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As the Doctor's Mind Crumbles

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Keller twist ed her neck to look at the quiet figure in her doorway “I don’t know how they do it on your planet but stepping into the room is customary when visiting someone on earth .  

Teyla smiled slightly and moved so Jennifer could see her without strain. It had been  just over  a week since they had found her bruised, battered and near death on a desolate planet and ,   although Carson said she was healing well,  her back  was still a source of worry which meant she was restricted to lying on her stomach and couldn’t walk further than the bathroom; the source of much contention between the patient and her doctor. “I did not wish to disturb your reading but if you are up for visitors perhaps we could break fast together?”  

Jennifer tried to smile warmly at the sincere request, Teyla didn’t mean anything by it but she was  struggling  to find the appetite to eat anything larger than a piece of toast, everyone who visited her had noticed and ever y single one of them had felt the  need to comment on it. Jennifer paused a moment to study Teyla before agreeing “But if this is a ploy to make sure I eat mor e I’m going to schedule you for so many blood tests your head will… ” Jennifer’s eyes widened slightly when she saw a cluster of people standing in her door “What are you all doing here?” Jennifer exclaimed to John, Ronon, Rodney, Radek and Carson as they filed in, dragging seats from the surrounding offices behind them, all of them sporting trays heavily laden with food.  

Jennifer’s eyes fell on Teyla’s face as she quickly tried to hide the guilt that flashed across it “Remind me to do that thing I was threatening once I get out of here.” Teyla just smiled and took a tray from John, Jen knew she wouldn’t hear another word about it  

“So, what are everyone’s plans for today?” she asked as she accepted a tray from Carson, and suppressed a sigh; scrambled eggs, tomatoes, toast and a banana, but no coffee. She shot a quick glare at Carson who, knowing full well what she was trying to say, winked at her and tucked into his meal, glancing up once to silently ask why she wasn’t following his example. She begrudgingly bit into the corner of her toast.  

“A million things, as usual.” Rodney began around a mouthful of egg “The air conditioning in the north tower has  literally frozen everything on the 12 th  level and the engineers here don’t seem to be any better than a monkey with a wrench so I have to go there and fix it myself.” Keller watched the egg finally disappear only to be replaced with a chunk of toast, a sense of morbid fascination flooding her as she watched its slow and very public death “The exploration team has just found another research lab with big red buttons they felt the need to push, now I have to try and clean the green goo out of the system before I can even tell if it’s usable. Why do they even bother-“  

Sheppard, sick of hearing Rodney complain, took a swipe at the back of his head “Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to talk with your mouth full?”  

Rodney opened his mouth to protest and then closed it to swallow his latest mouthful “I’ll have you know…” Jennifer drowned out the familial bickering and watched the rest of the group slowly collecting themselves for the day ahead. Small sips of coffee, quiet murmurs of conversation interspersed with small chuckles and soft smiles.  

Carson caught her eye and raised his fork to his mouth, miming that she should continue eating. Jennifer screwed up her face but when she caught everyone else in the room pretending not to be watching the contents of her plate she picked up her fork and took a bite.  

For the next half an hour the group caught up on their day and made plans to meet up later, assuming the world wasn’t ending again. The impromptu meeting ending by some unspoken agreement once Jennifer finished the last of her food with a gulp that mad e her stomach churn and they  filed out with the trays, each wishing her a good day and promising to visit her while she recovered. Carson, sending their trays with Teyla, stood and checked over her dressings, drip, asked about the pain levels and told her to rest, sounding far more fatherly than any doctor she had ever had. His departure left her alone with her churning stomach and Ronon leaning against the wall.  

