Time Slip

By fancyfigures

1x2x1, AU, NC17.

Romance, just a little angst!

 

 

All I can say is, that Sunday wasn’t a dark and stormy night. Far from it.

In fact, the autumn night was cool and dry, and the wind had settled into a smooth, gentle breeze through my bedroom window.  It was around midnight and I was huddled up in bed after a hot shower, after a too-long work day, and reading what the papers had laughingly called ‘a good book’, but which was boring me slowly to sleep.

So yes, maybe I should have been out clubbing or visiting friends or going to the movies. Just something that young twenty-year-old single men like to do. But I’d never been much of a club type person. Yeah, I joked around at work, I chatted happily with the girls on reception, I bought cakes on colleagues’ birthdays, I joined in outraged debates on the latest TV reality shows.

But when I went home to my own place, that’s just what it was – mine, and mine alone. I was happy with that. I liked company, and I’d dated in the past, don’t get me wrong. But there wasn’t a hell of a lot of point to it when I hadn’t met anyone I really wanted for a very long time. People knew at work I was gay, but it didn’t cause me many problems, mainly because I didn’t make a thing of my love life – or lack of. A couple of guys had come on to me at work – plenty more came on to me outside of work. But never anything that lasted.

Did I say I was happy with that? Well, I was, more or less.  Enough of the navel-gazing. I yawned and wriggled down in the bed to get even cosier.

And then he was there.

A man, standing at the foot of my bed. Smiling at me.

My heart hammered and for a second I couldn’t speak past the lump in my throat. I darted a glance at the bedroom door. It was closed. Then at the window; also closed apart from the thin opening at the top to let in the fresh air. How the hell had he got into my apartment, let alone my bedroom?

I wanted to rub my eyes, just in case I was hallucinating – the cheese on toast I’d had for supper had been particularly pungent – but I thought it’d look weird.

Well, as weird as an uninvited man appearing suddenly in my private room. And smiling at me.

“Hi,” he said. He wasn’t flirtatious, like someone trying to pick me up in a bar. His smile wasn’t coy or predatory. It was…warm with familiarity. Had to say, it was having a very warming effect on me. He was tall and lean, his dark hair tousled and his deep-hued eyes gazing at me as I clumsily pulled myself to sitting. He was wearing a smart dress shirt with a pale stripe, and suit pants that were creased at the tops of his legs as if he’d been in them all day at a desk. No necktie, and the top button of his shirt undone. The clothes didn’t hide the very fit body, or the confident way he held himself. He was good looking in that haven’t-noticed-it-myself way that some self-assured men have. Very good-looking. And despite the suddenness of his appearance, he seemed perfectly relaxed, his arms by his sides.

“Hi there, gorgeous,” he said.

I blinked hard. I looked down at myself – at the edge of my braid hanging tangled over my shoulder, at my “Joe Internet” T-shirt with an ingrained tomato sauce stain on the hem, hanging over a rather old pair of brightly checkered boxers. To say nothing of my Disney sleep socks, which thankfully were hidden under the sheets. “Um…hi.”

His eyes narrowed, though he was still smiling. “What’s up? I know I’m late, but I couldn’t call you.” For a moment, he looked puzzled. “I can’t recall the reason. Anyway, I’m sorry.”

I just stared. I was waiting for the Twilight Zone theme to stop playing in my head. “Um. It’s okay.”

“Are you sure?” He rubbed a hand across his eyes and peered around the room. “I’m not sure what time it is, I’m afraid. Did I wake you?”

I shook my head. This was bizarre but no point in antagonizing him further.

“Good.” He looked reassured. “We both need our sleep, there’s a long week ahead. There’s such a lot to get ready for the Sherrringham presentation. Much as I like you bringing me a morning cup of blackberry cinnamon tea, I’d better pass on it tomorrow. Need to get in early to the office.” He must have noticed my mouth hanging open because he frowned and took a step towards me. “Duo? Is something else wrong?”

I shook my head again. Felt like one of those dogs on the back shelf of a car. “No. No problem. Um…” Inspired conversationalist, that’s me. “’Night then.”

He smiled again. “Good night.”

And he came right over to the bed and put his hand on the coverlet, as if to turn it down. On the other side of the bed. The empty side. The one beside me.

I think I may have yelped because his head jerked back up. I know I pulled the sheet up to my chest like some virginal heroine in a romance novel.

“There is something wrong.” He looked concerned now. “Are you really annoyed?” He kept his hand on the sheet but he didn’t move any nearer. An expression of confusion flickered across his handsome face. “I don’t understand.”

You and me both. I could smell cologne; the fresh laundered scent of his clothes. “Look. It’s just.” That conversational finesse of mine was way gone by now. I sighed, trying to calm my fast beating heart. “I don’t know what you’re doing here.”

This time, the expression on his face wasn’t confusion but distress. The dark purple eyes widened and his face flushed as if something had hurt him. As if I had, I suppose.

“I mean…” What did I mean? “I wasn’t expecting you. Tonight. Here.”

The change of phrase seemed easier for him to accept. He let go of the sheet and took a small step back, his puzzlement returning. “I can tell. I know what’s happening here.”

“Do you?” I blurted out.

He smiled, though a little sadly. “There’s still a lot about each other we need to learn.” Then, before I could anticipate what he was going to do, he leaned over me, cupped my face and touched his lips to my cheek.

He was no ghost. Definitely. The caress was gentle and his palm warm on my skin. His lips were moist and firm. Real lips. What’s more, my whole body flushed with a heat that owed nothing to the sleep socks and everything to desire and deeply-held emotion. My hand lifted from the bed to touch him in return.

“Heero…” I whispered.

And then he was gone, just like that.

I sat there for minutes, not moving, not getting up to close the door after him or anything. Because it had never been open in the first place. I peered into the dim light of the bedroom for a while, but there was no hint left of him, no shadow, no lingering aura.

It was like he’d never been here at all.

I didn’t actually touch my cheek like they do in the movies, but I could feel the imprint of his lips for a long time afterwards. And I was in shock.

You see, I knew the guy. I expected to see him first thing tomorrow morning, at the start of a new working week. I had a cubicle a few yards down the corridor from him at the accounting office where we both worked. He was bright, determined, technically brilliant and just as handsome as he’d appeared here tonight.

But I’d never have dared say anything about that aloud.

He was my boss, Heero Yuy.  And I’d barely spoken more than a few dozen words to him since I started the job.

 

 

*

 

 

Quatre stuck his head around the entrance to my cubicle, his blue eyes wide. “Yuy’s only just arrived! No one knows what’s happened, why he’s late. On a Monday of all days. Trowa’s taking bets on alien abduction. We can’t think of any other reason he wouldn’t be at his desk as usual by…”

“07:02,” I finished for him.

Quatre’s eyes narrowed. “That’s very precise, Duo Maxwell.”

“Yeah, well.”  I resisted glancing to my left but I knew what I’d see, anyway. Heero Yuy, coming from the station, crossing the freeway and then the parking lot, smartly suited, carrying his case, cool and always in control. I was lucky in having a cubicle that had a window, and not so lucky in an attitude that got bored way too easily with transactional analysis and balance sheet reviews. I looked out of that window a lot. Wondering what those other city people were doing out there, what jobs they had, what apartments they lived in, what lovers they enjoyed…

Anyway, I often slipped behind on my final reviews and the only time I felt bright enough and concentrated enough to work on them was first thing in the morning. I’d come in around 06:30 to a silent, empty office and catch up. I’d still browse through the window of course. And over the last couple of months, I’d watched Heero Yuy arrive at work at the same time every day, without fail. Never a variation in time or routine. He’d wait to be directed to cross the busy freeway, then stride across the parking lot and enter the building.

