You're afraid of something… or someone…
Ronon's statement hung in the air, unanswered, as Jen huddled against him, her breathing staggered. Inhaling, holding, exhaling. Her fingers flittered nervously with the material of his shirt. Picking, twisting, smoothing.
"I'm not afraid of you, Ronon Dex." She finally whispered. "Not the way you think."
"That still means you are afraid of me."
She sighed and shook her head. "On Sateda…" She straightened slightly, placing her forehead against the side of his neck. "Your rank. Specialist. It was pretty high up there."
He wondered if her question had a point, or if it was a change of topic, but answered regardless. "Roughly equivalent to Sheppard."
"Could a woman hold that rank?"
He shrugged. "If they qualified."
"Did you know any?"
"And did they have to prove themselves?"
"Do… more." She frowned. "Be better, stronger, smarter. Constantly show themselves just as good as the men of equal rank?"
"Ah." He nodded, understanding finally drawing him her answer. He angled his head. "We didn't have time for infighting. If you made rank, you made rank. Wraith don't care who's in charge."
"It's different on Earth." She shook her head. "Colonel Carter is a rare appointment. So's Major Teldy. They try to tell you it's not, but it is a man's world. Women are expected to be twice as fast, twice as strong, twice as smart, just to do the same job." She shifted again, this time to lean forward, resting her chin over his upper arm. "I have spent my entire life… fighting to show people that I'm just as… competent. Just as smart. Just as strong. And what do I get in return? Take time to make a proper diagnosis and I'm not worthy of the position. Take a day off and I'm in over my head. Get angry and I'm a bitch. Cry and I'm an over-emotional. I can't win for trying."
"But I'm afraid, Ronon." She finally admitted, her eyes locked on the lights of a distant tower, the sky behind lightening with the approaching dawn. "I'm afraid I'm not strong enough." She sighed. "Strong enough to be here. To do this. To do… everything. Anything. They sense weakness, and they'll strike. Hard and fast."
"Who exactly are… they?"
She laughed quietly. "There's a five to one ratio of men to women here. Do you know how many women doctors I have on staff? One. The rest… men. It's a military operation with a female CMO. I'm too young. I don't have the ATA gene. And I nearly turned half the city into a hive ship. They… are a lot of different people… and they are waiting in the wings for me to fail."
"Why?" She snorted and lowered her head, resting her cheek against his forearm. "You can't shoot half the base."
"Try me…" He muttered.
She snorted, rolling her head to the other side to glance up at him through her bangs. "You would, wouldn't you?"
He shrugged, shifting his position to lean against the railing as she settled back against his chest.
After a moment of silence she sighed again. "Oh, Ronon. I'm so sorry."
"Hey." He grunted.
"Please…" She whispered, her fingers tracing a circle along the bare skin of his forearm. "I need… I need to say this."
He inhaled… then nodded, waiting.
"Rodney…" She began. "With Rodney… I can be the strong one. I can be CMO. I don't have to think about walking… or talking… or anything. I can be a bitch. I can be pushy. I can be exactly what is expected of me and I don't have to worry about anything."
"I make you worry?" Ronon couldn't help the ache that skipped across his chest as she pulled her legs in tighter, returning herself to the protective ball.
"No…" She hesitated, her voice muffled by her knees. "You… you make me forget."
"Forget." He frowned.
She spoke softly, causing him to angle his head to make sure he could hear every word.
"You make me forget my name." She said softly. "Forget how to walk. How to talk. Forget I'm supposed to be strong. Forget I'm supposed to be… afraid."
"And that's… bad."
"No." She lifted her head to rest her chin on her knees. "It's not bad. It's terrifying."
A nod. "When I'm with you…" A shake. "You… you make me forget what it is I'm supposed to be afraid of in the first place." A shrug. "You're like this… big… blanket of warmth and protection and it would be so easy… so easy… to just wrap myself inside and hide from the world." A soft sob. "So easy…"
He gripped her tighter, shifting to keep her from curling into herself again.
"Would it really be so bad to let someone take care of you for a change?"
"No." She shook her head sadly. "No. It… it would be… so wonderful."
"Then why…?" He shook his head. "What are you so afraid of? Being human? Needing comfort? Letting someone else be… strong enough… to watch over you once in a while?"
"You make it sound silly."
"It is silly. No one expects you to do everything alone, Jennifer."
"This coming from the man who insists on doing everything alone?" She snorted softly, rolling her head to peer up at him through her bangs. Darkness was fading enough now she could see his features, more than just a shadowed outline as he leaned back against the railing, his arms wrapped tightly around her.
He stared down at her, his gaze direct. He had such beautiful eyes. Intense. They moved through so many different shades of green or hazel, depending on his mood. Would the baby have had his eyes? The though twisted though her stomach and she squeezed her eyes shut against the well of sadness.
"You okay?" He asked quietly.
