Pairing/Fandom: SGA - Rodney/Radek UST/friendship
Beta(e): blue_raven and thekynicist
Summary: What would you do as one of those left behind? (Spoilers for "The Return I and II")
Prompt: Answer just what your heart prompts you.
This is the land of a thousand words
But it seems so few are worth the breath to say
Except I'll be looking after my own world
And you just keep on saving the day
~ “The Land of a Thousand Words” by Scissor Sisters
When Radek collects his bags and emerges from the Brno airport he cannot help but stop and stare. People glance sideways at him, a few wearing smug, superior smirks as they label him as an ignorant tourist, but he cannot help it; every muscle in his frame locks in place and his heart flutters in his throat.
He ignores the looks and closes his eyes for a moment, trying not to feel overwhelmed. It is difficult, though, not to feel a sort of pressure against his skin, a sensation of being smothered by too many bodies on these busy streets, when he’s lived in Atlantis with so few souls for so long. Radek is exceedingly grateful that he’s in Brno, which has a population of 300,000. If he were in Prague--
Just the thought of Prague and all those people dries out his mouth and tightens up his throat, and he struggles to take in a breath. After a moment, he forces himself to open his eyes and looks out at the masses which rush by like some unstoppable, never-ending flood. He tightens his grip on his belongings, takes in a deep breath, and then heads towards where several taxis are idling. He will just have to get used to so many people, that’s all. After all, Masaryk alone has 37,000 students, plus faculty.
He is lucky that Masaryk accepted him on such short notice, especially since he has not published anything since before Atlantis, and even if he wished to publish anything now, all his research is unusable thanks to the word classified. But that is all right. As he told Rodney and Carson, he will be glad to focus on a single problem for a while without the distraction of having to save Atlantis from imminent destruction.
Unfortunately, as he learns in the following weeks, it seems he has gotten addicted to the sensation of his brain working at quicksilver speeds, leaping from one problem to the next, and by his third week he is so bored he could almost weep. It doesn’t help that his peers at the university are curious about what he’s been up to for the past few years -- “Seems like you dropped off the face of the earth!” -- and all their unsubtle attempts to pry leave him feeling sick to his stomach. Soon, he finds himself going to a doctor and getting a prescription. He describes the headaches as migraines but he knows they are actually from all the withheld secrets that are cluttered in his head.
Time and time again, Radek finds himself tempted to send an email to Rodney. He harshly represses the urge. It is not simply because he's uncertain if Rodney can even discuss Atlantis or Ancient technology with him. There is also the fact that he knows, no matter how carefully he words the email, Rodney will figure out that he misses him. If that happens? Radek will never, ever hear the end of it. And the fact is that Radek does miss the man, miserable and irritating though he may be. Radek misses him with an intensity that both amuses and alarms him all at once, because he hadn’t realized how much he’d come to rely on Rodney for companionship until it was gone.
There is no one here who is at Rodney or Radek’s level of intelligence and he misses the synergy, how their thoughts had collided and bonded like ions, their thoughts moving seemingly faster than the speed of light so that they both tripped over their own words in their haste, until Radek could almost see the sparks as ideas leapt from one brain to another, back and forth, back and forth.
He doesn’t give into the temptation to contact Rodney and instead contents himself with emailing Carson and Elizabeth instead. Carson is all too happy to keep him up to date on everyone -- Sheppard is going crazy at the SGC, something about his team being ‘nothing like the old one,’ and Rodney is apparently about to murder the sycophants that are working under him at Area 51 -- and it is Carson he contacts when his three emails to Elizabeth go unanswered. His concern is only slightly lessened by Carson’s assurances that he’ll check in on her but it will have to do. He certainly can’t cancel class and fly to Colorado to check in on Elizabeth, no matter how worried he is for his friend or how much the idea of walking away from this campus appeals to him.
