A.N: Hey all! *waves* This is a little different from most of the other chapters of this story, since it's mostly focusing on John and Liz and the kids don't actually appear, though they are the main topic of discussion. I had the idea for this little scene several years ago and finally got around to writing it. It's one of those little practical bits of life in another galaxy that I find interesting and feel should be addressed. The necklace Elizabeth wears is a reference to my first ever fic – It's Good to Be Home. Well... enjoy! :)
"Hey, there you are." John stepped out onto the balcony that adjoined the living room and stood next to his wife. It was a beautiful night. The stars were a splash of shimmering silver against a velvety black sky and the moon gilded the waves that crashed against the piers far below.
Elizabeth turned to look at him and smiled softly. "Hey." He held out one of the glasses of wine he was holding. She gave an appreciative hum and her smile widened as she took it. "Thanks." She took a sip. "All the troops bedded down for the night?"
He flicked her a lazy salute with his how free hand. "Barracks are secure and sleeping has commenced."
She smirked and raised an eyebrow. "Any casualties?"
"None to report," he declared, then seemed to think better of it. "Although one of Em's bears might never be the same again..."
She laughed and the mock serious look on his face crumpled as he smirked back at her.
"So long as it's not too serious," Elizabeth said. "I'd hate to have to tell Jennifer she made another emergency house-call over a stuffed animal."
John winced at the memory, even though he couldn't keep the grin off his face. "You know, I still don't think she's forgiven us for that one." One night Keller had shown up at their door in the wee hours of the morning, summoned by an urgent radio message from his four-year-old daughter. The look on the doctor's face when Emily had presented the ripped panda for inspection was one that John wouldn't soon forget.
"I can't say that I blame her," said Elizabeth, a smile playing around her lips as well.
"Hey, it shows we're raising a pair of kind and compassionate kids," John replied with a teasing raise of his eyebrows. "She ought to be proud of us."
Elizabeth only rolled her eyes and didn't dignify him with a response. Still smiling, she turned back to the view, resting her elbows on the balcony railing with her glass cupped between her hands. John mimicked her position and the two of them stood in contented silence for a while, drinking their wine and watching the waves shimmer with moonlight as the wind tousled their hair.
When his cup was half empty, John glanced over at Elizabeth. She was staring out over the gold flecked towers of the city, but the sight didn't seem to be comforting her like it usually did. Her green eyes had taken on a troubled look, the familiar worry line present between her eyebrows.
"Hey..." he said softly, drawing her gaze. "You okay?"
Her expression lightened somewhat, the corners of her mouth twitching upwards in a brief half smile. "Yeah. Just thinking."
John waited, watching the familiar wheels turning behind the jade green eyes he loved – giving her space to speak in her own time but ready to push her if it looked like she would clam up.
Elizabeth's gaze wandered across the toys scattered along the balcony floor and she finally spoke. "John, are we being selfish, staying here?"
This question was so completely out of left field that it took John a minute to process. "Where? Here? Atlantis?"
She nodded, mouth and eyebrows quirking in sympathy at his confused expression. "I know, it's a strange question." She turned away from the balcony to face him completely. "It's just a feeling I've been having lately. You know, the other day Connor asked me what an amusement park was? He'd seen it mentioned in a book and didn't know what it meant."
" 'Lizabeth, he's only six. Our kids are smart but they're not gonna automatically know everything."
"I know, it's just... I can't help but wonder what else they're going to miss out on. If we were on Earth, Connor's old enough to be in school, with other kids..." She held up her hand when John opened his mouth. "And I know, they're not the only ones here, plus they interact with the Athosian children. That's not the point. Our children are going to grow up completely disconnected from their entire culture."
"So we're selfish for depriving them of elementary school?"
Elizabeth glanced down at her wine glass and set it on the balcony railing, clearly thinking as she watched the light bounce off the ripples in the liquid. She took a deep breath, as if to steady herself, then looked up again. "We're selfish for choosing the city over their future."
"We chose to stay here, in another galaxy, in a place we love, but do we have the right to dictate their entire future like that? To cut them off from everything that made us who we are?"
"So they'll miss out on some pop culture references. Big deal." She frowned and gave him a look that begged him to take this seriously. "No, look, I get it..." he tried again. "Nobody's ever had to deal with a something like this before. 'How to Raise Kids in Another Galaxy' wasn't exactly mentioned in the SGC handbook."
