Perfect Drug

 

Perfect Drug

 

David raced to the laboratory where he worked, looking at his watch with dismay. I should have been here hours ago, he thought, waving his ID badge at the identity scanner and opening the door to the lab. He almost bumped into a fellow researcher in his haste, and muttered an apology as he stepped into the elevator, his thoughts far away. I’m close to finding the answer that every scientist for twenty years has been searching for. The cure for cancer. The holy grail of science stands at the top of the tower and I might be the first man to reach it. His mind buzzed with the energy that being on the verge of a breakthrough was giving him, every nerve singing songs of the grand future he was about to create and he tapped his foot impatiently as the elevator crawled up the shaft. He pushed his way past other scientists when the door opened, almost running across the lab.

His lab partner, Dr. Samuel Warren, or just Sam to him; a blond, gentle-faced researcher in his late twenties, was already balancing several tasks by himself when David reached his workstation. He looked around to see a tower of discarded styrofoam coffee cups stacked inside each other and sighed. He didn’t go home last night, he realized with a sinking, almost guilty feeling. I should have been here too.

“Sam!” David sighed, gesturing to the coffee cups, “I told you to get some rest.”

“I said I’d only be a few more minutes. Well, minutes became hours. Come look at this, David.” Sam was peering into a microscope, the longish bangs of his hair drooping into his eyes. He looked like he needed a haircut and some good sleep, but David knew he had looked that way at times and dismissed it. He put his eyes to the microscope as Sam stepped away.

“Well,” Sam said, beginning his explanation, “As you can see, when I introduce this protein here to the cancerous cells, it seems to kill the cancer cells while leaving the normal ones intact. If we could bind this to normal cells, we’d have cancer killing cells.”
Dave’s eyes widened, “You worked on my research.”

“I’m sorry,” Sam said, “I just wanted to see what would happen. David, this is the huge breakthrough we’ve been searching for! All those years of hard work finally paid off.”

David shrugged and sat down, “It’s amazing, Sam,” he said, “but this isn’t everything. We need to find out how to replicate this effect in humans, and if it is safe. Besides, it’s my hard work. You’re just the assistant.” He bit his tongue as soon as the last words left his mouth, hating the bitter taste they left in his mouth.

“I don’t care,” said Sam, “I just wanted to see it for myself. Take all the credit; the work is yours. I just applied some ideas to it and put it in action. You’re right about the human effect and you know what, I’m tired. I’m going home.”

“Wait,” David said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that the way it came out. Look, please stay longer. We need to work on this. I’m glad you found it. I was just hoping to be here when we made the breakthrough, that’s all. Why didn’t you call me?”

“I tried,” Sam sighed, “but you didn’t pick up. I suppose you were just having a night in with your girlfriend, or whatever…”

“I was asleep,” David said, “At least I didn’t sleep at the lab. You can’t be a workaholic forever, Sam. It’s going to lead you to an early grave.”

“Says the one who nearly ran to work,” Sam replied, “I really want to find another treatment. Every second we can spare is another life we can save. Maybe I’m naive, but I want to use science to help people.”

David smiled, then, and slapped Sam on the back, “Go get a coffee, and we’ll work on this some more.”

* * *

Evening drew in, with darkness hot on its tail. Activity in the lab dwindled as all the other lab assistants slowly went home. David and Sam took a nap in their rest room and ordered food in before continuing on with their work.

The phone rang, and Sam picked it up.

“It’s for you,” he said, handing the phone to David. “Your girlfriend.”

David took the phone, “Hey, I’m busy. Yeah, I know I promised, but something’s come up at the lab… No it’s not boring lab stuff, please don’t hang up again…” He held the phone away from his ear to avoid the loud and inevitable slam of the phone on the other end, and put the phone down gently.

“You know, Sam,” he said, “I’m tired of this. Science is easy, but women? I may be a genius, but I don’t have a fucking clue about them.”

“We work in a demanding field,” Sam replied, “Science is like a lover that takes all your time and energy. We’d be lost without your brain, so don’t go running away to start a family just yet.”

“I spent all of last night with her, but now I’m back at the lab she’s complaining.” David sighed and finished his coffee, crushing the paper cup in his hand and tossing it into the trashcan across the room.

“Maybe she’s just jealous that you spend more time with me than her,” Sam quipped, and got up for another coffee.

 

* * *

At dawn, Sam was sleeping like a baby at his bench, head slumped over his arms. He had stayed coherent until around two in the morning, but had finally lost his ability to think straight and had slept at the bench instead of using one of the beds in the other room. David kept on working, allowing himself to stare occasionally at the peaceful sleeping face next to him, until he himself was overwhelmed with exhaustion. He shook Sam by the shoulder to wake him up.

“Wha…? Leave me alone…” Sam complained.

