Designated Brothers

Summary: Steve is an emotional drunk. Pete finds this out the hard way. Friendship fluff.

A/N: Just thought I'd try for some things we haven't seen very much of, like Drunk! Steve and some fun Pete and Steve interaction.

Much to everyone's amusement, Steve lands himself a date for Saturday night. They tease him particularly hard because none of them have ever really seen him flirt with anyone before, much less try for something like a relationship. Myka wishes him luck, Artie grumbles that he should have fun, Claudia approves his clothes, and Pete shakes his hand, discreetly giving him a few condoms and making him blush so much that Claudia asks if he somehow got a sunburn within the last five minutes.

It's been a long time since he's felt like this, like the little brother, going on his first date. He's a grown man, and yet somehow they make him feel about fourteen. Part of him kind of likes the attention, part of him wants to disappear in embarrassment. So yeah, that's pretty much the same.

"I'll be waiting up for you, young man," Claudia says sternly, and he rolls his eyes and waves goodbye to them all, then heads out to one of the few places that counts as fancy dining in Univille.

He first met Michael a week ago at the post office, when he was picking up everyone's mail. Michael had recognized him as one of the "IRS guys," and, surprisingly, didn't seem to hate him for it. In fact, he struck up a conversation with him and before Steve knew what was happening, he was agreeing to dinner.

The restaurant is perfect for a date, and Michael is right on time. He has a nice smile, and Steve's always been kind of a sucker for a nice smile. They order food, talk for awhile, eat, and it's not as awkward as he'd thought it would be, until -

"Oh yeah, I love Italy. Been there three or four times now, usually during the summer."

A lie.

And Steve remembers why he hates first dates. People always lie on first dates. He ignores the first one. Smiles through the second lie that comes a few minutes later. Considers telling Michael that he knows he's lying on the third one, and loses interest completely by the fourth one. Steve doesn't know what just happened, but suddenly Michael's on a roll. And it's stupid lies too, and Steve's pretty sure Michael's just telling Steve what he thinks he wants to hear. If there's one thing that drives him crazy, it's this - people not giving their own opinions and just going with the flow for other people. It's kind of a deal breaker.

No wonder he sucks at dating. He doesn't get it at all.

The date ends rather early, and Michael promises to call. He's lying, and Steve doesn't really blame him - he could almost certainly feel the wall that Steve had put up by the end of it.

And then he's alone and doesn't want to go back to the Bed and Breakfast just yet, because Claudia's most certainly waiting up for details and he's got no good ones to report. He decides to grab a drink at one of the bars, just one.

One turns into three before he can help himself, and he knows he's kind of going against Buddhist beliefs by drinking towards inebriation, but hey, it's been awhile since he's lapsed and nobody's perfect, right? Anyway, scotch and soda is really kind of delicious, and before he knows it he's too drunk to drive home. He thinks about calling a cab, but then he can't remember if Univille even has a cab service, much less the number for one. The bartender is too busy dealing with a hostile drunk whose probably about to be thrown out to recommend one to him. Steve thinks of calling Claudia, but he really doesn't want her seeing him this way, because he's feeling like a wreck. He thinks of Myka, then remembers she was starting to come down with a cold or something and he probably shouldn't bother her. He laughs at the idea of calling Artie, because, how awkward would that car ride be? Which leaves -

"Hey, Pete. I'm kind of uh, um drunk, so yeah, you think you c-could pick me up? At the bar downtown, yeah. Drunk. Don't - don't tell Claudia, alright?"

Pete says something like, "On my way," and Steve hangs up, sits near the exit and waits. He tries to count the number of lies he can hear in the conversations around him, but they kind of hurt his head. He's just about ready to walk home when Pete arrives. He glances around the bar and spots him quickly. Steve wobbles slightly as he stands, and Pete braces him against his own shoulder.

"Man, you really are wasted, huh? Didn't know Buddhists could get drunk."

"Nobody's perfect," Steve says with a half giggle.

"Fair enough." Pete leads him out of the bar, supporting much of his weight.

Outside in the parking lot, Steve clutches to Pete. "Hey, Pete, thanks for - thanks for doing this, man, I really needed somebody." It comes out as a half-sob complete with tears, and another half-giggle. Pete pauses, taken aback.

"Uh, Steve, are you - you're not an emotional drunk are you?"

Steve sucks in a breath, shakes his head. "Can't hold my alcohol at all..."

