A Miserable Pile of Secrets Ch. 05
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Despite the fascinating, urban resort-like rooms that Arthur got to hang out in, despite the good food and the pleasant conversations, and the tours, the next five days were mostly tedious.
Sometimes, he got to sit outside in one of the courtyards. He’d always see an uninterrupted sky when he looked up, not a tree in sight. Other times, Vince rolled Arthur around, but not quickly. Arthur also got to help cook a few things, although he was only given the simplest of tasks. That was cool.
When the five days were up, Vince set up a clean glass desk in Arthur’s temporary room. Then he helped Arthur arranged his PC and put his portable console and cartridges in a drawer. Arthur was also allowed to read, watch TV, and every other mentally taxing activity, but only a few minutes every day, gradually increasing the amount each day. If Arthur ever felt ill or confused, he’d be required to stop and let his brain have its needed rest.
His rib, though, it was nowhere near finished healing up. Vince watched him almost obsessively. He tried to pamper Arthur whenever possible.
Oh, you need to get this thing that’s up high? I’ll get it! You want something to drink? I have, like, three butlers, but that’s okay. I’ll pour the drink and hand it to you. You want to lie down? Fuck, I’ll tuck you in. I don’t care how it looks.
He even combed Arthur’s hair on some days.
He combed his god damn hair!!
At first, Arthur blushed, closed his eyes, and enjoyed the tingling and scraping on his head. Then, after Vince was finished, Arthur’s cheeks and crooked nose would flush and he thought, “Wasn’t that a little creepy?” He wanted to look at Vince’s wickedly charming face, but he was too ashamed of his own emotions. So, he looked down at his knees and mentally told himself to get his shit together.
Later on that same day, after Vince finished a private workout and took a shower, he hung out and watched Arthur play Stardew Valley on his handheld console. Fortunately, Vince had gotten into some clean clothes. He still smelled great.
They sat on a couch, together alone. The room was huge. Arthur hadn’t put the screen in its docking station. He was holding the console up and Vince was looking over his shoulder.
“Wow, that’s a whole lot of work your character’s doing,” Vince said.
“Yeah, but it didn’t start out like this. The farm used to be full of nothing but trees and grass and shit.”
Vince scooted a little closer as his voice gained a bit more quiet excitement. “Oh, you put the milk in that press thing? Does that make cheese?”
Almost mindless, Arthur barely remembered to give an answer. “Mmm hm. You can put cheese in a cask to age it, which makes it more expensive. You can also eat it to get health and energy. Or you can use it in some cooking recipes. It also can be a gift for the other people in the town.”
“Oh, you can make friends here?” Vince’s voice tickled Arthur’s ear. Arthur subtly shifted away.
“Yeah. The NPCs, the characters in the game you don’t control, you can be friends with them, and some of them are available to marry. I think they’re all bisexual too because it doesn’t matter what your character’s gender is.”
The cushions in the couch made puffy, crinkling noises as Vince moved closer. His body heat made the air around Arthur feel uneven. Vince murmured, “But this is a more gentle game, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, no sex, very mild violence. If it was a movie, it would be a very mild PG-13 because of the drug use and maybe with some language? I don’t actually remember if I’ve seen any curse words or not.” Just then, he gave his fictional spouse one of the cheeses. It was a man, and he loved the gift. Then he clicked on the little boy he and his husband had adopted. That represented affection or play … or something? A little heart symbol rose over the kid’s head.
But Arthur had a sudden thought as he moved his character out of the house to go off into town. “You know, this game does have a multiplayer mode, but you have to have your own copy of the game with the same platform.”
His voice rolled like fancy tires on newly finished pavement. It was like every word Vince gave pleased him on some level. “Is this thing the only machine you play the game on?”
That tone had Arthur frowning as his little character went to the local grocery store. “No, I also have a copy on PC, with Steam. It’s not very expensive, but I’d wait for a sale.”
There wasn’t much talking after that. Arthur had his little character make a few purchases. Then he decided he wanted to quit the game early. So, he sent the character off to bed to save the game. When he was ready, he turned the game and the console itself off. He felt Vince touch his shoulder, then his hand slid down his arm, close to his elbow.
An intake of breath.
Vince was about to say something.
And Arthur’s brain would’ve reacted to that if a pain hadn’t jolted in his torso.
