Summary: It's hard to lie with touch, but John and Rodney give it their best shot.
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis in no way belongs to me.
Original story: Touch Me Like I Touch You by dogeared.
Beta: I couldn't have written this without the help of vegetariansushi.
Note: Written for remix_redux 2007.
* * *
Like You Touch Me (The Skin Hungry Remix)
Rodney had ever-so-slightly overestimated how long it would take to detour around the team of botanists (read: Katie Brown, who was currently enjoying the "off" part of their on-again-off-again dating cycle) blocking his way. They were working on "re-greening" the main thoroughfare (read: Elizabeth was concerned about Seasonal Affective Disorder and this was her latest strategically implemented response). So after a brisk walk around the outside of the east tower, Rodney arrived at the mess slightly early. None of his team were there yet, and he glared at the empty lunch table for a moment feeling strangely at loose ends. That was the trouble with teammates; they expected him to do things, like hang-out during movie night and sit with them at lunch, and now he found that he was in the habit and didn't really want to change. It was freakish and unsettling. Things had all been so much easier when he'd been an anti-social loner. He'd never bothered sitting with other people as a postgrad student.
He stomped over to the lunch line and glared at the tray of lemon chicken. The pimple-faced corporal behind the counter took one look at him and dumped a ladle of Tava-Bean Surprise onto his plate, declaring, "Yes, it's citrus-free, Doc," before Rodney could even open his mouth. With a scowl, Rodney picked up his plate, helped himself to some salad, a bowl of Jell-O, and a mug of coffee, and headed over to his team-free table.
Shoveling up his food left-handed, he popped open his laptop and began fine-tuning the latest ZPM re-charging simulation. Half-a-plateful later, he had just discovered a really interesting ripple effect in the results. An uneaten forkful of food dangled from his fingers, forgotten, when the hair at the back of his neck prickled and stood on end.
"Hey," John murmured, breath warm and unexpectedly intimate in Rodney's ear, "how are those simulations coming, buddy?"
Rodney jerked, sending his forkful of tava-bean mush speeding through the air to land with a squelch on Cadman's boot.
A dreadful hush descended over the lunch crowd as Cadman stared down at the blob. When she looked up, one eyebrow was cocked and she pinned Rodney with a gimlet stare. In a voice that was all sweetness, she said, "I thought I told you, Rodney. Food never makes good lube." And then she leered at him and waggled her boot. "Or were you planning on licking it off?"
Rodney flinched back, ending up plastered against John's almost-familiar heat, and then he flinched again, slamming his knee against the underside of the table in his haste to get away. He scrambled up out of his chair, face burning.
"I, uh..." he said, and cleared his throat in a desperate effort to get rid of the shrill edge echoing in his voice.
"You're going to have to finish your little bondage scene later," John said dryly, reaching out to close Rodney's laptop. "We have a briefing in five minutes."
Even though it was a complete lie, Rodney snapped his fingers in relief and pointed at John. "Exactly!"
Cadman looked daggers at both of them, but said, "Right you are, sir," in a deceptively cheerful tone, and went off to bother someone else.
"Come on," John said, holding out the laptop with one hand, and scooping up Rodney's bowl of Jell-O with the other. "I came to tell you Teyla has some sort of holy Athosian picnic deal going on. She wants us in the solarium." He glanced with distaste at Rodney's abandoned plate of beans. "Believe me, you're trading up."
"That wouldn't be hard," Rodney muttered, and snatched his laptop back.
John's empty hand stayed outstretched for just a moment before he curled it into a fist and let it fall to his side.
Awkwardly, Rodney turned away, clutching the laptop to his chest. Without a word, John fell into step beside him and together they headed towards the door and the rest of their team.
* * *
Rodney was playing a solo game of anti-grav "soccer" in the huge, glass-ceilinged game-room, awkwardly chasing after the A.I. ball-thing in the lazy afternoon sunshine. It wasn't something he did often--or at all, really--but he'd been curious, and he was tired of fixing Ancient circuit boards, and the game was right there, practically on his way back to the lab... So he'd left his toolbox out in the corridor, put on the little ear-jack game controller, thought it On, and whoa! He'd ended up floating a meter off the ground! Flying! Why had no one ever said it was like this? It was like channelling Superman while playing the trickiest game of 3D pool: all angles and geometric shapes and invisible lines of logic tracing through the air before his eyes. Rodney swooped after the ball with a bellow of joy, missing it by a hairsbreadth: the A.I. once more darting just out of reach. He honestly didn't care; he was hot, slick with sweat, panting, and--god!--he never wanted to stop!
He sighted the ball again, laid out a careful strategy, and pushed off the wall at right-angles to it. He was so focused on his quarry that a flash of color in his peripheral vision was the only warning he had before John slammed into him with a full-body tackle, sending them both flipping head-over-heels through the air.
John's work-roughened fingers glanced along Rodney's bare nape as they twisted together, one of John's legs wrapping hard around Rodney's waist; then, using Rodney's momentum to increase his own reach, John stretched out like a long, lean cat and batted the A.I. ball-thing right past Rodney's nose and clear across to the other side of the room. It plunked against the scoring target, lit up the scoreboard for the first time, and then ricocheted back into play.
Rodney grunted and flailed to get free, full of a desperate need to get away from the too-close press of John's muscle-hard body.
John's smirk of victory wavered, and he clutched a little harder at Rodney's shoulder as he asked, "What's up? Did I hurt you?"
Rodney jerked and twisted, finally getting loose, John's fingers brushing Rodney's skin as he let go. As soon as Rodney was out of John's arms and a safe distance away, he demanded, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
"Come on, McKay." John flipped himself upright and crossed his arms, hovering in the air with an easy grace that just stoked Rodney's fury. "I've been trying to get you to play with me forever."
