It was still dark in the small apartment when Robin awoke, the deep navy blue of the twilight sky visible through the white slanted blinds overlooking the double bed. A cool autumnal breeze seeped in through the slightly ajar window, stealing its way down through the covers and causing Robin’s pale flesh to quiver. Mumbling incoherently from a restful night’s sleep, they curled the soft duvet around their body in an effort to ward off the chill, rolling towards you in the hopes of stealing a little of your body heat. As their eyes remained firmly shut, they were altogether unprepared for the unpleasant surprise of finding nothing but a lukewarm spot on an empty mattress. Grumbling, they forced their chocolaty brown eyes open, blearily scanning the darkened room and finding it difficult to distinguish form from shadow. With further senseless mouth sounds, they pushed themself to sit up against the tall headboard of the bed, brushing their straw-coloured hair away from their face as they blinked the sleep away from their eyes. Though the room itself seemed empty, a pale blue light shone against the ajar door to the bedroom, accompanied by the telltale faint clacking sounds of fingers against a keyboard and the earthy scent of a cup of freshly-brewed tea.
“Oh, bloody hell, not again,” Robin murmured, mostly to themself, but still loud enough for you to just barely hear from the other room. They didn’t so much stand up as they rolled out of bed, letting their legs swing down as they used the nightstand to support their upper body before they straightened up. Their first order of business was to shut that infernal window, the locking mechanism giving a few heavy clunks of protest before it clicked into place, dispelling the frigid draft as well as the orange glow of streetlamps still lit below, plunging the room into yet further darkness. Yawning blearily, Robin stumbled their way around the ever-so-comfortable-looking bed, forcing themself to stay on their feet and lean into the next room, hanging against the door jamb.
The main room was almost as dark as the bedroom, save for the whitish-blue illumination of a large computer screen bathing your face and the bare white wall behind you in its glow. A cup of tea sitting on your desk by your elbow steamed violently in the cool morning air, the wisps turning into silver clouds when caught by the light of your screen. Your fingers skittered across the keyboard like a mouse in search of cheese, the screen forming pale rectangular reflections in your wide, unblinking eyes. You were sitting at the very front edge of your high-backed black computer chair, your thighs hovering over thin air as you rested your elbows on your desk for extra support and stability, hunched forward with the effort. The headphones perched awkwardly on your head played the soft sounds of rain, helping to drown out the insistent whir of your computer and the low rumbles of the cars of the first early-morning commuters from the street below.
Your headphones were not quite sufficient to drown out Robin’s “Good morning,” their tone a bizarre mixture of sleepy endearment and grumbling annoyance. You barely glanced up at them, your eyes only flicking over to their tall form leaning against the door frame next to your desk for a moment before returning to the lines of text filling your screen. “Morning,” you replied flatly, your focus still entirely on your work. You didn’t even notice them moving into the room until you suddenly felt their arms draping over your neck and around your chest, their chin resting atop your head as they stole a little of your body heat.
“You know it’s 7am, right?” Robin asked, turning your head with their chin to point at the small digits in the lower-right corner of your screen. Though you couldn’t see their face, the note of disapproval in their tone left little doubt in your mind as to their expression. “How long have you been up already?”
“Er…” You had to ponder that question for a moment, you hadn’t checked the clock in a while. “Forty-five minutes? Maybe an hour? Not sure.” The coolness of Robin’s bare forearms against your neck and shoulders sent shivers down your spine, and you couldn’t stop your breath from catching as their icy cold hands drifted seemingly innocently across your chest, leaving your skin tingling wherever their fingertips touched. For the first time in almost a full minute, your eyes blinked shut momentarily, but a moment was all Robin needed. With one thrust of their lower body, they sent the chair rolling forwards, simultaneously pulling back on your body and forcing you to slither back into the seat. Your shoulders were pressed against the back of the chair, your spine and arms forced to straighten, your rear and lower legs now fully supported by the plush cushioning of the seat. The arms of the chair thudded heavily against the wood of the desk as Robin adjusted your posture, balancing your weight with the bare minimum of movement.
