John did not want to wake up. He knew something had woken him, but the bed was warm and comfortable and as soon as he moved Elizabeth snuggled back against him, reminding him that she was naked and their clothes were in a heap on the floor from earlier activities.
She'd not been feeling well much of the week, and while some men and even some women believed sharing a bed was just a duty for the wife to be performed whenever the husband required it, John would never force himself on Elizabeth. She'd felt better today, though. He'd kept her up rather late and he was still tired.
All of which was why it took until the second, extremely loud knock on the kitchen door before he woke completely. Elizabeth sat up in alarm, then turned to look at him. It was the middle of the night, so someone coming to the door probably wasn't bringing good news.
Neither of them spoke. John hastily tugged on a dressing gown and made his way down the hall. It was unlikely the person at the back door was a danger, but even months after the Wraith attack, he couldn't stop his pulse from speeding up. He glanced up at the shotgun over the door as he approached. Elizabeth still wasn't happy about it, but John had insisted that keeping their home safe was more important than her dislike of guns. Also with a store full of merchandise downstairs, having a weapon handy in case of robbers was just practical.
"Who is it?"
John unlatched the door and winced as the frigid November air came in with his former partner. Ronon stepped into the room and nodded at Elizabeth, who was holding a dressing gown tightly around her throat and carrying the lamp in her other hand. "Janet sent me. Mrs. Lorne's asking for you."
Elizabeth gasped, then whirled around. "I'll be there as fast as I can," she called back.
John re-opened the door to let Ronon leave, but he couldn't resist one comment. "So, Janet sent you?"
As always, he got a stony look in response. The situation between Ronon and the midwife was the scandal of the town, but neither of the two parties would comment on whatever actually was happening between them. Late in the summer Ronon had left Atlantis for some time without any real notice, but he'd returned a couple weeks ago. Though he was staying with Dr. McKay and Dr. Zelenka as usual, he had been seen coming and going from Janet's house at odd hours. Their refusal to speak about it wasn't helping the situation. Elizabeth was worried about Janet's reputation, and while she didn't say it, John suspected she was also struggling with hurt that her friend wasn't confiding in her.
John wasn't sure what to make of any of it. Ronon had been a loner long before John met him, and John had never figured the man for settling anywhere for any length of time. However, if Ronon had found someplace he was willing to stay, John didn't begrudge him or Janet Fraiser whatever happiness they could grab. He'd never put much store by society's rules himself, and had mostly observed proper behavior when courting Elizabeth because it had mattered to her. In retrospect, knowing what it was like to share her bed every night, John felt a strong sense of regret for all the years he'd wasted with nothing but kisses and smiles.
He shook himself out of his train of thought and went to dress himself. Elizabeth was hastily buttoning up her heavy blouse. She watched as he pulled on his trousers and when she'd finished fastening her skirt, she sat down to put on her boots. "John, it's only a few steps to get to the Lornes' from here," she began.
He shrugged. "I might as well go. Marcus could probably use the company. Ronon's not much of a conversationalist."
She just looked at him. John stared back, and in the silence he knew she could read his unspoken conviction that he was absolutely not letting her go running around town in the middle of the night without him, even if it was just down the street and realistically she was in no danger.
After a moment she sighed in resignation and stood up. "I'll get our coats."
The fires were stoked and lamps were burning in several rooms of the modest house attached to the blacksmith shop. It had been expanded late in the summer, after the church and Dr. Beckett's office had been rebuilt and there was time and labor available to help Marcus Lorne build the additions needed to accommodate a wife and family – especially a wife with her own business to conduct, though Kate had been focused on sewing for her baby for several weeks rather than doing work for hire.
Elizabeth left her coat and scarf in the front room and was ushered swiftly into the bedroom with only one glance at the anxious father-to-be hovering nervously in the kitchen. Inside, Kate was dressed in an old shift and walking back and forth around the room. Janet was fussing with linens on the portable delivery bed while Laura Beckett sat and knitted and tried to distract Kate. Elizabeth was a little surprised to see Laura there. She'd been confined to her bed for much of the last two months because her pregnancy had not been an easy one.
Without waiting to be told, Elizabeth took Kate's arm to support her as she walked. Her friend squeezed her hand tightly and smiled, then groaned in pain. Janet was by her side in a flash, her hand rubbing Kate's lower back soothingly. "Pace yourself, Kate," she said with a small grin. "You've got several hours to get through yet."
Kate let out a slow breath as the contraction eased and shot Janet a dark look. "That's not terribly reassuring, you know."
Janet shrugged. "First babies are notoriously slow. Once you get some practice it will go more quickly."
Laura cackled with laughter while Kate blushed. "Could we focus on this child rather than any theoretical ones Marcus and I may have in the future?"
"But you are planning on having more children, aren't you?" Laura teased.
