Alex is totally afraid of aliens. He's afraid of all sorts of aliens, but in particular he's scared of the giant hairy one that's currently attached to Dr. Keller. He's thinking up ways he can sneak out of the room without being noticed when he bumps into a cart and a tray of medical equipment goes crashing to the ground. He winces.
Dex looks over at him and growls.
"I, um." Alex is at a complete fucking loss. He's so out of his league in this place, and he has no idea why he let Cash talk him into coming. Let's explore other worlds together! he'd said. It'll be just like Galaxy Quest, only, you know, less comedic and you'll be more likely to die! And, okay, so maybe he hadn't said the last part - Alex is pretty sure he would've thought twice about space travel if he had - but Alex has patched up more than his fair share of weird wounds, been involved in a city-wide toxic shutdown, and there's been a total of three memorial services since he'd beamed down from the Daedalus a month before.
Fuck Cash and his fucking face and his fucking earnest voice.
"Alex, hey," Keller says, placing a restraining hand on Dex's arm.
Keller's been nice to Alex - she's pretty much nice to everyone - but her tiny hand isn't going to do a lot to stop Dex from killing him if he really wants to.
Alex gets the hell out of there while he can still use both his legs.
"I'm sorry, what?" Alex blinks over at the pretty, shiny captain and thinks maybe he's taken too many blows to the head. Cash gets a little enthusiastic when he drags Alex to the gym.
"We need a fourth, I want a medic." She curls a hand over the big knife holstered at her waist. "What do you say?"
Alex is torn between saying hell yeah! and running away screaming. There's really no middle ground with him. He ends up not doing anything at all, and he can feel how big his eyes are.
"Are you still breathing?" Captain Ballato asks.
"Hell yeah," he says, practically vibrating now, because he's going to be on an off-world team. Cash is going to freak out. Cash is going to be so jealous.
"Great." Ballato grins.
It's kind of a scary grin, and Alex has instant second thoughts. "Um"
"This'll be fun," Ballato says, punching him on the shoulder.
Alex staggers, because, holy shit, can that girl punch. He rubs his arm and bites his lip to stop from mouthing a childish ow.
Cash is less than impressed. This is mainly because Sergeant Crawford's apparently asked Cash to be on his team, so Cash just looks at Alex across the mess table, both his eyebrows climbing up his forehead.
"You're on a girl team," Cash says.
"I'm on a kick-ass team," Alex says. He's assuming, of course, since they haven't been on a mission yet. Corporal Lewis had met him in the armory earlier, though, and Lewis is some sort of goddess with a Glock. She'd decapitated a half dozen targets and castrated the rest of them.
Cash's nose wrinkles up and his eyebrows come down, and Alex tries not to think about how adorable that is. Cash is Alex's best friend. Cash is an asshole, but he's sort of endearing. Alex has pretty much been in love with him for the past three years, which is awesome, because Cash is currently dating Simpson - the medic, not the engineer; the one that Dr. McKay often refers to as Number Two - and has some sort of disturbing hero-worship thing going on with Lieutenant Smith.
So Cash isn't impressed or jealous of Alex. "Just be careful," Cash says.
"Hey, I'm with a captain. I think I'm a little better off than you. Isn't Johnson a biologist?" Alex actually has nothing against biologists - Dr. Iero is pretty awesome - but something about Johnson freaks Alex out. Alex thinks maybe he's a robot. He's always so cool, it's totally possible, okay?
Cash grins. "Whatever, dude," he says, "you're on a girl team."
Alex frowns and bites into a piece of toast. "Shut up," he mumbles. Maybe he's a little petulant, but it's completely justified.
Marshall is an amateur biographer. He's mainly an anthropologist, but he'd gotten a BA in Literature as an undergrad and Alex always finds him pouring over notebooks with Ross - heads bent together, nearly touching - and Stump, who's excellent, Marshall says, at the finer points of translation.
This is vaguely annoying, because Marshall never wants to just talk. He wants to ask Alex questions about working in the infirmary, and that usually just makes Alex uncomfortable. Alex is sure he's going to end up a cowering moron in the final copy, a footnote in the annals of Atlantis, that clumsy medic guy who keeps getting hurt and has the biggest crush ever on his best friend.
Seriously, though, Alex will kill Marshall if he actually writes anything like that.
Marshall's waxing poetic about his first step through the Stargate, and Alex is only half listening. Mainly he's eyeing up Johnson. Johnson and Crawford seem to be having a conversation with their eyebrows on the other side of the common lounge. Alex finds this not at all intriguing.
"Earth to Singer," Cash says, waving a hand in front of Alex's face.
"D'you think he's a cyborg?" Alex asks, then presses his lips together, because that really isn't what he'd wanted to say. "Um."
"You haven't heard anything I've said, right?" Marshall asks.
"You said Cash threw up. I totally heard that," Alex says, and Cash punches him in the arm. "Ow, what the fuck, Cash?" Seriously. Seriously, is Please Beat Me Up stamped on his forehead? Alex gets into enough accidents with walls and doors and consoles and tables and stuff. He doesn't need military grunts manhandling him.
"Stop telling people I threw up," Cash says to Marshall, and, see, Alex has no idea why Cash had punched him.
"Hey," Alex says.
Cash gives him a sheepish look. "Sorry." Cash's sheepish look is endearingly stupid, like he's putting too much effort into it.
"S'okay." Alex shrugs.
"All right, ladies." Ballato's standing in the doorway, hands folded neatly over the butt of a P-90. "Hate to break up your gab fest here, but are you ready, DeLeon?"
It's his very first off-world mission. Alex is sort of unbelievably not ready, but he takes a deep, shaky breath and nods.
The problem, the biggest problem of being on an off-world team, is that Alex is still afraid of aliens. Aliens with their alien probes and freaky humanoid bodies. They aren't fooling Alex. Alex totally has their number.
"Relax," Dr. Simmons hisses in his ear, then flashes their host a tight smile. Her fingers are biting into Alex's thigh, but he can't help it. He's read the mission reports. Rituals and feasts are usually not of the good.
They're letting Lewis do the talking, because she's got this sweet face and sweet smile and sweet voice and you'd never think she could kill you ten ways from Sunday if you even moved a way she didn't like. The natives seem to love her.
