Spoilers: Through The Siege part III
Summary: Sometimes, just surviving isn't enough. Sometimes you need a little more.
Author's Note: I know there's a ton of post-Siege fics out there, but it's such a rich, fertile ground! To Kat and everyone, Happy Christmas, Merry Hanukkah, have a great Kwanzaa, and a lovely Solstice. Also, have a fabulous Festivus. I believe I've covered everything, but my humblest apologies if not. :-D
Coming down off adrenaline was a bitch.
Amphetamine withdrawal was worse. Way worse.
Carson had warned them it wouldn't be pleasant, but somehow he'd managed to leave out a few minor details. Oh, he'd covered the nausea, the jitteriness, the migraines, but something about the soul-eating desperation of dear God, please let it end? Yeah, Carson had left that part out, oddly enough.
It was pretty bad when a confirmed atheist was begging a deity he didn't believe in to end his misery. When two of them were? Well, that was even worse.
Rodney McKay had led just enough of a sheltered life in his youth that, while he had been in the target age range when the infamous "Just Say No" campaign hit Canadian airwaves, he had managed to miss it. Somehow, he'd survived. Sure, he had tried pot once in college, sure he drank occasionally, but it had never turned him into a stoner or a drunk or any of those terrible things the public service announcements all but assured him would happen if he so much as strayed from complete abstinence.
Abstinence. Now there was an amusing thought. Not so amusing, really, in how it applied to him, but ironic in its own Alanis Morisette kind of way. Like any other teenager, Rodney had heard about the dangers of sex, been lectured to within an inch of his life about the many STDs that were out there. Most people, in times of extreme crisis, threw all that education right out the window in favor of either getting laid once more before they died or celebrating the fact that they hadn't. Often both. And, yet, Rodney had been too busy trying to keep them all alive to think about sex during the crisis. Once it was over, he was too miserable from the drugs he'd been taking to want sex, even if he'd had anyone offering. Granted, popping pills during a crisis wasn't an unusual human reaction, either, but rarely were they handed out with a doctor's blessing.
Okay, so Carson hadn't exactly been giving his blessing out with the amphetamines, but he had recognized their vitality in keeping Rodney and Radek awake and energized. Awake meant they had time to work on solutions; energized meant they could implement them. Both meant Atlantis might stand a chance in hell of surviving the Wraith siege and, amazingly, they had. And now that Rodney was starting to feel remotely human again, now that the adrenaline was no longer running rampant in his system, aided by the uppers...now what? Now that he'd had a few regular meals and a decent stretch of glorious, interrupted sleep, what the hell was he supposed to do next?
They had a ZPM. A month ago, Rodney would have found the very idea that he would have nothing to do while Atlantis had a new, shiny ZPM laughable. That had been before he had found himself on enforced medical leave. Carson had cleared Rodney and Radek to be released from the infirmary, mostly because they were driving his staff insane by that point, but he had forbidden either of them from even thinking about getting back to work for another week. Which had been fine with Rodney; he had smiled gamely and agreed the vacation would be nice and promptly made plans to swing by his lab at three am when no one else would be there and Carson would be in bed. If he'd been feeling generous, he might have even stopped to pick Radek up along the way.
Unfortunately, Carson knew them both far too well, and that was how Rodney and Radek had come to find themselves locked into one of the newly-discovered VIP quarters with no direct connection to the rest of the city, save their radios. Their meals were delivered to them. Carson was pure Scottish evil when he wanted to be. He had picked the room because it not only had no direct computer link to the rest of Atlantis, but also because it was big enough to comfortably accommodate the both of them. He swung by a couple times a day to visit, along with Elizabeth and Sheppard, and he'd even left them a laptop yesterday. Of course, he'd had one of Rodney's minions block it from accessing Atlantis' systems, but Rodney would have been a little disappointed in Carson if he hadn't. A lot less frustrated, yes, but if Carson didn't trust him and Radek not to sneak down to the labs given half a chance, he definitely should have known better than to give them in-room access to the very systems they so desperately wanted to get their hands on. It was reassuring, in its own odd way, that Carson had taken that into consideration. Annoying as hell, but reassuring nonetheless.
It was the fourth day of their captivity and Rodney was beginning to get a little stir-crazy now that he felt human enough to care.
"What are you looking at?" Radek asked suddenly, after Rodney had been staring in his general direction for the better part of ten minutes.
