In Whose Quick Brain is Hidden Secrets of the Stars (from The Submarine, by Will Lawson)

~ Written for kyrdwyn, for the Radek Zelenka Ficathon 2006

Radek was used to long hours, years before he came to Atlantis. He was used to cranky superiors and surly underlings, and language barriers that were broken only with mathematics and the agreement to never, ever use Polish notation unless someone was wielding a weapon, or withholding beer. He was used to unreasonable demands by people who were not scientists, who expected that it was only necessary to say 'make it so' and things would be done.

The evil, non-human creatures trying to kill them, that was fairly new. The lack of good coffee was also new, and sometimes worse to deal with. But really, overall, Radek found that life in another galaxy was not so wholly different from life on Earth that he did not sometimes forget where he was and what they were really doing.

Many nights he would lift his head from whatever machine or conceptual problem he'd been buried in, and he would have to blink for a moment against the surprising colours and sounds of the room around him. The uniforms hidden beneath so very common lab coats made it hard, sometimes, to reconcile the feeling of normal with the remembrance of other. So used to working until the demands of his body smashed over his head that after awhile, he could pry himself from work and stumble off to bed and never once truly think to himself, "I am on another world."

Sometimes he woke up in the morning -- or early afternoon -- and got as far as a shower, hot tea, and breakfast, before he would stop and look around and recognise the metal hallways for what they were.

Gradually life in Atlantis grew familiar enough that even the moment of startled recognition faded. After three years of aliens and Wraith and spaceships, the stuttered realisation only really occurred when he stepped into the gateroom and saw the Stargate itself, or looked at a puddle jumper for the first time that day, or woke up in bed and found himself warm and pinned down.

There were many, many things about Atlantis that he had struggled to get used to. The last one was not one of them.

Radek had his head bent over the open panel, staring inside at an array of crystals that had to have been assembled by a blind, drunk monkey. There was no way that the machine could possibly even begin to make sense, much less work, and clearly whoever had thought it should needed his head examined.

He sighed and looked over at the person in question, and realised that Rodney could not have even glanced at the machine before assigning it to him. Otherwise, he would have given it to Masterson, who had arrived two months ago and still got lost going from the lab to the mess hall.

He was about to call Rodney over and suggest they reassign the machine, when he saw Rodney frown and thump his keyboard with the heel of his hand. Radek waited patiently for Rodney to shout at whoever had caused the moment of -- for him -- mild aggravation, but nothing happened. Rodney kept staring at the screen, looking mildly annoyed and doing nothing about it.

Radek stood up and thought about calling the infirmary. It was possible that was overreacting, he knew, so first he tried the more direct and simpler method of walking over and stopping just outside Rodney's reach, and waiting for his presence to be noticed.

It was only a few seconds before Rodney looked up. "What?" he snapped, and Radek thought maybe he had miscalculated, and Rodney was going to vent his upset on him.

"Is there problem?" he asked, glancing towards Rodney's laptop and seeing only the index of his e-mail inbox. He didn't recall any memos as of that morning that would account for Rodney's behavior, which meant it could be more recent, or that it was personal.

Rodney frowned at him and started to shake his head. Then he sighed. "Sylvia's getting transferred back to Earth."

Radek blinked, and tried to remember who Sylvia was. Biology department? Chemistry? Something to do with beakers, he thought. "I'm sorry," he offered, while he tried to figure out why this could possibly matter to Rodney.

"Don't be. It isn't like I was getting anywhere," Rodney muttered, and he leaned back towards his laptop and glared at it, like he would happily get back to work and ignore Radek.

"I did not know you were dating," Radek said quietly, sitting down on the stool beside Rodney. He hadn't known Rodney was dating, though over the last year they had become good enough friends that Radek had grown privy to such conversations. It had begun with Dr. Brown, of course, as all of Atlantis had been talking about the kiss. Radek had asked if he was still going to see Katie, afterwards, and had commiserated with real sympathy when Rodney had said there was no chance in hell.

"We weren't, not... well, it doesn't matter. She's going back and she was one of the very few intelligent women here who aren't annoying or insane."

"Your perfect opposite," Radek said, smiling knowingly. He grinned harder when Rodney gave him a glare.

"Why do I even tolerate your presence?" he demanded.

"Because I am brilliant, not annoying, or insane."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Ha, ha. Luckily for me, I happen to know you haven't had a date any more recently than I have." Rodney looked smug, then disgusted. "God, I hate this place. You'd think the women here would use the intelligence that got them here in the first place, and not be like regular people. Value genius over the traditionally handsome hot stud."

