Category: First time
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Carson Beckett
Summary: What if the one you loved lost everything but you?
Aiden pushed aside his tray and climbed out of bed with such alacrity that Carson had to fight the urge to smile.
"I'm not going to change my mind, lad. Take your time," he managed with a straight face. "And you might want to consider changing into something a bit more appropriate before we go," he added, realizing that Aiden was prepared to leave the infirmary clad only in an open-backed gown. He went and got a set of scrubs. "Here, put these on." Aiden gratefully slipped on the pants before removing his gown. Carson averted his eyes, feigning interest in the empty yogurt bowl till Aiden declared himself ready.
"All right, lad. In you go."
"I'm not a kid. You do know that, right?" Aiden said with mild exasperation.
"I am well aware of that fact, Aiden," Carson sighed. He adjusted the chair slightly and then squatted beside it to caution his patient. "There's a lot for you to take in, lad--lieutenant. I'm--."
"Just call me Aiden," he said with a smile.
"Aiden," Carson said with another sigh.
He felt completely out of his depths. One of the things that had always intrigued him about Aiden was the inherent contradiction between his naturally ebullient, youthful persona and the mature, self-possessed soldier he became when on duty. There wasn't a man, woman or child in Atlantis who hadn't seen Aiden smile, but only Carson had seen glimpses of Aiden in those rare unguarded moments when he was completely open and vulnerable. Most of those were in his professional capacity as Aiden's physician, but there were other occasions--increasingly frequent occasions, Carson realized--when Aiden seemed ready to lay his soul bare and offer it to Carson for the taking.
But this was not the time to speculate about what might have been, Carson thought to himself. Memory loss seemed to completely suppress Aiden's sobriety. He was practically brimming with mischievous energy and so ingenuous that Carson felt himself in danger of completely losing his objectivity. This didn't bode well, he decided.
"Listen to me, Aiden; I am going to take you on a brief walk just to prove a point. Now, what you see and hear will undoubtedly raise a lot of questions. I'm not going to answer all of them right away. And no, you'll not be allowed to pursue the answers for yourself. I want you to think, man. I want you to try to make the connections yourself. Will you try to do that?"
"Why can't you just tell me everything? Wouldn't that be quicker?" Aiden asked.
"Aye, it might be quicker, but it won't help you to remember."
"But if I know everything anyway, what difference does it make?"
"Don't you want to remember?" Carson asked worriedly. Aiden shrugged.
"I don't know. I guess I want to, but sometimes I just feel--I don't know--content. I'm content with the way things are."
"Do you know why?" Carson pressed, frowning.
"You're the doc, doc," Aiden said with a smile.
"Well, it could be an indication that what happened to you was extremely traumatic. You might be subconsciously suppressing it."
"Why would I suppress something I can't remember?"
Carson opened his mouth and closed it again. He rose awkwardly, regretting having stayed in that squatting position too long.
"Just be patient, son. Can you do that for me?"
"I'll do anything you ask," Aiden said readily. Carson took a deep breath and grabbed hold of the handles on the chair. He wheeled Aiden out of the ICU and into the infirmary.
"Good morning, lieutenant," Anne said, bending to get a look at him. "You're looking a lot better today."
"Hi," Aiden said shyly. Carson noted the change in his demeanor right away. He was open and engaging when they were alone and inexplicably shy with others. He made a mental note to discuss it with Anne when he returned.
"Where are you two headed?" she asked Carson.
"He's going to have a peek at the view," Carson declared. "He doesn't believe we're on an island."
"He's in for a treat, then," Anne replied as she watched Aiden seemingly fold into himself. He averted his eyes and tucked his hands into his lap. She glanced up at Carson and they exchanged a look. "Have fun. Oh, Carson you may want to take a blanket. It's a bit windy this morning."
"Thanks, love; I will." Carson turned and went to the supply room Aiden watched him go and return, never allowing Carson out of his sight. Anne noted his behavior with interest.
"Here we are," Carson said, arranging the blanket loosely in his lap. "Shall we go?" Aiden nodded mutely, and Carson noticed his tension. He bent and looked him in the eye. "We don't have to do this now, if you don't feel up to it."
Carson saw the anxiety in his eyes; he immediately took Aiden back into the ICU. Aiden got out of the chair and climbed onto the bed as Carson silently observed his behavior. Aiden settled into a comfortable position and closed his eyes. It was not a fetal position, Carson noted, but he saw the rapid rise and fall of Aiden's chest and reached for his stethoscope. Aiden's eyes opened at his touch but he immediately relaxed and closed them again. Within a few minutes his heart rate returned to normal. Carson took his blood pressure and then drew up a chair and sat down.
