|The Long Night
Author: Tipper PM
Tag to Lifeline – it's still night, just hours after setting down, but, despite the terrifying events and the exhausting pace of the last few days, not everyone is asleep yet. SPOILERS obviously FOR ADRIFT AND LIFELINE.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Rodney M. & John S. - Chapters: 4 - Words: 9,833 - Reviews: 51 - Favs: 26 - Follows: 2 - Published: 10-14-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3835426
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
THE LONG NIGHT
Episode Tag to Lifeline
Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story was created for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s), not me. Thank you to the amazing writers, producers, actors, crew and directors who bring these shows to life.
Characters: Zelenka, Sheppard and McKay.
Status: Complete in 4 parts
A/N: Just as a side note, I'm hanging a lantern, so to speak, on an old story of mine I wrote three years ago back in the first half of Season One, called People Watching. You do not need to have read that story to understand this.
Description: Tag to "Lifeline" – it's still night on the new planet, just hours after setting down, but, despite the terrifying events and the exhausting pace of the last few days, not everyone is asleep yet. SPOILERS (obviously) FOR ADRIFT AND LIFELINE.
CHAPTER ONE: THE DARK BALCONY
Radek sighed, pulling his glasses off and wiping the grit from his dry eyes. When he popped them back on his nose again, feeling them rest into place, he looked up and studied the control room.
It was still night, only about six hours after they had landed here, but, of course, he had no idea how late it actually was on this planet. They might have arrived in early evening, or landed in this planet's northern hemisphere during the winter cycle, or this system's sun might be so far away that the nights were just longer. They just didn't really know yet. Chuck was currently sitting in front of his station, slumped over with his head in his hand, waiting for the City's chronometer to finish making its calculations to answer these questions. As Radek watched, the boy yawned spectacularly and blinked a few times. The laptop screen fluttered, then stilled, and Chuck frowned, reaching to touch it.
He jumped when he got shocked. Then swore like a sailor as he shook his hand out.
Radek smiled softly. That had been happening quite a bit. The air was still pretty highly charged from having so much of the City's power leaking everywhere. Sure, currently they were running on naquedah generator power while the conduits were being fixed more permanently, but that much energy build up would take a while to disperse. Shocks were the least of their problems.
Standing up, hobbling a little on his bum leg, he lifted his arms high to stretch and get some of the knots out of his sore muscles. He felt like one huge ball of tension, the pressure of the last few days making its presence known in his shoulders and back. He was also feeling very hot, which was a little strange considering the cool breeze from the shattered window. Mostly, though, he was just incredibly tired. Covering a yawn, he limped forward off the second level of the control room to check out the Gateroom below.
It was quiet, despite the numerous boxes of equipment wanting to be unpacked. McKay had requested the Apollo's extra supplies be sent down so that they could get started on the repairs to Stargate Control as soon as the sun came up. Or, at least, those personnel who had been resting on the Apollo for the last two days would get started on the repairs. All of McKay's staff that had been in the City had been sent to sleep hours ago. Everyone except, of course, McKay himself. And because McKay hadn't gone to sleep, neither had Radek, or Chuck, or any of other department heads. By unspoken accord, they were staying up for so long as their chief was—in case he needed them.
Radek brushed at some of the glass underfoot as he leaned over the balcony rails, his mind drifting. Bits of consoles, screens and walls still crunched under foot despite the multiple sweepings of this and the room below. They needed to go over this place with a vacuum.
He pressed a hot hand to his forehead. Damn, this planet was really warm. Maybe they had landed in this hemisphere's summertime after all—because, if this was winter, they were really going to need to up the AC.
For a few moments, he stayed there, resting against the railing, staring down at the boxes, thinking about everything that needed to be done tomorrow. Rodney had probably already worked out the roster, and Radek guessed his role would be to help oversee the conduit work.
He lifted his eyes to the Stargate and the stained glass windows beyond it. The two main moons hovering over this planet reflected a lot of light, and the windows were cascading a rainbow of blue, green and purple across the brick red floor.
It was very restful. When Atlantis wasn't in crisis, it emanated an aura of peacefulness one usually only found in places like Japanese gardens or on mountaintops. Of course, it took years to create the perfect Japanese garden, and it takes a lot of muscle, time and energy to climb up a mountain...but worth it. Oh yes, very much worth it.
