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Time Bring Back to Time

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Remembrance may recover
And time bring back to time
The name of your first lover,
The ring of my first rhyme;
But rose-leaves of December
The frosts of June shall fret,
The day that you remember,
The day that I forget.
--Algernon Charles Swinburne, “Rococo”

Connor's had a hell of a day and all he wants in the world is to unwind and not think for a while. He's got the phone out of his pocket before he's registered the thought, the number dialed and the line ringing against his ear as he tries to decide upon a good line, one that will convince Oliver to let him come over, let him come in, let him come period. Oliver likes flattery and he likes Connor's mouth, and Connor thinks he's got a good one when the line finally connects.

He doesn't even notice the words that are spoken because the voice isn't Oliver's. And they're just fuck buddies, they've made no promises to each other, hell, Connor's fucked other guys when Oliver's been busy or reluctant. It's just need that makes his stomach twist up at the sound of another man's voice coming through Oliver's phone, it's frustration, because he's had a hell of a day and he doesn't want to have to work for it. He could go to a club, could find a cute guy and pick him up and take him home and have his release, but that all sounds exhausting.

"Who is this?" he demands, too harsh. He might sound like he cares. "Where's Oliver?"

There's a long, long pause. Connor braces for an indignant I'm his goddamn boyfriend, who the fuck are you? or for a vague He can't come to the phone right now if Oliver's decided he's tired of being fuck buddies and doesn't feel like letting Connor know himself.

Instead, what he gets is a cleared throat and a, "This is Dr. Ramirez at County Hospital. Oliver's been in an accident. Do you have contact information for his next of kin?"

The bottom drops out of Connor's stomach. He nearly gets into an accident himself, he slams on the brakes so hard. "Is he dead?"

Dr. Ramirez clears his throat again and sounds uncomfortable. "He's condition is serious, but stable."

County Hospital is behind him, back the way he'd just come. He cuts across two lanes of traffic to get to a lane where he can make a U-turn. "I'll be right there."

"Please, sir, we really need to contact his family--"

"I'll be right there," Connor snarls, and throws his phone down in the empty passenger seat. As soon as the light turns, he wheels his car around and tears across the city toward the hospital.

*

The lady at the reception desk eyes him dubiously across the counter as he gives Oliver's name and asks where he can find him. "Are you family?"

A frustrated sound works its way out of his throat. "The doctors don't even know where his family is. Look, I spoke with Dr. Ramirez, just let me see him. He shouldn't have to be alone." He's sure there are all manner of things he could be saying right now, things he should be saying, running circles around her logic and quoting case law and precedent, but every time he tries to think of something it goes skittering away from him, just out of reach.

The receptionist frowns at him as he struggles just to think, but slowly her expression eases, turns sympathetic. She leans across the desk, drops her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Look, I'm not supposed to do this, but..." She slides a slip of paper with a room number written on it across the desk to him. "You're right. No one should have to be alone in the hospital. And it's obvious you care about him very much."

Connor's reaction to that is so ingrained it's reflex, a scoff, a laugh, an instinctive "No, you really don't understand our situation," that he only barely manages to swallow back. His heart beats faster, pounding with the need to correct her, to insist that caring isn't really his thing.

He says nothing, just grabs the piece of paper and gives the receptionist a tight smile before he makes for the elevators.

Oliver's room, when he finds it, is dim and quiet, the lights turned low and the silence broken only by the beep of the monitors he's hooked up to. Connor slips inside and approaches the bed quietly. Oliver's asleep -- he hopes he's asleep, hopes he's not unconscious, hopes that the doctors and nurses would be in here trying to do something about it if he was.

Connor just sits and wonders what the hell he's doing here. Oliver has family, of course he does. He's probably got very loving supporting family who'd drop what they were doing at a moment's notice to come out here and be with him, he seems that type. He's probably got a perfect family, and any one of them would probably be better to have around than Connor, who is sitting staring at the readout on the screen that's monitoring his vitals, wanting him to wake up so Connor can reassure himself that he's fine and then go the fuck home, but too reluctant to disturb him to actually do so.

It's the doctor who wakes Oliver, in the end, striding into the room and turning the lights up, enough to see by if not enough to blind. He seems taken aback when his arrival has Connor sitting upright in the uncomfortable visitor's chair, blinking.

"How is he?" Connor asks automatically, and seeks out the ID hanging from the doctor's lapel. Ramirez it says, and Connor lets out his breath. "My name is Connor. We spoke on the phone earlier?"

Some of Dr. Ramirez's expression eases at that. "Yes, of course. Judy told me she sent you up."

