“God damn it, stupid fucking…shit!”
“So things are going well, then?” Bill jokes, walking in on Joe wrestling with some cables.
Joe just stops to glare at his roommate for a moment before throwing the bundle of cords across their dorm room.
“Those cords say somethin’ about your mom?” Bill asks, sitting on his bed and sliding his shoes off.
“The printers’ not working,” Joe explains, sitting back at his desk, hitting random buttons on his computer, harder than necessary.
“I thought it was wireless.”
“It is, but my computer isn’t recognizing it, so I thought maybe I could connect them, but I can’t find a fucking cord to do that with.”
Bill leans back on his bed, reaching for his own laptop on his nightstand.
“Maybe we can print from mine.”
After twenty minutes of trying and failing to print from Bill’s computer they are both cursing all technology and professors who still ask for printed out papers and the institution of higher learning in general.
“Why don’t you call that IT thing?” Bill finally suggests, tossing his computer onto his bed, glaring at it for its betrayal.
“What IT thing?”
“You know, that campus student IT call center place that you’re supposed to be able to call at almost any time of day.”
“Why do you even know about that?” Joe asks, pulling up their school’s website.
Bill shrugs. “Think I saw it on a flyer.”
“You read the flyers?”
“It’s gonna save your procrastinating ass, ain’t it? So stop judging.”
Joe finds the number of the campus IT service and hesitates a moment, part of him kind of just wants to wait for morning to pay the two dollars at the library printer instead of talking to some IT jerk who is just going to ask him if he’s restarted his computer yet.
He takes a deep breath and dials the number on his screen, hitting send before he can talk himself out of it.
It rings once before the line is picked up.
“Thank you for calling IT after dark, my name is George, how can I…service you?” the guy on the other end says with a fake, seductive voice.
“Uh…” is really all Joe can say, because really?
He can hear the other guy, George, snicker a little in the background before bringing his mouth back closer to the phone.
“Sorry about that, we don’t get many calls here, I panicked. What can I do for you?” His tone is friendly and casual, Joe can detect a slight east coast accent, not Philly though.
“Right, well, I can’t get my computer to find my wireless printer. It worked just a few days ago and now…nothing,” Joe explains, trying to keep his voice from sounding as annoyed as he really is.
“Ok, well, first things first, your computer, your printer, your router, have you tried restarting all of those?” George asks easily, but doesn’t sound as condescending as Joe had been afraid of.
“Well…I restarted my computer and my printer. I guess I didn’t really think about the router,” Joe admits, a little embarrassed.
“Ah, no big deal,” George assures. “Just turn off your printer, unplug your router for a minute and we’ll see if that gets you connected.”
Joe does what he says and sits back on his computer chair, waiting.
“Thanks for calling, by the way,” George says as they wait. “I’ve been working here all semester and you’re only the second call I’ve ever gotten. And the other one was just because they forgot to charge their computer.”
Joe laughs a little at that. “Do you get paid to do this?” he asks, reaching back over to plug in his router.
“Nah, I get course credit though, and it apparently ‘looks good on resumes’.” The air quotes clear, even over the phone.
“Well I guess that’s something,” Joe says distractedly, clicking around his computer until he sees his printer, which his computer recognizes quickly.
He sighs in annoyance at himself.
“It worked, sorry I wasted your time, man,” he tells George while his paper prints out.
“Don’t even worry about it, like I said, I’m just happy someone actually called. I was starting to think the phones were disconnected.”
“Maybe you should think of using better advertisement than flyers in the quad that only my roommate, apparently, reads,” Joe suggests, for some reason not immediately wanting to get off the phone.
“Yeah, you let me know how a barely funded, student run IT service gets ad space anywhere and we’ll be right on it,” George deadpans.
“Well, you’re a bunch of computer geeks, right? Can’t you make some kind of website and post about it on social media? Or hack into the school’s website and make your stuff more noticeable, like put it on the front page or something?” Joe really has no idea why he’s still talking, something about George is just keeping him interested.
