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It’s the Saturday before Easter. Only a few money hungry bodies have skipped the egg hunts and big family brunches to work for the day. Michael is short on rent. Again. He would love to be at mom and dad’s house, helping the little cousins with egg dying or maybe cleaning out the garage with his uncle, getting ready for the annual barbecue they put together. But no. He’s at work. Like every Saturday for the past six months.

The office is cavernous without the fifty or so people pitching sales all day. Michael’s desk is at the end of a long row of cubicles and, thank god, against a wall. His only neighbor busses up to New York every weekend, so he is mercifully very alone for the day.

The place would be unbearable if it wasn't for one, Michael’s tough resolve and two, the pictures pinned on every surface of the ugly brown walls of the cubicle. When he’s 300 calls deep and can’t take another rejection, each face reminds him that he has a family that believes in him. This isn't forever. Some shitty call bank in New Jersey isn't the end of the road. This will end.

Today, though, Michael sits back with a hot cup of coffee and stares at his blank computer monitor and listens to the idle gossip of the couple of other poor souls scattered around the cubicles. His co-workers aren't the worst, but the nights he picks to grab a few drinks with them are few and far between.

He hears them make jokes. Light hearted joshing, as far as they know. That movie was so gay or she’s going through her bi phase. He’s sure they’re as reluctant to hang out with him as he is with them. It’s fine. He keeps busy.

Michael has a section of photographs to unpin from his walls. He takes a long sip of his coffee, eyebrows pressed together as he exhales slow and warm, preparing. This is harder work than making calls. Reaching for the first photo sets him on edge, and he barely glances at the face looking up at him before flipping it over and leaving it on his desk. It’s quick work after that, but still difficult. Still painful.

He knows it’s not the end. He will see Ray again. Someday. But somedays are hard. Scary.

Someday he’ll be out of New Jersey. Someday he’ll quit this stupid job. Someday he’ll have time for acting again, he’ll have time to make a reel, have time for headshots. Someday he’ll work with his hands, he can get dirty, he can feel accomplished.

Someday he’ll fall back in love with his best friend.

The photos fall into a neat stack between Michael’s hands and he tucks them away in his bag. He’ll find a place for them at home. He can’t really hide from shared memories there, anyway. He might as well have the photographs as reminders.

It’s already getting close to ten and Michael feels the lurch of expectancy in the pit of his stomach. He settles back into his chair and scoots into his desk, tucking feet under each other and fitting his headset to one ear. He’s supposed to log at least 25 calls an hour, and he’s made none and been there since nine. If he doesn't speed through some dials he’s going to get the hour’s wage docked, and he can’t afford it. Not this week.

Every conversation is droll. Even when someone finally fucking answers, Michael can count the seconds it takes for them to realize their mistake. Pleasantries are exchanged, but as soon as Michael digs down into why he’s calling, any small talk is thrown out the window. People scream at him. Call him names usually reserved for the ugliest of road rages. Sometimes they just hang up and that’s okay. Infuriating, though, because it means he can’t code them as definitive no’s, but they’re someone else’s problem, now.

The worst calls, in all honesty, are the fake assholes. The people who listen to the whole script, attentive and responsive and even kind. Michael can hear the smiles in their voices and the hope builds up inside of him. And then they turn. They don’t scream or hang up, they say things like “why don’t you find a real job” or “you sound too young to be doing this”. More than anything Michael wants to hang up in their faces. He wants to fight back. But all he can do is apologize for the inconvenience, hang up, and make another call. Die a little more.

He’s made 40 calls by the time his next cup of coffee is past due. 35 no answers, 5 busy signals, 4 not interested’s and 1 do not call. Productive Saturday. It’s close to noon when he sits back down with a cup of stagnant break room coffee and a bag of chips from the vending machine, and he fully expects to hit a long patch of people bitching at him for calling during their meal. As if he knows their schedules, knows when the honey ham hits the table.

He heaves a sigh as he settles back in, adjusting his headset so he’s still able to caffeinate. He busies himself with clicking around on his first lead, checking the details and cocking a brow as he notices some notes attached from the last few times he’d been called.

Very quick to get off the phone - seemed busy. Small photography business.

Checked with manager - buying potential very high. Keeping in pool so someone else can get something out of him, if they can keep him on the phone.

Can’t get hold of him. Central time, try to call late.

Great. Michael rolls his eyes. Some difficult rich asshole with a hobby business is just what he needs in the middle of his Saturday. He doesn't even set his mug down as he dials, ready to get a voicemail and move on. His teeth clench as the automated voice lets him know he’ll have to suffer through one of those ringback songs as he waits. He braces for the usual classical garbage, but every bit of him falls to peace as a gentle country song croons through his headset.

