Lost Hope and Found
By Taylor Dancinghands
Disclaimer: According Intellectual Proprty Laws, someone owns these ideas, characters, scenarios, etc. and whoever that is it's not me. I'm playing with 'em anyway. So sue me. (Actually, no, please don't.)
Radek Zelenka went where he was needed. He told himself it was that simple, though he knew it was not. He wasn't proud of his reputation as a coward, but he knew it was well deserved. It shouldn't have been so easy to volunteer to go with the Orion, knowing as he did, as everyone did, that it was a suicide mission.
Elizabeth hadn't been fooled, but what could she say? She'd have had to send him if he hadn't volunteered. With Rodney, gone there wasn't anyone else on Atlantis with a hope of being able to get the Orion's shields and weapons up at all, much less in time. Rodney was gone though, and that left Radek, no one but Radek, to fill the void he'd left behind him on Atlantis. And that left no one at all to fill the void in Radek's life.
Fortunately, if you could call it that, there'd been no time at all for Radek to reflect on what it really meant that Rodney was gone. (Gone. Not dead. Not yet. He couldn't even think that yet, even if it was so. Even if it would be better if it were so.) He'd started to, once or twice, but the yawning chasm of despair that threatened when he did was enough to dissuade him from doing so again. With luck, he thought bitterly at one point, he'd be dead before he had the chance.
Radek didn't really want to die, but he could not help but admit that his own life just didn't seem quite as precious as it used to. Of course he'd been perfectly attached to his life before he'd fallen in love with Atlantis' HSD, but once you admit the walking chaos engine that was Rodney McKay into your life, once you make room for him and allow him to become indispensable, his absence is bound to leave an enormous, empty hole. Nothing could ever be the same again.
Rodney hadn't just made himself indispensable to Radek, of course, but to all of Atlantis, and if his presence hadn't been required on the Orion, Radek would have been left with the unenviable job of replacing Rodney as Head of the Science Division. There was nothing Radek dreaded more. He knew it was wrong to be grateful for the need to go with the Orion. He didn't really want to die, dammit, but when he tried to imagine a life as Atlantis' HSD, alone, without Rodney, his heart failed him. He could not bear the thought. The way things were going presently, however, it was seeming fairly unlikely that Radek was going to have to contend with this or any other future beyond the next few hours.
This was the cold comfort that lurked in the back of Radek's mind, even as he knew the satisfaction of finally getting the Orion's weapons online. Even as he witnessed, with some pride, the miraculous spectacle of the Orion's vast swarm of drones converging on the hive ship, Radek knew it would not save them. It could quite possibly save Earth, and that did mean something to Radek; in fact, it meant a great deal. Radek was not utterly without hope. He had much hope for Earth. He even had some hopes for Atlantis, though he knew that her chances would be greatly diminished by his and Rodney's loss. He just didn't have any for himself.
He told himself that he was just being realistic, but that was a lie, because he had felt the hope die in him not when he had volunteered to join the Orion, but in the awful minutes and seconds following his discovery of the Wraith virus in their computers. It had been a slow and a gradual death and accompanied the slow and gradual realization of the depth of the Wraith's duplicity, and the depths to which they'd been screwed. The demise of his hope came with the dawning realization that they had delivered Rodney (and Ronon) into the hands of a cruel and traitorous enemy.
For Radek Zelenka, however, there would be no further time to reflect on the devastating implications of this discovery, and neither, to be fair, was there for anyone else either. As always, with crises on Atlantis, there was no time for anything but an all out, desperate attempt to save their collective asses, or in this case, Earth's. Once again the niceties of sleep and regular meals became unaffordable luxuries, and while Radek had done all this before, it had always been shoulder to shoulder with Rodney. Facing those long hours and unspeakably monumental tasks alone ought to have crushed his spirit utterly, except that Radek knew that Earth and Atlantis could not afford for him to be crushed.
He maintained, therefore. He functioned, and he did his job diligently and brilliantly as always, because he had to, and because there was no one else who could. The tasks at hand occupied at least ninety percent of Radek's intellectual capacity, and the small portion unable to avoid the painful fact of Rodney's absence also knew that he'd almost certainly never make it back to Atlantis to confront this reality fully. The tasks at hand were nearly concluded now, however, and a part of Radek began waiting for the other shoe to drop.
