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Authors: Eden Winters

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A Lie I Can Live With - 1

To Meg, Pam, Chris, Doug, Jared, John, and John.

Thanks for being there.

A Lie I Can Live With - 2

A Lie I Can Live With

by Eden Winters

How it All Started

"Do you want a date or not?" Determination shone in Barry's eyes.

"With you?" Otis asked, though he privately agreed that dating clients may not be the best idea, and Otis'

company held the service contract on the computers at Richards General Contracting, Barry's business.
No, no
date with Barry, he's already said so.

At Barry's request (okay, command!) Otis removed his shirt, flushing hotly under intense scrutiny. Barry snapped a few pictures. Embarrassed at first, Otis soon loosened up, mocking a supermodel photo shoot he'd seen on TV.

His mind raced with questions that he dared not voice. Finally, Barry asked him to log onto

GetaDate.com
, the GLBT dating service that had arranged their somewhat comical meeting. How could Otis not recognize a client's picture? Although, the one time before that he'd met Barry face to face he had been rather full of eggnog. It certainly wasn't Barry's fault, for the picture Otis used on his profile featured a hot model who didn't look remotely like Otis. Well, maybe a bit around the eyes. And how was Barry to know that Otis'

middle name was Vincent?

Sighing, and hoping Barry knew what he was doing, Otis dutifully typed his user name and password, after first working his magic, optimizing Barry's aging laptop.

Performing a familiar task momentarily calmed his shaky nerves, but not for long. He fought off panic when
A Lie I Can Live With - 3

Barry deleted "Vincent's" picture, replacing it with one from the camera.

"Trust me on this one, okay?" Barry said.

Mumbling answers to questions about age, likes and dislikes, hobbies, etc., Otis felt he'd lost a friend in his contrived online profile. Not a very good one, but a friend nonetheless. One he'd known, and commiserated with, for the better part of a year.
The man I'll never be.

"Actually, I have someone in mind who I think is gonna love you. Not 'Vincent,' but you, just the way you are," Barry assured him, sending Vincent to a cyber-grave. Where did pseudo-personalities go once they'd been deleted? No amount of pleading dissuaded the well-intentioned (so he said) meddler from what appeared to be a personal mission. Was Barry humming

"Matchmaker" from
Fiddler on the Roof
?

Enmeshed in his task, he didn't even look up while inviting Otis to spend the night -- in the guest room.

Having drunk maybe a half beer too much, Otis agreed and toddled off, wondering if Barry's efforts would help or hurt his dating prospects.

A Lie I Can Live With - 4

Another Lonely Weekend

Otis looked up when the bell chimed over the door, a shiver slithering up his spine at the chill that accompanied his two techs in from outside.

"Hey, Danny, you got any plans for the weekend?"

Steve plopped down in a chair, smoothing the day's completed work orders before stacking them on Otis'

desk. Each crumpled slip of paper represented another customer's computer woes beaten into submission.

Danny flashed a bright smile, adding his much neater stack of forms to the pile. "Mom's got the kids this weekend, so me and the missus are getting a start on our Christmas shopping early." He shuddered. "I have no intention of putting it off until Black Friday again this year."

Otis spun his chair to gawk at the wall calendar, nearly knocking over the small mountain of paperwork.

That time of year? Already? Wasn't it Labor Day not too long ago?

The calendar page said, "November," the twenty-fourth highlighted in red: Thanksgiving Day, kicking off the countdown to go home and visit the family. Only a few weeks away! With Black Friday electronics sales adding a boost to his business, no way could Otis spend a week in Jersey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Looked like he'd be staying home this turkey day.

"What about you?" Danny asked Steve, interrupting Otis' thoughts of a lonely feast for one.

Now it was Steve's turn to smile. "I'm taking a special lady skiing this weekend."

"Abby?" Otis ventured, picturing a willowy brunet. It was Abby, right? Or maybe Valerie? No, Valerie had come before Abby in a long string of women brought to
A Lie I Can Live With - 5

the office to be shown off. And she didn't like skiing, or at least that's the reason Steve gave why, "It didn't work out."

Of course, in Otis' humble opinion, Valerie, "Don't call me Val," didn't like much of anything but her own perfectly-groomed, expensively-dressed self. She reminded Otis of a Cyber-harpy, complete with blood-red talons, from his favorite video game,
Invasion of
Akutan.
He shivered, glad he hadn't run into her high-maintenance male equivalent -- yet. Based on a few brief meetings, however, Otis wouldn't mind a male version of Abby. Sweet, adorable, and no idea of her own beauty. Did they even make men like that?

He sighed, imagining his very own Captain Nathan, the hero of
Invasion
: handsome, confident, and hard-as-nails on the battlefield, kind and caring to the men in his unit. And boy could he kick some alien bootie! Only, what would the good captain do in the real world for a day job? Pest control? Yeah, that might work.

Steve's next comment pulled Otis away from visions of the Captain's seductive grin beaming over a flamethrower scientifically designed for eliminating cockroaches. "Ya know, I think she might be
the one
."

Otis and Danny both chuckled. Since Steve's joining the staff two years previously, there'd been seven "the ones" thus far. Or maybe eight. Still, Otis wished the man well. At only twenty-three, Steve needn't hurry to settle down. For Otis, at thirty-two, the idea of finding the perfect partner -- or even an imperfect one -- looked more like a pipe dream with each passing day. Then again, if he looked like either Steve or Danny, young, handsome, and fit, instead of the love child of an Italian grizzly bear and a bespectacled accountant, he'd probably have a much easier time navigating the treacherous maze of dating.

