Now The Clocks Are RunningAuthor: cinaed Recipient: saekokato Pairing:
PG, spoilers for S4 "Lifeline" Word Count:
Written for The Czech is in the Male ficathon. Hope you enjoy it, saekokato
! Thanks go out to blue_raven
for beta-reading this for me. The prompts were: clock, holiday, and photograph. Summary:
Radek's grandfather had been a clockmaker, one known throughout Czechoslovakia for how elegant and sturdy his clocks were. And now the clocks are running,
but no one knows where time goes.
- "Love in the Lies" by Amos Lee
Radek's grandfather had been a clockmaker, one known throughout Czechoslovakia for how elegant and sturdy his clocks were. These were clocks that outlasted all the others made in the city. Fit for royalty, some even said, though there was little chance of foreign royalty making their way to Prague. Radek remembered how proud his family was of his grandfather, the way his grandmother practically burst with pride every time someone complimented her husband's clocks. He remembered his grandfather's workshop and how the quiet ticking of the clocks had lingered in his ears long after he'd left the place, even lulled him to sleep some nights.
He remembered, too, his grandfather's hands. They were artist's hands, meant for building and creating things. Radek's mother would often touch Radek's hands when he was young, tell him that he had his grandfather's talented fingers and that he would become a clockmaker as well. He'd smiled and nodded and then gone back to dreaming of crafting machines and being the next Einstein, Bohr, Kepler, Heisenberg, anything but a clockmaker. Still, he'd loved his grandfather's workshop, the smell of sawdust and metal and the soft, half-hummed songs Grandfather Josef Prazak sang as he worked.
It was his grandfather who encouraged him to read books of science, granted him sanctuary and told Radek's mother that young Radek was learning a trade as he read book after book amid the sawdust and pieces of metal in the workshop. When Radek finally gathered enough courage to ask him why he was willing to lie to his mother, Grandfather Josef had laughed. "Markéta can see that you have an artist's hands, but she doesn't understand that science is as much of a craft as clock-making. Go back to your studying, Radoušek."
After Radek's compulsory service was over and only a few weeks after he'd graduated from university, Grandfather Josef presented him with the most beautiful clock he'd ever laid eyes upon. His grandfather's closest friend, Vavrin Kovar, had helped to carve numerous, tiny constellations into the wood: Virgo, Ursa Major, Pegasus, Centaurus, Cygnus, Andromeda, Orion, Gemini, so many that Radek knew it must have taken him weeks, if not months, to complete the work. Radek had stared and traced the stars wonderingly, half-disbelieving that his grandfather would give him something so beautiful and priceless.
"It's yours," Grandfather Josef had said before Radek could protest and then simply smiled at him until Radek had been forced to smile back and accept the gift. The clock was his legacy, his grandfather told him, the heirloom Radek would pass down to his children. It was how he would tell them of their great-grandfather, a man who had built clocks fit for kings.
The years passed though, and Radek had no children. He'd married, once, but that was a disaster he didn't care to repeat. Maybe he should have given the clock to his sister as she'd suggested, but the idea of her little hellion possibly destroying the clock had filled him with dread. It was perhaps foolish, but he would have rather seen the clock lost with him in the Pegasus galaxy on a possibly one-way trip than it destroyed in the hands of that child. And so, even though it was highly unlikely that Atlantis would have a twenty-four hour day cycle, Radek brought the clock with him as a personal item. Somewhat to his surprise, neither he nor the clock had been destroyed. The clock became his lucky charm, Radek superstitiously tracing the Pegasus constellation before he had to go off-world.
The clock had survived Pegasus, survived that first year and the siege, and Radek had come to expect it to survive anything. So when he came back to his quarters once they'd settled down on their new planet and saw the clock broken on the floor, he could only stare at it dumbly.*
The moment stretched on, as did the silence. Radek kept staring in disbelief. Perhaps if he stared long enough, reality itself would change and his grandfather's clock would no longer be broken on the floor. His chest hurt and his eyes itched, harbingers of the intense feeling of loss that wanted to wrack his frame. He swallowed, though, and fought against the grief until it was just a small, fierce ache in his chest. It was only a clock, after all. Who would cry over a clock? There had been greater losses today than one of a family heirloom. At that thought, there was a second struggle to contain his grief, this time at the thought of Elizabeth, who could be dead or, perhaps worse, praying for death on the Replicator homeworld.
He gathered the pieces, careful not to get splinters from the shattered wood, and wondered what Jana would say when he told her Grandfather Josef's clock was broken beyond repair. It was slow going, what with balancing awkwardly on the cane, and he found himself feeling absurdly grateful that the painkillers would last for another hour or two. He knew that he'd have been in agony, otherwise. He was still gathering the pieces when someone knocked on his door. When he ignored the sound, the person knocked harder and snapped, "You were just going to change clothes. What's taking so long?"
