David Brent, of all the thousands of people around the world holding the unofficial title of “worst boss ever” the most deserving of it, was surprisingly fond of company parties.
One might be surprised to know this, since it is generally a feature much loved when it comes to bosses, but not in the case of David Brent.
Yes, there were cakes and booze and time off to chat, but there was also David. David trying to worm himself into every conversation, bragging ludicrously, hitting on all the pretty young women and ignoring the older or plainer, insulting every minority he could remember with his unfunny jokes and just being his regular pratty self.
When all came to all and the workers at ... compared the goodies - cake, balloons, extravagantly expensive toys and stuffed animals and all the other “morale boosters” in the party ensamble to the way they felt about their pitiful company pensions (which were truly shitty, though shitty in the ever more sensible English way) as they unavoidably did, they did not feel the parties were much of a boon at all.
“It’s probably because he has no real friends” Dawn speculated as they stood solitary in the corner at an agreeable distance from the table holding the aforementioned booze and cakes.
“He has Finch” Tim reminded her, taking a sip from his beer. “And Garreth”
Dawn laughed. “Even David can’t stand Garreth for an extended period of time” she said. “And Finch is always insulting him”
“And stealing his love interests” Tim chimed in, smiling.
“More like drool receptacles” Dawn rolled her eyes, looking over at the man in question who was just then leaning into one of the new female employees, frowning when the girl started to back away following her step by step without thought.
“He likes “partying” with us because we can’t walk away or tell him he’s an arse. We just have to endure him” she finished.
Tim nodded. “Sounds about right”
Then their attention was drawn to the opposite side of the room where Garreth had seemingly just tripped over his own feet.
“Think he’s drunk yet?” asked Tim, brows furrowed as he squinted.
Garreth cursed, then laughed and pulled himself up by the beltloops of the temp guy.
“Yup. He’s drunk” Tim answered himself, grinning.
Dawn mirrored him sweetly. A sugar coated little devil that woman was.
It had been her idea. To spike Garreth’s drink.
They had been talking an hour earlier, flirting and joking about Garreth as was their way. He was their favorite topic always only a few sentences from sneaking into their conversation (Tim sometimes wondered whether, if Garreth had not worked there, the two of them would have talked much at all. Their main common characteristic was that they both loathed the puny man too much to ignore him the way the other workers managed to - the way the actual adults did).
Tim had pointed out that though Garreth had often bragged about going out on the town with that Oggy creature and the boss, Tim had never actually seen him do more than take tiny, dainty sips of his beer at any event. He was always with a drink in hand, but never showing any sign of actual drunkenness. Always just lurking around, staring with his big goopy eyes.
Dawn hadn’t seen Garreth drunk either, nor had Donna, who they asked as she overheard them.
Their hypothesis then became that Garreth probably never really got drunk, but only attempted to play the part whenever it suited him. The notion made them laugh, and Dawn supposed that with a bit of help from Donna they might test their thesis.
The younger woman had agreed to it easily, a wolfish smile curling across her lips as she stuffed a vodka bottle into the back of her pants under her flowing top.
Then he and Dawn had just watched as Donna did her thing - enticing Garreth to talk to her, a thing that did not come hard to her at all as Garreth was always attempting to speak to her and hit on her in his incomfortably direct way and round about way.
She let him babble on, giving just the tiniest bit of encouragement, a nod here, a “Really?” or a half-smile there. Nothing that would seem out of place in a normal conversation, but which in the context of Donna’s youthful indifference to most people at the office (and to Garreth in particular) made it seem like she was inviting him to approach her.
Garreth became flustered in her company, as he always did, and it was no great feat for her to dump a few swallows of vodka into his beer as he was getting her a piece of carrot cake.
She did this twice before getting bored and retreating somewhere to mess with the temp instead, leaving Garreth bewildered and bumbling. It was a most hilarious sight for Tim and Dawn to entertain themselves with.
“Oh, he’s approaching people now” Tim commented, smirking as Garreth made his way to the big plackard of the Star of David. This particular party was in celebration of Hanukkah, though none of the employees were jewish. A lessen in cultural comprehension, David excused it as, but that “lesson” was somehow deminished by the man showing up in big, fake black rimmed glasses and a kippur, holding a book on accounting and announcing “Today we are all jews!”
They now watched as Garreth chatted with David, getting an awkwardly hard shoulder pat from him and an even harder one from Finch.
The two of them play acted what they thought was being said, trying to find the most humorous interpretations of the men’s animated gestures.
“Wow there, Garreth! No touching the tie” Tim exclaimed.
“But it’s so glorious! Where o where did you get it? I must have the store name, I simply must” Dawn giggled.
“Oh, look” Tim said, as Trudy laughingly threw herself at Garreth, smooching him wetly, making his eyes go wide as plates. She pulled him onto the floor as the song changed. “She wants to dance with him!”
