sgasesa_admin (sgasesa_admin) wrote in sga_santa,

Fic: Zelenka's Feast (Lorne/Zelenka, PG13)

Title: Zelenka's Feast
Author: wickedwords
Recipient: gblvr
Pairing: Lorne/Zelenka
Rating: PG13
Summary: Catering by the Kitchen Physicists.


Per plan, Radek arrived first, with the groceries and the required serving trays. He parked the van and walked through the rock entryway to the front door. The house was huge, a former street-of-dreams style mansion with a commanding territorial view. He pressed the buzzer and waited, noting the neat gardens that had been spruced up with fresh spring plants for the charity event.

Still, despite the beauty of the location, part of his mind was on the dinner preparations. Rodney had never trusted him to run one of the events himself, but now necessity had given Radek the opportunity, at least until Rodney arrived. It was important that the event go off without a hitch.

The door was opened by a woman in her late thirties, with short brown hair and bright hazel-green eyes, attractive in an understated way. "You must be from the Kitchen Physicists."

"Radek Zelenka," he said, clicking his heels and bowing his head slightly. Their PR representative said it made a very strong impression.

"I'm Elizabeth Weir, event coordinator for Sara's Acres." She extended her hand to him as she checked out the catering van he drove. "When is Chef McKay expected to arrive?"

He shook her hand briskly and stepped around her into the foyer. "He's had an emergency, his sister was in a automobile accident." When Caleb had called to say that she'd been hurt, Rodney had dropped everything to visit her, leaving Radek in charge of the event. "His plane will arrive later this morning."

"Is she all right?" Elizabeth said, shutting the door behind her.

"She is fine. Some broken bones, which Rodney says his soup will help mend." In fact, she had had already left the hospital by the time Rodney arrived. "Is there an entrance we can use that is closer to the kitchen?"

"Yes, there's a delivery entrance." She stared out at the white van which was blocking the main drive. "I think you can park there, as well, as we will need the room out front for guests."

"Good. Having space there will make it easier. The van is quite full."

"When will the rest of your staff be joining you?"

Radek blinked at her. It was a small company, just the two of them doing the catering. "There is no other staff. In fact, if you have some volunteers helping you set up for tonight, I would appreciate it if you could assign some to assist with unloading the van."

"I'm sure I can find a couple to help." The doorbell rang, and Elizabeth flashed him a quick smile. "One moment, please."

Radek heard voices coming from the far end of the hall, and he headed further into the house, glancing at the staircase. A dark-haired man and a woman with short blond hair were descending the stairs, all the while arguing vehemently with each other. A military air clung to the both of them, despite the fact that they were casually dressed. As they got closer, Radek could see there was a tiny, tasteful logo emblazoned on the sweatshirts they were wearing; he guessed it was for Sara's Acres, the pet rescue organization the event was supporting.

"Why are you arguing with me? If we have one hundred RSVPs, we need seating for a hundred," the man was saying. "I think we'll have to clean the furniture out of most of the downstairs to set up the tables."

"Not necessarily. It depends on if the caterer is making a meal or not. If it's just appetizers and snacks, most people will want to circulate, and we'll have them all stand for the fundraising speech."

"Most of those women are going to be in heels, Sam. You want them to have to stand for three hours?"

"Oh, please. You might have trouble with something like that, but we're trained to endure the pain."

"Sam. Cam." Elizabeth called, as she joined Radek at the base of the stairs, an attractive young man right behind her. The two stopped in their discussions to look at her. "Samantha Carter. Cameron Mitchell." She gestured at the two of them. "This is Radek Zelenka, one half of our catering team for tonight." She nodded at Radek, then casually introduced the man behind her. "And this is Evan Lorne, from The World of Wine. He will be acting as wine steward today."

Radek smiled at Evan; they had worked together before, at several different banquets. Evan was one of the few people that Rodney trusted with choosing his wine, if they weren't providing it themselves.

There was the usual babbles of hellos and handshakes after that. Radek learned that he was correct; both Sam and Cam were with the military, and had become involved with Sara's Acres after finding a Rottweiler puppy where it should never have been. "We sorta have a joint custody arrangement," Cam said, smiling warmly, while Samantha snorted.

"Would you mind taking Radek and Evan to the delivery entrance? They need their vans unloaded."

"Sure thing," said Cam.

"I'll get the handcart," added Sam, "and meet you at the kitchen door."

The three of them -- Radek, Cam, and Evan -- crunched their way through the river rock path to get to the front driveway and then drove back out of the main entrance before taking a left at the alley just beyond the mansion's gates.

"It can be a little confusing," Cam said, sprawled out on the seat next to Radek. "The entrance is easy to miss."

