better watch your ace (cinaed) wrote in wondergeeks,
better watch your ace

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Fic: All the King's Men

Title: All the King's Men
Author: cinaed
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Character(s): Radek Zelenka
Pairing(s): Rodney McKay/Radek Zelenka
Prompt: #4. "Inertia" from philosophy_20
Rating: PG
Beta(s): cosmonautelf and blue_raven
Summary: Radek collects facts now, to fill up the holes in his head.
A/N: I have no idea where this came from. Futuristic, dark, no spoilers.
Word Count: 1,700

All the King's Men

Radek collects facts now. There’s something almost soothing about the way each little trivial tidbit helps to fill up the holes in his head, holes that sometimes make him feel nauseous and see bright spots of red and yellowish-gold against the back of his eyelids, as though he’s stared into the sun rather than the fluorescent lights of the room he and Rodney share. He knows a great deal now, cradling each fact and keeping it secret, keeping it safe, compiling lists in his head that no one else can get to, except for perhaps Rodney, because Rodney understands their importance.

Radek knows, for example, that in this hospital with the nurses whose smiles never reach their large, sympathetic eyes and the doctors who are always frowning in a mixture of frustration and bewilderment at him, they always serve red Jello on Mondays, yellow on Thursdays, and blue on Fridays, and the rest of the week they serve chocolate and vanilla pudding and occasionally apple or blueberry pie. He hasn’t figured out a pattern for when the staff serves the other desserts, but it is only a matter of time before he finds one, because there is a pattern to everything, and it’s all in the lists he keeps.

Fridays tend to be the days Rodney complains the least, especially when Radek gives him his cup of Jello, because Radek prefers red even now, despite the red spots that come with the nausea. He’s noticed that the blue of the Jello never matches the blue of Rodney’s eyes, but he finds that he prefers Rodney’s blue to the blue of the Jello, to the blue of the sky he can see out their window, and especially to the blue of the scrubs the doctors wear to visit whenever his nausea gets too bad and the red-and-gold spots won’t go away.

Most days, though, Rodney complains, words spilling out of his mouth like a syllabic flood of Biblical proportions, an endless stream of accusations and grievances that Radek mostly tunes out, except to nod and say, “Yes, Rodney,” and “That’s right, Rodney.” Rodney’s large, crooked mouth never stops twisting, never stops moving, even in sleep. Radek knows. He watches, late at night while he’s sorting through the facts he’s learned that day and putting them in neat little lists. He sees how even while he dreams Rodney’s lips purse and contort and scowl and tremble.

At least once a week, Rodney cries in his sleep, harsh, whining noises that make Radek’s chest ache and the nausea roil his stomach and crimson-gold tint the black beneath his eyelids. They never speak of it the next day, act as though nothing’s happened, though Rodney’s pillow is usually soaked through by morning and his face is always swollen, clear evidence to his tears.

“They did it on purpose, you know,” Rodney says, usually three times a day, often in the morning but always at least once just before lights out. “They saw how powerful we were, what we could accomplish together, and they broke us.” His hands twitch, flutter, try to grab the intangible pieces of self that they both know are missing, coming up empty.

Radek always nods and says, “Yes, Rodney. They were afraid,” and goes back to gathering facts, like how the woman in the room across from them has to repeat every sentence three times and cross herself to keep from being possessed by the Devil, and how the nurse with long black hair and Dr. Heightmeyer’s kind eyes is having an affair with the security guard who reads Plato one day, Harry Potter the next.

Twice a week, sometimes on Monday, and sometimes on Thursday, but always on Saturday, Radek will wake up after lights out to Rodney in his bed, Rodney’s hot face pressed against his shoulder, callused hands clutching at Radek’s arms, hips, the nape of his neck, anywhere he can reach, as he mumbles something about one of the nurses sabotaging his bed. It is always the same excuse, and Radek always kicks off the covers and curls in closer, letting his own hands learn the feel of Rodney’s spine against his fingertips, examine the softness that’s coming back to his waist from lack of exercise, memorize the outline of Rodney’s face and chest and torso.

They don’t speak of this either, though sometimes during the week Rodney reaches out and strokes the inside of Radek’s wrist, gently, softly, and Radek rests his head on Rodney’s shoulder even though he’s not tired. Rodney never pulls away. This always coincides with odd looks from the hospital’s staff and nasty glares from the woman who’s being chased by the Devil, but Radek savors these moments, because the red-and-gold spots and nausea ebb and the holes in his mind seem to grow smaller as well.

