Learning Curve

Jen opened the door to her room and couldn't help but smile when she saw her bed. It had been a long day, and right now she could think of nothing better than grabbing a quick shower and curling up in bed with a novel. She picked out a clean set of clothes and was headed for the small washroom when she heard a page go out over the wireless system.

"Doctor Keller, come in please." It was Colonel Carter's voice.

Jen silently wished she'd imagined the sound, but knowing she hadn't she tapped her earpiece. "Yes, Colonel?" She responded, doing her best to keep from whining.

"If you're not busy, I'd like to see you in my office."

Jen sighed quietly and dropped her clothes in a pile on the floor. "I'll be right there."

As she made her way to Colonel Carter's office she tried her best to think of what this might be about. Jen had gotten her weekly report in on time, if only barely, and there hadn't been any major medical crises lately, unless one counted the staff shortage. Other than that... Jen was clueless.

When she reached Colonel Carter's office, she saw that the other woman was just shutting down her computer for the night. Jen let out a breath she hadn't been aware she was holding. Thankfully it looked like whatever this was wouldn't take very long.

She raised her hand to knock on the doorframe, but before she had the chance Colonel Carter looked up from where she was seated behind the desk. "Come in," she said pleasantly, as she folded the laptop screen down.

"You wanted to see me?" Jen asked. The second the words passed her lips she clamped her mouth shut. Of course the Colonel wanted to see her, it was the reason she'd been paged. God, it really had been a long day.

"Yes," Colonel Carter said, giving her a small smile. "I wanted to talk to you about the mandatory self-defense training."

Jen felt her body tense. "Um, I know you sent out an email with all the time slots, and told us to sign up, but none of the times are going to work for me. I'm sorry, but until the next group of doctors arrives from Earth I'm needed in the infirmary all day long, and some nights."

Colonel Carter leaned forward in her chair, resting her elbows on the desk. "Yes, I realize that. Thankfully everyone else on the expedition team has been able to find a time slot that works for them, but in a way that makes it harder to find a way to fit you in. I was hoping that if there were enough people we might be able to schedule a late class for the group of you."

"You mean I still have to take the lessons?" Realizing that she was making herself sound like a snob, Jen rushed to clarify. "I just thought that with all that's going on with the medical department, and seeing as I'm needed there pretty much all the time, I'd be exempt. At least until the new doctors arrive."

Sam smiled sympathetically. "Unfortunately mandatory means everyone. As much as I hate adding more to your plate right now, the second I start making exceptions is the second I'll have a hundred scientists arguing with me to try and get out of it. And I'm sorry to say this, but these lessons are a direct result of the mission you went on with Teyla to New Athos. I believe you of all people realize how important it is to have some knowledge of basic self-defense."

Jen felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment and she averted her eyes. "Right."

Colonel Carter didn't seem to notice. "Luckily someone has volunteered to give you lessons whenever you can fit them in."

Momentarily forgetting her embarrassment, Jen looked up questioningly. "Who?" The only person she could think of who would do that was Teyla, but seeing as she was pregnant and Jen herself had ordered Teyla to stay away from excess physical exertion, she knew that wasn't the case.

Colonel Carter smiled. "Ronon."

Jen felt her stomach knot up. "Ronon?"

"Yes. In fact he's probably the best teacher you could ever have seeing as how he knows more about hand to hand combat than anyone else on Atlantis, military personnel included."

"Oh," Jen said weakly. "That's…great."

"Good, it's settled then. You meet with him for the first time nine o'clock tomorrow evening. After that the two of you can schedule times to meet which are convenient for both of you."

Jen nodded and clasped her hands together in front of her body, keeping them from trembling. "Is that all?"

Sam nodded. "Yes, that's everything. Have a good evening."

"I'll try," Jen said, even though she was sure that would not be the case.