Radek slowed down, catching sight of the turn just past a large bush. The back drive was not nearly as wide, more like a standard alley, but wide enough to accommodate the truck. There was even room in the back for both vans to park, which Radek considered excellent news. "There will be several courses, so you will need to seat all of the guests. Oh, and if there are leftovers, we give them to the gospel mission down near the waterfront," he told Cam as they loaded up the handcart with food. "It will be much easier for me if I do not have to march around carrying equipment back and forth."

"Hey, Chef!" Sam called, pulling a canister of liquid nitrogen out of the back of the van. "What's this used for?"

"It is one of Rodney's secret ingredients." Radek shrugged, nodding to Cam that the cart was ready to go as Sam passed him carrying the cylinder. "He engineers the--ah--razzle-dazzle, the signature meal for each event we cater. I usually spend my time with the rest of the meal."

"Whatever it is, it sure looks like you're loaded for bear," Evan added, stacking his boxes of different vintage wines neatly outside of his van, waiting for the handcart to come back. "I'm not sure I brought the right wine for that."

"No, no bear." Radek grabbed the last box of cutlery and slammed the van door shut. "It is too greasy most of the time."

It took a moment before Evan started to laugh.


The kitchen was much better than Radek had expected from Rodney's description. The freezers were huge, walk-in monstrosities, the kind more suitable to a retirement center or other industrial kitchen than someone's home, and the house had been built with dual ovens and marble counters. There was room enough for several people to work, so there would be no problem once Rodney arrived.

Rodney had a problem sharing space.

After just a few words of explanation, Sam was assembling the pieces for Rodney's special liquid nitrogen bath, while Cam was storing the fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator; both would go back to helping Elizabeth set up the main dining area once Radek gave them the go ahead, but until Rodney arrived, he was happy to have the extra help. In the back, Evan was setting up a wine station in what had been a breakfast nook, unboxing the wine and setting out the glasses to be served with each different course. Radek picked up one of the wines and examined the plain label: Penley Estate Special Select Coonawarra Shiraz, 2005.

"That's from the Coonawarra District of South Australia." Evan ripped open another cardboard box full of wine bottles. "I was told you would have some smoked game, and I thought this would go well if you were using duck or bison." He gestured at one of the other reds he had brought. "I can substitute a Pasek Cellars Syrah, if you prefer."

"No, it is a good choice." Radek set the bottle down and looked at the array of boxes to be unpacked. Rodney had been quite nervous about not being able to select the wines, while Radek had tried to get him to identify a menu early enough that it would not matter. Needless to say, it hadn't happened. Still, a cursory glance made him think that Evan had made some good choices. "You brought a large selection."

"Some of it's odds and ends," Evan said, pulling two different bottles out of a box. "They'll be a part of the silent auction upstairs."

"Ah, yes." Nodding, Radek flashed him a slight smile. Evan was a good-looking man, muscular and fit, with short brown hair, artfully styled, and bright blue eyes. He had stripped down to a short-sleeved T-shirt, and his biceps flexed as he ripped each box open. Radek was trying very hard not to stare.

"Hey, you mind if I put the game on?" Cam yelled from behind them.

"Knock yourself out," Evan yelled back, his gaze momentarily fixing on Radek. "If that's okay with you."

"It is fine," Radek said, feeling himself flush at being caught staring. "I like the noise." The kitchen was always noisy when Rodney was around, and Radek occasionally missed his annoyed rambling. It would be good when he finally arrived and Radek could let the others go back to their regular work.

The kitchen was soon filled with the unmistakable sounds of an infomercial, followed by some sort of documentary on ducks, which quickly changed to a situation comedy; Radek turned to see Cam standing in front of a large built-in TV, flipping channels to find what he wanted.

When he hit the news channel, though, he stopped. "Hey, look at this," Cam yelled. "Something's happening at the airport."

The reporter was obviously standing well away from the facility, and behind her they could see a wide perimeter of police cars surrounding it, their lights flashing. Radek slowly walked forward, trying to take in what was happening. It looked like part of the airport had been torn away.

"Terrorists?" Sam asked, looking at Cam.

"I guess." He plucked his cell phone out of his pocket and stared at it. "If it were anything else, I'm sure we'd have a call by now."

He turned the sound up. "--US Airways Flight 2922 arrived from Phoenix, and three of the gunmen boarded the plane immediately, having already set the explosives--"

The reporter continued on, but Radek wasn't listening. "That is Rodney's flight," he whispered. He stared aghast at the screen, the scrolling text at the bottom telling him tiny details about baseball games and stock prices that no one could possibly care about. His mind stuttered, froze on the image of what must be happening. If the hostages were killed, Radek knew that Rodney would be first. He would annoy the terrorists too much to let him stay alive. Radek's stomach grew queasy at the number of times he had joked about killing Rodney himself.

"Hey, whoa, steady," Evan said, moving to hold Radek's arm to steady him. "Can someone grab him a chair?"

