Pets Get Buzzed for the Summer

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“Joey! Titus!” Mark’s keys jingled in the door as he let himself in. Today… had been quite a long day at work for him, so it was nice getting back home to relax with his pets. The walk back from the subway station had been sweltering, and his office had set the air conditioning too low, so he was pooped. He couldn’t wait to just collapse.

Joey, the cat, strolled up to him first. He was a Norwegian Forest Cat – normally, those came quite large, but Joey had been the runt of his litter and then some. He was a skinny guy, around five foot seven – his ribs were almost visible, even with him on all fours. His shaggy auburn hair hung down past his ears as he pressed his bare body against Mark’s thigh, then rubbed his cheek against the back of the man’s hand. “Hey, Mark.”

Titus noticed Mark later, but got to him almost at the same time. “Master!” He pounced on Mark and nearly bowled him over, panting and licking his face. Mark was used to it, but it still made him stumble – Titus was a full six foot one, after all, an inch or two taller than Mark himself. He was bulky, too, the kind of pet that would beg to go to public parks just to work out on the exercise equipment. Joey had given that a try too, but with how skinny he was, had quickly decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

Some people advised against having two different species of pet in the same house, but Mark thought it worked out alright. Joey and Titus had contrasting personalities, but got along quite well, even if there were occasional confrontations. It hadn’t been planned – it had just been Mark and Titus at first, but Joey had been given to him a couple of years ago after the death of his uncle. Sometimes Mark wondered if the catboy still wasn’t quite over the old man’s death – but most times, they got along well enough that that didn’t seem like a possibility.

“Hey there,” Mark chuckled, wrapping his arms around Titus and letting him lick all over his face. Like an actual canine Malamute, Titus was huge, strong and lovable, with never a malicious thought in his head. Even though Mark had been tired, he felt his energy coming back with every second he spent with his pets, Titus in his arms, Joey at his feet.

That being said, there were some things that took some struggle, and today would be host to one of them. He scratched behind Titus’s ears as he said “Nearly summer, huh? I can take you both to the beach soon! It’s getting nice and warm.”

“Yeah, Master!” Titus nodded frantically, while Joey looked aloof and tried to ignore the conversation. Titus continued “Yeah! We can go swimming, and we can get watermelons, and you can get a huge beach ball for us to play with! It’ll be so fun!”

“Mhm,” said Mark, “but we need to get you both ready for the beach, don’t we? And for summer.”

“Yeah!” Titus seemed to have forgotten what Mark was talking about, but was excited for it anyway, while Joey was glancing up by now, a little skeptical. “Please, Master! Let’s go soon!”

“Okay, okay,” Mark chuckled. “Then let’s get you two cleaned up, huh? Go get me the old newspaper, some garbage bags and the clippers.”

This was something they did every year – Mark had done it to Titus ever since he had arrived, and when Joey had moved into their house, he had needed to do it as well. Both Titus and Joey were long-haired pets, meant for colder climates than the subtropical town where Mark lived, so it was unhealthy for them to keep their hair long during the hot summer. That meant, every year near the end of spring, Mark sat each of them down and buzzed them close, and did it every week until it started getting cooler in autumn.

For the rest of the year, they were allowed to grow their hair as long as they liked (in fact, Mark would groom them in styles of their choice), but he wouldn’t compromise on matters of their health, so as soon as it started getting warm, it all had to go. Titus was fine with it – in fact, he liked to keep his hair fairly short the rest of the year too – but Joey was less eager about it.

Which was why Mark wasn’t surprised when Titus barked with happy surprise, and Joey slinked away from his spot next to Mark’s leg, his ears starting to droop. Titus bounded away, yelling “Right away, Master!”, and Mark was left with his cat.

Mark sighed and sat on the edge of his sofa, looking down at Joey. “Come on, Joey. It’s so that you don’t overheat and get sick – and you’ll look nice and sharp. Trust me.”

“Mark, you know that’s not true,” Joey groaned, and pulled his knees up to his chest. He pressed his ears to his head with his fingers, covering his eyes with the rest of his hands, and whined “I always look so dorky! My human ears stick out, and the other pets poke fun at me for it. Why can’t I just tie my hair up in a ponytail like the other pets? If you let me grow my hair out like them–”

“You’re not them,” Mark chided. This had happened every year so far, and it seemed today would be no exception. “You’re a Northern breed, Joey, you know that. Your hair is a lot thicker than theirs, especially the inner coat – even if you tied your hair up, your head would overheat and you’d get heatstroke. I’ve told you this every time since you got here. And I let you grow your hair out during the winter, don’t I?”

“But it never gets long enough before you buzz it all off again,” Joey whined.

It was true that it had been a drastic change at first, Mark admitted to himself. Mark’s uncle had gotten neglectful in his last few years, and that meant that Joey was able to act pretty much as he liked. He’d cooked his own food, he’d worn human clothes – and he’d let his hair grow out past his shoulders. Once he’d come to Mark, it had been pretty matted (although Joey refused to admit it), and eventually Mark had ended up having to shave him pretty much to the skin. It was probably then that Joey had started to dread cutting his hair, but there wasn’t really anything Mark could do about it except get him used to it again.

