TITLE: Even Numbers
CATEGORY: Traders. Romance(ish), Preslash
SPOILERS: Everything up to 'The Big Picture', really. But mostly just 'Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth' and 'The Big Picture'
PAIRING: Grant Jansky/Donald D'Arby
RATING: PG-13 (I think. I don't quite get the US ratings!)
SUMMARY: Grant and Donald sort out their feelings about each other and Magda
DISCLAIMER: Obviously, I don't own Traders. It would be very cool if I did though!
NOTES: Starts at the end of 'The Big Picture' where Grant is on the computer talking to Magda
Grant sighed heavily to himself as he typed. 'You should call Donald. He likes you.'
He looked at the words on the screen, imagined Magda reading them and wondered what her reply would be. He didn’t want to know. He didn’t want a thank you for giving her permission to break his heart, but he didn’t want her to say no either. Donald liked her. So if Grant stood in the way, Donald might not like him any more. And Donald liking him was very important to Grant. Donald was the only friend he had, not counting the pigeons, and his reunion with them earlier that day hadn’t gone as well as he had hoped.
'Donald: God of friendship.' He typed, and then quickly logged out, leaving Magda’s response, if she had one, lost forever in cyberspace.
For a moment he stared at the screen. His chaotic forecast model, the one Magda had admired, filled the screen. The pattern was constantly changing, no two seconds were the same. He could easily get lost in it. In fact, on several occasions he had. Once, he had spent the whole day just watching it, forgetting about everything else. Luckily he had managed to make enough money the next day that no one noticed.
Money. It was all about money. He didn’t even like money, and now all he did was try to make as much of it as possible. And he was going to be trapped there for years more. Part of him was terrified that if he stayed too long, he was going to become like the rest of them. Obsessed with the accumulation of as much money as possible. And for what? No one needed that much money. The pigeons and the squirrels in the park didn't need any money at all, and they were happy. The people, they weren’t happy. Not one of them. But maybe, if Magda took his advice and called Donald, two of them could be happy. Or at least a little happier than they were before. Not as happy as the squirrels though. And not as happy as Grant would have been if he could have made his brain work around Magda the way it worked around everyone else.
He tore his eyes away from the screen and realised that he was holding a toothbrush in between his teeth. He removed it and stared at it for a second, before remembering that he had been on his way to the bathroom when he had decided to see whether Magda was online. He put it down. He was too depressed to clean his teeth. He was too depressed to do anything. All he wanted to do was go back to the park. Sure, the pigeons had been a little stand-offish when he had seen them earlier, but he could hardly blame them. Years of him feeding them every day and suddenly he disappeared for months. They would forgive him eventually.
He glanced at the door. It would be so easy to just get up and leave. What was keeping him here? The chocolate, mostly. And yes, he would miss that. But aside from all the Hershey’s he could eat, what was there? A job he didn’t want, making money he didn’t like. People who mostly only wanted him around so he could make them money. A girl he liked but couldn’t talk to, and what else? Well, Donald. The only friend, the only human friend, he had. And yes, he was a bit obsessed with money too, but maybe not quite as much as everyone else. Or maybe he was... Anyway, it didn’t really matter. Because he was nice. He had told Grant that he was his friend. He had followed him into the park - and up a tree - not because he was afraid the firm would lose money, but because he was afraid he would lose a friend.
Thinking about it, Donald was a better friend than the pigeons. If he disappeared and came back months later, Donald would still like him. He hoped.
Either that or Donald would follow him again and make him come back. And if that happened, he would come back. He didn’t know why. He just knew that he would. He hadn’t planned on returning that afternoon, but somehow he had been convinced.
Well, maybe he would leave, maybe he wouldn’t. He would decide later. Now it was time to lay down, close his eyes and not sleep. He would lie awake for hours again, thinking. That was another disadvantage of his job. In the park he had slept soundly every night. Now he often found it impossible. Except during the day when he was supposed to be making money. Then sometimes he would nod off.
He was too depressed to move, so he pushed the keyboard to one side and rested his head on the desk. Above him, the monitor still flickered, showing the soothing chaos. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine the model in his head. Anything to take his mind off Magda. And Donald. Magda and Donald together. Thinking about it didn’t make him angry any more. Before, he had been so shocked, so distraught, so furious that he just had to leave. He had to get away. Now he was just unhappy, and the sadness was coming from inside his head. That meant that there was no point leaving. No matter where he went, it would follow him
He lay there for several minutes, wondering whether he would sleep, before a tapping sound forced his eyes open again. Someone was knocking on his door. He opened his mouth to tell them to go away, that he would make them some more money tomorrow. But before he could say anything, the door opened and Donald stepped inside.
