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When Altair got home he proudly deposited the shopping bag on Malik’s desk, moving in a direct path through the apartment to specifically set it beside the computer until Malik looked up from checking his email with a weak sigh.

It turned into more of a double take as he glanced at Altair and at the brown paper bag, then to Altair again with the question articulated in an eloquently raised eyebrow. Altair said nothing; Malik reached inside to pull out the two boxes.

Then his glance at Altair was sharper and not at all questioning. It was more of a demand. 

Altair kept his expression neutral. “Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day,” he said to Malik’s particular brand of silence. “It would be a shame not to celebrate through the entire day.”

“Tomorrow is Tuesday,” Malik countered, “and we have work.” He didn’t sound angry or irritated, always a good sign. He was thoughtful. Altair held his tongue and gave Malik time to examine the boxes: two multi-speed, wireless, remote-control anal plugs, curved to stimulate prostate and perineum simultaneously, quality construction and built for extended use and comfort—which Altair knew because he’d mentally prepared his pitch on the train ride home. 

The toys were both pink. Little heart designs trailed along the sides. 

Altair didn’t get a chance to give his proposal. Malik turned the boxes around on the desk, reading. “Since when did you become observant of St. Valentine’s?”

“Since that shop downtown had a sale for it.” 

That shop.” If Malik had possessed a full beard he would have been stroking it. 

“That shop.” Sensing the endgame, Altair leaned forward to point out something on the packaging. “You see, the remotes are separated from the vibrators, so if we exchanged them—”

“I understand how they work.” Malik tapped a fingernail on his desk. “And you would have us wear them under our clothes out into the world. In public. Into the workplace.” Before Altair could defend his position, Malik added, “You really think you could last all day?”

At last Altair smirked.

“I don’t think you could last an hour,” he said, and as he hoped Malik’s chin jutted out, eyebrows lifting at the challenge.

They would without a doubt have a very interesting day at work tomorrow. 

It added a certain excitement to the morning routine when sometime between showering and eating they took turns bent over the bed with their trousers around their ankles, getting lubed up to have one of the vibrators seated in their backside. Altair spent most his turn with his hands clenching at the bed cover, eyes closed, a continuous quiet moan rising from the back of his throat.

Malik touched the small of his back to let him know when he was done. “Considering what we plan to do,” he said, “perhaps we should think of a safe word.”

“Apple?” Altair flicked his remote on and off to show the toy worked. An instant of sensation wasn’t enough to deter his mind from that initial notion. “Warm bread,” he added and rolled onto his back. “Dates. Coffee.”

Apple is fine. And then breakfast for you, I think.” Malik stood back to let Altair pull up his pants, devoid of any obvious sign that he had recently undergone the same process. Altair noticed though, because he was looking for it, the way Malik stood with one leg bent out to the side, holding his weight differently to offset the toy’s presence. Altair rose to his feet and appreciated the stance firsthand. 

For a brief second of standing in silence, it seemed like getting ready may have been half the fun. “Apple to turn off the vibrators?” Malik said.

Altair nodded. “Apple to turn off the vibrators,” he confirmed.

Then, with ritualistic solemnity somewhere between till death do us part and may the best man win, they exchanged remotes.

And, out of curiosity and needing to be the first to try, Altair turned on Malik’s vibrator. 

The toys worked quietly, but Altair wasn’t listening. He was watching. The flicker passed over Malik’s face followed by a flair of his pupils before he salvaged his composure. “You—” Malik began, and Altair received a second of warning in Malik’s surprised glower before his own plug began to vibrate.

He grunted and rose up on his toes without thinking, for all the good it did. Malik had also chosen a low setting for him but it didn’t make it any easier to ignore the soft unrelenting vibrations behind his balls or in his ass. They looked at each other, wincing and breathing deep to maintain composure. Grabbing each other and kissing hard on the mouth was a better distraction from it, this new competitive way of being at each other’s mercy, and so they did that instead.

The risky tactic would be to turn the remote on high and wait, inciting retribution and all would be down to stamina. For a few seconds they were in real danger of calling in sick to work. But Altair turned Malik’s off and a second later his went still as well. Trust, power, control. It was as obvious as their implicit determination to outlast each other that it wasn’t going to happen that way.

The kiss ended a few seconds after the vibrations, and they heard the clock in the kitchen chime the half-hour. Altair swallowed. “Ceasefire until we get to work,” he said.

Malik pocketed his remote. “If I feel even one watt on the train…”

“You will make sure I regret it,” Altair said against the side of Malik's face.


Waiting was the worst part, the useless anticipation against something as predictable as the weather—in that it was mysterious and strange to onlookers but could almost without exception be provoked by tempting fate.

