Title: Whispering Butterfly

Rating: K+

Characters: Jim, Elisabeth, Josh, Maddy, Zoe

Pairings: Jim/Elisabeth

Summary/Note: The Shannons reflect on love and family. Episode tag for "What Remains."

Jim woke up with a start. Looking around wildly, fumbling with the sheets, he realized that Elisabeth was nowhere to be seen. Shaking the sleep off his shoulders he quickly opened the sliding door and sighed in relief. She was sitting at the island, engrossed in something on the flat screen before her. He quietly tiptoed up behind her and leaned over her shoulder. "Couldn't sleep?" he asked, peering down at the pictures she was thumbing through.

She gasped and swatted his chest. "Don't sneak up on me!"

"Shh," he told her, putting a finger on her lips. "Finally getting used to living in an airy house like this." He looked around in appraisal at their new home. "No thick metal plates between our family and toxic air. It's nice, don't get me wrong, just doesn't conceal noise quite so well."

She playfully nudged his finger away with her nose. "Down boy."

He held his hands up in innocence. "I wasn't thinking that." He paused and flashed her a wicked grin. "Well, I wasn't thinking just that." His expression faded from frisky to serious. "More importantly, what's been keeping you up?"

Elisabeth sighed and leaned back, resting against him. "I've just been looking at old photos we brought with us," she confessed. "I know it wasn't my fault, and I know it doubly well as a doctor, but I still can't shake the guilt of forgetting you all. Honestly I feel worse about the children. It's one thing to have this equal partnership with you, but the kids didn't sign up for this."

Jim peered down at her uncertainly. "Are we still talking about the outpost here?"

"Yes, maybe. I don't know." She turned her face up towards him. "Have I deprived them of their childhood, their friends? I mean what if—"

"Don't even start down that path," he interrupted before she could really gather steam. "Yes, they left friends behind, but kids are remarkably adaptable. Just look at Zoe. Hardly a wisp of memory of me in her head and a few days later it's like I was there all along. Sure Josh misses his girlfriend, but who knows, maybe one day she'll make it here too. He'll adapt regardless. For good or ill, he already is with the help of his little group of friends. I'm surprised other adults aren't having more problems, with the amount of their life they've had to forget." He winced. "Sorry...poor choice of words. But no one ever said this was going to be easy. Goodness knows how hard it was just getting all of us here safely. I don't have all the answers, but neither does anyone else."

"I suppose." Her overtaxed body chose that moment to betray her as she let out a gaping yawn.

"Ready for bed at last?" Jim teased her gently. He offered her his hand, which she accepted as she stood up.

"I should speak to Commander Taylor in the morning about some sort of more formal counseling for everyone for the adjustment process. I'm sure some could use it who won't admit it." Elisabeth slid the door open just wide enough for them to both pass through.

"Commander 'Teddy Bear' Taylor?" he joked. Kissing her lightly as they got into bed he added sincerely, "Perhaps he'll listen to you."