I cursed under my breath while sipping my scalding hot tea as I watched the last employee walk out the doors. I burnt the roof of my mouth while walking back to my work from the break room.
The weeks up until Christmas had been going by very slowly but it seemed like the end of the year deadlines were approaching quickly. I left to go home to Ireland in less than a week and had been working late to tie up loose ends with my clients before I was gone. I was stuck alone in the office doing the timesheets I had promised Rhodes I would do long past sun down.
Around seven I finally looked up from my computer to go grab my dinner out of the fridge in the break room. I placed my leftovers from last night in the microwave and walked around the empty office shutting down the computers that people had left on and turning off the extraneous lights that were on. Because I was working on Rhodes' work I had relocated to his office after he left that day. He had a good view of the rest of the office from his desk through the glass walls. You could see nearly every cube and had a direct view of the entrance so you could always see who was coming and who was going. No wonder he always said he sees everything that goes on in here, he really does.
I heard the microwave ding and went back to the break room to grab my dinner. I stole one of Harry's Gatorades out of the fridge too to keep me going and then went back to the office. I sat behind Rhodes' desk and opened up the programs I needed on the computer and let them load while I picked at my macaroni.
I don't know why I offered to do these timesheets because they were a pain in the arse and were time consuming. I had to cross check time spent on different projects with the hours billed to make sure everyone had their hours in for the quarter. If they didn't they either had to work over time all next week or their Christmas bonus was lower. I technically should be getting paid time and a half for the next week because I was over my hours but I wouldn't pester Rhodes over it. I already got my raise at the beginning of the quarter so I didn't want to sound greedy. It was about 8:30 when I heard knocking at the main entrance door. I looked up from the computer to see Kaine waving at me through the door all the way across the office. I smiled and stood up to go let her in.
"What are you doing here so late?" she asked me.
"I could ask you the same thing now couldn't I?" I retaliated.
"I left my phone at my desk and was hoping one of the custodians was around to let me in but you work too." she said walking past me and behind her desk. "What are you doing in Rhodes office?"
"I made a deal with him that I'd do his timesheets if Harry could come to that concert with me last week." I said.
"It's a Friday night shouldn't you be stuck at work this late." she said.
"I know but I don't want to be here too late next week either before I go home." I shrugged.
"Oh right, I forgot Christmas was coming up so soon. What day are you leaving?" she asked.
"I've got a red eye next Friday night." I said.
"How much more work do you have to do?"
"Another hour tops probably."
"I'll stick around then. We can grab a drink after."
"I'd like that." I smiled.
She followed me across the floor to Rhodes' office and sat in the seat across from mine. I started typing away and looking for inconsistencies while Kaine talked away.
"Do you not listen to music or anything while you work?" she asked after a while.
"I can't if I know any of the lyrics because then I get distracted." I said.
"Well, let me put something on I guarantee you haven't heard. How much do you hate showtunes?" she asked.
"Do I look like I listen to showtunes Kaine?" I asked opening up Spotify on the computer.
"Will you be mad? I can't stop listening to the In The Heights soundtrack. It's good, you'll love it." she said.
I started playing it and was pleasantly surprised it was more rap and R&B music than anything else.
"Good?" she asked.
"Yeah this is fine." I said switching back to the right program.
"You don't look so bad behind a desk in your own office." she said sitting back in the chair.
"Someday I'll have my own space. But sharing my cube with Harry isn't such a bad gig right now." I said.
"How much longer to you plan on sticking around Wolfe?" she asked.
"Well, it depends. I just got this raise and promotion back when you first started working here so I know I should stay for a while longer. But that was my first promotion I ever got in nearly six years here." I explained.
"Do you think maybe with this team model thing you'll get more opportunities?"
"I mean I already am getting more but the thing is with my degree I could be doing so much more than web development, I could be making so much more money, but I'd hate to leave the field after investing so much time in it." I said.
"But you want your own desk in your own office someday." she said.
"Exactly that. I want to be able to do more than what I'm doing now. I just don't know what." I said.
"At least you're doing something with your degree." she shrugged. "I didn't expect to move here to be a secretary I was hoping I'd find a job in communications but I think I'm gonna have to wait awhile for that."
"Maybe you could finagle your way into something around the office that has to do with communications. Just show Rhodes you could be an asset." I said.
