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Fic: Slipping Into Place (McKay/Zelenka, McKay/Sheppard/Zelenka, NC-17)

Title: Slipping Into Place
Author: dragojustine
Recipient: sirkate
Pairing: McKay/Zelenka, McKay/Sheppard/Zelenka
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Radek is lucky he's not a jealous man. Sometimes everything just comes together.
A/N: For sirkate, who requested these characters in some sort of slash configuration, and "sex and cuteness and happy endings." I have no idea if this fits the bill, but it's the story I've got. Have an absolutely wonderful Christmas, and a rewarding New Year!

***

At the science staff debriefing after the "trapped in the gate" debacle, Rodney McKay was particularly unpleasant. It was no more nor less than Radek expected; he had only worked with the man a month, but he already knew that Rodney took his feelings of fear and insecurity out on those around him. If anything, he became more arrogant the more he felt like a failure, so a crisis where he didn't come up with a single one of the major day-saving ideas, but only plugged away methodically at a circuit console, was almost guaranteed to make him insufferable.

So while Rodney discoursed loudly on the science department's collective ability to find its ass with both hands --but only barely, and not in the dark nor under pressure-- Radek didn't even bother to look up. He was organizing the information gained from his hasty jumper simulations so that it might be of some conceivable use in the future.

But as Radek stood to go, clutching his notebook and trailing Kavanaugh (who was muttering something dark and vaguely treasonous), Elizabeth called out for Rodney to stay a few minutes. Bless Elizabeth and her concern for Rodney's lack of leadership skills.

Sure enough, Rodney found him in the jumper bay twenty minutes later.

"So," Rodney said, all annoyed impatience. "Elizabeth feels I should know the names of my engineers. Your name is Zelemka."

"Zelenka. And my given name is Radek."

"Right, well, I won't be calling you by that. It might leave you thinking we're buddies or something equally tiresome. So now that I've gotten this out of the way--"

"All right," said Radek. "But I will be calling you Rodney, if you don't mind."

"You mean, you would be calling me Rodney, if you were ever going to chat with me, which isn't really going to happen since I'm both very busy and very important.'

"I think it will happen quite a lot, now that you realize I am your most valuable engineer in a crisis." Radek slotted the crystal he was holding back into place and pulled out the next.

"Are you seriously trying to be arrogant?" Rodney asked. "To me?"

"Right, silly of me," Radek agreed without looking up. "I would not dream of trying to compete on that front."

That was the first time Radek reduced Rodney to simply opening and shutting his mouth for a moment. It was immensely satisfying.

"I meant only to say," he continued, "that it is lucky that at least one person realized what concrete action could be taken to eliminate 99% of your difficulties with the jumper workings."

"Yes, which still wasn't enough to guarantee finding the right circuit in time!" Rodney seemed quite pleased at that, his return to the rhetorical power position. Berating was obviously something he felt comfortable with.

"But which would have been, had you remembered that sub-pathways 3 and 4 of every circuit operate only in conjunction with the controls of the co-pilot seat, and thus did not need to be tested."

Reducing Rodney to momentary silent gaping was fun, Radek concluded, but probably unproductive. He looked up and gave a broad smile. "Marvelous little ships, aren't they?"

"I don't know if you noticed, Zelenka, but the jumper crisis is over. What are you doing out here?"

"Confirming and refining the data I gathered helping you. Is no good letting it get lost and go to waste, when with only a little more work we can put together the start of a user-friendly map."

"And why the hell would we need a user friendly map? We don't exactly want help-desk idiots messing with the life-support systems of our spaceships!"

"No," Radek agreed, with the same bland smiling refusal to be ruffled. That seemed like a winning strategy. Figuring out how to deal with this man was the most entertaining interpersonal game of trial and error he'd run across in a while. "But one day a team of Marines will be trapped in similar situation, with no scientist on board, and I will be able to say to them, 'find the map in your emergency kit and attach connectors to the points clearly labeled with such-and-such numbers.' Will save lives, if we ever can stop with crises long enough to finish it."

"Huh," Rodney said. "That is, you know, not actually the stupidest thing I've heard today. I guess you might as well do that, then, since you probably don't have anything more productive to do."

Even more of a win than Radek had expected. "See you around, Rodney," he called.

***

Rodney seemed to like spending time with him, for all that he tried to conceal it. Inexplicably, Radek liked it too. It's not that Rodney got any less abrasive, but he did seem to become easier to deal with and, after a fairly steady diet of babbling and creative but half-hearted insults, easy to like.

He was nearly finished with the latest modifications to the power distribution grid when Rodney wandered by to ask him what the change was this time.

"Increase in efficiency means 20% less power used by the botany labs," said Radek.

"Well, that's nice, but you know what would be nicer?" Rodney asked. "100% less power used by the botany labs. I know we can arrange that." He pulled his laptop over and started munching loudly on an energy bar. Radek debated running on the numbers on the inventory of energy bars brought from Earth, Rodney's average rate of consumption, and how long at this rate before Rodney would have to start snacking on taro root sticks, but gave up the idea. Rodney had a brilliant mind, but sometimes simple facts didn't penetrate.

"Guess what tomorrow apparently is?" Rodney asked.

"Um. Month two, day sixteen, yes?"

"Yes, well, that too, which we really are going to have to do something about. But back on Earth, November twenty-seventh starts in about twenty hours." Rodney crumpled up the wrapper and threw it aside in exaggerated disgust.