Alex is maybe making little choked noises under his breath and he's getting wary looks from everyone around the table. Simmons' grip on him gets even tighter, so Alex forces a smile and nibbles on some sort of pastry that he really hopes isn't poisoned, and tries to concentrate on not panicking. Alex is pretty sure Simmons would take him down if he started screaming or something.
The pastry is surprisingly tasty, so he stuffs the rest of it into his mouth, then grabs another. The native directly opposite looks at him a little funny, but then her expression clears and she nods and smiles, and only darts her gaze away shyly when Simmons sort of growls at her and, okay, the protective vibe they've got going with him is cute and all - Ballato kept telling Lewis not to let him out of her sight earlier, and threatened to get Alex a leash if he didn't stay on the path - but Alex can totally take care of himself. Kind of.
He certainly doesn't need an engineer to fight his battles for him.
"Okay, so did anyone else notice the really appalling lack of men here?" Simmons asks after they're shown into their room for the night.
Lewis nods. "I counted four, including that guy who met us at the gate."
"Wait, but." Huh. Alex remembers nodding at a dude during the meal, but other than that the table had been kind of overflowing with ridiculously lovely alien ladies. "Well, that's weird."
"Yeah." Ballato drops down on a chair, props her booted feet up on the end of one of the beds. "And they just loved DeLeon, here."
Alex's eyes widened. "Are you kidding me?"
"Nope." Simmons' smacks his arm. "And you had to go and flirt with that girl over her pastries"
"What?" Seriously, what? "In what world is freaking out considered flirting?"
"This one, apparently," Lewis says. She strips off her tac vest, jacket and thigh holster, but keeps her boots on. "If we need to bust out of here, I'd only be wary of the cats."
"There were cats?" Alex asks. He feels like maybe he'd been sitting at an alternate universe than everyone else at dinner.
"Two on either end of the hall." Ballato looks speculative. "Big cats. Didn't move much."
Alex blinks. He can picture them now, but he'd been pretty sure they were statues. About the size of bobcats with shiny sharp fangs and these oversized paws. "Really?"
Ballato ignores him, scoots to the end of the chair and starts working on the snaps of her thigh holster, and suddenly Alex realizes he's supposed to sleep in the same room as three girls. Three hot girls and, okay, Alex is mostly gay, he knows this about himself, but he's not immune. He's technically bi and he thinks girls are awesome and his palms break out in sweat.
"DeLeon, seriously, it's been a long day," Ballato says without looking up.
Simmons' tugs her t-shirt out of her BDUs, flashing her stomach, and Alex swallows hard.
"Don't you think I should be, um, somewhere else?" he asks.
Ballato rolls her eyes. "Okay, yeah, we'll just plate you up and go knock on Korrin's door."
Alex bobs his head. "Right, right, and Korrin is"
"The pretty young thing sitting across from you at dinner, DeLeon, shit, didn't you pay attention to anything?" Simmons' asks.
Alex thinks probably the wise thing to do is to say yes, yes he did, even though he'd obviously been too busy trying not to hyperventilate at the time. Cash is going to laugh himself silly when he finds out about this. And if Marshall writes one word of this down, Alex is going to fucking choke him.
"All right, stop picking on the kid," Ballato says. She cuffs the back of his head. "It'll get easier, Alex, don't worry about it."
Alex turns bright red. He's not a kid. He's maybe sort of young, but he deserves to be on Atlantis as much as the next doctor, the next super genius.
Ballato pushes him towards one of the beds. "Go to sleep," she says, and it sounds like an order, so Alex gets sort of half undressed and slips under the covers.
Surprisingly, he falls asleep almost immediately, is dead to the world the whole night, and he stretches a little as he slowly wakes the next morning, yawning wide, flexing his clawhold up.
His eyes pop open, and Lewis is right there, staring down at him.
"Oh, fuck," she says. "Alex?"
Yeah, Alex says, only it comes out as some sort of yowl and holy shit. Holy fucking shit, what the hell is going on?
Everything smells better and worse. Korrin in particular smells so good, like fresh-baked cookies, and Alex rolls over in her lap, baring his tummy for rubs. He freaking purrs and how awesome is that?
"Okay," Ballato says, deceptively calm, Alex can tell. "You're going to turn DeLeon here back into a real boy, and then we're going to leave, peaceful and quiet. How's that sound?"
Korrin's fingers clench in his fur, and Alex flicks his gaze up to her face. She's frowning, and she says, "But he will be well loved."
"He's well loved with us," Simmons says, and Alex snorts, and Korrin gives him an amused look.
"Yes, I can see that," Korrin says. "That is certainly why he was so skittish last night." She ruffles the fur under his chin, and his eyes fall closed, neck stretched back as his chest rumbles. "You're a precious boy," she coos down at him. "Such a good baby."
"Oh, come on," Simmons says. Alex can hear the roll of her eyes in her tone.
"I'm afraid we're gonna have to insist you let Alex go."
Alex's ears prick at Ballato's words. Let him go? Let him go wheand then he hears a faint click-snick and Korrin's hands are wrapped tight around his throat and You have got to be kidding me, Alex tries to shout. It sounds a little like a strangled, pathetic merow.
"Hush," Korrin says firmly, batting his nose. "You are in no pain."
He may not be in any pain, but he's got a collar on now, and - he thrashes a little under Korrin's hands, hears the jangling - a chain, apparently, and all of a sudden Alex wants to be anywhere but on Korrin's lap.
He flips over, hackles up, and bares his teeth at her.
"No," Korrin says, sharp, and the collar squeezes, constricts so tight he sees black spark behind his eyes, and when he comes to Simmons, Ballato and Lewis are gone.
Alex is royally screwed. He really fucking hates aliens.
The good thing is that Alex has never eaten so many excellent, tasty dishes in his entire life. The bad thing is that it's been four days, and Alex hasn't seen anyone from Atlantis. So a daring rescue doesn't exactly seem eminent.
He thinks maybe it's time to plan something of his own.
He sleeps in Korrin's rooms, and it's the only time he's not chained to a freaking wall - or being walked out in the gardens, and Alex doesn't even want to think about the embarrassment factor there - so he figures that's the best place to start.
She's got a second floor balcony, and he yowls at the door to be let out. God, it's so humiliating.
Korrin pats his back absently and cracks the door open so he can slip outside. He prowls the perimeter, conscious of her standing in the doorway, watching him. The night smells damp, smells like dirt, and he snuffles his nose in a huge planter, involuntarily chomps down on a leaf and takes in the crisp, grassy scent from the broken green. When he flicks his gaze towards the door again, Korrin's silhouette is gone.
