Foul Play (Time-out! 2)

by Mamih Lapinatapai


Just when Colin G. West (middle name still censored, for self-protection, of course) thinks he knows everything about Matthew James Brose, somebody poisons the local water supply a la Batman Beyond, or kidnaps the original and replaces Matthew with an alien baby. Whatever. The point is that all of a sudden Matthew is the one who is working, leaving Colin to waste time in Matthew’s office, which was really like the equivalent of saying that Jennifer Lopez decided she needed liposuction on her butt. In other words– totally improbable, completely unheard of, and a total role reversal.

Colin doesn’t mind. He gets one of Mathew’s many secretaries to pour him some coffee (freshly ground, shade grown, probably, and imported at ludicrous prices), puts his feet on Matthew’s shiny, mostly cleared off table, and smirks, luxuriating in this rare chance for payback.

Matthew’s office is much nicer than Colin’s, which makes Colin wonder why Matthew chooses to spend so much time there instead of here. Matthew has ceiling to floor windows overlooking the cityscape and furniture so gorgeous it would probably make Colin’s dad weep if he knew that Colin was putting his dirty shoes on it.

Matthew is apparently at some board meeting for a committee with a name so tedious that Colin wants to applaud them. His secretary had smiled at him very coyly while handing him the cup, suggesting that Mr. Brose wouldn’t be back until another half hour at the very least and if Colin wanted to, he can wait outside in the reception room instead of in Matthew’s office. Colin declined with a charming smile that hopefully conveyed: I think you’re lovely and an absolute saint to put up with Matthew, but I don’t swing that way, not even for good coffee.

Matthew’s chair is exquisite. There must be more than twenty different buttons running along the armrest, and the second to last, Colin gleefully discovers, is the one for a back massage, and he blissfully stays that way for a few minutes before becoming bored again. Matthew left his laptop running, the energy-wasting moron, and Colin flips on the screen and runs through his programs. Pinball is the first bookmark on his menu, which makes Colin equally want to grin and hate Matthew.

Colin is a Solitaire kind of guy, but only because it doesn’t require you to mash keys on the keyboard. Plus, Solitaire just requires a mouse, so it actually kind of looks like you’re doing work. He hasn’t played Pinball in a while, but he has always been good with the computer version even if he sucked at it in real life. Evan says it’s all in the hips, but last time Colin checked Pinball did not pregnancy make, and there was nothing in the hips Colin could see that meant skillful pinball-playing. Matthew’s version uses different keys, so Colin spends a while playing around so he knows what’s what. Soon he feels his back leaving the chair, giving up the comfort of the massage for a more hands-on approach to the game, and then he’s starting to raise his voice at the computer when he loses a ball.

Colin opens a 100,000+ point portal and coasts through a few times, ending the game with brilliant fanfare. The computer informs him that he’s achieved a high score, 1,354,670, and prompts him for his name. It’s only after he types in “Colin G. West” that he realizes he has done something terribly, terribly wrong. He picks up his coffee cup while he waits and, as soon as he sees the scoreboard, he has to fumble to make sure he doesn’t spill the drink all over Matthew’s beautifully polished floors.

The scoreboard reads:

1. MY                   1,529,535
2. Colin G. West     1,354,670
3. DICK                 1,320,874
4. IS                    1,295,280
5. VERY                1,243,505

Colin’s a smart boy, and Matthew is for the most part predictable. He has a sinking feeling he knows what is obviously supposed to be after his name and it’s probably not “functional”, “circumcised” or “real”, though, Colin grumbles, all of the above would fit.

Just has he’s thinking of quick-fix solutions, the office door flies open noisily and causes Colin’s chair to fly back against the wall in surprise.

“You nearly gave me a heart attack,” Colin protests, scooting the chair up again. “I didn’t hear you coming at all.”

“Sound-proof walls and wood,” Matthew grins smugly and raps the door with his knuckles before shutting it behind him (and Colin’s successful plan of escape). “I didn’t know you were coming to visit me, West.” He perches himself on his desk by Colin’s feet and doesn’t even rat on Colin for sitting in his chair, though Colin has sinking feeling that he’ll be treated much less generously in the following moments.