“Hey, this is a sterile working environment, so stop drooling on the desk and let’s go and get some sleep in proper beds. Besides, you’ll regret it if you sleep like that for too long.”

David half helped, half dragged Sam into the next room and laid him onto one of the beds, pulling the covers over him, “You’re a pain in the ass, you know that?” he complained, and went over to the other bed to find that one of the lab assistants had decided to stay the night. He was about to wake him up and throw him out on his ear until he realized it was his old friend and lab assistant Ken, who was having marriage problems at and had no desire to go home. I can’t throw him out, David thought. He has nowhere to go.

He sat on a spare chair and pulled himself up to a desk, putting his head down on it. He was exhausted, but the desk was hard and he couldn’t sleep. Giving up, he went over to Sam’s bed.

“Hey, shove over,” he grumbled, and rolled Sam against the wall with a few moans of protest, then got in beside him. He knew the lab assistants would find it hilarious and crack jokes all week, but at that moment he was so tired he didn’t care what they said.

 

* * *

Days came and went in the blink of an eye and the research continued at a steady pace, the two scientists working around the clock to document their findings and share their data with other scientists. Sam and David couldn’t help but notice the the tension and strain tiredness had caused among the team.

“You mean you’re not going over to Sam’s house?” Ken jibed at David when he went over to deliver his coffee, “You had your arm around Sam the other night, I saw you.”

“Oh, shut up,” David said, “If you would just go home and face your problems, you wouldn’t need to occupy a bed here in the first place!”

Ken lunged at David and Sam put his arms around his waist, pulling him back, “Leave it out, David, we’re all just really tired.”

“Yeah,” David said, releasing himself from Sam’s grip, “All right, everyone go home early and get some rest. I’ll see you back here in twenty-four hours, and I want you fresh and ready to work on the report. Now go!”

Sam began to gather up some notes he had made and David shook his head, “No. I know you’re a workaholic but none of this is leaving the lab until after we compile the report. I trust you, but if any of this got lost, it could be a disaster. Besides, you need some time for yourself. Don’t you have anything else other than science to work on?”

“You should know better by now,” Sam said, “We’ve been working together for over a year. I don’t have a social life, and I’m fine with that.”

“Well, whatever,” David said, “I still say you should go out and have some fun sometimes, or quit living alone. It’s got to be boring.”

“Between the choice of living alone or living with someone like your girlfriend… I’m better off alone,” Sam said, grabbing his coat. “I’ll see you soon.”

“Hey, she’s not that bad. I just neglect her too much, that’s the problem. I’m lucky she hasn’t dumped me. I’d hate to live alone.” David said.

Sam thought he saw a hidden vulnerability there, a fear of being alone. David couldn’t understand why he wanted to live alone, because he couldn’t stand the idea himself. Sam smiled wanly, and walked off into the snow. It’s not that I wouldn’t mind company in my life, he thought, but the one I person want already has a girlfriend.

* * *

 

Sam spent a lonely day boxing up old science journals and putting them in storage. He enjoyed looking at some of the old ones, seeing the “new” discoveries proclaimed. Some of the ideas were sound and many had become commonly used, taken for granted by doctors and scientists everywhere. Others were proved wrong by better theories and ideas. I wonder which category our research will fall into?

On the evening of the second day Sam sat on the floor of his apartment, reading by a dim lamplight. The science journals were gone, replaced by a novel, some outlandish science fiction story that totally ignored many of the basic laws of science, such as the fact there was no gravity in space. Still, he read for entertainment, rather than fact. It stopped him thinking about more difficult subjects, such as David.

He remembered meeting David, one cold winter day with snow, just like the day that had just passed.

“This is Sam, your new research assistant. He’s fresh out of college, but then that should mean he has an open mind.” The lab manager smiled. “He’ll be joining your team to look into your promising cancer treatment ideas.”

“Hi,” Sam had said shyly, putting out his hand. He realized it was shaking, but David already had it in a firm grip.

“Welcome to the team,” David had said, smiling, “We want to find a cure, here. Nothing less than the best will do. If we’re going to save lives, then we need to put our heads together and make it happen. We have to be dedicated, passionate and open to new ideas at all times.”

He’d seemed so bright and optimistic that first day, so filled with hope, that Sam could not help but be impressed by him. David was only a little older than him, but Sam had respect for him from that very first day, inspired by the sparkle in his eyes that belied his belief in what science could do.

Sam put down the science fiction novel, sighing. It wasn’t working any more, wasn’t keeping his mind off the subject it always returned to. His waking hours seemed to be filled with David, yet David seemed to have become a little darker, a little more tired, a little older and sadder than he once was. Sam knew that at one time David might have jumped for joy at the research they were on now, but instead he’d been angry that Sam had used his work. He never snapped at me before. Even when we were tired and stressed out. He used to listen with infinite patience.

