Stuart was aware of Adam slipping away at what felt like some unGodly hour of Sunday morning. He managed to turn over and get his eyes open, wincing on sunlight through opened curtains.
"Where are you going?"
"I said I'd look at your mother's car." Adam was dressing in running clothes, shorts that emphasized the length of his legs, ending in battered trainers. "I'll be back around lunchtime."
"Are you sure you're fit to?" Stuart said doubtfully, dragging himself upright. "How do you feel?"
"Fine. 100%." Adam finished the water he was gulping and put the glass down on the bedside table. "I've taken the damn drugs, I do every day. That was a one off yesterday, forget about it."
Now wasn't the time to start fussing about it. Stuart thought briefly about some of the things that Adam had told him last night and shut his mouth on the instant protests over safety. Over protectiveness wouldn't be helpful.
"Okay. Don't spend all day on it, this is a weekend."
That had been a major issue when they had decided three weeks ago they needed the rules they'd been talking about. Adam, left to his own devices, could disappear into the workshop or under the bonnet of a car and remain there quite happily for days at a time. Adam grinned and pulled a sweatshirt on, heading for the door.
"I won't. See you later."
Stuart lay down and listened to the front door shut. Determined not to worry, he still couldn't go back to sleep.
In the kitchen an hour later, he found himself going back to the cupboard Adam had taken the bottle from last night. There were three of them, large black glassed affairs, two with identical labels.
A.I.Rhys. Valporate. 350ml twice daily with food.
The other was the paracetamol in solution. There was a packet of empty plastic syringes at the back of the cupboard. Obviously Adam found them easier to measure with than cups or spoons. Stuart shut the cupboard door, still worried. Eventually, leaving the washing up in the sink, he sat down at the computer and opened up a search engine. The word 'epilepsy' offered up enough sites to keep him occupied for weeks to come.
He was stirred out of his reading some time later. He only realised how long when it took active effort to adjust his eyes to see anything other than the screen. The accent on the other end of the phone gave the identity away instantly.
"Hello Sara. He's not here, he's gone over to repair a car."
"You'll be sending the cavalry out then." Sara said cheerfully. "I'll ring back later."
Stuart put the phone down, suddenly wondering whether what he'd always seen as simple closeness between Adam and Sara actually had its roots in a basic, daily safety check. Sara rang or visited daily. Glancing at the clock, he realised it was nearly twelve. He picked the phone up again and dialled one handed, starting to think about lunch.
"Dad? It's Stu. Is Adam still there?"
The answer he got made him close his mouth, firmly, biting back a mutter of exasperation.
"Okay." He said, very calmly. "Thanks, I'll chase him there."
The workshop. Of COURSE Adam had taken the car to the damn workshop. And once he was there he wouldn't be able to resist the call of the MX3. Stuart grabbed his coat and car keys off the counter, annoyed.
"This has got to stop, Adam." He had said barely a month ago, leaning on the table over Adam's head. It was eleven o clock at night, they were both exhausted and this was no time for an argument, but equally they could not go to bed with feelings running this high. "You're training the staff to EXPECT you to be there twenty four hours a day, its no wonder they can't leave you alone! You only come home to sleep!"
"I don't mean to." Adam said helplessly. Stuart blew his breath out in a long sigh and sat down opposite him.
"I know. But you've GOT to start saying no sometimes. It isn't even that you want to spend the extra time there! You just don't organise yourself to walk away when enough is enough!"
"It's only been a few weeks.."
"Adam the flat is a tip because you wander through like a hurricane twice a day, frantic to get in and sleep, or get out and work. I've lost track of the appointments and cheques and letters that I've had to deal with because you're never out of the workshop during working hours. I swear, if you don't start coming home occasionally, I'm going to start going down there and dragging you back!"
"Maybe you should." Adam said wryly.
Stuart got out of the car on the workshop forecourt. Adam didn't drive, which meant his mother was here, and he could hardly stage a scene in front of her. However his mother's car was nowhere in sight and the big doors that covered the vehicle entrance to the car dock were closed and locked. Stuart tried the side door and found it not only unlocked but standing ajar. Adam had a one track mind. Getting more exasperated by the minute he ran up the iron stairs to the gallery where the two offices were. Both were empty. He glanced around and went downstairs again, first to the main workshop, then to the inner workshop where the MX3 was kept. Adam, still in running clothes, was flat on his back under the front of the chunk of metal, some shining silver instrument in hand. Stuart stood still and folded his arms, waiting until he was finished for fear of making his hands slip. Finally he heard a mutter in welsh and Adam dropped the instrument on the concrete beside him, pulling himself to his feet.
