Category: First time
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Carson Beckett
Summary: What if the one you loved lost everything but you?
John waited, but no more words came from Elizabeth for several moments. She covered her mouth and shook her head, horrified by John's revelation.
"How is he now?" she asked finally.
"He's sleeping," John said, slumping into a chair. "But he's going to have to deal with it when he wakes up again."
"I swear; we didn't know--," Bates began, but he faltered, his voice shaky.
"I know, sergeant," John said gently.
"He was unconscious. I tried to wake him; Bledsoe did, too!" Bates insisted.
"He probably came to as soon as you pulled the first wire," Rodney said soberly. "You were probably so focused on trying to extricate him from the equipment that you didn't notice."
"But if he was awake why didn't he say something?" Bates reasoned. "If he had, we would have stopped immediately; maybe we could have found another way to get him out of there."
"He couldn't speak, no more than Teyla could when she came back from that thing," John said. "He probably woke up, saw you pulling the wires and passed out again from the pain."
"All those nightmares make sense now," Teyla said thoughtfully. She looked up and gave Bates an apologetic look. "I am sorry to pain you, Sergeant Bates, but it seems that Aiden's nightmares as he came out of his coma were the result of him reliving that experience." Bates conceded her point with a grim nod.
"Where does, 'You're a brave little soldier' come into it?" Rodney asked no one in particular. Everyone looked up. "Never mind; I'll ask Carson later."
"So what do we do? How do we undo this?" Bates asked bleakly.
Carson took a sip of cold coffee and made a face. He set down the mug and turned his attention back to Aiden. He hadn't regained consciousness since the incident four hours earlier and Carson was beginning to fear that Aiden might have retreated more deeply into his mind. He rose and started toward the door when a tiny noise stopped him. He turned and looked back. Aiden was moving restlessly, but he stilled without waking. Carson released the breath he'd been unconsciously holding and stepped outside. He stretched the kinks out of his back and yawned. He was contemplating making more coffee when he saw Anne and waved her over.
"How's our boy?" Anne asked, peering into the room.
"He still hasn't awakened. I'm beginning to worry," Carson admitted. Anne checked her watch and silently agreed.
"Have you tried waking him?"
"No, I'd been hoping he'd revive on his own," Carson admitted sheepishly. He sighed and followed his smiling colleague into the ICU. She gestured for him to awaken Aiden. Carson started to reach out and she grabbed his wrist. Carson glanced at her, then back at his slumbering patient. "Aiden?" he said softly. "It's time to wake up, lad."
"If that doesn't work you can try kissing him," Anne with a wink. Carson blanched and gaped at her. She shrugged. "Keep trying," she said before leaving him alone with his patient. She closed the door and Carson sat down. After a moment or two, he took hold of Aiden's hand and gave it a squeeze.
"Aiden? Wake up, Aiden," he said. Aiden squirmed a bit and Carson was encouraged. "Come on, now. It's time to wake up."
Aiden went still. Carson opened his mouth to speak again when Aiden suddenly bolted upright, eyes wide, startling Carson. His grip on Carson's hand tightened till it became painful.
"No!" he shouted. Carson immediately moved to sit on the bed and placed a hand on his cheek, forcing Aiden to focus on him.
"Aiden, look at me. Aiden?" he said firmly. Aiden blinked and seemed to relax a bit. "That's it, lad; come back to me." Aiden sighed and leaned forward, resting his head on Carson's shoulder. His heart was racing alarmingly; Carson could feel it as he held him in his arms. "It's all right, Aiden. You're safe." They sat like that for a long time. Carson didn't measure it, but his shoulder grew numb and his back was protesting loudly by the time Aiden shifted and finally pulled out of the hug. He wouldn't meet Carson's gaze.
"I'm sorry," he said very softly. "I didn't mean to lose it like that." Carson assumed he was talking about hugging him rather than his earlier meltdown.
"Are you all right?" Aiden simply nodded. "You have to talk to me, Aiden. I'm not a mind reader," Carson said, forcing Aiden's head up with his free hand. Aiden looked at him with eyes still wide with fear.
