August 12th, 2008
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.
After the first attempt at looking at properties ended badly, Andy shoved the bundle of company papers at Joe and Pete and sent them off to deal with the administration while he and Patrick looked at empty stores.
Patrick pushed his hat on more securely as he got back into Andy's car. "Did you get that agent's name?"
Andy nodded. "And the company she worked for. I won't even bother looking at properties listed with them, not after that."
Patrick opened the map book up again. "I'd like to claim that I can’t believe Pete would do that, but I'd be lying."
"Yep," Andy said, pushing the classifieds section of the paper across to Patrick, along with his phone. "You call, get the next address, while I fight the traffic."
Andy parked his ancient sedan two blocks away from the next address, just to stop the real estate agent from getting a glimpse of it. The address hadn't sounded good, but it translated better into a streetscape, with cafés and bars instead of launderettes and warehouses.
"There's a venue around here," Andy said. "Isn't there?"
"Next block," Patrick said. "Pete drags me there. It's not a bad place, does Edge nights, that sort of thing."
"Down here?" Andy asked, and Patrick pointed at the A-frame sign at the beginning of the strip mall.
"Panic Toys?" Patrick said. "I had no idea they were here…"
"A toy shop?" Andy asked, following Patrick down the strip mall, past clothing boutiques, a bar and a café.
"Merchandising," Patrick said, pressing his face against the glass window of Panic Toys, peering at the racks of imported Doctor Who figures and Top Gear Poseable Crash Test Dummies.
Andy looked over Patrick's shoulder. "You know, you usually only sound that way about pizza."
"And JXn ScalXi," Patrick added. "Except Joe banned me from ever mentioning his name again."
"So where's the empty store?" Andy asked, looking around, hand on Patrick's shoulder, guiding him away from Panic Toys, where a very cute boy was waving at Patrick from behind the counter.
The empty store was at the other end of the mall, sandwiched between a hairdresser and a nail salon, the sidewalk reeking of poisonous fumes from the nail salon.
Patrick looked through the window, at the shell of a store, vacant apart from a sink dangling drunkenly off the back wall. The window was streaky, the floor covered in rubbish, and the paint on the front façade announced that he could get piercing, branding and traditional tattooing done there.
"Erch," Andy said.
Patrick turned around, so he was leaning back against the window, and looked up and down the sidewalk. "The location is just about perfect. Isn't there a comic shop on the next block too?"
Andy nodded. "It's a good one, too. I have an account there."
"Comic store, toy store--all that's missing is a science fiction bookstore."
"Geek central," Andy said. "I'll call the agent, arrange to have a look inside. Do you think Pete and Joe will sulk if they're not here?"
"Unbearably, but after this morning, Pete is never allowed near a person in any kind of position of authority or power again."
Patrick had discovered that he couldn't tell any of the real estate agents apart, and the new one looked exactly the same as all the others. This one was male, wearing the obligatory sharp suit, with sunglasses balanced on his head and cell phone against his ear.
He unlocked the empty store door and let Andy and Patrick in, but didn't follow them in.
Patrick put his hand across his nose and mouth to block out the smell of mouse shit and mold, while Andy flicked light switches at random.
Rows of fluorescent lights flickered into life, flooding the empty store with light, and Patrick picked his way through the rubbish, to the back of the store.
"It's filthy," Andy said, his voice low. "But that can be fixed."
Patrick shrugged. "What is it? Twenty feet? By Forty? And that's all usable floor space. A bit less if we partition off a store room in a corner."
The agent stepped prissily through the mess. "Looks like the last tenants left a bit of mess."
"Two weeks rent free in exchange for cleaning it up," Andy said.
"What's out the back?" Patrick asked, trying the handle of the door set in the back wall of the store.
The agent shrugged and sorted through the keys in his hand, until he found one that unlocked the door. Patrick swung it open, and looked out at a yard overgrown with weeds, toilet block in one corner, dumpsters against the far wall, laneway beside them.
"Basic facilities," the agent said.
"What are the outgoings?" Andy asked, pulling a notepad and pen out of his shirt pocket. "What period tenancy is available?"
Patrick left Andy and the agent haggling over easements, and went to prod the walls of the store, to work out if they'd hold the weight of industrial shelving. He should call the others…
"Hey!" Pete said breathlessly over the phone. "What are you doing?"
"Wondering if there are insects that eat plaster and bricks," Patrick said. "What about you?"
"I'm bored. Our number hasn't been called yet, so Joe has gone off to run a delivery. When he gets back, I'm going to get some food. Are you looking at a store?"
"Yep. It's near that club we went to a couple of weeks ago, the night you picked up that girl with the thing for The Lumberjack Song."
