Summary: Love is in the airwaves... (Written for the Not McShep AU Challenge)
"It's the witching hour--time to snuggle up with your honey and settle in for a little night music. This is Aiden Ford, night owl, as always, ready with the tunes to put you into the mood for whatever moves you under the cover of darkness. So sit back, relax and let me spin a little magic."
Aiden hit a button to start the CD he had queued up and sat back to take a sip from his coffee mug. He flipped a switch on his console and the lively music began to waft through the room. He listened to it for a few minutes, nodding to the beat. Then he glanced up and saw the evening station manager tapping on the glass of his booth. Aiden removed his headphones and stepped outside.
"Hey, John, what's up?"
"Here," John replied as he handed him a crate full of CDs. "Don't say I never gave you anything."
"Thanks!" Aiden replied. He carried the crate into the booth and set it down. John followed him, curious.
"What are all those for, anyway? You've got some fairly obscure stuff in there."
"Didn't you hear, man? The new owner okayed my idea for 'Hump Night Stump Night.'"
"He didn't okay that title, did he?" John said with a wince. "Please say no."
"No, that's just my pet name for it," Aiden laughed.
"Well, find a better one before you launch. That one sucks seven ways to Sunday."
"I will; don't worry."
"Exactly how much is this going to cost?" John asked, taking a seat.
"Well, if our archives are as good as they ought to be, nothing. Merchandising and promotion did order a hundred tee shirts for me, though."
"They ordered 250 shirts, Aiden. I just got the bill."
"Gee, they have a lot of faith in me, don't they?" Aiden replied sarcastically.
"It's not you they doubt, it's the archives," John assured him. "When they sold the station, part of the deal allowed the old owners to take some of their music with them."
"Didn't the new owner replace any of it?"
"Sure; he gave us a sizable budget for acquisitions when he took over the station but that doesn't mean we'll be able to play anything your callers come up with."
"Oh, don't worry. I've got an impressive collection of my own music to draw from," Aiden said, reaching for his mug. "This is going to be so huge! We're going to rule Wednesday nights!"
"Why Wednesdays, anyway?" John asked.
"It's our slowest night. Look; Monday nights, people are still mellow from the weekend. Tuesday nights are just 'okay.' Thursday nights, things are looking up--people are beginning to look forward to the weekend. Friday's date night, right? Everyone's in a party mood. But Wednesday nights, everyone just hits bottom."
"Interesting theory; I've never thought about it that way."
"I have to; these are my people," Aiden said. "My audience; which reminds me. It's about that time." He sat down at the console and put his headphones around his neck. "Hey, did you find me a gopher yet? I can't do the challenge if I have to do all the running around myself."
"Yeah. About that--." John clamped his mouth shut when Aiden raised his hand. He flipped a switch and his mike went live.
"That was the late, great Marvin Gaye, getting the evening started with 'What's Goin' On.' And that's what I'd like to know. What's going on with you tonight? You've heard what I wanted to hear, it's time for you to tell me what you want to hear. I've got my ears on. Call me; the number is 212-555-6400. That's 212-555-6400. You're live on Night Music. Talk to me, Misty," Aiden purred as he scanned the computer screen. He scanned the call list as she made her request.
"Woot! This is the first time I've ever managed to get through!"
"Then it's a special night for both of us," he replied smoothly. "I get to make a new friend and I understand you're celebrating an important occasion."
"Well, it's not a major occasion," Misty said modestly. "It's just the anniversary of my first date with my boyfriend, Joe."
"And how long have you and Joe been together?"
"Wow, that's amazing! Guess it's true love, eh?"
"Well, my congratulations to you and Joe. What would you like me to play for you, Misty?" he asked as he queued up the song she'd requested.
"I'd love it if you'd play 'When I'm 64,' by the Beatles."
"You got it. I wish you and Joe thirteen more years of love and laughter. Here are the Beatles." Aiden flipped the switch that killed the mike.
"You're so smooth with people," John said. "I've never been able to do that."
"Were you ever on the air, John?"
"In college, yeah. I did sports; never could manage the schmooze."
"Are you kidding, man? You schmooze all the time, only now you call it management."
"Maybe. But I never get people eating out of my hand the way you do. Nor do I have your sense of timing."
