The Pet Shop Girls: Scrap

3:00 AM

RORY & JENNA’S APARTMENT

 

Jenna had just worked a full thursday shift. It was a busy night, but uneventful, and the tipping was good, so she couldn’t complain.

 

She did, obviously, but c’mon.

 

It seemed like it was going to be a normal late night right until she got to the door of her shared apartment, smelled something off, and then halted her hand in front of what she realized was a bloody doorknob.

 

That sure is off. That is in fact very off. And unusual. She open the door anyway (ew ew ew whose is this), quietly as she can manage and peers inside cautiously.

 

Mercifully, there was no trail of blood insi—oop, never mind, there were a few spatters on the carpet. That’d be annoying to get out. Another unusual feature was the great big figure slumped on the couch.

 

Rory was sleeping on the couch? Usually she only did that when Jenna wanted to sleep on the couch, and 3am was never one of those times.

 

Something was very off.

 

That at least deterred her from her original plan to get to the kitchen breaker box as quickly as possible, and her posture subtly shifted from “prepared to inflict grievous harm” to “cautious and alarmed.” She stepped smartly over to the couch and eyed Rory.

 

The Hound of Fort Point didn’t look so good. She was certainly alive, and snoring softly through a splinted and bloody nose. One of her eyes was so badly bruised that Jenna knew she wouldn’t be able to open it when she woke up. She’d inexpertly bandaged her head, apparently, and there was a faint red stain showing through. Her knuckles, too, were taped and bloody.

 

Rory had been in a fight, and it had gone far worse than the one Jenna had been there for.

 

That was what she needed, and after another once-over, Jenna turned on her heel to the bathroom. Hopefully, Rory hadn’t gone through the entire first aid kit she kept in that cupboard. She retrieved it, made sure she had enough to work with. Paused. Rolled her eyes and took some calming breaths. Mumbled unfavorable things. Okay. Frustration-out-of-system, or as good as it’s gonna get.

 

After that, she returned to the couch, and began to apply proper dressings and bandages, starting at Rory’s poor cranium- that and it was a good way to get a look at the damage and hazard some guesses as to whether or not the big dope needed a real doc.

 

It was hard to tell, with Rory. Jenna had seen the oaf tumble across a concrete floor from a superpowered punch and it didn’t do much worse than bruising, so whatever managed to break the skin on her head must have been nothing short of a weapon. The cut was ragged, a tear with some swelling, but it was healing fast and didn’t seem to need stitches. It was definitely getting bacitracin.

 

As Jenna applied antiseptic to the cut, Rory’s brow creased in pain and she made a high pitched whining sound that was way cuter than it had any right to be. She struggled a little bit, trying futilely to get away from the source of owies without having to wake up.

 

It would’ve been adorable, if Jenna wasn’t set on edge and annoyed by most high pitched sounds. Her ears flattened back against her skull and she breathed deep. ‘Idjit. That’s what Rory is.’ She should probably be a bit more charitable, but making sure her roommate didn’t bleed out on the couch or get some infection from not leaving well enough alone was not her idea of a relaxing night.

 

She finished up, almost amazed that anyone could sleep that hard, and started to check Rory’s nose – splinted, sure, but did it need that? Was it broken?

 

If it had been broken, the cartilage had already fixed itself. It was extremely tender, though, and even Jenna’s slight touch was enough to elicit a sharp yelp from the hound. Her eyes flew open, and then everything moved, and then Jenna was on the floor and Rory was on top of her.

 

Rory blinked a few times. “…oh. It’s you.”

 

Jenna looked very unimpressed. “I’m going to start counting now,” she said in the incredibly calm tone of someone who was absolutely furious. “You have to three. One…”

 

Scrambling. The patient returned to the couch, looking very sheepish and a bit flushed. “Sry.”

 

“You shouldn’t be moving like that anyway you big dumb idiot.” Somehow, the last three words came across as a term of endearment rather than genuine annoyance. Probably because she called Rory that constantly, and at some point it became more of a weird, vaguely offensive title than something she meant.

 

“Now just hold still. You look like a kindergartener’s mummy costume, for fuck’s sake.”

 

“It’s hard ta bandage yer own head,” Rory mumbled, scratching at one bandaged stop picking.” knuckle, “an’ hands.”

 

“Yes, well, that’s why I’m doing it, isn’t it. Call me next time you get hurt and I’ll use my break, shit. Gimme your hands.” Those last three words were prim, to-the point, and said while she made sure all her supplies were in reach.

 

“I didn’t wanna make you mad,” ugh she looked pathetic right now.

 

“Mad is how I feel thinking about the fact I’m going to have to spend hours cleaning up the carpet and door. Mad is how I feel considering the fact that my security deposit just went pbbthhht.” She did not point out that she had eclipsed ‘mad’ some moments ago and was now sitting quietly somewhere near pissed-right-off, but that wouldn’t help matters. “Mad is not making sure you don’t get an infection.”

 

“I’m sorry Jenna.” Rory hung her head. “I suck.”

 

Well if that’s what you want to do. – Try to flex your hands. Don’t want to restrict them – they don’t seem broken and that’ll help blood flow.” You know, the thing about being a cat-gal was her emotional state was very much on display: despite the neutrality she had carefully schooled her face in, her ears were still a mite flat, and her tail? A twitch-a-minute.

 

It was not lost on Rory just how badly she was in the proverbial doghouse right now. She mutely tried to follow her roomie’s instructions, keeping her hands loose and sitting still otherwise.

 

“Now, is there anything else I should be taking a look at,” she asked after a few moments of bandaging and – yes, wiggling Rory’s fingers to make sure those weren’t broken. “And any pain in your palm while I’m thinking about it?”

 

“No, my palm’s okay, but um.” Rory reached down and lifted up her shirt, jesus christ rory oh no she actually has an injury there. Another inexpert bandage over… yep, that’s a knife wound, right over her ribs.

 

“Here’s some advice, free of charge: Stop getting stabbed.” She removed the sad, sad bandage, more antiseptic! Wee! “..stop wiggling too god damn-” And she applied a little sorta. Butterfly patch, following it up with a bandage proper (“Don’t tell me you have ticklish ribs ugh.”), after ensuring that nothing vital seemed nicked. Which she was very good at, because you can totally just eyeball that, right? Right.

 

“I’m trying, it hurts and tickles!” Rory complained, finally locating some of her wounded pride. “You don’t hafta do this if you hate it so much! An’ I tried not to get stabbed “that’s why I said getting, as opposed to just don’t.” but they jumped me ‘fore I was ready and there was five of ’em and they was all paras!”

 

“Well I’m done, now,” Jenna said simply “Now, let’s move along: Who jumped you.” Rory do not give the furious cat a target. Do not do that.

 

“Pete,” ah geez rory. “The guy we beat up the other day. An’ some of his pals. Called emselves the Bedlam Boys as they was kickin’ the shit outta me.”

 

There was a brief moment where Jenna bit her lip. And then failed to suppress it: She laughed. She laughed really hard. “The – th .. The bedlam boys are you fuckin’ kidding me are they twelve oh my god I’m gonna- this – This is how I die.” She sobered up suddenly then scowled. “‘Course, people call us the pet shop girls which you did nothing about.

 

“You gotta admit it’s kinda clever,” Rory no she absolutely does not.

 

“No. No I absolutely do not have to admit that. It’s actually the inverse of wit, Rory. “Durh, dogs n’ cats’re pets an’ they come from pet shops oh but they’re girls so they’re pet shop girls.” That was not a flattering voice you put on there, Jenna, and maybe you should not have done that.

 

Rory clamped her mouth shut, looked away, and stood still while Jenna finished tending the wound.

 

“Don’t gimme that look. I wasn’t makin’ fun of you. I’m not mad at you for the name, because it wasn’t your idea. Y’big dumb idiot. C’mon. How’s about some fish sticks?”

 

“Don’tcha gotta go to sleep?” Rory looked back at Jenna with big huge liquid brown eyes that said don’tcha hate me now???

 

“I’m a cat. I should’ve been asleep all day.”Jenna probably doesn’t hate you Rory. She offered fish sticks!

 

“Uhm. Okay. Fish sticks sound nice.”

 

“‘Atta girl.”

The Pet Shop Girls: Attack of the Green Monster

JENNA & RORY’S APARTMENT

SOUTH BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

 

It was a sunny, beautiful June afternoon in Boston, with clear weather, a cool breeze, and bright sun. Normally, Rory would be extolling the wonders of nature to whomever would listen outside, but today, she was on the couch—somehow both taking up the entire thing and also using only the edge.

 

She stared at the apartment television, a 40″ flatscreen, rapt.

 

The first home game of the month was on.

 

“Hey,” Jenna said. “I uh. Wanted. Toooo…” and she trailed off and her next words came like they were literally being torn from her throat. “Say. Thank you – for the other day y’know. You brought me lunch because- Look I’m saying thanks.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Rory murmured, squinting at the TV, eyes focused on the pitcher on the mound.

 

The expression on Jenna’s face would’ve been comical. If Rory were paying attention to it. “…Y-..yeah?” Her tone was somewhere between offended and annoyed.

 

“Okay.”

 

That… was not the correct response. Had Rory ever said anything that inconsiderate? Thank you, okay?

 

On one hand: She probably deserves some level of inconsiderate. On the other hand, she made a point to say thank you whenever she thought it was needed. This. … This did not sit well with her.

 

She eyes Rory. Eyes the Tv. … Pause. Thought. And then Rory had a hundred-odd points of catgirl plop into her lap. “Excuse me hello I am talking to you.”

 

“Whoa, what? Jenna, c’mon, I’m—” Rory struggled to look at the TV over Jenna’s shoulder. “I’m tryna—”

 

She stares, a little dumbfounded. “..have you heard a single damn word I’ve said?”

 

“Single damn word you’ve said, sure,” peering at the screen over Jenna’s shoulder, Rory promptly stopped being concerned about the lap full of catgirl once her view was no longer obscured.

 

Wow. Jenna is actually visibly fuming. Already. While she can be dismissive to Rory, one would be hard -pressed to find a time she’s outright ignored the excitable dog-gal. The problem is she has no idea what to say, mildly worried about what will exit her mouth should she open it.

 

And that’s how Rory discovers Jenna has a tension habit. Kneading.

 

In spite of her sport-induced fugue, Rory managed to take notice that she was getting an unexpected thigh massage. She blinked twice, her eyes seemed to focus a tiny bit, and she asked Jenna: “Uh, what are you doing?”

 

“What? Huh?” She looked down. “Oh.” Pause. Knead. Knead. Stop. Okay. Right. Whoops. “…Hi! You noticed I’m here I see.”

 

“I noticed you were here when you came in,” Rory scoffed, and returned her attention to the TV. “I said hi.” No you didn’t, Rory.

 

“You haven’t said anything to me except repeating what I say, only with even less enthusiasm.”

 

“Yeah?” Rory said absently, then her eyes went wide and she threw both hands into the air, narrowly managing to not punch Jenna in the face. “Yeah!! Yes! Eat it, McFarland! Go Sox! Fuck yes!”

 

Jenna sputtered indignantly. “I- Y-.” Her eyes narrowed. “Okay. Fine.” She stood up – but didn’t bother to block Rory’s vision – perhaps because she was not interested in competing with a TV, but more likely because she was visibly annoyed. She stormed off, and prooobably the next sound Rory registers is Jenna slamming the door.

 

Pfft. she’ll probably be back.

 

There were a few minutes of silence, then a tapping on the door. “Uhm,” Rory said from the other side.

 

The response took a moment, and Rory could probably hear a few slow deep breaths – which didn’t seem to accomplish a damn thing, since when she spoke, she still snapped: “What?”

 

“Did… I feel like you might be mad but I don’t know what—did I do somethin’ wrong?”

 

“You can’t think of anything you might have done in the past ten minutes that might explain why I’m annoyed at you. Like. At all.”

 

“Did… did I clip ya when I cheered for that strikeout?”

 

“…keeeep goin’. I’m gonna tell you. I just want to see if you remember.’

 

“Was… was it when you was kneading my thigh and I pointed it out?”

 

“…You don’t remember what I said at at all, do you.”

 

“You said… you were home? And that I wasn’t listening to you. Something about a god damn word.”

 

“..I never actually said I was home. And apparently you noticed everything but the thing I was trying to get across.” There’s a pause, Jenna seeming to consider this. “…Just go watch your game, okay? It’s fine.” … It doesn’t sound like a trap.

 

“No—no, wait, Jenna, I’m sorry. What was the thing? I’m sorry I wasn’t listenin’ I was just—I get real into the game, you know, I’m a Sox girl—”

 

“Yeah. You said that before. Didn’t think it was that big a deal. Just go watch your game, y’big dumb idiot. It wasn’t that important anyway. I just don’t like being ignored.”

 

…and that was when Rory made her second major mistake of the evening.

 

“But… you ignore me all the time.”

 

“No. I don’t. I don’t always respond. But I could recite what you were saying verbatim. … Mostly. I probably wouldn’t make up things the other party didn’t say.”

 

“Oh,” shuffling noises outside the door. “Um. I’m sorry. What c—what should I do.”

 

“What can you do? Wait. What should you do? Probably go away until I’m feeling more pleasant.”

 

Is Jenna ever actually feeling pleasant though.

 

“Um. Okay. So I should… you want me to just leave you alone for a while? If you want me to leave you alone I’ll leave you alone. I should do that?”

 

“… That’s what I said, I mean. I think I did but I just can’t be sure.” There’s a beat, and then with the faintest hint of annoyance, as opposed to drenched in sarcasm, she asks, “What are you wanting to do so I can tell you not to.”

 

“No it’s okay, I’m sorry. Have good—um, see ya.” Receding footsteps. A few moments later, the sound of the baseball game ceased, and all was blessed silence.

 

Jenna felt that. Kind of. Missed the point of what she had been telling Rory to do. The entire. Time. She sighed after a couple minutes and then dragged herself out. She should probably make sure Rory wasn’t sitting in the dark crying or something.

 

Stupid delicate dog girls.

 

WHAT. No. Of… of course Rory hadn’t been crying, she was… no that’s ridiculous, she was watching the game on her phone in her room and her face was splotchy because of reasons.

 

Stupid delicate dog girls had a way of making excuses before they even opened their mouths, didn’t they?

 

“Uhm,” Rory tossed her phone to the side and wiped an eye, because it was itchy. Allergies, maybe. That seemed like an excuse she might be about to make.

 

Jenna opened her mouth. Pointy, kitty teeth. Thought about it. Closed her mouth. Her tail flicked. “…Rory. Rory, I think you missed the point.” an addendum: “..Also, I know you don’t have any allergies that do all of those things at once. Unless you’re gonna say cat, which would be clever but also I think a little too mean for you.”

 

“I wasn’t cryin’!” Rory barked, “I didn’t ask for ya to check on me, cuz I’m fine! I just wanted ta. Lie down.” Even Rory knew how weak these excuses were. She held up her phone, which was streaming the baseball game on low volume. “I was still watchin’ the game, see? I wanted ta be in here!”

 

Rory got a look that clearly said that Jenna was not buying this. At all. “Look. I-” Slow. Deep. Breath. … And this sounded like it was even harder to say (not that Rory would know!) than the thank you. …Which is probably why she changed tacks entirely on her second try. “…Look- Okay. I asked you to leave because I didn’t want to snap at you. The whole idea was to not.. This. so why are we this.”

 

“If you wanna snap at me, just… fuckin, do it,” Rory tried to sound tough, but sniffling sort of ruined the effect. “Just don’t tell me to go back to my game like nothin’ happened after I realize that I… I’m such a big dumb idiot who can’t do nothin’ right that I hurt my best friend in the world, my best friend who don’t let nothin’ bother her. Okay? Maybe you never fuck up so bad you gotta go cr—get… upset about it, but I do.”

 

“We really do need to fix that hole in the roof, it’s raining. On your face.” Jenna said mildly. She sighed. “Okay. The reason I told you to do that is because it wasn’t that big a deal. I just got snippy and stormed off. It’s fine. You’re fine. Really. I just figured you may as well go back to what you were doing – that way, we both win. I get to fume, you get to watch your sox.”

 

“I tole you I don’t cry,” Rory growled, crying, “an’ it’s just a sports game. You don’t gotta… I don’t wanna be annoying all the time cuz if I’m annoying all the time you’ll tell me I gotta leave someday and I don’t wanna leave.”

 

Jenna visibly tried to follow this logic train. Sadly, as she barreled down the figurative mental tracks, clearly someone had thrown the switch. She thought. “Wh-” Thought some more. “Uh-” …nope. “Let me address that: Yes, you absolutely do. And why would I- … Why would I, knowing that  I’m being irrational because I had a shitty day and all that, tell you to lea- Wait. Did you think I was telling you to like, get lost as in get out?”

 

“Not… this time, naw,” Rory shrugged a little, then pulled the loose neck of her sox jersey up to wipe her eyes. “I’m really sorry that you had a shitty day.”

 

“…Oh my g-” She just settled next to Rory. And actually hugged the weepy dog girl. “There. We’re al good. You’re fine. I’m fine.”

 

A brief pause. Then: the floodgates.

 

“I’m sorry!” Rory bawled. “Ahh fuck, I’m sorry Jenna! I know I’m the worst!”

 

“Wh- I d- … I ne- I never said–” WHAT IS HAPPENING AND WHY IS IT HAPPENING. Jenna looks genuinely distressed, but not concerned, it is definitely a “why is this happening” look. … “it- It is. Absolutely totally you are not the worst?”

 

Snuff. “Yez I ab yu jus dode know id yed!” Now her nose was running. “Ad whed yu ged sig of be, yu’ll kig be oud juz lieg Audrey did!”

 

“…Let me stop you there.” Whether  Rory seemed done wailing or not didn’t matter. Jenna had that tone. “I’m stopping you because one: I don’t know who that is. Their name however, sounded nothing like “Jenna,” so it’s not me. I don’t think any comparisons will be correct. Two: …if the extent of your awful is ignoring me when you watch baseball, like, if that’s our point of contention, I think I can do this just fine.”

 

She nudged Rory until she was positive that Rory was making eye contact – whether she seemed real keen on it or not. “Really. I overreacted.” N- no, you’re doing SO GOOD, Jenna, don’t say i- “..I mean so did you–” God damn it. “…But it’s fine. I’m over it. I forgive you, and I have no plans to ask you to go anywhere. …besides. Someone has to make sure you take care of yourself, ya big dumb idiot.”

 

“Bud…” Rory was close to objecting, but after looking at Jenna’s face for even a moment, that impulse vanished as quickly as the bout of crying had. “Ogay.” SNUUUUUFFFFFFF. “Thanks. Um. I’m sorry I went to pieces like that. “If you say sorry one more god damn time…We’re over it. Really.” I … don’t really get why you aren’t gonna kick me out, but. I’m glad you don’t think y’will.”

 

“Because kicking you out for this would be ridiculous? You’re a good roomie, and a good person. –” Wait. What? “Wait. What, why am I telling you why you should stay, instead of why I shouldn’t do that: Let’s revisit my original reason for saying you were fine. The entirety of the problem was because I was in a bad mood. How is that- What.”

 

Rory caught Jenna’s gaze, her own big brown eyes red from crying but very wide from surprise.

 

“You think…” rapid blinking. For a moment, one might worry that she was going to burst into tears again, but thankfully she was too flabbergasted. “You really… but. I. Um. Okay. Th… thanks.”

 

Thank you, whatever deity was responsible for Rory not crying. Thank you so much. “..Okay. Now I. Am gonna go make some fish sticks. And you are going to eat some fish sticks. And then you’re gonna cheer up.” She paused. “This is the plan, anyway. Will fish sticks actually help?”

 

“Yeah,” Rory’s tearful face slowly spread into a grin. “Fish sticks sound wicked awesome.”

 

“Cool. Go watch yer sportsball, ya doof.” Hair ruffle, and Jenna disentangled herself from Rory and wandered off.

The Pet Shop Girls: Shakedown Takedown

Jenna’s phone chimed.

 

Ah. A chat message from Rory. Why did she think it’d be anything else.

 

hay jenna hey hey hey

 

I’m starting to think that you genuinely believe that adding more ‘heys’ to a text message will make me notice it faster. Anyway – what?

 

haha w/e anyways

I have a laundry q

 

Check the tag, Rory. I tell you that every time. Literally every time.

