Category: First time
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Carson Beckett
Summary: What if the one you loved lost everything but you?
"Still here, are you? I see Carson ignored my suggestion that you be tied to the bed. He was probably right, though; the nurses would have been extraordinarily distracted," Dr. Johnson said with a wink. Aiden grinned and averted his eyes. "So how are you feeling this morning after your big adventure?" she asked as attached the blood pressure cuff to his arm.
"Damned foolish," Aiden replied candidly.
"I meant physically," she said with a smirk.
"I guess I'm okay."
"Sit up," she said after a minute. "I want to listen to your chest." Aiden sat up gingerly and Dr. Johnson listened carefully to his lungs. "Perfect. How's your head?"
"I'm--." Before he could finish the lie she'd whipped out a penlight. Aiden recoiled when she shined it into his eyes.
"You were about to say?"
"Hurts a little," Aiden said. Dr. Johnson withdrew the light and he laid back. "You get your jollies doing that, don't you?"
"You might be surprised to know what floats my boat," Dr. Johnson replied. "I'll prescribe something for the pain."
"Where's the doc?" Aiden asked. Dr. Johnson smiled; she'd expected him to ask sooner.
"Still sleeping like a baby," Dr. Johnson said. "It's a glorious sight. He certainly needed the rest." Aiden looked down, guilt evident on his face. "That wasn't an indictment, Aiden. He runs himself ragged all the time."
"He ought to take better care of himself," Aiden said, looking up.
"I've been telling him that for nearly a year. Fortunately," she said in a conspiratorial tone, "he's got us to look after him." She winked again and left with a promise to send him something for his headache.
The first thing Carson heard when he awoke was the sound of rustling paper. He opened his eyes and saw Aiden, dressed in jeans and a tee shirt, sitting in a chair beside his bed reading Kipling. He observed him for a minute, indulging in the sight of a perfectly healthy Aiden sitting at his bedside. It was just an illusion, of course, but he recalled an occasion when it had been real. It was the day after the storm. Atlantis was slowly getting back to normal, but Carson had been confined to bed, recovering from the mild concussion he'd suffered at the hands of the Genii, Sora.
Carson had been dozing lightly when he thought he heard a noise. He opened his eyes and carefully sat up in bed, blinking owlishly. The sight that greeted him gave him pause. It was Aiden, in civilian attire, sitting in a chair by his bed.
"I didn't know you read Gaelic," Carson quipped.
"Is that what this is?" Aiden replied, setting aside the book in his hands. Carson noticed a tray on the nightstand. "Sorry, if I woke you, doc, but I didn't see you in the mess this afternoon and figured you didn't feel well enough to get out of bed. I know what that feels like so I thought I'd bring you some lunch."
"That was very thoughtful of you; thanks, Aiden."
"Hey, it was the least I could do after giving you such a hard time yesterday," Aiden replied diffidently.
"You aren't feeling guilty, are you?" Carson asked suspiciously. "Last night you defended your behavior pretty strongly."
"I wasn't talking about giving you a hard time while we were searching for the major," Aiden said with a smile. "I meant giving you a hard time about it after you got conked on the head."
"I see," Carson said with a smile. Aiden rose to his feet.
"Here," he said, leaning cross Carson's body to adjust the pillows. "Get comfortable." Carson sat back, surreptitiously inhaling Aiden's scent as he did so. "It's just a sandwich, but I managed to talk the lady behind the counter into giving me an extra dessert."
Carson peered at the tray Aiden placed on his lap. He could well imagine the food servers sneaking him a couple of extra cookies. They routinely gave him the best of everything, according to Major Sheppard, who made it an ongoing source of torment for his second in command.
"Enjoy." Aiden backed away and would have left had Carson not called him back.
"Where are you going? Stay and keep me company for a bit," Carson said.
"Sorry, doc, but I'm headed over to the mainland. The storm left a lot of debris that has to be cleared away before the Athosians can rebuild their village. I volunteered to help."
"Oh," Carson said, averting his eyes to mask his disappointment. "Well, give them my best wishes and tell them that I'll come out and help as soon as I'm able."