I assumed he had an executive parking bay, but he never used it. Public transport was okay, I supposed, but then I had no other option. I was sure he’d have a big ass, shiny car but when I suggested it to Trowa, he just wrinkled his nose and said Yuy was a tight bastard who didn’t believe in spending money, his own or the company’s. I think Trowa was still resentful that Heero hadn’t signed off on a new, state-of-the-art computer for him last month. Quatre and I made noises of sympathy, but we both knew Trowa hadn’t stood a snowball’s chance in hell.

Heero would march past my own cubicle to his own office, without looking my way. Well, just once he had, but I assume that was because something outside the window caught his eye. His step faltered for a second, but then he strode on regardless, arriving at his desk at – I didn’t really need to check my clock but I did, each time it happened – 7:02 exactly.

And I’d still be sitting in my rather shabby cubicle, usually with a pencil behind my ear and coffee stains on the computer print in front of me, wondering. Not about figures, I can tell you. Just… what Heero was doing, how the hell he managed to be so precise when there were so many things in life to distract a guy’s best intentions, whether he was the same outside of his regimented work, whether he’d really seen me that morning but couldn’t stand the thought of cracking that schedule just to say “hi” to a minion clerk like me…

Anyway.  He was always a fine sight for me, in a selection of suits that weren’t designer or anything – Quatre would have known the brand immediately – but fit him perfectly. Polished shoes, well cut hair. Confident stride, broad shoulders, slight whiff of understated cologne. Walking embodiment of Mr. Executive. In everyone’s mind – and most of the water cooler gossip – Heero Yuy was “going places” in the firm.

But today? He was still at his desk before the firm’s official opening time, of course, but according to his own rigid schedule? He was late.

Anyone might wonder what had brought that on.

Quatre waved his hand in front of my face, grinning. “Earth to Duo. Where are you?”

I stuck my nails into my palm to try and stop any hint of a blush. “Nowhere. Just got the Sherringham cash account billings to finish by lunchtime.”

Quatre rolled his eyes. “Dammit, yes, I’ve got the portfolio summary to collate for the client meeting on Friday.”

“Who’s running that meeting?”

Quatre went pale. “He is. You don’t think I’ll actually have to sit in, do you? I thought I could just run off the reports, then leave them for Wufei to distribute. He’ll probably have to be there as junior manager, though he’s coughing today in anticipation of a serious, previously unknown throat virus arriving Thursday night.”

I grinned. My friends and colleagues were all adult, presumably mature men, but it seemed like the thought of a meeting with Heero Yuy had them regressing to nervous school kids.

Not just them, but the whole office. People were terrified of Heero.  You could see it in the way they avoided passing his door, even if it was closed; the way their voices dropped in volume when they spoke his name. He fired at will, didn’t suffer fools at all, and in three years at the company, had apparently never cracked an office joke or shared a single snippet of personal information with anyone. No one dared challenge him; no one dared be late or inappropriate or – God forbid – inefficient. No one dared share gossip about him, even if they could have found something juicy to work on. Instead, they avoided him and his ire at all costs.

Sherrinhgam’s were our largest and most prestigious client. Heero had been their manager for a year now, and woe betide the lot of us if the annual presentation didn’t go as smooth as silk.

I mean, I felt the same way about him as other employees. Guy was fierce; very forceful. I’d messed up a few reports when I first started and he’d sent them straight back with a curt note to correct them. Immediately. I’d only been at the firm for a few months, I didn’t need red pen all over my file quite that soon. I should have been crushed I’d appeared on his radar, when most of the other guys told me to keep my head down if at all possible. I mean, I was crushed, of course.

But sometimes I heard him talking with excitement to a client on the phone, or checking with a clerk through something that had been done really well, and I saw the sparkle of passion and satisfaction in his eye. I’d seen him work late on stuff someone else had messed up, until it was up to his standard and wouldn’t embarrass either his team or the firm. I’d heard him stand up to a fellow manager whom we all knew was useless but no one had ever had the nerve to confront. And occasionally – very occasionally – I’d seen him watching people in the office who were laughing or joking or generally happy, and I’d seen a glimmer of softness in his eye.

Maybe I was projecting things on to him. I don’t know.

Just… I still wondered about him, and on a personal level. Whether he was single, or attached. Whether he was gay or straight. Whether he was human at all, dammit.

Whatever the reasons, I’d spent a lot of the last few months thinking about Heero Yuy.

 

 

*

 

 

I didn’t get any warning apart from my internal phone ringing twice then disconnecting. The display had flashed Quatre’s extension. Next minute, he was at the entrance to my cubicle.

Heero Yuy.

I think I just stared. It was a hell of a shock, and not just because I was probably in trouble with my work. But because I found myself looking at the man who’d appeared so strangely in my bedroom last night. No question of it, the same guy, albeit now in a different set of work clothes. He wasn’t wearing his jacket this morning and his tie was slightly loosened, but he was still a picture of fine grooming. God knows how he managed it, when I always looked like I’d gone three rounds with a hedge, whatever trouble I took with my appearance. I could see the dusky skin of his neck, the sinews of his throat. His eyes were as dark as they’d been at midnight, and just as intense. One single lock of his thick hair fell artfully over his forehead. Over his frown.

He coughed, maybe to recall me from wherever I’d spaced out to.

I surreptitiously ran a hand over my own hair, flicking the braid behind me so it wasn’t too obvious. There was nowhere in the staff manual that allowed hair as long as mine.

His eyes flickered over me and he frowned even more. Maybe the “surreptitiously” needed more work.

“Maxwell, isn’t it? You’re working on the Sherringham accounts, I believe.”

I cringed inside; probably outside, too. I was sure he knew damned well I was. What had I fucked up now? “Yeah. I mean, yes, Mr. Yuy. I’ve been on the billing.”

“You’re on the investment portfolio?”

I blinked hard. “Um…no. That’s not me. That’s one of the other guys, Quatre Winner –”

“That wasn’t a query, Mr. Maxwell. It was a statement. You will prepare the copy reports and bring them to the meeting with the client on Friday.”

I will…what? “I don’t think so,” I blurted out.

He tensed where he stood; it was as if the air sucked out of the room. “Excuse me?”

I caught and held his startled gaze. He seemed to have been staring quite deliberately at a point to the left of my nose. Now I thought I saw his pupils dilate, but that may just have been managerial fury, of course. And there was nothing else there except anger. No recognition of me beyond annoyance at a clerk’s insolence.

Or not so I could see.

“Look, I don’t know anything about the investment side. Why the hell would you want me in on an important meeting as part of your presentation team?”

He sucked in a breath as if to prepare himself to give me the tongue lashing I was inevitably due. And then, for the first time ever in the office, I saw him hesitate. “I… I’m not really sure.”

Huh? He’d paled, quite noticeably. “Heero? Are you okay?”

“It’s Mr. Yuy to you,” he said, but distractedly. “I just thought… it was you I needed to…”

“To…?”