"I'll wait until I have a little more seniority around here before I start pulling things like that." she said.
I finished up the rest of the time sheets while she talked my ear off about what she got all her family for Christmas and I just nodded along. I still had to get my gifts, that was something I intended to do with my day off next week but I was stumped. I always had trouble getting gifts for anyone besides my Ma.
"You're gonna love your gift." she said after naming off what she got everyone else.
"You got me a gift? Why?" I asked now concerned that I had to get something for her.
"Because I wanted to. For you and Harry. We're all so close, I just wanted to." she said.
"Well, you're gonna like yours too." I said coming up with ideas in my head.
"You don't have to get me anything, in fact please don't." she said.
"Too bad." I said finishing off the last time sheet for the night.
"No really, I don't need anything." she pleaded.
"You started it." I smiled.
I started shuffling through the papers on the desk and sorting them off into piles. Rhodes said he was coming in tomorrow to tie up loose ends with the projects the office had going on currently so I wanted to get his desk back in order.
"Text the guys tell them to meet us for a drink." I said.
"Oh good idea. Wanna go to that place in the Archer? It looks really cool, I've never been." she said.
"Yeah that's good for me. I said standing up and taking my suit jacket off the back of the chair and putting it on.
I shut down the computer and grabbed the rest of my stuff off his desk struggling to hold all the papers and folders along with my mug that still had some tea in it. Kaine took the mug out of my hands grabbed the door.
"Thank you I was gonna drop everything." I said. "Just turn the lock for me?"
"Sure, sure no problem." she said taking a sip of tea out of the mug.
"That's cold." I said.
"Yeah, no shit it's cold. Couldn't have told me a second sooner?" she said scrunching up her nose.
I laughed at her as we walked back over to my cube so I could grab my coat.
All the lights were off in the office now and the only light coming in was from the city outside. There was just a dull glow that gave just enough light to see my desk and Kaine's face. She was leaning against the short wall just outside the cube holding my mug and waiting for me. There was a red lipstick stain on the rim from where she took a sip and she wasn't bothering to wipe it off.
"You finished with that?" I asked.
"Please take it. I don't know why you didn't dump that out hours ago." she said.
"It's good when it's hot." I said.
I reached for the cup and let my fingers linger over hers while looking into her eyes a little too long. She didn't pull back from me, she just looked up into my eyes matching my stare. We stood like that admiring how each other looked in the dim light for a while, no words exchanged. It wasn't uncomfortable, it felt very natural, but at the same time very serious. You could sense the tension between us and the longing I felt toward her. I wasn't wrong when I felt like we had a spark when I first met her. This moment confirmed it.
I finally took the mug out of her hands and she snapped out of her trance. She reached up and grabbed a loose thread off of my jacket.
"Sorry." she said. "I got lost in a thought."
Even in the dark I could see her blush. I was sure my face was doing the same but I was handling it better. I placed the mug down on my desk never intending to wipe the lipstick off the edge.
"So that drink, yeah?" I said changing the subject.
"Yeah let's get out of here." she said putting her coat on.
We met the guys at the Spyglass in the Archer hotel. It was a classy place that I remember Rhodes saying he posted clients up at when they were in town to wine and dine them. It was a rooftop bar and had a beautiful view of Manhattan through the windows; it must have been beautiful during the summertime.
"Did you just get out?" Harry asked setting a beer down in front of me.
"Yeah I finished all the timesheets though. And I saw we got an extension through January on the Pacific Whiskey so that's a relief." I said.
Liam and Louis let out a sigh of relief while Nate just scrolled through his phone sipping on his drink.
"Thank god I'm nowhere close to being done with any of that." Louis said.
"None of us are. We've got Van and Arlo drowning too and they just got on to the project." Liam added.
"It's been hectic, there's no way we'd be able to pull it all together in a week now." I said.
"Did anyone text them to come?" Harry asked.
"Yeah I told them. Van's probably too young to get in yet." Liam joked. "But yeah they're coming."
We had a few rounds by the time Van and Arlo showed up along with a couple of Kaine's friends and I was definitely buzzed at this point. Our group was taking up a great portion of the lounge and it was starting to get busier as the night went on. Van and Harry were chatting up Kaine's friends while she sat with me and Louis laughing across the table at everything Nate was saying. He pulled out his phone to answer a call and just starting flicking through his feeds after that while Arlo started talking about how he just managed to slip out before his in-laws came by his place.
