Ronon came careening around the corner, an almost spooked look on his face that Sam barely had time to register before he hit her full force and she fell to the floor with a 'thud'.
"Sorry," he said, reaching out and pulling her up with ease. She made an 'oof' noise when she slammed into his chest. "Sorry," he repeated.
"It's okay." She smiled at him, stepping back and straightening herself up. "Is everything okay?" That look was still in his eyes. She didn't know him well, but well enough to know that something wasn't right. She couldn't quite figure him out, he was headstrong, powerful, and there was something about him that had her thinking too much. Like now.
"Just a bad dream." He shrugged.
"And the cut?"
"Sparring?" She had to ask, and check, because she wasn't quite sure if it was outside the realms of possibility for the two men to seriously argue.
"He was lucky."
"Either way the two of you should be careful. You don't want to be injured the night before a mission and be stuck in the infirmary."
"No, ma'am," he said, making her frown, she hated being called ma'am. "Though, Sheppard's more likely to be the one injured." She laughed at that, couldn't help it and hoped that Ronon didn't think less of her as a leader because of it. Because the idea of him kicking John Sheppard's ass was funny. Ronon could be funny, when he wanted to, when he choose to speak and he reminded her of Teal'c in way. In a lot of ways that made her miss her friends. He was smiling at her and she was about to say goodnight when he choose to speak again.
"What are you doing up so late?"
"Running Atlantis is a lot of work," she told him. "This is early for me."
"Yeah, Elizabeth was usually up this late too." There was approval in his voice, like he was glad she was working as hard as Weir.
"Were you and Dr. Weir close?" she asked, curious all of a sudden about the relationship between the two.
"Close enough for me to now she didn't sleep much." It was a non answer, and maybe he didn't approve of her, she was pretty sure he didn't trust her. Not yet at least. She hoped.
"Do you resent me being here? In her place?"
"Not even when I first arrived?" It was late, dark and quiet in the corridor and there were better times and places to be having this conversation, except she was just starting to peal another layer from the man and she was curious. She wanted more from him.
"No." It looked like he wasn't going to say any more, and this was as far as she was she was going to get beneath his skin tonight. "I was angry," his voice surprised her, "because you wouldn't let my friends come to Atlantis." She just nodded, thinking an 'I told you' would be inappropriate and unwelcome. "I realised Weir would've done the same, later."
"She was a good leader."
She should say goodnight, she knew that, but she was getting closer to one of the most intriguing members of the expedition. Sheppard and the marines were so easy to read, McKay and Zelenka, she knew them better than she'd like to admit because she was a geek too. She was working her way around Teyla, but Ronon, he made everything difficult, and for some reason it made her want to know him more, want him more.
Wait, she wanted him?
"Do you miss her?" she asked trying to keep her voice straight.
"Of course," he said, "like you said, she was a good leader. We all miss her."
"That's not quite what I meant," she said, standing her ground as he stepped forward, not flinching or inching away as he crowded over her. She'd had nights like this at the SGC, when it was late and dark and she'd been unable to keep her mouth shut. Fortunately, Teal'c was too much of a gentleman to do anything, but Ronon, she wasn't sure he knew what the word meant.
It wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
"If you want to know about my relationship with Elizabeth, just ask," he said, lowering his head to hers.
"It's none of my business," Sam said in panic, putting her hands up, "I'm sorry." she went to walk away but he didn't move out of her way, his voice stopping her.
"I never got the chance."
"I'm sorry." Her apology was softer this time, looking up at him.
"I wanted to."
She'd seen the sadness before, when he'd been betrayed, and knew he felt it down to his core when his eyes darkened like that. That much she did know about him.
"There's still hope," she didn't believe it and knew Ronon didn't either.
"Every death teaches us something." What had she learnt from Elizabeth's death? She wasn't sure, that the guilt of taking the woman's place wasn't going to fade any time soon. That the nicer people were to her, the worse she felt.
"I learnt to stop hesitating," he said, a casual tone in his voice when the tension in the corridor was anything but and Sam couldn't imagine him as a man who ever did hesitate, "when you hesitate, you think and thinking is bad."
"Sometimes you need to think." Sometimes that's all she ever did.