“Oh what wonder arms you have, Garreth” Dawn cooed laughingly as the pair took a spin on the dancefloor, Trudy leading while Garreth clumsily tried to mirror her motions.
“Christ” Tim gasped a moment later as Trudy pinched Garreth’s bum and winked at him, saying loud enough for the whole room to hear; “Firm little rascal”
Giggles and gasps and smothered laughs echoed throughout the room, but Garreth only blinked and frowned at her.
“Drunkards in love” Dawn smirked.
“Ugh” Tim groaned. “She must be even more plastered than he is”
It was just too comical to watch them - Garreth’s dancing was so awkward and Trudy must have gotten her feet stepped on a dozen times already, but she only laughed at it. Thick shoes, Tim supposed.
They were truly the drunkest people in the room, after Finch that was. But Finch was always drunk and had been chatting up the woman in the wheelchair for the last hour or so. Now however, the balding man was glancing up at the dancing pair with a dejected look about him.
The song changed and another came on, and then another and another. Tim didn’t know who was responsible for the music at these things, but he supposed it must be either David or Anne. It was all 90s and 80s pop songs. The kind where there is an accompanying dance that everybody is supposed to learn.
Usually this was not sufficient to entice people to get jiving (being that the occasion was an office party at a paper company), but this special afternoon it somehow did work, with Trudy and Anne leading the way through the Macarena, Garreth clumsily trying to follow them.
David joined in and when the temp and Donna and even Keith did too, Dawn and Tim laughed incredulously to themselves and went to join in too.
It was the most lively party the office had ever seen - with dancing and clowning around of the actually funny kind. Most had got at least a little bit drunk and everything seemed so much more tolerable for it.
Eventually though, as with all parties, it started to break up. Anne went first, then the old grump Malcom, then Donna and the temp disappeared somewhere to fuck (presumably) and many others of the Swindon branch started to head toward the exit.
Then Lee came to get Dawn. He hadn’t called or anything, just showed up at a time he felt she should be going home, but Dawn said nothing of it (and probably thought nothing of it). She even smiled and giggled as he kissed her and trapped her in his huge gorilla arms.
He would never understand why she put up with that man, but she was gone and Tim was left alone with a bunch of loonies at a dying party.
Trudy had moved on to Finch at this point and Garreth had collapsed into his office chair, eye lids drooping.
Tim sighed and made his way over, settling into his own chair and leaning back with his hands behind his head in the way he was used to do during work.
“How are you doing, Garreth?” He asked, sipping from yet another beer, his last one for the night he promised himself.
“Wha?” Garreth croaked, blinking and sitting up straighter, frowning at Tim when he repeated the question as slowly and as clearly enunciated as if he was speaking to a four year old.
“I just asked; how are you doing?”
“Dizzy” Garreth answered. “The beer was bad”
“Tasted funny” he explained. “Donna said it was the artificial sweetner. Never gonna drink that stevia shit again”
Tim bit his lip in order to keep himself from bursting out laughing. “You should write them a letter - the beer company. Tell them how you feel”
Garreth nodded, not really listening, and it struck Tim that this was likely one of the most civil conversation the two of them had ever had. Only when Garreth was plastered could they stand each other, it seemed.
Tim had not planned on what happened next, but as the party came to an end it became apparant that there was something he and Dawn had missed to take into account - Garreth couldn’t drive himself home.
He was far too out of it, stumbling over his own feet even as he walked across the empty floor. And it didn’t seem like anybody else were thinking of offering him a ride either.
So Tim groaned to himself and quietly resigned himself to taking Garreth home. He shoved and pulled at Garreth to get him situated in the passanger seat, not without injury, and got him to give him his adress.
Honestly Tim shouldn’t really have been driving either, but none of the other party goers seemed to be willing to call a cab.
Garreth, it turned out, lived in one of the top floors of a tall, dilapidated apartment building, something which provided brand new challenges in his quest to get the severely drunken man safely home.
It was all very cumbersome - pulling and pushing and cajoling, then having to find the keys by putting his hand down Garreth’s back pocket.
But he told himself that this was only his own fault - this was his (and Dawn and Donna’s) mess. Though he couldn’t feel any better about his solitude in the endevour.
Dawn should have been there too. To laugh and giggle and flirt with him, to make it worth it somehow, but no - she was off with Lee. They were probably fucking in just that moment, Tim thought sourly.
And here I am, stuck with Garreth Keenan of all bloody people
When he finally got them in the door to the apartment what struck Tim first was how clean the whole place was. Then how grey it was - how sad and small. Then that there were a pair of swords hanging on the wall.
“What the hell is that?” he exclaimed, letting go of Garreth to approach them gingerly.
“A katana and a cutlass” Garreth supplied unhelpfully.
“It’s part of my collection” Garreth explained, turning to step out of the living room and into what Tim supposed was the bathroom with a worrying grimace on his face.
Oh no, Tim thought just as he heard the sound of retching.