"What happened to me, doc?" he asked. "I remember being afraid and I remember you promising to stay with me, but I don't remember anything else." Carson glanced down at their joined hands. He considered extricating himself and giving Aiden a bit more space, but decided against it. Aiden was using him as his lifeline; Carson wouldn't allow his own discomfort to prevent him from getting what he needed.
"How do you feel now?" he asked. Aiden closed his eyes tightly, but didn't reply. "Will you let me check you over? Then we can talk." Aiden nodded and released his hand. He laid back while Carson fussed over him for a few minutes. When he was done, Aiden opened his eyes.
"You were confronted with the object of your nightmare, Aiden," Carson said carefully. "I believe I now know what happened to you."
"And you're not going to tell me," Aiden said.
"I'm not sure you're ready to hear it, frankly."
"I've got to know, doc. That's the only way I'm ever going to get out of here, isn't it?"
"That's not necessarily--."
"I'd like to consult with Dr. Heightmeyer first."
"No. I don't want to see a shrink."
"I want you to see her, Aiden. I'll not risk subjecting you to any further trauma."
"I'm a Marine, Carson," Aiden said with such clarity and authority that Carson looked at him sharply. "I can deal with this."
"You remember!" Carson said wonderingly. Aiden shrugged and shook his head.
"Just tell me."
"Are you sure, Aiden?"
Aiden nodded firmly and licked his lips. Neither man was sure that Aiden wanted to hear the truth, but they both knew it was inevitable and necessary.
"Well, at least let me speak with her first, Aiden," Carson pleaded. "I need her advice."
"No! No shrinks, doc; just you and me--now. I want to do this; I need to--." Aiden hesitated and again licked his lips nervously.
"You're the only one I want to talk to. You're the only one I trust. "
"Just me? Not your friends?" Carson assayed. Aiden shook his head. "Major Sheppard? Teyla?"
"You're the one who saved me."
"I saved you?" Carson was perplexed. He wasn't even on the planet and he barely managed to keep himself from saying so. "What about the others? The major--."
"Just spill it, doc." Aiden clenched his jaw determinedly but Carson still hesitated.
"Aiden, would you let me go and get a recording device?" Carson asked carefully. "If you want to talk about this, will you at least let me record our conversation? It may help. You're the only eye witness to what happened and I need to know exactly what transpired." Aiden nodded and Carson reluctantly left him alone for a minute to fetch a recorder. On his way back to the ICU, he spotted Anne.
"Stay close by, love; I may need you," he said. "Be a dear and prepare a sedative, just in case." Dr. Johnson nodded and went to supply cabinet. Carson said a silent prayer of thanks that she didn't stop him to ask questions. He returned to the ICU and shut the door. Aiden looked up. Carson tried to smile reassuringly.
"I'm ready," Aiden said firmly and Carson suddenly knew without a doubt that he was dealing with the Aiden Ford he'd met in Antarctica. He was equally certain that the young officer staring back at him was just as confused as Carson himself. How could Aiden have fallen asleep with amnesia and awakened with his memory restored? How much did he recall? How much emotional and psychological damage had he suffered? There were so many more things Carson needed to know but he had no time to seek answers. Nor would Aiden permit him to seek the advice and guidance Carson was sure he needed. So he turned on the recorder and sat down on the edge of the bed, hoping--as he'd often done over the three previous weeks--that what he was about to do would bring more good than harm to the man he loved.
"Aiden, I'm going to record this conversation so that we'll be able to fully document your experiences, all right? What we say in this room will be kept in the strictest confidence, but I'm going to have to reserve the right to share it with Dr. Heightmeyer--," he paused to raise a hand when Aiden bristled. "...If and only if it becomes necessary. I understand your reticence, lad, but as your doctor and your friend, I am bound to do what I think is best. Do you understand?" Aiden nodded. "It's an audio device, son," Carson said with a wry smile.
"Good. Go on; tell me what you remember."
"What I remember?" Aiden squinted at the doctor.
"You just told me that I saved you. I'd like to know how."
"Can't you remember?" Aiden asked.
"Humor me," Carson said dryly. "Tell me what you can."
"I don't know," Aiden said, confused.
"Does that mean you can't remember or that you just don't know where to start?"
Aiden shrugged and stared at his lap. Carson patted his arm reassuringly and waited.
