here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
-- "i carry your heart with me" by e.e. cummings
The first thing he notices is that his head feels full of holes. He feels an odd, almost maddening sensation when he racks his brain for memories and comes up empty; he has the strong suspicion that his mind is usually cluttered with a thousand different thoughts, all going a mile-a-minute, and that this is all wrong.
A warm voice says something above him, and the thought occurs to him that he should probably open his eyes. When he does, the speaker -- a man with bright blue eyes -- smiles down at him and looks torn between exasperation and relief. The man keeps speaking, tone gently chiding. He struggles to understand, but he can't make sense of the soft rise and fall of the words. When he doesn't answer, the man looks puzzled and then repeats himself. This time, he understands. "So Sleeping Beauty's finally awake. How are you feeling?"
He just stares back as the feeling of wrongness increases with every passing second. There is no recognition that flares, nothing that says he knows or should know this man, but judging from the alarm blooming on the man's face, there apparently should be recognition. He tries to speak -- to explain the empty sensation in his head -- but his throat is tight and his heart is pounding in his ears, and all that escapes his lips is a soft, alarmed sound.
The man's eyes are wide with anxiety now as he places a hand on his shoulder, a gesture that is obviously meant to comfort him. When the man speaks again, it takes a moment for him to realize that the stranger is repeating the same consonants and vowels over and over again. He watches the man's mouth intently, and then repeats the word aloud.
"Rodney." He puzzles over the word, but when the man squeezes his shoulder and repeats, "Rodney," in a soft, gentle voice, he decides that Rodney is probably his name. He says it aloud again, trying to see if perhaps his mouth remembers the shape of it, but it doesn't fall smoothly off his tongue as he'd been hoping. Then he frowns as a memory begins unfurl in his mind; he closes his eyes, trying to remember--
A soft press of lips to his forehead, and then a woman's voice, soft and low and loving, "Sleep well, Meredith."
Meredith opens his eyes and glares at the man, flinching away when the man moves to touch him again. "I'm Meredith," he snaps, and is absurdly grateful when that comes out coherent. He's a little surprised when his voice doesn't have the same accent as the stranger's. "Not Rodney. Meredith."
The man frowns. "The last time someone called you Meredith, you threatened them with a slow and incredibly painful death," he says slowly. His frown deepens. "What do you remember last?" At least he doesn't call him Rodney again.
"I remember--" Meredith starts, and then stops, frowning. A few more memories are moving to the front of his mind, emerging from wherever they'd hidden themselves in those first, terrifying minutes of utter blankness. "I remember my mother. I remember her tucking me into bed--"
He looks down at his hands, but they're a man's hands, with work-callused fingers. He's not a child. His mind, mostly empty, doesn't feel like a child's either. How old is he then? Meredith swallows and closes his eyes, willing more memories to appear; the man's distressed look is distracting. As the memories come, he speaks, aware that his voice is shaking slightly but unable to prevent it.
"I remember going to primary school and arguing with a teacher--" Arguing because he'd wanted to be called Rodney, since Meredith was a girl's name, he remembers, and feels a little embarrassed for having snapped at the man. "I remember Jeannie yelling at me for embarrassing her in front of her boyfriend-- I remember--" He stops, and wonders if maybe he's remembering dreams rather than reality, because there's no way that could be right. "I built a bomb?"
The man's expression twists a little, like he's fighting amusement. "When you were twelve, yes." Then he goes back to looking worried. "You really can't remember me? Or Atlanta?"
And all right, for a moment Rodney thought he'd said 'Atlantis,' but that couldn't be right, seeing as Atlantis is something out of Greek mythology. Atlanta it is, then, though he has no idea why he's in the United States. "No," Rodney says firmly, wishing he did remember even as a few more memories of secondary school emerge, followed rapidly by fragmented recollections of university.