By the end of week six the prescription that the doctor gave him for the migraines isn’t really working anymore and he’s tempted to tell his peers that they can go to hell. He is almost relieved when two men in black suits appear at the back of his classroom.
They don’t even wait until the end of the lecture, one of them clearing his throat and saying, “Dr. Radek Zelenka?” in English and with a drawl that Radek recognizes as American and Southern. The men in black don’t bat an eye as the students twist in their seats and openly gawk. They hold themselves with the stiff precision of military; Radek wonders which branch they’re from. “We need you to come with us.”
For the first time in weeks, Radek feels almost alive as a tendril of excitement unfurls in his stomach. He even finds that some of the pressure in his head has eased. “It cannot wait until after my lecture?” he asks mildly, raising an eyebrow and looking pointedly at his over-attentive students, who are for the first time hanging onto every word he’s saying even though half of them don’t speak English. The students are all bound to become conspiracy theorists after this; their thoughts are practically transparent on their faces: “Our professor is getting abducted by Americans in suits! He was working on -- on aliens or something and he was going to spill their secrets so they’re kidnapping him!” It is both amusing and saddening that some of them might be halfway to the truth.
“It is imperative that you come with us immediately, Doctor Zelenka.”
Yes, they were definitely all going to become conspiracy theorists after this. “I see,” is all he says and then calmly adds in Czech, “Class dismissed.” Most of the students don’t move, still staring in fascination, and he barks out, “I distinctly recall saying class dismissed, which means you all should be on your feet and out the door. Go!” It’s interesting how channeling Rodney seems to make his headache vanish completely.
The students start drifting grudgingly towards the door as Radek gathers his teaching materials and puts them in one of the drawers. He can feel the men’s eyes on him the entire time but rather than irritate them like he suspects Rodney would by going as slow as possible he sorts through his papers quickly and efficiently, grabs the case that holds his laptop, and moves at a brisk pace to where the men are waiting.
Radek almost expects one of them to say, “We’ll explain on the way,” but instead they silently escort him to a black car that is waiting outside. The car takes them slowly through the city towards an unknown destination. Another man is sitting in the back with them, only he is hunched over a laptop, muttering something under his breath as he squints at the screen.
“General Landry’s ready to speak to you as soon as Sanders here--” The man with the laptop looks up briefly, frowns, and goes back to muttering under his breath and typing. “--can assure me that we’re secure, but in the meantime, I’m to debrief you on what is currently happening. A couple of hours ago Replicators attacked and by all appearances captured Atlantis. General O’Neill and Doctor Woolsey are missing and presumed dead or captured.”
Radek stares and blinks for a moment. He feels almost ashamed at the rush of euphoric adrenaline that fills his veins at the news. Still, Rodney was right. The adrenaline rush from saving the day at the eleventh hour is addictive. “So you asked Rodney to help figure out a way to win back the city and he asked for my help?” he ventures after a moment when the man doesn’t elaborate. Surely he doesn’t think Radek will be content with that little tidbit? Still, he cannot help but be a bit pleased at the idea that Rodney might actually desire his assistance.
Something tightens in both men’s faces and they share a look; almost immediately, Radek feels the adrenaline begin to ebb and worry replace it.
“Doctor McKay-- he could not offer us any assistance.”
He cannot help but stare, incredulous. “Rodney could not offer you any assistance,” he repeats slowly. He is suddenly tempted to pinch himself, because surely this is some sort of dream. A suspicion strikes him and he narrows his eyes. “Or did you not agree with what Rodney was suggesting?”
The men’s expressions take on poker faces, which is answer enough, really.
Radek’s headache is back and he belatedly realizes that he left the migraine medicine in his desk drawer at the university. He leans back in his seat and raises an eyebrow; when he speaks, his tone is flat. “So you mean to tell me that since Rodney wouldn’t help you with whatever foolish plan you have in mind, you thought I would help instead.” He shakes his head. “I’m afraid that is an incorrect assumption. I may disagree with Rodney from time to time but I know he would refuse to help only if you were planning something as stupid as trying to blow up Atlantis without looking at any other options.”
