Author: jenn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Codes: Sheppard, Sheppard/McKay
Spoilers: Duet, Conversion
Summary: Beneath the sheet, his hands twists together, trying to rub away the alien in him, like last time, that led to sedation and Heightmeyer and Carson's worried bandaging of blood-slick hands and promises of restraints once upon a few days ago.
Author Notes: It was CJ's idea. This is not where I was going. But once she said it, it was hard not to. So I did. Madelyn and nonchop for the pre-read.
"It's all vanity, you know," McKay says comfortably from behind the curtain.
"Go. Away." John never knew that he could be annoyed as much by McKay's disembodied voice as the man himself. "Seriously. I'm *molting*."
McKay's head peers out briefly, before John can leap for the sheet. "*Molting*? Really?" The blue eyes are alight with scientific curiosity and not a little sheer glee.
Son of a fucking--John grabs a pillow, but all that Wraith strength was the first to go, and it barely bounces the edge of the bed before falling on the floor. He'd tried the same thing with Teyla and Ronan earlier. It hadn't helped.
Pushing the curtain aside, McKay strolls in, looking disgustingly fit and annoyingly cheerful, possibly due to the fact that for once, John's the one trapped in a godawful hospital bed, exposed to hours of poking and prodding and Christ, the *questions*, as if he suddenly has all the knowledge of the Wraith in his head, due to half *being* one, and God, that's not a place he wants to go. McKay gives him a slow once over, lingering on that place at his neck he's been trying to never, ever think about. "You *are* molting. Fascinating."
John jerks the sheet up and wonders how anyone can play it cool when someone like McKay's around.
Like it's his god-given right, McKay hooks a chair with his ankle, pulling up close to the bed and dropping down, a loose sprawl of stocky limbs, letting out a long sigh. "You are so vain."
"So I don't want to walk the halls *peeling*," John says, burying his hands in the sheet. They're just off being human, enough to freak him out when he looks too long. And that's a hobby he could take up professionally, because there's just something endlessly freaky about the scales slowly sloughing off. He can't stop watching. It doesn't hurt, and the skin beneath is as human as can be, but--the sight isn't edifying. "You know, you have to have something to do. Something *important*."
"Not really." Relaxing back, McKay folds his hands over his stomach. "How have you been?"
"I hate you so much."
"No, you like me. I bring you presents. You like presents." Like a magician, McKay lifts one hand, turning it side to side. "Nothing up my sleeves--why look what I found! Is that--chocolate? That Carson has no idea about?"
Jesus. It sure looks like it. "Rodney--" John can feel his mouth watering. Clenching his hands beneath the sheets, John stares at the chocolate, trying to will it toward him by the sheer power of his starvation. IVs *suck*.
"Ah ah ah. What do we say to the nice physicist that brings us surprises?" Leaning forward, McKay waves the bar just out of reach of his teeth. "From his own private stash, even? Or at least, someone's stash, and by the way, if you hear a vandalism report--"
"I'll have no idea what they're talking about." God, he can *smell* it. With one sheet-covered hand, John gropes for the bar, but the reach isn't enough. "Just--drop it on the bed."
McKay's nose wrinkles. "Right. Come on, Colonel. Chooooocolate. The other food group. The *endangered* food group. This could buy me--oh, so many things. Nice things. But I'm noble--"
"And a thief--"
"A very good one, since I got away with it, don't you think?" The bar waves again. Fuck vanity, sloughing skin, and the strange smells associated with changing species--that's *food*, and there are things far more important than his image. John reaches out with one hand, grabbing clumsily at the bar, one almost-talon brushing McKay's hand.
They both flinch, and John fumbles the candy, letting it fall on the sheet covering his lap. "Shit. Rodney. Did I--" One scratch, that'd be enough, one tiny *prick*, blood to blood, dead sloughing skin chock full of this shit, and McKay would--could--might--
"No," Rodney says, but his hand's in his lap, fingers running over the place John had touched like he's trying to scrub the feeling away. The skin reddens as John watches, feeling sicker by the second. "No, nothing, don't--"
Don't, they tell him, but there are reasons John likes curtains and he likes wall, and even better, he likes his quarters, with locking doors and low lights. "I'm getting a little tired. Can you--"
But McKay's McKay, the smartest and stupidest man in two galaxies and counting. "No. Colonel--"
John taps the control on the bed, and it slowly lowers. "I'm *tired*. Transformation takes a lot out of me. Thanks for the candy." It's stupid to be mad, but there are reasons on reasons he's never needed a mirror in here--he knows what he looks like just fine in every pair of eyes that see him. "I'll talk to you later."
