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Title: Turning Up the Heat
Author: ldyanne
Pairing: none
Rating:  G
Categories: drama, episode tag "Critical Mass"
Warnings: none
Words: 4,600
Summary: I always wondered in Season 3's "Critical Mass" how Radek came to allow himself to be 'made up' by the children of M7G-677. This is my take on how it might have happened.

Radek finished up the last of the adjustments to the shield on M7G-677. He had said he didn't want to come. But McKay had replied that he was the best person for the job. As if was meant to be a compliment. Really, Radek knew, it was because Rodney didn't want to deal with the kids again, so he'd sent Radek instead.

Radek was surprised to find that it hadn't been so bad. Sergeant Stackhouse had come along as his escort. It turned out the sergeant loved kids. He'd spent the time that Radek was working on the shield playing with the little girl from the village, Cleo. They were both down on the ground with some marbles that Stackhouse had brought with him. There was no way Radek was going to ask why the sergeant had brought marbles with him to another galaxy, but at least it kept the little girl quiet and out of the way.

Considering that they were on what was known back on Atlantis as the Planet of the Lord of the Flies, she was the only child they'd seen so far. She'd shown up the minute they arrived at the site of the Ancient generator and couldn't be persuaded to leave. She said that she was told by Keras to keep an eye on them. Radek hadn't argued, he'd just let Stackhouse take care of the situation.

He would never admit it, but Radek was actually enjoying himself. He'd always dreaded the thought of leaving the city, of encountering the dangers of the Pegasus Galaxy. But so far, he was on a sunny planet with no one bothering him while he got to work with Ancient tech. And the planet was protected from the Wraith by a shield. It was almost his idea of a perfect day.

He straightened and his back cracked. He put the ZPM back into its place and initiated the sequence that would engage it. The ZPM lit up with a satisfactory glow. There was a steady green glow on the panel that indicated everything was working correctly.

He put all of his tools back into his pack neatly, pulling out a cloth to wipe his hands.

"You ready to go home, Doc?" Stackhouse called. He gathered up his marbles and put them back into the little bag they'd come out of. He knelt down so he was on the girl's level and handed her the bag.

"Will you keep these for me?" he asked her. "Just until the next time we come back. That way I'll know where I left them.

Her little face lit up as she held the bag close. Stackhouse gave her a hug. "You ready, Doc?" he asked.

Radek nodded, shouldering his pack. "We need to go now if we are going to make it to the gate before dark."

The sun was hanging low in the sky; the first stars of the night could already be seen. It was a 20-minute walk to the jumper and then another 5 to the gate. They would be home in time for dinner. Radek intended to lord it over Rodney that absolutely nothing had happened while he was off world.

The day hadn't turned out nearly as horrifically wrong as Radek thought it would he reflected as they walked, he might even let himself be persuaded to come back one day.

That was until Stackhouse dialed the gate so they could return home.

"I'm sorry, Doctor Zelenka," the marine said, not meeting Radek's eyes. "I don't know what I'm doing wrong." He swallowed. "The gate won't connect."

"No, this can not be right." Radek's stomach twisted at the thought of all the things that might have happened at home that would keep the gate from connecting. He refused to consider that the city was gone and therefore the gate was destroyed. Rodney was the one who defaulted to the worst case scenario. Radek was more a glass-half-full kind of person.

Perhaps it wasn't anything worse than Rodney running a diagnostic on the gate which meant it would have to be taken off line for the duration of the diagnostic. Which meant it would be down for 6 hours or more. Which meant that Rodney knew Radek was off world and so he deliberately took the gate off line to make Radek stay that much longer on the children's world. Yes, Radek was going to make Rodney pay if that were the case. Radek only prayed it was something as simple as Rodney's abominable sense of humor.

"Let me do it," Radek muttered, pushing Stackhouse out of his way. "Fumble-fingered soldiers, good only for shooting at things."

"Hey," Stackhouse grumbled, attempting to maintain the façade of good humor, that everything was alright, "I know how to dial the gate, doc."