As it turned out Jen had been right. Her evening had not been pleasant, not even slightly. She'd spent the entire five hours she'd had to sleep lying in bed worrying about her training session with Ronon. It wasn't that she didn't like Ronon, because she did, even though she hadn't spent all that much time with him. It was more the fact that he towered over her, had huge muscles, and could probably snap her like a twig if he wanted to.

He knew exactly what he was doing, and he would either laugh at how pathetic she was, or else just give up on her after only a few minutes. And it certainly didn't help that he was one of the sexiest men she'd ever laid eyes on. She could feel herself becoming flustered just thinking about spending hours alone with him.

Jen took a deep breath and shoved those thoughts to the back of her mind. Their training session was hours away, and there were several things she needed to get done before then, including taking inventory of Atlantis' medical supplies so she could place an order to Earth by the end of the week. She grabbed her clipboard off her desk and headed towards the storage room, forcing herself not to look at her watch and count the hours until her inevitable humiliation.

Once she began to truly focus on her work, the day went by quickly, too quickly. It seemed like in no time it was eight o'clock and she was getting ready to end her shift for the night. Surprisingly enough by eight thirty Jen had everything wrapped up, or at least so much as it needed to be for the time being. Glancing at her watch she bit her lip nervously. It was almost time.

Her stomach twisted and a wave of nausea passed over her. Maybe she'd just turn out to be so horrible that Ronon would give up before she had a chance to embarrass herself too badly. It wouldn't be great, but certainly better than the alternatives her mind was thinking up.

She left the infirmary and headed towards her room. First thing first, she needed to change, and then she would face her impending doom.

Ronon paced the gym as he waited for Doctor Keller to show up, still not quite sure how he'd gotten himself in this position. Two days earlier he'd been walking with Sheppard when Colonel Carter had stopped them so she could talk to John. Ronon hadn't been fully paying attention, but caught enough of the conversation to know it was about the new mandatory self-defense classes that had been issued. For some reason the sound of Doctor Keller's name had caught his full attention, just in time for him to hear about the predicament with the scheduling. John had been about to make a suggestion, but before he could say anything Ronon had jumped in and offered to teach her. He'd received two semi-puzzled looks, but no objections, which brought him to the gym tonight.

He wasn't sure what had possessed him to do it. It's not like he knew the doctor that well. They'd worked together on occasion and she'd stitched him up after a few of his rougher sparring sessions, but that was about it. Maybe it had something to do with the determination he'd seen on her face in spite of the fear when she'd been rescued off of New Athos with Teyla. Or maybe it had been something else entirely… he honestly didn't know, but surely there had to be some reason he'd been so quick to volunteer.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door sliding open. He turned on his heel to see Doctor Keller enter the room slowly. He took a moment to simply observe her. Thankfully she seemed to be wearing appropriate clothing: some type of stretchy pants, a tight fitting shirt and running shoes, nothing stupid like some of the Atlantis personnel donned for their first lessons.

"Um, hi," she said quietly as she made her way towards him in the middle of the room.

He nodded his head at her. "You ready?"

Her eyes widened and immediately he noticed her body tense, enough so that she looked like someone had just replaced her spine with a metal rod. She nodded her head slightly, but she didn't look ready, not in the least. Ronon knew he would have to proceed carefully.

"How much do you know already?" He inquired, keeping his voice soft, as the doctor seemed likely to spook at any sudden or loud noise.

He watched her closely as she swallowed before answering. "Nnn…none."

"Good. This way I won't have to unteach you any bad habits."

She stared at him with a sort of scared expression, but nodded her head anyway.

"Okay," he said. "Let's start."

He closed the small distance between them and placed his arms on her shoulders, pretending not to notice how she started at his touch. He positioned her body so that it was square to her feet, and used his right foot to tap the inside of her legs until they were shoulder width apart.

"Now bend your knees."

She did, but more than was necessary.

"Less," he said quietly as he tugged her shoulders up until her position was satisfactory. "Now I'm going to come at you, and I want you to do whatever defensive move comes naturally." He thought he saw her face pale, but once again she nodded, so he continued.

