In all honesty, Elizabeth wasn’t entirely sure why she hadn’t thought to do this before. Following a trail some distance beyond the Athosian settlement, she made her way between the trees, climbing a gentle incline towards an obvious gap in the undergrowth.
It was late afternoon, now, the sunlight already low as it filtered between the leaves and branches, dappling the ground with orange. And as she looked at it – looked all around – Elizabeth knew there was incredible beauty here.
She knew it, but she couldn’t see it. Not now. All she could see now was another place she couldn’t save.
It was mere days since they’d learned what was about to happen – mere days since she’d watched an obviously shaken Radek Zelenka explain what he’d just discovered: the almost unthinkable truth that three Wraith hiveships were en-route to Atlantis.
Coming for them. To destroy them. And Elizabeth didn’t know what to do.
She’d travelled out to the mainland this morning in one of the regular puddlejumper flights, along with slightly more people than there would usually be on one of these journeys. Carson’s presence was no surprise – he made frequent trips to check on the health of the Athosians. Teyla’s presence, too, was not unexpected – she had to start preparing her people for what was to come, getting them ready for the day when they would have to be brought back to the city in the hope it would offer some chance of survival.
Some hope, but slim hope. It might be safer in Atlantis than out here on the exposed mainland, but Elizabeth half-wondered if they might be better off staying away from the city, where it seemed like a great, inescapable target was painted across the towering, shimmering spires.
These thoughts had rolled around and around in her mind as she wandered through the Athosian settlement, and it hadn’t been long before the presence of all those people Elizabeth felt she couldn’t save became too much – before she announced that she wanted a chance to explore the forest a little, and set off for some time… well. Alone.
Elizabeth Weir had always liked walking. Back on Earth… back home… she and Simon had enjoyed many hiking trips together. Never as many as she would have liked – their jobs kept them busy – but enough to make her associate this with a sense of calmness. Of security.
Being out here helped. It wasn’t going to solve her problems, and it wasn’t going to change things, but it did offer respite. And that… that was something.
She reached the top of the gentle hill, coming out past the tree line and standing on the edge of a grassy bank which swept a little more steeply downwards, offering a panorama out over low bushes, sparse trees, and – eventually – the sea, pouring back and forth onto a quiet, deserted shoreline.
Jacket spread on the ground beneath her, Elizabeth sat down on the grass, resting her head on her knees and taking a long, slow breath. She closed her eyes, trying to concentrate on calm, relaxing thoughts…
…at which point, there was a sudden sound in the trees behind her, and Elizabeth jumped so hard she almost leapt to her feet, turning sharply before the adrenaline had even hit, trying to see what was going on.
A figure emerged from the tree line, appearing a little hesitant. “Elizabeth?”
She breathed out again, cursing herself for being so jumpy. “Radek. What are you doing here?”
He gave her an almost-nervous look. “I… followed you. I’m sorry. But you looked… like someone who needed following.”
“Did I?” she said, quietly, realising how very… unusual her decision to wander off must have seemed.
He nodded. “Yes. I… hope you are not offended.”
“No, Radek, of course not,” she answered at once, meaning it. “Sit with me. I could… use the company.”
Wordlessly, he joined her, settling on the grass at her side, eyes on the shoreline for a moment before he looked across at her again. “Is very beautiful out here. I can… understand why you came.”
“I needed the down-time. Besides, it might be… my last chance to do something like this.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, quietly, head on one side but not looking away.
“The Wraith are coming,” Elizabeth replied, aware how hollow her tone sounded as she spoke. “And I don’t know if we can defeat them. Everything that’s happened recently… it’s just been near-miss after near-miss.”
Radek said nothing, but continued to look at her, almost as if waiting for her to elaborate. And, strangely, she did. “I mean… look at what’s been happening of late. Sheppard and his team were very nearly killed on Dagan by the Genii, and after all that we didn’t even get the ZPM they were looking for. What’s worse, we lost two good men trying to protect Atlantis from a single Wraith dart. And everyone in the city… none of them feel right, any more. Sheppard seems to be spending most of his waking time involved in combat training of one sort or another, Teyla has appeared oddly withdrawn of late, and Rodney… well, he hasn’t been right since he got back from Dagan.”
She bowed her head a little at the end of this, aware that she’d said more than she meant to. But perhaps she had needed to say it.
Oddly, Radek smiled at her now. “I think perhaps things are not so bad as you imagine,” he said, quietly. “No one died on Dagan, and though we lost that puddlejumper, we got advance warning of what is to come. And your team… your team are preparing for this. Trust them to do that.”
Now Elizabeth looked over at him again, smiling a little in something like gratitude. “I suppose you’re right. I just… can’t help thinking…”
She trailed off – but Radek gave her a gently prompting look. “…thinking that I can’t save them…” Elizabeth finished, after a moment. And oh, that was difficult to say.