“That’s not…shit…ok so,” George fumbles, apparently thinking Joe’s ideas aren’t too bad. “Maybe we’re not the best at stuff like that. In our defense, none of us care about this all that much.”
Joe laughs and he can see Guarnere looking at him, and he really should be getting off the phone.
“You one of those Communications majors?” George asks.
“Hm, Public Relations?”
Joe laughs again. “No.”
“Hey, don’t laugh, I’ve got a friend studying that,” George says, he sounds like he is smiling.
“I do too, actually,” Joe admits. And yeah, he’s now just chatting with some guy. “I better go, thanks again, for the help.”
“Oh, right...ok, well…call back any time,” George says, the smile in his voice gone now.
“If I forget to charge my computer you’ll be the first call I make,” he jokes.
“You better. Have a nice night.”
“Yeah, you too.” Joe ends the call and lets out a breath.
“What the hell was that about?” Bill pipes up after a moment, making Joe jump a little.
Joe gets up to retrieve his paper, getting it ready to turn in tomorrow morning.
“What?” he asks, looking over at Bill.
Guarnere raises an eyebrow. “You seemed kind of friendly with that IT person.”
Joe shrugs. “He was a funny guy.”
“Uh huh,” Bill responds, sounding unconvinced.
“What?” Joe asks again.
“Nothin’, maybe we need to go out this weekend, I think you’re getting a little lonely if you’re trying to chat up the IT guy.”
“Oh fuck you, Gonorrhea, I wasn’t chatting up the IT guy, I talked to him for three minutes, tops.”
“Yeah, and laughed the whole time.”
Joe rolls his eyes. “Once.”
“At least three times.”
“Two times, and like I said, he was funny. I’m not allowed to laugh at something a guy says without wanting to fuck him?”
“Joe, you don’t laugh at anything anyone says,” Bill reminds him.
“Well maybe I need funnier friends,” Joe says, sitting down on his own bed.
“I’m the funniest SOB in town, so that can’t be it.”
Joe just rolls his eyes again.
It’s two weeks later and Joe is ready to throw his computer out a window. If he was still in high school, before he got into boxing to deal with his ‘anger issues’, he probably would be throwing it right about now.
Instead, he takes a deep breath and tries restarting his computer one more time.
“Fuck!” he yells to his empty room when the problem continues. He’s well and truly fucked if he’s no longer able to access the sites he needs in order to write his midterm paper.
He looks over at Bill’s laptop, wondering if he can just use his for now, it’s not like he’ll be back until morning. He’s just contemplating what Guarnere may have changed his password to when George, the IT guy, pops back into his head.
He hesitates for a moment, remembering Bill’s teasing words about Joe’s reaction to the guy. But fuck it, Bill’s not here and Joe really does need some IT help.
He finds the number on his past calls and hits the call button.
It rings once before he hears “Hello, and welcome to Campus IT! If you need help with your computer, press 1.”
“George?” Joe asks, a little unsure, because it does sound exactly like the Moviefone guy.
He hears some rustling in the background. “Printer guy?” George’s animated voice now his own.
Joe chuckles a little at the nickname but then thinks, “you could tell it was me?”
“You have a very…recognizable voice,” George explains.
“Oh, yeah,” is all he says. He’s used to it. He’s used to people telling him he sounds like he’s swallowed sandpaper or glass. Or people asking him if he’s sick, or if his throat always hurts.
“So, what can I do for you, Printer Guy?” George asks, chipper as ever.
“Well, first of all, you can call me Joe, if you want. Printer Guy has a weird ring to it,” Joe offers, not really wanting to be labeled as the jackass that didn’t think to restart his router.
“Joe, that suits you so much better,” George agrees. Joe has a hard time staying self-conscious when he’s on the phone with George, the guy definitely has a future in sales if he wants it.
“So, I’m sure I’m being an idiot, but I’ve tried restarting everything I could think of and that’s not fixing my problem, so I need your help,” Joe explains.
“Ok, let’s see what I can do, what’s the problem?”