Kate and Elizabeth reached the far end of the room and turned about to continue walking. "Given that being pregnant doesn't seem to have diminished my husband's ardor, I imagine so," Kate blurted out. Then she covered her mouth with one hand. "I can't believe I just said that aloud."
Janet laughed outright while it was Elizabeth's turn to flush slightly. "Don't worry, Kate," Janet reassured her. "I've seen many a woman confess things from the delivery bed they'd never have said during the clear light of an ordinary day."
"You mean there may be more salacious details in the offing before morning?" Laura asked hopefully.
Elizabeth finally found her tongue. "Knowing you, Laura, I suspect most of them won't be coming from Kate."
That set everyone laughing again.
John accepted a cup of coffee from Marcus as he sat at the kitchen table with Carson. Ronon wasn't actually here and John wasn't sure if he'd gone to fetch anyone else or not.
"I'm a bit surprised to see you out here," he said to Carson, who was sipping his own coffee.
The doctor shrugged. "Laura insisted on being here for Kate, so I came along for her." Laura Beckett's pregnancy had been difficult for her. Twice now they feared she would lose the child, but bed rest and extreme caution had put things to right so far as anyone could tell at this point.
Carson glanced at Marcus, who was nervously pacing across the living room. "Janet didn't seem to think I'd be needed in any other capacity," he said at the man. Marcus looked slightly sheepish and Carson grinned. "Sit down, son. We've like as not got a long wait ahead of us and there's no sense in you wearing your floor to holes yet."
For a little while they were able to draw Marcus into conversation, but every noise from the bedroom made him jump. The sky outside began to lighten and Kate's cries became more pronounced and after that, Marcus was pacing again and staring rather fixedly at the door separating him from his wife.
Ronon slipped back into the house eventually, but as John had expected, he didn't contribute much to the sparse conversation between John and Carson.
It wouldn't be all that long before they were replaying this scene at Carson's house, John knew. He couldn't imagine the anxiety in Marcus now, much less how Carson would be feeling, given the worry over Laura's health. John sat down in the armchair near the fireplace, his arms crossed over his chest and let himself drift.
He and Elizabeth hadn't spoken about children much, except in the abstract. Given her indisposition earlier in the week, he knew she wasn't pregnant now, but they probably ought to prepare for the possibility.
He certainly had been taking every opportunity he could to get her into their bed. Sometimes without bothering with the bed itself.
He pulled his thoughts away from that, as it wasn't the time or place.
For the first time a while, he remembered the experience during the spring, when he'd fallen into a coma after being nearly killed by a gunshot wound to the stomach. The injury still ached occasionally. Since the Wraith attack, he hadn't thought about it often. The siege had given his mind grist for new nightmares, and he also woke up from them with Elizabeth lying next to him, breathing quietly in the dark. That didn't leave much room for old fears.
Still, he vaguely remembered the imagined sensation of holding a child in his arms, of seeing Elizabeth caring for their baby.
There was no telling if he and Elizabeth would have any children, much less if they would have a son, of course. She was older than Laura or Kate, and he knew common wisdom was that she was too far past the bloom of youth for bearing children.
He shifted uncomfortably in the chair as he heard Kate moaning from the other room. Childbirth was dangerous. One of the reasons he and Carson and Ronon were here with Marcus was in case the worst happened. Janet might be a skilled midwife and Carson a fine doctor, but there was only so much they could do if nature turned against them.
The thought of losing Elizabeth still paralyzed him with fear. He would rather she not ever be pregnant than risk losing her in childbirth.
The door opened, causing everyone to jump. Elizabeth emerged, looking slightly harried. "Dr. Beckett, we'll be needing more hot water soon."
Carson nodded. Marcus gripped her arm tightly, a gesture he ordinarily would not have made. But Elizabeth patted his hand soothingly. "She's doing well. Janet says everything is going just as expected."
Marcus nodded, swallowing audibly. "Will you tell her... tell her that I..." He couldn't manage to complete the thought but Elizabeth smiled gently at him.
"She already knows, Marcus."
She freed herself from his grasp and approached John. He stood up quickly. Her eyes rested on him, looking curious, and he wondered how much of his train of thought was showing, at least to her. Almost since they met, Elizabeth had possessed an uncanny knack for seeing right through him.
He wanted to put his arms around her and let her lean against him and rest for a minute, but even with only their close friends present, it wasn't proper. He settled for grasping her hand. "How are you?"
She waved off the question. "I have the easy job. But John, Janet says it will be several more hours and it's nearing dawn."
