Pairing: Ronon/Radek friendship - definitely gen
Rating: PG -13
Summary: Ronon, stuck on scientist-sitting duty, thinks he has absolutely nothing in common with Radek. He thinks wrong.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to Adrian for the encouragement and look-over and Karin and Rachel for the cheering section. :) Set during Season 3.
For seven years, Ronon Dex had thought he was quite probably the last of his kind, the sole survivor of the Wraith holocaust that had been visited upon Sateda. After coming to Atlantis, he learned - much to his pleasure - that there were others, many more than he had realized. It was a strange position to be in. As difficult as feeling he was alone in the universe had been, he still was in many ways. Sure, there were other Satedan survivors, some of them friends of his. Ronon could never regret that. However, he was a rarity among the Lanteans, one of a handful of foundlings the humans from Earth had taken in. (John Sheppard occasionally referred to them as "alien orphans," but that made no sense to either Ronon or Teyla Emmagan, as this was their home galaxy. Technically, the Lanteans should have been the aliens.)
The majority of the Earthers were friendly - and those who weren't knew better than to cross Ronon or any of his friends. All the same, many of them didn't know quite how to handle Ronon, and it was no secret that he wasn't sure what to make of them either. It made for some interesting assignments, when Sheppard's team had some downtime, and Elizabeth Weir decided to have Ronon baby-sit traveling scientists.
Most of the scientists were terrified of Ronon, and that suited him fine. He let them work; they didn't try to talk too much. They did what he said, and everyone got home in one piece. Rodney McKay, Ronon was used to, and when he wouldn't listen, that strap on the back of his tactical vest came in awfully handy. But then there was Radek Zelenka.
At first, the Czech scientist had been terrified of Ronon - which, again, had worked out well. Zelenka did his work, muttered to himself in his language, and did as he was told. However, through months of being assigned to work together, having to work together in Atlantis, and general association, the fear began to fade. This also suited Ronon fine, as Zelenka still knew when to listen. Unfortunately, Zelenka proved to be a friendly sort and began to talk more. And the fact remained that Ronon didn't have a clue what to do with him. They had absolutely nothing in common, as near as Ronon could tell, unless you counted the fact that they both lived in Atlantis and Ronon had known a handful of engineers back on Sateda. Sateda's level of technology and Atlantis' were decades of light years apart, but Ronon still held that fact in reserve in case he was ever forced to be conversational.
It wasn't as if Ronon hadn't tried to find a way to make himself more useful. Scientist-sitting was fine, but surely he could be of better use training the new recruits in hand-to-hand? There were only so many hand-to-hand classes to be taught, however, and scientists needed minding far more often. Especially Zelenka. He was always doing something. Ronon valued that in a person - someone who liked to keep busy, doing their part. He simply wished it didn't also involve him quite so often. But, as Dr. Weir had so diplomatically put it, "You two work well together." Sheppard had expressed the opinion that it was "more about the comical four-foot height difference," but again, that made no sense whatsoever, as it was only about eight inches. Earthers had a strange sense of humor.
This particular excursion, they were on the mainland. Zelenka was measuring atmospheric variances in something or other in some sector that Ronon had long ago stopped caring about. A part of him had hoped the readings would require complete silence, in order to avoid interfering with the planet's vibrations or something scientific like that, but no such luck. It wasn't that Ronon didn't like Zelenka - he did. Contrary to popular belief, it took a lot to make Ronon actively dislike anyone, provided they weren't Wraith or working with them. Ronon had even started to trust Zelenka, and that did take awhile for someone like him. But trust and liking aside, there was still the issue of relating.
"So, you see," Zelenka was saying as Ronon tuned him in again after zoning out briefly, "the pull of the gravitational field is highly traceable - and, of course, there are variations, which depend upon a number of factors."
Ronon nodded sagely, trying to pretend as if he understood - or cared. Most of the time, he didn't bother, but Zelenka had a professorial streak, and he was eager to share his wealth of knowledge with others. That didn't bother Ronon. He respected the man's intelligence. True, he couldn't have cared less about gravitational fields, as long as it all kept working the way it was supposed to, but if it made Zelenka happy for him to nod and play along, Ronon was happy to oblige. If only that were all it took to keep McKay happy.
Zelenka looked up from his work, blinking innocently at Ronon from behind his glasses. "I'm not boring you, am I?"
