Summary: When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie...
Written for pierson for the Czech is in the Male Thing-a-Thon, whose request was curve, earthy, darkness; a happy ending; not picky about pairings.
The night was warm and heavy with the scent of the huge purple flowers that hung, bell like, from the vines creeping over the building behind him. They'd been quiescent and still during the heat of the day but had bloomed as night had fallen, unfurling and welcoming the light of the moons with their spectacular blossoms. It had rained through the day, although it had stopped as dusk had fallen, and each step Evan Lorne took crushed the grass under his feet so that the scent of that too - rich and earthy - rose up to greet him.
The clearing around the house - or what remained of it - was still and quiet. A whole, empty planet around them, where nothing stirred. At least nothing sentient, not any more. Somewhere to the east, something called out and was answered - something small and harmless, wending its way through the forest around them. Whatever fate had fallen on the inhabitants of this planet, it hadn't come from the local wildlife and there was nothing here for the Wraith, not anymore.
Evan lifted his head anyway, tilting it to listen out for more sounds, for any sign that this planet was anything but what their sensors had already told them - abandoned and empty except for an energy signature that could, possibly, be indicative of Ancient tech.
He didn't hear anything to cause him any concern - just something else, a sharp, brief cry, also to the east but closer this time. It ended suddenly, something small, something caught and eaten. He wasn't much for symbolism but his fingers tightened on the stock of his weapon for a moment anyway before he went back to listening and thinking and watching the moons traverse the sky.
The moons, plural. The moons in the sky, hanging over a lifeless planet like they had for uncounted millennia. More, maybe measured in billions of years as the planet wound its way through this other galaxy.
No, not lifeless. He couldn't think of the planet as 'lifeless' when everywhere around him was teeming with life - growing, scurrying, living and dying under the light of an alien sun and the strange warmth of alien moons. Purple flowers and lush dark not quite grass and a forest of strange, squat trees. There just wasn't anyone around to appreciate it. Not anymore. No one but him, treading out a slow circuit around the abandoned house where his team now slept.
Evan had always been a traveller, even if his journeys before joining the Stargate programme had been measured in miles rather than light years. He'd criss-crossed America from a young age, an air force brat following the path of his father's career. Then he'd criss-crossed the globe, following his own path even if that path still followed his father's.
The first time he'd stepped through the 'Gate, he'd expected whole new worlds to open up before him, a slew of different things to see, to experience. The first planet - the first alien planet - whose soil his feet had touched had been achingly disappointing, like New England in the fall. He'd felt a greater sense of alienness - and alienation - in the outback of Australia, where rocks and scrub extended for miles and miles and - in some places - were red and gold rather than yellow and grey than he had in a forest that was too like the forests of home. The Ancients may have seeded a hundred, a thousand different worlds but they'd seeded them all the same and at times each planet seemed a mirror of the last. And all seemed a mirror of Earth.
Say what you liked about the Goa'uld but at least they'd had a sense of style, even if it had tended to the 'upmarket brothel' end of the spectrum.
It had been six planets down the line before Evan had come across his first 'alien' life form and it had been just as disappointing, resembling nothing more than a large, lumbering rat, albeit one that the natives had herded and roasted. Evan had eaten worse - a lot worse in the case of some Mess Halls - and for sheer 'what the fuck'-ed ness when it came to the myriad of weird and wonderful forms that life could come in, he'd preferred kangaroos.
Those herds had been central to the planet's inhabitants' lives, so central that the sight of them in fields around the village nearest the 'Gate stopped being remarkable after a few miles of trudging along rutted tracks with a heavy backpack strapped to you. The villagers had made blankets from its hide, woven sturdy rope from its downy 'whiskers' and beaten the moisture from its stomach to form the storage sacks that they'd used for everything from making cheese to storing wine. After finding that out, it was almost impossible to see those creatures as anything more than a cross between an oddly shaped cow and an even more oddly shaped goat; a cross that just happened to smell worse than either one of them.
Evan had always been a traveller, but he'd never been a particularly romantic one.
He was reconsidering that attitude now.
It was the moons. It had to be the moons. Not just because there were two of them but because they were so utterly, alienly beautiful. The sight of them even moved someone like Evan, who prided himself on being as pragmatic as possible. He'd like to think that this sudden appreciation for scenery was his mother's influence re-emerging now that he'd rediscovered his love of painting - buried for too long because he'd been too young and stupid to think there was a need for it in the Air Force - but it had to be the moons. It had to be.
