A/N: Thanks so much for all your reviews. This story means a lot to me, so I'm glad that people like it.
As soon as they saw Katie jumping from her place beside the window to run to the door, they knew that John and Mike were home.
Elizabeth, Jenna and Susan couldn't help a smile when they saw John enter with Katie chatting happily in his arms. He was listening to her carefully, nodding here and there.
"Katie, why don't you leave John alone for a little while and go play with your brother?" Jenna said, wanting to relieve him from her hyper daughter.
"No, buts, young lady," her father intervened. "Now, give me a hug, and go with your brother."
Katie reluctantly left John's arms for her father's and then stomped out of the room to go find her brother. The adults watched her go with a smile on their lips.
"She really took a liking to you, John," Susan voiced everyone's opinion.
"Don't!" John said as Elizabeth was opening her mouth to add something. "One word, and we won't go for a walk later. Worse! One word, and they'll know everything about you know what."
"Are you blackmailing me?" she asked, narrowing her eyes at him.
"Yup," he just answered, smugness in his voice. "And since we're here and not back home, you can't do anything about it."
"That's what you think," she said, a mischievous smile on her lips, and he knew he was going to regret it. "Katie!" she called. "John said he would love to play dolls with you after lunch!"
"I hate you," John told Elizabeth, after an hour spent playing dolls with the youngest of the Weirs.
"You know that wherever we are, I have means to make you pay."
"I know that now," he said, as he remained sitting on the floor, too lazy to get up.
"Daddy, can we watch TV?" Timmy asked, coming into the room after having spent some time reading in his room; as a true boy, he didn't like playing dolls, and he didn't understand why John agreed to play with his sister.
"Sure," Mike answered, grabbing the remote.
As he flicked through the channels, John resettled so that his back was resting against the couch. It wasn't like he could go sit on the couch, the kids had claimed it already, wanting to sit with their aunt. He didn't notice at first, but he found himself really close to Elizabeth's legs, as he squatted a bit so that Timmy wouldn't kick him by accident. It was only when she moved her legs slightly, brushing his arm accidentally, that he wondered what it would look like to an outsider's eyes.
But his thoughts about this stopped there as he saw a strange yellow thing coming on screen.
"Spongebob Squarepants," Katie just said. "You never saw it?"
"I'm a bit too old to watch cartoons. It's different from what we had when I was a kid. I remember spending hours on end watching The Looney Toons."
"Elizabeth and Mike used to watch it too," Susan mentioned, not even looking up from the book she was reading.
"Shh," Timmy reprimanded the adults, and they couldn't help but smile.
As the cartoon played on TV, John had to admit that it wasn't as bad as he thought when the yellow sponge first appeared on the screen. He would even go as far as saying that some moments were quite funny. It was soon over, and the children pleaded with their parents to watch a DVD.
"Ok, kids. What do you want to watch, then?" Mike asked, knowing that they wouldn't let go until they had it their way.
"Enchanted," they replied as one.
The adults smiled at that. Besides John, they knew that most of the time, the two siblings couldn't agree on anything. But when it came to movies, they seemed to have a common ground. Of course, they were still both young, and had tastes similar enough to watch the same movies. As Mike got up to go find the DVD they had brought with them, John turned towards Elizabeth.
"What's this movie about?"
"A fairytale princess is sent into the real world by an evil queen. Sort of the classic Disney movie," she added as an afterthought. "But it's a beautiful movie, not the kind of movies you might watch, but still, you might like it."
"How do you know I don't watch this kind of movies?"
"Well, you don't seem the type to do so, or at least you won't tell. You know, Air Force and all," she teased him.
"Anyway, that sounds good. And to tell you, I enjoy watching Disney movies."
"Finally a man who admits it," Jenna said, throwing her hands in the air. She turned towards her husband to continue. "See, that's not difficult! You'll see John, it is a good movie. And Patrick Dempsey's presence adds a little something…," she added, earning herself a look from the others. "What. He's good looking!"
"Yeah, not bad," Elizabeth had to admit, as her mother nodded too.
"Don't worry, John," Mike reassured him. "The women in the movie are quite good looking too."
Hearing that, Jenna sent her husband a disbelieving look, before slapping him on the shoulder. John, Elizabeth and Susan couldn't help but chuckle at the sight.
"What was that for?"
"You, looking at other women."
"Oh, but none are as beautiful as you," he quickly said, hoping that he would be forgiven.
"Well saved," she had to concede.
"You should come sit on the couch," Elizabeth told John, knowing that he might start being uncomfortable on the floor. "Kids, let John have some place."