“Don’t you remember what day today is?” he asks quickly, angling the laptop screen away from Matthew.

“Um,” Matthew blinks hesitantly, “Tuesday?”

“I mean, don’t you remember why today is important?” He tries to close the pinball window but manages to accidentally click on the My Documents folder instead. He grimaces, and Matthew looks at him oddly.

“Because I, uh, have finally gone to work? Christ, don’t tell me– It’s your birthday. No, okay. It’s our, uh, anniversary? No? Half-year anniversary?”

Half-year anniversary?” Colin asks, incredulous, momentarily forgetting about the pinball score. “What is that?”

“Just like it sounds, I think. Actually, I don’t know. I was dating this babe and she kept going on and on about this and that and one day she kept talking about how it was going to be our half-year anniversary soon. Finally I just got sick of all her chattering so I dumped her. Where do women come up with these things, anyway? Half year anniversaries.” Matthew scoffs and rubs his neck, loosening his tie. Colin clears his throat. By some stroke of luck he manages to close the pinball window without looking down, but in the meantime he’s opened some other folders as well, labeled as “stuff” and “more stuff”. Inside “more stuff” there’s ‘pics’, ‘NOT FOR YOU’ and ‘google mastermind strikes again!’ which catches Colin’s interest, even though he knows that he shouldn’t be snooping. After Matthew’s thoroughly decimated the knot on his tie, he cocks his head to one side and leers. “So, level with me. What’s up?”

“Today,” Colin says dramatically, tearing his eyes away from screen, “is February 14th.” He waits.

Matthew systematically begins attacking his cuff links. “February 14th,” he repeats. “Tuesday, February 14th. February 14th, Tuesday,” his voice trails off guiltily, just begging Colin not to get upset with him.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Colin slaps at Matthew’s knee. He gives it an extra shove for the attempted stalling.

“Oh — oh! I knew that! It’s just, it’s just I only associate V-day with girlfriends, and I haven’t had one in so long now, and –”

“You’re not helping your case,” Colin scowls and leans back in Matthew’s chair.

“You’re so cute when you sulk, West,” Matthew reaches a hand out to ruffle Colin’s hair and Colin swats it away with a, “I will bite you.”

“The company going through a major merger right now, West,” Matthew reconciles. Well, not really a merger; I’m buying out this puny sad-excuse-for-a-business company overseas and negotiations have been pretty rough. You wouldn’t believe the meeting I was just in; thank god Nancy told me someone important-looking was waiting for me and got me out of that room.”

Colin brightens briefly at “important-looking” but he still continues to glare at Matthew skeptically; he is the king of pinball and work, after all.

At the thought of pinball, Colin quickly crashes back down from his higher moral ground. “That sounds — that’s too bad; I hope negotiations won’t last for much longer,” he forgives quickly. “I understand how work can be. If you don’t have time today, we can just re-schedule or, you know, I shouldn’t even have bothered you at your office.”

Matthew gapes, and Colin immediately scowls at him, sorry he ever sounded sympathetic. “What’s wrong with you, West?”

“Why does something have to be wrong with me? I’m nice and all of a sudden–” He clicks around the screen in frustration. One of the folders are, strangely enough, actual business documents, Excel spreadsheets and everything, but one of them is a collection of photos, and, “Oh my god. Matthew James Brose, are those my high school photos?”

“I– what?” Matthew hurries over in an attempt to wrench the laptop away from Colin’s hands, but Colin spins away on the swiveling massage chair, jerking the laptop from the battery plug. To his horror, the image on the screen indeed is a gigantic, scanned, digital version of his high school picture, complete with school tie, cheesy smile, and the beginnings of a pimple that Colin had taken great care to hide when he went to take the picture. “Why would I have your high school photos on my laptop?” A sheepish grin, like Matthew is saying, “Wow, would you look at that, unbelievable,” and immediately Colin knows that something is up.

