The subway doors swish open and Brendon steps out into the station amid the throng of people all hurrying towards the exit. Brendon trails a hand across one of the decorated pillars unique to the Museum station, as he always does, and lets himself be carried along.
The guy is probably behind him somewhere, but if Brendon has gone this long without getting up the courage to talk to him, he's pretty sure he never will and he needs to just stop pretending that he's going to someday. Brendon doesn't look back as the crowd spits him out into the street above, and he turns and heads for the ROM.
Brendon would be the first to admit his job is super awesome. He works at a museum, as an interpreter, which basically means he gets to spend all day every day talking to kids about how awesome history and nature and stuff is. Brendon can't help getting excited, because there's just so much cool stuff at the museum, and kids are just so, like, unafraid to be excited too. Brendon thinks people should never be ashamed to love the things they love, and he hopes he can show the kids that they don't need to abandon that enthusiasm as adults.
When he leaves work he's always exhausted, because kids have a neverending supply of energy and even Brendon can run low, even if he'd never ever admit it out loud.
The subway ride home is good, though. He can usually manage to grab a place to sit, and then he can sprawl and melt into the fucking uncomfortable seats for a while without having to move a single muscle. So much better than being one of the suckers who have to drive home in Toronto traffic. And -- well -- the subway ride home is also relaxing because it doesn't contain the super-hot guy from his morning commute.
His morning commute is not relaxing.
The guy is there every single morning, getting on at the second station after Brendon's. He always sits in the same seat, flips open a copy of the Globe & Mail, and settles down to read methodically through it while sipping from a travel mug. It kind of impresses Brendon to watch how he manages both the newspaper and the mug at the same time -- newspapers are unwieldy bastards even when you have both hands free. Not that Brendon's watching or anything.
Or okay, maybe he is, but it's not like the guy notices him watching, what with the newspaper barrier, so it's not like it matters.
But the guy is seriously fucking hot, and Brendon doesn't know how he's supposed to resist a bit of sidelong staring and a whole lot of wanting.
Especially since Brendon's learned to remember which pages the guy spends the most time on, and which ones give him the epic bitch-face, and which ones make him have these little crinkles around his eyes like he wants to smile, and then when Brendon gets to work he snags someone else's copy of the Globe and looks up the articles. He's learned a lot about the guy from his reactions to articles, and everything he's learned says the guy is awesome. Even if all this makes Brendon feel a little like a creepy stalker.
Brendon always has his iPod with him on the subway, volume turned considerately down, but in the mornings, all energized for a new day, he can never quite keep himself from moving, tapping his fingers or toes to the beat or whatever, and sometimes it's all he can do to keep himself from breaking out into dance moves right there in his seat. But that would be even ruder to all the people crushed around him, so he tries to contain himself.
The iPod is useful, because it keeps his mind at least a little off the guy with the newspaper, but even with the music running through his brain he can't help but construct fantasies (scenarios, he thinks), no matter which way he's commuting. The guy always gets off at the Museum stop too, and maybe one morning he trips a little over the gap getting out of the subway, and Brendon catches his newspaper for him and hands it back to him with a smile.
"Thanks," the guy says, and tells Brendon his name. (Brendon can never decide what his name is, and it changes with every scenario. This time it's Andrew.)
"I'm Brendon," Brendon says. "No problem."
Andrew's face breaks into a smile, eyes doing that crinkling thing, softening him and making him look more approachable, so Brendon says, "You're on this subway most mornings, aren't you?"
Their conversation goes from there, Brendon eliding over the awkward small-talk bit until they've agreed to meet for coffee on Saturday afternoon, where Andrew is totally captivated by Brendon's awesome and Brendon brings him back to his apartment and --
Brendon's at his stop. He pulls himself up out of his seat and goes home.