“Then, you should enjoy the length you do get, because it would be unhealthy to let it grow through the summer,” Mark said firmly. “And I’m not going to compromise when it’d put you in danger. If you want to complain about it more, should I keep you in your summer style for the rest of the year until you get used to it?”

Joey frowned and made to reply, but before it could become a drawn-out discussion, Mark cut him off with “You can always wear a hat for the cold.”

Joey, his retort successfully taken out of his mouth, closed it again and crossed his arms. “…I can’t believe this,” he grumbled. “Franklin didn’t make me do this.”

Mark sighed. “Franklin tried his hardest, but he was old, and he got sick,” he said as softly as he could. “He loved you just as much as I do, but he couldn’t do all the things he needed to to take care of you properly. We’re different owners, and I want to make sure you stay healthy, alright?”

Before Joey could respond, Titus came bounding in with the supplies, and the moment was gone. Mark smiled fondly and crossed his arms. “Alright, well – just sit still and let me buzz you, okay? You’ll get used to it pretty quickly, I’m sure, and it’ll feel a lot better in the heat and the humidity than what you have now.”

“I don’t want to,” groaned Joey, but Titus was the exact opposite. He had his tongue out, and his tail was threatening to knock a chair over with how hard it was wagging. “I’m so excited, Master! Once we’re all buzzed, you’ll be able to take us to the beach, and to the pool, and we’ll have so much fun!” He currently had just enough hair on the top of his head to style, although it was much shorter on the back and sides. It was the style that Mark had picked out for him – short enough that it didn’t catch on his neck or ears, long enough to look nice.

He actually enjoyed being buzzed down, Mark had found, but not really for the sake of the haircut in itself. Getting the summer buzz, to Titus, meant the start of a season of fun – of seeing their friends, of hot weather and cold drinks. It was nice having a little more hair in the winter, but come the warmer weather, it turned out he loved sitting at Mark’s feet and getting it all buzzed off – so he did.

Together, Mark and Titus laid newspaper on the floor, then put the chair at the edge of it. As pets, Joey and Titus didn’t wear clothes unless the weather required it, so there was no need for any sort of cape for their bodies. Once they were all set up, Titus eagerly sped to the centre of the newspaper, and sat there cross-legged, while Mark took his seat on the chair behind him.

“Alright, buddy,” said Mark. He ruffled Titus’s hair – the boy was so excited that he barked, and his tail thwapped against the legs of the chair. Mark tilted Titus’s head this way and that, trying to gauge where to go in with the clippers. “You ready for your first summer buzz?” Titus practically yelled “Yeah!”, and Mark petted his shoulder appreciatively.

Mark snapped a #4 guard onto the clippers – short enough for a buzz cut, but it would be long enough to protect Titus’s scalp from the sun – and flicked them on, to which Titus nodded enthusiastically. “Stay still, buddy,” chuckled Mark, the hum of the clippers muffling him a little. “I don’t want to cut you.” Titus yipped out a bright “Yes, Master!” so Mark ruffled his hair one last time, and got going.

Mark was practiced at this, so he folded Titus’s human ear down, then carefully started from the side. The sound of the clippers changed as the teeth hit hair, and Titus’s hair started going from short to shorter. There wasn’t much to buzz here, not with the style he kept it in anyway, but Mark liked to even things out. He buzzed down Titus’s sideburns, his nape, and the back and sides of his head with relatively little issue. Every once in a while he’d hit a longer portion, and little sprinkles of blond hair would rain softly down onto the newspaper, while Titus wagged his tail and tried not to rock from side to side with excitement.

Finally, to Titus’s obvious delight, Mark started shaving over the top of his head. There was more length to take off here, so the sprinkles of blond hair gradually turned into inch-long pieces that sat on Titus’s back and shoulders. Some slid down and got swept around on the newspaper by Titus’s wagging tail – he was barely able to sit still with how excited he was, despite Mark’s command not to move. Mark supposed he could make an exception.

Mark kept the buzzing slow and thorough, wanting Titus’s hair to be nice and even for his first haircut of the summer. He was careful with each pass of the clippers, moving at a pace that meant he left an even fuzz behind every time without the need for a do-over. “Hey, buddy, what do you say we go out together after this? You, me and Joey can all go have a great time at the park, and maybe some of your friends will be there.” He ruffled Titus’s stubble, nearly done by now, and the boy barked happily in response.

With a final pass, he sat back in his chair, admiring his work. He’d left Titus with half an inch of hair over his whole head – on some people that might look awkward, but Titus had the facial structure to make it look cute, and his silver-black ears contrasted nicely with the crop of dark blond fuzz. “There we go,” he sighed, giving Titus’s head a good rub. “Doesn’t that feel so much better? Now we just have one more pet to go, and we’ll be all done.”