Rodney snorted. "Certainly not you. Have you looked in a mirror lately?" They had a bathroom--a very nice one, actually--to take care of the basic necessities and personal hygiene; they had clean clothes available. But, while that certainly made living together more comfortable, it didn't change the fact that Radek's hair was more flyaway than ever and he still looked like shit. A lot better than he had during the worst of their detox, but it was a far cry from his usual state. Radek might have been the poster child for the "disheveled geek," look but he didn't usually walk around looking like death warmed over.
Radek rolled his eyes. "I could ask the same. You are no prize yourself right now."
The man had a point. Rodney had caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror that morning and for the first time, the balance had reversed and he felt only slightly better than he looked. Which really wasn't saying much, but at least it was better than the sheer misery of detoxing. It was as the old saying went--at first, you're so sick you're afraid you'll die, then you're so sick you're afraid you won't. He'd been there, done that, and he never wanted to do it again. That was the ticket to making all those drug-free programs work, Rodney thought. Forget the preaching; put someone on medical-grade amphetamines for a few days straight, then take them away. That would convince at least a few people never to touch the stuff again. As for the others? Well, at least they'd know in advance what they were getting themselves into.
Ideas like this were probably the reason Rodney would have made a lousy high school teacher. Not to mention his general dislike for anyone under the age of twenty, except in carefully selected cases. Like maybe his niece, if he ever saw her again. She'd be, what, a couple years old by now? Rodney hoped she wasn't a brat. He hoped Jeannie had gotten his message. He hoped one day they would be able to move past all the old hurts and maybe be on speaking terms again.
He really hoped this emotional roller-coaster the withdrawal had set him on would come to a screeching halt soon. Even a regular halt would do, really.
There were another few awkward moments of silence between them before Rodney snatched the laptop from where it was sitting idle nearby. "Here, let me see that."
Radek shrugged. "It's no use. I have already tried to circumvent the firewall--no luck. Whoever locked us out of the city's intranet knew what they were doing." He looked almost betrayed for a moment. "It was probably Emilia. Computer security is one of her specialties and she isn't intimidated by either of us."
"Hoist by your own petard, huh?" Rodney smirked. "Done in by your own countryman--or woman, in this case."
Radek merely raised an eyebrow. "She's from Slovakia."
"Okay, your next door neighbor, then, whatever. She's your assistant." Rodney poked again at the firewall, which promptly demanded an administrative password. He tried several, both commonly and rarely used by Atlantis' science team. No luck. "You've taught her well--too well." He stared at the screen a moment longer, then waved a hand dismissively. "Doesn't matter. Twenty six letters in the alphabet, ten basic numbers...it's a ridiculous amount of combinations, but we've got three days."
Radek almost smiled at that. "What makes you think there are only twenty-six letters? Emilia speaks three languages other than English, all of which have letters the English alphabet does not."
Rodney shot him a glare over the screen. "She wouldn't."
"How many languages do you speak?" Rodney asked. Czech and English, obviously, but he could've sworn Radek's file mentioned more. "Other than the ones I know about."
"Russian," Radek said. "A fair bit of German. It never was my strongest language--odd, in my country, yes, but I spent so much time with Galina, and she was Russian by birth...."
Rodney cut him off. "I asked about languages, not your life story. Does Emily know Russian?"
"Emilia," Radek corrected automatically, "and yes."
"Well, I don't." Rodney shoved the laptop at him. "Get back to work. We've got three days."
Radek rolled his eyes. "We have been at this since yesterday. Give it a rest."
"What, you'd rather play Canasta?" Rodney sneered. "I don't think Carson left us any cards and we've both beaten the computer at Solitaire so many times it's not even funny."
Radek got that annoyingly smug look on his face that nearly always meant he was up to something. "If you would check the document files, you'd see that I managed to get some theoretical calculations together while you were asleep this morning. Simply because we cannot run simulations does not mean our brains must shut down."
Damn, he was right. Rodney hurried to the recently modified document list and found a file labeled "RMZ1." Radek's initials, presumably, as he opened up the document and began to look over the calculations. If Radek was right, the program he was writing would boost the ZPM's efficiency, since it was currently being forced to do the work that three of the blasted things should have shared. Rodney frowned and altered a variable here and there, finding little flaws as he went along, but he uncharacteristically didn't point them out. For one thing, they weren't critical; it wouldn't have blown anything up. And, besides, Radek's genius was impressive, but not quite on Rodney's level, and he'd been quite the insomniac since he woke up after the first post-amphetamine crash. Rodney had only seen him sleeping a few hours here and there since then and rarely at a stretch. "What's the M stand for, anyway?"
