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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.  

 

Chapter Text

Jennifer peeked over her shoulder with only the tiniest groan of pain. Still free. Three more steps and Jennifer paused for a moment to listen for footfalls, just because her swimming vision managed to clear at the same time meant nothing, it was just nicely coincidental.  Yup. She had spent another 4 days in the infirmary after she managed to vomit in front of Ronon and tear half her stitches. After that, her health had slowed its steady rise to normality and she had been trapped in her room, denied the chance to even catch up on paperwork after she fell asleep on the last report she had talked her nurse into bringing her.  

Another glance over her shoulder. Still free.  

She started shuffling forward again, now halfway from her room to her office, hand against the wall for support, not that she needed it, and injured arm around the ribs that she would swear - under the glare of Carson himself - didn’t hurt.  

Nearly there.  

It was a sad day when the paperwork was something she fought to do.  

“Jennifer Marian Keller”  

Oh crap. 

“What do you think you’re doing?”  

Jennifer fixed a smile on her face and turned. Her chances of convincing him she was fine lowering significantly when she had to catch herself against the wall with her bad arm because the room spu n “Carson… Hi… beautiful day we’re having.” her face ached from the size of her smile.  

He glared and she fought not to squirm under it “No we're not, it's raining, not that you can see it from this room" he said flatly "and you are not leaving this infirmary.”  

“Good.” she said knowing to agree  with him would catch him off guard, “I was aiming for my office if you would be so kind.” she held out her arm for him to assist.  

Carson raised an eyebrow “You are going to no such place missy. What is going to happen is I’m going to get a wheelchair and you are going to sit in it and allow me to take you back to your room.” Keller opened her mouth to protest “And you are going to do it with a smile or I am not going to release you tomorrow.” he grinned as her eyes lit up “Knew that’d get ya, now stay put while I find that chair.”  

Now that she thought about it a chair was a good idea. Her limbs felt like jelly, her hip ached something fierce and, although breathing was starting to come easier as the ribs healed, one bump and her breath was stolen. The worst was the constant itch her back had become as it began to heal. There were days, as she was stretched out on her stomach with nothing to do, when she was sure she was going to be driven crazy by the unrequited urge to scratch.  

“Here we go.” Carson said walking up and bowing over the chair with a flourish of his hand “Your carriage awaits.”  

Jennifer grinned and sat down gratefully “Oh Carson” she said in a high fluttery voice “You’re such a gentleman. Promise you’ll make an honest woman of me one day. We’ll settle down in a little cottage with a white picket fence and tell our children of this moment.”  

Carson snorted and had to slow down to keep from running them into a wall “Yes dear, in a couple of years I’ll retire to one of the islands near the city and I’m sure we can find white pickets lying around  A tlantis somewhere to make you a fence with. We can even have Ronon over for tea and scones.”  

Jennifer tilted her head back and grinned at an upside-down Carson “Deal.”  

Jennifer was still grinning when she was assisted to lay back down on her bed. The easy familial banter she had with Carson had helped ground her back into the real world when she had been rescued and she cherished it

 


 

Jennifer sat at her desk, staring blankly at the pile of files on her desk and the computer pad in her hand. Why had she wanted to  get back to work? She sighed,   laid  the computer on   to p  of the mess  and ran  her  fingers through her hair before balancing  the computer  back  on her cast ,  ready to start digitising more of her notes.  

There was a shuffle at the doorway and Jennifer’s gaze flew up, heart pounding with the fear of unknown company, “Carson” she said with a little too much relief.  

“Sorry love,  I didn’t mean to sneak up on ya;  I just wanted to see how you were going and whether you needed anything.”  

Jennifer kept her annoyance in check, it wasn’t his fault that nearly all her nursing staff and half the doctors had asked her the same thing every day since she started doing paperwork again, nor was it his fault that they now all left her alone after she snapped at Doctor Wells when he asked if she wanted coffee. It had been a long day “It’s just paperwork Carson, I think I can manage and I was going to head down for an early lunch after I finished this stack” she waved at the smallest of the piles of folders in front of her  

“You know  its 2:30 pm Jennifer? Lunch was a couple of hours ago” he smiled when she glanced at her watch with a startled expression, “I would offer to go with you but I h ave a meeting with Woolsey in 15  minutes.” Carson looked from her to the files and back again before excusing himself for a moment.  

”Ronon, you finished sending me more patients for the next hour?”   He radioed.  

The last one should be reaching you in a minute or two, what can I do for you doc?”  

“Jennifer hasn’t had lunch yet”  he felt more than heard the growl from his earpiece  “Play nice, she just got caught up in her paperwork. Anyway, I was wondering if you would make sure she took a break and ate, I would but I’ve got to talk to Woolsey.”  

