Spoilers: The Lost Tribe, The Prodigal
Time Line: About a week after the Prodigal
A/N: Thank you to DaniWilder for publishing permission and for Beta reading. This particular piece is entitled The Battles of Love. Hope you all enjoy my first piece and please review, and tags are welcome.
Sheppard, Teyla and Ronon were all enjoying dinner in the cafeteria and failing not to notice the absence of their team member. McKay had been particularly reluctant to join them for meals lately or for that matter go to meals at all, something rather unusual for the hypoglycaemic doctor. And yet his lack of presence was becoming far too noticeable for them to take much longer.
"Okay, do either of you know what is wrong with Rodney," asked Sheppard.
"What makes you think something might be wrong with him," enquired Teyla, knowing exactly what he meant.
"Well let's see, he manages to go from cheerful to irritable faster than should be possible even for him, he is reluctant to have meals with us or even go to them despite the fact that he is, as we are constantly reminded, hypoglycaemic," stated Sheppard. "And least we forget he has hardly spoken to anyone unless an emergency demands it."
"That is not true John. He has been seen many times talking, quite happily, to Doctor Keller. He always has breakfast with her."
"Really, are you sure?"
"Oh yes, she always go off to join Rodney for breakfast after our sparring practise in the morning."
"You and her spar in the morning, I would have thought she would want to get some rest considering she has been pulling such long hours lately."
"Apparently she says she needs to get rid of some energy."
Sheppard had never mentioned to his team what had been told to him by Rodney's future self after that accident and he had never thought to consider the idea that events could repeat themselves. But who knows maybe Rodney and Keller could fall in love without the end of the Pegasus galaxy.
"You guys don't think Keller and Rodney could be falling for each other do you?" John asked his teammates. Or at least asked Teyla, Ronon had managed to keep quiet for the entire exchange.
"I have noticed that Doctor Keller is rather cheerful when she says she is heading off to breakfast," replied the smiling Athosian.
"McKay likes her, and she's interested in someone, probably him."
This outburst from Ronon resulted in both Teyla and John mirroring stunned looks at him as he continued to devour his meal.
"Wait a second here Chewie, you are telling us you knew and have kept quiet this entire time?" asked a shocked John.
"Ronon, why have you not told us?" Teyla had finally found her voice.
"Hang on I have a better question," interrupted John, who thought he already knew the answer to that one, before his time travel adventure his money had been on Ronon and Keller. "How do you know this?"
Ronon hesitated before saying, "McKay told me he had feelings for her, and she told me she was interested in someone when I asked her to dinner."
"Are you sure that she has feelings for Rodney though?" enquired Teyla.
"I think it's as safe a bet as any given everything we know, it would certainly explain why he is only cheerful at meals with her," John cut in, "And it would explain a few things, like why Rodney has been spending time in the gym late at night when he would normally be found working in the lab."
"Rodney has been in the gym at nights, why?" asked Teyla.
She knew Rodney did spend time in the gym now and again, despite what people thought. The frequency that their team got in trouble demanded each member be at a certain level of fitness. But still it was unusual for Rodney to be in the gym late at night when he would usually be in Janus's lab.
"Well I can't be sure but I think that with everything that's happened lately he is worried about his own abilities," stated John. He was hated to admit it but the pieces were coming together and the end picture was far from pleasant.
"But why would he, he knows that he can count on us and have never asked him to push himself anymore than he always does?" asked Teyla "He has never once let us down."
John sighed, "That's just it Teyla I don't think he's worried about letting us down. I think he is worried about not being able to protect Keller."
When Teyla did not respond he continued.
"She hasn't had the best of luck lately, and if you recall it was the whole Janus thing that got her in trouble on the Daedalus. He probably doesn't want the reminder by working in that lab and the whole Michael thing kind of made him feel a bit downhearted considering he was running catch up most of the time. I hate to say it but I don't think he thinks he can protect her he doubts his own strength. And I think he doubts that Keller will ever be interested in him in his current state, it certainly explains how he can become so gloomy after having breakfast with the woman he is in love with. Put all that together and it's enough to bring anyone down."
