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February 5th, 2009


[info]chaosmanor07:19 pm
Final chapter, and it's all done.

Title: Outside of a Dog
Author: [info]chaosmanor
Rating: It's going to be for grownups only. Expect sex.
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit, non-commercial work of fiction using the names and likenesses of real individuals. This fictional story is not intended to imply that the events herein actually occurred, or that the attitudes or behaviors described are engaged in or condoned by the real persons whose names are used without permission.

The customer story in this chapter is true, and one of my staff also suggested the new shelving system.

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven



Chapter Eleven

“Why are you here?” Pete asked, unlocking the front door of Fall Out Boy and letting himself in. “You’re not supposed to be here.”

“Tuesday,” Patrick said. “Nine o’clock, and there isn’t anywhere else I’d be. Well, ten to nine, which is why I haven’t opened the door to let the losers outside in yet, because no one can be so desperate to complete their Heinlein retrospective collection that they can’t wait another ten minutes. And I’m here because your ability to be late is legendary so I always make a point of turning up on time. Why the fuck are you early?”

Pete tossed his pack behind the counter and stole Patrick’s coffee, the coffee that Andy had bought Patrick when he’d dropped him off.

“I’m here,” Pete said in a long-suffering tone, “because you’re supposed to still be in bed, being screwed senseless. If there’s ever a morning to be late, or completely missing, this is it. You’re not doing it right, Patrick.”

Patrick smacked Pete and took his coffee back. “C’mon, do you really think Andy will skip work? Or be late? You have remembered who we’re talking about, right?”

Pete shrugged, then glanced around the store for the first time. “Why are there pink balloons here?” His grin was particularly evil. “Not that I’m complaining…”

“Matt filled Andy’s room with balloons. We ran through all the possible options of things to do with them last night, so I figured I should bring as many as I could fit into Andy’s car into the store, for you to play with.”

Pete slung his arm around Patrick’s shoulder. “See, this is why we’re soulmates. One, because you bring me helium-filled balloons, and two, because when you say you tried all the possible options with the balloons last night, I know that while that there might be things that I’d do that you wouldn’t, fucking in duck voices was definitely covered.”

“It was,” Patrick said. “And it freaked out Andy’s housemates, which was even better.”

Pete’s arm tightened, and his free hand poked at the not insignificant marks on Patrick’s neck. “So, I’ve heard stories about Our Andy, above and beyond the time he set fire to himself. Stories about how he’s only got one vice, and while the rest of us are frittering our time away on irrelevancies, he’s honed his skills to a superhuman level.”

Patrick pushed his glasses more securely up his nose. “If those people think Andy doesn’t fritter his time away on irrelevancies, they might want to look at his comic collection.”

Pete pinched Patrick, on the back of his neck, and said, “Give, or I’m going to tell you all about Mikey, and how we had sex in the kitchen at the apartment while Joe watched TV, and Joe didn’t notice.”

“Joe will kill you when he finds out,” Patrick said. “And what if I want to hear? Owwww. Okay, Matt and company had set up this whole deranged honeymoon scenario, as a prank, complete with balloons, rose petals and pink satin sheets.”

Pete’s eyes went wide, and he grinned. “Funky. You trashed it?”

“Completely. And I kind of broke Andy by falling off the bed at a critical moment. He has actual bruises. I’m blaming the satin sheet for that one.”

“He does live dangerously,” Pete said. “Incinerated and bruised, and all that’s ever happened to me is that time that I had to climb out of William’s window naked and wait in the rain for him to throw my clothes out before I could run home.”

“You would have been both incinerated and bruised if you’d been caught,” Patrick said.

“Okay, three minutes until we let the losers in,” Pete said. “Can you give me a summary, in fifty words or less, before the General Fucking Public ruin our day?”

“I can do better than that,” Patrick said. He grabbed the bottom of his T-shirt and pulled it up, baring his belly and chest, then turned out, T-shirt bunched right up.

Pete whistled, low and dirty. “You better not show your mom or Joe that lot of bite marks.”

Patrick pulled his shirt back down again. “Mild-manner bookkeeper by day, funky werewolf with a duck voice by night. It’s working for me. Let the huddled masses in.”

Pete opened the door, and the couple of people waiting wandered in.

