Work and Play Pt. 13

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Author’s note: Hello! As you should know by now, this story has a storyline that’s continuing, so chapters usually end up longer (character’s doing things and such, having lives). It’s recommended to read earlier chapters to know what’s going on. But if you want to skip to the sex, that’s okay too! It’s at the end. Onto chapter 13!


I sit at my desk, and I’m sure I’ve been so still, my heartbeat matches the clock exactly.

Gabriel lied to me. I know it was for theatrics, but how dramatic is that? Why did he have to make me think he was leaving me?

My patience is a ticking clock, literally. I take two calls—only twenty minutes passes by. I eat my noodles and bread, only fifteen. Goddamnit, when is 5:30 gonna hurry the fuck up? I don’t even know what I’m going to do. I’m sure with all the people in the building today, Gabriel is probably busy as hell. He’ll inevitably contact me, right? Should I even want him to?

As much as my brain feels like I want to be mad, I can’t help but crave to see him. I have a million questions. Starting with WHY was he back so early, when he had work to do? And who the fuck was Yessica Velasquez? And did he miss me as much as I missed him? Cause goddamn, if I wasn’t thinking about him, it was because I was distracted. Or maybe this is where it ends. Maybe he was trying to cut me off, a-and had to come back to Colorado briefly, tie up some loose ends.

Or maybe he likes me and wants to try this out.

Once 5 rolls around, I’ve resorted to bubble-shooting games on the computer. It’s hard to find a game that I like. Some have really bright colors to the point where it’s not satisfying to play, some are too simple, some have characters and I’m not into that, and so many of them are just so graphically stupid and impractical with really bad calibration—

–my office phone rings once. I snatch it off the handle. The blue bubble lands on a set of yellow. “Hello, Ezekiel Hartigan speaking.”

“Hi.” Gabriel’s voice, soft, testing the waters.

“Welcome back.”

“Thank you… I told you not to hate me.” He pauses. I roll my eyes. “Zeke?”

“And I don’t hate you,” I sigh. I want to say I hate the fact that he had a fiancée, and I hate the fact that he was distant for a whole month while I sat there, some days blurring together because we did the same fucking thing over and over again, and some days lasting so long and bringing some of the most intense anxiety and uncertainty that I just had to think about my breathing. Those days when I thought I heard Clay’s laugh in the office, or thought I smelt his shoe polish, but couldn’t even tell Gabriel because he made it seem like every day he was doing too much to even think about me. I wondered if he told his fiancée about me. I wondered if they were still together. I fuckin’ hated that. Hating him? No.

Gabriel clears his throat. “I would love to see you… tonight…” He clears his throat again, and I even start to blush at his awkwardness. It feels… cute. But I can’t help but think he’s feeling guilty. If this is some kind of affair or-or some kind of exploration with him thinking he can live all these different lives, I don’t know what I’ll do. “Of course I understand if you have plans.”

I think about how canceling on running with Grayson tonight might warrant suspicion from him. In line with the fact that Gabriel just got back, and that Grayson thinks I “had” or “have” a fling going on. Plus, I don’t know how many of the answers I want from Gabriel right now. Plus, he lied to me.

“Gabriel, I…”

“Tomorrow. Tomorrow then. Promise?”

I feel myself start to tremor a little. He doesn’t even know what I know. What if he never mentions it? What if he just wants it to be a secret? If I bring it up, does that end what we had going on? If I never bring it up, does he keep me a secret too?

“Zeke?” He snaps me out of it.

“I can’t yet,” I say quickly. “I-I need a minute.”

“Tomorrow,” he repeats. “I’ll talk to you soon.” Then he hangs up. I see Sean and Grayson through the window, heading out together, and I throw my face into my hands. How did they end up so open, so seemingly put-together? All that, while Gabriel and I have to basically send cryptic messages. So many unknowns.

I play the stupid bubble shooter until it’s 5:30. Then I bolt it out of there.


Grayson is huffing and puffing way more than usual, and I can’t help but notice. I’ve done everything to keep my mind off of Gabriel. Every urge to call him or text him is replaced with a bigger anxiety about what might happen. What’s going to happen. Grayson has been the only one talking. Maybe that’s why he’s huffing and puffing.

“You alright? Still worked up?”

“I’m not worked up,” I counter.

“Defensive,” Grayson huffs, “that’s okay.”

“You’re being really annoying,” I comment, speeding up. He grunts, and speeds up with me. “Grayson, I feel like I don’t feel fucking normal at work.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t Escort Bayan know,” I deflect.

