Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2166214-A-Clockwork-Courtship
by beetle
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · LGBTQ+ · #2166214
“You, there! Librarian!” Red didn’t have to look around to recognize that voice.
Writing Dot Com LGBTQ Writing Contest July/August
July/August Prompt #3: Clockwork
Word Count: 4,629
Notes/Warnings: SFW, flirting, innuendo, alluded to/implied sexual kinks, anger management issues.

EDIT: "Anger management issues"? I dunno if that's a trigger for anyone, but just in case, I'm adding it to the "Notes/Warnings."--beetle, 09.07.2018

Summary: “You, there! Librarian!”

And, there it was—rather later in the day, than usual, but otherwise expected. At the markedly too-loud voice and snooty disdain, Red froze, in the midst of shelving a so-so biography of Rumi. His thick, auburn eyebrows were the only bit of him still in motion—besides his suddenly accelerated heart-rate—inching up his forehead until they were halfway to his pronounced widow’s-peak.

He didn’t even have to look around to recognize that voice and precise, English accent. Red had been hearing it with increasing and irritating regularity—like particularly annoying clockwork—since he’d started his internship under the university’s head librarian last fall.

Well, he thought wearily, this’ll be his third appearance and temper-tantrum this week, as has been the pattern for the better part of a year. At least he’s consistent. . . .

A "Clockwork" Courtship

“You, there! Librarian!”

And, there it was—rather later in the day, than usual, but otherwise expected. At the markedly too-loud voice and snooty disdain, Red froze, in the midst of shelving a so-so biography of Rumi. His thick, auburn eyebrows were the only bit of him still in motion—besides his suddenly accelerated heart-rate—inching up his forehead until they were halfway to his pronounced widow’s-peak.

He didn’t even have to look around to recognize that voice and precise, English accent. Red had been hearing it with increasing and irritating regularity—like particularly annoying clockwork—since he’d started his internship under the university’s head librarian last fall.

Well, he thought wearily, this’ll be his third appearance and temper-tantrum this week, as has been the pattern for the better part of a year. At least he’s consistent. . . .

Now, in the middle of spring of his thesis year at university—mere weeks away from his Master’s degree in Library Sciences, Red (who’d been hoping to turn his internship into a full-, or even part-time job at the university), suddenly decided he’d perhaps start searching for employment farther afield. If only to put some distance between himself and—

“I say: you, there, librarian! The ginger one!”

Sighing softly to himself, Red carefully shelved the mediocre biography in the correct spot, then took a deep, steadying (not very) breath, before turning to face the bane of his existence. He pasted a professional, somewhat discouraging smile on his craggy face. Not that either smile or face actually discouraged. . . .

“Professor Gérard-Moore. How may I help you, today?” Red asked quietly, but without deference. Deference to the pretty, peremptory faculty-monster had flown out the window quite early on, after the third time he’d had to put the man in his place regarding the speed with which certain rare texts could be acquired or borrowed from other universities.

All it had taken was for the choleric professor of World History to begin raising his voice even beyond its normal, rather projected volume, to something approaching a terse screech, for Red to step from behind the checkout desk, skirting it sedately until he was looming over the smaller—slightly above average height—man. Professor Gérard-Moore’s wide, dark eyes had widened further and his diatribe had faltered into stunned silence as he gazed up and up—and UP—at Red, craning his neck to do so.

At a brawny, hairy, muscular six-foot-six—with a face like the offspring of an angry caveman and an even angrier Viking, and eyes the exact color of the scrim of ice that formed on newly-paved sidewalks in winter—even in his dowdy work-clothes of button-down white shirt, brown sweater-vest, grey-twill slacks, and massive, broken-in penny-loafers, Red was, he knew, still quite the intimidating specimen. Even when he didn’t want to be.

(But when it came to Professor Damien Benôit Gérard-Moore, he most definitely wanted to be.)

“Er . . . ah. . . .” Gérard-Moore had stuttered, his bright-dark eyes gone even wider and a bit glazed as he took in Red from his painstakingly tamed, auburn cornrows—five thick, neat plaits which added to the Viking-resemblance, and hung down Red’s back, even when braided—to his doorway-wide shoulders and four-by-four arms, to his tree-trunk legs and Sasquatch-feet.

