Tangible Schizophrenia


The Dating Game I: Pet Shop Boys

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Gawain/Tristan
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
. Notes: Title suggested by linaelyn.
Summary: In which Gawain is attacked by a possum species, discusses Galahad’s attitude, and discovers a new skill of Tristan’s.



Just then, something gray and white and huge-eyed whizzed past, a hair above Gawain’s head. He jerked to the floor, ass and heels of hands hitting first, and twisted almost in the same movement barely in time to see the store clerk net the sugar glider. The clerk, who was about sixteen and looked as jangled as a lifetime wino jumping on the wagon, let out a ragged gasp of relief. It was probably his first-ever job.

Tristan ambled up to Gawain and put down a hand for Gawain to grab. “Not bad, considering it had to swerve around the macaw,” he said, hauling Gawain onto his feet.

“If you say so. I wouldn’t know.” Gawain watched the clerk slip the escaped sugar glider back into its cage. Beside the man was the mom-and-brat set that’d wanted to see it in the first place, and that’d blatantly disobeyed instructions to not let it free. The little girl was screaming about free Willy and poor widdle squirrels, the mother merely shared harried looks with the clerk, and the glider…Gawain was probably imagining things, but it seemed to have a devilish glint in its eyes.

“Same expression as Lancelot.” Possibly not. If Tristan saw the same thing, then the chances of it being reality shot up a hell of a lot.

The aisle with the rodent supplies was right next to the sugar glider cage, so they passed by it on their way to load up; Tristan’s hawk could be a bit finicky and so he raised a few specialty breeds of mice to sweeten her up whenever she was having a fit. They were eying the fifty different brands of identical rodent bedding when something snicked—the sugar glider was clinging to the front of the cage and boldly eying them.

Though Lancelot didn’t come around campus as much as Guinevere did, Gawain had seen him and Arthur together enough times to know when to exit the room and lock the door. It really was eerie how that glider’s look resembled the one Lancelot got just before Arthur started to stammer and flush.

“I think he’s taken a liking to you.” Tristan was slowly scanning the rows and shelves of products for his brand. When he found it, he rose on his toes to haul down a good-sized bag.

Gawain wasn’t exactly sure how to take that. He double-checked the glider, found that its gaze was indeed fixed on him, and hastily turned away to grab more supplies from the shelves. For some reason, it just made his nerves jumpy to see that kind of expression on a small furry thing. “Right, bedding. I’ve got the food and the new toys. Do we need anything else?”

“It might like Galahad even better.” The bag bounced and squished in front of Gawain’s face as Tristan examined it for holes. He didn’t offer any explanation of his weird comment.

‘It’ couldn’t be anything but the sugar glider, and the glider’s way of expressing affection, as implied by Tristan, was…buzzing people. Ah. “No. Look, I know he’s a bit…okay, he can be bitchier than a PMS-ing woman. But the tossing things at him doesn’t really help. He’s not my roommate just because he helps pay the bills.”

“So no glider.” The bag came down and Tristan nodded towards the register. “That’s it.”

He was being especially noncommittal, which worried Gawain. Admittedly, Tristan didn’t seem to react to much, but that was mostly his facial expressions and his voice. Watching his way of moving and listening to how much sound he made seemed to be a better indication of how he felt, though at this point that was just a preliminary hypothesis of Gawain’s.

It’d only been a few weeks, but frankly, being with Tristan was so ridiculously easy that Gawain sometimes didn’t want to breathe too hard. On the other hand, Galahad went all the way back as far as Gawain could remember. “I…if this goes anything like my other boyfriends, he’ll knock it off after another week.”

Tristan’s eyebrow faintly twitched upward, but he didn’t break stride. “What’s he afraid of?”

That was a complicated question. And usually it took longer than that for people to figure out that that was the one to ask, so Gawain had to take a moment to be impressed. Then he had to take another moment to decide just how he wanted to play it, considering that he’d actually been stretching a bit. If this had been a normal progression, Galahad should’ve been distracted by tits a couple days ago.

