“Please, Magnus, they’re free tickets! Two of them!”
She laughs inwardly: he looks like a twelve-year-old boy getting his first kiss. “What about Abby?” she asks, part curious as to why he is asking her instead of his girlfriend, part annoyed that it is so last minute, and part – a part she almost does not want to admit to – extremely excited that he is actually asking her, Helen Magnus, to go to a rock’n’roll concert with him.
He groans. “Some ‘prior engagement’ for work or something,” he says, rolling his eyes. Helen is surprised – only slightly, but still – by the tension and anger in that statement. Again, that part of herself she does not want to admit to rears its head and she finds herself thinking how sexy puppy eyes can be in the right face.
Shaking her head slightly to rid herself of that thought, she casts a crooked smile at the protégé sitting on the corner of her desk. “What about Henry, or Biggie? He could blend in at a rock’n’roll concert,” she says halfheartedly, her objections beginning to wear thin.
Will does not even deign to respond to these with words, instead giving her a withering shake of his head. This time she is unable to keep from laughing aloud, and soon enough he joins in, and then they are both unable to stop for a moment.
He loves to hear her laugh with abandon. Usually she is so guarded, especially as of late, that her laugh is a short bark that quickly turns back into a droll look as quickly as it comes. But in this moment of his question of concert tickets, she finds humor enough for her infectious giggle to resurface. Looking back down at her from his perch on the imposing desk, he watches her reasons against the concert break down until she finally nods and stands up from her chair.
“What does one wear to these rock’n’roll concerts?” she asks, in her prim Britishness sprinkled with patented Magnus charm that has stolen his inhibitions at so many a time. He glances down at the pencil skirt and heels she wears and nearly breaks down in laughter again. Shaking his head, he stands up as well and motions towards the door.
“I’ll lend you a band t-shirt, and you wear it with jeans and sneakers,” he says, a smile playing about the corners of his mouth.
Her cheeks flush red for just a moment, but he does not know the heat that has started within her at his mention of wearing a shirt of his. It will smell like him. It will feel like him. And she is not sure she will be able to wash it and give it back after wearing it, because then it will smell like both of them.
Where are all these thoughts coming from? she asks herself suddenly. He is her protégé. She has never felt this way about any of her protégés before. Not this strongly.
But she follows him down the hallway, accepts a shirt with peeling letters from the washing machine, and follows the familiar pathway to her room in a daze, pulling the shirt to her nose and inhaling deeply as soon she is sure she is out of his sight.
Will’s breath catches in his throat multiple times as he thinks of Helen Magnus, his beautiful, British, proper, lethal boss, wearing one of his old band shirts. As he runs his hand through his hair and gives himself a quick once-over in the mirror (no holes in jeans or shirt? Magnus would not like those), he can feel his heart beat fast when softened sneaker footsteps sound outside his doorway.
He opens the door, and it certainly feels as if his jaw has hit the floor. How does she manage to look so stunning? Her hair is pulled back in a simple braid; she wears his gray t-shirt, a pair of dark-wash jeans, and dark-gray sneakers, a blue-and-brown plaid coat completing her casual ensemble. But it is enough to take his breath away, to make his heart beat fast, to make him forget he has a girlfriend and feel once again like an awkward twelve-year-old at his first real grown-up dance with slow dancing and kisses.
He chokes out a, “shall we?” feeling a bit like a fake as he leads her down to the garage and picks an unassuming car, preferring to drive without the Big Guy so that it can be just the two of them. But what is going to happen, even if it’s just the two of us? he thinks. She is still Magnus, and I am still just Will.
After the concert is over, they drive down the highway with the windows rolled all the way down, the radio turned up as loud as it can go, and they sing along loudly – and he does not worry that singing has not been part of his abilities since his mother died. He focuses on the now, not the past, the now that is a beautiful, sexy, hot, independent brunette woman with her knees curled up in the passenger seat next to him, singing along to his favorite Rush CD in clear tones that feel like molten gold in his ears.
But he manages to push that thought off long enough to drive home, to park the car, and to get them both up to the residential level before he takes a longer look at her. She is cocooned in her coat (it was chilly, even in the garage, this late at night), her eyes shine bright, and she looks like she’s younger than he is. And he knows in his head that that is the opposite of everything he knows to be true, but none of that matters in the moment that he leans forward and presses his lips to hers.
And she presses back.
And then they both jump back, embarrassed, looking up and down and around but not at each other.
Will has never seen her at a loss for words before. The first thing she can speak comes out a strangled whisper.
“Abby,” she breathes, so quietly he almost misses it.
But then he understands. She will not break him up with his girlfriend. But what she doesn’t know is that that relationship is over, that even after all that has transpired this year with his blonde girlfriend, he yearns for someone else. Someone dark-haired and independent and strong.
“Already dumped me,” he whispers back.
And finally, finally, her eyes meet his, and they both grin just a bit, and he tangles his fingers in her hair and she puts her hands on his shoulders, and their lips crash together, and for once – once – their crazy, convoluted lives move in perfect harmony.