“Sure, I’ll be there in 5.”  

“Ta.”  

Carson returned to Jennifer’s office, making sure she heard him coming, “So, what poor sap have you talked into babysitting me today?” she asked. It had taken her a few days but she had come to accept (mostly)  that those closest to her were going to mother her until she could prove she was back to normal, now she tried to accept their help with as much grace as her patience would permit.  

“Ronon, he’s just finished running his training with the crazy sods who volunteered.”  

“Oi.” a man said from behind Carson “I happen to be one of those crazy sods.”  

Carson turned to reveal a young sergeant with a cloth to his head wound “Matheson, why don’t I get you set up with one of the nurses.” he smiled at Jennifer and led the man away “Lad, you’re the craziest of the lot! Only you would feel you had a good chance at stopping Ronon’s stick with your head, normal people use their own weapons, or, and I know you’re military so this will sound crazy, but you could dodge.”  

Matheson chuckled “True doc, but then I wouldn’t have an excuse to visit your pretty nurses.”  

Jennifer grinned and went back to her work, hoping to finish the file she was half-way through .  

“No ” a voice said from behind her and for the second time that day she froze in fear. A large arm reached over her shoulder to take the computer tablet away and she couldn’t help but flinch, it didn't  matter that her brain had already remembered it should be Ronon “Sorry ” he said softly, acknowledging her fear of him before becoming a bossy  male again “You need to eat,   let’s  go.”  

Jennifer sighed and pushed her chair away from the table, taking her time to stand and stretch her half-healed back “Lead on, I know when I’ve been out bullied. Doctors are experts at it.”  

 


 

Jennifer and Ronon sat out on the balcony, trays o f food in their laps as they leant  against the wall with their legs stretched out in front of them, watching the birds fly in a companionable silence. It was Jennifer who broke it first “Of all the people around me, you’re the only one who doesn’t ask me how I am at every opportunity” Ronon remained silent, his eyes focused  on  a pair of gulls circling each other  “I’m not complaining, the cons tant questions are setting up the  insanity plea for  my eventual murder trial quite nicely, but then you agree to do something like this and it shows that your   silence isn’ t because you don’t care”  She paused, trying to  find words for her very muddled thoughts “I just - you always seem to surprise me”  

Jennifer didn’t expect a reply, didn’t expect anything really, she just needed to say that she noticed. The others needed her to be someone, to give nice understandable answers when she didn’t have any. They wanted to feel useful and showed their love by crowding her day with chatter and questions and eyes that searched for the proof  that  they were helping.  

Jennifer was exhausted,  her eyes drifted closed against the glare of the sun and twinkle of the water. She twitched when his voice unexpectedly broke the silence.  

“You’re not ok. I don’t need to ask to see that.” his reply startled her but she was painfully grateful she could hear no pity in it “And I trust that if you ever needed to talk you would seek someone out.  Trying to force it isn't helpful.” Jennifer was surprised at his insight and she turned and  look ed at him “What?” he asked, “Just because I don’t speak doesn’t mean I don’t see.”  

She smiled and rested her head against the wall again, letting her eyes drift shut once more “I just didn’t expect you to say it.” she paused and he waited, there was obviously something else she wanted to say “Do you think you could convince the others to back off?” her playful tone laced with hope.  

“Not a chance. Believe it or not, I like to fight battles I might win  

Chapter Text

“So ,  how did you find today , Jennifer?” Doctor Barnes watched her with a practised mask of serene acceptance. Jennifer hated psychologists.  

“It’s gone well, I’ve been sleeping more than usual but that can be chalked up to a side effect of using Atlantian technology to speed up the repair of my arm, no nightmares, no flashbacks. I’m just grateful to be back home with my family.” Jennifer hid her grin as she watched the doctor's pen fly across her notepad.  

“Ok, that sounds great, almost too good to be true if I’m honest.” she looked at Jen sceptically “Well, why don’t we run through your capture step by step again. Remember that we can stop at any time if you feel uncomfortable or too anxious but we are aiming to desensitise you to the events, to accept them and then draw strength to help you move past them.”  

Dear lord, Jennifer thought, could this woman be more transparent, IA doesn’t send a psychologist unless there was a hidden motive “Yes doctor.”  

“Please, Jennifer, try to call me Catherine.”  

Jennifer smiled politely and lay down just as she had for the last 4 days. Eyes closed, she focused on her breathing and relaxing each of her muscles, “I was in the head woman’s house looking after my patients, I heard gunshots from the forest floor and the two recovering SGA members left to help.”  

