Rating: PG-15/R but no graphic sex or violence. Gen.
Summary: A series of medical issues threatens Sheppard's place on the team.
Word Count: ~28,000 in total
Author's note: Set over season 4, pretends Teyla's pregnancy and the Michael situation never happened, but not otherwise AU.
Warnings: Very long and ultimately wrong. That's all the warnings I'll give. If you make it all the way through, I'd love to know it.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
In the end, six people crowded into Sheppard’s Isolation room to have a meeting about the M3X-371 anthropology report. McKay, Teyla, and Ronon, of course, along with Carter, Keller, and the head anthropologist who written the thing. Her name was Lola Ferri and she totally flipped out when she saw Sheppard. At least that meant that the medical staff was doing a reasonable job keeping his condition secret. It was mildly amusing to watch her wave her arms around and babble excitedly, while the nearest person to her tried to get her to stay still and contradicted every positive word out of her mouth while Sheppard was right there. Unfortunately, Sheppard also suspected this meant that her ridiculous kinship report might have something to it. He’d insisted on sitting in a chair like a competent adult for the meeting, his gurney being used as a conference table.
“Wow!” Ferri said, her hands up over her mouth. Keller elbowed her sharply in the side. “Um, well not wow for you. But this is incredible!”
“I think it’s weird and freaky,” Ronon volunteered.
“Please stick to your report content, Doctor,” Carter said, “And remember that this is a sensitive issue.”
“Oh, right.” Ferri tried to compose herself. She didn’t succeed, black pony tail flipping constantly behind her head because she kept turning her face to look at Sheppard. “My initial report included the existence of homogenous mating in the origin stories of the people of M3X-371. That’s not wholly unusual, but I thought that it was interesting that all four communities shared it despite arriving on the planet at different times and having very distinct cultural differences, otherwise.”
“Isn’t ‘origin story’ like a ‘creation myth,” asked Rodney. “As in, a fairytale?”
“Oral history can’t always be taken at face value,” Ferri said, “But these people have been on M3X-371 for a very short time. They’re Wraith refugees. They haven’t been on that planet longer than two hundred years.”
“Why would that make their story any more true?” Sheppard asked.
Ferri shrugged. “It’s one thing when a myth evolves over millennia. It’s another when you have a great-grandma that says she was there.”
“Okay,” Carter said. “And what exactly did this great-grandma say?”
“That only men survived the culling of her grandparents’ world.” Ferri said. “And that’s what happened with two of the other tribes, as well. The third had only women and infants survive.”
“That happens a lot,” Ronon interrupted. Everyone looked at him. He shrugged. “Squadrons get trapped away from home. Or only women and kids are evacuated.”
“Oh,” Sheppard said. “That makes sense.” But he had the feeling he really, really wasn’t going to like where this was going.
“It also makes sense,” Rodney countered, “that the little orphan boys and girls found each other and made babies the old fashioned way. No pregnant men involved.”
“The communities on M3X-371 have not historically intermarried,” Ferri said. “The only thing they do together is farm goats, and they fight about that a lot.”
“Many peoples who have been culled are very strict about intermarriage,” Teyla said. “When you have lost so many people, it can be vital to maintain the culture and the bloodline.”
“Please, continue,” Carter said. Her face was hard and blank; she was taking this as seriously as Sheppard was.
“When my team was allowed to return recently,” Ferri said, “we were able to find out more. And it was consistent. Every one of these tribes believed they multiplied when two men or two women went up the sacred mountain.”
“Up or in?” asked Rodney, like it mattered.
“In,” Ferri amended.
Sheppard opened his mouth to say something. Nothing came out. It was just too much.
“Why the hell didn’t they mention this when we where there in the first place?” He finally managed to come up with.
“They thought you knew,” Ferri said. “And you were trying to be discreet.”
“But we had Teyla!” Rodney said, jabbing a finger in her general direction.
“One of the elders, I think, suspected why we were asking. He must have known about your original mission,” Ferri went on. “He told me that both fathers must return for the birthing ritual.”
