November 12th. Again.
Alexander sighed. That time of the year again, so soon? He tapped his pen on the surface of his heavy polished wooden desk, staring absentmindedly at the gold plated sign on his desk that read "ALEXANDER MARTELLO, MARKETING DIRECTOR".
He glanced idly at the calendar on his desk. No, he wasn't mistaken. Tomorrow was his birthday. He was only going to turn twenty-eight, but he felt so old inside. He suspected that his guts were as wrinkled and dry as a raisin, sort of like his eighty year-old next door neighbor. So many years of school, such expensive college fees, for what? His income was ridiculously high and he owned everything he could ever want, but he still wasn't content. He was beginning to think that he would need to get a dog or a cat for companionship, because all the women he'd dated lately were too busy giggling and gossiping to have any intelligent conversation with him. It was extremely frustrating, to say the least.
No one would remember his birthday. His ex-girlfriends wouldn't care, even if they bothered to remember; he never had a good relationship with his relatives; he had lost contact with nearly all of his college buddies; he never told his new friends his birth date because they never asked.
He knew for a fact that his parents would forget about his birthday. They had forgotten last year, and the year after that, and the year after that... Ever since he had graduated from college, his communication with his parents had slowly dwindled until they no longer associated themselves with each other.
The only sign of his looming birthday was a small note in his personal calendar, that he usually kept inside his desk drawer, written in red ink, that read: "November 13. Happy Birthday to myself. 28 today. Mid-life crisis imminent." Reading the note softly aloud, he laughed softly at the acidic humor and shut the book.
Might as well start his private pity party.
Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and picked up his mug of coffee. Cold. He drank it anyway. Concentrate, he thought. The report was due this coming Wednesday , and he hadn't even started reading the charts in the printout his assistant had given him. Outside his quiet office there was the sound of laughter and speech. Deciding that another cup of coffee and a short walk would help clear his mind, he got up from his leather-upholstered chair and walked to the door.
His hand on the steel door knob, he hesitated, seeing the source of all the raucous mirth. Daniel Locke, the new employee, transferred recently from Paris to Detroit. Here. Locke (Alex never thought of him as Daniel) was an all-around lady magnet. The female employees gathered around him like bees hovering about a flower. Not that they could be blamed; Alex supposed that it was because of Locke's easy-going personality and charm that he got all the attention. Not that Alex noticed it or anything. Personally, he thoroughly disliked Locke. He would even go so far as to say he hated him.
On Locke's first day, he had walked into the office talking to their employer, a Mr. John E. Waters. Alex had been standing at his assistant's desk in the main business room, shuffling through some papers with a mug of coffee in hand. Locke, not looking at where he was going, had bumped into Alex, making him spill the scalding hot liquid all over his white dress shirt and drenching the report he just printed. Locke was immediately apologetic. He grabbed tissue for a nearby cubicle and started cleaning up the mess on Alex's shirt. He even offered to pay for the shirt.
Alex was sure that Locke only acted the way he did because Mr. Waters was there, because after that he never paid any attention to Alex. Not when there were so many pretty, perfumed things walking in the building that were attracted to him.
So now Alex, thinking about a hot cup of coffee, decided that Locke wasn't worth the time it took to think about him and turned the doorknob. He tried not to look at Locke's office. Really, he did. But his eyes didn't listen to his brain and they wandered to the open door of "DANIEL LOCKE, FOREIGN AFFAIRS".
He saw Jacqueline, Mr. Water's secretary, sitting on the edge of Locke's desk. Slut, thought Alex. He knew he was being unfair, but all his emotions seemed exaggerated when it came to Locke. He thought it was jealousy. No man should have so much attention from to many women. It was injustice.
Locke was talking merrily with the woman. His hand, with a pen in its grip, hovered over a stack of forms. His attention was focused on Jacqueline and he didn't seem to notice Alex, so Alex took a closer look, feeling pathetic for succumbing to his curiosity.
Locke was, Alex admitted, a handsome man. He had a square jaw; not blunt but rounded just enough so that he didn't look like an escaped lumberjack. He seemed to have only a little bit of facial hair, judging from his faint five o'clock shadow. He had brown hair that fell below his ears; it couldn't seem to get any neater, despite Locke's fussing over it in the men's room. His eyes were large and dark chocolate brown. The business suit Locke wore fit him perfectly; it looked like he had it tailor-made. The tie tucked into his suit didn't look exceptionally special, but then again, on Locke everything was emphasized. Even the stupid tie.
Life wasn't fair. Alex groaned aloud at his self-pity, which caused Locke to look at him in concern. Alex wondered if Locke had noticed him staring at him earlier, because the other man had turned his attention to him awfully quickly. Pivoting on the dark blue carpet, Alex pretended he didn't notice Locke's gaze and walked towards the coffee machine. Ah, yes. Coffee was safe, because coffee did not laugh while he was miserable and coffee did not make him jealous of things he never really wanted in the first place. He was thinking of the women, of course.
