Friday, February 12, 2010

St Crispin’s Fair


Title: St Crispin’s Fair
Author: Ranger

His name was Gareth Faulkner.
I mean with a name like that, you don’t actually NEED to see the face or body, it was clear as day he was going to be a total beefcake. Apparently too he’d been headhunted as one of the hottest young directors in the company which HAD to mean he was going to be under forty and with a waist line you could still actually see, unlike the shirt stuffers that most of the senior staff consist of. His name was all over the building before he even arrived early in December, and the first day he came to work, the Rottweiler from the outer office came in and gave a set of name plates to me with her best freezing look through her designer spectacle rims.
“See these are attached please. Immediately.”


”Yes Delia.”
Everything for her always needs doing immediately. I batted my eyelashes at Tracy who was mouthing “You lucky DOG” back at me, and zoomed off, inspecting the contents of my box. Gareth D. Faulkner. I put one in the carpark to mark his space in among the directors, one at his seat around the boardroom table, one on the empty locker in the locker room by the office gym where I didn’t linger- who wants to see a man of fifty with a paunch on a treadmill, or the pneumatic girls from marketing on their exercise bikes? – and the last one I put up on his office door. The third glass door that led out from the office area Tracy and I shared with the two accountants. And there he was. Standing with the Manging Director and the Rottweiler just outside his door.
HeLLO Adonis.
About yay high- just over six foot maybe- with the build of a young Marlon Brando, all biceps and chest despite his shirt and tie, dark and very short hair immaculately cut, shaven so clean you could market him to Gillete and a smile that stripped the air out of your throat quicker than a vodka and tonic. And green-grey eyes like the pebbles at the bottom of the sea.
“Mr Faulkner,” The Managing Director said affably, “This is Crispin Jones, one of our receptionists.”


”How do you do?” Gareth Faulkner said just like Rhett Butler, extending a hand. I took it, more than ready to be ruthlessly swept up and kissed by the delectable mouth just above a firm chin…. His grasp was firm, his smile faintly quizzical. I gave him the most radiant smile I could come up with.
“Hello Mr Faulkner. Anything I can do for you, just let me know, my desk is right over there.”


Anything at ALL big boy.
“You could start by bringing Mr Faulkner the client files I asked you to put on his desk yesterday.” The Rottweiler said nastily.
“Yes Delia.”


”Now would be nice.”
GrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrSNAP.
I could hear that bark every time she spoke.  I gave her my sweetest “bite me” smile and sashayed back to my desk. Where Tracy flung her mini post-its at me.
“You BOBBED.”

”I did not.” I said indignantly.
“You did.” Tracy retorted. “You do it in bars when you’re chatting up anyone you fancy, you’re making things pretty obvious if you go around curtseying to men you like the look of.”
I ignored that with supreme indifference. Tracy leered at me over her computer top.
“He’s straight anyway, I’ll bet on it.”


”Dream on.” I informed her. “No guy looking THAT well turned out is straight.”
“Rubbish.”
“What’ll you bet?” I demanded. Tracy grinned.
“Dinner out at Maxi’s?”
I threw her post-its back. “You’re on.”
So between phone calls we nipped into the personnel files and pulled out the newly placed confidential file labelled Gareth Faulkner.
“He likes rowing, antiques and walking.” Tracy said, skimming her long, blue polished nail down his application form. “Glad to move here to be near the moors- well he can rescue ME from exposure up there, I shan’t mind-“
“Ha.” I pulled the equal opportunities form out of the back of the file with a quick glance around to check we hadn’t been spotted. Strictly speaking these files were open to the senior execs only, just we as receptionists happened to have all the master keys. I scanned down the file.
“Male, single-“

”He MAY not have checked the box.”

I refused to believe that. Mr Faulkner didn’t look to me like the shrinking violet type.
“Did you check that box when you filled out the application forms?” Tracy asked me. I nodded, distracted.
“Why lie?”
“That’s true. It’s not like it’s not visible at ten paces.”


”Bitch.” I said without heat. “HA, there.” And in spite of myself, my heart leapt. One neat little box, ticked, in the orientation column. Beside a second box ticked ‘single.
Gay.
“YOU owe me dinner.”
“DAMN.” Tracy said sadly. “Why are the good ones ALWAYS inaccessible? Oh well. He might be horrible behind that pretty face.”


”No one with a smile like that could be horrible.” I said triumphantly and returned the file to the cabinet. “I told you.”


”Mr Jones?” a polite voice said behind me. Tracy and I both jumped. And I beamed. He was leaning around the door, a faintly wry smile twisting that gorgeous mouth.
“Mr Faulkner. What can I do for you?”
“There’s no one in reception, Delia’s having to answer your phone and she’s not sounding too happy about it.” He gave me a gentle nod towards the filing cabinets. “Is there anything particular you’re looking for?”
“He was showing me where to look for some information for the pay slips I’m working on.” Tracy sad easily. “I should be fine now Crispin, thanks.”
Yay to quick thinkers. I slipped past Mr Faulkner, gave him a sweet smile in the corridor and trotted upstairs, making sure that he had plenty of time to watch my undulating backside. One of my best features, I kid you not, and I’d worn trousers tight enough for Tracy to ask if they were sprayed on. I had a quick glance back at the top of the stairs and he was looking allright. I gave him a wink and sauntered back towards my desk where Delia’s fangs were dripping with ire.
“WHERE have you been? It is NOT my job to answer phones-“
“Yes Delia.”

Blah blah blah. I don’t know how she walks, her knickers must be garrotting her with the twisting she puts them through. Mr Faulkner was still watching me.

In the next two weeks I made very sure he got every possible opportunity to focus those pretty grey-green eyes on me and to make sure he got the full picture. I took him coffee at every possible opportunity, sat on his desk and fiddled with his pen stand and chatted to him about anything I could hold his attention with, answered as many of his calls as I could to put through to him, made sure that every time he came through the office that he needed to speak to me – even if it was just ‘excuse me’- and he watched me a lot with that inscrutable look he had that made shivers run deliciously down my spine. I wore the tightest trousers I owned, made sure I turned up each day in the crispest shirts I could with the neck as open as possible until Delia snapped at me to put a tie on immediately. And when I found that my Adonis used the gym at seven every morning- wow. I made very sure I was there too at ten to seven every morning in a brief halter top and pink, still briefer shorts, and stretched away in front of him on the weight machines while he ran for his forty minutes on the treadmill. And made sure that he had plenty of chances to see me stretch in the shower too. That man in a damp towel… be still my heart. Tracy was positively green with envy.
He made no actual MOVE and didn’t say anything, but there had to be a good reason why those eyes were on me so often. Oh and I detected this certain glint too. I could see it clearly.
On the Monday of the next week he came in and I was standing on my desk in the reception area putting up the Christmas decorations. And making very sure he was seeing the full length of my legs while I did it.
“Good morning Mr Faulkner.” I said over my shoulder. “I’ve put some wreaths around your door, if you’d like any more decorations up this morning I’ll be happy to come and hang them for you.”