There was a knock on the door. It was late, and Sam approached the door with caution. He opened it, hooking it on the chain and saw a disheveled, tired looking David standing there, He opened the door fully to let him in and David walked past him and slumped on the sofa.

“What’s the matter?” Sam asked, closing the door.

“I guess I’m having a mid-life crisis,” David sighed.

“How so?” Sam said, sitting himself down in a recliner across from the sofa.

“I told my girlfriend it was over, and she had no reaction. Not even stunned silence. She said we could still be friends. I don’t get it.” David took off his glasses and laid them on Sam’s coffee table, putting his head in his hands, “You know, the funny thing is, I don’t care either. I thought it would be harder.”

“Relationships can run their natural course sometimes,” Sam replied, not really knowing what to say. “Would you like a drink? Wine, beer?”

“Whiskey, vodka…?” David replied.

Sam was gone for a minute and then returned with a bottle of whiskey, pouring David a glass. He’d had it around forever, had been a Christmas gift one year from his uncle but he’d never cared much for the stuff.

“So, if you don’t care, why are you in my living room asking for a stiff drink?” Sam asked.

“It’s the science that’s bothering me, Sam,” David replied, “It’s eating away at me, bit by bit. I’m so desperate to find a cure that there’s nothing I wouldn’t give up, and I wouldn’t care who I sacrificed to do it. That’s not how I used to be. The reason I even got into science in the first place was to help people. Now I find I don’t really care about anything but knowledge, even to the detriment of human relationships. What’s wrong with me?”

“You’ve just been pushing yourself too hard,” Sam replied, “Look at us, we’re both obsessed with it, driven by it. It consumes us like fire until there’s nothing left, no energy to spend on anything else.”

“Is that how you feel? Is that why you live alone?” David asked.

“No, not really,” Sam said, “Look, I’m sorry about using your research. I just wanted to help. I wanted to take a load off your shoulders.”

“It’s your job,” said David, “I’m just possessive over my work. That’s another symptom of my problem. I didn’t mean to snap at you, or nearly get into a fight with Ken.”

“It’s just burnout,” said Sam, “Everybody’s tensions were frayed. Ken’s self-control was obviously not in check for him to be making comments like that anyway.”

“I guess you’re right.” David said, “I just don’t know what I’m doing any more. It feels like I don’t have a life outside of science, or even very much that’s me, my own personality. Who am I outside the lab? I’m not sure I even know.”

“You were the one telling me to get out more!” said Sam, “You used to be happy. Could it be that you’re not actually enjoying any of your social time? Take a few days off. I’ll work with the assistants on writing the report; I understand the theory just fine.”

“There’s another thing I came here to ask,” David sighed. “The apartment belonged to Patricia, so I have nowhere else to go until I get set up in a place. Can I crash here for a week or so?”

“Yeah, no problem,” Sam said, “I only have one bedroom though, so if you don’t mind taking the sofa…”

“That’s fine,” said David, “Maybe I should take a few days off. We still have tomorrow, so maybe I’ll think about it.” He lay down on the sofa… “I’m sorry to inconvenience you like this.”

“Don’t be,” said Sam, but he saw that David was already dozing, the alcohol doing its job. He went and fetched a blanket and gently put it over the sleeping David and just stood there for a moment, watching David’s peaceful face and the rise and fall of his body with each measured breath as if he was watching a magnificent chemical reaction unfold before him. Snapping back to reality, he tore himself away and retired to his bed.

 

* * *

 

Sam woke and wandered out into the kitchen in the bliss of morning oblivion before remembering David was staying at his apartment and he was walking around naked.

Furthermore, David was standing at the kitchen counter making himself a sandwich, and got a full view. Sam backed into his bedroom quickly and shut the door.

“I forgot you were here!” he explained through the door.

“Hey, nothing I haven’t seen,” he said, chuckling.

Sam emerged from his bedroom fully dressed, still blushing. Eying the sandwich David had made, he made one for himself and sat down to eat it.

“You seem a bit brighter, anyway,” Sam said.

“Yeah, I think I overanalyzed things last night. I suppose people always feel empty after a break-up. I don’t regret it, though. Maybe that makes me somewhat less than human, I don’t know, but that doesn’t change anything.” David said.

“She probably just wasn’t the right person,” Sam said, “You shouldn’t feel bad about that, it happens.” He shrugged.

“There’s something embarrassing I want to tell you,” David said.

“Go on, it can’t really get more embarrassing then me naked.”

“I think Ken has a crush on me. He’s been acting like a jealous lover. It’s driving me crazy. Yeah, I slept in the same bed as you, but only because he occupied the other one. I did NOT have my arm around you!” David said.

“Come to think of it, I do remember a warm arm… but it was elbowing me in the ribs,” Sam said, “Oh, and you snore.” He joked, fighting the sting inside at David’s denial.

