Hello, Internet! Welcome back Dev Bentham for this week’s edition of Flash Fiction Friday! Today’s tale is a comedy of errors when a frustrated call to tech support leads to a lifetime fix.
Who’s on First? by Dev Bentham
“My god, this is like the old Abbott and Costello routine, ‘Who’s on First?'” I muted my phone, took a deep breath, and tried to restrain my temper. Ever since management decided to have interns take over the IT Help Desk, even the smallest computer glitch had turned into a marathon stint of acrobatic miscommunication. It was past five and I’d already spent an hour in pitched battle with a young woman probably half my age who might know computers but sure as hell didn’t know how to talk. What was it with IT people and communication?
I stared at my frozen screen. Somewhere behind that infuriating blankness sat a day’s worth of work. Untouchable.
“Are you still there?” The kid’s voice squawked from the speaker phone.
Maybe the problem was the middle man in the transaction between the IT intern and my machine. And that would be me. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It wasn’t like she was in another country. The IT department was just down the hall.
“I don’t suppose you could come down to my office and fix this yourself?”
And in that pause I heard decades of office sexual politics—a young woman intern and a thirty something guy working into the night all alone. Sexual harassment wasn’t my style, but how would she know that? Not to mention the fact that no matter what she’d be safe here after hours with gay old me, but that wasn’t something I could easily slip into a conversation about crippled megabits.
I rubbed my forehead. “It’s okay. Let’s start again at the top.”
Who’s on first? What’s on second? I Don’t Know was king of the whole goddamned park.
*** *** ***
The clock read six-fifteen when she finally gave up with a cheerful, “Let me see if I can find my supervisor. I’ll call you back.”
What the hell. It wasn’t like there was anyone waiting for me at home. At least I could catch up on my filing while I waited. And straighten my desk. And read that article I’d been meaning to get to. By the time I was thumbing my grocery list into my phone, it was after seven and my stomach was in full revolt. Still no call.
I grabbed a package of instant noodles from the cache in my desk drawer. It would be just my luck that she’d call back during the three minutes in the break room that it would take me to nuke my pathetic substitute for dinner, but so be it. If I didn’t eat soon I’d start gnawing on the desk.
The office was an eerie place after hours. This wasn’t the sort of high-powered firm where everyone worked late. Most people went home at a reasonable time. Hell, IT Woman had probably hung up the phone on me and gone home to dinner herself. The building echoed with emptiness. If I had any sense I’d go home too. Except the emptiness echoed even more loudly there.
The ding of the microwave startled me. Weird how everyday noises turned spooky in a huge empty office building with no one else around. No matter how often I was the only one left in the office, the eeriness always got to me. I rounded the corner coming back to my cubicle, my mouth full of tasteless noodles. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something move. My heart pounded. I spun toward the shadow. I don’t know what I expected—a monster, zombies, ghosts? What I didn’t expect was a tall, dark man a few years younger than me with chiseled features and just enough of a beard to rough up a man’s inner thighs.
I dropped the cup and noodles spilled all over the floor.
The guy grimaced. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. Your computer is acting up?”
“Um, yeah.” Acting up. Acting out. He was so handsome he could have been an actor. And I was acting pretty fucking weird just standing there staring at him with wet noodles on my shoes. “You don’t look like an intern.”
“No. Not an intern.” He grinned. “You might say I’m their cleanup guy.”
I tried to think of a witty comeback. And failed. “That’s cool.”
Now who was communications challenged?
Mr. Gorgeous looked amused. When I just stood there trying to remember how to be charming, he gestured to the floor. “It’s not my usual cleanup stint, but do you want some help with that?”
I tore my gaze off him and glanced down at the soggy mess of food on the floor.
“No. No.” I knelt and scooped the noodles back into the cup. So much for dinner. I tossed the whole mess in the garbage and gestured to my cubicle. “I’m over here.”
He seemed to find the situation funny. At least that made one of us. I just felt ridiculous. Too many nights spent working alone. I’d forgotten how to flirt.
I leaned against the cubicle wall while Liam, what a great name—the guy was perfect—sat in my chair, typing and clicking and doing magic. I couldn’t take my eyes off the way his shirt was tight across his back and the glimpses I kept getting of the muscles along the back of his neck. I’m not usually a shallow guy, but something about Liam was bringing me to my knees. Not literally, but oh my god, a man could hope.
It took Liam about fifteen minutes to unfreeze my screen and release all that half-finished work. By which point, work was the last thing on my mind. And maybe not on his, either, because he sat there for a few extra seconds without moving.
I cleared my throat. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. “Can I, um, can I buy you dinner? I mean as a thank you?”
He spun around in my chair and looked up at me with big, dark eyes that crinkled at the corners. “Can I trust you around food? Look what happened last time.”
I bit my lower lip. Of course he didn’t want to hang out with a noodle spilling slob. Smooth—that was me.
“I mean,” he continued with a smile, “you haven’t cleaned up the wet spot.”
Wet spot? I stared at him, trying to be sure he was sending the signal I thought he was. He held my gaze for a moment, then did a slow scan of my entire body. Now there was an IT guy who knew how to communicate. I shifted my hips and smiled.
“Aren’t you the forward one.” That whole flirting thing was coming back to me.
“Not really. I’ve seen you around but you’ve always looked too busy to talk.” He patted my computer console. “It took this to get your attention.”
“You’ve got it now.” I cocked my head and looked down at him. “You didn’t do something to make that happen, did you?”
He shook his head. “These things are so buggy I didn’t have to. But would it have been terrible if I did?”
Maybe not. I gestured to the door. “Let’s eat.” And after that…
Who’s on first? Who cared? Liam and I were on our way to a home run.
Buyout—A Love Story
Everyone deserves a second chance. Or do they? Sean and Martim fell in love at Harvard. Things broke apart when Martim fell into a downward spiral of addiction after his father died. Sean kicked him out but has regretted it ever since. He’s never gotten over losing Martim. But then, not many aspects of his life have lived up to his collegiate dreams.
When he’s sent to evaluate Martim’s family hotel for foreclosure, Sean is once again in the position to put Martim out on the street. In the time since they parted, Martim has pulled himself together, although both health and financial problems linger as a result of his years as an addict. Can the two men bridge the gap of distance and time to rekindle their relationship, or will they fall apart again under the burdens of guilt and disease?
Set in Lisbon, Portugal, this is the story of lovers reunited after more than a decade apart, and their second chance at romance.
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Dev Bentham has lived in way too many places and had far too many jobs. She’s finally settled in frozen northern Wisconsin where she teaches online and draws on her former lives to write love stories about mature men searching for true love. Her restless feet take her globetrotting whenever she gets the chance, but most of the time she’s tucked up in her office in the woods dreaming about romance and adventure.
She’s the author of many gay romances, including a DABWAHA finalist, a Rainbow Award Honorable Mention and a Rainbow Awards Finalist.
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