Michael barely recognizes the song, but he knows it’s John Prine. The song sparks a distant memory - his mother would sing it to him late at night after too many glasses of wine. No one in his family had much of a folk or country disposition and Michael had never asked his mother why she loved the song so much. He squints hard, trying to gather the information from his memory, but the name of the song escapes him. Just as the chorus starts there’s a voice and Michael has to snap out of his concentration.

“Y'ello?” Michael shakes his head hard, stumbling on his words as he jump starts his brain. “Havin' trouble, buddy?”

After a quick reassessment of the screen - name, location, buying potential - Michael’s back to where he’d started. Talk the rich guy up, got it. He rewinds a little, realizing there’s a lilt to the man’s voice that he doesn't hear every day.

“Hi, there. I'm looking for Mr. Ramsey?” More than before, the conversation starts to go south. The man sounds breathy, like he’s moving. Running, even. There’s some kind of background noise just barely audible - water, maybe? Or a television.

“You found me, you can call me Geoff.” Ramsey huffs through repressed but labored breathing. The tone Michael couldn't pinpoint before is a little clearer and maybe even… flirtatious? Ugh. One of THOSE people. “How, uh, how can I help you, kiddo?”

“Well, Mr. Ramsey, my name is Michael Jones from Bear Mountain Shredding Services. I wondered if you had a moment to talk?”

“For you, buddy? I've got three.” If Michael wasn't sure before, he is now. Ramsey’s voice may be strained, but the smirk on his face is audible. Michael’s mind goes blank for a second as he goes through his mental rolodex for reasons why this man could be out of breath and flirting. His chest tightens and - god, no. Please, no. He doesn't have a script for this situation.

“Great! Great. Uhh, well, Mr. Ramsey, I know you’re… you’re busy and all, but we were calling small business owners in your area about-”

“Michael, please, give me some credit. Nothing but big business over here.” Michael sputters. He’s ashamed to be so caught off guard, but his mouth can’t catch up with his brain as he’s stunned into babbling. “Hey, don’t let me cut you off! Keep talking, I wanna hear what you’re selling.” Ramsey’s enthusiasm is peppered with quick breaths and muffled movements. Embarrassment floods Michael, his cheeks burning and surely a bright pink color.

“I’m just… I’m just, uh, calling about privacy…. er. About shredding services for your, um, company- sir, are you sure you can’t take this call another time?” Michael has his face in one hand, unable to keep himself from staring through his fingers at the name in bold on the screen. Who the fuck did this guy think he was? Who does this? And why hasn't Michael hung up, yet?

“Me? No. God, no, keep talking. It’s hard to get me on the phone, you wanna sell me something, do it now.”

Maybe the most rage-inducing, ridiculously stupid thing about this situation is that Ramsey’s voice is lovely. He’s relaxed, care-fucking-free. Michael swallows down jealousy. He’s stuck in a fishbowl of an office, day after day, and he would give anything to not care enough to jerk it on the phone with a salesguy.

“Look,” He decides. He has to hang up. This is stupid. “If you’re doing something, someone will call you another time.”

“You’re not gonna call me back, Michael?” Ramsey’s voice reflects such a playful disappointment that Michael falters again. Why does this guy keep using his name, and why does it sound so… interesting coming out of his mouth?

“No… Mr. Ramsey, I’m very uncomfortable with your, uh, your tone. I’d prefer it if someone else handled your follow up.”

“Aww, kid, you’re hurting my feelings.” He’s fucking kidding, right? “Come on, I've got some time, talk to me a little bit. It’s Saturday, you can’t be swamped… where are you from?”

Michael takes a quiet breath to give him some time to think. His hand bumps the little stack of photos still face down on his desk and he turns one over, thumb tracing the outline of his boyfriend… his ex-boyfriend’s face. Fuck. There’s no point in denying that he’s craving something like this. Something unexpected and wild. Something right then and not someday. He leans into his chair, glancing down the long empty row of cubicles, before scooting as far into his desk as possible.

“I’m, uh, I’m from New Jersey.”

“There’s desk jobs in Jersey? I thought it was all bar hoppers and sports fans.” This isn't the raunchy flirting Michael had expected and he breaths a little laugh, shoulders not quite at attention anymore.

“Mostly Snookis and soccer moms. But everyone’s gotta make a living.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you make a killing with that smooth mouth.” Okay, that’s more like it. Michael tenses again, but Ramsey is giggling a little as his own joke, and he realizes he’s being made fun of. “Hope it’s not commission based.”

“Hey, asshole, I’m not the one masturbating to their telemarketing representative.” The call goes silent. Michael fucked up. He panics, ready to hang up and to walk out and into the street and never return. He’ll run away. Pack a fresh pair of underwear and disappear and change his name. Holy shit, if anything, he is so fucking fired.

“You think I’m jerking off?” More silence.

