Kaje Harper: Redefined

Hello again, and happy New Year! Let’s hope 2023 is full of m/m romance and everything else that’s nice. I’m starting the new year as I started off the zine last year, with a story by Kaje Harper. This one’s both sweet and amusing, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. You can find all Kaje’s books on her website, if you’d like to read more.


Pic credit: Matheus Farias on Unsplash.com

I’d had a crush on Bishop Stoneleigh since the day he walked in to take over our department, looking like Clark Kent and talking like a college professor. I mean, the guy was everything I drooled over on the fandoms I followed. Probably only a few years older than me, but had a vibe that made most of us want to sit up and salute. Perhaps not everyone with the same body part.

Bishop Stoneleigh. Black hair and high cheekbones and sharp wit and no tolerance for sloppy work. He could rip you up one side and down the other so incisively it didn’t all sink in till hours later.

No, I never deliberately screwed up to get called into his office for a one-on-one reprimand. That’d be stupid, right? I’m not stupid. A little impulsive, maybe…

I was used to him coming in earlier and working even later than I did, and I was the night-owl of our group. Our last boss left without warning and apparently with a hunk of cash, leaving the department books in a mess. Bishop― Mr. Stoneleigh to me, no matter how many fantasies I had of him running his hands through my hair while I called him “Bish”― had a hell of a job cut out to turn things around.

I stuck my head around the door like usual to say “Good night, sir,” and cut the words off short.

He lay sleeping, pillowed on a binder, glasses askew, suit rumpled enough to show his bare wrists below the cuffs of his pristine white shirt. He wasn’t snoring, but there was the tiniest hint of a rasp as he breathed through parted, full lips. In sleep, he suddenly looked his real age, and something like tenderness caught my breath. Poor guy’s been burning the candle at both ends.

What now? Logic said I should leave and pretend I never saw him there. Sleep is a vulnerable thing, and I’d bet he wouldn’t like just anyone watching him that way. Then again, I wasn’t just anyone.

This is my chance, right? I could make a mark, stand out from the crowd of techie underlings he commanded.

Of course, it’d have to be the right kind of mark.

Rocket fuel, maybe. Most of the department lived on Mountain Dew, and the breakroom fridge was well-stocked, but Bishop was a coffee man. Extra large, black, one sugar. Not that I’d paid attention deliberately. One just notices these things.

One also notices the excellent vocabulary with which Bishop described the breakroom coffee. Swill, dregs, and sewage were the ones I hadn’t had to look up. He always brought a thermos, but by this time of night it’d be empty. The coffee shop on the ground floor was open till two AM, though.

I bribed the barista with twenty bucks to make a new pot of coffee and ordered an extra large, carefully stirred in the sugar, and took it back up the elevator.

Bishop still slept where I’d left him. His glasses had slipped a little more. I went over to his side, and set the coffee down on his laminated coaster. Winter Soldier. Nice one. I’d thought he might wake up with having someone that close, but he snoozed on, the limp sleep of exhaustion.

If he didn’t wake up, the coffee would get cold. I wasn’t a fan, myself, but it seemed like hot was an important part of the package. I cleared my throat.

Bishop jolted up and flailed his hands. One elbow knocked over the cup and the tide of hot coffee that spilled across his desk hit my crotch square on.

“Ouch! Shit!” I jumped back, hands cupped protectively over my nads as I tried to tent the scalding fabric away from tender skin.

Bishop leaped to his feet and grabbed my arms, bleary dark eyes staring right into mine. “Charlie!”


He blinked and his gaze sharpened. “What did you call me?”

My brain caught up with my mouth a moment too late. Steaming your balls is a recipe for not paying attention to your words. “Nothing. I mean, I said I wish I hadn’t done that.”

“Hah.” He glared at me but his lush mouth turned up at the corners. “You called me Bish.”

“You called me Charlie,” I countered inanely, because he was the boss and he’d called me Charlie the last four weeks.

“I haven’t been Bish since my little sister outgrew her teens.”

“Sorry, sir.”

He let go of my arms, and a snicker escaped his lips. “Seriously? All that work to maintain the correct gravitas and that’s how my subordinates think of me?”

“No, no, I’m pretty sure it’s just me,” I hurried to say, then felt the heat rise in my neck and face. No doubt red and splotchy, because that was what my skin liked to do. “Sorry, Mr. Stoneleigh.”

“What are you doing here at this hour, Charlie? Didn’t you get last week’s memo about a healthy work-life balance?”

“Yeah, but I figured you didn’t mean it.”

He sighed and ran a hand over his face. “He figured I didn’t mean it.”

“Well, you’re still here.”

“True.” He blinked, then pulled open a desk drawer and found a handful of napkins. With his first swipe at the liquid on his desk, he paused. “Hey, that’s hot.” He lifted the cup, eyed the logo, then tipped the last drops into his mouth. “You brought me hot coffee.”


“That’s not your job.” He pushed his glasses more firmly up his nose and went back to wiping up. “You’re my best programmer. The one guy with priorities and a work ethic, and a sense of humor. You don’t need to fetch coffee.”

“I thought it’d be a nice gesture.” I was still standing there holding my slacks tented out over my dick.

“Top grades for initiative. Perhaps not for execution.”

“Story of my life,” I muttered.

“Are you okay? Did you burn yourself?”

“I’ll live.” The impulse to ask if he wanted to check and make sure was completely resistible. Completely.

“At least you didn’t soak your slacks at the beginning of the day. I did, once.”

“At least coffee isn’t yellow, like Dew. Slightly less like I pissed myself.”

I got that quirk of a smile again. “Charles, can you keep a secret?”

“Not my strongest suit,” I admitted.

He actually laughed. “Well, it’s not much of a secret. I’m leaving this job in two weeks. The boss found a new hire with the actual skills to do the work, instead of faking it like I am.”

“You were doing fine!” I got mad on his behalf. “He could’ve given you more than a month.”

“No, no, you don’t get it. This was always temporary. I only took the job on the grounds that he would hire someone suitable as expeditiously as he could.”

“Oh. Well, we’ll miss you.” No more Clark Kent glasses and raised eyebrow?

“Will you?” He checked his chair for drips and then sat, looking up at me. “You, specifically?”

“Um, yeah. Sir.”

“That right there.” He pointed finger-guns at me. “When I leave, I will no longer be your boss and you won’t be my employee.”

“That’s what leaving generally implies, yeah.”

“So in two weeks―” He snagged the corner of my pocket and tugged me a step closer. “―when it’s not unethical anymore, do you think you might want to go for coffee with me?”

“Ugh. Coffee.” I bit my lip as the startling implications caught up with my sleep-deprived brain. “I mean, yes, yeah, I’d like that.”

“Donuts if you prefer, maybe. Doritos. Or we could go wild and go out for real food.”

I needed clarity here. “Are you asking me on a date?”

“Not now. That would be against company policy. I’m asking what will happen in two weeks, if I ask you.”

A slow smile tugged at my mouth and a much more pleasant heat warmed me from the inside. “Well, then, you’ll have to try it and find out,” I said. “Anticipation is the spice of life, Bish.”



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