He offers his hand and Connor shakes it, then shoves his hands in his pockets, trying not to stare at Oliver, or the dozens of cuts and scrapes that are obvious on his face and hands, now that the light's better in the room. "Can you tell me what happened?"

"He was in a traffic accident, we were told. I don't know the details of it, but I can tell you that he's very lucky. Most of his injuries are limited to contusions and other soft tissue damage. He does look like his head got knocked around a bit in the collision so we're monitoring him for concussion as well as keeping an eye out for any signs of internal bleeding, but it could have been a lot worse."

Connor nods and swallows down the worry that's been sitting like a knot in his chest ever since Dr. Ramirez first answered his call. "Right. So, he's fine, then. And I can..."

Leave, he means to say, but the word sticks in his throat. Before he can force it out, there's a sound in the silence between them, a slight moan and the rustle of sheets.

"Oliver?" Connor takes an aborted step towards him, then pulls himself back. "How are you feeling?"

"Confused." Oliver's voice comes out scratchy. He rubs a hand over his face and pushes himself half upright. "What happened? Why am I in a hospital?"

"Oliver, you were in an accident." Dr. Ramirez steps forward smoothly, his voice pitched low and calming. "I'm the physician taking care of you. You're in good hands."

"An accident?" That just makes him look more uncertain. "Thank you, Doctor." He looks past Dr. Ramirez to Connor, lets his gaze sweep down and back up again. There's no expression in his eyes at all, nothing but confusion. "You're not a doctor. Who are you?"

For a long moment, all Connor can do is gape at him. Dr. Ramirez frowns and examines the bump on Oliver's head and makes noises about memory loss not being uncommon after a head trauma, and Oliver's obviously barely listening to him. His eyes are still on Connor and Connor is choking on his own words because Dr. Ramirez is still there and he can't tell the truth because the only reason anybody let him into the hospital in the first place is because they thought he was Oliver's boyfriend.

Besides, who tells someone with amnesia that the only person waiting for them to wake up in the hospital is their fuck buddy? Connor is an asshole and he knows it, but he still has better manners than to kick a guy while he's down.

But Oliver is still waiting and now Dr. Ramirez is glancing at Connor, noticing the silence, starting to frown as Connor takes too long to answer. There's only one choice, and Connor makes himself do it: he smiles, sits on the edge of the bed, and says, "Well, we're sort of seeing each other."

*

There isn't much opportunity to discuss it -- not with Dr. Ramirez ordering blood work and x-rays and CT scans, Oliver whisked away and then back and then away again for one test after another. Connor sits in the uncomfortable chair in the hospital room, fingers threaded through his hair, unsure whether the panic twisting through him this time is borne of fear for Oliver's test results, or of the lie that Connor told him.

He is so fucked. He is in over his head and he is so, so fucked.

*

Oliver is watching him from his bed, his eyes narrowed and considering, and Connor pretends not to notice. He doesn't know what to say to him, not after what he's already said. He doesn't do boyfriends. He doesn't know how, and he's pretty sure the minute he speaks to Oliver he's going to give himself away.

But Oliver's considering him, and Connor can only bear that level of scrutiny for so long. "What?"

"You're really my boyfriend?"

Connor can't say yes, can't bring himself to. He lifts a brow, says instead, "You don't believe me?"

Oliver smiles. It's the first time he's done so since he woke up, and the adorable, bashful one that made Connor single him out at the bar in the first place. "Just trying to figure out how I managed to land someone like you. It seems a shame I have no recollection of what was clearly the zenith of my ability to have any game whatsoever."

Connor huffs a breath of humorless laughter, says, "I'm not that great of a catch, believe me," dry and bitter and the first true thing he's said to Oliver since he woke up.

Oliver's smile says he doesn't believe him at all.

*

None of the tests tell the doctors anything, and eventually they all basically shrug their shoulders and admit defeat. They have no explanation for Oliver's memory loss except "Sometimes that happens with head trauma," but since everything comes back clear and Oliver's superficial injuries are healing nicely, they discharge him.

Connor drives him home, because there's no way in hell Oliver's getting behind the wheel of a car again any time soon, not after what happened to him the last time he was in one. And because he supposes that's the sort of thing a boyfriend would do, and he still hasn't figured out how to admit that he isn't one.

Oliver has to sort through every key on his keyring before he finds the one that unlocks his apartment door. Halfway through the ordeal, he gives Connor a sidelong glance and says, "You could help me out here, you know. Throw me a bone."

Connor leans his shoulder against the door, tries to smile, tries to look nonchalant as he says, "I haven't been able to talk you into giving me one yet."