"So what are we gonna do?" asked Ronon.
"Well I think we need to get the two of them to admit that they love each other, that way we can get McKay out of this downward spiral and it means our highly loved CMO will stop this nonstop work frenzy she is on. If my bets any good she is probably too frustrated that McKay hasn't made a move yet to realise that at the rate she's going she is gonna end up crashing along side McKay. And that is not good for everyone."
"So for the sake of our friends and the sake of everyone on this base we must get them together," suggested Teyla, attempting to keep up with John's train of thought"
"You got it Teyla, and considering the importance of this operation we are gonna need to use all our resources, so here's what I have planned," John told his fellow co-conspirators.
Rodney was just walking along the corridor away from the gym when a deep voice behind him stopped him in his tracks.
Rodney spun around, his eyes filled with surprise as he saw the tall Satedan behind him. Ronon fell into step beside McKay as they headed toward his quarters.
"Heh Ronon, fancy seeing you here" said Rodney.
"Bound to happen eventually, you have been coming here every night for hours on end," replied Ronon keeping his voice level.
"It…it…not every night surely," the physicist stammered.
"Yep every night, it's beginning to show, you're exhausted."
He was right, Rodney was dripping with sweat and his eyes were beginning to make him look like something out of a horror movie. He already felt exhausted and was too tired to argue.
"People are noticing McKay, you're pushing yourself way beyond your limits and you need to stop. I know why you're doing it. You remember that talk we had a while back don't you?"
Rodney just nodded he did not even need to ask what he was referring to. It was the conversation when he had found out he had a rival for Jennifer's affections.
"You may not want to fight me but I know you will fight to protect her, that's why you're going through all this cause you think you're weak."
Rodney just nodded again, his tiredness and Ronon's words having finally worn him down completely.
"Well I think you need a test. The man who is going to protect Jennifer needs to be able to without destroying himself like you are. You are gonna stop all this training now before you kill yourself."
They had now reached Rodney's quarters and as the tired physicist prepared to enter them Ronon spoke one final time, his voice quiet and his command unbreakable.
"In two days you will spar against Sheppard and until then you are to rest and you will not leave your quarters until I come to get you."
"I will do it, for Jennifer" whispered Rodney as he entered his quarters and as the doors closed he collapsed fully clothed onto his bed, exhaustion finally overcoming him.
Jennifer had been working nonstop for the past twelve hours, and yet despite this she did not seem to feel the least bit tired, ever since she had come to acknowledge the feelings she had for Rodney during his Second Childhood illness she had been so restless.
Rodney had not made a single move and she was beginning to doubt if Rodney admitting he had feelings for her had not been a part of gradual mental decline. She hoped she was wrong but the current evidence was against it.
She was interrupted from her internal battle by her earwig going off.
"Hi Teyla, is something wrong?"
"No Doctor Keller everything is fine, I just wanted to say I will have to cancel our morning sparring sessions, however I should be able to reschedule."
"Its fine Teyla, let me know when you're available again."
"Don't worry, I will."
If Rodney had not been so exhausted that night then he might have noticed how odd it was for the Satedan to have talked so much and with such purpose. But Rodney was too worried by his own self doubts and too tired to notice this. His exhaustion had even caused him to sleep for the next day and a half. When he finally awoke, feeling more energised than he had all week, he found that someone had placed a large nourishing meal on his table completely with cutlery and no mention of citrus.
He decided to have a shower first and then sat down to eat. It was not until he had had one mouthful and then proceeded to shovel down the food that he realised just how hungry that he had been.
He tried not to think about the fact that he would soon have to spar against John because he knew that it would only depress him more, he just hoped that he had become strong enough to win. He had been training non-stop for the past week, ever since Michael had nearly destroyed the entire city and everyone on it. Maybe, just maybe he could win.
When Ronon turned up at McKay's quarters he and McKay did not say a word to each other, both knew why he was here and both knew where they were going. They both proceeded to walk to the gym in silence and when they arrived they found no one there, except for John.
