Notes: Written for settiai for the Weir/Zelenka Thing-a-Thon challenge. The words were: rain, friendship, alone and the request was in the beginning.
Thank you to Cedara for the beta read through.
-- "Sea-Song." by Norah M. Holland (1876-1925)
What little peace there was to be found amongst the hustle and bustle of Atlantis, she found here, in the soft susurration of the rain against the water and the quiet of an out of the way balcony, rather than the solitude of her office, separated by glass from her people. They were to be treasured, these stolen, quiet moments when she stepped outside and slid the door shut behind her, and she doled them out to herself, rewards for crises diverted, another day survived.
For most of her people, anyway.
The rain this time was gentle and blessedly cool against her face. She tilted it upwards, feeling the drops curve down over the line of her cheek, spatter against her closed lids and catch in her eyelashes; she hadn't known Griffin well enough to need to pretend that rain was all that wet her cheeks. She'd done that too many times before, pretended that it was rain or spray from the sea, salty and bitter. But though the grief this time was muted - distant and arms length - the weather suited her mood; not stormy enough to be angry, not dark and bleak enough to be despair and not the icy, driving rain of fear, slippery and treacherous.
Just the slightly melancholy soft patter of water dripping from the balustrade and the soft, slow shush of the waves beneath her perch.
There was a beauty, though, in the silver of the sky, shot through as it was with watery sunlight. Something so perfectly unearthly about it that it made her heart both ache and sing with it. She stretched her arms along the railing as far as they would reach, spreading her fingers wide as though she could snag the breeze that brushed between them, and watched the water where it shallowed on the edges of her city, moving from deep blue to pale green.
It was easy, at times like this, to ignore the chill of the wet metal soaking through her top and cooling her skin. Easy just to sink into the moment and let it all wash away for a while. At least until the soft, lulling hush of the waves was countered by the low whoosh of the door behind her.
She straightened up, already resigned to no longer being alone.
Somehow Radek managed to make her name sound like an apology and she swallowed a smile, turning to face him and crossing her arms over her chest to hide the damp patch that had formed there.
Perhaps that move sent the wrong signal, her body language coming across as far more defensive that she intended, because his gaze flitted away from her for a second and when it settled back on her, the smile that accompanied it was rueful.
"I am sorry to bother you," he said, nervous fingers pushing his glasses further up his nose.
"You aren't bothering me, Radek," she hastened to reassure him, the diplomat in her hoping that the warmth of her tone would compensate for the arms still folded across her chest.
But the warmth came easily with Radek, not practiced and polished until she didn't know where Elizabeth ended and Doctor Weir began.
"I was just... enjoying the view," she continued, pushing tendrils of damp hair back from where they clung to her skin.
John would have raised an eyebrow, glanced out across the never-ending ocean and given her a comical look. Rodney would have hesitated for merely a second before launching into the litany of things that had driven him to seek her out, his voice and hands snapping out to the same rapid beat.
Radek simply let his gaze rest where she'd gestured, tracking slowly across the horizon as he drank in the soft, subtle colours of the ocean. He drifted closer to her, ignoring the datapad now clutched to his chest. It probably wasn't important, or no more important that the myriad of things that demanded her attention every day. Just be an excuse and she wondered if their friendship would ever reach the point where he no longer needed one to seek her out, to share a few moments of their day. Whether he'd ever feel that the only excuse he needed was that he wanted to see her.
The thought was wistful, too wistful for someone grounded in practicalities, but she indulged herself for a moment, watching as he absentmindedly wiped the raindrops from his spectacles with his sleeve.
"How's Rodney?" she asked, once more leaning over the railing and not caring this time how it looked. Not in front of Radek.
"Rodney is... Rodney." He gave her another one of those rueful sideway smiles but it was tinged with the mutual affection that they held for the man. "Loud... annoying..."
"Alive." There was no censure in her tone, and after a brief hesitation he smiled again.
"Alive, most certainly."
"And back to normal."
He snorted. "He has already cursed my name and my ancestry, corrected Miko's work three times and is demanding coffee even though Carson has forbidden him any stimulants until the concussion he has has worn off."
"So... back to normal?"
She watched the smile dimple his cheek even though his gaze never left the ocean.
"I would say so, yes."
She nodded, letting her own eyes drift back to the skyline.
"Thank you." She murmured the words softly, not taking her eyes from the sea even when his head turned briefly towards her.
"I should have checked the engine again before they left for the mainland."
She turned to face him, wrapping her fingers lightly around the railing even though she didn't need an anchor, not for this. Not with Radek.
"Would you have caught it?"
The question was curious not condemning and with Radek that was enough. He gave it the consideration it deserved and no more.
"No," he said eventually. "Probably not. But perhaps it would have been enough to stop Rodney from nagging me now." Again, there was no heat in his tone, no more than the same absentminded affection tinged with irritation there always was when he spoke of Rodney. "I am not McKay. I do not..." He waved his hand in the air, suddenly ruffled, more, she suspected, by his inability to find the right words than the thought of the man still in the Infirmary. "I do not feel the need to be always saving the day, with the drama. I do what I can and I cannot do more, no matter how he nags."
He turned to face her, a small frown creasing the area between his brows.
"But I learn, yes? From my mistakes. And I... Usually I just do. I just do not do the drama!"