“You can,” Radek said in reply, his voice quiet but so very assured. “I know it. I have never doubted it.”
This strange reassurance came as something of a surprise – not because Elizabeth didn’t think Radek capable of it – but because hearing him say it actually made her believe it.
“You think so?” she asked, the gratitude in her eyes now unhidden.
“I know so.”
There was a pause, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable one. On the contrary, it was… almost pleasant – to feel the quiet, and to know… to know he was still there. Not for the first time in recent weeks, Elizabeth realised she was rather glad about that.
“Why did you come out here?” she asked, intrigued. “To the mainland, I mean.”
“I don’t come out here often,” Radek answered. “I wanted the chance. Also, I have been talking to Teyla, and she wished to introduce me to someone.”
Elizabeth tensed a little. “Who?”
“A young man named Orran, who recently became the village chronicler. She told me of his work and I was… intrigued by it.”
Relaxing again, Elizabeth said, “Oh?”
Radek nodded. “Mmmm. He explained a little about their old philosophies.”
At this, Elizabeth smiled. “I didn’t know you had an interest in that area.”
“Just a pastime,” Radek said. “I have had few chances to pursue it further.”
“I know the feeling. So what did he tell you about?”
Radek smiled a little. He seemed… somewhat more confident now. Which was… oddly nice. Elizabeth had worried, once or twice, that she made him nervous.
“Many things. But in particular, an old belief.”
He was suddenly silent again, and Elizabeth wondered why – why he was waiting. It was almost as if he was… considering something… yes. She could see it in his eyes now. And then – really rather unexpectedly – Radek moved a little closer to her, hand out to lay his palm against her cheek. Surprised, Elizabeth stared at him.
“A belief?” she repeated, quietly, whilst inwardly cursing herself for behaving a little like a startled adolescent.
“Yes,” Radek answered, equally quiet, though without pulling back. “The name loosely translates as ‘Watchwords’ – three terms by which to live one’s life.”
“I see,” said Elizabeth. “What are they?”
“Copious, circular, centred,” the Czech said, slowly – as if each of the three words was important. “To live copious is to live fully, to have many things in one’s life. To live circular is to return to certain things – certain places, ideas, peoples. To move on but never abandon.”
“And… centred?” Elizabeth asked.
Radek smiled. Clearly, this was the important one. “Centred,” he repeated, speaking the word so… beautifully that Elizabeth felt her stomach jump slightly, “means that in life, one must have a focus: something, or someone, more important than all other things.”
“That… sounds like a good philosophy.”
“I thought so,” Radek replied.
And he kissed her. It was light and gentle, lips just brushing over hers, but the touch was so electric that she almost jumped again. She hadn’t expected this. Not… really.
Or, perhaps, she had known, but not thought herself worthy of it. Not thought herself worthy of being central to the quiet, dedicated scientist who always smiled when he saw her, always made an effort to chat when they met in corridors, or the commissary. Who – like all the others – she couldn’t save.
Maybe Radek knew what she must be thinking, or maybe he just wanted to reassure her further, because his next words were so resonant with her own thoughts. “You are centred also,” he said. “On Atlantis. You will save her… and she will save you.”
“You sound so sure of that.”
“I am,” was Radek’s only reply – before he leant in to lightly, lightly kiss her once more. A little less surprised this time, Elizabeth tilted her head, gently kissing him back. As she did, a thought overtook, and she raised one hand to play along the line of his jaw, toying at the edge of his neck – then pulling him into a deeper, firmer kiss.
It was hard to say how, and it was hard to say why, but that moment felt like waking up – the moment when the fears of the night blend into nothingness, and the morning light offers… a genuine sense of hope. And, in that instant, she could feel it at last, feel that maybe, perhaps, they still had a chance.
She still had a chance.
No. They. That, after all, was the point. Perhaps she wasn’t meant to save them – but instead to be part of a joint drive for them all to save themselves.
They pulled back after another moment, resting forehead-to-forehead, hands still on faces. “So tell me, Radek… what are you centred on?”
He looked up, smiling calmly now. “You, of course.”
She grinned. “Good answer.”
“I thought so,” he said, kissing her again.
And Elizabeth smiled once more. Somehow, what was to come didn’t seem so impossible to face, now that she realised she wouldn’t be facing it alone.
Amazing what a little philosophy can do for a person.
Summary: The Wraith are coming, and Elizabeth thinks she needs some time alone – but in reality, she needs something else entirely. [Written for the Weir/Zelenka Ficathon for Jacklemmon, prompt words: copious, circular, centred - with thanks to Davechicken for the beta.]