“Well… I mean. Yeah. It sounds like it.”

“You… you thought?” Ramsey’s openly mocking him, now, laughing loud and clear without moving the phone from his face. “Christ al-fucking-mighty, no wonder you bumbled your way through every sentence! Holy shit! Holy shit, wait, let me tell my dog that I am bathing.”

Michael considers the fact that he may be more mad than he ever had been before in his whole life. His usual expletive laden rage is replaced by silent, seething, embarrassed anger. He wants to lay into Ramsey, to scream at him until the man is too ashamed to respond. But his own shame is winning. Instead, he hovers a hand over the phone, and right as Ramsey swings into another wave of laughter, he hangs up.

“What a fucking asshole.” Michael immediately erupts, keeping his volume as low as he can manage, but wishing he could kick his desk over. Wishing he could punch through his monitor or storm through the building and into the street, phone in his hand, and kick the stupid fucker into pieces. Instead he rips his headset off of his face, pushing his chair into the aisle and heading for… God, nowhere. There’s nowhere to go, to hide and fume. He stands there uselessly, catching a glance from a curious coworker before flopping back into his chair.

He’s pouting. He knows there’s nothing he can do but pout. The shame is nestled in a corner of his chest and he starts the work it takes to hide away this memory. He’ll save it for his darkest nights of self loathing, when every wrong choice returns to stab him clean through.

Lunch. He should get lunch.

He marks Geoff Ramsey as a refusal and packs his bag. He stuffs the pictures of Ray into a side pocket, suddenly filled with a cold apathy. Fuck him. Fuck him for ending the best relationship he’d had in his life. Fuck this job for making him into a small man. Fuck Geoff Ramsey for laughing at him when he’d finally tried to be big.

To his horror, Michael finds a heat creeping through the cold. A burning at the corner of his eyes. Every muscle in his face goes tight as he closes off the dam. He’s not that far gone. He won’t cry at work. He won’t. The more he fights it, the more it builds, but the elevator doors open and he’s strong again. He hefts his bag further up his shoulder and shoves his way out into downtown New Jersey.

Michael finds himself in one of the only places open on the weekends - a burger joint that closes at two. He’s never been out of work early enough to stop by. Every item on the menu makes his stomach swim, anxiety churning his insides. He settles on a kid’s grilled cheese and some french fries and lets himself order a beer to wash it down. As he steams, vaguely keeping an eye on some sports game playing at the bar, he considers never going back upstairs.

He’ll pack his shit and catch a bus. Grab some commercial gigs, get an agent, maybe do some small plays in New York. Fuck it, right? He’d end up famous or homeless, and either one was better than this.

Auto pilot leaves him three beers deep in under an hour and Michael is quick to realize he’s chicken. He’ll never leave that cubicle. He might as well stamp his job title on his forehead, and he would if he didn't think it would get him fired.

Heavy contentment fills Michael up, that emotional dam of his solid and impenetrable. He pays his bill and lugs a cumbersome body back to its cage, finding the office mostly empty for the day. He settles into his chair, head heavy and sluggish, and lets his bag lay where it falls.

He has a voicemail.

That’s fucking impossible. It’s the weekend, the receptionist isn't there. Michael tries not to think about the fact that the message could be from Ramsey. The man would have had to patiently listen to the after hours recording and sort through every name of every caller in the building, and on top of all that he’d have to remember Michael’s name. It has to be someone else. His mother, maybe. His cousins calling to tell him about their Easter eggs. Anything other than a violent reminder that he’d probably be jobless on Monday.

Michael manages to ignore the message for a whole hour. An entire hour of making calls disappears as he frets, going so far as to place a sheet of notebook paper over the flashing voicemail light. He doesn't get any sales, stumbling over conversations all day because he knows he can’t put it off forever, and his conscience won’t let him delete the message unheard.

It’s almost two. Michael stretches his arms over his head, scooting out of his desk and onto his feet to take a quick break before diving into his own doom. He leans on his cubicle and swings one arm, hoping for a good pop in his back. For just a minute, as he stares over the empty office, everything is still. Normal. It could be any Saturday with everybody gone home early and Michael left trying to get in as many hours as he can.

There’s no hiding it, though. Michael has a voicemail.

He groans out loud, a little looser now that he knows he’s alone, and uncovers his phone. The little red light is too ominous for his liking and he rubs his face up and down to avoid looking at it. He wonders if his boss has a voicemail, too. A message with Ramsey’s sing song voice hardened at the edges and tattle telling on him. God, he isn't looking forward to job hunting again.

“Alright, come on, asshole,” Michael pep talks himself. He fits his headpiece back on and closes his eyes, savoring only a moment’s pause before punching in the button path to get to the next part of this lost cause of a day.

