Note: This project is still in the works and tends to be updated in larger chunks, so apologies in advance for any large delays between updates.
Note 2: POV Changes are used throughout this work, and are denoted by this symbol -> (-----) to avoid confusion.
There’s that dreaded sound again, one you’d come to hate over the years. It rips you away from another dream, thrusting you into the waking world as you begin to reach its peak.
The blaring directly next to your ear is auditory torture to your groggy self, and you blindly thrust a hand towards your nightstand, smashing your fist down the snooze button with enough force that the alarm clock nearly jumps up. You take a deep breath after abusing your mechanical wakeup call, rubbing the sleep out of your eyes before stealing a sideways glance at the time. You groan when you realize there’s only an hour before you have to be at work, that place that saps your will to live. Your disdain is only amplified by the fact that you’re not much of a morning person, your workplace expecting you to clock in at an inhumane six in the morning.
You quickly sit upright and swing your legs off the bed. Before doing anything else, you need a hot shower, unable to pass as a functioning human without one. Like a zombie, you shamble towards your bathroom and into the shower, a shiver running up your spine when your feet make contact with the ice cold tiles. Once inside the cubicle, you quickly turn it on, jumping back to avoid the stream of freezing water. After giving the water heater a little time to kick in, the nearly scalding water quickly begins to fog up the cramped cubicle and bathroom, and you step into the stream to receive its blessing of warmth. You close your eyes, one of your hands shooting forward to brace against the wall in front of you. As the water runs down your hair and skin, you can’t help but to shudder as a wave of energy flows through you, the temperature shock instantly leaving you far more refreshed and alert than you were just moments ago. You stay like this for a few minutes, the warmth the only solace you have before the agonizingly long work day ahead. As much as you’d like to stay here forever, you know you should wrap up before you find yourself having to skip breakfast to make it to work on time, something that’s become an unfortunate habit as of late. You can’t help but let out a drawn-out sigh as you dig your fingers through your scalp, your thoughts briefly drifting to your earlier dream. You’re not entirely sure what to make of the fact that you’d dreamt of your ex again, especially in a positive light like that. You try not to think too much about it as you speedily wash the rest of your body, praying the hot water doesn’t run out before you finish. After shutting the water off, you quickly step out and thoroughly towel yourself off in front of the sink. You tie the towel around your waist before wiping off the fogged up mirror to get a good look at yourself. You don’t have enough stubble built up to where you’d catch flak at work for not shaving, so you opt to skip that step; instead messily styling your black, medium length hair with just your fingers and some pomade.
Once you finish cleaning up, you head back into the bedroom to change into your work clothes. A glance at the mirror gives you a glimpse of the bright, cheery uniform you’d come to associate with misery over the past few months. It’s a grim reminder that you’d been working at the local ice cream shop for the last couple of years, something you’re less than overjoyed about.
That crushing feeling is only made worse by the fact that every job you’d applied for in your field had turned you down for one reason or another, and despite having a master’s degree, you’re stuck working a dead end job only a teenager would be happy to have. And not for lack of trying either, even while scraping the bottom of the barrel, opportunities for a better job had seldom presented themselves over the years. So here you are, stuck renting a matchbox of an apartment to avoid losing your last shreds of dignity by moving back in with mom and dad. Aside from the humiliation of working a food service job this late into your 20’s, the gig isn’t all that bad. You’d gotten to know some great people amidst some less than stellar coworkers, and you’re grateful that they’ve made your days spent working there a touch more bearable.
“Could always be worse,” you repeat to yourself like a mantra as you make your way through the tiny hall, your stomach begging for food with a loud growl.
Your dinky kitchen was nothing to write home about, but it’d served you well as a bachelor, everything organized in the perfect way to suit your needs. You scavenge what you can from the fridge and pantry to throw a quick breakfast together, grabbing some eggs, bacon bits, butter and bread. You turn on the stove and quickly whisk the eggs in a bowl, stealing an occasional glance at the wall clock as you do. You slowly pour the mixture into the now hot and buttered pan, being sure to scramble the egg mixture before adding in the bacon bits. The ding of a toaster as the scrambled eggs finish cooking is like music to your ears, and you toss everything on a plate before taking a seat on one of the stools at the tiny breakfast bar. While you want nothing more than to enjoy your meal, a hurried look at your watch tells you you’re quickly running out of time to do so. You wolf your meal down like a man possessed, your free hand patting down your pockets to make sure you’ve got everything you need for the day. After cleaning your plate of food, you toss the dish into the sink before rushing out the door, almost forgetting to lock up behind yourself. You fumble with your keys for a bit, nearly dropping them as you grumble out your morning woes, the ticking of a clock still on your mind as you rush towards your car.