"I know, I know. I am sorry. I am just cranky from being on same planet with children all day." Radek dialed Atlantis' address. The chevrons all lit until the final one, then the gate shut itself off. "This is bad."

Stackhouse put an encouraging hand on his shoulder. "Maybe it's something simple. You know like that time the gate tech spilled his coffee on the DHD and the gate was down for three days."

"Do not try to cheer me up by telling me I will have to be here for three days."

Stackhouse gave a little smile. "Sure thing, Doc. What are we going to do now?"

Radek cast a longing glance at the jumper. "We could spend the night in the jumper?"

Stackhouse laughed. "Come on, Doc. Obviously you've never tried to sleep in the jumper. It's not that comfortable. We should go back to the village. Keras will find us a place to sleep."

"This is what I am afraid of," Radek grumbled, following Stackhouse back to the jumper.

~~~~~

Cleo ran to greet them as they approached the village. It was full dark. The sky overhead was resplendent with stars. Radek wished he could enjoy them, but the darkness was weighing down on him. He liked fluorescent lights. He didn't need fresh air, he liked recycled air that came with the safety and protection of Atlantis' walls. It had been a long day. Radek was exhausted to his bones. He wanted a hot shower, dinner and his comfortable bed. He didn't think he was going to get any of those things.

"You came back," Cleo greeted them, jumping up and down in her glee. Keras followed closely behind her.

"Not that you are not welcome," he took in their air of gravity, "but is all well in Atlantis?"

Radek shrugged. "I can not say for certain. It could be nothing, but the gate will not connect."

"You are welcome to stay here with us," Keras said with a smile.

"Yeah," Cleo danced around them. "They can stay with me."

Keras grinned down at her, ruffling her hair. "Your mother may have something to say to that. We have more than enough space for you," he said to Radek and Stackhouse. "Please we are just sitting down for our evening meal. Will you join us?"

Keras led them back to the fire where it seemed that many of the village was sitting laughing and eating.

Radek lowered himself gingerly to the ground in the space indicated by Keras. It might be a space of honor to the children, but Radek didn't feel honored. Not only was he sitting on the ground, where it was dirty, but he was now surrounded by children. They all watched him curiously, waiting to see what he would do.

Food was passed to them and soon enough Radek and Stackhouse were forgotten as the children talked of their day and their plans for the next day.

It was almost pleasant. Dinner turned out to be some kind of stew that was actually very tasty. The meat was tender and there were vegetables floating in a hearty broth. It was better than anything they'd had on Atlantis lately since they were near the end of the supplies brought by the Daedalus. The cooks became very creative as their supplies ran low and dinner was always a surprise, very often an unpleasant one.

Radek very much liked the hearty bread that accompanied the stew. It was brown and heavy, with a sweet, nutty taste. He saw that the kids around him used the bread to sop up the left over juices of the stew. He copied them. It was probably the best thing he'd had to eat in weeks. He'd spied some little tarts set out that he was hoping were for dessert when a boy appeared at Keras' side.

Whatever he whispered in Keras' ear caused the young man to go pale. His swift glance to the sky filled Radek with dread.

Keras stood and beckoned forward several of his warriors, they didn't look like anything but teenagers to Radek. They'd been rough housing and rowdy at one of the other fires, but now they were deadly serious as they listened to Keras.

"It has been reported that Wraith have come through the gate."

Of course, was Radek's first thought, because this day couldn't get any worse. Then, "Now I've jinxed myself."

"Have they come in their ships? Won't they fall from the sky?" a girl asked. She was standing in the shadows outside of the firelight, but her voice sounded young. Too young to have to worry about things like the Wraith.

"They come on foot. Maybe they wish to find out what happened to their drone device."

Radek stood. "As long as we all stay within the area covered by the shield, they can't use any of their technology, they are as hampered by this as we are."

The children all turned and looked at him like he had three heads.

Keras, however, nodded. "You are right, Dr. Zelenka, thank you. We will take shelter in the caves where our ancestors would go when the Wraith came. Perhaps if they can not find a harvest to reap, they will leave our world."

Stackhouse stepped forward, "Maybe you should clear the area, put out the fires. If they make it this far, they might think that the place is deserted if there isn't anyone here."

Keras clapped a hand on Stackhouse's shoulder. "This is an excellent idea. It is a far walk from the gate to our village. We should have much time to clear as much as we can before the Wraith make it this far. Miram," he called.

