Stuart rolled across Adam to stop the alarm, and lay back to pull Adam into his arms. Adam grumbled, burying his face in Stuart’s neck. It took several minutes energetic coaxing before he tolerated the light being turned on. Stuart left him determinedly dozing under the shelter of the duvet and showered. He brought a mug of coffee in for Adam when he was ready, and found Adam sitting on the edge of the bed, face troubled. Stuart put the mug down, feeling the chill in his guts again.
Adam looked up, eyes bewildered and annoyed. “I’m going to have a fit.”
The chill intensified. Stuart swallowed, trying hard to keep his voice calm.
Adam shrugged a little helplessly. “Now? Ten minutes? Half an hour?”
“Is there anything you can do?”
“Wait.” Adam said flatly, picked up the coffee and drank rapidly. He sounded perfectly calm but Stuart was reading distress and apprehension in every movement he made. “What the hell’s the matter with me? I’m not missing meals, I haven’t missed any sleep since Saturday night, I haven’t missed any drug doses- Stu you'll be late, you’d better get ready.”
“I can wait until it’s over.” Stuart said lightly. Adam's nose wrinkled.
“I’ve had loads of fits on my own. They’re not dangerous, I’m not going to hurt myself. I'll be fine in a couple of hours. Just ring Grania for me and say I won’t be in today. Stuart go. I’m fine.”
"I'm not going anywhere."
"You want to watch?" Adam said angrily. Stuart evaded his push away.
"I want to be here and I want to know you're okay."
Adam shrugged and headed for the shower. "I wish you'd go away."
"Don't shut the door." Stuart said before he reached the bathroom. Adam snarled, but slammed it back off it's hinges. Stuart sat down on the edge of the bed and tried to stop his hands trembling. Every instinct screamed to keep Adam in his sight, the house seemed full of things he could fall on, hurt himself on. And more than anything he found himself dreading seeing Adam rigid, turning blue, body beyond either of their control.
And it was vital he didn't let Adam see that for a moment. Stuart drew a few deep breaths and made himself calm down. However he felt, this was far worse for Adam, he didn't need to be dealing with additional stress and panic when he most needed support. What he needed was calmness, matter of factness, confidence. Stuart forced his voice to sound calm and got up.
"What do you want for breakfast?"
Adam's voice implied that was the most stupid comment since Marie Antoinette.
"I'll be sick if I eat, that's the last thing I need to do now."
"You ought to have something."
If he reacted like last time, he'd sleep for around four hours, and he'd said before low blood sugar increased the likelihood of another fit.
Adam emerged from the bathroom, pale and furious.
"Who's having the damn fit? What do you know about it?"
Stuart opened his mouth and then closed it again, remember the temper and shouting before the last fit he'd seen. Maybe it sent him emotionally out of whack as well as how frustrated he must feel now. Electrical activity building up in the brain. Stuart started to make the bed, ears on Adam, trying to think of the websites he'd scanned through. Excess electrical activity building up, signals to the body becoming disorganised and confused until the chaotic signals spread through the whole brain and discharged in a seizure. Adam was the one with the head full of chaos, with nothing to do but wait until it built up enough. Adam pulled clothes on, slammed the door open in the hall and got the hoover out. From the slamming and crashing, it was hitting the furniture as much as hoovering the carpet. Stuart found he couldn't stand being out of sight. Determinedly casual, he went into the kitchen where he had a clear view of the living room, and made tea. Then thought again and made Adam's warm rather than hot. Adam glowered at him when he held the mug out, but turned the hoover off and accepted it.
"I wish you'd go to work."
"Well I'm not, so forget about it." Stuart said simply. Adam growled.
"I don't want a bloody audience! Piss off and leave me alone!"
"Oi." Stuart lowered his mug to look at him, sympathy starting to develop an edge. Adam shrugged, unapologetic, and kicked the hoover out of the way.
"You know how fun it is to have you standing and waiting for me to do it? No pressure or anything……"
"I'm staying so you might as well get used to it." Stuart put his mug down and followed Adam back into the bedroom. "How do you feel now?"
