“What would you like?” Daniel asked.
Will grinned. “Can I push my luck and ask for one of those deluxe hot chocolates?”
“You won’t have any teeth left by the end of it, but sure.”
Daniel ordered the drink, with an Americano for himself.
“I can chip in for that if you like.”
“No, I’ve got these.”
“Sweet, free shit!”
Daniel laughed and slapped Will’s shoulder, quickly squeezing it. The muscles were warm and gym-hardened. Only the outline of Will’s biceps was visible beneath his jacket, but Daniel’s memory of him in a t-shirt informed the true majesty of his physique. It was often stifling in the office, its lack of airflow demanding a loose dress code. When handling health insurance claims five days a week, Daniel accepted these displays of skin as welcome invitations to fantasise.
Their drinks were ready. Will bolted to the counter and returned with a hot chocolate buried under a mound of cream and marshmallows, coated in chocolate powder. “Oh my God, this is going to kill me. Where do you wanna sit?”
Daniel pointed to a small table in the corner of the café, beneath a large window looking out across the river. There was enough sunlight to illuminate conversation, and few other tables to invade privacy. Daniel took his own, very black, Americano. “After you,” he said, watching Will’s buttocks rise and tighten with every step.
“You think we might get in trouble for this?” Will asked as they sat down.
“What do you mean?”
“Like, workplace relationships. Dunno if that’s allowed?”
“We’re not going to be reported for it, no. This isn’t Nineteen Eighty-Four. The worst we’ll get is office gossip.”
Will sucked a scoop of cream off his teaspoon. “We could give them something to talk about, I suppose.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Daniel said.
“Frigid, are you?”
“Far from it, young fella.” He coughed and thumped his chest with the side of his fist. “But when you’re old and sensible like me, you’ll learn to keep it in your pants.”
“Oh, and of course that’s why you invited me out, like, barely two weeks into working with you, to teach me patience and chastity. And I’ll bet you chose this place specifically because you knew it had this little secluded corner, so I’d be all yours.”
Daniel held out his hands and nodded. “This isn’t your first rodeo, is it?”
“Ha, nooooo. You learn a lot about this kind of stuff by the time you’re twenty-two.”
“Yet you think you could expand your mind by hanging out with an old fart like me?”
“You keep going on about your age.” Will frowned and leant forward. “Like, chill out, I don’t care.”
Will looked up at Daniel’s face. His lips were thin, bracketed by dimples that stood between his nostrils and his chin. Fine, sand-coloured hair swept over the top of his ears and fell just above his shirt collar. His eyes were dark blue and lined with crow’s feet that extended to his temples when he smiled, which was very often. His skin broke into a cobweb of small lines when he spoke. Nothing in his face appeared coloured, filled, or adjusted. This apparent abstention from vanity set Daniel apart from the boys Will’s own age, and made him far more attractive than any of them.
“Whenever I go out with someone older than me,” Will said, “they always bring up the age gap. They seem amazed that I’d want to be seen with them.” “Well, I have to admit I was quite surprised when you took me up on my offer for a drink. I imagine there are plenty of others in the office who’d like to be sitting here now.”
“Yeah, I had wondered why everyone was being so especially polite to me when I started. It’s just they’re all a bit…” Will clamped his teeth together and rolled back his lips, “Bland. Just because you sell insurance doesn’t mean you need to have the entertainment value of dry glue. But you,” he pointed with his teaspoon, “You were the one with that silly pink tie, and you held on for just a touch too long when we shook hands. Subtle, you are not.”
“I never held much of a premium on subtlety.”
“Good.” He slapped his hands on his thighs and declared, “Then you can expect to see me again, Danny.”