Jennifer winced. His response was pretty much what she'd expected. What was it like to kill someone, to take their life . . . to have that power? The question had plagued her since the conversation with Nabel shortly before she and Teyla had been rescued on New Athos.
"I'll shoot you." She prayed that the threat alone would be enough to deter him. She felt as if took all her strength just to keep the gun trained on him.
"Huh," he seemed to consider it. "No, you won't," Nabel sneered. "You don't have it in you. You're a doctor, a healer. . . not a killer."
"You're right. I am a healer. But first I need something to heal."
And then she'd shot him.
She closed her eyes in an effort to fight back the fresh tears forming at the memory. She barely felt Ronon sit down on the desk about a foot away from her. She hadn't even seen him move.
"Back on the New Athos, Nabel—the guy who turned out to be a Wraith worshiper—told me that I wouldn't shoot him because I was a doctor, a "healer." I had just saved his life the night before. I guess he figured since I went through all that, I wasn't going to kill him. I didn't. I couldn't."
Ronon nodded, the confused expression now replaced with one of understanding. "Well, you're not a killer," he stated matter-of-fact.
For some reason, Jennifer didn't find that fact as comforting as she should have. She supposed that was really what had been bothering her. "I did shoot him in the thigh, though."
Now Ronon's expression was a combination of amusement and admiration. "Really?"
"Yeah. I wasn't planning on healing it either. He betrayed me and Teyla, and I felt so helpless, even after I'd fought him for the gun—" Ronon's shocked expression didn't go unnoticed. "Yeah, shocking. I know. I fought pretty dirty, actually." She allowed herself to feel only slightly ashamed at the fact. She explained to Ronon, "I gut-punched him. . . after all the fuss I made about not moving him for fear of tearing the sutures I put in his abdomen. Funny how all that goes out the window when your life is on the line, ya know."
"Sorta. I probably would have killed him."
"Yeah, that's your specialty."
He gave her an unreadable expression. "Oh, no, no. . . I didn't mean it like that. I mean, you're good at killing people . . ." Jennifer felt the blush rising in her cheeks. She sighed in frustration. "This is not at all how I imagined this conversation going."
"You and me both," Ronon agreed. He repositioned himself against the desk, crossing his arms on his chest for a moment, and then, seeming to think better of it, rested his hands on either side of him.
This was the first time she could remember Ronon being visibly uncomfortable. Well, that and the time she started to lose her memory when everyone on the base had been infected with Kirsan fever. She had completely forgotten that she had taken his blood sample for tests the first time he had come to see her. Even now, she remembered the cold feeling of dread that had overcome her when she realized that she was losing her memory. She was terrified of how that would affect her abilities as a doctor, when so many people were depending on her to find a solution to the medical crisis. She still couldn't remember much of the events after the first patient had crashed from the effects of the illness.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to freak you out. I know I was really abrupt with that question earlier."
"I'm still here," he pointed out. He turned to face her, his eye contact urging her to continue with whatever it was she was trying to say.
Jennifer felt her heart do a flip for all the possible implications of the the words he had just spoken. Her cheeks grew hot once more. With much effort she refocused her attention on trying to articulate her thoughts.
"Teyla said that I was afraid to challenge myself. At first, I really thought she was wrong. I signed up to be Chief of Medicine on an expedition in another galaxy. I figured that pretty challenging. But then I realized that medicine has never really been that difficult for me. My dad said that even when I was very young I had an aptitude for it. When I got into medical school, I knew it wouldn't be easy, especially since I was so much younger than everyone else. But I enjoyed it so much, it was never a chore or anything. Having that knowledge, the ability to be able to figure out what's wrong with someone and then fix it, so they can continue living their life. . . It's a great feeling.
"But then, on that planet. . . I was so terrified. I felt so naked and unprepared, you have no idea. And then we were captured by the Bola Kai. Teyla gave me a vague idea of what they did to their victims. Since we were women, I thought they might try to. . ." She couldn't make herself say it. She pushed the thought to the back of her mind. Jennifer released a ragged sigh and willed the tears welling in her eyes not to fall.
"Anyway," she continued, "I put all that effort into saving Nabel, and then at the turn of a hat, I was in the situation where I was willing to do whatever I had to to get him out of my way. But I didn't kill him. I think. . . I think I was afraid to. And now, he could still be out there somewhere. I hate feeling like I did the wrong thing."
So there it was. The proverbial heart of the matter. Jennifer still didn't know if she should have killed the man or not, or even having to consider whether or not she should have killed him at all. She was a doctor. A healer. She greatly treasured the responsibility that title bestowed upon her. If the situation was presented, could she willfully end someone's life if it meant saving the lives of those she swore to protect?
Ronon was silent for what felt like minutes. He stared at the wall opposite him, deep in thought.