He'd been fairly convinced that they were all about to buy it, as the Orion had been falling apart all around them, shields down and Wraith darts assaulting them from all sides. Screaming at that idiot Lorne that the Orion was finished, consoles exploding on every side, he'd been sure that he was finished as well, crouching with terror amidst the noise and fire. The end had not come then, though, and instead Lorne had bought a clue and called for the Daedalus to take them.
Radek had, naturally, studied the Asgard transport device, and even knew about (and supposedly understood) the technology that made it work, but he had never, he had to admit to himself in that moment, really believed in it. It came as something of a shock, then, to find himself so abruptly on the bridge of the Daedalus, but it quickly became apparent that things were hardly any better here than they had been on the Orion. He wasn't any less needed on the Daedalus, either, and he soon found himself entirely taken up with the impossible task of keeping the Daedalus in the fight against the remaining hive ship.
Radek was certain that it was death he saw once again, in the form of the Wraith transport ship inexorably approaching the nearly defenseless Daedalus, but fate had another surprise in store for him instead.
"This is Colonel John Sheppard. Authentication code Alpha Seven Tango Three. Please respond."
Sheppard?! Radek's head spun. How could this be? How had he gotten here, and flying a Wraith transport no less. And then the other shoe, the real other shoe dropped.
" ...Look, I've got McKay, Ronon and Michael aboard..."
Radek was vaguely aware that his mouth was hanging open and he could not quite spare the attention to close it. It was not quite hope that Radek felt waking in his heart, but there was suddenly a very powerful desire to stay alive for the next few minutes. That was hardly a foregone conclusion, as the Wraith continued to strike at them and showers of sparks and explosions continued to rock the Daedalus' bridge. Still, a moment later there was the ethereal flash of light signaling the manifestation of a technology which Radek was still not quite sure he quite believed in, and then they were all standing there: Sheppard, Ronon and, miracle or miracles, Rodney McKay Š plus an oddly coifed Wraith.
Rodney didn't see him immediately in the busy, crowded bridge, focusing on Caldwell and the Colonel's lightning fast briefing first and then, along with everyone else, on the results of the Daedalus' assault on the hive ship's dart bay. It was after the Daedalus was struck, her shields down, and Rodney and Radek were both tossed about the bridge along with everyone else, that Rodney spotted him. Glancing warily about as he climbed to his feet, Rodney's gaze swept over the console Radek was supporting himself on as he too rose, and then stopped, eyes widening with astonishment.
Radek saw the surprise in Rodney's face, then a mix of joy and regret, fear and desire, and a host of other things too confused for Radek to read. Letting all the love and longing he felt show in his own eyes, Radek was rewarded with a wistful, crooked smile. It was fleeting, but it cut through the bleak fog that had lain over Radek's soul for the last few days like a ray of sun.
None the less, things were not good. Radek greeted the news of their imminent life support failure with a sense of fatalism. Naturally it was after he had found a reason to live again that their certain demise finally looked to have arrived. Radek knew better than to count them out yet, though, particularly now that they had Rodney back. Even running on fumes, as Radek knew he must be, Rodney's presence increased their odds of survival by a considerable margin.
Radek shrank from speculating as to what Rodney might have endured over the last few days. The traces of slime on his cloths were enough to tell Radek that he'd been in a Wraith cocoon for at least some period of time and that alone was horrifying to imagine. Radek watched him, his face, his haunted eyes, his mobile hands, as Rodney, Sheppard and Caldwell discussed their options. He listened, letting his engineer's mind sort through their remaining assets and how they might be adapted, thinking, at the same time, how much he wanted to take Rodney in his arms, even if only for a moment, even if it were to be the last time, which it well might. His engineer's mind was finding their list of useful assets very short indeed, and he was far from seeing any way that their current resources might be made to be sufficient to their immediate needs.
As the discussion continued, someone brought up the idea of breathing packs, and apparently there were some, so one of Caldwell's men, Kleinman, was sent to take the two of them to fetch them. They left the bridge walking side by side, moving as swiftly as they could through the Daedalus' corridors, now smoky and treacherous with sparks and small fires. Even so, Radek recognized the stretch of hallway they were walking now, and some subconscious part of his mind must have begun making its plan then. Later, Radek would swear that he was just as surprised as Rodney when he found himself grabbing hold of his arm and dragging him, without warning, into a small and dimly lit utility bay.