You almost trip as you take the steps down from your apartment two at a time, and very nearly smack your head into the frame of your car in your haste to get in. It takes a few tries to get the engine on your shitbox to turn over, and you silently curse yourself for not setting an earlier alarm. It finally catches on the third attempt, and you quickly find yourself speeding out of the apartment complex. Driving to and from work is arguably one of the better parts of your day, the gentle hum and vibrations of your car providing the perfect environment to gather your thoughts in peace. As much as you appreciate the calm moments, it’s a double edged sword that leaves you alone with your worries. You try to distract yourself by thinking back to simpler times, smiling as thoughts of college fill your mind. You’d gotten up to some pretty crazy stuff in four years, though maybe that was putting it too lightly considering you’d been a hair’s breadth away from ending up hospitalized on multiple occasions. Once when you’d taken a plunge from a roof into a backyard pool, just narrowly avoiding shattering every bone in your body; and another when you’d blacked out, nearly choking on your own vomit. You’d sworn off the casual drinking after that night, slowly weaning yourself off out of fear of developing an addiction. You’d seen far too many close family members ruin their lives and health that way, not wanting to be another tally mark on an already mile long list. The parties, those old club gatherings and shaky friendships, they were always just temporary distractions from a stressful academic life. No matter what you did or how much you sought it out, you never managed to find a stable, meaningful relationship for one reason or another. To top it all off, what few good friends you’d made there grew apart after graduation, only seldom keeping in contact, though that much was to be expected. You feel pathetic thinking about it, but you couldn’t name a single person from university you were truly close with, a fact that saddens you to no end. Despite the sad state of your life after graduating, you’re proud of the fact that you’d never resorted to forgetting yourself in a bottle. Over the years you’d found more productive ways to repress your misery, some more effective than others. Thankfully, the asshole honking his horn behind you in traffic knocks you from your depressing train of thought.
“Get a fucking move on already!” he screams, and you can see him leaning out of the window of his truck from your rearview mirror.
“I fucking hate this town sometimes,” you mutter to yourself as your slowly inch forward in the traffic jam.
The gridlock eventually clears up, and you pull into your store’s parking lot with just minutes to spare. You stare into your car’s mirror, taking a deep breath as you mentally prepare yourself for another day of work, earning you a strange look from someone passing by. You grab your backpack and step out into the cold, power walking towards the entrance. You hear that familiar entry bell chime as you swing one of the doors open, rushing over to the wall to clock on for the day.
“Hey Mike, how was your weekend?” you hear Kevin ask from behind as you punch in.
“Just more of the usual Kev, how about you?” you ask, fist bumping him once you’re done clocking in.
A sly grin begins to tug at the corner of his mouth, “Eh, can’t complain. Met someone new at the bar on Saturday.”
“Oh yeah?” you ask, cocking an eyebrow at your coworker, “You gonna tell me how that went?”
“I will when Kelly’s not hovering around looking for a reason to write us both up,” he laughs, patting you on the back. “What else is new though, right?”
You can’t help but nod in agreement. “Preaching to the choir here, buddy.”
Kevin is one of the few people you can call a true friend, the two of you working together on the same shift for about two years now. He’d always have your back and you tried to return the favor whenever possible. Kelly, on the other hand, is your shift manager, a fact you’d begrudgingly come to accept over time. It bothers you to no end that someone two years your junior was in charge, especially considering they’d only been working here for about a year. You did a good enough job of sucking it up, swallowing your pride a little more each and every time you have to take orders from her. Speaking of the devil, you can see her walking towards you and Kevin out of the corner of your eye.
“Care to explain why you’re late today?” she asks, clipboard in hand, her expression telling you she gets some kind of twisted enjoyment from this.
What little hope of having a good, stress-free shift had gone out the window in those few words.
