by Hinotori (火鳥)
Before he’d started spending nearly every waking hour with Benedict Horton, Adam would have called business events boring.
Consolidated Widgets, Inc. was obviously trying to impress. The party they’d thrown to celebrate the release of their new product was more elaborate than Adam’s last office Christmas party. Tasteful silver and white streamers hugged the ceiling and draped down the walls (before then he’d never even realised that streamers were capable of being tasteful); fairy lights twinkled around the curtains and fresh flowers were scattered over all the tables. There was a small stage with a podium and some conspicuously nondescript boxes. Adam let his gaze circle the room until he’d identified all the security staff, then turned his attention back to his companion.
Adam kept a careful eye on everybody Ben made eye contact with (not to mention everyone who attempted to make eye contact with Ben and failed) and an even more careful eye on everybody who determinedly looked away from them.
Ben grabbed a crumbed prawn and fed it to Adam delicately while Adam fought not to roll his eyes and to look properly appreciative.
Someone behind him cleared his throat. “Mr Horton, I’m so glad you could make it tonight.”
“Mr Grahame, thank you so much for inviting me,” said Ben, with an easy smile. “Have you met my partner, Adam?”
Lloyd Grahame shook Adam’s hand firmly. “Pleased to meet you,” he said.
Adam nodded and smiled politely. “And yourself.”
“The presentation starts in half an hour,” said Grahame. “Please, enjoy the food and drink while you wait.”
“I’m sure we will,” said Ben. He fed Adam a tiny piece of bruschetta, then wiped his hands on a napkin and slipped his hand into the crook of Adam’s elbow. “Come on, I think I see champagne over there.”
Adam submitted himself to a stream of smiling faces and repetitive smalltalk.
“So what is it that you do, Mr Randall?”
“I’m a security consultant,” said Adam. “That’s how we met, actually. Ben asked me to provide some recommendations on their network architecture.”
She smiled at him, seemingly delighted. “And the sparks just, flew, hmm?”
Adam flushed. “Something like that.” A movement behind the woman’s head caught his eye.
“You two are really adorable. How long have you two been together?”
“A little under six months now,” said Adam, his mind racing. “Would you excuse me a moment? I just saw somebody I think is an old friend of mine.”
Adam walked casually towards the wall, where one of the plain-clothes security staff lingered, full glass of champagne in hand.
Adam gave him a friendly smile, then said in a lowered voice, “There’s a man over there in a caterer’s uniform who has been watching Mr Horton in a rather unusual manner for most of the evening.” He shifted his weight to the other foot. “A moment ago I saw him empty something into a wine glass on his tray.”
The security guard raised his eyebrows. “Is that so?”
“I think it might be poison and he’s going to offer it to one of the guests.” Laxative was more likely, assuming the object was to kidnap, not kill, in which case, there would probably be accomplices in the bathroom, but Adam wasn’t quite sure how to explain that without blowing his cover. “If you look carefully you can see his uniform is a slightly different colour to the rest of the catering staff.”
The guard’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you were Mr Horton’s boyfriend.” There was a slight curl of disapproval on his lip.
“I am,” said Adam, quickly. “But, you know, I work in security, and I’m a little over-protective…” He put on his sappiest smile.
“Well, thank you for the tip,” said the guard, dismissively. “We’ll take it from here.”
Adam walked back to Ben and his group of admiring fans just as the lights went down and the presentation began.
“What was that about?” Ben murmured into his ear.
“Don’t accept any drinks from the wait-staff,” said Adam. “Might want to avoid the food, too.”
Ben pouted a little.
The nondescript boxes turned out to contain a new model of smart-phone. Adam had a very cynical opinion of its possible future, but Ben seemed positive enough.
When the lights came back up the man was nowhere to be seen. Adam could only hope it was because the security delegation had believed him.
They excused themselves fairly soon after, Ben calling his father’s driver to take them back to the apartment.
Ben spent the ride snuggled up against Adam’s side, arm slung around Adam’s shoulders and head tucked under Adam’s chin. Adam spent the ride counting the freckles on Ben’s nose.
They held hands as they took the elevator up to the penthouse.
Ben dropped Adam’s hand as soon as the apartment door closed behind them. He shrugged his jacket off and slung it over his right arm in one liquid movement and loosened his tie with his left hand. “I’m going to bed,” he said, kicking his shoes off.
Adam took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
He kicked off his own shoes and walked to his bedroom, picking his laptop up off the bed. He wrote a report on the incident with a brief description of the suspect and sent it off to Juliet, deleting the email from his sent items folder before putting the laptop back to sleep.
Ben had the master bedroom, which meant Adam didn’t have an en-suite but did have the exclusive use of the other bathroom, with its full-length bath and other luxuries.