Radek smiled, closing his eyes and just letting the peace wash over him.
He jerked awake when he nearly tipped forward over the railing. Man, he was tired.
Sighing softly, his eyes drifted a little further upwards, his intention to turn and head back to check again on the long range sensors, but then his eyes stopped, caught by the hint of motion in a place where there shouldn't be any. Frowning slightly, he focused more carefully on the balcony across the way, the one that was almost directly opposite this one, just above and behind the Gate, next to the window. A balcony which, honestly, had no use.
Someone was standing there.
Whoever it was, they were deep inside the shadows, but Radek could just make out a pale face and crossed arms. The figure was obviously wearing black, because the rest of him was virtually invisible.
Radek watched him for a moment, then, realizing the other person was also probably watching him, he stepped away and walked quietly past Chuck and a snoring Bill Lee (why Doctor Lee hadn't beamed up to the Apollo with Colonel Carter to get some sleep, he had no idea. But the scientist was still down here, and had fallen asleep on one of the consoles). He also smiled at a tired looking Dr. Esposito—she had been among the first to beam down after they landed, her eyes filled with grateful tears at seeing so many alive. She smiled back as he passed by, and mouthed the words "go to sleep." He just nodded and kept going, limping by a couple of marines patrolling the room, and stepped down onto the landing at the top of the stairs. By the time he was hopping up the stairs to the other side, the figure had emerged from the shadows and was waiting for him next to the conference room doors.
Colonel Sheppard was leaning against a pillar, looking exhausted but calm, a strangely distant smile on his face. Radek hesitated a moment, then, steeling himself, finished limping up the stairs so that he could stand next to the Colonel.
"Hey, Radek," the man greeted softly, almost in a whisper, probably in deference to the fact that most of the City was asleep. Greeting made, the hazel eyes drifted to look anywhere but at the engineer, surveying the grand room almost lazily. Except Radek knew, at this moment, there was nothing lazy about Colonel Sheppard. Where Radek felt tense, the colonel had to be as hard as steel. He and Rodney both.
"Hi," he replied, feeling clumsy, his hands wrapping and unwrapping around the head of his cane. Now that he was here, he wasn't sure why he had felt the need to disturb the man. Sheppard had just looked...well, like he needed someone to talk to.
"You need something?" Sheppard asked, his eyes glancing over Radek like a stone skipping across a pond, then to the still very shattered and open window. A cool, humid breeze blew in, and it tickled the man's hair. Radek frowned.
"No," he said. "I just...I saw you and... What were you doing?"
Sheppard gave a shrug. "Just checking out the lay of the land," he said, still in a whisper. "Feeling out the City."
"From over there?" Radek nodded towards the dark balcony Sheppard had left.
"You can see everything from there." He said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Oh." Radek glanced towards the balcony, then back at the colonel.
Sheppard was still staring out the shattered window.
Radek swallowed. "Are you all right, Colonel?"
Sheppard closed his eyes, but only for a moment. When he opened them again, he was looking at Radek. He gave a quick, unconvincing smile.
Radek grimaced. Sheppard dropped the smile, and looked away again.
"Been a rough few days," the colonel said more honestly, and that was better.
"Yes." Radek rubbed at the back of his neck, feeling even more awkward now. He gave a small shrug. "Perhaps you should consider getting some sleep?" He smiled faintly. "I think you could probably use it."
"Pot," Sheppard said, smiling a little more genuinely, pointing at Radek then himself. "Kettle."
Radek snorted. "I'm waiting for Rodney to go to sleep." He shrugged. "Soon as he does, I'll go to sleep."
The colonel stared at him a moment, brow furrowed slightly. "Rodney's still awake?"
Radek's eyebrows shot up. "Are you kidding? Of course, he is."
Sheppard frowned some more. "Why, 'of course'?"
Zelenka frowned some more. "Because we're not stable yet. The City has to finish mapping the topography of the ocean floor, so it can lock itself to it and find a stable hold." He was surprised Sheppard hadn't noticed the slight, gentle rocking of the City as it moved with the ocean waves, or the flexing of the towers with the wind. "That way, if there's a storm and we get, say, hit by a massive Tsunami—"
"We don't move," the colonel finished. "Gotcha." Sheppard was staring at him now, really looking at him for the first time. "Where is he?"
