ShaViva's Stargate Fan ... Stuff

Inconceivable!

Still Waters, Raging Rivers

Rating: K+

Season: 5

Summary: "I'm kind of interested in somebody else". Rodney finds out about that conversation between Jennifer and Ronon ... and offers his support as only Rodney can. Tag to season 5 ‘The Lost Tribe'.

Classifications: Romance/Action/Friendship

Pairings: McKeller

Spoilers for: Season 4 Quarantine (very minor) and Season 5 The Lost Tribe at this stage, may be others later if I continue this.

Disclaimer: I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. Any original characters, plot, settings, and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.

Copyright (c) 2008 ShaViva


Chapter 1: The unsubtle art of rejection


"God you are so stupid!"

Rodney looked up in curiosity as the sounds of someone muttering to themselves echoed in the darkened mess hall. It was late, too late for there to be traffic ... he was used to the solitude of coffee ... and yeah okay his lab had coffee but not leftover muffins. He liked to sit by the window, the lights from the city sparkling just enough to sufficiently illuminate his work. Tonight he was working on repair schedules for the Control Room, admittedly not at his usual efficent pace because his mind was continually being distracted with thoughts about activating the Attero device. They had no way of knowing yet the full scope of the damage ... all Rodney could do was desperately hope the Travellers were the only ones besides Atlantis to have experienced an exploding Stargate. Although even those 3000 lost lives were more than he wanted to contemplate.

"You're kind of interested in somebody else ... could that have sounded any more lame?!"

The mutterer continued their self flagellation ... Rodney raised an eyebrow as the words registered. This was getting interesting.

"God, he looked so hurt. Nice one Doctor 'Do no harm'!"

Rodney straightened abruptly as the combination of words and the closing proximity of the speaker announced the identity of his late night interloper.

"Jennifer?" he called out before he could overhear any more.

"R- Rodney?" Jennifer squeaked nervously, appearing in the doorway to the kitchen area with a steaming mug in hand.

"What are you doing up so late?" Rodney deliberately glossed over what he'd overheard, pretty sure the last thing she'd wanted was a witness.

"Couldn't sleep," Jennifer made her way slowly over to his table, slumping down in the seat adjacent to him. "Thought a drink might help."

"Oh," Rodney glanced at her uncertainly before looking away. The silence began to stretch out uncomfortably before he'd gathered himself enough to talk to her ... not that he had to psych himself up to speak to Jennifer ... much ... but he didn't want to let his mouth run away from his brain and end up with his foot in his mouth. "Did ah ... is there ... do you want to talk about it?"

"Have you ever had to let someone down when you were sure they liked you a certain way, even though they never said it, when you didn't feel the same way?" Jennifer rushed out.

"Um ... not really," Rodney admitted. "More the other way around actually."

"I've been on the receiving end too," Jennifer offered. "Not too many guys were interested in a know it all brainiac three years younger than them."

Rodney wasn't sure what he should say about that - that he couldn't believe someone as talented and beautiful and just plain sweet as Jennifer had ever been turned down by anyone? That he was more than interested in this particular brainiac who was who knows how many years younger than him? In the end he decided on silence, waiting for Jennifer to continue.

"I never would have said this in the past, but now? I think I'd prefer the rejection," Jennifer sighed sadly. "Maybe I shouldn't have said anything but ... it's wrong to let someone believe something is one way when it's another. Isn't it?"

"I'd want to know," Rodney said simply.

"So would I," Jennifer agreed. "Only thing is - he said I was wrong."

Now Rodney was in it - he knew, or at least suspected with very little possibility that he was wrong, that Jennifer was talking about Ronon. And so he knew that she wasn't wrong - Ronon had as good as admitted that he had intentions. Should Rodney tell Jennifer that? Would that be betraying his friendship with Ronon? And if he didn't say anything was that a betrayal of his feelings, his friendship with Jennifer? This relationship stuff was painfully beyond comprehension which was why he avoided it at all costs. Only somehow these people - Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon ... and now Jennifer had gotten under his skin and past his defences, forcing him to muddle along in situations like this.

"Do you think you were wrong?" Rodney turned it back onto her, giving himself more time to think.

"No," Jennifer said simply. "I don't have a lot of experience with something like this but I know people ... you have to be able to read the unspoken just as much as what a patient says to be a good doctor. Ronon was careful with his words but the unspoken stuff ... that told it's own story."

"Maybe he wanted to let you off easy," Rodney suggested softly. "If you care about someone you don't want them to be upset ... even when it's because they said something that hurt you first."

"I didn't leave him any choice," Jennifer admitted. "I was terrible at letting him down gently ... the look in his eyes Rodney ... it was awful, like I crushed him somehow."

"We're talking about Ronon right?" Rodney couldn't keep talking about this unless she knew he was aware of her admirers identity.

"How did you ...," Jennifer trailed off when Rodney shook his head, silently asking her not to question that. "Yeah okay, it's Ronon. He comes over so tough you know ... I honestly didn't think he'd care that much."

"You've heard the phrase 'still waters run deep'?" Rodney asked. "They were thinking about Ronon when they wrote that."

"I guess that would make you the raging river then," Jennifer laughed at Rodney's expression that clearly he said he didn't know whether to be insulted or complimented by that.

"More like a babbling brook," Rodney suggested, "emphasis on babbling."

Jennifer smiled at his attempt to lighten the mood before sighing again. "Do you think I led him on?"

"You're asking the wrong person," Rodney said self depreciatingly. "We all know how oblivious I am to stuff like this."

"That's not making me feel better Rodney," Jennifer complained mockingly. "It's just that," she hesitated before going on, "during the quarantine Ronan and I did share a moment. Maybe I was too receptive to that, too keen to get to know him better because the opening was there when it never had been before. I let my curiosity about him as a person, my desire to learn all the things he could teach me about surviving here drive me and gave him the wrong impression in the process. Oh God this is all my fault isn't it?"

"Jennifer," Rodney reached out and put a hand over the hands she was wringing together in agitation. "Ronon's a big boy - he survived for seven years by himself because he's smart and he knows people too. You didn't lead him on."

"Okay," Jennifer said softly, stilling the nervous movement of her hands but not taking them from under Rodney's. "He's gonna go back to his old self with me isn't he?"

"Probably," Rodney agreed. "His tough scary exterior is there because he is tough and scary but ... how else do you hold in everything he's lived through?"

"Okay well that just made me feel worse again," Jennifer jerked her hands away from his and sat back in her chair.

"I told you I wasn't very good at this," Rodney complained. "What do you want me to say? The truth is you're the first woman to get past Ronon's shield since Sateda and it sucks for him that you don't feel the same. That doesn't make it your fault!"

"Just shoot me now," Jennifer put her head down on the table, miserably contemplating the next few weeks. Ronon would probably avoid the infirmary to avoid her which would be as good as putting a notice up on the bulletin board that they'd had a falling out.

"Come on," Rodney's hand hovered over her hair before he finally settled it on her shoulder and squeezed gently. "It's late ... and you can't solve this one tonight." Getting up from his chair he held out a hand until she looked up at him. "Escort you to your quarters Ma'am?"

"Why thank you kind Sir," Jennifer smiled, letting him pull her up from her chair. He tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow and guided her from the room.

They walked in companionable silence until they arrived at Jennifer's door, Rodney caught up in thinking about the irony of comforting the woman he was in love with over something that had happened with another man. Could things get any stranger than that?

"Thank you Rodney," Jennifer said simply. She turned to enter the room but was brought to an abrupt halt by Rodney's next question.

"So what did you tell Ronon to put him off?" Rodney asked curiously. When she stood stock still without responding Rodney gave a nervous chuckle. "Not that you have to tell me or anything ... I was just curious."

"I said I was interested in somebody else," Jennifer admitted without looking at him. She'd walked into her room and the door had swooshed closed behind her before Rodney came back to himself.

