The Pet Shop Girls: Prelude

SOUTH BOSTON

 

“It’s unlocked.”

 

Opening the door, Rory found herself in an apartment: sparsely furnished, with carpeting that could be described as “unnecessarily plush,” along with a couch – set right in the sun – with a tanned, black-haired woman with a voice that was soft, monotone, and seemed to have a different, but equally slight accent every third word, helping her carry what few belongings she had inside.

 

After that, saying nothing more than “‘Kay, go… make yourself at home, I guess?” she flopped down on the couch. (She has not introduced herself, nor asked Rory’s name.)

 

“Aw, nice,” the new roommate drank in the surroundings with wide-eyed wonder. “Nice! Real nice! Aw it’s damn good to meetcha. I’m Rory, Rory O’Coyne. You knew that from the thing, though, yeah? Nice!”

 

The woman who’d barged into Jenna’s apartment and life was tall, and muscular, and animated, and had a presence best described as ‘invasively earnest’. Her shaggy, chin-length reddish-brown hair bounced with every step, and she flashed big teeth with every frequent grin. She also had an aggressive Southie accent, but that was sort of to be expected.

 

“Right, so, that’s my room right there? That one, with the nice bed and the clothes?”

 

Jenna laaaazily turned her head, the slowness of the motion making it look like it was quite the monumental effort. Her eyes narrowed. One ear twitched. “..Are those your clothes,” she asked flatly. “..Because I didn’t unpack them. And you didn’t unpack them. I think that answers that?” A bit of the rudeness was taken away by the fact she was simply so damned monotoned.

 

“Yeah, sure, I hear ya. So where is my room?” Rory turned, then, and her jacket shifted a little, and this big fluffy tail kinda came out, wagging rapidly with excitement. “I do get one, yeah? Ha ha!”

 

UGH. PEOPLE. Why can’t they just- UGH. Jenna slid off the couch, all liquid grace and dexterity. Not that Rory was looking. “Yeah okay. Follow me.” She was wearing a plain tee and plain slacks, muted, dull blue with a flash of pink on the shoulders and another similar flash on the hips.

 

She led the way into the kitchen. Gestured lazily. “Kitchen. Get food here.” “Ha ha, nice!” Pointed. “That’s the bathroom. And your room is…” And she just walked away, probably expecting Rory to just follow along.

 

Rory didn’t need to be asked, tailing Jenna.

 

There is a bed, and a wardrobe. The bed is a queen, leading to the question of A: How she got it in here, and B: how she managed to make it fit into the pretty cramped room with the wardrobe, without making it feel cramped. She’s a wizard.

 

“Here we are. How fancy.”

 

Wicked fancy! I love it!” The looming girl didn’t seem to be sarcastic. “Hey, pretty sweet ears! We kinda match some, yeah?” Another really toothy grin. Pointy toothy. Rory tilted her head, revealing a pair of partly-pointy, partly-floppy ears the same color as her hair poking through. “Like we’re meant to be together!”

 

Lazy yellow-green eyes drifted to the tail. The teeth. The ears. She thought for a moment – or just was debating on whether or not the commentary deserved an answer. It was hard to tell. “One-in-how-many-billion,” she drawled after her momentary pause. “Is it eight? Or nine?”

 

“Ha ha! I don’t fuckin’ know!” Rory seemed absolutely delighted that she did not know. “So you’re a para, right? You fight crime?” She dropped her army duffel on the floor of her new room with a distinct wham. How heavy was that thing?

 

She looked down at the duffle. Back up to Rory. “No. Why would I do that. Ah, yes. Stop evildoer. Or I will meow at you.”

 

“Nah,” Rory’s tail went whap whap whap against the doorframe, “well I mean yeah, sure, but it’s fun as hell! That’s a way better reason. Hey we could be a superhero team! Yeah? I mean I still gotta move in and all, but.”

 

Ear-twitch. “My idea of fun does not include drawn weapons or physical danger. All fine and well if yours does. I would not expect me to participate, though.” Jenna sighed. She was now stuck in this conversation. Why.

 

“Ah, fine. Well. You’ll come around. Ha! Damn, it’s kinda muggy in here. This weathah!” Rory shrugged off her coat and tossed it on the bed, then crossed both arms in front of her body.

 

Oh my god she was going to take her shirt off right here.

 

Jenna brushed right past her. She didn’t go terribly far, just leaning on the other side of the wall. “Anything else you need, Rory?”

 

“Thanks fer askin’! Didn’t mean to kick you out, just changin’ shirts.” “Yes. I couldn’t help but notice.” She emerged a moment later, her t-shirt replaced with a light tank top. “What are ya up ta? Can I take ya fer dinner? Feel like I ain’t hardly got to know ya yet!”

 

This was cutting into valuable napping and sitting in boxes time. Ugh. Okay. But it was food. … She tilted her head left. Right. Scratched one ear. “Where?” Yes. That was the determinant. Good idea, Jenna. Also rude.

