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like a small boat on the ocean

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It was half past four in the office on a slow Friday afternoon, and for the past forty-five minutes, Dirk had been meticulously constructing a tower of oreos on his desk.

Well, it wasn’t exactly a tower, technically speaking. It was a single oreo in essentials. Dirk had built up a worryingly tall stack of icing on a single cookie base, which he would presumably top off with another cookie in order to complete the thing. Now, the oreo was verging on seven inches tall.

Todd had been watching out of the corner of his eye with increasing alarm as Dirk created the monstrosity. He was morbidly curious as to how Dirk intended to actually eat the thing, having always been more of a twist-and-lick oreo-consumer himself. Dirk had used up three packets of oreos in his endeavor, discarding all unwanted cookies by carefully placing them back into the packets.

… Maybe Dirk wasn’t planning on eating it. Todd could never be sure when it came to the inner workings of Dirk’s mind and how, precisely, he intended to act out his bizarre plans.

Todd forced his eyes back to his computer screen. He had a job to do: specifically, working extremely hard at convincing himself that he was better than Dirk at focusing on paperwork. Said paperwork was completely mind-numbing, but also necessary if they didn’t want to get sued again, so he valiantly made an effort to get the words on the screen to make sense. Something about being liable for damages pertaining to the client’s property and person, including...

Nope, it wasn’t working.

Farah, as the only one amongst them who’d finished all of her paperwork, had gotten the afternoon off. Todd thought, with a touch of sulkiness, that if she wanted to get Dirk to concentrate on anything, she probably shouldn’t have left. Serve her right, Dirk wasting time on – whatever the fuck he was doing, and Todd getting distracted by said time-wasting.

A reproachful voice in the back of his head told him that he was acting like a child, but he ignored it, feeling too petulant to act like anything else.

Dirk was humming something under his breath as he worked, which was another minor irritant to add to the pile of distraction preventing Todd from actually getting any work done. He’d had been humming it for weeks at that point, and Todd knew he could just ask what the tune was from – he recognised it from something – but he’d gotten himself far too deep into a stubborn attempt to recall the name of the song himself. Whenever he got close to forgetting about the whole thing, there Dirk would go again, humming the same annoying melody from some top forty hit most likely created by a Swedish musician in a lab somewhere in order to torture Todd specifically.

Dirk put a cookie on top of the stack of icing, sat back with a satisfied look on his face, and with a start, Todd realised that not only was Dirk finished, he had tricked Todd into watching him waste all that time.

“Todd.”

Todd hastened to type gibberish on his computer screen, trying to look busy.

“To-odd.”

The gibberish was kinda starting to look like words. If Todd squinted, maybe.

“Todd!”

Todd pointedly adjusted his earbuds.

“I know you’re not listening to music. You haven’t bobbed your head in at least half an hour.”

Exasperated, Todd finally yanked out an earbud. “I don’t bob my head.”

Dirk smiled in a sincere and condescending manner. “Oh no, of course not.”

Unfortunately the sincerity got to Todd just a bit, which meant he couldn’t think of anything to say. He settled for giving Dirk a withering look instead.

Dirk only continued to smile blithely, gesturing at his creation. “It’s complete. Look.”

Todd looked. Dirk’s great oreo mistake was a teetering structure of iced precariousness sandwiched between cookies that at this point looked to be merely decorative. It was eye-searingly sugary even at this distance.

“No,” Todd said flatly, putting his earbud back in.

“Todd!” Dirk sounded unreasonably affronted. “I’ve been working on this for hours–”

“It hasn’t been – your sense of time is just …”

Dirk waved a hand, smiling. “I know, it’s uncanny, like I have a second sense.”

Todd didn’t get the chance to explain that that was definitely not what he’d been trying to say before Dirk continued.

“But that’s not important right now. I have been striving for perfection, for hours, and you could at least feign interest in my culinary vision.”

Todd pulled out the earbud again. “I have files to sort, Dirk.”

Dirk held his hands out placatingly. “Okay, okay! Just – look what I can do!” And then he did something very odd.

Dirk bent over the oreo tower with his mouth wide open.

This action triggered a series of terrible realisations in Todd’s mind.

One: Dirk was about to attempt to swallow the oreo stack whole.

Two: Dirk was either going to choke and quite possibly die in front of Todd, or he was going to succeed in swallowing it whole, and either way it would involve Todd watching Dirk deepthroat vegan confectionary if Todd didn’t somehow stop him or leave.

Three: It was too late to stop him.

Four: It was too late to leave.

Five: Todd was going to have to accept his fate with cold, grim resignation.

Dirk knew none of this, and so entirely unceremoniously took the entire stack of oreo icing into his mouth, stopping half an inch before his lips hit the desk. Todd was disappointed in himself, but much less surprised than he might have been to discover that even under the patently ridiculous circumstances, the sight before him was inspiring a … bodily reaction.

Well, there was a little surprise. Despite Todd’s series of realisations, not a single thought had managed to make its way through Todd’s brain but this: Oh, fuck no.

Dirk sat up at last, cheeks full of oreo, with a proud smile on his face. Todd took a brief moment grieve his own dignity, since he still couldn’t think of a single thing to say or do in response to Dirk’s … everything.

But as Dirk seemed to have run into some difficulty chewing, Todd finally forced himself to speak.

“Wh… why, Dirk?”

In the tone of someone defending themself from serious perjury, Dirk began to gesture enthusiastically, loudly mumbling through a mouthful of oreo. Todd watched with a grimace until it became clear that no actual words were forthcoming, other than what might have been the word ‘challenge,’ which would actually explain a lot. What the hell kind of challenge was that? The ‘fellate an oreo’ challenge?