A slender girl, no more than 10 or 12 stepped forward into the firelight. Her abundant brown curls fell in a riot around her face.

"Yes, Keras," she said gravely.

"Run to the next village and warn them. Tell them to make preparations and go to the caves. We will let them know when it is safe to return to their home. Continue to each village in turn. Do not come back until we send someone for you."

"Yes, Keras," was all she said before turning and disappearing into the night.

"Keras," Stackhouse stepped forward again. "Maybe I can take some of your warriors and we can keep an eye on the Wraith?" Stackhouse raised a hand to forestall Keras' next words, "We won't engage them. Just keep an eye on them. We can send back runners to warn you if it looks like the Wraith are on to you."

Keras nodded, his face thoughtful. "This sounds like an excellent idea. Thank you for this suggestion."

Several kids stepped forward – girls as well as boys.

"We would like to volunteer to accompany this one," one of the kids said, gesturing to Stackhouse.

Keras smiled at them. "The sergeant has more experience with the Wraith than we do. Follow his command. We are going to the caves, come to us there when you can."

Stackhouse turned to Radek.

"You going to be okay, Doc?"

Radek nodded. "I will be fine. I have all of these children to keep me safe." He attempted to smile; he suspected that it looked more like a rictus of fear instead.

Stackhouse did smile, "That's what I'm afraid of Doc. You're worse with the kids than you are with the Wraith. At least you can shoot the Wraith." Radek didn't even try to smile at his attempt at humor. "You got your gun?"

Radek patted the weapon at his hip. Normally he hated the necessity of wearing it, but today he was glad he had it.

"Is it loaded?" Stackhouse asked, his brow raised.

Radek scowled. "Yes, yes, go."

With a parting grin, the marine disappeared into the night with several children following him.

The next hour flew by as the children worked to erase as many signs of their occupation as they could.

Fortunately they spent much of their time in their tree house homes, so there wasn't as much on the ground that they had to get rid of or hide. Every child pitched in, no matter how young. If they could walk and carry something, they were put to work. Radek helped, too, doing whatever he could.

Soon, everything that could be hidden was out of sight. The fires were doused and the ashes spread out. There were children with branches rubbing out footprints and other children throwing branches and bits of shrubbery over any remaining signs of habitation.

A child appeared running, gasping and out of breath.

Radek heard her say, "The Wraith are close now. You must go."

Keras nodded and gestured for the girl to go. She ran back in the direction she had gone. Radek noticed that she made no noise when she ran. He, on the other hand, crashed around like a herd of hippopotamus.

Keras gestured for everyone to gather in. Radek welcomed the closeness of other bodies pressing in. He didn't even mind that grubby little fingers were clinging to his trousers, that children were pressed in all around him.

"We must go in small groups. Neleus," he beckoned to a boy, probably 12 or 13, to him. "I want you to take the first group with Dr. Zelenka, get them safely to the caves. Can you do that?"

Neleus nodded. He set off into the dark with Radek stumbling after him.

It seemed that every branch reached out to snag Radek, that he found every hole that could be stumbled into. Radek longed to pull out a scanner and find out just where the Wraith were. He didn't have the Ancient gene that would allow him to use the Ancient tech, but they'd been able to rig a few things so that anyone could use them. The life signs detector was one of those things. Unfortunately the shield that protected the children from the Wraith also prevented him from being able to use anything more sophisticated than a sling shot.

Radek murmured quietly to himself, "This is why I do not go off world." He pushed past a branch, nearly getting poked in the eye. "Go, Radek, have fun." It was what Rodney had said. "Ba! I will have you know I do not like running for my life." Rodney liked it. Oh, he pretended that he did not, but Radek could see the gleam in his eye whenever Rodney told stories about his adventures off world. Well, *he* was never leaving Atlantis again. They would have to pry his fingers off the gate to get him to step through.

"You must be quiet," the boy, Neleus, hissed at him. "We will attract the attention of the Wraith."

It was so dark. Radek imagined that there were Wraith everywhere beyond each turn of the path they followed. His heart labored from the fear and the physical exertion. He wondered what it felt like to be fed upon, if it hurt as the body was drained of all energy and life force, turned into a dry, lifeless husk.

He felt a hand take his. He almost had a heart attack imagining it to be a Wraith before he looked down to find that it was Cleo clutching his hand.

"I'm afraid," she whispered.

