Name: It all started with a cliche
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Pairing: Meredith McKay/Radek Zelenka
Word Count: 4,100
Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate but I do own this AU (actually, you can take the AU and use it if you credit me)
Warning: Two teenage boys kissing? A little bit out of character? Alternate Universe.
Author's Notes:This is part of my bandverse in which most of the cast of SGA are in a band called Atlantis. In this two part fic, Reminiscence, we see how Meredith and Radek met and how they end up joining the band.
Meredith frowned at his beer, concentrating hard in an attempt to convince his genius brain that the music that savaged his ears was, in fact, at a tolerable level, while at the same time resisting the urge to check whether or not the aforementioned ears were bleeding from the assault.
Seeing as his beer appeared to have nothing to say on the matter, Meredith turned his attention to the other occupants of the crowded room. Blonde girls squeezed from a tube into tight tops, short skirts and more makeup than a clown would deem necessary, lounged casually in ways carefully calculated to show off just the right amount of cleavage. Even if he were interested, not a single one of them would look twice at the scrawny nerd in the corner – two years younger than everyone else at the party and twice as smart.
Guys who sweated as if they’d just come from the gym, testosterone oozing from their pores and mingling with the smell of the entire tub of gel each one had used to spike up their hair, talked among themselves, flirting with the girls in a way that involved not making eye contact. Such males tended to be straighter than a slide rule and likely to defend their manliness by ganging up on any guy with the nerve to hit on one of them and slaughtering him like a rabbit caught up in a pack of wolves. Not that Meredith would ever hit on any of them; they reminded him more than a little of his cousin John.
Occasionally Meredith’s eye would drift towards a couple who had initiated first contact, their lips joined together with a glue made of a combination of sweat and gel and perfume and sickly sweet alcopops. Such couples provoked a mixture of distaste and jealousy within him – not because he’d rather be in the place of a single one of them, but because they had something which he lacked. Inviting himself to this party had indulged a sort of masochistic pleasure; he hated to watch plastic bimbos and sweaty jocks make out for the sake of their social status, but he had jumped at the chance not because he had anything better to do, but because once he’d laid eyes on a lip-locked couple, he felt himself unable to look away.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”
Meredith’s head swung upwards as if pulled by a counterbalance, surprised that he was being addressed with such politeness. Everyone who knew him would either avoid him like the plague or wouldn’t feel it necessary to ask before taking a seat, and most people who didn’t know him would overlook the mousy kid in the corner with the t-shirt that read ‘Geek is Sexy’. He surprise grew when he realised that the owner of the deep, European accent was much, much more interesting to look at than the cigarette-scarred table with the words ‘Kavanagh is a Fag’ carved into the surface. An impressive goatee-like beard decorated his dimpled chin and a pair of thick black-rimmed glasses framed his square, masculine face. Meredith’s gaze swept unashamedly over the baggy t-shirt showing a white guitar against black fabric, towards the jeans, which, although slung low on his hips, did not show off his underwear in the style adopted by most of the men in the room.
He was pretty sure he was drooling by the time the man spoke again. “Is anyone sitting here?” he asked again politely, his clipped vowels sounding almost Russian.
“O-of course,” Meredith blurted out before his brain could supply his mouth with anything more intelligent. “Um,” he tried again, “I mean, no-one’s sitting here.” Feeling that something more was required of him, he added, “You can. If you want,” before falling silent as his brain finally caught up and warned him that he was acting like a dork, as usual. Even so, he felt himself not caring how he sounded as the stranger sat down and took a sip of Meredith’s beer.
“Why are you here?” the stranger asked before Meredith could introduce himself, or possibly embarrass himself completely – he was rapidly losing faith in his ability to form coherent sentences at the moment.
“I was invited,” Meredith lied hesitantly, wondering why he was being interrogated. It was only, in actual fact, technically a half lie, because he’d asked the only girl in his music class who would talk to him whether anyone would mind if he turned up and she’d half-heartedly said no. In Meredith’s world, that counted as an invitation.
