Hallucinations and Head Wounds by AndromedaMarine

Author's Note: AU of "Grace Under Pressure." Instead of hallucinating Sam, Rodney hallucinates Jennifer.

Rodney gave an involuntary shiver. "I should be on the surface saving the poor bastard in the sinking Jumper," he yelled at the sinking Jumper, "not be the poor bastard someone else has to save!" He continued rambling to himself until his eyes glazed over while looking at the data pad. He groaned. "I need a new set of eyes," he muttered to the cold, sinking Jumper.

"Let me help," a very familiar voice said behind him. "Rodney, I'm going to get you out of here."

Rodney froze momentarily (it had nothing to do with the frigid water surrounding him) and turned around. "Jen…Jennifer? What the hell are you doing here? You're – wait, you – you can't be real! No, you're not real. Not real, not real, not real."

Jennifer crossed her arms. "Of course I'm not real. I'm back on Atlantis, Rodney."

He looked up from her. "Then why… Oh, god."

"You're hallucinating. Real me is waiting along with everyone else for your rescue."

Rodney glowered. "What rescue? Knowing Sheppard he's probably jumping for joy while simultaneously planning my memorial. Oh, I hope they don't serve lemon chicken.... That would just be cruel!"

Hallucination-Jennifer stepped forward and gripped Rodney's upper arms. "Rodney! Get a grip! They're going to rescue you, and in the meantime I will try to help you stay alive. In whatever way possible."

"But I need to try to activate the radio, Keller, I need to – "

He was cut off when Jennifer gave a loud, angry scoff. "So you're calling me 'Keller' now, McKay?"

"I – I just, you know, you're part of my subconscious and it would just be…well, wrong to get all personal." He paused. "Right?"

She crossed her arms again. "No, not right, Rodney." She was about to speak again when the Jumper crashed on the ocean floor and sent Rodney tumbling to the floor. "Rodney, you okay?" She went to his side and helped haul him onto the bench.

"No, I'm not okay! I'm in the back of a sinking Jumper, crashed on the ocean floor, with not enough power, hallucinating! Would you be bloody okay?" He looked up at her calm face and realized he'd been screaming at her. "I'm – I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled."

Jennifer sat down next to him. "No, you shouldn't have. But it's understandable. Listen to me, Rodney. You need to stay warm. You need to stay conscious. And judging by that horrid-looking gash on your forehead, it's going to be a bit difficult. That's what I'm here for."

Rodney looked at her, confused. "What do you mean? No, wait, I don't want to know – it's probably something I don't want to hear."

Jennifer chuckled. "I'm here to take care of you." She rested a hand on his shoulder.

The scientist froze again even though he couldn't really feel her hand. "Jennifer…believe me, it would be so fantastic if this really did happen, but the fact is that it's not, real, that is, and I know you'd never, ever actually want to do that with me."

"How do you know? Have you ever asked?"

"I happen to have – what?" He blinked a few times at his hallucination.

Jennifer repeated herself. "Have you ever asked me?"

His head drooped. "No."

"Then I suggest, once John rescues us, you ask the real me out on a date."

Rodney shook his head violently. "If you – she – says no then it would be the worst embarrassment of my life, Jen. That's worse than screwing up with the city, because if I screw up some system on Atlantis at least I have a chance of fixing it. It's not the same with someone I love."

"Bullshit."

"Excuse me?"

"I said, bull – "

"Shit, yeah I heard you the first time." Rodney shivered again and Jennifer scooted closer. "But how the hell do you know?"

"Because I'm actually you and you subconsciously know that Jennifer Keller might actually give you a chance." She moved her hand from his shoulder to his thigh.

For a moment Rodney imagined that Jennifer Keller actually did have her hand on his thigh and that he wasn't really in the back of a Jumper on the bottom of the ocean slowly freezing to death with a nasty head wound and a concussion which was making him hallucinate that the woman of his dreams was trying to seduce him. The exhaustive thought nearly made his control fade. But only for a moment. "You have no idea how much I would love…"

He trailed off as hallucination-Jennifer dragged her hand farther up his thigh towards his hips. "I think I do know, Rodney, since technically I'm you, but let's not get distracted."

