Characters: Nathan, Charles
Words: 1859
Disclaimer: I own nothing.

For the BrutalBusiness lj comm's "Romance is Brutal" theme.


Don't Hang Up


The band had discovered Skype, and it was making Charles' life rather difficult.

Actually, the program had already been installed on Toki's laptop for months. But he must have gotten bored with using it to talk to strangers, because at some point he'd told Pickles about it and the drummer had downloaded it as well.

From what Charles could gather, Pickles had then suggested that they install it on Skwisgaar's computer as well and try to scare the crap out him by calling him out of nowhere. The lead guitarist, annoyed by the sounds coming from a machine he didn't really trust due to its lack of strings, had nevertheless clicked the 'accept' button and (thanks to crafty recruiting) gotten an earful of Nathan Explosion roaring through the laptop's speakers. Murderface's involvement was a bit more obscure, but Charles was fairly sure it had involved a lot of complaints about being left out.

"I see," Charles said, resisting the urge to try and massage away the slight headache budding at his temples. "And how did this program come to be on my computer, exactly?"

On the screen, Nathan shrugged. "I dunno, Toki did it."

"Hmm." Security was obviously going to need a mild talking to. He was supposed to receive notification any time a member of the band entered his office while he was away. "Well, this is all very interesting, Nathan, and I appreciate you keeping me, ah, in the loop, but I do have some important business to do on this machine…"

"You can still do that! You can make the window, uh, smaller, so you can look at other stuff at the same time. See, like this."

Charles sighed. "Making the window smaller on your end has no effect on what I see on mine. But I see your point. You want to… continue the call, then?"

"Uh, yeah. I guess so. Yeah."

Resigned, Charles adjusted the call window so that it only took up a corner of his screen and began sifting through his incoming emails. It looked like he would be spending the next while multi-tasking until Nathan got bored.

"What would you like to talk about, then?" he asked, scrolling down to the oldest unread thing in his inbox and clicking on it. Hm. Merchandise negotiations. Was the world ready for Dethklok action figures?

Probably not, if the prototypes had already put seventeen of the consumer test group in the hospital.

"Uh, I don't know. Whatever." There was a pause as Nathan carefully inspected everything he could see on the screen, apparently playing I Spy for a topic of conversation. "Do you own any other color ties?"

"I don't," Charles replied distractedly. "I, ah, used to, but red goes better with the image we're trying to put forward. It makes me seem more authoritative in business meetings."

Nathan grunted, considered this for a moment, then asked another question. "Hey, do you ever not wear glasses?"

There was a document he would need to reference in order to address the problems in this email. Charles opened one of his desk drawers and pulled out a file folder. "I have contacts that I wear sometimes," he said, skimming through the file in search of a particular page. "Aside from that, no, not if I can help it. I can see well enough without them to shower and perform other simple tasks, but that's about it…"

As he continued to work, Nathan kept asking inane questions. It wasn't that Charles wasn't paying any attention to the answers he was giving, but at some point he realized – and shrugged it off fatalistically, because it couldn't really be helped at this point – that he may have said some things he ordinarily wouldn't have. Things that seemed unprofessional to his trained ears but Nathan probably wouldn't pick up on, so it didn't matter all that much.

Sometimes there were pauses between questions. Once in a while Nathan would get up to get a beer, or go to the bathroom, or to grab something he'd seen out of the corner of his eye that he wanted to show Charles and either comment on or ask about. Occasionally there would be a long pause because Nathan had been distracted by a computer game he was playing or something he was looking at on the internet.

It was… a very boring conversation, actually. Very rambling. The kind of conversation Charles usually hated. But he realized, about the same time he realized that the call had gone on for over five hours, that he didn't mind.

Then his phone rang. His actual phone. He glanced at Nathan, who just shrugged as if to say 'Go ahead, it's cool' and continued playing with his Nintendo DS that he'd found in his room half an hour ago. Charles raised an eyebrow, and answered it.

One phone call led to a string of others being made. But when Charles finally put the handset back in its cradle, Nathan glanced up and asked, "Hey. You like pizza. Right?"

"I… don't dislike it," Charles offered, a little thrown by the question. What did pizza have to do with anything? Of course, thinking back to some of the other things Nathan had asked over the past few hours (among them such diverse gems such as, 'Which of these actresses do you think has better tits?' and 'You know that feeling, when you're eating really good fish… and then suddenly there's this bone fucking stabbing you in the throat? That ever happen to you?'), pizza was about as relevant as anything.

