Spoilers: Through Trinity.
Summary: "Well," Colonel Sheppard said dryly, "I guess that answers the questions 'is it really Rodney' and 'is he going to be OK'."
through a glass darkly
Rodney threw another stone through the open Stargate, counting off the seconds. He reached down into a dwindling pile of stones, and picked up a fresh batch, trying for an awareness of his surroundings like Teyla or Ronon had. It was difficult with one eye swollen shut.
The woods seemed empty. They always seemed empty, even before an ambush, he reminded himself.
He finished his volley and reached down, mentally ticking off the seconds. "Come on, Radek," he muttered, voice raw. "Figure it out."
Rodney stumbled as he followed the MALP through the Stargate, staring at nothing and everything. Home, he thought, and blinked rapidly, concentrating hard to keep the moisture from welling out. There they were at the foot of the stairs, faces he'd prayed to see again during his long internment, looks of shock and disbelief on Lt. Colonel Sheppard and Elizabeth's faces, Radek's expression changing too rapidly for Rodney to process.
"It is him," he heard Elizabeth say as the room pitched and swam around him. "Thank God."
Strong arms supported him and he sagged against Ronon, Teyla grasping his other side. "Medical team to the Gate room!" Elizabeth cried, but his eyes sought out Radek's, locking gazes with an almost audible click.
"Thank you," he rasped, and the last thing he saw before darkness claimed him was the ear-to-ear smile on Radek's face.
Bright lights woke him, harsh and promising new rounds of painful questioning. Rodney pulled back, flailing, but the light switched off and a familiar brogue greeted him. "It's all right, Rodney, you're back among friends," Carson soothed. "But you'll have to let me take a look at you, to assess your condition."
"Carson," he croaked. "Home."
Carson glanced away and Rodney followed his gaze, not surprised to see Radek, Elizabeth, and John looking like they'd camped out at the foot of his bed. Radek's laptop sat perched on the edge of a nearby table, exactly as if he'd just shoved it there. "Hey!" Rodney said, indignant. "Equipment! Hard-to-replace equipment!" Radek secured the laptop as Colonel Sheppard and Elizabeth chuckled. Carson continued to poke and prod him.
"Well," Colonel Sheppard said dryly, "I guess that answers the questions 'is it really Rodney' and 'is he going to be okay'."
"Of course it's me, who else would it-you know what? Don't answer that. Hey!" he said to Carson, busy with his fingers against Rodney's skin. "Can we save the more personal aspects of the exam until we have a little privacy?"
"Too right," Carson said, and turned to the group. "I know we're all glad that Rodney is back from the dead-"
What?! Rodney thought, shocked even though he knew how badly he'd been hit in their attempted flight from the natives of Dayon, who had decided to try and force them to yield up the secret of their advanced technology and weaponry. Between the fogginess from the drugs they'd been fed, the large amount of blood that had poured from his wound, and the decided lack of a rescue mission, Rodney had suspected he had been presumed dead.
It was one thing to think it, another to be faced with his friends months later, to know his 'death' had been accepted and grieved and ultimately dismissed.
"Thank you," Carson was saying as they filed out, Radek the last to leave. Carson practically shoved him out the door. Radek's eyes never left Rodney, intense and dark.
"Rodney, I'll be back," he promised, standing firm in the doorway and batting away Carson's hands. A broad, happy smile lit his face for an instant. "It's good to have you back, pr(íteli." Ignoring Carson, he turned and walked out.
Rodney was left with a warm feeling that lifted a corner of his mouth as he stared at the doorway. "They missed me," he muttered, as Carson returned to his pokes and prods.
"Yes, we missed you, you stupid git," Carson said, tsking over various marks and half-healed wounds. "I don't think the department's recovered yet, and of course you know Radek took the news very hard."
Rodney gave him a look, equal parts distrust and curiosity. "Why of course?"
Carson glanced up at him and began probing the bruised area around Rodney's swollen and closed eye. "Because when you're here, the two of you are inseparable, and when you're not, Radek's in charge and he hates that. God above, did they leave any part of you unmarked?"
Rodney bit back a hiss as Carson's gentle fingers brushed a particularly painful spot. "Not really, no. But thanks for bringing up the subject of about a thousand future therapy sessions."
Carson leaned back, eyes solemn. "Well, at least you're around to have those therapy sessions. Though I'm going to insist on getting you strong and healthy again, first."
Rodney blanched. "How bad is it?"
"Not bad, considering. Too many lacerations and contusions to count; you'll need quite a few stitches. We'll need x-rays to confirm, but I suspect a few cracked ribs, that sprained ankle you already know about, and of course there's the gun shot wound, though that's long healed. You still might need therapy to regain strength in that arm. And you're dehydrated and malnourished, but that's the easiest to fix."
Rodney shifted, trying to find a comfortable position on the infirmary bed. "How soon until I get out of here?"
Carson sighed, finding a vial and preparing a shot while Rodney watched, widening his good eye. "Shouldn't be too long, Rodney," he said as he injected the drug into the IV feeding into Rodney's arm. "After all, wouldn't want to annoy the nursing staff too badly."
"Hey, I thought you said everyone missed me." Rodney said, blinking back exhaustion. Carson patted his shoulder opposite the gunshot wound.
"We did, Rodney, we did. But it's not wise to irritate the people who have the choice of where to give you the shots."
Rodney tried to come up with a response, but before he could, darkness claimed him.
The next few days passed in alternating waves of drug-fog and pain for Rodney. Even the pain was a welcome change from the past two months of beatings, questions, and forced touching of Ancient equipment. He would wake partially to see either his friends or the medical staff. Radek was the one constant, always hovering in the background.
