SGA is owned by MGM.

Thanks to DaniWilder for her awesome support and suggestions, and theicemenace for her permission to use "Mandy" and for her suggestions.

All mistakes are mine and mine alone. Hope they're not that bad.

Any thoughts, criticisms and praise is gratefully accepted.

"John," Jennifer implored desperately, "We have to stop this."

Sheppard shot her a 'Shut the hell up!' look, then glanced meaningfully at the backs of the four heavily armed men guarding them.

It had been a typical meet and greet, though they should have known by now that there was no such thing as typical in the Pegasus galaxy, not even for those of them native to Pegasus. The people of this planet were Pegasus pioneers in steam power, so Sheppard's team- plus Jennifer- had come to make nice and offer a little engineering and medical expertise. It appeared to have been a successful visit, culminating in the regional ruler's invitation to tour their prized- and normally top secret- steam driven power plant.

All had gone surprisingly well, with Rodney making several off the cuff suggestions that the chief engineer of the plant had deemed worthy enough to take notes on. It hadn't been until Jennifer insisted upon seeing some of the workers that the hospitality rug had been unceremoniously pulled from underneath their feet.

They had found the working conditions deplorable by Earth standards, unsanitary and certainly unsafe with random eruptions of steam from broken pipes and heat that would cook a turkey in an hour. She had declared her unfavorable opinion of the conditions rather loudly, and from there the situation degenerated into something ugly with the chief engineer and other officials slipping away and culminating with a seven-foot goon groping Jennifer's ass with his freakishly large hand.

They'd all taken exception to that, of course, but it was Rodney who had ended up punching the Neanderthal with all the effectiveness of a snowflake hitting the windshield of a semi on the highway.

The Neanderthal, whose name was Ridaki if the roaring crowd could be trusted, smiled and immediately began to punch Rodney around, Jennifer and the team rendered helpless by the aforementioned heavily armed guards that seemed to appear from nowhere. There were only four of them, but even Jennifer knew that taking them out with so many compatriots around that had been whipped into a frenzied state was foolish, bordering on suicidal.

"John!" Jennifer whispered harshly. She watched as Rodney barely avoided a roundhouse from the bigger man and then ducked under a large pipe that ran across the makeshift ring that had been formed by the other workers.

"He's fine," suggested Ronon softly and with a hint of pride. Before Jennifer could angrily protest the point that Rodney's left eye had swollen shut, blood was trickling from his mouth and he might well have a broken rib or two from a vicious kick he'd received a couple of minutes earlier, John whispered, "Just watch."

To say Jennifer was shocked would have an understatement to be sure. Rodney's team was abandoning him, allowing him to take a pummeling by a bigger and much stronger man, a man who evidently had had a lot of experience punishing people. They were watching him take a beating for defending her honor. She simply couldn't understand. She'd seen them all take all sorts of abuse for each other; perform heroic and extraordinary feats for each other on numerous occasions. What was so different now?

Sensing Jennifer's confusion, John surreptitiously edged closer to her, his task made easier by the fact that the guards had become enthralled with watching his friend get beaten up. "Just watch what he's doing," he whispered into Jennifer's ear, though he never took his eyes off what was happening before them.

Jennifer did, and she winced when Rodney barely avoided another punch, though the wince turned into a look of interest when she noticed that Rodney, who had stumbled into a row of pipes, turned a knob several times while he was bent over it.

"Look at the pressure gauge off to the left," whispered Sheppard so softly that Jennifer nearly missed it in the raucous cheering of the plant workers.

She shifted her gaze to the gauge and saw the needle underneath the glass covering nearly into the purplish color that was equivalent to the red zone on an Earth gauge.

Her attention was jolted back to the arena when she heard Rodney cry out in agony. He'd apparently stumbled while she wasn't looking and tried to kick at Ridaki when he'd approached, only to have the ape grab his leg and bend it in an unnatural position. Instinct, born of training and a human heart that cared and loved made her try to get to him, but John kept her still for which he received a glare of epic proportions from Jennifer.

