The Office

The Elevator

She finds courage and her boss the wrong answer.
Sunday comes with heavy snowfall, the light more grey, gloomy and it fits my general emotions. He said the things I always knew he would say but they still punch me in the gut every time I replay them in my head. My thoughts are like a broken record and supply my mind with it often enough. I try to think that this is good, that me going through the moments again will give me strength to move on, but deep down I know they don't. Even more so because the small part of me that wants to stick to my decision I already made up even before my boss announced he couldn't be with me apart from having sex is fighting a losing battle.

I always thought if I ever encounter this situation I would go on, would say no. But I can't because I am too afraid to lose. To lose him really because I am aware that I lost myself long ago. It feels right to stay. It feels right to keep that small part of him because even now after he is long gone I feel his presence in every cell of my being, feel the hot yearning for him. I curse myself, snort in an unladylike and self-ironic way, brush away the tear that isn't the first and isn't the last rolling down my already red cheeks. What has he done to me? What did I do to myself? I have no answers for these questions and at the moment I am too absorbed in feeling lost to really search.

My smartphone beeps up and I can't suppress the hopeful flutter of my heart that maybe he changes his mind even though my brain is far to educated and intelligent to fall for the wishes my emotions install in me. It's a message from Peter telling me he will be over in just a few minutes. I look at the clock on my phone and frown. I forgot him and our date. Again.

I hurry to my bathroom and brush my hair and teeth. I don't want to look in the mirror but can't stop my eyes from taking in my face. It's drawn like it never was before, not even after the painful break-up with Tobias when I finally realized that my dreams didn't grow up with me and the man I pictured a future with and I grew apart in a similiar fashion. My eyes are puffy and I turn on the faucet, the cold water collecting in my palms letting goosebumps appear on my bare arms. I lean down and let the liquid sooth my eyes and hate myself for even crying for the man that shouldn't deserve tears or my love for that matter. But I guess the stupid, cliche saying: the heart wants what the heart wants is true after all and I have to accept that one of my organs is a traitor.

When I pull on some snug black jeans and a dark-blue sweater I hear a knock on my door and curse under my breath. I hurry over, schooling my features into a soft smile and pinch my cheeks to let them appear rosy and not blotchy. Maybe I can trick my best male friend into believing I watched a sad movie. He knows from many weekends spend at my flat that I have a soft heart for the flicks and he often enough teased me about my bipolar personality – being hardass when it comes to dealing with Dauntless, but a big softy for romances. I wish I could be a hardass about my own romance or a lack thereof. I open the door and curtsy, making Peter snort.

"Welcome to my humble loft, Mr. Peter." I say, changing my voice into a nasal tone and can't suppress the light feeling it gives me to be silly and not pulled down by too many thoughts.

"You look like your cat died." He just comments and falls down onto my sofa after I recieved a tight hug and a kiss to my forehead in greeting. I see his eyes flicker to the castle of used tissues I built to distract my mind before he focuses his gaze on me.

"I am not even allowed to have a cat and you know it." I answer him, playful pout on my lips and walk over to my dresser to search for some socks and avoid his inquiring eyes. I am aware that he knows me far too well to not realize on some level that I am out of character but I hope he reasons with himself and comes up with anything else than my heart being torn right infront of him.

"And god bless your landlord for that. The poor thing would probably die because you forget to give it enough food." He drawls and I snort.

"As if." I just mumble and roll my eyes, throwing a lone sock from the bottom of my dresser in his general direction. He doesn't have to point out that Chris' dog nearly died because I forgot to put the chocolate away and the stupid but most adorable pup eat half of it before I caught him. A rush to the vet, tears and Peter's sarcastic remarks later Elvis was alright again and he made me swear that I will never get an animal myself. I cringe inwardly at the memory, Chris' face pulled into a mixture of amusement and horror when we told her about it and Will wouldn't speak to me for a few days. My best girlfriend pointed out that no dependent living being should be in my vicinty alone and I wonder for a moment if I as the godmother of Peter's future son will be allowed to take the baby with me for a few hours. My best friend pulls me out of my musings, the sock I just threw laying at my feet now.

