SIX

Jen awoke slowly, the feeling of fuzziness down to a dull spinning sensation. She opened her eyes and looked around. The bed to her right was empty. To her right, Evan Lorne slept, his left leg propped up under the blankets. The rest of the beds lay empty. A vacant chair sat between their two beds, a sign that someone had been by at some point to visit.

She lifted her hand, the tape from the IV pulling at her skin. She frowned, struggling to remember why she was here. She closed her eyes and forced herself back. The gate opened and the memories flooded in. Her eyes snapped open and she struggled to sit up.

Rodney.

She leaned forward and strained to see the far end of the room and the solitary beds. She could see the end of a bed, blanketed feet indicating the presence of a person. Rodney?

Pulling off the blankets, Jen picked at the tape and unhooked the IV from the back of her hand. Sliding off the bed, her feet touched the cold floor and her body swayed. She gripped the side and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly to clear her mind. Her fingers found the edges of a large gauze taped to the side of her forehead. Ouch.

A few tentative steps and she had motion. Ignoring the buzzing in her ears and the vague tilt to the room, she walked towards his bed. A Marine stood on the far side of the room. He simply nodded as she moved towards Rodney.

He lay in the bed, eyes closed, breath slow and even. His wrists were secured with restraints and the bedding was twisted and pulled out in one corner. He'd obviously had a rough time, although he appeared to be sleeping.

She stepped up to the side of his bed, placing the back of her hand against his forehead, his cheeks. His skin was cool. Normal. Thank God.

She sighed in relief to know he was alive. She remembered the snake bite. The poison. The warning. And the fact that he'd tried to drown her. But he hadn't been himself. She made a note to tell him as soon as she could that she understood. It didn't change what she'd though of him in the least. What she did know about one Doctor Rodney McKay was that he was going to carry it around inside him. She'd do her best to make sure he understood there was a medical reason for his actions. That she wasn't angry with him. And perhaps, if he was lucky, he wouldn't remember anyway.

Okay. Good. He was fine.

She turned to leave, a dull pounding against her skull telling her it was probably a good idea for her to go lay down. Two interns were at the far end of the room, heads together in discussion. Jen made a note to bring up the lack of observation in their next meeting since neither one seemed to notice a wandering patient. Or maybe they were just ignoring her. Doctor's made horrible patients. Everyone knew that. But the key was knowing your limits. And judging from the sporadic tilting of the room, she was fast reaching hers. She watched them disappear into the supply room without a look into the patient area. Nope – just bad patient care. She sighed and shook her head, immediately regretting the movement as a wave of dizziness blurred the room.

"Doc?" She heard Evan call out, squinting to see him limping quickly around the bed towards her.

She waved him off. "I'm fine." Then she slid to the floor, her hand against her forehead.

"You don't look fine." He raised an eyebrow and scooped her up.

"Your leg." She chastised, squeezing her eyes against the sudden upward motion. She tightened her grip around his neck and hung on, the spinning increasing as he moved forward.

"I'm fine." He mimicked her previous statement and limped slowly towards her bed.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" A growl cut the silence.

Jen opened her eyes and looked up into Ronon's angry face as he strode into the infirmary.

Both interns scrambled out of the supply room and cowered behind the Satedan.

Ronon strode forward as Lorne was setting her back into her bed.

"I was just checking on McKay." She muttered, closing her eyes and riding out the woozy tilting.

"You're supposed to be resting." His voice growled out beside her. "You too!" She heard Lorne snort in response to Ronon's comment for the Major. Then a scrape of a chair and an accusation to a nurse who'd just come in. "Where the hell were you?"

The nurse stuttered but didn't answer. Jen felt the IV being returned to her hand.

A few moments later and she heard fading footsteps.

"Can't leave you alone for a minute." Ronon muttered, making her smile.

"Guess not." She muttered sleepily, looking up at him with a smile tugging the corners of her mouth. The sedative the nurse added was quickly doing it's job. "Don't worry. You'll do better next time."

"Next time?" He raised an eyebrow and stared down at her.

Jen's voice faded and drifted off. "Next time."

He stood next to the bed, watching her sleep, the tiny hint of a smile teasing the corner of her mouth. He'd barely been gone five minutes and already she was up running around. Crazy woman.

Ronon glanced over at Lorne who was watching him with amusement.

"Thanks."

Evan nodded. "Anytime."


Twenty four hours later and the full details of the excursion finally came into light.