He could have gone then, he knew, but he felt guilty. He felt responsible somehow and resolved that he would at least assure himself Garreth got to bed properly.
He filled a glass with water and followed into the bathroom. Garreth was crouched over the toilet bowl , sweat dripping and glistening on his neck as he leant his cheek on the seat, dry heaving between retches.
Tim handed him the glass and he took it gladly and gulped it down. Feeling awkward Tim wet a towel he found and patted Garreth’s neck with it in order to cool him down.
Garreth leant into it and took the towel into his own hands, pressing it to his forehead. “Thanks” he muttered, right before he once again emptied his stomach.
A few rounds more and it seemed he had come to the end of his belly’s contents. Tim got him to drink another glass of water and then adventured to get him into bed.
The man was like a sack of potatoes on his shoulder, just hanging on as he was dragged into his bedroom.
Tim was going to just leave him to sleep as he was, but Garreth immediately started to fuss, trying without success to open the buttons of his shirt. “I can’t sleep like this” he whined - a sure fire sign that sobriety was on the horizon and Garreth would soon be going back to his insuffrable, bratty self.
While Tim groaned and cursed, he did start to help him with the unbuttoning, but that didn’t particularly seem to please Garreth.
“I can do it, I can do it” he insisted angrily as the shirt was pulled off his skinny frame, and when Tim started on his pants it seemed all his cool was lost. “I can do it, I said! Fucking prat!” he protested, shoving feebly at him with his still weakened limbs.
Tim ignored him, smirking a bit at the man’s discomfort as he pulled the zipper down.
“Stupid homo! Let off!” Garreth shouted hoarsely, and then suddenly Tim stopped, eyes narrowing.
Then he pounced so suddenly it startled the breath out of Garreth as he was pushed onto bed and Tim’s mouth was pressed against his.
To Tim’s surprise Garreth met him with an open mouth, his lips softer than he had expected. And for some reason he was reciprocating - his lips wet and pliant under his. Just for a moment Tim was kissing him for real too. But just for a moment.
Maybe it was the booze. It was definitely the booze, Tim reassured himself as he pulled away five seconds later than he had intended.
“Well, that shut you up nicely” Tim said as drily as he could manage, and in one hard pull he got the slacks off of Garreth’s ridiculously pale, long legs.
The man looked suddenly very young and small to Tim, with his thin body - only skin and bones really, and his ballooning eyes, everpresent dark circles ringing them in.
“Prick” was all Garreth responded with as he pulled the duvet over himself with some effort and resolutely turned his back on Tim.
“Night, Garreth” Tim said as he closed the door to the man’s bedroom, trying to sound more confident than he actually felt.
He was about to hightail it out of there when he spotted a pad of post-it notes on Garreth’s kitchen counter. Abruptly he took the pen in hand and scribbled down a few sentences on the paper before leaving, feeling more bewildered than ever about the being called Garreth Keenan.
In the following week some major changes happened. Or rather, some smaller things happened that all lead to one very, awfully drastic change (at least it was so in Tim’s eyes):
1) Garreth and he were both trying very hard to avoid making eye contact or any other kind of contact really. Aside from the “Thanks for the recipe” from Garreth there was hardly any conversation being had between them. Or pranks - something which might have led to...
2) Dawn, becoming extremely bored and unhappy with Tim and work and life in general, and finally getting around to having that big, ugly fight with Lee where she told him to (metaphorically) shit or get off the pot
3) Jennifer, David’s supervisor, came in to yell at him about a complaint. A black truck driver had gone to HR about having been called something extremely unpalatable. As Tim was in the break room as this confrontation happened for some reason (probably because Jen had no respect for David or his idiocy) he heard her say, face red with frustration:
“He said specifically that was you, David”
“And I am telling you it wasn’t me!” David responded, trying a placating smile. “I never said that”
“I don’t know. Maybe he lied”
“David!” Jen threw her arms up in an unusual display of exasperation.
“Or maybe it was Garreth!” David shouted
“Garreth?” Jen asked uncomprehendingly and as a testament to David’s luck, Garreth came wandering along the corridor just then, perhaps because he had been nosey and had heard his name called or perhaps just by chance. Anyhow he heard perfectly well the next sentence Brent uttered.
“Yeah - one of the salesmen. A very stupid, ignorant fellow, that one. Always following me around. He’s always saying very bigoted, culturally insensitive things” David frowned sadly, trying to put on a mask of disapproval. “The complainant could have mistaken him for the boss. I let him say he’s the assistant to the regional manager, you see. A very power hungry guy that one. And racist”
Jen squinted at Brent like a mother spotting chocolate smeared all over her child’s face as they insisted the cookies must have been stolen by aliens. She was obviously able to smell his bullshit and was about to call him out on it, but before she had the chance to do that Garreth stepped fully into the room so they could see him.
