Error. Access Denied.
Johan Fernandez glared at the biometric door lock with a promise of death and murder. Its built-in digital clock flashed 8:58 PM. If it doesn't open in about thirty seconds, he's going to be late for work. "Are you going to open or I will bash you until you're just a lump of wires and plastic?"
He blew on his index finger, wiped it on his white dress shirt, and pressed on the fingerprint window. This technology was not convenient at all and so outdated. Their company has to change it to an ID badge access lockbox or something.
Error. Access Denied.
It was tempting to grab that fire extinguisher at the corner.
Suddenly, a hand clamped on his waist and a firm chest pressed against his left shoulder. "Let me."
Johan froze. The mixture of musk and tobacco invaded his nose, sending a tingling sensation to his lower abdomen. A six-foot-tall young man wearing a light blue dress shirt pressed his index finger at the biometrics' fingerprint window.
Access Granted. Adrian Guevarra. 8:59 PM.
Adrian lightly squeezed his waist before opening the door to their department, walking inside.
"You coming in?"
Johan exited the trance he fell into and stuttered a reply. "Y-yeah. Thanks."
Adrian Guevarra was a dangerous guy. No, not the 'I'm part of a crime syndicate' kind of guy. The danger lurked within his looks; broad shoulders, sharp jaws, and lips that would curl into a sexy smirk with minimum effort.
For the life of him, Johan can't afford to stand too close to that guy. Not when he's trying to keep his sexuality a secret.
With a sigh, Johan jogged to his desk and logged in on his computer. He remained standing as his monitor came to life.
Okay, thirty seconds left before nine. Good thing he never bothered shutting down his computer, so he just needed to enter his password. The moment his opened browser appeared, his fast hand clicked the Clock In button at exactly 9:00 PM.
Relief flooded his system, and clapping could be heard from the other three occupants in their office, Adrian included. Johan groaned.
"Right on time!"
"No more, no less."
The two girls, Thesa and Irene, laughed good-heartedly as Johan laid his head on his desk. When Adrian patted his back, he didn't resist despite the shiver that ran down his spine.
"You owe me one today," Adrian whispered.
"Don't I always?" Johan said, burying his reddened face on the slick mahogany desk.
It's been three years since he left their village and tried his luck in the nearest city. Growing up in a place populated with trees and rice fields, adjusting to the urban life took him awhile. If it wasn't for his kind uncle, he wouldn't be able to survive the first few months.
A lot of things have changed in his life. To name a few, he had trimmed his rich chocolate brown hair neat from the side and back, though his signature bangs dangling like a curtain across his right eye remained. While he's still quite aloof, Johan learned to socialize a bit, when the situation asked for it. Social connection was important if he wanted to survive in the city.
At present, Johan worked at Blue-League Mortgage as a quality auditor in their back-office department. His job was to analyze scanned documents and ensure they're put in the proper folder inside their virtual archive.
Furious clicking echoed in their spacious office. With just the four of them, it was utterly boring. Johan chanced a sideway glance at Adrian's desk who was slumped on his chair with just one hand typing on the keyboard. His dark blond hair was combed-over to the right with both sides cut in a low fade style, giving him a messy, sexy look.
As if sensing his stare, Adrian's eyes moved to meet his. Johan's heart just leaped to his throat.
"Is there something in my face?" Adrian asked.
"N-no." Johan turned back to his monitor and clicked F2. Luckily, the file he's auditing was Adrian's. "It's just, you've made an error here."
"Really?" Adrian rolled his chair to his desk. "Where?"
Johan zoomed in on the document and tapped on the screen. "This isn't an investment-retirement statement, it's a social security statement."
"Eh? But it's about retirement," he argued.
"Yeah, but it's more about pension and benefits."
Adrian looked skeptical. His thick eyebrows pinched together as he stared at the monitor. He looked more handsome when he's deep in thought.
