DISCLAIMER -- I do not own Stargate: Atlantis or any of the charaters. They belong to MGM and other companies. I am writing this for fun, not profit. No suing...please!

RATING -- erm... better make this one T (again the copious bum-covering takes place)

SPOILERS -- None in this chapter, but I'll keep you posted on them in future.

SUMMARY -- This is a multiple-POV and multi-chapter story. It's really about the whole SGA team, but the intrepid Dr. Zelenka gets to play...offworld! This story's got a little bit of everything, I promise. Action, Drama, Romance, a bit of whumping and who knows what else? But of course there's some ZelenkaWeir cos I can't abandon my favourite 'ship.

A/N -- Okay. So I have an idea for a longer SGA story, and this is it. I have fits where I write a lot and then times when I don't write much at all, so if I give you a whole lot of chapters really quickly and then suddenly appear to stop, don't worry. Just keep bugging me, and I promise I will continue. Anyway, enough of that. I'd better get on with the story. Enjoy!

erm yes... no beta so blame me for any errors.


The Song Of Slient Rivers

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi.
(The deepest rivers flow with the least sound.)

1. An Acceptable Substitute

Radek Zelenka had a headache. It was the sort of dull, throbbing kind that resided just behind his eyes. Eyestrain, lack of sleep, too much caffeine; any or all of these might be the cause. He took off his glasses and pinched at the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. Last night he hadn't slept well. He'd had nightmares that kept him awake in the wee hours, which was not an unusual occurrence in itself, but coupled with the fact that he'd felt achy and vaguely ill this morning when he got out of bed, did not bode well for the rest of the day.

After having breakfast in the mess hall with Elizabeth and Colonel Sheppard he'd felt somewhat better. Maybe it was the coffee had 'perked him up', as the colonel suggested. Radek secretly believed Elizabeth's presence had something to do with it. He always felt better when Elizabeth was nearby. The problem was Elizabeth wasn't here, now. Radek's only source of company at the moment was Rodney McKay, who was being decidedly less than companionable. The physicist had not stopped complaining since the second he'd set foot in the lab. Normally, Radek could tune out Rodney's whining, but then again, Rodney's whining wasn't normally punctuated by coughs and sneezes and obnoxiously loud nose-blowing.

"Is it hot in here?" Rodney asked for about the tenth time in as many minutes. "I mean, is it really hot or is it just me?"

"Is just you, Rodney," Radek said, without even looking up from his work.

"Really? You're not warm?"

"No."

Rodney sneezed and blew his nose. "Are you even listening to me? You don't look like you're paying attention."

"Of course I am paying attention. How can I not pay attention?"

"You just seem, you know, inattentive." Rodney said, and sneezed again. "Damn allergies."

Radek sighed. "Rodney."

Rodney sniffled loudly. "What?"

"Can't you do something about that?"

"About what?"

"You're probably spreading germs all over lab."

"It's just allergies. I'm not contagious."

"You say that now."

"Look, Radek, I'm not contagious! I'm not spreading germs. You're not going to get sick. Now, can you please shut up and stop bothering me? I have work to do here, in case you haven't noticed, and so do you."

Radek pressed his lips together tightly, determined not to give in to his urge to make an acerbic remark. He put down the tool he'd been using, a little less gently than he'd intended. "Rodney, your coughing and sneezing is distracting me. Now, you can go to Infirmary to ask Carson for something to help you, or…or you can work somewhere else."

'Hey! This is my lab! If you can't stand to be here with me, then you can get out."

For a moment they just stared at each other. Rodney was the first to blink, and Radek acknowledged this with a little smirk. "You are off your game, Rodney. You need something to enhance your performance."

"Enhance my—"

"Performance, yes."

"You're a miserable little man," Rodney muttered.

"Infirmary. Go."

Grumbling under his breath, Rodney turned and stomped out of the lab. Only after the doors had whispered shut behind the departing physicist did Radek allow himself to release the breath he'd been holding. Perhaps now, with a little peace and quiet, he'd make some headway on his current project. He ran a hand through his untidy hair, and turned his attention back to his task. With any luck, there would be no more annoying interruptions this morning Of course, he suspected, around here that was way too much to hope for.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Rodney McKay was still muttering when he reached the infirmary. The nerve of Radek Zelenka, chasing him out of his own lab! And these damned allergies were driving him nuts. He wondered what could possibly have caused the reaction he was having. Maybe something he'd run into on the mainland, or maybe it was dust. He'd been poking around in some previously undiscovered rooms, and they hadn't been cleaned in ten thousand years.

Rodney was startled when Carson Beckett met him almost at the Infirmary's threshold. The Scot fixed him with a curious eye, and a small smile quirked one side of his mouth upward. The doctor greeted him with, "Hullo, Rodney. You look like a man on a mission."

