Jennifer reached out blindly for her comm – the insistent buzz meant trouble. She shoved it into her ear as she scrambled over Ronon and out of their bed. “Keller.”
Scrambling for clothes—she picked scrubs because they were easier and listened with a sinking heart as the on-duty doctor informed her that Evan Lorne had just barely survived going into cardiac arrest. She clicked off her comm with a shaking hand and turned to her husband. “Wake Rodney, personally. Tell him that Evan is back in an ICU isolation room and he needs…” She took a deep breath. “He needs to come right now.”
She hopped into her shoes on the way out of their quarters and was running by the time she reached the transporter. The infirmary was deceptively still when she entered – a few Marines were in regular beds recovering from injuries and the isolation unit at the back was occupied by both nurses currently on duty and Dr. Banks who was decidedly pale. He handed her the tablet PC silently, the guilt and anger on his face said everything but she walked away from him.
Evan was unnaturally still, his skin seemingly bloodless. She’d seen the symptoms of it enough to know exactly what it was. Her knees went a little weak but she forced herself to stiffen up and walk to the bed. The Hoffan drug. She touched his face and didn’t look up when the doors to the room slid open. The intakes of breath—three of them were enough to tell her who had arrived. Both Ronon and Rodney often turned to John Sheppard when they needed support.
“It’s the Hoffan drug.” She set the tablet PC aside. “It’s already caused a mild cardiac episode.”
“Heart attack,” Rodney corrected at a near whisper.
She turned then saw the fresh horror in his eyes and then looked towards John Sheppard. It was ironic – everyone knew the alternate time line. Knew that in a different time, in a different set of circumstances it had been Jennifer who had died of the side effects of the Hoffan ‘plague’. “Everyone but Nurse Ross out in the hall.”
Out in the hall she waited until the door closed behind her. “Dr. Banks.”
“Dr. Keller, I –.”
“Shut up.” Jennifer snapped. “I told you to check for everything. You disregarded my instructions and did a normal blood panel.”
“It was a sword wound for God’s sake!” Banks flushed with anger, his eyes snapping with temper. “Your instructions? Why the hell should I listen to your instructions? For the love of God, I’ve fifteen years of medical experience. I was practicing medicine when you were putting out for the captain of the football team in his daddy’s truck.”
Her eyes widened in shock and her hand snaked out to grab Ronon’s arm. Banks, being angry but not stupid, immediately took two steps back. “You’re access clearance to the infirmary is revoked and you’ll be sent home to Earth as soon as the Daedalus on the next trip. A full report of your failure to render the best possible care to the Major will be included in my monthly data burst to the SGC.” She moved in front of Ronon. “No matter what you think of me personally, Dr. Banks, you’re arrogance and inability to function in our high stress environment makes you unsuited for Atlantis.”
“You can’t do this,” he seethed. “I’ve been with the expedition since the beginning. I should have been….”
“I was Carson’s choice for a replacement in the event he was killed or injured. It would have never been you. Now, get the fuck out of my infirmary. You are confined to quarters and I would suggest you avoid the Marines on this base as much as possible – you just nearly killed their XO with your complete lack of regard for his life.” Jennifer turned and left them all. Her insides were boiling with rage and guilt—because she knew it should have been her in that bed. “Jessica, wake Dr. Kyle and start a new blood panel. I want every test redone, then wake the OR team and prep the operating theatre just in case.”
“Not now.” Her gaze snapped to Rodney’s. “Give me a few minutes to get my team running and then I’ll answer all of your questions. I promise.”
Rodney nodded and swallowed hard. “Of course.”
She turned back to the nurse. “Wake Dr. Grant – and ask him to come on shift as soon as possible. We’ll need scans of his heart and lungs to check for damage.” Jennifer took a deep breath when Jessica turned away and started to do as instructed. “Michael wasn’t trying to take me off that planet – he was trying to give me the Hoffan drug. They must have soaked the blade of that sword in it.”
“Are you sure it’s the Hoffan?”
“It presents as such. I’ll know more when the blood panels come back.” She walked to Rodney. “I’d like to see you in my office, Dr. McKay.”
The use of the title was enough to startle him and straightened his shoulders. “Yes, of course.”
Once in her office, she shut the door and winced when he collapsed in the chair. “The heart attack was minor, Rodney. Very minor. He’s not running a fever, he’s breathing on his own and his blood pressure is well within normal. You and I both know the drug effects everyone a little differently and we can’t be sure that Michael hasn’t been working on it – altering it.”
“Is he going to die?”
“We know that it can present within hours or be months down the line. The problems presented early and fast – that’s good because we’re going to know very soon the road we’re all going to walk with Major Lorne.” She squatted down in front of him. “Evan came to me several months ago and told me that you were his next of kin. That he wanted you to make the decisions about his medical care in the event he can’t speak for himself.”
Rodney’s mouth dropped open. “Why didn’t he tell me?”
Jennifer offered a sad smile. “Soldiers don’t often discuss such things as catastrophic injury with their loved ones. They don’t discuss death, rarely buy life insurance policies, and make it a point to never plan for it. You can imagine my surprise that he even came to me at all. It speaks to how well he knows you and how much he cares for you. You’re not the kind of man to react well when you have no voice in a situation.”
“It’s in his file? Christ, that’s dangerous.”
