"I'm sorry," the librarian said. His voice sounded genuinely regretful. "But I can't possibly grant access to a lone electron."
"I'm sorry, you -- what?!" Rodney had expected to have to put up a fight. The Pegasus peace accords were new. Most of the galaxy was still pissed at the Terrans for taking Atlantis away, however temporary their sojourn on Earth had turned out to be. And Rodney hadn't been educated in a Pegasus university, and if there were any interpersonal situation he was eminently qualified to handle, it was bluffing his way into a library to which he really wasn't entitled access.
But this? He hadn't expected this.
"A lone electron?" John repeated, as though he couldn't quite believe the words either.
"It's in the manual," the librarian offered, as though that were explanation. "The Ancients were very insistent; this database contains dangerous material, not suitable for someone who could go flying off."
"You think I'm not sufficiently stable?" Rodney's voice rose to a pitch which, he realized belatedly, probably belied his point. Whoops.
"No one who isn't pair-bonded is allowed beyond these doors." The librarian's face was set and stubborn. "I'd lose my job."
"You're saying I have to get married? That's discrimination, that's ridiculous, you can't possibly--"
"Oh, no, Dr. McKay, marriage isn't necessary." The librarian looked scandalized now, as though it weren't his own stupid rules preventing Rodney from getting his hands on the richest treasure trove of Ancient data possibly ever encoded. "We wouldn't dream of that."
"So what exactly is necessary." John took a step forward and placed a calming hand on Rodney's shoulder. It was more comforting than Rodney wanted to admit.
"Dr. McKay would need a partner," the man said, spreading his hands in an ingratiating gesture. "There's a simple procedure, a bit of paperwork to fill out--"
"And then I could get in?" Despite his best intentions, Rodney couldn't help bouncing on his toes just the tiniest bit.
"I'll do it," John offered. "Where do we sign?"
The librarian beamed. "I thought you might! I'll be right back." He scurried down a hallway.
"Thanks," Rodney said.
"No sweat. Just, you know, don't go tearing up books or anything, since I think I basically just agreed to be the responsible party." John grinned.
"You, responsible!" Rodney huffed. "I'd like to see you sell that one to Woolsey after--"
"Right this way, gentlemen," said the librarian, reappearing to lead them down the hall. A female clerk in dark blue robes sat behind a desk, a game of something which looked suspiciously like solitaire paused on her screen.
"Okay, here are the forms," the clerk said, handing them a tablet computer with a screen full of text. Rodney didn't have time to read boilerplate; there was an untapped Ancient database right in the next room! He quickly paged down and down and down until he reached the obvious place for signatures. He typed his name, then pressed his thumb to the thumbprint box. John took the tablet, scrolled up a screen or two and then sighed and paged back down to the signature page and signed and gave a fingerprint, too. The clerk took the tablet back and shoved it into a drawer.
"Clasp your right hands," she said, already sounding bored, "and hold these in your left." She offered each of them a squat grey cylinder carved with Ancient markings Rodney didn't recognize.
John gave a minute shrug, Rodney rolled his eyes, and they held hands. John's hand was warm and Rodney was momentarily aware of his calluses. The clerk reached over the counter and draped a piece of cloth over their joined hands.
"Repeat after me," she intoned. "Covalent bond."
Rodney stifled a snicker as they both repeated the term. He'd thought for years that science was effectively his religion, but he'd never contemplated using scientific terms in pseudo-religious ritual.
They repeated that one, too.
"Stability follows." When they'd repeated the third phrase, she reached forward and yanked the cloth off their hands, then extended her hand for their cylinders. When Rodney handed his back to her, he got a momentary shock.
"Hey!" he protested, dropping it like the proverbial hot potato.
"Mine zapped me too," John said. For an instant Rodney worried: had they just been exposed to something?
"Sorry," said the clerk, not sounding sorry at all, and went back to her computer game.
"Whatever," Rodney said as they followed the smiling librarian back down the hall. "Can I get in now, please?"
"Right this way," the librarian said, and the doors to the locked archive opened, and they went inside.
