He was the best pillow ever. She snuggled closer, ignoring his intake of breath. Who would have thought a man that was a walking mountain of muscle could be so comfortable? It made the darkness around them more manageable.
His fingers stilled in their gentle quest through her hair. “I find if I’m quiet, people will fill the silence for me.”
“I’m not going to let you get away with that.” Jennifer shifted her head so she could study his face. He was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful men she’d ever seen. “I need to know that there is something serious between us.”
His eyes widened and then he nodded. “I’m serious about you. But, we don’t live…”
“I know how dangerous the mission is. I just need to know that I’m not risking breaking my heart alone.”
“You’re not alone.” He was silent for a moment. “It’s why I couldn’t leave or wait for a search party. I didn’t want you to be alone.” Ronon touched her face and she sucked in a deep breath. He pulled her up his chest until their mouths almost met. Then he whispered, “Whoever was trying to follow you earlier finally found you.”
She’d heard something but had really hoped it was her imagination playing tricks on her. “Just the one?”
She leaned into him further and for the first time touched his lips with hers. The soft brushing of mouths was not what she’d expected from him. Lifting away, she ignored his intake of breath. “He hasn’t made a move because he needs me alive?”
“And when I move?”
Ronon flashed her a grin. “I’m going to make him regret it.”
“Not leaving when he had a chance.”
“Why didn’t he take me while he had a chance?”
“A smart soldier learns everything he can’t about his prey and leaves nothing to chance.” He pushed her hair behind her ear. “I was too close and probably between him and his way out.”
“He’s not as good as you?”
Jennifer accepted the answer for what it was and curled her fingers into his shirt briefly. She wasn’t ready for this to change; wasn’t ready to give up the physical connection she had with him but knew she had no choice. Ronon cupped the back of her head, pulled her closer, and took her mouth in a hard probing kiss.
“To the right,” he murmured as he let her pull away.
Jennifer rolled away to the right as quickly as she could and scrambled towards their pack of provisions while he sprung to his feet and disappeared into the woods without another word. Weapons fire, both a machine gun and then the unique thunk of Ronon’s weapon, filled her ears and then nothing. Absolute silence.
“Son of a bitch.” Ronon stalked into the clearing, pulled her from the ground, and held her close. “We’ve got a big problem and we’re going to have to move fast.”
“What do you mean, Rodney?” John Sheppard regarded a mixture of annoyance and horror.
“The tech I found on the one guy is definitely Wraith but it’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s been configured to locate…” Rodney flushed. “It looks like it’s primary function would be finding females. It picks up female hormones, pheromones and the like. Humanoid females.”
“Why would the Michael be looking for women only?”
“Yes, that would be fine.” John waved him on with clenched teeth.
“Incubation. The female body is uniquely designed, of course, to care, nurture, and develop humanoid life. He’s really in the business of making a new breed of super-hybrids it would stand to reason that he’d need women for a breeding program.”
It was, in John’s mind, the most horrible thing he’d heard in at least a week. “So, she wasn’t a specific target?”
“I doubt it. She’s just a young, breeding age female, and they were probably on this planet originally to cull women from the village for his experiments. Too bad their recon team ran into Lorne and Ronon.” Rodney shrugged. “Good news is that I can totally use this to find Keller.” He waved the device with some glee and John fought the urge to punch him just to make himself feel better.
Jennifer stumbled a little but righted herself before Ronon could turn and do it for her. “I could carry the pack- you know free you up so you can kick some ass.”
“I’m fine. I can still kick plenty of ass.” One hand curled around her elbow, his gaze darting from left to right as they moved. “The guy who was watching us—was not like the others.”
“No?” Jennifer glanced back over her shoulder. “Should I take a look?”
Ronon shook his head. The last thing he wanted was for her see one of his kills up close and personal. It just seemed to cross a serious line – he’d prefer if she never thought of him in that way—as a killer though few people thought of him in any other way. “He looked half-Wraith like Michael.”
“Oh my God.”
“I didn’t realize you were religious.” He pulled her over a fallen log and then redirected her when she started to go in the direction opposite of the gate.
One of the moons had already disappeared and another was following. He figured they had another forty minutes of night cover and then the sun would rise.
“I’m not… well not really. It’s pretty hard to believe in a god when you’ve read all of the stuff about the aliens who pretend to be gods. It was just an expression of shock.”
“Like when Sheppard says ‘fuck’.”
“Well, ‘fuck’ is the universal word. It can me shock, anger, sadness, disgust, excitement… even pleasure in the right…” She bumped abruptly into his side when he stopped.
“Yeah—it’s also a slang word for sexual—stuff.” She cleared her throat. “You can ask Colonel Sheppard about it when we get home.”
“Earth people,” Ronon muttered, he started walking again. “How many of these things do you think Michael has made?”