"Now, that is a skill. I picked it up at my first job. There's nothing like having two minutes of dead air time to teach one the importance of timing."
"Yeah, really." Aiden checked the screen once more and smiled. "Ah; there you are!"
"Just my regular date." Aiden rose and went to the rack of CDs that lined one wall of the booth. He selected a disk and returned to the console.
"What are you talking about?"
"You know, the Music Man; he calls every night with a request."
"Oh, that guy? Carson says you let him prattle on every night."
"Hey, he doesn't prattle on. He talks very knowledgeably about music. He's a cool dude."
"Does he actually call every night?"
"Every night, come hell or high water, since I've been doing this show," Aiden said, smiling. "And every night is a real experience." He rose again and went to the shelf. "I've got a little time, so..."
John watched him collect a few more CDs before he sat down again. Aiden had been a great addition to the small station. At first, management thought he was a little young and too inexperienced for the midnight to five time slot, but Aiden had far exceeded their expectations. He impressed both management and his surprisingly receptive audience with a potent combination of personality, charm and an encyclopedic knowledge of music. John was credited with discovering the young man, but it was actually Aiden who had initially contacted him out of the blue and badgered him into listening to his tapes. John smiled at the memory as Aiden puttered around, checking in with Carson, the audio engineer, and lining up his next ten songs.
"So what's the deal with the gopher?"
"I may have found you one," John replied.
"I called a couple of colleges in the area, figuring it was the ideal gig for a student in need of a little extra cash."
"College students, by definition, are in need of 'extra cash,' John."
"Must be; we got quite a few nibbles. Long story short, the best candidate for the job was a young lady."
"No but; she's certainly qualified. She's done this sort of job before."
"All right," John conceded, "maybe she's just a little starstruck."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, when she realized who she'd be working with--."
"Oh," Aiden said, making a face. "Did you tell her I was gay?"
"Didn't come up in conversation, but I did tell her our policy on fraternization."
"Good. So you hired her?"
"She's coming in tomorrow for another interview. If you want to come in a little early--."
The song came to an end and John slipped out quietly as Aiden spoke into the microphone. He nodded to John, signaling his agreement to the suggestion.
"That was 'When I'm 64,' by the Beatles. And in honor of Misty's first call to the station, I want to play a little something for her. Don't be jealous, Joe. I won't try to steal your lady--not that I'd stand a chance when your love for each other has withstood the test of time. Enjoy this song with your heart of hearts, Joe. Nat King Cole, singing 'Misty.' Isn't love one of life's greatest joys?"
Aiden turned the microphone off and took a short walk down the hall to refill his mug. He checked his watch when he returned. The song ended and he selected the next caller from the list. He played a song for a young man's birthday and another for a husband's promotion. At precisely 12:30, he punched a button and connected with the caller he referred to as the Music Man.
"This is Aiden Ford, coming at you from WJJJ, with music all night, by request. I'm here to play the music that moves you, the music that grooves you. Got a Jones for something low and slow? Want to dance in the dark? Need something to boogie down to? I'll satisfy your musical needs. What makes you go bump in the night? I don't need the details; just tell me what you need and I'll provide the soundtrack," he said with a slight giggle. "Remember; it's only you and me out here alone in the dark. No one else has to know. The number is 212-555-6400. That's 212-555-6400. Call and make your request. Just take it easy on the classical stuff tonight. I pulled a muscle at the gym today and those stacks are really far away," Aiden said playfully. "You're live on Night Music. We seem to have a theme going tonight, don't we? Everyone's got something to celebrate. So what are you celebrating, Music Man?"
"Well, to be completely honest, Aiden, I wasn't thinking about celebrations when I dialed tonight," Rodney replied. "But I can go along with your theme. Why don't we celebrate your anniversary?"
"There months ago on this day you took to the airwaves for the first time on this station."
"And you've been with me every step of the way."
"Pretty much," Rodney admitted modestly.
"'Pretty much'? You've been on every single night."
"Yeah, but I sometimes fall asleep on you."
"Music Man! I'm crushed," Aiden said dramatically. "Just three months and the thrill is gone, eh?"
"No, it's not that. I've got to get up in the morning," Rodney explained. "Besides, your voice is so soothing and mellow."
"Ah, now you're going to tell me that I put you to sleep? Music Man! You're killing me!"
"Sorry, Aiden," Rodney chuckled.
