Explosions averted and circuitry rewired, thirty-seven hours since Radek last slept or more accurately, napped for two hours, and finally things were back to normal. Well, for the very special definition of normal that they held on Atlantis.
It was just Radek and Rodney in the lab now, exhausted and slightly giddy with the triumph of once again living when the odds said they wouldn’t. He smiled widely at Rodney, took one more glance at the monitor assuring him everything was still within acceptable parameters, and moved to slide down the wall. It wasn’t the first time he’d fallen asleep on this floor and though his back always protested, the trek to his quarters seemed insurmountable at this juncture.
He was only slightly surprised when Rodney slid down beside him. “So that was fun,”
Radek laughed, “I especially liked the part where the showers went offline when Simpson walked into that control room with you. What kind of defense mechanism is that?”
“I think the Ancients had reached the point of the war where they were going for the element of surprise found in whimsy.”
“Ah yes, Napoleon employed a similar strategy in Russia,” Radek said.
“I can see how unrelenting winter and life-sucking vampire bugs would call for comparable measures.”
Radek chuckled and took his glasses off and put them on a shelf. “What are we even talking about?”
“How god-like I was today.”
“Well, you and a few others did some things, too.”
“Most charitable, Rodney,” Radek said, slipping his jacket off to use as a pillow and curling up on the floor. “I’ll let that praise keep me warm.”
“You do that,” Rodney said through a big yawn. He shaped his jacket into a pillow and lay down next to Radek. “We really should go to our quarters. We’re not going to be able to move when we wake up.”
“You go to yours. I’ll guard this part of lab floor from whimsy.”
“Very heroic of you,” Rodney said slowly, already drifting.
Radek felt happy and safe and proud. He fell asleep easily for a change.
When he awoke, he noticed two things immediately. One, the right side of his body was very warm and two, he may never be able to stand again. He tried stretching his stiff, protesting muscles and rubbed against the source of the warmth. Rodney had shifted closer to him, or he to Rodney, and the man was apparently a furnace. Rodney’s hand was resting on Radek’s shoulder and Radek tried to ignore the affection and desire that small gesture provoked.
He was usually able to suppress it by focusing on Rodney’s bluster and lack of charm or by acknowledging the idiocy of such an infatuation. It was foolish at best and dangerous at worst. He couldn’t afford pointless distraction and who knew how Rodney would respond to attraction from a male subordinate. If it was with his normal grace and tact, Radek would probably be sent home or worse, reassigned to the anthropologists in a cross-department loan.
He inched carefully away from Rodney and located his glasses. He figured they’d been asleep for about eleven hours based on the wall chronometer. They were lucky they were in this lab and not one of the main ones because someone would have walked in on them already. They would make jokes in good fun, but that kind of teasing cut too close to Radek’s secrets, secrets he tried to keep from himself.
He stood up carefully, using the wall as a brace, and walked over to stare at the status of their repairs. Still holding and all levels resting in the green. It would have beeped and awoken them otherwise but it was nice to see. He stretched again and decided he was in desperate need of a shower. Even he didn’t want to be near himself right now.
He turned back to look at Rodney who was still sleeping peacefully. He didn’t want to wake him but he knew Rodney had a staff meeting. He went and knelt down beside him, shaking his shoulder softly. “Rodney, wake up.”
Rodney grunted and curled into himself in a way Radek tried not to find endearing. He shook him a little harder and repeated his name louder. Rodney blearily opened his eyes and mumbled something that sounded like ‘salted Wraith’.
“No emergencies or oddities, Rodney. You have a staff meeting in a half hour and as an act of kindness to the others you may want to shower first.”
Rodney huffed and sat up creakily. “Like you’re a breath of fresh air right now, yourself.”
“I have a manly scent of hard work and sweat. You have a food left in car trunk for weeks aroma.”
“Ha ha,” Rodney said, but there was amusement flickering in his eyes. “Help me up, funny man.”
Radek help him to his feet. “We should once again swear not to sleep on floors, maybe implement a post-emergency subroutine that pops up flashing, floor is hard, back is old, go to bed.”
“I will be sure to mention that at the meeting.” Rodney started stretching and Radek moved back towards the computer so his eyes wouldn’t linger. He was, of course, well-versed in hiding that aspect of himself as it was not spoken of when he was growing up. Things were more open when he moved to London and then California, but that freedom had faded away when he became attached to military endeavors.
He called up his e-mail and clicked on a mass email entitled ‘synergy’ and was not pleased when it contained a jpeg of him and Rodney asleep side by side. “Damn it,” he muttered. This was probably forwarded to the whole expedition and a few Wraith by now.
He felt Rodney looking over his shoulder. “Who took that?”
“Don’t know but I will find out.”
Rodney leaned closer to get a better look at the picture and Radek felt his body heat like a caress. It was ridiculous, they were both sore and filthy, but Radek felt want twisting in his stomach. It didn’t help that the picture in front of him had them curling towards each other like matched parenthesis.
Rodney leaned around Radek and hit Reply All. Radek knew he should move but Rodney usually pushed people away when they were somewhere he didn’t want them to be. He watched as Rodney typed ‘we saved your lives. again. you’re welcome, Mckay’ and sent it.
Radek shook off his distraction. “You know you just sent that from my e-mail account.”
“Whatever. We’re already sleeping together. What’s sharing an e-mail account?”
Radek knew Rodney said it lightly and was still caught up in yesterday’s victory, but it still stung a little. He shoved those feelings away for later, much later. “I’m going to be the envy of Atlantis.”
Rodney poked his shoulder. “Go shower. You must maintain a higher standard now that you are my consort.”
“You must have to beat them off with a stick.”
“That’s what Teyla and Ronon are for.”
Radek laughed, finally giving in to the absurdity of the situation. He gets the name of what he wants without the substance. Maybe he should better articulate his wishes to the universe.
Rodney gathers his jacket and laptop and heads for the door. It’s only when he turns back that Radek realizes he’d been staring. “So, yesterday,” Rodney starts stiltedly, “you were…,” and he trails off.
“There,” Radek supplies teasingly.
“Yes, that, so…thanks.”
Radek is touched by the awkward gratitude. Weir’s lessons in leadership must finally be taken root. “No place I’d rather be.”
Rodney was quiet for a few seconds and then said, “That was somehow more uncomfortable then everyone getting a picture of us almost cuddling.”
Radek is glad they took the picture before he and Rodney shifted closer. He laughed. “Yes, well, we’ll pretend it didn’t happen.”
Rodney nodded and headed out the door. Radek stared at it for a moment before going back to work.
Radek sat on a balcony on the East Tower. The last month since the Great System Clusterfuck had kept him so busy that he hadn’t had the opportunity to come here. The first year they’d arrived, he had been investigating anomalous power surges when he stumbled on this alcove with its spectacular view in a place packed to the gills with spectacular views and decided it would be his place to think. No one ventured down this far and he enjoyed the peace and privacy. Usually.
Now, he wished there was someone here with him. The sky was streaked with shades of red and blue, like those paintings you don’t believe are real until you see a sky like this. More importantly, though, it was his birthday. Thirty-nine years old, by Earth’s calendar, and he’d experienced more than most people could dream. It felt greedy to wish for more but that was human nature, he supposed.
His staff, his friends, had cake for him earlier and it had been a pleasant surprise. They gave him presents and sang terribly, except for Teyla and Simpson, and it had been enjoyable. He knew he could have joined any of them for dinner, but what he really wanted was someone to join him here, someone to be quiet with. He’d briefly considered inviting Rodney, but discarded the idea quickly. The man didn’t exactly excel at quiet and more importantly, Radek could think of no sensible reason to suggest spending his birthday alone with Rodney.
Radek shifted on the bench so he was leaning against the column and closed his eyes. He really wanted to get over this…thing. He knew it would help if he could find someone else to focus on. He had a hero worship thing for Elizabeth but that was also not possible and not as deep as his feelings for Rodney. He figured a big stumbling block in his ‘get over it’ plan was that he spent the majority of his time with the man. Problem was, there’s really no way around that. They work closely together by necessity but also because they work well together. He could try to avoid him in his free time, but Rodney was his friend and he did not want give that up. It’s a real Catch-22 trying to get over someone while living in their back pocket. Even when they were fighting, he still felt more alive with Rodney then he did anywhere else.
Getting over it, he reminded himself. He didn’t want to find himself here next year. He considered people he’d like to spend time with, companionship-wise and naked-wise. There was Miller, a Marine he occasionally played chess with. She had laughing brown eyes and an enviable endgame. There was Major Lorne, who had been seeking him out lately and smiled at him a beat too long. There were others, people he found attractive who seemed to find him attractive as well. He just needed to seize the moment and stop wishing for the moon.
“There you are,” Rodney said out of nowhere.
Radek was momentarily startled, before he managed to say, “Yes. Something wrong?”
Rodney stalked over to him. “Yes. You took off your comm and I had to look all over for you.”
Radek resumed his reclining position but pulled his feet up so there was room on the bench. “Sorry to not be at you beck and call,” he said playfully. It was obviously not an emergency since Rodney had not pulled him roughly to something falling apart.
Rodney sat down in the cleared space. “You should be. I had to use the life signs detector to find you. After I’d checked your quarters and the Mess, I might add. What are you doing here?”
“Thinking. Relaxing. Brooding on my mortality.”
“Oh. You want to be alone,” Rodney asked, as if it just occurred to him that Radek was in an uninhabited part of the city on purpose. He sounded uncertain.
Radek didn’t know why Rodney was here, but he was welcome. “Not necessarily, I just wanted to be here. I find it calming.”
Rodney looked out, taking in the view. “It’s nice,” he said after a moment, “still seems unreal.”
“I come here often, when the city isn’t in danger and I have a moment to myself. It’s always humbling and breathtaking.” He can feel Rodney’s gaze on him, but he doesn’t meet it. It’s hard to look at him without a barrier of sarcasm between them. “Why were you looking for me,” he asked finally, still staring at the sky.
Rodney doesn’t answer for long enough that Radek has to look at him. When he does, Rodney thrusts some items at him. Radek took them with a smile, a huge bag of Reese’s Pieces and a jump drive. “Didn’t want to give them to you at the party and make the rest of staff think I’d remember their birthdays.” Rodney pointed to the drive and said, “It’s the entire run of Star Trek. All the shows and movies, even Enterprise, if only for thoroughness.” Rodney pauses in a way that indicates he has more to say, “But really, that’s only on there because there was so much room. There’s a file on here containing all the research we’ve done that has been declassified or is not considered a security leak. Basically, I thought if you’d like to publish something in our galaxy, with your name, that’d be useful.”
Radek didn’t know what to say. That was really thoughtful. He looked up from the disk to find Rodney didn’t want to meet his gaze. “Thank you, Rodney.”
“Don’t mention it. Really. I think Kavanagh would kill you for that.”
Radek chuckled. “Kavanagh would kill me my good pen. Not the best arbiter.” Rodney laughed along with him. Mocking Kavanagh was definitely a tension diffuser for them.
“I figure it’s to your discretion who you want to give the info.”
“Yes. This will be most helpful if I ever want to go back to our galaxy and be employable.”
“I was thinking about it and it sucks that you’re doing some of the most groundbreaking research, other than me, of course, and you can’t tell anyone. So I started looking, comparing what you’re doing to what the IOA would kill you for revealing and voila,” he said, gesturing to the disk.
Radek ran his thumb over the drive. It was a considerate, thought out present, and it did funny things to him, the idea of Rodney considering him. He tried to push that warmth away but he had to concede today was not the day Operation Get Over Him would gain footing. Rodney valued his friendship and if he never got more, it would have to be enough. He waved the candy at him. “And these?”
“Remembered your bitching about this galaxy’s shortcomings and remembered how stupidly high you placed the lack of Reese’s Pieces. Convinced someone going back to Earth to bring me some.”
Radek vaguely remembered that conversation. They’d been in the lab in the middle of the night studying Wraith hiveships in the database and Radek was just wishing for a world where the idea of murderous bug-human hybrids was laughable. “Didn’t think you were listening to me.”
“It was better than the alternative at that moment.”
“Yes. Thank you again. This was really nice of you.”
“You’re welcome and if you could say that with less shock, that’d be good.”
“We live in a galaxy where mist attacks. I’m not offended that you focus on important things, rather than niceties, but it does make this a rather surprising gesture.”
“I…I appreciate that. People think I’m an asshole on purpose, but it’s more a side effect of prioritizing quickly. Anyway, this is important, too.” He said the last bit quietly, with a hint of embarrassment.
Stop, before I do something stupid, Radek thought. He ran his gaze over Rodney face, flushed slightly, probably from the awkwardness of being caught thinking of someone else. The remaining sunlight made his eyes seem bluer that the ocean. He took in his broad shoulders that he always found worthy of admiration before he made himself stop. Too much to risk if Rodney doesn’t feel the same.
He opened the candy that he’d been longing for and offered the bag to Rodney.
“It’s your present.”
“And I choose who I share it with. Eat candy with me and watch the sunset. It’s my birthday, you have to do what I say.”
“I don’t think that’s how it works,” Rodney said, but he took a handful from the giant bag.
Radek ate a few and savored the taste of happiness.
Rodney likes being able to predict things, which is not to say he likes predictable things. He simply enjoys his ability to see what’s coming before everybody else, or find patterns in chaos, and route out the answer before others have named the problem. He sometimes overestimates his skill in this area, not often mind you, but it does happen and when it does, it really pisses him off. Which was the only reason this Zelenka-Lorne situation was annoying him.
It took him by surprise, that’s all. He was working in the lab with Zelenka when Zelenka started packing up to leave. “You’re leaving early,” Rodney said in mild accusation.
“Yes. I know I’ve only been here twelve hours but I have plans tonight.”
“It’s not chess club night. Let me guess, Star Trek reruns?”
Zelenka smiled. “Not a terrible guess, but no, I have a date.”
“Oh,” Rodney said and his stomach did a funny little flip which he attributed to slight jealousy. After all, it’d been a while since he’d had a date with anyone but his right hand. It couldn’t be that other thing. “With who? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m sorry, Rodney. I missed the part where we share things, or I share things and you don’t bitch about having to listen to the ‘painfully banal trivialities of your life, Radek,’ if I recall correctly.”
Rodney experienced the familiar disconnect at hearing his own words said back to him. He hadn’t meant that in a bad way, per se. “Right, you were probably going on about Communism or the Velvet Revolution or something. The interesting things I want to hear about.”
Zelenka didn’t seem offended or angry, which was one of the many reasons Rodney liked having him as his second in command and maybe why he liked having him around in general. He just shook he head in Rodney’s general direction and said, “The interesting things? I think you are just nosey and have a secret urge to gossip.”
“Oh, yes, your date should be excellent water cooler fodder. Tell me who it is so I can lord it over Sheppard.” Zelenka outright laughed, playful and open, but didn’t answer him. “Come on, I tell you when I have a date.”
“You make Sheppard write it in the sky with a jumper when you have a date.”
Rodney waved a dismissive hand, “Ha ha, was it your failed stand-up career that led you to engineering? Just spit it out.”
Zelenka got a more serious look. “I will tell you, Rodney, but you can’t tell anyone. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, understand?”
Rodney nodded. A man. Oh. He knew Zelenka had some experience with men from sprawling late-night tangents, but he thought it had been the any-port-in-a-storm kind of experience, incidental rather than purposeful. “Yes, yes. I know the American military are idiots when it comes to this, along with many other things.”
Zelenka smiled. “True. I just don’t want to make things difficult for Evan.”
“Evan? You’re going out with Major Lorne,” Rodney asked, a bit of disbelief color his words.