Rodney spent three blissful hours of uninterrupted database-trawling. Hours which John occupied reading a mystery novel on his tablet while Rodney was neck-deep in computer code.
Rodney had just become aware that some part of him was craving carbohydrates. He was hungry. Lunch had been too small and too long ago. Was it too much to hope that this planet would have something akin to an Italian restaurant? Because what his body was really in the mood for was a plate of pasta.
"Rodney." John's voice interrupted his reverie, and Rodney looked up, blinking after the long immersion in glowing screen. "You hungry?"
"Yeah, actually," Rodney admitted. He reached up and stretched, and they both winced when his spine made a distressing popping sound.
"I could really go for Italian," John mused aloud. "Or whatever kind of big, filling dinner they make around here."
"Huh, me too," Rodney said absently as he slid his laptop into his bag and rose. "Let's see what we can find."
There wasn't Italian food, predictably, but there was a place with a wood-fired oven that made flatbreads topped with roasted meats and melted cheeses. It wasn't bad. They grinned at each other over their giant pizza and their tankards of local beer.
"Too bad Ronon and Teyla stayed home," Rodney said. "I think we're going to eat well this week."
John shrugged. "Didn't really make sense to bring three people to babysit while you tap on a keyboard."
Rodney laughed. "Yeah, I can hear Ronon now. 'We could have seen this at home.'"
"Yeah." John drank a long swig of beer. "So how's the database?"
"Amazing," Rodney said fervently. The smile John gave him was indulgent and fond. "I've just started my searching, but I think I'm going to be able to decrease the city's fuel usage by forty percent..."
Rodney woke up at the crack of dawn, so achingly hard that even the sheets felt like a caress. He picked up his watch, saw the time, and groaned -- why the hell was he awake? -- but even as one arm was settling over his eyes to block out the light, the other was reaching down to take himself in hand.
He couldn't remember the last time he'd woken up with a hard-on. College, maybe, or grad school. It certainly wasn't a usual element of his life anymore. But hey, maybe a day of intensive library time had reawoken some dormant corner of his libido. And oh, oh, that grip felt good.
He was touching himself instead of just thinking about it, now, and he was closer to coming than he'd realized. His cock felt swollen to bursting beneath his hand. He planted his feet on the mattress and thrust up, once, twice, and that was it -- he spilled all over his sheets. His body stayed tense for a long moment, then relaxed into post-coital languor.
Not bad, he thought smugly. Not bad at all.
About two minutes later, he heard the shower in the adjoining room shut off. Huh; apparently John was awake too. Well, that wasn't terribly surprising. This was John's usual wake-up time. He'd be startled to see Rodney downstairs at breakfast at this hour, but hey: Rodney was up, he had a database to plunder, he'd just had a terrific orgasm -- might as well get out of bed, right?
Sure enough, John looked pleasantly surprised when Rodney walked in to breakfast.
"I do sometimes wake up early of my own accord," Rodney informed him, sliding into the seat across from John. "Ooh, is that coffee?"
It was, and John poured him a cup from the carafe on the table. "It's pretty good, too," John said. "I don't usually want a second cup, but I might have one today."
"I really like this planet," Rodney sighed. A library, an orgasm, a good cup of coffee: what more could a man want?
"Yeah, it's okay," John agreed. And hm, that was interesting; were his cheeks a bit pink? Rodney filed that away for future consideration. He could ponder John's lowered lashes and his bitten lip another time, when it was safer, when he wasn't sitting right across from him at a table so small their knees almost touched.
Of course, this place couldn't be nearly as exciting to John as it was to Rodney. "I'm sorry there isn't much for you to do." Why hadn't Rodney thought of that?
But John shrugged. "No big deal. I've got plenty to read. Besides, it's fun watching you have fun."
"If you say so." Rodney was dubious, but he wasn't about to argue.
By lunchtime Rodney was feeling oddly antsy. He'd found at least half a dozen leads he wanted to follow up on, and the work was going brilliantly, he just -- felt stiff from sitting still so long. Wanted to be moving. God help him: all these years on a gate team had apparently conditioned his body to expect regular exercise.