“What does that mean?” He’s pressing me. It’s not even just Gabriel. It’s about how much I hate the stress of that fucking building. How I feel like Shannon is always making sure I’m okay. How Grayson, even right now, wants to be in my business. How much everyone just moved on from Clay, because all they did was hear about him, while I lived him. “Zeke—slow down—” Grayson huffs, “We’re basically about to sprint—”

I decide to slow dramatically, and pause on the side of a bank, catching my breath. Grayson joins, doing the same thing. I shove my hand into my pocket, ripping out my inhaler. As I take a puff, Grayson looks over at me. “What’s up with you, man?”

“Nothing,” I lie. Which parts do I even want him to know, if any?

“What is it?” Grayson asks again. “Is it me?”

“No,” I snap loudly, and start to walk back the way we came. I want the night to end.

“Then what?” Grayson asks, pacing beside me.

“It is you! Fuck,” I snap, and then I pause, looking him in the eye with my arms crossed. “And it’s work, and it’s Shannon, and the-the fact that I feel like I can never catch a damn break, like everyone wants to sneak up on me!”

“Okay,” Grayson says softly, he nods, understandingly. Then all of a sudden, I feel my own shoulders drop, and the pressure in my chest subsides. He just wants to know why his friend is feeling off. I’ve been trashing his motives, his questions. Judging him. I inhale shakily. Don’t cry, goddamnit. We’re not crying tonight, goddamnit.

I start softly. “A-and… I didn’t tell you, but when Clay… basically Clay was sexually harassing me at work. For weeks. And it escalated at the barbeque. And maybe you knew that already, I don’t know.”

“I didn’t know it was like that—” Grayson starts, concern in his face.

“I just want to put it behind me, but honestly… sometimes I feel like I come to work, and he’s still fucking there. Pinning me against walls and fuckin’ making me touch him. Or forcefully kissing me.” I roll my eyes, mostly annoyed at myself. I’ve been shutting Grayson out when he’s probably the one I needed to talk to the most. Besides Gabriel, of course, who actually didn’t mention it once. Or ask how I was doing. I grind my teeth at that thought. Gabriel is on the tip of my tongue, because please, god can I rant to anyone about this man? Anyone before I have to dive headfirst into his bullshit again? I shift back to Clay. “He made it hard to be motivated sometimes.”

“Who cares about motivation? Are you okay? Really?” Grayson puts his hands on my shoulders. “I feel like a fucking asshole, but I can see that you’re… off. I just—I just followed up with my own shit and then tried to set you up with David, like a damn jerk—”

“Nah,” I give him a small smile. “David is pretty hot.” Grayson smiles back, patting my shoulders. We start to walk again. “Grayson, I think you’re just nosy sometimes. And… sometimes I need it. I’m sorry for—”

“You’re a private guy. Again… I just gotta get used to that,” Grayson says. I wonder what he means by that. I wonder if he knows more than he’s letting on. I wonder if it’s both of us who are choosing not to talk about Gabriel.

“Thank you.” I stare at my shoes as the soles scrape the sidewalk. “I just feel like I can’t exist at work right now without an issue.”

Grayson sighs. “It’ll get better.”

“It better.” As I say it, I feel my phone vibrate.

GABE: See you tomorrow?

Grayson watches me check my phone, and I stuff it back into my pocket. “Can’t catch a break,” I sigh, indicating work. Grayson nods in agreement.

“Look, man if you ever need to talk about whatever the hell is going on in that brain, I’m down to listen. I know this seems like a repeat conversation but… shit man we work at a tech company. I feel like you and Shannon and maybe two other people are the only ones who aren’t robots sometimes. I mean, you were a little stiff for a bit but… whatever you’re going through seemed to human you up a little. Now you just gotta… let it go?”

That’s what I’m afraid of. I just nod.



My office is really clean, almost too clean. I wish I’d left something to dust. I spent most of last night spacing out my texts, and making up stories in my head about how Gabriel and I were just a fling. I keep picturing him telling me that we should “still” see each other despite his fiancée at home. I keep on thinking of him coming over to my house, sleeping with me one last time—

I don’t know why I can’t shake the feeling of dread today. The feeling like something is going to end. Even if it just means the fantasy that we could be “something” ends, and we just end up as fuck buddies, and I just keep being his little experiment, or maybe the “stress reliever” he’s needed, and maybe in California he was back to reality and stress and realized that he didn’t really need me or want me that much—

“Knock, Bayan escort knock,” Marsha peeks in. “Ms. Briggs would like to see you in her office.” Her voice is almost like a recording. I laugh. “Shannon thinks its fun when she sends me to… fetch people. I think she just wants to know your half-day lunch plans.”