“That is a very good question, Matthew. Why do you have my high school pictures on your laptop?” Colin says sarcastically, adopting what Evan always termed “hysterical calmness”.

“You know, it’s a really bad habit of yours to jump to conclusions.” Matthew reaches for the laptop again, this time ending up mostly sprawled on Colin’s lap, Colin having already raised the laptop over his head to stay out of the way.

“I should drop this on your head and kill you.” Colin glares at him pointedly from his higher vantage point. “What conclusions am I supposed to–” A little tinny beeping sound suddenly interrupts from the laptop, and they both look at it in surprise. To Colin’s great dread, somehow in the scuffle he had started the pinball game again, and now, with no one playing it, the ball is aimlessly popping out, rolling, and then rendering itself useless as it fell back again. Colin plops the laptop rather unceremoniously on the desk, determined to close the game for the second time, but Matthew, having already straightened up, is draped over Colin, his long arms resting on Colin’s shoulder as he plays the remainder of the game. “Matthew, are you listening to me?” Colin asks, mostly because he’s nervous, and if Matthew keeps paying the game he might actually finish it, and then Colin would have to go back to plotting ways to get out of Matthew’s soundproofed office alive. It’s too bad no one could hear him screaming if Matthew actually tried to kill him. Then again, he thinks, that would mean no one would hear him if he killed Matthew first, and then he’d just claim it was self-defense; he was a lawyer, piece of cake —

Matthew can’t play the game very well draped over Colin’s shoulder, but he doesn’t seem to want to budge, and Colin lets out a sigh of relief when he lets the ball roll into the gutter for the last time, the game issuing one last dying beep. Colin reminds himself of the pictures and starts to work himself into a righteous rage again. “Will you stop playing that stupid game. I like to think the fact that you’re a shameless stalker is more important than trying to get the highest score on a computer game that ruins your keyboard.”

“West,” Matthew draws out his name long and forlornly, and Colin relaxes his shoulders a bit. “It takes skill to play pinball like I do. Oh, I gotta show you my high scores,” he grins, full and face-splitting, moving to click the File button. “I spent most of my summer setting them up; the game’s a lot trickier when you set score rangers for yourself rather than just playing for the highest possible score.”

Colin feels his chest sink and he grabs Matthew’s wrist but it’s already too late and Colin can see his life flashing before his eyes —

“–and I never stalked you, not really. It’s not my fault your picture can be found on the internet for any person to find, and when you’re a Google ninja like me, all it takes is a few clicks and — what the hell is this.”

“Er,” Colin says, because he’s a brilliant lawyer with years of experience, went through law school and everything, and had always been the best speaker during class discussions, was never at a loss for words, and cocktail parties loved him. Matthew begins turning an interesting shade of purple, and then pale, and then red, and finally Colin can’t take it anymore. “I’m really sorry,” he rushes out, hastily trying to wrestle the laptop away from Matthew’s hands, but Matthew has an iron grip on the keys and so Colin only manages to accidentally hit keys and smudge the screen. “I’m really, really sorry, but I was bored and you weren’t around and I didn’t know, honest, and I just thought, ‘Well, won’t do any harm’–”

Won’t do any harm?

“because it wasn’t like there was a neon sign over the laptop that said ‘DO NOT PLAY PINBALL ON ME, MATTHEW JAMES BROSE HAS STORED VALUABLE INFORMATION IN HIS HIGH SCORES’ on it, so you see, it wasn’t my fault at all–”

It wasn’t your fault at all?” Matthew works his mouth in wordless shock, gaping like a dying fish. Colin winces and slides his chair far from the desk. The massage is still working at his back, surprisingly comfortable; Colin leans into it. He may as well die in comfort. “Colin G. West, I spent an entire summer getting these scores and now look. People are going to wonder just what my dick is! It might be small, thin, and puny for all they know! You’re ruining my reputation! This is! This is slander!”

“Libel,” Colin corrects meekly, “though I suppose, if there’s no actual adjective–” and doesn’t finish his sentence before spinning hurriedly away from Matthew’s long, long arms.

