When I first took the job there, he laughed at me—and didn't stop for at least five minutes

When I first took the job there, he laughed at me—and didn't stop for at least five minutes. He simply couldn't understand why I took a job there when I could've been making triple, or quadruple, at the electrical company that had been stalking me for weeks. I took it because I preferred to work with animals rather than computers, and that just because my "gift" was being able to work computers well, didn't mean I had to surround myself with them. Plus, the guys that worked there watched me with hungry, never-ending beady eyes; they sweated beneath their light blue work-shirts and imagined with those beady eyes what was going on beneath mine. I didn't want to surround myself with those kinds of people, either.

Eventually Axel understood why I took the job at the pet store downtown.

Eventually, Axel liked me working there almost more than I did.

It all started on December 1st of last year. I had been sitting around on a barstool behind the counter, listening to the dogs in the back bark at one another and the people in the corner loudly talk about which fish would go better with their freshly remodeled living room. Business was slow that day and I had been debating on closing down early—mainly because there were only a few other people in the store (besides the loud fish people), talking with Billy the Parrot whom that had come to see every day after school let out—and, as noted the people in the corner were really annoyingly loud and I didn't want to be around them anymore. Who cared if the fish didn't match their living room layout or design? They were a fucking fish, not some expendable pieces of decoration. They were alive and required attention. I hated people like that. People who figured that animals were beneath them and their only purpose was to make their human "master" happy.

As I sat there, staring at a computer game magazine that Axel dropped by yesterday (it made him "think of me"), I was actually really debating on not selling them anything if they came up and asked me to get a few fish from the tank. But I didn't want to lose my job, did I? No, especially not when I was so close to becoming assistant manager that I could taste the pay-raise on the tip of my tongue. I had only been there for two months, but, quite frankly, I was the best worker and salesman that the owner had ever seen.

"Mommy, I want some of the orange ones!" the loud little girl in the corner cried. My eyes traveled from an action videogame's ad to the people staring at the rows of fish tanks. The little girl was tugging on her mother's skirt, tears in her eyes as she stomped her foot. What a brat. I took my eyes off her when the mother shooed her away with a flick of her wrist and a ibzz/i from her mouth, and let them wander to a green coral fish tank ornament. Suddenly I got the urge to shove the rock into the girl's mouth. Too bad it wasn't orange, right?

"It won't go with the green in the living room, would it?" her father asked after he thought about it for a while, turning his gaze from a tank full of angelfish to his wife.

"Actually…maybe it would. Green and orange go together well, you know…" The wife began chewing on her lip, like the subject matter was life or death.

"Mommy, they'll go! Promise! I just want them," the little girl squeaked, pulling on her mother's skirt once more with her head placed lightly against her outer thigh.

I snorted softly to myself and returned to my magazine, feeling bad for the fish that they would pick. Poor little thing, having their fates put into the hands of a seemingly absentminded family with matching on their minds rather than the importance of life. While beginning to reread the article that I had left off on, I thought about my fish back at the apartment that Axel and I shared. I loved my fish so much—as well as my kitten and my snake. I loved animals, needless to say, and it angered me as well as broke my heart to know that some people wouldn't take care of them correctly.

"Okay, do you want to get the orange one then?" the wife questioned, turning her attention over to her husband and her daughter completely. Neither of the three seemed to notice their son almost falling asleep back near a tank of hermit crabs. I tried my best to keep from laughing. At least he didn't seem like a life-dictating dick. "Okay, sweetie, go get one of the workers, alright?"

The little girl nodded and ran away from her parents, humming loudly until she wound up at my desk. Once there she put her arms on the counter, crossed them and then lowered her head onto them. Her eyes, huge and green and kind of creepy—she was staring at me, like she was trying to rip apart everything and get inside my head—stared up at me blankly for a moment until she cheerily chirped, "Can you come get these fishies out for us?"

Reluctant as I was, I nodded despite myself and stood up. I cursed the barstool that I had been sitting on, as it had made my butt go numb and made it feel uncomfortable as hell to walk with. Like the first time Axel and I had full-fledged sex; I had to walk to work (at the time, I was working at some electrical company, who's name I cannot remember) from our apartment because our car was in the shop—and let me tell you, that was bnot/b a pleasant walk! To make things worse, he stopped by later with the car, laughed at me and drove off. Sometimes I wondered why I loved that man so much.