"Radek?" he asked him, during one of his more lucid moments.
"Right here, Rodney," came the reassuring answer.
He frowned as a half-buried memory tugged at him. "Someting about a crash cart?" he asked, and was surprised to see a look of distress cross Radek's face. The Czech cleared his throat, shifting nervously in his seat beside Rodney's bed.
"Yes, well..." he began, and stopped, eyes fixed on Rodney's, and fear tinging the edges of his expression.
"A small fright you gave us, Rodney," Carson said, moving to the other side of the bed. "It seems the drugs the Dayonites had you on were still strongly in your system. There was a bad interaction with the pain meds, but you pulled through."
"Obviously," Rodney said. "I take back all that stuff about medicine being a real science. When can I get out of here?" The words were no sooner out of his mouth than Carson pushed a thermometer in, partially, Rodney was sure, to stop a new tirade. He glared at the Scot, letting his expression continue for him.
"Yes, well, we weren't about to lose you twice," Carson said. "Radek alone would have flayed me alive."
Rodney turned to look at his quiet second, who was uncharacteristically blushing hard.
"Hrm," Rodney said, earning a glare from Carson that told him if he screwed up the thermometer's reading, he wouldn't like where the next one would be inserted. He was surprised when Radek reached out, giving his hand a quick squeeze before standing abruptly and leaving without a word.
Rodney turned puzzled eyes on Carson, who took the opportunity to remove the thermometer, noting the results on Rodney's chart. "Two months without you, thinking we'd lost you for good, makes a person realize how much one takes for granted," Carson said, eyes never leaving the chart. "Radek did an admirable job, taking your place, but no one felt your absence more keenly. Rodney," he said, piercing the scientist with his gaze, "go easy on the man. He's had the worst time of it, next to you, of course."
"Of course," Rodney echoed, still processing everything through the layer of drugs in his system. He felt slower, dulled, as though he were missing the key piece of information that was so obvious, he'd kick himself for it later. "When am I ever hard on him?"
Carson merely snorted, putting away the chart. "Good night, Rodney," he said, voice sharp, but his hand on Rodney's shoulder was gentle.
"Check," Radek said, moving his bishop. Rodney looked up from his laptop and glanced at the board, moving his knight to take Radek's bishop.
"Check and mate," Rodney said, watching Radek's face closely. "You know," he said, keeping his voice casual, "if you keep coddling me like this, I'm going to get truly cranky."
"Coddling?" Radek's voice held a touch of outrage.
Rodney hmmed. "You haven't played this poorly against me since, well, let's see, never. You bring me the easy problems from the lab, speak only of the silliest gossip. Yes, I'd call that coddling; what would you call it?"
Radek's eyes flashed, sending a jolt of relief through Rodney. Even through the fog of drugs, he'd been aware of the careful treatment; only Carson and one of the nurses had treated him like his old self, and after the treatment had stretched into days, he'd started to worry. Was there some damage that they weren't telling him about, some injury to his brain that drugs or the thugs who'd beaten him daily created? Until other people began to treat him like they used to, he didn't think he could relax.
"Fine," Radek snapped, quickly resetting the board and moving first. "There shall be no more 'coddling' of one Rodney McKay, no attempt to let him know how missed he was, how grateful for his return we are."
"That's more like it," Rodney said, beginning his attack. For a long moment, there was only strategy and execution, no idle chitchat between them. Rodney frowned, finding it harder to gain a foothold in Radek's territory.
"Check," Radek said, challenge making his eyes sparkle. Rodney smiled.
"Enjoy it while you can, Zelenka," he said. "Once I'm back on my feet, I'll be wiping the floor with you."
"Strong words," Colonel Sheppard interjected. He stood in the doorway, customary slouch a little stiffer than normal, looking at the two of them with a small, tight smile.
"Colonel," Rodney said, surprised. While others had stopped in often, Radek practically every spare moment, Sheppard had been conspicuous in his absence.
"Rodney," Sheppard greeted. "Dr. Zelenka, if you don't mind?" Radek nodded, swiftly breaking down the chess set.
"Another time, Rodney," Radek said, pausing to squeeze his shoulder before leaving
"No more coddling!" Rodney called after him, then turned back to Sheppard. "You have no idea how creepy that is."
"Well, it's not every day you get someone back from the dead," Sheppard said. "Listen, Rodney. There's something I've been meaning to show you, to explain why we didn't come after you-"
"It's all right, Colonel. Lorne was already here to apologize. He told me he felt responsible, that if it were you, you would have realized that the body he spotted wasn't mine." It felt strange to talk about it, almost as though they were talking about someone else.
Colonel Sheppard cleared his throat, holding up a CD case. "I wanted to show you the footage we managed to pull from the jumper."
"Wait - you can do that? I didn't know it took footage." Rodney fixed his attention on the unknown ability of the jumper, finding it easier to think about than what the footage might reveal.
"Yeah, we discovered it after Lorne's run. We can talk about that later. Rodney," Sheppard said, his gaze intent, "I really need you to look at this."
"I really, really don't want to," Rodney said softly, refusing to meet Sheppard's eyes.
"I know you don't," Sheppard said, voice gentle. "But you might be able to tell us something that we missed. I can't leave anyone behind again, Rodney."
He turned to meet Sheppard's eyes, lips pressed together tightly. "You wouldn't," he told Sheppard, silently pleading. "It's not in your nature. Not without good cause."
