Pairing(s): Rodney McKay/Radek Zelenka
Prompt: #19. 'Caught in the form of limitation' from philosophy_20
Rating: PG-13 for language and mention of sex
Summary: Post-Siege, Rodney and Radek start sleeping together as 'a matter of convenience.' Naturally, it doesn't stay that way.
A/N: This was polished by the lovely beta cosmonaut_elf. Also inspired by the "first time" challenge.
Word Count: 4,800
That your eyes do not search for me
In a crowd
And I shall say to you
That my heart does not miss a beat
When I see you
It begins, as most things do, by accident. They are both weary beyond belief, too low on sleep and too high on stimulants to think rationally, to act rationally, to think of actions and consequences, to consider anything other than now, much less tomorrow.
It begins like this: still dizzy from Ford's punch, Radek trips over a cable with a slurred, startled curse, Rodney wraps an arm around his waist to keep him from falling, and with a single touch, Radek's common sense dissipates like smoke on the wind. This is apt, he supposes, because even now the wind is blowing away the smoke of Atlantis burning.
Radek misses the time before the siege when his thinking process had been rational, when it had felt logical as he weighed one thought against another and he didn’t half-suspect that two plus two did not actually equal four. Now, he feels a hint of absurdity with every thought that moves sluggishly through his head, and has a sneaking suspicion that if Elizabeth calls them on the radio to solve one last quandary, he will be unable to supply anything that has the remotest possibility of working.
However, all of the earlier absurdity is nothing compared to this thought that pushes to the forefront of his mind at the sensation of Rodney's arm around his waist: This, I like this. I want this.
True, it is not a new thought, but one that has danced in and out his head occasionally as he's watched Rodney's face light up with a boyish excitement over their latest Ancient toy and Radek's had to resist the urge to smile too warmly back, or when Rodney's face has gone pinched, his eyes losing their brightness, and all Radek wants to do is to chase the shadows from his eyes. But those times have always been fleeting, quicksilver thoughts that have lasted for a one-two beat of his heart and then been gone, and they have had nowhere near the intensity with which this thought strikes him.
Yes, Radek has long since lost any semblance of sensible thought, not to mention control over his body's reactions; he has been feeling irrational and frayed at the edges ever since the second time Carson gave him a dose of amphetamines. He really shouldn’t be surprised when a shiver shoots down his spine and raises the hair on the back of his neck or when he leans into Rodney's grip a bit more than is perhaps necessary as the other man steadies him.
"Clumsy oaf," Rodney says with no real venom. "You okay?" His breath is soft and warm against Radek's cheek, and Radek finds himself calculating in his head how many centimeters he would need to turn and lean to feel the press of Rodney's lips against his own. "Radek?"
His throat is dry and tight, and it takes several swallows before the words can escape his lips. "I -- I think I am beginning to crash." The comment comes out low and scratchy, and he tries to remember when the last time he had some water was.
Rodney makes a noise that could have been agreement. "Good thing we've finished saving the day, then," he says, and his voice is equally rough. The volume of the words fade in and out on every other syllable -- of course, much of Rodney's thought process involves shouting at the top of his lungs, and not even Rodney McKay can shout for what seems like an entire week straight without screaming himself hoarse.
It's only then that Radek notices that Rodney’s arm is still around his waist, and before he can consider his actions, he tilts his head a little to meet Rodney’s gaze. The other man’s eyes are tired and bloodshot, and the pupils are still dilated, enough that there is only an edge of blue around black, and the stimulants obviously aren’t quite through wrecking havoc on Rodney’s body because even as Radek watches, a muscle jumps in his jaw.
The arm around his waist tightens almost compulsively, and then Rodney makes a sound in the back of his throat that is sharp and painful-sounding, and Radek realizes he’s trying to clear his throat to say something, perhaps to explain why he is still holding Radek even though his feet have been steady underneath him for a good minute now.
I want this. The thought springs into his head again, and Radek resists the urge to laugh because the sounds rising in his throat taste of hysteria, and he suspects that once he starts laughing, he won't be able to stop. But still, the thought amuses him. He wants this work-weary, irritable little man? The stimulants really have driven him a bit mad.
