jalabert (jalabert) wrote,

FIC: Tabula Rasa - Chapter Eight

Title: Tabula Rasa
Author: Jalabert
Category: First time
Rating: R
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Carson Beckett
Summary: What if the one you loved lost everything but you?

"Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea," Aiden muttered to himself as he slid down the wall and crouched, hands to his head. He tried massaging his temples in hopes of alleviating the throbbing pain, but it was to no avail. He gave up and sat down, drawing his knees up to his chest. He rested his forehead on his knees, praying for the pain to stop.

Down the hall, a group of Atlantis personnel emerged from a lounge. They chatted amiably as they broke off into smaller groups and began to disperse. Aiden listened for a moment. Not recognizing any of the voices, he scrambled to his feet and pressed his back to the wall, presenting as small a profile as possible. He began to slowly move away from the voices, but a trio of Marines entered the intersection of corridors about twenty feet ahead of him. Aiden held his breath, his heart pounding in his chest. He closed his eyes and listened. The group didn't notice his presence and kept moving through the intersection. Aiden sighed in relief. He gave himself a few seconds to catch his breath and then took off at a run.


"How in bloody blazes did he manage to get past the lot of you?" Carson shouted at his staff. He knew he was flying off the handle but he was too afraid for Aiden to care at the moment.

"He got out of bed right after you left the infirmary," Denise said. "I thought he was going to the bathroom but he walked right by it. When I asked him where he was going, he asked for you. I told him you'd left and he turned and went back into his room."

"No one's seen him since then," another nurse said.

"I noticed that his room was empty a few minutes ago and assumed he was in the bathroom," Anne volunteered. "But when I saw someone else come out of the bathroom I started looking for him. He's not anywhere in the infirmary."

"All right," Carson said. "Notify Elizabeth." He turned and headed for the door.

"Where are you going?" Anne asked.

"To look for him!" Carson spat back. "The man's in no condition to be wandering around on his own." He left the infirmary and headed toward Aiden's room, assuming that was the most likely place he'd go. But deep inside he knew better--he'd just come from there and would have encountered Aiden if that was where he was headed. Still, it was the best guess he had. He raced down the hall, coming to an abrupt halt when he all but ran into John.

"I've already checked his room," he said, grabbing Carson by the arm and turning him back the way he'd come.

"How did you even know he was gone?" Carson asked.

"Liz just put out an alarm," John replied as he pushed Carson into a transporter.

"Where are we going?"

"To meet up with her," John said. "She's got Bates organizing a search." Carson barreled out of the transporter as soon as the doors began to open.

"No!" he shouted as he ran to catch up with the squad of Marines who were about to be deployed.


The slipper socks on his feet provided little traction on the smooth floors of the city corridors. Aiden pulled them off and threw them away. He was able to move faster without slipping and sliding around corners. Every once in a while he paused to listen. Not recognizing the voices he heard, he moved on, deeper and deeper into the city, knowing even as he did so, that he was hopelessly lost.


"How else are we going to find him?" Elizabeth argued. "You know how big Atlantis is, Carson. He could be anywhere!"

"You've got all that fancy technology," Carson said. "Use it! Just don't send the Marines after him. Please, Liz."

"Why not?" Bates said defensively.

"The sight of you will make him panic," Carson replied curtly. Bates winced and nodded.

"Carson, we need to find him as quickly as possible."

"I realize that, Elizabeth. But he could be in a very bad way. Being hunted down by Marines--."

"I resent that, Dr. Beckett," Bates protested.

"I'm sorry, sergeant, but from Lieutenant Ford's perspective that's exactly how it will appear."

"So what do we do?" Bates asked plaintively. "We can't just --."

"Get out of uniform," John said. "No hats, no jackets and no weapons," he barked. "And if you can swing by and change out of those shirts, all the better. At the very least, lose the grey." Bates nodded to his men and they began to peel out of their outer garments. They stripped down to their tee shirts and set out while John and Carson went to the command center.