 

ur panties dont have a tag on them

 

Oh my God, Rory. I said i’d do my own delicates

 

ok

so

cold or???

 

I feel like you’re deliberately ignoring what I said in an attempt to be helpful. Great. Now I can’t even get mad. Ugh. Just – Just throw them in on warm-cold.

 

🙂 🙂 🙂

 

A few minutes passed without interruption.

 

Jenna jenna jenna

 

As much as I like it when people say my name, this is a lot less effective.  So – What?

 

Haha like during sex?? I like that too

Yes that was the joke thank you.

neways

some mean lookin guys came in and are standin around

1 smaller mean guy is talkin 2 the laundrymat owner who looks real nervous

 

Pause.

 

I think this is a shakedown???

 

Ugh. Gimme five. If they leave, follow them QUIETLY. I don’t want you getting beat up again if we can help it.

 

Heeeeeee 😀 😀

ok

 

You’re way too goddamn excited about this.

 

A few minutes later – not even five, even through all the soap and laundry and ugh, Rory could prooobably figure that Jenna was close.

 

The conversation between the laundromat owner and a man who looked like his aspect ratio had been badly squashed had gotten more tense in the time it took Jenna to arrive. It was becoming obvious that some manner of payment was due, and the man didn’t have it. Three taller but equally cranky-seeming men loomed in each corner of the cramped space.

 

Rory, of course, looked as happy as a pig in shit, and the thugs were starting to notice. She sat on the lid of the washer she was using, gently kicking her feet against the side of the machine.

 

The man nearest to her evidently fell prey to his curiosity. “The fuck you so happy about?”

 

“I get to see my roommate soon!” Rory chirped.

 

Speaking of roommates: The door opened, and sure, there was a chime and everything – but when they looked, no one was there. Jenna is almost as good at getting out of the way as Rory is punching people.

 

Out of the corner of her eye though… Rory could see a black tail curving and curling before disappearing around a row of washers. Or maybe driers. Wriers? Either way – Jenna was on the other side of them.

 

Wha’cha gon’ do, Rory?

 

“Hey, so,” Rory tilted her head and looked over at the short broad guy.

 

He turned slowly, the look on his face roughly equating to “you have just made your day substantially worse by getting my attention.”

 

What he actually said was, “are you speaking to me.”

 

“Yeah!” She smiled, mouth closed. “I am!”

 

“Why is that.”

 

“Just wonderin’ who you work for, that’s all!”

 

The man raised his eyebrows like a guillotine blade.

 

…Let’s be fair, Jenna was probably doing that very same thing. Though- she did give it a minute and wait to see if the guy was actually dumb enough to answer.

 

“Perhaps you’d care to tell me who you work for first,” the man’s voice was purposefully quiet, meant to be low and dangerous. It wasn’t having much of an effect on the dog girl.

 

“Yeah, see, that’s what I thought,” Rory kicked her legs, then spoke directly to the laundromat owner. “If this guy claimed to be workin’ for local mob, he’s lyin’.”

 

Both the owner and the lead thug blinked, nonplussed.

 

An awkward silence permeated the room.

 

And Jenna slowly peeked up over a washing machine – .. drier? … Dasher?  Dasher. Anyhow – Rory could see her, and Jenna tried to properly catch her eye. She did her best to establish eye contact, and then flicked her eyes between Rory and the thug nearest to Rory.

 

That got her a blank stare. Rory didn’t understand what she was trying to signal.

 

“You have got quite a lot of nerve, calling us liars to our face,” the lead thug said.

 

Oh my God, Rory. Sigh. Fine. Whatever. “That would be because you are liars. All of the toughs wheeled to stare at this stranger who definitely hadn’t been here before. Why, I’ve never even heard of you. And you know, I think people would remember someone who looked like someone your… ..Size? I’m not sure if I’m insulting your size or baffling at how wide you are. Yes? I think the answer is yes?”

 

“I don’t know who you freaks are, but—”

 

“Why is it always “freaks,” for chrissakes try to expand your vocabulary. Use like – Geeks, nerds, abominations … Maybe begging–” She gestured to Rory.

 

“Time’s up!” Grinning toothily, Rory lifted both feet and drove them into the chest of the man nearest her as she vaulted off the laundry machine. He struck the machines behind him with a loud crash, though they managed not to break.

“That last one was an honest recommendation. By the way.” At which point the man nearest her was bowled over and then sent spinning across the room by Jenna – It was sort of impressive that she’d managed to jump into someone so hard that rolling along the ground provided enough momentum to toss him.

 

Just as Rory’s laundry-slamming victim had been pulling himself to his feet, he was struck by his flying compatriot, sending both collapsing into a heap. The man near the doorway realized that he was the only underling left, and pulled a telescoping baton from his jacket. He flicked the weapon open and advanced on Jenna while Rory vaulted over the laundry machines to get closer to the leader.

 

Jenna looked incredibly bemused. “…Why- Why do you think a baton will do you good? You really think- I- .. have so many questions about your plan here.” She stayed absolutely still, just giving the chap a look as he approached.

 

That drew a hesitation from the man, but only for a moment. He raised his arm and swung the baton toward Jenna’s shoulder. Lots of force, but no technique to speak of. He telegraphed the move nearly a second before it was going to land.

 

And stepped wonderfully into a wrist and elbow joint-lock. “Okay. Now be a good idiot and drop it.” Of course, Jenna made this idea even more appealing by pulling, and the  overextension he’d decided was a good idea seemed way less good, probably.

 

The man made a loud, sad noise at being thusly detained. Then there was an even louder, sadder noise: a deafening gunshot.

 

“Owwww!” Rory whined, looking angrily at the snub-nosed revolver that had just winged her in the shoulder. The revolver that was held in a hand that Rory now had by the wrist. “You shot me, you asshole!”

 

“Call off your associate or I’ll do it again,” the wide man threatened.

 

“You’re a fuckin’ douchebag, you know that, guy?” Rory shook her head and casually broke the man’s arm. It wasn’t even a lock or anything, she just sorta… pulled, and the arm bent in a place it’s not supposed to, and the man dropped the pistol and started yelling.

 

Left to her own devices now, the dog girl gingerly probed at the small hole in her shoulder, making little whining sounds.

 

“Oh my God, Rory. I- Ughhhhhhh.” She dragged and wrenched and pulled and probably hurt her captive like hell, then shoved him into his boss. “Boot on ‘em. I’ll call the people with handcuffs and then you and I are going to talk about how you need to stop being shot and stabbed you big dumb idiot.

 

“How th’heck—you know I ain’t trying to get shot, right? Or stabbed? These things are like, they’re operational hazards!” She did as asked, putting one heavy boot on the two injured men.

 

“Occupational and I know you’re not trying, but clearly you’re not trying hard enough not to, either,” She groused as she called the police – non-emergency number. They’d already defused the scary part. Before she hung up, she sighed. “You want an ambulance, Rory?”

 

“Nah, it just grazed me,” Rory made a face. “Bandage an’ some neosporin, I’ll be right as rain in two days.”

 

“Who… are you two?” “–Don’t you dare.” The baffled laundromat owner asked.

 

“We’re the Pet Shop Girls!” Rory cheered right up at the opportunity to bolster their reputation. Had she heard Jenna? Who knows!

 

“I hate that name and there are so many inaccuracies. We don’t come from pet shops in any form: We’re not employees, we’re not actual pets they sell, there’s like one part right.”

 

“Well, what do you want to call us?”

 

“Jenna and her trustworthy hound.” A grin. “Really though. Anything else.”

 

“Oh, the Pet Shop Girls! I’ve heard of you!” The owner smiled. “I’m so lucky that there were local heroes on hand! Thank you so much!” …did jenna just start crying a little?

 

“He’s heard of us,” Rory said victoriously.

 

“…oh. Of- .. of course… he has. … you’re welcome, I guess.”

 

Soon, the police had arrived on the scene, taken statements, and taken the thugs into custody. It was all a fairly efficient, nearly perfunctory process.

 

“C’mon, let’s go get me patched up,” Rory smiled, apparently not bothered enough by the wound to let it mar her good mood. “Then let’s go hit up a Legal(note: regional seafood chain) for victory dinner!

 

…Yeah yeah, I’ll make sure you’re alright you big dumb jerk.” Wait. Wait. That was a new one. Was it bad? Good? How does one properly ascertain what a monotone means, anyway? “Then I guess uh. Seafood.”

 

“Yeah!”

 

NOON OF THE NEXT DAY

JENNA & RORY’S APARTMENT

 

“Jenna!!” Rory burst into the apartment, leading with her uninjured shoulder. She was holding… a newspaper? Made of paper? “Jenna, Jenna, Jenna, we made the news!!”

 

The response was annoyed, muffled grumbling from the couch. Because while Jenna should be awake, there was sun on the couch and somehow, no rory. “Mfgh. m’god, rory.” Finally, all the words click. “…Wait we did what,” she asks groggily, sitting up.

 

There was a blur and an impact and suddenly Rory’s huge body was blocking the sun and sitting right next to Jenna.

 

Worse, there was a local edition of the Infinity Report in her lap, and the ‘metro’ section was on top, and a front-page story read:

 

WHO ARE ‘THE PET SHOP GIRLS’?
LOCAL HEROES THWART LAUNDROMAT SHAKEDOWN

 

“WHY. WHY. and why are they even asking that. We’re local. Pretty unimportant.”

 

“Local heroes are real important!” Rory objected. “What with most a’ the Legion disappeared to who knows where, feelin’ like somebody’s got an eye on the community helps folks feel safe. It’s good. We’re doin’ good!”

 

“Rory. Dear. … we’re a cat and a dog. We got a real specific set of things we can do.”

 

“I don’t follow.”

 

“…what’re we gonna do if someone real dangerous shows up, hm?”

 

Shrug. “Kick their butt.”

 

“…Uh. We’re a lot more. Susceptible to harm than a lot of heroes out there, Rory.”

 

“Lotsa heroes are septible to harm. Besides, I gots super healin’! I been shot and stabbed and I’m fine! You c’n just… hide behind me!”

 

“What if I can’t? What if I make a mistake. Or you do?” She hesitates. “Look. I’m not trying to take all the joy out of this. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t let it go to our heads.”

 

Beat. “Y’know, it’s sounding an awful lot that yer startin’ ta think of us as a superhero team.”

 

“…I certainly won’t be doing this on my own. I only showed up to make sure you were okay. I don’t. … Want to come home to things like the other night.”

 

Rory frowned, setting the newspaper down on her lap. “Why was that so bad? I worked real hard to get the bloodstain outta the carpet. You can’t hardly tell I bled on it no more.”

 

“…because you were hurt? Bad? Because I really don’t want you to be hurt? Bad or not?”

 

“I mean, it was no big deal though!” Rory laughed, but there wasn’t much energy behind it. “I don’t want ya to feel… obligated or nothin’. I’m the fourth Hound of Fort Point, heroing is, y’know, it’s what I do, it’s in my blood. If you really don’t wanna be a team, I can hero on my own! I’ll muddle through.”

 

‘…It. Kind of was a big deal. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be bringing it up. Y’know?”

 

“Wuh… wull. Um. Why?”

 

Jenna sort of quirked a brow. “..Um. Why do you think.”

 

“Cuz I might get killed?” Shrug.

 

“Close enough. Because you might get killed and oh yes you are a good person who matters a lot?”

 

Rory blinked rapidly and then scratched the back of her head. “I, um. Th… thank you. What… what should I do, then? Like what do you want me to do?”

 

“I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I’m saying that I worry about you because what you do is dangerous. Are you happy doin’ it?”

 

“Oh. Well. Yeah, I am,” Rory frowns, “and I… I guess I had this feeling that you were too. When we’re standing up to bad guys, you get this… like this energy, this life in your face. You look so confident and cool, like you’ve been fightin’ crime for years.”

 

“Yeah but so far we tend to fight idiots who go “hm. Punching it didn’t work. What if I punched it again.” She sort of grinned. “And I mean if that’s all it was, sure. I’m just- …what if-, you know?”

 

Rory’s eyes went a bit distant for a few moments. “Well, I mean. That’s just kinda… life, really. God can clip us any time he feels like it. An’ sometimes bad shit happens to ya even when you don’t do nothin’.” Then her eyes were focused again, and on Jenna. “But you look out for me. And I’ll protect you. We’re both smart an’ strong.”

 

“…I s’pose.” She doesn’t sound super convinced, but by the same token, she sounds some level of convinced. “…Yeah. Okay. I mean. Like I said, I’d still… rather not, but someone has to watch out for my favorite dog.”

 

Rory smiled real big, and there was a moment for Jenna to realize what was about to happen. Then: an enthusiastic puppy tacklehug. “Yer my favorite cat too!” “why this”

The Pet Shop Girls: it means the chorus.

Heir of the Dog, South Boston, MA.

 

The bar Jenna works at doesn’t have nearly the correct name: It’s actually a nice looking, one might even say posh, upscale sort of thing. It’s certainly a place free from bar brawls, and probably has more cocktails on their menu than anyone really will ever manage to go through. So of course it was named after a song by Nazareth. Why wouldn’t it be?

 

Annnd there, behind the bar is Jenna. … Good lord, is she wearing a bowtie?

 

It was a normal night sliding by, no incidents, nothing out of the ordinary. The customers had been well-behaved, they even tipped pretty well, and the other employees had been helpful and efficient. So why did Jenna feel so anxious, like something awful was about to happen?

 

The answer came in the form of a familiar, brief laugh from the entrance to the bar. “Ha ha!”

 

Oh no.

 

Oh no. …Well. This is happening, now. Why is it happening. Oh no, this is her fault because she asked Rory to bring her her lunch that one time. She glanced over. Maybe – maybe it was just a similar laugh yeah that’s it.

 

It was only easy for Jenna to fool herself until that curly head of hair came into view, towering over the others near her, bemused patrons unsure of how to react to this towering, underdressed woman who gave them cheerful smiles and waves as she walked by on her way to the bar.

 

Oh, no. No. “…what-” She sighs. Siiiighs. It’s a little bit exaggerated, but she does stop bustling from patron to patron – though she is watching them. “..What do you need, Rory?”

 

“Ayy, it’s my favorite roomie!” Rory pretended to be surprised to see Jenna at her own goddamn workplace. “What do I need? I dunno, a double of Jameson? Ha ha!”

 

A stare. “..why are you surprised. You know where I wo-” She huffed, and then bustles away. Watching her go is kind of odd since she’s actually decent at what she’s doing. Although it might just be impressive because Rory never sees her moving more than a little bit at a time. She’s back in a flash with Rory’s whiskey, slides it up to her and keeps on movin’ to another patron. “Hold that thought mhm?”

 

“Okay!” Rory took her whiskey and held it, not yet drinking any, as she watched Jenna work, seeming genuinely interested in the process.

 

The process appeared to be Jenna asking what they wanted, nodding, smiling real big. Stuff like that. Even her tone was … actually kind of cheerful. What is this. Finally, after a few more patrons served she settles back in front of Rory. “What’s th’ problem?”

 

“‘S no problem!” Ugh Rory’s tail was going. “I just wanted to see you doin’ yer thing! Yer wicked good at this, y’know?”

 

“…Uh.” She stared at Rory for a few seconds. Her ear twitched. Her tail flicked. “…like- why. Watching me bartend is probably like th’ least interestin’ thing.”

 

“Nah, it’s cool! I get ta see a different side of ya.”

 

Several of Jenna’s regulars watched this exchange with no small amount of curiosity.

 

“..What’s different?” She squinted a bit “I mea- Hang on.” She straightens up, hurrying over to another customer and “– what’ll it be for ya, sir-” and once again, it’s probably weird hearing Jenna at least faux-excited.

 

On the way back to Rory, a regular says something to her which they managed to hide under the clink of glass and conversation- Whatever he said, Jenna flushes and laughs, “What – no, shut up.”

 

Oh, you think Rory didn’t hear that? The dog girl with enhanced hearing? A totally valid point. It was a throwaway comment about cats and dogs living together, put short and polite.

 

When Jenna returned, Rory was grinning real big and real fanged. “I know a lotta these smiles is fake, but yer face actually got red there.”

 

“S-s-shut up!” How did it just get worse. “…look anyhow what are- Your drink fine?”

 

“Oh, yeah, ‘s great!” She obviously hadn’t actually drank any of it yet. “You should introduce me to yer regulahs!”

 

“Uh. I guess sure?” And she sorta. Shrugged, pointing out a few people – including the one that had stopped her. “That’s Carl – he’s bad at jokes, every joke, do not let him tell jokes. Other than that, pretty cool guy- Um. That’s Kim. I have no idea what he does, and frankly have never felt a desire to ask. He’s polite, tips well, holds a good conversation.” On the other side – “Thaaat’s Franceska. I don’t know why she comes here. I think it’s for the atmosphere. She never drinks anything?” Shrug. “And that there is A.J. I dunno anything about them . They come around once a week, order some booze and – I guess listen? I don’t even know if that’s their name proper. I just heard it once.”

 

She raises her voice a bit – enough for those real near to ‘em to hear: “This’s Rory. I know I’ve mentioned her before. She says hi.”

 

Rory gave them all a big wave and a sharp grin. “Hey everybody! I’m Rory, Jenna’s faithful sidekick! Nice to meetcha all! I hope she ain’t been talkin’ me up too much.”

 

“Oh yes I come to work and tell everyone how wonderful you are.”

 

“..you kind of d-” Fran starts.

“no shut up-”

“Yeah, like that time you told us about her throwing a guy through a tab-”

“I do not talk about her that m-”

“Highly debatable.”

 

Oh no, Rory.

 

Rory looked. So delighted.

 

“Hey,” she began, and Jenna felt that familiar foreboding, “she’s told ya what the name of our superhero team is, riiight?”

 

“We are not superheroes and don’t you da-”

 

“No, tell us,” shouts Kim. He says it in a tone that suggests he is about to be granted the secret of immortality.

 

“We’re the Pet Shop Girls,” Rory said, then winked, then slammed her whiskey.

 

Jenna hides her face and makes a faint groany noise. The regulars? Hell, most of the bar, laughs or cheers or claps. “That’s fantastic,” is the overall conclusion.

 

“See, J? People like it! It’s a good name!” Rory cuffed Jenna gently on the shoulder. “Oh and I’ll have another Jameson, please.”

 

She grumps, and vanishes, passing by folks to see who needs what – after a few minutes, everyone is all set. … And Rory? Is bein’ asked questions. Like how they met. And what kinda superhero stuff they can do. This all seems to be news.

 

Rory paints a pretty and very flattering picture. Jenna is a master of martial arts, apparently. Nobody can touch her, and she sends people flying before they know what hit ’em. What, me? Aw, I just hit hard, nothin’ special. Jenna’s in charge, she’s a tactical genius. Also she can hide in plain sight. How’d we meet? I answered her apartment ad! Ha ha! We didn’t find out about the cat and dog thing until I showed up. What? No she likes fish sticks. Yeah, the frozen kind! We got a great big toaster oven so we can toast a lot of ’em at once. Oh, and remind me to tell you the catnip story

 

“Wait, catnip-

“HEY THAT’S GREAT storytime is over how’s everyone doin’ also nothing she said is true. I’m not in charge  of anything, and Rory is all kinds of clever. She just hides it with an exterior of happy-go-lucky.”

 

“Wha?” Rory looked extremely affronted at the suggestion that she was clever. “You know I ain’t clever! Yer nickname for me is ‘big dumb idiot’ fer a reason! I earned that! ‘Sides, you know everything I said is true. She’s just bein’ modest. But I can save the catnip story fer another time. C’n I have another whiskey?”

 

“If you admit there is no story to tell then yes. And – it’s an – it’s an ironic nickname, obviously.”

 

A few folks look kinda disappointed that there can be no catnip story.

 

Rory peered at her empty rocks glass, then over at the disappointed faces. Then up at Jenna. Squinting. Evaluating.

 

Finally, she turned the glass over. “So the catnip story—”

 

“Oh m’god Rory.”

 

Fun thing: Rory never told Jenna the catnip story, and Jenna was too high to know what went on during that time. So when Rory launched into the tale, it was to an audience that had never heard it, up to and including its main subject. And then… and then… Rory’s phone came out. “Actually I got some of it on video—”

 

–That’s funny. She had her phone in her hand. Just a second ago. Where did- No, not where, but how did Jenna manage to get it away from Rory that quickly. If she was red before, she is scarlet now. “Tell y’what y’all can watch this when I ain’t here to see it too.”