His head is beginning to hurt, filling up too quickly with what he's forgotten. It isn't until the man touches his shoulder and anxiously calls his name that he realizes he's curled into a ball, one fist pressed against his temple as though to slow the rush of thoughts and memories that feel like nails being hammered into his brain.
"My head hurts," Rodney manages to explain through gritted teeth, and the man's hand drops away. Time passes, or maybe doesn't, but slowly the pain lessens, easing into a manageable headache that doesn't make him want to howl with misery.
"I gave you something for the pain," the man explains when Rodney opens his eyes and slowly unfurls from his curled-up position. "Perhaps it's best if you rest for a while, anyway. You've had quite a shock."
The pain is easing, and it isn't until Rodney yawns that he realizes the agony is being replaced by lethargy. "I don't want to sleep," he protests, fighting against the sluggishness even as another yawn escapes his lips and makes his jaw ache. His thoughts, slowing down to a languid speed, agree with his irritation. He wants to know more about his situation, learn why his memories are so slow in returning and how he ended up in what must be a hospital in the first place.
Besides, Rodney thinks peevishly as his eyes drift shut without his permission and the man's comforting words trail off, the stranger hadn't bothered to mention his own name.
When he stirs, he's uncertain for a moment what woke him. Then Rodney realizes there are people next to his bedside, murmuring in low, anxious whispers.
"He doesn't remember any of us?" The voice belongs to a woman, but there is no thrill of recognition when she speaks. "This couldn't possibly be a very bad joke on Rodney's part, could it, Carson?" The woman's voice is weary as she speaks, though, like she already knows the answer to her question.
Rodney opens his eyes as the man -- Carson -- shakes his head and says, "I'm afraid not. He seemed sincere and terrified when I spoke to him earlier."
The woman has dark brown hair and a furrow of worry between her eyes. "He's awake," she says, eyes flickering towards the bed. He meets her green gaze hopefully, but no, she seems just as much a stranger as Carson does.
"How's your head feeling?" Carson asks, and Rodney narrows his eyes and keeps looking at the woman. Please, like he's going to speak to a man who has the audacity to drug him.
"Hello, Rodney," the woman says in a brisk way, though her eyes are filled with concern. "Carson tells me you've lost your memory, so I'll introduce myself. I'm Elizabeth Weir." She pauses, as though wondering how much more she should say, but then shakes her head, apparently settling on 'nothing else,' and asks, "How much of your past have you recovered?"
"I--" Rodney pauses, frowning and trying to sort through the hodgepodge of memories bouncing around inside his skull. "I remember receiving my PhDs, and getting a job with the government. But after that...."
Elizabeth looks at Carson. "Well, if he's regained that much in a few hours, won't he get the rest back in a couple days?"
"That's what we're hoping," Carson says, mouth twisting like he's bitten into a lemon. "Of course, that's all we can do, Elizabeth, hope. We don't know what went wrong, why Rodney even lost his memory at all. Ch--"
Rodney tunes Carson out, since all he's doing is explaining what they don't know, which Rodney figures is a fairly long list since he's ninety-nine percent certain this Carson guy is incompetent. Rodney takes the time to look around the hospital and wrinkle his nose. Depressing gray walls, several unoccupied hospital beds, and a few large-screened computers the likes of which he's never seen before but which are probably only good for medical purposes.
God, he hates hospitals.
"Rodney," Elizabeth says. Judging by her tone, it's not the first time she's called his name, or even the second. When he looks at her, though, her smile is warm, reassuring. "For the time being, we're just going to keep you under observation here, wait and see if you regain the rest of your memories." She doesn't say what will happen to him if he doesn't regain his memories, and after a moment's consideration, he's grateful.
Still, he has quite a few questions to ask. "Fine. First things first, however. How the hell did I wind up in Atlanta? Am I working on loan to the U.S. government?" Rodney scowls a little at the thought, and then notices their expressions. "What?"
Carson and Elizabeth look at each other for a long moment, apparently having some silent conversation, and then Elizabeth sighs. "I think we should bring Kate in on this."