Sheppard loaded the CD into Rodney's laptop. "So tell me I had good cause. Please."
After a long moment trying to stare Sheppard down, Rodney nodded and hit play.
Rodney bit back a groan when Radek walked up to his bed a short while later. He was still raw and ragged from viewing the footage Sheppard brought. He couldn't admit how shaken he was from what he had seen: a broken and twisted form wearing his clothes, growing closer and closer as the jumper approached, then the sound of proximity alarms and Lorne's tense voice as he called instructions to Stackhouse in the weapons seat. The ground was obscured by a wall of flame as the jumper twisted and avoided a near-miss from a weapon that scoured the area they'd been approaching. He closed his eyes, seeing the same thing he had every time he'd closed his eyes since Sheppard had left: flames enveloping a body that he could swear was his own.
"Rodney?" The touch of Radek's hand was hot against his own and he jerked back, glaring as his mind's eye saw flames flicker.
"What?" he snapped, still glaring at the other man. Radek blinked, pulling his hand back, and looked down at the laptop he carried.
"I thought we could go over duty roster-"
"You know, I think I prefer being drugged and tortured every day. Can I go back to that, please?" He hated the way Radek's eyes flashed, first with hurt and then with anger, his lips thinning. "Radek-"
"I am sorry, Doctor McKay, that I am taking you at your word, and trying not to coddle you any more. Of course I should expect a return to insufferable ass that we mistakenly have been missing these past few months! What the hell was I thinking?" Radek stood, anger so plain to see Rodney was amazed the smaller man wasn't vibrating from it.
"Radek!" Rodney said, in the voice that, no matter how much of an ass his staff might think him, always got them to stop and listen. Radek wasn't stopping. Inwardly, Rodney cursed himself and the Czech, who had grown to be the one who could stand up to him. Rodney struggled to rise, hissing in pain when his ribs complained. "Radek!" There was a note of desperation in his voice now, but it didn't seem to even slow Radek. Trying to manage the wires and tubes attached to him, Rodney attempted to stand, stumbled as the pain from his ankle and foot slammed into him, and crashed to the ground.
The next few moments were lost in a blur of pain, the sound of the med staff rushing to right him, place him back on the bed and check on his various tubes and wires, poking the places that were already a riot of pain. Finally most of the staff backed away, leaving him faced with an annoyed-looking Carson, whose lips thinned in that "you're so about to get a lecture" way that sometimes featured in Rodney's less-than-pleasant dreams. "We're trying to get you whole again, Rodney," he began.
Rodney waved a hand weakly. "I know, I know. Give me a laptop and let me have some peace, will you?"
"We can't get you healthy if you keep trying to do things your body isn't ready for."
"Which is why I need the laptop. Really, Carson, my I.Q. is higher than yours; even if that wasn't the case, the pain I'm in tells me I shouldn't do that again. Laptop?"
"Frankly, Rodney, I'm much closer to sedating you than giving in to your demands."
"Which wouldn't exactly be wise, given the extreme number of drugs I've been subjected to in the last few months, not to mention that you're currently trying to wean me off of them, which is why you haven't given me a shot already; beside which, even if you did, I'd be mumbling 'laptop, laptop, laptop' in my sleep, so could you kindly find me my laptop, please?"
Carson sighed, and nodded to his PA, hovering nearby. She gave him a sympathetic grin and disappeared. "All right, Rodney, you can have your blasted laptop. But just know, if I find you trying to get out of bed before you've been cleared to again, I will sedate you." Not bothering to say goodbye, Carson turned and exited, his irritation showing in the stiffness of his gait.
Receiving his laptop from the less-than-accommodating PA, Rodney eased himself up into a sitting position and pulled the swinging table to him. Frowning slightly, he began to tap.
Ninety minutes later, Radek stood in the doorway, face set in angry lines. Rodney stared at him, willing him to listen. "Radek, I'm sorry," he said, watching as emotions flickered across Radek's face – anger, surprise, and a few things that shut down too quickly for Rodney to be sure of what he saw. Flushing at the response, Rodney squirmed. "Look, I...Colonel Sheppard was here. He showed me... Anyway. I was still dealing with, with that. And again, I'm sorry." He raised his chin, schooling his features against the still-distant look in Radek's eyes.
After a long moment, Radek seemed to deflate. Shaking his head, he glared, but Rodney could tell there was no heat in it. "And this is why you see fit to email me every five minutes, message me every two, and finally take over my computer?"
Rodney jutted his chin out further. "Yes. And you really should work on your security methods; it was ridiculously easy to do."
Radek snorted and moved further into the room, dropping into the chair by the bed that Rodney had started to think of as his. "You're impossible, McKay. My encryption is fine. No one else on Atlantis could break it."
Rodney smiled. "Point, but still..."
As Radek drew breath to argue amiably with him, Rodney let himself relax.
Rodney shifted, trying to get across the lab as quickly as possible without spending a lot of time on his injured ankle. Carson had said it should be strong enough for him to walk on, but it still hurt as much as it had when he'd managed to make his way back to Atlantis. He sighed, then winced as the deep breath triggered pain in his side. He grabbed onto the edge of the counter, closing his eyes and trying to breathe through the pain, a difficult task when every breath wanted to trigger a new wave of hurt.
Something bumped against his hand and he opened his eyes to see a cane resting against the counter, Radek's back as he walked briskly away. He opened his mouth, wanting to say something, but found himself at a loss.
Finally he managed, "I'm not going to have Dr. Michaels come limping after me, am I?"
"No, Rodney, you are not." From the tone, he could tell Radek was smiling.
