Sunday, April 25, 2010

Countdown


Thursday Evening


It was five forty five pm, and there was indisputably no sign of a brat pulling onto the drive.

Rolf, who had been watching the time with increasing grimness for the last fifteen minutes, picked up the phone and called Matthew’s office. There was no reply to Matthew’s direct line. That might have been due to Matthew currently being out of the office and sitting in traffic on his way home. It might also be a tactical avoidance of answering the phone, knowing who was most likely to be calling him forty five minutes after he should have left his desk. Rolf re dialled, this time calling the secretary, who cheerfully confirmed his suspicions without the faintest idea of the mess she was dropping Matthew in.

“Yes sir, he’s right here. I’ll put you through.”

There was the tinny music of being on hold for a moment, and then the secretary’s voice sounding a little surprised.

“Mr Mocoso says he’s busy sir, and he’ll call you back when he can.”  

“Thank you.” Rolf said with deliberate courtesy, “Would you ask him to call me as soon as he’s off the phone or without a client, and let him know it’s important please? Goodbye.”

He stood waiting by the phone, knowing Matthew. Matthew held out after that message for almost a minute and a half, during which time despite the several miles between them, Rolf could hear him sweating. He picked the phone up as soon as it rang.

“Hello?”

“Hi.”

Matthew sounded short, mad, and was probably panicked. Rolf sat down at the kitchen table, keeping his voice even.

“Did you forget to call and ask permission to stay late?”

Matthew’s hiss of frustration carried clearly down the phone. “Look, I don't have time for this! I'll be home when I have things under control.”

“Excuse me?” Rolf said coldly.

He heard the tone jar his partner, and apparently it was a jar he’d needed. Matthew didn’t answer, and after a minute Rolf said quietly,

“Yes, I thought I misheard that.  Did I miss a call earlier or not?”

“.....no.”

“What's gotten your attention that much?”

Matthew’s sigh this time was much heavier and if Rolf was any judge, tears weren’t far behind it.

“Everything! It's a total mess, there's no time, everyone wants things NOW and I can't just walk away!”

If he’d had a day as bad as it sounded, this would be the first time all day he’d spoken privately to anyone about what he was feeling, and it was like pulling a cork off a shaken bottle of coke. Rolf spoke firmly, thinking they needed if at all possible to keep the cork in place until Matthew got home and could release it safely.

“Is there anything there that can't wait for tomorrow?”

He got a sarcastic laugh that wasn’t a good sign. “All of it!”

“Matthew, calm down.”

“You look at what I'm looking at and you calm down!”

Ok, this was going to go further south the longer they talked. Rolf got up, crispening his voice.

“You need to get your gear together and come home.”

“I need to finish this!”

“You've got 20 minutes before I expect to see you on the drive.”

“In a couple of hours. I have to shift some of this, I can't –“

“I can come get you if you'd like?” Rolf said pointedly. Matthew’s response was immediate and hot.

“That doesn't mean I'll let you in.”

“Twenty minutes, sunshine.”  Rolf informed him, and put the phone down. This looked like being the end to the perfect week.


The Previous Monday


"Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?”

“Matthew.”

The word earned Rolf a solid pout in his direction. Rolf kept his voice as patient as possible, aware that his partner was both tired and high strung this evening.

“Because the laundry still has to get done.”

“But Marc said that I really needed to watch this show!”

“How long is the laundry going to take you?”

“I don’t knoooow.”

“Ten minutes to load the machine. Go on.”

Since Rolf was holding the remote and not planning on moving, Matthew huffed quietly and got up to go upstairs and get the next load of laundry. It was the dreaded whites, with the 50 million socks and shorts. Matthew gathered them up, having to bend over another five or six times to pick up the items that keeps falling, got to the top of the stairs and looked back to see one sock laughing at him from the doorway. He successfully didn’t kick anything. Instead he threw the clothes down the stairs and went back to get the last sock, then started collecting the items as he walked down the steps. Rolf, having seen the armful of clothes hurled down, tactfully didn’t comment on it.

Matthew fought the armful as far as the machine, poked it in, added soap and slammed the door, and headed back to the couch, leaving the machine running. Rolf held out an arm to him.

“Well done.”

Matthew dropped down against him, mutely burying himself in the hug, and let Rolf handle the remote to turn the tv on and locate the show in question. They watched in relative silence, curled up together until the machine plinged. Rolf nudged gently when Matthew didn’t move.

“Drier.”

“Commercial break.”

“Now please.”

“What's wrong in waiting 5 minutes?”

“The tv doesn't rule our lives. Go on please.”

Matthew muttered, but got up and took the three minutes necessary to dump the laundry from one location to the next. When he returned, he pointedly took the far end of the couch. Rolf, aware he was now well into the doghouse, didn’t comment. Matthew went on watching the show, absently petting a cat.

When the drier plinged, Rolf glanced down the couch to his partner. Matthew’s eyes did not waver from the set; if he’d heard it, he wasn’t reacting.

“That’s the drier.” Rolf said mildly.

Matthew didn’t respond. Mentally sighing, Rolf picked up the remote and muted the set. That penetrated the cloth ears. Matthew gave him a look of exasperation.

“Rolf!”

“Drier please.”

Matthew glared at him. Rolf simply aimed the remote at the tv, turned it off, and got up to put the remote away. Matthew dragged himself off the couch with a hiss of frustration.

“oKAY. ”

Rolf picked up a book and settled down to read.

Matthew folded all the laundry and left it on top of the washer, coming back a few minutes later and going to get the remote.

“No, we're done with tv tonight.” Rolf said from behind his book. Matthew glared at him.

“I was still watching it!”

“If you want the tv on you need to deal with your chores.”

“They're done!”

“Not without harassing. We're done with tv tonight.”

“I wasn't NOT going to do them!” Matthew argued, “I just wanted to wait for a commercial break before I did!”

Rolf’s voice was quiet and final. “We're not arguing. Tv's done for tonight.”

Matthew stomped out of the room. And stopped, stomach chilling at the tone behind him.

“Matthew.”

“Whaaaat?”

“Come here please.”

Unwillingly, Matthew turned and went back to him. Rolf lowered his book.

“Why did the tv get turned off?”

“Because I was watching it.”

Rolf waited.

“..........instead of doing chores.” Matthew added reluctantly.

“Whose decision was it to watch instead of doing chores?”

There was a quiet, extended pause.

“...Mine.”

“The outcome of that choice is the tv is done for tonight. Your choice, you take the consequences without pouting and stomping. Would you like to go to bed now?”

