Enter The Realm of the Pendragon

Duplicity

Genre: Drama
Rating: 15
Word Count: 2,030
Author's Notes: Written for NaNoWriMo 2005
Claire is a lowly administration assistant in a local government office where she keeps very much to herself.
Dante is a young perky gay blond who does something important in marketing but seems to spend most of his time hanging out in a coffee shop with a select group of friends.
They live entirely seperate lives until one day; Dante disappears and only Claire knows where he is. She soon realises that he owes his life to her in more than one way. The question is, which one of them will survive?

Chapter Eight

Claire was glad when it was finally time to go home. She'd been having a hell of a day. It hadn't started off that well when she had spent most of the night tossing and turning. When her alarm had gone off at 7.30, she could have quite cheerfully switched it off and gone back to sleep except that she wasn't like that. She had to be quite ill before she would even take a day off and being tired through lack of sleep wasn't going to be a good enough excuse. However, if she'd known how lousy her day was going to be, she might have changed her mind.

When she'd arrived at work, Julia was already there. She was really the last person Claire wanted to have to deal with, closely followed by Rhea. Still, if Julia was in the office, that would mean she wouldn't have to put up with getting the third degree from Rhea about the date last night. There really is a good side to everything, she mused, booting up her computer before taking off her coat.

As it turned out, Julia was not intending to stay long. She had three meetings back to back that day and was just printing off some work to keep the girls busy. She gave Claire a special task of organising a meeting including booking a room which kept her on the phone most of the morning. It was one thing she really disliked and having to phone round lots of different hotels and business centres to find the best place to hold the meeting did not put her in the best of tempers. When she got an e-mail through from Julia later on asking her to phone a dozen people to find out their availability, she wished whole-heartedly that she'd stayed in bed that morning after all. She soon came to the conclusion that people knew it was her trying to call them, because they would be engaged for a very long time and then ten minutes later, not answer their phone at all. It was enough to give anyone a complex. Still, she was so busy that she didn't have time to talk to Rhea or, even better, think about Blake.

It was lunchtime before she got chance to sit back and breathe. By this time, she hadn't had chance to notice that her inbox had been especially quiet but now when she checked it, there was nothing from Blake at all. It was surprising how much she'd come to expect the contact from him over the previous day and with what had happened the night before sitting uneasily in the back of her mind, she hoped that wasn't anything to do with his sudden silence. Rhea had gone out for lunch as usual so Claire had no one to talk to over her lunch break. She sighed with relief over the thought that there would be no point trying to contact anyone till at least closer to 2pm because most people would be off on lunch between now and then. She gave the telephone a baleful glare and pulled her lunch out of her backpack.

There was no sign of Blake when she went to make her usual soup in a mug; she hung around the kitchen for as long as she dared but he didn't appear. She didn't even know where his desk was so it wasn't as though she could go and see if he was even in the office. While she drank her soup, she considered sending him an e-mail, but after much nibbling of her nails, she couldn't think of anything to write. After much thought she put 'Just wondered how you were doing. How are things going? I'm having a horrendous day!' and left it at that. Even once it had been sent, she wondered if she'd done the right thing by contacting him.

Her afternoon was spent in relative peace and quiet as Rhea had a dentist appointment and left early. However, all the people she had tried to contact in the morning decided that the afternoon would be a good time to ring back en masse so she was constantly answering the phone while trying to type up 15 pages of Julia's indecipherable scrawl. By five o'clock, she'd managed to do half a page and was feeling cross and out of sorts. All she wanted was to go home where she could have a nice relaxing evening and forget about the dreadful day she'd had.

She felt much better the second she stepped out into the car park. The crisp autumn air temporarily revived her and she walked to her car with more of a bounce in her step than she'd had all day. She started up the car and began to make her way out of the car park, only noticing belatedly the thin whips of grey mist curling round the trees that lined the road. It crept up on her with surprising rapidity and within the space of ten minutes, the visibility was reduced drastically and she crawled along the dual carriageway at a top speed of 20 miles an hour, hunched over the steering wheel in a vain attempt to see where she was going.

It took her an hour and a half to drive what was normally a short distance home, including nearly running off the road twice and grinding to a halt at one point as she couldn't see a thing out of the windscreen. As she pulled onto her estate, the fog started to thin out and she sat back in her seat, groaning at the ache in her back. It took her no time at all to get to her house and before long, she was parking in the driveway, trying to decide whether she should have something to eat first or if a long soak in the bath would be better. Momentarily, she wondered if it would be possible to do both at the same time but common sense told her no.