Radek frowned, but said in as light a tone as he could manage, "Like Colonel Sheppard?"

"Yeah, though to listen to Teyla talk, most of the ladies here would rather hook up with Ronon, or Sergeant Petrovich."

Radek nodded, knowing exactly what Rodney was talking about. He opened his mouth to offer some kind of condolence, but stopped. There was really nothing he could say.

Rodney waved a hand. "Maybe we'll visit another off-world village and the local maidens will tell us we've arrived just in time for a fertility festival or something."

Radek laughed. "You are just trying to make me reconsider my decision never, ever to go off-world."

"No, I'm serious. If I thought I was going to have sex, I'd never let anyone else go." Rodney put his hands on his keyboard and began slowly typing, already becoming lost in his work again.

"I am very sorry for you," Radek said with false sympathy, and grinned at the annoyed look Rodney gave him.

Then he returned to his own workstation and stared at the inexplicable machine. He grabbed his own laptop and typed a quick note to Dr. Masterson. Then he randomly opened a file from the server, and dug around for something interesting to work on.

He didn't think about Rodney's comment about dating, nor about how early he rose in the mornings to leave a warm bed before anyone could see.

Radek stopped listening to the meeting half an hour ago when it became clear that Rodney was enjoying himself and didn't need to be reined in. Radek was scribbling trivial notes about a device he knew would only ever work after they broke three indisputable laws of physics, which meant probably by next Thursday they would have built one.

He paused when he heard John's voice, listening just long enough to determine that they were still discussing whatever it was they felt needed discussing. All the department heads and seconds in command where there; Radek knew for certain that only Rodney, John, Elizabeth, and Teyla were listening. He glanced over at Carson and smiled to see the man's head tilted down ever so slightly, his fingers tracing slowly back and forth over the pc tablet in his lap. Probably a puzzle game, Radek thought, since he wasn't writing. When he was writing, it was either work, or letters home.

Carson glanced up before Radek looked away; their eyes met for a split second before Radek forced himself to look back to his own laptop. He saw the beginnings of a frown on Carson's face before his gaze was diverted, and Radek stifled a groan. All he needed was to get Carson's attention, worried and relentless the way Carson always got when he was concerned.

It was a discussion Radek did not want to have, and he typed up a quick e-mail to send to Carson, asking him what he knew about Sylvia. He waited a moment then peeked; Carson was looking at his tablet with a neutral expression as he read.

Radek caught the tone of Elizabeth's voice and looked up, attentively, right before she said "Then it's agreed." Radek glanced at Rodney and copied his nod; whatever it was, if Rodney and Elizabeth were in agreement, there was no point in pretending he objected. If he discovered that he had any objections to whatever they'd been discussing, it would be easier to raise them in private, anyhow.

Gathering up his things, Radek tried to hurry after Rodney before he disappeared. A hand on his elbow caught him too quickly, and all he could do was look back, politely.

John smiled, disarmingly and charming and with eyes that said he had not missed a single thing. "I wanted to ask you if you'd had a chance to look at jumper 5," John said, stepping aside to let Teyla past, apparently not minding that he bumped into Radek as he did.

Radek felt his entire body pressed against John, for a moment, and for that moment had no idea what John was talking about. He caught the amused look on Carson's face and he felt himself flush, and nodded quickly. "I wanted to see if you could replicate the problem; the circuitry seems fine, but I have not had a pilot test it out, yet."

John nodded easily. "Got time now?"

"Of course," Radek agreed, and he followed John out of the conference room, and wondered what excuse Carson had, for tagging along behind.

They headed for the jumper bay, and John led them up to the ramp of Jumper Five. He laid his hand alongside the ramp; a moment later it descended.

Once they were all three inside and the ramp was closed, John sat down in the pilot's chair and swiveled it around. "So?"

Radek blinked. "So... I have no idea why we are here."

It was Carson who answered. "What's going on, Radek? You haven't said two words all day, and any time either of us asks, you deflect it back onto something else." He moved forward, placing a hand on Radek's arm. "Talk to us."

He sighed. He should have known better than to think he could get away from this -- for any amount of time, much less avoid it forever. He shook his head. "It is nothing... nothing new," he added quickly.

"So which old thing is it?" John asked.

Radek raised a hand, and waved vaguely around, at the jumper. "This. Just... this."

He saw Carson and John exchange a look, and knew they understood what he meant. Carson started forward, but Radek shook his head, then sat down on the bench. He didn't want to have this conversation, because the times they'd had it before, they'd come no closer to a solution than they one they already had.

