blue flamingos

And So The End

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Category/Rated: Het, PG-13

Year/Length: 2010/~4197 words

Pairing: Keller/McKay

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Sometimes, it doesn't get any better. Sometimes it just gets worse; sometimes it just ends.

Series: Dysfunction 'verse.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

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"I'm so sorry," Rodney says when he blows into Jennifer's room at nine o'clock.

"Okay," Jennifer says, looking up from her laptop screen and the journal article she's been working on for the last hour. He looks harried, but that's probably because he just ran up here from the lab. Or because he was off racing cars with Colonel Sheppard, like last time.

"Seriously," he says, sitting down opposite her at the table. "I really am sorry. I got caught up in something, next thing I knew it was nearly nine and I was late."

"Okay," Jennifer says again. She types a line, then erases it.

"I know this was important to you." On the edge of her vision, she can see Rodney wringing his hands. "And I really did mean to be here. I'll make it up to you."

Jennifer lifts her hands carefully away from the keyboard and looks at him. "Well, no you won't," she says as mildly as she can.

Rodney gives her the wide-eyed hurt look that she hates, like *she's* done something wrong. "That's not fair," he says. "I told you I –"

"Didn't mean to forget my birthday dinner, yes, Rodney, I heard you. I'm sure you were doing something vital to our continued survival, but the lack of emergency calls suggests that it wasn't vital to our survival right now, so really, you just forgot about me." She should have gone out when it became clear he wasn't going to show up. Would have done, but for the little part of her that doesn't want to admit she couldn't even get her fiancé to show up on her birthday.

"You could have radioed me," he says sulkily.

"And you could have set an alarm to remind you to leave work and come by for my birthday," she says. "I'm not your mother."

"You know what I'm like."

It's true. She does. "And you knew that this mattered to me, Rodney." She takes a deep breath. She really doesn't want to fight tonight. "I think it might be best if you slept in your own quarters tonight."

He reaches out, strokes one finger over the back of her hand, not looking at her face. "I thought I could make it up to you," he says in what she's come to recognize as his attempt at seductive.

She draws her hand carefully back from his. "I have a headache," she says firmly, placing her fingers back on the keys. She hears him take a breath to argue, but something in her stiff, straight back must give him a clue, because he doesn't say anything, just gets up and leaves.

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He comes by the infirmary the next day with honest-to-God strawberries, or at least the closest they can get in Pegasus, offers them up to her like a secret in a plastic box.

"I have champagne chilling as we speak," he says, leaning in to murmur it in her ear. She's drunk plenty of champagne since then, but just the mention of it is enough to put her back on a private jet, flying through golden clouds, the smell of leather seats as Rodney pushed her still damp dress up and mouthed at her breasts.

"I can't," she says, ducking her head before Marie catches her blushing.

"Why not?" Rodney asks, still close enough for her to feel his body heat.

"I'm going out with my friends tonight," she says. "Alison's team went to a planet that celebrates their independence today, we're going to the fireworks."

"I'm sure they'd understand if you cancelled," Rodney says.

"I don't want to cancel," Jennifer says, a little more sharply than she intended. "I want to go to the fireworks, I want to go out with my friends. We planned this two weeks ago, I'm not going to cancel."

She knows Rodney knows this. He got funny when she said he wasn't invited, even when she pointed out that it would be awkward with Katie there, that he'd end up spiriting Radek away to talk about work instead of letting them both relax, and that he'd probably wind Evan up somehow without meaning to. Also, that she doesn't want to be one of those people who never sees her friends without bringing her fiancé along, which she didn't say because she didn't want to have another argument about whether his team really likes her or not. Which she knows they do, and he says they do, even though he almost never invites her to join them.

Rodney looks around the infirmary – currently deserted – then runs his fingers down the edge of her breast through her uniform jacket. "We could save the champagne for later. You shouldn't drink with lunch when you're working."

"Who said anything about lunch?" Jennifer asks, shivering a little. She does love the way he touches her.

"Lunch break," Rodney says, correcting himself. "Lunch optional."

Jennifer thinks about it for a second. "Yeah, okay."

