William stood in the aisle,
staring up in fear and awe at the towering piles of wood in every cut and size he could imagine. He glanced down at the papers
in his hands, then up at the wood again. Oh dear, I’m really in over my head
Masculine laughter sounded behind him and he stiffened in embarrassment and anger, it was most likely directed at
him, he was so out of place here in the hardware store, a duck out of water. A
poet out of his element.
“Can I help you find something?”
William turned towards the voice, ready to defend himself against a condescending salesperson, only to immediately
relax at the boyish face with its warm smile and mischievous brown eyes. “H…hi.
Um, yes, I’m afraid I don’t quite know where to start.” He
handed the sheaf of papers to the rugged brunette standing in front of him.
Xander eyed the overwhelmed man in the aisle. He was gorgeous, and obviously had no idea what he was doing in the hardware
store. Shorter than Xander by a few inches, slender, honey blonde hair, he was wearing black slacks and a deep blue button
down shirt, and glasses. He looked like an intellectual or possibly a fussy artist, just Xander’s type. He laughed at
whatever joke his coworker was telling and quickly excused himself, making his way over to the man before one of his coworkers
got to him.
“Can I help you find something?”
The man turned towards him and Xander was momentarily awestruck by pale skin, chiseled features and bright blue eyes.
Belatedly Xander realized the man was talking, so he yanked his mind out of the gutter it was quickly crawling into and accepted
the papers from the man, glancing down at them.
“Bookshelves, this should be easy enough.” Then he really looked at the blueprints. “Huh, these are
As the man accepted the papers and looked at them, William took a moment to assess his helper. He was tall with dark
brown hair, a golden tan, and warm brown eyes. He was ruggedly handsome and William
fought down the first stirrings of desire. It was ludicrous, such a man as this, especially one who worked in such an environment,
was most assuredly straight. Besides his last relationship had only recently ended, and quite badly at that, to so quickly
court a new one was surely folly. He heard the man, Alexander as his nametag read, comment on the dimensions of the shelves.
Pulling himself out of his thoughts, William nodded. “Yes. I have quite an extensive rare book collection, and
I’m afraid that many of them tend to be odd sizes.”
The brunette looked back at the blueprints. “What kind of space do you have? Do you rent or own, ‘cuz if
you can help it, these should really be built in, more protection that way.”
William was puzzled. “Protection from what?”
“Earthquakes. This is California after all.”
“Oh. You’re quite right, of course. I just recently moved to town and such a thing never occurred to me.”
Xander nodded and began walking towards one side of the aisle. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, why didn’t
you bring bookshelves with you when you moved?”
William winced. “I’m afraid it was a case of two bibliophiles attempting to divide up five years worth
of collecting. My…ex and I had quite a hard time of it, in the end they got the flat with the custom shelves and I got
much of the collection.”
Xander smiled to himself as he heard the pause before ‘ex’, it was the same pause he used when talking
to his coworkers about his love life. The pause, followed by the use of ‘they’ as a pronoun, just screamed ‘I’m
gay and not sure if it’s okay for me to be out in this environment.’. At lest it did to someone who used that
“Well, I think it’s safe to say I can help you with this.” Xander held out his hand. “I’m
Xander, by the way.”
William paused momentarily before accepting the man’s hand. Xander’s hand was warm and strong, and briefly
William found himself enjoying the way his smaller hand was enfolded before jerking his thoughts back to safe territory. “It’s
very nice to meet you, Xander. I’m William.”
Xander brushed his thumb along the back of William’s hand before releasing it. “So, Will, once we get all
the wood for this, do you have someone to put these together and install them?”
William blinked, momentarily taken aback by the familiar nickname. “Um, no, I intend to do it myself. In fact,
perhaps you can direct me to the tools next.”
Xander laughed. “No offense, Will. But you don’t seem like you havr a lot of experience with this. Besides,
it’ll cost you close to a hundred to get all the tools you’ll need to put these together.”
William couldn’t find it in himself to be offended by Xander’s observation when it was crouched with such
a friendly and generous smile and obviously wasn’t meant in a mean manner. “Nevertheless, I can’t afford
to hire a carpenter, I’m afraid I’ll just have to muddle through.”
Xander loaded the last of the wood onto the cart. “I’ll tell you what, I’m not busy this weekend.
Why don’t I come over and put these together for you? I can bring my own tools, save you the cost of those, and I wouldn’t
charge as much as a carpenter for hire.” I’ll do it for free if
I can talk you into going out with me.
Momentarily taken aback by the offer, William could only stare at the man. “Oh, no, I wouldn’t want to
bother you. I’m…I’m sure you have better things to do with your weekend. I’m quite sure I can manage.”
Xander grinned. “Come on Will. It’s no bother. I need a good weekend project anyway.”
William smiled at Xander. “Well, I suppose that they would turn out much better than if I tried to build them
Warmed by Xander’s open manner and put at ease by his friendly banter, William allowed himself to be lead around
the store as Xander gathered the last of the supplies they would need. Once they had everything, Xander walked him up to the
front of the store and tallied William’s purchases himself. Xander then walked him to the truck he’d borrowed
and helped him load up all the supplies. A quick exchange of information and William was driving off, feeling lighter of heart
than he had since his and Wes’ break up.
Xander waved as William drove off, his other hand clutched protectively around the
paper containing William’s address and phone number. He grinned to himself, he was really looking forward to his new