It was a dark day for the Griffin family of Quahog, Rhode Island. The sky was awash in a sea of melancholy gray, the clouds starting to roll in ominously, like so many waves that had brought them there to the cemetery that day.
There was a practical sense of needing to get on with things, but an emotional one, too. Peter Griffin-- son, brother, husband, father, friend, five time winner of The Drunken Clam’s Drink Ya Blind drinking contest and one time winner of its wet T-shirt contest-- was dead. His family was very much heartbroken.
...But, as they were also an emotionally stunted set who oftentimes had trouble processing deep feelings, in between the tears, there were a lot of comments made about not wanting to get rained on and being hungry for the food that was to be served afterward. Along with the requisite quips made at the expense of their fellow friends and neighbors in attendance.
“The black of Bonnie’s shoes doesn’t match the black of her dress,” Stewie noted out loud. “The black of her dress is a lot duller. I think some of the original pigment faded out. Do you think she just doesn’t know how to do laundry, or is it so old that some fading was inevitable? Did Joe just not let her buy nice things? He wouldn’t even let her replace her old LBD? Well, at least if that was the case, she doesn’t have that to worry about anymore. Right?” The baby grinned slyly. “The life insurance has got to pay for at least one new dress. Right?” He looked at Brian, the family dog, for a reaction.
Of everybody there, Stewie was probably the least affected by recent events, but Brian, on the other hand, wasn’t in the mood for the baby’s totally irreverent attitude. He groaned in annoyance, feeling a stab of anger inside to match the stabbing rhythm behind his eyes. God, he was hungover. Fuck, he hated funerals.
He rubbed his forehead and growled out, “Stewie, this is really not the time for your crap. I’m not in a mood to humor you right now. Can you please just leave me in peace? Show some fucking respect for the dead.”
“Why should I?” the infant genius retorted. “They’re dead. What do they need with my respect? They do have plenty of peace, though.” Stewie pointed at the freshly turned earth of his father’s grave. “You want some peace, Mutt, that’s where you’ll get it. Six feet under.”
The dog gritted his teeth and seethed. He’d always known Stewie was messed up, but today it almost seemed like too much to bear. The priest was up there, saying his words, and as Brian stared at that plot of earth, it would be all too easy to start contemplating his own mortality along with Peter’s. And the grief of having lost his friend was enough.
He looked at his other family members, at Lois and the two other kids. Meg was quietly crying and blowing her nose into her hat. Lois was muttering to a zoned-out looking Chris about ham salad. Something about how someone had made ham salad for funeral food and Lois took that as a personal insult (“to a fresh widow!”), because apparently Lois’s ham salad had been the star of the last block party or something. Brian didn’t remember that ham salad. He did however remember how out of this world Lois’s ass had looked in the pair of shorts she’d worn to that block party.
And her gams looked pretty fine, today, too, in the dress she was wearing…
The canine almost slapped himself.
That black dress she was wearing ... A mourning dress .
He was shaken by his own thoughts. What the hell was wrong with him? Of course, he’d always had these thoughts, so why should they stop now?
Because the man whose wife you coveted...that man is now dead. And he was your friend. You’re now sitting here, coveting his wife at his funeral.
Brian hung his head in shame.
Stewie was stuck on women’s attire, as well, saying musingly, “It’s an LBMD! A little black maternity dress, and she’s been pregnant for years! No wonder it looks old!”
The dog genuinely considered smacking the baby, wondering if anyone would notice. He didn’t want to cause a scene at his best friend’s funeral. But he had few qualms about smacking that friend’s infant son. Everything was so oppressive today, and he didn’t need Stewie making it worse. Did the kid just have to mock everything ?
As the canine contemplated proper funeral etiquette, Chris suddenly rose up out of his seat and started wailing.
“Waaaaa-ah! I miss my daddy!” The teenager staggered forward at a run and jumped into the open grave.
“Oh, no!” cried Herbert, from one of the back rows. “Somebody help him! He’s far too young and luscious for the grave!”
“Fatness to fatness, dust to dust,” opined Stewie.