He waits, and eventually the lights inside dim.
His head won't fit in between the stone pylons, so he curls his big paws up over the top of the railing, grateful for the thick width, and leaps up, muscles bunching to balance, tail swishing back and forth. It's a hefty fall, a good distance, but cats have nine lives, right, and he's pretty sure he's heard they can jump four or five stories or something and still land on their feet. Alex isn't exactly the most coordinated guy, but he figures whatever cat genes are at work in his body will at least be a little helpful.
He lands on his face.
He clamps his jaw shut to stop from crying out, and thinks he might have broken his fucking leg.
He can't afford to lie there for very long, but he takes a few minutes to breathe, assess the damage, and then he gingerly gets to his feet, wincing at the shock of pain that shoots up his front right leg when he puts any weight on it. He's got three good legs, though, and that's enough to carry him across the lawn and down into the tree line.
When the 'gate whooshes open, Alex has been hiding in the brush for almost an entire day - he'd escaped to the Stargate only to realize he couldn't read the chevrons, that nothing made sense in his head, and he'd been forced to wait and think up horrible scenarios that involved starving to death or hunting down fuzzy little animals to eat for the rest of his life. He recognizes the uniforms before any of the people, and he's up and moving out into the open, limping towards them as fast as he can.
He slams to a stop when they lift their guns at him, when Cash - Cash! - sites him down the barrel of his P-90.
And then Crawford says, "Hey, it looks hurt."
Alex flicks his tail when Crawford holsters his sidearm. He slinks forward, low to the ground, and cautiously sniffs at Crawford's fingers. He smells like mint. Alex wrinkles his nose and sneezes.
"What's up, kitty," Crawford says, and alarm bells go off in Alex's head, 'cause he thinks maybe they don't actually know what had gone on here, have no idea he's been turned into a freaking jungle cat or whatever, which means that some place, somewhere on this world, his own team is still trapped. Shit.
He feels sort of unbelievably lousy for only thinking about himself these past few days.
Cash steps up beside Crawford. "Okay, this is cute and all, but we're trying to find Team Girl, remember?"
Alex growls. Team Girl his ass, he thinks. Cash reaches out a hand and Alex shrinks away, shrinks right into Johnson, and hey. Hey, Johnson smells awesome. Johnson smells like peanut butter and ice cream and powdered sugar and, and, he smells dreamy, like everything delicious in the whole entire world.
Alex blinks up at Johnson from his sprawl on the ground. It's a little disconcerting, since he's not exactly sure how this happened, but he's apparently writhing on his back and purring and sort of rubbing his head along Johnson's calf, but Johnson's pure catnip, seriously; it's amazing.
"So he likes you," Marshall says, cocking his head.
"He really likes you," Cash says, poking Johnson's shoulder and grinning.
Alex really does not like Johnson. Johnson just happens to bathe in syrup or something, god. His nostrils flare and he rolls back onto his stomach, gets to his feet and snuffles into Johnson's BDU pocket, because maybe he's hording, like, candy bars or something.
Johnson bats his head away and says, "No," and Alex's world goes spinning.
It isn't as bad as before. He doesn't black out, doesn't lose time, but it really fucking hurts. Cash is tugging at his collar when he opens his eyes again, expression worried.
"There isn't a clasp or anything," he says, then ruffles Alex's fur. "You must belong to someone, though, huh buddy?"
Alex shakes his head no, no. They're not taking him back, they aren't, and he growls again, scrambles to his feet, wincing when he catches his bad leg, but steadily backing away from them to huddle under the DHD.
And then there's a spate of gunfire and all hell breaks loose as Ballato and Lewis and Simmons tear out from the trees.
"And this is Alex," Cash says.
Alex pauses in his quest to groom every single hair on his hurt paw to glare at him.
"According to Captain Ballato, yeah." Ritter skirts him warily. "Want to help me draw some blood?"
"Hell no. He doesn't like me." Cash reaches forward and scratches him behind his ears, though, and Alex cocks his head and purrs. This cat business is kind of cool. There's a slight tang of under-ripe raspberries around Cash, but at least he doesn't make him sneeze, like Crawford.
Marshall smells like paste, and Alex doesn't know what to do with that.
The curtain around the bed flutters, and then Johnson steps in with this little half-smile on his face, and Alex doesn't care if he's really an alien cyborg, because Johnson still makes his mouth water, and he kind of wants to gnaw on his boots.
"Johnson, hey, help Ritter hold Alex down," Cash says, and Alex can't help it, he sort of just flops over onto his side and he knows, he fucking knows he's staring at Johnson all adoringly.
Cash laughs, the bastard.
Johnson just rolls his eyes. "I should do this anyway. Iero's gonna want some tests run, too."
Alex starts purring the moment Johnson's hands touch him. It's freaking embarrassing, is what it is.
"Small, rounded ears, compact body," Johnson pulls up the side of his lip, "big fucking teeth." He runs his other palm over his leg and Alex whimpers a little. "Some sort of sprain here, probably. Doesn't seem broken."
"So he's a cat," Cash says.
"He looks kind of like a jaguarondi, only bigger," Johnson says.
Ritter sidles up next to him, and Alex can sense his nervousness. He tries to say, I won't bite, but it comes out as another one of his little merows, the ones that he makes whenever he attempts to speak actual words.
Cash goes, "Awwww," his grin huge.
Alex reconsiders his not biting philosophy. But then Johnson catches hold of his collar and Alex twists his head around to lick at his arm.
That night, Alex figures out that Atlantis won't recognize him, and apparently he has really shitty night vision for a cat. It's pitch black in his quarters, and none of the doors will open for him, and it's creepy. He wonders why Cash thought it was such an awesome idea to leave him alone. He starts yowling.
He claws at the door and caterwauls until it slides open to reveal a rumpled Dr. Iero.
"Holy fuck, DeLeon," he says. His eyes are huge and his hair is all over the place.
Alex rubs his head on his thigh and purrs a little for good measure. Iero smells bitter, like coffee. It isn't completely unpleasant.
"All right." Iero pushes his head away. "All right, fine, come on."
Iero is his direct next-door neighbor, and Alex hadn't realized that before. Cool.
