Tuesday September 4th
9:30am team Zoom meeting
“Anyone see the match last night?”
Roddy tried not to roll his eyes. Part of him wanted to join in with dissecting the game anyway. The other part of him, the part that was worried about how much the virus was ruining their sales figures, wanted the others to treat this as seriously as he did. Or, failing that, to at least be shut down by Brooke so they could get on with work. Without that… well, they kept getting told how much trouble the company was in. Did these guys not want to keep their jobs? Or did they somehow just not worry about it? And if they didn’t worry about it, how?
He glanced across to Brooke’s cam to see how she was going to respond to this. If she was going to respond to this. But she was sitting there, a fixed and obvious fake smile on her face, as she waited for the guys to burn through the first wave of discussion.
Once they’d decided that the penalty was bullshit and agreed that even with that being the case, still, if they’d taken the kick they would’ve done better than that overpaid jackass, Brooke cleared her throat. “OK,” she said. “Let’s get some work done, shall we?” A pause, just to be sure they were listening. “We had quite a few sales leads going into Friday. How’ve we been doing?”
Roddy spoke up first. It wasn’t that he was trying to set an example, or that he wanted to be considered The Keen One, but he knew if he didn’t get the chance to report on what he was doing as soon as possible, he wouldn’t get the chance.
And just as he’d expected, they didn’t get through even one more team member’s update. Brooke allowed Tony to segue from his report to a complaint about a customer to a comparison to a sitcom, and then conversation inevitably drifted back to the weekend’s Netflix binging.
He tried not to sigh, just as he’d tried not to roll his eyes. He needed to get on with the rest of his team, no matter how frustrating they were.
Friday September 7th
2:00pm individual Zoom review meeting
“Honestly, Roddy, you’re doing fine,” Brooke said. She wasn’t even meeting his eye, and her tone was completely disinterested. Almost defeated. “I mean, we can always push for better, but I’m filing your sales for this week’s commission and you’ve done… well, fine.”
“Thank you,” Roddy said, and paused. Waited. Watched. Waiting for something that would feel like advice, or guidance, or any kind of motivation.
When it didn’t come he asked “Are we on track for the team commission?”
Brooke looked flustered. “Roddy, the way the company is right now, I don’t know that there’s going to be a team commission to be on track for.”
“No, no, I kind of wondered if that would happen. But…” He cut himself off, wondering what the best way to say this would be. “I’m just trying to make sure this team is doing their best to make sure the company stays afloat, considering.” Like you should be, he thought but did not say. “What with the virus and all.”
She sighed. “I appreciate that, Roddy,” she said. “Try not to worry about that too much, OK? I have some plans.”
“Alright. Speak to you on Monday, Roddy.”
Monday September 14th
9:30am team Zoom meeting
“Mike, we heard over the weekend from Fulfilment that your last three sales fell through,” Brooke said, her tone one of gentle regret. “I’ve had a word with Daniel in Fulfilment, and he tells me it turns out that a lot of what had been promised wasn’t actually anything we did…”
Roddy’s eyes had gone to Mike’s reaction not long into this question. This was probably the most positive part of transitioning to Zoom, he felt; you could watch people for reactions when you thought they might be good, and nobody would get pissy because you were staring at them.
Mike didn’t look happy, but he also wasn’t the kind of worried that a salesman should be if ten figures’ worth of revenue and a full week’s worth of your efforts had fallen through all at once. Especially if there was a suggestion you might have been caught lying. He shrugged. “I try to make sure I don’t promise anything we can’t do,” he said. “But you know what Fulfilment is like. They keep cutting services we offer. What am I supposed to do?”
Roddy was a betting man, and he would have been comfortable staking money on that having nothing to do with Mike’s issues selling. Fulfilment were cutting costs, but a strong sale for something they used to do, they’d have at least tried. He glanced back to Brooke, whose demoralised expression hadn’t changed.
“Right,” she said. “Well, we’re going to have to find a way to improve all this. What that’s going to be, I have no idea yet, but-”
“Hey, anyone see the game yesterday afternoon?”
Roddy bit his lip to prevent himself saying anything.
This was going to have to change. If Brooke wasn’t going to do it… then what?
