Author's Notes: Okay boys and girls - here's the next installment in um... well... nothing. It's a whole new story. Started for the LJOneSweetLove challenge that has now been extended. :P The prompt that caused the plot bunny was "Blue skies, hillside, alone", and "Secrets, truth and understanding." The first prompt about the hillside launched the plot bunny, and the word "secret" set it into another crazy epic. :) I hope you enjoy! It will be updated quickly (as usual) so be prepared for a fast and furious ride. I have absolutely no idea where the characters are going to take us this time, but the whole gang is here... R/K of course... with John, Teyla, Rodney and Evan. Let the nightmares begin! - Nika
Bright sky. Whiteness.
She was walking amongst distant images, the edges distorted.
A hillside. Open to the right, a dark forest to the left.
Again… the tree. Large, tall. But dead. Bare branches clawing upward, highlighted against the bright sky. Standing beneath it she looked up. It was there. A hook in one of the branches forming a near perfect circle.
Murmured voices and conversation. Rodney and John. Chatter. Burbles of sound.
Teyla. To the side. Shifting her P90.
Ronon. To the back. Watching her. Watching them.
A flash of red to the side. Between the trees. The signal.
It's happening again!
Turning. Too slow. She can't complete the motion fast enough.
They're not supposed to be here!
It's not supposed to happen!
Her dream self tries to change it. Tries to call it back. But she's trapped as the play unfolds. Gunfire and shouts of warning. Running forward. No way to help. No way to save him.
He shoves Rodney to the ground. To safety.
Turns to fire.
She's almost there. But her hands are empty.
It's too late.
She's always too late.
Every time it happens she changes nothing.
There's too much blood.
The arrows too deep.
He's already dead…
"Ronon!" Jen shrieked, launching herself upright in her bed, her fingers digging into the coverlet with such force she bent a fingernail. Reality shifted into focus with the sharp pain and she cursed, releasing the blanket.
Clasping a hand over her hammering heart, she swiped her hair away from her damp forehead and flopped back down onto the pillow. The visions from the dream still pulled to her, and she couldn't escape the horrible feeling of loss and pain that was churning through her abdomen. She kept her eyes wide open, knowing that if she closed them, she'd see him again - see the dark stain of the blood as it left his heart.
Bile climbed up into the back of her throat and she rolled up onto the side of the bed, hanging her head over the floor. Inhaling slowly, she swallowed against the burning and mentally chastised herself for being so weak.
It's just a dream, damn it!
With a long, slow exhale, she forced her stomach to behave. After she was sure she wasn't going to loose what was left of the little supper she'd had, she sat up and grabbed the glass of water off her nightstand.
Her fingers were shaking so violently she had to use two hands to keep from spilling the liquid all down the front of her top.
A few long, cool sips cleared the burning from the back of her throat, but not the horrible ache that still pained her abdomen. A slicing agony that made her body bend automatically to protect itself. It was too close. To real.
"God." She exhaled into the quiet air of her quarters.
It was the fifth time this week she'd had the exact same dream… the same nightmare. Over and over. Five nights. Five perfect repetitions. Five times being jolted awake, screaming his name into her empty room.
But it wasn't just the dream that bothered her so.
It was the aftermath.
The images of the blood… the arrows… the entire ambush was so crisp and clear, they remained with her even after she woke. There was no loss of memory as with regular dreams. It was unlike any dream she could ever recall having because there was absolutely no hesitation, no myst, no fuzziness as it faded into the sub-conscious. She knew if she closed her eyes she'd be able to recall it to the tiniest of details. The sky. Their positions. The dead tree.
Each and every time it was the same. Exactly the same. Right down to the calm air and the oddly bright sky. The same location, the same weird tree, the same ambush, the same result.
Ronon. Dead. A pair of arrows embedded in the center of chest.