Now Zelenka’s face darkened slightly. “Yes. Why do you ask like that?”
“I didn’t know he swung that way and I didn’t know you two spent time together, that’s all.”
“We haven’t really. He’s been in and out, helping me initialize those devices we found on the waterfall planet and we started talking, turns out we share many of the same interests.”
“Obviously,” Rodney said dryly.
“Besides that one,” Zelenka said just as dryly.
“Right.” Rodney felt uncomfortable. “Well, you should get going. Don’t want to be late on the first date and make a bad impression.”
“I know,” Zelenka said, rubbing his hands together nervously. “I haven’t been on a date in a while. I hope I remember what to do.”
“It’s like falling off a bike,” Rodney said, somewhere between neutrally and unhelpfully.
“Is that some Canadian expression of encouragement?”
Zelenka chuckled and his nervousness seemed to slide away. “Thanks, Rodney. You’re a rock in times of turmoil.”
Zelenka gave him one last smile and headed out the door. Rodney watched it close and didn’t move for a moment. Zelenka and Lorne. Lorne and Zelenka. Evan and Radek. Evan and Radek? He knew he should be happy for Zelenka. He knew it. But he wasn’t. Not at all.
It was just that he was surprised. It wasn’t that he thought maybe, one day, he and Zelenka would, you know. He’d thought about it, sure. He thought one late night, they be running on too much coffee and too little sleep and they end up reaching for each other. He never thought it would mean something. It wasn’t that. It would have been incidental rather than purposeful. He just thought it would happen and he’d get it out of his system.
But really, he was just surprised.
Two hours later, he was still surprised, as he’d accomplished nothing since Zelenka left. “This is stupid,” he said out loud and closed the laptop. He wondered how the date was going. Were they having dinner in one of their quarters? In the Mess? They would need to be discreet in public, not that he thought they’d be full on pornographic in private given what he knew about both men, but they could be more direct. Were they watching a movie? Were they naked?
Rodney stood up quickly, too quickly, and he knocked his stool over. “Damn it,” he said, picking it up and heading out the door. He really didn’t have a direction in mind, but he ended up at the Mess. That’s where the food is. The food that he ignored as he casually looked around the room and didn’t see anyone. Anyone other than Teyla, Ronon, Carson, Elizabeth, and most of his staff, but that’s it.
He walked towards the windows so he could see the outside seating and there in a corner was Zelenka and Lorne. They were talking animatedly and smiling. He saw Zelenka’s shy smile, the one he flashes at Elizabeth unconsciously. The one Rodney found a little endearing, a very little, secretly like he enjoyed Celine Dion.
He felt rooted in the spot. He wanted to keep watching but he didn’t want them to notice him and he didn’t want anyone to notice what he was looking at. He pulled his gaze away, and moved to grab a cup of coffee. He wasn’t hungry for some reason. Well, maybe just a muffin. And a scone.
He sat down at a corner table which afforded him a crappy view of the couple he was not stalking, just observing out of friendly curiosity, and then watched them out of the corner of his eye, intently. He watched the way Zelenka met Lorne’s gaze, held it for too long, and then glanced away like he’d tripped and fallen into Gone with the Wind. Lorne smiled back and then reached across the table to brush Zelenka’s bare forearm while making what was surely a scintillating point.
Rodney looked down at the mangled remains of what had been a blueberry muffin. So Zelenka was wearing that stripped, short sleeved dress shirt that didn’t look terrible on him, so he obviously shaved, that’s just first date courtesy. It didn’t mean he particularly liked Lorne, like like-liked him. It wasn’t like Rodney totally missed the bus on this. Lorne could, contrary to all evidence thus far, turn out to be a complete asshole. It could just be hidden deep beneath that handsome, sincere, capable, utterly decent exterior he presents.
Fuck, Rodney thought, this is bad.
Rodney left the Mess and walked aimlessly around Atlantis. How did he not realize this? Part of it was he wasn’t looking to feel this way about a man. His experience with men was the any-port-in-a-storm sort. This was different. This was connection and affection and someone who knew him and didn’t hate him. This was the thing he’d put off thinking about, waiting for the right time, because he didn’t want to be gay on top of everything else and be completely the man his Father feared he’d be. He wasn’t gay, not only, but it wouldn’t matter if he was with a man. He fought enough battles being the way he was and he didn’t want to deal with more.
Of course it wasn’t feeling that pleasant right now, either.
There was still a good chance the Lorne thing wouldn’t work out, wouldn’t last, and then Rodney could go back to pushing it aside until he was ready to deal with it, somewhere in the late twenty-teens. Zelenka and Lorne just needed to crash and burn and then everything can go back to the status quo. “That didn’t make me sound like a complete ass,” he muttered to himself.
He started running through an increasingly implausible set of scenarios, culminating with him standing in the middle of the Mess with a boom box playing ‘In Your Eyes’. Of course who has a boom box anymore? So it’s an I-pod with those really good external speakers and even in his fantasy Zelenka is turning him down and oh look, Lorne is punching him.
He kept walking, at the very least getting some exercise, and tried to reason this away. Maybe Zelenka didn’t even like Rodney in that way, just because he liked men didn’t mean he liked all men. Lorne was more of the Sheppard type of male attractiveness, the rugged, traditionally good looking, I’ll build you a house from twigs with my bare hands type, which is fine if you like that sort of thing. Rodney was more of the whatever the opposite of rugged is, reasonably good looking, let me tell you my thoughts on unified field theory type, which while not as popular seemed more like it’d be up Zelenka’s alley. Of course Zelenka’s thoughts on unified field theory were laughable but that’s neither here nor there. The point was they had a lot in common, besides the obvious.
Somehow before when he’d briefly considered a thing with Zelenka, well higher brain function considered it, because there had been a lot of lizard brain consideration of the mechanics, he’d always just assumed that Zelenka would want him. That seems a bit premature now, with the Lorne “I fly planes and am toothpaste commercial handsome’ twist thrown into the story.
Finally his walking his pain away led him to the corridor around the corner from Zelenka’s quarters. Strange. From this vantage point he could see Zelenka’s door and not be seen. He had to concede he could see how this could be interpreted as creepy.
He leaned against the wall and tried not to feel like a complete idiot with little success. He didn’t leave though. He could deal with feeling foolish better than he could deal with not knowing. Of course, if they went back to Lorne’s quarters or made out in a jumper watching the sun set, he wouldn’t know.
He stood there casually, as if he were just taking a break in the middle of a hallway. Like people do.
He could feel tension clashing inside him, from his involuntary admission of some…feeling for Zelenka, from the fact that Lorne just realized he was attracted to Zelenka and acted on it like the reckless sociopath he probably wasn’t, and from the fact he went from repressed to what some would perceive as stalkerish in a few hours. Mixed in with all that was the fact that liking someone in the best of circumstances usually turned him into an awkward thirteen year old, so standing here staring at Zelenka’s door and willing him to come home disappointed seemed like the only balanced thing to do right now. It wasn’t too extreme or alienating and as long as no one found out, it wasn’t that disturbing, especially by the standards of the Pegasus Galaxy.
He stared at Zelenka’s door so long and hard, he ended up trying to see if he had developed x-ray vision. He hadn’t done that in years as far as anyone else knew. He looked away when his eyes started to hurt, feeling stupider that he did before, which is saying something.
He was just about to leave and pretend this whole shameful interlude never happened when he heard two laughing voices. He pressed back tight against the wall and watched as Zelenka and Lorne came into sight, their shoulders brushing and eyes turned to each other. Preliminary evidence did not bode well for the crash and burn theory.
They stopped in front of Zelenka’s door speaking too softly for him to hear but the context clues were pretty revealing. Lorne looked around before reaching out and touching Zelenka’s shoulder. Rodney made up the dialogue in his head. Imaginary Lorne sounded like James Bond, somehow improbably putting Zelenka in the role of Pussy Galore.
Whatever was actually being said, it seemed to be working, because Zelenka was smiling, full on dimple smiling, and he put his hand on Lorne’s annoyingly noticeable bicep. Rodney felt heat crawling up his skin and he wanted to knock Lorne’s hand away, knock Lorne away. He couldn’t though, so he just watched as Lorne trailed his hand up Zelenka’s neck and cupped his chin to tip his face up. Lorne looked around briefly before leaning in and kissing Zelenka softly.
When Zelenka’s eyes slipped shut, Rodney felt like he’d been kicked in the stomach. How could Zelenka do this to him? Just because Rodney had never said something or expressed an interest, doesn’t excuse Zelenka kissing someone else. Radek should have known. That’s how the thing between them worked, synergy, like the email had said.
“What are you doing,” a voice said very close to his ear.
He jumped but managed not to yelp. He turned to see Sheppard looking at him carefully, with that perpetually amused look that seems to be his default expression. “Nothing,” Rodney said softly. “Just looking at…some science thing you wouldn’t understand.”
Sheppard took in the no tools and empty alcove Rodney was standing in before looking around and noticing Lorne and Zelenka. “Are you spying…is that…oh…they’re?”
“At the end of what seems like a spectacular first date, yes.”
“I didn’t know,” Sheppard started than trailed off.
It suddenly flashed back to Rodney that there were other issues here besides his not boyfriend not cheating on him with a not sociopath. “You have a problem with it,” Rodney asked, feeling concerned about the answer. Sheppard was his friend but friends had disappointed him before when it came to this, friends and family.
Sheppard looked at him. “Of course not. I just don’t want someone using this against Lorne. Either of them. Lorne should be smart enough not to do this where anyone could see.”
“They shouldn’t have to hide,” Rodney said, pushing aside his jealousy for the moment.
“No, they shouldn’t, but we live in the world we do even a few galaxies away.”
They both watched as Lorne and Zelenka shared one last kiss and parted with smiles that would be goofy if they weren’t so charming. Rodney stared at Zelenka, who watched Lorne walk away before going into his quarters with a bounce in his step.
“Why were you watching them,” Sheppard asked but it didn’t sound much like a question.
“I wasn’t. I was-”
Sheppard interrupted him. “Still going with the brilliant and apparently invisible science stuff?”
Rodney sighed and his words came out in a rush, years of history behind them. “I didn’t mean to. Earlier, Zelenka told me he had a date with the Major and it bothered me. It took me a while to figure out why. Then it hit me, that I well, might be jealous. Then I didn’t know what to do and here I am.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“That I play for both teams? I don’t really. I’ve dabbled. When is the right moment to segue into that? The city’s about to explode in two minutes and, oh, I rarely sleep with men? Watch out for that wraith, he looks angry, and by the way I’m somewhat flexible when it comes to bed partners?”
“Those would have been weird, but maybe when we were drinking beer and playing chess? Long jumper rides?”
Rodney decided to admit part of why he never brought it up. “Would you have thought I was hitting on you?”
Sheppard narrowed his eyes. “No. Would you have been?”
Rodney took a step back. “No, god, no.”
“You don’t need to be so emphatic. I get it.”
Rodney looked down, some bad memories resurfacing, and he rubbed his jaw to sooth a phantom pain. He pushed the thoughts of his Father away. “Some of my friends who I’ve told have thought that and not taken it well.”
“They may have been idiots, Rodney, but give me some credit. We’re friends. I trust you. You trust me. We don’t assume the other is secretly a bigot.”
Rodney nodded. “Got it. Sorry.”
“It’s fine. What are you going to do about Zelenka?”
Rodney looked back towards his feet. “What makes you think it’s not Lorne I’m, whatever, interested in?”
“Something I learned over the years. You can tell a lot by what someone can’t look away from. You watched him until those doors closed. Thought you were trying to see through them for a minute there.”
“That’s absurd,” Rodney said quickly and then decided to move along. “What do you think I should do?”
Sheppard held up his hands. “Out of love and war, I’ve always been better at war.”
“Lucky then I’ve always been a Casanova. Oh wait,” Rodney said snappishly before taking a deep breath. “You think I should go for it,” he asked quietly, looking for someone’s approval, probably not Sheppard’s, but it would do.
“Sure. You guys fit.”
“Talk to him, I don’t know. Come to me when you want to seduce someone on another plane of existence or someone who’s taken you hostage. I’m not good with this coworker thing.”
“I know.” Sheppard looked up sharply and Rodney just waved his hand. “I’ve noticed what you can’t look away from.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Fine. So your advice is talk to him or get him to kidnap me?”
“The second was wasn’t really intended as a plan of action.”
“Really? I like it much better than the first.”
“Go,” Sheppard said, shoving him. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
A parade of scenarios ran through Rodney’s mind. Zelenka turning him down. Zelenka laughing at him. Zelenka filing a sexual harassment complaint. Zelenka never speaking to him again. Zelenka shooting him. Zelenka turning into a wraith with a pet replicator shark. Zelenka…
Sheppard shoved him again. “Atlantis to Rodney.”
“I have a very active imagination,” Rodney said. “Thank you for the nightmares I will be having later.”
“Rodney,” Sheppard said in that exasperated way that added five syllables to his name. “He’s your friend. He’s a good guy. If he’s not interested he will tell you and if he is, you may want to get him before he starts picking out china with Lorne.”
Whatever Rodney was going to say was interrupted by Zelenka’s door opening and him walking out in his usual science uniform. Rodney and Sheppard froze like the trained off-world personnel they were. As long as Zelenka went the other way, the way where everything of importance was, they were fine. So, obviously he turned in their direction.
“Fuck,” Rodney said under his breath and both he and Sheppard turned to face the other direction as he came around the corner because that made it seem less strange.
“Rodney, Major,” Zelenka said. “Something going on?”
“We were just,” Rodney started and trailed off.
“Going for a run,” Sheppard said.
“Playing chess,” Rodney said at the same time.
Zelenka narrowed his eyes in confusion as Rodney said, “We were debating whether we should go for a run or play chess.”
“Ah, I bet I can guess what camp you’re in,” Zelenka said with an easy smile.
“Yeah. Where are you going,” Rodney asked, wondering if he was meeting Lorne somewhere, if this was his geek version of slipping into something more comfortable.
“That experiment I started last week to increase jumper shield strength is finishing tonight.”
“In that empty hangar. Right.”
“Otherwise, I probably,” his eyes landed on Sheppard, “wouldn’t have felt like working tonight.” He smiled at them both. “Have a good run or game of chess,” he said and headed off.
“You too,” Rodney said and felt stupid as soon as the words left his mouth. “You know, have a good…experiment.” Zelenka nodded bemusedly. When he was gone Rodney said, “That was smooth.”
“I know,” Sheppard said, “all that training I had in covert ops just fell to the wayside when confronted by a little Czech scientist while I’m staring at a wall with his stalker.”
“A run, really? When do I run when I’m not being chased by something that wants to eat me or kill me or nest in me?”
“Whatever. Like playing chess explained why we were in this hallway. More importantly, why did he look at me like that when he almost mentioned Lorne? Does he think I’m a bigot too? Am I giving off a vibe? I’ve marched in parades, you know.”
“You can be the Grand Marshal if we have one on Atlantis,” Rodney said, annoyed.
“I would, but Elizabeth would probably want to. Maybe we could be co-,” he trailed off when he met Rodney’s gaze. “Right, topic for another time.”
“Thanks Rainbow Warrior.” Rodney started pacing before he said softly, “I don’t think I can compete with Lorne.”
“It’s not a competition. It’s about who Zelenka wants to be with. I can’t answer that for you. No one can but Zelenka. Lorne’s a good guy. You’re a good guy. Go talk to him, now. He’s in a hangar bay doing experiments on energy output capacity and regulation. That’s like porn for you people.”
“You actually read the scientific summary report I send?”
“We don’t have cable.”
Rodney laughed. “It is one of the sexier experiments. I’m just, not good, when it matters.”