 

The crowd made a disappointed noise along with Rory, though her sad eyes were definitely the best.

“Aw well… so anyway, eventually she sobered enough that she didn’t want me to pet her no more. I keep the catnip in my room now, on the windowsill, and Jenna pretends like she don’t want any but sometimes I go in and somebody’s torn some sprigs off.”

 

“Rorystop. Okay like, full disclosure: I haven’t actually touched it since then? Because I will be fit neither for work nor napping. — … And fine.” She hands Rory her phone back. Had she known what the video contained, she may not have done that.

 

When a dog has too much energy, sometimes it will continue to act out even when it knows that it has long since crossed a line. Hopped up on attention and new friends, Rory grinned, holding the landscaped phone up to her chest (are you trying to get people to stare at your boobs, rory?), and played the video.

 

Of Jenna, standing in the middle of the living room. Chewing leaves and purring.

 

Now, sounding genuinely mortified, and actually a little bemused, Jenna repeated, “Rorystop!” …But alas. The damage is done, one must presume.

 

Yes, yes it is: “Omigosh she purrs,” Franceska asks.

“Well of course she does, she’s a cat.”

“And-”

“please stop.”

 

The video ended with possibly the cutest exchange of all:

“Yer… according this.

Reach. Sudden camera motion. Whine-meows.

“Oh, so you wanna wrestle—”

Aaaand curtain.

 

“It was even cuter in person,” Rory said wistfully. “Jenna we gotta get high together sometime.”

 

Jenna just looks completely horrified. All her cred. All of it. Down the drain. Wh- Why would y- oh no. She frowns – very faintly – at Rory, but doesn’t say anything.

 

“I guess I’m banned from more whiskey, huh.” Rory looked… performatively sheepish. The brat.

 

“There are worse fates,” Jenna says. It- Somehow, she manages to make those four words horribly ominous.

 

“Aye, that there are,” a light but loud voice with a distinct irish accent said. It was a man in a worn blazer, jeans and a button-down work shirt, walking up to the bar. He’d clearly only just arrived, but he smiled at Jenna and Rory like an old friend. He took a seat next to Rory. “You’d know all about makin’ a life difficult, wouldn’t ye, me wee puisín?”

 

“..th’ hell’d you just call her?” She looks so lost. Pause. “Or did you mean m- what are you saying.”

 

“It’s irish gaelic for ‘kitten’,” Rory narrowed her eyes. “Whaddya want with us? We don’t know you. And don’t go calling me coleen.”

 

“I suppose ye don’t,” the man smirked, then held out a hand to shake. “The name’s Tom.”

 

Rory frowned, but shook the proffered hand.

 

Tom turned, looked Jenna in the eyes, and held out his hand for her too. “Tom O’Bedlam, me friends call me.”

 

..Well, that was unfortunate timing. Jenna was already shaking his hand by the time he identified himself. The full name prompted a very small change in Jenna’s expression. Which…probably only folks like her regulars and Rory really caught.

 

“That sure is a name.”

 

“Aye, well. Ye know how names are. Sometimes ye get saddled with one ye’d rather have done without, ey? I’m sure that’s happened to you a time or two, hasn’t it.”

 

He finally released her hand, then looked around in a way that a detective novel might describe as ‘casing the joint’.

 

“Wish I could stay for a pint, but. No rest for the wicked. You girls be well, aye? Reckon we’ll see each other again.”

 

Rory frowned.

 

Jenna didn’t. She spoke smoothly. “I’m sure we’ll see each other again, sir.” She alllmost looked like she was gonna tack on one of her usual understated threats but – passed on it. “Have a nice evening.”

 

“You too, then, wee puisín and her sweet coileán. Take care where ye sticks yer noses.”

 

Tom O’Bedlam took his leave, and the regulars stared silently.

 

Rory turned to Jenna and whispered, “What’ve you been doing?”

 

“That’s neither here nor there and what’s it to you.” The response was immediate, but distracted. She was leaning fully on the counter, watching the path Tom had taken out.

 

Rory has seen this look before. It is usually reserved for small animals that moved too quickly in front of Jenna.

 

“Now don’t you go huntin’ on yer own.” Rory was deadly serious. She was never deadly serious. “I dunno what nest you kicked but I ain’t gonna let you deal with this alone any more than you was gonna let me.”

 

“I didn’t kick any nests.” She finally looks at Rory, smiles, real big and real honest and- “Oooh, she’s definitely lyin’,” said Fran. “I bet that guy was just tryn’a shake her down,” deduces Carl.

 

“Don’t lie to me about this, J, he knows where you work now,” Rory scolded. “He said that you’d ‘know all about makin’ a life difficult’. Have you been goin’ after the Bedlam Boys? Why?

 

“..How do you need to ask that?” She rolls her eyes. “…Sit there for an hour or so. We’ll talk once I’m done here.” She flashes an entertainer’s grin at her regulars. “Sorry, boys, girls, and non-subscribers. You’ll have to wait for the rest of this little soap opera.”

 

“Awwwww,” they said as one.

 

“Yeah, okay,” Rory sighed, then shook her head. She turned back toward the regulars, then, and that bright smile was back. “All right, gang, who wants to hear about the time that I ate all the fishsticks and forgot to replace ’em? Second maddest I ever seen Jenna.”

 

“WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME.”

The Pet Shop Girls: Role Reversal

Heir of the Dog, South Boston, MA.

 

The bar Jenna works at doesn’t have nearly the correct name: It’s actually a nice looking, one might even say posh, upscale sort of thing. It’s certainly a place free from bar brawls, and probably has more cocktails on their menu than anyone really will ever manage to go through. So of course it was named after a song by Nazareth. Why wouldn’t it be?

 

Annnd there, behind the bar is Jenna. … Good lord, is she wearing a bowtie?

 

It was a normal night sliding by, no incidents, nothing out of the ordinary. The customers had been well-behaved, they even tipped pretty well, and the other employees had been helpful and efficient. So why did Jenna feel so anxious, like something awful was about to happen?

 

The answer came in the form of a familiar, brief laugh from the entrance to the bar. “Ha ha!”

 

Oh no.

 

Oh no. …Well. This is happening, now. Why is it happening. Oh no, this is her fault because she asked Rory to bring her her lunch that one time. She glanced over. Maybe – maybe it was just a similar laugh yeah that’s it.

 

It was only easy for Jenna to fool herself until that curly head of hair came into view, towering over the others near her, bemused patrons unsure of how to react to this towering, underdressed woman who gave them cheerful smiles and waves as she walked by on her way to the bar.

 

Oh, no. No. “…what-” She sighs. Siiiighs. It’s a little bit exaggerated, but she does stop bustling from patron to patron – though she is watching them. “..What do you need, Rory?”

 

“Ayy, it’s my favorite roomie!” Rory pretended to be surprised to see Jenna at her own goddamn workplace. “What do I need? I dunno, a double of Jameson? Ha ha!”

 

A stare. “..why are you surprised. You know where I wo-” She huffed, and then bustles away. Watching her go is kind of odd since she’s actually decent at what she’s doing. Although it might just be impressive because Rory never sees her moving more than a little bit at a time. She’s back in a flash with Rory’s whiskey, slides it up to her and keeps on movin’ to another patron. “Hold that thought mhm?”

 

“Okay!” Rory took her whiskey and held it, not yet drinking any, as she watched Jenna work, seeming genuinely interested in the process.

 

The process appeared to be Jenna asking what they wanted, nodding, smiling real big. Stuff like that. Even her tone was … actually kind of cheerful. What is this. Finally, after a few more patrons served she settles back in front of Rory. “What’s th’ problem?”

 

“‘S no problem!” Ugh Rory’s tail was going. “I just wanted to see you doin’ yer thing! Yer wicked good at this, y’know?”

 

“…Uh.” She stared at Rory for a few seconds. Her ear twitched. Her tail flicked. “…like- why. Watching me bartend is probably like th’ least interestin’ thing.”

 

“Nah, it’s cool! I get ta see a different side of ya.”

 

Several of Jenna’s regulars watched this exchange with no small amount of curiosity.

 

“..What’s different?” She squinted a bit “I mea- Hang on.” She straightens up, hurrying over to another customer and “– what’ll it be for ya, sir-” and once again, it’s probably weird hearing Jenna at least faux-excited.

 

On the way back to Rory, a regular says something to her which they managed to hide under the clink of glass and conversation- Whatever he said, Jenna flushes and laughs, “What – no, shut up.”

 

Oh, you think Rory didn’t hear that? The dog girl with enhanced hearing? A totally valid point. It was a throwaway comment about cats and dogs living together, put short and polite.

 

When Jenna returned, Rory was grinning real big and real fanged. “I know a lotta these smiles is fake, but yer face actually got red there.”

 

“S-s-shut up!” How did it just get worse. “…look anyhow what are- Your drink fine?”

 

“Oh, yeah, ‘s great!” She obviously hadn’t actually drank any of it yet. “You should introduce me to yer regulahs!”

 

“Uh. I guess sure?” And she sorta. Shrugged, pointing out a few people – including the one that had stopped her. “That’s Carl – he’s bad at jokes, every joke, do not let him tell jokes. Other than that, pretty cool guy- Um. That’s Kim. I have no idea what he does, and frankly have never felt a desire to ask. He’s polite, tips well, holds a good conversation.” On the other side – “Thaaat’s Franceska. I don’t know why she comes here. I think it’s for the atmosphere. She never drinks anything?” Shrug. “And that there is A.J. I dunno anything about them . They come around once a week, order some booze and – I guess listen? I don’t even know if that’s their name proper. I just heard it once.”

 

She raises her voice a bit – enough for those real near to ‘em to hear: “This’s Rory. I know I’ve mentioned her before. She says hi.”

 

Rory gave them all a big wave and a sharp grin. “Hey everybody! I’m Rory, Jenna’s faithful sidekick! Nice to meetcha all! I hope she ain’t been talkin’ me up too much.”

 

“Oh yes I come to work and tell everyone how wonderful you are.”

 

“..you kind of d-” Fran starts.

“no shut up-”

“Yeah, like that time you told us about her throwing a guy through a tab-”

“I do not talk about her that m-”

“Highly debatable.”

 

Oh no, Rory.

 

Rory looked. So delighted.

 

“Hey,” she began, and Jenna felt that familiar foreboding, “she’s told ya what the name of our superhero team is, riiight?”

 

“We are not superheroes and don’t you da-”

 

“No, tell us,” shouts Kim. He says it in a tone that suggests he is about to be granted the secret of immortality.

 

“We’re the Pet Shop Girls,” Rory said, then winked, then slammed her whiskey.

 

Jenna hides her face and makes a faint groany noise. The regulars? Hell, most of the bar, laughs or cheers or claps. “That’s fantastic,” is the overall conclusion.

 

“See, J? People like it! It’s a good name!” Rory cuffed Jenna gently on the shoulder. “Oh and I’ll have another Jameson, please.”

 

She grumps, and vanishes, passing by folks to see who needs what – after a few minutes, everyone is all set. … And Rory? Is bein’ asked questions. Like how they met. And what kinda superhero stuff they can do. This all seems to be news.

 

Rory paints a pretty and very flattering picture. Jenna is a master of martial arts, apparently. Nobody can touch her, and she sends people flying before they know what hit ’em. What, me? Aw, I just hit hard, nothin’ special. Jenna’s in charge, she’s a tactical genius. Also she can hide in plain sight. How’d we meet? I answered her apartment ad! Ha ha! We didn’t find out about the cat and dog thing until I showed up. What? No she likes fish sticks. Yeah, the frozen kind! We got a great big toaster oven so we can toast a lot of ’em at once. Oh, and remind me to tell you the catnip story

 

“Wait, catnip-

“HEY THAT’S GREAT storytime is over how’s everyone doin’ also nothing she said is true. I’m not in charge  of anything, and Rory is all kinds of clever. She just hides it with an exterior of happy-go-lucky.”

 

“Wha?” Rory looked extremely affronted at the suggestion that she was clever. “You know I ain’t clever! Yer nickname for me is ‘big dumb idiot’ fer a reason! I earned that! ‘Sides, you know everything I said is true. She’s just bein’ modest. But I can save the catnip story fer another time. C’n I have another whiskey?”

 

“If you admit there is no story to tell then yes. And – it’s an – it’s an ironic nickname, obviously.”

 

A few folks look kinda disappointed that there can be no catnip story.

 

Rory peered at her empty rocks glass, then over at the disappointed faces. Then up at Jenna. Squinting. Evaluating.

 

Finally, she turned the glass over. “So the catnip story—”

 

“Oh m’god Rory.”

 

Fun thing: Rory never told Jenna the catnip story, and Jenna was too high to know what went on during that time. So when Rory launched into the tale, it was to an audience that had never heard it, up to and including its main subject. And then… and then… Rory’s phone came out. “Actually I got some of it on video—”

 

–That’s funny. She had her phone in her hand. Just a second ago. Where did- No, not where, but how did Jenna manage to get it away from Rory that quickly. If she was red before, she is scarlet now. “Tell y’what y’all can watch this when I ain’t here to see it too.”

 

The crowd made a disappointed noise along with Rory, though her sad eyes were definitely the best.

“Aw well… so anyway, eventually she sobered enough that she didn’t want me to pet her no more. I keep the catnip in my room now, on the windowsill, and Jenna pretends like she don’t want any but sometimes I go in and somebody’s torn some sprigs off.”

 

“Rorystop. Okay like, full disclosure: I haven’t actually touched it since then? Because I will be fit neither for work nor napping. — … And fine.” She hands Rory her phone back. Had she known what the video contained, she may not have done that.

 

When a dog has too much energy, sometimes it will continue to act out even when it knows that it has long since crossed a line. Hopped up on attention and new friends, Rory grinned, holding the landscaped phone up to her chest (are you trying to get people to stare at your boobs, rory?), and played the video.

 

Of Jenna, standing in the middle of the living room. Chewing leaves and purring.

 

Now, sounding genuinely mortified, and actually a little bemused, Jenna repeated, “Rorystop!” …But alas. The damage is done, one must presume.

 

Yes, yes it is: “Omigosh she purrs,” Franceska asks.

“Well of course she does, she’s a cat.”

“And-”

“please stop.”

 

The video ended with possibly the cutest exchange of all:

“Yer… according this.

Reach. Sudden camera motion. Whine-meows.

“Oh, so you wanna wrestle—”

Aaaand curtain.

 

“It was even cuter in person,” Rory said wistfully. “Jenna we gotta get high together sometime.”

 

Jenna just looks completely horrified. All her cred. All of it. Down the drain. Wh- Why would y- oh no. She frowns – very faintly – at Rory, but doesn’t say anything.

 

“I guess I’m banned from more whiskey, huh.” Rory looked… performatively sheepish. The brat.

 

“There are worse fates,” Jenna says. It- Somehow, she manages to make those four words horribly ominous.

 

“Aye, that there are,” a light but loud voice with a distinct irish accent said. It was a man in a worn blazer, jeans and a button-down work shirt, walking up to the bar. He’d clearly only just arrived, but he smiled at Jenna and Rory like an old friend. He took a seat next to Rory. “You’d know all about makin’ a life difficult, wouldn’t ye, me wee puisín?”

 

“..th’ hell’d you just call her?” She looks so lost. Pause. “Or did you mean m- what are you saying.”

 

“It’s irish gaelic for ‘kitten’,” Rory narrowed her eyes. “Whaddya want with us? We don’t know you. And don’t go calling me coleen.”

 

“I suppose ye don’t,” the man smirked, then held out a hand to shake. “The name’s Tom.”

 

Rory frowned, but shook the proffered hand.

 

Tom turned, looked Jenna in the eyes, and held out his hand for her too. “Tom O’Bedlam, me friends call me.”

 

..Well, that was unfortunate timing. Jenna was already shaking his hand by the time he identified himself. The full name prompted a very small change in Jenna’s expression. Which…probably only folks like her regulars and Rory really caught.

 

“That sure is a name.”

 

“Aye, well. Ye know how names are. Sometimes ye get saddled with one ye’d rather have done without, ey? I’m sure that’s happened to you a time or two, hasn’t it.”

 

He finally released her hand, then looked around in a way that a detective novel might describe as ‘casing the joint’.

 

“Wish I could stay for a pint, but. No rest for the wicked. You girls be well, aye? Reckon we’ll see each other again.”

 

Rory frowned.

 

Jenna didn’t. She spoke smoothly. “I’m sure we’ll see each other again, sir.” She alllmost looked like she was gonna tack on one of her usual understated threats but – passed on it. “Have a nice evening.”

 

“You too, then, wee puisín and her sweet coileán. Take care where ye sticks yer noses.”

 

Tom O’Bedlam took his leave, and the regulars stared silently.

 

Rory turned to Jenna and whispered, “What’ve you been doing?”

 

“That’s neither here nor there and what’s it to you.” The response was immediate, but distracted. She was leaning fully on the counter, watching the path Tom had taken out.

 

Rory has seen this look before. It is usually reserved for small animals that moved too quickly in front of Jenna.

 

“Now don’t you go huntin’ on yer own.” Rory was deadly serious. She was never deadly serious. “I dunno what nest you kicked but I ain’t gonna let you deal with this alone any more than you was gonna let me.”

 

“I didn’t kick any nests.” She finally looks at Rory, smiles, real big and real honest and- “Oooh, she’s definitely lyin’,” said Fran. “I bet that guy was just tryn’a shake her down,” deduces Carl.

 

“Don’t lie to me about this, J, he knows where you work now,” Rory scolded. “He said that you’d ‘know all about makin’ a life difficult’. Have you been goin’ after the Bedlam Boys? Why?

 

“..How do you need to ask that?” She rolls her eyes. “…Sit there for an hour or so. We’ll talk once I’m done here.” She flashes an entertainer’s grin at her regulars. “Sorry, boys, girls, and non-subscribers. You’ll have to wait for the rest of this little soap opera.”

 

“Awwwww,” they said as one.

 

“Yeah, okay,” Rory sighed, then shook her head. She turned back toward the regulars, then, and that bright smile was back. “All right, gang, who wants to hear about the time that I ate all the fishsticks and forgot to replace ’em? Second maddest I ever seen Jenna.”

 

“WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME.”

The Pet Shop Girls: Reverse Lassie

 JENNA & RORY’S APARTMENT

 

When the Pet Shop Girls burst into their apartment after a long night of highly illegal activity, the sun was coming up and Rory was punchy as hell, giggling with manic glee at the success of their endeavors.

 

“It all worked!” She tittered, “it all fuckin’ worked!”

 

“Did you – Did you not think it would?” She grins, just as pleased herself. “…I mean. I told you. They’re not nearly smart enough to I don’t know – just sleep somewhere else every night? This is not rocket surgery.”

 

“I mean sure but holy shit Pete’s probably awake by now, and halfway to California, I wish I could see the look on his face!”

 

“Probably borderline tears.” Jenna responded, a not-so-faint laugh in her words.

 

“Oh wow,” Rory bounded to the window to look at the rising sun, grinning ear to ear. “And that well. I can’t believe they never fuckin’ filled it in! Just sitting there with one wicked rotted piece a’ plywood!”

 

“I still think we shoulda put that big damn chunk of stone but I mean. You’re probably right that might be a little much.”

 

“Yeah don’t worry, Billy can’t climb for shit anyway. The noise he made when we dumped the water bottles and power bars on ‘im, though!”

 

Jenna takes a deep breath then emits a long, horribly pathetic whine, “omigaaaaawd what are you guys dooooing this isn’t fuunnnnnyyyy”

 

Rory started laughing, then something occurred to her. “Oh fuck, you know what—what I just realized. Little Billy. Is stuck in a well. And I threw him in there I’m REVERSE LASSIE”

 

Her laughter rattled the window as she stumbled away from it.

 

Jenna sounds like she is desperately trying to catch her breath, sputtering something about reverse lassies and little billies not in wells and please fix it.

 

Rory was laughing even harder, gasping for breath as the adrenaline and exhaustion and lightheadedness caught up with her and she threw her arm around Jenna and they both tumbled onto the couch—

 

And then Jenna wasn’t laughing anymore. Then Jenna wasn’t making many sounds at all. Now Jenna is an interesting shade of pink. Actually. That might be mauve. …Hm. How does one tell. “Um. Hi?”

