Some days, Radek counted his connection with one Meredith Rodney McKay, double PhD, as one of the best things in his life. Certainly, when he compared it to the alternative, he knew how lucky he was.
Growing up as a guide in communist Czechoslovakia was a dangerous business. Guides were a commodity to be utilised for the masses, going where the state put them, forcibly if necessary. Radek’s mother, Ruza, had recognised the signs in her son before the mandatory testing age of three which was the only thing that saved him. She taught him how to control his empathic abilities, how to hide them, how to keep himself safe.
Others were not so lucky.
Radek had used his intellect to escape, first to the United Kingdom where he studied at Cambridge, and then later to America for his postgraduate work. There were many differences between these countries and his homeland but the one that was hardest for Radek to comprehend was the treatment of Guides and Sentinels.
Radek had spent so long hiding that part of him, thinking of it as something dangerous to be kept secret. Seeing Guides and Sentinels working out in the open without any fear of being used against their wills, seeing them choose who to bond with and who to work with; it should have felt freeing but, instead, it had felt vulgar and crass.
Old habits die hard and Radek had spent twelve years outside Czechoslovakia, still masking his Guide abilities, when Rodney McKay walked into his life.
It had been 1997. Radek was working at CERN and the ALICE experiment had just been officially approved by the research board which, of course, resulted in some celebration. One minute Radek had been snagging a glass of champagne from a passing tray and the next he was faced with a zoned out Sentinel in the middle of the canapés.
Citrus always had been one of Rodney's triggers and the lemon-infused prawns were just a zone-out waiting to happen.
Sentinels and Guides were rare in the scientific community, the stereotype of the action/adventure Sentinel and spiritual Guide existed for a good reason, neither lending itself naturally to the pursuit of scientific knowledge, so Radek was as unsurprised to realise that there were no Guides who could help the man as he was surprised to find a Sentinel there in the first place.
He had only hesitated for a moment before moving from his place on the periphery of the crowd, pushing his way through to the zoned out Sentinel. It had been surprisingly easy, too easy really, to bring the Sentinel - Rodney - from his zone out and Radek knew before the tests confirmed it that this was his Sentinel. Bonded in the space of one zone-out. It was typical really.
A textbook bonding in all but the most minuscule of ways.
The latest research from the Sentinel Guide Foundation showed that less than 0.01% of all Sentinel-Guide bonds were platonic, representing only around 100 pairings in the United States. It was an exclusive club to belong to and one that most people had a hard time believing really existed.
The media's portrayal of the Sentinel-Guide bond always leaned towards the romantic, it was what sold. Even actual Sentinels and Guides weren't always aware of those that bonded platonically. Some of the more extreme even considered it an abomination. Not Radek though. Radek was grateful for it.
He had nothing against men who sought the company of other men but he had never been that way inclined, preferring the more rounded curves of women. When he had allowed himself to imagine his bonded Sentinel - something he had only ever done in the dead of night with no one around - he had always imagined a woman because, statistically, he knew that almost all bonds resulted in a romantic or sexual relationship. Even at the age of six he had gravitated towars facts and science, a sign that he wasn't the usual sort of Guide. He should have realised he wouldn't end up with the usual kind of Sentinel. Still, Rodney was intelligent - impressively so - and their partnership had opened doors that Radek would never have even known to look for had he been on his own.
Even now, seven years later, walking the corridors of a lost city in another galaxy, he struggles to believe it.
So, yes; some days, Radek counted his bond with Rodney as one of the best things in his life.
Other days, days like the one where Rodney's terrible social skills got them sent to Siberia for two years, or days like this one, Radek counted it as a punishment for something terrible he must have done in a previous life.
“Rodney, if you do not stop and get some sleep I will be forced to take drastic action.”
“Oh please, drastic action? What are you going to do? Carry me out of here? I'd like to see you try.” Rodney didn't even deign to look up, tapping away intently at the keyboard in front of him, frowning when he didn't get the results he wanted. Merging the Earth made technology with the Ancient devices was a tricky balancing act and Rodney, it seemed, was unwilling to sleep until everything was working correctly.