"Give me another minute," Radek said, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Only Rodney would consider twenty minutes too much time to change clothes and completely ignore the fact that Radek's injury would make the task take even longer. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the grief still deeper, until it was a knot of misery in his stomach and couldn't possibly be reflected in his face, and then went to open the door. At Rodney's impatient expression, he asked, "Has anyone ever told you that patience is the greatest of all virtues?"
Rodney snorted, pushing past him into the room. "If they did, I'd have told them what a stupid quotation that is and how it makes no sense."
"I don't think Cato was an idiot, Rodney," he pointed out, and Rodney snorted again. "Give me one more moment, and then we'll go back to the lab." What remained of the clock now sat on his desk. He didn't let himself so much as glance at it as he went to change into clean clothes. The knot of misery was still there, but it would ease, eventually.
"What's that?" Rodney asked. Radek sighed. He didn't even have to look at the other man to know which object Rodney was studying. Sure enough, the next words out of Rodney's mouth were, "Isn't that the clock you brought as your personal item? The family heirloom?"
"It was, yes," Radek said, more curtly than he intended. His hands trembled, and he cursed under his breath as he gave up on a fresh pair of pants and contented himself with a clean shirt. He supposed that he ought to be grateful that the miniature asteroid had gone through his leg rather than his chest or head, but at the moment, it was all he could do not to hit something with his cane. Maybe he should take up stick-fighting, work out his frustration by hitting people. It seemed to relax Ronon, John, and Teyla. When he turned, Rodney was frowning at him. "Please, let's talk about something else. I really don't wish to contemplate the various insults my sister will yell at me when I tell her that the clock is broken."
The barest undertone of pleading colored the request, one which anyone but
Rodney would notice, so Radek was surprised when Rodney shrugged and said, "Fine." The unusual acquiescence made Radek peer at him suspiciously. Now that he looked closer, though, Rodney looked tired, shadows in and under his eyes, his shoulders slumped under the weight of Elizabeth's loss. Radek could already see the strain that guilt had etched onto Rodney's face, and his hands itched to smooth away the tension around his mouth and eyes.
"You know," Radek said, tucking such traitorous thoughts away, "Atlantis will keep for the moment. When was the last time you slept?" When Rodney's weary expression turned mulish, he added, "The personnel that was on the Apollo can get to work on repairing the damage, Rodney. You need to sleep."
"I'm fine," Rodney said. At Radek's raised eyebrow, he scowled. "This isn't the siege. We aren't coming down from an amphetamine high and haven't gone for a week without sleep. If you don't want to work, fine. I'm going back to the control room, see what repairs need to be made." He was almost out the door when Radek hobbled forward and grabbed his shoulder.
"You're right." He half-smiled at Rodney's suspicious look and continued, "This isn't
the siege. None of our enemies know where we are at the moment, so we can take a few hours to rest." He tightened his grip on Rodney's shoulder, not enough to hurt, but enough to keep him in place. "If you don't think you can sleep, I'm sure they're handing sleeping pills out like candy at the infirmary."
"Since when did you decide to play nursemaid?" Rodney grumbled, but he didn't shake off Radek's hand; Radek considered that a small victory.
"Since I saw that you look like death heated up."
Rodney looked as though he couldn't decide between laughing or mocking him mercilessly as he said, "Death warmed over
Radek shrugged, unperturbed at his mistake. "Neither saying makes sense. After all, how do you warm death?"
"You--" Rodney paused and frowned. Some of the tension eased from his face, replaced by a contemplative look. "Huh. I have no idea."
He smiled a bit smugly at that. "See? Now we'll go and see if your quarters have sustained any damage." Rodney looked ready to protest, probably about to comment that Radek wasn't his keeper, and Radek continued before he could speak. "I would like to get away from my quarters, pretend that a family heirloom is not destroyed beyond salvation. Making certain you don't work yourself to death is as good a distraction as any. And before you say let's go back to the control room, remember how long ago it was that you last slept."
"Oh, well, if it's a distraction
," Rodney huffed, but waved a hand as though to say, Fine, fine, you win for the moment
. Radek released Rodney's shoulder, and Rodney led the way to his quarters.
The hallways were mostly deserted, giving Atlantis the appearance of a ghost town -- ghost city, Radek supposed. It made him feel vaguely uneasy, like perhaps he was actually dreaming or caught in a Replicator's trick like Rodney and the others had been, once before. He pushed such dismal thoughts aside and said instead, "I hope you didn't have anything breakable in your quarters."
