September 14, 2008 07:53:00
Warnings: Language, slight whump, slash
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: Things are different on Earth.
Author's Note: Takes place during The Return. Rodney-Radek bickering is presently my favorite thing in the whoooole world.
"Finally! There you are! What are you idiots doing? Let go of him and get back to your rent-a-coping." Rodney is all bluster and noise, and for a single second that's so familiar that Radek's mind twists it into comfort. He shakes the swell of warmth out of his stomach.
Still, at least the two men in the suits and dark glasses, radios in their ears and blank expressions on their faces, release Radek's arms. He glares at them, twisting his head over his shoulder as they step back into the elevator that goes to the surface, straightening his shirt and his glasses.
Not that it matters. Rodney is there, just like that, grabbing Radek's upper arm and dragging him forward, mouth going a million miles an hour, "What, did you stop at every duty free on the way here? Time management is every bit as important here as it was on Atlantis, you know."
Radek attempts to stop, and, that failing, then tries to twist out of Rodney's hold. Neither attempt is successful, and he finds himself being pulled down unfamiliar gray corridors, other scientists jumping out of their way. The poor souls already look cowed, and Radek does his best to resist the quick upward quirk of his lips.
Rodney opens his mouth again, and Radek finally manages to cut him off, "What are you doing?"
Rodney turns his head, shooting Radek a disgusted, scornful, look. He still hasn't taken his hand off of Radek's arm, fingers warm and strong. Rodney's voice is as sharp as his expression, "Trying to get you caught up on the bare essentials of what you missed. I don't have time to—"
"Rodney!" Radek reaches out, grabbing one of the door jams as they pass it, holding on. For a long moment Rodney keeps pulling on him, and then the man relents, rolling his eyes, virtually dripping impatience. It's almost enough to make Radek forget that he had at no point agreed to come here. Almost.
"What?" Rodney is crossing his arms, and Radek's skin feels cold where the other man's hand had been.
Radek squares his shoulders up, crossing his arms right back at Rodney, glaring at him from behind his glasses. He speaks slowly, just to push Rodney's buttons, "Why am I in the United States, Rodney? My family is—"
Rodney waves a hand, batting the words away, interrupting, "Please, you don't even like your family. If you were there you'd just be rotting what was left of your brain away with that swill you call alcohol. Besides, you always wanted to see Area 51."
Radek opens his mouth. Closes it again. Rodney beams at him expectantly, and, damnit, hopefully. Radek raises one hand, pinching the bridge of his nose and squeezing his eyes closed when he says, "I did not." He looks up, holding onto the fraying line of his righteous indignation, "Rodney, you cannot just have your goons snatch people from—"
The look on Rodney's face makes Radek stop. For just a second there's something a lot like fear in Rodney's expression, his mouth dipping more severely than usual on one side. It's not an expression that Radek is comfortable seeing on Rodney's face. It makes his stomach and chest do unpleasant things. Radek sighs, dragging his hand back through his hair.
For a long moment they just stare at each other, and Radek thinks about how lonely he'd felt on the plane, the vague sense of empty loss eating its way through his gut while he sat in the airport lobby, right before Rodney's hired grunts had showed up to manhandle Radek onto a private jet.
Finally, Radek rolls his eyes, releasing his grip on the door jam. He says, "Fine, fine. Someone must make sure you do not blow up the planet, in any case. Tell me what you have done," and Rodney looks so relieved for just a second, before he's hurrying down the hall, explaining as he walks.
Radek decides, almost immediately, that there's no way his snatching was anything other than premeditated. Rodney already has him a spot set up in the labs, an apartment in town, a car, a bank account, everything. The fact that Miko shows up a few days after him, looking confused and a little lost while two men in suits escort her into the labs, makes Radek feel a little better.
They're it, the only ones that Rodney bothers tracking down and bringing here. It's flattering, in its own twisted, McKay, slightly insane, way.
Radek is almost surprised by how well they fall into the odd synergy they'd had in Atlantis. He thinks perhaps he shouldn't be. They all understand each other, he and Miko capable of grasping what Rodney is thinking when so few others are, Rodney able to take their ideas and shape them into impossible, wonderful, sometimes terrible, things.
Two weeks of working in the labs, and Radek finds himself grateful for his capture, relieved that he stayed when he could have left. He thinks, some days, that this might have been the only place on Earth where he would have still fit.
Miko corners Radek outside the men's bathrooms one day. She's looking stubborn and determined, and Radek attempts to duck back into the bathroom. She grabs his arm, dragging him back out, all surprising strength and a set expression on her face. Radek sighs, giving up.