One of the men blinks and Radek finds himself staring again. “You want to blow up Atlantis? When General O’Neill and Doctor Woolsey could possibly still be alive?”
Neither of the men meets his eyes. After a moment one of them says, “Let’s get the general on a secure line. He’ll want to speak to you and explain more of the situation. Now, Sanders.”
“Yes,” Radek says. The fleeting moment of euphoria has already come and gone, the tendril of excitement now contorted into a knot of anxiety. “Yes, that would be a very good idea.”
When Major General Landry appears on the screen of the laptop, the man’s face is lined with strain and his mouth is twisted as though he’s tasted something bitter. “Doctor Zelenka.”
“General.” Radek inclines his head politely and then cuts to the chase, something he became quite adept at during his time as Rodney’s unofficial second-in-command. “Do not tell me you are truly thinking of destroying Atlantis.”
Landry frowns. “I don’t see how we have any choice. If the Replicators get through to the Milky Way Galaxy-- Not only that, but I am acting on General O’Neill’s standing orders. We need you to tell us where a nuke would do the most damage to Atlantis. The Daedalus is on its way as we speak.”
“General, there must be other options, as I’m sure Rodney told you--”
Landry’s expression hardens. “There are no other options, Doctor Zelenka. We need your input immediately. Where is the best place to detonate a nuclear bomb on Atlantis?”
“But Rodney and I--”
Landry interrupts him, voice as cold as ice. “An hour ago, Doctor McKay, Doctor Weir, Colonel Sheppard, and Doctor Beckett commandeered a jumper and went through the Stargate against orders.”
Radek can feel the blood drain from his face, hears a roaring in his ears and for a moment his vision blurs and darkens at the edges. “Oh,” he says dumbly and takes in a deep breath. After a moment, his vision clears and he can see the expression of barely withheld fury on Landry’s face. Radek shouldn’t be startled, really. Of course Rodney and John would do something so incredibly foolhardy and-- heroic, he supposes, but mostly foolhardy. He is a bit surprised that Elizabeth and Carson had gone along with the other two, though.
Landry is still watching him and he realizes that the general expects a response. He clears his throat. “Then I can only assume, sir, that they have a plan.”
Landry’s eyes narrow. “One that is doomed to failure, Doctor Zelenka. Now, the area to drop the nuke?”
The roaring in his ears reminds him of waves striking the edges of the city. Radek remembers how beautiful and terrible that endless stretch of ocean had always seemed to him, endless and deep and majestic. He thinks of that first day when the city rose from the sea and then tries to imagine the Daedalus hovering overhead, preparing to drop a nuclear bomb and destroy the place he and so many others had lived and bled and sweated and died protecting for three long, bittersweet years.
Swallowing and trying to ignore the headache that is beginning to form between his eyes, Radek says quietly, “I’m afraid you misunderstood me, General. If they have a plan, anything you or I try to do may cause that plan to fail. If I assist you in trying to destroy Atlantis, I may inadvertently doom them, General O’Neill, and Doctor Woolsey.” ‘And Atlantis’ is bitten back, but he suspects Landry can read the unsaid words in his expression, if Landry’s darkening gaze is anything to go by.
Radek looks down, realizes his hands are fists in his lap, the knuckles as white as sun-bleached bone, and concludes in an even softer voice, “I simply cannot help you with the nuke issue.”
“Cannot or will not?” Landry demands.
Radek forces himself to meet the man’s angry expression as he says, “To be perfectly honest? A little of both.” He can feel the military men next to him glaring holes into his head but he ignores them, focusing on Landry.
The general’s face is flushed and his eyes are narrowed to slits as he says coldly, “This isn’t a request, Doctor Zelenka. We know you helped design the self-destruct should Atlantis fall into Wraith hands. You were willing to destroy Atlantis then. We need to know how to destroy Atlantis now, before the Replicators can get to the Milky Way Galaxy. We are already building a Mac5 to destroy the midway station, but we need all ways to Earth destroyed.”
