Full Summary: Eric Farrence wakes up in a hospital bed, his memories blotchy, and finds out he's been in a rock climbing accident that took his father's life. Upset and later accepting of these turn of events, and with help from his friend Kenny, he goes back to the daily grind by applying at a multipurpose business office. Who does he find as his manager but his former high school classmate Sean Trammel, who for some reason won't hire him.
"Oh, there you are."
Kenny sighed in relief when he finally found Sean, a few ways from Liger outside a convenience store. The streets where the notorious club was situated didn't offer a lot of security, and was dim and shady at best. Kenny didn't know what the alleys looked like at their worst, and he had moved quickly and silently, not really wanting to find out.
Sean was sitting on one of the cement blocks made for parked cars, curled in his jacket. A tiny plume of smoke rose from a cigarette hanging limp from his mouth. He looked pale and stricken with something Kenny couldn't quite comprehend.
"Sean, you have asthma," Kenny lightly scolded him, looking at the cigarette. "that could trigger all sorts of nasty allergies and phlegm."
Sean took a drag and tried not to choke and cough. "Don't care. Need it," he said, eyes glassy.
Kenny stood there for a while, unsure of what to do. They were in a dark parking lot, but it was easy to see that Sean was somewhere else entirely.
"Do you remember when—"Sean started, but then shook his head, willing memories to go away. Memories too dusty with age to even be plaguing him, yet still had the wicks to reignite at the simplest of provocations from that jerk. I don't want to remember,he reminded himself. If he delved on it too much, he'd soon think back to that night, and the police car lights, the horrorstruck faces of his parents, the neighbors sticking their noses into their business ...
Kenny smiled, the corners of his eyes wrinkling. He knew what was running through Sean's head. He sat down next to the other young man and slung an arm around his shoulders.
"You're thinking about Eric, aren't you?" he made a sideways glance at Sean. The other man glanced back at his friend in surprise. How Kenny could have guessed that correctly was beyond him. Kenny didn't know everything. Sure, they were best friends, but it was bordering psychic on Kenny's part. Sean looked at Kenny with trepidation, silently urging him to continue but not really wanting him to. If he connected the dots just right ...
"Remember in gym when we had the rather small shorts? We used to curse each and every jock for being able to wear their sports uniforms over those things."
Sean inwardly sighed in relief. A safer topic. Better let Ken do the recalling. I might accidentally hunt Farrence down if I dwell on it too much.
Kenny smiled again, as if the memories they had of gym were fond, gleeful memories, like picnics in the park or trips to the arcade, instead of the emotional roller coaster of torture every high schooler was forced upon.
"And then Eric, curse him, picked on you all that time, because of your chicken legs," Kenny said in a teasing way, and that got him a proper glare from his friend.
"Of course, he was right, I mean, back then you were ridiculously tall and skinny, and it didn't go well that you tended to forget where your limbs are at nearly all the time, so Eric picked that up too and wiped your face with it."
Sean could see the images clearly. Red shorts, being mocked for wearing them skimpily because his mom made the mistake of ordering them a size too small, Eric's sneer as he joked and pointed with his friends—
"Are you going somewhere, Ken? 'Cause seriously, you're only setting me up for murder. And if they catch me I'd call you out as an accomplice," Sean warned.
Kenny didn't let himself be sidetracked. "He also called us something that he wasn't totally wrong about," he said, looking at Sean pointedly. "He constantly teased us about being together all the time, so much so that we were like boyfriends. He called us out at school for being gay."
That, Sean remembered, his blood running cold.
"But then, we didn't really hate the idea and started fooling around," Kenny winked, and Sean blushed despite himself. Those awkward teenage years were just that—awkward—but oddly enough, the simple comfort of having someone there to make you feel good when you feel like crap had seriously been a lifesaver.
"Yeah, so? I still don't see your point," Sean huffed, feeling uncomfortable all of a sudden, his cigarette half-burnt on the ground, forgotten. The two of them didn't really talk about their past as boyfriends, seeing as the circumstances that played out during the time didn't really give their actions merit. There were there for each other, but they weren't for each other.
