November 9th, 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.
Patrick sat on the edge of Pete's mattress, the shower water dripping from his hair mingling with the condensation rising from his mug of coffee, combining to make his glasses opaque. He rubbed at the lenses with his fingertips, in the hope it would help.
“Well?” Pete asked.
“How do I look?”
“Like Pete,” Patrick said. “I don't fucking know. I don't think Fall Out Boy has a minimum dress code, apart from an expectation that you might cover your genitals during trading hours, and since I doubt we'll be organized enough to actually trade today, that probably doesn't matter either.”
“I can wear anything I want?”
“Do I look like I care?”
“You look like you're undead, babe,” Pete said. “If you were Joe, I'd be checking for a pulse and putting you in the recovery position.”
Patrick considered flipping fingers at Pete, but didn't think he could make his body move enough. Instead, he watched in a daze as Pete dug through his floordrobe, holding up sequined jackets and girl's underwear, before settling on a tiny Little Mermaid T-shirt, hipster jeans and a feather boa.
“Fuck Buns and Noodle,” Pete said. “Fuck the straight world. Fuck uniforms and other people's expectations and rules. What are you wearing to work on our first day as business owners?”
Patrick blinked. “Exactly what I have on, which is what I found in my pack this morning, and what I always wear. Jeans, and whatever band t-shirt doesn't have food stuck to it. ”
Pete loomed up, close to Patrick, holding articles of clothing in his hands. “Not today, pretty. Today, I dress you.”
“I'm not your fucking Barbie Doll,” Patrick said. “We've had this argument before.”
“If you were my fucking Barbie Doll, we'd still be in bed,” Pete said. “Now, put the coffee down and stand up.”
The coffee went everywhere, over Patrick and the blankets, and Pete's knee caught Patrick in the sternum, winding him. Feathers from the boa got stuck in Patrick's nose, and he got his teeth into the bare skin of Pete's midriff, biting into skin, making Pete squeal and flail at Patrick's head. Pete was strong and tough, pinning Patrick's wrists against the mattress, but Patrick kept biting, making Pete howl.
Joe shouted, “Shut the fuck up!” from the doorway, then someone, presumably Joe, dragged Pete off Patrick.
“Not fucking impressed,” Joe growled, when Patrick shoved his glasses back on his face and sat back up. “Hate you both.”
Pete skulked on the other end of the mattress, hand pressed to his side, and Patrick glowered at him, then shrugged at Joe. “Sorry we woke you up.”
“Die, both of you,” Joe said. “Just do it quietly.”
Joe stomped back to his room, slamming his bedroom door, and Pete said, “Um, now you do need to borrow clothes from me.”
Patrick looked down at the coffee soaking into his t-shirt. “Fuck you, find me a fucking t-shirt while I go make another coffee.”
Pete parked his motorbike in the yard behind the store in a cloud of fumes, and Patrick unwound numb fingers from the grab rail behind the passenger seat.
“I could have walked,” Patrick said, when he'd pulled Pete's spare helmet off his head, freeing himself from the cloud of poisonous perfume worn by the last pillion rider, then jammed his trucker hat back on his head.
“Stop whining,” Pete said, unzipping his biker jacket and freeing his feather boa. “If you're having a whining day, then I'm listening to my iPod all day.”
Patrick thought about pouting, but Pete was already fiddling with the lock on the back door of the store, and with his arms lifted up, Patrick could see that Pete had a significant set of bite marks on his side. Maybe Patrick shouldn't have bitten so hard...
“Sorry,” Patrick said, following Pete into the darkened store, trying not to fall over any of the construction supplies they'd left out the night before.
“For what?” Pete said, flicking the lights on, and unbolting the front door of the store.
Pete glanced back over his shoulder. “What? Hey, no problem. That was hot.” The door swung open, and the pair of them looked at the mountain of cartons on the pavement outside. “Oh, shit,” Pete said. “Isn't the courier supposed to wait until there's someone here to accept delivery and sign for the stock?”