"Well, I suppose no relationship's perfect. I try my best. Maybe I need to get Misty back here to give me a few pointers," Aiden teased. "So what are you in the mood for tonight?"
"Well, in light of the occasion, I'd like you to play the first thing you played for me."
"And that would be..."
"Fascination, by Human League."
"You actually remember what I played that night?" Aiden asked curiously, discarding the selection Rodney had requested earlier. Aiden glanced up at the engineer's booth and the young man sitting beside Carson shrugged. It was his job to take the names and requests of each caller and upload them so Aiden could make his play list. But the veteran disk jockey wasn't at all ruffled by the unexpected change.
"Absolutely; I have a fairly good memory."
"You have a terrific memory, Music Man," Aiden replied. "See? The glow hasn't worn off for me," he teased. "I still flatter you. I even stay awake the whole time you're on the air."
"I'm very glad to hear that," Rodney replied with a laugh.
"Well, you know, this isn't just my anniversary. This is our anniversary," Aiden said. "So before I play your request, I'm going to play something special for you. Lie back and enjoy, my friend." Aiden smiled and hit the play button. He flipped off the mike and sat back as the voice of Elton John filled the room.
"Are you daft, man?" Carson said from the engineer's booth. Aiden looked up, brow furrowed in confusion.
"What do you mean?"
"You're playing a love song to a guy?"
"I wouldn't call 'Your Song' a love song, Carson," Aiden sighed. "And I'm not playing it 'to' him. I'm playing it for him. It's a token of my esteem. He's a big Elton John fan."
"And you think he won't read anything into that?"
"What should he read into it? For that matter, what are you reading into it?"
"Suppose he's gay? Suppose he reads it as a come on?"
Aiden rolled his eyes and turned back to the computer screen as he mulled over Carson's words. After staring at Rodney's name for a few seconds, he smiled.
Over the next two weeks Aiden thought about Carson's warning every time he saw "Music Man" pop up on his screen. He began to wonder about the man he'd never seen. He' had always looked forward to his brief conversations with the soft-spoken man but now Aiden found himself speculating about his background, his life, his other interests. One day he decided to seek some answers.
"More Elton John tonight, Music Man?"
"Yes; I'm in the mood to hear 'Rocket Man.'"
"You got it. Tell me something, before I spin this for you. What turns you on about this particular song? I know I've played it for you more than once. You wouldn't happen to be an astronaut, would you?"
"No, no, I'm a business man," Rodney replied, clearly amused by the thought.
"So that's why you fall asleep on me," Aiden surmised.
"I do have to get up in the mornings to go to work."
"But you do listen to WJJJ at the office, don't you?"
"You aren't on when I'm at the office," Rodney said. "But, yes, WJJJ is always playing on the premises."
"Do you listen to music at work?" Aiden asked, beaming at the implication of his words.
"Yes, often--when it doesn't interfere with the business at hand, of course."
"And is this the sort of thing you listen to?"
"Yes, I...well, over the course of the day it's safe to say I hear a great range of music."
"It's getting late," Aiden said. "I should let you hear your song so you can grab some shut eye."
"Actually, I do have meetings in the morning," Rodney said wistfully.
"Well, then here's 'Rocket Man,' by Elton John. Sweet dreams, Music Man."
"Good night, Aiden."
Aiden flipped the switch and shut his eyes as he sat back to listen to the song. The moment was abruptly broken by the voice of Aiden's new assistant.
"He sounded kind of sad," Debbie said. Aiden opened his eyes.
"I guess he doesn't want to go to work in the morning," she said as Aiden glanced in her direction. She was perched on the edge of a chair, leaning on the console. She'd propped her chin on the palm of her hand and was staring at him. Aiden resisted the urge to sigh and changed the subject.
"Is that the next batch?" he asked, nodding with his chin at the stack of CDs on the edge of the console.
"Oh! Yes. And they're in the right order this time."
"Thank you," Aiden said dryly. He surreptitiously double-checked the stack, nonetheless.
"You know, a few of us are going out after work tonight--."
"Well, we'd like you to come with us! We're going to--."
"No, I can't," Aiden repeated evenly. "I've got something to do."
"You said that last week."
"Then you're seeing the pattern. I do things after work on Friday nights."