Rolling on his side, John jerks the sheet up, hitting the nurse's call button, feeling like a total *fucking* coward, but he's not up to this, can't deal with himself and other people, too. It's enough he's not scratching off his own skin in the rare showers Carson lets him take, watching dead, dried flesh fall to the floor, staring at it, almost hypnotized, that was on his body, in his body, *was his body*--
John pulls the sheet up over one shoulder. "Can you get the lights? I need some rest." Something he could do himself, as obvious as a flare gun, but obvious is better than looking at McKay right now, better than anything he can think of except drugged, dreamless sleep. Beneath the sheet, his hands twists together, trying to rub away the alien in him, like last time, that led to sedation and Heightmeyer and Carson's worried bandaging of blood-slick hands and promises of restraints once upon a few days ago. Scars, he'd said, and healing, he said, and John hadn't listened, just nodded and agreed, like the scars could be worse than the thing on him now.
On and *in*, the chittering of those *fucking* bugs in every fucking dream.
"…if you would, Dr. McKay?" the nurse says, and John hears the chair slide back, perhaps even fall over, since McKay's never been accused of being the calm and rational sort. "He needs his rest."
"He needs his ass kicked," McKay says, voice soft. Then the stamping, totally McKay, and the lights lower and John jerks the blanket over his head and closes his eyes.
Beckett doesn't like it. "They're your friends, Colonel."
"And I'm your patient." John keeps his eyes shut. "Just do it."
After a few seconds, he hears Beckett stand up, going out of the private room John's been moved to, and outside, more voices, Teyla's sharper than he's ever heard, then McKay, loud enough to call in the fucking *Marines*. Jesus.
It continues for longer than it should, long enough for John to get a pillow to cover his head, rubbing his cheek into soft cotton and feel more alien skin rub away on the sheets, blue stains he'll wince from come morning, streaks of blood that Beckett will frown at and John will ignore.
Forever later, he pulls the pillow away, looking into a dark, silent room, and reminds himself that he's always been alone.
Teyla's hard enough--he remembers how she tastes every time he looks at her, inappropriate bodily reaction to the memory of silky skin and hard muscle and soft, soft lips. Wanting is normal, natural, he can deal with that, with the tension and the knowing and the feeling, but not with the having. That's a line he's not prepared to cross. Not yet. Probably not ever.
It's hard, but that's life, that's what they *are*, and he likes it like that.
Weir's harder, when he was higher, when it felt better, when he *got* it, how the Wraith saw them, felt them, felt her, the pulse of blood and fear and *life* like something tangible, and this, this is how they felt when they touched them, saw them. Given time, that'd be him, too.
Knew that, felt it, and for a second, her throat in his hand, he hadn't even *cared*.
Heightmeyer swings by, soft and careful, like someone walking on glass, and her eyes hold on his face, away from the peeling blue at throat and wrists, and he lays his hands carefully above the sheet, just to see if that gets her out faster.
"You're going to cause damage," Beckett says, sitting calmly on the chair by the bed that John swears he had removed from the room when he was moved in. John grins, pressing fingernails into the sheet to keep from scratching.
Damaging, yes, but it gets it off faster, bloody peels of flesh spirals that get him that much farther from the thing.
"I'll restrain you," Beckett says, mouth a flat line. "I don't want to, Colonel, but I will.
John turns over one perfectly human wrist. "I still heal fast."
Beckett moves faster than John can--one hand slides around his arm, jerking it out, and John flinches, can't help it, long red lines from talons, fading pink into pale flesh. His lower arm's still half-other, but the area around it is the delicate pink and white of new skin, edged with angry red from sharp fingernails. "It can lead to infection, Colonel. And in your current state, I'm not sure we have an antibiotic to combat it. You're betwixt and between, lad, there's no other way to say it. We don't know what will happen if you get ill now."