Holly and mistletoe draped ANYWHERE you like sweetheart.
Mr Faulkner smiled but shook his head.  “Thankyou Crispin but I’m sure that’ll be fine. Excuse me.” 

”Anything for you.” I jumped down and got out of his way. “Are you going to the office party on Wednesday?”  
He paused half way to his office and gave me a brief nod. “I thought I’d give it a try.”

Yes. YES. The perfect, utterly PERFECT opportunity. I put the rest of the decorations away, put freecell out of sight on my desk top and went to plot with Tracy who had designs herself on one of the marketing staff for that night.

******  
Office parties, you gotta love them. Everyone drinks way too much, everyone gets way too friendly, it’s total chaos and too noisy for anyone to really notice what’s going on- perfect time to make a move on some gorgeous boy you’ve had your eye RIGHT on for three long weeks. I dressed with especial care that night: my tightest jeans, a crisp white shirt with an open neck, my favourite and lucky pair of red silk shorts… I did when I was done, even if I say so myself, look damn edible.
The party was very much as usual- held in the two offices, loud music, a lot of booze, very quickly noisy and chaotic with seventy people crowded into the two rooms. Dancing, chattering and a lot of drinking started at six pm and by eight pm it was deafening. Mr Faulkner had hovered politely with the senior execs for a while, then vanished into his office and the door had closed. Clearly boozing was not his style. A large group of people, including Delia and Tracy, were singing Let it Snow and throwing handfuls of shredded paper about which seemed to be affording most people the kind of amusement found at the bottom of the Christmas cocktails. I’d had one and nearly melted on the spot. But for what I was planning this evening, I had every intention of being sober enough to fully enjoy it. I slipped quietly up to the door of Mr Faulkner’s office while everyone was occupied, and in the privacy of the corner behind the photocopier, slipped off my shoes and jeans. And slid around the door of his office.
Mr Faulkner was working, vivaldi playing softly on his stereo, drowning out the uproar of the outer rooms. As usual his office smelled of leather and his cologne, and his head was bent over his desk, one finger marking his place in the file he was working from. As I shut the door behind me he looked up.
And kept on looking, his eyebrows rising slowly.

I stood where I was in the doorway, carefully posed, and let the man see the full glory of the tight, red silk boxers, quite secure in the knowledge that I DID, in the shirt and tie, with bare legs, look- to coin Tracy's phrase- extremely fuckable. The glint in his eye was one I’d seen before- in the gym, looking at me across the office, when I stretched in the chair to flash him my abs… action ahead. Oh yes.
“Hello Mr Faulkner.” I purred. His eyebrows stopped raising and quirked instead.
“Crispin. What are you doing?”
“I got tired of the noise out there.” I said sweetly. “I thought maybe you and I could work out our own party in here… something a lot more fun.”
He sat in silence for a moment. Then jerked abruptly to his feet.
I smirked at him as he got up, seeing the glint in the green eyes and hearing a snort reminiscent of a horse seeing an open race course ahead. Ravishment imminent- this man clearly believed in the Rhett Butler approach, just as I’d always thought he would. I was all set to melt into his arms, lust’s plaything, and let him have his wicked way with me in any way he happened to want. Except his hand closed over my wrist, he jerked me off balance to his office chair and before I found my feet he yanked, pulling me down over his lap. Totally the wrong way up.
One hand pressed down like a ton of bricks on the small of my back and the other- landed squarely and extremely hard - HARD - on the seat of my lucky boxer shorts.
For a split second, I admit, I thought that his foreplay needed work. Then the next smack fell and while that other hand pressed me down against those well muscled legs I began to realise, gasping with shock, that I had made one serious goof. I didn't have the breath to explain it and I was too shocked to struggle or to put my hands behind me: in the next thirty seconds he smacked hard, fast and excruciatingly painfully, all over my bottom. There didn't seem to be one inch of it that he missed. And I yelped and gasped and flopped over his lap like a stranded goldfish, not even mentioning the Geneva convention, never mind the police courts. Then as suddenly as he had started he yanked me back and I found myself on my feet, eyes watering, and his eyes blazing at me with that glint that I now knew beyond all doubt was NO good sign.
"I do NOT," He said grimly, "Do anything with spoilt, rude, forward little boys that you would interpret as 'fun', Mr Jones. And when they flirt and show off around me in the way that you have tonight and every day since I first came here, the only thing they deserve is a well smacked bottom. I do NOT expect this ever to happen again, is that clear?"
My cheeks- all four of them- were utterly flaming. I nodded, trying to find the breath to swallow the lump in my throat, the utter, UTTER humiliation, but he saved me the effort of finding anything to say. Simply grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair and stalked out of the office, shutting the door quietly behind him. I stood there for a second, wondering if I was going to throw up from shame, then very cautiously my hands slid back to rub my blazing, stinging bottom. I'd never been so much as smacked in my life. To be turned over his lap like some bratty child- that thought made me flush still redder as I realised that was exactly how I must have seemed to him. And the lump in my throat got bigger. I stood in his office for a good forty minutes, staring down at the dark city and trying to cry quietly while the last of the party died away next door. I stayed until I was absolutely sure everyone had gone before I dressed and slipped out past the security guard, mumbling my goodnights.
And went home where I curled up in the armchair, cried some more and swore OFF large and pretty men forEVER.

And then in January came Guy Sewell.
“Have you seen him?” Tracy hissed at me in the monthly staff meeting.
“Who?” I said without interest. Mr Faulkner was sitting at the far side of the table and his one look at me had been one of DEEP disapproval that made me very aware that Tracy and I were doing a lot of whispering and I was eating smarties surreptitiously out of my pocket.
“HIM. Three o clock, dark curly hair, drives that huge red sportscar in the carpark. Working in the marketing department. He’s a new transfer from the Bristol office.”
I shot him a look devoid of interest. I was foreswearing all men. Forever. Even the cute ones. Guy Sewell returned Tracy’s smile across the table. And then transferred it to me, his blue eyes twinkling. I slid further down in my chair and risked another smartie. It went down the wrong way which meant Tracy and an accountant having to bang me on the back, and it earned me another disapproving glare from Mr Faulkner.  

I was sitting at my desk later on, innocently chatting on MSN to a friend who worked on the other side of the city when he materialised at my side like Mr Spock, with much the same expression.


"Could you deal with these immediately please Mr Jones, and bring them straight back to me when they’re done?"
“Yes Mr Faulkner.”


”Thank you.”
I took the files and rolled my eyes at Tracy . Actually he did speak with that formality to everyone, but it made me feel like a small boy in trouble. And I didn't like him anyway. He was a joyless, stickling old martinet who had probably been born thirty-five and with a passion for calculators and dust free desks. Rowing and long walks. WHO liked that??
I dropped the files in my in tray and went on chatting on MSN.
I was packing up at the end of the day, saying my final goodbyes on messenger, when a shadow fell over me. Guy Sewell, perched on the edge of my desk. I hastily shut the window but from the wink he gave me he’d seen it.
“Tut tut. Office business of course?”
“Of course,” I said wryly. He smiled.
“I was planning to go out for a drink Mr Jones- I wondered if you’d like to come with me? Since I’m new around here and don’t know the area and I’m sure you do?”
“Not tonight thanks.” I said, ignoring Tracy ’s rolling eyes. Mr Sewell leaned over to pick up my jacket, holding it while I shouldered into it.
“How about a film then? Come on, you won’t leave me lonely this evening? Do you have someone you have to hurry home to?”
“Maybe.” I said evasively. “Goodnight Mr Sewell.”