Radek reached over and closed the laptop Rodney was working on, forcing his Sentinel to move his fingers or have them trapped.
“Hey! I was almost finished. This is important work you - -“
“It is always important work! And once you had finished that you would move on to next console. I am not fooled.” Radek snapped. “But we are floating on the ocean now, the city is not sinking, we have enough power to keep the essentials working and there are no emergencies. Now is time for sleep, Rodney.”
“Nobody is forcing you to stay here,” Rodney argued. “You want to sleep, sleep.”
Radek muttered a curse in Czech under his breath. Rodney had learned Czech within three months of their unexpected bonding so he knew exactly what Radek was calling him but it still felt better to curse in his own language.
“I want you to sleep,” Radek said. “You are running on fumes, Rodney. You are putting yourself at risk for a zone-out and I don't want to be called out of my nice warm bed to come and pet you into awareness again. I do not think you want that either.”
Rodney's lips thinned as his mouth tilted downwards in distaste. Radek knew that look. It was the one that meant Rodney realised that Radek was right but didn't want to admit it. Radek sensed the wavering resolve like a shark sensing blood in the water and went in for the kill.
“You know how Colonel Sumner felt about having a Sentinel as Head of Sciences. You heard the arguments he and Dr Weir had about your appointment. Do you really want to prove him right?”
Sumner was a traditionalist. Sentinels were supposed to be soldiers or cops, not physicists. A sentinel’s abilities were considered a benefit in the field, the risk of an inopportune zone-out only outweighed by the intel they could gather. He had argued vehemently against Rodney's appointment as CSO. Sumner had worked with the SGC long enough to know just how often the scientists were the ones who saved the day and the risk that the man in charge could zone-out during the stress of an emergency situation was too great. Especially when Sumner couldn't see the benefits. It didn't matter to him that Rodney excelled in these kinds of situations, or that Rodney came with a fully bonded Guide - something none of the three military Sentinels on the mission could boast. No; Rodney hadn't fit into Sumner’s narrowly defined idea of what a Sentinel was and was therefore an unknown, a risk. The military didn't like risks. Elizabeth, thankfully, was more open.
“Sumner’s dead,” Rodney said. “It doesn't really matter what he thinks.”
“What about new military commander?”
“Sheppard?” Rodney sounded surprised. “He wouldn't think that.”
Radek raised his eyebrow in surprise. It had taken Rodney a week to learn his name and they had been bonded at the time. He hadn't realised that Rodney and Major Sheppard had interacted that much already. It was…interesting. Willing to use this to his advantage just this one, Radek ran with it.
“Let's not give him any reason to start thinking it then, ano? Sleep. Just for a few hours, let your big brain refresh and then we can begin work again in the morning. I will even let you yell at the staff who don't make it in before 8.”
Rodney’s shoulders slumped in defeat and Radek smiled, pleased at the easy victory. His back up plan had involved Carson and a needle full of sedatives so this was definitely the easier win.
“Fine,” Rodney growled. “But only because they're past due for a yelling. Not for the other reason. I don't care what Sheppard thinks of me.”
Radek managed to bite down on his scoff. Rodney really was too transparent at times. Radek decided he would let him believe his lies for now and guided him out of the lab with a warm hand on Rodney's back. Rodney leaned into the touch and Radek could almost feel the exhaustion rolling off him like a physical presence. He'd let his Sentinel sleep before tackling the minefield that was his feelings toward Major Sheppard. If Rodney even knew what they were. Honestly, Radek wasn't sure what his feelings on the matter were either. In all the years they'd been platonically bonded, neither of them had ever been involved in a serious relationship. Science had always come first. That and the fact still remained that most people who learned that they had a bond assumed that the two of them were together.
Whatever feelings Rodney was having for the Major, Radek knew one thing. It would be interesting.