She shuddered, splashing water over the rim of the glass and onto her hand. Setting the glass back onto the nightstand she glanced at the clock. Five in the morning. With a sigh she stood up, knowing she wasn't going back to sleep anytime soon. She'd have to be up in an hour and a half anyway. Maybe she could kill off some time doing paperwork.
The memories accompanied her as she moved. Niggling the back of her mind as she showered. Hesitated along the edges of the steam streaked mirror as she dried her hair. Floated in the shadows of her room as she dressed. Followed her into the hallway as she made her way through the empty corridors.
She couldn't kick the feeling of caged dread that had been cloaking her for the past week. The sensation of something that needed doing. Something was being forgotten. Something her subconscious was trying to point out which she couldn't quite grasp.
It was like having a fragment locked away in your mind leaving you struggling to remember it. You could almost feel it, almost taste it, yet it hovered against the edge of your memory, taunting you with it's evasion. She'd spent the entire week trying to pull out whatever it was that was haunting her sleep with such vengeance, but the only thing she got in return was the nightmare. Again.
The dream men who'd attacked were dressed in leathers and firs, unkempt and unshaven. They reminded her so much of the Bola Kai that each aftermath also brought out a reminder of the time she and Teyla had spent as their guest. She'd been terrified then. And she was terrified now.
Between the vision and what it represented, and the memory of her time on New Athos, Jen was having a hell of a time keeping her fingers from trembling. She clenched her hands into tight fists as she entered the infirmary, deep breathing to push away the memories and the uncertainty.
Stupid dream. Stupid nightmare. Stupid... vision.
A few years ago she'd be the first one to say she didn't believe in any of that new age stuff. Tarot and Psychics, visions and premonitions. She believed in facts, figures and science. Learning that could be tracked and documented. Scientific reasoning and medical know how. That was what she believed in.
But… a few years ago she also didn't believe in travelling to other galaxies, life-sucking space vampires, Iratus bugs or Hoffan viruses, time travel or parallel universes.
And she most certainly didn't believe in premonition visions.
Well... now… now there was Pegasus.
And Pegasus didn't follow the rules.
The crest of the hillside was smoothly bare where they walked, the dry packed earth sloping down to the right. The forest was dark. Thick. Hiding it's secrets. Ahead and to the right – the tree. Tall, smooth with loss of bark. Skeletal white branches reaching to the sky. She stopped beneath. Eyes to the top. Searching, seeking, finding. The branch that formed a perfect circle.
It was happening again…
A touch on her arm shot Jen up out of the dream with a sharp gasp, sending her stool clattering to the side and pitching her sideways. Tensing from the dread of the dream remnants, and the sudden surprise feeling of falling, she winced in anticipation of hitting the floor. With arms flailing to catch something, her fingertips met heated skin as her body hovered an inch from the floor.
She blinked open her eyes, and stared up into Ronon's slightly amused expression.
Jen was pretty sure that this time the flush that crept up her cheeks had started all the way down at her toes.
Ronon lifted her slowly to her feet, his eyes losing their laughter in place of something more serious.
"You okay?" His brow furrowed with concern.
Jen nodded slowly, her eyes darting down to the center of his chest, fingers itching to touch. To prove to herself there was no wound, no arrow, no blood.
"Jennifer?" He asked again, lightly squeezing her upper arms, drawing her eyes back to his.
"Yes?" She managed to say, then cleared her throat against the dry croak that came out. "I… I'm sorry, what?"
Jen angled her head back, staring up, mentally assuring herself this wasn't a dream and he was fine. Three times this week she'd found herself standing outside his quarters in the dark hours of the early morning, hand poised to wake him just to prove to herself there was nothing wrong. And three times she'd turned away. But right now… with two dreams echoing off each other in such a short span of time… the emotional whirlwind was running through her mind was harder to control.
He was here. He was fine. He was alive.
It was just a dream.
"Dream?" He repeated, eliciting a groan as she realized she spoke aloud.
She blinked then shook her head. "Yeah. Sorry." She frowned. "I… it's just… it's… nothing."
