The Long Way Home

Title: The Long Way Home
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Pairing: John Sheppard/OC
Rating: T for now, M later on.
Synopsis: It was a journey John Sheppard just had to make. Series 1 Onwards

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2. Bonding

Chapter Two

 

Do you ever feel already buried deep? 6 feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing Do you know that there's still a chance for you 'Cause there's a spark in you

Katy Perry - Firework

 

Athos wasn't much different to their own home planet, Cass thought as she lingered inside the Healing Hut, jogging the wailing infant in her arms trying to settle him to sleep. The Stargate on this planet was housed in the centre of a grassy knoll with a small incline amongst a field full of wild flowers. The area they seemed to have stepped onto was extremely rural, not much different from the areas of farmland and forest back on Earth.

 

If she was honest Cass had been expecting something much stranger and surreal from all the Sci Fi movies she used to watch before she'd agreed to this expedition. It was her first time off world, she was a virgin compared to the experiences of Colonel Sumner and his team. Lieutenant Ford had sniggered at her comment as they'd stepped deeper into this interesting new world.

 

Lieutenant Aiden Ford was one of the military men that Cass had developed a brief rapport with during their short time on Atlantis. He had been one of the soldiers that had helped her and Carson carry the medical supplies through and set up the temporary infirmary. His youth was apparent from his babyfaced complexion but he made up for his lack of experience with dedication that Cass had seen in many of the more successful Marines.

 

After initial contact with the inhabitants of the planet, their group had been led into a small village harboured in the remoteness of the forest. It had been nightfall when they had stepped through the Stargate. At first Cass had been nervous of the darkness despite the fact she had her own weapon and set of night-vision goggles. Being apprehensive was part of her nature, she had been unnerved at the possibilities they faced.

 

At the crack of dawn they had sat down around the camp fire with the Athosians for their daily tea ritual and after that Cass had found herself working tirelessly on the throng of people that paraded through what the Athosians deemed the Healing Hut. She had spent the day working alongside their own Holistic Doctor Cyrus Lylimpa scribbling down notes on effective treatments and herbs that may serve some purpose in the future. In return Cass had offered the Athosians aid and her services in their Healing Hut for the day.

 

There had been a lot of people swarming around the Healing Hut in the early hours of the morning. Cyrus, a rotund man who reminded Cass of the traditional Budda statue, had told her the Healing Hutt was barely this busy. His suspicion was that people were really here to converse with Cass, herself as proposed to receiving treatment.

 

With Cyrus's permission she had indulged each member of the congregation outside, attempting to heal their ailments whilst listening closely to their stories and learning the ways of their culture. The Athosians were a proud race of people, to Cass that much was clear.

 

Cass was juggling a crying infant in the crook of her right arm as she rubbed the palm of her left hand across the baby boy's belly. The child was sick with colic. Cyrus had given his mother a draught to drink because she was still nursing and according to Cyrus, that and a little tummy rubbing seemed to go a long way to soothing the infant's pain.

 

Cyrus had been right of course, the baby was now grumbling instead of that full ear piercing shriek that had rattled through her ear drums when Nola, the mother had first entered. Cyrus had sent the other woman home in order to get some rest while the two of them cared for the little one.

 

"That's better isn't it little guy?" Cass murmured to the baby boy, her fingertip chucking him under the chin as he stared back at her with blinking, curious eyes. "Your a lot cuter when your not making a racket."

 

"I gotta tell you I never pegged you to be a dab hand with babies Doc." Major John Sheppard said from the doorway of the Healing Hut, his hazel eyes flickering to Cyrus. "May I enter?"

 

John's respect for these people had surprised Cass greatly. She had expected him to follow Colonel Sumner's abrupt, dismissive approach of the Athosians instead he was caring and compassionate, smoothing over the initial ripples of their gruff introductions with friendliness and humour.

 

Cyrus placed his hands together as if in prayer before he nodded his approval. John thanked the other man for his hospitality by mimicking the gesture before stepping inside the simple structure.

 

"I wanted to tell you that Colonel Sumner is taking a small crew of men out to the Ancient City." he told her in a hushed tone before lowering his gaze to the baby in her arms.

 

John held out his finger allowing the baby to wrap his minuscule hand around it as he waved his tiny fists. John rose his eyes to meet hers, that boyish grin breaking across his features making Cass's heart rate to pick up just a little at this relaxed version of him. She was seeing John Sheppard, the man, all over again as opposed to his counter part The Major.