He rather thought it was a bath night.
Adam was woken by the shrill of his phone at some ungodly hour that turned out to be 9:30. He groaned, and picked up the infernal device.
“This is Adam,” he said.
“So, your fake date with your fake boyfriend went well, then,” said Juliet, sounding vastly amused.
Adam sat up. “Did the local police bring anyone in?”
“Looks like it,” she said. “Narcotics are looking into it.”
“Great,” said Adam.
“Were you planning on coming into the office at some point today?” she asked, sweetly.
Adam hung up on her.
The tiny office that was the (fake) home of his (fake) security consultancy was fifteen minutes by train (the train was real). He could have borrowed one of Ben’s cars, but it felt too much like he was exploiting their (fake) relationship. Anyway, he preferred to take the time to gather his thoughts.
“I’m not sure I really approve of your technique,” said Juliet, as Adam hung his coat on the back of the door. “You’re supposed to wait until the waiter gives the drink to his target and dive in just in time to prevent him from taking a drink. This pre-emptive approach isn’t very impressive at all.”
Adam sighed. “In case you’ve forgotten, the entire reason behind the fake boyfriends charade is to not draw attention to threats to Benedict’s safety.”
“I know,” she said cheerfully. “By the way, we have a briefing with the chief today. He’s coming by after lunch.”
Adam poured himself a cup of coffee and held it under his nose for a moment. “What’s that about?”
She shrugged. “Maybe they’ve finally thought of something to do with their favourite mole.”
Adam winced. “Juliet, please.”
Juliet grinned at him unapologetically.
Adam sat down at his desk, quickly checked his email, then studied floor plans and incident reports until Juliet tapped him on the shoulder and told him that the chief had arrived. He guiltily gulped down his sandwich and hurried to their meeting room.
The chief raised an eyebrow as Adam entered, but said nothing.
“First, Mr Devriel, Ms Matheson, do you have anything interesting to report?”
“Juliet and I had a look at the Georgiana reports, we think we know how it was pulled off. I emailed you a report.”
“Thanks, I got it.”
“And I had a look at that code from the Wilson case, I recommend that they fire their programmers. SQL injection vulnerabilities are totally a beginner’s mistake.”
“I’ll pretend that I know what that means,” said the chief. “Do you have a report on that too?”
“This afternoon,” Adam promised.
“And how about with the Horton case?” The chief leant forward on the table, eyebrows raised in anticipation.
“Adam foiled another plot against young Mr Horton,” said Juliet. “Narcotics are following up on it. We haven’t found anything of interest in Benedict Horton’s inbox.”
“Whatever’s going on, he doesn’t seem to be involved,” said Adam.
“The marketing and finance divisions also appear to be clean.”
The chief nodded, like it wasn’t surprising. “Narcotics inform me that another shipment of the stuff has hit the city. They want you two to see if you can find anything at all that could possibly correlate to arranging payment and delivery in the last two weeks.” The chief opened the folder on the table and pointed to a page. “Look high.”
“How high?” asked Adam.
“I’d say, start at the top and work your way down.”
“What, Horton himself?” said Adam.
“I wouldn’t know, but Narcotics certainly seem to think it’s possible.”
“Makes sense,” said Juliet. “You’d have to be pretty high up to be able to gather the resources and information to run an operation like this.”
Adam frowned. “I don’t think it’s very likely.”
“Fortunately, your job is just to gather information, not solve the case. Any indication that Horton has any clue what you really are?”
“No, I’m still pretty sure Benedict Horton doesn’t see me as anything more than his clandestine bodyguard,” said Adam.
“And fake boyfriend,” said Juliet.
“Are you ever going to let that go?” said Adam.
“It’s certainly the most unique undercover job I’ve ever had to approve,” said the chief, grinning.
“Adam, hi,” said Benedict Horton, smiling at him in a way that still made Adam’s stomach twist, even after a week. “Thanks so much for all your hard work.”
“Well, that’s what I’m here for,” said Adam, feeling a little bad for the lie.
“No, really, I didn’t realise it was such a mess. I had no idea that our last guy was so incompetent.”
Adam nodded in agreement, then wondered if that was rude. He’d been hired to look at the security of their computer systems, but the role had gradually expanded to cover the entire office. Completely indefensible, and they kept prototypes locked in their desk drawers? Not how he’d run a multi-million dollar company. “It was pretty bad, but at least you’re willing to listen. You have no idea how often security advice is just completely ignored.”
“I really appreciate it,” said Horton, again.
Once the work Adam had recommended was finished, Benedict Horton’s office would be able to withstand anything other than explosives (and even some of those). The computer systems… well, they were pretty secure from outside attacks. Adam had built up a nice, secret collection of passwords and possible attack vectors from inside that he wasn’t sharing with Horton or his IT staff.
