If anything can go wrong, it will.
It's half an hour into the meal the town's leader, Sanna, has provided them when John turns to get Ronon's opinion on whether or not he thinks Teyla might like the slightly cinnamon-y tea. The Satedan's chair is conspicuously empty, and John didn't even notice Ronon getting up, which is weird in itself, because Ronon draws attention with every gesture that he makes.
“How should I know where he is? I’m not his babysitter,” Rodney says when John asks if anyone had seen Ronon leave the table, voice sharp with irritation. His mouth twists into a crooked scowl as he adds, “Though I did see one of the local girls eyeing him up….”
“And Ronon went off with her?” John says, unable to keep an edge of disbelief from his voice. Still, going off with a local girl is out-of-character for Ronon, who usually sticks close on missions, just in case things turn sour. Well, unless there is mention of a Wraith nearby, in which case Ronon tends to bolt for the door. He fixes a smile upon his face and directs it towards Sanna. “I’ll be right back.”
“All right,” Sanna says agreeably, cheerful smile on her lips that sends a warning tingle down his spine that the other smiles haven’t. He feels her gaze on him as he leaves, but it’s only once he gets outside that he realizes why he feels uneasy. Earlier, the woman’s smile had lit up her entire face and made her green eyes almost twinkle; this smile hadn’t reached her eyes.
“Sir?” The low, urgent whisper makes him pause and glance to his left. There, huddled against the outside of the building as though he’s trying to blend in, is a boy twisting his hands anxiously in front of him and gazing at him with dark eyes. Lanky and with almost coltish features that he’ll hopefully grow into, the boy looks fifteen at the most. “You came through the Ring of the Ancestors with Specialist Dex?”
“I did.” John smiles at him, but instead of reassuring the kid, the smile makes him look even more miserable, his lips turning downwards in a half-grimace and his eyes lowering to the ground as though the boy can’t quite bring himself to meet John’s eyes. “I’m looking for him, actually. You seen him?”
The boy casts a quick, furtive glance around the street, and then leans forward, voice earnest. “I am not supposed to tell you this, but I believe what Specialist Dex did was justified. Aunt Sanna would claim a blood-debt, but that is foolish. Specialist Dex was only enacting the blood-debt for the thousands my father handed over to-- to--” The boy’s voice becomes sharp and brittle at the word ‘father’ and now he stops and shivers, eyes squeezing shut briefly before he swallows and with obvious effort opens them. Looking at John with eyes far older than fifteen, he says softly, “My aunt has claimed a blood-debt from Specialist Dex for the death of her brother, Kell. He has been given to Regola of Laska, to do with as she pleases.”
John probably should do something other than stare, even as his heart momentarily jack-knifes in his chest and he feels the first spike of adrenaline that surges through him whenever he realizes that one of his teammates is in danger. “What do you mean, ‘given to Regola of Laska’?”
“Aunt Sanna sold him to her,” the boy says, the picture of misery, and John resists the urge to swear, one hand twitching towards his M16. Of all the planets to visit and try to trade with, of course they would wind up on one that still believes in slavery. “Please, know that many of us do not agree with her actions. She is simply de--”
John raises a hand and the kid’s mouth snaps shut. “Is Laska another town?”
The boy ducks his head, unable to meet his gaze again, and John mentally sighs. More bad news then. “Another planet.”
“Wonderful,” John mutters. He glances around the street, but it is empty, almost suspiciously so, and he wonders how truthful the boy is being about the ‘many’ that don’t agree with Sanna. “I think I need to talk to your aunt now.”
He hefts his M16 and feels his lips curve into a half-grin, one that he knows doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of reaching his eyes. The half-smile stays on his lips even as he leans almost casually against Sanna’s chair and says in a conversational tone, “So, I was thinking about we all take a quick trip over to the Stargate and you dial up this place that you’ve sent Ronon to. Laska, wasn’t it?”
Now there is no smile on Sanna’s face at all; as John waits for an answer, he watches a muscle jump in her jaw. “He murdered my brother. He deserves the fate Regola will give him.” She practically spits out the words, although her tone shifts during the second sentence and becomes almost pleased, as though she knows exactly what Ronon’s fate will be and is anticipating every second of it.
