tdancinghands (tdancinghands) wrote,

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"Touchstone Moment"

Title: Touchstone Moment
Author: Taylor Dancinghands
Characters: McKay, Zelenka
Category: freindship, possibly pre-slash
Rating: G -all ages
Archive: Generally yes, but please let me know where

Summary: Radek really doesn't like the water, and he's got good reason not to.

Spoilers/Season: "Rising" 1 & 2

Author's notes: I just *love* speculating about Radek's past...

Betas: Thanx to ankhmutes for her usual excellent advice and encouragement!

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, never will, not claiming to. Just wanna play with 'em a little. Can't I, can't I, huh?

Touchstone Moment

by Taylor Dancinghands

The event horizon really did look like water -much too much like water for his comfort. It was true, though, that Dr. Radek Zelenka was one of the few people on earth who knew and understood exactly why the event horizon of an interplanetary wormhole looked a lot like water, so he worked to hold that thought in his mind as he approached. The fact that it was not just an interplanetary wormhole, but an intergalactic one, troubled him not at all.

He knew he'd been told not to loiter once he'd reached the other side, but the sheer physics of what he'd just accomplished all but overwhelmed him once Radek realized that he'd arrived. It took him a moment or two to realize the significance of where it was that he'd arrived at, too.

"Once again, do not stand there and gawk when you get here. Get out from in front of the gate and out of the way!" The voice belonged, unmistakably, to Dr. Rodney McKay, his new boss, and already it was beginning to grate. Still, it was good advice, and Radek moved away, just in time to avoid having Drs. Parrish and Simpson collide with him.

Once he was out of danger of being run over, Radek went back to gawking. He figured he had just cause. Glancing around at the architecture slowly being revealed where lights were flickering on here and there, Radek saw countless potential discoveries waiting for an engineer and physicist who was just a little too curious for his own good.

He also noticed a pile of backpacks and assorted gear forming in the center of the gate room, and Radek realized that he too could get rid of his own, fairly heavy, pack. Relieved, at last, of his burden, Radek took a deep breath of the air which, he realized, no living creature had breathed for over ten thousand years, and considered his next move.

Dr. McKay's highly generalized instructions to his science staffs, given just before they'd left earth, had been to, "look for important stuff and try to stay out of trouble." He'd elaborated on the latter by suggesting that they not venture out alone, and that they stick close to anyone wearing a uniform and carrying a gun. Considering the first directive, Radek looked about for anything that seemed like it might be 'important stuff', in the immediate area.

Right away his eye fell on what was almost certainly a control room, just ahead, one level above the gate room. All the 'important stuff' here, however, was already being seen to by Drs. McKay, Grodin and Weir, Radek noted, and so he would have to venture beyond the gate room to find anything important of his own. It was with McKay's second directive in mind that Radek spotted two military types off-loading their own bulging packs, and approached them.

"Promiňte -excuse me," he said a little hesitantly, "may I accompany you?"

"Sure," said the red haired soldier Radek had spotted first. "Just be sure to stay out of the way in case something goes down."

"Goes down?" Radek wondered how much trouble he was likely to get into from not understanding American military slang.

"In case there's trouble," the other one, a dark skinned young man who seemed barely old enough to be out of grammar school, said. "Like if you see us start to shoot our guns or anything."

"Ah," replied Radek, trying not to feel patronized.

He followed the two of them as they made their way out of the gate room and into one of the adjacent corridors, stepping carefully in their wake. They spoke little and hardly acknowledged Radek at all, but he was just as happy to remain silent. There was no point in alerting something untoward to their presence, and Radek had no words, in any language, for what he was seeing. Everything they encountered was new and unfamiliar and he had no idea what any of it was for.

The windows changed all that.

They'd none of them had any idea of where this city they'd landed in was located until the bank of massive windows came into view, and what they revealed was nothing that Radek had expected. They were under water -very, very deep under water from what Radek could see, possibly at the bottom of the ocean. They were all trapped beneath measureless tons of water and the realization awakened an old but powerful terror in Radek Zelenka's heart.

It had been long, long ago, but still Radek found himself abruptly returned to that moment, with the water pouring through the broken windshield and his little brother screaming helplessly from the back seat. He'd tried to reach him but the current had torn him away and out of the wrecked car, alone. He had no recollection of being cast up on the shore miles down stream; his last memory of that awful day had been his little brother's face pressed up against the window, trapped in the sinking car, just as Radek was trapped now, in a ten thousand year old alien city.

Frozen to the spot, Radek did not notice that his military escort had gone on ahead, and they failed to notice that they'd left the scientist behind. His memories held him, trapped, terrified and helpless, as much as the sea outside, and so thoroughly that he failed to notice that someone else had entered that stretch of corridor.

"Ah... you there!"

Neither the words not the voice registered on Radek's consciousness. The only voice he heard was his brother's, terrified and long dead, reminding him that he'd left a part of himself behind in that car at the bottom of the Labe River that day, and that it was there still.

"Hey! You! Dr.... oh, god dammit..."

Something about the grating quality of the voice called itself to Radek's attention, but he wasn't sure why, or how it could possibly be important when he was trapped at the bottom the sea like this.

"Helloooo! Hey there... Yes you!... Four eyes! Snap out of it!"

