cog_nomen: (the shiny)
[personal profile] cog_nomen
Title: 1-900-Ass-Grind
Fandom: Person of Interest
Pairing: Donnelly/Surprise
Rating: PG-13 at best
Word Count: 1,900
Status: Complete
Summary: An AU where Donnelly is a 'beleaguered phonesex operator', for[ profile] livenudebigfoot

"900-ass-grind, do you have a preference on receiver or shall I assign you by kink?" It's one of those nights Donnelly wishes he had found a better vocation than sitting at the switchboard redirecting randy callers to the appropriate 'randy' high school dropouts. But he'd been increased from three shifts to five, at least, because for some reason his boss said she'd seen their numbers triple when he was on the line.

"You're not usually on Wednesdays," the voice at the other end says, amused, and it's like someone dripping honey over hot coals, Donnelly can almost smell the smoke.

"Your rate is $3 a minute," Donnelly defers - there were a half a dozen of these people who seemed to call just because they wanted company, but they all had really sleezy attitudes about it - like they couldn't just call and pay their cash and have a normal conversation. "You have a ten minute minimum and I have other calls to direct."

His cut is almost commission based - he's gotten good at directing calls exactly the right way to keep these poor guys on the line the longest, good for him and good for the girls at the other end, even though he only takes about a quarter a minute... if he can keep three girls going more or less nonstop for an hour it beats the hell out of minimum wage.

"I don't wanna talk to the girls," the caller says, and Donnelly clicks the line closed, moves on to his next call.

The next night, after a string of giggling ladies ply him with several questions, and one wastes his time by asking him to read a list of all the available kinks 'on the menu', the same voice slides onto the line and by comparison it's almost normal.

"You didn't ever think about getting on the other end of the line?" it asks him, soft, suggestively amused.

"You mean calling in?"

"I mean taking calls instead of directing them," the caller answers. "Making the better end of the deal."

There's a certain emphasis on 'end' and 'deal'.

"I'll be honest, this wasn't my first choice as far as line of work goes," Donnelly answers, watching the board for any signs of another call lighting it up, but this hour of the night tends to be slow, past 2am when most people were trying to convince themselves that sleeping was a more worthwhile pursuit than blowing the rent money on phone sex.

"Keep being honest," the caller chuckles, but he sounds interested."What were you gonna do instead?"

Another light comes on the board, and Donnelly clicks the time-waster off his line almost reluctantly, and makes an idle note in his own log about the repeat offense.

His 'weekend' is Monday and Tuesday, and his life is normal enough that he forgets about it until he's back on Wednesday night, and at 2:15 the voice is back.

"Am I going to have to block your number?" Donnelly asks, making another note on his log.

"I'm paying every time, aren't I? Maybe I'd rather give you the thirty bucks than some played out prom queen who never had any ambition anyway," The caller says, and Donnelly sighs, on the verge of pity.

"You could get a counsellor for cheaper," he advises, and the voice laughs.

"You never listened to your own voice did you?"


A silence answers, but it has an amused flavor, and Donnelly leans back in his chair torn between just hanging up and staring at the switchboard lights be dark for the next forty five minutes while he tries to make it through four more pages of War & Peace.

"What were you going to do if it wasn't this?" the voice asks, and Donnelly realizes the man had just paid $3 for silence and companionship without a word of complaint - and he was no stranger to those by now.

"I got bounced out of Quantico," Donnelly says before he can stop himself, and there's another silence.

"No shit, huh?" The voice says, genuinely apologetic. "Sounds rough."

"No shit," Donnelly assures him, and his hands have gone tense over the board so he leans back in the chair so as not to hit any buttons. He doesn't ask any details back, and the caller doesn't provide them.

"I tell you a secret though," the caller says, and Donnelly hears the squeak of springs - an office chair, or a recliner maybe, as he leans back too. "This pays better, even when you're at the shit end."

"It's not steady," Donnelly says, defensively, but since he'd gone more or less full time, he had to admit that his projected salary was still better.

"Steady enough," the voice assures him, "You should try the other end, that's what I'm saying."

It's almost like a proposition, handed out smoothly, and it doesn't make Donnelly's skin crawl like he'd expected it would - the whole job was actually so much more manageable than he'd ever expected, but he still clicks the line closed anyway and turns back to Tolstoy - because it wasn' t so interesting that it would take up his whole attention and he'd miss a call.

The ladies are back again the next night, an almost endless string of calls from six p.m. to eight, and Donnelly wonders if there was anything in that offhand comment about his voice.

Ladies again the next night, and his patience actually frazzles a little.