"What did I say? Who's Kate?" Rodney demands, and then rolls his eyes as they both ignore him. Wonderful.
Kate turns out to be Kate Heightmeyer, a shrink for the hospital. Rodney has no idea why they think he might want to speak to a psychiatrist. She is gorgeous, though, with long legs and full lips that are currently slanted downward in a concerned frown.
Carson and Elizabeth take a few steps away from the bed, apparently intent on giving him and Kate a chance to talk.
"How are you feeling, Rodney?" Kate asks gently, and Rodney snorts.
"You mean besides the fact that I've lost my memory, am surrounded by strangers, and am stuck in Atlanta of all places? Just fine, thank you," he says, voice dripping with sarcasm.
Surprisingly, his answer lightens the worry on her face and she actually laughs a little. "Well, at least you still sound like yourself." Then her expression turns grave again. "Rodney, you've already had quite a few shocks today, so I think we should hold off on explaining everything to you. But I want you to know that we will explain everything in due time."
"Great, I'm so taking comfort in the fact that at least you're going to be honest about keeping secrets," Rodney snaps, folding his arms against his chest. Then what she says actually sinks in, and he feels his stomach twist up in knots. "Wait, what else are you not telling me?" He looks around and realizes that if he's been hurt badly enough to get amnesia, Jeannie should have rushed to his bedside. His throat closes up. "Jeannie-- is she--"
"Jeannie's fine," Kate assures him quickly, voice firm, and Rodney can breathe again. "We've been keeping her apprised of your situation."
"And she didn't come?" Rodney asks, alarm replaced by hurt and confusion. Sometimes he and Jeannie squabble, but she's always been there for him when it counted.
Kate sighs. "She wants to, Rodney, she truly does. It's just not...possible right now." She pats his shoulder. "Believe me, she'd be here if she could."
Rodney doesn't understand why she can't be here -- it's not like Atlanta is more than a plane trip away -- but Kate seems firm on the 'no explanations for now' plan, and so he just settles back against his pillows and frowns.
His memories better come back soon.
They leave him alone. He guesses they think it's best to let him sort through the memories and rediscover who Meredith Rodney McKay is. The answer, composed of memories and fragments of memory, isn't one that thrills him. He sees himself alone and friendless— brilliant, of course, and destined for the Nobel, but alone.
So why do these people look at him with so much concern? He could almost swear that they seem to consider him a friend. How has he gone from the guy who sat alone in the cafeteria every day to having at least three people who care about him?
He looks down at his callused fingers again, realizing that the trio has neatly avoided any pertinent questions, like how old he actually is or what his job is here in Atlanta.
Rodney's still frowning down at his hands when someone calls his name. He looks up, and feels his stomach sink— great, three more strangers to be awkward around. This time it's two men and a woman.
The woman is small and delicate and, well, even more gorgeous than Kate. She smiles at him, a warm look that goes all the way down to his toes. It makes him wonder again how much he must have changed since university, to have such a beautiful woman smile at him with no trace of irony in the look.
One of the men, meanwhile, is gigantic, almost six and a half feet tall, with dreads and a serious expression on his face. When he notices Rodney's stare, though, his expression changes to a bright, pleased grin that makes Rodney realize the man can't be any older than thirty, younger than the two people he's standing with.
The other man wears a military uniform of some sort, an American flag pinned to one sleeve. He hangs further back than the other two, expression a little leery, like he's worried there's going to be a scene or something.
Rodney realizes he's been staring, and clears his throat. "Hello," is all that comes out, though, and he winces at how stupid he sounds. Then again, what else can he say? Apologize for not knowing who these people are? He mentally snorts.
The woman smiles and takes his hand in hers; he can feel her calluses against his own. "Carson told us you have yet to regain a good portion of your memory," she says, her voice low and soothing. "My name is Teyla Emmagan, and I am a member of your team."