"Ah," he said. "I'll go tell Mr. Grodin he needs to open the store, then." When Laura's pregnancy had gotten complicated, she'd had to quit her work in the mercantile, though in truth her husband had been urging her to do so well before then. Elizabeth had struggled for over a month trying to balance the store and her position on the Town Council with all her other responsibilities. She grew more and more harried until John finally persuaded her that she needed to hire someone in a permanent capacity. An inquiry to a friend in Denver had lead to Peter Grodin arriving on the stage with a letter of reference in hand. Elizabeth had taken to the young gentleman immediately.
John could have done without his wife being in the company of a handsome young man with an exotic foreign accent day in and out, but when he teased her about it Elizabeth's response was a mix of exasperation and teasing him back mercilessly about Mr. Grodin's polished manners. John felt it prudent not to bring the subject up too much. The man had proved reliable and also a target for every young unmarried lady in the town, so John didn't feel terribly threatened.
Elizabeth smiled her thanks and then, to his surprise, pressed a swift kiss to his cheek before she took a pail of water from Carson back to the bedroom. John grabbed his coat and went out into the quiet morning, promising with a silent look to return quickly.
His knees ached. It took Marcus a while to realize it, and realize that the reason for it was the aimless pacing about the kitchen and sitting room as the night wore on. Though he was on his feet most days, it wasn't this slogging to and fro.
He sat down, wishing he had some work to do. Of course, he probably wouldn't have been able to focus even if he had. Every time he heard Kate cry out, his muscles tensed even further.
It was strange to not be with her now. He'd spent the last nine months caring for her as much as he was able, soothing her through the morning sickness, rubbing her back when it ached, waiting on her after she entered her confinement. He'd used his spare time to improve the house, adding more furniture and fitting out the nursery and her new work room as best he could.
Now he was kept outside, waiting. He knew it was the way of things and that Kate wouldn't want him to see her right now, but it still frustrated him. She'd always been beautiful, but watching her body change over the months, she'd only grown more so. Kate had always reminded him of an angel. In the last few weeks he'd wondered if the Virgin Mary could have looked more beautiful than his wife, though he kept such blasphemous comparisons to himself.
The sun finally rose and Marcus drifted closer to the door. He couldn't help it. It was clear from Kate's cries and the noises inside that something was happening. He clenched his teeth and prayed. Since the war, he hadn't been much of the praying type, but since the day Kate told him she was carrying his child, he'd sent almost constant prayers to the heavens for her safety, and for the health of their baby.
John came back from his errand and he'd no more than taken off his coat when a silence fell on the other side of the door. Marcus gripped the door knob in his hand reflexively, then a shrill cry pierced the morning quiet.
Carson, John and Ronon surrounded him, all of them hovering nervously outside the door for several agonizing minutes until it opened and Laura Beckett came out with a bundle of blankets in her arms.
She smiled up at him. "Marcus, your little girl would like to say hello."
He could only stare as Laura carefully shifted the baby into his arms. She was the tiniest little thing, red-faced and squirming against the tightly wrapped cloth. She was light in his arms but part of him felt a new weight and awe he'd never felt before.
But he looked up from his daughter anxiously. "Kate?"
"She's fine," Laura assured him. "Elizabeth and Janet are helping her clean up. You'll see her soon."
Marcus sagged a little in relief. Carson patted him on the shoulder before moving forward through the doors to check on Kate himself just to be sure.
John and Ronon were both grinning. Ronon looked down at the baby, resembling a huge shaggy dog peering at a puppy, and he poked Marcus in the arm. "Let's hope she gets Kate's looks."
"Yes, you'd make an ugly girl," John added.
Marcus rolled his eyes, but he didn't mind the teasing. The baby yawned in his arms and Marcus felt an enormously sappy smile on his face. He brushed the back of his finger against her smooth cheek and whispered, "Hello, sweetheart."
Janet assured her that eight hours of labor was fairly quick for a first baby. Kate didn't want to imagine it having taken any longer. She was ready to sleep for a year or so, though she doubted her daughter would let that happen.
At the moment she was just grateful that they were both safe. And for clean clothes and her warm bed, as Elizabeth tucked her in carefully and squeezed her hand before stepping away.
Her eyes were fluttering, but then everyone retreated towards the door and Marcus came inside, holding the baby carefully in his arms as if he feared he might drop her. She couldn't help the smile as he sat down carefully on the edge of the bed.
The others left them in privacy and Marcus gave her a searching look. "You're all right?"
"I'm fine," she assured him. "Just quite tired."
"So am I," he teased. She just shook her head at him. He looked back down at the baby, who seemed to be asleep for the moment. "She's perfect, Kate," he said in low voice that made her shiver a little.
"She needs a name."
He nodded. "I think Emma suits her," he said. That had been her suggestion. She'd always liked the name and it didn't belong to any family connection on either side. Kate thought of it as a fresh start for the little one.
But Marcus spoke again, "Emma Katherine Lorne would be a fine name for a beautiful little girl."