The word rang in Rodney's brain as his hallucination leaned forward to kiss him. Just before her lips touched his he pulled back and put a hand between them. "I don't want our first kiss to happen in one of my fantasies," he said quietly, tapping his feet against the floor of the Jumper. A light splashing made him look down. His jaw dropped. "Oh, shit! Hitting the bottom must have created a micro fissure in the hull. We're taking on water. You – you're distracting me! Get away from me, Doctor Siren, and let me figure out how to save myself."

Jennifer seized his arm. "John is coming for you; you have to trust me on this."

"Oh, yeah?"

The hallucination placed her imaginary hands on her imaginary hips. "Yeah. I'm the one person who you should be trusting right about now."

Rodney pushed past her to plug his data pad into the pathways. "How do you figure?" he asked, saying it so it sounded like a statement.

She maneuvered so she was in between him and the data pad. "I'm you. And because your subconscious has manifested in the form of Jennifer Keller, there's a higher chance you'll actually listen to me and not kill yourself by implementing a drastically dangerous plan."

Rodney's shoulders slumped slightly. "You're right. I mean, I'm right. Oh, god. I'm confused about who's right – me, or me." He looked sheepishly up into hallucination-Jennifer's eyes. "Okay." He dropped the data pad and sat on the bench behind him. "We wait."

"You wait."

"Whatever."

Jennifer sat with him. "You're going to ask real me out after John rescues you, right?"

He nodded.

"Okay, but wait until after the initial infirmary visit. You don't want her thinking it's some sort of illness-induced idiocy or a result of your lack of filters."

He nodded again. "Right."

----

Half an hour later a shivering Rodney with halluci-Jennifer's arm around his waist heard the crackle of the earwig and the disembodied voice of John Sheppard rolled into his ear.

"Rodney? Griffiths? Answer me!"

"Sheppard?"

"Rodney! It's good to hear your voice. Is Griffiths there?"

The scientist exchanged a glance with his hallucination. "He was in the front section when it flooded. I'm sorry, John. He's dead."

"Open the back hatch, then, McKay."

Rodney's expression turned to confusion. "Huh?"

"Radek changed the cloak into a shield and it's extended over Jumper Six. I'm standing outside right now. You'd better open the hatch sooner rather than later because the shield isn't going to last for as long as we've been looking for you."

"He said that pretty fast," Jennifer commented while nudging Rodney into a standing position so he could release the hatch. "Now don't forget to keep a lid on it until after you've gotten your meds."

"I finally have the perfect hallucination, and I've been an ass," he muttered.

John heard him. "Perfect what, McKay? You almost to the hatch? C'mon, Rodney, we don't have much power left."

A moment later the hiss of the hatch opening filled the cabin and John rushed in to support an almost-collapsed Rodney.

"All right, Rodney, let's get you back to Atlantis."

----

Rodney sat in the back of Jumper One with a blanket wrapped around his shivering shoulders. "H-h-how l-long until w-we g-g-g-get b-b-back?" he asked through chattering teeth. Radek came back and draped another blanket over the scientist.

"Not very long. Colonel Sheppard has radioed ahead and Carson is waiting to get you into the infirmary." Radek sat lightly next to his friend. "Rodney, you will be okay."

Rodney breathed a sigh of relief when the Jumper broke through the surface and into the sunlight. "Wide, open sky," he whispered to himself. And then, under his breath so Radek couldn't hear, "Lack of filters. Hmph."

John swiveled around to glance at his shivering friend. "City's in sight, Rodney. Beckett and Keller are already in the Jumper Bay waiting for us to land." He turned his attention back to the Ancient controls and flew the Jumper smoothly to the top of the control tower and eased her down into the Jumper Bay. John hit the control button for the back hatch and quickly joined Radek in supporting Rodney.

They walked him out to where Carson and Jennifer stood next to a gurney, but Rodney firmly shook his head. John knew exactly what he meant. After seeing the disapproving look on Carson's face, John shot him the same look back. "Spare him his dignity, doc. He can walk just fine. Besides, it'll help get his blood flowing to where it should be."

Jennifer noticed that Rodney wouldn't meet her gaze. She immediately saw the nasty gash on his forehead and before Carson could, she rushed forward and started fussing. "Okay, we forego the gurney but hold this against your temple – " she handed Rodney a pad of gauze " – and come with me."