”I can’t believe you’ll be this unkind.” He said plaintively. “One little drink. Just one.”


”Maybe another time.” I hurried towards the lift, leaving Tracy shaking her head.

Monday morning I was actually caught by the photocopier by Mr Faulkner, who inquired in tones of freezing civility where his files were. I had to explain they were still in my in tray but were taking priority this morning.
He commented coolly that perhaps if I spent less time chatting with Tracy and giggling over internal emails, and more time working, I'd probably keep deadlines better. When he came past my desk later on that morning and caught me playing Freecell, the LOOK I got should have been classed as an offensive weapon.
“You’d better do those files.” Tracy warned. I pulled a face, yanking them out of my in tray.
“It’s like being stalked by the Demon Headmaster.”
“What is?” Guy paused by my desk and leaned over it. “Hey sweetheart. What’s your current bribe rate to do some faxing for me?”
“I can do it in about an hour.” I said, looking at Mr Faulkner’s files. He smiled.
“Oh go on. Do it for me now? As a special favour.”
He was wearing a particularly expensive aftershave, it was drifting across the desk to me along with his smile. “Crispin? Please?”
“Oh go on then.” I said, weakening. His smile brightened.
“Excellent. I’ll take you out for that drink tonight to say thankyou.”


”I’m busy tonight.” I said politely. He grinned.
“Doing what?”
“Washing my hair.”


That made him laugh out loud as he retreated. “Ouch! Back off Guy! Never mind Crispin, I’ll wait.”

I DID stick to my guns for a whole week. Mr Faulkner continued to demand his work from me with an increasingly grim and joyless tone, and to stalk past my desk in the manner of Cruella de Ville past a puppy. Unlike Guy who winked at me whenever he passed my desk, sat in the office with us to drink coffee and hide from his phone, and sloped off work at 3.30 on Fridays with a shout to us that it was Poet’s day (Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday) and didn't we have homes to go to. Unlike the rottweiler in the outer office who at ten past five on Thursday evening was snapping at my heels for a report I had actually promised her yesterday morning.
I never DID keep up with the reports.
I got it to her just before six, tracking her down in the small meeting room, and she fixed me with a glower before handing it to Mr Faulkner across the table.
“Better late than never I suppose. Really Crispin, we’ve been waiting for that, and we’re not paid overtime.”
“I’m sorry,” I said with all the charm I could muster, “I’ve been really busy this week.”
Mr Faulkner just looked at me, and I flushed miserably. I’d been very late back from lunch today, purely because Tracy couldn’t find the right lipstick in the first four stores we’d gone into. Unfortunately, he’d been right at my desk at two pm when we scuttled back in.
Spot the boy who couldn’t do anything right.

I was picking up my jacket when Guy breezed through, saw my face and shook his head, taking his keys from his pocket.
“Ah. A bad case of Delia I see.”


”I’m fine.” I said manfully. “I thought you’d gone home.”


”I was waiting for you.” Guy said simply. “Come on, I’m going to get you that drink. And then we’re going out for dinner.”


”I-“


”-am coming with me.” Guy said, grabbing my hand. “That’s right. Come on Crispin Jones, this way.”

We sat in a wine bar while I told him how much I hated Delia. And Mr Faulkner. Who he laughed at when I described him and said yes, he was a total stick. It was nice to be agreed with. And later while we ate dinner in a restaurant nearly as flash as his car, he told me endless funny stories about the Bristol office and the staff there which made me laugh so much that I didn’t really notice the transition from the restaurant to a hotel in town.  
“It’s being new around here.” He said apologetically while I looked around the big and well furnished room. “I need time to flat hunt and find somewhere more permanent.”


”This is nice.” I said honestly. It was. Not a cheap hotel either. He took off his jacket and helped me out of mine, starting work on the buttons of my shirt.
“It’s got a bath. Big enough for two. Come and have a look Mr Jones.”

 

“Well YOU look like the cat that got the cream.” Tracy greeted me on Friday morning. “What happened to you?”
“Nothing at all.” I said annoyingly, and perched at my desk. Guy strolled past five minutes later- having left a discreet distance between us on the way into the building from his car- and winked at me as he passed. I hid my smile.


It WAS good. Mostly.
Guy was busy a lot, most nights when I found an excuse to go up to his office he looked apologetic and had too much work to do, or had an appointment or friends were coming over. And mostly when I rang him in the evenings he wasn’t at the hotel or his cell phone was switched off. But the occasions we did meet up after work were gorgeous. He’d sweep me from my desk without warning at five, wine me, dine me and bed me in that wonderful hotel. And what boy DOESN’T like being swept off his feet? He was funny, he was charming, he was always 100% interested in me when we went out and we always had a good evening together.
“Just be discreet around the office Cris.” He said to me several times. “Nothing worse than everyone at work pitching into your love life like they own it.”

Well that to me said, even if he hadn’t quite yet, that he loved me.
This had been going on for several weeks when I was standing at the photocopier one afternoon, waiting for some never ending run to finish. Or mostly leaning on the windowsill looking out over the city below. I was a surburban boy by birth, my parents lived in their Georgian terrace on the outskirts, but I loved living in the city itself. Even if my flat was really nothing more than a bedsit and came with its own mice.
“What are you day dreaming about?” Guy inquired, coming past and pinching my bum.
“Nothing.” I looked around and gave him a smile, admiring the disordered curls over his forehead. “Are you free tonight? I haven’t seen you all week.”

”Oh Cris I’m sorry. I’ve got a mate’s birthday do tonight and it’s a concert booking so I can’t take you along. Much as I’d like to you gorgeous little beast.” He added, smirking back at me.
“What about Friday?”
“Weekends aren’t good love, you know that. Look, Tuesday. I’ll promise, Tuesday’s a date. I’ll take you somewhere really special, we’ll have a great evening then.”
I gave him a half-smile, not quite willing to be mollified so easily. He swatted me with his file.
“Stop looking like that, do you want to be ravished on a desk in here? I did warn you Cris, I have a lot of commitments.”