A Lie I Can Live With - 6

"How about you, Big Guy?" Steve dared to ask the dreaded question.

"Me?" Otis swallowed hard, scrambling for an answer that didn't sound pathetic. Why did they even ask? Didn't they know by now that he didn't have much of a social life? "What about me?" His voice came out strangely high-pitched for such a large, barrel-chested man.

Danny saved Otis from the necessity of lying, answering for him. "Ah, you know how it is with single guys." He gave Otis' back a teasing swat. "The boss here'll probably be out partying until the wee hours, bringing home some hot young thing." Okay, maybe they didn't know about his weekends spent alone in front of the TV.

Recovering from his moment of awkwardness, Otis forced a grin and reinforced the fallacy. "Oh yeah. You know me too well. I'll head out to the club, see what's happening. Then I'll hang out with friends, drinking beer and watching football." He flipped a dismissive "ah, it's nothing" hand. He didn't feel the need to inform them that his "friends" came in a six-pack and
were
the beer, or that he'd spend way too many hours parked on the couch, saving worlds via a game controller.

"You live in the fast lane, dude." Steve signed his name with a flourish to his last work order and added it to the stack. "Well, I guess if we're done, I'll see you guys Monday. Can't keep a lady waiting."

"I'm heading out, too, Otis," Danny said, rising from his chair and stretching. "Have a good weekend, and don't get into too much trouble." He winked before sauntering toward the door.

"I'll try not to," Otis replied, knowing he stood a better chance of being abducted by the Legion of Noorvik than he did getting into the kind of "trouble"

A Lie I Can Live With - 7

Danny meant. Although he'd gladly cooperate with six-armed malicious space pirates if the kidnapping ended with Captain Nathan swooping in to rescue him.

He watched his two employees bundle up against the cold and shuffle out the door to their cars. Another lonely weekend. He couldn't even count on going out as his alter-ego "Vincent" thanks to his friend's meddling.

Barry had completely torn down the fabricated dating site profile Otis had painstakingly built and replaced it with -- horror of horrors --the truth. Not that presenting himself as "Vincent" had helped much beyond grabbing Internet attention. One look at the real him and his dates suddenly remembered prior engagements. And hanging out with Barry, the friend who'd put an end to his lying… Well, Otis didn't want to wear out a welcome or appear too needy. Besides, Barry had a full plate right now, conducting his own search for Mr. Right.

Once alone, Otis accessed the "GLBT Community's Matchmaking Miracle" as the dating site dubbed itself.

He'd die, slowly and horribly, before ever telling his crew the unsuccessful lengths he'd gone through to get a man, letting them believe that he loved the single life.

Truth be told, he didn't like living alone at all, and he envied Danny's loving family and even Steve's apparent ease at finding dates. Hell, he couldn't even find a decent roommate, let alone a live-in lover. His last roommate had bitched constantly about living in "command central" instead of a house, and flounced out the door owing three months of back rent. That's what Otis got for placing a newspaper ad, he supposed, and accepting the one lone applicant he'd gotten, sight unseen.

He signed onto the site, wincing at the picture on his profile that he hadn't yet gotten used to. Up until a few days ago he'd been "Vincent," a hot, athletic stud whose picture he'd stol-- err, make that "appropriated" from the
A Lie I Can Live With - 8

Internet, and whose profile sprang to life from his imagination, loosely based on Captain Nathan, of course. Most of the men who'd agreed to meet

"Vincent," and there were many, weren't very nice about Otis showing up instead. At least it got him out of the house for a time… a very
brief
time. Otis had hoped that once his dates met him, got to know the real him, they'd forgive the white lie. It wasn't like a little profile embellishment made him a bad guy, did it? Besides, if he presented himself as himself, he'd never get to meet anyone, because no one seemed to want a comfortably padded, nerdy bear.

"You're not fat, dear, you're big-boned," his mother used to say. Sadly, that's not what other people called it.

Thus, his perfect alter-ego, who hadn't done much better in the dating department than Otis, truth be told.

Staring at the image that could have come from a bad Italian mobster movie (thanks for the genes, Grandpa Santino!) he scowled, taking in the bushy unibrow and the impatient five o'clock shadow that always made an appearance within two hours of shaving. The image reminded him of Corporal Cole from
Invasion,
who could land a starship on a tiny asteroid with ease, and regularly defeated bad guys with cunning and mathematically plotted trajectories rather than with guns, brawn, and kick-ass attitude. Sadly, Cole was usually the last character chosen by gamers.

Why couldn't Otis be blond-haired and blue-eyed like his father's side of the family? He could easily tell from the picture Barry had uploaded that the man in it might benefit from a little exercise. But then again, he'd heard it said many times that the camera added ten pounds.

Twenty in his case. And who in their right mind would want to date someone whose sole claim to fame consisted of winning the Rubik's Cube championship in
A Lie I Can Live With - 9

high school? "Interests: gaming and cooking. Loves movies, microbreweries, and anime conventions." Why couldn't he find someone who appreciated those qualities in a man?

He scanned the list of prospects that the service had matched him with. Strangely, they were the same men

GetaDate.com had recommended to Vincent, backing up

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