Fucking stupid broken rib! Arthur was already tired of it. He got up and said, “I think I need a pill and some ice.” canlı bahis
“Oh.” Arthur wasn’t looking at Vince’s face, but he thought he could hear something in his tone recede, and then perk back up. “Oh!” Vince stood up too. “We need to get you fixed up.” Then he went into his typical overprotective nurse-mode, walking Arthur up to his bedroom and doing all the things Arthur could’ve done on his own. Even though Arthur once again protested, Vince set him on his bed, pulled his shirt off, and put the ice pack on his body.
But … for some reason … things got quiet. Arthur wasn’t sure why. They’d been telling jokes beforehand. Arthur looked away, wondering who the hell designed this crazy house … mansion … thing he was in. He started imagining an unusually short European person with vintage round glasses and a long, thin pipe. He started imagining this fictional person walking around, calling everyone “Dahling” and going on about what was “now” and “fabulous.”
Hm. Almost sounded like a certain fictional character in an animated film, although Arthur was pretty sure she did fashion stuff.
Then he happened to turn his head back, wanting to tell Vince about his whimsical, if unoriginal, thoughts.
But Vince’s face was so close to his. His gray eyes were fixated. There was a minor part in his lips. The lower lip was glossy, curiously so, and rather plump. All these things were plugged into Arthur’s brain within two seconds. Then his delayed reaction kicked in. He yelped out and recoiled, falling back to the other side of the bed. He clawed at the sheets and took painful, fast breaths. Vince ended up holding the ice pack over nothing.
“Shit!” Vince reached for his shoulder and helped him sit back up. “I’m sorry. I guess I forgot what I was looking at.”
“Huh?” Arthur let him put the ice pack back in place. “Like you were spacing out?”
The goofiest, most mortified smile bloomed on Vince’s face. He looked like the world’s most handsomest dork. “Yeah, I was thinking about how much fun it is to cut tofu into cubes.” Then he made a swaying, cutting motion with his hand, fingers tightly closed.
Arthur happily told him about his weird interior designer fantasy. That was when Vince seriously told him, “Oh yeah, the guy I hired was the fanciest dwarf I’ve never seen. Pretty close to what you guessed. He called everyone Darling and smoked like crazy.”
They stared at each other for five seconds.
And Vince lost it, bursting into pure, honest laughter. He blushed and gasped at his own silliness. “Oh, no. No. I mean, that would have been just fine. I didn’t care about the designer’s appearance, but it was actually a daughter of a Mexican immigrant, and she was as tall as me.”
“Oh, okay.” Arthur shrugged and changed the subject. “I’ve been thinking. After I’m all healed up, I’ll have to start looking for a new job.”
“Hm?” Vince’s hair tumbled around as he innocently looked down at him. “What kind of job do you want?”
With obvious sarcasm, Arthur said, “A job where I get to do whatever I want and get paid a million dollars a day.”
Vince laughed like a horn. “Ha! Well, the bartenders don’t get paid a million dollars a day, but they pretty much do anything they want on a normal day. Practicing making drinks, cleaning, playing on their phones, board games, whatever keeps them happy, as long as they maintain their stations and don’t harass anyone. I once walked in on all of them having a sober party.” His nose’s bridge wrinkled. “So I joined the party and we had a good time, but when I pick a bar here that means it’s go time.”
Holy crap, that sounded like the most boring job in the world. Arthur gave a weak smile. “I don’t know how to make drinks or anything like that. Besides, I really want a job where I do important things, even if it’s mindless. I’m only human, you know. I need to be productive or else I’ll go insane.” He blew some of his blond hair out of his face. He failed spectacularly. “I’m already getting antsy.”
Vince literally moved that lock of hair out of Arthur’s face. His fingers buzzed on Arthur’s forehead. “Can’t video games keep you occupied?”
“Sure, but that doesn’t pay money.”
Vince’s eyes seemed to rise in thought. Then he smacked his lips and told Arthur, “Hmmm … if you want, I can find a job for you around here.”
“I don’t mind cleaning stuff,” Arthur said with a little more pep. “Is the drive here far from my place?”
Vince’s fingernails tapped and scraped against the ice pack. He looked down and away as if the cogs in his brain needed were rusty and needed care. “I guess … kind of far.”
Arthur couldn’t help but pout. “Oh. Never mind.”
The ice cubes crashed and tumbled with themselves as Vince slid the ice pack up. Then he seemed to lean in and say, “Well, all your stuff is here.”
“I … guess so?” Arthur sighed. “My room at home is probably empty, isn’t it?”
“Everything that’s yours is here.”