She couldn't help but smile at the frustration in his voice at the last. "Some of us," she said, her tone mock-serious, "appreciate the lack of drama, believe me." Perhaps that wasn't fair to Rodney, who, in spite of the complaints and the boasting and, yes, the drama, pulled through and pulled off miracles on a more regular basis than they had any right to ask of him. But Zelenka was no less of a godsend and he was far more restful company when she wanted this, these quiet moments.
"That wasn't what I was thanking you for."
He met her look, chewing slightly on his lip, his face suddenly guarded. "I... am not brave."
There was a lot that she could say to that, pep talks she had stored up for those who doubted. Explanations about how anyone who had come through the 'gate the first time, not knowing what they would find, was 'brave'; how there was no failure in feeling afraid. How being afraid and doing it anyway was probably more brave than anything. A thousand and one platitudes to soothe the fevered brow.
With Radek, she needed none of them. Needed nothing but the simple truth.
"Yes, you are."
She didn't know if he believed her, but the silence that fell between them felt comfortable rather than awkward.
"You see the way that the water changes, close to the city?" she began eventually, hesitant to break that silence, restful and close as it was, but somehow feeling the need to anyway. That hesitancy kept her voice low, and he had to lean in closer to her to hear, his arm warm where it rested against hers. "The way it lightens, I mean?"
He nodded. "Refraction, yes." His fingers gripped the railing mere inches from hers as he leant forward, staring down into the water with that same endearing frown between his eyes. If she moved her finger slightly, it would brush against his hand.
She tightened her grip, feeling the metal, cool and damp, beneath her fingertips.
"It fools me sometimes," she admitted. "It makes me think of the shore even though, intellectually, I know it's not. It's difficult to imagine that it doesn't shallow at the edges, that even though it looks like it does, below us there are thousands and thousands of feet of nothing but empty water. That you could hide Everest underneath us and we'd never know. There could be mountains down there that make Everest look like a hill but if you moved the city, the water would still be deep enough go back do being deep blue."
She wasn't sure what she was saying, exactly, what kind of connections were bubbling up from her psyche. But the idea of all of that water - all of that empty water - underneath them thrilled and terrified her at the same time. Like a lot of things did, all those depths where she could drown.
"With me, it is the seagulls," he said slowly, nodding his head thoughtfully and ignoring the light drizzle that misted up his glasses and was now working on plastering his usually unruly hair to his scalp. "Or the not-gulls, perhaps. A city next to the ocean... I expect them. And we have seen so few." He gave her a slightly self-deprecating smile. "I asked the biologists, and they talked of migratory paths and the fact that we have been here for so little time, relatively speaking. Ten thousand years under the ocean and then, poof!" He made a little upwards motion with his hand, his lips pursing in a way that made her grin.
"That there was still time for them to find and to colonise us even if they have not yet. I believe that Doctor Levinson said that I should 'give the blighters enough bloody time to find us'."
His impression sounded nothing like Adele Levinson, but it made her smile again anyway. Still smiling, she tilted her head upwards and tried to imagine it, imagine hundreds of white birds swirling around the spires around her, their cries carried on the wind.
Radek leant closer to her, dropping his voice confidingly. "If that happens, I do not intend to be on clean-up duty."
That startled a laugh from her, deep and rich, forced out of her as though it, too, had wings. In return she was gifted by a brilliant smile and one moment of perfect connection.
"I think you might have an in with the boss on that one."
The words slipped out, sliding easily on the heels of the laughter, but the lapse - if it was one - was made worth it by the way that that brilliant smile became more so, sweetly edged with shyness and a little hope.
It warmed her, a lot more than the weak afternoon sun. Scared her a little too, if she were being honest.
"It's hard to imagine, though," she continued. "We forget about it, with all the rushing through the gate, so caught up with one thing after another. We're so... busy, concentrating on everything so hard and yet we're doing it surrounded by miles and miles of empty ocean." This time, her smile was rueful. "I come out here and it helps with that perspective thing I've been working on."
"It is not empty," he said softly, holding her gaze steadily, his own warm and kind and deep. "Not really. Perhaps it feels that way, but it is not. Did Colonel Sheppard not tell you?"
"Rodney said something about a whale...?"
That would be another report waiting on her desk while she stole this moment. And yet that was one of the things that had guided her steps here, that combination of primitive awe and almost worship that humans felt in the presence of something as huge and overwhelming, both alien and kin alike. Even now she could hear the remnants of longing in her voice, quickly silenced.
There was something of it in Radek's eyes though, something of dreams and of awe as he stared out over the ocean. "Yes. It was..." Words seemed to fail him and he made an abortive gesture instead that still managed to conjure up that feeling. "I will tell them," he said quietly, his eyes still distant. "The biologists who are asking, always asking. How big, how did it move, was it like the whales on Earth, did it sing? Did it sing? I will tell them what it was like to see it swimming over head, so slow and graceful and joyful, to hear it singing the way that none but its own kind have heard it sing in ten thousand years. They ask, and I will tell them. Eventually."
She was brave. She too could be brave, like Radek could be brave. Brave enough to dive into that ocean and leave the fear of drowning behind.
Her fingers were steady as they curled over the back of his hand, even chilled as they were by the sea and the wind and the rain.
Her voice was steady too as she asked him softly, "Tell me now?"