He was looking at her with so much love and admiration in his eyes, she didn't have the heart to object. Despite her tiredness, she pushed herself up and kissed him lightly. Her husband kissed her back gently, then Kate laid back down in the bed. Her eyes drifted shut as she watched Marcus stare in awe at Emma.
Elizabeth would have gone into the store to check on things, but John tugged her firmly around the back of the building and she gave in and followed him home. She'd lingered at the Lornes' to make sure everything was in order and there was a hot meal tucked in the oven for the new parents. Other townspeople would be bringing by food for them for the next few days. Everyone wanted to stay on good terms with the blacksmith and the seamstress.
She set about making some tea for herself and John. He was sitting at the table in their small kitchen, yawning. As she waited for the water to boil, he hooked an arm around her waist and pulled her to sit in his lap. She let out a tiny sound of surprise before he kissed her slowly. Elizabeth shook her head at him. He was incorrigible.
John's hand swept up and down her back and Elizabeth realized for the first time how tired she was. They had gone to bed – rather, gone to sleep late so she only had a few hours of rest before Ronon came.
John's other hand came up to touch her face. "I think a nap may be in order today, Mrs. Sheppard." She saw the familiar little smile on his face – it happened every time he called her that.
She nodded, yawning. "For once, I won't argue."
He chuckled. "Then this really is a miraculous day."
She glared at him then got up, as the tea kettle was whistling at her. Once the tea was steeping, she sat back down in John's arms. "Marcus and Kate probably think so."
"True, but then Marcus has been amazed every day since they got married."
She wrapped an arm around John's neck. "And you're not in awe each morning you wake up married to me?"
He grinned. "Some days I still can hardly believe you let me use your given name."
She laughed and let her head rest on his shoulder, her fingers toying with the collar of his shirt. Part of her was reluctant to bring the subject up, since most couples covered this while they were courting, but her curiosity was roused. "We've never talked much about children."
She didn't say anything else right off, and John was silent for a moment, his hand rubbing absently against her thigh. "No we haven't."
With a sigh, she sat up. "I'm assuming you want to have a son of your own. Most men do."
He shot her a look. "And since when have I been like most men, Elizabeth?"
She conceded the point with a nod but didn't look away. John's expression grew pensive. "I would love to have a child with you, boy or girl. But only if that's what you want."
"I always assumed I would have a family," she told him. Of course, when she was younger, she'd assumed by now she would have been married for several years and have a full house already. Instead she wasn't married six months yet and the gossiping ladies of the town had started to make little comments about how late marriages almost never produced children. "I want to give you a child. But so many years have gone by now..." Her voice trembled a little and she couldn't meet his eyes. "I couldn't bear it if I disappointed you."
"Elizabeth." John's hand cupped her cheek, drawing her to look at him. "You could never disappoint me. Not in this, not in anything." Her eyes watered a little as his thumb brushed over her cheek. "If it's meant to happen, it will."
"I fear if it's not soon, it will be too late."
He shifted underneath her. "We've not even been married six months. We still need to find a suitable place for a house." His lips twitched a little. "I'm still not used to waking up alongside you in the morning. I wake up sometimes and think I must still be dreaming."
Elizabeth blushed a little at the implication and John kissed her cheek, then trailed his lips down to her jaw.
"I love you," he murmured against her throat. His arms tightened around her. "No matter what happens."
When he kissed his way back to her mouth, Elizabeth returned his kiss, clinging to him and whispering her love against his lips. The tea cooled on the table behind her, but John's mouth moved over hers insistently and his hands began to wander her body with an intent that had become familiar in the last four months. Her husband wasn't very concerned with the proper time and place for such behavior, something he'd proved several times over in since their wedding.
She considered protesting but dismissed the idea. She was tired, but for once her day was entirely free from work or responsibility. Nobody expected her to appear anywhere or do anything. So she pulled free of John's embrace only to take his hand and draw him towards their bedroom.
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. "No admonishments about it being the middle of the morning?" he teased.
Elizabeth shrugged, "We were headed for the bed anyway."
John grinned, closing the bedroom door behind them. His hands went to her waist and began tugging her blouse free of her skirt. "You're sure you're not too tired?"
Shaking her head, Elizabeth began to unbutton her shirt, enjoying the way John's eyes went automatically to her fingers. Between the two of them, they got her blouse off and her skirt swiftly followed. She stepped back towards the bed and lifted her foot so John could get her boots off. He knelt down and began working the laces and she grinned wickedly. "Besides, if we're going to have a family of our own, we should probably start soon."
Her boots dropped to the floor with a loud thud. John's hands slid up her legs, pushing her petticoat up as he moved closer, kneeling on the floor in front of her. His own smile made her heart race and her body heat with what it promised. "I knew there was a reason I married you," he quipped before Elizabeth silenced him with a kiss.