Yes, Even Educated Fleas

by frostfire


It had been a completely shit day–hit off instead of snooze, coffee on the dress pants, mixed messages, missed deadlines–nothing life-threatening, but totally Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad territory. So Dave was already struggling to finish all the crap he had to do when Reggie-the-boss stuck his head into Dave’s office and said, “Dave, I have to have those design specs in half an hour and R&D aren’t answering their phones, I need you to go down there and physically pry the hard copy from their sticky little fingers, okay?”

Dave carefully did not tell his boss to go fuck himself; instead, he set down the two fistfuls of paper he’d been speed-memorizing and said, “Sure, I can do that.” It came out pretty evenly.

“Thanks, Dave,” Reggie-the-boss said. “Give ’em a kick in the pants while you’re down there if you can. This shit has got to stop.” The first couple of bars of Pictures at an Exhibition trilled from his cell phone, and he ducked back out.

Dave breathed deep a few times, promised himself a nice steak dinner this Friday even if he had to go by himself, and headed off to R&D.

“Nah, really don’t know what you’re talking about,” said the scary-looking engineer, whom Dave was about to kill with his bare hands, tattoos and all. “Diane’s out sick today, maybe it was one of hers. You sure you don’t remember who was working on it?”

For the third time, Reggie just said ‘those design specs’. I have no other information.” Dave took a deep breath; the engineer was big and bald and starting to look seriously annoyed, and Dave probably couldn’t actually kill him, especially not after Reggie killed Dave for not getting this done. “Look, let me call him, see if he knows anything else.” He dialed. Voicemail; Reggie was probably still talking to whomever had been behind Mussorgsky, earlier, and Dave so did not have time for another two trips in the slowest elevator known to man.

“Okay,” he said. “I know these were due today. Has anybody been talking about anything really last-minute that they’ve been working on?”

Scary engineer guy looked insulted. “We do our shit on time here, buddy. I don’t know where you think you get off–”

“There a problem?”

Dave glanced up; a head was poking over the cubicle partition, a very nonthreatening head–dark curly hair, surprisingly pretty face, politely inquiring expression.

“This guy–” scary engineer started, jerking a thumb at Dave.

“I just need,” said Dave, slowly and loudly, “the design specs that Reggie was supposed to have by today. He’s meeting with the client in fifteen minutes, and–”

This guy,” says the engineer, “barged in, interrupted me, doesn’t have enough information to get him anywhere, and won’t listen to me when I say I can’t help him. Trevor can deal with you, dude,” he said to Dave, “because I am done.”

Trevor, apparently the new, non-scary engineer, frowned. “Reggie’s project? That was supposed to go upstairs on Friday; Martin had it, didn’t he?”

Dave’s scary friend shrugged. “Like I ever know what Martin’s doing.”

“He should have it on his computer,” and Trevor’s head popped out of view, and then reappeared a second later attached to a body coming into the cubicle. “Come on, we can check it out.”

“So if Martin has it, why didn’t he send it up to us? And where is he?” Dave asked, following Trevor into yet another cubicle.

Shrug. “God knows. Extended coffee break. And Martin’s sort of a flake, I bet he just forgot. I have his password, though, don’t tell anyone.” He logged on, clicked through a few folders–Dave stared at the clock on the screen and tried not to fidget too obviously–and eventually said, “Okay, yeah, here it is.”

“Is it done?” Dave asked.

There was a pause, during which Dave breathed carefully and told himself that none of this was his fault, and finally Trevor said, “Yeah, looks like it. I’ll email it to you.”

“Can you print it out? Reggie needs to hand it to the client in like, ten minutes.”

“Sure, I can do both. Here,” he clicked, “it’s printing. Give me your company email address, and I’ll send it to you.”

“Sure, it’s just my last name, Langdon.”

Trevor called up IE and typed for a second. “Okay–there you are, Mr. Langdon.”

“Dave,” said Dave. “Listen, thank you. You are seriously saving my life here. If there’s anything I can do for you–”

Trevor shook his head, laughing. “No, man, it’s not a problem, it’s like two minutes out of my day and another excuse to give Martin a hard time. Don’t worry about it. Here, the printer’s over here.”

He pulled the papers off the printer, produced a binder to put them in, and handed them to Dave with a bright flash of a smile. “I’d work up a nice shiny cover for you too, but you have like five minutes.”

“This is enough, this is awesome, thank you,” said Dave, and ran for the elevator.

Thank God, the slowest elevator known to man came promptly for once, and he got upstairs and into Reggie’s office with two minutes to spare.

“Cutting it close there, Dave,” Reggie said.

Dave held up his hands. “Please blame some guy named Martin in R&D.”

“This shit has got to stop,” said Reggie again, and waved Dave out.

Dave went back to R&D the next day, after a late evening finishing everything up, a giant hamburger, and eight hours of sleep. He snuck past the scary guy’s cubicle and poked his head into the one he thought was Trevor’s.

Sure enough, there was a curly dark head bent over a laptop–the cubicle’s desktop was on too, and there were shapes and equations up on the screen–and Dave had to clear his throat and eventually say, “Excuse me, Trevor?” before Trevor looked up.