Pete chuckled. "Yeah! Chemical Love, that place! What's the store like?"
"Joe's bedroom, but with less wildlife."
"That's not good, is it?" Pete asked.
"Gotta go," Patrick said, as the agent and Andy shook hands.
In the strip mall, after the agent had locked the store up and left, Andy put his arm around Patrick's shoulders. "If I can get the spreadsheet to work with that rent, do you think we should take this one?"
Patrick nodded. "Geek central."
They couldn't have pizza for dinner, because Andy had barred all future fast food purchases on financial grounds, so Patrick poked at his bowl of ramen unhappily and thought about skewering Joe with his fork instead.
"Fallout Buoy?" Andy asked again, his voice rising. "Fallout Buoy Incorporated? What the fuck happened, Joe?"
"I thought that's what we agreed on," Joe said. "Isn't it?"
"Fall Out Boy!" Andy shouted. "Just like it was written on the piece of paper in your hand!" He turned to look at Pete. "And where were you? You, at least, shouldn't have been smoking joints in the toilets at the Corporate Licensing Department."
"I went to get some food," Pete said. "I didn't know our number would be called while I was gone."
Andy stared at Pete, long and hard, and Pete swallowed.
"Okay, I was gone a while," Pete admitted. "I told Joe to ring me, when our number was called."
Patrick put his bowl down and threw himself back on the couch, hat jammed over his eyes. "Are we stuck with a stupid name for the store now?" he asked.
Andy sighed. "We can probably still license the name Fall Out Boy, and be Fallout Buoy trading as Fall Out Boy, you fuckers. It's just going to look really odd on the checks."
"We're sorry," Pete said.
Patrick peered under the edge of his hat at Pete, and kicked Pete's shin. "Idiot."
Pete grinned at Patrick, and Patrick grinned back at him.
The agent held the keys out to Andy and nodded, then wandered off.
"That's it?" Pete asked.
"What? You expected roses or something?" Andy asked, sliding the key into the store door.
"Well, no," Pete said. "But I think we should all take turns carrying Patrick over the threshold."
Pete already had his arms around Patrick, which wasn't fair. Neither was Pete's idea of carrying, which mostly involved dragging and tickling.
Joe and Andy scooped Patrick up, inside the store, between them, and hoisted him back out, and Joe carried him in again, in a fireman's carry.
Pete and Joe took Patrick back out, to where Andy was waiting. "Behave yourself," Andy told Patrick, frowning at him.
Patrick pushed his glasses back on more securely and adjusted his hat. "I hate you all. I want a divorce."
"It's just wedding night nerves," Andy said, scooping Patrick up and staggering through the door with him. "You'll be fine, honey."
Pete found the lights as Andy put Patrick back down, and the four of them looked around the filthy store. "I'll get the gear from the pick up," Joe said. "We’ve got some work to do."
Two hours later, Pete and Patrick started tossing the sacks of rubbish into the back of Joe's pick up, now parked in the overgrown yard. Patrick sat on the steps at the back of the store, just for a moment, and Pete squatted beside him.
The rear door to one of the other businesses, across the yard, was propped open, and Pete whistled under his breath as a guy in black jeans and a ripped T-shirt dragged a trash can down the back steps.
"He's hot," Pete whispered.
Patrick had to agree, and he wasn't into dyed hair and smudged eye make up in quite the same way Pete was.
"I should go say hello," Pete said. "It would be polite." Pete's voice didn't sound polite.
Patrick grabbed his arm. "If you do, the three of us will hate you even more than we already do."
"You hate me?" Pete sounded genuinely hurt.
"Just a little," Patrick said. "And I know you can cry on demand, so stop that. I'll hate you a lot if you disappear before the cleaning and painting is finished."
Pete looked away, to where the hot guy was dragging the trash can across to the dumpster. "Okay, but I think everyone should appreciate the sacrifice I'm making."
Cute Guy waved at them, as he put the lid of the dumpster back down, and Patrick physically pulled Pete back inside the bookstore, closing the door securely behind them.
The roar of the industrial carpet cleaner was loud, even outside the shop, and Patrick didn't envy Andy and Joe, who were inside with the beast. Patrick was up a ladder, scrubbing the exterior paintwork and front window, while Pete held the ladder steady and insulted Patrick.
The stream of invective from Pete paused for a moment, and then Pete said, "Hi there," his voice interested and low.
Damn, Cute Guy must have found them. Now Patrick was going to be stranded.
Patrick looked down, and squawked.
Pete was flirting, definitely, biting his bottom lip, head tipped to one side so his hair fell across one eye. It was who he was flirting with that was the issue.