“Both…” Teyla murmured. Her eyes suddenly moved from Sheppard to Ronon.
“What?” asked Ronon.
“Oh my God,” said Rodney.
Sheppard didn’t say anything. But the heart monitor Keller still had him hooked to went crazy. It took him a second, then he ripped the pulse ox off of his finger, threw it on top of the gurney. Keller moved as if to go to him, but he waved her off. That made the flat-line alarm go off, of course, and Keller got up anyway to turn it off. The silence was unbearable, so Sheppard waved his finger at Ferri in a ‘go on’ motion.
Wide-eyed, Ferri continued. “The elder said you – er…they must return for the nourishing gift and the birth. He wouldn’t elaborate.”
“Nourishing gift?” Carter asked.
“Lactation would be my guess,” Keller said.
Sheppard put one hand to his face. He was still speechless. Through his fingers he could see Ronon’s eyes fixed on something on the ceiling, processing the conversation. Or maybe thinking these people were totally fucking crazy.
“Wait a goddamn minute!” Rodney exploded. “You expect us to believe that a bunch of goat herding primitives –”
“Hey-” said Ferri.
Rodney kept going. “How do they get the kid out, huh? Cesarean section? I didn’t see any hospitals. I didn’t see a single sterile surface!”
“In the case of the patriarchs,” Ferri said, solemnly. “Only one survives. That was consistent in their stories, also. They don’t do a cesarean section. Not a proper one, anyway. They just use a knife.”
“Oh,” Rodney said, but his voice was kind of dying in his throat.
“The ‘nourishing gift’ is given to the other one, then?” asked Keller, and she was looking intently at Ronon.
Ronon shifted uncomfortably in his seat, shoulders abruptly hunching.
“Nothing happened to me,” he said.
“Not yet,” said Ferri, maybe unaware of what Ronon looked like when he was violently angry.
“Okay,” said Carter, and her voice had the faint ring of shock in it even as she tried to sound commanding. “First of all, no one is going back to that mountain. Period.”
She kept talking, but Sheppard didn’t hear what she said. He was too busy sliding to the floor as his chair somehow moved out from under him and it suddenly got really noisy and blurry. He vaguely recognized Keller’s fuzzy face leaning over him, but then everything grayed out.
When Sheppard woke up, he was back on the gurney and his Isolation room was empty. There was a new IV stand at his bedside and he felt the thick, distancing layer of sedative between him and the world. Keller arrived quickly, asked how he was feeling
The truth was he felt shitty, underneath the chemicals. She said he’d passed out; explained something that had to do with pregnancy, which all of a sudden applied to him because the Pegasus galaxy evidently enjoyed fucking him over. Keller didn’t offer any details on what else the meeting had discussed, but she did say that Ronon was waiting for him to wake up.
“Hey,” Ronon said, when Keller let him in and she stepped outside. He walked to the side of Sheppard’s gurney, put his hand out and rested his fist by Sheppard’s head. Almost like he was putting it there in case Sheppard wanted to hold it. And just because Sheppard had recently fainted like a goddamn debutante with the vapors didn’t mean he was going to do that.
“Hey,” Sheppard said, and glared at Ronon’s hand.
“You okay?” Ronon asked, and at least his voice was concerned and not patronizing. Ronon didn’t really do patronizing.
“Yeah,” Sheppard answered, though he knew he sounded thick and tired and not all that okay. “Keller says I don’t have enough blood to get angry. Or something like that. I think she shot me full of tranquilizers.”
Ronon nodded, but he didn’t say anything or move at all, and Sheppard figured he was asking the question in a broader sense.
Sheppard shrugged, annoyed to find that the motion was kind of hard and slow because Keller had doped him. “Yeah,” he said, again. “What else is there to be?”
“It’s just a baby,” Ronon said. And he had the nerve to have the tiniest of smiles on his face. Sheppard decided he had better be trying to be comforting, because if he thought it’d be cute to play proud papa, Sheppard was going to punch him in the face.
“It’s not in you.” Sheppard retorted. He probably didn’t have the strength or focus to sit up – his abdominal muscles were, of course, completely destroyed – but he could probably drag Ronon down and then punch him. All the better if Ronon hit him back.