"You want to walk around a little after lunch?"
John looked relieved to hear the question. "I was thinking about asking if you would mind going back to the library by yourself," he admitted. "I finished my novel. I need some fresh air."
"Apparently I do too," Rodney said ruefully.
John's face broke into a smile. "Was that so hard to admit?"
"Hey, I'm a lifelong member of the pasty scientist society," Rodney groused. "This is not my natural state."
John shrugged one shoulder. "Guess it is now."
"You're a bad influence on me." But Rodney was grinning.
"I think you mean good influence." The smile was ricocheting between them and all of a sudden Rodney felt as though his heart might burst with it. Life just felt so -- good.
"C'mon," Rodney said. "Let's get out of here."
He couldn't help watching John's ass as they went.
Rodney had schooled himself out of his crush on John years ago. Liaisons with US military men were dicey at best. And John wasn't interested in men -- Rodney had seen several ridiculously beautiful men make passes at him to no avail. But today he couldn't seem to stop noticing John again, the way he'd done when they were new to each other and he hadn't yet known that there was no way he was John Sheppard's type.
Well: it gave a little added frisson to the day. And if his heart did somersaults every time John reached out to touch his shoulder or his back, there was no harm in that, was there?
On a wooded hillside outside of town John stopped to take a piss and Rodney kept walking.
And then the riverbank collapsed beneath him and he slid down a suddenly muddy hill into an ice-cold stream.
"Oh, fuck me," Rodney muttered, standing and slowly picking his way across the rocks to a stabler bit of shore. Thankfully he'd left his laptop at the hotel, but his trousers were soaked above the knee and his right hip was going to be badly bruised.
John came skidding toward him at lightning speed. "Rodney! Are you --" He looked panicked. More panicked than was warranted, really; Rodney hadn't yelled, just slid down a hill and made a little splash.
"Fine, I'm fine, I just --" Rodney gestured toward the small mudslide. "Put my foot in the wrong place."
"You're hurt," John said, catching up with him, and helped him to a place where he could sit down. Rodney winced, but John was right there, supporting his weight, not letting anything touch the part of his hip and his butt which had taken the brunt of the fall.
"Here," John said, and dug into his own pack for a power bar and his canteen, which Rodney accepted gratefully.
But John looked perturbed. And after a few minutes, that started to really bug Rodney. He was the one who had fallen into a muddy stream; why was John looking so constipated?
"I'm fine," Rodney said, a little testily.
"Your hip hurts right here," John said slowly, placing a hand on his own hip in the place which exactly mirrored Rodney's injury.
Rodney stopped chewing. His heart sank. Suddenly several elements of the last twenty-four hours made a different kind of sense. Both of them getting hungry at the same time. Rodney waking early, at John's morning hour instead of his own. John opting for a second cup of coffee, as though he needed it the way Rodney did. Each of them experiencing things which made more sense for -- or which had somehow come from -- the other.
This couldn't be happening. "Oh, no," he said, though not so much to John as to the universe-at-large. "No, no, no, you're not telling me--"
"Sorry," John offered.
"Not your fault," Rodney said automatically. Because it wasn't. No: if it was anyone's fault, it was that fucking librarian.
"Can you walk?" John asked.
Rodney nodded and accepted John's hand up. "We're going back to that library."
"You want to stop and change clothes first?"
"I want some goddamend answers," Rodney said through clenched teeth, and John didn't disagree.
"Dr. McKay! Colonel!" The librarian was all smiles. "How are you enjoying the library's--"
"You're undoing whatever the hell you did to us." Rodney's trousers were still damp and muddy, his butt hurt, and he was furious.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard him." John sounded menacing. If Rodney hadn't known him so well, he would have been alarmed.
"It hasn't been a week," the librarian protested, his hands flying up as though to fend them off. "We can't undo a pairing until a week has gone by."
"You're kidding," John said flatly.
Rodney wasn't sure what that was in John's voice. Panic? Worry? Either way, it made his heart clench.