I knew. I was being childish.
“Tuesday’ll be great.” I said, pulling myself together.
The wasp came out of nowhere. One minute I was talking to Guy. The next this wasp appeared and dived in for the kill. I flailed at it and I admit, screeched like a banishee. And like most wasps, the more I flailed the closer the little bastard got.
“GET IT OFF ME!” I screamed at Guy who was laughing aloud.
“For pete’s sake Cris it’s only a wasp! Stand still.”
“Get it AWAY FROM ME!” I pleaded, grabbing up paper to swipe the thing away from me in flat out panic. I must have looked ridiculous, dancing like a dervish- Guy was laughing so much he was slumped against a wall, and across the office people were looking at us.
A capable hand closed over mine, confiscated the paper and efficiently waved the wasp back towards the open window. It went, hastened by the paper, and soared out of sight beyond the sill. I turned around, shaking, and looked up into Mr Faulkner’s face. For once not glaring at me but looking surprisingly kind.
“Are you all right? Did it sting you?”
“It didn’t even get NEAR him!” Guy said still laughing. “Cris my pet, they could put you up for an Oscar for dramatic flair, I haven’t seen moves like that since Lord of the Dance.”

”Piss off!” I snarled at him, bitterly hurt, and stormed away. A minute later a cup of tea landed on my desk and I looked up to see Mr Faulkner there, still looking grave.
“Are you all right? You still look very shaky.”

”I’m ok.” I admitted. “I just hate wasps.”

”Very understandable.” He picked up his papers again, giving me a second, stern look as he left. “If you didn’t keep quite so many sweets in your pockets you probably would attract them less.”
MEN.
Tracy consoled me at my desk and an hour later a conciliating email popped in my internal mail box.  
From: GSewell@KTL.inc
To: CWJones@KTL.inc
Smile?
If you’re not being harassed by insects, maybe you could pop up to my office at five? See if I can cheer you up at all.
Bring your red silk boxers
Guy
If he thought a quickie behind his office door was going to fix this- he was only partly right. At a quarter to five , still less than happy with him, I headed up to his office. He wasn’t there, so I sat at his desk and waited, swinging idly in the chair. I heard the voices on the stairs at the small meeting room vacated, Guy’s cheerful and noisy tones among them.
“- right along, I just have a few things to sort out. And then I’m going to run, I want to get home early.”
“Is Jason home tonight?” Someone asked. Guy sounded cheerful.
“Yes, should be home by eight. And a whole weekend then before he goes jet setting again.”
“Is it the states?” Mr Faulkner’s quiet voice asked. From Guy’s voice they’d paused on the stairs to talk.
“Yes, four days out of every fortnight he flies over. I miss him like hell, but he’s enjoying it and it’s only for a few months.”

”And he trusts you?” Someone asked jovially. Guy laughed.
“Seems to! I don’t know how many gorgeous American men he’s knocking off, but we’ll compare scores eventually I’m sure.”  
I felt like ice cubes were sliding down my throat into my stomach. I knew the third voice. Another guy from Marketing.
“I thought you were getting friendly with young Jones on the reception desk? He’s been hanging around making cows eyes at you often enough.”
“THAT fluffy little bimbo?” Guy’s voice said derisively. “A pretty little arse and not enough brains to give himself a headache? Give me a break!”
Isn’t there a song that goes ‘what kind of fool am I’?
I bolted out of his office and fled, humiliatingly aware that all three of them saw me, and that one of them- neither Mr Faulkner nor Guy- laughed.
At this time in the evening the bathrooms were empty. I made it inside before any tears escaped, looked around for sanctuary and took it in the broom cupboard. It was dark in there, I sat down and huddled up around my knees, trying to cry quietly.

A few minutes later the main door opened outside, and with an effort, tried to stop crying. Tracy wouldn't follow me into here even if someone found and told her what had happened- I had no doubt it would be all over the office by tomorrow- and no one else was likely to find my cupboard. If I was quiet, they'd just go away. Then I heard the voice and my heart clenched still further with shame.
"Crispin?"
Damn. Damn.
Very slowly I opened the cupboard door, trying to maintain some look of dignity.
"Yes Mr Faulkner?"
The look on his face was- odd. Wry, as if he didn't know what to say. I could imagine he was at a loss for words at finding me sobbing in the cupboard.
"I'll be out in a minute-" I began to say stiffly, then he took the door from me and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, crouching down beside me.
"I did hope you'd be angry more than upset, that’s the kind of rubbish that falls from the mouth of a total fool. And he IS a fool you know."

I worked hard to stop crying. It didn't succeed. Faulkner put his handkerchief into my hand and as I scrubbed at my eyes I felt his arm slide around my shoulders and my head came into contact with a broad, very solid chest. I DID resist. With dignity. For nearly a whole third of a second. Then I flopped against him and sobbed.
For a long time he held me and didn't say anything. And I realised after a while that he'd taken a seat on the tiles, irrespective of his immaculate, grey trousers, in the doorway of the men's bathroom cupboard. Eventually I dried up to sniffling and made myself sit up, peeling myself away from his now considerably dampened shirt. His voice was deep and very kind, considering what a fool I must have looked.
"You've been looking tired and stressed all week and I KNOW it isn't overwork."
"I haven't been sleeping well." I admitted, gulping. Too much thinking about Guy. And if I was honest, some anxiety and frustration as to why he wouldn’t call or let me call him, or how rarely we saw each other. Well now I knew why. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realised. Faulkner rested a hand on my shoulder, rubbing slowly and comfortingly. 

"Will there be anyone at home?"
I shook my head, embarrassed. He nodded and got to his feet, taking my hand to pull me after him.
"I thought not. Then you're coming home with me."

He lived in one of the big, modern flats over looking the river. Twenty minutes later I was sitting on a balcony surrounded by well kept plants and sipping at a glass of chilled white wine while he moved around the immaculate kitchen beyond, cooking pasta and humming along to the radio. Like his office, the flat was spacious and decorated in deep  reds and browns, natural wood and rough textured, geometric patterned scatter rugs. And a large, dark brown tabby cat which regally sat on the chair next to me and made friends while the sun dried my sore and definitely swollen eyes.
"That's Mac." Faulkner said, handing me a bowl of pasta and salad. He took a seat opposite and the tabby promptly stretched and went to butt his head against Faulkner's elbow. Faulkner rubbed his ears and gave me a look across the table.
"Eat that, you must be starving."
He was right, I didn’t often get around to lunch and living alone I often lived on sandwiches in the evenings. Between wine, sun and Faulkner who ate and discussed the passing boats on the river with his cat, leaving me in blessed peace, I sat back and ate, discovering that in addition to everything else he was a fantastic cook. Or maybe he just knew exactly what I was in the mood for. The sun was setting behind the bridge on the skyline when he took the plate from me and I jerked upright, realising with shame- and some surprise- that I'd nearly fallen asleep. In the state of misery I’d been in an hour ago I hadn’t expected to sleep at all tonight.
"I'm sorry, what were you saying?"
"That you're clearly exhausted. Come on, this way."

"No, I'm fine, really." I staggered after him into the kitchen, heading for the sink. "At least let me wash up, you cooked that wonderful meal-"

"That can wait until morning." He put the dishes in the sink and put firm hands on my shoulders, steering me ahead of him.