"Right." Cam nodded firmly and grabbed one of the stools from the breakfast nook while Sam got a glass of water.

"Here, sit." Evan guided Radek into the chair, then crouched down next to him so he could look Radek in the eye. Sam handed him the water, which Radek eagerly drank. "Are you gonna be okay? Do you need to get down there?"

"There are police there." Radek was surprised at how shaky his voice sounded. "I am a chef. I could be of no use against terrorists." He had been a good soldier, when his country had required his service, but that was a long time ago. Still, he took at his cell and tried to call Rodney, but it ran through to voice mail.

Sam patted his arm, and Cam shot her a look. "Look, your partner is one of the hostages, I'm sure Sam and I can call in a favor or two to get you on site--"

"Business partner," Radek said flatly, closing his eyes, his chest feeling tight. He thought he was done with this, with watching his friends, people he loved, disappear. He flicked his eyes open, distracting himself from his thoughts. "He is my business partner, not my lover. We are good friends, yes. And I am worried. But--" He glanced around at the three people staring at him in concern. "I have a job to do. Rodney and I were to put on a feast, and I will do it."

"By yourself?"

"Yes." Radek nodded, feeling determined. "I will. I will never hear the end of it from Rodney if it does not go well."

"That's crazy," Cam said. "Elizabeth has a lot of other volunteers. What can we do to help?"

Radek pulled his glasses off and wiped at his eyes, which were feeling hot and strained. Talking a deep breath, he stood and put his glasses on, flashing a small smile of thanks to the three people around him "What else can we do? We cook."


The big problem was that Radek had little idea of where to start with any of the signature dishes. Well, the post-modern dishes, anyway, the ones that required an interest in molecular gastronomy. Radek knew intimately the ins and outs of the traditional components of their meals, but he'd only watched as Rodney put together most of the trademark items. Rodney was the one who created the edible inks, who had created actual exploding volcano cakes. Rodney was the one who wanted to buy a class-four laser for food preparation, until Radek shot him down, telling him it was too expensive. Rodney turned their kitchen into a mad scientist's laboratory, while Radek got everything done around him.

So the menu was going to be more traditional cooking and less industrial light and magic than the kitchens that Rodney ran. Radek frowned, checking his cell again, just to make sure there was no news. He was going to have to create one of the signature dishes himself.

There was a message center with a large whiteboard right next to the TV, so Radek grabbed a green pen and started writing down the revised menu. "This is what is left," he said, scribbling everything down quickly as he remembered it. "The appetizers still need to be done, other than the margarita salad--the tomato, baby mozzarella, and basil just need to be arranged on platters. Entrees. The smoked duck will need a sauce and the Asian herb pesto salmon will need to have the pesto made before it is roasted. There are three salads: a Vietnamese noodle salad with Peanut Dressing, a plain Caesar, and Rodney's special salad. Oven roasted vegetables, steamed asparagus, and jasmine rice with saffron." He looked at them and sighed. "Plus dessert."

"That doesn't sound so bad," Sam said. "What do you use the liquid nitrogen for?"

A hundred thoughts ran through Radek's head. This would be so much easier if he had his laptop and could search the recipe database. But unfortunately, Rodney had dropped his own laptop, damaging the screen, right before leaving for his sister's, and so had taken Radek's laptop instead. So he'd have to rely on memory--ah, a Frozen Florida, the reverse of a Baked Alaska. With some adaptation, it would work. That one he could do. "Today, it will be used to make the dessert." Radek ran a hand through his hair, feeling a bit desperate. "If we can get it to work."

"You don't know how it works?" Cam looked taken aback.

"Rodney wasn't big on sharing." Radek gave a shrug, looking at his white board. "But I have seen it used many times. We will be able to figure it out." He knew everything they had on hand and what had partially been prepared; he noted next to the items which ones were done. He rubbed his hands through his hair and stared up at the clock, trying not to glance at the television screen.

Four hours to go. He had already run out of time, if he were to do this all himself. He would have to take the others up on their offers. "What can you cook without a recipe book?"

Cam looked at the list and pointed at the smoked duck. "I make a kick-ass barbecue sauce."

"Good." Radek scribbled his name next to the duck. "Take the asparagus and peanut dressing as well." He glanced up at Evan, who held up his hands and backed away.

"I'm more of a chopping and mixing guy."

"Good. You will do the Caesar, the rice, and work on the vegetables. I will take over Rodney's special salad, and the Asian Herb Pesto Salmon."

"What about me?" Sam asked eagerly. "I can do more than boil noodles."

He pointed at the liquid nitrogen tank. "You seemed to be having fun with that earlier. Between us, we can figure out what will need to happen."

She had a wicked smile as she looked over Rodney's equipment. "Oh, yeah. I'm sure I can do something with that."