“I did not say that!” he proclaimed indignantly. “And I actually thought is was quite ignorant when I heard Mr. Brent say it. Everybody knows it’s “coloureds” now” And then he stomped off again.
Jen took a second to close her mouth before she again turned to Brent, her eyes speaking for her - “Do you have anything to say for yourself, you stupid, stupid man?” they seemed to shout.
David looked ready to kill somebody right then, but the only response he could muster was “Well, you know - I meant it in a “Hey, mah niggah” kind of way” he tried a smile, “Not in a “Hi, nigger” kind of way. The hard r makes all the difference, any rapper would tell you, Jen”
So that all happened and all in combination led to Tim starting a dangerous and rather terrible trend: he started feeling sorry for Garreth. And he felt even sorrier when he witnessed the total and apparently quite miserable end to Garreth’s licking of David’s arsehole.
It had really bloody annoyed him the way that Garreth had tried to cosy up to the boss, making his feeble attempts at powergrabs and how blatant ignorant he was of all the shitty things David did to him - making him work extra, disrespecting him and in short giving back nothing in return for the fool’s loyal friendship.
But it also kind of hurt his brain how quiet this new Garreth was who didn’t have anybody to trail after. Tim stole his stapler again in an attempt to rile him, but all Garreth had done in response was sigh.
It was goddamn depressing, was what it was. And the situation at the office was only made more depressing once Dawn told everybody that she was getting married “For real this time”, meaning in six months time, despite all the terrible, idiotic, condecending things Lee had said to her and despite of that she must have noticed that Tim was very interested (and far superior to that hairy oaf).
So, when Friday came along and people were going out for drinks, as one occasionally does, Tim asked everybody - including Garreth, over to O’Leary’s.
It went well enough. Nobody got drunk during happy hour, but they got just brave enough to joke around. And though Garreth did not bring forth much that anybody wanted to hear, he did argue that he could hunt, kill, slaughter and serve deer better than any bar chef, and that Han Solo was the best character and far better than Luke with Orivus and Tim (who held fast that Darth Vader was the superior one, despite never having seen any of the movies in their entirety).
All in all, it was not a horrible way to spend an evening.
Tim had not expected Garreth to show any sign of gratitude towards him for being included, but surprisingly he did. It showed in him being less obnoxious and in trying to have actual conversations with him which, although very strange, avoided the insufferable speech pattern he’d had of bragging about some peculiar “accomplishment” of his and expecting praise and admiration.
The man talked of field amputation, strange pornography, tax returns and how to knit a hat in the same exact tone of voice and the more Tim listened to him the stranger Garreth appeared to him.
Yes, he had a childish humour, an annoying need for order and no understanding for what was proper to say when, but he wasn’t exactly stupid. Stubborn and ignorant, yes, but stupid? The more he knew of Garreth the less that word fit.
In a way they went back to their old ways after that day at the bar - they bickered about the stapler and the correct filing order and whether pineapple on pizza was an abomination or not, but it never went too far anymore. Something which was in one sense a shame since Tim was so very good at finding ways to fuck with people.
So, ok - he might have put Garreth’s mug in jello again, but this time it was all in good fun.
Where Garreth had previously been trusting Brent for guidance he was now looking to Tim - albeit to a lesser extent. Tim didn’t know what to feel about that. It seemed odd, being that he had acted as Garreth’s tormentor for so long and he didn’t really like the shift.
It was too much responsibility for his comfort, too much like Garreth (Garreth) thought of him as his friend. (Garreth! ).
But it did make working next to the man more tolerable on the whole. Perhaps because, in contrast to David, Tim actually possessed functioning social feelers - something which Garreth distinctly lacked, but which he seemed to start to comprehend better as he begun copying Tim’s behavioural trends.
Gradually his obnoxious, infuriating toys started to disappear. Anne and Karen came over to Tim at lunch to thank him for getting Garreth to toss them out, but in truth he had never uttered a word about it. Only sighs and some annoyed glances.
To his frustration, Tim found himself growing closer to Garreth and more distant from Dawn - the exact opposite thing to what he desired to happen. But without using tormenting Garreth to keep her entertained and with her talking at ungodly lenghts about wedding cakes and flowers and bands - Things which hurt his very being just to listen to and which he found it impossible to believe she did not know affected him so after all the years of flirting and almost somethings.
She must know he was in love with her, she just had to, but she had chosen to ignore it. She wanted him as a friend and nothing more. She preferred a talking gorilla over him.
It was not something he could easily forget and forgive. No, he could not be her friend if she was truly marrying Lee.
And then he wondered why he had so long just sat there, knowing she was engaged but still thinking he had a shot. How was it that he was only now starting to think of her as a bit of a slag for leading him on? Although, perhaps she never did mean to lead him on?
Why had he ever thought he had a shot?
Friday happy hour was not a regular thing. For many of the older employees there were families to get back home to and even for the younger ones - mainly the temp and Donna, they often had more exiting plans.
