Colonel Sam Carter was as close to losing her temper as she had been in a very long time. A very long time. “Nothing?”
Rodney pushed out from under the terminal and glared at her. “Our sensors were down for twelve hours. I leave my city in your hands, Colonel, for barely twenty-four hours and this is what happens. The sensor grid was taken off line and then brought back up with none of the idiots on duty even bothering to take notice!”
Radek Zelenka cleared his throat. “I think we can all assume we aren’t going to find out who did this in a traditional way. He covered his tracks very well.”
Sam squatted down until she could look Rodney in the eye, ignoring the way Rodney jerked backward and banged his head on the science station behind him. “Let me make myself clear, Rodney, we have precious little time to figure how who did this, what their plan was, and why Dr. Keller was his target because when she wakes up if she gives Ronon a name—he’s going to go to war in our city and there isn’t a man here that’ll stand his way. I doubt, honestly, I’ll be able to stand in his way myself. So, let’s all spare ourselves this moral dilemma by finding him and getting him on the Daedalus before that happens.”
Rodney lifted his chin. “If she were mine I would act no differently.”
Sam paused, it was yet another reminder of how the years on Atlantis had changed him. She regretted it, remembering the bright eyed scientist who had called her beautiful but dumb and thinking that it was a shame that war and loss had stripped some of that lovely arrogance away from him. “If he does this I can’t protect him. The IOA will have a field day. He’ll fight us, he could die or kill any number of people and then we’ll have to face Jennifer Keller and tell her that we let a man she cares about a great deal destroy himself for her.”
“Right. Right.” Rodney took a deep breath. “Go away while I work. Go bother security.”
She woke up screaming for him. He’d expected it, had been anticipating but experiencing it was like being knifed. Ronon reached out for her, pulled her from the bed and settled back into the chair he’d been sitting in.
“I’m here. I’m here.” Her small frame shuddered and shook against him. “I’m so sorry, little one, for not being here sooner.”
“Don’t let go.” She buried her face in the side of his neck and she started to cry. “Don’t let go.”
He sat with her for more an hour, until her body stopped shaking and her breathing evened out. When she lifted her face and met his gaze, tears were still streaming. He brushed them away with gentle fingers, careful of the two bruises that were on her cheeks. Glancing blows, he knew, a backhanded slap that landed on her cheek bone – a punch she tried to get away from them that connected on her lower jaw. In his mind’s eye, he could almost see it… someone hitting her and it made his blood boil.
She leaned in and met his demand with a soft smile. Her lips rubbing against his, and for a few minutes he let himself get lost in her taste. He was afraid to touch her, knowing that she was covered in bruises so he ran his hands lightly down her back and let her control the kiss. It was an exercise in control and when she pulled her mouth from his—he forced himself to relax beneath her.
They stared at each other in silence taking in the changes that marred her face and hardened his eyes that taken place in the very few hours they’d been separated.
“When you weren’t in the gate room…” He stopped, his voice a little more hoarse than he’d have thought possible. “I knew you weren’t scheduled to be off world and then everyone was looking at me like something horrible had happened.”
“I’m sorry.” She bit down on her bottom lip.
“I guess our secret is most definitely no longer a secret.”
“Why? Because you kidnapped me from the infirmary?” She fingered the hospital gown she still wore.
“Because apparently every time you’ve woken up in the past ten hours you would scream my name until they sedated you again.”
Jennifer flushed and swallowed hard. “Well, all of that sneaking around was for nothing then, huh?”
After a few minutes, Ronon tapped his ear piece. “Beckett, she’s awake.” Jennifer took a deep breath. “Come ask your questions and check her vitals.”
“You saved me.”
Ronon shook his head. “No, I didn’t. I wasn’t here.” He touched her face with a shaking hand, a mixture of anger and grief over that statement saturating his every move.
She turned into his hand. “You did. You did save me.” She placed a soft kiss in the middle of his palm and took a deep breath. “I totally kicked his ass.”
