"Well, look on the bright side—at least I’m not trapped in there with you guys, hmm?" Rodney said over the comm link.
Jennifer sighed, letting her head roll back on her neck to cast a frustrated look at the ceiling; Ronon snorted.
"I heard that!" Rodney said. "But I'm going to be gracious and pretend I didn't and get back to the very important task of being the only person capable of getting you out of that jumper."
"Bet you tomorrow's meatloaf that Zelenka does it first," Ronon said.
Rodney terminated the comm connection with a loud squawk.
Jennifer sighed again and elbowed Ronon gently in the side. "I wish you wouldn't encourage him. Now he's going to get all wound up and squirrelly and the Colonel's going to have to talk him down before he can do anything."
"Squirrelly?" Ronon said as he sank down to sit on the floor of the jumper. After a moment's hesitation, Jennifer followed his lead. There was no knowing how long it would take Rodney to fix the fault that had trapped the two of them in here, and her standing around wouldn't help anyone. Not, she thought, as she folded her legs, that sitting next to Ronon was any less awkward than standing next to him—she was having oddly vivid flashbacks to resting her head on his shoulder in the infirmary, the faint scent of his sweat and the sweet wax he used in his hair.
"Like a squirrel? They're a kind of tree rodent we have back on Earth. Sort of... bushy hair, long tails, restless, nervy. Like to hoard food a lot."
"Huh." Ronon said, cocking his head. "I could see that."
"Yeah," Jennifer said, and then lapsed into an uncertain silence. In the two weeks since they'd been trapped together in the infirmary, they'd had lunch together several times, breakfast once or twice, but always in the company of other people. Jennifer had no idea how to get a conversation going with him on her own, and for some reason Ronon's composure just made her feel more nervous. "So."
"It's tougher when you don't have anything to blow up, huh?" Ronon said, eyes crinkling at the corners.
Jennifer felt her cheeks heat. "You're going to give me bad habits, Ronon Dex."
"Maybe," he said, and the way he smiled at her made something turn over in the pit of her belly.
"Two's a coincidence, three's a trend," Jennifer said. She kicked at it, but the transporter door remained stubbornly closed.
"Huh?" Ronon said.
Jennifer turned to see that he'd hauled himself up so that his back was pressed against one wall of the transporter, his feet against the other. He was clearly trying to shimmy up to the ceiling so that he could check out the service hatch up there. Jennifer had the sudden realisation of just how much thigh strength it would take to do something like that, and then a flash of what Ronon's thighs might look like naked, and was so shocked at the desperate, unlooked-for arousal that the image sparked off in her that she forgot the entirety of the English language for at least four seconds.
She blinked when she realised Ronon was staring expectantly down at her, as if he'd asked her something.
"Sorry?" she said, voice cracking in the middle of the word.
"I said, what do you mean, 'trend'?"
"Oh." Jennifer blinked again and worked very hard to repress all fantasies of Ronon's thighs. Unfortunately, looking at his face didn't do much to keep her thoughts pure either. "Just that we keep ending up trapped together in confined spaces, you know? This is the third time in three months."
Ronon looked at her steadily for a long moment and then raised his eyebrows. "So?"
"Well," Jennifer said, feeling wrong-footed the way she so often did around him. "That's probably... not... good?"
"Been in worse places with worse people," Ronon said, and then continued his slow progress up the walls. That seemed to be the end of the matter as far as he was concerned.
Jennifer found herself wanting to say something else; the only problem was that she couldn't quite think of what that was.
Jennifer half-scrambled, half-slid down the scree-covered slope, feeling gravel dig into her palms and bits of bramble catch and tear against her pants. Her breathing was loud in her ears but the basso rumble of the hunting horns was even louder; it was an effort not to shake, and she was grateful when Ronon reached over and took her hand once they got to the bottom of the ravine. He turned south as if he knew where he was going—tugged her along behind him, not looking back, trusting her to be able to keep up. That made Jennifer try to run all the faster, her leg muscles burning with the exertion, her braid slapping heavily against the sweaty nape of her neck.
Then a quick jerk to the left and Ronon was pulling her into a cleft in the rock face, a long and narrow cave that Jennifer would never have noticed herself. It was dark in there and smelled of stagnant water and something animal and alien. Jennifer couldn't see anything happening back out on the ravine floor, not with Ronon standing in front of her, but she was glad of that. The sounds were bad enough—the horns, and the hunting dogs, and the tramp of armoured feet over stone. Once she heard the king, howling, calling for the aliens' heads, for their blood—
She fought to keep her breathing under control, trying to push aside the demands of her autonomic nervous system and work through the breathing exercises Teyla had taught her. Calm, calm, she told herself, he's here with you; Ronon could be reckless with his own safety at times, but Jennifer had learned enough to know that he would never be so with hers.
And then the hunters passed by, Ronon and Jennifer unnoticed between the rock walls. They stayed there long after it was okay to come out, Ronon solid and steadfast and his arms tight around her; Jennifer's face pressed into the safety of his shoulder.
"The door handle just... broke," Jennifer said, trying very hard to keep both accusation and scepticism out of her voice. She worked with Rodney McKay and John Sheppard on a daily basis; it was something at which she had a lot of practice.
Ronon scowled down at it. "I didn't do anything."
To be fair, the handle had been on that door for something close to a hundred years, ever since Jennifer's great-grandfather had built this farmhouse, and had experienced several generations of boisterous Keller children; the real surprise was probably that it hadn't broken off any sooner.
