Ever close your eyes
Ever stop and listen
Ever feel alive
And you've nothing missing
You don't need a reason
Let the day go on and on.

~ Enya, Wild Child


Chapter 10: Future

Sitting with your back to the room, watching as the stars slowly start to gather, one by one, you listen to the constant ticking of the clock. The only measure, apart from the stars, that proves time is passing for you. You've come to appreciate the solitude this balcony offers you, listening to the sound of the waves on a night when the sea is a tumult of rips and swells. Or on still nights, listening to the steady ticking of the grandfather clock.

It's on nights like this, where it's practically silent, when you really get a chance to think about how significantly the world has changed. You feel almost bashful at the thought that you had a strong hand in it. But all you'd known at the time, was that you needed to change it, you needed to save it. Most of what had happened since, was all new territory for you. And you remember almost every time John has laughed at you when you've confessed of how glad you are, to not know what's coming.

Looking up at the moons he named for you, you smile and think of all you've gained. And it only widens when you lean out across the railing and see all that Atlantis has become. Now a thriving metropolis, you consider her to be more beautiful than ever. At night, all of her lights glow like twinkling stars and the constant flow of ships coming and going, by air and by sea, makes your heart swell with pride.

"Mom," You startle, hearing the voice behind you before you hear the sound of the door that allowed your intruder entry. Smiling regardless, you turn on the spot and cross your arms over your chest, raising a brow which causes him to stop in his tracks. "sorry." He mutters, realising that he's disturbed your stolen five minutes alone.

"It's alright, Will, what is it?"

"Oh, it's just that Rodney asked me to come get you. He said you wanted to know when the baby came."

With wide eyes and a purposeful stride, you cross the room to the curly-haired young man who'd managed to stand nearly a foot taller than you since he was thirteen years old. He was tall like you, slender and his hair was curled but the colour, raven like the bird and that perpetual smirk, were a constant reminder for you, of his father, when he was away. "And?" You question, barely able to contain your excitement.

"And," He grins. "And it's a girl. Coraia's fine. Apparently Doc says she's exhausted but she's going to be fine. Oh and Dad's sent Kanaan over to New Athos to get his brother, they didn't get here in time and all."

"Well of course," You scoff. "that baby's come a week early. Though I don't think her grandparents are going to mind. They were here for the birth of Samuel, afterall." You blink, suddenly realising what you haven't yet asked. "Wait, Will, what's her name?"

He shrugs and you roll your eyes.

"You didn't ask?"

"They didn't say." He defends, throwing his arms up in surrender.

"You didn't ask? Oh boy," You smirk, shaking your head. "Now I just know, I'm going to have to live forever."

William scunches his brow, much the adorable way that John does and it causes you to smile. He's confused. "Why, Mom?"

"Because if you take my seat on the council, who know's what will become of Atlantis." You laugh, patting his shoulder and leaning up to kiss his temple. He looks perplexed and perhaps a little hurt, but it's an innocent jibe and you know he doesn't take it to heart. Your son is made of tougher material than that and it makes you gush with adoration, when you think that this beautiful, bright, though sometimes sweetly innocent, young man, could have never been had you made different choices. You like to imagine that someway, somehow, he would have one day come to exsist. But you know the truth; you've seen it. And in his deep, moss green eyes, you see that you've made the right decision. "Where's your sister?" You question and in his smile, you know that the jibe is forgotten.

"She's gone to the gym with Torren. Apparently she's learning Bantos today, but I've got my money on Little-Miss-Fumbles coming home with more bruises than know-how."

You back-hand him across the stomach, playfully, as you head for the door. "Come on, smarty, let's go meet this baby. And will you call your Dad on your radio? I've left mine in my office."

"Again?" He whines and facing away from him, you roll your eyes. "Seriously, Mom, has the alzheimers already started to kick in?"

Stopping in your tracks, you spin back suddenly and his steps falter as he meets your eyes. He licks his bottom lip and you know that for a brief moment, he wonders if he's gone too far. "You're just lucky that I'm your mother."

"Why's that?" He scrunches his nose adorably.

