Title: Perceptions

Chapter Title: Have You Noticed?

Summary: "Have you noticed anything, I don't know, off about Jennifer lately?"

Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis, and its characters, etc, belong to MGM and affiliates. I'm just having a little fun.

Author's Notes: Okay, here goes; my very first Stargate Atlantis fic. I hope all goes well. This was inspired by the posters at the GateWorld's The Doctor and the Wildman thread. I was reading what they had posted about the recent rash of McIcky-ness on SGA, and this just popped into my head. This is set right after BS. This is unbeta-ed, so all mistakes are my own.

-----

"Hey Lieutenant," Major Evan Lorne jogged, water bottle in hand, to catch up to Laura Cadman as the teams disbursed from the gym one afternoon after sparring practice.

Greeting him with a nod, Laura reached back to remove the elastic from her ponytail, releasing her red hair from its confines and shaking her head, causing the strands to spill over her shoulders, "Hi Major. What's up?"

Evan was momentarily stunned speechless as she did that, and then her voice once again pulled him back, "Sir?"

He blinked rapidly, his mouth releasing a pfftt sound, "Sorry, kind of zoned out there for a second," Evan quickly tried to cover his blunder, brushing it aside with an inconsequential explanation. Laura gathered her hair again, and within seconds had it fastened back in a tidy ponytail, "Um, have you noticed anything weird going on with Jennifer lately?"

Laura snickered, "You mean besides the whole dating McKay thing?"

He had to laugh at that, "Well, yeah, there's that."

"I'm guessing that's not what you were aiming for," She noted, taking a step closer to him to allow someone to pass by them in the corridor, and trying to cover the hitch in her breath by taking a hearty swig from her water bottle.

"Not really, no," He chuckled, "But now that you mention it, it kind of ties in," His expression got all the more serious, and Laura couldn't help but feel his concern, "She's started calling me Major again."

"Well, stop the presses," Laura feigned shock, "Considering it's your name, and all."

"It's my rank," Evan jokingly chastised, "And you know Jennifer's been calling me Evan for a long time now."

"I know sir," Laura agreed, seeing his worry behind the joking expression, and oddly, she was relieved. She too, had had some concerns about their friend in the past weeks. Something about Jennifer had just been off, and she was glad not to be the only one that had noticed, "And she's missed the last—what—four movie nights?"

Evan nodded, "She keeps saying she's busy."

"Which is true," Laura had to concede.

"Sure. But she's been," He paused, searching from the right word.

"Moody? Evasive? Not like herself?" Laura suggested helpfully.

"Weird," Evan threw in his own with a punctuating nod, "You get the feeling she's avoiding us?"

"For her to actually be avoiding us sir," She sighed, "She'd have to have the time. And for that, we'd have to crow bar her away from McKay."

"Ye-ah," The inflection in his tone as he agreed, showed exactly what he thought of that, "That came out of left field."

"Kind of. I mean, one minute she's telling me that she—no—that," Laura stopped herself before spilling Jennifer's I-almost-kissed-Ronon-and-now-I–can't-stop-thinking-about-him secret. That had been told to her in confidence, and even though Laura was sure the story didn't end there; it didn't give her leave to rattle it off to him, "I don't know. Maybe we're making more of this than there is?"

"Jen's been missing movie nights, a tradition she started," Evan began a list as the two of them stopped at Laura's door. Movie nights had always been their tradition, between the three of them, and for a while (when she'd been CO of Atlantis), occasionally Colonel Carter. Though they'd been invited to, and had occasionally attended, Sheppard's little 'team-nights', they had all felt out of place in trying to mingle within the dynamics of SGA:1, and had created their own group as a result, "She's been calling me by my rank, she's been avoiding both of us, and now she's joined at the hip with McKay. And I'm sorry Cadman, maybe I'm not supposed to know this, being a guy and all, but there was something going on with Jen and Ronon, and now," The Major shrugged a shoulder, unsure of what to say, and instead threw in an example, "I sat between them at a briefing a week ago. Awkward. Something's going on."

