jalabert (jalabert) wrote,

Tabula Rasa - Chapter Ten

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?

Early the following morning, Rodney paid a visit to Aiden. He looked distinctly uncomfortable as he entered the ICU. Aiden was eating breakfast and looked up as he came through the door.

"Hey, Dr. McKay."

"Ford--Aiden; how are you feeling?"

"I'm good," Aiden replied, staring into his bowl of yogurt. "I've developed a taste for this stuff. Odd, huh?"

"Interesting," Rodney replied. "And the, uh--." He gestured vaguely at his head.

"The headaches are improving a little."

"Good. Good."

"You okay, doc?" Aiden asked bemusedly.

"Yes, I'm fine--. Fine; busy up to my neck, as usual... This place would collapse in an hour without me to hold it together," Rodney said absently. He turned his attention to Aiden and finally came to the point. "Look, Teyla told me what happened yesterday. You know we meant you no harm. We were just--."

"It's okay, doc," Aiden said easily.

"You had every reason to be--."

"I'm not! Really! All right; I was mad, initially, but I came to understand that you were all doing what you thought was best. And you were right. I wasn't ready to handle it. I'm still not, according to the shrink," Aiden said sheepishly, his eyes fixed on his fidgeting hands. Relieved, Rodney collapsed into the chair.

"You know we all think the world of you, Aiden. We just wanted to do whatever--."

"Yeah," Aiden cut him off. "I appreciate it."

"Well, we're all here for you: Major Sheppard, Teyla, Dr. Weir...Carson Beckett."

"I know."

"You know, he's a good man and a fine physician," Rodney continued, intent on making a point.

"I know," Aiden said, frowning in confusion.

"Good. Good." There was a half minute of silence, during which Rodney seemed to be waiting for something.

"Doc, is there something you're trying to tell me?" Aiden prompted. But Rodney saw Carson heading toward the ICU and jumped to his feet.

"No! No! I just wanted to say hi and make sure you're okay."

"I'm okay, thanks," Aiden said sincerely. He smiled warmly and Rodney nodded. He bid Aiden a hasty goodbye and left just as Carson reached the door.

"That was strange," Aiden observed.

"Even for Rodney?" Carson said wryly. He stepped into the room and approached the bed. "Good morning, Aiden. How's the headache?"

"About the same," Aiden said honestly. He was glad to see Carson, but he felt slightly ill at ease. Carson noted Aiden's discomfort and chalked it up to poor sleep and his continuing headaches.

"The medicine isn't helping? Have you told Dr. Johnson?"

"Yeah," Aiden said, shifting uncomfortably in the bed. "The stuff she gave me dulled it, but it doesn't seem to go away anymore." Carson nodded.

"Maybe there's something else she can try. I'll have a word with her."

"Why is she treating me instead of you?"

"Anne Johnson is a neurologist. That's why she was originally recruited for the Atlantis expedition. She's been researching the neural connection between the ATA gene and Atlantean technology," Carson said, pulling up his stool to sit down. Aiden frowned in confusion. "She's also something of an expert on headaches, so I've asked her to supervise your case. You're in very capable hands."

"If you say so, doc."

"I say so," Carson said with a wry smile. "Migraines are nothing to sneeze at, lad. People commonly assume that they're simply stress headaches. I believed that myself, until Anne set me straight. She explained to me that although psychological issues can certainly make migraines worse, they actually have a physiological basis. That infernal Wraith machine very likely altered your brain physiology."

"Terrific; I'm brain damaged."

"I don't quite mean it that way, but that's exactly why I want her to treat you; I might have made a dangerous misdiagnosis that would not only have prolonged your suffering but made it worse."

"When did you decide that?"

"After I brought you back to the infirmary," Carson said. "We looked at the results of your CT scan and she made the preliminary diagnosis." He frowned at Aiden, who seemed to be pouting.

"What's troubling you, lad?" It was clear that something other than his diagnosis was bothering him.

"You didn't come back yesterday. I thought we were going to talk."

"I thought you needed a little time to calm down. Getting upset is a very bad idea in your condition."

"So you stayed away for my own good?" Aiden said with a hint of defiance.

"I came back and saw that you were resting," Carson said carefully. "There didn't seem to be any point in waking you just to upset you again." It was Aiden's turn to frown.

"Why did you plan to upset me?"

