Clause and Effect
Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas depending on your views on the season to everyone and anyone reading this.
Inspired by Grey's Anatomy, Fifty Shades of Grey, and every other movie or book I've read about a woman and a man in a complicated relationship.
Standing in the doorway, Relena looked down the expanse of the open office. It was a large open square which underlined the word open concept. There was frost spray painted in the corner of the windows as if it was at all necessary considering it was due to snow soon, a variety of Christmas garlands stretched across the ceiling in a range of styles and textures not to mention lengths. Some were lighted and decorated, some foil and others fur. It was a mess, but she didn't want to rain on others' parade. So, every year she grinned and bore it. This year would be no different.
Shrugging off her grey pea coat Relena tentatively entered the large open space but she didn't get much further than the coat hangers in the entryway. The further she went, the more ridiculous the everything looked. She blinked against the onslaught of colour and cheap decorations.
In all, there were five Christmas trees, four in each corner and one in the middle of everything. And all this was complemented by the colorful and unique works of art that each person created in and around their individual cubicles.
It was a sight to behold but Relena wasn't nearly interested in any of it, she'd rather just look past all of it. Instead, she was training her eyes for what lied beneath. Some were in plain view, while others were strategically placed like traps lying in wait for unsuspecting prey.
It was difficult at first, amongst all the other flowery decorations but this was a skill she'd honed in a matter of days last Christmas, the day after they had finished decorating to be precise when she had been caught at off guard by beard and mustache and it hadn't been Santa Claus. The memory brought an uncharacteristic curl to her lightly shaded pink lips. For the rest of that day her mouth had itched and for some strange reason, it reoccurred every time she saw a beard. Which was often.
With fluid grace and a little acrobatic skill, Relena avoided everything that looked like a plant and everything that had a beard as she made her way to her own cubicle which was, when compared to everyone else's, painfully underdressed. One shiny foil garland which spelt out Merry Christmas was all she'd done and which hadn't been enough for her neighbour Dorothy who was in the cubicle next to her and who was amazingly her friend despite the other woman's unapologetically bitchy attitude. The platinum blonde took it upon herself to string lights across the top of the partition which separated them. Cubicles, which were unique when compared to other floors of the building. Unlike other offices which had the standard white cubicles, their floor was bright and alive with colour green and orange to be precise which, now, wasn't melding well with the Christmas decorations. But woe to the person to mention it though. So, no one did. Instead, outsiders, namely, finance and sales had developed a code for anyone who made any inquisitive glances or who appeared to be on the verge of a disastrous remark. 'Marketers', it was the one-word description that was either a compliment or an insult, but it was what the others in the company said whenever they came to the floor or when the conversation about the décor came up. Whichever it was, just saying that one word would have people nodding their heads in understanding followed but an abrupt change in topic.
After powering on her computer Relena did a quick swivel in her chair to surveil her surroundings. She needed to assess the traffic from her cubicle to the break room, the number of people in the break room and anything or anyone seemingly a threat to her lips. She needed this coffee run to be quick. The only place she felt absolutely safe was inside her own box. Out there, anything could happen.
It was an Olympic sprint Bolt himself would have been proud of and in less than five minutes she was back to her desk and still in one piece, if just slightly out of breath. She steadied herself and breathed, the scent of coffee aided her relaxation attempts. She had made it without any kissing incidents, but her speed meant she was now in time to hear another rendition of silent night by passing carolers.
Relena rolled her eyes. She didn't mean to be a Scrooge, but they sang the same song, using the same people, every year. Shocking how they didn't improve.
"Why do you hate Christmas?"
"I don't hate Christmas." Relena corrected as she watched Dorothy adjust her red wrap dress. It was Dorothy's holiday dress for the colour and for the treats. 'Because Santa gave more generously when he had nice cookies to look at.'
"Why do you wear that, you can barely keep those things in." Relena waved a hand at her friend's more than ample bosom.
The most innocent of giggles flitted through Dorothy's lips. "Forgive me if I don't 'take fashion advice from you dear."
Relena looked down at herself, her green silk blouse, khaki trousers, and brown shoe. It was decent work attire. A fact she made known to Dorothy, who wasn't buying it. "Anyway, I don't hate Christmas, just Mistletoes."
"You hate being kissed?"
"By people I have no attraction to? yes."
"And by people with beards?" Dorothy was cruel.