"Oh, I was so not prepared for this." Pete says, lugging him along. He opens the passenger door for him and Steve clambers clumsily inside. Pete gets into the driver's seat, closes the door, and starts the car. Steve fumbles with his seat belt but finally manages to get it. When he does, Pete puts the car in drive and heads down the mostly-empty street.

Pete glances at his inebriated charge. "Hey, Steve?"

"Hmm?"

"Mind if I ask why you thought getting drunk was a good call tonight? It just doesn't seem like you, so I want to make sure you're alright. You can talk to me anytime, you know."

"Oooh, Pete, you are such a good guy. Like, such a good guy. And yeah, no, I'm alright. I just kinda got hopes up for this date. Because it's been awhile, and it didn't go so well. And I guess I've just been thinking about how little time we have with this job sometimes. Seems like a shame, going out alone. I've done it once already."

Steve rubs his face with his hand, and Pete stays quiet because even though he gets it, he's not sure what to say. It's something they all go through, every now and then, because the old saying that has become a bit of a running joke among them is rarely funny: it seems all Warehouse agents either go crazy, go evil, or wind up dead - and often enough, all three. And when you stare that in the face this often, you think about the time you've had thus far and if any of it's really been worthwhile. None of them have managed even the semblance of a normal life; they're all failures in romance because they're too busy staving off the next end of the world. Pete loves his job, and he's pretty sure they all do too because otherwise they wouldn't stick with it - but sometimes, everyone, even him, doubts whether or not the cost is too high to his own personal life.

It'd be nice to have someone around to reassure you that even just a scrape of the best of both worlds is possible.

Steve's calmed down a bit, leaning back now. "Did you tell Claudia about this?"

"Nah."

"Good. I didn't - didn't want her to worry. I mean, I know I'm older than her, but damn, she takes care of me so much anyway. Like my sister used to."

Pete smiles, pats his shoulder. "Yeah. She's good like that. We're here."

Pete parks the car and gets out. Steve's still stumbling a bit, so he wraps an arm around his shoulder, like his college buddies used to do for him. "Claudia was in the front when I left, but we'll go through the back and get you to bed. I'll tell her you got home alright, you'll catch up with her in the morning."

"Thanks, Pete."

Pete helps him up to his room and lets him collapse on the bed. "I'll be right back," Pete tells him. While he's gone, Steve kicks off his shoes and tosses his jacket to the floor. He starts to unbutton his shirt, but after two fumbled buttons it doesn't seem worth the effort. Pete returns mid-struggle, carrying a large glass of water and a box of Kleenex, and setting them down on Steve's bedside table. He notices Steve's shirt problems and shakes his head, reaches over and quickly begins to unbutton them himself. "Okay, you know how we're not telling Claudia about this? We're not telling anyone about this. Or mentioning it again. And the pants are your problem, because there's definitely a line here."

Steve laughs and shrugs out of his newly unbutttoned shirt. Pete leaves him to it, grabs a small trash bin in the corner and places it near the bed. "Okay. Trash is for, you know, if you feel the need to puke your guts out. Drink the water, it'll help lessen the hangover tomorrow if you hydrate enough."

"What's the tissue for?"

"Ah, right, I'm heading over to Myka's room next. You should see how much her nose is going!"

"You're quite the caretaker tonight." Steve mumbles.

"Damn straight. I got this." Pete replies, looking pleased with himself.

Steve settles back against his pillow, throws the blankets over himself, and scoots down. He's kind of guessing that he probably looks like a 10 year old being tucked in, but it's kind of nice, being taken care of, so he doesn't really mind. And also, he'll probably forget this by the morning.

Pete grabs the tissues off the bedside table. "Anything else I can get you, Jinksy?"

Steve shakes his head. "No, thanks."

Pete turns and heads out, but pauses at the door. He says, "Steve? I just want you to know, just because you don't have anyone special romantically, it doesn't mean you're alone. We're family, you know?"

Steve thinks it over. "I've never had a brother before."

Pete smiles. "Me neither. Also, I look forward to giving you noogies in the morning."

Steve groans at the thought, knowing Pete's likely to follow through.

Pete cackles. "Consider it punishment for drinking, young man."

Steve groans again, and Pete just shakes his head and holds back another laugh. "Goodnight, Steve."

"G'night, Pete."

Pete smiles, turns out the light as he goes, and heads to Myka's room with the box of Kleenex in hand.