"McKay," Aiden said after a minute. He spoke very softly, almost a whisper. Carson moved the recorder closer to him. "Dr. McKay tried to help. He tried to save me but he couldn't."
"What happened?" Carson prompted, when it appeared that Aiden wouldn't voluntarily speak again.
"He tried to open the cage. No, a cell--we were in some kind of cell," Aiden said, staring into a dark corner of the room. "The major, Teyla and I; we were in this cell. McKay came and tried to open it, but the major told him to go back to the... He told him to go back to the gate and get help. McKay kept trying. It was kind of funny. They started shouting at each other, fighting over whether or not to rescue us. Teyla was afraid that the--that they'd come. ...That the ones who'd put us in the cell would come."
"Did McKay leave?"
"Yeah; he left a few minutes before they came. There were two of them. They had these weird grey dreads and these really pasty pale faces and teeth like piranha." Aiden looked up. "Was I dreaming?"
"Don't worry about that," Carson said gently. "Just tell me everything you remember."
"They took Teyla. I tried to stop them, but they pushed me back like I weighed nothing. I was scared for her. Teyla's my friend. She's like the little sister I never had, you know, even though I think she's older than me. It's hard to tell because where she comes from time is measured differently and I could never figure it out." Aiden looked up at Carson apologetically. "Anyway, they took her. I was angry and the major tried to calm me down. He tried to distract me." Aiden smiled briefly. "He told me about a Van Halen concert he went to back when he was in high school and I told him about the last time I saw my parents--." Aiden suddenly went pale and Carson sat forward, concerned. "Oh God, Carson! My parents! My parents are dead...."
"Yes, they are, Aiden."
"My parents are dead... I was just a kid..." Overcome with emotion, he couldn't say more.
"You were six," Carson acknowledged. "It was a horrendous automobile accident. You were asleep in the back seat, yet you managed to walk away from the wreckage unscathed. Your grandparents raised you from that point on." Carson pulled Aiden into his arms once again and held him while he cried his heart out.
"I never cried for them before. Not once," Aiden said sometime later. "My grandpa called me a brave little soldier, just like you did." Carson sighed and gave him a heartfelt squeeze before laying him back on the pillows. He quickly wiped his eyes before speaking.
"Perhaps we should continue this later," he said hoarsely. "You've been through enough for now." But not unexpectedly, Aiden refused to quit. He sat up again, shaking his head.
"No, I want to do this," he declared, scrubbing at his face. "I need to do this. I know now. I can remember." Carson reached for a handful of tissues and they spent a minute wiping eyes and blowing noses.
"There," Carson said as he tossed them in the garbage can. "That cleared our sinuses nicely." That drew a slight smile from Aiden, who scooted back to lean against the headboard as he continued. "Go on, then," Carson prompted when he thought Aiden was ready.
"They came for me next. They brought Teyla back first. She was awake, but really out of it. We demanded to know what they'd done to her, but those monsters wouldn't say anything." Aiden looked up. "I think--. Yeah, the major called them the Wraith." Carson nodded. "One of them grabbed me by the throat and dragged me out of the cell. They took me to a room, threw me on a big metal table and strapped me down. It was like something in a bad horror movie.
"They started asking me questions about the location of Earth. I refused to tell them anything and they got angry. They talked to each other for a moment and then they started connecting these wires to me. Then they started asking me the same questions again, over and over." Aiden paused and rubbed his head.
"Do you have a headache?" Carson asked. Aiden shook his head.
"It hurt, not so much that I couldn't deal, but it hurt. Then the others came."
"The others?" Carson asked cautiously. He could see that Aiden was becoming agitated and was half tempted to bring the session to an end, but he knew that Aiden wouldn't stop until he was done. Aiden kept on talking, giving no indication that he'd heard Carson's question.
"I heard shooting and a lot of shouting; I thought our friends were coming. I thought they'd come to rescue us. They burst into the room, guns blazing, and fired on the Wraith. They're the ones who hurt me," Aiden said, rubbing his forehead again. He brought both hands to his head, massaging his scalp. "They shot down the Wraith so I thought they were there to help, to save me. But they--oh God!" Aiden swallowed hard. "Oh God! They came and I thought they would save me but they made it worse--they made it a thousand times worse! It hurt so much I couldn't stand it. You were the only one who helped. You're the one who saved me."
