CTRL Me cover

CTRL Me – Anna Zabo

(Short Story)

A night out between friends turns hot and tempting when Gabe deliberately pushes Tom’s submissive buttons. Then Tom discovers rope in Gabe’s glove-box—and it’s not the type for securing luggage.

This ~14,000-word short story was originally published in the Rules to Live By anthology and has been lightly edited.

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At the end of the workday, a week and a half after Sherri dumped me, Gabe spun his chair around on the other side of the cube we shared, and I turned, expecting a question about code or environments or something. Engineering stuff.

“Isn’t Thursday your date night?”

My expression must have given away my anger, frustration, and sadness, since the next words from his mouth were, “Ah. I’m really sorry, dude. I know you liked her.”

I had. Up until the night she’d left. “It’s fine. It . . . just didn’t work out.”

Understatement of the year. While she’d been somewhat adventuresome in the bedroom, my last suggestion had made her flee. Apparently scarves and handcuffs were her limit. Anything more was “freakish.” That had been the word she’d used. A sour burn formed in the back of my throat. I’d also told her I was bi, and discovered while open-minded in theory, she was a bigot in practice.

Figured. I had a knack for picking real winners when it came to relationships. The one before her had been even worse.

“Tough break.” Gabe gave me one of his endearing, lopsided grins. “How ’bout a drink later?”

“Sure.” I should’ve said no. But man, I needed a beer, and Gabe, well, he was the closest friend I had after five months in Pittsburgh. My best friend.

His smile was a quick flash of teeth. “Great. I need about twenty more minutes to wrap this up. That fine?”


We rotated back to our respective screens.

If I were still living in San Francisco, the day after Sherri had called me a freakish fag and stormed out I’d have thrown myself into the scene, either the BDSM or queer one. But alas, this was Pittsburgh and I didn’t even know if they had a scene. Probably, but after what had happened in San Francisco, I was a bit gun-shy to find out. I should have gone on FetLife or at least Googled around for the Pride crowd, but . . .

But Sherri had put me into a bit of a spiral. I hoped the rest of the town wasn’t like her, all fun and full of adventure on the outside and conservative as hell inside. I shook my head. Shouldn’t judge an entire city on one person. Or, if I did, I should judge it on Gabe.

Gabriel Visser. That’s what the tag on the cube wall read. Originally, I’d been paired with Gabe for training, but there really hadn’t been anywhere else to put me in the crowded office, so we still shared the large cube.

Gabe had been born in Pittsburgh. Left for college, but came back when tech opportunities blossomed. Quick to smile, wickedly smart, and as easygoing as a summer day, Gabe had been the one to point me in the direction of a good bike shop, told me about interesting concerts, and introduced me to Geek Night.

Which, of course, was where I’d met Sherri.

Fuck. I checked the clock. Fifteen minutes. I didn’t really have anything I could start on and not fall into for hours, so I leaned back and pretended to stare at code while Gabe worked.

Normally, his sharp mind made me code all the harder. I loved working with folks smarter than me. Made me up my game. Gabe’s smiles and his nods of approval when I fixed bugs or found them before the test engineers did, well, that made any day good.

That he was gorgeous helped. Short dark hair, stunning blue eyes, and a sleek, limber body beneath his T-shirts and jeans. The day he’d stripped off his shirt when we’d gone bike riding down the Montour Trail? I’d seen the tattoo that ran down the side of his chest and disappeared into his shorts. God, that’d made the ride back into the city interesting. I discovered rather quickly that a hard cock and a bicycle seat didn’t really work well together. I couldn’t help wondering what the rest of that tat looked like, and where it ended.

Not that he even showed the slightest interest in me. Guys like Gabe? I was never that lucky. They were either straight or as good as married. Since he wasn’t seeing anyone or married, I was betting straight on Gabe.

Still, a beer with a friend? Yes, please.