Michael! God, did you leave? I probably shouldn’t call you, but I feel like a jackass. You guys finally get me on the phone for real and, well, that shit happens. I’m sorry I laughed at you. Very rude, very inappropriate. Well- I dunno. More appropriate than jerking it, I guess- I- look, I’m gonna run out of time, right? Fuck. I’m sorry. I’m a huge idiot. Call me back, I’ll give you a sale. And… I mean. You weren't on the wrong track… I’d love to flirt with you some more. God, I hope this is the right extension.

Beep.

What the fuck?

Michael plays it again, just to be sure. He closes his eyes and rubs his eyes and swivels his mouthpiece away from his face. Does Ramsey really expect Michael to call him? He glances at his clock, quickly calculating that it’s probably noon where the other man is - where was it? It only takes a second to bring Ramsey’s account up. Austin, Texas. God, he was probably cool. A photographer in Austin. With fantastic credit and a million dollar home and a dog and great taste in music and… and who wanted to flirt with Michael.

No way. No fucking way? Michael’s on his feet again, scanning the entire office with a close eye. He doesn't see anyone right away, and shouts a quick ‘hey!’ into the dimly lit hellhole with no response. Okay, so… maybe this is a possibility. He sinks back into his seat and again tucks up into the desk, feet folded between the wheels of his chair.

An intense ‘fuck it’ attitude takes Michael over. The roller coaster of a day might as well end with a high point - he’d make a sale, at the very least. And if this voicemail is genuine then he isn't getting fired and honestly, Michael’s almost disappointed. He’ll never get a chance to fuck this up so royally again. Seize the goddamn day.

Ramsey answers before the song even starts this time.

“Hey! Wow, I really didn’t think you’d call back. Wait, this is Michael, right?”

“Yes, Mr. Ramsey, I-”

“Can we cut the sales talk shit, kid?” Michael goes quiet. “I’m sorry I laughed at you. If I could go back in time, I would… I would take you seriously. When you thought I was jerking it.”

“Wow, okay, I’m hanging up.” Michael really thinks he might for a moment, but the laugh he hears on the other side of the phone is endearing this time. This respite from asshole after dry asshole is so refreshing. An oasis in a desert of assholes. He leans into his palm, unaware of the fond smile he’s giving his monitor.

“Wait! Don’t hang up. I really do need, uh… what are you selling? Paper shredders?”

“Shredding services.”

“You gonna fly out to shred my sensitive documents for me, Michael?”

Michael hums a laugh. He can see himself stepping off of a plane into the thick humidity of Texas. Maybe he’s carrying a shred box, maybe Ramsey meets him there.

“Yeah, Ramsey, I’ll catch the next flight out.”

“Good, we’ll get drinks. You’re old enough to drink, right?”

“Wow. Yes. Yes, very much so.” They’re both laughing now, Michael utterly relaxed and reminded of the alcohol pulsing through him. He’d never believed in liquid courage before. “If you need shredding so badly, why didn't you talk to anyone else?”

“Well, Michael,” Ramsey starts, sounding like he’s just as settled in as Michael has made himself. “No one else has made shredding sound so good.”

“I haven’t even told you about it, yet.”

“Get to talking, then.”

Michael doesn't care if he’s having his leg pulled. The sale is the last thing on his mind. “I’ll be honest with you, Ramsey,” he laughs. “You get a box and once a month someone from our company comes and shreds your shit.”

“But not you.”

“Not me.”

“That’s disappointing.”

“Welcome to the real world, Ramsey.”

The laugh Geoff offers is so earnest, so loud and unkempt, that Michael is caught off guard. His giggles rev up to keep pace with the man and before long they’re back to laughing together.

“You’re a special kind of asshole, aren't you, Michael Jones?”

“Aw, you’re making me blush.” Michael kicks back as their conversation starts to lull. Ramsey is laughing low, in his throat, and Michael can hear him figuring out what to say next. As long as they don’t have to hang up, he’ll stay put. He’d listen to the lyrical laugh and know Ramsey isn't aware of how close he is to booking a flight.

“So are you surrounded by a bunch of other pencil pushing New Jersians, Michael?” The way Geoff keeps saying Michael’s name is bordering on too familiar. An inflection used by old friends of new lovers.

“Usually. Not today, office is empty. It’s Easter, Ramsey.” Michael can’t quite replicate the tone, yet. He can’t even bring himself to use the man’s first name.

“Ah, family people, huh?” There’s a history behind the question that Michael won’t push. “So uhm… Hey. What do you look like, kid? Let’s see if you match my image.”

“Jesus,” Michael breathes, laughing as he flounders a little again. He glances around at the pictures on his walls, landing on one of he and his father. He’s never considered that he looks like his dad before, but now as he calculates which details he’s willing to share he realizes the similarities. It’s nerve wracking. “I, uh, well. I’m kinda tall? White. I have a bunch of stupid freckles-”

“I love freckles.”