Obligingly, Katie and Timmy moved to one end of the couch, letting John just enough space to sit beside Elizabeth.
"Everyone's ready?" Mike asked the family, before pushing play on the remote.
"Did you like it?" Katie asked John as the end credits rolled on the screen. She looked at him, obviously hoping that his answer would be positive.
"I did," he reassured her; and it was the truth.
"Ok, kids, why don't you go play outside for a while?" Jenna said.
"Can you come play with us, Uncle John?" Timmy asked, surprising everyone by how he called John.
"I've already promised your aunt to go for a walk. But if you're still playing when we come back, I'll join you."
Satisfied with his answer, the children left the room.
John turned towards Elizabeth, raising an eyebrow in question. She smiled at him, getting up slowly with the help of her crutches. The others knew better than to help her; they all knew by now that she needed to do it by herself. John followed a few steps behind, always there, just in case.
As she saw them getting ready, Sedge got up from her space on the floor, and walked around them, waiting for them to notice her. But she was quickly pulled away by Mike's hand on her collar.
"Not now, Sedge. We'll go for a walk later, but not now."
"She can come with us," John assured him, knowing that neither he nor Elizabeth would be bothered by the dog.
"I'll have to go out later anyway," Mike replied. "Now, go you two." He ushered them out of the door, before turning back towards his mother and wife.
"What are you up to?" Jenna wanted to know; she knew that look on her husband's face, and she also knew that he didn't have to go out later. Suddenly, the answer crossed her mind. "Oh my! You're a hopeless romantic, you know?"
"Don't tell me that you haven't noticed it?"
"Yes, we did, Mike," Susan answered, "but leave them be."
"You're giving up too easily…," Jenna noted. "What have you done?"
"I might have tried talking to John earlier…," he admitted, knowing that neither Susan nor Jenna would be too impressed by that. "Is it bad of me to want my sister to be happy?"
"I want her to be happy too," Susan replied, "but I think they both need time."
Mike nodded, understanding his mom's point of view. Maybe they indeed just needed time, but he couldn't help but want to help them. He hadn't seen his sister look so carefree, so happy since she came back from where she worked before her accident. At first, he had thought that was because she couldn't walk and had to depend on people, something she always hated, but as time passed, he understood that there was something else. They never talked about it, mostly because she had always avoided the subject, but she seemed to miss the place and the people she had to leave behind.
But since John had arrived the day before, she had changed for the better. Maybe he was wrong to push them together, but he just wanted to see his sister happy.
Elizabeth and John had walked in silence since they left the house. They could say that it was because Elizabeth needed all her strength to keep up the pace, but really, it was because they were both slightly confused by what happened.
Finally, John decided to break the silence.
"That was weird."
"Yeah," Elizabeth chuckled. "I'm sorry about my brother. Sometimes, he still can do things just to embarrass me."
"I don't think he really wanted to embarrass you," John thought out loud.
"What do you mean?"
"Why don't we go to the park and sit down, and then we'll talk," he suggested, knowing that the conversation would take a while.
It wasn't a conversation he wanted to have, but he knew that it was needed. He dreaded it, though at the same time, he knew that they would have to have it before he left. And after all, there was this saying: the sooner the better. Maybe that would help them, maybe that would just pull them apart, he didn't know, and he wouldn't know until they talked.
As they sat down on a bench, John let out a sigh. Elizabeth noticed it, and couldn't help but wonder what it meant. She didn't know if it was because she was slightly tired from the walk, but she was unable to read his face. Usually, she knew what he was thinking just by watching him, but at this moment, his face was closed. She was worried that what bothered him concerned Atlantis and their friends, but she trusted him enough to know that if it was important, he would have told her already.
When he finally turned towards her, she could see that he was uncomfortable. It wasn't a sight she was used to when it came to John. She had noticed him licking his lips sometimes, meaning that he was embarrassed by one thing or another, but really uncomfortable, never. She was now surer than ever that whatever he wanted to talk about, it wasn't about Atlantis.
"What is it, John?" she prompted, hoping that he would start talking to her. She didn't like seeing him like this, and she would do whatever it took to help him out of this state.
"It's not easy to say… I've never really been comfortable enough to talk about things like that. Especially not to my bosses… Well, that's disturbing considering that besides you, all my bosses were men." He made a face at that thought, shaking his head to try and get these images out of his head.
"Talking about what, John?"
"You know, that's one of the reasons I got divorced in the first place," he continued his rambling. "I'm not good talking about this, but I know that there are times when I have to. And this is one of those." He paused, taking a deep breath before continuing. "When we were out there with your brother earlier, he asked… He wanted to know if there was something between us…"
"Oh," she sighed, now understanding some things better. Feeling rather bold for a moment, she asked. "And what did you answer?"