His team? He takes in her tank top and loose pants. She doesn't look like any scientist he's ever known. He doesn't know who else he'd work with, though, so maybe she just likes to dress casually on her days off... or at hospitals. "Uh, nice to meet you."
Her hands squeeze his for a moment, and then release him.
"Knew you'd be okay," the tall man says. There is a quiet, easy confidence in his voice, and Rodney imagines him standing unworried in the waiting room while the others fretted. "I'm Ronon. Ronon Dex." He doesn't take Rodney's hand but instead gives him a friendly pat on the shoulder. Belatedly, Ronon adds, "I'm part of your team too."
The last man clears his throat and grins a little uncertainly at Rodney. "Hey. I'm Colonel John Sheppard. Uh. Leader of your team."
Rodney wrinkles his nose. "So I'm working for the U.S. military?"
John frowns, and his gaze flickers toward Teyla and Ronon, like he wants their opinion on what he's about to say. "Uh, not exactly. This is an international mission, involving over a dozen countries."
Rodney looks at Ronon and Teyla, but they aren't wearing flags on their clothing. "Where are you two from?" he asks, trying to place their accents. He frowns when they both smile like he's said something clever or witty.
"Nowhere near Canada," Ronon mutters, and then shrugs at John's sharp look. "What? It's true."
Teyla smiles and then takes Rodney's hand again, bending closer to the bed and murmuring, "Carson told us we only had a few moments, but we wanted to see you, and to tell you that if you need any of us, ask one of the nurses."
"Yeah, and next time we'll bring you some clothes," Ronon adds, and John smirks a little.
"Clothes would be good," Rodney agrees, glancing uncomfortably down at his hospital gown and remembering yet another reason he hates hospitals. "Sooner, rather than later."
The three nod, and then one by one disappear beyond the curtain that now separates Rodney from the rest of the room. John lingers for a second, just looking at him, and then mutters something that sounds like, "As soon as you get your memories back, I'm kicking your ass."
Rodney really hopes that he misheard. Then he realizes that he still doesn't know how old he is.
For all that Carson told visitors that they could only stay a few minutes, he apparently doesn't mind sending everyone and their grandmother to his bedside, because less than five minutes later, another man peers around the curtain and says in a soft, hesitant way, "Rodney?"
"Yes, yes, come and introduce yourself," Rodney says, rolling his eyes. "Or re-introduce yourself."
The man steps around the curtain, and Rodney could study him like he studied Ronon, Teyla, and John, but he's too busy gaping at that beautiful laptop the man's holding. It's nothing like the clunky, unappealing laptops he remembers— this is silver and sleek and elegant, and Rodney's hands literally ache to use it.
"I thought you might like to learn what you've missed, so I uploaded science articles and other things onto this laptop," the man says. His voice is accented, but Rodney can't place it, and can't really be bothered to try, distracted by that laptop and all the knowledge it contains. "It might even help you remember a few things."
"Right," Rodney murmurs. He half-snatches the laptop from the man, and fumbles a little in his haste. He would have fallen off the bed if it hadn't been for the man gripping Rodney's arms and steadying him.
God, he's been so busy trying to remember his own life that he had never even considered what advances might have been made in science.
He's turned on the laptop by the time he realizes the man is still standing there; he can feel the weight of the man's gaze. Rodney looks up, and grins at this latest stranger, who seems much smarter than the rest—though he apparently hasn't thought to bring Rodney clothes either. "Thank you," he says, and then frowns. "Do you know how old I am?"
The man doesn't even bat an eye at the question. "Thirty-seven."
He can't quite help his flinch. At least ten years lost, then. "Thanks," Rodney repeats, and then looks at the desktop. There are folders for science, current events, and— hockey? When he looks up again, the man wears a self-satisfied smile.
"I thought you might like to see the Olympics and IIHF World Championships," the man says. Then he gives an odd little jerk of his head, and bites his lower lip. "I...if you need anything, Rodney, ask for Radek."
