Author: Rose Wilde-Irish
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Pairing: McKay/Zelenka, can be read as gen
Summary: "Radek, I'm in position," Rodney said through the comm. "Are you hard at work, or lollygagging around as usual?"
Notes: For picfor1000, photo under the cut. Thanks to pierson, lapislaz, zortified, icie, and spubba.
Radek squinted as he stepped out into the warm and humid day, holding back a shudder at the metallic, salty tang of the air. He was unable to keep from thinking of blood, each and every time he ventured outside. Despite the day's heat, he felt cold. He sighed, moving to the center of the deck, and pulled up part of the flooring, exposing crystals and the fibrous wiring running though so much of Atlantis.
"Radek, I'm in position," Rodney said through the comm. "Are you hard at work, or lollygagging around as usual?"
"Beginning now, Rodney," Radek said calmly, brushing aside the insult. He worked steadily, ignoring the sun and the scent of the water, a slight trickle of sweat sliding down, gathering in the small of his back.
"You did take the sunblock I gave you, didn't you? It looks to be a pretty fierce day. The sun index should be through the roof," Rodney said in his ear, and Radek closed his eyes, smiling slightly as he shook his head.
"Yes, Rodney, I put on the sunblock," he said, though he had not.
"You're lying. I can tell. Why is it nobody listens to me? Genius, here, and I know what kind of dangers are out there."
Radek splinted one more junction, nodding as he considered his work. Replacing a crystal, he straightened, pausing to stretch his protesting back muscles. Lifting the panel back into place, he toggled the comm. "Done from this end," he told Rodney, looking over the railing to the horizon, the line where water met sky.
"There's – ungh – considerably more damage on this end. I'll be a few more minutes," Rodney told him.
Radek nodded, though he knew Rodney couldn't see him. The sun was still bright and cheery in the blue sky, but Radek wasn't comforted. He sighed, tugging at the collar of his shirt before sitting down on the deck, pulling off boots and socks. He wriggled his toes once his feet were free, balling up the socks and shoving them in his boots, then pushed his pants legs up and dangled his feet over the side.
The sun shone on, waves slapping lightly against Atlantis below him. He felt the press of the sun like a physical thing, bearing down on him. He wiped his forehead and shook his head, staring at the expanse of nothing around him. His sweat was gathering now, damp and uncomfortable on his back, under his armpits. He bit back the urge to curse and pulled at his shirt, hearing the noise of Rodney working somewhere below him.
His shirt joined his shoes and socks, tossed carelessly aside. There'd be wrinkles, later, but he couldn't bring himself to care. He felt the heat try to push him down, and wondered why he fought. Why he continued to fight when he knew what the outcome was likely to be, knew it deep in his bones where no sun could warm him.
The clickbuzz of the comm gave him a split second warning. "Are you barefoot up there?" Rodney's voice was irritated, full of disbelief.
Radek clicked on his comm. "No, Rodney, it is some other person who has wandered in and sat, shoeless, up here."
There was a slight pause, and Radek could hear Rodney winding up, considering his options. "No reason to be snippy," he said finally. "If you want to forget that feet can be burned, too, go right ahead. And by all means, if you'd rather just sit there than come down here and lend me a hand-"
"What, the great Dr. Rodney McKay is admitting he needs help? Let me write this moment down to preserve it for posterity!"
"Someone sure got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. What's the matter, mess out of the cereal with the marshmallow bits?"
"You're really making me want to trek all the way down there and give you a hand, McKay."
There was a short silence, and Radek could feel Rodney's sigh even if he didn't hear it. "I could use a hand, yes. And it's out of the sun, which your skin will thank me for, I might add. Cooler down here, too."
Radek paused, thinking. If he really wanted to, he was sure he could goad Rodney into a fight and stave off heading down there. The silence stretched out and Radek drew a deep, moist breath of air, trying not to feel like it was choking him.
"Plenty of space, too. If you can dangle like that, you can handle the water being a few feet away. Besides, I'm here." Rodney's voice was quiet.
Radek sighed. "You just want to make me do all the work and then claim all the credit again, McKay."
"Oh, yes. That's it. It has nothing to do with the volumes of other work I could be - we could be doing. No, turn it all into a quest for glory." Rodney's words lacked their customary acerbic tone. Radek leaned back, gazing at the sky, wishing desperately for something to ease his malaise.
"I must again compliment you on your method of inspiration. Truly first rate. Is no wonder you were picked as head of sciences." He sounded flat, even to himself.
"Just get down here. I could really use you," Rodney said, his tone making Radek raise a corner of his mouth into something that wasn't a grin but was close.
"All right, Rodney, you win," he said, gathering his shirt and his shoes and padding off to the transporter. The air inside was cooler but he still felt the heat of the sun radiate off of him, could still feel its press against his back.
He drew a deep breath before stepping out onto the service deck, darkened and dank, where Rodney waited, smiling crookedly as he saw Radek.
"Wasn't so hard, was it?" Rodney asked, clasping his bare shoulder, and in the touch Radek felt the sun's weight melt away.