So, outside of work Tim rarely saw any of his coworkers except for the accidental meet at the supermarket or the gas pumps or something. Not Dawn, not Donna, not Keith, not David and definitely not Garreth.
Tim was honestly quite happy with that and was only wishing he knew more people outside of his roomate and his reclusive girlfriend.
He was making a new year’s resolution to become friends with at least three other people. Hopefully at least one a girl.
So how was it he came to spend his Friday evenings with a person who he, if not disliked, found strange and romantically uninteresting?
Well, it was Garreth’s birthday. Not that anybody knew it was his birthday - at least not until the call...
Garreth had picked up the phone same as usual, firing off his name and work station, but fell silent soon after. “Oh hi, mum” he said. Then “Thanks”
“No, no that’s not necessary. Wouldn’t want you to strain your ankle again”
A pause “How nice” Garreth said, not at all convincingly. “All right, mum. Bye”
He hung up the phone and went immediately back to work, but Tim found he could not let it pass by unnoticed. “That was your mum calling?” he asked.
“Yup” Garreth answered, glancing up only a split second.
“Never heard your mum call on the office phone before” Tim remarked. “Special occasion?”
Another glance up. “None of your beeswax, is it?”
Tim gasped exaggeratedly. This was the closest to a fight the two of them had been in days. He felt excited. “Now I know it’s something special” he said, grinning.
Garreth sighed, “It’s my birthday, all right?” he said, voice lowered.
Tim’s eyebrows shot up. It was not exactly odd news that somebody was hiding their birthday from the office. Many did so because they found the process of an office birthday party stressful or didn’t want to be put under David’s attention, but Garreth had always had his celebrated with joy.
Not any more though, not after the debaucle with the boss. The petty man had probably taken Garreth off the birthday calendar.
“Congratulations? What are you planning to do then?” he asked, smiling jovially.
Garreth shrugged. “Nothing much, really. Oggy is out of town, so I’ll probably celebrate when he is back”
At that point Tim really should have just nodded and gone back to work , but for some reason he felt sad. Being alone on your birthday was depressing, he knew. He was still depressed even when his roomate was with him, even if his mum or dad called. It was shit and for some reason Tim felt like being cheritable
“Well, maybe you could have a drink with me after work, if you’d like” he suggested. “On my tab, obviously”
Garreth looked at him right then as if he had just spoken french. Then he nodded. “Yeah, okay” he said slowly, still not able to trust the meaning of the offer if his voice was anything to go by.
After work that day they went out together, to O’Leary’s, same as usual, and Tim ordered them some drinks and some sandwhiches.
It was extremely awkward and dull for the first half hour as they chewed and sipped in shared silence, Tim occasionally gancing at the clock over the bar.
Then he had an idea, “Let’s play twenty questions” he suggested. “As a drinking game”
“How?” Garreth demanded, frowning.
“I ask a question, then you either answer and I take one sip or you don’t and have to down your whole glass”
Garreth nodded, “So you’re supposed to try to find unanswerable questions?”
“What, no!” Tim protested. “The point is to get to know each other better. The “if not” option is really only there to give you an out if you don’t want to answer”
Garreth nodded again, hopefully understanding his meaning this time.
“Okay. So I’ll just start then; Where did you grow up?” Tim begun
In that way they continued a while, going through a bunch of boring, inane things and some more mildly interesting things.
Tim learned that Garreth was northern, that he spoke german and russian, that he did actually know karate (which was something Tim had strongly doubted), that shepard’s pie was his favorite food and that he dreamed of becoming the boss of the company and wanted to take up bow and arrow instruction in his free time.
Eventually the structure of their game became looser as they drank and Tim dared ask more personal things. Things he’d always wondered about.
“Do you think you’re good at getting along with other people?” he asked one time.
Garreth pondered the query for a while. “Kind of?”
“Is that a question?”
“No, you jerk. In work situations - maybe. I know I don’t really... get everything” he looked down into the surface of the table.
“Are you...” He started, but halted himself. “No, I’m not going to ask that. Do you have anorexia?”
“No! Why would you think that?”
“You’re just skin and bones, mate”
“I’m just naturally trim”
Tim snorted at the wording.
For some reason it became a thing. Tim couldn’t help but be intrigued by Garreth because, if you looked past his annoying exterior, he was just very, strangely abnormal.
What he had first seen as plain ignorance and stupidity and an unwillingness to take other people’s wants and desires and comfort into account he now started to suspect were more like pieces of a difficult puzzle he had been too blind to solve.
He googled back and forth, trying to describe the “symptoms” in a way that got results, and lo and behold - after a few hours he found himself on a page for mental health, matching his knowledge of Garreth with the listed symptoms for Autism. According to the site it seemed that Garreth had something like Aspergers syndrome.
A lack of empathic ability, a lack of understanding of social situations and so on. It seemed to fit perfectly, and Tim started to feel really distressed. This put everything in such a different light.
