AN: This is the last chapter. Thank you to everyone reading and/or reviewing this story, it was so very exciting and sometimes humbling to see.
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Stargate Atlantis or it's wonderful characters.
23 – Time to Talk
Jennifer looked out a window of the makeshift infirmary that'd been set up on Pantar. She could see the engineers and Marines from Atlantis hard at work alongside the local villagers, working to finish securing the wall. Early in the day that very wall had come crashing down on many of the villagers working to raise it. Eleven people had been trapped underneath and many others injured.
Jennifer felt a sense of pride watching the cooperative work effort and the progress they'd made. It wouldn't be long now before they were finished. Jennifer felt a presence at her side and turned to see the kind but weary face of the local healer, Tarah.
"How are things fairing?" Tarah inquired as she took a look out the window.
"It looks as if they're about done." Jennifer turned and looked about the room at the patients and the make shift beds. "Those in here seem to be stable at the moment and should recover without much incident. When the crews from Atlantis head back through the Ring shortly I'll get an update for you on the four patients we sent to Atlantis."
"You must thank your people for all their help," Tarah stated earnestly.
"You're our friends, always," Jennifer replied.
"You are good friends," the healer agreed.
"I'd say that tomorrow many will be able to return to their own homes and those left we can move back into your own infirmary," Jennifer stated. They'd set up the make shift infirmary to be closer to the accident and to be able to keep all of the patients in one location since their infirmary was quite small. "I'll stay over tonight and keep an eye on the patients while you sleep," Jennifer offered.
"I can not allow you to do that. You must be tired as well," Tarah protested.
"I insist," Jennifer told her with a smile. "In the morning you'll be rested and better able to tend to their needs once I've left. I can go home and sleep the day away after," she said with a grin of reassurance.
Jennifer stood in front of the glowing gate watching team members carry supplies back through the gate to Atlantis. She'd just finished speaking through the open wormhole with Dr. Cole getting an update on the patients for Tarah. All surgeries were complete and the four were all recovering in intensive care. Dr. Cole expected them all to recover without complication.
Jennifer looked around the immediate area and realized that most of the teams had gone through already.
"Doc," Sheppard inquired looking at Jennifer, "are you coming with?"
"No, I told Tarah I'd remain tonight and travel back through tomorrow." Jennifer looked around the area again, checking to see if any of her staff were about.
Sheppard nodded at Lorne who in turn nodded at his team to proceed through the gate. Sheppard grabbed the gear he'd be carrying through the gate. "I figured you'd say that. I left Ronon in the village with some supplies and equipment that we're leaving for the village. He'll instruct them on their uses and be your security detail. We'll see you both tomorrow," John said turning to head through the gate with Major Lorne.
"Wait, wait," Jennifer said grabbing his arm, "there's no need to leave Ronon. I'm perfectly safe here. Besides I'm sure he's tired and doesn't want to babysit me. You could just send back through a couple Marines who're well rested for 'guard the CMO' duty," she suggested hopefully.
"Ronon's pretty tied up at the moment comparing stories and weapons. He said it wasn't a problem, Doc." Sheppard tried to hide his delight at the Doc's obvious discomfort.
Jennifer turned pleading eyes on Lorne, "I was just starting to get used to the looks and the whispers. Do you know how much worse it's going to be once we return tomorrow? Once people know Ronon and I both stayed here for the night?" Jennifer lamented.
"Maybe it's time you had a heart to heart with the big guy and explained why you've been avoiding him." Lorne felt bad for abandoning her, but he did think the two of them needed to talk.
"I haven't been avoiding him," Jenn insisted.
Lorne tilted his head to the side and gave her a challenging look.
Jenn turned in defeat when she realized she was getting nowhere with the two men, "At least my staff are still here. Maybe it won't be as bad when I get back as I think."
The two men watched her stalk off for a moment.
"Do you think we should've mentioned her staff's already gone through the gate?" Sheppard asked the Major.
"Probably," Lorne agreed as they both stepped into the event horizon.
Jennifer walked back into the make-shift infirmary and spotted Tarah, but none of her staff.
"Tarah," she called out as she approached the healer, "have you seen my staff?"
"Your Colonel Sheppard asked if they were needed. I told him no. I have several individuals that are learning to be healers under my direction. Two have eagerly volunteered to learn from the Atlantis healer tonight and the others will help me tomorrow." Tarah must have noticed the look upon Jennifer's face, "Is that not okay, Jennifer?"
"No, Tarah, that's fine. I'd be honored to have their help." It wasn't Tarah's fault, but John better hope he wasn't injured off world for quite some time to come.