"Because, making jokes about the head of the Atlantis council having Alzheimers is a punishable offense."

"Oh really?" You can hear in his voice that he's less than convinced. "Did you just make that up?"

You shake your head, turning to continue walking ahead of him, out the door and toward the infirmary. "No, it's a legitimate crime."

"What," He scoffs. "just like Dad being persecuted for stealing from your stash of already stolen chocolate, was a legitimate, punishable crime. I think, Mother," You smirk at the way he emphasises your title. "that you're letting this whole, 'head of the Atlantis council' thing, go to your head."

With a guffaw, you stop walking and turn back to him, waiting to take his arm.

***

All around you, the sounds of people rushing about, fills your senses. With the city almost filled to capacity, the infirmary in the tower is now only one of twelve, throughout Atlantis, all of which you find as busy and conjested as any public hospital on earth - which is basically what they've become - even though the majority of patients are allies from neighbouring planets come to take full advantage of the terms of the treaties you've drawn up over the years. You laugh, thinking over all the trade agreements you've drawn up in the past few years and wonder how free health care had become a crucial part of interplanetary relations.

If it weren't part of your day-to-day and the cause of so much tedious paperwork, you'd think of it almost bordering on the realm of science-fiction. Out of the corner of your eye, you see William smiling at you and you roll your eyes, shaking your head at him as you walk ahead, through the doors, into the lower end of the maternity ward. You're going to have to make your way all the way down to the opposite end, but you don't mind. You've been waiting twenty-three years to meet this child; another five minutes isn't going to hurt.

Smiling to yourself, you find that you're glad you've managed to keep your promise. It was hard over the years, you consider, because you'd given birth to Gillian out of a want to have as many children with John as your body could stand; and she and Jason McKay had dated all through high-school. You'd wanted to keep your promise, but you'd been happy seeing each day that your daughter was happy.

Remembering back on that time, you think that you're glad you kept it from Gillian, how secretly grateful you were, when she and Jason had amiably parted ways. It was like the universe had decided to grant your wish and your daughter hadn't had to suffer for it. You couldn't have been more grateful. And you couldn't have been happier, when Kanaan's neice, Coraia, had awkwardly stumbled into Jason's heart.

Gillian was happy studying to be an archeologist, working as Doctor Jackson's protege and coming and going between Atlantis and Earth more often than you would like. But she'd found her own love too, in Torren, and while he's six years her senior, you're more than sure that your daughter's heart is safe with Teyla and Kanaan's eldest son. Gillian had even spoken as his best friend, when Jason and Coraia had married within the year.

Now you only wonder how the future will be, when Gillian and William bring their own children into the world.

Snippets of the future you've seen before, have fallen into place over the years. Some things have remained the same and you've found it remarkably easy to notice. But its open waters from here, unchartered territory, because this child is the last of the children you've hoped would come.

With a smile on your lips, you see Samuel playing in the hall with Jossa, Teyla's grandson and you blink, not realising that you've paused in the hall as a man, a woman and a small boy are ushered in the opposite direction down the hall, being led to the clinic. "New arrivals," William confirms and though you hear his voice faintly, you're focused on the steady gaze of the little boy, being guided by the hand of his mother.

"Who are they?" You ask and you're not even sure where William drags his hand-held tablet from as he brings up the manifest of the most recently docked passenger vessel.

"Ah, the O'Connells. Marta, Andrew and Caleb O'Connell. They just arrived from the Earth Beta site on the Amistad this morning."

You screw up your nose. "Terrible name for a passenger ship." You comment and William laughs in agreement. But you're focused on the boy as they disappear around a corner and you try to hide the breadth of your smile, because you know that some kind of spark has passed between you. He may not remember you, but something cosmic draws you to him as if he feels he does remember. You wonder, perhaps that's what deja vu really is; an echo of moments you've lived before; a recognition of those you met in a past life.

"Yeah, it just doesn't have the same effect as a greek tragedy, does it, Mom?" Rolling your eyes, you know he's missed the point because he doesn't remember the story, but he is right. Naming a ship after a greek tragedy isn't nearly as depressing as naming it after a slave ship. Though, straightening your mind with the thought of how that story ended, you think that perhaps it's fitting. Because the slaves of the Amistad found their freedom on a new shore.