“Dirk, stop,” Todd pleaded, as Dirk continued to fail to speak actual words. “You’re gonna –”

Dirk’s face transformed, and Todd was reminded of a cat under anaesthesia he’d seen once on Youtube. Doubling over, Dirk spat a frankly disgusting mouthful of chewed up oreo into the wastepaper basket beside his desk.

And thank god for that, because there went Todd’s incipient arousal.

“Jesus Christ,” said Todd, before relaxing enough to laugh. “I knew your gag reflex had to kick in at some point.” He sounded fond – knew he sounded fond – and therefore immediately tried to school his expression into something more annoyed than he really felt.

Dirk rose, wiping his mouth. “Oh, no, I don’t have one. I just hate the taste of oreos.”

“What?”

“I don’t have a gag reflex,” Dirk clarified.

Oh. Oh god.

Far from having no thoughts whatsoever, so many thoughts now flooded Todd’s mind that he was forced to make a concerted effort to not think anything. Any thoughts, at all, even regular ones, because thinking thoughts would inevitably lead to –

“No, really!” Dirk seemed to misinterpret the frozen expression on Todd’s face for skepticism. “Well – sort of. In emergency situations I can throw up, you know, when I’ve needed to.”

“Oh,” said Todd, feeling a flood of relief at the distinctly un-sexy turn the conversation was taking. Not that Dirk seemed to have noticed Todd’s internal crisis, but still. All Todd had to do was keep his mind on the gross stuff, and he’d be fine. “Cool.”

Dirk paused for a moment, apparently having gotten distracted by one of the various brightly-colored knick-knacks on his desk. “On the bright side,” he added after a moment, “it does mean I’m really good at deepthroating!”

Todd wished he’d taken a sip of water or something, because that would’ve made for a great excuse for him choking, but no. He choked on his own spit instead with the force of his inhale at Dirk’s pronouncement, then felt himself steadily turn red in embarrassment.

He stuttered a little. “You– w– with, with oreos?” Smooth, Brotzman.

Dirk gave Todd a strange look. “Well, yes. But also in the … traditional sense.”

Todd focused very hard on not sounding like his voice was being wrung from his throat like a wet dish towel. “I thought you were … ace? Or, uh. I mean I guess I assumed …”

“Well, yes,” Dirk confirmed, nodding as if Todd was being slow. “And. I’m also really good at deepthroating.”

Todd’s brain once more failed to comply with the requirements of conversation. What he wanted to say was, you can deepthroat? How do you know that? Like, there’s only one way to know that, surely. Why are you telling me this? What kind of person just drops that into a casual conversation unannounced? Of course, you would. How do you expect me to get over myself when you keep

But Todd didn’t say any of that.

Instead, he said, “You really spent like an hour recreating some dumb TikTok?”

Dirk’s face scrunched up into a confused expression. “What? No, I haven’t listened to Kesha in days.”

“I mean – you said, about the oreos. You said it was an internet challenge?”

“Oh!” Dirk brightened. “Yes, it is. That’s where I got the idea. I wanted to know if I could still do it!”

“Swallow an oreo stack?” Todd asked hopefully.

“No, Todd, deepthroating, haven’t you been listening?”

“I have been –” Todd stopped, bit his tongue, and continued in a less confrontational tone. “I’ve been listening. It’s just … That’s not the kind of thing you usually would, uh, drop into a conversation. And I thought … you being ace meant …”

“Oooh …” Dirk made an understanding face, but his nose remained wrinkled, as if he was deep in thought. “Er, well, sure, I’m not a fan of … sex. I’m not against it either, just, you know, sort of generally a bit ambivalent about the whole thing. Which was something I worked out by trying it! Many times. Mostly in my twenties, but then, what else is there to do in Minnesota on a cold winter’s night?”

“Oh,” said Todd faintly. Cool. Dirk, in his twenties, having an incredible amount of sex in Minnesota. None of it involving – nope, not going there. But Dirk hadn’t enjoyed it, Todd reminded himself firmly. Although he wasn’t sure if that made him feel better or worse.

“Anyway, I always thought it was really funny, being asexual without a gag reflex. What am I going to do with that, I always said to my friends! Or I would, you know, if I’d had friends before you.”

Todd felt his heart melt a little with fondness. Get a hold of yourself, he thought, rather weakly. “I mean, it sounds like you – got some, some use out of it.” Wow.

Dirk smiled, but it looked a little wistful. “I suppose. But it definitely always seemed to me like the kind of talent that should be enjoyed rather than tolerated for the sake of a frankly pretty shitty boyfriend with a deeper affinity for ramen than the people around him.”

“Yeah. Yeah, no, that definitely sounds … shitty,” said Todd softly.

“There’s always a chance, though,” Dirk said casually, “that I could. Enjoy it, I mean. Some day. Never say never, in my line of work. So …” He trailed off, and seemed to be giving Todd a meaningful look.

That was not something Todd felt even remotely capable of interpreting just then, though, because he was busy shooting down inappropriate thoughts like so many unfortunate ducks.

“Cool,” he blurted out, before standing up too sharply and sending his desk chair flying. He winced, and stood awkwardly for a moment. “I gotta. Uh. I’m gonna get coffee, be back soon,” he excused himself, before beating a hasty retreat out of the office and down onto the street.

It took him twenty minutes of pacing to realise he’d forgotten his wallet.