A Construct Walks Into a Bar…
by volta arovet
Nights are an unusual time on Heiphong. There are nights of sorrow. There are nights of passion. There are nights of endings. There are nights of beginnings. There are nights of giant bugs, ice cream, and super-intelligent cacti. For two men in a bar on Heiphong, this night was all of the above.
Well, except for the super-intelligent cacti bit. We're pretty sure that was a one-time deal.
As the mystical forces of convergence began to flow around him, Fred Luo was busy being depressed in a dimly lit bar in the center of Heiphong. Had he not been so busy being depressed, he probably still would not notice the forces gathering around him. But gathering they were. Mystical forces. Forces of power. Forces of destiny. And strangely, forces of chocolate.
On second thought, there were no forces affecting the situation. It all occurred naturally on its own. Yep, pure coincidence, with absolutely no author intervention. Anyone on Heiphong who wishes to disagree can do so and run the risk of being struck by lightening.
And so, it was only by mere coincidence, and not by divine author intervention, that Harry MacDougal ended up at the same bar as Fred Luo. Hands shoved into his pockets, head bowed, the construct walked into a bar.
"Ow," Harry said, rubbing his head. Yet another person fell victim to a bad pun.
Harry decided that, as much as his lowered head conveyed the perfect sense of tragic bishounen, it was best to look where he was walking. Thus, he raised his head, ducked under the bar, and entered the drinking establishment with little trouble. On the way in, he unapologetically bumped into a mushroom who was being ejected from the bar, all the while grumbling that it was unfair: he wasn't drunk, he was a 'fun guy.' Harry was so depressed he didn't even notice that 'unapologetically' isn't actually a real word. It was that sort of night.
Harry walked away from the food, past the twelve-inch person playing piano, and up to the bar. To his surprise, the two others sitting at the bar both had as long faces as he did. Of course, one of them was a horse. Harry sat down next to the other human, a taller man with a red bandanna, dark hair, and darker eyes.
The bartender returned from tossing the mushroom out, took one look at the horse, and said, "What, is this a joke?" Yes. Yes, it was. After shooing the horse away, the bartender walked up to the human next to Harry. "You want another refill, Fred?"
Fred sadly pried his gaze away from the bottom of his tankard and said to the bartender, "There's a hundred wong tip for you if you can make sure that this glass is never empty."
"Same goes for mine," Harry ordered. He narrowed his eyes maliciously and added, "And an extra fifty wong if you always fill my glass before you fill his." He nodded at Fred.
"Yes, sir," the bartender agreed, setting a tankard out in front of Harry. Harry immediately downed the entire thing.
"What did I say about this being empty?" Harry reminded the bartender, who immediately filled it up again.
"Hey, buddy, take it slow or you're going to hurt yourself," the bartender cautioned. "Don't drink so much at once." Harry glared at him.
"Am I still conscious?" he asked the bartender, who nodded his head. "Then I have neither drunk too much nor too quickly."
"You sound nearly as depressed as I am," Fred mused. Harry pointedly ignored him. "Take comfort in the fact that your life is not nearly as awful as mine is right now."
Harry could not dismiss this challenge. "Oh yeah? I really doubt that."
"Well, what would you say if the person you loved was getting married?" Fred challenged.
"I'd say join the club," Harry sneered.
"Well, what would you say if he was this beautiful human marrying a bioandroid woman?" Fred pressed.
"It's not as bad as my beautiful bioandroid marrying a human," Harry returned.
"Well, what would you say if he was this beautiful human marrying a female bioandroid woman?" Fred asked, and downed the rest of his drink.
"I'd call you master of obvious," Harry said, and downed his drink as well. The bartender refilled both of their tankards.
Fred stuck out his hand. "Fred Luo."
Harry took it. "Harry, erm, Williams."
Fred raised a delicate eyebrow. "Let's see here…turquoise hair, violet eyes, thing for bioandroid women, cheekbones to die for…your last name isn't really Williams, is it?"
Harry sighed, shook Fred's hand once again, and said, "Harry MacDougal, nice to meet you."