Watching Mark buzz Titus’s hair down to nothing but long stubble, it was hard for Joey not to get scared. Every year, he told Mark he didn’t want to get buzzed, and every year Mark said something inane about “health” and did it anyway. He hated the way he looked with a buzz cut – it was too short, his human ears stuck out, and he looked even more baby-faced than he already did. Wasn’t a summer shearing something only kids got, anyway? Human and pet both – boys got marched into a budget barbershop and buzzed down to stubble so that their parents wouldn’t need to keep washing their hair in the summer heat.

He’d been teased about it, too, after that first time. “Oh my god, your owner still has to do that to you?” “Poor you, I’d bite my master if he tried that on me.” Titus would always bark happily and explain how much he enjoyed the feel of it, but Joey hated it, and he wouldn’t lie about that. He would have tried explaining that it was for his health, the same way that Mark always did, but honestly he didn’t really believe it. When he’d lived with Franklin, he’d never had to get shaved, and everything had gone fine until he’d died. He wished Franklin was still alive.

Oh, no, Mark was done with Titus. He watched as Titus shook all the hair off himself and bounced back onto his feet, feeling his new stubble with rapidly growing joy. “It’s so fluffy! I love it. Thank you, Master!” He launched himself right back and Mark and started licking his face, bowling him and the chair right over.

“Alright, easy, Titus,” chuckled Mark. “I’m glad you like it! We’ll keep you like this all the way into autumn, okay? Until it gets cold – and you know I try to keep your hair as short as I can even then, but you need to keep warm.”

“I know, Master,” nodded Titus. “Thank you! Thank you, thank you!”

“Alright, buddy, easy now, let’s talk later,” sighed Mark fondly. With as little force as possible (which was still quite a lot), he rolled Titus over onto his back, and set the chair back up onto the newspaper. “Joey,” he called out, “your turn. Come out, I know you’re around here somewhere.”

Joey had, indeed, gone into hiding. The logical part of him knew he was only delaying the inevitable, but he just wanted to keep his hair while he could. Maybe Mark would never find him, he thought for a moment. Maybe he’d give up, and say Joey could keep his hair long if he’d just come out. Yeah. So he stayed silent.

After a minute or so, though, he saw Mark’s feet approach his hiding spot under the sofa, then his knees, then his judging eyes. Crap. “Joey,” Mark sighed, “come on, just come out and let’s get this over with, huh? I know you don’t like it, but it’s for your own good – and just think, you can be out in the park all day without having to worry about overheating. Won’t that be nice?”

“…I told you, I don’t want to!” Feeling cornered, Joey bared his teeth at Mark, whose eyes widened a little in shock. “None of the other pets I know have to do this. It’s not fair! I’ve never overheated before, I know I’ll be fine, you’re just being paranoid.”

“Joey, you know why that is,” Mark said, his patience running thin. “You’re a northern breed, remember? You don’t have any friends that are from that climate – if you did, you’d see they’d all go through the same thing. It’s for your own good.”

Joey knew Titus didn’t like it when they argued like this, and sure enough, he could hear the other pet whimpering from outside the couch. And, when Titus decided Joey and Mark weren’t getting along well, it was usually Joey who he blamed – because Mark was their owner and wanted the best for them both, didn’t he? Always. Titus could never harm Joey – even Joey knew that – but it usually meant his fellow pet took Mark’s side.

And, of course, Titus rammed into Joey from behind, trying to push him out. “Go get shaved!” Titus whimpered and pawed at Joey’s naked butt, then started shoving him with his shoulder, both of them making quite the racket from under the sofa. “It feels so nice! And Master says it’s good for you, too! Go!”

Joey jumped, having not expected to be in anyone’s company under here – he hissed and twitched back out of instinct, and before he knew it, his claws had raked across Titus’s face.

Titus yelped in a way that neither of them heard very often, and Joey’s blood went cold. Joey just sat there, processing what he had done as Titus scurried out of the sofa, whining and nearly in tears, little beads of blood already starting to form on his face. “Master! It hurts! Joey scratched me…”

“Aww, you poor thing. Come here.” Joey could hear Titus’s skin shuffling up against Mark’s clothes, the little pause as Mark assessed the damage. “…Don’t worry. He got all his claws on you, but it was shallow, so I don’t think it’s going to leave any scars. You’re going to be alright, okay? Just relax and rest well, and it should heal in a few days.” With how much Titus was still whimpering, Joey didn’t know how much the message was getting through to him, but eventually he did come around and reply. “Mm-hm. I– I’ll try, Master…”

With that somewhat settled, Mark’s voice got harsher. “Joey. Get out here. Now.”

Joey, knowing that staying under the couch a second longer would get him in serious trouble, crawled out. Every inch felt pain-staking – Mark would grab him and buzz his hair off after this, he knew it – but whatever happened if he stayed under there would be even worse. So, feeling trapped, he sat against the back of the sofa, his ears pressed to his head.

He came face-to-face with Mark, his expression serious and concerned. “Joey. Explain yourself.”