Way murmurs, "Nice kitty," when Iero stumbles back into bed, and Alex just follows him up. They let him stay there, even though he has to roll onto his back in between them, and Iero rubs his chest while he drifts off. It's pretty sweet.
But then he wakes up, he doesn't know how much later, and he's not sure what's disturbed him until he hears the rustling, the faint, rapid beat-beat-beat of a tiny heart. There's something in there. Something possibly tasty. All his muscles twitch and he slips down off the bed as stealthily as possible.
He has lousy vision but a great nose, so he finds the tube with the beat-beat-beat in it quickly enough, down by the floor, next to the couch, and he's just debating whether he should crunch through the plastic when all the lights pop on.
He blinks, squints a little as his eyes adjust.
"Frank," Way says, frantic. "Frank, he's going to eat Craig. He's gonna fucking eat Craig. Oh my god, where's Craig? Did he eat him already?"
There's a lot of yelling after that, and a couple 'no's that make Alex's head ache, and then he's being shoved across the hall and Johnson's gazing down at him with sleep-glazed eyes and a bemused smile.
Sleep on Johnson smells like pancakes for dinner. Alex licks Johnson's bare toes without shame.
Johnson laughs, a husky just-woke-up rasp. "Dude"
"And stay out!" Way yells.
Iero says, "I think he's hungry," and then shuts his door.
Alex tries for some big, adorable eyes and waits for Johnson to invite him inside.
While Alex doesn't exactly do it on purpose, he feels no remorse when he wakes up with Johnson's boot in his mouth. Johnson had refused to let him up on the bed, after all.
"Nice," Johnson says when he notices.
Alex flicks his tail, and bites down harder on the leather sole.
Carson says, "Well, lad, looks like you've got some sort of drug in your system," after Ritter takes even more blood. "I'm fairly certain it's what's keeping you in your current form blah, blah, blah..."
Alex yawns. He noses Johnson's hand where it's resting on the bed, chews carefully on his fingers. Johnson doesn't even flinch, which is awesome.
"Seriously," Cash says. "What's up with you two?"
"Nothing." Johnson shrugs. "He ate my boots."
Johnson's boots were freaking delicious, and not just because they were Johnson's. Why has Alex never before realized how tasty leather is?
"How's our boy?" Ballato asks, pushing back the curtain.
Alex makes a little greeting noise, almost a yip, because Alex likes the sound of that. It makes him feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and sure they've only been on one mission together - an arguably unsuccessful mission - but they're still a team. He's got peeps who watch his back.
"Doing just fine," Carson says, smiling.
Ballato leans down until their eyes catch and she gives him an indulgent grin. "Hang in there, kiddo," she says, and laughs.
"Good one," Cash says, nodding. He pats Alex's head. "Maybe Morris'll serve lasagna at lunch today."
Alex is getting sick of the lame cat jokes. He sends I-am-not-amused vibes at Cash's head.
Johnson is really fucking quiet. Alex finds this unsettling usually - he thinks maybe Johnson's plotting world domination in all that silence - but he's sort of comfortable, sprawled out next to him on the couch, head resting on Johnson's thigh. Johnson's playing with the fur around his collar. He says, "So this is weird," and Alex's ear twitches.
"Yeah, you can hear me right?" Johnson asks.
He's had a long day, tussling in the gym with Ballato and Lewis, trailing after Cash, playing tug o' war with Marshall's notebook - and Alex feels kind of bad about that, but he doesn't think he ruined very much of it - and his leg is sort of throbbing.
Johnson rubs a hand over it, and Alex startles slightly, pulls it up close to his chest, but the touch doesn't exactly feel bad.
"Really fucking weird," Johnson murmurs, tracing more ginger fingers over his right paw.
Alex sighs. He's surprised by how completely not weird it is for him. It's, like, the first time he's fucking relaxed in weeks. He drifts off to the low hum of Iero swimming along the Great Barrier Reef.
The worst part about being a cat is that not only does Johnson make him sleep on the floor, he makes him eat on the floor, too. Granted, it's tough for Alex to use a table and chair without making a complete mess, but seriously. Seriously, he's got a water bowl.
He growls a little and slops water over the side and onto Johnson's foot. Johnson kicks at him without looking. Alex is freaking miserable in the mess.
Which is maybe why he makes the mistake of slipping back into the kitchens, but it's not like he knew Morris was gonna react like that. Morris is apparently terrified of cats or something, because Alex doesn't really remember much after the first scream.
He wakes up in the infirmary with Carson and Dr. Zelenka peering down at him with little to no concern in their eyes, and Alex deserves some freaking sympathy here, because his head feels like it's going to explode.
"Ah, there he is," Zelenka says, patting his side.
What the hell happened? Alex whines. He can hardly move.
"I don't know why no one thought of this before," Carson says, holding up what looks like a collar. "This was around your neck, acting like a disciplinary device."
"As long as you are doing bad things, you stay a giant cat. It is sort of ingenious," Zelenka says, grinning. Alex always thought Zelenka had an evil grin. Like Captain Saporta, only smarter and infinitely more dangerous.
"The amount of the drug in your system, which had been steadily declining, spiked considerably after the incident in the mess," Carson explains. "With the collar off, you should be back to normal any time now."
Alex certainly feels better without the collar, even though it hadn't really registered all that much when he'd had it on.
"Ready to go?"
Alex flicks his gaze over Carson's shoulder to Johnson and breaks out some helpless baby dear eyes and merows, Carry me, because he's pretty sure his head weights 200 pounds.
"You're way too heavy, dude," Johnson says. "You're gonna have to move on your own steam."
Alex starts a little, because did Johnson just, like, hear him? But then Carson asks, "You can understand him, lad?" and Johnson shrugs.
"His eyes haven't really changed. I can pretty much guess."
Johnson is totally Alex's favorite; he knows him so well. And, you know, Johnson has really great hair. Alex doesn't know why he never noticed before, but it's sort of awesome, falling softly to his shoulders. And he has this super secret smile. It creeps up out of nowhere and Alex never expects it and it makes Alex think of butterflies and soap bubbles and something is drastically wrong with Alex's brain. He thinks maybe it's all the sugar fumes.
"I'm serious," Johnson says, staring down at him, one hand on a hip. "I'm not carrying you."
One thing Alex has learned from all this time spent with Johnson is that he hardly ever gives in. Alex wouldn't exactly call him stubborn. Maybe unwaveringly confident or something. It's really annoying.