An hour later found her curled up in front of the television set in her comfortable pyjamas, picking hot peppers off a slice of pizza and watching the news out of one eye. She found her attention being captured by the other appliance in the corner of the room and ended up turning the television off. She had known it was only a matter of time before it called to her anyway. Uncurling herself, she moved over to the computer and after licking her greasy fingers clean, booted it up.

"I can't believe that I spend all day at work on a computer and come home to spend even more time on one!" she said to herself, despairing at her lack of desire to do anything else. She finished off her slice of pizza as the computer went through its start up sequence and took her dirty plates out to the kitchen with the intention of washing them up later. In reality, later would be tomorrow morning when she did her breakfast dishes. Humming softly to herself, she double clicked on the desktop icon that would connect her to the internet and after entering her password, got comfy on the chair. She listened as the connection played strange electronic noises and when it was finally up and running, she quickly opened up a browser window and began to check her e-mail.

"Stupid spam," she muttered, marking several e-mails for deletion just from looking at the subject or the sender. That didn't leave an awful lot of mail to deal with so before too long she was ready to open up her Instant Messenger programme in order to have a nice chat with several of her friends. She was just about to double click on the icon on her desktop when a pop-up window suddenly appeared advertising something that appeared to be a dodgy website selling enhancement medication that would be of particular interest to those male-bodied individuals. With a groan of disgust, she quickly closed it down only to discover that her browser window had frozen and was no longer responding. With a frown, she pressed control, alt and delete and ended the programme that way. To her dismay, her entire computer froze up.

"No!" she cried in alarm. "Stupid pop-ups! Nearly as bad as spam!" She gave a great sigh and set about rebooting her computer. It would take a while to start up again so while she was waiting she decided that she might as well do the washing up. Untangling herself from the chair, she wandered into the kitchen and set about cleaning with gusto.

"Okay, let's try this again," she said, settling back down in the chair once the computer had finished its opening sequence. She opened up the internet connection again, entered her password and waited for the buzzing noises to stop. Once it had done so, she opened up a browser window to log into her e-mail account again and then went to click on the shortcut for the Instant Messenger. Again, a pop-up window appeared, this time advertising an online gambling website that offered $25 free for starters. With a tut of disproval, Claire closed down the little pop-up window and tried to carry on with what she was doing. She turned to the browser window that had her e-mail account waiting for her password verification and tried to enter it, only to find once more that it wasn't responding.

"What on earth is going on here?" For a second time, her computer had completely frozen up and she had to initiate a reboot. "This is ridiculous!" She sat there glaring at the screen, watching it closely as it went through its routine as if that would tell her what the problem was. It took another two reboots before a connection formed in her mind.

"Okay, so I get a pop-up window and when I close it down, my browser freezes. Then my whole computer freezes and I have to reboot it. So if I don't close down the original pop-up, then hopefully that should stop it freezing." Feeling rather pleased with herself, she put her theory to the test. As soon as a pop-up window appeared, she ignored it and carried on with logging into her e-mail account. Within seconds, a second pop-up window arrived. She bit her lip. If she closed this pop-up down, would she have the same problem as if she'd closed down the first one or would it be okay? As she debated over whether or not to risk it, a third pop-up appeared, rapidly followed by a fourth.

"No, go away!" she demanded and recklessly clicked on the crosses that closed all the pop-ups and immediately, her open browser window ground to a halt. "Gah!" she cried out, clasping her hands to her head. "What is going on?" Reluctantly she pressed the reboot button and watched as the monitor went black before springing back into life.

"This is getting very slightly beyond a joke. I need to get online! Maybe I'll try not opening any browser windows at all. All I really need is my Messenger anyway, my e-mail can wait."

She twiddled her fingers anxiously, watching the text scroll up the screen. It seemed to take longer to get ready to start every time she had to boot it up again and it was getting more and more annoying. She glanced at her watch and was amazed to find out how late it had got while she had been messing about trying to get online and stop her computer from constantly freezing up on her.

With fingers tightly crossed, although it made it slightly hard to type, she set the computer to playing its electronic buzzing noises while it made the connection to the internet. To her horror, this time a little box flipped up on the screen and she read the message out loud.

"Error 0610, the computer you are dialling into is not responding." A cold shiver ran down her spine. "Don't do this to me, I need to get online!"

Chapter Nine.

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