Mission! Damn it all, he'd nearly forgotten about the mission to M4X-382. What was the matter with him today? He was astounded that he'd let something like that slip his fabulous mind. A few days ago, Rodney and his team had sent a probe through the Stargate to M4X-382. They'd learned the planet was uninhabited, but they'd also discovered a power reading that might have represented a ZPM. Elizabeth had agreed to let them go through the 'Gate and check it out for themselves, and today was the day.

"Antihistamines," Rodney said.

Carson blinked, "Excuse me?"

"I need antihistamines. For my allergies," Rodney said impatiently. A persistent tickling at the back of his throat made him cough several times. "Look, I've got things to do, so if you could—"

'How long have you had that cough?" Carson asked.

"Uh…since yesterday."

"I think I'd better check you over. I don't like the sound of that cough."

"Who likes the sound of coughing?" Rodney said, trailing Carson across the infirmary. "I don't need to be checked out. I'm fine. I just need medication."

"If you need medication, you're not fine," Carson said. "Now, humour me." He removed his stethoscope from the pocket of his white clinic coat.

"I just came here for antihistamines, and…hey! Is that really necessary?"

"Rodney, for goodness sake, you don't need to carry on like that. I haven't even touched you."

"Yes, but you were going to. You and your…your medieval torture instruments!"

Carson raised an eyebrow at the agitated physicist. "It's a stethoscope, Rodney. Now, hop up here so I can have a listen to your lungs." He patted the surface of the infirmary bed. "It won't hurt a bit, I promise."

"You always say that."

"Aye."

"It always hurts."

"Come on. Do you need a hand up?"

"No. Anyway, don't I have the right to refuse medical treatment around here? I mean, I don't have to let you poke at me if I don't want to."

"No, I suppose you don't, but-"

"But what?" Rodney demanded.

"Well, I could just tell Elizabeth you're being uncooperative," Carson said.

The physician somehow managed to look completely guileless, as if reporting Rodney's recalcitrance wasn't his own idea. Rodney grunted, more from frustration than from physical effort, as he climbed awkwardly onto the tall bed. Knowing Elizabeth Weir, telling on Rodney probably wasn't Carson's idea. She'd probably asked the doctor to report any misbehaviour to her.

"It's not fair, you know," Rodney complained.

"Stop talking. I won't be able to listen to your heart and lungs properly with you running on like that," Carson said. He fitted his stethoscope to his ears. Without so much as a by-your-leave, he deftly flipped up the hem of Rodney's shirt and placed the bell of the stethoscope against the physicist's skin.

Rodney let out an involuntary squeak when the smooth, cool metal touched his flesh. "Hey! That's cold!"

"Hush. Talking isn't helping. Take deep breaths," Carson instructed.

Seeing no way around it at that point, Rodney did as he was told. He took several deep breaths while Carson positioned the stethoscope in various spots on his back and chest. At last, Carson lowered the instrument. Rodney tugged his shirt into place with an indignant grunt. Carson frowned at him.

"What?" Rodney demanded.

"I'll need to check your ears and throat."

"Okay, if you must, but I'm pretty sure it's just allergies. I must've breathed something in while I was on the mainland. Right?"

"Why don't you let me make the medical diagnoses?" Carson said. He produced the hated tongue depressor, seemingly from thin air, and commanded, "Open your mouth, but don't say anything."

Rodney stuck out his tongue at Carson, which was, Rodney realized a bit too late, precisely what Carson wanted. The doctor seemed to take his time examining Rodney's throat and ears. Rodney suspected he was dawdling on purpose, prolonging the torture.

"Well?" Rodney said when Carson was finally done. "Allergic reaction?"

"It's a wee bit more serious than your garden variety allergic rhinitis, I'm afraid."

"What! What is it?"

"My best guess? You've got a viral upper respiratory tract infection."

"Viral? You mean, I've got some kind of virus? Th-that's bad, isn't it?"

"Oh, most definitely," Carson said solemnly. "It's highly contagious, too. Wouldn't want you to spread something like that around on other worlds, would we?"

"Um...no. Look, is there something you can do?"

"I'm afraid not. It's likely to get worse before it gets better. The only thing I can recommend is that you rest in your quarters and drink plenty of liquids. Now, don't you move. I'm going to fetch a thermometer, so I can take your temperature."

"But-"

Carson held up a hand. "Stay, Rodney. I'll be right back, I promise."