“Do you see them again?” Dr Barnes’ voice murmured from her left  

An arm wrapped around her chest, a hot breath in her ear as one of them held her and forced her to watched as he slaughtered her patients.  

“No, I only learnt when I arrived back in Atlantis that no one had survived.”  

“Except Lieutenant Barker.”  

“Yes, Lilly was captured as well.” Jennifer struggled to keep her voice even.  

“What happened to Lilly?” Dr Barker asked. Jennifer tried to hide her discomfort at exploring new aspects of her memory

“I don’t know.” she lied, “I was drugged for the first day or so, by the time I was conscious Lilly was dead.”  

“I-I-I’m not sure I can do this Lilly,” Jennifer admitted to her in a hushed voice.  

“You have to, every life in Atlantis depends on you not breaking. I’m sorry I won’t be there to help you through this.” Lilly tried to show strength in her smile, one of the final acts of her too-short life.  

Jennifer squeezed her eyes tight against Lilly’s screams as they reverberated around her head.  

“SGA-1 couldn’t find her; do you know what happened to her body?”  

The dogs snarled inches from her face, obviously starved and feral “These are my babies, I try to feed them what I can but there’s never enough to go around.” the tall man grinned down at Keller as she knelt on the ground in exhaustion “Your Lieutenant Barker was a nice treat for them though.”  

“No,” she said in a strangled voice, “I assume they buried her like they were going to do with me.” there was no way the last image of Lilly  she was going to give these people was as a meal for a pack of dogs. Screw protocol.  Screw IA.  

Jennifer’s hands were trembling slightly and she clasped them together to try and hide it. She didn’t dare peek at the doctor to see if she had noticed though.  

“Now I know this next part is particularly difficult for you and we’ve been over it in detail before, but can you first describe where you were held.”  

Jennifer went through what little details of the cave she remembered even seeing, trying not to visualise it too well.  

“And the man who did all this to you, what can you tell me about him?”  

“You two can play with her, just don’t break her, I want to play with her later.”  

Boots, fists, pain, darkness.  

A small hand came from over her left shoulder and traced its way down her arm, the rest of the girl moulding herself against her back as she watched with childlike fascination as her fingers ran over Keller’s cold arm “Can we keep her? I’ve always wanted a pet”  

“He was more than slightly delusional.”  true  “As I explained before, he tied me up and taunted me with food and water.”  true but why couldn’t she just drop this subject and move on to the signing of forms releasing her from this hell  “I was beaten only twice, his main enjoyment seemed to come from slicing up my back.”   

Lie.  

Jennifer couldn’t bring herself to admit that she had been lent out to others as a toy to be played with. This situation was humiliating enough without the two brutes or the insane woman-child as public knowledge and with everything going on she was afraid she had imagined them. What if it had been one man and she had created a female presence in her memories to… to what? To ease the hurt, to help her accept it, to make it feel less violating?  

It didn’t matter.  

“I know the injuries look bad.” she admitted, having studied her technicoloured face in the mirror just that morning,  “But a lot of it was done after he had knocked me unconscious, I don’t  even  really  remember  when  I broke my arm ”   

The strain on her fractured arm grew as he hauled her off her feet by the chain around her wrist. The pain speared down her arm and stole her breath but she held onto the chain with her good hand and whimpered softly “Please, please don’t.” she begged.  

“Now now  my dear ,  my angel has finished her doodling on your back but you’ve been bleeding all over it so we need to clean  it . It won t take long.” he grinned as her eyes widened in understanding when she saw the waif of a woman walk behind her with a bucket and brush  

“No, no, no, no.” icy water hit her back and stole her breath.  

Her hand slipped a little.  

The brush was applied to her shredded back and darkness swirled.  

Her hand slipped some more.  

“Please, please stop.”  

The man remained in front of her to watch her struggle “Delicious” he whispered to her.  

Her hand slipped from the chain.  

The last thing she heard before she passed out was the snapping of bone  

“And the cutting of my back he liked to do only when I was unconscious because otherwise, I moved.”  

The pain was unbearable, nothing like any knife wound she had experience before as this one was done with slow and deep precision. She tried to twist herself away, desperate to evade the knife but Boss came around the front and held his knife against her throat, his eyes silently begging her to squirm.  

“I know everyone is looking for some horrible story of torture and despair but frankly I was lucky.” Jennifer held her breath as she watched the psychologist study her.  

“I’m glad of it.” Dr Barnes finally said with a smile “If you feel up to it  I’ll sign off on your return  to work and leave you in the capable hands of Atlantis’ councillor so I can return my report to Stargate Command.” Jennifer returned the smile gratefully and stood to take to offered hand.  