“I…” Joey looked away, his hands curling into fists on the floor. “I don’t know. Titus came at me out of nowhere– and he shoved me, and it hurt so I fought back…”

“He was trying to get you out from under the couch. That doesn’t give you an excuse to use your claws on him.” Titus, seeing that he’d indirectly caused all this, looked equal parts guilty and pained as he sat in Mark’s lap, but Mark wasn’t going to stop just because Titus felt bad about it. “Would you have liked it if you were play-fighting with him and he bit you?”

“…No.”

“That’s right. We don’t use our claws and teeth on each other, no matter what.” Mark sighed, shaking his head. “You know what? You need to learn how to trust me – how to accept what I know is best for you, even if you’re scared of it. If you hadn’t run under the sofa and had just let me give you your summer buzz, none of this would have happened. You being shoved, Titus getting scratched – none of it.”

Joey didn’t know where this whole long speech was going, but he didn’t like it one bit. And then Mark said “You’re getting shaved down all the way. Bald.” And his jaw dropped.

“You– are you serious? That’s so much shorter than Titus, even.” He paused, his mind racing, trying to think of something to make this impermissible, anything. “Won’t– if I don’t have hair on my head, won’t my scalp get sunburned? Isn’t the whole point of the… buzz… to protect me from the heat?”

Mark’s expression stayed completely firm. “I’ll just have to put sunscreen on it before we go out. Maybe once you’ve gotten used to a clean shave, you’ll look forward to just getting buzzed with a guard next year. Either way – it’s high time you learned that I’m your owner and I know best, so I won’t hear any more complaints from you.”

Joey felt as though the floor had fallen out from under him. “You can’t be serious,” he breathed, but Mark was already pulling him over to the newspaper. The guilt of what he had just been scolded for kept him from struggling for the moment, but he wanted to move, wanted to get away from his inevitable shearing.

“Come on,” said Mark. “If you come over here by yourself, I’ll give you a nice treat after.”

Hearing that, Joey reluctantly crawled the rest of the way over, although his ears still drooped. He didn’t want to get shaved, but he wasn’t going to fight Mark either – so what was the point of sitting there like a rock, delaying the inevitable?

Mark slipped a little treat into Joey’s mouth in response, and mumbled “Good boy.” Joey chewed and swallowed it mutely. It helped a little, but not much.

Finally, when Joey was sat on his heels on the newspaper (already covered with all of Titus’s scatterings), Mark sat atop his chair and picked up the clippers again. He flicked them on, and the low hum sent a shiver down Joey’s spine. God, please no, he thought, and he looked back with an irrational hope to see if Mark was going to change his mind and put one of the smaller guards onto them – but no, they were completely guardless.

Joey squirmed a little with apprehension, and taking no risks, Mark grabbed the top of his head and forced it down. He was blocked from seeing the clippers now – but he could hear them, rapidly approaching.

Each millisecond felt like a minute – hearing the sound of the clippers get louder and louder, closer and closer, trying to move and being completely restrained by Mark’s hand. But when they finally hit the nape of his neck, the sound changed from a buzzing to a crunching – and it was so much worse. Joey mewled with frustration, trying once again to get away, but this time Mark looked down and sternly said “Joey. Don’t.” and it was enough to get him to shrink down at least a little.

Joey’s hair was much longer than Titus’s had been, the way he preferred it – he had beautifully bouncy auburn waves, when they were allowed to grow in, and they curled around the back of his neck, framed his face. Normally his hair was somewhat longer than the average men’s haircut, with a little bit of a mullet in the back, in a way that looked stylish (Mark was a good hairdresser, when he did what Joey asked). But now, just like every year, it was going to go.

The clippers started buzzing a bare strip up Joey’s neck, and his eyes widened when he realised he could feel the air where they had just been. He knew there was no guard on the clippers, but he didn’t know what that meant for his head – just how short was he being taken…? Mark had said ‘bald’, hadn’t he? Well, this sure felt like it. The cold metal of the clippers climbed up the back of his head, all the way up to his cat ears – but then they lifted, went down to the back of his neck, started again.

“You’re going to feel good when this is done,” said Mark in a notably softer tone than before. “Alright? You’ll be fine – with a little sunscreen on, you and Titus can spend as long in the park as you like, and you’ll be completely fine.” He sounded apologetic, almost, as if he regretted being so harsh earlier, and Joey felt a little vindicated at that realisation. That didn’t help much with the crawling dread that came with each pass of the clippers, though. They climbed the back of his head again and again, shaving around the back of his human ears, stopping just behind his cat ones.

Soon enough, the back of his head was completely open to the air, and Mark turned his clippers off for a moment to brush any spare hairs off Joey’s shoulders. “There,” he said. “Half done. Wasn’t so bad, was it?” Joey thought to himself that it was worse than he was expecting, given the punishment element that had been recently introduced to the usual buzz. Not to mention the fact that he suspected Mark didn’t think of a no-guard buzz as ‘bald’. But he didn’t want Mark to reprimand him again, so he kept quiet. At least Mark didn’t press him to answer.

“Alright,” Mark sighed, “time for the front.” He turned the clippers on again.