“I keep getting these messages when I try to get on different websites saying something about there being a problem with the security certificate. I don’t fucking know what that means, why do I need a security certificate for websites I always use?”
George chuckles. “Ok, Joe, I’m gonna have you do something and you’ll probably hate me for it, but I think it’ll work.”
“I’ve already tried restarting three times, both my computer and my router. I even restarted my printer just in case,” Joe admits.
“No, you don’t have to restart for this, or at least not yet. Click on the clock on your computer,” George instructs.
George chuckles again. “Yep, just go into the clock settings then select the change date and time.”
“It’s an internet thing, not my clock,” Joe argues, but does what George says anyway.
“I told you that you were going to hate me. I’m guessing you have an older PC.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty old,” Joe admits. Once he’s followed George's instructions he goes back online, the websites he hadn’t been able to access earlier now up and running. “Ok, what the fuck?”
George’s laugh is loud and boisterous this time and Joe has to move his ear from the receiver a bit.
“It’s ok, Joe. That’s not a problem that happens too much anymore, and not many people know that trick off hand,” George assures him. “You gotta get yourself a new computer though.”
“Yeah, I’ll just write a letter to the people funding my scholarship, ask them to tack on another couple grand so I can get myself a computer that doesn’t rely on a clock,” Joe deadpans.
“Eh, I’d say you could settle on a grand for what you need,” George shoots back, and Joe catches himself smiling.
“So you’re here on a scholarship, are you an Engineering major?” George asks after a moment of silence between them.
“I think I’d understand my computer better if I was,” Joe points out.
George hums a little in agreement. “I’m thinking something in the sciences? Am I closer?”
Joe laughs and just says “sort of.”
George groans. “You could just tell me you know?”
“That doesn’t sound nearly as fun as you guessing,” Joe teases, and he’s so glad he’s by himself right now, because Joe doesn’t do this, Joe doesn’t sit on the phone with people he barely knows smiling and joking around.
“I’ll tell you what I’m majoring in,” George offers.
“I assumed you were in some kind of Information Tech thing.”
“Nope, I’m Computer Science, I don’t even plan on working in IT, this is really just for the course credit.”
Joe just hums in acknowledgement, thinking that George is giving up on a calling of his, he’s pretty good with IT stuff, but maybe he’s even better with whatever it is that Computer Science people do.
“So, what about you?” George asks when Joe doesn’t supply him with his own major.
Joe smirks, “I don’t remember agreeing to tell you anything.”
“Oh come on, Joe!”
“Why do you want to know so badly?” Joe asks, genuinely curious why this guy cares. Though maybe he is just bored, sitting there all night without any calls except for Joe.
“Because I…I don’t know, just thought it might round you out as a person in my mind,” George admits, his tone not as light as it has been.
“Maybe next time,” he offers vaguely, “I actually have a lot of work I have to do now that I can get onto the sites I need.” He tries to keep the disappointment out of his voice, he’s not sure if he’s succeeded, but he hopes George just thinks it’s because of the homework he has to do.
“Right, yeah.” George does sound disappointed, but Joe doesn’t let himself think it has anything to do with him, it’s just because he’s bored.
“Thanks again, George,” he says before hanging up, kind of wishing his computer would go haywire again.
He sighs and turns fully to his computer, he really does have a lot of work to do.
It only takes four days before Joe is dialing the number for the campus IT service again.
“It’s Bill’s computer,” Malarkey points out from Joe’s chair, where he is sitting, as Joe dials. Guarnere nods in agreement.
“He’s a little weird, so I’m just going to explain some things to him and then I’ll let him help you,” Joe says, not even believing his own dumb lie. Part of him wants to hear what weird introduction he has today. Most of him just kind of wants to talk to George again.
He ignores Guarnere’s mumble about flirting.
“Thank you for calling campus IT services, my name is Frank, how can I help you?” says a tired sounding guy with an accent Joe can’t quite place, maybe Chicago?
“Oh, uh, is George there?” Joe asks, he kind of forgot that George isn’t the only person that does campus IT.