There's an intensity in his words that makes Rodney uneasy, suddenly, but he just nods and refocuses his attention on the laptop. He clicks on the science folder and is delighted when the folder contains separate folders, dividing articles into astronomy, biology, physics, Nobel Prize winners....
By the time he looks up again, Radek is gone.
Rodney busies himself with going through every single folder Radek's included on the laptop, saving the hockey for last. None of the articles spur a 'eureka' moment, though, and no new memories emerge. It's as though something in his brain has decided that's enough, and barricaded itself from the other memories.
He is sitting back, glaring moodily at the laptop, when Carson brings him a plate of food. The meal looks unappetizing, but Rodney's stomach disagrees, reminding him with forceful pangs that he has not eaten in quite some time.
After he's set the laptop away from the bed, he devours the meal. It is only once he finishes and Carson takes the plate from him that he thinks to ask, "Who's Radek, anyway? Someone else on my team?" He has a vague recollection of Radek as he held the laptop— messy hair, glasses, a two-day-old beard. At the very least, Radek had looked like a scientist.
Carson takes a moment to answer, and when he speaks, his voice sounds strange. "Radek is second-in-command of the science division here. Temporarily in command right now while you get your memory back."
"Oh," Rodney says, but it makes sense. He probably hand-picked Radek himself, making sure at least one person here could think clearly in a crisis situation. He looks back at the laptop. "Well, he seems capable enough."
Carson makes a face then, like he's trying not to laugh. "I'll have to remember to tell Radek you said that."
"What? Why?" Rodney scowls. Is Radek secretly incompetent? Is he actually surrounded by idiots? No wonder he wound up with amnesia!
"You simply...are not one to compliment people, Rodney," Carson says, and then adds a little darkly, "even when they've earned praise." He steps towards the curtain and then pauses. "Just call for a nurse if you need anything."
"Right," Rodney says, and returns to the laptop. He wants to see who received the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics.
He must doze off at some point, because the next thing he knows, he's sitting upright, gasping for breath and trying desperately to remember his dream, which is already slipping away from him. Something about an ocean and the panic that comes with falling, drowning, dying alone. The panic has followed him out of his dream, because he can't catch his breath, throat tight and darkness swimming in his vision.
"Doctor McKay?" Through the darkness, he makes out a nurse standing by his bedside, frowning. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," he gasps, closing his eyes and struggling not to take desperate gulps of air. The tightness in his chest is easing, and gradually his breathing evens out enough that he can mutter, "Just a...bad dream."
"Oh." There is so much sympathy and understanding in that single word that Rodney begins to think he doesn't want to remember what he's been up to the past decade.
"You can go away now," he snaps, when the nurse stands there and looks at him with compassionate eyes, like he's some child who needs a hug after a bad dream. The compassion is replaced by irritation, and she walks away, muttering under her breath. As soon as she's gone, he closes his eyes again and tries to remember.
He'd been underwater on a— submarine maybe, but that doesn't explain his sensation of falling, the one that's still making him clutch at the sides of his bed and brace himself for a hard landing. Somewhere underwater, with water flooding into the place he'd been trapped—
But the dream had changed, then, he remembers, replaced by John, bone-pale with agony, some terrible bug latched onto his throat, telling Rodney to knock it off; then Ronon, covered in dirt and blood, a head wound oozing blood, looking impossibly weary as he collapsed; then Teyla, in a hospital bed, ashen, wincing and lifting up a trembling hand to wipe at her bleeding nose; and last, Radek, his shirt unbuttoned so that Rodney could see the horrible burn, the way his chest remained deathly still—
Nightmares. They had to be nightmares, not memories, because Radek had looked dead and none of the articles Radek had given him today had mentioned the scientific advancement of bringing people back to life.
He tightens his grip on the bed and tries to slow his racing heart. A bad dream, that's all. He'll tell Kate in the morning. She's a shrink. Maybe she'll be able to give him something that will help him sleep without any more nightmares.