Besides gathering facts, Radek also collects things, though he’s never quite certain how he gets them. He knows that the pen he’s twirling between his fingers belongs to the security guard, knows that the guard didn’t give him the pen, and yet here it is in his grasp. He keeps the things that appear like magic, hides them under his bed, but doesn’t say a word when every Sunday, Rodney crawls beneath the bed muttering of dust and allergies and returns all the things to their original owners, just like Rodney never says a word every Monday when Radek reaches into the tear in Rodney’s mattress for the pills Rodney hasn’t been taking and gets rid of them properly, flushing them down the drain.

No one ever visits them, can’t, won’t, don’t want to, aren’t allowed to, want to but are too far away. Radek is never quite certain the reason, he doesn’t have enough facts yet to figure out why, but it all comes down to the fact that no one visits. There is a video feed every two weeks in which Elizabeth looks at them with shadows in her eyes and John looks grim and Carson looks guilty. In it, Elizabeth always ends up saying, “We’ll find the solution soon,” to which Rodney always snarls back, “Just admit you prefer us broken,” even though the video feed is only one-way.

Then one day, it must be a Thursday because they are both staring glumly at the yellow Jello on their plates, Radek wishing for Monday and Rodney wishing for Friday, three doctors they’ve never seen before circle Rodney’s chair. One clears his throat and says, “Dr. McKay?” And then Rodney is gone, the three doctors whisking him away like he’s having a seizure. He hasn’t though, not for at least a month now, and he doesn’t look pale and shaky like he does when he’s about to crumple over. The nurses just look at Radek with dark, pitying eyes when he asks where they are taking him.

The doctors don’t return, and neither does Rodney, even though Radek sits quietly in his bed and waits, because the last time Rodney had a seizure he kept screaming for Radek and one of the nurses snuck Radek into the room so that Rodney would, could rest. One of the nurses will come for him, eventually, because Rodney needs him. He is still sitting very, very still, very, very quietly, when one of the nurses comes in to serve him breakfast the next morning. She leaves quickly after he throws the tray and its slice of apple pie at her.

Then he makes the mistake of closing his eyes; the red-and-gold spots overwhelm him, bright and painful, burning through his retinas, trying to sear his brain and burn away the lists, and he screams until hands grab him that aren’t Rodney’s. These hands aren’t callused from too much empathic typing at computers, are instead firm and smooth and impersonal as they hold him down. A sharp little pain in the crook of his elbow sends him spiraling down into dreams, which are shades of gray that make him miss the blue of Rodney’s eyes even while he sleeps.

When he wakes up, Rodney is back in his bed. He’s crying, soft, raw sounds, but this time he’s not asleep, instead staring bleakly across the room at Radek, something like Elizabeth’s shadows, John’s grimness, and Carson’s guilt in his gaze, so that his eyes are a dark, melancholy blue.

Words rattle their way past Rodney’s lips. “They almost -- and then it was gone, all gone, but I could, for a moment, I was, I wasn’t,” he says, and then drops his head into his hands, curls into a ball, and makes a quiet, broken noise, like someone’s just hit him.

Radek gets out of bed, wraps his arms around Rodney’s waist and murmurs, “It’s okay,” curls up against him and feels Rodney trembling, falling apart in his grasp. This isn’t part of the pattern, because Radek never goes to Rodney’s bed, but maybe this is a new arrangement, one which Radek will have to study and learn.

“Broken,” Rodney says, the word is almost a sob, his mouth pursing and twisting and contorting and trembling, and Radek listens carefully, makes silent notes in case this happens again. “We broke, and they can’t, won’t, no one can, will, fix us. The pieces won’t fit, and they won’t ever put us back together again.”

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,” Radek begins, rummaging around in the back of his head for rest of the rhyme, and Rodney makes a noise somewhere between a sob and a laugh and says, “Don’t even think about singing that damn rhyme, Radek. God, God, they’re letting us stay broken, because we’re dangerous, because we’re better than them, and they know it. They did it on purpose, and now--”

This part Radek knows, and he says, pressing his face to the spot between Rodney’s shoulder-blades as Rodney’s shoulders rise and fall in quick, jerky movements against his cheek, “Yes, Rodney. They’re afraid.” He listens to the harsh, broken sobs that well up from Rodney’s chest, and holds on.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

~English Nursery Rhyme
Tags: fic
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