“None of us are. Stop stalling. You won’t get your answer standing here.”
“Not having my answer is better than having the ‘thanks, but no thanks’ answer.”
“Yes. You can keep standing outside his door and not telling him how you feel until he is overcome by your aloofness or he, you know, doesn’t notice at all and has a toothbrush in Lorne’s quarters.”
Rodney closed his eyes. The image of Lorne and Zelenka kissing popped into his mind. He focused on the way Zelenka’s fingers trailed up Lorne’s arm and over his shoulder to stroke his cheek. He bet that had felt great and it made him think Zelenka was a sensualist, something he’d rather have found out from hands on experience. He opened his eyes and said, “Right. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that.”
Sheppard clapped him on the back. “That’s the spirit.”
Rodney started to follow in the direction that Zelenka went but then stopped and said, “Thanks for…” Rodney said, gesturing indistinctly.
“Don’t mention it. Anyway, it was nice to meet a problem that wasn’t trying to kill me.”
Rodney nodded and started walking again. Right. Talk to him. Rodney could do that. He talked a lot. Thing is, he knew most of the time he wasn’t saying much. This time, he needed to say those things he normally avoided. The messy, risky things he buried under sarcasm and situations that required immediate attention.
Walking into the hangar bay, he found Zelenka in the jumper, kneeling before an open panel, adjusting a crystal and humming to himself softly. Rodney just watched him for a minute, taking in the steady, sure movements of his hands and the intensity of his focus. Denial or no, this was not the first time he watched Zelenka work and found it extremely appealing. It was probably what Lorne saw that made him ask Zelenka out. If that dedication and passion carried over to other areas, it would be one hell of a ride. A ride he intended for himself. Rodney shook his head, his own metaphor making him uncomfortable. Don’t say any of that aloud, he warned himself.
“Hey,” Rodney settled on.
Zelenka turned quickly but didn’t jar anything he was working on. “Oh. Rodney. Something happen?”
“No, just, in the neighborhood.” Well, this is obviously going to go well.
Zelenka smiled. “Needed an excuse to get out of that run?”
“What? Oh, sure. How’s it looking?”
“Most promising. The increase has held steady under various conditions and not shown a noticeable decrease or disruption in power in other systems. I’m checking to see if there’s any degradation of equipment now.”
“Good. How was your date,” Rodney asked in what he hoped sounded like casualness.
“Is that why you’re here? Nosiness?”
“No. Not really. No.”
“It’s fine,” Zelenka said, standing up. “It’s nice to have someone to talk about it with. It was most pleasant. He’s,” Zelenka started, but trailed off, a soft expression crossing his face. “He’s playful. I always see him being the disciplined military person, so it was nice to see him let that drop. He has a nice sense of humor and seems to genuinely want to spend more time with me. He asked me for a second date.”
Rodney did not like the warmth and excitement in Zelenka’s tone. Truthfully, he really liked it. It was just another thing he wanted to experience directed at him. Happiness was a good look on Zelenka and Rodney was suddenly overcome by doubts and fears. He wouldn’t take Zelenka on a public date. He wouldn’t kiss him where someone could see. He wouldn’t shout it from the rooftops. Hell, he probably wouldn’t even talk to Straight but not Narrow Sheppard. He wouldn’t make him happy.
He searched for words and came up short. “That’s great.”
It was probably better this way. He’d just rebury these feelings. He wasn’t that gay, after all.
“Zelenka, damn it. Hurry up with that shield.”
Radek pushed his glasses back up without stopping hitting the buttons to reroute power. “Thank you. I had not realized the imperative nature of the situation.” He reactivated the console. “Got it.”
“Right, well one thing had to go right.”
“We’re trapped in shielded way station while the rest of our team is currently held hostage. What a broad definition you have for ‘go right’.”
Rodney laughed without much amusement. “Right. Situation assessment. We can’t access the gate because of the soldiers with guns. We can’t really leave this station because of the soldiers with guns. We have two guns ourselves with no remarkable skill to fire them between the both of us. And anyone who comes through the gate to find us will most likely be immediately captured or shot.”
“Yes. It sounds bad when you put it like that.”
“Sorry. Next time I’ll try to throw some sunshine down on it,” Rodney said.
“Well, if it helps, I’m actually a really good shot.”
“I was a marksman in the army.”
“Oh. You never mentioned that.”
“Never came up. Also, it was not a particularly good time in my life.”
Rodney nodded, letting it go. “Right. That doesn’t really fix the problem anyway. I think we’ll put you Rambo-ing us out of this as Plan C.”
“That high? What’s A and B.”
Rodney was fiddling with what looked like a sensor array. “Plan A is to come up with Plan B and in no way wind up at Plan C.”
Radek turned back to his console with a grin. “Okay. I can work with that. They Malcoshans obviously want us alive and cooperative, so I think the others are safe for the time being.”
“I agree. It won’t be long, though, before they move to violence in an attempt to draw us out.”
Radek scrolled through database the Ancients left on the function of this way station. “I thought this was primarily an information relay. But it seems like the Ancients were observing these people for some reason.”
Rodney looked over Radek’s shoulder. “Observing as in…”
“There are visual feeds and…”
“And sensors everywhere. I was just looking at the network.”
“That’s very helpful. We’re not blind.”
“This must be the why the want us ‘learned men,’ to operate all this. It must be part of that intensive network of stories Teyla was talking about.”
Radek continued cataloging the equipment at their disposal, trying to find the safest way to retrieve their people while doing the least amount of harm to these desperate people. “Yes. But what were the Ancients doing? Running a zoo?”
“I don’t know. But I’m getting really tired of people kidnapping my friends to get me to figure out Ancient tech. Haven’t they heard of the honey/vinegar theory of negotiation?”
“I hadn’t realized you had,” Radek says, following a submenu deeper into the working of this structure. Rodney was saying something, but Radek ignored him. “Oh my god…”
“What, what,” Rodney said shouldering his way in. “That’s…”
“Those. They were watching the Wraith kill these people to study them and gain a tactical advantage.”
“Keep reading. It gets worse.”
“They lead them here? They orchestrated the conditions.”
Radek suddenly felt dirty sitting in this room. It reminded him of some morally dubious things from his military service. “Some days it’s hard to tell who the good guys are.”
Rodney nudged his shoulder. “Not today it isn’t.”
They managed a smooth rescue, being able to see every inch of the place they needed to get into making it relatively easy. Everybody was perfectly fine when they got to them. Ronon said it was the most pleasant hostage experience he’d ever had. They were able to disperse the troops at the gate with minimal fuss. All in all, it was a victory, but Radek couldn’t shake the distaste left from that way station.
When he was released from the infirmary after a cursory exam, he didn’t know what to do with himself. He settled on going to B Lab with a carafe of coffee to update the schedule for routine jumper maintenance. It was tedious work that Rodney pawned off on him but it was absorbing and for a while he thought of nothing but small details and concrete answers.
Finally, he needed a break and went to the coffee carafe. It was times like these when he wished he’d been able to make it work with Lorne. They’d dated for a few months, but eventually Lorne had told Radek he was too distant. Radek knew what he really meant, though. It was hard to get close to someone when they were holding on to someone else. They’d agreed to stay friends but Radek felt strange burdening Lorne with his feelings when he’d never given the man what he deserved.
Radek startled slightly when his comm went off. “Mckay to Zelenka.”
All thoughts of Lorne slipped away which was too often the case. “Yes?”
“Where are you?”
“B Lab. Need something?”
“I’ll be right there.”
Radek felt the familiar flip of anticipation at Rodney seeking him out. When he last saw him, he was sitting with his team in the Mess. Radek was happy that Rodney had them as a support structure. He just knew he didn’t belong there.
He looked back at the supply requisition sheet in front of him and had to retrace his thought process for an unaccountably long time. He saved his work and watched the clock in the corner of his laptop, waiting and trying not to seem like he was waiting.
The doors opened and Rodney walked in. “What are you doing?”
“Bookkeeping. Everything okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just, don’t you usually scam the idiots in the chess club around this time?”
“It is not a scam if I am better. Anyway I’ve already won everything of value until the Daedalus returns. Now it’s just IOU’s and firstborns.”
Rodney laughed. “Grifter.”
Radek smiled at the playful affection in Rodney’s tone. He liked how low-key Rodney could be when he didn’t feel like he had to put a show on for someone. “Did you need me for something or did you just want to malign my character?”
Rodney sat on the stool next to Radek. “Well, that, sure. And on the planet, you seemed disturbed. Obviously rightly so, but when you weren’t at the chess club, I thought maybe you were dwelling on it.”
“You were…checking up on me?”
Rodney shifted awkwardly on the stool before standing up. “Yeah. Friends do that, right? I mean, I don’t have a lot of experience, but,” Rodney drifted off.
“Yes, thank you. The premeditation of the lab, it was…unsettling.”
“It was more than that, though. Not just the Ancients being ruthlessly, pragmatically cruel. It was your military service, which you’ve never told me about, by the way.”
Radek should have known Rodney wouldn’t let that go. He was like a dog with a bone, worrying it incessantly, when he wanted to know something. “Not a lot to tell. It was the usual mix of patriotism and disillusionment. I survived when a lot of people didn’t.”
“Boy, you’re a compelling storyteller. I’m not saying you have to tell me. Obviously. Just if you want to, I’d listen. If not, we can go watch a movie or something, unless you’re dead set on wallowing.”
“Not dead set, no. It’s strange, you don’t think of something for so long, because life keeps you moving along, and then when it comes back, you wonder how you could have ever stopped thinking about it for a minute.”
Rodney looks at him expectantly, not interrupting for once. When Radek doesn’t continue, he said, “Want to get out of here? Take a walk?”
“Sure,” Radek said, happy for the distraction. He shut down the terminal he was working on and followed Rodney out the door. They walked in silence for a while until they wound up at Radek’s alcove. Rodney stood leaning against the railing and Radek stood next to him wondering how this conversation would turn out. Rodney’s overtures of friendship often went awry, not to mention Radek’s fear of revealing that he felt more than friendship for the man.
“I’ve come to appreciate this spot. I hope you don’t mind.”
Radek made a dismissive sound. “I don’t mind. Just don’t broadcast it.” Radek wanted to add something about not bringing dates here, but that seemed like an odd thing to say, even given the crazy Bohemian leeway that he was afforded.
“Of course. It’ll be our secret.”
“You going to make me ask again? Because I’m not good at this. You don’t have to tell me but I’d like to hear about it.”
“Why,” Radek asked, honestly baffled.
“Is friendly concern not enough?”
“I guess,” Radek said dubiously.
Rodney grinned sheepishly. “Not buying it, huh? It’s that, but it’s also, you take care of everyone else, keep me in powerbars and from murdering the idiots on my staff. I think you try not to be a burden to others which is stupid because you’re not, but I’m also just curious. I always think I have you figured out and then you’re something else.”
“You’re trying to figure me out?”
“I like known quantities.”
“Then you’ll get bored with me.”
“Not necessarily. They’ll be more things.”
“Or something will shoot at us,” Radek offered.
“Yes. That’s always fresh. So, you going to spill or are we just going to talk in circles?”
Radek sighed. “I don’t bring it up with anyone, not even my family, especially them. My military service saved them from poverty and led to people noticing me and paying for my education. I’d hate for them to know.”
“You don’t want to burden them,” Rodney said, too pointedly.
“No reason to. Wasn’t their fault.”
“Wasn’t yours, either.”
“Some things were and some things weren’t. I was too confident, thought I knew everything. They told me who to fire at. I trusted they had good reasons. They did not.”
“I’m trying to imagine you as a soldier. You have a picture of you in your uniform?”
“Somewhere. I was a good soldier which I no longer view as a good thing. Or maybe it depends on what you’re in the service of. Anyway, I was put into special ops and my unit was sent on one of those missions that I was gung ho about, but we didn’t know what we were getting into. The people we were sent to neutralize managed to get the upper hand, three of my friends were killed, and they captured me. They had me for quite a while.”
Rodney looked horrified. “God, that’s…”
Radek patted his arm, seeing the torture in Rodney’s eyes. “It wasn’t that. Not that time. It was worse. I found they weren’t bad people at all. They were dissenters and they treated me remarkably well for all my smug ignorance. When their compound was raided and they were executed, I was rescued and named a hero. Everything I’d been taught rang hollow from then on. I swore I wouldn’t be a part of something like that again. Now, though, I realize it’s not a promise I can keep.”
“I trust Weir and Sheppard.”
“I do, too. War gets away from good people as well as bad, though. I think we’re doing vital things here and I’m proud of them. Today just reminded me of how that can change.”
“And the other times, the ones where it was that?”
“Stories for another time, yes? Maybe with rum?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m really sorry that all happened. I wish there was something I could do.”
“Thank you for listening. I haven’t really spoken of it to anyone in years.”
“Right, well, it is probably the actual least I could do, but you’re welcome.”
Rodney was such a mix of confidence and insecurity. He liked that Rodney tried with him and managed to be sincere when it was just the two of them. It mostly balanced out the hostile bubble of self-protection he kept around himself when they were not alone or Rodney was feeling challenged. Radek touched his arm again, lingering this time. “It means a lot to me, more than you know that you came to me.”
They sat, side by side, and stared at the ocean. Radek felt his tension slip away with the waves.
He wondered what Rodney was thinking, but didn’t ask.
They threw Zelenka back into the cell with blood flowing freely from his nose and lip. He was clutching his right arm to his side at a very disturbing angle. Rodney stumbled to his feet and stood in front of him. “Are you, no, that’s stupid. What did they do to you?” Rodney asked the question, not expecting an answer if the last three times were anything to go by. He hoped it didn’t match the horrors he’d imagined.
Zelenka made a slight dismissive gesture with his left hand. “It’s fine. Look, Rodney, I,” he stopped and motioned Rodney over by the large fan in the wall at the back of the cell. When they were in front of the loud, clanking machine, Zelenka leaned in and said, “I do not think they have the capacity to bug the cell, but better safe than sorry.” Zelenka overbalanced because of his injuries and tried to catch himself without jarring his arm.
Rodney grabbed his good shoulder to steady him and Zelenka flinched at the touch. “God, Zelenka.” His clothes must be hiding a multitude of bruises and wounds. “Let me see. Get an extent of the damages.”
Zelenka shook his head. “No time. I have a plan.”
“You’ve found a way out? How?”
“Not a way out, but a way to Sheppard and the others. From there you must make your way to jumper but I’m sure the five of you can figure that out.” He worked his hand into the waistband of his trousers and pulled out a syringe. “Knock out drug. Managed to get it when they were interrogating me about the supplies they found before we locked them out of the jumper. They were more interested in the notebooks.”
Rodney reached out and slipped the syringe carefully into his pocket. “And we’re going to take on the whole brute army with that? Forgive me if I’m not heartened by this plan.”
Zelenka smiled. “Not whole army. When they take me, they send two guards and there are two guards outside this cell. If I make a fuss, which I have, one of the door guards accompanies us, leaving one guard outside. You need to make a fuss, get him in here, and drug him.”
Rodney thought about it. “Crude but workable.” He wondered if Zelenka’s quick thinking was the result of his soldier past, but didn’t ask. Now wasn’t the time for that can of worms.
“Thanks. I have learned the layout and where they are holding the others. They seem unharmed.”
“Yes, well,” Rodney said, looking down. The only one harmed thus far then had been Zelenka. With increasing frequency they were pulling him out and beating him. Every other time they would come for Rodney and ask him if he wanted it to stop. All he had to do was let them in the jumper and fly it for them so they could go slaughter some rival community. Rodney refused and the beatings continued.