"How did I save you?" Carson asked curiously. "I wasn't even there." Aiden shook his head furiously.
"You were there. You were there. You saved me," he said, clearly anxious. He began to tremble perceptibly and Carson decided to end the interview then and there.
"All right, Aiden," he said, taking hold of Aiden's hands. "That's enough for now. I want you to lie down now and try to rest."
"I don't want to rest."
"No, please don't make me sleep again. They'll come back. They always come back in my nightmares and they'll hurt me again--."
"Shh," Carson said softly, pushing Aiden back among the pillows. "I won't let anyone hurt you, Aiden. You know that. I need you to rest."
"You won't leave me?"
"I won't leave," Carson said with a worried glance at the recorder. He reached out and shut it off. "You just rest, lad." Aiden settled under the covers, his eyes focused on the doctor.
"Talk to me, Carson."
"Talk to you?" Carson said, amused by the request. "Are you asking for a bedtime story?" Aiden smiled up at him.
"Whatever; I just need to hear your voice."
"May I ask why?"
"It calms me down."
"It bores you to tears, you mean."
"No, doc; I like it."
"It's the accent," Carson said, glancing over at the recorder to make sure it was off. "...Gets them every time."
"So everyone who comes in here falls for the accent?"
"You'd be surprised," Carson said with a slight wink, more than a little surprised himself by Aiden's candor. Not that it mattered. He needed for Aiden to calm down and if openly flirting with him provided a good distraction, so be it. "Would you mind if I check your heart rate while I talk?"
"Knock yourself out," Aiden replied. Carson pulled out his stethoscope.
"It's a wee bit fast; that's probably the accent working its charm," Carson said with a wink. Aiden chuckled and shyly averted his eyes as he flushed a bit. "Would you like something to help you sleep? ...Aside from my dulcet tones to lure you into the land of slumber, that is. I want you to rest, Aiden. You've had a very emotionally trying day," Carson said seriously.
"I'm good, doc."
"Oh, don't go all macho on me, lieutenant. You've been such a good patient till now."
"...A brave little soldier," Aiden said wistfully.
"Aye," Carson said as he went to the door. Outside, Anne looked up. He nodded and she brought over the syringe.
"How is he?"
"He's a cheeky little bugger, but I suspect that's a positive development," Carson said with a wink. Anne didn't know what to make of that statement and concluded that it was probably intended more for Aiden's ears than for her edification. She smiled and left Carson to administer the drug.
"Suck it up, son; you're a Marine."
"Very funny, doc."
Carson dropped the used syringe into the autoclave and sat down again with a smile on his face.
"Welcome back, Aiden. You've not been yourself these past three weeks," Carson said cryptically. Aiden frowned at him.
"Who have I been? Come to think of it, who am I now?" Aiden asked as he rubbed his arm.
"That we'll try to figure out tomorrow. For now, I want you to sleep."
"You'll stay?" Aiden asked, betraying his lingering anxiety.
"I've got nowhere else to be for the next hour or so."
"Good enough," Aiden said, sinking deeper under the covers. Carson rose and pulled the blanket at the foot of the bed over him. In minutes, Aiden was fast asleep. Carson moved to the easy chair in the corner and rubbed his eyes. He closed them and sighed. Unbidden, his mind ran through everything he'd just heard.
It was nearly two in the morning when Carson went to the dining hall in search of something to eat. It had only just occurred to him that he hadn't eaten since breakfast. He found Rodney in the kitchen raiding the stash of chocolate bars. Rodney spotted Carson and promptly handed him one of the three he'd purloined.
"You look like hell," he said conversationally. "How's the lieutenant?"
"He's begun to remember," Carson managed to say before John emerged from the walk-in cooler and pounced on him.
"He's remembered? Everything? Does he know what happened?"
"Should I ask what you two have been up to?" Carson said suspiciously, eying each of the two men.
"We stayed up late trying to figure out how to help Ford," John said around a mouthful of sandwich. "We got hungry."
"Tell us about Aiden," Rodney demanded.
"Let me get something into my stomach first," Carson said. "I need the strength."