The colonel and the CMO exchanged a surprised glance as Jennifer put her arm protectively around Rodney's waist and lead him through the doors to the transporter.

Elizabeth appeared next to John. "Did I miss something?"

Carson, in his deep Scottish brogue, answered for John. "I think we all did."

----

Jennifer had felt her heart drop when she saw Radek and John help Rodney out of Jumper One. Ignoring the curious looks and odd glances she received while leading Rodney to the transporters, she tightened her arm around him and tapped the screen closest to the infirmary.

They stepped out and Rodney stumbled, causing Jennifer to lean into him and catch his weight. "Rodney, look at me, will you?" She touched her fingers to his chin and lifted his head so she could see into his blue eyes. "I'm gonna take care of you."

Rodney gave her a faint smile. "Somehow, I knew you'd say that."

She walked him into the infirmary and helped get him onto one of the beds; inserted an IV and attached a heart monitor before piling the blankets on him. Jennifer gave his exposed hand a squeeze just before Carson walked in, closely trailed by Elizabeth, John, and Radek. "You'll be just fine."

"So, Rodney, John tells me you've been hallucinating," Carson said.

With half the morphine already in his system, the physicist lazily blinked and went, "Halluci-what?"

John lightly patted Rodney's shoulder. "We'll learn more about that later, eh?"

And on that note, Rodney fell asleep.

----

Rodney McKay woke up in the dark six hours later. He coughed, and when he lifted his hand to rub his eyes the IV gave a dull tug. After having been a patient in Carson's infirmary several times before, his other hand quickly found the nurse call button. He pushed it, hard.

A moment later the light in Carson's office came on and the scientist saw Jennifer Keller sweeping towards him. "What do you need, Rodney?" she asked softly, switching on a lamp beside his bed to see him more clearly. "Does your head hurt?"

He coughed again. "The drugs are keeping my head pain within tolerable limits," he said slowly, trying to retain some sense of professionalism, "But I did want to say that after I'm released I'd like to have breakfast with you."

Jennifer just stared at him.

Sensing that she didn't believe him, he reached for her hand. "After the drugs wear off, ask me if I meant it. I promise I'm serious."

Jennifer smiled at him, leaned down, and kissed his cheek. "I've been waiting a long while for you to ask me that. A very long while." She squeezed his hand and put the other on his cheek. "Sleep, Rodney. I'll be here in the morning. Sleep."

Rodney drifted off with the weight of Jennifer's hand on his arm, and instead of dreaming of being claustrophobic while in the back of a sinking Jumper, freezing to death, he dreamed of Jennifer and the halo surrounding her golden hair.

----

The white noise of a mildly busy infirmary woke Rodney in the morning. Carson was supposed to be on duty, but Jennifer had managed to convince him to let her stay on until Rodney came again to the realm of the conscious. He coughed again, wondering why something was pounding against the inside of his brain. Then he remembered the morphine only lasted about nine hours. "Ow," he muttered to himself.

Jennifer left a nearby patient to check on Rodney. After making sure nobody could hear her, she asked, "Did you mean it?"

Rodney looked directly into her eyes. "Yes."

She smiled and squeezed his hand. "Okay, then, let me check you out and see if I can clear you for duty."

Check me out? Rodney asked himself. He found he couldn't help himself from watching Jennifer work around him. He winced when she touched the bandage on his temple.

"Did I hurt you?" she asked, concerned.

Rodney shook his head. "You could never hurt me."

From the door, John grinned and crossed his arms. "You know, that would be such a cheesy line if I said it, but with you it almost sounds like a normal human."

Rodney glowered.

"Don't go all sourpuss, McKay, I'm happy that someone's finally taken a shining to you."

Jennifer stepped forward. "Thank you, Colonel, but I believe right now this is my infirmary, and you're not helping anything."

"No," John agreed, the grin still plastered across his face, "I suppose I'm not." He chuckled and turned around, calling out as he left, "Don't forget to tell me when the wedding is!"

The blood rose to Jennifer's cheeks, and she brushed a strand of stray hair from her face as she swiveled to see Rodney blushing just as badly. His jaw was set firmly in the "I'm pissed off at you" position. His eyes looked past Jennifer to John's retreating back. "You know, one day he's going to wake up and realize that all these years he's been a complete bastard, and no amount of Ancient technology or super-genes is going to let him go back in time to undo it all. That or he'll be taking cold showers and drinking lukewarm coffee the rest of his life."