She gave up the struggle only when one of the guards glanced back at them. She looked back to Rodney who had gotten up and limped towards an odd assortment of pipes, levers and panels. He tripped as he neared it and fell onto some of the levers. She was watching him intently, so she was one of the very few- the very few being her, John, Teyla and Ronon- to notice how he quickly flicked three levers into the opposite positions that they had been in.

Rodney stumbled a few feet to his right and picked up a piece of pipe that reminded Jennifer of a plunger handle and held it up threateningly. At least she thought it was threateningly. Ridaki thought it was amusing if his hearty laugh was any indication.

Next to her John, who had begun rocking back and forth in anticipation, softly said through clenched teeth, "Keep laughing, you bastard. Teyla. Ronon. Be ready."

Jennifer's eagerness edged upward when Teyla and Ronon silently and without drawing any attention to themselves moved to stand directly behind the outermost guards.

"Is that all you can do, little man?" boomed the Ridaki's voice as he stepped within a few feet of Rodney.

Rodney, blood oozing from a new cut on his forehead, mouth and his unusable eye, surprised nearly the entire audience into silence by smiling and shrugging his shoulders at the bigger man. Rodney glanced to his right, towards the pressure gauge and then looked back to his attacker. He raised the pipe above his head and said just as the high pressure alarm whistle sounded, "Eat this you son of a bitch!"

Before Ridaki could even process what was happening Rodney brought the pipe down with whatever strength he had left onto the chest level edge of the main steam pipe, the part of the pipe that held the emergency relief valve. The valve gave way, shorn off by Rodney's perfectly placed hit, sending a geyser of hot steam shooting outward and hitting Ridaki in his chest with a force that knocked him ten feet backwards into the crowd.

Just as the stream of steam nailed Ridaki, Ronon, Teyla and John simultaneously made their move on the guards. Ronon grabbed two of them by the hair on the backs of their heads and then slammed their heads together with a sickening clunk; Teyla kicked the left knee of her target, making the knee buckle and dropping him down so that she could punch downward onto his left clavicle and then smash her elbow into his face; and John, pissed beyond pissed that a member of his team- his best friend- had been beaten for no good reason, eliminated his guard by kicking him hard in the groin, then sending him flying backward with a vicious uppercut.

With the same efficiency with which they'd disabled the guards, the team relieved the guards of their crude weapons, and retrieved their own weapons that the guards had been holding onto.

"Move!" yelled Sheppard to the people that were unfortunate enough to be in their way. Sheppard waited only a heart beat before pointing his P-90 upward and firing off more than enough rounds to send people scurrying off to look for cover.

As soon as a path had cleared Jennifer bolted for Rodney ignoring the footsteps coming behind her, knowing without having to look that it was Sheppard. Jennifer ran past Ridaki as he writhed in agony on the floor, for once her medical instinct easy to ignore. The steam had stopped streaming from the pipe, the automatic shutdown and safety procedures having caught up with the situation and taken care of business. She reached Rodney just as he dropped the pipe and collapsed onto his knees with a force that she knew would cause a soreness that he would feel later. She dropped to her own knees next to him paying no heed to the pain it caused her and immediately took Rodney's face in her hands. She was careful not to molest the bruised and tender areas with her fingertips, a job made difficult by the fact that his face was almost one big bruise. She gently turned his head to her left so she could get a good look at the swollen eye. She sighed in relief as she carefully feathered her fingers along the side of his eye and found the orbital socket to be intact.

Jennifer looked up to Sheppard and found his eyes. They were dark, his eyes, dark and stormy with pure rage. Jennifer had seen Sheppard pissed off and angry before, but never had she seen his eyes betray the fact so blatantly.

"John," she called to him, but there was no response. "Colonel!" She gave him a 'Get it together' look when he looked at her. "I need my bag."