Of all questions. With anyone he didn't know from the Ancestors, Ronon would have taken the easy way out: lie. Yes, he was loving this, absolutely. However, Ronon had come to actually value his relationship with Zelenka, even if he didn't understand it, so he was torn. The Lanteans had a saying - "Honesty is the best policy." In theory, Ronon agreed with it. His people had a saying of their own, though - "Tell the truth, but leave right after." It had served him well in life. With a mental sigh, Ronon shrugged. "Well, to be honest, Doc...."
Unlike a certain head of the science division, Zelenka was pretty good at taking a hint. "Ah, yes. I had feared that." He shrugged as well, spreading his hands in front of him. His glasses slipped further down his nose with the movement and he nudged them back into place distractedly. "I am sorry. It is just...the silences, I find them somewhat uncomfortable."
Ronon blinked, a little surprised. "It's usually pretty quiet in your lab. Well, when McKay's not around."
That earned Ronon a grin. "Yes, well, there is that. The Americans, they have this saying, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick.' McKay is Canadian; it seems he has not heard it."
Ronon chuckled. "That's for sure." Still, his initial confusion hadn't been cleared up, and as long as Zelenka professed not to like silence, there was no reason to let the matter drop. "Then why don't you like it quiet?"
"Quiet in my lab is one thing," Zelenka explained. "It is needed from time to time, even. But on Atlantis, it is a known factor. It is safe...well, as safe as anything in this galaxy is going to be. Out here...the quiet allows more time to think of what might be lurking."
"That's why I'm here," Ronon pointed out.
Zelenka nodded. "Yes, and I do appreciate that. You have a big gun, and you no longer intimidate me. This is all good. Unfortunately, large weapons cannot solve all problems."
Ronon looked down at his gun. It hadn't been easy, scoring that trade with the Travelers, but even interstellar gypsies knew better than to value technology over the basic staples of life. Fresh produce was hard to come by when one spent the majority of their life on a ship, and pistols were replaceable. "No, can't solve everything, but it can sure put a dent in a lot." He liked his gun. All Satedans were warriors, in their own way. He preferred physical battle. His girlfriend's fight had been against disease and injury, until the sort of explosion she would normally rush to aid victims of claimed her life. Damned Wraith. He could never forgive them for what they'd taken from him. Not that this was a surprise to anyone.
Zelenka snorted. "True, I suppose. It is quite an impressive piece of technology. I would love to be able to reverse engineer something of its nature, if only I could determine how it actually works."
Ronon unholstered the gun and pressed the power button, switching settings. "You press that button, then you aim and pull the trigger."
Zelenka stared at him for several seconds before he got it. His blank look melted into surprised amusement. "Aha, very sneaky with the humor. I like that."
"I try." Ronon reset the pistol then put it back in its holster. "So, um, no offense, Doc, but if you're so worried about all this stuff out here, why come?"
"Please, call me Radek." He tweaked a setting on his scanner, then looked back at Ronon. "Why come? How can I not, when there is so much to be discovered? The Wraith, yes, they terrify me, and I am not terribly fond of the Genii, either. But if there is anything I have learned in life, it is that fear can be useful. It warns of danger, yes, and reminds you to stay alert, but once you control it, you are in charge once more. Nothing you do not already know, I am sure, but it is how I see life. I admit, I have had my moments where anxiety has gotten the best of me, but fear is not new to me. My country has seen much of it. But we also refuse to live by it." A smile crossed his face, one filled with pride. "Czechs are known for resistance in the face of oppression. After a time, I came to see little difference between my country's invaders and the Wraith."
Ronon rather hoped whoever had invaded Radek's country hadn't also tried to eat his people, but he got the point. Not a bad philosophy. It seemed there was more to the man than Ronon had given him credit for. "I like that." He thought for a moment about what Radek had revealed to him. "So your country was taken over?"
Radek nodded. "Yes, stolen through the cunning use of flags." He paused a moment, watching Ronon's reaction, then shook his head. "I see Sheppard has fallen behind on your education regarding Earth pop culture. I shall have to introduce you to Eddie Izzard sometime. No matter." He shrugged. "In any case, yes, we were invaded - several times, actually. Germans, Russians...there was a time when Czechoslovakia was Europe's welcome mat. Sometimes it was not so bad - others, not so good. But, fortunately, with Velvet Revolution, we wise up, we kick them out, we change our name and split up so they can't find us anymore."
