John pinpoints to the house early. There’s some activity, but not a lot, and he finds himself drawn to the babies’ room after hearing them gurgling quietly to each other. He turns off the monitor, to let his spouses sleep, and picks Robert up from where the boy sits, staring wide-eyed at him. He’s almost holding his breath, still not sure the reaction he gets won’t be tears, but when Robert only falls silent and continues to stare, and then flops against his shoulder, John smiles. He’ll never fail to be surprised by his son finally warming up to him. Nearly two years old and finally able to be held by his fathers – or siblings now, he assumes – without wailing like Gilly does.
Settling the still dozy baby on his hip, John moves over to Gilly’s crib, grinning brightly when she screeches out “Mine!” and reaches for him. He’ll never get tired of her reaction to him. Every time, she lights up like everything in her little baby world is right again. It reminds him of why he stays away so often. To make sure there’s a world safe for them to go back to one day. And they will go back. No matter what he has to do, or how long he has to stay away to make it happen. As much as the house in London has become a home to them, it isn’t home. It’s not their world and John’s intent that one day they’ll all return to where they belong.
He manages to wrangle the other baby onto his other hip across from her brother, and carries them both from the room in search of other family members who seem to have woken so early. Sophia greets him in the hallway, sleepy with her eyes hardly open as she shuffles her way down to watch the morning news. John doesn’t understand why a girl her age – and to him she’s only seventeen, not the millions of years she really is – chooses to watch the news on a regular basis, but his step-daughter is strange enough without his asking questions about it.
Pepik is in the kitchen when he gets there to get these babies of his some breakfast, cooking up a storm. Which is, John thinks, a lot like the storm that almost sunk Atlantis their first year. A complete and total mess and he’s not quite sure the boy has any idea what he’s doing.
Before he can ask, his attention is distracted when Gilly starts trying to struggle out of his grasp. This isn’t something that’s ever happened before and it startles him. It’s always been Gilly doing anything she could to stay with him and he finds himself more than a little rattled at her trying to get away from him. So much he has to take a moment to collect and remind himself that even if this is because he’s been gone so much, it’s for her that he does it.
He’s still shocked when Pepik takes her away from him and she calms immediately. It’s like a hollow ache in his chest and it feels like somewhere between his last visit and today, he lost his baby. The absolute most important person in his life, doesn’t want him holding her and he doesn’t understand why.
“Pancakes?” Pepik offers, out of the blue -- Gilly now sitting happily and wide-eyed on his hip --, holding a plate out to him. John just laughs and takes the plate, sitting Robert down on the counter and accepting the plate.
“As long as it doesn’t kill me,” he jokes lightly, letting Robert smash the food up in typical baby ways.