He was back. Hell yes, the guy in the suit was back.
Watching covertly from the rim of an open magazine, James tried not to openly stare as Suit took his seat; three chairs down, facing him. The same seat he had occupied last time, and the time before that. Not that James was remembering these little details, of course not.
The early-morning Underground carriage bustled with half-awake Londoners on their travels to work, many yawning behind backs of hands whilst some religiously tapped away at laptops still with the taste of toothpaste in their mouths. Rows of threadbare seats had all been claimed, and how Suit had managed to get the same one three days running, James didn’t know, but from the look of that expensive outfit, the guy had probably called ahead and reserved it. Unlucky standing folk hung from various poles spaced along the carriage, butting sitting people in the face and clinging on for dear life as the train lurched between stops.
Sea-green eyes turned, and James’ blues dropped swiftly to his magazine.
His upside-down magazine. Shit.
Cue an expertly executed turning technique.
Suit hadn’t seemed to notice his stupidity although the woman sitting directly opposite to James obviously had, if the quirking eyebrow had anything to do with it. James ignored her and lifted glossy pages higher, blocking her smirk from view.
Suit was wearing Armani today. Was it fake? It had to be fake. Why would someone who could afford Armani suits be on the shitty London Underground? Surely someone who could afford Armani suits would have a private car, a company one perhaps, driven by a fancy chauffer on his way to a flash job as a… as a…
Suit was stunning. Auburn hair pleasantly ruffled, tousled in a way that obviously wasn’t true bed-hair, but Jesus, it looked good and James’ mouth ran dry at the very sight of it. Those oddly coloured eyes - Blue-Green-Grey - a killer figure perfectly displayed by tapered fabric. Not to mention that devastating smile he’d flashed James yesterday, a lingering grin on his exit from the carriage. James had attempted to return it once he’d stopped staring like a gormless fish, but Suit had already gone, hopping gracefully off the train at Westminster. He probably thought James was a right miserable twat now.
James dared another look; Suit had a Starbucks paper cup held between his knees, long fingers gracefully popping the plastic lid and tearing open sugar packets. Transfixed, James watched those fingers move. They were the kind of fingers that could get a man to do absolutely anything, tease secrets past lips with the barest brush, draw pleasure and pain like plucking at strings of a harp and -
Shit, bollocks, fuck -- Suit was looking at him curiously, hands held static over the Starbucks cup as he observed this staring weirdo.
James almost dropped the magazine in his haste to bury his head in it, face turning a colour that clashed horribly with the gaudy orange something the woman on its front cover wore.
For God‘s sake, he needed to be more careful.
Or even better, stop stalking handsome strangers on the Tube.
Not that it was stalking, technically, but getting a train an hour earlier than you’re due into work just because a certain devilishly attractive man gets on the same one… it was certainly weird. Borderline hiding-in-bushes-outside-his-house weird.
The first time he’d seen the stranger, James had been due at an early office meeting, slouching onto the train with a piece of toast still in hand and sleep crusting his eyelids together. The guy had gotten on two stops later; a burst of stale Underground air as the doors opened, the sweep of rustling litter, and in a golden haze from a broken signal light, Suit had appeared. Immaculately dressed, pristine hair, and intense eyes that had lingered on James and his fallen jaw.
James had never felt so underdressed in his life, especially not on the fucking Tube on his way to work. Draped in a worn leather jacket his gran had given him for Christmas five years ago, and a ratty old scarf to shield against the onset of a cold British Autumn. The scarf was a faded green and black stripe, long enough to brush his knees when unfurled, and no matter how many times he vowed to throw it away and buy one that wasn’t falling apart, somehow it magically found its way around his neck again the next morning.
Suddenly feeling like a tramp that had wandered onto the Tube for warmth, James had ran self-conscious hands through his floppy brown hair. Why hadn’t he styled it, for fuck’s sake. That day of all days, the day he found himself in the presence of a true Adonis, he’d had hair that looked like it’d been cut with a knife and fork.