"Well, we really were nerds, and when we finally got together, all we did was study for Penn. Either that or touch each other, but your dad was very suspicious of us," Kenny said, grinning.
"Still no point," Sean pointed out impatiently. Kenny shrugged.
"Oh, I don't know. I guess I'm just saying—everything happens for a reason. Eric happened for a reason. We wouldn't be here if we didn't make Pennsylvania. We wouldn't have met Drew had we stayed in the closet. We wouldn't be best friends if we didn't go through being boyfriends first," Sean finished with a flourish.
Sean huffed again. "Nonsense. We could have been friends without that jerk. And Penn was gonna happen whether we studied hard or not. You know that. We were geniuses."
Kenny shook his head, staring out towards the dim street. "Well, you were, Sean. If you didn't help me through it, I wouldn't have made it in."
"Bullcrap," Sean muttered. It was growing cold into the night, and they huddled closer. He had to admit, Kenny made some sort of point, like he always did. He wasn't the calm, collected type like his friend, who can step back and analyze his emotions and sort them out.
"I think, what happened to Eric—it happened for a reason as well," Kenny mused. "Odd that he forgot most of the stuff about high school."
"Odd," Sean echoed, distant. "And he's gay. You saw that right? The look?" Sean asked almost pleadingly.
Kenny nodded, chuckling. "I did. Don't worry. You're not alone. Yeah, gay."
"He's really gay," Sean repeated to the empty store parking lot. Anger was once again threatening to bubble up, along with other, deeply-set emotions that Sean really didn't want to deal with at the moment. All this time ... And he was so convincing, too ... Of course, that had to come from somewhere, but how could he? How could he?
He took a quick glance at Kenny, just to see if he knew. There was no note of such, and once again he breathed easier. If Kenny found out, really knew everything about Eric, Sean would know how his friend would react. Sean would be the unwitting accomplice this time, should it come down to court.
"Whatever you're thinking, stop," Kenny sighed. "It'll pass."
They sat shivering for a while, huddled close to each other. Come to think of it, they haven't been this close in a long while.
Sean suddenly snorted and Kenny threw him a curious look. "Since when did you start becoming all-knowing and philosophical? You've been sniffing newly painted walls again, haven't you?"
"You're an ass. I did that one time and you never let me live it down. For your information, it's since History Channel hit our cable service provider," Kenny answered, smiling lopsidedly, as if that made complete sense. Maybe it did, Sean thought.
They went back to their condominium in generally higher spirits, though Sean still sulked about the way the night ended, and Kenny the fool, tried to imitate Drew on the way back to cheer him up, which brought them to wondering what ever happened to Drew whom they left at the club.
As if in answer, they caught a man closing their front door behind him quietly. When the man turned to face them, they saw that it was Eric, looking winded. Kenny saw in his peripherals Sean stiffening beside him.
"Eric," Kenny said in surprise, "mind telling us why you were sneaking out of our home?"
"Oh, you live here?" Eric asked sheepishly. "That guy—Drew, he was completely smashed—I offered to take him home 'cause that young bartender had his hands full with some guy who wouldn't stop flirting."
Sean was regretting giving Drew keys to the house. He almost always only remembered he had it whenever he got drunk and needed a nearer place to crash. Kenny looked pale as a ghost at hearing about Wally, and muttered about checking on Drew as he shouldered past Eric.
Sean stood in the hallway, not really knowing what to do. He chanced a glance at Eric, who seemed unsure as well.
"Are you alright?" Eric blurted, and Sean's eyes widened. Eric flushed at his comment.
"I mean—you just bolted out of the club like you saw an axe murderer or something," Eric muttered.
Sean did a noncommital gesture. "I'm fine. Nothing to worry about," he said a little too curtly.
Eric nodded back, shuffling awkwardly. He looked like he wanted to say something, but kept his mouth shut.
"Don't you have somewhere to go?" Sean asked, realizing too late how dismissive he sounded. "I mean—"he steeled himself, "—it's late. I'm sure Kenny wouldn't mind if you stayed."
Sean wanted to facepalm, but resisted the deep urge to. He just offered his childhood enemy a place to stay.
