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meets Dr. Richard Faraday, California Institute of Technology, 98; first Canadian to win Tesla Science and Technology Prize ($25,000 U.S.), 103; accepted early to CalTech, 105; sues to have Dr. Faraday appointed his legal guardian, 108-115; formally breaks with Fiona Ingram, 116; co-authors first paper, 118; takes B.S. in Physics, 124; wins first NSF grant, 127;

Rodney was vaguely aware that his back was aching, that he'd been staring down at this tablet for too long. He wasn't as young as he used to be. He should move, stretch or something, but he was so close to the answer, the numbers right in front of his eyes, and he was terrified that if he moved, even to breathe, he'd lose the--

There it was. "Yes," he whispered, and scrawled the phrase with his stylus, 8πG (k1 + k2) "…yes, yes," and that could that really be it? Rodney sat up straight in his chair and blinked down at the screen. The fragment had snapped into place like a puzzle piece, so much so that he almost couldn't remember now what the missing phrase even--

He hadn't heard John come in, and so he was surprised when John took him by the chin and tilted his face up for a kiss. John's lips were dry and soft, and there was a prickle of beard on one side where he hadn't shaved properly--and then Rodney was ambushed by a sense memory, an old one--of large hands, and that silver signet ring, cupping his burning face, turning it and kissing him: "Good, Rodney. Good,"--and he broke into a sweat of lust and panic: bowled over and freaked out. Blindly, awkwardly, he surged into the kiss, nearly falling off the stool, but John just curled an arm around his neck and leaned him back like something out of the movies. It was funny, really.

No, it wasn't. It should have been funny, two middle-aged men acting like Bogie and Bacall--and Rodney knew that he was doomed to being Bacall, here--except Rodney was breathless, lost, turned on, and almost embarrassingly on the verge of tears. He dug his fingers into Faraday's--into John's--

The smile against his mouth faded. "Rodney," John said uncertainly--and no,absolutely not, no. Today was not going to be the day that John Sheppard developed a preternatural and totally out of character sensitivity to other people's feelings. Rodney leaned firmly into the kiss, pressing their mouths together: thirty seconds and he'd have it together--

John was having none of it. He jerked back and stared into Rodney's face, studying it--and damn it, nobody ever told you about the downside of having someone know you as well as John knew him. "Rodney," John said quietly, and Rodney had to look away from his too-familiar face, the concerned crinkles around his eyes. "Where are you?"

"Nowhere," Rodney shot back. "I'm not--It's nothing. Really. It's stupid. Just--" John lifted an eyebrow. "Memories," Rodney admitted, and then: "That's the thing with getting old, they start piling up, crashing into each other. It's nothing; ignore me. How are you?"

"Man," John sighed, settling back and leaning his ass on the desk, "you sure can still talk bullshit when you want to." He tilted his head and looked at Rodney. "Look, something just happened there and--well, you don't have to tell me, but you should."

"Baloney," Rodney snorted. "Terrible mistake in modern marriage, all this so-called 'honesty,'" and it was especially true when it came to Rodney's past, which was full of unpleasantness and embarrassment, not to mention that John got oddly jealous sometimes, which was--okay, flattering: but. The utter hypocrisy of John being jealous of him: because maybe John hadn't had a lot of sex in his life, but he'd had two wives, and to paraphrase Oscar Wilde: one Mrs. Sheppard was an accident, but two looked like--

But John was looking at him with that vaguely constipated look that Rodney now knew meant that he was having feelings about something. Rodney groaned.

"Look, it was nothing. Just, he--Faraday. My advisor. He used to--do what you did."

John frowned. "What. Show up and--"

--kiss him. Touch him. Unzip his pants and-- "Yeah. Whenever I was doing really good work. It was like a weird sexual reward system." Rodney exhaled and scrubbed at what was left of his hair. "At the time, I kind of thought of it as a perk."

"A perk?" John quirked an eyebrow; someone who didn't know him might have thought he was amused. Actually he was furious. "Weren't you in college at, like, 12 years old?"

"Fifteen," Rodney corrected, with not a little bit of pride.

John let the mask drop. "Rodney! Fifteen?"

"What! It was okay, it was consensual, I was desperate for attention, any attention--"

"Unlike now," John muttered.