It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Carson had walked out on him, not giving him a chance to respond to his declaration. Aiden needed to see him. He needed to tell him. He'd gotten out of bed and headed to Carson's office. Not finding him, he'd snuck out of the infirmary. He had to find Carson. He had to let him know.

Aiden tightly shut his eyes, as once again the pain threatened to overwhelm him. He couldn't stop now. He had to go on. He had to reach Carson. The doc would know what to do. The doc would stop the pain. All Aiden had to do was find him. Then he could tell Carson. Aiden opened his eyes, wiping away a tear that had managed to escape.

Carson would save him. And then he'd be able to tell him everything.

But Aiden was lost in an unfamiliar part of the city. And he couldn't remember what he so urgently wanted to tell Carson.


"He's off the grid," Rodney said testily. He really hated having to repeat himself, especially when time was of the essence.

"He's got to be somewhere, Rodney!"

"Yes, he has to be somewhere, Elizabeth, but he's apparently not anywhere on our security grid."

"What does that mean, exactly?" John asked patiently.

"It means, major, that Lieutenant Ford is either hiding from our cameras or he's outside the parameters of our security grid, and if that's the case, he could be anywhere."

"Can't Atlantis track him?"

"You'd know that better than any of us," Elizabeth said. "Why don't you try to see if you can locate him outside the security grid." John nodded and concentrated on the life signs detector. A holographic screen appeared before him and John saw several dots outside the security grid.

"Which one's Ford?" Peter asked.

"We have no way of knowing unless we get out there and look," John said. "Hey; why are there five people outside the grid?"

"People like to wander around off duty," Peter said with a shrug. "We try to discourage it, but people do go exploring. Wait," he said, checking a screen on his laptop before turning back to John. "Those aren't day trippers out there. That's the team we sent to check out the new lab we found last week."

"How many in the team?" Elizabeth asked. Peter checked the laptop.

"Five," he reported glumly. "Three scientists and two Marine escorts."

"So for all we know, he's still somewhere inside the city," Elizabeth concluded. "Well, for the time being let's focus our attention there."

"How far is he likely to be able to travel in his condition?" Peter asked. Everyone turned to Carson.

"I couldn't begin to say," he admitted reluctantly. "Too many unknowns."

"Can you give us a clue?" John said.

"He's been out of a coma for just a few days and he's prone to debilitating headaches," Carson said with a shrug. "So he shouldn't be able to get very far. But he's also a battle-toughened Marine with well-honed survival skills."

"Add to that the fact that he's suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder," Kate said, entering the command center. "I suggest you get out there and find him fast."


Aiden skidded to a halt when the doors of a transporter opened up ahead. He saw them again. The bad men, the ones who'd hurt him. In a panic, Aiden backtracked and ran until his lungs gave out and he fell to the floor, panting and disoriented. He needed to get up again. He needed to keep moving, but he was only able to get to his knees before he began heaving and threw up until there was nothing left in his stomach. Aiden, however, didn't let that stop him; he crawled along the corridor, leaning heavily against the wall to keep from falling over. He found himself at a dead end. Aiden pounded on the bulkhead in front of him and cried out in frustration. Then he passed out.


"This is all my fault," Carson said, mostly to himself.

"How so?" John asked. He walked ahead of Carson and peered into an open room as Carson did the same to a room on the opposite side of the corridor.

"He'd had a very stressful day and I only made it worse. I'm the one who insisted that he have the psych evaluation in the first place. He wasn't ready."

"Don't," John said. Carson stopped and turned around.

"I thought we were doing a door to door search. Wouldn't that include closets?"

"Don't beat yourself up over this," John clarified. "Ford's a grown man. He did this, not you."

"I'm not entirely convinced of that."

John stopped and stared at him for a moment.

"Did something happen that I should know about?" he asked carefully. Carson sighed and leaned against the wall, feeling all the weight of guilt and fatigue that had building throughout the day.

"He had a minor episode this afternoon, during his session with Kate. He was rather upset afterwards. Aiden's afraid that he's losing his mind. I did my best to reassure him, but I'm not sure he believed me."

"What do you think he was trying to accomplish by running away?" John asked as he resumed his search. Carson pushed himself off the wall and followed. "I mean running away would only give credence to a diagnosis of crazy, wouldn't it?"