It seemed, however, that he’d said the wrong thing. “You are friends with these people?” the stranger asked disdainfully, with a dismissive sweep of the hand and a facial expression that Meredith interpreted as disappointed.
“No, no – I don’t actually known anyone here,” Meredith admitted hastily, unconcerned about how uncool his admission made him look in his haste to distance himself from his mass-produced peers.
The stranger’s expression changed from disappointed to relieved. “Good,” he decided as he stole another sip of Meredith’s beer. Regarding Meredith thoughtfully, he said, “I think you would not mind a change of location, yes? The music here is abysmal, and,” he made a face, “so is the alcohol.”
“Oh, I wasn’t actually drinking that,” Meredith explained cheerfully as he allowed himself to be escorted through the haze of smoke and hormones and the press of half-naked bodies. Anyone caught without a bottle of some description about their person was an easy target for drunken jeering, particularly if said target happened to be a super-genius with no real friends, so Meredith had nursed a beer in the hope that he’d be left alone. He didn’t dare take more than a sip for fear of losing precious brain cells.
Somehow they ended had up outside. The stranger leaned against the driver’s door of a beat-up little car (of which Meredith assumed he was the owner) as he searched through the numerous pockets of his torn, faded and utterly perfect jeans.
“I am Radek,” he said as if it had only just occurred to him to introduce himself, as he located the keys and slotted them into the car door. Gracefully sliding into the driver’s seat, he started the engine and looked up at Meredith with an expectant patience.
“I’m, uh. Meredith.” Having to tell people his name was the third thing on Meredith’s list of things that he hated – he’d gone as far as to consider using his middle name to introduce himself… but Radek didn’t seem to mind his unconventional name.
“Me-re-dith,” Radek considered the word, rolling it over his tongue as if tasting it and seeming to draw a favourable conclusion. He smiled at Meredith as he climbed awkwardly into the passenger seat. “This is an unusual name in your country?”
“Yeah. It’s, uh, most people think it’s a girl’s name. But, um.” Swallowing hard, Meredith found himself looking away, unable to look Radek in the eye. Being in such close proximity had made him feel shy and nervous and he suddenly wondered whether Radek intended to drive him somewhere remote and rape him.
But it was too late now, because Radek had pulled out of the driveway and put his foot on the accelerator and they were heading down the road, away from the rich district and towards another part of town. Keeping his eyes on the road, Radek said, “Your name makes a pleasing sound. It contains a nice number of syllables and feels soft upon my tongue.”
Perhaps he had been tasting the name after all, Meredith reflected as his fleeting panic subsided and he began to feel safe in a car with this stranger. Everything about Radek was slow and measured, from the thoughtful words that he spoke to his careful driving, concentrating on the road as he answered Meredith’s questions, and Meredith’s eyes ran over the messy hair and soft lips and the bold curve of Radek’s cheek, focusing on each feature in turn, drinking his fill and then moving on to the next.
Their destination turned out to be the parking lot of a bar Meredith had never heard of but decided he rather liked the name of, while a lower ranking part of his brain hoped that Radek didn’t plan on drinking if he was going to drive home.
”We are here,” Radek announced as he locked the car, as if he wasn’t stating the obvious, and Meredith decided that he rather liked that too. On the way here, he’d found out a lot of things that he liked about Radek – he was from the Czech Republic, a country which Meredith had heard of but thought was still called Czechoslovakia, he was interested in men and he had broken up with his previous boyfriend recently, but not so recently that anyone he dated would count as a rebound.
After a brief once-over of the car (all doors were locked, none of the lights had been left on, there was nothing valuable on display), they headed inside– Radek in the lead with Meredith following and hoping that he wouldn’t be kicked out for being too young or not cool enough to meet their standards. Radek headed towards a darkened corner of the bar with a familiarity that suggested he was a regular and they sat down on a worn, comfortable couch at right angles to each other, so that their knees were forced to touch underneath the small round table that Meredith rested his elbows on as he wedged his feet up against Radek’s and attempted to pass the contact off as an accident.