“There we are,” Robin purred smoothly into your ear, moving their head to the side and pulling aside your headphones to ensure you could hear them well. “That feels a lot more comfortable, doesn’t it?” The small, meek mumble you offered in agreement stirred a rich chuckle in them, the vibrations of their laughter travelling through their cheek and into your skull. When they were this close, it was easy to detect their subtle but distinctive scent; their smooth, rich, natural musk, the bright note of day-old apple-scented shampoo, the last wisps of the their slightly woody and spicy perfume. It was equally easy to detect the return of the disapproving note in their voice when they spoke again. “I know your work is important to you, but couldn’t this’ve waited another hour or two? You still need sleep.”
“Y-yeah, I know,” you responded, your voice a little higher and a little more trembling than you might have liked, so you took a moment to clear your throat before you continued. “I just really need to get this done, I’ve got a lot to do today, so I figured I should get an early start.” Despite the electric tingles still lingering in your chest, an anxious note in the back of your head wrenched your attention back to the screen in front of you, your fingers beginning their frantic dance over the keys again.
“Hmm,” Robin grunted, making their disapproval of such an early morning clear, but choosing not to press the point. Still resting their body against yours, they reached out and drew the sopping teabag from the tall, delicately patterned cup. They tapped it gently against the side of the cup before squeezing it between their forefingers to not lose any dregs, as well as to warm the icy tips of their fingers against the hot liquid. The teabag made only a slight rustle as it was dropped into the waste basket on the floor, disguised by the scraping sound of porcelain on wood as Robin moved the teacup next to your keyboard. “Remember to drink that, you need the water and you’re not gonna like it when it’s cold.”
“Yeah, I will,” you responded, picking up the cup by its handle and taking an obliging sip, feeling a bit of pain as the tea, just barely cool enough to drink, touched your tongue and lips. You flinched slightly at the pain, but enjoyed the taste of a fresh cup of your favourite tea all the same.
“And remember to take breaks once in a while,” Robin said, removing their weight from your chair and straightening up, stretching and sighing to rid their body of that early-morning lethargy.
You rolled your eyes gently, a small smile creeping its way across your lips. “Yes, mother,” you quipped, the dry note of sarcasm in your tone earning you another rich chuckle from Robin.
The orange glow of the dawn had given way to the yellowish light of the morning by the time Robin emerged from the bedroom again, the radiant beams shining through the window momentarily blinding them as their head pushed through the top of their thick grey tracksuit. They took the opportunity of pushing their arms through the sleeves of the top to block the worst of the glare, though the sun, still fairly low and large in the sky, still managed to sneak around their arm a little. Backlit as you were by the light coming from the window, you seemed to Robin like a dark near-featureless silhouette, a void in a room otherwise bathed in light. They crossed the room towards the window, edging around your chair and still holding their arm up as if they were performing some bizarre ritual, before they got close enough to draw the curtains across, dulling the light from an intense blaze to a diffuse glow.
Blinking away the green and yellow spots dancing across their vision, Robin turned to see you still firmly affixed to your desk, having hunched slightly forward over your computer keyboard again. Even from here, they could see an only halfway-drunk cup of tea which was now almost certainly stone cold, and no plate nor adjusted clothing to indicate you had even budged from your position for the past two and a half hours. Your eyes were glassy and unblinking, barely even registering that the curtains had been drawn or that the lighting had changed, utterly focused on the text scrolling across your screen.
Robin huffed slightly, their lips pressing slightly together as they took in your posture, particularly when they heard the faint rumble of a protesting stomach, even from a couple metres away. When they spoke, though, they were careful to keep their tone neutral and composed. “I’ve got my first client at ten, so I’m gonna be heading out now, okay?” Their voice broke clearly through the faint background noises of the computer fans whirring and the rumble of cars in the street below.
