John Sheppard walked faster away from the voice. If he could just get to the jumper bay...
He turned a corner and slowed down as he saw Elizabeth coming down the hall, nose buried in papers. Elizabeth had warned him about running away from his daughter after the multiple incidents in which Elizabeth found herself literally run over by John. She didn't appreciate that.
Of course slowing down meant he was certain to get caught. And he was.
"Daddy!" The screech was too close to comfort. He turned around and looked down at the little girl with dirty blond hair in pigtails and arms on her hips, looking up at him angrily.
"Yes, my sweet?"
"You said I could go with you."
"I did? When?"
"Really?" John scratched the back of his neck, looking like he was trying to recall what he had said yesterday.
The little girl's mouth fell open. "You're not going back on your promise, are you?"
John smiled. "Of course not, sweetie. Come on, Uncle Ronon must be there already and getting anxious to leave." He took his daughter's small hand in his.
No one knew Aidan was coming. Really. No one. Well - that wasn't entirely true. There was a high possibility that Aidan knew. No one could figure out that part, exactly, but the little girl professed that she knew she was coming here, to stay permanently on Atlantis and to be John Sheppard and Rodney McKay's little girl. But every adult on Atlantis and the mainland and the people in the know on Earth too (not many people as the Atlantis project was still a big secret on Earth) knew this couldn't be possible as babies could not know anything until they started growing and developing. But Aidan would be the one who'd smile as if she were indulging them and concede and say that maybe she got that part wrong when she was dropped off in the gate room in the middle of the night.
And yeah, that was how she appeared to them: a bubbling, happy baby girl in a hand-woven basket with no identification and no one coming to claim her.
Torren was five years older, which created problems for Aidan in that it meant Torren could outrun her and outsmart her. She was only five years old and still trying to get used to Atlantis' layout and he had been here for ten years already and used that to his advantage.
So of course playing hide-and-seek games with him was no fun.
In an effort to outsmart Torren, she went on a quest to find the best hiding spot on Atlantis - ever. There was no way Torren would be able to find her now.
Torren found his mother mediating in their rooms and got ready to be lectured up to the moon. It wasn't something he was looking forward to, but his mother had taught him to always be honest and this called for absolute honesty - if only because his mother was going to find out about it eventually and it was better she heard it from him in the end anyways.
"I can't find Aidan."
Teyla's serene expression fell. She wasn't feeling peaceful anymore.
Before Teyla decided to tell John and Rodney and subsequently give them both panic attacks, she decided to do some searching of her own for Aidan.
Torren took her to all of his hiding places and to all of Aidan's previous hiding places and even to some other places where Aidan never hid, like the mess hall and the gate room; all, however, had yielded the same result: no Aidan.
Teyla had to face the inevitable and tell her friends that their child was missing.
She decided to tell John first. He was their leader and the most calm during any crisis, so it made sense. She found him in the mess hall eating a late supper.
She sat right across from him. "Aidan's missing."
John's cup of coffee hovered near his mouth. "Uh, excuse me? What? She's missing? How's she missing?" John's eyebrows squinted in worry.
She explained about Torren and Aidan's hide-and-seek games, how she looked where she could and found no trace of Aidan.
John got up then, nervous and scared energy rolling off him, his shoulders tensed in that way they got when he was rearing to go into a fight with only his P90.
He stalked out of the mess hall, Teyla right on his heels.
The first thing John decided was to inform Elizabeth, who locked the gate immediately to prevent any surprise attacks while there was a crisis inside Atlantis, and everyone was alerted that Aidan was missing and to be on the lookout for the little girl.
John didn't think anything horrible had happened to her but Atlantis was a big place. With a plan in place, his Marines on the mission, and everybody on Atlantis forming into search parties, John psyched himself up for the moment he had been avoiding since he heard the news: telling Rodney. He had no idea how his husband would react but it wasn't going to be pretty.
He met Rodney coming out of his lab and walking in his direction.
"How the hell could that have happened?" Rodney gesticulated wildly.