So he invited Garreth out to drink the next Friday as well, aware that such a sensitive subject was not best to raise at work where everybody had ears on stalks.
Tim struggled with finding the words, but eventually he just decided to bring the print-outs he had made and gave them to Garreth.
“I think you might have some kind of Autism” he said as he handed them over.
To his astonishment Garreth didn’t even glance at the papers, but instead frowned and said “Yeah, so?”, looking at Tim as if he had no idea what the man was trying to get at. “What’s it to you?”
“What’s it to me?” Tim repeated incredulously. “Garreth, why haven’t anybody about this - anybody at work? Does David know?”
“No. It’s none of their business, is it?” Garreth countered defensively, his voice rising like the spines of a hedgehog. “None of yours neither”
“But, Garreth!” Tim exclaimed. “Knowing this you make so much more sense. If people knew this they would have understood that you’re... that you’re not just a - a prat!”
“Oh, is that what they think of me now?” Garreth hissed, eyes narrowed in a way that Tim instantly see he had said the wrong thing.
“I only meant - people see you as being insensitive toward other people. You can’t read a mood, don’t know what’s appropriate” he backtracked, but Garreth had come into a foul mood.
“I’m not in the mood for drinks today” he said and headed off, ignoring Tim’s protests, only ten minutes into their meeting.
“Dammit, Garreth” Tim had sighed and payed the bill.
The next monday all was as normal, or so it seemed at least. They were both pretending nothing had happened, chatting over their bagels at lunch about whether Man U would win or lose in the next game against Birmingham like two proper boys.
But the following Friday Tim invited him out for a drink again - as an I’m sorry for...being a prat? Sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong? For upsetting him? All of the above, probably.
Garreth accepted and that was that.
Only it wasn’t.
He did it again and again - drinking with Garreth fridays at happy hour, sometimes in the company of others from the office, but more frequently just by themselves.
Tim asked himself every time - why? But he never really found a satisfying answer to that.
Garreth was enetertaining in a way. After they had both had a bit to drink and the skinny guy was rambling on more unhingedly (more entertainingly) as he spoke of the things that puzzled him - women, love, the thieving crow who lived atop his apartment building, etc’.
And with booze Tim was more disposed to endure his strange meandering. It was interesting in an almost clinical sense because Garreth thought so differently, so uncomplicatedly in contrast to anybody he had ever known.
It was true that that sometimes a line of thought contained bigotry - racist, sexist or otherwise, but he didn’t seem to mean anything by it. Nothing nearing hatred anyway, and when Tim called him out on it, he was always curious to see whether Garreth would attempt to debate the subject or not.
Of course if he did chose to debate it, he always lost. In matters of politics Garreth was so ignorant that it became ridiculously easy to confuse him into contradicting himself.
So to Tim their meetings were both potentially hilarious and weirdly fascinating, but there was also another reason why he kept up their Friday night drinks - besides his own undeniably embarrassing loneliness, that is; He was curious.
Not just about Garreth in general, but about one particular part of him.
Twice now, Tim had kissed the skinny twat as a prank, and the second time Garreth had kissed him back! Tim had, of course, been calling Garreth gay (through innuendo, if not directly) since the first time he met him.
Not that Tim actually had anything against gays. He had known a lot of gay people - not many very closely, but still. He did not think of himself as anything nearing a homophobe. It was just that Garreth made gay jokes so damn tempting. He had appeared a cut and dry homophobe and so incredibly oblivious Tim hadn’t been able to resist it. A homophobe (and a bloody annoying one at that) being fooled into making gay jokes about himself? It was hilarious and totally harmless, he had thought. Garreth didn’t know what was happening, of course, so why not?
But now that he knew it was possible that Garreth actually was gay, he felt a bit bad about it - a bit disgusted with himself.
Though not so disgusted that he wasn’t constructing a scheme to make the guy come out to him. Step one: he was going to take Garreth to a gay bar.
To make it seem less conspicuous he started to suggest they go outside their immediate comfort zone of O’Leary’s. A pub a block down the street, an arcade a few more miles from the office, a club in the town over.
They stayed later as well, for a quiz or karaoke or a special offer on tequila or something, they were all quite usable excuses and Garreth never seemed to find his suggestions strange.
Nor did Tim ever wonder why his colleague was so pliant to his suggestions. It seemed obvious to him that, since he was Garreth’s superior in so many ways, the man would want to follow him.
Tim had never seen their relationship as equal after all. Because they were not and never would be.
“Tim!” Garreth shouted into his ear, only just overpowering the bassline of the pop-song playing. “I think this is might be a queer bar!”
Smiling, Tim replied; “Yeah, it is quite a strange place, isn’t it?” he gestured to the rainbow colored lights flickering in the air above the people dancing ecstatically, laughing by the bar or getting hot and heavy in shadowed nooks. Nearly all were men.
“No, I meant queer as in gay!” Garreth pressed.