“It’s in my confidential medical files that do not leave this room and can not be accessed by anyone but me—and probably you since you set up my encryptions.” She took both of her big hands in his and cleared her throat. “Does Sheppard know about the two of you?”
“No.” Rodney shook his head. “Well, if he does he’s certainly never said. You know we never talked about the alternate time line stuff.” Rodney flushed. “So crazy that you and I hooked up. I mean, you wouldn’t be the first woman… but it’s so odd.”
Jennifer nodded, a small frown sliding over her mouth. “Yes, very odd and horrible that in some way you suffered the loss of all of us and spent a life time trying to get it all back.”
“You’re happy with Ronon right?”
“Very.” Her fingers tightened in his. “But, I would have been honored to earn the love and trust of a man like you. It seems like I made out like a bandit in the love department in both time lines.”
Rodney lowered his head to her forehead – a gesture they had all picked up from Teyla. “Me, too. We’re very lucky people—you and I – no matter the reality or the time line. We’re lucky to be here, lucky to have all of these amazing people in our lives, and lucky to love so well.” He laughed softly. “That was the best non-nuclear dressing down of an employee I’ve ever seen. You decimated him and only cursed once. I’ve never heard anyone use the word ‘unsuited’ with all the venom of someone saying… I don’t know… pedophile.”
“Going to take a lesson out of my book?”
He lifted his head and snorted. “My staff would bring me in for a mental observation if I started picking up your Pollyanna ways.”
“Okay, so let’s make some choices so you don’t have to do it later in front of Sheppard or Woolsey.”
“It’s easy, Jennifer. I want you to do everything—absolutely everything to keep that man alive. I don’t care if he has a DNR or is against living on a machine or whatever—I want him to walk out of this infirmary. But if there comes a point when it is hopeless and there is nothing we can do but let him go—I want him to die with all the comfort and dignity that is possible.” He held her hands tighter when she started to move away. “And for the record, I do trust you and I do love you. Just not in the way… the other me did.”
She blinked back tears and stood. “Okay, wow. You’ve got to put your asshole hat back on or I won’t be able to work.”
Rodney bit down on his bottom lip. “Done.”
– – – –
John watched Jennifer and Rodney exit her office and walk back toward them. Whatever had been said had shook them both up and from what he could see through the window of her office—had appeared intimate and personal. Yet, Ronon had stayed at his side and had said nothing or made any indication that he was upset by what they’d both just witnessed.
The doors to the infirmary swished open and Laura entered with a still bleary eyed Richard Woolsey. He’d sent her after the man—had preferred her to do it in person than over the comm. Jennifer and Rodney came to a stop in front of them but her gaze shifted to Woolsey as she spoke.
“I’m waiting on blood results but it’s fairly clear from symptomology that Major Lorne has been exposed to the Hoffan drug. Due to an internal conflict within the infirmary, he was not tested thoroughly after his injury. I will make note of this in my report to the SGC along with my personal failure on this matter.” She held up her hand when John started to protest. “I’m the Chief Medical Officer and the responsibility is mine, Colonel Sheppard. We’re prepping the OR in case he has another heart attack – but as you all know there is no cure for the illness that comes with the Hoffan drug and only fifty percent of the people exposed survive. The Major is a strong man, with a good immune system, and we’ll do everything we can to combat what ever symptoms manifest while his body processes the drug.”
The nurse from the room appeared in the door. “Doctor.”
Jennifer moved away from them and didn’t protest when they all trailed along after her. She picked up a stethoscope and a pen light from a med cart by the door as she entered. She checked out his pupil response and then listened to his heart, her gaze flicking to the monitors that were set up all around him.
“Major Lorne, can you open your eyes for me.”
“No light,” he muttered. “I hate that fucking light, Doc.”
“No light.” She promised and touched his face. “Come on, open your eyes for me Evan.”
John felt some tension deep in his chest loosen when Lorne did as Jennifer instructed. He leaned against the door frame and his gaze flicked to Rodney who had sagged with relief as well. It put a little itch in his gut – but he wasn’t going to analyze it right now. He had time for that later.
“Mer,” Evan whispered and the whole room stilled. “I want Mer.”
“I’m here.” Rodney moved forward and grabbed the hand that Evan lifted.
Jennifer backed away a little and looked toward John. He moved fully into the room, letting the door slide close and then reached up casually and closed the blinds to the observation window. John watched Jennifer slide a chair towards Rodney and then pick up a tablet PC to start working with the machines. He stiffened when Laura moved closer to him.
“You were right.”
Laura glanced up at him and everyone including Rodney turned to look at them. “What?”
“I do have broken gaydar or I’m just the most unobservant son of a bitch in this galaxy.” He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and rested his head against hers totally ignoring the fact that Richard Woolsey was a silent observer in the back of the room.
“Actually—I think I get that title,” Richard muttered, his gaze drifting from the colonel to the major. “Look as if we all spend an insane amount of time hiding personal relationships.”
Rodney offered with a small smile. “We all know you’re sleeping with Radek if that helps.”
Richard flashed him a grin. “I should go speak with him. I promised I would call his lab with news on the Major. He’s checking over everything we pulled from the Bola Kai ship for more… ” He frowned. “Well, time bombs.”
John waited until Richard was gone from the room. “I didn’t know.”