When you thought about it that way it was kind of a weird effect for two large chunks of rock, orbiting in a vacuum.
There was something about them, though, about the way that they hung in the darkness above. The first one was large and pale, pock-marked in the same way that Earth's moon was, with the debris of a painful, meteorite strewn birth. But it was larger, so much larger than the Earth's only moon, bright and brilliant in the night sky. Behind it, hanging shyly and half hidden like a child behind its mother's skirts, was the second, a curve of blue underneath, smaller but even more beautiful and smooth in a way that spoke of melted and refrozen ice or maybe gas rather than rock. Both of them together flooded the whole clearing with light, nowhere near as bright as the sun this world swirled around, but enough to leave shadows all around, gathering deep purple and an even deeper, smoky blue in the corners.
Zelenka had said that the smaller of the two moons orbited around the larger while both were orbiting around the planet. Evan wondered what they'd look like, what it would be like to watch that slow dance take place, night after night. He wondered too what the natives of this world had called them, whether they'd marvelled at them the way he was now, or whether to them they'd be as familiar and banal as a forest full of deciduous trees was to him.
Even Zelenka couldn't answer those sorts of questions, not that Evan had asked at the time, no with his hands on the control and Zelenka's absent comments sounding in his ear. Zelenka had never been a comfortable flyer, and so he had concentrated on what he knew, talking about the physics of movement, the fact that one circled the other, around and again, never ceasing, taking comfort in the familiarity of cold, hard science. Then he'd paused, staring out of the front window of the puddle jumper as they made their slow descent towards the planet from the Space Gate, watching as both moons first grew larger and then slid away.
His eyes had been large behind his glasses but not with fear, not this time. Evan wasn't even sure if it had been wonder, not entirely. Perhaps Zelenka had just been thinking scientist type thoughts, calculating gravitational components and orbital speeds in his head as he waited for them to land. Whatever it was that had been swirling around in that complicated brain of his, his expression had stayed peaceful and, in a weird way, that had given Evan a measure of peace too.
It was restful dealing with Zelenka after having to deal with McKay's pointed and incessant sarcasm, or Parrish's intense and vocal interest in plant life of all things, even with the nervous flying. Restful but never boring. The man hid a temper behind that affable and pleasant expression and Evan had never really been averse to the odd bout of fireworks every now and then. But it felt good to think that perhaps, just perhaps, Zelenka had been quiet then because he'd felt the same sort of wonder as Evan was feeling now.
Behind him, something else stirred and his fingers twitched anew for that split second before he recognised the sound. His mind automatically matched the cadence of footsteps now crunching through the undergrowth to his mental inventory of the people he watched over. He wasn't surprised when Zelenka came to stand next to him. He wasn't even surprised that Zelenka was awake when nothing seemed amiss, not when the night was still and quiet and alien.
He asked the perfunctory question anyway, the words rising rote to his lips.
"Everything okay, Dr Z?"
Zelenka blinked sleepily at him, running his fingers through his disordered hair while his brain processed Evan's question.
"Yes, yes. Everything is fine, Major. It is just..."
He waved his hand vaguely at the sky, at the clearing all around them where the not-quite-grass glistened silver in the moonlight.
Evan kept his tone just the right side of sympathetic even as he couldn't quite resist the urge to step closer. He kept his eyes scanning the undergrowth, refusing to be quite that distracted.
Zelenka made a little sound, part sleepy and part demurral. Evan had seen the man snap awake in an instant, even if he wasn't military trained, heading out of his room towards the next emergency while still pulling his shirt on, down over a surprisingly broad and hairy chest. It was amusing to see him now, all sleep ruffled with no emergency on the horizon, having the liberty to just be that half dazed and content.
"It is beautiful, is it not?"
Evan dragged his attention back to the moons rather than watching Zelenka stretch and scratch at his belly sleepily.
"Yeah, I was just thinking that."
Zelenka nodded, as though he'd expected nothing else. He took another couple of steps forward, eyes fixed on the sky, not paying any attention to where he was going. Evan shook his head, by now used to the lack of attention that the geeks paid to their surroundings when their attention was caught by something bright and shiny. Even Zelenka - god bless him - wasn't entirely immune. He kept his hand hovering by his side, ready to catch Zelenka if he tripped over the shadow he was heading for.
