Jane has almost had enough of this nonsense to last a lifetime. She contemplates whether ‘accidentally’ breaking down the door to the store’s office when Benji’s not there might be something she can get away with, but she doubts it.
“I’m not hiding-” He yells, muffled through the door, “I just have… paperwork. To do.”
What he has is a crush, like a damn grade-schooler. “Ethan’s looking lost out there, B. Mournful. Like a lonely puppy. You really should go and explain to him what an appropriate game is for his daughter, before the world ends or something.”
Honestly, she could do it with her eyes shut, but that’s not the point. The point is the six weeks of her life she, and literally every other employee in the store, has spent trying to get the two together.
“You could do it, Jane.”
“Mmm, but I’m in the middle of writing those invoices, remember? And you did say they were pressing. Will’s not back from his break yet, either.”
She hears a click as his office door unlocks, and he shoots her a glare as he walks past. “You owe me.”
“You love it!” She calls, as he disappears out into the shop front, looking a smidge irritated as he goes.
It’s for his own good, really.
Benji owns Gregorian Games alongside his business partner, James. They stock some of the more popular Triple-A releases, but tend to focus more independent content, made out of their own studio. Some of their games are visionary, some less-so, but Gregorian makes a good enough profit to keep several people employed full-time, including Jane and her best friend Will.
It’s not exactly where she was expecting to be at this point of her life, but she loves it all the same.
Will appears from the other end of the corridor, looking conniving and more than a little pleased with himself. “I managed to keep Ethan there by talking to him about the difference between consoles and he was too polite to leave. You talked Benji out of his office?”
“I did,” Jane says, grinning widely. They high-five, because even getting this far is a miracle in itself.
Benji’s been… alone, for as long as Jane’s worked for him. He has a high capacity for embarrassment, and she knows that every date he’s been on recently hasn’t worked out. She, along with Will, had devised a plan to try and get him laid.
It hadn’t worked out, really.
Ethan, however, had been a shining star in the midst of everything. A retired Air Force veteran and divorcee, with a heart of gold, he’d wandered into the store one fall afternoon and absolutely stolen Benji’s heart.
(A fact that Jane had verified through a little too much beer at the office Christmas party.)
And he just kept on coming back to the store, to the point where Jane felt like she should just put some mistletoe up and let them have at it.
(That hadn’t worked.)
“Look-” Will says, and gestures out at the store. It’s mid-afternoon, so there’s not many people around, and Ethan and Benji are engrossed in an animated conversation by the discount games aisle.
“We should get a closer look,” Jane replies, completely ignoring the fact that they both have work to do and the whole thing is quite silly, when she thinks about it. “What are they saying?”
“Sam’s turning… what- ten? this weekend, right?” Benji asks easily, shyness apparently gone now he’s physically in front of the man. “Is she still into horses and reading? And karate?”
“He knows more about Ethan’s daughter than more real dads I know,” Will whispers, right next to Jane’s ear, and she jumps a little. “That’s a good start, isn’t it?”
“You have kids, Will, what do you think?” Jane whispers, and elbows him in the ribs to get him to shuffle over. “Shh, I can’t hear what they’re saying.”
“More into the karate, really.” Ethan says, with a tired grin, “I’ve raised a monster.”
“A very well-prepared, safe monster.” Benji says, taking it all in his stride. “My sisters were like that too, believe me, and they were thankful for it. They were the ones keeping scabby men away from me at college. Mum had no idea what to do with us.”
“Yeah?” Ethan says, turning up the charm a little, “I’d love to hear more about it.”
“Maybe later,” And Benji just completely shuts him down, in a way that almost seems deliberately obtuse. “So, games-wise, maybe Girls Who Rule the World? It’s a history-based game, lots of puzzle solving. It’s not very combat-based, but there are sections of tower defense things. It’ll run easily on the PC you have, as it’s only a 2D platformer, and half the proceeds from sales go to Girls Who Code.”
“I have no idea what half of those words you just said mean,” Ethan replies, which definitely shows his age, “But I’ll take your word for it.”
“There’s a really great section about Grace Hopper, who we got Sigourney Weaver to voice, and I just- it’s just a pretty cool thing that I liked making.” Benji says, and holds out the game to Ethan. “And Sigourney Weaver is just… awesome.”
“With everything you’re doing, you’re just awesome.” Ethan says, in a way that actually sounds cool and not just cheap.
Will groans. “That’s awful.”
“I think it’s sweet,” Jane says, as she watches Benji’s cheeks redden, just a bit.
“Anyway,” Benji says, and clears his throat just a little, “ Coffee Shop - we’ll move right on past that -”
The last time Ethan had been in the store, Benji had spilled a cup of coffee on him. Benji had been very apologetic, Ethan hadn’t been upset, but the whole thing had become a Thing.
“ Cherry Tree Dream , it’s very Miyazaki, I love the art style in this one - it’s not very combat-based, full of walking and talking, but there are moments when you have to solve crimes, and fight people - just not in a graphic way.” Benji rambles, holding the title out to Ethan.
It’s true, it’s a gorgeous game, and everyone who plays it loves it.
However, things aren’t progressing fast enough.
Will clearly agrees. “I’m going to do something that might get me fired.”
“Will- Will- ” Jane hisses, but Will’s walked off towards the pair before she can even stop him.
She just has to watch.
“Hi, Ethan, is it?” Will plasters a grin on his face and holds his hand out for Ethan to shake.
“Anyway, are you single?”
Benji splutters, quietly, glaring at Will with such a fire in his eyes that Jane is sure he could set something alight.
“I don’t even know-” Ethan starts.
“Nooo, not for me, I’m happily married, two kids, and they love that game, by the way, you should definitely buy it.” Will offers Ethan another copy of the game, “Are you single?”
“Great.” Will nods at the pair of them. “You’re both single. You both have some interest in each other, considering how long you spend talking to each other about mundane things. You should go out, get a beverage. Benji likes cider and wings from that little gastropub down the block.”
Benji sighs, and looks a little like he wants to crawl into a hole and die. “Jane? I know you’re part of this.”
Well, there’s nothing more to it. Plus, Jane kind of wants to know how this whole harebrained scheme will play out. She emerges behind the shelf of games, a tad sheepishly. “Hi Benji.”
“I thought you had invoices to do?” Benji asks, fixing her with an unimpressed gaze.
“I did them earlier, which you would know if you were actually doing paperwork instead of hiding in your office. They’re on the desk.” No-one can say that Jane’s not an efficient worker.
“Yes, well… we’ll discuss this later.” Benji says, looking between her and Will, still rather unimpressed. He turns back to Ethan and says, “I am so sorry about my staff, they-”
“Benji?” Ethan takes the game that Benji’s been holding out for approximately five minutes, and smiles gently. “I’ll take this one… and you out for dinner, if you’re interested?”
Will looks over at Jane, gleefully, as though he didn’t expect his plan to work. “I am-”
“Shhh.” Benji says, “Ethan, I’d be delighted.”
And that is that.