Alex huffs a sigh and rolls to his feet, wincing a little as he jumps down off the cot, the less than graceful landing jarring his still pounding head.
"Come on," Johnson says, scratching him behind his ears. "Morris feels bad. He made you brownies."
That's the best news Alex has heard in days.
Alex stops dead after slinking into Stump's lab.
Fact: Marshall is completely and totally in love with Dr. Salpeter. It's really embarrassing to watch, because Marshall is pretty obvious about it, and he stares at her with huge cow eyes and laughs really loudly at all her jokey comments and glares at William whenever they get cozy.
But, oh my god.
Oh my fucking god, Alex thinks, because Marshall and Johnson are sucking face right in front of him and it's sort of like a train wreck. Alex can't look away. It is the single most disturbing thing he's ever seen, and he's seen Dirty naked.
They pull apart and Marshall looks about as appalled as Alex feels. Johnson just looks bemused.
"That's, uh." Marshall's freaking green.
"See," Johnson says, calm as fucking butter or whatever.
Alex is totally going to hack up a fur ball or a piece of Johnson's boot. He makes a choking noise and then both Marshall and Johnson are suddenly looking at him, and Marshall's eyes widen.
"Your cat's staring at us," Marshall says, and that's kind of annoying, the way Marshall sort of doesn't think about Alex and Alex's new form as the same person. Animal, whatever.
Johnson's mouth quirks up. "That's because you were trying to prove how over Salpeter you are by attacking my face."
"He's going to attack my face, what the hell, Singer."
It's not until Marshall starts backing up that Alex realizes he's, like, stalking him. Holy shit. Alex really fucking hates Marshall right about now, and he's not exactly sure why. He kind of wants to shred little bits of his skin off his bones. That would be fucking satisfying.
"Call him off, Johnson," Marshall says. He's got his hands up, like that'll stop him.
"Hey, Alex, you might want to take it down a few notches," Johnson says. "You're scaring Marshall."
Marshall smells like Elmer's Glue. Marshall deserves to die.
Alex growls, and Marshall says, "Oh, come on, seriously, Singer?" and Johnson swats him on the back of the head.
"Cut it out, dude."
Alex ducks away from Johnson's touch, disgruntled. He huffs out a breath but settles for glaring.
"I think he should see Carson again," Marshall says. "Maybe he's rabid."
"Maybe he just doesn't like you."
"Maybe he doesn't like meoh. Dude." Marshall's eyes go huge. "That's fucked up."
Alex doesn't know what Marshall thinks is fucked up, but Alex can think of a thing or three that he thinks is. Starting with the fact that it's been almost a week and he still has a thick coat of fur. And a tail.
And an unnatural obsession with Johnson's boots.
Marshall skirts him warily and heads for the lab door, and he doesn't turn his back on him. That's good. Good for Marshall, at least, because Alex would totally go for his ankles.
"Seriously, get him checked out," Marshall says before the doors slide closed behind him, and Alex snorts. He's totally not rabid.
His fur prickles and he cocks his head to see Johnson watching him. What? he tries for, and it's a little yowl-y. A little defensive, because Alex totally knows what. He says: I'm sorry for trying to hurt Marshall. He hangs his head a little to get the message across. He's not completely sorry - a nip! A nip wouldn't have killed him! - but Johnson has a censorious look in his eyes.
Alex rolls over all look! and I'm adorable! It's how he gets Brendon to give him his desserts.
"You're kind of ridiculous," Johnson says, and duh. He's a freaking cat. His entire life is ridiculous.
When Alex wakes up naked on Johnson's floor, he's not embarrassed. He's kind of chilly, though.
"Huh," he says, sitting up. He smacks his lips. There's something really disgusting lining his mouth, possibly because he hasn't brushed his teeth in forever.
He flexes his fingers and says, "I'm awesome again," and then Johnson says, "You know you said that out loud, right?"
Alex grins over at him. Johnson's leveraged up on his elbow and still looks half-asleep. "I have fingers!" Alex says. "And, like, a voice, this is so cool."
Johnson quirks an eyebrow, then ruins it by cracking a wide yawn. "Okay," he says. "I'm going back to bed."
Alex slumps back down on the floor and clasps his hands over his stomach, fidgeting a little. He can't wait to, like, talk to people. He can't wait to say freaking hi, right? And he can go back to work, which is, you know, nice, but it'd also been cool not to have Dr. McKay hitting him up for deadly contagion screenings every other day.
Alex tips his head back, sees Johnson hanging off the edge of the bed to gaze down at him, hair flopping over half his face. "Yes, Alex?"
"You're, uh, still on my floor?"
"Yeah, I'm. Dude, your floor is comfy," Alex says. It's a lie, and it doesn't stop the wave of belated mortification from sweeping over him. He's just sort of. Hanging out all over there. Awesome.
Johnson says, "Right."
"I'll just leave then," Alex says, struggling up. Naked. Right. He resolutely does not look at Johnson as he heads for door.
He waves at Iero as he steps out into the hall, because Alex is just that lucky. "Hey, Dr. Iero."
"DeLeon." Both of Iero's eyebrows are up.
"I'm human again," Alex says lamely. He was so much cooler as a cat, and he doesn't know why he'd thought this was so great when he'd woken up. He could use some pets and snuggling right about then. And maybe some leather. Leather is fucking awesome to chew.
"I noticed. Could I talk you into a pair of pants?" Iero giggles a little.
Alex does not cover himself. Alex just marches right by Iero towards his own room, head up.
"Seriously," Iero says, still laughing, "nice ass."
There are several things that sucked about being human again.
Being human means he can't lounge all over Johnson anymore, not without getting weird looks.
Being human means he can't eat Marshall. He can't even intimidate Marshall, because apparently Alex is not all that threatening as a guy. He'd growled at him by force of habit and Marshall had laughed.
Being human means they're back on mission rotation. Getting turned into a cat really didn't do much to assuage his fear of aliens.
Dr. Weir seems to take some pity on him, though, and they end up with a string of missions to uninhabited planets. Nice, pleasant, temperate worlds, which is why Alex lets his guard down.
"Well, that's just sad," Alex says, staring up at the tree. It's got deep gauging wounds all over its trunk, split branches and tattered leaves.
Ballato places her fingers over the marks. "Like claws," she says. She makes a cooing a sound and pats the bark.
Lewis blinks. "It's a tree."