“I am very sorry.” The words come out hoarse as they squeeze past his heart, which has lodged in his throat. Radek resists the urge to rub at the spot between his eyes; the roaring is still in his ears but more vague, like he has found seashells and pressed them to his ears. His headache is well on its way to a migraine and he is hard-pressed to ignore the pressure that is building up inside his head.
“This isn’t a request, Doctor Zelenka,” Landry repeats, tone authoritative and dangerously soft with anger and something akin to disdain, and Radek is suddenly thrown back to when Colonel Everett emerged from the Stargate and cockily took over.
He and Rodney gazed moodily at Colonel Everett’s men as the soldiers swaggered through Atlantis like they owned the place, like they had shed their blood and wept over lost comrades, like they had seen the Wraith and earned the right to be here. It made Radek sick to his stomach and he couldn’t help but comment, “When military steps in, scientists take a back seat.”
Rodney’s voice was dark. “Until they need us.”
Radek resisted the urge to shrug. “They don't think they need us.” Not yet, anyway.
“Yeah, they don't think they need us, right up until the point that they need us, and then, they need us.”
How long after that had Colonel Everett needed -- and immediately demanded -- their assistance? Radek blinks, realizing that Landry is watching him; the general is hard-eyed and obviously expecting a response.
“I’m sorry,” Radek repeats. He forces his hands to unclench, lifting them in the universal gesture of helplessness and then dropping them back into his lap. The men next to him are still glaring at him and Radek wonders if Landry is so desperate that he will attempt to threaten bodily harm. He does not think that Landry is that sort of man, but he does work for the U.S. government, which had sat back and allowed Atlantis to taken away from Radek and the rest of the expedition.
“Very well.” Landry’s voice is like ice; Radek can feel the chilly tone sweep over him, raising goose bumps and sending a shiver down his spine that he cannot quite suppress. “I’m sorry that you feel that way, Doctor Zelenka. If you change your mind, you know how to reach us.”
As the computer screen goes blank, Radek realizes that even if Atlantis is rescued from the Replicators and people from Earth are allowed back into the city, he and the four currently attempting to save Atlantis will not be allowed to set foot in Atlantis ever again. The epiphany feels like a knife that bites deeply into his chest, the sensation of loss that washes over him so intense that his breath catches in his throat. When he can breathe again, he notices the man called Sanders watching him almost sympathetically.
Radek clears his throat and says, “If you could drop me off at my apartment, please.” He is surprised when his voice doesn’t shake or crack, when it actually comes out almost neutral, and is even more surprised that his breath doesn’t catch in his throat again until he is out of the car and walking up the stairs to his apartment.
It is only once he’s alone in his apartment that his hands begin to shake and his throat tightens and cuts off precious oxygen. There, in the privacy of his own apartment, Radek drops onto a chair and tries desperately not to have a panic attack, swallowing against the tightness in his throat and struggling to take in deep, even breaths. It feels like he is drowning and falling all at once into a dark, watery abyss from which there is no escape.
Before, when he’d lost Atlantis, had it stolen from him and the rest of the expedition as though those three years had meant absolutely nothing, the Ancients had promised to allow them to return someday. There had been hope. A tentative hope, perhaps a foolish one, but hope nonetheless. Now-- now there was nothing.
He loses track of time. Minutes, hours, all become meaningless, their significance tumbling into the dark abyss with him. Still, he realizes that it is a long while before his breathing eases and his hands stop trembling. Sometime after that, he finds himself at the airport in Prague with his laptop and a hastily thrown-together suitcase, buying a one-way ticket to Colorado Springs.