Turning on Malik’s vibrator guaranteed a swift rebuttal and Altair never failed to launch into action upon one of Malik’s sneak attacks. They weren’t always within sight or hearing distance, though Altair found every excuse to walk past the archive room where Malik worked. His diligence was rewarded once or twice when he caught hint of a quiet sigh or groan, a heaving inhale between clenched teeth on higher settings.

Of course Malik caught him at it. Altair faced the awkward waddling retreat back across the office, the plug throbbing away between his legs and a hoodie stolen from the back of someone’s chair held in front of him to hide his hard-on. 

Altair didn’t immediately collapse in his chair. One thing about wearing a vibrating anal plug around the office was how it made one fond of standing. So far Altair had compromised by sitting on the edge of his seat, leaning forward on his thighs. While Malik favored the soft lingering settings that only became excruciating over time, it had been long enough now that it was becoming difficult. Altair hadn’t planned on it lasting this long.

It had been worth it to see Malik’s expression when he realized Altair could hear him. 

Altair bent over, hands and elbows and then forearms on his desk. He lurched forward with a tiny suppressed groan until his forehead touched down. Under his breath he muttered something more colorful, in the way of a man praying or cursing.

The vibrations—stronger than usual, Malik prickly over getting caught—ceased, releasing Altair with a shudder. He found his chair with his ankle and pulled it under him before folding across his workspace, face in his arms until he caught his breath. Until the urge to spend a few short but productive minutes behind a locked stall in the restroom had passed.

Rauf was staring at him from across their desks when he lifted his head.

“No one would blame you if you took a sick day,” he said. Altair stared back with as blank an expression as he could manage. “Poor timing, but we can’t help when we’re feeling under the weather,” Rauf added.

Altair had shared office space with Rauf since the disastrous episode with the rival company upstairs. He leaned back carefully, aware he was placing himself in danger with his weight on the toy. It was satisfying to press down on it, to briefly have some control over what he felt. “I feel fine,” Altair said.

“You don’t…” Rauf bit his lip, gesturing as he searched for the word, “…look fine.”

“Mild stomach ache,” Altair insisted. Under the desk, he turned on Malik’s remote so he would know it wasn’t over yet. He imagined what Malik would be in the middle of when the sudden pleasure hit him out of nowhere. Would he have recovered from their last volley by now? Or would it be a critical shock to his already fading willpower? “Avoid that cold cut platter in the break room,” Altair said. He leaned forward in anticipation of Malik’s response. “Bad olives, I think.”

“Oh, that was supposed to be for the meeting, too,” Rauf said with a sigh. “Least we can let someone know before anyone else eats it,” he continued, though clearly not convinced as he dug around his desk for the small bottle of hand sanitizer.

Altair frowned. “Meeting?”

“What? Yes.” Rauf blinked at him. “Us, Malik, the boss, someone from finance? With the guys from the Temps upstairs?” he said after the first list failed to register. “You forgot?”

“No, the meeting. Yes,” Altair said and reached for the hoodie to hold in front of his pants. “Today. Excuse me, I have to… I’ll be back in fifteen minutes. I need to discuss a sensitive matter with a colleague.”

“But it’s in five minutes!” Rauf called after him. 

In the back rooms, Altair tracked the quiet noises through rows of archive shelving, at last finding Malik over his counter in a pose similar to the one Altair had adopted while hunched over his desk: hips out, head resting on his forearm, rocking on the balls of his feet and breathing with the determination of a frazzled yoga practitioner. 

—though with more moaning. Altair was taken aback by Malik’s washed open bedroom face when Malik looked up, eyes hooded and panting mouth still full of challenge and vigor when he saw it was Altair. “Oh no,” Malik said, “what are you doing back here? You haven’t been caught, have you? We’re going to be found out if you keep sneaking off. Go back to your desk and work!”

It ended in a gasp and for a moment Altair couldn’t recall what he he had come to say. He tossed the hoodie onto the counter, fine if Malik saw what he had to hide from everyone else.

“I forgot yours was on,” he said hazily, not quite an apology, only just remembering to check if anyone else was around before he pushed behind the counter and grabbed Malik around the waist, getting pulled in the rest of the way by Malik’s arm around the back of his neck.

Malik’s skin was flushed and hot under his mouth, salty with sweat and the darker hints of musk and spice, soap from the shower they shared earlier that morning. A touch of a growl found its way into Altair's voice. “We had a meeting today, did you know that?” The beginnings of an idea were forming in his mind. 

