Chapter 7

Jen was standing in the Gate Room, adjusting the rather large pack on her back when she heard a voice from behind her. "Ready to go, Doc?"

She turned to look at Major Lorne. "Ready when you are," she stated.

He smiled and nodded, before calling up to the technician. "Dial the Gate!"

Jen did another mental tally of all the supplies she had while the Gate locked in the address. "You said it's just a simple case of well water contamination?" She asked for the third time, needing to be sure.

Lorne didn't seem to mind answering her again and nodded. "That's what it looks like. It's only people who've been drinking from the one well that are sick. This morning they told me and my team it started a week or so ago when the spring runoff flooded the rivers. Ever since then more people have been getting sick until they realized what must be causing it and sealed off the well."

"That's good," she said. "Well, not good…" she corrected. "It's just easy enough to treat. They'll need some antibiotics, maybe a few additional drugs depending on the severity of the symptoms. But overall easy."

The Gate engaged, and Jen started slightly, still a little scared of the swooshy part that could kill her if she wasn't careful.

Lorne raised his gun in precaution and walked towards the Gate, not even pausing for a second before he crossed the event horizon. Jen took a deep breath and followed him, closing her eyes as she stepped through. It was stupid, but even after being off world several times she didn't like the feeling of Gate travel. Of course that could have something to do with the knowledge that her body was being dematerialized, traveling several light years and then being rematerialized on the other side.

When she opened her eyes she was standing in tall wet grass a few feet behind the major.

"You all right?" He asked. His eyes twinkled as he tried not to laugh at her obvious discomfort.

She nodded her head and squared her shoulders, shaking it off. "I'm fine. Let's get going."

He chuckled softly. "This way," he said starting down a well used, but also particularly muddy trail. She followed, doing her best not to cringe at the squelching sound of her boots in the wet dirt.

According to Lorne the village was almost two miles away, meaning they had quite a walk ahead of them. Normally a couple of miles were nothing to her, but given how badly she'd slept the night before… she doubted she was going to enjoy it.

Her training sessions with Ronon used to put her at ease; help her wear off the stress of the day, and tire her so that when she fell into bed she was asleep within minutes. It seemed that wasn't the case any longer. The time they'd spent together in the gym the previous night had done everything but relax her.

She'd lain awake for hours, remembering how close he'd been, how good he'd smelt, how amazing his hands had felt on her skin… She groaned before biting her tongue, hoping Lorne hadn't heard. Thankfully he was still plunging through the mud in front of her; she was safe.

Jen had no idea what she was going to do about this newfound revelation that she definitely had feelings for Ronon, and there was a chance he might return them. She had tried the whole 'take it step by step' thing the night before, and that hadn't exactly worked out. She highly doubted that ignoring the situation would work. But then what options did that leave? There was no way she could tell him. A part of her wanted to, very much, but if she was wrong and he didn't feel the same way… it would be catastrophic for their friendship. Of course if she was right, then it would marvelous. But she had no way of knowing, and she'd never been one for gambling.

She bit back a second groan as she remembered about game night. In less than eight hours she'd be meeting up with Ronon to attend the team game night. Jen doubted she could make it through the whole time without stuttering and making a complete fool of herself in front of him. And that wasn't to mention that if they ended up playing Twister she would be beyond screwed.

"Doctor?" Lorne asked from in front of her, not pausing, but looking over his shoulder at her.

"Yes," she replied, suddenly worried that he'd said something that she had completely missed.

"You feeling okay? You seem pretty quiet, even for you."

She forced a smile and trudged on behind him. "I didn't sleep very well last night." That was part of the truth anyway.

Lorne smiled back and turned around to put his eyes back on the path. "All right." After a second he added, "So, I hear you've been training with Ronon."

Jen's muscles stiffened, but she forced herself to keep walking. "Yeah…" she replied hesitantly.

Lorne chuckled. "Just trying to make conversation."

She breathed a sigh of relief. "Yeah, he's been teaching me self-defense."

"That's pretty neat."

