I do not own Stargate Atlantis or any of its characters…as far as I know MGM does.
No spoilers or tags.
Thanks to NoDoubtFan for taking time out of her busy schedule to look this over for me.
Thanks for reading.
"How does that feel, Major?" asked Jennifer as she tied off the last stitch on the cut on Lorne's forearm. She deposited the tools of her trade for that moment, needle holder, needle and leftover plain catgut, carefully in the bowl sitting next to Lorne on the bed and admired her handiwork.
"It feels fine, Doc," replied the second highest ranking officer in Atlantis.
Jennifer nodded as she reached next to the bowl and retrieved the square gauze pad and medical tape she had placed there earlier. Lorne had been acting strangely from the second he walked into the Infirmary holding his arm and looking as though he wanted to be just about anywhere else.
Apparently Lorne and a fellow Atlantis military officer were engaged in a hand to hand combat exercise when somehow he managed to get a nasty cut on his left forearm. She hadn't asked which 'fellow Atlantis military officer' he had been sparring with, but the way he said that phrase, deliberately and concisely as though he had been practicing it, told her there was more to it.
She gently placed the bandage over the stitched up cut and tore off a piece of tape, then placed it along one of the pad's four edges. Three more times she repeated that procedure until the gauze was secured. "You know," said Jennifer as she held his arm in her hands and used her thumbs to flatten out a crease in one of the pieces of tape, "this cut was pretty deep and has a familiar pattern to it." She kept her head facing downward toward her patient's arm, but raised her eyes up to watch his reaction as she added, "From the shape and the size it almost looks like it could have been caused by an Atlantis uniform belt buckle."
She wasn't disappointed. Lorne's mouth and eyes opened wider than usual in perfect synchronicity. And his cheeks- his cheeks started out with a very slight rosy tinge, but as the seconds ticked by it became more and more pronounced until it looked as though there was a big, bright red apple on both sides of his nose.
Jennifer smiled and turned her attention back to the bandage, not out of necessity for it was as good as it was going to get, but more out of a need to let Lorne try to compose himself without an audience.
Like the trooper that he was, it only took a few seconds until he stammered, "Belt buckle, Doc? No, it couldn't have been a belt buckle. I mean," he added with a strained laugh, "how could…that…have…happened?"
Jennifer's smile widened and she looked back up at Lorne. She released his arm and reached for his chart resting on the table by the head of the bed, and wrote the appropriate information on there as she tried to keep from breaking out in a laughing fit.
She finished her paperwork and replaced the chart on the table. "I don't know, Major." She turned to face him. "I suppose," she said contemplatively, "that it could have happened if the belt had been- hastily discarded- and then you," she raised her eyebrows suggestively, "rolled over it?"
Lorne managed to hold her gaze for longer than she thought he would, but in the end she won out and the soldier had to look away.
"It's not important I guess," said Jennifer after deciding that she had tortured him long enough. She leaned in closer to Lorne and whispered, "But the next time you and Anne are," she hesitated for a second, "practicing hand to hand combat moves, please try not to hurt each other."
She didn't think the flush in his cheeks could get any brighter, but when she leaned back and took in the sight of him she realized she'd been mistaken.
"Take it easy, Major," she said with a short gust of soft laughter. "Believe me, we all have those types of unfortunate…"
'Medical emergency,' interrupted Chuck's voice in her comm. piece. 'Medical team needed in the gate room immediately.' She flashed Lorne a worried look as she reached up to activate the unit. "What is it, Chuck?" she asked and then turned away from Lorne and moved with a practiced swiftness to the Infirmary exit. It was the standard first question to ask when the call came in: it always helped to know what you were dealing with.
She grabbed the emergency medical kit that was constantly stationed at the ready near the door for such emergencies and was out the door before Chuck's reply filtered through her earpiece.
'Colonel Sheppard's team is coming in with wounded, Doctor,' he said grimly.
Jennifer's heart had started pumping faster than usual the second she heard Chuck's voice in her ear…it always did. She'd gotten so used to Chuck being the bearer of bad tidings and calls for assistance that even when he spoke to her outside of work her heart began to race uncontrollably. It was a sin too- he was one of the politest and funniest people she'd ever met.
But at the revelation that it was someone on Sheppard's team that needed urgent medical attention her heart went into overdrive. She picked up the pace and began a fast march- not quite a run but as close as she could get to it- towards the Control Room. The theory was that running or otherwise acting with too much haste increased the risk of injury to others and yourself, in which case you wouldn't be able to help anyone.