"Thanksgiving, yes. Elizabeth invited me to the dinner party she is having, along with Major Sheppard's team, if I remember correctly?"

"Yes," Rodney said. "We have to waste hours and hours away from the labs and make infuriatingly polite chitchat with Elizabeth and Grodin and half the gate techs in the control room just so sixty-five percent of this base can feel self-righteous about wiping out indigenous people and nearly starving to death!"

"I take your point," said Radek. "But I quite enjoy chit-chat with Elizabeth, thank you, and I doubt very much that you will be polite."

"I'm just saying, do you know what I was doing on the second Monday in October? I spent eighteen straight hours trying to decode the city temperature controls before we all froze to death! And do you know what I'll be doing on the first on July? Probably working my ass off, brilliantly, with no thanks, and not even the vaguest acknowledgement of my nationality."

"Rodney, I am going back to the lab. You are now talking to yourself."

"It's the only way I can be sure of intelligent conversation," Rodney said without missing a beat. But he did pick up his laptop and follow Radek down the hall. "I'm just saying that this base is too Ameri-centric. There should be some respect for Canadians."

"I absolutely agree." Radek answered in Czech, just for the fun of hearing Rodney splutter.

"And then after the enforced festivities, Sheppard is making me watch American football," Rodney continued once they were settled again. "Recorded games he's already seen, just because he can't bear to be without. And does it occur to him that I might have something less mind-numbingly boring to do? Of course not!"

"If you do not want to go with him, don't."

"What?" Rodney looked up, wide mouth slightly parted, one hand hovering uncertainly over his keyboard. He looked, for one single moment, stupidly miserable at the thought. "I... I do want to. I mean, he might actually, you know, not hate me."

"Didn't he throw you off a balcony?"

"Yes. That's exactly what I mean."

Radek blinked.

"It's just... I wish the playing field was a little more, you know, level." Rodney waggled his hand from side to side in the air as if that explained everything. Radek blinked again, and then went back to analyzing the programming behind the city sensor array. There was a mysterious output function from the salinity sensor subroutine that seemed to lead nowhere, and it was driving him slowly insane. Besides, if he didn't speak, Rodney would feel the need to fill the silence.

"I'm just saying that so far he's teased me for passing out and looked vaguely disappointed in me for not running without hesitation into certain death, while we've only been here forty-one days and I've already lost count of the times he's been stupidly and blindingly heroic, and I'm starting to find it a little unfair that while I can certainly appreciate the, if you will, brute physicality and undeniable testosterone component of his contribution to the city, he doesn't have the intelligence to similarly appreciate the immense and vital intellectual--"

"You want him to like you," Radek said.

Rodney snapped his mouth shut, glared, and retreated with his laptop to the other end of the lab. Radek watched him go, watched the breadth of his shoulders and confident motions of his hands and unhappy twist to his mouth, and chewed his own upper lip, wondering.

***

"Out for a spin," Rodney said.

"Settle, please."

"I discover the garage-door roof--"

"You?" Radek asked, and started to reassemble the jumper circuitry panel after his latest bout of mapping.

"--and he says, oh, great work McKay, I'm gonna take Ford out for a spin!"

"If I heard correctly, Ford did chase him through the corridors to ask to come along."

"That's not the point! Didn't he think I might be interested? I could have wanted to take atmospheric samples, climate readings--"

"Wasn't it you who said, in the hearing of poor Doctors Marsh and Everard, that a PhD in geology was what happens to a toddler who never progresses beyond making mud-pies but wants to feel intellectual about it, and climatology is the same thing except with less mud and no intellect?"

"I still might have wanted to fly in the spaceship!"

"You are jealous of Lieutenant Ford."

"Isn't that what I just said?"

"No," Radek said, trying desperately to restrain his grin. "You are jealous of Lieutenant Ford."

Rodney opened his mouth and then closed it again.

"You are being stupid," Radek said. "I think it is sweet. Very paternal. I do not think Ford had much of a father-figure. Since paternal is not what you want from Sheppard, I suggest you stop being stupid. It doesn't suit you."

"How did you know?" Rodney started fiddling ineffectually with a disassembled life-signs detector, casting awkward sideways glances.

"You mean aside from the fact that you cannot stop talking about him, care about what he thinks of you, and cannot stop watching his ass whenever he leaves the lab?"

Rodney's mouth tightened into a thin, hard line. "Is this going to be a problem? Because I have to say that while I might expect base prejudice from the military component of this expedition--"

"I'm gay," Radek said.

"You are?"

"Can we skip the incredulous stage of this conversation, please?"

"I thought you had a crush on Elizabeth."

"I do. Where did you hear that?"

"From, uh." Rodney finally seemed to have relaxed back into the conversation; his hands, at least, were waving emphatically again. "From the mousy one who's always underfoot and makes bad coffee."

"Miko is very sweet and you should be nicer to her. Also my crush on Elizabeth is pure and chaste. She is a brilliant strong woman who rules this expedition with a great kindness and a hand of steel."

"But."

"I do not really want to see her naked. Sergeant James Fisher, on the other hand? Him I want to throw down over my lab bench."

"Sergeant Fisher?" Rodney craned his neck sideways to see the Marine guarding the door to the jumper bay.

"Well, most of the Marines, really. They tend to be in very good shape."

"You're a little bit slutty, aren't you?"

"In my own defense, it is more in theory than in practice. Any other questions?"