As the clouds started to make good on their threat and sprinkles finally started to fall, Lois seemed to forget about the ham salad, turning to Brian, a startlingly numb expression on her face, and a wistful note in her voice.
“The weatherman said it might rain on the day of our wedding. I was nervous about marrying Peter, and I told myself that if it did rain, I wasn’t going to marry him, because that would be a bad omen. It didn’t rain on our wedding day. It rained at his funeral.”
Brian froze as he met the woman’s eyes, those cold, dead eyes. He knew Lois was taking this hard. How could she not? This was her husband who, despite almost driving her insane, she loved deeply...and he was gone, leaving her alone with three children to care for and who knew how many financial responsibilities. Brian couldn’t imagine the incredible stress she must be under, but as he looked into her eyes, he felt like he was able to see a glimpse of the grief she was drowning in for the first time and it stole his breath.
They stared at each other for a few moments before the dog finally reacted, reaching out to take Lois’s hand in his paw. There was hesitation but only for a second before she accepted the gesture, holding on tightly for support, accepting this small comfort.
She turned back towards the scene as several men were struggling to pull her son out of the hole in the ground. Brian turned away soon after, a slight shiver shooting up his spine at the contact he was now sharing with Lois. He could barely focus on the absurdity in front of him, too lost in his own head...his aching head. He groaned. And then winced as he felt an annoying little finger poking him in the ribs repeatedly, bringing him somewhat back to reality. Despite the irritated sigh that escaped his lips, the dog did his best to try and ignore the boy.
Stewie full well noticed this, but he was undeterred, continuing to pester Brian as his eyes remained locked on the canine’s paw that was currently clutching his mother’s hand. It only took a couple of minutes before he finally prevailed at getting Brian’s attention.
The dog turned his head sharply and glared at the child, practically growling under his breath as he spoke.
The child glared back and motioned his head in the direction he had been looking only a second earlier.
“Hypocritical much? Whatever happened to respect for the dead? Hmmm?”
It took a second for Brian to catch on to what the kid was on about, but when the realization hit him, his heart sank. His gaze remained steeley, though, not willing to give Stewie the satisfaction of seeing him admit guilt.
“She’s my friend, Stewie. I’m just trying to help.”
The boy rolled his eyes at this and scoffed.
“Riiiiiiiiight. That’s totally all that’s going through your head. Helping her…”
Brian replied sternly.
“Yes, Stewie. Helping her. And she’s helping me. We’re both hurting, right now. This is hard, and we need comfort. That’s it. Of course, I wouldn’t expect you to know anything about being there for someone. You only care about yourself. Your own father is gone, and you act like you barely give a damn. What’s wrong with you?”
“Me?” Stewie’s eyes widened, but he wasn’t exactly offended, and he wasn’t lost for a reply for long. “I’m a genius baby, Brian. Now, given those two characteristics, what precisely makes you think I should’ve felt a connection to the recently departed? He was my father, yes, but he was a dunce. And he never really did anything resembling parenting. You , on the other hand… You,” he sniffed haughtily and glared, “purported to be the dead dimwit’s best friend.”
The canine flinched back briefly before firing in return. “I was his best friend!”
The child chuckled mockingly. “Oh, right. Some friend. What kind of friend starts getting cozy with his supposed best friend’s wife at his own funeral? I know you, Brian. I know what this is. Don’t sit there and deny it.” The boy folded his arms. “I mean, it’s not like I really care. I’m simply calling you out because you had the gall to lecture me earlier. You brought it on yourself.”
The rain was starting to pick up, and the guests were starting to disperse. Some looked at the Griffins concernedly. Chris was now back standing over by his family. Both he and Meg looked rather blank. Lois was staring at her lap. Brian’s head throbbed dully but steadily.
“You’re reading this wrong,” he said to Stewie, and the dog pinched the skin between his eyes. The little hellion child had touched a nerve, but that didn’t mean Brian would admit to such a thing. He comforted himself by telling himself it was only right that he felt guilty and conflicted. He might think a couple unsuitable things about Lois, even on today of all days, but there was a drastic difference between thinking something...and acting on it. And it wasn’t as if he didn’t want to help Lois, to comfort her… He hadn’t lied to Stewie.