“No sir.”

“Then find something to do and settle down.”

Matthew spun around and headed off. Without stomping.

Just bury me under the doghouse, Rolf thought, turning a page of his book.


He was aware of Matthew wandering, petting cats and looking at the garden as it gradually got darker outside. At nine, Rolf glanced at his watch and lifted his voice to reach the kitchen.

“Matthew. Time to go up and get ready for bed.”

“It's only 9?”

Only Matthew could sound that shocked, politely accusing, pitiful and reproachful all in one go. Particularly when he was this tired.

“You can read until 9.30.”

It was obvious from Matthew’s expression that the concession didn’t help, but he went upstairs. Rolf followed him up about fifteen minutes later, finding him in nightwear and sitting on the bed and petting a cat. Rolf turned on the bedside light and lifted the covers for him until Matthew, scowling, slid over and got into bed. Rolf stooped to kiss him, passing him his book.

I'll let you know when it's 9.30. I'm going to work a while.”

“I'm not sleepy.” Matthew said as a formality, putting him on notice.

“Thank you for sharing.” Rolf said, heading for the office.

Matthew scowled after him, scooted down in bed and tried to read.  Since that made him sleepy, he stopped it after a few minutes and put the book down. One of the cats was washing itself in the doorway. Matthew dug in the bedside drawer until he found the laser pointer, turned it on and pointed the little dot of light on the carpet.

Down the hall a moment later, Rolf heard the thunder of feline feet and stopped what he was doing. It was quicker. Two cats were scrabbling madly for the point of light in the bathroom. Rolf leaned over the bed and confiscated the laser from Matthew’s hand, turning it off and pocketing it. He got the now familiar glare again.

I wasn't out of bed!”

Rolf turned out the bedside light, which effectively hid the glare from view.

“Go to sleep.”

Tuesday


It was 6.45pm when the car turned into the drive way. Rolf, relaxing slightly after several increasingly concerned phone calls, had the door open before Matthew reached him.

“Do you know what time it is?”

“Idiots!” Matthew spat at him, trying to move past him into the house. Rolf stopped him, blocking the door, which due to his height he did well.

“What
 happened?”

“I don't know why I'm the only one that can read and understand and obey road signs!”

“Matthew,” Rolf said darkly, interrupting what promised to be a hot tirade on the local drivers, “I expected you forty five minutes ago, and you weren’t answering your phone.”

“I put my phone in the seat next to me.” Matthew snapped back. “It should have stayed there but no, of course it can't, it has to be friggen taped down to stay because I can't drive in a straight line at a normal speed!”

Rolf took his coat and brief case, stepping back to let Matthew in. “Go stand in the corner in the hall.”

“That always makes things better!” Matthew informed him, stomping past. The deep voice behind him got his attention in a hurry.

“Matthew.......”

Matthew stopped and turned, breathing hard.

Rolf shut the door and put the briefcase and coat down. “Come here.”

Matthew stomped the few steps back to him. Rolf took his arm, turned him sideways and swatted him hard. Matthew yelped, putting a hand behind him. Rolf turned him back to look him in the eye.

Cool down or I will cool you down. Corner.”

Matthew shut his mouth and went, rubbing, and still steaming. Rolf put away his coat and briefcase and went into the kitchen, removing any audience from the spitting accountant now muttering at the wall.  



It was half an hour before he heard a voice from the hall, in a very different and now rather subdued tone.

“Roooooooolf......?”

“Want to come here and talk to me calmly?” Rolf asked from the living room.

“Yeeeesss.”

“Come here then.”

Matthew went slowly into the living room. Rolf, on the couch, laid down his book and held out an arm. Matthew dropped down next to him and Rolf hooked an arm around his waist and pulled Matthew over into his lap, turning him so they were face to face.

“What time were you due home this evening?”

“Six.” Matthew said reluctantly.

“What time did you get home?”

“.......... six thirty.”

“I made it 6.45.” Rolf pointed out. “What happened?”

“Traffic!” Matthew protested. “I told you!”

“You left the office at 5.30?”

“I tried!  I left my desk at 5.30.”

“And then?”

“Edward had a couple questions before I walked out, then the temp did too.”

“And you told them you couldn't stay and left?”

Matthew fidgeted, not looking at him. “Edward needed a couple answers so he could finish a return before he left.  The temp needed an answer before she could continue on the return she was working on, because the guy was on his way over.  I can't exactly say screw it and walk out.”

“You can say you don’t have time.”

“I'm already not staying as late as they are because you won’t let me!” Matthew protested. “The least I can do is answer questions so they can keep working if I'm leaving.”

“Then you need to check if they have questions well before 5.30.” Rolf said matter of factly. “I give you the time I expect you to be here, and I won't accept your appearing whenever you and fate get around to it after that time. You need to plan your time. There are good reasons you need to be home when we agree.”

‘Agree’ was an interesting way of putting it. Matthew scowled  but managed a fairly quiet “.....yes sir.”

“What happens if you don't make that time without good reason?” Rolf asked. Matthew squirmed, pulling a face.

“Rooollllllfffffff...”

Rolf said nothing, simply waiting. Matthew dropped his head and his voice, pouting.

“I’m punished.”

“You are.” Rolf agreed. He helped Matthew stand up and turned him around, unbuttoned his pants and shorts and turned Matthew over his knee, pulling the clothes well out of the target zone.

How many minutes late were you?

“............... forty five?” Matthew said in a near squeak. Apparently 45 didn’t seem like such an insignificant number now. Rolf took his time, spanking slowly and hard through all forty five of the swats, and Matthew was in tears and moving quite a lot by the time he was done and rested his hand. `

“Next time it'll be two swats per minute. Do you understand?”

Matthew struggled for a second to get up, trying to look at him, then when Rolf didn’t let him move, put his head down. “Yes sir.”

Rolf helped him up, steadying him while he hauled his pants back into place and wiped his face.

“Go upstairs, wash and change, and we’ll eat.”




Dinner was a quiet affair; Matthew, still smarting physically and emotionally, said very little and ate as if he was starving.  When they’d cleared up, Matthew snapped the tv on, grabbed the remote and lay down on the floor. It was one of those nights where he wanted not to talk, to communicate, to do anything except disappear into the tv set, and it went with bad and overfilled work days.  Rolf left him alone, picking up his book and resuming his seat on the couch, aware that Matthew shifted near to his feet although he made no visible indication he even knew Rolf was there. Getting the message, Rolf put a foot against his back, absently massaging as he read.
At eight thirty as the current programme ended, he nudged the foot gently against Matthew’s hip.