Rodney cocked his head to the side like a curious puppy dog and made that low humming noise that he always made when alien programs suddenly became clear to him. He set his laptop aside and asked, "Wanna?"

Radek looked at Rodney, looked at his inquisitive eyes and wide, expressive mouth and deft, intelligent hands, and said, "Okay."

They ended up tangled together on a jumper bench, pants pushed open. Rodney's hands were exactly as deft as they looked, and Radek said "Oh, yes, that's very--"

Rodney said, "Oh, hmm, you like that, do you?"

"There is no need to be all smug about-- oh. Well. Yes."

"Why shouldn't I be smug? I'm obviously very good at--"

"Rodney, if you do not stop waving your hand about it put it back on my dick, I swear to God--" and then Radek got Rodney's pants shoved far enough down to cup his balls and roll them gently and slide his other hand over the head of Rodney's cock as Rodney jerked them both. Radek said, "No time now, no time, but next time I will blow you, make you completely stupid--"

"Hey, now, I'm never--" But Radek nuzzled where Rodney's neck met his broad shoulders, and licked along the contours of that firm, rounded muscle, and pulled the skin between his teeth, and Rodney even stopped being indignant.

They were still sprawled in a sweaty, messy, uncaring tangle when the roof of the jumper bay began to rumble again. "Huh," said Rodney. "You know, for a minute there, I almost completely forgot he was out cavorting with Ford."

***

"Ah! Major!" Radek called, just loudly enough that Rodney would hear around the corner and come join them. "Just who we wanted. There is the box. Enjoy."

Sheppard peered down into the 'Possibly cool; wait for Sheppard' box in the corner of the lab. "Wait," he said. "Is that?"

"It certainly looks like it," Rodney agreed, practically bouncing on his toes with excitement.

"Is that even possible?"

"Anything is possible," Radek said.

"Well, not anything. In fact, we've pretty conclusively proven that--"

"Yes, Rodney. But what the Major is thinking is probably possible, yes?"

"Probably," Rodney agreed, with the satisfied nod that said he thought he'd just won an argument.

"Cause that looks an awful lot like a lightsaber," Sheppard finished.

"Well, go ahead," Rodney gestured. "Pick it up. Think weapon-y thoughts at it."

Sheppard looked afraid to reach into the box, not that he could exactly be blamed for that. Radek reached in, picked up the slim black cylinder, and set it on the workbench in front of them. "If it is a light saber, both Rodney and I will be most interested and excited."

"Well, of course you will. I mean, lightsaber!"

"Yes, and if the Ancients actually have a mechanism to constrain the end of the beam--" Rodney's hands started waving a little faster.

"Revolutionize our understanding of Ancient forcefield--"

"Particularly the interactions between laser and --"

"Also the generation of--"

Sheppard's gaze was moving back and forth between the two of them. He looked slightly betrayed. Radek stomped on Rodney's foot.

"Also, seriously, lightsaber!" Rodney finished, without missing a beat.

"I'd have to stop sparring with Teyla, I think," Sheppard said. He didn't look too upset by the idea.

"Yeah. Can you imagine her, in the little thing that doesn't even count as a skirt, waving around..." Rodney and Sheppard were grinning at each other like lunatics. Radek felt the sudden need to sit down.

Sheppard said, "I'm not sure Atlantis is ready for that level of awesome."

"You could sell tickets," Radek suggested, and Sheppard and Rodney cringed in unison. Probably imagining Teyla's hypothetical reaction to that suggestion, he decided. But then Sheppard reached forward and closed his hands around the little black stick.

It started to whirr.

"Uh," Sheppard said. His shoulders slumped. Even his hair looked dejected. "I think it's a blender."

Sure enough, a taro root stick from Radek's secret snack stash, when fed into one end, came out the other end as a very neat pile of minced taro root. "Better luck next time," Radek said.

Rodney waved to the other end of the lab. "Just put it in the 'possibly a kitchen implement' box."

Sheppard crossed the lab to the box labeled, in Rodney's messy block caps, 'BORING,' and dropped in the not-a-lightsaber. "Well, you guys have fun. Call me next time you wanna dash my hopes."

"Wait, Sheppard!" Rodney called. "I'm sure we have..." But Sheppard was already gone.

***

Rodney rounded the corner to his lab at a dangerously fast clip and stopped dead. "You're here," he said. He seemed utterly baffled by this simple fact. Probably more tired than he would admit, Radek thought. "I thought the chemists wanted you for the thing with the sewage reclamation tanks."

"Yes," Radek nodded. "I delegated. Kavanaugh is doing it."

"Oh, great. So this time next week we'll all be hip-deep in improperly processed excrement, but hey! At least we can say it's Kavanaugh's fault."

"Probably. Also probably Kavanaugh will try to kill me in my sleep, so instead I am updating the security measures on private quarters."

"Good thinking," Rodney said, and collapsed into a chair.

"So." Radek smoothed his hands over the keyboard of his laptop, focusing on the regular patterns sliding under his fingertips. "Genii."

"That was rather satisfying, actually," Rodney answered. "You know, of all the alien civilizations we've met, this is the first to appreciate me for my intellect? They immediately saw that I was immensely more valuable as either ally or prisoner for my--"

Radek closed his laptop and went to stand right in front of Rodney's chair. "They kidnapped you, held you hostage, and tried to kill you, but it is okay because they did it for your brain?"

