Duane had found a note on his desk, calling him in to Grace's office that morning, or more accurately, Grace's new office, reflecting her new role as CEO. They were typically the two to show before everyone else in the office, reflecting each's bid for the position she now held. They both started in the company around the same time as younger interns, knew of each other, was always cordial, silently found one another attractive enough to steal furtive glances every so often, until they both got lost in different departments.
Years later, they both found themselves at the executive level, both hungry in their careers for levels higher than what they'd already achieved. As their parents warned them, managers among other managers were more about politics, more cutthroat, especially in Grace's case as she was one of a few females who'd ever climbed the ladder so high. Everyone knew she had her eye on breaking that glass ceiling, which seemed to bring out the misogyny in her competition. It seemed to come from so many directions sometimes, but Grace didn't let it deter her once. The retiring CEO, Mr. Knowles, operated in unconventional ways, including when it came to the protocol of nominating successions, but he made so many good moves that no one argued with his decisions, and none among the board of directors disagreed with the choices he had in-mind. Nominating Grace was unconventional since she wasn't the most senior exec, but it was logical as nearly no one produced better results than her, so once he had Grace's perfect work in his eye, she had a good lay of the land, to know who thought what about her, who to stay away from, etc. More often than not, the only one she didn't have to worry about playing dirty was Duane, who was actually a more considerable threat with work also considered perfect as well.
Mr. Knowles had an eye for haters and schemers too, eventually helping to narrow the field. After a dozen left in the dust, it was just Grace and Duane vying for the top.
She remembered the one time, shortly after it was made known that it would be one of them to be promoted, where they ran into each other in the break room. They smiled cordially at each other like usual, but instead of running off to finish whatever work or crisis needed handling, she decided to engage him.
"Remember that old boss we had, Withers?"
She asked Duane as if out of the blue. His brow raised, and the memories of the first boss he could ever remember hating popped up in his head. It got him to laugh.
"Ugh, yeah. What a first bastard-I mean boss to have."
"Duane," she faux chided "You dare speak of a company fixture like that? 'You'll most certainly pay for that.'"
She quoted Withers most ridiculous antiquated threat to any intern that would cross an arbitrary line with him, and what made every intern mock him behind his back every chance they got. That opened Duane up to a good laugh and trip down memory lane, as was Grace's intent. At that point, he looked like crap, and could use a reason to smile. She knew he was the glue that was holding his department together, barely, which is what caught the CEO's eye of course, an exec succeeding despite being dealt a shitty hand.
After a light-hearted laugh and taking a long sip of his coffee, Duane suddenly got candid with her.
"Look, uh, I know we're both racing to the top, but I wanted to say that I'm glad it's you I'm racing. You do really good work, and if any one has earned it, other than me," he laughs, getting her to chuckle too. "it's you. It'll be especially great if you break that glass ceiling."
He spoke a little more about their competing and how far each might go, but Grace in her years of experience scanned his face as he talked. Hers was a mask of politeness and consideration, but her eyes were hawkish, looking for any subtle tick or tell that would give him away, that would make what he's saying less genuine than he meant it to seem. It would upset her to see someone who started in this company a genuinely good guy slip into the trappings of slimy corporate ambition. It pleased her to assess his face and body language match his words, with the exception of how she noticed even more how much he needed that coffee, as if to stay vertical.
"Well, you could always step aside and hand me the hammer to break it," she laughed to emphasize how she was truly joking.
"No can do, Grace. You've got a competitor in me till the very end," he laughed back a little, eyes fluttering as if trying to give himself a "stay awake" pep talk, something she noticed and regarded as cute.
"Well, thank you for your kind words, and being worthy competition," her hand outstretched, specifically the one opposite his that held the coffee mug. He set it down and took her hand. She shook it as firmly as he did, and gently moved in a circular motion, just enough to not make him tense and recoil, but enough that he would notice. She held it gently and left the firmness to him, making slightly wider then suddenly tighter circles, adding a pulling back and forth motion between them.
Duane looked at her hand and then her to see a ghost of a small smile, lost in what she was doing, waiting for the punchline of whatever joke was being played. It came right before she was going to pull his arm back towards her.
The word was whispered sharply while jerking his arm abruptly, his forehead resting on her shoulder, repeating it over and over, holding his obviously sleepy body up, whispering more words that kept his legs strong enough to stand, and words that kept his head asleep enough like it wanted to be that time of night, comfortably taking the deeper meaning of her words all the while. He smiled, practically nuzzling her shoulder as she relaxed him completely.
It was like a second passed when he rose his head to see her in-front of him, like his head just bobbed up and down.
"Yeah, yeah..." Duane tried convincing her. "Just a long day is all."
"Which ones aren't?" she queried, getting both to laugh again.
"Too true. Ok, better go finish up before I crash. Have a good one Grace." He spoke, walking away feeling better than he did before he got his coffee. It was his usual cup and blend, so he attributed it to talking to Grace. She stimulated him enough that the tail-end of the day didn't seem so bad. He found himself hoping that he would have a chance to have more stimulating conversation like that in the future.