"If you have to throw something at me, use your skimpy thongs you bought with Alice the one weekend." Peter complains and I can picture his arrogant smirk on his face without even looking at him. It feels good to have something predictable and reliable at the moment when I can't even rely on my own heart. And the light banter is always something I can count on to make my mood better.

"What would Alice think if I told her, her husband wants the secretary to throw her underwear at him?" I playfull think out loud, tapping a pointer finger against my bottom lip. I see Peter shrug one of his shoulders when I look at him over my shoulder.

"She would say: Wrap it. We can't afford to feed two children." I laugh out loud and maybe it wasn't the worst idea to open the door. Besides the guilt I feel for abandoning him already too often I realize that I as well missed him dearly.

"Hm... but maybe she wouldn't mind too much when I tell her that Eric send a message that he will enter new wage negotiations next year." Or maybe it was the worst idea. My shoulders tense up and I turn around slowly. Peter looks at my face, frown on his features and stands up. His long legs carry him over to me faster than I can react and his hands capture my face. I feel my eyes prickle with tears and the bold sign of a trembling lip accompanying it. I rub my hands against my face after I push his softly away and even though there aren't tears yet I feel a blush out of frustration, anger and embarrassement clouding my cheeks. I don't want to cry anymore and I don't want to be weak but feel that I can't win the fight at the moment.

"What happend, love?" He asks, his voice soft. Before I can answer him he pulls me over to the couch and into his lap, his arms holding me against him. I can't suppress the sob leaving my mouth and hate myself for the weakness I not only feel but display. Shaking my head, taking a shuddering breath I try to tell myself that I have to stop making myself depressed. Peter bumps his shoulder gently against mine and I look up.

"You know you can tell me everything. I won't even chew you out if you tell me you killed Elvis at last." He murmurs jokingly, warm glint in his eyes and a shaky smile pulls at my mouth.

"Elvis isn't dead." I answer him, voice low and a bit raspy from suppressed tears and I try to grasp the feeling of lightheartedness to evaporate the burning hurt in my chest. I lean my head against his shoulder, chewing at my cheek.

"That's what they said." He says, hand drawing circles at my back. The smile isn't as painful anymore and I feel a bit better, a bit more like myself. I look up to thank my best friend but the inquiring glint in his orbs makes me aware that I am not off the hook and he hasn't forgotten that I was on the verge of tears a few seconds ago. I bite my lip and try to square my shoulders.

"It's..." But the words don't leave my mouth. I feel like a hand closes around my throat, fingers digging into my skin and I have to close my eyes for a moment. He stays silent and I know that I can't avoid the scruntinity with which he takes in everything his probably quite active brain was able to digest since he entered my loft.

"By the look of it you don't have a terminal desease and I guess the skimpy underwear is unavailable to throw at me because you got yourself a man. The tears mean it's Eric and you messed up." Peter says, his voice with an edge I haven't heard for a few months. It sets me on edge and I pull away from him, stand up and start to walk off some of the nervous and painful energy I feel.

"We didn't mess up. We came to the conclusion that a relationship wouldn't work." I hate myself for lying about it but I don't want to be the reason why Peter stops respecting our boss. It isn't Eric's fault and not mine as well that we couldn't stop it – whatever it was, sex, intercourse, coitus, fucking – before it begun.

"If it was a mutual decision then why are you crying. I think he fucked you and was done with it." Peter drawls and I feel anger raising in me. It's silly and stupid to feel protective over a man who isn't able to commit to a relationship, maybe isn't able to love me or anyone, but I am the way I am and I feel strong for it. Before I can say something to our boss' defence, the lawyer speaks up again. Some part of me is amused that he uses his gift to interrogate me.

"I think he overstepped the line, used his position to get in your pants and you – the lovesick girl you are – didn't say stop. You thought your naive dreams would finally come true and your boss in shining armor would finally love you back." Out of the corner of my eyes I see his mouth is pulled into a smile – a smile cold and unyielding. It sheer existence on the face of someone I hold dear to my heart lets me bristle with anger; anger that overpowers my sad thoughts for a moment.

"Fuck you, Hayes." I gritt out through clenched teeth and I see his knowing, arrogant smile turn into a smirk.