Fred looked at Harry quizically. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you supposed to be dead?"
A pair of shrugged shoulders was Fred's only answer. "You're a friend of Gene Starwind, aren't you? Guess that means I just gave my name to an enemy. I'll have to kill you later." He sighed again, pitiably. Assassination was therapeutic in a cathartic kind of way, but he didn't have the energy for it at the moment.
"You know, you're not the first person to attempt to kill me. Or the second. Or the tenth. Hold on a moment." Fred slipped his hand inside one of the pockets in his beautiful, oversized, white jacket. From it he pulled a list of names. He scrawled Harry's name at the bottom of the list. "You're number…72. That makes ten names in the past two months." He leaned over to Harry and whispered confidentially, "We're going to have a 'Hey, I'm Still Alive!' party once we reach 100."
"I heard you're pretty rich. You must get assassination attempts a lot, then?" Harry asked, beginning to be drawn from his melancholy into a somewhat interesting conversation. Fred nodded and tugged on his right ear.
"I knew something bad was going to happen today," Fred griped. "I just knew it. I expected some normal problem, like one of my business rivals ordering an attempt on my life. I thought to myself, 'Self, life's been too easy recently. The Elsinore brothers haven't tried anything recently; I bet they're going to hire someone to kill me today.' I didn't hear a peep from the Elsinore brothers, but something terrible did indeed happen today. Of course, I never thought it was going to be as bad as the man I love deciding to get married."
Harry managed to drag himself away from his tankard long enough to say, "If it makes any difference, I might have a bit of good news for you. You say the Elsinore brothers are your rivals?"
"They're one group among many," Fred said flippantly, but his interest was piqued. "Why do you ask?"
Harry took a sip of his beer, then said, "Well, they're not your rivals anymore. They're just dead, if the news I heard this morning was correct."
Fred raised his eyebrows. "Really? All four of them?" Harry nodded his head. "So what you're saying is that Rose and Crantz and Guild and Stern…"
"Are dead," Harry finished for him.
Fred tugged pensively on his right ear.
"What is that?" Harry suddenly asked.
Fred blinked twice. "What is what?"
"That," Harry said, motioning to Fred's ear. "I was wondering if you want me to steal second base, or something."
Suddenly self-conscious, Fred awkwardly let go of his ear. "I was just making a mental note to go buy up as much of Elsinore Co. as I could. That might be enough to push me into the next economic bracket, and maybe if I'm that rich Gene will come to his senses and…"
"Don't bother. They're impossible to impress," Harry advised.
Fred motioned for him to elaborate.
Harry sighed into his beer. "You would've thought that dying for her would at least count for something."
Fred raised one eyebrow. "You died for her?"
Harry shrugged sheepishly. "I got better."
Fred dubiously pulled on his ear, saying "And this happened…"
"It didn't happen all at once," Harry said defensively. "I sort of did it piece by piece. Right after I first fell for her, I got my arm shot by Gene. Then I got a mechanical arm to replace it, but that went berserk when I tried to woo her with flowers. Then I got this mechanized suit, but Gene destroyed my body and nearly killed me. Then I got a new mechanical body, but I got killed while trying to protect her. Then the mechanical body brought me back to life so I could help her, but that only lasted a few minutes before I died again, for real. In the end, only a copy of my personality and memories were left, which is what was placed into this cloned body."
After taking a moment to admire the fine, er, craftsmanship, of Harry's new body, Fred nodded sagely. "So… one could say you decided to sacrifice yourself on the installment plan."
Harry paused to consider this for a moment. "I suppose you could."
Fred pressed his fingertips together in a prayer-like fashion, holding them in front of his lips as he said, "Speaking as a business man, if you ever decide to sacrifice your life again, I'd suggest you do it in one full payment, rather than installments."
Harry cocked his head to one side. "Really?" he asked, intrigued.
Fred nodded his head. "It makes the most business sense. I'm sure that, if you add up all the interest you acquired by dying on installment, you'll find that you've died more than twice the amount you originally would have."