"Having fun?" Stuart said quietly. Adam jumped, hard. The look on his face was so startled that Stuart would have laughed had he not been so annoyed. He held out a hand for the tarpaulins.
"Get your jacket, we're going home."
There must have been something in his tone that convinced Adam he meant it. Adam handed him the tarpaulins without a word and went to pick up his belongings. Stuart covered the MX3, led the way outside onto the forecourt and started the car as Adam locked up.
"I had to bring your mother's car here," Adam began as soon as he got in the car, "I had to use the chain lift, get the engine-"
"I told you on Friday night. You weren't to take it to the workshop."
"It was only fifteen minutes! And I only LOOKED at the MX-"
Stuart didn't answer, concentrating on the road. Adam eventually lapsed into silence and curled up in his seat, glowering out of the window. They entered the flat several feet apart and still in silence. Stuart let Adam through and shut the door behind them, dropping his keys into the dish by the door. Adam dropped his jacket over the sofa back and headed for the bedroom, lips tight. Stuart's voice stopped him before he'd gone a yard.
Adam stopped, unwillingly. From the set of his shoulders he was anticipating the ground ahead and preparing for battle. "Look, I was only there half an hour."
If they got into an argument, they were only going to go over old and familiar ground. That had been the whole problem- that arguments never got them anywhere. Stuart took a deep breath and stepped onto unfamiliar ground.
"Ad we went over and over this. You told me how hard it was to organise yourself and you asked me to do it for you. We talked for hours about it and we both said we were serious."
"I meant about REAL problems!" Adam said angrily.
"This is a real problem." Stuart said, making himself sound far more certain than he felt. "You work too many hours, you don't organise your time with any sort of care or forethought, and I told you NOT to go back to the workshop or you would be in trouble."
"Didn't I?" Stuart said gently. Adam hesitated, very wary.
"But we said from the start. YOU said. Discipline had to be 24/7 if we were seriously going to make it part of our lives. And whether we felt like or not was irrelevant."
From Adam's face, he felt as trapped as he looked. Stuart crossed to him and took his hand, steering him across to the sofa.
"I said no and I meant no. And you're going to have to learn to listen."
"I will!" Adam said angrily. "You've made your point."
"No, not yet I haven't." Stuart sat down and pulled Adam between his knees. This was the first time- well it wasn't. He'd spanked Adam in fun, wrestling, playing- but never for real. Never without the laughing, never intending to hurt. Without the exasperation, he would have faltered, but this was such familiar ground, there was a backlog of weeks- months- of trying to get Adam's attention. It put authority in his hands as he pulled Adam's long, slight body down, overcoming stiffness and some twisting in protest. Not struggling, but no doubt he was scared and wondering at this precise moment just whether or not he really wanted what he'd asked for. Stuart held him firmly down with one hand and hooked the fingers of the other in the waistband of Adam's running shorts, pulling them to his knees. It took more effort than he expected, partly because Adam was pressing into his lap with apprehension and the effort to push up on his elbows on the sofa.
Stuart managed to get the shorts clear, pulled Adam further forward over his lap and his right palm laid over the bare bottom upturned on his knee.
"I warned you if you took the car into the workshop you would be in trouble. You will NOT work out of hours without talking to me first. You ARE going to listen to me and understand if I say no, I mean it."
"Okay, I get it!" Adam said sharply.
He wasn't angry, he was uncertain and scared and Stuart didn't mistake his tone.
"Good." He said simply, raised his hand and brought it sharply down on Adam's bare bottom. Adam flinched, more from nervousness than pain.