The next morning Brendon gets caught up in the song he's listening to, and when the subway doors slide closed at the guy's stop, Brendon looks up in startlement to see that the guy isn't there, isn't sitting in his usual place, isn't opening the newspaper, isn't settling down with his coffee (or tea, or weird breakfast smoothie, or whatever the hell he drinks), isn't there.
He's always there.
Brendon's maybe a little bit distracted at work all day, mind jumping around and unable to settle, but he just channels it into extra energy and the kids respond well to it so it's a good day nonetheless, and he thinks to himself that the guy was probably just late and had to catch the next subway. People being late is totally a thing that happens. That's all it was.
But the next morning he's not there either.
And the next.
And the next.
Brendon's maybe going out of his mind with worry, because what if something happened to the guy? What if he's languishing in a hospital, deathly ill, and he needs Brendon to take care of him, take him home and nourish him back to health? What if he lost his job and needs encouragement to get back on his feet and find a new one? What if his beloved pet died and he's heartbroken and devastated and needs comfort? What if he died and there's nothing Brendon can do about it?
"You're being an idiot," Jon tells him kindly over lunch break. Jon is one of the conservationists, working behind the scenes at the ROM with all the coolest artifacts, but he leaves the bowels of the museum to hang out with Brendon over lunch because Jon's awesome like that.
"I know," Brendon says, mournful. "I'm a total idiot."
Around a mouthful of his weirdo reheated leftovers that smell mysteriously delicious, Jon says, "You should have talked to him, like, months ago."
"I know," Brendon says again, and reaches out to steal a bite of Jon's lunch because weirdo reheated leftovers or not it smells a million times better than the veggie dog Brendon bought from the stand outside the museum doors.
Because Jon is a prince among humans, he lets Brendon get away with it with only a cursory glare.
"Do you have any way at all to find the dude?" Jon asks, and Brendon slumps.
"No," he moans. "I don't even know his name." The guy totally has an ID card hanging off of one of those cool doohickeys with the retractable string, but Brendon's never quite managed to get close enough to read what it says. He hasn't even been able to figure out what company the ID is for or anything.
"You're fucked, dude," Jon says sympathetically.
Brendon sighs, and finishes his veggie dog.
The next morning the guy's still not on the subway, but Brendon's not surprised anymore.
Weeks pass, the guy never appearing, and Brendon resigns himself to the fact that he'll never see the guy again in his life, that he will be bereft of the eye-crinkles and bitch-face and deft handling of newspapers, and of everything Brendon has imagined might happen between them. It kind of sours Brendon's imaginary scenarios, knowing that now there's zero chance of them happening instead of only, like, a half a percent chance.
He tries to give up constructing the scenarios, but doesn't quite succeed. He imagines the guy walking nonchalantly onto the subway one morning and sitting in his usual spot, and pretends he's brave enough to say something to him, like, "Haven't seen you around for a while. I was worried!"
And the guy -- Kevin, this time -- smiles at him, and says he was just on vacation, but that it was sweet of him to worry. They talk all the way to their stop and get off at Museum together, laughing and chatting, and when they have to part ways to go to their respective jobs, Kevin says, "So hey, I was wondering," just as Brendon is starting to stammer out similar words. They both laugh and stop talking, and Brendon motions for Kevin to continue. Kevin asks for Brendon's number, and they exchange numbers with a promise to meet up after work for beers or something, and Brendon walks into work with a spring in his step and a grin on his face.
Or maybe Brendon happens to run into the guy -- Robert -- at some band's show, both of them waiting at the bar, and Brendon's feeling unafraid, music pounding through his chest and his previous three drinks warming and freeing him. "Hi!" he says.
He wonders if he's being a bit of a creeper, but Robert turns to him with happy surprise on his face and says "Hello," warmly, and, "It's weird to see you here!"
"I know, right?" says Brendon. "Like, seeing a teacher outside of school, because you know they live in the school basement."
Robert laughs. "You totally live in the subway, don't even front."
"Totally," Brendon says gravely, but he ruins it a moment later by bursting out into laughter of his own.