Other times, I knew perfectly. It was because Axel was always willing to try new things and go bold. He wasn't afraid of who he was, and he knew his limits (which never seemed to there). That red hair of his was probably his drive. The color never faltered; it just got brighter and brighter: redder and redder—just like his spirit. There wasn't one thing that I would ijokingly/i suggest that Axel wouldn't jump up and scream, i"C'mon, let's go try!/i"

That, and he happened to be one kinky motherfucker.

A light veil of embarrassment painted my cheeks pink while I slowly walked behind the little girl. Her mother and father smiled widely as I approached and her older brother snapped-to. The boy nearly fell over but regained his composure quickly. As I walked to his parents his eyes traveled me slowly. Another shade forced itself into view as I cleared my throat and turned my attention fully to his parents. "What do you all need?" I asked, forcing on a smile.

The fish in the tank across from me blew bubbles helplessly. I wanted to just take them all and set them free in a river or something to get them away from these people—or maybe take them all in. Axel probably wouldn't like if I brought home tons of little fish, but I didn't care. I just wanted these people out.

Tending to them was a blur. I tried to speak the least that I could under the circumstances. Ten orange fish and five blue-green were sold halfheartedly, put into three bags respectably with five fish in each, a prayer from me that they'd be okay floating about with each of them. The parents paid, the little girl cheered, the fish blew bubbles sadly within their plastic confinements and their mute teenage boy stood in the corner near Billy the Parrot, not talking but stroking the bird's head.

After I felt like I had sold my soul, as well as the fish, to the family before me (Reid, by the name that the mother signed on the receipt). They thanked me for my service while I thanked them for leaving inside of my head. Even while they exited, though, the teenage boy stood with Billy, who seemed to have taken to the boy. He talked to the boy as if they had known each other since he hatched from his egg, multicolored wings spread out as wide as his arm span would let them. Billy's head bobbed happily and the brunette boy stifled a laugh.

Silently I watched the two. Billy didn't take to most people that fast. Was this kid into birds—or was he just nicer than his family members? Did he actually have a heart for animals? He didn't look that bad.

"Excuse me—aren't your parents leaving?" I asked while I leaned against my desk's counter. The metal smelled like cats and fish and cheap fish food; the metal was colder than I expected and felt like ice against my thinly clothed chest.

The brunette shrugged indifferently, scratched Billy's head and turned to me. "I'm getting a ride from my girlfriend in a few minutes. I needed to ask you if you sold any shock collars in private—if my mom and dad heard about them, they'd probably ask if you had any for the fish." A slightly pained laugh left his lips while he kicked the ground. If he resented the fact that his parents might have bought a shock collar, why was he? Did he live alone or with his girlfriend or something, and the apartment or neighbors wouldn't allow loud dogs?

"Uh…yeah, we do…I'll show you." In silence (or, as much as you could get in a pet store) fell over us as I walked slowly to the collar section of the store. On the walls hung multicolored, single-colored, fuzzy-textured, and uniquely decorated dog collars and leashes of a rainbow of textures and colors. I stopped in front of a few boxed ones and looked to the boy. "How…how big's the dog?"

"…Are these safe for humans?" Was asked out of the blue. Brown eyes refused to meet my own blue ones while he traced his fingers over the boxes.

"In certain amounts of voltages, yes. If you leave it on for a while it can zap your vocal cords. Why…if I may ask?" My ears flushed hotly and I turned away from the other boy, knowing why he couldn't look at me. What did he intend on using this for? With his girlfriend maybe? As if on cue I thought of Axel, running in here to buy a collar for himself to wear the next time we have sex. Or maybe just so he could walk around with it on and masturbate. My boyfriend was so weird, but I couldn't say that I didn't love it.

"So…it wouldn't hurt that much…if I…wore it?" The last few words were squeaked out in a hushed tone while he twiddled his thumbs. The nervousness that he felt radiated like the rays from the sun.

"If…if you don't do extensive talking, you should be fine. What do you intend on using it for…?" I asked him, biting my lip as I studied one of the boxes before me. In decent sized print on the back was the message, "NOT FOR HUMANS", but if it wasn't lethal, who cared, right? Apparently these two didn't. It was weird but interestingly hot. It was very Axel…very him. My groin yelled at my mind to call him once this kid left, but my mind hissed at it and told it that it was a freak. Still my groin continued to yell that I needed to buy one. I subconsciously covered my groin with my arms, crossed at the wrist.