"Oh," he squeezed a hand over his forehead in tiredness, stared at her door for a few seconds, and then walked away.


Chapter 2: The trouble with exploding Stargates


Once inside her quarters Jennifer leaned back against the door, heart racing as she listened for Rodney’s retreating footsteps. After longer than should have been necessary they finally came, bringing with them just the tiniest measure of relief. The whole situation left her tense and uncomfortable, the most recent events capping off what had been a crappy day all round.

Jennifer couldn't believe she'd told Rodney about Ronon's interest. As far as techniques for showing Rodney she was interested in him went she could have done a lot better than spending half an hour talking about another man! But in a way she was glad she'd told him what happened. Ronon had her doubting herself even though she'd been suspecting since they’d met Kiryk on M33-985 that Ronon’s interest in her had become focussed on more than just friendship. Talking to Rodney had helped still those doubts. Admittedly, prior to M33-985 the brief moment she'd shared with Ronon during the quarantine had stood as an uncharacteristic interlude brought on by circumstances. It had prompted them to learn more about each other, to become friends, and she'd gratefully accepting his offer to train her, but it never felt like there was more to it than that.

Now it did.

Jennifer had spent entirely too much time wondering why things had changed, all the while cursing that they had because it wasn’t something she could just let go. Not under any circumstances but especially not when she herself was so ... distracted by the completely clueless yet strangely captivating Doctor Meredith Rodney McKay.

She wished that her own personal code of ethics wasn’t so deeply ingrained, that she could reveal what Rodney had said to her on Day 6 of his ordeal with that parasitic organism ... ask him if he meant it. But she couldn’t. And so she’d been reduced to watching Rodney carefully, looking for signs beyond her wishful thinking that he was volunteering for missions he didn’t want to be on because of her. She'd looked for something real, anything that proved those words were his and not just the effects of a horrible illness. But there was nothing, leaving Jennifer with the sinking feeling that perhaps it had been the parasite talking, that he didn't love her after all.

Her relationship with Rodney so far could be summed up as moments shared that seemed to suggest deeper feelings followed by ... nothing. Case in point? Their conversation in the infirmary after they’d gotten out of that mine shaft on M5V-801. They’d shared the drink that she’d instigated, enjoyed their time together, but then Rodney hadn’t reciprocated, hadn't suggested anything in return. You'd think that a declaration of love would have given her the confidence to take the lead but it had done the opposite. The words felt almost like a barrier between them, her uncertainty about their validity making her even more hesitant than usual to approach him. Jen was sure there was nothing more frustrating than to have so many mixed signals leading to so many ups and downs.

The only thing she was sure of was that she'd like to just skip the next day if she could. On the one hand Ronon would probably greet her with the return of his ‘mountain of silence’ routine ... that was if he couldn’t avoid her altogether. And Rodney would be looking at her with suspicion, no doubt wondering who her mysterious person of interest was. Jennifer didn’t delude herself that he’d give any thought to it being him. Rodney was smart, there was no denying that, but when it came to women his level of incompetence practically defied description.

“Yes, tomorrow is going to be a difficult day,” Jennifer muttered to herself, settling into bed wearily. Of course, if she’d known how prophetic those words would be, she probably wouldn’t have said them.

oOo

Rodney cast a nervous glance up at the ceiling. Had that been a crack he’d just heard? Straining his ears he heard nothing, but still ... best to be on the safe side. “Ah Lieutenant, maybe we should get the engineers in here just to make sure its stable before we go poking around.”

“They checked it out early this morning Doctor McKay,” Lieutenant Spencer replied reassuringly, well used to providing guard duty for the somewhat paranoid scientist. “Said there was a very slight chance there’d be some shifting of the foundations up in the Control Room. We should be fine down here though.”

Should be,” Rodney muttered under his breath. “Now there’re some words to inspire confidence!”

Casting another glance upwards, Rodney hurried over to the section of wall he needed to access. Pulling off the cover he shone his torch inside, looking for the main connections that flowed through there from the now decimated Control Room. If they were going to keep their temporary command centre running on a more permanent basis he needed to sever the existing connections and then reroute them.

Creak! The ominous sound of those shifting foundations echoed harshly in the corridor. More worrying though was the sight of a large crack appearing in the ceiling, starting at the wall and rapidly opening up as it travelled across the corridor to the opposite wall. More cracks formed as he looked on in sick fascination. Dust and then larger particles started raining down on them as the main crack got wider. That was not good and Rodney was pretty sure hanging around wouldn't be the sensible option.

“Move!” Rodney yelled, grabbing the arm of the Lieutenant and pulling him hurriedly down the corridor. “Come on Spencer, run!”

Slam! The roof caved in with no further warning ... large slabs of whatever the Ancients used to build with crashing to the ground along with everything that had been on what used to be the floor of the Control Room.

The dust settled and silence fell into the space left behind. The end of the corridor was now a large wall of rubble ... the roof a gaping hole providing a view of the ruined rooms above. There was no sign of Rodney or Lieutenant Spencer.

oOo

Jennifer felt the tremors shifting the Tower half an hour into her shift.

Medical Emergency, level 3 section 1,” Colonel Sheppard’s urgent voice slammed into her earpiece a few minutes later.

“On my way Colonel,” Keller replied briskly, grabbing her emergency kit and motioning for one of her staff to follow. “What do we have?”

“A section of the Control Room floor collapsed, trapping one of the repair teams working below it," Sheppard explained. "I’d tried contacting them on the radio but so far no response.”

“How many?” Jennifer asked.

“Two,” Sheppard said starkly. “Doc, Rodney's one of them,” he added worriedly. “I’ve got men looking at how we can move some of the rubble so we can get to them, but it’s gonna take time.”

“Understood,” Jennifer swallowed down her panic, increasing her pace until she was almost sprinting. She was a doctor and it couldn’t be personal, no matter who it was. “Yeah, just keep telling yourself that Jen,” she muttered under her breath.

The scene that greeted her when she arrived had the adrenalin pumping and her heart racing. It was bad.

Large slabs of Ancient building material had created a rubble wall in the corridor from floor to ceiling. Jennifer couldn’t tell how thick that wall was, only that there were no visible gaps. Colonel Sheppard was talking with one of his marines, gesturing down the corridor as they both looked at a data pad with schematics for that section displayed. Others were testing the rubble, clearly trying to work out how to make an opening without bringing down any more of the ceiling. And of course Ronon was there, pacing impatiently in front of the barrier, waiting for someone to give the all clear so he could start muscling his way in to rescue McKay. Teyla hadn't arrived yet but Jen knew it would only be a matter of time before she did.

“Doc,” Sheppard spotted her immediately, coming over and putting a hand under her elbow to draw her off to the side.

“Any contact with the team?” Jennifer jumped in before John could say anything.

“Not yet,” Sheppard replied grimly. “Unfortunately this is the only way in on this level – the other end of that corridor is the outer wall of the tower. We might be able to get a view of the situation from above but it’s proving difficult because everything is pretty unstable. I’ve got another team up there trying to get access safely but that’s gonna take a while too.”

“Is there any reason for the radios not to be working?” Jennifer waited, hoping John would say yes.

“None that fit with this,” Sheppard admitted. “Look they might have lost their radios in the confusion.”

“Both of them?” Jennifer raised an eyebrow over the unlikelihood of that occurring. When Sheppard just shrugged Jennifer continued. “It’s more likely they’re unconscious ... too much chance of a head injury with all that rubble falling down on them.”

“Probably,” Sheppard agreed reluctantly. “Look, McKay is nothing if not paranoid – I’m sure the state of that ceiling would have registered with him before it caved. He had time to find some cover.”