"Radek," John began, and Radek knew from his tone he was going to say it.

"No," he cut John off. "Please, do not say it. We all know why it is not the right answer."

John looked guilty, but shrugged and didn't continue. "I'm sorry," he said after another moment.

"What brought it on this time?" Carson asked, quietly.

"Just... Rodney. Complaining about this lady he wanted to go out with. He... wanted me to commiserate with him. I just wanted to tell him. I wanted to say, for once, that I have been in a relationship for a very long time. That it is a good relationship, and a very serious one, and... I could say nothing. As always." Radek spread his hands, staring at the floor.

It wasn't easy, but they all knew the facts. The few who knew about any relationship at all, knew only of John and Carson. Friends who spoke little enough that people who shouldn't know did not. Carefully keeping word from filtering back to Earth and the SGC and the military that would send John packing home, discharged and out of their reach forever.

It was easy enough to hide when friends didn't mind. But how much harder was it to tell them it wasn't just John and Carson, but John, Carson, and himself?

No one questioned their friendship and the time they spent together, hanging out, the late nights when no one knew exactly when Radek might have returned to his own quarters. When Radek would pull himself out of their bed and dress, and leave behind the two men he loved, still wrapped around one another.

"We could always pretend to break up," John said, lightly. "Switch off who has to leave for awhile."

Radek looked over, ready to remind him that that solution hadn't been acceptable any of the previous times it had been suggested. He stopped at the dark look in his lover's eyes. A glance showed him it was echoed in Carson's.

They weren't any happier than he was, and that, at least, made it easier to bear.

"There is nothing to be done," Radek said quietly. They'd discussed the issue before, argued and discussed all possible options. The closest to an acceptable solution was Radek moving in next door, and cutting a doorway between the two quarters. But John and Carson lived in a section designed for families and couples; all the quarters were large enough for two or more, and there was no way to explain why Radek, alone, would need a larger place to live.

"I'm sorry," John said again.

"Yes," Radek said. He hesitated, then reached out his hands. John and Carson took them, and for a while they simply stayed there, not saying anything at all.

Six months went by with nothing changing. John and Carson both tried hard to make sure Radek felt included. While he never doubted they loved him, it grew more and more difficult to go to their quarters -- and leave again. They argued more, and consoled themselves with pipe dreams, and pressed on day after day, letting Atlantis and its adventures distract them as best as it could from things they could not solve.

It came as a surprise, therefore, when Elizabeth announced at the weekly meeting that negotiations were underway to finalise the declaration of autonomy for Atlantis. Talks had been going on for a year, to make the international expedition truly sans-national. With the number of Pegasus natives living in the city, as well as the decreasing dependence they had on the US government, it had become more obvious that the US government was inadequate to rule over their city.

Radek had not been following the details of the process, as politics was something totally beyond his interest or understanding. But right before the meeting was adjourned he understood.

Some things were not enforceable on Atlantis, Elizabeth said calmly. And once the papers were signed, and Atlantis was free, certain things could no longer even be considered illegal. It might not change attitudes, but it would mean that no one could be sent back to Earth for breaking laws that were no longer applicable.

She said nothing more and looked at none of them, but gathered her papers and left. Most of the others filtered out behind her, already talking excitedly about the news.

John, Carson and Radek stared at each other.

"What the hell was that about?" Rodney demanded. "She didn't mean you two; no one who matters has cared about that for two years." He glared at John and Carson.

John cleared his throat, but didn't answer. he looked at Carson, then at Radek. Radek looked at them both, wondering if this meant that any of them would actually dare.

"Oh, you are kidding me!" Rodney exclaimed.

Radek tensed, and John whirled, stepping forward -- between Radek and Rodney.

Rodney rolled his eyes, and waved a hand, then pinned a stare on Radek. "You're telling me that all this time I've been... you've been making it with both of them?"

Radek slowly shrugged.

"I hate you," Rodney said, simply. "And if I don't manage to have sex sometime this week, I am going to make sure you're working too hard to even think about celebrating Elizabeth's news."

"Is that an offer?" Radek asked, innocently, hiding the stunned shock he still felt. "If it is legal to have three together, I'm sure it will be legal for four."

Rodney lifted a hand and flipped them off. Radek started to reply, then he stopped, because Carson had moved forward and was pulling him in, and Radek thought that perhaps, being kissed by his lover in front of Rodney was the best revenge he could ask for.