“Please try to maintain a more moderate speaking voice, professor, as this is a library, and many of the patrons come here to work without being disturbed,” Red had said in his quietest, most dangerously pleasant and polite voice, even as he furrowed his shelf-like brow.

“I—I—” Gérard-Moore had stammered with almost meek chagrin, his pupils dilating and his eyes somehow growing even wider. Then he’d blinked several times in rapid succession and flushed deeply, biting his lip and looking down at the carpeted floor between them. “Yes . . . of course. I beg your pardon for my . . . inconsiderate behavior,” the other man had said weakly, maintaining a white-knuckled death-grip on his briefcase and a thick sheaf of what had appeared to be mid-term papers. “When, ah . . . when will you expect Figures From Antiquity in, do you think?”

Still that meek tone, which had surprised Red into silence. But only for a moment, before his auto-librarian took over. “As I said before, professor, we should have it from the SUNL within one week. . . .”

And Gérard-Moore had merely nodded without further complaint, then thanked Red before bidding him a gracious good evening.

Since that incident, in late November, the professor had been noticeably choosing his battles, rather than going to war with Red over every little inconvenience. In fact, the professor’s almost tolerable demeanor around Red was so noteworthy, that the other librarians and interns had a habit of letting Red and only Red deal with Professor Gérard-Moore, if Red was on shift. Which he was, more often than he wasn’t, when Gérard-Moore would come blowing dramatically in through the swinging double doors.

And even though he still spoke louder than anyone of sense and consideration should in a heavily frequented library, he only rarely ever lost his temper to Red. And usually, when he did, Red would simply loom over the other man patiently, expressionlessly, and ask him if he’d like to discuss the matter further in private, where the other patrons wouldn’t be disturbed.

Gérard-Moore would flush, then blanch, then flush again, then backpedal at light-speed before making an excuse to end the conversation and hurry off.

Now, Gérard-Moore showed every sign of being in a right state: his face pink and a bit overwrought—but no less attractive for that, Red was not pleased to note—his eyes wide and wild, his attractively-tousled undercut a-bristle, and his perfectly-groomed brows furrowed and drawn together. His full mouth was turned down in a determined frown.

Here we go, Red thought tiredly, psyching himself up to deal with more shit from his most problematic patron. After a full eight-hour shift of frazzled, panicked undergrads and distracted, neurotic faculty (not to mention Comparative Religions with Professor Kaminski, who asked everyone to call her Julia, and had a habit of reading large chunks of source material in her lovely, French-Polish lilt) before that, Red wasn’t about to have any of Gérard-Moore’s guff. Not when the workday was exactly seventeen minutes away from being over.

“You can help me by telling me why, exactly, I received an email from your library, informing me that you can’t get your hands on a copy of the first volume of Crusades?” the professor ground out, his eyes flashing and narrowed, the nostrils of his patrician nose flaring. His shoulders were squared and stiff in his expensive tweed sports jacket, with its fawn-colored patches at the elbows. It was worn over a tan, V-neck sweater and distressed skinny-jeans so tight, Red could almost read the man’s religion. The look was completed by plaid Doc Martens that laced to halfway up Gérard-Moore’s shapely calf.

Gérard-Moore certainly had his own style, that was for sure. One that not only marked him as younger than most of his colleagues, but more in-touch with the cultural mores of his students.

Not to mention that he always looked pulled-together and meticulous . . . gorgeous, really. . . .


At the impatient demand, Red realized he’d been wool-gathering while staring at Professor Gérard-Moore’s muscular, denim-showcased thighs for far longer than was polite or wise.

Dragging his wayward gaze decidedly up and clearing his throat, Red met the angry professor’s eyes and cranked up that blandly forbidding, professional smile the man had helped him perfect. “I apologize, Professor Gérard-Moore, but if you’ve received such an email, then that means that this library was unable to acquire a copy of Crusades from a cooperating university. And, as you may know, outside of OU, the only other university that might have, let alone be willing to lend out a copy of such a rare and expensive volume, is probably on the other side of the Pond. Oxford or Cambridge.”