She says, when Radek stops struggling, "He is not sleeping."
Radek blinks at her, and then looks over her shoulder to make sure no one is around to overhear them. He asks, "When did he ever sleep?" and Miko just stares at him, lips pursed, gaze expectant behind her glasses. Radek has no idea what she expects him to do about it.
Miko says, so matter of a fact that it takes Radek by surprise, "He is lonely."
Radek opens his mouth to protest that, and then closes it. Because, really, aside from himself and Miko, Radek isn't sure Rodney talks to anyone. Oh, he yells at plenty of people. Usually at great length. But that's not a conversation, certainly not enough to replace the friendships Rodney had formed with his team back on Atlantis.
Miko reaches out, touching Radek's elbow, her eyes dark and concerned. Radek sighs again, straightening his glasses and squaring up his shoulders. He finally manages, "I will see what I can do," and she nods, patting his arm again and hurrying back down to the labs.
Really, they have to look out for each other. That was, he thinks now, what Rodney had been doing when he brought them here. He had understood before they had, the frustrating way he always seemed to. If they don't take care of each other, Radek thinks no one else will.
Radek says, "Come, you must eat." And Rodney blinks up at him, brows drawing together in confusion. There are dark circles under Rodney's eyes. He's pale from all the time he spends down here in the labs, without even the warm Lantean sun to occasionally stand under.
Rodney sounds distracted, "What? No. I had," he waves a hand at the trashcan, "an MRE earlier. I have to finish—"
Waiting for Rodney to properly explain what he thinks he has to do could take most of the night. Radek is disinclined to wait right now, saving the programs and closing the computer while Rodney curses him and tries to grab his hands.
Radek says, Rodney scowling and gearing up for a full blown explosion, "The food is very good."
That brings Rodney up short. He blinks, tilting his head to the side, saying after a moment with his eyes narrowed, "No, no it really isn't. I've had it. Even by my somewhat lenient standards and appreciation for bland food, it in no way qualifies as 'good'." He makes the air quotations. Of course he does.
Radek rolls his eyes, grabbing the back of Rodney's chair and pushing him out of the room. He says, Rodney putting his feet down and almost tipping both of them over, "I did not say the food here." And for a long, long, moment Rodney doesn't say a word.
And then he says, "Oh," turning to look at Radek, confusion written all over his expression. Radek doesn't feel like giving Rodney more time to think about it, so he merely pushes on the back of the chair again, tipping it over while Rodney curses at him.
They end up at a steakhouse.
The food is good.
The fifth time Radek drags Rodney out to eat, the man looks up over the slice of chocolate cake he's eating and says, "Elizabeth called today." Radek feels something in his chest go still, setting down his own spoon, his mouth cold from the ice cream he'd been eating.
He asks, after a moment, watching Rodney methodically smash his cake down flat, "How was she?"
Rodney makes a face, waving his fork around, and then dropping it, pressing his hands up over his face instead. For a half second Radek is sure the other man is going to weep, and it's so utterly disturbing that he starts to stand up.
But then Rodney puts his hands in his lap, tilting his dry face up towards the ceiling, shaking his head. Rodney says, sounding tired and worn out, "Fine. She's fine. She can't come down here. She's too..." he cuts himself off with a wave of his hand, shoving his dessert plate away, grabbing his wine glass and slamming the rest of the alcohol back.
Radek says, "Ah," thinking about her pretty face, dark eyes, the sharp slant of her nose and jaw.
Rodney looks to the side, waving at the waiter, all stiff irritation when he says, "I have to get back to the labs," and for just this one time, Radek doesn't try to argue him out of it. Radek just nods, taking a last bite of his ice cream.
The first time something goes wrong, because Radek is sure that there will be other times, there always are, the entire base is almost destroyed. He's not used to the way all the other people panic, running around and getting in the way while Rodney shoulders his way through the masses, moving people aside more with his voice than anything else.
Radek moves in the wake Rodney leaves, Miko a step behind him, feeding Rodney the information he's bellowing for. Already the temperature is rising, sparks showering down on them from above as one of the fluorescent lights explodes.
The other scientists scream, some of them dropping down to cower right in the hallway. Radek tries to remember if he was ever like them, unsure if he should be pitying or disgusted by the way they fold up, sobbing, pleading for salvation.
A man grabs onto Rodney, blubbering uselessly, blood streaming down his temple, and Rodney snaps, "Jesus fuck! I don't have time for this bullshit!" and lays the man out with a punch that Radek finds himself fascinated by.
