Tea with... sweetener, these days. (teawith) wrote,
Tea with... sweetener, these days.
teawith

Look Back in Irritation

Title: Look Back in Irritation
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: McKay/Zelenka
Size: 3385 words
Spoilers: Everything in second season up to The Hive, really.
Notes: Written for pierson for the Zelenka Ficathon. pierson wanted… well, she wanted a lot of things. I hope this covers enough of them. I don’t believe I need to worry about the sporking she promised though - the only weeping little girl in this fic, is really a weeping little girl :) Thanks are due to astolat, because I’ve shamelessly borrowed Fermi, from Time in a Bottle. What can I say? He fitted.
Summary: In which Radek is annoyed with Rodney. A lot. But then Rodney is a very annoying man.


It started as a way of relieving tension. That was what Radek told himself. That and the fact that they were so often the only people left in the labs. It wasn’t inevitable, but it was definitely a relief to give in to something so mindless and physical. He tried to tell himself that their work would improve, that this was just a morale-building thing. But he didn’t really believe it himself. Rodney was just as irritable as ever, and Radek still wanted to kill him as often. Only this time, instead of fantasising about winning his Nobel prize with Rodney looking on grinding his teeth, or imagining himself able to shoot Rodney in the back of the head and watch his brains splatter all over the latest project they disagreed over, instead, Radek had this. Whatever it was that they were doing. He wondered if he should give it a name.

When Rodney groaned low in his throat and fisted his hands in Radek’s hair. When Radek tasted sweat and stale coffee as he mouthed his way along Rodney’s slightly rounded shoulders. When Rodney’s broad hands were hot around Radek’s čurák, until he had to bite into Rodney’s shoulder until he could trust himself to be silent again.

He didn’t like Rodney very much. But he wasn’t sure that mattered. They understood one another.

Then the Daedalus came, and they weren’t nearly dying any more. Radek thought that he and Rodney would stop, that things had come to a natural break point. There were other scientists arriving now. Still others that were going home. There was honest to god apples for strudel, and enough sugar and real honey that Radek thought he would die and go to heaven when he showed Sergeant Lopez his recipe for baklava, and the man just nodded. Pistachio nuts! Actual cinnamon!

But Rodney just went ‘huh’ when Radek suggested taking a break, and then went back to his laptop. Radek wasn’t even sure he’d understood him, except of course that Rodney was a genius and never let anyone forget that fact. Surely he could understand that Radek wanted… what? Space? Distance?

Surely Rodney would be grateful, considering they weren’t dying any more. There was no need for any more life-affirming sex, they could just get back to the work, secure in the knowledge that they were relatively safe. Well, as safe as you could get in the Pegasus galaxy, which wasn’t very safe at all, really. Not when you thought about it. What with the Wraith, and the Genii, and nanoviruses, and…

When he had thoughts like that, Radek would find himself running his finger along his top lip, and then licking it idly. It was a silly thing, but that reminded him of Rodney’s tongue, when he had kissed him, which wasn’t all that often, now Radek came to think about it. Not really a surprise - whatever it was that they had shared, it hadn’t included much kissing. Radek didn’t know why it was even on his mind.

***


Radek knew he had made the right decision when Rodney asked out Katie Brown. She seemed a sweet girl whose ideas on Ancient hydroponics systems were generally sound. And if Radek thought she simpered a little too much for his own tastes, and that she had big brown eyes just like a cow, and that she had no idea what she was getting into with Rodney… Well, that was perfectly understandable. Rodney’s work was important. He was Chief of Science. Naturally Radek was concerned with anything that affected his boss’s welfare. Anything that affected Rodney that directly, affected Radek as well, after all.

Then Rodney ended up with Cadman inside his head, and Radek wanted to shake him. He wanted to swear at him, and he wanted to spit. And Rodney still went on the date with Katie Brown. Well. Rodney would never listen to Radek. Rodney never did. He had known it would be a bad idea, but did anyone ask him? No. So Radek swore at his team, a lot. But he did it in Czech, so no-one would be upset. It was therapeutic, it relieved his tension. And that thought gave Radek the strangest pang.

But, of course, he still didn’t like Rodney very much.

