrival of Elizabeth and John, who talked Carson into retiring and escorted him to his room. Carson never allowed himself to speculate about what might have happened had he and Aiden been left alone.
On this night, he ruthlessly squashed such thoughts and recalled what he'd seen in the ICU. Teyla had spent nearly as much time with Aiden as Carson while she was recovering from her experience in the Wraith lab. She continued to spend a great deal of time with Aiden even after she was given a clean bill of health and returned to active duty. She sat with him for hours, held his hand and spoke to him, performed an Athosian healing ritual for him, and often insisted on being allowed to stay with him when Carson's duties kept him away from the ICU. Carson hadn't seen anything to wonder at, initially, but now his mind was full of questions.
From the beginning, Carson had no illusions about Aiden Ford. He was outgoing, charismatic, athletic and more than ten years younger than Carson. Aiden exuded a level of confidence Carson could only aspire to possess. In Carson's estimation, Aiden was everything he admired in a man, everything he himself could never be. Of course, Aiden was also military and straight--at least that's what Carson had always assumed.
Nonetheless, he had good reason to believe that Aiden was at the very least receptive to the possibility of expanding their relationship. He actively sought out and engaged Carson in the lounge or the dining hall. Carson couldn't say that Aiden preferred his company over that of his teammates or other friends. Rather, Aiden seemed to look for Carson whenever he was at loose ends and usually invited him to join whatever group he happened to be in when Carson appeared. Until Aiden's current crisis, Carson would have considered Aiden and himself good friends, with potential to be more. But in light of Teyla's recent attentions, Carson had to wonder if he had misread the signs. Was it possible that there was something between Aiden and Teyla that he never knew about?
He ran his hands over his face and took a calming breath. Had he been deluding himself with the hope that when Aiden awoke and recovered from his ordeal--and at this point, Carson refused to accept any other possibility--he would be ready to take that next step and welcome Carson's advances? The weary doctor sighed and rubbed his face again. It didn't matter. None of it mattered--straight or queer, interested or not-- nothing mattered but Aiden's survival. And if that meant sacrificing his own feelings for Aiden in favor of Teyla, so be it. He'd make that pact with the devil himself if that's what it took.
Carson raised his head at the sound of Teyla's voice.
"What are you doing out here, girl? You should be in there minding Lieutenant Ford."
"The others are with him. I was sent to fetch you," she replied. Carson leapt to his feet.
"What is it? Has something happened?" His feet started moving in the direction of the infirmary even before she could answer.
"Lieutenant Ford is moving again," Teyla explained. "I do not think he heard us speaking to him, but he appeared to be agitated. Perhaps he is in--."
Carson hadn't heard her. He'd already taken off at a run.
When he entered the ICU Carson had to force his way through the crowd around Aiden's bed. Elizabeth was there, as were John, Rodney, Denise, and Dr. Johnson.
"Out of here, all of you," Carson demanded. "Let me get a look at my patient." Everyone left except Anne, who stood aside quietly as he checked Aiden's vitals.
"He cried out," she said as she watched Carson work. "Nothing comprehensible; it might have been a cry of pain."
"It sounded like a cry of pain," she said thoughtfully, "though I could find no apparent reason for it."
"Perhaps he's having a nightmare," Carson suggested. "He could be remembering what happened to him in that lab."
"Perhaps," Anne sighed. "Poor man; if that cry was any indication, the pain must have been incredible." She patted Aiden on the shoulder and left. Carson completed his check and was writing an entry in Aiden's chart when he began to writhe and moan again. Carson reached for his hand and Aiden clutched it tightly.
"It's all right, Aiden. You're safe, now. The Wraith are gone and you're among friends again. You're perfectly safe. I won't let anyone harm you, will I?"
Aiden stilled and opened his eyes. He stared unseeing for a few moments and closed them again, ignoring Carson's encouragement.
"Aiden? Can you hear me? Look at me, Aiden. Are you in pain? Can you feel me holding your hand, Aiden? If you're in pain, give my hand a squeeze."