 

Shrug. “I dunno. Where’s good? And isn’t, like, real damn expensive?”

 

“That depends on what you want to eat.” She listed off a few places that were within walking distance, started to list another one and then said “No. I work there. I don’t want to see those toolsheds.”

 

There was this awful moment where Rory smiled real big with all those teeth and for a split second, Jenna thought she saw text near the top of the screen reading Rory will remember that. Oh. oh no.

 

“Well damn, all you hadda do was mention that there’s a churrascaria within walking distance! Let’s hit the meat faucet! I could murder a dozen chicken hearts right now. It’s on me this time.”

 

“That sounds fine, I suppose.” She was sadly now aware of her error, but it was too late to do anything for it. A beat. “..chicken hearts.”

 

“Hell yeah!” Rory crossed to the door with long, heavy strides. “What, you ain’t never had Brazilian BBQ? It’s the shit! Juicy, tender steak! Three kinds a’ sausages! Chicken hearts. All the meat you can get inside ya.” Did she just gigglesnort?

 

“Yes. That will do nicely. I have no idea how expensive it is, since ah. I have never deigned to go. Generally, I cook here.” Somehow, someway, despite not seeming to even try, Jenna reached the door in short order. “I take it we’re going now.”

 

“Yeah, I could eat!” Rory said with the certainty of someone who could always, always eat, leading the way out the door. “Aw this is gonna be great. You and me, we’re gonna be best friends. Hey, you like to run? I run every morning.”

 

What terrified Jenna was how damned certain Rory sounded about them being best friends. “No. And please try not to make much of a ruckus in the morning. I need my beauty sleep.” And then she vanished for a brief moment, returning with slacks that were pink with blue, because she had an extensive wardrobe apparently, but these did have a hole in the bottom.

 

Her tail was embarrassingly fluffy, almost.

 

“Oh, is that how you get so pretty? Nice! Love the tail. Fluffier’n mine! Go figure. So you work at a restaurant, huh? I’m a personal trainer. It’s the best.”

 

Was food worth all this talking? .. Unfortunately, yes, because it was free. She reached back and smoothed her tail – this accomplished very little, although at least it looked intentionally fluffed now. “Yes. I’m a waitress. I give people food. They give me tips for being nice.” One may assume she did not get many tips.

 

“I bet you get lots of tips!” Rory laughed, galumphing down the stairs. She… she wasn’t being sarcastic. That tail was still going a mile a minute.

 

PLEASE BE LESS EXCITED CAN YOU DO THAT. …things she wanted to yell, but did not. “I do. Yes. Smile and act nice. Not hard.”

 

“Of course not! It’s the easiest thing in the world.” Once they were outside: “so, uh, which way is it? I never make it out to this neighborhood.”

 

“Debatable. There are more difficult things though, I am sure.” Maybe if she sounded real disaffected and disinterested… “This way.” She smoothly stepped in front of Rory and lead the excitable – frustratingly so – dog-gal along the sidewalk.

 

She wasn’t sure if she should be embarrassed or not.

 

They definitely got more stares as they walked. Yes, Jenna had unusual features, but that grace and dexterity allowed her to slip through a crowd without much notice. Now that she had gained Rory as a party member, that no longer applied. The dog girl was over six feet tall, muscular, enthusiastic, and loud.

 

Not to mention the hideous fact that they matched, and that made people associate them more. And pay attention more.

 

Rory didn’t seem to notice any of this, of course.

 

Jenna immediately noticed it. And hated it. Ughhh people. PEOPLE. Okay. Breathe. Let’s just walk. Try not to hurt anyone unduly. (but it’s so due. It was so. Very. Due.)  She debated telling Rory to shut up. Eventually, decided against it, and tried to be polite.”So… personal training. What. People pay you to be peppy and way too energetic at them?”

 

Rory was far too sunny to notice the shade. “Got it in one! I’m an expert motivator! And I love exercise. Hey, let me know if you want a discount on my services. I’m real good. Swear to ya.”

 

“No. I’m fine. Thank you, though.” Her tone clearly implied that she was fairly sure that exercise was one of the cardinal sins. Or at least pretty evil. “Sounds like good money, though.”

 

“Ha ha!” Good god, she was loud. For an instant, Jenna’s ears flattened. “Maybe if we didn’t live in Boston! I mean, it’s all right. Pays for food, pays for rent. What else do I need, really? ‘Cept pleasant companionship, right?” She elbowed Jenna’s shoulder lightly.

 

Her ears stayed flat. Finally, they returned to normal and perky. God, of course she got the hypersocial one. Why would anything else ever happen. “If we didn’t live in Boston applies to any and all amounts of money earned. That’s why we’re where we are right now.”

 

“On our way to the meat faucet?”

 

“More directly, roommates.” Shudder. “But that too, yes.”