***


Before Collins was killed, Radek didn’t think he could get any more annoyed with Rodney. He’d been short with him for weeks. And he’d watched Rodney being even more curt with him, which felt odd, like he was losing something, which of course was ridiculous. He decided then it was that burn of incandescent rage that was missing, the inability he had to express quite why he was so mad at Rodney. The lack of an occasion to be able to express that anger.

But after Collins was killed, Radek found he had plenty to say, and plenty of anger to say it with. He held some of it in, he had to, he felt he might explode from the tension of it otherwise, from his sheer fury at Rodney’s blindness, and pig-headedness, and his wilful refusal to listen… It irritated him even more that Rodney ignored his scientific opinion. Not just disagreed with it, but actually ignored it. That was a professional discourtesy that went beyond anything between them on a personal level. That went to the heart of Rodney’s opinion of his competence, and it was that that made Radek’s throat close up a little, until he had to cough to clear it. Of course it was that. What else could it have been?

That Rodney then went to anyone on Atlantis who had the slightest influence to bring to bear, that he manoeuvred and manipulated everyone into giving him what he wanted in the end. Well. That was merely to be expected. That was Rodney at his most typical in a way – it surprised Radek that more people didn’t recognise that fact. Yes, Rodney was brilliant, but you didn’t get to be a scientist of his calibre without all the dogged bloody-minded hard work and stubbornness as well. This was just Rodney operating with the gloves off. It shouldn’t have surprised people, really. He operated like that all the time.

What did surprise Radek was Colonel Sheppard’s willingness to go along with it all. Radek thought the Colonel knew Rodney better. Until Radek realised the Colonel was being blinded by something more than their usual friendship, and actually had to sit down a moment when he worked out what it might be. He’d heard the expression ‘seeing red’ before, but had never really experienced quite what that meant in practical terms. He thought he ought to be grateful for the empirical evidence, as a curiosity if nothing else, but discovered that empirical evidence didn’t mean a damn when instead it came to kicking the crap out of the wastepaper basket in the corner of the room.

What perhaps made it worse was the complete lack of his own surprise at the extent to which Rodney was willing to utilise that… bias. Although Radek was willing to bet that Rodney hadn’t thought it through. The consequences. The ramifications. This wasn’t silly little Katie Brown, after all, all sweetness and compliance. This wasn’t Radek himself, with his practicality, and the whole nearly dying thing. Rodney was nominally in charge of them both, for god’s sake, and who would they tell even if they felt like it? But this was the military head of Atlantis Rodney was messing with now. His own team mate. Who could get busted for this.

Radek wondered if Rodney had ever heard the phrase about not shitting on your own doorstep. He decided that if Rodney had, he probably hadn’t listened. But Radek didn’t wonder exactly why it made him so angry.

***


Colonel Sheppard didn’t forgive Rodney. Not for weeks. And Radek kept his head down and shut up. He couldn’t help the small mean glow of satisfaction at that, and he couldn’t help the tiny shiver of complacency that if he, Radek, wasn’t getting any, well, neither it seemed was Rodney. Blowing up five sixths of a dead solar system was nothing really, and everyone knew it, despite the chewing out that Rodney received from Elizabeth. No, what Sheppard was really punishing Rodney for was using their friendship in that way, for offering what he thought Rodney had no intention of delivering, or Sheppard any real way to receive. Radek hugged his own suspicions to himself, knowing as he did that what Rodney had been offering was real, if proffered too lightly and without thought.

Work was a solace, however, as it nearly always was. Even when Colonel Sheppard was turning into a bug, and Radek could only watch helplessly from the sidelines, as Rodney and Carson ran around trying to fix things. He watched Rodney’s hands wave, wave and then was angry with himself for remembering instead when those hands had curled into his muscles, when those blunt fingers had pushed into him, stretching him wide. He found his mouth open many times to try and offer help, to say to Rodney – what..? And then he would also remember Rodney’s ‘huh’ and the way they didn’t finish each others sentences any more, like that was something the Wraith had taken away with them when they left Atlantis supposedly destroyed, as though that was just one more thing that had been damaged along with the East Pier.