The coffee pot was empty. He didn't know why he was surprised; it was always empty, because no one in the office cared enough to make sure it was full. With yet another sigh, Alex took out the old filter, threw it into the trash bin, and proceeded to make another pot of coffee.
Alex heard soft footsteps behind him, and stared at his feet while waiting for the coffee machine to finish its job. He'd never noticed how many coffee stains there were in the carpet around this area...
Who was that? Alex looked up and saw Locke standing behind him, smiling a small smile and holding out a cup of coffee out to him.
"What?" Alex said. He nearly winced; his voice sounded so lifeless.
"There's another coffee machine in the next hall, so I got you a cup while I was there." Locke said, looking at the trickle of brown liquid coming down the funnel.
"Thanks. You didn't need to." said Alex grudgingly, taking the cup and leaning back on the counter.
Locke leaned back on the counter next to him and silently sipped his coffee. The silence wore on for so long that Alex began to get irritated. What was Locke doing here anyways? He tapped his foot impatiently.
"Have you ever heard of that Greek legend, the one about Prometheus?" Locke said, a non sequitur.
"Uh...no?" Alex had been too wrapped up in facts and figures to dwell in legends and myths that originated hundred of decades in the past. He sometimes regretted his hastiness to get to his future; now his future was here, and he didn't know where 'here' was, what 'here' meant.
"Would you like to hear it?" asked Locke, polite as ever.
Well, he couldn't very well say no without being rude, could he? "Sure."
Locke smiled and started talking, but Alex was lost already. Locke's smile had given him a heady rush. What the hell?
"...Prometheus stole fire from the gods on Mount Olympus..."
Alex watched Locke's lips move. His tongue stuck out on the first two syllables of 'Olympus', Alex noted.
"...he saved the humans from suffering from the cold..."
Alex felt cold, and the coffee didn't help one bit as it slid down his throat in thick waves.
"...vultures eating his guts out everyday..."
"...I'm wearing striped purple underwear..."
"What?!" said Alex, staring at Locke.
"Just testing to see if you were listening. It seemed like you were drifting off there. Are you okay?" he said, lifting Alex's chin with his forefinger and peering into his eyes.
To Alex's alarm, he felt a giddy rush run from the base of his spine to his skull.
"Uh, hold on. I think I need to go to the restroom..." said Alex, putting his cup on the counter. He pretended to have a stomachache and fled around the corner to the men's room.
Once there, Alex looked in the mirror that stretched from one end of the room to the other. His fair skin was tinted slightly pink. His shoulder-length black hair was in a disarray. He looked like a nervous wreck. He turned on the tap and splashed his face with water. His blue eyes were pink where it should have been white; the result of too little sleep for the past few days.
Sinking to his knees with his back to the wall with the mirror, he covered his tired eyes with his too-cold hands. "Fuck..." he groaned.
Suddenly, he was pulled up to his feet and a pair of hands covered his eyes.
"W-what the hell?!" he said, grasping blindly for the person who assaulted him. His fingers caught onto the edge of a suit -- so it was a coworker -- as he tried to push the hands away.
A pair of lips pressed against his own, the other person's hot tongue seeking out the cavern of his mouth.
No. No, no, no, don't enjoy this! This is sexual assault, he told himself, but his body betrayed him once again. His mouth opened to the sensual adventurer, and the moment stretched on as they shared a long, hungry kiss. Tongue ravaged teeth, gums, and more tongue, saliva mingling. The other person moved to hid neck, nipping and licking at the sensitive skin there. Alex felt his knees weaken slightly.
God, this is so wrong, he thought, this is so fucking good...
Finally, the make-out session stopped. The other man (Alex thought for sure that it was a man, and was surprised when he didn't feel disgusted about kissing a man) placed one last firm kiss on Alex's lips before moving back.
"Who are you?" Alex said breathlessly, holding onto the other man tightly.
There was a pause, and then: "Happy Birthday, Alex."
Alex stilled. "You sound...like someone...I've spoken to recently..." he couldn't put his finger on it.
The man shushed him, and pulled him in for another kiss, almost desperately. Alex responded immediately this time. His superego thought he was absolutely insane, but the rest of him didn't really care. All he knew was that he felt alive. Alex hadn't felt alive since he was born.
The kiss ended too quickly. Between their panting breaths and the dizziness in his own head, Alex thought he heard the man whisper some words, but they were too faint for him to hear.
The man moved Alex into a stall and turned his face away from him he wrapped his tie around Alex's eyes as a blindfold. Closing the stall, the man quickly walked out before Alex knew what was going on. By the time he took the tie off and stepped out of the stall, the man was nowhere to be seen.
Alex looked at himself in the mirror now. His lips were blushing and bruised from the passionate kisses exchanged just seconds before. His hair was even more mussed that it was earlier because of the other man's hands acting as a blindfold. His eyes were still pink, although not as dull. But the biggest difference on his face was the smile that now manifested itself. It was like meeting an old friend; Alex couldn't remember the last time he smiled a genuine smile, one that wasn't for the benefit of his peers.