He seemed to snap out of it. “To bring up to speed on the work, Maxwell. A large proportion of the work was done on the investment side, and I need someone best placed to reconcile the billing with the team’s time sheets.”

“And I’ll do? Just any guy you can find?” I don’t know what the hell self-crucifying stuff was coming out of my mouth but I couldn’t seem to rein it in.

“Any guy?” He gave a short laugh, looking confused and still pale. “Just have the work prepared and be there. I don’t have the appetite for your rather odd sense of humour.” He rubbed a hand over his eyes in a very uncharacteristic gesture of uncertainty. “I don’t seem to have the energy for argument this morning, either.”

“Maybe you didn’t sleep too well last night, Mr. Yuy,” I said, even more recklessly.

Now he scowled. “That’s enough, Maxwell. This is a work matter, keep your personal comments for after work hours.”

“Yeah.” I stood, slowly, holding on to my desk for support because I felt shaken by my memories. By that movement of his hand over his face, by the tang of that light cologne he wore. “I’ll work on stuff for the meeting, then. Look, I’m getting another coffee. You want one?”

He stared at me. “Of course not. I mean…” He seemed to recover his manners, even if he was my boss. “I only drink tea.”

I nodded. “The machine doesn’t serve it.”

He frowned again, as if I were speaking an alien language to him – which I probably was. “Tea? What are you taking about? Of course it does.”

“Not blackberry cinnamon tea,” I said, bluntly. And I had the strange satisfaction of seeing him turn even paler as I nudged past him out of my cubicle.

 

 

*

 

 

That night, it happened again.

I thought it was the beer. You know – too much of it. I’d had a hell of day trying to get up to speed with Quatre’s work, then checking on the report formats with Wufei. And all the time, having to put up with their teasing, alternating between relief it wasn’t them going into the meeting with Mr. Impossible To Please (their capitalization, carrying on the school kids theme) and sympathy for my eventual yet obvious downfall. Even Trowa took time off from burying himself in accounting software trials to come and smirk.

So I stumbled home at the end of the day, yawning and fit for nothing but beans on toast and a beer. Then another.  I turned on some late night horror flick and hid behind a cushion when the resurrected ghoul-guy bit someone’s head off. But at least I didn’t fall asleep in front of the TV like I often did.

Stupid, eh? It was as if I was scared to go to bed.

Had to, in the end, when I spilled half my third beer over my sweats. I hadn’t noticed when the ghoul-guy movie gave way to a dopey-detective series, and I’d dropped off on the couch. Grumpy, in that half-land between waking and sleeping, and with a wet lap, I dragged myself to wash and climb into bed.

I looked around a few times, telling myself I was checking I’d cleared up, or making sure I’d locked the window. No gentle autumn breeze tonight, I scolded myself. I even pulled another blanket onto the bed and tucked it tightly around me. What the hell, did I think someone was going to get through my thrice-locked front door, negotiate the creaky floorboard in the middle of the living room, open my bedroom door which stuck slightly in damp weather, then climb into my bed under two blankets to get beside me – all without me noticing? I almost laughed aloud.

But that’s what he did.

Like the difference between blinking and not, he was suddenly there in the room. But this time he’d already lifted up the edge of the sheet and was sliding in underneath it. He lay down, wriggled a bit on the mattress, then turned his back to me.

“What the fuck?” I yelled, lurching up to sitting.

Heero gave a grunt and stared back at me over his shoulder, eyes wide and dark. “What the hell’s the matter with you?”

Me? “Me?”

He scowled at me. He was lying in my bed, beside me, with nothing on but his boxers…

Oh my God, I’d just realised…

And he was scowling at me.

“What are you doing?” I cried, while scrabbling up most of the sheet and blankets around me. Bad move; it just exposed him more. His skin was shadowed in the dim light of the bedroom, dusky against the white sheets. His long, slim legs stretched out to the foot of the mattress and he hugged the pillow close, as if it was a familiar position for sleep.

Nothing on but his boxers.

“What I’m doing is trying to sleep,” he snapped. “While you’re… what? Trying out for some kind of a cocoon?”

“Where the fuck did you come from?” I looked around wildly. Nothing else had moved in the room. The window was still firmly shut, the door closed. No noise from the living room, no warning alarms from outside the building. He’d just…appeared.

It was the beer, I told myself.

“Have you been drinking?” He wrinkled his nose. “I can smell beer. You have work tomorrow, you know.”

I just stared. “This is my apartment,” I said. “My room.” My voice was increasing in both volume and pitch. “My bed!”

Heero gave a deep sigh and rolled over to face me properly. He pulled himself to sitting as well. Our shoulders brushed and I felt that same rush of excitement and want that had ambushed me the previous night. I could smell the day’s sweat on his skin, the shampoo in his hair. It smelled a lot like the one that was currently in my shower. Coincidence, maybe. Why would it be anything else? This was the man who’d railroaded me today in the office, had struck fear and hysteria into the hearts of my normally intelligent friends, had bullied me into a job I was pretty sure I’d fuck up, and who so obviously didn’t care a toss either way.

Who had never even noticed me before.

“Duo?” I realised he was staring at me.

“Heero?” I sounded rather snappy.

“I’m sorry.”

I gaped at him. That was another piece of water cooler gossip. The Perfect Heero Yuy had never – ever – apologized to anyone in the office.

“Please.” He looked genuinely upset. “I just don’t think. You’re right.”

I am?

“I’m just wrapped up in my own worries. It’s hard for me to share them with anyone. That’s the way I always used to be. You know…before.” He gazed at me as if this would mean something to me. “But that’s no excuse. I’m just tense about the presentation and taking it out on you. When I should be sharing it all with you – drawing strength from you.”

Great jumping balls of paranormal!

“Heero…” I started slowly because one, my throat was tight with shock and a not inconsiderable fear, and two, I realised the lunacy of talking to a man who couldn’t be in my room, but who was, and who had…

Nothing on but his boxers.

“Are you feeling okay? I mean, how are you feeling?”

“I’m fine.” He smiled but his eyes looked puzzled. He put his hand on my arm. “Of course I am, when I’m here.”

“Ah.” I cleared my throat. I would have inched away from him but I’d have fallen out of bed. “That’s the thing, you see. Do you really know where you are?”

He laughed, but he still looked bemused. “I’m at your apartment.”

“And?”

He glanced around the room. “In bed, as usual. I know I’m late home again, but there’s nothing else different. What’s this all about?”

As usual.

“Heero, this… isn’t usual for me.”

He just stared. His fingers tightened on my arm.

“I’m not used to you…appearing like this. Being here. Being in my bed. This is…”

“What?” His voice was oddly clipped.

“Weird,” I said. Immediately wished I’d chosen a better word. Then thought, dammit, why was I worrying when I was the one being spooked like this? “This isn’t real, you know.”

He shifted clumsily, as if I’d suddenly spurred him into movement. But instead of dropping his hand, he put the other one on my other arm, and held tight. I didn’t know whether to be afraid of someone who…well, wasn’t really there. Was he? So how come I could smell his skin, could feel the tension in his muscles as he gripped me, could see the small bead of sweat on his upper lip as he…?

Leaned in and kissed me.

Time stopped. My heart stopped, though it started again with a kick – and then started racing. I probably should have pulled away, or yelled again, or punched him out.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I leaned back, let my hands rest on his broad shoulders, and I kissed him back. Hard. His lips were just as firm as last night, but this time I met them full on, and tasted every bit. His tongue flickered at my lower lip until I opened my mouth an inch. Then he thrust in, finding my tongue and nudging against it. I could hear panting and I think it was mine. He gave a soft, slow moan that went right to my groin.

