Getting up that early was the first thing Keith was regretting already. It was the first day of his new stage as a professor at a well renowned University. He actually had made it.
He had met with the boss department the day before to arrange and clarify all the questions before his incorporation to Altean College. Campus environment wasn’t foreign to him, but he had got his degrees and PhD at another University, so he had yet to get to know the place and the people.
He didn’t want to be late his first day, so in order to avoid any last minute delay, he had gotten up early. Painfully early. So early that he was in front of the door of his supposedly new office room at 7.15 am, 45 minutes before the arranged time.
I could have slept 45 minutes more this morning, was the only thing running through his mind.
He decided that we’d wait there for the other person to arrive. He had been told that Professor McClain should be there by 8 am, but the was holding the hope that maybe he’d arrive earlier.
Keith spent that extra time waiting outside the door, sitting in one of the two ragged chairs, lazy browsing through his phone and trying not to fall asleep. He was so zoned out of his surroundings that he jumped a little when he looked up and saw a smiling face mere inches from his own.
“Hello there”. His grin was impossibly bright for that time in the morning.
“Uhm…”, he blinked in confusion, “hi”.
“You must be my new colleague”.
Keith got up from the chair and excused himself. “Sorry, I was… uhm, distracted”. He offered a hand. “Keith Kogane”.
“Nice to meet you, Kogane”, the other shook his hand vigorously, “I’m professor McClain, but you can call me Lance”.
“Right. Nice to meet you, Lance. You can call me Keith too”.
“Nah, I think I like Kogane better”, he smiled and turned around towards the door. Lance took the keys from his from pocket and proceeded to open the office. “Welcome to our little but cozy place”.
Keith didn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t definitely that. The place was chaotic.
He stood by the door waiting for Lance to do some explanations about how things worked there and to make some room for him to go ahead. The room was filled with multiple stuff, mostly papers and office supplies. There was a big bookcase that occupied all the surface of the right wall, filled with books, more files and boxes.
“So, this is my place”, he pointed at table placed next to the window. Above it, there were a computer and some piles of papers that invaded almost all the surface of the other table in front of his own. “And… that place over there buried under all those files would be yours”.
“Ok”, followed Keith, not knowing exactly how to proceed. There was literally no space for a single pen on that desk.
“Yeah, sorry, I should had tidied up a little last week… Let me grab these things and make some space”.
They spent about ten minutes removing all the stuff from Keith’s work table, not really organizing anything; Lance just put some piles over the other piles, so he just ended with less piles of papers than before but twice bigger. Once the table was empty, Lance grabbed a cloth from a drawer and cleaned the dust from the furniture.
“There it is”, smiled Lance.
“Alright”, doubted Keith, “so, do I get a computer or something?”
“Oh right, shit”, he clearly had forgotten about that.
“It’s ok, I brought my laptop today, but I guessed there would be one here”.
“Yes, you’re totally right. Let me found one you can work with”.
“You don’t have to bother, tell me who I have to talk to and I’ll ask. It’s not really your job”.
“It is, believe me”. Lance held him by the shoulders and entered on teacher mode. “Let me teach you the first and most important lesson about this institution: if you request something through the ordinary routes, you better be prepared to wait at least for two weeks to get it done, so you’ve got to learn the unofficial methods. You better write it down”.
“I… I’ll keep that in mind”. Why is he so close.
The other released him and motioned towards the door. “Come with me. I know a room used as a little warehouse near here that where we can found some stuff”. Keith nodded and followed him. This was going to be more difficult than expected.
Almost half an hour later, they were back with the best computer pieces they could find.
“I told you we could arrange a functioning thing out of that amount of garbage!”
“I wouldn’t define it as ‘functioning’ yet”. Keith corrected with a raised eyebrow.
“Ouch! Your little faith in my abilities hurt me, Kogane”, dramatized Lance putting a hand on his heart.
Keith wasn’t the type of person that laughed or even smiled a lot, but for some reason he couldn’t help but chuckle at that. His coworker seemed a cheerful and nice person, the least he could do was try not to look dead inside like he probably was at that time in the morning.
“Right”, Keith shook his head, “let’s get this plugged in to see if it works”.
“Wanna bet?”. Lance was looking at him with a teasing smirk. For some weird impulse escaping all logic, he rolled his eyes and took the offer. “Alright. You’re on”. Stupidest bet ever.
They spent the next minutes arranging all the wires of the computer parts they had found, cleaning as well the layer of dust that covered most of them.
“What are we wining here by the way?”, asked Keith, realizing that they actually didn’t state the terms of their deal.
“Uhm… I didn’t think about it…”, Lance paused for a moment considering the options, “how about the loser brings the winner coffee for the next week?”
“Really? You call that a bet?”. What are you doing Keith, you merely know the guy. Just agree with whatever he suggests.
Lance’s face lit up and Keith stomach did a thing. “It’s that so? How about a month? Wait, how about all semester?”.
“Al semester sounds good, if you think you can stick with it”. Nailed it.
“You’ll be the one bringing me coffee, so that doesn’t really matters”.
“Yeah, you wish. Is that a floppy disk drive? This shit is ancient.”, pointed out Keith, “This is so not going to work”.