Stuart took no notice. Concentrating his attention on how annoyed he was and the memory of other arguments on this subject, he held Adam still and spanked, hard and steadily, covering both cheeks until there was no patch of white left. He was aware of a few flinches and yelps from his left, but he was faintly surprised at how still and quiet Adam stayed. When his hand was throbbing, when he'd quickly exhausted his irritation that fuelled the confidence in the barrage, Stuart was struck by a sudden sense of unreality. He stopped and looked slightly uncertainly at Adam. He was stiff and lying very still in the unnatural position, his head buried his arms. Stuart put a hand on his arm and pulled to see his face. Adam stumbled and leaned hard on him to get his balance and get to his feet, red and pulling at his shorts to cover himself. Tearless. From the look of him, mostly embarrassed. They looked at each other for a minute, then Adam pushed his hair off his forehead, trying to cool his scarlet face a little.
"I'm sorry, I won't do that again. I promise."
"Thankyou." Stuart said, slightly reassured. Adam pushed his hair back again.
"I'd better have a shower. I'm sorry."
"It's okay." Stuart got up and Adam gave him a quick and awkward hug. And disappeared into the shower.
Did I handle that at all right? Stuart wondered, not feeling particularly certain.
Adam shut the bathroom door and self conciously ran a hand under the waistband of his shorts, over his bottom. The skin was hot- very hot- but what smart there had been was already fading. What he was left with was mostly a sense of emotional discomfort. Whatever he'd been expecting that was not it. He was however convinced that he didn't want to provoke Stuart into a repeat of that embarrassing performance. For a long time, if ever.
He reappeared in half an hour, self possessed, once more himself. Stuart gave him an anxious look but was quickly reassured. There were no hard feelings, neither of them spoke about it, but Adam was chattier than usual, more conscientious. Again Stuart hoped that was a good sign.
"You don't HAVE to come." Adam pointed out while Stuart put away the last of the breakfast things. "There won't be anything to do, it'll only be standing and watching."
"I'd like to come, I like watching." Stuart hooked an arm around his waist and pulled him closer. Adam folded both arms around his neck with the faintly lazy look that always had a serious effect on him.
"I know you like watching."
"Cheeky." Stuart gave him a kiss and a gentle swat and let him go. "Put a coat on, it's cold out this morning."
"It isn't, I was out jogging half an hour ago-"
"And you've cooled down and your hair's wet."
He saw the flicker of annoyance in Adam's eyes, then a faint, vague smile.
Stuart very nearly opened his mouth to say something further, but Adam was already ahead of him. When he locked the front door, he saw the coat obediently held in Adam's hand. But not on. It seemed too petty- too demanding- to push for him to put it on. He was an adult. He knew if he needed a coat. Stuart pushed away the little doubt there and caught Adam's eye as he pushed a tape into the cassette player and smiled as Queen began to shake the car.
'Everything I do is driven by you… '
It was freezing on the stands, but Adam’s entire attention was on the car making it’s third lap of the track. He was on his feet, lips moving; from time to time Stuart caught fragments of curses or celebrations as the car moved through the manoeuvring courses laid out over the mile and a half circuit. A photographer was standing on the benches a few rows behind them, taking strategic frames. Mick was below them with the group of technicians and drivers wearing the Grania green coveralls. As the car reached the open speed run, Adam sat down and scribbled rapidly in his notebook.
“That’s it. Done.”
“Will she pass?” Stuart craned to watch the car gather speed. Adam didn’t look up.
“From our point of view. We’ll run all that again on Monday for the design team, they make the measurements, give us the results, we make the adjustments, and we test again. We’ll probably have a deadline from Monday.”
“Six to eight weeks.”
Tight. He was going to be working long hours to meet that deadline.
It took Adam time to let the car go and get it returned to the transporter, he and Mick spent some time messing about with the accelerator, making experiments that passed way above Stuart’s head. He waited patiently, strolling up and down the edge of the track in an effort to keep warm, patient because he knew the look of absorption on Adam’s face. It was reflected in Mick’s, they were both oblivious to the technicians quietly freezing while they waited. Eventually Stuart unfolded the abandoned coat and hung it around Adam's shoulders.
They ended up in the local pub in a large group shortly after six pm, and it was nearly nine when Stuart and Adam made it back to the flat. It was a clear night, and in the open walkway to the flat, Adam folded his arms over Stuart’s shoulders. The walkway was deserted. Stuart tipped his head back, following Adam’s gaze to a three-quarter moon and a startling number of stars.
“There’s no light pollution on the farm where I grew up,” Adam said in his ear, “No artificial light away from the house. It's pitch black at night and the sky looks much brighter.”