“Oh” Tim feigned surprise. “Well, I thought it’d be fun. It’s a new place, just opened. I wanted to see how it was”
The place was called Purple Portal and had been there for three years now, Tim knew. His roomate’s girl went there often with her friends to dance.
“Right” Garreth nodded agreeably, although by his frown he didn’t really accept his reasoning. He watched the dancing men sceptically, eyebrows raising at how close they held each other - some basically grinding.
They ordered some drinks, Tim persuading Garreth to try a variation of girly drinks for the occasion, starting with a delicious caramel-appeltini.
If Tim had expected Garreth to act different in a gay bar, he was sorely dissappointed. He did not seem flustered in the way Tim had hoped and other than occasionally commenting on his surroundings (“Well, those are some trashy as hell pants”, “These drinks are really pricey. Could have gotten three pints for this”, “I don’t think men should wear make up, but it you’re gonna do it you at least shouldn’t do it like that. That looks almost grotesque!”) he might as well have been sitting in a dive bar.
All in all, it was a bit of a let down - that is, until a guy came up to them and asked Garreth to dance. He was pretty average looking, though a bit hairy and was, like them, wearing casual shirt-and-slacks work clothes.
“I’m sorry...” Garreth started to respond, but Tim interrupted him.
“He’d love to” he said, grinning as he nearly shoved his companion towards the stranger and the dancefloor.
Garreth looked back at him with a look crying of betrayal and confusion, but Tim waved it away. He was excited to see how this went.
Instead of pulling away or storming off in a huff, Garreth complied to dance, though his must have been the least graceful figure on that entire floor.
It was an awkward sort of shuffle that Tim found hilarious, though as more men dissimilated into the dancing crowd he lost sight of the pair. Still, it did not take many songs for Garreth to make it back to him at the bar.
“Why did you do that?” he asked as he returned, his breath coming out in pants and his brow moist with sweat.
Tim just smiled at him. “Was it fun?”
“Some guy slapped my arse for no good reason” Garreth protested, frowning at him in disapproval.
He whistled, then tried to look apologetic - “Well, I thought it’d be fun”
“Fun for you maybe” Garreth countered with a sour grimace.
“No, no!” Tim denied. “I figured this was a place for going dancing, right? So why not try to have fun with it?”
“But you didn’t go out there, you just pushed me out so you could laugh at me!”
“That wasn’t my intention at all! Look, I’ll come dance with you if you want to go out there again”
Garreth’s eyes narrowed at him suspiciously and to prove that Tim wasn’t bluffing (though he definitely had been) he did take the guy out on the floor again.
It turned out to be one of the silliest, most fun experiences Tim had had in a long while. Just dancing around, never gracefully, never really with each other, but with everybody and nobody else at once. Gathering a hundred bemused or horrified looks from the other patrons.
When they eventually sat down again they were both exhausted and set about getting drunker. They talked about work and about ants and about how Guiness was made and laughed at so many things that could only really be funny when alcohol was coursing through one’s veins.
For the second time Garreth had been truly drunken in his company (Tim thought of himself as only artfully pissed) and he had to drive the man home again.
Tim had never really meant to come upstairs, but there had been some talk of an extensive Star Wars action figure collection (ie: a big pile of dolls) that he simply couldn’t refuse. In any case he was invited up and showed this collection - and soon he was seeing several collections; of comics, weapons, bobble heads and whatever other weird crap.
He praised them all lavishly, trying to keep his humour in check and out of Garreth’s notice.
Then, eventually the time came for him to say goodbye and head home, but for some reason (which Tim had no way to explain to himself in any other way than that it was what he usually did in these kinds of scenarios) he’d kissed Garreth in the doorway.
And again Garreth had kissed him back with his suprisingly soft lips.
He smelled of soap and sweat and sugary drinks - a nice smell, Tim remembered he thought, and then somehow they had moved to the bedroom.
They didn’t fuck, per se, but well... Tim didn’t really have a name for what they did. Clothes were discarded, hands lingered, but the two of them just ground into each other’s bodies in a way Tim couldn’t remember having done since he was a knobbly, pimply teen.
And it was kind of... great. Whether it was the drunkenness or just the long stretch of involuntary celibacy that Tim had been enduring prior to it, when he came it felt like a shotgun going off inside his brain. It was the most explosive sexual experience he’d had in years. Which was embarrassing in and of itself, but Tim hadn’t the brain to be embarrassed just then.
He remembered thinking “What the bloody hell was that?” just before falling asleep next to an already conked out Garreth, and wondering whether he should leave.
Anyhow he woke up to Garreth standing at the bedside, fully clothed already and asking him if he wanted pancakes.
They were good pancakes and soon devoured, with little talk taking up space between bites to make them last - “Good pancakes”, “Nice weather today” and “It’s a real lightsaber prop from the set of the prequels. Bought it off Ebay” were pretty much the extent of their conversation.