Somehow, irrationally, Joey was hoping that he’d stop there – but thinking about it a little more, there was no stopping now that half of his hair was gone, was there? They touched the very top of his head and started buzzing down between his ears, and the boy gritted his teeth – they just kept going, and going, until they breached his hairline in front and deposited a depressing little pile of auburn curls in his lap.

Mark buzzed another stripe right next to that one, and the bare patch on the top of his head got wider and wider, until his lap was full of hair and his scalp was bare from cat ear to cat ear, and Joey had no hope of having decently long hair for at least the next half year. Mark started precision work then, carefully buzzing around each cat ear, then over the sides of Joey’s head and around the front of Joey’s human ears. “Almost done,” he said, injecting some pep into his voice. “I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you see yourself at the end – I think you’re gonna look just fine.”

With one last pass over Joey’s left ear, Mark flicked the clippers off. “There we are..” Joey’s ears swivelled back and forth – oh, god. It felt strange, not having them brush against any hair at all as they moved, not even the meagre bristle of the usual summer cut he was given. Mark brushed a brisk hand over Joey’s head, and – no, that was even weirder. There was barely anything there, maybe just the slightest bit of fuzz if he really focused. Was Joey just– bald? Had Mark just shaved him bald?

“Look at you.” Unlike Joey’s slowly growing horror, Mark actually sounded proud. “I didn’t decide on the shave because I thought it’d look good, but honestly, I think it’s going to suit you better than the usual. Here, take a look.” Mark snapped a picture from behind, then reached around and shoved his phone in Joey’s face before taking another photo, then handed the phone to him.

Joey took it, and all he could do was stare. “Oh, fuck.”

“Joey! Language.” Mark flicked him in the back of the neck, and Joey flinched a little. Still, though… holy fuck. There was barely any hair left on his head, if it could be called that – it was just stubble. His scalp was pretty much the only thing he could see, unless he zoomed in on the photo – then he could just about see the slightest bit of auburn. Mark had been right, he would definitely need sunscreen on his head after this. Surely this counted as bald already, right? What else was there to get rid of? He let out a hysterical little laugh.

“Aw. See? I knew you’d come around to it.” It seemed that Mark had completely misunderstood his laugh. He brushed the remaining bits of hair off Joey’s shoulders, and gently smacked him in the back. “Now get up and brush your legs off, buddy. We’ll clean all this up, get you both clean as well and then I’ll go take a rest, alright?”

“Alright!” “Alright.” Joey and Titus spoke in unison, but their tones couldn’t have been more different.

The three of them folded up the newspaper, vacuumed up any leftover hairs and put away the chair together. Mark and Titus did the lion’s share of the work. Joey was busy sulking about the loss of his hair, but Mark did make him help at least a little, sweeping his shorn locks onto the newspaper so that they could be wrapped up and thrown away like so much garbage. Which it was now, he thought bitterly.

“And now the living room’s all clean,” Mark said, his hands on his hips. “Go on, both of you – into the bathroom. We don’t want you leaving a little trail of hairs like a slug,” he grinned, and Titus barked out a laugh, but Joey stayed stubbornly silent. He didn’t want to be a slug, even though he had the silhouette for it now. His bare head was all round and skin-coloured – this was weirder than the usual buzz by far.

Still, he thought he might feel a little better after a nice, hot shower, so he followed Mark and Titus into the bathroom. It was a small but well-kept room, with white tile lining the walls and floor. Unlike some catboys, Joey enjoyed baths, so he’d always had pleasant associations with this place. He watched idly as Mark turned the shower on and adjusted the temperature, then gestured to Titus. “Alright, big guy, get in and start washing yourself. Now that you’ve got your buzz, maybe you’ll finish by the time I’m done with Joey – how about we race?”

As Joey wondered with slight suspicion what Mark meant by ‘done with’ him, Titus said “Yes, Master! I’m going to go so fast, just watch me!”

“Good boy, Titus,” Mark chuckled. “Make sure you wash yourself properly, though. Otherwise it doesn’t count.”

Titus leapt into the shower, but Joey’s attention was on Mark, who had also just turned to him. “Now, Joey,” Mark said, and Joey’s suspicion turned to dread. “You remember what haircut I said you were going to get today?”

Joey looked away, gritting his teeth, but Mark’s eyes followed him. He didn’t want to say it – not even a little. He knew he was just delaying the inevitable… and when Mark leaned a little closer, Joey decided not to wear his patience down any further. “Y-you said I was going to get shaved down all the way…” He looked up, wondering if that had been an adequate answer, but Mark was stone-faced in response. Biting back a sigh, he reluctantly added “…bald.”

“That’s right,” said Mark, and he reached over and patted Joey’s head. God, that felt strange – barely fuzzy, and he could feel Mark’s fingers right on his scalp. He hoped he wouldn’t have to get used to this. “Well.” Mark’s smile was as chipper as always, but Joey knew this wasn’t leading to anything good. “Do you think this is bald?”

Joey’s eyes widened. No way. Was he saying…? Maybe Joey could get out of this somehow by responding the right way. “…I think it’s bald,” he said, nodding twice, although his hackles raised as he braced for Mark’s disagreement.