"You would've been upset too if it had happened to you."
Dorothy made to respond but a deep laugh sliced through the office and their conversation. At the far end of the room standing by one of the Christmas trees, two temps both young and brunette laughed heartily with a much bigger, much louder male. Aaron. A graphics wizard, average height and build with chestnut brown eyes and narrow nose framed by a thick black hair trifecta.
Relena glared until her eyes burned. What she wouldn't give to switch his shampoo with hair remover. She shook her head, no need to be naughty this close to Christmas instead she returned her attention back to Dorothy who was grinning wildly. Which was always cause for concern.
Dorothy didn't respond, she did raise her index to her lip and smiled more. It was then Relena realised she was scratching.
Relena sat up straighter in her leather chair to stare at her surroundings, this time not because of decorations or unruly beard hairs. Everyone was on their feet, except for her. Running, shuffling, packing, straightening. It was a cleaning frenzy.
"What's going on?"
Dorothy pushed her chair slightly to the side to peer around the partition at her. "Did you forget, some of the execs are visiting the offices for the Christmas holidays not to mention the staff functions."
And by staff functions, she meant the end of year social gatherings, costume parties, award dinner and secret Santa exchanges. Everyone enjoyed them and even looked forward to them, herself included. Every year though the execs rotated. The only constant was the head honcho himself otherwise it was a toss-up who would be attending. Max Media was a large media company with agencies across Europe and Asia still they managed to make it feel much more condensed and familial.
Odin Lowe owner extraordinaire made it his business to visit each office at least once a year. Personable and friendly he was highly regarded by his employees, his allies, and his rivals. The first time she had met him, Relena had only been with the company for a few months and he instantly recognised her as a newcomer.
She'd been impressed with his ability to remember names and faces despite the size of the company. Her greener years, as she called them. It was the only way to explain the ridiculous amount of nerves she'd had just to shake his hand. But he's made her feel at ease, even went as far as telling her what he called an inside joke. Apparently, Max which was short for Maxwell, Odin's brother's last name was chosen over his since Lowe Media didn't sound like something people would want to pay for.
It hadn't been all that funny, but Odin cracked up at his own joke to the point of tears in his eyes. Secretly she suspected he was crying because they didn't use his name, that was her version of the inside joke. "Who's going to be here this year?"
Dorothy stood from her seat to get a better view of the door. "Odin of course."
"And his son and nephew."
"How do you know?" Relena didn't mean to sound so panicked and she hoped and prayed it only sounded that way to her own ears.
"They just walked in."
Relena didn't want to look, but she needed to confirm that her space was about to be invaded by him. Before scanning the room for the face she already knew she was going to see, she found it necessary to give herself a firm pep talk. She was fine, everything was fine, and this wasn't an issue. Pep talk complete she stood, confident, back straight, fists curled. She could do this, she could meet him, face to face, without incident.
Except at this distance.
Why was he so close? She could smell him and taste him, if she tried. Her pep talk fizzled away and with it went her confidence. She faltered and gaped. How could she not? His voice, deep and rich, body lean and muscular and the most intense unwavering gaze.
"Mr. Yuy. Always a pleasure." Dorothy answered for the both of them or so Relena chose to believe since her mouth wasn't cooperating. Thankfully he was making rounds so after a quick handshake with Dorothy and an annoyingly smug smile for her he left.
"What's wrong with you. You're acting like you've never met him before."
It was difficult to take Dorothy's reprimand to heart considering the other woman's eyes were still glued to his back, and probably much further south of that. "Right."
"I don't blame you though he's scrumptious. Too bad he's off limits.
"Relena you minx, do you have a thing for the boss?"
"No. Course not."
Two days. She'd made it two days working in the same building with Heero Yuy. She had clearly overreacted about the entire thing. She hadn't run into him at all, he'd made no attempts at seeing her and she definitely wasn't about to make any attempts to see him.
She sighed in relief as she stepped into the elevator. Worrying over nothing. Silly. She relaxed more and more as the elevator climbed to the tenth floor where her office was located. It had stopped on the way up for a few people but now she was alone. When it dinged for the third time on the ninth floor Relena waited patiently for the newcomers to enter.
"Hi there." Duo Maxwell was a ray of sunshine standing next to a much more reserved Heero Yuy. She thanked heaven he was there.