Probably it's a side effect of all the adrenaline, making him notice all the little things going on around them.
Miko steps over the collapsed man, still talking about power outputs and distributor cables. One of the lenses in her glasses is fractured, a spider's web across her eye. Her hair is wild and tangled around her face, and Zelenka pulls her to the side when flames leap out of one of the air vents.
And then Rodney is punching his security code into the sealed off lab, bending to let it scan his retina, twisting back around. Rodney snaps, "Stay here, keep me updated on the power levels. If they get above—"
"They will not."
"—then get your asses out of here." Rodney's hair is flat with sweat, his lab coat abandoned three levels up. He's wearing a shirt advertising Molson's, his knuckles are red from hitting that other poor man. Radek suddenly wants to grab him, to hold onto him, to remind Rodney that they're all that's left, that they can't lose anyone else.
Rodney steps through the doors. They slam closed as soon as he's through, and Radek turns to look at Miko. She's ignoring him, talking now into her radio, fingers flying over the laptop she's supporting awkwardly against the wall.
Radek shakes himself, and takes it out of her hands, arguing with her and Rodney, listening to the static get worse and worse over the radio. It seems like a small eternity before Rodney grits out, "Oh, fuck," and the feedback over the line makes Radek yank his radio out of his ear, even as the ventilation system kicks into reverse and the explosion that should have taken out most of the state hits with only enough force to knock Radek off of his feet.
The search and rescue team that the military finally sends finds Rodney half-buried under a pile of rubble. He's still conscious, which means that Radek gets to listen to him bitching at the rescue workers as they try to free him. It's more comforting than it has any reasonable right to be.
Less comforting is them finally bringing Rodney up, flat on a stretcher, one of his legs carefully secured, his face tight and white with pain. Radek finds himself walking alongside the stretcher, his hand on Rodney's charred shirt, Miko attempting to sideline one of the medics.
Rodney blinks up at him, a little bit dazed but still focusing, and slurs, "Damage?"
Radek laughs, patting Rodney's shoulder, one of the medics very sternly asking him to please, sir, don't do that anymore. But Rodney reaches up and curls his fingers around Radek's wrist, so Radek ignores them. It's a skill he learned from the best.
Radek says, "Truly impressive," and Rodney hums, mouth quirking up in a smile, looking entirely too smug and pleased with himself. Then the medics are pushing Radek to the side, ducking their heads and running out towards the waiting chopper, the midnight air cleaved by the spinning blades.
The helicopter rises quickly, and inside it Radek is certain that Rodney must be complaining about the noise and the unsteadiness of the ride. He watches it until the lights finally disappear, and then looks down at Miko, who is biting her nails, broken glasses crooked on her face.
Radek says, "He will be fine."
And Miko nods, "Of course. Would you like me to drive?"
They end up sitting in the waiting room at the hospital for a long time. The sun is rising through the tinted glass when a doctor finally comes to talk to them. Miko is sleeping, curled up across three chairs, drooling a little on her arm. Radek doesn't disturb her.
The break in Rodney's leg had been clean, had missed his knee by a vital few inches. Radek nods his head, sticking his hands into his pocket and waiting until the doctor finally stops talking to ask, "He is stable? So I can see him, yes?"
The doctor pulls a face, "Why would you want to?" and Radek just stares at him until the man stops boggling at him like he's crazy and says, "Sure. Fine. It's your funeral," and walks Radek down the hall to Rodney's room.
Rodney is taking apart the call button for the nurse when Radek steps into the room. He looks up, unrepentant, circuitry spread across his lap, glaring belligerently at the doctor until the man blanches and flees the room. Radek rolls his eyes, snorting, looking at the allergies written on the whiteboard above Rodney's bed.
Rodney snaps, "What are you doing here? Who's watching my lab? Tell me Kusanagi is there, I swear—"
Radek rolls his eyes again, harder, cutting in, "The lab is still smoldering, Rodney. The only people watching it are the firefighters." Rodney frowns up at Radek accusingly, like Radek is somehow to blame. And then he sighs, sagging down a little against his pillows and absently putting the call button back together.
Rodney finally says, frowning down at his hands as he works, "Did you call anyone?"
And Radek nods, finally giving in to the urge to reach out and touch Rodney's hair, just to reassure himself that the other man is fine. He says, when Rodney blinks up at him with an unreadable expression, "Yes. Colonel Sheppard is on his way now. And Elizabeth. And Major Lorne, and—"
Rodney groans miserably, putting his head in his hands, and Radek goes on out of spite.
