The Scientific Process

Major John Sheppard told himself it was now or never, because Friday was tomorrow and if he didn't do it now, he'd have to wait another whole week. That threat hadn't worked last week, but this time John made himself walk over to the puddlejumper where Dr. Radek Zelenka was working.

"Hey, Dr. Zelenka. How's it going?" John gave the other man a friendly -- charming -- smile.

"Good morning, Major Sheppard." Radek nodded in that absent way that John knew meant he was thinking more about his work than the interruption.

John waited, then realised Radek wasn't going to actually answer his question. He cleared his throat. "So. You wanna go to the cook-out on Friday?" The Marines hosted a weekly barbeque which was turning out to be extremely popular. Of course, it was pretty much the only social event in Atlantis. Dr. Weir thought it was great, from a rest-and-relaxation perspective. John thought it sucked, because he hadn't been able to get a date.

Not the one he wanted, anyhow. Hopefully that was going to change.

But Radek was giving him a confused look. "I am already going. Everyone goes to the cook-out if they are not on duty."

He couldn't tell if this was a polite refusal. John kept his charming smile firmly in place, just in case. "Oh. Um. So, I'll see you there, then?"

Radek nodded. "I believe so, yes."

"Great." John nodded and walked away. Yeah. Great.


He'd begged, borrowed, and traded guard duties until he'd finally gotten his hand on the DVD. He found Radek sitting alone in the mess hall and went over.

"Hey, Radek. I've got the copy of 'Beverly Hills Cop'. Care to join me?"

Radek shook his head. "I do not care for American comedies. They do not make any sense."

"Oh. Well, all right, then." John walked away, wondering if it was too late to give the movie back to Private Jamison.


"Oh, Major Sheppard," Radek looked at him, faintly surprised. "I did not know you liked trebuchets."

Radek was surrounded by every engineer in Atlantis, getting ready for the First Atlantis Trebuchet Competition. Most of them were already standing in small groups, arguing over designs and materials.

John shrugged. "I like a good, scientific experiment as much as the next guy. Besides -- flinging really heavy stuff as far as it can go? I'm your man." He smiled, wagging an eyebrow invitingly.

Radek nodded, looking down at his list. "You can work with Dr. Protyvsky. Here, Piotr, I have you a partner." With that, Radek handed John off.

John sighed, but went. Hell, at least he wasn't lying about the flinging heavy stuff being fun.


Things were in full swing at the cook-out. John grabbed a plate, filled it, and took it over to Radek. Radek was standing with three other of the scientists, deep in discussion of something... scientific, John was sure.

"Hey, got you some food before the good stuff disappeared." He held the plate out to Radek.

"Ah, thank you." Radek took the plate and held it while he continued talking. Plasma something or other, and John stood there, listening. He couldn't tell if there was even going to be an opening for him to join in, or if they were actually talking about Star Trek.

He waited, feeling more than a little self-conscious. When Teyla wandered by and Radek still hadn't even taken a bite of the food he'd brought, John let her take him off to introduce him to one of the people from Adalqa, with whom they were trying to open trade relations. Business before pleasure, John figured. Especially if the pleasure was proving to be more frustrating than fun.


John sighed as he watched Radek walk away. He looked down at his lunch, no longer sure he felt like eating. He'd really only grabbed something as an excuse – he'd had his real lunch earlier, but he'd walked past the mess hall and seen Radek and...

Not that it had done him any good.

"You know, it isn't going to work."

He looked up as Dr. Carson Beckett sat down at the table. John frowned, not liking the implication of Carson's comment.

"Why not?" He didn't try to deny that Carson knew exactly what he'd been doing. Or trying to do and failing miserably at. Carson and Rodney were, after all, Atlantis' first official gay couple. John didn't think he was going to create the second -- especially not if he kept getting shot down so handily.

"Because Radek is a physicist--"

"That means they don't date pilots?"

Carson ignored his sarcasm. "They don't notice subtlety. Hell, they barely notice straight-forward passes. I had to get Rodney alone in my bedroom and get his clothes half off him before he realized I was serious."

He was pretty sure Carson was exaggerating. Right? But he thought about what Carson was saying. And what he wasn't saying -- no mention of 'don't bother, he's straight.'