I tried to wriggle out of the bedding but I was thoroughly tangled. With a low laugh, Heero broke from the kissing and helped me pull myself free of my blanket protection.

I stared into his shining eyes, dark and full of need for me.  His lips glinted in the dim night light, his teeth white in contrast, his skin flushed. I had his arms around me and his warmth pressed against me from chest to hip.

Why the hell would I seek protection from this?

With a grunt, he pushed me back down in the bed and rolled on top of me. It was just about this time my fevered brain pulled some of itself together and remembered we were both in bed, with…nothing on but our boxers. Didn’t know about him, but my cock was thick and needy and trying to push its way out through a placket that this pair didn’t have. The growl in the back of his throat made me hard, his kisses made me hungry, the way he fit against me made my heart ache with desire for him.

Did I say, didn’t know about him? He was hard, too, I couldn’t mistake it. His cock swelled the front of his boxers and nudged against my belly.

“Duo?” He pulled back for a second from kissing me, a thin trail of saliva clinging to my upper lip. “This is real, isn’t it?”

Oh my God, yes. I reached for him, pulling him back down against me, pressing my lips to his neck, his throat. I slid a hand down his back to his ass and squeezed the tight muscle. “Yes,” I gasped. “Oh, yes.”

He smiled, his eyes gone suddenly wild. “Duo, I want…”

And then he’d gone.

Again.

Just like last night.

I waited half a minute before my heart rested back to its usual pace. I lay on my back with a vicious hard-on, my fist clenched, my mind in a whirl.

“Never had a wet dream like that before,” I joked aloud, to the no one who might be listening.

And there you have my secret, don’t you? I’ve spent many, apparently fruitless hours thinking and wondering about Heero Yuy, and not just because I have an eye on my less-than-glorious career at the firm.  But because I have one huge, almighty crush on him. Since the day I saw him, I knew I was in trouble because the fascination and the desire was stronger than anything I’d ever felt for a man before.

Happy on my own? Yeah, I’d had to learn to be – because the only man I wanted, didn’t know I even existed beyond a name on a personnel file and on rather creased monthly billing reports.

Now I’d had him in my bed, holding me, kissing me – wanting to do more. But in my daily, waking hours, he’d never given any indication before that he’d like to do that – or anything remotely intimate at all.

My waking hours. Yeah. This had to be a dream of some kind, right?

A nightmare, more like.

That lunacy I’d suspected was taking hold. I rolled over on my suspiciously wet boxers, squashing my painful erection and – along with it – my hopeless hopes.

 

 

*

 

 

“So why does he keep coming around to your cubicle?” Quatre sat perched on the edge of my desk, his early morning ebullience not really what I wanted after my miserable night.

“You poor bastard.” Trowa shook his head at me, leaning against my cubicle wall.

“Yeah. Your hours are numbered.” Wufei yawned beside Trowa and stretched, his first-of-the-morning cup of coffee tilting perilously over my files.

“What do you mean?” I had a hell of a headache and I didn’t need the three Stooges greeting me as I dragged myself into work, late and listless. I hadn’t slept much after… well, after the previous evening’s adventure in Weird City. I’d watched more trash on TV and drunk another couple of beers, trying to ease my mood, and finally tumbling into bed again in the small hours of the morning. When the alarm attempted to wake me for work today, I’d been borderline homicidal. Or maybe suicidal.

“What the hell do you mean, he keeps coming around?” I peered at the time on my computer. “I’m not that late, am I?”

“No.” Quatre was obviously trying not to sound too excited in case it meant trouble for me, but he couldn’t resist the thought of melodrama, even at my expense. “I came in early today to get started on the new Atkinson account, and…” He lowered his voice with an exaggerated glance over his shoulder. “…he was already in his office.”

“7:02,” I murmured, a little morosely.

“Yeah. Whatever.” I saw Quatre trade shrugs with Trowa over my bent head. “But then he came out of his office and walked up here.”

“On his way to the kitchen. Or the water cooler. Or the restroom.” I shrugged, too.

“No!” Quatre was almost wriggling with agitation. “He stopped right here, outside your cubicle, and looked in. Then…” he drew a deep breath, as if delivering the coup de grace, “he went back to his office.”

“And did it again a half hour later,” Trowa added. “I was bringing up some software appraisals for the sales department.”

I glanced at Wufei, usually the most steady of my friends. He raised his eyebrows. “It’s true, Duo. He came around again, just fifteen minutes ago. I was here to see if you wanted to go through the slides for the presentation again. Yuy was standing outside your cubicle, looking…” He raised his arms, palms upwards, then dropped them again.

“What?” Quatre said. “Looking what?”

Wufei looked at me rather than his questioner, a strange look in his eyes. “Sort of confused. Like he wasn’t sure why he was there.”

Someone coughed behind him and he jumped like he’d been shot.

“Mr. Chang, isn’t it?”

“Oh shit,” Quatre breathed under his breath. Trowa had gone a strange sickly colour and pulled immediately away from the wall, straightening his posture.

Wufei’s eyes were wide and wild. He turned slowly. “Good morning, M – Mr. Yuy.”

Heero stood in the opening. Dammit, my space was so small, there wouldn’t have been room for him inside. Our eyes met, then he glanced away and back to the others. “Have you transferred to this department, Mr. Chang? And, more specifically, to this actual cubicle? And your friends as well?”

Quatre looked like he wanted to pee his pants but was too scared even to do that. Trowa wrung his hands together. Wufei’s mouth opened but it took him three attempts before he could speak.

“We just came to help Duo… Mr. Maxwell with the presentation for Friday, Mr. Yuy.”

“And we’re going…” Quatre added.

“Now,” Trowa said, pushing Quatre firmly in front of him as they tried to squeeze out of the cubicle without brushing against Heero.

Heero let them go, though he was frowning. He turned back and glared at me.

“What?” I said sharply and, probably, rashly. “You’ve sprung this on me at a couple of days’ notice, so I’m researching where I can. Okay?”

To my astonishment, he flushed. “I…understand that approach, Mr. Maxwell. If you feel that works best for you…”

“And for fu- for goodness sake, call me Duo. Can’t stand this formal stuff.”

Not from the guy who had his tongue down my throat last night in bed.

I dropped my gaze back to my desk, expecting Heero to storm back to his office and immediately draft the email for firing me on the grounds of gross misconduct. After a couple of seconds, I realised he was still there. In fact, he’d taken a couple of steps into my cubicle, so he was hidden from the corridor.

I looked up. He stood there in another of his superb suits, his stance almost military – and an expression in his eyes of turmoil.

Something made me stupidly aggressive. “Can I help? Look, I’ll do my best on this presentation, you’ll have to trust me. I may not be one of your brightest guys, but I get there in the end. And I do need the others to help me through. But Sherringhams will be pleased with it, I’m sure.”

“So am I,” he said, his voice very quiet. He kept staring at me.

I sighed and swung my chair around to face him properly. “Okay. I’m sorry I was so dam- so rude. I had a bad night, but I’m over it now.”

“So did I,” he said, startling me again. “But…I’m not sure I am.”

“Am…?”

“Over it.”