“Dave,” he said, smiling. “What’s up? Martin lose something else you need?”

“No, no,” said Dave, “I just wanted to say thanks for yesterday, and, um, sorry I was sort of an asshole about it at first. I was under stress.”

“Hey, no, I totally get it,” said Trevor. “Your boss needed the stuff, he was probably upset, it’s fine. No need to apologize.”

“Well, anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for helping out, and maybe I could buy your morning coffee or something?” Dave smiled, hopeful. The way he’d pissed off one member of R&D yesterday, he could use an ally. Especially if any of the others were as useless as Martin.

Trevor glanced back at his laptop screen, and up at Dave again, and finally smiled. He had a really impressive smile, Dave thought, wide and bright and sincere. The smile of a genuinely nice guy. “Sure,” said Trevor, “I’ll take you up on that. You on break now?”

“Yeah,” said Dave. “I thought Starbucks.”

“Sure,” said Trevor again. “Let me just close this, and we can head out.”

“So you’re an engineer working for a big company,” said Dave. “Which means I have to ask.”

Trevor raised his eyebrows over his Americano. “Hit me.”

“Dilbert: true to life?”

Trevor snorted into his coffee, set it down, and laughed. “Some parts. I mean, management does not always understand how science works, no offense.”

“I will be the first to tell you that I don’t understand how science works,” said Dave. “We had to take, like, one hard science in college? And I took linguistics.”

“Linguistics,” said Trevor, “is not a hard science.”

“Tell that to my general ed requirements,” said Dave. “I was pretty happy about it, because I’m just, I don’t know, missing the part of my brain that can deal with physics and biology and shit like that. I was even afraid to take Rocks for Jocks.”

“That is pretty sad,” said Trevor, raising an eyebrow. “Because I can bet Linguistics 101 was harder than Rocks for Jocks. Even if it isn’t a science.”

“There was a lab and stuff, I don’t know. We learned about the brain. We didn’t have to mix chemicals or measure how fast stuff falls, so I was happy.” Dave shrugged. “Anyway, there has to be a subject you were terrible at, at least so I can feel better about myself. You can tell me all about how you struggled through your English lit requirement. Lie if you have to.”

Trevor snickered. “I was okay at English. The social sciences were where I sucked. Psychology and whatever, sociology. People are fun to, you know, talk to and hang out with and date, but make them the subject of an experiment and you come up with some weird shit.”

“I believe it,” said Dave.

Trevor raised an eyebrow at Dave, lurking in the entrance to Trevor’s cubicle. “You’re here.”

“Reggie is really pissed at Martin, and, uh, sort of R&D in general, not that he has any right to be,” said Dave, smiling with some embarrassment. “And he wants me to hand-carry the Bauer-Sikes project up to him the second it’s due, which is five PM today.” He held up his hands. “Sorry. You don’t deserve it.”

“It’s okay,” said Trevor easily. “I understand, after what happened last time. I’m sorry you have to come running up and down like this. You’re not actually Reggie’s assistant, are you?”

“Uh, no,” said Dave. “I have my own job, sort of. But Reggie’s my boss, so when he tells me to do stuff, I do it.”

“Sound business practice,” said Trevor. “Well, you’re in luck; I just finished the finishing touches on the Bauer-Sikes thing. There’s even a shiny cover. Here, I’ll print it out and I’ll email it to Reggie and CC you.” He bent over his desktop.

Dave leaned against the cubicle doorway to wait. Trevor’s cubicle was actually pretty nice, in a geeky sort of way; he hadn’t even really glanced around before, too busy talking to the man himself, but there was a Star Trek poster up on one wall, and a couple of what looked like professional photographs on the other, really nice black-and-white shots. And he had little novelty items hanging out on the desk, and a Post-It up on the wall that said, “Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo” which made Dave laugh a little to himself.

“Done,” said Trevor. “Let’s go grab the paper copy, and you’ll be free.”

Dave grinned, and nodded at the poster. “You’re a Trekkie?”

“Guilty,” said Trevor. “I own my stereotypes.”

“I don’t know,” said Dave, following Trevor to the printer, “you don’t seem like the stereotypical geek to me.”

Trevor stopped by the printer, turned, and gave him the eyebrow again. Dave wondered if he’d gotten it from Spock. “Oh yeah?”

Dave felt himself blushing a little, and wasn’t quite sure why. “I mean,” he said, “I just wouldn’t have pegged you as a–you know, someone who likes sci-fi and, and knows what quarks are and whatever, just from looking at you.”

“Thank-you-I-think,” said Trevor, grinning.

“Sorry, I–” Dave started, but Trevor shook his head.

“No, it’s a compliment. Here, let me get a cover on this for you.”

“Thanks,” said Dave, and shut up before he could say anything else bad about science, scientists, or science fiction.

Trevor handed him the folder with another killer smile, and said, “I hope your boss will be satisfied after this.”

“Wouldn’t count on it,” Dave said. “He’s a little ticked off. You might see me down here again.”