"You sit down," John said. "We'll feed you and then we'll talk."
"Not without me," Elizabeth said, entering the kitchen. "I wondered what was keeping you two. I take it you have news about the lieutenant," she said to Carson.
"Is Teyla going to come out of a cupboard?" Carson asked, looking around. "I'm not up to any more surprises tonight."
"Teyla's on the mainland," John said returning to the cooler. "Sit down."
"I'll make coffee," Elizabeth said.
"Already on," Rodney said, handing her a chocolate bar and going back for another.
Carson barely had time to slump into a seat and inhale the aroma of freshly brewed coffee before they began to pepper him with questions. John brought him a sandwich and Rodney served coffee as he gave them an abbreviated account what had happened in Aiden's room.
"So has he completely regained his memory or--?"
"It's impossible to tell, Liz," Carson said. "I wasn't about to push him in his condition. But it was an astounding transformation. I still can't wrap my head around it; I've never seen anyone go from one state to the next so quickly. And I'm not sure that the quick turnabout has done him any favors, either. The lad's rather fragile. But he does remember the incident."
"Does he know exactly who did it to him? Bates and his men took the news very badly," John said.
"I don't know. I'm not even sure he realizes that they're our own people. He thought they were, but I think he's confused by what he thought he knew and what actually happened."
"Well, he's bound to be confused. When the cavalry comes to rescue the damsel in distress, they usually don't add to her suffering," Rodney said.
"How is he now?" Elizabeth asked.
"He's sleeping under sedation," Carson replied. "I've snuck out for a bite but I'll return when I'm done to sit with him."
"We can keep watch for you, doc. Why don't you get some rest?" John suggested. "Rodney's right--you do look like hell."
"I'm sure I do, but I promised him I'd be there," Carson said. "And I want to be there when he wakes up. I don't know what condition he'll be in and I'll not add to his trauma."
"Well, how about letting his pal Rodney baby sit for a while?" John asked. "Ford seemed to get along with him just fine; better than the rest of us, in fact." Carson smiled at John's slightly defensive tone.
"Aye, he liked Rodney," he admitted. "He remembered that Rodney tried to free you from that cell."
"And because Teyla and I didn't--."
"Don't take it the wrong way, major," Carson said. "The lad's not completely in his right mind, you know."
"Well, I think this is good news," Elizabeth declared, rising. "I'm going to grab a few hours of shut eye. Let me know if anything changes, Carson." She took her leave and the three remaining men sat in silence for a while, till John asked once more whether Aiden would be okay.
"I think he's past the worst of it," Carson said with a yawn, "but he's far from being ready to deal with what he's been through. He's going to need counseling, whether he wants it or not." Carson closed his eyes and Rodney reached out and patted his friend's back.
"You're a good man, Carson Beckett. I knew we'd left Ford in the right hands," he said.
"Thank you, Rodney," Carson said wearily.
"Can we come by and see him in the morning? Well, in a few hours, I guess," John asked.
"Why don't you let me assess him first and then send for you?"
"Okay, doc," John said rising. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I need my beauty sleep. Rodney?"
"Let's allow Carson to get a few minutes of rest before he goes back to babysitting Ford."
"Right," Rodney said tentatively. But he didn't move.
"Give me a minute, major," he said. John shrugged.
"Night, doc. Rodney." John left the room and Carson pried his eyes open to look at Rodney.
"What's on your mind?"
"How are you holding up?"
"Is it me or are the days getting longer?" Carson said with a tired laugh. Rodney rose and started to knead the knots out of his shoulders. "Oh, Rodney! I could fall in love with you for this--."
"...If you weren't already hopelessly besotted with someone else," Rodney said lightly. "Is he going to be okay?"
"You should have seen him, Rodney," Carson said proudly. "He was suddenly our old Aiden again, fierce and brave and--ow! Oh, that hurts!"
"What have you been sleeping on, bags of stones?" Rodney asked as he mercilessly worked the tension out of a particularly hard lump of muscle tissue.
"I haven't lain flat for longer than I care to think about. I think I was in a bed last night," Carson said, squinting to remember. He closed his eyes and let Rodney's fingers work their magic.
"So your brave little soldier is himself again."