Oliver cocks an eyebrow like he's wondering just what that says about Connor, or says about himself. But he's smiling a little like he doesn't really believe that he'd withhold a key if Connor asked for one. He finishes trying each key in the door until he finds the right one, holds it up and squints at it like he's committing it to memory, then slips his keys back into his pocket and lets Connor in.

"I'd ask if you want something to drink, but I suspect you know where things are better than I do."

Connor takes that as his cue to go into the kitchen and get them both a glass of water. Oliver smiles like he's surprised when Connor offers one to him. "You'll remember it," Connor reassures him. "The doctors said it was only a matter of time."

Oliver nods, but doesn't quite look like he believes that. When he notices Connor watching, though, he puts on a smile that seems forced. "In the meantime, you're just going to have to do things like remind me where the bathroom is."

"Down the hall, third door on the right."

"Thanks."

Connor waits while Oliver finds his way down the hall, then back again. Oliver looks bashful, hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched a little. "So, I'm beat," he says. "I'm betting I'll appreciate the chance to sleep in my own bed again, even if it is completely unfamiliar. I'd ask if you want to join me, but considering you have your own place..."

He trails off. Connor isn't sure where he means to go with the end of that sentence, so he just stands and waits for Oliver to finish the thought.

Oliver clears his throat and casts his gaze to the side, his shoulders hunching up higher. "You've already gone above and beyond the call of duty, I'd say. You've already been with me every day at the hospital. You don't have to stay if you don't want."

It's the out Connor needs. Oliver wouldn't even blame him for taking it. But Connor shakes his head and says, "Don't be stupid, I'm not going anywhere." And the biggest surprise is that he thinks he actually means it.

All Connor wanted was an uncomplicated fuck and a bit of stress relief. How he ended up here, lying in bed wrapped around Oliver with no intention of leaving before morning, he hasn't a clue. Anyone who knew him would laugh themselves sick. Hell, he's pretty sure complete strangers would laugh themselves sick at what's happened to him. What he's let happen.

It doesn't matter. He wraps his arm around Oliver's waist and holds him close. Oliver isn't the only one who's slept poorly, these past few days. Connor feels as though he hasn't gotten a decent night's rest in a year.

*

"So, do you have to...work?" Oliver avoids his gaze across the kitchen island, turning his glass of orange juice around and around in his hands. It's Saturday, but Connor only knows that because he cheated and looked on his phone. The days run together, when you spend them all at the hospital.

Connor's come to know this expression well. It's the one Oliver wears when he can't remember something he thinks he should. He shakes his head, smiles and says easily, "I'm a student." He pauses, then grimaces. "Well, and I work for this lawyer, but we're between cases at the moment. She doesn't need me."

That's not entirely the truth. But Annalise has four other students working for her and she can get by just fine without him, while Oliver has only him. And possibly that's at least a little bit Connor's fault as well, because when Oliver's family found out about the accident and called and asked if they should fly in to be with him, Oliver had met Connor's eyes and smiled as he shook his head and said, "No, Mom, I'm all right. My boyfriend's taking good care of me."

Connor doesn't do mothers. He doesn't do them on the best of days, and he's sure as hell not going to risk incurring one's wrath by failing to take adequate care of her son. So Annalise is just going to have to get by without him. She's scary, but he'll take her fury over a mother's, any day.

Oliver's watching Connor with a pleased, hopeful sort of expression, and the silence between them has stretched a little too long, so Connor flashes a bright smile and says, "I'm all yours."

That makes Oliver's face brighten and Connor's chest go tight. He sidles by Oliver, into the kitchen, keeps his back turned as he stoops down to rifle through his cupboards. "Are you hungry? I could cook breakfast."

Oliver's brows crinkle with a frown. "You don't have to do that. I do remember how to feed myself."

"Well, I'm hungry." Connor's got his head stuck in the fridge as he says it, pushing things around on the shelves until he finds a carton of eggs and some tomatoes and a block of cheese. "And there's no way I'm making you cook for me. So either we both starve, or you can let me make you a damn scramble."

Oliver protests but ultimately relents, and if the way he smiles through it all is any indication, Connor doesn't think he really means any of it at all.

Connor is resolutely not thinking about how much Oliver has been smiling at him lately, or how it makes Connor's chest go tight every time he does.

*

They eat, and Oliver makes positively orgasmic noises over Connor's scramble, which does absolutely nothing for the tight, warm feeling in Connor's chest.

Afterwards, they end up on the couch. Connor channel-surfs idly until Oliver makes a sharp, interested sound when something Connor doesn't recognize flashes across the screen. So they spend the afternoon watching some low-budget sci-fi flick that makes Connor snicker and makes Oliver elbow him in the ribs when he does, and it's not Connor's sort of movie at all, but it's not an unpleasant way to spend the afternoon all the same.

