Word Count: 3,173
Summary: “You’ll fight off a pack of raptors but you’re scared of a baby?”
“Nu-uh, no way; I don’t do kids,” Becker informed Connor. “You pick it up.”
“Why should I do it? Do I look like the kind of person who’s good with babies?”
Becker snickered. “Let’s face it, you’re on their wavelength mentally so, yeah, you do.”
“Up yours,” Connor muttered. “You know what they do when they get scared? – and it must be since a pack of Raptors just ate its mother or babysitter or whatever she was - they cry or pee or crap themselves, none of which I have any inclination to deal with.”
Danny watched the argument between the two men as they stood at a safely calculated distance from the damaged baby buggy. They were close enough to look in to make sure the kid wasn’t hurt, but far enough away that neither of them could actually reach in. The crying began again in earnest and both of them took a step backwards.
With a sigh, he walked up the buggy and crouched in front of it. Reaching out to the baby, it took a few moments but the crying eased somewhat.
“Ok, first of all, what the hell is it with you two and babies?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder at them before turning back to the baby, unhooking the safety straps of the buggy. “You’ll fight off a pack of raptors but you’re scared of a baby?”
“I am not scared-”
Danny ignored him. “Connor, hold her for a minute,” he instructed, passing the baby over.
Connor backed away, holding his hands up in front of him in defence. “No thanks. It seems to like you just fine so why don’t you just keep hold, yeah?”
Danny rolled his eyes, continuing. “Secondly, she is a ‘she’, not an ‘it’. From the name on the baby rattle, I think she’s called Rosie. Now, hold her for a minute, would you?” At Connor’s next refusal, he turned to Becker, whose expression now resembled a rabbit caught in headlights.
Becker didn’t outright refuse, resignedly taking the baby. Danny laughed as Becker held her at arms length, eyeing her nervously as she stared back at him.
“For goodness’ sake, she’s not a bomb!” He showed Becker how to hold the baby properly before going back to the buggy and salvaging what he could from the bag hung on the back. They had supplies for the kid from her changing bag, but they’d have to carry her. Even if the buggy did have all four wheels still attached – which it didn’t - the terrain wasn’t exactly suitable.
He couldn’t do much about the mutilated body of the woman who had ended up on the wrong side of the anomaly with Rosie. Trying not to touch the worst of the blood soaked clothing as he went through her pockets, he found a purse with her ID and photos of her and the baby inside and looked back to the others.
“Her name is – was – Julie Davison. Rosie’s mum.”
Becker glanced at the baby, in her yellow onesie with little white ducks on it, looking as though she hadn’t a care in the world as she chewed on her fist, and for the first time he was glad that she was still a baby. She had no idea what was happening, calm again now that the noise and confusion had stopped. He had no idea how they’d tell the kid about her mum if she was old enough to understand.
“So, what now?” Connor asked. “The anomaly’s gone again; if it follows the same pattern, we’ve got about seventy-two hours before it re-opens.”
The anomaly had been appearing for the last few weeks, on and off, in the grounds of an old industrial warehouse. They’d been monitoring it and everything had been peaceful until today. A second anomaly had opened nearby, and at the same time as the men left to watch this one had been dealing with that, the young woman had taken a short cut home and ended up in the middle of it all.
Becker had tried to wave her back while keeping the attention of the two raptors but, with the buggy, she hadn’t been able to move away quickly or quietly enough. They’d charged at her and, before anyone could stop her, she had already run in a blind panic into the first anomaly at it popped back into existence, the raptors following.
By the time the team had run through after her, she was dead. It seemed that she had led the raptors away from the baby, using herself as bait. The only thing that Becker could do for her was to stop the raptors getting the kid, too.
Then, the anomaly had closed behind them.
“We wait it out and hope the anomaly reappears,” Becker told him. “We need to find somewhere to set up camp, too, before it gets dark. Um, Danny? You want to take it – sorry, her – back now?”
