Prompt Today, the guns are silent
Word Count: 6,000 ~
Warnings: None--Set Early Season Five
Summary: Jennifer learns that accepting and upholding an oath, requires living it.
Notes: Thanks to wildcat88 for the fast and wonderful beta. I'm not in the medical field. All mistakes are my own.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
Atlantis buzzes twenty-four seven, shifts stretching and blending into one another. Early morning and graveyard shifts share the same cups of coffee, and apple crumb cake either fuels the start, or rewards the end of the day. Careful not to leave smudges on the latest Journal of Neuroscience, Jennifer wipes cinnamon onto her napkin, eyes widening at her watch. Shift change is in fifteen minutes, not to mention all those late labs results and peer reviews piling up on her desk.
Navigating the halls during peak hours is an adrenaline surge and by the time she dons her lab coat and powers on her laptop to review last night's notes and patient files, Doctor Sato's dumping the previous shift's caseload into Jennifer's hands. 0400 hours is the crack of dawn for most, but she's bright eyed and bushy tailed during rounds. Being CMO doesn't exclude her from rotating shifts; luckily it's been a slow night. Lieutenant Chavez occupies Bed One with a grade two concussion and Doctor Cortez sleeps pitifully in Bed Two with pneumonia.
"Maybe I'll make some headway on the Akarim flu vaccines." Jennifer beams brightly at her colleague.
Sato rubs a hand at his wispy thinning hair, before removing his glasses to massage his eyes. "Doctor McKay is waiting for you in exam three. He refuses to see anyone else." Handing over a PDA, he flashes a Cheshire Cat grin. "Have fun."
This is a two-cups of java requirement. Unfortunately she hasn't started a fresh pot coffee yet. Drawing back the divider, Jennifer smiles. "What's going on, Rodney?"
"Did you see what your fellow voodoo priest recommended to me today?"
Oh Lord, this is Rodney on a double, veins flowing with more caffeine than blood, his hair an experiment in static electricity. His uniform desperately needs to see the inside of a laundry machine with extra softener. "Hello to you, too."
Bulldozing over pleasantries, Rodney shoves a balled-up piece of paper into her hand. "Who spends their life's work studying ophthalmology? Those who couldn't cut their teeth on rectal exams?"
"Oh, please. You guys only have one area of specialty compared to entire body of physics and mathematics which are the foundations of the laws of the universe governing time, space and--"
"The final frontier?" Jennifer jokes and knows even without a BP cuff his blood pressure has gone up ten points. Ignoring his murderous glare, she carefully pulls apart the crumpled wad of paper. "You disagree with the exam results?"
Finger jutting like a weapon, Rodney's face goes from pinched to volcanic. "I don't need reading glasses."
Keeping her lips shut, Jennifer allows some steam to vent, scanning the prescription. "Rodney, the suggested corrective lens is very weak."
Snatching the rumpled slip from her hand, he crunches it up and shoves in his pants pocket. "I don't need them."
"Do you squint at the computer screen?"
"Of course. Wouldn't you after staring at it for as long as me?"
Jennifer is fully aware of his habit of logging long hours behind two sets of laptops, not including all the various overhead LCD screens. "Do you get frequent headaches after reading?"
"Hello? Sixteen hour shifts if I'm lucky, working on formulas and schematics that would make most people at MIT cry."
Flapping a hand, Rodney talks over her. "Your buffoon stuck a chart in front of me after I spent an entire shift deciphering a ridiculously overcomplicated set of symbol and letter codes encrypting what looks like an alien laptop from M1X-284. Any idiot would mistake E and F in tiny script."
"And why exactly were you in the infirmary where you were given an eye exam?"
All bluster leaks out of Rodney and he looks anywhere but her face. "Um, well, because I might have misread a label and mistook Nitroaniline for Nitromethane when I handed over a sample to Doctor Kerstev, who happened to be standing in my light at the time." Clearing his throat he rubs his red-rimmed eyes. "There might have been smoke. Maybe a small, inconsequential fire."
Her smile neutral, Jennifer takes an elbow, escorting him away. "Get some rest and when you've had eight hours of real sleep I'll help you pick out a set of frames that'll make you look very distinguished."
"Distinguished? That's a fancy word for old."
"And sexy. Many women find a pair of glasses very attractive," she assures him, turning on the charm.