Rodney looks up at that, swallowing whatever he’s got in his mouth. He glances between the two, and one of his hands drops under the table, hopefully to grab his Beretta. “Did I miss something?”
Apparently the kid followed John inside, because in the next second he hears the boy’s soft, almost desperate, “My father was a collaborator, Aunt Sanna. Surely he deserved a worse death than the swift one that Specialist Dex gave him.” He doesn’t even have to glance over to know the boy’s wringing his hands again.
Sanna’s laughter is harsh and filled with malice. “Vell. I should have known. Your mother always did fill your head with nonsense. Your father saved us from the Wraith--”
“By sacrificing thousands of other Satedans to do it!” Vell shouts, and something finally clicks in John’s head.
At the mention of food, Rodney simultaneously brightened and scowled, and John said hurriedly, “I’ll taste-test for citrus,” before Rodney could go into a spiel about citrus being hazardous to his health. As Rodney’s expression shifted full-force into cheerfulness, John smiled at Sanna and gestured for her to lead the way.
Following after her, he began, “Anyway, we probably should introduce ourselves. I’m Colonel John Sheppard. That’s Sergeant--” And damn, he never actually caught the first name of the man who’d replaced Teyla while she recovered from the flu, but his smile didn’t falter as he continued smoothly, “--Anderson over there, and the big guy is Specialist Ronon Dex.”
There was a second where John swore Sanna’s pace faltered, but in the next moment, she continued serenely towards the building, casting another warm look in his direction and saying, “It is a pleasure to meet you all.”
John shot a look in Ronon’s direction; apparently his eyes hadn’t played tricks on him, because Ronon wore a frown and his brow was furrowed. Keeping the easy smile on his face and falling into step beside Ronon, he muttered, “Problem?”
“No,” Ronon said, but he continued to frown and one hand tapped absently on the handle of his gun. He shrugged, a quick rise and fall of his shoulders. “Maybe. I’ll let you know.”
John raised an eyebrow. Well, he had to hand it to Ronon. The guy really knew how to be succinct. “Right. You do that.”
Vell is still speaking, voice high and earnest and seemingly on the verge of cracking. “I would rather have died with my people on Sateda than live now with the blood-guilt of thousands. How can you not feel burdened by my father’s cowardice?”
When Sanna opens her mouth to snap something back, two spots of crimson on her cheeks, John pointedly taps the muzzle of the M16 against the back of the chair. Her glare refocuses on him, and he offers up a chilly smile in return. “Now, about Laska.”
Her mouth twists, becomes a thin line, and her face reddens even more. “I will not help you rescue him.”
John glances at Vell, who shrugs, expression rueful, and spreads his hand in an apologetic gesture that weirdly reminds John of Zelenka. “I do not know how to get to Laska.”
“Wonderful,” Rodney snaps. “So let me get this straight. Our gracious hostess here, who’s apparently Satedan, has done something to Ronon because he killed her brother-- whose son apparently thinks deserved to die. And she refuses to dial up the planet where she sent Ronon.”
“Pretty much. Only she didn’t just send him to Laska, she sold him to some woman named Regala.”
Rodney rolls his eyes. “Oh, this is just perfect. I should have known as soon as she mentioned a meal that this mission was too good to be true.” He turns to Anderson. “I take back what I said earlier about us probably being fine. We’re never fine.”
“Maybe the coordinates are in the Ancient database?” Anderson offers, and when John raises an eyebrow at him, turns a little pink and clamps his mouth shut.
“Actually, they might be,” Rodney says thoughtfully. “And the Athosians might know about Laska.”
Taking in Sanna’s determined face, the stubborn tilt of her jaw, John knows he’s not going to get anything out of her. And he suspects that Vell is the only member of the family who’d rather his father had let them all die with the other Satedans. “In case you didn’t figure it out, the trade negotiations are over,” he informs her in a pseudo-pleasant voice, and nods towards Anderson and Rodney. “Let’s back and see if we can get the coordinates for Laska.”