"He's not thinking clearly, major," Carson said in Aiden's defense. "He's probably--." Both men paused when they heard Bates speaking over the com link.

"Say again, Bates?" John said.

"We've found something, sir," Bates replied. "It's a pair of those sock things they give you in the hospital." John and Carson exchanged a glance.

"Okay; where are you?" John got the coordinates and gave orders to redeploy the security teams before he and Carson headed for the transporter.

"It doesn't make sense," Carson muttered.


"You asked why he ran away. It doesn't make sense. As you just said, doing so would only prove his instability. There's got to be another reason."

"Have you guys figured out how much of his memory he's recovered? Could he have tried to go to his room and just gotten lost?"

"I doubt it," Carson said. "I had just left him to go fetch his things. Why would he want to go to his room?"

"Well, he knew you were there," John said as he stepped into the conveyance. Carson paused to consider what John had just said. "Coming, doc?" Carson looked up sheepishly and stepped into the transporter.


When he came to, the bulkhead door was miraculously open. Aiden crawled through and found that he was in a long, narrow corridor. He scrambled to his feet and reached for the control panel. Opening it, he struggled to remember how to disable the door. He'd seen McKay do it a half dozen times. He pulled out the crystals and fiddled with them until the doors slid shut. Relieved, Aiden slid down the wall and passed out again. When he came to he felt much better. His head didn't hurt as much and his stomach had settled. He got to his feet and began to explore the hallway.


"Major, where are you?" Rodney said in John's ear.

"I just stepped off the transporter and I'm about fifty feet from--."

"Never mind, I've got you," Rodney interrupted. John rolled his eyes.

"What do you want, McKay?"

"Head to your left, corridor C. I want you to check out something."

"The security team found Aiden's socks in the opposite direction," Carson protested.

"But someone's been messing with the door in corridor C and I need you to investigate it."

"Think it's Ford?" John asked as he headed in the direction of the corridor. Carson hung back and after a moment of indecision, he went in the opposite direction to catch up with the security teams.

"I have no idea," Rodney shot back. "That's why I need you to investigate."

"Never mind; I withdraw the question." John said grimly. He looked back and noted for the first time that Carson had left him. "Beckett!" he shouted. "Get down here." Carson turned and ran toward John. When he reached him he barely came to a stop before stepping into a puddle of vomit.

"What's happening?" Rodney demanded over the com link.

"Think this is Ford's?" John asked. Carson nodded.

"It's likely; if his headache became too bad he might suffer from nausea and vomiting," he said. "We could well have a medical emergency on our hands when we find him." Carson switched to another radio frequency and contacted the infirmary.

"Hello? The door?" Rodney persisted.

"Wait, Rodney. We think Ford may have been here," John replied.

"Then he's very likely the one who messed with the door," Rodney said impatiently. "Can you open it?"

"No," John said, frowning. "It's locked."

"What would you all do without me?" Rodney said with a dramatic sigh. John ignored the taunt and followed his instructions for opening the panel.


Aiden moved down the corridor, opening doors and peering in to see what he could see. He reached the last door before the turn and froze when it suddenly slid open and a Wraith stepped out into the corridor. Aiden promptly lifted his weapon to defend himself but the Wraith grabbed him by the arm. Aiden managed to wrest his arm free and retreated, shouting for help.

"Teyla! Major! We got Wraith! Repeat: We got Wraith! I'm under attack!"

The Wraith lurched forward and once again attempt to grab him. Aiden brought the butt of his P90 up to strike the alien's chin. The Wraith stumbled backward and Aiden did the same, hitting the ground hard and scrabbling backward. He'd lost his automatic weapon and reached for his sidearm. It wasn't there, either, and Aiden searched the floor for it as the Wraith rose from the floor. Aiden moved backwards till he reached the wall and slowly got to his feet as the Wraith bore down on him. When the Wraith got close, Aiden lunged at him, hitting him the gut as hard as he could. Once again the Wraith fell, and Aiden clawed his way out of his grasp and ran right into the arms of another Wraith.