And when I just sat there, my mouth falling open, he lifted a hand and, with a grimace, gestured for me to join him in the corridor. “Will you come for a coffee, Duo Maxwell?”

 

 

*

 

 

I don’t think the kitchen had ever seen such a thing. As we walked in, the three people sitting there leaped to their feet in a scraping of chairs, and vanished like mist. A couple of them looked back over their shoulder with expressions of sympathy. Guess they though I was headed for an exit interview. I wasn’t sure what I was there for, myself, to be honest.

I poured myself a coffee and offered the pot to Heero, who refused with a curt shake of the head. He sat down on one of the plastic chairs, rather gingerly. “I…”

“…only drink tea, right.”

He shook his head again, now looking irritated. “How did you know what brand I drink? Yesterday, you said…It’s not readily available. And not in this part of town.”

He must have been damned disturbed to blurt that out. I shrugged. “Lucky guess, that’s all.”

He frowned. “There’s something odd about you, Mr. Max- Duo. But I don’t know whether you’re insubordinate, insufferable or just plain…”

“Weird?” I said, softly.

His eyes widened and for what may have been one of the first times in his life, he looked scared. I wanted to go over and put my arms around him.

Shows how disturbed I was, didn’t it?

“I need to get back to the presentation work,” I said, dropping my gaze to the counter. I tried to make it sound like I cared. “I’ve only been trained on billings for a couple of months…”

“I know,” he interrupted. “I’ve seen you.” When I stared back across at him, he looked just as surprised, as if he hadn’t meant to say it. And, my God, as I continued to stare, a deep flush began creeping up his neck.

Wonder of wonders!

“I mean,” he said, obviously searching for some kind of excuse for such an outrageously personal comment. “I’ve received reports of your progress. You have a good grasp of incomplete records.”

Damned well had to, for some of the timesheets his guys put in, I wanted to joke. But the serious look in his eye stopped me. “So?”

“So… what?” he said.

“So you asked me here for coffee, didn’t drink any, talked some nonsense about tea and my modest career. And you find me insubordinate but with some promise in the accounting department. So what’s this all about?”

It was an echo of his own words last night, as I proceeded to tell him he wasn’t real. Well, that his visit to my apartment wasn’t. And as it wasn’t real, he wouldn’t see any connection himself, would he?

So why did his whole body go tense?

That time he came up the corridor and looked in…

I’ve seen you.

I shouldn’t read too much into it. A hope and a dream, combined – they weren’t always enough.

I put down my coffee with a sigh. Damned stuff was like treacle within an hour of the office opening and even I didn’t drink it that strong. “I’ll go back now.”

He stood abruptly. “Wait.”

Not many people would ignore that imperious tone, and I wasn’t one of them.

“You also said… about sleeping badly.”

My turn to tense up. Surely this wasn’t an admission that weird things were happening to him, too? No, I admonished myself. Don’t be so stupid. This was my problem alone. “I just had a bad dream, is all.”

He sucked in a breath, but by then I’d turned my head away. All I could remember was how he smelled, how he sounded, how his skin felt under my fingertips.  Or rather, how my ‘other’ Heero felt. See? I was thinking of him possessively now. A man who was a virtual stranger to me, who was my boss, who could easily have me fired – or worse, make me leave my job just because I had some stupid crush on him that was causing me the most vivid hallucinations…

Shit.  I wasn’t going to get an erection right here in the kitchen, was I? Maybe I could hang the towels on it. Maybe that was just wishful thinking, though it felt thick enough for the job, the gentle but insistent swelling in my pants, as I recalled how near we’d come to...

“Not bad,” Heero said. “The dreams aren’t always… bad.”

Good grief.

“It’s just stress,” I said, my voice sounding a bit hoarse. This Twilight Zone was multiplying fast. “The presentation weighing on your mind…”

“Stop!” he said, sharply.

“What?”

“Don’t you dare mock me like that!” He pushed past me roughly, making for the door. “I don’t know what game you’re playing, Maxwell, but you’d better understand that I’m not standing for it.”

I watched him stride up the corridor, though a couple of his steps looked a little less steady than usual.

The dreams aren’t bad.

My heart started beating faster, but whether from excitement or fear, I didn’t know. I called after him, not sure if he’d even hear.

“Make sure to say hi next time you’re passing, okay?”

 

 

*

 

 

I had to go home at some stage, right?

But I sat in the office until almost everyone else had gone home. I even watched the infamous Heero Yuy leave, staring out of my window as he left the building, smart suit and shoes, case in his hand as usual. His going home routine was as rigid as his arrival. 19.05 he’d leave the building, cross the parking lot. The lights on the freeway changed at 19.11, he crossed to the other side, walked on into the distance, on his way to the station and home. He had it down to a fine art. Everything in control, everything to plan.

Maybe he had a guy at home, someone who was taking full advantage of those moist lips and those strong hands. That perfect control.

Fuck.

And what did I have? A dream, that was all. And rather a cruel one, it seemed. I packed up the work on my desk and looked out over the darkening sky.

Dammit, maybe it was time to force the issue.

 

 

*

 

 

That night, I was waiting. It had happened at around midnight the last two nights, and although I started off pretending not to care, as the time crept around to that point, I felt myself tense up. I went into the bedroom and changed carefully into…well, what kind of lingerie does a tall, wiry young man wear when he’s waiting for his dream lover? I tried the leopard-print thong that Quatre got me for a laugh last Christmas, but I couldn’t seem to walk properly with it on. I had some hip-hugging briefs but I managed to put my thumb through the waistband while I was tugging them on. I decided on the usual boxers, but while I was looking through the rest of my meager choice, I found another pair like the ones I had on when ‘Heero’ first came to call. I couldn’t remember what had possessed me to buy them, apart from the fact they were loose and warm at night in bed. But how the hell had I expected to attract any potential lovers, with a checkered pattern that mixed bright blue stripes with blocks of vivid purple?

I started to laugh.

And just as suddenly as before, there he was.

I scooted over to my side of the bed, though I was sitting on top of the covers tonight.  He stood at the side of the bed – his side, as I’d started to think of it – and looked over at me. He was wearing a casual outfit this time, polo shirt and casual pants. Looked fabulous in it. I realised I’d never seen Heero Yuy outside of work, so I had no idea what he’d wear, or whether he’d look exactly like this. But I was sure he’d look just as fabulous.

“Hi there gorgeous,” he said, smiling.

“Hi yourself,” I replied.

“You sound happy.”

I smiled even more widely. “You’re here.”

He flushed, but he looked pleased.

“Come on over,” I said, patting the mattress beside me. Jeez, could I have got more cheesy?

But tonight, he was the hesitant one. “Duo, what’s wrong?”

I shook my head. “Nothing.” Apart from my heart beating so hard it was crowding my throat, that is. “I’m good.”

He smiled, though it looked sad. “Yes, you definitely are. But I don’t mean you. I mean me.” He gave himself a small shake, like a dog trying to clear water droplets from its coat. “It doesn’t feel right anymore.”

Shit. Misery clutched me, bone deep. “That’s my fault, Heero. I told you this was wrong. Told you it wasn’t real.” Maybe I expected him to vanish with the words, my pathetic illusion finally snatched away from me. But he remained there, staring at me. Then he climbed on to the bed, reached over and kissed me. Very firmly. Very deliciously. Took us a minute or two before we even came up for air.