"What?!" Jarred at last by the sheer impertinence of the words, Radek turned abruptly away from the windows to face the owner of the familiar, abrasive voice. Though he'd heard the term before, Radek had never had this particular epithet applied to him personally. Naturally, it stood to reason that it was Dr. Rodney McKay who'd done the honors.

"Sorry," said his boss, a little sheepishly, which surprised Radek. "I was trying to get your attention but, well... ah, genius here, but not so good with names."

"What was the reason you wished to get my attention?" Radek asked, still aware of the terrifying vision at his back, but kept from it by McKay's demanding presence.

"I, ah, just... I recognized the look."

"What look?" Radek was having a hard time making out the mix of emotions on McKay's face as he struggled for an answer. The look of self effacement he seemed to see there now was an altogether unfamiliar one, and witnessing Dr. Rodney McKay actually at a loss for words was unimaginable.

"The, ah... rabbit in the headlights look?" McKay fluttered his hands uncertainly. "I, um... I happen to be familiar with the look myself... having it, I mean."

"How... how do you mean?" Radek had an idea what the man might be getting at, but he could scarcely believe it.

"Yes, well," said McKay, clearing his throat awkwardly. "Really not fond of small spaces, myself," he said at last. "Convinced I can feel the air getting stale, if you know what I mean. Not too crazy about this, either," he waved towards the windows at Radek's back, "but, ah, I've been keeping myself pretty busy."

Radek realized that his mouth had been hanging open for a good thirty seconds before he thought to close it. Never had he heard Rodney McKay make such a confession, and never had he heard anyone else speak of any such thing either. He could not, in all decency, fail to offer something of his own in return, no matter that he had not spoken of it since he'd left home, decades ago.

"I am," he began at last, "not particularly fond of the water."

"Damn," said Rodney after a moment, without a trace of his usual biting wit. "This must suck for you."

"You could say," replied Radek with a weak and unconvincing laugh. It trailed off into silence and he felt strangely compelled to fill it.

"Was... trapped in a car... that had crashed into a river," he said hesitantly. "My uncle was drunk, should never have been driving, but my dědeček... my grandfather, told us to go with him, my little brother and I... and I was only one to escape."

The silence that followed was oddly comfortable -reverential rather than awkward.

"Damn," said McKay again, softly, nothing but honest sympathy in his voice. There was another long moment of thoughtful silence, and then McKay spoke again.

"You know, some of the knuckleheads from your division -you are head of engineering, right?" Radek nodded, amused that although the man could not remember his name, he knew his field.

"Good," he continued, "anyway, they claim to have discovered a room full of 'spaceships'," McKay made the quotes around the word very distinct, "and I was gong to go see for myself, but you're the one who really ought to be checking them out."

"I suppose so," said Radek, thinking, 'spaceships?' There are spaceships?

"From what I understand they're in a nice big room, with no windows too," McKay went on, "so that's definitely where you belong. I've got more than enough work waiting for me in the control room anyhow."

"That sounds... quite reasonable," Radek said, and then Dr. McKay told him how to find this room.

Walking into the cavernous space that would later come to be known as the 'jumper bay' was the moment that Radek Zelenka's life changed. It was the moment that everything else in his life had been a prelude to, though he could never have guessed it till that moment. Certainly several other momentous things occurred that day, none of which Radek would ever forget, and several of which could easily be considered life changing, but they came and went. The puddle jumpers would become part of who he was for the rest of his life.

Still, before the day was over Radek had to endure the terrifying moment when McKay called to let him know that his worst fears were coming true -that the city was flooding- and that he had mere minutes to figure out how to make those spaceships fly because they might be their only means of escape. Then there was the moment when -as all hope seemed lost- Radek had felt the city tremble and then free herself from the shackles that held her at the bottom of the sea. He'd stumbled, with the rest of the engineers and technicians working in the jumper bay, towards the windows then, in time to see the city shake off her watery shroud and leap, gleaming and triumphant, up into the sunlight.

That was a moment Radek would never forget for as long as he lived, and later he would try to tell his sister about it, even as he knew that the military censors would never let her hear the whole of it, and that his words could never do it justice anyhow. Instead, when he saw her in person later still, he would tell her the thing that he only realized some days later. When Radek Zelenka had risen from the bottom of the sea with the ancient city of Atlantis, that part of him trapped in a moment of horror at the bottom of the Labe river, decades ago, had broken free as well.

Radek would never be entirely comfortable around water, and he would never learn how to swim, but he would never be drawn back to that moment again either -not even when McKay had found himself in unpleasantly similar circumstances and it had fallen to him to get his boss out. Radek had shaken off those chains of the past, just as Atlantis had freed herself of hers, and while she had become a human inhabited city that day, dwelling under the sun and sky, Radek had become a spaceship engineer.

Just as the Ancient city had come to life and shone under the sun's bright rays, Radek felt himself come alive, in ways he had not since he was a young man, as he immersed himself in the magnificent and elegant systems that it was now his job to decipher. Atlantis had become his home, his life, and his salvation that day, and he'd known all of that by the time that first day ended.

It was a while before Radek realized the nature of the other gift he'd received on that day, though in the end it was nearly as important as all the others. Standing before that terrifying wall of water, and confessing their fears to one another, Dr. Rodney McKay and Dr. Radek Zelenka had begun a friendship that would mean more to both of them, perhaps even than the Ancient city who's secrets they would chase together. Thankfully, they were never made to choose.


(c) T. Dancinghands 2007
Tags: rodney/radek, sga

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