"I ought to go home." I said, going where I was pushed, "I only had one glass and I feel much better-"

"I wouldn't let you drive if you'd had nothing to drink at all." Faulkner said cheerfully, turning the light on in a side room. It was, like the rest of the flat, immaculate and tastefully decorated. My spare room contained so much storage junk the floor was no longer visible. He pulled back the covers on the single bed, turned on the bedside light and went past me to open the door into a small bathroom.
"I'll get you a towel and something to sleep in. Who do you want to call and let know where you are?"
I looked at him blankly.
“No one, it’s fine.”
“You’re in a strange house and no one knows where you are,” he pointed out. “You should let at least one person know. What about family?”
I glanced at my watch. “No. They’ll be out. It’s ok, honest.”
Mr Faulkner sighed but nodded. “Allright. I’ll get you those towels.” 
I collapsed on the edge of the bed, staggered. He reappeared a moment later with two large, soft towels and a t shirt and boxers. And pushed a hand gently through my hair, making me look up at him in shock at the kindness of the gesture.
"Will you be able to sleep?"
I thought for barely a few seconds before I nodded, wryly. The wine had done its work, and the crying had done the rest, I was struggling to keep my eyes open.
"I'll be fine. Thank you."
"My room's across the hall, call if you need anything. Sweet dreams."

It was something that should have sounded odd from him in his voice- too gentle, too personal. It actually sounded incredibly nice.
I changed into the clothes he'd given me- the t shirt hung loose and warm, far too big for me, and the towels were large enough to get lost in. There was a bookcase under the window and I flicked through the titles- some poetry, some mild, gay romances, some classics - Jane Austen. EM Forster. Kipling. I took Pride and Prejudice off the shelf and lay down, turning the pages slowly. I'd always been a Mr Darcy fan.
I woke again some time during the night, hearing a boat siren out on the water. The light was out, the covers had been pulled up over my shoulders and the book was on the night stand with my place neatly marked.

He was in the kitchen in the morning when I made it out of bed, somewhat embarrassed that it was approaching nine am . And that while I'd showered- and someone thoughtful had left a shaving kit in the bathroom- I still looked less than together. He was wearing jeans and a loose, green shirt that made him look good enough for me to pause in the kitchen and openly gape at him. It was the first time I'd ever seen him out of a suit. He smiled at me and put the last of the dishes back in the cupboard, he'd been clearing up from last night's meal.
"Good morning."

"Hey." I said awkwardly, trying to close my mouth. "Look, I'm really sorry, I'll get a taxi back to the office and- thanks so much-"

"Sit down," Mr Faulkner interrupted firmly. "I was just about to make breakfast."

"You really don't have to, I've been under your feet long enough-" I began. And was again, interrupted by his voice and his eyes, clear and level and still- very kind.
"Crispin, you're not in the least in the way and I want you to stay for the weekend. You've been looking dreadful long enough, you look to me in need of company, distraction and a few decent meals. And I'd enjoy the company, so you needn't think it's any kind of imposition. OR that you're at any kind of risk here."

I flushed at the thought. No, I had NO illusions about him trying to take advantage of me- I felt more like I'd been taken home by my headmaster. The Demon Headmaster no less.
"So sit down," he said kindly. "And have some breakfast."

I started to stammer thanks and he smiled, handing me a large glass of orange juice.
"Perhaps you'd better call me Gareth? Mr Faulkner sounds a little odd out of the office."

He drove us into the dockland shopping area after breakfast and we spent several hours wandering around the shops, not just in the main stores but in several antique shops where Gareth settled on the floor in front of a cabinet filled with dusty, cream and rose coloured plates, handling them with a delicacy and respect that drew my attention.
"Stretton." He told me when I came to look. "Turn of the century. Beautiful."
I accepted the one he handed me, instantly struck by the thinness of the china and the unusual shape. "They're lovely."

"They're very rare." Gareth lifted out a cup, blowing gently to remove the dust from the base. I handed the plate back, kneeling to watch.
"Do you often buy this kind of thing?"
He smiled, putting the cup back. "Not often. Only when I find something I really can't resist."

"Can you resist this?"
He sighed but nodded, closing the cabinet. "Only so much storage room and only so many sets I can practically use. And I hate seeing this kind of thing put away instead of being used and appreciated."

"So you rotate services." I said simply. "That's not difficult."

He gave me a somewhat thoughtful look, head on one side, then smiled. "I suppose not. But it's a lot of money for something not really practical."

"Not everything can be practical." I leaned past him to pick up the cup, turning it over in my hand. Despite it's age, the glaze was perfect. Amazing to think it was over a hundred years old, had belonged to someone else somewhere else, had seen life in a household I would never know. "If you love it, if you would use it and take care of it so it survives on into another generation, I'd think that was money well spent- both for you and for it."

We ended up wrapping each piece individually to pack it- eventually I stopped trying to get the salesman to wrap it properly in order to protect it and took over the wrapping myself. I sat on the dusty floor boards of the shop, folding newspaper and sellotape to protect each fragile piece of china which Gareth then carefully stored in the tea chests the shop owner gave us, and we spent a happy afternoon washing it and stacking it carefully in one of his glass fronted cabinets. Or rather I stacked it.
“This isn’t going to work.” He pointed out after several tries. “One set in here is going to have to go into the loft-“

”No it won’t, you just need to stand pieces on end.” I said, showing him. In the end he made tea and handed the plates to me one at a time and I positioned them where they were best seen through the glass.
“Gorgeous.” He said when I carefully shut the doors. “Thankyou. You’re a man of hidden talents.”

”I just suck at reports.” I said wryly. And got an equally wry smile.
“If you spent less time playing, emailing and chatting to Tracy …..”

”And being a tart generally.” I turned away, heading for the sink with my teacup, eyes filling. Gareth’s hand caught my arm half way there and he put an arm around me, pulling me against his chest. My head rested comfortably there, just below his shoulder.
“You are not a tart.” Gareth said in my ear. “Guy Sewell is a cheap and flashy little man with cheap and flashy little values. I’m sorry you had to cross his path.”
“I was stupid though.” I said into his chest, sniffling. “I should have known someone who never answers their phone, who is always evasive about where they are and what they’re doing-“

”Come here.” Gareth said comfortably, and steered me, still holding me against him, out onto his balcony. Where he sat down on the bench in the last of the afternoon sunshine and I curled up beside him in the shelter of that arm. I leaned there for a while, watching the river slip past and feeling the comforting weight of his hand on my shoulder, rubbing slowly and heavily. 

”Crispin.” He said gently after a while. I looked up. His face was kind but serious.  
“I need to ask, and I’m sorry. Just knowing the kind of man Sewell is- did you have any kind of unprotected sex with him?”
Cold shudders ran through me. I shook my head hard.

”No. No, I wouldn’t, I didn’t.”
“Thank God.” Gareth said fervently. I twisted further to see his face, still awash in the shock of what could have been.
“Do you think he’d BE-“

”I think he’s probably had a fair amount of casual and careless sex.” Gareth said bleakly. “He’s an accident looking for somewhere to happen that man. Thank God you were careful.”
“I wouldn’t have been.” I said in a small voice. “If he’d asked me NOT to-“
Gareth didn’t say anything for a minute, then gave me his glinting look, his voice close to a growl.
“You are so trusting it’s frightening Crispin Jones.”