 

“Um,” Rory was practically fuchsia. Also, partially on top of Jenna. Also, one of her boobs was smooshed against her roomie’s shoulder. “Hi.”

 

Does. Should she move? Oh god uh. She had not anticipated this. “…Wellll.” She says faintly, as though that is actually a good response.”

 

“Should,” Rory began, and then the rest of the sentence went missing. Its body would later be found in a well. She shifted her weight a little, as if thinking about getting up or rolling away, but she didn’t actually do it yet.

 

“Are. …. Are you–” Just like that, Jenna had no idea what to say, and it was fairly apparently. Was she going to ask if Rory was going to get up? If she could get up? Who knows.

 

“Do,” Rory murmured, then visibly thought better of whatever she was about to say and instead rolled to the side, removing her weight and body from Jenna’s and taking the seat next to her. Close… but no longer entangled with. “Uhm sorry bout that.”

 

Jenna looked – quite relieved, pushing herself into a sitting position. “Do? Before I forget?”

 

“Oh I was just gonna ask ifmaybeyouwanted[incoherent mumbling] but don’t worry about it I was just bein’ dumb.”

 

…She fussed with her tail. “Uh. Is this – … related to- To um. The ice cream. Shop.”

 

Rory nodded sheepishly.

 

“Do you – want to talk about it or?”

 

Blinking with confusion, Rory looked over at Jenna. “Do… do you? I don’t… I mean I sorta told you what… should we talk?”

 

She flushes. “Okay look – I don’t. Really. Know what I’m supposed to be saying or doing here.”

 

“Neither do I!” Rory blurted. “I like. Sorta already said stuff? I’m. I’m wicked into you! This is usually the part where the other person tells me where she’s at but it sounds like you kinda don’t… you don’t know? An’ like that’s okay but I don’t know what ta do with it neither.”

“Well -” She falters. “I…” She actually kind of flails a little. “I. Want to errr. Reciprocate? Like at least give you an honest shot but- that doesn’t sound fair?”

 

“What… whaddya mean?” Now she was even more confused.

 

“…Okay let me be frank.” Beat. “Yes, hi frank, okay, we got that out of our systems. – what I’m saying here is we could try but like. …I’m worried that I’ll find out that I don’t want what you do and that seems..” She trails off. “…in..considerate. … To say the very least.”

 

“Ain’t…” Squint. “Ain’t all relationships like that though? Y’can’t actually know everything about how yer gonna fit together goin’ in. It’s risky. That’s love, that’s life. Yeah? I mean, unless yer just tryna let me down easy, which… you really don’t gotta do.”

 

“The problem is I don’t know what i’m doing.” hey, honesty! “…Look just-  …crap. I dunno.”

 

“Well. Right, okay,” Rory nodded, the gears in her head laboriously turning. “So, I guess neither of us really knows what the right call is here. So we got two options, yeah? One is that we put this away, we don’t think about it for a while, maybe we go back to it if things change. The other is that, uh. We kiss, and see what happens.”

 

“..which do you wanna do.” Jenna you lazy cuss.

 

“You fuckin’ well know which one I wanna do,” Rory smiled nervously.

 

“…Yes. I do.” She pauses. Hesitates, and then in a small voice that suits her not at all says, “…that- that was an invitation, Rory.”

 

And then there was a dog girl on top of her again and lips against hers, a hand pressing into the couch behind her head. The kiss was simple and plain and soft, but an urgency trembled in the frame that braced overtop her.

 

The part that confused Jenna the most was she hadn’t even noticed Rory moving. But – She can work with that, and she does, slinging her arms around Rory’s shoulders and holding her tightly while returning the kiss. … It’s. Perhaps surprisingly, a bit clumsy compared to Rory.

 

Rory’s weight shifted, one foot braced against the floor, one knee on the couch, both arms wrapping around Jenna’s shoulders and drawing her up into the kiss, a low, tiny growl in the back of her throat.

 

There’s a faint, squeaking, confused noise – but she doesn’t stop or even slow, just clings that little bit closer to Rory.

 

And probably whacks Rory with her tail. Just once, and it’s probably because she was surprised. She’s certainly not seeming to mind the rest. …because there’s only one explanation that makes sense for the rumbling sound.

 

There’s only so suave and commanding a dog girl can be, really, because soon Jenna realizes that the quick swinging motion she’s feeling in Rory’s embrace is her tail just wagging so damn hard, even more so upon getting an overt signal that Jenna is enjoying this.

 

Finally, she breaks the kiss, face flushed and heart beating fast.

 

“Um… dang. Hi.”

 

Jenna stares. “..Dang? Dang, hi?”  She squints. “Why- .. What am I supposed to – take. From. That.”

 

“Well my tail’s still goin’, ain’t it?” Smirk. “Whaddya take from that, Miss Rumbles?”

 

“That you’re being a smartass, smartass.”

 

“You musta rubbed off on me some during that kiss, then,” Rory murmured, closing in again, lips hovering just over Jenna’s.

 

“That’s a little laz-” And then she cuts herself off, leaning up that fraction-of-an-inch and kissing Rory. Waiting is silly. And for other people.

 

Taking Jenna’s face in her hands, Rory returned the kiss enthusiastically. She brought her knee closer in, then shifted her weight and lifted the other knee onto the couch as well, now straddling the other girl as they kissed.

 

There’s a little laugh, and Jenna kind of murmurs “‘Atta girl,” because of course she does, it’s Rory and Rory listened. Or at least followed along without Jenna havin’ to say something.

 

There was that playful growl again, Rory’s tail still going a mile a minute as Jenna felt a big soft tongue play over her lips.

 

Oh. Oh my. She didn’t mind  that, but there was a definite pause while she figured out what to do with it – as her lips parted, Rory probably immediately figured out why.

 

Oh god her tongue. It is scratchy.

 

That elicited a giggle-growl from the dog girl, and she hunkered down and wrapped her arms around Jenna’s midsection as they kissed.

 

A minute later, though, she broke the kiss again, giggling a little. “Tickles,” she said, but her grin was far more delight than reflex. “That was—that was nice. How’re you feelin’?”

 

“…Um.” She looked thoughtful. Then she blinks a few times. “That was nice. I feel okay. How about you?”

 

“I feel good,” Rory said, as her tail and smile corroborated the statement. “It’s. I’m good.”

 

“That’s- That’s good.” She still seemed to be working something out in her head.

 

“Wanna, um—whatcha thinking?”

 

“About feelings.” How um. Helpful, Jenna.

 

“Ok what about ’em?” Mercifully, Rory was persistent. Or unmercifully?

 

“Um. dontbemad?”

 

She still looked cheerful, but the tail? Stopped. “I won’t,” she said, and meant it.

 

“..I um. I can’t. Figure out if I liked that you were kissing me, or if I liked kissing you.” What. – Jenna. What is- The difference–

 

Blank stare. “What’s… what’s the difference.”

 

“One means I was excited because it was you doing it. The other one means I was excited because there was kissing.” She says this with a tone that suggests it is COMPLETELY obvious.

 

“Oh. Huh.” Rory turned this over in her brain a few times, evaluating it, tasting it. “Y’know, I’d obviously prefer the first one? But I think I could probs live with the second.”

 

“..I don’t know how to figure this out.” She frowns. Her tail twitches “…I mean. The answer seems to be yes but…”

 

Shrug. Smile. “Why’ncha go make out with somebody else and see if it feels any different?”

 

“That seems unfair, and also like – who.”

 

“Well I can’t do all the freakin’ legwork for you here.” Rory finally slung her leg over Jenna’s lap and flomped down onto the couch beside her. “Until then, I guess don’t worry about it? I ain’t gonna be offended if it turns out I’m just yer best friend who you kiss sometimes. Not like I actually date anybody no more.”

 

Ha ha oh yes. “Uh yeah! Not worrying. Yep. That is. The thing I will start doing.” … ha ha oh god no why. … It was a wonder that Jenna was not visibly sweating. Or somehow sweating noisily. — that is, no it wasn’t. Because she was definitely not worrying. Like it was suggested.

 

“You’re fuckin’ worrying already?” Rory sighed and petted Jenna’s arm. “Why, though? What’s to worry about?”

 

“…what have I been doing about you. Since I met you. Like. The day I met you.”

 

Auburn curls and floppy dog ears bounced as the girl shook her head. “I don’t get it. I’m a frickin’ grown woman, Jenna, an’ I get worryin’ about me if I get my ass beat again, but this? This is kissing. This is two people who care about each other doin’ a thing that’s nice.”

 

“…I dunno. It’s just – It’s different for me, I guess. I didn’t-” She waves her hand, dismissively, airily. “…I’m only really worried because. I mean. I don’t want to be stupid and wrong. What if I brought it up for nothing what if-”

 

Oh my God, Jenna.

 

“Oh! Hey!” Rory excitedly patted Jenna’s shoulder. “Oh I wanna do the thing! Where you’re fretting about stuff and then I shut you up by knockin’ you down and kissing you real good, can I do that” … ever the spirit of romanticism.

 

…well at least she asked. “Uh.” Blank stare. “…ye- .. yes?”

 

“Wait, hold up though,” Rory frowned, as though only just now processing what Jenna had been saying. “What… different how? Different from what? From me?”

 

She flushed, stared intently at her lap. “..I don’t kiss a lot of people. I don’t kiss people very often. It usually takes a while. …overimportance I guess, is what’s different I think I meant.”

 

“Ya worried that this was… too soon? Too cheap?”

 

“No, I’m basically arbitrarily finding a way to worry about it anyway after you gave me a good solid counterpoint.”

 

That’s. … Uh.  “…well no. I suppose it’s more that I just. Feel like if I went off and kissed someone else then I’d be cheapening it.”

 

“If you don’t wanna cheapen it, doesn’t that sorta suggest that it already means somethin’?” There’s that disarming smile.

 

“…you mean something, so I mean..” She throws her hands up. “Why aren’t you making me shut up.

 

She laughed. “Cuz you didn’t really get started again properly! You gotta build up a head of steam or else it doesn’t have the right effect.”

 

“Oh my God, Rory!” She throws her hands up again, and whines. “You are being so v—”

 

For a split second, Rory’s muscles tensed and then she was moving forward fast and then impact and weight and skin and Jenna was being kissed again, her head cradled in one of Rory’s big hands, the other hand bracing her weight against the arm of the couch but her torso and hips still pressing down and pinning her in place.

 

Geeze was that so hard, Rory. Jenna lets it happen, of course, because she’d all but insisted on it, after all. She clung to Rory and returned the kiss, fingers running through and alternately tangling in the pup-girl’s hair. Pause. … Scritch-scritch. What happens if you scratch behind Rory’s ears? More importantly, will she have other opportunities to find out?

 

Something between a growl and a moan, apparently, and a little bit more pressure from her hips. Rory’s tongue, too, evidently undaunted by the rough partner awaiting it.

 

Oh, neat. Jenna scritchies some more, clearly enamored with Rory’s response. There’s even a faint, muffled kind-of-snicker. … which is cut a bit short by Rory deciding to bump things up a bit.

 

Oh. It does that, too..

 

The noise Rory made into Jenna’s mouth was less a canine growl and much more a human moan. She shuddered, slightly, pressing her body against Jenna’s, then reached over, grabbed a wrist, and placed the other girl’s hand firmly on her own breast.

 

More muffled, amused sorts of sounds. She actually seems to debate for a moment – and then goes back to scratching behind Rory’s ears, before breaking the kiss.  “Tiltcher head,” she murmurs. And funnily, she still seems a bit clumsy – though, maybe she just isn’t sure about what she’s doin’, for once, as she squeezes.

 

Rory obeyed immediately, tipping her head to the side, breathing hard and shallow, the hint of a whine at the back of her throat.

 

And Jenna nips along Rory’s neck – she’s … very ginger about it. She does have pointy, pointy cat teeth. And all the while, she keeps lightly squeezing Rory’s breast, not really in time with anything, a messy outpouring of affection.

 

Little whimper noises accompanied by fierce tail-wagging indicate that Jenna’s actions were working just fine for her roommate-turned-makeout-buddy. The hand that had been cradling Jenna’s head pressed flat against her stomach now, fingers curling slightly but not digging into the skin. The flesh of Rory’s neck was… soft, and lightly fuzzed like the rest of her, but past that first velvety layer of skin it was surprisingly tough. The light scoring from Jenna’s teeth produced pleasure but seemingly no harm.

 

Jenna actually flinches as Rory presses her hand flat. … Fortunately, she caught herself, and apparently, she really wasn’t kidding when she said to be careful about that. … But – no punch, no foul, yeah? She keeps biting, and despite how tough those lower layers seemed, she was still … perhaps frustratingly delicate.

 

“Hhh. Harder.” Rory growled it through her teeth, resisting the urge to grind a rhythm against Jenna. Bit early for that. Bit quick.

 

“What do you say,” she singsongs. Probably to be a jerk. It… it is Jenna. She nibbles a liiiitttle harder. But just barely.

 

Growl. “Harder! Please!”

 

“That’s much better.” She takes the request seriously, and she bites deep – she’s careful enough to avoid drawing blood (or much at least), but besides that, wow, her teeth are sharp. Scritch scritch.

 

Rory yelped, wrapping her fingers around Jenna’s side, squeezing and pulling her upwards as she pressed down against her thigh, allowing herself one long, hard, slooooow grind. “J-Jenna! Ah! Fuck. Yes. You got. Really nice teeth.”

 

“I know I do,” she says, all smugness. “…You need to stop, Rory?” There’s a faint note of concern, but it’s not hard to tell that her breathing has picked up, too. Or anything else like that.

 

“Heh,” Rory attempted a breathless laugh. “Not. Before… you actually bite me hard at least once.” Oh that was a challenge. That was definitely a challenge.

 

She quirks a brow. And then she bites down. Rory … is probably very fortunate she’s so durable, since: Yes. That was a challenge. And you may recall, Rory, that when told a gang was gunning for her and had sent her a message, she laughed.

 

She already has your neck in her jaws.

 

“HAAAaaaaaaAAA~” Rory’s grip tightened, she ground down hard, she pressed her forehead against the couch as she stifled a wail of happy pain. “Fuck! Fffffuck! Yes! NNnnnffhhrrfuck” What a mouth on that girl.

 

How profane, Rory! Jenna bites down one last time, then straightens up, peering at the mouthy hound. “…How’s that, sugar,” she asks with a little grin.

 

At first, there was no reply; Rory breathed hard and heavy, ignoring the blood running from the puncture marks on her shoulder. Then, lightning-quick, she pinned Jenna, holding down both of her arms over her head, and clamped her own jaws down on the catgirl’s shoulder.

 

She wasn’t biting nearly as hard, mind, but her teeth also weren’t as sharp. But oh, Jenna felt them. It wasn’t a pressure-bite, it was a solid, unbreakable clamp, a this-is-mine hold. It was a steel trap of a bite.

 

And with that, with that bite and clamping down … Rory received the simplest response possible. It probably took her a few seconds to figure out why she was shaking a little: Because Jenna was purring. That’s why.

 

A low growl, and a slight tightening of those jaws, just to remind her: I could bite harder, and Rory loosened her grip on Jenna’s arms enough to keep the pin comfortable. Rocked her hips slightly. Resettled. Growled.

 

She sounded kind of amused, and inquired, airily, and lazily, “Are you having fun yet, darling?” Her voice had a slight …. Strain to it.

 

“Eah. Rhy,” Jenna felt the voice through Rory’s teeth, digging into her skin, not breaking it. Not quite. “Arrngh eeu?

 

“Mm-hmm,” she – well, purred. Apparently the teeth didn’t bother her terribly much. “Now are you gonna use those teeth or…”

 

Suddenly the pressure and pain of Rory’s bite intensified sharply, canines puncturing her skin, back teeth clamping her shoulder hard enough that they’d leave a heavy bruise later. If Jenna’s constitution were no more enhanced than that of a baseline human, she’d be seeing stars right now, possibly close to a blackout.

 

It was close enough. If not the same. Hard to tell, really. Subjectivity and all! But Jenna was most certainly seeing stars, and the purring became a bit less… constant. More stop-and-start, like she was forgetting to actually keep it up. “Mfh.”

 

Finally Rory let go, and shifted her weight, sitting up, straddling Jenna’s prone form with one knee on the couch, the other halfway on it and semi-braced with a foot on the ground. She rested both hands lightly on Jenna’s chest, then leaned over, grinned, and ran her big tongue over her bloodstained teeth. “Mm.”

 

Jenna was. Quiet for a second or two, then startled a little, blinking rapidly. Oh. Huh. Maybe do not jeer at Ro- ha yeah okay. Let’s not lie to ourselves, Jenna. “…Oh- oh my. It looks like you did.” She considers that for a moment. “…Well-” She exhales slowly. “…That was fun.”

 

“Uh-huh,” Rory growled cheerfully. Her grin and tail showed that she was very happy with how the morning had gone, and if Jenna were looking, she could notice at least one other sign that Rory had enjoyed herself (if an ominous portent that laundry day would come sooner this week).

 

Ear-scritchies. “…Now what then, sugar?” She…. decided against adding those last bits, and the things she noticed. It just seemed safer. A better plan, really.

 

“I… I dunno?” Rory blinked. “Not like… I planned for this. I feel like, y’know, it’s almost six in the mornin’ and we should sleep, but t’be honest I’m gonna need a round with hitachi-san before I’m gonna be able to get to sleep.” Christ, Rory.

 

Oh my God, Rory. Jenna kind of shrugged. “…Oh. I’m real tired all of a sudden. I s’pose I’ll just lay right here” A broad yawn.  “…But uh. Y’all. Have fun?”

 

Rory blinked, still straddling her roomie. “… I feel like this is one of those times when yer tryna drop a hint and I’m too stupid to pick it up.”

 

Jenna raised one hand. Pushed her thumb and index finger almost together. Then dropped it and curled up. … inasmuch as heavy, Heavy Rory would allow.

 

That earned a pout. “Yanno, sometimes you’re kinda mean,” Rory huffed, “I already know I’m an idiot but you don’t gotta grind it in.”

 

“Point of fact: I must like it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t call you my big dumb idiot, now would I?”

 

Small smile. “Usually you don’t admit I’m your idiot. So, um. How ’bout. How ’bout one of us sleeps in the other’s bed tonight? I ain’t gotten to cuddle somebody to sleep in years.”

 

A green eye cracked open. Fixed on Rory. Stared. “…Hey. Rory? What’ve I been saying. For about five minutes now.”

 

“Th-that yer gonna go to sleep.”

 

“..what did you just suggest.”

 

“That I sleep with you.”

 

“Okay, see. You’re almost there.”

 

“So… yes? You coulda just said ‘yes’ yanno.”

 

“I’ve been telling you to do it for like five minutes now. How much more agreeable can I be?”

 

“Ugh you tellin’ me to do things is like solvin’ riddles,” Rory complained, but took her weight off of Jenna and the couch, then reached down and slung the other girl over her shoulder and carried her to Jenna’s bedroom.

 

Ow. “Ow,” she concluded. “…It’s really not that hard to figure out, sugar.” She sounded. … Tired. Drained. And probably a little more run-down than Rory was used to.

 

Jenna was deposited on the bed a bit more gingerly than she’d been picked up, and Rory disappeared for a few moments. When she returned, she had a fishing tacklebox in hand, which she set on the bed.

 

“One last thing before bed.” She opened the tacklebox, which didn’t contain any fishing tackle. Instead it was full of various medical supplies, obviously collected over years. Lots of gauze, lots of tape, several kinds of antiseptic. Certainly not as quality as what Jenna had, but significantly more quantity. “Let’s clean that bite wound, yeah?”

 

“I dunno didn’t you say somethin’ about dogs havin’ the cleanest mouth Jenna geeze  – .. I mean. Yes. Yes, that’s a good idea.”

 

“We do have clean mouths,” Rory scowled as she soaked a cotton ball with bacitracin, “but we can’t just leave puncture wounds open. Also, shut up.” She delicately started tending to Jenna’s wound. “Sides, I gotta get used to this. We’re probably gonna get injured a lot doin’ superheroing.”

 

She opens her mouth. Looks like she may say something – And then closes it. “Yeah. Probably? …Prooobably,” is what she finally goes with.