Kate frowns and doesn't meet his eyes when he reports his nightmare though. She bites her lip, gazes at the curtain for a long stretch of silence. Then she sighs and squares her shoulders.
"Actually, Rodney, this is a good thing. It means the rest of your memories are returning."
Rodney stares at her. "You expect me to believe those dreams were real? John had some bug I've never seen attached to his throat, and Radek was— was looking pretty dead!" It's hard to get the words out, and Rodney can remember how cold Radek had felt under his hands, the way his own breath had caught at Radek's utter stillness—
Kate clears her throat. "Rodney. I wanted to ease you into this, but." She stops, as though at a loss for words. Then she starts, her words slow but relentless, filling his ears even as he gapes at her in disbelief. "We discovered something, a few years ago. A past alien civilization known as the Ancients had come to Earth thousands of years ago and left behind technology we could use. One of the main things we found was something called a Stargate, which the Ancients used to travel to...other planets, other galaxies."
Rodney's gawking, trying to figure out a way to say she's crazy without getting put into a quiet room with bars on the windows, when Ronon, Teyla, and John step around the curtain. They all look serious, and Teyla has an armful of clothing.
"Put this on," she says. "We will show you everything."
They take him out an automatic door and into a hallway with tall walls and pale blue lighting. "Where are we going?" Rodney asks, hearing his voice catch in his throat but unable to stop it.
Teyla offers him a sympathetic look, but it's John who answers.
"We're going to show you proof."
They take him down the hallway, and Rodney can't quite decide what to do when people pass him, shooting half-delighted, half-curious smiles in his direction. A few even call out, "Good to see you up again, Doctor McKay!"
They pause in front of a door, which much be automatic as well, because it opens once John takes a step toward it. Then they're inside, and Rodney is staring at...
Airplanes. A good dozen airplanes that should not (cannot) possibly fly, short, squat, ugly things that are arrayed nevertheless like they are simply parked, waiting to be used.
His mouth is dry and he's still trying to form words when John steps forward and pats one of the planes. "This," John says, sounding almost affectionate, "is a puddle jumper, one of the Ancients' spaceships."
And Rodney watches in a jumbled mixture of wonder and terror as the "puddle jumper" opens a door and John ushers him inside, hand warm on his back. Everywhere he looks there is technology that cannot be crafted by human hands.
He doesn't realizing his knees are giving out on him until Ronon grabs him by the shoulders and mutters, "Easy, McKay." Then Ronon leads him to a chair and straps him in, apparently not trusting Rodney's trembling hands.
Rodney looks around, dizzy with wonder. Aliens. Technology beyond his wildest dreams. Spaceships. It's almost too good to be true.
"You know how to fly puddle jumpers," Teyla says, smiling and resting a warm hand on his shoulder. She frowns when Ronon grins and says, "Just haven't mastered a straight line yet."
John laughs, though, and goes to sit in what is apparently the pilot's seat. "Sit back and relax, Rodney. We're going to show you Atlantis."
And yes, it's definitely Atlantis, not Atlanta, and now Rodney supposes he shouldn't feel badly about Jeannie not visiting him.
He swallows hard and looks up as the ceiling of the room opens and the puddle jumper begins to fly.
Afterward, once John has flown over every spiral of the city and the puddle jumper is back in the hangar, Rodney, half-drunk with awe, asks to have a closer look at the spaceship. His entire body hums with excitement, and it is all he can do not to tear off a panel and peer inside.
John nods. "Ronon, can you get Radek for me?" At Rodney's look, he shrugs. "Radek's our resident expert on puddle jumpers."
Ronon returns a few minutes later with Radek in tow. He looks half-asleep, like Ronon caught him napping. The lethargy vanishes in an instant he takes in the scene, though, and something like hope fills his face.
"You remember—" he begins eagerly, and then his face falls when Rodney shakes his head.