Matthew closes his eyes and takes several deep breaths, and Colin wonders with a weird feeling if Matthew’s colleagues feel like this, right before they know they’re about to be bought off and bankrupted and ground to tiny financial bits. He backs up the chair a few more feet just to be safe. Matthew continues to clench and unclench his fists with his eyes still screwed shut, and Colin leans forward gingerly and tries, “But, look, Matthew, I know you’re dick isn’t small or thin or puny, and isn’t that what’s important?”

When Matthew finally opens his eyes again, Colin puts on his best “I am much cuter alive than dead” expression, and Matthew lets out a huge breath, and his entire body seems to sag. “I worked so long on those scores,” he says mournfully, his normally curly blond hair even starting to flatten in depression.

Colin feels awful, like he’s just sucker-punched a puppy that only wanted to prove something to the world, and he flutters his hands awkwardly in his lap. Colin has kicked Matthew out of his apartment approximately eight times: two times in the rain and one when there had been an escaped convict on the loose in the city (he eventually had let Matthew back in during the latter); he has walked out of three dates; he has physically rolled Matthew off the bed onto the floor five times in annoyance; and he has purposely mixed up the salt and the sugar too many times to count for Matthew’s morning coffee, but this is the first time Colin honestly feels horrible, and part of him is still screaming that it’s a stupid pinball game, but it’s Matthew’s stupid pinball game, and that makes all the difference to Colin’s insufferable conscience.

“Matthew–” he begins, and then scoots closer to the table, away from the almost dent he’s made in the wall with the back of his chair. “I–”

“If you say it’s a just a stupid pinball game, I’ll hit you. Or throw you off the top of this building. Or tell your parents that you’re gay. I haven’t decided yet.”

Colin winces again. Maybe he’s known Matthew for too long (a few months! but long considering it’s technically a whirlwind gay romantic fling like something out of a bad Danielle Steele novel Colin sometimes read at 2 AM in the morning with a cup of hot chocolate, though if he ever said this out loud he would probably want to die), if it’s that easy for Matthew to guess what Colin’s thinking but, determined to prove Matthew wrong, he gets up and wraps his arms around Matthew’s waist and rub his cheek against the nape of Matthew’s neck. Matthew smells nice, like filtered office air and expensive cologne.

At the same time, Colin thinks, if Matthew has known him for too long, then Colin has known Matthew for a long time too. Familiarity breeds contempt, but it also breeds bargaining positions, and so Colin finally sucks it up and whispers in Matthew’s ear, “I’ll let you do whatever you want when we get back,” because he totally knows what hits Matthew’s buttons.

Matthew perks up a little. “Whatever I want?”

Hook, line, and sinker, Colin thinks proudly. “Well, excluding anything that would cause severe physical discomfort and a trip to the emergency room.”

“Not my kink,” Matthew says, sounding quite cheerful all of a sudden. A long pause before Matthew turns his head towards Colin with a devious smile. Colin has gets another sinking feeling, second time in half an hour, but this time it’s less ‘oh-shit-I’m-going-to-die’ and more ‘I’m-not-going-to-like-this-am-I’.

“How about here?”

What? No! Stop being ridiculous. Matthew–!”

Leering, Matthew swivels his chair around deftly, and Colin finds himself straddling Matthew’s lap, arms bracing against Mathew’s shoulders for support. It’s a very compromising situation. If any of the secretaries were to find out, Colin suspects this would be the second time that wild sex in closed offices will lose someone a job, though maybe, since it is Matthew James Brose he’s talking about, wild sex in offices is a common thing. Which brings Colin right back to here, and Matthew’s expression is definitely the casebook look of “suggestive”. “Suggestive” had a bad rap as far as Matthew was concerned, considering it had led to three screws in a movie theatre bathroom, phone sex on Colin’s answering machine when Evan was at home, and that awful dinner that neither of them would speak of where Matthew almost informed everyone present that Colin was very vocal, in all situations, appropriate or inappropriate.