Suit had looked at him again as James fought to flatten unruly waves, an amused curl on his lips, and that had been it right there and then. James had to prove this guy wrong, show him he could scrub up pretty well and didn’t always look like something that had just rolled from a ditch.
The next morning, James had been up long before his already earlier than usual alarm, flicking and coiffing his hair to perfection. He looked damn good as he had left his apartment, even with that terrible scarf firmly in place around his freckled neck.
Unfortunately, he hadn’t been counting on the Heavens to open and pour sheets of rain on him and his hairdo. After a mad dash through slick streets to the station, he’d stumbled onto the train looking much like a drowned rat with sodden clumps of hair stuck to his face and a stormy expression to match.
But that had been the day Suit had flashed James that smile. Forget his crazy hair and bad scarf - Suit had smiled at him, and not in a ‘smile-at-the-poor-charity-case’ kind of way. No, it had been a slow, heated tug at one corner of his lips, those eyes never leaving James until Suit had walked completely past, and taken James’ heart along with him.
The train screeched abruptly to a halting stop, snapping James from his reminiscing with a bone-rattling jolt. Suit almost spilt his coffee.
Westminster, Suit’s stop, and James’ heart fell as the man got to his feet, digging around in his pocket and pulling out a sleek mobile phone that probably cost more than James’ apartment. It made James’ crappy old Nokia look like a brick in comparison, and probably had all those impressive app thingies that could book a flight to New York, or travel through time and predict the future. It was a miracle it even got a signal down here.
Suit drifted past with a bustle of people heading for the door and for the first time, James heard his voice as he spoke into the mouthpiece.
Oh god, he was Irish.
Just when James thought the guy couldn’t get any more perfect, he presents a voice that could have been crafted from spun gold. That bastard.
James leaned in as inconspicuously as possible, eyes unseeing on the pages of his magazine as he pricked his ears like a curious cat.
“-if I could speak to Kevin Bacon, please? Uh-huh, ok. This is Michael Fassbender, he’s expecting me at-”
James didn’t hear the rest as the automatic doors snapped shut, and he sank back into his chair with a knowing little smile blossoming across his face, folding the magazine in his lap.
So, Suit had a name; Michael. Michael… Fassbender, was it? Something German-sounding and exciting like that. He suited it. Exotic, different. Sexy as all hell.
A few stops later and James skipped from the train with a spring in his step, reaching his office with an hour to spare and spending that time very firmly reminding himself that he couldn’t go and jerk off in the bathroom with memories of that voice in his ear. Not now, he was at work; Professional James Time.
He couldn’t. He couldn’t, couldn’t - well, maybe just a quick -
Thankfully, Rose chose that moment to save him from his internal conflict, bringing him a muddy coffee and peering at his flushed face inquisitively. On his way to the photocopier a few hours later, James distinctly heard Rose and Jennifer chatting in not-so-hushed tones, placing their bets on which guy from the office had shagged James stupid last night, much to his mortification. He made a mental note to never, ever, look happy at work again.
Morning bloomed and James was prepared. His hair looked good, he‘d had a shave, and there wasn’t a drop of rain to be seen as he made his way to the station. Even his scarf looked quite good coupled with the jacket and jeans ensemble he had going on.
Michael got on at his stop two along from James and took his usual seat, with a newspaper this time. One of the big broadsheet ones, naturally, and today’s suit was some Italian-looking affair that the Scotsman probably hadn’t heard of.
James hadn’t managed to get a seat that morning, instead forced to cling to a handrail in the middle of the carriage like a circus monkey, trying to look cool and suave every time the train rattled to an abrupt stop and sent him staggering a few paces backward. Green met blue, a heartbeat skipped, and Michael was smiling as he unfurled the paper and dropped his gaze, which was probably just as well - James finally felt he could breathe again.