"I'm sorry," Aiden said.
"What happened, Aiden?"
"I don't know." He opened his eyes. "One minute I was fine and then--. I don't know." Carson reached out and touched his arm.
"Try, Aiden. Please."
"I don't know," he insisted. "I just panicked."
"What made you panic? You seemed fine when we left the ICU."
"I don't know," Aiden said softly. Carson gave his arm a squeeze and released it.
"Why don't you rest a bit? I'll come back and check on you in a little while."
"Do you--? Okay, doc."
"I'll see you later," he said. Aiden turned on his side and closed his eyes. Carson sat with him till he fell asleep. Then he went in search of Anne.
"How is he?" she asked.
"He's resting," Carson said with a sigh. "What do you think came over him? Too much, too fast, too soon?"
"I don't think so," the other doctor said, leaning against a wall. "He seemed a little shy with me, but he didn't show any real signs of anxiety till you left him and went into the supply room."
"What are you suggesting, separation anxiety?" Carson said, half-joking.
"That's exactly what I think it was. He's clearly focused on you," Anne said. "I've never seen anything like it. He pretty much did the same thing after you left here last night. It wasn't an anxiety attack, though; he simply withdrew into himself and wouldn't communicate with anyone. He stayed that way until you returned."
"Really?" Carson said wide-eyed. "Denise said something to that effect, too. It's got to be due to the fact that I'm his only connection to the past. He said he remembered my voice. Perhaps--"
"It's as if you're the only thing keeping him from completely dissociating," Anne suggested. "I've never seen anything like it."
"That's a bit farfetched don't you think?" Carson asked.
"Everything about the lieutenant's case has been farfetched, Carson. We have to deal with the evidence," Anne replied, "and the evidence is telling me that Aiden Ford essentially falls into a dissociative state when you aren't around."
"But such a state usually results from severe trauma--.
"...Which the lieutenant has experienced in abundance," Anne replied.
"Yes, Anne, but you're suggesting that he's dissociating from everything but me. Why should he do that?"
"Well," Anne said, looking around. "Perhaps this place reminds him of being back in that lab. It is fairly cold and clinical; it's full of monitors and other machinery, the sort of things he might have seen in the lab back on that planet. Maybe he's using you to cope. When you aren't around, he retreats into himself."
"That's bloody--." Carson aborted his statement when his com link pinged. "Yes?" he said tersely.
"Hey, doc," John said. "How's our boy? Our mission was just scrubbed due to bad weather and we thought we'd pay him a visit."
"Well, the lieutenant's just fallen asleep, but why don't you all come round, anyway? I'd like to have a word with you." Carson shut the link and looked at Anne. "I don't know how to explain Ford's condition, but I think your conclusion's a bit over the top."
"And I think you're in denial," Anne said with a knowing look. Carson sputtered for a moment but was spared having to come up with an answer when someone came into the infirmary seeking medical attention. As Carson attended to the soldier's wounded hand, his thoughts traveled back to a time when he attended to another soldier's wounds.
"Don't I need anesthetic for this?" Aiden asked as Carson unwrapped the bandage on his hand.
"And here I thought you Marines were all tough guys," Carson said lightly.
"I was just asking," Aiden said mildly, though his eyes flared at the challenge to his manhood.
"I won't need the topical, then?" Carson teased. Aiden licked his lips and Carson suppressed a sigh.
"Just do it, doc," Aiden said. Carson smiled and carefully snipped away the sutures he'd put in days earlier. "So can I hold hands now?" Aiden asked when the doctor was done. Carson raised his eyes to Aiden's and knew he was a lost man. Aiden smirked slightly and shifted his focus to his hand. Carson took advantage of the opportunity to put some distance between them and went to wash his hands.
"You can hold whatever you like," he said, cursing himself even as the words escaped his lips. "Just keep it clean and don't go getting into any more fights." Behind him, Aiden laughed softly.
"Sure thing, doc," he said. "Thanks." Carson waited till Aiden left to exhale.
"So do you think I'll ever play the piano again?"
Carson looked up at the red-headed Marine whose hand he'd just stitched and bandaged. He barely refrained from rolling his eyes, ignoring the voice in his head reminding him that he hadn't found the comment trite when Aiden said it.
