Characters: Sheppard-centric, Gen (or Sheppard/Weir if you stand on your head and squint)
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Summary: He hadn't even noticed the small baby, but now the tiny bundle was pushed into his hands
Notes: This is yet another of those Sheppard with a baby fics! Thanks to Shannon (celticsky) for the beta.
It was hard to believe that it had been peaceful only a few minutes earlier, when he had stepped through the Stargate and begun to walk toward the village to meet with the team stationed here. John's mind struggled with how fast it had all changed as he ran, herding random villagers toward the meagre shelter offered by the tree line up ahead. The aerial survey had suggested the presence of caves just beyond the tree line, but right now, his legs burning with the effort, the tree line seemed much further away than he remembered.
He could hear the insect-like buzz of the darts above as their beams transported without discrimination and he was aware of people screaming; the sound of gunfire in the distance suggested that other Atlantis personnel were still alive. He reached for his radio, but it was gone. He must have lost it in those first frantic seconds, when moments after he'd stepped through the gate he'd been forced to dive to escape a Wraith beam. He'd heard the gate dial behind him and the wormhole engage, effectively blocking any immediate hope of escape back to Atlantis.
Now, all he could see were the fearful and panicked villagers running just as he was, their desperation fuelling them on. The unexpected Wraith attack had caught them all off-guard and the peaceful people that had traded with them so generously were now so much wraith bait, just like so many other peoples they had met in this galaxy.
A woman fell down in front of him and he bent down, intending to pull her to her feet.
"Take care of her please. I'm hurt and I can't run any further. Please, you can keep her safe." He could feel the woman's desperation emanating off her in waves as she pleaded with him: a complete stranger from another world. He hadn't even noticed the small baby, but now the tiny bundle was pushed into his hands, along with a bag.
"We can make it together." Holding her baby in one arm, he reached down once again to help the woman up. A Wraith dart sounded close by. The woman gave him a look shrouded in the same frightened desperation, before shoving him hard enough to make him stumble backward. Then, in a rush of brilliant white light, she was gone.
John pulled the bag over his shoulder, settling the baby inside his jacket and zipping it in, holding the precious bundle in place with his left arm. This kept his right hand free for his weapon. He continued to run.
He no longer tried to help the others, except to yell occasional instructions to run for the tree line and make for the caves. Panicked as the people were, he hoped some of them would listen to him.
He finally reached the relative safety that the tree line offered, but stopped dead in his tracks as he saw the Wraith soldiers come into view up ahead. Of course, it made sense that they would be there, herding people back into the open.
Bringing his weapon to bear, he fired and dropped to roll across the ground. A stun weapon blasted over him, hitting where his head had been just a moment earlier. With the baby still tucked tightly into his chest, his arm took the brunt of the roll and a sharp pain told him his ankle had not fared much better.
Then the small cave was in front of him, barely big enough for one and partially concealed by the creeping plant life. He would have missed it if he hadn't been on the ground, the entrance barely visible through the foliage. He half-crawled, half-rolled into the tiny refuge, scooting back until his back was firmly resting against the solid rock wall inside.
Once safely inside, John carefully unzipped his jacket and peered down into it, only to find intense blue eyes staring back up at him from a small pink-tinged face.
"Hello there," Sheppard spoke quietly. He was surprised by the baby. He thought it should be bawling its eyes out, but it just stared at him and he found it rather unnerving.
He peeled open the swaddling blanket, revealing a small head covered in soft red curls and, peering into the cloth that formed a diaper, he smiled. "So you're a little girl. I wonder if you have a name." In response, the baby gurgled gently, reaching one of her small hands up to bat at John's nose.
John shook his head, smiling as the movement made the little hand move across his face, down to his mouth, where his warm breath puffed across it. The little mouth seemed to form an 'O' of surprise as she felt the warmth and then touched the rough stubble on his chin, but the large blue eyes never wavered, still staring him down.
"I think I'll call you Sophie for the moment. It was my grandma's name you know and she had eyes that were just as intense and intelligent as yours." It didn't seem strange to John that he was quietly talking to a small baby who couldn't possibly be more than a few months old. Her eyes just continued to watch him and he took it as confirmation that the name was acceptable.
John shifted to get more comfortable, but froze as a shadow moved past the cave entrance. He quietly shifted his knees, on which the baby was balanced, pulling her closer to him so that his knees shielded her completely. His damaged ankle protested, but he ignored the pain, fingering his P90 and staring out into the semi-darkness. The sun was already setting. Surely the Wraith would leave soon, having culled everyone not fast enough or lucky enough to find shelter and hide.
The little baby made a small whimpering noise and the shadow moved back toward them, standing still for a moment, before it moved on again. John let out a breath he hadn't been aware of holding and wrinkled his brow as he gave the baby another appraising look.
