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"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth."
-- Robert Frost, 'The Road Not Taken'



He sits to her left – technically not the right hand man, but then they do have the side of the conference table to themselves.

"Questionable judgment," a general from somewhere on the left side of the room says, his voice laced with disapproval. "In short, it's a characteristic that can be found in the Atlantis teams and leaders alike."

It is seventeen minutes past three, even with his watch still ticking to Atlantis Mean Time, and he waits for the specific criticisms he can almost count down to.

She doesn't look his way when a few minutes later the comments predictably turn toward one of his more unsuccessful missions; her gaze holds strong and steady as she listens, and he hates that mistakes moved on from can come back to haunt him four months and a few galaxies later.

They can never forget, not really - all of Atlantis is a series of reports systematically filed away into a jumble of numbers and keywords.

Elizabeth is granted a rebuttal; her pen taps the table three times and she begins.

He's seen her in action before - a lot more bite than bark - and if he hadn't been witness to (or the focus of) her harsh reprimands back on Atlantis, he'd be inclined to believe the incidents had been minor.

There are no further disputes when she is done. There rarely are.

It's by chance that he catches a quick look of fatigue on her face. A week of meetings have already begun to take their toll, even if she'll never admit to it until he finds her wearily still awake their first late night back aboard the Daedalus.

He watches her delicate script make notations in the margins of their files. It isn't often they resort to pen and paper, but nothing much this side of the Milky Way seems normal anymore.

He's amused at the extent of his own note taking, unconcerned with his inability to get farther than a few headers since Elizabeth preferred handling the details anyway. His continued presence in the endless round of Earth meetings is mostly for show - military Earth-side needing reassurance that they still had their hands in the Pegasus galaxy cookie jar - but he appreciates her invitations, even if he lacks the note-taking to prove it.

Financial Limitations is listed as the fourth subject for discussion, and the meeting presses ahead relentlessly. This time she briefly meets his eyes, holding the contact just long enough to tell him all he needs to know.

Earth still has a bad habit of interfering.



Somewhere in a previous visit she stopped smiling, at least while on this side of the galaxy, and he spends the weeks on Earth uneasy.

"It's the time difference," she says dismissively, her hand outstretched and hovering between them as she thanks him for his concern. They both know it's one of her weaker excuses; she can never quite manage to touch him when she's lying.

They stand in a hallway of florescent light, separated by two feet of painted cement, and he watches her as she thinks. There are things he's figured out about her, some she shares, most he's guessed.

He knows she's tactile (she's shared), and that she makes a conscious effort to curb these impulses (he's guessed). A handful of personnel could lay claim to being on the receiving end of a spontaneous Dr. Elizabeth Weir hug, though he's sure he's won in numbers. Almost dying on a constant basis has rendered him fairly huggable.

He also knows that she's an insomniac (she's told him), and that she's more interested in football than she lets on (he's convinced her). She thinks, and her thoughts flash across her face; she guards her emotions, but always a second too late.

Elizabeth glances down the empty hallway. "I need a drink," she states, and there is a lightness in her tone that belies what he can see she's feeling.

In the last year he's also figured out a few other things. He knows his thumb fits just right in the dip over her hip, and knows that she can kiss with a sexy flicker of her tongue that leaves him panting.

But he's getting better at reading what she hides, at the frustration she buries. There are secrets and compromises they are forced to keep on both worlds.

Their relationship on Atlantis is unstable on the worst of days, the rest of the expedition team well able to predict their more usual arguments by now. But then it became a year together, a working twosome of shared quarters and late morning coffee on Sundays.

As far as Earth is concerned however, their relationship is purely professional, and needing to remember that every four months in everything from reports to casual comments to their physical proximity has left him wondering if they shouldn't leave Earth behind altogether.

"I know a bar," he answers, and she asks no questions.

They walk down the hallway, two feet of space between them because they are in charge of a world, and there are rules to follow if they mean to keep it this way.



A drink at the bar turns into a series of shots when they have too much to toast to and no desire to return to their separate windowless accommodations at the SGC.

"To wormholes," she says, her eyes sparkling a bright shade of green.

On Earth he is a permanent employee of politics that determine what is right and wrong. Their relationship is illegal for another three days, and it shouldn't matter, but somehow it does.

"To Atlantis," he agrees.



They are in room 209 at the end of a motel hall, and he wants to believe the number is important.