"I didn't. I--." Carson sighed. "You were under a great deal of stress yesterday. I just didn't want to add to it. You seemed to be resting peacefully and I was glad of it." Aiden seemed mollified, so Carson didn't mention the fact that he returned later that evening and watched Aiden toss and turn for an hour. "Kate tells me you've agreed to counseling."

"Yeah; it's the only way I'll ever be normal again," Aiden replied softly. He hazarded a glance at Carson. "You ever get tired of being right?"

"You might be surprised to know how often I wish I was wrong about things," Carson said wistfully. He started to explain, but Elizabeth hailed him on the com link.

"Carson? You were supposed to join us in the conference room ten minutes ago."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I completely forgot about our meeting. I'll be there shortly." Carson rose and gave Aiden an apologetic smile. "I've got to go."

"Will you be back later?"

"I'll be back," Carson said with a warm smile. He reached out and gave Aiden's hand a squeeze before he rushed off to his meeting. Aiden watched him go, wondering what Carson might have said had he not been called away.


The biweekly briefing of the science personnel broke up after about an hour. Carson's contribution to the meeting had been very minor. He'd all but suspended his research since Aiden's coma and he'd had little time to write up the results of the work he did manage to get done. He left the conference room infuriated over someone's careless remark that perhaps things would "get back to normal" once Carson was rid of his patient. Elizabeth had immediately censured the thoughtless commenter, pointedly reminding him that the health and wellbeing of every member of the Atlantis expedition would always Carson's first priority. Carson himself was too incensed to speak, his anger compounded by guilt in the knowledge that to some extent, the speaker was right. It was time for Carson to regain his perspective. He just had to figure out how to do it without hurting Aiden in the process.

Carson headed to the dining hall for a quiet cup of coffee. He needed a jolt of caffeine before returning to the infirmary. He grabbed a mug and filled it before repairing to a quiet corner of the dining hall. As usual, he was stopped by a few marines who wanted an update on Aiden's condition. He answered their questions and then sat down near a window. Taking a sip of the hot brew, he stared out at the turbulent sea.

"Dr. Beckett?"

Carson looked up and saw Teyla standing at his side.

"I am sorry to interrupt your thoughts. I only wanted to ask--."

"It's quite all right, lass. Have a seat," he said with a smile. "I could do with a bit of sunshine today," he said with another glance at the grey sky out the window. Teyla smiled and joined him, but her thoughts were on Aiden.

"How is Aiden?" she asked. Carson turned his gaze back to her.

"He's still suffering from headache. Full-blown migraines they are, and those hurt something fierce once they take hold. He's been started on a course of medication that should eventually bring him some relief, but it will be a while yet."

"I was afraid of that," Teyla replied, staring into her cup of tea. "I am sorry for what happened yesterday, Dr. Beckett. I know I should have waited for you or--."

"Don't trouble yourself, Teyla," Carson said, reaching out to take hold of her gesturing hand. "What's done is done."

"Yes, but I am sure that I only added to Aiden's distress by telling him what happened."

"Exactly what did you tell him, lass?" Carson asked. Teyla recounted her discussion with Aiden to the best of her ability. Carson listened with interest and assured her that she'd acted properly. "Had you not answered him he would have become even more distressed, Teyla. You made the best of a bad situation and handled it very well."

"But I did not ease his fears," Teyla said earnestly. "I only added to them. He seemed so angry!" Carson smiled.

"He had good reason to be upset; no one likes finding out that his friends have keep secrets from him."

"He yelled at you--the one person who has stood by him tirelessly throughout his ordeal."

"It's perfectly normal to strike out at the people you feel closest to in situations such as this. It didn't surprise me one bit. The important thing is that he now understands what he's facing and has accepted the fact that he's going to need psychotherapy in order to make a full recovery."

"You are not upset that Aiden is angry at you?"

"Of course; it is disturbing on some levels. But he's not the first patient to lose his temper and direct the blame at me."

"But he is the first--." Teyla averted her eyes and Carson shook his head. She looked up again and Carson knew exactly what she chose not to say.

"It'll be fine, Teyla," he said, reaching for her hand again. "We'll manage things."

"I hope so," Teyla said, "for both your sakes." She gave his hand a squeeze and rose. "I must go train with Major Sheppard." She took her leave and Carson sat and stared out at the water as he drank the rest of his coffee.