Pete came back and stood beside Patrick behind the counter, and the pair of them watched one of the customers wave around a long stick with what looked like a rock taped to the top of it.

“Can I help you?” Pete asked him, when the guy waggled the stick in Pete’s direction.

“No, no,” the guy said. “I’ll know when I’ve found the right book.”

“Oh,” Patrick said. “How?”

“I’m dowsing, you fool,” the man said. “Be quiet, you’re interrupting the flux.”

Pete clutched onto Patrick’s arm, under the counter, and Patrick kicked Pete, to stop him from laughing.

Dowsing Man paced around the store twice, his rod twitching in front of him, and Patrick watched with a blank face while Pete posted a running commentary to a blog. Patrick focused on sending out thoughts that maybe the dowsing rod might like to by an expensive collectible StXr WXrs encyclopedia.

The dowsing rod opted for a hardcover Lord of the RXngs, which made Patrick happy, and almost convulsed Pete after the customer, rod and book had left the store.

“Gandalf’s staff!” Pete gasped. “The rod wanted Gandalf’s staff!”

“Do you think it wanted the first one?” Patrick said. “Or the second one?”

“There were two?” Pete said. “Huh?”

“The first one fell in Moira,” Patrick said. “Fighting the Balrog.”

“Fuck me,” Pete said. “How do you remember this shit?”

“What’s the first movie Mia Kirshner’s nipples ever appeared in?” Patrick asked.

“Point,” Pete said. “I’m just interested in more exciting things, that’s all.” Pete pulled a crumpled origami figure out of his pocket and handed it to Patrick. “Hey, I picked this up on the way in. Do you want to add it to the collection?”

Patrick took the limp shape and smoothed it out on the counter, straightening its legs, and sighed.

“Okay.”

He added it to the lineup of origami unicorns on the shelf behind the counter, propping it against Joe’s Princess Leia figurine, the one in the bikini outfit.

“Do you want me to get Mikey to make Gerard stop?” Pete asked. “Take away his paper or something?”

Patrick looked at the row of origami unicorns. “No, it’s okay. As creepy behavior goes, it’s inoffensive, and it makes me feel far less guilty than Spencer's glowering, though at least he's talking to me again now. I don’t mind finding a unicorn on the doorstep each morning. It’s not like it’s a real one, or anything.”

“No,” Pete said, speculatively. “That might be harder to arrange.”

“I just wish the message was a little clearer,” Patrick said. “Does he think I’m a replicant?”

Pete looked at Patrick. “Are you?”

Patrick frowned at Pete. “Not that I know of. Why don’t you ask my mom? Oh, fuck, no, put the phone down… Mom never understands those calls from you… Pete, stop… Hi, Mom… Yes, good to talk to you too… Andy? He’s fine.”

Pete was doubled over, backing away from the counter, and Patrick flipped two fingers at Pete, startling the customer who walked in the store at that moment, and resigned himself to a painful debriefing from his mother on the subject of ‘Nice Andy’ and ‘How good it was that Patrick was dating someone sensible at last.’ His mother was another person who hadn’t seen Andy’s comic collection.

Joe’s pickup parked out the front at lunch time, and Joe ambled in, waving a greeting on his way to the storeroom and fridge.

“Uh oh,” Patrick said, under his breath, as Pete closed the register after serving a customer.

“What?” Pete said, just as Joe yelled.

“Pete!” Joe shouted, from the storeroom, then he appeared, looking around for customers.

When the weird guy who was collecting all the John NormXn GXr books had left with his latest purchase and the store was empty of customers, Joe leaned across the counter and grabbed Pete’s T-shirt.

“How many times do I have to tell you,” Joe said. “No. Fucking. On. The. Fridge. You owe me a week’s worth of lunches, you miserable brat.”

“But,” Pete squeaked. “But.”

“Don’t worry, Joe,” Patrick said. “I’ll clean up again. No need to break Pete.”

Joe let go of Pete, who kicked out hard at Patrick. “And he’ll replace your lunches, won’t you, Patrick?” Pete said. “Least you can do, and all, since it was you and Andy fucking on the fridge.”

“No,” Joe said disbelievingly. “Not both of you as well?”

“’Fraid so,” Pete said. “Why don’t you start dating someone between 5’ 3’’ and 5’ 7’’, since that seems to be the right height range for that fridge? Then you could fuck on the fridge too.”