“Coulda been,” Ronon said, shrugging. He wasn’t wrong, but that didn’t give him the right to be so calm.
Sheppard glared. “You gonna stay cool with it if you grow boobs?” he demanded.
Ronon’s face flickered, maybe mostly in amusement. “I like boobs,” he said, and Sheppard really did want to punch him. The hand next to Sheppard’s head moved, and Ronon patted him lightly on the shoulder, his face gentle and serious. “It’ll be good.”
Sheppard couldn’t think of a sentiment he disagreed with any more strongly. Coming from Ronon, who was mostly immune to being glowered at, it was bad enough. The entire medical staff seemed to have adopted it as a philosophy for the duration, though.
He understood that they were primarily concerned with and focused on his health, but it did seem like they were purposefully ignoring anything beyond it. He felt worse and worse as the weeks went by, as he got even bigger and less mobile. There were new drugs Keller gave him and new medical apparatus – one a giant hybrid of Ancient and earth technology that fitted over his torso and very clearly wasn’t about monitoring Sheppard. Keller did, finally, sit down with him and deliver a fairly intimidating lecture on the fact that he didn’t just feel like crap because of the drugs, but because there were a lot things wrong with him, namely insanely high blood pressure, and that was why he was on so many drugs. She didn’t dwell on why, since, well, they both knew. In fact, she seemed to be trying to suggest that making him stay in bed with a giant monitor-thing strapped over his abdomen and bunch of machines analyzing his every breath was not wholly out of the ordinary for someone in his condition. Every time she tried to sell this line, he liked to remind her that other people in their third trimesters did not have a penis.
He thought it was an important distinction and got more than a little pissed when she neither agreed nor wanted to argue with him.
“I don’t think this –” he cast an arm around the phalanx of medical instrument that surrounded his bedside – “would work out well if I was a goat herder.”
“No,” Keller said. “It wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean this is all that atypical. There are a lot of high risk pregnancies in women, and they usually don’t survive in communities like that, either.”
Sheppard wondered who she meant by ‘they,’ but didn’t ask.
“There’s nothing normal about this,” he told her. “I fell head first into an alien baby-making factory.”
Maybe Keller was trying to make everything seem less dire, particularly because the high blood pressure lecture had entailed scary words like ‘aneurysm’ and ‘stroke’. As had the one about what would happen if they tried to surgically excise the thing – Sheppard was still calling it that – before enough of the supporting structure had retracted and died off. They weren’t paying much attention to the suggestion that Ronon had dragged him out of that place, could have disrupted however it was supposed to work. But then again, the goat people said he wasn’t supposed to survive anyway.
More irritating was somebody started leaving books about pregnancy and childbirth around his room. Not data pads or websites, which he would have just immediately deleted, but actual books. Sheppard didn’t know where the fuck they came from. He ended up ripping the pages out and making them into paper airplanes. No one said anything about it, presumably because then they would have to admit to putting them there in the first place. Well, McKay criticized his technique and tried to make better, more aerodynamic ones. Teyla made a paper bird instead of a plane. Ronon didn’t want to play.
Another topic that no one talked about was what would happen when this was over. They were, optimistically, presuming Sheppard’s survival. No one had mentioned that there was something that would probably look very much like a human baby involved, and that it, too, might survive. Sheppard had absolutely no idea what to think about that, but it seemed like it should be getting more attention.
There were a few more weeks in Keller’s timetable, and he figured that it would inevitably have to come up. If it was anything like the past few weeks, they already had an extensive plan and were, as usual, just not telling him.
But those weeks never got the chance to come. Everything happened that night, while Sheppard was trying to sleep. It wasn’t easy, given how big and uncomfortable he was and all the stupid gadgets he had to wear. That night he felt especially hot and sweaty, his face flushed and warm. Shortly after that, one of his monitors started making noise and Keller showed up to check on him. She looked over the read outs and her face went very serious.