"Believe me, I had my fair share of activities in the last weeks – thank god for the pregnancy hormones." He exaggeratedly sighs and just like that my anger is gone and a smile pulls at my mouth only to fall at the realisation that Peter's conclusions were right. He seems to be aware of the changing atmosphere as well, his face serious again, hands clasped infront of him, elbows leaning on his knees.

"Will you tell me what transpired between the two of you?" Peter asks softly. At first I want to make a stupid remark, tell him I won't feed his twisted fantasies with detailed explanations of what exactly our boss could do to me with just one of his hands. But then I realise I am too involved still to joke about anything about it. Other insecurities make themselve slowly at home in my confused and emotional brain.

What is there really to know about my boss and me, about our encounter? I gambled with my heart and lost it in a dangerous move. I thought my hand was good, thought I had it all figured out and that the consequences be damned for the moments I have with my boss. But maybe I watched too many flicks, read too much junk where the heroine always gets what she wants. Real life isn't like that and I hate my naivity for even believing for a moment that I could be one of these woman. And seriously I don't want to be one of them. In literature there are women that make a difference but in the end it all comes down to love and her getting the man she wants. Whereever you look, after the great deed is done, the big sacrifice or whatever the heroine gets her perfect man. I try to tell myself that this is boring, that the motives of women aren't all coming down to getting Mr. Right but know that with me finding mine – edged and difficult, demons of his own, past and future mostly uncertain – a part of me wishes to have the rosy-colored end as well.

I hate that I act like the damnsel in distress, like not having him will change everything about me, about my goals and the things I wanted and want to achieve in my life. I hate that I am just like all the other women – even though I know that perception is twisted – who look for the best man to stay with till the end of her days or some rubbish. A small voice whispers that it isn't rubbish though because waking up to his snores when we both are grey and wrinkled, hearing him swear about the news of the stock market or smelling him after his morning runs sound like the most perfect things in the world. And who am I to deny that these things don't make me weak but strong? Who am I to judge my own needs – maybe twisted because of the industry, maybe twisted because of too many romance novels – and declare myself emotionally cold? It wouldn't fit my character and slowly I start to believe that I am not weak for feeling this way, for being able to love. Maybe my feelings for a person like my boss aren't right, make everything between us, my future and my job difficult, but I wouldn't change them for the world. And there is the conclusion and maybe talking about it with someone as clinical but emotional as me will help me. I smile a second, eyes looking to Peter.

I bite my lip and nod, shoulders slumping forward. I hear him take a deep breath before he sighs and though I know it is in worry I also fear for our friendship, that his high regards for me as a person will change when I tell him what exactly happened. Hell, my own view on myself changed drastically. But maybe I am not fair with myself and in advance with Peter. In a situation like this, the whirlwind of events still fresh, my own emotions still raw, I shouldn't judge – neither me nor him or our friendship.

I start to talk eventually, tell him about small details but mostly about yesterday evening. He listens without asking anything in between and there is no emotions entering his warm eyes besides compassion to some degree and interest. The lawyer's and my interaction is easy but not, mostly twisted and filled with endearing teasing, sometimes crude insults. But in this moment when it really counts I know I can count on him and his steady breathing and silent awareness give me the strength to talk. When I am finished, sitting cross-legged beside him, I take a deep breath and though I still feel the pain in my chest, I also feel a bit more like myself as well.

"You know what, we will stay in your loft for the evening." Peter suddenly says, eyes fixed in the general direction of my door. I frown slightly.

"Ok?" I answer him, my voice sounding more like a question than an agreement and am a bit taken aback when he stands up and takes his jacket.

"Where are you going?" He smirks, playful serious expression on his face, his features turning into a stern mask.

"Start to cook woman and I get us a movie." With that he leaves my loft and I stare dumbfounded at the spot he just vacated.

Peter comes back a while later when the steaks are well done, the potatoes boiled, the vegetables just right and the full-of-calouries-but-just-right biscuites for the movie placed on my now tidy coffee table to eat while we watch whatever movie he choose. We play 20-Questions, challenging each other with stupid random facts noone needs in real life about the funniest things like the Guiness World Records or the Olympics throughout the years while we eat the simple meal I put together. A upbeat tune plays from the radio and my now again bare feet tap in time with the music.