"That's good, because, you know..." He traced the handle, oddly touched. "You know, I don't know what to say."
"Thank you is traditional," Radek said gruffly, and Rodney knew he'd rather the subject be dropped.
Using the cane to help him make his way over to Radek's work station, he placed a hand on Radek's shoulder. "Thank you," he said softly. Radek looked at him, surprise on his face making Rodney realize how seldom he simply said what he felt, without vitriol or sarcasm. Seeing the grin on Radek's face, he knew the man expected a sarcastic rejoinder.
"You're welcome, Rodney," was all he got in return, but it warmed him. Radek turned back to his work, and Rodney contemplated his own, knowing he'd just about reached his limit for the day. A few half-hearted attempts at work later, he gave up completely.
"And Radek-" he began, then paused. Radek looked over at him, inquisitive. "Thank you," Rodney said finally. "For figuring it out. At the," he gestured, making a lopsided circle with his hands, "the gate."
Radek blinked, nodding thoughtfully. "You took a chance that I would be nearby, and would realize you threw the stones so they tapped out pi to ten places," he said, raising his eyebrows. "That...was a lot of faith."
Rodney's smile was broad as he made his way over to Radek side. Setting the cane aside, he clasped Radek's shoulder. "If anyone could, I knew it would be you." Radek stared at his hand, expression unreadable, and Rodney felt a charge between them. There'd been something different, some weight between the two of them since his return, but he figured that if Radek had wanted him to bring it up, he would have made it known.
The unguarded look in Radek's eyes as he met Rodney's was a pretty clear sign. He leaned in, closing the distance between the two of them, and Rodney let him, knowing what Radek was doing, knowing what came next. Radek's lips on his were a soft touch, slightly chapped and sending the same spark he'd felt through him, but intensified. He leaned forward, eager for more, and shifted his weight.
Onto his bad leg. Rodney couldn't stop the whimper as he grabbed for purchase, would have fallen if Radek hadn't reached under and held him, surprisingly strong and braced against the counter. "Easy, Rodney," Radek said, voice a little rough. "I would not like it if we had to explain to Carson why you ended up in infirmary, again."
Rodney gave a short chuckle, embarrassment coloring it. "I think the nursing staff would revolt," he said as Radek pressed him into a chair. He glanced down at Radek's hand on his shoulder, feeling the heat of it through his shirt. Radek cleared his throat and started to pull his hand away, but Rodney caught it, placing his hand over Radek's.
"Where were we," he said, not quite a question.
Radek swallowed, eyes dark and intense. "I..." he began, and licked his lips nervously. Rodney made a strangled noise and stared, transfixed by the brief dart of the tip of Radek's pink tongue. Surprise and realization lit Radek's face, and he smiled, bright and joyful. "You want this," he said.
It was Rodney's turn to swallow, feeling vulnerable and exposed. "If you do," he said, trying for nonchalance, knowing he failed. Radek's hand shifted to cup Rodney's neck, his thumb making small movements back and forth along Rodney's jaw. He leaned in and kissed Rodney again, more firmly, and Rodney lifted his hand to mirror Radek's pose, cupping his neck and keeping him close. He groaned, parting his lips and touching his tongue to Radek's lip. Radek's tongue met his own and Rodney was reeling, trying to process this new jolt of knowledge as they kissed and stroked each other, lost in the idea that Radek wanted him.
It was new and confusing information, something that had never occurred to him, but Rodney was willing to work with it, to see if their synergy carried over into this new world.
His hand was under Radek's shirt, brushing against his nipple and making him shiver, when awareness of his surroundings hit. Reluctantly he broke their kiss, resting his forehead against Radek's. "You know, this would be much more comfortable in one of our quarters," he said, breathless and trying to keep his voice steady.
Radek's breath caught and he nodded. "Ano, it would. Mine are closer," he noted.
Rodney snorted, but they were already separating, and he stood, leaning on the cane. "By like eight or ten feet," he noted.
Radek's smile was part delight, part pure evil. "As I said, closer," he said, and shifted, his erection outlined by his pants. Rodney stared, feeling a newly interested twitch in his own. Taking a deep breath, he started walking.
"I'm never one to argue with a good idea," he said, ignoring Radek's snort of derision. They walked to Radek's door, saying nothing, but Rodney couldn't help but sneak glances at Radek, grinning when he saw the other man doing the same. Time stretched, measured in the insistent thrum of his pulse through his veins, resonating in his cock, a delicious ache that Rodney couldn't wait to ease.
Finally they were inside Radek's quarters, small and functional, even the clutter arranged in systematic piles. Rodney hesitated, looking between the bed and the chair, until Radek shook his head and gently pushed Rodney towards the bed, saying, "I thought you wanted to be more comfortable? Trading chairs makes no sense."
"Right, right," Rodney said absently as he crossed the short distance, settling onto the bed. Radek paused, staring at him, and Rodney felt a flush of self-consciousness at the scrutiny.
"Is a sight I never thought to see," Radek said, smiling tightly. "You on my bed."
"Honestly, I'd never expected to be here," Rodney admitted.
One corner of Radek's mouth lifted. "Until you...went missing, neither did I," he admitted, sitting beside Rodney and placing a hand on his thigh, near his knee. Rodney kept himself from jumping, reminding himself why he was there. Radek's eyes were dark and full of lust, leaning in for another kiss as his hand slid higher. Rodney leaned into the kiss, hand cupping the back of Radek's neck and fingers entangling in his hair. The kiss built between them, harder and hot and wet, until Rodney had to break it to gasp for air and Radek took advantage, pulling Rodney's shirt off and then his own, taking out both their radios and laying them on the table beside the bed, nestling his glasses there as well. Strong hands traced Rodney's torso, teasing his nipples and making their way to his shoulders, pushing him back onto the bed. Rodney hissed as his ribs complained about the transition from upright to lying down, making Radek pause. Rodney kept going, losing the contact with Radek but knowing it would hurt more to stop.