Which prompted more narrowing, bristling, and now . . . sneering. “Yes, I know that across the Pond is the only other place to get it, but what I want to know is why OU isn’t ponying up one of its copies? I know they have two!” Gérard-Moore said through gritted teeth, bobbing up on his toes briefly, as if attempting to meet Red eye-to-eye. The young librarian-in-training fought not to roll his eyes.

“I put the request in, myself, as you know, Professor. I also handled the response. OU didn’t specify why they chose to deny the request, only stated that all its copies of that particular book were for reference only, and not being lent out to patrons or other institutions for the foreseeable future,” Red said neutrally, keeping his face expression-free, for the moment, though his eyes were, he knew, as icy and hard as frozen cement.

On any other day, during any other shift, that would’ve been enough to warn Gérard-Moore—if not actually cow him into stopping—that he was pushing Red’s buttons.

Perhaps, this evening, Gérard-Moore was so angry, he was beyond caring what buttons he did or did not push, and to whom they belonged.

Indeed, the man seemed to be working up a fine head of steam, his face scrunched like an unruly toddler’s under his fashionably messy, dark curls. His hands—for once, empty of briefcase and papers—were bunched into petulant fists. He opened his pouty-plush mouth to let fly with something that was probably going to be insulting, annoying, entitled, or all three, but Red, with a flash of grim prescience, was ready with the very line that’d worked last time, and the times before that.

“Please try to maintain a moderate tone, professor, as this is a library, and the patrons come here to work without being disturbed,” he said in a voice that was more clipped and growling than he’d intended—a sure sign of his fatigue, this close to year’s end.

Saignant le Christ sur son trône!! I am a patron! Merde!” Gérard-Moore declared, both loftily and loudly, drawing himself up to his slightly-more-than-middling height of five-eleven . . . as well as the attention of everyone in the immediate and not-so-immediate vicinity. Red sighed again at the irritated looks that then settled on him. “And I would love to be able to work, too, but due to the incompetence of this department—though I shan’t name names—I’m unable to complete an important part of my research!”

“Professor Gérard-Moore—” Red began slowly, in a strained murmur, but Gérard-Moore cut him off with a curt, halting gesture.

“And if you’re about to ask if I’d like to discuss this in private, I do believe I shall take you up on that, at last. To spare your precious patrons my wrath—though I’ve no doubt they’ll be able to hear it no matter what cubicle or corner we move this to!” Gérard-Moore crossed his arms, and looked both triumphant and bloody-minded, as if he was calling Red’s bluff.

And Red did, in fact, falter for a moment. But only a moment, before his resolve and countenance hardened, and he crooked a thoroughly unpleasant half-smile at the professor, then swept his arm out, indicating that the man should proceed him toward the checkout counter and the offices behind them.

Looking somewhat startled and a bit wary, Gérard-Moore lifted his chin haughtily, spun on his heels, and swanned off through the stacks, Red striding resolutely after him.


Once Red shut the door to the head librarian’s office—Dr. Redferne was away at a convention, and her assistant, Freda, had already gone home for the evening, citing flu-like symptoms—he turned to face Professor Gérard-Moore, wearing an expression best described as: You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Gérard-Moore, however, was facing Redferne’s desk, bracing himself on the front-edge of said desk, with arms that shook and hands that clenched nervously. His head was hanging slightly, his shoulders and back tense.

Sighing, yet again, Red stuffed his nascent anger down and made one last attempt to resolve this without further escalation. “If you like, I can make a request to Cambridge for the book but, as you may know, they’re far less accommodating about sharing their property with other universities . . . let alone universities in other nations.”

“Yesss,” Gérard-Moore hissed in a strange, tight voice. “I know that. Cambridge is my alma mater, after all.”

Freda owes me lunch, Red thought, without surprise or much satisfaction. “Well, that explains the. . . .” he muttered without thinking, then caught himself before he added: high-handed attitude and rude behavior “. . . accent.”

“Yes, I’m certain it does.” Gérard-Moore’s voice was still tight and terse, but otherwise unreadable. Red idly wondered if the other man was considering swinging on him. If so, it’d be the last, bad life-choice he’d ever regret. “My family helped build that damn school, as well as keep it afloat throughout the centuries. Does that surprise you?”

