I Can See Clearly Now (Gay M/M Comedy Romance), page 1
I Can See Clearly Now
50 more pages, and then I can go home.
The computer screen was blurring before his eyes, which had reached the sticky, burning stage of dryness.
49 more pages, and then I can go home and shower.
Nick reached for his mug of coffee, which had gone cold. He’d lost count of whether this was his eighth or ninth cup. It’s not like he wasn’t well-paid for his work, but on days — nights? days? — like this, he took grim satisfaction from the thought that he was extracting even more pay from the firm in the form of free coffee from the fancy machine in the break room.
48 more pages, and then I can go home and shower and take a quick nap.
Someone needed to finish checking this contract before it was sent over to the client, and since he was the senior associate on the project the task fell to him. Of course, the client didn’t get the final details to him until 9pm the evening before the contract was due, so he was stuck working through the night. And into the morning, apparently, since the sun was rising in the sky and casting cold shadows across his desk. This was the downside of his new office; when he’d become a senior associate last week he was finally moved from his windowless closet on the fifth floor to a slightly larger office with floor-to-ceiling windows on the 20th floor, and while the natural light and the view of the mountains were usually nice, right now they served only to remind him of just how long he had been sitting at this desk staring at this document.
47 more pages, and then I can go home and shower and take a quick nap… and head back here.
Nick buried his face in his hands, rubbing at his temples. Once he sent the contract off to the client, the client would okay it and then he’d have to start organizing the signing. At best, he had two or three hours of freedom ahead of him before he had to re-enter the fray. This was not what he had expected his life to look like when he’d decided to go to law school, and yet here he was. “Golden handcuffs,” lawyers called it — mostly muttered to one another when passing in the hallways at 3am. The work sucked, but he was being paid handsomely to do it. And he was good at it; he had a mind for organization, for keeping track of a hundred different things at once. He was born to play point on massive projects. Never mind the fact that he didn’t have any time to actually enjoy having money. He dreamt of traveling, of waking up in a new city every week.
Maybe when I make partner.
A strange noise coming from direction of the windows interrupted his train of thought. He raised his head from his hands and was startled to see a pair of eyes staring back at him. He flailed in shock, knocking the cold dregs of his coffee over onto a stack of files and nearly tipping his chair over backwards.
As he rummaged through the detritus on his desk looking for napkins, he looked up at the window again. The pair of eyes belonged to a window-washer, who was still looking at him, dripping squeegee hanging at his side. Nick shot him a frustrated glare as he unearthed a stack of only-slightly-used napkins and began dabbing at the ruined files.
The window-washer grinned and shrugged, mouthing the word “Sorry” exaggeratedly as he held his palms up in the air. Nick noticed the window washer’s strong jawline and cocky grin. And the ink peeking out from under the sleeves of his snug t-shirt, winding down his admittedly well-formed biceps. His lips, on the other hand, would have been out of place on anyone not working in the porn industry. Could be a second job, Nick’s brain added unhelpfully as his eyes skimmed down the man’s thighs.
I should be working, Nick’s brain slightly-more-helpfully supplied when his eyes reached the dripping squeegee once again hanging by the man’s side. He darted his eyes back up to the man’s face and tried not to blush when he saw that he was being watched with a smirk.
Nick rolled his eyes and turned his head pointedly toward his computer screen. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the washer still standing there, motionless for a moment or two before he dipped his squeegee into his bucket and began soaping up the glass. Nick let out a small sigh of relief, and scooted his chair a few inches over so that his monitor blocked him from view.
46 more pages, and then I can go home.
A week later, Nick was spending his Friday morning logging his billable hours from the past week. A decree from above — namely from George Furmalis, the chairman of Furmalis Browning LLP — had partners cracking down on logging, so Nick’d had to abandon his usual strategy of waiting until the end of the month and filling it all in from memory.
Compared to his usual Friday mornings, filling in spreadsheets was comparatively peaceful. It also didn’t require all of his focus, so he was able to listen to music while he worked, and if he did a bit of chair-dancing and lip-synching while he bopped his head in time to The Beatles, well, that was his own business.
This time when there was a knock at his window, he only leapt an inch or two out of his seat. (It helped that his coffee mug was out of reach.) The window-washer was there again, staring at Nick with an amused look on his face that suggested he had been watching for at least a little while. Nick attempted to channel his embarrassment into irritation, frowning at the window-washer and moving his hands in an elaborate gesture that he hoped conveyed something like “You have no business spying on me, and also, don’t pretend you’d be able to resist dancing along to ‘Here Comes The Sun’”.
The window washer only broadened his smile and winked. Then he pulled what appeared to be a dry-erase marker out of his pocket and began writing on the window. Backwards, so that it looked right from Nick’s perspective.