“Hi.” she said and took a deep breath past the surge her stomach took as her nerves kicked in. Even lounging against the wall that man was imposing and it didn’t help that he hadn’t spoken a word to her since she had woken lucid “Ronon, I never got the chance to-“  

Ronon shook his head “No, don’t. I just wanted to say that I can see that you’re strong now.” he frowned at her impression of a fish “That didn’t sound right.” he amended and although his frown deepened she let the silence hang, unable to find any words suitable to break it “I read your report.” Keller paled and pressed her lips tight as her stomach swirled further up her throat at the threat of the memories, “You… you did good. When you say you’re better I’m going to teach you to break every bone in the human body.” Jennifer’s eyes widened when h e laid his hand on her shoulder, his voice gruff  “This will never happe n to you again.” Ronon  looked her over  once  before nodding and turning to leave.  

“Wait.” Jennifer called and levered herself up with her one good arm and swung her feet over the edge of the bed so she could look at him without feeling so height disadvantaged. Ronon was in front of her in an instant, concern and wariness warring for dominance on his face “I… Thank you but… Ronon, I’m a doctor, I don’t think I can learn to do that, I took an oath to do no harm, to actively train… I just can’t.” Jennifer was starting to feel seriously ill, maybe sitting up hadn’t been a good idea.  

“Jennifer” her gaze rose from the floor at his use of her first name “See this as self-defence, if anyone tries to hurt you as those bastards did then you can injure them enough to escape” 'and maybe incapacitated long enough for one of us to find him and ensure he can’t touch you again' Ronon added silently  

Keller was obviously still uncomfortable with the idea “Ronon could-“  

“That was not a reque-”  

“No. Ronon could-” she took a couple of shallow breaths and he could see sweat breaking out on her forehead“Could you pass me that” she pointed to the basin on the table against the wall. The moment she had it in her hands she vomited.  

Ronon called for Carson and moved to hold her hair back as she struggled to keep her back straight so to not tear her stitches “I’m sorry” she said between heaves “breakfast was-” she sobbed and wrapped her injured arm around her ribs “-too much but you all wanted-” another heave and Carson came running in.  

“Oh lass I’m sorry, deep breaths” he reached into one of the draws and stuck a needle into her I.V. “Anti-nausea would react to the other meds you’re on but this should help some” Ronon watched as Carson’s hand hovered over her back, obviously wanting to give her comfort but unable to because of her injuries “that’s it, breathe, keep that back straight” eventually Jennifer calmed and Carson took the basin away from her shaking hand “Ronon, could you get her lying on her side while I get rid of this. Lass,” he said, turning to the tear-stained woman “You rest and I’ll be back in a bit to check on your stiches and ribs” he nodded to Ronon and swept out, coat billowing behind him.  

Ronon waited until Carson left before looking at Keller again. She looked so small as she sat shaking on the edge of the bed. He walked over but she didn’t seem to take any notice of him so he laid his hands on her shoulders. No reaction “Doc?” she looked up with vacant eyes and he froze for a moment as he crushed the fear of another fever. 

“Tired.” she rasped, throat obviously raw. Ronon used her shoulders to guide her down on the bed and then swung her legs up. When he removed his hand he noticed a bruise, still a livid purple, wrapped around her calf and his hands clenched into tight fists. He knew what was hidden under that hospital gown, he had read the report, had seen the state she was in when they first found her, but what stood out in his mind was the day after she got back. When her body was racked with fever and she would whimper and cringe at imagined enemies. At that point, Carson had her sealed away in a plastic room to prevent further infection while they stitched and disinfected the cuts and allowed them to start to heal before dressing them. Ronon remembered the raised and red-edged wounds, the blood that didn’t want to clot and the fear in the eyes of her staff and friends.

“Ronon?” Jennifer called softly. He turned his gaze on her and regretted it instantly when she flinched from the rage she saw “I…I…. are you sure you want to teach me?” he nodded, not trusting his voice to hide the anger. Jennifer chewed her lip and sighed “I’ll think about it.” that was enough for him.  

Ronon left the room shortly after and smiled brightly at the first person he saw. The nurse froze and stared at him until he turned the corner and out of sight.