Stewie always thought the worst, of course, because he was the worst. Case in point…
“Um, helloooo? Lois?” the infant antagonistically trilled. “Why are we still sitting in the blasted rain? It’s going to be a downpour soon, mark my words.” He stood up on his chair and looked across Brian to regard his mother angrily. “Your infant son will get soaked to the bones. And the...others” he waved a hand dismissively in his siblings’ general direction, “as well. Is your game plan to make us all stay out here, catch pneumonia, and follow the Fat Man in joining the bleeding choir invisible? Well, if the rest of you want that to be your fates, I’ll leave you to it, but I demand somebody take me somewhere indoors!”
For once, it was almost as if Lois understood Stewie. At the very least, his outburst garnered her attention, and she blinked several times in rapid succession.
“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie. Mommy was just spacing out.” She gave a humorless chuckle. “The rain is starting to pick up, isn’t it? And everyone is leaving… Well.” She let go of Brian’s paw and stood up, smoothing her dress. She adopted a more casual attitude again and motioned for her teens to follow her. “I guess we better go see about that ham salad. Brian, grab Stewie, if you could.”
Brian grimaced, hesitating before reaching out to pick up the boy. Stewie, however, jumped away. “Ohhhh, no. You’re not carrying me. I’m perfectly capable of walking, thank you very much, dog.”
The dog sighed and hopped off of his seat. “Don’t be difficult, Stewie. At least let me hold your hand, so it doesn’t look like I’m neglecting you.”
At this, the infant turned, chuckling evilly with a glint in his eye. “Ahhhhh. So, it’s my hand you wish to hold, now, hmmm?”
Brian shook his head and snatched Stewie’s hand, deciding to forgo permission. “You’re a little asshole…”
Stewie thought about saying something back, but was honestly growing tired of this bickering. Sure, he liked to verbally spar with the family mutt, but even he had to admit, the grim atmosphere was putting a damper on his fun. So, he just chuckled again, deciding to just call his victory now. Brian began to walk after Lois, and he followed. Squeezing the dog’s hand tightly as they walked.
And after that, life went on. It went on, as it always does, but, for the Griffins, not how it always had. Peter hadn't been the mature, capable, and responsible head of household that some fathers and husbands might be, but in his absence, it steadily became more apparent that in so many ways, he'd been the focal point of their family.
Over the next several weeks, the Griffins all tried to act as though life was as normally abnormal as ever. The only one who came close to succeeding was Stewie. Even he didn't quite manage, though. His usual practice of tormenting Lois and thinking of ways to make her meet her end all but ceased. She already seemed pretty lifeless; Stewie saw no challenge in it and determined it wouldn't be sporting.
The boy tried to get Brian's attention, just for something to do. But that damnable dog wouldn't be pestered or a playmate. He seemed distracted, careworn, and stressed. He mostly avoided Stewie like the plague, unless Lois had farmed out some caregiving task to the family dog. Stewie resented being treated like he was below the muttonheaded mutt's notice, when really, Brian should be wetting himself out of flattery for Stewie ever having sought out his company or included him in any of his schemes. But it wasn't like his feelings were hurt. Oh, no. Never that.
Stewie simply took to spending more time in his room and re-devoting himself to his inventions.
Chris, meanwhile, had wanted to take up the mantle of chief-problem-causer-and-stupid-idea-haver of the family. While this maybe shouldn't have posed a problem, since Chris was plenty capable of having stupid ideas, his efforts turned out to be rather lame. It was probably due to the fact that in the past, the teen had unbridled enthusiasm at his command, to accompany with his being clueless. Now, he found his energy levels had dropped. He also didn't have a group of friends like Peter'd had to get in trouble with.
So he bought a pet piranha and "let it loose" in the house (e.g., he dumped it out of its tank onto the floor and watched ignorantly as it died). Then, hoping to get out of taking a test, he decided to cause a stir by announcing to everyone that he was a descendant of Swedish royalty, and somehow immune to test-taking. Someone actually checked on his genealogy, and, shock of shocks, it turned out to be true. He still had to take his geography test, and the Griffins didn't get any fanfare or royal perks, aside from IKEA offering Chris a free plate of Swedish meatballs.