“Thank you for your help and I’ll be sure to talk to Dr Grant if I do experience any problems.” she prayed Dr Barnes couldn’t hear the lie in her words.  

With a nod and another smile, Dr Barker left for the gate room and Jennifer sighed with relief. Freedom, now back to work.  

She made her way down the corridor and back to the infirmary, paperwork awaited.  

 


 

Carson set his cup of tea in  front of h im and took a seat before SGA-1 sharing a worried glance to each of them before appearing to steal himself “I have to leave tomorrow, I’ve left my research for too long and, now that Jennifer is back as head of medicine, IOA wants me gone.” he shook his head as the tension rose “That’s not why I’m here.” he took a deep breath “Jennifer’s injuries were extensive and ,  if her fevere d dreams are any indication,  she experienced a worryingly high a mount of mental torture as well as physical ” his shoulders sagged slightly and the team watched as he fought with himself “Understand that, strictly speaking, this is covered by  doctor-patient confidentiality” John gave him a tense nod on behalf of the team   there are signs of regular beatings from more than one boot, the cuts on her back are all different ages, I would guess that they started the day she arrived and finished as late as the day you found her.”  

Carson looked over the group. Rodney was white and kept his gaze on his own mug, brow furrowed. Sheppard looked like he wanted to hit something, Teyla watched him with pained understanding and Ronon… the rage Ronon was struggling to keep buried looked immense. Carson was about to make things worse.  

“The cuts are what tipped me off, I have been receiving the notes from Jennifer’s IOA sanctioned therapist and she claims she was unconscious for most of the physical damage she sustained. But the cuts show signs that she struggled, entire sections of her back have shown signs of being redone because the first cuts were jagged, her wrists show signs that she fought her bonds, when she talks in her sleep it's clear she had many discussions with her captors.” Ronon’s hands curled into fists and Carson decided they had all had enough “I’m telling you this because I’m worried she’s try ing to repress all the details. T his was an awful experience, made worse because she is an empathic doctor who wants to see the best in everyone. She is not ok, no matter what she tells you. Now, more than ever, she proves that doctors make the worst patients. She knows how to hide some of it but eventually, it’s going to break her and I need to be certain you all know the details so you have the tools to put her back together after she  snaps under the pressure .  

The others seemed to be lost in their thoughts but Teyla nodded to him and smiled “You have my word, we will all watch out for her as she has done for us in the past.”  

“Thank you, I trust this information will stay between us, I suspect the IOA would love nothing more than to find her unfit for her job and in need of replacement by someone more… shall we say, loyal to their goals.”  

The emotions around the table turned, if possible, grimmer and Carson rose and left them with their thoughts.  

I’m sorry Jennifer, but I trust them with your health more than I trust it with you right now. God be with you child.

Chapter Text

“Please Jennifer, help me.” Lilly whimpered from her pain-ridden position, strung to the ceiling of the cave by the chain wrapped around her wrists.  

Jennifer dragged her arms under her and pushed herself off the ground but moments later she crashed back in a cloud of dust, panting with the effort. The dust tickled the back of her throat as she lay discarded on the dirt floor but her mouth was already so dry she couldn’t swallow it away. Her eyes fluttered shut in defeat, a tear escaping as she listened to the pain-filled moans from her maimed friend.  

Lilly screamed and Jennifer raised her head enough to see as a  delicate hand reach out from the dark behind Lilly, wrap around her and dra w a ribbon of red across her chest.  

“No, please don’t hurt her!” Keller cried from the floor, knowing any pleas woul d go unheeded but was too weak  to do anything more. She watched as Lilly writhed and tugged against her chains pointlessly. The woman-child finally skipped off, apparently finished for the day and the two men bracketing the exit stepped forward with wide grins.  

Lilly’s ey es never left the Boss’s face as he yelled questions while his two lackeys beat her and then, when it finally seemed like this round was over and they were to be left in peace he looked at Jennifer and with a vicious glint in his eye said “You’ve already listened to her being fed to my dogs once.” her stomach dropped and she fought not to be sick “Do you really think you’re-”  

“Don’t do it Jennifer” a wavering voice spoke from behind him.  

“Shut Up!” he spun and shouted before turning back to Jennifer.  

“Do you really think you’re strong enough to make the same choice again?”  

“Please Jennifer, just let him.”  

“Listen to her scream as the teeth-”  

“Please stop,” Lilly begged.  

- tear into her? It took longer than  even I expected the first time ” nausea swirled through her.  

“Just kill me you bastard.”  

“And there was so much blood.” he closed his eyes as if remembering a particularly fond moment “You’re a doctor-“  

“Jennifer, don’t!”  