Like some practiced dancers we avoid all mentions of work and our boss for the remaining time because we both are aware that we would fall and miss the podium with gold medals hung on our necks if we as much as utter the wrong word. Peter inquires about Four though and I uncomfortably tell him that things don't seem to change for him. He snorts and not for the first time tells me to just give him a go to talk to the bodyguard. I just shake my head smiling softly at that because I know what a talk would entail for Tobias. And though I don't love him anymore I really like him still – not that he knows about it because it could just ignite a flame of hope that would be missplaced greatly.

Full stomachs and with a bottle of wine gone, Peter orders me to go change into something comfortable, throwing one of his pullovers and thick socks after me when I enter my bathroom. Looking into the mirror I see that my eyes still puffy aren't filled with so much pain anymore and the tired lines between my brows, around my eyes are vanishing slowly as well. 'A hurry up, princess' makes me chuckle softly and exit the bathroom, picking up the clothes and throwing them on on my way to the couch where he already sits. My heart flutters in thankfullness but instead of letting Peter know I just stick my tongue out at him because I know too much emtions aren't good for his sanity and he already has to deal with Alice' the whole time.

"Beauty needs its time." I just answer him and sink deep into the fluffy but worn pillows of my couch.

"Then we won't watch the movie for the whole night?" He asks and I throw a pillow at his chuckling face. Feigning hurt I pout when he winks at me and gives back the pillow. He pulls my feet into his lap and starts to rub the soles of them just right.

"Asshole." I mutter and sigh afterwards, pressing the play button on my remote.

"You know you love me." He answers and I smile slightly.

"That I do."

After that we stay silent, munching on the biscuits, licking the too sweet cream from our fingers. Peter bought us a really bad, really cliche action movie and I often roll my eyes or share a laugh with him over the stupid stunts and unbelievable moves, scoffing at the even worse dialogues between the badass hero with a of course dubious past and his sidekicks. Peter continues to messages my feet softly and without me or him noticing I start to relax, start to feel light again, my cheeks flushed not from crying but from being myself more and more. When the credits start to roll I sigh in relief that the aweful movie is finally over and want to remark as much but when I look at my best friends, his eyes are fixed on the television screen, white words against black background.

"Tris, I know you love him and I won't say forget about him, because you won't. You are far too stubborn for that." He suddenly says and I bait my breath before I can huff in annoyance at the small insult. And I have to stop myself from glancing at him because I know my eyes would tell him to not go there when I just started to forget. A small part inside of me knows that I have to hear im out so I stay silent and let him speak.

"That aside, I want you to know that there are people – I won't exclude myself from them and if you tell anyone I probably have to kill you – that love you dearly and can't live without you in their life anymore." Peter's voice is strangly heavy but light, his tone soft but strong. I bite my lip, joy and overwhelming love for him and the others overcoming me. But I can't articulate my gratefulness because he isn't finished yet.

"And as a friend that loves you, as nearly a brother I have become for you, please don't do anything reckless, don't sell yourself under your worth and don't..." he sighs, nearly suffering "don't take him up on his offer. You deserve much more and you are far too strong and wonderful to accept anything else then full commitment and a man who bows to your every wish." Suddenly his piercing eyes meet mine. My tears are forgotten and I pull my feet out of his lap, my knees up against my chest, hugging them to me. I can't meet my best friends eyes for a moment, too caught up in his words.

Peter apart from loving me to bits just like I love him is always painfully honest with the persons around him – maybe because his job pressures him into it or because he just hates liars with a vengance. And I am highly aware that he wants to protect me with his speech, wants me to realize that I am worth more than what Eric is willing to give me. But can I let this one possibility to be with the man I want go?

I look to Peter then. His eyes are hard, his mouth set into a thin line. He is completely aware of the raging battle inside of me. I watch his hands, now empty clench and unclench and suddenly I am aware that he is unsure and very worried. And that above else, he is right.

"Ok." I mumble against my knees and he lets out a breath I am sure he wasn't aware he held. He nods once and pushes himself up from my sofa. Grabbing one hand, he pulls me with him and I am slightly confused when he pushes me on my bed.

"What are you doing, jerk?" I more yell than ask him and he smirks.

"Well, tugging you in like a big brother should. You need your sleep to be fresh and not a bitch tomorrow." Before I can answer his insult, he makes a show of drapping my warm sheets over my body and presses a kiss to my forehead. I smile and am asleep, not hearing the door of my loft closing softly behind the best friend I could wish for.