"Mass," Radek replied, "as usual. I was not feeling particularly original."
"No, no, not in the equations, you dolt," Rodney snapped, though it lacked his usual heat. Damn, he was getting soft. But, hell, Radek had helped him save the city. "Your initials."
"Oh." Radek looked mildly surprised. "Michel. A middle name in my country is not the usual custom, actually, at least among certain age groups, but my parents never were conformists."
Rodney found that amusing, somehow, being non-conformist by giving one's child a middle name. "Hmm. Neither were mine."
"So you do not have one, then?" Radek asked, sitting down in the chair nearest Rodney.
"Rodney is my middle name," Rodney told him. He was getting dangerously close to ground he didn't want covered, but he had a back door exit.
Radek perked up a bit at that, obviously intrigued. "What is your first name, then?"
Rodney grinned cheekily. "Don't have one." It wasn't entirely a lie if one considered that if Rodney had his way, he wouldn't. Because, honestly, how the hell had his parents thought it would be a good idea to name their son Meredith in this day and age?
Radek appeared to buy it, in any case--or if he didn't, he didn't push it. "That is different."
Relieved Radek wasn't questioning it, Rodney nodded. "Yeah. They got it out of their systems by the time my sister was born." Katherine Jeanne, though she'd been "Jeannie" since the day she came home from the hospital. Funny how she always got called by her middle name, even when he repeatedly tried to get his parents to do the same for him. But, no, Meredith was a fine name, steeped in tradition...it really wasn't fair. Of course, Jeannie had always been the favored child and Rodney had accepted that a long time ago. He continued reviewing the work Radek had done thus far. "Not too bad--still needs a little work, but you're not a complete idiot...."
"Oh, thank you." The sarcasm nearly dripped from Radek's words. For a non-native English speaker, he'd certainly gotten the hang of that particular concept. "I assume you are merely picking apart my work as a way to avoid dwelling on whatever troubles you have with your family?" The sarcasm had faded entirely, his voice softening.
Rodney wondered at that for a moment, but then he remembered Radek had been there when he'd asked them to find Jeannie during the nanovirus incident, when he thought he was dying. He half-shrugged, not wanting to admit how true it really was, but at the same time, Radek's concern was somewhat touching. "Yeah, well, you know what they say, you do math to keep from crying...."
Radek laughed. "As ironic as it is for me to be correcting you on an English turn of phrase, I believe the word is 'laugh.'"
"Really?" Rodney could have gone for the biting sarcasm and ended the game right there, but he had to live with Radek for the next three days--and, besides, this could be fun. "No wonder I always got picked on in high school."
Radek grinned, playing right along. "No, that was because you are an ass."
"Huh." Rodney reached the end of Radek's first few pages of calculations and picked up where the other man had left off, typing in a string of code before continuing. "And here I thought it was that whole 'geek' thing."
Radek looked appropriately thoughtful, as if a new variable had been introduced to his equation. "I suppose that likely had something to do with it as well. But you're still an ass."
It was a reputation Rodney worked hard to maintain. "An ass who's gonna save everyone else's asses, and don't you forget it."
"How could we?" Radek asked. "You never let us." He leaned closer, looking at the calculations over Rodney's shoulder, and Rodney found himself wondering if Radek's eyes had always been that blue. The scary thing was, it wasn't the first time, and despite the fact that they both could have done well with a week's sleep, Rodney knew now it wasn't the drugs in his system. Dammit, this he did not need. He pushed past it, deliberately ignoring the voice in the back of his head that had been suggesting all manner of things for the past couple of weeks.
"If there is problem, it should be me, not you."
Rodney had wanted to scream at Radek to stop being noble and realize none of them were dispensable and yet, he couldn't bring himself to do more than snark a bit, shake Radek's hand, and tell him to take care of the city. Radek's eyes had been wide then, and worried, and so damned blue, and Rodney had wondered if maybe it was Radek's way of subtly saying he didn't want Rodney to go because he might have felt something. But that was ridiculous, like the teenage geek who mistakes the lead cheerleader's invitation to study together for a date. It never ended well; she always wanted to copy your answers. You never stood a chance in hell with her.