Jennifer really regretted dropping such a bombshell on him this night. She hadn't been able to sleep after she'd gone back to her room after her leaving in the infirmary earlier. After her shift had ended, she had stayed a few hours after, busying herself with paper work in an vain attempt to take her mind off the of events of the previous day. When she finally left the infirmary and headed for her quarters, she turned around halfway there to retrieve the photo of her mother and father from her office. For some reason she wanted that particular picture close to her.
However, when she finally laid her eyes on the picture, she was overcome with feelings of relief and homesickness. She had been given leave to see her father again. She had a very close relationship, with him, yet, because of security clearance issues, she couldn't tell him about her experience. Maybe, she realized, that was why desperation had caused her to reach out to Ronon. He had been there. He had given her yet another task to take her mind off things. She was good at putting other people before herself.
But then, he had shown concern for her when he could have just walked away.
Now, the painkillers were beginning to wear off, the persistent throb from the sprain in her ankle serving as a pointed reminder of her ordeal. The apparent hypocrisy in the lecture she has given Ronon about not aggravating his shoulder injury was not lost on her.
"Listen, Doc," Ronon spoke finally. He turned to face her, resting his hand consolingly on her shoulder. "Yeah, I've killed people, but that doesn't make me a killer. If my friends need help, I'm there with the gun. It's my job to protect you, and everyone else on Atlantis."
He paused for a moment. Jen could tell he was trying to find the right words to make his point. "I shoot people; you heal them. From what I've seen, you're pretty damn good at it. But we're both using our skills to keep our friends alive and safe.
"As far as killing goes—" Ronon shrugged. ". . .it's not your job, so just clear your mind of it. If and when, the time comes, and you have to make that choice. . . You'll know what to do." He squeezed her shoulder, lightly.
"You make it sound so simple," She said quietly. But it was enough.
He shrugged. "I don't pretend to be complex. That's McKay's job."
Jennifer allowed herself to laugh at that.
"It's just. . . you've surprised me a lot tonight, Mr. Dex."
"Well," He cocked his eyebrow, a sly smirk playing across his lips. "I'm not afraid to challenge myself." Until now Jennifer hadn't noticed Ronon's hand resting comfortably at the small of her back, the caress of his thumb.
She opened her mouth to say something, but her brain couldn't process anything past the intimacy of the contact, and, honestly, how good it felt. Instinctively, she leaned into his touch. She felt something tickle the hair at the top of her head. Jen hadn't realized her eyes had been closed until she opened them when she felt the abrupt loss of contact, the sudden absence of warmth from the body so near to her. Ronon was standing in front of her, proferring his hand.
"Come on," he said. "You need sleep."
She stared at his hand, then craned her head back to look into his face. What had just happened? Ronon's features betrayed no emotion, a picture of nonchalance. Too tired to think about it further, Jennifer clasped his hand and let him help her up from her seat on the edge of the desk, grateful he was considerate of her injured ankle.
Once she was up, she Ronon allowed her to pass in front of him, and his hand again found its way to the small of her back, gently guiding her towards the door.
"You don't want to forget this?" Ronon held the picture frame out in front of her.
She took without looking at the photograph inside, hugging it to her chest with crossed wrists.
She turned to face him, "Thank, you." For everything. Tomorrow, she would be going home to see her dad, thanks to Teyla, and thanks to herself. She had survived, as Teyla had assured her she would.
He seemed to understand. "No problem."
Once they were out of Dr. Keller's office Ronon stopped her.
"Uhm. . . I'm gonna go see Teyla," he said, gesturing towards the patient ward of the infirmary.
He wasn't asking for permission. Not exactly. "Ok," Jennifer nodded. "If anyone tries to stop you, just tell them I said it was alright."
Ronon gave her a look that conveyed his serious doubt that any of the medical staff would really be able to stop him. He was quite. . .intimidating. "Right. Ok. . .well, goodnight then, Mr. Dex," she put extra emphasis on his name. After a tired wave, she hobbled towards the infirmary exit.
"Goodnight, Doc," she heard him say at her retreating back.
Say that you'll stay a little
Don't say bye-bye tonight
Say you'll be mine
Just a little bit of love
is worth a moment of your time.
—"Save Room" by John Legend
A/N: Finally, it's done—sorta. My first fanfic. I really enjoyed the struggle of writing this. Ever since I saw "Missing", I've been thinking about a tag for the episode. I surprised myself with how the ending came out. However, I never intended Ronon and Keller to get together by the end of it, because it seemed very unrealistic to me. I just wanted to explore how relationships between people develop. Oftentimes, we confide in the people we least expect, and they provide a surprising level of comfort. So I guess that was what this was about. Two people who are seemingly complete opposites who find a common ground.
I don't think that this the end of this story arch, though. There's a lot of things that I decided to leave out that I'd like to explore later. Someone suggested that I write more interaction between Ronon and Teyla, with him talking about his interest in Keller to her. Epilogue, anyone?
Thanks so much to all of you who left a review. I really appreciate the encouragement and constructive criticism.