Please do not archive or distribute without author's permission.
Author's Note: Thanks to my faboo betas Yahtzee, Bunglegirl, deeablo, medie, Kawcrow (for trying, even tho the 'verse conspired against her), and everyone who provided encouragement along the way!
Geek of Steel
Diane knocked and then waited. She glanced down at the PDA which was displaying Jake's vitals and nanite activity and frowned before she knocked again, louder. She was still breathing heavily from taking the stairs two at a time and she felt like she hadn't stopped running since she'd first checked her voicemail when she'd gotten into the lab that morning.
"I know you're in there," she said, lips almost against the door.
"Go away, Diane," came the muffled reply.
"You called in sick," she said through the door.
"But you called in sick," she repeated. "You don't get sick. I mean, you can't." She dropped her voice down to a whisper. "The nanites"
"Diane! I'm fine!"
"If you're fine, then let me in so I can see how fine you are."
"I'm not going anywhere until you open this door."
There was another long pause, and she pressed her ear up against the door to try and hear if he was moving inside.
"I mean it, Jake. Now you're scaring me."
"Is Kyle with you?"
"No. After last time, I didn't want to"
She almost fell over when the door was opened from the inside and she stumbled three steps into Jake's apartment. He was sitting on the couch, scowling at her. His hair was sticking up all funny, and it looked like he'd just woken up.
"Diane, you can't come over here every time"
"and I checked your vitals, and there's increased"
"Diane, you can go. I'm fine. Really," he insisted.
"and why are you wearing a raincoat?"
"Uh... why am I wearing a raincoat?"
"And why do you have a pillow in your lap?"
She glanced down at his attireor lack thereofeyebrows drawing together in a frown. He had on a tan raincoat, buttoned up all the way up to his Adam's apple, and she could see a pair of blue sweatpants peeking out from beneath the coat. His feet were bare, and he clutched a blue and green striped pillow over his lap. His knuckles were white and it seemed to Diane that it was a wonderwith Jake's strength increased by the nanites along his central nervous systemthat the room wasn't showered in feathers or foam.
"All very good questions," he said, nodding as she shrugged out of her coat and sat down on the opposite end of the couch.
She set her bag down on the coffee table before reaching over to try and touch Jake's forehead. He ducked to avoid her hand first, until she gave him her patented Diane Hughes Stare of Death, which made him acquiesce like a good little patient.
According to the PDA, his core temperature was only a degree or two above normal, but his face was flushed and his hair stuck to his forehead with sweat.
"I took your vitals, and there's heightened nanobot activity" she began and then stopped as he removed the pillow and opened the coat.
"Oh," she said, blushing.
They sat there in silence for a moment, as she digested this new titbit of information.
"Have you tried, you know..." She gestured.
"Oh yeah," he said, frustration written clearly across his face. "Oh yeah. And I'll be fine for ten, twenty minutes, tops. And then it just comes back."
He looked absolutely miserable, and her heart went out to him despite her insane desire to laugh at the absurdity of the situation.
"What about a cold shower?"
"I've had three. I'm really, really clean right now."
"Wow. Kinda embarrassing, huh?"
Jake had a patented Stare of Death all his own, as it turned out.
"Sorry. Sorry. Look, don't think of me as aI mean, I'm a doctor. Think of me as a doctor. Think of me as just your doctor. Which you probably, you know, already do, so..."
"Did anything like this ever happen with the mice?" he asked, re-buttoning the coat and putting the pillow back in his lap. "Did Antonio ever, you know. Have this problem?"
"Antonio?" She blinked and thought back to the poor doomed lab mouse whose demise had sent her to Seattle on a night flight, utterly panickednot to mention out $1200 for airfare and a room at the very exclusive Mercer Point Lodge. "No. Antonio neverI mean, once Cesar got out of his cage over the week-end, and we, um... kinda found him in Claudette's cage."
"Um... they were both kinda... you know..." She tried to force herself to stop blushing, and that pretty much made it worse. "Tired."
"But it's not dangerous? Cesar didn't, you knowhis heart didn't explode, or anything, right? He's still around? Happy? Healthy? Running really, really fast on his little wheel?"
"Um, actually, no. But it didn't have anything to do with... that," she said quickly at the stricken look on his face. "No. It was totally unrelated. And he had a beta version from really early on in the programme. The nanites you have are much more advanced."