In silence John and Rodney looked each other in the eye and nodded calmly, neither man showing emotion. After picking up their individual Banto sticks they headed to the centre of the mats laid out on the floor.
They stood there, both men waiting for the other to make the first move. Then as one they both struck at the other, and the test of strength began.
Teyla walked into the gym and surveyed her surroundings. John and Rodney were in the centre of the mats locked in combat, both men giving it their all. John was winning with Rodney on the defensive as he was forced to parry blow after blow and John swung at him unrelentingly, not getting the chance to attack back.
Around the room stood Atlantis personnel all of them watching the fight none of them making a sound. By the entrance stood Major Lorne, who nodded to Teyla as she entered the room, and off to one side leaning against the wall looking impassive stood Ronon.
Ronon turned towards her as she approached him, but his eyes never left the two fighters, "Heh Teyla".
"Hello Ronon, how is it going?"
"Sheppard's already knocked him down a few times, but I'm not worried."
It was true the Satedan seemed completely unfazed as he said the words.
"You are not?"
"Nope, see for yourself."
Teyla turned towards the fight, John was still on the offensive raining down blow after blow as Rodney struggled to parry each one. Then John struck low, crouching down and sweeping the legs out from underneath the physicist while a Banto rod struck him across the chest driving him to the mat. Rodney landed hard on his back, with the wind knocked out of him. But he showed no signs of pain as he got back up again and began his own assault on John.
Teyla stared at the combatants, "He just keeps on going despite the fact that he is being repeatedly knocked down?"
"Yep, gotta admit the guy sure is determined, he just will not give up," replied Ronon, with a hint of admiration in his voice.
Having been distracted by the fight Teyla finally took note of her surroundings.
"Ronon why are all these people here?", as even now people were silently entering the room and forming a circle around the fighters after briefly talking to Major Lorne.
"Sheppard had Lorne keep an eye out for anyone trying to come and use the gym, he's had Lorne talk to them first, so long as they agree to just watch and stay silent during the fight they can stick around."
"Couldn't it be a bad thing for Rodney's sake if he is seen beaten by all these people?"
"Apparently not, since they started going at it he hasn't even glanced at anyone else, he just keeps his eyes on Sheppard."
"Not letting anything distract him and focusing on his opponent and his goal", the Athosian said in realization.
Rodney and John were still locked in combat close together, neither man showing signs of yielding or tiring, both determined to win. Blows were swung and parried, kicks and jabs from elbows avoided, both men were doing whatever it took to win. But there would be only one winner and at this point it looked like the match was going only one way, and that way was John Sheppard's. This was apparent as Rodney once again hit the mat.
Jennifer walked along the corridor feeling slightly depressed. She had not seen Rodney for the past two days and was starting to wonder if he was avoiding her. He had not been in his lab when she had gone to look for him after he had not turned up for breakfast on the second day and she did not see him anywhere else. She knew there wasn't anything medically wrong with him or she would have heard about it so the only conclusion she could come to was that he was avoiding her. She sighed, thinking that she at least had her sparring session with Teyla to look forward to now that she had rearranged a time.
Rodney could not understand what had happened, one moment he had been parrying blows with Sheppard then he had sensed something. The end result being he had let his guard down and he had ended up back on the mat again. He was not even sure what he had sensed, it was weird, almost as if… Realization dawned and he jumped up and turned to look to the entrance of the gym, and standing there, with a shocked expression and hair billowing behind her, like an angel who had found herself suddenly lost, stood Jennifer. But before he could even say a word to her he found himself fending off even more of Sheppard's attacks.
Jennifer could not believe what she seeing. John and Rodney were facing off against each other, both men showing the other absolutely no mercy, while around stood calm faced members of the expedition personnel. She was about to ask what the hell was going on when a voice beside her called to her.
"Hello Doctor Keller."
Jennifer turned to see Ronon and Teyla leaning against the wall by the door, Ronon had his eyes locked on the fight while Teyla had turned to face her.
"What is going on?" she asked, struggling to keep her voice calm.
"It's a test," Ronon offered by way of an explanation.
"What kind of a test?" her voice laced with anger.
"Doctor Keller let me explain" started Teyla.