Even though the day with Peter and the good cry I had before he entered my flat pushed away much of the hurt and sadness I felt right after the words left Eric's mouth and he made sure my dreams would stay just that going back to work on Monday was really hard.

I stood infront of my mirror a bit longer then I really needed to, dragged out the process of coming up with a representable outfit, drove slow with my bike telling myself that the streets are far too icy to risk slipping and took even longer to approach the huge building of glass and concrete, a skyscraper holding not only the company I worked for the last years but also the one man who I believed to be my future but never thought would see me. See me he did, I think ironically when I make my way through the entrance hall, my sensual heels clicking on the marble floor and wait for the elevator to take me upstairs.

I look up into the mirror after I press the button for the floor my desk is on and take some time to more closly inspect myself. The figure feminine but slim, toned legs, a simple face that is ruled by blue-grey eyes, a straight nose and cheeks rosy from the cold wind. I am not a vain person but at the moment I endulge myself with some compliments because even though I not often see it myself I am pretty in my own way. The many drinks some men offer me when Chris takes me out are just a proof for that and Peter's words reverberate in my mind. I nod once and square my shoulders. He can't love but it won't destroy me. The thought brings a small smile to my face.

I know Eric would understand if I call in sick today, would understand if I would need a few days for myself and standing up this morning when my alarm sounded I contemplated just that. But only for a minute. If anything, I am professional. At least mostly. This is my job, I tell myself when I leave the elevator and enter the office. Though everything will be uncomfortable, maybe even depressing to some degree I will overcome it. I may be a female, romantic to some degree, in love with her boss even more so now after our shared time away from work and resigning myself to stay the way I am – openminded and emotional – but I won't let all of this come in my way to be professional.

I am still his secretary and though to some degree I feel used, I won't hold it against him. I won't burden myself with more negative feelings then there need to be and I won't take him up on his offer. Not now, not ever. I am not naive enough to tell myself I won't encounter weak moments, but I believe myself strong enough to avoid them.

After I brew my boss' coffee, I set to work. I need to plan the Christmas party of Dauntless and there are some last minutes documents that need to be overseen. The business isn't as busy as it would be in other industries because I myself make sure that everything is done directly and on time. I hate when something isn't done immidiately as it should be and I don't like pressure when there isn't a need for it. Before I know it I am emerged in documents Edward send before his meeting with Eric will take place later on.

"Good morning, Tris." A voice pulls my eyes away from my monitor and I smile slightly.

"Good morning, Eric." He watches me for a moment, frown present on his otherwise unmoved face. After a few seconds he seems to come to a decision and vanishes behind his office door. My smile stays, even though my heart beats painfully and my eyes prickle lightly. It will be hard, I know, but it will be bearable. This thought in mind I continue my work and forget about the man who can't love me.

The rest of the week continues on and not me nor him try to talk about anything other then work. And I am grateful for that. I hope Eric senses my decision that I won't take him up on his offer and that everything about our few days will remain a topic untouched. I decided that though I will need a lot of time that I don't want to forget about these moments we shared. The end was painful, that Saturday evening in his car when he let me see more of him but less at the same time but considering the bliss I experienced when we were together, the softness and gentleness, the passion and I believe even affection to some degree it would be a shame to bring myself to forget about it. But I won't dwell on it either.

Focussing back on the list infront of me, checking a last time that I have the order for the decoration just right, I pull up my E-Mail programm and send it off. Opening another document I search for the number of the catering service we have worked with for the last five months. Before I can enter the number in my telephone though it rings and I sigh slightly.

"Dauntless Head of Company, Eric Coulter's office, Tris Prior speaking." I answer it and pull up a document if I have to take notes.

"It's me, princess. What are you still doing in the office?" Peter says, voice indicating that he frowns and the distant sound of a television coming over the line.

"What do you mean 'still in the office'? It's only half past six." I tell him, a frown appearing on my face as well and starting to search for the mailexchange I wanted to check for the dates we send Amity International just yesterday.

"I know, but didn't you hear the news lately?" He ask and there is something clouding his voice I can't quite understand.

