Fawned – A PetPlay Romance Ch. 04

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The next time they saw each other, they did not have sex. Barnaby didn’t even know he’d be seeing Gil.

It hadn’t been a very good day, so he wasn’t particularly In The Mood to start with. Hadn’t so much as texted his ‘friend’ (Were they friends?). Gil didn’t need to hear about the potted plants he dropped in front of his entire class because he didn’t stop to think to balance them in his arms first – or about his classmates watching him scramble to pick up the pieces before the professor came over with a broom. He didn’t need to see the way Barnaby hunched at the counter, nearly doubled over under the weight of customer complaints. He’d gotten two drinks wrong from already lingering shame and so he hesitated on several orders after that. People weren’t happy with him.

If nothing else, Barnaby was sure wet, red eyes from crying weren’t exactly Attractive.

But at just about midnight, Gil came in anyway. Barnaby caught a glimpse as he approached, grin fading quickly from the man’s face. “You alright?”

“Yeah- I’m-” Barnaby wiped his face, got off his stool and forced an awkward smile. “I’m fine. Just- midterms, y’know? And capitalism—”

Gil huffed, maybe trying to laugh. It was still too much effort, as far as Barnaby was concerned. He rushed to make up for it, “Can I get you anything?”

Gloomy eyes lingered on him a moment longer before an answer was given – “Black coffee. Thank you.” Gil handed over the money for it but strayed away from the counter to look around while Barnaby poured his drink. Paper bats dangled from the ceiling, zombies climbed out of posters on the walls, cartoonish wild eyes peered through every window.

When he turned back to the boy handing him a mug, he asked, “Got any plans for this weekend?”

Already anticipating an invitation back to his dorm, Barnaby hesitated to tell Gil. Even if it wasn’t for that night, he wasn’t in the mood to make those kinds of plans either. So he wiped down the coffee machine and told him about the Halloween party he and Jensen were supposed to go to, about how he didn’t know if he was going to go or not at that point. That seemed to put a light back in Gil’s eyes.

“Well, if you don’t go,” he started, a bit of a lift in his voice, “There’s gonna be a haunted house thing right outside of campus. It’ll probably be lame, but-” He shrugged over a sip of coffee. “It’s something to do.”

Barnaby’s brows knitted together, and he paused. “You want me to go with you..?”

Gil shrugged again, somehow more exaggerated. “Everyone else I know just wants to get hammered, and that’s not really my scene. I figured since you don’t drink—” He nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah.”

Suddenly, it didn’t matter what happened the next day because Barnaby had something to look forward to other than sex that night. He had a reason to wear his deer onesie with little plush antlers on the hood. As silly as he felt wearing it, he did think Jensen looked sillier in his costume when he left for the party. But rather than give his opinion on how he was pretty sure his roommate’s X-rated Star Wars outfit qualified more as lingerie than a costume, he just told him to have fun. They had already been through it: “Halloween costumes at our age are either stupid, scary, or sexy, Barney”.

Well, Jensen, you certainly marked all the boxes this year.

‘I’m here.’

The message popped up on his phone, and Barnaby hurried out the dorm, down to the building entrance. Gil had said he’d drive them to the haunted house, and sure enough, there he was, leaning against a shiny black Range Rover with black tinted windows. “Hi.”

“Hi yourself.” Gil scanned him up and down and laughed, “You look really cute, oh my god.”

Barnaby shrugged and folded his arms, feeling his face get warm in spite of the autumn chill. His gaze swept Gil’s body, and he raised a brow. “Where’s your costume..?”

Grey eyes widened, seemingly caught off guard. “I’m wearing it.”

Barnaby grimaced, considering the man’s camouflage-print sweatclothes. “You’re…a soldier?”

Gil’s jaw dropped, and he flailed his arms, exasperated. “I’m invisible. Like the Invisible Man. Get it, ’cause I’m-”

“Because of-! Okay, yeah! The camo!” Barnaby exclaimed, remembering that the joke was very much A Thing, “Sorry, I’m – it’s clever. I’m dumb.”

“You’re not dumb.” Gil grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him closer. Before Barnaby could try to convince him of the contrary, he was having his onesie pulled away from his neck – revealing the leather collar underneath. Gil said, sounding a tad surprised, “You’re wearing it.”

All nerve left him, and Barnaby hid his face away into Gil’s chest. Really, he wasn’t sure what he was thinking when he put it on. Except, maybe – “I’m a…pet- deer?”