“My office is soundproof,” Matthew adds, one eyebrow raised and one hand on Colin’s crotch.

It is a good thing Colin’s mind works fast, because Matthew’s hands have already snapped open a pants’ button and on the way to the zipper before Colin puts a constraining hold over Matthew’s hand very briefly, and thinks, it’s either this or possible molestation on the taxi to his apartment, and he has had enough embarrassment in public places, so he shifts his hand up to pull Matthew’s shirt free. It’s a tangle of limbs and clothing, but they manage to remove the bare necessities without having to get up from the chair, which is still cheerfully massaging away.

In the process of kicking his pants off to the floor, Colin realizes that the floor-length windows are wide-open, and the person working the seventy-sixth floor of the Ralph Lauren building opposite the street is going to get a very unfortunate view, but before he can bring the issue up, Matthew bites down on his left collarbone and licks a path up his neck, and Colin’s sensible part of his brain promptly takes leave and refuses to come back.

“Windows,” is all he manages to gasp out, in which Matthew agreeably kisses the corner of Colin’s mouth and replies, “are very pretty.”

Matthew rolls them over next to his desk, and blindly feels around a bottom drawer before triumphantly unfurling a tube of lubricant, and Colin puts enough space between them to ask, incredulously, “You have lubricant in your office?”

“Yes, Mister I-hide-mine-behind-cereal,” Matthew retorts and drags Colin’s head down again to shut up the reply that’s about to escape out of his mouth.

Colin has his hand around Matthew’s cock, and they’re jerking each other off in the most undignified way possible while in a massaging chair that obviously was not made to hold two grown men with sex-drives comparable to pubescent teenagers, and he is about to tell Matthew that it isn’t going to work, that they can’t angle it right, when Matthew pushes off in the direction of his couch and dumps Colin’s unceremoniously on the cushions.

“I’m going to guess,” Colin says between gasps of breath, “that this is not going to be one of our more leisurely performances.”

“What? Oh. Shut up and kiss me,” Matthew answers, starting to lift up Colin’s legs already, and Colin hates that part of him that is thinking What a great idea instead of Oh my god we are screwing in his office. Matthew is already starting in with a cold, slicked finger that Colin instinctively jerks away from, but Matthew has a firm grip on his ass and it’s a little difficult to move regardless, what with Matthew’s full weight lying on Colin’s body. A faint wriggle up, and then down closer to Matthew’s hand, and Colin has the vague impression that if he doesn’t break away from kissing he’s going to faint from lack of oxygen; he’s already light-headed, but damn that would be Matthew’s middle finger, probing and intrusive and familiar, and Colin wants it bad, just like always.

He leans up close to Matthew’s ear, pressing his lips hard against the earlobe, whispers, “Fuck me, now,” because he knows that Matthew can’t resist. Matthew’s finger slows a little, fumbles, and Colin meets it with a thrust, moaning, scrabbling his nails around Matthew’s shoulder to draw him in. “If you’re going to do this, do it,” he demands. Matthew kisses him hard on the temple, right where Colin’s hair is dripping sweat down his face; Colin can feel the slow smile forming. He’d like to hit Matthew, mostly out of some petty sense of unfairness, but instead Colin locks his heels around Matthew’s back, braces for the impact, one hand clawing ineffectually at the leather of Matthew’s couch, and almost does faint when Matthew enters.

He’s learned by now that Matthew never disappoints.

Colin has always been a screamer, and Matthew makes fun of him for it all the time, except he shouldn’t, because it’s not exactly like he’s a modern-day Kama Sutra, but, here, in his office, absolutely ruining a lambs’ skin couch and solid wood floors, Colin has to admit that Matthew comes pretty fucking close. Colin also thinks Matthew should check his walls, because he swears there was a suspiciously high gasp and a clatter outside the office when he’s shoved up so far against the couch that his head makes contact with the wall. His arm instinctively thrashes out to steady himself and a framed painting of the city topples down from its hook.