"I'll do that, doc," Aiden said with a smile. "Enjoy." He was gone before Carson could speak again. He sat for a while staring at the wall, the warmth of Aiden's smile easing the pain in his head just a bit.
"Finally awake, eh? Thought I'd try babysitting you for a change," Aiden said with a wry smile. "Good thing you're up, though. Dr. J just caught me sitting here and had a fit. She said I shouldn't be walking around with this headache and ordered me back to bed." Carson sat up.
"Maybe your head wouldn't hurt so badly if you weren't trying to read upside down," he said with a smile. "What time is it?"
"Haven't a clue," Aiden said, frowning at the book in his hand. He shrugged and stuffed it back into the duffle at his feet.
"I see you've got your stuff."
"The doc gave it to me. Thanks for bringing it." Aiden rubbed his temple. "I've got to--."
"Go back to bed, Aiden, you shouldn't be up after what you went through yesterday," Carson said as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. He wasn't at all fooled by Aiden's attempt to pretend he'd been keeping a vigil by his bed and although Carson was amused by the joke, he was more concerned about Aiden's pallor. "Even with medication, you aren't--."
"Do you always wake up giving orders like a drill sergeant?" Aiden teased. "You remind me of a guy I knew at Parris Island--."
"I need some help here!" Bates shouted as he and another Marine half-carried, half-dragged a scientist into the infirmary. Carson leapt off the bed and ran to meet them in his stocking feet. "He's got some kind of chemical burn, doc. Something blew up on his bench and his hand got the brunt of it. We rinsed the injured area according to protocol but he's still in a lot of pain so we brought him right down."
"Good," Carson said. Denise appeared with a cart and Carson set about cutting away the patient's lab coat as Dr. Johnson came out of an exam room to assist. The trio worked with practiced efficiency, stabilizing the patient and assessing his injuries. It wasn't until several minutes later that Bates looked away from the action.
Carson glanced up and was about to ask what Bates wanted when he suddenly remembered Aiden. He turned to look and saw Aiden standing with his back against the wall, paralyzed with fear. Carson glanced back to Bates, but he'd already grabbed the other Marine and begun to withdraw. Carson found himself torn between the needs of two patients.
"Aiden!" he called as a small hand touched his back.
"Tend to your patient, Dr. Beckett. I will see to him," Teyla said as she walked over to Aiden and took hold of his face. She smiled and spoke softly, forcing him to focus on her before she took him in hand and led him into the ICU and closed the door. Carson sighed and tried to focus on the task at hand. But his thoughts and his heart were elsewhere.
Teyla made Aiden sit on the bed and sang an Athosian lullaby as she caressed his face and arms. When she felt him begin to relax, she made him lie down. He curled into the fetal position and she sat down beside him on the bed, never losing contact with his skin.
"What are you singing?" he asked presently.
"It is something my mother sang to me when I was a girl and couldn't sleep," Teyla replied with a warm smile. "Do you like it?"
"I don't understand the words."
"I believe the song is from the Egiddons. They spoke a language very unlike our own."
"I am sorry I cannot translate it for you, but I do like the melody."
"You sing very well."
"Thank you, Aiden," Teyla replied. "Would you like to sleep?"
"No. No sleep," Aiden said anxiously. She stroked his hair and calmed him. "Teyla, what's happening to me? Why do I feel like this?"
"How do you feel, Aiden?"
"Afraid; I feel like something very bad is happening to me, but I don't know what it is." Aiden turned worried eyes to her. "You know what it is, don't you?"
"I will not lie to you, Aiden. I do believe I know what is happening to you."
"Tell me." Aiden abruptly sat up. "Please, Teyla. I need to know."
"I should get Dr. Beckett," she began as she started to rise. But Aiden grabbed her arm and held her in place.
"No! You tell me--now."
"I am not sure that is wise," she said.
"I have a right to know, Teyla," Aiden insisted. "Please, just tell me." Teyla nodded and sat down.
"It was an accident, Aiden; a terrible accident."