He took a few steps back and began circling around her, eventually deciding for the simple frontal assault. He'd barely begun to move into the initial lunge when she let out a small squeak and brought both her arms up to cover her face, while turning her body and crouching at the same time. When she realized that he had stopped she uncovered her face and stood back up. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she said hurriedly, her face flushing a deep red.

"It's okay," he replied calmly, for the first time realizing just exactly how different this would be from training with another fighter. He may have to get creative. "Try again."

The doctor did her best to reposition herself into the stance he'd shown her, but it wasn't quite right. He corrected her footing before stepping back and once again walking around her. He was quick to notice the panicked look in her eyes. One more try, and if that didn't work he'd have to come up with something else entirely.

This time when he moved towards her, she was even quicker in her response, but unfortunately it was exactly the same one as last time. Ronon stopped his movements completely and let his arms hang loose at his sides. "I'm not actually going to hurt you," he said hesitantly, wondering if that was the problem.

"I know that," she responded instantly as she straightened up, obviously embarrassed.

"Then why are you flinching?"

She gulped audibly. "I don't know!" She replied, almost hysterical. "Maybe because you're fifty bazillion times bigger than me, and you could snap me in half with your pinky if you wanted to!"

He raised an eyebrow at her in confusion. "What?"

She started shaking and wrapped her arms around her torso. Keeping her eyes focused on the floor of the room she spoke in a somewhat calmer voice. "Look, I don't know why you volunteered to help me, but I'm hopeless. You should just leave now; let someone else deal with me."

Realization dawned on Ronon as he finally put the pieces together. He had known people who lacked confidence in themselves before, in fact everyone suffered from it from time to time, himself included. However, this appeared to be on the end of the extreme. It bothered him that someone as talented and kind as Doctor Keller could doubt herself so much. It also made him absolutely determined to help her learn the basics of self-defense.

"I offered to help because I wanted to," he stated evenly. He thought he might have heard a muffled sound of surprise, but he continued. "Now, what do you normally do for exercise?"

The question had obviously caught her off guard as she whipped her head up to look at him with a confused expression on her face. "What?"

He repeated the question just as calmly as the first time.

"Um, sometimes I run," she said hesitantly, like she didn't know if that was the answer he was looking for or not. "But in the past few weeks I really haven't had the time, because… because of the staff shortage in the infirmary."

He smiled at her. "Okay, then let's run."

"Run?" She inquired cautiously. "Why would we run?"

"Because you're not going to learn anything when you're that stiff," he explained, indicating her awkwardly tense posture.

Surprise, and a hint of something else lit up her face. "You mean you're not giving up on me?"


She made a noise of disbelief in the back of her throat. "You mean not yet."

He shook his head. "No, I mean I'm not giving up on you."

"Oh," she said quietly, obviously taken aback. "Okay."

Jen found running with Ronon to be unexpectedly okay, she'd certainly had worse running partners in the past. He let her set the pace, didn't talk, just ran. It was good, especially since it allowed her to focus her attention on other things, and by the time they made it back to the gym she thought she'd managed to regain a decent amount of composure. It came as a relief, especially since it appeared that Ronon was determined to teach her. Honestly, his patience had surprised her. Maybe this wouldn't turn out to be quite the horrible ordeal she'd been expecting.

Jen sat down on one of the gym mats and began stretching out her legs. She didn't dawdle, but neither did she rush, as she didn't want to cramp up later on. Nearby Ronon was stretching as well. A few minutes later she finished, and when she stood up she noticed Ronon watching her.

"You're a good runner," he stated.

A smile tugged at the corners of her lips. "Well, thanks. But it's not like I'm as good as you. You know, seeing as how you were a runner for several years."

He shrugged his shoulders. "You're still good."

She found herself smiling back easily. "I'll take that as a compliment then."

"Are you ready to try again?" He asked as he made his way toward the center of the gym.