“Star gazer are you?” Stuart said lightly, startled. Adam very rarely spoke of his childhood.
“Bryn’s a bit of a lone wolf. He and I used to go out and lie on the wall at night- so dark, we couldn’t see each other more than three feet away.”
“Can you put a name to any of those?”
Adam swivelled with him, scanning. “Ah. Yes. There.”
Stuart followed his levelled arm. Adam leaned closer to him, head against his.
“There- no further-“
Stuart turned further and met Adam’s mouth.
“What’s that one called?” he inquired when they paused for breath. Adam shrugged, tousled and his usually very white skin reddened in the cold wind.
Stuart spun round, catching Adam’s hand and drawing him along the line of doors to the flat. They made it to the lounge in total darkness, Adam threw his keys down and Stuart dropped onto the sofa, pulled him astride his lap, running both hands up from hips to chest. The T-shirt beneath his sweater was tight, outlining ribs and muscle. Adam’s hands were already opening the neck of his shirt and expertly manoeuvring to reach his slacks. Somewhere in undressing they moved down to the floor. Stuart got rid of Adam’s jeans and caught his hand to roll the two of them over, Adam underneath.
They never did bother turning on the light. A long time later Adam pulled the curtains and stood in front of the window, looking out over the darkened carpark. It was nearly two am; past the time when standing naked before windows was likely to upset the locals. Stuart turned over to watch him, face down, back arched, chin resting on his folded hands. He looked like a moulded statue in the dim white light from the street, his skin silvered, the strong, male line of muscle and bone from shoulders to feet the classic line of Grecian art. Adam, much slighter and more catlike before the window, was closer to spirit or elf, the material of Oberon or Puck. Adam stretched, hands linking high above his head, and opened the window. The draught tasted of frost, leaves, fresh and cold night. Adam stood there until Stuart came to him, pulling the blanket over his shoulders and sat on the floor to stroke Adam’s calves and thighs, waiting until Adam curled against his chest, under the shelter of the woollen cloak. They cuddled underneath the open window.
"Gwrandaw... " Adam said softly in his ear. "Gwrandaw bachgen. Cara 'ch. Cara 'ch yn anad ddim i mewn hon byd. Glywch 'm?"
"What?" Stuart said quietly. Adam smiled and lay back down against him.
Adam had the means of dealing with the epilepsy down to a fine art. Now he was no longer actively hiding the evidence from Stuart, Stuart began to realise how strictly he managed it. He took the twice daily medications to a rigid timetable. Other minor obsessions Stuart had accepted as just Adam-quirks began to make sense. He kept to a fairly tight bed time of eleven pm, nightly, and always got up early, the routine rarely changing. He jogged daily as much to a routine as possible. He might eat junk, but he ate at very regular times.
"Break of routine is the worst trigger." He admitted when Stuart asked him. "Late nights, being tired, sleeping in, skipping meals."
"How does the running help?"
"I don't know." Adam said honestly. "It just does."
Physical and emotional control. Stuart realised one afternoon when he passed Adam on his way home from work, Adam covering the last half mile, head down, face expressionless. When he was upset, worried, angry- he went for a run. Adam was one of the best concealed brats Stuart had ever come across, and he'd known a few. The veneer to the uninitiated was of a severe, grim faced and alarmingly organised man. The organisation was very much surface deep. Although admittedly, Adam was being nothing short of angelic at the moment.
There was another of those parcels on the table when Adam got home. Stuart was cooking and barely glanced at it as Adam picked it up.
"Another one? What is it?"
"Junk mail." Adam said without interest. "I signed up for so many internet companies when I got the computer, they all keep mailing me start up stuff. I keep binning it all."
"Fine. The German parts finally arrived. Two were wrong."
"The water's hot, have a shower. I'll bring you a drink."
Adam blew him a kiss and headed for the bathroom. En route he opened a drawer in the bedroom and stuffed the package in on top of three identical ones. The envelope tore just enough to show three Cds and a bill which Adam opened unwillingly.
"Dr Mr Rhys.
We enclose the next three CDs in the Autumn collection for your enjoyment. We would like to draw your attention to the £69.70 still owed in your account."