“So,” Radek said, lifting an arm and resting it against the back of the couch. In an uncharacteristically bold move, Meredith leaned back, mirroring Radek’s position so that their arms were parallel and almost touching.
“So?” Meredith repeated nonchalantly, aware of the symmetry they’d created and unconsciously calculating the distance between their arms in millimetres. If he were to move an inch to the left, there would be no barrier to prevent his skin from touching Radek’s, and this revelation brought goosebumps to the surface of his flesh.
Shrugging, Radek elaborated, “You have asked many questions about me. I believe that reciprocation is only fair, don’t you agree?”
Tearing his gaze away from the place where their arms almost joined, Meredith replied, “I guess so. Can I ask one more question first?”
The small nod he received reminded him of a tree dipping in the wind. “I cannot promise an answer, but I would be intrigued to hear what it is that you feel is so important to ask.”
“Oh. It’s, uh, it’s not that important. I just wondered what you were doing at that party.” Feeling embarrassed under Radek’s scrutiny, Meredith ducked his head and studied his shoes closely despite the fact that he’d been wearing them every day for more than a year and could describe them from memory in exact detail.
Radek nodded again, giving the question exaggerated consideration with a faint smile of amusement that gave Meredith the feeling that he was being teased. “As I asked you the same question, I suppose that I am obliged to provide an answer.”
With a twitch of his left eyebrow, he moved sideways a little so that the hand on the back of the couch rested near Meredith’s elbow. This minute closing of the distance established, he proceeded to answer Meredith’s question. “A friend of mine mentioned that he would be there. I hadn’t been outside in days and felt that I should take the excuse to leave the confines of my room. Of course, when I arrived he had already left, no doubt with a girl he had met at the party.”
“So you decided to just randomly sit down and talk to me?” Meredith found it hard to believe that Radek would pick him out of a crowd, much less actually want to associate with him based on what he saw.
“If you found yourself in a cave full of dazzling, blinding gold jewellery, would you not notice the solitary diamond and appreciate it for its uniqueness?”
“Um.” Never before had Meredith been spoken to in this manner, and he found it hard to formulate a response worthy to match Radek’s rhetoric poetry. “You think I’m a diamond? I mean, of course my brilliance is unique, but to look at I’m nothing special. Why would you think that?”
Every time Meredith glanced towards their arms, the space between them had narrowed and he wasn’t sure whether it was him or Radek who was moving closer. More likely that it was both, but Radek was unreadable and Meredith had no idea what he was thinking when he replied, “Perhaps I recognised something within you. Someone once told me that I have a gift for reading people. But that does not matter.”
Something tickled the back of Meredith’s hand and although he didn’t dare look, he was sure that Radek had brushed his arm across it. “It is my turn to ask questions now,” the Czech declared. Meredith was finding it hard to concentrate on the almost imperceptible pressure on his arm and the words that came out of Radek’s mouth at the same time.
“OK,” he agreed, momentarily ignoring that precious, small contact so that he could focus on their conversation. “What do you want to know?”
His focus was, unfortunately, broken when Radek turned his hand over and placed it on Meredith’s arm, creating a solid, reassuring connection between them that caused Meredith’s stomach to tighten and he wished that this slow, gradual flirtation would end so that he could touch Radek in all of the places his hands itched to touch.
“I told you about my family in the Czech Republic,” Radek said, breaking the silence and emphasising the fact that Meredith had been staring at the hand on his arm for almost a minute without blinking. “Tell me about yours.” From what he had been told on the way here, Meredith knew that Radek had moved over to the United States alone to study engineering, leaving his mother and sister behind – they had saved up all of their money to send him over and he couldn’t afford to go back and visit. The money for his tuition was earned by working in a local music store and teaching guitar to a few kids on the weekends.