"Lousy." Adam said as if to a very small child. Stuart caught his wrist and pulled him down onto the bed.
"Being left alone!" Adam struggled away from him. Stuart sighed and let him go.
"So you usually just pace around in circles?"
Like a caged tiger. Adam wandered by the windows, arms tightly folded. His shoulders were rigid, his teeth were bared, Stuart could almost see him fighting this back. It was that trapped look that made him get up, take Adam's shoulders and this time refuse to let him go.
"Come here. It's allright, come here."
Stuart manhandled him down onto the edge of the bed and held him, too tight to get away.
"Because it makes it worse." Adam said muffled into his chest, still pulling. Stuart held on to him and waited for him to give up.
"It happens quicker. I have to keep moving."
"Because that holds it off longer?" Stuart took a deep breath, not certain of his ground. "Honey. Is there any chance you can stave it off altogether?"
Adam shook his head slowly. Stuart kissed his hair, feeling him slowly stop fighting although he was no more relaxed.
"Okay. So you're at home, you're with me, you're quite safe, there's no reason you need to hold it off. Why not get it over with?"
"It. It’s a bloody FIT, F. I.T. say the damn word-"
"Allright, why not let yourself have it?"
"You don't understand!"
Yes I do, Stuart thought with renewed protectiveness. He lay down on the bed, which forced Adam to move with him. It was like holding a coiled spring, he was anything but relaxed. He was barely staying put. Stuart moved his grip to get one arm around him, strong enough that Adam wasn't going to break away, and used the other to stroke his shoulders, rubbing at the muscles Adam was holding tense.
"Its okay. I've got you."
"Go to hell." Adam said savagely, not moving. Somehow it was less convincing with his head still buried in Stuart's shoulder. Stuart went on massaging his stiff shoulders, feeling the muscles gradually unwind under his hand. Adam slowly relaxed, not speaking, not reacting, but not fighting either. It was the sound and movement he made that sent a sudden spear of ice through Stuart's chest. His hands lifted slowly in perfect symmetry towards his shoulders, the fingers curling into fists and there was a deep sigh as Adam breathed out in a strange, controlled Ahh like a singer, warming up. It was the sound Stuart remembered from the park. He pulled back to see Adam's face. And Adam's left hand smashed him in the nose as his body went rigid and arched backwards, sending both arms flying out. Stuart managed to lay Adam down and moved back, grabbing tissues from the bedside table to hold to his now streaming eyes and nose. Blood was running down his chin. Adam was rigid on the bed, his head and arms still flung back. Stuart sat down beside him, cautiously, and watched Adam's face move from white to dead white. The twitching began in his legs, not much of it but there if you knew what to look for. Stuart put a hand on his hip and felt the muscles deep under his hand jerking slightly at a few second intervals. That was a relief. The sign they were approaching the end. Stuart sat and waited, feeling the twitching in one arm, down both legs. Adam's face moved slowly from white to blue. Stuart glanced at his watch, starting to get seriously edgy. The last one had taken barely three minutes. They were up to four now and Adam was showing no signs of coming out of it. He put his hand back on Adam's legs and felt the twitching, still steady, still strong although deep under the skin and barely moving his body. At four and a half minutes he snapped and dialled 999.
Afterwards, he had a vague sense of appreciation for the woman on the other end of the phone who talked to him, gently and steadily for the four more minutes it took for an ambulance to arrive. On her advice, he got Adam onto his side, tipped his head back and saw his colour improve slightly, although he knew from his hands on his partner's body, Adam was barely breathing, his muscles occupied with the seizure, although his heart was pounding. Two ambulance men invaded the house, talking cheerfully to Stuart and to each other which Stuart found totally inappropriate in his state of flat out terror. One of them set up a hypodermic, turned Adam's hand over and injected something directly into the back of it. Stuart sat down behind Adam's back, put an arm over him and watched as the other paramedic put an oxygen mask over Adam's face. His colour rapidly improved back to the dead white again. Under his hand, Stuart felt the twitches continue, unchecked for a few minutes, then gradually come further and further apart. One of the paramedics sat on the other side of the bed and rubbed Adam's face firmly.
