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Catalysis for Dummies

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Fic! "Catalysis for Dummies"
Title: Catalysis for Dummies (Which Dr. Rodney Most Certainly Is Not)
Fandom: Dr. Rodney's Science Corner
Pairing: John/Rodney
Rating: PG
Length: about 2000 words
Warnings: Feet!
A/N: Spoilers up to DRSC 2x16 "Bang!" -- some dialogue is taken directly from that show
Thanks: To [info]runpunkrun for letting me play in her sandbox, and to [info]tex and [info]lamardeuse for looking it over
Summary: Rodney finally discovers the truth about the boots

The thing with the boots had gone so far beyond annoying that annoying was a mere speck on its horizon. They made John look ludicrous -- not that that was anything unusual, given the way he mugged for the camera, not to mention those hideous yellow goggles he insisted on wearing, but still. Rodney was trying to run a science show, here. The last thing he needed was for his audience to be distracted the shiny, shiny lure of knee-high black rubber with bright red soles.

"Now, everyone listen up," Rodney said. "I'm going to explain what a catalyst is, and this time I am absolutely, positively not going to repeat myself."

"Don't worry, Dr. Rodney," John said in that infuriating deadpan he probably practiced in front of his mirror. "We're all ears. Right, kids?"

And the kids, predictably, yelled out, "Right, John!" like they were trained monkeys or something, and how the hell did John get them to do that when they were bussed in from a different school every week?

"A catalyst," Rodney said, "is something that initiates or speeds up a chemical reaction without being altered in the process."

"So kind of like me," John said, with an outrageous smirk at the kids, several of whom giggled.

"You?" Rodney wrinkled his nose. "How do you do anything but slow me down?"

"Aw, c'mon, Doc," John said, holding out the correct beaker, filled to precisely the right mark. "I hand you stuff! If it weren't for me, you'd have to go all the way over to the cabinet and back on your own. And that would take you an awful lot longer, wouldn't it?"

Rodney took the beaker with a roll of his eyes. "Fine. You're my very own catalyst. Now are we going to set this thing off, or what?"

This time the kids were cheering before John even got his arms in the air.

* * *

It had all started the week John had made him scrap a perfectly good show on wave theory in favor of demonstrating the physics behind water rockets. Water rockets.

And yes, fine, the kids had loved it, and Rodney was fairly certain his second launch had come close to 300 meters -- not that he'd had a chance to measure, since John had beaten him to the landing site, boots and all. So, okay, maybe the boots had made a certain amount of sense that day, given the mud in the field out back of the recording studio. But there was no point, seriously, no point whatsoever, in continuing to wear them.

Especially not during a show on exothermic reactions, a show that Rodney had completely under control, thank you very much, even after John made him repeat every single demonstration as if he hadn't been watching the first time.

"What's the matter?" Rodney said as they stumped out of the finally quiet studio, sweaty and tired and mercifully done with cameras for another whole week. "Expecting a flood?"

But John just shot him a sideways glance out of eyes still rimmed by the marks of those stupid goggles and said, "You already used that one."

"What one?"

"The line about the flood. You already used it. You've managed to insult my boots fifteen times without repeating yourself. Until today." He cocked his head, eyes far too bright as they met Rodney's. "You feeling okay?"

"Perfectly fine," Rodney said with a sniff, and there was no reason why his heart should be thumping in his chest. John was just John. And even if he was disgustingly attractive, he was wearing knee-high rubber boots.

"You sure?" John said, and reached his hand out like he was going to touch Rodney's forehead. "'Cause you kinda look like you could be coming down with something."

Rodney jerked away from his hand. The last thing he needed was to be touched by John Sheppard right now. "I most certainly am not. Never felt better."

John lifted a single eyebrow. "If you say so."

"I do," Rodney said, and led the way into the glorified supply closet that served as their green room. He busied himself taking off his lab coat and gloves and stowing his own goggles -- a dignified black, of course. It was easier when he had his back to John, when he wasn't tempted to try to catch a glimpse of John taking off his own lab coat. Not that he'd ever done that, of course, even if John's shirt sometimes did ride up enough to show skin.

When he finally turned around, John was comfortably casual, the way Rodney saw him only in the few minutes they had together before and after the show. Except he was still wearing the rubber boots, and come to think of it, Rodney had never actually seen him in shoes, not since the day with the water rockets.

"Aren't you planning to take those off?" Rodney asked. "Or have they somehow become permanently attached to your feet?"

"Hey," John said, "it could be raining outside."

"It is not," Rodney said, and was it really possible that John didn't check the barometer every morning like he did? "The Weather Underground gave less than a ten percent chance of precipitation today."

John's cheek twitched. "Well, you know me. I like to be prepared."

"There's prepared, and then there's absurd," Rodney said. "And if you don't watch out, someone's going to start thinking you have a rubber fetish."

"Really," John said, and damn it, that was about fifteen degrees drier than the deadpan he used on the show. "That's funny, 'cause I've been thinking the one with the rubber fetish around here is you."

"Me?" Rodney said. "How can you . . . I don't even . . . I mean, seriously, what on earth would make you think that?"

John grinned. "You're the one who can't stop staring at them. Hell, you invented fifteen different insults for them. That's pretty impressive, even for you."

"They're, they're ridiculous," Rodney sputtered. "They make you look like an idiot. They make me look like an idiot just by standing next to you. It's the transitive property of ridiculousness!"

"Rodney," John said, his voice warm as honey. "It's my job to look ridiculous. I would've figured you'd like the way it makes you look smart, just by comparison."