"How's the headache? Any better?" Kate asked as she drew the stool over and took a seat beside Aiden. He was sitting in the chair when she entered the ICU, ensconced in the darkest corner of the room and listening to music. He pulled the buds from his ears and sat up straighter in his seat.

"A little," he replied. "Dr. Johnson said that it would be a while before I really begin to feel relief."

"Dr. Johnson? Not Dr. Beckett?" Kate asked curiously. She set her recorder down on table and turned it on.

"She's the resident expert on headaches so he's letting her oversee my case, he said."

"How do you feel about that?" Kate asked. Aiden expected the question and had a ready answer.

"Hey, I just want the pain to stop," he replied. "I'd let a witch doctor treat me at this point if I thought it would help."

"I wanted to know how you felt about Carson turning your case over to someone else."

"Well, it's not as though he's dumped me on a stranger. Dr. Johnson has treated me before. I have no problem with it. She's good people."

"But he did dump you," Kate said. As she expected, he promptly looked up. "Aiden, you're being evasive. I want to know how--."

"He didn't 'dump' me," Aiden protested.

"Carson told me that the two of you were good friends. When you came out of your coma you were completely dependent on him for a week. Under duress, you still dissociate from just about anyone except him. Now he's abandoning your--."

"He's not abandoning me," Aiden said with an awkward smile. "He just turned my case over to Dr. J, that's all. We're still good."

"I was about to say that," Kate said archly. "But--."

"You said that Carson was abandoning me--dumping me. Carson wouldn't do that," Aiden replied. Kate could see that he was becoming edgy. She didn't want to upset him any further, but she needed to probe him on this matter. She chose her next words carefully.

"Aiden, what I'm trying to understand is how you feel about it. Whether or not you think Carson abandoned you, do you feel as though you've been abandoned?"

"Why do you keep talking about abandonment? He hasn't abandoned me!" Aiden spat, leaping up out of the chair and stalking over to his bed.

"I need to understand your feelings if I'm going to help you, Aiden. And how you feel about Carson is very important."

"Why?" Aiden asked, turning to eye Kate suspiciously.

"He's been your anchor for the better part of the past month. I need to know how confident you feel about your relationship with him right now."

"What difference does it make?"

"Psychotherapy usually begins with an exploration of the relationships that shape the patient's view of the world. Carson Beckett has been the most important person in your life over the past month--."

"So if I feel as though I'm losing that connection I can't go forward," Aiden said perceptively.

"Not exactly, but it would be a major complication," Kate said. "People tend to do much better in therapy when they have social connections. You were rather popular before the incident on that planet, so you probably have a well-developed social network to fall back on."

"But if I think he abandoned me--."

"Aiden, generally, when one person in a relationship has issues, they both do."

"I don't have issues," he said defensively.

"You have issues, Aiden," Kate replied. Aiden sighed, grasping her meaning. "And that invariably creates issues for the people you're involved with."

"Carson and I... We aren't in that kind of relationship."


When Carson was done with his coffee, he returned to the infirmary. He wanted to drop in and see Aiden, but Kate was in the ICU, so Carson went to his office to do some work. There was a knock at his door and he looked up to see Sergeant Bates.

"Got a minute, doc?"

"Certainly; come in sergeant," Carson said, noting that Bates was in civilian attire. He'd never seen Bates out of uniform in all the time he'd known the man. Of course, the security detail posted outside the infirmary was also in civilian attire; if Aiden was to wander off again, he wouldn't get far. "What can I do for you?"

"I heard that the lieutenant knows about what happened on that planet," Bates began, ignoring the seat Carson offered.

"Yes; after you left yesterday, Teyla told him what happened. She didn't mention any names or--."

"Yeah, she told me what she told him," Bates replied. "I was wondering--now that he knows--. Can we see him?"

"Oh," Carson said hesitantly. "I don't know. That's a question better put to Dr. Heightmeyer. She's in a far better position to judge when and if you should approach him about this."

"Okay, doc," Bates said taking a step toward the door.

"Sergeant," Carson said, rising from his desk. "Perhaps you and your men should all have a chat with her--and I'm not merely speaking of dealing with the lieutenant's distress."

"Are you suggesting that we need counseling?"