“We… no, I forgot about it! Don’t tell me you remembered and convinced me to do this anyway,” Malik seethed. His head rolled back, giving Altair better access to his neck. “One of the interns could stop by at any moment. You are the most careless, juvenile—”

“I didn’t plan it.” He pressed forward, pinning Malik somewhat against the counter. “I forgot, like you. We have maybe three minutes.” His hands shook slightly as he reached between them because yes, they were completely out in the open if anyone chose to stop by. Altair’s own vibrator turned on again and he buried his face against Malik’s shoulder, riding the feeling as they moved together, aligning their hips. “We could end it right now,” he said, “just let me… let me do that for you, Malik.” Malik moaned beautifully at that, or else at Altaïr gripping him through his pants until Altair could feel the hint of the vibrations through the fabric. He took Malik’s fist with his other hand and kissed the closed fingers where Malik held tight to the his remote.

“Please, Malik,” he said, “let me. We can finish it now, before the meeting begins. None of them will know.”

Altair heard the footsteps approaching and his heart pounded from something other than deep arousal. Moments later they heard Rauf calling down the hallway, searching for Malik and perhaps where Altair had gone as well. 

“Malik,” Altair said urgently. Every inch of his skin prickled at the risk. He arched up on his feet, clutching at Malik and the counter to keep his balance while his vibrator purred on high. “Ah. Please—”

Malik turned an ear towards the approaching Rauf. “Please? Such sweetness,” he said between gasps, holding Altair close with the crook of his elbow. “But why not let me?” he said in Altair’s ear, then lower, enough to suggest the remainder of the proposed downward path. 

“You?” Altair’s laugh was heavy with arousal, a mixed groan of frustration and approval as Malik’s words broke over him. It had not been the answer he expected, and then the top buttons of his shirt came open, exposing skin to the air, and Altair was momentarily but wholeheartedly persuaded. He didn’t mean to shudder, to bury his face in Malik's neck rather than alert Rauf to their presence, but suddenly there was no alternative. His blood was up and the threat of discovery thrilled along his spine. He ached. And now he had to contend with remaining undetected while severely distracted and Malik was not helping with any of it.

Malik's searching thigh fit against Altair’s groin. “Hurry, it sounds like Rauf is determined,” Malik said, flushed and shaking and still managing a certain level of smooth assurance. “Why not let me thank you for this workday scheme in the first place?” 

The teeth nipping Altair’s collarbone distracted him from an ingenious answer, and it was the end of any plan. The two of them were all open mouths and desperate forced silences, not kissing so much as quieting their moans on each other; Altair pressed, pressed against Malik and trembled. “I offered first,” he managed. 

The knowing look on Malik’s face nearly finished him right there. Instead, at the last moment before the door opened, they shoved away from each other. Rauf entered a second after Malik had edged past the deeper shadows around the corner and Altair had retreated behind a row of shelving.

Slinking to safety with the plug on high was nothing short of unyielding torment, and Altair bent over, hands digging into his knees to not gasp aloud.

“Ask me nicely,” he whispered, hoarse. The sound carried only to Malik. “I might let up until we’re in the clear.” 

Malik’s glanced at him, expression tense and wrought with a familiar longing. Battling the same sensations as Altair, those inescapable relentless perfect vibrations linking them from across the room. But Malik shook his head, rolling it along the wall—and he hummed, a beautiful soft whimper that Altair wanted to hold safe in his memory for a long time. “Only a few ways you'll earn a break now,” said Malik, “and me begging you to stop isn't one of them.”

The echoes of Rauf calling in the shelving sounded close—Malik? Are you there? Altair? Hello?—and Altair’s attention split from the little fringe sensations sneaking up on him. The tremor in Malik’s breath when he swallowed, the rub of fabric on Altair’s thighs and stomach and around his cock still trapped tight in his pants. Altair checked around the shelves, skirting towards Malik when Rauf hinted at moving toward Altair’s hiding place. Malik jerked him in by his tie, kissing him, and Altair braced his hands on the wall, hunching over toward Malik’s solid warmth. He unthinkingly jerked his hips after the hope of respite, relief, and it only forced him snug alongside Malik for a second too long and that was it, that was it.

“God. Malik,” Altair said tightly, unable to grasp a more articulate warning with Rauf’s footsteps in his ears, then with sudden clarity, “Apple, Apple—”

It worked better than his nerves could have imagined. He continued to feel the dull tingles long after his vibrator shut off, then Malik reached around to turn off the remote in Altair’s hand as well before pushing them behind the counter. Malik crouched and Altair crumbled, rolling to the side to keep off his ass. It hadn’t exactly been it for him, though he hissed, panting and riding through such a close call that he wasn’t sure at first he hadn’t just come in his pants. 

A hand went around him, Malik blocking him off from the rest of the room. “Hush,” he said in an alert whisper, pressing his lips to the side of Altair’s brow. “Breathe.”

The gesture touched off an unexpected aftershock. It shot through Altair like a current and he bit down hard, wanting to surge against Malik to catch the tail end of it, to hell with their contest to outlast each other and to hell with it if Rauf caught them.