He pulled Rodney into a desperate embrace the second they were out of the corridor, crushing him as tightly to his body as he could mange. Rodney stiffened with surprise at first, but quickly came to respond in kind, wrapping his arms about Radek and pressing him close. They held each other in silence for a moment or two, before Radek finally spoke.
"I thought I'd never see you again," he said, knowing it to be a foolish, obvious thing to say but feeling the need to say it anyhow.
"Me neither," Rodney little more than whispered. The part of Radek's brain that still found it necessary to translate the English he heard into Czech knew that what Rodney had just said didn't make any sense, but he knew what he meant. "Sorry," Rodney apologized.
"There is no need to be sorry now," Radek assured him, "Not now that you are here."
Rodney held him closer still for a moment, then relented a little, allowing Radek to breath again.
"Don't take this the wrong way," Rodney said, "because I am really, really glad to see you right now, but I can't help wishing you weren't here."
"I did not have much choice in the matter," Radek said with an indulgent smile. He would never tell Rodney how easy it had been to volunteer for a suicide mission in his absence.
"I know, I know," said Rodney, sorrowfully, holding Radek close again.
For a childish moment, Radek foolishly wanted all the insurmountable, impossible tasks that lay before them to go away, and to be allowed to remain here in the all encompassing comfort of Rodney's arms forever. Though there was no door to the dark alcove where they stood, the crewmen and women passing in the adjacent corridor had way too much on their minds to bother about the two figures clutching at each other in a shadowy corner. Still, Radek knew that they could not stay here much longer. Reluctantly, he drew back, reaching into his jacket pocket for the couple of food bars he'd taken to keeping there during such crises, and offered them to Rodney.
His eyes positively lit up at the proffered food and Radek could see how Rodney's hands trembled as he removed the wrapper.
"God, I could kiss you," he muttered, his mouth already full with close to half the first bar. Radek reached up to kiss Rodney briefly on the cheek.
"Later, I will remind you of this," Radek said, smiling, "for now though, I think you will need to use your mouth for eating only." This begged the question of whether there would be a later, but if anyone all on the Daedalus had any ability to improve their chances of this at all, it was probably the two of them.
That meant, however, that it was past time for them to step out into the noisome, hazardous corridor and put their collective brainpower to work saving their collective asses. Once again. Looking up at Rodney, Radek saw the same reluctant determination showing in his face. He crammed the rest of the food bar into his mouth and turned to face the corridor but then paused, taking Radek's arm in a firm grip before stepping out.
"You do realize that Atlantis cannot possibly afford to lose us both," he said, the determination in his voice colored by a note of desperation. "Right?"
Radek found that he could not meet Rodney's gaze with the confidence he was looking for.
"Radek, it can't happen." The desperation in Rodney's voice was gaining ground. "You know that."
"I know," Radek confirmed, still not meeting Rodney's eyes. Rodney's grip on Radek's arm tightened for a moment before he released it.
"Alright then," he said, "let's go fix this bucket of bolts and get the hell out of here."
Radek drew a breath, focusing in his thoughts once again on their immediate needs and how they might be met with the resources they had. He could do this if he very carefully thought about each individual problem separately and did not look at the bigger picture. With Rodney here he could do that, and leave the big picture to a man who had no difficulty thinking three impossible things before any meal. Realizing this, Radek felt something which had been sitting uncomfortably -painfully even- in his chest ever since he'd thought he was alone, shift, and the discomfort was gone. It came to him then that he was back in the place that the universe meant him to be, at Rodney McKay's side.
Side by side was how they stepped into the smoke and noise of the Daedalus' hallways. Even as he applied himself to their most immediate survival concerns, Radek was far from certain that the outcome Rodney desired could be attained, but he found that this did not worry him. Radek had his hope back, however ill founded. He had achieved his rightful place in the universe again and as dangerous and terrifying as that universe was, he knew he could leave Rodney to attend to it. As for the nuts and bolts -that Rodney could leave to him.
(c) 2006 T. Dancinghands