John shrugs. "I'll be fine."
Beckett sighs, leaning back, but his hand doesn't move from John's wrist. "I can't get into m'quarters."
John blinks. "Malfunction?"
"Strange one. Have to get Zelenka down to get me out this morning. Suspicious."
John almost smiles. "How'd you piss off McKay?"
Beckett's head cocks slightly. "I'm not the one that did, Colonel. But I'll be paying the price until you get your head from your ass."
John pulls at his captive wrist. "Take it up with Dr. Weir." He doesn't need this. "How much longer do I have to stay here?"
Beckett lets go, sitting back, eyes narrowed in thought. "I'd release you to quarters today if I didn't think you'd do more damage than good." Beckett stares down at the blue scaly skin, shaking his head. "One more time, Colonel. And it's restraints."
John blinks slowly. "It itches."
Beckett looks right back. "Deal with it."
The problem is, it *does* itch, and nothing they have can quite deal. The first cream applied causes a rash that spreads across newly healed skin and alien alike, and John's panting into the pillow by the time they wash it away, gentle hands abrading raw flesh. His threshold for pain is high, but it's rubbing on raw nerves and he's not sure that if he starts screaming, he'll be able to stop.
The second, he passes out half-way through, before he can do more than draw a breath.
Sweating, he watches Carson bring out the restraints. Two Marines look at anything but him from the doorway. "You have *got* to be kidding me. I don't need them. I haven't been--."
Beckett shakes his head. "I know, laddie. You're scratching when you sleep. I checked the security feeds."
And that's-- "You did *what*?"
Beckett carefully lifts his wrist, wrapping the padding around his abraded wrist. "I trust your word, Colonel. But your body I don't." Turning over John's arm, he runs a finger down a newly flushed red line. "If I could stop the itching, I would. But your hands right now are doing too much damage, and I can't take the chance. Human fingernails can't gouge out muscle, but right now, yours *can* and not mean to. Do you understand?"
John blinks, feeling a shiver run up his spine. "Tendons."
"You could lose the use of your hands, yes." There's enough give that John can move. Not nearly enough to reach any skin unless he contorts himself in ways that will, frankly, be more trouble than they're worth. "It's almost over. A couple more days, and I think the worst of it will be over." Finishing, Beckett steps back, and the look on his face makes John want to look anywhere else. "I'm sorry, Colonel. I--"
"Do I really need guards?"
Beckett hesitates, glancing at the Marines. Both look like they'd rather be doing anything else than stand here. "If you can promise me--"
"I said I wouldn't." John lets his eyes narrow--for a second, letting Beckett see what's still in him, on him, part of him, living in this alien skin and alien DNA, slowly dying inside his body. The dark eyes hold for a second, then Beckett shakes his head.
"Very well. Get some sleep, Colonel. I'll remove them when you wake in the morning."
John nods, eyes fixed on the far wall, until the room is empty, darkening it with a thought. Curling into the blanket, he closes his eyes and pretends that at some point, he might be able to sleep.
"You know, if I were a less honorable man, I'd have a camera for this moment. Total internet porn moment. Colonel in restraints. You realize how much this would go for?"
John snaps awake, hand going for his gun, but the sharp pull of the restraints stop him short. Blinking his eyes open, John focuses on McKay, sitting on the edge of the bed, one socked foot pulled up in front of him, chin on his knee. Somehow, and John can't figure out how, he manages to look about six, which is impossible for a guy on the far side of thirty-five, but there you have it.
"Shh." McKay's hand slams down over his mouth, and there's not a damn thing John can do about it. "You want to alert the nurses? I went to a lot of trouble to get in here."
He had. Five night shift nurses, two locked doors, and two security feeds. It's kind of impressive, even for McKay. He nods slowly, and McKay cocks his head, suspicion written into every line of his face. "If I take my hand off, will you yell? Because if you yell, I will strip you naked before they get here and tell them you asked me in here for sex."
McKay *will*, too. John nods frantically, and McKay pulls his hand away, letting his leg fall off the bed and leaning back on one arm. "Inside voice, Colonel. The walls are soundproof, but I'd rather not test it."
"Incredibly stupid question." McKay grins then. "Galactically stupid, but I'll let it go. How are you feeling? Since I have to get my information these days from the magic eight ball on my desk."
