Status Update(8)

By: Annabeth Albert

Noah must be one of those guys too nice to let Adrian freeze even as he condemned him. Adrian had a few of those in his extended family, but it had been a while since he’d had to walk this particular tightrope of social interaction.

“You want stew?” Noah finished clearing papers and opened a slow cooker on the counter.

“Yes, please.” Adrian jumped at the distraction. Food was a nice, safe conversation topic. “Oh wait. Does it have flour in it?”

Noah gave him a hard look. Okay. Not such a safe topic after all. “You on some sort of diet?”

“No. Celiac. I can’t have gluten.” God. Could he be any more of a pain? If it wasn’t for horrific cramping he got when he screwed up and ate wheat, he’d happily shut up about his stupid restrictions.

Noah fished a seasoning packet out of the trash under the sink. “You’re in luck. This batch doesn’t. And be glad you caught me on a cooking day.”

“Cooking day?”

“Cook once, reheat thrice.” Noah’s little smile was back. Adrian liked the man so much when he smiled—the little flashes of a sense of humor made Adrian feel less like the biggest burden on the planet.

“With me, it’s more like takeout day and leftover day. Rinse and repeat. The folks at the Co-Opportunity deli counter know me by sight.”

“Where’s home for you?”

“Santa Monica. Right outside of LA.”

Pixel made an unhappy whimper from his spot in front of Adrian. Adrian lifted him to his lap, but he was still shivering all over.

“Is he always so cold?” Noah hovered over the couch. “Or do you think he’s sick?”

“He’s always cold. He’s got a whole collection of sweaters. And I got him a special cat bed—one with a hood. He loves being cozy...” Adrian drifted off as he realized he sounded like one of those dog people.

Noah bustled off, stopping at a cabinet by the bedroom door. He returned with a faded red towel. “You’re sitting on what serves as a dog bed around here, but maybe you could wrap him in this?”

“Thanks.” Adrian’s eyes felt suspiciously itchy. He busied himself wrapping Pixel. Noah was being way nicer than he had to be. Maybe it was a good Samaritan sort of thing, but it had been a day, and even this amount of compassion made him feel all floppy inside.

He dug out his phone because that always made him feel more centered, but a blank screen greeted him and he remembered the battery situation.

“Hey, do you happen to have a spare Apple charger?” he asked, holding up his phone.

Noah looked up from stirring the stew. “For your phone? I’m afraid not—I’m an Android guy. I’ve got plenty of mini-USB chargers though.”

“That’s not going to work with my iPhone.” Adrian rubbed his head. Now he was even more isolated and trapped. “Hell. Now I won’t know if Trent tries to call.”

Noah snorted as if he doubted that possibility was an issue.

“He could. And I’ll have a pile of email to sort through once I finally get power. But not your problem—sorry to be such a pain.”

“What do you do? Are you still in school?” Noah took two bowls down from an overhead cabinet.

Adrian almost groaned. Of course, Noah saw him as young and helpless; because only college kids got themselves into pickles like this. And yeah, Noah was older, but he wasn’t that much older.

“I’m a video game designer. And I’m twenty-five.” Yeah, there was totally a defensive tone to his voice, but Adrian couldn’t help it.

“Which game?” Surprisingly, Noah perked up, shoulders lifting and eyes brightening, like he had when he’d talked about his own work. He set the bowls on the dining table and then motioned for Adrian to join him.

“Space Villager. It’s not out yet, but it’s a big crowd-funded game—”

“I’ve heard of it.” Noah’s smile reached his eyes, making their hazel depths dance with little gold flecks. “Donated actually.”

“Really?” Adrian couldn’t hide his disbelief. Noah so did not seem like the gamer type.

“Well, usually I’m more of an Ultima man, but I have this thing for crowd funding.” Noah’s neck turned a little pink. “Last year I supported a gravity light and about ten different board games. And other stuff. And Space Villager.”

Also By Annabeth Albert

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