“Hm?” Fingers carded through his hair and an arm draped around him. It certainly made him feel coddled like one. “Is that Onwin so?”

Barnaby nodded because it was easier than trying to explain why he likely would have worn it without the costume. No, that was something he’d need to figure out with himself on any other Over-Analytical Night – not the one time he was meant to go out and be normal (at least as normal as being Barnaby Hirsch would allow).

His fingers curled into Gil’s sweater. It was a particularly soft fabric, and he couldn’t exactly picture the man wearing them on a normal day.

“Are these,” he asked, trying to change the topic, “Your pajamas?”

The hood of his onesie was promptly pulled over his eyes, and before Barnaby could shake free to fix it, Gil had pulled away. “Get in the car.”

Probably, the most alluring of Gil’s features was his voice. It was his rich, husky way of speaking that drew Barnaby to follow his commands, but still, somehow, sounding so young that Barnaby could recognize him as equal. And maybe even relatable. Especially if Gil would trail off or pause, as if he were uncertain of himself.

It became obvious in the car, while Barnaby listened to him talk about the spirit of Halloween and how it seemed to be fading in recent years. He sounded – average. Not like a man who existed solely to pleasure people from his dorm. And that stuck to Barnaby more than he realized, apparently. Because that was what he remembered of Gil inviting him out. Not that Gil was inviting him to a haunted house.

Because, clearly, what Barnaby didn’t remember from that encounter was that he was terrified of haunted houses.

He’d only ever gone through one once, years prior when Jensen dragged him through (literally, dragged him by the arm while boardwalk-budget animatronics popped out at them). The threat of tears had always managed to dissuade his mom as a kid, but Jensen insisted it was time to “man up”. Man down, more like it. Barnaby still carried the shame of coming out the other end sobbing, although he was pretty sure Jensen was twice as embarrassed just to be seen with him.

He bit his nails and fiddled incessantly with the zipper of his onesie as they joined a long line of people. It’d lead them to what was originally a small, vacated factory, decorated to a zombie outbreak theme, bathed in flashing red and blue lights, and blaring with screams and punk rock music.

To make it easier for Gil, Barnaby clung to his arm. He would stare at the ground the entire time inside, stay as close to the other as possible. If anyone came up to him, he’d just shut his eyes tight! He could do it.

Couldn’t he?

An elbow nudged his side and Barnaby snapped his head upward. Gil was smirking down at him. “Scared?”

An all too wide smile split across his face, and Barnaby quickly shook his head. “Me?” he wheezed. “No way! I’m – totally good. Why would I even be-? Are you?”

It would have been nice of Gil to at least admit he was spooked – considerate, even. But since he was six feet tall, fit, and probably watched horror movies in his spare time, he scoffed instead and said, “I wish.”

“Excuse me?” A female’s voice cut through from behind, and Barnaby felt a tap on his shoulder

Turning around, he found a short, stout girl wearing antennas and the fuzziest sweater he’d ever seen beaming up at him. “Hi!” she squealed. “Sorry to bug you, but would you mind taking our picture?” Of course Barnaby would. He took the phone from her, and she spun to her partner’s side, wings of wire and cloth flapping on her back. Her companion was a lanky young man, and he wore what must have been an umbrella hat on his head, lined with LED lights. It did not make taking the photo easy.

“Ahh…Okay-” They put their arms around each other and smiled, and Barnaby snapped two pictures. In the first, the boy was clear but everything else was covered in shadows, and in the second, visibility was mostly fine, but the boy’s face was whited out. Almost like his head had been replaced by the moon

“Sorry, I tried,” Barnaby apologized, giving the girl her phone back, “Maybe if you – turned off the lights on the..?”

To his surprise, both of their faces lit up even more so at seeing the second picture. “This is perfect!” the girl cheered. “Thank you!” Then, she was jutting her hand toward Barnaby. “I’m Diana, by the way!”

“Barnaby,” he replied, shaking her hand. Her partner introduced himself as Wes, and Gil, who Barnaby didn’t realize was paying attention, gave his name too.

“Oooh, a little deer and hunter action,” Diana commented with a wink, “I love it!”

Barnaby expected Gil to correct her on his costume, but all he said was, “Respect to the moth-lamp combo.” He elbowed Barnaby in the side again. “Why didn’t we think of that?”