"Yes. Advanced enough that I feel like I'm fifteen years old again, getting a boner in math class. Only this is a thousand times worse'cause I'm, like, twenty-four and a superspy. Can you imagine the look on Lou's face if I turned up at work like this?"
She slapped a hand over her mouth to stop the giggle from actually emerging, because she had a feel that wouldn't actually help the situation. Closing her eyes for a secondmostly to banish mental images that were proving all too persistentshe tried to secure her professional doctor face resolutely in place before continuing.
"Okay. Okay. I'm good. Was there any kind of trigger?"
"I woke up like this," he said with a shrug. "I mean, can I even have sex?"
She raised a brow. "I don't know. Can you?"
"Diane, you know what I mean!"
"Well, I didn't know! I mean, you and Theresa the International Arms Dealer got pretty closehow was I supposed to know?"
"We didn'tI mean, I wouldn't take advantageBefore I knew she was totally playing me, I mean. I would never... Her dad had just died, for Pete's sake!"
"Sorry! Sorry. I know you're not one of those guys."
"But I wouldn't pass the nanites on if I, you know... If I everwith a girl?" he asked. "Because I got them just from that cut on my arm. They went straight into my blood."
"Oh! No. I mean, I don't think so. Not now. Not once they've become integrated into your system and coded to your specificNo. I don't think so."
"Okay, but the real question is, can I... be with a woman without it turning into a whole Larry Niven thing?"
"Larry Niven," he repeated, obviously waiting for her to get some reference. "C'mon, Larry Niven."
"Jake, no matter how many times you say his name, I'm just going to keep on saying 'huh?'"
"He's an science fiction writer. He wrote 'Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.' Everybody's read 'Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.' It gets emailed to everyone on the planet, like, every September."
"Still drawing a blank here."
"You know Steve Austin, but you don't know Larry Niven? What kind of geek are you?"
"I watch television. I don't get a chance to read much, outside of scientific journals."
"It's an essay about Superman and Lois Lane, and how Lois wouldn't be able to, you know... survive the experience, so to speak."
She burst out laughing.
"This is not funny! Diane!"
"NoI'm sorry. I'm sorry. I justthat's hysterical. Can you forward that to me?"
"Dianecan we focus here? I just got the holes in my walls patched. There's some stuff you can't fix with plaster and paint."
Her laughter died away. "Oh. I can see how there would be cause for concern, given your situation."
"You said Cesar and Claudette got it onwas Claudette okay?"
"Well, she had the nanites, tooI mean, they would have healed any, um... damage that she might have, um.... sustained during their brief but passionate affair."
"That's something, I guess."
"I thinkI think it's like any of your abilities. You just have to be careful. I mean, you're not still putting holes in walls, right?"
"See? That's good. You've got a handle on controlling your strength and speedso that's good. You'd just have to be... careful."
"Careful. Got it. So, what do I do? About our current situation?"
"Well, if worst comes to worst, you can always try potassium nitrate."
"The stuff that's in gunpowder?"
"Well, yes. But no. In the military, they used to put it in soldiers' food so they wouldn't get"
"Um.. no. If I have a choiceI'm gonna go with 'no' on that one."
"How long has this been, um, a problem?"
"Since I woke up," he glanced at his watch, "about four hours ago."
"Wow," she said, unable to stop herself, and flinched at the look he gave her. "Sorry! Sorry. Okay. We just need to attack the problem logically. Using logic. Scientifically. When was the last time you had sex?"
"About two years ago," he mumbled, staring at the floor.
"Wow. I'm amazed you're not having this problem, you know, without the nanites."
"When was the last time you" he began.
"That's an inappropriate question," she cut him off, and his mouth dropped open in shock.
"You just asked me!"
"That was in the capacity of your physician," she said loftily as she pulled her laptop out of her bag and switched it on. He leaned over to look over her shoulder as it booted up and her full-screen status display of the nanite activity flared to life. "Your heart rate is elevated, and your temperature is up slightly"
"So technically, I didn't exactly lie when I called in sick," he pointed out, and she gave him a look.
"And that's, um... the only side-effect?"
"I think so. It's like, my skin is tinglinglike everything's turned up to eleven. Hyper-sensitivity. Hyper-awareness. Pretty much just... hyper. Just wearing clothes makes it worse."