Meredith thought about his parents, remembering fights that would start without warning and with the slightest provocation. They would pay attention to him if they thought that it would anger or upset the other, but if there was no potential for using him against the opposition, he would be largely left to his own devices. His thoughts turned to his sister, Jeannie, the child who had actually been wanted, the sister he hadn’t spoken to in at least two years, since she quit her job as a lab assistant to get married and have kids.
“I have a cousin,” he said finally, not missing the fact that, although Radek’s hand remained still, his thumb had started to move backwards and forwardly, lightly brushing over Meredith’s pulse point on its way past. “We’re pretty close. He teases me a lot, but he’s always there for me when I need him.” Which was more than he could say for anyone else related to him by blood.
“Teasing is important between close relatives,” Radek told him with a smile as his hand started to move higher up Meredith’s arm, like a snake leisurely making its way up a branch. “It prevents one from becoming too narcissistic.”
“Did you and your sister tease each other a lot?” Meredith asked, trying to ignore the hand that was halfway towards his shoulder while at the same time moving closer to its owner.
“Yes,” was the simple reply, and Radek looked a little sad for a second, but then he shifted a couple of inches closer to that they were sitting side by side and his hand was on Meredith’s shoulder like a cat about to pounce and it was all Meredith could do not to start shaking uncontrollably.
“I’m a musician too, you know,” he blurted out, too nervous to listen to any of the witty and intelligent things to say that his brain had on offer, yet apprehensive of where the silence would lead.
“Really? What instrument do you play?” Now Radek was smiling as if he knew something that Meredith didn’t, which was unnerving enough without the fact that he was also close enough that Meredith could smell the coffee on his breath.
“Piano. I’m a… I’m a pianist.” The reaction he received from most people at this point did not appear to be forthcoming, so he sighed inwardly in relief and continued, “My teacher told me I’m very precise, but I have no passion, whatever that is. I was thinking of quitting – it’s not like I’ll ever achieve concert pianist status anyway. I’m a scientist at heart.”
It was only after he’d said it that he realised he’d never confessed this to anyone before, and not because he kept his thoughts secret – it was just that this was the first time he’d had the luxury of another person to confide in.
“Your teacher does not know what he is talking about,” Radek told him seriously, staring into his eyes with pupils that were surprisingly blue – for some reason, Meredith had expected them to be grey, and he realised that this was the first time he’d looked Radek in the eyes all evening.
“How do you know, you’ve never heard me-” but before he could finish his sentence, Meredith found himself being pulled in by a strong tug on his shoulder and his lips were covered by a pair of very warm ones and it wasn’t like sweat and gel and perfume and alcopops at all – a beard was tickling his chin delightfully and this made Meredith want to giggle, but every sound that he made was swallowed by Radek’s willing mouth. A firm, reassuring hand rested on the back of his neck, keeping him close but not stopping him from pulling back if he wanted – not that Meredith was likely to want to escape from that insistent tongue, the roaming hand investigating his thigh, the smell of musk and soap and coffee.
When they finally broke apart, just enough that they could draw breath, their noses touching, Meredith’s hands were fisted in Radek’s shirt and he couldn’t remember how to let go. All he could think of to say was “Guh,” and his brain wasn’t helping at all on the matter, having shut down five seconds into the kiss, but that was OK because Radek rescued him by pulling him close once more and reclaiming Meredith’s mouth with his tongue and lips and teeth.
Three hours later, Meredith stood outside his dorm room with a scrap of paper clutched in one hand, a goofy grin on his face and several impressive bite marks beginning to bloom on his neck. Written on the piece of paper was Radek’s phone number, which was also scrawled across his arm and stomach in dry-wipe board marker as well as programmed into his cell phone – suffice to say, he wasn’t taking any chances.
And he didn’t plan on waiting the traditional three days to call, either. He left it half an hour to allow Radek time to drive home to the apartment he shared with three other guys before he picked up the phone, stared at it for 3.4 seconds and started to dial with shaking fingers.
