Jace Villin likes straight lines and clean surfaces. Life is so much easier when everything is in its right place, and he and his friend Felicity have a good system for the cubicle at work. They have a drawer each, one side of the bulletin board each, and they don't interfere with each other's territories. But then Felicity quits, and Jace has to share his cubicle with someone else.
Paxton Sallow promised himself never to work in an office again, but there are no job openings, and he has bills to pay. The job might be the most boring he's ever had to endure, but at least he can amuse himself with moving Jace's things around. It's amazing how upsetting a crooked label can be.
Jace doesn't know what to do with Paxton. He wants to snarl at him to respect his boundaries at the same time as he wants to run his fingers through his hair and kiss him silly. Paxton knows he should leave Jace alone, but he can't help himself. He wants to see Jace outside of work, but how will Paxton get him to agree to have a cup of coffee with him when he runs off as soon as he tries to ask him out?
Jace stared into his drawer. The pen was in the wrong place, and his bag of pretzels was more or less empty. He slammed it close with a bang and went to the supply closet. Andrea frowned at him. “You okay?”
“He’s used my pen.” And eaten his pretzels.
Andrea winced, and he tried taking calming breaths. In the supply closet, he grabbed one pen of every kind they had and a notepad, then signed for all things with his name on the sheet by the door -- he never took things from the supply closet so no one would be upset he did now.
He walked back to their desk with a banging heart and put everything into Paxton’s drawer. Then he went back to the supply closet and typed Paxton’s name on the label maker. He held the label up to Andrea as he passed, and she grinned and shook her head.
Taping Paxton’s name to the drawer, his heart calmed a fraction. He could take a hint. He hadn’t struck Jace as a stupid person, just ... mischievous. Which, in many ways, was worse.
He sat and opened the first email of the day. Soon, he lost himself in the routine -- solving problems and making people’s day better. He liked his job. It was simple, and he could interact with people without having them interfere with his life.
The hours flew by, he exchanged a few phrases with Sophie in the break room, but apart from that, he didn’t talk to anyone. It was all good.
He jumped and looked up to find Paxton leaning his elbow on top of the cubicle divider. “Paxton.”
Paxton grinned at him. “How’s it going?”
It was five minutes left until Paxton were to start, and Jace wanted to finish at least one more email. He nodded in reply which had Paxton chuckling. “I’ll go grab a cup of coffee; let you finish up.”
Paxton halted mid-step and frowned at him. “You want me to grab a cup for you too?”
Jace shook his head and focused on the screen. He wanted Paxton to go away.
He answered the email, made sure the refund went through, and logged off. He placed the pen in its correct place followed by the notepad and made a mental note to himself to buy more snacks. He’d eaten the Snickers on his break which meant he only had crackers and precious few pretzels left.
Jace jumped again and swallowed a growl. Paxton could at least shuffle his feet or clear his throat or something before talking. He glared at him. “What cat?”
Paxton pointed at the photos of Odin on the bulletin board. “Is it yours?”
For a few seconds, Jace stared at him. Would he have filled his bulletin board with someone else’s cat? He guessed he could have if it’d been his mother’s cat or something. He would pity any cat having to live with his mother, so he could see himself forming a bond. “Yes.”
“How did he lose his eye?” Paxton frowned and sipped on his coffee. His hair curled on the top of his head and Jace pictured running his fingers through it only to be yanked back to reality. This was a man who opened his drawer and touched his things. He shuddered.
“What?” Oh, now he hissed too?
“Nothing.” Paxton smiled, his eyes a little too wide to pretend he hadn’t noticed Jace’s hissing. “I was curious is all. It’s not often you see a one-eyed cat, and I wondered how it had happened.”
“I don’t know. He’d already lost it when I adopted him.”
Paxton nodded. “He’s cute… or you know. He has charisma.”
Charisma? He would claw Paxton’s eyes out if he got close enough. Sometimes Jace believed Odin wanted everyone to be one-eyed. He didn’t mind, it kept people away, and since he’d decided Jace needed both his eyes, he didn’t have to fear for himself.
“So ...” Paxton shrugged out of his jacket. “Any plans for the afternoon?”
He was going swimming, like most days after work, and then he’d spend the rest of the day reading and petting Odin. “No.”
“No? Nothing?” The smile had heat curling in Jace’s belly, so he glared. Paxton was a thief and boundary-ignorer, nothing of which Jace found attractive.