Adam pocketed the bill and shut the drawer, deciding he must- MUST- put the cheque in the post tomorrow and cancel the blasted account. It had been a mistake to ever order the first three CDs from the magazine club: having forgotten to return the form in time he now found himself fighting the things off in handfuls, the bills getting ever higher. And he still couldn't remember to get a cheque in the post. And more and more CDs kept arriving that he didn't want.
NORMAL people didn't forget things like this. Normal people didn't procrastinate like this. It was embarrassing. Procrastination was one of the things he'd first asked Stuart to help him with- Adam's face flushed at the thought. Stuart wouldn't be angry- but to have him find out about this kind of disorganisation? This kind of incapability? No way. He'd sort this all out tomorrow, there was no reason Stuart ever needed to know. He'd fix it and the whole thing would be forgotten about. And he could stop worrying about it.
Judith took the phone call shortly after lunch and put her hand over the mouthpiece.
“Stuart? Grania corporations? One of their secretaries is on the line.”
The track. The bloody car’s blown up, he’d run himself through with a welder- Stuart picked up the phone, stomach chilled.
“Mr Milliner? Mr Rhys gave me your number. He’s been taken ill, he asked if you’d be able to come and pick him up?”
The drive over to Grania gave Stuart plenty of time to get nervous. By the time he reached the workshop doors he was prepared for anything, including rivers of blood. It was quite a relief to see the crews working normally. He took the gallery ramp up to Adam’s office and pushed open the narrow door. Adam was sitting at his desk, head down on his arms. In the harsh electric light Stuart suddenly thought he looked bony. Thin. Stuart put his hands gently on his shoulders, swept by a surge of overwhelming protectiveness.
Adam jumped under his hands. Stuart steadied him, feeling him shivering, alarmed by the disorientation in his face.
“Hey. It's me. Are you allright?” He felt Adam’s forehead. Cold if anything, eyes a little unfocussed, very pale, with a darkening bruise above one eye. Adam rubbed his eyes hard.
“Let's get you home.” Stuart eased him to his feet, anxious. “You look terrible.”
“I had another fit.” Adam said bleakly. Stuart felt his stomach lurch.
Adam pulled his jacket round his shoulders, clumsy and unusually slow. “I think it was a bad one. It scared the living daylights out of Mick.”
“Where is he?”
Adam waved a vague hand in the direction of the main office block. His head was splitting and he was in no condition to talk. Stuart steadied him down the ramp, past the sympathetic glances of the crews. Adam shut his eyes in the warmth of the car and leaned his head against the window.
“That’s the first one I’ve ever had at work- I was lucky, we were in the office and only Mick saw.”
Adam winced as they turned out of the drive into direct sunlight. Stuart pulled the shade down in front of him.
“Is your head okay?”
“Need to see the GP.”
Stuart glanced at him in alarm. Adam shook his head against the window. “Not my head.
Four so close together. Fits. Medication must be out of balance, I’m going to have to get it checked.”
FOUR??? Stuart fulminated in silence, too worried to be angry.
“Do you want to go now?”
“No.” Adam said frankly. “Evening surgery.”
“I’ll ring them when we get in.”
“This can’t happen at the workshop. Really can’t. I didn’t feel a thing, it was like a switch being thrown- bang, it all went black.”
Stuart swallowed at the thought of the tools and machinery he could have been using when it happened. He was incredibly lucky he’d been in the office and not on the workshop floor.
“What will your GP do?”
“Blood test. Check the drugs.” Adam sounded nearly asleep.
“Are you going to take a couple of days off?”
“See what he says.”
Adam woke shortly after five and came into the lounge, still very pale. Stuart glanced up from his book, very little of which he'd managed to concentrate on enough to read.
“I was about to come and wake you, you’ve got an appointment for six. How do you feel?”
“Bad headache.” Adam dropped on the arm of the sofa where they were more or less at a height and leaned heavily into Stuart's arms. Stuart stroked him, smoothing his dark hair.
“What caused this one?”
“Nothing as far as I know. Bloody nuisance.”
“It won’t cause any problems at work?”
Adam grunted. “One won’t. They knew when they employed me, I was up front about it, but two or three in a year, usually at home at seven am don’t worry anyone. Angen rhyw de, cara?”
"No." Stuart said, holding on to him. "We need to talk about this."