Surprise was written all over his face at her question. He certainly hadn't expected that; he had thought she would have avoided the subject altogether or even been angry at her brother, since they had already talked about that the day before, but she didn't. Instead, she asked bluntly about it, wanting to know what he said to Mike.
"I lied," he decided to admit. "I didn't want to talk about that with him, so I lied." He paused, giving her a moment to process this, and hoping that she would understand what he meant. "But no matter what I've told him, I want us to talk. We need to talk."
"I'm not sure I'm ready for that talk," she whispered, loud enough for him to hear.
He understood her. He wasn't sure he was ready either. But even if Mike hadn't tried to talk to him, he knew that they would have to have this conversation one day. They couldn't go on like nothing changed when things had changed between. They might not have wanted them to change, but they did. And they couldn't ignore that change, even if they wanted to.
And since he was the one tackling the subject, he should start.
"There are things you need to know. When I saw you on the gurney," he paused, willing the lump that formed in his throat to go away. "I thought… I thought we, I, had lost you."
"John…," she tried to stop him; if she wasn't ready to talk about that, she wasn't ready either to listen to him talk.
"No, let me finish. When Keller told me that there was next to no chance for you to survive, I wished I was the one lying there. And then, she told me about this device they had found in one of the recently explored labs, told me that it was supposed to heal a person, and I saw this as a chance to save you. So I took it. And it worked. Not as good as I hoped," he said nodding to her legs, "but it worked. I don't know if you remember, but when you woke up, I was there, just beside you, and you looked at me."
"I remember," she replied. She didn't forget what she had seen in his eyes at that moment: relief, joy, and something else that she had refused to think about.
"One moment, I thought I would lose you, and the next, you were back. There were some things I understood that day, things I hadn't allowed myself to think about, but now… Now, I think that it's maybe time to confront those things. I know you're not ready for this, and I'm not either. But I don't want to wait and risk dying without you knowing. I can't tell you a lot about this, but during a mission, me and my team were this close to dying. If it wasn't for Lorne and his men, we would have. It was close enough for me to take some leave and come here," he admitted the real reason behind his coming. "Even if it wasn't for your brother trying to make me talk, I would have told you before the end of my stay. I want you to know… I need you to know that…"
Elizabeth's finger on his lips prevented him from going any further. As he looked into her eyes, he could see that he shouldn't push her; she definitely wasn't ready for any of this. Nodding, he took hold of her hand, and lowered it to rest on his lap.
"Fine. I won't say the words. But I hope you know what I mean." At her nod, he smiled. "Good. Now, do you want us to resume walking?"
"Let's just stay here," she said, leaning to rest her head on his shoulder.
If she couldn't talk or listen to him talk about it, she could at least show him that she understood what he meant, and that she felt the same. He ran circles on the back of her hand with his thumb, and it reminded her of this movie night, back in Atlantis, where he took her hand because watching horror movies just frightened her. It was far from the first time she realised that they had done some things that they had thought casual in Atlantis, but would be considered differently here on Earth. She knew that if anybody were looking at them at that exact moment, they would think they were a couple.
She couldn't help but think that in a few days, he would leave, and she would stay here. She would give anything to go back to Atlantis, but she knew it just wasn't possible.
"I've missed you," she whispered, knowing that he would hear her. "I miss you all so much."
"We miss you too. The City isn't the same anymore without you there."
And it was true. She might have not been the first member the expedition lost, but with Carson's, it was the loss that touched them the most. She was their leader, and while she wasn't dead, she wasn't there with them anymore. They had somehow come to realise that she was the soul of Atlantis, the one who helped them mend their differences. After her departure, things had been different. Sam, being a scientist and a Colonel in the Air Force, had been able to understand both sides, and to help them work together. But with the new general, it wasn't the same; the scientists, and Rodney the first one of them, couldn't help but feel like he didn't care about them. John had often been asked to talk to the general, but whatever he could say didn't help, far from it.
They had lost the best leader they could have gotten when Elizabeth left, and none of the expedition members understood why the IOA hadn't realised that.
"Stop thinking," Elizabeth's voice jolted him from his thoughts.
"I thought the military guys weren't of the thinking type."
"But you're different. You could have been Mensa," she teased.
"And what about Lorne, then?"
"I'll let you know that the military I'd picked for the expedition are all of the thinking type."
"Oh! So I was chosen for my mutant gene and my brains, then? Good to know."
"I said 'thinking type', I never said 'brains'." She sat up, waiting for any kind of retaliation, but when she looked up at John, she only saw a smile on his face. "What?"