Trevor’s smile was slower this time. “Looking forward to it.”

“Um,” said Dave, “yeah. Me too,” and fled to the safety of the slowest elevator known to man.

Because okay, the reason Dave totally would not have pegged Trevor as a geek was actually because he looked really, really metro. Today was casual Friday and he’d been in these jeans that were sort of tight around the hips, and this kind of clinging shirt, and also he smiled really big and stood sort of close and holy fuck, had he really been flirting?

Because Dave hadn’t been flirting. Not on purpose. And he was going to have to be careful from now on–if he ever had to go down to R&D again, maybe Reggie would be satisfied after this–not to, like, give Trevor the wrong idea. He wouldn’t want to be a tease, for God’s sake.

“Boss not satisfied?” Trevor asked, smiling.

“I think this is just part of my job description now,” Dave said. “Which is fine, I mean. Unless I ever have to get something from your buddy in the next cubicle.”

“Bob’s harmless,” said Trevor. “You just caught him at a bad time, and you were at a bad time, and you clashed. It’ll be fine. But if you’re ever really scared, you can come get me and I’ll get the project for you.”

“Thanks,” said Dave, smiling back.

“Although I do feel bad, that you have to do all this running around, when it’s totally not your job, just because we fucked up,” said Trevor. “How about I buy you coffee this time? It’s only fair.”

“Oh,” said Dave, “you don’t have to do that. Like I said, it’s fine. Except for the elevator,” he added after a second. “I hate the elevator.”

“There you go,” said Trevor. “Coffee as compensation for mental distress caused by our shitty elevator. You have time now?”

“Sure, okay,” said Dave, and it was only when Trevor was logging off from his desktop that he realized he should probably have said no. Whoops.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” said Trevor. “I mean, sure, once upon a time I wanted to save the world and invent perpetual motion and whatever. But I like designing things, I like my job. And I build stuff in my free time, like, I’ve been learning how to make furniture.”

“Seriously?” Dave blinked.

“Yeah, a couple of weeks ago I finished this chair, it doesn’t even wobble. It’s pretty great,” and the killer smile reappeared. “So, I don’t mind working for the soulless corporate machine. I’m doing okay. You?”

“Oh,” said Dave, “well, me. I mean, I have an MBA, I was always pretty sure that I was going to work at a company. But I don’t,” he shifted in his seat, “okay, don’t, like, tell Reggie about this, but I don’t know how much longer I want to stay here. Long enough to get some more experience, definitely long enough to make sure I look reliable and willing to put forth my time and effort, but–” he stopped.

Trevor raised an eyebrow. “But?”

“I really want to own my own company, someday,” said Dave. “If I could do it sooner rather than later, that would be awesome. I don’t know, it’s really hard to get a business going these days, but. It’s something I want.” He shrugged, and stared down at his coffee.

“Then you should go for it, obviously,” said Trevor, and when Dave looked up he was smiling again.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m planning on it.”

Reggie kept sending Dave down to R&D, and Dave and Trevor went out to coffee a couple more times. Dave tried to keep an eye out–it was hard, he never really thought about Trevor angling for anything while they were together, the guy was just too nice–but while Trevor still sort of read as flirty, he hadn’t tried anything, hadn’t even suggested they do anything more than have coffee once in a while.

So there was no reason to try and back off, if nothing weird was going on. And really, Dave reminded himself, he didn’t even know Trevor was gay. It wasn’t like Dave had anything like a functioning gaydar. Trevor was probably just friendly, and Dave had had a paranoid homophobic moment.

He felt pretty bad about that, actually, so he didn’t wait until Reggie sent him down after some design or other, just wandered off to Trevor the next time he had a question for R&D instead of emailing the manager.

This time, when he showed up at the cubicle, Trevor was kicked back in his chair, building some sort of crazy structure out of paperclips. It was the first time Dave had caught Trevor doing anything but working hard, and he kept quiet for a second, watching. Trevor was linking the paperclips together ridiculously fast–he had these really long fingers, and they were twisting around each other, creating this intricate pattern of paperclip-mesh that was fitting into some sort of three-dimensional figure

Dave cleared his throat. “Hey.”

Trevor jumped, only just saved the paperclip creation from falling onto the floor, and twisted around in his chair. “Dave!” he said. “Uh. Hi. I was just…creating a concept map for a product.”

His smile was bright, self-deprecating, and Dave said, “Words just came out of your mouth, but I don’t think they mean anything.”

Trevor laughed, quick and bright. “Okay, yeah, you caught me making paperclip art. What’s up? I know I’m not working on anything of yours right now.”

“Yeah–no, I just had a question about this concept I’m thinking of developing, I don’t know if you guys could do anything with it–” and Dave started describing what he wanted. Trevor made encouraging noises, and eventually called up a design program and starts filling in variables, creating shapes on the screen.

“Awesome,” said Dave. “Yes. That is so cool how you do that.”

Trevor shrugged. “Experience. Want me to run this by Gary, get it all official?”

“Yeah–actually, I’ll email him, tell him I want it and to talk to you, how’s that?”