“What?” asked Sheppard, cranky because this had happened a lot and usually it just resulted in her looking worried while not telling him anything, and then he had even more trouble sleeping.
“It’s time,” she said.
Sheppard tried to sit up, and of course totally failed at it. Keller cranked his gurney up with one hand, the other stabbing something into his IV line. “Why?” he asked.
“Your BP’s stayed above the hypertensive emergency level for too long,” she said, which he didn’t understand at all. “The usual treatment hasn’t brought it down.”
“Whass’at mean?” He asked, realizing his vision was a little blurry and that was new and scary.
“It means organ damage if it doesn’t come down,” Keller said, putting something else in his IV that was probably a sedative because a giant weight was slamming down on his thoughts.
He tried to say something else, but it was too hard and then he was gone.
Sheppard didn’t feel much better when he woke up. It felt like a long time had passed, his limbs stiff and his eyelids heavy. His body felt lighter, too, and once he got his eyes open he realized that for the first time in months he wasn’t covered in medical machinery. There was an IV in his wrist and a tube against his thigh that was probably a catheter, but that’s all. Sheppard looked down, saw that the sheets covering him didn’t form the usual mound over his torso. It was over.
But he was still in Isolation, instead of a normal surgical bed. He moved one hand curiously down his chest, immediately felt the swell of surgical gauze bandaged across his abdomen.
Keller walked in second later, her face brighter and more relaxed than he’d seen since this all had started.
“Hey,” she said, smiling. “You’re back with us now?”
“Now?” he said, finding his voice dry and creaky.
“You’ve been in and out for about two weeks,” Keller said, approaching his bedside. “You don’t remember?”
Sheppard shook his. “No.”
“Probably better that way.” She found a pitcher of water and a cup from the table against the wall, poured him some, and handed it over. “First week wasn’t a lot of fun, you were in bad shape.”
He took a sip of the delicious cool water. Tentatively, Sheppard put one hand lightly on his stomach. The pressure made the incision sting, so he quickly moved it back on to the gurney. “It worked?” he asked.
Keller’s head bobbed. “Fifteen hours of surgery, total, but yeah, it’s all out.”
“It?” Sheppard asked, watching her intently.
“The alien tissue is in jars in Xenobiology,” Keller said. “It’s decomposing very quickly, though. I think Lautmann was going to cry.”
Sheppard continued to look at her, because that was very much not answering the question. And she was no longer allowed to keep things from him.
“The baby was a girl,” Keller went on, gently. “Five pounds, six ounces. Totally normal.”
“Alive?” Sheppard asked.
“Oh? Yeah. Healthy. Human.” She looked hesitant. He couldn’t tell why. “We…um… felt we couldn’t ethically deliberately neglect her when we had the ability to –”
She was defending their decision not to kill the kid, which was actually kind of offensive. Sheppard waved the stuttered explanation off.
“Ronon grow boobs?”
Keller blinked, then almost snorted in laughter. “No,” she said, and giggled. “We have a supply of formula, normally used for trading.”
“She looks like Ronon,” Keller said, softly. “She’s really cute. Really tiny.”
Sheppard half-expected the kid to have Ronon’s dreadlocks, which made for a really amusing mental picture. He didn’t know where she usually was, but when Keller let his team in to visit, the kid was wrapped in a purple blanket and tucked under Ronon’s arm like a football. Sheppard hadn’t expected that, didn’t know if he’d have wanted more preparation for this.
Otherwise, it was kind of normal. Teyla did the Athosian forehead thing with him, told him earnestly how pleased they were that he was alive. As usual, Rodney and Ronon loitered there, neither wanting to share the same kind of affection, which was fine by Sheppard. Well, Ronon was holding a kid. Their kid. That was different.
“Hey,” he said to both of them. All three of them.
Rodney hadn’t yet made any jokes at his expense, must have gotten them all out his system in the past two weeks.
“Wanna see?” asked Ronon, straight out, dipping his shoulder and holding out the purple blanket.
“I can see,” said Sheppard. The kid didn’t have dreads, of course. She had a head full of curly, poofy black hair and her little face was golden. She did look like Ronon.
