Out of absolutely everything in the Central Chicago Public Library that Patrick was proud of, the number one thing was the erotica section. Was that a weird thing to be proud of? Possibly. But everyone knows librarians are the weirdest people on the planet.
On the other hand, the one thing Patrick absolutely hated about his job was difficult patrons. And the most difficult patron in the existence of difficult patrons was Pete Wentz, a man who had a big mouth and bad opinions about Patrick’s erotica section. Patrick could happily go the rest of his career without seeing Pete Wentz ever again. Like, ever. He had a loud voice and grating jokes and Patrick hoped he’d stay far, far away this weekend when Central Chicago Public Library played host to Kingston Lewis, the best erotica writer this century.
The event was Patrick’s pride and joy, a rare gem amongst a sea of kid’s events—not that Patrick had anything against kid’s events per say, it was more that for every adult event there were at least ten kid’s events and Patrick had been waiting literal years to meet Kingston Lewis and showcase his carefully maintained collection.
And Pete Wentz needed to stay far, far away.
“Can I help you?” he asked. Pete Wentz had the audacity to smirk his unfairly attractive smirk. Patrick counted to ten in his head, then counted to ten again in Japanese.
Pete Wentz, to Patrick’s horror, held up a flyer for the Kingston Lewis event, cocking an eyebrow like he could see the panic on Patrick’s face. Patrick preemptively promised God he would go back to church if Pete Wentz ended up far, far away through some divine miracle.
“I was wondering,” Wentz said, apparently unaware that he had just disproved the existence of God. “About this event. Isn’t this dude an porn writer?”
“It’s called erotica,” Patrick said tightly. Wentz’s smirk grew.
“Right,” he said slowly. “Don’t sound too interested now.”
“I’ll sound however I want, thanks,” Patrick said. “Can I help you?”
He hoped Wentz would take the hint
Wentz did not take the hint.
“Don’t kids come to this library?” Wentz asked. He was infuriating. Not infuriatingly hot, just infuriating. Wentz wasn’t hot.
Patrick was possibly having a stroke.
“We are allowed adult events,” Patrick pointed out. He stabbed a finger at the flyer Wentz still held in his hand. “See? Right there. It says adults only.”
“I can’t read,” Wentz said, the liar.
“You’re a liar,” Patrick said. “I’m gonna ask for the third time. Is there something I can help you with?”
“No,” Wentz said, and the smirk was still firmly in place. Patrick counted to ten in French. It wasn’t very successful. “You answered my question.”
“Fantastic,” Patrick lied. “Then you don’t mind if I get back to work.”
“What work do you have in a library?” Wentz asked, probably to just be a dick. Patrick narrowed his eyes anyway, considering rising to the bait. Wentz cracked a grin that was too amused to be reassuring, and said: “Everyone knows being a librarian is the world’s easiest job.”
Patrick rose to the bait.
“Tell that to the degree you have to have to be a librarian,” he said. “Are you familiar with a degree? It’s what smart people get so I understand if you’re a little confused.”
“Touche,” Pete said, and he still sounded amused, damn it. Patrick scowled. “Perhaps I’ll see you at your porno event.”
“Erotica,” Patrick corrected, but Wentz was already wandering away, letting the flyer fall to the ground like he was raised by wolves or something. Patrick’s scowl intensified and he grit his jaw as he watched the world’s worst patron leave the library, sliding stupid hipster sunglasses on and rounding the corner out of sight.
Patrick felt more than saw someone approach him from behind, leaning against the desk and folding their arms.
“I see you had another run in with your secret crush,” Joe said, and Patrick didn’t even grace him with a look. “That good, huh?”
“Stop leaning on the reference desk,” Patrick said sharply. “Don’t you have the bookdrop to do? Or literally anything else other than bothering me? And don’t ever suggest I have a crush on Wentz again, that is the most offensive thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“Mayhaps,” Joe said. What an asshole. “Andy sent me to give you a break.”