 

“Aw, you’ll come around,” and there it was, the occasional acknowledgement that Rory understood that Jenna was disgruntled about their arrangement. “I’m real fun. And I like you already. Oh hey, we’re here!”

 

“If I didn’t think so, I would’ve politely asked you to move along.” How nice! Jenna didn’t hate her, at least. She just.. Hadn’t warmed up yet. Or something. Who knows how the mind of the catgirl worked. “Oh, so we a-”

 

She stopped dead. Her ears swiveled forward. Her tail rose in the air. Twitched. And then she darted off.

 

Rory. Rory? She’s chasing a big bird.

 

Rory just stared for a moment, then burst into window-rattling laughter.

 

“HAHAHAHAHA YEAH! Get ’em!” Oh no, she was cheerleading.

 

The display was as dextrous and as quick as it was attention-grabbing. Which is to say very. People stared at her, although there’s… a few that laughed, shook their heads and keep walking. …This may happen more often than Jenna would like to admit. She does catch it, and at that very instant, the bird in her hand, unharmed, she looked around, mortified. …She opened her hand. The bird, horrified, and with good reason, flew off.

 

She sulked and slunk back over to Rory. Her look plainly said that if Rory ever mentioned that, nothing good would come of it. Rory would be jealous of that bird.

 

One second. Two, three, four. “You sure you don’t want a better outlet for those hunting instincts?” Grin.

 

A variety of responses occurred to Jenna. The problem was that she felt she should not say, ‘they will never find your body.’ Maybe if she had known Rory for more than forty five minutes, she could pass that off as a joke. She had not. “Yes, I’m sure.”

 

“You’ll come ’round,” ugh, this was some kind of catchphrase. “Let’s go rend some flesh, yeah?” “What a…wonderful choice of words.” If sarcasm had weight, Rory would be crushed under it.

The Pet Shop Girls: Fish Sticks In My Craw

JENNA & RORY’S APARTMENT

SOUTH BOSTON

 

“Guess who’s hoooome!”

 

It was not hard to guess who was home.

 

“I brought more fish stiiiiicks! And a surprise!”

 

Jenna peeked up over the arm of the couch. While all that Rory could see were her eyes and ears, she could probably imagine the rest of Jenna’s face was set in that permanent disappointment that seemed to be what passed for neutral. “There is only one other person that could be home, Rory.”

 

“Oh yeah? Who?”

 

“..You. Because you live here. I- For anyone else, this would be a place they are visiting.” Why. Why this.

 

“Ah yeah,” Rory grinned and held up a white plastic shopping bag. There was… a box? In her other hand. “Fish sticks!”

 

And then there weren’t fish sticks in Rory’s hand anymore, and there was a tail disappearing around the corner to the kitchen.

 

“Wh—hey!” Rory frowned. “Don’tcha wanna see the surprise I got ya?”

 

A pause, during which Rory could hear the freezer being opened and shut. “Yes. I suppose.”

 

Rory dropped her gym bag, walked over to the little kitchen table, set down the box, and opened it.

 

“Ta daaaah!” She lifted… a potted plant? Out? It was a potted plant. “I got catnip for my cat roomie!”

 

Jenna’s face appeared around the corner, and she was actually frowning. “Oh my God, that’s so – That’s like. Racis- How would you feel if I got you dog biscu-” …She stopped. Slitted eyes narrowed on the potted plant. “..Bi-biscuits…”

 

“Well I dunno about no dog biscuits, those don’t taste like much,” she said, with the clear knowledge of someone who had tried dog biscuits. She was waving the plant around in one huge hand, wafting the smell of the catnip around her and toward Jenna. “But if you got me a rawhide bone—

 

Her eyes followed the plant. “We- We’re better than those things, Rory! We- um.” …She obviously just lost her train of thought.

 

Rory gave her a biiiig fanged smile and tore off a small portion of catnip from the jar, then offered that handful with open palm, extended toward her roommate. The freshly-torn leaves smelled really strong.

 

Giveittomerightnow.” She didn’t say please, which was somewhat telling of the effect. Outside of The Fishstick Kerfluffle, Jenna made a point to say ‘please,’ and ‘thank you.’ She was a bit rude in other regards, like everything else. Her manners were precise.

 

The paw holding the handful of torn leaves went forward, open-palmed, offering the stuff. The one holding the pot? That one went up and away, as if to say the stuff in my hand first.

 

Jenna… was no longer paying attention to the pot. She slunk closer, took the torn leaves and started gnawing on them. At that point, she stopped noticing Rory entirely, standing in the middle of the living room with some leaves sticking out of her mouth, chewing away.

 

Oh my God, Rory. She purrs.

 

“Even better than I ‘spected,” Rory murmured, pulling out her phone and recording the display as she set the pot down on the table.

 

Jenna flopped back down on the couch, purring. And rubbing her face on the arm. ..She’s scent-marking the couch. Actually, she’s started scent marking most things. Or at least rubbing her face on them.