"Grant." he said.
Grant raised his head from the desk and smiled involuntarily. Donald smiled back. A quick flash of teeth, then the expression was hidden under something else. Worry, nervousness, something similar. Grant couldn't be sure.
"I was just on my way home," Donald explained, "and I thought I'd just stop by and make sure you're okay."
"I'm okay," Grant told him. "Okay for someone who just lost his girlfriend because you liked her and she liked you better." He hadn't meant to say that. It had just come out. Apparently, he was still upset.
Donald looked suitably guilty. Good. It wouldn't be fair for him to feel fine yet. Not before Grant did. "I'm sorry," he said.
Grant opened his mouth to speak, but Donald held up a hand to silence him, "I know, I've said it six times now. Is it ever going to be enough?"
Grant nodded. "Eventually." He reached into his pocket and retrieved a chocolate bar, a little bashed up and melted, but it would still taste as good, and held it out to Donald. He smiled and accepted the gift. "I… I was talking to Magda." Grant said.
Donald looked up, surprised, "You can talk to her now?"
"No, I was... we were... I was on the computer,"
"She's going to call you. At least, I think she's going to call you. I don't know because I logged off before she said. I..." he patted his pockets in search of more chocolate, but found none, "I didn't really want to know. But she might." He stood up and rummaged through his box until he found another Hershey's bar, ripped off the wrapper and took a bite.
Donald fingered his own chocolate bar nervously, "I won't see her," he stated, repeating his earlier promise. "If she calls I'll just tell her I can't."
"Or, you could tell her you can."
"But I can't. I said I wouldn't."
"But you li..." ah, Grant saw the problem here. He hadn't actually told Donald that it was okay. He probably thought Magda had said she would call. He shook his head, "It's okay," he said. "I told her to. I told her you like her. It's only fair." He took another bite of chocolate, "People are never happy," he explained, "not like the pigeons, and the other animals. They’re not happy all the time either, but compared to humans... People just... I don’t know why, but they’re not happy. And, and, and when two of them are together, they’re happier than when there’s just one of them." He paused and looked at Donald to check that he was following. He seemed to be. "Two is better than one," he continued, "And I wanted me and Magda to be two, but I couldn’t because, well, I couldn't talk to her. And she likes you better than me anyway... At least I think she does. Most people like people better when they can have a conversation with them, right? I know I usually do.” He smiled sadly. That was why Magda didn’t like him. “Talking is better than not talking... So if I can’t do it, you should. Then, then there’s still another two, instead of three ones. The universe..." he smiled, "the universe prefers even numbers, I think."
"Grant," Donald said quickly, before he could continue explaining, "you told her to call me?" He looked amazed.
Grant nodded and finished his chocolate bar. "Uh huh,"
"And you're sure you don't mind?"
Mind? Yes, he minded. But what else could he do? Either he lost Magda and then lost Donald, or he just lost Magda. "You're my friend," he said.
"Yes, I am." Donald told him, "And that's why I said I wouldn't see her."
"But you've got to." The urgency in Grant's voice was obvious. It left Donald unsure whether to rejoice or worry.
"Got to? Why?"
"Because, because... Because that's better. I...its..." Grant sighed and clenched his fists in frustration. He was stammering again. That was another thing he hadn't had to worry about in the park. That was something he hadn't had to worry about until Magda had walked into his life and he had realised he was incapable of speaking coherently to someone when he felt a certain way about them. He took a deep breath and tried to plan out what he wanted to say, "Two people is better than one, right? You and Magda, me and you, anyone and anyone else. You want to go out with Magda, so if you can't, you won't like me. I want you to like me." He blushed, but the room lit only by the glow of his computer monitors was too dark for Donald to notice. He hoped.
"I do like you, Grant." Donald told him, "Do you think I'd have climbed that tree if I didn't?" He still couldn’t quite believe that he had done that. He was terrified of heights. He couldn’t think of a single other situation that he might encounter where he would do it. Or a single other person he would have climbed up after. Although that was mostly because Grant was the only person he knew who would have climbed the tree in the first place.
Grant shrugged. "So if she calls, what are you going to do?" He opened another chocolate bar and bit into it.
"What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to like me." The words came out a little louder than he had intended, but Donald was making him frustrated. If there was anyone still in the building, and chances were there would be, anyone who happened to be anywhere near his room would have heard. Not that Grant cared. All he cared about right now was getting Donald to understand what he was trying to say, but in that same infuriating way as before the words just wouldn't come to him. Just like with Magda. Only with Donald he could at least say something, even if he couldn't get his meaning across. In a way though, that was worse.