Three days a week, Jennifer juggles dozens of research projects ranging from genetics to Pegasus pathology. The other four are spent on call and somewhere in between there's staff scheduling, budget reviews, inventory and preparing for meetings, meetings, meetings. Not to mention sleeping and a couple of hours to gossip with the girls, or in her case, the heads of all the science departments. Most of which are men.
Tonight she actually practiced medicine, wrapping a sprained wrist and stitching a cut. Okay, neither had required a set of physician's eyes. Marie could have handled things, but Jennifer enjoys talking to living, breathing patients. Graveyard is always a barrel of monkeys. Mishaps with Ancient and alien tech despite thirteen addendums to the Handling and Examination Procedures. Last week, Doctor Brzezinski had been turned into a human mood ring, his skin pigmentation reacting to his pulse and blood pressure levels.
Jennifer chuckles at the memory as she catches up on her backlogged caseload.
"Um, Jennifer." Marie pokes her head into the doorway. "Do you know where the Oops Supply is?"
"Oh, sorry. I moved it to the second cabinet. Third drawer on the right." Jennifer smirks.
No matter the amount of personal supplies, people always run out of contraceptives and condoms between supply runs.
0300 hours come and go without incident, the peace and quiet slamming to a halt by the looming shadow of Ronon Dex.
"Hey," Jennifer pipes up, grabbing her stethoscope, eyes searching for signs of a sparring accident. No bruises, no blood. "What can I do for you?'
Ronon's hands are massive, able to crush rocks and skulls, and finding such
lethal weapons cuddling a blue speckled, furry creature with such delicacy is the most adorable things she's witnessed in a while. Where's a camera when she needs one?
Ronon doesn't appear amused. "I need help."
"This is the animal that stowed away with you on your last mission?" The zoologists were still giddy about the discovery. Not that Ronon had allowed them to claim it as a specimen.
"Is he," Jennifer paused, "or she hurt?" Veterinary medicine is not her field.
"She and no."
"Hey little fuzzy." It resembles an exotic, yellow and orange fluffy mop with a face and eyes. Jennifer rubs and scratches its chin and it nudges closer, delightfully chirping.
Ronon grins ear to ear, forcing his mouth into a scowl when she glances up. "I can't keep her."
"Um...I don't have time for a pet."
"No, I mean, I can't take care of her like she wants me to."
Ronon's distressed and Jennifer is clearly confused.
"The animal doc said she's mated to me."
"Oh." And Jennifer's eyebrows shoot up.
"But if I drop her off back to her home, she'll die."
Uh-oh. "It...I mean she mates for life?"
"Exactly." And Ronon's shoulders slump. "What...I mean...I can't babysit her all day."
The living mop chirps brightly and crawls up Ronon's shoulder to snuggle in his hair.
"Is that where she prefers to stay?"
"It has tiny feet with claws and clings to my hair when I walk. Burrows there when I go to bed." Ronon pets its head. "I can't...I mean..."
Ronon Dex, the baddest bad-ass in Atlantis has met his match---and would never live it down.
"I might have a theory." Jennifer rummages through one of the desks and pulls out a pair of scissors. "Maybe it's not you she's mated with. Maybe it's your dreads." She smiles, snipping the silver blades.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.
Learning the true nature of disease is a necessity in order to defeat it. But fighting diseases requires both patient and physician to band together and that's never easy when you're unable to recognize the battle.
Clutching her data pad, Jennifer releases a long breath and approaches Doctor Botts, closing the curtain. "Hey, Stacey. Marie says you have a migraine?"
According to Jennifer's records, this is the physicist's ninth visit to the infirmary with ailments ranging from toothaches to pulled muscles in the last four months.
With a fake smile, Stacey stills her fidgeting fingers, left foot tapping the floor. "It's like a dentist drill in my temple."
"I'd like to run a few scans, get a head series maybe."
"I have a presentation tomorrow with Doctor McKay." Swiping at an errant strand of stringy blond hair, Stacey pulls it behind her ear. "If you could just give me something to get rid of it, I could come back in the afternoon."
"I can't do that." And a knot forms in the pit of Jennifer's stomach.
Stacey's eyes stray to the cabinets in the back, and she locks a fist when her fingers begin nervously dancing about her lap. Dark circles mar her eyes; sweat beads along her brow despite the air conditioning. "Please, the pain's really bad."