If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.
“So, what you’re telling me is that Ronon’s been enslaved,” Elizabeth says, tone flat, and Rodney watches as Sheppard looks almost sheepish. Rodney can’t really blame him for being a bit embarrassed. They’ve been here over a year now and this is the first time someone’s been enslaved. Imprisoned by angry natives, attacked by Tyrannosaurus Rex, poisoned by local plant-life, yes, enslaved, no. Elizabeth sighs. “Dr. Zelenka’s already located Laska on the database. It seems slavery has always been a main aspect of their civilization.”
“Wonderful,” Rodney mutters. “So are we going to go and buy him back now?” The others look at him, and he stares back. “What? She’s not just going to say, ‘Oh, your friendwasn’t supposed to be sold to me? Here, have him!’ She’s going to want her money back--”
“Regala gave my aunt a very valuable gold chalice that is said to be from the City of the Ancestors,” Vell says. He’s gazing around in awe when he interrupts Rodney, eyes as round as saucers, apparently still not quite believing that he is, in fact, in the City of the Ancestors. He doesn’t seem to notice Rodney’s pointed glare.
Rodney snorts. Golden chalice? So not only was this Regala woman a slave-trader, she was also a con-artist, because he doubted that the chalice was Ancient at all. “We didn’t find any golden chalices.”
A thought strikes him, and he glances over at Elizabeth. “Though we could offer her a piece of Ancient technology. Not an important one, of course, or useful one, because that’d be stupid, but something that she’ll think is impressive.” He snaps his fingers, smiling a little proudly. It was a brilliant plan, if he did say so himself. “Have Radek sort through the cabinet marked ‘Useless’ and find something so we’ll be prepared if Regala is interested.”
“You have a cabinet marked ‘Useless’?” Sheppard asks.
Rodney ignores him. Usually he would roll his eyes and say something witty (and insulting to Sheppard’s intelligence), but insults will have to wait for a later time, when Ronon’s life isn’t in danger, especially when there’s this panicky voice in the back of his mind that keeps reminding him that for all they know, Ronon might already have been sold to someone else.
He tries to ignore the panicky voice in his head as Elizabeth and Sheppard hammer out the rest of the plan to rescue Ronon, even as he feels a headache forming between his eyes as the panicky voice harps on about various possibilities like hard labor and Ronon being punished or killed for trying to escape, because Ronon will try to escape. A few months on Atlantis isn’t long enough to take the Runner out of him.
In the gate-room, Radek is waiting with an Ancient device that’s shaped like a cylinder and large enough that Radek is holding it with both hands. The dozen tiny crystals on the cylinder immediately shift from a turbulent gray-green to a deep, almost painful-looking red as Radek drops it into Rodney’s outstretched hands and says, “Best we can tell, it is the Ancient equivalent of a mood ring.”
Rodney neatly sidesteps Sheppard’s grab for the Ancient device, tucking it into his bag. “Yes, yes, utterly worthless.” Though it did make him wonder even more about the Ancients. After all, the equivalent of a mood ring? “Now, Colonel, let’s go buy Ronon back, shall we?”
When they get to Laska, it’s surprisingly easy to find Regala. Probably too easy, which means their day is more than likely going to get even worse. Whatever the reason, all they have to do is mention her name and they are met with knowing looks and very detailed directions from the town’s inhabitants on how to get to her home. Rodney wonders about the knowing looks -- do they look like slave-traders? And how does one look like a slave-trader anyway?
Then he notices that the knowing looks are being focused primarily on Anderson and Vell, and has to resist the urge to roll his eyes. Yes, because they’re really selling Anderson to Regala, Anderson who is very obviously carrying a gun. Clearly, these people are as stupid as they are backwards.
He doesn’t pay attention to Regala’s house, other than to note the sheer size of it -- it’s the Pegasus equivalent of a mansion -- and to wince at the garish colors of orange and purple that makes him want to go temporarily blind, or at the very least color-blind. Then he is inside, the walls muted purple and orange shades that make him wince a little less. But still. Orange and purple?