“Adam, you look like a pretty well-built guy,” said Horton, casually. “Do you work out?”
Adam felt his blood run cold and his heart start beating so hard he was sure Horton could hear it. “I go to the gym,” he said, attempting to sound as casual as possible. Damnit, he’d told the chief he didn’t have the experience to be able to go undercover, he’d known he would blow it…
“Do you know, like, martial arts or anything?”
“Uh,” said Adam. “I’ve done some self-defence training.”
“Do you have a gun license?”
What the hell? thought Adam. “Yes…”
“See, the thing is,” said Horton. “There have been a few… incidents… recently, and my father wants to hire a bodyguard for me, but he’s a little concerned that having some huge guy standing around me looking threatening is going to affect our stock.”
Adam nodded. He’d read about the ‘incidents’ in the report. Nothing too serious, the perps hadn’t even made it past venue security, but enough that he could see how the senior Mr Horton would be alarmed.
“So I want to hire you to just keep an eye on things, let myself or venue security know if something’s wrong or if you see something.”
“And how are you going to explain away my presence?” said Adam, confused.
“Ah,” said Horton. “That’s the tricky thing. You’ll need to pretend to be my boyfriend.”
Adam stared at him. Maybe he’d been wrong. Maybe Horton had remembered him…?
“It’s a brilliant idea!” said Horton. “I can take you to functions as my date and we’d have the perfect excuse to stick close to each other. ”
“But… Won’t your father object to this?” said Adam.
“My father wants me alive,” said Horton. “Anyway, it’s not like it would be real.”
“Right,” said Adam, deflating slightly. “Right.”
Narcotics, of course, were thrilled.
“So, he still hasn’t remembered you,” said Juliet, chin in hands.
Adam sighed, rolling his chair back so that he could rest his feet on the desk. “Juliet, he takes a different girl out every Friday. He probably doesn’t remember half of them a month later, let alone four years.”
“Ah, but he doesn’t spent an entire weekend in their arms, does he?”
“No, because he’s too busy dragging me around to cocktail parties and dinners that cost more than a week’s wages for a normal person,” said Adam.
“You poor thing,” said Juliet.
Adam threw a pen at her.
“Has he told you anything more about the person he’s looking for yet?”
“I don’t think he knows anything more. He just says he’ll know when he finds her.”
“Sad,” said Juliet. “I don’t believe in love at first sight.”
I did, thought Adam, then he bit down on his tongue to stop himself from saying it out loud. “He obviously does.” Just not with Adam.
Juliet snorted in derision. “How much longer do you think he’s going to keep you on?”
“Given I’m pretty damn certain the people threatening him are looking for the same thing we are,” said Adam, “I’d say until Narcotics close this case and make some arrests.”
“Is that a hint?” said Juliet.
Adam walked in at six thirty to find Ben already home, snoozing on the couch with the TV blaring some vapid sitcom.
He got changed into jeans and a t-shirt and sat on the armchair perpendicular to Ben. He’d picked up a crime thriller to read from the bookcase, but it was impossible to concentrate with canned laughter echoing in his ear.
He put one of Ben’s business cards in the book to mark his place and found himself watching Ben as he slept.
Ben was still in his work clothes, a formerly-pristine white shirt and black slacks with accentuating off-white pinstripes. His hair was slicked back, but starting to break free of its bonds and tickle his ears. His glasses lay abandoned on the floor in front of the couch, and Adam’s hands itched to pick them up and put them on the coffee table.
Adam spent another moment staring at Ben’s chest rising and falling before deciding that he was being creepy and heading to the kitchen to see if he couldn’t get them some dinner that wasn’t takeaway.
Adam felt like this kitchen required him to make something strange and exotic, or at least gourmet, but all he could find was pasta, cheese, carrots and some frozen broccoli. He whipped together a quick pasta bake and stuck it in the oven. He mentally apologised to the kitchen for the affront.
When he turned around after shutting the oven door, he found Ben lounging at the counter.
“Hey,” said Adam.
Ben waved a hand in greeting, his eyes focussed on his phone. “Oh, hey, it’s our six month anniversary next month,” he said, still looking at the phone. “We should do something.”
“Uh,” said Adam.
“I’ll book us into a hotel or something. Don’t worry about it.” Ben typed something into his phone, then snapped it shut. “How was your day?”
“Fine,” said Adam. “Yours?”
“The usual,” said Ben.
They stood there uncomfortably until Adam cleared his throat. “Dinner will be another half hour or so,” he said. “We should probably sit down or something.”
“I am sitting,” said Ben, spinning on the bar stool at the counter contentedly.
“Well, I am going to the couches,” said Adam, pointedly.