The next night, the stream of yellow lights fills him with dread, even though he knows he's making money at the front end of this, this isn't how it was supposed to work - and the rough breathing of one woman who actually asked him to prop the phone book open on his lap and read it out to her hadn't reassured him that she was actually looking for an operator.

It's a relief in the middle of all the yellow lights to hear that same smokey tone come into his headset, and Donnelly begins to flick the switches to redirect the other calls to the backup operators.

"You sound stressed out," the caller is saying, even though Donnelly has barely said anything.

"You're calling early," he deflects.

"Yeah, guess so," the voice answers. "I don't have a nine-to-five sort of job, but today was over early."

The last word stretches to suggest perhaps it was done at three or four am, and there's something faintly rough and dangerous in the implication, but it's more interesting than what he had been subjected to all night. It's almost normal by comparison.

"Why do you call here?" he asks, and then realizes only belatedly like it might be rude.

The answer is dropped an octave, purring, like he'd been waiting for the question. "It's your voice, man."

There's really not an answer to that, but Donnelly finds himself lifting his hand to his own throat as if he could feel what was so special about it.

"I can't be the only one," the caller says, and Donnelly hits the button, brings up the number (555-5767 - local boy), because he knows this had gone on too far two phone calls ago. "I'd pay twice what I am now for you to tell me the sort of shit the girls do."

"I'm just the operator," Donnelly tells 5767, gently, because the guy was at least honest in his efforts, and less blunt than any of the women he'd had all night. "We have men, though, we offer that."

"I think that's my ten minutes, operator," 5767 answers, and his tone is just as gentle. "I'll call you next week, you can tell me if you changed your mind."

When the line disengages, Donnelly adds the number to the 'to block' list, but the rest of his night is so hectic with calls that he never gets around to adding it. He doesn't think about it until the middle of the next day,  Monday, and it sits heavy in his thoughts until Wednesday rolls back around again and he takes a look at his paycheck and shallowly crumples up the block number form, because maybe he can afford to actually have a vacation this year if this keeps up.

The call comes late, nearly three am, and 5767 sounds out of breath, quiet, strained and Donnelly thinks the worst at first, that he's calling in the middle of jacking off because 5767 knows this can't go on forever and wants a cheap thrill but there's something in the quality of the voice that keeps Donnelly on the line.

"Hey," 5767 says, and it's warm and pressed together, like hands trying to stop blood from a wound. "I didn't forget, I just got uh-"

"Are you alright?"

"Yeah," it comes out on a breath, and it means 'no', but doesn't leave room for questions. Donnelly feels a surge of worry that there's some real danger here, but he doesn't know what - can't, not over the phone. He taps his keys anxiously.

"You should be getting help," Donnelly says, because there's a picture in his mind of an injury, maybe a bad one.

"It's on the way, but while I waited I remembered," 5767 says. "And I thought if I could focus on anything for a few minutes to take my mind off it, hey, it's probably your voice. Kinda sad."

"Kind of," Donnelly agrees, but he keeps 5767 on the line, because there's something urgent in him that wants to know that this is going to end okay, that this isn't the last time he'll hear that voice. A breathy laugh answers. Almost a wince. "I want you to know I considered your deal."

He doesn't know why he's saying it, because yes, Donnelly had thought about it, but what would he even say?

"Yeah? I'm still interested."

"I've never done it. I'm not going to be any good at it."

Another laugh. "Doesn't matter, that's kinda sweet actually."

Donnelly listens  hard, for any sign of an ambulance coming on the other end of the line, for any sign that 5767 is getting help. There's just the sound of his breath, the occasional shift.

It's a long silence. Donnelly has no idea what he can say into it, and thinks suddenly that anything will be cheap if the bill they deliver is to a dead man.

"How will we do it?" He says suddenly, urgently, because he can hear the sounds of the breaths slowing down.

There's a sound of laughter, but the voice afterward is fainter, tired. It loses it's smoke this way, sounds purer. "Gimme your number."

"You called it," Donnelly says, lost momentarily, and then he realizes and...he does it, speaking over 5767 trying to explain, with words growing disjointed.

"Alright. Help's here, operator," 5767 says, and then makes a pained noise, maybe getting to his feet - it can't be that bad if he can stand, right? "I'll call you when I can."

"I'm Nicholas," Donnelly tells him, because all he can think of is what if the guy calls him at home and he just hangs up - and he already wants to know what's going to happen.

"Yeah?" the caller answers, soft, half whisper and then just before the phone disconnects; "I'm Jack."

September 2017

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