Jennifer looked out the window to where Ronon was busy with the villagers. He had quite a crowd gathered as he showed them the different weapons and tools that were left behind and how to use them. He was a good teacher. His stature and quiet way commanded attention.
"I see healers in your world have the ability to choose their mate well also," Tarah observed as she looked out upon Ronon helping her people.
Jenn's head whipped around, "Oh no, no, no, no… he's not my… Ronon is just a friend, Tarah." She could feel her face getting warm and began busying herself with the supplies that were left behind.
"Your eyes express different feelings," Tarah remarked with a small smile for her friend. "I will go ready the evening meal and have some sent back for you and your Ronon." Tarah moved to Jennifer and gave her friend a hug, quelling any protest. "Thank you for your help and that of your people as well. I will see you in the morning," she said as she pulled away.
"We'll always come. I'll see you tomorrow." Jennifer watched her friend walk among her patients before she departed.
Jennifer spent the next two hours doing rounds with the two eager students Tarah left behind. She showed the two women how to take and chart the vitals as well as what to watch for with each of the injuries. They also spent time visiting with the families gathered with each of the patients.
Ronon stepped through the doors as they finished and caught Jennifer's eye, motioning her over. As she walked toward him she noted with a look out the window that it'd grown dark and she hadn't even noticed.
"Sorry Sheppard made you stay for babysitting duty," Jennifer said with a small smile, feeling bad he'd had to stay behind.
"I volunteered. Wanted to teach the men and help." Ronon caught the wary stance in Jennifer's posture reaffirming their need to talk. He needed to know what had happened between her and the other Ronon. He wanted to know if there was any hope that they'd one day have what the other Jennifer promised.
"Tarah sent some dinner over for everyone. Can you come out and eat?" Ronon asked holding two bowls of a stew type dish. He hoped she'd make the time.
Jennifer looked about the infirmary at the patients. She noticed the students were handing meals out to those patients up for eating and the families gathered. "Just for a little while," Jenn said as she walked away.
Ronon watched her speak with another woman before returning. "I told them to come get me if anything changes," she said nodding toward the door. Ronon took over the lead once they exited the building and led her across the yard to a building where they could sit with their backs against and face the doors of the temporary infirmary.
They ate in silence and Ronon felt the awkwardness grow with each passing moment. Jennifer had always been one to visit while she ate and he worried at what the silence indicated. He knew unless he figured this out here… tonight, they'd be back on Atlantis and she'd become scarce again except in the infirmary.
"Doc?" he started.
"Hmm," Jenn responded setting her empty bowl aside.
"Have I done something… or did the other me, um… do something?" he asked trying to hold back the growl when he thought of the other him hurting her in any way.
Jennifer hadn't been ready for such a straight question. No idol chit chat lead up, just hit her with the hard part right away.
"Why?" she said stalling.
"You seem to avoid me, unless it's in the infirmary. Thought I might make you uncomfortable."
She watched him shrug his shoulders, and knew it wasn't a passing observation, but a deep worry. "Ronon, I'm not avoiding you," she tried to reassure him. "Haven't you noticed when you and I are in the same room people watch us, try to listen to us?"
Ronon drew his brows together, thinking back. "Honestly, Doc, the room always grows quieter when I enter, kind of got used to it."
"Well, I'm not used to it. I find it intimidating, so… I guess I just avoid places where people might see us together," she smiled apologetically at him.
Ronon felt as if his heart had gotten heavier in his chest and asked the next question carefully. "You don't want people to think we're… together. You wouldn't want to be with me or have people assume that you are?"
Jennifer noticed that Ronon chose his words carefully and seemed apprehensive about her answer. She turned so her back was no longer against the building but rather so she could face him. "Ronon, in the universe that you were on… did umm, that Jennifer, did she say that you and she were in a relationship?"
Ronon shifted uncomfortably, "Yes."
"How did it make you feel?"
"Confused," he admitted. "What about you?"
Jennifer blushed thinking of finding Ronon in her room fresh from the shower, "It was like you said, confusing."
This was good, Ronon thought. They were talking about it and she was blushing, which he always enjoyed. "How long did it take for you to figure out it wasn't me?"
Jennifer slid a look towards the infirmary, then back. It was probably best to have this conversation with what privacy this planet would give them. She knew that the patients were all doing well. Those with severe injuries were back on Atlantis.
"Too long," Jennifer said with a smile settling her back against the building again. "You had these memories that were so clear to you and we just chalked it up to the torture you'd been through, the poison and drugs that'd been in your body. I figured over time the memories would fade like dreams and you'd remember that you and I weren't in a relationship. You'd remember you didn't feel that way about me."
"Jennifer… I…" Ronon tried to start, but the doc cut him off.