“you can imagine how much blood was spilt over the dirt.”  

“Stop it!” but Lilly’s voice was all but drowned out by the roaring in her ears.  

“But the noise, oh the noise.” he licked his lips.  

“No!”  

“She cried like a-”  

“don’t you-”  

“bitch, ironic  re-  

“I’ll do it!” Jennifer screamed “I’ll tell you what you want!” and everything went silent.  

Jennifer woke curled up in a ball, sheets bunched around her feet and her hands pressed against her ears, moments later she flew out of bed, took the handful of steps to her bathroom and was promptly and violently sick.  

Once Jennifer had emptied her stomach  and the dry heaving had stopped  she shakily made her way back to her room and stared at her bed with trepidation, “Maybe I should take a walk.” it took her a few minutes to dig out her trainers but soon she was on the other side of her door and walking aimlessly down the corridors, for once not rushing anywhere or caught up in a discussion she had the chance to just observe her surroundings.  

The city was actually pretty... in a linear, green, metallic sort of way but there was only so much green wall and glowing control panel that she could see before her mind started to drift.  

“Jennifer?” A soft voice spoke from the corridor to her left “I do not usually see you at this hour.”  

Jennifer turned and smiled at Teyla “I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep.” Keller ignored Teyla’s knowing sympathy, she couldn’t handle a heart to heart right now, “Thought a walk to clear my head would be wise.” she looked around her a little lost “But now that I’m out here I don’t really know what to do with myself.”  

Teyla stepped forward and linked arms with her, every movement slow and gentle. Jennifer’s eyes filled ever so slightly at her thoughtfulness, she found the skittishness was sometimes the most difficult thing to deal with “I will join you for a walk to the eastern pier and then we can grab an early breakfast at the cafeteria.” she looked over at Jennifer’s grateful expression “You are better company than the others, the men tend to be too talkative... unless its Ronon, he’s just tense, particularly at the moment.”  

Jennifer opened her mouth to ask why they would be awake at this hour to join Teyla in her pre-dawn stroll  but Teyla pre-empted her  “You are not the only one whose sleep is affected by what they experience off-world.”  

With that revelation the two woman wound their way through the quiet city, nodding greetings when they happened across another soul, usually heading to their beds  after a long night working  rather than from them but the two women moved in silence, both trying to draw calm strength from the other, from the city itself, from the knowledge that they were in the company of friends.  

Eventually, they found themselves in the corner of the cafeteria, both lost in their own thoughts as they lent against the wall, table between them and cups of tea cooling on its surface.  

This was how Ronon and Sheppard found them at 0800 when they joined them for breakfast. The men struck up a light conversation with Teyla, allowing Jennifer to relax in the company of her friends and be lulled into a feeling of false security. Everything would be alright, she could deal with this. She was a doctor after all, who better to know if there was something wrong with her?  

“Jennifer?” Rodney asked  an hour later from the seat opposite her “Have you heard a word I’ve said?” she looked startled and he rolled his eyes “I ran into Nicky, your head nurse? She said to tell you you’re about to be late for a meeting.”  

Jennifer looked at her watch to find it not there “Damn.” she exclaimed and jumped up “Sorry guys I’ll see you all later.”  

“Sure.” Sheppard called after her, exchanging a quick glance with Ronon “I’ll swing by the infirmary and pick you up at 1.”  

She rolled her eyes at the doors in front of her and waved her hand in acknowledgement.  

Stupid boys , she thought with affection, they  don’t think I can look after myself.  

***  

Darkness swirled in her dreams, unclaimed voices and soft giggles that set her teeth on edge but nothing threatened her, nothing jumped out, no dogs or fists or knives and yet Jennifer could help tensing at every new sensation-  

A hand on her shoulder jolted her out of her dark dreams into reality, her head flying up to look wildly around.  

“Woah, sorry Doc.” her eyes flew to Sheppard as he stepped back trying to give her space as she readjusted.  

“Sheppard” she croaked, noticing that she was in her office at her desk, her face, until moments ago, pressed against the paperwork she was filling out. She cleared her throat “What are you doing here?”  

He raised an eyebrow “Lunch remember? How long have you been asleep?” his concern annoyed Jennifer and she stood up so she didn’t have to look up at him any longer.

“We’ve just had breakfast John, why are you bugging me?”  

“Jen it’s 1 pm.” he looked her up and down, noticing the draw expression under her fading bruises “Are you all right?”  

Jen sighed and turned to get her jacket from the back of her chair “Yes John I’m fine.” only a tin y twinge of guilt at the lie, “it was just a long meeting and I  didn’t get much sleep last night. Shall we?”  