Red shrugged. Then answered, since Gérard-Moore couldn’t see the shrug. “Dunno. Should it?”

Gérard-Moore chuckled ruefully. “My . . . so stoic, you Scandinavians are—I presume that’s what your ancestry is, based on your ridiculous size and frightening demeanor.”

Frowning, now, Red leaned back against the closed door to the office and crossed his arms. “On my mother’s side, yes. More than anything else. In part, for my father’s ancestry, too, if you go back far enough. Like so many of Scottish descent, he probably had as much Scandinavian blood as he did Gael. But my family on both sides emigrated generations ago. I’m American by birth and a Californian by choice—no more Scottish or Scandinavian than that desk-lamp you’re about to knock over.”

Gérard-Moore chuckled again, less ruefully and slightly amused, then moved his left hand away from said lamp with a sigh. “I suppose the many centuries-old contentions between our respective, er, cultures, might go a long way toward explaining why you despise me.”

“You mean the ancient and nonexistent blood-enmity between the Vikings and the Gauls?” Red snorted, but was nonetheless startled by Gérard-Moore’s assumption, and shook his head. “I don’t despise you, Professor.”

“Pull the other one, and see what tune it plays!” Gérard-Moore outright laughed, now. Red, however, was back to frowning. Scowling, actually, and never mind that Gérard-Moore couldn’t see it.

“Are you suggesting that I’m a liar?”

“I’m suggesting that the only reason you haven’t put my teeth down my throat is that you value your job more than you value the satisfaction of knocking me down a peg,” Gérard-Moore said matter-of-factly, and without anger. Red was the one who laughed, now.

“Well, I won’t deny that. But that doesn’t mean I despise you. And even if I did, I wouldn’t lie to you about it. It’s not like you’d care, either way.” This time, Red was the one who sounded rueful, which both startled and dismayed him. “I’m . . . just an intern who’ll be long-gone, by this time, next year.”

For a minute, Gérard-Moore was silent, the atmosphere between them inexplicably charged. Then he straightened up and turned around to face Red. His face was still flushed, but no longer upset.

“This might surprise you very much to know, Andrew MacCool,” Gérard-Moore said softly, contemplatively, closing the distance between them with uncertainty and hesitation, but no aggression. Red tensed up, anyway, a fact which did not go unnoticed by the professor, who smiled again, bland and bitter. “It might surprise you to know that, despite my lapses into temper and tantrum, I do care what you think.”

Red—who was still getting over the shock of Gérard-Moore not only knowing his actual name (instead of just the lifelong nickname that was even on his nametag), but also saying it, and so easily, as if he’d practiced in the mirror, or something—shook his head again, more in confusion than in denial or negation.

“Why?” he asked, the purported reason for their private confab forgotten in his shock. “I’m no one who matters. At least not to you.”

Gérard-Moore’s smile turned sad. “If that’s what you think—if that’s what I’ve given you cause to think—then I must apologize for my past behavior . . . including that of a few minutes ago. I was . . . upset regarding an . . . unrelated personal matter. Finding out I wouldn’t be able to complete my research as easily as I’d hoped was the final straw, as it were. I lost control of my temper. There’s no excuse for that. None, at all. But that’s the reason behind it. Please accept my sincere apology for causing a scene. And for making what must be a difficult and exhausting job even more so.”

That said, Gérard-Moore held out his elegant, manicured hand for shaking.

It was another minute—possibly close to two—before Red could gather his wits enough to respond despite the continuing shock. He took a step closer, and another, as if to take the proffered hand, holding Gérard-Moore’s intent, steady gaze with his own.

“I—” he began, then fell silent, his left hand frozen a goodly distance away from Gérard-Moore’s right. For several eternal moments, he didn’t know what to say . . . then, as if having an out-of-body experience, he heard himself speaking in a voice that was lower and rougher than his usual well-modulated tenor. “I’ve been waiting nine months for this, you ass,” he growled, taking Gérard-Moore’s hand and yanking the other man to him. With a startled yelp, the professor stumbled forward, losing his balance, only to be caught by Red, hauled even closer, and kissed firmly on the mouth.

The kiss only lasted for a few intense seconds before it ended, and they were simply standing close to each other, swaying forward, eyes still closed as if reliving the brief contact.