"And putting a courageous front on his fears, yes," Carson sighed. "I can't let that stop him from getting the help he needs, however. The boy needs serious counseling."
"And some serious loving--now that he's himself again," Rodney suggested with all the delicacy of an anvil.
"Oh, I don't know if that's in our future."
"Are you blind, man? The poor kid's inexplicably and hopelessly stuck on you. Even Elizabeth noticed it. She mentioned it earlier this evening."
"I was the only person he had, Rodney. Don't read anything more into it than that."
"And here I thought denial was just a river in Egypt."
"Ow! Now you're just doing that on purpose! Stop beating on my back and let me go!"
"I ought to be beating some sense into your head," Rodney said. "You and Aiden belong together! Stop being so damned stupid and--." Carson jumped out of his seat and turned to confront him.
"Not another word, Rodney! Aiden is my patient. It's inappropriate and unethical to even consider what you're suggesting."
"He won't be your patient forever!"
"And what about Teyla?"
"What about Teyla?" Rodney asked in confusion. Then he started to laugh. "You think you've got competition from Teyla? Carson, you really ought to know better."
"I saw how she doted over him when he was in a coma," Carson said defensively.
"You ought to see her bedside manner with--. No, I promised not to tell. Suffice to say that her 'interests' lie elsewhere, so to speak."
"But she was fawning over him. I saw it!"
"We all fawned over him! Aiden Ford is a person people fawn over! That doesn't mean we're all in love with him! Besides, he only has eyes for you; he's had eyes for you since Antarctica."
"You think so?" Carson sat down again, wondering. Rodney rolled his eyes.
"What do you want, a diagram?"
"You really think--?"
Rodney sighed audibly and yanked Carson out of his seat.
"Go! Go back to him. Be there when he wakes up. Then open your eyes and take a good look."
"Go; we're done here. And be careful how you sleep. Your neck is a mess!"
"Thank you, Rodney," Carson said softly.
"Yeah," Rodney said with unaccustomed modesty. "Go on; beat it. I've got to clean up here--whenever the kitchen staff finds a mess here in the morning they always blame me."
Carson smiled and left the dining hall. He returned to the infirmary and slipped into Aiden's room. Bridget looked up from her book and smiled.
"He's sleeping like a baby, Dr. B."
"Thank you, love. Why don't you slip off to your quarters? I can handle things from here."
"There's only Rodgers out there and she's fine on her own. You go to bed. Denise will be on in a few hours. I'll call for help should something come up before then." Bridget nodded and left. Carson stood at Aiden's bedside for several minutes just watching him sleep. He took a deep breath and, holding it, he finally gave into the urge to lightly caress his cheek. He released the breath and sat down in the chair, where he fell asleep in minutes.
It was nearly six o'clock when Carson stirred again. He raised his head and winced at the pain in his neck.
"Are you all right, doc?"
Carson looked over and saw Aiden sitting up in bed.
"Nothing a week at a spa couldn't cure," Carson said as he suppressed a groan. "You?"
"Do I have to use that thing?" Aiden said, gesturing over to the tiny toilet built into one corner of the room.
"Just be glad we removed the Foley," Carson said dryly, getting to his feet. "When you're able to leave here on your own you can use the regular facilities."
"Cool," Aiden said. He got out of bed and walked out of the room before Carson could say another word. Carson followed and saw Aiden go into the bathroom used by the other patients. Carson smiled and shook his head. He was still smiling when Anne arrived a minute later.
"What's so funny?" she asked from behind him.
"Oh, good morning, Anne," Carson said. The bathroom door opened and Aiden emerged. He walked past the pair, saying only a soft "ma'am" to the startled doctor and returned to his bed.
"That wasn't funny, Carson," Anne exclaimed. "That was a miracle!"
"He's begun to remember," Carson said. "I'm not sure how much and I'm not about to press to find out, but he's recovered enough of himself that he can function again."
"What do you think triggered it?"
"I've no idea. If you'd asked me whether such a sudden recovery was possible I'd have said no. But the human mind is way beyond my ken."
"Have you spoken with Kate?"