“Great,” said Trevor, smiling.

“Great,” Dave echoed. He hesitated–he didn’t really have anything else to say, and it was nowhere near time for his break or Trevor’s, so coffee was out, but he really didn’t want to go back to work. Paperclip art actually sounded pretty good. Staying here and watching Trevor make paperclip art might be even better; less potential for frustration.

“Hey, listen,” said Trevor, after a few seconds had gone by and Dave hadn’t left. “I had this idea.”

“Shoot,” said Dave, grateful.

“So it was my birthday last week–”

“Really?” Dave said, surprised. “You didn’t say anything.”

“I didn’t–I mean, it wasn’t a big deal,” said Trevor, shrugging. “I didn’t want you to think that I was telling you to, like, bring me a present or anything.”

“I would have,” said Dave, impulsively. “Economy-sized box of paperclips. Or, I don’t know. Tron on DVD.”

“Own it,” said Trevor, smiling. “Though I’m impressed that you know what Tron is.”

“Internet,” said Dave. “Anyway, I wouldn’t have minded.”

“Okay, well, here, you can give me something else. Because my sister got me this gigantic gift card to Olive Garden–I know, what?” he said when Dave gave him an eyebrow. “But okay, sure, she thinks I should get out more.”

“I’m sure you get out plenty,” said Dave, and instantly wondered if that sounded as suggestive to Trevor as it did to him.

Trevor just grinned, though, and said, “Well, I go out, but mostly it’s with the same, like, two people I’ve been friends with since college. So I thought I could branch out a little, do something with somebody new. What do you say?”

Dave tried to do a lightning-fast is-this-a-date analysis, but all he could come up with was a vague feeling that it probably wasn’t. So–“Okay,” he said, “sure. Yeah. When were you thinking?”

“Awesome,” said Trevor, “thanks, man. Whenever’s good for you is fine. Maybe Friday? Seven-ish?”

“Uh, sure,” said Dave, wondering if this affected the date-or-no-date question. “Friday’s good for me.”

“Great–here, give me your number.” Trevor pulled out his phone, and Dave rattled off his number. Trevor pushed a couple of buttons and said, “Okay, I just texted you olive garden 7 pm friday, so now you have mine too. I’ll see you then?”

“Sure,” said Dave, carefully not panicking.

One upside of this, at least, was that he no longer wanted to waste his afternoon hanging out in Trevor’s cubicle watching him twist paperclips together. “Friday,” Dave said, and made his escape.

So it wasn’t a date. Trevor had very clearly compared it to hanging out with one of his college buddies, so unless he was in some sort of kinky gay threesome with them–stop it, Dave told himself. Trevor was just an ordinary guy, whether he was gay or not. He and Dave were sort of friends, he liked Dave and Dave liked him, there was no reason not to eat some Italian food and have a good time.

Friday, he went home from work and changed clothes, caught himself putting on one of his more casual date outfits, almost changed back into his suit, almost changed into ancient baggy sitting-around-the-house clothes (just to send a clear message), and finally said, “Fuck it,” and kept the date outfit. It was a restaurant outfit, really, preppy casual, nice without being at all formal. Nothing wrong with wearing clothes appropriate to the setting.

Trevor was five minutes late, which Dave wouldn’t have expected, and he spent the next five minutes apologizing for it, which was out of character enough to raise Dave’s eyebrows. Maybe Trevor thought this was a date, and he was nervous–stop it.

“Seriously, man, it’s okay,” said Dave as the waiter poured their water.

“I just–something came up, and–okay, never mind, we’re here now. Let’s eat some goddamn Italian food,” said Trevor, opening the menu. “Thanks,” he added to the waiter.

“I’m thinking alfredo sauce,” said Dave.

“I really, really need some lasagna right now,” said Trevor. “Also wine. I think we should have some wine.”

“I have no problem with wine,” said Dave, wondering to himself. Trevor was fidgeting a little. So far none of this looked like date-related jitters, which was a relief, but what the fuck was bothering him, otherwise?

There was a lull while Dave perused the alfredo options, and then the waiter came back and took Trevor’s wine order, which Dave had approved, and their food orders–Dave had decided on the fettuccine, with chicken–and went away again.

“So, you seem a little stressed out,” said Dave cautiously. “Everything okay?”

Trevor glanced up, looking guilty. “I’m sorry,” he said. “There was just this–this thing happened,” he waved a hand, “and now I’m a little on edge. I don’t mean to fuck up the evening.”

“It’s okay,” said Dave for the millionth time. “I mean, nothing better than huge amounts of Italian food if you’re on edge. That and the wine will probably put you into a coma by the time we’re done.”

Trevor smiled, but it was a little grim; nothing like his usual thousand-watt. “Here’s hoping.” Then he seemed to shake himself out of it, and said, “Before I fall unconscious, though, I was going to ask you what you did outside of work. All we ever talk about are Reggie’s projects. You have any hobbies?”

“Oh,” said Dave, “well, uh.”

Trevor grinned, and this time it looked closer to normal. “You can tell me. Even if it’s something really embarrassing, like amateur porn. I’ll understand.”