"If I were you, son, I'd worry about keeping my day job," he said as John entered the infirmary with Rodney and Teyla in tow. He immediately headed toward Carson but the other two made a detour toward the ICU.
"Morning, major," Carson said absently. His attention was on Teyla and Rodney, who paused at Aiden's door and looked in on their fallen teammate.
"They won't wake him," John assured him. "They just want to see him. I do, too."
"Yes, of course," Carson said. He strode over to where the others were observing Aiden.
"Good morning, Dr. Beckett," Teyla said formally. But Rodney was too worried to bother with niceties.
"He's just sleeping, right?" he asked, not taking his eyes off the still figure on the bed. "He hasn't slipped back into a coma or anything?" Carson didn't answer right away and all eyes turned toward him.
"Come with me," he said grimly and led the way to his office. Carson gestured for them to sit. No one did.
"Just tell us, doc," John said. "How is he?" Rodney nodded and Teyla eyed Carson expectantly. He sighed and took a seat.
"The lieutenant's in an odd place," he began.
"What does that mean, 'odd place,'" Rodney demanded. "'Odd place' as in, say, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, or 'odd place' as in--?"
"McKay! Let the man speak," John interrupted. "Is he in a coma or not?" he said, turning on Carson, his own patience wearing thin.
"He's not in a coma. But nothing about Lieutenant Ford's case is normal or expected," Carson said evasively. "When he came out of his coma yesterday he showed every sign of being fully conscious and aware. Now, we're not so sure."
"Can't you tell when a man is or isn't conscious?" Rodney asked.
"It's a fair question, major," Carson admitted. "But the answer is not so simple. Lieutenant Ford is in a dissociative fugue."
"What does that mean?" Teyla asked.
"A dissociative fugue is a rare type of amnesia that occurs when someone has experienced something so traumatic that he refuses to recognize or acknowledge anything connected with it," Carson explained. "We knew that there was a strong possibility that Lieutenant Ford's memory might have been erased by that infernal machine. We also considered the likelihood of post-traumatic stress. What we didn't expect was how it might manifest itself."
"And just how is it doing that?" John asked.
"In the lieutenant's case, in addition to his amnesia, he's refusing to engage with others," Carson said. "So he's out of his coma, but to some degree he's still not fully with us yet."
"He seemed all right when I saw him last night," Elizabeth said as she entered Carson's office. "What caused the setback?"
"It's not a setback, Elizabeth," Carson replied. "We just hadn't seen enough of his behavior to make a diagnosis."
"You said he was fine yesterday," John said. "He just needed to be re-socialized, you said."
"And for all intents and purposes he was fine. We didn't discover his condition till we had a chance to observe a pattern of behavior." Carson sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I've been going about this all wrong. I'm afraid I've done the lad more harm than good," he admitted bleakly.
"What do you mean?" Teyla asked.
"I didn't think," he said. "I simply accepted what I saw at face value. I nearly took him out of the infirmary just now."
"And what's wrong with that?" John queried.
"The lieutenant's dissociative fugue doesn't include the good doctor," Anne said as she entered the room. "As long as he's talking to Dr. Beckett, his behavior appears to be completely normal."
"You said he recognized your voice," John recalled.
"Aye," Carson said. "I've been trusting the evidence before my eyes and completely bollixed things as a result. I might have worsened his trauma."
"...Or you might have relieved it by getting him out of this stressful environment. You're being too hard on yourself," Anne said. Carson looked at her. She gestured toward the door with her head. "He's awake." Carson rose and returned to the ICU. The others followed him, pausing at the door when Carson entered the room.
"Aiden? How are you feeling?" he asked gently. Aiden smiled warmly, tugging at Carson's heartstrings and making him feel even more guilty than before.
"Hey, doc," he replied. He glanced at the group assembled at the door and gave them a slightly shaky smile. "Your friends are back."
"They're your friends, Aiden," Carson said, speaking as though he was dealing with a fractious animal. "They came by to see how you're doing."
"Even your boss?"
Carson glanced over his shoulder at Elizabeth.
"Yes; everyone here is very concerned about you."
"I still don't know them," Aiden admitted.
"I know, lad," Carson said. "I can introduce them to you if you'd like." Aiden made a slight face and Carson spoke hastily to calm him. "We don't have to do it today, if you don't feel up to it."
"Who are they?" Aiden asked softly.