"You have a steady girlfriend," Debbie said glumly.
"You have a steady boyfriend?" she said playfully.
"I wish," Aiden sighed. Debbie was about to comment when the phone began to flash. Aide picked up the receiver. It was John, with a simple question, but Aiden kept him on the phone long enough for Debbie to forget what they were discussing before the call.
"Aren't you even going to try?" Aiden asked the Music Man the following week. Callers were invited to stump Aiden with a question about 80's music between midnight and one o'clock every Wednesday night. In the first three weeks of the challenge, no one had succeeded in besting him, but Aiden was certain that if anyone could beat him at his own game, it was the Music Man. But he refused to cooperate.
"I've no interest in competing with you," Rodney admitted. "I just call to chat and hear a song or two."
"All right," Aiden said, slightly disappointed. He'd been looking forward to the Music Man's challenges. If nothing else, he figured that he could use it as an excuse to learn the man's true identity. Aiden had become somewhat obsessed with the Music Man and had actually begun to fantasize about who he was, what he looked like and other characteristics of his life.
He'd learned quite a bit about him over the previous month. The Music Man was a bachelor who lived in a downtown apartment, worked in an office (where the atmosphere was relaxed enough to allow WJJJ to be played), had traveled throughout Europe and Australia (and seen some dynamite bands there); and had a cat. Aiden still didn't know his age, his sexual preferences, or anything about his looks--although that wasn't a strong factor in Aiden's book. He admittedly fallen for the Music Man's voice, his intelligence and his dry wit. Aiden couldn't explain it. He'd never done anything like that before. And while he was tempted to just pick up the phone one night and speak to the Music Man off air, Aiden felt that would somehow violate the relationship the two men had built over the previous months.
"So what can I play for you, Music Man?"
"Well, since it's 80's music night," Rodney replied. "How about Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive'?"
"Oh, Music Man, Music Man... Surely you know that 'I Will Survive' was--."
"...First released in 1979, I know," Rodney replied. "But it was an important song throughout the 80's and 90's, especially as the women's liberation movement gained momentum. I don't know a single woman who was alive in the 1990's who doesn't know the words to that song."
"Are you interested in women's rights, Music Man?"
"I'm interested in the rights of everyone," Rodney replied. "Aren't you?"
"Absolutely," Aiden declared. "In fact, you just reminded me of something I've been meaning to mention. In honor of Gay Pride Week, WJJJ will be sponsoring a day-long AIDS awareness event on Friday, June 23rd in Bryant Park. The Rush Hour, with Dan and Dave will be broadcast live from our remote location. I'll be there, too, from 3-5 p.m., signing autographs and giving out WJJJ tee shirts and condoms or whatever," he said. "But the reason to show up has nothing to do with yours truly. The fight isn't over, ladies and gentlemen. AIDS is still killing far too many people. Come out next Friday and find out how AIDS affects all of us. Learn how to prevent the spread of AIDS in your community. We need to stand together; that's the only way we're ever going to beat this thing," Aiden said soberly.
"Amen," Rodney concurred.
"Now that we've taken care of our civic duties," Aiden said lightly, "let's return to the musical portion of this evening's program."
"Fine by me," Rodney said.
"Will you be joining us on the 23rd?" Aiden asked hopefully.
"I'll be there," Rodney said confidently. Aiden beamed.
When the day of the event rolled around, Aiden was positively bristling with anticipation. He took a seat at a table with several other WJJJ deejays and celebrities and handed out autographs and tees. Whenever he had a moment to spare, he looked around for someone who might be the Music Man. Over the course of two hours he met many of his regular callers but none of them was the one he most wanted to see.
"How's it going?" John asked as he placed a bottle of water in front of Aiden.
"Pretty good. Look at this turn out," he replied, though his tone didn't match his expression.
"Yeah, I'm cool."
"Good," John said, patting his shoulder. "In that case, the brass asked me to ask if you would mind hanging out a little longer. These people really want to meet you in the flesh."
"Yeah, I'd be glad to," Aiden said, brightening. Perhaps if he stayed longer he'd have a chance to find his elusive quarry. His hopes soon dimmed, however. By six o'clock, the crowd had dwindled to a trickle, mostly women and college-aged men. Aiden left the table feeling very disappointed and looked around for John. He spotted him a short distance away talking to two men. Aiden walked in their direction, but as he approached, John got into a waiting car with one of the strangers. Aiden sighed and shook his head. He flagged down a cab and went home to catch a few hours of sleep.
