A/N: Sorry to those of you who might've been confused when previously reading this chapter. I had forgotten I had a section of Jennifer/Ronon dialogue at the bottom that I altered and changed to the next chapter, so it seemed rather redundant, reading it here and in the next chapter.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I just like to play in MGM's sandbox.
The first time it happened there was absolutely nothing intentional about it. Ronon's screams as she checked the machines monitoring his vitals were on the verge of making her physically ill. Singing softly to herself was an old habit she'd used to distract herself since she was a child. It had probably come from the shadowy memory of her mother singing to her as a child.
It was while she was psychoanalyzing herself that the sudden lack of screaming broke into her thoughts. "Ronon?" she gasped, whirling to check his pulse. It wasn't unheard of for even a strong man to have a heart attack under such intense withdrawal.
She felt a bit limp with relief when she realized his heart was as strong as it had ever been. But what had interrupted his agony enough to leave him still on the bed? Frowning, she reached out and laid her palm against his forehead. He was burning up, but that was to be expected.
"More," came a gravelly whisper from between clenched teeth.
Jennifer started, jerking her hand away. "Ronon? Can you hear me? More what?"
His back arched up off the bed, the restraints the only thing holding him in place. She could almost feel the need to scream pushing itself up his throat. It made her want to curl up in a corner and cry. That wasn't an option, though. There was something he needed, something that seemed to give him some momentary peace from the living hell he was going through. What was it?
The screams started again, harsh and grating as they echoed off the walls. At least Ronon's unarticulated shrieks were better than his clear begging for someone to kill him. She had actually had to throw up after the first hour of that nightmare. He was so strong and vital that seeing him so broken shattered her ability to distance herself as a physician. No, this was different. She was Jennifer and he was Ronon, and seeing him in pain crushed her soul a little more every day.
Racking her brain for what he wanted more of, she started singing to herself again to focus. She'd barely gotten through the first bars of an old lullaby when Ronon quieted again. Without thinking, she stopped and stared at him. Was it the singing? Could that possibly be it? So simple, so not medical, so --
He began to fight the restraints nearly as soon as she stopped.
Taking a deep breath, she sang more deliberately this time, her eyes flicking to the monitors as she wound her way through the soft stanzas of the song. By the time she'd come to the end, his heart rate and blood pressure had dropped to a level closer to healthy.
"Wow," she murmured softly. The fact that Ronon, of all people, would respond that way to music sent her mind scrambling back to poke at old memories of studies done on the tie between music and healing. She was so focused for a minute that it startled her when a choked cry escaped Ronon again.
She quickly pulled up a stool and sat next to the bed, one hand absently drifting over his forehead in a gentle caress. "You could've picked a better singer, but if that's what you want, that's what you're going to get," Jennifer said wryly. Taking a deep breath, she started the lullaby again.
Ronon's thrashing woke her, startling her enough to send her toppling off the side of the stool. In that split second of awareness she braced herself to slam into floor. Instead, she found herself pulled up by the strong arms of Colonel Sheppard.
"Oh, god. I'm sorry," she sputtered, feeling heat flush her cheeks. "I didn't even realize I'd fallen asleep until --"
They both flinched as Ronon jerked against the restraints, a deep, bass moan of pain escaping him.
"Don't sweat it, Doc. You've been sitting here all night. You get to be human, too."
Jennifer smiled ruefully as she absently rubbed at her burning throat. "I didn't realize it had been that long."
Sheppard sighed. "Yeah, time flies when you're having fun." He nodded over at his friend strapped to the bed. "I guess whatever you gave him wore off. But I thought you said he had to go cold turkey."
"I didn't give him anything," Jennifer replied, looking confused. Her brain still wasn't completely awake.
"But he's been quiet until a few minutes ago. Is he coming out of it already?"
Feeling a little silly at the truth of the matter, she stepped back towards Ronon and brushed her fingers over his forehead again. With her back towards Sheppard, she completely missed his wide-eyed look at the sight of her caress.
"I wish," Jennifer sighed, feeling like someone had poured acid down her throat. Who would have thought that humming and singly softly for that long could be that painful? "No, it's just ..." She glanced back over her shoulder. "He's more calm when you sing to him."
Sheppard stared at her. "You're telling me that he quit begging for us to kill him because you sang to him?"
"Well, yeah." Feeling defensive, she frowned at the Colonel. "There are studies about this, you know. Proven studies that --"
"Whoa, Doc. I'm not really questioning you. Ronon just doesn't seem like the type to, you know, be that easily soothed."
"I don't know that there's anything easy about it, but I'm willing to go with whatever helps at this point." The sudden urge to bend down and kiss away the grimace of pain on Ronon's face was nearly overwhelming. "I hate seeing him in pain."
Bent over the Satedan, she once again missed Sheppard's shocked look. Hearing him clear his throat broke her out of the moment, though.
"So, singing then? Or is it just music in general?" he asked as she stepped back.
"You know, I don't know." Feeling a little stupid at the realization that she'd spent the whole night singing to Ronon when piped in music would probably have been just as good, Jennifer blushed. "I didn't think about it. I just ..."
"Don't worry about it. You went with what worked." Sheppard smiled at her. "But listen, to be blunt, you look like hell, Doc. I think you should go get some real sleep."
Jennifer looked down at her watch and gasped. "Oh god. I have a shift starting in fifteen minutes. I need to --"
Sheppard grabbed her arm before she could work herself up any further. "No you don't. Your docs finagled the schedule. I don't think you're on again until tomorrow."
She blinked. "They what? But scheduling rotations have to be approved by --"
"Yeah. Already talked to Woolsey and he's good."
"Oh." She didn't know quite what to say. The unusual feeling of being part of a team who actually watched out and cared for each other was still too new to feel normal.