"I know it is and I want to help you." Because Jennifer is about healing, not turning her patients in for their illnesses. "I think we both know why you're here."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"May I?" Jennifer gestures at the woman's wrist and presses her fingers into the fluttering pulse point. "Your heart rate is abnormally high."
"I'm under a lot of stress."
Peering closer, Jennifer adds, "And your pupils are widely dilated."
"Never mind, I'll take a few more aspirin." Stacey hops down, grabbing the dividing curtain and accidentally tearing it with too much force and desperately trying to fix it. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to."
Brushing sweaty palms over her unkempt pants, Stacey pulls herself together. "I don't have a problem. I'm fine." And she starts for the exit.
"Please, don't rush off. There are things I can do to--"
Spinning around, Stacey is flushed and flustered, deep lines creasing her forehead, aging her ten years. "I came in here for a headache. I'm sorry you're unwilling to help me."
"You can deny things to me, but be honest with yourself. I can do this in confidence now, but if you get caught in a random drug test, it's official."
It's a sincere statement and Jennifer hopes the weight will crack through such a thick wall of denial. But words can backfire, and Stacey stalks out, possibly shattering a career in the process. Jennifer will give it a few days and try again. Her duty as a physician is to care for the sick, but that duty extends to keeping everyone serving in the city from possible harm.
The rest of her shift she wonders how she could have handled things differently and e-mails her staff to put Doctor Stacey Botts on a "Do not Prescribe" list. Hitting send, Jennifer thinks maybe spending twelve hours a day sequencing the genomes of alien races won't cause as many sleepless nights.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability.
Medicine is a harsh teacher and there's no treatment for every case, even if you know and understand the cause. Jennifer has an arsenal of advanced scanners and diagnostics, access to equipment still pending patents, and the endless wealth of the Ancient database at her disposal. For all the tools at her fingertips, they don't dispense answers.
Adam Stackhouse is a veteran of the expedition, one of the first to step through the wormhole. He sports a new set of lieutenant's bars across his shoulders, his expression deceptively calm. His team lurks in the waiting area, including Major Lorne, and Jennifer is acutely aware of their collective broadcast of concern.
People don't pass out in showers without a reason.
"I've gone over your tests results---"
"Which ones?" Stackhouse snorts.
Soldiers don't show fear; they hide it behind jokes and fake bravado. The lieutenant has been through a battery of neurological exams and cognitive tests. His chart is a fat file of cuts and bruises, multiple concussions, a GSW to the shoulder, broken collar bone, and a case of Prethea flu.
"Just give it to me straight."
"You suffered a very mild seizure this morning. In the last six months you've experienced rapid onset migraines and cases of disorientation, and three weeks ago, you showed signs of a post-traumatic amnesia after a piece of shrapnel struck the back of your skull. Since then I've taken you off active duty." The PDA is hot and sweaty between her fingers, the life and career of a person documented by post-mission exams and physician files. "Based on the scan I took today and your rating on the ICD-10 scale, I'm officially diagnosing you with Post-Concussive Syndrome."
Patients recognize bad news even if they don't understand it. Stackhouse's voice cracks a little. "And that means?"
"There are medications for your dizziness and nausea, and psychotherapy I think will relieve many of your symptoms so that you'll be able to lead a fairly normal life." Jennifer's breaking along with the man before her, willpower keeping their neutral expressions in place. "However, it is my medical opinion that you be permanently taken off active duty."
"I'm being medially discharged."
"Yes. I'm very sorry."
"Because I got hit in the head one too many times?"
Leave it to the military to break something down so succinctly. "It's more complicated than that, but, yes." She wants to grab his hand, but stops herself.
True to his rigorous training and discipline, Stackhouse swallows, face blank. "I think I'd like to leave now. Inform my team."
Because the unit is a soldier's family. Jennifer doesn't speak, throat choked up, and nods as her patient silently joins those who will comfort him in ways she cannot.
Jennifer steels herself for Stackhouse's team later on, badgering her for explanations, demanding miracle cures. She'll send them away with files and answers they will not want to hear, and Lorne will show up personally for a report. She'll type it up for him and send it to Colonel Sheppard, then go to her quarters and curl up in her bed, telling herself that tomorrow, somehow, she'll make up for her shortcomings.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of over treatment and therapeutic nihilism.