Then Red squinted his eyes open a bit . . . then wider, still, when he saw Gérard-Moore was doing the same. Their gazes met, naked and knowing, a moment before they both jumped back as if surprised by their own lack of surprise. Red hit the door and Gérard-Moore hit Redferne’s fanatically neat desk, his eyes wide and wondering, one hand flown up to his mouth, the other bracing him on the desk, once more.

“You—” Gérard-Moore let out a giddy, near-hysterical little giggle. “You’ve been waiting nine months for me to stop . . . occasionally being an obnoxious twat, so you could do that? Kiss me?”

Red turned scarlet under his pale complexion, then scowled. “I . . . I’ve been waiting nine months for you to pull your head out of your ass, so I could kiss you, yes. I don’t make a habit of rewarding spoiled, sanctimonious, obnoxious twat-behavior with kisses, y’know.”

Gérard-Moore looked stunned for a moment, then grinned. Then laughed, low and rolling and rich.

“Oh, Andrew . . . you are a bundle of surprises and contradictions, aren’t you?”

Huffing, Red crossed his arms again. “I was beginning to think I’d be waiting forever, too.”

“I . . . apologize, then. Forgive me for taking so long to get here,” Gérard-Moore said, suddenly solemn and sincere, pushing himself away from the desk, but not closing the distance between them. So, Red did that, himself, until he was looming over the other man again. This time, intimidation was the last thing on his poleaxed mind.

“If you don’t mind, Professor Gérard-Moore, I’d like it very much if we could . . . start over,” he murmured, matching Gérard-Moore’s solemnity and sincerity as he stared down into those dark, sparkling eyes. The shine of them was rivaled only by the bright smile not far below.

“It’s Damien, actually,” Gérard-Moore said warmly, holding out his hand again and letting his eyebrows quirk in question. “And you are. . . ?”

“Andrew MacCool. But everyone just calls me Red.” After a slight hesitation, Red, took the hand on offer, shaking it firmly, but gently, never breaking gazes with Gérard-Moore.

With Damien.

Very pleased to finally make your acquaintance, Red.” Damien’s smile widened and brightened, impossibly, and Red felt a pang in his chest and his gut—not to mention a tingle and tug in his groin—that was nothing, so much as a herald of his complete loss of chill.

“And I, yours, Damien,” he exhaled, letting go of the other man’s hand and trying on a smile of his own. “Uh . . . I don’t suppose that—after my shift is over in about ten minutes—you’d like to . . . grab a coffee in the cafeteria?”

Damien chuckled, licking his pouty lips. “Change that coffee to wine, and cafeteria to a quaint little after-hours bistro I frequent, and . . . I’d love to.”

Red rolled his eyes, but grinned. “Why am I not surprised you didn’t change them to pub and beer?”

“Pub and beer? Oh, I think not, Andrew! My maman is French—the quintessential, dyed-in-the-wool Parisienne. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to . . . taking after her in certain of my quirks and tastes. Especially when it comes to addictive indulgences,” Damien agreed self-deprecatingly, stepping in a bit closer to Red, who also followed suit, until they were sharing air and body-heat. “Hmm, it’s such a shame, then, that I’ve become no more than a common ex-pat, these days. From both the countries I once called home.”

Red’s brows shot up. “You’ll pardon me for saying, Damien, but there’s nothing at all common about you.”

Blushing, the professor bounced up on his toes and searched Red’s eyes—his own were flickering with melancholy and uncertainty, hesitation and hope—before wrapping his free arm around Red’s neck and hauling him down so that they were once more within kissing-distance of each other.

“Well. I won’t deny that. My past—both personal and professional—is . . . rather checkered,” Damien whispered tightly, as if it pained him to say even that much about himself. Something that was borne-out by his next words. “I . . . don’t talk about it much, if I can help it. And I usually can.”

Red smiled a little, taking the admission-warning for what it was. “I’m intensely interested in you, Damien, but not because of what may be in your past. Nor am I interested in spite of it. Your past is exactly that. Past. If you ever want to talk about it, I’ll listen with an open mind. But I won’t pry or badger you for some sort of tell-all confession.”

