August 3rd, 2008
It's the first chapter of a WIP. Bandom, folks. Crack bandom.
Title: Outside of a Dog
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.
Acknowledgments: A large tip of the keyboard to AlXson BechdXl, whose 'verse I might have borrowed from a little.
Notes: I'm obscuring the names of the authors that are mentioned randomly in this fic, to prevent drive-by googling. I know about science fiction authors and their vanity googling, and I don’t need anyone dropping into my RPS accidentally that way.
Those of you who know me in Real Life will know I manage a bookshop for my day job. Hee. Not all the stupid stuff in here is fictional. Anything involving customer service probably happened.
Patrick was working on a List of things he Hated about his job. It was a detailed List, because he was a details kind of person, having a details kind of day.
The woman standing beside Patrick sighed, weighing the two books she was holding, and Patrick wanted to give her his lecture about how fantasy novels were only getting fatter and fatter because publishers had worked out that the customers could be suckered in by the increased Point of Sale satisfaction of a larger purchase for the same price, not because the story warranted extended telling.
He didn't mention that though. "The BrXdley is a classic read," he suggested. "Though not without its faults. The McIntXsh is evil crap. It's your choice."
The customer looked at Patrick and handed him the BrXdley. "Okay. I'll go with classic over evil crap then."
Patrick took the book back to the counter and rang it up, ignoring the poisonous stares from Jezzie, who was his boss that day, and remembering to say goodbye to the customer.
"Patrick…" Jezzie started, and Patrick turned around to look at her.
"It's my break," he said. "Are you okay here for ten minutes? And I'll lie about lots of things, for the customers, but I won't lie about absolute rubbish fantasy novels that you're only carrying because they're written by women, and have females on the covers."
Jezzie sighed. "Go and take your break. There are cookies out the back."
In theory, cookies should be good, but Patrick added cookies to the List of Hateful things and put the lid back on the container and hunted hopefully around the staff room at the back of the co-op bookshop.
Cookies made from grated zucchini, sprouted grains and sesame seeds weren't cookies. Coffee made from caffeine-free coffee-substitute, milk-free cream-substitute and boiling water wasn't coffee. A break was still a break though, so Patrick ducked out the back door of the bookshop, and headed for the megacorporation-owned coffee outlet down the block, in search of actual sustenance.
He scored a stool, at one of the counters, and pulled a book from his pocket, juggling it between his double shot latte and his chocolate chip cookie. HXlting StXte, by ChXrles StrXss. Written by an actual man. Grudgingly ordered through the lesbian feminist bookstore his mother owned a share of, with his staff discount. He only worked there for the staff discount, and because he had to work somewhere, and at least he could be as out as he wanted at a lesbian bookstore.
The timer on his phone went off, so Patrick downed the last of his coffee, pocketed his book, which was a fucking good read, and Mad Wombyn Books should be carrying it, because StrXss' partner was a well known queer rights activist, and headed back to work, still eating his cookie.
The List of Hate just got longer, of course.
In general, Patrick liked the young dykes that came into the bookstore, and they seemed to like him. The one that was leaning across the sex toy counter, examining the tray of dildoes he'd lifted out, certainly seemed to like him.
"So," the dyke said. "What would you recommend? Glass, latex or silicone?"
Patrick Stump, book and sex toy salesclerk. Why him?
"It depends what you want it for," Patrick said. "Glass looks great, really classy, and the cold feeling can be good. The latex is cheap, which means that you could buy lots of different toys. And the silicone is really durable, and you can heat it up to body temperature, and boil it. It's dishwasher safe, too."
He really didn't want to go to the dishwasher place, not even in daylight. Other people had normal parents.
The dyke, who couldn't have been more than eighteen, smiled at Patrick, all cute with freckles and shaved head, and picked up a silicone probe. "But what do you like?"
"Men," Patrick said.
The dyke laughed. "Okay, not something that is on the tray then."
Patrick shook his head.
She put the silicone toy back, and hefted a glass anal screw experimentally. "I'll take this one. I'll need some lube too."