John was thrown off momentarily before it made perfect sense. "Oh, I guess you heard."
"Yes, I heard! It's not like we don't work with a bunch of idiots who love to gossip every chance they get."
The few people in the hallway turned to look at Rodney, obviously having heard him and offended.
"Oh don't look at me like that, you know it's true," Rodney waved them away, stalking off somewhere with John on his heels.
"I'm sure she's fine; there are only so many places she could be." John said.
The people of Atlantis were divided into groups of four people, each group equipped with a map, flashlights, their radios and a portion of the city to search.
Teyla and Ronon were with John and Rodney and went off looking around the East section of the city.
It was pretty much a grueling hour of calling for Aidan and turning around every corner and looking in any nook and cranny.
They were going into hour two when John's radio crackled, and Lorne said on the other end, "Uh, Sir, we found Aidan, on the pier around the West towers. You, um, might want to grab a towel."
No one stood around thinking about why Lorne had requested they bring towels, they all just scrambled to find one and headed to the West towers.
When John, Rodney, Teyla and Ronon rushed to the West pier, nothing could've prepared them for the sight that greeted them.
Aidan was standing near the edge of the docks, soaking wet in her white pants, small Doctor Who t-shirt and Sketchers, all the while glaring at Lorne, and his team which consisted of Cadman, Bates, and Parrish.
Rodney pushed past the crowd that was forming and patted Aidan's head and arms and legs, looking for signs of blood or any injuries. Satisfied that his daughter was relatively unharmed and whole, he said, "Alright, young lady, where were you?" Rodney crossed his arms and looked down sternly at his daughter.
"I was in the water, duh, Dad."
Rodney's eyebrows shot up in surprise, along with everyone else's. "You mean you were in the water this whole time?"
Aidan nodded happily, forgetting momentarily that her game of hide-and-seek was ruined when Lorne found her. Ah well, it was getting kind of lonesome there by herself in the water floating under Atlantis anyways.
"Is it time for dinner? Because I'm hungry." Aidan wiped away some of the water still drying on her bangs and skipped off to the mess hall.
"We are gonna have a talk about this later, Aidan," John said to her retreating back.
Oh, boy. That was not going to be fun. Her Daddy had used his "serious" voice.
That night, warm and clean from her bath, and in her pink Princess Jasmine pajamas, Aidan lied in bed and tried to look like she was sorry. She didn't know what she was sorry for but she figured that's what the situation called for. Her parents were angry at her for some strange reason and lecturing her about not going off swimming without telling anybody. The way she saw it, she was being perfectly safe. The water called out to her as nothing on land could and she didn't see the harm in spending a few hours playing under the water.
"I'm sorry," she said in a small voice. "I'll try not to do it again."
John and Rodney shared a momentary look of helplessness. It was just very hard to be angry with the little girl when she used that voice.
"Okay," John said and kissed his daughter on top of her head and hugged her.
"Sweet dreams, pumpkin," Rodney said and leaned in to hug her.
Oh yes, she was totally going to be having visions of dolphins and whales and merpeople dancing in her head all night long.
On their way to their own bedroom, Rodney asked, "Do you think it's our fault?"
"Hmm?" John wrapped one arm around Rodney's shoulders, sort of trying to rest his head on Rodney's shoulder and walk at the same time; he managed it but with some difficulty.
"Our daughter's apparent need for mischief, do you think it's because we don't enforce enough rules or something?"
Personally, John had never held a high regard for rules but maybe that was just him. "Nah," he finally replied.
"I still think we shouldn't read her those Pippi Longstocking books."
"What? No, Rodney; those are awesome books." That was just talking silly, Pippi Longstocking was a great role model for kids, a legend even, no matter what opinions Rodney had about Pippi's disregard for reason and logic and overall common sense.
"How many times do I have to tell you, those books don't teach kids anything other than how to be unruly."
John stopped near their bed and turned Rodney to face him. "Rodney...shut up." And John kissed his husband long and slow and after that, Rodney didn't much care about Pippi Longstocking honestly.