 

"Do you really think that's a good idea?" Cass asked quietly, bending her head close so that Cyrus would not be able to hear her part of the conversation. "Considering what they told us about these things called the Wraith?"

 

"I'm not the one in charge." John reminded her, wiggling his finger from side to side in order to play a new type of game with the baby boy. "I'm going out of the village with Teyla, she wants to show me something. Lieutenant Ford and his team are by the Stargate, if you need anything head to them. Otherwise I'll swing by and pick you up."

 

"Cool, I'll probably be somewhere around here making use of myself." Cass told John glancing around the Healing Hut pointedly as she cradled the infant close.

 

"By making extra money babysitting?" John teased, withdrawing his finger as Cass began to wrap the infant in what looked like a home made, patchwork swaddling blanket.

 

"Weren't you the one that suggested making friends?" Cass retorted as he took the corner of the blanket from her busy fingertips and tucked it neatly underneath the baby's chin.

 

"I meant with people our own age." John said light heartedly before crossing his arms over his broad chest. "I have to admit seeing you talking to these people makes you look less uptight and serious."

 

"Uptight?" Cass repeated, her sapphire blue eyes narrowing at his words.

 

"No..." John drew out the word as he grimaced, rubbing the back of his dark head sheepishly. "I gotta go Teyla's waiting."

 

"I think that's for the best." Cass said, shaking her head with a small smile at his antics.

 

"Ah so you do smile." John remarked, raising his eyebrows.

 

Even just a tiny wattage of that bright smile made something inside him settle. He hadn't realized that he'd been seeking that pretty ray of sunlight and when he saw it his heart seemed to stop in his chest. It was clear what he saw when he looked at Cass and he struggled valiantly against the strange, wanting feeling. Even as he did he knew that he was failing miserably.

 

Cass was everything that embodied a sense of well being and homeliness for him and he had yet to understand why. It's like a piece of himself was slotting back inside him when the two of them stood together. A fun and happier version of himself. Contentment was never a word that John associated with himself. He felt foolish and undeserving of the way this woman made him feel but he couldn't help respond to the connection, he wasn't in complete control any more than she was.

 

"About as much as you talk about Ferris Wheels." she shot back as she set the baby down in the Moses basket which doubled as both a carrier and a bed.

 

If he remembered it was her banter or rather 'their' banter that he liked so much about Cass in the beginning. It was hard to find a woman who could keep up with his smart ass comments and even more difficult to keep one in regards to his job. He had been married once, secrets had rotted his relationship with Nancy from the inside out. He couldn't be there for her when she needed him, his job took him away on classified assignments way too often to maintain anything stable. In short John had learned that he had no business offering himself to anybody else, he didn't have anything to give.

 

Yet every time he heard Cass laugh it sounded like a classical quartet plucking at every single one of the chords deep inside him. He wished it could be different for them but there was nothing certain in his future. A relationship was out of the question but a friendship, he could deal with that. Just being near her was enough for him right now.

 

"I do like Ferris wheels." he confirmed as Cass twisted to face him again.

 

They had known each other barely twenty hour hours in total if he included Afghanistan and their brief happenings on Atlantis but somehow he felt like he knew her better than he knew anyone else back home on Earth.

 

The time they shared had always been fleeting but it was forging a connection so deep that he could feel it throbbing in the depths of his soul. It strengthened with every word, glance and expression they exchanged. John wanted to learn what made her tick. He pushed back the compulsion with every fibre of his being.

 

By now he was used to being alone and he enjoyed the freedom but there was something to be said for sharing himself with somebody else. He had bore the weight of his own burdens for far too long now, he was starting to find it exhausting.

 

"And anything that goes faster than two hundred miles an hour." Cass recounted, pointing at him with her forefinger as she spoke.

 

"And you like Chinese food and hate the snow." he reminded her with a knowing look.

 

The expression on Cass's face at the revelation was worth making the comment. He guessed she had suspected that her words had gone in one ear and out the other just like she must have experienced with other men. The thought of other men in Cassie's life sent a deep feral protectiveness pulsating through him and he extinguished that almost immediately.

 

Friends, John chided himself.

 

Despite the way he had left the infirmary back in Afghanistan, for weeks after he had not been able to stop thinking of the pale skinned, dark haired doctor who had treated his injuries. The crippling lonesomeness that he saw residing inside of her mirrored his own. John considered whether this was part of his attraction to her, they shared the same broken pieces he thought. To other people they both hid it well.