Rodney was sufficiently horrified, although the fact that he didn't remember a thing past Jennifer leaving him to get help made it easier to handle. Jen was pretty sure Rodney thought they were playing some kind of sick joke on him, which made her feel a little better. He'd scared the hell out of her – the near drowning. It was giving her fragmented and twisted nightmares – but she did realize it wasn't his fault.

They'd moved him out into the main room now, the restraints removed and the promise of being released in the morning if he behaved himself.

As she reclined in the bed, she marveled again at the bizarre camaraderie between their group. The fact that they'd somehow come together to include her made her heart swell. Many people on base, including her, were jealous of the unquestioned support Sheppard's team offered each other. Unquestioned loyalty. Unquestioned friendship. From the outside, it was a circle worthy of envy. And right at this moment, Jen was actually starting to feel the pull of the inside.

She'd offered to leave – to be moved to another bed to afford them more privacy, but they'd refused with such vehemence she'd been afraid she'd insulted them somehow. She'd thanked both Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne profusely – which seemed to embarrass them even more. Then they'd settled around her, looping her into the group, and dragging her into the conversation.

It was almost dizzying – the tennis match of comments and digs, sarcasm and retorts being lobbied across her bed.

Lorne was still regulated to the bed on her right, with Ronon seated between them, lounging in the chair. He faced them both, his long legs stretching out so his feet were resting on the small table between their beds. The bed on her left was occupied by Rodney, and the chair between them taken up with John, who was rocking back on the rear legs, balancing his weight. Teyla sat on the end of Jen's bed, her legs crossed, hands resting on her extended abdomen.

"I can't believe they left Zelenka in charge." Rodney muttered, making calculations on his tablet. "Do you have any idea how long it's going to take me to clean up this mess?"

"Well at least this time he didn't blow up the lab." John picked at the bandage on his shoulder from under the edges of his navy t-shirt.

"Leave that alone." Jen chastised, raising an eyebrow when he gave her his trademark innocent grin.

Teyla leaned forward and cuffed him across the back of his head.

"Hey!" He sputtered. "Injured man, here."

"Your shoulder. Not your head." Teyla smiled. "Besides. "Jennifer warned me you would… pick at it."

"Oh, she did, did she?" John narrowed his eyes and stared at Jen, the front legs of the chair dropping to the floor.

Jen tried to look innocent.

"Careful, Colonel." Evan added. "I have it on good authority that she's hired a personal bodyguard."

Ronon grunted when Jen and Sheppard glanced over at him and tried not to smile. He didn't succeed.

Sheppard gave him a silly grin. "Yeah well if the latest group of mission reports have anything to say about it, she needs one."

"Hey!" Jen sputtered, pointing to the bandage on her forehead. "This was not my fault."

"Oh yes, that's right." Rodney muttered, rolling his eyes. "Blame the person who was poisoned! Like I planned to be attacked by a giant serpent and left to die."

"Left to die?" John returned to his balanced position. "For a dead guy you sure did a hell of a lot of damage."

"Oh don't start that again." Rodney returned to his tablet and pretended to ignore them all.

"You shot me." John exclaimed.

"And me!" Lorne added.

"Hey I'm the one he tried to drown." Jen piped up, the silliness of the entire conversation making her feel completely giddy.

"Actually Doc, he did drown you." Evan nodded.

"That is true." Teyla's face was serious but Jen could hear the laughter in her voice. "Perhaps you should consider a debt of retribution? It is a custom with my people to repay such a debt in kind."

Rodney made sputtering sounds.

"Hmm." Jen narrowed her eyes. "What would you suggest?"

"Perhaps you could-"

"Okay enough!" Rodney cried out. "Ronon already shot me. Three times I might add! Although the fact that he did have to shoot me three times is quite a feat if I do say so myself. You did make sure to add that to the mission report, didn't you, Sheppard?"

"I could shoot him again for you." Ronon offered.

Jen pursed her lips and glanced sideways at Rodney.

"Rain check?" She asked.

"You want me to check to see if it's raining?" Ronon looked confused.

"No." Jen laughed. "It means save it for a rainy day. Basically… don't shoot him now. But I'll call in that favor another time."

"Oh goody." Rodney mumbled. "Very professional beside manner, Dr. Keller."

"Right." Ronon nodded, warily eyeing McKay. "Just say when."

"Oh don't worry." Jen raised an eyebrow at Rodney. "I will."

And with that, the discussion deteriorated into a completely useless count of just how many people on base Ronon had already shot, and if Rodney's recent take down would count as one, or three.

One, they decided.

Jen would carry the other two as favors incase she needed them in the future.

In the end, even Rodney had to agree.

After all, he did technically drown her.

-END-