Barnaby could only stare at him, at a loss. They never intended to coordinate in the first place..?

Luckily, Onwin giriş Wes chimed in, bragging about how Diana made the costumes herself – and not just that, but half of the costumes being used in the attraction, as well. The girl seemed frazzled by that and cut him off, promising them “It was nothing!” and “All I did was hold a hot glue gun!” Then, “Oh! Gil? If you could—” when the line moved further along.

Barnaby pressed closer to Gil, and Diana bounced beside Wes as two ushers in gas masks came into view. She asked, “Are you boys ready to be shooketh?”

“Oh yeah,” came Gil’s flippant answer. Barnaby must’ve been stalling, counting the number of people ahead of them, because then the man was nudging him a third time.

It surprised the honesty right out of him – “Not really? I mean- I bet it’s great, just- I’m not…good with jump scares.”

“You know, I’ve yet to meet someone who is,” said Diana, having this sympathetic look about her. It was especially nice that she added, “I know I’m not!”

“If you guys want,” Wes offered, haloed in Lamp Glory. “You could…stick with us?” He sucked in his breath only to huff it back out. “They’ve- already got a target on me, I know that much. They could be less likely to bother you if I’m there.”

“And what’d you do to earn that?” Gil asked curiously.

Wes flashed his teeth, not quite a smile. “I’m friends with them.”

Barnaby snorted, and Diana rubbed her partner’s arm, looking up at him like he was (mind the pun) the light of her life. Gil stepped aside, gesturing in front of himself, and allowed the couple to cut ahead of them.

They continued talking with the time they had – or rather, Diana was adamant about not letting the conversation die. She talked about zombie-killing video games that Wes had been teaching her to play, so if it came to it, she felt she could ‘take them on’. According to Wes, she was becoming a better shot than he was. Barnaby tried to contribute; self-conscious as he was, they seemed eager to connect. He admitted that, while he never had a zombie phase, he did read Warm Bodies in high school and thought it was a nice spin on the genre, more romance than violence. Cliche Love Cures message, but he was a sucker for happy endings. They gave him hope. Apparently, the movie adaptation was the first zom-flick Wes shared with Diana, thinking it had elements they both would enjoy.

Gil didn’t speak up until the group found themselves at the front of the line, and everyone reached for their wallets. “I’ve got it,” he insisted, urging Barnaby’s hand away.

“Wait. But-”

“It’s – $7 each? It’s fine.” A swift payment later, and they followed Diana and Wes to the entrance.

There, they were greeted by two men in army costumes strapped with modified Nerf Guns. They shined flashlights in their eyes before giving an ‘All clear!’ and herding them through the front doors. From that point on, Barnaby had Gil’s arm in a vice-like grip.

He braced for terror.

For helplessness that came with giving his consent just by entering the building.

He expected the narrow walkways, the animatronics timed to pounce, and the actors, gored and eerie as they prowled about.

And he got that.

He just never expected it would be in the form of laser tag.

Wes was the leader of their “troop”. He was singled out immediately by the first actor they were introduced to – General Mell, who informed them from a rafter above the factory floor that there was a “breach in the colony”. That their group was their last line of defense, that the future of the colony rests on their shoulders, and that if Wes’s apparent leadership was any indication to the rest of the troop’s abilities: “We gave it a good run.”

They were rushed to The Armory next. It was the only time Barnaby detached from Gil – just so the other could help put a harness on him and hand him a lasergun. Not that it amounted to much. Once Barnaby was latched onto him again, he found it impossible to break free enough to even aim the damned thing.

Wes headed the charge into the Breach Zone, and Gil, thankfully, hadn’t forgotten they were supposed to stay close behind.

Walls and curtains and other horror-inspired drapery were set up to create a maze within the factory. At first, it felt like they were retracing steps at every turn; flashes of neon green, red, and purple from overhead made it that much more difficult to determine what were shadows and what were actual barriers. Adding to the distortion was the rock music resounding somewhere in the heart of the factory. Judging by how the bass shook Barnaby to his very bones, he guessed they couldn’t be far from it.

The animatronics weren’t all that horrifying, merely giant spiders and ugly dogs that leapt out of corners. They still had Barnaby hide his face against Gil’s shoulder on impulse each time, but he’d tried to laugh it off and apologize after (though he was sure Gil couldn’t hear him).