He makes her come twice, clutching at her bed frame and moaning, then again in the shower. It's not the apology she'd have liked, for being a jerk about missing her birthday, but it'll do.

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The planet is freezing cold, and none of them are dressed for it, so they watch the fireworks huddled together and shivering, drinking the cups of what tastes like warm cider that keep getting passed around, and it's only a little weird now not to have Dusty there as well, stolen back by the SGC when they were on Earth. Evan, who's usually extremely careful off world, quietly gets very drunk and kisses Radek, who looks amused and not particularly surprised, then Alison, Katie and Jennifer. He's a very good kisser, which Jennifer happily testifies to when David wards Evan off, laughing.

"I'm flattered, really, but I fear it would only lead to awkward conversations when you're sober, and quite possibly you swearing off all other people after experiencing the wonder that is being kissed by me."

Evan rolls his eyes, but holds his hands up in surrender, grinning.

"That's a pretty big claim," Katie says, eyes bright. "I think I want evidence of that."

"No problem," David says. He pulls her close, then dips her and kisses her. After a moment, Katie's hands settle on his back, and when he rights her, she's flushed from more than the cold.

"Yeah, okay," she says, kissing his cheek. "Maybe."

"That's not fair," Jennifer protests. "It's my birthday, I should be the one getting kissed."

"That's what you have a fiancé for," Alison points out, but David shrugs and kisses her, and somehow that leads to a few minutes of trading kisses with pretty much anyone – including between David and Evan, who both look a little pink when they separate.

It's a good night, despite Woolsey's faintly disapproving look when they stumble back through the gate slightly drunk, holding each other up. When she gets back to her room, leaving Alison to weave down the corridor to her own, Rodney's asleep in her bed, the little box of strawberries on the nightstand, and Jennifer feels pretty good.

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Jennifer's aunt sends her wedding magazines that arrive on the Daedalus, months out of date. Her father asks in every email if she's set a date yet, and Jeannie emails her about once a month to tell her embarrassing stories about Rodney as a child and ask if Jennifer needs Jeannie to give him a sisterly talking to so he gets a move on.

They've been engaged since just after Atlantis got back from Earth. Four months, and Jennifer agreed that they didn't need to get married any time soon, but sometimes she feels like, if she didn't bring it up sometimes, suggest dates and locations and who they'll invite, Rodney would forget that it actually happened, even with the ring.

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Two weeks after her birthday, Jennifer's in the infirmary doing paperwork and keeping an eye on two marines with food poisoning when an emergency call comes over her radio. Muscle memory and habit get her out of the door with her team and her bag, and she's halfway down to the gate room before she finishes cycling through teams and realizes that it has to be Evan's.

She tells herself that it doesn't have to be awful, it doesn't have to be him – not that she wants it to be any of his team, but she hasn't been drunkenly kissed by anyone else on his team, hasn't struck up a friendship that still surprises her with any of them – but when she skids into the gate room and sees Evan lying there bleeding, it's not at all a surprise.

His team back away as she kneels next to him, lifting the bloody bandage Henderson was holding to his side. "What happened?"

"The villagers thought we were trying to kidnap their leader. We retreated, they followed us, it turned out they had guns," Reed says. "Is he going to be okay?"

"I won't know for sure until I get him into surgery," Jennifer hedges. He's pale, unconscious, but that doesn't mean as much as it might – Evan has a shockingly low pain tolerance for someone in the military, and a blessed tendency to pass out when it hurts. "But it doesn't look too bad."

She gestures for Tom with the gurney, gets Evan onto it. Henderson steps in and removes his P-90 with blood stained hands. "I want the rest of you for post mission check-ups within the hour," Jennifer adds. She looks up to check they know she's serious, spots Woolsey at the back of the little crowd, Sheppard closer, silent and tense, nearly as pale as Evan. "Let's go."

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It turns out she was right, it's not too bad, for a gun shot wound, and she's out of surgery mid-afternoon. She waits in the infirmary instead, back and forth and back and forth between her office and Evan's bed in isolation, out of sight of his marines, waiting for him to wake up from anesthesia, fending off radio calls from their friends, all of whom know to keep their visiting to after the patient – well, Evan, it's always Evan, because the rest of them are scientists, they don't get shot or stabbed or trapped down wells – is awake.