In other words, the middle Griffin offspring's ideas for causing mayhem proved totally anticlimactic.
If anyone had taken any notice of Meg, they would have seen that she was more sullen than before. She seemed more discouraged by life than ever. She was angrier, and had been disciplined for getting into a couple fights at school. At home, she went unpunished. She never knew if Lois had even listened to the voicemails the school had left Meg’s last surviving parent. Or, if she had, if they had even registered or simply gone in one ear, and out the other.
Lois sat up nearly every single night with her accumulating bills, slumped over the kitchen table in her robe. She had permanent bags under her eyes and zombie walked through her days. She had just been able to cover the funeral costs for her husband, and now his loss left her with a heap of debt and no means of support. She didn’t want to go to her parents for help, but ended up going to Babs and asking for a small loan, figuring her mother would be less likely to speak ill of Lois’s late husband than Carter would be. Her mother obliged, but Lois knew this couldn’t go on.
One night, Brian came home from drinking to find Lois sitting in the kitchen, with her checkbook and a pile of papers and envelopes spread out on the table in front of her. An empty wine glass was at her elbow, and the dog couldn’t tell if her eyes were swollen from sleep deprivation or from crying.
“Lois?” he said dumbly, extending an arm and leaning against the door frame. She jumped and turned around.
“Oh!” she gasped. She rubbed at her eyes with her fists and started to rise from the chair. “Brian, I…” She looked disoriented out of the chair, from what Brian could see by the light her computer screen was emitting. The canine didn’t entirely have his bearings, either, though he certainly hadn’t stayed at the bar to get as drunk as he could’ve gotten. As he, frankly, had felt like getting.
Since Lois didn’t look like she quite knew what she was doing out of her chair, she started forward, then seemed to have a thought, stepped back, and sort of lowered herself tiredly back into her seat.
“I remembered something I had to do…” she said in a weak voice. She sighed, and rested her chin in her hand, staring at the computer screen.
Brian approached her, squinting against its glare.
“Wha- what couldn’t wait at two in the morning?”
He hopped up on a seat next to her and surveyed the screen, then the rest of the scene. She had an accounting program open on her computer, and strewn about the table appeared to be bills, along with her checkbook.
“Um, Lois?” he asked, getting a not so good feeling about this. “What’s up?”
He’d guessed she hadn’t been sleeping much lately. She just seemed to have very low energy, and there was no hiding the fatigue on her face. However, Brian had figured she’d been having sleepless nights due to grief. Now it looked probable that she was stressed over money, and he wondered if she’d really been up every night...doing this.
“I’d thought we could afford to pay the cable bill,” said Lois, her voice roughened by her exhaustion. “See? I started to write them a check.” She shoved the checkbook Brian’s way, and he observed the voided check on the top. “But it looks like we’re losing our little luxuries. And they were always so little, weren’t they? But…” The woman exhaled heavily. “I guess it’s not so bad. It’ll be worse in a couple weeks when I can’t pay the electricity bill. That’ll really put the cable thing in perspective…”
Brian stared in alarm. “Lois...I- I had no idea…”
She sighed again and tried to take a sip from her empty wine glass. She frowned when she discovered her mistake. “You weren’t meant to. But there’s no hiding it now.” Her tired eyes filled with tears.
“Lois…” the dog repeated, but didn’t know how to go on. He placed his paw over her hand where it rested on the table, wishing there was something he could do to make things better for her. For all of them. But in this moment, mostly for her. He could barely stand seeing her looking this defeated.
As Lois began to cry, pulling her hand out from under Brian’s to bury her face in it, Brian asked, out of a desperation to say anything,
“A-are you, are you sure?”
Lois uncovered her face momentarily to flash him an angry look. “ Of course I’m sure!” she snapped. “You think I’m stupid? Or that I’d let myself fall apart over nothing? After trying so hard- ” Her speech ended there, unable to continue as she fell victim to a round of intense sobbing.