Jen nodded even though Lorne couldn't see her. "Yeah, it's a lot more fun than I thought it'd be," she said truthfully.

"Ronon's a good teacher. He's taught me more than a thing or two. You're lucky to be spending so much time with him."

She smiled to herself. "Yeah, I am."

In Atlantis, Ronon was just leaving his quarters, heading out on a run. By some miracle the team had the day off, and he was going to take advantage of it. He might even go a lap around the entire city if he felt like it.

As the door to his room slid shut behind him, Ronon broke into a moderate paced jog. He hadn't made it very far when he realized it felt like there was something, or rather someone missing: Jen.

He couldn't help but smile at the thought of her. It was insane how he had grown so addicted to her presence in such a relatively short period of time, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

Now when he thought back to before, when he hadn't known her, he wondered how he'd ever been happy in the city. Sure, destroying as many Wraith as possible and having the resources and people to do it with him was great, but that was only so much of it. How he had not gone crazy in the times between missions, he still wasn't sure.

She'd changed him, or had at least been the catalyst for that change. For the first time in years he felt like himself. Jen was truly an amazing woman.

He continued to run, his feet pounding out a rhythm against the hard floors of the city. His mind drifted back to the night before, and his grin widened as he remembered their training session. There was no doubt in his mind that she had finally acknowledged this thing between them.

There were a million little things that had given it away, most of them small nuances in her behavior that he was so fine-tuned to. But even if it hadn't been for the subtle things, he surely would have realized simply from the way she'd become flustered in his close proximity, stumbled over her words, not met his eyes, and lastly how she'd practically run out of the training room.

Knowing that they were both on the same page was a little frightening, he would admit. It had been so long since he'd been a situation like this, but that wasn't going to deter him in any way. He wanted this, he wanted her and it was time to finally do something about it.

When Jen followed Major Lorne into the village, she couldn't help but notice the distinct air of sadness. According to the major, who had visited earlier that morning, no one had died from the contaminated water, but there were some severe cases of sickness. That in addition to having to shut down half of the town's fresh water supply was no doubt crushing morale.

They had barely caught sight of the large town square when people began to notice their arrival. A couple of small children ran off towards one of the dwellings and emerged a few seconds later with the two marines on Lorne's team who had stayed behind.

"Major. Doctor," they acknowledged somberly once they were within earshot.

Lorne nodded at them each once. "Anything new?" He inquired, glancing around at the growing mass of people in the meeting area as he talked.

Both marines shook their heads. "No, Sir."

Jen stepped off to the side of the square and was taking off her pack, about to ask where she could set up, when she heard a group of people coming up behind her. She whirled around just in time to see three determined looking men, closing in on her. Instinctively she took a step backward, but found a fence behind her.

"You the doctor?" The biggest man asked quietly. His voice wasn't sinister, but there was just something about his entire demeanor that set her on edge.

She nodded and tried to remain calm, even though on the inside she was panicking. "Yes," she said, raising her voice slightly so Lorne might hear her. However, he was in a deep conversation with the two marines and was too far away. Neither he nor anyone else had noticed what was going on.

"My wife and son," the man continued. "They're really sick, the sickest. Same with Lantin and Scolon's families." He inclined his head at the other men. "You're going have to come with us."

"I'm here to help everyone," Jen said slowly. "Don't worry, I'll make sure that your wife and son are okay." She looked at the other two men, "And your families as well."

However, that apparently wasn't the right answer, as the next thing she knew, all three of the men had rushed her. One of them, either Lantin or Scolon grabbed her bag from her hand, tearing it away roughly, while the other pinned her arms to her side. The last man, the big one who had spoken, drew a knife from seemingly nowhere and pressed it against her throat.

The feeling of the cold sharp metal against her unprotected neck made her cry out. Distantly she heard Major Lorne calling her name, but all she could focus on was the man with the knife at her throat.

"You help us, now, or else I kill you. Got it?"