He settled back on the bed and gave Radek a small smile, tinged with embarrassment. "It hurts worse when I'm transitioning," he explained, slightly breathless both from the pain and their earlier efforts. Radek nodded, some of the tension leaving his eyes as he leaned in, hovering over Rodney.
"This means we do this carefully, then," Radek said, making Rodney smile. Radek reached down and traced the line of Rodney's jaw, his expression caught partway between vulnerable and intense concentration. Rodney couldn't stop a small noise from escaping, closing his eyes against the intensity of his response to the touch, the look, the nearness of Radek. He gasped as he felt Radek's mouth on his collarbone, kissing and nipping at the skin there, spreading fire. His skin felt sensitive and almost too tight, and everything seemed connected to his cock, hard and confined in his pants. He lifted his hand, opening his eyes to find Radek's back, and stroked down it, tracing the line of it and earning a groan from Radek, the sound resonating against the skin of Rodney's neck, where Radek was doing positively obscene things with teeth and tongue. Radek countered by placing his hand on Rodney's hip, tracing patterns in the pants, finally resting on top of Rodney's cock, stroking its outline. He arched into the touch, moaning in a wanton manner that increased Radek's movements, making it impossible for Rodney to regret the brazen noise.
"Radek, please," he panted, pain forgotten as Radek found the spot behind Rodney's ear and kissed it. "I don't want to – you're going to make me – oh God, please, now," he pleaded, and as always Radek seemed to know exactly what he meant, unzipping his pants and working his cock free. He gave Rodney one last kiss, wet and demanding and Rodney was surprised he didn't come from that alone, feeling his blood pound even harder in his veins as Radek broke the kiss and shifted downward, one hand on Rodney's hip and the other grasping the base of Rodney's cock and placing a soft kiss on the head there. Rodney groaned, keeping himself still by reminding himself that movement most likely equaled pain, felt Radek's hand at his hip tighten at the noise. Radek paused to trace the outline of Rodney's cock with his tongue, ending up just below Rodney's head on the underside of his cock. He sucked at the spot, making Rodney moan as his nerves lit up. His hands found Radek's head and cupped it, fingers entwining in the man's flyaway hair. "God, please, Radek," he begged, desperate, and Radek finally opened his mouth, taking Rodney in, the wet and the heat and the suction exquisite in its perfection. Rodney closed his eyes and tried not to move, not to press Radek closer, but the effort cost him much. He cried out as Radek took more of him in, still sucking, tongue working the underside of his cock, the sensations jumbling and tangling and sending fire through him, from the base of his spine out, and he had barely enough time to clutch at Radek to warn him to pull back before he was coming, hot and glorious and Radek sucked and swallowed and made him babble words he barely recalled.
As the rush from his orgasm faded, the pain from his labored breathing hit. It wasn't nearly as bad as it had been, he reflected, feeling Radek settle carefully beside his good side. He turned his head and met Radek halfway, smiling into the kiss that was still hungry and filled with want. The taste of himself on Radek made him wish he were healthy and able to reciprocate, but his ribs wouldn't let him. Radek pressed against him, hips rocking, and Rodney pulled him closer, kissing him with a fierceness he wouldn't have imagined possible scant weeks before. Radek groaned into the kiss, eyes closed and face a picture of desire that pierced Rodney. One of his hands slipped lower, sliding along Radek's hip and cupping the man's ass through his pants. He worked Radek's pants off, breaking the kiss and leaning his forehead against Radek's.
"I can't, I'm not, uh, I...but definitely, when I'm healthy, I will. If you still want to," he stammered, as Radek pulled back a little, mouth thinning. "Oh, no," he hurried to assure the Czech, reaching inside his pants and stroking the smooth, hard cock, "I want to, I just can't, my ribs. Do you have any...?" he asked, knowing he was blushing.
Radek was moving, tiny thrusts into Rodney's hand. "Drawer," he said, then blinked. "Wait," he instructed, placing a hand on Rodney's shoulder and giving his neck a caress with his thumb. Shifting, trying not to move far from Rodney, he opened the drawer in the bedside table and pulled out some lotion. Meeting Rodney's eyes, he smiled, giving a short, one shouldered shrug as he handed over the small bottle. Rodney grinned back, pushing Radek's pants and underwear out of the way and uncapping the bottle. He shifted onto his good side, grunting a bit with the effort and the pain of it before squirting some of the lotion onto his hands. He spread it over his fingers, warming it, looking at Radek with a predatory smile.
"You look so good," he said, not quite touching Radek's cock. He leaned in, brushing his lips against Radek's in the lightest of open-mouthed kisses, tongue touching Radek's and darting away. "I want you to look at me like this forever." Radek smiled, capturing his wrist and pressing his hand against his erection.
"I think it would scare the staff," he murmured against Rodney's lips, then gasped as Rodney gripped him, stroking in slow, smooth movements. Rodney leaned in, kissing the hollow of Radek's throat and making his way up to the curve of his neck as he slowly built the intensity of his stroking.