They all come, too. It's good to see them all again, even with their worry over Rodney written all over their expressions. There are hugs, and reunions, and Rodney beams a little bit brighter every time a new person shows up, like maybe he thought Radek was lying about people coming to see him.
Sheppard corners Radek when Radek leaves for a coffee run. The man is impressively silent when he wants to be, popping up out of nowhere and drawling, "So I hear you were with him when this happened." For all the friendliness in Sheppard's voice, his eyes are flat, accusing.
Radek stops feeding quarters into the coffee machine, absently pushing his glasses up higher on the bridge of his nose. He says, slowly, "Yes," wondering where Sheppard is going with this.
The other man nods, hands in his pockets, leaning one shoulder against the wall. Sheppard says, "And you let him go in there alone?" there's something scornful in Sheppard's voice, something angry and pissed off in the set of his mouth.
Radek hasn't slept for what feels like days, his eyes scratchy with it. He had to listen to Rodney's radio cut off, he had to watch them carry Rodney out of that rubble, he had to watch the helicopter fly away. He's the one that's been eating meals with Rodney, that's been making sure he exists outside of the work that government is demanding from him.
Radek scowls, stepping up to Sheppard and shoving the taller man's shoulder, trying to keep the sudden bubble of anger out of his voice, "Do not talk to me of leaving him alone, Colonel."
For a second Radek thinks Sheppard might hit him, eyes flashing bright with violence. But then the man takes a deep breath, looking to the side. Sheppard says, "Look, he—"
And then Elizabeth is walking up on them, her expression carefully diplomatic when she says, "Rodney wanted to know where his coffee got to." She raises one eyebrow expectantly, and Radek curses under his breath, turning back to the machine.
When he looks up, Sheppard is gone.
Visitors come and go over the next few days, through Rodney being released from the hospital and getting set up in his little apartment again. Radek or Miko stick close, more habit than anything, the others drawn back to their jobs or other commitments until it's only the three of them again.
Miko has a schedule set up within hours of which of them needs to be with Rodney when, and Radek doesn't even try arguing with her. She's immovable when she wants to be, and besides, he couldn't have come up with anything better.
It lasts all of two days until Rodney says, while Radek tries to convince him that he has to stay off the broken leg, "Why are you here, anyway? I am perfectly capable of lurching my way down to the bathroom without assistance. God, tell me you're not going to try to insist I need to leave the door open too. I already told Kusanagi there was no way in hell that was happening."
Rodney looks rumpled, and Radek knows the other man has been sleeping on the couch, his bed too high for him to comfortably drag himself into. Radek raises an eyebrow, "Just do not fall in," and Rodney rolls his eyes so hard it's nearly audible, making his way down the hall, knocking the crutch against the wall just once, probably out of spite.
Radek shakes his head, pulling Rodney's fridge open to find it remarkably and unsurprisingly devoid of food of any kind. There's a half-gallon of milk sitting along the back, but the expiration date is roughly two years late, and Radek has absolutely no intention of opening the jug to check the freshness.
He orders Chinese food from the restaurant advertisement taped to the front of Rodney's fridge, where luckily they already know what Rodney usually eats. And then, because Rodney still isn't out of the bathroom, he goes and pounds on the door.
Rodney curses at him, though the sound of the sink running mutes most of the words. Since the man says nothing about slipping and falling and breaking something else, Radek leaves him to whatever he's doing, and wanders back into the living room.
The television sitting across from the couch doesn't work, and Radek spends the time waiting for the food delivery attempting to fix it. He's managed to get snow on the screen, instead of the empty black, by the time the doorbell rings.
And like that's all he was waiting for, Rodney hobbles his way down the hall. Radek blinks at the other man, raising his eyebrows, and Rodney snaps, "What? It itched," rubbing a hand over his freshly shaved jaw line, looking stubborn and then brightening when he sees the take-out containers, saying, "Oh, good," and snatching them right out of Radek's hands.
Radek shakes his head, grabbing Rodney's elbow and taking some of his weight when the man attempts to sit down on the couch. They manage after a moment, Rodney grimacing and gripping at his thigh above the cast, tendons standing out in his neck as his fact goes white.
Radek asks, moving the crutch out of the way, "When did you last take the medication the doctors gave you?"
Rodney waves a hand, opening the little white containers with a pleased sound, humming, "What? Oh. I don't know." Which Radek knows has to be a lie. He glares at the back of Rodney's head but the other man shows no sign of giving.