Rodney knew he and Zelenka were signaled out because they were the scientists and presented as such, therefore these people thought they would be weaker and provide the answers they sought. Rodney figured they picked on Zelenka because he was smaller, thinking he’d be more likely to cave. They were wrong. “I really hate these people,” Rodney said finally.
“They are not my favorite, either. Now, let me explain to you where the others are.”
He laid out a concise map that Rodney could see in his head. Rodney nodded, “I get it. This is far away from the place they’ve been taking you, though, and the jumper is on the other side of the compound.”
“This is true.”
“Well, what’s to stop them from killing you when they’ve realized I’ve escaped? Maybe I should get you before going to Sheppard.”
“No time. Too risky.”
“I think you impending demise is pretty risky.”
“They may want to keep me alive as hostage or to identify the devices of ours that they have,” Zelenka said weakly.
“May. Seriously? They know you’ve given them nothing so far. When they have nothing to leverage over you you’re worthless.”
“Perhaps. Is acceptable risk and only way out.”
“No, no. That’s not-”
Zelenka interrupted him. “It’s the only way. Do you have a better plan?” Silence. “I didn’t think so.”
Rodney definitely wasn’t the self-sacrificing type but he couldn’t let another person die for him. The fact that it had happened on multiple occasions dogged his nightmares. He couldn’t add another name to that list, especially Zelenka’s. “Sheppard and the others could have found a way out. Or we could wait until they take me next and you could escape.”
“That’s foolish. Atlantis needs you.”
“Not as much. We both know that.”
“No. Not happening. My conscience is full. No vacancies.”
Zelenka awkwardly moved his left hand up to touch Rodney’s arm. “I’m ok with this. If there is opportunity, come for me, if not, get away. No one expected me to live this long out here, anyway. I’m not you, Rodney. Nobody was ever going to remember my name. If you could, though, when and if your autobiography can be printed, get it correct. I don’t want to be remembered as Riddick Zalonka for all eternity.”
“This isn’t funny.”
“No,” Zelenka looked away. “I’ve always resigned myself to dying out here, for Atlantis, generally but always for you, specifically. Understand?”
Rodney didn’t. He shook his head.
Zelenka brought his hand back to secure his right arm and stared at his feet. “I want you safe. I want you happy. Along time ago, I wanted to be the one who got to make you safe and happy. Obviously, for many reasons, that was not to be. I still would rather die keeping you safe than live without you. Okay?”
Rodney was stunned silent. Zelenka felt that way about him? All this time and he never knew. During the Lorne interlude, he’d become pretty convinced Zelenka wasn’t attracted to him at all. Rodney had no idea what to do with this new information. “You…that’s…right.” Rodney regrouped. “Well, a stupid thing is still a stupid thing no matter what your motivations.”
Zelenka smiled wryly. “Thank you. Now, let’s go over that route again.”
“No, no. This isn’t over.”
“Rodney, I’m going to cause a distraction. You can either escape and rescue the others or we can all die. Is not a hard choice.”
Rodney found it was, actually. “Radek, I don’t want…things to end this way.”
“Not my first choice either. Not all of us are meant for happy endings. They teach us this in the Czech Republic. You learn other lessons in Canada, I think. ”
Rodney didn’t know what to say. He took in Zelenka’s bloody face and decided to fix what he could. He unzipped his jacket and rested it on the end of the bed. He slipped his t-shirt off.
“Rodney?” Rodney put his jacket back on and began dabbing Zelenka’s face carefully. “Oh, thanks. I can do it,” Zelenka said.
“Sit down. I got it.” Zelenka sat down carefully on the edge of the bed and Rodney went to the rusty sink and ran some water onto the shirt. He moved to sit next to him and held Zelenka’s face steady as he washed the worst of the blood away. He wanted to say something but the throat felt tight, the words caught with some emotion he couldn’t name. Zelenka’s face was as clean as it was going to get but Rodney didn’t back away.
Zelenka’s hand came up and caught Rodney’s, gently removing the shirt from Rodney’s nerveless fingers. “It’s okay, Rodney. Please don’t,” he stopped, clutching Rodney’s shirt to his chest. “Please don’t…if this goes badly and I…just be safe and happy. I’ll have no regrets.”
Rodney felt what he was choosing to call anger rise up in him. “No regrets? Oh really? You wouldn’t regret dying on some far off planet of inconsequential thugs? Don’t wish you pursued dentistry or sat this mission out?”
Zelenka didn’t meet Rodney’s eyes. He just fiddled with the t-shirt until he made a haphazard sling for his injured arm. “I don’t regret coming to Atlantis, working beside you, helping you do great things. I wish I had more time to do just that, but if that’s not to be, knowing you’ll keep saving the galaxy or two is enough. I feel lucky to have done this much.”
Rodney stood up and paced the small cell, angry that he didn’t think to make the sling, angry at the universe, angry at himself. When he was behind Zelenka, he noticed the lines of bloodstains on the back of his shirt. He moved closer. “Did they whip you?”
“May have. Was a bit of a blur.”
“I’m going to come back and carpet bomb the whole lot of them,” Rodney said without thinking, conceding something he wasn’t ready to concede.
Zelenka gave him a small, sad smile. “They’re scared. They fear the wraith and for all their culture prizes strength, they can’t fight their way out of this.”
“Don’t care,” Rodney said, lightly touching Zelenka’s tacky shirt. “It’s our actions in a crisis that define us, not in easy times.”
Zelenka sighed. “Sit down, Rodney. You don’t have enough spare clothes to wash all the blood away.”
Rodney sat back down. “I mean, look at your actions here.”
“Yes, yes, I am a great hero. Can we not talk for a while?”
“You’d rather spend you probable last minutes in silence?”
“I’d rather not spend them fighting with you.”
Rodney stared directly ahead and tried to root out some of the emotions hiding under the anger. “Why didn’t you ever say something before?”
“About…well, there was no reason to. You are straight and I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable. My…feelings didn’t get in the way of work or our friendship. Would you have wanted to know?”
Rodney didn’t know the answer to that. It’s not like there’d been that great a number of people who had…feelings for him over the years. He’s flattered now, flattered and a little gutted that he never found the words to tell Zelenka that he, too, felt an attraction. He had shoved his attraction away, partly because he felt it was unrequited, but mostly because he didn’t want to deal with the consequences of acting on those feelings. He still couldn’t quite find the words, though. “It wouldn’t have been a bad thing to know. I usually assume the secret thoughts people harbor about me are negative so it would have been a pleasant surprise.”
Rodney was still not looking at Zelenka, but he could hear the smile in his voice when he said, “Most of my secret thoughts about you are very positive, indeed.”
Rodney felt a blush creep over his cheeks as he considered some of those positive thoughts. “Would you ever have told me?”
“Probably not. I value our friendship too much to risk it, especially when there is no chance no reciprocation.”
There the crux, Rodney thought. There was definitely some sort of reciprocation. Rodney shook his head. There was no point in thinking about this when he needed to find a way out of this situation that ended up with them both safe in Atlantis where he could figure the rest out or bury it.
He felt Zelenka’s hand settle lightly on his wrist. “If this doesn’t turn out…there are letters in my nightstand, along with copies of my will. If you could make sure they’re taken care of.”
Rodney shook off his hand. “One of those letters for me?”
“Is it a confession or just a fare thee well,” Rodney asked, surprising himself with the hostility in his voice.
He watched Zelenka’s hand clench into a fist against his thigh. “Neither. Just a thank you,” Zelenka said warily.
“Hm,” Rodney said and took a deep breath. He hesitantly reached out and covered Zelenka’s clenched hand. “You’re welcome, for what it’s worth.”
Zelenka turned his hand around so they were palm to palm. They sat there quietly, Rodney not wanting to disturb the stillness, Zelenka perhaps feeling the same. Rodney found himself focusing on the calloused hand he held, so similar to his own, so present against his skin. No, Rodney thought, this will not do. He couldn’t lose his friend, never mind the rest.
Zelenka bumped him with his good shoulder. “Stop thinking what you’re thinking.”
“You don’t know what I’m thinking. It could be about hockey.”
“Could be. Even so, better to think of escape route.”
“I got it,” Rodney said. Truth was, he had no idea what he was going to do when he got out of this cell, but leaving Zelenka wasn’t an option. This wasn’t how this story would end, not with bad luck and glorified playground bullies. He knew changing Zelenka’s mind was unlikely unless he had a better plan, which he didn’t. He also knew if he showed up, Zelenka would adapt and the two of them could get to the others.
“If you could make sure the story my Mother and sister hear is as comforting as possible.”
Rodney scoffed. “There’s no good way to tell someone they’ve lost their son or brother.”
“If I do have regret, it’s causing them pain.”
“No regret for causing me pain?”
“It balances out with saving your life.”
Rodney disagreed but chose not to voice it. “You know, your family would not be left alone, if, I mean, I’d make sure they were okay.”
Zelenka moved to catch Rodney’s eye. “Thank you.”
Rodney nodded looked at Zelenka longer than he normally would, taking in his blue eyes, and trailing down to his mouth. He wondered who was the last person Zelenka had kissed and if it was good enough to be The Last Kiss. He was working up the nerve to ask this question when Zelenka leaned forward and kissed him softly. Rodney was caught off guard and didn’t react but he didn’t pull away either.
After a long moment Zelenka moved away. He looked at Rodney nervously. “Should I apologize?”
“What? No,” Rodney said, shaking his head. He remembered the kiss he saw Zelenka share with Lorne and felt jealousy prickle his skin. “Who was the last person you kissed?”
“A Marine from the Daedalus.”
“It was probably better, huh?”
Zelenka smiled and looked away. “No, but then he wasn’t the one I wished to be kissing.”
“Radek,” Rodney started, but stopped when he heard the guards coming down the hall. “Damn it.”
Zelenka looked resigned but resolute. “Sheppard and the others could come up with a plan to get me. It’s okay, Rodney, really.”
“It’s really not,” Rodney said and leaned in to kiss Zelenka deeply. He tried to put all the feelings he couldn’t find words for into the kiss, feelings he truly didn’t understand. Zelenka responded to him immediately, opening his mouth and drawing him in.
Rodney thought he shouldn’t be doing this and this could lead to all kinds of awkwardness if, when, they returned to Atlantis. That didn’t halt the desperate, needy kiss at all.
Rodney slid a hand around Zelenka’s waist to pull him closer and only stopped when he felt Zelenka flinch. He dropped his hand and pulled back, “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. Was nice even with the pain.”
The door to their cell was opening and Rodney leaned in, “I’m coming for you first.”
Zelenka recoiled, “No,” he said intently.
The guards were in the cell now. The taller one with motley facial hair spoke, “Ready to start talking?”
“No,” Zelenka said. “Conditions here not conducive to conversation.”
They grabbed Zelenka and Rodney automatically jumped to his feet to be greeted by a gun between his eyes. “Tired of seeing your friend bleed because of your silence?”
“No,” Rodney said, looking down.
“It’s your choice,” Motley Beard said. “You can stop this if you cooperate.”
“All right then. Davro will be excited to have his little plaything back anyway. He says whipping is better than sex, but then of course they’re not always mutually exclusive.”
Rodney felt sick at the implication. “Hurt him anymore and I will raze this compound to the ground.”
“Big words, little man.” He pressed the gun harder against Rodney’s forehead. “Try and stop me. I dare you.”
“Leave him alone,” Zelenka said, shooting a warning look at Rodney. “Let’s just get this over with. Don’t put yourself in danger for me, Rodney, please. I can handle it.”
“We’re a team. We protect each other, Radek. Always.”
“Brave little girls, aren’t they,” Motley Beard said to Unnamed Thug who laughed like he’d never heard something so clever.
Rodney couldn’t hate these people more if he tried. “We should really do a study to see what perfect storm of genetic flaws and environmental stimuli combined to make such an evolutionary disaster.”
Zelenka laughed and Unnamed Thug shoved him. “Laugh all you want,” Motley Beard said, “we’re still the ones with the guns and you’re still about to get beat so bad, the last one will look like a handshake.”
They pulled Zelenka out of the cell who pleaded with his eyes for Rodney to be safe. Rodney just winked at him. When the door was locked he watched out the small window lined with bars as Zelenka was pulled down the hallway. When they reached the end he saw Zelenka began to struggle and winced at the pain it must be causing him with that arm. Zelenka bobbed and weaved, avoiding blows. Finally one of the door guards went to help his fellow brutes. They secured Zelenka, with a few punches that made Rodney push at the door, trying to reach his friend. They each had a hold of him, purposefully pulling on his injured arm and prodding the wounds on his back.
Rodney took a step back, trying to bury some of his rage, so he could carry out the plan. When the guards and Zelenka were out of sight, he slid down to the floor and began punching the door.
The remaining thug yelled through the window. “Stop it.” Rodney continued punching the door, harder. “Stop it now or I will come in there.”
Rodney could hear in his voice how much the guard wanted to come in and rough him up. Sadistic bastards, all of them. He pulled the syringe from his pocket, flicking off the cap and prepping it, before hitting the door in rapid succession.
When the door opened, Rodney didn’t move. He stayed against the wall, wanting the guard in farther. Finally, the man’s beefy thigh was in front of Rodney, a perfect target. He lunged, stabbing him with the syringe and depressing the plunger quickly. The man gave a startled yelp and fell to the ground. Rodney moved quickly, dragging him into the cell. He had a set of unmarked keys, a radio, two guns, and a knife. Rodney could work with that.
He walked out of the cell, locking it behind him. He knew if he turned left at the end of the hallway he could make his way to Sheppard pretty easily. If he turned right, he could improvise his way to Zelenka. There was not even the slightest hesitation as he turned right.
He had no idea how many men stood between him and Zelenka. He knew the room where they were taking him was isolated. It probably only existed for interrogations. He also knew there were at least four men there, with one in the room as chief interrogator, Davro apparently. If any of them were standing outside the door, Rodney had a huge problem, because though he could shoot them, it would alert the men in the room who would have Zelenka at their mercy.
He needed to cause a distraction, even the odds, and improve Zelenka’s chances for survival. He also really needed to stop what was going on in that room. Zelenka had spared him the details, probably trying to protect Rodney, but it just left Rodney to fill the void. He was terrified.
Rodney moved forward carefully and quickly, making only a few wrong turns, but it still felt like an eternity. Finally, he heard voices. He pressed against the wall and inched forward until he could get a visual on the room. Two guards were outside the room, talking and laughing, making Rodney want to bash their heads in.
Okay, he told himself, focus. There were three rooms in the hallway he was in. He dug the guard’s keys out of his pocket and hoped he could find something useful for a diversion and not stumble into one of the thugs. Walking into the nearest room, he found it was empty, perhaps another interrogation room. Moving on to the next one, he found a supply closet. Or well, a supply closet from hell. There were all kinds of instruments of torture, some Rodney couldn’t even identify their purpose.
He rooted through prods and spikes until he found what he identified as an explosive compound, probably for burning towns and cities efficiently. If could make a long enough fuse, he could set the bomb off at some distance, draw two maybe three of the guards away, and then, well he’ll cross bridge when he gets to it.
He worked carefully and methodically, grateful for the tangible thing to think about, a series of steps that got him closer to rescuing Zelenka. When it was ready he retraced his steps and put the device in an empty cell. He ignited it and made his way back to the torture supply closet in the hallway around the corner from Zelenka. Then, he waited.
He could feel his heart racing and he honestly wondered if time had stopped, before the silence was cut by a loud explosion. He listened carefully and heard two guards scramble past the room. He crept out and inched towards the end of the hallway so he could get eyes on the door. He saw one guard outside which meant one was still in the room. He still couldn’t risk shooting him for fear it would alert the guard inside.
