Title: Chicken Soup for the Annoying Soul
Category: Stargate: Atlantis, McKay/Zelenka
Warnings: slash, schmoop
Rating: PG13 for snogging
Summary: Soup. Phlegm. Grumpy Rodney. 'Nuff said.
Archive: If it's on your list, you can archive it. If it isn't and you'd like it, just let me know where you're putting it.
Feedback: Feed me, Seymour.
Website: Mice's Hole in the Wall https://www.squidge.org/mice
Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to many other people. But if they were mine, they'd be having very interesting adventures.
Author's Notes: For spubba, who wanted Rodney/Radek smut, schmoop, sap, and/or romance. Betabits by kt43ver and chi1013.
Rodney coughed, acting for all the world like the next thing out of his mouth would be a lung.
"Take it easy, Rodney," Radek said. "Try to relax. It will help your breathing."
Rodney hunched into himself, curling up in his bed. When he could breathe again, he looked up at Radek. "Dying here. There is no joy whatsoever in phlegm." His voice was weak and breathy and Radek could hear the wheeze in his chest.
"You are not dying, Rodney. You are only making everyone around you wish they could die. This is why Carson sent you home from the infirmary in the first place, and why I have been charged with bringing you soup." He sighed and set the mug down on the bedside table. He sat with Rodney, who glowered at him.
"Have a little respect," Rodney growled. It was less than intimidating. "This fever is going to fry my synapses. I can feel my IQ slipping away as we speak."
Radek shook his head and sighed. "If you lose half of your IQ, you will still be smarter than Kavanagh."
Rodney sagged into his pillow. "Not saying much," he said softly, the growl in him gone as his energy flagged. "Your average goldfish is smarter than Kavanagh." He'd been ill now for three days, fever coming and going.
Carson had insisted he would be fine in his quarters as long as he got enough liquid, but the infirmary was nearly full of Athosian flu victims who were far worse off. Radek had got over it himself barely a week previously and knew how miserable Rodney was. If the flu ran its course, he would be over the worst of it in another day or two at most.
"You need to have some soup," Radek said. "Let me help you sit up a bit." He tucked an arm under Rodney's back.
"Oh god, I get dizzy when I sit up. I really don't want to have the dry heaves again."
"Your stomach will feel better with something in it, trust me." He helped Rodney sit and tucked pillows behind him to brace him. Rodney's fever flush paled slightly and he pinched his eyes closed. "Slow, deep breaths," Radek said. "This will help the dizziness."
Rodney leaned, half on the pillow, half on Radek's shoulder. He gasped and shuddered, grabbing onto Radek's arm and holding on for dear life. "Oh god," he murmured.
"Easy," Radek said softly. Perhaps he had underestimated Rodney's nausea level. Rodney nodded, eyes closed, and swallowed hard. "That's right. Slow breaths." He watched as Rodney slowly relaxed, his muscles unclenching. "Better, better."
Radek brushed a hand across Rodney's forehead, wiping slightly sweaty hair back. He knew how much Rodney must ache right now. The flu had left him barely able to move for the better part of a week himself. Rodney was actually complaining far less than Radek would have expected. Reaching over, he took the mug of soup in hand and helped Rodney hold it.
"I'm not three, you know," Rodney said.
Radek shook his head, just letting Rodney lean against him, arm around his shoulders. "I know, but your hands are shaking. If I let you spill it on yourself, you would complain even more loudly. Now be quiet and sip, yes?"
Rodney sighed sadly and sipped. Swallowing was a bit of a struggle but he managed and, after a moment, sipped again. "Okay, all right. That does help."
"Good," Radek said gently. "Again."
Rodney groaned and sipped a few more times, finally slumping onto Radek's shoulder, exhausted. "Wish I could sleep," he mumbled.
"You will," Radek assured him. Rodney opened his mouth to answer, but fell asleep before he could get a word out. Radek smiled. He set the mug down and eased Rodney's limp form onto the pillows, covering him carefully. Carson had asked him to keep an eye on Rodney, having far too much to do with more seriously ill patients already. Anyone who didn't require an IV had been shipped off to their own quarters, and a friend or co-worker had been assigned to watch over them.
He had, of course, ended up taking care of Rodney. Truthfully, he was one of the few who could handle being around the man at his worst. Major Sheppard and Carson were both on that list, as was Dr. Weir, but he didn't think anyone else had made the cut. Radek wondered sometimes how he had ended up being one of the unfortunate elite.