Jennifer does another round of chest compressions, stimulating the heart muscle and pumping blood out of multiple gaping wounds in the process. "Time!"
"Six minutes and he's still in V-tach!!" Brio yells.
"Push another six mils of Lidocaine, both IVS wide open!"
Jennifer's arms shake with fatigue as she waits for X-rays; her patient's vitals are crashing. BP's nil; crit's in the gutter. But she continues compressions, except Sergeant --- damn, she doesn't know his name --- is bleeding out.
"Clear!" she barks.
Brio applies another four hundred joules. Marie hangs a third unit of blood, battling shock and massive trauma. It'd been some type of explosion. A bomb ripping through Kevlar and flesh. It's a losing battle; he's been down ten minutes in the field, seven here. Maybe if they could lower his body temp, slow things down for Jennifer to control the hemorrhaging, but Daryl's running over out of breath, flashing a set of X-rays; there's twenty pieces of metal inside the chest cavity.
"Go to four-fifty!" Jennifer orders.
Another shock and still nothing.
It's time to face facts. The sergeant's left pupil is completely blown which means a probable traumatic brain injury. There's no sinus rhythm, nothing left to save.
Lifting her hands, watching the flat lines of the monitors, the alarms off to silence the blaring noise. "I'm calling it," Jennifer rasps, staring at a blood-spattered uniform and grayish blue lips. "Time of death – 2040 hours."
"I'll get the death kit," Marie murmurs.
Jennifer stands frozen as one of her nurses covers the soldier with a sheet, leaving Jennifer with the task of informing those pacing the infirmary about the loss. She avoids slipping on an empty plasma bag, peels off her latex gloves, and drops them in the bio-waste bin. There's no chance to change into fresh scrubs, forgetting in her post adrenaline crash that she's walking past the teams during their post-mission checkups.
"Doc?" Sheppard pushes off his exam bed. "How's Crawford?"
That's his name. She hadn't recognized him with all that blood. The exam area goes silent, a dozen ears straining to hear her words. "I'm sorry, Colonel. He didn't make it."
The set line of Sheppard's jaw is the only sign he's heard her. The rest of him trembles from shock or something else; she's not sure. His cheeks are covered by grime and dirt. Dried blood dots the front of his t-shirt; the rest of his gear is piled in the nearby chair.
Ronon hangs his head down while his arm is wrapped in bandages. Rodney hides behind his PC tablet, his exam complete. Teyla walks over and guides Sheppard back to his bed and gives Jennifer a sympathetic look. "Come on, John. I do not think Doctor Pierce was finished looking you over."
The rest of Crawford's team abandons their checkups, surrounding Jennifer and requesting permission to be with the body. Jennifer grants it, fully aware of the Marine protocol regarding a fallen teammate. They will take turns being with the body until he's flown home. Even if it takes weeks.
"We're going back out there. Find out why a bunch of bandits are using mortar rounds," Sheppard growls.
Jennifer swears his eyes have gone dark and flat; his tone sends a chill down her spine.
"Any moron can cobble together a tube and propellant," Rodney argues. "It's not rocket science. We're talking eighteenth century. American Civil War era nonsense."
"And those semi-automatic rifles? Think they might have turned the tide two hundred years ago?" Sheppard snaps.
Jennifer can't deal with their arguing, sneaking away toward a hot shower, hoping a long half hour under a hot spray might dull the memory of losing a patient in his early thirties, with his whole life still ahead of him.
Once a blue moon, Jennifer has an entire afternoon free of rounds and reports, a scant few hours to read a book or hang out with friends. It's times like these that it dawns on her why work has become her life. She doesn't have or do much outside of it. Funny how things always remain the same. Her childhood was spent in the classroom, skipping grades to enter college, breezing through her Bachelor's to reach med school. Each day a chance at discovering the next great thing---and what was bigger than living in an alien city in another galaxy?
"May I join you?"
Glancing up, Jennifer smiles at Teyla and gestures at the empty chair. "Of course."
Sliding into her seat, Teyla hands her a swirling mug of tea. "I made this for you."
The heated mug goes through her fingertips to her cheeks. "Thank you." Jennifer sips the spicy liquid and swears it causes the tips of her ears to turn pink.
"It's been a long few weeks," Teyla muses softly, staring over the balcony.
"Yes, it has," Jennifer responds solemnly.