"What happened back on that planet didn't only affect the lieutenant. I suspect you've all been traumatized by it to some degree. It's been hard on everyone involved," Carson said empathetically. "I've spoken with Dr. Heightmeyer about it myself." Bates nodded.

"I can't speak for all my men but I know I've had nightmares about it since I found out--." He took a moment to compose himself before continuing. "I'll speak with the doctor later. Thanks, doc." Carson suspected it would only be to ask if he could see Aiden, but he hoped, for the sake of the sergeant and his men, that he'd do more.


"Would you like to talk about your relationship with Carson?"

"I just told you; we aren't in a relationship," Aiden said peevishly.

"You said--and I quote: 'We aren't in that kind of relationship.' Tell me what kind of relationship you do have," Kate challenged. Aiden glared at her.

"We aren't in a relationship! Why do you keep asking about me and Carson?"

"I just told you why, Aiden. Why are you so hesitant to talk about him? Are you still angry with him?"

"No," Aiden replied curtly.

"So you just don't want to talk about him because--." Aiden pressed his lips together and refused to be baited into speaking. Kate sighed and tried a different tack. "If it makes it easier, I already know how Carson feels about you."

"Why don't you just go with that, then?"

"Because I'm more concerned about your feelings, Aiden. And I don't have any way of knowing whether or not you feel the same way," Kate said reasonably. Aiden bit his lip.

"What did he tell you?" he asked after a long hesitation.

"It was more a matter of what he didn't say that clued me in," Kate admitted. "But I'm more interested in how you feel about him."

"So you're not going to tell me what you think," Aiden surmised.

"You tell me what I want to know and I'll tell you what I know," she suggested. "Have you spoken to Carson since yesterday morning?"

"Briefly, yeah; he was called away to a meeting," Aiden said, sighing. Kate rose and moved closer to where he sat on the bed.

"You sound as though you're worried about him."

"No; it's not him I'm worried about," Aiden said glumly.


When Kate left Aiden's room twenty minutes later he rose and took a walk around the infirmary to stretch his legs. He spied Carson at his desk, staring at his computer screen and knocked on his office door. Carson looked up and smiled as Aiden entered his office.

"All done with your session, then?" he asked as he saved the file and turned around.

"Yeah," Aiden said as he carefully lowered himself into a seat.

"And should you be out of bed?"

"Doc, I'm going crazy lying there all day. I'm not used to being inactive, even with the pain."

"I'm sorry you're so miserable, Aiden," Carson replied. "Hopefully, it's only a matter of time before you can be moved to other quarters."

"Other quarters? Not my own digs?"

"Well, certainly you'll be able to return to your own quarters eventually. But I was thinking that perhaps you might want to move elsewhere for a while."

"Where? And why?"

"Well, your quarters are in the wing with--."

"...All the military; got it," Aiden said soberly. "Do I really lose it when I see another marine?"

"Well, we think you react to the uniform; that's our theory, anyway. You've never reacted badly to any of your teammates, but they basically wear their own versions of the uniform when they're on base. It's only the security forces that are always properly dressed and they're the ones you react to."

"They're the ones who hurt me."

"Unfortunately." Carson observed Aiden for a minute as he fidgeted with the hem of his tee shirt. "Aiden?"

"I don't know if I can do this therapy thing, doc," he replied in a small voice. Aiden looked up, his face contorted with pain. "I don't think I can open up to a stranger like that. I tried, honestly; I just don't think it's going to work."

"Aiden, it's only been one day," Carson said soothingly. "It's bound to be awkward at first. Give it time. Dr. Heightmeyer won't be a complete stranger for very long and you'll find your way."

"I don't know about that. She asked all sorts of personal questions. It made me uncomfortable."

"Aye; that's the nature of the beast, I'm afraid. I suspect you aren't given to revealing your innermost thoughts."

"Not really; not to just anyone, anyway."

"Kate Heightmeyer is not just anyone. She's a trained and certified psychologist."

"Swell; I'd really rather just talk to-." Aiden paused and rubbed at his temple and Carson immediately shifted forward in his seat.

"Are you all right, love?" he said unthinkingly. Aiden looked up, but Carson was already rising and moving toward him. He squatted at Aiden's feet and peered into his eyes. "Is the pain getting worse, or is it the same as before?"

"It's worse than before," Aiden said dropping his head forward and shutting his eyes. "I feel woozy."