Finally Radek gives up, rolling his eyes and sitting beside Rodney on the couch, snatching his food out of the other man's hands. It smells good, hot in his hands, and he sinks back against the cushions, eating with a fork because he isn't in any mood to mess with chop sticks today.
Across from him, Rodney groans, tilting his head back against the couch and making a slurping sound. Radek feels warmth prickle in the back of his neck, cutting his gaze towards Rodney, who is shoveling food into his mouth, smiling absently, licking across his bottom lip between bites, throat working up and down.
Radek shakes himself, swallowing hard. His own stomach suddenly feels tight and heavy. He chews without tasting his food, choking a little bit when Rodney closes his eyes and sighs happily. Tomorrow, Radek decides, he's talking to Miko about letting her handle meal times.
Rodney interrupts Radek's musings, asking, "Oh, hey, what did you do to the television?" For a half second Radek thinks the other man is going to try to stand, and he reaches out automatically, pressing one hand to Rodney's chest and shoving him back against the couch.
Rodney blinks up at him, eyes wide with surprise, and Radek opens his mouth, shuts it again without saying a word. Rodney's heart is beating beneath his hand, strong and steady, faster than Radek would have expected for a normal person. His chest is solid, strong, warm.
After a moment, Radek clears his throat, making himself move his hand, fidgeting with his fork and wondering what the hell he was just thinking. Beside him, Rodney says, "Right, well, awkward," and goes back to eating. At least he doesn't try to stand up.
They spend the rest of the evening in an odd near silence, Rodney drowsy from the pain and the drugs and the heavy food in his stomach.
The next day Rodney is absolutely impossible to be around.
Radek is ready to start pulling out hunks of his hair within two minutes of showing up at the other man's apartment. Rodney is irritable and more snappish than usual, stomping as best he can around the small apartment, slamming things, and attempting to hit Radek with the crutch.
Luckily, Radek is much faster than Rodney at this point, and manages to dodge the blow, shoving Rodney down onto the couch and yanking the crutch away from him. Rodney glares up at him, unrepentant, blue eyes sharp and angry when Radek carries the crutch down the hall and closes it in Rodney's bedroom.
When he makes it back out into the living room, Rodney has slipped sideways down on the couch, making frustrated sounds. Radek leans over the back of the couch, watching Rodney drum his fingers against the cast, his bottom lip held between his teeth, eyes squeezed shut.
Radek sighs, feeling his anger fade as quickly as it had flared up. He asks, "It itches badly then?" and Rodney shoots him a baleful look, mouth twisted down what looks like painfully.
Rodney's tone is waspish, "Never let it be said that you have anything but a firm grasp on the obvious," and he beats his fist against the cushion of the couch, all frustration and ire. Radek rolls his eyes, ignoring the insult and walking around the couch, trying to get Rodney to sit up again.
The other man is heavy and stubborn enough to resist Radek's attempts. He gives up with a sigh, smacking Rodney on the shoulder, frowning down at him. Rodney continues, even more aggravated, "And stop trying to manhandle me, for Christ's sake, I'm not the live stock you—"
Radek talks over him, frustrated and irritated himself, "I'm trying to help you!"
For a second Rodney falls silent, his mouth open just a little with what looks like surprise. Radek looks away, finally managing to get Rodney to sit up straight, stuffing a pillow behind his head and wondering if he should enable the other man by unbending a coat hanger for him.
He wanders down the hall in any case, because he needs a break.
By the time Radek comes back, Rodney is sleeping, the circles under his eyes dark, little lines of pain graven around his eyes and mouth. Radek sighs, straightening his glasses and going back the hall again, this time for a blanket. He watches the snow on the television until Rodney finally wakes up, disoriented and grouchy, hours later.
On the third day Rodney says, "I want to go back down to the labs," his arms crossed over his chest and his chin tilted up. He's somehow managed to get regular pants on over the cast, and a shoe, for a reason that Radek can't even fathom.
Radek says, "No," and Rodney glares at him, mouth opening, waving a hand and starting to overbalance. Radek curses, jerking forward, grabbing Rodney and attempting to steady him, one of Rodney's arms going around his shoulder as they twist towards the couch.
They manage to land mostly on the couch, Rodney's injured leg extended straight out, his body warm and firm beneath Radek. Radek gapes, one of his hands caught under Rodney's shoulders, blinking down into Rodney's surprised eyes.
