Not mine. Don't own'em. Didn't create 'em. Stargate Atlantis and all related characters are the property of MGM as far as I can tell.
Okay, here's how it works. I did two versions of the same story and asked multiple folks which was the better one to post. It was pretty well split down the middle, so I'm posting both versions. I'd love it if you'd review and let me know which one you prefer. Otherwise, you can just pick one to read (chapter one is 3rd person , chapter two is 1st person from Zelenka's POV). Thanks!
Casualties of War (Version 1)
Rodney typed in the command that would cause the cloaking device to deactivate. "It's done," he said loudly enough so that Elizabeth could overhear him from below. She was climbing the steps towards him after her conversation with Sheppard. From the depressed set of her shoulders and the way Sheppard had exited the control room, McKay figured her comforting words had fallen on deaf ears. He tapped his earpiece. "Radek, you can shut down the jumper now." He frowned when there was no answer. A cold feeling began to form in the pit of his stomach. "Radek?" he asked again as he began running toward the jumper bay,
"What's wrong?" Elizabeth called after him.
"Zelenka's not answering."
She was instantly aware of his train of thought. "Ford wouldn't have…" she started to say but then stopped. Who knew what Ford might do any more?
McKay made it to the jumper bay slightly breathless. The lack of sleep, too little exercise, and an overabundance of stimulants during the last few weeks had taken their toll. "Radek?" he half shouted when he got his breath back under control and was relieved when he received a groan in reply. He followed the sound and found the Czech climbing woozily to his feet, blood still running freely from his nose and dripping onto his blue shirt, making the stain appear more black than red. "Are you okay?"
He was somewhat taken aback when his quiet little friend let loose a stream of profanities unlike any McKay had ever heard; and he had been on the receiving end of quite a few streams himself over the years. Most of them he couldn't catch, though there were a few that seemed related to some Russian words he had learned while stationed there. The list went on for a while and he could swear he heard references in Japanese and Spanish, and maybe a little French mixed in for good measure. He waited patiently for the Czech to finish.
"I think that son of a bitch broke my nose!"
"What?" asked McKay, startled and a tiny bit amused to realize that that last bit had come out in perfect, almost accent-free English. Zelenka glared at him and he quickly wiped the grin off his face. "Come on, we'll go see Carson," he said, putting a supporting hand temporarily on Radek's back as he guided him out of the jumper bay.
"The cloak worked, yes?"
"Yes, obviously, or I would have never had the opportunity to hear your impressive vocabulary."
The Czech waved off the compliment. "It is nothing."
"No really, I'm impressed."
Zelenka shot him a look, obviously trying to decide if McKay was making fun of him. Apparently he came to the conclusion that the Canadian was in honest awe. "I can teach you," he shrugged as they entered the organized chaos that was currently passing itself off as an infirmary.
"Radek, what happened to you?" asked Beckett, taking the Czech's arm and guiding him to an exam table.
"Ford happened to me. He happened to you too, no?" he asked, noticing the purple bruises that were peeking through the doctor's collar.
Beckett self-consciously zipped the shirt up a little higher concealing the injury. "Occupational hazard," he said, encouraging the Czech to lean back on the bed and prodding gently at his nose.
"Sorry. I don't think it's broken." Digging through a nearby plastic storage container, he pulled out a gauze pad and handed it to the Czech. "Keep some pressure on it and I'll come back and check on you in a bit." The infirmary had become more and more crowded around them as non-essential medical personnel and the less seriously wounded returned from the Daedalous.
Zelenka waved him away. "You too, Rodney. I do not need a babysitter. Though I am touched you were concerned for my well-being." The last was said with a slightly sarcastic undertone.
"Ford…" McKay paused, unsure how to articulate his feelings. He had found the lieutenant annoying at the beginning of their stay on Atlantis, but as time passed and they went on missions together, McKay had found himself respecting the young man and, at times, even appreciating the enthusiasm of his unjaded youth.
Zelenka pulled the gauze away and tentatively touched his upper lip, checking for fresh blood. "It is as I told Dr. Weir - in war there are casualties." He sighed. "And always too many."
"Is it worth it?" Rodney asked, spreading his hands to indicate Atlantis. "It is worth losing Peter and Ford and …"
Sensing the scientist's black mood, Zelenka interrupted him. "Rodney, despite what you think, it is not possible for you to control everything. This is not your doing. If you had not come to Atlantis, they would still be here. No," he corrected himself, "If you had not come to Atlantis, probably none of us would still be here."
McKay gave a jerk of his head, automatically acknowledging the compliment, but instead of the warmth and pride it would have normally generated, he felt only a cold bleakness.
"Hey," said Sheppard from behind him as he approached the bed. "How ya doing?" he asked Zelenka kindly, wincing when he saw the amount of blood that covered the Czech's face.
"Beckett says it's not broken," volunteered McKay before the Radek could answer.
"Well, that's good news," Sheppard replied, although his cheerful smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
"He was lucky," McKay added.
"What do you mean by that?" Sheppard asked tightly.
"I mean, Major," said McKay, turning to give Sheppard his full attention, "That he's lucky Ford didn't do a lot worse."
"You didn't see him choking the life out of Beckett up against Weir's office wall!"
Sheppard shook his head. "That was instinctive reaction, before he understood what was happening to him."
"He didn't take the jumper Radek was working on," McKay persisted, growing more annoyed at the officer's refusal to admit the truth.
"So, why punch me?" asked the Czech miserably. "I am no Arnold Schwarzenegger to stop him from taking a jumper if he wanted one."
"Or for that matter, why didn't he just sneak in and take one?" McKay asked.
"It wouldn't have been that easy," said Sheppard.
"He led you on a merry chase, didn't he?" McKay snapped. Sheppard gave him an angry look but didn't reply. "Face it Major, he's gone Terminator on us."
"Don't say that," demanded Sheppard angrily.
Rodney had to make him see the reality of the situation. Ford was a danger now and if Sheppard wasn't willing to admit that, who knew what might happen to him if they ever managed to catch up with the young man. "He deadly dangerous. It's true, and you know it!" He needed Sheppard to see the truth before it got him killed.
"McKay, I swear if you say one more word, Zelenka won't be the only one with a busted nose," said Sheppard, unconsciously clenching his hand into a fist.
"What's going on here?" Beckett asked, his attention attracted by their rising voices. He watched as Sheppard and Rodney continued to face off, staring angrily at each other. "Well, Major?" he prompted.
"Nothing," replied Sheppard, before turning on heel and stalking out of the infirmary.
Beckett looked at Rodney but the scientist crossed his arms and clamped his lips shut, his face showing a combination of anger, guilt and sorrow before he, too, turned and left.
"What was that all about," Beckett asked quietly, reexamining Zelenka's nose.
Radek winced. "Casualties of war."