"You've been keeping a close eye," Laura commented dryly, leaning a shoulder against the wall by her door, and then added, "Sir," At his harsh look.

"Jennifer's my friend," Evan informed her matter-of-factly, "I don't know—she was the first real friend I made, coming to Atlantis. I'm—I'm a little worried about her," He admitted in a low tone.

He must be, Laura realized, to be bringing his concern to her. For Evan to even mention it, he must be fairly worried. And that added to her own. If Evan had noticed, perhaps they weren't the only ones to see the strange behavior of their doctor friend? "Maybe we should talk to Ronon, see if he's noticed anything strange," She suggested, shrugging.

Evan gnawed on the inside of his cheek before answering, "They're not talking. Not that Ronon has ever done much talking, but still."

"He talks to Jennifer," Laura contradicted immediately, "And she was talking to him. If something's fishy, maybe he's noticed. Besides, it's Ronon. Who better to ask; the guy notices almost everything."

"They are coming back from Sheppard's camping trip today," Evan mentioned, scrubbing a hand over the stubble that had begun growing over his jaw, making him look all the more attractive and contemplative at the same time, "Alright, we'll subtly bring it up, to Ronon, and see if he's noticed anything," He paused, smirked, "Fishy, and if he hasn't…"

"We chalk it up to you being all overprotective big-brotherly?" She teased with a smile, though she did agree with him. Their friend's odd behavior was making her uneasy too.

"Something like that," He obliged, "Okay, so we're agreed."

"Yup."

"Alright-y then," He clapped his palms together, and then waved one in the direction he was soon to head; "You want to get lunch?"

"Sure," She replied instantly, a bright smile on her face. Realizing she was beaming at him, she tamped her expression down and gestured to her door, "Meet you in the mess in half an hour?"

"Sure," He repeated, his eyes twinkling in a look that had her wanting to sigh and stare. They stood silently for long minutes, in front of her door. Finally breaking the moment, Evan said in a teasing voice, "Go get a shower Cadman. You smell like Zelenka."

And then, with a cheeky grin, Evan reluctantly headed off for his own room and his own shower.

-----

Upon returning from accompanying Sheppard, among others, on a camping trip on the mainland, Ronon had dumped his things in his room, and headed directly for the mess hall. It had been a long few days.

He'd been trapped in a tent with Sheppard, who'd asked question, after question, after question; pestering for details until Ronon had threatened to stun his friend. He knew John was only trying to help; trying to get to the bottom of his recent surly disposition, but really, Ronon didn't want to talk about it. He didn't want to explain that he was in lov—that he'd had intentions (and still did, if he was telling the truth) regarding Atlantis' CMO. And that while he had thought they were moving forward together, she had been interested in someone else. He didn't want to explain to his friend that all the time he'd spent with her had been for naught, because not only was she interested in someone else, but she had no intention of even being his friend, it seemed. And that while he had enjoyed their relationship, enjoyed spending time with her, enjoyed being with her, enjoyed her; she hadn't been; she had been looking elsewhere.

No; Ronon had no interest in that conversation, and so he remained silent; until he'd finally removed his gun from its holster at his hip, spun it in his fingers with characteristic flair and calmly asked John if he wanted to spend the rest of the trip asleep. Wisely, his friend had chosen to hold his tongue after that, and the questions had ceased.

After that, Ronon still caught John looking at him strangely, like there was something the other man wanted to say, but didn't for fear of being stunned into silence. This was part of the reason Ronon had chosen to eat now, grab something before John would appear in the mess hall, join him, and being again with the prying, pestering questions. Groaning to himself, Ronon plopped another pudding cup on his tray and wound his way from the food line to an empty table in an out-of-the-way corner, where no one would be crazy enough to bother him.

The trip hadn't been all bad though. He'd learned another Earth spot; this one John called surfing. He'd done well at times, occasionally doing what John called a wipe-out and coming up with a mouthful of salty water. And, of course, he'd had to tease John mercilessly at the skintight, black rubber suit the other man had worn. And, according to John, one of the technicians that had accompanied them on this 'camping trip', Amelia, had the hots for him. What that had meant, he hadn't been sure at first, the meanings of many Earth expressions still beyond him. After rolling his eyes, the colonel had explained that it meant she found him attractive. Not understanding why Sheppard hadn't just said that in the first place; Ronon had rolled his own eyes, shaken his head and shrugged the joking comments off.