"I'm not sure I care," he countered, adding a twist and leaning in to nip at Radek's neck. Radek thrust into his hand and Rodney worked him, smiling as he drank in the lust in Radek's face, the way he moaned and pushed hard against him. He kissed Radek, hot and messy and Radek was coming, spurting and calling out and clutching at Rodney.
When it was over, they both lay flat on the bed, panting. Radek reached down and found a towel from somewhere, wiping Rodney's hand clean and then his stomach. Rodney turned his head to look at his friend again, still amazed by the way he looked, mostly naked, flushed, eyes sleepy but sated. He stroked Radek's cheek, feeling the stubble anew, and kissed him again, this time with tenderness.
Radek's eyes were slightly puzzled as they separated, but he said nothing as Rodney pulled the majority of the pillow under his head and shifted, burrowing into Radek's bed. "Sleep," he said, finding Radek's hand and giving it a squeeze.
"That's my pillow, McKay," Radek grumbled.
"Injured here. Trying to sleep," Rodney said, but his thumb stroked Radek's palm. Radek gave him a squeeze in return and curled beside him, the warmth of his body helping Rodney to sleep.
"Why is this simulation not working?" Rodney said to no one in particular, flinging his pen across the room and rubbing his forehead. He'd been working on the same simulation for a week and a half, trying to pull something useful from the Arcturus fiasco with increasingly spectacular failures. "Damn it, I was further along before my little stint on Dayon."
Radek moved beside him, one hand resting on his shoulder. "I think it might be time for a fresh pair of eyes, Rodney," he said, fingers making the slightest of caresses. Rodney closed his eyes, trying to calculate the longest he could just sit there, enjoying Radek, before people would notice.
"Fine," he said finally, keeping the irritation in his voice, but his eyes as they met Radek's were warm. He pushed the laptop over to Radek, watching as the Czech leaned in, frowning slightly. "I should stretch my legs," he said, and made to stand, but Radek's hand was still on his shoulder and it pressed him back, firmly.
"Not yet," he said, and Rodney recognized the distracted tone that indicated Radek had spotted something. "Why did you do this, here?" He tapped the screen.
"Because that's how the formula works," Rodney said, a little sharply.
"But you haven't set the value of G for this section of space," Radek said, looking at him with puzzled eyes.
"What are you talking about? G is a constant," Rodney said, looking at Radek as though he'd lost his mind. Radek was shaking his head, a little furrow on his forehead.
"No, it's not, Rodney. I thought Dr. Beckett said you suffered no head trauma? And I know you wish to assign meaning to Dr. Collins' death, but it will have to wait until Colonel Caldwell is able to get someone to overrule Dr. Weir."
Rodney turned in his seat, facing Radek with a growing horror. "To...overrule," he said, staring at Radek. The furrows were deeper, Radek studying him as he nodded. Rodney stood, ignoring the faint pain from his ribs at the transition and the more sharp report from his foot, and stalked out of the room without another word.
Six hours later, he was in his office, a place so seldom used it was still mostly pristine. He had his laptop open and was watching the footage from Lorne's rescue attempt on Dayon again, looping the parts with the form in his clothes so that it played over and over again. He looked up at the knock on the doorframe, seeing Lt. Colonel Sheppard draped across it. "You're starting to seriously freak out Zelenka," the Colonel said, tone light but Rodney knew his friend well enough to sense the underlying steel beneath it. "He's worried the honeymoon is over."
"Honeymoon?" Rodney echoed, trying for blank innocence. Sheppard smirked at him.
"You're not exactly subtle, Rodney," he said, dropping into the chair opposite the desk. "So, what's up?"
"Did you know the Ancients, in addition to building the gates and this wonderful city, built a score of other really cool things, plus some kind of dangerous ones, too?"
Sheppard raised an eyebrow. "That's kind of why we're here, isn't it?"
Rodney ignored him. "One of the things we've long theorized they built is the Quantum Mirror. SG-1 ran into it, on a planet marked as deadly by the Goa'uld. I'd forgotten, in my drug-induced fog, exactly what I was forced to touch and what exactly happened. Though in retrospect..." He trailed off, staring into space. Turning towards Sheppard, he looked at him and through him. "Did you know, Colonel," he began again, "that if two versions of the same person from differing universes somehow share a universe, that within forty-eight hours, the visitor suffers from an effect called entropic cascade failure?" He paused as the Colonel shook his head, puzzlement on his features. "Oh. Well, I'm sure it's buried in one of the SGC's reports, somewhere. But that's not the point. The point is, ECF doesn't occur if a traveler visits a universe in which his double has already died. There's no conflict."
Sheppard's face was dark as he stared at Rodney, lips thin. "So you're saying..." he began. Rodney turned his laptop around to face Sheppard.
"You weren't wrong. I wasn't left behind," he said, dully.
Rodney shifted, raising his head up to rest on his elbow, and watched Radek sleep. The man was so like his Radek... He sighed, reached out and traced the lines of Radek's face. The past few days had been exhausting for both of them: endless meetings, endless tests, Rodney's freedom in doubt as the command structure of Atlantis, bypassing him and placing Radek in charge of the scientists, tried to figure points of difference between the universes and whether or not Rodney was a danger to Atlantis. He knew there were several meetings that he wasn't privy to, ones that Radek returned from looking more drained than ever, but always greeting Rodney with a tired smile.
And every spare moment they'd spent together, every meal they'd shared in full view of the entire expedition. Rodney didn't care about gossip or reactions now, only sharing what time he had with the person who'd come to mean so much to him. Every night they explored each other, ignoring the desperation in favor of the shared joy of learning how to bring each other pleasure. Every night Rodney fell asleep exhausted, having managed to put off for one more day what he knew he'd have to do.