"What was an accident?" he asked in confusion.
"It has to do with what happened on PX3-889. You were taken by the Wraith to a lab, and where you were put on a table and connected to a machine..." She paused when Aiden nodded and winced. She reached out and rubbed his arm. The contact seemed to calm him. She wished Carson were there, but she was resolved to do as Aiden wished. "Dr. McKay had managed to escape earlier and went to get help."
"I remember that. What happened afterward?" Aiden demanded impatiently.
"Help arrived," Teyla said. "A dozen men traveled back through the gate to liberate us. They freed Major Sheppard and me from our cell. Then they went after you." She could feel Aiden growing more anxious and she chose her next words carefully. "The men who found you tried to disconnect you from the Wraith machinery. They had no idea that, in doing so, they caused you such great pain that you lapsed into a coma."
"Our people did that to me?" Aiden said incredulously.
"It was an accident, Aiden," Teyla said firmly. "There isn't a single man among the rescue team who has been able to forgive himself for what has befallen you." Aiden was silent, staring into space. "Aiden?"
"No," Aiden said shaking his head. "No. The doc sat me down the other day. He told me what happened and he didn't say anything about this."
"Perhaps it was before we figured it out. None of us knew initially why you had fallen into a coma. I had been subjected to the identical procedure and recovered without any lasting effects. It was not until two days ago that we began to realize what had happened."
"Why didn't he tell me?" Aiden asked incredulously.
"Aiden, we were trying to protect you. When you came out of the coma--."
"He knew about this," Aiden said, no longer listening. "You all did. I can't believe you've all been keeping this from me! I can't believe he'd keep this from me!"
"She's right, Aiden," Carson said from the door. "We were trying to protect you."
"From what? The fact that I'd been downed by friendly fire? Hey, it's a fact of life. You deal, you move on."
"It's not that simple, Aiden," Carson said. Teyla rose to her feet. She knew that what needed to be said was best said in private. Neither man noted her departure. She closed the door behind her, leaving them to talk.
"You've been keeping me in here for how many weeks now? Like a prisoner--why? So you could keep this from me?"
"Aiden, you've got every right to be upset, but we made the decision to withhold this information from you until--."
"You made the decision! I wasn't any part of it!" Aiden spat. "In fact I, distinctly recall asking you to tell me what happened. Instead you made me tell you what I remembered."
"I know, Aiden," Carson said patiently. "I needed to know how much you could remember. When I realized that you didn't know the cause of your trauma, I put off telling you till I could have a word with Dr. Heightmeyer."
"So you admit it. You unilaterally decided that I didn't need to know something and just kept it from me!" Aiden shouted. Carson sighed.
"Look, Aiden, we need talk about this, but I think we should wait until--."
"There you go, deciding things for me again," Aiden said as he climbed off the bed to confront him. "Well, I want to discuss this here and now."
"I've got another patient out there with a serious injury," Carson said bluntly. "I've got to get back to him. I only came in for a moment to see if you were all right." Aiden took a step back, his anger temporarily deflated.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm just great."
"I want you to lie down and try to rest. Getting upset only exacerbates your headache--."
"No shit! It's a little late for that, isn't it?"
"What?" He petulantly climbed back onto the bed and laid down. "Go and see to your other patient, doc," he said, reaching for his MP-3 player. He stuffed the buds into his ears and pointedly turned away from Carson, who stared at him for another moment before leaving the room. There was nothing else he could do for Aiden and his other patient needed his attention. But he took a second and contacted Kate. He gave her a quick account of what had happened and she promised to pay Aiden a visit.
"Oh, lord," Rodney sighed when Teyla told him and John what had just occurred.
"Was I wrong to do so?" she asked. "It seemed as though it would have done him greater harm to do otherwise."
"He would have found out sooner or later," John said reassuringly.
"But he should have been told under controlled conditions," Rodney said, "preferably with Carson or Dr. Heightmeyer present and fully prepared for any negative reaction on Ford's--."
"Rodney!" John said exasperatedly.