"Not about things like that, like this." He leaned down and then his lips were on hers, and she was shocked into stillness, eyes open and hands by her sides.
"Oh," was pretty much all she could say when he pulled back. She was a sensible woman, usually, and very much in charge, of everything except her brain, which threatened to go on strike if she didn't kiss him again. She leaned forward to press her lips against his and push him back against the wall.
She wasn't perfect and she was sure Ronon would appreciate that more. It had been a long time since she had been kissed like this (not including Vala). After a minute she put her hands flat on his chest and pulled away, his arms around his body stopping her from going to far.
"You want to stop?" he asked, voice low and gruff.
"No, I want to breathe." He laughed again and fought her strength to push her down the corridor to a transporter.
She waited the seconds with Ronon for the transporter to take them away from the infirmary and to his quarters. His brain had shut down any of the parts that would argue against this, only concentrating on the fact that he was kissing her neck as she stood behind her.
The doors opened and she stepped into a room with a large strip of light across the length of it and silvery grey blocked walls like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. The breath left her lungs in a panicked gasp and she spun around to find Ronon and the transporter gone, more grey blocks in it's place, over and over. It was exactly the same, the light, the pattern, the cold. She couldn't breathe, and her chest tightened to the point of pain from the fear she felt.
When she heard laughing behind her, she spun around on her heels to face herself taking a couple of quick steps back.
"What the hell is going on?"
"We just want information." Her replicated self said, smiling. Her hair was the same, shirt slicked back, her face as hard as ever. She didn't really smile though, she sneered and Sam hated how ugly she could look, and how nasty she could be. She hated that she couldn't separate the two of them. The real from the replicated.
"We?" she asked, taking another few steps backwards when she approached her, and hit a body behind her. She turned again to see Sheppard standing there, the two of them making the room just that little more claustrophobic, a little more oppressive.
"Sheppard, what's going on?" He had the same sneer as the replicated Sam and she took a step the other way, trapped between them for a moment.
"We just have a few questions," he said, walking around to the repliCarter, kissing her neck before forcing her head around and kissing her full on the lips. Sam was frozen, watching herself kiss Sheppard, and enjoy it.
"Like, how you feel about him, how you destroyed me, if you can do the same to my brethren here?" she said.
They approached her and she backed up, hitting the wall before she expected too. It had been closer, or the room was closing in on her. They were going to discover her secrets, her memories; everything she thought was safe again since she'd last been this close to her replicated self. She wanted to keep those parts of herself, her secrets, and her feelings. Even Ronon was her own now.
Sheppard pinched the replicator's ass, and walked towards her. He reached out a hand, his fingers together, and tapped her forehead before pushing them into her head, into her brain. Her eyes fluttered shut, and she dropped to her knees. It wasn't even worth fighting any more.
She woke with a soundless scream, sitting up in Ronon's bed, mouth wide open but unable to make any noise, or breathe in until he sat up and put a hand on her bare back. She gasped, taking in a great breath, shaking, hand on her chest, the other reaching out for something to hold and ground herself on. She found his thigh under the covers, curling her fingers around the muscle, feeling the rapid stutter of her heart. Behind her he was quiet, patient, his hand soothing over her skin, down to her ass, back up to her neck, waiting for her to be calm enough to talk and she held onto him until she was.
"Nightmare?" She nodded, still unable to speak, but breathing at least. "'S just a dream." His voice was even deeper when he was sleepy, and she concentrated on the sound of him and not her own shaky breaths.
"No," she gasped, closing her eyes but seeing only Sheppard in front of her, reaching out to her.
"Sam." Her name in his voice, her name in his voice, she repeated it over, trying to remember the sound.
"Not if it was real once."
"Bad memories," he said, realising, and wrapped his arm around her to pull her to him. She fell into his embrace and allowed herself to be held as she continued to calm down.
"It felt different. Felt...worse."
"Just a dream, Sam," he repeated, whispering into her hair.
"Yeah." She didn't quite believe it, it was hard to see it as a dream when it had been real once, could be real again, with more human form replicators in this galaxy.
"Want to talk about it?" She shook her head, and then struggled out of his tight hold on her.