Really. "You have a magic eight ball?"
McKay frowns, waving a hand. "That's not the point."
John tries to think of something to say. "You know, it's kind of night and I'm kind of, you know, *healing*. I'm really not up to visitors."
"Yeah, well, goodie for you. If you'd lift the ban on visitors, I might come at reasonable hour." McKay shifts, reaching behind himself for something. "Carson told me about your little problem."
John blinks. "He did *what*?"
McKay rolls his eyes and drops a small container on the bed between them. "With the new skin growth. Moron. He didn't break confidentiality. But I could hack your records if I felt like it, so don't be too complacent." McKay's eyes flicker over John, and John waits for the flinch--there's always a flinch, always a place the eyes hold on and dart away, disturbed by the mesh of human and alien. "So I asked for some samples and Carson and I worked this out."
Reaching down, McKay opens the container, revealing something creamy and translucent. "Voila. Physicists always bring the best gifts."
It's a strange feeling, and John can't quite define it, even want to. McKay's grin is catching, and he can't help the twitch of his lips. "You're kidding."
"It won't stop the itching, per se, but it will make the skin less dry. It's definitely non-reactive to the alien tissue, so God knows, it can't do any harm." McKay cocks his head again. "Tell me why you locked us out? Because I'm not buying that you're shallow enough to be freaked out that we see you when you look like shit. You've looked worse. You were dead, once, a not very edifying experience I'd rather not repeat. And trust me, my imagination did a great deal to give me an accurate representation of what you'd look like with radiation burns. So." McKay taps a discordant rhythm on the edge of the bed, waiting patiently, and isn't *that* funny, because he didn't know McKay had it in him. "I can wait all night, you know."
"I--" He stops, taking a breath. "I just needed some time alone."
"That's bullshit." Reaching in, McKay smears it between two fingers, then reaches out, tracing a slick line on the incredibly tender place just below his jaw, where the alien skin is slowly pulling away from the human flesh. John breathes out at the feeling, then remembers.
"Wait. You can't--"
"Shut up." John tries to jerk away, but that's pretty useless; McKay just gets his knees on the bed, giving himself plenty of leverage, gets his other hand under John's jaw, and *holds* him like that. "Interesting. It's coming off in strips, isn't it?" Careful fingers trace the edge of the split, then there's a painless pull, like a scab from healed flesh, and McKay leans back, looking equal parts disgusted and intrigued at the thin strip of blue hanging between two slick fingers. It reminds John of snakeskin, though strictly speaking, it's nothing like it.
John can't help but look, too. It's one thing to do it himself. Someone else-- "That's--." There aren't words. Any.
"You know what it remind me of?" McKay says, seemingly mesmerized. "Sunburn."
John stares at him. "Your sunburns are blue?"
"Don't be stupid. Same principle." Blinking, he looks around the room, sliding off the bed and going to the bathroom, presumably to wash the horror away, but no. Back he comes, carrying the wastebasket and sitting it by the bed. Neatly, he drops the skin in and turns back to John, curious. "Does it hurt? When it comes off?"
John shakes his head. He watches McKay dip his fingers back into the container, as mesmerized by McKay's long fingers as McKay was by that skin. "Where else, Colonel?"
John shifts on the bed. "You shouldn't. It's--" Dangerous. "The retrovirus--"
McKay's fingers are careful on his throat, smoothing the lotion in, and John closes his eyes, because God, he-- "Rodney, it's dangerous."
McKay's eyes flicker up to him, as dark as the sky outside. "I said, where *else*, Sheppard."
He should stop this. Call a nurse--even if McKay carries through on his threat, this is a bad idea--but God, his *hands*, big and rough and achingly gentle, and John's not sure he can stand that. Another strip of skin pulls painlessly away, and John tries not to react, tries not to enjoy it, tries not to lean into the careful touch. "Rodney, you have to stop--"
"I'm not afraid of you." McKay's voice is so low that John can barely hear him. "You don't scare me. Nothing about you scares me."
It should, though. "You--" God, another strip, somehow, when he wasn't paying attention, McKay got to his shoulder, pulling the scrub top over just enough. God. Yes. "You don't have anything to prove."