“She’s asleep,” said Rodney, “finally.” Like he’d played some role in that. Sheppard squinted at him.
Ronon was still holding his arm out, like Sheppard should take the kid.
“No thanks,” he said, pointing at the surgical bandages under the sheet. “Just got cut open.”
Ronon accepted that excuse, went back to holding the kid like a football.
“They won’t let me hold her,” Rodney said then, in his best tattletale voice. “Everyone gets to hold her except me.”
Sheppard started to laugh, only stopped because his stitches immediately burned. Ronon slanted his eyes dangerously at Rodney.
“That’s probably a good choice,” Sheppard said, holding back his laughter.
At the same time, Teyla said, “You do not pay attention, Rodney.”
“I do, too!” Rodney scowled. “She survived eight and a half months inside Sheppard. I think she can survive anything.”
Ronon cast a dark glance his direction. “You drop her on her head, I’m going to drop you on your head.”
“Let him,” Sheppard said, because at least someone wanted to hold the baby. He didn’t.
It was a bizarre scene, but Ronon made Rodney sit down in the visitor chair, shoved a pillow on his lap, and then gingerly handed the kid over. Teyla moved over, so they were both standing on either side of the chair.
“This what I missed?” Sheppard asked, even though both Teyla and Ronon were both intently watching Rodney.
“Pretty much,” said Ronon.
Ronon and Teyla were right. Rodney didn’t pay attention. Within minutes, the kid was somehow sliding sideways out of his arms. Ronon immediately snatched her up and away, tucking her back tightly under his arm. She slept through the entire thing, which was a useful skill.
“She have a name?” Sheppard asked, vaguely curious. She probably needed one better than ‘kid’.
Ronon looked a little awkward. “Thought you’d want to,” he said.
Sheppard shook his head. “Yeah,” he said. “No.”
Ronon didn’t say anything, but Teyla piped up: “Ronon has been calling her Jo.”
“That’s a boy’s name,” Rodney said. It sounded like maybe he’d said that before.
“Unlike Meredith,” Sheppard said.
“My mom’s name was Joa,” Ronon said. His voice didn’t change at all, but it suddenly sounded heavy and poignant to Sheppard’s ears.
“Oh,” he said. “Jo’s good.”
Ronon gave a little nod, didn’t say anything.
So, that was how Jo got her name. It was probably one of the simpler, least dramatic moments of her entire existence thus far.
There were a lot more complicated, dramatic times after that. In between trying to rehab from nearly six months of being basically sedentary, two invasive abdominal surgeries, and what frankly felt like the relocation of most of his internal organs by the entire experience, Sheppard got to have a lot of conversations about what was going to happen to Jo.
He was okay with it not involving him. He wasn’t really involved now. Jo lived in the infirmary and all the nurses and doctors, as well as Ronon and pretty much everyone else who knew she was there took care of her. That was a pretty select number, fortunately. Sheppard had trouble connecting this little baby with the past six months of hell. He’d first thought she was a parasite that was going to kill him, then a parasite that was pretending to be a human baby, which was just sick. The short time he’d known the truth, he’d been uncomfortable and ill, and also pretty heavily in denial.
So, he found he wasn’t sure what he felt. It was unexpectedly touching to watch Ronon with her, because Ronon loved her. Totally. It was, he figured, really fortunate that one of her parents did.
By some miracle, the US Air Force and the Stargate program didn’t yet know about her. Colonel Carter had a fine sense of discretion, had reported only his confinement with an alien illness. It seemed pretty important to Sheppard that no one outside the Atlantis infirmary ever know the truth about her origin. It was too easy to imagine a sick, curious bastard from Area 51 or something equally clandestine wanting to get a look at her.
And that thought made him abruptly really angry, which was probably a normal emotion to have about someone threatening his kid. So that was a healthy reaction, at least.
Jo couldn’t stay on Atlantis. That was immediately and painfully obvious. It was already difficult hiding her existence in the infirmary, because her cries echoed down in the entire level. Sheppard’s team was now totally on stand down. Ronon wasn’t going out with any of the other units and Sheppard was still recuperating. But that couldn’t last forever and having the kid in the city struck Sheppard as unbelievably dangerous.