"They're all people you work with. Major Sheppard is the tall one; you're his second in command. Teyla Emmagen is the young lass and Rodney McKay is an astrophysicist. The four of you work as a team."
"I work with an astrophysicist? I don't even know what that is!"
"I'm sure Dr. McKay would be only too happy to explain it to you," Carson said with an affectionate smile. Aiden let his eyes stray to the door. He observed the group for a moment and waved. John waved back and stepped forward.
"Would you mind if I came in?" he asked in that same gentle tone Carson had used. Aiden gave a hesitant nod and John glanced at each of his teammates in turn. He walked over to the bed, stopping a short distance away. A day earlier they'd nearly smothered Aiden with attention and he'd freaked out as a result. "Hey," he said.
"Hi," Aiden replied. "Oh," he said, sitting up. "I guess I'm supposed to say something else, but I'm not sure what."
"What do you mean, lad?" Carson asked.
"He's my commanding officer, you said."
"Relax, Ford. You're off duty," John said easily.
"Ford?" Aiden frowned. "Oh; you mean me. Sorry," he said, glancing at Carson, who nodded.
"I know this must be terribly confusing," John said. "But I know you; we all know you, Aiden, and we know you'll come through this just fine."
"Thank you...sir," Aiden said awkwardly. John smiled fondly.
"If you want to talk or anything let me know," he said. "I'll be back." Aiden nodded and John backed away. Carson rose and, patting Aiden's hand once, followed John outside.
"I would like to see him," Teyla said.
"Perhaps later," Carson replied. "We need to do this slowly. Give him an hour or two and then come back." Teyla nodded reluctantly and with one last look at Aiden turned and left.
"I'll be back, too," Elizabeth said. She gave Aiden a smile and followed Teyla. Rodney hovered at the glass watching Aiden. John tapped him on the shoulder.
"Give me a few minutes," Rodney said. John nodded and turned to Carson.
"Take care of him, doc."
"I'll do my best," Carson replied.
"So what do we do about this?" Rodney asked when just the two of them were left. "There must be something."
"I wish I knew, Rodney. I'll readily admit that I've never encountered anything like this before. It's going to take some time, I'm afraid. We've got to be patient."
"What if it doesn't come back? What if he never regains his memory?"
"He'll adapt. Aiden's resilient, you know that well enough."
Yeah," Rodney said, sighing and leaning against the glass. After a moment he straightened up again. "He's staring right at you," Rodney said, frowning. "Look at him. I think he's fixated on you."
"I know," Carson said wearily. "I'm apparently what's keeping him from withdrawing completely."
"I wish I understood why. Right now, it's--."
"Well, he's always had a thing for you, hasn't he?"
"Come on, Carson, you must have noticed." Rodney blinked at the dumbfounded physician and shrugged, turning back to his observation of Aiden. "Only you would be so fortunate as to attract the notice of one of the hottest men in two galaxies and be completely oblivious," he muttered.
"I was never sure."
"You have a thing for him, too, don't you? This must be your dream come true," Rodney said with a wry smile.
"On the contrary--it's a bloody nightmare."
"Why?" Rodney asked, confused. "I would have thought--." Carson abruptly turned and went back to his office. Rodney followed him, frowning. "Carson?"
"He's my patient, Rodney," Carson sighed. "It was different when all I had to deal with was putting in a stitch or two or tending to a bruise or a scrape. Now Aiden's got serious medical issues and I no longer trust my judgment where he's concerned."
"Don't be ludicrous, Carson!" Rodney snapped. "Your feelings for him are probably the one thing that will see him through this!"
"...Or they'll keep him from getting the help he truly needs. I've already made mistakes with him I wouldn't have done with any other patient. I can't afford to make more. Aiden can't afford it."
"So what are you going to do? Turn him over to someone whose professional detachment will essentially guarantee that we'll never get back the Aiden Ford we know? You can't allow that to happen! We won't allow that to happen." Carson gaped at Rodney stunned by the passion with which he spoke. "Aiden's our teammate and our friend and we all want him back. Major Sheppard told us what you said yesterday and we agreed that if you're his only connection with reality then you were the best thing for him."
"You talked about this..."
"Major Sheppard, Teyla and I," Rodney said impatiently. "Aiden needs our help, Carson. He needs your help most of all. You can't give up on him!" Carson wouldn't meet his eyes, nonetheless Rodney suddenly felt exposed. He opened his mouth to say something more, thought better of it and moved toward the door. "Think about it," he said softly, before making his escape. Carson sighed and looked at his disappearing back.