“Absolutely,” Patrick said. “Anyone could have taken this lot. We need to move it inside before it is stolen.”
The cartons were heavy, being full of books, and Pete shifted one inside the store, then said, “Have I ever mentioned how physically frail I am?”
“Big, old soccer-playing you?” Patrick said, shoving another carton across the carpet. “Pete who crowdsurfs at gigs? Who has broken every bone in his body? Who doesn't feel pain or fear? Move another carton, loser.”
“Damn,” Pete said, picking a carton up and hefting it inside. “You noticed.”
They found a PC in a crate, under the cartons of books.
“I think we might have established this is a low theft neighborhood,” Pete said, as the two of them carried the crate inside. “And that couriers are idiots and don't understand the basics of the delivery process.”
“Possibly we're still protected in some way by the aura of the previous occupants,” Patrick said. “You know, the filthy tattoo parlor operatives. Maybe no one around here wants to steal from them.”
“Hi,” a voice said from the doorway, and Patrick looked up and recognized the seriously cute boy from Panic Toys, the first time he'd looked through the window. “I'm Spencer. I'm glad you finally turned up and rescued your stuff, because it was getting really boring, running between my store and your boxes, trying to get organized for the week at Panic, and stop the local thugs from stealing your deliveries. You kids need to turn up on time.”
Spencer's eyes finally made it from Pete--Little Mermaid t-shirt, feathers, leather jacket and bruise--to Patrick, and he grinned at Patrick too. Patrick tried for nonchalance, because there wasn't much else he could do when he was wearing Pete's Bay City Rollers t-shirt, and grinned back.
“Thanks, for holding back the forces of evil,” Patrick said.
“Nah, the local thieves aren't the forces of evil,” Spencer said. “That's the landlords. I should go, get the banking ready for Ryan, or he'll have to slap me. Catch you later.”
“Later,” Pete said. “And often.”
Once the cartons were inside, and the door safely locked, Pete and Patrick sat down on cartons and surveyed the store. “Do we have a plan?” Pete asked. “I think we need a plan, preferably containing coffee and snacks.”
“I agree,” Patrick said. “Every plan needs snacks. Number one, snacks. Number two, set up PC, and install storefront and stock control system.”
“Then we go home and sleep. Tomorrow we come back and start entering stock into the system, which will take days. Some time later in the week, we start trading.”
“We can't sell books today?” Pete sounded disappointed.
“Are you superhuman?” Patrick asked.
“Well, yes,” Pete said. “Of course.”
Patrick rolled his eyes. “And do your superpowers extend to stock data entry? Shelving? Pricing?”
“No, my super-abilities are esoteric,” Pete said. “And can only be used for the good of humanity.”
“I can coordinate outfits,” Pete said. “For any occasion, for any person.”
Patrick nodded seriously, while Pete picked a stray feather out of his mouth. “And?”
“I'm really good at sex.”
“A useful talent, I agree,” Patrick said. “But how can that only be used for the good of humanity?”
“One person at a time,” Pete said. “Or, one small group at a time, anyway. If I could work out how to apply it to a larger group, I would, but what can I say? I'm just one person here.”
“Had you thought of taking on hired help? A sidekick? A trained chimp?” Patrick asked. “A Pete-android?”
Pete glared at Patrick, and Patrick said, “I'm just trying to be helpful.”
“Right. You could be my sidekick, you know. We could be like a super hero team, taking sex to the world.”
“Hey, this is your deranged belief structure, not mine,” Patrick said. “Keep me out of this.”
“Okay, a Pete-droid then. Is that narcissistic?”
“Only if you do the droid,” Patrick said.
“What's the point in having a sex-droid if you don't do the droid?”
“What's the point of pips in passionfruit lube?"
“Never mind, you're telling me about your superpowers.”
“That's right. Stylish dressing, sex, and you as a best friend. With these superpowers, I can conquer the world.”
“But not the bookstore,” Patrick said. “We should get a snack machine installed here. Do you think Andy will let us?”