"So, before I got here, you were"
"As the day I was born, yes," he said ruefully, and Diane blinked a few times as she tried, for both their sakes, to rid herself of the image that particular fact called up. "And this whole heightened sense of smellYou smell really good, by the way."
"Um... thanks?" She was still a little flustered by the whole naked thing, and tried to mask it by starting the diagnostic running.
"Like... lavender? That's lavender, right? And rosemary, and something else..."
"I smell good?"
He leaned forward until he was barely an inch away from her neck, closing his eyes as he breathed deeply. "You smell incredibly good. It's driving me crazy. I mean, better crazy than the liverwurst from downstairs. Rosemary and what else?"
"Um... I had a bubble bath the other night. I don't know. It was blue stuff in a little bottle from Bath & Body Works that I got in a hotel."
She could feel a blush creeping up her neck at his proximity, and tried to stomp down on it. This was Jake. This was her friend, Jake. This was her friend, Jake, practically in her lap as he breathed in her scent.
"And the stuff you put in your hair, it's really... Sasome girls use this hair stuff that just smells like... you know how banana-flavoured stuff tastes like how bananas smell, but not how they actually taste? But you smell..." He breathed in again, smiling. "Just really good."
Diane gave his shoulder a gentle shove. "Okay, Tarzan. Enough with the sniffing. I can't concentrate while you're doing that. You want me to get to the bottom of this, right?"
"Right. Sorry." He got up, clutching the raincoat around him and sat down in the blue chair over next to the hallway leading to the bedroom. "I'm just gonna go sit over here. Far away. On the other side of the room, and everything."
She tapped the keys and squirmed as she felt him watching her intently. She looked up, and flushed when she met his eyes.
"Bubble bath, huh?"
Two hours later, she was no closer to figuring out how to stop what the nanites had started, and Jake was a bit frayed around the edges. He still looked vaguely ridiculous in the tan trenchcoat and sweatpants, with nothing else beneath. His hair was still all bed-head-y, and he couldn't sit still. He'd paced back and forth across the living room, wandered off into the kitchen, puttered around the bedroom. He radiated nervous energy, and it made her squirm in sympathy.
He'd finally taken to kneeling on the floor behind her, chin resting on the back of the couch just behind her right shoulder. She could feel his breath warm on the back of her neck and she was starting to feel like she had a permanent blush.
"Can't you just... turn them off, somehow?" he finally blurted out, as she paged through screen after screen of data collected over the last ten hours.
"You know we can't. We got lucky last timeOkay, that came out wrong," she said when he laughed.
"God, I just want to be normal again. Just a tech geek who dreamed of being a secret agent, while he defragged hard drives and cleaned mice. Life was so much simpler."
Jake banged his forehead against the back of the couch rhythmically, until she put a hand on his head, ruffling his hair affectionately. He turned, resting his cheek against the Indian blanket draped across the back of the sofa. His pupils were so dilated that she could only see a halo of brown around them. She rested her palm against his cheek, feeling how warm his skin was.
"Maybe there's a psychological trigger," she mused aloud. "Like, were you thinking of anyone in particular when you"
He literally back-pedalled until he hit the blue chair against the wall with his shoulders and back.
"Diane, I am not going to describe my sexual fantasies!"
She had to twist all the way around, setting the laptop down beside her and getting up on her knees to maintain eye contact as he scrambled into the chair.
"Jake, if you want me to help you, there has to be full disclosure."
"No, there doesn't!" he shook his head. "No, there doesn't. There will bethere does not need to be full anything. Just... figure out how to fix me."
"God, maybe if you just nailed Sarah and got it over with..." she muttered as she spun back around, picking the laptop back up and setting it on the coffee table.
"It wasn't" he began, and her head whipped back around when he stopped himself. "Never mind," he said quickly, through clenched teeth.
"This isn't about Sarah, okay?"
"Okay. I just assumed"
"Well, you assumed wrong."
"Oh, God. It wasn't Lou, was it?"
"No! Jesus! No!"
"Was it that cute blonde agent? Whatshername?"
"I have to go to the bathroom." He stood up, hands deep in the pockets of the coat. "Just... keep working."