"Are you certain?" He prompted, gently releasing her arms.
Jen felt the loss of heat on her skin, but Ronon didn't back away.
She nodded again, her eyes unable to move from his. She welcomed his nearness and strength, drawing calmness and reassurance from the aura surrounding him.
Ignoring the niggling worry that she was standing far too close to him in such an open place as the lab, and arguing that it didn't matter because the room was empty, and wondering why she cared who saw them, and thinking that she really, really wanted to throw her arms around him and make him promise not to get killed in an ambush next to a creepy looking dead tree…
She felt herself leaning forward when she really should have be stepping away.
Ronon didn't usually remain this close unless they were hidden away in solitude. Yet here he was… only inches from her. The entire front half of her body was decidedly warmer than normal. He dropped his head, giving her a better view of his face, which was now only inches from hers. But he didn't retreat. Not that she minded… really… but it was rather distracting… the way he was staring down at her. If he kept looking at her with such intensity she was going to break her self-imposed rule about public displays of affection.
"I… um… I must have fallen asleep." She managed to stutter. "You just um… yeah." Her thoughts trailed off with her voice, leaving her lost in the sudden rush of want that coursed through her veins. If he didn't back away soon, she wasn't going to be able to stop herself from kissing him… right here… right now… in the middle of her lab. Her inner devil jumped with glee while her stoic side shouted a warning. She couldn't risk the distraction. Not if she was going to be able figure any of this out.
She inhaled sharply as the image of his chest… the blood… the arrows… invaded her thoughts.
Jen couldn't stop her gaze from dropping.
A startled squeak escaped when she realized the reason Ronon was standing in such a heated proximity was because she currently had both her hands fisted tightly in the material of his shirt, directly over his heart.
"Oh my… I… I'm sorry." She mumbled, her palms quickly smoothing the woven cloth back down.
He stilled her nervous reaction by wrapping his fingers around hers, holding her hands still against his chest.
"Something's wrong." He growled. "Tell me."
Her pink cheeks betrayed her again, and she cursed her automatic reaction to his presence. Scattered heart beat, lack of concentration, increased temperature… her body was not her own when he was around.
"I'm fine." Her voice certainly didn't convey assurance so she opted for Plan B - avoidance. "What time is it?"
Ronon blinked, then angled his head, slowly releasing her hands. "That's not an answer."
Jen flexed her fingers, the cool air sending a soft shiver down her spine. She rubbed her abdomen, massaging away the residual pain that still fluttered from the remnants of her nightmare.
"Jennifer." Ronon raised an eyebrow, his voice a low warning as he stood, unmoving, directly in front of her.
"Hmm?" She glanced up, her mouth quirking when her obviously empty stomach decided to announce its demand to be fed with a long sharp growl.
She laughed, breaking the spell of the nightmare. With a wave of relief she accepted the opportunity for the change in topic now offered, and smiled up at him. "I'm hungry."
When Ronon didn't react, Jen briefly wondered if he was going to insist she explain herself. Not willing to let it go, she stepped back and angled her chin.
"Did you eat yet?" She asked, trying to keep her voice light and unassuming.
He shook his head.
"Come on." She offered. "I'll buy you breakfast."
She stepped towards the door but her progress was abruptly halted when his hand clasped on her upper arm, spinning her back around. Jen barely had time to register the question forming before her voice was cut off under the pressure of his lips. The kiss was brief, but its heated pressure carried an underlying promise of more.
She exhaled a soft "whew" when he leaned away, her heart skipping a beat then resuming its staccato patter behind her ribs. "What was that for?"
"You're going to tell me what's bothering you." The command was issued softly, but with affirmation.
Jen hesistated, but couldn't hold back the truth. "I know," she responded quietly, briefly trapping her bottom lip between her teeth. "But... It's just… It's not… I can't. Not right now. Please?"
Ronon's face was masked but his eyes revealed the truth behind his actions.
He would let it go.