"Please do," interjected Jennifer, her anger at seeing the two men who she had always thought were good friends going at each other with no mercy was beginning to get a little out of control.
"You see Rodney is trying to beat John so that he can prove himself."
"And why does he need to prove himself!" Jennifer's patience for such vague explanations was wearing thin.
"He does not think himself capable of being able to protect you, and that is something that he hates himself for," said Teyla.
"What…why…I don't understand" she began.
"Yes Jennifer you do, he loves you and wants to be able to protect you, and you know that you love him, don't you?" said Teyla calmly.
"He…he…he," she turned back towards the fight disbelievingly where John was once again driving Rodney back under the weight of the blows. "Rodney why do you need to protect me, Rodney please tell me," her had softened and lowered now, her anger gone.
"Jennifer…I" the blows seemed to begin to relent as he began to stammer out his words "I…because…"
"Rodney please tell me," her voice was now no more than whisper.
"Because I love you Jennifer," Rodney cried out as he knocked John back.
Jennifer could not help but smile as she heard the words that had haunted her dreams from the man she loved, "Rodney I love you too."
"You…you…you love me," Rodney's face was a picture of shock and surprise.
"She loves me," he said almost to himself and then cried out. "She loves me!"
They stood there for a minute staring into each others eyes, before Rodney locked his gaze with Johns and said softly, "Jennifer I love you and that's why I can't lose."
With that Rodney struck, bringing the sticks down with as much force as he could bring. For what seemed like forever this spark had been missing from inside him and with just three words Jennifer had given it back to him and now it was driving him to victory. He put all the years of combat experience he gained from Ronon and Teyla into each move and fought with everything he had. Sheppard was being driven back completely unable to retaliate only block the monstrous blows coming his way. Rodney was a man in love and would not be stopped. John tried to block everything coming at him, he had never seen Rodney so aggressive or so determined, it was all he could do to block the blows coming at him. One blow could not be fully stopped though and it drove John's defensive block back until Rodney's stick connected with John's temple, clipping his head. It was not enough to draw blood but it certainly knocked him off balance and left him unable to block Rodney's next blow, which knocked him off his feet and onto the mat.
John looked up at his team mate as he got back onto his feet. Then as he stood in front of him his emotionless face broke into a grin, "Way to go buddy, you did it. I surrender"
The room was silent as Rodney looked Sheppard in the eye smiled slightly, nodded and then moved towards Jennifer. Jennifer's face was filled with warmth as he came up to her and kissed her. The room finally exploded with cheers and applause as the couple embraced. John moved to stand next to Teyla and Ronon, along with Lorne who had come in after Jennifer.
Sheppard turned to his SIC, "Thanks for your help Major"
"If it makes Jennifer happy then how could I say no, sir?" replied Lorne, Jennifer was like a sister to him, "But don't you think we should do something about those two?"
"Don't worry Major its all in hand."
He moved over to the couple, "Heh McKay!"
McKay finally pulled away slightly when John put his hand on his shoulder, "Yes."
"I think you two could use some privacy so allow me to oblige," he tapped his earwig "Daedalus this is Sheppard, lock on to McKay and execute."
In a flash of white light the still embraced couple vanished in a flash of light.
When the light vanished the couple looked around, they saw they were in Rodney's quarters, smiled and brought their lips together once again.
John turned back to others, "As I said before I am using all our resources on this one."
"Well done sir, I think this operation was definitely a success," said a smiling Lorne.
The others all smiled at this.
"I think perhaps John you should go to infirmary to have that looked at?" said Teyla, pointing to the nasty mark forming on John's head where Rodney's blow had connected.
"I think your right, he certainly didn't pull any punches there, and at least I was careful not to seriously injure him. Who knows maybe that training paid off."
"It wasn't the training, all that did was wear him down. It would have killed him before long. His spirit, his love for her, that's what allowed him to win," said Ronon
They all turned to leave, pleased that they had been successful in their task.
"It is true, he always possessed that strength but he robbed himself of it with his self doubt," said Teyla, "And about your injury John, consider it a war wound from the battles of love."