Word count: 2162
The breakfast and the hot shower did wonders for waking Will up out of his illness-induced exhaustion. It still amazed him how quickly he had recovered from such a severe flu, but his apprehension about going to his new job for the first time supplanted those thoughts. He congratulated himself on his decision to bring two jackets and a selection of shirts with him, rather than pack them in the removal van, as it had resulted in him actually having decent clothes to make a good first impression. His confidence was bolstered when he spied David's car. A sporty German import, it was clean and gleaming, possibly newly waxed. For a moment, he wondered how the unemployed man could afford this house and this car. Perhaps they were the limit of his expenditures, as he certainly didn't spend on furnishings or decor.
Will's first day at work was uneventful, filled with the usual orientation meetings, a sheaf of human resources and legal forms, and the setup of his workstation. The day went by in a whirlwind of new faces and process documents, and by the time he returned to David's car, he felt as exhausted as he had been when he'd woken that morning, possibly because he was still recovering from his illness, and he was grateful that the commute was not long. He might not be coming back to his own home, but he was looking forward to an uneventful, relaxing evening.
Thus, he was stunned when he walked into the house and the drawing room where he had slept the night before, looking to collapse on the couch, only to find that it had completely changed. The couch was still there with its ottoman, but it was flanked by two end tables with lamps casting a soft light. Opposite the couch on an entertainment console stood a flat-screen television; Will estimated that it had a forty-inch screen. A cushy recliner sat in one corner. The only thing that hadn't changed was that there were still no purely decorative items in the room.
Will stared at the room for a very long moment, then retreated to the hallway to try to find his host. Peeking into the other room on the way to the kitchen, he found that it was also now furnished, with a bed, nightstand and lamp, desk and chair, and wardrobe. Upon entering the kitchen, he noted a second chair at the table which didn't match the original one and a new microwave oven and a new toaster on one of the counters. Next to it stood a few other things that hadn't been there before: a container of pasta, a bread box, and a spice rack.
"Hello, David?" he called out, not expecting an answer. He strode back down the hallway and was about to climb the stairs when he hesitated. David hadn't said anything about only staying downstairs, but he definitely got the feeling that he wouldn't be welcome upstairs. "Hello?" he called again.
After a couple of bumps, a Scottish burr floated down to him. "Ah, Will. Welcome back. Be right down." He heard a door close, then the door just at the top of the stair opened and David emerged, wiping his hands with a grease-stained towel. "I hope your first day was brilliant." He trotted down the stairs as he stuffed an end of the towel into a back pocket of his jeans.
"About what I expected. The real work begins tomorrow. You've been busy." He gestured at the different rooms. "Where'd all this come from?"
"Various shops in town. Bit more comfortable now, I think?" He eyed Will for confirmation, but then strode into the kitchen without waiting for any kind of response. "I got more food in, too. Or we can order take-away, if you prefer. I'm not much of a cook."
Will followed him. "You shouldn't have done this. You've spent way too much just to give me a place to sleep for a few days."
"Oh, I've been meaning to do this for a while now. It's just that with only me here, it didn't seem worth the bother." He clapped Will on the shoulder. "Don't fret it. I'm glad to finally have a reason to kit the place up a wee bit."
Will didn't quite know how to accept so much hospitality graciously. "Well, okay, I guess."
"I moved your bags into the bedroom. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all, thanks."
"How does spaghetti sound? I think I can make that. You go unpack." David snagged an apron that was hanging from a hook behind the door and tied it on over his plain gray t-shirt.
Will glanced behind the door for a second apron and was unsurprised to not find one. "Let me help. Not that I cook either, mind you."
"Nah." David grimaced and fiddled with a thick brass chain around his neck that had gotten caught uncomfortably under the apron strap. "You're the working man. You should get your clothes out before they get wrinkly and then relax."
"Okay. Let me know if I can help, though."
Will retreated to his new bedroom and proceeded with emptying the suitcase and filling the wardrobe, the simple task giving him time to think about his new temporary roommate. David seemed nice enough, but his generosity, both in taking in a very ill stranger and furnishing his house to make that stranger comfortable, was unbelievable. Will almost felt like Hansel and Gretel, lured in by a candy house that was too good to be true. He didn't sense any malice or ill intent in his host, but then appearances could be deceiving. Smiling, he snorted at himself for his paranoid thoughts. David was definitely a little strange, but he seemed friendly and kind, and Will decided he should count himself lucky for stumbling upon someone willing to help him through this first week. Perhaps, he thought, he's one of those eccentric genius inventors. A Tesla, maybe.
He managed to get most of his things put away by the time David called him for dinner. His shirts were already a bit wrinkled, but he decided he could get away with looking fashionably tousled. He joined his host in the kitchen, where he had set out spaghetti and salad for both of them. A quick sample of each told him that David was a tolerable cook: while the pasta was rather chewy, the plain sauce was good enough, and it would have been difficult to ruin the simple garden salad. David, however, didn't agree, and, after two bites of the spaghetti, pushed his plate away from him and gulped down half of his glass of water.