Eric shook his head, smiling slightly. "Thanks, but I can manage." He fished out a set of keys from his jacket's front pocket. "Car."
"Right," Sean said. Of course he has a car. He's as rich as you are. Idiot.
"So ... I'll be going then," Eric said quietly. "I'll see you at work, boss." he then shuffled out of Sean's way and disappeared out of the hallway to the elevators.
He stepped into his house, unsure of what to make of what just happened. He instead sought Kenny and Drew out to distract himself. At the back of his mind was the stray thought that it felt nice being called boss by his former bully and ... something. He didn't know back then, and he didn't care to delve deeper, either.
Eric had a bitch of a hangover the next day. Cursing himself for going back to the Liger instead of just heading home after taking the guy Drew back to his boss' place, of all people, he resolved to make a pact of never going back to his house with that much alcohol in him, ever. he'd rather pass out somewhere, or die, than what he was feeling. Nevertheless. he got up from his bed, swearing audibly and wobbling on his feet as blood thrummed in his head, and made off to the bathroom without any further life-threatening incidents to proceed with his daily routine.
He needed two pills of aspirin that day. He was lucky he had gotten the dry-cleaning the day before, instead of early that morning as planned, because he wouldn't be able to go on his morning jog that day to do so anyway. Instead he tried to decide what to wear on his first day—definitely not something showy or flashy, but then he wouldn't like to be perceived as coming from a hangover on the first day. First impressions meant everything.
He settled for a sharp, dark blue suit instead, worn over a rich brown polo and clay orange tie. Very nice, he thought as he looked himself over in his full body mirror. And the red in his eyes wee almost completely gone.
He suddenly felt nervous. His thoughts went back to two days ago, when his new employer didn't so much as look at his file before growling at him like a caged lion. Sean Trammel rang all sorts of bells in his head that Eric couldn't understand, and it was one of those moments when he fervently wished he hadn't fallen like they told him he did. He hated having his memories all botched up like puzzle pieces thrown off a building.
The man was so angry. Eric couldn't remember a time when he angered someone so much. Maybe his father, during his more wordy bouts of sermons, but then he was never angry at Eric so much as he was angry at Eric's shortcomings. But Eric couldn't help but think that Sean's issues with him were deeply personal, and rooted largely in whatever it was Eric was missing in his head. They obviously knew each other from before, and he hadn't really gotten the chance to talk about it in length with Kenny. Maybe Sean was an old friend? He was going to have to ask someone else about it, not just Ken.
He schooled his face into a mask of confidence, re-adjusting his tie once again. No need to give the others in the office any reason to pick on him. Just the right amount of smirk should do it, confident, but not arrogant. Just like my father taught me.
"That should be a wrap," Sean concluded, smiling in a satisfied manner. "Though I should warn all of you that we might be letting some people go in some departments. The economy's been awry as of late, the Fed's being less flexible, inflation's at a less appealing rate ... Oh, you get all that crap," he said dismissively, and his team rose in various states of lethargy, but all seemed to have a sort of excited buzz over the new company policies. Sean politely declined any offers for a lunch out or a smoke, and waiting until everyone's filed out before gathering his things back into his suitcase.
Just when he got the last of his papers filed did a knock resound from the glass doors. Sean looked up, and found the all-too-familiar sneer of Seymour Hopkins.
"Very astute, Sean, as always. Your cohorts are just in love with you," the man said disgustingly sweetly. "Those policies are sure to fish this company out of debt."
It was laden with sarcasm. It always was.
"Why am I not surprised that you have one of my people as one of your birds?" Sean asked calmly.
"Maybe because you know how easily manipulable they are," Hopkins said silkily, and he was in the room in a beat. Sean didn't have to look at him to know that Hopkins was horny.
"Go fuck some unsuspecting assistant somewhere," Sean gritted out. He stood up and grabbed his suitcase.
"So fiesty, Trammel. I like that in potential assistants," Hopkins breathed huskily, and he was suddenly too close, and running a finger down Sean's chin and chest.
Another knock. Sean resisted the urge to jump across the table in surprise. And who was outside the door but the other last person he'd like to see, other than the person already in front of him.