Ronon nodded again as Radek chuckled, and made a mental note to ask Dr. Weir sometime what the Velvet Revolution was. He could have just asked Radek, but he was looking for what the Earthers liked to call a "Reader's Digest version," not a complicated history lesson. Ronon presumed the part about the country not being found anymore wasn't meant literally, but was yet another page in his mental "Earth people have a really weird sense of humor" file. He had yet to figure out why Sheppard found that Australian major's tales of his great battles with something called a drop bear so hilarious, but he would make sure to keep a weapon handy if he ever happened to visit that region of Earth. "So you kicked 'em out, huh? Awesome."
Radek nodded enthusiastically. "Indeed it was. A peaceful revolution, at that. Given the bloodshed that occurred over all our centuries of history, hardly a bad way to go."
"Yeah, you seem like a pretty peaceful person," Ronon observed. Warrior blood coursed through his veins, but that didn't mean he couldn't accept that there were those who saw a better way. Ronon was all for peaceful resolutions in theory, but his experiences in life had taught him that those on the other side rarely allowed it to become reality. At least Radek's people had pulled it off. That was pretty cool.
"It is my nature," Radek agreed. "It has not always been achievable in my life, but it is something I like to strive for. My days of carrying more than one weapon and constantly watching my back are long gone, and that is how I wish it to remain. Those who like that life are welcome to it."
"More than one weapon?" Ronon asked, genuinely surprised - and intrigued. "Did you have to do that, when the invaders were running your country?"
Radek made a dismissive motion with one hand. "Not exactly like you think." He was quiet for a moment, as if thinking something over. "I do not tell everyone of this, but you are of a military mind yourself, and I imagine you had experiences as a Runner most others only experience in nightmares. I think you will understand."
A part of Ronon's brain grasped the significance of this moment as it related to their friendship and was awed by it, but the bigger part was wildly curious. "Okay."
Radek took a deep breath before continuing. "In my country, military service was mandatory. Now, realize, most performed their short service, marched in formation, worked at a desk, and had a very boring time of it. For most of my service, that was the extent of it. Nothing to write home about, really, though I did, mostly to keep Jana from worrying. She is my sister, you see, and - ah, it doesn't really matter. Most others in my position gained an educational exemption, basically a theory that they would be more use to the government if they continued at university without interruption. My family, however, we were both poor and known dissenters, so my chances of getting into university - ha." He actually spoke the word, but followed it up with a soft laugh. "It wasn't open to all, like these days. Only in free countries could one dream of that."
Ronon frowned. "You mean the invaders even controlled who could go to school?"
"Technically, yes, in some ways, no...." Radek shrugged, gesturing around at nothing in particular. He was always animated like that; Ronon wondered if the man would be able to talk if his hands were tied together. "It is complicated; I don't suspect you care for fine points, but Dr. Weir might be able to simplify it. In any case, university, that was more tightly controlled, yes. And the invaders, we called them Soviets, Russians, and more frequently mamrd - though, that, of course, never when they could hear."
"Russians?" Ronon asked. "Like the same Russians on Atlantis?"
Radek nodded. "Yes, except not so friendly. Same country, but one can hardly blame the citizens for decisions of the government beyond their control. Not all of my people feel the same; there are some who still harbor resentment toward Russia. But, the way I see it, none of the Russians I know were in charge of such decisions, so I have no reason to dislike them personally. Even in my country, the soldiers responsible for the daily oppression were merely under orders. It has taken me some time and admittedly some reflection to come to this peace, but it is all part of a process."
"Wow." Ronon was seriously impressed. "That's pretty deep. I don't think I could ever feel like that about the Wraith."
Radek laughed, as if the very idea of feeling that way about the Wraith was ridiculous, which Ronon took to be a good sign. "Oh, no. The Wraith, I hold no benevolence toward. The occupation was not good, but the Soviets also did not level our entire country, kill everyone I knew, or try to eat us. Had that been the case, I assure you I would feel differently. I do have some residual suspicion toward military-led endeavors, I will admit, but I am working on it. I might almost be all right with it if they decide to enhance the military presence in Atlantis, given the Wraith situation, as long as Dr. Weir were to remain."
"Yeah." Ronon had no problem agreeing with that. "They bring anyone else in, they better not expect me to go along with it."
Radek smiled. "Good to know. Anyhow, I did my time in the service, hoping to make some connections that would allow me to continue my education. I had a few textbooks at home I had procured through slightly less than legal means, so I had some knowledge, but that did not entirely satisfy."
Ronon laughed. "You stole books? Never would've pegged you for it."
