Waking up was possibly the worst thing I could have done. I regretted consciousness immediately as it came with a throbbing headache, hypersensitive eyes, dry throat, and just general fuck my life feelings. Thank god it was Sunday and I had somehow managed to get home the previous night.
But Sunday went by in the blink of an eye since I slept most of it away. The only times I crawled out of bed was to puke, piss, or eat. After doing at least one of the previous actions, I would then pass out for a couple more hours. My phone had gone off a couple times over the previous night and during the day. I texted Carson back, saying that I was fine, and ignored the unknown number that had called a few times before following with several texts asking about a next time.
By nightfall, I was a bit back on track, if starved. I ordered takeout and checked my work email, doing what needed to be done for Monday while eating some kind of attempt at Chinese food. Even though I had slept most of the day, I went to bed rather early, not at all ready to begin a new workweek.
When I stepped out of the elevator, the first thing I noticed was that my desk was the center of attention. I was about to question why everyone was surrounding it, and then remembered what had been on my desk twice a day, everyday, last week.
“Oh god, what is it now?” I grumbled between a yawn, trudging over to see what my ‘Apparently Apologetic Secret Admirer’ had done this time.
I nudged my way past my coworkers and stared down at my desk. Sitting there was not another bouquet, thankfully, but there were flowers. Two of them. One yellow rose and one purple hyacinth. They were tied together with a white ribbon and laid on top of a thin metal box that was painted red.
I heaved possibly the biggest sigh to date and raised a tired brow at Jade, who was nearest to me, “It’s the same person, isn’t it?”
Jade nudged my side, “Oh come on, Jack, you’ve got to have one romantic bone in your body. It’s so cute.”
Rolling my eyes, I grabbed the flowers first, setting them aside to pick up the metal box. It wasn’t all that heavy and a light shake brought the faint sound of crinkling paper to my ears.
“Hurry up and open it!” Frank groaned.
“What if it’s a bomb?” I questioned with all seriousness.
Courtney rolled her eyes and reached for the box, but I held it out of her reach.
“Mine,” I told her.
“Then fucking open it,” she retorted.
I finally did so, ripping off the tape that kept the lid secured and then having minor difficulties with peeling the thin lid off. Inside were chocolates. Seventeen pieces, I counted, sixteen small squares going around one large piece. Each border piece had text on it. I’m sorry, Je suis désolé, Mi dispiace, Lo siento, and so on and so forth, some in languages that did not use Roman letters. The biggest square of chocolate appeared to have custom text, saying I’m sorry for being such an asshole.
“Well then,” I murmured, frowning at the box of chocolates. I certainly hadn’t been expecting literal apology chocolates. But at least it cleared up the motive of my flower giver.
An arm went around my shoulder and my frown deepened when I realized it was Martin, and he was pressing his face very close to mine as he whistled lowly, “Damn, Jackie, you sure you don’t know who’s been sending you these?”
I shrugged him off and closed the box of chocolates, setting them to the side with the flowers. “Yes, I’m sure. Now, show’s over, get to work. I don’t know who’s been sending me this crap nor do I care.”
I managed to get the crowd to disperse back to their own desks and settled in my chair. I started up my computer, staring at the new gifts as I waited for the loading screens to pass. I needed to get rid of them. The chocolate was easy enough, I’d just eat some and give the rest to whoever wanted it, and at least the flowers were only two instead of a million.
I managed to narrow my field of concentration to just my work until my computer alerted me of a new email. I opened it up and saw that it was Carson calling the Aboslute Evac team and me to Mr. Stone’s office. I groaned before reluctantly pausing my work and getting out of my seat. Considering the last time I saw him was when I soundly shot him down on Friday, I was not looking forward to this meeting, even if I had Martin, Dennis, Frank, Jade, and Courtney with me.
“Guys!” I called out. “Evac to Stone if you haven’t checked your email.”
Dennis grinned, “That makes it sound like we’re some sort of special ops. Dennis Pursky, double-O-sixty-nine.”
Dennis received several eye rolls and a whack to the head for his comment as the six of us headed for the elevator.
Upon reaching the top floor, we greeted Carson.
“I’ll let him know you guys are here,” he said, already pressing the necessary buttons. I sat on the edge of Carson’s desk while the others took residence in the leather couches that surrounded a glass table.
Carson finished telling Mr. Stone we had arrived and told us to wait for just a few minutes before turning to me, frowning in concern, “You okay, Jack?”
I nodded, “Fine, like I told you yesterday.”
“You look more tired than usual for a Monday morning,” he insisted.
“Car, I’m fine. Seriously.”
He didn’t look convinced but didn’t get to dig into me as his phone beeped, signaling that Mr. Stone was ready for us.
Martin was the first to go for the door, unsurprisingly, with the others following and me not too far behind. I closed the door behind me and went to join everyone in front of Mr. Stone’s desk.
“Morning, guys, how were your weekends?” Mr. Stone said as he got out of his chair, walking around to lean back against his desk.
Everyone gave the usual positive remark, adding a detail or two here and there. Dennis had a father-son Saturday, Jade’s boyfriend came back from some trip so they caught up, Courtney babysat for her neighbors, Frank went to visit his mom and sisters, and Martin went to the beach. I kept silent, posture lax, but Mr. Stone still singled me out.
“What about you, Jack? Eventful weekend?”
I shrugged, failing at holding back a yawn, “No more eventful than usual. Slept, hung out with some friends, got drunk, and then slept some more.”