“I hope so because even a minor injury can turn serious if left untreated for too long,” Jennifer replied, keeping it completely professional. Sheppard and the others were Rodney's team, his family here in Atlantis. They had an established right to be worried, to take up the physical spaces that seemed to exist for loved ones during a crisis. It was expected that they would pace the floor, stay long past the point when they should get some rest, and just generally be there until the danger was past. Her role was to be the faceless Doctor who delivered the news ... it felt familiar and safe to fall back on that even though Jennifer knew she was denying herself the comfort and support of companions who were just as worried as she was.

Sheppard held up a hand suddenly, putting his other hand to his earpiece and listening hard. Jennifer did the same, holding herself perfectly still, straining to hear something.

A weak, muffled sound came through on the radio channel.

“Was that ...?” Sheppard looked at Jennifer for confirmation.

“A cough,” Jennifer nodded her affirmative, activating her own earpiece. "Rodney?" she asked hopefully, waiting for a response.


Chapter 3: The Strength in Friendship


Another faint cough accompanied by a groan urged Jennifer to try again. "Rodney, is that you?"

"Who else were you expecting?" Rodney grated out irritably, voice gritty as though he’d swallowed some of the debris he was buried behind. "Oh and by the way - ow!"

"Are you okay McKay?" Sheppard asked quickly.

"A roof almost fell on me!" Rodney exclaimed in disbelief, sounding much stronger already. "Of course I'm not okay!"

"Are you injured?" Jennifer persisted patiently.

"Yes!" Rodney returned before immediately taking it back. "No, not really - just, you know, bruises, some scratches, massive headache."

"What about Spencer?" Sheppard continued.

"Still unconscious,” Rodney reported back after a short pause. “He’s probably got a broken leg although it's hard to tell because it's buried under a big chunk of roof. Otherwise he seems relatively unscathed ... apart from the whole unresponsive thing."

"Okay," Sheppard took some comfort from the fact that no one appeared to be injured seriously. “What’s your position?”

“We had to head away from the doors to avoid the collapse,” Rodney admitted. “It was all we could do to outrun it ... Spencer must have been caught just before everything stopped falling.”

“You’re close to the outer wall?” Sheppard deduced, frowning at the confirmation that there was only one way in.

“Flush up against it,” Rodney admitted. “I couldn’t have picked a worse location for this because there is literally nowhere to take cover in an Atlantis corridor. End result is I’ve got just enough room to stretch out my arms but that’s it. Good news is that the ceiling seems to be stable ... for now.”

“What about air?” Sheppard shot a glance towards Jennifer, noticing how she paled at the implications of asking that.

“More good news,” Rodney said after a moment of silence. “There’s a sizeable hole in the corner of the ceiling – we’ve got air coming in from above.”

"Okay, good. Just hang tight, we'll get you out of there,” Sheppard promised.

"I'm not going anywhere," Rodney said sarcastically. "Just be careful okay - I noticed a number of pretty large cracks in the walls and ceiling ... you know, just before the roof caved in."

"I've got our best engineers on it," Sheppard promised.

"The same ones who said it was safe to work here? That doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence!" Rodney complained. "I’m guessing the fact you’re bringing them in means the Daedalus beaming us out isn’t an option?”

“Still being repaired,” Sheppard replied with disappointment. “They’ve been made aware of your situation and are devoting all their repair efforts to getting the beaming system back on line. They’re still talking more hours than we want you to be trapped in there so I’m looking for every other option we might have.”

“Get Zelenka to liaise with the people up on the Daedalus,” Rodney practically ordered. “He’s at least twice as competent as anyone they’ve got up there so he should be able to help them get it done faster. But get him down here first - he can rig up the scanners to assess the structure - I don’t trust those engineers to get it right this time."

"Anything else McKay?" Sheppard rolled his eyes at the way Rodney could still be condescending and demanding even when trapped behind a roof full of rubble. He did move away to contact Zelenka though, realising it couldn’t hurt to humour his friend.

"Rodney, you mentioned a headache – did you hit your head?" Jennifer took over communication, trying to get a better assessment of his condition.

"Or something hit me," Rodney suggested uncertainly. "At the time I was more concerned with getting us ahead of the raining roof."

“How bad is it?” Jennifer frowned as she realised Rodney obviously couldn’t recall everything that had happened during the cave-in.

“No worse than having a spike hammered through my head without an anaesthetic,” Rodney replied. “So you know ... manageable.”

“Any bleeding?” Jennifer continued to attempt a diagnosis while separated from her patient.

“Ow!” Rodney complained a moment later. “You had to make me check didn’t you?!”

Rodney,” Jennifer said sternly.

“Yes, alright,” Rodney retorted irritably. “I’ve got a sizeable lump with the blood matted hair style to match. Happy?”

“Any dizziness or nausea?” Jennifer continued without commenting on his irritability.

“I don’t know, maybe?” Rodney grumbled. “I’ve got one puny flashlight in here which I’m trying not to use because I have no idea how much charge it’s got left. It’s dark even with our little corner sky light, not to mention dusty and claustrophobic so forgive me if having the urge to return this morning’s breakfast wasn’t high on my list of things to notice!”

"What about your vision ... any blurring or distortion?" Jennifer ignored most of that, focusing solely on collecting his symptoms.

“Slightly,” Rodney admitted impatiently. “So what’s the verdict Doc?”

“At the very least you’ve got yourself a concussion,” Jennifer diagnosed. “Hopefully it’s no more than that, but the severity of your headache is worrying me a bit. I need to keep an eye on that so you let me know if you have any new symptoms.”

“It’s not my usual practice to ignore that sort of thing,” Rodney joked self mockingly.

“Yes well this isn’t your usual situation,” Jennifer said lightly. “If you can Rodney I need you to take a few readings from Lieutenant Spencer now. Can you do that for me?"

"Sure, I'll just add Doctor of Voodoo to my credits," Rodney said sarcastically, his words accompanied by the sound of his groans as he changed positions. "Okay, tell me what you need."

Jennifer talked him through it, getting pulse, respiration and pupil response from the injured man. Rodney couldn’t move the slab covering his companion’s leg but he could see enough to confirm that it wasn’t crushed, just stuck in a gap between pieces of rubble.

“Okay Rodney,” Jennifer finished. “Let me know as soon as he regains consciousness. I'm gonna check in with you every fifteen minutes but if you start to feel tired you contact me straight away okay ... we need to keep you awake as long as possible.”

“No sleeping,” Rodney replied grumpily. “I think I can remember that.”

oOo

“How’s McKay?” Jennifer jumped as Ronon’s voice issued from directly behind her. Turning she presented him with her professional face ... the one that said the patient was doing well but it was too soon to say they were out of the woods.

“He’s got a concussion,” she reported. “I won’t know if it’s more serious than that until I can examine him personally, unless he develops other symptoms in the mean time.”

“Okay,” Ronon nodded and made to move away before Jennifer’s voice stopped him.

“You should talk to him,” she said softly. “It’s dark and close in there ... he won’t be doing well. The longer it takes to get him out the worse it’ll be.”

“I’m sure he’d prefer to talk to you,” Ronon replied blandly.

And there it is,” Jennifer thought, amazed as usual that Ronon could say so much with so few words. He’d correctly assumed that her 'somebody else' was Rodney, and discounted her opinions because he’d decided they weren’t motivated by medical reasoning.

“Ronon,” she admonished. “You’re important to Rodney ... he cares about your opinion. If he knows you’re right here it’ll help him be strong when his first instinct is gonna be to panic.”

“He’s strong,” Ronon stated firmly. “He’ll do fine.”

You know that and I know that,” Jennifer agreed. “Does Rodney know that?” She left him there without saying more, satisfied with the thoughtful frown now on his face.

oOo

“You okay McKay?” Ronon decided the least he could do was check in with Rodney, and not just because Doctor Keller had made him think about it. They were team mates after all, even if most of the time Rodney was more annoying than endearing.

“Does it count if I’m five seconds away from having a claustrophobia induced panic attack?” Rodney’s voice shook just a little as he tried to make light of his situation.