"Hm.. no, I was pretty busy organising the Christmas party and with the contracts for Amity. Oh, and the party will be grand, just so you know. I have..." Peter cuts me off before I can tell him a few finer details to lighten his mood.

"Tris, there is a blizzard outside and the weather stations warned to be prepared for a horrible night." He says and I bite my lip, now realising that his voice is clouded with concern.

"Oh..." I say and throw a glance over to the window, the sky dark and wind pressing against the thick glass I haven't noticed before.

"Yeah, oh. Get ready, I will come pick you up." He says and I am brought out of my silence.

"No, that isn't necessary. Stay with Alice. If the blizzard will be as bad as you say I want you to be there for her if something happens." I say vehemently and start to stand up and tidying my desk. Peter is silent for a moment, probably contemplating my argument. When he sighs I know I win.

"Fine. But..." I roll my eyes and bite my lip.

"I want you to take a cab to our place. It is by far closer to Dauntless and I don't want you to stay alone this night. If you aren't here in an hour I will come get you." I think about denying with a funny remark but decide against it.

"Ok, I will." I tell him softly and look again out of the window, the wind mixed with white snowflakes and ice now.

"Thank you, babe. And... see you later." He says and hungs up. I pull my hair up in a ponytail and bite my lip softly. Peter really seemed worried and I know he isn't one to exaggerate things like this. I check the weather report for Chicago for a short moment. A warning in red and yellow is on the page, telling everyone to stay inside and keep flashlights and candles at hand. I close the browser and square my shoulders, moving over to my boss' door. After knocking softly and receiving the 'come in' I open it but stay near the doorframe.

"Eric, there is a weather warning for tonight. We probably should close the office for today." I tell him levely and meet his eyes. Of course it is still difficult to look into them, into the grey orbs that held lust and passion and desire not a week ago, but I also yearn to watch them, just like before because I still love him. I probably always will to some degree. He takes in my posture I know, his eyes though never staying too long on my body and I guess he wants to stay as professional as I am.

"Very well." He says and I nod, leaving his office again and start the preparations of cleaning the small kitchenette and my working station. Some time later he exits his office and I wait for his deep voice to tell me goodbye. It doesn't come though and I turn around to see if he is still there. Surprisingly Eric is, coat hung up over his arm, his elegant black briefcase in hand.

"Did I forget to give you some documents?" I ask unsure and start to look over my desk for a folder or anything I should have given him.

"No. I will take you home." He simply states and I halt in my movements.

"That won't be..." I start to stay, small smile on my lips that vanishes when he cuts me off.

"It is not up for discussion. Finish your work and lets go." He says decidedly and takes a seat at one of the soft couches. I want to argue but don't. My heart flutters for a moment, this traitorous organ of mine and my emotions whisper that he probably is concerned for my well-being. But before any hope can come up my mind stops it, telling me that no, he isn't concerned because he feels anything for me but because I am his secretary and he sees it as his duty as my boss to keep me safe to some degree.

We walk down the corridor in silence, his expensive black leather shoes and my heels clicking against the hardwood floor. I look out of the window for a moment, a frown coming to my face when I see the way the ice and snow are pressed in violence against the huge windows. The light ring of the elevator doors opening pulls me out of my musings and I enter it behind Eric. He presses the button for the parking lot and the doors close.

"How far ahead are you with the preparations for the party?" He asks, his voice smooth and deep like always and I suppress the shudder running down my spine.

"I will call the catering service tomorrow and everything will be done." I answer and see him nod out of the corner of my eyes. Silence engulfs us again only to be interrupted by a sudden jolt and then there is only darkness. I can't help myself and grab his arm to steady myself or not to yelp when the elevator stopps. Lights come on and I let go of my grip on him. I look to the digital screen and read the red words: 'Out of service'.

"Shit..." I mutter and immediately start the search of my phone. Pulling it out and I see that it hasn't a signal.

"We are in a Faraday cage. You won't be able to call someone." Eric just says and goes over to the control panel. I bite my lip and watch him press the emergency button. We have to wait a few seconds before a slightly electric sounding voice answers.

"Good evening. How can I help you." The voice says and I suppress a growl because it is quite obvious what we need help with. Incompetent, I think but keep quiet.