“Not particularly. She seems quite happy with you.”
Danny relented. “Connor, take her. And no, that wasn’t a request,” he pointed out when the young man began to protest. “I’d rather have all of us who are armed without our hands full in case any of the local wildlife decides to attack.”
Connor did as he was told, still complaining, mainly about the fact he would be armed if Becker would let him carry a gun, but still he took the kid from Becker.
“I don’t like this. I feel like I’m going to drop it. Her.”
Danny glared at him. “Don’t.”
Beside him, Becker just looked relieved that someone else had to carry her and was now clutching his shotgun like a lifeline.
“Honestly, you two… Doesn’t anyone in your family have kids? Haven’t you ever babysat?” he asked.
Becker shook his head. “My brother is older than me so I never looked after him, and when his kid was that age, I was usually away on assignment. Not that he’d have left me to babysit anyway.”
“How old is she now?”
“About eight? Maybe older… I’m not sure.” Becker held up a hand to about chest height. “She’s about this big.”
“How can you not know how old your niece is?” Danny asked in disbelief. Becker just shrugged his shoulders and so Danny turned to Connor.
“How about you?”
“I’m an only child,” Connor told him. “And most of my friends are either students or geeks, none of whom have kids. Thank goodness.”
“I like kids,” Danny said, causing the other two to look at him strangely. “What?”
Becker just shook his head. “Weird. I always thought it was one of the benefits of being gay. No risk I’ll have to deal with one of the little buggers at any point.”
Connor nodded in agreement. “I’d rather have a puppy. Puppies are so much nicer than kids. I really don’t get what people see in kids. I mean, think about it logically – you can housetrain a puppy in weeks, whereas a kid? You have to do everything for it. Its years before it’s at the same level of self-sufficiency as a puppy. After a few weeks a puppy can eat by itself, pee by itself with no need for disgusting nappy-changing.”
“Definitely,” Becker agreed. “And think about when they get older. A dog or cat will love you for life provided you love it and feed it. There’s no tantrums and rebellions and all the other crap kids put their parents through.”
Danny listened to them, comparing notes on why puppies were better than children, feeling relieved that Rosie wouldn’t understand any of it. Between those two, the raptors, and her mum, the poor kid would need therapy for life.
“Most people actually enjoy looking after their kids, teaching them new things, raising them,” Danny pointed out, feeling the need to at least try and convince them otherwise. “You make it sound like some kind of punishment.”
“It is,” they replied in unison.
“Its worse,” Connor told him. “They wouldn’t make you change nappies if you were in prison; prisoners would claim it was a breech of their human rights if anyone ever tried to make them do it.”
“You do serve less years for a murder sentence than you take raising a kid,” Becker mused.
Danny gave up.
“So how come you’re so good with kids?” Becker asked Danny later that evening. They’d managed to persuade Connor to babysit – maybe persuade was a lie, more like Becker had bribed him – in the small cave they’d set up camp in. He and Danny had escaped the cave for a while, taking in the as-yet quiet night. It wouldn’t last, but they could enjoy the peace while it lasted.
“You got one or two somewhere that you’re not telling me about?”
Danny cast him a what-the-hell? look. “Seriously? You actually think I would have kept something like that from you?”
Becker smiled. “I was joking.”
“No you weren’t, not entirely,” Danny corrected, shifting his stance to move in closer and slide his arms around Becker’s waist. He pecked a kiss on Becker’s lips. “My cousin has two kids – I used to look after them for her sometimes when they were little. That’s all, so you needn’t look so worried.”
Becker’s cheeks flushed. “I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t!” he protested as Danny laughed.
“If you say so.” Danny pressed closer again, kissing Becker again before reluctantly pulling back. “Come on, we’d better get back inside and rescue Connor. Or Rosie.” He shrugged his shoulders. “One of them is bound to need saving by now.”