Was he trying to lead Arthur’s thoughts to a certain point? If he was, Arthur was too thick in the bahis siteleri head to understand.
“And if you need anything else,” Vince said, his hair sending a sweet conditioner’s aroma to Arthur’s nose, “I can get it for you.”
“Uhm … yeah?”
Finally, Vince snorted, leaned back a little, and slapped his own thigh. “Shit, just stay here!”
Arthur stared at him. “Huh? What? You want me to rent this room or something? I can’t afford that, and my lease is paid in advance. Staying here would be a waste.”
Vince’s shoulder jerked up as he looked away. The veins in his throat stuck out. “Yeah … well, if you got a job here, you’d have to live here, right?”
“What kind of fucking job here would give me enough money to pay rent in this wacky ass mansion?!”
Vince turned his face back to him. He had the most sober expression. “Ever done any secretary work before?”
Arthur had never done any secretary work before.
Vince didn’t fucking care. He didn’t even give Arthur an application. “I’ll have an office set up for you soon,” he’d told him. “No worries.”
When they were certain that Arthur’s body was properly healed, they chose a morning hour to go back to the hospital. Vince walked Arthur to the garage, where all those fancy cars waited. Then he opened the limousine’s back door. “You know,” Arthur said, “we could always take my car.”
Curt and stony, Vince said, “Nope.” Then he smiled and his voice changed to something much more patient. “We’re going out to have some fun after you get your clean bill of health.”
“Fun?” Arthur crawled into the seats. “Like what?”
“Shopping, lunch,” Vince said as he moved in beside Arthur, “then maybe some wandering around to see what else is fun to do.”
Arthur literally put his palm right to his face.
At the hospital, the waiting time was maybe three minutes, which amazed Arthur. Later on, he learned it was actually a private hospital. That reminded Arthur about the possibility of a bill. He’d called his roommate several times to ask about the mail, and there weren’t any hospital bills to be found. Now that he knew the bill was likely going to be much more expensive than expected, Arthur felt a little panic. On the way back to the limousine, Arthur held his fists to his chest. Vince gripped his shoulder and told him, “Oh don’t worry. I paid them off. You don’t have to think about it.”
His arms turning limp, his hands moving between his thighs, Arthur said, “Oh. Well, that’s … well … thank you.”
Vince gently pushed him back and forth, a gentle little shake. Then he put a light tap of his fist, a playful little punch, right on Arthur’s arm. It didn’t hurt. “Stop freaking out all the time. You’re my buddy, and my buddy gets privileges.”
Instead of feeling better, Arthur started to feel worse. An odd sour feeling was bubbling in his stomach. He hardly even noticed that Vince was still chatting on.
He paid up the rest of Arthur’s lease.
But he opened up a room in his own house just for Arthur to recuperate in.
Then he offered Arthur a job, and was happy to let Arthur pay rent in that room, and Arthur had a sneaky feeling that the new job would pay nicely.
And now … it turned out that Vince had given the hospital all the money required to pay off Arthur’s bill, no questions asked. He clearly didn’t think much of it because he hadn’t even mentioned it until Arthur had said something about the bill.
Everything had a catch.
“Hey, are you listening to me?”
Arthur’s hand was over his eyes. His back was curled over. His voice was wobbly. “What? What do you want?”
“Hey, are you still worrying?” Vince shook his shoulder again. “I just told you not to worry, didn’t I?” Another shake. “Come on, stop acting like you owe me the world and a side of fries. All this stuff is almost nothing to me, didn’t put a dent in my income. It’s like … like I gave you $20 for gas. It’s cool, man. It’s cool. Calm down.”
Arthur gripped the edge of his seat and tried to rest his back. He looked at the handsome man’s serene expression, and for some reason a piece of that serenity blanketed itself over Arthur’s heart. His whole body deflated but in a relaxed, blissful way.
“What’s the problem?”
Arthur shook his head. “No. No problem. It’s just … well, I’m never going to forget how good you’ve been to me. I’ll never,” another shake of the head, “ever,” his hair got in his eyes, “ever going to forget any of this.”
Vince’s nostrils quivered as if he was getting really pissed. His lips tightened. Then, just as quick at the strained look formed, it disappeared. “Just stop being too grateful. One thank you’s enough. I don’t want you feeling bad all the time just because I’m nice to you. As long as you don’t act self-entitled I’m fine with being nice to you.”
Well, that was fine, wasn’t it?
Arthur just happened to have gained some positive attention from a guy that was stupidly rich. He didn’t do bahis şirketleri it on purpose. It wasn’t his fault.