“Hm, George? No, not tonight,” the guy, Frank, tells him, sounding surprised. “He usually works Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
“Right.” He remembers now that both times he’s called have been Thursdays.
“Is there something that I can help you with? Or were you just looking for George?”
“Oh, no, yeah, no my friend is having an issue with his computer,” Joe fumbles over his words.
He ignores Guarnere’s incredulous stare as he hands his phone off to him and moves to sit on his bed.
Malarkey lets out a low whistle and Joe shoots him a glare.
“So what was that all about?” Malarkey asks, resting his chin on his knuckles and looking at Joe expectantly.
“What?” Joe shrugs, pretending like he didn’t just act like an idiot because he wasn’t able to talk to George.
“Who is George?”
“He’s the IT guy that’s helped me a couple times,” Joe tells him.
“And?” Malarkey prompts.
“And that’s it,” Joe says, adding another glare to show him he’s not going to say anything else on the matter.
Malarkey holds his hands up in surrender.
Not long after, Guarnere gets off the phone and tosses it back to Joe.
“Ok, Joe, you either need to go out and get yourself some, or you need to find this IT guy,” Guarnere tells him.
“I’m serious, you’ve been acting like a lovesick puppy since you first talked to the guy.”
“That’s just not even true.”
Guarnere shrugs. “Close enough.”
“I think Bill is right,” Malarkey chimes in.
“I’ve talked to the guy twice, just because I enjoyed talking to him doesn’t mean anything,” he argues.
“Actually, Joe, the fact that you enjoy talking to the guy at all is huge,” Malarkey points out.
And the annoying thing is he knows they’re right. Joe just doesn’t have an easy time talking to people who aren’t his friends, and even with them he sometimes can’t be bothered with it. Even though it’s only been two times he knows things are different with George, he doesn’t know why, or at least doesn’t want to admit to know why, but they are.
He’s not about to agree with them though, so he crosses his arms and scowls instead. It’s weird, and he’s sure that if George ever found out that Joe has developed some ridiculous crush on him after talking to him for a total of seven minutes he’d be completely creeped out.
“You know,” Malarkey starts out thoughtfully. “I think Skip mentioned something about Faye doing an IT thing for the school. I bet she knows him.”
Joe’s heart skips a beat. “What?”
Luz scrubs at his face, trying to get rid of the white spots that have formed after staring at his computer screen too long.
He yawns and stretches, looking over at the door as Perconte comes back to their room. Looking at the time he realizes he’s stayed up all night again, he really has to cut that shit out.
“How’d it go?” he asks his tired roommate who has just face planted onto his bed.
Perconte groans, but turns to look at him. “It’s painful, I don’t understand how you don’t mind dealing with people who barely know how to turn on their computer.”
Luz shrugs, he doesn’t actually have a whole lot of patience for those types of people either, except maybe one, he’s just much better at faking it.
“We had four calls tonight, five if you count the one that called and hung up. I think your website has been working, it was a good idea.”
“You know, it wasn’t actually my idea, it was a guy that called in for help,” he admits, thinking back to Joe’s first call. It really had been such an obvious idea he couldn’t believe none of them had thought of it.
“Speaking of callers,” Perconte says, rolling so that he’s looking up at the ceiling now, “there was one guy that called looking for you.”
“Well, he was calling for his friend, who I ended up helping, but he asked for you first.”
Luz’s heart beat picks up, though he’s trying not to get his hopes up.
“Who was it, did he say his name was Joe?” he asks, trying to not sound as excited by the prospect of Joe calling to talk to him as he is.
“Don’t know, he didn’t say his name. His friend’s name is Bill though.”
“What did his voice sound like?”
“His voice, was it kind of throaty and sexy?”
“What?” Perconte asks again, leaning on his elbows to give Luz a concerned look.
“You know exactly what I mean, if it was him anyway,” Luz amends.
“I mean, I guess his voice was kind of scratchy sounding, if that’s what you mean. His friend’s voice was almost the exact opposite though.”
“What did he say?”