"Too much paperwork," the librarian said. "And anyway, we've found that most partnerships settle out after a sixday."
"'Settle out'," Rodney repeated, his voice on the verge of hysteria. "Does that mean the effects we're experiencing will go away?"
The librarian coughed. "Some of them?"
"If there's anything else you haven't told us," Rodney blustered, "now might be a good time to rectify that."
"I'm hardly an expert," the librarian objected, and hastily added "but you should check the files in the restricted wing!"
"Right," Rodney said tightly, and they headed inside.
After fifteen minutes, he pushed back from his computer and looked at John.
"Maybe you could go back to the hotel," Rodney suggested.
"I need to know whatever you find out."
"Right, I know you do, but --" Rodney hated to even say this, but he couldn't figure out any way around it. "You're tense. It's making it hard to concentrate."
"You can't concentrate," John repeated, "because I'm stressed-out?"
"I'll find a way out of this," Rodney promised.
John sighed and stood, shouldering his pack. "I guess they can undo it after a week, right?"
"I'll find out," Rodney promised.
The silence after John left the building was peaceful at first. But then Rodney became aware of a kind of nervousness at the back of his neck. His fingers itched. He felt an irrational desire to run back to the hotel, even though he couldn't currently run.
He wanted -- he needed -- to be near John.
He gritted his teeth and kept researching.
"You're not going to like this," Rodney said, shouldering open John's door.
John was lying on the bed, boots off, eyes closed, but he wasn't asleep; he opened them the instant Rodney got inside. "You're back," he said unnecessarily, and reached for Rodney. Rodney sat on the edge of the bed and John's hand grazed his leg. Immediately they both exhaled and Rodney felt his shoulders settling.
"Hang on," John said, letting his eyes close again.
"Yeah," Rodney agreed hoarsely, and his hand found John's. The moment skin touched skin, he felt at-ease. Relaxed. His aching hip hurt less.
God: they were experiencing negative side-effects from lack of physical proximity. John was going to kill him.
"Okay, hit me," John said, but he kept his eyes closed. That made things easier, somehow.
"I think those devices did something to our DNA. I don't understand how it works yet," Rodney admitted, "but we've been -- bonded." Even saying the word felt ridiculous, but John just nodded as though that weren't a surprise.
"If I'm reading their files right, it's possible to undo it, but --"
"They'll bar you from the library once you're solo," John said, understanding.
"I don't care, John," Rodney blurted, and it was true: it didn't matter that he'd been jonesing to get his hands on this data for months now, it wasn't worth it. Not if it meant putting John in this position. "That's not it."
Rodney took a deep breath and plunged on. "There are two rules: we have to wait a week, and we have to consummate it before they'll agree to annul the bond."
John's eyes flew open, but it was a long moment before he spoke. "Any details on what exactly that entails?"
"Exactly what you're thinking, I assume," Rodney said miserably. "John, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get us into this. I never thought--"
"Hey, I offered," John reminded him, scrambling to a seated position.
"You didn't mean to offer this," Rodney muttered. That was when he noticed they were still holding hands. "God! Sorry," he yelped, dropping John's hand as though it could burn him.
Immediately the room felt chill, Rodney's injury ached, and the whole situation felt ten times as hopeless. It was hard to believe this was still the same day which had begun with coffee and flirtatious glances. This felt even more awful than that had felt good. How would they remain friends through this?
"I don't have a plan," Rodney admitted. He stared at his hands.
"I might," John said quietly. Rodney looked up; he couldn't read John's expression, but his own heart twisted with an ache and a hope and a yearning he was pretty certain he couldn't disguise.
"Trust me?" John asked.
"With my life," Rodney said hoarsely. Because he did. John had to know that.
John scooted to the edge of the bed so they were sitting side by side, his right leg pressed against Rodney's left, and then he leaned in as though he were about to give Rodney a kiss. Rodney's eyes closed -- he couldn't bear whatever was coming -- and then, to his amazement, John's mouth met his.