“As I was saying… you have little faith on me”. Lance finished with the mouse’s wire. “…aaand voilà”.
He pressed the power bottom and a little blue light turned on around it, as the fan's noise started.
“Ha! Told you!”. Lance was about to make a happy dance but was interrupted buy Keith’s hand grabbing his arm.
“Hold on a second. The screen isn’t turning on”.
“Yes it is! You are doing it wrong”. After triple checking all the plugs and pushing like ten times the screen’s power bottom, Lance gave up. “Ok, maybe it’s not turning on, but the tower is working just fine so I still win”.
“No you don’t, that wasn’t the deal. The whole computer had to work”, said Keith with a cocky smirk on his mouth and his arms crossed. “Bring me my coffee, professor McClain”.
It probably was because of the sunlight getting in through the window reflecting on Lance’s face, because Keith would had sworn that for a moment Lance’s face was pinker than before. Yeah, it must be that.
“Alright”, gave up Lance with his hands up, “since you’re the new one here, I’ll let you have this one”.
“You say it like I hadn’t actually won”. Lance didn’t respond to that, instead he moved to his desk and opened his backpack. To Keith's surprise, he extracted from it two thermos, one blue and one red.
“Here”, he handed the red one to him, “your dubiously earned coffee. There are some sugar cubes in the second drawer of my table if you want”.
Keith grabbed the thermos and cautiously loosened the cap, letting the smell of what was inside fill the room. “I was going to complain about how you tricked me into a stupid bet just to give me a coffee you already had, but…”, he smelled closing his nose to the aperture of the container, “this is too good, I don’t even care if you did it on purpose”. He sat down on the old dusty chair next his desk and took a sip.
After a while of being focused on his coffee, Keith looked up. “What?”. Lance was gazing at him with an amused look.
“Nothing.” Lance looked away and moved some papers as if he had been caught doing something that wasn’t supposed to. “I’m glad you like it. The coffee at the cafeteria is shit so I always bring a thermos with the coffee I make at home. I’ll guess I’m bringing two for now on”.
“You did it today anyway”.
“Yeah, but that was because it was your first day and I’m nice”, he smiled wide from his spot.
“mmhhmm”, Keith nodded taking another sip of coffee. He turned at the other man and saw the most radiant smile he’d ever seen. The sunlight again.
“So…”, resumed Keith after a moment of drinking in silence looking at the bookshelf in front of him, “the screen situation has to be solved yet”.
Lance was typing something on his own computer and answered distractedly. “Uhm, yeah. Hold on a sec”. He seemed like he had finished after some more typing and a couple of angry ‘enters’, returning his full attention to Keith. “C’mon, lets go grab another one”.
“Alright”, said Keith, leaving the empty thermos on his desk and following Lance out of the office. They spent only ten minutes this time searching for a functional screen, but Lance had offered himself to guide Keith around the building, enlightening him about the tampered vending machine on the top floor, the best bathroom to use and the best spots to hang out without being disturbed.
After almost an hour later, they were back to test the new screen. Their faces relaxed with relieve when the Windows XP home page lit up ready to be logged in.
“Mmmm…”, hummed Lance, “do you have by any chance the institutional user and passcode yet?”
“You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me”, said Keith with defeat in his voice, resting his forehead on his desk next to the keyboard.
“I told you, man: two weeks to have anything done here”, tried to comfort Lance patting Keith’s back. “Go to the hiring department and ask for them, but I’m afraid you’ll have to bring your laptop for now”.
“Ok”, mumbled Keith looking up again. Lance was staring at him and chuckled when their gazes met. “What?”
“You have, ermm”, he pointed to his own forehead, “your desk imprinted on your forehead”.
“Oh… great”. Lance laughed louder now as Keith rubbed the mark, trying to erase it quicker with little rate of success. “Stop laughing at me”. Your laugh it’s too beautiful to deal with it right now.
“So, when are your classes starting?”, asked Lance changing de subject.
“I start with my first group of Biostatistics next Monday. I have to teach a part of Meta-analysis but it’s later on the semester.”
“Cool. Are you nervous about it?”
“Kind of… I mean, I’ve already taught some classes during my PhD but this is different.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s my third semester here, but I was all stress and anxiety when I arrived here. You’ll do great”.
“Thanks, I hope so”.
Keith opened his laptop and both worked for a while in silence until he heard Lance shutting down the computer and watched him grab his jacket from the hanging. “I have to get going for today. I’ve got a meeting in half an hour at the other end of campus and I don’t think I’ll need to come here after.” He paused and looked for something in his pocket. “Here”. It was a key with a blue shark kay-chain. “Lock the door when you leave and make a copy of it if you have time later. Just be here tomorrow at eight so I can get in here”.
Keith extended his palm and looked at it. “Yeah, sure. I’ll go get a copy this afternoon. Thanks.”
“Right”. They shared a look for a moment, Keith looking up at him from his chair and Lance under the door’s lintel, rubbing the nape of his neck. “See you tomorrow, Kogane!”.
“Don’t forget my coffee”, he said with a smirk.
“I won’t”. Lance winked just before closing the door and leavig, and Keith’s stomach did a thing for the second time that day. Stop it already, you’re gay is showing.