Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate Atlantis or any of its characters, and I'm not making any profit from this fanfic.
Author's Note: Okay, so this Valentine's Day fic is very, very late. ;) I actually started writing it back in February during V-Day season, but then school interfered, and I haven't had a chance to finish it until now.
- - -
One would think that by now, I would have gotten used to the infernal bleating of that alarm clock.
Without opening his eyes, Radek Zelenka reached over and slapped at the offending object until the beeping stopped. Ah, much better. Generally, it wasn't the mornings themselves that he minded so much; it was the way he had to greet those mornings that made him a little cranky. How exactly a person was supposed to get a cheerful start to the day when he was awakened by an obnoxious beeping noise was a mystery the scientist had yet to solve.
Opening his eyes, he let out a jaw-unhinging yawn as he fumbled around on the nightstand for his glasses. Finding them, he slipped them on, ran a hand through his wild hair, and swung his legs over the side of his bed.
His eyes, bleary though they were, hit two objects in quick succession, serving to jolt him slightly more awake. The first was the calendar hanging on his wall. He muttered something unpleasant in Czech. It was February the 14th—Valentine's Day.
Normally, Valentine's Day would be just another regular day to Zelenka. The only noticeable difference would be the copious amounts of red and pink heart-shaped decorations hanging around the city. Well, that and the unusually large quantities of chocolate circulating the lab. But this Valentine's Day was a little different.
The second object that he'd noticed was a single red rose in a vase on top of his dresser. He leveled a scowl at it. He had been on a mission to MG7-857 a few days ago when he spotted a bush of the flowers growing near the Stargate. In a rare moment of romantic weakness, he had plucked one of the blossoms, placing it quickly but carefully in his backpack before the accompanying soldiers could notice and start teasing him about the intended recipient. It looked a bit flattened and wilted by the end of the mission, but he placed it in a vase of water as soon as he'd returned to Atlantis, and it was quickly restored to its original beauty. He supposed it wasn't really a rose—more like the alien version of a rose, but he didn't particularly mind. He was an engineer, after all, not a botanist. It looked almost exactly like a rose from Earth, and the scent was remarkably similar as well.
Zelenka huffed out a sigh. He'd never considered himself to be the romantic type. Daydreaming and picking flowers was for starry-eyed teenagers, not professional men of his age. But there was something about Elizabeth…maybe it was that she appreciated and valued his contributions to the exhibition—something that didn't happen much in the lab with McKay around. Or maybe it was her smile and the way it lit up her eyes, especially when she was amused about something…
You're acting like an idiot, Zelenka scolded himself. She's the leader of the entire expedition; she's not going to have time for your silly, lovestruck self. Besides, you'd never be able to give her the rose in private; there are always people around, and if word got out, McKay would never let you hear the end of it.
That was that, he decided. The rose would remain in his quarters until it wilted, then he would discreetly dispose of it with no one the wiser. "I don't know what possessed me to pick it in the first place, " he mumbled to himself as he headed for the shower. "Just a meaningless crush, anyway."
- - -
The Ancients would no doubt be mystified as to why all this red and pink stuff is covering their city, Zelenka thought wryly as he watched a petite scientist—wearing a pink lab coat, of all things—hang a string of red paper hearts in a hallway. He idly wondered if the pink lab coat had been purchased specially for Valentine's Day or if it was the result of a laundering session gone wrong.
His thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice on his radio. "Dr. Zelenka, this is Dr. Weir. Could you come to my office, please?"
He immediately changed course, turning into an adjacent hallway and heading toward the center of the city. "I'm on my way, Doctor."
He reached Dr. Weir's office in record time and gave a slight knock on the doorframe before entering, although the door was already open.
"Ah, good morning, Dr. Zelenka," Elizabeth said with her usual warm smile as the scientist walked in. "And happy Valentine's Day," she added, her grin broadening.
Zelenka smiled back, but there was a sinking feeling in his stomach as he noticed the dozen brilliant red roses sitting in a vase on her desk. "Happy Valentine's Day to you as well, Dr. Weir," he said politely.
"Any special plans for the day?" she asked, managing to look both curious and mischievous at the same time.
Zelenka put on a rueful smile. "Not in particular. But it looks as though you do!" he replied, gesturing to the roses.
Elizabeth grinned again, looking extremely pleased, and Zelenka thought he saw her blush just a little.
"Yes," she said with a chuckle, "Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard managed to bring rose seeds from Earth, and he conspired with some of the Athosians and our resident botanists to attempt to grow them in a controlled area on the mainland." She grinned. "He's nothing if not sneaky."
So it was Sheppard, Zelenka thought, trying not to look at the roses. Rumors and gossip had been floating around the city—almost since the beginning of the expedition—that Weir and Sheppard were attached in some way. Zelenka had suspected for some time that the rumors were true, but he'd never known for sure until now.
"Unfortunately, even on Valentine's Day, there's still plenty of work to be done," Elizabeth was saying, and Zelenka turned his attention back to her. She was picking a manila-colored folder off her desk. "Major Lorne's team has been scouting MG8-583, and they've found that the native peoples of that planet have some interesting technology to offer. I'd like you to travel to 583 and assess the technology more thoroughly." She handed him the folder. "The details we have so far are in there. Your briefing will be in one hour."
Zelenka was about to reply when Elizabeth murmured something under her breath, tapped her earpiece and spoke into it. "Yes?" She listened for a moment, then nodded. "All right, I'll be right there." She shot Zelenka an apologetic look. "The problems never cease."
"Ah, yes, I know the feeling," Zelenka said wryly.