Rodney gasped into the kiss. He couldn't help it. Whatever he'd expected, it hadn't been this. Was he making John want this?
John groaned as though Rodney's gasp had inflamed him further. This couldn't be happening.
John pushed him back onto the bed and Rodney went. John went straight for his trousers, unfastening his BDUs and pushing them partway down his thighs, and Rodney's head thunked into the pillow. Maybe this was a fever dream.
And then Rodney's ability to intellectualize went out the window. John gave head with rapturous attention, as though there were nothing else in the universe he wanted more than to worship Rodney's cock with his mouth and tongue. And everything he did to Rodney felt amazing.
Nothing had ever been this good before. Rodney whimpered and trembled and fought not to come and lost the battle far sooner than he wanted to.
When John pulled back and knelt up he was wild-eyed, and all Rodney could think was I have to make it good for him. "Get down here," he rasped. John moved to lie beside him, and as he did, Rodney sat up and yanked off his own boots and pushed his trousers down (finally, muddy cloth away from his skin), and then he turned his attention to John.
John's hands were unfastening his own trousers. Rodney batted them away and pulled John's pants down and off his legs. Would it be it too intimate to take off his underwear? John didn't seem to think so; he shimmied them down and kicked them away.
Rodney's mouth was watering. He bent to lift John's dick into his mouth and John gritted back what sounded suspiciously like a whimper. The sound went right up Rodney's spine.
Rodney tried an experimental lick. John jerked up into his hands, mutely pleading for more, and answering pleasure bloomed in Rodney's brain.
God. No wonder John had been so eager. Everything he'd done to Rodney, he'd felt in his own body, too. Rodney slid his mouth down over John's cock, and as John groaned Rodney felt the pleasure beneath his own skin.
Everything he did to John, he felt redoubled in himself. It was unbelievable.
After the orgasm Rodney fell asleep. When he woke, he was covered with a sheet. John had changed into pyjama pants and a faded t-shirt, and he was sitting at the table with his tablet. In front of him was a tray with a large jug of beer, two glasses, a loaf of bread and an assortment of meats and cheeses.
"Hey," John said, noticing that Rodney was awake. "I ordered room service."
Rodney's stomach growled. "Sorry I sacked out on you."
"Come eat," John said.
"What, you can tell I'm hungry?" It was meant to be a joke, though it sounded more petulant than Rodney intended.
John smirked. "No, I've just known you for six years, and you haven't eaten since that powerbar."
Rodney flipped him off. John poured them both beers.
John did have a point. Rodney got out of bed and rummaged around on the floor for his boxer shorts, then sat in the other chair and helped himself to some bread and sausage and cheese.
Oddly, his hip and his butt didn't hurt as much anymore.
Breakfast the next morning was surprisingly non-awkward, all things considered. When Rodney got down to the dining room, John was already there; by the time he made it across the room, John had poured coffee for him and signaled the waiter for another carafe.
"So," Rodney said, once they were fed. "I was thinking -- library."
"There's a shocker." John didn't roll his eyes, but he didn't have to.
"We don't have a lot of time," Rodney protested. Because they didn't. If the librarian was going to undo this thing after a sixday, they only had five more days for Rodney to learn everything he could. (And if that also meant they only had five days to have incredible semi-telepathic sex, well, he was really trying not to think about that.)
"I know," John said, raising a hand to forestall whatever rant might have been coming. "Listen, I'm a little...bored in there."
Rodney felt a pang of guilt. As though the accidental soul-bonding weren't bad enough.
"It's not a big deal," John said hastily, "but I thought I might wander around a little bit today. You don't need me in there with you, as long as we're 'bonded,' right?"
"I guess not," Rodney said dubiously. He couldn't help thinking about the previous afternoon, though. Being apart had gone from a vague uncomfortable itch to a kind of physical yearning for contact. "But if you start feeling--" What was the word for it? Itchy? Queasy? Hungry?
"If that thing happens again, I'll come find you," John promised.
"Okay," Rodney agreed, and did his best to ignore how his heart leapt when John's smile got happier.