“You ever been stuck in traffic, Kelly?” you ask, doing your best to not let your frustration shine through as you turn to meet her gaze. “I know it might be a crazy concept, but it’s out of my control.”
Kevin quickly excuses himself and ducks into the backroom, and you can’t blame him for not wanting to get dragged into things.
“Everyone has to deal with traffic, Mike, you’re not special and certainly not the first to use it as an excuse,” she says, writing down something on her clipboard. “It’s store policy to give people warnings when they’re late this often.”
Normally it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but your poor morning had created the perfect storm to feed your irritation. You’re absolutely sick of her hounding you over every little thing you do at work, only made worse by the fact that you’d been friends at some point.
“Why is it such a big deal when I’m late but when I have to stay fifteen minutes longer because the next shift rotates in late without an excuse, it’s suddenly fine and dandy?” you ask, and you can feel a headache coming on.
“That’s not my problem,” she says, putting the clipboard down on the counter before crossing her arms. “I manage your shift, not theirs.”
As the conversation goes on, you can feel your frustration coming to a boil with each and every unsatisfactory answer she throws at you.
“You’d think if their manager doesn’t give a shit if they’re fifteen minutes late, you wouldn’t care so goddamn much when I’m two minutes late!” you shout, and you’re thankful there’s nobody to witness you slamming your open palm onto the metal countertop.
She stares daggers at you, your outburst seemingly not phasing her in the slightest. “Don’t raise your voice with me, Mike. You might not like it, but I’m your manager and it’s my responsibility to make sure this store is fully staffed every day.”
“Jesus Christ Kelly, look around you,” you say, waving your arm around for effect. “This place is a ghost town when we open, can you really not handle things for two minutes without me? Better yet, why is it so hard for you to cut me some slack for once?”
“Just please make an effort to get up earlier Mike, I don’t want to keep doing this song and dance every day,” she says, taking her clipboard in hand again. “Next time I’m not going to ask nicely.”
“Fine,” you concede, not wanting to drag this argument on any further. “I’ll try to come in earlier.”
“Good,” she says, smiling before turning towards the freezer.
If that was asking nicely, you don’t even want to know what she plans on saying next time.
You can’t help but feel like she’s had it out for you these last few months. You can’t exactly accuse her of it, but you’re sure your less than clean breakup has something to do with it. You mentally kick yourself for not listening to your rational side when the two of you first met. It’s considered universal wisdom to never date a coworker, but you’d been stupid enough to barrel ahead and go through with it anyways. You try not to blame yourself too much, especially considering how well the two of you hit it off originally. Things started off really well with your relationship and for weeks and even months you felt like you were on top of the world. You being the touchy-feely idiot you are with people close to you, had shared a lot about yourself with her. Even the personal stuff you wouldn’t even think about sharing with other people, namely your rocky childhood and home life. While you wouldn’t say you were raised in an abusive home, you’d spent enough at your cousins’ houses to see what it was like firsthand. There was usually an underlying reason behind it, and in your family the recurring one was alcoholism. Even the ones who didn’t have families of their own to speak of ruined their livers and became financial burdens on those closest to them. You’d told Kelly everything, even how you wanted to avoid the same fate by following in your father’s footsteps. You look up to him, the man who’d worked so hard to put a roof over your head as a kid and give you every opportunity you needed to be successful. It’s something you’ve always been grateful for, even if you hadn’t been the best at showing it. That’s why it stings so much to be stuck working this dead-end job, you desperately want him to be proud of you while you still have him. While you’re confident you’ll measure up to his expectations one day, the doubt lingering in the back of your mind occasionally makes itself known.
Some days those doubts were stronger than others, and you’d have trouble maintaining your composure around Kelly. Despite that, she was always there when you needed it most, providing that love and comfort you’d seldom felt before, even when you felt like life was hellbent on breaking you down. For a multitude of reasons, your relationship became strained, and even still, she’d always continue to give you the confidence and encouragement to better yourself as a person. It’s something that to this day you’d never thanked her properly for, arguably the best gift anyone had ever given you, tangible or otherwise. She wanted to take things to the next level by moving in together and you’d gently turned her down, out of fear that it’d somehow all go south if you agreed. Even to this day, you’re unsure if you made the right call, but in hindsight you could’ve handled things much better. You didn’t even go through the trouble of explaining your reasons to her, or at least, not well. That’s why you took the lion’s share of the blame for initiating the eventual break up, your crippling fear of commitment and self doubt leaving you without many other choices in your mind.