"I'm getting hungry. I suppose you are too," he whispered, gently tickling the baby's cheek and watching her turn into the touch. Yep, hungry. "Let's see what your... Was that your mom? …packed." John quietly opened the bag, tipping the contents onto the cave floor and trying hard not to picture the woman carefully packing them in, never suspecting how the day was about to go wrong. Among the contents of the bag, there were pieces of cloth that looked like the diaper Sophie now wore and a leather skin filled with liquid. Opening the top on the skin, he found it filled with milk. It was still chilled from the cool weather and seemed to be fresh.
"I take it this is yours?" John opened the nib on the skin, which had small holes pierced in it for the baby to suckle from. Still resting the baby against his knees, he offered her the nib and watched as she sucked greedily. He also ate, munching on a Power Bar pulled from his vest. He was prepared to sit tight and wait a while longer, until he could be sure the coast was clear.
"This way," Ronon stated, as he spotted another military issue tread mark in the dirt. It led away from the Stargate, toward the distant tree line. The tracks weaved about in a somewhat erratic pattern, mixing and mingling with the various other tracks that could be seen by the bouncing beams of their flashlights. No doubt the Colonel had been weaving about to avoid both wraith culling beams and fleeing people.
Ronon bent low on one knee, picking up a radio earpiece that had been crushed into the dirt. Lorne took his own hand away from his radio, which he had been using to repeatedly hail the missing Colonel since stepping from the gate. "Answers one question," he said simply, waiting patiently for Ronon, as he searched for further tracks. The grass leading up to the tree line was making the task more difficult, but it was obvious already as to which direction he had been heading.
Inside the tree line, Ronon quickly located more tracks, explaining how Sheppard had obviously rolled along the ground, and then he was crouching down, pulling apart some vines and peering into a cave. Sheppard sat inside, pointing his P90 warily outside and then lowering it sheepishly as he saw who it was looking down at him.
John awoke with a start as he heard voices coming his way. He hadn't meant to fall asleep and cursed himself, wondering just how long it had been. He picked up his P90, peering quickly into his jacket where Sophie, tucked up against his flak jacket, seemed to still be sleeping peacefully.
He felt only relief as first Ronon and then Teyla's head popped into view, both crouching down to squint into the cave.
"Hi, Teyla. Ronon." John gave a small, tired wave, smiling up his team members. "Lorne," he added, as yet another concerned face came into view, hovering above him. He could see a few others milling around behind them.
"Colonel Sheppard, are you injured?" Teyla asked.
"I'm alright, Teyla. I've busted my ankle, but nothing serious. I even found a friend." At this, he grinned up at them cryptically, before pulling open his jacket a little, revealing the small face, framed by red hair and with the bluest of blue eyes staring out at the new-comers with interest.
Elizabeth entered the infirmary at a brisk walk, quickly locating Carson as he closed a curtain around a patient bed.
"Carson," she greeted, but he quickly brought his hands up in a shushing gesture. At Elizabeth's puzzled look, Carson gestured her over to the bed that he'd just curtained off. Intrigued, she followed him, peering through the gap that he'd opened so that she could look in. Her mouth immediately curled up in a sappy grin and peering over at Carson, she saw she wasn't the only one that found the sight completely adorable.
John Sheppard was sleeping peacefully, propped up comfortably on several pillows with his left arm in a sling. His foot was propped up on more pillows, covered liberally in ice packs. The thing that had made Elizabeth sigh though, was the baby sleeping peacefully, stretched out flat across John's chest and held gently in place by his right arm.
"Is she…?" Elizabeth looked at Carson, her voice was aimed low, so as not to wake the sleeping pair.
"She's fine. She had a mild fever, but the antibiotics have taken care of it. She'd cry when anyone else held her, so we just left her with Sheppard. First time I haven't had to wrestle the man to keep him here." Carson smiled at that, a delighted gleam lighting his eyes.
Elizabeth sighed. "We should see if we can find her family."
"Teyla already talked to some of the survivors in the village. Her mother wasn't from the area. It seems she escaped a previous culling - already pregnant, the poor lass - and they were kind enough to take her in. An Athosian family is more than willing to adopt her and take her in on the mainland."
Elizabeth nodded, looking back to the bed only to find Sheppard's bright eyes watching them as they talked.
"Hey John. We didn't mean to wake you." Elizabeth still kept her voice low, so as not to wake the baby.
"No problem; I wasn't asleep. Want to hold her?" John shifted over on the narrow bed, patting the space next to him invitingly.
"Alright." Grinning, Elizabeth sat down next to him and he carefully placed the sleeping baby into her arms. The movement woke her and she opened large blue eyes, peering up at Elizabeth. Her lip wobbled and her face crunched up, as if to cry but at John's voice she settled.
"Elizabeth, meet Sophie. Sophie, meet Elizabeth. There, now that we're all friends…" With that, he settled back onto the pillows and closed his eyes.
When Carson cracked the curtain to check on his patients sometime later, he smiled warmly. Both Elizabeth and John were fast asleep; the baby was sleeping tummy-down, her small form lying across both adults, gently rising and falling with each breath they took. Sophie.