John stepped back and allowed her to go first, Jen wondered if he was aware that he walked a step behind her when he felt protective and from the reaction of the people who walked towards them she guessed his expression was what caused then to give nothing more than a quick smile in greeting.  

Lunch was loud, even with Ronon scaring away some researchers so they could have the table in the corner. It took Jennifer a couple of minutes to realise that Ronon and John had worked together to get her the table with her back to the wall and although she was grateful for the added security she now felt, the fact that they knew she needed it meant her mask was slipping. Damn it. Rodney kindly confirmed this when he sat down across from her with his laden tray “You look like hell, been up all night again doing paperwork?”  

Jennifer glared at him “Thank you, Rodney, no.” damn, she immediately thought, that would have been a good excuse, “I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable so I didn’t sleep well.” Liiiiie, time for a change of topic “How is the cooling system going?”  

Rodney turned an odd shade of pink and she looked at Sheppard when he laughed/choked on his coffee “Did n’t  you hear?” he asked her “It turns out the monkeys with wrenches weren’t the problem.” he grinned at her , ignoring Rodney’s teeth grinding beside him  “Rodney here had messed with a couple of the systems and accidentally altered the climate control units from 18 degrees Celsius to negative 18 degree Celsius.”  

“It was an easy mistake to make.” Rodney said trying to save his pride “And f or the record, those monkeys turned a 10-minute job into a 2 day one.”  

“Damn those monkeys.” Jennifer managed to exclaim before joining the rest of the table in howling with laughter. It felt good to laugh.  

Once the mirth died down and Rodney stopped blushing and stammering Teyla patted him on the arm and turned to Jennifer “Ronon tells me you’ve accepted his offer to teach you how to use his hand to hand fighting to protect yourself.”  

Jennifer’s smile dropped as she remembered that yes, she had actually agreed to that “Err I guess, I’m still not sure I could umm fight like that.” she realised her excuse sounded lame but telling them she didn’t want to have someone she liked try to hit her because she was afraid of her own rea ctions would not go down well , “It just goes against everything I’ve  been taught as a doctor ” that at least, sounded believable.  

Teyla’s offer to assist her in the transition from their light sparing sessions with a n  evening of hand to hand to help her confidence was politely declined as she rose and explained that she had an appointment with one of the doctors.  

That each of them bid her farewell and caught her eye before she left raised her spirits. Those people back there were her family, they bickered amongst themselves, teased and insulted but the moment one of them was threatened the rest were at their back and willing to do anything to protect them. And it seemed that she had been adopted by them, her fear of being an outsider now seeming a little silly, however with her recent dramas old fears were beginning to resurface and she struggled to remain confident in her  friends’  acceptance of her.  

She sighed and turned the corner into the infirmary. Smiles as a few of the staff greeted and waved at her from across the room. “Jennifer.” Nicky, the head nurse beckoned her over to one of the few private rooms. “Here’s your gown.” she handed over a bundle of green fabric “I’ll be right back, we’ll have a look at you and get you away from here as so on as possible.” she winked and sashayed  over  to the doctor she had been trying to chat up for the past couple of months, whose eyes widened in something akin to fear. The weekly med girls coffee group knew every sordid detail of this chase. Poor man.  

It took all of 5 minutes to strip and change while she tried to ignore the fact that she hated wearing a gown and hadn’t in fact, for over 10 years before this incident

“Oh, good ” Nicky exclaim ed when she peeked to see if Jennifer was ready “Let's check over your arm first, have you been having any problems with it?” she asked as she checked the strength of the fingers and for any pain with movement.  

“Nothing too bad, I now get an ache when it’s cold but other than that its been fine.” she tried not to react when Nicky’s cool fingers tickled the inside of her elbow “I can’t exactly complain though, that machine is amazing, the breaks healed twice as fast as it should have and all I have to deal with is a li ght drain on my energy reserves .  

Nicky pursed her lips at the m ention of the Atlantian medical equipment, used without the entire battery of tests it should have had. Jennifer, who had desperately wanted out of her cast, had had no problem with using it. She accepted the silent disapproval with a smile “Ev erything seems to be going well ” Nicky said cheerfully “You know not to lift anything too  heavy; no overdoing it...” she looked sceptic al “Then again you are a doctor .  

Jennifer stuck out her tongue and lay down as Nicky moved to check her hip, luckily there seemed to be no complications and she was prompted to lie on her stomach “So how’s your pursuit of Mark going?” Jennifer asked trying to take her mind off the injuries her friend had to inspect “He doesn’t seem to be warming to you.”  