"No, no no, major! I think you're just doing this to vex me," Rodney complained. "Move the blue crystal to the left. No! Your other left!"

"Rodney!" John spat through gritted teeth. Behind him, Carson paced impatiently.

"We don't even know if he's behind those doors," he said. "He might have been going the other way."

"Bates and his men have gone the other way," John said reassuringly. "We'll go this way just in case--."

Peter's voice broke in before he could finish.

"Major Sheppard, we've got him."

"Where?" Carson shouted.

"Get that door open!" Rodney shouted. "He's in the corridor about thirty feet ahead of you."

"How can you be sure it's him?" Carson asked, mentally preparing for what he might find on the other side.

"We just got a report; Lieutenant Ford just attacked a Marine," Peter said. "He left the lab and ran right into the lieutenant. He tried talking to him, but Ford started shouting something about the Wraith and attacked him."

"We've got to get in there, major!" Carson cried.

"I'm trying!" John shouted. "Got it!"

"They've got him!" Rodney shouted, just as the doors slid open. John and Carson took off at a run only to find two men sprawled on the floor. Carson knelt to check on the one who wasn't moving as John helped the other one to his feet.

"What happened, Marine?" John demanded.

"It was Lieutenant Ford, sir. He came at us like a madman. Started shouting something about the Wraith. When we tried to calm him down he went at Devlin and then at me when I went to his aid."

"All right," John said. He reported back to the command center and then turned to Carson. He was checking on Devlin, who was sitting up and still woozy.

"A med team's on the way," John declared. "Can you two hang on until they get here?"

"Yes, sir," Devlin said.

"He might be mildly concussed, but that should be the extent of it," Carson said.

"Good; let's move on, then. The medics can take over here."

Carson didn't hesitate. He got to his feet and followed John around the corner.

"Be careful, sir," Devlin called behind them. "He's crazy!" Carson bristled at his use of the word. He followed John as he listened to reports coming over the com link for a few seconds before he spoke.

"He's reliving his experience on the planet. He was in a narrow corridor when the Wraith popped out at him. He called for backup and then engaged the enemy before he was overcome," Carson said soberly.

"He told you this?"

"Aye; he told me about it last night. I could see how this environment might have triggered a flashback."

"Well, he can't have gone far," John concluded. "It's a dead end." Carson looked down the corridor and nodded.

"Go back, major."

"What? I'm not--."

"Go back. Aiden will not come out of his own volition. He's said time and again that I'm the only one he trusts. I'm the only one who should go in there after him."

"I'm not leaving you here alone, Carson. You heard what they said! Ford just had a full-blown psychotic episode back there!"

"I'll be perfectly safe," Carson said calmly. "Leave me."

"No way!"

"I'm willing to take the risk."

"Well, I'm not!"

"Major! John--please. Your presence might do him more harm than good. I'm on the com link; if I have a problem I'll contact you."

John hesitated for a few moments before reluctantly nodding.

"I'll be just around the corner."

"Good. Have the med team at the ready with four milligrams of lorazepam in a syringe," Carson said.

"Four milligrams of what?"

"Just go, major."


"Oh, God!" Aiden moaned. "Oh, God!"

He fell to his knees, hands gripping his head. The pain was too great. He couldn't go on. He curled up in the fetal position and began to cry. But only a few minutes later he climbed to his feet again, sloppily wiping his eyes and nose.

"Can't stay here. I have to keep moving. Got to find Carson."

Aiden scrambled to his feet and began to move.


John was relieved to see Kate and Anne among the responding medical team. Anne was attending to the wounded soldier. Kate saw John and went over to speak with him.

"According to the accounts of these Marines, Lieutenant Ford was experiencing a flashback," she said.

"Yeah, that's what the doc said," John said, with a glance over his shoulder.

"Where is Carson?"

"He wanted to go after Ford alone. I was dead set against the idea, but he insisted. He said to have a syringe ready with four milligrams of…of something," John said awkwardly.

"We're ready for him," Anne assured him, rising from where she was kneeling beside Devlin. "Did you see him?" John shook his head.