"Rodney remembered a few details about Atlantis and some of our missions, but he has not recovered all of his memories," Teyla says, and Rodney wonders at the way she seems almost to be trying to comfort Radek.
"He's curious about the puddle jumpers," John adds.
"Ah, of course." A wry smile twists Radek's lips. "Come, Rodney." He gestures toward the front compartment and the seat John has recently vacated. "I'll explain what we know about the technology."
"Great," Rodney says, and is only vaguely aware of the others making their exits and muttering their good-byes. He frowns at Radek. What sort of accent is that, anyway? "What are you, Russian?"
Radek turns and scowls, blue eyes flashing dangerously behind his glasses. "Rodney, there is no call to be rude. I am Czech."
Rodney snorts. "Well, that's not much better. I watched the 1997 WHC—"
Radek flushes a little. "Oh, do not even— Nolan and Donovan were—" He waves his hands in the air, apparently unable to word how strong his dislike of the two Canadian players is.
And really, it's fun to rile Radek up and watch a warm, ruddy color fill Radek's face instead of that awful paleness Rodney remembers from his dream/memory. Rodney smirks. "Let's just face the facts, Radek. Your team was filled with dirty cheaters."
For a moment, Radek just sputters, glaring at him. Then his expression clears, and he snorts, folding his arms against his chest. "Someone who supports Chris Pronger cannot call anyone dirty, McKay."
Damn it. Of course Radek pulled the Pronger card, which Rodney...really can't argue with. It's definitely time to change the subject.
Besides, his hands are itching to play around with some alien technology, and so he clears his throat and ignores Radek's victorious smile. "So, puddle jumpers. Afterward, we can watch the video. You'll see how your team was full of dirty cheaters—"
"Do prdele! We did not—" Radek throws his hands up in the air, hands clenching into fists and then unclenching, as though resisting the urge to shake Rodney until he stops mocking the Czech team. Then he shakes his head, a rueful smile replacing the dark look. "Even without your memory, Rodney, you are an ass." It's said fondly, though, like Radek almost considers that part of Rodney's charm—
"Have I told you today how much I hate you?" a voice says, low, exasperated, and unmistakably Radek's. "Some days I am not certain what I desire most— to kiss you or kill you."
"I vote in favor of the former," he answers, and feels Radek's smile against his lips.
"Rodney?" Radek's frowning at him, concern and something else, something Rodney can't bring himself to identify, in his eyes. "You look pale. Should I radio Carson?"
Rodney's mouth opens on its own and answers: "No, no, I'm fine. I just—maybe I should go back to the hospital—infirmary." He feels distant, far away like he's drifting on morphine or that time he accidentally took too many antihistamines.
Radek's still frowning, his unease obvious. "Let me help you to the infirmary, at least. You look ready to faint."
Any other time Rodney might object— faint, the very idea!— but right now a calm, quiet little voice in his head is telling him he needs to get away from this man, to figure out why he remembers the way Radek's stubble had felt against his face. "No, I remember how to get there."
Radek stares and keeps frowning, but he doesn't try to follow him, for which Rodney is distantly grateful. He doesn't know what he'd do if Radek insisted on coming along.
Somehow he makes his way back to the infirmary, and is halfway to his bed when Carson catches sight of him. There must be an odd expression on his face, or maybe just the blank, distant way he's feeling is reflected in his eyes, because Carson looks equally concerned. "Rodney?"
"Just a little overwhelmed," his voice answers, and then Rodney continues forward, past the curtain and onto his bed, where he can bury his face in the pillow and try to keep this distant feeling wrapped around him like a protective blanket.
The thoughts come though, pushing past the wall of blankness he's formed and squeezing his heart with panic. Thoughts fill his head, about how this can't be possible, that he must have misremembered, because he's never kissed a man before and doesn't see why he'd want to kiss Radek, this Czech scientist whose touch isn't familiar, whose voice doesn't make Rodney's breath stutter or his heart leap, whose face is just another stranger's—
He's misremembering, he thinks as his fists clench and unclench at his sides. Just one or two memories jumbled together, that's all. That probably happens to people with amnesia all the time.