“Spoilsport,” said Ben. Adam heard the quiet squeak of the bar stool stop and Ben’s footsteps padding along behind him.
Ben flopped onto the couch next to Adam and they bickered amiably about the television offerings until they found a music quiz show and transferred their abuse to the contestants.
“‘Paint It Black’!” Ben yelled at the screen. “I cannot believe you didn’t know that!”
“Madonna?” said Adam, later. “Madonna? It was Don McLean! For heaven’s sake!”
The oven timer went off, and Adam left Ben still fuming at the screen to serve their food.
“I’m going out tonight,” said Ben, poking at his pasta with a fork.
Adam nodded. It was Friday.
“If my father calls…”
“Don’t worry, I’ll come up with some convincing lie,” said Adam.
Ben grinned at him. “Thanks, Adam.” He finished his food at record speed and disappeared upstairs.
It was a good hour before Ben showed his face downstairs again, dressed in jeans so tight they ought to be illegal and a shirt that matched. His hair had been re-gelled into lots of little spikes and the glasses replaced with contact lenses, his eyes now lightly outlined with some kind of makeup.
Adam thought uncharitably that he preferred Ben with his glasses on.
“Wish me luck,” said Ben, slinging his jacket over his shoulder and somehow managing to slip his wallet into his pocket.
Adam’s mouth was dry and he had to swallow before he could speak. “Good luck.”
Six months, which made it 26 weeks and certainly enough time that he shouldn’t still be drooling like this over his employer (potential suspect, his brain liked to add, when it was feeling particularly uncharitable).
Ben gave him one last utterly disarming grin, then disappeared outside.
The one good thing about Ben’s weekly ‘outings’ was that, since nobody was supposed to know he wasn’t home, it was the perfect opportunity for Adam to log into the Horton network from Ben’s computer and do some snooping. Even if the security officer checked the logs – and Adam was pretty certain he didn’t – he probably wouldn’t notice anything wrong.
Adam waited an hour in case Ben returned to pick up something forgotten, then got to work.
The hotel Ben took them to was located smack in the centre of the city, its towers rising up above the offices and shops of the CBD to provide panoramic views of the river and the city beyond it.
As they got out of the car, Adam kept shooting Ben glances, wondering if he was trying to tell him something, but the other man’s expression revealed nothing.
The lobby hadn’t changed much from the last time Adam was there. The floor was polished so brightly that Adam was surprised that his shoes didn’t slip and slide over it. A crystal chandelier hung from the centre of the ceiling, dropping spots of light at random places on the wall.
The staff took their bag (singular) agreeably and escorted them to the lift.
Ben glanced at Adam distractedly as the lift shot upwards.
Adam raised an eyebrow at him, but the lift pinged the arrival of their floor and the doors opened before Ben could make any reply.
The room was even larger than Adam remembered, the king-size bed almost dwarfed by the expanse of empty space around it.
Adam hung his jacket by the door and walked to the window. Sunset was painting the clouds over the city fiery red and orange.
He turned around to find Ben looking at him again, a little furrow of confusion on his brow.
“Is there something wrong?” asked Adam.
Ben blinked at him, then smiled. “Nothing,” he said. “Just having a weird feeling of deja vu.”
Adam pulled back from the kiss, licking his lips and swallowing to wet his throat. “Your place or mine? Because I should warn you, my place is a dorm room.”
Benedict-call-me-Ben pursed his lips. “I have a better idea.”
Adam followed Ben out to the car park and into his sports car. It was a metallic pale blue, not the current model but not an old model either, the seats plush and comfortable. “Nice car,” said Adam.
Ben gave him a sheepish grin. “It was a twenty-first birthday present. I’m an only child and my dad spoils me.” He started the car, and Adam hummed in appreciation.
“You don’t look spoiled to me,” said Adam.
Ben was perfect. Charming, intelligent, hot like burning. Best thing to happen to Adam on a Friday night ever.
Ben parked the car outside a tall building in the CBD.
He waited in the lobby while Ben talked to the reception staff. He saw the flash of a credit card and a lot of smiles going on.
“A hotel, huh,” said Adam, as the lift zoomed upwards to their floor.
“This is where my father brings women he wants to impress,” said Ben, carefully slipping his card back into his wallet. “He thinks I don’t know but I’ve seen the receipts.”
“So,” said Adam, smirking. “You want to impress me?”
Ben looked at him with confusion that slowly melted into a pleased smile. “You bet your life.” He looked happy, but his body language screamed tension and uncertainty.
“Hey,” said Adam, putting a hand on Ben’s cheek and stroking with his thumb. “Relax. He let his thumb drift until it touched Ben’s lower lip, and Ben drew his breath in sharply.