"Hey you," You blink, realising that you've reached your destination and that your husband is well within your personal space. Making faces to indicate that he's nauseated, William disappears into the room full of adoring friends and family, all waiting to meet the new baby. And you and John laugh as he guides you backwards, with his hands pressed to your hips until you're back in the hallway. "I just wanted to give you a heads-up."

"On what?" You smirk.

"Jason and Coraia want to ask you something. "

"And you're not going to let them ask, themselves?"

With the decency to look bashful, John hangs his head slightly and you smile at the flecks of grey in his hair. You couldn't call it salt-&-pepper, just yet. But it's well on it's way and you don't hesitate from telling him how much you like it, when you're alone. He likes to tell you that the look suits you too, but that doesn't stop you requesitioning more deep-chestnut hair dye whenever you send for a shipment of Earth things you just can't get in Pegasus.

Kissing his cheek gently, you smile and squeeze his hand. "I think I'll wait to hear what they have to ask," You lower your voice, tenderly. "but thank you for the heads-up." Stepping around him, you make your way into the room and you know that he's followed because you can sense him just behind you. His chest isn't quite touching your back, but as you move up to the bed where Coraia is sitting with a pink bundle in her arms and the broadest grin on her face, you smile at the heat radiating from him and the love filling the room.

"May I?" You ask quietly and Coraia nods, holding her baby out for you to take.

The baby fusses and squeaks, but as you take her into your arms she quiets and her little body seems to relax into you. Her large, almond shaped eyes open suddenly and you're instantly taken with the spark of recognition. She blinks, just staring at you and you smile, rocking her from side to side.

"She likes you." Coraia whispers and you can sense an undercurrent of pride in her tone.

"We're old friends." Everyone chuckles at your comment but John meets your eye with understanding and a soft, private smile. You nod and you feel his hand pressed to the centre of your shoulder-blades. He understands because you told him all about her years ago and he's believed you all these years, with no proof.

"We wanted to ask you, First Councilor Sheppard," You frown at Jason's formal use of your title, though you don't interrupt him because you can hear that he's nervous. "If you would perform the baby's naming ceremony."

Struck dumb by surprise, it takes you a moment to gather yourself. "I'm sorry, I thought that the ceremony is something to be performed by the Athosian Elders, to formally introduce her to the Athosian people?"

Coraia nods, though her expression is determined and proud. "True, but since the Athosian people have been so interggrated with the people of Earth and since our two peoples have found a peace and love with one another, I would be honoured if you would do it. As the leader of this city, you speak for all those who inhabit it, so in a sense, we are all Atlanteans; Athosian, Human, Narkaelian, Hoff, Genii, Gundra, so many different cultures once allied or enemy, have come together in the hope of peace and found it in this city. We have found it under your leadership, Elizabeth. You and your people have brightened the future for all of us who live here and I wish for our daughter to be named by the one who has made it all possible. A true Atlantean Elder," You know there is a tear in your eye, because you feel it slowly trickle down your cheek as her words ring truer than even she knows. "And one so greatly respected."

"I," You swallow, hiding the lump in your throat. "I would be honoured." You smile brightly and laugh as the baby wraps her tiny hand around your finger. "What is-" You clear your throat, covering the fact that you're so very touched. "what is her name?"

Behind you, Rodney clears his throat and as you turn, meeting his eyes, he puffs out his chest in pride and steps foward, pressing his fingers to his grand-daughter's flawless cheek. "Named after her wise and brilliant grand-father," You grin, because behind his self-confident words, he's truely gushing. "her name is Meredith."

"Meredith," You repeat, looking back down into those so familiar eyes and seeing in their depths, the hope for a greater future.

"You like it?" He asks and you glance up at him again, feeling John's arm stretch across your back as he looks down at the baby over your shoulder. His fingers fiddle with the baby's toes in the crook of your elbow and you giggle gently as he laughs, feeling his hearty chuckle against you as you answer Rodney, honestly.

"I couldn't think of anything more perfect."