The bartender interrupts them then to take their orders, and they get their drinks and end up spending the entire show talking to each other instead of listening to the band -- which is admittedly not that great, so Brendon's happy to ignore them. They talk for hours, until Brendon feels like he's known Robert forever, and the way Robert's looking at him Brendon knows it's reciprocal. He goes home with a promise to call Robert tomorrow, satisfaction burning deep in his chest, because they're going to be awesome together, Brendon just knows it.
Or maybe Jon finally gets tired of listening to Brendon's sob story about the one who got away and sets him up on a blind date with a friend of his -- "Seriously, Brendon, he's totally your type, and you need to get over your subway guy" -- and he walks into the restaurant to find that the guy waiting for him -- "Name of Benjamin, not too tall, blue eyes, has a beard, will be wearing a blue shirt" -- is the subway guy, and Brendon nearly swoons, and thinks to himself that Jon is the best friend in the entire world.
Or maybe -- but this isn't productive.
Brendon lets himself frown for a moment because he's in the batcave and it's dark and the kids won't see, and tells himself to get over it. He gathers himself and starts talking again, answering the questions of this precocious five-year old who thinks bats are the coolest thing in the world. The kid's maybe got bats and Batman a little confused with each other, but Brendon's not gonna blame him, because they're both fucking awesome.
On the subway home that evening Brendon's tired and kind of defeated. He doesn't even bother to construct any scenarios as he stares out the window at the dark wall of the tunnel, just tells himself over and over again, You fucked up.
He doesn't pay any attention as the subway rattles its way closer home, but when they get to the guy's stop, the one he used to always get on at in the mornings, Brendon looks up. It's, like, instinct, or habit, or some shit.
And getting off the next-door car of the subway is the guy.
Brendon doesn't even think. He's just been so sure that he totally missed his chance, and here's his chance, and who the fuck cares if he's tired and wants to go home to collapse on the couch with awful tv and takeout, because here's his chance. Here's his chance.
He's out of his seat and stumbling out the door barely a moment later, squeaking out after the warning chime has already sounded, and he's afraid for a moment the door's going to close on him but he's out and dashing across the platform in the direction the guy went, following him up the stairs and out into the street before his brain has even come online.
He comes to himself with a jolt, though. It's freezing cold outside, the wind howling and driving stinging bits of snow into his face and swirling drifts around his feet, and shit. Shit. He is being such a stalker.
He absolutely cannot follow the guy home. That would be, like, the worst thing ever.
He stands for a moment at the top of the subway entrance, clutching his coat closer around his neck, and surveys his options.
There's a Tim Hortons just a block or two away; Brendon can see the sign, and it calls him like a beacon, the promise of warm, comforting coffee. Yes. That is what he should do. He will go to Timmy's and buy himself a coffee and talk sense into himself, and definitely totally not follow the guy home.
He's lost the guy already anyways, standing like an idiot in the sidewalk, so he couldn't follow him even if he wanted to. Which he doesn't. Because that would be creepy.
Brendon ties his scarf more tightly, shoves his hands into his pockets, and trudges to the Tim's.
He gets himself a coffee and ten-pack of timbits -- they have the awesome coconut-covered chocolate ones here, and Brendon is defenceless in the face of their deliciousness -- and is bracing himself to go back out the door, when someone says, "Hey!"
Brendon turns. It's the subway guy.
"Man, it's so great to see you!" the guy says, and Brendon does his best not to die on the spot. "I've missed watching you listen to music. I always wonder what you're listening to."
"Hi," Brendon says, and "Um," and then he wants to facepalm because how stupid can he sound, but the guy just grins.
"C'mon, sit down to drink your coffee, it's fucking miserable outside. I'm Spencer."
"Brendon," Brendon manages to say, but inside, he's thinking, Of course. Spencer. It's a name that fits him like none of the ones he imagined ever did.
He sits down.