Michael turned the pages of his newspaper lazily, skimming through no-doubt boring articles on the stock market, or how badly the NHS had failed its last -
All coherent thought flew from James’ head like so much leaves in the wind as Michael licked the tip of his thumb - licked the tip of his fucking thumb - before turning the next page, and James’ knees almost gave way. Thank God for the pole holding him up.
Completely forgetting this was a covert mission, the Scotsman flat out stared, praying with all his might for such a miracle of nature to happen again and - yes. Pointed, soft, pink, just the very tip running over the pad of his thumb to slick golden skin, and James’ lungs frosted over as blue-green eyes rose up, up, over the top of his newspaper to fix intently on him.
The train slammed to a halt, and James heard more than felt his head crack against the pole beside him.
He was suddenly very aware of being flat on his back on a dirty carriage floor with a sea of concerned and somewhat amused faces peering down at him. Someone was tapping him on the cheek and for a wild moment, James crossed his fingers and hoped for a cliché - that it would be Michael hovering over him, ready to give mouth-to-mouth just in case and scooping him into his arms bridal-style.
But no, it was a not-so-kindly old woman prodding him in the face with one cautious finger as if he had rabies, and James brushed her away with a mutter of thanks before dragging himself to shaky feet. Cheeks aflame, he kept his eyes glued to his shoes, the sheer embarrassment roaring through his body much worse than the pain in his head.
Michael hadn’t gotten up to help, but he’d folded his newspaper and was looking at him closely, almost concerned. James winced; he probably had a massive lump or something.
The Irishman was taller than James had initially thought, a good 6 foot something as he stood for his stop, broad shouldered but with a deliciously narrow waist. His hand closed around the pole barely a fraction from James’ own - he could feel the heat radiating from it, reaching to sink into his own cold skin.
If he hadn’t been so humiliated maybe he’d have dared a look, finally stood directly in front of him like this, close enough to catch a scent of something oddly comforting, like warmed croissants. But instead James hung his throbbing head in shame, even as Michael’s arm brushed his on the way past.
Sore and ruffled, James was highly tempted to just give up, to quit this crazy behaviour right now before it got any further out of hand. It was ridiculous and creepy, and if this guy ever found out what he was doing, James would probably receive a black eye to match the purple bruise blossoming over his temple. Even Rose didn’t bug him, sensing his foul mood and sympathetically holding an ice pack against his head.
As luck would have it - good or bad, James couldn’t decide - his reasons for catching the early train to work the next morning were legitimate; another meeting. He couldn’t miss it - skipping presentations because he’d hit his head on the Tube and embarrassed himself in front of the man he was crushing on was not a good enough excuse.
Shuffling onto the train, James took a seat as far from Michael’s usual as he could, a crappy bench near the arse of the carriage, the most rickety and noisy area to be.
Michael appeared bang on schedule, wearing the nicest suit James had seen him in so far; deep gray, fitted to perfection, with a black shirt underneath. James wished he’d brought a magazine to hide behind as Michael’s eyes scanned the carriage, settling on him with deadly precision. James twitched his lips in a bashful smile, and his heart gave a funny little flip when it was returned.
Michael vanished behind his newspaper again, leaving James to pick at the hem of his scarf and keep his attention firmly fixed on an overhead map, anything that stopped his gaze from gravitating to Michael’s fingers curled loosely around the pages of his newspaper. He had great nails, unlike James’ own bitten-to-stub ones.
The routine proceeded as normal; James sneaking underhanded peaks at Michael, Michael being sickeningly cool then tossing him a knee-melting smile as he stood to leave. But then everything changed in one coincidental, slow-motion moment of clarity.
Michael’s mobile phone slid from his pocket in the crush of people getting off the carriage, rattling to the iron floor. The Irishman didn’t notice, and James was on his feet in an instant, scooping up the phone and shoving through the thick crowd.