“The guy! With the voice! What did he say?” Luz moves to sit on Perconte’s bed, ready to shake him if he has to.
“I don’t know, man, I answered, he asked for you, I told him you weren’t working tonight and he handed the phone over to his friend.”
Luz grins, “so he didn’t even need help, he just wanted to talk to me?”
“I don’t think I said that, but sure, why not? Can I sleep now?”
Luz groans. “Don’t you get what this means? Joe called hoping to talk to me, even though he didn’t need me to help him with anything. He could have just as easily given the number to his friend to call.”
“Ok, so you think this guy likes you?” Perconte asks, his tired mind attempting to catch up with Luz.
“He must, right? Or am I overthinking this?”
“I really have no idea. Have you tried talking to him anywhere other than through the IT channel?”
“I can’t! I don’t know anything about him. Other than he goes to this school and has a scholarship, his name is Joe, and he’s not a Communications, PR or Engineering student. And now, I know he has a friend named Bill. That’s not exactly helpful information to put in online to find a person.”
Perconte just shrugs and lays back down, attempting to fall asleep.
Luz scowls and walks back to his own bed. He needs better friends.
George is starting to drift off when the first call of the night comes through.
“Hello, my name is George the IT guy, you killed your computer, prepared to die,” he answers, channeling Mandy Patinkin as much as he can in his tired state.
“No time for that tonight man, I really fucked up,” he hears his new favorite voice say across the line.
“Oh, Joe, what’d you do now, man?” he asks, resting his feet up on the desk.
“I just finished working on something for the past four hours and when it asked me if I wanted to save I stupidly selected No. And please don’t lecture me on saving as I go, I know, I’m an idiot, but that doesn’t help me right now,” Joe explains, sounding distressed, and Luz feels for him, he knows what that’s like.
“Ok, Joe, this is a no judgment zone here. Now, unfortunately we don’t have a lot of options because I’m not allowed to remote into your computer. Apparently they don’t trust us with having access to other student’s information,” Luz complains.
“So there’s no way to get it back?” Joe asks, his already throaty voice coming out almost like a growl.
Luz tries to ignore the shivers going down his spine as he tries to visualize what he needs to help Joe out.
“Well, I can try to help walk you through to find your unsaved files, but I can’t guarantee you’ll have that file, not every computer does,” Luz explains, not wanting to get Joe’s hopes up.
“I’ll try anything, man.”
So, Luz directs Joe through his file folders until he is able to find his unsaved files.
He hears something like a loud laugh at the other end of his line, startling him a little, before he hears Joe say, “George you’re a genius, I’d kiss you if you were here,” Joe says, happily.
George can feel the blush on his face and tries to will it away, knowing Joe didn’t actually mean it more than just it being something excited people say.
So George just laughs at Joe’s celebration and tries to keep his stomach from doing somersaults.
“Seriously George, you have saved my ass three times now, I can’t believe I somehow made it through two years of school without you.”
“So you’re a Junior?” George asks, instead of opting for less stalker-like questions.
Joe hums to confirm George’s question.
“I’m a Sophomore,” George offers up freely. He has never and will never claim to be mysterious.
“I know,” Joe says, simply.
That makes George pause. “What?”
Joe chuckles. “We have a mutual friend.”
George’s heart beat is racing almost as fast as his thoughts. They have a mutual friend, meaning they could very easily meet. Also, apparently Joe has been talking to people about him. What if it’s in a bad way? What if Joe talks about the annoying IT guy that so clearly has a crush on him to all of his friends? What if their mutual friend somehow confirmed it for him, and told him how ridiculous Luz is?
“Who is it?” Luz asks, ignoring all his destructive thoughts for the moment.
“Faye Tanner,” Joe tells him.
Luz perks up a little at that. “Really? You know Faye?” She’s another Computer Science major, so Luz and Faye have almost all the same classes, except for their electives, but even some of those they’ve shared.
“Yeah, she dates a buddy of mine.”
“Well then that means Skip, but he’s pretty much everyone’s friend.”
“True, but I met him through one of my best friends, who is one of Skip’s best friends,” Joe explains.