"Fuck." Nate said out of nowhere.
"What?" Kaine asked peeking over his shoulder. "Fuck." she agreed.
"Nate, what is it?" Harry asked turning from his current conversation.
"Uh, my roommate, Ethan, he's dating Kira." he said.
I started choking on my beer when I he said that. Harry started rubbing my back up and down trying to get me to stop. No wonder the name was familiar, and he looked like someone I saw. Nate and Ethan didn't see each other much but there had been times I was back at his place and he'd sit around with us for a while.
"How didn't you know?" Harry asked.
"I'm never on Instagram, he just posted something with her a couple hours ago." Nate said passing his phone over to us.
I looked at the picture and scrolled down to see the caption. It read 'We've dealt with each other 6 months now someone give us a prize.'
"I knew she was dating someone familiar I just didn't know someone so familiar." I said.
"Niall, I had no clue I would've told you." he defended himself.
"No, I know it's okay." I shrugged. "I'm not mad at you."
"I don't know why he didn't say anything, he obviously has to know she's your ex. And he's never brought her around." Nate continued.
"Really, mate, it's not your fault. She's moved on what can I do." I said.
"Wait, that doesn't add up." Louis said.
"Huh?" I asked.
"6 months ago was July, you were still with her when we first met. In August." he said.
I read the caption back over and felt my face heating up.
"Are you fucking serious." I said slamming my beer back down on the table.
I started scrolling through Ethan's pictures to see how many other pictures she was in. The last picture she had of the two of us was from her birthday in May where you could see Ethan talking in a group in the background. He popped up more frequently in the background of the pictures of her and her friends on set at their jobs in the pictures in August and September. I should've fucking known.
"Niall come here." Harry said grabbing onto my sleeve.
He excused himself from the girls he was talking to and dragged me outside onto the cold deck. My face was hot and I could barely focus on what he was saying until he grabbed both of my shoulders and shook me.
"You can't do anything about it now. It happened there's nothing that you can change. You're better off now." he said looking hard into my eyes.
"But she was fucking cheating on me for almost two months? How in hell didn't I know? I feel like such a fucking idiot, I was being used. What the fuck, why would she do this to me?" I was yelling.
People inside the bar were looking at us through the windows. I felt like I was on display and everything was closing in on me. I felt my breathing get faster and my throat start to close.
"Hey, hey, hey, no you can't shut down." Harry said grabbing my shoulders again. "Niall, focus. Get it together, I've never seen you like this."
I brought my hands up over my face and rubbed my temples trying to get myself to calm the fuck down. It was anger and anxiety and sadness and alcohol all hitting me at once and I didn't know how to react to it. It was a feeling unlike any other one that had come over me before. I heard the door open and close but Harry was still there. He was running his hands up and down my arms trying to calm me.
"Niall, you're okay." I heard Kaine say.
I took my hands off of my face and put them on Harry's shoulders instead.
"Breathe mate." he said. "You're alright."
I kept my eyes closed and just started focusing on slowing down my breathing. Kaine whispered something in Harry's ear and I felt his hands tense up on my arms then I heard her footsteps away and the door open and close again. When I felt okay again I opened my eyes and took my hands off his shoulders.
"What the hell just happened to me." I said.
"I think you might've had a little bout of an anxiety attack there." he said. "You okay now?"
"I think. I never want that to happen again." I said.
"Alright, well, we've gotta go back in but there's just one thing." Harry began. "Kira's here with him."
With that I ripped myself out of Harry's grip and started toward the door.
"Niall don't!" he said as the door was closing behind me.
Kira was sat on a barstool talking to one of her friends while Ethan was stood next to her trying to get a drink from the bartender. I had a high of adrenaline and I was walking toward them but I didn't know what I was going to do. But I knew I had to do it fast because Harry was about two seconds behind me and he was gonna stop me.
"Excuse me." I said stepping around Ethan like I was going to get a drink.
"Yeah, no problem pal." Ethan said.
I looked toward Harry who was making pleading eyes and shaking his head no.
"I'm not your fucking pal." I said.
"Woah, what'd I do to you, I don't think we've met." he said holding out his hand. "Ethan."
"Niall." I said shaking it.