Patrick took the demonstration toy off her and put it back in the tray, and handed her a boxed version of the toy, then took out the sample pumps of lube. "Vegetable-based, water-based or silicone?" Patrick said. "Flavored or purportedly tasteless? I can pass opinions on staining, if you're worried."
He really hated his job.
The dyke shrugged her shoulders in her pleather jacket, rattling her handcuffs and chains, and began squirting and tasting her way through the sample bottles, while Patrick kicked at the back of the counter and thought about working at McDonalds.
"The passionfruit one?" the dyke asked, and Patrick looked up from putting the tray of demonstration sex toys away. "Does it have pips in it?"
"Only if you put them there," Patrick said. "They're not standard."
Why? Why would anyone want pips in lube? There was a whole world of sexual practice that he was missing out on.
The dyke read the ingredients on the eggplant-based lube and frowned. "I think I should buy this one, just on environmental grounds, but it doesn't feel very slippery."
"Trust me," Patrick said. "There are times, when you're really going for it, when you need silicone lube. Get the good stuff."
The dyke looked at him, wide-eyed, and Patrick shrugged.
"Okay," she said. "The silicone lube it is. And I'll have some vegan condoms."
Patrick added a box of a dozen vegan condoms to the collection on the counter and revised the dyke's status to bisexual.
"My girlfriend's a radical vegan," she told Patrick, while he rang up her purchases. "I hope she'll use the silicone lube."
"There are no animal products in it," Patrick assured her, taking her credit card. "My radical vegan friend swapped to it, after an, um, negative experience with the eggplant stuff."
A paralyzing funny negative experience. Andy should have known better than to try to explain anything to the rest of them. Who would have thought the stuff was flammable like that?
The dyke--Patrick had revised her status back again--strolled out of the store, carrying her paper bag of equipment, and Jezzie appeared from the staff room, just as Patrick sat heavily on the worn carpet behind the counter.
"You handled that well," Jezzie said. "The young girls really like asking you for advice. That was a big sale."
"Please don't make me do that again," Patrick said, struggling back to his feet, and he found himself enveloped in Jezzie's fat arms, pushed against her ample, free range bosom, smothered in mammaries, patchouli and estrogen.
She kissed his head, mercifully through his hat, and Patrick climbed out of the embrace, grateful that a customer had wandered in, just in time to save him.
"Hi there," Patrick said, and the woman glowered at him.
"Who is your favorite science fiction author?" the woman demanded, copy of an UrsXla Le GuXn book in her hand.
The correct answer was JXn ScalXi! but Patrick wasn't allowed to say that.
"MXriane De PXerres," Patrick said cheerfully.
"Australian author who writes gritty cyberpunk," Patrick said. "And her latest space opera series is really good too. What about you?"
"JoXnna RXss," the woman said. "Is there someone sane working here today?"
Patrick turned and grinned at Jezzie. "Jezzie will help you. I have to go stock the sex toys."
Jezzie walked past Patrick, glaring at him, but he just glared back at her.
At the end of the day, Jezzie leaned against the counter, while Patrick counted the cash and balanced the till.
"That was a good day," Jezzie said, when Patrick handed her the print outs. "Well done."
"So, are you going to fire me?" Patrick asked hopefully, and Jezzie shook her head.
"I don't think a lone member of the co-op can anyway. We'd have to have a meeting, and achieve consensus. And with your mom being a member, she wouldn't let us."
"Nepotism, alive and well," Patrick said. "Guess I have to come back tomorrow then."
Someone banged on the glass of the closed store door, beside the poster for the next Right to Marry march.
"Look who's here," Jezzie said delightedly. "It's Compost! She was at your birth too!"
The List of things Patrick Hated just got longer.
The door to Pete and Joe's apartment was unlocked, so Patrick walked in without knocking.
"Hey!" he called out, putting his pack loaded with Dungeons and Dragons rules books and cans of soda on the couch in the hope of reserving an actual seat on it without the need to thumb wrestle anyone for a spot.
"Wah!" Pete shouted back inarticulately from his room, so Patrick bounded down the hall and through the curtain that substituted for a door on Pete's room.
Pete met him in a midair collision, and the pair of them went backwards, onto the mattress on the floor. Patrick stuck his nose against Pete's neck and breathed in deeply, and said, "Oh fuck, bad day."