"Well, maybe I don't want to play with you! Did you ever think of that?" Rodney yelled, and then felt a sick lurch as his stomach rolled over.
John's face flashed with hurt and then almost instantly smoothed into the blank, smirky mask Rodney hated. He held up his hands in an I surrender gesture. "Fine. Play with yourself as much as you want, Rodney."
Before Rodney could think of a suitably cutting response, John had dropped to the floor, flung his ear-jack at the storage niche and stalked out.
* * *
They had been in quarantine most of the day, and Rodney was almost over his initial panic, despite the fact that Keller was a quack who wouldn't know a "precautionary measure" if it bit her on the ass. But at least the panic had distracted him from how small the isolation room really was. Rodney paced the fifteen steps across the room, back and forth, trying to ignore the way the close quarters were starting to weigh on him. He just wanted to get back to his nice spacious lab and finish running the latest ZPM simulations.
"Goddamit!" Rodney snapped at John after about a dozen laps. "Will you quit that. You're driving me crazy!"
John froze with his hand still on his sleeve, where he'd been scratching just a moment before. "What?" he said, in a strangely flat voice.
"The scratching!" Rodney said. "Do you have fleas or something? Because that would just be typical! Stuck in here with fleas just because you couldn't keep it in your pants! How many times do you have to learn the lesson of don't-touch-the-alien-bimbos before it sinks in, anyway?" Which wasn't really fair, as John hadn't done anything to encourage this particular High Priestess of the Zeee. Not that that had stopped her from having John dipped in ceremonial Wedding Ichor. And who had been the poor sap who'd ended up covered in the stuff while helping John escape, and was now having to waste hours--hours--of precious work time in this tiny, tiny, way too fucking small quarantine room? "Me! That's who! You ungrateful bastard. The least you could do is thank me, but no, that's too much to--"
"Rodney," John said, sounding strained.
"What? What?" Rodney spun around and looked at him. John had his sleeve rolled up and was staring down at his arm... which was covered in a patch of blue scales surrounded by scratch-reddened skin.
"Oh god," Rodney said, sitting down on the bed next to John, suddenly weak-kneed. He reached out towards the scaly skin but John batted his hand away before he could touch.
"Are you crazy! It could be contagious."
"Please," Rodney said. "Try to use that pile of porridge you call a brain. I'm already exposed, and that's just an allergic reaction anyway. I don't see you offering to stop breathing just so I won't be exposed to your re-used air. Touching won't make any difference. Unless you decide to bite me or something, which I wouldn't put past you."
"You don't know that, Rodney." Some of the strain had left John's voice though, replaced by annoyance. He muttered, "And who says I won't bite you?"
Ignoring the threat, Rodney said, "Oh, really?" as smugly as he could manage with his heart rabbiting away in his chest as though he'd just been running for his life. "Well, if I'm so chronically uninformed about allergic reactions, you won't mind wagering that bag of coffee beans you got in on the last Daedalus run? Because I bet once Keller's done her hocus pocus, she says exactly the same thing." Rodney reached up to tap on his head-set, but John stopped him, wrapping a hand around Rodney's wrist and squeezing.
"You can touch it, I guess. If it's just an allergy. If you want." John didn't offer up his arm though, keeping it pressed protectively against his side.
Rodney wrinkled his nose. "Yes, yes, because touching your scabby bug-bite is a dream come true for me. Thank you for that magnanimous offer."
Letting go of Rodney's wrist so he could make the call, John smirked and said, "I always knew you wanted to touch me like that."
Afterwards, they stayed seated side-by-side on the bed, pressed together at the knee and shoulder, even when Keller came in wearing her red zoot suit, bearing an array of needles and an unquenchable medical thirst for blood.
* * *
Close to seventy-two hours without sleep, after the latest successfully averted crisis, and Rodney was clumsy with fatigue and triumph. He shuffled into the empty conference room, trying to get his thoughts straight enough to give some kind of coherent report, and tripped over something that wasn't there. He had a brief burst of adrenaline-inspired clarity as he began to fall, everything around him seeming to move with a crystalline grace--this was going to be bad; this was going to hurt like a sonovabitch--and then John lunged out of nowhere, somehow hooking Rodney's elbow just before he face-planted on top of his laptop, and hauled him back to his feet.
"Whoa," John said, as Rodney flung his free hand out and grabbed the closest steady thing, which just happened to be John's skin-warmed t-shirt, bunched tightly over the hard muscle of his upper arm. "You okay there, McKay?" John eased the laptop out of Rodney's white-knuckled grip and put it down on the table, then patted Rodney's shoulder. "Okay?"
"Uh," Rodney said and flushed all over, the prickle of it racing all the way down to the backs of his knees. He tensed and tried to pull away, but stumbled over his own feet.
John tugged Rodney closer, holding him steady with a hand on the small of his back. "I take it that's a no to being okay, then." A work-roughened thumb glanced against Rodney's skin where his shirt was riding up, and John was looking at him, checking him over, a line of worry rucking his forehead. "Should I call a med team? Or just take you to bed?"
Rodney blinked, blinked again, seeing John anew: that burst of crystalline clarity re-writing everything--the clutch of John's fingers against his skin, the fond concern in his face, the way his gaze flickered across Rodney's mouth, the way he said, "Rodney?"--and oh.
"Oh," Rodney breathed, knowing it was showing on his face, all of it, but too tired to even care.
For one breathless moment John went tense and still, and then he was hauling Rodney closer, wrapping him in a hug that was too tight to feel good, but that was okay because Rodney was hugging back just as hard, finally letting himself touch John the way he wanted to, and John's voice was gravel-rough when he said, "God, Rodney, your timing really sucks."
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