He went back to the torture room and found a very large club. He needed the guard to look away, just for a moment, so he could catch him unaware. He waited and when the man turned to look down the other hallway, Rodney rushed him, hitting him in the back of the head. The man fell to his knees and Rodney hit him again, trying not to focus on the sickening sound that made. When the guard was on the ground, Rodney turned carefully to the room.
He glanced through the small window. He could see Zelenka was tied to a chair as Davro walked around him, dragging a metal rod over Zelenka’s skin. Davro stopped in front of Zelenka and struck him hard with the rod across the shoulder. The look of pain that flashed on Zelenka’s face cut right through Rodney, and he had to stop himself from rushing the room. He had to wait until Davro was away from Zelenka so he could take him out without him having the opportunity to grab Zelenka.
Again with the waiting, again with the time stopping. He watched as the man slapped Zelenka and got in his face, saying God know’s what but Zelenka did seem to be curling in on himself. Just move away, Rodney thought, you worthless piece of trash. Finally, the man took a step back and then moved across the room, presumably to grab another weapon. Rodney took the chance and rushed into the room with his gun loaded and out. “Don’t move,” he yelled.
Davro looked at him quickly but didn’t look panicked. “Where do you think you’re going, civilian? We’re only going to torture him worse now, but we’ll make you watch. “
“Drop your weapons and shut up before I shoot you for fun.”
Davro dropped the rod in his hand and tossed his gun to the side. “You’ll never get away from this compound, especially with your wounded friend. Why don’t you tell us how your aircraft works and we can get him some treatment.”
“Seriously, shut up,” Rodney said, inching his way to Zelenka. “Get on the ground, face down.” Davro complied and Rodney got out his knife and cut Zelenka free. “Can you walk?”
“Not well,” Zelenka said, and for the first time Rodney noticed his right eye was swollen shut.
“Damn it,” Rodney said. He put his spare gun in Zelenka’s uninjured hand and moved to tie up Davro. “If we come back for you, it’s going to be with an army.” Davro started to say something and Rodney punched him. He quickly moved towards Zelenka. “Let’s go.”
Zelenka struggled to his feet. “Rodney, I told you to be safe. Couldn’t you have listened to me in this? If we both die here, none of it is worth it.”
“Yeah, but we’re both going to live so, whatever,” Rodney said steadying Zelenka and leading him out of the room.
“Really? What’s your plan for that?”
“Well, I thought we could come up with one. I can’t do all the work.”
Zelenka laughed. “This is crazy. There are now probably thirty guards between us and the others and I am in no condition to fight.”
“We need to outsmart them.”
Rodney could hear guards coming their way so he maneuvered Zelenka into a side corridor and took aim. Three guards ran past them but didn’t notice them. “Okay, let’s go.”
It was slow and nerve-wracking progress. Rodney followed the traffic on the radio and used it to track their captors. Rodney knew Zelenka was trying to be strong but he was obviously in so much pain. He managed to hide them both again when guards came barreling through, thanks to the guards never having learned the concept of stealth.
Rodney moved Zelenka along turning down the hallway near their cell when four guards came around the far corner. Rodney and Zelenka held their guns out immediately.
The head guard yelled, “Lay your weapons down,” as another spoke into a radio.
“You first,” Rodney said. He was about to try to negotiate a surrender where they’d put their guns down if the guards agreed to get Zelenka some medical attention even though he knew those promises would be worthless, when Sheppard and Teyla appeared behind the guards.
“Drop your weapons,” Sheppard said.
“Oh thank God,” Rodney said. “We were just coming to rescue you.”
“That’s what that was,” Sheppard said as Ronon and Lorne shoved the guards in a cell.
“The plan sort of went askew.”
“We had a plan?” Zelenka asked.
Lorne looked over at them both. “You okay, Doc,” he asked Zelenka with noticeable concern.
“Been better, Major, but happy to see you.”
“He’s not walking real well,” Rodney interrupted, bothered by the exchange and moving between them.
Ronon came over. “Come on. I’ll get him,” he said, puling Zelenka easily into his arms.
“This is embarrassing,” Zelenka said through clenched teeth as Ronon accidently put pressure on his wounds.
“Careful,” Rodney said, “he’s got injuries everywhere.”
Ronon shifted him. “Sorry, this won’t be the most comfortable ride,” he said as they all started towards the jumper.
“Is much better than the alternative, so thank you.”
Rodney watched as Teyla took point and Sheppard slipped easily to the back. He moved to walk next to Zelenka and Ronon. “Told you I get us out of here,” he said to Zelenka.
“Yes, brilliant plan, fine execution, Rodney.”
They managed to run into only two guards who Teyla dispatched easily before they reached the jumper. After they’d been taken, they’d managed to secure it so the natives couldn’t get into it. Now, they slipped easily inside and Ronon put Zelenka down gently on the floor. Teyla had already grabbed a medkit as Sheppard took them away from the Lord of the Flies world. Rodney sat down next to Zelenka and finally felt like he could breathe again.
Rodney sat in the Infirmary, watching Zelenka sleep in what could not be a comfortable position. He’d been sedated, after his arm was put in a proper sling and his wounds were treated and bandaged. Nothing was broken, luckily, just a lot of scrapes, cuts, and some hairline fractures. Rodney had been forced to leave the Infirmary to shower and rest but he’d come back as soon as he could.
Rodney didn’t know why he was sitting here. Carson had said Zelenka wouldn’t wake up for a few more hours and then he’d probably just fall back asleep. Rodney wanted to be there, though. When someone offers to die for you and professes feelings, it leaves you feeling obligated, or at least it did Rodney. He didn’t know what to do with that or any of it, really. For now, he just wanted Zelenka to be okay, to reassure him he was okay, and then maybe the rest would fall into place.
The bruises were beginning to form on Zelenka’s face and on the parts of his body that were visible. They were going to look a lot worse before they got better. Rodney was tracing the outline of one with his eyes, taking measure of its shape and boundaries, when Sheppard walked in.
“How’s he doing?”
“Okay, I guess. Probably won’t wake up for a while, though.”
Sheppard looked at him and then at Rodney. “How are you doing?”
“Me? I’m fine. They didn’t touch me.”
“Not what I was asking,” Sheppard said, coming to stand at Rodney’s side. “It’s not your fault,” Sheppard added conversationally.
Rodney looked at him quickly, then glanced way. “Thanks, Freud.”
“I get it, Rodney, I do. These things happen. They shouldn’t and they suck, but you brought him home. That’s the best you can hope for.”
Rodney appreciated what Sheppard was trying to do but he really didn’t think Sheppard fully grasped this situation. He decided to start with what was safest to say. “I’m really sick of people getting hurt protecting me.”
“It never gets any easier, but that’s how teams work. I’d take a bullet for you, Teyla, or Ronon and I know the reverse is true. The only thing we can do is try to avoid proving the theory.”
“Yes, but we wouldn’t take a bullet when it’s possible to shove the other out of the way or take out the gunman.”
“That’s what he was doing?”
“He thought the best chance of getting out was to sacrifice himself as a distraction so I could reach you guys.”
“Was he right?”
“That doesn’t matter,” Rodney said, irritated. “There were other options.”
“His was the best?”
“How many times do we choose the crazy, reckless option? It’s what we do and we succeed.”
“Until we don’t, Rodney. And he doesn’t. He stays here and makes sure we have a home to come back to. He fixes problems and brainstorms, but he doesn’t face death like we do. He was doing what he thought was right given the circumstances and his understanding of them.”
He did at one point, Rodney thought, but Zelenka’s past wasn’t his to tell. He wondered if Zelenka’s dislike of off-world missions came from an attempt to avoid his past. “When did you get so philosophical?”
“Anyone who takes a command better learn to think like this or they’ll do a terrible job. Also, Teyla gives me insights while smacking me upside the head with sticks.”
Rodney laughed. “So that would work. I mean, I’ve considered it, but more with the hitting and less with the insights.”
“That’s why she’s more effective. Now, stop beating yourself up. That’s my job.”
Rodney nodded but didn’t feel any better. He was disturbed by how easily Zelenka was willing to take a bullet for him, but was infinitely more disturbed by the reason Zelenka wanted to take that bullet. He just couldn’t figure out what exactly was disturbing him. He wanted Zelenka but now that he knew Zelenka wanted him, he was frightened and he couldn’t have this discussion with Sheppard, not yet, anyway. He wasn’t ready for it to be real.
“You just going to sit there and watch him sleep? That’s kind of creepy.”
Yeah, but he loves me or something crazy like that, so he probably wouldn’t be bothered, Rodney thought. He wasn’t ready to talk to Sheppard and he didn’t know what he was going to do about it either. His first impulse was a self-protective one, to let him down gently, but he probably shouldn’t have kissed him if that was the route he wanted to take. Of course, he could dismiss the kiss as heat of the moment insanity. But how would it affect their relationship? Would he look at Zelenka differently? Would he feel uncomfortable when Zelenka looked at him?
Finally, he stood up and said, “I guess I’ll go. The science department is probably a free-for-all with both of us not there.”
Sheppard nodded and they walked out of the room. “Did something else happen?”
“What, no. Why?”
“You seem weird, even for you. This isn’t about the thing between you and Zelenka a while back?”
“No, that was nothing,” Rodney said nervously. Sheppard could be annoyingly perceptive at the worst times. He was like an idiot savant of poorly timed realizations.
“All right,” Sheppard said, thankfully letting it drop. “Let me know how he’s doing.”
Rodney nodded and Sheppard headed off in the opposite direction. Rodney went to the labs and buried himself in his work.
Rodney worked the whole day straight, got lost so far in his head, by the time he looked around, the lab was empty. He stood up, stretching, and closed the file he was working on. He considered going to the Infirmary but dismissed it. There was nothing he could do and he had no idea what to say.
The next day started out with an off-world mission that got predictably hairy. They spent two days on the planet until they convinced the natives that they weren’t long absent evil gods and then unpredictably ended up with a decent trading partner for grain.
When he made it back to Atlantis, he wanted to check on Zelenka but he was tired and dirty and covered in the locals’ version of holy water that for some reason had the consistency of molasses. He went to his room to shower and ended up staying there, deciding it was too late for visiting.
The next day he had to address the problems in his lab and when he’d done that, he’d overheard Simpson talking to Jarvis about the fact that Zelenka had been released to his quarters and was doing better. Simpson was talking to a few scientists about stopping by later to entertain him. She didn’t invite Rodney but that’s because she probably figured Rodney would already have seen him.
Rodney tuned out the conversation and on his way to the Mess stopped by to see Carson.
Carson was in his office, updating files or playing solitaire or whatever it was that he did with his day. “Hey,” Rodney said.
Carson looked up and smiled. “Hello. Good to see you got that blessed syrup off your face.”
“Ha,” Rodney said sitting down loudly.
“What’s up, Rodney.”
“Can’t I just stop by to say hi?”
“Aye, you could. You never have but I’m sure you possess the capability.”
“Whatever,” Rodney said. “How’s Zelenka?”
“Radek’s doing fine. The swelling went down over his eye and caused no impairment. His arm is much better and the worst of his wounds have closed quite nicely. Of course, you would know this if you stopped by to see him.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“You’re here.” Rodney didn’t say anything and Carson continued, “Did something happen?”
“You tell me. You’ve been strange since he got injured. First, you wouldn’t leave his side, now you won’t go near him.”
Rodney covered his eyes with his hand. “I don’t know. Did he ask about me?”
“Yes and then he was strange. He wanted to know how you were and if you said you’d be visiting him, but then he didn’t want me to comm you and ask. Why is that?”
“You’d have to ask him,” Rodney said, feeling slightly bad about the fact that Zelenka had been asking for him and slightly good.
“Rodney,” Carson said, “what is going on? Are you two fighting?”
“Nothing, okay,” Rodney said, standing up. “I’ve just been busy.”
“Right and I’m the Queen of England,” Carson muttered.
“See you later, Your Majesty,” Rodney said, leaving.
Rodney went to the Mess, loaded up a tray, and sat down with his team. He didn’t say anything. He just started eating.
“Hey Rodney,” Sheppard said loudly.
“Yeah,” he said around a mouthful of food. “Good to see everyone’s recovered from being mistaken for demons.”
“Not like it’s the first time,” Sheppard said.
“They were quite friendly once that misconception was cleared up,” Teyla said.
“Yeah and that syrup would be great on pancakes,” Sheppard added.
“Perhaps we should not mention that to them,” Teyla said.
“If you think it’s for the best,” Sheppard said, laughing. He turned towards Rodney, “How’s Zelenka doing?”
“How would I know,” Rodney asked.
“He’s good,” Ronon said.
“You saw him,” Rodney asked, surprised.
“Why haven’t you, Rodney,” Sheppard asked.
“Busy. Why does everyone keep asking me that?”
“Teyla and I are heading by after lunch. You can come.”
“No, I’ve got a broken power conduit to fix.”
“Sure, that sounds pivotal,” Sheppard said.
Zelenka was coming back to work tomorrow. Rodney had heard from Elizabeth who’d been part of the parade through Radek’s quarters. She said he was feeling better and had been approved for light duty.
Rodney didn’t know how to feel about that. On one hand, he was glad Zelenka was feeling better. He was thinking of that as the basic decent human being hand. On the other hand, this forced him to see Zelenka and in some way address the issue when continued avoidance would be easier. This was more of the douchecanoe hand.
He was done working for the night and he left the lab aimlessly. He was debating stopping at Zelenka’s. It was late enough that the adoring throngs were gone but not exactly so late that a visit should signify an emergency. He thought it would be better to get it out of the way privately and then there’s the part of him that just wanted to see Zelenka. Rodney was accustomed to him being around, as a sounding board, as a quality control, and as a friend. Rodney found that his self-imposed exile left a gap in his life that he’d not expected.
While debating it, he ended up standing outside Zelenka’s quarters. The only thing to do is knock, Rodney told himself. Finally, he heard someone walking in the corridor and forced himself to do it. He waited for a minute and actually considered what he was going to say. He regretted not crossing that bridge sooner.
He stood there awkwardly for another moment, thinking perhaps Zelenka was asleep, when the doors opened. The words he had hastily settled on deserted him as he looked at Zelenka. He was wearing black and blue flannel sleep pants and a black t-shirt that said something in Czech. It rattled Rodney even more to see him out of his science khaki and blue. The bruises on his face had settled to a mottled gray. He looked surprised to see Rodney.
“Rodney,” Zelenka said.
“Hey,” Rodney said feeling uncomfortable. “Just stopped by to see how you’re doing.”
“Oh, please come in.”
Rodney didn’t move. “You sure I’m not bothering you.”
“No, I was just reading the daily report and drinking some Athosian tea Teyla dropped off. I have more if you’d like some.”
“Sure.” Rodney walked in the room slowly and felt a little apprehensive as the door closed behind him.
Zelenka led him over to the small couch where he’d obviously been curled up when Rodney knocked. “Have a seat,” Zelenka said and then went to retrieve a mug from the small selection of dishes he had in a cupboard.
Rodney pushed aside a blanket and sat at the end of the couch. He felt ridiculously nervous.
Zelenka came back and sat at the other end of the couch and poured tea from a tea pot that Teyla most have surely brought. Glancing around he saw things that had to belong to Sheppard, Simpson, Elizabeth, and Lorne, the last of which bothered Rodney immensely. “Been exploiting this injured thing to score stuff, huh?”
Zelenka looked up from where he was still pouring tea with more attention than the act could possibly require. He followed Rodney’s gaze to the books, movies, and handheld videogames. “People do not want me to be bored. It’s very kind of them.” He handed Rodney the cup of tea.
“Thanks,” Rodney said, putting it on the coffee table in front of him. “So, you’re feeling better?”
