The next day dragged interminably. Chris came in at ten, as usual after a late night shift. He couldn't focus on coding MARC records into the computer, so he worked on filling interlibrary loan orders. When he realized he'd typed “Truth or Consequences New Mexico, consequences please” on a mailing label, he gave that up as a bad job and shelved the returned books.
He ate a tasteless sandwich from the campus grill for supper and loitered near the door of the building just to see what Jason drove. He was half-expecting some big black American-made muscle car, a mustang or corvette, but grinned to see Jason get out of a little dark blue vintage beetle. The engine purred in a way that told Chris Jason worked on it regularly, but one headlight was out. He ducked inside before Jason saw him, but not before he heard Jason cussing at the car.
He wasn't sure what Dr. Rea talked about that night. He just watched Jason. Jason took notes. Jason chewed on the end of his ponytail when he was trying to think. Jason turned bright red when his bracelet clanked the desk.
When the rest of the class gathered their things, Chris swallowed hard. He got up and trailed out the door, last to leave.
“Tell them they work you too hard,” Dr. Rea said, “or bring some coffee next time.”
“Sorry, prof. Long day.” Chris shrugged and escaped, his ears and cheeks flaming, to where Jason waited for him in the hall.
“Hey you,” Jason said with a grin, “Ready for some coffee? You look like you could use it.”
“Yeah. Better late than never,”Chris added with a glance at Dr. Rea who was still gathering his books. He followed Jason to the campus grill, nervous at being on a date. He waited, leafing through the history text, as Jason got the coffee.
Jason spread some papers around and opened the book, to give the appearance they were just studying. Chris just watched, holding his coffee.
Finally, he had to ask. He bent over the book and whispered, “So, how did you know? Lucky guess?”
Jason nodded and turned a page. “You didn't get all flustered. And when I tried a leading question, you didn't slug me.”
Chris smiled. “Slugging isn't allowed in the code of conduct anyway. Hasn't been that long ago that I realized it. It's been an okay secret.”
Jason took a drink of the coffee. “You didn't growl at me or anything. Straight guys hate the idea of gays. They wouldn't have been so eager to help me find a book.”
Chris needed to know. “Do you get slugged a lot? I mean... I never tried. I don't know.”
Jason shrugged. “A couple times. I got pretty good gaydar.”
Chris smiled and tasted his own coffee. “You'll have to help me tune mine up.
“It's not hard. Observation, mostly. I noticed you noticing me. By the way, I'm not sure you got my name. I'm Jace. You know, like Joxer's gay brother or Han Solo's kid.” Chris blinked and smiled. Jace face-palmed. “I am such a geek sometimes.”
“Geek is cute on you. I'm Chris.”
“Yeah, name tag.”
Chris glanced down at his shirt and saw he was still wearing his library nametag. Chris Jacobs, Interlibrary loan. “Guess I'm obvious.” He jumped when Jace's bracelet clanked on the table.
“You like this?” Jace pulled back his sleeve.
“I love it. Where'd you get it?”
“Made it. Caught you staring a time or two like you were figuring it out.”
Chris swallowed hard. He wasn't sure he wanted Jace to know so much about him already.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
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