Strategic Responses

Rodney heard the footstep a moment before he felt Radek pat him on the back. The touch was brief, as though Radek were just saying hello on his way past.

Rodney knew better. He hung his head, closing his eyes and thinking there had to be some kind of scientific explanation for this. He wasn't one to believe in karma--and if he were, he surely hadn't done anything to deserve this.

Had he?

Radek was moving towards the coffee maker, carrying his mug in one hand. Rodney glared at his lover's back. "You are twelve."

Radek glanced at him, obviously trying for a serious expression. But his eyes gave him away. "I do not know what you are talking about." As if anyone in the lab would believe him.

Rodney glared harder and reached his arm over his shoulder to pull the post-it note off his back. A quick glance showed him that Radek had written 'Czech mate' on the note.

Again. For about the hundred and fiftieth time since they'd started dating.

Rodney held the post-it up for Radek to see, then crumpled it. "Twelve," he repeated. "God, it's enough to make me wonder why I haven't broken up with you."

Radek snickered and refilled his mug--Rodney noted that he left barely enough for a half cup and did not make any effort to start a new pot. What was the point of having the Daedalus bring fresh supplies from Earth if they weren't going to utilize them? Especially since they'd had to ask twice to get the coffee--the first time the Daedalus had shown up, to save them from the Wraith, no one had thought to send along more coffee or any food stuffs at all.

On the second trip back from Earth, the cargo space had been filled with essential equipment and team members' personal items and someone--Rodney thought it was someone who clearly didn't drink coffee--had listed the coffee as 'unessential.'

The ship had brought them fourteen cases of compressed air, but not a single bag of coffee beans. They'd gone for months before Atlantis had got in new supplies of coffee, and, as a result, everyone was showing a fervent and dedicated appreciation of it.

It was the unwritten policy for every lab in Atlantis that you never left the pot empty; Rodney had his suspicions about the coffee makers in Military Country as well. The only people who didn't make new pots of coffee were the insane people who didn't drink it in the first place.

But Radek was the annoying, frustrating, mind-boggling exception. No matter how many times Rodney asked him to be sure to make more, Radek would just smile, nod, take almost the last cup and not even refill the water pitcher. He didn't even try to excuse himself by saying he made terrible coffee--just as well, since no one cared about that sort of thing. If it had hot water and even the smallest amount of genetic material from a coffee bean, the scientists would drink it.

Rodney had even resorted to withholding favours. For a week he'd given the choicest assignments to Dr. Galen and Dr. Fitzgerald. He'd sent Radek up to the control room to give Elizabeth the update about the venting problem which would mean no one would have central heating for five days during the coldest part of winter. He'd even forbade Radek from joining him in the shower--but through it all his lover just nodded, did as he was asked, and failed to make more coffee.

Knowing what would likely happen, Rodney asked anyway, "Why don't you start another pot?"

Radek walked past him again, patting Rodney on the back though Rodney knew there was no post-it note in his hand this time. Radek smiled and took a drink of his coffee and acted like he hadn't even heard.

Right. Time for the one thing he hadn't wanted to do. Rodney stood up, dreading what he had to say. He had always loved being head of the science department and getting to tell everyone else what to do--but he'd been hoping to avoid this.

"All right. If you aren't going to make more coffee, you can't have any."

There was silence in the lab; Rodney wasn't entirely sure if it was shock at what he'd just said, or because everyone was ignoring them in favour of concentrating on their work. Radek, on the other hand, just looked at him and nodded. Then took another drink of his coffee.

"I mean it," Rodney said, as sternly and head-of-departmentally as he could. "It isn't fair to drink the coffee, but never make more. Everyone makes more. Hell, Crystal makes more, and she doesn't drink coffee."

"Really?" He didn't sound entirely surprised, or even interested. Casually, he took another drink of his coffee.

Rodney stormed over and grabbed the cup out of his hands. "I mean it! Look, if you don't know how to use the fucking thing, then... build your own and use it! But until you make a pot of coffee in that machine," he pointed at the coffee maker, "then you cannot drink any coffee from it."

Giving Radek a glare to let him know he really, truly meant it, Rodney waited.

"Hm," was all Radek said, but he turned back to his laptop and began working. Rodney stood there for a moment to make sure he wasn't going to do or say anything like, 'Okay, you win; give me my coffee back.' But he just kept working as though nothing untoward had occurred.

Rodney took the cup back to his own workstation and sat down. A moment later he realised Radek might try stealing his cup back. He took an initial sip to check that it hadn't been booby-trapped as part of some elaborate prank. But it was fine--black and somewhat warm. Rodney took another drink and got back to work.

***

Something told Rodney it was time for a break. Nothing so prosaic as the fact he was hungry, even though he was. But the level of noise in the lab had reached the 'we're taking a break and gossiping' point for the third time that morning, so Rodney figured it was probably time for him to take his first break of the day.

He looked around and saw Crystal and Martin standing beside her workstation, talking. She was giggling at something, which Radek had told him meant that Crystal was trying too hard to convince Martin to go out with her. Radek had assured Rodney that Martin was interested but didn't have any clue how to ask, and Crystal was inexplicably waiting for Martin to make the first move. Or so Radek had explained, when Rodney had asked why the environmental psychologist was hanging around the physics lab all the time.

