A Gathering of Angels
Title: A Gathering of Angels
Series: The Best Moves
Disclaimer: Wholly original work.
Characters/Pairings: Caz, Mallory
Summary: A new employee has an impossible secret.
Notes: This is more of a Best Moves AU than anything-- A whole novel may come out of it someday.
Caz was always a little wary of new hires. He couldnít exactly say he was a long-time veteran of that exact job, but heíd been there long enough to see plenty of people come and go. It wasnít the job for just anyone.
Yet there was something about the new guy, Mallory, that Caz couldnít help but admire. The fellow had a fine set of proverbial balls and was quite content to prove that despite his small size and generally soft voice that he could handle the physical labor and verbal volleyball that permeated every aspect of the day.
At that exact moment, however, it was all about balance and trust. Caz had his gaze fixed on Mallory, who had insisted on climbing the highest ladder in order to grab a very high, heavy box. In turn, he could hand the box down to Caz who would handle the details.
The ladder shook a little bit as Mallory reached the high platform top, locking itself into place with a grinding pop. Mallory grabbed for a shelf, steadying himself and shifting his weight a bit.
Caz was a bit scared that the box was going to weigh more than Mallory and send the lithe man to a flat, painful demise.
"You okay?" Caz asked, stepping forward to put a hand on the ladder, for all the good it would do.
"Itís hot up here," Mallory replied, locating the box in question amongst a pile of many. Of course, it was a stockroom - there were boxes everywhere.
"Well hurry up then - Iím not coming up there after you!" Caz laughed, watching as Mallory stretched and then hauled the box to the top of the ladder. It wasnít as big as Caz expected - a good sign.
"Okay?" Mallory asked, peering over cardboard. Caz nodded, making sure nothing on either side of the narrow aisle was fragile in case either one of them missed. Nothing was.
"Go for it!"
Mallory dropped the box straight down along the rungs of the ladder, hitting once and bouncing out perfectly to be caught roughly by Caz.
No longer concerned with Mallory, Caz turned to get the box out of the aisle and to a wheeled sled so it could be put out on the proper shelf, something that would be done by someone else.
He only took the merchandise to the wheeled sleds and other people took it out to the sales floor. It was a simple routine and easy way of life.
Behind him, the ladder creaked and shuddered. Turning back, he saw a somewhat shaken but smiling Mallory gripping the handrails, halfway down.
"I donít much like that thing," Mallory said, hopping the last three feet to the ground, landing in a graceful crouch. "Perhaps the next time we team up, you do the climbing?"
Caz just nodded and went back to other tasks that he had been working on. And Mallory went back to his.
In fact, the entire ladder incident, which had taken all of two minutes anyway, had completely slipped from Cazís mind by the time he was attacked from behind by one of the other members of his team.
"Break time, Caz-man!"
"Fifteen minutes, Gabby, no matter how long you want to waste precious minutes by flirting with that stocker boy," Caz said, mockingly attempting to put his foot down. He knew he wouldnít see her for a good twenty, but he couldnít help teasing.
As Gabby ran off, Caz realized he could probably use a break himself. He was getting a bit thirsty and that was a need better capped off when it first hit. It was summer and the building was deathly hot, even in the middle of the night. Dehydration was a constant threat and having been laid up with heat exhaustion once before, Caz wanted to take no chances.
Mallory and Ted, the fourth of their team, should probably be reminded to stop and at least grab some water, Caz thought as he set down his scanner and headed for the door.
"Mal... Ted... Break time!" Cazís voice echoed through the concrete and steel, loud enough that he was sure the pair had to have heard him. He headed through the darkened store to the front, where the stairway to the break room was located.
Ted joined him in the break room, but Mallory didnít. In fact, by the time Caz wandered back to the stock room, he was downright worried about Mallory. The unexplained shudder on the ladder had slipped back into his mind and he was hopeful that Mallory hadnít succumbed to the heat.
Why anyone hadnít complained more about the faulty air conditioning was a mystery. It had to be pushing eighty degrees just on the sales floor where the stockers were sluggishly doing their tasks.
And in the backroom, it was like a furnace.
"Mallory?" Caz started down the main aisle, peering into the side aisles with fear dawning in his stomach.
Caz forgot himself and the two years of safety rules drilled into his head as he sprinted into aisle six. Mallory was leaning against a small ladder, sweat shimmering on his face under the buzz of harsh fluorescent lighting.
"Go take a break!" Caz demanded, reaching for Malloryís scanner.
"Caz, I..." Mallory took a step forward and promptly slumped to his knees.
"Itís so hot..."
Caz was thankful to be a strong man - he had no trouble helping Mallory out of the aisle and down to the clunky water cooler that management had offered as a consolation for the lack of a working cooling system.
With some cold water in his body, Mallory visibly perked up. He raised a hand to wipe sweat from his forehead. Caz couldnít tell if it was heat tinting Malloryís face or if the other man was blushing.
Thatís when Caz realized he still had a bit of a tight grip on Mallory. He let go slowly, to not make it so awkward and obvious to either of them.
"You okay, man?" Caz asked, really not wanting to waste more time but quite concerned.
Mallory just nodded before turning and almost getting plowed over by Gabby as she returned, shouting apologies and excuses for her absence.
Caz groaned. His numbers for the day would be absolutely shitty.
With Mallory back in aisle six, Caz grabbed his own scanner and punched in the codes to find out what he had to do next. With a groan he realized he had to go back down the aisle with the giant ladder.
At least, he thought as he looked at the scannerís readout, he wouldnít have to climb the ladder.