She's lost two more patients to off-world attacks.
"You did not come to my meditation class."
"No, I'm sorry. I got caught up in a few things."
"And lunch two days ago?" Teyla's tone is teasing, but it conceals an undertone of worry.
"I'm fine. It's just..." Jennifer hesitates. "Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing this."
"Treating patients. I mean, instead of research. I'm really good with data." Jennifer grips the mug and takes a large drink to cover her embarrassment.
Teyla straightens in her chair, radiating a warrior's fierceness that makes Jennifer jealous. "You are a wonderful doctor."
"Maybe if I focused on finding cures for illness and disease I'd be a greater benefit." At Teyla's horrified expression, Jennifer scrambles for the right words. "I could still be the CMO. I don't want to step down. The administrative side I can handle."
It's the failure's she can't.
"We all have to make difficult choices."
Jennifer feels like a complete idiot, whining to a person who has sacrificed so much. "I'm sorry. It's just--"
"You are a healer. And it hurts greatly when you are unable to help everyone. If it did not, you would not be fit for the job."
It's the honest truth, but it's a bitter pill to swallow.
Teyla stares out at the ocean ahead with a smile. "We have been tracking those ambushing worlds for the last twelve days straight. Mr. Woolsey has forced Colonel Sheppard to stand down for a day. He even changed our mission schedule to drop off medical supplies to one of our allies tomorrow. Doctor Sato was coming along, but he hates going off-world."
"You know how I feel about going on missions."
"I think it would be a great way to take your mind off things."
There is no arguing with Teyla and Jennifer quickly surrenders to her persuasiveness about taking a break with the rest of them. "It would be nice to see other parts of a galaxy." She smiles.
May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
The market of M2P-263 is a crowded maze of multicolored booths bearing flags and barkers shouting atop crates to hock their wares. Jennifer is lost in a blaze of sights and sounds, the aroma of smoked meat and burning herbs causing her stomach to growl. It was two in the morning on Atlantis and the middle of the day here.
Rodney doesn't complain as much as Jennifer has been lead to believe on missions; rather he voices aloud his observations. "Why are we milling about? What happened to dumping a few crates of vaccines and leaving?"
A man juggling giant green triangles dances before Teyla and she shakes her head in a universal 'no, thank you' gesture. "This is festival time for the Nubari and they preferred us meeting them here."
"And they had to set up shop at the end of the row?"
Okay, maybe Rodney gets grumpy in the heat. Jennifer's clothes are glued to her body from the humidity and she presses a canteen to her forehead, savoring the condensation.
"There's more traffic at either side of the entrance." Showing no signs of heat, Teyla slows down for him to catch up, glaring unhappily at Sheppard and Ronon who haven't noticed. "Are we in a hurry?"
Ronon shrugs. "Wanna get a new knife. Sooner we take them to the jumper, sooner I can look for one."
Sheppard's expression is chiseled out of stone, his intensity sucking out all of Jennifer's sense of fun. "Is there something wrong, Colonel?"
Any answer is cut short by a weird whistle in the air.
"Get down!" Sheppard shoves her to the grass, the whistle exploding and shaking the terrain.
Jennifer's eardrums rattle and her pulse jumps to one-twenty. She's aware of muffled shouts and the pressure of Colonel Sheppard's body covering hers. She might have meeped in shock, but he scrambles up to a crouch, P-90 training left to right. There's three more whistle sounds, like fireworks, and Sheppard's yelling, "Move, move, move!"
He grabs her by her vest, pushing her toward a large tree across from the trading tables. Ronon, Teyla, and Rodney running with them. "McKay, cover her. Doc, stay put."
People run like herds of terrified deer and Rodney is a jack-in-a-box, spinning up and down to monitor the chaos, P-90 shaky in his grip. "We'll be fine, no worries."
Three more mortars, she's guessing that's what they are, shatter booths into toothpicks. And four more after that send the human stampede in one direction, away from the market, and the opposite of the tree she and Rodney are hiding behind.
The gunfire's worse, rapid staccatos of ear splitting noise. Volleys exchange back and forth and Jennifer hugs the ground, rocks digging into her stomach as everything explodes around her. "Rodney?"
"Ronon's acting as a diversion and Teyla and Sheppard are heading our way to lead us toward the jumper."
"How can you tell?"