When they got back inside the cave, they found Connor and the baby both fast asleep, Connor propped against the wall, Rosie in the makeshift bed they’d made for her from moss covered with a blanket from her changing bag.
Tomorrow they were going to have to work out what to do about food – there had been a jar in the changing bag but tomorrow they’d need to find something to feed the baby, as well as something for them. And water. And any number of other necessities.
For tonight, they needed to get some rest. Danny sat down, Becker beside him.
“You want me to take first watch?” When Becker shook his head, Danny slouched down lower, laying down with resting his head on Becker’s thigh and closing his eyes. “Wake me in three hours.”
He didn’t make it three hours. Rosie decided she’d had enough sleep about an hour and a half later and woke them all up with a high pitched wail, leaving the three men scrambling to quiet her again before anything else heard her and decided that dinner was calling.
“What the hell is wrong with her?” Connor complained. “And how can something so small make so much noise?”
A quick sniff by Danny answered that question. “It’s not the noise she made that’s the problem…”
Connor frowned, then grimaced. “Oh, ewww!”
Danny handed Rosie to him, giving him no choice but to take her. “He who complains, volunteers.”
He rummaged through the bag they’d brought from the buggy and took out another clean nappy.
“One left, then we’ve got to find something else to use. There’s enough food for morning and then that’s gone, too,” he said.
When Connor just stared at the proffered nappy, then back at Danny, Danny rolled his eyes and handed it to Becker instead.
“You’ve just been drafted in to help,” Danny informed him, leaving no room for arguments. “Connor, pay attention. You’re doing it next time.”
When Rosie was once more clean, dry and asleep, everyone heaved a sigh of relief. They couldn’t risk anything from outside hearing her crying.
“Since I’m already awake, I might as well take the next watch,” Danny told them both. “Connor, I’ll wake you in three hours to take over.”
The following day, everyone awoke early thanks to their human alarm clock, Connor winning the coin toss to go and search for food with Becker. They hadn’t seen anything hunting them so far, Connor going so far as to speculate that the raptors had belonged to the second anomaly and had stumbled through the same as the woman had.
“Do you have any idea what’s safe to eat around here?” Connor asked. “Apart from trying to catch a bird or something that we could roast.” His eyes glazed over at that thought. “Oooh, roast chicken. With roast potatoes and carrots and peas and apple pie and custard afterwards.”
Becker licked his lips. “Okay, stop that; you’re making me hungry.”
“So, are we going to try and catch something?”
“With what? If I shoot something with this,” Becker said, holding up the shotgun, “there won’t be much left to eat. Are you any good at setting traps?”
Connor shook his head.
“So, berries it is. I suppose we look for signs that something else has been eating them, right? That should mean they aren’t poisonous. Then someone has to try them.”
“You’re going to make me be the guinea pig, aren’t you?” Connor asked suspiciously.
Becker smiled. “No need. Just make a bet with Danny that he daren’t eat them, and he’ll do it for you.”
A couple of hours later they had a plastic bag and a pop bottle filled with fresh water from the stream and couple of pieces of tree bark that they were using as platters to carry an assortment of berries and some apple-type things that Connor had reluctantly taste tested. He was complaining of being hungry and, as neither of them had any food in their pockets, it was one of the apples or nothing. He needn’t have worried; it had tasted slightly sweeter than he was expecting but the main thing was that it was edible.
When they made it back to the cave, Connor just stared. “What is she wearing?”
Danny glanced down at Rosie, frowning. “It’s perfectly serviceable. I had to think of something; there were no more nappies left.”
He was just putting the baby back into her onesie, fitting it over the top of the square of shirt material he’d used as a nappy, pinned in place with what looked like a large paperclip.
“I’ve got one more ready – only had enough shirt for that – but we’re going to have to keep washing them in that stream we spotted yesterday.”
Connor wrinkled his nose in distaste. “Yuk. That’s worse than just changing her and then burying them.”
“Well if you’ve got a better idea, let’s hear it.” Connor remained silent. “So, did you two find anything edible?”