We made dinner together that evening and went out for a walk to a pub on the river side. And on Sunday read the papers together, sprawled on the floor in the sun from his open balcony doors. In the afternoon he took me out into a town some miles from the city, and there in the market square were banners proclaiming “St Crispin’s Fair”.
“It’s an annual custom in this town.” Gareth told me when I gaped. It was a medieval themed fair, apart from the fairground stalls and rides. There were the usual market traders, the butcher, sweet man, green grocer, various art and craft stalls, wooden goods, kitchen ware and a home brewed alcohol stall where we tried several unusual brews with some laughing and daring each other to try the stranger ones. And as we left that stall my hand found his and his fingers turned and closed on mine, holding on strongly. And hand in hand we walked through the fair.
We spent the late afternoon sitting on the deep church steps overlooking the market square and drinking Italian coffee as the crowds at the café tables were too large to find seats.
“I’m dreading Monday.” I confessed while we sat there. Gareth looked at me but didn’t say anything. I swallowed more carefully, my stomach churning at the thought.
“I mean everyone knowing- and him laughing-“ the memory of that phrase washed over me again.
“What, that fluffy little bimbo?”
“Hey.” Gareth said gently, putting an arm around me. “It won’t be that bad.”


”Everyone WILL know.” I said tearfully. There didn’t seem much point in struggling for any kind of dignity right now, Gareth had seen me sobbing on and off all weekend. He took his handkerchief out of his pocket and took my coffee away, voice gentle but firm.
“Hey. Wipe your face and calm down. Everyone WON’T know, and no one will laugh. If anything is registered at all it’ll be disgust with Sewell, not you.”


”It’s me who slept around.” I wailed. Several people in the market looked around. Gareth smiled faintly but squeezed my shoulders.
“Shhh. You didn’t. You had no reason to think he was using you as he was. And you’re actually very popular in the office, sympathy’s going to be on your side.”


”Rubbish.”


”It’s not rubbish.” Gareth said calmly. “Everyone likes you. Even Delia likes you, much as you drive her mad.”
“Delia spends her life growling at me.” I pointed out. “And you’ve spent the last month glaring and growling at me.”

Gareth gave me a look half stern half laughing that made me smile, despite the tears.
“I wonder why? Possibly because you’ve spent the last mouth flouncing and scowling and being a thorough brat in every way you could think of when I’m around.”
I flushed at that, shrinking away from the arm around me.
“You said that before. If you think I’m a brat why do YOU bother with me? It’s been pretty clear that you don’t like me much.”


”I like you a lot.” Gareth said matter of factly. "You're one of the nicest people I've ever met."
Ugh. Men. That is NOT an adjective anyone wants to hear while being cuddled by some gorgeous hunk. NICE. 

"NICE?!" I demanded in a lady Bracknell screech. Gareth didn't flinch.  
"Yes, nice. You like everyone. You smile. A lot. You're extremely good tempered when you're not flouncing about. And you’re extremely charming when you’re not on full out flirt mode."


If I was red before, I was scarlet-faced now. "I'm sorry about that."


"I'm sorry too, I should never have touched you in the office that night." Gareth put his coffee down, serious.
I could tell by the big, green-grey eyes looking into mine with an expression that melted me on the spot. "I liked you. A lot. And you were driving me mad with all that stupid flirting and posturing and mucking about. I'd been dying to swat you and tell you to stop it for days and I knew I had absolutely no right to- and then you more or less jumped on me half dressed and it took all my self control NOT to ravish you on the spot. I think my temper blew a fuse. I was lucky you didn't have me arrested. Or fired."


"I thought you hated me after that." I said in a small voice.


"I thought you were trying to provoke me." Gareth said ruefully.  
I flushed again.
"Well I was I suppose."
"If you were mine my lad…." Gareth said darkly. I looked at him, eyebrows raised.
"You'd do what?"
"I'd take Freecell off your hard drive for starters."
I dropped my head against his chest and laughed. And after a minute he put a finger under my chin tipped my head back and kissed me on the lips. A gentle, sweet brush of a kiss that made my heart soar and saw to it that I pretty much forgot about tomorrow.
*********************************************************************
He dropped me in the car park at eight the following morning, and unlike Sewell who had lurked, sending me ahead, he walked up to the office with me.  
We’d spent a blissful evening cuddling on his sofa. Followed by him kissing me chastely and warmly goodnight and sending me off to my guest room. Which surprised me slightly. Except he’d told me this morning, over breakfast on his balcony.
“I like you Crispin. And you’ve said that you like me. And I’d like to date you, PROPERLY. Not sex with a friendship if we can figure one out around it. Proper time spent together, getting to know each other, without rushing.”

That to me sounded like bliss in itself.
As we reached the downstairs foyer Gareth touched my arm, eyes gentle and somewhat concerned. I was starting to know when he looked grim he was often actually about to be particularly kind.
“How are you doing?”
“Ok.” I said, although my stomach was churning. He nodded but he also took my hand as we stepped into the lift.
“It’ll be fine. Tracy’s up there, it’s going to be a normal day.”


That helped. Until the door into the office opened and there was Sewell. He gave me one look like a shot rabbit, then headed rapidly out of the opposite door. Gareth gave my hand a reassuring squeeze, holding on until I unfroze.
“It’s ok. Go on, get started. I’m going to be done this evening by five thirty , if you’d like to you can meet me here and we’ll sort out dinner together.”


I nodded mute appreciation of that. He smiled at me and went towards his office. And Tracy got up, arms opened, and enveloped me in a hug that told me she was ready to bite Sewell.

Gareth was actually right. All day I had a stream of visitors, most of whom never addressed the subject but found an excuse to pat my shoulder, bring me coffee and chat. The Rottweiler passed mid morning, flicked my in tray contemptuously, then stooped and gave me a long, tight hug, patted my back and walked away without a word.

I didn’t see Guy at all, he was clearly avoiding the office like the plague.
Tracy took me out for lunch and extracted from me all the details of Guy and his intrigues. Some of which she’d known anyway.  
“WHAT a bastard.” She said when I finished. “What a total SWINE. I’m so sorry love, that’s awful. He deserves to be castrated.”


”It doesn’t sound like his boyfriend is even going to mind.” I said somewhat bitterly. “He said something about them comparing scores.”


Tracy said nothing more but leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Let’s pick up some chocolate on the way back.”
********************************************************
It was Tracy ’s idea to start with. She was sitting at her desk, ankles crossed in front of her, fiddling with her tippex rather than doing any work while I struggled with several very stroppy clients until the accountants got out of a meeting. Supplied with tea and several minutes soothing chit chat they did settle in the waiting area and I left them there thankfully. Tracy met my eyes as I sat down, and gave me a faint smile.  
“You know what you’ve got on your computer, don’t you?”

”Freecell?” I said distracted, thinking of Gareth’s look at me last night. (If you were mine my boy, I’d take freecell off your drive for starters…..)
“NO twit, you do the time sheets.”