“So do you,” David laughed.

“But neither of us could be as bad as Ken,” said Sam. They both laughed at this, letting off tension.

“So, it’s getting to you?” Sam asked, seriously.

“A little,” David replied, “I’m not interested in him, I wish he would just go away. But it’s hardly the kind of thing I can acknowledge without coming off like an asshole. Also, he’s going through rough times with his marriage break-up. Maybe he just needs someone to fixate on and it will go away in time.”

“Yeah,” Sam replied, feeling awkward. A man with a crush on you is an embarrassment, huh? He sighed inwardly, trying not to show his disappointment on his face. I guess I always knew you were straight. Why did I ever hope otherwise?

“I mean, come on, it’s Ken of all people. He’s got bad breath, it’s no wonder his wife’s getting a divorce!” They both laughed at this, Sam’s laughter echoing with a little relief that it seemed to be just Ken that David had a problem with. Maybe other men might be on the agenda… I can’t give up yet.

“I’ll try to repel him for you,” Sam said, “Speaking of that, did you give taking a few days off some thought?”

“Yeah, and I might actually do it,” David said, “I have a bunch of things to think about. I don’t have a lot to do except loaf around here, though. I feel bad for taking up your space.”

“Well, would you like to help me move some of these science journals into storage? I did some yesterday but that pile still needs to be packed.” Sam asked.

“Sure, sounds good,” David said.

They spent the day packing the journals in the boxes, David laughing at some of the old stories in them. “Oh, they came up with this one in my university days… What a load of crap,” he would say, or “this one had sound science, I respected this guy.” Or even “I knew him, I met him at a conference.”

“You know a lot of people,” Sam said.

“Not really,” replied David. “I’ve worked with a few, but mostly I’ve found their egos get in the way. It’s been hard to find people I can really work with. You know, maybe I was a little jealous when you took my research and worked with it, but I admired you for that too. You’ve gone past being a mere assistant. You’re someone I can really work with.”

“Thanks,” Sam said, smiling, “You know, we have the same goals, so it’s natural that we work together and get things done.”

They stacked the boxes up against the wall and eventually gave in for the day. David spotted the sci-fi book on the floor and picked it up with something between disgust and amusement.

“Hey, it’s entertainment, okay?” Sam defended his read with fervor. “It takes my mind off things.”

“Yeah, like real science,” David laughed, and tossed the book to Sam. Sam put it aside and went to make dinner.

They sat and ate, watching a movie. Sam laughed as David insisted on picking apart the science featured in the movie.

“You know,” said David, “I think I’m going to come to work. I feel a lot better for some real company. I think you’re right; my relationship came to its natural conclusion. Thanks for everything, Sam.”

“No problem,” said Sam, “Let’s go and write that report and show the world what we’ve found.”

* * *

 

“Sam, bring that sample over here, please.” David asked.

“Here you go. Where is everyone?” Sam asked, looking around the empty lab. Evening was slowly drawing in, but the assistants had been asked to work overtime while the report was being drawn up.

“Some are taking naps, some went home to sleep. I wanted to keep everyone here in the lab while we write the report to prevent leaks, but there’s just not the space.

“People get cranky when they’re tired.” David said. “I let them go.”

“How much more do we have to do?” Sam asked, sitting down on a stool next to David.

“I’d say we have another two days’ work. If we can just keep at it, we’ll be okay. Where’s Ken, anyway? I didn’t give him permission to go home.” David asked.

“I’m here, I’m here,” Ken sighed, rubbing his head and staggering in from the other room. “Those bastards snore, you know. Almost as bad as the guys in our dorm when we were at college.”

“You went to college together?” Sam asked, genuinely surprised.

“Yeah, didn’t Dave tell you? Back then we were close. I barely scraped my science degree because I bunked off a lot, but David was the star pupil. They used to say if only I could have been more like him…” Ken said.

“Yeah, yeah,” David replied, “So we had something once. It’s ancient history now. I don’t know why you have to bring it up all the time. The other day was out of order as well. Now, are you going to help me with this or not?”

“What can I do to help?” Ken asked irritably.

“Make us some coffee,” David sighed, “Don’t think about spitting in it, either.”

Sam was reeling inside. David had had a relationship with Ken in college? He could hardly believe it. He’d always noticed a strange chemistry between them, that was true, but he just thought they didn’t get on well. After all, David’s work was his life, while Ken was a slacker. Sam hadn’t even known that they’d attended college together. It reminded him how little he really knew about David. He could have told me the truth, Sam thought. Was he that embarrassed about a gay college fling that he couldn’t even talk about it?

Ken went out to make coffee, and David slumped over his microscope, “I’m sorry about that, Sam.”

“Sorry about what?” Sam asked.