“Matthew,” he says, low and breathy right into the cluster of curls on the nape of his neck, because he’s close and he can feel both their bodies coiling and tensing, ready for release. The movements form a humming rhythm inside Colin’s head; Matthew moans into Colin’s hair and he can feel his cock twitch against his stomach, excited. He transfers his grip to Matthew’s shoulder and sinks his nails down when he comes, hard and frantic and heady, just like every time when Matthew fucks him, just like every time when he tells himself he needs to stop acting like such a teenage girl. His chest suddenly contracts, and he takes a deep gulp of oxygen, body starting to go limp under Matthew’s body weight.

They stay that way for a while, breathing heavily, body heat and sweat, before Matthew shifts his arm and Colin feels uncomfortable tingles from his thigh. “I– my foot is asleep,” he says, almost apologetically, and then, having taken a moment to regain his senses, adds nervously, “We just had sex in your office.”

“Good job, Sherlock,” Matthew mumbles into the tendons of Colin’s neck just as Colin swallows.

“What are you going to tell them when they see your couch?”


“Your secretaries!” Colin disentangles himself, looking around for tissues. The midday sunlight strikes him from behind. Suddenly, he turns around and makes a grab for his shirt, wrapping it hurriedly around his waist. Colin’s miffed to discover that in their haste, Colin’s pants have somehow made their way under the couch, and he has to bend down to find them.

“West, what’s wrong?” Matthew asks, still luxuriating in his post-sex laziness, and Colin peeks up at him, hissing, “Windows!”

“Are very pretty,” he finishes, starting to laugh, and then quickly ducking away from the Colin’s backlash. His brows knit together.

“Your windows,” Colin says slowly and evenly, like he’s speaking with a mentally disabled six-year-old (which, he reasons, isn’t too far off the mark at least in terms of maturity), “have no blinds.”

“What? Oh,” Matthew blinks at the sunlight streaming in through the crystal-clear glass (that’s probably hand-washed twice a week) and waves a dismissive hand in its general direction, “Don’t worry, I spy the guy across the street taking girls up into his office all the time.”

Colin gapes at him. “What kind of place is this?” he fumes, storming around and overturning Matthew’s crumpled shirt on the floor to pick up his tie. He kicks the shirt for a good measure.

“It’s business, West,” Matthew tells him, no hint of apology or remorse in his voice. “No one blinks an eye at things like this anymore.”

“Really,” Colin says flatly. “And now many boys and girls have you had up in this office, Mister Brose?”

“I don’t see why you always have to make it such a big deal,” Matthew snaps back, as if he were the one being perfectly reasonable. Colin fumes, jerking his pants up abruptly and zipping so quickly it makes Matthew cringe a little. A few tucks of the shirt and Colin’s looking at his reflection in the window to make a perfect Windsor knot of his tie, partly because he knows the fact that he can do it in under two minutes pisses Matthew off every time.

“It’s not like I purposely do it–”

Soundproofed walls?”

“I swear those weren’t my idea! It’s for customer confidentiality or something!” Matthew exclaims, throwing his hands like Colin is a cop and he just got busted so hard for DUI. Colin makes a face at him as he pulls his tie into place. “Come on, West–”

“Stop calling me that. You make me sound like an old college buddy!”

“Okay, okay, Colin. Look, it’s Valentine’s Day. Lighten up, all right?” Matthew throws him a dashing smile, the one that got Colin into this whole stupid mess in the first place, and as Matt is buttoning his cuffs and straightening his hair, Colin forces himself to admit that he really doesn’t want to know how many people Matthew has had in his office; he thinks the answer is anywhere from “too many” to “ethically despicable”. Colin just has these guilt issues about ruining leather couches and having (fantastic) sex on the job, and taking it out on Matthew is just too easy. Like a stress toy or slamming doors. Predictable and convenient, and true, Matthew deserves every bit of it, but he, Colin reminds himself, is above this sort of thing.

After all, his New Year’s resolution was that he would not be a girl. About anything. But especially sex. Matthew always does make Colin a little insecure, though he wouldn’t admit that even if Matthew promised to never molest him in public again (always a lie).