I did. I took in the times, handed them into the accountants who ran it through their programme for payroll. Tracy raised an eyebrow at me. “Well? They’re due in tomorrow….”
“I’ll get picked up.” I warned. Tracy grinned.
“Not for a while, it’s done on an automated programme. There’s nearly 200 people on that payroll. Until the statements come through- or someone complains-“

”That’s a pathetic, petty gesture.” I said shortly. Tracy got up and came to sit on my desk, watching me open the computer programme.
“He’s a pathetic, petty man. It’s a gesture, go with it.”

 So I did. I slipped through the programme and reduced all the figures one by one to zero.

The rest of that week was wonderful. Gareth met me every night whether for an hour or the whole evening, we went out to dinner or to the cinema or to his flat- one night we went to my flat, where he dragged me into the boiler cupboard with his toolkit and we fixed my boiler. I had hot water at home for the first time in months. And that night he slept on my sofa, which I objected to but he insisted on, and we squabbled amicably over the shower and my shaving kit for both of us to get back to work on time in the morning. He was, quite simply, lovely. Sweet, funny, easy company, he listened to me and actually acted as if what I had to say was of interest to him. The more I saw of him the more I wanted to be with him.  
It was the Wednesday of the next week that the pay cheques went out. And about an hour before Guy erupted down to the accountant’s desk, flapping the cheque and shouting.
“WHY have I got a cheque for three pounds fifty?!”
The nearest accountant took the cheque from him and read it. Then shrugged calmly.
“Looks like a mistake. Give me a sec, I’ll look at the payroll.”
Guy stood fuming. I kept my eyes down and answered the phone with my best phone voice.
“Good afternoon, KLT Incorporated, how may I help you?”
“According to this,” The accountant said mildly, reading his computer, “The cheque is right, you worked a total of fifteen minutes over the last month.”
Guy grabbed for the computer to look.
“That’s crap! There’s a mistake somewhere, the computer’s gone wrong!”

”It’s easy to check.” The accountant waited until I was done with the call and rolled his eyes at me. “Crispin, can you check Guy’s timesheet for him?”
Somewhat unwillingly, I pulled it up.
The shouting that followed attracted Delia, Gareth and virtually everyone else in the office.
“YOU did this!” Guy was thundering at me as they began to assemble. “YOU screwed with the programme! You thought you’d get back at me-“


”What’s going on here?” Delia demanded clearly, cutting across him. Guy levelled a finger at me, face red with rage.
“HIM. That stupid, cheap little TART falsified my time sheet!”


Delia put a hand on my shoulder and leaned over to look at the screen. Then gave him a cool shrug. “It looks like a computer error to me. Do we really need all this shouting about it?”
“I can’t prove now what hours I worked!” Guy thundered back. ”If you THINK I can afford to lose a months wages-“


”Oh don’t be so stupid, Crispin will have your paper copy on file somewhere.” Delia said dismissively. “There’s no harm done. Crispin, give the time sheet to Peter.”
“I’ll write you a new cheque now.” Peter said calmly. “It’s fine.”


“BITCH.” Guy spat at me as I got up to go the filing cabinet. And Gareth stepped in front of me, eyes grim and very steady.
“Crispin, why don’t you find that sheet? And Mr Sewell, why don’t you come up to my office? Now please.”
Guy gave me another long glare, but couldn’t refuse a request from a director. And followed Gareth upstairs.
I found the timesheet, handed it over to Peter and he took it with nothing more than a mild grin at me. Delia gave me a dry look, patted my shoulder and went back to her office.

I didn’t see either Gareth or Guy again until the end of the day. Tracy went to take a pile of files up to the advertising department and came back smirking.
“Your Mr Faulkner told Guy off properly.”


”What?” I demanded. Tracy sat down, spinning her chair around in a triumphal circle.
“He gave him a real earful. Guy’s furious, he’s told the girls in the drinks room all about it but he doesn’t dare do anything about it, Mr Faulkner made several threats. One of which, Abigail said, was that they’d go down to the carpark and sort it out there if he ever called you any offensive or disrespectful name again.”
I blinked on that, lost in the lovely image of Gareth in his shirt sleeves, breaking Guy’s nose. It was interrupted by my phone bleeping on one of the internal lines.
“Crispin? It’s Gareth. Can you come up to my office please, I’d like a word.”
I went gladly. It was five, people were leaving, only Gareth was still sitting behind his desk. He glanced up but didn’t smile.
“Shut the door please.”

I shut it. And twirled across to the desk, about ready to marry him on the spot.
“Did you REALLY threaten to hit Guy?”
“Did you REALLY falsify a company document?” Gareth said sternly. “For personal reasons? You do realise interfering with financial records is actually a criminal offence?”
“I didn’t do any harm,” I said, somewhat embarrassed. “He’s already got a cheque, it just annoyed him-“
Gareth was shaking his head, his eyes steady on mine. ”It WON’T look very good to the auditors. And it’s seriously abusing your position in the company, isn’t it?”  
“Noo….” I said, increasingly taken aback. “He was a total bastard-“

”And you thought you’d break company rules and jeopardise your job to get him back?” Gareth said dryly. I HATED that expression on his face! The GLINT was back.
“No!” I said still more plaintively. “No one minded, Delia thought he deserved it-“

”Well I’m not Delia and I don’t think it’s all acceptable.” Gareth said bluntly. That was too much. I stamped my foot, angry and upset, and not a little scared that he was voicing his disapproval of me quite so openly.
“Well I thought it was! There was no harm done, it just got on his wick and HE was the one who-“
“Crispin.” Gareth said quietly and firmly. “We’re in the office, lower your voice. Get your coat, we’ll go home as we planned. I don’t think this was at all a good thing for you to do, it was wrong and it was illegal and you could have got yourself into a lot of trouble, and I don’t want you to do it again.”
I got my coat in a sullen, upset silence.
We went back to his flat, where I petted his tabby and sulked quietly on the balcony while he started dinner. And came over to me, holding out his hand. I took it, but unwillingly, going with him to the couch where he sat down and put an arm around me. I didn’t cuddle up.
“You do understand why it was wrong, don’t you?”

”I don’t want to talk about it any more.” I said sullenly. He put a hand under my chin and lifted my face to his, and he was frowning.
“Crispin, that’s rude.”
I pulled away and dodged his hand. “I don’t care! He called me all kinds of names and I thought you were on my side! You can think what you want of me, I’m going, you always thought I was stupid and as much of a tart as HE did-“
He moved faster than me. His hand closed over my wrist and yanked, and before I’d fully got a grip on the situation I’d found myself jerked back over his knee, face down, bottom up and struggling wildly. It made no difference. He had one arm around my waist and I wasn’t moving anywhere. The other hand slipped the button on my cords and to my total horror he yanked my trousers south, settling me still further over his lap. His voice wasn’t loud but it was deep and clear and cut straight through my shrieks.
“I don’t EVER want to hear that again. You know me better than that and I deserve better than that from you young man, you don’t hurl random insults around here.”
“I’m sorry!” I said, wriggling in dire apprehension, aware of my backside very vulnerably upturned over his lap, right within reach of that strong right hand of his.
“Too late Crispin.” Gareth said grimly. “You don’t act like a brat around me, I won’t put up with it. And you don’t act like a brat around the office either, including doing impulsive and BADLY thought out acts that could get you into a lot of trouble!”
And his hand descended, hard, in a swat that made me yell.
“You do not enter PRIVATE information for your own personal reasons, that’s abusing your position of responsibility,” Gareth went on, “And you do NOT mess with financial records my boy. Never, not EVER. I know you wouldn’t mean any harm but an auditor isn’t going to know you like I do. Nor do you descend to the level of people like Guy Sewell in order to get your own back!”
“I’m REALLY sorry!” I pleaded, squirming to get up. “Gareeeeeth-“