“The embarrassing life story, for starters. Even been in a relationship with someone and then looked back later and felt really ashamed about it? That’s how I feel about Ken. I guess it’s cruel to say, but I wish he’d never joined the team. Still, I’m not well-known enough to pick my own team yet, so I just have to take what they give me.”

“Why be embarrassed about it? I don’t mind if you’re bisexual, or whatever.” Sam said, trying to act cool about it while he was burning inside.

“Yeah, well… thanks. But really, I’m not embarrassed about my sexuality. It’s just that… I don’t know, it’s Ken. You’ve worked with him long enough to realize what I mean, right?”

“The stripy shirts, the chest hairs that somehow find their way out of them and the huge, unruly beard?” Sam asked, a smile on his face.

“Exactly,” said David, laughing, “I can’t believe I ever saw anything in him. Then again, I’m awful at choosing my partners. Look what happened with Patricia.”

“She still didn’t call you?” Sam asked.

“She’s probably selling my research notes to Glace Pharmaceuticals as we speak.

That’s one of the reasons I’m in such a hurry to get this report out. I think I might have really fucked up, continuing to date her while she got a job at a rival company.” He sighed. “I think she might be a corporate spy. The way she acted strange after our breakthrough seemed out of character.”

“Christ, you never told me that!” Sam exclaimed, “This could be a disaster!”

“Tell me about it,” David said, “The one big break in our lives and I might have thrown it all away.” He slumped further in his seat, “My shoulders ache like hell.” He got up and walked to the computer, and sat down and typed the next part of the report. Sam put down the petri dish he was holding and went over to David. Tentatively putting his hands over David’s shoulders, he gently massaged them. He expected David to pull away or ask what he was doing, but he rested back in the seat and closed his eyes.

“Thanks for this weekend,” David said, “It was good to get away from work and do something else for a change. Looking through those journals, it reminded me why we’re here doing this, where we’re going, how important all this is.”

“I guess sometimes we just need a little direction,” Sam said, “I’m sorry about Patricia though.”

“Sorry? I wish I’d broken up with her sooner, to be brutally honest. I thought working where she does, she’d understand my need to be at the lab, but she didn’t. It seemed she was always trying to pull me away from my research.” David stretched, and Sam removed his hands. He’d wanted to move them up, caress David’s face, but he couldn’t, not at the moment, not with all the things that were going on. The research came before his personal feelings, and he went back to his work.

Ken walked in with coffee and put the cups down when his cellphone started to ring.

“I thought I told you not to have those things on in here,” David complained, but Ken made a shut up expression with his hand and took the call outside.

They worked into the small hours and eventually Sam fell asleep, his head resting in his arms on the table. David looked over at him and smiled as he added some more words to the report. David appreciated his presence even if he wasn’t awake. As for Ken, he hadn’t returned from his call and David noted to give him a firm warning when he did.

Daybreak came before long, and Sam awoke to find David slumped at his computer. He shook him awake gently.

“Dave, I think you should go and sleep in the other room. Most of the assistants have come in now; there should be some spare beds. I’ll take over writing the report, don’t worry.”

“Thanks,” David said dozily. “I’m glad I can depend on you.” He shuffled off holding his head, and Sam sat in his warm seat and began to type.

 

* * *

 

Ken eventually returned and Sam had the guilty pleasure of rebuking him for his absence.

“Where the hell have you been?” he asked, annoyed, “We really need your help around here. Natalie over there dropped an important sample and Michael cut his hand.”

“Hey, you’re an assistant just like me, so don’t get all high and mighty with me,” Ken grouched. “Just because you’re sucking him off doesn’t mean you get to boss me around too.”

Sam was blindsided by the comment. “I’m… I’m not,” Sam replied, his stutter revealing his secret desire. “I don’t know if you’re jealous, but leave it at home. This report is important. Once it’s all over, then you can settle your score, but right now, just show up, okay?”

Ken walked off; shoulders slumped, defeated. Am I being too hard on him because I’m jealous of his relationship with David? Sam thought. He hoped not, and pushed the feelings away, concentrating on the report.

David emerged from the rest room around midday, and squeezed Sam’s shoulder.

“You should get some sleep, Sam,” he said.

“We’re nearly done, David,” Sam said, feeling David’s warm touch burn into him. “Wake me when it’s complete.”

 

* * *

 

Six hours later, Sam awoke to whoops of joy. He rubbed his eyes and walked out into the lab to see David smiling.

“Done and proof-read,” he smiled, “It’s printing out now.”

“That’s great,” Sam said, “I’m hungry.”

“Okay, who’s up for pizza?” David called out, “There’s a place just up the street, I’ll get some and bring it back while this prints out. “Sam, guard it with your life!”

“You bet I will,” he smiled.