"Did you have any questions on 583?" Elizabeth asked. When he replied in the negative, she smiled. "Good, I'll see you at the briefing, then. If you'll excuse me, Doctor." She exited the office and started briskly down the corridor.
Zelenka began to leave the room as well, but lingered at the door when a flash of red once again caught his eye. He glanced at the desk and the vase of roses, then back to the hallway where Elizabeth had disappeared. He frowned thoughtfully. Whatever the disturbance was that had called her away, it would most likely require quite a bit of time-consuming explanation, which would in turn keep her from her office. He hesitated for a moment, then set his jaw determinedly and started purposefully in the direction of his quarters.
- - -
Elizabeth planted her elbows on her desk and reached back to massage her aching neck. It had been a long day. First had been the freak accident/explosion in the infirmary that had called her away when she was in the middle of discussing an offworld mission with Dr. Zelenka. A fair amount of panic had ensued, but fortunately there had been no serious injuries, and the damage was more minor than originally anticipated. As if that hadn't been enough, the technology-testing mission on MG8-583 had gone a little awry. The natives of 583 had meant well, but they hadn't been able to work all the bugs out of their technology yet—as evidenced by the fact that half of Major Lorne's team had returned with singed eyebrows and patches of hair missing. And of course, this was all in addition to the usual bumps and bruises that came with a typical day of running Atlantis. Yep, Elizabeth thought as her fingers rubbed at the knots in her muscles, most days qualify as "long" now, what with the challenges of leading an expedition to a far-off galaxy populated by life-sucking aliens.
And the day wasn't even over yet. She glanced at her watch, noting that it was almost six thirty. She smirked a little to herself. Despite the fact that she was leading a military expedition and was surrounded by military personnel every day, she still allowed herself the luxury of a watch that didn't run on military time.
Deciding that her neck was massaged to the point that it no longer felt like it was going to snap in two, she resettled herself in her chair and rolled her shoulders, then resumed attacking her ever-present duties. Despite her now-relaxed pose as she typed, someone passing by her office might have noticed that she was dressed more formally than most of the Atlantis personnel had ever seen her.
A knock sounded at the door, and she closed the laptop and rose from her chair as Sheppard entered the office.
"Feeling conventional tonight, John?" she teased. "I'm not sure if you've ever knocked before."
"Well, you know me," Sheppard said with his cocky grin. "I like to be unpredictable."
"As also evidenced by that," Elizabeth said with raised eyebrows, gesturing to the dress blues Sheppard wore. "I assumed you must have some kind of dress uniform, but I didn't know you'd brought it to Atlantis."
"I almost didn't," Sheppard admitted, unconsciously preening just a bit. "But, I figured better safe than sorry. And it's a good thing I brought 'em, too. When you're taking a beautiful woman—who also happens to be your boss—out for Valentine's Day, it's probably better to wear something besides the usual BDUs."
"Very astute of you," Elizabeth said with an amused grin. She walked around to the front of the desk, pausing at the vase of roses. "Oh, and thank you very much for the lovely delivery this morning. It was a very pleasant surprise. I have to admit I've always had a weakness for roses."
Sheppard attempted to look nonchalant, and was only partly successful. "Aw, you're welcome. Glad you like them."
Elizabeth leaned down and let her face hover above the bouquet, inhaling the heady scent, as she had been doing at intervals throughout the day. She let her eyes slide over the flowers, and she unconsciously began to count them.
"Something wrong?" Sheppard asked, his own forehead furrowing as he saw Elizabeth frown. "Is one of 'em wilted or something?"
"No, no, they're all fine," Elizabeth replied distractedly, still staring at the flowers. Finally, she looked back at her confused date. "There are thirteen roses here."
Sheppard screwed up his face in a skeptical expression. "Thirteen? Are you sure? I distinctly remember picking out the twelve best ones in our little rose garden on the mainland."
"Yes, there were a dozen this morning," Elizabeth said. "I counted them when they were first delivered."
"Maybe you counted wrong just now," Sheppard suggested, tilting his head.
Elizabeth raised one eyebrow and gestured at the vase. "Feel free to count for yourself, math whiz," she said, one corner of her mouth quirking upwards.
Sheppard obliged, leaning over and peering intently at the vase, mouthing silently as he numbered the roses. "Huh, sure enough. Baker's dozen."
"Odd," Elizabeth murmured.
Sheppard straightened. "Obviously," he stated flatly, "you've got a secret admirer." He looked none too happy at the prospect.
Elizabeth stared at him a moment, then gave a peal of laughter. "Secret admirer? I haven't had one of those since elementary school."
"How else do you explain how a thirteenth rose just happened to make its way into the vase?" Sheppard countered.
Elizabeth cast a quizzical look at the vase in question. "Well…"
"Who's had access to your office today? Maybe I should post a few security guards outside the door," Sheppard muttered, narrowing his eyes in a half-joking manner. He glanced furtively about the room as though expecting the 'secret admirer' to suddenly leap out brandishing a heart-shaped box of chocolates. "And a few outside your quarters too, just to be safe."
"Oh, stop it, John!" Elizabeth exclaimed, unable to hold back a chuckle. "I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation, but I say for now we forget about it and go have dinner."
Sheppard's trademark grin appeared, and he offered her his arm. "Sounds good to me." Once they were out in the hallway, he remarked, "Maybe tomorrow he'll strike again—leave you a flowery note revealing his identity, or something."
Elizabeth grinned, her eyes sparkling with amusement. "Maybe so…" She looked over her shoulder through the glass walls of her office to the vase on her desk. "Or maybe it'll just have to remain a mystery."