Still, the thought has apparently shown on his face, because Rodney blinks and suddenly goes very, very still. Even the muscle in his jaw is motionless, and those bloodshot eyes study Radek carefully.
He can feel the blood drain from his face. “Rodney, I--“
“Shut up,” Rodney says, sounding almost distracted, and then his lips are covering Radek’s. The contact is brief, just the barest brush of their mouths, but when Rodney pulls away his lips are wearing the familiar sideways smirk that he gets whenever he’s discovered something in a stroke of brilliance and is mentally patting himself on the back.
Radek gets the sudden urge to roll his eyes, because Rodney shouldn’t be so smug about what actually wasn’t a very good kiss, and he opens his mouth to tell him precisely that just as Rodney moves in for another meeting of their lips.
This time, Rodney’s mouth is hot and hungry, and Radek leans into the kiss, his eyes half-closing at the vaguely metallic taste -- one of them, or perhaps both, have lips that are so badly chapped that they’ve cracked and bled at some point -- but the aftertaste of blood makes this seem more real, that this isn’t just some delusion caused by the stimulant overdose.
When his lungs begin to burn and demand oxygen, he pulls away, and blinks slowly at Rodney, who is now wearing an unreadable expression on his face. Then again, perhaps it is a simple emotion and the amphetamines have just burned off too many brain cells for Radek to recognize the look.
He reaches out and presses a hand against the muscle that is jumping in Rodney’s jaw again, feels it leap against his palm even as he murmurs, voice cracking with misuse halfway through, “After saving the city, I think we are entitled to this matter of convenience, yes?”
Rodney licks his lips, a flush spreading across his cheeks. “Yes.”
This third time, when Rodney kisses him, his entire body hums and the adrenaline that surges through his veins feels far, far purer than all the adrenaline he’s recently shot into his arm.
I'm sorry I'm falling all over myself in these
sonnets, I'd rather be falling all over you.
Do you know? Am I telling you? The view
from up here is beautiful but confusing.
~ Everette Maddox
Afterwards, once they have cursed and sweated the amphetamines out of their veins, they do not speak of it, and Radek ignores the pang of bittersweet something that fills his chest for the next few days. He busies himself with helping to rebuild the city. There is a lot of rebuild, after all.
It isn’t until about three weeks later that he even has time, really, to think of Rodney and the way their bodies had felt grinding against each other, shaking violently from overdoses of the stimulants and adrenaline and yet still feeling exquisite. When he does have time, he seizes hold of the memories and shoves them into a locked box in the back of his mind where he keeps his dangerous thoughts. It was a mere matter of convenience, after all. No need to complicate things.
Needless to say, he’s a bit startled a couple days after the Daedalus returns, when Rodney catches hold of his sleeve as they finish up for the day and casually invites him to watch a movie someone brought back. He agrees, of course, and not just because he is as entertainment-starved as the rest of Atlantis. He misses conversing with the other man, both on an intellectual and informal level -- Rodney is the only other scientist whose mind works at his quicksilver pace.
The movie turns out to be a sci-fi parody that Simpson's watched and recommended starring Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, and Sigourney Weaver as a blonde, which earns pleased noises from Rodney as they watch, side by side, on Radek's couch. The movie is actually quite funny. Rodney certainly thinks so, because every time Radek glances over, the other man is wearing a small smile, and occasionally he’ll hear a soft laugh or snort, and Rodney doesn’t even mention the terrible scientific inaccuracies, though that might be because he’s too busy stuffing his face to speak. Radek still isn’t quite certain how Rodney got a hold of Butter Lover's Popcorn -- he suspects it had less to do with equivalent exchange and more with pure bullying measures, as in threatening the poor soul with off-world missions or freezing showers if he didn’t hand over the popcorn. Still, that suspicion hasn’t lessened Radek's enjoyment of the pilfered snack.