Radek held up a finger, cautioning. "I never said I stole them. I bought them from someone who might have stolen them. The details are best left alone. Either way, I needed more if I were to continue. I made myself useful where I could, fixing things here and there in addition to my regular duties, odd jobs, little things to get noticed. Perhaps I should have been more conservative, but hindsight, as they say, is twenty-twenty and I can't see more than five feet without my glasses no matter what direction I look." He chuckled, as if amused by himself. Ronon noticed the ones that got called geeks did that a lot. "There was a man who noticed me, and after my service was done and I was about to return home, we had a meeting. He had a job to offer me. He worked with a resistance group, one that technically did not exist. I should have left then and there, but my curiosity got the best of me. It is a scientist's trait, but there are times I am worse than Maruška."
"Who?" Ronon asked.
Radek blinked in surprise, and then shrugged. "Ah, yes, sorry. My cat, back home. Always, always had to keep her away from the pigeons, but she was a good cat. Into everything, though. No mystery unturned. And that was my downfall. I could have left, but not knowing the opportunity I had refused would have made me mad. So I said yes, and he said he had a job for me and could get me a very nice spot at Charles University should I complete it. He knew people. All I had to do was misappropriate a few documents related to developing Russian technology and deliver them. They were supposed to give the resistance an upper hand - and, well, you saw what became of it; we had to wait for the Velvet Revolution."
"So did you do it?" Ronon asked.
Radek looked at Ronon as if he'd lost his mind. "Are you kidding? Of course. He was not the sort of man you said no to, not if you valued your continued existence - and, me, I rather like breathing."
"So you were like that James Bond guy in those movies?" Ronon asked. He was about to be seriously impressed.
"Oh, no, no." Zelenka shook his head firmly. "Nothing like that. What I did was highly illegal, highly dangerous, and highly unable to be proven, but my life as spy was a short one. I got the position at Charles; I continued my studies. Ordinary citizen, as far as anybody knew. Definitely not the sort who would ever have stolen anything related to technology."
"So where did the carrying weapons come into it?" Ronon asked. That was the part he really wanted to hear about. Not that the rest of it wasn't interesting, but given the reluctance with which Radek carried a Beretta, he wanted to hear the weapon-related details.
Radek took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "Keep in mind, even if you do get to Earth and have reason to betray me - which I do not for a moment believe - you can prove nothing. Anyhow, I continued, I wrote papers; they got censored when the professors didn't like the ideas I proposed. This, I knew would happen. It was my hope to one day continue my education in England, where I could think freely. Perhaps Australia or the United States, though it would have been harder to sneak out and to another continent, which is primarily why I preferred England. Hard enough to get out as it was without complications."
"Yeah," Ronon agreed, "and Australia has those drop bears you have to watch out for."
Radek frowned. "Have you been talking to Major Fields again?"
Ronon nodded. "Yeah, he says they're pretty fierce bastards. I'd love to take one on."
Radek shook his head. "When you are talking to Dr. Weir about the other matters, be sure to ask her about the drop bears as well. I am sure you will find it educational."
Interesting. "Why, has she seen one?" Ronon asked. He tried to picture Elizabeth Weir facing a crazed bear with fangs and razor-sharp claws and failed. She was tough, but that strained his imagination a bit much.
"Not exactly," Radek replied, "but a diplomat of her stature has a great deal of experience with the customs and experiences related to different countries."
That made sense. "So, the weapons?"
"Ah, yes, the weapons." Radek steepled his fingers in his lap. "The problem with getting somewhere thanks to arguably disreputable individuals is that they continue to have connections. My...friend...managed to get copies of my work, even that which was never made public in any fashion, and thought perhaps I had made too much use of the information I passed on to him those years earlier. Now, truthfully, I never looked at the papers. I didn't want to know. I didn't want to be a part of it. But I convinced myself it was for the future of my country and my own education and, you know, all those things you tell yourself when you are not morally content with the actions you are taking. I got a visit from him; I told him I knew nothing. He didn't believe me. It got heated; I got threatened; I decided it would perhaps be best to move up my plans to flee the country. I didn't want to. I knew I might never be able to return. But, my wife, she convinced me. She wanted to go to England, even if it meant leaving everything. And getting out, it was not easy - or remotely safe, if you were doing it without explicit permission. Which is where the weapons come in. I did not want to fight or harm another. But I was not traveling alone and I had to be able to protect Kveta."
"If you didn't want to leave at first, why let this guy bother you?" Ronon asked. Bullying was something he had little tolerance for. "You could have told someone."