“Oh. Well. Well, I have a ton of them.” Michael tries to get back on track, distracted by his new found appreciation for the speckles that tattoo up and down his arms. “Eh, brown hair. Brown eyes. Pretty average.”

“How boring.” Geoff utters and Michael flares with rage.

“Well, sorry I don’t fit into your hip Austin expectations, asshole.”

“No! No, jeez, I’m gonna need three feet for my mouth today.” Geoff is backpedaling so hard. “I meant like… give me more. I’m not asking for your A/S/L, dude.”

“I mean… like what?”

“Like! Do you have resting bitch face? Tattoos? Do you… have a cowlick, or long eyelashes or… big hands, maybe? What does your mouth look like?”

The heat that punctures Michael is altogether a new animal. No more creeping up the back of his neck. This warmth skewers his middle. It blossoms like a night vine, slowly and then all of a sudden, and he sucks in his breath because he doesn't notice holding it. His entire thought process becomes dedicated to dousing the flame licking his insides, something akin to tunnel vision tugging at his mind. He’s so fucked.

“My uh… my mouth.” Suddenly his stupid mouth is dry. He closes his eyes and then he screws up his face, his hand shooting out to unpin photos as rapidly as possible. Ramsey is quiet - patient - as Michael hmms to cover up his movements. Before long any picture that could stare into him is face down on the desk. “I have pink lips. A small mouth, like… until I open it. I don’t think it’s possible not to be a loud mouth in Jersey. But I have pink lips… A uh, what’s the thing called? The bow… thing.”

“Cupid’s bow. Adorable. What about your hands?”

“I have big hands.” Michael’s cheeks must be as pink as his lips. He realizes that he has no idea what Geoff looks like, either, and can’t even begin to conjure an image to match his voice. “I have, like... long fingers. With uh, with freckles-”

“Ahhh, the freckles.” Geoff sighs dreamily, giggling. Michael smiles along though silent, and then they’re both quiet for too long. “Hey, if I’m making you uncomfortable, let me know.”

“No!” Michael straightens his back, instinctively reaching to turn the volume of his headset up. As if hearing Geoff’s quiet breath amplified in his ear will keep him on the line. “You aren’t. I, uh… I’m having a nice time. I mean, I’m alone for the night, honestly and… I've kind of had a shit week. A shit month, really. I needed something different.”

“Well, you made the right call.” Michael grins, nodding even if Geoff doesn't know it.

“Are you something different? Some kind of hipster dude with a mustache and a shitton of tattoos? Very Austin.”

“Fuck you! Having a mustache doesn’t make you a hipster. I've never been more offended.”

Michael isn't sure he’s ever had a call that’s made him laugh so much. He covers his mouth to muffle the snickering, kicking his feet as he leans to the side as if he can avoid the giggles physically. Geoff keeps up his huffing and puffing, putting on a good show until Michael isn't even sure why he’s laughing anymore. But god, he is.

In a moment of genius, Michael opens Firefox. A reluctance has taken over the conversation after the fit of laughter and he seizes the silence to type Geoff’s name, along with ‘Austin, Texas’, into Google. Plenty of results pop up, the first being the man’s photography company. No Chaser Photography. What a dweeb.

Michael clicks over to images, and sucks in an audible gasp. It’s immediately clear which images are of the man himself, and which are the ones he’s taken.

“You okay, buddy?”

“Yeah! I’m good. I’m fine.” Michael rushes. Everything is warm. It’s like the office is a sauna, sweat behind Michael’s ears and steam filling up the cavity of his chest. He’d searched in hopes of finding out what Ramsey looked like, but the photos - the art - he’s found tells him who he is. They’re portraits. Maybe. Women with open mouths and piercing stares, metal dangling from their lips and noses. Men in natural lighting, fingers wrapped loosely around tree branches, naked as the day they were born - save the tattoos creeping up their waists and backs and arms. The poses aren't sexual - they’re not even poses, really. Michael can tell who they are, what kind of daydreams they have, what haunts them from their pasts, just from these fractions of moments.

The pictures of Geoff are just pictures. Quick snaps probably for web articles or website biographies. But Michael soaks in the details.

“You ready to hang up, kiddo, or you need a credit card or something?”

“No, just hang on.”

Geoff’s voice in Michael’s ear is suddenly perfect. Now that he can see the mouth it’s coming from. The pouting, supple lower lip and the side smirk that lifts well rounded cheekbones. The crow’s feet revealing the man’s age, but in no way obscuring the pale, blue irises of his eyes. God, they’re like the crest of waves off the shores of Cozumel - or, they probably are, Michael’s never been to Cozumel.

