Title: One last night
Author: Vicky
Category: Angst, friendship
Summary: When they had to leave Atlantis, they hadn't been expecting it. Not now. Not ever.
Spoilers: The Return
Rating: G
Disclaimer: I own neither the show nor the characters. I don't earn any money; I just do it for fun.
Claim: John/Elizabeth (Stargate Atlantis)
Prompt: Quote
Author's Note: Inspired by this quote: "No matter how careful you are, there's going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn't experience it all. There's that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should've been paying attention."- Chuck Palahniuk. Written for writers30days in April.

When they had to leave Atlantis, they hadn't been expecting it. Not now. Not ever.

It had never been a possibility for them that one day they would have to go back to Earth for good. Not even when they first stepped through the Stargate to the Lost City of the Ancients. Even if they found it inhabited by descendants of the Ancients, they had expected to be able to live with them, and learn from one another.

So when the team came back with Ancients in tow, the last thing they had expected was being told to pack their belongings and leave the City.

Once she was done packing, she decided to take a walk through the hallways of Atlantis. It was her way of saying goodbye to the City she had lived in for more than two years.

She walked slowly, unlike the other times when she rushed to get to the control room, or the labs, wanting to make the most of the place that had become her home. She wanted to take her time because come morning, she would have to leave.

Her feet unsurprisingly took her to the balcony, their balcony, as the control room crew had labeled it. She palmed the door open and stepped outside. She immediately noticed that someone else was already there, and she had to smile at the sight of the silhouette. She should have guessed they would both find their way here on this last night.

She walked to the railing and stood beside him, breathing in the cool night air. They stayed silent, just content to be in the other's company.

She knew she would miss these moments the most. Despite – or maybe because of – their first argument taking place on this very balcony, it was the place they would often come to unwind after difficult moments during missions or on Atlantis. It was on this balcony that they got to know each other, the people behind the masks they were wearing during the day.

"We aren't done, here," he said softly, but still startling her from her thoughts. "We've barely scratched the surface, and we're supposed to just let go? It's not fair."

"No, it's not. But we can't do anything about it."

"Damn it, Elizabeth, not you!" he exclaimed, surprising her. "I can't take this from you, too!"

She couldn't believe her words either, because she hadn't accepted it either. She wanted to fight with all her might. She wanted to scream at Helia for taking her home away. But she also knew that if she were to do that, if only one member of the expedition were to do that, the Ancient wouldn't hesitate to cut all ties with Earth, and the small hope she had that one day they could go home would be crushed.

And that was what she told him.

He didn't say anything at first, taking in her words. She could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he considered her words carefully. She could pinpoint the exact moment where he understood her logic. But his next words told her that he still didn't agree.

"I'm the one responsible for waking up the Wraith. I should be able to stay here to repair my mistakes."

She didn't say anything; there was nothing she could respond to that. Instead, she put her hand on his arm, forcing him to face her. She tried to convey a message with her eyes, and she knew he got it when he nodded slowly.

She didn't know what prompted it, but a second later, she was hugging him to her. At first, this hug wasn't unlike the one they shared when the Daedalus beamed him down to Atlantis. She could tell he was as surprised as last time because he didn't return her hug immediately.

But when he did, that was when it was different from their last hug.

Instead of just putting his hands on her back, he closed his arms around her, bringing her impossibly closer. She could feel all of him against her body. She could feel the heat radiating from him, a sharp contrast with the cool night air.

She didn't know how long they stayed like this; it could have been minutes, it could have been hours. She was drawing strength from him, strength that she would need once she was back on Earth.

She was holding back her tears at the thought, not wanting to cry before him. Crying was for the times when she was alone.

"You should get some rest. Tomorrow will be a long day."

Of that, she was sure. The IOA had already scheduled a meeting for them, the second they were at the SGC; a meeting she was sure would last all day. But still, she didn't feel like sleeping. And she told him so.

Without replying, he stepped away from her, and took her hand in his. He pulled her towards the wall, and sat down, prompting her to do so as always. She rested her back against the wall, their bodies close, but not touching, aside from their still linked hands.

"We didn't experience it all, but we still have some time left," he whispered.

She turned her head slightly to smile at him, squeezing his hand. He was willing to stay here with her all night to say goodbye to what had become their home.

From where she was now sitting, she couldn't see the City anymore, but she had a clear view of the night sky with all the constellations. She let her mind wander, wondering if she sent any teams close to one of those stars. She was sure someone in the City could tell her, perhaps even the very man sitting next to her.

What she knew though, was that she didn't go out there as often as she would have liked. She always thought she would have time to discover the wonders of this galaxy, but she had been wrong. Her time was coming to an end, and she had missed the window. She would go back to Earth the next morning with hundreds of unanswered questions about the new cultures they have met. And there was nothing she could do about it; she didn't have the time anymore.

John's soft voice brought her out of her thoughts. As if he had been reading her mind, he was telling her stories about each and every star they could see. It reminded her of the stories she would come up with when she was a child and stargazing with her father.

She smiled at the thought, and turned her whole attention towards John and the stories, sometimes adding a detail or two, here and there.

They had ended up spending the night on the balcony, not sleeping for one minute. She was tired, but she wouldn't have exchanged this night with a good night in her bed. Her butt might still be a bit numb from all those hours sitting on the cold floor, but it was the best night she had spent on Atlantis by far.

But it was also the last night she had spent on Atlantis. And now, it was time to leave the City for good.

She was the last one left of the expedition. John, Rodney and Carson had just walked through the Gate, but she couldn't bring herself to follow them just yet. She turned around and looked around one last time, trying to commit every single detail to her memory.

All too soon, the moment was over, and she turned back to the Gate and walked into the event horizon, reluctant to leave it all behind.

When they came home to Atlantis, they hadn't been expecting it. Not now. Not ever.

They were home, and this time, they were sure they were here for good. But just in case, they would pay attention to every detail, they would experience it all.

They knew what it felt like to lose their home, and they didn't want to feel that way ever again.