"Who?" Radek asked incredulously. "Everything was run by the government. What was I supposed to tell them? Oh, yes, this man is threatening me because I happened to give him some papers I stole containing Russian secrets. I don't know how good they were, but whatever helps the cause." Sarcasm was not a new concept for Ronon; it had its place on Sateda. But in Radek's case, Ronon found himself particularly enjoying it. "If I had ever been heard from again - and that is a pretty big if - it would have been from the deepest parts of Siberia, and I hate snow."
Put like that, Ronon could see his point. It was a long story leading up to a short conclusion - he was heavily armed in order to sneak out of his country - but Ronon wasn't sorry for the telling. It was interesting, and he'd learned a lot about Radek. Devious if needed, true to his beliefs, but not stupid. Good combination. And Ronon suspected there was a lot more he hadn't been told, but that would have to come later, if at all. Maybe that was it. Ronon wasn't above asking Dr. Weir for her speculation, if she knew anything. If she smiled in that serene way of hers and said it was Radek's story to tell, Ronon would buy this version. If she professed to know nothing at all, there was definitely more. Ronon had learned a few things about the secrecy the Lanteans liked to maintain. The cooler it was, the less you pretended to know about it. But even with the quick resolution to the story, Ronon was still impressed. He didn't know anything about Soviet defenses, but if they had managed to invade entire countries, they were obviously pretty good. Radek had managed to get past them, obviously successfully. That alone was worthy of respect.
"So, you got out." Ronon didn't bother phrasing it as a question; it was pretty clear. "What then?"
"We spent a few months in England," Radek told him. "My sister had friends there. Her friends had friends in New York City, so they helped us get set up to move to America. We were poor, but that was the land of milk and honey, if you believed the dreamers. If you believed the Soviets...well, you would have stayed in Prague. Milk and honey, it was not. We struggled to survive; Kveta and I eventually drifted apart and divorced. But, still, the opportunities were incredible for one so used to growing up with so much dictated to us. I was only three when the Prague Spring came and went and we were invaded. My parents wanted to flee with the thousands of others, but we had no place to go and they were too proud to take any sort of refugee status. I would not give up my experiences, though; they have shaped me. Freedom you fight for is so much more liberating."
"I understand that." Ronon many times would have wished away his experiences as a Runner while he was doing it, but those years taught him a lot. Survival skills. Fighting techniques. And, most of all, he wasn't a corpse in a Wraith hive ship somewhere; every day he survived was another chance to seek revenge on the Wraith. And, now, every day he didn't run for his life was a new experience. Freedom wasn't free, as many of the Earthers liked to say, and that was for sure. But Ronon wondered how many of them who weren't soldiers or didn't work with them like in Atlantis appreciated just how precious it could be to someone who'd never tasted it. The Lanteans were cool, though. With so many from different countries and different backgrounds, working side by side with military, occasionally fighting for their lives, it was an experience no one who hadn't been there could understand. Which was why Ronon was left with little patience for the IOA and their inane policies. Let them look a Wraith in the eye and see how much protocol mattered. "So did you ever go back?" He hadn't been given any choice about leaving Sateda, but he knew what it was like not to be able to go home. In the end, it seemed Radek had little choice about leaving his home, either.
Radek nodded. "Oh, yes. After the Revolution, it took me a couple years to save the money and tie off loose ends, but I returned. And...oh, it was beautiful. The Czech Republic was alive and bustling, and -" He trailed off suddenly, looking apologetic. "Oh, I am sorry. For you, knowing the home you had is gone, it must be difficult."
Ronon wasn't used to people taking him into consideration like that, but he was also getting used to people in general again. "It's all right. You're proud of where you come from. That's cool. Sateda's still the best place in the universe to me, even if it is gone. But Atlantis is home now."
Radek wasted no time in agreeing with that. "Yes, it is. Our time away from it has convinced me of that. My roots are in Prague, but my heart, it is in Pegasus." He considered that. "My God, that sounded almost poetic." Another self-amused chuckle followed.
As Radek turned to check his equipment again, Ronon allowed himself a small smile. A theoretically boring afternoon of Zelenka-minding had turned into something pretty incredible after all, no matter what the readings they took said or what value they would offer to science and mankind. This morning, Ronon would have sworn that he and Radek had nothing in common beyond an address in the universe, but now he was finding they were more alike that he would have guessed. Not too bad for a day's work. This hardly meant he would be volunteering for more babysitting duty, though. Hardly. It found him often enough. When it didn't, he had better things to do. He had to talk to Dr. Weir, lead some combat training, wipe the gym floor with John Sheppard....