"Well, she asked!" he countered. "So how bad is it going to be for him?" he asked more soberly.
"You didn't see him when they brought him out of that storeroom last night," John said.
"Nor did you see him this morning," Teyla said grimly. "I am not sure which was worse; the look of fear in his eyes or the look of horror at finding out that his friends had betrayed him."
"No one betrayed him," John protested. "All right, maybe we might have handled things differently. But I'm backing the doctors on this one. Between what Beckett and Heightmeyer told me last night, I don't think Ford's ready to deal with the truth."
"Well, that's a moot point, now, isn't it?" Rodney said.
"Why do I need an MRI?" Aiden asked suspiciously, sometime later that morning.
"We want to find the source of your headaches."
"I thought that was what you did the CT scan for yesterday."
"Got me there," Dr. Johnson teased. "The MRI will give us additional information upon which to build a diagnosis."
"Come on, doc. You already know what's causing my headaches," Aiden said with a forced smile. "All I need is a little fresh air and sunshine--you know, a change of venue and I'll be as good as new."
"If I thought it was that simple, I'd be out there on the sundeck with you right now. But seeing as bright light tends to make you cringe like Dracula, I sincerely doubt it."
"I'll be fine in a few days," Aiden insisted, in spite of his obvious pain.
"Don't you want me to completely rule out cerebrovascular disease, head trauma, infection, tumor, or metabolic disorder?"
"We could have been halfway done by now," Dr. Johnson deadpanned. "Come on--humor me, hot stuff." Aiden sighed and slowly climbed off the bed.
"Okay; do I have to use that?" he asked with a pained glance at the wheelchair.
"Well, if you'd prefer to walk through the infirmary while you're experiencing blinding pain in the bright lights of the--." Dr. Johnson smiled when Aiden immediately moved to the chair. "Wise decision," she said lightly. She handed him a towel.
"What's this for?"
"Cover your eyes," Dr. Johnson said as she wheeled him to the door. She brought him back twenty minutes later and helped him into bed.
"You didn't mention that the MRI would be painful."
"I'm afraid there's nothing we could do to muffle the sound beyond giving you those ear plugs. Try to relax for a while," Dr. Johnson said softly. Denise brought Aiden some pills and turned off the light. In spite of the medication he had trouble falling asleep. Thoughts of his argument with Carson weighed heavily upon him. For the second time in as many days, Aiden and Carson had exchanged harsh words. But in between those two arguments, other, more compelling words had been spoken.
"We're far too close for me to be completely objective where you're concerned."
"I've already said far more than I should have today, and I don't think I could have been any plainer. If you've any remaining doubts you'll just have to accept it on faith that--. Everything..."
Aiden rolled over and sat up. Carson loved him. He dropped his head into his hands.
"I'm such an idiot," he murmured. He rubbed his temples, praying the pain would cease. The door opened, allowing a bit of bright light to enter the room. Aiden winced and tried to make out his visitor.
"May I come in?"
Kate didn't wait for Aiden to respond. She had planned on paying Aiden a visit even before receiving Carson's call. She had spent a good deal of the previous night studying all the background information she could find on Aiden's case and had spoken to a few people who could give her additional insight into Aiden's recent behavior. When she learned he was resting after his MRI, Kate used the extra time to put together something she wanted to share with him. Now that he was up, she seized the opportunity to see him.
"He sent for you, didn't he?" Aiden said as Kate turned on the light, keeping it low in deference to his headache.
"Who?" Kate asked, caught off guard by the accusation.
"Carson," Aiden replied unthinkingly.
"I didn't realize that you two were on a first name basis."
"We're friends," Aiden said gruffly. "Sometimes I forget to use his proper title. In fact, I usually just refer to him as 'doc.' Is that a problem?" he asked when she frowned.
"Forgive me," Kate said, pulling over the stool to sit down, "but it sounds as though you're angry with him."
"I've got a good reason to be angry with him. I just found out that he knew what happened to me and has been keeping it from me all this time."