”If you’re going to behave like a bratty child, I’ll treat you like one.” Gareth informed me. “You CANNOT behave in that way at work.”
And I began to squirm in earnest, wailing, as his hand began to rise and fall in steady, hard swats that seemed to find every inch of my poor backside. I wriggled and twisted and kicked, less to get away than simply because it hurt. And unlike last time instead of stopping after half a minute or so, he went on, and on and on.
“Gareth!” I begged, getting steadily more frantic as the burn behind me increased. “Please! Gareth I won’t do it again!”
He didn’t stop. Pain warred with shock, warred with some awful part of me that fully knew I’d asked for this and pushed for this. I knew if I was honest, what flouncing and pouting and posturing did to Gareth’s temper, and I’d pushed him well past his limits. And I was seriously, frankly sorry that I’d ever opened the file on my desktop or listened to Tracy , Gareth was right. I DID know it was wrong, I DID understand how nasty that could have been- and what a petty little gesture it had been. Tears were coming to my eyes anyway from the relentless, blazing smacks still falling everywhere on my thinly covered bottom, it hurt so much, and emotion swelled up from about six different directions. I burst into tears in a way I hadn’t done in public since I was a kid.
I had never in my life been turned over anyone’s knee, and yet there was no sense of indignation or outrage- only deep and serious regret that I’d behaved so badly and that I’d got so exactly what I deserved. And it hurt. Gareth’s hand finally stopped falling and rested gently across both burning cheeks, rubbing, before he leaned down and pulled me into his arms. I twisted around and clung to him, sobbing about how sorry I was, and he hugged me tight, rocking me in silence.
It took a while to calm down. He took a handkerchief from his pocket then and wiped my face, irrespective of the fact I’d thoroughly soaked his shirt. He wasn’t angry- he’d been irritated allright, and I suspected that irritating the man I had every intention of seeing to it became my lover was probably not going to be a good idea in the long term- and his eyes were very kind.
“Are you planning to flounce off anywhere now?” he said lightly. I shook my head, stifling a smile in his chest despite still watering eyes.
“No. I’m sorry.”

He kissed my forehead and pulled me closer. Actually I felt as if he’d drawn a line under this whole horrible situation. I felt released, with no interest at all in pouting or sulking.
“That doesn’t happen again.” Gareth said firmly in my ear. “Not the looking in private files for ANY reason other than work, OR fiddling with any financial records for any reason.”

”I promise.” I said at once. “I’m sorry, that was awful.”

”I know perfectly well too what you were doing looking through MY file in the personnel records.” Gareth said severely. I flushed, smiling as I could see the twinkle in his eyes.
“I wanted to know.”

”You could have just asked.”

”I’m sorry.” I hid my face in his shirt, knowing what he meant. If I’d not been peacocking around him, if I’d just said straight out that I liked him, we might have been at this point weeks before. He gave me another strong hug and got up, towing me with him towards the kitchen to check on dinner. I pulled my trousers up and rebuttoned them and followed to lean against him while he stirred casserole.
“What DID you say to Guy Sewell?”
“That’s for me to know.” Gareth leaned against the kitchen counter to wrap both arms around me and look down into my face. “You don’t need to worry about him any further, he won’t bother you.”

We ate on the balcony that evening, with his stereo playing softly, watching the river slip away beneath us. And three months later, I moved into the flat with him and his cat. Guy Sewell moved back to the Bristol branch- apparently he requested the transfer, he wasn’t popular in the office. And Gareth DID take freecell off my hard drive. Tracy and I get just a LITTLE more work done in reception than we used to, since Gareth doesn’t take kindly to my not turning out work on time. And sometimes, admittedly, I’m a brat in the way he doesn’t appreciate, and I do get turned over the demon headmaster’s lap. Which tends to quickly change my perspective on some things. I get into a lot less trouble than I used to. But every night now I go home to those warm and open arms, someone who cares about my day and what happened in it, and who won’t let things go wrong. Even the little things. And in the office every day while I’m working he’ll walk past and I’ll see that gorgeous smile of his, those green-grey eyes and that look that’s just for me, and think wow. That’s MY boy.
~ The End ~
Copyright Ranger 2010

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would really love to see you turn this one off into a series of stories. I think that it could make for a really interesting and exciting read. Please consider writing more about these two characters.

Ranger said...

Thank you! I'll always consider, but can't promise as it depends where inspiration hits. I'm glad you enjoyed this story, it's one I'm fond of :)

Sierra said...

this was a lot of fun and it is now one of my favorites.

TJ said...

This was a great story! Would love to read more of Gareth and Crispin!

Anonymous said...

Lovely story-- thanks so much for sharing (Altho I have to admit, as a manager, I'd have given Crispin whatfor ...)

Anonymous said...

Most excellent story. Thank you.

Ranger said...

You're most welcome, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Oh, God, poor Crispin. My ears and face went red hot when he had his Christmas party encounter with Faulkner. And I've gone out with a few "Guys" in my day. As I read the story the flags went up and every alarm went off.
I was just so happy that he had people in the office who liked him and stood by him afterwards.
This is just one of those stories that pulls me in and makes me feel like I'm there. Thanks for sharing it.

Ranger said...

You're welcome :)

mell8 said...

That was adorable! I enjoyed every minute of it, even when I kept hoping Tracy would get some sense smacked into her too.

Like with all your stories, I hope to see more of Crispin soon!

One thing: with the dialogue all squished together like it is, the story can be difficult to read at times. If you ever go through and edit you may want to put all the dialogue on separate paragraphs.

Ranger said...

Thank you Mel! One day when we've got some time there's a few stories on here that need reformatting, it's on the to do list.

jen vieira pinto said...

This was another great one that just made me want more of these guys at the end. Your characters are just so engaging that the idea of not hearing more from them is almost heartbreaking!

So I hope we'll see more of Crispin some day soon! :D

Anonymous said...

you should write a guy/boyfriend fic. they seem interestingly dysfunctional.

Key said...

I don't know how I managed to miss this one the amount of time I spend on here reading your stories, but I really enjoyed reading this, I love Crispin only wish there was more!

Most of the artwork on the blog is by Canadian artist Steve Walker.

Rolf and Ranger’s Next Book will be called The Mary Ellen Carter. The Mary Ellen Carter and other works in progress can be read at either the Falls Chance Ranch Discussion Group or the Falls Chance Forum before they are posted here at the blog. So come and talk to the authors and be a part of a work in progress.





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