 

“Besides,” she grinned. “Next time, I’m gonna bite ya more than once.”

 

Does- .. Should she admit that that would probably put her into sho- NOPE. Unthinkable. “Oh. Okay. That sounds nice~”

 

“Hey, uh,” she dressed the wound a lot better than she’d dressed her own, at least. “Thanks for takin’ a risk on somethin’ that made ya nervous.”

 

“I didn’t like it,” she says imperiously. “.. but I suppose I can let it go. This time.” she laughs, then yawns a little bit. “…Really. It’s fine. I’m sure I can find other things to not like.”

 

“An’ we can throw ’em in wells,” Rory said, then yawned wide as she taped down the gauze she’d placed. “Okay, that’s done. I’m kinda sleepy too, good timing. Unless you was hintin’ that you didn’t actually wanna sleep neither.”

 

“No. After blacking o-” … whoops. “Um. Going to sleep very suddenly..” REALLY, Jenna. “I figured sleep was a good idea. No euphemisms.”

 

“Yeah, that’s good,” Rory yawned again, draping herself out on the bed. “Should probably…”

 

 

And she was out.

 

“I’m like majority cat and I can’t–”

 

 

Huh. Jenna actually snores sometimes. How about that.

The Pet Shop Girls Interlude: Favor

Text from: HoundDog

To: Silvered

 

Hey

 

Sup, classy lady

 

Silvered thumbed his phone back a few times.

 

Sup, Rory?

 

I know we barely know each other

 

but I got a favor to ask

 

Whatever you want

 

Silvered smacked his own hand, thumbed the phone back again, and sent

 

Hey, what are friends for?

 

u know how u wanted to beat up the guys who beat me up

 

Yes

u still want a go at 1 of em

 

Do you want me to?

ya

 

don’t think I can take him by myself

 

Then sure. When you need me there?

 

today or tomorrow sry

 

ill pay for ur train tix

 

No you won’t

There’s a 4am and a 2am

Have a sleeping bag for me or someth

Silvered slid his phone into his pocket, nodding to Qun. “Gotta bounce.” He said.

 

They shook their head at him. “Booty call?”

 

“Yeah, sure.” he laughed. “Say sorry to Benny for me in the morning, I’m gunna miss his morning shift.”

 

THE BAIL BOND BAR
SOUTH BOSTON

 

The bar that Rory had asked Silvered to go to was the kind of hole in the wall that barely had room for the few regulars who went there and liked it that way, that kind of Boston NIMBY attitude that was so very charming to folk who visited.

 

His instructions were simple: find the mountain of a man who seemed to have stubble going all the way from the top of his head to the collar of his shirt. Pick a fight with him. Take it outside.

 

Put him in the hospital.

 

The only really critical bits were that he had to not die, and he had to be in no shape to fight for at least a couple of days. Easy enough, right? Rory did warn that he had “skin like concrete” and could punch “wicked hahd.” No problem.

 

Silvered had had to feel about it a bit. Hang around Rory, get a whiff of what was different about her smell, about what might be picked out in the crowd. About what … small, subtle things. Dogs had good sense of smell. Wolves could often go a step better.

 

Silvered didn’t look out of place in a bar normally but he really looked out of place in this one because, well, for a start he was a west-coast brown guy whose accent didn’t mesh in the area, and two, nobody here knew him, and knowing someone was pretty much the only way you found out about this place. Silvered considered trying to play dumb, run a short con on this thing…?

 

But really, fuck it.

 

The wolf didn’t want to be subtle. The wolf wanted to send a message. Take care of this instinct. Keep a lid on it. He straightened up, adjusting his seat on the stool, gesturing to the bartender – asking for a beer that he was going to come back for. Slipping from the stool, he went walking about the bar, holding his phone in his hand. The camera was set on, so he was using it to look at odd angles around the room, but that was secondary to him. Silvered was tracking by scent.

 

He’d acted like a god damn tourist for about thirty seconds when the townies decided that he’d looked around enough. One townie, specifically: a mountain of a man with stubble all the way from the top of his head to the dipping collar of his singlet (okay, technically his chest hair wasn’t stubble, but it certainly didn’t look very nice).

 

“Can I help you.” Oh yeah, one other thing about this Grom guy. He apparently favored clipped sentences with small words. Not ‘cuz he was stupid. Just because he hated talking. Apparently. Oh, and he smelled awful. Stale cigarette smoke and beer and sour, days-old body odor.

 

Silvered looked up at the guy. He tilted his head, looking this way and that. No scent of fear on him, but that wasn’t a surprise. Any guy that big had it in him to just ignore things. He’d be more contemptuous, more annoyed by a tourist.

 

Well, time to see the lay of the land.

 

“Go whitesox.” Silvered said to the guy, grinning – like a tourist.

 

Grom blinked and raised one eyebrow. “Wrong team,” he said. “Tryna start shit, you root for the Yankees.”

 

“Oh, neat, the bartender was wrong.” Silvered grin. “Said you’d be too stupid to follow two words.” Well, that was a useful tidbit to go with. Then, he took a long sigh, glancing left and right, then back up at Grom. “… Wow, you want a written invitation or something?”

 

“What’s your deal.” Grom folded his arms. He didn’t even dignify the bartender bit with a response, geez.

 

“I’m only in town for what, an hour? I get told Boston bars are hard, watch yourself, you’ll get fuckin’ kicked by the Irish mob or whatever, and here I am an’…” he glanced around again. “… Are y’all scared of seeing a brown person or somethin’?”

 

“Look.” Grom sighed too, like he was about to have to explain something to a kid. “Yer bein’ weird. What’s. Your. Deal.”

 

And then Silvered leant up, into his personal space, and there, the scent of the skin was clear. Eyes narrowed, and the thing that looked out from his eyes wasn’t a brown kid being weird, but the wolf and it knew it owned the world around it, as he growled out: “My deal is, I got told to be careful in these parts… an’ I’m gunna go back east knowing that Boston’s rep is a town of sissies weirded out by smack talk.”

 

Then he had that errant thought hey is ‘sissies’ homophobic? Shit, have to ask Nat about that. Hope not, I need some word to insult people who care about their masculinity, dangit. It was odd seeing eyebrows moving like they were connected to ears that canted sideways.

 

Grom sighed again. Long-suffering. Tired. “If I kick your ass, will you leave?”

 

“I ain’t gunna leave. I got a beer on the counter.”

 

“Then why start shit.”

 

“Why do you care?”

 

“Cuz you’re up to something.” Grom jabbed Silvered in the chest with one meaty finger, right above where the disc sat. “Actin’ dumb and mean.”

 

“And it’s keeping you down.” Silvered laughed. Then he turned around, walking back towards his bar, fishing out his phone from his pocket again. A moment. “Yeah, told ya.” He said, walking back towards the bar. “What? No, I’m fine. It’s fucking Boston, it’s not -” he laughed. “Yeah. See ya soon.” Then it went into his pocket again, as he reached for his beer.

 

Grom turned to watch impassively.

 

And he sipped the beer, and paused. “Jesus christ, seriously?” he spat.

 

Sigh. “Fine.” Grom shrugged. “Let’s go outside and fight.”

 

And Silvered sighed too. For fucks sake. “Scuse me, lemme finish this,” he said, tipping the glass upside down and pouring it out on the floor.

“Now that’s just fuckin’ rude,” complained the bartender.

 

Beer all tasted like ass anyway.

 

Setting the glass down mouth down, he tried to pull this together. This guy wasn’t reacting with fear; he wasn’t reacting to the wolf; he didn’t even have the air of a bully, someone who would do a violence because he liked it. He was bored and tired and surly, but that was all. Rory, on the other hand, had impress-

 

Well, no, she’d asked.

 

And that’d been enough.

 

It wasn’t like he didn’t have it in him to beat the ever-loving shit out of a stranger or nothing. There was a part of him that revelled in that, that quietly wanted to just say fuck it and beat Grom’s face against the bar. On the other hand, this wasn’t working. He’d done what he could to rile the man, and instead, it was bored resignation.

 

Oh well.

 

Silvered walked forward, shaking his head, waving his hand over his shoulder. “Nah, man. You’re not worth my fuckin’ time.” he said, walking towards the exit. Most obnoxious act he’d put out there so far, and nothing.

 

So.

 

Information time.

 

Silvered was only out of the bar for a few moments before Rory appeared at his side. “What’s goin’ on? Where’s Grom?”

 

“If he’s who you say he is, an’ I didn’t just pick a fight with someone else with tragic hair, he’s sitting in there an’ sneering about tourists. Y’know, I was figuring you wouldn’t want me to trace back to you, d- Rory.” he said, laughing, his hands in his pockets. “This a simpler story than I figured, huh?”

 

“Yeah, we got a short timetable, we just needed to have him outta commission for a couple days so we can hit Tom. You picked a fight and he didn’t take it?”

 

“Sec.” he said, holding up a finger, then walking back to the door, pushing it open.

 

Hey, Fuckface. You want Sox tickets more than you like Tom?” he hollered from the doorway.

 

Grom looked up from where he was mopping up the beer that Silver had spilled.

 

“This was about Tom?”

 

“No, this was about me wanting to hurt someone. I just found an excuse. Now answer the fuckin’ question.” Weird. Silvered was… oddly more tense, more aggressive from the doorway. Who the fuck was Tom, even?

 

“Ugh.” Grom handed the handle of the broom to the person nearest him and strode toward Silvered– then grabbed him by the scruff of his neck.

 

Then there was a heartbeat and Silvered rolled his eyes as he stopped resisting, finally getting hauled out.

 

“Well now.” he said. The hackles were up on the very back of his neck. The wolf wanted, and right now, it wasn’t doing. No, sense had taken up. This was a problem to be fixed. And… teeth gritting on the inside, Silvered’s gears were grinding.

 

He’d be fine!

 

He wouldn’t feel fine.

 

“Oh, you got him out!” Rory clapped. “Hi Grom!”

 

“Oh,” Grom said. “That makes more sense.”

 

He set Silvered down and rolled his shoulders. “You want payback, huh.”

 

“Nah,” Rory chirped, “but Tom O’Bedlam showed up at my roommate’s work, so we gotta cut ‘im off at the knees, you know?”

 

“Huh.” Grom frowned.

 

Silvered was reaching into his wallet, huffing a growl as he went. Basically his entire back was a mass of tension, leafing through slips of paper, half-remembered notes and promissories. “So here’s the really basic deal. You can fuck off and have these,” two Sox tickets – a few days from being scalp-worthy, even – in his hand, “Or you can decide to stay by this Bedlam guy and I put you in the hospital for a while.” he paused and glanced over at Rory. “I mean, Rory was super clear she didn’t want me to kill you.”

 

There was nothing but confidence in what he had to say, though. It was almost unnerving, if you knew how to be unnerved.

 

Grom shook his head. “Listen. I can’t just ditch the Boys.”

 

“You might be surprised.”

 

“We already took out Billy and Pete,” Rory warned. “And that was without this guy’s help.”

 

“I know.” Grom sighed again. He seemed to do that a lot. “Beat me in a fight. I’ll make like it was worse. Lay low. Okay?”

 

Silvered tilted his head. He heaved a sigh.

 

“Hey, hold out your arm, kay?”

 

Grom did.

 

Silvered then put his hand up, onto his wrist – and with a weirdly disappointed look on his face… folded it. Bone and muscle ground and twisted against itself, just crumpled up in a way that looked hella uncomfortable, his thumb pressing up against the node in his shoulder, and as he did it, slung his arm around Grom’s neck – stepping up onto the back of his knee, holding him around the neck for a moment – and bearing his weight down.

 

It didn’t look like a fight. It hurt, sure – but it didn’t hurt majorly. And when SIlvered let go – Grom on his knees?

 

His shoulder looked a fucking mess. Reorient the bone in the socket, ply it inward, fold the joint around the wrong way without straining the tendon? Without breaking flesh, without busting skin, Silvered had transformed Grom’s forearm to shoulder as a mass of black and purple bruising, after only a few moments held on the carotid.

 

“Jesus Christ,” Rory whispered.

 

From Grom’s perspective? It was numb. But it didn’t hurt.

 

“That is going to hurt like  you fell downstairs in a half hour or so.”

 

Grom spent a moment grimacing, then looked up at Silvered with a deep frown. “You are scary as hell, you know that?”

 

“Yeah, he does,” Rory chimed in.

 

“… Hospital shit. It’s fine. You wanna avoid aspirin until tomorrow. Take ibuprofen.” he shook his head, his hair curling up at the edges like it was about to rain. “Y’know, if you’d just had a tussle, you’d be in hospital and this woulda been a way less weird day. And I was an asshole to a server.” He bit his lower lip and grumped. “You need, like… a cab or something?”

 

“Nah, I got it, thanks,” Grom struggled to his feet and walked toward the entrance to the bar. “I’ll get a ride from Greg. Hey, Hound.”

 

“Yeah?” Rory asked.

 

“If you actually take Tom out? Hit me up.”

 

“Sure thing, Grom! Bye!”

 

Once the man was out of sight, she turned to Silvered. “Thanks, I owe ya one. Sorry that was so weird.”

 

Silvered tilted his head back, and she could tell tha this ears were flattened back. He drew a long breath through his nose.

 

The wolf had wanted to fight. It had wanted blood. He’d wanted it too. The feeling of being punched in the face, the moment of pain and recrimination, the knowledge that it was okay to lash out, it was okay to be a monster in this moment, because the big guy would hurt me more and I have to put him down, down, down, I have to hit him so hard, I have to make him not want to get back up, and I have to make sure that I hurt him harder than he can hurt me and that’s not going to matter because he can’t hurt me more than I hurt all the time, all the time, all the time, “sil?” and then he let that sigh out.

 

“Yeah. That was pretty weird.” he paused, and looked down at his tickets in his hand, handing them over. “Here, y’go. Gift for you and the girlfrien’.”

 

Rory’s eyes went wide. “Wh-what howww oh my GOD oh my god oh my GODDDD SILVER can I please kiss you on the mouth right now”

 

“-Sure if you w-” The next muffled words were ‘Go Sox’ but really, he still was a tourist.

 

Rory was heavy in his arms and she smelled like Friendly Dog and her tongue was big and he could feel her butt shaking back and forth from the force of her wagging tail as she kissed him with more enthusiasm than a human body should be able to hold.

 

It was… weird.

 

Weirdly calming, too. But… well, approval from a friend could do a lot.

 

And tonight, when there was nobody about, he would run until he felt better.

The Pet Shop Girls: Kinda Always Knew

WEST 5TH STREET

SOUTH BOSTON

 

Rory pointed at one of the nigh-identical townhouses.

 

“That’s the one. 281. Is that where she lived when you dated?”

 

“Uh- yeah.” Jenna actually looked at the townhouse then. “Yeah. That was the one.”

 

“Daaaaaang. So uhm. Do you wanna like. Talk to her? Or do we just go in and beat her up and stick her in a closet?”

 

She knitted her brow. “What is there to even talk about? Hey, ex, you beat up my roommate and you hang around with a bunch of toolsheds, can you not do those things?”

 

“Well,” Rory scratched the back of her head. “Yeah? Maybe?”

 

“…Rory, would you listen to that because I wouldn’t.”

 

“Well I mean, just, like,” she squinted at the door, “like this is somebody you liked, right, an’ she liked you, she can’t be totally bad.” Rory she stabbed you twice.

 

“Rory she stabbed you twice.” Jenna points this out in a tone that she has also used to note that fire can be hot. “I have some questions about her moral fibers okay.”

 

“Well don’t you wanna, like. Ask those questions about her fibers before I cave her face in? Maybe you can talk her outta the gang!”

 

“…that- That’d be nice but I … Shit, Rory, I don’t know. Why are you trying to derail my bloody vengeance with morality.”

 

“I just don’t want ya to do somethin’ that hurts you just cuz somethin’ else hurts me. Look, I’ll—I’ll hide around the corner, and if she pulls somethin’ on ya, I’ll bust in and break her face. Okay?”

 

“I could just- I could just say “Nah, go punch her,” though I mean-” A terrible realization dawns on her. “…you want me to talk to her, so no, I can’t do that, can I.”

 

Small shrug. “I mean. If you tell me to punch her, I’ll punch her. But… I think talkin’ first is… it’s good?”

 

She… Sighs. Then nods. “Why do you have to be so damn earnest.” She  bites her bottom lip. “Okay. Okay, yeah. Let’s – go.”

 

Rory smiled and patted her roomie on the back, then looked both ways and bounded across the street, tucking herself into the narrow space between townhouses.

 

The door beckoned. Dark wood, glass, a worn doorbell button. All exactly the way Jenna remembered it, not a detail out of place.

 

Goddammit why did she listen to Rory. She takes another slow breath, raises her hand – and knocks on the door.. She has never, never ever, once used Aoife’s doorbell. It works. She just has some sort of … hate for it. (It’s the sound and the pitch.)

 

Silence for a moment, then the creaking of that one floorboard, footsteps on the way, Jenna knew the exact moment that Aoife would be looking through that peephole, and then—

 

The door swung open. Behind it was a woman of average height and build, with wavy brown hair cut short (the hell, she said she’d never cut it), tan skin, dark circles under her eyes (fuck, she looks like she’s aged ten years in four), wearing a t-shirt and jeans.

 

“Holy shit,” she murmured. She didn’t seem… completely surprised, but she certainly didn’t expect Jenna to be here.

 

“She had to try really hard not to blurt out the first thing that came to mind. Which, topically was, ha ha wow you look like shit what happened. On the other hand, what she did end up saying just sounded sort of. … dumb, at least to her ears.

 

“Uh. Yeah. Hi?” Jenna please.

 

“Jenna, what…” she looked left and right out the door. “What’re you doing here?”

 

She gets an excellent view of Jenna’s tail. Flicking left and right, because as good as she is at self-management, that tail seems to not give half a damn. She bit her bottom lip. She knew what she wanted to say. She didn’t know how to get there. “…well. Judgin’ by the fact we’re not trying to kill each other, I think I want to talk?”

 

“Kill each other? Why, what’d you—um.” Narrowed eyes for a moment. “Okay. Sure. C’mon in.” She stepped back and held the door open for Jenna.

 

“…What do you mean what’d I-” She.. seems more confused than anything. She crosses the threshold, and as she does she adds, “..ain’t you mad at me? Or- Or something?” That doesn’t, of course, sound like what she wants. Just what she’s resigned herself to.

 

“I mean, yeah,” Aoife shoved her hands into her pockets as she walked into the townhouse’s common area. “I still am, kinda. Since I didn’t even merit a proper breakup, just blocked calls and a vapor trail. But I ain’t gonna kill you over that.”

 

“..So you’re saying you’re still the more level-headed one? Christ.” She offers an uncertain smile and oh god, Aoife. You know that smile. On some level, you think you’re why it exists in the first place.

 

“Not sure. What reason have you got to kill me?” Aoife walked over to that same old fucking couch and gestured toward it. “Take a seat. You want a beer?”

 

“I didn’t literally mean kill. You know me better than that- And I dunno it depends,” she said, sinking onto the couch. “..Is it still every brand except the one I like? I swear you did that on purpose.”

 

“And I swear you picked that one just because it was a craft beer I had to go to fuckin Cambridge to buy. So yes, I don’t have your weird small-batch Chicago beer. I got Sam Adams lager, Sam Summer, Sam Adams cherry wheat, “that sounds terrible. Get me one of those.” and Sam Adams pale ale. And Miller High Life, don’t ask. Okay, fine. Back in a sec.”

 

She walked back toward the kitchen. Okay her ass hadn’t aged ten years, fffuck.

 

COOL. This was a great idea now I’m in my ex’s place drinking beers with her was a fairly accurate summary of Jenna’s thoughts, interspersed with the occasional, “oh my God, Rory.” She still… had no idea how the hell to broach “Hey are you still in a gang, and also can you not.” …Because she looked at Aoife, and lots of parts of her brain stopped working.

 

“Psst,” Rory whispered through a barely-cracked front window. “How’s it going?”

 

“What the fuck am I doing here, Rory. Oh my God.”

 

“You’re doing great! Just—oop—”

 

“Hey, are you…” Aoife rounded the corner and frowned, a pair of cherry wheat beers dangling open in her hand. “Huh. Thought I heard… eh, never mind. Here.”

 

She handed Rory a beer and sat in her easy chair across from her.