"Not all this time, Aiden--two days. We figured out what probably happened to you only two days ago. And yes, we decided that it was in your best interest to keep it from you for the time being."
"You had no right to do that!"
"As your doctor and your psychologist, we had every right," Kate countered.
"Why? It's no big! I know all about it now and I'm fine!"
"With all due respect, Aiden, you're not fine."
"All right, so I'm pissed off about being kept in the dark; I'll get over it."
"I don't mean that--."
"You mean the headaches? Dr. Johnson said they're migraines."
"...And migraines are often caused by stress."
"Aiden, I didn't come down here today because of Carson's call. He did alert me about what happened this morning, but I would have come, anyway."
"You have the results of my psych evaluation?" Aiden asked worriedly. Kate nodded.
"Yes, and after speaking with Carson I listened to the recording he made two nights ago, after you had the first of several episodes--."
"He gave you the tape? After he promised not to--."
"Aiden, please bear with me," Kate said soothingly. "I want you to listen to the tape. I want you to listen to yourself. I'm going to play the recording he made that night, and an excerpt from our session yesterday. After that I'm going to play back a recording made last night after your encounter with two Marines in the corridor."
"What's this all about?"
"Before you pass judgment on Carson--or me, since I'm equally guilty of withholding information--I want you to listen carefully to all the evidence. Then you can decide for yourself whether or not we did the right thing. Will you agree to do that?" Kate watched as Aiden carefully turned, swinging his legs over the side of the bed to face her, though he wouldn't meet her eyes. Kate could see Aiden's anxiety, but he nodded. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Yes," Aiden said hoarsely.
"Would you like me to get Carson or--."
"No," Aiden said hastily. Kate was surprised at the sharpness of his reply, but she nodded.
"If you need me to stop at any time, or you--."
"Go ahead," Aiden said. "Play it." Kate nodded again and turned on the tape player. The first voice he heard was Carson's.
"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...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 looked up into Kate's eyes briefly and sighed.
"How's he doing?" Rodney asked when Carson sat down at their table. He was having a late lunch and had hoped to have a few minutes to himself. But Rodney and John spotted him as he entered the dining hall and all but dragged him over to their table.
"How are you doing?" John asked. "You look like you just lost..." He let the words die on his tongue when both Rodney and Carson turned icy blue glares on him.
"He's angry," Carson said bleakly, "very, very angry. I can't even begin to describe the emotional roller coaster he's been on this week."
"You've been riding it with him over every peak and valley," Rodney said sympathetically.
"Yes, well, I'm about to be relieved of that burden," Carson said. When he saw the shocked looks of his companions he tried to explain. "Anne's going to be taking over Aiden's primary care from now on. She's got a background in neurology and is something of an expert on headaches."
"Neurology?" John said.
"That's the study of--."
"I know what it means, Rodney," John snapped. "You think Ford's headaches are the result of some sort of nervous disorder, doc?"
"I think it's safe to assume that they're also related to his psychological issues. Kate Heightmeyer will help him to deal with those," Carson said as he poured a precise amount of milk into his tea.
"So that's it? Johnson and Heightmeyer take over and what? You're washing your hands of him?" Rodney said disapprovingly. Carson looked up.
"Of course not, Rodney; I would never do that to Aiden."
"It certainly sounds to me like that's exactly what you're doing," Rodney said.
"I've merely turned his care over to people who are better qualified to deal with his current issues than I am," Carson said tiredly. "Don't read any more into it than that."
"What about his long-term issues?"
"Rodney, I don't have the energy to deal with this now," Carson said wearily.
"Right," Rodney said, abruptly rising and collecting his things.
"Oh, come on Rodney; you don't have to leave!"
"I've got work to do," he replied. Carson sighed and watched him go.
"Ach! Is every word out of my mouth determined to put someone off today?" Carson complained. He rubbed his eyes and looked at John sheepishly when he was done.
"I'm not put off," the major said. "And I don't think Rodney is, either. I think he's--well, in his own...odd sort of way, I think he's worried about you."
"...And Ford," John added. "He wants to see you two make it. Never imagined him for a wild-eyed romantic." He smiled when Carson rolled his eyes. "How are you, really?"