“Who is it? Maybe I know them too.”
“According to him, you do. Don Malarkey?”
“Holy shit, yeah I know Malarkey. Wow, what a small world. Or…campus,” Luz amends.
Joe just laughs.
“Apparently we run in really similar circles, how have we never met before?” Luz asks, tries to remember if he has ever heard of any of his friends talk about a guy named Joe. Or if there was ever a night out where someone introduced him to a guy named Joe. But he comes up empty.
“I don’t go out much,” Joe says as a suggestion.
“Well, we should all go out soon, maybe this weekend. Then you and I can actually meet face to face,” Luz suggests, realizing a little late that he sounded way too excited about that prospect.
“Oh, uh…” Joe stumbles a little over his words, and the smile that Luz could hear in his voice earlier is gone.
“Or not?” Luz feels his stomach drop, he didn’t think he’d come on too strong, but maybe Faye and Skip and Malarkey had told Joe some things about Luz and now he’s not really interested to spend too much time with him face to face.
“No, I mean…yeah, we could do that, sometime. Probably not this weekend, I’m sort of busy…” Joe trails off lamely.
Joe’s sorry excuse doesn’t help. George knows when he’s being rejected. Even when he hadn’t even asked the guy out, at least he has enough of a cover that no one can prove that he had been trying to do exactly that.
“Right, well…please call again if you have any other IT issues, we’re always happy to help,” he says, trying to keep the hurt out of his voice.
“George.” He hears before he hangs up.
He’s so stupid, he talked to the guy three times and he’s already upset that he doesn’t want to meet up. Of course he doesn’t, Luz is just a disembodied voice that helps him with his computer problems and makes stupid jokes. Just because they know a few of the same people doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to just start being part of each other’s lives. Plus, Joe could probably tell that Luz had not just been thinking platonic thoughts and that definitely scared him off.
George takes a deep breath and tries to remind himself that Joe is nothing but a disembodied voice to him too. This whole crush is based on next to no information about the guy. Hell, maybe he’s mean to animals and kids, and burns things just because he feels like it. Maybe he makes racist jokes and gets mad at people who get offended. Maybe he gets weird toppings on his pizzas and when he gets it half and half his weird toppings always spill over onto the other side of the pizza.
George takes another deep breath. He doesn’t feel much better.
“Hey there, sunshine,” Faye greets him, sliding into her usual seat.
He nods his head to acknowledge her then goes back to doodling in his notebook.
“Everything ok?” she asks.
He shrugs. “I’m fine.”
“Really? Cause you seem kind of down. Or are you just tired from your shift at the call center?”
He shrugs again. “Yeah.”
“Well, I know something that may cheer you up,” she offers.
He finally turns to look at her.
She leans in, like she’s going to share a secret. “A guy I know was asking me about you the other day,” she tells him, grinning.
His stomach clenches a little over the knot that’s been there since last night.
She doesn’t seem to notice his distress as she keeps talking. “He said that you’ve helped him a bunch of times at the call center and then asked me some stuff about you. Don’t worry, I gave you glowing praise.”
Apparently it wasn’t enough, he thinks. He just sighs and looks back at his desk.
“Wait, are you not interested in him? I know he’s a little rough around the edges and can seem a little scary at first, but he’s actually a really good guy.”
That stops his moping for a second. “Scary?” Sure, Joe’s voice is a little rough but Luz wouldn’t describe him as scary.
Faye shrugs. “Sure, I mean, I know he comes off really serious and broody and like he’s ready to just get into the first fight he can find, but he’s actually pretty calm, and funny once you get to know him.”
“Are we talking about the same guy?” Luz asks, because the Joe he knows wouldn’t really be characterized as broody, while usually somewhat frustrated, due to the nature of his phone calls, he’s always been mostly happy and laughing when Luz has talked to him.
“Joe Toye? I mean, I guess so, I can’t imagine you’ve started talking to two different Joes at the call center because they call you all the time.
“Nope, only one Joe so far.”