"That's a good point." Harry's artistically shaped eyebrows knit together as a particularly galling thought came to mind. "Hey! I died more than once-over for her, and still—nothing! If I didn't love her so much, I'd…no. I can't do anything to upset her anymore. Love's stupid like that."
"Tell me about it," Fred agreed.
"Plus, I've already done the whole obsessive-stalker thing. Didn't work well. Don't think I'll do that again."
Fred gazed at the ceiling as he reminisced on the early days of his love for Gene. "You know you've really fallen in love when you suddenly want to know everything about them."
Harry nodded. "Her favorite color."
"His favorite food."
"Who her creators were."
"Who his parents were."
"Where she learned that song."
"Where his tan lines end."
Harry smirked. "I know where hers end."
"Of course you know where Ms. Exhibitionist's tan lines end," Fred snarked, totally ignoring the fact that 'snarked' is not a real word. His voice raised in pitch, imitating Melfina. "'Hey do you guys want me to navigate the Outlaw Star somewhere? You do? Okay, hold on, let me get naked first.' Do you know how long it took and how many wong it cost to get pictures of Gene?"
"But…you got them?" Harry was amazed.
Fred straightened up and preened slightly, running his hands through his silky black hair. "Of course I got them! What part of 'eccentric gay billionaire' don't you understand?"
"Billionaire?" Harry perked up at that word. He had heard that Fred was rich, but he thought it was more in the area of an upper 'millionaire.'
Fred looked slightly sheepish and he tugged his right ear again. "I know, I know, it's rather embarrassing: Me, a Luo, a mere billionaire. Of course, if it weren't for my loans to Gene, I would have attained a secure place in the 'trillionaire' world."
"Exactly how many wong has he borrowed from you?" Harry asked, his interest more-than-piqued.
Fred bit his lip and tugged more firmly on his ear. "Well, that's hard to say. He usually pays me back in odd jobs, but right now he owes about, say…" he trailed off as he grabbed a pen from his pocket and scribbled a figure on a cocktail napkin.
Harry looked mildly impressed. "That's quite a number. You sure you didn't misplace a decimal somewhere in there?"
Fred looked at the number again and blushed slightly. "You're right, I did make a mistake." Working carefully, he squeezed in another zero before the decimal.
Harry's eyes widened as he let out a low whistle. "You know how they say, 'Money can't buy you love'?"
"I think I may have just found my price."
Fred smiled at Harry bewitchingly. "Really?" he purred.
Harry held his hands up in a defensive gesture. "It was only an expression. I didn't mean I was interested in…I love Melfina. I always will. I know I should move on, but…It's no use," Harry groaned, propping his cheek on his palm, looking directly at Fred. "No matter what I do, I keep seeing that wonderful dark hair, those beautiful dark eyes…"
He trailed off in thought as Fred slightly lowered his eyelashes, beautiful dark eyes obscured mysteriously by the fringe.
Harry raised an eyebrow.
Fred pursed his lips and smirked crookedly.
After a moment, Harry returned the crooked smile.
"So…do you want to go back to my place?" Fred offered.
"I thought you'd never ask." Harry downed the rest of his drink and stood up. "So how'd you figure out that I was…"
"Bi? Please, Harry, give me a little credit. The purple bow and faux fur collar were dead giveaways. My gaydar was going off like crazy."
Harry sniffed in a 'regain my dignity' sort of way and said, "So, the proverbial 'gaydar' really exists."
Fred fished something out of his pocket. "Sure it does. Want to see it?" He offered the shiny, metal, beeping device to Harry.
Harry blinked. He blinked again. The device was still there. "And all this time I thought it was just a metaphor."
"I had it special made." Fred stuffed the device and his hand into his pocket, tugged on his right ear, and proudly led the way out of the bar, calling over his shoulder, "Exactly what part of 'eccentric gay billionaire' didn't you understand?"
On the way out, they passed a sandwich trying to get into the bar. "Don't bother," Harry advised. "They don't serve food here."