Enter The Realm of the Pendragon

Duplicity

Genre: Drama
Rating: 15
Word Count: 2,171
Author's Notes: Written for NaNoWriMo 2005
Claire is a lowly administration assistant in a local government office where she keeps very much to herself.
Dante is a young perky gay blond who does something important in marketing but seems to spend most of his time hanging out in a coffee shop with a select group of friends.
They live entirely seperate lives until one day; Dante disappears and only Claire knows where he is. She soon realises that he owes his life to her in more than one way. The question is, which one of them will survive?

Chapter Eleven

The Shop was fairly busy. As well as the regulars taking up their usual positions on the sofa and comfy armchair next to it, there was a steady stream of customers calling in for a coffee and a quick chat. A small group of people were huddled over in the corner where they were apparently taking part in the semi-finals of the Grumpy Old Codgers North West Region Domino Championship. Miles had blinked in surprise when he had been informed of this fact but customers were customers and he was unlikely to turn them away.

During a brief quiet moment, Miles watched the small group of regulars seated over to his left on the other side of the Shop. Esmé was seated in the comfy armchair as usual, currently having an in-depth discussion with Shelley as to the best place to buy winter boots; Maria and Gregor were seated on the sofa catching up on the recent events in each other's lives since they'd last spoken. To be honest, it hadn't taken Gregor all that long to bring Maria up to speed as he'd spent the past few weeks working hard on his thesis, the same way he'd spent the majority of his time lately. He admitted that the only reason he was here in the Coffee Shop now, was because he was suffering from a severe case of writer's block and had left his thesis in the vain hope that a break from it would get his creative juices flowing once more when he returned to it.

Although it looked very comfortable with the two couples talking easily to each other, as far as Miles was concerned, there was a very large noticeable gap which could only be filled by a certain cheeky and bouncy young blond. Normally under these sorts of circumstances when the group split into two pairs, Dante would go over to the counter to join Miles and they would have a nice quiet chat together in private. In the past, these times had been more personal to them, touching on such subjects as their history together and future plans and Miles treasured them beyond measure. He was annoyed with himself for missing the young man to such an extent that seemed out of proportion with regards to the current casual status of their relationship, but he was also annoyed with the others for not seeming to miss him at all. It was as though after the initial 24 hours of time had passed, he had been totally forgotten. The group dynamic had shifted and now Miles was left all alone on the outside looking in. He glared in the group's direction before grabbing up a cloth and scrubbing viciously at the counter. However, he had counted without Shelley.

Many people had a tendency to misjudge this young woman. She seemed to be naïve and giggly, even a little dizty at times but they didn't realise that she had a very astute eye and an incredible knowledge of people. She understood them in a way that others couldn't and picked up on subtleties that would pass by the majority. As the large clock on the wall struck 9 o'clock, she made her excuses to Esmé and walked over to join Miles at the counter. She placed her empty cup on the newly cleaned surface and took a seat on one of the stools there.

"You okay, Miles?" she asked, genuinely wanting to know the answer.

"I'm fine," he replied. "Why?"

"Just that it's now 9pm, Dante is normally here by 7.30 without fail but this is the second night in a row that there's no sign of him." She cocked her head sympathetically. "I thought you might be missing him a little or be wondering where he is at least."

Miles threw the cloth in the direction of the sink which it missed by a clear foot but left it where it lay and leant down on the counter instead. "I think it's very clear where he is and to be honest, I know I shouldn't be hurt but I am, a little. It's unfortunate but I'm sure I'll soon get over it."

Shelley frowned. "Where do you think he is?"

"With that Matthew," came the curt reply.

"You still think that? I thought you said Dante wasn't his type."

"Looks like I was wrong."

"But Miles, why are you letting it bother you so much? You have absolutely no proof that they're together or even in contact and yet you're coming over all jealous and everything."

"You saw the way he was acting the other night, all flirty and how that Matthew person was flirting right back!"

"Miles, Dante flirts with everyone. He flirts with you, with Gregor, with me and Esmé, even with Maria on occasion. He'd probably flirt with half of the customers in here right now given half a chance - except maybe the Grumpy Old Codgers in the corner over there. He just flirts. To him it's about as natural as breathing and half as meaningless. You're aware of this, you've known him for long enough. And besides, just because he flirts doesn't mean that he's actually going to act on it. Anyway, even if he is with Matthew, can't you be happy that he's found someone? I mean, you're not a couple any more, you haven't been one for ages."

Miles looked shamefaced. "I know, I know all of that. And you're right, we're not a couple and I should be happy for him, but I just can't."

Shelley studied the older man thoughtfully. "You still love him, don't you?"

"I never stopped," he replied simply.

"Okay, so you're still in love with him then." Miles just shrugged. "So why now? What's changed?"

"Several things really, I think," he sighed. He was silent for a moment, pulling his thoughts together and Shelley waited patiently until he was ready to speak. "I think the internet dating thing was the start of it. Even though we broke up ages ago, we'd somehow fallen into this casual fuckbuddy sort of thing. It was just sex though, that was made very clear; to start off with, Dante wouldn't even kiss me, he said it was too emotional. It was always so good though and so... comfortable, I suppose. I probably started getting my hopes up that it might lead to something more once again."