I forgot today was a half-day for work. Apparently just by taking a half day every once in a while, the company saves millions. I wonder if I should plan something. I woke up with the same anxiety around Gabriel coming back early, and I couldn’t shake it so easily. I felt like I was waiting for him to drop me. Every other minute has felt like I am on the verge of being pushed away. Somehow. Someway. What if there’s something I can’t handle? He made sure to hide a fiancée. What if I can’t handle whatever the hell is going on in his life? This half-day at work is just more time for Gabriel to possibly pressure me. Or even more time to find more things out. Or time to argue, even.

Ugh. I know I’m being ridiculous. I’m pulling out of left field for these excuses on why seeing him is a big deal. We’re adults. He can choose me, or not choose me.

“Well, you’re doing a great job,” I remark. “How is Shannon?” Marsha blinks hard, three times in succession. I just laugh. “She’s testing you. Just stand up to her a little bit.” I remember the times when I got frustrated with Shannon. She is a pusher. Both her and Grayson. I’m the one who backs off. Usually. Save for a few times. A lot of those recent times were with Gabriel. He’s brought out some different things in me.

And of course, I can’t poker face my racing thoughts, nor can I go two seconds without thinking about Gabriel, so I just smile and nod to whatever Marsha says.

“I really am grateful for her. I just… the woman has her planner memorized. There’s no notes. Anywhere.” Marsha gruffs in mock frustration.

“Pretty much,” I agree.

“But… wow is she so much better than my old boss. Literally P.O.S. I’ve never hated a person, I’m Catholic. But I hated that man. Shannon is a great, great woman.”

I agree with her. Then I shrug. “Why don’t you tell her? That she needs to take notes. I never said anything when she was kinda… giving me shit. You should.”

“Leverage… Ezekiel Hartigan, I like it,” Marsha says jokingly. “I think she’ll understand.” Marsha looks to her right, indicating someone, and gently steps aside. “Thanks, Zeke.”

“No problem,” I wave bye. Just as I do, Jiao steps into view of my office. “H-Hi, Jiao.”

“Hello, Zeke. How are you?” She looks like she was done-up professionally. I don’t think there’s a hair out of place. This is how she always looks. It’s striking, honestly. And when she unexpectedly pops up on me, it’s like she’s appeared from thin air.

“I’m doing alright,” I hesitate. She’s playing messenger. I can feel it. “Welcome back to the Square State.”

“Thank you,” she bows gently. “I’m sure you didn’t expect to see me so soon.” She smiles softly, and reaches into her bag. An envelope, soft, sherbet orange color. Gabriel sure likes his notes.

“Yes, didn’t expect to see you… or anyone else… soon. Not this soon,” I stumble over the last part. I feel myself turn red. “I-I think I have maybe a, uh, question or two.”

“I’m sure you do,” Jiao remarks, and she hands me the envelope. When I accept it, she grasps my hand with both of hers. “Have a good rest of your day.” I only wait one second after she leaves to open the letter. I gently slide my fingers along the seam.

“Mr. Hartigan—”

My heart flutters. Goddamnit.

“I look forward to seeing you tonight. Today, is a better word. I’d start thinking about what you might wear, if I were you.

–Gabriel Ortega”

As if I think about what to wear. I stare at his handwriting. I don’t know why it seems so unique. His handwriting slants to the left—is he left-handed? I look around briefly, and actually hold the damn envelope to my nose. I thought it smelled like him. I don’t know my colognes, but I know Versace from a certain headache named Harper Welsh. I wonder if Gabriel kept the note on his person, and for how long. A handwritten note with barely anything in it. Delivered by Jiao. A memo, basically.

So damn cute. This must mean he’s nervous, right? About something? Either that, or he thinks he can do the bare minimum. Two extremes, really. I decide I’m going to use my first few hours at home to intentionally not think about him.

I text Shannon that I am really down for a Mediterranean lunch.


Our waiter, Eli, at “Gyro Hero”—maybe “Hiro?” I think the guy who greeted us at the door was named “Hiro”—happens to remind me of none other than Gabriel Ortega. Of all people. I thought it when we walked in, and hoped he wouldn’t be waiting our table. I should learn that my hopes are nothing. His hair is way longer, and a little thin. He also has more facial hair. Although attractive, Eli’s features look mostly like Escort if Gabriel smushed his face against a mirror. Slightly. It ultimately makes him look like some off-brand version. Eli is only six foot two, maybe. If they were side-by-side, Gabriel would definitely take the cake. I try not to stare him down while he takes our order. Shannon and Grayson mumble to themselves as I pick off the menu.