Radek felt her little hand in his, warm and alive. He'd never liked kids; they were usually just an impediment to his work. But he found himself wanting to protect Cleo, to keep her safe from harm.

He wrapped his fingers around her hand, giving them a little squeeze. She smiled up at him.

"I won't let them hurt you," she promised.

"Děkuji," he replied gravely.

"Sh!" Their guide glared back at them.

It felt like they walked forever. It was so dark that Radek was certain they were lost. They would never find sanctuary. They were destined to wander the woods forever, being hunted by the Wraith.

At last their guide brushed back some underbrush to reveal the entrance to a cave. They followed him inside and were almost immediately swallowed again by darkness. It was close inside the cave; Radek could feel the press of stone upon him.

A light flared and then their guide brandished a torch aloft. It flickered wanly. It seemed too little to push back the darkness they were surrounded by.

Neleus led them through the winding caves. There were children everywhere, huddled in groups. He could hear small whimpers and whispered comfort. The rocks underfoot conspired to trip Radek. Every time he would stumble over a rock or the uneven ground, one of the children came to his aid, pulling him upright, brushing him off.

At last they came to a large natural cavern. There were flickering torches set into sconces on the wall which gave the room a soft, flickering glow. The space was packed with groups of children gathered together. Some of them had spread out sleeping mats and there were little ones tucked in. They weren't sleeping, Radek could see the gleam of their eyes as their group passed them by.

It was hot in the cavern. Too many bodies squeezed into too small of a space. Sweat trickled down the back of his neck.

Neleus spied Keras taking with a group of 'elders.' He navigated his group through the bodies to stop at Keras.

Keras moved to meet them. "Neleus, you made it! I was worried when it took you so long to get here." Keras' gaze passed over the group, doing a mental count of heads. "You have done well, you got everyone to us safely."

"No thanks to him." Neleus frowned at Radek. "He stomps through the woods like a neitzgrag. He is worse than one of the babies who has not yet learned to walk."

Keras gave a small chuckle at that. "He can not help that he has not been brought up to be quiet in the woods. You should rejoin the scouts."

The boy nodded and moved away quickly. Radek found himself alone in a cave of children. And there were Wraith hunting them. It was a scene straight from his worst nightmare.

"Is there anything I can do?" Radek asked. He felt so helpless. That was the worst thing. On Atlantis he could be working on systems, helping in some tangible way. Here he was no good to anyone.

Keras smiled down at Cleo. "Can you help keep her calm? She is my sister's child, I would not see any harm come to her."

"Of course," Radek assured him. "We will go over there and be quiet."

Keras' eyebrow rose. "Have you met Cleo?"

Cleo and Radek found an unoccupied piece of cave wall to claim. Radek led Cleo over and they sat. She tucked herself under his arm. Radek let his head fall back against the cold stone at his back. It felt good contrasted with the heat of the cave. He breathed in and out, trying to work through the fear that flooded his system.

A boy came and sat with them. He gazed up at Radek.

"You're the oldest person I've ever met. You're even older than Dr. McKay."

Radek's immediate response was indignation. "I am not older than Rodney McKay. What are you doing here?"

Cleo stirred. "That's Casta," she said as if that explained everything. "Have you ever seen a Wraith?"

Radek shuddered. "I have. I hope to never see one again."

Cleo's whole body tensed. "Are they going to eat us? Ares told me that Wraith eat bad kids. But I'm not a bad kid, I may talk a lot but that doesn't mean that I'm bad."

"No, sh…" Radek reassured her. "It does not mean that you are bad. You are not going to be eaten by Wraith. I will not let them."

Cleo giggled. "I like you."

Radek was inexplicably warmed. "Thank you."

Cleo jumped up. "I know what I should do."

Radek was alarmed by the gleeful smile she wore.

"What should you do?" he asked. He was pretty sure he wasn't going to like the answer.

She didn't answer him; she just shoved him a little so his back was more towards her. He felt little hands in his hair.

"No, no, no, no," he stammered, catching her fingers.

His nephew had gone through a stage where he had wanted to play with Uncle Radek's hair. When Radek had protested, his sister had told him to not be a baby, it was just innocent fun. Radek had had to have a hair cut when his nephew was done.

Her lower lip trembled. "I was going to make you part of our clan. Don't you want to be part of our clan?" Big hot tears leaked out of the corners of Cleo's eyes and rolled down her cheek.

"This," Radek declared, "is why I do not like children. They cry." He released her hands and gave permission for her to do whatever she wanted with a resigned wave of his hand.

Cleo gave a glad little shriek, her hands returning to his hair.