Sheppard doesn't come by, to her surprise, though Ronon does, loitering in her office doorway and looking over his shoulder into the infirmary.

"He's fine," Jennifer says eventually. "Considering that he was shot. He'll wake up in a couple of hours and be in a lot of pain." It's code for 'and want to be alone,' because Evan hates being in pain and hates being injured, and it's the only time she ever wishes he was more like Sheppard, and spent his time agitating for his release rather than going quiet and depressed.

"Okay," Ronon says. He wanders out after a while, stopping by Evan's bed to give his foot a reassuring pat through the blankets.

Rodney doesn't come.

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Evan wakes up with a soft, unhappy noise, but when Jennifer goes over to his bed, he gives her a faint smile and says, "Hey, Doc."

"If you wanted to spend more time with me, you could have just asked," Jennifer says sternly over her datapad. "I'd even have sprung for cake."

"Next time," Evan says. His face twists in pain, and Jennifer rubs his shoulder soothingly. At least he knows her well enough to know that he's on as high a dose of pain killers as she can give him and won't ask. "Okay?"

"Other than being shot, you're fine," Jennifer says. "I mean, you can forget about the football game next week, but you'll live, it didn't hit anything vital. Your team dragged you back, they're all fine, not a scratch on any of them."

"S'good," Evan says. His eyes are already starting to slide closed.

"Yes," Jennifer agrees quietly. "Maybe try to follow their example a bit more next time, though."

"Sure," Evan says, and slides back under again.

He wakes up on and off, managing to time it so he says a few mumbled words to Ronon, then Alison and Radek, then his team, then Katie, Amelia and Major Teldy. The marines are good about not smothering their commanders with concern until they're up for it, which means none of them will be by until at least tomorrow.

David's the final one of the people Jennifer's expecting to see, and he comes by a few minutes before Maggie Cole's due to take over from Jennifer for the night shift, gives her a hug and goes to sit by Evan's bed. Evan's asleep, probably for the night, but David leans one elbow on the edge of his bed and says something to him, too low for Jennifer to make out.

He's still there when Jennifer finishes up handing over the infirmary to Maggie, looks up when she touches his shoulder and smiles. "I'm good," he says. "You look exhausted, go find your guy."

"A bath," Jennifer corrects, checking on Evan one last time. He doesn't exactly look peaceful, but he's sleeping.

David shrugs. "That's convenient, since he's the only person I know who has a bath."

"I guess," Jennifer agrees. She was sort of expecting him to turn up to walk her home like he does sometimes, but he hasn't even radioed. She's too tired to work up much outrage over it right now. "Don't stay here all night."

"Don't worry," David says, which isn't an answer, but he's a grown-up, and it's not like she hasn't pulled the occasional all-night vigil in her time.

She goes by Rodney's room first, wanting the bath now that she's thinking about it. He's not there. She's nearly seduced into staying anyway by the bath-tub, but she wants physical comfort more, someone to give her a hug and tell her it's all okay.

She's not particularly surprised when he isn't in her room either. He never is when she isn't.

She touches her ear piece, thinks about radioing and asking where he is, then drops her hand. She tries never to use those for personal calls.

She's halfway to the labs when she almost runs into Teyla, coming the other way, dressed in her workout clothes. Teyla touches her elbow lightly, steadying her. "Are you well, Jennifer?"

"I'm fine," Jennifer says, straightening up. "Just tired."

Teyla smiles warmly. "Of course. I heard that Major Lorne was injured."

"Shot," Jennifer says. The image of him bleeding on the gate room floor dances through her head – she must be crazy to make a friend out of an air force officer on a gate team – and she just wants to find Rodney and go to bed. "I don't mean to be rude, but I really am tired. I don't suppose you've seen my fiancé around?"

Something flickers over Teyla's face too fast for Jennifer to catch it. "I believe he is with John," she says, her voice devoid of any useful expression.

"John," Jennifer says. She bites her lip, feels her face twist into a sarcastic smile anyway. "Of course he is."