Pete hugged him tightly, and didn't complain when Patrick just kept breathing in the smell of Pete's skin, not even when most ordinary people, with actual personal boundaries, would have beaten Patrick off.
Instead, Pete shoved a hand in between Patrick's jeans and his boxers and grabbed his ass.
"Not that kind of hug, Pete," Patrick said.
"But?" Pete said, removing his hand far more slowly than he'd put it there. "Don't you want to sleep with me?"
Patrick sighed and pushed himself off Pete a little. "Have you still got a take-a-ticket machine on your bedroom door?"
Pete shrugged. "Um, so I'm popular?"
"If you'll fuck strangers, then you can let your best friend smell you after a bad day," Patrick said. "I hate my job. I'm drowning in estrogen. Women keep hugging me. I need testosterone, and you have lots."
Pete made a long-suffering face and threw his arms back on his mattress.
"I do," he said. "And you're welcome to it. I'll even pretend it's not hot when you do this."
Patrick shoved his face against Pete's chest. "Yet another woman turned up today who had been at my birth. She wanted to cuddle me."
"Dude, this is the seventh or eighth one, isn't it?"
Patrick nodded and pushed Pete's T-shirt up, sniffing the warm skin of his belly. "And they all want to tell me how I was all red and screamed, and how long it took, and how beautiful it was. I can't deal with that, not any longer."
"That tickles," Pete said, squirming a little when Patrick rubbed his nose and chin against Pete's skin.
Patrick sighed, and Pete said, "Um, if you're going lower, this could get complicated…"
Patrick slid down the mattress, ignoring the feeling of gritty sheets under his knees. He closed his eyes and let his cheek rest against the worn denim of Pete's jeans, over his hipbone.
Yeah, that was close enough that it was like being smacked in the face with masculinity, all the pheromones that Patrick could ever want. He must have made a happy noise because Pete laughed the kind of laugh that wasn't mocking, and was all about shared amusement, and Pete's hand nudged the back of Patrick's neck, holding him more securely.
Joe's voice, from the doorway, said, "Whoa. I come home from work early, and look what I find. What's the game?"
Joe worked as a gardener. Kind of. For a hydroponics specialist. Who had a very special crop. At least that's what Patrick thought he might do, since Joe never talked about his work.
"Patrick is sniffing my groin," Pete said.
The mattress moved, so Joe must have knelt on it. Patrick wasn't going to open his eyes to find out.
Yep, Patrick could smell Joe now too, all sweaty and, um, smoky, from work.
"If he's sniffing you, what are you doing?" Joe asked.
"I'm having this really hot fantasy."
Joe's head was in Patrick's line of sight when Patrick cracked his eyes open for a second. Pete was having a good time, by the looks of things.
"Am I in the fantasy too?" Joe asked.
"No. Please be quiet, things are getting serious."
"If I'm not in the fantasy, then that's okay," Joe said, and Patrick could hear Joe sniffing too.
After another minute, Pete's fingers on Patrick's neck tightened, and Pete said, "Okay, that's enough. Everyone who doesn't want to be here for the grand finale should leave the room now."
"Thanks, for, you know," Patrick said, climbing over Pete's knees.
"Mutually beneficial and all that," Pete said. "Just close the curtain."
In the living room, while Patrick unpacked his books for gaming, Joe said, "You guys are weird."
"What?" Patrick said.
"Never mind," Joe said. "Did you put your dice through the dishwasher, like you threatened?"
"Sure did. And I bought Games Master dice, with last week's pay. I hope you're all ready to go fight the dragon this week."
"What are GM dice?" Joe asked.
Patrick unzipped his pouch of dice and handed the blank six-sided dice over to Joe. "Be afraid," Patrick said. "I get to make up the numbers I want when I roll those ones."
Joe dropped the dice like they were poisonous, pulling a face. "That's evil!"
Patrick stacked his Fourth Edition AD&D rule books on the coffee table, making sure he slid The Concerned Citizen's Guide to Surviving Nuclear, Biological and Terrorist Attack and Surgical Emergencies under the stack of books. Joe wouldn't notice, but Andy and Pete would spend the entire gaming session in a state of panic, with their characters looking for nuclear weapons and trying to remember how to perform an appendectomy with a spoon, all because of a couple of suspicious book titles.