 

Rory followed, recording the whole thing and trying to hold in laughter.

 

“You doin’ aight there, roomie?” She asked, grinning broadly.

 

“..yer … “ Pause. Stare. “…according this,” she said, sounding like she wanted to be … angry? Offended? Plain Ol’ Jenna? It did not work very well, but she made a feeble grab for the phone.

 

Lunging (Lunging? Lunging happens much faster.) for the phone was a bad idea, because now she was in melee range. With a triumphant laugh, Rory lifted Jenna with one arm, tucking her phone back into the pocket with the other.

 

“Oh, you wanna wrestle?!”

 

She meow-whined. “Pumme dowwwwwwwn.” She flailed, and Rory could intuit that she was trying to ensure that if she managed to wriggle free, she’d land on her feet. She must not be that far gone.

 

“You do wanna wrestle? Just ask next time!” Rory guffawed, but tossed Jenna back onto the couch. Ugh, she was as strong as Jenna was stealthy. Well okay stealthy when she wasn’t high off her gourd.

 

Jenna landed, no problem, ensured she was properly on the couch. Curled up. Purred some more. She also shot Rory a look that was probably intended to be her Death Glare, but at this point she just looked like she was squinting.

 

Rory dropped her substantial weight onto the couch, sitting next to Jenna’s curled-up form.

 

“Ya know? You’re real fun. This is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.”

 

“What.” She did not clarify which part she was questioning, shifting a little to stare at Rory through half-lidded eyes.

 

“After all, I ain’t on the lease,” Rory, why are you musing this aloud. “If ya really didn’t want me around, you could tell me to go kick rocks. Butcha haven’t. That means ya secretly like me.”

 

More staring. Another, slower, “what.” She stopped purring quite so much. Shook her head like she was trying to clear it. “What,” she asked again.

 

“Hah!” And here came that meaty paw and oh god she was petting Jenna’s head “Don’t worry about it!”

 

Oh no. Oh no. Jenna seemed, horrifyingly enough, very much fine with that. She even crept a little closer.

 

Rory chuckled, obviously pleased at the validation, and kept petting her roommate while she pulled out her phone and played with it to pass the time otherwise.

 

About ten minutes later, Jenna abruptly pulled away. “What the hell.” oh yeah. She’s back to normal.

 

Looking up from her phone, Rory blinked a bit sleepily and replied: “Pettin’?”

 

“Ughhhh- Were you actually recording that. Do I need to- To-” She couldn’t settle on a threat. She instead settled on sitting upright and folding her arms while giving Rory a dirty look.

 

“Only in the beginning,” Rory replied as primly as dog girls ever get, “but I didn’t record the pettin’. That’s an intimate roommate bonding thing that ya just don’t share.”

 

She sputtered. It was as though Rory had revealed a litany of sins, and Jenna simply could not decide which was truly the worst. She went with continuing to look at Rory like she’d admitted that she enjoyed arson and making children sad.

 

The offending roommate smiled toothily, transferred her phone to the now-freed hand, and shook her other arm to loosen it up.

 

“Yer allowed to like stuff like pets, ya know.”

 

“I am not a pet. No.” More glowering. Whatever she’s miffed about, it’s reached level of anger that were more comical than genuinely offputting. If only because she can’t seem to manage anything beyond two syllables and glaring.

 

“I wasn’t callin’ you a pet, fer cryin’ out loud,” Rory slipped the phone back into her pocket, “I was sayin’ it’s okay to like bein’ pet. I mean, I do, and I ain’t a pet neither. Human affection! What a concept, eh?”

 

“Gross!” … Yes. That was her grand defense. “Besides! I only liked it because of the catnip.”

 

“There’s truth in the vine,” came the sagely reply, “or, you know, equivalent leafy green thing. Oh speakin’ of which d’ya know where I can buy weed around here? Watchin’ you be high off yer gourd reminded me.”

 

“What? No, why would I know that?” … She’s got a point, Rory. She can buy totally legal catnip. After a moment she suggests, “Just. Follow your nose? I don’t know.”

 

“Hm. Yeah, all right.”

 

Rory scratched her nose, then leaned her head back. “D’ya wanna maybe put the rest of the nip in a plastic bag or somethin’?”

 

“Why would you even… augh. That’s still – augh.” She fails entirely to communicate. “…Yes. Fine. That works.”

 

“I know!” The couch lurched as Rory vaulted off of it. “I’ll keep it in my room! That way the smell won’t bother ya all the time. And y’c’n just go in there an’ get it if you want some when I’m not around!”

 

“We. We have. Cupboards. Or we could leave it in the pot and just put in the sun. I think that’s how you grow plants.” Speaking of sun, she did have this couch perfectly positioned in it.

 

Flop.

 

“Yeah but if it’s in the cupboard, no sun. If it’s out in the sun, ya smell it even when y’don’t want. If it’s on my windowsill, it gets sun and it’s outta your way.”