“It certainly feels real,” he said.

I laughed, a short, shocking sound, more hysteria than amusement. “Sure does.”

“I want you,” he murmured. He ran his hand down my chest, plucking at the thin T-shirt I was wearing. “Do you believe that’s real?”

I looked into his dark, swimming eyes and felt myself drawn in so deep I thought I’d have to call for a lifeguard. His hand was steady on me, his expression yearning. I may not have known much about the real Heero Yuy, but I didn’t know anyone had ever accused him of being a liar.

“Yes,” I whispered. “And you know what?”

He smirked.  Honest to God, the inscrutable, intractable Heero Yuy smirked at me. “You feel the same?”

Told you he was bright. I rolled my eyes but my smile told my story. Well, that and the big tent in my boxers. He pushed me firmly on to my back and my spare underwear tumbled off the bed on to the floor. I was hoping I wasn’t going to need any of it, for tonight, at least.

For such a forceful, assertive guy he was very gentle. At least at first, when he peeled off my T-shirt and boxers.  I struggled with his clothes, determined to get him just as naked, but I felt clumsy in my own skin. Heero laughed and helped me out, pulling off his shirt with a smooth, easy action, toeing off his boots, then unzipping his pants and pushing them off the edge of the bed to the floor.

Nothing on but his boxers.

And then they’d gone as well. God, he was spectacular! His skin was warm against mine as he nudged my knees apart, his hands on my shoulders, his chest pressed to mine. I reached for one of his nipples and tweaked it, not so gently. He arched up against me, moaning. His arms were strong enough to keep him braced above me, but his head bent down to kiss me, to run his tongue over my throat.

“Duo. What do you want tonight?” His whisper was hoarse, his breath hot against my cheek.

I didn’t have any norm for this, any established routine. We were in separate places, I knew, but this night we were together. “Just do it,” I sighed back. “Fuck me. That’s what I want.”

He chuckled, low and throaty. “Me, too. But you know that, right?”

I didn’t answer. My senses were awash with excitement and lust, but even if I could have replied, I don’t know what I’d have said. I wriggled around to reach in my bedside drawer for condoms, and found his hand already there, his arm stretched across me. He laughed softly. He knew things were there. Another lucky guess? Most guys kept intimate stuff close at hand.

Or was it more inexplicable proof he knew his way around my bedroom?

Our kissing was too consuming to allow me to think – to worry.

Was it taking advantage of him? I didn’t think so. We were both in the same situation, both out of our element. But it looked like he was here to stay the night, and he was used to me – that he wanted me.

“Your hair,” he gasped, tangling his hands into it, tugging my head back. “Fantastic. You smell so good, Duo. Those sounds you make…”

It was all stuff like that – stuff no one had said to me for a long, long time. A dream come true. And towards the end, when I couldn’t hold back my climax and gripped his arms hard, arching against him, I cried out loudly.

But not too loudly to hear his whisper of awe and delight as he came inside me, his eyes fixed on my face as if memorizing every feature. “I love you, Duo.”

What was I to make of that?

We rolled apart slowly, the bed dipping under our bodies, the sheets clinging to our sweaty limbs.

“Wow.” Heero was still panting. “Duo, that was intense. Like you’ve been saving that up.” His eyes glinted in the dim light of the room. “Thank you.” Then he kissed me before I could try to think up some response to that, and I let him.

Very happily.

I didn’t know what time it was, or what time passed. We lay there for a long, languid time, just wrapped around each other. My hair was a tangled mess, my muscles were tired, and my skin was goose bumping as the sweat cooled. I didn’t care about any of the discomfort. I’d been worried that he’d suddenly disappear again, like he had before, but it didn’t seem to be happening. I prayed that it wouldn’t.

Please don’t go yet.

Don’t go at all.

But as usual, I didn’t know when to keep my mouth shut. “Heero? Look, this won’t work.”

He tensed up. I could almost feel his annoyance brewing. “I think we’ve discussed this before.”

“No, listen to me. I don’t think…I mean, I don’t think you even like me.”

“What the hell have we just been doing?” His mutter tickled my neck.

“I don’t mean here right now, but…elsewhere.” In real life, I wanted to say. But what was more real than this? “You see, you barely know me. We haven’t really got anywhere near…this.”

“This?”

God, for a guy who usually had a good line in wit and banter, I was sorely tried tonight. “The sex,” I said, weakly. “The intimacy.” The love.

He shifted on the bed beside me. “I don’t understand.”

“Well, neither do I,” I said, miserably. Why was I still fighting it? Because it wasn’t true, that was why. Because despite the joy of Heero in my bed, as my lover, whispering he loved me in the deep dark of the night…

“Stop it, Duo.” He’d rolled to face me, his eyes damp, his expression grave. Suddenly, I was sure he knew exactly what I was talking about. “Stop talking about it. Just accept it.”

“It? But what is it?” I cried. “You know this isn’t right, that we’re not lovers, that we’re only connecting here in my room, at night, for God knows how long. Don’t you?”

“You’re confused.”

“Too fucking right I am!” The anger was rolling through me now. “Any second now you’re going to vanish in your puff of smoke, and tomorrow all I’ll see of you will be the big, bad executive who passes me in the corridor without a nod, and –”

Heero clamped a hand over my mouth, silencing me. “I said to stop it. I don’t want to hear.”

I nodded, dumbly. His eyes were wide and scared, and I didn’t like the thought I’d made him feel bad like that.

“I don’t know how this can happen,” he said, his jaw set. “But to me, it seems…”

“Real?” I whispered.

“Right.” He nodded. He ran his fingers across my chest and my whole body hummed with pleasure. “And I want it to be so. I think… that’s what I’ve been waiting for. Just didn’t know how to make it happen.”

I caught up his hand and brought it to my lips, kissed the palm. “I’ve wanted you for a long time.” It felt good to confess. “I mean, you may be a right bastard at work –”

“What the hell?”

“No, I don’t want to talk about that, but these last few days… nights…you’re different.”

His eyes had recaptured the dreamy look I’d seen when he was raised over me, moving in and out of me. He ran the ends of my hair through his fingers, stroking it. His gaze kept flickering away from my face and down my body. “Different, good?”

I grinned. “Oh yeah.”

He smiled too but he didn’t make another move on me, just kept stroking my hair. “There’s so much I can’t remember, can’t understand – but I know you’re what I need. It’s been that way since I met you, before I even knew what I wanted.”

“Heero…?”

“I’ve been waiting.  For you. To release me.”

What was going on? What did he mean? My chest felt very tight and I struggled for breath, but he didn’t seem to want any reply.

“Set me free, Duo,” he whispered.

And then he’d gone.

I slammed a hand down on the empty bed beside me, trying to recall the feel of him, find the shape his body had made in the sheets.

But it was all gone.

 

 

*

 

 

I pushed away from the desk, tilting my chair to ease my back, having been hunched over the presentation papers for several hours. I glanced over at my companion. Heero smiled back, the light of triumph in his eyes.

“Yeah.” I grinned at him, answering his unspoken query. “It’s ready.”

He smiled, and for a brief second, I could see the midnight Heero in his eyes – and then it was gone.

He also pulled away from the desk where we’d been working together. “You’ve done a good job. Sheringhams will have nothing to complain about here. Value for money and quality service. We’ve delivered on all counts. Well done.”