WHATS YOUR NAME?
Nick raised an eyebrow and turned conspicuously back to his work.
Thirty seconds later, there was more knocking at the window. The washer was still standing there, looking at Nick with an exaggerated pout. Once he caught Nick’s eye, he tilted his head like a puppy and deepened his pout further.
“Fine,” Nick huffed to himself. He grabbed a yellow legal pad from his desk, scrawled “Nick” on it with a Sharpie, and held it up with a challenging glare.
The washer’s pout turned into a delighted smile. He uncapped his marker again. He worked surprisingly quickly for someone writing backwards.
ITS A PLEASURE TO MEET YOU
Nick gave a sarcastic wave and mouthed “Hi.” Then he turned back to his computer and tried not to think about the fact that it was nice to have a name to replace the previous unwieldy label of “random hot window-washer guy.” There was another knock on the window. When Nick looked up, he discovered that Alexander had written more.
GET COFFEE WITH ME?
Nick’s eyebrows climbed his forehead as Alexander’s question sank in. Was this a joke? Was he being mocked? Was he actually being asked out by a window-washer? And was he actually going to consider it? Was this what his life had come to? Alexander smiled winningly and gestured to the side with his head, as though Nick could step through the window and accompany him off the scaffold to some sort of floating café.
Nick squinted at Alexander — at the pull of his t-shirt across his shoulders, at the hint of chest hair and curlicues of black ink sneaking over the collar, at the holes in his grease-stained but well-fitting jeans, at the floppy tongues of his steel-toed boots. He was the complete opposite of the kind of guy Nick normally went out with (Ivy League education, professional degree, affinity
At the precise moment that Nick opened his mouth to answer — he wasn’t going to be sure what his reply would be until it came out — a notification popped up on his computer letting him know that he had a new e-mail. Nick clicked through and experienced a familiar surge of adrenaline when he saw the word “URGENT” in the subject line and the name of the junior partner on his current project in the “from” field. So much for a peaceful morning.
The e-mail made his decision for him, not only by vaporizing any free time he might have had but by reminding him that he was a lawyer — a lawyer wearing a three-piece suit for christ’s sake — and not the kind of person who accepted a date from a random guy wearing an Ed Hardy t-shirt — an Ed Hardy t-shirt — with whom he had exchanged a grand total of three sentences through a pane of shatterproof glass. Even if the guy was really, mind-numbingly hot. Even if Nick’d had a free morning after all. Really, this was one of his craziest impulses ever, and that was including his decision to take the California and New York Bar Exams at the same time.
With renewed resolve, Nick scowled at Alexander and shook his head. He also mouthed the word “No” for good measure.
Nick expected huffiness (or at least as much huffiness as a man holding a squeegee could manifest), but Alexander reacted strangely good-naturedly. He smiled and held up his palms — Have it your way — and resettled his ragged baseball cap on his head. Then he swiped his squeegee across the glass, erasing his notes with ease. Nick could almost convince himself that they had never even been there in the first place.
He turned off the music and opened up the document that Fran had sent. He rested his hand on his forehead to block off his view of the window, and when he finally gave in to temptation and looked up, Alexander was gone.
The next Friday found Nick across the city in a rival firm’s conference room, hammering out the details of an acquisition. Opposing counsel was trying to bullshit him, and he was trying to convey to them that they could not possibly bullshit him because he was unbullshittable. As lawyers tossed numbers across the table to one another, Nick doodled in the margins of his notebook and pretended to take notes. If, once or twice, he found his thoughts drifting to denim stretched across strong thighs and a mouth as lush as a ripe peach, well, you do what you can to stay awake during a business meeting.
He’d asked Emma about it once over a midnight snack/commiseration in her office. “So what’s the deal with that flirty window-washer?”
She’d looked at him like he was crazy. “The what? Window-washer? We have window-washers?”
“Of course we have window-washers. Someone’s got to clean the L.A. smog off the windows.”
“Well, I’ve never noticed any. I think they’re pretty good at staying out of the way.”
Nick had decided to drop the topic. Instead, he’d brought up the architectural plans for the waterfront development project and closed his eyes as Emma’s enthusiastic criticisms — “Seriously, Nick, did you even see that they’re planning to put a parking structure right by the water?” — washed over him.
By the time the negotiations ended for the day, Nick was so exhausted that he decided to bypass the office altogether and go back to his apartment to snag a few hours of sleep. There would be time to catch up on work tomorrow.