Sam was true to her word, working on the ice cream dish she and Radek hammered out with an enthusiasm that would have done Rodney proud. In fact, Radek thought she and Rodney would get along well, if they didn't kill each other first. He checked his cell again, not really expecting any messages, but unable to simply not check. As he'd anticipated, there was nothing new on it.

Elizabeth stopped in and made sure he was still willing to work. "You can have any thing you need, just ask. If you need to go home, or get to the airport, we can make arrangements."

"I am fine," Radek said, knowing how tired he would get of saying that. "Please, go. I need to work."

"If you're sure..." she said, her voice drifting off in concern.

"I am." Radek nodded at Sam, Cam, and Evan. "Thank you for letting me borrow your team; with them, I have enough help for now. Rodney and I have done these banquets many times. I...I have more than enough help."

"All right, if you're sure." She gave a slight wave at the room. "If any of you need anything, let me know."

Radek darted a look at the TV screen, but it still showed the regular football game, albeit with a news ticker scrolling across the bottom. No new developments since the last time he'd looked. He felt like he was circling the room, checking food, cell, and TV, without really accomplishing much.

"Hey, Radek," Evan called to him, pulling his attention away from the TV. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, his voice gentle with concern. "It's gotta be hard on you. Where did you and McKay meet up anyway?" He was chopping up carrots, beets, and turnips to mix with a pile of red onions and yellow peppers for roasting. The sound of the knife striking the cutting board was both rhythmic and oddly comforting.

"The Society of Experimental Cuisine, at a conference in Erice, Italy. When I decided to relocate to America, he chose to join me, saying that Canadians didn't respect what he could do with food." He glanced over at Cam, who had walked through what he wanted to do with Radek, down to the tiniest amounts of spices, getting his approval on the sauce. "He considered himself a physicist in the kitchen, and no one understood what he meant. I did, though. We drank a lot and talked about possibilities for most of the night."

Brushing his hand over his eyes, Radek glared down at the onions on his board. He hadn't even started on them yet, and his eyes were already watering. Everything was going well, for the moment, anyway. He should get his own dishes started.

"How long ago was that?" Evan looked over the carrots, tossing a couple aside that looked a little too battered to slice attractively, then started to work on the rest, using a mandolin to slice them into even rounds.

"At least fifteen years. It seems like a very long time. We spend...too much time together because no one else seems to understand either of us. Is strange life." He took out his own knife from his carrying case and joined Evan at the work table, pulling over the colander of freshly-washed herbs that he needed to chop. "We were both young when we started."

"You're still young, chef. You're not that much older than me."


"Hey, you're the one with the interesting life. Me, I joined the military, flew planes for awhile, and retired to open a wine shop. You're the one that's been inventing new ways of cooking food."

"I have my moments. As much as I hate to admit, Rodney is the more adventuresome one." Radek paused, knife in mid-air, thinking. Rodney would be freaked out right now, but Radek had seen him under pressure before. Sometimes he fell apart, but if he had the right motivation, Rodney could do amazing things.

"Is that why you didn't get together with him? He has a kinky side?"

Radek snorted, rolling his eyes. "I am far more kinky than he is. No, Rodney is arrogant and petty, a drama queen. He needs someone who can ignore his drama, and I... I get too caught up in it. And he's never found a better audience for his performances." He shrugged and glanced up at the TV. Still nothing. He shook himself and returned to his work. "Rodney and I, we do incredible things together. Maybe too much so; we understand each other so well that no one else seems to..." Radek shook his head. "But it is better that I go home to curl up with my books and Hombro in the evening, so we can work together the next day without me killing him."

"Hombro?" Evan moved on to slicing the beets. "Someone I should know about?" There was a note in his voice that Radek couldn't quite place, and glancing at him didn't reveal anything; the man was head down working on a diminishing pile of vegetables.

Radek took a moment to surreptitiously scan the way Evan's arms flexed as he worked the mandolin. He had always considered Evan quite attractive, and while he knew that this conversation was merely a way to keep him distracted from what might be happening to Rodney, it was nice to have a few quiet moments together. Normally, Rodney kept him running anytime they worked a kitchen together.

A deep ache settled in his belly, and he passionately wished he had some way of contacting Rodney.

"Radek?" Evan looked up, and Radek caught a glimpse of bright blue eyes and long lashes. Yes, something worth sighing after. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine." Radek cleared his throat and mentally caught back up on the conversation. "Hombro is an African grey parrot. I adopted him from Sara's Acres several years ago, when I moved into my first apartment here in America. I raised pigeons when I was younger, and birds are calming to be around."

"Hey, Sam," Cam called out. "This dressing needs something."

Sam took a taste, and nodded her head in agreement. "It's not quite right. How about lime?"

Cam snapped his fingers. "Lime. Great idea."

Wait. No. "We have no limes." Radek looked bleakly at them. "Rodney does not allow citrus in his cooking. He is allergic, you see." He felt like his throat was closing up; he had to put down his knife to brace himself at the edge of the counter, the cool marble hard under his palms. He swallowed several times, until he felt like he could open his mouth without throwing up.