“Duo,” I said, trying to catch his eye. His gaze was distracted, darting back down over the papers, even though I knew he’d checked the figures a hundred times already.

“Pardon?”

“Say my name. Call me Duo,” I persisted. I watched his mouth. I couldn’t seem to stop doing it. Maybe I was waiting to hear some reference to last night, to what I felt we were to each other – to anything apart from revenue figures and corporate objectives.

He frowned. He was the Heero Yuy of the office, down to the last gesture. “I see. Duo. Well done.”

It wasn’t the same. I didn’t hear the deep, rich tones of last night, the whisper in my ear, the laughter when my hair tickled his belly, the gasp of wonder as I made him come.

“I’d better go.” I stood up abruptly. “The rest of the office has already left.”

“Already?” Heero glanced at his watch. I didn’t believe the expression that darted across his face because it looked impossibly like disappointment. “That’s a pity. We could have finished off with the bar charts.”

“Yes,” I said, as steadily as I could. “That is a pity.”

There must have been something in my voice because his head snapped up again. “What’s the problem?”

“Nothing,” I said. I sighed. “I just wonder if you’re different outside of work.”

He flushed a little, which surprised me. “What do you mean?”

And suddenly there was the flicker of something in his eye, something…

“Different, good,” I whispered.

There was no mistaking his shock, but the vulnerability shut down as quickly as it had arrived. “It’s no business of yours.”

I was weary of this. I walked back to the open door of his office, ready to go home. “No, of course not.”

And it wasn’t, was it? This Heero Yuy wasn’t the man who’d fucked me last night, who’d lain on my bed as if he belonged there. Who’d made love to me.

God. Sentimentality hadn’t often ambushed me like this.

“Duo?”

I turned back around, slowly.

“I’m not…” He frowned. I noticed his hand had curled into a fist at his side, as if he were trying to keep control of strong emotion. “I don’t really know what you’re talking about. But if there’s something more you want from me…”

“No,” I said, forcing a wan smile. “Nothing. Good night.”

Back in my cubicle, I cleared away the papers ready for the presentation the next morning. If he came again tonight, I’d just have to tell him it was all too weird for me. Being with him, but not…being with him. Way too weird. It’d have to stop. Something that wasn’t really there in the first place, that is. I lifted a file and caught a brief whiff of his cologne. My gut clenched.

Maybe he wouldn’t come again.

I caught a shadow of movement out of the corner of my eye and glanced over to the window. I watched Heero leaving, reluctant to miss a second of him, though it was a pretty stupid form of torture, right? Saw him leave the building, cross the parking lot. Same old, same old. Aimlessly, with the benefit of my distance, I noticed he was in the same shirt he’d worn that first night he appeared in my room. Also as I watched, I saw him flip open the top button and pull off his tie.  He seemed to be moving more abruptly than usual.

I glanced at the clock on my way out. Something felt odd, but I put I down to a too long day, and a strangely agonizing anticipation about the night ahead. 

 

 

*

 

 

That night, I waited but he didn’t come.

 

 

*

 

 

The call came at around three a.m.

I was woken by a persistent buzzing in my ears, to find I’d fallen asleep fully dressed on the couch, my braid twisted awkwardly around my left shoulder and my cell phone stuck between my right ear and a cushion. Who the hell was calling at this time of the morning? I dragged it out from under my head and peered at the display.

Quatre.

“What’s up?” My mouth felt like it’d been swept out with a bristle brush. My cheeks felt suspiciously tight, as if I’d been crying. Sentimentality was a strange and persistent disease, if you asked me.

“Duo? He’s in the hospital!”

“What? Who is?”

“Heero! Heero Yuy! He got hit by a truck on the freeway last night. He’s pretty bad.” Quatre’s voice sounded very shaky.

“Why…? Where are you?” My legs felt strangely numb. Bile rose in my throat.

“I’m at the hospital. We all are. I mean, it’s just a coincidence. Wufei’s been dating this nurse and we came with him to bring her back on shift, and then… well, we found he’d been booked in here. Heero. He’s been here since he left the office. Heero’s here, Duo.”

“Why are you repeating yourself? Why are you calling?” God, I sounded slow, drug-stupid. I dragged myself up to sitting.

“He hasn’t woken or moved, but he made one noise when they moved him into the bed. They said it sounded like “Duo.” We told the doctor we knew someone called that.”

“That’s me,” I said.

Quatre made a small sound like a moan. “He’s not responding to anything, Duo. They can see brain activity apparently, but there’s no response to any of the staff here. He’s just been lying here, ever since it happened.”

“A truck…?”

Trowa came on the line. “Duo? They think he was distracted, they wanted to know what we knew about him, why he was working so late, why he obviously misjudged the traffic. Apparently he suddenly darted right out into the path of the truck. The driver said Yuy didn’t even see him, like his mind was elsewhere. I said it might be the presentation you’ve been working on. Perhaps he was stressing out about it. What do you think?”

“Maybe…”

I remembered the clock, seeing the time as I’d left the office. It was already 19:25. Ludicrously late to be working anyway, but also way past Heero’s usual routine. He’d looked shaky as he walked to the freeway. His routine was disturbed.

Perhaps he was stressing out about it... He misjudged the traffic

If he’d left at his usual time, traffic would have been clear. Had he been so distracted he didn’t know what he was doing?  He’d left late, he probably thought he could make up the time and dodge the traffic.

Did that sound like Heero Yuy? But he was worried about the presentation, he’d told me so. Or had he? That had been bedtime talk, not office talk. The office Heero Yuy wouldn’t have admitted to any stress at all, wouldn’t have broken with routine for anything, let alone spending time with me…

Which Heero was that?

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” I said. Trowa was still talking, but I disconnected the phone and grabbed for my boots.

 

 

*

 

 

They let me stay in his room. He was all alone in there, they were waiting for him to wake up, to assess if there was any brain damage. They were hopeful there wasn’t anything seriously wrong apart from a few broken bones, but they’d feel more confident if he’d just come back to consciousness. The longer that lasted, the more likely it was he’d stay in a coma. They said plenty of things like that, looking at me with a kind of professional reassurance laced with hope.

I just sat on the cold plastic chair beside his bed and stared at the man the chart said was Heero Yuy.

But he was hardly Heero at all – not the one from the office, not the one from my bed. Just a poor, bashed body swaddled in bandages and splints, being fed life from a tube.

The other guys were out in the hall, speaking in hushed tones. Quatre kept apologizing for calling me so late, Wufei kept harassing a poor nurse – I assumed that was the girl he was dating – to find out more news. None of which was forthcoming, of course.

It was a waiting game, wasn’t it?

Trowa came in with a fresh coffee for me and kindly took away the previous one I’d never touched.

“What’ll happen to him?” I asked, though of course Trowa didn’t know any more than me.

He shrugged ruefully. “I don’t know. Stay in a coma, I suppose, until he comes out of it, or…”

“No,” I said.

Trowa nodded slowly. “Sure. Of course. That won’t happen. But he doesn’t seem to have any family, no one to call on. I mean, the staff are great here and there’ll be visitors for the patients from the social services and charities. I’m sure he’ll respond to someone in the end.”

I stared at him. “But I’m here now.”

“Yes.” Trowa smiled at me. “Lucky, isn’t it? A week ago, the hospital wouldn’t have been able to find anyone who was close, to stay with him. To care. And now…” 

“What do you mean? He’s my boss. We’re just working on the presentation.”