“Have you panicked yet?” Ronon asked sternly.

“No, but the mornings still young,” Rodney replied grimly.

“Then yeah, it counts,” Ronon said firmly.

“Have you got your gun handy?” Rodney abruptly changed the subject.

“Why?” Ronon frowned, confused by why Rodney would care if he was armed.

“That thing can disintegrate anything,” Rodney pointed out. “Maybe you could just, you know ... make all this rubble disappear, get us out of here right now.”

“Much as I’d like to, I think the engineers might have something to say about it McKay,” Ronon grinned at the suggestion.

“Stupid engineers got me into this mess in the first place,” Rodney muttered rudely. “The least they could do is come up with a quick solution.”

“I’m sorry,” Ronon apologised.

“What for?” Rodney demanded impatiently. “It’s not your fault the ceiling decided to fall on me.”

“Yeah but if I hadn’t sabotaged the Daedalus so thoroughly we’d have beamed you out of there already,” Ronon pointed out.

“Or more likely my atoms would be scattered all over that planet because for sure Todd would have blown Janus’s lab sky high if he'd gotten there first,” Rodney threw back. “Rather than playing the ‘what if’ game you should be intimidating those engineers so they work faster!”

“Don’t worry McKay - we’ll get you out of there,” Ronon promised confidently. “One way or the other.”

“Is ah ... is Doctor Keller still out there?” Rodney asked, trying to be casual and failing miserably.

“She’s not going anywhere,” Ronon gave out his second promise in so many minutes, just as confident that it wouldn’t be broken.

Authors Note:

I'm not confident I've got all the medical stuff down exactly right (despite what I've researched on wikipedia) so apologises if anything is off.


Chapter 4: The Inspiration of Love


 “Did you know Keller was interested in McKay?” Ronon stood to the side of the corridor with his arms folded across his chest, waiting with Teyla as the debate continued over the best way to get Rodney and Lieutenant Spencer out.

“Yes,” Teyla said simply. “I believe that Rodney has feelings for her as well.”

“And you didn’t think that might be something I should know?” Ronon glared at her.

"You appear to have come to the realisation on your own," Teyla pointed out without remorse.

"She told me," Ronon growled, "after I'd already made a fool of myself!"

"I am sure your pride will recover," Teyla smiled at his disgruntled look.

"Yeah, well maybe it was more than just my pride," Ronon retorted with a frown. "You could have said something."

“I did not believe you truly desired Doctor Keller as a partner,” Teyla replied complacently.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ronon demanded, whispering harshly so those around them wouldn’t overhear.

“She serves as another means of distraction from the issues you should be dealing with,” Teyla’s expression dared him to deny that. “The fact that it placed you in direct competition with Rodney was an amusement that added to the attractiveness of your chosen course of action.”

“It wasn’t like that!” Ronon protested. “I like Jennifer.”

“I do not doubt that," Teyla replied. "But she is not interested in you romantically and you are interested only because she reminds you of Melena,” Teyla’s voice turned gentle as she put a hand on Ronon’s arm in comfort. “You have done nothing wrong ... this is often the way with the first person we find ourselves drawn to after such a loss. In dealing with them we learn to deal with the past so that we can truly be ready to move on.”

“Liking someone else doesn’t mean I’m ready to forget Melena,” Ronon turned away with a frown.

“No,” Teyla agreed. “Remembering Melena would serve you much better in that regard.”

oOo

“How’re you doing Rodney,” Jennifer continued to check in with her patient every fifteen minutes as promised. In between times she paced worriedly, letting Rodney's team be the ones to comfort him while wishing she had position enough to act as more than just the Doctor in charge.

“I’m really starting to like this place,” Rodney said sarcastically. “In fact I might build something similar for my next vacation home.”

“So about the same then?” Jen quipped.

“Have they decided how to get us out of here yet?” Rodney asked the same question he asked every time she spoke to him.

“Ah, no – sorry,” Jennifer replied apologetically, hating to continually disappoint him.

“And I suppose the Daedalus is still out of commission?” Rodney queried.

“Zelenka said that if I stopped checking in every fifteen minutes he’d have more time to help them with their repairs,” Jennifer admitted.

“Typical,” Rodney muttered. “When it’s me that needs saving suddenly everything takes ten times longer to fix!”

“They’re working on it Rodney,” Jennifer assured him. “You just have to hang in there a little longer. Now, you know the drill. Tell me how Lieutenant Spencer’s doing.”

Rodney gave her the stats in quick succession ... the numbers were of some concern but more worrying was the fact that Spencer still hadn’t regained consciousness two hours after the event.

“This is my punishment isn’t it?” Rodney said miserably. “I switched on the Attero device and probably killed thousands ... maybe even millions. This is some kind of cosmic payback!”

“Don’t be silly Rodney,” Jennifer admonished. “Colonel Sheppard said that explosion shook the whole Tower ... it stands to reason the damage would be greater than just what they could see within the Control Room.”

“Yeah but it had to be me standing underneath the faulty ceiling, didn’t it?” Rodney persisted. “I mean, I thought blowing up five sixths of a solar system was gonna be as bad as it got, but no. I had to take it one step further and set off something that may have blown up every Stargate in the galaxy and killed millions!”

Jennifer frowned when Rodney let out a whimper at the end of his tirade. “Rodney?” she asked in concern.

“I’m okay,” Rodney said in a voice that clearly said he wasn’t.

“What happened?” Jennifer resorted to her stern doctor voice, the one reserved for particularly difficult patients who wouldn’t do what they were told.

“Nothing,” Rodney replied, trying to be casual even though he sounded like he was still in pain. “Just a ah ... sharp pain in my head and ah ... maybe my nose is bleeding just a little bit.”

“Damn!” Jennifer said angrily, glaring at the wall of rubble that was keeping her from treating him.

“Oh God, this is bad isn't it?” Rodney asked worriedly.

“It probably doesn't mean anything Rodney,” Jennifer strove to reassure him. “I just really, really want to get in there so I can see for myself.”

“Well unless you can walk through walls we’re stuck with this,” Rodney replied. “It’s not so bad ... I could be unconscious too and then you’d have no way of finding out anything. Although to be honest a bit of unconsciousness would go a long way right about now.”

“Walk through walls?” Jennifer repeated thoughtfully as the beginnings of a plan occurred to her. “I’ll be back in a minute Rodney, I’ve got an idea.”

“Jennifer?” Rodney queried worriedly. When she didn’t reply he risked overtaxing his tired and sore brain trying to figure out what she could possibly be planning.

oOo

“You want me to let you get to McKay and Spencer through that hole in the ceiling?” Sheppard looked at Jennifer incredulously.

“It’s big enough isn’t it?” Jennifer asked like that was the only reason he might say no.

“For you, probably,” Sheppard admitted, “but that entire area is unstable. I don’t see how we’re gonna get you up there in the first place.”

“That’s where you come in,” Jennifer explained. “The Jumper Bay is intact right?” When John nodded she continued. “Normally that part of the floor wouldn’t be accessible but the Gateroom is just one giant open air section now that most of the Control Room has collapsed.”

“Oh you are not suggesting what I think you’re suggesting,” Sheppard shook his head in disbelief. “Are you insane?”

“Lieutenant Spencer hasn’t regained consciousness which means he has a potentially serious head injury,” Jennifer said urgently. “The longer he goes without treatment the less chance there is he’ll recover. And Rodney’s condition is deteriorating as well. I can take a portable scanner in there, give them both some basic medical treatment and start working out what we need to do for them in the longer term. You have to let me do this John.”

“This is the part where you remind me about Teyla’s rescue isn’t it?” Sheppard ran a hand through his hair in frustration.

“I would never hold that over you,” Jennifer denied. They both knew she was telling the truth ... she would never be that blatant!

“Okay,” Sheppard agreed abruptly. “Let me check with the team up there, see if the area over their position is clear enough to give me the room I need.”