Carson busied himself in his lab, consulting the medical database about different forms of amnesia. It didn't include many case studies, but he searched every reference that might give him some insight into Aiden's condition. It was late morning when Anne came into his office.
"Carson? What are you doing?"
"I'm looking for answers, Anne. We've got precious little information on a case like this one, I'm afraid. I wonder if Atlantis's database has anything on amnesia."
"I don't imagine there's ever been a case like this one--outside of a science fiction novel," Anne replied. "Give it up, Carson. You're breaking new ground here. Unfortunately, you won't be able to publish your findings." Carson chuckled and shut the browser on his laptop. "He could starve to death, you know," Anne said. Carson looked up in confusion. "Your patient, remember--Aiden Ford? He won't eat, Carson. He won't do anything without you present. Simon just gave him a sponge bath; he didn't seem to notice." Carson sat back and rubbed his eyes wearily. "What is it, Carson?"
"I'm still not convinced that we should encourage his dependence on me."
"Under normal circumstances I'd agree with you. But these aren't normal circumstances. Aiden Ford is a special case." Anne frowned at him. "I thought you and he were friends."
"We are; I just think that he might be better served by a doctor who--."
"He's best served by the one person who can help him," Anne declared. "Come now; Teyla's waiting to see him. And his lunch is getting cold."
Carson rose and went out into the infirmary. Teyla was sitting in a chair near the ICU that afforded her a good view of Aiden. She rose as Carson approached.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting, Teyla. I didn't realize--."
"It is all right, Dr. Beckett. Aiden has been sleeping," she replied. "I have brought you something from the mainland," she said placing a dish in his hands. "It is from Meta, who wished me to express her deep appreciation and thanks for healing her son."
"Please thank her for me," Carson said with a smile, placing the dish on a table outside the ICU. He entered Aiden's room and went to his bedside. Aiden blinked and opened his eyes. He slowly stretched and yawned around a smile.
"Aiden," Carson said, glancing at the monitors. "How are you feeling?"
"I feel fine," he said, sitting up. Carson raised the bed for him and Aiden settled back. "Hey, that's cool."
"Here, you can do it yourself," Carson said, indicating the buttons on the side rail of the bed. Aiden pushed the buttons and Carson looked on in amusement till he settled.
"Hey, doc, how come I don't have a beard?"
"That's no great mystery; someone shaves you."
"Oh," Aiden said thoughtfully. He looked over at the door and saw Teyla standing just outside.
"Do you feel up to having another visitor?"
"I guess," Aiden said with little enthusiasm. Carson frowned.
"You don't have to, if you don't feel up to it. Teyla will understand."
"Nah, it's all right," Aiden replied, forcing a smile. Carson looked doubtful, but he turned and waved Teyla into the room. "Wait!" Aiden said. Teyla paused in the door as Aiden leaned over to speak to Carson privately. "She's not--? I mean we're not...anything?"
"No, lad," Carson assured him. Aiden relaxed and laid back. When Teyla reached his side his smile was genuine.
"Hi, Teyla," he said cordially. Teyla returned his smile.
"Hello, Aiden. It is good to see you again."
"I know you do not remember me, but we have been friends for several months."
"The doc says we're teammates."
"That is true," Teyla said.
"What's your rank?" Aiden asked curiously. Teyla momentarily was perplexed by the question.
"Teyla is a civilian," Carson volunteered. He tried to think of a way to answer Aiden's inevitable next question but it never came. Aiden simply shrugged and said "Oh."
"I do not wish to tire you, so I will keep my visit short," Teyla said. "I just wanted to tell you how glad I am that you are feeling better. I hope you will soon be able to rejoin our team."
"Thank you," Aiden said. She smiled at him and then at Carson a little less confidently before she left the ICU. Aiden watched her go. "Where is she from?"
"She's a local," Carson replied cryptically. "Why do you ask?"
"She talks funny," Aiden concluded. "I mean her English is good. It's just...odd, you know?"
"The same thing might be said of me, I suppose," Carson said lightly.
"Yeah," Aiden replied with a smile. "Say, doc, you said I wouldn't have to stay here any longer. When can I bust out of this place?"
"I've had a slight change of heart, I'm afraid," Carson replied. "I'll need to keep you under observation for a few more days. Then I'll see about moving you elsewhere."
"I feel fine, doc!" Aiden protested.
"Actually, Aiden, you are not well. You're suffering from post-traumatic stress. You may not even be aware of it, but it's affecting you all the same."
