With many thanks, as ever, to Davechicken for the beta!
I’ve never been particularly fond of the surface. The world up there is not my world – it is a front, a façade; a deception with purpose, but still a deception nonetheless. And in the past, I’ve had no problem with that. Why would I? It keeps my people safe, ensures that the Wraith will never be able to destroy us.
It is everything. And it is still a lie.
It has been almost three weeks since the Atlantis mission – three weeks since what should have been my greatest achievement turned into my greatest defeat. Sometimes I wonder what I accomplished by coming back alive – and sometimes, I know.
Survival is everything. Our way of life has taught me that. To survive is what matters: to endure, to be able to return to the fight even if seemingly defeated.
That is why I survived. It took longer than I would have preferred before I realised that, but once I did the thought became absolute. And I have held onto it, as the days have slipped by.
Only this morning did I finally make the decision to visit the surface – to visit the lie, to face that false silence and see it for what it really is: purpose.
I stand there now. It is late afternoon, and though there will be activity over in the surface dwellings, all is quiet where I am, out here, beyond the trees. I stand with my back to them, looking out over the fields, the low hills beyond, stretching out to a suddenly turbulent horizon. Quarterstaff in hand, warm and comfortable against my palms, I start to follow the kata I’ve chosen.
There is nothing more relaxing than this – nothing more relaxing than the quiet, beautiful form of the duel, the battle that will never be over so easily. In it – in every smooth arc, every sharp block – I can find the clear-cut purpose I am looking for.
Life could never be thus, of course. But to retreat into this world, where form is absolute, and where all the questions have simple yes/no answers… there is no greater source of calm, no matter how artificial it may be.
By the third kata, the gathering clouds are growing angry, sweeping overhead in seemingly limitless number. It’s been a long time since there was a storm on the surface – or so I’m told. The man who thought that was a helpful thing to say to me really deserved more than he got… but then, had I done worse it would likely have left my shoulder in even more pain.
It hurts now, though with every breath I fight to ignore it, fight to lose myself in the katas and let nothing distract me. It’s easier this way. The world doesn’t want worriers. It wants the decisive, the determined, those who can come through the storm and remain strong.
I have. I can.
It rains. A great sheet of water, cascading from the sky, as if the storm from Atlantis has somehow followed me here. The sense-memory is almost too much, and for a second I wonder if now would be the time to turn, to walk away, to go back to the bunker, back to my controlled life where everything is as it should be.
But I don’t. I do not turn away. I will not turn away.
I tighten my grip on the combat staff as the rain falls, shivering over my skin and soaking me to the core. It isn’t cold – not like the storm on Atlantis – but yet I can still feel the chill.
And the kata goes on. High block, low block, turn, twist, left, down, up-
No. That leaves my right side unguarded. It has to be more like that.
The rain keeps falling. It seems endless, like the torrent of thoughts inside, memories of the last time I saw weather like this.
I was so close. So close. But it was the wrong move. The wrong response. And once you miss a block, you’re left fighting for your life.
For their lives.
Failure stings when you’ve spent your life succeeding. When everything you’ve done has had to be perfect, when every move has needed to be precision itself and every choice the right one. And no matter what consolation I try to find – consolation that I survived, that others survived, that we still managed to hit the Atlanteans hard and that we did get some of what we went for – I still remember how it all turned out.
We failed. I failed.
But that is the way of life. The kata rarely works first time.
Just as is the case with all good duels, I know there will be a rematch. As many as it takes. Until I get every move right, and claim my victory.
And with that in mind, I raise my head to the rain, unafraid, sure now of one thing.
The battle is not over yet.
Summary: I stand on the surface and watch the storm draw ever-closer – but I will not turn from it. [Written for Fanfic100 prompt #66 – Rain, from Kolya’s point of view.]