“Thank you,” Jennifer relaxed the muscles she didn’t realise she’d been holding so tense.

oOo

In short order the plan was assessed as doable. Now all Jennifer had to do was tell Rodney ... without aggravating his condition. Sheppard had time to fill Teyla and Ronon in while she procrastinated, trying to decide how Rodney might react so she could prepare her arguments in advance.

"He's gonna be mad no matter how you phrase it," Sheppard advised impatiently when he returned,"so just tell him already."

"I'm going to," Jennifer replied insistently. "Just ... ," when John looked like he was going to jump in and do it for her Jennifer launched into nervous speech.

"Ah Rodney, you still there?"

"Where else would I be?" Rodney pointed out the obvious irritably.

"Right, of course," Jennifer's voice trembled before she calmed herself. "Listen we finally have a plan to get some help down there to you."

"I'd prefer to hear about the plan for getting us out of here," Rodney remarked sarcastically. When Jennifer remained silent he sighed. "Okay - what have you got?"

"I'm coming in through that hole in the ceiling," Jennifer announced, trying to imbue her voice with confidence. "Colonel Sheppard's gonna use a Puddle Jumper to get me close enough and then Teyla and Ronon will lower me down."

“No!” Rodney said firmly almost before she'd finished her explanation. “It’s too risky. We have no idea how stable that ceiling is ... you're not putting yourself at risk to help me.”

“It'll be fine Rodney,” Jennifer said reassuringly. “Besides, it’s not just you that needs help, remember?”

“Lieutenant Spencer wouldn’t want you sacrificing yourself for him either,” Rodney retorted. “He’s a marine – they’re all about saving the civilians, not using them to survive!”

“Well, Colonel Sheppard has already agreed so you don’t get a say in it,” Jennifer countered. “I just need you to confirm that the area below the hole is clear enough for me to land on safely.”

“It’s not,” Rodney said dismissively. “I don’t think you’ll fit through the hole either.”

Rodney,” Jennifer admonished. “Don’t do this ... I’m coming down there even if I have to land on top of you!”

“It’s clear,” Rodney gave in grimly. “Now tell Sheppard I want to talk to him ... privately!”

“He wants to speak to you,” Jennifer looked at John who’d stood quietly listening to her side of the conversation.

“I rather thought he might,” Sheppard replied knowingly. “Go get your gear together and meet me back here in ten.”

Jennifer ran from the room, trying not to worry that somehow Rodney would convince the Colonel to scrap her plan.

oOo

“You can’t let her do this John,” Rodney almost pleaded. “It’s too dangerous.”

“You surprise me McKay,” Sheppard said conversationally. “Usually you’d be pointing out how much more valuable your life is than everyone else’s.”

“Not hers,” Rodney muttered. “And don’t make me admit to why that is.”

“I don’t need you to admit anything,” Sheppard grinned at the chance to tease his friend even in the midst of the current crisis.

“This isn’t more of your ‘I’ve seen the future’ stuff is it?” Rodney asked irritably. “You should just tell me what you saw if you’re gonna keep teasing me with all these hints.”

“Didn’t need that either,” Sheppard replied complacently. “It isn't exactly a secret that you've completely lost it over Keller – you’ve been mooning over her for months! I just hope this experience pushes you to do something about it.”

“Get me out of here without risking Jennifer and I promise I will,” Rodney bargained. “I’ll completely embarrass myself in front of the whole team if that’s what it takes.”

“As appealing as that offer is I’m gonna have to decline,” Sheppard’s tone turned serious. “It’s a good idea Rodney – the only one we’ve got. Every plan we’ve come up with to get you out of there carries too high a chance we’ll bring the rest of that roof down on top of you. We need to give the Daedalus more time and Keller being down there with you will buy it for us.”

“Fine,” Rodney said angrily, realising he wasn't going to change John's mind. “Just so you know, if something happens to her I won’t forgive you ... assuming I’m alive ... hell maybe even if I’m not.”

“Understood,” Sheppard agreed easily - he wouldn’t forgive himself either if this plan went badly and one of them got hurt.


Chapter 5: The Interpretation in Success


"You’re determined to do this?" Ronon had caught up with Jennifer while she was in the infirmary gathering her supplies.

"Don’t try to talk me out of it," Jennifer advised without even looking at him.

"I wasn’t planning to," Ronon replied easily.

"Oh," Jennifer frowned, surprised by that but not really sure why. Something she’d have to think about later. "Good - carry this," she held out the portable scanning unit, shouldering the other bags she wanted to take down with her.

"Doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re skirting the edges of crazy," Ronon smirked across at her as she hurried to keep up with his longer strides on the way back to the cave in site.

"This from the man who used an oxygen tank in an attempt to blow a hole in a door?" Jennifer accused, feeling just a bit defensive after their last two conversations. "Not to mention your whole ‘if we can’t use our weapons no one will’ approach to sabotage. That’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black isn’t it?!"

"I never said I disapproved," Ronon replied, surprised to realise he geniunely felt that way.

"Yeah, well let’s hope this idea has a better outcome than those other ones," Jennifer retorted, hurrying across to where Sheppard was waiting.

"You’ve got everything?" Sheppard let her know with that one question that the plan was still on.

"Yes," Jennifer smiled in relief. "I’m ready."

"You might need this," Sheppard produced a hard hat seemingly from out of nowhere, little miners light attached to the front. Jennifer stood still as he fixed it securely in place, understanding as he took care with the task the trust John was placing in her and how important his friendship with Rodney was to him. She let the moment pass without comment, smiling her thanks when the job was done.

A few minutes later Jennifer sat in the back of Jumper One watching as Sheppard piloted it into position for lowering into the Gateroom - even without an actual Stargate the rest of the system still seemed to be working as it should.

Once in the Gateroom John manoeuvred the Jumper across the open space with a combination of careful hovering and the application of minimum thrust. Jennifer had been trussed up in a similar fashion as for rappelling down a cliff so that Teyla and Ronon could lower her down to Rodney’s position. From there she’d apply treatment and then wait to be beamed out with her patients. Repairs on the Daedalus were still a couple of hours from completion and Jennifer could only hope her intervention would give them that time, not sure what she could do if it turned out the injuries were much more serious than they seemed from a distance.

"I’m in position," Sheppard reported from the pilots seat, carefully lowering the rear hatch.

Jennifer let Ronon and Teyla assist her to the edge of the opening, shivering just slightly with nerves after she made the mistake of glancing over the edge. The damage looked worse from up here, the section of roof over Rodney’s position much more precarious than she would have liked. It seemed the only thing holding it up was the fact that one side was connected to the outer wall and the other rested on top of all that rubble. What was worse, the hole looked a lot smaller than she had been hoping for - it was going to be tight.

"You don’t have to do this," Teyla looked at her compassionately, fully aware of all the things motivating her.

"Yes I do," Jennifer said firmly. "Help me down."

Getting herself to the edge and then over was an effort all in itself. Heights weren’t her thing and even though she wasn’t that high, for some reason doing this from the back of the Jumper made her feel like it was. "Oh God Sheppard is right, you are insane," she muttered to herself.

"Are you all right Jennifer?" Teyla asked in concern.

"Keep going," Jennifer’s voice shook slightly, but she wasn’t quitting. Progress was necessarily slow – when she got to the edge of the hole she called out for them to stop so she could make sure she was in the right position. "Okay – let me down slowly."

She cleared the hole with room to spare ... until they got to her shoulders. "Stop! Pull me back up a few inches." Again clear of the opening Jennifer carefully edged herself out of her jacket, tying it further up the rope and out of the way. "Okay, lower me again."

Back to the same spot, shoulders this time scraping the edges painfully instead of catching on them, she made it through. Her head cleared the edge, and with miners light shining brightly she got her first glimpse of Rodney’s prison.

