It took Ronald a day and a half to locate his duffel bag and back pack, and three days to find his footlocker after coming through the Gate to Atlantis. He was one of the lucky ones, having been assigned to help sort out the Gear, supplies and baggage that had been shoved, thrown, hurled and pushed through the wormhole from Earth. He’d had to give his duffel bag and pack to the closest marine when Marshall O’Neill had personally taken him aside and ordered him to retrieve Doctor Carter from her lab and carry her through to Atlantis.
Greer had felt a bit guilty about that, the Doctor was nice people, and pregnant, and had obviously not wanted to leave Earth and her panor’e’ten behind. Like everyone else, Greer wondered who the Doctor was bonded to, but no one who knew the correct answer was talking.
Atlantis was the strangest place the young corporal had ever been. The walls lit up strangely. It smelled different. And then there was the ocean, right outside every door and window. Weird.
He knew he would have never been chosen for this mission, under other circumstances. As an unbonded panor, he was only serving in the Marine Corps due to a clerical error, one that had allowed him a chance to go to basic training and earn a place for himself before the error was caught. It suited him, he liked the military, he liked the order of it all, knowing what was expected of him. The marines had rescued him from his father and a miserable life at home.
He wasn’t entirely certain what would be expected of him here on this base. He’d been following orders, helping sort the mess, hauling crates and boxes, setting up barracks and shuffling supplies. Eventually, everything would be in place, and then he would need to find something to do with himself in his off hours.
There was all that water out there, surrounding them. But he liked being outside, on the balconies, in the fresh air.
Lisa Park was trying to follow the small, hand drawn map that one of the Atlantis scientists had given her. She checked high up on the wall for the numbers and saw with relief that she was going the right way. She smiled and walked along the corridor with a bit more confidence.
Coming to the door marked “Hydroponics” she waved her hand over the ancient ‘doorknob’ and the door swished open. She poked her head in and took a deep breath, smelling the aroma of growing things. It gave her comfort. It was something she knew. “Hello? Is anyone here?”
“In the back! Follow the second pathway.”
Following the voice and the pathway through the growing beds, she saw a man in a lab coat bent over a tray of seedlings. “Hi! I’m Doctor Park. I’m looking for Doctor Parrish, is that you?”
He smiled as he straightened up. “That’s me. Welcome, I was told I was getting a hydroponics expert, I cannot tell you how glad I am to have you here.” He held a hand out to her as she walked up to him. Grasping his hand lightly, their palms grazed and he looked up at her with surprise. “Well. That was unexpected.”
She blushed and pulled her hand back. He was keri, like always recognized like, it was something in the hormones when they touched, just as she would recognize a panor by touch. “I didn’t know there were keri with the mission, well, other than Sheppard, everyone knows about Sheppard, that was all over the newsnet.”
He smiled and leaned against the frame of the planting bed. “There are a few. Is your panor’e’ten with you?”
She’d have to tell him sooner or later, if they would be working together, so she figured it was best to just say it and get it out there. “I’m unbonded.”
“I suppose in the confusion of the evacuation, no one was taking names or checking statuses.”
“Exactly,” Lisa breathed a sigh of relief; Parrish seemed like a nice guy, his smile was friendly.
“Must be frightening for you, did you at least come through with friends or relatives?”
“My family didn’t make it to safety before the Interstates were shut down. One of my brothers was stationed on Langara; I hope he is safe at least.” There were many, many horror stories among the survivors. Everyone had lost loved ones.
He gave her a considering look. “You should try to stick to the labs, until things settle down. You’ve made me nervous now, an unbonded keri without protection. Does anyone else know?”
She shook her head. She had been trying to stay low, keeping her head down. She had avoided touching anyone she didn’t absolutely need to. Her roommates were all baseline humans and didn’t know about her.
“All right. I’ll make some inquiries tonight. We’ll see what can be done to keep you safe.” He clapped his hands together and rubbed them. “Now, let’s see what we can do about making this hydroponics bay triple the output.”