It was stunning what a difference it made. He felt twenty and not eighty; he found that he didn't really mind the women's attraction for Locke; coffee wasn't a necessity, it was an accessory. Alex walked out of the room clutching the tie, his only clue as to who the mystery man really was.
Outside, he half expected everything to be different; the carpet new and unstained, the coffee machine full for once, the employees breaking out into song...
But no. Everything was still the same. Everything except him. He wandered to the coffee machine, now empty even though he had just made a new pot. Magical disappearing coffee. He picked up the cup of coffee Locke had given him and headed back to his office. He noticed that for once, Locke's door was closed and there was no noise to be heard from within the depth of his office. He could faintly see a blur of flesh-tone and white, which he presumed to be Locke himself.
Alex stepped into his office and closed his door. Sitting down at his desk, me marveled at how event occurring in less than half an hour could completely change his life. He had something to do that meant something to him now: he had to find the man who was in the bathroom with him.
How had the man known his birthday? Alex tried remembering if he had ever told anyone...nope. The only time he had spoken about his birthday was this morning, to himself. Unless someone had overheard him or they had gone through his personal calendar, there was no possible way...
He looked out to the hall through the frosted glass window in his door. Locke was coming out of his office. His back was facing Alex's line of sight. Alex wondered nonchalantly where he was heading in the middle of his work day. Alex picked up his cup of coffee and took a sip as he watched Locke leave.
He brought the cup to his lips once more -- and stopped.
Locke was wearing a tie when Alex left to get coffee. He was not wearing a tie now. Alex had a tie in his hand from his beloved assaulter.
Putting down the cup of coffee, Alex got up from his chair and rushed out of his office, walking after Locke, who had just disappeared behind the elevator doors.
Alex took the stairs down, two at a time. Assuming Locke was heading for his car, he headed for the ground floor and waited outside the elevator.
A ding sounded when the elevator doors open and Locke walked out hurriedly, staring at the ground. Alex stepped in front of him, causing Locke to look up at him in surprise and a little panic.
"Why hello there, Alex. Enjoy the coffee?" said Locke, smiling nervously.
That voice! "Yea. Thanks, by the way. I need to ask you something." Alex said, holding up the tie. "Is this your tie?"
Locke looked at Alex straight in the eye. "Should we talk about this somewhere else?" he said softly.
Alex replied without hesitation. "Where to?"
Locke smiled, but his eyebrows creased in a worried arch. He led them out to his car. "Do you feel like having more coffee?" he said, humor coloring his voice. "I'll take us to Starbucks or something..."
"Why did you kiss me in the bathroom?"
Locke froze. "Alex..." he said, turning to face him. "I..."
To his surprise, Alex didn't look furious. Instead, the man wore a look of confusion and relief.
"Locke, the only thing I'd ever wanted, my whole entire life, was my career. Now that I've gotten it, seems so pointless. I want you to know that I don't do this often."
Locke looked perplexed.
"I don't go around chasing men who sexually assault me in the employee bathrooms," Alex explained sarcastically, and Locke looked at his feet. "and I don't usually tell them that I want to do it again."
Eyes larger than ever before, Locke looked at Alex in amazement. "What?"
"I want to kiss you again." Alex said quietly.
Locke continued staring, disbelieving his own ears.
"I want to do more than kiss, honestly. I want to talk to you, I want to get lost in your legends and myths, I don't want to keep living my life the way I've been doing." he continued. "You know, that story you told me? The man who brought life to the humans...well, you brought life to me."
How Alex had come from hating the brown-haired man to coming just short of loving him was baffling to even himself. He reasoned that an old saying he heard long ago was true: love and hate were two sides to a coin.
"Alex...I...I've watched you for a long time. Ever since I arrived here, in fact. I never thought that you would return my feelings..." Locke's (no, not Locke, Daniel, Alex thought) eye were suspiciously bright. "I wish I could explain to you why I kissed you in the bathroom, but I'm not sure myself. It was an impulse." Daniel smiled, making Alex's stomach flip. "I can't believe this is happening. This is beyond anything I'd ever thought could happen between us."
Daniel stepped closer to Alex and took the other man's hand into his own. He pulled Alex in for a kiss, this time unhurried and languorous. "God, Daniel. I barely know you, but..." started Alex, tracing a finger over Daniel's lips.
Daniel just grinned again.
"How'd you know my birthday anyways?" asked Alex, curious despite himself.
"I was about to ask you out," said Daniel, pink tint flushing his cheeks lightly. "Then I overheard you talking to yourself."
Daniel tugged Alex closer, until they were touching from chest to thigh. "Happy early birthday, Alex. I hope all your wishes come true."
"Maybe they have, Prometheus. I have you, don't I?"