"I know this is a bad time for it, but this is your chance," Evan said, laying his hand over Radek's. "I've worked with you before, and I know you can do this. I know you're upset, but Rodney keeps you on a short leash. He doublechecks everything you do, but he doesn't need to. You're good, Radek. Rodney'll pull through--he's too obnoxious to die--but he's not going to make it to dinner tonight."

The truth settled over them all, and for a moment, Radek wished he could instantaneously transport himself to the airport and find Rodney, bring him back here where he could swagger through the kitchen, bellowing instructions that Radek didn't need, but he was simply a chef. He couldn't save Rodney. All he could do was make sure that the guests remembered this meal, remembered who the Kitchen Physicists were. He had to do that for Rodney.

Which meant he had to decide: was he going to second guess what Rodney would have done for the meal, or was he going to do what he thought needed to be done, no matter how Rodney would have handled it? Rubbing his eyes, Radek agreed. "No, he is unlikely to arrive. Still it does not matter. I brought no lime here today."

"You don't really need that much, do you?" Evan looked at the Radek, then Sam and Cam. "How important is it?"

"Give it to me," Radek growled, grabbing a spoon. "I will see what we need to do."

Sam sighed and glanced over at Cam. He shook his head 'no'. "Neither of us knows how to make it work without the limes. We could try vinegar, I guess. What do you think, Radek?"

Radek scooped up some of the liquid, letting it set a moment to cool slightly, before tasting it. Smooth, with a salty-sweet taste, well-spiced, but lacking in complexity. Thinking, Radek looked to the TV. The hostage situation was back on screen and several black-clad military figures were there now, arrayed in a line in front of the airplane. That was new, anyway. At some point while he was working, reinforcements had arrived. Evan's voice rushed over him, but Radek didn't pay attention until his hands clasped around Radek's shoulders.

"There's a food co-op about a mile from here. I can go get some, if you want it." His breath spilled over the back of Radek's neck, making him shiver; it felt good, and under other circumstances, he would want to feel more of Evan than just his breath. "He's not here, Radek. You're in charge. I need you to tell me what you want."

Closing his eyes, Radek took a deep breath. It would not matter if there was citrus in the food; Rodney would not be here to taste it. No, the meal was his call, from first to last, and the limes would make it better, give it a sour tang that would deepen the flavor. "Yes, yes, please go," he said, opening his eyes; his voice wavered slightly.

"You got it." Evan snatched his keys and his wallet off the counter where he'd laid them, patting Radek's shoulder as he passed.

Need for warmth, for comfort, for something swept through Radek at Evan's touch. He twisted around, sliding his arms around the back of Evan's neck; he blindly pressed a kiss against Evan's cheek. "Hurry back," he said gruffly, letting him go, while Sam and Cam both avoided looking at them.

Brushing his hand across his cheek, Evan nodded, his eyes wide. "It'll take about twenty minutes."


While he was gone, Radek talked sternly to himself, and made himself step through each one of the dishes yet again. The dressing would wait for the lime, but he was remiss in monitoring the others. After a quick taste, he added some red pepper flakes to Cam's barbecue sauce, then doubled the tarragon in the butter sauce for the asparagus.

He had to spend more time than expected with the dessert, as Sam was technologically minded, but had no eye for how the material should look. The white chocolate centers he inspected were too hard, and needed to be thinned slightly, requiring some rework, but nothing that wasn't salvageable. The sponge cake to insulate the centers had to be thinly sliced, so Radek took that over while Sam experimented on making the cut sponge cake into a casing around the centers. She was able to hold the casing in place with some toothpicks and a rubber band long enough to get the ice cream shell started, and when that looked like it would hold, Radek left her to work on it, creating trays full of white chocolate, ice cream, and sponge cake 'eggs.'

The plan was that once the eggs were bathed in the liquid nitrogen, the incredibly thin yet rock-solid ice cream 'eggshells' would remain. The confection would then be microwaved, so the centers liquefied, and when the eggs were broken table side, the hot white chocolate yolks would spill out over the frozen whites.

Rodney would be quite proud, Radek was certain, though he would never say anything about it.

Once the pesto was ready, he turned the salmon over to Sam to work on, while the rest of her dish set. Cam basted the smoked duck in his barbecue sauce, set it to warm, and then got to work on the soba noodles, leaving Radek to turn his hand to Rodney's special camouflage salad, the one where beets looked like cherry tomatoes, and jicama was sliced to look like water chestnuts, where only the lettuce looked like what it tasted like.

Sam was out checking with Elizabeth on something when Evan got back. He tossed the net bag full of limes to Cam, who snagged them out of the air and went to work prepping them for the sauce.