He reaches for the remote when the credits roll, and only realizes when Oliver doesn't move a muscle that he's fallen asleep, leaning in against Connor's side and with his head on his shoulder.

Connor stills and looks down at him, his glasses askew from where they're pushed against Connor's shoulder. He reaches carefully with his other hand and slides them off. Glasses are expensive, and he'll bend the frames. It's important to take care of one's things.

He folds the glasses and sets them on the arm of the couch. The remote is out of reach on the coffee table, so when the credits finish and fade to the opening sequence of another movie that looks just as cheesy as the first, Connor just sighs and curls his arm around Oliver's shoulders and makes himself comfortable.

*

Connor rarely spends the night with guys and he never, ever spends two in a row, as a rule. But it's evening by the time Oliver wakes from his nap, and so Connor phones in a pizza order and ignores the way Oliver looks surprised, and then pleased, when he knows the toppings that Oliver wants without having to ask. They eat sitting cross-legged and facing each other on the couch, paper plates balanced on their laps. Connor gets a smear of grease across his lip and grabs for his napkin, but before he can Oliver leans forward, reaching out for him.

Connor goes still, and Oliver freezes halfway across the distance between them. His gaze flicks from Connor's mouth up to his eyes and holds there for a moment before dropping down again. Connor waits, hardly breathing, to see what he'll do.

Oliver presses his thumb to Connor's lip, then slowly drags it sideways, wiping away the grease. When Oliver straightens, Connor lets out a breath that feels a little like disappointment -- but Oliver holds his gaze as he closes his lips around the pad of his thumb and licks it clean.

Connor makes an animal sound in the back of his throat and surges forward, pizza forgotten in the plate on his lap. He catches Oliver's face between his hands and kisses him hard, kisses him the way he's been wanting to since before the accident.

Oliver grins into the kiss and brings his hands up to the back of Connor's head to push through his hair. He tastes like pizza and pepperoni and his breath stutters into Connor's mouth on a bubble of laughter.

Oliver's the one who holds Connor back with a hand spread against his stomach, who rescues the pizza and plates between them and keeps Connor at bay just long enough to drop them on the coffee table where they're out of the way. And then he wraps his arms around Connor's neck and keeps grinning into the kiss as Connor pushes him back against the arm of the couch.

And Connor wants him, oh God, he wants him. Oliver's warm and strong beneath him, and so eager. Connor moves his kisses along Oliver's jaw and down his neck, bites down on the cord of his throat, hard enough to mark him. Oliver arches beneath him like a bow, hands scrabbling at Connor's back. When he drags them down and pushes at the waist of Connor's pants, though, Connor pulls back and presses his face against Oliver's sternum, breathing hard. "Wait," he says.

Everything Oliver thinks they have is predicated on deceit, and Connor wants him, but someday Oliver is going to remember him, remember what they are to each other and what they aren't, and Connor doesn't want to give him any more reason to hate him than he already has.

Oliver looks confused and Connor doesn't know how to explain, so he just cups Oliver's face in his hands and kisses him again, soft and languorous. "Just like this," he breathes against Oliver's lips. "Let's just do this."

Oliver's lips twitch against his. "Making out on the couch? What are we, teenagers?" But despite his teasing, he loops his arms around Connor's neck and settles into the kissing.

*

"Someday" turns out to be Monday. Connor has class in the morning, and work afterwards, and he can't blow either of them off any longer. Oliver must realize he's tempted because he shoos Connor out the door, rolls his eyes and insists he'll be fine by himself for a few hours, and then shuts the door in Connor's face just in case he tries to wheedle out of it.

Connor goes. He takes notes, he works, and when work runs into the evening and then even later, he can't even say he's surprised.

When they finally stagger out of Keating's office, Connor considers just going home and falling into bed. Instead he pulls out his phone, sends Oliver a text explaining that work ran late. I won't be terribly good company, he writes. Still want me to come over?

He waits in the parking lot, cranking his car's heater up and shivering at the first blast of cold air as it struggles to get up to temperature.

Oliver's reply comes a moment later, only Yes, but it's enough. Connor puts the car into gear and drives.

He tries the door when he gets to Oliver's apartment, frowns when the handle turns beneath his grip. "You should really keep that locked," he says as he lets himself in, shrugging out of his coat. "You never know who might... barge in..."

He trails off mid-sentence at the sight of Oliver sitting at the kitchen table, and empty martini glass before him, a solemn look on his face. Connor takes one look at his expression and he knows, or at least he suspects.