"I think that's a very natural thing to do," Shelley said.

He nodded. "Yeah, but when Dante mentioned that he'd signed up with this dating site, it really made me realise that it was over and that he had no interest in getting back together with me, that all I was to him was a person he could come to if he was horny and fancied a shag. I was a bit hurt by that, as you'd expect, but for some reason it wasn't too bad until Matthew arrived." He paused, fiddling with the corner of his apron. "It's a whole lot different hearing him talking about a date he had and actually seeing him getting it on with someone else right there in front of you. It makes it more real somehow."

"Oh Miles," the girl sighed. "I do wish you would talk to Dante about this, let him know how you feel about him. You never know, he might feel the same way about you. Maybe he's looking for someone else because he thinks that he hasn't got a chance with you, that you're happy with the way things are right now as a casual relationship, or maybe he's purposely trying to make you jealous! If nothing else, it'll clear the air and get things straight between you."

Miles considered this. "Maybe," he allowed.

The Shop door opened with a jaunty ring from the bell, completely out of place for the conversation Miles and Shelley were currently having, and they both rapidly turned to glance over at the door to see who it was. Each of them hoped it was the young blond they had been discussing.

"Oh, hi Matthew," Shelley said in some surprise. Matthew smiled at her, impressed that not only had he been recognised from his brief visit two nights ago, but that she had also remembered his name. She flashed a slightly guilty look at Miles but the older man didn't notice it, he was too busy peering over Matthew's shoulder to see if anyone else was going to follow him in.

"On your own?" he queried.

Matthew looked puzzled and glanced behind him to see what Miles was looking at. "Well, yes. Shouldn't I be?"

Shelley tutted. "Ignore him, Matthew. He thinks you've been shacking up with Dante and that's why he's not been here for the past two nights like he usually is."

"Dante?"

"The young blond lad that you were flirting - I mean, talking with when you were here the other night."

"Oh, right, him! Dante, yes. What?" He suddenly realised exactly what he was being accused of and gaped at her in astonishment. "Hang on, you think I've been shacking up with Dante?" Shelley nodded. "I haven't seen him since I was in there the other night! And what's it got to do with you anyway?"

"Look, I'm really sorry," she soothed, trying to explain. "We don't mean to cause any offence but it's really not like Dante to not come in here one night, never mind two in a row, he's in here all the time, usually around 7.30 or thereabouts but there's been no sign of him at all and no messages saying where he is, and you two did rather seem to hit it off when you were in here the other night so when neither of you were here..."

"You put two and two together," Matthew finished. Shelley admitted this with a nod and an apologetic grin. "Well, I can assure you that I haven't been shacking up with him, nor have I had any contact with Dante since I was in here on Wednesday night." He was slightly taken aback at this sudden turn of events and that his personal life seemed up for discussion without so much as a by-your-leave, but he could see that Shelley was genuinely concerned by this uncharacteristic disappearance.

Shelley looked over at Miles who was looking thoughtful. "I wonder where he is then," she frowned.

"Maybe he had another date?" Matthew suggested.

"Oh yes, from that internet dating site," Shelley said eagerly and then bit her lip. "I hope - " she started to say and then faltered. "I hope nothing has happened to him."

Miles looked slightly pale. "Don't even think it," he said shortly.

"I know I shouldn't but you hear such terrible things about the internet, the dangers of meeting people from there that you don't actually know and how they could be mad axe murderers or something," she gulped. "We know he's meeting people off some dating site, so it's a possibility."

"It's no more likely to happen because you're meeting people off a website any more than it is through the personals column of the classifieds in a newspaper," Matthew pointed out. "Either way, you don't know anything about the person you're meeting other than what they've told you. The same goes for getting the phone number of a stranger in a club." Miles and Shelley saw the sense in this and they both relaxed slightly.

"I'm sure Dante is smart enough to keep himself safe when it comes to meeting people off the internet," Matthew continued, although he really didn't know anything of the sort from the all-too brief meeting they'd had. "He's probably just sick or something like that, and tucked up in bed unable to contact you and let you know that he's ill but otherwise fine."

"You're right, I bet that's it exactly," Shelley said. "It'll be nothing major, we're probably getting all worked up over some silly little thing like a cold or measles or - or - "

"Or a broken wrist," Miles added, thinking of Marla, Dante's secretary.

"Or a broken wrist," Shelley agreed. "He'll come bounding through that door before too long as though he's never been away and wondering why we were all so worried about him."

"That sounds like Dante all right," the older man said. Shelley nodded with a small smile, feeling much better now that her sudden fear had been shown to be extremely unlikely. Matthew had recovered from the initial shock of being accused of keeping Dante from them for his own personal enjoyment and now thought that the missing boy was lucky to have friends such as these who obviously cared so much about him. Miles was feeling slightly foolish after having his theory so very thoroughly dashed to pieces but still couldn't help feeling uneasy. He knew he wouldn't feel completely happy until he saw the cheeky blond come bounding through the doors of the Coffee Shop once more.

Chapter Twelve.

Read Feedback!   Give Feedback!


Unless otherwise specified.