"We are stuck in the elevator. Dauntless Security company." Eric says and I hear the angry undertone of his voice. He probably thinks the same as I was just a second ago.

"A team will be on their way in a few minutes. But because of the weather I am not sure when we will be able to free you. Please be patient." The man answers and I bite my cheek worriedly. Just great, a part of me thinks and my eyes roam Eric's back. To be stuck with him here with nothing but time at our hands – and we don't even know how much of it – doesn't seem like a safe situation at all. A week ago I wouldn't have minded. Our relationship was still, in the absence of a better description, innocent, purely work related. But now there were so many things unsaid, too many emotions on my part and too little on his to still believe in a few quiet hours until we are able to be out of this stupid elevator. Eric turns around and in an act out of character places his coat on the floor before he sits down and offers me the place next to him with a silent gesture. I contemplate for a moment if this really is a smart move but think nothing further on it. It is still quite obvious what he wants and I can't have.

Sitting down, I pull a folder and a pen out of my briefcase, careful not to brush against him. In this short moment I hate that everything changed, that I am so aware of him sitting next to me, of his body, aftershave, everything. A week ago it wouldn't have mattered if his arm would rest right next to mine, if our thighs would brush against each other or his heat unconsciously warm me. It all wouldn't mean anything more than me relinquishing in his closeness, of his dominat presence beside mine. Now though... now every small brush of any bodypart makes me uncomfortably aware of what could not be, what I deny myself – rightfully so, I know, but deny – and what transpired just a few days ago.

Eric doesn't seem to be as aware though. Glancing at him for a short moment I discover that his eyes are fixed on the opposite side of the elevator, his hands folded in his lap, his shoulders not as tense as normally. I take a silent deep breath and concentrate on the documents.

As Eric said, we want to give Amity International the chance to make up for their uninnovative presentation of campaigns and had send them our conditions the day before yesterday stating that we would agree to cooperate with them if they were able to come up with something convincing until the end of January. At first they weren't very open to it but it seems the conference call Eric, the head of Erudite with the name of Janine Matthews and Janine Reyes had changed these views soon enough and they agreed readily afterwards. I now tried to fit the upcoming meetings into Eric's already very full calendar at the end of January but have difficulties to concentrate. I should have known that his presence so close makes every attempt futile. So with a sigh I close the folder and put it back into my bag.

I lean my head against the cold metal and close my eyes, concentrate on anything else then him sitting so close next to me but fail. I would like to say that I hate my feelings for him, hate what had happened but I don't. As I told myself on Monday I wouldn't forget no matter how hard it would be at the beginning of the end of this part of our relationship and four days afterwards the decision remains and it starts to not hurt anymore when his scent lingers around me. If his absence – something that hasn't to do with our encounter but the way he works – or my own made up mind do the trick I don't know and I could care less as long as I can keep a peace of mind to some degree. But how I wish things could be different...

"Did you think about it?" Eric's voice suddenly breaks into my musings and I frown for only a second. His voice is softer than normal, deep and with a hint of tiredness. I look at him for a moment and nod slowly. I don't need to ask him what he is talking about. It is quite obvious anyway. When I answer my tone matches his.

"I have..." I say and feel my hands tremble slightly. My decision remains the same though.

"And?" He asks and I am suprised that his voice isn't laced with annoyance he normally would display at my blatant try to avoid the inevitable. It is quite obvious even to myself.

"I..." I swallow and ask myself why it is so difficult to just say no. I try to argue with myself that I am completely sure about my decision, but maybe because it is him – the man I love so much – and saying it out loud will definetely end everything other then our work relationship that makes my throat close up. Clenching my eyes shut for a moment because I feel them prickle and I just hate that I am so nervous all of the sudden I take a deep breath.

"I won't take you up on your offer." I say, my voice sure but barely above a whisper. The words hang in the sterile atmosphere of the elevator, make the air heavy and slightly suffocating. At least for me. I don't look at him but see him nod out of the corner of my eyes.