“Well…” Not to mention this was a pet store with nosy little children running around, and God know Gawain didn’t want this overheard. Hell, he’d never even tried telling the whole truth to anyone—Galahad already knew it, having been there—but he wanted to now. For one, he had a feeling Tristan would be able to tell he was lying no matter how he dressed it up. The other man probably wouldn’t comment on it, but that was exactly what was going to make things uncomfortable: Gawain wouldn’t be able to read his reaction well enough for that to not matter.

There was a small, semi-isolated section formed by the cat-food aisle and the beginning of the reptiles. Gawain sidestepped into it and pretended to be watching the baby crocodiles swim around. He heard Tristan come up beside him, but it was a little longer before he finally got everything straight in his head. Mostly. He’d get things ordered up and then another wisp of hair would fall in front of Tristan’s face, and he’d forget a bit.

“L. A. ghettos, you know. Not the most friendly place in the world. First guy I ever saw was in denial—okay, anyone who liked guys had to keep it low around there, but that wasn’t all it for him. I cut things off for other reasons and he…acted like a bastard and mouthed off in front of the wrong people and almost got me tossed in a dumpster.” One of the crocodiles wriggled up to the front of the tank and then just floated there, little beady eyes rolling to track Gawain’s every move. Weird—wild animals completely ignored Gawain and instantly went for Tristan.

Well, predator. Maybe it was that old saying about smelling fear, though Gawain couldn’t remember enough basic bio to know whether crocodiles had a sense of smell. And anyway, he was over it and three thousand miles long gone.

“Galahad happened to be in the next room—his mom dumped him with us whenever she wanted to hit the casinos for a month or so—and he ended up with this two-inch scar on his back.” Gawain re-hefted his armful and leaned back to look at Tristan. The other man wasn’t moving the muscles in his cheeks or jaw or forehead, but his eyes were digging around in Gawain’s skull. It was a boost to know that Gawain could take that without having a fit about it, or wet eyes or anything. “Funny, you know…he still thought it was disgusting and he was maybe fifty pounds less than the other guy, but he didn’t hesitate to jump him.”

Tristan nodded and slowly scanned away from Gawain to unfocus his eyes at the chameleons and think on something. “He doesn’t still think it’s disgusting, does he?”

“Nah. I mean, he doesn’t want to see it, but he’s okay with it all. It sort of relates to his mom—when she wasn’t gambling, she was hanging around this freakish garage-priest. Ended up running off with him, so hell if I know what the guy was preaching, but it wasn’t exactly Christianity. Had the trappings, though, and so Galahad kinda hates anything it says.” The other part was that Galahad was, when he settled down to notice, actually more reliant on reason than Gawain was. Gawain liked men, Gawain wasn’t someone Galahad personally found disgusting, so things didn’t compute. Or so Galahad had mumbled one night while they were driving through Kansas on the way to New York. “Um. Don’t let Galahad know I told you that. He’s touchy about her.”

Gawain was about to mention the other bits when Tristan finished thinking and snapped his head down, concluding…whatever it was he did up in his mind. Sometimes Arthur did that when working out a particularly knotty problem—all the calculations showed in his eyes, but they were so damned complicated that Gawain couldn’t even begin to guess for what they were supposed to solve.

“You’re right. He’s not that bad.” And just like that, the pivot of Tristan’s heel as he turned towards the checkout lanes told Gawain that the man had gotten all of that without needing to be told. “When he keeps his mouth shut.”

“I’m working on that,” Gawain muttered, somewhat embarrassed. But overall, he was pretty damn relieved. He also wanted to smile, but the kind of grin that was yanking on his mouth felt like one that might be easily misinterpreted—not by Tristan, but by that brat who was still in the store and who was now babbling about the pretty gold bits in that man’s hair. Sometimes Gawain hated how easily his hair got sun-streaked. “I think he’s just pissy because he’s finally run up against a girl he can’t charm.”