"I'm bloody exhausted," Carson said bluntly. "Rodney's right. I've been on that roller coaster with Aiden these past three weeks and I need a break."
"Come on, doc! You know Ford's just lashing out because he's hurt and confused. Don't let that scare you away."
"Aiden's hurt and confused because the boundaries between our personal and professional relationship have become blurred. I shouldn't ever have allowed that to happen."
"Aiden Ford's not a kid, doc. You can't convince me that he's unaware of or not at least partially responsible for what's happening between you two." Carson pushed his plate and cup aside and leaned forward.
"Aiden Ford's judgment is compromised, major. Mine should not be," he said in a low voice.
"So this is all your fault." John shook his head. "I don't buy it. Let Ford have some of the credit, doc! The only reason why you're sitting there second-guessing yourself is because he questioned your judgment."
"He had good reason to!"
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean that you did the wrong thing," John said firmly. "Look," he said, after a brief hesitation. "I heard you last night. Don't worry; it was just me and I would never tell a soul what--." Carson blanched.
"What did you hear?"
"Nothing probative," John said cagily. "Look, it wasn't so much what was said as what I heard."
"You're not making sense, man," Carson said. "You just said--."
"It was the way you talked him back from the brink, doc. I'll just say this: if you think you've done wrong by Ford, you're dead wrong."
Aiden stoically listened to each of the tapes Kate played for him, not allowing her to spare him any of the more disturbing parts. He cried once again when he heard Carson speak of his parent's death. He heard his own voice telling Kate that finding out what happened to him back on PX3-889 would be very, very bad and covered his face with his hands when he heard himself weakly assure her that Carson would protect him from whatever might befall him. Finally, he heard John interviewing the two Marines who had confronted Aiden in the hall.
"I don't remember that," Aiden said during the last part, shaking his head. "I didn't attack anyone...did I? I don't remember that." Kate turned off the tape and made him lie down. "Is there more?"
"If there is, I don't have access to it," Kate admitted. Aiden looked at her in confusion. "Carson has made extensive notes on your case but he hasn't shared them with me."
"And you think there's something he hasn't told you?" Aiden asked, closing his eyes and covering them with his forearm.
"Well, once we were able to locate you on the sensors last night, Carson wouldn't allow anyone but himself to approach you. He's the one who found you and he won't tell anyone what transpired between the two of you."
"I know what happened," Aiden said. "He calmed me down, like he always does. Then he checked me out and told me that I had to go back to the infirmary." Kate nodded in acknowledgment as she formed her next statement.
"Aiden, everything you just heard, points to a number of rather serious issues that you're going to have to deal with."
"Yeah," he said bemusedly.
"Before we talk about that, I want your opinion. Should we have told you what we'd figured out?"
"I--I don't know."
"Think about it."
"It wouldn't have helped, I guess," Aiden said after a few moments.
"Aiden, on at least three separate occasions, including earlier this morning, you had a marked visceral reaction to the sight of people in uniform," Kate explained. "Hearing the truth about what happened to you probably won't change that. It only gives you some insight into why you react the way you do."
"So you're saying I can never look at another Marine?" Aiden demanded, lowering his arm to glare at her. "Hell, I'm supposed to be a Marine. That's my uniform!"
"I know that," Kate assured him. "That's why I'm here. I want to discuss my diagnosis and my plan for treating you." Aiden sat up again.
"Can you fix this?"
"We can fix this," Kate said with a smile.
A half hour later she left the ICU. Aiden settled back among the pillows, resolved to do whatever it took to assure a full recovery. But that didn't resolve his immediate concerns. He was worried about Carson and couldn't stop thinking about him. As he tried to sleep, memories of the previous night came back to him in a confusing rush of color and sensation.
The pain in his head was fierce, nausea and fear compounding the situation. Aiden heard footsteps and tried to curl up tighter. He'd heard Carson's voice, but he was gone now. The bad men were back. The others; they were after him. All he could do now was hide and wait. Carson would save him. Carson would come back for him, wouldn't he?