Joe backed away from the counter, looking frankly horrified, and Pete added, “We could stop keeping food in the fridge completely. I know that’s not why we got the fridge, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted the whole rampant-fucking-in-the-store thing.”

Joe took off, out of the store, and Pete turned and thumped Patrick hard. “That’s for leaving me to take the blame, you evil creep.”

“Ow,” Patrick said, only partially managing to duck the blow. “What? I cleaned up after you last time. I was going to clean up this time as well.”

He shoved past Pete, heading for the storeroom, and Pete called out, “You shouldn’t be fucking near food preparation areas anyway. It’s unhygienic! Hi there, did you want to buy that book?”

***

“And my Cleric smites the evil troll,” Pete shouted. “That’s how it’s done, baby. One, two, bang, turn the troll to raspberry jelly.”

“Show off,” Joe complained. “Fucking loaded dice.”

“Take the points and run,” Patrick said. “Before your own team start sizing you up for your hit points. It’s been done before.”

Pete looked up, and Joe and Andy were staring at him across the empty pizza boxes.

“Oops,” Pete said. “Let’s grab the loot from the troll and get out of here, guys. Do we want to check to see if this one has gold teeth?”

“What’s the troll smell like, GM?” Andy asked.

Patrick tossed a D10 at Andy. “What the fuck do you think the troll smells like? It lives in a sewer and eats shit.”

“Any gold teeth aren’t worth the effort,” Andy said. “Shake down the troll’s pockets and let’s get out of there, before the troll’s big sister turns up.”

Patrick let the Three Stooges sort out the goodies in the troll’s pockets, including the carefully concealed plot device, and checked his watch.

“That’s a good place to break for the night, since some of us have to work tomorrow,” he said. “Two experience points each, and an extra point to Joe for remembering not to eat the local cuisine in any tavern where the menu is written entirely in pictograms. Pete and Andy, your characters will have recovered by the next gaming session.”

Patrick packed his D&D rule books into his pack, apart from the one that held the coffee table up, and went to say goodnight to Pete and Joe, pack over his shoulder.

And found himself facing a determined and furious Pete, who grabbed his T-shirt and shoved him back against the wall of the hall, thudding his pack against the crumbling plaster.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” Pete demanded.

“What?” Patrick said. “To Andy’s place, Pete. You know, now we’re sleeping together…”

“No you’re not,” Pete said, and he had the black edge to his voice that Patrick knew from the bad times they didn’t talk about anymore. “This is Friday night. This is my night with you. Friday night is gaming night. I don’t date or fuck on Friday nights. I stay home, and hang out with you, and you stay with me.”

Over Pete’s shoulder, Patrick could see Andy hovering, and Andy shrugged. Joe’s bedroom closed loudly, and Joe might as well have hung a ‘you’re all fucking weird’ sign there.

“Sure,” Patrick said to Pete, because the middle ground was the safe way when Pete got strung out. “If you want me to stay, I’ll stay, but we’re talking about this fucked-up mess, or I’m calling your mom.”

The desperation left Pete’s eyes, and Pete stopped jamming Patrick against the wall quite so hard. “Okay.”

Andy slid an arm around Pete’s shoulders. “Pete, c’mon, let go of Patrick, and I promise I won’t take him away from you tonight. Besides, I reckon you’ve got about ten seconds before Patrick starts punching you.”

Patrick thought Andy was underestimating his patience and control. He had about twenty seconds of control left before he started hurting Pete.

Pete held both his hands up in the air suddenly, backing away from Patrick.

“We’re talking about this now,” Patrick said, dumping his pack in the hall and stomping into Pete’s room, across the piles of clothes. “Andy? You too.”

Patrick sat on the edge of Pete’s mattress and took his glasses off to clean them on his T-shirt. Andy sat down on a relatively clear patch of floor, and Pete flopped onto the bed facedown.

“So,” Patrick said.

Pete didn’t say anything, and Andy shared an expressive and frustrated glance with Patrick.

“I know you two have got your own screwed-up intense friendship thing,” Andy said. “Some weird and deranged symbiosis that I kind of understand, at least partly, if only because I’m obsessed with Patrick myself.”

Patrick swung his head around, back to look at Andy again after peering worriedly at Pete’s not-very-clean hair, and Andy’s smile was wry.