"How's it going?" Evan slid into the stool next to Radek and put his hand on his shoulder. "You doing okay?"

Radek nodded, trying not to dislodge Evan's hand. The weight felt good, indispensable. It had been awhile since Radek had had someone trying to support him. "I am fine," he said, and pressed his lips together, determined not to look at the TV yet again. "We will have the dinner ready on time."

"Then what?"

"Hmm?" Radek set down his knife and looked at Evan. "I clean up. I go home."

"Maybe that's not such a good idea." Evan looked at the pile of vegetables. "Don't get me wrong, but I figure if you're using a melon baller on beets, maybe you're a little distracted."

Radek snorted, but before he could explain, Evan barreled on. "I think you need someone to drive you home and spend the night with you, if there's no good news." He gestured at the TV. "You have anyone that could do that?"

"Normally, I'd ask Rodney." Radek smiled wryly. "Do not fuss over me so. I will be fine."

"Yeah, I know you will. But I don't think I'll be fine if I just let you go." He wrapped his arm around Radek and gave him a quick squeeze. "How about it? Are you willing to spend the night with me?"

It was meant as comfort and reassurance, but all it did was make him feel old. He'd had a crush on Evan for a long while, since their first event together, and this...coddling...would not help.

"In other circumstances, that would be a very tempting offer." Jerking away, Radek glared at Evan. "I am not a child. The pigeons I raised, we had to eat many of them, and I wrung their necks myself. The waiting will not bother me. I do not need you to play concerned and act as a babysitter!" His rising voice was punctuated by the hand he slapped forcefully on the countertop.

His knife skittered off the edge of the counter and embedded itself in the wooden floor. Radek stared at it a moment, mentally sighed, then glanced back at Evan, who raised an eyebrow at him.

Pulling the knife out of the floor, Radek said, "Perhaps you had better spend the night."


A few more hiccups occurred: the oven was too hot and the top layer of vegetables charred more than Radek wanted, but they were still consumable with judicial screening. There was too little salmon, somehow, so they cut each portion in half, making them into 'tasting portions,' rather than full entrees. And then the first trials of Sam's 'Frozen Florida' eggs were in the microwave for too long, leaving behind a puddle of melted ice cream to clean up.

In all, it could have been worse, given how everyone's attention was shattered. Radek managed a stream of conversation about incidental subjects--Rodney's cat, Godzilla, and why they had decided to donate their time and the materials for the dinner to the Sara's Acres--but he couldn't sustain anything for long. He checked his cell and the TV repeatedly, as did Cam and Sam, sometimes all of them simultaneously. Sam and Cam keep shooting each other looks, like they expected something to happen at any moment, but nothing did. It was a stand off between terrorists and military, all of it playing out on the big TV screen, until Evan got impatient enough with everyone to turn it off.

"We can check in every half hour," he said calmly shoving the remote into his pocket. "There's still a lot to do, right, chef?"

Radek blinked, the residual image from reading the scrolling text at the bottom of the screen still flickering in his eyes. Looking around the room, he nodded. "We must get back to work. When I tell Rodney about the dinner, I want to be able to tell him it ran smoothly."

Sam checked her cell one more time, and her face scrunched up. "Huh. This is interesting," she muttered. "Hey, Radek, I have to take this one outside."

He waved her off. "Go, we are fine here." They had the timing down on the frozen eggs now, and would not need to heat them until almost time to serve.

Darth Vader's theme sang out from his phone, and Radek went hot-then-cold with fear as he fumbled to answer. "Rodney?"

"What is the name of your stupid parrot?"

"Are you--"

"The parrot's name, Radek. It's the password on your laptop. I don't have much time."


"Spell it."

"H-o-m-b-r-o." He could hear a click and a whir, and then Rodney huffed out a hard breath.

"Thank God."

"Are you all right? On the TV--"

"We're on the TV?" Rodney muffled the cell and yelled something at someone, then he was back on the line. "Don't freak out, okay? Just finish the dinner, and I'll see you as soon as I can."

Evan snapped the TV back on as Cam came over to Radek, his own cell phone out. "Try to get some information. We can relay--"

The line went dead, and Radek looked over at the other two men, feeling drained. "He is gone."

"Did he say anything?"

"No." Radek shook his head. "Nothing. He wanted my laptop's password."

"Oh, shit," Evan said, staring at the TV. Both Radek and Cam turned to look just as a siren let off a high-pitched scream. There was a flash of brilliant light, and when Radek's eyes adjusted enough that he could see again, the plane had vanished, like someone had wiped it right off the screen.

Radek's heart stuttered, and he found it hard to breathe; he felt shaky, as if he were going to fall over. The cell that Cam was holding started ringing, while Sam bolted into the kitchen. "Cam, we gotta move." She hitched a thumb toward the outside, and flashed a smile at Radek. "Sorry."