“Mhm, see you,” you replied noncommittally, barely having heard them; your eyes remained glued to the screen in front of you, and your mouth moved without you even thinking about it. You punctuated the remark by shifting your mouse to highlight an area of text for deletion, narrowly missing your half-filled teacup and putting the liquid in danger of spilling across your work surface.
Though you couldn’t see it, Robin raised an eyebrow, sighing inwardly at your focused reverie. They walked back past your desk, taking care to rake an eye across it to look for any crumbs or spots of juice which might belie some food being eaten, but found none; equally, the kitchen counter and sink were devoid of dishes save for the ones used for Robin’s own breakfast. Leaning slightly on the kitchen island, they turned around to speak to you again, this time putting a little more of an edge in their tone to get you to listen. “You sure you had something to eat this morning?”
“Mhm,” was your response again, and again not glancing up at all to register that you heard or understood their question, merely continuing to type away relentlessly. For a moment, the apartment was silent save for the clacking of your fingers against your keyboard, you were quite blissfully unaware of the awkward pause in the conversation stretching out.
Robin rolled their eyes; while they quietly admired your dedication to your work, the complete lack of communication was getting old very quickly. “It’s almost nine-thirty now, you’ve been up since six, have you taken a break at all?”
Once again, you responded with a flat, dull “Mhm.”
“Have you even left that chair at all for the past three and a half hours?” Robin was now getting quite insistent about grabbing your attention; the temptation to walk over and poke you in the shoulder was growing larger and larger by the second.
“Mmm, yeah.” Still no response.
“Well, are you going to give your body and brain a rest soon, at least?”
“Alright, I’m gonna go steal a car in broad daylight and go for a joyride right past the police station, sound like a good idea?”
“Mm, yeah, sure.”
Robin made no effort to disguise their sigh of exasperation, nor that their eyes were rolling back increasingly far into their skull. “Of course,” they murmured to themself quietly, reaching up to lift down a small white bowl from the kitchen cupboards, the clink of porcelain on porcelain doing nothing to rouse you from your reverie. The hiss of opening the fridge door and the rumble of pouring a handful of berries into the bowl had a similar lack of effect on you. Not that Robin was being quiet or stealthy, though; they allowed water to thunder from the faucet into a robust shiny kettle before replacing it on its stand and flicking it on, the mid-pitched static of the heating water beginning after only a few seconds. As the water slowly began to bubble, they reached up and selected another simple but elegantly painted cup from the cupboard, along with another teabag to add to the cup. It took less than a minute for the kettle’s rumbling to drop to the lower pitch as the water began to boil in earnest, allowing Robin to pour the tea in one fluid motion, before they tucked the bowl into the crook of their left arm, leaving their left hand free to carry the cup.
Barely being aware of Robin’s presence at all, you didn’t even notice them walking towards you; the screen, the keyboard and the mouse were your whole world, the paragraphs and figures scrolling across the shining rectangle being the dips and drumlins of a stark white landscape. All of a sudden, your gaze was wrenched away, a gentle yet firm hand guiding your chin up and to the side, forcing your eyes to meet Robin’s chocolate brown ones, their amused smirk punctuating the face looking down at you. They ran their thumb along your jaw, gently stroking you as thanks for finally focusing on them. You could look away if you tried, they weren’t holding you that tightly. You still had work to do, of course. But right now… you didn’t really want to; you were quite content matching Robin’s intense gaze with a softer one of your own. Your mouth fell open, almost on reflex, you didn’t even know what you wanted to say, but before you could even try, an index finger was pressed softly against your lips, and any thought you might have tried to express stopped dead in your mouth.
“It’s okay,” Robin purred, their voice as warm and soft as their skin against your chin. Their thumb continued rubbing against your jawline for a moment, enjoying the moment before they withdrew their hand and spoke again. “I’m just getting you a refill of tea and some breakfast.”