“You can’t break me,” Patrick said, finally looking at Joe’s infuriatingly smug face. Joe looked, if possible, even more smug. “You’re a specialist. Only librarians work the reference desk. So no, Andy did not send you. Try again.”
Joe smirked. Patrick maybe hated him a little.
“I was asked to find a manager,” he finally said, standing back up straight and straightening the frankly ridiculous vest he wore. He didn’t need to wear the vest. Or the tie. Libraries were casual dress. Joe was just a weirdo. “Karen doesn’t understand why she has to pay for a book that looks like it was put through the wash.”
“Is Karen her real name, or just the first white lady name you could think of?” Patrick asked, finally standing and buttoning his cardigan, which was appropriate work wear, Joseph. He clipped his name badge--abandoned as soon as he’d seen Wentz--back on, adjusting it until it was prominent: Patrick Stump, adult librarian.
“Who cares what her real name is?” Joe snorted, and Patrick rolled his eyes again. “Go rip her a new one.”
“I will not be ripping anyone a new one,” Patrick protested, but Joe just smirked and dropped into Patrick’s abandoned chair. “I am not covering for you if Andy gets mad that you’re at the reference desk.”
“I have no fear of the circulation supervisor,” Joe said, probably lying, and Patrick shook his head and walked away. He rolled his shoulders back--he should have prepared better for being the person in charge today, but he was distracted by ordering Kingston Lewis’s new book and Pete Fucking Wentz.
No matter. There was always room in him for managerial tasks, despite not being the manager. He got compliments all the time from the actual manager.
Okay, sure, maybe perhaps Brendon in fact told him his attitude could make the meanest motherfucker run, but that was just semantics.
“Hello,” he said as he approached the lady with the Can-I-Speak-To-The-Manager haircut. She scowled. Great start. “I understand you wanted to speak with a manager?”
“I did,” she said. Her voice was grating. Patrick grimaced, but internally, so he didn’t damage his nonexistent cred. Instead, he smiled at her, that vacant, dead smile of public service workers who just want the day to be over. “I don’t understand why I have to pay for this book.”
She thrust said book up, smacking Patrick in the chest. Patrick’s eyebrow raised slightly as he looked down at the condition of what he supposed he legally had to call a book. True to Joe’s word, it really did look like it had been through the wash. Possibly several times. And then peed on, apparently by an entire herd of cats. Colony? What was a group of cats called?
“That book is damaged,” Patrick said, instead of what he wanted to say, which was are you being deliberately obtuse or are you just naturally this stupid. He reached out and pushed the book away from him with the tip of his finger, hoping his little bottle of pumpkin-scented hand sanitizer was still in his pocket. He was pretty sure about nine communicable diseases lived on that book. “I can assure you we do not allow books in this condition to circulate. Thus, you must have damaged it. Let me know where I lost you.”
“I didn’t damage it,” Karen said. It was a good choice of name, not that Patrick would tell Joe that. It would go straight to his head. “It came like this.”
“This book is still dripping,” Patrick said, eying the puddle the book was making on the brand new carpet. For the love of God. Karen scowled.
“I’m not paying for it,” she declared triumphantly, as if she’d won, and Patrick just shrugged one shoulder.
“Okay,” he said, and Karen faltered a bit. “We’ll see you at collections.”
Karen scowled again, something nasty, like she’d discovered a fly in her french fries or dog shit smeared across her front porch by a group of teenagers, which, to be honest, Patrick would not have been surprised to hear actually happened. Karen opened her mouth but words apparently failed her, presumably because Patrick’s face had his carefully crafted I don’t care, don’t bother expression firmly glued on.
Evidently realizing she was not going to get her way, she dropped the book--Patrick resisted gagging at the wet squelching noise it made--and stormed for the front doors, purse banging against her leg in what looked like a supremely uncomfortable way. Patrick carefully stepped around the book, leaning over the circulation desk and picking up the phone.