"I've missed us bantering like that," he replied, putting an arm around her shoulders.
She didn't answer, didn't need to. They never needed words to understand each other, not even when they first started working together, and despite the months they spent apart, this hadn't changed. Some people might find it freaky, Rodney did, but they found it comforting, knowing that they could understand each other in a heartbeat.
With a contented sigh, Elizabeth rested her head against John's shoulder once more.
Two days later, the Weir family plus John went to the fair as planned for Katie's birthday, much to the girl's pleasure.
The previous morning, Elizabeth had woken up with her legs and back aching. She had tried to put up a good façade, and not to show it to her family and John, but they had noticed it anyway and she had been asked to sit on the couch and not move for the rest of the day, unless she had a good reason to. While she knew it was for her own good, she hadn't liked it at first; but the next day was the day they were supposed to go to the fair, and if they couldn't have made it because of her, her niece would have been disappointed. John had been kind enough to stay with her most of the time, denying the children's requests to play outside with them. Instead, they had played chess, that he had won, and one of the children's video games, that she had won.
And now, today, Elizabeth was grateful for the day of rest she had, as she could follow them without any difficulty. John and her mother would stay by her side most of the time, making sure she was okay.
Upon arriving, the children had noticed the Ferris Wheel and had begged their parents to go there first. Elizabeth watched as John's eyes lit up when they agreed. So now, after a good ten minutes of queuing, it was finally their turn. Katie and Timmy asked to go with their grandmother, which left the four other adults. Jenna knew she shouldn't have trusted her husband two days ago when he told her he would stop playing matchmaker as she was all but pushed in the next free seats and closed the door behind them.
"Well, looks like we are the only two left," Elizabeth said.
"Looks like it, indeed," John replied with a smile.
Soon, it was their turn to take their seats, and as they were rising above the fair, Elizabeth pointed to him some places of her hometown. From her elementary school to the park they had been to, and her favourite pizza place in two galaxies. He took a mental note of taking her there before he had to go, no matter what 'Mike the Matchmaker', as he had labelled him in his mind, would think of it.
"Can we do it again?" Katie was asking her father as John and Elizabeth joined them.
"There are many other things to see first."
"No buts, young lady. It might be your birthday, but you know you can still be punished."
Katie sulked all the way to the next amusement, which happened to be the horror train. Elizabeth and Susan decided to pass this one up, neither of them really liking it, and went to wait for them on a bench.
"Yeah. I've rested enough yesterday to be fine today."
"Good, then." She paused for a moment before continuing. "John is a good man, Elizabeth."
"I know. And I also know what you're trying to do, Mom, but I'm not ready, not yet, and John understands it. So please, Mom, don't go that way."
"I won't. John understands it, huh?"
Elizabeth chose to not reply, knowing that it would only bring more comments from her mother. Instead, she waved back at Katie just before she climbed into the wagon with John and Timmy.
"He's really good with children," Susan noted.
"Yes, he is. He loves children, and children love him back. Rodney, our friend, is the complete opposite; he just can't stand children," she chuckled, remembering some of the occasions when she saw him trying to interact with kids. "The only one he can stand is his niece. I guess it's better than nothing, though from what his sister told me, it wasn't easy at first."
"It might change when he has his own children. Remember how your cousin Ned was with children before he had his own? I bet it'll be the same for your friend."
"I hope so. According to John, things are going smoothly with his girlfriend, and I wouldn't be surprised if he proposed soon."
She would be happy for her friend if he did propose to the botanist. She was good for him, and since he started dating her, he had somehow changed. He was more open to people, more cheerful. Of course, it took someone who really knew him to notice that. She knew that Katie was the one to help him after Carson's death. Elizabeth hadn't been able to be there for her friend, too buried in her own grief, and was glad that he had someone else.
She watched as the rest of the group made their way back to them. Lost in her thoughts, she hadn't realised how much time had passed. Standing up, she followed them to their next stop, the carousel. But before they could make it there, Jenna stopped them.
"Why don't you show us that you're real men?" she asked Mike and John, pointing to the shooting range.
Both groaned but complied anyway, knowing that they wouldn't hear the end of it if they didn't do it. As it turned out, Mike won two teddy bears for the children, and John a big polar bear. Turning towards Elizabeth, he smiled.
"Think Sedge would mind it?" he asked, and she knew it was his way of telling her that it was hers.
"I don't think she will. So, what's up next?"
"Well, it's nearly lunch time," Mike stated, just before a cell phone went off.
"Damn," John muttered as he handed the bear to Mike.