"Well, not okay as such, but certainly gratifying. You should have seen the looks on their faces when I laid out the design specifications of gun-type versus implosion-type devices. The hadn't even begun to solve the supercriticality problem, much less come up with two viable mechanisms within their current level of technology. It was almost--" Rodney closed his eyes and smiled-- "worshipful."

"Rodney?"

"Yes?"

"Is it true that you have just returned from an insane Mexican standoff with deranged and heavily armed aliens?"

"Yes."

"Okay." Radek settled down on his knees and reached for Rodney's fly. "I am going to suck you now, so if you could stop thinking about your own genius long enough to get it up, I would appreciate that."

"Oh," Rodney said, as Radek slid Rodney soft cock into his mouth and started to stroke it gently with his tongue. "When you put it that way, I suppose I can-- oh."

It wasn't the first time they had done this, but Rodney didn't seem to know what to do with his hands, letting them roam restless and light over Radek's cheeks, his hair, his shoulders. Something about the keyed-up adrenaline and Rodney's obvious exhaustion made it go fast, from soft to hard to tiny, stifled thrusts as his balls pulled up tight and his hands made desperate, rhythmic grasping motions at Radek's hair and the fabric of his jacket and his arms and he almost, but not quite, squeezed Radek's hand.

Afterwards, Radek hauled himself to his feet. He ignored his throbbing cock, but rubbed his sore knee, before tilting Rodney's face up and kissing him, soft and closed-mouthed but determined. Rodney gave a tiny jolt of surprise and then let out a groaning noise and kissed back, pressing Radek's mouth open and sucking on his lower lip. He kissed like he worked, one long enthusiastic run-on idea, until Radek finally pulled away.

"Well." Rodney said. "Thank you."

"Perhaps I was unclear. Now you will reciprocate."

"Oh. That would be-- yes, I would like--" Rodney glanced to Radek, settling himself against the lab bench, standing between Rodney's thighs, and then down and away, an awkward flush coloring his cheeks. "I mean, do you think maybe... your quarters?"

"Good idea. Much more comfortable. Grab the radios."

They walked out of the lab side-by-side, and Radek thought that perhaps this was actually going very well indeed.

***

Rodney was being a hazard to the smooth functioning of the engineering lab.

"Rodney, is there any possibility you will focus today? Wraith interface device is very important."

"I am focusing!"

"Sheppard stopped by your quarters again this morning, during his run?"

"Well, after his run. But he was still all, you know, sweaty. He wants me to come play that game again tonight."

"Ah. Good for you. He wants this tonight, yes? So there is no particular reason you cannot work today?"

Rodney spun and quite literally threw up his hands. "Look, it's not my fault! He's... you know. The thing. With the slouching. And the shoulders. And the hair. You must be blind!"

"Am not blind."

Rodney pressed his finger to his lips. "That would explain those most recent power distribution equations you submitted to me, actually. You being blind, I mean. Did you just not see the inefficiency of routing the South Tower's climate control through--"

"They were very good equations, and I am not blind. I see perfectly well, with the slouching and the hair and the hips and so on."

"Oh, hips. I forgot about those."

Radek groaned. "For god's sake, hand me the device."

"So you do see it! How can you see it and not want to sleep with him?"

"Of course I want to sleep with him." Denial didn't seem like a particularly useful strategy at that moment.

"Hah!" Rodney's flailing arm came perilously close to a shelf. Radek started surreptitiously moving breakable things.

"Are you going to actually run that diagnostic, or just wave your notebook around until you break something?"

"How do you stay so calm?" Rodney asked. "I mean, you just stand there while he comes into the lab and does the slouching and the lip-licking and the arm-crossing, and you keep that air of freakish calm, like you don't care at all. It's inhuman. Especially if you admit you want to sleep with him. How am I supposed to function? I can't work like this!"

Radek shoved his glasses up his nose and crossed his arms. "I also much want to sleep with Pavel Nedved. And yet somehow, Rodney, I go about my day."

***

Rodney was good with his hands and he was good with his mouth and he liked decoding, mastering, solving. He liked sitting back and watching, eyes wide and bright and intent, as he tweaked Radek's nipples raked his blunt fingernails over his thighs and rubbed the pads of his fingers over and around his ass without quite enough pressure, until Radek resorted to pounding his fist on the mattress to keep from begging. Rodney liked breaking it all down into tiny discrete pieces of stimuli, tongue along the contour of his hipbone, thumb pressing right behind his balls, hot breath across the head of his cock, and recombining them in each and every permutation. Radek fully expected to end up in bed one day attached to some kind of data collection device. He didn't much mind.

Rodney loved sitting back and evaluating and analyzing, but when Radek finally snapped and grabbed the back of his neck and hauled him in close, he lost his objectivity with dizzying speed. It was long, drawn out, considered, careful, until the moment they ended up plastered full-length against each other and the simple amount of skin contact shorted out Rodney's experimental circuits in favor of a hard, hot, fast fuck.

Afterwards, they tended to stay where they dropped. It wasn't cuddling, but it also wasn't not cuddling, limp and warm and sated while their brains came back online. They talked about engineering problems, mostly, except when they talked about theoretical physics. Rodney was good at picking up conversations right where he left off, sometimes lowering his mouth to Radek's cock mid-sentence and picking up the same sentence an hour later. Radek couldn't ever do that, but he was better than Rodney at letting problems stew while they fucked, having a different angle on them afterwards.

The third time they came back to Radek's quarters, he suddenly saw the conclusion to a series of naquadah reactor enhancement equations and had to wrench himself away from Rodney's fingers to scramble for a piece of paper before he lost them. After that, they kept a laptop nearby, just in case.