“So, we just need to negotiate this out,” Andy said. “In a way that doesn’t lead to Patrick ditching both of us. Think we can do that?”

Pete lifted his head enough to nod, then kind of caterpillar-humped his way across the mattress to tackle Patrick.

Patrick didn’t resist, letting Pete push him down onto the mattress for a hug, and Andy joined them a moment later, adding bony knees and elbows to the embrace.

“Stay tonight,” Pete said, sounding more like himself than he had in the hallway. “Andy, too. I like Andy, he’s almost like us, only not quite so fucking crazy.”

“I am crazy,” Andy said indignantly. “I just like to keep all the crazy on the inside, where it doesn’t scare people.”

Patrick hugged Pete tightly. “I still love you,” he told Pete. “I’m not going to stop, just because I’m fucking Andy.”

“It’s not the fucking, idiot,” Pete said. “It’s everything else.”

Patrick kissed the bit of Pete he could reach, somewhere around the top of an ear. “Okay.”

Andy reached out and stroked Pete’s hair, then settled his hand on Pete’s neck, fingers moving slowly, and Patrick knew exactly how fucking good that felt.

Pete sighed, and some of the tension dropped out of his arms, so he that eased his death grip on Patrick. “You’re not really calling Mom, are you?” Pete asked, managing to move on in even closer, so Patrick was completely crushed under his weight. “She’ll just bring up the whole therapy thing again.”

“Are you falling apart?” Patrick asked. “Or is this a temporary aberration?”

“Minor hiccup,” Pete said. “Promise. I’ll be back to normal in a bit.”

Andy snorted disbelievingly, and Pete leaned across and smacked Andy. “Fuck you, Andy,” Pete said. “In the universe inside my head, you’re the unrequited best friend and I get Patrick.”

Patrick thought about punching Pete, except he couldn’t move either of his arms, he was so completely trapped.

Andy just laughed. “Suffer, loser. I waited a damned long time for this. Besides, I don’t think anyone who has endured Patrick being hideous first thing in the morning would envy either of us, right?”

“What?” Patrick said. “So I don’t wake up well? Or like to make decisions first thing? Or actually move before noon? Is that any reason to pick on me?”

Andy chuckled, and Pete said, “No, but it’s proof of our enduring love for you that we’re both planning on sleeping beside you tonight when we know you have to get up and go to work tomorrow. Okay, it’s proof of my undying love for you. Andy might just want a fuck.”

Patrick spat some of Pete’s hair out of his mouth. “Andy might consider your presence something a hindrance there.”

“Honestly,” Andy said, “My undying love for Patrick is inextricably intertwined with my desire to take all of his clothes off him and make him dirty. Though, on consideration, I’ve known Pete for a damned long time, long enough that we don’t have many secrets left.”

“Fuck, yes!” Pete said. “I knew there was a reason I thought you were quiet. That was one of William’s parties, wasn’t it?”

“No!” Patrick said, trying to struggle out from between Andy and Pete unsuccessfully. “You two have fucked?”

“Eww, no way,” Andy said. “We just happened to share the same location once, when there was a shortage of places to go. You were with some ghastly girl, that’s all I remember. She kept making squeaking noises, like a kid’s toy with a puncture.”

“Fuck you, you tattooed freak. And you were with that vile intellectual jock prodigy, the one who went on to MIT and the moon,” Pete said. “He kept calling you ‘baby’ and giving these breathy moans.”

“The ISS,” Andy said. “Not the moon, but that was him.”

“Hang on!” Patrick shouted, and Andy and Pete stopped reminiscing. “Are we actually talking about what I think we’re talking about?”

“What’s that?” Pete asked.

“Whether or not everyone is cool with Andy and I fucking in your bed tonight?” Patrick said. “Because, hello? Does anyone want to ask me?”

“Well?” Andy and Pete asked, pretty much simultaneously.

“I’m completely cool with this,” Pete added. “Being my bed and all. I’ll even pretend to be asleep, if that will help.”

Patrick groaned, partly in pent-up frustration with Pete, and partly because Andy was grinding up against his ass, cock riding against Patrick’s hip, reminding Patrick that they hadn’t fucked for far too long, like days.

“Why not?” Patrick said, and he would have shrugged if he could have moved. “Not like we haven’t jerked off together, right?”