“Gabriel Ortega being back is like when you have a substitute professor that kind of becomes your professor,” Grayson comments. “And then they go away, but then you see them teaching in a different class. And you’re like, ‘damn, I forgot you were like, really leading the class for a while.'”

“Okay, YES. Why does our waiter look like him, and why is he like that? Why is that my exact feeling about him?” Shannon chimes. “I feel like I’m supposed to be on my best behavior or something. He’s just a really intense guy.”

“He’s so attractive, but so straight, I feel like when I talk to him I’m hitting on him. Just saying hi feels weird,” Grayson states. Shannon agrees. “You know what I mean, then? I feel like Gabriel is like, a plant to see how horny the office is.”

“Exactly,” Shannon shakes her head. “He came to my office to ask if I could look into the eval templates, and I felt like it was a test to see if I wouldn’t drool. I broke out in a sweat. All he said was ‘hey, Miss Briggs,'” Shannon huffs. I feel like I should say something, but it just feels so damn weird. I don’t have a great poker face.

“I agree,” I say. Simple enough. Grayson raises his brows at me. “I mean… like, the whole radiating masculinity thing. And not telling the office he’d be back, just popping in on us.”

“I feel like everything’s a test with that dude.” Shannon laughs lightly.

“Well, he literally is doing evaluations,” I sigh. “He’s observant.”

“He needs to watch out, before I ask him to observe something else,” Shannon giggles. “I’m kidding. Nathan and I are doing real good. Except I wish he would shave. And stop wearing crocs.”

“What is up with the crocs? Sean wears them, too.”

Appears we’ve changed the subject. I am relieved.

Our waiter comes back with our order, and I see the contrast between Shannon’s lamb-filled plate, and mine and Grayson’s leafy greens. At least there’s meat on my plate. He’s ordered nothing but healthy ass food. I’d say quite literally, healthy ass food. I decide to pick on him once Shannon leaves for the bathroom.

“Lot of kale on that plate,” I point out. “You must be bottoming tonight.” It catches him by surprise, and he laughs out loud.

“I literally hate you,” he shakes his head. “I… I don’t even have anything to say.” He’s bright red. It’s been a long time since we could just joke. It feels like we’re testing the waters.

“Cause it’s true,” I shrug, and dress my plate.

“And you?” Grayson points at my food, looking somewhat similar. “Or is every day just Bottom life for you?”

“I’m just healthy. I like… leeks and rhubarb? What else is on this thing,” I stare at the little sprouts on my plate. “Fuckin’ baby carrot shreds and chicken cubes. Plus do you look at me and imagine a Top? Really?”

“Definitely not,” Grayson giggles, and takes a long drink of his “passionfruit” tea. “Definitely not,” he says again, with a reflective smile. He keeps his eyes away from mine. I feel my own face redden. Of course he’s thought of me like that. I kind of feel flattered. “But… I dunno I guess Sean has plans for me tonight.” I smile for him. Apparently Gabriel has plans for me, too.

I quickly shove him out of my brain before I start that train of thought.

“And how’s that?” I ask.

Grayson leans in close. “You ever been fucked upside down? Like, I was literally upside down, in near splits the other day.”

“The yoga?”

“The fuckin yoga,” Grayson shakes his head in disbelief. “I go to the kitchen to make lunch and the next thing I know, I’m nailing Sean with his leg up on the sink. I dunno it’s just… really nice. I feel like he changes my bad habits. And I thought the yoga was really… I dunno I thought it was annoying for the first week. But I feel like every time we stretch together, we end up talking about something really enlightening. Or important. The guy is a major hippie. You wouldn’t know it.”

“I’m sure he’s gushing over you to his friends too,” I shrug. Grayson gushes some more.

“Not to mention… sometimes he wears me the fuck out. Legs on shoulders is an underrated position,” Grayson nods, starting to dig into his food. “It literally feels like he’s drilling me sometimes. But of course, that’s TMI.”

“One day, you’ll have to tell me what it’s like to be getting some on the regular,” I comment before Shannon returns.

“Exhausting,” Grayson answers.


I have gently pushed my other shirts approximately two inches away from a particular shirt in my closet. Organized by color. The one I have subtly isolated is blue, but greenish blue. It has tiny little squares all over it, similar shades of blue. I look at the clock. 2:30pm. Yesterday, I couldn’t wait to leave work, only to not see Gabriel. Today, I just wish I were still at work. That good anxious feeling of unsettling. Love it.

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