Rodney watched them for a minute as Crystal slipped her glasses off and titled her head sideways, smiling encouragingly. Martin seemed a bit stunned and stammered something that made Crystal hesitate before answering. Even Rodney could tell she wasn't thrilled with what he'd said.

Finally, Rodney just went over and grabbed them each by the shoulder. "Martin, ask her to dinner. Crystal, say--well, you already know to say yes. Hell, why don't you just ask him and get it over with?" Then he let go of them and walked over to Radek's workstation, where Radek was laughing. "What?" Rodney demanded. "I was getting tired of watching them tip-toe around each other."

"Yes, and you are such the Casanova," Radek said.

"Look, just because we had to get locked in a puddle jumper's emergency hatchway before you got around to asking me out, doesn't mean I'd recommend it as a method for everyone else."

"Before I asked you out?" Radek raised an eyebrow.

Rodney waved a hand to dismiss the preposterous, if slightly true, claim that he knew Radek was going to make about just who had been the clueless one. Then he blinked and looked again at the cup Radek was holding.

As he watched in disbelief, Radek lifted the cup to his mouth and took a drink. Rodney grabbed the cup and took a sniff. Coffee. "What the hell--"

"You said, not that machine." Radek shrugged. There was the slightest sign of a grin on his face, which told Rodney that Radek had just been waiting for him to notice. "I went next door."

"Did you make another pot of coffee for them?"

Radek gave him an innocent, confused look. "The pot was almost full; why would I make another?"

"You... you...." Rodney pointed his finger at him, waggling it in exactly the way he'd sworn as a child that he'd never do. "No coffee," he said, as clearly as he could. "From anywhere. Not until I receive photographic evidence and a signed, notarized statement from three witnesses saying that you made a pot of coffee. I don't care whose machine; I don't even care what planet it's on. You can go through the gate and show the Morfan tribes how to build a stone-age coffee maker, then teach them how to make fire, just so they can brew a cup. I don't care. Somehow, somewhere, you have to make a pot of coffee, or you are never drinking any more ever again!"

Rodney took a deep breath, then took a long swallow of Radek's illicit coffee. Radek--stupid, annoying, confounding man that he was--just sat there and said nothing. Rodney took the cup away to his desk and sat down at his laptop. Typing quickly, he composed an email and sent it to the entire Atlantis address book, informing them of the moratorium.

"There." Rodney gave him a look of triumph. He stopped himself before saying that he'd like to see Radek beat that, because he had learned that issuing challenges was a sure bet at getting himself stuck in a prank war for three solid months.

Suddenly, he wondered if that was what this was. He didn't think so, because he hadn't done anything to make him start one up again, and Radek generally chose other people to mess with when he began these things. Rodney looked at his lover closely, but he'd just gone back to work.

He couldn't tell if Radek was upset, or laughing at him, or ignoring the entire situation. It was possible that there was some underlying purpose here. What it could be, other than 'let's mess with Rodney', he had no idea.

He knew it wasn't because Radek was lazy and free-loading off everyone else. Radek used to make coffee as regularly as anyone else, and when the coffee had run out and the Daedalus hadn't yet shown up the first time, he'd been just as willing to replenish the labs' supply of tea bags.

He'd only stopped making coffee a few weeks ago, when the Daedalus had returned from its regular supply run. Rodney remembered that day vividly, because they'd run out of a few... 'personal' supplies a week before the Daedalus had arrived. That first night it had returned had been the first time he'd got fucked in--

Rodney blinked. He looked over at Radek, who was still typing away, looking for all the world like a man concentrating on his work. Rodney thought back to the conversation they'd had the morning after.

He slammed his hand down on the desk. "You have got to be kidding me."

There was a moment before Radek turned around. When he did, he simply looked at Rodney expectantly.

"I told you... I apologised. I said I'd get more next time!"

"You said so the time before as well," Radek replied evenly, and Rodney had only a tiny bit of satisfaction in knowing he'd finally figured out what was going on.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "It isn't like you don't use it as much as I do." He realised that the sudden silence in the lab was definitely not due to everyone working.

"That is not point," Radek said, and he stood up and began walking over--practically stalking, really, and Rodney swallowed nervously. "My point is that you should be equally responsible for going to Lieutenant Dobson and saying, 'Please requisition more lube', whenever we are almost out."

Radek folded his arms across his chest and glared. Rodney started to wave a hand, wanting to explain that it hardly mattered as long as they got more. But while he didn't think Radek was really mad at him, he had to admit that he couldn't exactly remember the last time he'd been the one to go get more.

"Fine," he conceded. "Next time--"

"Not until you get it," Radek said. "There will be no more sex until you are the one who refills supply."

Rodney felt his face go bright red, and he stopped himself from glaring at whoever had just stifled a laugh. "I think you're taking this a bit too seriously," he said, trying to sound casual.

But Radek just stood there and stared at him. Rodney thought about just how far he would be willing to take this; it wasn't like him would get to do any fucking, either, as long as Rodney was forbidden to get fucked.

Of course, Radek was willing to give up coffee to make his point.

Rodney called up the email program on his computer again and sent out another short message--ignore that last email.

Then he stood up, grabbed the cup of coffee he'd stolen from Radek, and handed it back.

Rodney left the lab and headed down to the supply office.

That night, he dumped a case of lube on Radek's bed and informed him that he expected to get fucked every single night until they ran out again.

The End