“We don't need a snack machine, because we'd have to put money into a snack machine. What we need is a fridge,” Pete said. “Then the food would be free!”
Patrick grinned. “Apart from the bit where we have to buy it initially.”
“Buy food? Never! I'll put on my best clothes, go visit my ex who is a chef in that restaurant, and see what I can steal.”
“You hate her,” Patrick pointed out, trying to keep his voice reasonable. “And she hates you. Remember?”
Pete frowned. “Damn.”
“Though, it's possible she'll throw food at you.”
“Or knives,” Pete said. “Knives would be bad.”
Patrick stood up and held out a hand for Pete. “C'mon. I'll uncrate the PC, and you can take the bike in search of snacks that will survive the ride back to the store. Just remember, any fast food attendants you bring back with you will want to share the snacks, so there'll be less to go around.”
“I know, I know,” Pete said, zipping up his jacket. “Don't bring the burger flippers back too; they never play well with others.”
They hugged for a moment, Pete smelling of leather and sweat, and confusingly of bananas, then Pete smacked his lips against Patrick's, and was gone, in a roar of dodgy muffler and poorly tuned engine.
Sending Pete out for anything was a bit like sending Joe out for a bag of dope—the results were erratic, like the time Joe came back with a sleeping bag so full he could barely lift it. Pete roared back into the yard behind the store an hour later, while the install disks for the storefront were still grinding away and Patrick was half-way through the hardcover of the newest ScXlzi he'd dug out of a carton.
He didn't bother looking up from his position on the floor behind the desk, just waved a hand over the counter at Pete.
Pete put a can of soda and a paper-wrapped bundle on the carton beside Patrick and sat on another carton.
“Guess what?” Pete said.
“No,” Patrick said. “Your guess whats are always too bizarre, so I'm not even going to try.”
“Go on,” Pete wheedled.
Patrick sighed, memorizing the page number, then putting the hardcover safely out of Pete's reach. “You don't hate your ex anymore. In fact, you've reconciled, and she's cooked your favorite veggie burgers for us, and that's where you've been for the past hour.”
“No,” Pete said. “Fuck, no.”
Patrick unwrapped the bundle, and sniffed. He'd guessed wrong. “Generic veggie burger. Hmm. I have no idea.”
“Joe's on his way, with a little something for the store.”
Patrick bit into the burger, and tried to think of what Joe's idea of 'a little something' might be. “A meddle deddecder?”
“Gnoww,” Pete said, around lentil patty and fried onion. “Goo iea.”
They'd reached the companionable silence stage of the meal, where Patrick burped a lot and Pete picked fried onion out of his feather boa, when Joe's footsteps bounded up the back steps of the store, and Joe half-fell over cartons, and through the partition door.
“'Morning retail sharks,” Joe called out, and Pete and Patrick toasted him with their cans of soda. Pete put his soda down on the PC tower, and Patrick removed it immediately, before anyone could tip it over.
“Let's move this baby,” Pete said, unwinding his boa.
Patrick followed them out, to the yard, and stared in amazement at the fridge strapped to the back of Joe's pick up. “A fridge! A freaking fridge!”
“That's right,” Joe said, untying the rope lashing it in place. “Pete explained your snack predicament this morning, along with something about the limitations of his superpowers and how he wanted a Pete sex-droid, so I picked up a small fridge and brought it over. The sex-droid is going to take longer, and I don't think will count as a business expense.”
The fridge looked brand new, with warranty stickers and receipts on the side, when Pete and Joe lifted it up the steps, so Patrick figured he shouldn't ask any more questions, not until Andy was there.
Shoved into the corner of the store room, beside the sink, and plugged in, the fridge hummed into life. “Awesome,” Pete said, hugging Joe.
Patrick hugged Joe from the other side, just for completion. “And we're sorry about waking you up.”
Pete let go of Joe and jumped onto the fridge, sitting on it. “Excellent! It's exactly the right height for having sex on, too!”
“No!” Patrick shouted, and Joe grabbed Pete and lifted him off the fridge.