"No, not yet--and he's still refusing to see her," Carson sighed. "I intend to do something about that. He's not getting out of here unless he agrees to counseling." Anne nodded her assent. "Be a love and have a word with her. I need to speak with Aiden, but I'd like to get her up to speed as soon as possible." Anne nodded again and went into Carson's office while he returned to the ICU.
"Is it too early for breakfast?" Aiden asked.
"First you decide you no longer need me to use the facilities and now you want meals on demand," Carson teased. "What a difference a day makes." Carson stepped back out into the infirmary and flagged down a nurse. He sent her to the dining hall and returned to the ICU.
"What was that about bathrooms?"
"Aiden, do you remember what you and I did yesterday morning?"
"We went to the bathroom together?"
"No," Carson said, pulling out his stethoscope and gesturing for Aiden, who was standing beside the bed, to sit. "At this time yesterday, you wouldn't have used the facilities in this room unless I was present. You wouldn't even speak to anyone else unless I was present."
"Do you remember that?"
"Vaguely," Aiden said, frowning. "Why?"
"That's an amazing turnabout, don't you think?"
"I don't know, you tell me. Why? Did I do something weird?"
"I'm just doing an assessment. Humor me," Carson said. Aiden's smile returned.
"I always do."
"Good. Do you remember our discussion last night?"
Aiden nodded soberly.
"Can you tell me where you are right now?"
"I'm in the infirmary, one of the isolation units."
"Humor me Aiden," Carson said patiently.
"On the 8th level of the northeast wing, in the city of Atlantis, on the planet Atlantica, in the Pegasus Galaxy, in--."
"Very good," Carson said, beaming. "What's your full name?"
"Aiden Carter Thomas Ford."
"Where did you and I meet?"
"In Antarctica. I'd hurt my hand. Why are you asking all these questions?"
"Are you aware that you've been ill?"
"I assumed as much since I woke up in the infirmary. You never did say why I was here."
"You came back from M3-889 in a coma. You were unconscious for two weeks and awoke with no memory."
"You told me that yesterday."
"Yesterday morning, yes."
"Yeah, it's coming back to me," Aiden said. "We sat here last night and talked about what happened on the planet."
"Yes, Aiden," Carson said hastily, "and I don't want you to worry about that just now."
"I want you to focus on the present for the moment, lad," Carson said soothingly.
"Why? What is it you're not telling me?"
"I won't be telling you anything till we've had a chance to do a complete assessment."
"Well, for one thing, we have to determine exactly what you have and haven't recovered of your memory. Then we've got to deal with what we find."
"What do you expect to find?" Aiden said, folding his arms in a manner that showed he was prepared to argue. Carson expected no less; he'd dealt with Aiden as a recalcitrant patient before.
"I expect to find that your memory recovery is incomplete and I already know you've got a number of residual issues to deal with," Carson said. "I'm ordering a full psych evaluation."
"This is not an option, Aiden. I'm sorry."
Aiden started to argue, but he thought better of it and turned his back on Carson.
"I don't--. I can't--." Aiden sighed resignedly. "You won't tell her about last night, will you?"
"Aiden, I won't have to tell her anything if you speak to her. Look; you said yesterday that you wanted to move on. Trust me, lad; this is the only way."
"Why can't you and I just work through this? We've made a lot of progress on our own."
"Well, to start with, I'm not a qualified psychologist. I don't know how to give you the help you need, Aiden. Besides, I'm already walking a fine line here. It would be inappropriate for me to treat you."
"What do you mean?" Aiden asked, turning around. Carson ran a hand through his hair and sat down.
"You know what I mean, Aiden. We're far too close for me to be completely objective where you're concerned." Had he been looking up he would have seen the smile that briefly danced across Aiden's lips.
"But you see, that's exactly why I need you," he said, not above using Carson's admission to achieve his own desperate ends. "You understand me better than anyone. And I trust you--more than anyone around here, Carson. I don't want anyone else digging around in my head. I need your help to get through this."
"And you'll have it," Carson said, looking up. "But I won't take responsibility for your treatment. You need help that's beyond my abilities and I'm not going to let you talk me out of getting you the best available."
Aiden nodded grimly and sat down on the bed.
"All right, doc. You win; I'll speak to the shrink--on one condition. You come with me."
On to PART 7