Sam sat at the computer and smiled to himself, thinking of what they had achieved in the short space of just a few days. It had gone from being just another theory to being a real possible new method of combating cancer. We did it together.

Just then, the phone rang. Ken picked it up before Sam could get there. He went slightly pale and handed the receiver to Sam.

“I don’t know who it is, but you better listen, quickly,” he said.

“Hello?” Sam asked.

“THERE IS A BOMB IN YOUR BUILDING, RIGGED TO YOUR PRINTER. IF YOU STOP PRINTING, IT WILL BLOW UP. WHEN THE THEORY FINISHES PRINTING, IT WILL BLOW UP. I SUGGEST YOU EVACUATE NOW, AND DON’T EVEN THINK OF MAKING A COPY ON DISK, EVERY COMPUTER IN THE PLACE IS RIGGED, AS IS YOUR ACCESS TO THE INTERNET. UPLOAD ANY FILES, AND BOOM. HAVE A NICE DAY.” A feminine voice, disguised through a computer, bellowed through the handset.
Sam stood there, his mouth open, not knowing what to say as the receiver clicked.

“Shit,” he said under his breath.

He stood up and whistled, and the whole room fell silent.

“Everyone, we have to evacuate! We just received a bomb warning. Everybody, get outside now, and don’t touch anything!” There was a mad rush for the door, and Ken smashed open the fire alarm, setting it off to alert the sleepers in the next room that there was an emergency.

“Come on,” Ken said, “Make a backup of that and let’s go.”

“I can’t,” Sam said. “They said the bomb’s rigged to the computer, and if I try to back it up, it will explode. When it finishes printing, it will explode.”

“Well then, let’s go!” Ken said.

“No,” Sam said, “I’m not going. If I stay, maybe I can rescue the paper just before it finishes printing and get out. I can’t let this all go up in flames, Ken. We have no hard copy of any of this outside of the lab!”

“It was intentional, Sam,” Ken said, “David’s a cautious man. He must have known people were after his work.”

“Then why did he date Patricia, a woman from the pharmaceutical industry?” Sam cried.

“He did what?” Ken said, “Oh, geez… I heard he had a girlfriend but this is bad. Anyway, we can mull over this later. Hurry up!”

“Like I said, I’m not going,” said Sam, “Go outside and see if you can find David. The printout’s still going. Go, hurry!”

Ken reluctantly left, and Sam grabbed a screwdriver. He gently prized off the side panel of the computer and looked inside. Sure enough, there was a device with a blinking red light taped to a huge amount of plastic explosive. He’d seen a few basic bombs in his chemistry lectures, before he decided to go into biology instead, and he knew about what they were composed of, but he didn’t know any more than that. After all, such knowledge could be dangerous in the wrong hands, and so it was not generally taught to everyday citizens.

Sam realized he was trembling. The printout was at the vital stages now, the most important information printing. He backed away from the computer and ducked behind a desk instinctively. He wanted to grab the papers and go, surely something was better than nothing, but he couldn’t bring himself to go anywhere near it. He was frozen in place, unable to even leave the building. His breathing grew shallower and faster and he started to hyperventilate. If I can just get the papers and go… but his legs had turned to jelly and he couldn’t stand.

David… I’m sorry. Everything we worked on is going to go up in smoke and I still never got the courage to tell you that I love you. He pulled together his determination and made himself stand and stagger over to the printer. The main part was done; they could piece the rest together from there. He picked up the papers and backed away quickly.

The printout stopped. An error message flashed up on the screen: Error 101: Out of Paper.

Everything exploded in a mass of orange, red and white, like a brilliant, bright, white-hot supernova.

* * *

David saw the building explode and heard the boom and the crashing of windows blowing out. Ken hurried towards him.

“It’s the lab! They got a bomb threat! Sam… he wouldn’t leave without the paper!”

“Shit!” David yelled, his mouth hanging open as he saw flames shooting from the lab.

“That’s what he said too, when we got the threat. Come on!” Ken hurried away, David unable to keep up with him. Ken had always been more athletic. Yet he was running away from the building, running to his car. David wanted to chase after him, to hit him if he was the one who had done this, but then he remembered Sam was still in the building and his heart sank. He raced towards the lab and pushed through the crowd of scientists outside.

“You can’t go in there!” said one of the female assistants. “The chemical tanks and gas cylinders could explode!”

“Sam’s still in there!” said David, “I have to go!” He raced forward, taking off his sweater and tying it around the lower half of his face, over his nose and mouth before rushing in. The smoke was thick. “Sam!” he cried.

He heard coughing, “Over here! I got… the papers… but I dropped them.” He pointed to a pile of scattered papers on the floor, quite a way away from where he was now.

David could see them, the freshly printed sheets with all their theories detailed perfectly. It was irreplaceable, written from notes, books, shared discovery and scientific research. He couldn’t remember much of it; the specifics were too complicated for memory. Yet in the corner, Sam lie trapped under a broken desk, needing his help.