His eyes went wide with realization. I didn't give him even a second to recover from the shock before I pulled him away from the bar and hit him with a left hook to the jaw. I tried to get another couple hits in before he recovered but he was a strong guy and bounced back immediately. He got me in the right eye and I staggered back. He charged at me while I heard Kira shriek both of our names. We both got a couple more blows in until I saw Arlo appear in the middle of us pushing us off each other. Harry had my arms locked behind my back dragging me away from him and Nate was standing in front of Ethan trying to push him back.
"You fucking twat. Ya think what yer doing was alright?" I spat at him my accent thick.
"She wasn't getting what she wanted with you get over it." he yelled.
I tried pulling out of Harry's grip but he was stronger than me. Ethan and I were busy yelling obscenities at each other while the rest of the lounge got quiet watching on the outside other than Kira's crying.
"Harry, get him out of here before the police have to." Kaine said. "Kira, get a handle on yourself and him."
"Who the hell are you to tell me what to do with him?" Kira asked.
"Kaine. You would've known that if you hadn't been fucking Ethan on Niall's birthday." she said and that was the last thing I heard before Harry finally got me out of the lounge.
He shoved me up against the wall just outside while a couple walking down the hall looked our way.
"Oh fuck off." he said to the couple who did just what they were told. "What the hell was that." he added turning back to me.
"I promise you I didn't know I was gonna do that." I said.
"It was fucking stupid and we've gotta go before the police show up. But it was also genius and I'm proud of you for it. But more than anything it was fucking stupid." he said dragging me off to the elevator queue. "Only you could go from anxiety attack to getting in a fucking bar fight in under a minute."
"I'm sorry. I am, I mean, I'm not for his sake but I am because I'm a fucking idiot." I said.
"You've got one thing right." he said.
Kaine and Louis came out from the bar with our coats to find us. He gave me a fist bump and she just stared me down.
"Fucking legend, man." Lou said. "We've got three minutes to get out before the bartenders call the cops."
"What the hell were you thinking." Kaine said.
"I wasn't, but he deserved it." I shrugged.
"How does your face feel?" Louis asked.
"Can't feel anything yet." I said.
"Oh you're gonna. We've gotta get you home and get some ice on that eye." Harry said.
"That was really the first time you and Kira ever crossed paths?" I asked Kaine.
"Well, not exactly." she said.
"Remember on your birthday? At the Attic and we rushed you out of there fast?" Harry asked.
"Yeah." I nodded.
"She was there with him and I didn't want you to get more any more upset than you already were that night." she said.
"Ah." was all I managed to say.
Harry drove my car and dropped Kaine home first before we got back to mine. I was fine to drive I just knew he didn't want to leave me alone. We got up to my floor and I unlocked the door and tossed my coat off on the couch.
"Go look at your face in the mirror." he dismissed me.
I got into the bathroom and was taken aback by my appearance. I was going to have a black eye for a good amount of time and the skin just above my eyebrow had split open leaving a little blood coming out of it. I knew I would have other bruises but I didn't regret what I did. I took a few ibuprofens trying to stop the pain before it even started.
"Okay I'm gonna look like hell." I said going back out into the kitchen.
"Not to mention your suit coat burst the seam at your shoulder." he said.
"Aw shit." I said looking to my left shoulder playing with the threads.
"Alright get some ice on your face and get to bed. You've gotta come down from this." he said.
"H, I'm sorry I am but I had to do something." I said.
"Yeah I know. I'm glad you did." he nodded.
"You staying here?" I asked.
"Probably." he said.
"Alright. Thanks for getting him away from me before I seriously got hurt." I said grabbing him sheets and blankets.
"That's what I'm here for. Keep that ice on there." he said.
"Night H." I said retreating to my room holding a bag of frozen vegetables on my eye.
I laid down and was about to dock my phone when I got a text come through from Kira.
I looked at it for about five minutes before I could figure out how to react to that. She was cheating on me and all I get is an 'I'm sorry' out of it. It wasn't enough and I was too disgusted to reply to her. I deleted the message and put my phone down for the night.
Early Tuesday morning I woke up still with my black eye. It was a dark purple bruise but the swelling had at least gone down. I hadn't really dealt with what happened on Friday night yet and I didn't plan on talking about it again until I was home to my Ma in Ireland. The bruise would probably still be there anyway.