"What about you? How long did it take to figure out you weren't their Ronon?"
Ronon grudgingly let it go for now, "Until Rodney told me I wasn't. They were all so sure my memories would come back. That it was just a matter of time. She had this whole other memory that everyone confirmed… of us living together, caring about each other. She even bore my ring." Ronon looked away remembering how desperately he wanted her to be his, but at the same time the disappointment of not having the memories of how they got to that point.
"Your ring?" Jennifer asked hoping her voice didn't betray her jealousy.
Ronon cleared his throat thinking maybe he should've left that part out. "On a leather strap round her neck, a ring that I carry," he relayed while fingering the particular ring in question attached to one of his dreads. "By giving it, the man is giving possession of himself to the woman, and if she wears it she is declaring his possession of her." He spoke quietly, but he was sure she heard.
Jennifer felt her chest tighten at his words. Being a modern woman the thought of being a possession should offend her, but instead it created such a longing in her. "Their Ronon loved her, it hurt him that we kept telling him his memories were wrong. Kind of glad to know they weren't wrong… that he was able to get back to her. He was willing to start over here… convinced that with time we'd build what he remembered."
"Did he hurt you?" Ronon asked, feeling jealousy sweep through him.
"No, startled me a few times," she laughed, glad to move away from the deeply emotional for now, "but no, Ronon, he never hurt me."
He raised one eyebrow at her in a silent question.
"I walked into my room after work the first day you were released to find you rooting through my closet wearing nothing but a towel. I was speechless and you wanted to know where I'd put your clothes," Jennifer smiled at the memory, lost in it before embarrassment kicked in turning her face red.
There was silence for a few moments, both lost in their own thoughts.
"Did he tell you they kissed during the lock-down?" Ronon finally asked, breaking the silence.
"Yes," Jennifer answered wondering if there was a purpose to this question. "They had a few more minutes in the quarantine than we did."
Jennifer thought about those few minutes. She knew even just one more minute would've changed their outcome, even a few seconds and they would've kissed. How would things have been different?
Ronon sat up straighter, "If there'd been a few more minutes…," the Satedan didn't get any further than that.
"Dr. Keller?" one of Tarah's students called. Jennifer turned toward the building across from them and saw the figure standing by the door waving to her. The doctor looked down at her watch and realized it was time for the next set of rounds.
Jennifer turned to Ronon, "I'll be back in a little bit?" She said it like a question and he understood.
"I'll be right here," he answered before she walked away. He looked up at the stars and thought about the fact that a few more minutes had been stolen from them again.
Jennifer made her way back outside and spotted Ronon immediately across the way, exactly were she'd left him. She'd just finished conducting rounds with her two charges, allowing them to do most of the work while she observed. Once finished she instructed them to get her if anything changed and when they were ready to do the next set of rounds.
The moon had moved across the sky and now there were long shadows cast. Jennifer noted she couldn't make out the expression on Ronon's face from this far away, but his posture gave away some of his anticipation at seeing her return. She slowly made her way back to him.
She wasn't sure where this conversation was taking them, but at least they were getting it out and maybe now that he knew why she avoided the mess hall and why people were taking notice of them it'd take away some of the awkwardness. She settled back beside him with her back to the wall.
Ronon sat himself up straighter and tried to gage her thoughts from the look upon her face. The shadows seemed to hide any hint he could've found. They'd been talking so freely before the interruption and now he felt the awkwardness return.
"Ronon?" Jennifer inquired, her voice giving away her sadness. "Why is this so hard? So awkward?"
"I'm not sure, but it does keep returning to that," Ronon agreed. He realized he was getting tired of it reverting back to this uncomfortable place. So often it was just after he felt they'd cleared the issue.
Ronon looked over at Jennifer and even in the shadows across her face he could see the sadness in her eyes. Ronon leaned forward and without realizing his intent lowered his lips to hers. He held them there as he felt her stop breathing. He slowly began to move his lips across hers; encouraged that she hadn't pulled away. After a moment he felt her lips begin to move under his and the zing that snapped through his body yanked him back.
He stared down at her, his breathing erratic, searching her face… for questions or answers, he wasn't sure.
"Ronon?" she whispered, not sure what else to say, she remained frozen to her spot, not wanting to put any more distance between them. Her chest constricted as she watched him swallow and then lick his lips before answering.
"I know," he hoarsely replied. He didn't know the question, but his hammering heart seemed to recognize that she was the answer. He slowly lowered his head back down, his eyes never leaving hers, assuring himself they both were feeling and wanting the same thing.