Sheppard smiled at her as if he understood. "So go on. That's an order. We'll figure out what the big guy likes. If it's the personal touch, well, I'm sure Teyla would be glad to take a shift, too. We'll get him through this."
Jennifer nodded, but shot an unconsciously longing glance at Ronon. She didn't want to leave him, but she wasn't going to do anyone any good walking around like a zombie. Besides, he wasn't her only responsibility, as much as she'd like to focus on him.
"Just call me if --"
"If anything changes," Sheppard finished. "Go get some sleep."
"Whoever you are, you'd better have food. McKay's life is on the line," Ronon growled as footsteps entered the room.
"I got your broth and jell-O right here, big guy," Sheppard's voice called out.
Ronon opened his eyes and grimaced. "You'd better be kidding or I'm going to have to kill you, too. I don't eat baby food."
Sheppard smiled and shrugged. "Nothing I can do, man. Doctor's orders."
Groaning, Ronon let his throbbing head fall back against the pillow. But the mention of the word "doctor" brought his attention back around. "Where is she, anyway?"
"Who?" Sheppard pulled a french fry out of a bag in his hands and munched thoughtfully.
"Your death is going to be long and painful," Ronon growled, inhaling the scent of potatoes and grease. And he'd bet his life there was a cheeseburger in that bag as well.
Sheppard propped his feet up on the bed. "I'll trade you a fry if you'll tell me who you're talking about."
"Jennifer, you idiot. Now gimme." He gestured at the bag imperiously.
"Jennifer, is it," Sheppard asked as he offered up the bag. "You wouldn't be talking about Dr. Keller, would you? You know, slim, blond, big blue eyes ..."
Ronon ripped into the bag and stuffed a handful of fries in his mouth while Sheppard rambled. He wasn't an idiot. He knew that the topic of Jennifer was meant to distract them both from Tyre, and he wasn't complaining. He wasn't ready to go there yet.
"Know exactly what she looks like," he mumbled around his mouthful.
John arched a brow at him. "So does this mean that you trying to go in and get her out of that Wraith stuff was more than your usual altruistic heroism?"
He snorted. "McKay wouldn't have gotten out of the lift." Ronon studied the cheeseburger. Tyre was pushing at his thoughts, but he shoved his old friend away with a mental picture of Jennifer. She'd been "Jennifer" in his mind ever since they'd been quarantined together. "Somebody had to go in and you were still out."
Of course, the fact was that he'd had a hard time looking nonchalant about the whole ordeal. He'd had to wander off to punch something when he realized they were going to leave her in the dark, wrapped up in that thing. Volunteering to go in and help hadn't required conscious thought.
"Riiiiiiight," Sheppard drawled. "Want to know what I think?"
"I think," John went on as if he hadn't gotten a reply, "that you've got a thing for the pretty little doc. I wouldn't have thought of her as your type, but hey, if that's what does it for you ..."
Ronon scowled. "I can still get out of this bed and kick your ass."
"You could. But that would mean somebody would have to go drag Jennifer out of bed, and the poor doctor could use her sleep after being at your beck and call the last several days."
A flicker of memory taunted Ronon and then flitted away: Jennifer, her cool touch soothing and gentle, her eyes concerned as she bent over him. And a song -- far away and lilting -- that he'd clung to when he thought he'd lose his mind if the pain didn't stop. He frowned and tried to pull the memory back, but it was too far away. "What did she ... I mean, she's okay?"
John grinned like an idiot. "Yes, lover boy, she's fine. Just tired. Well, and no voice left to speak of, you big baby. Nobody else would do."
"Now what are you talking about?" Ronon asked, the cheeseburger sitting momentarily forgotten his lap.
"You really don't remember?"
"Would I ask if I did?" The urge to punch somebody was getting stronger.
"Fair enough." Sheppard's stupid grin dropped as he leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "You know they couldn't give you anything to help with the pain, right?
Ronon nodded shortly. The memory of that pain made the food in his stomach churn uncomfortably.
"Right. Well, turns out the doc had something else. She sang to you and it calmed you down. At least you stopped begging for us to kill you."
Heavy silence settled on the two of them as each remembered the nightmare of the long withdrawal.
"Yeah." Ronon's voice was hoarse. "Sorry about that."
Sheppard shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I probably would've been begging for the same thing." There was uncomfortable silence for a minute or two before he went on. "Anyway, we thought maybe it was just music that helped. Tried everything we could think of. Teyla even sang to you. McKay offered to try --"
"Yeah, woke up to him rattling on about something. Good thing for the restraints. I might've killed him before I had time to think about it."
John snorted. "Yeah, he has that effect on people sometimes. Anyway, nothing worked except Dr. Keller singing to you. I sent her to quarters three times before I had to have Woolsey come down in person and make it a direct order. Otherwise she'd probably still be here. She didn't seem to want to leave."
Ronon didn't comment. He was still digesting that information. Life was chaotic enough on Atlantis that other than grinning at each other at meals and a lot silent chemistry during his sessions of getting sewn up, he and Jennifer hadn't ever gotten back to that interrupted moment during the quarantine. He hadn't forgotten it, though, and he didn't think she had either, especially after hearing Sheppard talk about her.
While he thought about it, Sheppard apparently decided to change the subject. "Listen, Ronon, about what happened --"
Appetite disappearing, Ronon stuffed his half-eaten cheeseburger back in the bag. "You know, I'm kind of tired. Think I'll get some sleep while I can." He just couldn't ... no. Not yet. Without waiting for a response, he settled against the pillows and closed his eyes.
Sheppard seemed to take the hint. Ronon heard his chair scrape against the floor and a minute later, the bag of food was lifted off his lap. A second after that, a warm hand rested on his shoulder.
"Get some rest, buddy. We'll talk later."