It often happens that the best days of one’s life go hand-in-hand with the most useless days at work. Jon sat on his high stool, hunched over the computer monitor, staring at the columns of numbers splayed across the screen. The display was simple enough - data on rates of flow through the joints of the contraption suspended from the ceiling behind him - but he couldn’t understand a single digit of it. To his eyes, the screen was simply a mess of black pixels on white, holding no more meaning than a scattering of pebbles on the pavement. He felt like every single logical cell in his brain had been shut down by that kiss.
That kiss! His gaze slid from the screen and focused on some nowhere spot off to his right as he relived that brief moment: the warmth of Donna’s soft lips, her intoxicating scent, and most of all, her quickened heartbeat, strong and steady, filling his ears. He’d never thought he would ever touch another human being again, much less kiss one, and he’d certainly never dreamt it would be Donna. Well, that wasn’t quite truthful. He’d dreamt of Donna, but he’d sworn to himself that it never would be.
But now it was. She’d kissed him and told him that she loved him. He had felt her love; he’d heard, in the way her heart sped and her breath hitched as they touched, how she longed for that kiss and feared that he’d push her away. And somehow, for some glorious reason, she wasn’t afraid of him. He still wasn’t quite sure how it had all happened, how she’d managed to sneak her way through all of the elaborate defenses he’d constructed to keep her out, to keep her safe. But it didn’t matter, did it? She wanted to be with him, and they were together now. It was everything he’d ever wanted…
He leapt up from the stool and capered around the vast chamber, bouncing off the walls and somersaulting over the equipment with joyous energy. She loves me! It is beyond imagining! No, actually, it really was. Every moment, he expected to wake up from this amazing dream to find himself alone in his dark, echoing lab, slumped over his keyboard and drooling on his sleeve. He could not believe that she returned even a fraction of the feelings he had for her, or that he could ever make her happy. How does anyone ever cope with this kind of thing, with connecting with another person, with all of the doubt? He’d had two relationships in the past, as well as over twenty years of schooling and another ten working in the adult world, and he still couldn’t figure it out.
One thing he knew for sure, though, was that he wasn’t going to get any work done, not down here in the lab where he could rejoice and brood to his heart’s content. Bounding across the room, he took a moment to transfer the test data to his laptop, then, closing and grabbing the device, tucked it under an arm as he spun past the machinery to check once more that it was shut down properly before striding out.
He knew it would be a lot easier to get himself under control whilst out among his coworkers. His professionalism forced his work to take precedence in his mind, and since he never spoke or made eye contact with anyone if he could help it, no one would notice any difference in his demeanour. By the time he reached his office, he’d managed to push the thought of Donna into one bright little corner of his mind and remind himself how to do maths, and he was sure that he could return to his work with diligence.
The office door was open, indicating that Brian was at his desk. A friendly, outgoing bloke, Jon’s officemate preferred leaving the door open to encourage others to enter if they wanted. However, as Jon walked past him, sat down at his own desk, and snapped his laptop into the dock, Brian continued his work; after two years of sharing an office with him, he knew that Jon disliked being addressed or acknowledged, and though he didn’t know it, at the moment, Jon felt this way tenfold.
Diving into the tables of predictive calculations and testing results spread across his two wide monitors, Jon found himself staring off into space not thirty seconds later, the tip of his tongue roving over his lips, seeking the memory of Donna’s taste. Glancing over his shoulder to verify that Brian hadn’t noticed anything odd about his behaviour, he bowed his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. I can’t carry on like this. I’m behaving like a bloody teenager!
“Oi, mate, got a moment?”
Startled, Jon jerked straight in his chair. Swallowing hard, he put on his best business face and spun his chair around to face Brian. “Er, yeah. What do you need?” He’d no knowledge of Brian’s current project, so he settled back in preparation of listening to the technical background, hoping he looked exactly as relaxed and interested as he didn’t feel.
Glancing away, Brian paused before speaking, an unusual occurrence for the easy-going engineer. “I was wondering… Are you and Donna seeing each other?”