And just like that, the spell was broken; you breathed in again, your awareness of the world returned to you after a blink or two, and you cleared your throat gently, soothing unused vocal cords. Robin set down the bowl of fruit and the steaming cup of tea at your side on the desk, making sure to place them in a spot where you wouldn’t accidentally knock them over. “I-I…” You stammered, deepening the dimples in Robin’s cheeks as they grinned, while you could feel a heat rising to your own as your thoughts reoriented themselves. “Th-thank you, that’s really sweet of you,” you managed eventually, and you meant it; they knew exactly what you liked, and had selected perfectly.
“You’re welcome,” they replied smoothly, silently forgiving your inattention and letting go of their indignation. “You’ve been working for the past three and a half hours, I thought you could use a little break.” As they spoke, they pushed back on your shoulders, flattening them against the back of your chair. The subtle change in posture revealed the slight dull ache in your lower back and shoulders from sitting hunched over your keyboard, but the better position soothed these niggling pains like a warm hand on a mostly-healed bruise. Robin barely had to touch you at all to move you into the correct position, yet the movements seemed inexorable and irresistible, especially with how much more comfortable the new position seemed. You hummed slightly in appreciation, before reaching over to munch on one of the pieces of fruit that had been brought over to you, the distinct flavour bursting in your mouth perfectly.
Robin gently jabbed a thumb towards the door. “I have to get going, though,” they explained, already beginning to walk to the door and pull on their shoes. “If I wait any longer, I’m gonna be late. I know you have a lot of work to do, but be good to yourself, okay?”
“I will,” you nodded, waving them off cheerily. “Thanks again for the food. Hope you have a good day at work.”
Having pulled on and tightened their shoes quickly, Robin crossed the room one last time, leaning in close once again. While you were seated, they towered over you, and were so close you could see little else but the warm pools of chocolate in their eyes. You almost got lost in those beautiful eyes again before you felt a playful tap against your nose from their index finger. Grinning devilishly, they bounded away again, snatching up their bag and giving you a quick wave in response, before the front door swung open and shut. They were gone in an instant, but the warmth of their hand on your face still lingered as you turned back to your desk, a cheery smile refusing to slide off your lips as you delighted yourself with your breakfast.
For the seventh time that day, the telltale wet rustle of a teabag falling into the waste basket sounded over the whirring protests of the computer’s cooling fans. The low-hanging sun setting on the opposite side of the building hid the bronze glow of the late afternoon from the small apartment and instead plunging it into ever-deepening shadows. However, the blue-white light of the monitor still burned like a beacon through the gloom, beginning to once again overpower the light from outside.
You could feel your hand quiver slightly against your face as you wiped away the remains of a tentative first sip. Desperately trying to ignore the feeling, you forced yourself to continue typing and scrolling, letting the landscape of text and images fly by you feverishly fast. But every time you tried to ignore one part of your body and refocus your energy on your work, another complaint would surface. The dull, deep-seated ache in your lower back and shoulders never stopped, even when you tried to adjust. Your eyes felt dry and rough against your eyelids every time you blinked. With every heartbeat, a sharp pain pounded against the centre of your skull. All of your joints, particularly in your neck and your fingers, felt stiff and tight every time you moved them. You could feel your focus slipping away into the fog clouding your mind, which only made your heart beat all the faster, your movements all the more frantic. Your breath was beginning to quicken. Your lungs felt stiff and overly full. You needed to keep going. Needed to keep working. You couldn’t let your body or your mind fail you now.
When the front door clicked and swung open again, Robin frowned, having to take a moment to adjust from the brightly lit corridor to the blueish gloom inside the apartment. So stark was the difference that they were forced to feel around for a few moments before they could find the light switch, bringing comfort to their own eyes but a sudden stabbing pain to yours. So focused were you on the work in front of you that you hadn’t even noticed Robin coming in, but your narrow world suddenly switching from the blue of the screen to the yellow of the overhead lights startled you, your breath catching in your chest as you looked around wildly.
“Woah, hey, it’s only me,” Robin interjected, immediately crossing the room to lay their hand on your shoulder reassuringly. Their brows were furrowed and their lips were pursed, their expression caught somewhere between comfort and concern. “I just got back from work; I was just surprised that you hadn’t turned the lights on. Didn’t you notice how dark it had gotten in here?”