In the following weeks, especially when things got harder than ever, his hopes were granted. When they were the last two at the office, it seems like they always met at the same time in the break area, speaking over coffee, light-hearted discussion that lifted his spirits. He silently relied on those moments, waiting hours for the sun to go down, signalling the opportunity to talk with Grace. His body complained of needing sleep always at the same time, and Grace would just smile at him, totally understanding. She would know better than any what made him so tired, he swore it was her understanding voice in his head letting him flutter away, teasing the sleep he wanted. How much of it was teased was always relative; a minute could seem like an hour, or an hour could seem like a second.
On at least two business trips, he'd dreamed nightly of being in that hotel room, awake and talking to Grace over the phone. Just listening to her drone on about this or that, and he could fall deeply asleep to that. Her words would turnout to be guiding him to a softer place than any hotel bedding more mattress was capable of providing. He couldn't believe how his body responded to that softness, in juxtaposed excitement. He breathlessly, mindlessly mentioned how it felt in that regard, and baited breath was on the other line, taking in the implications, soon returning to that understanding made it ok to feel, to react as he liked. The baited breath returned longer once her words took him deeper, past the inevitable eruption. She waited for him to finish, spending long seconds searching for the right words to say; eventually it became words of embracing that feeling, enhancing it, telling him how the day's troubles couldn't match up to it, and how that pleasure seemed totally natural. It was much easier for his mind to comprehend it at a later out-of-town trip as she understood even more than before about the softness; he could hear it in their shared breathlessness.
One particular night at the break area, she brought up the concept of the glass ceiling.
"Duane, is it weird that I kind of like the idea of a glass ceiling?"
"Umm..." he tried choosing his words carefully. "I have to admit I've....never heard a woman say that."
"Yeah, I'm kind of an outlier just by saying that. But I don't really mean the glass ceiling that's meant to keep women or minorities out. I mean one that only lets the really worthy ascend past it, a glass ceiling so high that only a special kind of worthy could even reach high enough to touch it. It certainly not like those man-made class ceilings of the good old boys days, the ones where all you need is the right look and a handshake to get it."
Grace extended her hand, and Duane automatically took it.
"Not the kind you can SLEEP, your way up to either."
The words were consciously lost on Duane after "sleep," slipping right back into the custom grove of letting the sleeping space in his mind fill up with hot words to warm the rest of his head.
"When I heard that term 'glass ceiling' in grade school, I defined it in my own way. The glass ceiling was what I stood on, what I rested on, what everyone else was trying to reach. I really took my parents words about working hard and smart to be the best to heart as a kid, and their words never failed me."
In Grace's case, the smart came from their years of professional experience, particularly her mother's psychology teachings, how to read people, how to affect people in a multitude of ways, and more.
"I worked hard, fought diligently for exactly what I wanted; I knew I earned it, and it was mine. I often looked down at those trying to reach it. The petty ones, the liars and cheats, barely made it off the ground. The one who put in the effort like me, I could see them getting closer and closer. They became friends who I'd constant encourage to get better, to keep trying, so the glass ceiling would open up for them. I'm not sure anyone ever made it in my dreams though; I was always the best."
The hands used to stroke behind Duane's neck gently scratched a little at the skin, rubbing insistent spirals on in which triggered more automatic acceptance of her words.
"The glass ceiling even appeared when I dreamt about boyfriends, or boys that I really wanted as boyfriends. They would try so hard, improve themselves, do anything they could, maybe not to be as good as me, but to be worthy of me. It got me so hot to watch them try to be better men. An old girlfriend always told me to be weary of all guys, cause they just want one part of you; that became part of my dreams too. Watching those good men that would love and respect all of me ascend, I saw my....liquid excitement, fall and stain that ceiling. I saw their eyes staring at it, looking as glass as the surface they couldn't quite reach. I'd never felt so...piqued in my life. Sometimes I would rest that part they wanted so badly against the glass, tempting them even more so, driving their, and my, animal need. I could see their erections as they almost made it, as I rubbed myself against the glass, a puddle of arousal that was my greatest satisfaction. It certainly was when I made it up to corporate, and put everything I am into this job."
Grace spoke almost as if with regret of her last sentence, taking stock in her last five years, even if it meant it would all pay off in the end. The rapid breaths and protruding in Duane's pants brought a smile back to her face.
"In all that time, I'd never met a man more qualified than you Duane, more worthy than you. You've gotten oh so close, mere inches away from touching my ceiling. And oh how you've wanted, needed, pushed yourself beyond limits to be worthy to caress the surface that is my pedestal, where the effect of your efforts fall, strong enough to smell past the glass, affirming enough to be a good man, to stay a good man, to always strive to be a better man if that's possible. The kind of man that listens to a woman's words of worth with equal regard, yet something in you knows there's even more value. Anytime you hear my words, it's a revelation. Anytime you hear specific words from me like 'SLEEP,' you go deeper, softer, and deeper, and softer, and deeper than before, made softer than ever. You can't help it, or maybe you can, but only to take yourself deeper for me. The work you do earns you this deep sleep, and you don't resist it in the slightest. Without it, you can't be the better man you need to be, for me. That just makes you go sooooooo much deeper for me, doesn't it?"