~~~~~

Hours later, Stackhouse returned with Neleus. Radek, saw them come in, look around the cave and head for Keras' group. Radek, drowsing in his spot at the wall, was near enough to hear what was happening, so he chose not to move. Cleo had fallen asleep sitting next to him with her head pillowed on his arm. Casta was asleep on the other side. The little boy had fallen over at some point and his head was resting on Radek's pack.

"The Wraith have left the planet," Neleus reported. "They did not get as far as the village before they turned and left."

"Is this true?" Keras asked sharply.

Stackhouse nodded. "They couldn't use any of their electronics, they couldn't find any sign of habitation. You might stay in the caves a day or two to be safe, but I think you're good."

Keras broke out in a relieved smile. "I am glad to hear this."

Stackhouse looked around, the whole room had erupted from a subdued whisper to a jubilant cheer at the news.

"Where's Dr. Zelenka?" he asked.

Keras waved a hand in the direction of Zelenka and his charges. Stackhouse took a quick look in his direction, then he did a double take.

"Dr. Zelenka?"

Radek stirred enough to glare in Stackhouse's direction. "You will not say anything if you value the fact that you have hot water."

It clearly took a heroic effort, but Stackhouse did a zipped lips motion with his hand.

"I heard from Atlantis once the Wraith left. We can go home anytime."

Radek would have cheered himself if he wasn't stiff and sore from sleeping on the floor in a stuffy cave. He shifted Cleo so that she was laying on the ground and covered her with the emergency blanket. He held a hand out to the marine who pulled him to his feet.

"I am ready to go home," Radek declared. "I am thinking of suitable revenge for Rodney McKay."

Stackhouse was clearly trying not to laugh. He coughed into his hand, "You going to wash your face and…" he made a flaily motion with his hands, "let your hair down before you go back to Atlantis?"

Cleo, who had been snoring awfully loudly for such a little girl just moments before, jumped up and put herself in front of Radek, "No, he won't," she said, her whole body thrumming with fierceness. "He is a part of our clan now."

Keras nodded gravely, but Radek could see he was fighting a grin, too. "It would be a grave insult to Cleo to change before going home."

Stackhouse held up his hands in surrender. "Let's get you home, Dr. Zelenka. I’m sure that they must be worried about us back on Atlantis."

"Atlantis?" Cleo turned to Radek. "Do I get to go to?" She looked so hopeful, her eyes pleading with him. "You are of my clan now. Your home is my home."

"Perhaps I will see if it is alright," he tried temporizing.

"Yeah!" She jumped in the air, bouncing around. "I get to go to Atlantis."

"Me, too! Me, too!" Casta joined in the jumping and the bouncing.