The trip seems to take forever, though Radek spends most of it in something akin to a daze. He doesn’t think about the nuke that the Daedalus is carrying or the fact that Atlantis has fallen into the hands of the Replicators who are just a step below the Wraith. He thinks instead of Rodney’s cat and Carson’s turtles. After all, Rodney and Carson would be furious if they came back to Earth to find their pets half-dead because no one remembered to care for the poor things during the Replicator crisis. It seems that as one of those left behind it is Radek who must make certain that his friends, the soon-to-be conquering heroes, don’t come back to half-starved pets.
It’s only once the plane touches down for the first stop of the trip that Radek shakes himself out of his daze long enough to leave an apologetic message on the answering machine in the office of Masaryk’s president. Every word drips with regret. Every word is a falsehood. He thinks that he says something about a family member being deathly ill, but as soon as he ends the call he cannot for the life of him recall the excuse he’s given for leaving the country and abandoning his classes. It doesn’t matter, he supposes. He’s probably already fired.
He exchanges all the crowns he has in his wallet for US dollars during the wait to board the next plane, hoping it will be enough to rent a car. When he boards the next plane, he spends most of the flight dozing, jetlag already catching up to him. He even sleeps through the landing. It’s only the woman sitting next to him gently shaking him awake that gets him up and moving.
The money turns out to be enough to rent a car -- well, a very old Toyota that looks to be on its last legs and whose radio doesn’t work but a car nonetheless. Radek drives in the direction he thinks Carson lives, though he doesn’t quite trust his memory. He’s only been in Carson’s apartment once after all. It’d been just before he’d left for Brno. He remembers Carson’s almost-desperate hug that had squeezed Radek’s breath from him, the brisk order to email him as soon as he gets settled in, and the slight catch in Carson’s voice that both men had pretended to ignore.
Miraculously, Radek makes it to Carson’s apartment unscathed and without getting lost. He shakes his head almost fondly when he moves the welcome mat aside and the key glints in the moonlight. Of course Carson wouldn’t realize that the most obvious hiding place for a key is under the mat.
Feeling almost like an intruder, he unlocks the door and steps inside. Carson’s apartment is scrupulously neat, with quiet, calming colors and comfortable-looking furniture. It suits him, and the apartment makes Radek wonder what Rodney’s will look like. If it reflects his personality like Carson’s does, then Radek suspects chaos and perhaps orange wallpaper or something equally garish.
It takes him a second to locate the turtles, but there in the corner of the living room is the aquarium with Carson’s four baby turtles, the quartet looking very much alive, thank God. Radek leans down and smiles at the tiny creatures. Next to the aquarium are carefully written instructions on what the turtles can or cannot eat, how to clean the aquarium, how to tell if they’re healthy, so on and so forth. Radek cannot keep from smiling at the amount of detail Carson’s put into the instructions. He carefully pockets the instructions.
It takes him a moment to find a piece of paper and another moment of rummaging through his briefcase for a pen before he scribbles down a letter to Carson should the other man return here, see that the aquarium is missing, and get worried.
I am taking care of your turtles for you, as well as Rodney’s cat. Do not worry, I will follow the instructions carefully.
Radek gets onto Carson’s laptop and prints out the directions from Carson’s apartment to Rodney’s. It is Mapquest, which means he is certain to get lost, but it will have to do. Then he carefully gathers the turtles’ food and the aquarium and carries it all back to his rental. He hopes that the turtles won’t mind the trip.
Before he leaves, though, he finds himself lingering, looking around at the clean, calm surroundings. He marvels once more at the fact that it is Carson of all people who’s accompanied Rodney and John on their unauthorized trip to wrest Atlantis from the grasp of the Replicators. (He is surprised at Elizabeth going along with whatever foolhardy plan they have. Then again, she must feel the weight of all the lost souls on her shoulders, so perhaps he shouldn’t be.)
Still, Carson? Carson has always been one of those left behind who is there to pick up the pieces, one of those who paced up and down Atlantis’s corridors and worried and waited. Images of Carson patching up the various members of John’s team after their latest misadventure off-world flood his mind and Radek shakes his head. He has always known Carson to be a brave man, for no coward would have joined the expedition, but he’s never thought of the doctor as someone who would willingly leap into the fray towards possible death.