He ran a finger over Radek's lips lightly and sighed. He'd never been a one to ignore the hard tasks, but this was perhaps the hardest one yet. How could he leave, when he'd just found the one thing that made him feel like he belonged?
Radek shifted, blinking sleepily, and Rodney gave him a lopsided smile, leaning in for a kiss.
"No, Rodney, this universe hasn't conspired to make medicine even more of a voodoo jumble. Your ankle is healed. It shouldn't still be giving you pain." Carson had the same put-upon look that he'd always remembered from his Carson, professional pride and indignation mixed with a certain fondness.
"Well, every time I take a step, I have shooting pain in my foot. I'd say that wasn't healed, wouldn't you?"
Carson looked at him, frowning. "Your foot is not your ankle, Rodney; why didn't you tell me it was your foot that was hurting, earlier?"
"What? I told you. I'm sure I told you. Really, you've got to pay more attention to what I tell you, Carson." He wasn't sure he'd mentioned anything other than the pain itself, but admitting that wouldn't do him any favors.
Given the mission they were discussing, and Radek's possible placement on the away team, he had to get back to his old self as fast as possible. No way could he ask this Atlantis to lose both its best minds. Rodney was still stunned that the mission was a go and that Radek hadn't tried to talk him out of his plan. He'd only made them both go home early that night, and then caused Rodney to come more times in one night than he'd managed since he was a much younger man.
That hadn't made him want to change his mind, not seriously, but the way Radek had held him that night, even in sleep never losing his grip...that had almost caused Rodney to break.
Carson probed the bottom of his foot, making Rodney flinch and try to pull it out of the doctor's hands. He heard the hmmm that indicated Carson's deep thinking and then the doctor reached into his file and pulled out an x-ray, popping it up on one of the lighted screens they'd brought from Earth. Rodney stared at the black and grey images with Carson, not missing it when the doctor's expression changed and he gave a small nod.
"What? What is it? I'm not going to lose my foot, am I? Oh, God, you haven't crippled me, have you?"
Carson's gaze returned from his brief examination of the ceiling to give Rodney an exasperated look. "No, Rodney, you won't be crippled or lose a foot. I'd like another x-ray to confirm that it is improving, but the problem is a stress fracture. Very hard to spot, and there's not much you can do about it, other than wait for it to heal."
"And how long will that take? Maybe I can get them to postpone going back..."
"A few more weeks, and I don't think so. Rodney, they've already left. Radek didn't want you to know. He felt you'd only try to stop him."
Rodney struggled to his feet. "And he'd be right! Damn it, Carson-" He turned and faced the doctor with a glare, then shook his head and grabbed his cane, limping from the room.
"It really wasn't that bad, Rodney. We went in with sufficient firepower and I stayed in the puddle jumper until the situation was clear." Radek's tone was meant to be reassuring, but Rodney could feel the undercurrents of fear. He was rocked by what the quiet man had done for him, how far out of his comfort zone Radek had gone, just to retrieve the means for Rodney to return home.
To leave him.
"We need to start studying the mirror, figuring out how to pinpoint your universe. What?" Radek asked, seeing something in Rodney's expression that gave away his guilt.
"I think I know how to do that. It's what made me know this wasn't my world. We send a deep space MALP through, and take readings."
Radek's gaze was intense. "And what are we looking for, Rodney?"
He raised one corner of his mouth in an ironic smile. "Signs that the Doranda system was mostly destroyed."
Radek leaned back in his chair, shock on his face. "You...destroyed most of a solar system?"
Rodney closed his eyes, guilt twisting within him. "Unfortunately, yes. You were right about it, I was wrong. But actually, here...here you might be able to control the fluctuations." He opened his eyes, gripping Radek's hand tightly. "Just promise me that if you do, you'll listen to your instincts. I should have."
Radek was nodding slowly. "We should be able to pinpoint your home, then." The silence hung heavy between them.
Finally Rodney stood. "It's late; we're not going to get anything done today. Let's go home." He was aware of a sweet ache within him, the knowledge that this was maybe his last night with Radek making him want to do everything possible to stretch the moment, to make Radek understand what the Czech meant to Rodney. They made their way back to Radek's quarters, and Rodney knew they should have been beyond the little glances at each other as they walked there, but somehow he couldn't stop from making them.
Once inside, Rodney kissed Radek, hard and insistent. He tried to put all he couldn't say into the kiss, running his hands reverently over Radek's body, gently stripping him. They were both hard by the time they were naked, and Rodney groaned as Radek found the spots he'd come to know had the greatest effect. Rodney maneuvered them over to the bed, falling on it so that Radek was lying against him, and thrust up, loving the feel of skin on skin, Radek's cock hard beside his own. Radek leaned down, sucking and biting at Rodney's nipples. Rodney moaned as Radek's efforts sent jolts of pleasure through him, feeling the path travel down his spine and into his cock. Radek slid lower, mouth traveling down Rodney's torso until he was aligned with Rodney's hips. He looked up at Rodney, giving him a smile before tracing the head of Rodney's cock with his tongue. Rodney gasped, eyes locked with Radek's and feeling the heat of his gaze. Radek used every trick he'd learned Rodney liked, making him come hard enough to see stars in record time. Rodney panted as Radek climbed back up to claim a kiss, then twisted so that Radek was beneath him. He moved to Radek's ear, tongue tracing the lines of it and nipping at the lobe, making Radek groan, then moved to Radek's neck and bit and sucked, wanting to mark him. His hands teased Radek's nipples, stroking and twisting, trying to make the man come apart underneath him as he mouthed his way down, wanting to make Radek come quickly, wanting the night to never end.