Jennifer smiled. "You know, you're funny when you're mad. Just don't ever be mad at me. I've got the needles."

"I promise I won't ever be mad at you." Rodney's stomach grumbled. "But right now I'm really hungry, and I'm counting on that breakfast being with you."

The doctor laughed. "Well, that head wound still looks nasty, but you're free to walk around and return to your quarters. This time you don't need an extended stay in the infirmary." She reached for the curtain. "Why don't you get dressed, and then you can walk me to the commissary. Sound good?"

With a grin on his face, he said, "Does it ever."

----

Jennifer looped her arm through Rodney's as they walked slowly from the infirmary and towards the transporter. When they stepped inside, she locked the door and pulled Rodney's hand away from the screen. "Before we eat I want to get a few things straight."

Rodney gulped.

She smiled so he wouldn't begin to hyperventilate, threaded her fingers through his, and looked him straight in the eye. "John says you hallucinated. Is he right?"

The scientist nodded but didn't drop his gaze.

"Okay. What did you hallucinate?"

Uh oh. Not good. What do I do? Tell her the truth? Yeah, the truth is usually a safe bet. Usually. He cleared his throat. "Um... You."

This seemed to catch her by surprise. "Me?"

Rodney nodded again and let his view slip to the wall over her shoulder. "Yeah."

"Oh."

Somehow he'd expected her to say more than 'oh.' He looked at her again noticing that for some reason her eyes sparkled with fresh tears. "Did I say something wrong?" he asked quickly, cupping her cheek. His hand on her skin seemed to make the problem worse: she squeezed her eyes shut and leaned into his palm, gripping his other hand fiercely. "What did I say?"

Jennifer hiccupped, and gave him a watery smile. "Nothing, Rodney. Nothing at all. I'm just surprised you didn't hallucinate someone you've known longer than me, like Colonel Carter, or John. Maybe even Teyla." Her voice dropped and she whispered, "But not...not me."

Quickly Rodney pulled her against his body and into his warm, comforting embrace, pressing his nose against the hollow of her neck. "I think I love you, Doctor Keller," he whispered without thinking.

Suddenly very happy, Jennifer wrapped her arms around his neck and held him as tightly as she could. "I think I love you too."

They separated only slightly so they could see each other, Rodney grinning as she did. Now not worried about being in one of his fantasies, Rodney tugged her close and put one hand at the back of her neck, then closed the distance and slowly kissed her. After a few long moments he pulled away, saying, "I have an idea."

Jennifer laughed. "When do you not?"

"Well, I was thinking instead of having breakfast in the commissary, we could grab some trays and eat on one of the piers. I know it's short notice and all but I think – " He stopped when Jennifer pressed herself against him and captured his lips.

"I could kiss you all day," she said softly, reluctantly pulling away, "but I'm hungry and we're hogging the transporter." With one swift move she tapped the dot closest to the commissary and they disappeared in a flash of white light.

----

An hour later they sat alone on the West Pier, the remains of breakfast littered on the trays beside them. They sat on the edge of the pier, Jennifer's body pressed right up against Rodney's. For a singular moment Rodney closed his eyes, trying to believe his incredible luck. Jennifer's head rested against his shoulder, his arm around her slender waist.

Slowly she crossed one leg over the other and leaned more of her weight against the man she loved. Jennifer rested one hand on the middle of Rodney's thigh, smiling when she felt him tense and take a deep breath. "You'll get used to it," she said with a hint of amusement in her voice.

"You will always have this effect on me," he responded, and kissed her forehead. "I was just thinking of how much happier I'll be now that we're together."

Jennifer smiled. "No more late nights in that lab of yours – unless, of course, the city needs you or Elizabeth makes it an order." She sighed and practically melted into him. "Instead you'll spend late nights with me."

"I like the sound of that, Doctor Keller."

"I'm sure you do, Doctor McKay."

Jennifer gently squeezed his thigh. "I'm off duty until tomorrow morning. What are you going to do with me?"

Something that felt like hot water flooded Rodney's insides. He let out a careful breath. "Whatever you'll let me."