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Five Times Rodney Ran out of Coffee

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John sees it happen in slow motion, and it's almost funny--a harried-looking guy's hustling across the street a few feet shy of the crosswalk without bothering to check whether there are any cars headed his way; he's holding his cell phone up to his ear with one hand and has a big silver travel mug clutched in the other, and he's making a beeline for the coffee shop. Their lights are still on, but it's a few minutes after 6, and the chairs and stools are all upended on tables; either the guy doesn't notice, or he doesn't care--he obviously thinks he's going to walk right in, but what he does is run face-first into their locked door with a glass-rattling thump. Okay, so it is kind of funny, but John still winces when he sees the guy's high forehead smack hard into the door--that had to have hurt.

Apparently it did--"Ow, ow, hang on," John hears him say into his phone, "hang on," and then he's fumbling the phone into his pocket so that he has a hand free to massage his forehead and then cup against the door and peer in. Whoever's still inside must be in the back, though, since no one comes out to investigate.

He looks so hangdog that John has to resist the urge to reach out and squeeze the guy's shoulder; instead, he says, "Tough luck, buddy," and shrugs in his best sympathetic way.

The guy eyes him suspiciously and makes a one-eighty, heading back the way he came, his phone still chattering away, muffled and tinny, in his pocket.

* * * * *

When he sees a small, tan, deeply uncool hatchback revving to pull out of a really illegal parking spot, John knows, somehow, that it's going to be the same guy he saw take a header into the coffee shop door.

It is: John recognizes his receding hairline and his big shoulders through the car window, and instead of a cell phone, this time the guy's wrestling the gear shift, tormenting the car into making a series of increasingly pained noises. The guy's giant cup of coffee is still sitting on his roof.

John tries to flag him down, but the guy just looks at him queerly and waves tentatively back and then hits the gas, jerking out of the space, finally, and veering off around the corner. John sees his GIMME COFFEE bumper sticker, sees his coffee cup teeter and fall, and then he's gone.

* * * * *

Running into the guy a third time, John has to admit, isn't really a coincidence, because John's been kind of haunting the coffee shop with exactly that goal in mind.

It's easy, then, for John to sidle up behind him in line when he bustles in, to lean against the counter and place his order ("The usual?" the barista asks him, which means John really has been coming here a lot) and wait to be noticed.

"Yeah, thanks." John tucks his wallet back into his pocket, and--

"I knew it, it's you."

"Yep, it's me." John sticks out his hand, and the guy shakes it in what John is pretty sure is a purely automatic reflex, the same way introducing himself as "Dr. Rodney McKay" is.

"Nice to meet you, Rodney," John says, and carries his plate of wheat toast, golden and dimpled with butter, and Rodney's enormous latte, served in what John swears is a soup bowl and topped with an elaborate twisting design in foam and cocoa, over to a table. Rodney trails behind him, says, "Oh, well, I suppose . . . " and sits down opposite John, shedding his bustling energy the same way he dumps his bulky coat and his laptop bag, leaving him quiet and slumped and frowning at his coffee.

Then he frowns at John's plate. "Toast is your usual?"

Rodney doesn't ask a single question after that, but he's happy enough to answer them, and he gets more and more animated the more he talks; John mentions the Large Hadron Collider, and Rodney expands on tangent after tangent for a good forty minutes, nearly sweeping their cups and plates off the table with a particularly emphatic gesture.

John can't quite figure out why, but he feels like--like he wants to watch this guy's back. He's definitely weirdly invested in making sure Rodney stops hitting his head and losing his coffee and driving terribly; he wants him to maybe think about looking both ways before crossing the street and to ingest something besides caffeine; he wants Rodney to be interested in him, and not just confused by the guy who stalked him in a coffee shop and forced him to share a table.

He asks Rodney if he has a pen and waits while Rodney roots around in his bag and comes up with a fat red Sharpie. John writes his number on the back of a sugar packet, the numerals bleeding together on the thin paper, and slides it and the pen across the table to Rodney when he's done.

Rodney stares at it, and John snags his soup-bowl-latte and swallows what's left. It's cold, and a little gritty, but totally worth it for the way Rodney sputters at him, wide-eyed and flushed.

His cheeks go pinker when John claps him on the shoulder (warmth bleeding through his shirt) the way he wanted to do the first time he saw him and says, "So long, Rodney," and this time, he's the one leaving Rodney in his wake.

* * * * *

When the door to John's apartment buzzes the next afternoon, Rodney is pretty much the last person in the world he expects to see standing there.

"John," Rodney says, and John blinks and says, "How do you know my name's John?"

"The same way I knew you lived here," Rodney answers, and if he could wrap his brain around Rodney being right here, he might be able to pay a little more attention to the quality of Rodney's smile, bright and smug, nervous and eager.

"Yeah, how did you--"

Rodney cuts John off by grabbing him and kissing him and very nearly spilling a typically outsized cup of coffee all down the front of him.

With a grunt, he pulls back, shoves the cup into John's hand, and leans in again. John's hardly more prepared for it the second time, but Rodney's letting him get there, slow and sweet and a little slick just before he pulls away.

John has no idea how he manages not to drop the coffee.

"That was okay, right? I mean, obviously it was okay, it was more than okay, really, but that was, you wanted that? I was right that you," Rodney twirls a finger in the air between them, "wanted that?"

John honestly hasn't been at all sure what he wanted, but now that Rodney's planted one on him, he can confess, true and fervent, "Yeah, Rodney. Got it in one."

"Well, got it in four, which is slow for me, actually, assuming that you didn't want to kiss me the first time you laid eyes on me--you didn't want to kiss me the first time you laid eyes on me, did you?"

"Rodney--" John starts, but Rodney rolls right over him again.

"Oh my god, what time is it? I have to go. I'll call you! Um, I can still call you, right?" And then he's gone, and it's not until John's reaching to scrub a hand through his hair (jesus, maybe he's the one who hit his head, and all this has been a really, really fucked-up dream) that he realizes he's still holding Rodney's stupid coffee.

* * * * *

John has no idea why Rodney felt the need to get out of bed in the first place, but now that he's back, John's doing his damnedest to make sure he stays put. He sucks wet kisses under the curve of Rodney's jaw, tongues the hollow of his throat, scrapes with his teeth until Rodney's wriggling and grabby.

"Oh, god, here, here," Rodney gasps, shifting and tugging John so that all of the angles are just right, so that they slide and fit, hot and tight and good enough that they're both groaning.

"Do you--oh, god--is your machine--do you smell burning coffee?"

John moves on top of him, a slow, shivery grind. "Nnnnnngh, never, never mind, I don't care, forget it."

John does, and he makes sure Rodney forgets, too.