The woman in charge. He has seen her, several times. Meetings before he knew he was coming. Meetings before he knew where they were going. Meetings with contemporaries. Meetings to hire contemporaries, to work with and under. Meetings to set them at ease.
The last hadn’t done anything of the sort. A collection of the world’s best, from all over the world, all smiling and assessing one another for threats. For character. For marks.
Radek had been happy to drift to a corner, exchanging words with a pleasant German woman, watching the military side of the party attempting to socialise without ever being sociable.
They’re always like that, the Canadian had insisted, when he heard their quiet talk. Loud enough to be indiscreet, as ever. “I’ve worked with them for years. They don’t want to breed contempt. Of course, there are scientists amongst them, but they’re drilled into god knows what, and they’re already a little…” hand-gesture almost impossible to interpret as his hurried words were. “Well.”
Radek smiled nervously. Perhaps no one else had thought about the problems a divided expedition could provide. Military ‘guardians’ and scientific ‘researchers’… Not for the first time, he’d had second thoughts about the promise the Atlantis project offered. Unimaginable prospects for exploration… and an environment so foreign he had no idea what to expect.
“ColonelCarter, for one. Smart woman. Very, very smart… but all that running around and shooting things meant her scientific priorities were… well. Secondary, to say the least. Not that you could expect anything else from the Stargate Command, just that it’s important we don’t let this expedition go the same way.”
“Now, then, Doctor McKay. Are you inciting rebellion again?”
“Elizabeth. I’m just trying to make sure that Doctor…”
“Zelenka,” she provided.
“….Zelenka and Amsel are comfortable with the idea of scientific priorities.”
“I’m sure they already know how important the scientific aspect of our expedition is. It’s why we’ve assembled the very best in all fields from all countries. And why the expedition has an extensive civilian leadership.” Then she winked at them. “Rodney expects me to sell out on a career of anti-militant diplomacy. Which, considering his own career with the United States’ Armed Forces…”
Rodney snorted. “Please. I’m hardly building superweapons.”
“Yet.” It was the first thing Radek had contributed in a while. The small German woman beside him suppressed an even smaller laugh, and Radek smiled as sweetly as he could.
After that the informal ‘meeting’ hadn’t been as daunting, but Radek still couldn’t claim to have enjoyed most of it. ‘Informal’, imposed, has a tendency to social stagnation and no one eating the buffet.
Now, however, he’s free from the sharklike social circling, free in his own work. And here she is again – Doctor Elizabeth Weir – paying more attention to the actual practical side of things than she tactfully needs to. He sees her around a lot: watching, asking questions. He can’t work out if she comes to him a lot because she’s interested in what he’s doing, trying to make him nervous, or ensuring he’s actually working. He hopes it is the first.
“Doctor Weir,” he replies, with a little nod of the head. “Is nice to see you again.”
A smile that genuine shouldn’t be fake, though on a diplomat if no one else, he knows it could be true.
“Why thank you. I thought I would come to see how you’re progressing.” And then her lips quirk. “Between you and me – and everyone else involved on my end - international relations outside of the base seem to regress as much as progress.”
“Ah. Big problems?”
“No… just tiring ones. It’s nice to see something with more immediate results, at times,” she says, fingers trailing over one of the frames.
Surely she wouldn’t ask about his work if she didn’t want to know. Although he has experience of phrasing things to non-specialists, Radek is under no illusion about the fact that not everyone finds his work as fascinating as he does. “We think we have worked round the… degraded circuits now. Our interface is not one hundred percent, but is letting us access and study much more of the system, including databanks. They are not extensive… perhaps outpost was only temporary? Or too small to have such repository… but there is still sizeable amount of information, especially on power generation itself. Is possible we can reverse-engineer some kind of supply to give better control, now.”
“Wonderful,” she says, her whole face lighting.
One of his peers was trying to catch his eye. Excusing himself, Radek listened impatiently to the report, nodding. Ah. Better.
“We could give you demonstration, if you like?”
“I’d like that very much,” she replies, straightening up. “Lead the way.”
Even when they had been in Atlantis for months – and their wonderful breakthroughs were limited mostly to finding new ways to make existing food more palatable and stopping anything from failing on them. Or falling on them. Oh, and coming up with miracles for strange and present circumstances, too, of which many were often necessary. – Even when the incredible was everyday, Elizabeth still seemed to care.
Keep me informed, she had said, and once he’d seen it wasn’t simple policy, and that she really did see why Radek woke feeling content most mornings, he’d been more than happy to.
New systems, new properties, new efficiency, new pathways, new tricks. Sometimes it was something small that he could simply inform her of, walking down a corridor, or when their paths crossed. Sometimes they would walk into large, ship-filled rooms. Sometimes he could show her how the wave-dance was harnessed. Or the hydroponics – not his field at all, but something they – the botanists – could work on, now, somewhere things would eventually grow again.
And she smiled, as they walked. Talked. And it was wonderful.
Then, of course, they found home. Earth. Not that they lost it, of course. But they found a way back. And they came and they went, and new people came. New equipment flooded the city, and everything was different again. People stared at the walls all over again, and somehow Radek felt... old. Not that he minded explaining things to everyone, but seeing their joyous discovery every morning for weeks was... draining.
Maybe that was why he found himself in the hydroponics, looking at the mismatching greenery around him: Pegasan plants the Athosians had planted for them, working with the botanists – then Terran ones, too. Oranges and beans and potatoes and – of course – cocoa and coffee. He only recognised some of them, and those because Elizabeth had pointed them out to him. They didn’t make this place feel more like home.
It was when he turned to move that he noticed her – on the other side of some happily-growing bushes. She saw him too, he knew, even though she didn’t make it obvious. He hesitated a moment, then walked to where he could see her, through the branches and the leaves.
“Elizabeth,” he said, quietly. In case she wanted to be alone.
Eyes closed, she lowered her head slightly, with a small smile. He hesitated, waiting to see if she would say anything – then waiting because he’d been here a bit too long to move off unannounced now, knowing every moment he stayed the situation worsened.
“It really is beautiful here, don’t you agree?”
The question took Radek off-guard, and he fumbled with his tongue before he could get a reply out. “It… yes. Yes it is.”
“Not just the garden… the city. The windows, the waves, the technology, the…” She trailed off, looking down now. He wasn’t sure why.
“It is everything one could ask from a city. Except – possibly less Wraith, more… safer entertainment.” He paused, thinking of the things people had missed. “Sports. Television.”
She laughed, shaking her head at that. Her hair caught the light as she did that, dappled between the leaves. He found himself watching despite himself. She really was beautiful, too.
“I was… involved with someone, back on Earth.”
Oh. Was? That was past tense. What did she want to…
“He was offered the opportunity to come. He… declined.”
Oh. “I am… sorry.”
“So am I,” she confessed, hands clasped together over her stomach. “This place… this city… It has awakened so many people. It has taught so many so much, brought people together, we’ve grown in the… well. At least, I like to think we have.”
She began to pace, slowly. Radek followed, keeping step. One after the other.
“I look at Atlantis every day, and every day I am amazed. By all the things we find, and all the things we do. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. And… the beauty here…”
Outweighs that elsewhere? “Is enough?”
She paused now, her step slowing.
“Yes,” she said, looking up at him suddenly. “More than enough.”
They walked some more. There was plenty of path ahead.
Summary: For spubba as part of the Weir/Zelenka Thing-a-Thon. Prompt words: Thing of beauty. One thing you would like, in three words or less: Wistful. Spoilers to 'Intruder'.