Mr. Stone kept his gaze on me, a brief frown flickering over his face before he nodded and addressed the group again, “So, first off, you all can relax because no one’s in trouble. I just wanted to inform you all that Benjamin Anderson, the CEO of the company that is creating Absolute Evac, was impressed by your design and effort. Usually, Samantha would be in charge of communicating with him, but since Jack was the one in charge at the time, Samantha has been insisting that Jack be the spokesperson for you.”
My jaw may have been hanging on the floor when what Mr. Stone was saying registered. Frank clapped me on the back with a congratulatory remark when I managed to speak, “Wait. What? But I didn’t even—”
Courtney slapped my arm and interrupted, “Oh don’t you even start saying that you did nothing. Even with the whole drugging incident you were on top of everything.”
Mr. Stone nodded, “You really should give yourself some credit, Jack.”
It was then that Martin decided to speak up, “Not to be rude, Cole, but if Jack’s going to be our go-between, why were the rest of us called up?”
“Well, it’s not set in stone yet. I’m going to be calling Mr. Anderson back in a bit and I’ve called you all up here to see if you would agree with Samantha’s proposal.”
He barely got the word out before Courtney, Frank, Jade, and Dennis were already saying yes and mock threatening me to not fuck up.
Mr. Stone smiled, “Well that’s settled then. Jack, do you mind staying back for a bit so we can go over what you’ll need to do? The rest of you can get back to work.”
I didn’t really have a choice in the matter and held back a groan as I was left alone with Mr. Stone.
The door closing behind us sounded incredibly ominous and I had to shove my hands into my pockets to keep them from visibly fidgeting.
“Have a seat, Jack,” Mr. Stone said, gesturing to one of the chairs in front of his desk. I sat down and clasped my hands in my lap as I waited for him to walk back around to his seat. “I’ll email you all of Mr. Anderson’s details by the end of the day. Samantha and I were going to be meeting with him next week, we’re waiting for confirmation right now but it will most likely be on Friday or Saturday, for a semi-casual dinner meeting and I think that would be the best time to get you two formally introduced.”
I nodded slowly, “Okay. So, I guess just ask Samantha for assistance when I need it?”
Mr. Stone nodded, “Pretty much. I’m available too if you can’t get ahold of Samantha.”
I nodded again and then we lapsed into silence. I wanted to ask if he was done yet, but he looked like he was about to say something, just trying to figure out how to come out with it.
Eventually he cleared his throat, “So. That’s all for now on the business side of things.” I frowned at that and was about to ask what he meant but he carried on, “But there is just one more thing I wanted to tell you, or show you, I guess.” Mr. Stone clicked around on his computer a couple times and then sat back, not looking at me. I frowned for a moment until music started playing.
“What…” my frown deepened as the first words of the song came from the computer’s speakers. I didn’t recognize the song immediately and was thoroughly confused. It was only at the chorus did I realize it was Forgiveness by Toby Mac – Dan had shown it to me a while ago – and as I continued to listen to the man sing, focusing on the lyrics, my jaw gradually gravitated towards the floor.
Mr. Stone was rubbing the back of his neck when the song ended, “I, uh, I just really wanted to let you know how sorry I am about what happened and for my behaviour. I’m…not very used to being denied and took things too far and I didn’t know how to apologize. This was the best I could come up with.”
I shook my head, piecing everything together, “The flowers?” He nodded. “All of last week, and you pretended not to know anything about them.” He still nodded. “And this morning…you ordered specialized chocolates?” He just continued nodding.
I blinked, shell shocked for several seconds before I started snickering. The little hiccups of laughter soon grew in volume until I was clutching my stomach and bent over, tears gathering in the corner of my eyes. When breathing became too difficult and my stomach and lungs were cramping, I tried to calm down, wiping my eyes.
“Oh my god,” I wheezed. “I don’t even know what to say. That’s possibly the cheesiest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
I couldn’t help but grin and shake my head at Mr. Stone who had looked startled when I broke down laughing but was now looking hopeful with a smile of his own.
“I do mean it, Jack. We got off on the wrong foot and I hope we can start over.”
I thought about it for a second and then shrugged as I got to my feet and went over to him. I stuck my hand out over his laptop, “I’m Jack Gallagher.”
It took a second but he got where I was going and stood up as well, clasping my outstretched hand in a firm grip and shaking it, “Cole Stone. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jack.”
We released one another and it was only then that something came to mind. I narrowed my eyes suspiciously, catching him off guard.
“What is it?’” he asked.
“This whole Anderson thing isn’t part of your apology is it?”
With wide eyes, he shook his head fervently, “No! I swear that was entirely Samantha’s idea and I mean it when I say that I crossed a line with you and do regret my actions. However, you do deserve more opportunities. I’ve gone over everyone’s files and I’m honestly surprised you haven’t asked for a raise or promotion in the last year or so.”
I stared at him for a moment longer before relaxing, sensing that he was being honest. “Alright, I’ll believe you. And speaking of work, I should get back to it.” I yawned again, following it up with a reflexive apology.
“Are you alright?” he asked as I started to make my way to the door. “Did you buy something from outside again this morning?”
It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about. “Oh, no. I’m just tired. I was hungover pretty much most of yesterday. I’m fine, seriously.”
He kept his eyes on me, a slight furrow between his brows, for a few more seconds before seeming to accept it. “Alright. But take it easy if you’re not feeling well.”
“I will.” I opened the door with him behind me and turned around to smile briefly. “Thanks for the laugh, by the way. Have a nice day, Cole.”
His completely bewildered expression may have been the highlight of my morning and my day was looking a bit better than before.
A/N: Here's the song Cole played for Jack.