“Yet ” Nicky said with obvious intent and parted the robe so she could inspect her back. If there was one thing she liked about Nicky it was that she didn’t hiss in sympathetic pain or comment on how horrible it must have been. She was cool and calm and clinical about it.  

“Well love, everything seems to be healing nicely, there’s a patch over here.” she placed her hand lightly over Jennifer’s left kidney “Which still has a little way to go.” the jolt of pain as the woman-child’s tongue ran across the open wounds on her lower back “But overall things are looking good. When you pop into work tomorrow I’ll run a strength test on your arm, a final nerve conduction and then you’ll be clear for physical duty.” Nicky patted her shoulder and asked her to sit up. 

Jennifer groaned and dragged herself upright “In the weeks I’ve been off duty we haven’t found a machine to remove scar tissue have we?” she asked jokingly  

Nicky frowned “No,” she said in a clipped voice and stepped forward to stand directly in front of Jennifer, one hand holding her chin as she checked over her fractured cheekbone, a probe and a couple of questions proved that, aside from the still fading bruises, it was healed.  

She stepped back and handed Jennifer her clothes “You coming to coffee tomorrow? Marie’s shouting us all a cuppa this week.” Nicky’s grin was evident.  

“So, you won the bet did you?” Jennifer chuckled and wiggled into her dress pants “Doctor Ellis has agreed to a date?”  

“He has.” she said, grin growing to painful proportions “They’re having dinner together on Friday. I knew she’d get him eventually.”  

Jennifer shook her head “He didn’t really have a choice did he.”  

“Nope”  

   

Chapter Text

Jennifer looked up from tying her shoelace as the curtains around her bed were pulled aside by Nicky. “I have good news and I have bad news,” she said holding the results of her final medical test.  

“Good news please.”  

“All your tests are clear, your arm is a little weak but functional, your back is progressing as expected and your bloods are clean. I now pronounce you fit for light active duty.”  

Jennifer grinned before remembering “And what’s the bad news?”  

“I’ve just transferred a load of files onto your pad that needs to be checked and signed off on before tomorrow.” she grinned “Welcome back Doctor Keller.”  

Jennifer stuck her tongue out as she hopped off the bed “Thanks, I’ll get right on that.”  

“Jen before you step out of the curtains and become my boss again I need to make sure, you are going to take it easy right? You went through a hell of-”  

“I’m fine,” Jennifer said with more force than she had meant to “Really, I am and work will keep me busy enough to keep my head on straight.” She just smiled when Nicky tried to make her promise to take it slow and stepped out of the curtains.  

Things were going to get better now.  

 


 

As Jen was leaving her office she realised something of great importance - she had been cleared to have caffeine again! Coffee was now in her immediate future

It took a bit of speed walking and a sweet smile followed by a plea to get coffee at this time from the cafeteria but Jennifer managed to have a steaming mug in front of her when she sat down to meet her newly appointed IOA therapist.  

Dr Grant was a kind looking older man with glasses and greying hair but all Jennifer wanted to do was hit him sometimes “Today isn’t really about digging deep or making you face any fears Jennifer, it takes a while for trust to be earned. I was hoping that we could do a very calm, basic walkthrough of the days you were held captive to give me a baseline.”  she tried not to glare at him but how was reliving the worst days of her life going to be basic and calm?  

“Sure.” she said with a smile, all I want to do is run away from my memories screaming and hide in a small corner where reality will never find me again but let us discuss them in detail shall we?, “Where would you like to start?” Jennifer took a slow deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart “I was at the village in their medical hut when I heard gunfire” ...

The session went relatively well, Jennifer managed to keep the descriptions detailed enough for the doctor while crushing any major emotions that tried to rise. Dr Grant watched her as she walked him through her pain and frustration, asked few questions and merely thanked her and scheduled another appointment before letting her leave. Jennifer had had to leave her half-full cup of coffee on the table because she didn't want to reveal the tremor in her hands. She held Dr Grant personally responsible for her loss.  

With her head in the clouds from a successful session and the knowledge that she was free for the rest of the night, Jennifer missed Joe-The-Scientist with his head bent over his tablet working to the deadline Zelenka had set him.  

The collision was spectacular; Joe had raised his tablet to read a particularly small number string and Jennifer was thinking about all the things she could do with a free evening. Neither saw the other, neither knew what had hit them and neither could work out what the probability was that the corner of the raised tablet was at the exact height of Jennifer’s left eye.  

The collision was observed by only one military personnel and a nurse, they looked on in horror as Jennifer immediately flattened herself against the wall and hunched up in defence of an unseen foe, fear was written across her face as she covered her eyes with a trembling hand.