"If I didn't, I wouldn't have been locked out of this room for two days." McKay dips in again, the slick fingers running over the new skin growth, rubbing the line between alien and human. Like he's making a point, maybe, and John hurts a little for that. He didn't want to do this to McKay.
He has to try. "Rodney, if it gets in you--"
"I'll be careful." McKay pulls back, dropping another strip into the basket, then reaches down, lifting the scrub top, rolling it slowly upward. John closes his eyes, not wanting to se McKay's face when he looks. The worst parts are hidden by his clothes. "Besides, these are dead cells. I could probably eat this and be fine--and okay, never will I ever even *think* that again." John shivers as two of McKay's fingers draw a slow line down the center of his chest.
John's hands clench in the restraints, and unfortunate things are going on beneath the blanket. It's--not his fault. He's exhausted and stressed and he itches and God, it's McKay. McKay's fingers find another spot, rubbing in the cream, then blunt nails scratch curiously, then the pull--a pattern that's like getting the slowest handjob ever. John wonders what kind of sick kink he's going to come out of this with if he doesn't stop this and stop it soon.
McKay's thumb brushes his right nipple on its way to his side, though, and John just barely holds in the sound he wants to make. It's like all his filters are as peeled away as his skin. "Rodney--" God, let him not have noticed, let him not be paying attention, let him be the McKay John knows in the light of day, abrasive and sharp and oblivious as hell. On the tip of his tongue is a plea he doesn’t dare make; he has no idea what he'd be asking for.
McKay's fingers don't stop moving, finding the next seam line, stroking slowly down until he reaches the edge of his ribs. "I wondered what it would be like to touch you."
"It'd be easier if you were just pretty." The nails are back, scratching, God, that feels good, running up the entire length of the seam line, picking delicately at the edges, pulling carefully. "Just pretty and cocky. Just someone to ignore when I didn't need something from you. It'd be easier if you were just smart and pretty, because that's hot, but I can deal with that. The problem is, you're you, and I don't know what to do with that."
McKay drops the blue strip into the wastebasket, turning back to his task with the total focus John's only seen at the lab. There's no way not to be fascinated, turned-on, utterly thrown by it.
"Do you know what I was thinking when I made this?" McKay dips his fingers back into the jar, and yes, John does, and yes, he can guess, and no, McKay shouldn't say it. No, not here, not now, not *ever*, McKay's another line he can't let himself ever cross, but apparently, McKay doesn't know that.
Or maybe, he just doesn't care.
"I was thinking of what I'd do to get you in bed. Just once. No." McKay shakes his head, shifting to press a hand onto the bed, then one knee swings over John's hips and Christ above, McKay's *straddling* him, pushing him into the hard mattress, giving pressure right where he just can't afford to have it. "No, it wouldn't be just once."
"I can gag you." In the dark, it's hard to read McKay's face, but the voice says it all, low and dark. John believes him. "Nod if you understand me."
He could call the nurse. He nods instead. Slick fingers trail over his mouth, tracing the outline of his lips, and John can smell the chemical of the lotion, McKay beneath it, warm and alive and human. "Good."
McKay raises himself on his knees, and the scrub bottoms and the shorts that John had insisted on wearing below them are history, pushed down to his knees, and he has to look idiotic, with the top pushed up to his armpits, but he just can't find it in himself to care.
"I'll come by at night. After you think everyone's sleeping. When you're not ready for people. When you're not ready for me. And you'll answer the door and you'll try to snap back into the image, but you won't have time. I know better than to let you. Once you're inside yourself, I'll never be able to get you out again." McKay's fingers draw a slow pattern on John's lower stomach, across the line of another peeling line of flesh, scratching idly. "It's so frustrating, you've got to know that. How much you hold back. But I want everything from you, and if this is the only way I'll get it, I can do that. I'll push you inside and close the door."
John's eyes close under the double assault of fingers and voice, and his body arches into the touch instinctively.
"You don't expect it, so you just look at me, and I touch you, here." The warm hand cups John's bare hip. "You're not ready for it, and you try to get away, try to get some distance between us, because I finally found the one thing that scares you, that someone might get close." McKay's other hand slides over, fingers pressing hard against his left hip. "I'm not letting you get away that easily.