He realized with a sinking heart that he only had time to rescue either Sam or the paper; already the flames were getting closer and closer to both of them. He froze in indecision, on one side of him lay a good, kind man, one who had helped him with his personal problems and who he cared deeply for; on the other side was a scientific paper whose data could save millions of lives.

In that second he remembered the conversation he’d had with Sam, that night he’d left Patricia.

“I’m so desperate to find a cure that there’s nothing I wouldn’t give up, and I wouldn’t care what I sacrificed to do it.”

That’s not true, David realized. I got into science to help people. People. There will be other theories, other papers, other research, but there will only ever be one Sam.

He freed Sam from under the desk, throwing him over his shoulder and he hurried outside to safety, catching a glimpse of the burning paper in the corner of his eye.

I have no regrets, David realized.

* * *

David sat up in a hospital bed and pulled off his annoying oxygen mask. He felt fine, and hadn’t inhaled that much smoke. I want to see Sam. He sighed, feeling a knot of rage and sadness inside. I gave up the paper for him. I did what I had to do, but it still hurts.

He got out of bed and ignored the protests of the nurse who was ordering him to rest, and went wandering the halls. He didn’t see Sam in any of the beds, and it worried him. He asked a nurse.

“Sam Warren? I believe he’s in the high dependency unit. He’s stable, and doing well, but he inhaled a lot of smoke. Now get back to bed!” The nurse said, ushering him back to his room.

 

* * *

 

Morning came, and much to David’s relief, he was discharged. The first thing he did after getting some clothes on was to visit Sam. He was shocked to see Sam hooked up to so many machines, bandages covering his arms where he had been burned.

“Hey,” David said in greeting.

Sam reached up and pulled aside the oxygen mask, “David, about the paper… I’m so sorry…”

“You did your best,” David said, “If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s mine. I never should have dated Patricia knowing how valuable the research I was working on was. I guess I was lonely, and I overlooked her career.”

“We can’t change it now,” Sam said, pulling his mask back on. He took a few breaths, and David sat on the side of the bed and took his hand.

“For a moment there… I thought I might choose the paper over you,” he admitted, “I thought I might really become the monster I was afraid of.”

“If you had… I wouldn’t have blamed you,” Sam said, “I can’t believe it’s gone. All that hope for people, that amazing breakthrough, it’s all gone!”

“So we’ll try again,” said David, “We still remember some of what we did. We just keep trying. If we never find it again, someday, someone else will.”

“Hey.” A voice came through the curtain, “I hope I’m not intruding on the love scene.”

“Ken?” David said, “Why the hell did you run away?”

Ken pushed his way through the curtain, only he was no longer dressed in a lab coat, but a police uniform with a gun holstered at his side. He smiled at Sam and David’s surprise.

“I ran away to get backup. I’ve been working undercover for a year, investigating claims that Glace Pharmaceutical was suppressing and stealing scientific discoveries. We knew they’d had their eye on your research, so I was placed to see if I could sniff out anybody who was spying. However, we didn’t anticipate that they would resort to terrorism, and I didn’t realize that your girlfriend would be the weak point. I’m sorry.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” asked David, “I never knew you went into the police force.”

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t that good with science, you said it yourself back in college. I managed to get myself a job in forensics, but seeing the police from the inside… I wanted to be an officer. So I did the training, and here I am.” Ken said, “I didn’t tell you because it may have compromised the operation. You have to remember everybody was under suspicion, even Sam. Even you.”

“So, did you get them?” Sam asked.

“We chased down Patricia after we realized she was the leak, but she had already fled the country. We really have no other leads, but now there’s been a case of attempted murder, the force is putting more resources into it. We’ll let you know if anything comes up.”

“What about the building?” asked Sam, “Was any of the equipment salvageable?”

“I’m afraid not,” said Ken, “It’s all gone, burned to ashes. I’m sorry.”

“Who planted the bomb?” asked David.

“A guy named Michael, one of the research assistants. At least, he disappeared after the whole thing was done, so he’s the prime suspect,” explained Ken, “We suppose he had a key cut and that he planted the bomb when we were away on the two-day break before writing the report. Well, I’ve got to go. Take care.”

He excused himself quietly, and left. David and Sam sat quietly, Sam breathing into the mask again. Sam stroked David’s hand gently.

“Thanks for saving me,” he said, “I’m truly grateful.”

 

* * *

 

The door opened, and Sam walked into his apartment, helped by David who carried his things and opened the doors.

“Finally, they released me from the hospital. I thought I was going to be in there forever,” Sam sighed.

“Are you going to be okay on your own? I can stay over if you need any help,” David said, “I know I’ve got my own place now, but really, I’m happy to keep you company.”

