She had tried all night to put herself in his place; to find the emotional place he was in that he would think that she was keeping some horrible secret and she couldn’t. But, Jennifer admitted to herself that sometimes the emotions and mindsets of others totally baffled her. She’d breezed through school so quickly that, as she’d explained to Ronan once before, missed out on a lot of the social stuff.
She’d been twenty years old when she entered medical school – twenty, so much younger than her peers, and a virgin. A upper classman had helped her out with the virginity problem without blinking an eye and from him she’d learned to keep sex in a private and often separate place. She wouldn’t have called him a lover then and most certainly not now – now she knew the difference. But, she did have fond memories of the man and hadn’t even been blinked when he’d disappeared from her life the moment he graduated.
Ronon moved in his sleep, his arm pulled her tighter to his chest. He hadn’t expected her to come to him – that had been obvious when he’d opened the door for her. But, he’d let her in, kissed her softly, and apologized for the argument they’d had. It was more than an argument but she’d been too tired to argue the point and had let him maneuver her into a nightgown and into bed to sleep. They were both emotionally and physically exhausted.
She knew the moment he woke, his body tensing as it always did when he realized he wasn’t alone in his room. She wondered if there would ever come a time when he didn’t do that… and already figured never. The man had been alone for seven years fighting to survive and the years he’d been on Atlantis hadn’t done as much as anyone had hoped to heal that.
“I see Dr. Stephens every other day in the early morning because it was the only time that fit with both of our schedules and he’s an obscenely earlier riser like me. The days that I don’t meet with him I go to a little room away from the main complex that Radek found for me – a relaxation chamber that helps with the meditation techniques that Teyla taught me. Most people see one of the base psychologists when they have no choice, right, well I’m scheduling multiple weekly visits and I’m responsible for the physical health of everyone in the city.”
He was quiet for a moment. “Is today one of your meetings with him?”
“Yes.” She turned in his arms, her eyes suddenly wet with tears. “You hurt me.”
“I know and I don’t know how to fix that. I never let myself get to the point where I thought you were actually sleeping with someone else.”
“No… I totally believe that. If you had you would have followed me instead of just having searched for me once or twice. Followed me so you could kill some unfortunate Marine.” She touched his face with hesitant fingers.
“Not a scientist?” he asked, his voice seemingly casual.
“God no. There are only two men in the whole science department that I would even consider and they are both a little old for me.” She grinned when he raised an eyebrow. “Radek and Rodney. Besides, I think they could actually be a couple. Neither have ever expressed much interest in women; well except for Rodney but you know as far as I can tell he hasn’t actually slept with a woman in the city and he could have his choice of most of them.”
“His choice? Really?”
“He’s part of SGA-1 and has saved this city from destruction, risked his life time and time again to keep us all in one piece. Yeah, he could have as much action as Sheppard if he wanted it. Pussy on a silver platter.”
“Pussy on a silver platter?” Ronon’s eyes lit with amusement. “You’re dirty mouth is quite a surprise.”
“But you did think I was involved with someone else emotionally?”
He frowned but figured honesty was for the best. “Yes.”
“I guess in a way you weren’t wrong.” She shrugged when he frowned. “Dr. Stephens puts me through the wringer – forces me to deal with the attack, the kidnapping on New Athos, and the helplessness that accompanied both of those events. He can be a real bastard sometimes.”
“I think I understand why don’t want most of the city knowing but I don’t understand why you kept it from me.”
“You already treat me like I might break into a million little pieces. I didn’t want to add to that.”
* * * *
Ronon didn’t understand, really, the mind doctor thing. He went to his evaluations and always did his best to answer questions with non-answers. His nightmares were his own business and talking about them with another person seemed an extreme waste of time. Yet, he’d noticed a marked improvement in Jennifer and he was relieved to know that it wasn’t coming from a more personal connection.
He hovered in the doorway of the psychologists office for a few seconds but then pushed forward and let it slide shut behind him. He’s already hurt her and he wasn’t going to back out of what he’d already determined was something of a punishment for the way his mind worked and what he’d automatically assumed.
Dr. Phillip Stevens was one of several psychologists Earth had sent to Atlantis – he dealt with severe stress, emotional trauma, and team dynamics. Ronon knew this because while Jennifer had gone back to her quarters to get something called a ‘diary’ he’d checked the man out on the staff list.
“I’m glad you came with Jennifer this morning, Mr. Dex.” The doctor offered his hand in greeting and Ronon took it despite the fact that he really didn’t want to touch the head doctor at all.
“Ronon is fine.”
“Of course, thank you.” He sat down in a chair in front of a small couch and motioned them to sit. “It’s not often that I deal with couples but we’ll see how this goes.”
He almost growled but Jennifer put her hand on his and he tried to relax against the back of the too comfortable piece of furniture.
Jennifer handed him a small data drive and the doctor plugged it into his computer tablet. He was silent for a moment. “Okay, let’s talk about how you dealt with your anger yesterday.”
Ronon almost responded but quickly realized they weren’t talking about his anger. He frowned and looked at Jennifer who was glaring.
“Which time? I thought I’d pretty much worked out all of my anger at Dr. Grant and then Ronon comes into the showers area and basically implies that I’m having an affair.”