"What kind?"

Charles blinked. "Of… pizza. Well…" He refreshed his inbox, and sure enough there were another twenty emails since the last time he'd checked. Only four of them were junk. "I like cheese."

"Just cheese?" Nathan frowned at him. "That's lame."

"All right, I'll eat any toppings," Charles amended. "I just don't have a particular preference."

"Okay." Nathan held up a take-out menu. "I'm gonna order pizza, because I'm fucking starving." He'd eaten two bags of chips in the past hour, but Charles knew better than to question. "I'll order some for you, too. With everything on it. And then… we'll both have pizza. With everything."

This made Charles pause. "Nathan, are you suggesting that we each have pizza delivered to the different rooms we're in and eat it while still talking on the phone?"

"It's not the phone, it's the internet," Nathan corrected gruffly. "And yeah. I don't feel like going anywhere. Or. Uh. Hanging up."

Interesting. Charles fiddled with a pen (under the desk, where the computer's built-in camera couldn't see) and considered.

Pizza was a greasy food. Normally he didn't eat greasy things – in fact, the last time he had had been the night the boys had talked him into getting sloppy with them. As far as he knew there wasn't much he hadn't eaten that particular night… which he knew because he'd spent most of the next morning over a toilet bowl, reexamining it. So the thought of eating pizza, while it didn't actually make him feel sick, wasn't really appealing.

"I'm, ah, not really hungry, Nathan. But I do appreciate the thought."

Nathan shushed him. "Hey, shut up. Uh, no, not you," he said into his dethphone. "No, I wanna order, uh… two large pizzas, but I want you to bring them to different places…"

Charles closed his eyes in exasperation. Well, fine. Fine. One of his employers wanted to have dinner with him over the internet when they were in fact less than a fifteen minute walk apart. Fair enough. He tried very hard to ignore the fine blush spreading across his cheeks, despite years of practice at containing that sort of thing, at the thought that Nathan had essentially just asked him out to dinner.

Without the out part. Or the asking.

"This is ridiculous," Charles protested when Nathan was done making his phone call. "I could just walk down the hall."

"No," Nathan grunted. "You'd have to hang up to do that."

"Yes, and then a few minutes I'd be there in person."

Nathan shook his head. "No. This is pretty cool, this Skype thing." The big man sat back a bit, looking about as thoughtful as he ever got. "We should do this every day."

Something in Charles seized up at that. He wasn't sure why, though, and that was a little alarming; years of physical training and meditation had left him with a great deal of insight into his own inner states and, therefore, the ability to deal with any turmoil and quickly move on to whatever needed to be done next. It was an adeptness without which he wouldn't have, couldn't have, lasted as long as he had as Dethklok's manager.

"Every day?" he repeated, frowning faintly. He couldn't decide if this would be a good or a bad thing. The past few hours had shown that it wouldn't interfere with his being productive, but…

"Yeah. Well. Every day there's not something going on."

Then Nathan smiled at him, and Charles realized what was going on – figured it out from his own immediate gut reaction of his insides to do that funny thing again. This was… sweet, in a way. Charles (and this came as a surprise to him, because it wasn't often he felt strongly one way or the other about such things) rather liked the attention. He didn't even mind the random personal questions that Nathan had been asking him on and off for the past several hours, and…

Charles looked up, startled from his thoughts as a klokateer entered his office with a large, fragrant pizza box. "Just put it on my desk," Charles said quickly, and watched as it was done with a respectful yes sir.

A moment later, as the klokateer was just closing the door, he heard Nathan say, "Oh hey, pizza's here! Awesome. Uh, put it right here, I'm going to eat it… here."

… And they were having dinner together.

Oh hell, it was a date. They'd probably never call it that or ever talk about it like one, Charles hastily reminded himself, because after all this was Nathan, but it looked like it was going to happen more than once. Regularly, even.

On the computer screen, Nathan held up a slice of pizza so absurdly piled with toppings that it was a miracle he could keep it all on there. Maybe it was something that came with practice. "Hey, you're gonna eat, right?" he asked, a hint of a growl in his voice should the answer be no.

"Yes, Nathan, of course," Charles replied automatically. Pizza wasn't his first choice by any means, but he hadn't eaten since lunch and now that it was there it smelled enticing. He pulled the box closer – if he was going to drop bits of "everything" all over the place he wanted the mess to be as contained as possible – and lifted the lid.

It took him about a half a second to realize that the pizza was only half everything, and half cheese. The corners of his mouth twitched faintly upward.