“Absolutely,” Pete said. “Back when you were a funky adolescent. Lights, Andy?”

Andy disappeared, sliding off the mattress, and Patrick poked at Pete and peered at Pete’s face. “Are you really not having some kind of meltdown?”

“I’m okay,” Pete said. “I, um, overreacted. That’s all. Sorry. I might not have ever told you how much I depend on you, but I do.”

They hugged, and Patrick said, “If you’re lying, I’m telling on you,” then Andy tossed his pack beside the mattress and switched the overhead light off.

The room wasn’t completely dark, not with the hall light shining around the edge of the curtain, so when Pete let go of Patrick enough for them both to scramble around to the other end of the mattress, Patrick got to watch Andy pull his shirt off.

“Your shirt too,” Andy said, and too many hands were pushing at Patrick’s work T-shirt and undoing his jeans.

Andy kissed him, beard brushing against Patrick’s chin, and Pete kicked him randomly, then tossed clothing across the pair of them and onto the floor.

“Sorry,” Pete said, then Pete’s face pressed against Patrick’s back, between his shoulder blades. “Fuck, I can hear your heart pounding.”

“Shut up, Pete,” Patrick said, when Andy gave him a chance to breathe, then Andy pushed him onto his back, making Pete squawk indignantly at being squashed.

Patrick kicked his jeans the rest of the way off, then made a very undignified noise when Andy slid a hand inside Patrick’s underwear, curling gentle fingers around Patrick’s cock.

“Fuck, that better be Andy’s hand,” Patrick gasped, and Andy laughed around teeth set in the skin of Patrick’s neck.

“I know, not that kind of a hug,” Pete said, his voice sounding rough. “I can guarantee that’s not my hand, since I know where both of mine are.”

The tip of Andy’s tongue slid over the indentations he’d made in Patrick’s neck, then he murmured, “Let go, really let go, I want you to be so turned on.”

Sweat slid down Patrick’s ribs, where he was sandwiched between Pete and Andy--too much body heat, too much friction. Pete’s arm was moving rhythmically, brushing against Patrick’s elbow, and Patrick fumbled a hand across Andy’s belly, to find Andy’s cock.

Andy groaned, pushing his cock into Patrick’s hand, and Patrick would have been happy with just that, to come with Andy kissing him and Pete gasping against his shoulder.

“Fuck, Andy, if you don’t go down on him, I’m going to,” Pete said, and Patrick whined, because fuck it, Pete wasn’t supposed to play dirty like that.

“Shh,” Andy said, then he was sliding down Patrick in the gloom, licking at the sweat on Patrick’s belly, finding the head of Patrick’s cock, his mouth slippery and hot.

Andy pushed at Patrick’s thighs, and Patrick lifted them apart clumsily, muscles shaking, everything becoming sharp and desperate as Andy eased fingertips inside.

“Keep the noise down,” Pete said, pushing two fingers into Patrick’s mouth, but it sounded like it had been Pete that had been shouting, the way his voice rasped against Patrick’s ear.

“I am being quiet,” Patrick attempted to say, around fingers that tasted suspiciously like Pete had been jerking off with them, except that Andy did something pretty fucking amazing, with fingers, tongue and teeth, and all that came out of Patrick’s mouth was a sustained yelp.

Pete slammed his mouth against Patrick’s, climbing across so he was hovering over Patrick, sealing their lips together, stealing Patrick’s breath, and managing to muffle Patrick.

Andy stopped frying Patrick’s brain, easing fingers out of him and drifting the edges of teeth up his cock, leaving Patrick unbearably frustrated and potentially able to think for the first time in a while.

Pete stopped kissing him suddenly, when Andy loomed over Pete’s shoulder, and Pete’s jolt and squeak gave Patrick the distinct impression that Andy had grabbed hold of Pete somewhere and wrenched hard.

“My turn,” Andy said, and the light from the hall was enough for Patrick to watch Andy kiss Pete hard.

“Oh fuck, oh, fuck, oh fuck,” Patrick said, because if he hadn’t been right on the edge of coming before, then watching Andy tongue-fuck Pete’s mouth would have put him there.

“What?!” he said, when Pete and Andy stopped kissing, and both turned to glare at him.