His expression rearranged itself from irritation to frustrated helplessness, his eyes stared pleadingly at Donald as though trying to will him to understand, and then he slumped, defeated, into his chair, and turned his attention back to the screen. He stared unblinkingly, eyes wide open, trying to ignore the presence of Donald behind him. It wasn't working. Especially once Donald placed a hand on his shoulder.
Grant jumped and turned around, the motion forcing the hand away. Donald smiled apologetically, and now that Grant could see him, moved the hand back, bringing it to rest heavily on Grant's left shoulder. The contact helped hold his attention, and for a moment they just looked at one another. "I do like you, Grant," Donald said. He spoke quietly but firmly, holding Grant's complete attention.
Grant opened his mouth to reply but no sound came out, so he closed it again. Donald smiled, he understood the difficulty that Grant was having, and while there was nothing he could do to make it easier for him to speak, there was something that would take away the need to. For a moment, at least. He took hold of Grant's arm and pulled upwards. Grant followed obediently, rising to his feet as Donald took a step forward and stooped slightly, bringing their faces level. Then, before he had chance to reconsider what he was doing, he kissed Grant. Their lips touched gently and Grant's mouth opened. Donald became aware of three things, the feel of Grant's beard against his own clean-shaven face, the taste of chocolate and the fact that he liked both of them. The kiss only lasted a moment before Grant broke it off and stared at Donald, transfixed.
"I do like you," Donald repeated.
Grant smiled and then broke the remaining half of his chocolate bar in two, handing one piece to Donald and putting the other into his mouth. "Then you should go out with Magda," he said.
Donald frowned in confusion, "But why? I thought... don't you..." He found that this time he was the one lost for words. And it wasn't a pleasant feeling.
"If you like me, then I don't mind," Grant explained, "you asked what I wanted you to do. I know you like Magda, so if you still like me too, then I don't mind if you see her."
Donald sighed, "So you don't want you and I to... be together?"
Grant's eyes widened in surprise, "Do you?"
"Well, yes." Funny how he hadn’t realised that until now. The psychology course he had taken at college whispered something about him going after Magda just so that Grant would remain single. Entirely subconsciously, of course. But that wasn’t it. He liked Magda too. Just not as much as he liked Grant. And maybe he had realised it before, but it was difficult to admit to himself that he could be attracted to someone so... strange. He didn’t mean that in a cruel way, it was just the only word that fit.
"What about Magda?" Grant asked.
"I already said I wouldn't see her," Donald reminded him.
Grant shook his head, "But you've got to," he said, "I told her you would."
"Then what about the two of us?" This conversation was making Donald's head start to spin.
Grant sighed quietly, "Two is better than one, remember?" he explained again, "so if there's you and me, that's two. And if… if there's you and Magda, that's two as well. So two twos are better than two and one. No one's on their own."
"You want me to be with both of you?" The idea went against everything he had ever been taught about, well, everything. His parents would be mortified if they found out he was even entertaining the idea. But then, not only did kissing slightly odd bearded derivatives traders also go against everything he had been taught, but he no longer had to worry about his parents. That was one of the benefits of being disowned. One of the few, it was true, but it was a big one. And one he hadn't even considered until now. Grant was nodding in response to his question. Somehow, in his mind it made perfect sense. And it even made sense to Donald, in an odd sort of way. The sort of way that never would have made sense before he met Grant.
Grant was looking at him pleadingly, as though he was willing him to agree. Grant's problem, Donald decided - or one of them, anyway - was that he cared too much about other people and he didn't seem to realise that other people didn't think in the same way as him. And now if Donald refused to do what he wanted, Grant would be upset. And it wasn't as though it was an unattractive offer... Besides, it was completely dependent on Magda calling him. Which she might not do. So, he would leave it all up to chance. If Magda called, he would see her. If not, he wouldn't have to worry about it.
"Okay," he told Grant, "if you're sure that's what you want."
"I'm sure. I wish I could do it but I can't talk to her, so this is better."
Donald nodded. He was changing, he could see it happening. The last few months had been the most difficult of his life, something like that was bound to change a person, but it wasn't that that had done it. Not really. It was Grant. He wondered to himself whether he would change more the more time they spent together, and then wondered whether he cared. He has happier now than he had been in years.
"Donald?" Grant said, interrupting his train of thought.
"Can you kiss me again?"
Donald smiled. Yes, this was going to work out just fine. One thing that he wondered though... What would Magda think about all this?