“Okay, it’s not amateur porn,” said Dave.

“There you go. Must be less embarrassing than that.”

“Well, it’s really just sort of boring. I play the piano.”

“Oh, yeah?” said Trevor, actually looking a little interested–probably just polite, but still. “That’s cool. I am so not musical, it’s really sad. I like listening to it, but I’ve never even played, like, Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“I could probably teach you Mary Had a Little Lamb,” said Dave before he thought.

Trevor smiled again, and this time it was slower, and looked even more real. “I may take you up on that, then. Just so I can say I have.”

Dave took a drink of water. “Sure,” he said. “Just say when.”

“Awesome.” Trevor was still smiling, looking happy. “But you, I bet you can play more than nursery rhymes, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Dave admitted. “I had lessons since I was a little kid–I still take lessons, is that lame or what? Never stopped for more than six months or so, I get all antsy and I miss it.”

“So you’re really, really good, is what you’re saying.” Trevor was leaning back in his seat now, arm up on the top of the booth, still smiling.


Trevor raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” said Dave. “I’m really good. I thought about playing professionally for about five minutes, in college, but I don’t like performing enough. I mean, I like playing, but I don’t like sitting in front of people and playing and waiting for them to clap. I like to connect with people one-to-one, sit down and talk to them, and I just–I don’t know. I know people who feel like performing for an audience is this really intimate thing, that it draws you in close to everyone who’s watching, but,” he shrugged, “I don’t feel it.”

“But you like to play,” said Trevor, who had been listening very intently.

“I love to play,” said Dave. “So yeah, I sound really impressive, but not usually to more people than, like, me and my piano teacher and sometimes some of my friends.”

“I think that when you teach me how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb, you should play something for me,” said Trevor.

Dave took a breath. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, okay.”

Trevor smiled. “Good.”

Dave drank more water and said quickly, “Okay, so how about you? You build stuff, you said?”

“Yeah,” said Trevor, “and that’s a great hobby, but I’ve got something more exciting that I do for fun, when I need to blow off some steam.”

“Oh yeah,” Dave said, nodding. “Amateur porn, right?”

Trevor burst out laughing. “No, not amateur porn. No, I skydive.”

Dave blinked. “What?”

“Skydive,” said Trevor, smiling. “I go up in a plane and jump out of it with a parachute.”

He looked serious. Dave said, “Like, a lot?”

“Once a month at least,” said Trevor. “I’m certified and everything. It’s really awesome, you should try it sometime.”

“Huh,” said Dave. “It’s–I mean, okay, obviously it can’t be that dangerous, or you would have fallen to your death by now.”

“Totally safe,” said Trevor. “And it’s such a rush, you have no idea. And being able to control your descent is so, so cool. You could strap yourself to me, the first time–or to an instructor, or whatever. You should really come sometime, I think you’d love it.”

“You know,” said Dave slowly, “I think you’re right.” It wasn’t something he’d ever thought about doing more than in the abstract–because it wasn’t something that people did, really, it was like bungee-jumping or deep-sea diving or whatever, something that sounded cool but nobody you knew had ever really done it. But if it was real, in the here and now, something that this guy across the table from him did all the time, and that Dave could really do anytime he wanted to–“Yeah,” he said. “I’d like to go sometime.”

“Awesome.” Travis grinned. “This can be like my payment for the piano lesson.”

“I will bet money that skydiving costs more than a piano lesson,” said Dave.

“Congratulations, you win!” said Trevor. “The money you won is equivalent to…one skydive. Less the value of a piano lesson.”

“Ha ha,” said Dave. “No, really–I mean, I don’t even know when I’d do it, but I can pay for it.”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Trevor. “I mean, I have so many special discounts and credit from being a repeat customer that it’s not that big of a deal.”

“Let’s argue about this later,” said Dave. “Look, here’s our wine.”

“Sorry for the wait,” said the waiter. “Your food should be here shortly.”

“Oh, awesome,” said Trevor, and poured himself a glass. He stared at it for a second, and Dave could see him remembering whatever had been messing him up. He held up his glass and put on a smile. “To skydiving?”

“Skydiving,” said Dave, and they drank.

“Good,” said Trevor. “I’m not much of a wine connoisseur, but I OD’d on the cheap shit in college and I can’t drink it anymore, so I know a little bit.”

“My mom is really into wine,” said Dave. “She made us learn to appreciate it, like, way before we were legal. We were all European about it, wine with dinner from age fifteen or so.”

“That’s awesome. I should have had you pick,” said Trevor.

“I said this would be good,” said Dave, “and it is, so I think you did okay.”

“So you must not have drunk the cheap shit in college, then, if you were used to the good stuff.”

“Nope,” said Dave. “My friends all called me a pretentious asshole, but I had to be pretty plastered before I could even look at the stuff they bought. I was okay with cheap beer, though. More okay than was probably, you know. Smart.”

Trevor snickered. “I don’t think they give you your degree if you can’t prove that you’ve overdone the cheap beer at least a little bit.”