He pulled her close and kissed her forehead. “Did you?”
“I did. I do actually pay attention to you in the gym when you try to train me. And the whole time I could hear your voice in my head telling me to get up, telling me to hit him back, and finally demanding that I run.”
“Can you tell me his name?” The question was as casual as he could make it.
“No, I never saw his face.” She sat up and frowned. “You’re not going to do something that we’ll both regret are you?”
“He laid his hands on you. When find him, and I will, he’s going to pay for it.”
“If Sam figures out who it was—they can go back to Earth and face trial. That’s how we do things, Ronon.” She touched his lips when he started to protest. “How many years did you run?”
“Seven. You know that.”
“Think about that life you had then and what you have now. If you sought revenge on my behalf, no matter how honorable your intentions are, you’ll lose that. Do you want that for me? A life drifting from one planet to the next? Because, I go where you go and if you leave Atlantis – no matter the circumstances I’ll be with you.”
She’d never said she loved him but in that moment he heard and saw the words in what she did say. Ronon understood on a deep level what she meant—she was home for him, too. He would hate to leave Atlantis but the only loss he couldn’t fathom recovering is her. But, more to the point he would never want such a life for her.
The door chimes rang and reluctantly Ronon lifted her off his lap and set her on the bed. “That’s Beckett.”
Jennifer was still as Ronon went to the door and after a few seconds let Carson enter. “Could you go to my quarters and get me some clothes. My uniform please.”
Ronon frowned at her. “Now?”
Carson put his kit down on the floor and twisted it so the outer pocket showed his gun to Ronon. “I’ll stay here until you return, lad.”
Ronon glanced briefly at the gun. “Sure about that?”
Carson met his gaze without flinching. “I brought her to Atlantis. I protect my own.”
Jennifer relaxed a little when Ronon left. “I’m going to die of testosterone poisoning.”
Carson sat down in the chair that Ronon had abandoned. “Talk to me, Jennifer. I’d bloody well still have you in the infirmary but Carter suggested that keeping Ronon happy and occupied would forestall what is going to fast approach a battle on this city.”
Jennifer chewed her bottom lip. “The rape kit?”
“Came back positive for semen and you have some minute tearing on your vaginal wall, but no bleeding. I would say that you’ve had sex in the past seventy-two hours but…” Carson’s gaze narrowed. “You don’t remember much of it do you?”
“Beyond breaking his arm? No. I cracked a few of his ribs and he probably has a concussion, but I remember my clothes being torn and Ronon’s knife and I don’t know if…”
“I take it that you and Ronon are sexually active?”
“Your condition spoke to rough but certainly consensual intercourse.”
It was an excellent description of the last time she’d been with Ronon—rough but consensual. She relaxed. Her body was telling her that she’d hadn’t been hurt in that way but the fear of it lingered. “He’s a big man.”
“I know, lass, I handle the man’s physical.” Carson flushed a little. “Okay, I’d pretty much already ruled out sexual assault. Your body bruising didn’t support that—though you do have a few bite marks that I’m sure we could also trace back to your big man?”
“Yes,” Jennifer sighed. “Christ, I’m sorry about earlier—I just couldn’t think clearly and I knew I was freaking out and I couldn’t stop it.”
“When we found you, you were in here huddled with a knife as long as your forearm crying like a child. We had to sedate you with a tranq gun.”
“Oh that’s just all kinds of wrong.” Jennifer frowned at him and offered her arm when he pulled out a blood pressure cuff. She was silent while he took a reading. “I need Sam.”
“Sheppard and Sam are both waiting to be briefed.”
She nodded. “I want to be dressed in my uniform… I don’t want to be in a bed for this, Carson. I know I should probably go back to the infirmary.”
“Frankly lass, that is not likely. You and I both know he isn’t going to be far from you until this is resolved and he scares the hell out of half the staff. Besides, I think he’s far better for you than anything else. After all, you aren’t still screaming his name and threatening to kill me.”