“The first few days were pretty bad. Carson patched me up well, though. Almost good as new.”
“Good,” Rodney said, wishing he hadn’t been such a coward and he’d stopped by earlier. So, of course he offered up a preemptive excuse. “I was off world for a bit.”
“Yes. Elizabeth said you were mistaken for a demon.”
“Not just me, but yes. It somehow doesn’t even rank in the top twenty worst missions ever.”
“As annoying as being sticky is, the wraith are worse, yes.”
And seeing you beaten and tortured, Rodney thought, that ranks pretty high. Rodney sipped his tea for something to do, but that could only reasonably kill so much time.
“Rodney,” Zelenka started.
Zelenka had his legs folded on the couch and was staring at his hands in his lap. “The conduit refurbishment seems to be coming along.”
“It is. Thought we might run out of parts before the Daedalus returns but it’s looking good.” Zelenka nodded and sipped his tea. This was becoming painful. They’d devolved into the scientist equivalent of talking about the weather and Rodney was pretty certain Zelenka had been trying to say something else. Rodney took a deep breath. “I wanted to see you before tonight.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Not sure, actually.”
“I thought you were upset with me,” Zelenka said softly. He looked up and met Rodney’s eyes. “I thought maybe I owed you an apology, still do, actually.”
“You tell me. I’m not the one who has been doing the avoiding. In fact, I’ve been pretty immobile and easy to find.”
“I don’t want an apology for anything, Radek, except maybe for your willingness to sacrifice yourself for me. And that’s not something you should apologize for. We all want to protect each other,” Rodney said, parroting Sheppard. Rodney could have used an apology for the nightmares he’d been having about Radek bloodied and beaten and lifeless. They also came with the ones where Rodney was hitting that man outside the torture room again. In his dreams he kept hitting him until he turned into Zelenka and Rodney woke up gasping for air and trying to scream. Those weren’t Zelenka’s fault, either, though.
Zelenka seemed at a loss. “We’re okay, then?”
“So, you haven’t been avoiding me?”
“I didn’t know what to say.”
“About my feelings?” Zelenka leaned closer. “Do you wish us to forget it?”
“I…I wish a lot of things, Rodney. Mostly, I just want us to be able to talk to each other and be as close as we were before. I’m afraid you not going to want me near you now or you’re going to mistrust my motives.”
“That won’t happen,” Rodney promised. He knew now was the perfect time to reassure him they could maintain their friendship and so much inside him wanted to play it safe and bury this whole confusing situation. He could do what he always did, push away personal risk, and not open himself up to hurt and embarrassment. Or he could do something different. It was Lorne’s stupid art book that pushed him over the edge. He reached out and took Zelenka’s hand. “We could…try this,” he said and his stomach twisted nervously.
Zelenka looked up quickly, surprise evident across his features. “Try this? Us? But you’re straight.”
“Not exactly and you’re not exactly gay if the way you look at Elizabeth is anything to go on.”
“She’s beautiful and quite brilliant,” Zelenka said in agreement.
“I’m so far out of my comfort zone right now, Radek, I’d need a gate to reach it. So, if you could perhaps save your ode to Elizabeth for another time.”
Zelenka smiled. He brought his free hand up to touch Rodney’ cheek. “Sorry. This is very unexpected. But very welcome, Rodney. Also, I think you’re handsome and brilliant and I was always terrified you’d catch me looking at you inappropriately.”
“I always miss things like that.” Rodney felt nervously excited. “Look, just so you know, I’ve never, that is, I’ve done things with men, but I’ve never exactly dated one. I’ve haven’t really dated that much at all. Basically, I suck at it.” He didn’t say he wasn’t sure he could date a man, although he did have his doubts. It was an old dog, new tricks situation and Rodney was a man of habit who’d always thought sex with men was one thing but a relationship with one was not for him. He knew Zelenka wanted more and was unsure if he could deliver.
Zelenka dropped his hand to join his other one that was holding Rodney’s. “We can take it as slow as you want. Believe it or not, but I too have not dated extensively, so maybe we are on equal footing and can give each other some leeway.”
Rodney nodded. “Seeing you hurt and kissing you have made me reevaluate my view of you, but you’ve had much longer to develop these feelings, so we’re probably at different places.” Rodney hoped that made more sense to Zelenka than it had to him.
“You’re saying you haven’t been pining for me for years, so I need to give you time to catch up.”
“I can do that.”
Rodney smiled. “This is not how I expected this night to go.”
“Me neither. I thought more tea, a game of computer golf, and then to bed to worry about seeing you tomorrow.”
The thought of how much anxiety he’d caused Zelenka made him feel guilty. He never handled guilt well. He looked at Zelenka, his unguarded, hopeful expression, and leaned forward to kiss him before Rodney said something stupid.
It was a soft kiss, lacking the desperation or fear of the one in the jail cell. He brought his free hand up to steady Zelenka’s face. Zelenka made a low sound and melted into the kiss. It was exploration and want, new and pure, and it was heady as hell. Rodney traced Zelenka’s lower lip with the tip of his tongue, trailing over its inviting curve until Zelenka opened up and drew him inside. Their tongues meeting sent a spark of excitement down Rodney’s spine.
Zelenka was gripping him tightly and they were both tugging each other closer when Zelenka groaned and pulled back. Rodney opened his eyes to see Zelenka holding his side.
“Did I hurt you? I’m sorry.”
“Not as sorry as I am,” Zelenka said. “I’m fine. Just still a little sore.”
Rodney nodded, still catching his breath. The kiss was good, he decided, very promising. He definitely wanted more and Zelenka obviously did, too. “Guess we’ll have to take it slow for a lot of reasons.”
“I’m good at waiting for the things I truly want.”
That made Rodney flush. “I’m not, but I’ll add it to the list of things I’m trying to get better at.”
Zelenka smiled. “Good. I promise it’ll be worth the wait.”
The heat in his voice did funny things to Rodney’s stomach. Getting to know Zelenka this way was going to come with a sharp learning curve, he thought nervously. He hoped he could keep up and more fervently, he hoped he didn’t let the man down.
With Zelenka being injured and the normal chaos Atlantis supplied, things between them didn’t change too drastically. There were occasional glances and less often, there were casual touches that Rodney felt long after they were over. They still shared meals and watched movies. They still played chess but now there was an air of distraction and desire that turned the game into a strange, protracted foreplay. There was no resolution though and it was driving Rodney absolutely crazy.
The few heated kisses they had when saying goodnight weren’t helping either. Rodney wasn’t used to waiting for a man, wanting a man who wanted him and not acting. He was used to waiting for women, chasing and wooing, because society and most of the relationships he chose demanded it. The interactions he chose, or fell into, with men were always the furtive, quick to the point ones. This fit no recognizable pattern and it was bothering him.
He had just returned from a worthless mission and was freshly showered on his way to Zelenka’s quarters. They were going to have dinner and then watch a movie or play more blue balls chess. Rodney was looking forward to it either way. He’d kept their evening in the back of his mind as he was slogging through the mud and being mocked by the three genetic freaks on his team. No one should run that far and not be winded.
He knocked on Zelenka’s door and briefly wished he hadn’t showed up empty-handed, before shoving that thought away. It’s not like he was going to walk through the corridors of Atlantis carrying flowers to Zelenka’s quarters. Still, he wished had something. Maybe next time he’d bring something alcoholic or chocolate. Maybe.
When the door opened, he found himself grinning at Zelenka like an idiot. “Hey,” he said softly.
“Hey,” Zelenka said, stepping back. “How are you? Heard it was a crappy one.”
It took Rodney a minute to process that as he followed Zelenka into his quarters. “It was a muddy pit populated by large and surprising fast apes. There was a small Ancient outpost that held the personal thoughts of some whiny primatologist. Then the apes decided to kill us. These weren’t Jane Goodall’s friendly chimps.”
Zelenka laughed as he pulled Rodney into a loose hug. “Sorry.”
Rodney buried his face in Zelenka’s neck and returned the embrace, feeling his remaining tension drift away. “S’okay.” He took a deep breath, letting Zelenka’s now familiar scent wash over him. The subtle cologne and the herbal shampoo mixed with his natural chemistry in a way that Rodney really, really liked.
Zelenka ran his hands up and down Rodney’s back before slowly pulling back. “You look nice. I like this shirt.”
“Thanks,” Rodney said, fidgeting with the hem of his blue button down. Zelenka saying those types of things to him still gave him pause. He took in Zelenka’s stripped dress shirt, freshly shaven face, neatly combed hair, and thought he looked good too. He couldn’t quite say it, though.
Zelenka pulled him by the hand towards the table and two chairs in the corner of the room. “Sit. Enjoy a nice dinner. Stop thinking about angry apes.”
Rodney chuckled and pulled Zelenka close when they reached the table. He kissed him, letting his mouth linger for a moment, before stepping back. “Already forgotten.”
They ate an unhurried dinner, Rodney noting that Zelenka had gotten Rodney’s favorites. He enjoyed it but part of him was focused on the fact that he could not do the same for Zelenka.
After the dishes were cleared they moved to the couch and Zelenka started a movie that Rodney was mostly ignoring. The bulk of his attention was on the feel of Zelenka’s thigh felt against his, his head on Rodney’s shoulder, the dance of their fingers against each other. It was like he was sixteen again, sitting in Jenn Berry’s basement, wondering if he’d ever be brave enough to kiss her.
The movie played on and Zelenka shifted against him so he was looking in Rodney’s eyes. “Movie boring you?”
“No. Just not as interesting as you.”
Zelenka smiled. “Rodney. Come here.”
Rodney moved so Zelenka’s arms could slide around his waist and their mouth’s met eagerly. Rodney pressed Zelenka back into the couch, kissing him deeply, trailing his hand up Zelenka’s side and over his chest. He cupped the back of his neck so he could hold him steady as he slid his tongue against Zelenka’s, seeking sensation. Zelenka tightened his embrace and moaned against Rodney’s mouth so wantonly it sent a wave of pure lust through Rodney.
“Want you,” Rodney said, moving to kiss Zelenka’s neck.
Zelenka brought a hand up and moved Rodney where he wanted him. “Right there, please.”
Rodney nosed Zelenka’s collar out of the way and licked the spot Zelenka had guided him to before sucking and earning a gasp. He fumbled the buttons on Zelenka’s shirt open so he could touch his bare skin. He always loved undressing a lover for the first time, seeing and feeling and tasting what they keep hidden from most of the world, loved being let in. There hadn’t been much of that with his male lovers, so this was new territory.
Biting the spot on Zelenka’s neck brought him another moan and if Rodney had known about this years ago, he could have won every argument between them ever. He slid Zelenka’s shirt off and began exploring him with his fingertips.
“Wanted you for so long,” Zelenka said, unbuttoning Rodney’s shirt.
Rodney pulled back to give him room and to meet his gaze. “So we’re doing this, right? No more waiting?”
Zelenka laughed as he tossed Rodney’s shirt on the coffee table. “It’s only been three weeks for you, Rodney. Not exactly the longest wait ever.”
“Longest I’ve ever waited for a man,” Rodney said, enjoying the feel of Zelenka’s bare chest against his own.
The hand Zelenka was trailing up and down Rodney’s back stilled. “Is it really so different? Are the feelings that dissimilar?”
Rodney rested his head on Zelenka’s shoulder, mouthing the hair on his chest. “Honestly, Radek, before this, feelings didn’t really enter into it.”
Zelenka squirmed a little at the soft touch. “And now?”
“Now I’m a little nervous and a lot horny.”
Rodney was too turned on to decipher the subtleties in Zelenka’s tone. “Does it feel the same for you?”
Zelenka began stroking Rodney’s back again. “Yes. I haven’t been…I haven’t felt this way many times. I never learned how to do this without feelings. Too intimate to share casually.” He smiled ruefully. “Perhaps another Czech shortcoming.”
Rodney felt the weight of this thing with Zelenka. It wasn’t back alley groping or darkened dorm room hand jobs. It was something else and he didn’t know if he wanted the rest of it.
Zelenka touched Rodney’s face. “I didn’t mean to make you think so much. I want this as much as you do. We can figure the rest out later.” He kissed Rodney softly. “Let’s go to my bed. We’ve both waited long enough.”
Rodney followed him automatically, his body still fully invested even as his mind wavered, thoughts about how this was too serious and too frightening being drowned by now and want. They toed off their shoes when they got to the bed and reached for each other at the same time. Rodney pushed Zelenka down on the pillow before climbing on top of him. Zelenka felt so good under him, so solid and warm, and then they were kissing again like they couldn’t get enough. Zelenka’s arms and legs wrapped around Rodney, pressing their erections together, pulling deep moans from both of them.
“Love the way you feel on top of me. So sexy.”
Rodney moved down, kissing Zelenka’s chest and tonguing his nipple. He didn’t want to talk anymore. He ran his hand over Zelenka’s stomach, watching the way his stomach muscles clenched and he got closer to the bulge in his pants. He moved to the other nipple, taking the hard bud in his mouth and Zelenka’s soft pleased sounds went right to Rodney’s dick. He very much enjoyed a vocal lover and Zelenka did not hide his pleasure.
When his hand reached Zelenka’s waistband he hesitated slightly. He really wanted his dick sucked and he realized it was only fair to suck Zelenka in return, but he’d never given head sober. He’d never given that much head at all.
“Hey,” Zelenka said, tracing Rodney’s lower lip with his thumb.
Rodney moved up to cut off any questions with a kiss. He bit his bottom lip and slid his glasses off his face. “Can you still see me,” he asked, dropping the glasses carefully on the night stand.
“You’re all I can see, but that’s often the case,” Zelenka said with a warm smile.
Rodney found he couldn’t look away from the affection and desire in Zelenka eyes. He felt a wave of tenderness wash through the desire. He dropped a soft kiss on Zelenka’s forehead before moving back down and unbuttoning his pants. He took his pants, underwear, and socks off leaving the man spread out naked and hard for Rodney. He ran his hand up his thigh and over his hip enjoying the resulting shudder.
Rodney quickly divested himself of his clothes wanting nothing in between them. He moved back up so he was covering Zelenka’s body again, their mouths finding each other as Zelenka wrapped himself tightly around Rodney. Rodney had wanted to exchange blow jobs but they weren’t going to last that long, not the way they were clutching each other and thrusting wildly.
Rodney put a hand on the side of Zelenka for better leverage and worked one in between their bodies to clutch their dicks and give them both more friction. Zelenka began moaning and mumbling in a gravelly tone. Rodney picked out God and yes, along some Czech he couldn’t understand. It was unaccountably sexy.
“So good, Radek. I’m so close, gonna come so hard. Tell me you’re close too.”
“Yes, Rodney, please. Just like that, oh, oh,” Zelenka gasped and Rodney felt his warm come hit his stomach in waves as Zelenka held him tightly. His eyes were closed and he bit his lower lip and he trembled and made these soft hitching sounds dripping with pure sex that went right through Rodney. When Zelenka relaxed, Rodney moved so he was thrusting against Zelenka’s slick stomach chasing his own pleasure. He watched as Zelenka ran a hand through the mess of come and sweat on both their bodies before bring his hand down to wrap around Rodney’s dick.
“Oh god,” Rodney said as he thrust into Zelenka’s tight hand. The fact that it was wet with Zelenka’s come was such a turn-on he couldn’t think any more. His world had narrowed to pleasure and messy sex and Zelenka. Zelenka’s taste and smell and come were all over him, inside him, and he could feel his orgasm building at the thought of being so marked.
Zelenka’s other hand trailed over Rodney’s ass making Rodney thrust more erratically, all semblance of control gone. “Come for me. I want to see you, feel you come all over me.”