“Couldn’t disprove that theory with my graduating class, at least,” Dave agreed. “Which was great, because otherwise I would have been shit out of luck at half the parties I went to.”

“My ex–” said Trevor, and stopped.

There was sort of a long pause, and Dave was about to say, Yeah? encouragingly, when the food arrived. So there were five minutes of standard waiter lines about hot plates and enjoying everything, and they took their first bites and talked about how good it was, until finally Dave swallowed, took a sip of wine, and said, “So, your ex?”

Trevor took a breath. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, okay. My ex, he knew a lot about wine.”

There was just the tiniest flicker of Trevor’s eyes, up to Dave’s face and then back to his plate, and Dave should have been–something, he didn’t even know anymore, he should have had some reaction, but at this point, there was just a complete lack of surprise. He said, “Oh, yeah? He get really into it?”

“Yeah,” said Trevor, and Dave could see him relax just a tiny bit, “enough to make me feel like a complete hick whenever I tried to order it–like, ‘oh, you can’t get that with lasagna, the bouquet will clash with the sauce,’ or whatever. After we broke up, it was just so great to be able to order whatever wine I wanted without having him breathing down my neck about it.”

“Well,” said Dave, “I’m not going to give you a hard time. Just because I know way more than anyone should about wine doesn’t mean anybody else shouldn’t enjoy whatever they’re having.”

“Fucking right,” said Trevor, and took a big drink.

There were a couple of minutes of eating; Trevor finished his first glass and poured another, and after a second, he said, “So, my ex.”

“Yeah?” said Dave, carefully.

“He called me tonight,” Trevor said, looking down at his lasagna. “That’s why I was a little messed up, before. That’s all.”

Dave twined fettuccine around his fork. “He was being an asshole?”

“No, he–” Trevor sighed. “Yes. Yes, he was. I’m always trying to make excuses for him, you know? And this friend of mine, he finally pointed it out, said I was letting him do shit he couldn’t get away with, and he was right.” He stopped. “Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Dave. “You can talk about it if you want. I don’t mind.” And weirdly, it was true–Dave wanted to know about this ex, wanted to know who he was and why Trevor had dated him if he was such an asshole, and why the hell he was calling Trevor up out of the blue and messing with his head.

And really, it was so weird to see Trevor anything less than completely at ease, comfortable within himself, totally put together, that Dave couldn’t help but want to know what had jarred him out of it.

“He–” said Trevor, and then stopped, and then started again. “He was like the perfect guy. The wine thing, that’s just the beginning. He was–you know, whatever, gorgeous and athletic and confident and always knew what to say and what to wear and how to look. And I was always sort of struggling after him. Except, of course, he always knew what to say to make me feel better about myself.” He shook his head, took another drink. “But the flip side of that is that when we started to fight, he always knew what to say to make me feel like shit. And now that we agreed that we’d rather be friends than hate each other, he likes to call me up and ask me how I’m doing, and of course I’m still single and working at the same job and skydiving on the weekends for a cheap thrill, and I ask how he’s doing and he’s moving up the corporate ladder and he has a new boyfriend and he’s taken up fucking show jumping because of Micah’s family’s ranch thing that they own. And I can’t even prove he’s doing it on purpose, because all he’s really done is.. .call me up and ask me how I’m doing.”

“Are you kidding?” said Dave. “Of course he’s doing it on purpose. You don’t call up your ex and ask how she–he’s doing unless you’re pretty sure you’re doing better. That is, like, the most classic passive-aggressive put-down tactic in the book.”

A little twitch of a smile. “Thanks. I think.”

“He’s fucking with your head,” said Dave firmly.

“I don’t know that that’s better than him accidentally making me feel bad because he’s legitimately concerned about my welfare,” Trevor pointed out.

Dave considered that. “Yeah, okay. That sucks. Have some more wine.” He poured.

“Thanks,” said Trevor.

By the time dinner was over, Dave had had a glass and a half and Trevor had finished the bottle and eventually ordered another, but Dave figured Trevor deserved it, especially after he said, quietly, “That wasn’t really what he was doing tonight, though.” Dave had looked open and raised his eyebrows and even made an encouraging gesture, but Trevor just shook his head and said, “Never mind.”

Now, though, Dave had to keep a steadying hand on Trevor’s arm as they left the restaurant, and it was dawning on him that Trevor was in no shape to drive. In fact, as they turned into the parking lot, Trevor made a wrong move that ended up with him plastered against Dave’s side, warm and solid and smelling–Dave didn’t know how he hadn’t noticed this before; of course, they’d never touched before tonight–smelling really good, and Dave finally had to give up and admit it: he was attracted to Trevor.

“I fucking hate him,” Trevor said, low in his ear. “He called me and he said these things to me, and he makes me feel like a worthless human being, which sucks because most of the time I like being me, I like my life and my job and my chair that I made, and I think I’m doing okay, and then he calls me up and he says I’m worried that you’re stagnating, and you haven’t been with anyone since we were together, have you? and I was talking to your mom today–my mom loves him, I can’t handle it sometimes–and she agrees with me; when was the last time you even met a new person? And I’m a fucking–I have a good job, I exercise, I eat good food, I build things, I have friends, how the fuck can he make me feel like my life is nothing?”