"Great. Just great," Rodney muttered at Carson's retreating form. Rodney flopped onto his back on the infirmary bed. Here he was, dying with some kind of viral infection and being bossed around by Carson Beckett. He couldn't go offworld. He probably wouldn't even be allowed to work. Elizabeth would send somebody else on the mission – probably Zelenka, he guessed – and there'd be the ZPM, and everyone would be congratulating John Sheppard's team for a job well done and… It was all too much to contemplate. Rodney suddenly felt excruciatingly tired. He sighed and closed his eyes. If he couldn't work in his lab and he couldn't go on the mission with his team, he didn't see any point in leaving this spot. Besides, if he was dying, the best place to be was probably the Infirmary, despite the presence of Carson Beckett, Atlantis' own Torquemada.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

"Oh no. No, no, no… Is definitely out of the question!"

Dr. Radek Zelenka held up a hand in a pre-emptive gesture so reminiscent of Rodney McKay that Elizabeth had difficulty suppressing a grin. She'd been noticing lately how Rodney and Radek seemed to have gained a few new quirks from each other. She couldn't help being amused. She was sure neither of the scientists was aware he'd picked up a few uncharacteristic gestures from the other one.

"Dr. Zelenka," Elizabeth said. "You are the best person for this assignment."

Radek huffed. "Yes, of course you tell me this. Does Dr, McKay know you say such things? All the time, I am hearing he is best scientist in Atlantis, and now you come to me and say I am best person for the assignment? This is, as Americans say, load of crap." He waved her away with another McKay-ish flip of his hand. "Please, I have work."

Elizabeth supposed she couldn't fault the Czech for being in an irascible mood. The man looked exhausted, and if he'd had spent the entire morning trying to work while listening to Rodney McKay's whining, Elizabeth didn't doubt he was nearly at his wits' end. Spending time away from the lab might do him a lot of good. She understood his reluctance about going offworld, but she hoped the opportunity to get away from Rodney for a little while might be motivation enough for him.

"Dr. Zelenka—"

"Where is Rodney? He left to get something for coughing and runny nose half an hour ago."

"He's in the Infirmary," said Elizabeth.

"What? For runny nose, he is in the Infirmary?" Radek audibly huffed again. "I am telling you, Dr. Weir, working with Rodney is like working with child. Why is he in the infirmary?"

Elizabeth smiled. "You might want to ask Dr. Beckett about that, actually. It's a funny story, the way Carson tells it."

"I am not in the mood for funny stories," Radek said. "What you really came here to say is that you want me to accompany Colonel Sheppard and his team because Rodney cannot go. Yes?"

"Yes," Elizabeth admitted.

Radek wrung his hands in agitation. "I can't."

"I know you don't like going offworld, but this assignment is important. If we have a chance to get another ZPM—"

"Yes, yes." Radek interjected. "I understand importance of ZPM. Please don't insult my intelligence."

'

Elizabeth chose to ignore that. She said, "Colonel Sheppard and Ronon will be there with you, and so will Teyla. They wouldn't let anything happen to you."

"This brings to mind another American saying."

"Dare I ask?"

"Famous last words," said Radek. "Do I have choice?"

"I won't order you to go, if that's what you're asking."

"Who will go if I don't?"

"I suppose we'll have to send Dr. Kavanagh."

Radek mumbled something in Czech that Elizabeth didn't quite understand. He rolled his gaze toward the ceiling. "Kavanagh! That man is idiot. He couldn't find his own face in a mirror, much less ZPM on alien planet."

"Okay. No love lost there, I guess."

"One cannot lose what he never had, Dr. Weir," Radek told her. His grumpy expression suddenly melted into a rueful smile. "Look, I am very sorry. I'm being unprofessional. I would love to blame this bad mood on Rodney, on Kavanagh, but is my fault. I am a little frustrated right now, with Ancient device. No, no…with myself. This would be easier if I had ATA gene."

Elizabeth hadn't been prepared for such a long speech from the engineer. She glanced at the piece of equipment on the lab table in front of him, but she couldn't decipher exactly what it was or what Radek had been trying to do with it. The thing was the approximate size of a toaster and made of metal. She was curious about the device, but she refrained from asking anything. Instead, she said, "Maybe some time away from the lab will help you clear your head."

"Perhaps."

"If you do find a ZPM, you have no idea how thrilled everyone would be."

"Everyone except Rodney."

"But think of the implications of that," Elizabeth said. She knew she shouldn't be putting ideas into the engineer's head, but something in her just could not resist. Besides, if she could shake him out of his bad mood and make him smile, it was worth it. Radek Zelenka had a smile well worth the necessary effort to coax it out of hiding.

"Psychological persuasion," said Radek. He flashed her a genuine grin that made her feel like laughing out loud. "You twist my arm without ever touching me. Okay, okay. For you, Dr. Weir, I will go, but please don't make these requests a frequent occurrence."