"Hey," he called out from his position stretched out on the dusty floor beneath her. "What took you so long?"

oOo

After the initial relief of seeing Rodney for herself, Jennifer forced her Doctor side to take over. She might have wanted to hug Rodney ... yeah and okay maybe even kiss him in relief because he seemed okay and she was just so happy to see him. She might even have wanted to comment on how endearing he was despite the layer of dust and dirt covering his face - especially as he tried not to show he was glad to see her because he still believed she shouldn't be there. But Rodney had never given her any indication that he wanted her gushing over him and so as usual she fell back on just being Jennifer Keller, doctor and friend.

"Okay Rodney, let's have a look at you," she announced in her most professional voice.

"Shouldn't you be checking Spencer first?" Rodney queried. "He's the unconscious one after all."

"If I check you first I'll know whether it's safe for you to help me with him," Jennifer explained.

Once she'd set up the portable lights she'd brought along Jennifer switched off her miners light, keeping the hard hat on though ... just in case. Rodney was strangely silent while she performed as complete an exam as she could manage in the close quarters. The rush of emotion she felt once she’d determined that Rodney’s most pressing concern was just the concussion made a mockery of her professional facade but Rodney didn't seem to notice.

"You've got a stage 3 concussion," she told him. "You'll need stitches for that gash in your head, plus you'll be under observation for the next 24 hours ... after that you should be back to work as usual."

"Great - a whole day of being woken up every two hours," Rodney complained, watching as Jennifer moved away to consider Lieutenant Spencer's circumstances.

"Just for the first few hours Rodney," Jennifer said distractedly, checking Spencer for any signs that suggested he shouldn't be moved. "Do you think we can lift this slab off Spencer's leg? I really need to see the rest of him before I can make a proper diagnosis."

"I might be able to raise it ... you could drag him out ... you know, assuming that doesn't make him any worse," Rodney replied, dragging himself to his feet with a wince and moving over to consider the wall of rubble. "I don't know how stable this is ... there's a chance we could bring the rest of the roof down on top of us."

"Spencer has a concussion but nothing else brain trauma wise to explain why he's still unconsciousness," Jennifer replied. "There's gotta be something I can't see and the most obvious place to look is that leg. It should be safe enough to move him as long as I'm careful," she added, getting herself into position behind Spencer's shoulders.

Grumbling under his breath that he was a physicist, not a labourer, Rodney nevertheless put everything he had into lifting the slab. Nothing happened for a moment before the slab moved upward. Jennifer dragged Spencer back quickly, clearing the rubble just before Rodney had to let the slab fall back into position with a loud slam. They both froze, looking up at the roof apprehensively for a few seconds before relaxing when nothing disasterous happened.

"Well that explains it," Jennifer muttered worriedly, moving swiftly to assess the jagged wound now revealed. "It looks like some of the sharper pieces of rubble have been cutting into his thigh - he must have lost a lot of blood. We're looking at shock from that, plus the concussion - it's no wonder he hasn't regained consciousness."

"Is he gonna be all right?" Rodney asked, slumping back on the ground against the wall and watching as Jennifer got out the portable scanner. She ran it quickly over Spencer's leg, watching the screen for the results.

"With treatment, yes," Jennifer replied distractedly. "He's got a simple fracture as well and he needs a transfusion and a CT scan just to confirm my diagnosis on the head trauma." Within minutes Jennifer had cleaned and bandaged Spencer's wound and applied a vaccum splint to reduce the risk of doing more damage when they moved him. "I've done all I can for him," she announced, pulling off her gloves and throwing everything back into her pack. "He's stable for the moment but the sooner we get out of here the better."

"Is that your blood?" Rodney asked worriedly, drawing Jennifer's attention to her own bare shoulders.

"Huh?" Jennifer glanced down at herself in surprise. "Oh - yeah, it's just a scratch. That hole wasn't quite as wide as it needed to be."

"Well don't you think you should you know ... treat yourself?" Rodney asked pointedly when it seemed she was just going to ignore it.

"They don't say Doctors make the worst patients for nothing," Jennifer quipped, amused in a kind of warm and fuzzy way that Rodney seemed so concerned about her. Deciding to humour him she cleaned the minor cuts on both shoulders and applied some bandages. "Happy?"

"Not really," Rodney replied, watching her settle herself down next to him. "You shouldn’t have done this."

"You mean you’re not glad of the company?" Jennifer joked. "Being down here without an audience must have been torture."

"Ha ha," Rodney smiled weakly. "No I just meant now you’re stuck down here with us and I know you’re no fonder of tight spaces than I am."

"Maybe not," Jennifer didn’t deny it, "but we Doctors are like the postal service. Rain, hail, or claustrophobia aside – we always turn up."

"I know I said you shouldn't come down here but now that you are ... thank you," Rodney leant his head back against the wall, closing his eyes tiredly.

"I know you're tired Rodney but I need you to stay awake for now just in case we have to move quickly," Jennifer called his attention back to her. "You can sleep as soon as we get you to the infirmary okay. If it helps you could talk to me."

"How did Ronon seem today?" Rodney asked, abruptly taking her up on her offer.

"If you’re referring to our little conversation of last night I think he had much bigger things to worry about than that," Jennifer replied in surprise.

"So he wasn’t any different then?" Rodney persisted.

"I couldn’t tell," Jennifer protested. "Everyone was much too busy being concerned about you!"

"I still can’t believe you talked Sheppard in to letting you come down here," Rodney shook his head at that one. "You know he never lets me talk him into anything these days ... well not since that solar system thing I mentioned before."

"It wasn’t that difficult," Jennifer looked at him pointedly. "He wanted someone down here with you ... if he could have gotten through that hole he’d have been here himself hours ago."

"Yes well he needs me to install the new Stargate," Rodney dismissed the concern everyone had shown lightly.

"No Rodney," Jennifer put a hand on his arm to make her point. "I think you underestimate how much they all care about you – and not just because you know how to fix things! In fact," Jennifer broke off as a sudden thought occurred to her.

"In fact what?" Rodney queried impatiently when she didn’t continue.

"Um ... if I’m right I’ll fill you in later," Jennifer said evasively.

"You can’t just start a sentence and then not finish it!" Rodney protested.

"Who made that rule?" Jennifer laughed when Rodney did a fair impression of a Ronon growl at that. "Relax Rodney, I will -,"

The ominous sound of shifting from above drew their attention abruptly upwards. Jennifer froze, hardly daring to breath as she waited for something to happen. There was silence and then the creaking sound came again, this time raining a mist of dust and small particles down on them.

"Ah ... Sheppard," Rodney tapped his ear piece urgently. "You might want to hurry it up - I don't think that ceilings gonna hold much longer."

"We're working on it," Sheppard shot back.

"Oh God," Jennifer's voice shook slightly with nerves. Pushing her gear out of the way she urged Rodney to get closer to Spencer, positioning herself to cover them both in case more rubble rained down on them.

"What are you doing?" Rodney demanded, glaring at Jennifer's obvious hovering.

"Being prepared," Jennifer dismissed, still looking up at the ceiling.

"What - coming down here wasn't enough, now you're gonna put yourself between us and that ceiling too?" Rodney retorted.

"Both of you already have head injuries," Jennifer glanced down at him before looking away. "You can ill afford to take another hit."

"I'm pretty sure the Doctors code of ethics doesn't require that level of sacrifice," Rodney said sarcastically. "Just sit back down here please."

The ceiling shook again ... this time only dusting them with more grit but Jennifer didn't move.

"Jennifer," Rodney's voice carried a tone she'd never heard from him before. It had her making eye contact despite her attempts not to ... and then she couldn't look away.

Jennifer had often wondered what it would be like to have the intensity Rodney applied to solving life threatening problems directed at her instead. Now she knew and it had her feeling dizzy and tingly, confused and just a little bit scared too. It was like he was looking past all her barriers and defenses to every emotion, every motivation driving her. She froze, staring at him intently, trying to read his eyes too. Rodney appeared about to say something ... was she ready to hear it?