As he turned off the stream of icy water in the shower, Jake could hear Diane's voice in the next room as she spoke into her cellphone. He tugged on his sweatpants and burst out of the bathroom as he caught the words "Jake" and "Director Beckett." He almost tripping as he practically vaulted the couch.
"You called Lou? Why did you call Lou?"
"Jake, I called in sick," she said patiently as she snapped the blue plastic mobile phone shut, and he suddenly felt like an ass for panicking. "Joining you in the playing hooky thing?"
"Did you...?" she trailed off, pushing her glasses up on her nose in what he was beginning to recognise as a nervous gesture.
"I mean, bathroomdid it" she glanced down and then back up again and seemed to be trying to look everywhere but at his midsection.
"No. It didn't," he said quickly, using the towel still hanging around his neck to start drying his hair. "I couldn't concentrate, with you out here"
"You've got to be kidding me!" she said, laughing.
She had hung up her coat in his hall closet, her shoes were now under his coffee table and she sat cross-legged on the couch. Her socks didn't match. One was grey, and the other was tan with blue stripes. He found it endearing that she either couldn't be bothered to actually sort her socks, or that she had no idea she'd pulled on two different ones.
"Are we any closer to figuring this thing out?" he asked as he threw the towel over the back of a chair to dry and leaned over the back of the couch to peer at her laptop screen.
"Physiologically? No. We can't just tell the nanites to turn off... certain functions. It's an all or nothing deal. But I've been thinking. Maybe the nanites aren't the real problem. I meanthey're part of it. But not the actual root of the problem."
"How do you mean?"
"I'm just saying that maybe the whole reason you can't stop this... thing... is because of your brain. Not your other parts. What I mean is, I don't think we can shut the nanites down. But what about turning you off?"
"How do you mean?"
"Well, they say the brain is the largest erogenous zone for a reason. Your body is just... reacting. But something has to... get your engine revving, so to speak. And that something is up here" she touched his temple lightly with a fingertip. "Not down there."
"So... if I can stop thinking about... whatever it is. Then it will go away?"
"Well, the whole problem is that you're turned on, right?"
"So, picture your grandmother in her underwear."
"Okay, ew! Scarred psychologically for life, now!"
"But no change in"
"Mr. Happy? No."
"Right. Moving away from grandmothers in generalwhat about maybe just general non-sexy thoughts. Like, I dunnoum... golf. Shoes. Chihuahuas."
"You are not helping. And did I mention scarred for life?"
"Hey, there's still the saltpetre option."
He grimaced and dropped down beside her on the couch, heels of his hands pressed to his eyes. "You do know what you're asking, right? I'm a guy. Guys think about sex something like, what? Every twelve seconds?"
"So they say."
"Even geek guys. In fact, geek guys, probably more so. LikeI dunno. Every six seconds. There's a reason why every computer tech on the planet has a copy of Tomb Raider."
"The video game, or the movie?"
"Okay. But... maybe you could try?"
"Maybe you could just sedate me?" he asked, and she smiled sympathetically.
"Sorry. I left my tranquilliser darts back in the lab."
"I wonder how many sick days I can take in a row before Kyle shows up and kicks my door down. You know, again." He sighed, leaning back against the couch. He tipped his head back, staring at the ceiling while Diane tapped away at the keys of the laptop. He turned to watch her and resisted the urge to brush the curls that were falling out of the messy ponytail behind her ear.
"What?" she asked, when she noticed him staring.
"You're smiling," he observed, and she schooled her expression.
"I'm sorryit's just... Never mind." She waved away his concern.
"I think we've pretty much crossed my embarrassment threshold and come out the other side, at this point. You might as well tell me."
"I justIt just hit me, that... that with every one of your body functions enhanced...." Her cheeks were flushed and she was once again looking everywhere but at him directly. "I mean, there are women out there who dream of hooking up with a guy who canI mean. Energizer bunny. You know what I mean." She played with the tail of the black button-down shirt she had layered over her tee-shirt, eyes firmly downcast. "And, well, it just occurred to me that you're gonna make some girl really happy one of these days."
"Some girl," he repeated, pieces of a puzzle had hadn't even realised he'd been working on sliding into place in the back of his mind.
"Any girl in particular?"
"You know, whoever youI mean, when you meet someone that youSarah, orJake, are you listening to me?" she asked as he got up from the couch and started pacing back and forth in front of the coffee table.