“Alright, so this is your new office,” Vince cheerfully told him.
It was almost creepy.
Located inside Vince’s huge house, and not inside one of his factories, it was on a different floor from Arthur’s new room. The size was probably fairly normal, but the general aesthetic seemed futuristic. The walls and ceiling were a rich cream color; they looked to be set in slightly odd angles, giving the place an off-kilter feeling. Maybe it was an optical illusion. It wasn’t anything Arthur couldn’t ignore. Beside the door, there was a touchscreen device mounted to one of those weird walls. It had a tiny camera; Arthur used it to officially clock in. Then he carefully listened to his new boss.
“Here’s your desk,” Vince said as he walked around the shiny medium brown thing that looked like it was carved from stone.
Slowly, with nervous feet and red cheeks, Arthur also went there. Vince pulled the fancy office chair out for him. “You sit here.”
As if all this wasn’t pretty obvious.
But Arthur knew it wouldn’t be obvious in a few moments. He didn’t know jack shit about being a secretary. No matter how much he’d warned Vince, it didn’t matter. Vince was resolute. Arthur was going to do this.
Sighing, an eyelid twitching, Arthur sat down in the chair. It felt more supportive than it looked. Before him, on the desk, there was a large, black PC monitor and a keyboard with a mouse on a mousepad. He quickly looked under the desk to find the tower. Back on the desk, he saw a notepad with some pens and an office-appropriate landline phone. Well, it seemed to be a landline phone, but there was no physical buttons. There was a large touchscreen display with an attached stylus instead. An all in one printer/scanner/copier thing was also on the desk.
Beforehand, Vince explained all the tasks to him, and Vince did it again, just in case. Arthur was now Vince’s personal secretary, which made Arthur wonder what happened to the previous secretary. Was he or she out of a job now? Did Vince really just fire some poor worker just to give Arthur a job, knowing that Arthur didn’t know what he was doing? Or maybe Vince had too much confidence in him?
Arthur’s eyes almost dried out as he stared at everything.
“Okay, that’s it,” Vince said as he starting walking to the door. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. I’m off to make some phone calls. See you at lunch?” He paused right after sliding that door aside, turning back and giving Arthur an expectant look.
“Uh, sure.” Arthur nodded.
“Okay, I’ll come get you for lunch. Bye!”
The moment the door was closed behind Vince, Arthur put his elbows on the cold desk and his head in his hands. He was wearing a pair of black slacks, black dress shoes, a white button-up shirt and a blue tie. His hair was a little messy, though. He couldn’t remember the last time he was dressed anywhere near as smartly as this.
The phone rang, jolting him. He put his hand on his heart and took a few breaths. Then, he answered the phone and gave a dizzy, “Hello? May I help you?”
A polite male voice asked for the phone number for the manager of the software division. That information was kept in the list of contacts on the touchscreen. “Ye … Yes Sir. Here’s the number.” He read it out loud. “Okay, nice talking with you. Goodbye.”
The handset’s click in the base was so loud.
Arthur rubbed at his eye and took a long sniff. Then he went to the keyboard and mouse. He double-clicked on the spreadsheet application. Then he opened a desk drawer to find some handwritten documents in folders. They had lists of numbers that seemed to be … profit reports? If they were, why didn’t the managers or secretaries or whoever in each division do all this on their end? Wait. Did these numbers represent something else? Really?
How the fuck could Vince make so much money if his business was so inefficient?!
He knew he was supposed to essentially copy the paper documents into an electronic format that could later be edited if needed, but after looking at these documents, he was wondering what in the world was going on.
Ten minutes of uncertain typing and mouse clicking later, there was another phone call.
“Hello? May I help you?”
A youngish woman asked to talk to Vince. Vince was busy, at least Arthur thought so. He was making phone calls.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am. He’s not available right now. Would you mind if I took a message?”
No thank you? Okay.
More and more copying. Arthur wondered if there was a program for scanning a document and converting it into a spreadsheet. In fact, he thought he’d find out. He put one of the papers on the scanning machine and started pushing buttons.
“Hello? May I help you?”
A man wanted to make sure that Vince would still be available for some vaguely described meeting a week from now. Arthur was pretty sure he wasn’t. Just in case, he clicked on a calendar application on the PC. It showed Arthur Vince’s schedule. “It’s still on his schedule, Sir. If there’s a change, I’ll call to let you know. Yes, thank you. Goodbye.”
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