"No," she got out of the bed, looking around for her underwear, "I'm just going to go back to work."
"It's still early." He put his hands behind his head, resting back and watching her look for the clothes he'd thrown around the room a few hours before.
"I don't think I can sleep." She didn't add 'after that' but knew she didn't have to.
"We don't have to sleep." She smiled, pulling her trousers on, feeling a little less exposed.
"I'll see you later," she said. He smiled back and she knew he understood, because he had his own bad memories, his own nightmares to deal with. And when he fought, she worked.
She left his quarters and headed to hers. Super quick shower, and a change of clothes would help. Just a little. Then some coffee. She walked quickly, rubbing her forehead, bumping into Lorne as she kept her head down, thinking, remember her nightmare.
"Everything okay, Colonel?" he asked.
"Just thinking about all the work that's built up while I was asleep," she said forcing out a smile. Her cheeks going red as she remembered she'd only spent two of her four hours in bed sleeping. "Everything calm on the night shift?"
"Good, have a good day's sleep." He smiled.
"Thanks." He nodded and they went their separate ways, Lorne to bed and Sam to change.
Jennifer fell into step beside her as she walked across the gateroom, pulling her out of her memories of last night. Thoughts of Ronon mixing with her nightmare, it shocked her a little and she was glad of the distraction the doctor offered as she explained how the others had had nightmares.
Maybe not so much of a distraction.
"I probably shouldn't have bothered you with this. I know I don't really have any hard evidence," she said, her hands in front of her, nervously playing with her fingers. Sam wished she wasn't so nervous, she understood it, she was the boos, she just wished she could change it.
"Believe me; I've seen a good hunch go a long way in some pretty crazy circumstances. I'd always rather you were on your toes, especially with anything that seems suspicious."
"I know a few bad dreams isn't that significant. It's only natural given what we face on a daily basis, but this was different. It really rattled me. Coupled with the sequential pattern: first Teyla, then me, then Ronon...".
"Then me," Sam interrupted, Jennifer looked at her waiting for more, "last night."
"Was Colonel Sheppard in it?" Sam nodded.
"Very much so."
"So, Teyla, me, Ronon, then you, all with Colonel Sheppard being a significant negative presence in our dreams."
"D'you have any idea what's behind it?" she asked, wanting to ask the doctor if it was going to happen again, but thinking of everyone else first instead.
"I don't know. Thing is, it started right after Colonel Sheppard touched that crystal on M3X-387."
"I thought you cleared him medically."
"I did." The young doctor almost jumped, trying to convince her that she'd done all she could to make sure Sheppard was okay. And Sam didn't doubt that for a second.
"I don't..." She was interrupted in telling her that when a technician walked up to them, causing them both to turn their attention to him.
"'Scuse me. There's an emergency situation at Crew Quarters Atrium. Security was called for and has been dispatched," he said.
"Thank you. Excuse me," she said to Jennifer, hurrying away from her office, and the woman, hoping that this was a misunderstanding. Hoping any real emergency could wait until she had gotten a little more sleep.
As the night drew on, they'd drifted away from the table and each other, in the same manner they had joined the table, slow and separate, with no real urgency, but sober, and sombre from Kate's death and their own nightmares. When she rose and said goodnight, she'd heard Ronon do the same, his voice vibrating through the air to her. She smiled and paused so he could catch up with her.
They'd said very little, and now they were in his bed again, skin to skin, tired and a little wired from their day. Except he was just holding her, kissing her hair.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Sheppard was burying me alive," he said. He tensed up then, and she rested her head on his shoulder, relaxing against him. One night together and that one sentence was progress because he had something.
"Sheppard was a replicator trying to probe my mind," she said, leaving out the bit where her duplicate had been there too, like Ronon had left out the reason being buried alive terrified him. They were half way to something and all she had wanted to know was if he missed Weir of not, and if she was doing a good enough job in her place.
"Weir lost people too," he said quietly, and Sam thought she had imagined it until he relaxed again. She lifted her head up and kissed him on the cheek; he turned his head and kissed her lips. It was sweet and slow and this was why she was in his bed. Not for the conversation but the comfort and curiosity. She could get closer to him, and find her place in this city and maybe forget their nightmares.