“Thanks,” said Sam, “but I’ll be all right.”

The sun was setting, and Sam stood and brooded at the long window that extended to the ceiling, lighting his apartment.

David sighed and saw himself out. I want to say something, but I don’t know what. He feels like it’s all his fault and I wish I could just tell him that it’s okay…

With David gone, Sam crumpled, falling to the floor in a fit of sobs, beating his fists on the floor. If only I hadn’t been there, David would have been able to save the research paper. If only I hadn’t frozen, I might have been able to save it before the printer paper ran out…

The door opened again and David re-entered, “Sorry Sam,” Dave called, “I forgot my key… Sam?” He rushed over to where the sobbing man lay and put his arms around him, lifting him to his feet.

“Hey, talk to me,” David said soothingly. “Don’t let it eat you up.”

“It’s all my fault!” Sam sobbed, “If only I’d taken the paper there and then, we could have patched it up. Now, there’s nothing left!”

“Stop it, Sam,” David said, “Stop blaming yourself.”

Sam turned to look out of the window, David’s arms still holding him. The sunset was glowing red, burning with rage.

“All those millions of people out there that we could have helped, David… and now our chance is gone.” Sam said.

“That’s not true,” David said, “As long as we are alive, the chance is still there. We’re still experts in our field. Besides, you’re forgetting the most important thing: our research was still experimental. Maybe it never would have worked, if it had even been developed into a drug. It might not have been safe or effective in humans after all.”

“I guess you’re right,” said Sam, “There’s still one thing I don’t get. Why did they destroy the research? They could have stolen it much more easily and used it for profit, so why annihilate it?”

“The current cancer drugs have to be taken for five years after treatment, so I suppose they don’t want a quick fix. They’d lose out financially. So it was better for them to just destroy the research than develop it themselves.” David explained.

“Geez… In the end, it was all about money,” said Sam.

“Yep.” David sighed.

Sam leaned his head back and smiled wanly at David, “I’m sorry about everything.”

“Will you stop apologizing? It’s all you’ve been doing since you woke up. Just be happy to be alive. I’m glad that I rescued you over saving the paper, so be happy!” David said.

Then, before he knew it, Sam turned in his arms and leaned in to kiss him. David kissed back, gently stroking Sam’s blond hair. They parted, and Sam looked up into David’s eyes.

“I thought I might never get a chance to do that… back in the fire. So I had to do it. I’m s…” and he was cut off by kiss from David this time, deeper, more passionate.
“I never knew you felt that way about me,” David said, breaking the kiss. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“You had a girlfriend, I thought you were straight and happy. I didn’t want you to throw me off your research team. Even if you hadn’t, it would have been really uncomfortable for both of us.” Sam replied. “The whole Ken thing made me think you weren’t into guys. Even when we talked about it, I just never thought you would be into me.”

“It’s odd because… I dated Patricia as a front to get rid of Ken. I was hoping he’d realize it was useless and go, but it seems he had a different motive anyway.” David sighed as Sam pulled his shirt over his head and planted kisses on his chest.

“I’ve been imagining for a long time what I would do to you if you were mine,” Sam whispered.

“Then why don’t you show me?” David said, unzipping his pants and letting them fall to the floor, underwear following suit. Sam stripped too, and David gently put his hand on the bandage that covered the shrapnel wound in Sam’s side. Sam shook his head, as if to say not to worry about it, and lowered himself to his knees before David, taking his cock in his mouth and sucking on it.

David moaned deeply and cried out as Sam’s tongue ran up and down the length of him, his naked body pressed up against the glass and clawing at the shiny surface as pleasure flowed through his veins. His hands were in Sam’s hair as Sam lovingly worked his cock. The sight of him, eager and hungry drove David over the edge and he came with a stifled cry as his seed spilled in Sam’s mouth. He could feel Sam swallow and look up at him with eyes filled with desire.

Sam let David’s cock fall from his mouth and stood up, his own erection plain to see in the dim evening light. David pulled him close and reached for it, pulling him into a kiss as he stroked Sam’s cock. He could taste himself on Sam’s lips, could feel the moans as Sam’s pleasure built and David tipped him over the edge with practiced motions, Sam’s head thrown back as he came into David’s hand. He let David hold him, listened to his heartbeat coming down as they leaned up against the window, breathless and spent.

“What are we going to do now?” Sam asked.

“Build a new lab, assemble a new team, get back to work,” David said. “Next time, you’re not just going to be my assistant. You’ve earned the position as a researcher in your own right.”

“Oh, yeah?” Sam said, a smile crossing his face. “I wish I had known getting a promotion was so easy.”

“Very funny,” David said, and leaned in to kiss Sam. Sam felt himself growing hard again, and ground his hips into David, who was thinking the same thing he was.

“Let’s go to bed,” Sam whispered.

 

 

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