 

And there she was again, and there was the pot of catnip, and there was another whiff from those broken stems, trailing away as Rory went to stash the plant in her room.

 

She covered her nose and breathed through her mouth until the smell went away. Ugh. Rude. Who just buys catnip like that.

 

Who? Why, who but the epitome of rudeness herself, who now leaned against her own doorway and grinned real big at Jenna. Why can’t Rory just be prim and proper and why this why her.

 

“Hey, wanna go to my favorite bar sometime?”

 

“I- .. I bartend. I have a mixology degree, Rory. Why would I go somewhere else?”

 

“Meet new people? Hang out, get drunk? Not be working?”

 

“I don’t drink that much. I don’t like new people.”

 

A thoughtful face. A scheming face. “You can watch me get drunk and record me making an ass of myself for revenge.” Well. No one was going to accuse Rory of being inscrutable.

 

“…But if you do that anyway, it’s not nearly as horrifyingly embarrassing.”

 

“Nah, I never record it.”

 

“…Hmm. Maybe.”

 

“Their fish and chips are real fuckin’ good.”

 

“You’re trying to bribe me.”

 

“Don’t change the subject.” Wink.

 

“I’m not. I’m pointing something out.”

 

“Yeah? Why?”

 

“Why are you so intent on this.”

 

“I’m makin’ friends!” Said the actual dog eared dog girl, who was a dog.

 

“We. Are friends?” This was said in a tone that suggested it was the most obvious thing in the world. By the actual cat cat eared girl who was a cat.

 

“Then it’ll be a friendship bonding activity.” Rory’s tail was going a mile a minute, ugh

 

“There is no collection of words I can say that is going to prevent this from happening, is there.”

 

She’s back to that flat, deadpan, mildly disappointed look she wore more often than not. Which is to say anytime she was not high off her ass.

 

There was a beat as Rory peered at her. “If you sincerely tell me, right now, ‘Rory, I am actively uninterested in going out and having fun with you and do not want to do it,’ I’ll back the fuck off. How’s that?”

 

“…Ugh. When.”

 

Whap whap whap whap whap, went Rory’s tail against the doorframe. “When’s your next free evening?”

 

She checked her phone. “Tonight. Tomorrow.” Oh. So that’s why she was still asleep at two in the afternoon.

 

“Tonight and tomorrow it is!” Rory declared cheerfully.

 

“No. Only one of those.” She sounded oddly final.

 

“Ha ha! All right, just tonight this time.” Wink. “You’ll come around.”

The Pet Shop Girls: Booze Hound

FLANNAGAN’S PUB

SOUTH BOSTON

 

“Here we are! The ole watering hole.” Rory led the way inside. The pub was unassuming but fairly clean. A bit crowded, but not too populated. Music was playing, but not too loud. This could be—

 

“Ay, boys, it’s the Hound!” The bartender prompted, and a few of the patrons replied with a muted howl.

 

Much to Jenna’s chagrin, Rory howled back, much louder.

 

Jenna looks like she wants to leave. Already. Why. Why is this happening. Ugh.

 

“Ay, it’s Tom! Barry, all right. Len. And there’s our bartender Seamus.”

 

“You got a date, Rory?”

 

“Naw, it’s my new roommate! And get this: she’s a cat! C’mahn in, Jenna, yer gonna block the door.”

 

Narrowed eyes. An ear twitched. She stepped in, and to the side of the door. Sure. Fine. “There.”

 

“C’mon in, let’s take a seat. S’all right, I won’t make you talk to nobody.”

 

LONG-SUFFERING SIGH. “Sure.”

 

Rory led the way to the bar and took a stool. “Two Harpoon IPAs, an order of fish and chips, and a burger, if ya would please Seamus.”

 

“Aye.”

 

Around then, Jenna caught notice of somebody skulking in the corner, hoodie pulled up and head turned away. Skulking.

 

That’s basically what Jenna was doing, so she didn’t think anything of it. She’s all sorts of disappointed with herself for agreeing to this.

 

The bartender swung by, placing one beer in front of Rory and one in front of Jenna. She peered at Rory, who immediately picked up the beer and took a sip, then at her own beer, then back at Rory setting down a half-empty pint glass what.

 

Jenna stared at the beer. Promptly ignored it. “I’m not- I said–”

 

Rory set down her empty pint glass. “So don’t drink it,” she said cheerfully, then rapped on the bar twice. “But if you want it, it’s there.” Seamus had already been pouring Rory’s second beer, oh my god.

 

“Do you just have like – coke. Or lemonade. Or tea. Or something.” Jenna’s lack of enthusiasm was actually near-tangible.

 

“Yeh,” replied the bartender, “d’ye want I should mix ’em all together?”

 

The men further down the bar guffawed.

 

“..no. just- just the tea.”

 

“And d’ye want that hot or iced, love.”

 

“Iced.”