This was driving Brian crazy. He felt such a mixture of sadness, awkwardness, and worry that he just about wanted to fall to all four legs on the floor, pace restlessly, and whine like an ordinary dog.
“Wh- why d-d-did you have to...to come home now?” the woman sobbed. “A h-half hour later, and...and I would’ve given up and gone to bed!” Her shoulders shook with her crying.
Brian couldn’t help but lay a paw on one of her shoulders. He kept it there, even when she criticized him further with her next words.
“You’ve been to the Clam. I c-can tell. That’s wh-what you do best, isn’t it? Drink. I know you, you, you could’ve stayed there longer!”
The sarcasm stung a little, but Brian knew she was hurting. Even so, he automatically replied defensively, “I haven’t been th-there in a lll-lllwong time, Lois. And tonight, I-I-I d-dinnit stay as long as I could have, cuz I knew I’d have to g-g-get up in the, in the morning with the kids.”
Although she didn’t jerk away from his touch (and Brian had begun softly rubbing her shoulder), she did throw down her hands from her tear-streaked face and fix him with a steely gaze.
“You’re saying I haven’t been taking care of my kids?” she demanded from between gritted teeth.
Her expression was all the more scary for the fact that she seemed like a living, breathing ghost of her former self with nothing left to lose, but instead of simply stammering out an apology while cowering, Brian forced himself to remain calm.
“No, Lll-Lwois, I’m just saying I kn-know you des-sserve my help when you’re going through such a hard time.”
Lois’s face softened, and as she looked at Brian, she even smiled slightly. Brian continued.
“I care about you, L-wois. I always have. And it kills me to see you suffering like this. We’re all suffering, but I know you’re the one with the true burden, right now. I just want to do everything I can to alleviate some of that burden.”
Their eyes met as the dog continued massaging her shoulder. Lois’s smile grew slightly, and Brian couldn’t help but smile back. She leaned forward.
“Thank you, Brian.”
And in the next instance, she closed the distance, touching her lips to the dog’s. It was only for a second, but Brian still felt his heart skip a beat as his eyes went wide. He gripped her shoulder tightly as elation soon gave way to an atmosphere of awkwardness. They both looked away from each other, unsure about what to do next. After several excruciating seconds, Brian finally spoke up, head still turned.
“I-I’m here for whatever you need.”
Lois reached up and clutched the hand on her shoulder.
They remained in that position for a few moments longer before Brian cleared his throat.
“So, uh, y-yeah. I’m going t-to bed. Don’t stay up with this too late. Don’t l-let it get to you. It’ll be ok. We’ll get through this.”
Lois simply nodded her head before releasing Brian’s paw and turning back to her computer screen. Brian let go of her shoulder and stood up, swaying ever so slightly as he exited the kitchen and made his way upstairs. He instinctively walked towards Lois’s room to take his place at the foot of the bed but stopped about halfway down the hall. After what had happened downstairs, he knew sleeping in the same room as Lois would be...weird, so he changed course, turning towards another bedroom, Stewie’s bedroom. He opened the door, and was surprised to find the infant still lying awake in his crib.
Brian stood rooted in the doorway for a minute, swaying slightly like an insecure tree in the wind.
“Oh. Uhhh...” he muttered watching the child slowly sit up straight in bed, the little monster a vampire or mummy raised from his crypt. Stewie’s head turned toward him, and the tyke’s eyes narrowed.
“What the deuce? Dog?” Stewie seemed strangely awake, thought Brian, as the canine finally swung the door shut behind him and ambled further into the room. Much more alert than himself, and more than the woman he’d left downstairs, too.
Brian felt heat go into his face at the thought of her. He was in a daze as he approached the crib.
“Hey, hey, hold up!” protested Stewie, seeing that Brian was attempting to climb inside. “That vile woman may choose to soil her sheets with dog hair, but I for one do not allow pets in the bed. On the floor, if you must be in here.”
Brian ignored the child, inexplicably determined to get into the crib, somehow managing to scale the bars without breaking his neck. He felt drunker than when he’d arrived home. He fell back onto the mattress, weak with embarrassment as he absorbed the boy’s words, if not the intended meaning.