Patrick scrambled down the ladder, slopping water and dropping the scrubbing brush, trying to intercept an impending social disaster. The guy in the sleeveless T-shirt, with the shaved head, cropped beard and ear channels you could drive through might not be Pete's usual type, but that wasn't any guarantee that something hideous wasn't about to happen...
The guy stopped smiling at Pete and held out his arms to Patrick, and Patrick hugged him and went through the obligatory cheek-kissing.
"Um, hi," Patrick said, disentangling himself. "This is Pete, one of my friends and fellow bookstore owners. Pete, this is Morgan, my father."
"Nice to meet you, Pete," Morgan said. "So, Patrick, tell me about this bookstore. I had no idea you were old enough to own anything as complex as a business. I thought we were still at bicycles and X-box games."
"How did you find out? Did Mom call you?" Patrick had one eye on Pete, who was showing no signs of recovering, so it seemed better to lead Morgan into the store and signal for Andy to switch the carpet cleaner off than to wait for Pete to work out how to talk again.
"You know the deal with your mother," Morgan said. "Milestones, and that sort of thing, and she feels the need to call me."
The roaring of the cleaner stopped, and Andy and Joe looked expectantly at Patrick and Morgan. Pete slid in behind them, to stand beside Andy, still looking pale.
"This is my father, Morgan," Patrick said. "Morgan, this is Andy and Joe. The four of us are the owners of the store."
Andy, who had the advantage over Pete of not having just attempted to solicit Morgan for sex, held out his hand, and even Joe managed to be polite. Pete still had the look of someone who wanted to die, or be the subject of a mercy killing.
Morgan looked around the store and nodded approvingly. "Has your female progenitor seen the place?" he asked.
"Mom had a look before we signed the lease," Patrick said. "It seemed worth asking her opinion, since she owns part of a bookstore herself. She can't believe I want to do this, but said there was nothing wrong with the premises or the lease."
Morgan shrugged and opened the man-bag hanging over his shoulder, and took out a check book. "I'm sure you don't have enough money," he said, scribbling on a check. "You can consider this an early Christmas present, or something."
Patrick blinked and took the check that Morgan handed him. "Wow, thank you."
Morgan grinned at him. "As children go, you're amazingly low effort, and I appreciate that. Consider it a sign of appreciation for the fact I've never had to post bail for you."
Morgan kissed his cheeks again, and walked out of the store, and Joe said, "Um, dude, why does your father have bear paw tattoos on his shoulders?"
Pete sat down heavily on the wet carpet and smacked his forehead on the ground. "Please kill me."
"Why?" Andy asked.
Patrick nudged Pete with his sneaker. "Not so keen on MILFing now, are you?"
Pete made a gurgling noise.
"Oh," Andy said, sounding deeply amused. "Serves you fucking right."
"Patrick?" Joe asked. "Your mom is Julie, right?"
Patrick nodded. "You've met her, Joe, more than once."
"Thought so," Joe said. "She rides a bike everywhere, keeps a lot of cats, doesn't shave her legs, that sort of thing?"
"My mom is a lesbian," Patrick said. "Yes."
"How did your parents ever have you?"
Patrick stared at Joe for a moment, and sighed, and even Pete looked up from where he was still contemplating the soggy carpet.
Andy slapped Joe on the back. "Joe," Andy said. "Sometimes when two people love each other very much, one of them will give the other one a turkey baster, then they make a little Patrick."
Joe's eyes went wide. "Oh, do people really do that?"
"People who aren't straight," Patrick said. "Mom refers to it as an informal gay gene research project, where all the dykes and gay guys breed together like crazy, just to see what will happen."
"And what happens?" Joe asked.
"Well, I suspect the world gets lots of queer kids, and I get a father who turns up twice a year, for birthdays and Christmas," Patrick said. "And who just handed me a check for the business. I'm going back to scrubbing the window. Pete?"
Pete looked up at Patrick. "I'm so sorry, I really am."
"Hey, it's a mistake you can only make once," Patrick said. "I do have brothers, though, if you're going to be really squeamish."
Pete followed Patrick out of the store. "Brothers? Really? Brothers would be fine. Are they cute like you?"
"No," Patrick said, as the roar of the carpet cleaner started up again. "I got all the good looks in the family."
"What are your brothers like?" Pete asked, holding the bucket up for Patrick, once Patrick had climbed back up the ladder again. "Can you introduce me?"
Patrick flicked soapy water down at Pete. "No," Patrick said. "I'm not introducing you to my brothers. Hold the ladder steady, so I don't fall off."
"Is there anything else I need to know?" Pete asked. "Do you have any other ambush relatives? Anything..."
His voice trailed off, and someone said, "Hi there, we heard that the tattoo place had been leased."