He pictures himself in Geoff’s portfolio. God, it’s ridiculous, because he’s not hip like these portraits. But maybe Geoff could make him look as beautiful as the subjects. He could reach through Michael and take his apathy and wring it out, leaving behind the passion he used to know. And everyone would see it, painted on his face and his body. Geoff would bring it out of him. Maybe he’d use his hands… those tattooed knuckles nudging Michael’s limbs carefully into place.

“Michael?”

“You really do have tattoos... Christ.”

“Did you Google me?” Geoff is incredulous, laughing high and clear as Michael swerves past shame and lands on pride.

“Hell yeah, I did. Shit, Geoff, these are… your work. It’s really beautiful.” As Geoff gives a sing-song sigh of satisfaction, Michael closes his eyes to picture it. The man’s lips upturned under the unruly stubble and the styled mustache. His eyes warm and sunny. And maybe Geoff is imagining what Michael looks like, since he can’t cheat.

“Thank you. Not exactly, uh… work appropriate, there, buddy.” Geoff hedges on uncomfortable, but Michael’s still scrolling through pages of bodies and skin, ignoring whatever rules he’s supposed to be following. “I feel all exposed and open, dude, talk to me.”

“Sorry, sorry, I’m just… I dunno, it’s great. I was just thinking.”

“Dangerous.”

“I was thinking about you shooting me.” Michael’s boldness is rewarded with Geoff’s tangle of sputtering. It’s honestly a goddamn relief to know the man is capable of flubbing his words, and Michael flat out giggles because Geoff is reaching Porky Pig levels of garbled noise. “Y’know, when I fly down to shred your documents.”

“Right! Sure. Christ, kid. I don’t… I don’t even have a picture of you, but… I’d love to. Earnestly, Michael, come to Austin. I’d love to take your picture.” Michael knows they’ve just met. He fully realizes that they live half a country away; that they honestly know nothing about each other. He isn’t an entirely irrational person. But he is a bored person. His life is stagnant. He needs this validation and he’s been still in the water long enough to finally kick his feet.

“Just like your other models?”

“Of course. If that’s what you want.”

“Geoff. It’s what I want.” If Geoff misses the way Michael’s voice dips into his throat he’s a moron. If the hints aren't obnoxiously clear to the other man, then this time has been wasted and Michael ought to just hang up. No… No, Michael feels guilty for that thought. This has been the best conversation he’s had in months. The guilt is only momentary, though, because Michael has other things in mind. “How would it work?”

“Well, I take models for coffee, usually.”

“Skip it. I've had my coffee for the day.”

“Eager, huh?” Geoff questions, probably with an eyebrow perk. “Did you expect me to say I take my models home? Strip them down… get them hard and tell them they’re not allowed to cum until I get my shot?”

Fuck. Christ. Shit, god damn, say something, Michael. His hesitation feels like a lifetime but in reality he’s quick on his feet, grinning catlike into the headset. His screen has been rested on a photo of Geoff and as cheesy and posed as it is, Michael’s still able to picture the man’s stern face as he strips him of his clothes.

“You really think you can tell me what to do?”

Geoff’s hum is of an entertained man, someone practiced in the art of phone flirting and surprised at Michael’s quickly growing skill. Michael hears him get to his feet, the movement’s sound distinct in his ear.

“Michael, I think you want me to tell you what to do.” Geoff presses, going still again as he settles into what sounds like a damn mattress. “If I told you to get hard for me right now, you would.”

Michael closes his eyes. He doesn’t bother checking the office again. It’s empty. This is happening. If it isn't empty, then fuck, whoever sneaked in better be ready to hear Michael cum in his pants because Geoff isn't wrong. He presses the heel of his hand against the hard-on just starting to get too tight for his jeans, only opening his eyes because he can focus on Geoff’s tattooed knuckles in his picture.

“Maybe. Guess you’ll never know?”

“Ohhh, Michael.” Geoff teases, voice throaty enough that Michael’s dick twitches in its trap. “How hard are you right now?”

“On a scale of what?” Michael laughs, giving in as he leans back in his chair and unbuttons his suddenly way-too-constricting jeans. He lets a long breath zip out of him as his cock hits the cold air of the office, but doesn't take a glance down for fear of looking away from the picture on his screen. “You gonna give me more orders or am I on my own?”

“You gonna take ‘em, buddy?”

“Oh, yes, Mr. Ramsey.” Michael puts his sales voice back on and the warning in Geoff’s chuckle is his prize. He grins, spreading his knees and getting comfortable. True to his word, he doesn't even touch his dick, waiting for permission.

“Now, Michael, this may sound counter intuitive, but this is what I want you to do.” Michael’s patient, even if his cock is straining as he listens to the voice muttering in his ear. “I want you to tell me what you would let me do to you.”