At least, that was the theory. As she continued to move along the corridor her mind went through the usual battle that accompanied such trips. One side of her was saying that the sooner she got there the better it would be and the more chance that the injured party would be fine. The other side of her said that the protocols that were in place were there for a very good reason.
Her heart, on the other hand, was telling her something slightly different. It's frantic beating was telling her that the sooner she got there, the sooner she could make sure that Rodney was all right, and if he wasn't then the quicker she arrived in the gate room the faster she'd be able to help him.
The Infirmary was relatively close to the main transportation and communications hub of the city- it had to be for reasons just like this- so it was a short trip to the gate room; physically at least- to her it still seemed to take forever. When the door to the gate room was a few feet away she broke into a run and closed the distance quickly, almost jumping through the open doorway in the process. For safety reasons protocol demanded that medical personnel called to the gate room wait just inside the door until the gate had been shut down. There was no telling what could come through the gate after a team- enemies, weapons fire, dangerous animals…it had all happened before.
She exchanged nervous glances with one of the on duty guards as she settled in behind him and waited. It was only then that she realized her emergency response team was right behind her carrying more equipment and a gurney. Not for the first time it occurred to her that there should always be some equipment present in the gate room, like a defibrillator, emergency first aid kit and a gurney. Lord knew they needed those things more often than she would have liked and there was lots of room so that the items wouldn't be in the way. She promised herself that after this crisis was over she'd write Woolsey a memo.
The man and his paperwork.
She turned her attention to the gate which was as it usually was when it was active, the silver event horizon shimmering inside the massive circular frame. It had been active since she arrived, but as yet there was no sign of anyone or anything coming through the gate. She held her station and waited, having learned through experience that that could change in a hurry.
As if on cue, some sort of projectile whizzed through the gate and impacted the wall facing it sending pieces of the shattered wall zipping off in all directions. Jennifer ducked out of reflex, but when she remembered that she was a safe distance away from the danger she readied herself to go in and help whoever had been hurt as soon as the gate shut down.
Another projectile, bigger than a conventional bullet but smaller than a standard mortar shell, slammed into the wall. This time she managed not to flinch and kept her eyes glued to the gate.
Her heart was beating so fast she thought it could very well explode, or simply give up the ghost and stop altogether.
She was pretty sure it skipped a beat as the first person ran through the gate into the gate room. Her trained eye studied Teyla for any signs of injuries, but aside from a heaving chest that she would expect from someone who had evidently run for her life, she couldn't see any. Teyla stepped out of the path of any more possible projectiles and waited for the others to follow. Before fixing her gaze upon the Stargate along with everyone else, the Athosian leader glanced over and gave Jennifer a nod that confirmed her visual assessment that she was uninjured.
Jennifer nodded back and took a deep breath in an attempt to quell the anticipation that was building within her, the rhythm created by her quickening heartbeat and her agitation induced shallow breathing working its way upward in a crescendo that would have made any symphony envious.
Seconds ticked by and her body, fuelled by her vivid imagination conjuring up images of all the injuries that projectiles the size and velocity of the ones that came roaring through the gate could cause, and the fact that she hadn't as yet been able to burn off the adrenaline in her system, began to hum in anticipation.
"Come on," she whispered, as if those on the other side of the event horizon could hear her desperate entreaty.
She was about to make another plea to them when three adjacent forms began to pass through the glittering circle. She could see that the nearest of the figures was Ronon, his height and dreadlocks making him easy to identify. He seemed to be helping the person next to him, but she couldn't tell if it was Rodney or Colonel Sheppard with their feet dragging behind them. Her anticipatory tension was replaced with the innate urge within her to help, and she prepared herself to run to do her job when all hell broke loose.
An explosion of dirt, rock and concussive force barreled through the gate and engulfed the three men, sending them flying forward in different directions and shrouding the entire room in a cloud of suffocating dust that even dulled the usually bright lighting.
She instinctively raised her hand to shield her face and turned away from the explosion to wait for the immediate danger to pass. When the noise died down she lowered her hand and turned back towards the debris laden gate room. The gate had disengaged, she noted with relief, and there wasn't any moaning or screaming that indicated severe and painful injuries. That was a double edged-sword, of course; she knew it could also mean that there were fatalities.
She shoved past the guard she'd positioned herself behind, a second burst of adrenaline that had been released into her bloodstream making it much easier than it should have been, and made her way forward, careful of the variously sized chunks of rock and pieces of earth that was strewn about the floor. Conspicuously, and thankfully, absent among the debris was any sign of blood. She hoped that was a good sign.
The dust began to settle quickly and she scanned the area to determine where she was needed first and, of course, to see where Rodney was. It only took a second for her to find him.