"What happened to you? Debbie asked when Aiden entered the booth that night.
"You look like you lost your best friend."
"I'm fine," Aiden replied, smiling thinly.
"I put together a great play list for you," Debbie said in an effort to buoy his spirits. "It's all 80's stuff."
"It's Friday, Debbie. Wednesday is 80's night."
"Yeah, but this stuff is so cool!"
"Okay, let me explain this again," he said, rubbing his temple. "'Night Music' is a call-in show. It doesn't need a play list."
"But you play lots of stuff that's not requested."
"True," Aiden said, wincing due to the pain in his head. "Those are my selections."
"Well, can't you play some of my selections one night?" Debbie reasoned. Aiden sighed and checked his watch. It was nearly eleven o'clock--more than an hour before he had to go on the air. He'd need to do something about his headache before then.
"Why not?" he asked, deciding to take the path of least resistance. "What have you got?" Debbie leapt out of her seat so fast that Aiden jumped backward.
"I was thinking that you could pay tribute to some of the big name bands that made the worst music: Air Supply, Journey, REM, and a few others," she replied, handing him a printed list.
"You want me to play five hours of bad music for my audience?" Aiden said skeptically.
"No! You play it between the requests, right? So you won't have to play everything on the list."
"I don't want to play anything on this list."
"Seriously! Some of this stuff is so bad it's good! These bands all made a killing with this shit! Just listen to those pussy lyrics!"
"You know," Aiden said, taking a seat, "if I'd said that, you'd not only call me sexist, you'd probably slap me with a sexual harassment complaint on top of it."
"I would never do that," Debbie said seriously. "I swear; the only thing I'd ever slap you with is my tongue."
"Debbie, I'm gay, all right? Give it a rest."
"I still don't believe you," she said with a smile.
"The fact that I can't convince you doesn't alter the truth," Aiden replied. "Tell you what, though. Got a brother?"
"Bring him in one night. Bet he'll be easily convinced." Aiden smiled and rose. "Do me a favor; I'm going to the lounge to catch a nap. I'll set my alarm but if I'm not back in forty-five minutes, come and get me, okay?"
"Can I wake you with a kiss?" Debbie asked. Aiden just smiled and went to the door. "Hey? What about my list?"
"So here's the deal," Aiden said a little over an hour and a half later. "If you don't call in, tonight will be all about playing Debbie's list and I'm warning you, it's going to hurt me me a whole lot more than it'll hurt you. You all can change the station; I've got to listen to it and watch her gloat all night. The number is 212-555-6400. That's 212-555-6400. Call and make your request. I'm begging you! Save me, Music Man," Aiden said with a laugh.
"Oh, it's not so bad. In hindsight, all that 80's music seems pretty sappy, but it was pretty hot stuff back in the day," Rodney said. "In fact, it was the make-out music of a whole generation."
"I'll confess; I actually lost my virginity while listening to an Air Supply song."
"Whoa!" Aiden cried. "Really? Were you of age back then? More importantly, was she?"
"I was--well, close enough--and it was a he," Rodney said matter-of-factly.
"My apology," Aiden said, grinning from ear to ear. "So Air Supply was big make-out music in those days? I have to ask 'cause I was like two or three back then. And Debbie's parents probably hadn't even met."
"Thank you," Rodney quipped. "You make me feel positively ancient."
"Sorry, man," Aiden said impishly. "So are you feeling nostalgic for some Air Supply tonight or would you like to hear something else?" Debbie gestured toward the screen, where Rodney's selection was listed, but Aiden shook his head.
"Maybe I should stick with my original choice," Rodney said. "I'd rather ponder the future than ruminate about my past."
"Good advice, my man. So you'd like to hear--."
"'Waiting For You,' by Ben Harper," Rodney said. Aiden smiled again, till he caught Debbie eying him suspiciously.
"Enjoy it, Music Man," Aiden said circumspectly. He flipped the switch and picked up the compact disk containing Air Supply's greatest hits. He read the titles and smiled.
"You're hot for him, aren't you?" Debbie asked perceptively. "He's just a voice on the phone! He could be anybody! You don't know if he's rich or poor, hot or fugly--. Why don't you find someone...you know, real?"