He picked up a sandwich on the way home and ate it at his coffee table while watching YouTube videos on his phone. Although he’d technically been living in this apartment for three years, he spent so little time in it that getting a television and real furniture had never been a priority. He had a bed, a microwave, a coffee table, a few books he’d been given as gifts that sat on the coffee table as a constant reminder of his lack of leisure-reading time, and a closet full of suits. At least the suits were nice. Nick had heard that you should spend good money on a bed because you spend a third of your life in it; well, his mattress was from IKEA, but his suits were bespoke.
After finishing the last bite of his sandwich and the latest episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Nick stripped off his clothes and collapsed into bed. (Well, semi-collapsed. He’d learned from experience that his cheap Swedish bed frame couldn’t handle full-blown collapsing.) He stared at his blank walls until his eyes drifted shut and he slept.
When he got into the office on Saturday morning, he discovered that Alexander had left him a message. In a corner of the window, near the floor, he’d drawn a bouquet of flowers — quite impressively, Nick acknowledged — using a veritable rainbow of markers. Really, more colors than Nick would have expected to exist in the dry erase market. The riot of color stood out in Nick’s otherwise dreary office, its exuberance contrasting sharply with the beige carpet and pine-veneered desk. Next to the flowers, Alexander had scrawled:
MISSED YOUR GRUMPY FACE DARLING
Nick rolled his eyes at the endearment, though perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he rolled his eyes at the warmth that flooded through him upon reading the endearment. He traced his fingers across the glass, almost expecting softness and heat but encountering the usual shock of cool solidity. Then he moved a stack of file boxes in front of the drawing so that visitors to his office wouldn’t be able to see it.
Although occasionally over the next week, when he got up to stretch his legs and work the kinks out of his neck, it was possible that he peered behind the boxes and smiled to himself.
Nick raised his head groggily from his desk. Disoriented, he briefly wondered what the horrible noise was, then realized it was the alarm he had set on his cell phone. Reality slowly seeped back into his head as he reached for the phone with numb fingers (sleeping at one’s desk did not tend to promote good circulation) and silenced the alarm. He’d been up most of the night going through case law, and eventually decided to snag a few hours of sleep at his desk so that he could make it through another work day.
He checked the time: 9am. He had a meeting with the senior partners at 9:30, which meant he had just enough time to change out of his wrinkled clothes and freshen up. And remove the Post-it note that had apparently adhered itself to his forehead.
He stood up and stretched, cracking his vertebrae in as many directions as he could. He made his way over to the closet where he kept his spare suit. He kicked off his shoes, taking a moment to wiggle his toes and appreciate their temporary freedom.
As the feeling came back into his fingers, he removed his waistcoat and tossed it onto an empty hanger. He removed his belt and unzipped his fly, untucking the tails of his shirt. He undid the buttons one by one, removed his cufflinks, and slid the shirt down his arms, tossing it on the floor of the closet (it was just going to the dry cleaners anyway). He grabbed the hem of his undershirt and pulled it up over his head.
As the shirt cleared his head, he caught some movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head to follow it and discovered Alexander standing outside the window, staring unabashedly. Oh right, Friday morning. Nick managed to override his initial instinct to shriek and cover his chest with his hands like a woman in a cartoon, and settled for clenching his fists at his sides and glaring at Alexander.
“Do you mind?” he mouthed.
Alexander shook his head and flourished a hand toward the window, as if to say By all means. And then he crossed his arms over his broad chest and continued to stare.
Nick considered lowering the blinds. The cord was only a few feet away. He should close the blinds. A sane person would close the blinds.
But Alexander’s stare was like a challenge, and Nick was a little loopy from sleep deprivation and fairly tired of being sane. After glancing down to confirm that he was wearing decent underwear, he resumed his eye contact with Alexander and began slowly working his pants down his hips. Al
Nick stepped out of the trousers once they pooled at his feet, then slowly leaned over to pick them up. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the muscles in Alexander’s jaw flex as his smile turned into gritted teeth. Casually, as though he had no idea that he was standing in his underwear in front of a complete stranger, he folded the pants and draped them on the hanger. He strode to his desk, grabbed the jacket he’d draped over the back of his chair before his nap, and added it to the hanger as well.
He could practically feel Alexander’s gaze burning on his back as he turned to his closet and swapped hangers, taking out his change of clothes. Although there was glass between them, they were only about five feet apart, and the strange intimacy of the situation was making Nick’s skin tingle. It was heady, commanding Alexander’s attention like this, and Nick took a perverse pleasure not just in the way Alexander’s unblinking eyes skated across his body but in the fact that he was being completely out of character.
He wriggled into the new pants, and as Alexander’s eyes followed the sway of his hips, he had never before felt so grateful for skinny tailoring. He left the fly unzipped, a small triangle of boxer briefs still visible as he pulled on a fresh undershirt and smoothed it down over his chest.
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