Instead of answering with words, she answered with actions. In one swift movement she struck out with her leg, twisting it between the legs of the man who was holding her arms and making him trip and release his hold. At the same time she leaned backward, away from the knife, and while the big man was momentarily distracted, she deflected his arm with her own. He had obviously been entirely unprepared for her to fight back, and the blade went flying.

She caught a brief glimpse of Major Lorne and the marines running towards her from across the town square, but her attention was ripped away the second the three men began grabbing at her, trying to subdue her.

Jen may have been scared out of her wits, but the countless hours of training with Ronon kicked in and her body responded to the attack automatically. For a few seconds she was forced to struggle against the overwhelming odds of three to one, but then thankfully Lorne and the marines arrived. They managed to pull Lantin and Scolon away from her, beginning their own fight, but the big man was too persistent to follow suit. Luckily, Jen was prepared.

Just like she'd been taught, she used her speed to her advantage, managing to avoid most of the punches and kicks. She fought dirty too, kicking in extremely sensitive places and using her long nails whenever they could catch hold on some of her attacker's skin: self-defense wasn't about elegance, it was about staying alive.

Somewhere in the fog of the adrenaline rush Jen knew she needed to get away from the fence, because backed up against it she was sure to lose if the man was persistent enough. So the next time he threw a punch, she didn't avoid it, but caught it and twisted, using her attacker's momentum to send them tumbling onto the ground and consequently away from the fence.

The man had landed on top of her, momentarily causing the breath to rush free of her lungs. He was gripping her shoulders as hard as he could, pinning her into the mud. Then his hands transferred to her throat, and he was choking her, trying to make her pass out. Knowing it would be futile to try and force his hands away, she grabbed a handful of mud and mashed it into his face, meanwhile ignoring the burning protest of her lungs. He turned his face to the side and spluttered, but didn't let up his hold.

Jen's vision was starting to go grey and she renewed her struggle, squirming as hard as she could in order to dislodge him. It didn't work, but she did manage to get enough purchase to knee him in the groin. He let out a howl of pain into her ear, and his hold lessened, but not enough for her to breathe. She did it again, twice, until he released her throat and rolled off her.

She was about to push herself up, ready to defend against the other two if necessary until she saw that Lorne and the marines had taken care of them; both were knocked out cold. One of the marines had walked over to her and was reaching down to haul the big man away. Knowing the fight and the danger were over she dropped her head back against the ground, ignoring the oozing of mud in her hair.

Lorne knelt down beside her and touched her shoulder gently. "You okay, Doc?"

It took her a while to catch her breath enough to answer, but eventually she said, "Yeah. I'll be fine."

Lorne smiled and stood back up, offering her a hand. She gladly accepted it, though once she was on her feet she thought she probably should have reconsidered getting up so quickly. Her entire body was shaking, and her legs felt like they were made of rubber, barely able to sustain her weight.

Once she was upright, several of the townspeople crowded around her, apologizing for the actions of the three men. "It's all right," she said reassuringly. They promised her the men would be held in the local prison until she and the rest of the expedition members left and they were to undergo a trial later. She nodded absentmindedly, still getting her bearings after the unexpected fight.

Lorne waved the townspeople away and eyed her closely. "You're sure you're okay? We can head back to—"

"No," she stated firmly, cutting him off. "We're not going back to Atlantis. These people need my help, and I'm not leaving before I know they're all going to recover."

He smiled. "Your call."

She nodded. "It is, and we're staying."

Lorne grinned widely.

"What?" She asked as she tried to wring some of the mud from her hair, though not succeeding.

He shook his head, still amused. "Nothing. You just… you kinda kicked ass there, Doc. I'm impressed."

By the time Jen stepped back through the Gate to Atlantis, there was nothing she wanted more than a hot shower. Well, that and to see Ronon, to thank him. At this point she wasn't even worried about the probable awkwardness of being around him. Once the full reality of what had happened sunk in, Jen was shocked. She had managed to defend herself against not only one, but three men. And if it weren't for Ronon, she would have never accomplished that; she wouldn't have even imagined she could do it. Unfortunately though, seeing Ronon and having a hot shower were not on the top of her list. Debriefing Colonel Carter was.