 

“So. Okay. What you been up to.”

 

“Um. I have a degree now?” She shrugged. “…you haven’t missed a whole lot honestly.” Unless Aoife gets the newspaper. Then- then she probably knows that Jenna gets up to some weird stuff. “…and I’ve worked at the same place long enough to have regulars?”

 

“Still pouring drinks as your job?” Aoife shook her head. “What’d you get the degree for, then?”

 

She shrugged a little. “Um. Mixology. It means I’m licensed and other nice stuff and also it means I can demand higher pay.”

 

“Oh, I guess that’s pretty cool.” As she shrugged, Aoife’s mouth quirked up in a little lopsided smile, the kind that always used to make Jenna’s brain derail mid-sentence. “I haven’t done much. Still sorta… doin’ odd jobs.”

 

‘Used’ to. Ye-yeah. “Oh um- are-” … she blinked.  Tried again, at a volume above ‘shy whisper’. “Oh! Are you? I mean… what ever happened to workin’ on cars an’ stuff? Didn’t you say once you wanted to work with machines?”

 

She paused. Flushed. “..Did I really miss something?”

 

“Oh. Yeah, I mean.” An evasive shrug. “I guess.”

 

“…Alright, what I’d miss, su– Aoife. I – i meant-” Jenna is dying here.

 

Aoife blinked. Then frowned. Then leaned forward. “Jenna, what are you doing here.”

 

“Checking up on you,” she offers. Very. Very. Lamely.

 

“That’s fuckin’ bullshit and you should feel like an idiot for saying it in the first place,” she snapped back. “What is this? Are you here for a booty call? Did you just ghost on your last partner but miss the feel of nails on your back—” nails on her back dragging furrows breaking the skin, teeth clamping down on her lower lip, what seemed like miles and miles of naked flesh— “—what? Just say it, you’re shit at lying to me.”

 

She’s an interesting shade of red, but… Well. Aoife is right. Even if Jenna’s brain is going ‘wait we totally could be here for that,’ her brain is wrong. She hesitates, still. Looks at Aoife. Looks at her lap.  “…I know what your ‘odd jobs’ are.” It kind of came out in a rush, like that’s not what she wanted to say, but that’s what came out instead.

 

Aoife snorted. “I know you know what my odd jobs are. You wouldn’t stop whining at me about ’em before you up and vanished.”

 

“…Can I still not change your mind?”

 

“Why now?” Aoife shook her head. “What—”

 

A pause. Dawning realization on her face.

 

“That dog eared girl.”

 

She shrugged, kind of. “…Billion to one odds. But you know how I get when people – hurt …” And Aoife has heard that tone in her voice before. Aoife has never heard that almost-growl directed at her. Jenna seems to catch that she’s doing it, half-sighing before she continues. “…Hurt my friends. Yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Aoife’s voice was cool, suddenly. “I do. That’s somethin’ we had in common. You know, Pete told us that he got beat up by a pair of dog girls, but… Pete’s kind of an idiot, and I probably shoulda figured that out.”

 

Pause.

 

“You here to make me disappear like you did to Billy and Pete?”

 

“..I don’t know. Does it sound like I wanna make you disappear?” She sort of stares at Aoife. “..And wow what the fuck- dog girls plur-” She sounds vaguely offended, like that just sunk in. Kind of a sigh.

 

“No it don’t,” Aoife folded her arms. Jenna recognized this stance. It was for when Aoife didn’t want to be seen holding a weapon but she wanted to be able to pull one from the ether fast if shit got real, “but I’ve seen you go from zero to murder in no time flat. And you must have a plan for if I tell you to fuck off. You think I’m gonna see your face and betray the Boys just like that? I ain’t that desperate for pussy.”

 

“Oh my God, Aoife.” oh so it’s not just Rory. Good to know? Wait hang on topical. “No. I don’t think that. But I also know you’re not stupid. Your boys are disappearing daily. Maybe it’s because I’m not part of that. But I don’t see why this is something worthwhile. Not- Not for you.”

 

A moment of stony silence. “It’s worthwhile cuz it pays,” Aoife said. “It’s worthwhile because I have a few friends who don’t judge me. And it’s worthwhile because if I walk away, Tom O’Bedlam will make my life a living hell.”

 

“You can get paid better, we both know that.’ She makes a vague, strangled sound. It is hilariously similar to a cat with a particularly bothersome hairball.. “You know what, let’s just skip to the real question. If Tom O’Bedlam were not part of the equation, would you walk away from this.”

 

“From the other Boys? Probably not. From beating up your new girlfriend? Yeah, sure.” Aoife’s eyes were fixed on Jenna, looking for a reaction to that last bit.

 

The reaction is… mostly confusion because .. even Jenna hasn’t figured out if some makeouts means yes, that is actually their status. Oh my god she needs brochures. “…Point of fact, I- I don’t really -” And now she just seems distracted. Because she always gets distracted, or at least shy-quiet when she realizes Aoife is staring at her.

 

“Maybe I could do better,” Aoife leaned forward on the easy chair, sitting close to the edge, uncomfortably close to Jenna oh god she could smell her deodorant and shampoo that combination “but I know you could do better. Mixing drinks for strangers and defending the honor of a townie who can crack a brick with her fist? You could run this town, kitty, (it still makes her blush.) and I could get the boys to follow you. Forget about my life choices. Let’s talk about yours.

 

She blinks, rapid-fire and clearly wrongfooted. “I- I have thought about that plenty. And – And.” …. Don’t say you smell like peaches, Jenna, because that’s not helpful discourse. “…And wow you smell like peaches.” Oh my God, Jenna. “..– I mean. Um.’ … “fuck.”

 

“You’re coming after the Boys and picking them off, but the Boys aren’t the problem,” Aoife’s face was only inches from Jenna’s now. “Tom is. We need a better leader. Think about it. You could be somebody in this town, kitty. Make money hand over fist, crush the people who fuck with you. Is it worth turning that down just cuz some ugly-ass mutt bitch took a few bruises?”

 

“We both know that i know that, Aoife.” She purses her lips. ‘We also both know that I passed that up because I’m not interested. At what point during me dismantling these guys for doing what they shouldn’t did you think that changed?’ … Unfortunately, the second part is what she wants to say. What she says instead is something else about peaches. Aoife you may need to make some distance if you want to actually talk.

 

Lopsided smirk. “Do you wanna talk this over upstairs?” aaaaand there was the proposition. Jenna was a word and a handful of steps away from mind-blowing sex that she hadn’t had in years. Fuck.

 

She exhales, sharp, and the look Aoife gets is all the answer she needs. So when Jenna’s mouth works – moves, once, no sound, twice, and then she finally manages words, but those words are “Uh- No- I-” Except she just stops there for a moment and looks completely lost.

 

“C’mon,” Aoife jerked her head toward the stairs, “I got new sheets. Egyptian cotton.” She stood and walked a few paces, her hips doing that snap-snap back and forth thing that drew Jenna’s eye and glued it to the woman’s magnificent—

 

Jenna’s phone buzzed. A text.

 

Jenna jumped. She literally jumped so hard she bounced off the couch. She didn’t faceplant or anything, but wow she had forgotten her phone was there. … She checks it, because maybe Rory is yelling at her and that will help please be yelling at her.

 

It was Rory.

 

r u ok??? if u need me 2 bust in & rescue u text me….. the word ‘pet.’ ok????

 

“You coming, kitten?” Aoife’s voice was low and sweet.

 

“G-gimme – uh-” … She can’t figure out if she’s madder at Rory for not somehow defining a boundary that had no business existing anyway, or madder at her brain for not working. “…Sunshine,” She finally called, a little plaintively. Shit. Wait. No. Wrong name. She should not use that name.

 

“Heh. You need me to carry you? Or just…” she turned and started walking back toward Jenna oh no “… more incentive…”

 

A hand on Jenna’s shoulder, pushing her back against the couch. Her ex-girlfriend climbing on top of her. An aggressive, familiar kiss, taken without permission like they always had been.

 

Oh okay. That’s- that’s. …. Right now, actually, Jenna is not sure what it is. Right now, Jenna is trying to convince herself to do something. Either stop Aoife or encourage her. Just do something.

 

Left to her own devices, Aoife did not stop. She escalated, like she always had. One hand going up Jenna’s shirt as her tongue snaked into the catgirl’s mouth. Wedging her knee between Jenna’s, pressing her thigh up hard.

 

Oh, fuck. She lets out a tiny little gasp, muffled by Aoife’s mouth. Okay no she should not be kissing Aoife. She should be doing a lot of things but this really isn’t on the list. After a few seconds of doing precisely that, she abruptly pulled away, sputtering a little.

 

One of the woman’s eyebrows twitched upward just slightly, so familiar, everything about Aoife was like a bittersweet taste of the past, why this, “Something the matter, pretty kitty?”

 

Jenna’s phone, still clutched in her hand, vibrated again.

 

That name again. Fuck. She glanced at her phone. She glanced at Aoife. A tiny part of her wondered what it was like to be someone else who could actually make decisions when feelings happened- then suddenly something occurred to her: She bit her bottom lip, scratched behind her own ear – which sadly just doesn’t work – “..so um. What do you – want.”

 

That light, airy laugh. “Is that not obvious?”

 

“…you know what i was asking,” Jenna sounded so… petulant.

 

Aoife exhaled sharply. “You’d… really rather discuss that than fuck me. Really.”

 

“Y-yes?” She looked… oddly stung, and there was the faintest almost-frown, which Aoife was well-aware was somehow worse than when Jenna had a full-blown frown.

 

“Fine,” then that weight wasn’t on her any more, and the smell of peaches got faint, and Aoife was in her chair again, looking pissed. “Fine. I get it.”

 

“…do you because i wasn’t talking about any bedlam right there.” Holy shit, Jenna just squeaked.

 

“Why can’t you just, fucking,” a wordless, exasperated noise. “Is she better in bed than I am? Huh? Is she better at putting up with your shit? I wanna know why you give more shits about a girl with a face like roadkill than me. Really curious.”

 

‘…I literally just asked if you were looking for a one time thing or what and you started talking about something that was. Slightly unrelated?” Now Jenna looks annoyed. The peaches are, thank God, far enough away for her to remember how words work, and she keeps insulting Rory. Oh my God, Aoife. This is literally the worst possible plan AND YOU KNOW THAT.

 

“That’s—” Aoife blinked repeatedly. “You—”

 

She covered her nose and mouth with both hands and breathed in deep, then let the breath out.

 

“Jenna if you would just… use your words a little earlier and more thoroughly—”

 

Jenna’s phone vibrated.

 

“What- What do you mean use my words I use my words all the fucking time.” She puffed up. “I am a champion at using my fuckin’ words!”’ …. The part of her brain that wasn’t desperately latching onto something she could Just Get Mad About was questioning her life choices.

 

“Then use them now. What are you expecting of me? What do you want me to do about the Bedlam Boys? What do you want me to do with you? And do you want to go upstairs and get some head or what, because I ain’t gonna kiss you again until I know.

 

She actually recoiled a little, and then looked confused again. “..since. .. Since when do you ask a million questions? Was a time I could barely get half a question out of you.” What stopped it from sounding out and out accusatory – or maybe helped it along, this is Aoife – was the genuine curiosity in her tone.

 

“Well maybe, in the last four years, I might have gotten a little sick of not—”

 

Someone knocked on the door.

 

Aoife turned to stare at it, then turned to stare at Jenna with an expression that somehow both read you better know who the fuck that is and you better not know who the fuck that is.

 

Oh my God, Rory.  instead of going to the door, she digs out her phone.

 

Looks like she’d missed a few texts from her roommate.

 

Jenna pls answer im gettin worried

 

I heard a thump whats goin on did somebody fall

 

Jenna u gotta answer im freakin out

 

Jenna replied quickly:

 

Rory is that you at the door. Rory I am negotiating.

 

She looked up at Aoife, but her ex was already at the door, yanking it open. There was Rory, staring at the text she’d just gotten on her phone but still standing right in front of the door. Wide brown eyes slowly looked up at Aoife.

 

“Uhm,” Rory said.

 

Aoife stared.

 

Jenna stared. Why. Why. She had no idea what to do with herself. She felt like she should do or say something but holy shit where do you even start.

 

It didn’t help that she wanted to grab both of their hands and skip around town like an idiot either. – What a weird mental image. Where did that come from.

 

There were a few moments stretched taut when, Jenna knew quite well, violence could erupt without warning at any moment. If Aoife summoned a weapon or Rory lunged…

 

…but instead, Aoife spoke through gritted teeth. “You must be Jenna’s friend. Why don’t you. Come in.”

 

Rory’s face brightened.

 

Jenna looked mildly horrified.

 

“Do you want a beer,” Aoife said flatly.

 

“Ha ha! Sure!” Having been actually welcomed inside, Rory immediately assumed that everything was fine. “Got any Sam Adams?”

 

“Yeah. Have a seat.” Deliberate steps into the kitchen.

 

Look let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter if Aoife was deliberately trying to draw Jenna’s eye or not. That’s just what happened.

 

Oh. Wait. Rory is here. “Uh. Hi?”

 

“Sorry!” Rory whispered, hurrying over to Jenna, and either not noticing the butt-staring or not caring about it. “You didn’t answer my texts and I was getting real worried!!

 

“It’s rude to grab your phone and start texting while you’re talking to someone’s face.”

 

“But I didn’t hear any talking for a while!”

 

She opens her mouth. Has no idea what to say in response to that. Closes her mouth.

 

And here’s Aoife. “Here’s your Sam Summer. So. What’s your name.”

 

“Rory!” Grin. “I’m Jenna’s roomie!”

 

“Is that right.”

 

She quirks a brow, peering at Aoife. Aoife was pretty much told all of that. Okay. Well. She’ll … let that one slide. She quietly downs her beer All of it. In one go.

 

“So. You two dating?”

 

Rory froze, eyes wide. Oh no. This question could get her in trouble. Sweating, she looked over at Jenna.

 

WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT JENNA, Rory. She clearly has no idea, and has said so.

 

“Mmmm….mmayyyy… be?”

 

“Well that fucking figures,” with a pointed glare at Jenna. “You might wanna cut and run before she ditches you without a word.”

 

Jenna… actually doesn’t say anything. It ain’t real easy to justify what she did, and frankly, she doesn’t have the mental ground for effort right now.

 

She really should’ve just had Rory punch Aoife from the start. Ugh. Now she’s confused and upset.

 

“Hey, c’mon,” Rory frowned. “Jenna’s… she wouldn’t do that. Not any more. I don’t know what she was like back then, but she’s—”

 

“You don’t know shit, dog girl,” Aoife snapped. “Look. I’m already having the worst fucking day. What. Do the two of you. Want from me.”

 

Glaring right at Jenna.

 

‘Does that question even matter at this point? You’ve already said no.”

 

“So now what? Is this where you beat the hell out of me? If that’s what’s next, I wish you’d get it the fuck over with.”

 

Jenna – Visibly freezes. This is where she should say yes. This is also Aoife. Shit. Jenna pauses instead to wonder why she is trash.

 

Rory’s eyes flickered between Jenna and Aoife rapidly, unconsciously letting a barely-audible whine escape her throat. She had no idea what to do.

 

“You ditch me like a piece of garbage, then show back up in my life, kiss me, then beat me to a pulp. Cool.”

 

“You kissed?” Rory blinked.

 

‘We didn’t not kiss?” She kind of shrugs. Somehow she’s more worried about probably having to fight Aoife. Or Rory. Or everyone at once.

 

After a moment of horribly awkward silence, Rory grinned and clapped her hands. “Hey wait that’s great! Now you have another kiss to compare to! Remember, from last night, where you weren’t sure if the thing or the other thing?”

 

Aoife stared.

 

Jenna stared.

 

“Well, now, you’ve kissed somebody else! How was it? Was it different? Good goin’ by the way. Isn’t her tongue great?” Rory grinned at Aoife, apparently delighted to have a shared … hobby? to bond over.

 

Jenna keeps staring. …Does- Does she point out that she has done a lot of things with  Aoife? Does she just wait for Aoife to explode and try to kill both of them?

 

You know what she just keeps staring. Her brow twitches. Her ear twitches. Her tail flick-swishes.

 

“Jenna,” Aoife’s voice was… inscrutable, “why… is your new girlfriend congratulating me for kissing you.”

 

“Oh god I was hoping you understood this because I’m so fucking lost.”

 

“Should… did I do something wrong?” Rory seemed bewildered. “I feel like this is a good thing, if you’re kissing somebody you can probably make friends, and then we don’t have to fight?”

 

“You… really are a dog,” Aoife marveled, but at least seemed significantly less angry than she had. “Well yeah!”

 

Jenna is completely bewildered, alas. ‘…I- I missed something somewhere I just know I did.”

 

“Haha, like what?” Grin.

 

“Shit, I don’t know.  … I don’t know.” Aoife – or Rory – may realize that Jenna has actually started to blue screen mentally. Less due to a lack of understanding, and more at the fact that nothing she expected to happen today was polite enough to actually happen.

 

“Okay. Listen. Eefuh. I don’t wanna beat you up. Jenna don’t wanna beat you up. But I also don’t want you to stab me. Again. Do you wanna beat me up and stab me? Are ya planning on doing that?”

 

“Well I don’t want to, but if I don’t, Tom—”

 

“What if we take care of Tom? You keep Sean distracted, we run Tom O’Bedlam outta town. You get Pete and Billy and Grom back, you leave us alone, you leave poor Pete’s kid alone, you got yer friends and yer gang back.”

 

“…what?”

 

“You get Sean’s attention. We chase Tom out. We leave each other alone. No beatings. Everybody kisses Jenna. Good?”

“what.”

“Uh—hmm.”

 

“That’s what I offer-” She pauses. She stares at Aoife. She stares for a length of time that threatens to become awkward, before she finally realizes the fundamental difference between what Rory said and what she said. And no, it isn’t, ‘we all kiss jenna’ “..I didn’t use my words when I was trying to explain it, did I.”

 

“No. You didn’t.” Aoife scratches her head, “but if that’s what you meant… um. I guess I can… I guess I can do that?”

 

Rory beamed proudly.

 

“Yes!” Jenna blurts. “That’s- That’s what I meant. … I don’t want to fight you. That’s… that’s the whole point, why I knocked. … I don’t.” Well there’s that and ‘I still desperately want to kiss your stupid face’ but that seems readily apparent by now. And if it isn’t? WELL. They can deal.

 

“I don’t wanna fight you either.” Sigh. “I don’t… I missed you, kitty. I don’t actually wanna drive you away again. Even though it probably seems like I do.”

 

Rory looked way too pleased about the emotional scene taking place.

 

“…I wanted to say sorry. But – But the couple times before that I saw you.. And the look you gave me…” She stares at her own lap, picking at her jeans. “…it’s nice to talk to you proper, Sunshine.”

 

“Heeeee,” Rory tittered. “Should I give the two of you spaaaaace. To get reacquaaaaainted.”

 

“Oh my fuckin’ God, Rory.”

 

“Okay no, that’s too weird. What are you.”

 

“Ha ha, what?”

 

“It’s a valid question to be honest.”

The Pet Shop Girls: So Now What

THE NEXT DAY

 

SMS message log from: Aoife Dooley

 

well, none of us can reach Tom.

 

What’s that supposed to mean?

 

It means none of us can reach Tom, christ

Pause. Typing.

He won’t answer phone, text, e-mail. Isn’t answering the door to his apartment.

 

Oh. … Any ideas as to why? I mean I’m pretty sure we’re both thinking the same thing, but humor me.

 

You took out Billy, Pete, and Grom in one day, and he don’t trust me and Sean by ourselves. I doubt he’s outright scared, but Tom ain’t stupid. He’s gonna hang back and regroup.

 

Should probably try to find him before he manages that. Ugh. Now what?

 

Well that sort of depends on what you want to happen now. We should probably talk that over in person.

 

Yeah, sure. Come on over.

 

Pause.

 

To your place?

 

Does that not work?

 

No its fine

 

Send me a maptag

 

JENNA AND RORY’S APARTMENT

 

Jenna looked up from her phone, returning attention to her immediate surroundings. It was a bit chilly in the place, especially since Rory had the kitchen windows open in order to broil steak without setting off the smoke alarm.

 

The dog girl was singing some kind of folk song whose lyrics Jenna couldn’t quite make out due to the generalized din in the kitchen.