He pulled the cloth from the small bowl of water sitting on Rodney's bedside table and wrung it out, hoping it would help cool the fever a bit. He found that he actually liked Rodney much more than he ever expected to. For all his arrogance and bluster, he wasn't so bad, one just had to look beneath the surface a bit.
"What shall I do with you?" Radek muttered. He moved the cloth slowly over Rodney's face and neck. Several days' growth of beard was not helping at all, and he looked curiously vulnerable like this. Ten minutes of wiping down Rodney's exposed skin did lower the fever though, and Radek sat there watching the slow, slightly wheezing rise and fall of Rodney's chest.
He put the cloth back in the bowl and lay his palm in the center of Rodney's chest. Radek could feel Rodney's heart beating. Rodney made a small, quiet moan and shifted in his sleep. One hand moved, covering Radek's, and Rodney sighed softly.
Radek looked down at Rodney's large hand covering his. He stared for a moment, trying to sort through his feelings. Carefully turning his hand over, he took Rodney's and squeezed. Radek chuckled silently and shook his head. All the noise Rodney made and, here in the silence of his sleep, he would hold Radek's hand? It made a perverted sort of sense, really.
They were friends. Close friends, if Radek admitted the truth. The way they completed each other's sentences when they worked was nothing short of frightening. There were moments when Radek thought perhaps he could read Rodney's mind. That was even more frightening.
Most unnerving of all, though, were the looks that sometimes passed between them when they were alone in the lab. That was enough to leave Radek's bones feeling just a bit like aspic.
He knew what those looks meant and was certain that Rodney was equally aware of what lay unspoken between them. It wasn't lack of interest that had kept them from exploring this, but rather the simple expedient of too much work and too little time. No one would comment if they chose to do anything about it. Even Kavanagh was getting laid on a reasonably regular basis, and Radek considered that slightly too close to inter-species romance for his personal tastes. He rubbed his thumb gently in a circle on the back of Rodney's hand.
Radek knew Rodney better than most. Perhaps Carson knew him a little better, and had known him somewhat longer, but Radek saw him more than anyone else. They worked side by side constantly, except when Rodney was offworld. He had in fact grown quite fond of the man despite his bluster and arrogance. Radek was fairly certain what lay behind the high walls Rodney kept about himself.
Perhaps, when Rodney was feeling better, Radek would test his theory.
The coughing jarred Rodney awake again. He was barely able to breathe, phlegm blocking his nose and throat, but warm hands helped him, rolling him onto his side. It eased the blockage and he hacked and gasped, trying to get enough air into his lungs. After a moment, a cloth was in his hand and he spit frantically over and over again, getting rid of the horrible feeling of drowning in slime.
Panting, he lay on his side with his eyes closed.
"Are you all right?" Zelenka's familiar, accented voice was concerned.
Rodney nodded weakly. "Yeah," he wheezed, "yeah. Need to... catch my breath."
Radek's hand was firm on his shoulder, the pressure of fingers keeping Rodney's head from spinning too much. "Do you want water? Soup?"
He nodded again. "Minute." He wanted to make sure he wouldn't choke on it before he tried drinking anything. His stomach certainly felt hollow enough. Food would be good. The ache of fever still lurked behind his eyes.
"Rest for a few moments and I will help you sit so you can drink." The hand slipped from his shoulder to his back, moving in soft, soothing circles. Rodney took a slow, deep breath and sighed it out. He was relieved when his lungs didn't rattle this time. Maybe the flu was starting to diminish.
He didn't have the energy to speak again yet so he just lay there and kept breathing. After a long moment, he cracked one eye open and looked up at Radek, sitting on the bed beside him. "Food," he muttered. He reached out with one hand, still too woozy to sit by himself. Radek's arm slid around him, easing him up, and he leaned against Radek's side. Dizzy, he let his head fall on Radek's shoulder for a moment.
"Is all right," Radek said softly. Rodney closed his eyes to keep the room from spinning and felt a hand rest gently on his cheek. He felt too miserable to protest. Besides, it felt kind of good. No reason to eliminate the one thing that felt at all comfortable in this moment.
Radek's thumb moved idly along Rodney's cheekbone, back and forth in a familiar, almost intimate way. Rodney wasn't sure what to make of it, but he thought maybe he liked it, that he could possibly get used to it. Maybe. If he didn't have to move at all for the next year or so.