"Open your eyes, John."
It's still dark, and John still can barely see anything but the outline of Rodney, eyes glittering, and then Rodney shifts his weight, leaning forward, and John feels breath against his lips.
"You still have to let me." So close, John can taste coffee and powerbars. Feel the warmth all along his body, a line of heat that makes him harder, want those things, imagine it just as if it had happened like that. He'd get up from his book and open the door and Rodney would be there, and he wouldn't be ready. But then, nothing in his life could have made him ready for Rodney. "John."
Just a tiny lift of his head, and Rodney's lips are soft, and the slick fingers cup his face, the slowest kiss in creation, all warmth and sweetness and inevitability. Rodney's other hand is on his stomach, pulling at the seam of drying, dying flesh, and John can't even find it in him to care that it's somehow hot, too.
It goes on forever, and John feels the first slow insinuation of tongue the same second Rodney peels another dead layer of skin back, dropping it beside them without even lifting his head. John opens his mouth, and Rodney takes it, a curious tongue pressing against his teeth, searching out all the places that make John shiver, want, *need*. His hands pull helplessly against the restraints, needing to touch so badly that he'll break his own wrists to get it.
Then Rodney pulls back. This close, John can see the blue eyes are dilated black, silver-blue edged, almost frightening. "You're going to let me touch you."
He absolutely will.
"You'll let me take off your shirt," and here, Rodney runs a slow hand down his chest, thumb brushing a nipple as if by accident, but it's wired to his cock and John hisses. "Yes. Like that. It's--I've seen you before, but I never had permission, not like this, but you'll give it to me now. You'll undress for me because I'll ask you to. Because you'll want to."
There's no place to get away from this--Rodney's too close, and John's too hot for this, God, he wants to *move*, touch, grab Rodney, push him down, feel all that warmth beneath him, on top of him, any way he can *get* him, now, now--God--now.
Rodney sits up, and John tries to follow, but the fucking *restraints*-- "Unfasten these."
"No." Rodney runs a soothing hand over his stomach, then reaches for the container, dipping out more, slowly rubbing it over the exposed new skin. "I've waited a long time for this and I'm not a patient person. But I was patient for you." And Jesus, Rodney sits back on his heels again, right over John's cock. The material's rough and he winces even when he grinds up. God, pressure and heat and those slow, slick, stroking fingers, finding every place that itches, rubbing the cream in slow circles. The new skin's too sensitive; every touch makes John twitch.
"You're going to stretch out for me on your bed, so I can look at you." Christ, John can *see* this, like he did it, like he's watching it. Sharp little fingernails scratch at his hip, and John almost arches from the bed. "And I think you're getting ahead of me here. No big surprise. You always do."
John narrows his eyes at the hint of amusement in Rodney's voice. "Teasing does that."
Rodney smiles, sharp and bright. "You have to wait."
For an answer, John braces his feet, pushing up--he doesn't need Wraith strength for this, just *want want want*, *now now nownownow* and Rodney hisses something, hand braced on the center of his chest for balance. Then fingers are in his hair, jerking his head up, a kissing that's all sharp teeth and rough tongue, taking breath and thought, leaving reaction, reflex, *yes*, but Rodney pulls away too fast, thumb pressed to John's lips. John licks the tip, then moves his head just enough to pull it into his mouth, gently locking teeth around it. "John."
For a second, it's like Rodney *might give in*, which would be an important part of Atlantis history, really, considering it's as rare as finding a ZPM, pity he can't ever share it, but he pulls back, John can *feel* it. Rodney pulls back, balancing himself on his knees just above John's body, where he can barely feel him. "Try that again and your ankles are next."
And damned if Beckett didn't leave those fastened to the bottom of the bed. "Son of a bitch."
"Yeah. I know the feeling." Rodney waits, just balanced there, like he could climb off and walk away and never look back. Something tightens in John's chest, then Rodney's hand is there, warm and heavy, and Rodney settles back down, like John's his fucking *pillow* or something.
Rodney gets more of the stuff from the container, smoothing it carefully over that spot just below his armpit that's been driving him crazy for days. Another along the line of his outer left thigh, and John closes his eyes and goes with it. "I'm going to touch you. Just like this. For a little while." Rodney shifts, and somehow, he's kneeling between John's knees, pressing his legs apart, and John doesn't even try to fight it. "And maybe, like this, too, since you're listening now." And like that, the slick hand's around his cock.
