“Don’t do it,”


“Check the time,” Tanim glanced up from the stack of paperwork spread across the desk between them just as Daren began to roll his shirt cuff back to uncover his watch. “It’ll only depress you.” The warning came too late, however, and the younger man groaned theatrically. “Oh, fuck me. You’ve got to be kidding. And here I was foolish enough to hope I might actually get to sleep tonight… might as well set up a cot in my fucking office.” He rubbed at his face, massaging pounding temples that ached for another pot of coffee. “Why are we the only ones stuck at the office on a miserable Monday night, anyway? Where’s Jonathan? Or Mark? Why aren’t they slaving over this deadline with us?”

Tanim offered a helpless shrug and leaned back in his chair, raking stray hair off his forehead. “Jon is home with his new baby. She has colic or something; his wife’s been throwing a fit that he isn’t home in time to help her out. And tonight is Mark’s anniversary. Family comes first, at least if you have colleagues to sucker into taking on your part of the project.”

“Suckers indeed. We’re god damned martyrs if you ask me,” Daren folded his arms with a huff. Clearly sick children and romantic celebrations rated low on his list of reasons to skip work, especially if your friends suffered the consequences of your absence. “But if it’s all about family togetherness, why are you still here? You’ve got a wife waiting at home, too, but you always stay late. Do you just have more mercy on poor singles like me than our fellows do?”

Daren expected a sardonic reply from his companion, not the strange flicker of emotion which passed over Tanim’s weary features instead, an uncharacteristically vulnerable mixture of sorrow and denied desire. “I’d hurry home if I had someone like you to come back to,” Tanim replied after an awkward silence, voice strained and gaze averted as if to hide the truth of his admission.

And then he could not turn away at all. Daren’s fingers were tilting back his jaw, warm mouth covering his own in a kiss begun gently but soon drawing him in with possessive, needy force. Tanim surrendered to the man’s hunger without thought or hesitation, a low moan rising and dying in the back of his throat as slim fingers fisted his hair. Only the eventual need for breath forced their lips apart, and Daren lowered his hand with obvious reluctance as he pulled away. “Damn,” he muttered around a resigned exhale, pained smile twitching at the corners of his freed mouth. “I was hoping that would suck.”

“Sorry,” Tanim ran tongue over teeth, savoring Daren’s taste, a grimaced grin dragging at his own lips. “It was pretty good, wasn’t it.”

“You’re not making this any easier, you know,” Daren retreated behind the desk as if its bulk might prevent another monumental lapse of judgment. His eyes fell to Tanim’s hand upon the polished surface; light from the single desk lamp gleamed mockingly off the golden wedding ring. Tanim followed the line of his gaze and quickly drew his arm back as he realized what caught Daren’s attention, twisting the burdensome band back and forth in his lap in nervous habit. The silence between them stretched out, grew oppressive and uncomfortable as they stared anywhere but at each other.

“So, uh,” Tanim tried to clear his throat of its sudden choking lump and shuffled awkwardly through scattered papers in an attempt to turn both their minds to a safer topic. “Where were we?” Grateful for the proffered escape, no matter how thinly veiled, Daren slid back into his chair and tried to focus on the meaningless task at hand. “Here, last quarter’s report.” As he slid the file across the desk he caught sight of his watch and groaned. “Ugh, at this rate we’ll never get out of here…”

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