Once, memorably, Radek pulled out about two seconds before what would have been a thoroughly satisfying climax, leaving Rodney jerking and shuddering and visibly starting to work up a good head of annoyance, and said, "The ballast tanks!"

"My God," said Rodney. "The output function from the ocean salinity sensors is supposed to regulate--"

"The ballast intake, yes. We are idiots."

About forty-five minutes of frantic programming later, naked and smelling of sex and sticky with lube and still half-hard, they had managed to fully map the Ancients' own ballast and stabilization systems and chop four thousand lines of convoluted and inefficient patch-job code, somehow using the same keyboard without killing each other, nearly reading each other's minds.

Radek hit the final key to implement their work, and Rodney crowed and pumped his fist.

"Immensely satisfying," Radek agreed.

"Beyond satisfying. Finally."

"We should go down there and cross it off the unsolved mysteries whiteboard," said Radek, half rolling out of bed, heading towards the door completely unconscious of his nakedness.

"First the other thing."

"My God, yes," said Radek, and pushed Rodney down for the best fuck they'd ever had, bar none, long and slow and flying on a surge of accomplishment endorphins and delayed gratification.

"You know," said Radek, afterward, "A man broke up with me once for doing that."

"Are you insane?" Rodney said. "I have been worrying about that mystery output for a month," and kissed him.

***

They nearly had the Wraith interface device cracked, nearly had the thing licked for good and for real, when Rodney crowed in triumph and tossed it down on the bench a little more theatrically than was strictly warranted.

"Hah! Alien programming language number five! And I'm not even a programmer."

"Nice job, Rodney," came Sheppard's voice from near the door of the lab. He was standing there, slouched against the doorframe fiddling with a Wraith stunner. He looked like he only happened to be there, by some random chance, unpredictable Brownian motion. Insouciant; unconcerned; impenetrable.

Radek wondered how long he had been standing there, and when Rodney had become aware. The chances of convincing Rodney that there was more work to be done here were pretty slim; Rodney liked the theatrical breakthrough, the conceptual framework, the announcement of genius understanding. Finishing up the file-type conversion algorithms was not going to rate.

"Well, that is what they pay me for, isn't it? Genius above and beyond the call?" Rodney spun his chair around to face Sheppard and clicked his fingers emphatically. "And! Your puzzle. From Monday. It's bishop to B-4."

Sheppard pulled a Hershey's bar from his jacket pocket and tossed it to Rodney. "Okay," he said. "Two ropes burn non-uniformly for one hour--"

"As much as I'd like to take more of your stash, I have to admit I've heard that one. Also, it's my turn."

Radek sighed, pulled Rodney's laptop over, and started making a list of functions that were going to need to be fully documented before they could hope to download anything from a Wraith computer.

"Using only the numerals one, three, four, and six," Rodney was saying, "using each one once and only once, make twenty-four. Allowable operations are addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division."

They were standing at Rodney's smallest whiteboard, close together, brushing at hip and shoulder. Sheppard forgot to slouch as he reached up to wipe the last problem, hasty eight by eight grid sketched to one side, 'White forces stalemate' scrawled in his own hand next to it.

"Base ten? Parenthesis?" he asked, a crease starting to form between his eyebrows. That would be the "isn't this too easy?" crease, Radek decided, the one that said something this simple on the surface had to be bad.

"Yes and yes."

"One cubed times--"

"Did I list exponents in your allowable operations? Also, no concatenation of digits."

"Well, yeah, because that's trivial. Fourteen minus six..."

Rodney scrawled the new game on the board, pen moving in quick, impatient slashes. Sheppard watched him, standing a little back. He ducked his head, watching Rodney's back and shoulders with a sideways, almost shy gaze, a soft smile on his face. When Rodney turned back, Sheppard snapped out of it so fast Radek was afraid he would sprain something, resting his butt against the lab bench and plastering a smirk over that secret smile.

"If I get it in three days," Sheppard said-- drawled, lazy and careless-- "you don't call a single Marine a useless jarhead for a month."

"And if you don't, I get three more flying lessons." Rodney crossed his arms and jutted his chin out, ridiculously defiant.

That startled Sheppard; he went very, very still, tense and ready, and then said, "You really?"

"I'm tired of you backing out and sparring with Teyla instead. You said you'd teach me."

"Yeah, okay," said Sheppard, looking anywhere but at Rodney until his features had settled back into that smirk.

***

Six hours later Sheppard reported in with their biggest crisis yet.

The storm was good. Well, obviously the storm wasn't good, but Rodney said, "lightning," and then Radek said, "Lightning?" and then they ran to Elizabeth, no need to talk, just instant understanding. Rodney felt the need to fluff his spines and seize the credit, but it didn't matter because they were there, they clicked; it was a good plan and it fell into place like the tumblers of a lock and it worked and that should have left the taste of victory in their mouths for a week.

Instead, he returned to the city to find Rodney with a bandage wrapped around his arm. Rodney strutted and preened about getting the city through safely, but it was a brittle, surface pride. Radek had never actually seen Rodney when he didn't want to brag.

So they toured the lower levels for damage assessment and drew up plans for structural repairs and Radek waited for the dark cloud to lift. They hit the cracked tank of, sure enough, improperly treated sewage, and Rodney said, "Tell me, is Kavanaugh actually of any more use to this expedition than, for example, an untrained yappy dog?" but his heart wasn't in it.