 

Up she got, ambling (because it really was more of an amble than anything else) to the doorway to the kitchen and peered around the corner. “Aoife is coming over – Tom’s gone to ground, so we’re gonna see what we can figure out.” She hesitated “–I mean. That- that is okay. Right?”

 

“Oh what Aoife!” Rory’s face lit up, and she turned to grin at Jenna from her crouch in front of the broiler drawer.. “Oh dang should I give you two some like private time? Is this a date? I can clear out—” glancing down at the broiler. “Um. Once the steak is done. And I’ve eaten it. Should I make extra steak?”

 

She deduced then, that she just wasn’t going to understand this, but shook her head. “I don’t- I don’t think it’s a date. We’re talking about tom. You know. Asshole gang leader? Convinced his buds to beat you senseless?”

 

“Hey c’mon I know who Tom O’Bedlam is, geez,” Rory said, looking mildly stung, “scuze me fer tryin’ ta wingman for ya.”

 

She opened her mouth. Made a faint, quizzical noise. … Nope. “..Uh- I- .. I dunno I guess I thought you misheard me or something…”

 

“Nah. If Tom’s wise, we’re just gonna have to keep ears to the ground until he’s back. Sortin’ stuff with yer ex is way more important right now.”

 

“I have the distinct feeling that when I get the door, I will come back to the kitchen, and you will have like. Snuck out the fire escape or something.”

 

“If you want moral support, I can stick around!” Rory grinned again. “But if you need me out, um, the secret word is…” She fell silent, trying to think of a secret word.

 

Jenna stared at Rory, flabbergasted by this point. She still kind of felt like Rory should be, if not livid, at least not gleefully accepting this. That just confused her. “…uh.” she should probably not participate in this particular exercise, though.

 

“Pizza!” Rory slammed her fist into an open palm. “So if you say ‘pizza’, I’ll make an excuse an’ make myself scarce.”

“What if I just really want pizza though?”

 

“Oh dang, good point. Um. What’s… what’s something we both don’t like.” Rory pulled open the broiler drawer and grabbed a two-pronged fork from the counter, prodding at the steaks briefly before turning them over.

 

“You know we really don’t – need to – figure this out this probably isn’t gonna be an issue?” Jenna offered this as though it would somehow stop Rory from trying to devise code words.

 

“How come?” Rory blinked. “Don’t ya… want to get back together with her?”

 

She flushed pink. “That’s not really the issue – the issue is trying to find a way to snare you-know-who before he has time to compensate.”

 

“Right sure but don’t ya?”

 

She was red now, and deigned not to respond. It was kinda hard to tell, even for Rory if she was annoyed, embarrassed, or both.

 

Rory frowned, sighed, and stood up to her full slightly-taller-than-Jenna height. “I know yer still inta her, Jeh, and she wants to know where she stands with ya.”

 

Why do people want to talk about feelings. Worse, why do they want to talk about her feelings? Ugh. she did what she always does. She responded to the part that she could. “..Jeh?’

 

That elicited a sheepish ear-scratch. “It’s hard to come up with ways to shorten yer name.”

 

She squinted, green eyes narrowing. “…you- .. You could just. Call me Jenna.” There was an odd note in her voice, too, aside from her usual What Accent Is It Today sort of deal.

 

“I… guess.” Rory’s face fell as if Jenna had just told her that she’d just lost her job at the happiness factory.

 

“..do- do you not-” She blinked. And she stared at Rory. “…I think I misunderstood,” she says, slowly – kind of the same way she says ‘thank you’, although there’s slightly less implied knife-twisting.

 

“…there’re no good ways to shorten my name. No. Um. ..I always kinda figured it was short enough.”

 

“Yeah, but, like, nicknames are real important for best friends o-or partners or girlfriends or whatever,” Rory said all that pretty fast, as if trying to sneak it by Jenna somehow, “an’ like. Aoife calls you kitty, so I like. I shouldn’t use that?”

 

“Yeah. Hence ‘I misunderstood.’” She fussed with an ear … There aren’t many choices for a nickname for her, but she still tries to think of one. After a moment of kind of staring into space, she says. “Y’could just make a new name entirely? I mean. You don’t have a lot to work with here, unless you’re confident you can do something with my last name.”

 

Rory nodded slowly. “I’ll, um. I’ll think about it.” She sniffed the air. “Oh geez I’m gonna overdo the steaks.”

 

And then she was back at the broiler, opening it, prodding the steaks, spearing them and shoveling each one onto a plate. For the moment, the interaction was forgotten.

 

And for one short moment, Jenna’s eyes land on Rory, and something like apprehension crosses her face. She quietly says, “Uh. Enjoy yourself, huh?” and finds something to go busy herself with. …probably the fishing channel.

 

Jenna hadn’t been sitting for long when the doorbell to the apartment chimed.

 

She hopped up out of her chair, opened the door. “Hiii~”

 

Aoife had dressed up. On anyone else, the look would have come across as strictly, perhaps aggressively casual: a camisole, jeans, and a bomber jacket. But the cami was nice and the jeans were freshly laundered. There’d been an effort made.

 

She offered Jenna a nervous, lopsided smirk. “Hey.”

 

Jenna gave Aoife a similarly lopsided sort of grin. “Hey. You- ..” She paused. “I haven’t seen that jacket in forever.” … well of course you haven’t, Jenna. You dunce. “‘S nice to see you. Um. C’mon in.” She stepped aside.

 

She’s watching the fishing channel again, Aoife. She really has a problem.

 

“The least you could do with a guest coming over is turn off your porn,” Aoife said. “Nice place.”

 

“areyouseriously – Why are you gonna give me guff for my taste in television! – and yeah I thought it was pretty nice. That’s. That’s why I live here now. Also it was cheap. Mostly it was cheap.

 

“Well, like. It’s Boston Nice, y’know?”

 

“Heyyy!” That floppy-eared head appeared around the corner to the kitchen. “Aoife! Welcome to the house! You want a steak?”

 

“Nah, I ate.” Visibly nonplussed ex-girlfriend is nonplussed. “Smells real good though.”

 

If one were being honest, Rory is probably the only one who isn’t nonplussed. Jenna plopped down on the couch and kind of shrugged. “Well. How we wanna go ‘bout this thing?”

 

MAYBE if she tries real hard to keep on task she can avoid every uncomfortable conversation.

 

All of them. Forever.

 

“To be honest, Tom is real good at scrambling his trail, so mostly we gotta keep our ears to the ground and our noses in the air.” Aoife took the space on the other side of the couch, leaving a space ominously open between her and Jenna. “Best thing we can do is try to make sure he can’t pick the Boys back up when he shows.”

 

“…Ughhhhhh. This fuckin’ guy.” She huffed. “Alright. That shouldn’t be too hard.” She shrugged again, looking over at Aoife. “I mean, they’re pretty willing to listen to you, right? Or at least worried about ending up on the shit list again?”

 

“They don’t take me too serious, but I bet they don’t wanna fuck with you any more than they got to. At the very least, with Tom gone they got nobody pushing ’em to go after you. If I take word back that you’ll stop stalking ’em, they’ll probably agree to leave you alone for now.”

 

“Tell them that if they wind up listening to Tom again, that I can be a lot less nice.” Aoife of course, knows that Jenna proooobably wouldn’t seriously hurt someone if she could help it. The rest of the boys have plenty of reason to think that she was, in fact, being nice, is what she figures. “…But yeah. Alright. That works. Uh. Anything else you think we should take care of?’

 

Aoife shrugged, face nervous, smelling a bit like peaches. How did she not notice peaches. “I mean. I dunno.”

 

Rory poked her head out of the kitchen and gave meaningful glances to Jenna, then mouthed the word ‘pizza?’

 

She sort of quirked a brow. … Then internally sighed, because Rory had it in her head, and what the hell was she gonna do about that? A tiny, barely-perceptible shrug.

 

Big thumbs up. And then… the sound of somebody on the fire escape God Dammit Rory

God Dammit Rory.

“You okay?” Aoife asked.

 

“Y-yeah.” She smiled. “So um.” Was she always this awkward? … She wasn’t sure. She just knew she had no idea what to say.

 

“Can I—” awkward pause. Sigh. “I don’t wanna offend your roommate or anything but can we talk privately?”

 

“Go ahead.” She gives it a second, then adds, “Didja hear that clanging? Yeah. She decided we should do that too.”

 

That drew an explosive exhalation from Aoife. “What’s your deal with her?”

 

“I dunno.” Shrug.”I- I really really don’t. I’m sort of confused? I kissed her. But we never declared anything, we never like… went anywhere, and when I told her you were coming over, she asked if it was a date and sounded like that was the coolest idea ever.”

 

She fussed with a few locks of hair, tug-tug– oops. Old, bad habit. “…Does that make sense to you?”

 

“Yeah, but… what is she to you?” There were unasked questions behind her queries that Jenna could all but hear aloud.

 

“…I- I’m not real sure. I couldn’t really figure it out. It was. Nice to kiss her. But that just felt nice?” She’s trying, and Aoife knows that feelings talk and Jenna just don’t mix, but it may not be explanatory enough to be anything more than annoying.

 

Beat.

 

“I want you back.”

 

Tug-tug-tug- “… Y-you do- i mean- after-” She stares at the floor. “…After what I did…?’

 

An uncertain nod. A pause. Then another nod, and several more, growing more certain.

 

‘I – don’t. Understand?” Jenna wishes she knew what was going on, and part of her was vaguely annoyed that Rory was right. Because of course she was.

 

“Why… why not?”

 

“…I was shitty to you. You didn’t … really, deserve… y’know. What I did.” She makes a vague, frustrated noise. “…But you do. You’re sure?”

 

“Yeah, you were. And I didn’t deserve it.” Yeesh Aoife you didn’t have to agree so readily. “So… don’t do it again. Don’t ghost on me. Talk to me. Tell the dog girl that it was just a kiss and you’re taken now. Promise you’ll do me right and yeah, I’m sure.”

 

She finally catches on that yes, she’s pulling on her hair and damn it she was doin’ good for a while there. Both hands find their way to Jenna’s lap, and she kind of just makes a noise. “…Can I ask somethin’?”

 

“Yeah,” Aoife sidled closer on the couch.

 

“You – .. You knew where I worked. I didn’t change that.” Her mouth keeps moving for a moment, but the actual question goes unspoken, a little swallow that does nothing to help her speech or her nerves as close as she comes.

 

“That ain’t a question, kitty.”

 

“..you’re- gonna make me?” A faint smile. Of course Aoife is. ‘…F-fine. Um. Why. Didn’t… why didn’t you find me?”

 

“You blocked my calls. You ignored me.” Aoife looks at the floor. “I figured you didn’t wanna be found.”

 

“..I- I guess I figured it would just make you mad – and. You’d come yell at me and we could finally talk about it, and I wouldn’t just get brushed off. … and then a week. A month…”

 

“I can’t brush you off if you don’t try to reach out none, kitty.”

 

“..I – I did. Remember? When you first got tangled up with ‘em? I looked for outs for you. I found some. And what did you say…?”

 

“That… that I wasn’t gonna give up the first thing that’d ever made me feel like I was a part of somethin’.”

 

“…So I didn’t know what to do. That was all you told me, that was all I could get from you. …s-so I – So I tried something dumb.” She laughs, and it’s bitter, and is more of a mockery of joy than anything. “…And-” She gestures vaguely at Aoife. “Here we are.”

 

“Yeah,” Aoife says, then sighs. “Is this dumb? Should I not be doin’ this?”

 

“I uh. I haven’t told you to get out yet, right?” She tries to smile – one of those rare actual smiles. It lasts a second or two, before faltering. “…imean. Idon’t- think it’s dumb.”

 

Aoife gets a little closer. “Okay, well… how bout it? Are you mine or what?”

“Um- uh. … I- I’m inclined to make sure Rory won’t decide to grind our bones for bread, but fuck it.” She scoots over, hugging Aoife tight.

 

Aoife returned the hug, then pulled back and drew Jenna into a deep kiss, pushing her down against the arm of the couch.

 

There was a faint, pleased hum, and Jenna traced her fingers down Aoife’s arm, catching one of her hands and brushing her thumb over the back of it.

 

The kiss lingered for almost a full minute until Aoife broke it, lopsidedly smirking as she looked into Jenna’s eyes.

 

“God damn, but I missed you, kitty.”

 

“Missed you too, d-” She trailed off. Dork? Doofus? Is she that bad at terms of endearment? Yes, she is, and everyone knows it. So she grinned broad, and murmured, “..Yeah. Missed you too.”

 

“Y’know, ‘sunshine’ would work just fine.” Aoife smirked, then dove in for another kiss.

 

A half hour later, there were metal noises from the fire escape.

 

Aoife broke the kiss and pulled her hand out of Jenna’s shirt. “Shit, is that your—”

 

Blank stare. “Oh uh shi- yeah it – yeah that’s probably her,” she said after a few blinks and properly interpreting the question. Rory why.

 

Just as Aoife managed to right herself and not look like she’d been on top of Jenna for the past however long, Rory’s curly-haired head poked around the corner of the kitchen. She was grinning. “Heyy, how you two doing?”

 

Jenna shrugged. “Well, you know. Things are fine? Hi?” she did her very, very best to at least seem like she was cool, fine, and all that nice stuff. She was very good at it – but given her previous reactions, she doesn’t seem to realize it’s something of a give-away.

 

Aoife shot a Look at Jenna. Rory winked. “I can tell! Well don’t mind me, I just, uh, kinda got hungry.”

 

She didn’t seem to catch the look. “..wait what can we tell?”

 

“That things are fiiiiine.” Wink.

 

Aoife nudged Jenna’s thigh and jerked her head toward Rory, her face in a light scowl like aren’t you going to tell her?

 

Aoife you are trying to rush a cat you know better by now. (should she actually, though. Learning things?) She clears her throat at the nudge though. Opened her mouth. Promptly forgot what she was going to say. “So- uh.-” who invented speech, and why couldn’t she find them to kick their ass.

 

“You’re back together, right?” Rory clapped her hands together, her tail wagging a mile a minute. “You were kissin’, right? Oh, I’m so happy for you! That’s awesome.”

 

Oh no hesitating only made her feel – aptly enough – like she was about to kick a puppy. “..ummm. Y…es.” Another pause. “…And by extension uh. I- …probably should not-” …Jenna you could have been more delicate you idiot “..beeee. Kissing. You.”

 

“Haha, what?” One second. Two. There. The moment that Jenna could watch a light die behind Rory’s eyes, her smile going from animated and lively to a stale husk hanging on her face. “Oh! Right! That, uh, that’s a thing, ain’t it? Ha ha!” Oof wow her laugh sounded awful. She was still smiling, Rory, why.

 

Aoife put her arm around Jenna.

 

Jenna’s knee jerk response was run away and never stop. Aoife probably felt the teeny twitch before she caught herself. The jerkass that invented speech was now below the jerkass that invented feelings on the list of people who needed to be hurt.  “…okay sit down Rory.”

 

“What? Why?” The edge of Rory’s mouth twitched, and her eyes seemed a little bit shinier than usual. “Hey, listen, it’s fine! So we gotta stop kissing, so what! We’re still best friends, ain’t we? So I got nothing to complain about!” Rory your voice just hitched.

 

Oh my God. Why can’t people just not. Everything happening right now was a result of people failing to Just Not. Even her. (But mostly those two.) “Rory,” she repeated. “Sit down. Okay? Juuust for a little.”

 

“No, listen! It’s fine! I’m, uh,” fuck that was a tear get it Rory okay she got it, “I think maybe those steaks didn’t… agree with me? Ha ha! Betrayed by meat! Can ya believe it? I gotta go! Lie down! For a minute.”

 

Four huge strides carried her to the door of her room and through it, and then the door slammed with enough noise to feel it in your ribs.

Jenna’s ears promptly flattened and she winced a little.

“Ha ha! Sorry!” From behind the door. A pause. Then, irish rock ballads. Loud.

 

“Christ, that was awkward,” Aoife grimaced.

 

Fucking shit.” It was just short of a pretty unjennalike snarl. “..ugh god damn it.” She frowned sharply. “I don’t get it. Christ.”  She stared at Rory’s door, then shrugged, huffing (angrily? Upset? Who knows. Not Jenna.)

 

“She’ll get over it,” Aoife consoled. “It’s rough getting turned down when you’re as into somebody as she’s into you. But this shit happens and she’ll get past it.”

 

“..Wait. What? She just said it was a crush. That seems kind of … like an exaggeration when it comes to what I heard.”

 

Snort. “You are such garbage at reading people, kitty.”

 

“What.” Jenna just looked lost. “I am not. I’m very good at it.”

 

“But you believed that girl when she said she just had a crush on you. Even though she’s looking at you all the time. Even though she can’t be away from you for a half hour without missing you and wanting to come back. Even though she nearly had a breakdown in front of us. Like, she’ll be fine, but that ain’t no crush. C’mon.”

 

“Oh my god, Aoife. Why would you tell me th- sonofabitch.” She seems a bit distressed, yes. Aoife, you are giving someone with the emotional range of a teaspoon even more things to deal with.

 

“Look. It’s fine.” Aoife shrugged. “I know her type, all right? She wants to support you. She’ll need a few days to herself, be a little down for another week, then she’ll be right as rain and you’ll be best friends again. You did the right thing.”

 

She opened her mouth. Closed it. Opened. “…fuckin’-” she repeated, like a record skipping. “..I mean. You’re. Probably. Right. I still don’t feel all that good about it.”

 

“Sure. It’s hard to let a friend down.” Aoife hugged her tight. “You wanna get out of the house for a minute? Grab some food?”

 

“Um. Not really – all that. Hungry.” Jenna shrugged, but she did lean into Aoife, and the hug.

 

“D’you just want some time to yourself?”

 

Jenna visibly hesitated, then asked, “..you sure you don’t mind?”

 

Aoife smirked. “I waited for years to be your girlfriend again. Now I am. I can handle giving you a little space.”

 

“…still ain’t sure why you waited years.” She reached out, squeezing Aoife’s hand. “..Alright, yeah. I’ll talk to you soon.”

 

A couple of minutes later, Jenna was alone in the apartment den while slightly muffled celtic rock music played.

 

…does- Does she say sorry? How do you say sorry? She laughed to herself, almost amused, realizing that Rory had yet again, managed to blind-side her. Why’s the dog gal gotta be so earnest?

 

…She should at least try. She hesitated, then before she could reconsider (or say, consider leaping out the window and moving to Alaska, maybe, or Costa Rica), stepped smartly and knock-knock-knocked on Rory’s door.

 

Jenna’s knock heralded a minor racket, the sound of something crashing to the ground, a thump.

 

“I’m—not decent!” Rory sounded pretty awful.

 

“Can you get decent?”

 

“Um,” came the reply. A moment later the music got a bit quieter. “I… I dunno. Shouldn’t you be hangin’ out with your girlfriend?”

 

Jenna considered this. Slowly, quietly tested the door to see if it’d open. “…She left. I want to talk to you.”

 

It wasn’t locked. Rory never locked her door. But as it swung open, the dog girl, still on her bed and hidden from view, blurted: “No!! Wait!!!”

 

She probably timed that about as well as she timed most things, meaning she said “No wait,” After Jenna had stepped through. “..Oh c’mon, Rory, we’re both girl-” … Wait. No. That doesn’t work at all.

 

She did not think her words through.

 

While it might yet be true that Rory was not ‘decent’ in that she was only ever so suitable for delicate company, she was not actually unclothed. Curled into a ball at the head of her bed, clutching a soaked pillow in which she was currently hiding her face, surrounded by ripped up pieces of paper, the Hound of Fort Point was a truly pathetic sight.

 

Jenna settled at Rory’s bedside. Close enough to the edge that if Rory didn’t want her there, Rory could make that readily apparent without needing to say. Throw her. Which would end not well.

 

‘Least for Jenna. “…Hey, dog gal,” she said quietly.

 

“I wasn’t crying!” Rory whined into the pillow.

 

“..I never said ya were.” … Rory why.

 

“I wasn’t crying,” Rory croaked into the pillow in a voice that said, I am currently crying.

 

Why. Why – oh god she is not qualified for tears. She hesitates (It’s more of a freeze really). Then slowly, like maybe Rory is scalding-to-the-touch, lays a hand on Rory’s shoulder. “..D’ya want me to – um. To go?”