“Come on, Luz, at least give him a chance. And if you want to go the shallow route, I promise, looks-wise…you don’t have to worry,” she says with a wink.
And that’s not fair, he doesn’t need to know that Joe is not only a decent guy but also apparently a hot, decent guy.
“Look, you’re pushing at the wrong guy here. I’m not the one who isn’t interested.”
“What do you mean?” she asks, lowering her voice as their professor finally enters the classroom.
He shrugs. “We talked last night, I mentioned maybe meeting up with our mutual friends and he was all ‘uh…I…no…yeah…uh…probably not this weekend’,” he tells her, giving Joe a less flattering voice than his real one.
She looks confused, but is stopped from saying anything more as their professor starts class.
“Since when are you and Faye so tight?” Skip asks, looking at Joe then back down at his phone.
“What?” Joe asks, looking away from the TV screen.
“First, you asking me for her number the other day, now she’s asking me if you’re here.”
“He wanted her number so he could ask her about all the hot gossip on Luz,” Malarkey speaks up, his eyes not leaving the screen.
“Shut the hell up,” Joe says, throwing a pretzel at Malarkey’s head.
“Wait, you’re hooking up with Luz?” Skip asks, sounding shocked.
“No-“ Joe starts, but is cut off by Guarnere.
“Nah, Joe just calls him at the IT call center thing with fake problems so he can swoon over the guy’s tech skills,” Guarnere says.
“I don’t fake problems,” Joe argues.
“Oh really? What was that last night? I know for a fact you had already finished your paper when you called him.”
Joe just scowls and ignores everyone. He really needs to get new friends.
They all howl with laughter but don’t push any farther and they all go back to watching their movie.
That is until five minutes later when Faye Tanner comes marching into Malarkey and Skip’s apartment.
“Toye!” she yells right before walking into the living room.
Joe’s eyes widen as he takes in the five foot three inches of adorable rage in front of him.
“Ooh, someone is in trouble,” Skip teases, looking downright gleeful at the scene.
“What?” Joe asks, unsure of what he did to unleash Faye’s wrath.
“We need to talk in the kitchen, now,” she says, pointing toward the kitchen.
“Yeah, I don’t think I want to,” he says, honestly.
“Well you definitely don’t want to have this conversation out here in front of all of them,” she reasons.
“Oh please, please have it out here in front of all of us,” Malarkey begs.
Joe stands, seeing the wisdom in her words, and follows her.
Once inside the kitchen Faye pushes him, it doesn’t actually do anything to him, but he gets the sentiment behind the act.
“What?” he asks her again.
“What is your problem? Why did you ask me all about Luz if you don’t actually have any interest in him?” she asks him, thankfully keeping her voice at an angry whisper.
“I…what makes you say that?” He doesn’t really want to admit that he does have feelings for George, but he can’t just outright deny it either.
“I talked to him today, he told me you blew him off when all he did was ask to hang out.”
He looks over at the door before putting his hand on her arm, leading her farther into the small kitchen.
“Well that’s the problem, I’m a little past ‘hanging out as friends’, and it’s weird and I’m not really trying to creep the guy out,” he admits quietly.
Faye deflates at that. “Toye, it’s not weird or creepy that you like him,” she says softly.
“I’ve talked to the guy three times, it’s weird.”
“Well, all I can tell you is that he was really bummed today because he thought you didn’t like him, and I don’t mean that in a friend way.”
“Really?” Joe asks, not fully letting himself believe her.
She nods and grins. “I don’t know what you guys talked about in those three phone calls, but apparently it was enough.”
He huffs out a short laugh and her smile widens.
Luz is bored already. Thursday nights are usually better than Tuesdays, but he’s done with all of his homework and apparently everyone is busy doing things that don’t involve interacting with a bored guy via social media.
He nearly falls out of his chair when he hears a knock at the door. The only two people that ever stop by are the night security guard and his supervisor, but neither of them ever knock.
Figuring a serial killer wouldn’t knock either, he opens the door.
The guy at the door does make Luz a little bit nervous, he has a dark stare, his facial expression looking a little bit agitated.