"The session wound you up, did it? Let's get you back to bed, lad. I'll have Dr. Johnson give you something so you can rest."

"Why can't you do it?" Aiden asked as he let Carson help him up. He covered his eyes with one hand and, trusting Carson completely, crossed the infirmary and returned to the ICU with his eyes shut.

"I'll do it if you prefer, but I'll have to consult your chart to see what she's prescribed. It'll take a few minutes."

Aiden felt Carson's soothing presence fade away. He took a slow breath and tried to use the breathing technique Anne had taught him to manage the nausea. It helped somewhat, but the sound of Carson's voice when he returned made him feel even better.

"I'm going to give you an injection rather than pills by mouth. It'll take effect all the faster, all right?" he said softly. Aiden nodded and lowered his arm so Carson could inject the medication. He felt the slight burn as the needle was withdrawn and felt the warmth of Carson's hand on his arm. It remained there, lightly rubbing the injection site for a moment before Carson began to lightly caress his entire upper arm. Aiden sighed and blinked until his eyes adjusted to the dim light of the room. He looked up at Carson, who smiled. "Rest, lad. I'll check on you in a while and if you're up to it then, we'll talk."

"Thanks, doc."

Carson didn't reply, but he allowed his fingers to trail down Aiden's arm to briefly squeeze his hand as he withdrew. Aiden closed his eyes again, and smiling, fell asleep.


For a few seconds, Aiden thought he was dreaming, but his eyes were open and someone was definitely singing nearby. He carefully rolled over and lifted his head. Sitting in the chair in the corner was John, listening to Aiden's MP-3 player and softly singing off key. Aiden sat up and John, distracted by the movement, looked up and saw him.

"Oh, hey! Did I wake you? I'm really sorry," he said, pulling the buds out of his ears. "Man, it's been ages since I heard Stairway to Heaven, you know?"

"Really, sir?" Aiden deadpanned.

"Yeah; man, you've got everything under the sun on this thing! Wait a minute! You had to be in diapers when that song came out. How did you--?"

"Actually, I don't think my parents were out of high school when that song came out, sir," Aiden said, scratching his head.

"Oh. Hey! I brought you back something from the mainland."

"The mainland?" Aiden repeated. John looked up sharply.

"You don't remember the mainland?'

"I remember the mainland, sir," Aiden said exasperatedly. "I just--." His next words were aborted when John tossed him a small bag of fruit, which hit him squarely in the chest. "Ow."

"Oh, geez! I'm sorry!" John said as he leapt up from the chair and went to Aiden's side. One of the small ebola fruit escaped the bag and rolled off the bed. John bent to retrieve it.

"Blinding headaches really fuck with one's hand-eye coordination, sir," Aiden sighed.

"I forgot about that," John said sheepishly. Aiden fell back on the bed.

"What are you doing here, sir?" he asked wearily.

"I thought I'd drop by and see how you were doing. Dr. Beckett said you were doing a little better and probably up for some company," John replied. "How are you feeling?" Aiden pinched the bridge of his nose.

"I'm not angry with you, sir," he sighed. "I'm not mad at anyone."


"I already told Teyla; she was here twenty minutes ago, and McKay came by this morning. Why don't you just spread the word when you leave here and save everyone else a trip?"

"Lieutenant?" John replied quizzically. Aiden sighed and shook his head.

"Sorry, sir."

"We're just worried about you, you know that. Dr. Beckett--."

"I'm not mad at him, either," Aiden interjected. "And I already know he's a good man."


"Look, what is this about?"

"What's what about?"

"This; you and the others coming in here all day, one after another? I already said I'm not mad at you--."

"You certainly sound a little peeved at the moment."

Denise entered the room with a tray and smiled at Aiden.

"Good evening, lieutenant. I have your dinner."

"I'm not hungry," Aiden said flatly.

"Leave the tray," John said. "He'll eat." Aiden scowled at him as Denise placed the tray on the table and pushed it into position over the bed.

"I said I wasn't hungry, sir."

"Ford, will you just--?"

"I don't want to eat."

"How do you expect to get back on your feet if you don't--?"

"With all due respect, sir, would you leave me the hell alone?" Aiden said angrily. John was shocked by his tone.

"Look, I know how you feel--."