Sheppard moved swiftly to the one guard that had managed to stand. In one swift motion, Sheppard pushed the man against a nearby wall with his left hand as he drew his sidearm from its holster and pointed it directly at the man's face.

Jennifer was fairly certain the guard soiled himself.

"The doctor's bag," Sheppard said, his voice soft yet very deadly. "Where is it?"

The guard tried three times to speak, but in the end he couldn't so he pointed off to Sheppard's right.

"Teyla," said Sheppard.

Teyla gave a questioning look to Ronon, who tightened the grip on his weapon, which he had pointed at the small crowd of workers that hadn't managed to get away, and nodded once. Teyla ran to where the guard had pointed and found the medical bag hidden around a corner. She grabbed it and quickly took it to Jennifer, then stood next to Rodney and raised her weapon in a defensive stance, all but daring any of them to make a move.

Jennifer heard a slight commotion behind her as she started rooting around in her bag, but she didn't have to look to know it was Sheppard doling out some more punishment on the guard. She focused on her task and took out some sterile gauze pads and began to gently wipe around the cut above Rodney's eye. She hesitated only for a second when Rodney sucked in a quick, pain filled breath. "I'm sorry," she whispered as she continued her work.

"We need to go, Doc."

Startled at Sheppard's unexpected and clipped comment, Jennifer's hand jolted and pressed into a particularly puffy spot above Rodney's eye causing him to whimper in pain. He withdrew her hand, discarded the gauze pad and placed her hand back on his cheek, whispering apologies and assurances that he'd be fine while Sheppard collected her bag.

"Do you think you can walk, Rodney?" asked Jennifer.

Rodney's eye focused on her and she couldn't help but smile when she heard Rodney's usual snark in his voice. "If it means getting the hell out of here I can."

Jennifer glanced up to Sheppard and managed to catch the tail end of a smirk from the Colonel before the he bent down to help Rodney to his feet. John moved so that his left shoulder slipped underneath Rodney's right arm, giving his friend someone to lean on as they moved. Rodney's knees buckled and he hissed in pain. Jennifer slipped underneath Rodney's left arm, her left hand reaching over the grab the bottom edge of his TAC vest and her right hand reaching around his back to grab his belt. Despite the tenseness and severity of the situation, she smiled and felt a shiver roll down her spine as Rodney pulled her closer to him.

"Ronon, you're on point," said Sheppard as he raised his sidearm. "Teyla you take our six. Let's move."

They started to move, and Jennifer couldn't help but notice that Ridaki had stopped moaning and moving. She could see by his rising and falling chest that he was alive, just unconscious.

It didn't take them long to reach the gate, and by the time Teyla had run ahead to dial Atlantis Rodney was walking more or less on his own, though Jennifer hadn't moved from her position snuggled into his left side. John on the other hand, had moved from his place at Rodney's right and stayed a few steps behind them to cover their departure.

The gate came to life, and Teyla and Ronon took up defensive positions on the right and left side of the giant ring respectively, continuously sweeping their gazes and their weapons behind them to ward off any potential pursers. Rodney and Jennifer slowly made their way to the gate and Jennifer knew they had to get there soon. Rodney had taken a tremendous beating and he was losing the second wind he'd seemed to get while they'd left the plant. Now, with the proverbial finish line in sight he was relying on her for support more and more with each step. Finally they stepped through the event horizon and a moment later found themselves home.


Jennifer didn't even know she had cried out his name as his legs gave out causing them both to plummet to the hard decking of Atlantis' gate room. She did her best to arrest his descent and soften his fall, and luck was with her as she did just enough to allow Ronon to get through the gate and grab Rodney before he impacted the floor.

Jennifer watched as Ronon scooped her unconscious significant other up into his strong arms and start towards the door. She was on Ronon's heels as they headed into the corridor, with Teyla and John nipping at her heels.

"Put him on the gurney, Ronon," Jennifer said as Amanda Cole and a couple of orderlies pushing a gurney rounded the far corner.

Ronon didn't say anything as he breezed past the gurney without giving any indication that stopping had even been an option for him.