In an instant, they were gone, and all that Radek could feel was Evan pressed up against his back, warm arms encircling him, as the clock ticked over: one hour to go.


Somehow, between them, Radek and Evan had everything in trays and ready to go by the time the servers arrived. The room filled with noise as Radek looked around, the servers yelling at each other and asking Radek questions about the food, then carrying the trays out to the warming dishes, getting ready to serve the buffet. They didn't appear to notice anything wrong as they slid around the kitchen, taking the food out; but when they left, an uncomfortable silence filled the room after them.

Radek slouched on a chair in the nook, his hand clasped in Evan's as it all happened around him. The day felt unreal, and he thought if he let go, he might just drift away.

"Radek?" Evan said, squeezing his hand. "I have to get changed."

Radek nodded and forced his hand to open, letting Evan's hand pull away. "I know."

"Come out to the dining room." Evan poured Radek a glass of wine, and set it in front of him. "Sitting alone in here is only going to make it worse. If you're out in the crowd, it'll be better."

"And have to listen to everyone remark on the food? I do not think so." He took a sip of wine and let the strong flavor roll over his tongue. "I will be fine."

"You keep saying that, but you look kinda pale to me."

Radek raised his glass and took another sip. "I'm sure this will help."

"I'll come check on you, okay? Every fifteen minutes or so, see how you're doing. And I'm still taking you home."

Maybe it was the wine that loosened his tongue, maybe it was simply the insanity of the day, but Radek found himself saying, "I don't have a couch."

Cracking a smile, Evan rested his hand on Radek's and said, "Since about the third event we worked together, you wouldn't have needed one." He leaned in brushing his lips lightly over Radek's, that small touch sending a shimmer of heat through Radek's body. He threaded his hands into Evan's hair, pulling him in close, loving the feel of his lips opening, welcoming Radek inside. It felt incredible, and Radek wanted more.

"Uhmm." Evan's voice was a low growl as he pulled away. "I really hate to go."

"I will be here. Do not forget me." Radek poured himself another glass; the first had emptied too quickly. "When you stop by, I will want to kiss you again."

With a big exhale, and a quick adjustment to his pants, Evan shook his head ruefully. "My timing has always sucked."

As he finished the final prep on the dessert eggs, time passed more quickly than Radek expected. He kept being mesmerized by the action on-screen, at the analysis of what had happened and what might have caused the plane to disappear, most of it involving a top-secret cloaking device apparently being couriered from a government installation somewhere in Colorado. No one was sure who the terrorists were, or how they knew to target the plane--it was the same information that they had been repeating all day--but now they added the mystery of what might have happened to Flight 2922.

By the third time Evan checked on him, this time helping the servers pick up the Frozen Florida eggs, the plane had been found in the middle of a soccer field twenty miles away. As Radek surfed through the channels, trying to find out what happened to the passengers and if Rodney was alive, experts and talking heads discussed what might have happened. They tirelessly speculated on possibilities, replaying the video of its disappearance over and over again. Everyone was speaking, but no one had any real information, and government representatives seemed to be everywhere.

When they finally showed footage of the landing site, one of the first people that Radek saw in the background was unmistakably Rodney. He stared at the screen, his heart pounding and head swimming in the knowledge that Rodney had survived. He couldn't see any injuries from this distance, just the familiar form of his friend bitching about something. It was so normal-looking after the day of tension that a wave of relief surged through him, leaving him light-headed and weak-kneed; he had to grab onto one of the counters to keep from collapsing. His vision grayed out at the edges, and he couldn't see anything else on the screen but Rodney waving his hands in disgust. Radek felt a wet drop slide down his cheek. Rodney was alive.

Rodney's hands fell to his side as the camera closed in; he sagged against a dark-haired man in jeans and a black T-shirt, both of them propping themselves up against an aid car. The reporter paused long enough to gesture and explain who the two men were--a courier and physicist-chef Rodney McKay-- but Radek couldn't hear much through the sudden noise in the dining room; he quickly shifted the TV to closed captioning and saw that five terrorists had been caught, and no one had died.

When he turned the sound back on, his gaze naturally shifted to the text scrolling along the bottom of the screen: "Rodney McKay and John Sheppard: Heroes of Flight 2922." He took a deep breath for what seemed the first time in hours, as the world stopped swaying from under him. His friend had survived.

Evan came up behind him, and wrapped an arm around him, giving him a squeeze. "It's a great night, chef. A triumph."

"Yes, a triumph" he said, clutching at Evan's hand, which seemed to be the only thing keeping him upright. "Rodney is all right."

"I'm glad." Evan pressed a kiss to the back of Radek's neck, letting his hand settle on Radek's shoulder, a comforting weight. "I know he's important to you."

"Yes, he is." Radek swallowed around the knot in his throat, and let his hand find Evan's, dragging it down to his side as he laced their fingers together. "You are as well."