“I can do that.” Michael ventures a careful hand over his cock, pressing a thumb over the top of his length until he’s at the head, rubbing slow circles. “I’ve been thinking of you… taking my clothes off-”

“Scandalous,” Geoff interrupts, and Michael can hear the creaking of the man’s bed as he adjusts. He hopes Geoff is hard, that Geoff can’t help but touch himself either. Maybe Michael’s voice is just as intoxicating to him. The thought swells in the boy’s chest, leaving him grinning and confident as he steadies slow strokes up from base to tip of his dick.

“In my head… you can’t help but touch me. My hips. You think you’re being funny or sneaky but… I know what you’re doing. Your fingers touch my ass as you pull my pants down. And you just happen to feel my cock when you take my boxers off.”

“And you want that, huh?”

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, I want it. I try to be professional… I’m a model, right? But fuck, you notice how hard you’re making me.” The friction between Michael’s dick and his dry hand starts to hurt as he realizes how quickly he’s starting to pump, and he hisses enough to reveal the discomfort to Geoff. The man hums low with his realization, pleased and proud, and Michael takes a moment to slick his hand with his tongue. Too bad he doesn't keep lube in the office.

“A little to hard on your dick, there, buddy?” Geoff questions between slow, carefully paced breaths.

“You gonna tell me how to jerk off?”

“No, but I’m gonna tell you how to have phone sex.” Michael goes quiet, nibbling on his lower lip before he wets his hand again, already too dry for comfort. He doesn't care that he needs tips - he welcomes Geoff’s lesson, slowing his strokes to give himself time to savor it. “Michael, I wanna do more than work with you. Before I take pictures of those freckles, I want to count the ones on your stomach with my lips. I’m gonna leave bruises on your thighs… marks you can’t hide in the photos. You’re right, though, you aren't sneaky about your cock. But I’m impatient, and I wanna make you forget how to talk as I swallow your dick into my throat.”

Holy shit. Michael is shaking, stunned by Geoff’s filthy mouth. And he can hear the wet sounds of Geoff beating down on his own cock, merciless in every way. Michael isn't far behind, consistently wetting his mouth and licking his palm as he runs out of saliva. If he had any less control he’d have his head thrown back, but he wants to see Geoff’s hands on him. Wants to perfectly visualize wet, pink lips at the base of him as the man slides up and down his length. If he looks away from the screen he may forget how much he needs this, how desperate for release he’s gotten and how Geoff is providing a perfect opportunity for him.

“Can you make noise, Michael?” Geoff has his own desperation lacing his voice. Michael cocks an eyebrow, and lets himself groan. The noise sparks another and Geoff’s quick breathing comes roaring back into his ear, like he’d been holding his breath.

“What else are you gonna do to me, Geoff?” Michael doesn't even have to manufacture the whine in his voice. He needs more of Geoff’s voice.

“Ohh, god, Michael, I’m gonna make you want to cum. I’m gonna suck your cock until you’re so close I can almost taste it. Then I’m gonna stop.”

“Don’t.”

“I know, baby, you won’t want me to.” Fuck. Michael breathes high, like a bell ringing. He prays to God that Geoff keeps calling him baby. “But I’m gonna flip you over and bite down on your ass. More marks, so everyone who sees your pictures knows what a slut you are.” Michael thanks his God because that’s even better. He doesn't need spit, now, precum slicking the underside of his cock. He’s pushing the heels of his feet up as he fucks up into his fist, twisting fingers so the friction’s everywhere. “And I’m gonna spread your ass open, sink my tongue into your asshole and make you beg to be fucked. Make you wet and sloppy and desperate.”

Michael laughs a little because he’s nothing but desperate. Every inch of him needs Geoff’s mouth. He needs out of this fucking town, away from this job, away from his shattered relationship. He needs Geoff. And somehow the man knows it.

“Are you gonna fuck me? Please, Geoff?”

Geoff is breathing so heavy and hot, and Michael groans as he wishes he could feel the heat of it on his neck. In his mouth. He imagines kissing that plump lower lip, sucking deeply on Geoff’s mouth and tongue, soaking him in. The thought of the kiss is more erotic than anything the man’s said, striking lighting through Michael’s limbs as he moans open mouthed into the air.

“I will, baby, yeah, I’ll fuck you. If you want it.” Geoff waits for Michael to beg, but he’s too caught up in whining, in needing. “I want it.”

“Please!” Michael erupts. He knows he’s so close and his hand slows to squeeze every ounce of this moment out. His other hand has found his balls, rolling them at a matching speed, and it’s almost too much so he has to plead Geoff for more. “Please fuck me. Fuck me hard, make me cry. Take my hair and pull my head back and fuck into me and cum all over me. In me, I don’t care. Just fuck me, Geoff, please, please, please.”

