Am I dead?

The thought wavered on the edge of Jennifer's consciousness while she halfheartedly tried to decipher the muffled conversations above her. Male or female, she couldn't tell. The spoken words were distorted as though coming from a great distance. But they were definitely angry. Shouting if she had to guess. Arguing about something.

Jen was neither cold nor warm, which should have worried her considering the fact that she'd likely frozen to death on the floor of the ancient lab. So technically she should be feeling really, really cold. Odd that she wasn't.

She couldn't feel her limbs. Or the rest of her body, really. Couldn't even tell if she was breathing. Was she conscious?

Somehow she'd always thought there would be more to the afterlife than… well… nothing but people yelling in the distance.

A metallic click echoed, coming from all directions, yet no real direction. She briefly tried to place the sound, but soon gave up and drifted lazily in the nothingness.

Was this really all there was?

Then came the light. It was a soft yellow glow flowed of nowhere. It covered her completely. Jen thought she must have been smiling. It was like being at the beach on a blue skied summer day. If she was suddenly warm now, was she cold before and just hadn't noticed?

The light increased. The warmth increased. But it didn't stop. And now she was starting to burn. Instead of soothing warmth, the heated light scorched like raw fire. In her mind she shied away, but she knew her body remained stationary.

She knew she was screaming, but the deafening echo went unheard.

This must be hell.

Just when she thought it would surely kill her, the light fizzled and faded, leaving her sobbing in the darkness. But it wasn't over.

Now she was spinning…except she knew she wasn't really moving. But her equilibrium was gone. She was both upside down and right side up at the same time as though she were split in two and riding the twirling teacups at the county fair… in absolute blackness. She was turning so quickly she was coming apart.

It went on and on... churning and churning… twisting her around and around until she was sure she was being pulled apart, tendon by tendon. Sharp points of pain needled up her arms and legs, travelling with agonizing slowness, moving from the tips of her fingers and toes, all the way to her torso and ending in the center of her chest. Millions of pinpricks. Poking. Jabbing. Stabbing into her chest. She couldn't breathe.

She needed to breathe, damn it!

With a loud pop, everything stopped.

The pain. The spinning. All gone.

Sucking in massive gulps of air, she ignored the voices telling her to take it slowly. Her mind didn't want advice… it wanted escape. Air meant life, but she still couldn't comprehend what the hell was happening to her. She could feel her heart pounding. Her body ached, her limbs were dead weight.

Faces blurred in the air before her. She tried to swat them away, but barely managed to lift her arm.

"Easy lass," a familiar brogue broke through the panic. She blinked furiously trying to clear her vision.

Carson? She tried to ask what was going on… where she was… but she barely managed a croak.

She focused on the background. Dark walls. Columns and marbling. Recessed lighting and a brown and beige patterned décor.

Atlantis.

But how?

"It's good to have you back," Carson nodded and smiled. "Now don't you be trying to move."

"Stay still, Doc," another voice chimed in.

Confusion gave way to surprise, then relief and a dozen other emotions. Evan.

He'd made it.

Well of course he'd made it. How else would I be here?

Jen rolled her head to get a better look at him. To prove to herself he really was there. She caught a brief glimpse of his smile before the tiny motion sent sparks of pain across her neck and shoulders. She hissed and closed her eyes.

"The sensitivity will pass, lass." Carson soothed. "Apparently it's a bit of a side effect of the reanimation process."

"Side effect?" she whispered, cracking her eyes open and meeting the Doctor's gaze. "Reanimation?"

"Aye. I'm afraid the Ancients failed to mention that little tidbit in their preliminary findings. Lieutenant Ellis discovered it the hard way. The Major here cut his rescue a little close to the wire, I'm afraid."

"Hey! Now wait a minute—" Evan cut in.

Carson grinned, ignoring the Major's protest. "Thankfully the Ancients were quite thorough in the rest of the process of reanimating frozen tissue." He held up an auto-injector. "Now before you start asking all those questions I know are bouncing around in that pretty head of yours, you need sleep, and you aren't going to get it on the table. Moving you will cause considerable pain so I'm going to sedate you and get you into a bed."

Jen opened her mouth to argue but Carson placed the injector against her neck and triggered it before she could speak. Darkness closed around her and she dropped into nothingness.

.


.

Jen fought against the sleepy grip of the drugs and tried to force herself to wake, but the warmth and comfort of the blankets and the familiar sounds of the infirmary were too soothing. She failed several times before finally managing to blink her eyes open and keep them that way. Dim lighting and hushed voices gave away the general time of day, but she had no real idea of what time of night it was, only that the night shift was still on the floor.

She tentatively moved her head, happy to note there was no pain, only the slight stiffness that came from lying in the same position too long. She rubbed her face and pushed the traces of sleep from her eyes.

"You're supposed to be sleeping."

Evan.

She smiled and turned her head towards the shifting shadow on her right. Evan leaned forward in his chair, bringing his face closer to hers. Her cheeks warmed to know he was there… that he'd waited for her.

"Hey," she whispered.