Pete emerged from the shower, damp and clean, to throw himself on the couch across Patrick. "Don't want to game now," Pete said. "Let's just order pizza and spend the evening arguing."
"How is that different from gaming?" Patrick asked. "Besides, I've thought of something I want to try out…"
Pete sighed, rolling over to look at the pile of books, and Patrick felt the jolt of tension as Pete spotted the extra books.
"So, usual bribes still working?" Pete asked.
"Same rate of trade," Patrick said.
"That is so unfair," Joe said. "I can’t believe you let people barter to keep their characters alive."
Patrick shrugged. "It's not like it's sexual favors," he said. "Which would possibly exclude you. It's only laundry. If you want to wash my clothes to stop your paladin from being turned into toasted marshmallows, I'm open to that."
"I had a bad day too," Pete said. "I don't think it was as bad as yours though. I just want to tell you that."
"What happened?" Patrick asked. Pete worked for Buns and Noodles, which the Mad Wombyn co-op called the Evil Empire. At least Pete didn't have to sell sex toys as well… Which was possibly a good thing.
"That book came out, you know that stupid sparkling vampire book. I spent the day alternating between unpacking cartons of the fucking thing, dodging hordes of twelve year old girls, and trying not to hit on the girls' mothers."
"You're not allowed to hit on the mothers?" Patrick asked.
"Or the girls," Pete said. "My department manager had a Talk with me this morning. Apparently, she had concerns about my behavior."
"Who'd you bang this time?" Joe asked.
"When?" Pete asked. "Recently? That would be Rachel, the new girl in Non-fiction. And maybe Adam, though I wouldn't count that as actual banging. That was more, um, indiscriminate making out."
"Assholes," Joe said. "How dare they tell you who you can grope at work?"
The front door swung open, and Andy called out, "Hey there, fellow wage slaves!"
Patrick slid out of Pete's arms and jumped at Andy as he walked down the hall. Pete called out, "Watch out, he's had a bad day!"
"Hi there," Andy said, hugging Patrick back. "How bad?"
Patrick managed a surreptitious sniff of Andy's neck and hair, before letting go. He didn't have the same kind of intimacy with Andy as he did with Pete, which was a source of sorrow for him, and meant he had to sneak Andy-sniffs in when he could.
"I tried to get fired. How about you?"
"Had to work late, hence the crappy clothes." Andy was still wearing the compulsory long-sleeved business shirt and dark pants his employer insisted on, but he was pulling the shirt off as walked into the living room, revealing the long-sleeved T-shirt he wore under it to hide his tattoos.
Patrick hung over the back of the easy chair Andy flopped into, grabbing another hug, because an Andy-straight-from-work was an Andy-who-hadn't-showered, and Patrick was still getting over his day.
Back on the couch, Pete draped over him again, Patrick picked up the pizza menu, his notepad and the dice. "Right," he said. "Pizza first. A D4 for the base, a D6 for the sauce, and four rolls on the D20 for the toppings. Andy gets the vegan special. Anyone who argues is volunteering their character to show how the monster works."
The pizza ordered, with a minimum of bickering, Patrick popped a can of toxic soda and said, "Andy? Why would a radical vegan lesbian want vegan condoms?"
Joe's jaw dropped, and Pete stopped flicking through the Monster Manual, trying to second guess Patrick's plans for the game by looking for post-it notes, his eyes suddenly interested.
Andy nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense. There are no vegan dental dams, so the dykes I know have to buy vegan condoms and cut them open to use."
"What's a dental dam?" Joe asked.
"It’s a sheet of latex, used for safe oral sex," Patrick said. "It can be tricky to use at first, so take some time to experiment with your partner, and remember, it may take both of you to hold it in place."
Joe said, "What?" and Patrick added yet another thing to his List of Hate.
Pete hugged him, and said, "Crazy."
"You need another job," Andy added.