Radek couldn’t even try to help, which made things worse. Rodney seemed to disappear into an effusion of team bonding, and Radek tried not to begrudge him that, even as he felt that absence in their own lab. Simpson tried to start up a physicist vs. botanist darts evening, of all things, but it died before it even got off the ground. Probably because the only dartboard had been Peter Grodin’s once, and Radek wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to be reminded. It was a good effort though. Radek gave her points for trying. He wondered if Rodney might do the same for him, before eyeing the waste basket with a view to kicking it some more.

***


Enough was enough. He was the mature one, was he not? Everyone acknowledged that, so Radek decided it was up to him to fix this too. After they met the Aurora, Radek wanted to mend some bridges. It must have been a fascinating experience, encountering such an authentically created virtual environment, the possibilities were more than intriguing, but when he tried to talk to Rodney about it, Rodney – what was the right phrase? – blew him off, every time. They could have put together their own virtual environment – in fact, now they knew what to look for, the information was available in the database, as it nearly always was. Radek had some issues with the apparent morals of the Ancients, but he had no issue with their technical ability. He and Rodney could have linked it up to the stasis chambers and tested it, and Radek had even gone so far as to imagine what virtual environment might tempt Rodney – what his perfect world might be. He’d had a silly thought that he might try programming a virtual cat, since Rodney had mentioned his old pet on more than one occasion, which from Rodney was practically a declaration of true love.

He might as well not have bothered. Here was Radek attempting to be a colleague and a friend, to be a professional. But that would be expecting far too much from Rodney McKay, wouldn’t it, hmm? That pitomec wouldn’t know professional from a hole in the head, yes? It had been months – what was his problem anyway?

Radek built the virtual environment anyway – a beach, and a rolling ocean. Clean white sand and glorious tropical flowers – and then got annoyed and programmed in snow, which fell into the sea endlessly, just because he felt that even a perfect home away from home should have still have some flaws. He left out the cat, and felt stupidly spiteful. And then felt ridiculously obsessed for thinking that way – it wasn’t as if Rodney would even know.

He had just decided to show Rodney anyway. Make him sit down and listen. Make him realise that Radek had… things he wanted to show him. Make him see that no one was right all the time. That anyone could make a mistake.

And then his team didn’t come back. The whole team. Just like that. Gone.

Radek called the cat Fermi, which was the name he’d found in Rodney’s personnel file. It was white. It blended very prettily with the snow.

***


Elizabeth was a good leader. Radek wondered if he’d ever told her that. He’d served in the army for his National Service, and although he’d been a pencil pusher and a bean counter – a lucky break since his country hadn’t realised then what a valuable brain Radek had – he’d still seen his fair share of incompetence. Stupidity came in so many different forms, you see. Rodney had never understood that, Radek thought. He treated everyone alike, as though their idiocies were a personal affront. As though their errors were a universal constant to be factored into his life, like an equation.

Rodney never understood that the flavours these mistakes came in mattered. That there was genuine stupidity, general slowness of mind, like Radek’s cousin Jiri – who could tie his own shoelaces and was very proud of that fact. That there was the stupidity of the arrogant, those who couldn’t see further than the end of their limited imaginations. That there was the stupidity of the culpable, who were made stupid through fear, unable to take a decision because the devastation of infinite consequences paralysed them. That there was the stupidity of the immensely clever, who were stupid because no-one had ever told them they could make a mistake.

Radek wished he was stupid like his cousin Jiri. Jiri had always seemed so happy, so at peace with the world. He’d been found a job, in the shop of his Uncle Milos, and there he’d carried in the great sacks of vegetables, and trays of tins, and arranged them just so on the shelves, and he’d been perfectly content. Or so it had appeared. Radek wondered what Jiri himself had thought.

But no-one blamed his cousin Jiri for it. For being stupid. Because he had been born that way. It wasn’t his fault. And Radek wanted that. Sometimes.

But Elizabeth wasn’t stupid. She was a good leader, as Radek knew. She kept everyone busy, so they didn’t think about their missing first contact team. She kept any news (which was no news) low key, but anyone could check on their progress (which was none). She talked to Kate Heightmeyer about morale. She talked to Major Lorne about duty shifts, and temporary assignments. She kept everyone moving.