And that assumed Radek would even consider such a thing. After all, heterosexuality was the norm, wasn't it? It was easier to assume someone was straight then that they weren't. Radek had an ex-wife and he was absolutely transparent when it came to his crush on Elizabeth. But Rodney liked Samantha Carter and April Bingham and a number of other cute blonde women. He just happened to like guys too. Maybe a little more than he wanted to admit. The first time had been a fluke, experimentation. The second time had to mean something more. It was hardly like Rodney was the first bisexual man in history. But that didn't mean every other guy was, either.
When had it started? Rodney had first noticed it that day in the lab, when they were packing up to do the satellite repairs, but if he had to be honest with himself, he had first started wondering back around the time of the nanovirus. Watching Radek stick by his side, keep working with him til the end, so determined not to give up...friendship always took Rodney by surprise, especially when it was one of his underlings, but Carson and Sheppard had snuck under Rodney's radar, too. Ford had. Elizabeth had. Teyla had. Rodney hadn't found himself wondering what it would be like to get them alone in an uninhabited part of the city at night, to look into their eyes, get his hands under their clothes, and steal a kiss. Okay, so maybe it had crossed his mind once or twice with Elizabeth and Teyla, but that was more due to the fact that they were both beautiful women in positions of power, which was a big turn-on for him. In the end, they were more like sisters to him than anything and he wouldn't risk throwing that away for a quick bout of cheap sex. Unless they really begged him to.
No, Radek was different, and Rodney had always been far pickier with his men than he had women. If it had boobs, good looks, and a brain, Rodney was more than willing to consider jumping it. Men, he'd always needed more, though exactly what more was indefinable. He either could look at a guy that way or he couldn't. The fact that Radek fit so neatly into the "could" column frightened him a little, because falling for his second in command could be a very bad thing. Falling for his second in command when he had no idea how the guy even felt about so-called alternative lifestyles could be even worse--but only if Radek found out. Which meant he didn't need to. Ever.
It wouldn't have become such a problem if they hadn't spent the past four days locked in the same room together, with three more left to go. If they hadn't nearly killed themselves saving Atlantis together. If Radek hadn't nearly given him a heart attack when he'd been trembling so hard from the withdrawal symptoms that Rodney could've sworn he was having a seizure.
"Rodney?" Radek asked, raising both eyebrows. "You're staring again."
Not staring would probably be a good start to not letting Radek know how he felt. Dammit, why'd he have to have this realization now? Couldn't it have happened in a couple weeks, when life was busier and there was no time to dwell on such things? But, no, it couldn't have been that simple. Life ain't easy for a boy named Meredith, Rodney thought with a mental snort. Sheppard was simply ruining him. "Thinking again."
"Uh-huh." This time, Radek didn't sound convinced. "You never stop thinking. This, it is something else."
Busted, and Rodney didn't have a cover story ready. He reached for the laptop's keyboard again at the same time Radek did. Their hands brushed. In a tawdry romance novel, it would have been a Significant Moment, with sparks flying and a certain indescribable something passing between them. As it was, Rodney snatched his hand back, surprised, and Radek looked at him suspiciously.
"I am not a leper, Rodney," Radek insisted, whatever he was going to do with the computer temporarily forgotten. "It is safe to touch me, you know."
"I know, I just--you surprised me, you--" Rodney was running out of safe ground, so he reached for the nearest clever insult; they'd always provided a safety net for him in the past. "Crazy little Bohemian."
Radek pretended to think it over. "Crazy, perhaps, and definitely Bohemian, but I really am not that much shorter than you, so could we skip the 'little?' It is bad enough my younger brother is taller than me; I do not need to hear it from you." Grinning devilishly, Radek advanced on him, causing Rodney to stumble backwards a couple of steps in surprise. "No, Rodney. There is something. You stare at me, you startle when we touch."
"Don't flatter yourself, you freak," Rodney sputtered, entirely off his guard. He desperately tried to shut off the part of his brain that found this kind of hot.
Radek pinned him with a gaze. "If you intend to keep teasing me, perhaps it is you who is the freak. I only ask you this, Rodney. No mind games. If you want to pursue something other than friendship, say so, but do not dangle it in front of me, just out of reach."