“Nonono,” Joe said, shaking Pete. “Bad Pete. Same rules as the apartment—nothing involving bodily fluids can happen anywhere near food storage or preparation. Got it?”
“You’re no fun anymore,” Pete said, his voice stuttering as Joe shook him.
“Put Pete down,” Patrick said tiredly. “Before he’s sick again.”
Joe dropped Pete.
“Where’d you get the fridge?” Patrick asked, opening the door and admiring the shelves. “It’s got that great new fridge smell, the one where nothing has rotted in it yet.”
“I bought it,” Joe said indignantly. “Andy said I had to buy everything that went into the store legitimately, and keep the receipts. He said to pretend that my nightmare about being audited was coming true.”
Pete, up off the floor and draped over Patrick’s shoulder to admire the fridge too, said, “Dude, you have nightmares about being audited? That’s harsh. I have nightmares about STDs and ex-girlfriends and paternity suits and mother-in-laws and everyone being in the same room at the same time.”
“What about you?” Joe asked, ask Patrick closed the fridge door, almost trapping Pete’s fingers and boa.
“What do I have nightmares about? GeXrge MXrtin dying and not finishing the SXng of Xce and FXre series,” Parick said.
Joe and Pete stared at Patrick. “No, for real,” Joe said.
“Um, George Lucas releasing another Director’s Cut of the original Star Wars,” Patrick said. “Joss Whedon giving up and getting a real job.”
“You have nightmares about these things?” Pete asked. “Don’t you have nightmares about things other people do, like being chased naked by jello monsters through your old high school?”
“That’s not normal,” Joe said. “Not even by my standards.”
Patrick crossed his arms across his chest and glared at Pete and Joe. “I’m not discussing the contents of my subconscious any further, okay. Remember what happened when I told Pete about my Oscar the Grouch dream?”
Pete had the decency to blush, and even Joe wouldn’t meet Patrick’s gaze.
“So,” Pete said. “Who wants me to go and do a food run, get stuff for the fridge?”
“Take my truck,” Joe said, holding out his keys. “That way you can buy things that might be squishy.”
When Pete had gone, Patrick changed install disks in the PC and opened another carton at random, just to admire the new book smell.
“Are you okay?” Joe asked. “Or are you about to take to Pete with the stapler then hide his body in the dumpster?”
Patrick blinked. “No, I’m fine. Pete is no more or less Pete-like than usual. Why?”
“I haven’t had to break you two up for a while,” Joe said. “Not like this morning. Figured I should check that all was well in your own little shared psychosis.”
Patrick grinned. “I’d forgotten about that. I guess it’s a while since one of us actually tried to kill the other one.”
“Not since that time you tried to strangle Pete at the truck stop in Indiana,” Joe said.
“I didn’t just try,” Patrick said. “He blacked out, which I think counts as being successful.”
Joe sighed. “I keep hoping you kids will grow up or something, but you just keep on being the same.”
“We are grown up, or at least as grown up as we’re ever going to get,” Patrick said. “Someone was foolish enough to let us start a business.”
Joe patted the carton he was sitting on and grinned. “Too right. Sold any books today?”
Patrick threw a packing peanut at Joe. “Does it fucking look like I’ve been able to sell any books?”
The PC beeped, indicating it required attention, and Patrick rolled off the carton and crawled through the mess to go and hit the restart button.
“We have a stock control system,” he said two minutes later. “It might be completely empty, and it might be as ugly as Pete’s best dress, but it’s a freaking stock control system. Hand me a book, Joe, and let’s start this data entry process rolling.”
Someone pulled Patrick’s headphones off, stopping him from singing along to David Bowie, and the only thing that prevented him from snarling was that whoever had done it also held a can of Red Bull out for him to take.
“Thanks,” Patrick said, looking up.
Andy grinned down at him. “Hey there. Are you comfortable?”