His dramatic, dark eyes flickering, Damien looked down for a moment, frowning. “That’s . . . appreciated,” he said, sounding somewhat frustrated, though not with Red, it was clear. When he looked up again, his eyes were glittering and candid, and he bounced up a bit higher on his toes even as Red leaned down. “But, in all fairness, even now, my life is little more than a series of past tragedies and recent complications that no sane man would want to . . . take on.”

Crooking a wry grin, Red snorted. “No one’s yet accused me of being remotely sane, Damien.”

That was good for a small smile from the embattled professor. “It’s such a long, bloody pathetic story, Andrew. You at least deserve some idea of what you might be getting into, as it were,” he murmured heavily, wearily, as their noses brushed and just before their lips touched. “Perhaps I’ll . . . tell you a little of it while you make me breakfast in the morning. . . .”

“You’re assuming quite a lot,” Red huffed out breathlessly, when the kiss ended with them forehead-to-forehead: Damien was still on his toes and Red was still bent down and getting a crick in his neck.

“Oh, am I?”

“Yes. That I can cook, for instance.”

Damien chuckled in relief after a moment of surprise, and settled back on his feet, searching Red’s eyes. “You are a delight,” he decided with a hoarse sort of intensity that made Red flush all over, even as he wondered how in the Hell they’d gone from near-fisticuffs over a rare book, to making out in Redferne’s unbearably tidy office.

“I am sorry about Crusades, though,” he felt the need to say, but only because he genuinely was. Damien shrugged, his smile turning to a grimace for a few seconds.

“It’s of no moment. I have a . . . contact at Cambridge, still, who may be able to get a copy to me for a brief time. I’d rather not have to cash in my chips with her, as it were, but desperate times, et cetera, et cetera.” He shrugged again, the grimace melting back into a smile that was both ironic and hapless. “But enough about that, for now! Tell me what sort of wines you favor, and I’ll bet you that we can figure out something to suit your taste within the hour.”

Red bit his lip and blushed. “I don’t really know much about wine. I don’t drink very often. . . .”

“Oh, Andrew,” Damien sighed wistfully. “Sweet, innocent Andrew . . . I’m going to have such fun rubbing off on you . . . in every conceivable sense of the phrase!”

Smirking, and pulling Damien close, once more, Red bussed the other man’s forehead lightly, even as he squeezed Damien’s trim waist with gentle fondness. Then he reached up to catch the arms that were still wound around his neck. He grasped Damien’s wrists in a hold that was tight and possessive, restraining and unbreakable.

Then, still holding the other man’s wrists, he finally wrapped his arms back around Damien’s waist, effectively pinning those wrists behind his back. The professor drew in a startled breath, his eyes widening as he searched Red’s again. He struggled against the hold, tentatively at first, then a bit more seriously. But he gave up when it became obvious that Red wasn’t exerting even a little of his strength to maintain the hold.

Andrew. . . .” Damien began, half-whimper, half-wanton moan, his eyelids fluttering, and shuttering dilated pupils.

“Not so sweet or innocent,” Red admitted, with a last squeeze of Damien’s wrists before, releasing them. The other man—flushed and wide-eyed, once more—nodded, his breath shuddering out of him rather loudly. Smirking again, Red lead Damien to the door, his mind half-on the library’s clean-up/lock-up routine, and half-on whether his Spartan apartment was even fit for company. Which further led to him wondering whether he even had the staples to make said company a hearty breakfast in the morning.

Because Damien was certainly going to need it.

Then Red decided that even if he didn’t have breakfast supplies, the diner up the street did. And they delivered.

“Oh, and the feeling’s entirely mutual,” he added belatedly, as they stepped into the narrow, truncated corridor that lead to the checkout area. “I’m going to wear you out, Professor. And you’re going to love it.”

“I expect I will. And . . . I look forward to it, Andrew.” Damien’s voice shook with both apprehension and hunger.

Smiling, Red locked Redferne’s office behind them and slipped his arm around Damien’s waist, squeezing him close for a moment, before propriety and awareness of university regulations regarding fraternization forced them apart briefly. But not very far.

Nor very convincingly.

Nor for very long.

Nor—as time and circumstance proved throughout years that were sometimes smooth, sometimes rocky, and usually a mix of both—very often.


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