Because as much as he wanted to step in, he couldn’t. He didn’t have the rank, and nobody on the sales team had the respect to turn something like this around; that wasn’t just him.
But if he went direct to the MD, that was probably going to see Brooke canned. Anyone from the team might be appointed as her replacement, and they’d hold him responsible. It’d be two counts of career suicide in one act.
No, if he wanted this to change, Brooke had to change it. And she wouldn’t. She didn’t have the inner fire.
Roddy didn’t think he was being sexist about this. He’d worked under male and female bosses. Good and bad. Strict and gentle. Often, it had been the women who’d got best results from their sales teams, so long as they were willing to push back.
Sales as a whole tended to be a sexist industry, after all. Women who thrived and rose tended to be hardened by that. Brooke’s more nurturing style had seemed to work just fine in the office. Now, though, she’d been dismissed by the team as a non-entity.
Roddy wasn’t paying attention to the meeting at all now. Instead he was thinking back to strict bosses, bosses that could have kept this team in hand over video calls. Kashia, for example; she would have taken this in stride. The others on the team had called her a ball-eater, but they followed her. They respected her, even if they covered that up with dismissive name-calling. She’d rode the team hard and ruled the roost. Roddy had daydreamed about her a time or two, as a matter of fact.
…But that wasn’t Brooke’s style at all.
Saturday September 19th
3:41am unscheduled awakening
Roddy lay in the darkness and realised, slowly, that he was awake again. He turned over, a smile on his lips, buzzing in the afterglow of his gream. His dream had been…
What had it been, exactly? It had involved cleavage, that was one of the clearer memories, and the cleavage had been held in place and set on display by black latex. Or possibly black PVC, he could never remember which was which. The lipstick was a vibrant ruby red that popped against pale skin. The eyes… had he been forbidden from meeting the eyes? His gaze had mostly been too low to see anything.
Lying in the dark, half-dreaming, Roddy tried to pull back the fantasy from the short, fleeting glimpses. He remembered… a crop, yes, and the feel of the crop against first his thigh when he hadn’t responded quickly enough, then against his rear once he was bent over the table.
No, not the table. His desk, specifically; the one left behind in the office in the retreat from the virus. As the memory of dream got clearer, he recalled his notepad, the stack of stolen napkins he kept there for lunches, close in his gaze as he counted the strokes of the crop.
Why was he at his desk in the fantasy?
His eyes opened.
Oh. Oh shit.
He was at his desk because that was Brooke in the costume. Brooke with her hands on the crop. Brooke asserting dominance.
Roddy shifted in bed again, his hardness demanding a slightly more comfortable position. He lay there quietly, feeling the slightest shame in involving her in his fantasies - or, more accurately, his shame was in the fact he didn’t feel shame about it.
It had been some time since Roddy had played with anyone he could call a Mistress. And while he couldn’t quite imagine Brooke going to corporal punishment, the idea of her taking charge was much, much more alluring now he thought of it in this light.
He kept his submissive tendencies secret from the rest of the team for the same reason he didn’t criticise their disinterest in work during work; it wasn’t worth the aggro he expected. And he couldn’t imagine all of them were secretly hiding their own subby urges.
And yet… and yet…
The dream felt so much like the solution to their problems at work. If only Brooke were willing to take that kind of attitude at work. Which… well, he had no reason to think she had any interest in being dominant. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Unless someone created that interest. Unpicked the weave of her mind and sewed a new pattern into place. A new pattern who would take charge, at work and outside. Who would drive the team to new heights. Who would demand more.
And who, in time, when the virus was gone, might be…
Lying on his back, Roddy closed his eyes and took his cock in hand. His daydream of the future became, as he drifted back off to sleep, the basis for a dream, one which would keep him smiling all through the rest of the day.
Tuesday September 22nd
9:30am team Zoom meeting
Of course, just because Roddy had a new favourite fantasy didn’t mean that it was going to happen, as he reminded himself for the second day in a row. Tony was honestly more annoying than ever, and it was taking forever to get any information across in the team meetings.
At the start of all this, when working from home had been a novelty, this hadn’t been a problem. Everyone had been keen to show they could handle working from home. Now that had been proved, though, the team had clearly stopped worrying about it.