“Michael!” The call left his lungs in a voice he didn’t recognise as James staggered from the carriage, dazed brain taking a good ten seconds to catch up and realise he was following Michael off the tube and chasing him along the platform, oh god stop, you lunatic, “Michael, wait!”
Finally Michael paused, twisting around to see who was calling him. Green eyes widened as they fell on James, a surprised and pleasantly curious grin curling his lips. James jogged over, heart racing mile a minute and threatening to burst from his chest and bounce off down the tracks. He stopped a few feet in front of the taller man, holding out the sleek phone.
“You dropped this. On the carriage, it fell out your pocket.”
Michael reached out, long fingers brushing James’ palm as he retrieved the phone. His smile stretched a little, and James shivered - like a shark in a suit, the flash of white teeth alluring and intense.
“This isn’t your stop,” not a question, and James shuffled, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
“Uh no, it’s not, but I didn’t want you to lose the phone, so… I’ll just get back on the-” a shrill beeping split the air, and the tube doors snapped shut as the train pulled away into the dark tunnel. James cursed under his breath, painfully aware of how desperately idiotic he must look, “Or not… I can just wait for the next one.”
“Won’t you be late?” Michael was looking more and more amused with each passing second, and James realised with a jolt that yes, shit, yes he would. This time he would actually be late for his meeting.
“Yeah, but my boss is pretty cool, he won’t mind,” yes, he would mind, and he’d yell at James until his ears rang. It wouldn’t be the first time, but James was a good enough Editor he probably wouldn’t get fired, just… threatened a little.
Michael slipped the phone into his pocket, a dent in the trouser fabric. He glanced up at James’ hairline, jerking his chin in its direction, “How’s your head?”
James felt his cheeks pinken, self-consciously lifting his hand to flutter over the dark bruise, “Fine. My ego suffered the most, I think,”
Michael laughed, short and soft, before pulling his sleeve back to look at his watch, clicking his tongue at its displayed time, “I’d better get going. Thank you, for they phone,”
“Don’t mention it,” James waved a dismissive hand, “It was nice to finally meet you, Michael, we’ve been -”
“How do you know my name?”
James faltered, cut off mid-flirt by the slightly suspicious question. Michael’s brows had flicked up his forehead, but thankfully he still looked more amused than irked. James’ throat clenched.
“Um, I heard you say it to someone on the phone a few days back. Not that I was trying to eavesdrop, I just, well I, you were speaking quite loud and uh…” he trailed off, shrugging his shoulders and mentally promising himself to sew his betraying lips together some time in the near future.
Michael nodded, satisfied, but seemed to be waiting for something, “Well?”
A blink, “Well, what?”
Michael‘s smile widened, a twinkle in the depth of his eyes, “Aren’t you going to tell me your name too? You have me at a disadvantage here.”
Blush deepening, James struggled to get his hand out of his pocket so he could thrust it into the space between them like an overly polite British Gentleman, “James. James McAvoy.”
Michael’s handshake was lazy but strong, as graceful as every other movement he made, and James’ heart twisted at the very touch of skin to skin, “Well, James, James McAvoy, I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Oh, and; I like your scarf.”
With a wink that could have stopped time and imploded space, Michael turned on his heel and loped away, all long legs and devastating hips. James thumped heavily onto a nearby bench before his knees buckled and tipped him into the path of an oncoming train.
He’d talked to him. Finally, he’d talked to Suit. It hadn’t exactly been number-swapping, lets-get-it-on conversation, but it was a step in the right direction. And he had liked his scarf; his crappy, crappy scarf!
An easy smile pulled across James’ lips, barely wavering even when his boss yelled hard enough to speckle his face with spit. Rose had blessedly stepped in to front the meeting for him, her light Australian accent lilting over the presentation material and no doubt winning the collective hearts of the boardroom. James would have kissed her, if she wouldn’t have slapped him in the face for his efforts in return.
Things changed after that.