Then Tim left, an awkward “See you on Monday” exchange taking place as he made his escape, nearly running down the stairs in bewildered desperation to get out. The thought on his mind was still “What the fuck was that?”
Tim meant to forget it, to bury it so deep in his mind that he couldn’t even recall it if he tried, and he had been prepared to deny it’s ever happening if Garreth tried to bring it up. Luckily the other man had seemed to be of a similar mind, but then Friday came along.
The whole gaggle of coworkers had gone out to drink that week and Garreth had gotten drunk again and Tim had had to drive him home.
The kiss came faster and more easily this time and Tim didn’t have enough will to stop it. It felt good - Garreth’s mouth was soft and warm, his hands dainty and his body was pliant and willing to follow his lead. He was virgin in a way and Tim found that guiltily intoxicating.
In the morning they managed to do it again and then afterward, since it seemed to Tim it was a thing that needed saying, Tim said; “I’m not gay”
“Me neither” Garreth responded, pulling a shirt over his skinny body.
“Right. But, we’re not - like, a couple now, you know”
Nodding, Garreth had agreed, “No, we’re not”
“We’re...” Tim started, but he couldn’t find a suitable word.
“Friends” Garreth suggested, and Tim wanted to object to that too, but found that he couldn’t. Goddamn it! Friends with Garreth Keenan - bloody hell!
It escalated from there to regular heavy petting and then eventually to fucking. Tim was finding out exactly what made Garreth go beyond the quiet sighs and groans to yelps and moans. He had always loved that part - to get a partner to quiver beneath his fingertips, though was still alarmed to find that it was equally so with Garreth (Garreth!).
Tim figured out that the man liked his nipples tweaked and his arse grabbed, a firm hand around his cock and a softer one on his balls. That Garreth was entirely turned off by the thought of giving oral (he was particular about his mouth) and that he didn’t expect it from Tim either.
That he wasn’t actually a virgin, but that his few sexual experiences had left him nervous about sex.
By trial he found out that Garreth enjoyed having his hole touched and toyed with, to have something inside of him, filling him up and driving against his sweet spot.
The first time they fucked was awkward, Garreth being all quietly embarrassed in a way Tim didn’t quite know what to do with, but it went smoothly. They weren’t idiots about it, and it felt like they had already used half a sea of vaseline by the time Tim got his cock inside.
When they finally got to fucking in earnest Garreth seemed to go half insane, making noises he’d never made before and which Tim had never heard the like of. He quaked like a freezing man when he came, then collapsed onto his arms, speechless.
Tim stroked his neck lightly, squeezing the nape. “Are you alright?” he asked, getting a slight nod for his effort. “Mind if I come inside you?”
They soon found out that they both (though especially Tim) really got off on having sex in inappropriate places. In the copy room, the janitor’s closet, the men’s bathroom (although that one was ruined after the one time Keith came in and took a dump while they were going at it, butchering the mood).
Afterwards the two got back to making sales, Garreth with a new flush and and Tim with a wide grin, the remaining work hours suddenly feeling so much lighter to bear.
When the news came out that Dawn was leaving or later that David was being kicked out, it didn’t matter that much to Tim. He had hardly spoken to Dawn in weeks and David was and would always remain to him just a hateful prat.
But when Jen offered the job to him he made a choice: the choice he had planned to make all along, but had never really managed to get to - he was going to go back to uni, and he recommended that the promotion instead be given to Garreth.
“I know they asked you first about the job” Garreth told him a few days later during lunch.
“Oh” Tim kept chewing.
“Why didn’t you take it? It’s a good position - better pay, better hours, better pension”
“Garreth” Tim started. “I hate this place - this job. I never meant to stay here as long as I did. I’m going to go back to studying psychiatry”
“Oh” Garreth fell silent for a moment. “I guess I won’t be seeing you much from now on then”
“I guess not” was all Tim said to that, glad that the man had understood without explanation. After all, all they had ever really had in common was their work and now that was done.
A few months into his semester at the uni Tim realised, not without a good amount of annoyance and exasperation with himself that he actually missed Garreth. Missed his stupid face and odd manners and his pert, warm arse.
And it wasn’t going away.
It was a horrifying discovery - because Garreth was not an ideal anything, particularly not an ideal whatever-the-fuck-it-was Tim wanted. He was unfeeling and rude and silly and not a tiny bit stupid . And who cared that he had some syndrome? It didn’t change the factual situation that Garreth was not anywhere near the ideal boyfriend, and that he was miles away from being the kind of person Tim had always imagine he would find.
(For one, he was a man)
(For the other he was Garreth Keenan!)
“Fuck” Tim groaned. “Just fucking shit!”
When Tim later showed up on Garreth’s doorstep for the first time in half a year and asked him; “Garreth, do you want to be my boyfriend?” all Garreth said in response was “All right”. But his smile as he said so was so wide it looked like his pale face might just crack in two.