He stroked Radek's cock, leaning close and letting his tongue trace a path along the underside of it, down and then up and circling the head. He glanced up, catching the awestruck expression on Radek's face as he took him in, as deep as he could and slid back out again, sucking. Radek's fists were knotted in the sheets, twisting them, his face a cross of bliss and concentration. Rodney moved faster, trying to destroy Radek's concentration, trying to overwhelm it with the bliss. Too soon Radek was making the small thrusts that signaled his approaching orgasm, and Rodney shifted back, sucking on the head while his hand worked Radek's shaft. Radek cried out as his orgasm raced through him, and Rodney swallowed and swallowed as he tried every trick to stretch out the pleasure.
Crawling back up beside Radek, he wrapped his arms around the smaller man, kissing with a gentleness that betrayed his underlying feelings. Radek cupped the back of Rodney's neck, holding him close as they kissed again and again, and Rodney felt the faintest stirring of interest from his cock. Radek broke the kiss to search Rodney's face, looking for the answer to a question Rodney couldn't quite decipher. "What is it?" he asked, concerned.
Radek smiled, somehow both tentative and seductive. "I would like for you to fuck me, Rodney," he said, and Rodney inhaled deeply. "Would you like that?"
His cock was already on its way to hard again, helped along by Radek's nimble fingers. "What do you think?" Rodney managed, caught in the idea and the feel of Radek stroking him bringing him to full hardness.
"I think the lube is in the bedside table," Radek said, voice rough, and Rodney scrambled for it, coating his fingers and his cock and pausing before touching Radek.
"Are you sure?" he asked, needing to be certain.
Radek nodded. "Rodney, I brought it up."
"Can't blame me for wanting to be sure," Rodney said, and then Radek shut him up with a kiss, dirty and meltingly hot. Rodney's fingers found Radek's entrance, stroked the skin there, making Radek groan. He carefully prepped Radek, stretching him, curling to stroke inside and make Radek writhe against him. He kept kissing Radek, meeting his tongue with his own, lips bruised and swollen and he didn't care, wanting to keep this moment forever. Too soon he was replacing his fingers with his cock, pressing against Radek's entrance, and then his world was hot and tight and thrust after thrust, aiming for the spot that made Radek buck against him, working a hand onto Radek's hard cock and stroking. He wanted Radek to come first, but he wasn't sure how long he could last, feeling the heat and the pressure and seeing the sight of Radek flushed and hovering on the edge of control above him. He didn't realize he was speaking until Radek came with a shout, coating his stomach in long stripes, tightening around Rodney and sending him crashing over the edge.
"Miluji te(," Radek whispered as the world returned, making Rodney lean back to see him better before pulling him close.
"I love you, too," he said, wondering how he was ever going to leave this.
"McKay, Zelenka, get down!" Colonel Sheppard said in command voice, P-90 firing at the last of the Dayonites on this side of the mirror. And then it was over. Rodney stopped twisting his hands and grabbed the mirror and its controller for this side, the pieces surprisingly light, if bulky. The soldiers cleared the way, and they filed out, Rodney making a small noise in his throat as they passed the room that had served as his cell and torture chamber. Radek's hand found his shoulder, squeezing, before they walked to the gate, stopping before the DHD.
Everyone looked to Rodney, who swallowed, setting down the mirror, before standing before the device. He glanced at Radek, seeing the man's bittersweet smile before dialing and triggering his IDC and radio.
"Atlantis, this is McKay," he said, catch in his voice. "Permission to come home."
Familiar faces swam around him, and he blinked at seeing doubles of people, watched the Sheppards eye each other warily and the Radeks curiously.
"Can't stay long," the AU Sheppard said, casually.
"Of course," his universe's Radek said. "Entropic cascade failure. How long?"
"We have time," Sheppard answered. "But it might be best if it were done quickly."
Rodney moved over to him, pulling the other Radek along. He grabbed Sheppard's hand with his free one. "Take care of him," he said, roughly.
The Colonel nodded, face grimly serious. "I will," he said, giving Rodney's hand a squeeze before dropping it. "We'll miss you, Rodney. You'll probably never know how much."
Rodney turned to face Radek, eyes bright. "I have some idea," he said, and Radek cupped his cheek, shaking his head slightly. They'd already said their goodbyes, though it had almost destroyed Rodney to do so; he wouldn't cheapen them by some sort of grand gesture here. Radek dropped his hand and nodded to the Colonel, who tapped at their controller for the quantum mirror.
"Be safe," he told Rodney, then glanced over at the other Sheppard. They exchanged a wordless nod, and Rodney knew he'd been placed into the care of his Sheppard. The team that had returned him home stood in front of the mirror, touching it one by one and disappearing until only Sheppard and Radek remained. Sheppard gave Radek a pointed stare, and Radek glanced back, sending Rodney a look that made him want to retreat to his quarters and never come out again. He nodded to Radek and breathed in deep as the man slowly reached out and touched the mirror, disappearing.
"I'll look after him," Sheppard promised again, and gave Rodney another nod before reaching out to touch the mirror again. Rodney pulled their controller out of his pocket and tapped it, rendering the mirror harmless, and moved to face it, tracing its lines. The remaining Radek made a strangled noise, and Rodney turned back to him, seeing the hope and the fear and something more that he'd come to recognize.
"Welcome home, Rodney," he said, and Rodney offered him a bittersweet smile.
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