“Go on up and get ready for bed.”

Matthew looked at the clock and then pointedly back at him.

“You're tired.” Rolf picked the remote up off the floor and snapped the tv off.

“No I’m nooooooot.” Matthew pleaded.

“Yes you are. Go on up.”

Matthew got up, scowling, and headed upstairs. Rolf went on reading, aware a few minutes later of Matthew starting back downstairs, now washed and changed.

“Matthew, bed.”

Matthew sat down on the steps within view, quiet.  “You just said get ready?”

Rolf turned around and looked at him. Matthew scowled but got up and went back upstairs.

Rolf gave him ten minutes to get himself settled before he headed upstairs. Matthew was flopped on top of the covers, petting a cat. Rolf pulled back the covers, holding them up for him.

“Come on.”

“I'm not sleepy.” Matthew warned.

“Ok.”

Matthew scowled. “When I say I'm not sleepy you're not supposed to say ok.”

Rolf took his hand, pulled him up and steered him to get into bed, tucking the covers over him.

“Go to sleep. You need it. I’ll be up soon.”

Matthew lifted his head for a rather sulky kiss.

“It better be soon.”

Rolf chased the cats downstairs ahead of him to avoid any misunderstandings with lasers, and downstairs put the tv back on, turning it down quiet enough not to bother Matthew.

It was about five minutes before the light went on upstairs.

Rolf leaned back on the couch, looking up the stairs.

“Matthew?”

There was no answer.

“Matthew.”

Silence.

Rolf got up and headed upstairs. Matthew gave him a defiant look over the top of a book.

I thought reading would help me sleep.”

Rolf went to him, hand out for the book. Matthew glowered. Rolf took it out of his hand, rolled him over and swatted him with it, not gently.

“Light out, go to sleep.”

Matthew curled up, not touching the light. As a declaration of war, it was pointed. Accepting the challenge, Rolf sat down on the side of the bed and withdrew a hairbrush from the drawer. Matthew’s eyes widened and he scrambled upright, grabbing for the light switch.

“Ok ok it’s out!”

“Too late.” Rolf turned the covers back and turned Matthew over his lap, tugging his shorts down and landing three, sound swats on the still faintly pink bottom.

“I'm not repeating myself again tonight. Is that clear? Get into bed and go to sleep.”

Breathless, Matthew struggled off his lap and pulled his shorts back into place, scrambling back under the safety of the covers. Rolf put the hairbrush down in clear sight on the nightstand as a deterrent to any further offensives, and went back down stairs.



Wednesday


With his mind on warding off any potential problems from this evening, Rolf called Matthew’s office at the end of his lunch break. The answer he got was the tone of voice that he only ever heard when Matthew was working; cheerful but authoritative, and reserved. Very different to the Matthew he knew at home. 

“This is Matthew, how can I help you?”

“It's me.” Rolf sat back in his chair. “How is your day going?”

Matthew’s voice softened towards its more familiar tone but he sounded distracted and paper was being moved in the background.  

“Hey. It's still crazy but at least I got that payroll crap done this morning.”

As that had involved hours of preparation and still more hours of untangling messed up finance, there was a huge achievement mentioned in that throwaway phrase, which suggested that now it was done, Matthew’s head was onto the next crisis. 

“That's great,” Rolf said with real appreciation of what that piece of work had involved. “Well done, you put a lot into that. Did lunch get eaten?”

“Yeah, we had a working lunch since no one had time to go out. We got Abuelos delivered. It was Good.”

Rolf smiled. Matthew and Mexican food; always a good combination.

“That does sound good.”
“Matthew?” a woman’s voice said in the distance, “I’ve got that client of James’ on the phone and he- can you speak with him?”

“Go.” Rolf said gently. “Have a good afternoon, I'll see you home at 5.30. no later.”

“Okay.” Matthew said distractedly. “Bye.”

Obviously things in that office were no calmer.

Rolf worked through until five, and left early, planning to be home ahead of Matthew. He was sitting at red traffic lights when his cell phone rang. Matthew sounded even more distracted than he had earlier. 

“Hey.  I just got some information in on another of the big messes, I'm going to do the set up so tomorrow is a bit easier, but it’ll put me leaving here about...twenty minutes later, okay?

Here we go, Rolf thought, tucking the phone against his shoulder as the traffic began to move.

“No.” he said calmly. “You need to come home now.”

“It's going to help make tomorrow easier and it's ONLY twenty minutes.”

“No.” Rolf repeated quietly. He was aware of the desperation in Matthew’s voice, a level of emotion that said all too clearly he was past being able to detach from what he was doing.  

“Please!”

“No. You've done the hours you need to, and you need your evenings. Home, now please. Tomorrow will be ok.”

“You say to call if I need more time,” Matthew said with his voice breaking, “And I do. Bye.”

The phone at the other end was put down. Rolf put his own phone down with sympathy. The panic always hit at the end of the day when Matthew had to think about stopping. He hated leaving anything part done, even if to complete it would take hours, and at night when it was time to stop and he was tired, he got all too easily overwhelmed with what was left to do. A calm, consistent routine and a clear boundary helped the most. Without it, there would be whole weeks during tax season where Matthew wouldn’t get round to eating or to coming home at all, and left to himself would probably sleep by his desk.

He headed home and opened the door to cool the house down, fed the cats and searched the fridge for something to make for dinner that was easy on the digestion and likely to appeal to someone in need of comfort food. It was five thirty five when he heard Matthew’s car turn onto the drive, and a moment later Matthew stalked into the kitchen without looking at him. Rolf put his back against the counter and held out his arms, voice firm.

“Come here.”

Matthew went to him, from the stiffness of his shoulders braced and ready to fight. Rolf pulled him in and hugged him hard, holding him.

I do say to call if you want more time,” he said in Matthew’s ear, “and I appreciate that you do, and I always listen. But extra time is for emergencies only, and this week you really need your evenings.”

“It doesn’t feel like it.” Matthew mumbled.

“Doesn't feel like what?”

“That you listen.”

Rolf nodded a little ruefully. “Yes, I can understand that right now.”

Matthew leaned against him, still mad but holding on to him, and from the way he was leaning, mad or not he really wanted the comfort.

“I don’t understand why 20 minutes is such a huge deal, when it would make tomorrow easier and I wouldn't have to deal with the rush hour traffic so much.”

Rolf turned his face up, smoothing his hair back. “Because you’re working flat out at the moment, and to survive it you need time for you. Someone has to defend that. We need time together every day too. Work isn't the only thing that's important. Go change, and then we need to have a talk about the time.”