Rodney's flat on his belly beside her, weapon trained ahead. "Because I can hear Ronon's blaster east of the bad guys and there are bursts of P-90 fire getting closer."
Jennifer gapes, unable to detect Ronon's weapon above the constant noise, let alone the distance between P-90s. "That's amazing."
"It's called practice."
The war zone quiets and Teyla and Sheppard are there and Jennifer wonders if she's half deaf or if they're just that stealthy. The colonel's grabbing her by the elbow, making Jennifer feel like a piece of luggage he has to tote around. "Come on, this way. Ronon's covering, but we can't afford to be outflanked."
Jennifer thinks she knows what that means, allowing herself to by pulled and dragged. "What about all the people?"
Sheppard nearly clotheslines her with his arm as she misses the signal to stop, and he scans the distance. "I think they all found--"
Gunshots ring out by Rodney's head and he dives to the ground.
"Sniper!" Teyla yells and fires at a tree across the market.
Three men emerge from behind a demolished booth and Sheppard pivots, squeezing the trigger in a line of smoke and ammunition.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Bullets strike Sheppard and he drops like puppet with his strings clipped.
Before Jennifer has time to protest, Rodney grabs Sheppard by the shoulders with Teyla covering and drags him toward a demolished booth.
"We shouldn't move him," she hisses, following and kneels down beside Sheppard.
"Number one rule. Get to cover." And Rodney surprises her again with his efficiency during danger.
"Colonel?" Jennifer visually assesses for wounds, her hands unzipping his tac vest. There are two holes, one in the right shoulder, a second to the belly in a diagonal direction. Both were stopped by the Kevlar, but it's the red stain pooling from his upper leg that alarms Jennifer.
Sliding off her rucksack, she fumbles through her medical supplies, snagging her scissors and nearly dropping them. When she slits Sheppard's BDUs, blood spurts out of his thigh. Reaching for the femoral triangle between the hip and groin, Jennifer curses the weak pulse there.
Rodney and Teyla book-shelve her, both shouting, "How can we help?"
"One of you needs to hand me exactly what I say. The other just, I dunno. Do the military thing." Jennifer pulls out a scalpel from a small leather case and exhales. "Someone give the colonel an ampoule of morphine."
Teyla's a flurry of motion, but Jennifer can't spare a second for the drug to take effect and makes a large incision to get a clearer view. "Start an IV now and compress the saline bag to pump the fluids in faster."
There's blood gushing everywhere, soaking the ground. Jennifer opens up her left palm. "I need a clamp." She's thanking her lucky stars for keeping a well-stocked med kit as Teyla slaps the instrument into her hand. "Keep pushing fluids. If you run out, start another bag."
She could use a flashlight, but forcing more volume is her top priority. Handling the femoral artery is like messing with a wet leaky hose, but she locates where the blood's pouring out and clamps it above the tear, locking the instrument in place. Sweat stings her eyes and she wipes it away with her elbow and rummages through her kit and finds the hemostatic agent.
Grabbing the scissors, Teyla cuts several strips. "Here."
Applying the anti-hemorrhagic drug to the bandage, she packs the inside of the wound, applying pressure. "The bullet nicked the artery, but it wasn't completely severed."
"What's that mean in terms of getting us all out of here alive?"
It's the first time Jennifer notices that Rodney's been the one covering them. Teyla has a more steady hand and head for handling trauma, but the sight of Rodney guarding them brings a slight smile to Jennifer's face before it slips into a straight line. "We have to get him to surgery."
"Right, I'm sure there's an operating room over the next hill."
"Rodney, calm down." Teyla switches out IV bags. "There is only one left in your bag."
That's not good at all.
"Ronon just contacted me on the radio and he's doubling back to draw away the bandits so we can reach the jumper."
Teyla is looking to Jennifer for confirmation and it's the first time she realizes that she'd forced all other noise out of her head. "The colonel only has ten or fifteen minutes with this amount of blood loss, but there is no way we can move him that far."
Rodney makes a strangled noise in his throat and needlessly checks his weapon. "I'll go and bring back the jumper." Searching behind them he points to a clearing not far away. "I'll land it there."
A mortar explodes close by and everyone flinches, but Teyla is clearly torn, eyes straying from Sheppard to Rodney. "You cannot go alone. There are dozens of bandits."
Jennifer kneels down to monitor her patient's vitals. "Go with him. I'll stay."