He must have made some small noise. “Shh, I know,” Malik said, “but quietly.” They stilled as Rauf came near the counter to shout for them. Rauf paused a moment before turning away, his search thankfully not concluded by a search behind the counter.

“Poor man,” Malik said when he left. “Remind me to treat him to lunch after this.”

Altair sank against Malik’s side. “That was close.”

Malik snorted, laughing into Altair’s hair. “I really hadn't thought you were that close to—wait, did you?” 

“I meant the situation of almost being caught,” Altair said. “And no, I didn't.” He rolled his eyes. Malik had been right there with him even if he was pretending otherwise, Altair was fairly sure. He leaned into Malik more. “At least your stubbornness spared me no amount of agony.” 

“Oh yes, my stubbornness. And your eagerness had nothing to do with trying to make me come first,” Malik said. He sighed, not rising from his crouch. “I did mean some of it. You know what the hardest part about today has been so far? The hardest part,” he said against Altair’s temple, and Altair twitched in a sensitive place, “is not spreading you on the floor right now and finishing you with my mouth.” 

Altair felt his eyes widen before he could check his reaction. His gaze flickered to the side where Malik’s erection was outlined against his pants.

Then their day, in some form at least, continued.

Altair exhaled. He turned his face up, hungry, glad to find Malik watching him. “Kiss me,” he said. 

If Malik wasn’t smiling then he was at least smug as he bent for Altair’s mouth. It was good—leisurely, deliberate, meeting each other in no particular hurry despite their surroundings, the close call. Different, too, from the frantic kiss that morning, when it had been all unthinking drive and precious else. Malik knew when to take his time. By the time they pulled apart, Altair felt his body pulse with desire, but without the danger of hyperventilation or coming in his underwear. 

“Better?” Malik asked. He pushed Altair's hair back, stroking with the heel of his hand before settling on the back of Altair’s neck.

The curve of remote plastic was a smooth interval between Malik’s fingers. “Much,” Altair said with a touch of a wince. “Only, ah…”


“Apple was a good idea,” said Altair. He turned his own remote over in his fingers, ready to thumb it on again. “I’ve been more comfortable in my life.”

Malik looked gloomy. “I know. We could arrange a draw and still make the meeting.”

“Or go home.” Altair brushed imaginary dirt off his clothes as they helped each other up. He shifted, feeling the vibrator move around as he did, though it was really more like him moving around the vibrator. “Rauf thinks I have food poisoning.”

“You’re too ill to make it home by yourself.” Malik raised an eyebrow. “And I can’t make the trip like this. Can you?”

The un-Malik-like readiness to miss work—of any kind—left Altair in awe. As did the sudden vision, the possibility moving within his grasp, of Malik actually spreading him on the floor to finish him.

Altair grabbed Malik’s wrist and pulled him towards the nearest room with a locking door. “Follow me.”

Attempting to be quiet proved useless, though the overhead fan hopefully engulfed whatever sounds they made. Both of them were quieter now. It flickered through Altair’s mind that he could roll to the side and extricate his plug, and he bid the idea farewell as it continued on its way. Holding tight to Malik and catching his breath were so much more important at the moment.

“We should get up,” Malik said, smoothing his palm across Altair’s bared ribs, “before the endorphins fade and I come to terms with the state of this carpet.”

There was the matter of their location. Altair considered the room while he slid down the wall to join Malik fully on the floor. It was tucked out of the way of office traffic and had a lock. It was also a restroom, and regardless of that Altair still congratulated himself on an evening and day of excellent ideas. 

“Not our most alluring of endings,” he actually said out loud. “I was determined to indulge your…what would you call it? Craving?”

“You weren’t too bad yourself,” Malik responded with his usual humor. He plucked a broken shirt button from the floor and returned it to Altair after checking shirts. They both looked contentedly drained and disheveled as they gathered their clothes. Altair reached for Malik to re-knot his tie and Malik rolled his eyes, allowing it. “Of course, if you stopped avoiding the pool gym at all costs you might learn to hold your breath longer.”

Altair smirked and kissed him—once, and then again, a few more times when once obviously wasn’t enough to tide them over until home. 

They left the vibrators in. There was nowhere else to put them. Altair trusted Rauf to spread the food poisoning gossip enough to excuse a missed half-day. If Rauf was in top form there might even be Get-Well-Soon bouquets on Altair's desk in the morning.

“You know,” he told Malik once they were in the elevator, “you were eventually the first to…” 

“I know,” Malik said neutrally. He looked back at Altair. Once outside the building, their strides along the sidewalk were awkward yet roughly matching, in a different cadence of footsteps from the other happily entwined couples on the street. “Though we have the rest of the day to ourselves now,” said Malik. “That’s time enough for a thing or two.”  

He didn’t sound angry or irritated. He was thoughtful. 

Always a good sign, Altair thought with a smile, and they strolled together towards the train station.