While they were eating the pizza, and Andy and Pete were frantically exchanging greasy notes about the Books of Fear, Joe said, "How much money have you all got?"
"Four dollars and fifteen cents," Pete said. "And I need that for lunch tomorrow."
"I've got about twenty dollars on me," Patrick said.
"Same," Andy said. "Why are you trying to borrow money from us?"
"I'm not," Joe said, picking a chunk of pineapple off his slab of pizza. "I hate pineapple. Who puts pineapple on pizza just because they rolled a sixteen? I just think maybe we should buy a bookstore. Or start one. And I wanted to know who much you all had saved up."
Patrick put down his chunk of pizza and looked at Joe. "I've got just over five thousand dollars."
"Nothing," Pete said. "I'm broke. When I said four dollars and fifteen cents, that's all I have in the world. My folks might lend me money though."
Andy wiped his hands on his T-shirt and reached for the notepad that Patrick had rolled up their pizza order on. "I've got fifteen thousand, some of it in a term deposit that I can't access."
"I've got a bit," Joe said. "And mine is all easy to access." That was Joe-speak for 'fifty thousand dollars in a tin under the bed', Patrick suspected.
Andy was scribbling calculations on the notepad, and he paused to look at Patrick. "Start up value of stock?"
"Fifteen thousand retail," Patrick said. "We'd get some of that on line of credit, the rest we'd have to pay for on delivery. All of it would be wholesale."
"Sixty to ninety days," Patrick said.
"Are you serious?" Pete asked, his arm around Patrick's shoulder tightening. "Are you fucking serious?"
Patrick squeezed Pete back, hard as he could.
"Shh," Andy said. "I'm trying to work out what the outgoings would be…"
Joe grinned, sprawled back in his easy chair. "Am I good, or what?"
"You're a fucking genius," Pete said.
Andy looked at Pete and Patrick. "Can you both live on minimum wage with no benefits?"
Patrick nodded, because he still lived with his mom, and he couldn't imagine she'd cut him off from lentils and green vegetables, as long as he paid something towards his board and didn't clutter up the house every day.
"I'm already on minimum wage," Pete said. "And do you really think Buns and Noodles actually give me benefits? They make sure I work half an hour less each week than the threshold for anything like that. Can I make passes at the mothers of all the teenage customers?"
"Better than picking up the teenagers," Andy said. "Definitely."
"Yes!" Pete shouted, bouncing across Patrick randomly, spilling soda. "I can MILF on company time."
"Calm down," Patrick said, wiping pointlessly at the soda on his jeans. "The man with the ability to add numbers is working."
Andy looked at the notepad and grinned. "If we can lease a retail outlet for almost nothing, then we can do this, assuming that Joe has a large amount of cash to start us up, and the rest of us put in what we can."
Pete took out his wallet and pulled out a bill and a handful of coins and put them on the coffee table. "Fuck eating tomorrow," he said. "I'm in."
Patrick opened his wallet and took out his ATM card, then slapped in on top of Pete's cash. "Me too."
Andy turned to a new page on the notepad. "This is what we need, before we can even look for a place to lease. We have to register a company name, and then file the company papers, then lodge multiple tax registrations. Then we'll need to open a merchant account with a bank..."
"We can't quit tomorrow," Patrick reminded Pete in an undertone, while Andy listed increasingly complex administrative tasks. "You do realize that, right?"
Pete sighed. "Yeah. But when the department manager yells at me for looking down someone's fucking mother's cleavage, when the mother is just offering the goodies to me, I can hang onto the thought of quitting, even if I can’t hang onto the tits."
"How do you cope with being you?" Patrick asked in a whisper. "Isn’t it tiring?"
"How do you manage not to fuck all the dykes? I couldn't sell sex toys to lesbians, honestly. I don't have the fortitude for that."
The notepad hit Patrick in the face, making him flinch and glare at Andy, who grinned back at him.
"Are we going to game?" Joe asked plaintively. "Because I feel like celebrating by slaughtering some trolls or something."
"Sure," Patrick said. "Before we start, everyone remind me how many hit points you each have."
The room was silent, then Pete said, "Shit."
Patrick grinned. His bad day was so much better.
on to Chapter Two