"Carson said it was best if he went on alone."

"For what it's worth, he's probably right," Kate said. "But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be ready if things go sour."


Aiden opened a door and found a closet filled with what appeared to be bolts of fabric. He closed the door and opened another. He was in a large storeroom with lots of closets. Aiden was so exhausted and disoriented that he couldn't remember the way out. He heard the sound of footsteps and dove into the next closet he came upon and curled up tightly on the floor. Unlike the previous closet, this one was full of alien machinery and it poked him in the back and ribs as Aiden tried to become invisible.

Carson entered the storeroom and turned on the light. He glanced around and seeing no sign of Aiden, he shut the lights and left again.

"Where are you lad?" he sighed as he moved on to the next room.

Inside the closet, Aiden stirred, buoyed by the sound of the only voice he could recognize. He crawled forward and tried to open the door, but it wouldn't budge. He hadn't considered that there'd be no mechanism for opening the door from the inside. He swore and tried again. In a panic he threw himself at the door, hurting his shoulder in the process but, undaunted, Aiden began to pound on the door with both his fists, bloodying one of them in the process.


"Carson, what's going on?" John said into the com link.

"There's no sign of him," Carson replied. "You're sure he came this way?"

"There's no other way he could have gone. McKay?"

"He's still in there," Rodney replied. "There's no way out of--. Hello..."

"What?" John barked.

"We've got a life sign but it's flickering in and out."

"What does that mean?" Anne demanded.

"It could mean the obvious, but it also could mean that--. Yes, I think Aiden's life sign is being blocked, partially...or intermittently."

"Blocked? By what?" John asked.

"He's probably close to a piece of highly advanced Atlantis technology. Some of their more sophisticated equipment can block life sign emissions. Zelenka discovered that recently, the hard way. Heh! Carson, backtrack and return to the storeroom on your right. No, no, the next one."

"So he's alive?" John asked anxiously.

"He's very much alive, and moving--but in a very confined area," Rodney said curiously. Carson entered the room he'd left moments earlier and looked around. Once again he saw no sign of Aiden.

"Where is he, Rodney" Carson demanded impatiently.

"He's right there in front of you!"

"All I see are--." Knowing that talking would get him nowhere, Carson moved forward and waved his palm over the access panel of the nearest closet, too stressed to attempt to use his natural gene. The door whooshed open and he saw nothing but boxes. He moved to the next door and then the next.

"What's happening, Carson?" Rodney shouted.

"Carson?" John shouted as he paced back and forth like a caged tiger. "Speak to me, Carson."

"Shut up, both of you!" Carson shouted. All radio noise came to an abrupt halt and Carson heard a thumping noise. He moved in its direction. "Aiden? Aiden can you hear me?" The thumping noise stopped. "Aiden?"

"Carson, what's happening?" Rodney cried. Carson angrily pulled off his com link and tossed it away.

"Aiden?" Carson moved further into the huge storage room and bent lower. He heard a noise and promptly moved to the last door in the row and waved it open. The site that greeted him broke his heart. Aiden was curled up under a shelf in one corner of the closet, knees pulled tightly to his chest. His arms were wrapped around his legs and his head was tucked down. Aiden looked terrified and was clearly trying to hide.

"Aiden," Carson said gently. Aiden lifted his head and looked up at him with haunted eyes. Carson fell to his knees and pulled him into his arms. "It's all right now, lad," he said softly as he held Aiden to his heart. "Everything is going to be all right."

Aiden went willingly into his arms and clung to Carson, who shifted so that he was sitting with his back to the wall of the closet. Aiden curled up around him, practically in his lap. Carson smiled and gently rubbed Aiden's back, whispering words of comfort to the trembling man in his arms.

"I knew you'd come. I knew you'd save me," Aiden said hoarsely. Carson lovingly stroked Aiden's hair, nearly overcome with emotion. He heard footsteps coming down the corridor outside and pulled himself together as he heard John call his name.

"Carson? You all right?" John entered the room and found Carson's com link on the floor. "Carson!"

"Yes," Carson called, but not too loudly. "I've got him."