All Jennifer knew was that one moment she was walking down the corridor of Atlantis and in the next she had been sprawled on her back, pressed against a dank rock wall with pain bursting from her eye. 

Where were they? She couldn’t see the Brutes in the dark of the cave but they had to be near, their laughter still echoed around her. 

“Dr Keller?” a voice in the distance called her. 

“Now, now, wildcat, don’t just sit there.” a foot swung out of the dark and she scrambled out of the way just before it connected with her head “RUN!” one of them bellowed and she whimpered in fear. 

“Dr Keller? Why don’t-” a gentle hand landed on her shoulder and she shrieked. 

“Please no, no, no, no, no, no, nononono.” Lieutenant Samuels watched as the doctor covered her head with her arms and shrank even further into the corner of the corridor.  

“Ok, ok, Dr Keller,” he said, hands combing through his cropped hair as his mind raced, this was so not what he was trained for. Trying to sound authoritative and gentle (trying to sound like Colonel Sheppard if he was honest) “I need you to look at me Doc” he held up his hands and knelt in front of her, ignoring nurse Nicky who was clearing the crowd with harsh words and open threats of violence at the gawkers during their next physical if they spoke of it “Doc, you’re on Atlantis, you’re safe.” the arms lost some of their tension “That’s it, you’re safe, can you look at me?”  

Jennifer sat huddled into the dark, her panicked breath coming fast enough to force little whimpers from her, please not again, I can’t do this again, I’m not strong enough, I’m going to die. 

“Jennifer, please look at me.” 

“No.” she managed to whisper. Talking to the voices in the shadows is never a good idea and the men with fists and heavy boots might come back. Deep laughter echoes from the darkness again and Jennifer sobbed, braced for the onslaught that doesn’t arrive “Where are you?” 

“Right in front of you.” 

Jennifer uncurled cautiously and peered into the darkness waiting for the steel-capped boots to come at her. Kneeling in the darkness, blurry around the edges, was lieutenant Samuels with his hands raised and a worried frown on his face “What are you doing here?” 

“Dr Keller you’re-” he cut off when she grabbed him by the shoulders 

“Get out! Run before they find you!” 

“No Dr Keller, you don’t understand you’re-” Jennifer tried to shove him towards the cave entrance but he spun her and wrapped his arms around her middle trapping her arms at her sides 

“What are you doing?! Lieutenant, you need to get out of here, they’ll find you and they’ll-” her voice was choked off when her struggling caused the arms to tighten 

“Dr Keller, you’re in Atlantis, you’re safe and you’re home. We got you back.” 

Jennifer caught a memory of seeing Ronon and Sheppard, Teyla and Rodney standing around her grave “Atlantis?” the cave walls blurred and the damp smell receded.  

“Yes.” a strained voice came from behind her “Dr Keller if I let go will you freak out?”  

“No.” she whispered as the corridor swam into view. The arms around her relaxed and she caught herself against the wall as her legs threatened to give out. “I’m sorry Lieutenant,” she said in a small voice as she turned around “and Nicky,” she mumbled, noting detachedly the death stares Nicky was giving to every passerby, “I’m fine” they both looked at her in disbelief “Please,” she said, pulling away from the Lieutenant when he reached out a steadying hand as she shuffled past “Really I’m ok, I just had a flashback because,” she touched her swelling eye, remembering the cause of it all “Where did he go?”  

“I sent him to the infirmary.” Nicky spoke up, her voice firm and soft, never was Jennifer more grateful for her than at this moment, “He got a bloody nose and seems terrified someone was going to exact revenge on your behalf.”  

“That’s redic…” Jennifer paused and rethought “Please assure him that he is safe, I will make certain those two understand the situation and how I would feel about him being punished” she sighed tiredly and wrapped her shaking arms around her middle “I’m… I’m going to go now. Thank you for… this.” Jennifer walked away with her head low, trying (and failing) to not make it look like she was fleeing.  

Nicky silenced Lieutenant Samuels’ protests and watched her boss shuffle away as if she hadn’t had weeks of healing. She remembered the first week Jennifer was back and how she constantly had her arms wrapped around her middle and head down looking as submissive as she could without actually kneeling at your feet. Turning back to the slightly stunned looking lieutenant she squared her shoulders “If you use this to gossip around the dining table tonight you’ll never receive pain meds from any of the medical team. For anything. Ever. Again. Do you understand?”  

The man nodded, fully aware she had the power and faithful staff to follow through “Yes ma’am.”  

“Smart boy, off you go”  

Jennifer reached her quarters and locked the door before crumpling in a heap on the floor, her palms flat against the cool ground as she sucked in huge lungfuls of air that made her head spin.  

Today was not what she had hoped it would be.