"You going to call your brother?"
"Well, then, I'll have to take my fun where I find it," Aiden teased. As Rodney's selection came to an end, Aiden came to a decision and flipped on the mike. "That was Ben Harper by request for our friend, the Music Man. Good music for a Friday night, but it is Friday night, you know what I'm saying? So I'm sitting here thinking, and I have to... Sorry, Music Man. You put the idea into my head and I just have to do this. I've got to play a little Air Supply for all the young lovers out there. Maybe a new generation of lovers will discover something in this song. Who knows? Maybe the next generation will be conceived tonight," Aiden said with a laugh. "Just one song to get you started. After that, it's up to you. And remember, if you're not planning to start a family tonight, take the necessary precautions. Nothing kills romance faster than stupidity. Here's Air Supply, playing 'Even the Nights are Better.'"
Aiden flipped the microphone switch and sat back, hoping that he hadn't made a mistake.
The next day, Aiden got a call at home. He sat up, scratched his head and reached for the receiver.
"What's up?" he said groggily.
"Sorry to call you so early," John said. "But the boss wants you in the office for a meeting today."
"Why?" Aiden said, suddenly wide awake.
"I don't know. He just called and asked me to call all the night staff in for a meeting."
"All the staff," Aiden repeated. That didn't sound too bad. If it wasn't a private meeting, chances were fairly good that he wasn't about to lose his job. "What time?"
"Four o'clock; I talked him into making it late so it wouldn't be too hard on the overnight crew."
"Thanks, man. Four o'clock; I'll be there." Aiden hung up the phone and checked the alarm clock. It was only ten o'clock in the morning so he turned over and went back to sleep.
That afternoon, he arrived at the office feeling somewhat nervous. He had a nagging suspicion that he was in some sort of trouble. And not just him--all the night staff had been called in. Aiden looked around and wondered where the meeting was going to take place. He headed for John's office, but encountered him in the hall before he got very far.
"There's been a change of plan," John said as he took hold of Aiden's shoulder and turned him back the way he'd come. "The meeting with the boss has been canceled. "
"He's been called away. Some emergency."
"Nothing serious, I hope," Aiden said, though he really could care less. He was far more interested in knowing the purpose of the meeting in the first place. He asked John, who smiled.
"You're about to find out," he said. They entered the lounge, where all the personnel who weren't working on the show currently on the air were waiting. "Ladies, gentlemen, have a seat. Wait a sec," John said, looking around. "Where's Debbie?"
"She's still at school," Aiden said. "What's up?"
"I have some great news for you. 'Night Music' has just been honored as the top late night radio program for the tri-state region by the Broadcast Radio Association of America. Aiden, you've also received honors as the top deejay in the overnight time slot," John said proudly. Aiden's mouth fell open as the others applauded.
"That's quite an achievement for a show that hasn't even been on the air six months," Carson said.
"Wow," was all Aiden could say. "And I thought I was--." He shut his mouth and shook his head, laughing.
"The boss is sorry he couldn't be here," John said. "He had to leave town due to a family emergency, but he recorded this for you to hear at the meeting before he left." John hit a button on a CD player and stepped aside as the owner of the station gave a short speech praising the Night Music staff for their accomplishments and congratulating the entire staff for their hard work since he bought the station. Aiden fell into a chair, his mouth gaping open. No one noticed until the message was over and Carson offered him a glass of champagne.
"Are you all right, man?"
Aiden looked up and smiled.
"Yeah. Yeah; I've never felt better," he said. Carson eyed him doubtfully, but Aiden rallied and joined in the brief party.
"Congratulations," Rodney said that night. "Your honors are well deserved."
"Hey, you made it possible," Aiden said diffidently. "If you--and others like you--didn't give me a chance, I would never have achieved this success."
"You're being too modest, Aiden," Rodney replied. "This is your moment. Enjoy it."
"I will," Aiden said seriously. Debbie leaned across the console in an effort to catch his eye. Aiden seemed to be lost in a reverie. She snapped her fingers and he blinked. "What's your request tonight, Music Man?"
"How about Queen Latifah?"
"Say what?" Aiden said, frankly surprised at the choice. He'd barely paid attention to the title when he saw it on the screen, assuming that the request was for one of the many older versions of the song the Music Man had asked for.