“There’s nothing to lighten up about,” he finds himself saying stubbornly, and winces inside. Colin never could throw away those three years of law school. “If we’re — if we’re done here, I suppose I’ll just go home. Or back to my office. I left a mountain of papers sitting on my desk to visit you, which was obviously very foolish of me.”

“Colin,” Matthew pleads, grabbing his pants off the floor and slinging his tie around his neck. He fumbles with the buttons on his shirt, and Colin restrains himself from doing it for him (remember: not a girl!).

“If that’s everything,” he repeats again, though he continues to stand around sort of awkwardly, part of him refusing to let himself just make a clean exit.

“No! No, wait, that’s not it at all.” Matthew grabs Colin by the wrist. Colin makes a noise of protest, because they’d already talked about this no forcing bodily contact thing the last time Matthew grabbed him by the wrist at a restaurant and everyone snickered at them, except Matthew’s pulling him in and swinging him around so that he just so happens to land on the couch again, hard, on his ass.

Colin’s eyes cross a little in pain. He has a suspicion his vision has gone a little blurry as well. It buys Matthew a few seconds, which he spends trying to knot his tie, and, failing, throwing it on the back of the massage chair which, Colin notes offhandedly, is still buzzing with its constant activity. The laptop is still running as well, showing the ominous “MY Colin G. West DICK IS VERY” message. Colin gets the urge the throw a paperweight at the LCD screen. He starts to rise, but Matthew orders him to sit there and wait.

“Just fifteen minutes. Please, Colin. I’ll be right back, I swear.” He dashes out the door, not even bothering to shut it properly behind him, and he doesn’t offer his secretary an explanation before jostling someone about to get on the elevator out of the way. Matthew’s secretary — what was her name, Nancy? — cranes her neck into the office and Colin forces down a blush and edges closer against the windows where she can’t see him.

He’s not feeling very friendly at the moment, and the massaging chair and promises of good coffee can’t curb the acute anger and frustration he currently has for all things related to Matthew James Brose. He actually considers rummaging around the desk for a paperweight to smash the LCD screen in with, but he ends up deleting every picture he can find of himself on Matthew’s laptop; he empties the Recycle Bin with a satisfying click. Matthew still isn’t back when he finishes, and a quick flick of his watch tells him it’s been at least twenty minutes now.

He leisurely walks out, flashing a charming smile at the secretary as he passes, and waits for a little bit outside the elevator before full annoyance takes over, and he hits the Down button. The elevator plays a sickening mixture of jazz and easy listening, something Colin’s senile grandmother listens to on the weekends at her retirement home.

At the tenth floor, the door opens, and Colin is about to scoot out of the way for men in pressed business suits with money to make when he realizes it’s actually Matthew on the other side. Matthew looks up, stunned, and immediately hides a bag behind his back, as if the obnoxiously bright pink and red could be hidden. Colin rolls his eyes. He stabs at the “Close Doors” button , but Matthew has put a hand up to keep the doors from shutting, and accuses Colin loudly, while panting, “You! You’re leaving!”

“It’s been twenty minutes. I only promised you fifteen.” Colin keeps his finger on the button, waiting, but Matthew steps in, and Colin warns him, “I’ll hit you.”

“You won’t,” Matthew says, grinning and slumping against the wall to catch his breath. The doors close with a self-satisfied swoosh, and Colin glares at them too for a good measure.

“I’ll bite you.”


“I’ll run you over the next time I see you in the street.”

“But then we’ll never have sex–”

“Yes, because you would be dead, which is the point,” Colin answers nastily, and has to stop. Don’t be a girl, he tells himself firmly. No bitchiness. He feigns calm and eyes the ludicrous shopping bag hooked around Matthew’s wrist. “What’s in the bag?”

Matthew opens his eyes warily. “I thought I’d give it to you, but if you’re going to run me over…”

“Then I guess this means I’m leaving as soon as I reach the bottom floor.” The elevator sinks into a stop with a chirping beep, and Colin waits for the opening doors. Making a big show of straining his coat in his arm, he counts down from three, and sure enough, at one, Matthew grabs his hand and tries to drag him back in the elevator, saying, “Wait, wait, I’m kidding.”