Somewhere in his moaning was a "yes Grace". She had to stop herself before she might've stain the break area floor.
"And so, this glass ceiling I've told you about becomes your litmus test, your ability to reach it depends solely on how deep you can go for me, and how that will improve every part of what makes you, you. And even deeper than that, and deeper still into SLEEP."
She felt his forehead sink deeper into her shoulder, his legs well-programmed to keep him on his feet no matter what.
"When you hear me and only me say 'glass ceiling', you can imagine yourself having touched it, having reached your goal, having been worthy to be allowed to touch and please me if I ever wish it of you, to prepare your mind to go deeper than ever if I tell you to SLEEP. The 'glass ceiling' prepares you more for SLEEP, and SLEEP re-energizes, invigorates you, letting you reach that 'glass ceiling'. You understand all of my words perfectly, don't you Duane?"
"Understood and obeyed," his trigger response confirming his absolute acceptance.
Since that point, the running for CEO was always a stiff one. Mr. Knowles constantly had to weigh and re-weigh the pros and cons of Grace and Duane, never realizing Grace kept Duane in the running all this time. Duane's strength was being given the toughest cases which he seemed to withstand everytime until they started to take a toll on him, offset only with encouraged sleep from Grace. Grace's strength was how she handled tough cases involving difficult people with ease, like she was born for it. Most of it was her impeccable, comprehensive reports sprinkled with standard psychological techniques used to appeal to customers and within the company. And though vary rarely, when it was necessary, Grace sprinkled dashes of methods meant to bring people into suggestibility, to turn problematic affairs into opportunities in the company's benefit. The retiring exec would watch her work, and it was almost mesmerizing to him how she could seize improbable victories as easy as snapping her fingers.
Knowles was blissfully ignorant of how she did it, nor did he ever know that if she was less scrupulous or competitive, his mind would've been made up for him long ago for the succession, but Grace never affected him like that; she let 99% her work speak for itself. It validated the tears she somehow held back when it was officially announced that she had made it, that she would the the company's next CEO. She was overwhelmed to know she'd finally gotten it, and to see Duane amongst the background, clapping with genuine happiness for her promotion.
The night of celebrating with her friends and family was amazing, but what was more important to her would be several mornings after. The first female CEO in the company's history was an accomplishment that still didn't feel completely real yet, but capitalizing on some of the hard work she's been building up to with regard to Duane would help. Instead of a CEO appointment, he'd been gifted with a different department to work, much less strenuous, and a raise to top it off; a veritable paid vacation he saw it as. Grace had no intention of subverting any of that, but adding a perk.
Duane found her admiring her new digs mid am, changes already undergone in the the top office.
"You got rid of the old wooden behemoth?"
"No, I let him leave with it. Told him he could put it in his study and still feel like the boss at home."
"Heh. Is that from your old office?"
"This beauty, yeah. Instead of breaking the 'glass ceiling', I decided to take it with me, to work on top of it."
He should've noticed it right away through the glass, but the phrasing triggered him to try to be more gentlemanly, while noticing Grace more as a woman, noticing her beauty, her less than executive officer-standard attire, including a lack of pants and panties. The gentleman in him struggled to look away from between the nylon clad legs, but he couldn't. Too many nights dreaming about how she might look left him transfixed and silent, marveling at the reality his dreams couldn't hold a candle to.
"And you, Duane, my executive servant, have reached your goal finally. You get to worship just under the 'glass ceiling', here just for you, as you're here just for me."
He took a deep breath in, keying to the smell he knew was hers.
"That's right, breathe deep, let my perfume guide you forward. Time to indulge, reaping all the rewards, and SLEEP."
Duane's form collapsed on the floor under her desk. Grace gasped at the sight under the table through the glass, noting how her dream had come true as well, and would have one way or another. If Duane had been named CEO instead of Grace, she would've accepted it, but still called him into her office to establish her dominion over him, her chief executive orificer, terrible phrasing or not. Now, she got everything she wanted, and needed a certain sensation to make it all feel real.
"Duane, all the power you have is in your tongue, your muscles only have strength to lift you up, your mind only has the wear-withal to guide you between my legs, but your tongue is the true extension of you. Knowing how it must please me, starting slow, and building me up, just like we've built ourselves up, until I triumphantly express myself, and you will know once and for all where you belong. When you feel a touch on your head, you will awaken, and act on what you've been told."
Grace reached down with her hand to caress his hair, helping him up with a delicate grip before placing her hands on the table, feeling his tongue work as instructed, loving hearing the soft banging of his head against his glass ceiling, ready to be christened CEO and Duane's owner for life.