He was on his knees, facing her with his arms hanging limply at his sides. A small cut above his left eyebrow was sending a trickle of blood down his face, winding its away along the outer edge of the orbital socket and avoiding his eye. Teyla was at his right side with her hand resting on his shoulder, whether for his support or her own Jennifer couldn't say.
It was then that he looked up and saw her and time seemed to mire itself in quicksand and slow to a crawl. Their eyes locked onto each other's and their gaze became, is it did so often before, a silent form of communication that other colleagues, friends and lovers who hadn't seen or been through what she and Rodney had could only dream about.
She didn't know how that bond developed or precisely when it started. Perhaps it was from the second she realized that there was much more to Rodney McKay than most people saw. She'd realized early on that anything Rodney said had to be stripped down to its bare meaning, and she understood and accepted that he simply wasn't able or prepared to say certain things at certain times, and even when he did want to and did try, it never came out the way he meant or wanted it to. That understanding evolved over time to where she could read him like the proverbial book. What she hadn't expected was that Rodney had been able to develop the same sense where she was concerned. It wasn't that they had any sort of telepathic bond or anything like that. It was simply a matter of recognizing and understanding subtle changes in body language, looks, tone of voice and the like.
At any rate, it was a connection that was borne of deep and profound understanding, far too many and unfortunate miscommunications, Job-like patience and even some tears.
But mostly patience. And mostly on her part.
Of course, it helped that she loved him.
"Are you okay?" she asked with a concerned look.
There was a barely perceptible nod from him that said to her, "Yes." His eyes shifted towards Sheppard for a split second. "Sheppard is hurt."
There was a slight hesitation in her step and her eyes opened questioningly. "Are you sure?"
His eyes softened enough to tell her, "Sheppard needs you."
She didn't need anything else. Time seemed to revert to its usual speed as she veered towards Sheppard, sparing a glance towards Ronon who was standing near his team leader and looking thoroughly pissed at the events that had transpired. The Colonel was lying face up on the floor halfway between Ronon and Rodney, his arms lying lifeless next to him and his eyes closed. She dropped to her knees and began her examination in earnest, checking first for a pulse on his neck where the carotid artery was located. She was relieved to find it strong and steady.
"What happened?" she asked as she began cutting away Sheppard's tac vest.
"Ambush," grated Ronon through clenched teeth and with bile in his voice. "It went to hand to hand and Sheppard took a rifle butt to the back of his head."
Jennifer stopped what she was doing and leaned down, almost putting her cheek to the deck to get a better look at what she could see of the back of Sheppard's head. What she saw sent angry ripples throughout her body: blood matted in his hair and smeared on the floor underneath him.
"There's a laceration on the back of his head that's bleeding pretty badly," she announced to her staff. "Get a collar on him and get the gurney ready."
She ran a quick check over the rest of Sheppard as one of her trauma nurses carefully slipped a cervical collar around his neck, and when she was satisfied that the Colonel had no other injuries, she stood up and said to her team, "All right, let's get him on the gurney and to the Infirmary stat." Trusting the nurses and orderlies that moved in to do their job, she pointed to the big Satedan and said, "You too, Ronon."
He looked at her, his eyes narrowed in irritation and said brusquely, "I'm fine."
She narrowed her eyes reprovingly and said in a tone of voice that left no room for negotiation, "It's not a request."
He didn't look happy about it, but after the orderlies began pushing Sheppard's gurney towards the doorway he moved to follow it. She suspected his easy acquiescence had more to do with wanting to stay with Sheppard than following her order, but she'd take it.
She sighed and looked over to Rodney, who by now was standing up and allowing Teyla to hold a bandage to his head.
Again, her eyes found his.
She tiled her head in the direction of the door. "You too."
His eyes narrowed for a second and feet shifted ever so slightly. She could practically hear him say, "But...," but then his shoulders slumped a little and he gave her an acquiescent half nod. "Fine."
He reached up and took over holding the bandage to his head from Teyla. He hesitated for another second and then started towards the exit, shrugging off Teyla's assistance when she laid a supportive hand on his arm.
When Teyla turned towards her with an eyebrow raised in worry, Jennifer simply nodded and said, "He'll be okay."
She hurried towards the door, intent on treating Colonel Sheppard as quickly as possible and finding out if what she just said about Rodney was true or if she was being overly optimistic.
It didn't take long to get the Colonel straightened away. The scanners showed no evidence of skull fractures, subdural or epidural bleeding or brain injury. She wouldn't be sure of a concussion until he woke up, but if she had to put money on it she would bet that he did have one.