Ronon agreed, and that was why he volunteered to take Jo and go offworld. And that was totally unacceptable.
“What are you gonna do?” Demanded Rodney. “Tie her to your sword sheath and carry her around on your back while you chase the Wraith?”
Ronon looked at Rodney like maybe that was exactly what he intended to do, and he didn’t see anything wrong with it.
Teyla politely offered Jo a home among the Athosians. Sheppard had the brief image of the baby growing up to be just like Teyla, which wasn’t a bad thing. Except that he also remembered Teyla had grown up living in helpless terror of the Wraith, and that was a bad thing.
Thinking that over made him realize he didn’t want the kid anywhere near the goddamn Wraith.
Taking Jo back to Earth wouldn’t be all that hard, it would just involve lying to everybody. And Sheppard leaving Atlantis. They could tell the SGC Jo was from a dalliance with a Pegasus native, since the gossip mill had him doing that constantly, anyway. And technically, Ronon was a Pegasus native.
Ronon did not like that idea. At all. Well, he probably liked the idea of Jo being in a galaxy that didn’t know the Wraith, but he didn’t like the rest of it.
“You don’t want to do that," he accused Sheppard.
And that was true, in as much that Sheppard had absolutely no idea what he would do when he was back on Earth, with a baby who would no longer be cared for by thirty other people. Sheppard did hold Jo, sometimes. He wasn’t too good at it and Ronon and Teyla watched him almost as closely as they did Rodney. That was annoying, since Rodney nearly dropped her and Sheppard just forgot to support the head.
That brought them around to a less discussed option: sending Jo to Earth while both Sheppard and Ronon stayed on Atlantis.
Sheppard thought it was both mean and impossible. It left a bad taste in his mouth to try to suggest abandoning the baby to a stranger. And he couldn’t imagine who would volunteer to care for a child with two fathers conceived by an alien device in a different galaxy. Not sharing that fact wasn’t an option. Carter didn’t seem to think it was as unlikely as all that; she said her god daughter was an alien who had arrived on Earth with a bomb in her belly.
There’d been one vague discussion of the possibility that any number of sinister things might happen to Jo as she grew. Sheppard didn’t buy it – he was fairly sure the goat people were right about the device in the mountain. It just made baby humans from parents who couldn’t. Pretty damn miraculous for people who didn’t accidentally fall in it.
It was Rodney who finally, awkwardly, suggested a solution.
“I bet my sister would do it,” he said.
“Jeannie?” asked Sheppard, watching the way Ronon’s face was actually soft and open instead of instantly resentful and closed off. That meant he didn’t hate it.
“No,” snapped Rodney. “My other sister. Yes, Jeannie.”
“Yeah?” asked Ronon, his most supportive comment yet.
Rodney shrugged. “She’s trying to have another baby.” He made a face. “Now that we talk, she sometimes tells me things about her ovulation schedule, which is fabulous.” He went on, quickly. “If she’s going to waste her life in childcare, your and Ronon’s genes are probably better than Kaleb’s.”
Sheppard blinked at him. “Let’s not phrase it that way when we ask, huh?”
“Jeannie is a very loving mother,” Teyla piped up, smiling.
Actually asking Jeannie Miller was a lot harder. It wasn’t a matter that could be discussed over the databursts. Sheppard really didn’t like the idea of showing up on her doorstep with her obnoxious brother at his side, an overprotective Satedan looming over them, and a baby in hand. Really, it’d be ideal if he could just take Teyla. Either way, though, it was going to be an ambush and no one could think of any way to prepare her.
Rodney did send her a message he promised was both discreet about the topic but meant she wouldn’t be completely blindsided. Sheppard didn’t get to read it, but he had trouble believing it was any less direct than “Want a baby?”