He wonders for a moment if he had taken the job he’d been offered at Area 51, the one that he’d turned down for the more peaceful teaching position at Masaryk, if he would have been there with Rodney and the others, and whether or not they would have invited him on their quest. Would he have accepted the invitation? He doesn’t know. He supposes it doesn’t matter. He is certain that in another universe there is a Radek Zelenka in the Jumper with Rodney, perhaps quivering in terror or bright-eyed with excitement. In this universe, however, Radek has accepted his role to be the one who has been left behind, the one who waits to welcome them back.
Eventually, Radek shakes himself from his musings and heads out to the car. He finally arrives at Rodney’s apartment just after dawn, as the sun spills brilliant shades of lavender and crimson upon the apartment building. Of course Rodney isn’t as helpful as Carson, so there is no key under the mat. In fact, he’s left no spare key at all. In the end Radek sighs and breaks in, using a trick he hasn’t had to utilize since his university days when he’d had one too many beers and locked himself out of the dormitory.
As he suspected, Rodney’s apartment is cluttered and chaotic. No orange wallpaper, sadly, but Radek smiles at the sight of countless scientific journals that litter every available surface. The couch does look comfortable, though. Once he’s gotten the aquarium inside and safely situated he collapses onto the couch and calls, “Here, kitty, kitty.”
No plaintive meow reaches his ears and he frowns. Surely cats are hardier creatures than that, to go for a day without food and survive? Still, he has never owned a cat or been around too many of them, really, so perhaps…. He forces himself upright even as what seems to be every muscle in his weary frame protests. Wandering through the apartment, he murmurs, “Here, kitty, kitty,” like some sort of mantra. It is only when Radek pokes his head into the bathroom and sees no litter box that he suddenly groans. Hadn’t Carson mentioned something a few weeks ago about Rodney’s neighbor refusing to give the cat back to him?
He glares almost resentfully at the bathroom with its utter lack of a litter box. He had driven all the way from Colorado Springs for nothing? Then he remembers how one of Rodney’s personal items had been a picture of his childhood cat and thinks of how Rodney must have felt when the neighbor, looking at his expectant face, had told him that she was keeping the cat. He can picture the way Rodney’s face would have crumpled (as it had briefly at times late at night in the labs when his defenses were low and an off-hand remark reminded him of someone dead and gone), the way the blue of Rodney’s eyes would have darkened and turned almost gray at the sudden onslaught of emotion, the way he probably cleared his throat and mumbled something nonsensical about property rights and prior work obligations, voice cracking despite his best efforts, and most of all the way he would have retreated back to his apartment and probably stared blankly into space until either it had been time for work or exhaustion overwhelmed him and he slept.
Radek doesn’t realize his hands are clenched until his hands begin to physically ache. He looks down at the white-knuckled fists, blinking in bemusement before forcing himself to relax and discard the tension in his hands. While he’s at it, he should probably also banish the tightness between his shoulder-blades as well.
He looks around the apartment -- cluttered to the brim and yet empty of anything that truly mattered -- and squares his shoulders. “Well, if Rodney gets Atlantis back for us all, I suppose the least I can do is get him back his cat,” he announces. He ignores the dark whisper in the back of his head that reminds him that Rodney will have only gotten Atlantis back for those expedition members who hadn’t infuriated General Landry.
It will not be an easy matter, stealing Rodney’s cat back from the neighbor. For one thing, Radek doesn’t remember the cat’s name or where in the apartment complex the cat-hoarding neighbor lives. All he knows is what the neighbor looks like -- Rodney had talked nonstop about her after the incident with the Mist Planet, repeating the details over and over again so that Radek couldn’t help but remember them.
“She had this dark hair that while I prefer blondes, really, worked for her. Those long legs and tight-fitting clothes didn’t hurt either,” McKay said, a half-lecherous, half-wistful look on his face as he stared off into space.