Rodney says, "Get off of me," and Radek tries to twist away, freezing when he jars Rodney's leg hard and the other man makes a tiny, pained, sound. Rodney's face has gone pale, and Radek mutters curses again, disentangling himself with more care and pushing away carefully.
Rodney gasps, tiny, his hands balled up tight, and Radek starts to ask if he's okay .Rodney interrupts, voice low and rough, "I—get me coffee," and Radek takes the out that he's given, lingering in the kitchen for longer than he should. When he comes back, Rodney has himself straightened, breathing hard through his fingers, his shoulders tight and tense.
Radek goes back into the kitchen for another few minutes. When he next comes out, Rodney is fine, except for how he's far too pale.
The next day, Rodney tells Radek as soon as he walks through the door, "Congratulations, you and Miko can leave me alone for the whole damn weekend. John's flying in. So keep a fucking eye on my lab." He's glaring and irritated, and he's shaved again.
And Radek rolls his eyes, and agrees, because he doesn't really see how he can argue about it.
He ends up at Rodney's apartment on Saturday anyway, his wallet forgotten there the previous day. Radek knocks and waits, the first time he's done that since he started coming here, not even sure what he's waiting for. It seems like a good idea anyway.
At least until Rodney yanks the door open, looking tired and disheveled and like he just crawled out of bed. He's shirtless, hair flattened in random places, the crutch tucked under his arm, blinking blurrily at Radek and demanding, "What are you doing here?"
Radek rolls his eyes, squeezing past Rodney into the apartment, "Relax, I left my wallet. I will be out of your hair in a moment." It's sitting on the kitchen counter, right where Radek left it, and he slides the wallet back into his pocket, his voice coming out sharper than he'd intended when he asks, "How is Colonel Sheppard?"
Rodney blinks, frowning, looking mostly asleep, "John? How should I—" Rodney catches himself there, eyes going wider, stumbling over, "I mean, he's fine. In the shower. He's in the shower. I'll tell him you said hello."
Radek sighs, crossing his arms, and Rodney raises his chin, glaring, "Look, I can't think with you two under my feet all the time. I'll be—" He cuts himself off again when Radek takes his wallet back out of his pocket, kicking his shoes off and shrugging out of his jacket.
Rodney glares at him, crutching away down the hall, and Radek mutters, "Stubborn bastard," under his breath.
Rodney refuses to come out of his room for the remainder of the day, and Radek loses patience with trying to convince him to pretty much immediately. He ends up on Rodney's living room floor, the television in pieces around him, trying to figure out why the hell it won't work.
He's frustrated, sucking on a cut on his thumb, when Rodney says, "I was trying to make a smaller, stronger, EM pulse model and it hasn't been the same since." Radek looks up. Rodney is leaning heavily against the wall of the hall, shirt twisted around his chest, hair messy and the skin on the side of his face gone blotchy.
Radek frowns, "You could not have told me this earlier?"
Rodney shrugs, crutching over to the kitchen and pouring himself a cup of the coffee that's been cooking for the last six hours. Rodney makes a happy little sound when he takes the first swallow anyway, his eyes slipping closed when he says, "It was keeping you occupied and happy," he shrugs.
Radek curses, but only lightly. He kicks a foot out across the floor before pushing to his feet, stretching out the cramps in his back and legs. Rodney smirks at him from over the top of his coffee mug, his hair all messy, a five o'clock shadow over his jaw.
Radek says, "You are an ass," and Rodney just shrugs, looking far too pleased with himself, the crutch tucked up under his arm. Radek kicks through the computer parts again, dragging his hand back through his hair and going looking for a broom.
There's a pause in the conversation as he sweeps, until Rodney says, "You're a crappy babysitter. Where's my afternoon snack?"
Radek snorts on a laugh, smacking Rodney on the shoulder and throwing the take-out menus on the counter in front of Rodney. Rodney shuffles through them, shoves the one for the Mexican place back across to Radek, before hobbling out to the living room.
They eat in the living room, messy, greasy food that Rodney licks off his fingers until Radek is driven to distraction.
The next day Radek comes back, since Miko had been promised the weekend off. And maybe because Radek likes having Rodney all to himself. He brings a television with him, nothing big, and Rodney laughs at him when he wrestles it into place.
But it works, comes on just the way it should and there's not a sign of snow on any of the channels. Rodney ignores it pretty much completely, but it gives Radek something to do when the other man falls asleep again, snoring softly, his head tilted back against the couch.
Radek doesn't really mean to fall asleep himself.