“Ball gag?” Pete said. “Some people just need them.”

“I’m considering it,” Andy said. “Except…”

“I know,” Pete agreed. “I’d be conflicted too.”

Patrick opened his mouth, about to really complain, then closed it again quickly.

“On your side,” Andy said to Patrick, sliding off the side of the mattress and reaching for his pack.

Patrick shoved Pete across, toward the wall, making room for Andy, because if he injured Andy again, it might be more than even Andy would be willing to be put up with.

“Fucker,” Pete said, pushing Patrick back, and Pete won the skirmish for ownership of the mattress because Andy touched cool, slippery fingers to Patrick’s ass and Patrick stopped wrestling with Pete and gasped.

“Yeah?” Pete asked. “Where’s he touching you?”

Two fingers pushed in, and Patrick thrashed around on the bed, distantly aware of Andy saying, “Make yourself useful and open that,” to Pete.

Pete fucking crawled across Patrick, right across him, and the tiny part of Patrick’s mind that wasn’t fried by Andy’s fingers tried to grapple with the idea that Pete was rolling a condom down Andy’s cock.

“Don’t say a fucking thing,” Pete said, sliding into Patrick’s arms. “Because this time it really is that kind of a hug.”

Patrick hung onto Pete--fingernails, sweat and hipbones--while Andy moved behind him, steady hands on his hip, mouth on his shoulder, slow nudge of cock.

Patrick took a deep, long breath in, then let it out, his eyes closing. Andy’s cock eased into him slowly, far too slowly, and Pete pushed sweaty hair off his face, kissing his cheek, sliding a knee over his hip so their cocks pushed together.

Andy rocked, slowly, slowly, his hand stretched out to hang onto Pete’s shoulder, whispering and gasping against Patrick’s ear, his cock so hard inside Patrick it almost hurt, the best thing ever.

Pete ground against Patrick, swearing and moaning, one hand slipping between their bodies, grabbing at their cocks. He bit at Patrick’s lip, sharp taste of blood, and Patrick could feel his come, spreading across skin, while Pete jerked and moaned.

With Pete wiped out, out of breath and hanging on uselessly to Patrick, Andy worked his hand in between them, his breathing tight as his hand found Patrick’s cock, slippery and slick.

“Still with me?” Andy asked, and it was a fucking good question in Patrick’s opinion.

“Barely,” Patrick gasped. “Gonna come.”

“Yeah,” Andy said. “Yeah.”

Then suddenly, it wasn’t slow rocking, and Andy was fucking him hard, climbing inside him, both of them shouting and Pete whimpering.

Something let go, inside Patrick’s head, and he was floating, vaguely aware of Pete stroking his face and Andy pounding into him, while time stopped existing and he hung suspended forever on the edge of coming, his body caught in heat and burning and just plain fucking ecstasy.

Then Andy squeezed his cock one last time, and he began to come, too hard, more than he could have coped with, except that Andy and Pete were holding him, stopping him from slipping away.

Andy pulled out gently, then a moment later he was pressed against Patrick’s back again, his hand running down Patrick’s arm, touching everywhere, reassuring and steady.

A blanket settled over them, pulled up by someone who had some motor control, but not even Pete spoke.

Patrick burrowed his nose in, against some random part of Pete, and breathed in. They all smelled seriously good.

***

Patrick poked at his bowl of cereal but he couldn’t raise the energy to complain that it wasn’t his favorite brand, not at fuck-off o’clock in the morning.

Andy put a mug of coffee in front of him on the table, and backed away carefully.

Coffee helped, and Patrick’s brain had begun to defrost, when Joe staggered out into the kitchen, rubbing at crazy-bed-head-hair.

Andy poured Joe a coffee, just as Pete bounded into the kitchen, wearing only a towel.

“Morning, darlings,” Pete said, kissing Andy on the cheek, then taking Patrick’s hat off and kissing the top of Patrick’s head.

Patrick jammed his hat back on and flicked a spoonful of cereal at Pete.

“Fuck off and die, Pete,” Patrick said.

Joe watched with widening eyes as Pete draped himself around Andy, who didn’t fight him off.

“No,” Joe said. “Not a chance. The noise last night had to be Pete and Patrick having a huge argument, and Pete storming out, then Patrick and Andy fucking in Pete’s bed.”