Sheppard dons his friendly smile that occasionally kept the natives from shooting them and asks if they could speak to Regala. The grin seems to work on the man who met them at the door, because he smiles back and says in a deep, gravelly voice, “Just one moment please,” before he bows and disappears behind a gauzy screen that is, of course, orange.
“I am told Regala is a very reasonable woman,” Vell offers during the ensuing silence, and maybe the kid just has unnaturally wide eyes, because he’s gazing around with eyes the size of saucers, just like on Atlantis. Or maybe he’s also horrified at the colors.
“Reasonable for a slave-trader, you mean,” Rodney says, and ignores Sheppard’s frown and muttered order to shut up. He closes his eyes and still sees the purple and orange against the insides of his eyelids. He’s definitely going to appreciate the more subtle colors of Atlantis from now on.
He opens his eyes when he hears approaching footsteps and immediately stares, because dear God the woman is dressed to kill, wearing a crimson dress that brings out the color in her cheeks and makes her skin seem creamy and silky, with such a low-cut front that, well-- He feels better about himself when he notices everyone else is also staring.
After a moment, Sheppard clears his throat. “Um, Regala, I’m guessing?”
Her lips, red and full, curve upwards at that. “Yes, I am Regala. How may I help you all?” Her voice is low and smoky, and maybe Ronon’s temporary enslavement hasn’t been such an unpleasant experience after all, if he was bought by a woman like this.
Rodney can just picture it, how Regala’s cool blue gaze would have surveyed Ronon from the top of his head to the soles of his boots, her nod of approval as she studied her latest purchase, even the way Ronon had probably looked at her, gaze smoldering in a way that toed the fine, fine line between hatred and lust, a gaze that was quite possibly a mixture of both when Ronon looked at her.
He suddenly feels a little queasy and focuses on Sheppard’s fumbled explanation.
“--seems there was a little, uh, misunderstanding. You bought a man from Sanna who wasn’t actually a slave. His name’s Ronon Dex, and we’d, well, like him back.” Sheppard offers up his most charming smile, the one he uses on Elizabeth whenever he’s disobeyed a direct order, expression all boyishly hopeful that she’ll forgive him for the misunderstanding and sweetly abashed at his own foolishness. Rodney’s grateful that Elizabeth stopped falling for that look awhile ago. “We’re willing to pay you back for him, of course, since it doesn’t look like Sanna will give up that chalice you gave her, and--”
“Yes, yes, we’ll give you something of equal value, you give us Ronon back, and everybody wins, except for Sanna, who’s psychotic, so no one cares,” Rodney interrupts, rolling his eyes. Couldn’t Sheppard ever get to the damn point? He folds his arms against his chest and stares at Regala, ignoring the way the queasiness increases when he notices the lack of a single freckle on her heart-shaped face and how absolutely breathtaking she is. Despite his efforts, he can’t quite keep from frowning. “Now where is he? Is he injured? You haven’t already sold him, have you? If so, we need to know who you sold him to, and where that person lives, because--”
“He’s up the stairs, third door on the left,” Regala says. Her lips don’t look quite as inviting when pinched so tightly, and when she narrows her eyes, she looks ever so slightly cross-eyed. Rodney feels a quiet sense of satisfaction at that, and can’t quite fight back the smug smile that twists his lips as he nods and brushes past her, shoving the stupid orange screen aside and taking the steps two at a time, because she never actually answered his question about whether or not Ronon’s been injured.
“So, good job on getting--” he starts to snap, opening the door, and immediately chokes, because the air that rushes out of the room is thick and filled with something that makes his stomach lurch. Rodney can’t quite breathe the overly sweet air in and coughs, stumbling to a stop in the doorway, eyes watering. “What the hell?” he demands, rubbing at his eyes and taking in a painful breath.