Matthew reared back, face outraged. “What's wrong with the time?”

“What time was your deadline tonight?” Rolf said mildly. Matthew glared.

“5.30 and I was here!”

“What time is it on your watch?”

“It's quarter to, why?”

“We haven't been talking for fifteen minutes. You walked in at 5.35.”

“You’re going to make a fuss about five minutes?”

“I’ll make a fuss about thirty seconds if necessary.” Rolf pointed out. “5.30 means 5.30. Go change.”

Matthew stalked noisily upstairs, radiating disapproval. Rolf got a jug of iced tea out of the fridge, poured two glasses and put them on the table, and pushed a pasta bake into the oven. There was still no sign of Matthew when he was done. Rolf sat down at the table, lifting his voice to reach upstairs.

“Matthew. Come on.”

Matthew came downstairs. He’d changed into his comfortable home clothes, and he was scowling. Rolf pulled out the chair beside him and patted it. Matthew came unwillingly and dropped down into it.

What did I say yesterday?” Rolf asked him. Matthew picked at one of his nails, hands on the table and not looking at him.

“I needed to be home on time.”

“Yes. And that it was going to be two swats for every minute past that deadline. What does that make it tonight?”

It was blunt, but it would drag Matthew’s mind off the multiple distractions of payroll and onto the hard facts.

“Ten.” Matthew said softly.

Rolf nodded and slid his chair back. “Then let’s go.”

It took a moment before Matthew got up but once he did, he leaned over Rolf’s lap, looking upset more than angry now. It was only ten swats, but they were good ones.

“If we need to do this again tomorrow,” Rolf warned him, helping him up when he was done, “it's going to involve a spoon. Corner please, you can stand there and think about whether it's worth planning to get away on time.”

Matthew went over to the corner, and if Rolf was any judge he was near to tears. He made a salad and set the table while Matthew stood there, head down, and once the table was set he took Matthew’s hand and headed out onto the porch with him to sit down in the swing. Matthew pulled up his knees and hugged them, looking out over the garden. Rolf sat with an arm around him, rocking the swing slowly with his feet on the ground. It took a good fifteen minutes, but in the quiet out there, and the last of the evening sun on the garden, Matthew finally leaned against him.  

“.....sorry about being such a pain tonight.”

“You’re not.” Rolf said definitely. “I know it's a hard week and you're working hard. We’re all right, we’ll handle it.”

Matthew nodded, and Rolf saw his eyes blur.

“What?” he said quietly, rubbing where his hand rested around Matthew’s shoulders. Matthew shrugged.

“I don't know how you put up with me sometimes.”

“It's not difficult.”

“It must be like living with a toddler.”

“No, just a stressed out accountant, I can handle that.”

Matthew smiled faintly and twisted around, curling up to him. Rolf put a hand up to ruffle his hair.

“This is just a rough week. That’s all. We’ll get through it and it’ll be fine.”




They ate in the garden, took their time over it, and sat a while longer on the swing until dusk made it difficult to see across the lawn.

“I’ll clean up.” Rolf said when they finally brought the dishes in. “You go up and get ready for bed.”

“It’s only nine, this is getting really old.” Matthew said reproachfully, going.
 

You need the sleep.”

“I'm not sleepy.” Matthew leaned around the kitchen doorpost. “What is the problem with falling asleep on the couch in front of the tv like normal people?”

“Mostly me.” Rolf gave him a smile over the dishwasher, appreciating Matthew teasing, which he hadn’t done much of this week. “And you’re not sleepy but you’re dog tired. Go on.”

Matthew hesitated, eyes appealing. “Are you coming too?”

“Yes, I’ll come up and read.” Rolf said gently. “Go on. I won’t be long.”


Thursday



So here they were, at five forty five pm, with no sign of a brat

There was no reply when Rolf called Matthew’s direct line. That might have been due to Matthew currently being out of the office and sitting in traffic on his way home. It might also be a tactical avoidance of answering the phone, knowing who was most likely to be calling him forty five minutes after he should have left his desk. Rolf re dialled, this time calling the secretary, who cheerfully confirmed his suspicions without the faintest idea of the mess she was dropping Matthew in.

“Yes sir, he’s right here. I’ll put you through.”

There was the tinny music of being on hold for a moment, and then the secretary’s voice sounding a little surprised.

“Er....Mr Mocoso says he’s busy sir, and he’ll call you back when he can.”  

“Thank you.” Rolf said with deliberate courtesy, “Would you ask him to call me as soon as he’s off the phone or without a client, and let him know it’s important please? Goodbye.”

He stood waiting by the phone, knowing Matthew. Matthew held out after that message for almost a minute and a half, during which time despite the several miles between them, Rolf could hear him sweating. He picked the phone up as soon as it rang.

“Hello?”

“Hi.”

Matthew sounded short, mad, and was probably panicked. Rolf sat down at the kitchen table, keeping his voice even.

“Did you forget to call and ask permission to stay late?”

Matthew’s hiss of frustration carried clearly down the phone. “Look, I don't have time for this! I'll be home when I have things under control.”

“Excuse me?” Rolf said coldly.

He heard the tone jar his partner, and apparently it was a jar he’d needed. Matthew didn’t answer, and after a minute Rolf said quietly,

“Yes, I thought I misheard that.  Did I miss a call earlier or not?”

“.....no.”

“What's gotten your attention that much?”

Matthew’s sigh this time was much heavier and Rolf could hear that tears weren’t far behind it.

“Everything! It's a total mess, there's no time, everyone wants things NOW and I can't just walk away!”

If he’d had a day as bad as it sounded, this would be the first time all day he’d spoken privately to anyone about what he was feeling, and it was like pulling a cork off a shaken bottle of coke. Rolf spoke firmly, thinking they needed if at all possible to keep the cork in place until Matthew got home and could release it safely.

“Is there anything there that can't wait for tomorrow?”

He got a sarcastic laugh that wasn’t a good sign. “All of it!”

“Matthew, calm down.”

“You look at what I'm looking at and you calm down!”

Ok, this was going to go further south the longer they talked. Rolf got up, crispening his voice.

“You need to get your gear together and come home.”

“I need to finish this!”

“You've got 20 minutes before I expect to see you on the drive.”

“In a couple of hours. I have to shift some of this, I can't –“

“I can come get you if you'd like?” Rolf said pointedly. Matthew’s response was immediate and hot.

“That doesn't mean I'll let you in.”

“Twenty minutes, sunshine.”  Rolf informed him, and put the phone down.