“Joe to the circulation desk,” he said, and hung up, smirking as his voice echoed on the intercom. It was a damaged book--Joe’s problem now. Maybe this would wipe that smirk off his face.
“That was kind of hot,” someone said from behind Patrick and Patrick’s heart stopped before kicking into high gear, racing like he’d run a marathon. He turned around and a very unattractive and unimpressive strangled guh left his mouth without his express permission as his eyes landed on the last person Patrick wanted to hear use the word hot in reference to him.
“I thought you were leaving,” Patrick said, once he had his breathing under control. “Things to do. Places to go. Other people to annoy.”
Pete Wentz smiled that very unfortunately attractive smile, stupid sunglasses perched on his head, hands in his pockets, looking like a tool but like, a hot tool.
Except for how Pete Wentz was not hot and Patrick probably had, like, a brain tumor. He wondered if Kingston Lewis would attend his funeral and say nice things about Patrick’s erotica collection. Patrick cleared his throat.
“If you’ll excuse me,” he said. Pete Wentz once again did not take the hint.
“I had a reference question,” he said, and Patrick counted to ten in Spanish, now officially out of languages he knew how to count to ten in. He fixed Pete Wentz with a disbelieving stare, and Pete Wentz had the audacity to smirk. “It’s very important.”
“I’m sure it is,” Patrick said, and it only came out a little strangled. Patrick counted it as a victory. “Let me get back to the reference desk.”
“After you,” Pete Wentz said, gesturing ahead of him. “I’d like to see how well those pants fit.”
Patrick glared at him. Pete Wentz smirked again and then winked.
“Sexual harassment is ground for banning you from the library,” Patrick informed him haughtily. “So shut the hell up.”
“Duly noted,” Pete Wentz said seriously, nodding. “My apologies.”
It was impossible to tell if Pete Wentz was being serious or not, but Patrick refused to ask any further questions to determine either way. Personally he was hoping Pete Wentz would try something so Patrick could be rid of him once and for all.
Unfortunately, Pete Wentz did not try something. He, in fact, followed Patrick remarkably quietly to the reference desk. One sharp look sent Joe scurrying, which Patrick was absolutely going to gloat about later, and Patrick claimed his seat back holding his head up high.
“Okay,” he said, pulling up the secret reference trick he used, Google. “Your question?”
Pete--the full name was getting exhausting--leaned on the desk, like he was gearing up for something Patrick was pretty sure he wasn’t going to like. Patrick braced himself but Pete still managed to throw him off once he finally spoke.
“So I’m trying to do research,” he began, which was surprising for a number of reasons, mostly because Patrick suspected Pete didn’t know what research was to begin with. “And it’s been hard. So maybe you could help me. I get multiple dates when I Google it. When did the corset fall out of fashion?”
The corset? On the long list of things Patrick expected Pete to want him to look up, anything regarding corsets was nonexistent. Patrick’s fingers hovered over the keys for a long moment before he quickly switched from Google to the library’s database on fashion history. He typed in corsets into the search bar and 127 results popped up.
A quick scroll through found an article about the timeline of corsets--corsetry?--that looked promising, so he opened it up and hit print.
The ancient and likely possessed printer booted up and spat out the five pages with entirely more noise than the action called for and Patrick handed the still-warm printout to Pete without a word.
“Uh,” Pete said, glancing down. “This is great. Thanks. Ten cents a page?”
“It truly pains me to tell you this,” Patrick informed Pete. “But reference printouts are free.”
Pete grinned. Patrick hated it.
“Well, thanks,” Pete said again, then nodded his head towards the carefully placed poster for Patrick’s Kingston Lewis event. “Will I be seeing you there?”
“It’s my event,” Patrick said, instead of the horrified you’re coming? he wanted to say. “So yes.”
“Sweet,” Pete said, still grinning. “Thanks again.”
For the second time today, Patrick watched the world’s worst patron walk out of the library onto the busy Chicago street.