"I won't do that again." He cleaned his teeth and lips with his tongue, then sipped his water again.
"I think it's pretty good." Indeed, Will had already finished half of his serving.
"Well, there's plenty more if you want it. I think..." David stared at his discarded plate. "I think I don't like tomatoes anymore. Or maybe it's tomato sauce. I don't really remember." He shrugged and pulled his salad in front of him. "I can do lettuce and cucumber, though."
Hunching over his food to hide his confused expression and appear busy eating, Will eyed David as the other man worked on his salad. He decided that the term "eccentric" was definitely applicable. "I'm sure I'll have seconds. Are you just going to eat that? That's not much."
"It's plenty for me."
“Now I see why you’re skin and bones.” Will, though stocky, wasn’t overweight by any means, but he seriously wondered if David, who was taller than him by at least two inches, wasn’t half his weight.
David peered down at his own torso. "Am I really so thin?"
"Mate, you'd disappear if you turned sideways."
Toying with a leaf of his salad, David shrugged. "I've always been told I should eat more. I suppose there's plenty of pasta. Bit of butter and some cheese should make it good." He jumped from his seat and fetched himself another plateful of food. Sampling it after returning to the table, he nodded. "This is pretty good." He sniffed, then shook his head. "Actually, the pasta's really poor." The men's eyes met, and they started to laugh.
Will dropped his fork on his plate. "Ah, the bachelor life."
David nodded, a silly smile still on his face. "If you can weather my cooking, you'll come out the stronger man."
After that little bit of an icebreaker, Will found that conversation got easier. David inquired about Will's decision to move north, and he talked about his old job and the area of London he'd lived in, and how he'd gotten tired of the enormous city and the long commute, as well as the monotony of the job. Moving had been a big decision, as he was leaving friends and family, but the job was a good opportunity and the pay was good, and, he had reminded himself, he didn't have to stay there forever. "I plan to learn new technology, try out different development methodologies, and meet some new people. At the worst, it'll only expand my resume."
David shook his head. "You don't have to convince me. That's what I'd like to do. Travel. Learn new things. See everything I can. One day I will. Couple of years' time, hopefully."
"You seem to have a pretty open life at the moment, at least,” replied Will, gesturing vaguely at the rest of the house with his fork.
"I suppose. I'm a bit tied down here with my projects. It's slow work."
"At least you have a roof over your head. Must be nice to own your house. I've only rented."
"Oh, no, I don't own this house." David went on to explain that his brother owned the house and was letting him live there. It was convenient for him as well, as the house needed a caretaker, though David hadn't really paid much attention to it.
"Well, it's good for you, at least. And it's not like you're causing much wear and tear."
"No. I keep to my room mostly, except to eat. And I try to be conscientious about the kitchen." At that, he stood up and collected the dishes, depositing them in the sink to be washed.
"Let me help with that." Will followed him, but David waved him away.
"Appreciated, but no. Go ahead and relax. This won't take but a few minutes, and then I think I'll get back to work."
"Thanks for the dinner, mate." Will flashed a grateful smile then, walking out into the hallway, turned back and stuck his head into the kitchen. "You don't happen to have wi-fi, do you? I'd love to get online."
David had already begun scrubbing a plate. With a thoughtful expression, he rinsed his hands and blotted them on his jeans. "Wi-fi... Yeah, I can do that. Hold on a few." He trotted past Will and up the stairs, into the room at the top. Will retreated to his room and set his laptop up on the desk.
A number of minutes later, David appeared in his doorway, tapping on his mobile. He held it out toward the computer and tapped it again, and it emitted a strange electronic trill. Once it fell silent after a couple of seconds, he glanced at its screen. "There you go. All set."
"Great." Will turned back to the laptop to pull up the networking dialog. "What's the network name and password?"
"Oh, no, it's done. You're hooked up."
"What?" That didn't make any sense: computers connect to the wi-fi network, not the other way around. Will opened a web browser and hit a random bookmark, and the page opened normally. "How'd you do that?'
David shrugged. "That's just how I have it set up. You have a good evening. Back to the dishes, and then to work. If you need anything, just yell." He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder at the upstairs.
Will was still confused and managed a tolerably acceptable, "Thanks, mate," before his host quit the room. He checked the networking dialog and looked over the settings, finding nothing unusual: the laptop was connected to a network named "tardis" and used standard security protocols. The antivirus software didn't report any viruses or trojans, and a few visits to some HTTPS websites didn't cause any browser security alerts. He shrugged and proceeded to use the network without concern, filing the strange incident away in the back of his mind.
As he had hoped, the evening turned out to be very relaxing. He spent some time making contact with friends and family to let them know he had arrived safely, spending a couple of hours first chatting online and then hanging out in his favorite online game. He settled into bed a little after midnight without encountering his host again.