I called into the agency to let Rhodes know today was the day I was taking. I had gotten nearly all my Christmas gifts over the weekend but I had to finish it up today. Kaine's was the only one I had left to get. I was up making sandwiches and searching for my portable charger knowing that today was going to be quite the day. I tossed everything I needed in my knapsack and laced up my boots making a mental list of everything I had on me.
On Friday when me and Kaine were in the office she made me listen to the In The Heights. They weren't as bad as I thought so I started researching the musical and realized the guy who wrote it was the same guy who wrote the new one on Broadway, Hamilton. And I knew it was impossible to get tickets to this show unless you stood all day long in the cancelation line.
I tried to see if Rhodes had access to any tickets over the weekend but he said it was too short notice for him to ask around. So I was off to theatre district in hopes of getting my hands on seats. Most people were only just leaving for work around this time, I was leaving to stand in the cold all day long for a musical.
I got to the theatre and found myself as the fifth person in line. I couldn't believe people were crazy enough to come any earlier than me. I had my headphones around my neck while I talked with the other guys in front of me as more trickled behind me. They were all being paid by other people to try and get seats for them and said it was something most of them did up to four times a week. I couldn't even imagine. There was a man from the theatre keeping his eyes on the line to make sure everyone stayed in order and more importantly was there to make sure you got your spot back after having to go and take a piss.
Throughout the day two of the guys ahead of me bailed and I found myself third about an hour before the show started.
"You got someone who's gonna see the show with you?" The man from the theatre asked.
"Yeah, how does this work?" I asked.
"You should get two seats so what you're gonna do is call this person up and have them stand on the other side of the barricade next to you. You'll go to the box office, pay for the seats and then she comes in and you go right because it'll start shortly after." he said.
"Thank you so much." I nodded and shook his hand.
I dialed Kaine's number and prayed for her to answer otherwise I wasted this time for nothing.
"Hey." she said when she picked up.
"Hey, Kaine, any chance you could meet me at 226 W 46th St, like now?" I asked.
"Are you alright?" she asked worried.
"Yeah, I just need you to get down here now." I said.
"Okay, I guess I'll see you in ten." she said worried.
"I'm okay I promise." I said. "See you soon."
"Alright bye Niall." she said and ended the call.
I slipped my phone back in my pocket and turned my attention back to the guys in front of me.
"What happened to your eye man?" one asked.
"Ah, yeah, I found out my ex was cheating on me for two months before we broke up and she and the guy showed up at the bar I was at less than a half hour after I found out." I said as coolly as I could.
"Nice." the other guy nodded.
About twenty minutes later I saw Kaine round the corner with a completely puzzled look on her face.
"What the hell are you doing?" she asked confused. "And why'd you give me the address couldn't you have just said come to Richard Rodgers?"
"Yeah but that would spoil the fun. Merry Christmas, I'm about a half hour from getting Hamilton tickets." I smiled.
"What?" she asked in disbelief. "Are you kidding me?"
"I'm not kidding you." I said with a grin.
"Niall how long have you been here for?" she asked still not believing me.
"Since like 7. We all have." I said motioning to the guys in front of me.
"Wait why are you doing this?" she asked.
"It's Christmas, it's your gift. It's the least I could do." I said.
She reached over the barricade and buried her face in my chest while giving me a huge hug.
"This isn't a joke?" she asked her voice muffled.
"Nope." I said hugging her back.
"You are the best person I know." she said still squeezing me.
She broke out of the hug and kissed me on both of my cheeks while I just laughed at her. The time came for me and guys in front of us to buy our tickets and they handed theirs off to the people paying them. I approached the ticket window while Kaine still stood outside the entrance waiting for it to happen.
"One or two sir?" the lady behind the counter asked.
"Two, please. Thank you." I said graciously handing over my credit card.
"Enjoy the show." she said handing me my card and the two tickets.
"Come on Kaine." I said motioning for her to come with my head.
She nearly ran through the door and grabbed onto my hand while we passed through the entrance and got our tickets scanned. We found our seats up in the front of the balcony and took our coats off to settle in. The show started not even a minute after we were sat and she held onto her playbill with one hand and mine the other the entire show.
I don't know who was happier, her that she was seeing the show or me that I somehow made her this happy.