 

“Yeah,” Rory’s voice was still muffled by the pillow, but even weepy dog girls are loud enough to hear pretty clearly. “…w-wait, no. No I… yes? No? I… I dunno…”

 

“Oka-” ..Pause. Okay. Rory was still deciding. “If you want me to go, Rory, I will. Otherwise, we can talk. We can take all the time you need for everything you wanna say – or we can just sit here. Just tell me what to do.” It wasn’t quite what she wanted to say, but the phrase ‘tell me how to help’ probably made Jenna ill.

 

Beat. “…I’m sorry.”

 

“What. Why are you- sorry?”

 

Rory gently raised her face. Red eyes, tear-streaked flushed cheeks, runny nose: this’d been a bad one.

 

“Because. I ruined your date, and I made stuff weird with my stupid feelings and now you feel crappy because you hate having to talk to people about emotions but you want to help but I’m just a big dumb idiot who can’t control herself.”

 

“You’re right. I absolutely do hate talking about feelings, and you absolutely are a big dumb idiot.” Jenna stop. “…Now gimme a hug you big dumb idiot, because you matter, and I care and I’m really bad at this but I want to help you.”

 

“I know you care.” Rory hugged the pillow close, as if trying to crush it until it became a gravity well that would swallow her up, “that’s why I’m tryin’ ta stay outta yer way. I want you to b-be happy.”

 

“…an’ I wanna help you so as you can see we are at an impasse, Rory.”

 

“Oh.” Rory snuffled, then let go of the pillow and looked at it, then the paper shreds, as if noticing the mess for the first time. “What… what should I do, then?”

 

“What can I do,” Jenna asked, her tone slipping just so to suggest that’s what she’d been asking all along.

 

Rory looked confused. “There’s—I don’t know what you could do, yanno? I’m just… sad. Sometimes things happen and you get sad, that’s… just the way it is.”

 

“…Yeah but there has to be something that’ll at least distract you for a little bit. We could. … netflix the times the Sox made the playoffs? …isthatathing?”

 

“Not… really? Sports reruns just ain’t…” Rory shrugged. “Jenna, when I’m around you what I think about is you. Sure I get distracted if there’s a live game, or food, but that’s like. I dunno.”

 

Jenna opens and closes her mouth. “Um,” is all she manages after several attempts.

 

“I didn’t mean to, okay?” Rory mumbled, looking away. “I wasn’t s’posed to.”

 

“..I don’t understand- .. Didn’t mean to? Supposed to whatnow?”

 

Rory stuffed her face back into the pillow. “Are you really gonna make me say it.”

 

“…I’m going to guess. I don’t think that was in the agreement you signed though- I – I guess I’m just trying to say you don’t need to feel bad about that and oh my god I’m the worst

 

“Stop!” When Rory raised her head, fresh tears were streaming from her eyes. “You’re not the worst! Don’t talk about my best friend that way! You’re fine, you didn’t do anything wrong, I’m just—” She gesticulated helplessly, unable to find words.

 

“I just want to do something for you. C’mon, there has to be something, right?”

 

Their eyes met. Rory snuffled, then looked away. “I, um. You’re. You’re happy with her, right?”

 

“..I was before. I – don’t se- ah fuck.”

 

“Okay.” Rory nodded firmly, her jaw set, her expression determined. “If being with Aoife makes you happy, an’ you can’t be with her without bein’ exclusive, that’s… that’s the best possible outcome. That’s what makes Jenna happy, and when Jenna is happy, Rory’s happy too.” It was like witnessing a pep talk from Rory to Rory.  

 

“…ain’t relationships ‘sclusive by like. Definition?” She squinted. “..Well I mean, no I know they’re not. Just. … I dunno. I figured it’s probably just not fair after a certain point, like. Someone would always be third wheel?”

 

Rory snuffled. “Why?”

 

“..I dunno. I just figured that’s what would happen. ‘S like when two friends who are dating have a friend along who ain’t? ‘Cept now you’re all dating but-” She throws her hands up. “I dunno! Now you’re askin’ it doesn’t make that much sense.”

 

“If Aoife don’t wanna… share you, ain’t the point moot though?”

 

“…I s’pose. Ugh. This’s all way more complex than I wanted today to be.”

 

“I’m sorry,” said the dog, whose fault all of this was and who should probably just go away foreverrrrrr

 

“…yes. Well.” Jenna paused. Thought. “…I could go make you fish-sticks. The good ones.” Jenna is trying. One must assume, at least.

 

Rory… didn’t respond to that.

 

… fuck.

 

“…Rory?” Jenna stopped musing and thinking and just – looked to Rory, a completely unsubtle and very visible frown tugging at her lips.

 

“I’ll be okay,” Rory hugged her knees. “Please don’t worry about me.”

 

…Jenna crept closer. “Rory.”

 

“I said I’ll be fine,” Rory shoved her face under her folded arms. “I’m not right now but I’ll… I’ll get over y—it.”

 

“I know you’ll be fine. I know you will. I just-” …And suddenly, Jenna wasn’t so close. “..nevermind. I’ll just go.” And then – she had done just that, quietly closing the door behind her.

 

The apartment was eerily quiet for the rest of that night.

The Pet Shop Girls: Now Lie In It

RORY & JENNA’S APARTMENT
SOUTH BOSTON

 

The next day, when Jenna woke up, no one was making steak or fish sticks. No one was singing folk songs at the top of her lungs, and no one was blaring Carbon Leaf or Dropkick Murphys. No one was taking up the entire couch, blocking Jenna’s sun.

 

Rory’s door was open, like she usually left it. She’d cleaned up the mess from last night, as well as the clutter that she usually left around. Her dirty clothes were all in a hamper, her clean ones put away. Her bed was made. It was like someone else had stayed there.

 

The kitchen was clean, too. Pristine. Someone had even taken a magic eraser to the stovetop, evidently.

 

It was… eerie, to say the very least. So much so that Jenna nearly leapt out of her skin when her phone vibrated with a text.

 

“…AUGHSHIT” It turns out Jenna swears a lot more when frustrated or alarmed than anyone really anticipated.  She’s gonna take the vibratey thing out of her phone she swears. It gets her every single time. … Anyhow. Who’s textin’. Why? Let’s find out!

 

From: Aoife Dooley

Hey are you working tonight

 

I’m working every night. I never don’t work, Sunshine.

 

Beat.

 

Are you working now, then

 

No. I was thinking about it. What’s up?

 

Wanna grab a bite

 

“Wanna grab a bite” was Aoife for “I want a date, preferably one that ends in sex.” If she’d said “wanna get coffee,” that meant that she wanted a date that ended with everybody going home. If she’d said “wanna come over,” well, that was just a straight-up booty call.

 

As it was, evidently she wanted a date. A real one. And she’d be cranky if she didn’t get it within a few days.

Sure. I can call off. They made me come in last friday so pfft. Tonight works.

 

Jenna was kinda curious to see if dates still.. Felt the same, and for once, she was seized by a sort of impatience – she needed to know, and she needed to know soon.

 

Ok. You still like Legal?

 

Maybe we should go somewhere nicer, sunshine? Like a celebration thing – if not, Legal will work juuust fine. <3

 

Did she just Emoji?

 

Heh

 

Ok fair enough.  Irasshai?

 

As a quality mid-range sushi place and a local East Boston favorite, Irasshai was about as fancy as Aoife was ever likely to get.

 

Fishfishfishfishfishfish

 

ONE HOUR LATER

 

Aoife was ‘dressed up’ again. On someone with less roguish good looks, going to a nice sushi place in jeans and a cami might be frowned upon, but… Aoife got away with it. She got away with a lot, just by virtue of her guts. She’d never been afraid to ask for what she wanted. Still wasn’t.

 

Lopsided smirk. “You look good.”

 

Jenna followed a philosophy: That Aoife had a enough bluster for two. That and you really can’t poke holes into too many kinds of bottoms, so she settled on a knee-length skirt and a fairly nice, fashionable blouse.

 

“I look exactly like you’d expect someone who loves sushi to look.”

 

“What does that even mean.”

 

She flicked her tail. “..I’m literally a catgirl, sugar. Could I be any more stereotypical?”

 

“I don’t give a fuck,” Aoife waved it off, “you like what you like. When I said you look good, I mean you look good. You’re hot.”

She laughed. “Okay, Okay. I’m fine with that.” She held out a hand. “Well, take me places~”

 

“Oh, I’ll take you,” Aoife replied with a devilish smirk, and took Jenna’s hand.

 

“…oh m’god Aoife,” she mumbled, a flustered little rush of color making it readily apparent she was not particularly annoyed, for once.

 

As she led Jenna down the stairs: “I’ll take you on the kitchen counter, I’ll take you tied to the bed, I’ll take you standing up, I’ll take you in the shower…” This was not the first instance of the ‘I’ll take you places’ game, but it’d been years since Jenna had been subjected to it.

 

And it had … precisely the effect it had always had. A slowly reddening Jenna, her fingers entwining with Aoife’s, and squeezing – after a bit of fumbling to make sure she wasn’t digging her nails – which honestly were more like claws – into poor Aoife’s hand.

 

The lascivious grin that Aoife shot back indicated that she didn’t much mind; in fact, maybe she missed it. She continued the game, turning forward and continuing your trip down the stairs. “I’ll take you on the floor. I’ll take you in a hotel. I’ll take you in a public park. I’ll take you—”

 

A tall, curly-haired figure ran up the stairs past them, taking the stairs four at a time.

 

There was an awkward pause.

 

It was – kind of awkward, yeah. She glanced once, to see if Rory had seemed to notice (of course she had, a part of her grumbled.) Jenna didn’t stop entirely, but, there was a little second where she probably had to be tugged to remember to keep pace.

 

Aoife sighed, and it looked for a moment like she was going to inquire further about Rory, but after a moment of consideration, she just continued down the stairs. The ‘Take you places’ game, however, was over for the moment.

 

An hour later, they were seated at a moderately tasteful, moderately priced, and fairly dang decent quality sushi place, looking over the menu. They’d managed to snag a booth, and the pall from having run into Rory had mostly lifted.

 

“What are you thinkin’ yer gonna get?” Aoife asked.

 

It had mostly lifted indeed. Jenna was still a bit quiet, but that could be put down to far, far more than just passing Rory.

 

“My current plan involves closing my eyes and pointing at the menu,” she said with a grin. “‘Cause like, I can’t see anything I’d really object to- How ‘bout you?”

 

“I can’t do the heavy shit like you can,” Aoife said, making a face. “Uni or whatever? And the salmon skin one? Pass. I’m gonna get the combo.”

 

She poked her tongue out at Aoife. “You’re missin’ ouuuut~”

 

“I’ve tried ’em. I ain’t missing out on nothin I don’t wanna miss out on. ‘Sides, more for you, right?”

 

“I guess but come on, Sunshine! It’s real good stuff!”

 

“Takes all sorts,” Aoife shook her head. “So. Tell me bout yer day. How you been?”

 

“Uh. Fine, I guess. I woke up? Did a lot of nothing. Sunned myself. Annnnd then you called?”

 

“Your stories are always so fascinating, kitten,” Aoife teased.

 

“It’s been a while since I’ve had any interesting stories to tell,” Jenna said. Shrugged. “…I mean. I bartend. So..”

 

Aoife set her menu down, placed both elbows on the table, laced her fingers, and rested her chin on them. “You have no interesting stories to tell. Really.”

 

She shrugged. “Um. Whaddaya wanna hear? I might have something.”

 

“Ain’t you doing, like, real superhero shit these days? Made the local papers. The Pet Shop Girls, you and your roommate.”

 

Jenna shrugs. “Y’all really that interested in hearing how I boss Rory around and make her do everything?”

 

“Yeah, fine, I guess not. Guess I was sort of wondering what vigilante do-gooding was like. I could never understand why nobody got into it.”

 

“Uh. I like chasing pe- thingsisaidthings, this makes it acceptable, and also? You get free stuff.”

 

“Huh.”

 

If Aoife had further questions, they were set aside as the waiter approached to take their order.

 

“Well, that was fun,” Jenna said cheerfully as they headed out of the restaurant. “Nnnnow what.”

 

“Well, I heard that you wanna be taken,” Aoife said. “… places.”

 

“Oh my God, Aoife.” She laughed, though. “…Maybe. But we still got a walk. A parkin’ lot just sounds unfun.”

 

Smirk. “If you say so. My place, then?”

 

“Yeah that-” Pause. “Yeah. That’ll do fiiiine.”

 

“You called out, yeah? Think I can convince you to stay the night?”

 

“You miiiight~ I’ll take a lot of convincing.”

 

Jenna felt a hand on her shoulder, then Aoife turned her, and took both shoulders in her hands, and shoved her against the wall of the building. As Aoife smirked up at her face, Jenna felt the shorter girl’s knee pressing between hers. She leaned in and whispered:

 

“Good. I like convincing you.”

 

She yelped quietly – not surprised, not quite. But Aoife liked the little noise, and she knew that. Jenna leant back against the brick facade, and laughed. “…Oh, I know you do.” Beneath her words there was a faint rumble.

 

Aoife smirked up at her for one moment more, then hooked a hand around the back of Jenna’s head, reared up, and bit her right on the slope between her neck and shoulder, above her collarbone. Her teeth weren’t as sharp as Rory’s, nor her jaw as strong, but Aoife had never bothered holding back and she didn’t do so now. She bit, hard, sending shooting pain through Jenna’s body as she broke the skin right away.

 

Jenna, at one point, thought she was just used to it. Now? Now, she was very forcefully reminded that she liked it. She canted her head a bit to the side, fingers tangling in Aoife’s hair and pressing down a little, a soft gasp dropping from her lips. “Mh. Not wasting time, I see,” she said, somehow managing a teasing tone.

 

“Lotta catching up to do.”

 

THREE HOURS LATER

AOIFE’S TOWNHOUSE

 

Two girls, naked, glistening with sweat, splayed out in the moonlight. The smaller one was covered in pinprick marks, punctured by little fangs all over her shoulders and neck and thighs. One little mark, even, on one of her breasts. The taller, skinny one had teeth marks on her too, but they were blunter, and accompanied by spectacular bruising that would be highly visible the next day.

 

“I,” Aoife panted, “literally cannot,” pant, “remember.” Pant pant pant. “The last time I came that hard.”

 

Jenna snickered in the dark. “I could hazard a wild guess, Sunshine.” Fingers brushed through Aoife’s hair as Jenna settled in next to her. “So- … was it worth getting all prettied up and nice?”

 

“Mmm, well.” She ran her hand down Jenna’s arm, nails lightly raking it. “Maybe. You gonna stay with me tonight?”

 

“I thiiiink, maybe. Just maybe, you’ve convinced me,” she murmurs. “I figure I can make it into work even if I wake up late, so- Yeah.”

 

“I guess… I’d better convince you… some more.” Grinning, Aoife crawled on top of Jenna.

 

THE NEXT DAY

RORY AND JENNA’S APARTMENT

 

Jenna came home to an empty apartment again. Everything was so creepily clean.

 

There was, however, a note on the couch. It read:

Hey Jenna,
I used up a bunch of stuff in your first aid kit
Sorry! Will replace it. Hope your date was good!

Love, Rory

P.S. I made some broiled tilapia with capers,

have as much as you want! Okay bye

 

There was snoring coming from behind Rory’s partially-closed bedroom door, loud even for her.

Jenna hesitated. Bit her bottom lip. And then, she collected her first aid kit, peeked in on Rory. …because she remembers what a ‘good’ job Rory did last time.

 

The dog girl once again looked like shit. If anything, worse than she looked last time. Rory’s bandages were… better than they’d been last time, but there were a lot of them—she was just wearing a sports bra and gym shorts, and in addition to one eye being swollen shut, both were blackened, her nose was splinted, and she had several other massive bruises all over her body. In addition, she had tidy but bloodied bandages on her head, upper right arm, right thigh, side, and one on her chest extending down under the sports bra.

 

What did you do, Rory?

 

What did you do, Rory!? Jenna breathed out slow and quiet, and… Again, started from the top – undoing bandages, antiseptic applied and making sure the wounds weren’t too deep to be ignored – she skipped over Rory’s nose, not wanting to wake her up. .. But she checked over each and every bandage, hesitating and then skipping the one on the bra, because that felt a bit more invasive than the other ones.

 

Rory’s head wound was a contusion that had bled from the skin being torn due to impact. Knowing Rory, it would have taken an aluminum bat or worse to do that kind of damage. Her upper arm… wait.

 

This was a bullet wound.

 

Something caught Jenna’s eye, tucked just enough under the bed that she hadn’t seen it coming in. It was a white plastic plate, the kind that Rory kept around for when she didn’t want to deal with washing dishes. It was spattered with dried blood. On the plate were three little pieces of metal and a pair of tweezers, all covered in dried blood.

 

Rory…

 

She did two things then: The first, she calmly and methodically checked over each and every bandage once more, made absolutely sure that Rory seemed to be breathing okay. And then, she got up, closed Rory’s door and settled herself in front of it. She could wait.

 

After about an hour, she heard the snoring stop, replaced by pained whimpering and the creaking of bedsprings. Rory was up, though she didn’t seem to be inclined to leave the bed yet. Jenna heard some fumbling. Something hit the floor. “Fuckin’,” Rory muttered, then whined again.

 

Good ‘nuff. Rory’s door opened, and on the other side, of course, was Jenna. Surprised, Rory blinked at her, sitting up in bed and fumbling clumsily at her nightstand.

 

“Uh—”

 

Jenna walked over, put her hands on Rory’s shoulders (away from the bandages), and pushed her back down onto the bed. Even this gentle treatment resulted in Rory letting out a tiny whine of pain.

 

“Hi,” Jenna said.

 

“Hi?” Rory replied, confused.

 

“Hiya. Where ya goin’.”

 

“I was just gettin’ some painkillers from the nightstand,” Rory’s eyes flickered over to the nightstand, then back to Jenna.

 

And Jenna stepped light and quick to the nightstand, fishing about before she got her hands on the painkillers. She peered at Rory. Poured a couple into her hand and held them out. “Need water?” … kind of a dumb question. But she needed Rory to say something.

 

“Y-yeah.” Rory didn’t know what the hell to do. For some reason she hadn’t been expecting to be held accountable for her actions or whatever.

 

Jenna flashed her a small smile. And- She was gone for a moment, back with a tall glass of water, and a bowl of ice chips. “..I know you like chewin’ ‘em,” she offered sheepishly.

 

“Yh… y’don’t have to do this,” Rory mumbled, “I… I dressed my wounds, I’m mobile, I’ll be okay. It’s not a big deal, just a barroom brawl.” Lying. Lying so badly.

 

“I too, am frequently shot and beaten to high hell during barroom brawls, Rory.” She said this in a tone of utmost pleasantry. “..Now, are you going to tell me what really happened, or do I needa start looking?”

 

Rory fidgeted for a few seconds, then turned those pitiful puppy eyes up at Jenna. “I went heroing.”

 

“…yes. Yes, I put two and two together. Now – what happened. You’re not that clumsy. You were either outnumbered, bad, or…”..

 

Mopey shrug. “I dunno.”

 

“Rory. Please.”

 

“I was… I was drunk. When I went heroing.”

“…Rory I- wha-” She frowned. Then she scowled – but seemed to have run out of words.

 

Rory shrugged again. What excuse could she make, really?

 

“…an- and all you got is a shrug.” …. Jenna exhaled, sharp. Her ears twitched. Tail flicked. …And then the moment passed and it was gone, pushed down and buried. “…Okay,” she finally managed. “..Call if you need me,” and then she swept out.

 

For hours, Jenna heard nothing from Rory’s room but the occasional creak of bedsprings as she shifted her position. She didn’t emerge to cook or eat dinner. She didn’t play music. She didn’t come out to watch TV.

 

She was the kind of roommate that Jenna had wished for time and time again, growing up.

 

But wasn’t the one she wanted now. Which, of course. Of course that’s how that worked. …She didn’t know what to do, not quite. She concluded after some (attempted) reading that she was Rory’s problem.

 

So.. she broiled one of the steaks they still had. Brought it to Rory, and then without a word, turned and left. And kept leaving, because she needed a walk. Or.. something. She just couldn’t be in the funeral home that had suddenly replaced her house. Not anymore.