Luckily they didn't have to find Sam, as she was already in the Gate Room. "What happened?" She asked quickly, rushing down the stairs to meet them.

Jen sighed and ran a hand through her mud caked hair; no doubt it was that and the scratches and bruises on her that were giving it away.

Lorne explained briefly to the colonel. "Three of the men decided that their families needed the good doctor's help more than everyone else, so when we got there they ambushed her. They pushed her up against a fence, one of them was holding her arms and another had a knife at her throat."

"Did you shoot them?" Sam asked.

Lorne shook his head. "No, didn't have to." He smiled again, the same grin he'd worn at the village. "Looks like Dr. Keller's lessons with Ronon paid off." He face sobered slightly. "In all honesty Colonel, she handled herself amazingly. I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to try and break free from someone who was holding a knife to my throat."

Jen flushed, especially when she noticed the look of admiration on Sam's face.

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that it happened. But I must say I'm proud of you."

"It was nothing…" Jen began, but Sam interrupted her.

"No, that wasn't nothing. You should be proud of yourself."

"Thanks," Jen replied quietly, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot.

"I guess you know what that means," Sam said.

Jen shook her head, puzzled. "No…"

Sam smiled. "It means your self-defense lessons are over. You're obviously well equipped to handle something that's thrown at you, and that's all we can ask." The colonel turned to look at Lorne, asking him about the rest of the mission. Jen vaguely heard the conversation, but her mind was stuck on what Sam had said: no more lessons.

Ronon was just finishing off his dinner when he saw Sheppard walk in through the mess hall doors. After the other man got his food, Ronon caught his eye and John walked over to the otherwise empty table.

"Hey," Sheppard said pleasantly as he took a seat.


John took a bite of his lasagna, half chewed it, and then swallowed before asking, "Did you hear what happened to Lorne's team today?"

Ronon instantly straightened in his chair, completely forgetting about his food—Jen had been out with Lorne's team. "No, what?"

John sipped from his water bottle before answering. "I just talked to him before I came here. Guess they ran into a bit of trouble with some unfriendly townspeople."

"What happened?" From the way John was talking, Ronon doubted anything was wrong, but he was still worried.

"Three men tried to capture Keller and make her treat their families first."

Ronon felt his heart jump. "Is she all right?" He questioned frantically.

John smiled. "Relax, buddy. She's absolutely fine. From what Lorne said maybe a couple of bruises, but that's it. Apparently she used her super awesome self-defense skills to save herself."

Ronon beamed with pride and felt a surge of relief knowing Jen was okay. "Sorry," Ronon said quickly as he stood up. "I gotta go."

John smiled. "I had a feeling you were going to say that."

Jen stepped out of the shower feeling much better than she had when she went in—all of the mud was finally gone, or so she hoped. As she stood in the small bathroom about to pull on a clean set of clothes, she caught sight of her reflection. She winced as she saw the beginnings of bruises along her collarbone and neck. They didn't surprise her really, but she had been hoping they wouldn't appear.

Letting out a sigh, she resigned herself to the fact and pulled her shirt on, followed quickly by her pants. Leaving the bathroom she found a clean jacket on the nearby desk chair and tugged it on as well.

She walked towards the door and was about to run her hand over the light switch, planning on leaving to find Ronon, when she heard the door chime sound. She waved her hand over the other panel instead, opening the door. Although she hadn't been expecting anyone, she wasn't all that surprised to see Ronon standing in the hallway.

"I was just coming to find you," she said as she stepped to the side, letting him enter the room. As he walked past her all of her anxieties from that morning returned, and she groaned inwardly. Now was not the time to try and deal with the 'what-if-he-likes-me' issue.

Ronon stopped a couple feet away from her, and the door to her room slid shut. "I heard you ran into some trouble today."

"You did?" Jen asked, surprised. "Wow, news does travel fast around here."

He smiled. "I heard you were great."

Jen instantly blushed and looked down at the floor. "Well, I don't know about great…but I guess I did okay."

"I'm proud of you," he stated truthfully.