"Adam? Hello mate, open your eyes for me."
Adam muttered something incomprehensible and shoved his hand away. Stuart leant closer over him, remembering his total confusion from last time.
"Adam it's me. Stuart. You're at home sweetheart, you just had a fit."
Mutter. The older paramedic glanced at his partner.
"Why don't you find a kettle and make some tea?" He looked at Stuart with some sympathy, "Looks like you could both do with it."
It got worse. Adam came around at the paramedic's gentle bullying, and clearly had no idea where he was, who was with him or what was going on. Coming around in a room he didn't recognise with three total strangers, he dissolved into tears of pure terror and Stuart found himself fighting with an irrational urge to attack the paramedics who wouldn't yet leave them alone. It took coaxing, brute force and several minutes before Adam let Stuart touch him, and then clung to him, oblivious to the fact they had an audience. His brain apparently straightened itself out in fragments, reminding Stuart of a computer coming on line. About five minutes later, still incoherent and not really fully awake, he could call Stuart by name and had a handle on his own first name, although his surname and where they were completely defeated him. The paramedics left at that point, telling Stuart gently that after a fit of that length, Adam needed to see his doctor as soon as possible. Adam muttered something about going to the bathroom, stumbled to his feet and headed for a blank wall. Not finding a door there upset him considerably. Stuart coaxed until he lay down and within a few minutes succeeded in keeping him still enough to fall asleep. Once he was really sure Adam wasn't likely to wake up for a while, he stumbled to the kitchen and opened the single bottle of whiskey in the cupboard. It took a few minutes and several swallows before he started to get a handle on his nerves. Then he picked up the phone and rang Adam's GP.
The GP was sympathetic and clearly knew Adam well. He reassured Stuart Adam would be unlikely to have another fit for at least 12 hours with the valium inside him, and that Adam needed to see his consultant at the hospital as it sounded like his drug regime needed checking. Adam slept through the morning. Stuart checked on him a few times and each time found him so deeply asleep he wanted to check for breathing.
At lunchtime he answered a knock at the door and found Sara there, hands in her pockets, her dark eyes sharp.
"I rang his office. They said he was ill. I guessed he had a fit?"
At least she didn't try waking Adam. Stuart made her lunch and they sat talking, about nothing in particular with several awkward silences in the conversation. Sara, unconcerned talked at length about anything without requiring much response from Stuart. She was talking about Christmas and about the need for her and Adam to go home for a few days when Stuart interrupted, dragged out of worry by curiosity.
"Can I ask something rude? What happened to your family?"
Sara lifted her eyebrows.
"You've lived with Adam six months and he hasn't told you?"
Stuart shrugged, in no mood for delicacy. "He told me the first few days I met him, but only the bare bones. I know he doesn't like talking about it."
"Our Dad committed suicide." Sara said bluntly. "Went up the mountain one day when we were four and shot himself. Our Mam left the day after the funeral and went home to her own family. From what Ianto's told me, they weren't that happily married in the first place. Look at Adam and me? Second family. Marriage reaches a real rock so you have another baby. Bryn left school when my Dad died and he and Ianto took over the farm, my Grandad helped for a few years until they were old enough to get by, and they raised Adam and me between them."
"How old were they? Teenagers?"
"Ianto was twenty two. Bryn eighteen." Sara said simply. Stuart wondered for a few minutes how two young men- little more than boys- held together a farm and two frightened, abandoned small children.
"What on earth did they do with you? You can't have been school aged even!"
"They kept us with them while they worked." Sara grinned suddenly. "Bryn says I was the best sheepdog he ever had. We must have been the fittest kids in the valley."
"Adam doesn't talk much about it. He doesn’t like talking about it."