"I'd like to hear 'Goin' Out of My Head.' It's from the soundtrack for Living Out Loud," Rodney explained. "It's a beautiful song and the words... They really speak to you, you know?"
"Have you seen the movie?"
"I'm a night owl, Music Man. Don't get to the movies much these days."
"You ought to change that. You're off weekends, aren't you?"
"Yeah, but I keep odd hours. I'd have to go to the early show and well... you know."
"That's a shame," Rodney said sadly.
"I know," Aiden said. "But maybe that will change someday."
"Maybe when you find the right person..."
"Yeah," Aiden said with a smile, no longer caring what Debbie thought. "I'm looking."
"I bet you won't have to look very far...or very hard," Rodney said.
Aiden considered his words as he hit the button and sat back.
A week later Aiden attended party being given in his honor at a local club. He was a little nervous; he hadn't expected the amount of media attention that greeted him. Microphones were pointed at in his face and cameras were everywhere he turned. Aiden was subjected to a photo op meet and greet with the officials of the radio association and was presented with the awards for both the show and his individual achievement. It was the better part of an hour before the lights were dimmed and the party began in earnest. By then, Aiden was more than ready to slink into the background and just mellow out. But no one let him.
Aiden was forced to dance and circulate and be social and he wanted nothing more than to go home and sleep. He thought it was ironic that he wanted to sleep away a Saturday night, but he felt oddly out of place at the club. He had checked his watch for the third time in twenty minutes, wondering how early he could leave, when the owner of the company came over to his table.
"You want to get out of here, don't you?" he asked.
"Please," Aiden said. The boss gestured with his head and Aiden followed him through the club to the exit, impressed with the ease with which the older man dealt with people who kept trying to catch his attention. Aiden absently decided that he had to learn how to do that, as he was escorted through the crowded entrance to a waiting limousine. The driver opened the door and Aiden got in. The owner slid in beside him.
"You tell me, Music Man," Aiden said with a smile. Rodney returned it.
"How long have you known?" he asked as he signaled for the driver to take off.
"The day I heard the message you left. It was impossible not to know."
"Yeah, I figured that would blow my cover."
"Is that why you had a sudden 'family emergency'?" Aiden asked. Rodney hesitated. Aiden reached out and lightly placed a hand over his wrist. "This is a first; you, at a loss for words," he said teasingly.
"I wasn't up to seeing your reaction," Rodney admitted. "I knew you; I knew everything about you. But I wasn't sure--."
Aiden slid his hand down a little way and made contact with Rodney's flesh. Rodney smiled and turned his hand over, intertwining their fingers.
"You couldn't just walk down the hall and--I don't know--chat over coffee? Save me--oh, I don't know--three months of speculation?"
"To be honest, that never occurred to me," Rodney said, relaxing into the soft leather seat. "This will sound odd, but I fell for your voice long before I ever saw you. I really liked listening to you on the radio and talking to you every night."
"I liked talking to you, too," Aiden confided. "It's just that I've spent months wondering about what it would be like to talk to you face to face, for more than five minutes at a time and, you know, without having to bounce a signal off a huge antenna or a telecommunications satellite. You've been right under my nose all this time and you--."
"I'm sorry, Aiden," Rodney said, turning to look him in the eye. "I just--. We just fell into this thing and I was comfortable with it. I just didn't know how to move on to the next step. I mean--well, I wasn't sure if you'd be interested. And you know my policy on fraternization; the reason I discourage interoffice relationships is that if things end badly it creates problems in the office."
"This won't end badly," Aiden replied.
"No it won't," Rodney agreed, gazing into his eyes. He reached out and caressed Aiden's cheek before pulling him a bit closer. Their first kiss sent shock waves through both men. The second was even better. Rodney broke the kiss. Smiling, he reached out and hit a button on a panel. Music filled the compartment.
"That's not Air Supply," Aiden said teasingly as he settled into Rodney's arms.
"Why shouldn't we have our own make-out theme?"
"I like the way you think, Music Man," Aiden said, stealing a quick glance out of the window. "Say, where are we headed?"
"Well, unless you have an objection, my place," Rodney replied.
"...Where we'll make beautiful music together?"
Rodney rolled his eyes and silenced him with a kiss.