Something caught his eye as he did his normal little dance to trigger the motion-sensitive lighting that had turned itself off some time ago. On the floor, just below the ladder, was a single black feather. There was nothing on a shelf anywhere nearby that could have lost the feather and he hadnít seen it before.
Two years of safety training had basically brainwashed him into checking the floor for anything dangerous. Black feathers qualified as dangerous. He tucked it into his pocket and didnít think about it again.
Caz basically had to drag Mallory out of the stock room for a lunch break. He even bought Mallory a sandwich from the little booth at the front of the store. The store was open now and Caz couldnít help but notice a group of customers looking at both of them as they sat and ate.
Looking at Mallory, he could understand some of the possible chatter. Mallory was nearly androgynous, his dark hair falling to his shoulders. He had pierced ears and wore somewhat feminine jewelry.
And then Caz wondered if he was the one being recognized and spoken about. Heíd had a band some years before that looked as though it was going to be successful. But that was a lifetime ago and Caz was content with his life now. Still, he bore the tattoos he gained along the way and many of them were not in places he could cover easily.
Both Mallory and Caz looked up from their sandwiches. At the edge of the sitting area stood another man and woman, each sharing the androgynous features and small stature of Mallory.
"Ramsey, Janie!" Malloryís face lit up and he waved them over.
The pair seemed to move as one unit. Caz realized a moment later that they were holding hands as well.
"This is my brother and sister," Mallory explained to Caz as they sat. "And this is Caz, with whom I work."
"Nice to meet you," all three mumbled in rapid succession, barely making eye contact. Caz took another bite of his sandwich.
"We just wanted to see where Mallory is working," Janie explained, her voice as soft and melodic as Malloryís.
Caz nodded, chewing.
"And to see who heís working with," Ramsey added, making his point as obvious as he could by staring holes through Caz.
Caz swallowed slowly.
"Donít worry about me," Mallory said, smiling. "I seem to have a guardian angel of sorts right here with me. Caz helped me out earlier when the heat overwhelmed me."
Managing a weak smile, Caz was about to protest that it was nothing, but instead he kept quiet, hoping one of the siblings would spill a tiny secret or two about any vulnerability Mallory had.
"Be more careful!" Janie scolded. "Youíre only human, in case youíve forgotten."
Mallory laughed, waving a hand dismissively. "Iím fine now. Iím just still learning to pace myself."
It was that moment that the store manager chose to interrupt, pulling Caz away for a quick talk about the first set of numbers that had come in. The stock room, obviously, had not had a good showing for their first four hours of work.
Caz didnít even see Mallory for the next hour. He found himself scrambling to help vendors sort their product and dealt with a slightly lost customer who had attached herself to him until he located the vacuum cleaner of her dreams.
And it wasnít until he got home and found the black feather tucked into his pocket amongst other random items did his mind play back through the entire day.
For the first time in months, he picked up his guitar and played. He played through every song he knew, every song heíd written and every song heíd ever played with Keeping Still when they were together.
When that wasnít enough to sate the burning desire within him, he wrote. He hadnít written a song in more than a year, but both words and notes came to him in a rush.
He found himself singing about angels, heat, and the dawning pangs of desire and attachment. It was blissful.
And finally, as the sun threatened to set below the opposing row of condos, Caz slept.
Mallory was with him in his dreams, leading him through a labyrinthine version of their store, holding his hand and keeping him close.
"Caz," Mallory said, "I trust you. I want you. I need you."
Caz was confused. There was a haze surrounding them - something was not right. Mallory looked scared, as though he could see and hear something Caz could not.
"Mallory?" Caz questioned, not protesting as Mallory clung to him, looking up into his eyes.
"I need you to trust me."
Caz nodded, wrapping on arm back around Mallory.
The only way Caz could describe the next moment was as pure chaos. There was something almost like gunfire, but as Caz closed his eyes, everything stopped.
And as he opened his eyes, he knew the reason - he was back in his condo, safe, Malloryís arms still around him as Malloryís large black wings protected them both.
"Mallory?" Caz was more confused than ever. He was sure he was dreaming yet all the sensations pouring through his body seemed quite real.
"Caz, I just need you to..." Mallory trailed off, leaning up to quickly kiss Cazís lips. "Iím here to feel."
Caz drew away slowly, his fingers moving to his lips. Of all the strange things that had just happened, the kiss had topped it all.
"Nnn... Caz, please!"
Without even seconds to protest, Caz was forced into a scene shift, throwing him into bed, already deeply thrusting into the heat of Malloryís body.
It overwhelmed him.
He woke up bathed in sweat, shuddering from the aftershocks of orgasm. Instead of getting up to deal with the sticky mess soaking through his boxers, Caz only rolled over and clutched his pillow.
There was an emptiness reaching inside of him, one that grew stronger as three days passed without his work schedule matching Malloryís.
When he next saw the man, it was from a familiar position - Mallory was on the top of the high ladder. And pausing at just the right angle, Caz finally saw the weak point where the metal truly was buckling under the weight of its occupant.
"Mallory! Get down from there!"
Mallory turned, scanner and a box taking up his hands. It was only a split second, but Malloryís pause was just long enough for the ladder to finally give.
Caz closed his eyes, not wanting to see anything. But he only heard the snapping of metal, not the dead weight of a body falling.
Looking up, Mallory was in the same space, ladder several feet below him. Hands still full, feet swinging to straddle the gap, the only things holding his body were his great black wings, spanning between the highest of shelves. Their eyes met, and many things were understood.
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