"He's the youngest. And he's the obstinate one of the family." Sara shrugged. "He's always been that way. Will of iron. You know he slept with Ianto for two years after my Dad died? He wouldn't sleep at all unless Ianto was there, he wouldn't even go to bed until Ianto did." She grinned suddenly. "And then when he was nine he went on a hunger strike for four days because he had a bad fit and Bryn took his bike away. He said it was too dangerous for him to be riding. Ianto made him give it back on the fourth day, before Adam starved."
"Four days?" Stuart said in disbelief.
Sara grinned. "He wouldn't eat a thing until they gave in. Or at least not eat where they could see him. I used to sneak bread and biscuits out for him. And when we had the big fight about him going to University with me? Bryn and Ianto went mad, they said he wasn't safe away from home and it was their responsibility to look after him. He stopped taking his medication for a fortnight that time."
"And your brothers let him?"
"He was sixteen, they couldn't do much to stop him!" Sara said tolerantly. "You'll get to know with our Adam, he isn't someone you cross. They always had to give in at the end."
Little horror, Stuart thought under his breath.
What he saw in Adam was someone far too good at deciding what he thought he needed and defending it. No trust in anyone else to know what was best, or to look after him. He had been raised by teenagers in a family under stress- there were the marks on him of a boy trained by other young boys. The need to be seen to be tough. Resiliant. The need to prove himself. The one unfit, helpless boy in a family of fit and active men- that connected to his compulsive jogging, his obsessive neatness. They were the traces of a man less than convinced of the perfection of his body. There were times Stuart looked at Adam with flashes of insight. Links which clicked together without warning.
The consultant was middle aged, suited and annoyingly smug.
Adam explained and handed over the GP’s notes. The consultant flicked through them and asked a few questions mostly about lifestyle and stress, which Adam answered in a monotone. Stuart, sensing the appointment moving rapidly to conclusion, cleared his throat and Adam broke off to glance at him. Stuart gave him a quick and faint smile.
"We came to see you mostly because Adam had a fit the other day which we had to call the paramedics out for. He needed valium before they could stop the seizure, which hasn't happened to Adam for years and which worried both of us. The seizures are getting more and more frequent and they seem to be getting more severe too."
"This does sometimes happen in long term conditions." The consultant shut the book of notes and pulled a prescription pad towards him. "You've been taking Valporate for some years. Its quite possible you're now too used to it and its no longer as effective. In which case we need to move you over to another drug. I'd like to try you on Lamotrogine and see if that's more effective. I don't think you'll find any side effects to worry about."
"What side effects?" Stuart said, frowning. The consultant tore off the prescription and handed it to Adam.
"Of course you can't just stop taking the Valporate. It's going to take a few weeks to decrease the Valporate and build up the Lamotrogine. I'd like you to start on 100 mg of the Lamotrogine daily and drop the Valporate down to 200. Every week drop the Valporate by 50mg and raise the Lamotrogine until you reach 400mg. Once you get there, I'd like you to come back and see me."
"How quickly will we notice a change?" Stuart said sharply. The consultant gave him a wry look.
"Its never easy changing established drug routines. You may need to be prepared for the seizures to stay poorly controlled for a few weeks yet."
"It's getting dangerous." Stuart said sharply. The consultant smiled thinly.
"Much as I'd love to have a magic wand, they are not as yet issued by the NHS."
"What about the fits that don't stop? Do we keep dialling 999?"
The consultant pulled the prescription pad towards him. "I can give you Stesolid- valium- in a form you can keep at home to administer during a seizure if it lasts beyond four minutes."
"How?" Stuart demanded. "If you think I'll get anything down his throat when he's in mid fit-"
"Rectal injection. Pre packed, pre loaded syringes. They're easy to operate-"
"NO way." Adam interrupted. Stuart glanced at him, not unsympathetic.
"Ad we need something, this is a serious problem."
"I can show you a dummy model if you want, they're a common prescription."
"There is no way we are carrying any drugs that you have to give me, never mind whether or not someone's sticking anything up my arse-" Adam shoved his chair back as Stuart reached for his hand. "NO. I'll change the drugs, that's fine, lets just leave it there. Thankyou very much, goodNIGHT."