"Would you like me to raise this for clarification?" Johan challenged, subtly admiring the good-looking face under the electronic light. "If you're correct, it's my error. But—"
"Nope!" Adrian popped his ruddy lips, smiling. "You're the boss. It's your call."
He's not exactly a boss, but the decision was truly up to him. Shrugging, Johan put it where he saw fit and sent it to its last judgement.
The door swung open and their department head walked in, followed by the mid-shift folks. "How's the workload, Johan?" Diego asked.
"Nothing out of the ordinary," Johan told the towering man without removing his eyes on the monitor.
"Good. And what time did you clock in?"
Okay, he saw that question coming all the way from Antarctica. "Nine. Sharp."
"Didn't I tell you to come in to work fifteen minutes before your shift?"
"Why should I? It's not even paid." Johan bit back with no reservation. Who's scared of who? Not him. He sent the last files he's working on and hit the fifteen-minute break button. "I'm not late. That's what matters."
Their department head grunted. "One of these days, you will meet the end of your luck and you'll be late," Diego said, probably checking his attendance record of consistent straight nines. "Expect an insubordination notice once it happened."
"If it happens." Johan smirked, pressing his finger on the biometric lock.
Error. Access Denied.
Oh, right. He just went in without proper authentication.
"Are you having a problem with your finger again?" Diego asked.
No, the system and technology used in their department was the fucking problem. "Kinda."
Adrian swooped in to open the door, his hand on the small of Johan's waist again.
"And where are you two going?"
"Fifteen minutes break, Sir Diego," Adrian said.
"Together? Why is that?"
Johan shrugged and walked out with Adrian when the door opened. "Just because."
"Hey! No piggybacking!"
Johan ignored Diego. The clock was ticking and he can't waste it cursing a damn door lock. They went straight to the locker area to get their smartphones. Johan hated his locker location because he's freaking five-foot-nine in height but it's at the bottom part.
"I'll wait for you at the pantry. Coffee's on me," Adrian said, ruffling Johan's hair a little.
Maybe being at the bottom wasn't that bad.
He meant the locker. Damn it!
Johan slammed the door of his locker, padlocked it, and walked towards the pantry. He looked forward to the promised coffee but stopped when he saw Adrian seated in one of the tables with his girlfriend, Rhia.
Now, there's nothing wrong with her. Or the way Adrian draped his arm on her lithe shoulders. The wrong thing here was the disappointment that clawed at his heart.
All right, stop. They've been lovers even before he met Adrian. Heck, she's with the company longer than the two of them.
Johan pushed the unwanted emotion off of his traitorous heart and breathed it out through his lungs. He forced a smile when Adrian waved a hand, signaling him to come over.
Rhia acknowledged him with a shy smile before going back to her smartphone. If he would describe her in a nutshell, she's a beauty queen who didn't make it because she lacked height. That's her only flaw.
Pulling on a chair, he sat across the two lovers. Adrian held a disposable cup to his lips and sipped its content. He then offered it to Johan like it's the normal thing to do. "Coffee."
Johan eyed it like it's the forbidden fruit in the hands of the snake of Eden, only it was Adam offering it to him.
"I'd go get my own coffee."
"We only have eight minutes left."
He glanced at his wristwatch and frowned. It would take two minutes to get a fresh cup of coffee and five minutes to drink it if he can take the heat. Then he'd only have a minute left to go to the bathroom to urinate and—fuck it! Johan grabbed the offered cup.
The cup was still three-quarters full of coffee. It's as if Adrian only took a sip or two before handing it to him. Johan felt like he's stepping in a dangerous territory when he took his first sip. The tawny liquid burned his lips, his throat, his esophagus, and he almost barfed it back to the cup when Rhia looked at him.
Is it wrong to drink in someone else's cup? It felt like he just committed a sin.
Johan placed the cup on the table and wiped his lips.
To his surprise, Adrian grabbed it again and downed its remaining contents, his eyes never leaving him. The stare burned him more than the coffee.
It scalded him.
"I'm just going to the bathroom." Johan excused himself and stood. "T-thanks for the coffee."