Jennifer spared Cole only a brief glance as she rushed to keep up with Ronon. Part of her was mad as hell with Ronon for ignoring her; pissed at him for not stopping to put Rodney on the gurney and letting her and Cole help him.

Yet as they passed the threshold of the Infirmary, the realization that Ronon had gotten Rodney to where he could be helped faster than should have been possible erased all her anger. So when Ronon gently lowered Rodney onto a bed she couldn't help but put her hand on his arm and say with heartfelt appreciation, "Thank you."

Ronon gave her that little smile he was famous for and showed far too seldom and quickly moved out of the way as Cole rushed towards the bed.

Despite her wanting to take care of Rodney with every fiber of her being, Jennifer stayed far enough from his bed to let Cole do her work, yet close enough to offer any information or suggestions that she might have.

The doctor within her took over her mind and did a mental checklist of what she would do if she were the treating physician. And not that she doubted Amanda's abilities as a doctor- quite the contrary as a matter of fact—but she felt immense relief and more than a little satisfaction as her friend and colleague recited the same orders, asked for the same tests and gave the same diagnoses and treatment options as her inner voice did.

So it was that when Amanda finally turned to face her and Rodney's team, Jennifer already knew what she was going to say.

"He took quite a beating," said Amanda in a subdued voice. She made eye contact with each of them in turn, starting with Teyla and making the rounds until she came to a stop with Jennifer. "He has multiple contusions and abrasions. Most of them are minor in nature, with two exceptions." Cole looked over her shoulder to Rodney and then stepped closer to the group and lowered her voice. "The cut above his left eye has caused the eye to shut. There's been no structural damage to his eye or the surrounding area and it will be fine once the swelling goes down. The cut itself is small and the bleeding has stopped so I'm going to try butterfly stitches to close it." Amanda took a short breath and her voice betrayed her sympathy for Rodney when she spoke. "His right rib cage took a pretty severe impact by the looks of it, by a very wide size eighteen boot if I had to guess. Nothing broken or fractured, but he definitely has some deep bruising there and will be sore as hell for a while." She gave Jennifer a smile and put her right hand on Jennifer's shoulder in a gesture of reassurance. "He's going to be fine," said Cole, her voice gentle and confident. "I'm going to get those stitches ready and set him up on some pain medication. You'll be able to visit with him once you've all gone through your post mission checks."

Jennifer was about to protest, conveniently forgetting that as the CMO she had no right to even think about skipping the mandatory tests, but Sheppard beat her to the punch.

"Come on, Mandy," he tried with so much charm that even Jennifer's heart almost fluttered. "How about cutting us some slack."

Cole hesitated just enough to be able to say that she thought about it and then gave the Colonel a look that would have withered a lesser man on the spot. Fortunately for John he'd received that particular glare so often it barely fazed him anymore much less deterred him. Ignoring the fact that they were in the middle of the Infirmary and that three good friends were close enough to overhear him even if he whispered, John put his hands on Amanda's arms just below her shoulders. His voice was soft, intimate and pleading when he spoke. "Please, Mandy. Just for a little while." He leaned in closer so that he could whisper, "And we can give each other full-body exams later tonight. You can do my exam in the line of duty," he leaned in even closer and his voice dropped even lower, "and I'll do your exam for fun."

Jennifer couldn't keep her eyes from widening or her mouth from hanging open as Amanda's cheeks turned a healthy shade of red. She could easily see the telltale signs of arousal in her friend: the flush in her cheeks, the dramatic increase in her pulse as evidenced by her throbbing carotid artery, the darkening of her eyes and the slight parting of her lips to allow for more oxygen to be taken in to keep up with the added demand of her heart. She wouldn't be surprised nor would she be able to fault Amanda if she caved under such an invitation. She was certain she'd have to seriously consider it if Rodney pulled the same stunt on her.