Rodney made a low sound, almost a growl, and came hard, the pleasure after such a buildup intense. He panted through it, the deep red hot fire of it overwhelming him. He opened his eyes to watch the last of his come land on Zelenka and felt another tight shock of pleasure. He collapsed on Zelenka, their sticky bodies pressing against each other.
Zelenka held him close and pressed a kiss to Rodney’s shoulder. He traced light patterns on Rodney’s back and Rodney really wanted to fall asleep where he was, sated and content. He realized he was heavy, though, so he slid off to the side. Zelenka moved with him, keeping Rodney in the circle of his arms. “That was wonderful,” Zelenka said softly.
Rodney nodded but felt reality creeping back in. The sex had been great but the sex didn’t give Rodney pause, well, for the most part. It was this, this non-sexual aspect of their relationship that really worried him. He didn’t know how to do this. He wasn’t ready for people to see him walking out of Zelenka’s quarters in the morning in his rumpled outfit. He didn’t know if he would ever be. If Zelenka were a woman, Rodney would be hoping someone saw him. That made him feel terrible but he didn’t know what to do about it.
He turned over onto his back. “I should go soon.”
“Go?” Zelenka propped himself up on his elbow so he could look at Rodney. “You don’t have to go. You’re more than welcome to stay.”
Rodney closed his eyes. “No, I…need a shower.”
“I have a shower, Rodney.”
“And I should probably go before some sees me stumbling disheveled out of your quarters in the middle of the night.”
“Oh,” Zelenka said and Rodney felt him withdraw.
Rodney turned to look at Zelenka and saw a guarded expression across his face. “Did you want us to be obvious?”
A few emotions flitted across Zelenka’s face before resignation settled there. “No, I… no.” He stood up and went over to his dresser, slipping into a pair of underwear and a t-shirt.
Rodney suddenly felt very exposed. He stood up and began looking for his clothes in silence. When he was dressed, he turned to look at Zelenka who was watching him.
“It was a good night,” Zelenka said with a smile that held a little of the sun his earlier smiles were brimming with.
Rodney looked him over, thinking he looked good in boxer-briefs and a t-shirt, and part of him wanted to crawl back into bed and hold him until all the light returned to his smile. Rodney couldn’t though. He was his Father’s son. He moved forward and cupped Zelenka’s face. “Very good,” he said, kissing Zelenka softly
When he pulled away Zelenka’s eyes held that softness again. “We’ll have to do it again sometime. For quality control.”
Rodney laughed. “Well, if it’s for the good of science.” Zelenka’s arms slid around Rodney’s waist and damn, but did the man feel good in Rodney’s arms, so warm and pliant. He kissed his forehead.
Zelenka kissed the side of Rodney’s neck before stepping back. “Good night, Rodney.”
“Good night,” he said and turned to go. Walking back to his quarters he felt uprooted. When he got there he didn’t shower. He simply stripped and slipped between the covers. He didn’t want to wash Zelenka off him yet.
In the morning he woke with a particular relaxation in his body, a lingering reminder that he had really good sex the previous night. The sights and sounds of which he replayed while jerking off in the shower. As he dressed, he couldn’t get rid of the slight sense of panic that everyone would know, that there was something different about him now. The other times he’d had sex with men, there’d been alcohol to blur and excuse it. This was different. This was something he wanted to do again and that is what he was afraid people would know. Not that it was a bad thing. For other people.
He forced the thoughts aside. No one had to find out. They were consenting adults and if they got off together behind closed doors, it was no one else’s business. Rodney very much liked the idea of regular sex and as long as they kept it quiet, this could be something quite satisfying.
He walked into the Mess and saw his team in their normal corner. He grabbed a hearty breakfast and headed over to their table. On the way, he noticed Zelenka was sitting by himself across the room reading a datapad. Rodney quickly squashed the urge to head over there and glanced away when he noticed Zelenka looking up.
He sat down with his team. “Good morning.”
“Somebody’s cheerful,” Sheppard said.
Rodney looked up. “What?”
“You’re normal greeting is a grunt and a complaint. Where’s you pre-coffee bitterness?”
“Not that this isn’t a pleasant change,” Teyla offered.
“Thanks,” Rodney said. “Maybe I’m trying a new thing.”
“I like it,” Ronon said.
“You just don’t want me to bitch about ill-designed power conduits anymore.”
“I had a dream about power conduits last night,” Sheppard said. “They are banned from conversation. Not going to tell us why you’re in a good mood?”
Ronon leaned close, grinning. “Did you have sex?”
“That’s none of our business,” Teyla said, but even she looked curious.
“No, it’s not, so can we talk about something else,” Rodney said.
“Ooh, you did,” Sheppard said.
“What are you? Fifteen? If I did, which I’m not saying I did, I’m not the type to kiss and tell.”
“Yes, you are,” Sheppard said. “Who was it?”
“Can we guess,” Ronon asked.
“Ignore them, Rodney. We will talk about something else,” Teyla said in a tone that didn’t allow for disagreement.
Sheppard and Ronon settled down and they talked about the routine mission they were going on tomorrow to a trading partner. Rodney half listened but he was more focused on the fact that they thought he seemed happier. He’d have to watch out for that.
When he got to the lab, Zelenka was already there, along with a few other scientists. Rodney nodded in their general direction and sat down. He started running some simulations of modifications he’d been throwing around to increase the long range sensors. He’d been working on these ideas with Zelenka and he’d like to have him go over the results. That, however, would involve taking to him. Rodney knew he would have to, but he just needed to push Zelenka back into the colleague box and out of the seen naked box.
He tweaked some problems with the coding and took a deep breath. He just needed to call the man over. It’s not like facing Wraith. He glanced up and his breath caught in his throat. For a moment, he saw Zelenka from the jail cell, wounded and bloody. The image slipped away and Rodney cursed his subconscious. He had no idea what that was supposed to mean but it wasn’t helpful.
“Zelenka,” he called out, glad his voiced sounded steady. “Come look at this.”
“In a minute,” Zelenka said.
“Yes, I’m sure you’ve almost won this hand, but this is important.”
“You always think it’s important, McKay.”
“Because it is,” Rodney said, feeling some of his tension slip away. This felt familiar.
“Fine, but when jumpers fall from the sky,” Zelenka muttered. He came over and looked at Rodney’s screen and Rodney was hyperaware of his proximity. “Oh, you’re doing the.”
“Yeah. Changed the array pattern.”
“Got rid of the feedback problem here,” Zelenka said, pointing.
“There’s this blind spot though.”
“At its outer limit. I saw it. Probably just a crystal needs replacing.”
“That’s what I figured.”
“I’ll check it out when I come back from the jumper bay,” Zelenka said, not quite meeting Rodney’s eyes.
Zelenka went back to his station and Rodney made himself not stare. He had wanted them to be discreet. There was just another part of him that wanted reassurance that last night was good and would happen again. It was foolish and felt very high school, but he wanted to know Zelenka still liked him. There had to be a better way to put it, though.
When Zelenka left, presumably to go fix the jumpers falling from the sky issue, Rodney decided there be nothing wrong meeting him when he went to address the sensor issue. After all, they had been working on it together
Three hours later, Rodney walked down the corridors of Atlantis in Zelenka’s direction. Rodney knew he’d left the jumper bay and was trying to isolate the faulty crystal and he figured he could use a hand. Also, they would be alone so Rodney could ease his nerves and give in to his urge to touch Zelenka.
Coming around the corner, he found Zelenka typing into a computer that was connected to a control panel. “Hey,” he said loudly.
Zelenka turned and smiled before his face slipped back to impassive. “Rodney. Come to do grunt work?”
“The disruption is in this power block. It shouldn’t take too long to isolate it.”
“It’ll go faster with two people looking.”
“Yes,” Zelenka said, resting the computer on the console. “You want to start at the far end and we’ll meet in the middle?”
“No,” Rodney said, stepping in. He grabbed Zelenka’s sleeve. “Hey,” he said softly.
Zelenka’s smile came back slightly. “Hey,” he said just as softly.
He stepped closer, well into Zelenka’s personal space, and glanced from his eyes to his mouth. “So, last night,” he started.
Zelenka’s hands settled on Rodney’s shoulders. “Yes?”
Rodney felt warmth trail over his skin. He could feel Zelenka’s desire practically humming off him. Zelenka liked him alright. He moved forward until his mouth hovered over Zelenka’s and his lips tingled with the need to touch. He waited, though. He wanted Zelenka to close the distance.
Zelenka’s hand came up and pressed against Rodney’s cheek. “Last night has been running on a loop in my mind.” He dragged his thumb over the stubble on Rodney’s jaw. “Most distracting.”
“Should I apologize,” Rodney teased.
“No, you should kiss me,” Zelenka said, pulling Rodney down into a hard kiss.
Rodney’s breath hitched as their lips met and he wrapped his arms around Zelenka’s waist. Zelenka’s tongue lapped against Rodney’s lips, demanding entrance. Rodney acquiesced immediately. Kissing him was so undeniably good. Rodney usually enjoyed kissing while wanting to move to the next step. This, though, he wanted to keep doing. He wanted to lay him down and kiss for hours until it became too much and they had to come.
Zelenka backed Rodney against a wall. He sucked on Rodney’s lower lip before biting softly. Rodney gave a soft huff of pleasure and Zelenka’s hands tightened on Rodney’s shoulders. Rodney ran his hands up Zelenka’s back and framed his face so he could kiss him at the angle he wanted.
For a few long moments it was all lips and tongues and taste until Zelenka pulled away. “Rodney, we need to stop.”
Rodney tried to focus. “Why?”
“Because it’s risky and unprofessional and because Renault is meeting me here in a little while.”
“Call him. Tell him you don’t need him.”
Zelenka smiled. “That brings us back to unprofessional.”
Rodney rested his head on Zelenka’s shoulder. “I really want you.”
“Have me. Later. After work.”
Rodney moved to meet his eyes. “Have you?”
Zelenka nodded. “Come to my quarters tonight or I can come to yours. We can spend the night making each other feel good.”
Rodney wanted that badly, wanted to spend the night naked and having Zelenka. He was supposed to do movie night with his team, though. If he tried to blow it off, it would raise more questions. He could stop by after, but it meant risking being seen going to Zelenka quarters late at night. “I…I can’t tonight. I have plans.”
Zelenka looked disappointed but said, “Okay, tomorrow, then.”
“We have that routine mission.”
“So you’ll probably be kidnapped or trapped in an underground Ancient bowling alley or something.”
Rodney laughed. “Most likely, but the next night I’m here we should spend together.”
“I agree,” Zelenka said, running his hand through Rodney’s hair. “The things I want to do to you, most distracting.”
Rodney kissed him again and then moved down to suck on that gloriously sensitive spot on his neck. Zelenka gasped and shoved Rodney away. “You don’t play fair. You know I can’t think when you do that.”
“I know,” Rodney said with a grin. He gave himself a moment to take in Zelenka’s flushed face and desire-dark eyes before forcing himself to move away. “So, working now. You want me to start at the far end?”
Rodney sat with his team and pretended to watch the movie. They’d watched one before it and he honestly couldn’t say what it was about. He was thinking about this thing with Zelenka and how it could fit in his life without turning everything upside down. He didn’t really have an answer.
Ronon nudged his arm. “Pass the popcorn.”
Rodney handed the bowl over absently. He liked spending time with his team, liked the feeling of friendship. It was new and thrilling to be accepted like that, but now he just wanted to slip out and be with Zelenka. There was the sex, that was a big part of it, but it was the other things as well. Zelenka could talk about the things Rodney cared about on the same level and throw a different spin on them. Rodney also liked the way Zelenka looked at him and the way it made him feel wanted and fascinating. And then there was the sex. Rodney sighed.
Rodney looked up and met Sheppard’s stare. “What?”
“You’ve been sighing and generally mopey since you got here. Something you need to get off your chest?”
Ronon was eating the popcorn and watching the interchange like a movie. Teyla was pulling out her concerned but interested face and Sheppard just looked like he wanted to know if Robin Hood would get his castle back. Rodney shook his head. “Nothing. Just thinking about work.”
“Right,” Sheppard said. “Could you think quieter?”
“Yeah.” Rodney looked down and then stood quickly. “I should go. There’s a thing in the lab.”
“Hot date,” Sheppard asked.
“With science, sure.”
“See ya later,” Rodney said and stepped out of the room. He was terrible at lying so the hasty retreat was usually his best option. He headed towards his lab, just to support his unnecessary lie and felt stupid doing it.
He sat down at his station and thought in circles over the situation. He wanted this but he didn’t know if he wanted it enough to take the baggage that came with being gay. He wanted to keep spending time with Zelenka without anyone knowing until he figured out if they could have a relationship. Whatever was going to happen, he needed it to happen on his terms. He was pretty sure Zelenka wouldn’t mind.
He shook his head. He was getting nowhere and he still wanted to be with Zelenka right now. He looked around the lab as if it would provide answers. His eyes fell on the life signs detector and Rodney grabbed it. That solved one problem.
He stood outside Zelenka’s door, backpack in his hand, and remembered standing here the night before Zelenka came back to work. Zelenka had taken punches for him, had been willing to endure much worse, to keep Rodney safe, and here he was hiding a life signs detector in his bag so no one would know he liked to kiss boys, to kiss this boy. It was pretty damn ridiculous, he knew it, but it’s harder to be brave when the world wasn’t ending. He would protect Zelenka, had on that planet of thugs, but to suffer teasing and gossip was another thing.
When the door opened, Zelenka stood there in black sleep pants and a white t-shirt that had a picture of a pumkin and the symbol for pie. Rodney smiled. “You selection of casual wear is surprisingly broad.”
Zelenka smiled back. “My sister’s way of telling me to relax.” He stepped back and let Rodney in. “I thought you were busy tonight.”
Rodney dropped his bag and moved closer. “I had an opening in my schedule. You mind?”
Zelenka smiled and pulled Rodney into an embrace. “I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been thinking about you.”
“Good things, I hope,” Rodney said, running his hands over Zelenka’s back.
Zelenka licked his lips. “I could show you if you’d like.”
Rodney didn’t respond. He just moved forward and kissed Zelenka because he couldn’t wait any longer, couldn’t not be kissing him for another instant. Zelenka responded immediately. He tasted like that Athosian tea and Rodney was developing a very positive response to that flavor. They kissed for a while, slow and deep, the slide of tongues and soft bites of lips utterly absorbing.
He let Zelenka lead them towards the bed, still kissing. When they got there, Zelenka said, “Shoes off.”
Rodney discarded them and his socks before lightly shoving Zelenka onto the bed and following him until Zelenka was settled on the pillows looking at Rodney warmly. He settled on top of him, sliding between his legs. They eased back into kissing, mouths brushing and then clinging just so, upping the desire between them steadily and deliciously. Zelenka’s hands were under Rodney’s t-shirt caressing his back and Rodney pulled back long enough to remove it. “Yours too,” he said, slightly embarrassed at how breathy he sounded.
Zelenka put his glasses on the nightstand and tossed his shirt on the floor. “Come back,” he demanded as breathlessly.
Rodney obeyed immediately, covering Zelenka’s body and mouthing his neck. He trailed his way until he reached that oh so sensitive spot on Zelenka’s neck and then drew out soft moans by sucking lightly.
“Rodney,” Zelenka said. “Feels so good.” He slid his hand up into Rodney’s hair, pressing lightly and encouraging him to suck harder.
Rodney did and was rewarded with louder moans. He knew if he kept sucking the way he was, it was going to leave a mark and he thrilled a little at the thought. When he finally pulled back he looked at Zelenka, drinking in the naked want on his face.