Perhaps the phone-rescue had opened a flood gate, or maybe James was simply growing more confident; Michael wasn’t telling him to fuck off anyway, which was a good sign. They started sitting directly opposite one another, sharing smiles and glances through the sea of standing bodies dividing them. Once or twice Michael would pause in his exit to enquire about James’ forehead, to which the Scotsman would grin and push back his hair, displaying the fading bruise. Weekends dragged by in a depressing slog, and for the first time in his life, James found himself wishing for the working week to hurry up and arrive.
As the days trickled by, it was growing hard to tell if Michael was genuinely interested in him or was just being friendly -- that is, until the redhead pressed a paper cup of Starbucks into James’ hands one morning, dropping effortlessly into the opposite seat with a fucking blush painting his cheeks, disappearing behind his newspaper. It was quite possibly the cutest thing James had ever witnessed, his hands trembling around the coffee and mouth stuttering on a quiet whisper of thanks. Each sip was akin to gorging on pure Nectar, the sickly sweet taste of gingerbread laced through the latte and Christ -- next time, James would push things further. He would ask for Michael’s number. He would suck up all his courage and invite Michael on a date, a real, live date with the prospect of interesting conversation and expensive lunch and hot, dirty sex pressed up against his apartment wall.
Just the thought was enough to make him weak at the knees. God, he’d probably die of overexcitement long before Michael actually got a chance to lay those long fingers on him.
His cloud-nine elation rapidly dispersed, however, the moment James reached his run-down publishing office. A veritable mountain of paperwork greeted him, piled high and ominous upon his groaning desk. Rose winced at it, throwing his dropped jaw a sympathetic look.
The day grew steadily worse. His office temp, Lucas or something, managed to clumsily spill the precious cup of Starbucks, not only destroying his present from Michael but also skilfully aiming the flood of rich coffee at the notes he was currently editing. Hanging the sticky, browning pages over the edge of his desk to dry, James turned back to his computer only to find it in the middle of downloading a Trojan virus. Whacking the keyboard and screaming blue murder at the screen didn’t work; the virus ate the poor, stupid hunk of junk from the inside out.
Undeterred, James messily blew back loose strands of hair as he plugged in his laptop and drew a no-beverage-beyond-this-point line in pink post-it notes across his desk. He skipped dinner, ignored the rumbles of his stomach.
The clock ticked on in a monotonous soundtrack to his day, and somehow the Everest of paperwork began to slowly decrease in mass and height. Quitting time rolled around, Lucas waving merrily and tripping over James’ laptop wire on the way out.
James stayed behind, the angular skyline through his wide office window steadily darkening, melting into a thousand pinpricks of flickering light. London was a beautiful city by day, but it was at night, when the noise fell and the streets were lit with neon fairy dust, that the place became truly magnificent. Well… when watched from high windows of darkened buildings, at least. The thick shadows of evening held many dangers in their depths.
Which was why James didn’t feel particularly comfortable standing alone in the too-quiet tube station at god knows what hour of the night, clutching his laptop bag and pondering whether he’d be willing to risk losing a whole month’s worth of work by smashing the thing over any potential murderer’s heads.
Thank God it was Friday. No office tomorrow, no paperwork, no stupid computers that made him want to tear his hair out by the root. Just a day of lazing in bed until noon, eating the entire contents of his fridge and then watching comedy films until he passed out on the couch. Perfect.
The train pulled up, automatic voice of a woman ringing loud across the platform. James took her advice to mind the gap and hopped on to the carriage, laptop case swinging against his arse.
He wasn’t alone.
“Suit!” The word burst past James’ lips before he could bite it back.
Sitting in his usual seat and now wearing a very perplexed expression, was Michael. He looked down at his outfit in confusion, “…Suit?”
James flushed with embarrassment -- stupid, stupid! -- mentally slapping himself. What the hell was Michael doing here so late? He was still wearing the suit he’d worn that morning, still carried his briefcase. Working late too? “What are you doing here?”