“Do you now? ”Mark raised an eyebrow, and Joey realised there was no way to wriggle out of it. Well, shit. Mark continued, “I don’t think this is bald. It’s short, sure – but it hasn’t been shaved. So I have to finish your haircut off before you can get in the shower with Titus, alright?”

He reached down into a drawer below the mirror, and pulled out a foil shaver, and Joey sputtered out “That’s… not for head hair, is it? It’s for body hair and stuff.”

“Normally I use it on your body hair, sure,” said Mark, “but that doesn’t mean I can’t shave your head with it, too. I’ve used it a lot, so I know it works,” he chuckled.

Joey knew how it worked, too. Joey knew exactly how smooth his legs and armpits and other places were after Mark ran the shaver over them every few days – that was how smooth his head was going to be. Oh, no. He felt dread gnawing at him, but all he could do was stand there and wait.

Mark flicked the shaver on, and Joey felt a shiver go down his spine at the familiar sound. He squirmed a little with nerves, but Mark held his head firm – and pressed the foil shaver down to the crown of his head. “You’ll have to get used to this, too,” he said almost casually, running the cutters firmly over the top of his head, going over the same spot multiple times until it was completely bare. “Just like your summer buzz normally lasts until autumn – you’re not growing your hair out longer than this until the weather changes again.”

“Longer than what?” grumbled Joey, feeling his eyes burn a little. There was going to be nothing left on his head – basically, he wasn’t going to be allowed to have hair until autumn. Great, just great. He couldn’t even speak properly with how firmly Mark was holding his jaw.

He didn’t want to watch, but he couldn’t help glancing at the mirror occasionally as Mark continued to shave his head down to the skin. He went over the top first, making Joey look like he was balding for a few minutes. Then he came around to shave in front of Joey’s human ears. “Hold still.” He let go of Joey’s chin and pulled the skin down to get it taut, before rubbing the shaver over it until the skin was bare white. Joey could feel the cold metal of the shaver pressed against his skin, warming up a little with every pass it made – he wanted this to be over, but he hated the idea of the end result.

Continuing this pattern of pulling and pressing, Mark shaved over the left side of Joey’s head, then the back, and then over to the right side. With the last hum of the foil shaver in front of Joey’s right ear, he pulled it away and put both of his hands on his hips. “There we go,” he smiled. “Now you’re bald.”

Joey made a move to leave, but Mark stayed where he was and boxed him in, so he ended up having to look at himself in the mirror.

He felt his stomach drop. He hadn’t thought he could get much balder than he had been before. He had been wrong. Every little bit of stubble was gone – that much was to be expected – but it wasn’t just that. When he’d had the no-guard buzz, there was a slight grey shade over his scalp, like a five-o-clock shadow on a beard. Now that was just… gone. More than that – it was paler than the rest of his skin, which Joey dryly realised was because it’d never been exposed before. Hopefully it’d go away in a couple days, with enough time outside – oh, god, time outside. He’d need to go out in public like this.

Mark grinned and rubbed Joey’s head. “I think you look very smart. But I know you probably don’t think so. After a season of this, you’ll be glad to get back to your fluffy buzz, won’t you?” The hand felt weird on Joey’s smooth scalp, and he mumbled “You wish,” holding back a crack in his voice. He didn’t know how he was going to get through the next week, let alone a whole summer.

After that, Mark got Joey in the shower, and washed both pets thoroughly to get every stray hair off. Titus had been in the shower for a while already, so Mark didn’t have to do much more to get him clean. On the other hand, Joey fussed much more than usual, being unused to the feeling of water on his scalp. Luckily Mark wrangled him pretty easily, and had both of them clean and dried in short order. Especially because neither of them needed their hair to be blow-dried – just a quick towelling and they were done.

Since Mark had done all this after a full day of work, by the end of it he was feeling pretty pooped. Titus and Joey had helped with the clean-up of the newspaper and any escaped hairs, so there was nothing else that needed to be done for the day. He yawned and stretched, looking down at both of his pets, who were sat on the living room rug.

“I’m going to head in and start winding down for bed,” he said, glancing over at the two pet beds sat next to the television. “You two get to bed too, alright? I’m going to take you both out to the park tomorrow, so I want you to have lots of energy for that. I’ll need more time to put sunscreen on Joey, too,” he chuckled to himself.

Joey looked away sourly, but Titus perked up. “Yes, Master!” Titus’s tail was wagging so hard that Joey could feel a breeze coming off of it, and he had to lean back a little. “Oh, boy! We just got our summer haircuts, and we’re going to the park tomorrow? I’m so excited!”

“I’m looking forward to it too, buddy,” chuckled Mark, and he scratched Titus behind the ear. “So make sure you get plenty of rest, alright? I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning.” And with that, he turned around and was off to his bedroom.

With Mark gone, Titus and Joey were left to their own devices. Just like every previous year, Titus took the opportunity to enjoy his new summer buzz. He flopped against the armrest of the sofa and felt over his head with one hand. “Oh, boy! It’s so soft and fluffy – I love it. I can’t wait for my hair to feel like this all summer.” His tongue was hanging out, his tail thumping against the floor – Joey leered over, and thought he looked pretty stupid. As usual.

