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Mnemonic

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Rodney’s elbow deep in computer wiring, mind already three steps ahead thinking of a program to run, a code to write that could fix this. Fix the lonely fear in Katie Brown’s eyes, the wrinkle of pain along John’s forehead which meant the headache was getting worse, the way people were drifting about dazed and aimless, unconsciously circling Ronon and Teyla, firm rocks in an unknown sea.

“Hey,” says a hoarse voice from the doorway, and Rodney looks up to see John standing there, with that same wince in his face and twist to his shoulders that means things are slipping, lives fading.

“Hey,” Rodney manages, feeling his voice grow tight, already fearing the time when he’ll forget that John’s favorite color is green, that he hates tomatoes, that he always wanted to be a firefighter when he was seven, that he loves to sleep in but never alone, that, that. For a moment Rodney can’t read the look in John’s eyes, and what if he’s already lost, forgotten who he is or where they are and why and God, who decided that they should still be walking around armed, headcases with handguns and stunners. Bullets always worked, no matter what you remembered.

“Your favorite color is blue,” John says, and he’s smiling, a little, something more than pain in his eyes.

“Genius, because it's not like that's the most common answer or anything, and really, you could just be guessing and wandered in because of the noise,” Rodney shot back, wishing for Teyla’s calm voice, peaceful surety, the certainty that they could fix this, would. Had to.

“Hey,” says John, then “hey,” and his hand is warm and solid on Rodney’s shoulder, hot and real, and Rodney has to tilt to look up at him. “We still have time. There’s a decent lag between the headache and the amnesia, remember? Carter wants us in her office in a bit. Seems Keller found something that might help.”

Rodney almost bites his lip against more questions, more things that John can’t answer, full of if and no and how and why and please, and nods.

“Just another disaster,” he answers, and John laughs a bit, then quiets, slides his bottom lip between his teeth.

“Hey, McKay,” a hint of drawl crawls into his words as they slow down. “I read once that there are things you can do to help keep a memory.”

Rodney huffs something that isn’t quite a chuckle, his throat still raw with the idea that they’re edging too close to the world ending, to a problem they can’t solve.

“If you read this on a blog somewhere, Sheppard, I’m not interested. Some hack’s idea of science won’t really be a big help—“ but then John’s there, close, closer, his mouth on Rodney’s, his breath hot and insistent and in him, through him, reeling him in, pulling him down. A taste almost sweet against Rodney’s tongue, between them as they struggle to breathe, slide closer and breathe again. John’s favorite thing to eat is chocolate, Rodney’s brain offers. Or coffee, especially mine, the bastard, but never the two together. Says it wastes the coffee and screws up the chocolate.

John pulls back a little, the wet touch of his lips still brushing Rodney’s with a slightly unsteady breath. “It helps sometimes if it's a really good memory.”

Rodney swallows, feels a mimic in the slight shudder of John’s body against him, but time, there is no time, there’s a meeting and problems to fix, worlds and lives to save, but he needs this, needs to remember this, him and John and them, together, so he smiles, presses his lips to John’s again, hard and hot and real, whispers, “don’t worry, I won’t ever forget about the bet,” then smiles crookedly, pulling back almost out of reach before John can hit him, before they pull apart and walk to Carter’s office, before time starts up again.