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"I ♥ Boston" (Five things about John Sheppard, Librarian)

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1. The first time John walked into Rodney's Bookstore, he was wearing a red and gold striped scarf, worn right through in places and mended by Imogen's competent (if sarcastic) hand. At one point it smelled of coffee and chocolate and dust, richly masculine and serious but by the time he walked into Rodney's Bookstore, it just smelled like wet wool. Now it smells like coffee and sweat and burnt wiring - Rodney smells - and on cold mornings on his way to work John breathes deep and imagines Rodney curled around him, tickling John's thigh with his fingernails as he explains Stimac's Theorem and John is surprised to realize that now he even finds theoretical astrophysics sexy.

2. Sometimes Rodney joins John for lunch at Labyrinths, the café near the library where John has been eating for going on twenty years. Usually Rodney arrives first and orders coffee, which he drinks at a table in the back, facing the door. When John sees him, he can't help but grin like the novel he's been writing and hiding under his keyboard has just won the Pulitzer prize. One day, Rodney is held up at the Bookstore - Chuck's dads are down from the Great White North and drop by to see where their son is working - and John watches for him from Rodney's usual seat, facing the door. He runs his fingers idly over the lower surface of the table and is surprised to find that someone has carved R. M. ♥ J. S. into the wood. It's juvenile, but it makes him feel warm and reckless, and when Rodney finally arrives with Benton and Ray and Chuck, John stands up and kisses him - with tongue - in front of the entire café.

3. It doesn't occur to John to invite Rodney to his apartment at first. It's his inner sanctum; his sacred space where he sleeps surrounded by books and magazines, where he eats take-out from Curry in a Hurry in front of the television and listens to Leonard Cohen until the neighbours bang on the wall and shout for him to get over it.

Then, July 4, 2012 - John remembers because he loves fireworks almost as much as he loves Ferris wheels - Rodney invites John to spend the night with him - not on the futon in the back of the bookstore where they've been fucking like teenagers for months, but at home - and John says sure, but he's in the middle of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and could they stop by his place to pick it up because he'd really like to finish his chapter?

So they ride the "T" across town and Rodney follows John into the bedroom where the book lies in the crook of a John Sheppard shaped nest of books and magazines and half-written manuscripts. Rodney says "Oh," while John stuffs the book and his toothbrush and some clean underwear into an overnight bag. The next time John comes over, Rodney has a new King-sized bed.

Now, John sleeps with his limbs intertwined with Rodney's, cradled from behind by a crescent moon of books and when Rodney says things like "of course I'm not jealous of your pathetic decades-long love affair with your worn copies of outdated literary classics and bad sci-fi that you cuddle like your long lost teddy bear, are you a complete idiot?" John knows that Rodney's actions always speak louder than his words.

4. One morning at breakfast John asks Rodney if he's ever considered adoption. Rodney does a spit-take and laughs for three minutes and forty-three seconds - John's counting - before he realizes John wasn't joking and says, "You're serious, aren't you? Hello? Children? Have you lost your mind?"

John watches the numbers on the stove click from 7:36 to 7:37, then from 7:37 to 7:38 before he says, "Yeah, I'm serious," and slams out of the house, leaving his bowl of Cheerios on the table and his scarf and coat on the back of his chair.

John frets about it all day and makes some ridiculous mistakes fielding student questions at the Reference Desk but when he meets Rodney at the bookstore after work, shivering without his coat, Rodney hands him a cup of coffee - black, the way he likes it - and a stack of papers and says, "Where do we start?"

John says, "Rodney," and pulls him close, threading his fingers through the fine hair at the nape of Rodney's neck and touching their foreheads together before he takes the papers from Rodney's hand and drops them in the recycling. It's not that he's dropped the idea - not really - but he won't push Rodney into something he doesn't want to do, either.

"We should talk about this," Rodney says. When he comes out of from the back room, he has John's coat and scarf, which in a curiously fatherly gesture, he helps John in to. John pulls the scarf up over his nose - coffee and sweat and burnt wiring - and they walk home together hand in hand.

5. When John was young and wide-eyed and still engaged to Lisa, he thought that love was like a swelling wave, like in all the great romances; a rush of water that swept you off your feet and carried you away in a torrent of purple starfish and precious stones. Then, when Lisa left, he thought love was a tsunami roaring up a silent beach and leaving only wreckage in its wake. But Rodney is a harbour where the waves lap gently on the shore, where the underwater currents are treacherous to tourists but perfectly safe if you're a strong swimmer and know where to expect them. What he loves about Rodney - and about his life in Boston - are the little things like rills on still water stroked by the breeze. He loves the way Rodney gets so excited about Pride Week that it ends up being bigger than Christmas and John finds himself pulling rainbow streamers out of his underwear for weeks afterward. He loves that Rodney stops by the fish market sometimes to pick up something special for Seymour on the way home from work. He loves dropping by the bookstore when Rodney least expects it to find him arguing a point of theory with a customer, waving his hands as if the grandiloquence of his gestures was in direct proportion to the importance of his argument. He loves Rodney's hands, big and quick; his shoulders which are strong from lifting boxes of books; his round belly where John's hands fit just so. He loves that Rodney calls him on it when he's being outrageous but always gives him a chance and that Rodney makes him feel whole, not as if Rodney completes him, but complete all on his own. To John, Rodney and Boston are home.