Michael’s lips stretched into a broad smile, unperturbed by the slightly awkward question, “I always get this train home. It’s you who’s trespassing in my midst. I should ask for a password and throw you off.”
Oh god, how could someone virtually dripping with handsome charm and lean muscle be so damn adorable? The man should be illegal. James grinned and took a seat, sliding the laptop bag over his head to lay forgotten beside him, “I can sit in another carriage, if you want to be alone?”
“Aren’t you going to guess a password?” Michael’s hands folded neatly, elbows on his slightly spread knees. If James copied the pose they’d be almost close enough to kiss. He swallowed, hard.
“Hmm,” Bright blue eyes narrowed to thoughtful slits, flicking up and down Michael’s body, “Armani?”
Michael’s laugh was loud in the absent carriage, a thrill of pleasured pride snaking up James’ spine at the cheerful sound; he so loved making people laugh. Michael shook his head, squinting at him in playful curiosity, “What is it with you and the suit? Anyway, this is Prada,”
Ah. James shrugged, teasingly nonchalant and more than a little nosey about finding out what this man did for a living, “Fake, right? If you could afford Prada suits, why would you be getting on the piss-stained Tube every day?”
The skin of Michael’s face bled a deep red, eyes darting to the floor, the ceiling, his hands, “I have my reasons.”
Guilt nibbled at James’ stomach. Shit, he hadn’t meant to offend the guy with his cheeky taunting. He played rough sometimes, kind of like pulling pigtails in a school ground, “Hey, why not. God knows it’s easier than driving in London,”
Michael glanced up through thick lashes, somewhat shy, “And you meet lots of interesting people on the Tube. Some of them might even surprise you by saving your mobile phone instead of nicking it,”
“Or randomly buy you gingerbread lattes,” James offered, delighted at the pink tinge that comment set high on chiselled cheekbones.
“Or hold magazines upside down when they think I’m not looking,”
Now it was James’ turn to blush with a bubble of mortified laughter, “You saw that?”
“I saw that,” An Irish-lilted purr, heat coiling in James’ stomach. Suit was flirting, he was actually flirting, “But you pulled off the turn expertly. I almost applauded you.”
“Oi,“ James reached across to bat a giggling Michael on the shoulder, “Next you’ll be saying you were licking your thumb on purpose, you cheeky -” his words cut off as long fingers wrapped around his retreating wrist, loose and somewhat cautious, but daring.
“Well I didn’t expect you to headbutt the rail. I guess I should apologize.”
James stared; his hand pulled closer, thin lips descending to meet the curve of pale knuckles.
“And if it’s any consolation,” Michael added softly, “I only used the newspaper to watch you over the top of it. Didn’t you notice I’ve had the same one for two weeks now?”
With a strangled hitch to his breath, James curled grabbing fingers into a fistful of Prada suit and wrenched Michael forward, off his seat, crashing their mouths together.
Fuck, he tasted good -- coffee and cigarettes and there, again, that snatch of croissants. He didn’t punch James away with a snarl, didn’t freeze up or hang limp. Instead he slid more comfortably to his knees, pushed between James’ legs, cupped the back of his head to seal their mouths more firmly. Slow and unhurried, wet, so deep it curled James’ toes beneath the shine of his smart work shoes.
A noise the Scotsman probably would have been ashamed of hummed high and needy into Michael’s mouth, tongues dancing, ginger hair so soft in his grip; softer than it looked, twining around his fingers.
The train jerked to another stop, Michael’s face a picture of annoyance as he was flung sideways away from James’ lips, twins in their breathless grunts of protest.
Michael shuffled back into place, sheepish, hands sliding deliciously slowly up James’ legs, “Dinner?”
James blinked at his watch, stomach rumbling at the suggestion, “Sure, but most places will be closing soon,”
A devastating smile lit Michael’s face, slow and deliberate, “My house is always open.”
James decided he loved his tatty old scarf immensely; especially when Michael used its fraying length to tie his hands to the bed frame.