Disclaimer: They belong to DC/WildStorm, who don't love them any more.

Contains a few adult themes and the odd bad word, but nothing really objectionable. No higher than PG, I think.

This story is for or Alicia McKenzie, who wanted me to try my hand at writing the Midnighter. Hope the experiment turned out OK *g*.

The Waiting Room

By Andraste

The Midnighter would like to be able to say that it was love at first sight, but he knows it was only curiosity.

Sometimes, he resents this particular memory because of that. He doesn't know if Apollo recalls his side of the grand event or not. It's one of the few things he's always avoided asking about. although he's not sure what he's scarred of. That Apollo remembers, that he doesn't, or ... that he remembers something different. The Midnighter doesn't like the idea of one of his bare handful of memories being called into question, so he keeps it a secret. Even from the man he shared the moment - and so much else in the years since - with.

The few fragments of his past he has left are branded perfectly onto his brain, different from the total recall he has now. Cleaner. No strings of calculations. Details noted as something other than a potential source of violence.

The waiting room isn't one of his more comfortable recollections. Even without enhancements, he sensed the fear, desperation and illness in the air as soon as he opened the door. He doesn't know what came before the door - a long, white corridor feels right, but he could be making that up. The room itself was painted institutional green, with dull grey linoleum on the floor. It was like a doctor's surgery, but everything was slightly ... off. No posters on the walls, no receptionist's desk, just a lot of nervous people trying to hide their nervousness.

He took a seat next to an empty chair. There was a coffee table covered in tattered magazines in front of him, and he picked one up to give him something to pretend to look at while his eyes took in the other hopefuls. It was like looking at himself from the outside - most of them were young, male and apparently healthy even though he knew there had to be something wrong with them. Why else would they be here?

The guy directly across from him, though, stuck out like a sore thumb in spite of his sandy hair and non-descript build. He was among the few who were obviously ill, pale and thin in a way that suggested rapid weight loss ... and yet he was the only person there who didn't seem to radiate raw desperation. His body language was relaxed, and he was looking around with open curiosity. It was impossible not to watch him watching, until he noticed that he was being checked out.

He raised an eyebrow. Then he smiled, and it was as if the sun had out in the waiting room. The illness and death surrounding them suddently seemed unimportant.

The Midnighter is pretty sure *that's* when he fell in love.

"So, what are you in for?" the guy asked cheerfully.

"I, um ..."

It wasn't the best opening line in the history of romance, but he didn't know how to start explaining.

As far as the Midnighter can figure out, he was there because his diagnosis meant he couldn't be in the army anymore. The prospect of getting sick and dying, at some point in the distant future, didn't bother him nearly as much as the idea of losing his place in the military.

Clearly he was a moron in his former life.

"Sorry," the man had continued, not souding very apologetic. There was something about him that made it easy to forgive the lack of tact anyway. "That was rude of me."



"No, I don't mind. We're all in for something, right?" He searched for another conversation topic, but there was only one question on his mind. "Do you think they're telling the truth? That they can really cure us?"

He shugged in a way that seemed to move his whole body. "I have no clue, but I've tried everything else. Whatever secret experiments they have planned for us, they can't be worse than chemo.

"Chemotherapy?"

"I have advanced leukemia." The guy was grinning like it was funny, and the embarassment was almost worth the smile.

"Oh, I thought -" Of course not everyone was here for the same reason he was, and even those who were ... well, there was more than one way to catch it, right?

The the guy actually winked. "Yeah, well, don't panic. Your gaydar isn't on the fritz."

Midnighter knows enough about himself to have worked out that he was never all that comfortable with people, especially strangers, even before his life was fucked up. Yet there was something there that made him relax instead of getting more embarassed and closing up.

"I didn't mean to offend you, I just kind of wondered what you were doing here. You don't seem the type."

"The type?" The guy glanced arround. "You mean I don't show obvious signs of steroid abuse or military training? Are those prerequisits for a career as a superhero?" There was that shrug again. "I suppose I like the idea of helping people, not to mention staying alive a while longer."

Just when the soon-to-be Midnighter was about to say something stupid about wanting this total stranger to stay alive, too, a stern looking woman in a lab coat opened the door and called out a number.

"Oh, I guess I gotta go," the guy said, standing up. One more smile as a parting gift. "Hope we both pass. Maybe I'll see you on the other side."

After that, the memory ends.

Midnighter has a lot of regrets about that scene. Sometimes he's sorry that he didn't run after Apollo and warn him that all the shit he was about to go through might be worse than dying of leukemia. Sometimes he's sorry he didn't turn around and walk away himself before they could judge his HIV curable and start cutting him open. He's *always* sorry he didn't manage to say a single intelligent thing in the entire conversation.

Most of all, though, he's sorry that they never exchanged names. Now he'll never know who either of them used to be.

The End