Pairing: John Sheppard/Radek Zelenka
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Notes: Just a short eptag for Adrift/Lifeline
Summary: The complicated rituals of hurting and comforting.
"Fucking micro-asteroids," John said as soon as the door shut and locked behind him. Radek watched as John glared indiscriminately around the room and then started pacing, like a caged animal. Or more likely, like someone desperately tired who'd been taking advantage of coffee from the Apollo. The room was a mess, everything from the desk and shelves pitched onto the floor, and John cleaned as he went, putting everything back in place with annoyed intensity.
Radek's first impulse was to wave John's concern over his injury off. It was not, after all, the first time he'd been hurt on the job, and even in the short time they'd been sleeping together John himself had... well. But John was despite everything still alive, and Radek needed to take his pills for the pain, and good people were dead. Elizabeth was dead or worse, and John was critiquing his decisions over and over in his head. Radek supposed that self-castigation at least felt like doing something instead of nothing, but John could put his empty energy to better use.
"Fucking micro-asteroids," Radek agreed in Czech, and watched John frown as he puzzled the words out. "Go see if my engineering team has the plumbing working yet." He leaned on the crutch as he made his way to the bed, where he sat heavily and dug into his trouser pocket for the packet of medicine.
"It's not a salt ocean," John said, looking away from Radek abruptly, turning on his heel and heading for the cramped Ancient bathroom. "At least, not the same composition as Earth's ocean, or Lantea's."
Radek knew that, of course he did. Any data that mundane always came to him before Rodney. Radek had perhaps arranged things so that was so. He liked knowing Atlantis' inner workings as no one else did.
But Radek was coming to know the way John worked as well. There were things John would never say, feelings he could not put into words, not even to say what he enjoyed about a film or hated about his job. John had come to him and followed him here, after using the people he cared for -- loved, even -- as nothing more than tools and pieces in a game strategy, playing them and losing them and pressing on relentless towards the goal of survival.
Radek thought the decisions John made had been both right and monstrous. A normal person might turn to their lover for comfort, but here John was, pacing and reaching out desperately with nothing but small talk about salt water.
Who cared about the water?
"Hot and cold running," John announced, sounding surprised as he walked out and handed Radek a cup, gesturing at the pills. Radek popped them out and swallowed them down obediently. "You want a shower?"
Radek shook his head. "Stitches," he said, and shrugged like it didn't matter.
John grinned at him. "I brought plastic wrap."
"I have always wanted a kinky boyfriend," Radek said, and raised an eyebrow at John. "Come in with me and wash my hair. It feels full of dust."
"Yeah, well," John said, and stripped off his jacket and t-shirt fast.
Undressing while John watched was awkward. Radek saw his face tighten when he saw the bandages and the bruises Radek had from being tossed around. The nurse had been thorough about cleaning his wound, so he didn't think he needed to worry about infection, but the very clean hole through his leg throbbed with every step.
Like probably everyone who worked with spacecraft, Radek had always thought zero gravity would be fun to experiment with sexually. Not so much fun to watch his own blood bead up and float away, and watch John crush his own fear and worry down.
Now John was gentle as he covered the bandage with plastic and taped it secure. Radek ran his fingers through John's hair as he knelt in front of him, and John jerked in a barely-suppressed flinch. Radek would think about that... later.
Of course, John liked that Radek didn't want John to talk or cry or make grand emotional declarations. And what Radek liked was that John was the fusser, in his own quiet repressed way. The inequality worked for them. John was uncomfortable having his birthday celebrated; Radek appreciated presents. John tensed up at the barest hint of a massage, but had no objections to rubbing Radek's shoulders or feet. Being washed, even in the infirmary, embarrassed John to the point of silent rage, but in the shower his fingers were strong and soothing as he worked the shampoo into Radek's hair, and he spent an indecent amount of time sliding the washcloth over Radek's skin, carefully skirting bruises and scrapes.
Radek didn't realize he was falling asleep until he woke up with a start, John's arms around him and John saying right in his ear, "Concuss yourself and I'll fucking kill you."
"Such the romantic," Radek said, and leaned his forehead against John's shoulder, just for a minute. "Trying to sweet-talk me into bed." Suddenly, the hot water was gone and a towel was rubbed roughly against his back. "You never bring me flowers. You take me on dates, I get shot."
John got the towel wrapped around Radek's hips one-handed and kept his arm there for steering purposes, aiming Radek towards the bed. "At least I'm easy."
"Easy, ha," Radek muttered, letting John stretch him out on the sheets, unwrap his bandages, and tuck him in under the quilt. "Deluded, more like it." He caught John's hand, doing a pretty good job of hanging on despite the drugs and the exhaustion. "Lie down. Just for... just until."
"Losing the English there." John blew his breath out sharply, like he was frustrated, and Radek shut his eyes. But then John smacked the lighting panel, turning the lights off, and shoved at Radek's shoulder. "You could budge over."
"Stop," Radek said, mostly asleep but trying to enunciate clearly, "being a pain in the ass."
John snorted. He settled in with one arm slung over Radek's stomach and his other curled over his head. The last thing Radek heard, warm and safe and fading out of consciousness, was John quietly wishing him a good night, his Czech scandalously rude and so familiar Radek felt his heart rise with the feeling of home.