“Well, first we’ll talk about the anger you actually resolved.” The doctor glanced at Ronon and seemed far more interested in him now—because now he knew why he was there.
Jennifer settled back in the couch and pulled her legs up so she could comfortable. “I’ve been doing that work out thing with Laura Cadman for the past two months—you know. It’s been good because she’s patient and very thorough and also I guess she was relieved to have someone to play with in a sport she enjoys a lot. Yesterday we sparred for the first time – it was cathartic.”
“You’re problem with Dr. Grant?”
“Will be resolved. Most people either adapt to Atlantis or they go home; since he has the ancient gene—I believe that he’ll adapt to us rather than leave. This is the best place, after all, for him to explore his new found gift with technology.”
“Just as you did.”
“Yes. When I was first approached by the Air Force I wanted no part of whatever project they were doing… obviously it would involve combat of some kind and I imagined myself doing triage in the Middle East somewhere. It was the last thing I wanted. But, finally curiosity got the best of me and I allowed myself to be courted by then. When the results from the physical came through and they started talking about genes and that there was something special in my genetic code I sort of freaked out. I really didn’t need one more thing to separate me from everyone else.”
“Yet, you were embraced for this difference.”
“Oh yes, treated like a princess—wined and dined by a national hero after I basically ran from the SGC and demanded that the Air Force never contact me again.” Jennifer blushed as she said it. “But, you know all of this. You know how I got to Atlantis.”
“Yes, it’s in your file.”
“So, I believe that he’ll adapt and adjust. It’s what we do around here.”
“Ronon, why did you believe that Jennifer was being unfaithful to the relationship you have with her?”
He went still and cursed himself for not seeing the question coming but the doctor had been so intent on Jennifer that he’d sort of allowed himself to be lulled into a relaxed state and that was irritating. “She was keeping a secret from me. Among my people, couples that are as… intimate as we are don’t keep secrets.”
“You’ve done well to adapt to a relationship with a human woman.” Stephens consulted his tablet pc and started to navigate through the screens. “Dr. Heightmeyer had very notes on you in your file and indicated that you never sought her out for personal counseling.”
“This sort of thing isn’t…” Ronan waved his hand. “We didn’t do this on Sadeta. I do the evaluations.”
Dr. Stephens smiled then. “Yes, I read them. You have a very black and white view of the world. So, it would stand to reason that if you were not sure of your place in a situation or a relationship you might be uncomfortable and lash out in ways that might emotionally hurt your partner, no matter your intentions.” He tilted his head. “So, what makes you uncomfortable in your relationship with Jennifer?”
He started to get up and leave- it would have been easier but it would have also spelled the end of his relationship with her and that kept his back firmly against the couch. There were customs among his people that neither of the Earth people in the room would understand—he felt that deep in his bones—but the doctor asked and Jennifer apparently wanted the answer. He had a feeling the answer would make the divide between them even stronger.
“On Sadeta, a woman of Jennifer’s value would be highly sought after. I rose high in the ranks of our military – worked hard, fast so that I could earn the right to pursue the woman I eventually mated with. Her father wasn’t happy with the union but within our culture—women chose their mates.”
“Value?” Jennifer asked softly.
Dr. Stephens saved him from responding. “In many cultures, women are judged by their physical attractiveness and the power they wield within their community. You are, in your own right, a very powerful woman within this expedition and your physical attributes are obvious. Add to that the ratio of men to women on this base and it makes you very valuable in terms of mating potential.”
“That’s not exactly flattering.”
“You’re in a relationship with a man who was born, raised, and lived on another world, Dr. Keller. Despite the fact that Ronon has lived among us for four years—he is still quite different from us. He has a different system of beliefs, values, and a cultural background that is vastly beyond what you and I have experienced. He’s lived his whole life in the shadow of the Wraith and you’ve known about them for two years – when a society faces extinction on a daily basis—their survival is dependent on basic principles that on Earth we are allowed to overlook in polite company.”
Jennifer crossed her arms over her chest. “Okay. I need to think about this.”
* * * *
“So then Dr. Stephens totally takes Ronon’s side it was like I was being picked on for being….” Jennifer waved her hand around. “Me.”
Teyla laughed softly and stretched out on the mat. “Come now, Jennifer, I’m sure Dr. Stephens was not picking on you. After all, the point of the meeting was for you and Ronon to reach some common ground, yes?”
“Yeah.” Jennifer assumed the mediation position that Teyla had taught her – they were in the room that Radek had shown her and she was pleased to have finally decided to share it with Teyla. The other woman had immediately appreciated it’s value. “Do you know about mating rituals on Sadeta?”
Teyla paused in mid-stretch and then lowered her arms to her lap. “Well, I’ve heard rumors. I could find out more if you wished.”
“Yes.” Jennifer nodded. “He does a lot for me—learned to dance, went through the whole dating thing when I know it must have been stupid to him, and his assimilated a lot of Earth culture to interact with all of us. I don’t deserve to be with him if I can’t return the favor. I love him too much to be selfish about it.”
Teyla smiled. “You love him.”
Jennifer paused, it was the first time she’d ever said it out loud. “Yeah. Yeah. I really do. I don’t think I would have been so hurt about his suspicions if I didn’t.”