Meeting David Parrish turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. The man possessed the energy of a rabid wolverine on speed most of the time and kept her constantly busy in the greenhouses and hydroponics bay. The work kept her busy, but it was also exhausting.
David’s panor’e’ten arranged a security escort to walk with her to and from the labs each morning and evening. She merely had to call on the radio when she was ready to leave and a soldier would turn up at the door and accompany her where she needed to go.
A few times, a very nice young man named Corporal Greer had been her escort. One evening when she had worked late, he asked her if she had eaten dinner yet, and when she realized she had missed both lunch and dinner and told him so, he insisted on walking her to the mess hall.
The corporal was about her age, and they had a lot of the same interests in music and films. The meal passed quickly and amicably, with pleasant conversation. So much so, that it became a regular thing. He turned up each evening at the lab and walked her to dinner, and the days turned into weeks and it became routine. It was good to have a friend, someone to talk to about things other than plants. David Parrish could be a bit obsessive. He was a botanist to the core. Lisa liked plants. Parrish loved plants. When she mentioned it to Ronald he laughed heartily, having met David, he couldn’t disagree.
Ronald was surprised that the escort detail he had been assigned had turned out to be a real pleasure. The doctor was young and pretty and interesting to talk to. He found himself thinking about her a lot when he was off duty.
He finally got the courage to ask her to go to movie night in the auditorium, and was surprised when she suddenly got quiet and shy. “Lisa?” he coaxed when she stared at her hands folded in her lap.
“I don’t really go out much. The mess hall here is about my limit..”
“Don’t like crowds?”
Lisa shook her head. “Not really.”
“We could stay to the back, leave if you got uncomfortable. You shouldn’t be alone so much.”
She chewed her lip and then nodded. “Okay.”
As he had intended, they stayed to the back. The movie was a light comedy, chosen to bolster the mood of the audience. No one really wanted heavy drama or sci-fi at the moment. They’d lived through the apocalypse, they didn’t need to see it fictionalized in any way, shape or form.
When the movie was over, Ronald stayed in his seat, providing a barrier between Lisa and the crowd. He waited until the room was nearly empty before he got up and offered her his hand to pull her up. Without a thought, she slipped her hand into his. They both jolted at the touch and she dropped back hard onto the chair, her eyes wide and her breathing heavy as she stared up at him.
“Oh, God. Please, Ronald, please, please, please don’t tell anyone,” her words tumbled out in a rush as she looked up at him, pleading in her eyes. Damn, she looked so pretty, begging like that. He shook his head, trying to clear the thought away; it was panor dominance making him think this way. Lisa was his friend. Lisa trusted him to protect her. She was begging him now to protect her with his silence. There was nothing else to it; he had no right to be thinking such thoughts about her. Mixing Lisa and sex and begging was all wrong.
He closed his eyes, trying to think as his body reacted to the hormones he’d picked up by touching her palm to his. She was keri. All these weeks he’d been getting to know her and he’d had no idea she was keri.
“Ronald? Please,” she grasped his sleeve, tugging on it to get him to look at her.
He looked around; they were alone in the auditorium. “Lisa…” he somehow managed to choke her name out. He backed away from her, nearly tripping over the chair behind him. “I think… I think you should probably go. I’m sorry.” He stalked over to the door and looked up and down the hallway, spotting a security guard.
“Sergeant, could you escort Doctor Park to her quarters please?”
Lisa looked back at him as she left, sadness and fear and pleading in her eyes. He gave her a small wave and sat down, trying to reign in the wave of lust that was fighting for control of his body.
He almost chickened out of walking Lisa home the next night. He almost asked the new head of the MPs, Lieutenant Matt Scott, to take him off the detail permanently. But then he wouldn’t see her at all. She was one of the few real friends he had here in this weird alien city.
And what kind of friend would he be if he turned away and left her like that?
No kind of friend at all.
So, he sucked it up and vowed not to touch her and went to meet her at eighteen hundred hours like her was supposed to.