Roddy had started just watching Brooke, looking for any sense that she might be about to snap and start pushing for order. He wasn’t seeing it - she was frustrated, but she wasn’t about to let herself be unprofessional just for that - and it just made everything worse.
To make matters worse, they were losing time day by day; not enough sales would soon mean cost-cutting went further than before. There were two ways that might go; getting rid of the people who fulfilled sales that had been made, or getting rid of people from the sales team.
Roddy was almost hoping for the second - it might be the wakeup call needed elsewhere on his team. What put him off was the risk that he could be the one cut to send the message. And, when you got right down to it, he wasn’t keen on any of his colleagues getting fired. As frustrated as they currently made him, none of them were actually bad people, and while they’d been in the office he’d enjoyed the company of all of them.
But Brooke just wasn’t going to put her foot down. It wasn’t far off the end of September, and the next set of monthly reviews were coming up; Roddy wasn’t sure how much longer the company could go without making changes, but he was pretty sure something would happen by the end of October.
He’d stopped paying attention to the meeting and was just dwelling on the problem when the solution - well, a solution - occurred to him. Staring off into space, he had cause to be grateful that people seldom watched the cameras of people who weren’t talking as he turned the idea over in his mind.
It was wrong. Obviously. It was crazy. Obviously.
All the same, he couldn’t see any reason it wouldn’t work.
In fact it made a disturbing amount of sense.
He figured he’d give it a day and see if he spotted any problems that didn’t present themselves immediately.
“Anyone see the game last night?”
Roddy changed his mind. No. This had to be done. As soon as the call was over, he was going to phone Zack and start work on an alternative.
Wednesday September 23rd
4:25pm unscheduled individual Zoom call
“Roddy,” Brooke started, sighing, and then blinked. “What’ve you done with your camera?”
Roddy wasn’t showing himself on camera. Instead he was running what Zack had called ‘the latest’ when he’d added Roddy to the Dropbox. Since the last of these Roddy had known anything about was the best part of six years old, he hadn’t really been sure what to expect, especially as Zack had traditionally been all about the audio.
Roddy had already decided, when he was in college, that sales would be where his particular skills could make him the most money. He dipped into a couple of Psych courses, hoping he’d pick up something useful for his work, but mostly what he’d found useful in the aftermath were friendships with Zack, Barry, and Wayne. Barry and Wayne hadn’t stayed close - from what Zack had off-handedly mentioned to him, they were somewhere in mid-tier government officialdom these days - but Zack had preferred to keep the trio’s shared project a hobby rather than a job.
There was a standing offer from Zack to cut Roddy in on the programs they’d developed. But Roddy didn’t much like the idea of taking control of others, so he’d always refused - until now.
Roddy had no idea what Brooke was seeing as his camera feed.
Brooke had no idea what she was seeing on Roddy’s camera feed, except that something was clearly wrong. It was showing a black-and-white snowy flicker that hadn’t even been how TVs handled interference for years, and had never been how interference worked online. Aside from dim childhood memories, the thing it reminded her of most was the optical illusion posters that she figured were probably just as old, where there was a picture hidden away, that you would suddenly see if you found just the right way of looking at it.
Brooke had the same sensation of shapes, images, of… something… visible if only she could see it, despite the fact the dots and swirls ebbed, flowed, and popped away, the whole thing moving, fluctuating, shifting. Every time a static bubble rose up and dispersed it made her more certain that she should be able to see the hidden thing…
…which was a woman, maybe? Or was she making that up? No, this was meant to be a business call.
What had Roddy done to his camera?
He wasn’t talking - hadn’t been since the start of the call, and Brooke was just starting to realise that hadn’t been moments ago but minutes. Admittedly he wasn’t the only one who’d been silent, or more or less silent. Every time she was about to speak, she got distracted again by another shift in the field of static.
The attempts to speak seemed to be piling up in her mouth, words crowding into each other and turning her attempts to speak into mush. When she finally did force her lips to make a sound, the mush emerged as “Uhhh…”
“Feels good, doesn’t it?”
It didn’t occur to Brooke that this was an odd question. Roddy’s microphone appeared to be affected, too, but it wasn’t distorted so much as louder, with reverb. The words he spoke arrived in the same part of her head that kept the attempts she’d made to speak, but, with their extra intensity, they remained clear, obvious, as the mush of her own words melted away.