"In his lab. He can access the stabilizers from there."
Sheppard nodded, as if he should have known that. "Oh."
As if on cue, the City shuddered slightly. Sheppard looked at the floor, then arched an eyebrow. He clicked his radio. "Rodney?"
"What now?" a tired voice snapped back.
"I don't know, you tell me." Sheppard grimaced, not happy with the attitude, obviously. "Everything okay? Felt a weird shudder."
Radek heard the heavy sigh on the other side of the line before Rodney answered.
"There's nothing wrong. The City's base is just releasing some tension. Like a house settling. If something goes wrong, I'll let you know. Just go to sleep, will you?" The last statement was almost a plea.
Sheppard's eyebrows lifted, and then furrowed in anger. "McKay, I'm only asking because—"
"You're in charge. I know. I get it. I'm not making any decisions without you, happy?"
"No, McKay," Sheppard snarled, "I'm not happy, and this isn't about you. This is about the fact that too much has gone wrong when we thought we were okay, too many mistakes made when we couldn't afford any, so I need to know exactly what you're doing and why the City is shuddering. And I want to know, now." Radek's eyes widened slightly, and he looked away to hide his surprise at the Colonel's hard tone.
Radek clearly wasn't alone in wondering that, because there was a long silence before Rodney answered, and when he did, it sounded like he was speaking through gritted teeth.
"Nothing is wrong, Colonel. This is just the City doing its thing. It is currently completing a geological and topographical scan of the ocean floor so it can find the optimal place to lock our location in place. The City will experience a few shudders and quakes until it does that, as it reacts to the new stresses from this ocean and this planet's weather—particularly the wind currents hitting the skyscrapers. That's all you're feeling. And before you ask, I don't know how long it will take, I don't know if it will want to stay in this location or need to move to a different part of the ocean, and I don't know if we'll have to move before the conduits are fixed, so, please, for a few hours, just leave me alone!" And the radio clicked off. Radek grimaced—he'd never heard McKay sound so completely done before.
Sheppard frowned some more, his hand lifted to his radio as if to force the other man back on, but, before he could, Radek hit his own earpiece.
"Zelenka? You're still awake?" Rodney gave a huff of annoyance. "For Christ's sake, go to sleep. Keller would kill me if I told her I let you stay up with that leg. And tell Chuck and the others to go to sleep as well, will you? Esposito can cover control until morning, and I've got Bryce watching over the power levels in the main lab. There's no need for you to stay up."
"Are you sure?" Radek asked. "I could come and—"
"Eight hours of sleep, Radek. Get eight hours. Think you've earned it—plus, you got that hole in your leg thing. I'm betting Keller told you to stay off it, so... Look, I'll call if anything comes up. Oh, and...I forgot to tell you," he paused, then, in a low voice, "Um...thank you for, um...you know, all your hard work and stuff. Probably could've done it without you, but...glad I didn't have to."
Radek was speechless for a second, then his face lit up in a smile. "Well, uh," he scratched at his head, "it was mostly you, but...thanks."
"Of course, it was mostly me. But you helped. So," Radek could almost hear Rodney's shrug, "good job. Now go to sleep."
"Are you going to sleep, too?" Radek asked. In reply, Rodney just harrumphed and hung up. Radek sighed. "I'll take that as a no, then." He grimaced, and looked up at Colonel Sheppard. "How about you, Colonel? Sleep?"
Sheppard had apparently forgotten his annoyance with Rodney's bitchiness, because he had gone back to staring out the window, watching as the larger of the two moons nestled itself on the horizon. Radek waited a moment, then, when he realized that Sheppard wasn't going to answer, he quietly took a step back. A few more limping steps, and he was on the landing again. He turned around, heading back to the control room.
When he had hold of the railing on the other side, he glanced back. Sheppard had disappeared. He looked towards the end of the balcony on the far side, but it was empty. With any luck, the Colonel had gone to sleep.
Which, Radek knew, is where he himself should be heading.
He just needed to make a stop first.
Rodney wasn't getting rid of him that easily. He heard the edge in his friend's voice—Rodney had passed his breaking point. If he didn't get rest soon, Radek was worried that he actually would break.