Relieved at seeing a friendly face, you simply shrugged noncommittally. Your breathing settled back to normal, but the sense of tightness and fullness within your chest did not leave you. Robin’s lips pressed harder and harder together by the second, first at your blasé response, then as their eyes raked across your desk. The earthy scent of the tea, while initially pleasant, had become somewhat overpowering over the course of the day, the sides of the porcelain-white cup now streaked with brown. A bowl partially filled with yellowish-green liquid and a few remaining scraps of instant ramen sat at the corner of your desk, which allowed Robin a small bit of relief; at least you had eaten something. Even as you turned back to the monitor, you could feel their concerned gaze boring into the back of your skull. The silence hung in the still air awkwardly for several seconds, becoming yet another niggling distraction in the back of your mind. You were about to turn around and speak again before Robin beat you to the punch.
“Have you taken a proper break today?” Their voice was soft yet deep, etched with concern. You didn’t have to see their face to see their slightly crinkled brow, their gently sloping eyes, the downturned corners of their lips in your mind’s eye.
“Yeah… yeah, I did,” you murmured quietly, attempting to disguise the lead weight settling into the pit of your stomach with a veil of attempted focus. You suddenly became very conscious of how large and thick your tongue felt in your mouth.
“Please don’t lie to me.” There was no hard edge of frustration in Robin’s voice, merely a softer, slightly hurt note, which stabbed harder than anger ever could. “I can see how tense your neck is, how tight your muscles are. You’ve been working for, what, ten, eleven hours now? Your body can’t keep up that kind of focus for that long. I know you wanna get this done, but you can’t do it well like this.”
A part of you knew Robin was right, you knew how much your body and mind were protesting, but that tightness in your chest, your back, your shoulders, your neck, refused to let you relax. “I know…” you muttered, with more exhausted resignation than petulance; you needed to get this done, you needed to keep working even though your body was failing you. Taking a deep breath, you tried your best to banish the mist creeping through your consciousness, resuming the insistent clacks of the keys which had lost their smooth, consistent rhythm of the morning. Robin simply sighed, leaving your side and letting your focus narrow back to the brilliant square of light searing your retinae. You could hear them moving around, shifting objects behind you, but you forced yourself to look, not to listen. Your stomach growled. You kept on working. Your head pulsed with pain again. You kept on working. Your posture slumped, your shoulders falling forward, your elbows supporting your weight on the surface of the desk. You kept on working. You could feel your eyes wanting to flutter shut. You kept on-
“Hey.” A calm, firm voice broke and a hand gripping your shoulder broke through the haze, turning you in your chair to look up. Robin smiled down at you, gesturing over your shoulder towards where they had laid out a light green tatami mat on the floor, with a small grey curved pillow placed at one end shaped to hold a face. You looked back at Robin’s face, those intense brown eyes filled with such incredible warmth, you couldn’t look away. When they caught the overhead lights, they almost seemed to glow. “At least let me take care of you for fifteen minutes.”
Robin’s voice held a wheedling note, but you couldn’t deny that the prospect they were suggesting was attractive. Anxiety pulled you back towards the desk, but Robin wasn’t taking no for an answer. They gently but inexorably pulled you up and out of your chair by your forearm, even that amount of exertion sending sharp pops and cracks through your spine and knees. You murmured a vague protest, but your heart wasn’t really in it; you consoled yourself, reminding yourself that this was just going to be a momentary distraction, nothing more, and then you could get back to work. Robin guided you down to your knees, pressing down on both your shoulders at once. You looked up at them, caught between wanting to go back to work and crying out for more. With you looking up at them, it only a slight amount of pressure to upset your balance, causing you to topple forwards into their arms as they caught you, laying you down against the mat and pressing your face into the cushion at the end. Before your vision was blotted out, you caught a glimpse of a confident smirk, and you felt a slight chill run down your spine as you were laid out flat.