The news anchor was continuing on, talking about "this amazing story, and we'll bring it to you live--"

Evan reached over and flicked the TV off. "Are you up for seeing people? The guests are asking about you."

"Give me a moment. I am not certain I can endure much, ah, 'chit-chat' right now."

"You won't have to make nice, I promise." Evan let go of Radek and straightened out his uniform. "They loved your food. Your eggs were incredible, and everyone's talking about the meal. They want to meet you." He took Radek by the hand and gently led him into the dining room to thunderous applause.


Evan was helping Radek load the last of the equipment to the van when Cam, Sam, and Rodney turned up. He looked a little banged up. There was a visible bruise on his cheek, and dark circles under his eyes, plus he moved a little stiffly, as if he'd spent too much time in one position. The dark-haired man from the TV slouched behind them all; he had a scrape above one eye and was holding his arm gingerly, but both of them were clean and whole, with no apparent lasting damage.

"I told you they'd have everything covered, Rodney." The dark-haired man peeked into the back of the catering van. "Hey, This thing is packed like a Japanese puzzle box-- how'd you get it so full?"

"Like you wanted to stay at the hospital, with all of those reporters waiting around, hanging on your every word," Rodney said.

The other man shrugged. "It was kinda nice."

"Oh, please," Rodney said, rolling his eyes, his expression tinged with amusement rather than the usual exasperation.

Huh, thought Radek. Interesting. Rodney seldom took to people like that.

"Sorry we couldn't get back in time for dinner," Cam said to Radek. "How did it go?"

Cam looked more military than he had in the kitchen, and given all that had happened, Radek had to wonder if Rodney had been debunking scientific articles on the sly once again. In Radek's experience, coincidence was anything but coincidental where the military was concerned. "Fine. The dessert was well received."

"It was fantastic," Evan said, bumping Radek's shoulder. "You should be proud of yourself."

"I didn't do it alone." Radek extended his hand to Sam, then Cam. "Thank you for your help."

"Did you try that creme brulee froth I designed?" Rodney said hopefully.

Radek shook his head. "No instructions. We had to design our own, from the materials we had." He glanced at the man he assumed was John Sheppard, who was trying to hide a huge yawn. "This is the man who helped capture the terrorists? And made the plane disappear?"

"They weren't actually terrorists."

"McKay--" Sam said threateningly, clearly on her last nerve. Ah, it looked like 'kill each other quickly' was going to win out over 'getting along well,' after all.

"But they were close enough that the term still count,." Rodney said quickly. "Yes, this is John Sheppard. He saved my life."

"Well, you saved mine, so we're even." Sheppard flashed a small smile and shook hands with Radek. "Nice to meet you."

Even exhausted and ready to collapse, John Sheppard was an attractive man. But even though he was looking at Radek, Radek could tell that part of his attention was still on Rodney, that he was listening, waiting for Rodney's reaction.

Radek blinked as he realized that he was no longer Rodney's audience here. That somehow, within the span of a chaotic and miraculous day, Rodney had found someone else to play to, someone else to respond to his drama and his jokes.

Glancing at where Evan was hovering, he had to smile. It was the same for him, and it would be good for the both of them. "Thank you for bringing Rodney back."

"Don't mention it." Sheppard said, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "It was the least I could do."

"But the plane? And what did you do with my laptop--"

"Sorry, Radek, that's classified," Sam said, interrupting them. "We can't tell you anything about it."

There was an awkward pause, then Evan stepped forward. "We were just about to call it a night anyway."

"Yeah, us, too," said Cam. Radek looked at him, then at Sam, and wondered again what had happened to the two of them and how they had been involved, but knew his curiosity would remain unsatisfied, given that Rodney's adventure was classified.

"We just wanted to make sure everything was all right," Sam added. "And I wanted to know how the dessert went over. Just a little."

"Here," Evan pulled a small box out of the back and handed it to her. "For you and Cam, since you couldn't make the dinner. We packed one for you, too, Chef McKay." Evan handed it to Radek, who waved it in front of Rodney.

"For you. There should be enough for two, if you wish to share. Or you can be a pig and eat all of it yourself." Radek shoved the box of citrus-free food toward Rodney, but instead of handing it to him, he pulled Rodney into a large hug. "It is good to see you too, my friend," he whispered. "I would have no one to argue with otherwise."

"Yes, well, yes. You, ah, did well, with the meal, and everything." Rodney patted Radek's back and pulled away . "Do you need us to drop off anything?"

"The leftovers have already been picked up and taken to the shelter. If you want to drive the van back, you may." He tossed the keys over to Rodney, who caught it in mid-air. "I have another ride."

Radek could hear John and Rodney arguing over who would drive as Evan tucked his arm possessively around Radek, and the two of them stepped out into the night.

The End
Tags: genre: slash, pairing: lorne/zelenka

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