The darkness had set in so much faster than he expected. This was in part due to the fact that the running of day/night cycles had never been much of an issue in the past – mostly because Kolya had spent his life living underground. But now... now it might have helped to realise that there was no way they'd make it to the gate in time, no way they were going to be able to get anywhere without some kind of light.
McKay had complained bitterly, of course. He'd insisted repeatedly that they were close, that they would be at the gate soon if they just kept going. Kolya had seen that look before, though. It was Rodney's I'm-trying-to-bluff expression – the one that didn't work. The one that, when it promised you active shields and maybe even some C4, was not worth believing.
The doctor didn't seem particularly amused when Kolya pointed this out; though, in all honesty, he hadn't been amused since being interrupted in mid-sentence by whatever that great glowy... thing had been. One moment, there they all were, Kolya and his squad, facing down McKay, Sheppard, and their allies, and the next... Kolya found himself waking up in the grass on a strange planet, completely unarmed, and with only Rodney McKay for company.
It could have been worse. He might have ended up with someone who hadn’t been here before, who couldn't work out, from the odd collection of ruins, where they were, and who didn't know what direction the gate was in. But once that benefit had come and gone, it still left him on an unknown planet with a man who seemed extraordinarily unhappy about the whole situation.
That was somewhat understandable.
Even so, unarmed and unamused, Kolya felt somewhat hurt by the way Rodney constantly talked at him, not to him, the way the doctor refused to be more than grudgingly grateful about the fact that Kolya had managed to stop that wolf-like creature from eating them both when they had accidentally wandered right up to its lair... in fact, about pretty much everything.
All right. So far all that was somewhat understandable, too. The pair of them were not exactly on what one would call 'good terms.'
In that case... why did the mere thought of what would happen when they reached the gate fill him with a sense of... emptiness?
It was a question he pondered for rather a long time.
Eventually, Rodney had agreed that, yes, actually, the gate might be a little further than he'd expected and that it might be wise to stop for now. Believing themselves to at last be out of alien-wolf territory, they had halted in a small clearing, deep within the forest, both resting against separate trees.
And then... night fell.
Alarmingly quickly, they were plunged into almost total darkness, the sky above the tree canopy finally blending to pure, utter black, dotted with stars that were almost completely hidden by the branches above. The darker it got, the colder it got – colder and colder...
"This is all your fault, you know," came the irritated voice from the blackness nearby. He was only a few metres away, and yet, Kolya couldn't see McKay at all.
"My fault?" Kolya repeated. "I didn't ask... whatever that thing was... to turn up and transport us to another planet!"
"And why should I believe you?" McKay threw back. His voice was shaking a little, most likely from the cold. "For all I know, it was some renegade Ancient that allied itself with the Genii for whatever particular nefarious purpose it has..."
"Doctor. If my people had such an ally, we would not be asking it to do something like this."
"Oh, of course. You'd be asking it to materialise on Atlantis and kill us all."
"Well, maybe not kill you..." Kolya said, curling up a little more.
"That makes me feel so much better..."
The conversation had rattled on, here and there, but it wasn't long before they both fell silent, seeing nothing but blackness ahead. And Kolya found himself thinking how odd it was now, as his other senses came to the fore, trying to compensate for the utter lack of visibility... how he was suddenly aware of other things – the way the light breeze felt against his face, the scent of the leaves all around... the low, gentle sound of Rodney breathing, close by.
It was even stranger, in fact, that the more he thought about this, the more he could suddenly hear only that sound... the barely perceptible sign that the doctor was still there; alive, existing... real.
The breeze felt colder, now, and that wasn't because of any external drop in temperature. No. The coldness came from within... from the part of his mind where the thoughts were gathering, swirling around and around, never quite settling. The more everything else had faded, the more he could see what remained of the strange mental pattern once the background was gone.
And still, he lay against the tree, listening to McKay's soft, mostly-regular breathing. It was hard to tell if the man was asleep or not – save for the fact that he hadn't said anything in some time. Every intake of air was strangely intoxicating, the sound flickering across Kolya's awareness, rhythm broken only by the odd little shiver.
It was really very cold. Curling up tighter, coat pulled around himself, Kolya found his thoughts drifting to what it would be like to lie wrapped around Rodney, right now, keeping the rising chill at bay... to feel the warmth of his body so very close, to breathe in the scent of him. To just... lie there, existing, holding on, because in this moment – beset by the dark and far from their respective homes... there was nothing else. Nothing but dark and cold and... him.
Close. So close he could hear him, sense him... and yet, he remained just out of reach.
He wanted to say something, wanted to tell Rodney how utterly incredible he was, how this moment felt more perfect than so many others... but he couldn't. He couldn't say it because, if he did, the moment would be over... and there was no chance of a better moment following on after.
No chance. No chance at all. He could lead men in combat, duel with the best and win... but there were some things he could never have.
But he could listen. He could listen to every breath, remember that Rodney was still there... and he could believe, deep down, somehow, that this was enough.
Summary: When night falls, there are other ways to perceive him - but only from a distance.