"I'm an idiot," he announced. "Idiot, idiot, idiot."
"If you're an idiot, then why are you smiling?" she asked, and he decided she was cute when she was confused. She got that little line between her eyebrows that she got when she frowned.
"Because I just figured something out. I can be pretty slow, you knoweven with the nanites and all. So it took me a while, but I think I've got it now."
"Got what?" she asked, scooting over as he sat back down again, this time closer.
"I've been completely freaking out all morningjust blind panic time, and then you came over and that only made me freak out moreonly, you're not freaking out." He stared at her, lips parted in surprise. "Not only are you not freaking out... You're turned on."
"What?" she practically squeaked. "I am not."
"You're turned on. You're blushing like crazy, your heart rate is elevatedI can hear it. And the way you smell"
"Jake! That's not fair!"
"What's not fair?"
"Using the nanites to... to spy on how I'mto spy on my smell!"
"It's not spying. I mean, it's not like it's a covert operation"
"Well, stop it!"
"Admit it. I turn you on."
"Well, you came out of the shower all wet and no shirt"
"You want to jump my geek bones."
Her brown eyes narrowed dangerously. "Okayyou are enjoying this just a little too much, mister."
"All this time, I thoughtGod, I am such an idiot."
"What are you doing?"
He'd reached up to cup her cheek, stroking her ear lazily with his thumb.
"Kissing you," he said matter-of-factly, leaning forward until their lips were almostbut not quitetouching. "Unless you don't want me to, in which case, I won't. Your call."
She hesitated, and he decided silence denoted consent. He cupped the back of her head with one hand and brushed her lips with his. She was frozen in shock for a second, but then she relaxed against him. His lips moved against hers slowly, tentatively. He continued to stroke her neck, kneading it with his fingers as he savoured the experience.
He hadn't had a lot of first kisses in his life, and so far this one was pretty much blowing the socks off all the previous ones. He wasn't sure if that was the nanitesor Diane herself. He was willing to admit it was probably a healthy dose of both.
He pulled back, sucking in a shaky breath and opened his eyes to find her watching himeyes wide behind her glasses. He leaned forward to kiss her again, but she brought her hand up, laying her fingers against his lips as a deterrent.
"Jake, we can't do this," she said, resting her forehead against his.
"Why?" he asked, toying absently with the auburn curls at the base of her neck. They were just as soft as he'd imagine they would be.
"You're a giant walking hormone right now and you're not thinking. You're not thinking, because there's no blood left in your brain"
"And yet, I'm noticing a distinct lack of the word 'want' appearing anywhere in what you just said."
"I don't want to screw this up," she said softly.
"So you admit that there's an 'us this.'"
"I like you."
"I like you, too." He leaned forward again and was stopped by her hand against his chest.
"You also like Sarah."
"Yes, I did."
"I'm taking note of your use of the past tense," she said slowly, carefully.
"That's pretty much why I used it." He took her hand and raised it to his mouth kissing her fingers one by one. "Lookyeah, I had a crush on Sarah all through college and pretty much ever since college. But I'm not in college anymore. After Kevin's wedding, I realised something importantabout me and Sarah, about you and me. Hence the very deliberate use of the past tense."
"You're a guy. You could just be doing that to get in my pants."
"Any chance it's working?" he said, sucking lightly on her index finger.
"Jake, c'monthis isn't funny anymore," she said, eyes bright behind her glasses.
"I'm not laughing."
This time, when he kissed her, she tangled her hands in his hair, pulling him closer. They eased down onto the couch, rearranging limbs until their legs were tangled together and her hands slid down to his shoulders. She arched her neck, opening her mouth beneath his, all traces of reticence lost as she dug her nails into his back.
He gasped into her mouth as she hooked one leg around his waist and pulled him flush up against her. She made little sounds in the back of her throat as he began to kiss her neck, moving her shirt collar aside so he could graze her collarbone lightly with his teeth. He could practically feel the staccato beat of her heart and when his hand brushed up against her breast she almost bucked him off the couch.
She took off her glasses, trying and missing twice before she managed to set them down on the coffee table. With shaking fingers, Jake began to undo the buttons of her shirt. He froze as one of them popped off, the plastic making clicking sounds as it bounced off the ceiling and rolled across the floor. Panic began to well up, tightening like a vise when he realised he apparently couldn't unbutton a shirt in the state he was in, without doing damage, let alone
"July," she blurted out in the sudden hush, breaking his concentration.