When Ronon doesn’t immediately answer him, he half-glares, half-squints into the room. “Your room smells like--” Sort of like pot, actually, from his college days, but this is sickly sweet, enough that Rodney’s stomach keeps roiling unhappily, whereas marijuana had smelled sweet, yes, but never made him ill. Now, though, he can feel the air as it crawls, no, almost shoves its way down his throat each time he takes a breath, the sensation thick and uncomfortable at the back of his throat. “--Like something really nasty.Way too much incense.”
He rubs at his eyes, and after a few seconds of rapid blinking, they clear up enough that Rodney can see the room looks like it was stolen from the pages of Arabian Nights. There is an enormous bed with gauzy curtains around it as though to offer a semblance of privacy, with silk or satin sheets and what looks to be a good dozen pillows. At least the curtains and bed sheets are a rather soothing color, some shade of green that Rodney can’t quite name. There is just one major problem with the room: Ronon is nowhere in sight.
“She said third door on the left, so you’ve got to be in here,” Rodney informs the apparently vacant room, taking a step inside and ignoring the way that his eyes begin to water again. “So if you don’t mind--” Large, callused fingers suddenly touch his jaw, and he makes a surprised noise, though he certainly doesn’t squeak. Or yelp. He just makes a -- a startled sound because Ronon’s touch catches him off-guard, that’s all.
“Hey,” Ronon says, hands still half-cupping his face, the touch not at all like his usual, forceful ones. There are the sudden, hard shoves to get Rodney to move when someone’s shooting at them, the rough, slightly awkward pats on the shoulder when they’ve just escaped death again and there seems to be a need for a bonding moment, and then there are Ronon’s quick, purposeful touches when they’re alone and he’s trying to get Rodney’s attention and maybe drag him down for a kiss.
This touch is like none of them, somehow feather-soft and gentle, and when Rodney blinks at him, Ronon’s expression is unfamiliar, well, unfamiliar outside their bedrooms anyway, and so it takes a moment for Rodney to recognize the pure, naked want on the other man’s face, to realize that Ronon’s hands are trembling against his skin.
“Um,” Rodney begins, and as though that translates to, ‘Kiss me’ in Satedan, Ronon’s mouth descends, pressing hot and hungry against his, one of his hands sliding around to cup the back of Rodney’s neck and hold him steady. Ronon kisses him like they’re both drowning and Rodney is offering him a last breath of air, like he wants to crawl inside Rodney’s skin and stay there, like--
It feels so desperate and wanton that for a moment Rodney completely forgets that Sheppard is right downstairs, but as soon as he remembers, he pulls away and stares at Ronon, whose mouth is red and slick and just begging to be kissed again. He stops looking at Ronon’s lips, instead gazes somewhere past his shoulder and stammers, “As, uh, much as I appreciate the, well, very warm reception -- and I really, really appreciate it -- Sheppard is downstairs, so, uh, you can, can thank me later. When we’re back on Atlantis. So, let’s--”
This time he does yelp as Ronon’s hand, which had been motionless on the back of his neck, tightens and pulls him forward for another kiss that is even hungrier than before. It takes a moment of startled hand-waving (and an accidental jab to Ronon’s solar plexus) before the Satedan releases him.
“Have you lost your mind? Sheppard. Downstairs. Getting your freedom. Which means kissing would be a very stupid thing to do,” Rodney snaps when he finally gets his breath back. His head’s still spinning though, and his knees are suspiciously wobbly even as he continues, “Or has all this incense killed your common sense? I--” He does a quick backwards shuffle when Ronon moves towards him, gaze intent. “Are you even listening to me? Now, we’ve never actually, uh, talked about rules for this -- this thing we have, but, uh, if we were to have rules ‘No make-out sessions on missions’ would definitely be at the top of the list. Understood?”
Ronon just looks at him, and it’s then Rodney notices that his eyes are too dark, that his eyes are dilated, and everything clicks into place. The knowing looks and detailed directions to Regala’s. The enormous mansion-sized building. The dress and Regala’s overall appearance. The cloying incense.
Regala wasn’t a slave-trader, she was the mistress of a brothel. Good God, and Ronon wasn’t just a slave, he was sex-slave. And he’d obviously been given an aphrodisiac. Or maybe it was the incense, though Rodney wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by lust. Well, no more than he always felt when Ronon kissed him, anyway.