Pete grinned. “No, Joe, wrong reading of the sound effects.”

“I feel sick,” Joe announced. “We were four friends, and now suddenly we’re one friend and a fucking three-way fuck fest.”

“We’re not doing that,” Patrick said, around a mouthful of cereal. “That’s disturbing.”

“I wouldn’t fuck Pete,” Andy said indignantly. “I have far too much taste for that.”

Andy grabbed Pete’s ass, through the towel, for emphasis.

“And Pete is my best friend,” Patrick said. “We don’t do that.”

Patrick watched Joe’s early morning confusion with malicious amusement, because Joe in the morning shouldn’t have to work out how Pete could be bitten and scratched and very obviously just-laid, and really, actually making out with Andy in the kitchen, in the face of their denials.

“I’m. Going. Back. To. Bed,” Joe said. “Forever.”

Joe’s door slammed hard.

Patrick waited for Andy and Pete to stop, then he said, “Pete and I been talking about the alphabetizing of books at the store. We think we can do it even better.”

***

At the store, fortified by the real coffees that Patrick had demanded Andy supply them with, Pete and Patrick tackled the re-shelving of the books.

“Fucking brilliant idea,” Pete said, as he pulled the ‘B’s of the shelves and stacked them on the floor, in order. “Worthy of the very best twisted imaginations. A classic four-in-the-morning stroke of genius. I’m proud of myself.”

Andy sat at the counter, groaning to himself. “You know, I’m only letting you two get away with this because of last night.”

“Shut up,” Patrick said, stacking the ‘C’s. “We’ll put the books back, if the customers cry.”

“What are you doing?” Brendon asked, from the doorway. “Is it safe to even ask?”

“Re-shelving,” Pete called out. “Want to help? We’re going to be the first bookstore in the world to use the QWERTY keyboard for our stock shelving.”

They could hear Brendon’s laughter, all the way down the sidewalk to the Panic store.

“Okay,” Pete said. “That’s the ‘A’s cleared. “I’ll go get the ‘Q’s.”

“What are you doing about the secondary letters?” Andy called out, and when Patrick looked up from the ‘D’s, Andy was peering at the keyboard. “You know, for ordering inside the letter category?”

“We’re doing it right,” Patrick said.

“QQ, then QW, then QE, and so on,” Pete said. “We sorted this out last night, while you were asleep. If you have a problem with this, you should have been awake at four in the morning, to voice your opinion.”

Andy looked from Patrick, to Pete, then back to Patrick.

“I think I’ll drop around to the comic store, see if there’s anything new in, if that’s okay,” Andy said. “You two will be fine here by yourself, won’t you?”

“Sure,” Pete said, putting down the armful of books he was carrying so he could hug Patrick, who pushed him away.

“We’ll be fine,” Patrick said. “Bring back food.”

***

At the end of the afternoon, with the store completely reorganized, Patrick sat on the counter and surveyed the shelves happily. Mikey was staring at the shelves, nodding to himself, Pete hanging off his back and babbling at him over his shoulder.

“See? It’s intuitive,” Pete said. “All you have to do is move your fingers, like on a keyboard, and you know where a letter is.”

Joe, dressed for a Saturday night of doing whatever it was he didn’t talk about, leaned against the counter beside Patrick.

“What do you think?” Patrick asked.

“It’s fucked,” Joe said. “But I’m really impressed. We’re guaranteeing every customer is going to make contact with the sales staff, and who knows, we might get known as that deranged book store with the crazy shelving system.”

Mikey hitched Pete higher, right up onto his back, and Pete pulled down the last of the balloons from earlier in the week. “Got it!” Pete shouted, startling the guy with the dowsing rod, who was back for another book. “We’ll be out the back for a while, okay?”

Andy, who was perched on the seat behind the register, leaned forward. “It’s cool, Joe. We took all the food out of the fridge today. All that’s in there now is your beer.”

Patrick helped a bewildered customer who was looking for the fucking twinkling vampire book and had been defeated by the new shelving system, and Andy sold a very tacky-looking werewolf romance to the dowsing man, who didn’t care about shelving systems, since he bought his books randomly.

Then Joe said, “Hang on, the beer in the fridge isn’t going to be a good idea, is it?”

The sound of the fridge door rocking open and the beer falling out was impressive.


END

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