"--sexual attention a bonus. Not to mention he was a very good looking man, Faraday. Not just for a scientist: for anyone. Not that--look, the guy rescued me from my mother. He could have looked like Quasimodo and I still would have--"

"Fifteen, for fuck's sake!"

Rodney slid down in his chair and let his head roll. "Oh my god, it was complicated," he groaned. "Also it was a million years ago in a galaxy we don't even talk to anymore!"

John smirked despite himself. "No, Rodney, that was Star Wars."

"Of course: silly me. Look, I wasn't having a PTSD flashback, okay? I was reminiscing. I kind of loved him, I think. Crazy as it sounds, it was one of the happiest times of my life--of which there were like, four, including that time with the ice cream. From where I was, to be working with Richard Faraday, the Richard Faraday--" second youngest Nobel Prize winner ever, welcome at any scientific conference or gathering, the world his oyster, besieged by disciples and wannabes, all of them men. He remembered it all vividly.

But he had been the favorite. They had never spoken about it; not overtly. Faraday talked in translations and classical obscurities: "The lover is justified in any service he does for the beloved who gratifies him," he would intone, "and there is no shame in gratifying a lover in the hope of gaining wisdom. κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν δὴ λόγον κἂνεἴ τις ὡςἀγαθῷχαρισάμενος καὶ αὐτὸς ὡς ἀμείνων ἐσόμενος διὰ τὴν φιλίανἐραστοῦ ἐξαπατηθείη, ἀναφανέντος ἐκείνου κακοῦ."

It had been Greek to him, but he had instinctively got the salient points: that he was forbidden fruit, that Faraday wanted him, and that Faraday enjoyed wanting him, which was to say not getting him--or not quite, not yet. Instead, it had started with little things: an arm left too long round his shoulders, a hand gripping his thigh. A test, Rodney realized, to see if he was amenable, to see if he was "that way." He was, as it turned out: amenable, that way. And then the too-slow conquest - Faraday teasing himself. Pulling Rodney onto his lap, putting his hands in his pants, the touching always going one way. Rodney heard his voice again, "Let me, let me--"

"He was a genius," Rodney croaked, then cleared his throat. "I did brilliant work for him--I was looking at the cosmic microwave background: nothing now but a pretty big deal then. We hadn't proved dark energy yet. Faraday--Christ, his ability to see the whole picture--It was incredible. I spent three years with him. It was--er. Very stimulating."

"I bet." John's face was a brick wall. "A guy could go to jail for stimulating fifteen year olds like that."

"He never did anything when anybody was around. And I knew the ground rules. He had other guys, older than me: he was more open with them. But seriously, John: I wanted to. I would have let him do anything. Hell, I did let him do anything."

"That's nearly Kit, you know," John said, crossing his arms. "What would you do if someone did that to Kit?"

"I'd cut him into pieces with a rusty butter knife," Rodney said honestly, and suddenly they were both laughing. "Small pieces. Cubic centimeters. God," Rodney sighed, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. "When did we get old?"

"Thursday. Last year. Ages and ages ago," and then John sighed and picked up Rodney's tablet. "What the hell were you doing, anyhow," he asked, frowning down at the numbers, "aside from muttering orgasmically to yourself?"

Rodney remembered the finished formula and brightened. "Oh! Hey, you'll like this!" he said, snatching his tablet back. "I've written an interface to patch Atlantis into the archival memory banks of--wait, what?" The last part of what John said filtered in. "You were listening to me?" Rodney's hand flew up to his earpiece. "You hacked my earpiece?"

"I maybe listen now and then," John admitted.

"Great! So if I'm over here muttering 'The King of Atlantis is an asshole--'"

"Best part of my day, sometimes." Rodney stared at him and John shifted uncomfortably. "When there's a lot of bowing and scraping. You know how I hate the bowing and scraping, Rodney. It calms me down a bit to hear you being--you.''

"Refreshingly unpretentious?"

"Rude and cranky," but when Rodney glared, John leaned forward and said, with soft sincerity, "Rude and cranky is worth more to me now than it's ever been," and oh. Well. At least he was being loved for who he really was. John nodded. "Beauty fades," he added, smirking, "but rude and cranky is a joy for--"

Rodney kissed him, pressing close until he was 94% certain John would break away panting and hard. "You know," he said, a little breathless himself, "for your information, I do particularly fantastic work when there are perks."

"You know, I think I knew that about you," John said, and then he grabbed Rodney by the hand and hauled him up.