“Jesus Christ,” he says and has the sudden urge to laugh because this? Could only happen in the Pegasus Galaxy. Ronon is still watching him with that dark, hungry gaze, and Rodney flaps a hand at him, feeling his lips twitch into a helplessly amused smile. “Sorry, but aphrodisiac or no, we are not making out in a brothel. Especially not one that thinks orange and purple match. We’ll just get you back to Atlantis and have Carson run some--”
Ronon makes another move towards him, and this time when Rodney takes a step back, he bumps into the doorframe and stumbles and Ronon…well, Ronon pounces, for the lack of a better description regarding his predatory smile and the fluid way his body moves to pin Rodney against the doorframe, knocking his breath from him.
“Do you two need some privacy?” a slightly amused and far too familiar voice drawls, and Rodney rolls his eyes and snaps, grateful that his voice doesn’t shake too much and contains the proper amount of scorn, “He’s obviously drugged, Colonel,” and then adds, less testy and more squeaky when Ronon starts to lean in for another kiss, “A little helphere!”
“Um,” someone -- Anderson, Rodney thinks -- says even as Sheppard laughs and tugs on Ronon’s shoulders, saying, “You really don’t want to kiss McKay, Ronon. Trust me, I’ve heard stories,” and ignoring Rodney’s outraged, “Hey!”
It takes a long moment, but Ronon finally releases him, the Satedan taking a step back into the room even as he glares at Sheppard. He looks for all the world like a panther whose prey has been snatched out of reach; a muscle jumps in his jaw, his fists clench and unclench, a look of frustration darkens his face.
For a moment, it looks like Ronon’s about to take a swing at Sheppard, and Rodney breathes a sigh of relief when Ronon just remains standing there, gaze dark. This day’s been bad enough without Ronon trying to fight Sheppard.
“Um,” Anderson says weakly.
“What-- oh.” Rodney blinks at Regala and the eight men who cluster around her, all of whom carry rather impressive-looking swords. One is the man who met them at the entrance. He’s not looking friendly anymore. “So, I suppose you want the Ancient device before we walk out with Ronon?”
Regala smiles. It’s not a pleasant smile.
Rodney resists the urge to sigh. He can see where this is going, and sure enough, fifteen minutes later they are locked in a room in what is apparently the basement of the brothel, sans weapons and the Ancient mood ring. Sans Ronon as well, who’s been left locked up in his room.
He glares at Sheppard, who rolls his eyes. “Yeah, like I knew she’d get greedy and want both the Ancient technology and Ronon. And anyway, someone will come and rescue us once we don’t check in.”
“So we have, what, two more hours of this place,” Rodney says sourly. Two hours to contemplate how he can kill Regala and get away with it. “Wonderful.” He sits down on the nearest cot and scowls at the very orange wall, hating it with every fiber of his being. He resists the urge to rub at his mouth, which is probably redder than usual and therefore obviously been kissed, though Sheppard hasn’t mentioned it, so maybe not obviously. Then again, maybe Sheppard is just waiting for the right moment to bring it up and tease him mercilessly. And of course Sheppard will tease him and Ronon, because he has no idea that they’re actually, well-- Because he couldn’t have any idea that Ronon might want to kiss Rodney while not under the influence of an aphrodisiac. Right?
God. This has to be one of the worst missions ever.
“So,” Sheppard says brightly, interrupting Rodney’s gloomy thoughts, “anyone bring cards?”
Anderson looks sheepish and his face flushes red while he fumbles with one of his pockets. “Um, actually, Major Lorne shoved a deck into my hand and told me it might come in handy, since, er, this tends to happen to you all a lot.”
Sheppard’s eyes narrow for a moment, and Rodney smirks a little, wondering what sort of revenge Sheppard is going to get upon the major. “He said that, did he?” After a moment, though, Sheppard’s face clears, and he smiles, snatching the deck of cards from Anderson’s grip. He’s obviously already got a special revenge in mind. “So, Vell, I don’t suppose they played poker on Sateda?”