They managed to find their way to their room without scandalising any strangers or hotel staff, and there Adam was distracted by exploring the room. He looked around in wide-eyed wonder. “I can see why your father likes this place.”
“God, stop talking about my father,” said Ben.
“You’re the one that brought him up,” said Adam, matter-of-fact. He finished his exploration and stepped closer until he stood in Ben’s personal space. “There’s a spa in the bathroom.” he said, nipping at Ben’s lips lightly. “We should make use of it.” He undid Ben’s top button for emphasis.
Ben grinned at him nervously, then let his hands drift under Adam’s t-shirt to his hips. “You want a hand with that?”
They finished undressing as they ran the water into the bath, Adam falling to his knees on the hard tile floor to finish pulling off Ben’s briefs with his teeth. He mouthed at Ben’s bare cock affectionately and Ben gasped and stumbled a few steps backwards until he found security against the wall.
Adam wrapped his mouth around Ben’s cock, licking and sucking until Ben’s hands tangled in his hair and Adam pulled away.
“Bath first,” he said, giving Ben’s cock one last kiss.
“You’ve ruined me for other blowjobs forever,” Ben said. Adam liked the tone of his voice, husky and strained.
Adam grinned, and pulled him bodily into the spa.
It took a little while to figure out where to put their legs so that they were both comfortable, and then they sat, staring at each other awkwardly until Ben found a little bottle of bubble bath and poured it in.
With the air jets on, the surface of the water quickly erupted in foam. Ben grinned at Adam over the top of it, then scooped a handful off and threw it ineffectually in his direction.
Adam had his revenge in tickles, causing Ben to squirm until he pinned Adam beneath him.
They scuffled, slippery skin sliding against skin, until they were both relaxed and warm and, Adam was pleased to note, with matching erections.
Ben was looming over Adam, arms propped on the side of the bath and biting his lip slightly when Adam wrapped his arms around Ben’s neck and surged forward to capture that lip with his own teeth.
Adam manoeuvred them out of the bath and into a matching pair of fluffy white towels, pausing occasionally to press kisses and bites to Ben’s lips.
When he wasn’t knotted up with tension it turned out that Ben was a cuddly little thing. With Ben’s new attentiveness to Adam’s mouth and chest it was hard to disentangle for long enough to fetch the condoms and lube from the inner pocket of his jacket.
The bed was large enough for them to tussle again, not fighting for control so much as for the feeling of skin contact, pressing the planes of their body together in just the right ways.
Adam was surprised when Ben took control, picking the condom and lube out from where it had been lost among the topsheet and pillows of the bed and rolling the condom over his own cock before Adam had time to process what he was doing.
Adam grinned lazily as Ben reached for Adam, rolling him over and opening him up with thick, slippery fingers that only trembled slightly.
He let Ben take it at his own pace, pushing inside slowly and thrusting gently until he seemed to regain his confidence and started to fuck Adam in earnest.
Adam groaned in appreciation and shifted their position until he was raised far enough off the bed to take his own cock in hand.
Ben’s rhythm stuttered as he got closer, making it harder for Adam to match it and making them stop for breathless laughter on several occasions. Ben reached his climax with an intake of breath that almost sounded like another laugh.
Adam came with a groan a moment later, thinking that Benedict Horton really was perfect.
“How long do you have this room for?” he asked, when he had enough presence of mind to talk.
“Mm?” said Ben, sleepily. “As long as I can afford, why?”
“I want to see your face next time,” said Adam, drawing meaningless patterns on Ben’s back with a forefinger.
He felt Ben shiver beside him, and smiled. Perfect.
Adam stared at Ben incredulously for several seconds.
“Adam?” said Ben, in confusion.
“Nothing,” said Adam. “What did you have planned for tonight?”
“Room service,” said Ben, positively. “And if we can get the console hooked up to the TV, I have a new game Dad wants me to try out.”
“How romantic,” said Adam, drily.
“Oh come on, I’ll bet you’ve always wanted an all-expenses-paid night in a five star hotel,” said Ben.
“Yeah,” said Adam. “Right.”
When it arrived, the food was so good that it washed away Adam’s bad temper entirely, and then it turned out that the game was actually quite fun. Technically a new twist on a cooperative platformer, he and Ben played with varying degrees of actual co-operation.
“Bastard,” muttered Ben, as Adam leapt past him to grab the requisite cutesy reward object (in this case, a little purple diamond).
By the time they realised that midnight had already been and gone, they weren’t even a quarter of the way through the game (and that was just the advertised levels, not even the secret bonus ones they could unlock).
“I think I’ll tell Dad to pick this one up,” said Ben.
Adam gave him a sleepy thumbs-up.
“I’m going to shower,” said Ben, getting to his feet and cracking his knuckles obnoxiously.
Adam untangled the cables of the console and shoved it haphazardly back into the suitcase.