“Why don’t you just ask Mark to give you this haircut year-round?” Joey curled up underneath the coffee table and watched Titus from a distance, his tail swinging languidly back and forth.

“But Master said it needs to be longer in winter to keep me warm,” pouted TItus. “And I want Master to make me look how he wants me to look. It’s no fun if I beg for it and try to get it, but I know he doesn’t want to give me it. In summer, I like how it feels, and I like that he likes it.”

He gave Joey an open-mouthed smile, and that momentary eye contact made Titus realise that Joey looked different than most summers. “Hey,” he said. “Where’d your hair go?”

“Wha– oh my god, what do you mean, where’d my hair go?” Joey stared at Titus, blinking in disbelief. “You were there the whole time – you heard everything that Mark was saying to me, a-about being bald.” Saying it out loud made his cheeks pink a little out of embarrassment. “He shaved it off. In the bathroom. While you were in the shower. And took a lot of it off with the clippers, too.”

“Ohhh. That’s what you guys were doing.” Titus nodded sagely, plodding over to Joey’s spot under the coffee table to take a closer look. He’d forgotten that people had the ability to do things when not under his direct observation, Joey thought drily.

“It’s so shiny. Why’s it so pale?” Titus came right up to Joey’s face, and reached his hand up to feel over Joey’s scalp. As soon as his fingers hit the crown of Joey’s head, his eyes lit up, and his tongue lolled back out of his mouth. “Whoa! It’s so smooth. It must feel so good – not as good as what I have,” he grinned, “but really good. Lemme feel it some more.”

“Hey– get off!” said Joey, but Titus had already grabbed his head and started rubbing it with both hands. He pressed down Joey’s ears as he felt the catboy’s head all over, and Joey was overwhelmed by the sensation of all that touch on his newly-exposed scalp. “Stop it!” It wasn’t nice and comforting, like it was when Mark normally gave him a scratch behind the ear, but it didn’t feel bad, either. It confused him.

He hissed at Titus and struggled harder, trying to get the dogboy off him, but Titus persisted. In fact, he edged over and lay on Joey’s back, his chest pressing down on Joey’s shoulder blades, pinning him completely. “Nuh-uh. Mark says you’re not supposed to scratch me or bite me. So you can’t do that.” He nuzzled the back of Joey’s neck, and then actually started licking it, sending a shiver down Joey’s back and eliciting a weak yowl from him. “Get off!” His claws scrabbled against the rug, but Titus just grabbed Joey’s forearms and pinned them in place.

“I wanna play,” said Titus, rubbing up against Joey from on top of him. “You’re so pretty, and your head feels so good, and I feel good, so I wanna play.” Normally, ‘playing’ could mean a lot of things, from Joey chucking a ball for Titus to fetch to tug-of-war (using hands, mouths or both). However, in this context, Joey knew exactly what it meant.

He groaned, and tried to throw Titus off him to no avail. “Get off me! I don’t want to play right now.” With the scalping he’d just been given, he really wasn’t in the mood to be knocked down another peg, even if he was a little flustered already. “If you really, really want to play, let me on top.” At least Titus seemed to have forgotten about the scratch from earlier – Joey was grateful that he wasn’t using it as leverage.

“No, I want to be on top.” Titus shook his head, even though Joey couldn’t see it, and shoved his hips against Joey’s butt. Joey gave a warning growl as he felt Titus’s cock, as thick as ever and already rock-hard, press against the base of his tail. He bucked his hips again, but Titus just pressed down a little harder, his panting ringing loud in Joey’s ear. “It’s gonna feel so good!”

“Don’t– look, just go get the lube,” groaned Joey. “Don’t do it just like that – you’re gonna kill me.” His opinion hadn’t changed, he still didn’t want to do this at all, but it was rapidly becoming clear that he wasn’t getting out of it.

“I don’t wanna! Mark said he was gonna go to bed, and if I go get the lube I’m gonna wake him up, and I wanna put it in now, because if I go get it my thingie’s gonna go away,” Titus whined, starting to frot his cock against Joey’s crack. Joey’s cock was sitting pinned against the rug, half-hard and as trapped as the rest of him was. “I’m gonna put it in now!” He brought one arm down to paw Joey’s cheeks open, and found the hole.

“No, don’t, you stupid– ow!”

Titus shoved his cock all the way into Joey’s asshole in one go, and he yowled, thrashing to no avail yet again. “Ow, that hurts! Take it out! Titus!”

“I don’t wanna,” Titus panted, starting to thrust. “Feels good – feels so good…” Titus bucked his hips in a steady rhythm, and leaned down to lick the back of Joey’s head again, enjoying both pleasures at once. “I’m gonna do this more. I forgot how nice it was,” he breathed, the tips of his ears flopping back and forth in time with the thrusts.

“Nice for you, maybe,” growled Joey, “but you’re still hurting me! I told you to go get the lube!”