Jen took a deep breath and followed. She still wasn't thrilled about the idea, but she figured she was as ready as she'd ever be. "I guess so," she replied honestly. "It's not like I have much choice in the matter." He gave her an odd look. "Sorry," she said quickly, wishing she could take the last part back. Ronon was going out of his way to help her and she certainly wasn't making things go smoothly for him. "Yes, I'm ready," she said, putting as much conviction into her voice as she could.

"Good," Ronon said. "Now get into the ready position I showed you."

Jen took another deep breath before placing her feet at the required width apart, and squaring her shoulders.

"Bend your knees," he reminded her, and Jen corrected her stance. "Good. Now whatever I do, don't flinch."

That certainly hadn't been what she was expecting. "What?" She asked, unable to keep the puzzlement concealed.

Ronon stared at her. "If you're going to fight someone, you can't be flinching."

She felt her cheeks beginning to warm, but she didn't break his gaze and nodded her head. "Okay."

"So I'm going to do whatever I can think of to make you flinch, and you're not going to. Okay?"

"Um… so what kind of things are we talking about here?"

He shrugged. "It's a surprise."

The first thing Ronon did was lunge at her. He didn't touch her; in fact he barely came within five feet of her. Her eyes instinctively flew shut and she jumped a little bit, but it certainly wasn't as bad as the last time. When she opened her eyes she saw him smiling at her. "Better, but not perfect."

The second time he yelled. The noise was unexpected and although she still started, her eyes at least remained open, which was an improvement. Ronon's reassuring smile gave her a boost of confidence. This wasn't so hard. She'd had scarier Profs in med school.

Ronon continued doing anything and everything he could to possibly make her flinch. He screamed, ran at her, threw things at the benches, even invaded her personal space, but by the end none of it had any affect on her. The last thing he did was stand in front of her and flick her forehead over and over again directly between her eyes. Not too hard, but she definitely felt it, and she didn't blink. Actually, it was much harder to keep from laughing than flinching, though she did manage both.

After a few seconds Jen became fed up with the constant annoyance and reached up, flicking Ronon once directly between the eyes. Caught off guard, he blinked, and a stunned look covered his face for half a second. She was about to apologize when he grinned. "I guess you win."

She couldn't help but chuckle. "I guess I do."

"You ready to move on?"

"You mean am I ready to move past the water bottle throwing, screaming, psychotic running around and forehead flicking?" Grinning from ear to ear, she said, "Yes, most definitely," with no hint of hesitation. This was actually turning out to be, might she dare say, fun?

"Good," Ronon said as he a step back and widened his stance to match hers, in a move that seemed to be instinctive. "I'm going to show you basic blocks first, how to deflect a blow from an opponent. First we start with a frontal attack."

Jen listened carefully as Ronon told her what to do. Then he slowly guided her through the actions, correcting her positioning when needed, and adding encouragement when that was needed also. After a short time he was 'attacking' her in slow motion, and she was using the move he'd shown her to deflect his punches. She felt awkward and out of place, but Ronon assured her that with more practice it would come to feel like second nature.

Soon they were moving on to other basic blocks. After the third he told her he was going to test what she'd learned so far.

"What do you mean?" She asked, feeling the nagging self-doubt again.

"I'm going to attack you and I want you to defend yourself however you can."

"So you mean with the moves you showed me."

He nodded. "Yes, but anything else that works is fine too. It doesn't even have to be pretty. Self-defense isn't about style, it's about survival." He paused for a moment, looking at her intently. "You ready?"

She nodded her head with assurance. The next thing she knew he was throwing a punch, probably not at full speed for him, but certainly faster than before. At the last second she managed to use the second block he'd shown her, and then without thinking she used the first as he spun and threw another punch, but this time with his left hand. He continued dishing it out, and she kept holding her own. Just as she thought she couldn't handle any more, he did something she'd never seen him do before. It was some sort of spin that brought his body in close to hers, with his arms reaching around to pin her arms to her sides. But somehow, before he could complete it, she slipped one hand up to his side and wriggled her fingers along his ribcage.