When Ben came out of the shower (wearing only a towel, which Adam definitely didn’t notice) Adam was folding the quilt into quarters.
“Adam? What are you doing?”
“I’m your bodyguard, I figured I should be sleeping in front of the door or something,” said Adam.
“What the hell? Don’t be ridiculous. The bed’s huge.”
Adam glanced at the bed dubiously.
“Don’t worry,” said Ben, with a false laugh. “I won’t make any attempts on your virtue.”
“Right,” said Adam. “Of course not.”
In the shower, he leant his head against the tiles and got himself off as quickly as possible. The body wash smelt the same as the bubble bath.
It didn’t stop his dreams that night from being distinctly pornographic, even though they slept on opposite sides of the bed and, as far as Adam could tell, this didn’t change throughout the night.
“Have fun last night?” said Juliet, winking salaciously.
“No,” said Adam. “Well, yes, but not in the way you meant.” Things hadn’t even had the decency to be awkward in the morning. Ben had been all sweet smiles and good-natured teasing over breakfast and dropping Adam off at the office.
“Pity,” she said. “Still, cocktail party tomorrow, right? Maybe you can get him drunk and seduce him there.”
“Potential suspect!” said Adam, firmly.
“Joking,” said Juliet, rolling her eyes. “Anyway, I thought you said you didn’t think he was involved.”
“I don’t,” said Adam. “But I’m not in Narcotics.”
“Who, by the way, say that they’re finally making progress with that last infodump we gave them,” said Juliet. “In two days time it may all be over.”
Adam breathed a sigh of relief. “I never expected it to take this long in the first place.”
Juliet groaned and threw a stress ball (emblazoned with the name of a firewall hardware vendor) at him. “You know, I hate to keep bringing this up, but you are currently living in a penthouse apartment and attending the kind of social events most people would kill to be a part of, while I get to sit back here and do actual work.”
Adam made a noise of protest.
“And the worst thing is that I have to pick up all this work on my own because you are undercover on a job that isn’t even our case.”
“On the bright side I think we’ve shown that we could make a tidy profit if we decided to quit our jobs and go into security consulting for real?” said Adam.
Juliet’s lips twitched. “I am sick and tired of this desk job,” she said.
“You long for the good old days, when we ran in, guns drawn, to arrest bored teenagers with too much intelligence for their own good?”
“Oh, come on, it was only the once.”
Adam smirked at her.
“What I mean is, the sooner this is over the better.”
“I want to agree with you, I really do, but I’m afraid you’ll throw something at me again,” said Adam.
After an hour at the party, Adam’s cheeks were starting to hurt.
“You two are such a cute couple,” an old lady told him, patting him on the hand. “Anyone can see how much you adore each other.”
Adam affected a blush. “Oh, well… He’s so…” He glanced at Ben, who had a bright-coloured glass of something in one hand, the other making circular motions in the air as he tried to explain something to an older gentleman in a tailored suit. Adam took a swallow of his drink.
The woman patted his hand again. “Adorable.”
Adam excused himself and went to the open balcony to get some fresh air.
He wondered what the alcohol content of his drink was. He was feeling more than a little tipsy from one glass.
He watched Ben closely, but everybody seemed to be behaving perfectly normally. He suspected the only reason Ben had brought him along was as cover. It was an invite-only event and the security staff seemed remarkably competent.
He leaned back against the balcony and let his thoughts drift. You couldn’t see many stars in this city, there was too much light pollution. The wind was cold against his ankles. Ben looked really, really good in a tuxedo.
Ben was walking towards him. He handed Adam another drink and fixed him with a winning smile. “Whatcha doing all the way out here?”
“Thinking,” said Adam.
“It’s overrated,” Ben told him. “Come back inside.” He tugged at Adam’s wrist gently.
“Just give me a moment,” said Adam.
Ben leant over, bringing their faces together until their noses were almost touching. From behind it probably looked like they were kissing.
Adam’s eyes flicked up to meet Ben’s, which were soft with amusement and alcohol.
Adam blamed the drink for the fact that he decided to take the invitation at face value. It couldn’t possibly have been that easy to press his mouth to Ben’s. He felt Ben start in surprise before relaxing into the kiss, growing more confident and forceful as the kiss deepened.
They pulled apart.
“Hey,” said Ben, his breath hitching. “Party.”
“Right,” said Adam. “Party.” He swallowed the rest of the drink Ben had brought him. “Lead on.”
Ben kept in contact with Adam for the rest of the night – a hand on his waist; holding his hand; linking arms. Adam told himself firmly that it wasn’t any different to the way Ben usually behaved with him in public.
He found himself telling outrageous lies about Ben just to see him laugh and blush.