"Is he all right?" John said, drawing closer.

"Yes," Carson said. He cleared his throat. "Stay there." He shifted Aiden in his arms and settled more comfortably. "Give us a little while, John." John glanced over at Kate and Anne, who'd followed on his heels. They both nodded and the trio reluctantly retreated to the far end of the storeroom. Rodney demanded an update and John assured him that Aiden had been found.

"What do you think is going on in there?" he asked Kate.

"He needs to settle him," Kate replied. "The poor man is probably severely traumatized. Being with Carson will help ground him before we attempt to move him." John nodded and turned away to call off the search teams. Anne hovered nearby with her medical kit. Kate, as John had done earlier, paced worriedly.


"Aiden?" Carson said softly. From the sound of his breathing, Carson suspected that Aiden had fallen asleep. Passed out, more like, from sheer exhaustion. Carson gently rubbed the back of Aiden's neck to rouse him. "Come on, Aiden. Wake up, darlin.'" Carson felt Aiden smile into his shoulder. "You're awake; good, you can get your beauty sleep later," Carson said teasingly. But he quickly sobered and focused on assessing Aiden's condition. "Tell me how you feel. Does your head hurt?" Aiden nodded. "All right, lad," Carson said softly, caressing Aiden's head with a gentle touch. "You're going to have to go back to the infirmary. But not right now; we can just sit here together for a while, if that's all right with you."

"Like it here. You're here," Aiden said breathily. Carson lifted his head so he could peer into his eyes. Aiden looked slightly shocky, but that was to be expected. Carson smiled for a moment and then started to laugh. Aiden blinked in confusion.

"You look a terrible fright, man," Carson explained with a twinkle in his eye. "You know, for months now I've thought you were the handsomest man of my acquaintance. After this I may have to reconsider my opinion." Aiden buried his face in Carson's shoulder. Carson turned his head and kissed Aiden's temple. "Oh, who am I kidding? Even looking like five miles of bad road I still love the sight of you."

"I was looking for you," Aiden said softly, nestling more deeply into the arms of his savior.

"Why, love?" Carson asked as he toyed with Aiden's hair.

"Needed you," was all Aiden said. He sighed and Carson immediately became alarmed. It was more like a wheeze and he gently pulled Aiden away. Aiden resisted, but Carson shushed him and laid him down on the floor. He reached up to tap his com link and belatedly recalled that he'd discarded it. "Anne!" he called. "Anne! Bring the medical kit." Anne appeared at the door within seconds. She set down the case and moved to assist Carson, but he sent her away with a look.

"I need to listen to your lungs, lad. Okay?" Carson didn't wait for Aiden's assent. He gently lifted Aiden's tee shirt and began to listen to various places in his chest. "He's got a rib injury, possibly a punctured lung," Carson called to Anne.

"I'll fetch the gurney," she said.

"What have you done to yourself, Aiden?" Carson muttered, mostly to himself as he carefully examined him from head to toe. He bandaged Aiden's hand and took note of the fact that Aiden winced when he touched his right shoulder. "I'm going to give you something for your headache now," he said.

"No," Aiden replied, turning his face away from Carson for the first time.

"No?" Carson repeated curiously. "Don't you want to ease the pain?"

"I don't want to sleep. I want to stay here with you," Aiden said weakly. Carson could clearly see that Aiden was in a great deal of pain, and he didn't want to delay getting his chest x-rayed.

"Do you trust me, Aiden?" Carson asked, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. Aiden nodded, as much as the pain in his head would allow. "I've got to sedate you. It's for your own good. I'll be with you every second you're unconscious and won't let you come to any harm, I promise." But Aiden shook his head. His eyes opened wider and tried to sit up. Carson tried to push him back down, but he resisted. "We’ve got to get you to the infirmary immediately. I need to do a full--." Aiden grabbed Carson’s face in his hands and held him still.

"Shut up, Carson."

"Shut up?" he replied, stunned by the command and the intense look in Aiden’s eyes.