That didn't make the impending embarrassment any easier to take.
"I know," Jennifer said, folding her arms. "Just..."
"My entire extended family is downstairs! And your team!" Jennifer said, feeling her face turn beet red. "Plus a good chunk of the town, including the mayor and two local pastors! And they're going to think we're up here, you know..."
Ronon's eyebrows quirked, and Jennifer had the sneaking suspicion that he was enjoying this. "What?"
"Having sex during my father's retirement party," Jennifer hissed.
"You were just showing me how to work the air cooler machine," Ronon said, sounding far too reasonable.
"You think the truth is going to get in the way of the Chippewa Falls gossip network?" Jennifer said. "Nothing stops them once they've got their hands on a good..." She struggled to find the right word. "... Euphemism."
Ronon's mouth twitched.
"Stop laughing at me! This isn't funny!" Jennifer said, but then it hit her all at once and she put a hand over her mouth, trying to force down the laughter that was bubbling up inside her. "Oh god, I just made 'euphemism' into a euphemism."
"This is the most fun I've had in a bedroom in a long time," Ronon said solemnly.
Jennifer actually snorted at that, and then laughed so hard she almost wept from it. She was still laughing when her cousin Gina opened the door from the outside and peered in. "You two all right in here? We're just about to cut the cake," she said, an expression on her face like she didn't know if she should be disappointed to find them with clothes on or not.
"Thanks, Gina, we'll be right down," Jennifer said, getting her breathing back under control.
"Okay, hon," Gina said and left, but her voice carried back to them as she went down the stairs. "No, Beth, they're not fucking. What? Well, I don't know, it's Jen, are you surprised she couldn't get it together with a piece of ass that hot?"
"Oh my god," Jennifer said, feeling herself turn pale, and wondered if she would be able to suffocate herself with a pillow or if she'd drop dead first from sheer embarrassment. She turned to Ronon, about to apologise profusely for her family because she'd known this was a bad idea, known that bringing anyone back to Atlantis would only end in mortification, but Ronon didn't look upset—if anything, he looked even more amused.
"First time's not going to be here," Ronon said, with a curl to the edge of his grin that was definitely wicked, "but if you want, we can give them something to talk about?"
"What?" Jennifer said, feeling her brain pinball helplessly between 'first time' and 'something to talk about' and the way Ronon's biceps pulled against the fabric of a t-shirt that was just a little too small for him.
"Like this," Ronon said, and then flopped back on the bed so hard that the brass frame rattled. Then he planted one foot on the ground and started rocking back and forth, a regular rhythm that had the headboard knocking loudly against the wall in an unmistakable fashion.
"Oh my god," Jennifer said faintly, and tried very hard not to watch the way the motion made Ronon's hips work.
(By all accounts, they ended up as the focus of Chippewa Falls gossip for several weeks after that, being knocked off the top spot only by Marjorie Evans leaving her husband for her Zumba instructor. Ronon seemed pretty pleased when Jennifer told him that.)
"So this might not be the most traditional anniversary celebration in the world," Jennifer said breathlessly as she hauled the sofa over to barricade the door, "or on any world—"
She didn't have to look up to know that Ronon was watching her from the bed with an expression of bemusement. "You know you don't have to do this, right?" he said.
Jennifer straightened, feeling her lower back protest all of this solo furniture movement. "Yes," she said, "yes, I do have to, because we've been married for a year today and we've barely seen one another in two weeks because we keep getting hauled off to deal with new emergencies. I'm calling a time out. I smell like a dead animal"—she plucked at her scrubs top and wrinkled her nose in disgust—"because I've spent almost two days straight in surgery dealing with the aftermath of the most stupidly avoidable accident I've ever seen. And you—"
"I'm fine," Ronon said, shrugging, and someone else might have missed the almost imperceptible wince that crossed his face at the movement, but Jennifer saw it. None of his injuries were major—she'd never have let him leave the infirmary if they were—but she'd reached her limit for the whole decade on seeing people she loved get hurt. She was so done.
"You," she said, pointing a finger at him, "stay there. Do not move. Keep your leg elevated. If you need anything, use your comm or send a message on your tablet. I'm going to shower until I'm not gross and then I will be right back." She grabbed a t-shirt and some clean sweatpants from a drawer and marched into the bathroom, where she gave thanks for Atlantis' near inexhaustible supply of hot water. Clean clothes against clean skin felt like an unimaginable luxury, and she sighed as she coiled her wet hair up into a messy bun on top of her head.
Ronon had fallen asleep by the time she walked back into the bedroom, head tipped sideways onto the pillow and a paperback book splayed out beneath a lax hand. He looked impossibly young like this, the black eye and split lip even more incongruous when his face was in repose. Jennifer smoothed a stray wisp of hair away from his face before she gently slid the book away from him and set it on the nightstand, lay down next to him and tugged the comforter up over them.
When Jennifer was little, she'd wondered what it would be like to get married—sepia-coloured daydreams, the man standing next to her at the altar never quite in focus. Then all of it had seemed too difficult for a while—settling down, settling, wanting what she was supposed to want—and now here she was, lying next to her husband of a whole year under an alien moon, watching him sleep. It wasn't romantic, not with him hurt and her exhausted, but there was something wonderful about this all the same, knowing she loved him enough to build a barricade against the world, knowing that she had something worth the protecting.