"You can't be serious!"
"I am, Rodney. I'm not leaving him." There's hesitation and part of Jennifer doesn't want to be here alone, but she glares his way. "We don't have time."
Teyla doesn't want to go, but Rodney is the only other person who can pilot the jumper and he will need backup. Pulling out the colonel's weapon, Teyla places the gun next to Jennifer. "The safety is off. We will return quickly."
Jennifer wants to cry and allows her body to tremble now that there isn't an audience. Her nose is stopped up and she chokes back a sob, curling her fingers to steady them. Checking the clamp and dressings, she sighs in relief that they've slowed the hemorrhaging. Using a tourniquet would have been a last resort, since it would increase the risk of amputation.
She picks up the last bag of saline and switches out the empty one and yelps at the pair of glassy eyes staring back at her. His lips move and Jennifer shushes him. "Don't talk. Save your strength."
But he's still staring and Jennifer can't believe she's in the middle of some battlefield with Colonel John Sheppard, military commander of Atlantis, local folk legend. His eyes are those of a drowning man and Jennifer doesn't know what to do. She thinks there's fear there, but that can't be right, can it?
Grabbing his hand, she whispers, "You're going to be okay."
And he weakly squeezes in return, surprising her before drifting off.
It's impossible to ignore the hail of gun shots. She's no soldier, but it sounds like it's getting closer. How long has it been since Rodney and Teyla left? Five minutes? Seven? Picking up Sheppard's gun, Jennifer places it next to her knee, repulsed at the idea of using it. She would....no, she thinks she would.
But the jumper flies overhead, thank goodness, attracting the fire and she swallows past a huge lump in her throat. She tunes it all out, focusing on her patient as Teyla and Ronon arrive. They don't have a stretcher and Ronon takes the colonel's shoulders, Teyla his legs, and Jennifer is there all the way. Holding up the IV, keeping them from going too fast and jostling the clamp.
She monitors and cares for her patient all the way to the operating room---including offering whispered words of comfort, squeezing his shoulder. Using the human touch of medicine.
Jennifer isn't used to mission reports and her notes are a jumble of explosions and blood. She's too strung out to go to her quarters, although a mild sedative might do the trick. Checking the network, she reads through Sato's post-op notes on Sheppard's surgery, a heavy weight lifting from her shoulders on the positive results.
"There are some people who need to speak to you."
Standing and stretching the knots out of her back, Jennifer wanders out into the waiting room, thinking maybe she should have tossed on her lab coat over her scrubs. But she's off duty and too pooped to care. Sheppard's team greets her.
"I didn't perform the surgery, guys. Any questions should be directed to Doctor Sato."
Rodney rolls his eyes. "We already questioned your lackey and while his responses were far from detailed, he won't let us see Sheppard for another couple of hours."
Jennifer's offended that they'd listen to someone else's orders. "And you're actually going to listen to him?" By Teyla and Ronon's twitchy eyes, that's a lie, but there's something else. "What's going on?"
Clapping his hands and turning around, Rodney wheels a small table in front of him. "Instead of eating the awful nutritional crap here, we thought you might like catering. Baked chicken and meatloaf."
"And brownies and ice cream." Ronon snags one of the desserts and munches.
"I have hot tea and a bottle of Athosian wine." Teyla catches Jennifer's gobsmacked expression and smiles. "On Athos, we used to toast our healers after saving a life. To show thanks and to celebrate sharing the next day with family and friends. I think it is time to start the tradition here."
"But look what happened on the planet? I mean...why?"
"Because we must take the time to cherish every moment to balance out all the bad ones." Teyla pours the first glass of wine. "John is alive because of you."
Ronon pats his blaster. "And we'll get the guys who did this. Trust me."
Rodney piles on enough food for two people and gives her the laden dish. "Got to enjoy the small things."
After the last four weeks, this gesture brings everything all home.
It's the simple rewards. Quiet nights to balance out the hectic ones. Larger than life heroes taking her hand in a time of need. And those before her, sharing time to reflect. Jennifer will give them half an hour before they sneak off to Recovery to be with the colonel.
Sitting in one if the uncomfortable plastic chairs, Jennifer enjoys a meal with good company, taking comfort that the good days will outweigh the bad ones.
A/N: All quotes from the Hippocratic Oath. (And yes, this was a very loose interpretation of the prompt.)