Four hours of database immersion ensued. Columns of glowing figures scrolling past his vision as vast as he could stand to follow them. He was learning more about how the Ancients had developed zero-point energy than he'd ever dared to dream.
At lunchtime Rodney tapped his headset. "Sheppard, where are you?"
There was a brief pause before John answered. Rodney wondered whether he ought to be worried, but it was a purely intellectual notion. He apparently wasn't worried, whether or not he ought to be.
A moment later John's voice was in his ear. "Hey, sorry about that. Took me a minute to get to someplace level."
"Someplace level? Where are you?"
He could hear the self-satisfied grin in John's tone of voice. "Doing some climbing. Just southwest of town."
"Climbing? By yourself? Are you out of your mind?"
"Relax, Rodney," John murmured into his ear. Rodney closed his eyes and indulged in a shiver; no one was there to see him, so it didn't matter. "There's two other guys within shouting distance. We can see each other. Anything happens to me, they'll get help."
"Fine," Rodney sighed. "It sounds like you're having fun." And that was a pleasing mental image, even if he was slightly annoyed with John for doing something dangerous. John was happy out there; it was good to hear John smiling.
"It's great out here," John promised. "Ronon would love this. Look, I'm going to keep heading for the top, then I'll take the long way back -- see you at dinner?"
"Dinner it is."
"Sheppard out," John said, and the connection went silent.
It wasn't until after they'd finished their radio call that Rodney realized they were apparently miles apart and neither of them seemed to be experiencing any ill effects at all.
All in all, it was one of his more satisfying days. Hours of excellent research; good food and good company; and although they'd spent the bulk of the day apart, it didn't seem to be because there was any awkwardness between them. Because when they met for dinner, all Rodney felt was happy anticipation, and near as he could tell, John was in equally good spirits.
They ordered the inn's special -- some kind of whole roasted bird, with highly-spiced greens and a loaf of crusty bread -- and drank a bottle of wine and traded stories about the cliffsides and about wacky Ancient datamining.
Following John up the stairs to their hallway, though, Rodney couldn't help feeling a bit of a pang. He was craving physical contact. And how ridiculous was that? How was it possible that after one sexual encounter, his body had so profoundly re-awoken to how nice it was to be touched?
They reached the hallway and stood for a moment outside their two rooms. Rodney was about to bid John goodnight (and, okay, go directly into his room and whack off, because the knowledge of what he wasn't letting himself reach for was becoming altogether too tantalizing) when John cleared his throat. John's eyes darted from Rodney's face to Rodney's door and back again. It was a question. An invitation.
"Oh, hell yes," Rodney breathed, and they tumbled into Rodney's room and fell onto the bed, trying to move through the room and kiss and rub up against each other all at the same time. John's body was firm beneath his, and when Rodney worked a hand beneath John's shirt to touch him (anywhere he could reach, which turned out to be John's ribcage) John gasped and his head tilted to one side, giving Rodney access to his neck. So Rodney kissed him there. He could feel both John's hot throat beneath his own lips and -- in a slightly detached way, like the echo of his own sensations -- the full-body shivery rush of being inside John's body and yielding to his touch.
Being inside John's body: there was an idea. Rodney was flooded with the sudden mental image of parting John's ass with his hands (of feeling himself held open by Rodney's blunt fingers), of bending to lick (the unbearable intimacy, squirming helpless at the onslaught of pleasure), of pushing a finger inside (being penetrated, rebelling against the invasion but wanting more, wanting so much more.) Oh, God, Rodney wanted it so badly.
"I want to--" Rodney began thickly, and couldn't begin to complete the sentence. He wanted so much. Wanted everything. "I can't--"
John thrust up against him and bit his own lip and came (flood of release, he hadn't meant to lose control, the pleasure was too much, Rodney, Rodney) and Rodney choked out a sob and followed suit, not even aware that he was thinking you are so beautiful, I'm not supposed to want this, I want everything. John.
A moment of wakefulness in the night. The sound of John's steady breathing. Rodney opened his eyes and caught sight of him sleeping, limned by moonlight. The pang made his heart ache. I don't want this to be over.