They excused themselves long enough after it was polite to leave that it wasn’t obvious, but not so long that Adam grew impatient. Ben was handsy as they stumbled into the car, and pulled Adam over for kisses several times during the ride home.
In the lift Adam found himself pressed up against the wall, watching Ben kiss him in the mirror on the opposite side.
He was expecting Ben to drop him like a hot stone as soon as they got inside, but Ben just swung him around against the door and kissed him again.
Well, Adam wasn’t going to say no. He kicked off his shoes and tugged Ben towards the bedroom by the tie. Ben lost his own shoes somewhere on the way – at least, he wasn’t wearing them when they fell onto Ben’s bed.
Undressing from a tuxedo while lying down turned out to be a rather difficult prospect. After a few unsuccessful attempts to help each other that resulted in elbows hitting unfortunate places, they made a mutual unspoken decision to handle getting naked without assistance. Finesse took a second-place to speed as jackets, shirts, undershirts and trousers were dropped in a heap onto the floor.
When he sat back on the bed and met Ben’s eyes, Ben had a giddy smile that lit up his face and made Adam’s heart thump in recognition.
“Hi,” said Ben.
Adam barely had the chance to grin back before Ben was on top of him, kissing him messily. Adam could taste the tang of alcohol and fruit juice on Ben’s tongue.
Ben’s glasses were smudged and about to get bent out of shape, so Adam reached up and removed them, folding them up and managing to fight Ben’s advances off long enough for him to put them on the bedside table.
“While you’re over there,” said Ben, spooning up against Adam’s back and reaching around him to run dry, smooth hands across Adam’s chest.
Adam was having trouble thinking. “What?”
“Top drawer,” said Ben, pressing a kiss to the back of his neck.
Adam found condoms, lube and a few things he made a mental note to try some other time. It was easy enough to twist himself into a sitting position and push Ben onto his back, pressing kisses down his chest and abdomen until he could bury his nose in the soft curls between his legs.
Ben groaned in a gratifying manner as Adam teased at the head before taking him in his mouth. It felt familiar and comfortable against his tongue, soft skin with rigid weight beneath it.
Ben’s hands scrabbled for purchase against the sheet, and Adam pulled off with a disgusting wet sound that made him ready an apology before it died in the face of Ben’s expression of awe.
He crawled back up the bed to drip lubricant over his fingers before finding a position on top of Ben that allowed him to take both their cocks in hand.
“God, Adam,” gasped Ben. “Adam, please, Adam, oh my god…”
For once Adam was not afflicted with the desire to put an end to Ben’s rambling.
Adam was startled awake by something on the edge of hearing. He sat up in disorientation, taking in the room around him. Ben’s room. And this was Ben’s bed, and that was Ben snoring beside him, looking thoroughly debauched.
He put a hand over his eyes.
His phone. That was what had woken him.
It took him a moment to figure out where his jacket was and dig it out.
NARCS FOUND EVIDENCE. HORTON SR ARRESTED. REPORT ASAP.
“Fuck,” said Adam.
“Adam?” said Ben.
Adam turned slowly to find Ben sitting up in the bed, rubbing at his eyes blearily. Adam suddenly felt extremely naked.
“Ben,” said Adam. “Hi.” He started to shuffle towards the door.
“It was you all along,” said Ben. He glanced down at himself, and pulled the sheet up to cover his waist with a faint blush. “I… I don’t understand.”
Adam froze. “Ben, what are you talking about?”
“You’re the one I’ve been looking for! The one I forgot!”
“The one you forgot?” Adam repeated.
“I was in a car accident,” said Ben. His hands painted meaningless shapes in the air. “I woke up in the hospital on a Monday with no memory of anything I’d done since Friday afternoon. But, see, I knew I’d met someone that weekend, and I’ve been searching for them ever since,” he finished, matter-of-fact.
Adam stared at him. “Benedict, that’s ridiculous.”
“But it’s true!” Ben said, with the tiniest of frowns. “Nothing ever felt right for me until last night!”
Adam closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Ben, you don’t know me. You can’t just… decide I’m the right person for you after one night together. That’s insane.”
“It’s been six months, I’d like to think we know each other a little by now,” said Ben, folding his arms.
“And you’ve never shown even the slightest interest in me! You told me you were looking for a girl. You’ve never even looked at me!”
“I’m looking at you now,” said Ben. “And I like what I see – couldn’t you tell that last night?” He affected a pout. “Tell me, we have met before, haven’t we? I’m not just imagining things.”
“Please,” said Ben.
“I met you at a bar,” said Adam. “We hit it off, you brought me to a hotel, we had sex a few times. We exchanged phone numbers, but you never called me and when I tried your number it was disconnected. End of story.” He started to pick his clothes up off the floor.