"Do you guys want to get out of there now?" Sheppard’s decidedly happy voice broke into their silent conversation.

"The Daedalus is finally fixed?" Rodney looked away from Jennifer abruptly.

"The beaming system is good to go," Sheppard confirmed. "Stand by – we’re gonna beam you all direct to the infirmary."

"Wait," Rodney called out slightly panicky. "They did test it first, right?" There was no reponse. "Right? Sheppard!"

The warm glow of the beam activating was the only answer he got.

oOo

Getting Rodney and Lieutenant Spencer safely ensconced in the infirmary felt like a bit of an anticlimax. It almost seemed too easy ... although it would have been much easier if they could have been beamed out right after the floor had caved in, instead of almost four hours later.

Jennifer had forced herself to leave Rodney in the care of one of the other Doctors so that she could provide treatment to Lieutenant Spencer herself. She was rewarded when an hour or so later Spencer regained consciousness, disorientated and with no memory of events beyond running down the corridor. Relieved that all indicators were he'd make a full recovery Jennifer finally gave herself permission to check on Rodney ... only to find him sleeping peacefully. That just left her to get some rest too – it had been a long day but she didn’t think she’d be able to sleep until she’d taken care of one final thing.

Now all she had to do was find him.

Authors Note:

My information on concussions, including treatment (which interestingly dispelled the whole have to stay awake myth) came from lookitup dot wordpress dot com with some back up information from wikipedia. The shock/blood trauma stuff came from emedicinehealth dot com. The splint I used in the story I read about on emsresponder dot com. Apologies if the medical stuff was too much ... or completely wrong whch it very well could be since I know next to nothing about medicine ... I started out with just a couple of 'telling' paragraphs but it felt wrong to completely miss the conversation I felt should take place during Jen's initial doctoring.


Chapter 6: The Scent of the Future


 “Ronon!” Jennifer ran down the corridor in an effort to catch up with him. It had taken her an hour to find Ronon and she didn’t want to let him get away.

“Yeah?” Ronon’s tone wasn’t exactly welcoming but Jen persisted anyway, determined to clear the air now everything else was back as it should be ... well it would be once Rodney had been released from the infirmary.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” she asked hopefully.

“Okay,” Ronon agreed reluctantly, letting her lead him to a deserted meeting area. He slouched into one corner of the wide couch, watching as Jennifer settled into the space next to him, a strange combination of nerves and determination fuelling her actions.

“I was thinking about how we used the Jumper to lower me down to the others and I realised something,” Jennifer jumped straight in, watching as Ronon frowned in confusion, obviously wondering where she was going with this. “It was all in how the two of you reacted to me being the one to go down there. Rodney was adamant that I shouldn’t take the risk – he even tried to talk John into changing his mind.”

“That sounds like McKay,” Ronon said in amusement. Rodney always believed he could influence everything, even Sheppard who never deviated once he’d decided on something.

“Yeah, but you were quite happy for me to take the risk if it meant Rodney would be okay,” Jennifer pointed out. “And do you know why?”

“No but I’m sure you’re about to tell me,” Ronon said with just a hint of apprehension.

“Because you love him,"Jennifer said simply, "not me."

“Hey, I don’t love McKay,” Ronon sat up straight with a look that was both insulted and disturbed.

“Not ‘love’ love,” Jennifer rolled her eyes at his reaction. “Like a brother, like family. He and the rest of your team are your family. You’d risk anything to keep them safe ... including me.”

“Maybe,” Ronon admitted reluctantly. “So?”

“So you were never really interested in me romantically,” Jennifer said gently. “You were interested in the idea of me ... because subconsciously you see it as a way to resolve the past without having to confront it directly. It’s been ten years since Melena was killed and yet you've never talked about her. You’ve been here more than three years - you have people who care about you - so it’s not like you haven’t had the opportunity.”

“I wasn’t ready,” Ronon looked down rather than let her see the expression in his eyes.

“I know,” Jennifer agreed, nothing in her demeanour suggesting there was anything wrong with that. “And yet you’re ready to think about a relationship with someone else? I’m sorry Ronon but I’m not buying that.”

“You don’t think you could make a man forget his past?” Ronon sent an intent glance at her before looking down again.

“I know I don't want to make you forget yours,” Jennifer countered. “And the fact that you phrased it that way tells me a lot. Even if you could be there every single time I needed saving it doesn’t change the fact that you didn’t save her. Killing all the Wraith you can find won’t bring her back. Saving every woman who reminds you of her won’t either.”

“It wasn’t just because you remind me of Melena,” Ronon denied impatiently.

“Maybe not,” Jennifer allowed. “But making yourself my protector so you can save me won’t rewrite the past ... it doesn’t erase it either. And that’s a good thing because you shouldn’t be looking to forget Melena -just the opposite. You need to remember her, accept what you couldn’t change, accept that there will be times in the future where things happen that you won’t be able to influence either.”

“Teyla said the same thing,” Ronon admitted sadly, finally willing to look Jen in the eye. “I’m not sure I know how to do that.”

“You’ve already made a good start,” Jennifer said with a fond smile. “You wouldn’t have let John, Teyla, and Rodney become your family otherwise. You’ve managed to build strong relationships with all of them, despite knowing what you do is dangerous and risky and not always in your control." Jen paused before adding one final question. "Don’t you think they’d want to hear about Melena?”

“I guess,” Ronon agreed reluctantly. “I’ll think about it.”

“Good,” Jennifer said. “Thank you for listening. I know it’s not really my business.” She prepared to stand, ready to make that the end of the conversation.

“Does this mean everything's cool with us again?” Ronon asked abruptly.

“I’d like to think it always was,” Jennifer teased, sitting back and looking at him with a smile, “despite you getting all competitive with Rodney over something you didn’t really want.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Ronon protested. Jennifer just looked at him with a raised brow ... the expression that made men just as tough as Ronon admit to symptoms they’d been trying to hide. “Okay maybe him confronting me about my intentions prompted me to decide I had some but it wasn’t because he was interested too.”

“Sure,” Jennifer nodded sagely. “That had nothing to do with it at all.”

“You know, you’re nothing like Melena - she was never as much trouble as you are,” Ronon’s eyes twinkled as he delivered some teasing of his own.

“My off world record could do with a little ... polishing,” Jennifer agreed without taking offence. “But I’m getting there.”

“I guess we both are,” Ronon nudged his shoulder against hers companionably. “So what are you going to do about McKay?” he asked after a few moments of agreeable silence.

“Short of taking a 2x4 to his head you mean?” Jennifer joked, not bothering to deny her interest was in Rodney.

“I could talk to him,” Ronon offered casually.

"No-o, no, no," Jennifer replied quickly, holding up a hand as if she could hold off the big Satedan that easily. "That won't be necessary. The two of us will work this out eventually."

"If you say so," Ronon sounded less than confident that would prove to be true. "The offers there if you change your mind."

"Thank you Ronon," Jennifer smiled, his statement convincing her as nothing else had that they really were back on comfortable ground.

"You wanna go get something to eat?" Ronon stood and looked down at her steadily, she was sure deliberately echoing his question from the day before. God had it only been a day?

"You know, I would," Jennifer agreed casually, holding out a hand to him. "Shall we?"

The two friends walked off down the corridor, happy that they both knew where they stood - and that was exactly where they should be.

oOo

Jennifer had Rodney 'captive' in her infirmary for most of the following day. She'd considered talking to him about what had been left unspoken between them but in the end decided the infirmary just wasn't the right place. Besides, Rodney had returned to his previous approach - the one where even the most blatant of hints didn't seem to make a dent. If she didn't know better she'd wonder if she'd imagined that moment just before they'd been beamed out. But with the whole Day 6 confession still echoing in the back of her head she knew she hadn't - Rodney really did love her. Maybe he wasn't ready to admit it ... and maybe he wasn't ready to hear that she loved him too ... but she was finally convinced it hadn't just been the illness talking.