Across town, Matthew slammed the phone down and gave way to tears. It was several minutes before he got himself calmed down, and had his face straight; enough that when the secretary called in to say goodnight, she saw nothing that made her look twice. Matthew thanked her warmly for working hard through a difficult day, wished her a relaxing evening, and locked up after her. That was about the end of his professional veneer.

In his office, he circled the phone for several minutes, stomach roiling, then grabbed it up and dialled. Rolf answered promptly, and from the background sounds he was cooking.

“Hello?”

“I can't leave this.” Matthew told him. “I really can't. I'll be home around nine.”

Rolf didn’t sound unsympathetic, but his answer was unpromisingly firm. “Honey, I know it looks like a lot, but that isn't an option tonight.  Pack up, come home and we'll figure it out together.”

That was very hard to resist, and somehow made things a whole lot worse in an office crowded with paper which felt a very long way from home tonight. Tears overflowed again and Matthew shoved a stack of paper off his desk.

“You don't understand! You never understand how much there is!”

Then get started on it.” Rolf said calmly. “I'll be there in fifteen minutes to pick you up.”

“I'm NOT coming home!”

“Fifteen minutes.” Rolf repeated. “Goodbye.”

The definite click of the phone being put down made things ten times worse. Matthew stumbled up from the desk and tried to pick up the bits of paper he’d scattered, getting a paper cut in the process which stole any last remnant of self control. Matthew swept the last stack off his desk and leaned back against the bookcase, putting his hands over his face. This was a mess. This was one big, terrible mess.

He was aware of the sound in the distance when Rolf tried to open the locked door. He wished he wasn’t. Rolf seemed to have flown the distance from home in half the time it would take anyone else. Matthew sat where he was amongst the hurled paper, swallowed hard and ignored it. A moment later his desk phone shrilled, and he ignored that too, stomach starting to hurt. By the time his cell phone rang he was feeling too bad about it to resist any longer. He pulled the phone from his pocket and opened it, not speaking. He didn’t need to. Rolf’s voice was audible in the distance as well as from the phone.

“Open. The. Door.”

“I'm working,” Matthew tried, somewhat pointlessly as he was actually sitting on the floor by a heap of paper. Rolf’s roar made him jump and propelled him to his feet.

Now!

His hand shook when he reached and pressed the door release button in his office. There was paper everywhere. He was in deep, deep....... whatever.

Rolf heard the door release buzz and let himself in. The office was quiet and dark other than Matthew’s room, where a light showed through the half open door. Obviously Matthew was the only one left here, which also explained why the cork had blown free. Rolf pushed open the door on a floor that was awash with paper. The files had obviously been dropped – or possibly hurled – and Matthew, red eyed, dishevelled and miserable, was sitting on the floor with his back against the book case, not looking at him. Rolf waded across the paper sea, trying not to crush upturned files.

“What is going on here?”

Matthew didn’t look up.

Rolf took his arm, pulled him up to his feet and swatted him, several times, hard enough to get and hold his attention.

“I said what’s going on here?”

That gained him eye contact, and as soon as Matthew lifted his head he lost control of the tears. Rolf pulled him close and wrapped his arms around him, looking over his head at the mayhem of the floor and desk. He could feel Matthew shaking, probably from being tired and hungry as much as from stress. 

“I'm sorry.” Matthew managed indistinctly from his chest, “I'm really sorry, I didn't mean not to let you in.”

Rolf kissed his forehead, not debating it. “Let's get the mess picked up and head home.”

He gathered up papers quickly, not trying to make sense of what he had, just placing it in a stack on one of the client chairs, and after a minute Matthew came to help him. It took only a couple of minutes to put everything into piles, after which Rolf turned off the computer on the desk and picked up Matthew’s coat and case.

“All straight up front? Answerphone on?”

Matthew managed a nod. He was still struggling with tears, and Rolf put an arm around him, snapping the lights out and steering him firmly towards the door.

“Home then.”


They left Matthew’s car in the car park despite Matthew arguing without much conviction that he was perfectly fit to drive. The roads were quiet with rush hour over, and Rolf parked in the garage, shutting the door behind them. The house lights were on, the casserole in the oven smelled warmly savoury and the cats were gathered behind the kitchen door. Rolf opened it, herding felines back before they escaped into the garage.

Go get into your pjs, I'll get dinner on the table.”

Matthew didn’t reply, just headed slowly upstairs. Rolf took the casserole out of the oven, put out two plates and a glass of milk for Matthew, and set the table. It was barely five minutes before he heard slow footsteps on the stairs and glanced up to see Matthew hovering red-eyed in the doorway. Rolf pulled out a chair beside his.

“Come and sit down sweetheart.”

Matthew came to him instead, leaning hard. Rolf hugged him, rubbing his back which still felt chilled.

“Come on, you must be starving.”

It still took a lot of gentle badgering to get him to eat. Rolf ate slowly, trying to keep pace with him, and in the end Matthew cleared most of his plate. He looked horribly tired. White, heavy eyed, and while all this week so far he’d looked brittle, easily fired up by the slightest provocation, right now he looked limp. Defeated.

When the meal was done, Rolf put the plates on the counter, came back to the table and sat down beside him, and Matthew put his head in his hands, well aware of what was coming.

“Yes, we do need to talk about this afternoon.” Rolf said gently.

“I didn’t mean it to be such a mess.” Matthew said through his hands.

Rolf nodded, not unsympathetic. “I know.  It just snowballs once it gets going.  You need to work a little harder on trying not to let it get to that point. Why didn't you just come home when I told you to?”

Matthew shrugged, obviously not very sure now. “It was too much and it all went wrong today, I needed to sort it out.”

“You needed to listen to me when I told you to come home.” Rolf told him. “I could tell you were near the breaking point and nothing much was going to be situated if you kept working tonight. You need to trust me, and you need to call when you start getting this stressed. When you get overwhelmed, it becomes a much bigger problem and you end up worrying more than working, it doesn't get shifted and you don't feel any relief.” 

These were familiar lines and Matthew nodded, eyes down. “..I know. it just doesn't feel like that when it's all going crazy.”

“When it's going nuts, that’s when you need to take a step back, take a breath, and figure out what to do.  If you don't take that step back, you're dragged along with all the craziness.”

“I know.”

“Then we need to talk about the punishment for your actions this evening.”

Matthew’s eyes went even further down, although he was quiet.  