Radek rolled his eyes, for McKay had already described the woman three times during the few hours they’ve been working together, and, well, Radek really didn’t care about some woman who apparently would only date McKay in a made-up reality. “Yes, yes, she was beautiful, McKay, so you have told me. Several times now. Now can we get back to fixing the saline tanks?”
After a quick survey of the rest of Rodney’s home, Radek finds a photograph of a brown tabby stuck on the refrigerator. There is no name on the back of the photo and he can only hope that this is a picture of Rodney’s latest pet, not yet another picture of a childhood one.
It seems the Fates are smiling upon him, however, because he steps out of the apartment just in time to see a woman matching Rodney’s description of the neighbor coming out of Room 320. She is dressed in a tank top and sweatpants, apparently about to go for a morning run, and curses softly under her breath when a brown blur streaks between her legs and darts off. The brown blur turns out to be a cat that seems content to ignore the woman’s calls of, “Clarke!”
The name stirs something in Radek’s memory. After all, hadn’t John rolled his eyes and muttered, “Nerd,” under his breath upon learning that Rodney had named his cat after Arthur Clarke?
The woman looks up and notices him. For a moment, her face darkens with uncertainty and then she smiles at him and he finds himself saying a quiet, “Hello,” and smiling tentatively back.
She keeps smiling at him, though her expression shifts to one of curiosity. Radek suddenly realizes how this must look -- a disheveled man wearing the same rumpled clothes he’s been in for the past two days, hair probably imitating Einstein in its level of mussed disarray, standing in Rodney’s doorway.
“Didn’t see McKay come home tonight,” she says, and if her curiosity hadn’t been obvious before it is blatant now as she peers at him and waits for an answer.
He thinks quickly, rummaging around in his weary head for a suitable excuse that wouldn’t leave Rodney bitching about how Radek had convinced his neighbors that he was having some gay affair. “He didn’t,” he says after a moment, smiling wanly. “He was called away on business and didn’t realize until he was halfway to New York that he’d left some vital paperwork in his apartment.”
She smiles wryly at that. “Good luck finding anything in that clutter,” she says.
Radek wonders when she had been in Rodney’s apartment. After a moment, he mentally shakes his head at his stupidity. Well, she’d taken care of Clarke back before Atlantis, obviously. “Yes. It will be quite an ordeal,” Radek says, when silence falls and he realizes she’s expecting a response.
She laughs, a clear, bright sound that makes Radek understand a little why Rodney had talked about her after the Mist Planet, and grins at him for another moment before she glances at her watch. “Crap. If I’m going to get my morning jog in, I need to get started. Good luck with the paperwork!”
“Thank you,” he calls after her, and she waves at him over her shoulder. As soon as she jogs out of sight, he heads in the direction he saw Clarke dash, hoping that the cat hasn’t ventured too far.
Clarke turns out to be in the parking lot, rubbing up against a tire of a Jeep with a smashed-in headlight as though claiming the vehicle as his. He purrs loudly when Radek approaches and even allows Radek to pick him up. Obviously cats don’t get their personalities from their owners like everyone claims because Clarke goes limp in Radek’s arms and keeps up the contented purring all the way back into Rodney’s apartment. Then again, perhaps Clarke’s merely been away from Rodney long enough to become mellow.
Once inside, Clarke wiggles in a way reminiscent of the way Radek’s nephew did whenever he wanted down. He immediately begins to investigate every inch of the living room when Radek sets him down. The brown tip of the cat’s tail twitches wildly, back and forth, back and forth, until Radek realizes he’s been mesmerized by the frantic motion and tears his gaze away. Do cats have a long-term memory? Radek idly wonders if Clarke remembers the years before Rodney had gone to Antarctica and Atlantis and whether or not the cat will recognize Rodney when he returns. He finds himself hoping so, if just for the expression on Rodney’s face when Clarke greets him.