“Feels good,” she said, and thought that she must have said something close to her original intent.
“You don’t get to feel good at work much right now, do you?”
“No,” Brooke said dreamily. She didn’t get to feel good much at all, honestly. Work overran, not just a little beyond the team’s expected hours, but honestly with the team mostly phoning it in, she was working between fifteen and seventeen hours some days, and a full working day at the weekends. Nothing outside of work was actually getting in her way or messing with her - she just didn’t have the energy for it.
When she wasn’t working, she sat on her sofa and ‘watched’ Netflix. She’d got through most of her queue since March, but couldn’t actually tell you much that had happened in any of them. They’d been on in front of her when she just didn’t have enough energy to take anything in.
“You don’t get to feel happy with how we work, either, do you?”
“No,” she agreed. These were things she felt strongly about. She should be angry, shouldn’t she?
But she was still feeling very peaceful, and she almost swore she could see the picture hidden in the static.
“It’s time for a change, then. Isn’t it, Miss Brooke?”
Brooke’s long lashes blinked. “I suppose so,” she said.
“That’s very good, and I’m here to help.” Which, to Brooke’s perspective, was a new one; Roddy was less of a problem than the rest of the team, but honestly it seemed to her that he didn’t have the drive that was really necessary for a top-flight sales team member. He needed external motivation, not something she was particularly confident giving when the world around her was messing her up so badly.
The shame of it was that she usually considered herself more capable than that. Just not this year.
“To properly begin the change, you must open yourself to it,” Roddy continued. “This is best done symbolically.” He paused for a few moments, and Brooke was left to wonder what he might mean.
“You are closed off, Brooke. Only through this treatment, in this state, are you open enough for anything to get through. Do you understand?”
There was a faint moment of hesitation, but Brooke nodded. It made sense. The way she felt right now felt so good. It felt peaceful and happy. Everyone was more likely to think things through and make positive changes when they were happy.
“To open yourself up, to end this closed off state, you’ll want to show how open you can be. Your blouse is a wall against the world, just like that clipboard you kept pressed against your chest in the office.”
After a moment to consider, Brooke nodded again, smiling hesitantly this time. She had kept her clipboard up for years; in her first year at work, her old boss had groped her in passing once, and the clipboard had been a way to prevent that happening again which, over time, had become a crutch, something she relied on absolutely. It wasn’t even something she thought about any more; Roddy mentioning it had been the first time she’d thought about it in the past couple of years, since well before going to work from home meant it no longer mattered.
She’d responded to working from home by buttoning her blouse up to the top, so she didn’t have to worry about people staring at her cleavage. Of course, now nobody was paying attention at all.
“Opening your blouse will show you’re opening up, Brooke,” Roddy explained. “Miss Brooke is almost ready to make changes, but she needs the chance to come out. Open up, Brooke. Show me you’re opening up.”
Her hands rose dreamily to the top button of her blouse, and she began unbuttoning, one at a time, listlessly, lazily, luxuriantly slow. Roddy sat quietly until the blouse was open; self-consciously, Brooke spread her shirt open so that it framed her fleshtone bra. She didn’t want to be accused of remaining closed off.
“You still have a layer of protection, Brooke. Of unneeded closing off. Don’t you?” His voice was coaxing, but keen; Brooke was somehow reminded of the men who’d make their approaches any time she sat in a bar alone waiting for her friends. She nodded all the same. If exposure was openness, she was still partially hidden.
“Just put your hands to your bra and pull those cups down so you can be completely open,” Roddy said. He was trying to be matter of fact but that same excitement throbbed through his words.
Her hands followed his direction lazily. Well, she thought, Miss Brooke must be ready to come out.
Whatever that meant.
“Miss Brooke has the strength and the confidence to make these changes,” Roddy said, and Brooke wondered why he was saying so. “Miss Brooke wants to make changes,” he continued. “She is in charge, but she wants to take charge.”
That didn’t sound at all right, and yet the screen seemed less distorted. It was as if the more Roddy spoke, the closer she came to an understanding of the goings-on in front of her, the things that were wrong and should be put right. The things she just couldn’t see.
Brooke made a noise, and it spoke to something positive and pleasant, but she didn’t really know why she’d made it or what it meant. But the next time Roddy spoke there was another level of excitement in his voice, a delighted eagerness.