"It's probably been here for hundreds of years, and then someone had to come along andoh shit, stab it, stab it!" Alex shouts as the fucking tree attacks him, snaking whip-quick limbs around his arms and legs, around his chest and flipping him twenty feet into the fucking air. All the blood starts rushing to his head.
Lewis smiles up at him. Alex is pretty sure it's an evil smile. "The tree kind of likes you," she says.
"Oh, that's great, way to be helpful," Alex grouses. "If this turns into some sort of tentacle porn, I'm blaming you."
"Relax, Alex. Maybe the tree'll just let you go if you stop squirming."
"You're in the army, Lewis, but I'm not sure that actually qualifies you as a tree wrangler. Why does this stuff always happen to me?"
Simmons says, "Okay. Anyone think to bring an ax?"
"Ow, ow, ribs cracking," Alex yelps, because there's suddenly a whole bunch of pressure trying to collapse his chest cavity, and he's pretty sure the tree is going to eat him. Like some sort of demented land coral. It's probably got millions of teeny tiny mouths that'll eat through his skin and, "Fuck, fuck, I'm panicking here, will someone motherfucking shoot it already?"
Lewis says, "Will do," but Ballato jerks out a hand and says, "Wait."
"No, no waiting, kill it," Alex says.
"Yeah, and what happens if shooting it makes it squeeze your brain out through your ears, huh?"
Alex shakes his head. "No shooting, good plan." He goes limp and tries not to think about how the thing that clawed up this tree is probably already digested. It probably secretes acid that melts bones, even. Which is, you know, kind of cool.
"Alex?" Ballato shouts. "Hey, kid, stay with us."
Alex gives her a bleary smile. He says, "'M fine," but it comes out slurred and hey. Hey, he's feeling really awesome. Maybe it's a friendly tree. He pats the limb wrapped across his chest. Good tree. Don't eat me. Or you can, whatever. He's feeling all tingly in his good parts.
"Alex, seriously," Ballato says.
I'm gonna sing you a love song, Alex thinks, and then he hums himself off to sleep.
He comes to in the infirmary with his midsection bound and a deep, deep ache throughout his entire body.
"Molested by a tree. Good one."
Alex turns his head to grin at Cash. "Asshole," he rasps.
Cash holds up a cup and straw, gives him a sip of water. He's smiling, but his eyes look worried.
"So." Alex pats his bandages.
"A few cracked ribs apparently," Cash says.
Cash cocks his head. "Johnson killed the tree."
"Yeah?" He'd feel bad about that, except the tree had been made of evil, evil sneaky evilness. "I don't know why I can't get the exploding pebbles or sex pollen," he mutters. Freaky killer trees. How does that happen?
"Yeah, so, really. What's going on with you and Johnson?"
Alex blinks. "Um. I ate his boots?"
"I'm starting to think that's code for something," Cash says. "You realize he was here the entire time you were out, right?"
"At your bedside, man. I didn't even think you liked each other." Cash looks a little disgruntled, slumped down in the chair with his arms crossed over his chest.
"Are you kidding me? He's made of freaking candy, dude," Alex says, and he probably wouldn't have said that if he'd been more himself and less drugged, because Cash's eyes go wide.
"Dude," he says. It's an awed dude. It's the dude that means what-the-fuck and tell-me-you-didn't-say-that and I-just-might-get-a-little-hysterical-here all at the same time.
Alex backtracks with, "I didn't mean"
"You did. You did, oh man, this makes so much sense," Cash says, and he's obviously reading the situation completely wrong, because then he says, "You're gay for Johnson," and Alex isn't.
He's totally not gay for Johnson. He doesn't want to be gay anywhere near Johnson. He just maybe wants to lick Johnson's fingers and sniff his hair and bare his tummy for rubs and, oh sweet baby Jesus, Alex is totally and completely gay for Johnson.
Medic Ashlee Simpson is Alex's sworn enemy. She's entirely too cheerful, first of all, and she's had sex with Pete Wentz at least once, and she's dating Cash. Alex kind of wants to shave all her hair off while she's sleeping.
Too bad she doesn't actually know about the sworn enemies thing.
Simpson finds Alex squished in his favorite hiding place in the infirmary, under the last cot on the this-wound-won't-kill-you wing, and she squishes right on in next to him with this big, toothy grin.
"Why are we hiding?" she asks, hooking their arms together.
Alex isn't about to tell her that he's having a crisis. He opens his mouth to say, "None of your damn business," but it comes out as, "I'm freaking out about Johnson," because another one of Simpson's totally annoying qualities is that she's got this open, honest face and Alex is always blurting out his secrets to her. He doesn't know how he's managed to keep the one about being in love with her boyfriend.
"Oh, hon," Simpson says, squeezing him. "You've got a little crush, don't you?"
Alex seriously wants to scratch her eyeballs out. He sniffles wetly and says, "He has cool hair."
She nods. "He does. And nice hands."
Alex has noticed. He's not proud. They'd felt awfully nice ruffling his fur, and Alex misses being a cat so hard it's pathetic. "I wish I was still a giant freak of nature," Alex says dejectedly. He could be napping all over Johnson right now. Johnson never even minded the drool.
Simpson tips her head onto his shoulder, makes a soothing sound.
If Alex was in a better mood, he'd consider gnawing his arm off to get away from her. Instead, he just snuggles closer.
Alex gives it a few days. He throws himself into his work and gives the best damn post mission physicals he can give, and he totally doesn't think about Johnson at all. He maybe thinks about Cash a little, but that's mainly because Cash is his best friend, and Cash is always in his face.
"It's like, okay," Alex says to Carson's mice, slumped down on a stool, chin cupped into his hand. The mice are taking turns pushing each other off the little rodent wheel. "You know how you find your soul mate, only he's straight and also an asshole?"
It's late and the lab is dimly lit and it's Alex's turn to be on-call at the infirmary and he can't sleep. It's just him and the mice and Sergeant Hicks, laid up with appendicitis in the next room over. One of the mice scampers over to the glass and gets on its little hind feet. Alex lifts up the corner of the lid and drops in a Cheeto.
"And then," Alex goes on, "you get some alien mojo zapped into you and suddenly your whole entire perspective changes, right? Like maybe you love him, but you're not in love with him. Like you'd be content to live side-by-side with him forever and ever, only always with your pants firmly on." Mice are really good listeners. Alex feels better already.