It wasn't needed - Zelenka neatly sidestepped around the stone bench, settling onto it instead with a thump. His gaze never dropped and, after a moment - a moment to indulge in rolling his eyes despite his amusement even if it was Zelenka - Evan dropped down to sit next to him.
It had been someone's garden, once. Or something like that, anyway. Somewhere for someone else to sit out on a night like this maybe and stargaze. He wondered if they'd once cultivated the flowers that now covered their empty home. Grew vegetables. Tended giant sheep-cow-rat things. Now it was just a blip in the encroaching forest, a clearing and a building that would be eaten up by purple flowers and small things that screamed and hunted in the night.
Evan reckoned it had only been abandoned two, maybe three years, if that. Since the Wraith had awakened this most recent time, with a hunger in their belly that not even a whole planet like this one could appease.
It was easier to think of it as abandoned rather than that the inhabitants had been ripped from it. The forest might not forgive but it forgot. Forgot and erased all of the traces of its lost inhabitants in a few short years.
"You think they named them? The moons?"
He hadn't meant to ask and had to swallow down his embarrassment when the words came out anyway, rubbing the back of his neck and not meeting Zelenka's eyes. They were fixed on him, he could tell. The hairs on the nape of his neck were standing up and that only happened when he was being watched. Being watched or freezing his ass off on an ice planet somewhere.
"I think they did, yes." Zelenka's voice was gravelly with sleep. "Perhaps not if there were one - we call the moon the moon, of course, although is 'the moon' not a name? But with two... Perhaps they named them to tell them apart. It would make sense. To name them and tell tales about them. Like... like the man in the moon or..."
"The parent and child."
He still didn't look at Zelenka, wondering what had come over him. Maybe it was the moons. Maybe having two of them made you twice as loony as the one was supposed to on Earth, at least when it was full.
Zelenka made another one of those sounds beside him, thoughtful and maybe a little amused. But not at his expense, at least Evan didn't so.
"Perhaps they did, Major. A parent and a child, one always running around the other's feet, perhaps?"
There was a sly, jovial tone in Zelenka's voice, one that made Evan smile and finally steal a sideways glance at him.
"Sneaking around his mom's back to steal a cookie every now and then."
"You think it a boy, then?"
Seemed Zelenka couldn't argue with that one. Or perhaps he thought it was an indulgence too far for the loony Major to his left. They settled into companionable silence for a moment.
"They are still beautiful," Zelenka said eventually, a little wistfully. "Just... so..."
It was Zelenka's turn to glance at him. The moonlight glinted off his glasses, turning them opaque. He could tell that Zelenka's brow was furrowed thoughtfully, even without seeing his eyes. He didn't need to see Zelenka's eyes. He was becoming familiar with many if not most of the man's expressions by now.
"You..." Zelenka stalled, apparently at a loss for words, which was a first in Evan's experience. The man might not chatter like Parrish or rant like McKay but he was never short of a pointed comment.
He took pity on him, or maybe he just cut him off at the pass, before Zelenka could leap to any conclusions and start looking for hair growing in awkward places or something. Which begged the question of whether the natives of this planet had had the equivalent of a werewolf legend.
"You know, the first planet I ever stepped foot on looked just like Earth?"
The sound Zelenka made this time was thoughtful as his brain started to analyse Evan's statement. "The Ancients were very good at terra forming from what we have been able to tell."
"Kind of dull though."
That startled a laugh out of Zelenka, and Evan settled back on the bench, obscurely pleased to have done that much.
"They do seem to have been a little on the... shall we say, traditional side. And a little... egotistical."
"You think so?"
Evan had meant the question ironically but Zelenka answered him seriously anyway.
"They wished to seed the galaxy with beings who looked just like them but who were, to their eyes at least, lesser than them." He shrugged in that particularly East European, fatalistic way. "I do not believe that they were above manipulating anything else to fit in with the way that they believed things should be, including the worlds they seeded."
Evan watched him for a long minute, taking in how the man stared up at the sky, his body still and contained for once instead of bustling and busy.
"Kind of weird to think that the only reason we've got two arms and two legs is because they did."
That comment earned him another huff of laughter, Zelenka bringing his hands up to watch them move comically.