"Adam." Stuart said grimly. Adam jerked his hand free and walked out of the surgery, the door slamming behind him. Stuart got up, glancing at the consultant.
"I'm sorry, this has been a very stressful few weeks for him. Could you give us a moment please?"
The consultant waved a hand at the door, looking sardonic. Stuart closed the door quietly behind him and went in search of Adam.
He hadn't gone far. He was standing in the stairwell, his hands on a windowsill, staring down at the carpark, his shoulders hunched with fury. There was no one else around. Stuart went down the few steps to him and swatted him, sharply enough to make him jump.
"Get yourself back upstairs right now."
"No." Adam snapped back. Stuart's patience, already thin, broke. He swatted Adam again, harder, turned him by the arm and pushed him towards the stairs.
He was somewhat surprised that Adam came with him without resisting, although he sounded furious.
"I'm not going to consider it, there's NOTHING you can say-"
Stuart held on to his arm, steered him past the reception desk and put him down in a chair at the far end of the waiting room before sitting beside him.
"Calm down and listen to me. We need something at home if you have another fit like the last one. You don't want me to keep calling ambulances."
Adam planted his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands. Stuart looked down at his taut shoulders and read frustration and misery in the body he loved. His own irritation promptly melted away. Gently he ran his hands over Adam's bony shoulders and rubbed.
"Honey. Suppose we at least listen to the man?"
"I don't want to know." Adam said stubbornly. Stuart sighed.
"I know. But he's the expert-"
"YOU go. You do what you want."
He was sounding more and more upset by the minute. Stuart rubbed his shoulders, saying nothing until he relaxed a little. Then he leaned closer, speaking quietly.
"Will you wait here? Promise me?"
Adam shrugged. "Whatever."
Oh God. Stuart got up, stomach once more chilled with uncertainty and the knowledge this wasn't right. He wasn’t handling this well.
"I'll be two minutes. Then we can go home."
DD1 Chatroom, 18.42pm, Mac (S.Hutt@Virgin.co) logged in.
Mac: Hi there.
D591: Hi Mac.
D591: Usually people chat in chat rooms?
Mac: Sorry. This is a URL my partner keeps on file, I haven't been to this site before. Not sure what to chat about.
D591: What does your partner chat about here?
Mac: I don't know. I don't even know his tag name.
D591: ? My other half surfs around here somewhere. I'm not officially supposed to know about it, but this is a neutral zone- I don't take notice when he gripes online!
Mac: What does he gripe about?
D591: The usual. And whatever the current hot topic is. He has an opinion on most things.
Mac: Sorry. This is still pretty new, I knew my partner read through all these sites but I never realised how many groups like this there are.
D591: Are you two in a discipline relationship?
Mac: We're trying.
D591: The early stages are always hard. How long?
Mac: Four weeks. I did a lot of reading before we agreed anything, but the more I read here the less I feel I know what I'm doing.
D591: At the end of the day you know him best and you have to work out between you what you both want.
Mac: We were both clear to start with.
D591: Now things are getting harder?
D591: Your partner?
Mac: Both of us I suppose. Sometimes I think we'd be better putting the whole thing on hold for a while, and other times I think, no, he really needs it now. And I think he DOES want it. I'm just not sure I know who he wants me to be.
D591: What's he doing?
Mac: Nothing really. Most of the time he's being so paranoidedly good it's worrying.
D591: My partner would kill to be able to say that about me!
Mac: You're a brat?
D591: Well. Let's just say I have my moments. ?
Mac: It's not really him. He's angry most of the time, he's defensive. I don't want him to be afraid of me!
D591: I'm sure he isn't. It isn't easy when the novelty wears off and you have to deal with someone telling you what you can and can't do.
Mac: I don't think it's that. He's under a lot of stress at the moment, I think trying to sort us out too isn't helping.
D591: Maybe. I know when things are really bad, that's when I really need my partner to be at his pushiest. He does that well!