"At least he didn't kill me in my sleep," said Radek, and Rodney didn't smile.

Sheppard was hard and cold and indrawn. The rumors said he'd killed sixty men, and when he looked at Rodney, Rodney's shoulders hunched like he wanted to hide and Sheppard's mouth tightened into a thin line that could have been contempt and could have been guilt.

It wasn't hard to read between the lines of the official reports and figure out how Rodney got that cut.

Rodney thought contempt, and Radek thought guilt, and Radek almost-- almost-- threw away Rodney's pride and went to Sheppard and said, "He cares what you think of him, you know."

***

Sheppard meandered into the lab and slouched his way along the wall to Radek. He looked like he would be a lot more comfortable ducking behind cover and wearing camouflage. Radek assumed that the fact that Rodney was at the other end of the room with his back turned was no coincidence.

"Zelenka," he said. "I need a hint."

Radek looked from Sheppard, leaning against the lab bench with his hands shoved in his pockets, to Rodney, spine stiffened suddenly at the sound of Sheppard's voice, hands stilled and gripping the naquadah generator power regulators he had been fiddling with.

"What can I help you with, Major?" Radek asked.

"A hint. You know." Sheppard waved a hand toward the far end of the lab. "The thing. With Rodney."

Radek pushed his glasses up his nose, glared, and said, "You are being so blind the Air Force should not allow you to fly even a paper airplane, so stupid it should be criminal, and you deserve no hint."

"Huh," Sheppard said. "Don't you think that's a little harsh for a math puzzle?"

"Oh. That." Radek shrugged. "The key is division. And you did not hear it from me, but it took Rodney three days when I first asked him."

"Okay. Thanks." Rodney was still gripping the regulator hard enough for his knuckles to turn white. Sheppard shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, not looking. "Hey, if there's something..." He looked twitchy and uncomfortable in his own skin, like every molecule of his being was straining to be somewhere else right now. It was hard to not just wrap him up and pet him and explain things to him in very small words.

"I'm sure you will see your team at lunch." Radek herded Sheppard back towards the door, and risked a pat on his shoulder on the way.

Rodney refused to leave the lab for lunch. When Radek ducked in to the mess to pick up a sandwich, Sheppard's head snapped up and he half rose before seeing for sure that Rodney wasn't right behind. Radek gave the most apologetic shrug he could.

When they got back to the lab the next morning, on the fourth day after Rodney set the puzzle, Sheppard had been there. He had scrawled on the whiteboard, "6 / (1 - 3/4). Flying lesson at lunch?"

"Go fly with him," Radek said.

***

"I bet he's really quiet during sex," Rodney said.

Radek rolled over and took three deep breaths, feeling his heart rate slowly come back down. The sweat cooling on his chest sent a twitchy shiver across his skin. He grabbed for the blanket.

"He's a pretty private person, and we already know he blushes easily."

"You know, Rodney, some people would find this conversation in these circumstances fairly tactless."

"Oh, right," said Rodney, awkwardly helping to pull up the blanket. "I, uh. I'm sorry?"

"I think he isn't quiet. Not with someone he trusts. I think probably he begs very well."

"Oh God," said Rodney.

"Also sucks cock very well."

"And likes it. And likes it from behind, I'll bet. Bent over something."

"Mmm. Those hips. Probably likes hard, from behind, with finger bruises on those hips."

"Nnngh," said Rodney, and rolled over to kiss Radek, grinding the very beginnings of a new hard-on against his hip.

"Maybe on his hands and knees," Radek said, tilting his head and squinting to try to see it clearly. "You behind him. My cock in his mouth. I think he would make a lot of noise that way."

Rodney scrambled to get his hands under the blankets, but Radek caught him around the wrists and kept talking. "Or other way around? Standing up, you behind him, me on my knees sucking him. I think definitely we could make him beg like that. We work very well together, I am told."

It didn't take much more talking to drive Rodney to inarticulate, desperate whining. It was the hottest hot button Radek had ever found, and probably the one he had the most fun pushing. All in all, it was a good thing Radek was not a jealous man.

"Are you worrying about his preferences?" Radek asked after the second round.

"What? No!"

"I was just wondering. You are so obsessed with the man, there must be some reason you do not simply walk up and ask him, so I thought maybe you were concerned about his orientation."

"I satisfied myself as to that rather simple concern, you know, a long time ago," Rodney said.

"Good. Because I am fairly sure the Major is as queer as..." Radek twitched his hand, looking for the words.

"Queer as a football bat? Gay as a plaid rabbit? Bent as a bobsled course?"

"I was looking for 'three dollar bill'," Radek said placidly. "But thank you for the idiom lesson."

"Just because he sleeps with men doesn't mean he sleeps with me," said Rodney. "Have you taken a look at the men he can pick from?"

"Under his command."

"Still. There's an attractiveness bracket issue. I would have to rely on him seeing past quite a lot of illusory defects and sleeping with me for my mind, and let's face it, as a strategy that generally hasn't worked out so well for me."

"I did it," said Radek, deciding not to go anywhere near the attractiveness bracket phraseology. Rodney probably had an entire lecture ready at the slightest prompting.

"No offense, Zelenka, but you're stuck down here in my bracket."

"Oh, no," said Radek, rolling out of bed and digging for his laptop. "I don't see how I could possibly take offense at that."

"Sarcasm doesn't suit you."

"Suits me very well. Approach him."