“You didn't call to ask for more time and stayed late anyway.” Rolf said quietly, watching Matthew nod brief, unhappy agreement. “You ignored my calls when I became concerned because you weren't home. When you did call, I thought it was quite plain that you were coming home, yet you continued trying to work. And when I did eventually arrive at the office, you refused to open the door.”

Matthew’s head was about as low as it could go. Rolf watched him, knowing that in Matthew’s mind there wasn’t anything to say or worth saying in his defence.  

“That's a pretty ugly list, wouldn't you agree? I understand that you're tired and stressed, but I'm not going to stand for  the flat disobedience nor the rudeness you displayed this evening.  You know that is never acceptable and how seriously I take that.  Go and get the paddle.

Matthew looked up with flat appeal, tears starting to run again. Rolf  squeezed his knee.

“Go on, let’s get this over with.”

Matthew slowly got up and went to get it. Rolf pushed his chair back, took the paddle and drew Matthew to his side, tugged his shorts down and pulled him across his knees. He was crying but not resisting at all. Rolf settled him in place, picked up the paddle and spanked him. It didn’t take long at all to make his point, although he was sure it felt a lot longer to Matthew, but he made very sure there was a definite reminder left that wouldn't fade quickly, and would give Matthew serious pause for thought before he gave into impulses about declining to come home on request. They didn’t need a repeat of tonight happening again this tax season.

Matthew was crying hard when Rolf put the paddle on the table, giving Matthew some time to catch his breath before he helped him to get up and dress. If Matthew had looked pathetic before, he looked awful now. Rolf got up, pushing him gently towards the far end of the kitchen.

“Corner.”

He did the kitchen cleanup needed from after dinner, which didn’t take long, aware that Matthew was crying freely and steadily on the far side of the room. Not hysterical or noisy, but tired and releasing a lot of pent up steam. When the last dish was in the dishwasher, Rolf snapped off the light, took Matthew by the hand and led him into the living room where he settled on the sofa, pulling Matthew down with him. Matthew promptly curled up in a ball against him, and Rolf sat quietly, rubbing his back and his head, letting him get it out of his system. It was a long time before Matthew got down to hitching breaths, and then finally went silent, head heavy against him.

It hasn't been one of the better weeks, has it?” Rolf said softly. Matthew shook his head slowly.

“It hasn’t been since we took on the temp secretary when Angela left. She’s nice, but she can’t do much more than answer phones.”

“And everyone’s running around to compensate, when tax season is mayhem anyway.” Experienced from numerous tax seasons while married to an accountant, Rolf went on smoothing Matthew’s extremely tousled hair. 
“Tomorrow is Friday. I think you should go in tomorrow morning and work on organizing your desk.  Doesn't matter how long it takes, just get everything in stacks so that you know what's there.  Can you do that?”

Matthew nodded slowly against him.

“No emergencies that you're aware of that need to be dealt with first thing?” Rolf said in the same quiet tone. Matthew snorted, but it was a half hearted sound.

“Probably a hundred.”

“No, listen to me.  There's a difference between what is actually an emergency and what seems like it.  IS there anything that must be done before lunch tomorrow?”

That made a difference. He felt Matthew think about it, objectively before he answered. “.... not unless there are fires to put out for clients.”

“Okay.  Then go through everything you have and make a list of what’s there.  Call me when you're finished and we'll figure out the best and quickest way for you to get through all of it. Yes?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Rolf bent his head to kiss the top of Matthew’s. “It feels overwhelming at the moment because you're beyond tired and you have no clear idea of what is there.  I promise by the time you leave tomorrow afternoon you're going to feel a whole lot better. Right now I think it's a good time for you to head upstairs to bed.”



‘Beyond tired’ was about right.

With the night light low on his side of the bed, Rolf read and Matthew lay quietly so long as Rolf had one hand on his back and was rubbing, but definitely not falling asleep. Finally Rolf put out the light, pulled Matthew over into his arms and resigned himself to an extra hour or two of sleep if that was what it took to settle Matthew down. About five minutes later he was reassured by Matthew rolling away into his usual sleeping position on his side. Another five minutes later, on the brink of sleep himself, he became aware of a foot being jiggled steadily and repetitively on the other side of the bed. He put his own foot out, found the tapping one and covered it, and Matthew sighed and lay still again.

Two minutes later, Rolf was jerked awake by a heavy flop of the mattress and the loss of most of the covers as Matthew not so much apparently turned over as rotated in mid air and dropped. Yanking the covers back over them both, he growled, “Settle down.” in the direction of the fidgeting.

That appeared to do it.

He was woken what felt like thirty seconds later by a creak from the stairs. Rolling over, Rolf blinked, listened, and found the other side of the bed empty.

It was clearly going to be one of those nights.

Wrestling his way out from under covers pinned down with two sleeping cats who did not want to move, Rolf padded downstairs. No lights were on, but the kitchen door was open, and despite it not being a warm night, Matthew was visible standing out on the porch, bottle of water in his hand, looking out at the lawn. The kitchen clock stood at midnight. Hearing the door creak, Matthew looked round, large eyed in the dim light.

“Hi.”

“Hi?” Rolf repeated in disbelief.  “Get in here, now.”

Matthew sighed but came in, bare foot, in nothing more than t shirt and shorts. Rolf shut and locked the door, levelling a finger towards the stairs.

“Up.”

“It was hot up there.” Matthew offered as a general explanation. Rolf caught his arm and swatted him.

Up.”

Apparently the swat on top of a paddling was enough to convince him. Matthew fled upstairs and Rolf followed, resisting the urge to demand what Matthew thought he was doing outside. This was no time for complicated discussions or reasons that probably only made sense in Matthew’s head at midnight when he was overtired. Matthew dived back into bed. Rolf turned the bathroom light on, came over and sat on Matthew's side of the bed, aware that the look he was receiving was a distinctly nervous one.

“Matthew, you are too tired to be wandering around at night.  You don't leave this bed again.”

“It's hoooooooooooot.” Matthew said plaintively. The whine said a great deal. Rolf got up, going to the ceiling fan switch.

“Then I’ll turn the fan up. Lie still and you won’t be hot.”

How he was managing to be hot on a cold night was another matter they weren’t getting into at this hour. Rolf lay down beside him, got comfortable, and balanced the urge to sink straight back into sleep with awareness of his partner on the far side of the bed. Matthew lay quietly for all of two minutes before the foot jiggling began again. Just a little. Combined with fingers picking at a loose thread on the quilt, with a steady nick, nick, nick sound that could have driven a saint to drink. Rolf turned over with a deep growl.

“Matthew....”

Matthew huffed and turned over on his stomach, laying still. Rolf shut his eyes, hoping that was it.