Not that John wasn't pretty confident of his ability to figure out who was and who wasn't willing to engage in the sort of activities he was trying to invite Radek to engage in. It was a basic survival skill for being gay and in the US military. But being in Atlantis in another galaxy had made a lot of people and regulations relax. Enough so that when John decided that yes, indeed, the Czech with the sexy accent and 'fuck me' eyes was fair game, he gave in to temptation and started flirting.

Weeks later he'd gotten no farther than Radek calling him by his first name.

"So what are you saying?" he asked Carson. "I should invent a reason to get naked in his quarters?"

"Well, that or just come right out with what you want. There's a reason the American Physicists Association has T-shirts that say 'Flirt harder, I'm a Physicist.' But it isn't just the Americans. It seems to be universal among scientists."

"How'd you escape?" John asked, thinking back to all the times Carson had reminded people that he was a geneticist as well as a doctor, thank you.

Carson grinned and gave him a wink. "Oh, I'm Scottish."

"Is that-- no. I don't want to know." John picked up his tray and decided to stop pretending he was interested in eating. "Thanks for the advice, doc."

"Anytime, John."


He'd thought it over the rest of the day, and by the following morning had made his decision. He'd even seen Carson at breakfast and told him that he was going to take Carson's advice. Carson had wished him luck.

Now John was headed for the main astrophysics lab to start his search for Radek. As he'd suspected, John found him right there -- bent over a computer, typing away madly. John glanced around and saw that no one else was present. Excellent. This would be a lot easier without witnesses.

John cleared his throat a couple of times, then walked up and stood beside the still-oblivious Radek, hoping he wouldn't give the man a heart-attack. "Hey."

Finally noticing him, Radek looked up. He seemed surprised, but nodded in greeting. "John. What can I do for you?" He glanced around. "I do not know where Rodney has gone..." He frowned as though just realizing that Rodney had, in fact, gone somewhere.

"No, I came by to see you. Talk to you, actually." John bit his tongue and decided he really preferred to go with the 'suave and charming' approach instead of the 'fumbling over his own tongue' approach. Although 'charming' usually involved flirting, and -- as Carson had rightly pointed out -- flirting hadn't worked very well so far. Maybe 'tripping over his tongue' was appropriate for the blunt and obvious approach. If it worked, it worked, but it was playing havoc on his ego.

Radek was waiting, expectantly. "Yes?" he finally prompted, when John realized he still had no clue how to go about this.

"Can I ask you a question?"

More surprise, a little confusion, and wasn't this going so well, John thought. Radek nodded. "Of course. Is this about building new Wraith stun guns? We are working on them, but they are not ready to be tested."

"No, no. Although I do still want to know when they're ready." John told himself to get on with it. "I wanted to ask you..." Crap, he suddenly thought. What if I'm wrong?

The whole point of flirting with a guy you only really thought was gay was that if he wasn't, you could pretend you hadn't meant it seriously. No matter how certain the gaydar was, there was always a chance that it was fucked and the straight guy would get offended and try to -- well, okay, the chances were small that Radek, scientist and engineer, could successfully cause any immediate physical damage to himself, a trained military man.

"This thing with Rodney and Carson," he finally stammered. He felt himself blushing, and hoped neither of his friends would mind his using them as an opening salvo.

Radek shrugged. "I am happy for them both. Rodney is much less annoying, now. He is not in lab nearly as late, because -- he has better things to do." He smiled, but there was definitly a tone of censure as he asked, "Is this a problem for you? They have been seeing each other for many weeks, now. Is too late to object, I think."

Excellent, John thought.

"No, no, I don't object. Not a bit. In fact... That is, have you ever--" John winced, mentally. Could he sound more like he was thirteen and trying to ask Marie if he could put his hands up her shirt?

But Radek nodded, like the question didn't bother him. "I have."

Score one for the gaydar, John told himself. Time to move on. "So you-- uh," Less subtle, he reminded himself. "Do you... like guys? Or was it one of those 'wild youth' things?"

Radek frowned a little and titled his head slightly. John couldn't blame him for being confused by the conversation. It wasn't one of his best. "I prefer men over women, yes. The women were only in my 'wild
youth'."