Rodney set his mouth in a stubborn line.

"Swear to God," Radek said, firing up the structural repair schematics, "this is getting ridiculous. Approach him or I will lose patience and bang your heads together."

***

Every time Rodney almost died he talked about it quite a lot. One would think that after eight months in a hostile galaxy his obsession with his own mortality would begin to wear off, but it still hadn't. Normally Radek didn't mind, but the time after the nanovirus was hard and by the fifteenth repetition of how everyone ought to be grateful he wasn't dead, Rodney snapped his last thread of good will.

Radek swore, loudly and creatively and in Czech, and slammed the heel of his hand into the lab table hard enough to make Rodney jump and twitch.

"Yes, Rodney, you almost died. I saw. I was there. I noticed. You seem not to have noticed, but I almost died too!"

It was three long, careful, controlled breaths before Rodney spoke. "I-- I know. I just--"

The silence stretched out.

Radek sat down hard. He took very careful stock of his own, still-alive, still-breathing body, and then leaned over and pressed his forehead against Rodney's side. Rodney's ribcage rose and fell, shakily. Radek pulled himself together and sat back upright.

"Looping the power in the gate to charge a ZPM," he said. "It won't work until we know a lot more about ZPM creation, but looping the power can get us a very impressive power surge with fairly small risk, if we can figure out how to channel it without damaging the control crystals. Should keep that on tap for a crisis one day."

A creased frown line appeared in the middle of Rodney's forehead. It took a slow count of five before he remembered. "My last words," he said.

Radek nodded.

"My last words were, possibly... a little bit... well, possibly, given that you were right there, and also certainly infected too, maybe it would have been better to..."

"Rodney," he said, as gently as he possibly could. "If I were the sort of man who required a great deal of emotional validation, I would not like you very much."

"But. But you don't," Rodney said, his voice wavering on a hopeful, questioning intonation.

"I am what you might call a rather self-contained person," said Radek. "Thankfully. If I desperately desired dying confessions of love and was looking to you for them, I would be in dire straits indeed."

Rodney opened and closed his mouth, then again, lips shaping an unvoiced word.

"You know that you are the most brilliant person I have ever met, and the most satisfying to work with, and that I am very glad we met, and that I do not say these things, mostly because your ego already has difficulty fitting through doors," said Radek. He reached out to give Rodney's hand a very gentle squeeze, at odds with his brusque tone. "Now maybe we talk about that gate power looping--"

"I really didn't care about that. It was something, you know, something to say that sounded appropriately..." Rodney trailed off. He looked miserable.

"Rodney," he said again, soft and urgent. "I am happy you survived."

"So am I," Rodney said.

Another long slow count of five, the two of them frozen at the lab bench, hands clasped.

"Well, obviously I'm happy I survived," Rodney said. "I meant the other thing, you know, I'm happy that you--"

Radek tipped his head back and laughed, low and husky, and dropped Rodney's hand to tidy away some paperwork. "I know," he said. "Let's go get lunch. Find your team."

***

"He's straight," said Rodney. He was pacing back and forth in Radek's quarters, faster than entirely safe in the small space, unable to hold still for even a moment. "I cannot believe we were both so incredibly wrong. He's straight."

"No, he's not," said Radek, perched on the bed and waiting patiently for the pacing to run its course.

"He had glowy space-sex with an Ancient brunette!"

"Fluke."

"Gay men don't sleep with women. Certainly not as a fluke."

"Bisexuals exist," said Radek. "You've claimed to be one. Also, gay men do sleep with women. I did. It wasn't bad at all, but definitely a fluke."

"He flirted with her for days!"

"Strange genetic phenomena. Ancient pheromones."

"He's straight," said Rodney again, and collapsed onto the bed next to Radek.

"If you had approached him like I told you to, you would know for sure."

"You're turning this into I told you so?"

"This has gone past ridiculous." Radek walked across the room and picked up his headset. He thumbed the switch for a private channel, ignoring Rodney's frantic hand-waving, and said, "Doctor Zelenka to Major Sheppard."

"What's up, Doc?" Sheppard drawled in his ear.

"Could you come by my quarters as soon as is convenient for you?"

Across the room Rodney was having a very quiet aneurism. Radek wouldn't have thought it was possible for Rodney to do that so silently.

Sheppard rang the chime at Radek's door and then leaned against the door frame, looking back and forth between the two of them, visibly puzzled. "What's all this about?" he asked, and Radek reached forward to catch him around the wrist and draw him into the room.

Rodney stood, inching towards the two of them, one hand half-raised like he was preparing to launch into speaking. Radek reached out to cup him behind the neck and pull him in for a kiss, quick and hot and dirty, a thrust of his tongue into Rodney's mouth and hard sucking slide over his lower lip. Then he slipped out from between them and pushed Rodney gently between the shoulder blades, propelling him closer to Sheppard.

He had never yet been offworld, never yet seen them in action, but Radek thought this must be how Sheppard and Rodney looked in the face of hostile natives. Rodney was moving, tiny, restless, twitchy shifts, blinking too much, indecision and fear written all over his body. Sheppard was very, very still, the type of stillness that didn't come from relaxation or sleep but only from taut alertness, a body holding a dozen competing plans of fight or flight in tension.

For a few short moments it looked like this would be his worst decision in long time, but then Sheppard gave a low noise and pressed Rodney to him, abrupt and full-bodied, hands clutching at his back. It was a few desperate, scrambling moments before they found each other's mouths and Sheppard closed his eyes and held tight, wrapped in Rodney's arms.