“Yeah,” Trowa said. “You might think we’re stupid, Maxwell, but we’ve seen how you are in front of him. While we’re drooling in fear – well, Quatre is – you stand up to him. You engage him. It’s like you already know him, have got the measure of him.”

“Care for him,” I said.

Trowa’s discreet silence told me he had the measure of me, too.

“The presentation!” I cried, suddenly. “What’ll happen to that?”

“Good God.” Trowa rolled his eyes at me but he was still smiling. “What is it, the Corporate Gene is contagious? Someone else will do it. You’ve made such a damned good job of the notes, we could probably get a performing monkey to do it. Dammit, even Quatre…”

“I heard that!” came an outraged shout from the corridor.

I smiled at Trowa. “It doesn’t matter, does it?”

“No.  Of course not. What do you want to do right now, Duo?”

I glanced back at the bed. “Talk to him,” I said.

“I’ll take the guys for a drink,” Trowa said. “Call back in on you later.” And he left the room. I could hear him shooing the others away.

I started to talk to Heero. My voice sounded odd in the quiet room, nothing but the beeping machines for background. But I quickly got used to it. I talked about the presentation, about the firm. About my friends there, the appalling coffee from the machine, the fun we had in the parking lot in the snow, the creaking floorboard under my desk, the day Trowa sat on a box of staples. A load of rubbish like that.

Then I started talking about my apartment, and the guy upstairs who wailed Russian ballads whenever he got drunk, and the woman on the lower floor whom I was sure was keeping rats. The kid in the apartment by the back door who was building a giant mecha model and let me help him with the stickers, and the girl who refused to believe I was gay and kept asking me to cello concerts. And my boiler that groaned in wet weather and the paint that flaked off my ceiling one night and made me think in the morning I’d developed some scalp disease…

“Come back, Heero,” I said suddenly, the words almost speaking themselves. “I’m here for you.”

 

 

*

 

 

He stirred around eight a.m.  His eyes opened and I leaped about for a doctor, but by the time the guy came, Heero had drifted back asleep, with just a mumble under his breath to show any life at all.

“It’s a positive sign,” the doctor reassured me. “Let’s just allow him to wake in his own time.”

“I’ll go, shall I?”

He put a hand on my shoulder to stop me rising from the chair. He was only a few years older than I was, I think, with a harassed expression and creased pants. “How many hours have you been here now? Mr. Maxwell, I suspect your company is the one and only thing that’s likely to bring him back, sooner or later.”

“I don’t want it to be later,” I blurted out.

“No,” said the doctor, drily. “Neither do we. I’ll go and get you another coffee.”

I sat silently for a while, watching Heero’s lips move, making shapes. When the words suddenly spilled out, they startled me.

“Such strange dreams, Duo. Full of horrible regrets, things I wished I’d done, people I wished… I’d got to know.”

“Heero?” I think he heard me, his head turned slightly towards me.

“I never had the courage. I was scared, Duo. How pathetic is that?”

“Scared of what?”

“Everything. Nothing. Joining in life. I couldn’t tell you, you see.”

“Tell me?”

He was rambling again. “Wanted to be with you, Duo. Always did. Didn’t know how. Didn’t see you’d ever be interested. You didn’t need a guy like me.”

“Look…”

“Mustn’t let anyone know!” he said, his voice suddenly quite firm. “It’s weakness. Must stay professional. Keep your respect.”

“Oh, Heero,” I breathed.

I put my hand over his and squeezed gently.

“Every day,” he said, his voice hoarse. “All the same. Everything the same. And wishing I’d done something, said something, made things happen. All the things I dreamed. Strange dreams. Especially now.” His eyes rolled up to look at the ceiling though I reckoned he was still talking to me. “Wanted to break the pattern, Duo.”

“By jaywalking?” I murmured, a sad smile on my face. “You fucking idiot.” For one astonishing moment, I imagined I saw a smile on his own split lips. But maybe it was the effect of the painkilling drugs.

He fell quiet. After another hour or so, the doctor came back in. I was still holding Heero’s hand, though my tired body had drooped down on the edge of the bed.

“Any more developments?” the doctor asked, quietly. He didn’t seem to mind the hand thing.

“He’s talking just…stuff,” I said.

The doctor nodded. “It happens with a serious head wound. It’s very disorientating. Sometimes there’s truth in the talk, though.” He was looking at me curiously. “Sometimes the shock and injury releases inhibitions.”

“Releases?” I stared back at him.

In the bed, Heero moaned again. I think only I caught his mumbled words. “Is it too late now?”

 

 

*

 

 

So what really had happened?

I leaned on the bed beside him and replayed the amazing week I’d had. Some version of Heero had come to see me – climbed into bed with me. Loved me. Yet that had never happened in real life.

Not yet, anyway.

But it was the same man. No doubt. Just…a different phase.

Heero wanted to get to know me, he’d just told me. I hoped against hope that was true. He’d just never known how to approach me. All that need, tied up inside the very precise, very fierce Heero Yuy, executive. Until the day he decided to break free. Or start to.

Pity his first encounter had been with a truck.

“Could be more between us, do you think?” I whispered. “You’ve taken the first step. I’m still here. In fact, I always have been.”

The unforgiving Mr. Yuy had been the most unforgiving with himself. Yet his needs kicked back inside him. The conflict must have been awful for him, confusing and painful. That would have been disorientating in itself.

And then the accident knocked things further adrift.

I think I must have been a little in shock myself, considering the way my thoughts were going. A serious head wound could release things, the doctor said.

What if it was more than just words?

What if, in his coma for all those hours, living out the strange dreams he said he was having, a different side of him had slipped out and come visiting? Just a few virtual hours, here and there. Sometimes even less. And stepping back into days already passed, but days on which he’d wanted to act on his emotions for once – but not had the nerve.

Who could say what power his mind had, while he was unconscious, everything in turmoil, and his epiphany about his life weighing on his mind.

It was nothing to do with the damned presentation!

“Did you come and visit me, from a dream you wished would be real?” I whispered.

His eyelids flickered.

Dear God, I was mad, too. As mad as my memories of Heero smiling, touching, frowning, kissing…

He had come to me, that was as real as his hand I was still holding. I didn’t know how, or from what time, whether it was from his subconscious Wishlist or a premonition of what could be in the future. But he’d come to me and he’d showed he loved me, and so there was a chance it could happen, just the way he – and I - wanted.

Wasn’t there?

And after all… as a direct result of him visiting me, I was here with him today.

Calling him back.

 

 

*

 

 

When he woke again, finally, I nearly missed it.

I felt his arm stir and I snapped awake. I’d been drowsing again on the side of the bed.

“Hi there, gorgeous,” he said. His voice was cracked, his breath low, but there was no mistaking the words.

I sat up straight and stared at him.

His eyes were much clearer, but now his expression was shocked. “Good God. Mr. Maxwell, I don’t know what came over me, I never called anyone that in my life.”

I started to laugh, then when he frowned at the noise, I dropped the volume. But I didn’t compromise on the grin. “That’s ok, Mr. Yuy, I like it.”

He looked startled, but there was a flicker of pleasure in his eyes; a softening of the corporate frown.

“In fact, I like it a lot,” I whispered to him, leaning over the bed and still grasping his hand. “It’s a good place for us both to start, wouldn’t you say?”