She didn’t take it too well, not that you’d expected her to. You’d at least had the balls to tell her face to face, remembering the sting of every slap, her heart wrenching sobbing only amplifying the guilt you felt then. Whatever meager apologies you had to offer, she didn’t want, and who could blame her for just wanting you out of her life? You threw away your relationship with someone who cared for you out of fear of being some kind of burden. Your poor communication certainly didn’t help matters any, and after breaking things off you’d become keenly aware of just how much pain you’d inflicted on her. Moving forward you promised yourself you wouldn’t let yourself hurt anyone like that ever again. You couldn’t stand the way you felt for weeks after the fact, feeling like the biggest asshole to ever walk the earth. You wallowed in a pit of self-loathing for weeks, deluding yourself into believing you didn’t deserve the kind of love and comfort she’d given you ever again.
After getting out of that slump, you tried to get moved to a different shift, upper management not willing to budge an inch even after explaining your situation to them, despite both your wishes. You tried your best to get along with Kelly despite her clear biases but no amount of avoiding her was ever enough, somehow almost always finding an excuse to write you up. You’re thankful she’s eased up on being such a hardass over the months, even if she did make your life hell for a few weeks. At least your job of scooping and weighing ice cream isn’t very hard or surely the combined stress would’ve gotten to you by now. As some would put it, a job so easy even a monkey could do it. You try not to let that fact get to you too much, instead feeling guilty for snapping at Kelly earlier, making a mental note to apologize to her when you get a chance.
You get to work, doing your best to keep your depressive thoughts buried by keeping yourself busy. Sure, cleaning the bathrooms after the midday rush certainly isn’t the highlight of your day, but it comes with the job. The first few hours of your work day are always especially tedious, and once you’re done cleaning, you head back out to strike up a conversation with Kevin to pass the time.
You put a hand on his shoulder and he jumps a bit at the contact. “So, you gonna tell me about that girl you met?”
“Jesus, you’re going to give me a heart attack,” he says, a hand clutching at his chest. “What, you mean the bar girl?”
You can’t help but laugh at his over the top reaction. “Who else do you think I’m talking about, numbnuts?”
He puts an arm around you before bringing you in close. “Don’t judge me too much, alright?”
“When have I ever judged you before, Kev?” you chuckle, shaking your head at his words. “Come on, spit it out.”
“She was uh… one of those anthro girls,” he says, bracing as if you’re about to give him the ribbing of a lifetime.
“Wait, seriously?” you ask, cocking an eyebrow at him, “Honestly didn’t peg you for the type.”
“That’s how I felt at first, but then we went back to my place and oh my god, the things she could do with her ton-” he says, cutting short when he notices Kelly eavesdropping.
You look behind your shoulder and confirm she’s still standing within earshot before saying anything.
“You know what, nevermind,” Kevin says loud enough for her to hear before cupping a hand over his mouth.
You’re not entirely sure this routine of his is going to work, and another glance reveals her to be in the exact same spot as before, an unamused expression forming on her features. You watch as she finally ducks into the back office, nudging your friend in the side to let him know the coast is clear.
“Listen dude, dog girls are fucking awesome, they can’t get enough of you,” he whispers, a huge grin on his face. “Felt like a goddamn king with the way she treated me.”
“You sure it had nothing to do with the fact that you were probably drunk off your ass?” you laugh, playfully elbowing him in the side. “Jokes aside, I’m happy you had a good time.”
“Thanks man,” he says, the grin on his face widening more than you’d thought possible. “I gotta say though, the constant sniffing was a little weird. But if you can look past that kind of thing, you should give one of them a shot, my man.”
“I don’t know that I’d be too into all that, but I’ll keep it in mind,” you say, the mental image of your friend getting sniffed like a piece of meat extremely entertaining to you. “Listen though, I’m gonna check out that new burger place on break, you want to tag along?”
“Fuck yeah, I’m in,” he says, finally taking his arm off you. “Don’t have to ask me twice.”