Sheppard had to tell the SGC about Jo, then. He stuck with the close-to-the-truth lie about the Pegasus native. He was probably going to have to sit through some kind of disciplinary meeting where he got yelled at for not keeping it in his pants. It wouldn’t be fair or accurate, though Rodney said it’d be overdue, anyway. They were more than happy to hear that he’d already concocted a solution to the situation, and had no problem allowing Sheppard and his team – and Jo – to hitch a ride back to Earth next time the Daedalus went through.
Three weeks in space on a military ship with a baby went by very slowly. For the most part, the Daedalus crew restrained themselves from any comments about Sheppard’s lovechild, at least to Sheppard’s face. Possibly because Rodney was doing it for them. It was annoying as hell, but Rodney claimed he was just maintaining their cover story. Sheppard doubted that.
Rodney also spent the trip crowing over how funny he thought it’d be for a kid with Sheppard and Ronon’s genes to grow up in his sister’s household. Even though it’d been his idea.
“I like Jeannie,” said Ronon, not understanding Rodney’s point.
“Yeah,” Sheppard said. “But she is Canadian.”
“And a genius.” Rodney said. “And a vegetarian.”
“Vegetables are healthy,” said Teyla.
“I’ll send her beef jerky,” Sheppard said.
“You saying Jo’s gonna be dumb?” asked Ronon, with a threatening eyebrow quirk.
“No,” Rodney said, stepping slightly away. “I didn’t say that. I mean we have to warn Jeannie that this kid is going to start stabbing people and trying to jump off of the roof as soon as she can walk.”
Sheppard started to retort, but Ronon just shrugged. “Gotta be honest.”
He was talking like it was a done deal, but Sheppard was less convinced. He was already contemplating how he’d go about resigning and making arrangements to stay. Those weren’t easy thoughts. He didn’t think Jo deserved a parent as reluctant as he felt, but then again, Sheppard hadn’t deserved to fall down the baby-making shoot.
They beamed down in Jeannie’s hometown and got a rental car. Putting Jo into the carseat was a nightmare, because it made the kid very, very angry. Sheppard drove to Jeannie’s house. Rodney got out and went up the doorstep, while everyone else stayed in the car. Ronon tried to clean up Jo so she'd look less like a furious, soggy, red-faced baby. Sheppard didn’t think it really worked, but Ronon did manage to change Jo into a clean, Athosian knit-thing Teyla had had made for her.
Rodney stayed inside Jeannie’s house for nearly half an hour.
“How do you think it’s going?” Sheppard asked Ronon. He could feel the other man getting restless.
“I am sure it is going well,” Teyla said, optimistically from the back seat.
“Bet they just stopped fighting long enough for him to tell her,” countered Ronon.
That seemed disturbingly likely.
Finally, Rodney emerged from the house. He was alone, though, and looked kind of flustered.
“No?” asked Sheppard, when Rodney opened the rear door behind Sheppard.
“I don’t think she believes me.” He said, sounding annoyed. “Kaleb definitely doesn’t.”
“Kaleb has security clearance?’ Sheppard asked. He’d forgotten about that.
“Jeannie has a big mouth,” was all Rodney said. “And he’s in the picture, anyway.”
“I wonder if Jo will learn to speak in the manner of the McKays,” Teyla said, softly behind Sheppard’s ear, and she was smiling.
“They haven’t said yes yet,’ Sheppard reminded her.
All the same, they all got out of the car. Ronon carried Jo. Sheppard read some tension in his back, and he wondered if he should be feeling guilty because he was more worried they’d say no than anxious about them saying yes.
Jeannie and Kaleb were sitting in their living room. The floor was strewn with
“You weren’t kidding,” she said to Rodney.
“No,” Rodney said. “Why would I?”
“Hi,” said Sheppard.
Ronon said nothing. Teyla went forward and embraced Jeannie. “It is good to see you.”
Sheppard took a deep breath. “I don’t know what Rodney told you…”
“He said you and Ronon made a baby that needs a home,” Jeannie said.
“Oh.” Sheppard looked at Rodney, expecting a lot more than that in the half hour he’d spent inside. “Well, yeah. By accident. With alien tech.”
Jeannie was peering at the Jo, concealed in the Athosian knit Ronon had her wrapped in.