"You have no fucking idea how I feel!" Aiden spat, pushing the table so hard that the tray was sent flying. It skittered across the bed, spilling its contents over Aiden's feet, and landed near the door.

"What in bloody blazes--?" Carson shouted as he came to a stop in the doorway. He surveyed the scene and gave Aiden a brief, reproachful look. "Forgive me, major, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

"Yeah," John replied, trying not to let his shock at Aiden's outburst show. "I'll...uh..." He took a few steps backward. "Ford..." Aiden refused to acknowledge him. John nodded curtly at Carson and left. Aiden swore softly and covered his eyes with a forearm.

"Want to tell me what that was about?" Carson asked softly.

"No," Aiden said softly. Denise returned and began to clean up the mess.

"Shall I bring another tray?" she asked Carson. Aiden uncovered his eyes and made to sit up, but Carson stayed him with a hand on his shoulder.

"No," he said. He waited for her to leave before he spoke again, busying himself with taking Aiden's blood pressure and pulse. When she was gone, Carson pulled over the stool and sat. "What's going on, Aiden? Your blood pressure is through the roof!"

"They're doing it again," he replied in a small voice, managing to sound both contrite and defiant at once.

"I'm not a mind reader, lad. You'll have to give me a clue as to what you're talking about."

"They're keeping things from me again," Aiden said plaintively, raising up on his elbows to confront Carson, who reached across him to adjust the bed. Aiden gratefully laid back.

"No one's keeping anything from you, Aiden."

"They all came in here today, asking how I was feeling, trying to butter me up--."

"How horrible it must be for you, having so many friends worried sick and praying for your recovery," Carson teased. "Teyla told them what happened and how you reacted," he said seriously. "They're just concerned about the fallout--which you've now confirmed their worst fears about, by the way. Was that your plan?" Aiden glared at him for a moment and then averted his eyes.

"I guess I overreacted."

"Perhaps a bit," Carson said gently. "Want to tell me what's really bothering you?"

"No," Aiden pouted. Carson was charmed by it and smiled. "What?"

"If I told you, you'd probably slug me. Now, why don't you want to talk to me?"

"I'm tired of answering questions. People have been asking me questions all day."

"Well, if one doesn't ask questions, one doesn't get the answers."

"No one's answering any of my questions."

"So we're back to that, are we?"

"I wanted to know what happened to me and you didn't tell me," Aiden said.

"No, I didn't," Carson replied, "and if I had to do it again I'd make the same choice. It was the right one and I stand by it." Aiden closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them he fixed them on Carson's face.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said the things I said to you yesterday."

"I accept your apology," Carson said simply.

"Just like that?" Aiden asked suspiciously.

"Aye, just like that. Now tell me what's really bothering you."

"Argh! More questions?" Aiden rolled over on his side, facing away from Carson.

"Is this about the therapy?"

"Yes, it's about the therapy," Aiden grumbled as Carson briefly enjoyed the guilty pleasure of of staring at his ass. "I don't want it." He rolled back over to face Carson. "Can I get out of here? You said earlier I could move to other quarters. Can I do that now?"

"You'd still need counseling, Aiden."

"I know, but it'd be easier. I feel like a monkey on display here."

"In other words, you you want to hide."

"I'd like some privacy."

"From whom?"

"Can you please not answer a question with a damned question?" Aiden spat through gritted teeth. He began to kick at the covers; for a second Carson feared he was having a fit but he quickly realized that Aiden was merely trying to divest himself of the sodden bedding. Carson rang for Denise and helped Aiden to sit up. Aiden got to his feet a bit unsteadily, and wrapped his arm around Carson's waist.

"Come on, lad. Let's sit you over there and let her change the bedding."

"My pants are wet," Aiden said, glancing down at his soup-stained scrubs.

"Well, then you'd better get cleaned up," Carson replied. He dug into his pocket and produced a pair of dark glasses. "Here; wear these. They should help you get around more easily."

"Thanks, doc," Aiden said as he put them on. "I look like a total dork, don't I?" Carson only smiled in reply. "Great; I bet I look like one of my grandmother's friends."

"Does your granddad know she's going about with handsome young men in dorky glasses?" Carson teased as he escorted Aiden to the bathroom and waited outside while he took a quick shower. He heard the water shut off and then no further sounds emanated from the bathroom. After a minute or two of worry, Carson knocked on the door.