He wakes up to the jarring sound of an infomercial, some woman with way too much body in her hair telling him how he needs to buy some kind of wax for removing hair from his bikini area. For a moment Radek just stares in a vague sort horrified fascination.
And then he realizes he's laying sideways, his head pillowed on something warm and firm. He blinks, looking up, and Rodney says, "Stop moving," his head coming down heavy on the side of Radek's neck. His fingers are warm and thick, his palm just a little sweaty.
Radek blinks, his cheek rubbing against Rodney's thigh, and Rodney grumbles, "Sleep," pushy and bossy, stretching his leg, his quads tensing and bunching under Radek's head. And Radek is exhausted, heavy and tense and so exhausted.
The second time, Radek wakes slowly, to warmth and the sound of the news in the background of his skull. He blinks, finds he shifted in the night, his nose pressed up against Rodney's stomach, Rodney's hand on his shoulder, warm, solid, fingers curled into fabric.
Radek starts to shift up, and Rodney mumbles something unintelligible, his thumb stroking across the top of Radek's shoulder. It all seems frighteningly, terrifyingly, intimate, and Radek sucks in a quick breath, feeling something curl up warm and tight in his stomach. He braces a hand on the cushion beside Rodney's thigh and pushes himself up.
There's drool dried to the side of Radek's face. He wipes at it with the back of his hand, Rodney grumbling and shifting in his sleep. Radek rolls his eyes, squinting over the side of the couch in an attempt to locate his missing glasses.
Radek finds them shoved down between the cushions on the other side of the couch, and he doesn't even want to know how they got there. He pushes them on, grimacing at the smudges on the lenses, and Rodney mumbles, thick and hoarse from sleep, "What are you doing here?"
Radek rolls his eyes, shifting to his feet, because he needs coffee. He calls over his shoulder, "Sleeping on the bed of torture you call a couch." He rubs at an ache in his lower back that he's fairly sure hadn't been there the previous night, and spends a second wondering if Rodney stuck rocks into the cushions.
Rodney makes roughly the same amount of noise as a herd of bison crossing to the kitchen. He's rumpled and bleary eyed, glaring balefully at Radek anyway when he says, "Ha, ha. I mean. You and Miko. You've got to have better things to do than annoying me. If you don't, I can find you some."
For a second, Radek pretends to consider. Then he shakes his head, flashing Rodney a quick smile when the other man glares at him harder. Rodney leans back against the counter, shifting his gaze to the coffee maker, and Radek takes the opportunity to say, "Is what friends do, yes? Annoy one another in their times of trial."
Rodney hums, eyes still narrowed with thought. It's worrisome that he's trying to think before he's had any coffee. Usually that's when Rodney comes up with his craziest ideas. Radek starts willing the coffee to brew faster, grabbing a cup in anticipation.
Rodney watches Radek over the top of his cup when there's finally enough coffee to fill it. Radek tries very had not to feel unnerved. He's glad when Miko shows up to shoo him away.
The next time Radek comes by, Rodney refuses to let him in. Radek wastes fifteen minutes arguing with him through the door, until Rodney crutches his way down the hall so loudly that Radek can hear it right through the wall. Then Radek rolls his eyes, goes down to his car, drives to the store, and comes back to take the door off it's hinges.
Radek's mostly forgotten why he's doing it, because Rodney is perfectly capable of getting around his apartment. That's not stopping him.
Rodney comes back out of his bedroom when Radek loses his grip on the door and it falls. Rodney's shirtless, the skin under his right arm red and agitated from the crutch, expression shocked and appalled when he yells, "Oh my God! Have you lost your mind? I should have you arrested!"
Radek says, "Shut up, Rodney," not bothering with paying attention, wrestling with the door instead.
Of course, shutting up in not one of the skills Rodney ever bothered perfecting. He snaps, waspish, "I'm calling the police. I can't believe you knocked down my door, you crazy, little—"
Radek beats Rodney to the phone, grabbing it and glaring victoriously at Rodney. Rodney, who rolls his eyes and rubs a hand up over his face, before moving surprisingly quickly toward Radek. Radek swallows a soft sound of surprise, hurrying across the room, Rodney glaring at him, jaw set stubborn and pissed off.
Rodney spits, "Why are you doing this? After I got you the job at—"
"What job did you get me? Ah, the one where you kidnapped me and dragged me across your continent to this place? I did not ask you—"
"It's better than anything you could—"
"Pah! Is that what you—"
"Then why did you stay?" Rodney is breathing hard, face gone red with anger, and Radek is suddenly aware that everyone in the surrounding apartments probably just heard that argument. He swallows hard, his own heart pounding fast, his hands balled into fists.