John's entire body shakes--God, it's been too long, but it's been weeks since he could even *jerk off*, and that wet hand, perfectly still, holding on with perfect pressure, is the best thing in the history of the universe to date. John hears himself gasp and wished that he could be embarrassed about it. Then, wait--
Rodney's hand strokes up, with a twist, and John loses his train of thought. "I *activated* those when we got here. I can certainly keep them looping for a little while longer." A long, slow stroke, and Rodney dips two fingers into the container and circles his balls with achingly slow, feathery-light touches. "That's it. Just go with it, John. Give it up for me. Now. *Now*." Pressure, just there, and Rodney's voice, low and pleased and sure, and his hand, and God, yes, please. Now. John comes so hard he thinks he might pass out.
When John comes back down--endorphins are the best anti-itch medication *ever*--Rodney's hands are smoothing more of the stuff over the new skin, along the back of his thigh, the crease of his knee, all the places that his body's reclaiming inch by itching, painful inch. Soon, nothing will be left of that thing but memories.
He wishes they could go with the skin.
"John." Rodney's hand on his face brings him back, and John turns his head. Rodney's seated on the side of the bed, scrubs are pulled back up, blankets arranged, and when John hadn't been paying attention, the entire penthouse letters experience had been erased like it hadn't happened.
Except Rodney's still using his name, which John's irritatingly grateful for, because otherwise, he'd really be wondering.
"Why'd you lock us out?" The big hand tightens when John tries to turn away. "Ah, no. That may have worked before, but you just came for me. So you can answer a few questions."
"It's just sex."
He gets a snort for that, and yes, he knows just how idiotic he sounds, thanks. "I know better than that and so do you. Do you think there's anything about you that scares us? That there's anything--*anything*--that could turn us away from you?"
Rodney sounds honestly curious, which John didn't expect, and he has no way to answer. "Rodney."
John bites down. "I didn't know who I was. What I was. How could I know who anyone else was when I didn't even know *myself*?" There's no way to explain the creeping feeling of other, no way to put into words how it felt, the climbing sensation of something that wasn't him and could be, wanted to *be* him, slipping into the parts that were John, that made him, and twisting in them, twisting *in* him.
Rodney's quiet for a second. "Cadman wasn't the same." His voice is thoughtful. "It was separate entities sharing the same space. And don't make me go into how utterly against the laws of man and nature what happened *was*, because it will just piss me off. But. When you wake up in the morning feeling like someone else used you, touched you--places that aren't theirs, that they don't have the right to touch, seeing what you saw even when you don't want them to, feeling what you felt--yeah. When you look into the mirror and think you see someone else looking back at you--I can understand that."
John closes his eyes. "Yes."
"Those things change you. But don't assume that--Christ, John. If you had to stay like this, between two, we'd just get you a uniform that goes well with blue skin. Seriously. *What the hell*?"
And when put like that, he does feel stupid. "Thanks."
"No problem." A tap on his cheek, then Rodney stands up, taking the wastebasket to the bathroom along with the cream. John listens to the quiet sounds of Rodney cleaning up, opening his eyes when Rodney comes back, looking pretty much like always, right down to the sleep deprivation. He almost feels guilty, but hell, Rodney doesn't sleep even when he's not engaged in carnal activities with bedridden officers. "Now, I'm going to go hide out and pretend I had nothing to do with the malfunctions that the infirmary nurse will report in the morning. You're going to get some sleep. And tomorrow afternoon, when we come by to visit, you will let us in, or I swear to God, what Teyla and Dex are planning to do to you the next time you work out will be as nothing compared to what I'll think up. And right now, I have a lot of time to think."
Sliding on his uniform jacket, Rodney's no different from all the other times John's seen him, irritable and tired and too wired to be healthy. It's--unnerving, a little.
Then Rodney leans down and kisses him, slow and sweet and thick with memory. "And if you're good," Rodney breathes, tracing a line down the side of his face, "I'll come visit tomorrow night. And tell you what else I want to do to you."
The door closes almost silently, and John goes to sleep with a smile.