The footsteps drew closer. Aiden tried hard not to cry, but he was so afraid. The pain was getting worse; his heart began beating erratically and he wondered if it were possible to literally be frightened to death. Aiden wasn't supposed to be afraid. He was supposed to be a Marine. A brave little soldier... Aiden squeezed his eyes shut and tried to pray, but his mind refused to cooperate.
Aiden opened his eyes at the sound of Carson's voice. He wanted to cry out but he didn't dare. It could be a ruse. It might be the others. They might be trying to trick him into exposing his hiding place. Or worse, what if they'd captured Carson? They might try to use Carson to get him. Aiden began to cry, rocking back and forth in his tiny hiding space beneath the shelf. If they had Carson, all was lost. Aiden wouldn't be saved. He'd never be safe again. Without Carson, there was no hope. Without Carson, he was as good as dead.
A calm suddenly came over Aiden and he vowed to die bravely, like the good little soldier he was--like the brave little soldier Carson wanted him to be. He resigned himself to his fate and the prayers his grandmother taught him came back to him as the doors whooshed open.
"Aiden," Carson said softly. The tears returned. Aiden couldn't bear to hear the sadness in his voice. All was lost. Hopeless. Carson fell to his knees and pulled Aiden 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 Carson's arms and curled up around him. It was several minutes before Aiden realized that it was real, that he was indeed safe. Relief flooded over him; he concentrated on the sound of Carson's heartbeat and the softly spoken words of comfort whispered in a familiar brogue.
"I knew you'd come. I knew you'd save me," Aiden said hoarsely. Carson smiled and gently rubbed Aiden's back with one hand. The other toyed with the hair at the nape of his neck. Aiden felt drowsy and lightheaded, but he was jolted back into consciousness when Carson suddenly shouted to someone else. Was he speaking to the others? Aiden no longer cared. He was safe in Carson's arms and that's all that mattered. He let his eyelids fall and gratefully passed out. He awoke again minutes later, with Carson talking in his ear.
"Aiden?" Carson said softly. "Come on, Aiden. Wake up, darlin.' You're awake; good, you can get your beauty sleep later," Carson said teasingly. Aiden smiled at the use of the word. No one had ever called him that before, not even his female lovers. It sounded strange to hear Carson call him that. He tried to answer the questions Carson asked, but all he wanted to do was sleep.
"Like it here. You're here," Aiden said breathily. Carson lifted his head so he could peer into his eyes 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." He 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."
"Needed you," was all Aiden said. I'll always need you, he thought to himself as Carson suddenly maneuvered him to lie down and started shouting for assistance. Aiden suddenly remembered something he needed to tell Carson right away and fought attempts to sedate him until Carson heard him out. The next hour was a blur, but he recalled coming to in the ICU and kissing Carson before sending him off to bed.
Aiden rolled over onto his back. He'd kissed Carson. How had that managed to escape his mind? Aiden chalked it up to his headaches. But Carson hadn't mentioned it, either--not that he'd had much of an opportunity. They'd first spoken in the infirmary proper, which was hardly the place for any sort of personal discussion. And their next conversation... Aiden would rather forget the hurtful things he'd said to Carson that morning. He smiled at the irony of his situation. He had no trouble remembering his mistakes, did he? He rolled over again and tried to get comfortable.
He tossed and turned for several hours, rising only when Dr. Johnson insisted on his eating something. He'd skipped lunch so she made him have some soup and he actually felt a little better when he went back to sleep. But he couldn't get comfortable. He hadn't seen Carson since that morning and continued to worry about him.
Aiden lifted his head to squint at the clock. It was after midnight. He sighed and closed his eyes again, resigned to the fact that Carson had abandoned him. It was Aiden's own fault. He sighed and promised himself he'd fix it somehow. Bridget entered his room and gave him three pills. One of them was a sedative and as the pain meds slowly took effect, Aiden eventually dozed off.
In a chair in the darkened corner of the ICU, Carson finally slept as well.
On to Part 10