Rodney sighs and resumes his glaring at the wall as Vell stares blankly at Sheppard. It was going to be a long two hours.
If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
When Radek hears that the rescue mission to Laska has gone somewhat awry, somewhat meaning that Lorne’s team has to go in with guns blazing to rescue the rescue team and awry being that apparently Sheppard’s team has to be liberated from the depths of a brothel, he just shakes his head. Such is life in Pegasus, after all.
He notices that Rodney seems a little subdued after Laska, but thinks nothing of it. Rodney is probably just embarrassed at having been imprisoned in a brothel, after all. The whole incident is certainly the joke of Atlantis, accompanied by amused looks directed towards Ronon and perhaps a few knowing ones as well, Radek thinks, after he overhears one of the nurses fresh off the Daedalus murmur to Dr. Biro, “I’d pay for a night with him.” He is still a bit disturbed by the fact that Dr. Biro giggled in response.
No, Radek doesn’t think much of Rodney being a bit quieter than usual, at least not until he wakes to soft voices murmuring a little ways away from him, having accidentally fallen asleep under a console. He instantly recognizes Rodney’s voice, of course, because they have spent too much time together, bickering long into the night, for him not to have grown accustomed to the other man’s voice.
It takes him a bit longer to place the other speaker, and when he does, his brow furrows in bemusement. What is Ronon Dex doing in one of the main labs? Especially this late at night? The Satedan never comes to the labs, except perhaps once in awhile to gruffly remind Rodney it was “team night” or that they were serving blue Jello in the mess hall that night and he’d better hurry if he wanted some.
“I have not been avoiding you,” Rodney snaps peevishly, voice rising and fully drawing Radek out of his slumber. There is a long pause, during which Radek tells himself firmly that he shouldn’t eavesdrop and at the same time strains his ears to listen. He is man enough to admit that curiosity might, perhaps, be a vice of his. “Okay, maybe I have. A little.”
“Why?” That was one thing to be said about Ronon -- he always cut to the chase.
“Because, well,” Rodney sputters, and then suddenly sighs. The almost weary quality of the sound has Radek’s eyebrows rising. “Look, Sheppard figures that we’re not -- that you were under the influence of the aphrodisiac when you kissed me, okay? But he’s not stupid. If he starts really thinking about it, he’ll notice that we do spend a lot of time together and -- er, come to the right conclusion. So I thought--”
“--That we should stop for a while?” Ronon offers when Rodney falls silent.
Radek’s mind whirls, gathering all the odd little pieces of Rodney and Ronon’s interactions over the past few months and putting the pieces together until they form an epiphany that has Radek mentally shaking his head in both amusement and astonishment. Of all the people to be in a clandestine relationship, it is Rodney? Rodney, who seems to show every single emotion on his face. Rodney, who lets slip embarrassing anecdotes on a weekly basis. Rodney, who always goes on and on about a certain Samantha Carter. ThatRodney is in a secret relationship with Ronon Dex? Perhaps Radek is merely having a very odd dream, though there is a crick in his neck that suggests otherwise.
“I -- yeah, just for a while,” Rodney says quietly. “Until this all, well, dies down.”
Radek can almost hear Ronon’s shrug. “Whatever you say, McKay. Though Sheppard won’t figure it out. And even if he does, he won’t care.”
No, Radek agrees silently, the colonel is someone who wouldn’t care, who would want his friends and teammates to be happy. Of course, he would probably use the information to tease them at every available opportunity, but he wouldn’t be against the relationship.
“So, uh, it’s settled then. We’re taking a break from-- this.”
“Fine,” Ronon says. There is no inflection in his voice whatsoever, all emotion carefully concealed, and Radek can only imagine the expression on the man’s face. “Guess I’ll see you then.”
“Right,” Rodney agrees, a little weakly, and it is only when the doors to the lab softly hum as they open that Radek realizes Ronon is leaving. It’s only after the doors hum shut that Rodney mutters, “See you.”