Mac: I'm lousy at that bit.
Mac: I don't know. Like I went with him to a doctor's appointment the other day, he walked out of the surgery and we ended up arguing in the waiting room.
D591: What did you do?
Mac: I got him back into the waiting room and he waited for me while I finished talking to the consultant.
D591: My partner would go mad if I stormed out of an appointment!
Mac: I shouldn't have let him walk out in the first place. Once he was gone, there was nothing I could do to make things end well.
Mac: If I was doing it right, I'd be able to stop him without getting to the brink of a knock down, drag out fight. If I let things get to that point, it isn't fair on him. He's stressed and upset enough- I can't get into a fight with him because I've let things escalate.
D591: But if you're backing off, he's won anyway.
Mac: I don't think he means it like that. I just need to get better at handling things before they get out of control.
Stuart pulled his collar straight and fastened his tie, leaning past the mirror to see the kitchen.
"Where are the biscuits?"
"There's toast or cereal."
From the silence in the kitchen, that had come of something of a shock. Stuart pulled his jacket on and found Adam looking in indignation at a loaf of brown bread.
"The doctor said you needed to eat properly."
"Adam, you eat junk."
Adam glared at him. "You know I DID manage to look after myself for four years before you came along."
"Twenty six is too old to be eating biscuits for breakfast. Make some toast."
"I HATE toast."
Stuart put a couple of slices in the toaster and got out the butter and marmalade. "What are you going to do today?"
"I wanted to go to work." Adam said crossly. He slouched back against the kitchen cabinets to watch Stuart make tea, folding his arms. They had spent most of yesterday on the sofa in the lounge, watching tv quietly enough not to aggravate Adam's headache or the fact he had come to feeling like hell because of the valium. Actually it hadn't been at all bad to be able to relax and recover gradually with someone else to do the worrying. Stuart had been sympathetic, understanding, and very very comforting. Except this morning, Adam was starting to wonder if he'd let Stuart infiltrate a little too far. It had been almost a joke last night when Stuart insisted he went to bed at ten- certainly it had been no effort. Valium was almost worse than the fit itself. But this new diet thing, and this 'you're not going to work today' - Adam looked at Stuart, confused and annoyed, with a grim feeling that if he was not very careful, Stuart was going to start taking this discipline thing beyond the realms of reasonability. It hadn't even been 'I don't think you should work today.' It had been flat out, kindly said but matter of fat.
"You're not going to work today."
"I really don't think it's a good idea." Stuart said mildly, without turning. Adam glared at his back, more or less on principle.
"It’s a decision I can make. I don't have to be near machinery even."
"No." Stuart said again, gently. "I want you to have three consecutive fit-free days before you go back. Even to do office work."
There was something in that tone that hinted it wasn't going to bend easily. Adam frowned, warned by it, and changed his own tone to one more matter of fact.
"Okay. I'll go in around lunchtime and check the paperwork-"
"I said no." Stuart's tone didn't change. Adam took the toast from him to butter it.
"I know, but I haven't got much choice. It'll only be for an hour or two."
"What time will you be home? I can shop, I'll have an hour free- what do you want for tea?"
Stuart took Adam's hand and pulled him around, face to face.
"I said no and I meant no. Three consecutive days. Yes?"
Adam's glare was miserable and frustrated. Stuart hooked an arm around his neck and Adam pulled away. Stuart drew a deep breath, hurt.
"Ok. I'm sure you're angry with me at the moment, I'm sorry you feel like that but I understand. I'll call at lunchtime. Have a good day."
Adam heard the front door shut with more rage than he knew what to do with. Before the car was at the end of the road, he was changing into trainers, and ten minutes later he jogged out of the drive on the two mile route to work.
The MX3 was in the middle of the usual chaos when a deadline was approaching. Mick met Adam with open relief and a desk piled high with paperwork. Adam gritted his teeth and sat down to it, settling back to the familiar background of workshop noises. Once he had the desk clear, he changed into coveralls and went down to the MX and the two other projects ongoing.