“Didn’t wanna,” panted Titus. “I didn’t wanna wait– I wanted to put it in right away.” He was thrusting faster and faster, and within a few seconds he was jackhammering into Joey, making lewd slapping sounds each time.

“At the very least, pull out at the end. I don’t want to be stuck like this while I wait for your stupid knot to go down.”

“That’s okay,” panted Titus. “I’ll be nice to you. And you’re soft, and you smell nice. It’ll be good.”

“You– no, you can’t just say that!”

Goddammit. Not again. Joey could feel Titus’s balls swinging against his taint, and was even starting to feel heat from the friction where the skin on their legs met. How was Titus’s dick not chafing like crazy? Maybe he was just too dense to register that mild of a pain until he’d already cum, Joey thought bitterly to himself. He could feel the rim of his asshole burning, and the burn intensifying. He was going to be remembering this for the next few days.

“If you try to keep doing this to me, I’m not going to let you get close to me ever. For god’s sake! Couldn’t you at least have licked me down there first?”

“But it would’ve taken too long,” whined Titus yet again. To Joey’s chagrin, the burn of his asshole was fading into the background, and in its place, pleasure was quickly building. He shivered and leaned down, pressing his forehead into his arm, feeling his cock start to leak against the rug as Titus ground him up against it. Fuck. He wouldn’t even get to complain after this – Titus would definitely smell that on him.

And he did. Titus’s thrusts stuttered a little bit as a sniffing noise came from behind Joey – and then the dogboy’s mouth opened in a big, panting smile. “See? I told you it feels good! I can smell your cum coming out of you, so I know you like it too.”

“I don’t like it, you idiot,” grumbled Joey, although now with much less conviction. “You’re pinning me down here and fucking me – my body’s gonna react.”

“Well then your body likes it,” pouted Titus, “so you should like it too. Mark always says to listen to your body– nhh,” he said, starting to leak pre himself.

“That’s for– hh, for when you eat too much barbeque and get sick after! Not for this!” Joey hissed, turning back to Titus – the blush was obvious now, creeping up his cheeks. He could feel himself getting close – goddammit, there was no way he was going to cum before Titus, that’d be humiliating.

Wait, no, Titus couldn’t come inside him. “Titus,” he said, trying to keep any moaning out of his voice. “Titus, come on, pull– pull out– don’t you dare knot me–”

Unfortunately, before he could respond, Titus howled and came deep inside Joey’s ass. His fingers dug into Joey’s flesh as he kept thrusting and thrusting through his orgasm, shoving his knot back and forth in Joey’s ass each time as it got wider and wider.

That extra stimulation was enough to send Joey over the edge, and he came as well with a frustrated little mewl into the rug, his hips shaking. “Titus! I told you not to– nghh…”

Titus got most of the way through his orgasm before his howls turned into whimpers, so he just sat inside Joey and let his knot get to its full size inside Joey’s asshole. He sat in silence for a few moments, gently testing the tie – then, he leaned down and licked at Joey’s jaw, then up behind his human ear. “Thank you! Felt so good,” he panted. “And now you’re so tight and warm and nice inside. When my knot goes back down, I wanna do that again.”

“A-again? What do you mean, again? Give me a break.” Joey growled and pulled himself up, although he could only go so far with Titus’s knot keeping him tied to the dogboy’s cock. This kept happening – he was a cat, he wasn’t supposed to take knots. Even if they felt kind of good when they rubbed against his insides.

They would have spoken more, but they were interrupted by the sound of a door opening, and a bleary-eyed Mark entering the living room. He yawned, staring accusingly at both pets, and Titus and Joey shrank back in unison. “What are you two doing? I can sleep through a lot, but not that howl – they must have heard it two floors up.”

“He started it,” said Joey quickly, pointing to Titus’s cum-drunk expression. “He said he wanted to play– I said I didn’t want to, but he pinned me down and did it anyway.”

“Hey! You liked it too. Look, Joey made a mess on the carpet too, Master,” Titus said, and he pointed to Joey’s patch of cum on the rug. “So he liked it, and I liked it, and we were both having fun.”

“You two are insufferable,” sighed Mark. “Look – Titus, you can play with Joey when I’m not around, but don’t be so loud. I’m going back to sleep. Joey, clean your mess up. If any leaks out your back end when the knot comes out, that too.” Joey’s mouth dropped open, but Mark didn’t react. “Try to sleep early, you two. Like I said, we’re going to the park early next morning.”

“Wha– that’d be his mess!” Joey meowed indignantly at Mark, but he was already heading back to bed. Titus, still stuck behind him, gave him a loose back-hug and started licking the back of his head again. Joey sighed. Maneuvering with some effort, he leant down to the rug and carefully started licking up his own cum.

It felt like Joey kept getting the short straw in this household. At least sometimes he got an orgasm or two out of it. He missed Franklin pretty often – now and again, he wished Franklin were still alive. But Franklin was dead. And Mark had taken Joey in, rather than letting him go to some shelter.

His life could be better, but there were definitely ways in which it could be worse – so he supposed he should be content with what he had.

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