"Hi," Pete said brightly. "I'm Pete, and this is Patrick. Andy and Joe are inside, with the nuclear-powered carpet cleaner."
Patrick looked down, at brown hair and arms waving around in a luridly floral shirt, and a guy looked up at him and smiled.
Uh oh, Pretty Boy alert time.
"I'm Brendon, from Panic Toys. What kind of business are you opening?"
"Science fiction book store," Pete said, and Brendon stopped smiling at Patrick and went back to smiling at Pete.
Patrick thought about dousing Pete in dirty water from the bucket, but resisted. Good friends didn't cock block, unless blood relatives or vile cleaning tasks were involved.
"...have coffee. We have an espresso machine, out the back of our store."
Vile cleaning tasks, indeed.
"Pete, if you disappear now, the three of us will hate you forever, remember," Patrick said. "We've already had this conversation today."
"I can bring the coffee here. Four coffees," Brendon said, looking up at Patrick. "Will that stop you from hating Pete?"
"Definitely," Patrick said. "And then we can talk about reciprocal staff discounts at the stores."
Brendon beamed at Patrick. "Excellent."
Patrick handed the bucket down to Pete and clambered down the ladder again, when Brendon had swished his way back up the sidewalk.
"You're some kind of evil genius," Pete said. "And I admire that in a friend. I wonder what Brendon will let me exchange for a discount..."
The roaring inside had stopped, so Patrick head-butted Pete comparitively amicably and went back inside, stepping cautiously across the wet carpet to where Andy and Joe were sitting on the back steps of the store.
"Help," Patrick said, squeezing in between them, whether they wanted him to or not. "Please help. I might need to hurt Pete if you don't."
Andy lifted an arm so Patrick could move in closer. Andy was soaking wet, so either Joe and Andy had been squirting each other from the newly repaired sink, or the carpet cleaner was impossibly heavy and Andy was drenched in sweat. Patrick contemplated licking Andy to find out, but he wasn't sure Andy would appreciate the kind of bonding he and Pete engaged in.
Joe patted Patrick's back, and Patrick sighed and closed his eyes.
Someone squirmed and kicked behind Patrick, and Pete said, "Did you tell them about the coffee?"
"We get coffee?" Joe asked.
"Delivered by the cute boy from Panic Toys," Pete said. "Brandon. Bronté. Bronson."
"Brendon," Patrick said.
"Brendon... Let me write that down," Pete said, and Andy's arm tightened around Patrick's shoulders, hugging him tighter.
"What's on the list of things to do, apart from drink coffee and fight the mold on the walls to prevent it from achieving sentience?" Joe asked.
"Empty Joe's pick up," Andy said. "Then fill it with the old shelving Patrick's mom is giving us."
"Buy paint. Apply paint to walls," Patrick said. "Remove paint from hair, eyes, clothing and skin."
"Install shelving," Joe said. "Paint shelving. Install counter, which doesn't exist yet. Install dividing walls for the store room, also non-existent."
"Then there's the non-existent stock control system, and entirely imaginary front-end for the store," Patrick added.
Pete leaned heavily against Patrick's back, his nose poking at one of the many muscles that ached. "And when does the stock start arriving?" Pete asked.
"Monday," Patrick said. "Along with the hardware for the front end."
It was Saturday afternoon.
Andy stretched, cracking his neck. "Let's run around like idiots for a bit, picking up paint and shelving, as well as clothes and sleeping bags. If we turn the heat up while we're gone, the carpet should dry, and we can just stay here for the weekend, and work all night, at least until we fall over."
"Sleep is for other people," Joe said, which was hilarious, given how fond they all knew Joe was of sleeping.
"Completely," Pete agreed.
That made more sense, since Patrick had crashed with Pete often enough to know that Pete didn't actually sleep, as far as he could tell.
"I like to sleep," Andy said. "Give me four hours, you bastards, or I won't function, no matter how much caffeine you coerce me into drinking."
"You can detox later," Pete said. "It'll give you something to do penance over, and you know you'll enjoy that."
Andy reached back and smacked Pete, and Patrick jumped down the steps, removing himself from the imminent slap-fight.
"Coffee!" Brendon called from the front of the store, distracting Pete, and Andy got a final slap in as Pete scrambled backwards across the wet carpet.
"I know this kid," Joe said, holding a hand out to Patrick, to pull him back up the steps. "He's one of the customers."
Patrick said, "Lalalalala, can’t hear you," to Joe, and followed Andy into the store, to where Brendon was holding a cluster of coffee mugs, the smell of real coffee detectable, despite the overwhelming odor of wet carpet.
on to Chapter Three