The Zombies themselves weren’t terribly creepy either, but their presence alone did make Barnaby’s heart race – which, combined with the effect of the music, left his stomach churning. It was less their growls and exaggerated stage make-up then the fact they were running directly at their group with lasers of their own. Most specifically, they were running for Wes, and as soon as Gil picked up on this, he was dragging Barnaby down another corridor. From the corner of his eye, he thought he saw everyone else disband too – trailed by Diana yanking Wes along.

There were screams and cries of laughter at every turn. It sounded like fun.

Gil had a much better sense of direction than Wes. They didn’t really get boxed in, and in hindsight, Barnaby would wonder if, when they did, even that was on purpose. Rather than retreat, Gil would wait for a zombie to round the corner, aim his laser and recoil victoriously when they sunk to their knees, groaning. He’d had a number of successes by the feel of things, and Barnaby strained his ears to listen once he realized Gil was muttering “Yes!” and “Got ’em!” under his breath.

He’d lost any sense of time, but eventually, the walls around them started opening up. Moonlight seeped in as a garage door was opened, and Gil rushed them out. They didn’t get far once outside, though. There were other volunteers waiting to collect their harnesses and guns and tally up scores. Gil wanted to wait for the rest of the group to see where he ranked, and at first, Barnaby didn’t have a problem with that. He wanted to see Wes and Diana to tell them thank you and goodbye.

Until he needed to grab a hold of Gil again. Not that he had anything to be scared of – the nausea, however, from carrying pent-up anxiety while running around finally caught up with him. He closed his eyes and tried focusing on filling his lungs with cold air. Mentally unwinding tangles from his brain and stomach.

“Bee-” Gil’s voice was quiet but urgent enough to make him lift his head. He only blinked when the man said, “Holy shit, dude- you’re shaking.”

He pulled back to find that his hands were, in fact, trembling tremendously. “Sorry, I’m-” Barnaby started, waiting for them to stop to give an excuse. They didn’t, and he tucked them under his arms, hoping that what Gil didn’t see, he could forget. “Sorry.”

The man knitted his brows and eyed around for the rest of the group. Wes and Diana had just run out but were still being chased by General Mell and a zombie actor. The collecting volunteers looked on tiredly.

“C’mon.” A firm hand pressed between Barnaby’s shoulders, and he realized he was being led again, to a pathway around the factory, back to the parking lot.

“But-” Barnaby spoke automatically, “What about your score?”

He watched Gil hesitate and spare another glance back. He ended up shrugging, and a warm smile nearly proved enough to end Barnaby’s shivering. “How do you think I did?”

Barnaby considered it. How Gil kept him protected. How he barely flinched and stood his ground against gun-wielding zombies. The number of times he caught his quiet cheers. Who else could he say did all of that?

He smiled back at him, hoping, wistful that Gil would think him just as kind. “I think you’re the winner. No contest.”

“Thank you.”

Barnaby rolled up his window, and Gil turned off the car. It’d been a quiet ride, but at least his queasiness had subsided. No more shaking either. Whenever he’d looked over, Gil would still have that pleasant look on his face.

“Did you have a good time?”

Barnaby could feel a glow coming over him, and he dipped his head. “I had a lot of fun. Yeah. Sorry, if I didn’t- seem like it, but you…You made it fun. Thank you.”

Gil’s hand left the steering wheel, and Barnaby’s breath stuttered as his chin was tilted up. “Well-” Voice barely above a whisper, Gil leaned in. Barnaby studied how his lips formed every word – “I’m glad for that. Hate to find out I traumatized you.”

“What?” Barnaby could have snorted. He thought he saw a twinkle in Gil’s eyes, but he was unable to stop himself, “No- no, nothing like that. God, I- I know I’m like, a wimp, and I’m- really sorry if I did anything to embarrass you or acted ungrateful because I really did have a good time and I can still get you the money back if you want it but-”

The rest faded into Gil’s mouth. A point forgotten as all of Barnaby ‘s attention abruptly shifted to kissing the man. He made a grab for his sweater, something to use for purchase while attempting to match Gil ‘s sudden heat. It was the least he could do.

Until the man was tugging on him in turn, and his lips moved to Barnaby ‘s ear. “You know, it’s hard to believe you’re a wimp with that collar around your neck.”

A whine slipped out involuntarily, and Barnaby tucked his head under Gil’s chin, pretending he could delay the confrontation. With cheeks starting to burn, he mumbled, “That’s two different things.”

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