Becker showed him. “It’s not exactly gourmet but it’ll keep us going for a couple of days…”
Seventy two and a half hours after stepping through the anomaly, four people waited. Well, three waited while the fourth sucked her thumb, unconcerned with their current predicament.
“I thought you said it would be back in seventy two hours, Conn.”
“It’s not an exact science,” Connor protested. “Maybe my timings are a bit out.”
“Okay, so we wait. Give it an hour, then return to the cave,” he said. “At least it’s shelter, and easily defendable. We can work out what to do next.”
Rosie wriggled in Becker’s arms and he turned her around so that she could see what was going on.
“You want me to take her for a while?” Danny offered, but Becker shook his head.
“We’re fine, aren’t we Rosie?”
Danny bit back a laugh, remembering their reactions mere days ago at even picking the baby up. The pair of them seemed to have become quite attached to Rosie.
When she started to fidget again, Becker moved to go and sit down on a rock.
“I think she’s hungry. Connor?”
Connor handed over the baby food jar that they’d refilled with mashed blueberries earlier that morning. Or, at least, something similar to them. The berries tasted like blueberries and there had been no side effects on any of them so far. Rosie seemed to like it and it was the best they could do, stuck where they were.
“Gents, you might want to hold off on the food,” Danny called, bringing their attention back to him. “The anomaly is back.”
Connor beamed. “See, I told you it would come back.”
“So you did, now can we get moving before it vanishes again?”
They were met on the other side by a fully armed team of Becker’s men, who looked ready to step through. When they saw the three of them emerge, a visible wave of relief ran through the group.
“Sir? Are you all alright?”
Becker nodded. “We’re all fine, just eager to get home. If someone can drive us back, we’ll leave you to get the anomaly locked down and keep watch until it disappears.”
“Is that a baby?” Becker gave the man you’re-an-idiot look and he smiled self-consciously. “Sorry, Sir. Stupid question. Just wasn’t expecting to see you holding one when you came back.”
“Her name is Rosie,” Becker informed him. “Her mother was killed by the Raptors but we managed to get to her in time.”
The soldier’s smile faded. “Perhaps before we close the anomaly, we should go and retrieve the body.”
Becker nodded, the man going up in his estimations with that suggestion.
“No, you won’t have time,” Connor informed them, checking the readings on a hand-held detector. “Last time, this anomaly only stayed open for about thirty minutes and it’s been here for half that already. It would take longer than that to reach her and get back before it closed.”
Damn. Becker had wanted to let Rosie’s mother have a proper funeral; they hadn’t been able to save her, but at least her family could have had some closure.
“Come on, kiddo, let’s get you home,” he told Rosie. He glanced at Danny. “I think I’m actually going to miss her.”
“Me too,” Connor added, then he wrinkled his nose. “But I will not miss changing nappies.” Especially the squares of shirt material they’d been using since running out of disposable nappies, washing them in a nearby stream to re-use again.
“Or being puked on,” Becker said.
“Not getting more than a couple of hours sleep.”
“Crying. I will certainly not miss the crying.”
“And here I thought you two had finally found your paternal side,” Danny teased.
Connor looked at Rosie again. “She is kind of cute,” he mused. “You know, when she’s sleeping and quiet and not doing anything disgusting…”
“So, not ready for one of your own?” Danny asked, laughing at the horrified expressions on both their faces.
“Oh God no! They might not be as bad as I first thought but I’ve decided that kids are a lot nicer when they’re someone else’s,” Connor told him, “and you can give them back at the end of the day.”
Danny smiled. “Still going to miss her, though, aren’t you?”
Both men nodded reluctantly.
Notes: For reference, the ‘puppy versus baby’ discussion between Connor and Becker is taken directly from a semi-regular rant between myself and a friend at work (usually beginning with ‘there was a screaming kid on the bus home last night’). Let’s just say that neither of us possess much in the way of maternal instincts… *g*