Rodney frowned, his expression going blank as he mentally considered his belongings, calculating each item's value. At last, he shrugged. "Nothing that's irreplaceable, though if my mattress is ruined...." He trailed off, brooding for a moment, and Radek suspected that he was thinking of state his back would be in before a replacement mattress could be found. Radek didn't bother to point out that Rodney's back was probably bad because of the way he hunched over his laptop at all hours. Not that Radek was any better, really, but at least he didn't complain and get a prescription mattress brought all the way to the Pegasus galaxy.
Luckily for Rodney, though, his quarters appeared unscathed by the city's adventure in space. Radek couldn't help but roll his eyes when Rodney gave his mattress a fond pat and relieved look. "You know, I'm certain there's a planet somewhere
that would be willing to perform a marriage ceremony for you and your mattress, Rodney," he commented, and smirked at Rodney's glare. "What? You looked ready to embrace it."
"Yes, well, maybe Czechs are willing to marry inanimate objects, but in Canada, we consider that weird," Rodney muttered.
A chuckle escaped Radek's lips before he could bite it back. "Sleep well, Rodney. And don't worry-- I wouldn't judge you if you married it."
the one who needs sleep," Rodney informed him, and waved his hand towards the door. "Go. I'll sleep and you can stop playing nursemaid. Happy?"
"Delighted," Radek said and left, smiling at Rodney's rolled eyes. He took just enough time to let Kusanagi and Simpson know that he and Rodney were getting a few hours rest and that if there was an emergency, to contact him and let Rodney sleep, and then headed back to his quarters to continue picking up the pieces of his grandfather's clock.*
Radek didn't mean to mourn the clock for so long, to practically languish over its destruction. It was simply that every time he returned to his quarters, the pieces of the shattered clock reminded him that he'd lost the last thing he'd had of his grandfather. Even boxing up the pieces and throwing them away didn't ease his grief. It was like losing his grandfather all over again, and that, on top of the loss of Elizabeth, was almost unbearable.
Jana had been furious, of course, her letter filled with more profanity than he thought his little sister even knew. Perhaps her good-for-nothing husband had taught the curse words to her. (Then again, his little sister was thirty-two. She wasn't so little anymore.) She'd demanded to know how exactly the clock had been broken, and for a moment he'd been tempted to tell her the truth, that the city he was in had flown through space and that Grandfather Josef's clock had been smashed during flight. Instead, he'd said it was the fault of an earthquake and hoped for less profanity in her next letter.
He distracted himself by joining forces with John, Teyla, and Ronon to make certain that Rodney didn't work himself to death. Most of Rodney's free time was spent studying the data they had on the nanites and trying to figure out Elizabeth's chances of survival against Oberoth and the other Replicators. The four were forced to figure out a schedule so that each person could keep an eye on Rodney and make him go to bed when he looked ready to fall asleep at his laptop or remind him that it was time for food (not that he needed much reminding for the latter).
If Rodney realized what they were up to, he didn't give any sign of it, just rolled his eyes one night and snapped at John that he wasn't about to kill himself, thank you very much, and that Sheppard should mind his own business and stop fussing. It wasn't until a month after the city's adventure through space that Rodney seemed to shake himself from his fixation with the nanites long enough to tell Radek that if he wanted to watch some hockey games Jeannie had burned onto a few disks for him, he could come over the next evening. Oh, and that Radek should bring some of that popcorn Rodney knew he'd been hording, the selfish Czech bastard.
Radek had rolled his eyes at the insults but agreed, privately relieved and also a little pleased that he was the one Rodney had invited. Given, neither John nor Teyla liked hockey, and Ronon was only interested in the matches if there happened to be a brawl, but still, the invitation eased some tension that Radek had been carrying ever since he'd seen the shadows in Rodney's eyes and the intense guilt on his face. It was well worth it to give up the popcorn he had in fact been hording. *
"About time," Rodney muttered, ushering Radek inside and snatching the still-hot bowl of popcorn out of his hands. "I was going to start without you."
"You're such an excellent host, Rodney," Radek said, letting just a hint of sarcasm flavor his words and ignoring Rodney's snort. "And it took some time to convince the Marines on kitchen duty to let me have some butter and salt for the popcorn." Still, the promise to give Jana's next batch of almond cookies to Lieutenant Berkovich and Sergeant Abbatelli didn't seem like such a loss when Rodney took in a deep breath and looked practically wanton at the scent of the buttery popcorn. Tucking a stray dangerous thought that formed as Rodney all but salivated
over the bowl, Radek thought to himself that he'd never really liked the cookies anyway, even when his mother had made them. After all, Jana was not half the baker their mother had been.
"Sit," Rodney ordered through a mouthful of popcorn, and Radek got the feeling that he should have stolen a few handfuls himself on his way over from the mess hall, because Rodney was practically inhaling the contents of the bowl. As Radek made himself comfortable on the edge of Rodney's bed, Rodney added, "Jeannie didn't bother mentioning what games she taped, but, well, hockey." He shrugged, as though that explained everything.