It was not that much later that he woke as he felt the covers move as Matthew slid out of bed and went into the bathroom, shutting the door. Rolf forcibly ungritted his teeth. This could only take a moment or two. His jaw dropped all by itself a moment later as he heard the shower start.

The shower.

He was actually taking a shower.

Flinging the covers back over one cat who protested sleepily, Rolf got up, stalked across to the bathroom, yanked the door open and knocked sharply on the shower door.

“OUT.”

“I’m soapy!”

There were a lot of answers to that. Rolf controlled all but one of them.

“You have thirty seconds young man. Move.”

His tone must have said a lot; Matthew was out in less than fifteen. Dripping wet, large eyed. Rolf handed him a towel and watched him dry off, blocking his route back to his clothes.

“What part” he said very slowly and clearly, taking the towel when Matthew was done, “of ‘don't get out of bed’ didn't you understand?”

Matthew winced. “I was HOT. I didn't want to disturb you, I thought showering would cool me down.”

He was actually serious. Rolf indicated the bedside clock through the open door.

It is nearly 2am young man, and I lost my patience a long time ago.”

Matthew didn’t answer but his lip definitely slid out.

“You've got a choice.” Rolf informed him. “You can get back into bed and settle down for sleep immediately, or I can spank you and you can settle down for sleep after that.  If you choose to skip the spanking now and don't get immediately settled and stay that way, I will get the hairbrush and make sitting impossible for tomorrow and you will be taking a sick day off and spending it in bed. What is your choice?”

“Bed?” Matthew said softly. Rolf held out his clothes and Matthew dressed, hastily enough to make it clear he was very glad to be covered. Rolf pulled up his chin when he was done, giving Matthew a very steady look.

“Do not push to see if I mean what I say.  You will not be happy.”

Not that he was very happy now, or he wouldn’t have pushed this far. Rolf unblocked the doorway, giving Matthew a hard swat towards the bed.

“Sleep.”

Matthew fled to the bed and burrowed in, curling up well away from Rolf. Rolf turned the bathroom light out and stalked back to his side of the bed, laying down and deliberately slowing his breathing.

It was about thirty seconds before he realised Matthew was crying.

There were times when strangulation really felt like it ought to be a viable option.  Pushing covers out of his way, Rolf rolled over, got hold of him and forcibly got an unwilling Matthew into his arms. Once there beyond argument, Matthew curled up to him, burying his face. Rolf stroked his back, determined that they were going to get some sleep tonight.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing.”

It was stifled and Rolf thought it was probably sincere. This was ongoing fallout from tiredness, stress, anxiety that things weren’t right between them, guilt, and any other free floating emotion in a fifty mile radius.

“Take a deep breath in and hold it.” he said in no uncertain terms, waiting until he felt Matthew do it. “Now let it out slowly.”

He had Matthew repeat the sequence over again for about five minutes, aware that Matthew did as he was told like a lamb, probably because he had what he’d been wanting since they first came to bed; his undivided, unqualified attention. And that as soon as he calmed down and relaxed, he fell asleep like a light being snapped off.


Friday


Matthew rolled over, blinking on the sunlight streaming in through the window. The sun seemed awfully high for this time of the morning. And while the other side of the bed was empty, there was no sign of Rolf in the shower. Heart starting to thud, Matthew grabbed for his watch and flew out of bed.

“Rolf!”

Rolf’s voice downstairs was immediate and calm. “It’s ok, I’m down here.”

“What do you mean you're still here?  Its nearly 8am!  We're late!”

Matthew ran down the stairs to the kitchen to find the back door open letting in the morning sun, the table set for the kind of breakfast that just didn’t go with a working day, and Rolf dressed,  but in jeans and a shirt that didn’t fit with his office, making what looked like pancakes. He put the pan off the heat and drew Matthew over for a hug.

“Good morning. I phoned the offices for us both and said we're taking a mental health day. Go put a sweater on, breakfast’s nearly ready.”

“I can't afford to take a day off!” Matthew said in outrage. Rolf kissed him and let him go, not sounding at all convinced.

“You are still tired and stressed out.  A day off is going to make a huge difference to how much work you get done when you go back.”

“No,” Matthew said desperately, “No, it means I lose 8 hours when I already can't work enough overtime because you won’t let me-”

Rolf flipped a pancake, interrupting calmly but firmly. “And one day away isn't going to hurt.  You were up half the night in too much of a state to sleep. If you keep going at this level of speed and stress, you're going to end up taking off a sick day because you ARE sick and it may not be just one day.  Think of this as preventative medicine.”

“I'm going in!” Matthew warned him. Rolf slipped the pancake out of the pan and onto a plate, and turned to put both hands on Matthew’s face.

“No. You're taking a day off and so am I.  Have I steered you wrong yet?”

There was no way to argue that. Feeling himself losing this battle beyond hope Matthew came out with the one word that never worked, but which he still tended to use like an incantation in moments of crisis.

“Rooollllffffffffffff...”

“You’ve never yet had to tell clients their demands are impossible and the work always gets done?” Rolf asked. Matthew pouted but couldn’t avoid a reluctant nod.

“Yes.....”

Rolf kissed the pout and let him go. “Then trust me. This is going to help. Go get a sweater.”

Matthew went slowly upstairs, grabbed a sweater and brought it down to the kitchen where a plate of pancakes and bacon was waiting. It was admittedly nice to have a full cooked breakfast on a week day morning rather than a grabbed bowl of cereal, and once he started to eat he realised he was hungry. Rolf had put the radio on, it was playing music quietly and along with the fresh air coming in through the door, the sense of panic drained away. In the end he ate more than he’d eaten in several days. Rolf collected the plates when they were done, getting up to rinse them.

“Go get a shower and put something warm and comfortable on. We’re going out.”

“Where?” Matthew said suspiciously. Rolf opened the dishwasher to stack the plates.

“Secret. Be quick.”
....that was kind of exciting. Despite himself, Matthew ran upstairs and grabbed a quick shower, and got into jeans and a sweater. Rolf had jackets and was waiting for him downstairs when he was done, and led the way out to the car.

“Can I drive?” Matthew said hopefully, as this would lead to Rolf having to give him directions. Rolf smiled and shook his head.

“Nope.”

It felt like a long time since they’d played like this. Matthew stuck his tongue out at Rolf, unable not to smile back as he got into the passenger side.

“Where are we going?”

“Wait and see.” Rolf pulled out onto the road.

“Somewhere in town?”

“Nope.”