When the credits roll, Radek starts to get to his feet and pauses when Rodney says, in a tone so casual that it actually achieves the exact opposite effect, “So, I’ve been thinking.”
Radek stares at him. When Rodney just stares back, he ventures cautiously, “Rodney, you are always thinking. Your brain never shuts off. In fact, I believe you do calculations in your sleep.”
The comment earns him a dirty look. “As I was saying, I’ve been thinking. Calculating the odds, so to speak. Do you realize that the ratio of women to men on Atlantis is one to twelve?”
“I had not done any calculations, but I figured it was somewhere around that percentage.” Radek isn’t quite sure where Rodney is going with this, and raises an eyebrow, folding his arms against his chest. “And you are reminding me of the gender unbalance why?”
“Well,” Rodney says, in that same casual-but-actually-not tone, “it’s just I figure that makes our chances at getting a woman pretty much zero. The women are going to go for the tall, handsome, dumb-as-brick grunts, not the scientists.”
“I see,” Radek says slowly, although he definitely doesn’t. “I...ah, that is a bit disheartening.” He’s not about to mention that it is actually the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ issue that has left Radek without companionship in his quarters for the past few months, just nods and waits for Rodney to get around to his actual point.
“Right, extremely disheartening!” Rodney waves a hand, almost hitting Radek in the process, but he doesn’t seem to notice as he barrels on, voice loud and indignant. “Let me tell you, I'm going to go insane if my sex life has a hiatus as long as the last one. I hadn’t gotten any since Siberia. You’d think that some of the Athosian women would’ve been grateful enough for a one-night stand that first month, but no, they all had to obsess over Sheppard, and so--"
It finally clicks, what Rodney is trying to say, and Radek cannot help but roll his eyes at the other man’s long-winded way of saying he wants sex. “If you are trying to ask if we could have ‘a matter of convenience’ occur every now and then, Rodney, just say so.”
Rodney stares at him for a moment, eyes wide, then clears his throat. His mouth opens for a moment, then closes without uttering a word, and then he once more clears his throat and tries again, a dark flush spreading across his cheeks. “Uh, yes, that was what I was going to ask, I just--”
When it is clear that Rodney is about to launch into another rant, Radek sighs and leans down to kiss him. This time neither of them has chapped lips; rather than the aftertaste of blood, Radek can still taste the butter from the popcorn they’d been eating.
Rodney’s mouth moves under his for another moment, the other man obviously wanting to finish whatever he was trying to say, but when Radek doesn’t break the kiss, he gives up and returns the pressure of lips against lips, the kiss turning deep and greedy. Before Radek really thinks about it, his hands are cupping Rodney’s face almost tenderly, definitely more gently than is appropriate for ‘a matter of convenience.’
He breaks the kiss, feeling Rodney’s gaze linger on his face like an intangible caress even as his own hands drop to his sides. Radek doesn’t meet the other man’s eyes. “It has been...a while for me as well,” he murmurs after a moment. Trying to ignore the way his heart is fluttering painfully in his chest, he manages a casual shrug and a slight smirk. “I am savoring the moment.”
“Savoring is good,” Rodney agrees, voice low and slightly husky.
The hoarse note reminds Radek of the rough whimpers Rodney had moaned into his shoulder those weeks ago, as their hips had rocked against each other at just the right tempo-- This time he makes no excuses when he takes Rodney’s face in his hands and kisses him, slow and soft at first, and then deeper, almost ravenous.
Afterwards, he thinks Rodney is going to call him on the fact that his hands had stroked exposed skin like he was trying to memorize every inch of Rodney’s flesh, but Rodney doesn’t, and Radek cannot help but be grateful.
He is equally grateful when their little ‘matter of convenience’ becomes a near-regular thing, and he finds himself spending at least once a week in Rodney’s bed, or Rodney in his. Such a near-regular thing, in fact, that Radek has the time to learn of a spot behind Rodney’s ear that will make him go boneless no matter how stressed he is and Rodney to discover that if he strokes just so on the inside of Radek’s thigh, he can get him hard in under a minute.