“Hey,” said Dave, helplessly; his face was practically in Trevor’s hair, and it was the wrong time to be having this epiphany, wrong wrong wrong, “Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay. God, he’s an asshole. You are so right about yourself, you’re awesome–you know, I’m totally jealous of you? You’re always smiling, you always know what’s going on, you do the best work of anybody in R&D, even Reggie notices, and he could give a fuck about that sort of thing.”

He could feel Trevor smiling, into his shoulder. His hand was in Trevor’s hair, somehow, it was warm and rippling under his fingers, and they weren’t even moving forward anymore, just standing in the parking lot. “Thanks,” said Trevor, muffled. “Thank you, Dave. I like you, I’m glad you like me, I was glad right from the beginning, when I rescued you from Bob.”

Dave snorted a laugh. “Thanks for that.”

“You said thanks before,” said Trevor, lifting up his head, and now Dave was staring into his eyes, oh yeah, that was not better at all, because they were this deep, endless dark brown, God, he’d never wanted another guy this much. “You bought me coffee,” said Trevor, and his breath was warm and smelled like wine. “That made me really happy, when you did that.”

“Good,” said Dave, breathing fast. “And–okay, you met a new person, you met me. So fuck your ex.”

“No,” said Trevor. “I don’t want to anymore. Even if he was fantastic in bed. Of course.”

That information made Dave a little annoyed, and he said, “Okay, look. I’m going to drive you home. Tell me where you live and I’ll take you there, and then you can call me tomorrow morning and I’ll drive you back here to pick up your car, okay?”

“Sure,” said Trevor. “Sounds like a plan.”

Dave turned them toward his car and started walking again; he had no idea if Trevor had taken that in or would remember in the morning; he’d leave a note.

“Hello?” said Dave.

“Uh,” said his phone.

Dave grinned to himself. “Hi, Trevor. How’s the hangover?”

“Not too bad, actually,” said Trevor. “Honestly, barely even there. I mean, I don’t get hangovers that badly anyway, but–how much water did you make me drink last night?”

“Lots,” said Dave. “Ready to go pick up your car?”

“Uh, yeah,” said Trevor. “Except listen, I was mostly calling to let you off the hook, public transit is pretty easy from my place, it won’t be hard to–”

“No, come on,” said Dave. “I want to take you. I’m leaving now.”

He put down one more you-don’t-have-to, and drove to Trevor’s place. Trevor met him at the door to his building, and got in the car.

“So,” he said.

“Good morning,” said Dave. “Want to stop and get coffee?”

“I think that’s a good idea,” said Trevor.

They found a Starbucks right near the Olive Garden, and sat inside. Trevor said, “Okay, so I need to apologize for last night. Actually, I’m pretty sure I need to take you out again, sometime when I’m in a better mood and not planning on getting plastered, just to make up for it.”

“Okay, no,” said Dave, “it was fine. I mean, I’m sorry you were so upset, but you weren’t really plastered until the very end, and I guess–”

“Yeah?” said Trevor after a second.

“I’m glad you told me about him,” said Dave finally. “I mean, it’s good to–know that about you.”

Trevor blinked. “To know that my ex-boyfriend was perfect and I’m insecure about it?”

“No, just–I mean, I meant what I said last night. You’re always so together, totally on the ball. And you fucking skydive. It’s nice to know you have problems like the rest of us.” Dave frowned. “I don’t know if that came out quite right.”

“How about, ‘it was nice to get to know you better, Trevor, even if I did have to drive you home after you collapsed all over me’.”

Dave breathed. “It was nice to get to know you better, Trevor.”

Trevor was quiet for a minute, watching him. Dave started fidgeting with his coffee cup after about thirty seconds, and finally he couldn’t take it anymore and said, “I have this ex-girlfriend who does the same thing, except she’s mostly a really nice person, so it comes out like, ‘oh, I’m so glad you’re doing so well, Dave! Let me tell you about Roy and the kids, everything is so amazing here, isn’t it great our lives are so good, except I just wish you could meet somebody’–like she’s really enthusiastic. But it drives me crazy, every single time. Now I only pick up to her when I can say that I have, like, a meeting in five minutes.”

“I should try that,” said Trevor. “Or maybe just not pick up at all.”

“Better, maybe,” said Dave. “Because it’s like–she broke my fucking heart.” It hurts, actually, still after all this time, just a little bit. He hates thinking about it, doesn’t even know why he brought it up. “And she just calls me like it’s nothing. I don’t know. It sucks.”

“It sucks,” says Trevor. “Exes suck. Let’s not talk about exes anymore.”

“Okay,” said Dave, and stopped.

“I think,” said Trevor, “I mean, I wasn’t asking you out, when I asked you to dinner on Friday.” There was a pause. “Much.”

Dave was suddenly too nervous to laugh, although he sort of wanted to. “And I–” he said. “I didn’t want it to be a date, um. Much.”

“Okay,” said Trevor, while Dave worked on breathing without passing out. “Can I maybe–” he reached out.