Slowly, Ronon moved the fabric so the baby’s face and big brown eyes were exposed.
“This is Jo,” he said, gruffly.
Jeannie looked confused, and then understanding settled on her face. “Oh.” She looked at Sheppard. “My brother said her name was Meredith.”
“I did not,” Rodney objected. “I said it’d be a good middle name.”
“Jo is after Ronon’s mom,” Sheppard said. He was watching Jeannie’s hands kind of twitching at her sides. Her eyes were big and sparkling, already ignoring her brother.
Carefully, Ronon held Jo out and Jeannie gently gathered the baby in to her arms.
“Um, if it makes a difference,” Sheppard said, “The Air Force would set up some kind of child support fund. I haven’t actually spent any of my paychecks in four years, so…”
“Look at that hair,” Jeannie crooned. She’d backed up to the couch, was sitting next to Kaleb again.
“Yeah, good luck ever getting that to be normal,” said Rodney. “Look at these two.”
Sheppard’s chest was feeling kind of warm, watching Jeannie holding the baby. He didn’t know if it was relief or what. Kaleb didn’t look as excited, but he was watching Jeannie’s huge smile.
“Is she…healthy?” he asked, tentatively. “I mean, it shouldn’t be possible…”
“Very healthy,” said Teyla.
“She’s perfect,” said Ronon.
“There are few trusted doctors at the SGC that would be available and be discreet if anything changed in the future,” Sheppard said, understanding what the man was asking. “And we made sure that no one else knew how she came to be, for everyone’s safety.”
Jeannie nodded, making eye contact with Kaleb. “I think we have to talk about this,” she said.
But she made no move to give the baby back, which was probably a good thing. Sheppard’s team shuffled out of the living room, eventually ending up in the kitchen.
“Meredith?” Sheppard muttered at Rodney, who just made a face at him.
He saw Teyla kind of rubbing Ronon’s back. The big guy was pulling his blankest face, but he still didn’t look happy.
Jeannie and Kaleb’s discussion took all of five minutes. And she was totally beaming when she came into the kitchen no longer holding Jo. She hugged all of them really hard, even though Sheppard tried to tell her his torso was still sore, and he awkwardly patted her on the back.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Jeannie whispered into his ear.
Sheppard wanted to say that it was Ronon, not him, who really should hear those words.
After that, it wasn’t clear what should happen. They went back to the living room, where Kaleb had Jo and was looking just as enchanted as Jeannie. That was really good to see, and Sheppard checked to make sure Ronon noted it, too.
The SGC had documents it would invent. An American birth certificate for Jo with a fictional mother and Sheppard as the father. It didn’t seem fair that Ronon wouldn’t be in there anywhere, but the last thing this situation needed was acknowledgment of any alien involvement. The lawyers would magically straighten out the international adoption paperwork, too, so none of that was really a problem.
It was a simple as leaving the kid with her new parents, but it suddenly seemed bigger and harder. Sheppard glanced at Ronon, tried to read what was going on under the surface. He’d basically made the decision for both of them, wondered now if he had that right.
“I can send pictures,” Jeannie said. “I e-mail Rodney all the time with pictures of
Ronon looked a little happier about that. “Okay,” he said.
Before they left, Ronon held Jo, walked with her around the house by himself. Sheppard just kissed her on the cheek while Jeannie held her. He ruffled her hair, surprised himself by already thinking of her as Jeannie’s daughter. That was good, he figured.
There’d be stuff later. Like telling the kid she’d been conceived in another galaxy, had two biological dads, one of whom had called her a parasite for her entire unborn life.
As Sheppard’s team walked out to the car, Sheppard stuck his arm up and around Ronon’s back, digging under his dreadlocks ‘til he found the back of the man’s neck and gave it a squeeze.
“She’ll come back to Pegasus when she’s big,” he said. “Help us kick Wraith ass.”
Ronon looked at him sideways. “Aren’t gonna be any Wraith when she’s big,” he said. “We’re gonna kill them all before she comes back.”
~ please feed the author~