"Hey, yourself." He reached for her fingers.

Jen clasped his hand. "So…"

"So," he grinned.

"You're okay?"

"Of course."

"Ellis and Sanchez?"

He tipped his head towards the privacy curtain on her other side. "Back corner, confined to bed. Carson said he wants to double check all the side effects are gone but he figures you'll all be good to go in the morning."

Jen sighed with relief. "I have so many questions I don't even know where to start."

"Cole's notes?"

"Yes, please." She shifted herself higher on the bed and settled in while Evan told her of their run to the gate and then the subsequent rescue.

"You blew a hole in the building?" she asked, incredulous. Realizing she'd spoken too loudly for the quiet hour, Jen slapped her hand over her mouth. "What if the roof had collapsed?" she hissed, half-laughing.

"Wasn't my idea," Evan shrugged and shook his head.

"Uh-huh…" Jen nodded. "Of course it wasn't. I swear that man has more lives than a dozen cats put together. You couldn't have just taken the door?"

His smile faltered. He teased his thumb across the back of her hand. "Carson said if we'd been much longer, we would have lost you all."

"You were right on time."

"Barely." He made a face. "Ellis had quite a story to tell about the whole reanimation thing."

Jen thought of the strange and painful sensations she'd experienced earlier. She shook her head slowly. "I thought I was dead."

"Damn Jen, you had me worried. You were… well…frozen. Ellis wasn't breathing, and you and Sanchez…" He rose from the chair and moved closer. "Carson was convinced the Ancient tech would do what it said it would. He guinea pigged Ellis first, since he was in the worst shape. Then Sanchez. You seemed to be the least…"

"Dead?" she prompted.

"Frozen," he glowered, clearly not liking her wording.

Jen wrinkled her nose. "It was like… being disconnected… you know? Well, no you don't know… but…okay I was thinking… and awake… but I couldn't feel anything. Then this light started."

Evan nodded. "Ellis said it burned like bitch."

"It did. Definitely painful. And just when I thought I was going to burst into flame or something, it stopped and then everything started spinning." She shook her head, clearing away the memory. "It was, by far, the most painful thing I think I've ever experienced. Except I'm not sure I actually experienced it."

He lifted her hand with his and kissed her knuckles. "I'm so sorry, Jen…"

"Don't," she ordered. "You got us out."

"Not soon enough."

"Soon enough," she countered. A yawn caught her off guard and she laughed. "Sorry."

"I should go. You need rest."

Jen squeezed his hand, preventing him from withdrawing his fingers. She knew he wasn't leaving the city, but a tiny flutter of panic settled in her chest regardless. "Evan…"

"Hey," he smiled. "I'm not going far."

"I know… it's just… before… on the planet…" She flipped through a dozen thoughts and statements, tossing out the embarrassing ones and the ones that made her sound desperate. How exactly was she supposed to put it all into words that didn't come out sounding like she was 13 again?

Evan spoke first. "I meant what I said."

Jen blinked and tried furiously to remember what exactly he'd said and when. "Which part?"

"I promise that once Carson says you're good to go, we're going to have that little discussion we talked about."

"We are?"

"We are."

"Not now?"

"Not now." He shook his head. "Not here either."

"No?"

"When we have that discussion…" He inched his face closer to hers, then changed trajectory and dropped his mouth next to her ear. "We'll be doing it much more privately," he whispered.

"Oh," she flushed. "So…"

He smiled down at her. "Yes, I mean it. No, I I'm not kidding. No, it wasn't just spur of the moment. And yes, you have been driving me absolutely crazy since the moment I first met you and I can't stop thinking about you and I'm really hoping you're going to agree with me here or I've just spewed a whole lot of something for nothing—"

Jen pressed her fingertips against his lips. "Stop," she laughed. "I agree. I agree."

"Thank god," he grinned. He leaned down and kissed her quickly, lifted his head, then kissed her again. "I have to go," he muttered, "or I'm never going to leave."

"Then go?"

"I'm trying," he sighed and straightened up. "Okay," he took a few steps back. "You. Sleep. Or Carson isn't going to let you go tomorrow and I'll end up in the brig because I'm going to have to kidnap you."

"You've obviously thought this through."

The look on his face made her cheeks burn.

"You have no idea…" he mumbled. "Okay. I'm leaving."

"So you said."

"I mean it." He took another step back.

Jen knew if she asked him to stay, he would, but that would totally defeat the purpose of having her get some rest… and having him get some rest as well. Not that she was going to be getting a moment of sleep with her mind doing flip flops after his impromptu speech.

"Good night," she finally managed, even though she really didn't want him to go.

He'd made it all the way to the foot of her bed. Then he swore and turned on his heel and headed out of the infirmary. He stopped, walked back to the bed, kissed her, turned, and left again.

"Gracious," Jen whispered as his footsteps faded. She smiled up at the ceiling and closed her eyes. So she made him crazy did she? Good.

Definitely…good.

He was crazy about her.

Jen sighed while her heart did a happy dance behind her ribs.

Is it tomorrow yet?

.

.

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END .: