Pairing: Lorne/Zelenka, John/Rodney
Plot: In which John misunderstands, Rodney doesn't, Lorne is cunning and Zelenka despairs.
Authors: darkmoore, siriaeve, propinquitine and jadesfire.
Artists: gblvr, clear_as_blood and aesc.
“No, absolutely not! I refuse!“ Radek shook his head, folding his arms in front of his body in a defensive gesture. This was just another one of Evan’s half-cocked ideas and Radek would not take part in it. No way!
“Aww, come on, why not?” Evan asked, looking and sounding much like a child that had been denied his favourite toy.
“Because it will only end up in disaster, that’s why!” Radek answered and deliberately turned away from his lover, concentrating on the equations on his laptop again. As much as he loved his fiercely loyal partner, Radek knew if Evan went through with his idea and the plan failed, his friendship with John Sheppard could be severely damaged. John had told Evan and Radek about his seemingly unrequited love for Rodney McKay after the last mission that had almost ended with the death of the irascible physicist.
But John hadn’t told them so he and Evan could go and mess with his life and his friendship with Rodney, no, he had simply needed someone who would listen. Someone that he could trust wouldn’t judge him, because even with DADT gone, things were far from easy if one was interested in a partner of the same gender. And who would be better suited to listen than his own XO, who happened to be involved with Rodney McKay’s right hand man?
In a way, Radek felt sorry for John. He was so in love with his best friend, but Rodney kept mooning over women like Sam Carter and dating women like Katie Brown. Still, there was nothing he or Evan could or should do about that; Radek was sure that would only make things worse.
“You don’t know that,” Evan insisted, interrupting Radek’s thoughts. “We need to find a way to make Dr. McKay see what a great match he and the Colonel would make. Just like us. We’re a dream team after all!”
Evan smiled brightly at him and Radek felt a headache coming on. This was so not good. Plucking his glasses away and rubbing the bridge of his nose, Radek prayed for patience. Evan could be like a dog with a bone if he wanted something and – while rather admirable and useful in the field – that trait had caused quite some trouble in their personal lives over time.
“They are not us, Evan,” Radek interjected with as much patience as he could muster. “Colonel Sheppard is the military leader and even though you are his second, it still is different. And I am not like Rodney. I don’t have his trust issues, I am not as lonely as he is. You are aware his sarcasm is defensive mechanism, right? It will be difficult for Rodney to feel …worthy.” Radek tried to explain the complicated person that was Rodney McKay. He knew that most people were fooled by Rodney’s arrogant, blunt behaviour and even someone as observant as Evan could be misled.
Radek knew Evan wanted to get the Colonel and Rodney together not because he understood what was going on between the two of them, but because he trusted John when he said Rodney was worth the risk. He might not be able to see in Rodney what John saw in him but he didn’t need to; for Evan, the Colonel’s word was enough. And that Rodney was as loyal as Evan himself helped a great deal in the matter as well as the fact that Rodney had saved their collective asses more than once, putting his own life at risk.
As expected, Evan frowned, looking at Radek in confusion. “What do you mean by that? I just don’t get it, Radek! Dr. McKay is one of the most arrogant and self-assured people I know. And even though he can be a pain in the ass, he usually is the one to save the day. Come on, you know as well as I do that the Colonel and pretty much all of us are only still alive because of him. Why would he have any self-esteem issues?” Evan sounded sincerely surprised by what Radek had told him.
“And that is why your plan will fail. You do not understand the man Rodney McKay is. He might be arrogant and self-assured as you called it when it comes to his work, but he is not versed in social interaction. Is clumsy, you know? He is not good when it comes to dating women, and I really doubt he is better with men. You are lucky he confided in me that he likes men as well or your plan would be doomed to failure before you even started,” Radek tried to reason with Evan, trying to make his lover see that his plan was insane.
“Fine, so we make him see then. It shouldn’t be too hard. You know how he ticks, you said so yourself. Sure, he’s not classically handsome…not as handsome as you anyway, but he’s got something. And the Colonel already is in love with him after all. He doesn’t have to do anything to make him fall in love. He just has to accept it. He gets the Colonel, the Colonel gets him and everyone is happy. Piece of cake. He’s a smart man, a genius, smartest man in Pegasus. Those are his words. He’ll get it. We just need to point him in the right direction,” Evan sounded eager now, and the more he talked, the less Radek like the whole idea.
This was going to end badly, Radek just knew it.
The pounding behind his forehead reached new heights and Radek sighed, resigning himself to whatever Evan had in mind. He had the feeling Evan would try to follow through with his plan whether Radek agreed to help or not. Maybe if he played along, Radek would be able to steer Evan’s overenthusiastic energy in the right direction.
It was a Saturday, which meant two things: firstly, that it was pudding cup day, and secondly, that three in the afternoon would see John and Ronon engaging in a stealth operation to liberate as many of said pudding cups as two human stomachs could possibly hold from the mess hall before the evening rush started. There was the usual squabble over the division of spoils once they got to their regular table out on the balcony - there was never quite enough chocolate to satisfy both of them, and the strawberry flavour was inevitably set aside with the disdain its too-artificial taste deserved - but they settled down to eating fairly quickly.
This was partly because neither of them wanted to lose ground in the ongoing battle to see who could eat the most in one sitting (Ronon was currently ahead by twenty three cups, but John had a strategy; he could catch up), and partly because they both lived in fear of Corporal Smith finding them and confiscating the pudding before they could finish. Smith was kind of like a male, Alabaman version of Teyla - only not too like her, because he wasn't culinarily impaired - and frankly, John kind of lived in fear of him. Just a little.
"You going back to the gym?" Ronon asked, his words somewhat muffled around the spoon in his mouth. Like John, most of his attention was currently occupied by ensuring that he licked up every last bit of Tropical Surprise Pudding Cup: Ronon, because he genuinely seemed to like the stuff; John, because he was still trying to figure out what the surprise was.
"Probably not," John said, trying unsuccessfully to get his spoon to balance on the tip of his index finger once he'd absorbed every last bit of vaguely fruity goodness. "Lorne radioed me earlier. Said there was some paperwork he wanted me to look over. Rules or... something."
Ronon raised one eloquent eyebrow. "Sounds fun."
John wrinkled his nose. "Says the guy who's never had to fill out Form HZ-47B, 'Attack (Non-Fatal) By Sentient Bees.' In triplicate."
Ronon stared at him.
John resolutely didn't let his shoulders sag. "Okay, okay, fill out, sign off on. Whatever." John pointed his spoon at Ronon for emphasis. "I'm just saying, it's not going to be much fun having to spend the afternoon in my office with Lorne, going over paperwork."
Ronon rested his hands on his belly―which, John was disgusted to note, betrayed not a hint of the eleven puddings so recently consumed―and said, "You have an office."
"That," John said, affronted, "is beside the point. It's just that... well, has Lorne seemed kind of, I don't know... weird to you lately?"
"Okay, okay, weirder than usual for people from Earth?"
Ronon shrugged. "I beat him up during training yesterday. That's pretty usual."
John squirmed a little, uncomfortable on the mess hall's plastic seating, which was nearly as ergonomically fiendish as the weird, too-low stuff the Ancients had come up with. "No, he's just... Lately he's been, I don't know. Implying stuff."
"He keeps asking me if I know where McKay is, what he's up to, if I took him up with me on those jumper test runs to the mainland. And when he asks me, he gives me these looks, like he thinks..."
"Thinks what?" Ronon's mouth twitched, as if there was a smile trapped in its corners, waiting to get free.
"This might sound kind of out-of-left-field," John said slowly, "but I've been thinking about this for a while." Which he had, ever since the aftermath of that god-awful mission to Askrene, when Rodney nearly lost a leg and John had punched the wall outside the infirmary because he couldn't stand the thought of losing one of his team - of losing Rodney. (Lorne had helped him tape up his knuckles afterwards while John tried not to look too sheepish, and shrugged, and mumbled something about Rodney being his good buddy.) Lorne had started asking an awful lot of questions about Rodney after that, before the guy was even awake after the surgery, and, well... It was pretty much the only thing that made sense. He took a deep breath and said, "I think Lorne thinks Rodney's a spy."
Ronon stared at him for a long, unblinking moment, then heaved out a great and weary sigh and looked up at the ceiling - looked, in fact, a good deal like John's Great-Aunt Ethel had, just before she called on all the saints to give her strength when dealing with him. John's spine straightened, residual sense memory of what it felt like to be on the receiving end of one of those diatribes, but Ronon just heaved himself up and said, "Sheppard, you need to go talk to Teyla," before he headed out of the mess hall, leaving John surrounded by empty pudding cups and confusion.
Teyla didn't end up helping much with John's confusion. He approached her in the gym after one of her training sessions with the Marines, saying that he needed to talk about Rodney and some comments Lorne had been making. Teyla had seemed pleased, taking him by the arm and drawing him to the more secluded area behind the leg-press machine.
"I am glad that you have come to me to discuss this, John. I have been anticipating this for quite some time."
"Wait, you know already?" John knew Teyla was perceptive, but he hadn't thought that anyone else had noticed how suspicious of Rodney Lorne had been acting.
Teyla nodded. "It is quite plain, to many of us."
"Oh, for the love of - this is not good." John raked a hand through his hair, frowning. "This is not good at all."
"I do not think it is quite the problem you seem to think it is," Teyla said. "I know there are concerns with your military, but -"
"Of course there are concerns with the military! My XO's gone crazy and suspects our chief science officer of being a spy! That's a problem, Teyla!"
Teyla blinked. She opened her mouth, and then closed it. She blinked again. "Well," she said.
"Yeah." What else could you say? "It sucks. Lorne's done a great job so far, wouldn't ever think of replacing him, but if he's getting paranoid," John trailed off. "I've seen it happen to guys before. Something just snaps, they start getting twitchy, jumping at shadows, seeing conspiracies everywhere - it's a career killer. And I hate that it's happening to Lorne."
"Well," Teyla tried again. She was biting her lip, clearly trying to maintain her composure. John hadn't realized this would upset her so much. "Before you begin the discharge procedures, perhaps you should investigate the situation further? Try to determine what exactly it is that is going on?"
"Yeah, of course. Good idea. I've gotta do what's best for the expedition, and I can't have his paranoid fantasies endangering Rodney, but you know I'll try whatever I can to keep him here," John said, patting Teyla's arm consolingly. "Don't worry about it."
"I will do my best." She was practically biting through her lip, now, moments away from losing it completely. John decided the prudent choice was to get out of the gym as quickly as possible.
On his way out, he ran into Ronon, who emerged from behind the free weights stand and headed toward the leg press. As he left the gym, he heard Ronon ask, "What the hell, Teyla?", but he didn't have time to hang around and figure out what had Ronon so ticked off.
He had a Major to monitor.
It turned out that Lorne was not at all difficult to track. If he wasn't approaching John with questions about Rodney's past (to corroborate his story with official records, probably) or Rodney’s current whereabouts, he was trailing after the man, having apparently designated himself the head of Espionage Affairs for the city. So John followed along after Lorne, at least until Lorne realized that John was much better at locating Rodney, at which point Lorne started following him. Still, John was monitoring the situation.
Rodney just looked at the two of them like they were slightly unhinged. "Would anyone like to tell me why I've suddenly acquired a completely over-qualified military escort?" he asked after several days of John and Lorne following each other into the labs. "Not that I disagree with the value assessment, of course - I am probably the single most important thing in this city - but why now? And why you? Don't the two of you have jobs to do?"
John and Lorne looked at each other. Lorne inclined his head, as if deferring to a ranking officer. Tricky bastard. John shrugged. "Just checking in, Rodney. Find anything interesting? Any revolutionary new scientific discoveries?"
"Since you were here an hour and a half ago? No."
Lorne took this opportunity to chime in. "You two sure do spend a lot of time together, don't you?"
"What?" Rodney asked. "I mean, yes, of course -"
"Not really," John cut in. Maybe if he could convince Lorne that he and Rodney weren't very close, that Rodney didn't know about all of the military goings-on in the city, Lorne wouldn't consider Rodney as much of a security threat. He wondered if Lorne's fervor for anti-espionage activities would be satisfied if the threat appeared to have been neutralized.
"Yes, you do, sir," Lorne said meaningfully. He gave John an eyebrow that was supposed to indicate - something, god knew what, but okay, if Lorne wanted him to co-operate, that was probably a good plan, right? He knew there had been something in some personnel training session over the years about placating the mentally unstable; he couldn't quite remember if the advice had been "do it" or "don't do it", but he was pretty sure he could take Lorne in a fist fight if the whole thing went south, so playing along it was.
"You got me, Major," he grinned, throwing an arm around Rodney's shoulders. "We practically live in each other's pockets, these days. I've always got my eye on him." He clapped Rodney's arm a few times and squeezed, once again struck by just how impressive Rodney's biceps were.
"What?" Rodney asked, turning to look at John. Since John still had him clasped against his side pretty tightly, this brought them practically nose to nose. "What are you talking about?" Rodney blinked as he narrowed his eyes, and John was momentarily distracted by the flutter of his eyelashes.
John leaned in toward Rodney - who turned his head slightly (rather than get hit in the face with John's mouth) - and muttered into his ear, "Just play along, okay? I'll tell you later. Short version: Lorne's gone crazy."
"Oh." Rodney stared forward for a moment, then nodded and snaked an arm around John's waist. "That explains so much."
John looked over at Lorne, who was grinning somewhat maniacally at the two of them. "Well, sir, it looks like you've got things under control here. I've just remembered some paperwork I have to do, so I'll, ah, leave Dr. McKay in your capable hands." With a wink, Lorne pivoted and left the lab.
"Did he just wink at us?" Rodney demanded, shuddering under John's arm. "That is so creepy. Also, what?"
John sighed, letting his arm rest more heavily on Rodney’s shoulders. "He thinks you're a spy. He's been, I don't know, tracking you for the last week or so. I think he's trying to make sure you don't have access to secret information, or, at least, that you're not giving it to the Russians or something."
"Well, aside from the fact that my entire job is accessing secret information, and that I do in fact work with Drs. Korolenko, Sokolov, and what’s-his-face, Nikolsky from time to time, what are you talking about? Why would he think I'm a spy?"
"He cracked, I think, under all the pressure of the job. I'm surprised it doesn't happen to more guys out here." John tilted his head. "And I might've said something."
"Not about you being a spy, specifically. At least, I don't think so." He could feel Rodney glaring at him, hand fisted tightly in the shirttails of his uniform, and he sighed. "It was when you were, you know," he nudged at Rodney's thigh with his knee, "in the infirmary, the last time."
"How did my almost losing a -"
"I was upset." And okay, that was kind of surprising, but John discovered that he'd rather talk about his feelings than discuss Rodney's near-amputation. "I punched a wall, I needed a distraction, 'cause you were in hour six of surgery and I didn't know -" He swallowed. "I couldn't do anything to help, so I…"
"Punched a wall," Rodney said quietly, pulling at John's right hand with his left. He examined John's knuckles, which had long since healed, but there might've been a new scar hidden under the hair. "So that's why there's a dent near that doorway."
"Yeah, I, uh," John squeezed Rodney's shoulder were his left hand still rested, and wow, they were still kind of twined up with each other, weren't they? "I hit it pretty hard. Lorne taped up my knuckles, and that's when I might've said something that he, uh, misinterpreted. I don't know, I was pretty out of it."
"You must have been, if you managed to turn 'concern for my welfare' into 'allegations that McKay's a spy'." Rodney looked up at him, straight-faced, but John could see his smile in the wrinkles around his eyes before he got overwhelmed with the blue, blue, blue staring back at him.
"Completely unintentional," he said. "I just mentioned that I rely on you, you know, that I can't really imagine doing any of this without you."
Rodney started running his thumb back and forth across John's knuckles. "Of course not."
"And I guess Lorne thought that meant that you'd integrated yourself so completely into the functioning of this city that you could only be a spy waiting for his chance to take control of the entire expedition. Or something." John shifted a bit, and Rodney tightened his hold around John's waist. "It doesn't really make any sense."