"I do not think they would mind if you were to join them," Teyla says.

"I think they probably would," Jennifer says, unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice. "Thanks, Teyla."

"Jennifer –" Teyla starts, then stops, ducking her head a little. "You should rest. I know you had a trying day."

"At least someone does," Jennifer mutters. "I'll see you later."

She leaves before Teyla can say anything else, even though she knows it's rude, even more so to Teyla, who's almost always incredibly polite. It's better than staying there and forcing Teyla to defend Rodney to her.

She means to go back to her own room, but when she passes Alison's doorway, she finds herself activating the chime almost without meaning to.

Alison answers quickly, dressed in jeans and a Caltech sweatshirt, a pen tucked behind her ear. She gives Jennifer an uncertain smile, already drawing her inside by the arm. "Is everything all right? Is Evan okay?"

"He's fine," Jennifer says. "Sorry, nothing's wrong."

There's a pause, like Alison's waiting for her to say something else. When she doesn't, Alison smiles again, warmer, and says, "Here, why don't you sit down? I'll make some tea."

"I don't want to bother you," Jennifer says, belatedly noticing Alison's laptop open on her desk. She's still not sure what she's doing there.

"It's fine," Alison says. She takes Jennifer's arm again, leads her over to the bed and sits her down on it. "I think I can hold off on finishing emailing my brother for the night." She brushes a strand of hair back from Jennifer's face. "I'll make some tea. I've got chocolate chip cookies, if you want."

Jennifer's stomach chooses that moment to remind her that she skipped dinner, and she laughs, feeling something tight inside her unclench a little. "That sounds good. Thank you."

Alison makes tea in peaceful quiet, then settles next to Jennifer on the bed, plate of cookies between them, mugs cradled in their hands. "I feel like I'm in college again," Alison says.

Jennifer nods, not that she really does. She never had friends in college like she has here. "Evan's going to be fine," she says.

"I know," Alison says, rubbing her arm a little. "He's got you looking after him."

"Thanks," Jennifer says, her face going hot. She breaks off half a cookie to cover and dips it in her tea.

"Not that I mind you being here," Alison says. "But I thought you'd be with Rodney."

Jennifer shakes her head. She doesn't want to talk about it, she thinks, but when she opens her mouth, she finds herself saying, "I haven't seen him all day. Teyla says he's with Colonel Sheppard."

"Oh," Alison says softly. When Jennifer looks at her, her eyes are crinkled with worry, or maybe sympathy. "That sucks."

Jennifer nods, takes a sip of her tea in the hope that it will wash away the lump in her throat. There's a part of her that feels like she's being stupid, when they both have their own friends who they see without each other, except that this isn't the first time Rodney's blown her off to spend time with Sheppard, and she wants him to see her instead. "He didn't even radio me," she says quietly.

"Oh, baby." Alison puts her mug down and gives Jennifer a one armed hug, holding her close. Jennifer rests her head on Alison's shoulder and closes her eyes. This is what she wanted from Rodney. "Do you think..."

"What?" Jennifer asks, though she's pretty sure she knows what Alison's going to say.

"Everyone says he and Colonel Sheppard are close," Alison says hesitantly. "I don't want to, you know... Do you think they're having an affair?"

Jennifer knows they're not, but she can't say that, because the reason she knows is that Sheppard came to her a couple of months after they got back from Earth, looking worn and thin and exhausted. She'd been waiting, but she'd thought she'd have to wait a lot longer. He hadn't said anything, but when she'd held out a container of small white sleeping pills, he'd taken it.

"Is it anything I can help with?" she'd asked, not expecting to get much of an answer.

"Not unless you know a way to get SG1 out here," he'd said, pocketing the pills. "Thank you."

She probably wouldn't have figured it out, except that Rodney said something about Sheppard getting an email from Colonel Mitchell in the data-burst a couple of days later. Even then, she probably wouldn't be sure, but Sheppard still comes to her for sleeping pills, and the little he sometimes says has made it pretty damn clear.