"What is happening?" Teyla asked from just inside the doorway. Carson looked up sharply. He'd forgotten that he had an audience waiting just outside the room and sighed. He started to speak, but Aiden squeezed his hand. Carson looked down and into Aiden's open eyes.
"Are you in pain, lad?"
"Why does he not answer you?" Teyla asked, drawing closer. Carson could see John and Rodney encroaching at the edge of his peripheral vision.
"He's still in a coma," he said softly, not taking his eyes off Aiden. "He may simply be opening his eyes because he's in pain." Aiden squeezed his hand again. "Is that it, lad? Are you in pain?" Aiden's hand relaxed and he shut his eyes. Carson sighed in disappointment. "I'm here for you if you need me, lad." Aiden squeezed his hand once more and then let go.
Carson refused to leave Aiden's side again that night. His brain scans showed increased activity and Carson convinced himself that he needed to monitor his patient closely. But the truth of it was that he was just being selfish. He wanted this time with Aiden; needed it. He sat there in the dark, his heart aching for the man beside him. It had begun as a harmless infatuation, a lovely dream to brighten the tedium of his lonely existence. He hadn't meant to fall in love. Aiden was never his to begin with, and he never would be.
Carson knew that it would only be a matter of time before Aiden emerged from his coma. If Teyla didn't already own his heart, she would almost certainly lay claim to it the moment he awoke. Eventually John would take him out of the infirmary and put him back to work. Rodney would find a reason for Aiden to go off planet again. His other buddies would eat up all the rest of his free time. But sooner or later, inevitably, Aiden would return to the infirmary and all Carson would be able to do is put the pieces back together. He would fuss over Aiden, tend to his injuries, bask in the glow of his youthful vitality and strength, and then be forced give him up once he was whole again.
The idea of being relegated to the sidelines pained Carson deeply. Aiden had become the center of his universe and he cursed himself for allowing it to happen. He felt like a tired old fool but he didn't allow himself to wallow in regret. Aiden was still his patient and he was far from out of the woods. Carson was first and foremost a doctor, of course, so he saw to it that Aiden got the best of his care.
He barely left the infirmary over the next three days. He holed up in his lab looking for answers, leaving the others to sit with Aiden and taking a turn at sitting with him only when no one else was available. He couldn't bear to watch them anymore. It hurt too damned much to see their hopes rise as his own eroded. He still slept in the infirmary in case he was needed during the night. His sleep was still dominated by fears for Aiden's future, only now they had a different basis.
Aiden continued to improve, but he remained in a coma. He'd open his eyes, move about in the bed and on occasion, make incoherent noises. Carson succeeded in communicating with him once again, and Aiden confirmed that he was in pain. Once pain meds were introduced into his IV, he rested more comfortably. Anne recommended that they attempt to bring him out of the coma, but Carson refused on the grounds that they had no idea why he'd fallen into a coma in the first place. They agreed to wait a few more days before broaching the issue again.
On the thirteenth day of Aiden's coma, Carson avoided the ICU for as long as he could. He was bone-tired and wanted nothing more than to retire to his bed and stay there. He even considered returning to his own room to sleep. He knew he was slipping into a deep depression. His entire life seemed so terribly pointless. Carson didn't know how much more he could take. Unfortunately, twenty people came into the infirmary that morning complaining of an odd stomach ailment from something they ate in the dining hall. By mid-afternoon, every member of the medical staff had been pressed into service to deal with the food poisoning victims. Since John's team had yet to return from its mission off world, no one was available to sit with Aiden. He technically no longer required round the clock care; his readings could be monitored by the staff periodically. But Anne could see how tired and emotionally drained Carson had been over the past several days, so she sent him to sit with Aiden. She hoped that spending some time with his favorite patient would lift his spirits a little. Of course, she had no inkling that it would do the opposite.