Radek has never been a religious man, but if there was a God, Radek would be thanking Him/Her/It for this ‘matter of convenience.’ Of course, judging by most of Earth’s religions, the supreme deity had probably tried to prevent this arrangement. In that case, Radek is extremely thankful to Him/Her/It for failing in the most spectacular way.
Yes, I have a thousand tongues,
And nine and ninety-nine lie.
Though I strive to use the one,
It will make no melody at my will,
But is dead in my mouth.
~ Stephen Crane
It happens so suddenly that Radek doesn’t even think, just reacts as the Tucconian leader smiles pleasantly at Elizabeth and then pulls a dagger from his robes.
It takes a single step to place himself between Elizabeth and the Tucconian, and there is an ironic thought of One small step for man before the pain hits him. It feels more like a punch to the gut than a knife, and he stumbles backwards, a pained noise catching in his throat and dying in his mouth before it can escape his lips.
Elizabeth is there to steady him, and he can hear her, voice high and horrified as she says his name, can feel her fingers dig painfully into his shoulders when he sways in her grip.
His vision begins to blur even as Sheppard leaps at the Tucconian, murder in his eyes. Elizabeth is still repeating his name, over and over again, like some sort of mantra, and he tries to answer her, takes in a breath. In the next instant, he wrenches his shoulders from her grasp and doubles over, knees giving out as the knot of agony twists in his stomach, needle-sharp and precise.
He lands on his hands and knees, and the hard landing sends another spike of pain from his stomach to his brain. He huddles there on his knees and curls up instinctively, clutching at the wound as though the pressure will somehow stem this agony.
And then there are hands on his shoulders again, only it’s Rodney who's saying his name now, along with, “You fucking idiot, why did you do that-- God, I told them we shouldn’t trust the-- those goddamn robes-- Carson will be here soon, you’ll be all right, you’ll be fine-- Radek, say something.”
Radek takes a cautious breath, trying to breathe without using the muscles in his stomach, finds that way is less painful, and whispers, “Rodney.” His head is buzzing, and there are more words, many more, that he wants to say, but they dance on the tip of his tongue and he cannot remember the English equivalent of Bože, bolí mě, bolí mě. “Rodney.” He tries to uncurl, to reach out to the other man, but the pain makes him double over again, gasping.
Rodney’s arms go around him then, steadying him, and Radek can feel the other man's warm breath ghosting across the back of his neck, a sharp contrast to the throbbing in his stomach which is a wave of agony that crashes over him and then recedes, only to return with more force in the next wave.
When Rodney speaks again, the words are shaky. “You’ll be okay, Carson’s coming, just-- just--”
Radek closes his eyes for a moment, trying to focus on Rodney’s body heat rather than the warmth of the blood dripping from between his fingers to the floor. “I....” English, he thinks in relief. He tilts his head, and meets Rodney’s anxious gaze. For a moment, he drowns in blue, and then coaxes a smile onto his lips and forces out a weak, “This is...not very...convenient, is it?”
Darkness has already invaded his already blurred vision, so he cannot see Rodney’s expression, but Rodney's grip tightens, and Radek remembers the first time Rodney held him like this, when they had both been shaking and coming down from amphetamine-induced highs.
“You,” Rodney breathes, voice hoarse and low, “are an ass.”
“Miluji tě, Rodney.” The whisper slips from his lips, and though he’d meant it to be teasing, it comes out soft and earnest, and he is almost relieved when the darkness tugs him down into oblivion so he doesn’t have to hear Rodney's reply.
Somewhere, Dover Beach
maybe, something fragile
and afraid is trying to last
~ Everette Maddox
He opens his eyes to a myriad of colors, and frowns. It takes a moment for the memories to sidle to the front of his mind, and his frown deepens. Well, he’s obviously not dead, which is a good thing. Then he remembers his last words to Rodney, and his frown twists, becomes rueful.
“So you’re finally awake then,” a soft voice says to his right, and he squints in Carson’s direction. If he focuses enough, he can almost make out the black, white and flesh tones that make up the doctor’s frame from the rest of the hazy colors.