"Mr. Trammel," said Eric tentatively, as if he had barged in on something important. His eyes darted back and forth between Sean and Hopkins. The taller man turned to him with a shark-like smile.
"And who's this lovely specimen?" Hopkins inquired in a very suggestive tone. "You've been holding out on your new meat, Sean."
Eric looked in between flustered and indignant, but Sean beat him to the punch. If there was one thing Sean remembered about the other man, it was that he was rather impulsive.
"I'll have you know, Mr. Hopkins, that Mr. Farrence over here has worked over at Bingham McCutchen and Accenture over the last three years. He's been offered jobs by Google and Mattel. Why, I myself don't know if he's a market analyst, a lawyer, or a consultant."
The glance of surprise thrown at Eric's direction by Hopkins was equally matched by Eric's dumbstruck gaze. Even Sean surprised himself, but he didn't let his facade waver.
"If you'll excuse us, Mr. Hopkins, my—ah, associate would like a word with me," Sean clapped Hopkins at the back before striding out of the conference room, Eric in tow.
"Never get caught alone with that man," Sean warned him. "The rumor mill will eat you for 'having butt sex against the water cooler' with Hopkins or other such nonsense."
Eric shouldn't be the least bit touched, but he was. Sean didn't utter so much as a greeting when they first ran into each other that day, and Eric was having a not so terrific time, too. The headache was there, and he had kept resisting the urge to rub at his eyes to dull the pain. He was resigned to accepting that Sean was going to be civil, if not cold towards him for a while, but now it seemed as if Sean was being oddly protective of him, in his own sort of authoritative way. Eric didn't know what to make of it. They continued to walk.
"And don't let him be the one to make you lose your cool—"Sean paused, "better yet, don't let me see you coming towards the verge of losing your cool, either."
Sean had the distinct pleasure of seeing his past tormentor sheepish. "Alright sir," Eric said, "though I didn't really need a word. I was just passing by and you looked to be having trouble—"
"I could handle Hopkins on my own, thanks." Sean stated curtly. "He's been trying to steal this company for years. Even right before I got the chair. He's been unsuccessful. I made him unsuccessful."
But Eric wasn't sidetracked, "—and Kenny asked me if I could ask you if you would like to go to lunch with him, and I said I was on my way to marketing, anyway—you do tend to keep all of us busy—which is good, terrific, so—"
Sean cut him off with a look. Eric promptly flushed at rambling too much.
"I'd ask you to tell him yes, for me, but you're not under me, aren't you?" Sean commented, instantly regretting whatever hormone-filled interpretations that filled his mind when he heard himself say under me.
"I could. I'll be on my way back anyway. After I hand these out," Eric held in his hands a couple of manila envelopes.
"Are those the, uh, reports on the developmental plans on marketing bracket Q?" Sean asked to distract himself.
Eric shrugged. "I think so. Kenny's handled N to P and submitted it beforehand—I must say those were amazing, on your part, but there was little to be said about the stagnancy of your outsourcing. It was in O—sorry for peeking—" he apologized hurriedly, "—and I think the company could work on that more without compromising as much HR and capital ... Sorry, I'm offering opinions I really shouldn't be voicing," Eric steeled himself, rubbing his nose with a finger.
Sean stared at him. "What did you say your job was in Accenture, again?"
"A consultant," Eric said simply.
"One of the top twenty-five officers of the company, your files said. And you've had top-notch training," Sean stated from recall. He might have read over Eric's files over and over again to assure himself that he wasn't fucking up his workforce by adding ain incompetent bully in the ranks.
"Yes," Eric said slowly, almost warily.
"Hmm," Sean intoned. "Kenny put you in marketing solely, right? Maybe that needs to be changed a bit."
He might have been crazy absurd for even thinking about it, but before he could even stop himself, he had already invited Eric over to lunch, to discuss the finer intricacies of his company from a rival point of view. Eric, of course, said yes. It would be a grand opportunity to talk to Sean on level ground, and maybe dig a little towards the other man's source of animosity towards him. And Kenny would be there, so it wouldn't be anything but a business outing. Of course. Perfect.
A/N: You guys, I couldn't possibly read through all six reviews? It's just too much! Oh my god, thanks.