He came round in casualty. It took him several minutes to work out where he was: it wasn’t until a nurse came through the curtains that it dawned on him. He groaned and found his way to his feet, clutching her for support. “I’m so sorry. I have epilepsy, I’m fine now, I’m afraid people tend to panic-“
“It was your boss that panicked.” The nurse peered at his eyes and was reassured enough to let him go. “He’s outside in the waiting room. Since you’re here you probably ought to see the doctor.”
“I saw my consultant yesterday- Mr Mcdowell, neurology? I’ve just had a drugs change. I’m sorry to be taking up your time.”
“No problem. Are you sure you’re ready to go?”
“I’m fine. Really.”
Just sick, headachy and thoroughly hacked off.
Adam pulled himself together and went out to the reception area, looking for a clock. Nearly five. Time enough to ring Stuart before he reached home and started panicking.
Ron Gardiner, one of the senior directors was sitting in the waiting room, suited and looking stressed. Relief crossed his face at the sight of Adam, he got up, hand outstretched. “Adam? Are you allright?”
“Fine.” Adam did his best to stand upright and sound reassuring. “Really, this hardly ever happens. I had the drugs changed slightly-“
“Can we go somewhere and talk?” the director said tactfully.
“There’s a canteen upstairs I believe?” Adam said lightly, and deliberately led the way to the lift, forcing himself to look active and together despite his pounding head. The canteen was unbearably hot. Adam ordered coffee for them both and they sat by a misted window overlooking a litter strewn roof.
“Do you remember anything of what happened?” Gardiner said quietly. Adam tried not to flinch.
“You were with a welding team on the C12 project. From what the crew said, you were very lucky you didn’t come in with severe burns as well as the crack on the head.”
Gardiner steepled his hands, looking uncomfortable. “Adam I asked for your file and read through it. The understanding when you were employed with us, was that the – seizures – occurred only at night or early morning, and that you always had enough warning to make yourself safe before they happened.”
Adam thought rapidly, trying to keep his self possession. “This is just a temporary glitch in the medication: today was a fluke.”
“Mick Collins told me this is the second one you’ve had at work over the last two weeks.” Gardiner said gently. “Adam you’ve had a hand in employing your own crews, you know what regard we have to give to safety. Would you allow someone into the crews who was likely to lose consciousness without warning? The workshops are full of hazards.”
“Is this a dismissal?” Adam said grimly. Gardiner looked startled, then sympathetic.
“Good God no! I’m afraid what it is, is notice of sick leave. Pending a statement from medical authority that you won’t lose consciousness without warning between the hours of nine am and five pm. I’m sorry Adam, I really am, but you must see, the company can’t take that sort of risk. With the sort of equipment in hourly use in the workshops, you wouldn’t just be endangering yourself. Imagine the compensation payouts if you accidentally injured someone else?”
“What if I swore- wrote and signed- that until I get that proof I won’t handle equipment?” Adam said with an effort. Gardiner shook his head.
“I’m sorry. The EU laws put a hell of a lot of pressure on us. Companies can be sued into ruin. We can’t afford to take a risk on an employee. Even a very good one. Hopefully it’ll only be a few weeks anyway before you’re certified fit, won’t it?”
“Think of it as a few weeks holiday then. Can I give you a lift anywhere?”
Adam tried to clear his head and look fairly together. “Uh- no. Thanks. I’ll call my partner.”
“Fine. Have a good rest, we’ll hope to see you soon.” Gardiner stood and offered his hand. Adam gripped it, fixing a smile that died as soon as Gardiner made good his escape. It was a scene neither of them had enjoyed. Adam felt through his pocket for change and found a payphone outside the canteen. In crisis before, all his life, his first thought would have been to call Sara. Now, even as he thought of her, he found himself desperate to speak to and hear Stuart first. The office would be closing down, he was lucky to catch anyone still there- Judith, who handed him over to Stuart. Who sounded sharp. Already he was learning to be wary of calls, anything even slightly out of the ordinary. Actually the sharp tone was something of a relief to hear.
