Zach stood with his friends outside the venue that was being used for the masked ball and shivered. It was a cold night and he wasn’t dressed for it.
Emilia patted his back comfortingly.
“We’re nearly at the front of the queue. Have you got your ID handy?”
That was Emilia all over. She was always the organised student in their group and probably the most caring. Zach readjusted his mask on his face so it was comfortable and took his ID out of his pocket. As it was an informal ball he had skipped wearing a tie, but was wearing black trousers and a tucked in white shirt. It was the dress code that a lot of other male guests had adopted by the look of the other groups in the queue.
“I’ve got it handy,” he assured her. “I’m not going to lose it.”
His best friend gave him a knowing look.
“Just let her mother you,” Tom stage whispered. “She enjoys it. She’ll ask about everyone’s ticket in a few seconds.”
Emilia pinched his side and Z
Zach walked to the kitchen the following morning feeling more refreshed. He really had gotten over the masked ball incident. It had always been at the back of his mind for the past two years so he was glad to realise that he was finally over that moment from his past.“You’re happy,” Emilia commented as she trudged in behind him. “Work called so I had to pull an all-nighter and I still have to go in this morning.”Zach hadn’t noticed Emilia come in late as he had slept very heavily. He was feeling guilty about that now.“What did they want you to do?” he asked with concern. “Is it going to be a regular thing?”Emilia ruffled her hair and yawned.“Staking out some celebrity to get photos of him meeting with his girlfriend. My supervisor advised me to buy some thermal clothes so I’m getting the impression that it is going to be a regular thing.”Zach had previously c
Darien realised he had overstepped Zach’s boundaries when he saw the look of confusion on his face.He had spoken before his logical side could stop him. The intern looked undeniably adorable in the frilly apron with his round cheeks and slightly flushed cheeks.“I just haven’t seen a man in a frilly apron before,” he said quickly.Zach looked down at his pink apron with a sigh.“It’s my mother’s spare one. I didn’t have one to take with me so she gave me this one. I only wear it when I think something I’m cooking is going to splash on me.”Darien could tell that Zach was feeling embarrassed now so he sat down at the table. Zach turned back to the stove and Darien asked something that he had never asked before.“Is there anything I can do to help with the cooking?”Zach didn’t find the question strange and simply pointed at the chopping board. There was a kn
Darien remembered all too late that he had taken his jacket off to wash the dishes and it was on the back of one of the kitchen chairs. His cap was around the entryway somewhere. The biggest offender had to be his shoes by the door. It didn’t take Zach’s flatmate long to notice. “You’ve got someone over,” she said. “Are they someone you can introduce to me?” The living room was the next room after the kitchen and Darien knew he didn’t have much time as her footsteps approached. Zach pulled him downwards and Darien ended up with his face in Zach’s lap as Emilia walked into the living room. “Oh!” she said when she walked around the sofa. “I didn’t realise you were doing something like this. Did you want me out of the apartment?” Darien realised all too late that his face was pretty much on Zach’s crotch. His flatmate likely thought they were up to something raunchy. He held his breath and didn’t move an inch. He didn’t want to be recogni
Zach was deep into a story about a dystopian future with the female lead running a resistance movement against the male lead’s totalitarian government when his phone buzzed in his pocket.Technically he was not supposed to be using his phone in the office during work hours as he was an intern, but he slid it out just to see who was texting him during work hours.Much to his surprise, it was Darien. The text was simple.I looked up about ramen. Inviting someone to your place for ramen is shorthand for sex.There was a collection of emoticons at the end and Zach slid his phone back into his pocket with a quiet sigh of frustration. Darien definitely liked teasing him. To text him during work hours meant that Darien had been very keen to tease him.He would have to tell him off. Recently he had been feeling like their relationship was now more even and Darien was more on his level. Before he had been feeling intimidated by his power and
Darien stopped behind a line of cars at the red light and deemed it safe to take his eyes off the road momentarily. He glanced over at Zach.He was special to Zach?There was no chance the intern meant it romantically. He hadn’t detected any feelings of love on Zach’s side.“In what way?” he asked in the most unbothered tone he could muster.“It’s a little complicated to explain. Most people on my university course vowed to stay in touch after graduation, but everyone is just so busy with their jobs. My best friend is in Germany doing a Master’s degree and doesn’t text me much. Besides Emilia and the other editors, you’re the person I spend a lot of time with. That makes you special.”Of course that was it. Zach had discovered the sad reality of growing up, it was impossible to stay in touch with former acquaintances once joining the workforce. Darien hadn’t been too sad to lose his
Darien felt Zach’s body freeze up and he was ready to retract his arms. Then Zach relaxed and shifted position to make it a proper hug.“I’m sorry. It’s just got to me. I might never see my mother outside of a hospital again,” Zach said numbly.“You don’t have to apologise for displaying emotion,” Darien told him.Zach’s body was warm and he was hugging back properly. His own parents had rarely hugged him and when they had, he had felt like it was never a proper hug, like they had been keeping a distance.“I know, I just feel like I’ve inconvenienced you a lot today.”Darien didn’t want to hear that. He wanted to help Zach out without him feeling guilty.“We’re friends, you haven’t caused me any inconvenience. In fact I got an excuse to skip work and I’m being hugged properly for the first time in my life.”Zach drew back to loo
Darien stared at him blankly and Zach took a full ten seconds to realise how his request had sounded.“I’ve got a sleeping bag somewhere here, I’ll sleep on the floor and you can take my bed. I just don’t want to be alone.”Darien blinked and nodded.“I see, that’s what you meant.”Zach nudged him. “What did you think I meant?”The billionaire looked embarrassed with the situation and Zach broke the tension by getting up to have a look for his sleeping bag. Unless his mother really had done a super tidy up of his room, it should be under his bed somewhere.He struck gold on a first look. He dragged out the sleeping bag triumphantly. It had served him well on school and family trips. Zach sniffed it cautiously only to smell fabric softener. His mother must have washed it recently. She probably hadn’t waited for long to wash everything after he had left.“I’ll
Darien yawned and turned back over. Zach could tell that he was still half asleep. “If that’s what you want, I’ll stay. Just let me go back to sleep. I’ll be here when you get back,” Darien replied and his eyes closed again. He was asleep in seconds and Zach smiled. He wasn’t going to be alone. With that comforting thought in his heart, he unpacked some clothes and got dressed in the bathroom before going downstairs. Zach took the spare door key out of the vase of flowers in the hallway and left it on the table with a note for Darien. Then he took a cereal box out of the cupboard and left it next to the note. Darien might skip breakfast if he didn’t prompt him. His father was waiting by the front door when he came out. Zach saw how tense he was and all his feelings of worry that had been kept at bay were coming back. He fought them back down, he needed to be strong to support his father. “Let’s go,” he said. *** Darien woke up