He isn't gay. Hadn't he dealt with this in secondary school and university, enduring the taunts and the accusations and the lies? He isn't gay. He isn't.
Later, someone touches his shoulder, and he flinches away before he can think about it or get a handle on his reflexes. The hand withdraws, but then Radek says, very quietly, "Rodney. Open your eyes, please."
When he opens his eyes, the infirmary is dark. It must be nighttime, or Carson decided Rodney needed sleep and dimmed the lights. Radek is kneeling next to the bed, his face cast mostly in shadow but his gaze steady upon Rodney's.
Rodney just looks at him for a moment, remembering the deathly cold flesh beneath his hands; the warmth he'd felt drawing redness into Radek's face; the fondness, now obvious, in Radek's face whenever he looks at him. Then he whispers, "I'm not gay."
Radek blinks. "Of course you aren't," he answers, and now it's Rodney's turn to stare.
He pushes himself up into a sitting position, and Radek rises from his knees. "What do you mean, of course I'm not?" he demands, voice coming out louder than he meant.
Radek sighs. "Rodney, you do not remember yet, but we have already had this conversation, and you have already panicked about this. You are not gay. You like women. You just also like men as well." Rodney thinks Radek smiles then. "Or at least you like me."
"I—" Rodney can't speak though because, God, just when he thought aliens were the biggest shock to the system, a reevaluation of his sexuality comes along to hit him in the face.
"Rodney, it is all right. I don't expect you to...." Radek pauses. "I will wait until you remember. Just know that I—if you need anything—" He stops and sighs, a frustrated, unhappy sound.
Something twists miserably in Rodney's stomach at the sigh. "I'm sorry," he says. "I just— don't remember." He reaches out, tentatively, half-groping in the darkness.
His hand brushes the stubble on Radek's jaw, and this time Radek's sigh is softer as he leans into the touch, skin warm and prickly against Rodney's fingertips.
Rodney doesn't remember this, the curve of Radek's jaw, the way Radek's face looks bathed in shadows. But he thinks of the laptop filled with things Radek knew he'd want to know, the eager hope in Radek's face, and weary patience in Radek's voice, and thinks it doesn't matter what he remembers, and what he does not.
His memory will come back, perhaps in fits and starts again, perhaps in one huge rush, but eventually, he's going to remember this man and their relationship, and maybe the understanding of that ought to be enough.
"I don't remember," he repeats. "Not yet, anyway." And in the meantime, he'll get to know this man all over again, see what is so special about Radek and everything Rodney's thirty-seven-year-old self loves about him, what made Rodney brave enough to ignore all concerns about negative reactions and what Jeannie, what everyone, will say.
"You are not allowed to have amnesia ever again, Rodney," Radek says, and Rodney allows himself a half-hiccup, half-laugh at that.
"Agreed," he says, and keeps his hand pressed to Radek's cheek. His fingers don't tremble at all.
Summary: The first thing he notices is that his head feels full of holes. (Amnesia fic, Rodney/Radek + Ensemble)
Categories: Slash Pairings > McKay/Zelenka
Characters: Carson Beckett, Elizabeth Weir, John Sheppard, Radek Zelenka, Rodney McKay, Ronon Dex, Teyla Emmagan
Genres: AU - Alternate Universe, Character Study, Drama, Established Relationship, Hurt Comfort
Chapters: 1 [Table of Contents]
Word count: 6448; Completed: Yes
Characters: Carson Beckett, Elizabeth Weir, John Sheppard, Radek Zelenka, Rodney McKay, Ronon Dex, Teyla Emmagan
Genres: AU - Alternate Universe, Character Study, Drama, Established Relationship, Hurt Comfort
Chapters: 1 [Table of Contents]
Word count: 6448; Completed: Yes