"Because of what happened to me?"
"Yes; I don't want to release you until I'm confident that you'll be able to function outside the infirmary."
"What am I going to do? Go nuts and attack somebody?" Aiden said with an uncomfortable chuckle.
"No, nothing like that," Carson assured him. "I'm certain you wouldn't harm a soul."
"Do you think I'd harm myself?" he asked with a hint of anxiety. Carson rose and brought the lunch tray over and set it up over Aiden's lap before he sat down.
"Eat up and then we'll talk."
"I'm not hungry."
"Then I suppose we won't talk," Carson said, rising. "That's my price."
"Huh. Do you do this to all you patients?" Aiden asked as he peered at the soup on his plate.
"No, you're special," Carson deadpanned. Aiden looked up and smiled.
"Thanks," he said. He dipped his spoon into the soup and tasted it. "This is sort of like tomato soup."
"It's the hospital version, I'm afraid," Carson said resuming his seat.
"That explains the absence of flavor," Aiden said, in spite of the fact that he ate it readily.
"You're in good humor today," Carson replied.
"Didn't I always have a sense of humor?"
"You did, actually; a rather wicked one at times."
"Cool," Aiden said as he took the lid off of another plate. It contained Jell-O. He made a face and turned his attention to the crackers on the tray. "I don't really like Jell-O." Carson looked up sharply.
"You remember Jell-O?"
"No. I don't know." Aiden shrugged. "I had some yesterday."
"I didn't identify it yesterday," Carson said cautiously. "How did you know what it was?" Aiden shrugged again.
"I guess I know Jell-O. Can I have some more yogurt?"
"Sure, lad. I'll see that you get some with dinner. Have you recognized anything else today? Have you thought of anything new?"
"Yeah, lots of things," Aiden said insouciantly. "I'm still hungry," he said with a frown.
"What would you like to eat, Aiden?"
"I don't know."
"Tell me some foods you know."
"Peanut butter. Steak. Um, chili...apples...bananas; I like bananas, I think. Can I have a steak?"
"Not yet," Carson said with a smile. "You haven't had solid food in two weeks. You don't want to add indigestion to your diagnosis, do you?" He rose to his feet as an idea struck him. He fetched the dish Teyla had given him and brought it back. He opened the dish and peeked inside before setting it down in front of Aiden. "Do you know what this is?"
"Tehuelpa!" Aiden said eagerly. He picked up one of the small cakes and bit into it, closing his eyes in bliss as the sweet flavor reached his mouth.
"How did you--?" Carson aborted the question and reached for one. He, too, was transported by the ethereal texture and flavor of the Athosian delicacy, but he was more interested in Aiden's reaction. "Like them, do you?"
"These things rock!" Aiden replied. "Where did you get them?"
"Teyla brought them for me," Carson said, noticing that Aiden's smile faded.
"What's wrong, lad?"
"Is she--? Are you two involved?"
"No, Aiden. Teyla's merely a friend."
"Are you involved with someone else?"
"No; I'm completely unattached," Carson replied. "How about you?"
"I don't know," Aiden said worriedly. "You've got my charts. You knew me before--you'd tell me if I had a wife and kids somewhere, right?"
"Aye, I would certainly do that," Carson replied with a smile. "To my knowledge, you're completely unattached as well." Aiden leaned back, clearly relieved.
"We were friends, you said."
"Yes, Aiden; I hope we still are."
"We are," Aiden said firmly. "Listen," he said earnestly as he pushed aside the tray, "I know those other people are my friends, but I don't know them. I know you and I really need your help. You'll see me through this, right? I don't... I can't explain it. I mean I can't--nothing seems to work without you. Whenever you aren't around everything gets weird; it scares the hell out of me."
"Is that what happened this morning" Carson asked. Aiden nodded.
"I don't know why; you walked away and--. That's why you want to keep me here, I guess."
"Yes, I want you close by, where I can keep an eye on you," Carson said soothingly. "Don't worry, I'll get you through this, Aiden; I promise."
"You won't send me off to a shrink or something?"
"I won't lie to you; you'll probably need some psychiatric help before this is over. But I won't abandon you, lad, I promise. Here; have another teh-- whatever it is and I'll try to explain what's going on."
He pushed the dish toward Aiden. He took a cake for himself and sat back. They ate in silence. Then Carson set the tray aside. He pulled his seat a little closer and began to talk.
On to PART 5