 

“Loosen up, J!” She felt one of those huge hands on her shoulder, giving her a jovial shake. “You can relax a little. Yeah?”

 

“..I could. Yes.” Her tone said that while yes, she could, she had no intention of that.

 

“So why don’tcha?”

 

“I don’t like people?” She side-eyed Rory. “…And there are a lot of people here. And a lot of them are excited.”

 

“You kiddin’?” Rory turned around and cast a baffled look into the crowd. “It’s dead in here!”

 

A glance. “…this is dead?” She did not sound like she liked that.

 

“Well yeah, lookit all the empty seats!” She swung back and fixed Jenna with an appraising look. “So you don’t think yer gonna have a good time, huh.” She set down her empty beer glass and rapped on the bar.

 

“N-not. Really. No. I don’t- I don’t like a lot of people- there’s- … “ She falls silent. “.. feelings. When I’m tending bar I can ignore it.”

Rory nodded thoughtfully for a few seconds, then reached into her pocket.

 

“Well. Aight. What if I handed you this.” She set a plastic baggie on the bar, and immediately Jenna caught a whiff of that fucking smell coming from inside it. Sure enough, there were several cut stems and bruised leaves of the catnip that Rory had brought home.

 

She slapped a hand over her nose and just gave Rory a look. “No danks,” she said, nasally. She seemed blissfully unaware of ways that could be misinterpreted.

 

Rory looked at her face, sighed, then picked up the baggie. “Ahh, aight. D’ya wanna just go home?” The pup’s disappointment was palpable.

 

She sighed. “No, no. I said I’d come. I’ll try and loosen up. S.. Sorry.” She sounded like that made her a little sick to say.

 

“No, no, look, I don’t wanna force you to try to have fun if yer not feelin’ it. Let’s just… I’ll think of somethin’ better for next time, and—”

 

Bang! Someone slammed the door open and stalked inside. He was tall, and broad, and stubbly, and angry-looking.

 

“Where the fuck is he,” the man growled. “Where is he!”

 

“Y’might wanna be a bit more specific, sir,” Seamus said, voice a bit cold, “and lower your voice.”

 

“I’ll talk as I please!” The man yelled. “Tell me where my piece of shit son is!”

 

Rory turned slowly, eyes narrow and intense.

 

Her ears twitched. She turned her head – a bit grotesquely, since her head seemed to swivel a little further than it oughta.

 

“We don’t know who your son is, man,” Seamus was starting to sound a little concerned, and his eyes flickered over to Rory. “If you’d just—”

 

“There!” The man jabbed his finger at the hoodied figure in the corner, and took several steps forward. “Eddie! What the fuck are you doing here!”

 

“It’s none of your business!” The kid in the corner threw back his head. He appeared to be in his early twenties.

 

“Like hell it isn’t!” The man snarled. “You’ve got work you can’t just walk away from.”

 

“I never applied for no job!” Eddie shouted. “Leave me alone, Pete! I ain’t part of your gang!”

 

“Get up and come with me,” the man growled, “or I’ll make you.”

 

“You wouldn’t d—”

 

The bigger man raised a fist and brought it down on a nearby hardwood table, which split in half.

 

“Come. With. Me.”

 

Rory stood.

 

Rory may have just stood. Jenna was already up. “Hey. Friend. Pretty sure he said no.”

 

Jenna felt Rory looming behind her, silent backup. She didn’t seem to mind that she wasn’t the one doing the talking.

 

The man turned and stared at the roommates. “Are you fuckin kidding me?” He laughed, once. Harshly. “The Legion hiring furries now?”

 

“We’re not legion. That just means I don’t have to abide by any laws.” She smiled pleasantly.

 

The man turned the rest of the way. “Are you threatening me, kitty girl? You wanna end up like that table? Just let me take my worthless son and leave. This ain’t none of your business.”

 

She yawned. Pointedly. “You made it everyone’s business when you came in here with an attitude, friend.”

 

“I strongly advise you to leave, sir,” Seamus said from the bar. “If that girl is anywhere near as strong as the one standing behind her, you don’t wanna be talkin’ tough to the Pet Shop Girls.” what the fuck did he just call them

 

The man’s face turned red. “I ain’t leaving. Without my son.”

 

“I ain’t going nowhere!” The son yelled.

 

Rory cracked her knuckles.

 

“You could leave. That would be the best choice. Point of fact: Were I you, it is the choice I would make.”

 

“Well I ain’t you,” The man leaned in real close, smelling of stale cigarettes, cheap whiskey, and halitosis. “Thank. Fuck.”

 

“Want me to kick his ass, Jenna?” Rory asked. Grinning with a mouth full of knives.

 

“You aren’t. That’s a pity.” A beat. “Rory?” And she – ducked.

 

Jenna could feel the impact of her roomie’s fist against the man’s jaw, like a heavy bass drop shaking the very air. He flew backward, slamming against a booth divider, cracking it. He staggered forward a step, then charged, lightning quick, and there was a slam noise, and this time it was Rory who tumbled backward from the impact of a heavy, superpowered punch.