"I see." Is all he says and keeps quiet afterwards. I don't know what I expected of him. Maybe I thought he would try to convince me or this step I took would propell him into confessing that he couldn't stand not to be with me at least physically. Some small part of me even thought that maybe he discovers feelings for me because they were burried too deep and my refusal to be with him like this would push them to the forefront, leading to him saying anything to change my mind. I mentally snort at that, realising again how naivity is still some part of my being when it comes to him, how reading too much junk, watching too many romantic films have twisted my eye for the truth, my wishes. But it doesn't really matter at the moment. All that does is that I know that his reaction is far less than I expected and it makes me angry like I wasn't for some time. All this time... and it didn't matter in the slightest to him. I clench and unclench my hands for a moment and stand up then, energy surging through my veins and I can't sit still anymore.

I don't want to confront him about it, don't want to yell at him and I am extremly proud when I don't. Taking a deep breath I lean against the opposite wall and cross my arms infront of my chest. My eyes closed I start to calm my mind down, calm down my wild beating heart. It takes a lot of my strength and before I can even say that I reached a state of mind where it doesn't matter anymore what his reaction tells me, I feel his presence before me.

"My reaction doesn't seem to calm you down." He says and though I don't see his face I feel his burning eyes on me. A part of me wants to tell him that no, of course his answer isn't anything I had hoped for. Some part of me wants to inflict the same sadness on him that I felt, wants to make him realise in any way possible how special I am and that he should love me like I love him. Some part of me wants to start a ridiculous screaming match, wants to put energy in something I know won't reach him, won't change anything. And this alone keeps me from doing any of the things these parts of me want. I just breath deeply and suddenly I am tired. My arms fall to my sides, a small smile comes to my lips and I open my eyes to meet his gray ones. They burn hot like still fresh ash from a fire just going out but I don't shy away.

"It doesn't really matter." I tell him levely and see his eyes narrow slightly. His jaw moves for a moment and I start to question my own answer and his reaction to it. It speaks of anger and I don't know what my words can mean expect the obvious that could make him angry.

"What is it?" I ask him and frown slightly. He puts both hands beside my hand, an intimidating gesture that lets me shrink back a bit but appeals to the side of me that likes his dominant character.

"So me not reacting to your refusal doesn't bother you?" He asks, voice low but laced with a dangerous tone I am not stupid enough to ignore.

"Why does it..." I stopp then, look him up and down, into his burning eyes, his tense shoulders, his pressed jaw and am torn between laughing hollowly or punshing him scare in the jaw. I decide for a less violent approach and push my hands forcefully against his chest.

"Is this a fucking game for you? Lets see how my secretary reacts to my obvious desinterest and ignorance of her person? Lets see how much I can hurt her before she gives up and just does as I please? Is it that?" My voice gets a bit louder but I don't start to shout or scream and I am especially proud that I don't show the hurt I feel at discovering that even now, when I thought we could overcome this and say the last words before everything goes back to normal he comes up with a scheme to get his way. He doesn't answer and he really doesn't need to because I can read it quite easily at the moment. Maybe the shock that I discovered his plan lets his eyes be so open like they never were before. It doesn't really matter. I sigh heavily and when I speak again I can't suppress the disappointment I feel.

"I can't believe you." I say, my voice low and a bit throaty. If a tiny hope that he could feel something for me remained until now it was now absent. All I can find in my heart in this moment is a sharp coldness and a heavy disappointment cloaked in sadness. I hope I won't cry but I am not sure how long I can keep up the front. If we weren't stuck here I would have run away already because I am just so tired.

A soft hand at my jaw and his warm lips on mine suddenly pull me out of the whirlwind of emotions I feel and on instinct I close my eyes. His tongue asks, really asks entrance this time and without really thinking about it, I give it to him. Eric tastes like he did the last time we kissed and even though I thought I forgot it, the memory is back at the forefront and this moment adds to its strength. I feel him push me against the elevator wall, the cool metal against my back. His strong hand leaves my jaw and joins its other on my waist only to wander down further and lifting me up to hook my legs around his waist.

I feel my hands gliding over his strong shoulders, into his neck and to the base of his skull, feel his hair under my palm, his hot mouth on mine, his tongue against mine and it is just too perfect to stopp. I hate myself for it.

A sudden metallic knocking sounds and we break apart. Eric growls but puts me down and moves over to the doors.

"Mr. Coulter? Step back from the door, we will open it now."

And just like that, my eyes fixed on his neck, my breath ragged and heart beating wild, I realise I cannot go on like this anymore.

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