“Are you okay?”
“No.” Adam leaned against the wall and admitted it, frankly, almost losing the energy to talk. “No I’m not. I’m at the hospital- casualty- calm down – come and pick me up Stu…Please.”
Adam fell asleep the minute he got in the car. Sara was waiting on the doorstep, arms folded, which limited Stuart to dropping a hand on Adam's shoulder as they reached the gate.
"We ARE going to talk about you being at the workshop today."
Adam's stomach plummeted. He cast a quick glance at Stuart but couldn't read his face.
Sara was too familiar with Adam and fits to be shocked. She was just grimly reasonable, which in some ways Stuart found harder to deal with. And the look she cast him as she walked in the door implied clearly who's fault she thought this was.
“How long will the sick leave last?”
“If I can’t get the proof from McDowell, six weeks,” Adam said wearily.
“And then what?”
“Up to the board.” Adam ran a hand over his eyes, trying not to think about it. “It won’t happen. The medication’s askew, that’s all-“
“That’s never happened since you were in your teens and growing too fast.” Sara said flatly. “Either you’re spending too much time shagging Stuart and not enough sleeping-“
“We thought of that and we’ve been careful.” Adam said, thinking of Stuart's increasing management of their routine. "If anything I'm sleeping more- eating better-"
“It's gone out of control before. These phases happen.”
“If it’s that, what are you going to do? I don’t like the thought of you in here on your own-“
“That's crap. Stuart is here,” Adam pointed out.
"Not full time," Stuart said wearily as Sara glanced at him. It was the first time in the conversation Sara had even acknowledged his existence.
“I’ll give you three guesses what the boys would say if they knew what was going on.” Sara warned. “I’ll bet you’ve not told them.”
“Of course I haven’t. If you dare-“ Adam added sharply. Sara snorted.
“You just be careful. I’ll come over on Saturday, I can’t get away before.”
“STU's here! And there’s nothing you can do.”
Sara shook her head. Stuart watched Adam rub discreetly at his temples and got up, at the end of his tether and too worried now to care whether Sara objected or not.
"That's short and to the point," Sara commented. Stuart pulled Adam to his feet.
Adam didn't even open his mouth to argue. Stuart stripped him, he dropped full length on the bed and Stuart pulled the quilt over him. By the time the windows were open and the curtains were closed, he was asleep.
Sara thankfully was gone when Stuart went back to the living room.
It was dark when Adam staggered over to the sofa and buried himself in Stuart's arms. Stuart kissed his hair, aware he was cold and tense and very heavy eyed.
"What do you want to eat?"
Stuart let him go and went into the kitchen. Adam watched him, still pale. Stuart glanced at him over the counter, well aware he was in no state for a heavy discussion over anything.
"We need to talk," he said sternly. Adam's eyes jumped guiltily to his.
"That doesn't cut it. I told you, you weren't fit enough for work today."
"And if I hadn't gone, I wouldn't have been thrown out on sick leave. I know, it's my fault."
And that was typical Adam. Attacking himself, hastily and viciously before anyone else could. Stuart put a pan on the hob, turned on the oven and came to sit down, speaking gently but firmly.
"I said no. You don't pick and choose what you obey here, Adam, if I say no I mean it. Now you wanted into this. You were the one who told me how this kind of relationship worked, we talked this out to the last decimal place and we agreed, this isn't a game. Things don't change because you don't feel like playing."
Adam flushed scarlet but he sounded quiet and very subdued. "I know. I'm sorry. Really. I don't know what else to say."
And there was a panic-stricken look in his eyes that Stuart hated. This was no time to argue. Adam was tired, he felt ill, he was barely capable of listening. With a guilty sense of relief Stuart got up and tousled his hair.
"Okay. We'll talk about it tomorrow. When you're feeling better."
He walked back to the kitchen, leaving Adam to slump back on the sofa with an equal sense of relief overlaying the continuing sensation of stress.