When Radek was asked to check the gate for world’s the team could have been taken to, he was apprehensive. He had begun to dislike going off-world. The uncertainty of it. The unpredictable nature of the Pegasus galaxy. The entirely predictable dangers inherent in new situations. Although that was another thing that perhaps he had made a mistake about. He didn’t merely dislike going off-world. He hated it.

But when Elizabeth asked him to retrieve the last addresses dialled from the DHD on P3X-485, he merely nodded. He packed up his gear, and he went to meet Major Lorne. He stepped through the Gate without any hesitation in his step. He didn’t think about stupidity, or mistakes, or how much he hated going off-world. He only thought about the mission. That was as it should be.

But he still failed.

***


Radek was out on the East Pier when Rodney dialled in from Ford’s planet. He was attempting to repair another burned out relay station, and out of easy radio contact. By the time anyone thought to tell him that Rodney had returned, hopped up and out of his mind on the enzyme, Rodney was already in the infirmary. Already safe. Radek nodded to Miko, who was clasping her hands in front of her, and had, yes, actual tears in her eyes. He nodded calmly, and went on putting his tools away, ignoring the tremors in his hands. It wouldn’t do. He knew it wouldn’t do. He didn’t even like the man. Rodney didn’t respect him, or his work. Rodney belittled him at every opportunity. He ignored perfectly good olive branches when they were offered. He went out with botanists.

Rodney was alone in the infirmary when Radek visited. It was late, and Radek scrubbed his hand roughly through his hair, and cleaned his glasses on his shirt, several times, before stepping through the makeshift plastic curtain. All perfectly necessary, of course. No need to disturb Dr Beckett, or his staff, with their no doubt valuable work. No need to explain that he had come to see Rodney. No need for that, after all, it was perfectly acceptable to visit Dr McKay, as the Chief of Science, his boss. They were colleagues, yes? It was perfectly all right.

Rodney was lying on his side, and his face was red, his breathing shallow and rapid. And it was just Rodney, lying there in a hospital gown. There was no need for Radek to swallow, or for his hands to clench. Rodney would be perfectly all right. Carson had seemed so certain. Carson had seemed certain enough that he had finally gone to bed, after Rodney had fallen asleep. And why shouldn’t Radek know all this? It was not hard to tap into the com system, to listen on the radios, to hack the medical database. These were all perfectly rational things to do, for a man in his position.

Rodney did not look comfortable. He was lying on his side, with a canula inserted in his nose. He was sweating, and looked flushed enough that Radek feared for his blood pressure. Radek stepped forward and realised, as his hand hovered above Rodney’s shoulder, that he did not know what to do next. He realised that he had never seen Rodney sleep normally. He had never seen him sleep in his own bed. He had only ever seen him here, in the infirmary injured, or unconscious and drooling on his keyboard, or once, memorably, curled around the control chair like a mother with its baby. That caused a pang. Should he not have seen Rodney in his own quarters at least once? What did that say about him? Even if they had just been relieving their tension, and nothing more. Should he not have seen…

What should he have seen? Rodney opening his eyes? So very blue against the flushed skin of his face. Should he have seen how very passionate Rodney made him? So very angry that Rodney had been forced to such lengths? Should he have seen how it did not matter if they didn’t like each other very much? How they would win their Nobel prize together anyway – because no scientist ever won alone. Should he not have remembered that?

His hand, that had been hovering above Rodney’s shoulder, descended, and Radek felt feverish skin through the thin cotton of the gown. Rodney was still looking at him and Radek wanted to say so much. All the things he had not said even once, that neither of them had said. He was so angry with them both. They should know better than to waste resources. To waste… this.

Instead, he leaned down and pressed his lips awkwardly to Rodney’s, bumping the canula, mouth dry with tension, Rodney’s lips too warm, but as soft as Radek remembered. He didn’t try for more. He didn’t explain about Fermi, or cousin Jiri, or the poor beaten up wastepaper basket. He didn’t explain that Colonel Sheppard was off-limits, and that Rodney better grasp that pretty damn quick, or that if he so much looked at another botanist, Radek would kill him. He didn’t explain any of that, he thought he didn’t need to.

Rodney just looked at him, and blinked, and Radek went ‘huh’. And that was all.

They were both geniuses, after all.
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