After that, there is just the matter of poking around Rodney’s closets to find the old kitty litter box and a cat food dish. He peeks into Rodney’s refrigerator to see if there’s anything edible for Clarke and himself (there isn’t -- does Rodney eat out every meal of the day?). In the end, he gives up and composes a grocery list so that he, the turtles, and Clarke will survive until Rodney comes back, victorious. Because Rodney will. He always does when it comes down to the eleventh hour.
First, however, Radek is going to take a nap, ease the gritty sensation he feels every time he closes his eyes and lessen the weariness that makes his bones ache. He stretches out on the couch, which is surprisingly comfortable, and closes his eyes.
A moment later, his eyes are open and he curses softly and fervently in his native tongue as something heavy suddenly presses down on his stomach. Numerous claws dig into his skin through his shirt, tiny little pinpricks of discomfort.
Radek glares at Clarke, who looks innocently back and makes himself comfortable on Radek’s stomach. “Now I see what they mean about pets taking on their owners’ characteristics,” he mutters with a final baleful look towards the cat. Clarke ignores him, not budging an inch, and Radek can’t really bring himself to care. If he is honest with himself, the warm, heavy, purring weight is a bit, well, soothing. He closes his eyes once more and lets the rumbling purrs fill his ears until it slowly lulls him to sleep.
He steps off of the Daedalus and takes in a deep breath of freedom. The scent of the sea fills his senses and for a moment Radek just stands there, enjoying the feeling of being right where he’s supposed to be. Earth, Brno, Masaryk are behind him now and at this moment he can’t find it in himself to miss any particular aspect of them.
Someone jostles him and he opens his eyes to see Major Lorne shoot him a half-apologetic, half-commiserating grin before the major disappears into the swarm of personnel who are also emerging from the Daedalus.
Radek takes in another deep breath, tasting a hint of salt in the back of his throat, and then he joins the rest of the personnel in dragging their belongings back to their old rooms and settling back into the city.
He’s halfway through unpacking when someone impatiently knocks on his door. When he opens the door, a familiar scowl greets him.
Rodney all but vibrates with impatience as his gaze sweeps Radek’s room, taking in the boxes of belongings. “You’re unpacking?” he says, incredulous, as though he cannot believe Radek’s doing something so useless.
Radek rolls his eyes. “Yes, Rodney. That is what most people do when--”
Rodney flaps a hand at him. “Yes, yes, most people unpack their belongings. But most people don’t have a city that’s recently been mucked around with by the Ancients, now do they?” He doesn’t wait for Radek’s response, just starts back out into the corridor as though expecting Radek to automatically follow him.
Radek looks down at the shirt he has in his hands -- scientist blue -- and folds it, setting it down on the bed before he follows after Rodney. The city hums quietly under his feet, a soft, continuous undertone to Rodney’s quick-paced explanations of what he’s been doing while waiting for the rest of the personnel to get back to Atlantis.
He smiles at Rodney’s back, letting the sounds wash over him and enjoying Rodney’s presence for the first time in weeks. He really should have known that Rodney wouldn’t come back to Earth after wresting Atlantis back from the Replicators. His plan, even before Clarke had slipped out the door and headed back over to Room 320, had been doomed to failure. Still, as he quickens his pace to walk beside Rodney and watch those blue eyes gleam with excitement, he doesn’t regret making the attempt.
When the Stargate program is finally declassified Radek knows that it will be John’s team and Elizabeth that everyone remembers and talks about. They are, after all, the ones who acted, who moved forward before anyone could leave them behind. Not many will be concerned with the quieter moments, when it was up to Rodney and Radek to produce sometimes ingenious and oftentimes outrageous plans to keep the city afloat and functioning each and every single day.
He cannot really bring himself to be concerned about how Earth’s descendants will look upon him, though. Keeping pace with Rodney, their shoulders bumping lightly, Radek knows that this, this is far more important.