 

She rubbed her jaw, stumbling to her feet. “Nice,” she admitted.

 

Huh. Neat. And Jenna came in from the side- his lef- no, rig- n-… She definitely could not hit nearly as hard as him, or Rory, but she was very good at being distracting, and where he was not. She waited a moment, after she was sure his attention was focused on him. And…one last dodged punch, a bit of help with his momentum, and he just about threw himself across the bar.

 

“All right there, ladies, mind the furniture please,” Seamus requested politely.

 

“You hit pretty good!” Rory caught the man as he stumbled toward her under his own redirected momentum, lifting his entire bulk. “But I bet I can outlast ya.” Then she dropped him on her knee, his back hitting it with a sickening thud.

 

A normal person would be utterly incapacitated by the attacks that Rory and Jenna had already landed, but evidently they made bricks pretty strong in Southie. The man reared up, grimacing in pain, grabbed Rory’s collar, headbutted her with enough force that the crack nearly echoed, and then started to haul himself to his feet while Rory staggered.

 

He’d probably have liked to haul himself to his feet. Jenna, however, did not like that idea. As Rory staggered away, Jenna did what Jenna did best. She pounced. A little over a hundred and fifty pounds slammed into him, with plenty of extra force behind it. “No.”

 

“You fucking furries,” the man snarled, grabbing his head as it bounced painfully off the floor. He struggled to get her off, and once he realized that she was stuck, he lashed up with both hands, gripping Jenna’s neck with superhuman strength. Fuck. “I’ll choke you out!”

 

“Nah,” said a giant Irish Setter from nearby. “Get your filthy hands off my roomie.”

 

A moment later, great jaws clamped around the man’s neck, sharp teeth ready to tear it out if he moved too fast or didn’t let go. His fingers slackened a little.

 

Yep, Rory was a giant dog now. Not even, like, a wolf, or some kind of dire ancestor of the dog. Just… an irish setter three times too big.

 

Well okay. “So,” Jenna said cheerfully. “Here’s what’s going to happen. Y’gonna. Get up. Walk out that door. And I am never. Ever. Going. To see you again. None of us are.” A bright, toothy grin. “Sounds fair, great, equitable, all that, yessss?” A faint hiss.

 

“Fuck you,” the man rasped, then gasped as the jaws around his neck tightened a little. “Fine! Fuck! Fine. Just lemme go, you fuckin freak.” His hands released Jenna’s neck completely, and he tapped the floor like some kind of scuzzy, drunk wrestler.

 

She patted his head. “Good boy.” And she went right back to the bar. “Rory? Do make sure he’s good on his word, won’t you?”

 

“Ha ha! You got it, boss!” Rory got up from her hands and knees, no longer quite as doglike as she’d been seconds ago. “Get the fuck outta here, brothah. You might not wanna get seen in Southie for a while, yeah?”

 

“Fuck you,” the man said, backing toward the door. “Fuck you! This ain’t over, ‘Pet Shop Girls’. You… you just signed yer death—”

 

“You just got your ass kicked by a dog and a cat. Shut the hell up.”

 

“Christ, blow it out yer ass!” Rory planted her foot on his chest and shoved, causing the man to stumble over the doorjamb and hit his head on the concrete behind, then flee, cursing.

 

“Let’s hear it for the Pet Shop Girls!” “rory how do I make them not call us thaaaaaat.” WHINING. One of the men shouted.

 

The sparse crowd cheered.

 

“Whew!” Rory sauntered back over to the bar. There was a huge red mark on her forehead, and some bruising along the edge of her jaw, but she otherwise looked okay? Maybe? “That was exciting. I need another few beers to take the edge off, eh Seamus? You sure you don’t want that catnip, boss?”

 

A raised brow. “..Boss?”

 

“Of our superhero team! You really took charge there, it was great! You’re a natural, yanno?”

 

“Our- … Our what.” Jenna looked incredibly dubious. “And no. No, I don’t need or want any catnip right now.” She resumed drinking her cola “..sorry ‘bout the furniture, mister.”

 

“Well, all things considered,” Seamus eyeballed what damage there’d been, “that coulda been much worse. Thank ye fer keepin’ the peace, there, miss. Oh, and!”

 

He disappeared for a moment and returned with food-laden plates. “Your food’s on me this time. Nice to see that the Hound has a team, now! Me an’ the boys worry bout her from time to time.”

 

“Aw, Seamus.”

 

“I didn’t know she did. And uh-” She shrugs. “…But thank you. It’s appreciated.”

 

“No?” Seamus laughed. “Y’mean to tell me that there’s cat and dog paranormals livin’ together, and the two of ’em fight together with a kinda chemistry like they been doin’ it for years… and they’re not a crime fightin’ team?”

 

Rory blushed into her beer.