For a long moment Amanda said nothing and did nothing except stare into the intense eyes watching her with such passion. It wasn't until she saw the right corner of his mouth edge up a millimeter that she managed to break the spell he'd had her under. She smiled evilly and then said loud enough for all to hear, "Get moving, Colonel, or I'll add a prostate exam to all your future post mission exams to go along with the really big needles."

John frowned, knowing the daring look in her eyes and the defiant grin on her lips well enough to know that she was serious. He released her, held up his hands in surrender and gave her a grudging, "Fine," before stomping off towards the section of the Infirmary where post mission checks were done with Ronon and Teyla in tow.

Jennifer didn't watch them leave and the amusement she'd felt at seeing Sheppard having the legs cut out from under him faded instantly. She kept her eyes on Rodney as he lay on his back on an Infirmary bed, watching how his chest quickly rose and fell with his shallow breaths; how his fist continuously clenched and unclenched; how his lips closed and parted with his ragged breathing; and how every few seconds he would tense from head to toe as the pain from one of any number of injuries spiked.

She'd been focused so completely upon Rodney that she jumped when Amanda's right hand gently grasped her left arm.

"Sorry!" Amanda exclaimed in a hushed voice and with an apologetic smile. "But the sooner you go the sooner you can come back and stay with him."

Jennifer gave her trusted colleague and good friend a shaky smile as Cole gently prodded her to turn around and gave her a playful push in the right direction. She walked towards a free room and went inside without looking back, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that if she did she wouldn't be able to leave him.

Jennifer sat on the edge of the bed and sighed as she waited for someone to come in and do the post mission exam. Luckily for her Sandy, one of her most capable nurses, came in before she could delve too deeply into her thoughts and worry.

Sandy immediately began the exam, opting for a quick scan with a handheld scanner, mandatory blood test and the obligatory questions. The questions were easy for Jennifer to answer: she hadn't treated anyone (with the exception of Rodney of course) or come in contact with anyone who was sick that she could tell, nor did she ingest any food or water, nor did she injure herself.

Satisfied with her boss' answers, Sandy checked the readouts of Jennifer's scans and smiled. "There's nothing in these scans to indicate anything out of the ordinary, Dr. Keller," she announced in a steady voice. Only after a split second of hesitation did she let some anxiousness creep into her voice and facial expression. "Now get going."

For the second time since returning to Atlantis, Jennifer found herself feeling proud of one of her staff. Sandy had conducted the exam, and herself, with all the professionalism that she could have expected from her nurse, not that she should have been surprised.

Jennifer jumped off the edge of the bed and thanked Sandy with a small, half smile that didn't do her immense gratitude justice. It must have been just enough though, as Sandy nodded and said a quick, "You're welcome," before placing her hand on Jennifer's back and giving her a slight push out the door.

Jennifer stumbled out into the hall, but her feet managed to catch up with her mind and her heart in short order to get her moving towards Rodney's bed. The first person she saw, however, wasn't Rodney- it was Teyla. The Athosian was still outfitted in her black off world uniform and standing next to the bed beside Rodney's with her arms folded apprehensively across her chest. Jennifer could see even from her vantage point that Teyla's brow was knitted tightly in concern, and there was a shine in her dark eyes that Jennifer recognized as being tears that were being held back by Teyla's substantial sheer force of will.

She didn't need to be a genius to know that Ronon would be at the foot of Rodney's bed, her vast experience in this area a more intelligent teacher than sheer intellect. Ronon's face would be telegraphing his anger in a pronounced scowl as he either leaned forward with his hands resting on the foot of Rodney's bed, or stood up ramrod straight with his hands balled into fists that wanted nothing more than to punch something. With everything that had happened- the sudden change in the situation, the unfairness of the fight in the physical sense, the brutality of Rodney's beating and their inability to stop it- she knew without a doubt the Satedan would be standing and desperately trying to think of something to hit.