“Alright, alright, you made your point,” you said, your voice muffled by the cushion but still carrying a note of amusement. You could feel the mat deforming slightly around you, the feeling of Robin’s weight translated through the thick foam sending slight tingles through your chest and thighs. “I get it, I need to relax more, and this is nice, but I really do nnnnnngghuh…”
Suddenly, a massive, inexorable weight was forced against the centre of your back, driving the breath out of your chest and sending a burst of sensation burning through your flesh. It wasn’t exactly pain, it wasn’t exactly pleasure, but for a brief instant, your entire body was electrified with sensation radiating from the centre of your back. You didn’t even recognise the moan driven out of your chest as the sensation squeezed all the thoughts out of your head like the breath from your lungs. And then, after seemingly an instant, the pressure vanished, leaving behind a warm pleasure tingling deeply through your back. Your mind slowly tried to pull itself back together, but a chill of excitement shot up your spine as you felt Robin’s lips so close to your ear, you almost flinched.
“Now, doesn’t that feel better?” Their voice was as sweet and smooth as honey, warming your thoughts. You could feel their body hovering just barely above yours, you could feel the heat emanating from their flesh and warming yours. You opened your mouth again, trying to reorient your brain, scrambled by pleasure, but the moment you drew in breath, Robin pressed against you again, grinding the heels of their hands against the muscles in your back and sending a wave of sensation rippling through your flesh once again. Another moan was drawn from your mouth, a hot tingling spreading through your aching back. And then again, no pressure, simply a warm tingling, stronger than before.
Again, you tried to suck in breath, pull your mind together, but it was just so hard to keep focused. “I… what… are you…” Your brain tried to form a coherent train of thought, but the wheels just kept slipping on the rails, stopping and starting, engine running mindlessly. Weren’t you working on something? There was something important you needed to be doing… “I… I need… guuuuhhhh…”
“Shhhhhhh, shh, shh,” Robin whispered, pressing against you and sending another burst of burning, crushing, wonderful sensation through you. “Just let me take care of you.” They were kneading you like dough against the mat. It was so much, so much to feel, but it was never too much. It wasn’t pain, just pressure, wonderful, wonderful pressure. Your thoughts were flying apart, your sense of time disappearing. You didn’t realise you had closed your eyes. You felt your stiff, sore muscles weakening, softening, stretching under Robin’s careful efforts. Your back, your shoulders, your neck. The alternation between the incredible intensity with every breath out and warm tingling with every breath in was more than your mind and body could bear. Eventually, you stopped trying to string coherent thoughts together; why would you even try? It felt too good to try to resist. You heard Robin’s sweet words being whispered into your ears. Were these thoughts your own, or were they thinking for you? You didn’t know. You didn’t care. All that mattered was the pleasure. The relaxation. The feeling of being pressed down, almost crushed against the mat, feeling all the stress and strain and strength drain away from your muscles. You didn’t know whether it had been five minutes or five hours since the massage started. All you could do – all you wanted to do – was submit to the feeling of being massaged. Being cared for. Being nurtured. Being given the pleasure and relaxation your poor, battered body had been crying out for. Being able to let out all the stress and strain of the day with every breath, every moan. Your brain wasn’t working. It didn’t need to. You stopped trying to think altogether. Just pleasure. Just relaxation.
As they worked, Robin’s mischievous grin only deepened, feeling your muscles beneath their fingers and palms slowly flexing and loosening. As painful as it was to watch you work yourself to the bone, day after day, it also gave them the opportunity to give back to you the pleasure and relaxation you seemed so determined to deny yourself. They timed their presses just a little slower than your breathing, so that with every press, your breath slowed that little bit more. Every moan and gasp escaping from your lips, every little bit that your muscles softened between their hands, fed back to their own pleasure. This was far from the first time they had pressed you down like this, massaging you, kneading you into the mat, so they knew all the spots of tension, of stress, but also of pleasure and relaxation.
If only these moments could last forever…