Across the street from Rodney's apartment building is Atlantis, the local independent record store.
When Rodney's not working, he watches the stereotypical 'hipsters' go in and out. They look like clones, he thinks with disdain. All with shaggy unwashed hair and ratty clothes in multitudes of colors. Buying their music from bands with ridiculous names, like the Puddlejumpers and the Wraith, bands who play instruments made from rubber bands and shoestrings. He knows their type.
They're all liberal arts majors. And Philosophy students. Half of them will end up going into Greenpeace and organizing rallies that block up city streets so hardworking brilliant people like Rodney are stuck in traffic instead of spending their valuable time working towards Nobel prizes and/or passing classes.
One day, Rodney's taking a break from his Physics exam studying to make coffee, and he notices a large gaggle of hipster girls herding themselves into Atlantis. The angle's not that good, so he can't get a good look at why. Ten minutes later they emerge, giggling and waving goodbye at someone in the store.
He vaguely sees the hand waving back through the window before it's gone. He looks back at his huge stack of essays and books, at forty-page research papers due within twenty-four hours. He looks back out the window, where a second group of giggling girls (and some boys, this time, their pants too tight and their hair too long) are entering Atlantis.
He looks at his brewing coffee. Ten minutes, he thinks, and then I'll come back.
As he exits the building, he makes a snap-quick decision to sit down surreptitiously at the cafe next door. The angle's better, and plus he doesn't want to go in that store. What if someone sees the great and studious future Dr. Rodney McKay enter a place like that? His reputation would be tarnished for the rest of the semester.
He sits down at a little table within spying distance and waits. The waitress appears after two minutes.
"Good afternoon, sir, my name is Teyla. How may I help you?"
"I'll have a triple espresso and a croissant. And! Under no circumstances will you allow a slice of lemon to come within two feet of my plate or my beverage or I will have you fired, do you understand?" The girl doesn't even flinch. She smiles a smile that borders polite and sarcastic, jots down his order, and leaves. Rodney harrumphes and goes back to spying.
The most recent group of hipsters are leaving Atlantis now, holding bags of freshly-bought CDs from bands not even played on the radio and blowing kisses back at someone inside the store. Rodney squints.
There's a guy, most likely college-age, inside. He waves his hand back at the group and turns away from the window.
"Your espresso, sir," a voice on Rodney's right jolts him back. Teyla extends the little cup and saucer to him.
"Yes. Your croissant is on its way. Is there anything else I can help you with?" She tilts her head to the side as if expecting him to make another demand. To hell with it.
"Uh, yes. A question- have you ever been in there? In Atlantis," he sneers.
"Why do you ask?" Her expression turns guarded.
"No, no reason. Have you?"
"On occasion," she allows.
"Ah. Is there," he fumbles, his eyes drifting back to the store, where a couple girls are leaving, grinning, "Do you know why girls keep going in? I mean, other than for the music?"
Teyla's mouth twitches. "I believe it is because of their newest employee." She looks across the street.
"And, uh, who is that?" He sips his espresso.
"My good friend, John. Young girls seem to find him very attractive. And some boys, too."
Rodney inhales espresso and starts coughing.
"Are you all right? Would you like me to bring you a glass of water? No lemon," she adds with a small smile.
"No!" Rodney waves weakly, gasping, "No, I'm- I'm all right. How about my- my croissant?" Teyla nods and sweeps away.
When Rodney finally is able to breathe clearly, he looks up to see a guy leaving Atlantis. He's tall and lean, dressed in all black. His hair looks like he fell asleep reading (or listening to music, unfortunately). He's also devastatingly handsome. Ah, Rodney muses, John.
It takes him a second to realize John is headed his way. He buries his face in his tiny espresso cup.
"Your croissant, sorry about the wait," Teyla sets down his plate in front of him just as John nears. She looks up. "John! On your break?"
He scrubs a hand through his hair and smiles, "Yeah. Kinda needed one. If I hear one more girl call me 'Johnny', I'm gonna shoot someone." To Rodney's horror, he sits down at the adjacent table.
"Would you like your usual?" Teyla turns from Rodney and takes out her order pad.
"Yeah. Thanks. I have fifteen minutes until Elizabeth comes looking for me." He sprawls back in the tiny cafe chair. Teyla leaves. John looks up and his eyes meet Rodney's before Rodney looks away quickly. He starts to tear his croissant apart, and feels his cheeks warm up slightly.
He senses John about to say something so he shoves an unbuttered chunk of croissant in his mouth and looks away. Damn, should have brought a newspaper. Or a book. Anything.
Teyla returns at that instant with a mug for John. Her eyes catch Rodney's and he sees a slight sparkle in them.
"Would you like me to get you anything for your croissant, sir? Butter? Jam?" Teyla sets down John's mug and addresses Rodney. John looks at him.
"No, no, I'm fine. Well. Butter. And the bill. Thank- thank you," he blushes and adds because John is watching, and goes back to fiddling with his croissant and sipping his espresso. Teyla nods and leaves but Rodney can still see John looking at him out of the corner of his eye.
Rodney can't help it and looks up, meets John's eyes. His expression is unreadable. He lifts the corner of his mouth in the kind of smile you'd give some stranger on the street you possibly recognize.
Not like John'd recognize Rodney or anything. It's not like they'd share the same classes. John probably takes Sociology and Football. And Art.
Teyla returns with the butter and his bill and turns back to John.
"Your break is almost up. Will Elizabeth be angry?"
"Nah, she's pretty cool. She just likes that I bring in more traffic than Sumner ever did. He wasn't very likable, apparently." He drains the rest of his mug and stands up. "Thanks for the coffee. Gotta run. We still on for the gym tonight?"
"Yes. Is Ronon coming?"
"Yeah. His band's not playing until Saturday."
"Then I will see you both there." John leans in and half-hugs her, their foreheads pressing together lightly for a second. And then he's moving back across the street, a regal-looking woman watching him from behind the storefront window of Atlantis.
"Do you agree?"
Rodney whips his head back towards Teyla, who is leaning against John's vacated table and watching Rodney watch John.
"Do you not also think he is attractive?" There's no judgment in her tone or her face. Rodney glances at John's retreating back and then back at Teyla.
"Um." He swallows the rest of his espresso instead of answering and slaps a twenty on the table. "I've got to go, I have a paper due tomorrow." He stands hurriedly and glances at Teyla. She's smirking. "Keep the change."