The Hero, the Hero, by AndromedaMarine

The ideas and impulses sometimes snuck up and surprised her. Certainly this had happened several times over the course of her appointment on the Great City, but never had she felt so nervous before the inevitable. She saw him sitting on one of the beds outside her office, hands limp in his lap as his eyes wandered the markings on the floor. Lives had slipped through her and Carson's fingers in that room. She wasn't about to let his sanity slip through her fingers either.

She placed the tablet PC quietly onto her desk beside the towering pile of unfinished medical reports Woolsey had been asking for, pressing the power button for several seconds until the screen turned dark. The silence of her office pressed down on her eardrums, and she stood from the chair, letting the sound of it rolling backwards wash over her. A distraction. She needed it, especially before facing McKay in the emptiness of her infirmary. God, she hoped he wasn't injured.

Jennifer hadn't really thought about the possibilities between herself and the Head of Science and Research Departments. But as her hand reached for the handle of the glass door of her office – the only thing really separating herself and McKay – she wondered. What would happen if the spontaneous intervened? Certainly, those butterflies in her stomach often received an ill welcome from the rational part of her brain, but told her everything she had guessed at. Day six happened almost a month ago. No, McKay didn't remember a thing about day six specifically, but the importance of his words remained in his mind.

He probably just wanted a physical done before their two weeks back on Earth – with her, no less – but it was far too late in the night to complete a full medical exam on his sleep-deprived body. He knew better than to come knocking at eleven in the evening, especially for something of importance. Unless... She pushed against the door, relieved when it swung open virtually silently, and Jennifer Keller stopped for a moment to observe the waiting man, whose eyes still remained downcast and whose hands stayed frozen in his lap.

How she wished she could return his sentiment without scaring him off – he had only said it because of his belief he didn't have much time left. But he had said it nonetheless. She let the glass door close with a quiet thud, and her favorite member of Atlantis staff glanced up. His eyes were cloudy with some emotion she couldn't read, and for a moment she wondered if he was there for something other than medical purposes. The fingers on his hands started fidgeting, yet his gaze did not waver from her face.

The infirmary's lights were mostly dim; she'd sent the rest of the staff to bed so she could take the night shift. He seemed softer in the darkened room, if possible, and more vulnerable. Their being alone together took the need of a guard for his soul completely away. He could be himself with her – not the man Sheppard or Zelenka saw, but the true Rodney McKay. The smile he wanted to appear refused to.

Jennifer stopped a few feet from him. "It's late, Rodney," she said at a near whisper. The sight of him was enough to make her want to cry. Forcefully, she held back the sting of tears in her eyes. Grateful that the darkness could mask what she felt she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "What do you need?"

The doctor had expected some list of medications, probably painkillers and sleep-inducers, maybe even a mild depressant or a more-than-healthy dose of off-the-record morphine. She expected him to ask her to make the pain go away, even if just for a few hours, because he couldn't deal with the nightmares. She wanted him to say something medically related, because she hoped his problem was something her expertise could fix, if not alleviate.

Rodney stared her in the eyes for several long moments. "You." His voice trembled with the difficulty of keeping the fear off his face – the fear of falling back into sleep without someone – something – to make sure he'd wake up the next morning. "I... Jennifer... I can't sleep at night. Not since the nightmares..." His eyes dropped again, along with his head.

Involuntary to her brain's control over muscles she took a few steps forward, until the tops of her thighs rested against his shins. She wanted nothing more than to pull him into her arms, to make the nightmares fade into the black of the stars, to hold him close and chase the fear away. She wondered how long he'd pondered coming to her to fix his problem. She placed her hands over his, surprised to find them icy cold. Jennifer loved him more than she'd loved anyone before, but she wasn't sure if she was ready. Ready to tell him, that is. He still hadn't "consciously" admitted it; he couldn't remember his admission from almost a month ago.


He interrupted her quietly. "I understand if you can't... If you don't want to..."

Jennifer lifted her hand and pulled his chin upwards so his eyes met hers. "Rodney."

McKay looked at her, blinking several times.

"I want to make the pain disappear." She slid her hand so her palm rested against his cheek, and she felt the sudden sting in her eyes when she realized he'd been crying. The wetness on his cheeks saddened her terribly, and she knew what she would do. Impulses and ideas be damned. She needed him just as much as he needed her. "You don't need any medication," she whispered, curling her fingertips around his ear. "Let me call another nurse and I'll take the night off."

He wrapped his hand around her wrist, absently rubbing circles with his thumb.

Eyes still locked with his she tapped her ever-present radio, feeling a slight pang for waking up a sleeping nurse she'd just recently sent to rest up. Yet this was not selfish. "Could you please take the night shift? I realized I really need to sleep tonight." After hearing a groggy but affirmative reply, she briefly rested her head against Rodney's. "Take my hand."

He gripped her hand firmly but gently, twining their fingers together in a way that relieved the pressure on his chest. He could breathe again. "Jennifer..."

She quieted him. "Rodney, nothing needs to be said." You've already said everything. The American doctor led him down the corridors, past the transporter, and into the hallway leading to both their quarters. She continued past the doorway to his and palmed her own door open, gesturing for him to step inside. Even with the late night darkness she could see the outlines of furniture in her room, and she led him to the bed, having him sit. She tugged her own boots off, mentioning for him to do the same, and shrugged off the uniform jacket.

He stood behind her, taking a small leap, and put his arms around her waist, resting his nose in the hollow of her neck. "Jennifer."

She turned in his embrace and reached up, kissing him lightly on the lips. "Just lie down and sleep," she said to him, and he understood that with her in his arms, no medication could chase off the nightmares like she could.

The hero, the hero, will not run away. The hero, the hero, needs not words to say. The hero, the hero, will do all he must, to save every life, and love whom he trusts. ~ T.A.J.