Carson reluctantly entered the ICU and stood at the foot of Aiden's bed. He was sleeping peacefully--or at least he gave the appearance of it. Carson sighed and slumped into a chair, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
"I could use a few weeks' sleep myself, lad," he said around a huge yawn. He stretched his arms overhead and tried to work the kinks out of his shoulders.
Carson dropped his arms and looked at Aiden, who was looking at him calmly.
"Good lord! You're awake!" Carson sputtered, scrambling to his feet to stand beside the bed. Aiden followed him with his eyes, a hint of amusement teasing at his lips. "How are you feeling, lad?" he asked as he reached for his penlight.
"You haven't been here since yesterday," Aiden said. Carson frowned.
"No; no I haven't, lad," he replied, feeling unaccountably awkward.
"I know your voice," Aiden said with a smile. "I like your voice." Carson returned the smile.
"Yours sounds just as lovely to me, Aiden," Carson said. He spoke softly as he checked him over, telling him what a scare he'd given everyone and how well he looked in spite of his ordeal. Aiden asked where he was, but before he could answer, there was a commotion at the door.
"He's awake!" John shouted as he came barging into the room. "Hey, Ford! How are you, buddy?"
Teyla and Rodney were right on his heels, interrupting Carson's examination. He didn't have the heart to say as much, so he backed off, promising he'd return in a few minutes. His words fell on deaf ears. Carson went out to the main infirmary, where things had quieted down a bit. He told Anne the good news and then went to his office to contact Elizabeth. Within minutes, the infirmary was teeming with visitors and well-wishers, most of whom Anne successfully corralled and sent away until later.
"So how's our boy?" Anne asked Carson when she'd dispatched Bates and his men.
"I've barely had a moment alone with him. I began a check, but was interrupted by Major Sheppard and his team. After all they've been through I didn't have the heart to hold them back," Carson admitted. "I'll give them a few more minutes before I kick them out and give the lad a full once over." Anne nodded sympathetically and admitted that she wanted to see Aiden herself. Carson managed a weak smile.
Carson turned around and saw John coming toward him.
"He seems a little out of it," John said worriedly.
"The man's been in a coma for two weeks, Major Sheppard. You can hardly expect him to be himself," Carson said with a tinge of irritation. He suddenly felt even more tired and he wanted nothing more than to be left alone to do his work and then leave the infirmary for as long as he could stand to be away.
"I figured as much, but there's more to it than that, doc," John said patiently. "He's really off." He gestured with his head and Carson and Anne followed him back to the ICU. Elizabeth and Rodney were standing on one side of Aiden's bed and Teyla sat on the edge of the other side holding his hand. Aiden looked distinctly uncomfortable. Anne immediately went in and asked everyone to leave. Elizabeth, Rodney and Teyla joined John just outside the door and Carson entered the ICU. Aiden brightened immediately.
"Hey," he said to Carson as he approached.
"Hey yourself," Carson replied, answering his smile. "I suppose we've all tired you out. Give us a few minutes to get a good look at you and then we'll let you rest."
"Maybe we'll let you have a little something to eat first, then. What would you like?" Carson asked conversationally as he sat Aiden up and listened to his chest. He was assessing Aiden's responses to his questions as well as his physical condition.
"Anything. I feel as though I haven't eaten in ages," Aiden replied.
"Even haggis?" Carson said teasingly. He recalled a conversation in which he'd described the Scottish delicacy. Aiden was frankly horrified when he learned what it consisted of and declared that he'd rather starve to death than taste it.
"Sure!" he replied. "Bring it on." Carson frowned at him.
"What's the last thing you can remember, lad?"
It was Aiden's turn to frown. He pouted for a moment, distracted by the faces peering at him from outside the glass.
"Those people out there," he said softly. "They seemed awfully glad to see me." Carson glanced at Anne.
"Those people? Don't you know who they are?"
"Never saw them before," Aiden replied with a shrug.
"Can you tell me your name?" Anne said carefully.
"Aiden," he replied. "Right?"
On to PART 3