The only problem left was to work out how to get past the barriers Rodney put up to hide himself, especially when she was sure that most of them were so firmly held he didn't even realise he was doing it anymore. And that was a tough ask because Rodney didn't seem to even want to entertain the notion that Jennifer might feel the same ... no matter what she said or how she behaved. In the end Jen was happy to release him from the infirmary at the end of the day, if only to save herself the frustration of beating her head against the brick wall also known as Doctor Meredith Rodney McKay!

oOo

"Should you be doing that?" Sheppard stood in the doorway of Rodney's lab a few hours after he'd left the infirmary, not surprised to find Rodney already back at work.

"Probably not," Rodney admitted. "Are you gonna report me?"

"That depends," Sheppard stepped into the lab casually. "You gonna live up to your end of the bargain?"

"What bargain?" Rodney asked with pretended innocence.

"The one where you make a fool of yourself for Keller in front of the whole team," Sheppard reminded him.

"As I recall, that was only if you stopped her from following through on that plan, which you didn't," Rodney retorted, his attention fixed firmly on his laptop.

"True," Sheppard stood silently, waiting for Rodney to give in and look at him.

"What?" Rodney demanded irritably a few moments later.

"Don't you want to know if she feels the same?" Sheppard asked with real curiousity.

"Not if she doesn't," Rodney muttered. "I don't know - maybe I'm better off not knowing. That way I can't screw it up which inevitably I will."

"You don't know that McKay," Sheppard said in exasperation. "She's already seen you at your worst and from where I'm sitting she seems to like you anyway."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Rodney looked faintly offended.

"You work it out," Sheppard challenged. "Just don't take too long."

"Easy for you to say," Rodney grumbled, watching John walk away with a troubled frown.

oOo

"You were very brave yesterday," Teyla complimented Jennifer at lunch the next day.

"Not really," Jennifer excused her actions modestly. "I was too busy worrying about Rodney and Lieutenant Spencer to think too much about what I was doing."

"I am sure the fact that you have ... feelings for Rodney helped somewhat," Teyla said with a smile.

"Maybe," Jennifer smiled in return.

"Rodney is not known for his skill in relationships," Teyla offered her wisdom graciously. "At such times a woman must take matters into her own hands if she is to ensure events progress as they should."

"Ah ...," Jennifer wasn't sure how to respond to that.

"Or perhaps you are not as sure of your feelings as you believe," Teyla supressed a smile as Jennifer reacted to the implied challenge.

"You know, you could be right," Jen nodded thoughtfully ... maybe it was time to get a little more proactive.

oOo

And then two nights later they came full circle. It was late and Rodney was once again sitting at his table in the darkened mess hall, data pad sitting in front of him.

I can’t believe anyone can be this thick!” a familiar voice echoed from the kitchen area. “Maybe I do need to hit him over the head with something.”

“Ah – Jennifer?” Rodney called out uncertainly.

Rodney?” Jennifer stuck her head out the kitchen door before ducking back inside once she’d confirmed he was there. “Great!” he heard her mutter before she reappeared again. “You’re up late,” she said somewhat lamely before frowning in concern. “You know you really should be resting.”

‘Hey, I have a completely valid ‘get out of the infirmary’ card that you signed,” Rodney pointed out. “I couldn’t sleep so ...,”

“You’re not still worrying about the Attero thing are you?” Jennifer sat down across from him and waited for a response.

“We still don’t know the full consequences,” Rodney pointed out impatiently. “I can’t be complacent about possibly wiping out thousands of people!”

“No one expects you to be,” Jennifer protested. “But whatever the results, whatever we find out when we’re out there, it wasn’t your fault. I’m sure Doctor Jackson is happy to be alive – he wouldn’t be, you wouldn’t be if you hadn’t given in. At the time you had no way of knowing how serious that side effect was.”

“I know all that,” Rodney agreed just a little irritably. “It’s just ... it sucks being used for the sole purpose of activating something. It makes me appreciate Sheppard’s complaints about not being just a walking ATA gene.” Rodney looked up quickly and added “don’t tell him I said that - I’ll just deny it anyway.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Jennifer smiled in amusement.

“So what are you doing up so late?” Rodney asked curiously, keen to change the subject.

“Couldn’t sleep either,” Jennifer admitted. She let the silence run for a few moments before continuing. “I was thinking about what you said the other night ... that Ronon was the ultimate ‘still waters run deep’. It’s obvious he’d got stuff going on, things that he’d never admit to because he’s got that silent facade firmly in place. It makes people want to delve deeper to see what they can find out. Now the really smart person wouldn’t go about it that way.”

“Um ... they wouldn’t?” Rodney felt the nervousness starting to surface, wondering what Jennifer was getting at and hoping like hell she wasn’t talking about him.

“No,” Jennifer smiled, well aware she was making him nervous and kind of enjoying the feeling. She'd tried to take Teyla's advice and only ended up frustrated when Rodney missed every hint she'd dropped. Hence her cursing about his inherent thickness. “They’d be the raging river, hiding everything behind all that froth, making the surface so daunting and distracting that no one would even think to look beneath it.”

“You make that sound so calculating and deliberate,” Rodney protested, dismayed to discover that she was talking about him. “You know sometimes still waters hide nothing more than really boring algae and the river just covers a bed of pebbles.”

“Sometimes,” Jennifer agreed. “Not this time though.”

“And ah ... you’re telling me this because?” Rodney shot an uncertain glance across at Jennifer before looking away again.

“Because I like you Rodney,” Jennifer announced simply, deciding abruptly to just lay all her cards on the table ... well, not exactly all of them, just the ones she was sure Rodney could handle right now. “And I’d really like the chance to discover more of what I already know is beneath all that froth you send out to put people off.”

“Oh,” Rodney looked stunned for a moment before her words penetrated the stubborn thickness he seemed to hold about his own appeal. “Oh!

“Is that all you’re gonna say? Oh?” Jennifer asked in exasperation.

“Hey, let me get over the shock of you telling me you like me first,” Rodney complained with a bit more of that McKay spirit.

“When I said you weren’t good at this months ago I didn’t realise just how true that was,” Jennifer said with a fond laugh. “This is the bit where you tell me you like me too.”

“I ah ... I like you too Jennifer,” Rodney obediently replied. "I mean, I ... I ah ... really like you."

“If you asked me out on a date I wouldn’t say no,” Jennifer suggested. “In fact if you asked me to come back to your room right now I probably wouldn’t say no either.”

“Uh,” Rodney’s eyes practically bugged out of his head as he registered what she’d said ... the verbal equivalent of that two by four she'd joked to Ronon about.

“You’re right,” Jennifer continued like she wasn’t having a strange non verbal and mostly one sided conversation. “It’s too soon. So, date first?”

Rodney didn’t even try to verbalise a response, settling for nodding emphatically instead.

“Great,” Jennifer got up and took the steps required to bring her to Rodney’s side of the table. “Let me know when you’re free,” she added, leaning down and pressing a firm kiss to his lips just to make sure he really had gotten the message. Straightening she smiled at the shell shocked look on his face. “Don’t leave it too long, okay.”

Rodney sat there stupefied, watching the woman he loved saunter out of the room. And then the rush of understanding hit him ... she really ‘liked’ him, had practically offered herself to him. And he’d sat there like a lifeless mannequin. Smacking himself on the forehead he jumped up and ran after her.

“Jennifer ... wait up!” he called.

Jen stopped in the corridor, waiting for him to catch up.

“Turns out I’m free right now,” Rodney rushed the wordsout quickly, still nervous despite his growing belief about her feelings.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Jennifer smiled at the relief she saw sweeping over him.

Grabbing his hand she urged him to start walking ... not sure where they were going but happy that they were finally making some progress ... together.

The End!

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