Jon’s mouth dropped open and he stared at his officemate. He tried to say something, anything, but his throat constricted and he only managed to make a few feeble choking noises. How in the world…?
Brian had intended his question in earnest and certainly hadn’t meant to embarrass Jon, but the man’s reaction was so extreme that he couldn’t quite hide his amusement, though he managed to school himself quickly enough. He wondered if he'd somehow gotten near the truth. “I know it’s none of my business, but, well, if she’s off-limits, then I’d like to know.”
Jon finally managed to make noise emerge from his mouth. “Wha- wha- what makes you say that?”
Brian scratched at his closely-cropped dark hair. “You see, I asked Donna out on Friday night and she said yes, but the time came and she never showed. That’s just not like her, is it? I’d expect that from Veena, sure, but Donna?” The confusion and astonishment in Jon’s furrowed brow showed that he wasn’t inclined to reply, so he continued. “Veena said she slipped out early, and you did, too, about the same time. And Veena said she’s been talking about you the past few weeks, so -”
“She’s been what?” Jon squeaked.
“Talking about you, mate.”
Jon goggled at his officemate, his mouth hanging open and his mind whirling. Brian, torn between laughter and worry that the man was going to collapse from a heart attack right in front of him, tried to ease his discomfort. “I’m sure it was all good things. But you see, two plus two.”
“Oh. Well, yes. I mean, no. I mean…” Jumping up in a confused panic, Jon barely restrained himself executing a powered leap across the room through the door and scrambling down the hallway. “I’m sorry,” he gasped, “I can’t... I mean, it’s not… Er, I’ve got to go.” Three strides of long, thin legs later, he froze just outside the door; his super-sensitive hearing picked up the unmistakable sound of Veena’s teasing laughter behind the secretaries’ closed office door at the other end of the corridor. An instant later, the door flew open, and Donna strode out, her friend hot on her heels.
“Oh, I can tell, Donna dear,” Veena cackled as Brian came up behind Jon, almost crashing into him.
Jon met Donna’s gaze, and colour that flushed both of their cheeks were identical.
“Oh, mate,” Brian breathed, “if there was any question about it before, there’s none now.” Leaning back against the jamb of the door, he crossed his arms and smirked at both of them, Veena’s high cackle answering him from down the corridor.
“Thirty minutes!” roared Donna. “Can’t anything in this building stay a secret for thirty minutes?”
A door flew open halfway between the two pairs and Anna and Tom poked their heads out. “What’s all the noise?” Tom grumbled.
“Donna and Jon are a couple!” Veena replied in a gleeful squeal, clapping Donna on her back.
“We are not a ‘couple’,” snorted Jon, ducking his head. He turned to back toward his office but Brian settled himself in the doorframe, blocking his retreat.
“Yes, we are!” protested Donna, glaring at him as she started to head toward him.
Brian nudged him with a fist. “You aren’t the one who gets to decide that.”
Jon buried his face in his hands. “When exactly did I lose control of my life?” He peered at Donna as she took his arm with a fond, mischievous grin. “I think it was when I met you,” he murmured, his eyes shining.
“Oh, you two are just adorable together!” Veena squealed again, clapping her hands. “Oh! Oh! I need a picture!” As Jon rolled his eyes, she disappeared back into her office.
“Dinner tonight, all of us?” Brian offered. “It’s not often we get to celebrate something like this.”
“Don’t forget Nerys,” Tom suggested.
Before Jon could will himself to sink into the floor, Donna patted him on the arm. “No, I don’t think so. This is honestly completely new and for me, at least, it hasn’t really sunk in. We need some time.” A squeeze of Jon’s hand on hers told her just how much he appreciated her diplomatic response.
“Absolutely. Completely understand. But it’s good to see, really it is. Take care of each other.” Anna beamed at Jon with an encouraging smile, and he managed to return a grateful one before glancing away.
Veena bounded back into the hallway. “All right, you two!” she called as she fiddled with her camera then held it up whilst Jon slipped his arm around Donna and she snuggled up against him. “Say, ‘Happily ever after!’”