"Mmm," Rodney hummed his agreement. "And this?" he asked, shifting to face John directly. "Does this make sense?" He squeezed the hand that he still held.
John breathed in sharply. "You mean…?” He ran his hand across Rodney's shoulders, stopping to thumb along his spine at the base of his neck. Rodney's eyes drifted shut, and he smiled, just a bit. "You like that?" he asked.
"Yes." Rodney hissed as John stroked the muscle more firmly. "To be honest, I am a bit out of my depth with the whole 'we're both men' thing," he said, opening his eyes. "That's sort of a new one for me, but what kind of scientist would I be if I didn't thoroughly explore data that didn't conform to my expectations?" He tugged John's hips toward his. “Besides, I always assumed we'd end up here eventually."
John arched an eyebrow. "You did, did you?"
Rodney snorted. "C'mon, John. Neither of us is that stupid."
John grinned and rested his forehead against Rodney's, taking a moment to revel in the feel of Rodney's (warm, quick, alive) breath ghosting across his cheek. There had been times he'd thought he'd never get to have this, let alone this promise of more.
Rodney pulled back slightly, and John raised his head. "Just one question, though," Rodney said. "What are we going to do about Lorne?"
"You've got to admit, it worked." Evan speared another piece of steak and gave Radek a smug look.
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Radek just shook his head. "You know, I am not entirely sure how you can count the amount of extra paperwork that the Colonel has given you as a victory."
"Aw, come on, it's not been that bad. Has it?"
Radek shrugged. He'd been pretty caught up in his own work lately as well, but it had been strange, not having anyone come drag him out of the lab, or down to the quiet tower on the West Pier, or that little balcony right at the top of -
He smiled. "A little. But I am sure things will calm down soon."
"Yeah, just in time for the Wraith to attack, probably." Evan snorted, running his hand over the back of Radek's before picking up his wine glass. "Still. We managed to get away tonight."
"This is true. Although I was serious when I said I would have to check on the experiment in a couple of hours."
Evan help up a hand. "Whatever. As long as you come back after that. And at least we're getting a good dinner. I can't remember the last time we had steak this good on Atlantis. You're going to have to share your secret."
"About that." Shifting a little awkwardly, Radek looked down at his plate, then up at Evan again. "Er. I should be honest with you about that." When Evan began to frown, Radek hurried on, "It is just that. Well. Rodney arranged it." The frown went into immediate reverse as Evan's eyebrows nearly disappeared into his hair. "To say thank you."
The grin on Evan's face was altogether too smug. "See? Good plan."
"Yes," Radek went on, unable to help himself, "he said that if it hadn't been for you convincing Colonel Sheppard that you thought he was a spy, then they would still be where they were six months ago."
"What?" Putting down his fork carefully, Evan stared at Radek. "The Colonel thought that I thought he was a spy?"
Radek replayed the sentence in his head, trying to work out if it was his English or Evan's hearing that was in error. With more emphasis this time, he said, "The Colonel thought that you thought Rodney was a spy."
"What?" Evan blinked, shaking his head a little as though clearing it. "That makes no sense. I never said anything about -"
"Apparently Rodney thought it was all part of some cunning plan. And I don't think he cared very much once the Colonel... well." The confused expression on Evan's face stopped Radek from smiling, and he patted his hand gently. "He is very grateful. That is what matters."
"And the Colonel?" There was a not of genuine worry in Evan's voice.
"I did not think to ask."
Grinning, Radek cut himself another piece of steak. "I am sure he will lighten your paperwork load again soon. Probably."
Click on thumb
- Round 1 - darkmoore : "'No, absolutely not! [...] energy into the 'right direction'."
- Round 2 - siriaeve : "It was a Saturday [...] cups and confusion."
- Round 3 - propinquitine : "Teyla didn't end up [...] going to do about Lorne?'"
- Round 4 - jadesfire : "'You've got to admit [...] 'Radek.'"
Beta: Thank you to miscellanny!
R4: sandalstrap thought the art was fine as it was and decided to leave it untouched. :)