“Within ten miles?”

“Nope.”

“Your mom or mine?”

“Nope.”

“Where then!”

Rolf shook his head, laughing. “Secret!”

Matthew gently punched his arm, giving up the battle. “No fair.”

Rolf turned out onto the interstate, and since that could lead pretty much anywhere, Matthew didn’t fight too hard the urge that came fairly quickly to fall asleep.

Rolf let him sleep, well aware he needed the rest. It was well over an hour before he reached their destination and discovered to his satisfaction that they were almost the only ones there. An early spring school day meant it would be quiet. He parked and put a hand on Matthew’s knee.

“Hey.”

Matthew stirred and lifted his head, blinking at the car lot.

“Where are we?”

“Come see. I’ve got a tour booked for ten.”

“You have?”

Rolf came around to open his door, holding it for him, and Matthew slid out onto the grass, looking around until he spotted a sign.

“The Mammoth Caves? We’re at the caves?”

“There’s some new caves open, some of the deeper ones we haven’t seen.” Rolf locked the car and walked with him towards the entrance. “I thought they might be good to take a look at.”

Matthew gladly came with him, waking up fast. He’d loved the caves since he was a child, the history and the grandeur and the sheer sensory power of them. This was somewhere he’d come with his family and with Rolf when they were first dating, and it had been some years since their last visit. They did have the tour almost to themselves. They spent several long hours walking through some of the newer caverns, past several underground rivers and up and down endless steps, until by early afternoon they fetched up for a rest at the snowball room for hamburgers and milkshakes, and then took the long walk back to the main entrance.

The parkland outside was quiet and deserted, and Rolf took his hand, guided him some way off the path to a quiet spot and sat down on the sun warmed grass. Matthew stretched out flat beside him, legs aching but in a good way, and feeling seriously, pleasantly sleepy.

“You know if we sit here I’m going to fall asleep?”

“Go ahead.” Rolf pulled a book out of his pocket that he’d bought in the caves, and stretched out beside him. “I won’t take it personally.”

Matthew grinned and rolled over beside him, pillowing his head on his arms. He heard the faint scrape of paper as Rolf started to read. There was nothing else to hear: no cars, no people, just open air and the warmth of the sun on his back and legs, and a sense of space. Breath seemed to go easier down to the bottom of his chest. He didn’t wake until Rolf put a hand on his shoulder, by which time the sun was a lot lower in the sky and pinker.

“Hey. Want to drive home?”

“Sure.” Matthew pulled himself to his feet, realising it was after four pm. He chewed gum to wake himself up as he got into the car, and drove home awake but still feeling faintly groggy. Once home, Rolf took his jacket from him and brushed grass off his shoulders.

“Go soak in the bath and get the rest of that grass off. I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”

It was an effort to stay awake in the tub. Matthew soaked for a while, wandered downstairs to find Rolf grilling steaks on the porch as they had the time and it was a warm evening, and they ate outside. When they were through washing up, Rolf locked the backdoor and held out a hand.

I think we'll go read upstairs tonight.”

There was probably a hockey game on tv, but upstairs with Rolf sounded better. Matthew followed him up and dropped on the bed, watching Rolf undress and open their windows, and stretch out next to him with a book. The cats promptly joined them, found an empty space and settled down to nap. Matthew stroked the nearest one and pulled his book over from the nightstand, finding his place and nudging over close enough to Rolf for Rolf to put a hand on him, rubbing absently while he read.

It was less than five minutes before Rolf gently took the book out of his sleeping hands and replaced it on the nightstand.


Saturday


The sun was high again the following morning when Rolf shook him gently, on his way out of bed.

“Hey. Going into work this morning?”

“Yes. Need to.” Matthew slowly sat up in bed, blinking.

Come get some breakfast,” Rolf invited. “I'll drop you off on my way out with the bike and pick you up on my way home.”

It felt like he’d been dead to the world forever. Matthew rubbed his eyes, thinking he didn’t remember sleeping the night that soundly in some time. “My car is........ still at work? Isn’t it?”

“Yep.”

“’K, thanks.” Matthew climbed out of bed and headed into the shower, planning to take a quick one. Rolf followed him, shut the cats out, and in the end it was a very long, but not very efficient shower that they both enjoyed, by which time Matthew wasn’t particularly worried how quickly he left or when he got to work.

It was some time before they were done with drying off and dressing and made it downstairs. In the garage, Matthew put leathers on, appreciating the sight of Rolf in his as he got the bike out. Once Rolf was on, Matthew pulled his helmet on and slid up into place, and Rolf revved the bike, turned down off the drive and took the scenic route through the town, taking his time in the spring morning weather.  It was a very different experience going anywhere on the bike, to be this close to Rolf and feeling the speed and motion so directly; not like going to work at all. Outside the front door of his building, Matthew climbed off the bike and took the helmet off, shaking his head.

“Do I have bad hair now?”

“Not if you're asking me?” Rolf took his own helmet off and leaned over to kiss him. “I'll be back around one.”

“I can drive myself home at one, my car’s here.” 

“I'll be back around one.” Rolf repeated. Matthew nodded giving him a resigned smile.

“Be careful?”

Rolf smiled back. “I always am. you too.”

Matthew snatched another kiss and headed upstairs to his office.

It was shortly after one pm that he heard the roar of the bike and a moment later the horn as Rolf indicated he was waiting, and ran downstairs,  carrying his leathers and helmet.

Rolf was sitting astride the bike, helmet off, and Matthew bounded over and kissed him.

“Good ride?”

“Very.” Rolf let him go to see his face. “How was work?”

Matthew grinned. “I got everything straightened out and about five things done and out of my office in those few hours.”

“That's great!”

“I know!  Wish every day I could get that much work done in a couple hours.”

You're great.” Rolf informed him, giving him a hug and handing him his helmet. “Now come enjoy the weekend.”

That sounded a very promising invitation. Matthew pulled leathers on, glancing at Rolf who was sitting on the bike and waiting for him.

“You know you ought to ride more often. I haven’t seen you this ungrouchy all week.”

Rolf gave him a speechless look, then shook his head and started the bike as Matthew put his helmet on and hopped onto the bike behind him.

“......I can’t think why.”

~The End~


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know, it took me a very long time to warm up to Rolf and Matthew, but this story is delightful.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to take Mathews side on this one!! A spanking for being 5 minutes late! Rolf just really doesnt understand. On a serious note I was super stressed for Mathew, he had work stress and he had Rolf stress, that would push me into stratospheric anxiety but I am glad it works for Rolf and Mathew


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