Tristan betrayed a bit of a smirk as he deposited the items from his and Gawain’s arms onto the check-out belt. “Mariette does have a very low opinion of men. She had a little crush on Arthur for a while, and I think it gave her extremely high standards.”

“You—wait, you guys know her? I thought she was an exchange student?—oh, wait. You were…” Actually, Gawain had never figured out exactly what Tristan’s origins were. As homogenized-newscaster as Tristan’s accent was, occasionally a little edge of something else slipped into it. Especially when he was moaning…oh, hell. Not in front of the fucking kid, Gawain sternly told himself.

“Vaguely. Arthur and I were in Paris for a while at the Sorbonne. Both Mariette’s parents are professors there. They were…protective.” A credit card flicked between Tristan’s fingers and he held it out to the clerk, who stared in awe for a second before taking it. While the swipe was being processed, Tristan started to bag up everything. “It’s probably why she’s here—they would’ve wanted her to go somewhere where they could annoy faculty into updating them on her.”

Before Tristan could take everything, Gawain sneaked in a hand and claimed the heaviest items. In serendipitous timing, the clerk shoved the receipt for Tristan to sign so the other man couldn’t do anything except let Gawain. “So does Arthur?”

That tiny, surprisingly engaging grin flashed across Tristan’s face again. “He recommended her to be Kitty’s grad student for a reason. He’s very firm about personal independence. And actually not that bad at stalling people.”

Sounded like him, even if Gawain couldn’t picture it in his head. Then again, the very last Gawain had seen of Arthur before the weekend had started was him being lip-sucked into the front passenger seat by Guinevere. It was a much more vivid image than Gawain’s memory of how Arthur had coolly ordered around Interpol.

When they stepped outside, the whining of the little girl was finally replaced by the sounds of NYC traffic, which wasn’t much better but to which Gawain was more accustomed. While Gawain loaded their purchases in the backseat, Tristan slid into the front and began the strange voodoo that made his big panther of a car-wreck run like a dream. Gawain had tried to drive it exactly once and had stalled it in the middle of what had been thankfully a little-used intersection. Nevertheless, the memory still made him blush.

He twisted around and sat himself down in his seat as Tristan was backing out, which was always nerve-wracking and amazing to see. The man did it perfectly with only one hand and with his eyes on the radio, which he was tuning with the other. Which was why Gawain kept his eyes closed while Tristan did it. “Your apartment’s closer, unless you wanted to make any stops along the way.”

“Nope.” Gawain heard the wheels bump from parking lot concrete to regular tar and opened his eyes. His hand hurt, and when he looked down, he saw he’d locked it around the door handle. He quickly pried it off, hoping to God Tristan hadn’t noticed, knowing the man had anyway and not caring too much about it. Which wasn’t a response that made sense in any other context than Tristan. “Actually, Galahad—” snicker “—okay, I should feel more sorry for him, but…well, Arthur and Kitty are collaborating on these papers. And so today Galahad’s at the g-brary, attempting to work with Mariette.”

“She probably won’t kill him.” Though Tristan didn’t sound all that serious. He found a station with a good beat and sank back into the cushions, head tipping up so he was staring at the road through half-closed eyes and hanks of hair.

When Gawain reached across and tucked some of it back, Tristan rolled his head to give Gawain a look that—thank God there weren’t any kids now. “So he’s not coming back to your place till—”

“Dinner-ish.” Gawain grinned back and let his fingers drift down to feather along Tristan’s jaw before he drew back. “I always thought French sounded sexy. You learn any of it while you were over there?”

The corners of Tristan’s lips pulled back to show a hungry set of white teeth. Then he casually turned back to the road and Gawain suddenly remembered what that meant. Oh, fuck.

He grabbed the strap above the window and shoved his heels against the floor just as Tristan floored it.