He only stayed that way for a moment, though, before he pulled back and looked over Rodney's shoulder at Radek.

"Is this--" he started. "I don't know--"

"I could stay," said Radek. "Or I can leave, if you will be more comfortable."

Sheppard looked back and forth between them again, fists clenched in the fabric of Rodney's shirt, caught in the headlights, and Radek was just about to say his goodbyes when Rodney said, "No."

"No," he repeated, talking to Sheppard but holding Radek's eyes. "He stays. I mean, maybe some other time, but this time he stays." His jaw was set in that stubborn line, daring the world to naysay.

Sheppard said, "That'd be good," and Radek stepped in close, tilting his face up to feel the way Sheppard kissed, open and expectant and soft.

Then Rodney caught Radek's eye and said, "Do you think we should," and Radek said, "I think that would be best," and Radek's hands went up to deal with Sheppard's radio and jacket at the same time as Rodney's hands went down to deal with his belt and holster.

Sheppard was gorgeous, the lines of his body lean and rangy, angular and peppered with scars but long and strong. It turned out that Sheppard did make noise, panting as he pushed himself back onto Rodney's fingers and giving tiny groans of frustration as he strained forward to wrap his lips around Radek's cock.

He did like sucking cock; liked it not with Rodney's precision and flare but with the enthusiasm and desperation of a man kept starving for years. And he did like Rodney's hands on his hips; he went shuddering still while Rodney stroked and carefully fitted his hands into place, and groaned out "Rodney" as Rodney gripped hard and pulled Sheppard backward onto his cock. Sure enough, they could make him beg, with Rodney sliding slow and implacable into him and Radek playing and pinching and licking and sucking.

First it was, "Oh, that's good, fuck me," then it was, "Jesus, harder," then "Radek, I swear to God if you don't suck me already," then "What the hell does a guy have to do to get fucked around-- oh." Then Rodney took a break, holding trembling still while Radek came around to kiss him, wet and dirty, and Sheppard tried to writhe and buck and whined, "You guys are in league, you're sadistic, would you move, I call shenanigans." But it was all worth it when that turned to, "Oh fuck, oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck," and he came down Radek's throat, slow and sweet and finally. He finished Radek with a long languid blowjob, lying limp and boneless as Rodney bit the back of his shoulder and came hard.

They stayed where they collapsed, Rodney in the middle. Sheppard maybe looked a little twitchy, but he was by the wall and as the minutes dragged on he seemed to relax into it. Then Rodney said, "Power distribution, East Pier transmission lines, right?"

Radek reached down for the laptop, immediately to hand like always, and wedged it up against a pillow between them. "We need to route around substations 7 and higher," he said, "and it is a pain in my ass, so you have a try."

Sheppard started to struggle up at that, disentangling himself from the sheet. "I should go."

"What? Wait, no." Rodney sounded legitimately stunned.

"You guys are working."

"But you're with us in the lab while we work all the time."

Radek leaned over to press him gently back down to the mattress. "I apologize, Major Sheppard, but there are structural crews repairing this area tomorrow morning, so this must be done. We would like it if you stayed." He finished it with a kiss, soft brush of lips, their first step from sex to familiarity. Sheppard let himself be pushed down, slowly, and watched Radek for a long few minutes. Then he rearranged himself around Rodney, one arm draped over his waist, and closed his eyes.

Sheppard drifted off to sleep for long enough to finish the power re-routing. Rather than get up to implement it, they switched over to naquadah optimization equations, slowly getting louder as Sheppard started twitching and stirring.

"So you know," said Rodney. "We have a new gadget. I thought maybe after the little lightsaber disappointment..."

"Does it look cool?" asked Sheppard.

Rodney flicked his gaze to Radek.

"It looks about six inches, cylindrical, silver," said Radek.

"And you want me to come try it out?"

"Well." Rodney shifted uncomfortably. "We already tried it out, when you were-- anyway. You might be able to do more with it than I can, though."

"What do you think it is?"

Radek shrugged. "So far, has proven very useful with the fastenings the Ancients use on their control panels. Also the screws we have been using on our own."

"You want me to come mess with a glorified screwdriver?" The bed creaked under Sheppard irritably shifting his weight.

"Is that a no?" asked Rodney, a grin spreading across his face.

"Pity, that." Radek took his cue and ran with it. "It's just that we think it's using sound waves."

Sheppard made a baffled noise, and then froze, and then laughed. "Seriously?" he said. "No, I mean, really? Seriously, sonic--"

"Well, don't get too happy," said Rodney as he clicked the laptop shut and nestled farther down in bed. "With your luck, it might just be an Ancient nose-hair trimmer or something."

Radek tucked the laptop away again and rested his head in the crook of Rodney's shoulder. Rodney's breathing was slow and regular, and he thought for a while that they were all drifting back to sleep.

"You're seriously trying to court me with a sonic screwdriver."

"Will it work?" asked Rodney.

"You're supposed to give me the presents before I go to bed with you." There was the sound of slow, wet kissing above Radek's head. "Yeah, it'll work," said Sheppard.

Radek asked, "Even if it turns out to be a nose-hair trimmer?"

Sheppard slung his arm farther over Rodney to lay his hand on Radek's chest and laughed again.
Tags: genre: slash, genre: threesomes and moresomes, pairing: mckay/sheppard, pairing: mckay/sheppard/zelenka
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