He rolled over and made himself go back to sleep. He didn't consciously notice when John nestled closer and threw an arm over his ribcage to keep him still.
"I'm going out in the jumper today," John said over breakfast.
Rodney raised an eyebrow. "You really think that's wise?"
John shrugged. "We have to figure out how far we can stretch this thing."
Strictly speaking, Rodney thought sourly, we don't, actually. We're going to undo it at the end of the week. But he didn't say any of those things. And apparently their connection, whatever it was, didn't actually involve telepathy, because John's face remained eager and curious. There was no way John had enough of a poker face to be able to hide it if he'd just listened in on that train of thought.
"Okay," Rodney said. "I'll hit the database again."
"I'll give you status updates," John promised. "Keep your email open."
Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 9:01am
In jumper two, doing pre-flight check-in.
Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 9:22am
Fixing to head up.
Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 9:24am
Entering low planetary orbit!
Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 9:25am
You're not feeling anything weird, are you?
Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 9:26am
Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 9:29am
You know exactly what I mean.
Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 9:31am
Fine, no, nothing. You?
Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 9:35am
Nope. Gonna take her out further. Let me know if anything happens.
Nothing happened. Nothing remotely related to their connection, anyway. Though Rodney did have a flash of brilliance -- even if it was one he couldn't actually mention to anyone without probably jeopardizing his library access across the galaxy.
In the late afternoon Rodney realized he could access a command-line interface, which meant he could probably code a back-door to the database which would allow him to access its information remotely from Atlantis. It seemed worth a shot, anyway, since his own access was about to come to an abrupt screeching halt.
It was a good thing their connection wasn't actually telepathic. Especially since his recurring thoughts were increasingly along the lines of "this is the best week of my life, and it's going to be over soon, and nothing else is ever going to compare." How pathetic could a guy get?
By the library's closing time, just before dinner, Rodney's laptop was crammed full of as many notes and suggestions as he could manage to transcribe, and he'd done his best to create and then disguise a way to continue to access the db from Atlantis. Now there was nothing to do but go home and try it and see if it worked.
"I think I'm done," Rodney admitted over bowls of spicy stew and rice.
"Okay," John said simply.
So that was it. They would return to the library in the morning and make the librarian un-tangle their DNA, and that would be that. A wave of sadness rose in Rodney and threatened to swamp him, but he did his best to keep his expression neutral as he shoveled food into his mouth.
And then John grimaced in a way that meant he was about to say something he wasn't sure was wise.
"What," Rodney said, instantly on alert.
"I know this isn't what you signed up for," John began, "but I think I can make a good case for it."
Rodney stared at him. What was John thinking? A good case for what?
"You've been single since you and Jennifer broke up." There was something in John's eyes which Rodney couldn't place. Ruefulness? "And I've been single a lot longer than that."
"I don't see the--"
"We already spend most of our time together," John continued, "and we haven't driven each other nuts yet. And I think there are some, uh, upsides." Holy shit: was John blushing? "I'm game to try if you are."
Rodney's head was spinning. Could John possibly be saying what he thought John was saying?
John apparently mistook his gobsmacked silence for objection. "But if you don't want to settle for me," he said quietly, "I understand."
"Wait," Rodney said, finally certain that he wasn't misunderstanding. "You mean, stay... partnered?"
"I don't want to push," John said mulishly.
"Are you kidding me?" Rodney's chest felt as thought it might overflow with joy. This was the happiness he'd been feeling in bits and pieces all week, magnified a thousandfold. "This is everything I've ever wanted!"
"This?" John repeated, gesturing to take in the room, the other restaurant patrons, their situation. He looked mildly exasperated.
"I mean you," Rodney clarified. How had John not known that?
John looked down at his beer glass and smiled. It was shy and flirty and gorgeous. Rodney's heart did a somersault of happiness. "You too," John managed.
Beneath the table, his foot found Rodney's. They stayed that way, and they drank their beer, and they didn't have to say anything at all.