Radek drops the phone, shaking his head, not sure who he's more furious with, himself or Rodney, and starting towards the door. Rodney shouts after him, "Oh, that's just great! I'll just air condition the entire town then, I guess!"
Radek makes it down to his car before guilt catches him and he stops, kicking the tire hard before turning back around. By the time he gets back to Rodney's apartment, the man has his crutch leaning against the wall, and has somehow managed to wrestle the door upright, pain making lines around his eyes and mouth.
Radek curses, stepping back into the apartment, snapping, "Let me have it, are you insane?" and Rodney just snarls at him, tightening his grip on the door. Radek glares right back, grabbing Rodney's wrist and squeezing hard. He makes his voice softer, hating the effort it takes, "You will just hurt yourself again."
Rodney hisses, "Well maybe if someone hadn't taken it off the hinges I wouldn't—"
And Radek really doesn't want to get into a shouting match with him again, not least because Rodney always wins shouting matches. He can't help it, "Why do you refuse to allow me to help you?" Because goddamnit, he's so tired of fighting Rodney every step of the way with this.
Rodney's chin goes up, all defensiveness all of a sudden as he wrenches his arm out of Radek's hold, almost overbalancing. Radek jerks forward automatically to steady Rodney, his hand pressed against the warm skin of Rodney's back, right above the other man's hip.
Rodney jerks away again, voice sharp as razors, "Who says I need help?"
Radek raises his eyebrows, barking out a laugh, "I say. Miko says. Your doctors—"
And Rodney waves a hand, rolling his eyes impatiently, voice all full of scorn, "Yes, yes, but besides them." For a second they just blink at each other, and then, just like that, they're both laughing, helpless, hitching laughter that makes Radek feel breathless, reaching out to brace his hand against the wall, his stomach aching.
Rodney twists, putting his shoulders against the wall, bending over, laughing, the door slipping down and hitting the floor again with a bang. It makes Radek laugh harder, taking a stumbling step forward to brace Rodney up when he starts to slide down the wall himself.
Rodney grabs Radek's shoulder, his big hand warm, face tipped up to the ceiling as his laughter slowly tapers off. Radek hiccups on one last chuckle, suddenly painfully aware of how close they are, how hard he's breathing, Rodney's bare chest.
After a long moment Rodney finally looks down, cheeks red, eyes shiny, mouth saying, "I—" right before Radek loses his mind and leans forward, kissing him hard. Rodney makes a surprised sound, his grip on Radek's shoulder tightening, and for a half-second Radek waits to be shoved away.
He grabs at whatever he can reach of Rodney, pressing closer, making the most of what he can get, and it takes his brain a moment to realize that Rodney isn't pushing him away at all.
And then Rodney is, shoving Radek back, gasping, "Fuck, fuck, my leg," his face gone white with pain and Radek curses, twisting, pulling one of Rodney's arms over his shoulders. They manage to limp over to the couch together, Rodney biting his bottom lip hard when he tumbles down onto the cushion, his hands balled up into fists.
Radek goes to the kitchen, looking for the pain medication, the bottle suspiciously full, cursing Rodney again for being a stubborn bastard. By the time he gets back to the living room Rodney has his head tilted back, eyes open and distant, breathing shallow through his mouth.
Radek says, "Here, take these," pressing two of the pills to Rodney's mouth. The man shakes his head, turning away, pressing his lips closed tight, and Radek wants to shake him, resists only because of how well he can see the strain across the muscles of Rodney's shoulders.
"They make me dizzy, nauseous. I don't want them," Rodney's voice is a rasp, low and miserable, and Radek stands there, holding the pills, for a long moment before he sighs and gives up. He puts them back, pausing beside the door to lean it mostly into place before going back to the couch.
Radek sighs, "Rodney," brushing the man's sweaty hair away from his forehead, and Rodney cracks one eye open, squinting up at him. Finally, Radek sighs, shaking his head, "I will fix the door." He starts to step away, and Rodney reaches out, catching Radek's arm.
And so Radek leans over, Rodney's stubble rasping against his palm when he kisses the other man, softer than before. When he pulls back, Rodney's eyes are closed again, expression still tense, but some of the pain leeched out.
Radek presses another kiss to the crown of Rodney's head, and promises, "I am not going anywhere."
Rodney squeezes Radek's arm, hard, for a long second, mumbling, "Good. That's good."
::back to index::