Zelenka traced his thumb over Rodney’s lips and then slid his fingers over his cheekbone affectionately. The small touch moved Rodney and it struck him hard and fast that this experiment with Zelenka could turn into something more even if he didn’t want it to. He closed his eyes and Zelenka continued to explore him. “I always enjoyed looking at you,” Zelenka murmured, “even when you made me furious, I would think, at least he’s good-looking. I never thought I would get to touch, though.”
“You should have,” Rodney said just as softly, “would have made those long nights more interesting.”
“Less productive, though,” Zelenka said with a laugh. He pushed lightly at Rodney’s chest until Rodney took the hint and let Zelenka reverse their positions. Zelenka kissed him and then began running his fingers down Rodney’s body, following the path with his mouth. He explored Rodney’s neck and chest before moving to unbutton his pants and undo his zipper. “Want to suck you. Want to make you come. You want me to?”
Zelenka may have phrased it like a question but he must know Rodney’s answer. He had to be able to see the way Rodney was trembling, aching for it. “Yes. I want you to.”
“Good,” Zelenka said, removing Rodney’s pants and underwear. Rodney gasped when Zelenka’s hand wrapped around him and began stroking lightly. “Open your eyes,” Zelenka said, “look at me.”
Rodney did and the visual was overwhelming. He watched as Zelenka licked him from base to tip and it heightened the sensation. Rodney couldn’t stop the sounds from escaping when Zelenka swirled his tongue around the head.
“Want you to see me do this,” Zelenka said. “I want you to watch me suck you off.”
Zelenka smiled at him before moving to take Rodney’s cock in his mouth. Rodney slid another pillow under his head so he could watch easier. He had to fight to keep his eyes open when the sensation of being sucked and licked rode up his nerves but it was worth it. Zelenka looked like he was really enjoying himself, like he found pleasure in the act. Rodney had never liked giving head and the other guys he’d been with hadn’t been that enthusiastic about it for the most part. They were just giving to receive. Zelenka seemed like giving was its own end.
Rodney brought his hand down to run through Zelenka’s hair. “So good,” he said.
Zelenka moved his hand to cover Rodney’s hand that was resting on his stomach. Rodney returned the handclasp tightly. Zelenka was moving faster, taking Rodney in deep. Rodney was going to lose it soon. “Getting close,” he warned.
Zelenka just moaned around Rodney’s cock and that was it. Rodney curled off the bed and gasped as the pleasure crested high and he shot hard in Zelenka’s mouth. Zelenka kept working him, swallowing around Rodney’s cock and drinking his release. Rodney fell back against the bed and held on to the pleasure for a moment.
He slowly became aware of things in the room again. He was still holding Zelenka’s hand while stroking Zelenka’s hair. Zelenka was curled up with his face on Rodney’s hip. “Hi,” Rodney said softly.
“Hi,” Zelenka said.
“C’mere,” Rodney said.
Zelenka moved up and kissed Rodney softly. Rodney returned the kiss lazily and drifted for a moment before he honed in on the feeling of Zelenka’s erection pressing against him. Oh. Right. It was his turn now.
Rodney moved him until he had Zelenka on his back. He kissed him again before moving to take off Zelenka’s remaining clothes. Finally he had him naked and hard in front of him and for a second he felt at a loss. He wasn’t as skilled at this as Zelenka and he didn’t want to be a bad lover but he could feel his nerves starting to overwhelm him.
Zelenka put his hand on Rodney’s chin and made him meet his eyes. “Rodney, it’s okay. You don’t have to suck me if you don’t want to. I didn’t do it to make you return the favor.”
“I know. It just seems fair.”
Zelenka smiled and pulled Rodney up to lay beside him. “This isn’t treaty negotiations. I don’t want you to do something you don’t want to because you think you should. That’s not fun for me.”
“Oh.” Rodney reached out and wrapped his hand around Zelenka’s cock. He stroked him and watched Zelenka’s eyes flutter closed. “I want to make you feel as good as you made me feel. I just don’t…I haven’t done that too much.”
“This feels good, Rodney. So good. I like having your hand on me, having you touch me.”
Rodney relaxed and moved to press his entire body against Zelenka’s. “I like touching you,” Rodney said against Zelenka’s ear. Zelenka’s breath hitched and he wrapped his arms around Rodney, holding him close. “You’re hot like this, naked and hard for me. I like seeing how much you want me.”
“So much. Want you so badly.”
Rodney brought his hand to his mouth and licked it quickly before moving back to stroking Zelenka’s cock. Rodney sped up his strokes, watching the way Zelenka’s chest rose and fell rapidly, the way his body was taut and straining, the way he couldn’t keep his eyes open and when he tried, they were dark and desperate with need. Zelenka was speaking softly in Czech and in was hot.
He knew he was driving Zelenka quickly to the edge and he moved forward and sought out that spot on his neck that drove Zelenka wild. He sucked on it hard and threw in a twist at the top of the upstroke that he always enjoyed. Zelenka obviously did as well and he moaned and tightened his grip on Rodney. “Yes, like that.”
Rodney kept doing it and licking his neck and soon he felt Zelenka shudder and then he was coming with a low, rumbling groan. Rodney watched as he spurted all over his stomach and chest. It was sexy and Rodney knew that image would stay with him.
Zelenka came down slowly and he opened his eyes to meet Rodney’s gaze. “Thank you,” he said warmly.
Rodney kissed him and then pulled back. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to look at you and not want to do that.”
Zelenka smiled. “The staff would probably object.”
“I’m certain I’m supposed to.”
Rodney laughed and they laid there awhile. Eventually he pulled back. “We should shower.”
“Mmm, you’re staying, then,” Zelenka asked and Rodney knew he was trying to sound disinterested.
“Yeah. If you don’t mind.”
Zelenka smiled like the sun coming out. “No, I’d like very much for you to stay.”
When Rodney woke up, the room was starting to fill with light and he was sprawled over Zelenka. He pulled back and stretched before turning to look at Zelenka, who curled towards Rodney even in his sleep. Rodney liked this, this waking up beside someone, beside Zelenka. He could get used to it.
Rodney liked being around people. He just wasn’t usually good at making people want to be around him. Zelenka did. Rodney wondered how long that would last before Zelenka got tired of him or annoyed like everyone else. Another reason not to say anything to anyone, Rodney decided. It would most likely not succeed.
It’s good for now, Rodney thought as he put his arm back over Zelenka.
Weeks passed quickly on Atlantis, one step forward, two steps back in the fight with the Wraith. Rodney fell into a comfortable routine with Zelenka in between off-world missions and occasional technological catastrophes. He still hadn’t told a soul, though, and he knew Zelenka was going to broach the subject soon.
Rodney had admitted to himself that he did care for him and maybe it could be something lasting. He was thinking of talking to Sheppard about it, but each time he tried, the words wouldn’t come out. He knew Sheppard wouldn’t mind. In fact he’d probably be obnoxiously happy, but telling him was just the rolling snowball that meant telling others who didn’t have rainbow flags in their eyes.
He lay in bed, wrapped around Zelenka, and decided today would be the day. This was worth stepping up for and the things his Dad had said no longer seemed to outweigh the things Zelenka did. They also didn’t outweigh the way Zelenka smiled at Rodney like Rodney was someone to be smiled at with warmth and sincerity. Rodney was starting to believe he was.
He decided to wake Zelenka up nicely. He began running his hand over the man’s chest and stomach in a caress. He moved to nuzzle his neck and kiss his collarbone. Zelenka stirred softly against him. “Morning,” Rodney said softly.
“Mmm,” Zelenka said. He brought his hand up to rub Rodney’s back. “Best way to wake up.”
They reached for each other and brought each other off easily. They shared a leisurely shower and dressed for work.
Rodney gave Zelenka a quick kiss and headed for the door. Rodney hated the way Zelenka looked when Rodney pulled out the LSD to make sure the corridor was clear. He promised himself he wouldn’t see that look for much longer.
Rodney found Sheppard in the training room with Ronon and Teyla. “Finally come to join the team workouts, Rodney,” Sheppard asked.
“Surprisingly, no. I…I need to talk to you.”
“So talk,” Sheppard said, dodging a blow from Ronon only to run into one from Teyla.
Rodney took a deep breath. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell the whole team at once, although they did make up the bulk of the most important people to him.
Teyla took a graceful step backwards to look at Rodney. “Did you wish to talk to Colonel Sheppard alone?”
Rodney stared at his hands for a moment. “Ah, no.”
Sheppard and Ronon had stopped sparring but Ronon gave Sheppard one last smack on the back. “Ouch,” Sheppard said.
“Sorry, didn’t realize we were stopping,” Ronon said unconvincingly.
“Yeah,” Sheppard said, unconvinced. “What’s going on, Rodney?”
“It’s of a personal nature.”
“Is it why you’ve been so distracted lately?”
“Yes,” Rodney said softly, “I’ve been seeing someone.”
The three of them look at Rodney expectantly. Finally, Shepppard said, “This takes none of us by surprise. You been cheerful and you disappear all the time. We assumed you were either dating or on drugs.”
“Right. Well. It’s…I’ve been…am seeing a man.” He looked around gauging Teyla and Ronon’s reactions. They seemed undisturbed by the news. Of course, they would probably seem undisturbed by an army of cannibals, so it’s hard to tell.
Teyla looked at Rodney in that sincere way she had that always made him feel like she knew secrets he’d never learn. He found it surprisingly bolstering because he trusted if he ever needed those secrets, she would simply tell him. “And you’re happy in this relationship?”
Rodney tried and failed to contain his smile. “Yes.”
Sheppard and Ronon seemed pacified by Rodney’s honesty. Teyla smiled warmly at him. “Good, you deserve happiness, Rodney, and I think you and Doctor Zelenka will make a fine pair.”
“How’d you know?”
“I’ve always sensed a strong connection between the two of you.”
“I thought you two were together when I came to Atlantis,” Ronon said. “Sheppard said that was just how you guys talked. I think I called it.”
Sheppard held up his hands. “They weren’t together then.”
“I think we both called it,” Teyla said, stumbling slightly over the unfamiliar phrase.
“Thank you both. If we’re every trapped in an Agatha Christie novel, you guys will really shine,” Rodney said, not truly hiding how impressed he really was. He took in the warmth and happiness his friends were giving him and felt like an ass for keeping this a secret and making Zelenka feel in any way that Rodney was ashamed of him or the thing they shared. He knew there were others on Atlantis, and in his family, who’d be less accepting, but they really didn’t matter. His friends were happy for him, his sister would be happy he wasn’t alone, and everyone else’s approval was superfluous. He just needed to make it up to Zelenka and be brave for him.
Sheppard snapped his fingers. “Hey, you with us?”
“What? Yeah. I may have been stupid, though.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t think we caught that,” Sheppard said.
Rodney started to repeat himself when he realized Sheppard was teasing him. “Funny. I’ve been dragging my feet in this relationship and I’m afraid Zelenka may doubt my feelings.”
Teyla put her hand on Rodney’s arm. “You may have acted unwisely in the past, but you have a chance to fix it now. If it is what you truly wish, make sure he knows it.”
“Right. I can do that,” Rodney said, wavering slightly.
“You can,” Teyla said.
Ronon clapped him on the shoulder. “You guys are good together, I know it. I’m never wrong about these things.”
“You’re specialties are knives, disemboweling, and matters of the heart?”
Rodney just shook his head and then said softly, “And the whole guy thing. You’re all fine with that?”
“Why would it matter,” Ronon asked. “Your people are weird.”
“Not all of us,” said Sheppard.
Rodney decided to interrupt before he went all pride parade. “What if, for some reason, Zelenka decides I’m not worth it? He has other options. Lorne was pursuing him for a while.”
“Well, Lorne is a pretty stand-up guy,” Sheppard said.
“And pretty,” Teyla added. All three of them turned to look at her. “I mean objectively. Not that you’re not attractive, of course. Objectively.”
“He’s a really good shot,” Ronon added.
“Oh and that’s really important when dating someone,” Rodney said. “Would you all pick him over me?”
“This really isn’t about us, Rodney,” Sheppard said.
“Thanks, this has been really helpful. I should just prepare myself for my future of soul crushing loneliness and cats.”
“John is right,” Teyla said, “this isn’t about us. It’s about Dr. Zelenka, who would not have started a relationship with you if he didn’t want you, flaws and all.”
“Right. I just need to make up for being an ass.”
“How are you going to do that,” Sheppard asked.
“I’ve got an idea,” Rodney said, rubbing his hands together nervously.
Radek sat in his favorite thinking spot, trying to parse out his feelings. He was really enjoying being with Rodney, spending time with him, but he was getting tired of not being able to tell anyone, of having to guard against any slip that would reveal their relationship. It was wearying. It’s difficult to feel something so strong and joyous and to remember to hide it away like something shameful. There were so many things that Radek felt regret for over the years, from his time in the military to not being there for his family as much as he should. He regretted not saying certain things and keeping them locked away. Loving Rodney, though, wasn’t anywhere on that list. He just wished Rodney felt the same.
He felt very little surprise when he heard the door open. He’d been hoping Rodney would come find him so they could talk. When they were in their rooms they always found other things to do besides talk.
“Hey,” Rodney said softly.
Radek looked at him and thought he seemed nervous. “Hey.”
Rodney sat next to him. “Brooding?”
“Perhaps. We need to talk.”
“That’s never a promising start to any conversation.”
Radek looked away. “Rodney, I’ve wanted you, for a long time, and now there’s more to it than that, but I don’t want dark corners and stolen moments. I’ve had that too many times and it’s not exciting anymore.” The words came out in a rush because Radek was slightly terrified. He wanted more from Rodney, but he was afraid by acknowledging it, he would lose what he had.
Rodney covered Radek’s hand. “I know. God, I’m sorry. I don’t want that either.”
Radek carefully met Rodney’s eyes. “You don’t?”
“No, I’ve been an idiot. I came here to apologize.” Rodney took a deep breath. “I’ve never told you this, but my Father hated gay people, hated anything he perceived as weakness. He used it to taunt me when I was not what he thought a man should be. I knew he was wrong but he’s my Dad, so some of it stuck. You showed me just how wrong he was, because you, you’re the strongest man I know.”
Radek was speechless for a moment. Finally, he said, “A simple ‘we can tell other people’ would have sufficed.”
“Well, if you thought that was too much, you’re not going to want to look up right now.”
Of course Radek looked up and a jumper caught his eye. It started an erratic flight pattern and then a stream came out the back. It started to form words. Rodney loves Radek. “Oh my god. How did…you had Sheppard…oh my god.” Radek watched in awe as Sheppard finished the message and continued to stare as the letters slowly dissipated. He felt Rodney’s hand tighten on his trying to draw his attention and then he felt his chest fill with something suspiciously like happiness. “Rodney.”
“Was that bad? I’m not good at-,” Rodney started.
Radek cut him off with a quick and passionate kiss. Rodney got with the picture and wrapped his arms around Radek. They kissed for another long moment before Radek pulled back to look at Rodney. “I love you, too.”
Rodney smiled wide. “Good, we’re good then.”
Radek smiled. “Yes.” He looked up and Sheppard was making happy faces in the sky. “You modified the jumper yourself?”
“Of course,” Rodney said, voice laced with teasing and relief. “I had to sacrifice. It wouldn’t be romantic otherwise.”
Radek shook his head. “I can’t believe you did that.”
“I figured if you were willing to risk your life for me, I could sully my hands with simple mechanics.”
Radek grinned and smacked him playfully. “Dying for you was easy. Living with you is the real pain,” Radek said and leaned against Rodney. Rodney chuckled but didn’t say anything. That was fine with Radek. Rodney’s silence wasn’t a mystery anymore.