Her blush deepened, and something in his eyes sent a pleasant shiver up her spine while at the same time making her stomach knot in anticipation.

"Thank you," she blurted out as she remembered that's what she'd been going to tell him.

Ronon shrugged. "You're the one who did all the work."

Jen titled her head and laughed lightly. "No, not really. Honestly, Ronon, thank you for teaching me."

Ronon smiled at her again. "You're welcome."

Sam's words suddenly floated into Jen's mind and she sighed unhappily.

"What's wrong?" Ronon inquired, picking up on her change of mood right away.

His hand came up to rest on one of her shoulders and she had to force herself not to overreact to the gesture. He was showing concern; it didn't necessarily mean he liked her like that. After all, it wasn't like he had kissed her…

Forcing her mind back on track, Jen responded. "It's just something Colonel Carter said." She let out a deep breath before continuing. "The lessons… they're over," she finished meekly. "I guess now that I can defend myself I don't need them." It was the truth, but there was no conviction behind her words. She didn't need the lessons in that she needed the training; she needed them because they were the highlight of her day, even when they were filled with her worrying about the Ronon situation.

"Okay," Ronon said softly, seeming maybe just a little upset.

"But," Jen continued. "I don't know, maybe we could still practice every now and then?" She asked hopefully. "You know, so I don't forget anything."

Ronon smiled and ran his thumb along the top of her shoulder lightly, causing delicious shivers. "We can do that."

She smiled back, feeling comforted. "Good."

"We could also just keep hanging out, do whatever we want: train, run, play games, watch movies…"

Ronon was staring at her intently, and suddenly Jen found the room becoming too warm. "That'd be good," she said, struggling to get the words out.

Ronon's grin widened. "I like spending time with you, Jen."

The flush rose back onto her face and she felt her heart pounding against her ribs. "I like spending time with you too," she replied slowly, unsure where this conversation was headed. She'd only been planning to say thank you…

They continued to stare at each other for several seconds, until the silence became too much and Jen began to ramble, like she always did when she was nervous. "I really like spending time with you. I always have fun, no matter what we're doing. You're the sweetest guy I've ever met, and my probably my best friend… and I'm making a complete fool of myself…"

She broke his gaze and was about to turn to leave until Ronon whispered her name, freezing her in place. Looking back at him, she saw traces of something in his eyes that she couldn't quite pinpoint… and the next thing she knew he was kissing her.

His lips were surprisingly soft against hers—it was the only thought that came through before her mind stopped working and her body responded. Her hands made their way around the back of his neck as his moved to cup her face. She was about to shift closer when Ronon slowly pulled away.

Feeling more than a little dazed, Jen gazed up at him in confusion.

"I've been wanting to do that for a long time," he said softly.

It took a second for the meaning of his words to sink in, but when they did she blushed and bit her lip nervously. "Oh," was all she could manage, before grinning like an idiot.

Ronon returned the smile before leaning down to kiss her again. This time she wasn't caught so off guard. The kiss was slow, languid and absolutely divine. Heat and passion were there too, but underneath the surface. It wasn't about trying to consume each other in a blaze of infatuation; it was so much more than that.

Jen was sure she could kiss Ronon forever, but unfortunately they were only human and were eventually forced to break apart from lack of oxygen. Ronon leaned his forehead lightly against hers, eyes partially closed as they both regained their breath.

"Wow," Jen said when she could eventually manage words.

Ronon chuckled and angled his head to kiss her forehead lightly. "Yeah."

"What do we do now?" She whispered, pulling back just enough so that she could see his entire face.

Ronon glanced at his watch at smiled. "Now we go to game night."

Jen laughed, having completely forgotten about it. "Okay," she said, smiling so hard her cheeks hurt.

They stepped into the corridor, and as they started walking Jen felt Ronon's hand slide into hers, squeezing once. A rush of euphoria hit her—she could not believe how lucky she was. Turning her head, she beamed up at him before squeezing his hand in return.

The End

A/N: I just want to say thank you to everyone who has followed this story. hugs