Dave leaned forward just a little, and Trevor’s thumb settled onto his jaw, and then Trevor leaned over their tiny Starbucks table and kissed him softly.

Dave was still struggling to breathe, and when Trevor leaned back again, he said, “I want. I–want–”

“Okay,” said Trevor quietly.

“I never–”

“I know,” just as quietly. “Where do you want to go?”

Dave sucked in air. “Your place,” he said.

“My place it is,” said Trevor, and smiled, and suddenly Dave could breathe again.

He followed Trevor in his car, and followed him into the building, and up the stairs and into Trevor’s apartment, and suddenly he was in Trevor’s apartment, which he’d seen very briefly last night, but only enough to firmly detach Trevor and let him fall into bed, and then scribble a little note to leave on the night table.

“Okay?” Trevor asked, watching him. Dave nodded. “Okay,” Trevor said again, and leaned in and kissed him.

This kiss was a little deeper, a little more pressure, and Dave could breathe, he wanted this, so he opened his mouth under Trevor’s and tasted Trevor’s tongue, put his hands up behind Trevor’s neck, sliding into his curly hair, pulled Trevor close up against him. God, he was so fucking warm, smelled so good–

“Dave, fuck,” said Trevor into his mouth, “wanted you.”

“You did?” said Dave, maybe sounding like he was fishing for compliments–duh, Trevor wanted him, who was here having sex with him?–but also on some level, really genuinely surprised.

“Bedroom,” said Trevor, pulling Dave backwards with him. “I wanted you from the beginning; you were so hot, even clenching your fists in Bob’s cubicle.” He lay back on the bed, pulling Dave down, spreading his legs around him, holy fuck, kissing him. “Fuck, and you’d come down every other day, like you had a crush on me or something–”

“God, I did,” Dave said, licking over Trevor’s jaw, down his neck, to his collarbone, sucking. “I didn’t know, I didn’t realize, but I wanted you so bad.”

“I thought–” Trevor breathed. “I thought about it. That day you came in and I had that paperclip thing, I was thinking about you coming in, about pressing you up against the wall and jerking you off until you just couldn’t keep quiet anymore–”

Dave whispered fuck, fuck, fuck against Trevor’s skin, and then opened his mouth against it again, while Trevor’s hands flexed on his ass, and pulled him upward until their erections lined up. Dave twitched and moaned, licking his way back into Trevor’s mouth–holy fucking Christ he tasted good, and he bit at Dave’s mouth and arched up beneath him, making high, sharp noises.

“Clothes off,” Trevor gasped, pushing at him. “Come on, let’s at least do this naked.”

Dave pulled himself off with an effort, and concentrated on breathing while he pulled off his shirt, took off his shoes, socks, pants, boxers. Naked, he looked down at naked Trevor, and he shuddered–God, he’d only had the briefest flirtation with cock before, in college, and he hadn’t hated it but he hadn’t thought he’d ever want it this much. He leaned forward, and before he really knew what was going on, he was on his knees, bending toward Trevor’s cock.

“Holy fuck,” said Trevor above him. “Okay. Okay, you can do this if you want, just be careful, don’t try to take too much. Use your hand. Watch out for your teeth.”

Dave waited, but that appeared to be it, so he wrapped his hand around Trevor’s dick, opened his mouth and, careful of his teeth, slid down over Trevor’s cock.

It was hot and full but not unpleasant, and when he sucked a little, Trevor made a strangled noise that he wanted to hear again. He tried a little more, listening for it, and got it after a few seconds spent tonguing the underside.

“Oh, man,” said Trevor. “Oh, man. Okay, come on, get up here.”

He almost didn’t want to stop, but Trevor’s hands were pulling him up, and he went with it, until he was stretched out against Trevor’s naked body, those long-fingered hands splayed on his back, Trevor hot underneath him, and Trevor kissed him and spread his legs, and their cocks slid against each other; Dave whimpered a little.

“You close?” Trevor whispered. “Oh, this is going to be so good. Come on, Dave. Come for me.”

Dave heard himself making more noises, and then Trevor hooked a hand around the back of his head and pulled him down for a wet, hungry kiss, and that was too much, he was coming between their bodies, hot and wet and fucking finally.

Trevor groaned at the sensation, and redoubled his kissing. Dave gasped for air between kisses, weirdly buzzed despite the orgasm, and levered himself up just enough to work a hand between their bodies. Trevor arched into his hand, and came after only a few jerks.

Dave let himself fall back down next to Trevor, left hand forgotten on Trevor’s stomach, not thinking about it quite yet. He buried his face in Trevor’s neck.

After a second, he felt Trevor’s hand on the back of his neck, stroking, and heard his voice saying, “Dave, oh man, that was so good, you did it so good–come on, up–” and he lifted his head and kissed Trevor, holding his face with the clean hand, feeling Trevor smile into it.

When he pulled back, Trevor was still smiling, so bright. “So,” said Trevor, “is that offer of Mary Had a Little Lamb still on the table?”

Dave smiled and said, “Yeah, it is.”

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