“Uh, hey man, can I help you with something?” George asks, not wanting to be rude just because the guy looks a little intense.
“You George?” the guy asks and George knows that voice.
Joe responds with a half grin and Luz’s stomach swoops. He can definitely see what Faye had mentioned, about Joe looking a little rough and maybe could come across as scary if you didn’t know him. But George feels like he does know him, and now that he knows it’s Joe all he can see is the funny, good guy he talked to over the phone. He also understands Faye’s comment about not needing to worry looks-wise, because…yeah.
“Uh, what are you doing here?” he asks after several seconds of just awkwardly staring at Joe.
“Oh, well…” Joe starts, seeming a little nervous.
George notes the laptop bag across Joe’s shoulder. “Were you needing help with your computer?” he asks, sort of bummed that this is probably the only reason Joe came.
Joe looks down at his computer bag. “Oh, no, I just brought this in case security stopped me, figured I’d tell ‘em you told me to bring it in so you could fix it,” he admits.
“That’s not a bad idea,” George offers, leading Joe inside.
“It’s smaller than I pictured,” Joe says, looking around the cramped room.
It’s set up with two computers and two phones at desks that have been squeezed together. It’s been a good thing they’re never really busy, because having to do anything with another person working right in his space would not be preferable. The back wall is covered with cabinets and a counter that’s nearly overflowing with old computer parts, making the room feel even more cramped than it already is.
“So, you still haven’t said why you stopped by,” George points out. He’s keeping his gaze moving, trying to not stare too long at Joe’s face, or arms, or chest, or hands.
“Right, uh…I think maybe we had a small misunderstanding,” Joe says, rubbing the back of his neck and avoiding Luz’s gaze as much as Luz is avoiding his.
George’s stomach twists, because he got the message the other night, why did Joe need to come down here, in person, to tell him he’s not interested?
“When you suggested we hang out this weekend I sort of panicked,” Joe admits and there’s a sour taste in George’s mouth.
“You know, I’m sorry if I came on a little strong, I really did just mean that we could hang out with our friends,” George lies, trying to save as much face as possible in this situation.
Joe doesn’t seem relieved by this though, in fact his eyebrows furrow a little and he seems to think something over before looking back at Luz again.
“Well, I guess that’s where my problem is, because…” he takes a deep breath. “I don’t mind being friends with you, George, but if I’m being honest, I think that I like you. And I know that’s kind of strange, since we barely know each other, but I-“
George doesn’t even realize he’s launched himself at Joe until he hears Joe make a startled sound against George’s lips. The second Joe admitted that he likes him, his body just flew into auto pilot.
Thankfully, it only takes Joe a moment to get his bearings and he’s kissing Luz back with a matching force that leaves him a little breathless.
He feels his back hit something hard and he gasps, breaking them apart for a moment.
“Shit, sorry.” Is all Joe has time to say, before Luz wraps his hands around his neck and pulls him back, sucking on Joe’s bottom lip before he opens his mouth for Luz to explore.
His hands can’t seem to decide where they want to go, he keeps moving them from Joe’s chest, down his torso, to his back, then to his arms.
But Joe doesn’t seem to mind as he just pushes Luz harder into the cabinets he’s up against and takes control of the kiss.
It’s only a few seconds later before Joe pulls away from him, an involuntary whine escaping his throat as his body tries to follow Joe’s.
“This probably isn’t the best place for this,” Joe says, his voice somehow rougher.
As he speaks, several pieces of equipment, that have been precariously placed on the overstuffed counter, begin to slide off and land with a clatter on the floor.
“I can’t leave,” Luz laments, his hand still resting against Joe’s torso where he left it.
Joe’s chuckle sounds a little breathy. “I know, I was thinking more along the lines of us going out sometime, maybe this weekend?”
“I thought you were busy this weekend,” Luz teases, bunching up the shirt underneath his hand before letting go.
Joe scowls and Luz beams, leaning up a little to place a quick kiss to the slight pout on Joe’s lips.