 

“…W- Er. No. We- This is the first–” She flushes, and stuffs some fish into her mouth, somehow sulkily.

 

“Aw, yer first time together!” Seamus cuffed Rory on the shoulder, and the dog girl buried her face in her burger. “We witnessed something big today, didn’t we. I’ll leave you two to yer victory meal.”

 

And then, awkward silence reigned.

 

An awkward silence? In a Boston bar that just had a brawl? One should say not! After a few moments, the few patrons left chattered excitedly, and before long, there was a resounding cheer of “Pet! Shop! Girls!”

 

Jenna tried to bury herself in her drink.

 

If Jenna had been counting—since Rory very clearly was not—she would know that Rory was now on her fourteenth beer. She’d been to the bathroom a lot, but it wasn’t until beer seven or so that the Hound of Fort Point had started to really show any inebriation.

 

By now? She was drunk off her townie ass.

 

“Let. Let me tell ya. Jenna. You’re. A natural? Do you take, martial arts?” Rory seemed to be hanging onto her own thread of conversation through force of will alone.

 

“I did. Yes.” Jenna stared at Rory. “canyougethersomewater,” she added as an aside to the bartender “Um. Why- why do you ask?”

 

“Ha ha! Nice! Nice, that’s wicked. Wicked nice. The way you judo’d that asshole. Wicked badass. I never… I never took no martial ahts, I jus. Hit people.”

 

“A first dan- I  mean- I was. I don’t think you were. Um. Kind of surprised I remembered how to do that.” She kind of smiles. “Good eye, though.”

 

“You move really cool,” Rory moved her hands in the air in a manner that presumably was supposed to indicate cool movement but really indicated ‘drunk person’. “Sexy, like. I wish I could do that! Ha ha. I don’t do nothin’ graceful, I just do it BIG!”

 

Rory glanced at the glass in front of her and frowned. “This is water.”

 

“Yes, yes, it is water. You need to drink some.” Her tone says ‘don’t disagree’. “And I have to do things that way. It’s not really a matter of choice.”

 

“Whazzat mean?” Rory reluctantly picked up the glass of water and drained it in one long draught.

 

She winds up. Punches Rory. Rory probably thinks it was a fairly hard poke.

 

Rory blinked, then looked kind of hurt. Not, like, physically, but… “you hit me? Wh… what’d I do?”

 

“I was showing you why. That didn’t hurt, right?” Odds are: no.

 

“Wull. No. But my face is pretty tough.”

 

“Yeah it wouldn’t hurt anyone. So I use what they do against them.” She drinks more coke. She is super caffeinated now.

 

“Ha ha! You’re the fuckin best, Jenna!” One heavy arm draped across Jenna’s shoulders, and Rory pulled her close and tight. “We make a helluva team!”

 

She looked like this was deeply offensive to her, yet she was unwilling to say so. “..I- I don’t- really want to- crime–”

 

Rory took the other girl’s face in her huge hands and looked at her intently with big brown eyes. “Look me in the face,” she whispered, beerily, “and tell me that kicking that dude’s ass didn’t feel like the best thing ever. I saw it in your face.”

 

Jenna was trying to figure out if she had a contact high or what. “What. You did not. There was nothing to see in my face.” Such a liar. She looked …well … Like. The cat that ate the canary.

 

“You fuckin loved it.” Rory grinned, letting go of Jenna’s face. “You loved the hell out’ve it. You were born f’this.”

 

“Uh. No. Not really. I- Uh-” Sputtered. She’s. Lost ground and she knows it.

 

Rory kept grinning for another few seconds, then leaned in a little. “Also, you’re really fuckin cute, did you know that.” oh for fuck’s sake

 

Jenna just got whiplash, she’s fairly sure. “..Wait. What? Can we back up?”

 

“Hmm?” Rory blinked, eyes a bit sleepy. “Where.”

 

“I’m lo- Maybe we oughta just getcha home, yes?”

 

“Ha ha! Yer place or mine?” Rory had evidently just made the best joke ever conceived of by anyone. “Ha ha ha!”

 

The most deadpan stare ever seen in Boston landed on Rory. “..Serio- … Ugh- Yes.”

 

“Ha ha okay! SEAMUS!”

 

“Christ, what the fook, Rory.”

 

“Wanna close out my tab please.”

 

“Taken care of. This time.

 

“You’re such a sweet old man,” Rory drawled, pulling out a twenty and setting it on the bar.

 

“Call me old one more time and yer payin’ after all.”

 

“Aw, you’ll come around.”

 

“Go home, Rory, you’ve caused yer roomie enough trouble.”

 

“That’s- That’s the plan. We’ll see you again. I’m sure, since I have a feeling Rory is going to do her best to get me out here a lot.” A long-suffering, pained look. “Alas.” She slid off her stool. “C’mon, puppygal.”

 

Rory giggled, vaulting off her seat and stepping into line behind Jenna. “Right behind ya, boss!”

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.