Ronon never managed to get her arms pinned because he had started laughing the moment her fingers touched his apparent ticklish spot. She had no idea what had possessed her to tickle him, but he had said to do anything that would work, and this worked. However, after a second the full realization of what she'd done sank in, and she pulled her hand away from him like he was on fire.

Not sure what she should do or say, she simply stood there, mostly out of breath, mouth partially open, staring at him. It didn't take more than a second for Ronon to recover from her 'attack', but when he did she noticed that he looked about as shocked as she felt.

Then, slowly, the corners of his mouth turned upwards in a smile. "I didn't know you were going to fight dirty."

She opened her mouth to protest, but instead of words coming out a shriek did. Ronon had reached for her ribcage, evidently intent on getting revenge. He tickled her sides without mercy and she was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. She tried to squirm away from him, but he was quick. Reacting without thinking, she began to tickle him back.

Soon the sounds of both their laughter filled the gym as they did everything they could to out-tickle each other. Just when Jen thought she was about to pass out from lack of oxygen, one of them tripped. She didn't know who, or how, but the next thing she knew they went tumbling onto the mat.

Ronon twisted them so that he landed first, on his back, and she ended up straddling him. His hands were splayed just above her hips, but they weren't moving. Hers were resting on his chest and remained stationary as well.

Both of them were breathing loudly, and it was the only sound in the now otherwise quiet room. Jen felt her gaze pulled to Ronon's, and when their eyes locked she couldn't draw away. The sounds of their labored breathing became less noticeable, though she wasn't sure if it was because they were beginning to catch their breath, or if it was due to the fact that everything seemed to have faded into the background. All she found herself able to focus on was the intensity of Ronon's stare, which seemed to be way more powerful than it should be.

Before she had a chance to even begin to consider what that meant, the sound of several voices registered in her mind. With each passing second they were getting louder and the realization that someone was coming was enough to bring her swirling back to her senses. Ronon had obviously noticed too, as they both tried to get up at the exact same time. Unfortunately, seeing as how she was on top of him, it didn't quite work. If it weren't for Ronon's astonishingly quick reflexes she would have ended up tripping over her own feet and landing flat on her ass.

Not even a full second after they managed to get themselves righted, the door to the training room slid open and Major Lorne stepped through followed by a handful of marines.

"Ronon," he said, sounding surprised. "Isn't it a little late to be working out?" Then he noticed Jen. "And Doctor Keller, I can't say I was expecting to see you here. Don't I have an appointment with you after my shift in…" He glanced at his watch. "…less than six hours?"

Panicking slightly, she looked at her own watch. Sure enough it was well past midnight. "Yes, you do."

Lorne nodded his head. "Alright, well unless either of you need anything, we'll head back to doing our rounds."

"We're fine Major," Ronon said quickly.

Lorne nodded and led his team out of the room and the door slid shut again.

Jen looked at Ronon, trying to ignore the almost awkward tension in the air. "I'm sorry, but I really should be going. I'm on shift in much less time than I'd like."

Ronon nodded. "Alright, I'll see you later, Doc."

"You can call me Jen," she said, almost timidly, as she smiled.

She headed for the door, and was about to leave when she remembered that this wasn't a one-time session. She hadn't managed to scare Ronon off as her teacher, which meant she'd be coming back. Looking back over her shoulder, she asked, "When do you want to meet next?"

"Whenever you want," Ronon replied sincerely.

"How about tomorrow night, same time?" Her voice sounded a tad bit too excited, but maybe he hadn't noticed.

"Sounds good." Or from the smile he was giving her, maybe he had.

She gave him one last look before turning and leaving. She was about ten feet down the hallway when she heard the door open behind her.

"Jen," Ronon called out after her.

She stopped and turned to look at him. "Yeah?"

"Next time, no tickling," he said in a serious voice. She would have believed him if it weren't for the mischievous twinkle in his eye and the smile tugging at his mouth.

The End