"Is everything all right in there?"

"Yeah," Aiden said from behind the door. "I'm going to need some clean pajamas."

"Right," Carson said, resisting the urge to slap himself in the head for failing to think of that himself. He went and got a clean set of scrubs. Aiden opened the door and smiled gratefully.

"Thanks, doc. Give me a sec."

"Did you shower in those glasses?" Carson asked as he leaned against the wall next to the door. The all too brief glimpse of Aiden in clad in nothing but a towel and sunglasses was a sight that would stay with him for a while, he decided.

"It's pretty bright in here. But no; I showered with my eyes closed."

"Hope you didn't miss anything important," Carson said recklessly. The door opened.

"I know where all the important parts are, even in the dark," Aiden replied softly. Carson shuddered slightly and took Aiden's arm. He escorted him back to his room, where a second dinner tray waiting. Before Aiden could protest, Anne popped her head in.

"Eat that soup," she demanded like a stern mother. "No arguments. Nice shades," she said teasingly before disappearing again.

"You'd better eat," Carson said as he rolled the table over and adjusted its position.

"You know, I really miss the good old days when I used to be the one giving orders," Aiden sighed.

"Well, get yourself well again and you can go back to bossing people around."

"Doctor Beckett?" Denise called from the door. "We got a live one for you."

"Excuse me, Aiden," Carson said. He left to attend to the new patient, leaving Aiden glumly staring into his soup. He managed a few mouthfuls before he gave up and pushed it away. A minute later he heard the sound of Anne's voice outside his door and dragged the tray back. He scarfed down a few more mouthfuls before he heard a knock and looked up. Bates was standing in the doorway.

"May I come in, sir?"

"Uh...yeah," Aiden said, his eyes automatically looking behind Bates for Carson. But the good doctor was nowhere in sight. Aiden sat up straighter and cleared his throat, feeling unaccountably nervous.

"I won't stay long. Both Dr. Heightmeyer and Dr. Johnson said you were suffering from a migraine and needed to rest. I just wanted to see you. All the guys do; they've been asking about you every day. We're all pulling for you, sir, especially those of us who--."

"Don't!" Aiden said firmly. "I--I don't want to talk about it."

"I can understand that, sir," Bates said uneasily. "I'm sorry."

"You don't have to apologize, sergeant," Aiden said averting his eyes. Bates shifted his feet awkwardly.

"I hear you're making great progress," Bates said, searching for a safe topic of conversation. To his surprise, Aiden laughed at the absurdity of the statement. It set off a wave of pain in his head and he covered his eyes and rubbed at his temples. He laid back and began to inhale deeply to stave off the wave of nausea that accompanied his pain. "I'd better go." Aiden dropped his hands and forced himself to look Bates in the eye.

"Thanks for coming, Gene," he said evenly, extending a shaky hand to the sergeant, who took it gratefully.

"Good night, sir."

Left alone again, Aiden pushed the table away and slid down in the bed. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but his nightmares now held familiar faces and he spent the next hour tossing and turning. Bridgette came in and gave him his meds and they eased the pain somewhat, but he still couldn't sleep. He gave up trying and sat up, looking for his MP-3 player. He remembered that John last had it in the chair and climbed out of bed to fetch it.

He made his way across the darkened room and stumbled over something on the floor. Warm hands reached out to steady him. Aiden reacted instinctively, pulling away and bracing for a fight.

"Easy, Aiden, easy; it's only me," Carson said softly. Aiden stared at him for a moment before relaxing his stance and resting his head on Carson's shoulder for a few seconds. "Are you all right?" he asked as Aiden pulled away and sat down.

"Can't sleep."

"I'm not surprised. I heard Sergeant Bates snuck in to see you earlier."

"Snuck in?" Aiden lifted his head. "I got the impression--."

"He came by this afternoon and asked if he could see you. I sent him to Dr. Heightmeyer for permission. She suggested that he wait a while, but he apparently chose to do otherwise. The poor man has been wracked with guilt since the incident; all the men involved have been. But that didn't give him any right to--."

"It's all right," Aiden said. "I didn't mind seeing him."

"I don't believe that for one moment. You've been tossing and turning for over an hour."

"And you've been watching," Aiden said accusingly. "What's up with that?"

On to PART 11
Tags: tabula rasa

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