Author's Note: This story follows lullaby - you needn't read it first to complete the tale, it just makes more sense. And yes, dear reader, the other chapters will follow quickly and furiously so be prepared. PS - I didn't beta this as much as I should have, so please excuse any typo's... the 4 year old can be a mite distracting some days, and it is well after midnight. Mommy's tired.


Dark and Shadow: Promises Kept


Jen couldn't stop her hands from shaking while she wrote the reports. No matter how hard her mind tried to convince her there was nothing wrong, her body didn't believe. Couldn't believe.

There was nothing she could see… nothing she could hear… no strange scents, no footsteps, no visual clues that anyone was here, or had been here.

Yet there it was – sitting in her trashcan, right were she'd thrown it.

The pretty little yellow flower.

Lying on top of the rest of the now wilted and faded petals.

Maybe she was overworked.

Maybe she was going crazy.

Or maybe-

"Dr. Keller?" Catherine stuck her head in the office and Jen jumped so high she lost control of her pen drew a huge blue streak across the papers.

"Y-yes?" Jen stammered, quickly straightening her hair in a an attempt to look less flustered. The strange look her nurse was giving her pretty much said it all. No success.

Jen sighed and tried again, using a deep breath to control her wobbly tone. "Yes Catharine?"

"Could you take care of some stitches for me?" Catharine's smile faltered and Jen felt her own mouth turning up slightly.

There was only one person who could possibly need stitches this late in the day – and only one person Catharine would rather not suture up.

Ronon.

With a nod, Jen stood and followed Catharine into the main room of the infirmary, noting how quickly Catharine scattered, leaving Jen to cross the distance alone. Normally this wouldn't bother her. But the past forty-eight hours were anything but normal.

Seated on one of the beds, Ronon straightened when she approached, a half-apologetic smirk on his face. He was holding a piece of gauze against the back of his forearm.

Jen might have laughed to see him here after yet another sparring accident, if she wasn't still stuck on the quickly growing pile of little yellow flowers in her garbage can… and well… everything else.

She stepped up beside him and lifted his arm. He pulled the gauze away to reveal a short, deep cut on the underside of his arm. Three, maybe four stitches. Nothing serious.

She straightened and walked around to the far side of the bed where Catharine had set up a suture tray. Jen could feel Ronon's eyes on her. She glanced up to see a curious look on his face.

"You okay?" He asked, and she had a brief moment of panic causing her to look quickly around the room – still empty – and then down at her clothes – nothing there.

"Y-yes. Fine. I'm fine. Really. I mean… why wouldn't I be?"

He raised an eyebrow. "You're… quiet, is all."

"Oh."

Jen stared into his eyes accepting a tiny moment of clarity before looking away. She stared down at the instruments on the small tray. She reached forward, and cursed the tiny tremble in her fingers.

Staring at his back she argued with herself. What if she had a second opinion? If someone could validate? Tell her if she really was… No? Well… No. Okay maybe. Or maybe not. Oh hell, this was so stupid. But if anyone could – Ronon could.

"Doc?" He glanced at her over his shoulder.

"Yes? What? Oh. Sorry." Snapping on a pair of latex gloves she leaned forward and straightened his arm out to give her better access to the affected area.

While she cleaned the wound, she continued to debate internally, her eyes shifting across the room to her office and the garbage can she couldn't see behind her desk.

When she stopped, and his eyes looked over his shoulder at her again, she took a deep breath and leapt.

Leaning closer to his back, she spoke softly, praying he wasn't going to think she was completely insane, and really, really hoping he wouldn't laugh. Because in an empty infirmary, with no one else around… It didn't make sense. And she really didn't want Ronon telling Colonel Sheppard she was hiding behind his back talking to him in panicked whispers. They'd ship her to Earth faster than you could say mental-ward.

"Oh hell." She cursed herself. You need help. He can help. You just have to trust him.

"Ronon if you can hear me, don't answer, just… just nod."

Nothing.

Then a slight nod.

She exhaled, and tried to slow the skittering beat of her heart. Her fingers shook slightly and she quickly clenched and unclenched them. Okay. Okay now just… get the rest out and voila…

"You told me I could come to you if… if I ever needed help." She whispered. "Did you… did you really mean that?"

She felt his arm tense beneath her fingertips, then he nodded.

With a long exhale she continued on in a quick rush of softly spoken words. "I need a second opinion on something. Can you… I mean… of course you can… but would you… would you be willing to follow someone for me?"

His shoulders straightened.

She froze with the brief flash of fear that she'd blown it. He wasn't going to help her. It was a silly thing to ask. He'd want to know why.

When he gave a barely perceptible nod, her body physically shook with relief. Unclenching her knotted fingers she took a deep, steadying breath, and continued on with the last two stitches.

"Can you do it without letting anyone see you're there? Is that possible? Here? In Atlantis? Just watch? Watch and then let me know later if you sense anything unusual? Anything at all, no matter how silly it seems?"

Another nod.

"Can you do it tonight? Right now? Just for a couple of hours? Until midnight?"

Nod.

"I can't tell you what to look for because I don't know myself. I just want… I want your take on it… and it's just for a couple of hours. I promise."

He nodded again.

"Okay. Okay." She inhaled, a sense of relief sliding down her shoulders to know he could do it. He would do it. But you have to tell him what to do first, wing-nut. Right.

"Ronon… I…" Oh hell this is not going to come out right. "I need… I need you to follow…" Just spit it out! "I want you to follow… me."

He didn't move.

"I need to know what you see." This time she couldn't keep her voice from cracking. "Please."

When he didn't move, other than the shoulder muscles which tensed and flexed beneath her finger tips, she turned away, dropping her things onto the tray and removing her gloves. A few furious blinks and she had herself under control. She should never have asked. It was stupid. She was stupid for even thinking it was a good idea. She'd figure something else out. Wouldn't she?

"You're um… good to go." Jen said quickly, her voice back at a normal level. Stepping around the bed without looking back, she hurried to her office.

She was halfway across the floor when the hand touched her shoulder and she gasped, dropping and ducking to the side as she spun around, wanting to see what she didn't want to see.

Except this time – there really was a person standing there – and this person was watching her with an expression somewhere between concern and anger.

"I…" She swallowed hard and blew her breath out through her nose and tried to remember not to bite her lower lip so hard. "I'm sorry, Ronon. Please forgive me. I shouldn't have said anything."

When she tried to turn away, Ronon stopped her, again, with a hand to her shoulder. She could see the questions in his eyes, and braced herself for the barrage she couldn't answer.

He squeezed her shoulder, a faint, light rub of his thumb across her collarbone. In silence he turned and left, disappearing into the hallway, and leaving her standing in the middle of the infirmary, alone, and feeling every bit of it.

Jen really hoped that was a yes.