“It depends on how successful his experimentations have been. I mean, we know from past experiences that he’s been experimenting with cloning, gene manipulation and the iratus bug itself. What that means is anyone’s guess. I mean he could be manipulating fellow Wraith or that guy could have started out human.” Jennifer paused to catch her breath. “It’ll be daylight soon.”
“So why hasn’t Atlantis sent a Jumper to find us?”
“They probably have.”
“We both have transponders.”
“Am I distracting you from your soldier thing? Because I can’t seem to make myself shut up.”
Ronon laughed softly. “You pretty much distract me by breathing. The talking is kind of like being around Rodney—I’m used to it.”
“Oh, comparing me to McKay is not a good way to get laid.”
“The range on this is obviously limited. I mean it’s dependent on wind to carry a scent. It’s sort of like an electronic blood hound.” Rodney waved it.
“So what you’re saying is that by the time it would work I could just shout out ‘hey Jennifer!’, right?” John turned and walked away from Rodney. The punching thing was looking like a serious option. “Lorne, get prepped the damned sun should be up soon and I want a search pattern in the works as soon as possible. One team goes back to the site of the ambush so they can try to pick up her trail from the beginning. I want four other teams scouring the area around the gate in all four directions.”
“This is Dr. Keller we’re talking about, Major. Spread them out and find her.”
The shot came out of nowhere, a single round and it hit Ronon in his upper shoulder—mere inches from his heart. He was falling before the report of the gun fully registered with either of them.
Jennifer’s hand clamped down over the wound as she fell with him, her eyes wide with shock. “Ronon?”
Their eyes met. “Yeah, he’s a crap shot.”
“Well he hit you.” She glanced around in the softly lit forest. With one hand, she pulled at the pack he had on his injured shoulder and jerked it open. “I swear to God this is the last time I leave Atlantis without a full kit.”
“I’ve been thinking—maybe you should just stay in the city.” Ronon winced as she pressed down on the wound. “Seriously.”
“I’m the Chief of Medicine of the entire expedition,” Jennifer muttered as she worked. “I can’t very well hide in my infirmary all the time. It’s my duty to carry my own weight on Atlantis. If I can’t do that, if I can’t learn to cope with what our situation is…”
He grimaced. “You should run.”
“Yeah, because that worked out so well last time.” She pressed gauze into the wound. “How bad does this hurt?”
“Less than getting hit by a Wraith weapon but worse than a knife wound.”
“Nice,” she muttered. “He’s coming right?”
“Yeah, he’ll be confident that he took me out and that you’re trying to save me in vain.” Ronon smirked. “He’s not even as good as the first guy I killed his morning.”
“Back away from him.”
Jennifer jerked and closed her eyes briefly as she considered her options. She was perfectly content to be Ronon’s shield but she knew neither man would tolerate the situation much longer. Her gaze connected with Ronon’s and she smiled though she was sure her fear was written all over her face. The desire to be strong from him was there but fear was winning.
“Toss his weapon away and the get up.”
Ronon nodded. “Do as he says.”
“Yes, do as I say or I’m going to put a bullet in the back of your head. One dead female won’t matter much on this trip anyway.”
Jennifer gripped the handle of Ronon’s pistol and pulled it free of the holster her wore on his leg. She’d seen the thing a hundred times—always on him or in his hand and it was horrible to think she was taking it from him now in a situation when he needed it most.
She tossed it, but not without care. She watched it land and knew that Ronon had to. Then she stood, with her hands up and stepped in the direction of the weapon. Ronon was on his feet and lunging at their captor before she even took another breath.
The gun the man carried went off but the bullet was in the air but Jennifer was on her hands and knees searching for Ronon’s gun in the brush where she’d thrown it. When she found it, she turned to the men and found them rolling on the ground in a tangle fury and limbs. Ronon had a knife in one hand while he was trying to pry the weapon from away with the other.
The man, one that appeared to be entirely human, dug his free hand into Ronon’s wound and Jennifer screamed louder than Ronon yelled. She rushed forward and shoved Ronon’s gun against the back of the man’s head.
“Get off of him.”
“You won’t shoot.”
“The last guy that said that is probably still limping around with a bullet in him.” She shoved the end a little harder. “Get off of him.”
“How about I kill him instead?” He tried to move his gun and point it towards Ronon’s head, blood from the wound Ronon had already sustained poured out onto the ground.
“You think we haven’t watched you for the last two days? Caring for those primitives? You’re soft. Too soft.” He pushed down hard against Ronon. “You don’t have the strength to defend your own. You ran from the first battle.”
The man dug harder into Ronon’s shoulder, tearing the wound open, and Jennifer met those beautiful green eyes for guidance. “You don’t have to do this.” Ronon spat out between gritted teeth.
Jennifer pulled the trigger.