“My phone was completely destroyed in the crash,” said Ben, absently. “Wait – it was the Stratton, wasn’t it? The same place I took you for the anniversary.” He shook his head. “Wow, that’s amazing. Adam, why didn’t you say anything?”
Adam stared at him.
“I’ve been such a jerk. I’m so sorry.” Ben even looked despondent.
“Ben, I…” He shook his head fiercely. “This doesn’t change the fact that you haven’t even given me a second glance in the six months we’ve known each other.”
“I thought I was straight!” said Ben, defensively.
“And you were totally focussed on the imaginary girl-of-your-dreams, I get it,” said Adam, affecting disinterest.
“Adam, why are we arguing about this?” said Ben. His pout was starting to look dangerously real. “I mean, you’re amazing, I can’t believe I never noticed before. You’re good-looking and intelligent and witty and supportive, you’re really good in bed…” He flailed helplessly. “We belong together!”
Adam had to admit, if it weren’t for the other thing, he would probably be utterly convinced by now. “I’m sorry, Ben. Maybe in another time, in another place… if things had been different.”
“If what had been different?” said Ben, running a hand through his hair in frustration.
“If you’d recognised me straight off, if we hadn’t spent all these months pretending and having you ignore me, if…” He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. If Juliet was right it was all over now anyway. “If I wasn’t an undercover agent working to uncover a drug ring.”
“What?” said Ben.
“I think you should get up. Your father’s been arrested.”
Adam took a week’s leave and went home. His mother fed him pie and cake and didn’t ask too many questions. His father patted him on the back and tried to look supportive, even if he had no idea what he was being supportive about.
He caught up with a few old school friends; got drunk a few times (sometimes combining the two) and wrote two resignation letters before deciding not to quit.
He came to work feeling a little less like a train wreck, which was about all a person could hope for.
The case was closed, but he couldn’t bring himself to read the report. The chief gave him new work to do, Juliet didn’t mention Ben or the case, and everything was good.
He moved back into a tiny apartment on his own (grabbing his stuff while Ben was at work, leaving the key with the doorman when he left) and things slowly returned to normal.
That is, until he walked out of the office building one afternoon to find Benedict Horton sitting on a park bench, humming to himself quietly.
Ben spotted him just as Adam was starting to panic, his face breaking out into a huge grin. “Finally!”
“Ben,” said Adam, his mind racing.
“I finally found you!” said Ben.
“Ben, what are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you,” said Ben. “Believe it or not, it took me this long just to track you down. It’s not much to go on, a first name and a description like ‘undercover agent’.”
“They brought my father in for questioning,” said Ben. “You couldn’t have mentioned that before you left? I almost had a heart attack.”
“I didn’t know,” said Adam. He blinked.
“My father’s P.A. was running a drug ring right under Dad’s nose, would you believe? Well, I suppose you would, given you were in charge of uncovering it and all.”
“I was just gathering information,” said Adam, faintly. “I didn’t actually find out how the case ended.”
“You’re not that much older than me, right?” said Ben, his brow furrowing. “How did you land an undercover job like that?”
“I didn’t, not really,” said Adam. “I was recruited into computer crimes. When they saw you were looking for a security consultant they had me do the job because my degree was in Security Science. They only decided to keep me in because you asked me to stay.”
“Oh,” said Ben.
“Look, Ben, I’m sorry I lied to you,” said Adam, hoping to get this over with as soon as possible. “I really am.”
“I get it,” said Ben, with a grin. “You were doing your job.”
Adam looked at him closely, but as far as he could tell the sentiment was genuine. “Then, what…”
“We were fake boyfriends but I thought we were real friends,” said Ben, reaching over to take Adam’s wrists in hands. “Let me take you out to dinner.”
“Dinner?” repeated Adam, dumbfounded.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said,” said Ben. “About me not knowing you, or ever paying attention to you. I’ve hardly been thinking of anything else – well, aside from my Dad and the company and all, but that’s all resolved now.”
“Okay,” said Adam.
“Anyway, I think you were right about that.”
“Um,” said Adam. “Okay.”
“So, I’m going to take you out to dinner,” said Ben. “On a real date.”
Adam stared at him for a moment.
“Er, if that’s all right with you,” Ben finished, turning faintly pink and looking down at the ground.
“Oh,” said Adam. “You want to–”
“I want to do it properly this time,” said Ben. “My father’s always telling me I can’t just expect everything to fall into my lap without me needing to work for it.”
Adam left the silence long enough that Ben started to squirm again. “I think I can deal with that,” said Adam, letting his mouth relax into a smile. “Although I have one condition.” He paused for effect. “Not the Stratton.”
“Done,” said Ben, grinning at him.
“Do you even have any idea how real dating works?” said Adam, as Ben led him to the car.