"But not today," Radek tried to shout over them, but he was having little success.

Keras took pity on him. He strode over and took the two children in hand.

"I cannot let you go today. Today I must keep you close to me and we must celebrate our escape from the Wraith."

The shouts of joy turned to, "Celebration! Escape! Cake!"

Keras gave Radek a hand up. "You are going to have to take them to Atlantis eventually, you know that, don't you?"

Radek capitulated with a pained sigh. "I know. Just… not today. If I am lucky, city will have fallen back into ocean and no one will be there to see me."

Keras just grinned. "Doctor. You look very… good."

"jen počkejte, až se příště budete potřebovat generátor pevné. I am going home now."

Radek walked past the not-so-quietly chortling Stackhouse, ignoring the amused looks that followed him on his exit from the cave.

~~~~~

Radek knew he wasn't going to be able to escape Rodney McKay's caustic wit once he got back to Atlantis.

"Ani se mnou mluvit," he shouted at Rodney when Rodney came to see him during his post mission check in the infirmary.

"Why, Radek," Rodney said, a spiteful gleam in his eye. "It looks like you had a good time on M7G-677."

"You are a bad, bad man," Radek hissed at him.

"What?" Rodney grinned and rocked back on his heels.

"You said there would be no Wraith. You said it would be walk on cake,"

"I said it would be a cake walk," Rodney was forced to interject.

"It was not cake walk," Radek shouted. "There was Wraith. We were in a cave for hours while Wraith walked around looking for children."

"What?" Rodney sobered instantly. "Are you alright? Are the kids okay?"

Radek waved a weary hand. "They are fine. All is fine. But I am never leaving Altantis again. You go next time shield needs to be adjusted."

The sly smile crept back onto Rodney's lips. "But Radek you obviously got along with the children so well."

Radek's smile grew malicious. "Cleo and Casta are to come with Keras for diplomatic visit to Atlantis. I told them you would want to be part of the clan, too."

Rodney's face drained of color. "What? You can't... I can't... I have to go talk to Elizabeth." He turned and left the infirmary as quickly as his legs would carry him.

Carson appeard at his side with his test results. "Now, lad," he said, "was that nice?"

Radek laughed, "Perhaps not. But I will be keeping camera close during visit of Cleo and Casta and Keras.”

Carson laughed. "I'll be looking forward to the pictures."

Translations by the Google translator
My apologies for any mistakes. I used the Google translator. I am more than willing to make any changes if you want to let me know of any mistakes.
děkuji – thank you
jen počkejte, až se příště budete potřebovat generátor pevné – just wait until the next time you need your generator fixed
ani se mnou mluvit – do not even speak to me

A/N: Thanks to my beta, chocolatephysicist!

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
popkin16
May. 26th, 2013 05:25 am (UTC)
Aw, this was delightful. A fun look at what Radek was going through while Atlantis was incommunicado. I smiled the whole way through; Radek came off as very grumpy, which is very Rodney-like :P I love that Radek is part of Cleo's clan now, that she's going to visit Atlantis, and that she thought Radek was older than Rodney :D
ldyanne
Jun. 16th, 2013 10:20 pm (UTC)
I had a good time with writing this one! I always wondered how they got Radek to hold still long enough to do him up like that!
lilyfarfalla
May. 28th, 2013 01:08 am (UTC)
I'm sure Radek would be horrified, but I found this pretty damn cute. Great "what was happening out of view of the cameras" story! I loved how helpless Radek felt, whereas in Atlantis he can help, he didn't have anything to do here. I love how that's something Rodney struggles with too, but we see Radek handle it very differently.

And was degree the temp in the caves? I thought that worked fine!
ldyanne
Jun. 16th, 2013 10:23 pm (UTC)
*nods* Degree was the temp in the caves.

I love fic that show us other aspects of what's happening 'off camera.'

I had a good time with this one, glad you liked it.
michelel72
May. 30th, 2013 12:27 am (UTC)
This is fun.
ldyanne
Jun. 16th, 2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was a lot of fun to write.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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