"Really? Good. I mean... yeah. Good." He leaned sideways, resting his hip against the table Radek was working at. He tried to look calm and collected -- maybe it was safe to add a little suave and charming. But not subtle. Subtle was bad. "So it wouldn't bother you if a guy were interested in you?"

Radek shook his head. "Not unless it were very unpleasant person. I would not like to know if Dr. Phillips is interested in me."

"Eew." John grimaced. Dr. Phillips was a great guy, a brilliant scientist -- they all were, here on Atlantis. But he had so few social skills that even other flaky scientists commented on it. "No, not him. At least I don't think so -- and I wouldn't tell you if he were."

There was a pause and John realized he had to keep going. Radek was sitting there, staring up at him with a patient expression. John really, really wanted to just get on with it so he could kiss him -- right now would be perfect, because Radek was staring at him like there was nothing else in the room to see.

Just kissing him was probably too blunt, John told himself.

"So what if it were someone like me?" he asked. That was pretty blatant, right?

But Radek just shrugged. "You are not unpleasant."

And nothing. He just sat there, waiting. John wondered if it would disrupt the oh-so-smooth rapport if he went over and banged his head on the wall. Probably not. Radek might ask him what was wrong, but even if John told him -- the way things had gone so far, Radek would probably think he was talking about baseball.

Hell, maybe he *should* just kiss him. If it didn't work, John could at least claim that he'd tried to give him warning.

He opened his mouth to try again, and it occurred to him that maybe he could just ask 'Can I kiss you?' But he realised Radek would probably still manage to misunderstand him. He'd tilt his head and look at John in that confused, adorable, concerned way and ask some geeky question about why John wanted to know.

So, fine. Carson's method was apparently the best answer. John said, "Good," and leaned down. Kissed him.

The first clue he had that Radek had been having him on was when Radek's mouth opened as soon as John's lips touched his. Like being pulled inside and there was no way in hell Radek didn't know exactly what he was doing. He tasted like ginger, and John thought of the odd-smelling Athosian cereal that Radek usually ate for breakfast.

He broke the kiss and leaned back just enough to stare at Radek.

Radek smiled. "Is about time."

John narrowed his eyes. "You... Why the hell didn't you *say* something? How long have you been keeping me dangling?"

Radek looked embarrassed, and said, "Since Carson came by this morning and took Rodney away."

"Excuse me?"

Radek cleared his throat, seemed to compose himself. He explained, "Carson came by and took Rodney out of lab so you could... do this in private. He tried to do so without letting me know what was happening, but Rodney did not respond to Carson's invitations to leave lab. So Carson had to... tell him why he needed Rodney to leave."

Hit him with a brick, more like, John thought. And he thought Radek was clueless?

"Carson made me promise to act surprised," Radek said with a distinctly innocent expression.

"Uh-huh." John narrowed his eyes. "He asked you to act dumb to see how badly I'd embarrass myself?"

There was a quirk at the corner of Radek's mouth. "You were quite... roztomilý."

"That better mean 'forgiving and generous," John said.

"It means I like you very much, and would be happy to leave work for a bit. If someone were to invite me somewhere else."

John shook his head, slowly. Subtle, my ass, he thought. "Hey, Radek," he asked, forcing a bright tone. "You wanna go back to my place and... study friction?"

Radek grinned. "I thought that you would never ask."

"Yeah, yeah. Because you knew all morning what I was up to." He grabbed Radek by the arm, and hauled him out of his chair. "I've been trying to do this for-- never mind."

Instead of embarrassing himself any more, John settled for leading Radek out of the lab and back to his quarters. Where, hopefully, the undressing part would go a lot more smoothly than the asking.


Epilogue

It was halfway into the second -- or twelfth, depending on where he started counting -- kiss, that Rodney pushed Carson back. "Hey! Is that why John's been asking all those questions about Radek? For the last two months it's been hey, Rodney, what's Radek's favorite food? What does Radek like to do in his spare time? Like I would know? I told him about the trebuchet contest Radek's running... John signed up for that, didn't he?"

Carson sighed. "Rodney? Do you want to talk about John and Radek, or do you want me to do this again?" He did something with his hand that made Rodney very, very happy.

"Do that again," he said, and promptly forgot why he'd been thinking about Radek and John in the first place.


Czech translation:
* roztomilý - sweet, adorable, charming