Radek tries to speak, licking his lips, but his mouth is dry and the flavor on his tongue reminds him vaguely of the meatloaf MRE, which always has tasted a bit like a mouthful of cotton.
“Water?” Carson says in an understanding voice, and Radek manages a slight movement of his chin that means yes, though the movement makes him feel slightly dizzy.
A moment later, he is drinking greedily, and half-closes his eyes in relief as the cold water washes away the vague taste of cotton. His throat unlocks enough that when Carson pulls the cup away, he manages to get out, “Glasses, please.” He almost sighs as Carson carefully slides the glasses onto his nose. There is just something so unnerving about being unable to see anything more than colors smearing together.
Radek’s eyes focus quickly enough, and now he can see the lines of weariness on Carson’s face, and the shadows under his eyes. He struggles to raise an eyebrow, though even that small gesture tires him. “Was it that bad?”
Carson’s mouth twists into a rueful smile. “It was touch and go for a while there,” he admits, and then reaches out and rests a light, soothing hand on Radek’s shoulder. “But you’ll be fine.” The doctor chuckles suddenly, a low, rich sound that earns another raised eyebrow. “Rodney is going to be angry, I’m afraid. He’s been by your side ever since you got out of surgery, and it wasn’t twenty minutes ago that I kicked him out of the infirmary to get some sleep.”
Radek feels himself smile at that. Rodney would be extremely annoyed. “I won’t tell if you won’t,” he promises, and his gaze flickers over to the morphine drip. Oh, he is on the good drugs. That explains why he cannot feel the pain in his stomach. Instead, there is a slight ache there, almost as an afterthought, as though his body knows there is supposed to be pain and is confused that there isn’t any.
“You should sleep as well, you know,” he remarks, after another study of the shadows under Carson’s eyes, and the weariness radiating off the man. The fatigue is infectious, and Radek resists the urge to yawn and close his eyes. “I am not a troublemaker like Rodney -- I will not make the nurses want to kill me, and I will not try to escape my bed to get to the lab.” He might ask Rodney to bring him his laptop when Rodney visits, but he has enough sense not to mention that.
Carson glances at the machines Radek is hooked up to, and after a moment, smiles and nods. “I’ll hold you to that, lad.”
“Good,” Radek says simply, and takes off his glasses, setting them on the bedside table. It’s only then that he allows his eyes to shut. He listens to Carson’s footfalls as the doctor walks away, and then the low murmurs as Carson tells one of the nurses he’s going to bed, and then there is silence.
Later -- he is not certain how much later, but there is the impression of time having passed -- he opens his eyes, awoken by the prickling sensation that always accompanies someone watching him. He fumbles for his glasses, slides them on, and then blinks at the sight of a very angry and obviously exhausted Rodney glaring at him. His lips twitch into an automatic smile, though it’s an awkward one, because being glared at isn’t really conducive to smiling. “Er, hello, Rodney.”
“Hello?” No one but Rodney McKay could make that single word sound so contemptuous. Rodney glares at him for another moment, red-rimmed eyes narrowed, and then just...explodes, voice rising higher and getting louder with each syllable until he’s practically shouting. “Hello? How about, ‘Hello, Rodney, I almost died because I have no survival skills and stepped in front of a knife rather than away from it’ and--”
“Would you have preferred Dr. Weir bleeding all over the floor?” Radek interjects mildly, and raises the hand that doesn’t have the IV to stop the approach of one of the nurses, who started for the bed with a thunderous scowl on her face as soon as Rodney began giving Radek the third degree. “Besides, I will be fine.”
“Fine?” The word comes out strangled-sounding, and then Rodney is leaning over the bed, breath hot against Radek’s face, and this close, Radek can see how his irises actually have a ring of darker blue around his pupils. “You were stabbed, Radek. That is so far away from fine that you’d have to take a trip through the Stargate to reach it!”
“Rodney,” Radek attempts to interject when Rodney pauses to take in a quick, sharp breath, but the other man barrels on, and now his voice is low and trembles with emotion.