Radek remains where he is for a moment, frowning. Surely Rodney wasn’t serious, putting a relationship on hold just because he was worried they might be discovered. Did he really think Elizabeth would allow discrimination on Atlantis? Besides which, Rodney is a Canadian and Ronon a Satedan; there’s no issue with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Neither Rodney nor Ronon can be sent away for being in such a relationship.
He is still going over the various reasons in his head why Rodney is being ridiculous when Rodney suddenly says, “Yes, what? Do you know what time it-- It did? When? Anyone-- Yes, yes, be there in a moment,” and then he jumps as Rodney snaps into the communication link, “Radek, you awake?”
“I am now,” he mutters, crawling out from under the console and wincing at the twinge of discomfort in his neck. He ignores the way color drains from Rodney’s face at the sight of him, not to mention how wide his eyes are, in favor of frowning and saying severely, “I know that underneath a console is not exactly my bed, but I was having an enjoyable rest, nonetheless. What is the problem?”
“You were--” Rodney’s face is still ashen, hands fluttering around uncertainly. “How, ah, long have you been awake?”
“The problem, Rodney?” Radek tries to keep his tone patient.
“The problem? Oh, the problem -- the transporter on Level 4 is malfunctioning, sending people to different parts of the city than what they’ve requested. Um, so you were sleeping--”
He raises an eyebrow. The great and powerful Rodney McKay cannot handle a simple transporter malfunction on his own? Then he looks at the rigid way Rodney is holding himself, shadowed eyes anxious, his lopsided frown even more sideways than usual, tension all but radiating off him, and sighs. “Rodney. I can handle the malfunction myself.”
That at least seems to shake Rodney out of his stupor, because the man’s eyes narrow a little and his voice turns incredulous. “Excuse me?”
Radek just looks at him for a moment, and then shakes his head, muttering, “Myslel jsem si, že Ronon je normální. Zřejmě jsem se spletl.” Louder, “Do you really think it would bother me, Rodney?” Even as Rodney looks torn between being indignant and embarrassed, Radek gestures sharply. “Stop being stupid. Go to him and apologize for panicking, and know that if anyone harasses you two, I will give them scalding hot showers and then ones which are freezing cold.” He lets that sink in, and then adds calmly, “Now, Level 4 transporter, you said?”
Rodney blinks slowly, and then nods, the tension slowly beginning to leech from his frame and a ghost of a smile starting to curve his lips.
Satisfied that Rodney is finally seeing sense, Radek goes to gather the equipment he will need for the repairs, adding over his shoulder, “And next time, wake up Simpson when there is a malfunction, please.”
“Ah, yes,” Rodney says, and there is the familiar sarcasm flavoring every syllable, the tone making Radek smile in spite of himself, because this is Rodney in all his obnoxious glory, “because Sleeping Beauty needs his beauty sleep.”
Radek offers him a bland look. “Of course I do. How else am I to get my prince?”
“Don’t you mean princess?” Rodney raises an eyebrow, smirking. “Or rather queen? Because I think Elizabeth--”
“At least Elizabeth calls me by my first name,” Radek says, a trace of smugness in his voice, and then flees before Rodney, sputtering, can come up with a scathing comeback.
During the next few days, Radek anticipates a reprisal for his remark, and that means watching Rodney carefully. This is probably why he spots little things that hint towards Rodney and Ronon’s reconciliation, such as Ronon saving Rodney the last slice of apple pie when all the other slices left are lemon meringue, and then the two nights in a row that Rodney leaves the labs early, avoiding Radek’s gaze and muttering something about needing sleep (with the sleep aspect very much emphasized).
In the end, Rodney waits just long enough for Radek to relax his guard before he takes his revenge. He does so in the guise of leaning forward over the table in the mess hall and murmuring confidingly, “You know, I kind of like that he calls me McKay in bed.” And then looking completely innocent as Radek chokes on his salad.
Myslel jsem si, že Ronon je normální. Zřejmě jsem se spletl. - I thought Ronon was sane. Obviously, I was wrong. (Czech)