A warm cup touched his lips and he raised one hand to help guide it, opening his eyes again. More soup. It tasted vaguely like chicken, though he knew it was some weird lizard-thing the Athosians liked. "Not enough garlic," Rodney said.
"There is no garlic left," Radek told him. "We ran out two weeks ago, but you eat so many MRE's you would not have noticed."
"This is the general consensus."
Rodney sipped more, taking it in slowly. It was fairly salty, but he figured he'd been sweating out enough from the fever that he needed it. His joints ached with a concerted throbbing that almost but not quite matched his pulse. "Need some pain killers," he said when he took a break from sipping. "Morphine maybe. God, I ache."
Radek chuckled and shook his head, his chin bumping gently against Rodney's forehead. "No, no morphine. I do have Tylenol though. This is what Carson said you should have."
Rodney grumbled for a moment and held his hand out for it. Two white tabs were dropped into his palm, and he swallowed them with more soup. "Still dying," Rodney said sadly.
"Still not dying," Radek said, contradicting the direct evidence of every cell in Rodney's body. "For another day or so, you will only wish you were."
"Oh, great." Rodney wasn't sure if he was hallucinating when he felt Radek nuzzle his hair. "What are you doing?"
He felt the curve of Radek's mouth against his forehead as he smiled. "An experiment."
Rodney blinked. "You wanna let me in on the secret here?"
There was a quiet chuckle and Radek's thumb soothed against his cheekbone again. A moment later, there was a soft press of lips against Rodney's forehead. "Is this evidence enough?"
Rodney tilted his head to look up into Radek's eyes. "You really picked a lousy time for this, you know?"
Radek's mouth was twisted into a wry, amused smile. "And why is this?"
"Phlegm," Rodney said. "Makes for utterly lousy kissing."
Radek's smile broadened into a grin. "Well yes, but still, I would say the experiment was a success."
"And why is that?"
A snort. "Because you have not thrown me out, therefore I can assume that you wish to be kissed."
"Duh." Rodney rolled his eyes and swatted Radek's temple gently.
"Now I know your IQ has suffered from your fever. Such answers are entirely beneath you."
Rodney rumbled his disapproval. Radek kissed him again, aiming slightly lower this time, lips brushing Rodney's cheek.
"You really want to get the flu again?"
"No, but it's unlikely unless it has mutated already. Basic biology, Rodney."
Rodney looked at him. "Well, in that case." He tugged Radek down and kissed him hard, leaving himself far more breathless than he'd expected. Coming up for breath, he coughed, and that triggered a long spasm of hacking that drained him and left him dizzy again.
Sinking back into his pillows, he gasped like a water-deprived fish.
"I didn't think I was that bad," Radek said, his eyes alight with extraordinarily inappropriate humor.
Rodney, having no energy for words, simply glared. Radek took his hand and smoothed damp hair from Rodney's forehead. Rodney just sighed and closed his eyes, plotting revenge.
When a damp cloth blotted at his sweaty skin, Rodney decided that perhaps revenge was a bit premature. "Feels nice," he said.
"I thought you would like it," Radek said. "Just relax, yes?"
"Yes, yes," Rodney muttered. Nice. Cool. Fever-inhibiting. It was all good. Well, it was good except for the aching joints and the way his head felt like it was too big for his skull. That part was no fun whatsoever.
Radek's hand in his was warm and very comfortable. Rodney thought maybe he liked it a lot. Not that he'd ever mention this, of course. Mentioning it might give Radek the idea that he could get away with it in public, which of course was absurd. There would be no hand-holding in public. No public kissing. No snuggling. And why Rodney was thinking about things like kissing and holding hands and snuggling in public, or at all really, was beyond him. It had to be the fever.
"I doubt it is the fever, Rodney," Radek said.
Rodney blinked. "Wait, did I say that out loud?"
"No. I can read your mind." Rodney stared at him. "Okay, not really. You're muttering."
"Of course, if we kissed in front of Kavanagh, it might just give him a heart attack."
Rodney grinned evilly. "That'll be difficult in that he has no heart."
"I like the way you think."
Radek smiled and squeezed Rodney's hand. "I know," he said. "This is why the kissing works so well. And when you are feeling better, I have a few other ideas."
Rodney grinned. "You know that mind reading thing? I think I'm getting that." He snuggled into Radek's hip and closed his eyes.