"Listen to me," Aiden said, loosening his hold ever so slightly and laying back down to catch his breath. Carson watched and worried as Aiden grew more agitated. "I was trapped in a corridor with the Wraith. Teyla and I put up a hell of a fight before we were taken. We woke up in a cell with Major Sheppard. McKay tried to pull off a rescue, but the major sent him to get help. They dragged Teyla out of the cell and brought her back an hour later. Then it was my turn. They strapped me to a table and began asking questions. They’d attached wires to my head and arms. I began to feel pain; it increased each time I refused to answer."

"Yes, yes; you told me all this before, Aiden. Now let me get you back--." Carson started to rise but froze when Aiden grabbed his shirt in a surprisingly strong grip. Carson sat down again and took Aiden's hand in his own.

"They turned on that head thing and the pain became really intense; it got worse and worse 'til I blacked out. But I held on for as long as I could. I tried to learn as much as I could about who I was dealing with, what they wanted--I needed to collect as much tactical information as I could.”

"Aiden," Carson interjected, but the young Marine continued to talk.

"We’re trained to observe, doc. But it hurt so much. The pain was indescribable," Aiden said. "I gritted my teeth and held on for as long as I could. I kept telling myself, 'You’re a brave little soldier, lad.' Remember when you told me that, back in Antarctica on the day we met?" Carson’s mouth fell open. "I said it over and over again. I began to hear your voice saying it and I focused on it. Nothing they said or did to me mattered after that. I just focused on those words. They were the last thing I heard till your voice brought me back," Aiden recalled with a tiny smile. "Your voice was the only thing I had to keep me sane out there. Even after the others came. Your voice is what brought me back. When I heard it again I knew I was safe. I knew it was safe to come back." Aiden's smile was radiant. Carson returned it and his hold on Aiden’s hand became a caress. Seconds later, Aiden passed out. Carson called for the gurney and started barking orders.

The medical team worked for several minutes to stabilize Aiden before moving him. Carson gave him a small dose of a mild sedative as a precautionary measure; he didn't want anything to upset him on his trip back to the infirmary. John accompanied him and Carson wasn't at all surprised to find Rodney and Teyla waiting when they arrived at the infirmary.

"How is Aiden?" Teyla asked as she reached out to caress his cheek.

"He's stable," Carson said as he wheeled Aiden to the x-ray area. "He's a bit beat up and I'm worried about his headaches, but he's a tough kid. Amazingly resilient," Carson said thoughtfully. "Amazingly." John slapped him on the shoulder.

"Good work, doc," he said. "We'll get out of your way and let you do your job." Rodney seconded the praise.

"Good work out there, Carson," he said. He touched Aiden on the shoulder and smiled at him before retreating. Teyla bent and kissed Aiden's cheek. To Carson's surprise she turned and kissed his cheek as well. Carson smiled and pushed Aiden into position. He took a series of x-rays and left Anne to process and analyze them as he resettled Aiden into the ICU.

A short time later Anne was happy to report that Aiden hadn't broken a rib. His wheezing might have been from exhaustion or, as she lightly teased Carson, poor hearing on his part. Carson took the ribbing in good humor. Aiden was safe and under his care once more. Bridget had come on duty and she helped Carson to undress Aiden and clean him before redressing him in a gown. Aiden was put on intravenous fluids to rehydrate him.

"I'm still concerned about his headaches," Carson admitted as he and Anne watched Aiden's chest rise and fall peacefully.

"There's nothing conclusive in his x-rays. I recommend we do a CT scan in the morning," Anne said. "And we should speak with Kate, since his headaches are undoubtedly related to his stress."

"Aye," Carson said, wearily rubbing his eyes. When he looked up again, he saw Anne smiling. He frowned at her and then followed her line of vision. Aiden's eyes were open. Anne walked around the bed to Aiden's side and he turned his head to look at her.

"I'm an old woman," she said sternly, "at least compared to you, anyway. My heart can't take too much excitement. Stay put, young man." Aiden returned the smile she flashed at him. She gave his arm an affectionate squeeze and left, pausing only long enough to do the same to Carson. Aiden turned his eyes to the doctor, who carefully drew the curtains and closed the door before walking over to the stool and sitting down.