She looked surprised to see him when he entered the Hydroponics lab. “Hi.”
“I’m sorry about last night,” they said in unison and then laughed together.
And just like that, it was okay.
For a while.
The panor mating drive is a very powerful thing. Once engaged, it is difficult, if not impossible to quell. The PSG hormones that motivate it are quite a bit more potent than the keri’s answering KSG.
Ronald started having trouble sleeping. Then he went off his feed and his stomach was bothering him. He had a raging hard-on for a good deal of the day, and it was growing worrisome and painful. He finally gave up after four days and went to see the doctor.
He listed his symptoms to Doctor Beckett and the doctor’s frown grew deeper and deeper as he listened. “Ach, lad, what’ve ye done? Who did you come into contact with? I know you know, so don’t try lying to me.”
Just his luck, the doctor was a panor too, and couldn’t be bullshitted.
“I would rather not say, Doctor.”
“Suit yourself, I’ll find out soon enough when the keri comes in with her or his own set of symptoms. You’ve two choices; I can treat you now with a super dose of inhibitors that will stop this completely...”
“Or?” Greer asked.
“You can let nature take her own course and do what comes naturally in these situations.”
“If you dose me, what happens?”
“It isn’t pleasant, I’ll tell you that. Physically uncomfortable is a minor way to put it. You should also be sure you don’t want a relationship with this particular keri, Corporal, because once I give you these drugs, it will likely disrupt the link permanently, and reestablishing it later with the same keri is difficult, if not impossible.”
“Oh,” he hadn’t known that. It wasn’t like his father had ever given him any useful information about his panor state. He sighed and met the doctor’s eyes. “I guess I need to think about it, doctor.”
He thought about it, a lot. Then he realized the only thing he could do was go to Lisa and go down on his knees and beg her to accept him. After getting to know her, he realized he didn’t want anyone else. He might actually be falling for her. When Doctor Beckett had said the drugs to fix this would probably end any hope of his ever being with Lisa, he had realized just how much he cared for his friend.
Enough, he realized, to pledge the rest of his life to being with her and protecting her.
This was going to take some begging. The ‘go down on your knees’ kind of begging. The problem was, Ronald had never learned properly how to beg.
He was nervous as he met her at the lab. When she came over to the door and gathered her purse he caught a glimpse of dark circles under her eyes. She was exhausted. “You’re working too hard,” he muttered gruffly and reached out a hand to cup her chin, raising her face fully. He rubbed his thumb over the deep mark under her eyes. “Not sleeping either?”
“No,” she whispered, not moving away from him, in fact, she leaned her cheek into his palm and stayed there.
Encouraged, he moved a little closer, “Lisa, would you…” he couldn’t think of how to say what he wanted to say, what he needed to say.
She closed her eyes and moved her face, pressing her lips against his palm. With a small groan, he whispered, “I don’t know how to do this. Help me do this, Lisa,” he knew he sounded desperate, needy. He was begging. And he didn’t care, this was too important.
“What do you want to do, Ronald?” She always called him Ronald, never Ron. It seemed right, that she should use his full name, the way only his mother had before.
“I want to be with you. I want to take care of you.”
She looked up at him and a smile slowly came onto her face. A warm smile, it reached her eyes. “You do?”
He nodded stupidly. “I don’t know the words. Be with me, please. Be my keri. I’ll do everything I can to keep you safe, Lisa. I promise, if you’ll be mine.”
“I think you did just fine, Ronald. I can’t think of anyone else I would rather take as my panor’eten. I’m honored that you want me.” She reached up to clasp the hand that was still pressed to her cheek and gave it a squeeze. Then she went up on tiptoe and touched the tip of her nose to his, looking into his eyes and smiling. “You make me feel safe. I would be so very, very happy to have you as my family.”
Ronald rubbed her nose with his and then tilted his face and pressed his lips to hers. Right then, right there, a pact was made, and sealed, as all the best promises are, with a kiss.