"Yes." Oliver's voice is quiet, strained. "You're right. All manner of scoundrels might walk through that door. I'll be more careful next time."

They're definitely not talking about the locks. Connor drapes his coat over the back of a chair and then drops into it. He takes a breath and finds he has no words, no idea what to say. He knew this moment was coming and he's still unprepared. It still hits him like a stone dropped straight into his stomach, making him feel queasy and ill.

When the silence stretches and he still can't make himself speak, because he knows there's nothing he can say that won't make this so much more worse, Oliver's lips twist on a bitter smile. "I thought I'd have a drink with dinner. I thought, after everything I'd been through, I'd earned one." He spins the stem of the martini glass between his fingers, stares at the few drops of brown liquid still remaining.

Connor can smell the bourbon, and his stomach turns. "Maker's Manhattan," he says quietly. "Two cherries." The stems are still on the table, leaving a faint red stain on Oliver's napkin.

"The first drink you ever bought me." Oliver pushes the glass across the table, away from him. "You lying bastard."

Connor shuts his eyes, curls his fingers around the edge of the seat. "I know. I'm sorry."

"That's it?"

He looks at Oliver. He's expecting belligerence, and he'd deserve it. But mostly Oliver looks confused. "Were you expecting more?"

Oliver laughs, but it's nothing like the laughter Connor has heard from him over the past week. It's sharp and unpleasant and Connor knows he's got no one to blame for it but himself. "Honestly? I expected you to be full of excuses and explanations."

Connor swallows down the sharp-edged knot in his throat. "I lied. I shouldn't have."

"Yeah. That pretty much sums it up." Oliver lifts a hand and rubs at his forehead. He looks so worn, so tired. "No, you know what, I want the explanation. Why the hell would you lie about this? This, of all things, when we both know how you feel about boyfriends."

"I don't know." Connor shakes his head. "I didn't mean to. But they told me you were in an accident, and the receptionist wouldn't tell me where you were unless I was family, and then she assumed and I let her so she'd tell me your room number. And then Dr. Ramirez knew, and I didn't know how to stop it."

"And after I was discharged?" Oliver crosses his arms over his chest, leans back in his chair, holds Connor's gaze without flinching. "You could have told me the truth. Or you could have just left. You didn't have to stay. You didn't have to make me feel like--" He cuts himself short, then, presses his mouth to a flat line and stares at Connor, full of accusation. "Was it pity? Is that why? You thought-- what? That I'd lost my memories so you'd give me a fake boyfriend as a consolation prize?"

"No! Fuck." Connor scrubs his hands over his face. "It was stupid, I know it was stupid. But it wasn't pity. I stayed because I wanted to."

Oliver parts his lips like he's going to say something, his brows lifting, but then he presses them together again without making a sound. "It was hurtful," he says at last.

"I know." Connor's shoulders slump, dragged down by the weight of what he's done, what he's allowed to happen. "I'm sorry." There's nothing else he can do to make things right, he knows that. He can apologize, but he's already done that. And he can leave, and let Oliver start healing the wounds that he left, deeper than those he got from the accident.

"I'll go," he mutters, and pushes up from the chair. He grabs his coat and doesn't bother putting it on, just leaves, pushing out the front door.

He's nearly made it to the end of the hall when he hears Oliver's voice behind him. He speaks his name quietly, and even that is enough to stop Connor in his tracks. He turns back and Oliver's in the hallway, one hand on the door jamb, staring after him.

"What?" Connor says, hoarse.

Oliver's jaw works in silence for a moment. "You don't do boyfriends," he says at last, and there's something desperate there, something pleading, something struggling to understand.

Connor doesn't understand it himself. How can he offer any illumination? He starts back down the hall, back towards Oliver, keeping his steps slow and even. "I don't do boyfriends," he agrees quietly. He swallows the stone that's back in his throat, confesses, "But I think maybe I do us."

Oliver shuts his eyes. He sways a little bit and grabs on tighter to the doorjamb. "Come back," he says. "Come in. It's late, and you've got class in the morning. You should catch up on your beauty sleep. You look like hell."

A bubble of hysterical laughter pushes its way up out of Connor's chest. He presses a hand to his mouth to force it down, with limited success. He's come all the way back now, standing right in front of Oliver, just beside the door. "Are you sure?"

Oliver nods a little. He looks weary, looks exhausted to the bone. "Come to bed," he says quietly. "Stay the night, and we'll go from there."

Connor doesn't do boyfriends, and he doesn't do sleepovers. But Oliver holds the door open for him, and he doesn't hesitate when he steps through.