She thinks she's the only one who knows, or at least that Rodney doesn't. He says that Sheppard's lonely, threatens to try to set him up with the new anthropologist until Jennifer distracts him. She suspects he doesn't even know that Sheppard's not straight; he certainly doesn't seem to know that Sheppard's not well.

"No," she says now, breaking off a piece of cookie. It seems like too much effort to eat it, so she just crumbles it. "They're not sleeping together. He just... cares about him more than me."

"I'm sure that's not true," Alison says quickly.

"It is," Jennifer says, unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice. "Otherwise he'd be here."

hr

Jennifer's sitting at Rodney's desk, cold mug of coffee in her hands, when Rodney lets himself into the room. It's past midnight, and he starts a little at finding her there.

"I thought you'd be sleeping," he says. He hesitates in front of the door, then touches the sensor to close it and comes over to sit beside her. "That's why I didn't come to your room."

"Sure," Jennifer says. "Did you hear that Evan was shot today?"

Rodney hesitates in the middle of untying his right boot and looks up at her. "Yes. And that he's okay."

Jennifer feels something shiver inside her and takes a deep breath. "He was shot, Rodney. He's not okay right now, he's in my infirmary and in pain."

"I know," Rodney says. Jennifer sees him reach out to touch her, and moves back before he can. "Sheppard told me."

"I know he did," Jennifer says. "Teyla said you were with him."

Rodney doesn't say anything, and after a few moments of silence, Jennifer stands up and walks over to the window, looking out at the city. She's pretty sure that one of the lights she can see is the infirmary, but she's never managed to get the layout of the city straight from this perspective.

"He's Sheppard's second-in-command," Rodney says, almost hesitant. Jennifer doesn't turn around, the city swimming a little in front of her. "Sheppard was worried about him."

He means that Sheppard was upset, which Jennifer doesn't need to be told – she remembers Sheppard three months ago, when Evan was captured and held off-world for four days, how frightened he was. How frightened she was, almost enough not to notice that she hardly ever saw Rodney without Sheppard, or maybe the other way around.

"He's one of my closest friends," she says, instead of saying that. "I was worried. I put my hands inside him and I thought, I hate doing this, but when I'm done, the man I'm going to marry will find me and tell me that he loves me because one of my closest friends was shot today –" She stops, takes a shaky breath. She can feel Rodney behind her, still, waiting, and she wishes he'd say something, anything.

"You asked me to marry you, Rodney. I had to pull a bullet out of one of my closest friends *yesterday* and this is the first time I've seen you, because your best friend matters more to you than I do." She sounds weak and hopeless to her own ears, and it's probably too much to hope that the tears still making everything watery won't spill. "I know he's important to you, but I should matter more. I should at least matter as much, and I don't know what you're doing with me when I don't."

"You matter," Rodney says. He sounds stunned, fumbling for words, and it's where Jennifer would usually step in and do it for him, but she can't even turn around. "I thought you'd have your friends –"

"I wanted you," Jennifer says, high-pitched and sharp, unhappy. "You could have seen me and him."

"I'm sorry. But you know I'm not good at this."

"You don't try," Jennifer corrects. She blinks, then wipes away the tear that splashes on her cheek. This would be so much easier if she was angry. "You're good at it with him, it's just me."

"I don't know what you're trying to say," Rodney says.

Jennifer takes a breath that shakes, and turns around. He's watching her, still sitting, and he looks worried, like he doesn't know what's coming but doesn't like it anyway. "I'm saying that I don't want to marry someone who cares about someone else more than he cares about me. I don't think that's fair to any of us."

"You're breaking up with me," Rodney says, like he's clarifying something in a briefing, something he misheard.

Jennifer nods, and it hurts. She's worn his engagement ring for months; she thought she'd wear his wedding ring for the rest of her life.

Rodney nods, stands up. "I think you should wait until the morning," he says. "Think it over. You're obviously upset, you shouldn't be making decisions just because you're upset."

"I'm not," Jennifer says. Her voice is giving out, and she thinks that if she starts crying, she won't be able to do this. "I'm not doing this because I'm upset."

She sees it register on Rodney's face, and that's it, that's all she can take.

The door sliding closed behind her sounds very final.


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