"You guys are really good listeners," Alex says.
"Thanks, Alex," comes a squeaky voice, and Alex totally doesn't shriek and flail his arms, no matter what Cash will claim later.
"Holy shit, Colligan," Alex says, hand to his chest. His heart feels like it's going to bounce right out of his skin.
Cash is practically dying with laughter. "Dude, dude, you yell like a freaking girl," he gasps, sliding down to the floor against the doorjamb, arms around his middle. "I think I'm gonna piss myself, oh my god."
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Alex grumbles. He doesn't think Cash should be that hysterical, really.
"Singer, Jesus." Cash struggles to his feet, shakes his head with this really fond smile stretching his mouth, and then he steps up close to Alex and sweeps him into a big, bone-crushing hug.
Alex is a little confused, but he's perfectly content to hug Cash back. He doesn't even hesitate, because he's always down for some manly affection.
Cash says, "Side-by-side with pants. I'm totally on board with that."
Alex digs his chin into Cash's shoulder and grins, because Cash might still be sniffing away tears of hilarity, but he's entirely serious, Alex can tell. "Asshole," Alex says softly.
Alex flicks a glance over towards the door and spots Johnson, looking like maybe somebody's eaten his baby. He's got two steaming mugs in his hands and he shifts on his feet and Alex belatedly realizes he's still hugging Cash.
"Johnson, hi," Alex says, dropping his arms. Cash holds on a second longer, and Alex thinks the little tremors in his shoulders are silent giggles.
One of Johnson's eyebrows shoots up. "Am I interrupting something?"
Alex shakes his head, and Cash grins and says, "Oh no. No, we're done here," and then he winks and nudges his knuckles into Alex's side because he's seriously a jackass.
Cash pats Johnson on the back as he slips by him and out the lab doors. "Have fun," he says, and then he's gone and Johnson is staring at Alex expectantly.
"Hi?" Alex says again.
"Hey." Johnson nods. "Coffee?"
Alex has this plan. This plan involves dating Johnson without Johnson ever knowing about it. Sure, he'll miss out on great things like sex and kisses, but he'll get to hang out with Johnson without any fear of rejection, which is awesome in Alex's book.
The fact that Johnson seems to mysteriously appear wherever Alex happens to be is both spooky and convenient to Alex's plan.
"Huh," Ballato says on their next movie-watching team bonding night. She tips the top of her beer bottle towards Alex. "I always figured you for the stalker type, but Johnson's doing a pretty good job of it."
Johnson had dropped off an extra bag of microwave popcorn, made some small talk with Lewis, and then disappeared.
"It's cute," Simmons says. She grabs a handful of popcorn out of the bag on Lewis' lap. "Kind of makes me want to gag, but still cute."
"Seriously though, kid," Ballato says, nodding, "you need to shit or get off the pot."
"Who actually says that?" Alex asks, incredulous.
Simmons says, "Are we watching this movie or gossiping about DeLeon's pathetic love life? Because if we're gossiping I'm gonna need something a whole lot stronger than watery beer."
"We're not talking about my love life." Alex doesn't bother calling Simmons on the pathetic comment. Simmons sort of scares Alex. He thinks she's been spending too much time around Dr. Zelenka.
"He killed a man-eating tree for you," Lewis says, just a little dreamily. Lewis is exactly the sort of person who would think that's romantic.
Alex only wishes it had been in any way romantic. He sighs.
"I'm putting on the movie," Simmons says pointedly. "Once I push play there will be no wistful sighing."
"What are we watching?" Ballato asks.
"The only thing I could get my hands on." Simmons has the best connections out of all of them, since engineers have access to all the good stuff. "It was either Walker's much-loved copy of Weekend at Bernie's or three hours of Stephen King's It."
Alex isn't a fan of clowns or movies about dead people, but he's willing to sit through anything for his team. They're pretty cool when they aren't making fun of him. Which is, like, almost never, but that's okay. Alex is a big boy. He can take it.
Crouched down in front of the TV, Simmons grins over her shoulder at them. "Luckily, I know where Stump hides his stash of John Hughes classics."
Sometimes, Alex really fucking loves his team.
Not only did Simpson happen to miss the memo that declares her and Alex immortal enemies ala Highlander: The Series - Alex is pretty sure that means he can decapitate her at some point in the near future, never mind the fact that neither of them are actually immortal - she seems to think their short-lived adventure in bonding under an infirmary cot has made them buddies. Alex may've come to terms with his brotherly love for Cash, but that doesn't mean he likes Simpson any more than before.
Plus, she's sort of aggressively pushing for him to talk to Johnson about how they're dating now, which has bad idea stamped all over it.
"I like how things are," Alex says. Simpson has a hand curled over his bare arm, and he likes to imagine it's burning into his skin, like the mark of the devil. He tries to shake her off, but she's tenacious.
"No you don't," she says. "Don't be stupid, Alex."
Alex doesn't know why she thinks she knows how he feels. He'd sat next to Johnson at dinner the night before, and it's not like his human-again nose can pick up on the coating of pure sugar all over his body, so he didn't even have, like, an urge to snuggle close and sniff him. For real.
He opens his mouth to say a suitably haughty, "How is any of this your concern?" only he says, "I sort of want to lick him," instead, because he is a loser.
Simpson nods. She says, "Oh, I know. I know, hon, and we're gonna fix it, I swear."
Alex is pretty sure he doesn't want Simpson to 'fix it.' He doesn't even know what fixing it entails, and he doesn't want to know. Simpson can go meddle in someone else's life. Maybe she can figure out why Marshall always smells like a first grade classroom after they've built thirty-five popsicle stick birdhouses, even without the benefit of Alex's keen cat senses.
He doesn't actually tell Simpson that.
He sort of lets her pull him into a hug. He totally doesn't enjoy it, though.
It's hard to date on Atlantis, because there are approximately three places you can go that won't end up in possible death or dismemberment, or doesn't require prior visitation approval from Dr. Weir - the mess, common lounge, or private quarters - and only one of them is guaranteed not to have any extraneous people around.
Meeting in private quarters is tricky if you're trying to date someone who doesn't actually know you're dating them, though. Alex keeps to the commissary and the common lounge, but more often than not they're stuck with various members of Johnson's team, or various members of Alex's team, and Alex's team likes to make faces at Alex behind Johnson's back, and Alex is starting to develop a nervous tick in his left eye, he can feel it.