"Good morning. Mr. Maxwell, Mr. Yuy."
"Please just call us Heero and Duo." He pat Heero on the shoulder. "Right?"
Relena wondered if anyone ever cleaned the elevator, there were wisps of dust and cobweb growing in the corners of the cart and she didn't appreciate having to stare at dust now that she couldn't afford to look anywhere else.
"Looking forward to the costume party?" Duo looked over his shoulder so there was no confusion who he was talking to.
"Uh, yeah. It's always a lot of fun."
"So I keep hearing. Missed it last year was sent to London instead." He looked to Heero. "Hey, you went last year, didn't you? I'm surprised you're here again this year. Wasn't it Wufei's turn?"
"He couldn't make it."
"Right." Duo looked back at her and winked which made Relena thoroughly uncomfortable and suspicious.
When they exited the elevators Duo and Heero parted and Relena saw her chance.
"You told him?"
Heero stopped but he didn't fully turn to face her she was gifted to only half of his face. "So, you're speaking to me."
She was prepared for his evasion, but she wasn't about to drop it. "You told him?"
"Told him what?"
Relena hesitated she didn't want to say it out loud, but he was going to play dumb until she did.
"Told him what Relena?"
"That's what I thought."
Heero stood in the middle of the office, he was quiet, calm and still fascinatingly intimidating. He had a commanding presence, not at all hindered by the way his body looked in tailored material. A presence that meant that when he began to speak. Everyone stopped to listen.
"Pixel seems to be getting cold feet about the campaign. They claim their financial analysts have found deficiencies in the way the money is being spent and the lack of revenue they're earning. They want to meet with us to discuss a budget adjustment. I need someone familiar with the account."
It didn't sound much like a question, so everyone just waited for him to announce his choice.
Not the choice she had expected.
"We leave in ten."
"You've been to these meeting before yes?" Heero asked as they walked through the doors of Pixel Global.
"Not often. That's why you shouldn't have chosen me."
Heero and Relena sat for nearly forty-five minutes while the Manager rambled on about his concerns. It was obvious that he wasn't there to negotiate. His mind was made up and this was his goodbye speech before he pulled the plug on their working relationship.
Relena stifled a yawn. The entire scenario was boring her to tears, made worse by the fact that the man talking was doing so from an uninformed position.
"You achieved thirty-seven percent increase in sales the first year with us. Growth has been exponential ever since. By the second quarter of this year, you had earned twice the revenue of the entire previous year.
The presenter paused to regroup and take to replenish the fluids he was so actively losing over the course of the presentation.
Heero took this time to lean over to her. "That's why I chose you."
They left the meeting having reassured their clients of that they were the right choice and instead of having a reduced budget or worse losing the account they'd managed to talk the poor guy into increasing it by ten percent.
It had been frightening and exhilarating. Who knew a boardroom could be such a rush, but she figured that had something to do with the fact that things had gone in their favour. She was still on her high when Heero had suggested lunch and it had taken her a few minutes to realise that she had agreed before she had known what she was doing.
"Don't pat yourself on the back. That could've gone either way." As she spoke Relena took great care to avoid looking at him. Settling instead, on appreciating the white and black contrast of the urban restaurant. Even the plants were of the same colour.
"No, it couldn't."
"Yes, it could. I don't need you being nice to me because…"
She was forced to look at him. "Stop that. You already know."
"I really don't."
"Ok, so we had sex once." Just saying the sentence made her leg twitch involuntarily. "Stop using it as—"She trailed when he held up four fingers. "Those don't count they happened on the same night."
"A thousand lightning strikes on the same night only counts as one?"
"That's different, that's science. Point is, I don't need special favours or you being nice to me or you looking at me or you at all."
"Is that what you tell yourself." He slid a finger across her knuckles. "Relena, your lying to yourself. Worse you're lying to me."
She shifted in her seat. "I'm not."
"Hmm, squirm all you want, that itch isn't going to go away." He leaned over the table. "It hasn't for me."
Curse that stupid meeting and the stupid boss that invited her. Her lunch was great, the food amazing but the conversation had left her hungrier than it should have. It was almost three and she really hadn't gotten any work done. Every time she saw the number four her legs crossed. It was bad enough having to avoid beards but now she had to avoid four? Life wasn't fair.