"It does sound a little dirty," she says. Her back leans against the door, and she toys with her glass as he watches from the edge of the bed.

"Oh yeah?" he asks despite himself, thrown off by alcohol and their surprise break from unspoken Earth protocol.

She nods slowly, a curl of hair brushing her collarbone. Give or take a year together and he still finds it incredibly alluring; her collarbone is dangerous territory.

"I definitely know what two people can do with a nine." She slurs slightly and laughs, damning the alcohol with a shake of her head.

He smirks. "We should have checked to see what other room numbers were available."

With walls papered up in yellow pinstripe and a sign next to the TV promising cable, he's feeling very far away from stain glass windows.

Elizabeth sits beside him on the bed, running a finger around the rim of her glass. A faint liquid note rises in the air and he thinks of Atlantis. She smells of the ocean sometimes, the salt in the air blending into her clothes and hair as she stands on the balcony overlooking their city on the sea.

"They've got HBO," he tells her, nudging her gently with his shoulder. She gives in to his touch, playfully pushing back against him.

"And continental breakfast," she adds.

"And continental breakfast. We could probably even find a way to go skinny-dipping in the pool."

She laughs, but it's dark. "That’d be one for the records."

"Hey." He taps her arm with his fingertips until she looks at him. "Only two more days."

"It's not a matter of how long-"

"I know." And he does.

Her compromises weigh heavily on her mind, being forthright coming much more naturally to her. But he knows it isn't so much about what's allowed or what's appropriate as it is about her need to grapple with the knowledge that Earth has become nothing more than an obligation.

"We'll need to come up with a reason for all this in the morning." She motions around the room with a hand.

He nods. "And for why it was all charged to the SGC."

She looks at him in surprise and laughs, a beautiful rich laugh that he often has trouble getting out of her even on Atlantis.

"I love you," she says suddenly.

There is a shy smile resting on her lips, and he understands in this split second before she cuts him off from being able to respond, that she's telling the truth.

"I'm drunk," she admits, pointing the glass of vodka at herself. "You're drunk," she adds in accusingly.

Then she blushes, looks away, and he's in love with her too.



They get the side of the table to themselves - Caldwell and his senior staff short by one at this follow up meeting.

"Questionable judgment," she says, and smiles at the groans when Caldwell demands his staff pay up before the Daedalus makes Atlantis orbit.

Novak shakes her head in defeat. "I could have sworn it would be 'reckless energy waste' this time."

"We did get to that eventually," Elizabeth assures her, then turns to him and shares a quick wink. She's relaxing, the tension from Earth unwinding, and he's relieved. Vacation time on Atlantis for either of them has yet to be efficiently scheduled, and she needs the downtime, even if sometimes it seems she thrives on stress.

Her legs cross and she swivels slightly in her chair, her foot coming to rest against the side of his calf. It's a familiar presence, and he shifts willingly into the contact.

There is a list of new Earth requests and restrictions, but the meeting is kept in good humor, even Caldwell offering only the occasional complaint. They've all saved each other's lives on more than one occasion at this point, and the somewhat uncouth Atlantis rules are easy to become fond of.

Elizabeth's notes are still meticulous, her stylus poised over the PDA screen as the new terms from the Milky Way are debated. They take the complaints in stride, finding compromises where they can and promising to see which battles they can fight.

The meeting lasts slightly over an hour and they walk through a lit hallway of grey back to their shared quarters – of which Caldwell knows, and says nothing.

"He suffers unexplainable moments of deafness," Teyla once noted.

It is an Atlantis of everyone's making, and very few in this galaxy object.

The back of her hand brushes against his, and then she's holding his hand, twining their fingers together. He tugs her gently toward him, wanting the full length of her pressed to his side as they walk the last corridor.

"You know," he says, "there's continental breakfast here, too."

She shakes her head. "No HBO."

"Ah, but skinny-dipping."

They pause outside the door as she laughs and he pulls her into his arms. She has taken to wearing her hair in loose ponytails the last couple of days, and he fingers the curls tucked behind her ear.

"They'll leave us alone one day," he states, not quite promising it, not yet anyway. Atlantis is still Earth's hot commodity of the moment.

"And until then?"

He shrugs. "We just accommodate them."

A crew member passes, giving a courteous nod and giving no indication that he gave even a moment’s thought to their hugging in the hallway.

"Almost home," she says, and she's smiling as he kisses her.