Rodney crossed his arms over his chest. "Yes, well, hard though it may be to believe, my ego is not so fragile that I feel the need to stand next to a clown in order to look intelligent."

"That's a low blow," John said. "I am not a clown."

"Fine, whatever," Rodney said. "Anyway, you really shouldn't wear those things all the time. They can't be good for your feet."

That earned him another raised eyebrow. "You want me to take them off?"

"Yes," Rodney said, because he didn't have a rubber fetish. He didn't have any sort of fetish. Certainly none involving insufferable co-workers.

John grinned, leaned against the nearest wall, and reached for his right foot. "Okay," he said. "You know, all you had to do was ask."

Rodney swallowed hard, grateful that John wasn't looking at him, and tried to convince himself that it wasn't going to be like a Victorian flash of ankle. He didn't have a foot fetish, either, and knowing John, he probably wore mismatched socks. With cartoon characters on them.

"You want to give me a hand?" John asked, and wow, he seemed to be having a little trouble there.

"Don't tell me," Rodney said. "The reason you've been wearing them for weeks is that you can't get them off?"

"Nope," John said. "It's just easier if someone else helps."

"Fine," Rodney said, and somehow he found himself crouched in front of John, tugging at the recalcitrant boot. He wasn't going to think about how close his face was to John's crotch. He wasn't. He was just going to give one nice hard pull and ow, ow, that was his ass meeting the hard green-room floor and the damn boot was free in his hands.

"Thanks," John said, and balanced on his bare foot to hold out the other one. His very bare foot.

"You don't wear socks?" Rodney squeaked.

John shrugged. "They get bunched up. Inside the boots. It's easier without."

Oh, God. Rodney reached for the second boot, willing himself not to notice the length of John's toes, or the utterly un-clown-like shape of his arch.

The second boot came off more easily, and Rodney was able to scoot back and attempt to breathe.

"Seriously," John said, "are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Rodney said, scrambling to his feet and willing himself not to look down. "Just fine. Perfectly fine. There's absolutely nothing wrong with me, unless you consider the instantaneous acquisition of a foot feti-- I mean, obviously, there is something terribly wrong with . . . is that baby powder I'm smelling?"

John stuck his hands in his pockets and leaned back against the wall. "Helps keep my feet from sweating. You know. In the boots."

"Oh, God," Rodney said, because he was pretty sure he'd just given himself away, and John was just smirking at him. "I'll just be . . . going now."

"Rodney," John said, soft and low. "You don't have to."

Rodney jerked his gaze back up to John's face. "I don't?"

"Not if you don't want to," John said, still soft, and there was something in his eyes, like . . . oh, dear God.

"And if I . . . wanted to stay?" Rodney dared, meeting that bright, bright gaze.

"Then I might do this," John said, and for someone who never seemed to actually exert himself, he moved awfully fast, because here he was, right in Rodney's space, one hand coming up to cup Rodney's cheek and wow, this couldn't be happening. Rodney must have hit his head or something, or maybe one of the reactions he'd set off today had produced unexpected and clearly highly intoxicating fumes. Of course, science didn't work that way -- that was what he liked about science -- only right now he was ready to ask science for a divorce if it meant . . .

"You could do that," Rodney said breathlessly, and then John's mouth was against his like it was the most natural thing in the world, an exothermic reaction with no catalyst, slow and easy, but hot enough to burn.

And the funny thing was that he'd never imagined this. In the four months since John had joined the show -- and, incidentally, completely turned their ratings around -- he'd never once pictured kissing. He'd stared at John's hair, and his eyes, and okay, yes, his ass, too, whenever it wasn't hidden by that pesky lab coat, but he'd never . . . not this. Not this lazy, sweet press of lips against lips, not the warmth of John's shoulder against his palm. But if he'd known this was going to happen when John took off the damn boots, he would have asked a long time ago.

"Wait," Rodney said, pulling back. "The boots. You've been wearing them on purpose just to annoy me, haven't you?"

John gave him a half-dazed smile and dove in for another kiss. "Would I do that?"

"You would," Rodney said against his mouth. "You totally would."

John's lips curved upwards and he pulled back far enough to kiss Rodney's nose. "Worked, too."

"Oh, God," Rodney said.

John was still grinning like a loon. "So what do you say we get out of here?" he said. "We could get something to eat, or, you know. Whatever you want."

Right, they were standing in the middle of the green room. Where anyone could walk in. And John was suggesting . . . "I can't, I don't think I can do this. I'm not . . . and you're not . . ."

John's smile faded, just a bit. "Actually, I kind of am. But if you're not . . ."

"No," Rodney said quickly. "No, I am. I do. I just . . ." For the first time since ever, he couldn't find the words to say what he needed to say. "You're my catalyst. You change me and change me, and nothing ever affects you."

"It affects me," John said huskily, leaning in for another kiss. "You affect me."

"Really?" Rodney leaned in for a while, because really, John's lips were even nicer than his feet. "I couldn't tell."

"Really," John said. "See?" And he tugged Rodney's hand down to where he was, oh, wow. Yes. Definitely affected, there. "So what do you say?"

"Well," Rodney said, pretending to think about it while his heart turned somersaults. "You did wear rubber boots for me."

"I did," John said. "I do. Actually, I have to put them back on right now, because I didn't bring any shoes to change into."

"I can't believe you go out in public like that," Rodney said. "I can't believe I'm going with you." But John just grinned, loopy and fond, and by the time he got the boots back on, Rodney found he didn't seem to mind them hardly at all.