"That was the last time I... um..." She shrugged her way out of the shirt and threw it behind the couch where it landed half on and half off the blue fabric-covered chair. "So I haven't since"
"Yeah." She pulled the dark red tee-shirt she wore over her head and her hair clasp came with it, leaving her clad only in a very functional-looking grey cotton bra, and her pants and mis-matched socks.
"Like, just this last July?"
"Well, there was this guy from thisJuly. But before that, like, three years, so..."
"Thank you." He smiled down at her. "For letting me know that I am not the biggest loser in the world. For sharing your pre-July loserhood with me."
"Well, so you wouldn't feel alone." She shrugged, a grin playing at the corners of her mouth as he traced a line lightly with a fingertip from the hollow of her throat to the valley between her breasts.
"Exactly. It's very considerate of you."
"Prego," she said and then pulled his mouth back down to hers hungrily.
Jake opened his eyes to late afternoon sunlight streaming through the open blinds of his bedroom. Diane was spooned up against him, and he pressed a kiss to the nape of her neck. This was, he decided, the best day ever in the history of good days. Of course, he was starting to think any day that didn't involve him getting the stuffing beat out of him, hallucinating assassins, or having his car catch on fire was a pretty damned decent day.
Still. There was something about waking up with a pretty girl in your arms. Something ineffable, that spread like warmth all the way down to his toes.
"How we doing?" she asked muzzily as he kissed her shoulder, running his hand lazily up and down the gentle curve of her waist beneath the comforter.
"What time is it?"
He glanced back at the red LED display of the alarm clock on his bedside table. "A little after 4."
She turned over onto her back, stretching her arms above her head. "Wow."
"Yeah, that pretty much sums it up." He chuckled, propping himself up on his elbow. "Are you okay?"
"A little sore," she admitted. "I think I know how Claudette must have felt."
"I didn't hurt you"
"Jake, we just had wild monkey sex for four hours." She patted his arm and swallowed a yawn. "I think sore is normal."
He grinned. "Wild monkey sex?"
"Well, what would you call it?"
"No, 'wild monkey sex' works for me." He traced lazy circles on her stomach with a fingertip. One of these days, he was going to have to ask her what half the stuff in Italian she'd said in the throes of passion actually meant. But for right now, he was just content to bask in afterglow.
She giggled. "I should get you sunglasses and one of those drums"
"Just keeps going, and going..."
She gasped as his hand strayed lower.
"It's too bad they never show, you knowthat rabbit's girlfriend in those commercials," Jake said with a grin.
"Why?" she breathed, licking her lips.
"She just keeps coming and coming"
She whapped him with a pillow, which he then threw across the room. It sailed out the door, landing next to her pants and underwear, which were still on the floor between the couch and the kitchen.
"Well, it would make for interesting porn spam email. Nanites! The new Viagra."
She laughed. "Heythat's one way to win a Nobel prize."
"And get the medal..." He nuzzled her jaw.
"And the money. Don't forget the money."
"And the fame." He let his hand drift down her stomach, leaning down to kiss her as she squirmed beneath his fingers.
"Whoahold it. Before we start round... whatever round we're on..." She threw back the covers, pulling on the wrinkled white button-down shirt that was hanging over the back of his chair. "Be right back."
She wandered out into the living room, and he couldn't help but grin.
She was wearing his shirt.
In a million years, he didn't think he could think of a single thing sexier than the sight of a rumpled and sleepy Diane, wearing his shirt. Even if she did return with the PDA in hand.
"Diane! You're monitoring me after sex?"
"Do I have to remind you how this day started?" She asked as she slipped her glasses back on.
"So... what's the prognosis, Doc?"
"That" she pointed to the tent in the blankets. "Is 100% all-natural, additive free."
"So, nanite activity"
"is back to normal levels."
She crawled on all fours up the bedand he was immediately struck by the fact that, no, Diane, wearing his shirt and her glasses and crawling toward him across his bed was a thousand times sexier than anything he'd previously imagined.
"So..." She began unbuttoning the shirt one button at a time. "Lavender bubble bath turns you on, huh? I'll have to remember that."