Rodney was absolutely sure his mind was inventing the supposed memories it volunteered now, the times he thought he maybe might have caught Radek looking at him that way. No way. He was imagining things. "I like Sam Carter! Sam, as in Samantha, as in she has breasts!"
Radek took another step, as did Rodney, but this one backed Rodney against the wall. "Yes, and I quite liked my wife as well, before we went our separate ways. She had breasts, too. I imagine she still does. But if we are to spend three more days confined to this room, together, we must settle this now, before we waste more time and suffer through more awkward moments."
Rodney hated this. He could either admit to everything, which was so not an option, because it was going to be a stammered confession at best. Not cool. Or he could be a dick and continue to insist he wasn't bisexual, that he was totally straight, and become one of those assholes who protested way too much. Yes, he was an asshole, but he chose his time and place for it, and those assholes were responsible for way too much of the bigotry in the world. "So, suddenly, you're gay?" He kept as much accusation out of it as he could, trying to buy himself some time.
Radek rolled his eyes, pinning Rodney against the wall with his hands on Rodney's upper arms. "No, but I first began to suspect I was not interested in only women when I was in my twenties. I like people; personality draws me in, though heaven only knows why I could possibly be drawn to you. Gender, it becomes a secondary concern. And you?"
Shit. He was so trapped. Not that he was ashamed of his sexuality, but Rodney had learned it was something not everyone needed to know about. And had Radek just admitted that he was attracted to Rodney? "Ah...I was fifteen, sixteen. Somewhere around there. I really do like women more, but sometimes...."
Radek backed off, his tone and posture relaxing. "Sometimes you find someone who is the right fit."
Rodney nodded. "Yeah, and like you said, the whole gender thing, then it doesn't matter." He found he was liking it, this moment they were having. "It's weird, because I don't go looking for guys, like I do with women, but sometimes...."
Radek shrugged, though it didn't come across as a dismissive gesture. "Sexuality comes in all flavors."
Immediately, Rodney's mind dropped straight into the gutter, because "flavors" made him think of April's strawberry lip gloss, which she wore just for him because she knew the pink lemonade she preferred could kill him. Flavors, wondering what Radek's lips would taste like, if he'd taste the mint of their toothpaste or perhaps the unfortunately decaffeinated coffee Carson had left them or something else entirely.
"Rodney," Radek said carefully, in his most patient tone, "if you are waiting for the orchestra to swell before you make your move, I am afraid that only happens in the movies."
Rodney blinked. Dammit, why did Radek keep knocking him off-balance like that. More to the point, why did he like it so much? "You freak, " he groaned in frustration, torn between trying to make a remotely romantic approach and simply throwing Radek up against the wall. He settled for something in between, moving past Radek to the laptop and hitting the play button on the front panel, between the speakers. Before leaving for Pegasus, most of the expedition had downloaded slightly less than half the Internet onto the expedition laptops, saving away movies and most especially music. Even the unassigned laptops had provided storage space, so Rodney started the media player and hoped for the best as he swung around to face Radek. "No orchestra, my ass. We're gonna do this in style, cause--what the hell?"
Radek brought a hand up to his face to hide his smile as the strains of the Hamster Dance song began to filter from the laptop's speakers. He held out a full two seconds before dissolving into laughter entirely, moving back to lean against the table for support.
Rodney moved to shut off the music--he supposed that was what he got for calling up a random playlist. Who the hell had downloaded that? "Stop laughing, you nut." But Radek's snickering was contagious and soon Rodney was just shaking his head and chuckling as well. Because of all the songs.... "Okay, you asked for it." He moved in, gently turning Radek around so that his back was to the table. Taking a hold of Radek's t-shirt, he pulled him in, kissed him hard. After a moment, the kiss deepened as Radek reached up, wrapping his arms around Rodney's neck and using his tongue to see if Rodney still had any tonsils left. Not that Rodney minded. No, not at all. Damn, the man was a good kisser.
When they parted for air, they were both grinning a little goofily, and Rodney reached behind him to shut the laptop's lid. "Screw the firewall," he murmured. "We've got three days."
"We do indeed." Radek's eyes were alight with possibilities as he reached up to take off his glasses and set them on the table.
"There's just one thing I've gotta know," Rodney told him, dropping his hands down to grope Radek's ass.
"Oh?" Radek purred. "And what's that?"
"Are you Bohemians really as kinky as everyone says?"
Radek's smile turned positively mischievous. "We have three days for you to find out."