To his credit, he only misdialled twice and when he did get it right, clutching the phone tight lest it slip from his sweaty palm, Radek picked up on the first ring. “Ano?”
“Um…” so great had been his anxiety over whether Radek would answer the phone at all, it hadn’t occurred to Meredith that hadn’t the first clue about what to say. Since it was traditional for the person doing the calling to actually speak at some point, it was imperative that he get his act together before Radek decided it was a prank caller and hung up.
“Meredith?” By some miracle, the voice on the other end sounded amused and hopeful and sexy as hell. Meredith grinned so hard that he almost forgot he couldn’t be seen and would definitely have to say something this time.
“Yes!” His reply was both a confirmation of his identity and a cry of exultation. “I’m sorry I called so soon, it’s just that no one’s ever kissed me like that before, or at all really, and I just wanted to… I just wanted to hear you again… so maybe I should stop babbling and let you speak?”
How Radek managed to stay so calm when he replied, Meredith could not begin to fathom. “I see that my supreme powers of seduction have left you delirious rather than speechless?”
“Yeah, a bit. I talk a lot when I’m nervous.” Delirious was actually an excellent description of the way he felt – kind of floaty and light-headed and not at all disturbed by the fact that he was unable to think straight.
“Then allow me to reassure you,” Radek offered. “I can tell that you are the type to worry about things if they are not clearly spelled out for you.”
“Sorry.” Because what else was Meredith supposed to say? Radek’s earlier revelation that he was good at reading people had not been an exaggeration.
“No, no – I find it quite adorable.” And how was he supposed to reply to that when no one had ever called him adorable before and why did Meredith feel completely safe about being dragged entirely out of his depth? “Now you must allow me to make myself clear,” Radek told him. “My initial expectation of the outcome of this evening has been far exceeded. You are clever and funny and extremely talented with your tongue and you may be the cutest person I’ve ever met unless you count cats as people. The fact that you seem like the person who does see cats as people makes me want to see you again even more than I already did and let me assure you, when we meet again there will be a lot of kissing. Now do you understand?”
Yes, because that was almost exactly the way he felt about Radek, but it was put more eloquently than he could ever have expressed. “Yeah,” he replied, although it was more of a soft release of the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding. “And, um, me too. You know. Everything that you just said.” It wasn’t eloquent, but he hoped he had got his point across.
“Excellent.” And it was excellent, it was the most excellent thing that had ever happened to Meredith and he realised that he was pacing the room, so he stopped and flopped onto his Star Wars bedspread.
“Now that is out of the way,” Radek was saying, his voice sounding almost like a purr in Meredith’s left ear, “When can I see you again?”
“Tomorrow,” Meredith replied quickly, glad that he had managed not to say right now, here, on my bed and not caring that he had an assignment to finish because given the choice, he’d give up science entirely to spend time with Radek again. Well, maybe not science in its entirety. Just the soft sciences. Maybe chemistry if there was a possibility that groping would occur.
“I will see you tomorrow then,” Radek agreed. “But now I am afraid that I must cut short our conversation. As we have already established, my cat is much cuter than you, and she can be very demanding when she has not been fed.”
“OK.” Meredith had to admit that Radek had his priorities straight. He found himself looking forward to meeting Radek’s cat, finding out what Radek had named her – perhaps after an artist or a musician, perhaps after a scientist. “Bye then.”
And it wasn’t until Meredith had hung up the phone and fallen back onto the pillow exhaustedly that it occurred to him they hadn’t arranged a time or a place. It also occurred to him that Radek had probably meant for it to be this way and that he should trust his new boyfriend to make things work somehow.When he fell asleep twenty-eight and a half minutes later, fully clothed with the phone still cradled lightly in his left hand, he dreamed of strong, confident hands and rough, beard-tinged kisses.
Part 2 coming soon.