Even in the million-in-one chance that he didn't have a concussion, he was still going to have one hell of a headache for a while.
By the time she was free to go and check on Rodney, one of her staff already had the cut above his eye cleaned, stitched and bandaged.
He was sitting on the edge of one of the beds looking deep in thought or lost in thought- even she couldn't tell sometimes.
She walked towards him and stopped a few feet away, not wanting to intrude on solitude unless he wanted her to. She moved her eyes over his body from head to toe in study: his eyes were open but their usual movements, fuelled as they normally were by Rodney's insatiable curiosity, were quieted by what must have been a horrific experience for a scientist; his hands were folded together and resting on his lap, and like his eyes they were eerily and remarkably still; and his head, slightly tilted downward so that his chin nearly rested on his chest in a position that portrayed as close to defeat or diffidence that she had ever seen from him.
She took a calming breath and said quietly, "Rodney?"
His head lifted, and she couldn't tell if it was her own anxiety distorting her perception of his movement or not, but he appeared to move very slowly.
His eyes gazed into hers and a bud of relief blossomed within her chest when they seemed to brighten just a bit. That blossoming turned into full fledged growth a second later when a smile tugged at his lips.
"Hi," he said softly. "Sheppard?"
She smiled at the concern in his voice. "He'll be fine." She closed the distance between them and leaned in to inspect the bandage covering the cut on his forehead, tentatively running her finger along the edges of the tape to ensure that it was secure. "He may have a concussion, but I won't know for sure until he wakes up." She moved her hand down to rest on his shoulder. "How about you?"
Rodney took a deep breath and slowly released it. "I'll be fine," he answered. He grunted amusedly and then added, "I'd be better if the barracuda that stitched my painful wound didn't have the bedside manners of hungry Wraith Queen."
She couldn't help but smile, not at the fact that he'd just insulted one of the friendliest people in the city, but at the fact that he sounded like himself.
"I'm sure she wasn't that bad, Rodney," she said as she slid her hand along his shoulder and towards the back of his neck to play with his hair as she'd become so fond of doing. As her fingers meandered through his short hair his mouth opened and he looked as though he wanted to say something.
But instead of speaking, Rodney moved his arms up and placed them on either side of her waist just above her hips. He hesitated for a moment, seemingly unsure whether he should do what he was about to do, and then he applied just enough pressure to move her an extra step towards him. She didn't fight it- she followed his lead willingly.
His hands slipped around her with one hand ending up on the small of her back while the other found its way to the middle. His head turned to the right and cuddled into her chest. Her arms gently wrapped themselves around his head and shoulders, cradling him as protectively and reassuringly as she knew how.
"It was so…," his hands gently clutching at her shirt clearly said to her.
She closed her eyes as her heart ached for him and the terror he must have gone through. Rodney had become more adept than most people realized at handling weapons and life-threatening situations, but it didn't mean that he had become comfortable with guns or liked using them, nor had he become even remotely comfortable with hurting people or facing his own mortality. It was only his usual thorny disposition and the brave face he put on that kept most people from seeing the fear in his eyes when he came back from missions, and the pain he was feeling when he had to take a life, even if it was to save his own.
He was a scientist first and foremost; he wasn't a soldier, or the galaxy's policeman or someone who was predisposed to be heroic and constantly put himself on the line. His heroism, as true and noble and complete as she knew it to be, was relatively new to him, borne of necessity when life in the Pegasus Galaxy demanded him to find the hero within himself that had been dormant for most if not all of his life. She knew how he felt; she'd felt the exact same way.
They weren't the career soldier that Sheppard was, or the vengeful warrior that Ronon was, or the natural leader that Teyla was.
When she opened her eyes she leaned down and said with a kiss on the top of his head, "I know." She gently caressed the back of his head and shoulder with her hands and said with a nuzzle of her chin against his head, "But it's over and your safe."
Her anxiety level plummeted when he sighed and relaxed within her embrace, as though her simple actions and what they meant were just the salve he needed to heal his tormented soul.
And maybe they were. They'd become as good at comforting each other as they had at reading each other.
But isn't that what's it's all about? she asked herself rhetorically.
His hands relaxed against her back, releasing her shirt and flattening out palm down against her.
"I love you," he said through a gentle tightening of his embrace.
"I love you, too," Jennifer replied with a tender squeeze of her own.
They remained in that position for some time, ignoring those who came and went, uncaring about the world around them.
And not for the first time since her relationship with Rodney McKay began, she marveled at the fact that the most important things a man could say to a woman were unspoken.