Elizabeth had barely had time to notice the caller ID before he answered: NORAD. This could certainly not be good. She was reminded of the last time she got a call from the SGC; the Asurans were attacking the City. She closed her eyes, hoping that whatever the call was about didn't mean that John had to leave already. But from what she could hear, even if she only got his side of the conversation, she knew that she wasn't that lucky. As he hung up, she opened her eyes, and looked at him expectantly.
"I have to go back," he said, looking at her only. Feeling her worries, he reassured her. "Everybody's fine, there are just some problems with some old friends. You know, Steves and Bobs, the usual."
"Yeah, the usual," she repeated, if you could call life-sucking aliens that.
"We'll take you home," Susan said, knowing that it would probably disappoint the children to leave the fair so early.
"No, it's ok, I can…"
"Haven't you learnt that you can't say no to Susan?" Jenna joked, though she was serious too. "Come on, kids, we're going home."
"So soon?" Timmy complained, having not followed the adults' conversation.
"It's my fault, buddy. I've been called back by my job, and I have to leave.
"I don't want you to leave," Katie pouted, holding onto John's legs.
After more pouting and sulking from the children's part, they set off towards the cars. As earlier, Susan went with John and Elizabeth in his rental car, and if she did notice them holding hands on the way back, she didn't say anything. Now was definitely not the time for that.
Back at the house, John packed his things quickly as the others were waiting for him outside. Elizabeth's legs and back were starting to kill her but she refused to go sit; she would wait for him on her feet. John soon came back out, and crouched before the children first.
"Hey Timmy, it was nice to meet you. Don't forget I want my revenge at football, ok?"
"You come back soon?"
"I'll try to," he replied, though he knew better than to make any promises to the boy. Turning towards Katie, he took a package out of his bag. "Happy Birthday again," he said, handing it to her.
"You shouldn't have, John," Jenna told him.
"I wanted to. Now, young lady, you'll open it only with your other presents, not now."
"Promise, Uncle John."
"Good." He stood up and turned towards Susan, Jenna and Mike. "Thanks for having me during your family time."
"You're welcome, John," Susan replied. "And you can come back any time."
Nodding, John then turned towards Elizabeth, noticing that she was struggling to stay upright, even with the help of her crutches. They smiled at each other, she knowing that she had been caught.
"Write to me," she asked him.
"Only if you write back."
He watched as she opened and closed her mouth multiple times, as if she wanted to say something, but the words just wouldn't come. He knew this feeling; it was the one he felt at that moment too. There were still many things he wanted to tell her, but couldn't.
"Come here," he just said, and she handed her crutches to Jenna before hugging him. "Take care of you, Elizabeth," he whispered, burying his head in the crook of her shoulder.
"Be safe," she whispered back, those same words that she had always whispered whenever a team would go through the gate.
He released her, much too soon for both their liking, but they knew they just couldn't stay there forever. With one last look, he turned away from her, and went to open the car when her voice stopped him.
"John," she said, tears could be heard in her voice.
It made him turn back towards her, just in time for her mouth to crash onto his. If he was surprised at first, it soon left and he kissed her back fiercely. He knew that they were in the middle of the street, with her family, including two kids, looking, probably wide-eyed, but he didn't care. He wanted to commit this moment to his memory.
When it was over, they rested their forehead against each other's, both panting. John was the first one to let go, knowing that he should leave before he didn't want to anymore. But before he could step away, Elizabeth grabbed the back of his head, and forced him to look into her eyes.
"Don't you die on me, John Sheppard. Because if you do, I swear I'll find a way to bring you back from the dead, just to kill you myself. Understood?"
Both knew he couldn't promise her, but he could still do his best to stay alive. So far, it had worked.
With one last kiss to her forehead, he climbed into his car and drove away. Elizabeth watched him go, her mother and brother on each side.
"So, nothing, uh?" Mike couldn't help but tease his sister.
"Shut up, brother," she replied, a smile on her lips; mission accomplished.
Months had gone by since John had left the Weirs. He and Elizabeth were still writing to each other, though both never mentioning what had taken place in their last moments together. He had just sent a new e-mail to her, when he noticed the time on his computer. The new recruits would arrive by the gate in a few minutes, and the general wanted him there.
He arrived in the gateroom, just as the gate opened. Standing beside the general at the top of the stairs, he watched as people came through the gate, looking everywhere at once, trying to take in as much of their new home as possible.
The gate closed but John didn't notice it. His eyes were trained on the last person to have walked into the gateroom. Their eyes were locked onto his too, trying to decipher what was in there. They soon smiled, and his own lips couldn't help but return it.
A/N: Ok, before you ask, there will be a sequel! It's currently in the works, and I hope to finish it soon.