Patrick had built himself a barricade of cartons, three behind him to lean back on, one each side for arm rests, one in front to take books from, and one to put books into. He had his laptop on his knees, and was adding books to the stock control system remotely, through the store’s LAN, while Joe and Pete argued with each other and swore at the main PC. Headphones had become necessary.
“Very,” Patrick said, stretching a little and cracking his neck. “Are you off work early?”
“Ran away from the office, figured you’d all need some back up here.”
Patrick hit ‘save’ and balanced his laptop on a carton, then extricated himself from his barricade. “Please,” Patrick said. “Please shelve books, and not according to the new alphabet.”
Andy said, “What?”
“Joe uses the new alphabet, which is subtly different from the old alphabet.”
“Fuck you, and your traditionalist ways,” Joe called out from the counter, where he was typing in book titles. “Fuck you all.”
“There’s more than one alphabet?” Andy said, shaking his head. “I missed out on that one at school.”
Patrick hugged Andy. “Oh fuck. There’re several alphabets. Pete dented Joe’s pick up. Joe and Pete have been picking on me. Can we dissolve the partnership, or is it too late?”
“It’s too late,” Andy said cheerfully, hugging Patrick back. “We’ll just have to stay together for the sake of the children.”
“We have not been picking on Patrick,” Pete called out. “No more than he deserves.”
Andy kissed Patrick’s forehead then let go of him. “What can I do? What needs to be done next?”
“Shelve books according to conventional alphabetical order,” Pete called out, from where he was kneeling beside a carton, surrounded by packing peanuts. “You know, A before B, the basics like that.”
“I don’t know,” Joe muttered. “I show a little creativity, a little spark, and I get smacked down by my own team. Is this how you treat true genius?”
Andy pulled his work shirt over his head and dumped it on a carton. “I’m an accountant. I like things being in the correct order. Show me the books, and I’ll shelve the damned things.”
In Pete’s room that night, when Patrick had brushed his teeth and removed the last of the packing peanuts from his hair, Pete was standing in front of the mirror propped against the bedroom wall, wearing only a towel, still wet from the shower.
Patrick dropped his borrowed Bay City Rollers T-shirt onto Pete’s dirty clothes pile and clambered into Pete’s bed, wearing just boxers.
“Are you being randomly narcissistic again, like with the Pete-droid?” Patrick asked sleepily, staking an early claim on as much of the blankets and sheet as he could. “Or is there an actual purpose to the mirror-gazing this time, like, um, rib-counting, or trying to work out which of your nipples is longer?”
“Just admiring your dentition,” Pete said distractedly, turning around to show Patrick the livid red and purple bite marks on his side. “Nice work. Very nice. I’d like to get the canine impressions tattooed in, but I’ve spent all my cash on buying a bookstore.”
Pete dropped the towel and clambered onto the bed, crouching beside Patrick. Patrick pushed his glasses up his nose and peered at the bruise. “It’s a great set of bruises,” Patrick agreed, running his fingertips over the marks. “Almost as good as when you fell off your mom’s bookshelf onto her Christmas tree that time.”
Pete reached up and turned the light off, and Patrick took his glasses off in the dark and slid them under the pillow while Pete burrowed under the bedding.
“Do you remember that Christmas?” Pete said. “That was great fun. You stayed over, and made yourself sick on popcorn and waffles…”
Patrick tuned Pete out, eyes shut and breathing slowing, and Pete droned on, emptying his subconscious out into Patrick’s ear, one disconnected sentence after another. Patrick could shut out the sound of Pete’s late night babble, could sleep through his confessions of personal failure like sleeping with a white noise generator or a TV on. It surprised Patrick, sometimes, what he did remember from Pete’s late night stream-of-subconciousness venting, and then he found himself reaching for the mental brain bleach…
Pete’s arm slid closer around Patrick’s waist, and Pete’s voice settled somewhere near Patrick’s shoulder, rattling on about grade school and arithmetic. Pete’s other hand grabbed Patrick’s ass, and Patrick sleepily said, “Not that kind of hug, Pete,” then Patrick fell asleep.
on to Chapter Five