“Holy shit,” Geoff gasps, choking a little on the weight of his own shock. He’s faltering again, looking for words that will force their way past the wetness of his mouth. “Mi- Michael, fuck. I’ll fuck you. I will, baby, I’ll fuck you and I’ll cum inside of you. Whatever you want, kid, I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Say my name.” Michael can’t be slow anymore. He pleads Geoff, picking up speed on his dick and rocking his hips up to meet each stroke.

“Michael.” Geoff’s close too. Michael knows. And he realizes this is how Geoff knows what he wants. The innate fact slipping into his head as the rest of his thoughts are blindingly white, blank, lost. “Michael, Michael, Michael, oh, fuck, Michael!” His name as a mantra peaks and Geoff is cumming. His whines are long and drawn out, insistent in Michael’s ear as they fade into shudders. Michael isn't done yet, and just a fraction of embarrassment becomes a seedling in his stomach. “I bet you’re beautiful.”

What? Michael tries to just keep pumping, to fuck himself into ignoring that.

“God, I bet you’re so fucking hot. I bet you’d lick this cum off my dick. I bet you’re perfect and you’re three thousand miles away. I want to fuck you. I want to suck your dick.”

“Do you wanna kiss me?” Michael whispers it, eyes squeezed shut as he finds fear grow, taking place of the shame. “Would you?”

“Is that a joke? Michael, yes. I would. Every day.”

Michael’s been expecting an explosion, but when he cums it’s like he has to force it out of his body. He grits his teeth and wet, hot tears fall over rounded cheeks. His shaking hand is sticky with cum, but there’s no messy stains on his jeans, no streaks up his shirt. He whimpers, shoving his clean hand over his eyes to stop the onslaught of emotion. Not now. Not now.

He never needed another someday.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. You had a rough month, remember?” Michael laughs, genuine and fond behind his tears. They won’t stop, even though he isn't sure if he’s ever been happier in his life. He catches his breath, and listens to Geoff do the same. There’s no regret between them, even as Michael swallows whines. “So… you need my card number?”

“Fuck you!” Michael giggles, using his heels to pull himself forward and drag a few tissues from the box on his desk. He cleans himself up, tucking back into his boxers and wiping down his hands as well. “I think we’re well past the sales part of this call.”

“Yeahhh, maybe… So, uh, you jerk it here often?”

“God, you’re an idiot.” Michael doesn't like that he’s been reminded of work. He clicks out of Firefox, out of the sales screen, out of his call log. A dread bubbles deep in the back of his still-raw mind, tender from his mini breakdown. He has tomorrow off, some time with his family, some Easter egg hunting, some honey ham. Then he’s back at this desk. The next day, too. The next day. He presses his monitor off and rolls back away from the cubicle, hands clasping between his knees as he waits for Geoff to suddenly need to go.

“Maybe I’ll call you next week?” The hope in Geoff’s voice settles a little of Michael’s anxiety. It’d be nice, yeah, to have someone to talk to.

“I’ll call you. I have your number.”

“Good. Any time, okay?”

“Ohhh, suddenly not busy all the time now that phone sex is possible. I see how it is.”

“Hey! Hey, I’m serious. Call me, okay? I, uh, I gotta clean this up and then I have a shoot. Or I would talk more.”

“Yeah. Yeah… I will.” Michael sighs, tilting his head as he looks down the row of cubicles he’s tried to hard to forget he’s sitting at the end of. “You gotta go?”

“I gotta go, b-... I gotta go.” Geoff huffs a sigh, too, and the mattress is creaking underneath him again. “Thank you, Michael Jones from Bear Mountain Shredding Services.”

“Any time, Mr. Ramsey.” Reluctance is painful. Michael is glad for the warm, affectionate hum Geoff gives before he hangs up because the emptiness of the dialtone buzzes through his entire body. He doesn't know if he will call Geoff again. Why should he? To get off again, maybe.

But Michael doesn't want to want anymore. He’s sure it’s killing him.

Ripping off his headset leaves a familiar burst of pain in his ear. Wearing it for hours at a time fucks up his face every day, and he hisses as he rubs at the redness. For too long he sits at his desk, stony faced and silent. This is it. His life.

He shuts down his body, leaning elbows onto his knees and letting his face fall into his hands. He can pretend the smell of his own pleasure is the smell of something shared, can pretend the exhaustion in his limbs was caused by someone new. He doesn't, though. Pretending doesn't help anymore. Michael takes a deep, slow breath, and he unfolds and reaches for the stack of photos sitting face down on his desk. He slides them into his hands and then, without looking at them, into his bag. Next he goes for the legal pad on the corner of his desk. He snags his pen from the keyboard and starts writing rapidly, trying not to put too much thought into it.

My name is Michael Jones and this is my two week notice.