John would be leaned against the bed on the other side of Rodney, with his feet crossed at the ankles in front of him on the floor and his hands stuffed angrily into his pockets. His face would be eerily void of concern, bordering on looking almost indifferent toward Rodney's situation, but she knew better, as did the vast majority of those on the city. Rodney was John's best friend and vice versa, even if neither of them would even harbor a thought of admitting it. Just beneath the veneer of command detachment a Colonel was supposed to have towards those under his command, feelings of worry, guilt and anxiousness would be bubbling and would manifest itself in subtle yet familiar ways. John would watch Rodney intently for any sign of improvement, even going so far as to try to goad Rodney into something- anything- with some outrageous claim against Rodney's intelligence, his homeland or by using his first name. Besides that, John would continually reassure anyone within earshot that Rodney would be fine, perhaps even going so far as to give Rodney a heartfelt if backhanded compliment. The true compass of Sheppard's mood would be his eyes. Earlier she'd seen such rage in the Colonel's eyes and she had no doubt that the rage would still be there, tempered only by the knowledge that Rodney's life wasn't in any danger.

Teyla turned and gave her a tiny smile as she neared Rodney's bed. John and Ronon came into view and because her concern for Rodney was so great, she couldn't find it within herself to smile or even feel the least bit of satisfaction at having anticipated the situation so perfectly. Ronon was exactly where she knew he would be with a murderous look upon his face and his fists balled so tightly the muscles in his arms were coiled and ready to spring. Sheppard was also where she knew he'd be, hands in pocket and all, and a small smirk on his lips.

"He's tough," Sheppard told her as she came to stop and gave Rodney a once over with her eyes. "He'd have to be growing up in an igloo in the frozen tundra he calls a country."

Jennifer smiled at Sheppard's obvious play at provoking Rodney, even if the comedy in it didn't hit home for her. Her attention was focused instead on Rodney. His face still looked like one big bruise, but the cuts and blood had been cleaned up nicely, and sterile butterfly stitches held the cut above his eye together. His eye was still swollen, but it was easy to see that even in the few minutes she'd been away from him it had gotten a little better. The most important thing for her was his steady breathing and the pain free look on his face.

She was about to move towards him when something caught her eye- a piece of furniture that wasn't usually present next to Rodney's bed when the team was around.

"Have a seat, Doc," said John, drawing her attention to him. He indicated the chair that was taking up station between Rodney's bed and the one Teyla was standing beside with a nod. "It's been a long day for everyone."

Jennifer tore her eyes away from the well-padded and comfy looking chair and looked to Sheppard. He smiled and nodded again before she turned to look at Ronon, who gave her a smirk before turning away and letting the anger take over again.

"He will be very happy to see you when he awakens," Teyla said softly as she silently moved the chair closer to Rodney's bed.

Jennifer gave Teyla a grateful smile and moved to the chair. She lowered herself into the large chair and then leaned forward to take Rodney's hand in hers. She closed both her hands around his, taking special care to avoid touching the scrapes on his knuckles as her fingers caressed his. She was about to tell him he was going to be fine when his voice had her mouth smiling too widely to say anything.

"Did I win?"

Jennifer looked up to find Rodney looking at her with his uninjured eye. "Yes," Jennifer managed to croak out after a few seconds. "Yes you did." She brought his hand up to her lips and kissed it, then held his hand to her chest as she gave him a dazzling smile and said, "You're my hero."

"Good," he said, his voice sounding heavy with medication and exhaustion. "That'll teach him… to…go arou…around grabbing…your bum."

Jennifer knew he was heading back into sleep, something he desperately need to recover so she leaned forward and whispered next to his ear, "I love you."

Rodney smiled, and though his voice betrayed the complete exhaustion he was feeling he said, "Love you, too."

A tear slipped from Jennifer's left eyes and travelled down her cheek. "Sleep now," she told him with a steady and clear voice.

"O… kay," he responded and a moment later the area was filled with the gentle sounds of a snoring scientist.

"See," said Sheppard when she looked up at him. "He's tough."

Jennifer smiled and nodded as she brought Rodney's hand up to her lips again. "Yes he is."