The dog thought that he whined as he closed his eyes, although he couldn’t say for sure why. Out of longing, but longing for what? Longing for Lois? To stop wanting Lois? To have Peter back? To go back to before things were so complicated?
“What the devil is the matter with you?” asked Stewie, standing now, leaning over the dog and looking down at his prone form. A small finger jabbed Brian in the gut.
The canine grunted. “Don’t, Stewie,” he grumbled, squinting his eyes open at the baby.
Stewie harrumphed. “Don’t tell me what to do! I have a right to ask what you’re doing here, treating me like a cheap booty call when you’ve barely spoken to me the past several weeks.”
“Suh- since your, your dad died,” said Brian softly, sadly. He looked at Stewie, trying to discern a resemblance. There wasn’t one, that he could see. Maybe Stewie had been switched at birth. That would explain a lot. “I’ve been having a hard time. It’s been hell.” The words fell from his mouth flat and somber, sounding strange. He hadn’t talked about his grief much. Who would he talk about it with?
Brian stared up at the ceiling. “There’s your proof.”
I’m suffering, Stewie. I’m suffering. There, you see, I’m not just some opportunist…
His eyelids had grown excessively heavy, and he yawned hugely, the only answer a confused Stewie got when he asked, “Proof? Proof of what?”
The baby waited, but the dog was asleep.
Well, what a fine joke, thought Stewie contemptuously, noting how Brian had passed out smack dab in the center of the crib.
And I’m actually tired now, too. Five minutes of quasi conversation with that drunken mongrel hound was sufficient to tire me out. Well, how can I be surprised?
In lieu of anywhere else to sleep, how could it be surprising when the baby awoke, some hours later, with his head resting on the makeshift pillow of Brian’s stomach, his fingers interwoven in soft white fur?
The electricity did not get shut off, and the cable even got turned back on. Lois no longer sat up at night worrying about bills (if she was kept awake at night, it was because other things were weighing on her mind), and the Griffins began to approach what was a new normal for them. This was all because Brian had decided to save the day.
It was in a dog’s nature to protect the family, and Brian had decided to protect the family’s financial well-being. The day after he found out that it was at the tipping point- and Lois had laid that impulsive kiss on him- he’d gone out looking for a job.
He’d found one quickly enough, and taken the first he was offered. Brian had always considered himself to be a pretty good speaker, and he’d been able to parlay his verbal communication skills into a salesman job. As a Prius driver, it hurt his heart a little each time he really thought about what he was doing, working at a Hummer dealership. As someone who loved his family, however, he found that the hurt was more than offset by the pride his heart felt in knowing he was taking care of them.
The night he came home after getting his first paycheck, he’d offered to take Lois out to dinner. As soon as he’d excitedly blurted out that invitation, he’d seen the look on her face and shuffled his feet self-consciously, wondering how awkward it had sounded to her, that he’d offered to take just her to dinner and not the whole family. And then a gradual smile had shown up on her face and she’d said, “Yeah. That would be nice. Meg can be in charge for a couple hours. Maybe if we leave the kids money for pizza?”
Brian readily agreed, wagging his tail so hard he might almost have wagged it right off.
From then on, Brian and Lois had a standing dinner date every week. Well, not a date . Or maybe they were. Brian was always a bit fuzzy on that.
At least he was initially. The dinners started off semi-awkwardly, not unbearable, though, and with each passing one, the two grew more comfortable. Then, one night, as they were arriving back home, the two just stayed in the car for a moment. There was a tension in the air, something Brian couldn’t quite put his finger on, but when he looked over to Lois to ask if she was ok, it all became clear. No sooner had he turned his head did Lois lean in and plant another kiss on his lips. It wasn’t like the first kiss, though. She went deeper, and despite a slight niggling of guilt in Brian’s stomach, the dog reciprocated happily. They didn’t say anything after. Lois went up to her room, and Brian retreated to Stewie’s room, actually finding the boy asleep this time. From that point on, Brian knew he and Lois were dating. He was the new man of the house. It was time to move on.
His next move was clear…