"We have two eyes as well, Major."
"Yes. Yes, we do."
They shared a long look, also sharing the amusement that went with it. It stretched out until it was as long as the shadows in that silvery glade, and then Zelenka finally coughed and looked away. Maybe it was the moonlight, but Evan thought that perhaps the man's cheeks were a little darker than they had been before.
Zelenka cleared his throat, sounding a little nervous. "Have you thought of painting it?"
Evan's eyebrows raised. He hadn't been aware that his hobby was common knowledge, although given Atlantis' propensity to gossip he shouldn't have been surprised. He wasn't quite sure how he felt about it being part of the rumour mill, though. It felt... It felt more than a little weird.
"I..." He shrugged, aware of Zelenka watching him. "It's been a long time since I painted seriously. I'm not sure that I could do it justice."
As cop outs went, it was a pretty pathetic one and it seemed Zelenka wasn't going to let him get away with it, at least not judging by the way that the man was still watching him closely.
"I think that perhaps you could," Zelenka said seriously. "I think that, perhaps, Major, behind all your brisk, American military ... how do you phrase it... spit and polish, you have a... poetic soul."
There was no doubting this time that Zelenka was blushing - not even the way that the moonlight washed everything out could hide that - but the man didn't drop his eyes, not this time.
"I would... I would very much like to see your paintings, if you would extend that honour to me."
There was a joke in there somewhere, something on the tip of his tongue about etchings, but even if he'd been tempted to take the easy route out, he couldn't do that with Zelenka watching him so seriously.
Maybe there really was something in the moonlight, or maybe he'd just decided that for once he'd prefer being a romantic traveller instead of not.
He nodded, swallowing nervously before he could get out, "I think... I think that could be arranged, Doc."
Zelenka nodded, folding his arms together the way he did when he was thinking about something important. He looked away from Evan, whose own cheeks were starting to burn, and back into the night sky where the small blue moon was moving on its slow, leisurely circuit around its parent.
"It really is very beautiful," he said thoughtfully. "And very real, in a way that seeing them as just images or through the window of the puddle jumper is not."
Evan got it. "Less like Spaceflight Simulator, more like 'we're really here on an alien planet, under an alien sky.'"
Zelenka nodded again, giving him a small, gentle smile. "Yes. That is it exactly. Real, like you can..." He unfolded his arms, one hand making a gentle and abortive move towards the sky. "Like you can touch." His voice was still wistful, but it was a wistfulness as gentle as his smile, and strangely content.
Evan took a deep breath, holding the alien air from an alien world with two moons and purple flowers as big as his head deep in his lungs.
It was real, and it was beautiful and - for once - he felt the wonder of it in the way he hadn't really felt it before.
He let out the breath slowly, letting the peace of it all settle somewhere inside him.
"You should get some sleep, Dr Z. Long walk tomorrow to get to your energy signature."
Zelenka nodded, again smiling at him and tilting his head up towards him so that the moon - the moons - caught his glasses. Evan didn't need to see his eyes this time either - he could easily visualise the puckish expression that would be in them.
"Radek," he said firmly.
Evan's lips curled into a small, self-satisfied smile. "Goodnight, Radek."
Zelenka - Radek - nodded again, seeming just as pleased. "Goodnight, Evan. I will see you in the morning." He rested one hand briefly on Evan's shoulder as he rose to his feet. It could have been for support, or it could have been for another reason entirely. Either way, that brief contact felt good.
Evan watched Radek amble back into what had once been someone's home. It was easier to forget that now, when the flowers around and over the doorway swayed in the sudden, gentle night breeze. It wasn't until Radek's chuckle drifted back to him that he realised that as he'd watched the man walk - face still turned up towards the sky and eyes fixed on the moons - he'd been humming 'when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie...'
He chuckled himself, turning away as Radek disappeared behind the curtain of flowers and settling his hand once more on the stock of his weapon. He rose to his feet and started another slow circuit around the clearing, eyes and ears alert for anything out there that wasn't small and harmless, waiting to be eaten rather than waiting to eat them.
The night was warm and two moons hung in the sky. And the air...
The air was heavy with a myriad of possibilities.
Chapter End Notes:
Attribution: The words that Lorne hums to himself and the title are from 'That's Amore', written by Jack Brooks with the copyright also being held by Paramount Music Corp.