"How is she?" Radek asked. He'd exchanged a few emails with Jeannie since she had visited Atlantis, but they hadn't spoken since before the Replicators had attacked the city. "And Kaleb and Madison as well, of course." He felt a twinge of guilt for being more interested in Madison than his own nephew, but, well, where Jiri was a little hellion, Madison was by all accounts an angel.
"They're fine. Jeannie keeps sending me more pictures than I know what to do with." Rodney waved at his nightstand and Radek realized that it was cluttered with framed photographs of the Miller family, Rodney's niece beaming from every picture. He had to fight hard not to hide a smile at the trace of poorly concealed pleasure in Rodney's voice. "And telling me in no uncertain terms that I'm coming to visit this Christmas." Rodney paused and muttered something that sounded like tofu turkey under his breath.
"Jana insists that I should try and visit as well," Radek said. "I've already told her I'm too busy." He shuddered a little at the thought of having to spend the holidays with Jana's husband and son. There were generally very few downsides to celebrating Christmas for three straight days, but that happened to be one of them. As Rodney turned away to set up the laptop, Radek took the opportunity to steal some popcorn, all but sighing in bliss at the salt and butter on his tongue. He half-closed his eyes, savoring the flavors. Even with the Midway station completed, it was still difficult to get "unnecessary foodstuffs" like popcorn.
Something large and heavy dropped into his lap, startling him into almost knocking the bowl off the bed. He opened his eyes to stare at the wooden box that Rodney had apparently just dropped there. "What is this?" he asked, but Rodney had already turned back to the laptop, hunching over it and half-muttering to himself as he put in the first disk. After a moment, Radek shrugged to himself. Perhaps Jeannie had sent him a present. She'd already sent John a Johnny Cash CD, Teyla a kit of scented, Earth-style candles, and Ronon...well, Ronon had just smiled and never actually mentioned what Jeannie had given him, other than that it was useful.
He opened the box, wondering what Jeannie might have gotten him, and stared. It was his grandfather's clock-- no, no, it wasn't his grandfather's clock, but one extremely similar, with constellations carved into the wood and a thirty-hour face, which was what they'd figured out was the new planet's daily orbit. He traced the Pegasus constellation wonderingly and said, "How did you--" His throat tightened, and he just drank in the sight, letting his fingers caress the stars that made up the Pegasus constellation, then Gemini, then Andromeda. "It's beautiful."
"Teyla managed to find a clockmaker, and then it turns out Halling's best friend is a carpenter, so, well, it wasn't that difficult to arrange, and you kept looking like someone had shot your dog, so I thought you'd--" Rodney said, still busying himself with the laptop. There was an undertone to his voice that Radek had never heard from Rodney before, and he carefully set the clock aside and went to him. Rodney looked up at the touch to his shoulder, his expression a mixture of embarrassment and pride. "And it actually has the right time for someone living on Atlantis, unlike your last clock--"
"Thank you," Radek said, cutting through Rodney's rambling. He squeezed Rodney's shoulder, and some of the embarrassment on his friend's face shifted to pleasure. "It's beautiful," he added, only afterwards realizing that he was repeating himself. Still, it was
beautiful, and the sort of thoughtful gift that Radek never would have anticipated from Rodney. More softly, he said, "I cannot tell you how much this means to me."
"Yes, well," Rodney said, face turning a pale shade of pink. "You're welcome." They stood in silence for a moment, Rodney's face still flushed and Radek's hand still resting gently on Rodney's shoulder, and then Rodney muttered something under his breath, low and exasperated, and snapped, louder, "This is the part where you're supposed to kiss me, you idiot."
Radek stared at him blankly. "Kiss you?" he repeated, and then the words actually sank in and it was his turn to flush, his eyes widening in astonishment. He hadn't even considered-- there hadn't really been any indication that Rodney-- "Oh
Rodney opened his mouth, whether to continue telling him off for being an idiot or to backtrack and say it was a joke, Radek wasn't sure, but either way, the words went unsaid as Radek let his hand stroke its way from Rodney's shoulder to the back of Rodney's neck, feeling the warm skin between his fingertips. Rodney shut his mouth, eyes half-closing at the touch, and Radek took the opportunity to kiss him. It was a soft, slow kiss, one that Radek had tried very hard not to imagine during arguments, when it'd been all he could do not to grab Rodney and kiss him mute.
After a long moment, Radek drew back and smiled, lips hot and tingling pleasantly from the kiss. Some of the weary tension around Rodney's eyes had eased, and for the first time in weeks his gaze wasn't shadowed as he smiled back. "About time," he said, and Radek snorted and pulled him in for another kiss, this one filled with all the pent-up hunger that he'd felt and reined in over the years.
Yes, it was very much about time.