"Sex. My girlfriend said it'd be neat," he whispered bluntly, eyes on the ugly gray floor beneath us. "She's really into kink and…yeah."

iI know how that is/i I wanted to reply, but I didn't. "I'll…meet me at the counter, I'll get one that I think will do the trick."

"As long as it's under 100 and won't kill me, it'll 'do the trick'," he replied almost solemnly. Ever step he took seemed to echo in my ears. While the boy walked away, his pockets filled by his hands and his face filled by a red flush, I observed the boxes of shock collars around me.

Their names were funny—iA Shocky for Spotty/i, iShockingly Exciting/i (…exciting? What the hell!), iSilent for Treats/i and so on—but sick, so I ended up just looking at the voltage. The amount of voltage corresponded with the size of the dog sitting on the box. I ended up snatching one with a medium sized dog and beginning for my desk. Somehow my groin got the best of me and I walked back to get a second one. I blushed and returned to the counter, hiding the second one before the other saw it.

"This is embarrassing," the boy laughed softly. "I feel like a fucking freak. I should've never mentioned the reason…" He pulled out his wallet and sighed loudly, flicking the leather material a few times.

"No, no…it's okay. Some people have a more…unique drive than others. It's not a crime." I scanned the dog collar and placed it in a bag. "That'll be 78.87." I smirked at the ironic price while he frowned at his wallet and the 100 bill that he was handing over. Couldn't he have given me like…a fifty, two tens and a dollar or something? He had to give me a fucking huge bill. But, at least I could do the math in my head. "Your change is 21.13. Uh…come again?"

"Hopefully for a legitimate reason next time," said the boy, pocketing his change before taking the bag that I had just held out for him.

I wanted to ask him to tell me how things went, how it felt and was it pleasant, but I bit my tongue. I wasn't Axel—I had shame and I was easily embarrassed. The redhead that owned my heart never flushed at anything or anyone. He could fart in the middle of a crowd and just shrug it off like it was nothing. Come to think of it…he had actually done that before…

I cursed him in my head for making me so weird before I looked at the box that I had pulled aside for myself. Was I really going to buy this and put it on when we had sex next? Was I really being changed by Axel? I would never have even thought about using this on myself before Axel came along; I would've flushed like a shockingly rip tomato while the teen that just left told me the reason behind it. A groan left my lips as I placed my forehead against the counter, folding my arms over my head afterwards.

"I'm not going to use you. This is crazy. I'm going to put you up, close down and leave. God, I'm going to kill you for making me so weird, Axel…" I left my post again and headed back to the leash section. After putting back the box filled with a shock collar and embarrassment, I turned on my heel and started for my counter again. But I didn't get very far, though. I was stopped in the middle of my quest by my dick yelling at my mind to make me turn around. "I'm not buying a shock collar for kinky sex with Axel!" I yelled at myself, flushing as I realized that I hadn't closed the store yet. Here I was, declaring myself as gay (even though I really didn't care) and the fact that I might be having kinky sex with Axel. My hand hit my forehead and I sighed loudly, tapping my foot.

Despite myself I walked back to the shock collars, got the one that I sat down, and went to the front of the store. I flipped the sign, sighed and turned to the store behind me. "I'm sorry but we're closing! If there's anyone here, please come back tomorrow!" I waited there for a moment, showed three kids and their parent out and locked three of the four glass doors behind them.

Finally I made it back to my seat, the shock collar before me. I hesitantly picked up the company phone, stared at the numbers and then dialed Axel's cell phone number. When he picked up, I debated on hanging up. I didn't, even though I felt like an idiot at the moment. "Hey, baby…" I mumbled softly, pushing the shock collar away a little.

"Hey! What's up? You need a ride home now?"

"Yeah…I'm ready to go home."

"I'll see you in a few. "

After Axel hung up, my stomach churned softly and my face flushed again. The bird chirped behind me and the fish tanks made their constant swirling noises as the filters surged on like normal, but for the first time here I felt out of place. I was going to buy a fucking shock collar to use while having sex with my boyfriend! How wrong was that?

I figured that I'd sit there and just think about it until Axel got there. By the time he arrived, I figured that I'd have come to my senses and the shock collar would be back in its original spot.

"This is going to be a long ten minutes…"