"No." She shook her head, struggling to find the words to explain what she could barely understand herself. "I don't know if I'll ever be okay. Everything seems so… stupid now. So wrong." She whispered. "It made perfect sense in my mind weeks ago… but now…" She sighed. "Now I don't even know who I am anymore."
"I know who you are." He pulled her back so she was once again leaning against his chest.
"Then someday you're going to have to explain it to me." She rocked her head back and forth beneath his chin. "I don't feel like me anymore. And I don't think I like who I've become." And with that she burst into tears again.
Ronon rocked with her, and this time the sobs abated quickly, with a sniff and furious swiping of her cheeks with her sleeve. "I'm sorry." She mumbled. "Apparently I'm feeling a little um… emotional."
"Apparently." He smiled when she glanced up at him.
Jen snorted and sniffed, swallowed and wiped her eyes. She lowered her head and turned her face towards the distant horizon, where the darkness was changing into a lighter gray. Jen felt Ronon's breath catch, then a sharp exhale before he asked the question that had obviously just occurred to him, his arms tensing around her. Her fingers tightened in his shirtfront while she waited.
"You're okay… aren't you? I mean…" he hesitated, the tone of his voice low. Worried. "Physically?"
Jen took a deep breath, understanding his question. "Yeah." She nodded. "I'm… okay. I should still be able to… to… have a child. Someday." She smiled sadly to herself, when his body relaxed with her admission.
He worried so much.
And she'd treated him so badly.
"I wish I knew how to take it all back. Do it over again." She whispered, more to herself than to him, but he answered anyway.
"I may not know as much about science," He said softly. "But even I am pretty sure time-travel is a bad idea."
Jen snorted. "Probably." Then she shrugged. "But I can still wish."
"You shouldn't dwell in the past, Jennifer." He tipped his head back, staring up at the quickly disappearing stars. "It won't change your future. It will only hurt your present."
"I've hurt your present…" She burrowed her face against the front of his shirt. "Haven't I?"
Ronon hesitated. Truthfully… her rejection had hurt. Especially coming with such swiftness. It was so unexpected. She'd pushed him away, and turned to McKay. Knowing now, knowing the why, made it a little easier to understand, but no easier to stomach. And then her admission tonight. He wasn't sure how he was feeling about that. Sad at the loss, the unknown, the possibility, certainly. But blaming? No.
"It's okay." She whispered, and he felt her pulling away. "I don't need an answer."
"Losing…" he paused, swallowing around the words, letting her sit up, but not letting her go. "Losing a baby is not something I could ever fault you for."
"How can you not? I blame me."
"Why?" She repeated.
He nodded. "Why do you blame yourself?"
"Because I should have known." She answered, hunching her shoulders. "Of all people, I should have known."
"And would knowing have made the difference?"
She bit her lip. "Maybe."
"Maybe." He frowned. "Is that Jennifer speaking, or Doctor Keller?"
She sighed and shook her head, unwilling to answer.
He tried a different tactic. "What would you tell a patient?"
She bit her lip. "That most miscarriages happen in the first 13 weeks."
"And…" He prompted.
"Ten to twenty five percent of all first pregnancies end in miscarriage."
"And would you tell them it was their fault?"
"No." She frowned.
"And would you blame them for not knowing?"
She shook her head. "No."
"No." He interrupted. "If all that is true, then why would these explanations not apply to you?"
She shrugged again. "Because I'm…"
"Special? Different? Not applicable to the laws of science?"
"Applicable to the laws of science?" Jen blinked, bit her lip, then started to smile sadly. "Now who's been spending too much time with Rodney." She whispered, giving him a half smile.
He shook his head quickly and shrugged. When she started to laugh, he couldn't help but smile in return, letting her come back towards him, her arms pulling away from her own torso to wrap tightly around his middle.
She buried her face against the side of his neck, stilled then sighed. "Oh, Ronon. I don't know what I'm supposed to do now."
"What do you want to do?" He chanced to ask.
"I don't want to be afraid any more."
"Easy for you to say." She snorted.
"No." He shook his head, rubbing his chin across the top of her head. "It's not easy. To do or say."
"And if I can't?"
"Is that an offer?" She asked, her voice barely audible.
"Do you want it to be?"
The barest of nods.
"Then it will be."
"Okay." She whispered, and he felt her chest hitch before her breathing settled once again. "You're an amazing man, Ronon Dex." She tightened her arms and burrowed further into his chest. "Don't ever let anyone tell you differently."
"Even you?" He snorted.
She nodded furiously. "Especially me."
They sat in silence, watching while the breaking morning lightened the sky into a rosy hue.
It wasn't long after the sun broke the horizon that Jen fell asleep, blanketed in the strength and warmth of the man who, for seven unknown weeks, had been the father of her child. It would hurt… it would always hurt… but she slept knowing she wasn't alone.
And for the time being, she wasn't afraid.
A/N Thanks to everyone for coming along on this little journey with me. I know this was not an easy topic for some, but it was not without purpose. It was something I had to get out of my system. For Mel. Hugs and kisses my dear. - Nika