The office is dark and empty, the only light provided by the monitors and the Christmas tree sitting in the corner of the room, blue lights twinkling softly among its branches. Exhausted by the last operation, the rest of the team has left to retrieve whatever sense of normal lives they possess. There is talk of a party at Mick’s house. Hall is invited but he declines, his psyche too battered to cope with the false jollity of strangers on New Year’s Eve.
He could go home. Instead, Hall is left with the twinkling lights and jazz music from his iPod to break the isolation of the room. He pours a whisky and sits at his desk, staring unseeing at the amber fluid gently swirling in his glass, just left with the tangle of his memories.
Hall looks up, unsurprised to see the young man standing in the doorway, dressed as ever in a charcoal grey suit and lavender shirt. He smiles gently at him. “Hello, Jacob.”
Jacob leans against the doorframe. “You don’t seem surprised to see me.”
“I knew you’d be here,” Hall says, holding out his hand.
“And why’s that, Hall?” Jacob stays where he is.
Hall notes the change of title and gives a slight sigh as he drops his hand. “You have always been here, Jacob, when I needed you. When I needed coffee, you handed me a mug. When I was injured you patched me up. You’re always there, in the background, even when you’re not actually here. I need you now, and here you are.”
At last, Jacob moves into the room. He cocks his head slightly, listening to the quiet music coming from the iPod. “Dance with me, Sir. Let’s have one dance together. Just you and me.” Hall hesitates and Jacob smiles. “Don’t worry. It’s allowed.”
“Every time I asked you to dance before, you told me I was sexually harassing you.” Jacob never let Hall overstep the boundaries no matter how hard his boss pushed. Hall respected the young man for his strength.
“It’s New Year’s Eve, You can harass me just for today. Come on.” It’s Jacob’s turn to hold out his hand.
“Let’s dance the last dance together.”
Hall swallows hard and stands, allowing Jacob to enfold him in his arms. Hall lays his head on the younger man’s shoulder and lets him take the lead, their bodies pressed together, swaying gently in time to the music. For a few minutes Hall lets himself forget the stresses of the Unit, of corruption, of lies, evil and death. Just for a short while he forgets the emptiness of his life and loses himself in this warm and giving man. Jacob strokes Hall’s hair, and Hall accepts the comfort, almost child-like in his need.
“I love you, Jacob.” Hall says the words almost reluctantly.
Jacob snorts. “You know, I’ve waited so long to hear you say that. Why now, Hall?”
“Because if I don’t admit it to you, kiddo, then I’m never going to say it to anyone else. I love you, as I have never loved anyone before, not even my wife.” Hall lifts his head and stares into Jacob’s brown eyes, expecting to see amusement. All he can see is love and compassion staring back at him. He tucks his face back into Jacob’s neck and they finish the dance in a close embrace. The last notes of the music die out. Just for a few more seconds the men continue to move together, then they stop, still wrapped around each other.
Eventually, Hall raises his head, but he doesn’t move away from the comfort of Jacob’s arms. “You have to go now.” he says, the thought of letting go breaking his heart. Hall stepped back, his hands reluctantly leaving Jacob’s waist. “I know you do. I just… I just needed you to know that I never stopped loving you.”
A single tear rolls down Hall’s cheek. Jacob wipes it away with one gentle finger, leaning forward to kiss away the wetness left behind. He leans forward and kisses Hall, his lips tenderly brushing Hall’s mouth. Hall wants more than one chaste kiss but he holds back, knowing that these are stolen moments, and he has no right to demand more.
“Thank you for finally telling me,” Jacob says. “You don’t have to worry, you know.” He hesitates, and then he says, “It didn’t hurt, Hall. It was all over so quickly. I know you tried to revive me.”
That moment is etched in Hall’s memory; pressing on Jacob’s ribcage, his eyes fixed and unseeing. The hand on his shoulder that told him it was too late, Jacob was already gone.
“I failed,” Hall says, choking back the tears.
Jacob strokes his cheek. “You couldn’t have saved me. It wasn’t the time.”
“I’ll never forgive myself. I shouldn’t have let you go first.”
Jacob frowns at him. “It was my op. It would have been the same whoever went first. They were expecting us.”
Jacob presses a finger over Hall’s mouth to stop him talking. “It was my operation and I was going first. You would have expected it from any other member of the team.”
Hall chokes back a sob. “But I lost you. It was your first op and I lost you. The team hates me.”
“No, they don’t. They feel sorry for you. They all know how we felt about each other.” Jacob’s eyes are full of compassion and sorrow. “Leaving you was the hardest thing I’ve done but now we can be together.”
“What?” Hall pulls back. “What do you mean, we can be together?” Jacob points to the desk and Hall sees himself slumped in the chair. “I… I’m dead?”
Jacob nods sadly. “A heart attack. Too much whiskey and stress.”
Hall looks at his own body, a middle-aged man dying all alone. He expects to feel anger at his own death, but all he feels is regret for the poor bastard who’s going to find his body. “And you’ve come to collect me?”
“You are mine,” Jacob says forcefully, his hands closing around Hall’s upper arms. “Mine!”
Hall’s eyes widen and he swallows hard. In death, his shy, young team member is showing his steel. “Yours,” he agrees.
Outside the building, Hall hears the sound of fireworks and cheering. “It must be New Year’s Day,” he says, and he has a brief sense of loss but then Jacob leans forward to kiss him again, the kiss that Hall wanted before. When Jacob pulls back, Hall forgets about what he’s leaving behind and licks his lips. “Wow.”
“Just the first of many.” Jacob looks around the office. “I missed this place, but now I think I won’t come back again. I got what I came for.” He looks expectantly at Hall.
Hall smiles at his lover. “It’s your op, Jacob. You go first.”
Jacob shakes his head. “Not this time, my love. This time we go together.”