Adam's eyes flashed straight up to his, jumpy and alarmed. "I'm sorry I called you away from work, I wouldn’t have bothered you except-"
"Adam listen." Stuart interrupted very calmly. "I'll always come and get you if call, any day, any time. I WANT to be here, I'd be furious if you hadn't called. You're my first concern. Always. And what really bothers me, is you said you'd had four fits in a row. I only know of two, including this one."
Adam looked like a fox in a trap. Stuart reached out and brushed his cheek, wanting to take the look of panic out of his eyes.
"Ad it's allright. I just want you to tell me. Honestly. When were the other two?"
Adam swallowed carefully. "One the other morning. Sunday. You went out shopping."
"You said you wanted to do some paperwork."
"I knew I was going to have one."
"And the other one?" Stuart said grimly. Adam flinched.
"I came home early from work last week. About two pm. I felt lousy and I had one in the kitchen."
"You were here- on your own-"
"Stuart I've had hundreds of the damned things on my own, it's not a big deal!"
Silence. Stuart took a deep breath.
"Adam, you TELL me about every single one you have from here onwards, do you understand me? You DON'T hide them from me."
"I knew you'd worry about it-"
"YOU're worried about it!" Stuart retorted. Adam looked hard at the floor.
"I hate all the GP stuff. They always want me to go back to the consultant-"
"To muck about with the medication and moan about working hours and so on. It's all rubbish, I can manage it!"
"WE manage." Stuart said firmly. "We. As in I get involved too. And you DON'T lie to me Adam. Take that as a rule, hard and fast. I will never lie to you, and you don't lie to me."
"I know. I'm sorry."
He was scared and upset and he clearly still felt like hell. Stuart pulled him closer and didn't press any further. They were still on new ground and this was an added complication they didn't need. This wasn't a good time to start cracking down on him.
Stuart drove him to the local clinic and sat in the waiting room, watching the statutory fish drift about in a clouded tank while Adam saw the doctor. He emerged, jacketless, rolling one sleeve down and looking slightly more cheerful. Stuart returned the smile faintly, looking for a prescription in his hand.
“Did he change your drugs?”
“Ran a blood test. He won’t do anything until it comes back, but he thinks its just stress with the car coming towards formal testing.”
“And me hassling you.”
“You I don’t mind getting stressed about.” Adam told him honestly. He pushed the swing door aside and held it open for Stuart to follow him. “The results come back in three days.”
“What about work?”
“If I don’t feel a hundred percent, ring in sick. Otherwise don’t worry until the test results come back. Get some early nights, eat properly, don’t think about it.”
That they could do. Adam looked less stressed, Stuart was grateful for that much. They ate together and curled up together on the sofa in front of the tv, Adam leaning against Stuart while Stuart stroked and tangled his dark hair. Rare for Adam and usually a sign he wanted comfort. At quarter to ten Stuart reached for the remote control and gave Adam a hug, shaking him out of a partial doze.
Adam stirred and sat up, glancing at his watch. "Rubbish. Not even ten yet."
"And the doctor told you to get plenty of sleep."
"Stu I'm a big boy. I can cope with eight hours, no problem." Adam reached for the remote and turned the tv back on. Stuart took it out of his hand and turned it off, irritated.
"Apart from how rude that is, I really think you ought to go to bed."
He got the at bay look he was starting to recognise. Not pushing- Adam didn't push. Like he'd been nothing short of co operative since the first time he'd disobeyed about the workshop. Except it still didn't feel right to Stuart. He was still left angry as if there was a fight going on at a level he couldn't access. Adam was keeping his voice calm with an effort that made it almost patronising.
"Stu, I know when I'm tired. If I go now I'm not going to sleep. I'm not ill."
"Apart from the fit you had this afternoon, you need to be taking good care of yourself."
"Yes. Be sensible. Not behave like an invalid."
"Adam," Stuart said, starting to hate that tone, "Can you trust me to look after you here? I'd LIKE you to go to bed. I don't want to start world war three over it."
The pause went on forever. Then Adam gave him a shrug infuriatingly calm.
Stuart watched him go, propped his chin on his hands and fought with the urge to get up and follow him. To do what? Shout? No. This wasn't enough to take issue with- Adam seemed to specialise at the moment in going just far enough . And as the doctor had said, this was no time to upset him. Except the idea of discipline had been to take the conflict out of their relationship. The silences and bad feelings. To Stuart at the moment it felt worse, not better.