“You could have died. Who the hell is going to keep this city from exploding or sinking when I’m off-world if you're dead?”
Radek has no answer for that, and reaches out his free hand to touch Rodney’s shoulder. The other man quivers like an agitated colt under his hand. “Rodney,” he says, gently. “I’m sorry for frightening you.”
“Yes, well, you should be, you--” Rodney is still trembling and his breath is hot against Radek’s face as he licks his lips and says in a low, fierce whisper, “I meant what I said before. You’re an ass. You were just going to die pretending that this--” His hand makes an almost convulsive gesture between them. “--that this was ‘a matter of convenience,’ nothing more, even though we both know fucking well that it was never one.”
Radek blinks, and just looks at Rodney for a long moment. A thousand emotions are fluttering inside his chest, bruising the insides of his ribcage, and it takes him a moment to even gather enough breath to speak. “Did you ever consider that maybe I didn’t realize it wasn’t just a matter of convenience for you?” he says at last, choosing each word carefully. “And that perhaps I thought it would be selfish of me to play the dying lover in your arms, telling you that I love you with my last breath?” Given, he had done precisely that, albeit minus the dying part. Luckily Rodney didn’t speak Czech.
“Selfish?” Rodney’s voice is incredulous.
“Yes,” Radek says firmly. “Selfish, for burdening you with the knowledge that I love you and then dying so that you have to deal with the loss of a lover rather than a friend. Selfish.”
Rodney just stares at him, and then as quick as he’d exploded, he deflates, shaking his head slowly. “Selfish,” he repeats, but this time there’s unmistakable fondness in his voice rather than incredulity. He reaches up and touches Radek's hand, gently. “So, can we drop the phrase ‘a matter of convenience’ from our vocabulary entirely? Because I'm very, very sick of it.”
Radek rolls his eyes. “Yes, Rodney.”
Rodney's eyes narrow a bit at Radek’s eye-roll. “And you’re not to step in front of any madmen holding knives, understand? Or any madmen with weapons, for that matter. Or any madmen at all.”
Judging from the way Rodney’s shoulder is starting to tense under his fingers once more, Radek knows he’s preparing to launch into a long-winded scolding for his moronic act of heroism, which Radek is really not in the mood for. Well, there is really only one thing to do.
“Yes, Rodney.” He drags out the other man’s name in a drawl much like Colonel Sheppard’s, in a way he knows drives Rodney insane, and then, catching the nurse he’d shooed away earlier watching them, fakes a yawn.
Immediately the nurse swoops in like some sort of avenging angel. “If you’re done scolding Dr. Zelenka and wearing the poor dear out, it isn’t actually visiting hours, Dr. McKay,” she snaps, and Radek has to fight every fiber of his being to keep from smirking as she folds her arms against her chest and glares at Rodney.
“Oh for the-- he’s faking,” Rodney snaps even as he steps away from the bed and glares at Radek, who widens his eyes in innocence and throws in another fake yawn for good measure. “He just doesn’t want to listen to my perfectly valid points that what he did was stupid and--”
“Out.” The nurse glares at him.
“Your next visit should involve less fussing and yelling,” Radek interjects helpfully. “Perhaps I would not tire so quickly.” Another fake yawn. “And if you could bring my laptop....”
Rodney glowers, but it doesn’t reach his eyes, which hold a gleam of amusement and promise for revenge, and Radek suspects that he will be getting those ‘perfectly valid points’ in a text document, with bullets and footnotes, and be forced to read every last one of them.
Sure enough, when Rodney brings him his laptop, there is a file entitled ‘Why You Are Not Allowed to be Stupidly Heroic’ and several pages of reasons using both footnotes and bullets. (He is almost surprised Rodney didn’t throw in a slideshow as well.)
Rodney hovers while he reads it, expression warring between mulish and embarrassed, an expression that shifts to something soft and almost sweet when Radek finishes and just looks at him and smiles.
Bože, bolí mě, bolí mě -- God, it hurts, it hurts.
Miluji tě -- I love you