She went to the break room for a quick snack to distract herself but all that accomplished was giving her more time and space to daydream about the night she spent with Heero. They had run into each other at the costume party talked and even danced. But that was nothing new, there'd been other occasions where they had been friendly toward each other, shared jokes, had lunch but this night was different, at least in hindsight. She'd gone as an elf and he had worn his usual tux because Heero Yuy apparently doesn't do costumes. After two hours they'd left went to one or two clubs then back to his hotel. The next memory she had was a kiss, hot and aggressive, followed by the quick wild sex pinned to the door, then slow sensual sex on the floor.
Relena hit her head on the overhead cabinet to knock the thoughts loose to no avail. It just reminded her of being hoisted onto the kitchen counter and an exquisitely skilled tongue.
She took stock of herself, her legs pressed tightly together and the small abrasion on her bottom lip where she had been biting and shook her head. She needed another pep talk, a gentle reminder.
"Boss' son, boss' son, boss' son."
But her own mind was betraying her. That doesn't make him off limits. "It's not like he's my boss."
"Talking to yourself?"
Dear god. Relena sent up a silent prayer that he wasn't there. Being this close to Christmas had to get your prayers answered. Right?
She turned. Wrong.
There he was, again. Intruding. No jacket, no tie, no top button. "How much of that did you hear?"
Two long strides and he was nose to nose with her. "It's not like I'm your boss."
When did saliva become so difficult to swallow?
Relena jumped away from Heero and she knew she probably looked like a kid who just got caught in the cookie jar. She looked to Heero who was still the picture of calm. The only part of him that had moved at the intrusion was his eyes. Which if she wasn't mistaken looked slightly annoyed.
Dorothy stood in the doorway, the initial shock on her face dissipated behind a well-schooled mask. "Phone call."
Fifteen minutes into the call and Relena was still trying to prolong it. There was a minuscule chance that if she stayed long enough Dorothy might forget what she just saw. She didn't believe that of course, but she needed the extra seconds to prepare for the onslaught she knew was coming.
Cradling the phone to her hear Relena looked up to see Dorothy leaning against the partition. Relena nodded her head trying to keep up with the conversation on the line while simultaneously trying not to be affected by Dorothy's menacing stare.
"Give it up Relena, I know your call ended five minutes ago."
Damn these light-up phones, was it really necessary for people to know which line was in use?
"What was that?" Dorothy asked, finger pointing to the break room just in case Relena had somehow forgotten.
Relena had only two options. Play dumb or own up. "What was what?"
"In there. You." Dorothy held up one index. "Him." She held up the other index, then brought the two together. "Together."
Relena sighed. There was no playing dumb with visual cues like that. "That was nothing."
"I can't believe you're going to lie to me this close to Christmas. What would baby Jesus think?"
Relena angled her head slightly. "Really?"
Dorothy propped both hands on her hips. "Really."
"It was nothing like you said he's off limits. Right?"
"Are you asking me because you don't know or because you do?"
It was time for lunch, in actuality, it was past lunchtime and Relena was starving. She had been so focused on what she'd been doing she forgot all about eating. How that was possible she didn't know but if it hadn't been for Dorothy she probably would have fainted, hit her head and ended up on YouTube.
At first, she had tried to object but Dorothy was not one to lose an argument and Relena didn't have the strength to try her luck. So, the two reached a happy medium. Relena would eat, but she wasn't going to leave the building to do it.
So, to the ground floor vending machine she went. At least she was trying to, but the elevator was taking its sweet time. And when it did arrive, it wasn't empty.
Relena stepped into the elevator quickly almost clumsily and remained with her back to the lone occupant. But she could feel his eyes on her and she couldn't ignore it any longer. "You know if my hair catches fire, it'll be because you're staring at the back of my head."
"Don't want to."
Rookie mistake. She should've known to keep her eyes on him at all times. How else was she supposed to be prepared for his attacks? When his hand encircled her from behind and his nose dipped into her hair she knew she was in trouble.
"Fine don't turn around works for me either way, but then you already know that."
Relena spun around at the innuendo.
Another rookie mistake because now she was face to face with hypnotizing blues and magnetic lips.
She pushed away from him. "Stop it."
She was about to turn away when he grabbed her arm, pinned her to the elevator and captured her lips in his before she could react. And ended it before she came to her senses
"Five days overdue."
Dazed she watched as he straightened his jacket just in time for the doors to swing open and then he was gone.