Alex likes to do his paperwork in the common lounge because it gives him the illusion that he's socializing. He likes to spread his notebooks out all over the table in the far corner and nod to people he recognizes and wave to friends, and that way Cash doesn't bug the shit out of him for being a hermit, which he totally isn't, anyway, he just doesn't feel like participating in Wentz's First Annual Atlantis Dance-off, Cash, thanks.
Alex doesn't know Sergeant Crawford all that well, but he thinks he's a pretty decent guy. Except for the fact that he's currently all up in Johnson's space on the other side of the lounge and Alex kind of has this urge to rip his throat out. Too bad he doesn't have the teeth for it anymore.
"Not now," Alex says, because he's in no mood to deal with Simpson. Some people have work to do, not shitty crossword puzzles the botanists came up with, Crawford, and then Alex realizes he's been doodling stick figures of himself pushing Crawford off a cliff and stabbing him in the face and running him over with a puddlejumper. He claps a hand over his paper and glances up at Simpson. Who is not alone.
"Alex," Simpson says, grinning down at him, "this is Corporal Mike Carden. He plays golf."
Corporal Mike Carden looks surly. Corporal Mike Carden does not look like he enjoys playing golf. If Simpson's idea for fixing things is setting him up with a guy who could crush and eat him, well. It's a pretty awesome idea.
Alex beams and says, "Hi."
Hanging out with Carden means hanging out with Major Lorne and 'gate techs Chislett and Campbell, and it means getting fucking plastered at three in the afternoon.
Alex cannot hold his liquor. It's a sad, sad fact of life, and Alex is done for only four beers in. It doesn't help that he'd started off with a shot of that foul moonshine Dr. Zelenka helps brew on the mainland.
When he wakes up later at some indeterminate point in time, Alex is somehow mysteriously in a bed, still completely dressed, with a pair of boots hugged up to his chest. He feels like maybe a squirrel up and died on his tongue. Simpson has really fucked up ideas.
Then he realizes that while he's in a bed, it's not exactly his own bed, and while he's hugging a pair of boots, they aren't his pair of boots. He wiggles his toes. He's got some still on his feet.
"If you eat them I'll kill you," Johnson says, and Alex cracks his eyes open just a tiny bit - any wider and his skull might disintegrate - and Johnson is leaning over him. Alex can't exactly read his expression.
Alex thinks maybe he manages a, "Glargh."
Johnson snorts. "Yeah."
Johnson's boots are stiff and smell new and delicious and Alex pushes the side of his face into the soles before drifting back off to sleep.
Alex has absolutely no idea what happened when he'd been drunk out of his mind. He has no idea how he'd ended up in Johnson's bed, has no idea if he'd said something totally and completely embarrassing, and so he neatly sidesteps the whole awkward mess by avoiding Johnson, and any and all public places on Atlantis outside the sickbay.
He can't actually avoid the sickbay. He even takes on a few extra shifts to keep himself busy, which is why he's there at five thirty in the morning when Crawford's team comes in hot, requiring immediate medical attention.
Alex maybe goes a little crazy when the call comes through. He maybe starts hyperventilating, but then Simpson slaps him out of it and he ends up just pissed.
She's got big, worried eyes, though, so he only clutches her hand a little harder than necessary as they wait for them to step back through the 'gate.
She slumps against him when Cash walks through on his own steam, but Alex doesn't feel that flutter of relief until Johnson appears behind him, and that seems entirely too Army Wife for him, but he deals with it.
They're all a little banged up, but Marshall's the one with the gaping leg wound - bad, but not too bad, on first inspection - so they help him into a stretcher and troop down to the infirmary to clean him up, the rest of his team following.
Ritter sews Marshall up, which leaves Simpson and Alex to perform the routine exams and Alex is a little jittery.
Crawford doesn't call him on it, which is nice of him. Cash would totally call him on it, but Cash is too busy sticking his tongue down Simpson's throat.
Johnson sort of quirks an eyebrow, but obediently pushes up his sleeve for Alex to take blood, and lies down when Alex pushes at his chest.
They don't talk.
They don't talk until Ritter gives them a thumbs up and a wide smile, and then Crawford says, "Okay, I'm out." He flips his jacket over his shoulder and gives them all a backwards wave as he strides away.
Alex fuzzes out a moment, watching the doors slide closed behind him.
Johnson clears his throat.
When Alex turns to him his palm's rubbing circles over Johnson's stomach, bunching up the fabric of his t-shirt. Alex snatches his hand back and says, "Um, sorry," and Johnson rolls his eyes and catches his wrist, pulls him back.
"This is getting stupid," he says.
"Okay." Alex bobs his head. He doesn't know exactly what he means, but he likes to agree with Johnson whenever he can. Also, Johnson is touching him. He says, "Okay," again.
Johnson kissing him doesn't exactly register until three seconds after Johnson's pulled back and away. Alex licks his lips and he has no idea what's going on, but Johnson's shaking his head and saying, "Never mind," and that's unacceptable.
"Whatno," Alex says, and then he's got both his hands fisted in the material at Johnson's waist and he pushes him back, climbing up onto the bed to straddle his lap. Johnson is a skinny fuck, but Alex is little, so it works out just fine.
Alex does not like aliens, but he's fond of Teyla and for his first three months on Atlantis he'd thought she was from Canada, so. So maybe not all aliens are out to get him.
Dex, though. Dex still looks like he wants to tear his arms off and beat him to death with them. It's not like he'd meant to spy on him and Keller. Again. They just apparently really like to make out near Alex's favorite hiding spots.
Simmons smacks Alex on the back of the head. "Get moving, DeLeon," she says. The Stargate is a whirling blue vortex of possible doom ahead of them.
He's pretty sure wormhole travel will never stop scaring the crap out of him. He's a fucking space explorer. Fuck Cash and his fucking persuasive charm.
This is probably the best thing Alex's ever done in his entire life.
"Seriously, kid," Ballato says. "The 'gate'll only stay open for another thirty-three minutes."
"Yeah, yeah." Alex shifts his pack higher on his back, grins. "I'm ready."
Notes: Cab babies in space. Sequel to Supersaturation, Solvation, Enthalpy, Entropy and Sublimation. Mammoth thanks to t_usual_suspect for the beta and for telling me that my characterization of the boys works, and thanks to druidspell for the title.