But after John's comments, whether made in jest or not, Ronon would feel someone watching him; someone looking at him, and he'd glance up to see the brown-haired woman blush and look away with a twitch of a smile. He could agree when John had said that Amelia was pretty; but when he caught her looking at him, he was more uncomfortable than pleased, and when she blushed, it didn't do to him what the blush of a certain petite blonde woman did.

Unable to help it, Ronon let out a low growl. There was no way to purge her from his mind. It didn't matter if he was sitting alone in the mess hall, or surrounded by people on the mainland, he would be forever cursed to think about her, and what almost was.

"Uh-hey Ronon," He didn't have to look up to know that it was Lorne standing beside the table he sat at, with Cadman at his elbow. Usually, the two of them were joined by Jennifer, or at least they'd used to be, before every second of her spare time was devoted to stroking McKay's ego. And considering the size of the scientist's ego; that was a time-consuming task, "Mind if we join you?"

He responded with an indeterminable grunt, which the twosome must have taken as a yes, because they both sat across the table from him. The now threesome sat in an awkward silence for long moments, though this was not the first time they had eaten together; the only sound the scraping of fork tines against plates, chewing, and swallowing. Then, Evan hauled in a deep breath, holding it in before releasing it in one, continuous stream and asked,

"Have you noticed anything, I don't know, off about Jennifer?"

Cadman snorted, shaking her head and elbowed Lorne in the side, "Real subtle there sir."

"I dunno," Ronon's answer was more a grunt than words. What did Lorne mean by off? He could point out several things that she'd done or said that he never would have thought she'd say or do (starting with, "I'm interested in someone else."), but what was Lorne and Cadman getting at? Off how? "What'd you mean?"

"I know you guys haven't been spending as much time together as normal since this whole McKay-thing came out of left field," Cadman prompted, and Lorne had to snort at the expression, "But you—Ronon—you're Jen's," She paused, caught herself before saying best, not seeing the big, intimidating warrior type appreciating that, "Closest friend, and I know that you mean a lot to her. It just; it seems weird that the two of you are all of a sudden not talking at all."

Yeah, he almost said, it was weird to him too. Ever since they'd been stuck together in the infirmary, during the quarantine, he and Jennifer had talked all the time. About anything and everything. She'd talked about her family, about Earth, about medical school, about being the odd one out when she was years younger than all of her classmates. He'd talked of Sateda; of his family, childhood, and friends, of Melena, even the occasional mention or observation from his time as a Runner. There wasn't a subject he'd found off-limits with Jennifer. At least, he'd thought there hadn't been. He then came from his musing, realizing that Cadman was still talking, and Lorne was trying to subtly call back his attention without Cadman realizing he'd been zoned out for most of her spiel.

"Could you, please, just try talking to her? See if something's going on, if something's bothering her?" Cadman was cajoling, "I've tried; Lorne has tried. Could you, just," She stopped trying to sweet-talk Ronon into doing as she asked, and instead, switched to a more ordering tone, "Just talk to her, for Christsakes Ronon. She's you're friend, and there's obviously something going on, so get your head out of your butt and make sure she's okay."

"If I promise to talk to her, will you stop yelling at me?" Ronon asked, peering at the Marine Lieutenant with a wary eye.

"Yes," Laura replied merrily.

"Alright, I'll talk to her," Ronon acquiesced, letting his head fall forward as he rubbed at the back of his neck, "I'll try anyway. She hasn't been all that talkative lately. With me, I mean."

"Just try," Laura admonished firmly, "Just. Try. Maybe it'll work."

"And maybe," Evan muttered to himself, "Maybe my team won't have to go and rescue Sheppard's for a whole week."

Ronon glared at Evan for that crack, though he did see the truth in it. Laura sighed, seeing the truth in it as well, and wondered just how well this plan could possibly go.