“Miss Brooke feels sexy when she takes charge,” he said, and for the first time what he’d been saying made perfect sense. Yes, of course. Taking charge was exciting. Taking charge was sexy. Taking charge would feel so sexy. It would be such a rush to be in charge. She made the noise again and squirmed in her chair.
“Miss Brooke loves to feel sexy,” he continued. “Miss Brooke knows how sexy her body is and should be.”
Miss Brooke nodded, her lips quirking into a smile. Roddy understood. She wondered if he understood that Miss Brooke would be demanding more from him once she’d fully emerged.
“Miss Brooke doesn’t take shit from her underlings,” Roddy continued. “Miss Broke doesn’t take shit from anybody.”
Her smile was more than just a minor thing now. Miss Brooke enjoyed listening to Roddy paint this picture, and was starting to wonder just how much he understood. She realised one of her hands had risen again and drifted up to her exposed breasts, where a nipple was taken between thumb and forefinger, then tugged and teased. Her other hand cupped the base of her breast, first lifting, then beginning to stroke and explore.
Roddy’s speech spluttered to a half. He hadn’t expected this, and Miss Brooke realised that she’d been right - he hadn’t been as clear on what he was getting as he thought. But that was okay; she was still feeling good, and still in a very comfortable space. She was prepared to listen if he had anything else he wanted to say, maybe anything else he wanted to specify…
But his confidence seemed to have deserted him, and his voice stayed silent. Miss Brooke realised, at last, that what had been hidden away in the illusion was herself - her own image, the dark lipstick and confident wardrobe choices that helped to differentiate Miss Brooke from the mouse Brooke that she had otherwise been.
Her smile grew even wider.
Monday September 28th
9:30am team Zoom meeting
“Anyone see the game last night?” Tony asked. Miss Brooke fixed her camera with an icy stare.
“If you’d like to see games from the venue when this is all over, Tony, we’ll keep on topic, please.”
The team fell silent. Miss Brooke watched them shift and fidget, and she smiled, making the most of the deep plum lipstick she’d bought at the weekend. She sat back in her chair and stretched. “Let’s talk seriously, boys,” she said. “Because we haven’t for a while. And we’re going to need to, or I’m going to have to tell Management exactly how little respect some of you are giving your paycheck.
“You need to be spending more time chasing your leads down, you need to be spending more time making sure we get sales. I’d talk about spending more time upselling orders but after the farce with Mike’s orders last weekend, I’m not convinced that’s a good idea.” She let that hang in the air, took in the faint smile on Roddy’s lips and the confused embarrassment Mike felt, and then shifted position again. By now she knew they’d all have taken in the cleavage she had on display, as well as the confidence.
If she couldn’t rely on them to act like sensible adults, she’d lead them around by their cocks; whatever would get them there.
“So. Who wants to be fired?”
More fidgeting. Tony had a weirdly uncomfortable expression in place, as if he wasn’t sure how he felt about the new Brooke. But nobody raised their hands, and she nodded.
“Good. I’d rather none of you were fired, either. But I’m going to have to insist you all work harder. And if you do…” Her smile widened. “I’m prepared to express my gratitude. But if you don’t… well, I’ll have to take steps. Corrective steps.”
Yes, Tony was definitely reacting to those ideas. Poor devil; he should be putty in Miss Brooke’s hands after she’d had a chance to give him his monthly review one-on-one on Friday.
“But we’ll see about that. We’re going to use this week as a test case, alright? I want sales by Friday, some positive news I can take to the board this weekend. And I want them from all of you.
“Am I understood?” she asked.
Most of the team faltered, still adjusting to the new deal, the new way of doing things, but Roddy spoke up first.
“Yes, Miss Brooke,” he said, and immediately flushed, embarrassed. Tony blurted “Yes, Miss Brooke,” stumbling over it, not wanting to be seen as the last. Wanting his reward.
The others seemed to hang for a moment or two more of bafflement. Then a near-chorus. “Yes, Miss Brooke.”
“Alright.” Miss Brooke nodded. “We’ve got some work to do, gentlemen. Make me happy.” A pause. “You do want to make me happy?”
“Yes, Miss Brooke!”