Jennifer leaned into Ronon, feeling he was taking too long to get to her. Her lips met his as she grabbed a hold of his shirt for balance. She didn't really need the balance the next moment when he reached for her, sliding one arm firmly around her waist and his other hand along the side of her neck.
It was a moment that each had longed for but until that moment hadn't had the courage to act on. Jennifer wondered how long it would've taken them to get there if their doubles from an alternate universe hadn't messed with their minds for three days.
When they pulled away Jennifer couldn't suppress her joy and laughed lightly.
Ronon pulled further back without releasing her, wanting to see her face, but loathe to give up the closeness. He grinned at her obvious happiness, but quirked an eyebrow questioningly.
"Just happy," she told him with a grin that dimpled her face.
"Am I the better kisser," he challenged.
Jennifer was close enough she could see the mischief in his eyes. "Sheppard told you about that, huh?" she asked cheekily. "Guess you'll have to kiss me again so I can check."
She heard him growl fiercely as he pulled her in tight, but as his lips claimed hers she felt his smile. She no longer cared if any heads turned or prying eyes and ears strained when they were in the same room.
Jennifer stood at the railing looking out across the water. The day was ending and the sun setting, she could just see the outline of one of the moons in the sky. The sky was too bright for the moon to glow, but Jenn knew within a couple hours both the moons would glow brightly out and slightly to the left.
She was meeting Ronon here after her shift and his last sparring lesson for the day. It'd become a habit to meet out here often to enjoy a late meal when they were running late. Sometimes they'd meet out here just to watch the sky turn black and listen to each other breathe, content with just being together in the same place for a moment.
She had worried for a few days after their kisses on Tarah that she and Ronon had just been caught in the moment, that it was just a dream. Jenn had always known she was interested in the quite, fierce Satedan, but had doubted his interest in her. After the mix- up of the Ronon's she'd feared this start of a relationship was just a reaction to his experience in the Alternate reality. But those worries had quickly fled as they spent time sharing with each other and growing closer.
They'd spent many hours on that balcony sharing joy over victories in the field and defeats against the Wraith, and comforted each other through the pain of set backs or loss of expedition members. It'd become their spot to be together and leave the City behind. Living a dorm like existence wasn't conducive to privacy, but with their spot and someone like Ronon by her side, most people didn't possess the courage to interrupt or infringe on their time.
Jennifer was so lost in her thoughts and memories she didn't hear the balcony door slide open.
Ronon strolled through the mess hall catching sight of Jennifer out on the balcony. He'd taken a few extra moments to shower and change after sparring before coming to meet her, knowing the infirmary made her perpetually late anyway. A smile spread across his face as he neared the door, watching her take in the scenery, her hair fluttering in the slight breeze. She was still able to make his chest feel as if it were tumbling with merely the thought of her.
The door to the balcony slid open, but Jennifer didn't turn or notice. He move stealthy behind her and slid his hands over her eyes. She'd done this to him on occasion and he was glad he always sensed her presence because if not he surely would've hurt her in his surprise.
He felt her jolt of surprise. It was quickly followed by the feel of her cheek bones rising in what he knew was a smile.
"What's got you in such a playful mood?" she asked with a laugh that warmed his heart and broadened his smile.
"Just happy," he responded. He suddenly remembered the alternate universe's Jennifer telling him her Ronon had a playful side. Ronon hadn't seen that coming then, couldn't picture himself playful, but now he knew how he'd gotten there.
"And why would you be happy?" she teased slowly turning in his arms as he lowered his hands from her eyes.
He slid his arms around her waist and held her as he looked down at her. "Atlantis, my team, you… you make me happy."
She smiled back at him ready to ask him about his day when a serious look crossed his face. Jennifer watched him take a half step back and remove his right hand from her waist. Without any words he reached into his pants pocket pulling out a clenched fist.
He slowly turned his hand over and opened it, his palm flat. There, lying in his hand, was a leather strap and one of the rings from his hair, the one she'd seen him twisting absently from time to time lately.
Ronon heard her quick intake of breath followed by her head whipping up so her eyes met his. He knew Jenn realized the significance of what he was offering her in his extended hand. Her face was unreadable for a moment and it felt like his heart stopped. The silence was just as quickly pierced by her whoop of joy as she flung herself into his arms and he scrambled to catch her without losing the ring and leather strap in his hand.
She hugged him tight wrapping both her arms and legs around him. She leaned back after a moment, giggling and peppering his face with kisses. He felt the somersaults in his chest again as he pulled her in tight hugging her to him. He didn't know how a person could contain the kind of happiness he was feeling... he loved this woman and she loved him back.
AN2: Thank you to Renisanz and ShaViva for all of your help and input. Thinking about it makes me smile!