"No, it certainly wasn't," Elizabeth replied, glancing down at her hands. She was silent for a moment, then lifted her eyes to John again. "Everything's fine for now," she admitted. "They'll have some of the brightest minds in two galaxies to teach them and they'll probably understand this place much better than we ever could." She smiled at the thought, but the expression quickly faded, eyebrows lowering. "But what's going to happen when they grow up, John? Can we expect them to be content staying and working here? Could they even function in college having grown up in an entirely different galaxy?"
The thought of Connor and Emily old enough to be in college made John's head spin and, feeling slightly ill, he quickly tried to push the idea away. "Hey hey, aren't we getting a little ahead of ourselves, here?" He set his wine glass on the railing next to hers. "So they're gonna miss out on some stuff. So they won't fit in exactly. Look at what they're getting instead." He waved his arm at the city that glittered above and below them.
The anxious look faded somewhat as her eyes followed his gesture, a far off look and a half smile moving in to replace it. "A chance to grow up in the City of the Ancients," she said quietly, lacing a dramatic tone into her voice.
"And wanna talk about being out of the loop? Elizabeth, we've been here ten years. Hell, it's been so long since we've lived on Earth for more than a few weeks a year that we wouldn't be any better off than Connor and Emily."
Elizabeth gave an amused 'hmm;' her expression was lighter at his words, but doubt still lingered in her eyes. John's stomach gave an uncomfortable lurch. She was really serious about this. It wasn't that he didn't see her point – he did, really. And maybe she was right, but... whenever he'd thought about Connor and Em's future, it was always Atlantis that formed the setting. He'd accepted it as fact that he and his family were going to stay there forever, and he found it difficult to imagine life any other way now. He hadn't thought of Earth as home in so long that the thought of living there permanently again seemed alien. Even so...
"Look, is this really what you want to do? Because if-"
"No, of course it isn't!" Elizabeth sighed. "But that's exactly my point. It's not about me or you anymore. What we may or may not want doesn't matter."
The distress that wreathed her face at the very idea of leaving decided him. "Alright, so maybe we are being selfish," he said, stepping closer, "but that doesn't mean we aren't doing the right thing for the kids." He wrapped his arms around his wife's waist, pulling her nearer. "Besides," he said softly, "you and I both know we can't leave."
He reached and lifted up the pendant of the silver necklace she always wore, that he had given her so long ago. The silhouette of the Atlantis skyline etched on one side, and written in Ancient on the other, the word 'home.'
"Figured that one out a long time ago," he murmured, meeting her eyes.
Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak but closed it again, her eyes swimming with emotion. "I love you," she said simply. John ran his fingers along the front of her hair, pushing the brown strands behind her ear. Somehow he never got over the thrill of amazement every time he heard her say that.
He smiled – "Love you too, 'Lizabeth" – and kissed her. She smiled in return and snuggled closer, resting her head against his chest.
She gave a tiny laugh. "This place... You know, I think I was a lost cause the minute I stepped through that gate and those lights started to come on."
"You weren't the only one," he muttered softly into her hair. Of course, she heard him and he felt her smile through the thin fabric of his shirt.
"This city – the reasons we're here – it's still all so much bigger than we are," Elizabeth said thoughtfully. "Maybe we don't have the right to take the kids away from all of this either. To take away the opportunity before they're even old enough to know that it exists."
Relieved, John thought a moment, then said slowly: "I think our kids deserve the chance to love this place as much as we do. And as for when they grow up... well, we'll storm that bridge when we come to it."
Elizabeth lifted her head and raised an eyebrow at him in confused amusement.
"What? I told you! We've been living here too long."
A grin spread across her face and she laughed, her forehead falling against his shoulder. He chuckled along with her; he always loved it when he could make her laugh. It had been a rare enough sound during their first few years in Atlantis, and even now, after so many years, that sense of accomplishment when he could draw it out still lingered.
"Alright!" she said a minute later as the laughter faded. "You win."
"Hmm, I kinda like the sound of that," he smirked, waggling his eyebrows at her. "Do I get a prize?"
She smiled and playfully narrowed her eyes at him, then proceeded to act like he hadn't said anything.
"It seems, Colonel, that we're going to be stuck here forever." She wound her arms around his neck. "Happy now?"
"Perfectly, Doctor." He smiled and moved in for another kiss. "Perfectly."
A.N.2: Hope you enjoyed! Thanks so much for reading! Comments are vastly appreciated! Cheers! :)