He presses a finger over the Close Doors button and uses the other arm to wrap around Colin’s waist, bring his forehead to rest on Colin’s right temple.

“I think I can vouch for the quality of these, considering I bumped three people into a display case to fight my way into the line.”

The image of Matthew battling anyone in a store is ridiculous and makes Colin laugh, but he doesn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing that he’s forgiven (because he’s not). A curved edge jabs at Colin’s hips and he looks down to find a ridiculously wrapped box of Swiss caramel chocolates, the type that’s only sold in a few independent bakeries and delicacy stores around the city, and Colin is about tell Matthew that caramel chocolate was invented for the sole purpose of marring the name of good chocolate everywhere when Matthew takes a breath against Colin’s cheek and tells him, “I haven’t had anyone up in my office before. You’re the first. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Colin sort of opens and closes his mouth, trying to work it so words will come out when Matthew continues, rushed, “And I have no idea what I’m going to do about the couch,” and Colin knows the gig is up.

Mathew smells of cologne, sweat, and sex, a bit like chocolate too, which makes Colin’s heart beat just that little bit faster. He takes a shaky breath and says, “You can buy these conditioners, or something, or clothes, and wipe up that mess. I had a friend who did this is in college — well, not this, exactly, and it was with a girl, so it was different–”

“Colin?” Matthew’s hand curls around the base of Colin’s neck. Colin hasn’t been nervous like this since his senior prom when the boys voted him for prom queen and he was trying to explain to his parents why he came home with a tiara (not that he’ll ever tell Matthew that story).


“Shut up and kiss me,” Matthew finally finishes.

Colin smiles. He lets the chocolate box slip from his fingers, clattering against their shoes, wraps his arms around Matthew’s waist, and obliges. Matthew fervently kisses back, cradling Colin’s head in his hand; they’re really too old to be doing this, considering they’d just had sex — in Matthew’s office — but Colin thinks this might be worth all the bad high school yearbook photos and all the ruined Pinball scores and all the leather couches in the world.

Matthew is the first to break away for air. “That was fucking amazing, West,” he says, with his cocky grin, and Colin is about to retort that of course he is and lean in to get rid of that ridiculously satisfied expression by further demonstrating his skill when the elevator door opens, and standing right outside are three of Matthew’s interns.

“Oh my god,” one of them gasps, and the girl on the far left bursts into tears. “I knew it! This is why you won’t sleep with me!” she accuses, and another one hesitantly prods at Colin’s shirt and asks, “You are male, right?” and Colin turns four different shades of red before settling on one that’s quite attractive against his hair color.

“I hate you,” he bites off vehemently to Matthew and storms out the building, refusing to look anyone in the face and most definitely refusing to slow down despite Matthew’s stressed calling behind him.

And that concluded Valentine’s Day (or at least the Valentine’s Day sex, which Matthew argues is the most important part of all; the rest of the holiday is just girly, which makes Colin hit him very meaningfully).

Footnote: A traveling quartet comes around the next week, and Matthew buys tickets as a compromise to Colin, because the last time he stuck around in a gazette garden for two hours was at his own wedding and, even then, he was drunk enough to not remember the specifics. The concert ends just as the city lights flicker on in a familiar buzz of color and sound, and they walk past a street vender closing shop on the way to Matthew’s car. The vender unloads several open boxes of chocolate and candies, and the scent wafts thickly in the cool air.

“Ugh,” Colin says, disgusted, “The only thing worse than the taste of caramel has to be its smell. I can’t believe people actually buy it,” and moves over to the other side of the sidewalk.

“Um,” Matthew begins to say, but Colin has already started up a brisk pace, and he doesn’t hear the rest.

That night, after sex, Matthew curls up against Colin’s back and nuzzles the space between Colin’s shoulder blades. “What are you doing,” Colin says disapprovingly, but Matthew mumbles, “nothin’, go ‘t sleep.” And they do.

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