 

"So you aren't just a pretty face." Cass responded to his words with a bite of humour.

 

"I don't know whether to be honoured or offended." John informed her, putting a hand to his chest in mock modesty.

 

"Go." Cass gestured with her dainty hand waving him off. "Your keeping our new friend waiting."

 

"I'll be back." he saluted with two fingers and a wink.

 

"Did you really just quote Terminator Two at me?" Cass laughed, her dark fringe falling across her face as she shook her head in dismay.

 

There it was again, that familiar surprised giggle that haunted his nights after he'd met her in Afghanistan. It seemed ridiculous back then, thinking about a woman he had spent only a few hours in the company of but when he was standing here in front of her he understood why.

 

There was a calming influence to Cass, one that only true healers exhibited. He had seen it rarely within his world but he knew that she possessed the ability to sooth people. It was mesmerizing to see it in action.

 

The people of this village had been edgy and alarmed by their arrival. They had seen their team as intruders upon their peaceful existence and in a way he couldn't blame them for that. Slowly he hoped that they were changing the villagers minds. Teyla seemed to have a little faith in him but the others were still weary. Maybe with time that would all change, they could do with a few friends in this new universe.

 

"See it's much more fun when other people get what I'm saying." John told her, flashing one last glimpse of his smile before waving goodbye.

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It was nighttime again when all hell had broken loose. It had been the sound of Lieutenant Ford's confused and troubled voice over the radio that had alerted Cass to the beginnings of a problem. She was on her feet in seconds leaving the shelter of the camp fire she had been sitting at with Cyrus and some of the other villagers to order to receive the transmission again.

 

As soon as she'd pressed the button to request a repeat, she was deafened by the roar of what she could only describe as a dart-like space ship zooming across the sky above her.

 

"Doctor Pierce to all units, they're flying over the village as we speak." she yelled into the radio over the chaos that was starting to break loose around her.

 

People were running in all directions, gathering up their children as they abandoned their homes before plunging into the deepest depths of the forest. In the uproar she could hear their screaming echoing in her ears as the word 'Wraith' was sounded like a call of alarm. It was insane to see so many people pushing and shoving each other in a bid to clear the village. She had seen instances like this before in Afghanistan and it never ended well.

 

Cass didn't know what the Wraith were but alike the people of the village there wasn't a chance in hell she was sticking around to find out. Something that asserted this much fear over people had to be something terrible. Her fingertips were already slipping across the holster on her hip, her finger flicking open the popper button as she pulled the Glock out from it's sheath.

 

There were shadows surrounding her, beings she could only catch a glimpse of out of the corner of her eye. It was like trying to grasp at smoke, it flitted away from her in an instant. Cass whirled around, her hands locked tightly around her weapon as she struggled to catch sight of the life form stalking her like prey.

 

A ball of flame erupted beside her, lighting up the dark night like a haze of fireworks as the hut beside her exploded. The sheer force of the searing, hot, blast knocked her off her feet. Cass hit the ground slapping out just like her Judo training had taught her.

 

The motion stopped the potentially crippling blow to her head and neck causing the shock to vibrate through her body. Her gun was gone, it had flew from her fingers and become lost in the sea of debris that had fallen down around her in the shell shocked seconds she'd spent writhing here on the ground.

 

Cass rolled onto her side, struggling to all fours, coughing as the rancid smoke filled her lungs. Her eyes were watering like crazy, blinding her as someone gripped her arm in a vice like grasp and yanked her completely to her feet.

 

"We need to get back to the gate, it's the best vantage point." Colonel Sumner was telling her over the ringing in her ears.

 

Cass allowed him to guide her until she found her footing once more. Her vision was clearing now and she could see the devastation that lay before them. The simple buildings were now smouldering hovels shrouded in thick black smoke that blocked out the stars above. Screams were echoing in her ears, shrieks of terror and torment prodding at her heart as beams of halogen swarmed the area.

 

A blast of light surrounded the two of them stopping them dead in their tracks. The brightness was debilitating, it tore at Cass's vision stripping it away as her limbs became limp and lifeless. Her mind was beginning to slip away, she could feel it vanishing as Colonel Sumner's gruff voice roared in her ears.

 

"What the hell..."

 

And then nothing at all.

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