"The same goes for me," he said as he reached out and took hold of Aiden's hand.

"You aren't an old woman," Aiden said impishly, in spite of his obvious fatigue.

"Still full of piss and vinegar, are you?" Carson teased. "Even in your current condition; how am I supposed to keep up with the likes of you, full of boundless energy and still in the bloom of youth?"

"You manage all right, doc."

"This time, perhaps," Carson said seriously. "You scared me half to death, you know," he confessed as he toyed with Aiden's fingers.

"I'm sorry, doc. I wasn't trying to worry you."

"You left the infirmary and got yourself lost. You ran yourself ragged and nearly put yourself back in intensive care. What on earth were you about, man?"

"I was looking for you," Aiden said sheepishly.

"I was coming right back, you daft little bugger! Had you sat still for another few minutes we might have spent the evening together instead of searching Atlantis for one another and mobilizing half the resources of the city to find you." Carson continued to vent his frustration for another minute before he realized that Aiden was smiling. "I don't find any of this funny, young man."

"You called me 'darling,'" Aiden said bemusedly. Carson was instantly disarmed. He averted his eyes as his cheeks went red.

"I didn't think you were listening."

"You were trying to wake me up," Aiden reasoned. He laughed softly, wincing when it set off the pain in his head. Carson rose and went to the door. "Don't go," Aiden pleaded.

"I'll not leave you," Carson promised. He waved Bridget over and ordered medication and read over a medical chart she gave him while he waited for her to return. When she brought the tray he took it and returned the chart and gave her verbal instructions for the infirmary's other patient before returning to Aiden's side.

"Is that stuff going to make me sleep?" Aiden asked as he watched Carson inject the painkiller into the IV line.

"With any luck. It's a muscle relaxant. It should help to ease your headache."

"I don't want to sleep. I need to talk to you."

"We can talk in the morning," Carson said. "I'm not going anywhere." He returned to his stool and sat down. Aiden reached out and took hold of his hand.

"You should go to bed."

"I'm not leaving, Aiden. I promised."

"You're exhausted. Hell, I bet you look as bad as I do."

"You look pretty good to me right now, actually," Carson said with a smile. It was Aiden's turn to fight a blush, but he squeezed Carson's hand and spoke earnestly.

"Really; I wore you out today and I'm very sorry. I don't know why I thought it was so important that I--."

"Shh, lad. Don't worry about it now. Go to sleep."

"If I do, promise me that you'll go and get some rest," Aiden insisted.

"Oy! First you make me promise to stay, now you want me to promise to leave," Carson said, shaking his head.

"And I want you to promise to come back, too," Aiden added with a sweet smile.

"And you'll promise to still be here?"

"You can cuff me to the bed if it'll make you feel better, doc. But I'm worried about you."

"I'm not the one with a litany of symptoms longer than my arm, lad. You're the patient here, remember? Post traumatic stress disorder, possible migraine headaches, severe nausea, bruised ribs and shoulder, cuts and scrapes---." Carson sighed and gave in. "There's an empty bed outside. I'll sleep there."

"Good enough," Aiden replied. He pulled on Carson's hand and drew him closer. In his mind, Carson knew he should have stopped what was about to happen, but he was powerless to resist when Aiden reached up and caressed his cheek. "Call me 'darling' again and I'll make you suffer," he said with a wicked smile. But the threat barely registered in Carson's mind before Aiden rose up and briefly pressed his lips to Carson's. It was rather chaste as kisses went. But neither man was dissatisfied. Carson quickly pulled back, conscious of propriety.

"You're a corrupting influence, Lieutenant Ford," he said with a smile. He sat down and they stared at each other in silence, until Aiden fell asleep just a few minutes later, but not so deeply that he didn't feel the kiss Carson placed on his brow.

Carson couldn't bring himself to leave for another hour. When his back began to protest, he reluctantly rose and went to sleep in the bed closest to the ICU. Bridget smiled when she spotted him crawling into bed. She went and warmed a blanket and spread it over him. Carson slept like a log for the next eight hours.

On to PART 9
Tags: tabula rasa

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