Two hours pass by and you both take your break, leaving Kelly to hold down the fort on her own. You decide to drive there, the weather far too chilly to walk despite how closeby it is. Kevin seems content with enjoying the music playing from the radio, giving you another rare chance to collect your thoughts. You think back to what he’d said earlier about the girl he met and you come to the realization that you’d barely even talked with anthros in college beyond stuff like class projects and presentations. That being said, you’d seen a few with bodies nice enough to make a man want to reconsider. You’re also not particularly proud of the fact that your curiosity had gotten the better of you and pushed you to do some ‘research’ on the seedier parts of the internet. Dating outside your species is still a weird concept to you, and you’re sure you’re not the only one who feels the same way. It’s something that’s still seen as taboo to do as a human, despite the fact that you’ve lived among them for the entirety of your life. You wouldn’t mind trying it at least once should the opportunity arise, but it’s never presented itself to you.
You’re not entirely sure where your bizarre train of thought is leading you, and you decide to think of other things as you pull into the burger place’s parking lot. The two of you quickly hop out of the car and soon find yourselves staring up at the menu over the register. After sizing up the options for a moment, you settle for a nice, juicy double cheeseburger with all the fixings, opting to split an order of chili cheese fries with Kevin. Your order arrives after a short wait and it’s clear that everything here is made to order, something you’ve come to appreciate from your time spent working in food service. You take your booth seats in the somewhat busy restaurant and neither of you waste any time digging into your greasy, piping hot meals. The two of you barely manage to get a word out as you tear through your meals in record time.
Kevin groans as he rubs his clothed belly after finishing the last of his meal. “Goddamn, that hit the spot.”
“Right? I haven’t had a burger that good in a long, long time,” you say, giving off a groan of satisfaction of your own.
A quick glance down at your watch tells you it’s about time to head back to work, not wanting to incur Kelly’s wrath for the second time today. While there aren’t usually many customers to speak of in the morning and midday, the late afternoon rush starts pouring in when school lets out. You might not get along with Kelly, but leaving her alone to deal with a horde of schoolchildren just wouldn’t sit well with you. You know as well as anyone else how bad things can get with them, the noise, smells and constant spills you have to clean up coming together to form an environment so obnoxious it could give even the most patient man on the planet a headache.
“We should probably get going,” you say, polishing off the last of the fries before attempting to tear yourself away from your seat. “Kelly’s liable to hunt us down if we leave her alone for the rush.”
“Can’t even enjoy a meal with how short our breaks are,” he grumbles, quickly joining you in attempting to get up after stuffing his face.
The two of you make your way out of the restaurant and back to the car. You speed a little on the way back, just to ensure you wouldn’t get Kevin written up for something that was your idea in the first place, and much to your relief, you both manage to clock in with seconds left to spare. The two of you quickly get to splitting the chores in anticipation of the afternoon rush to come. You draw the short straw and end up having to both clean and refill the toppings bar, a task you’ve come to dread with how long it takes. Since the storage space up front is more than limited, you end up having to make multiple trips to the freezer to bring everything out. You step into the walk-in fridge and rifle through the shelves until you find exactly what you’re looking for. You stack them as neatly as you can before carefully picking them up, being careful to lift with your back so as to not hurt yourself. With several boxes of toppings now blocking your vision, you’re careful to walk back slowly. Even with the care you’d taken, you nearly bump into something, quickly having to correct to avoid dropping everything.
“Shit, sorry, Mike,” you hear a distinctly feminine voice ring out from past your line of sight. “You alright?”
Once Kelly comes into view you think about telling her to watch where she’s going, but you already feel bad enough about your earlier outburst.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” you say, to which she nods as she offers an apologetic smile. “And listen, sorry about… earlier.”
“It happens,” she says, and though it’s not forgiveness you’ll take it anyways. “Don’t worry about it.”
The two of you head your separate ways and you get to refilling every topping tray with crushed cookies, chocolates and even gummies. You finish the arduous task just in time for the afternoon rush. While it’s easily the most painful part of your day, you feel joy from seeing people of all ages smile as you prepare and hand them their ice cream of choice. It turns the job from what’s normally a boring slog to some kind of performance art with how quickly you have to work to keep everyone happy. You and Kevin alternate from serving and working the cash register, and soon the large crowd of customers at the counter begins to thin to more manageable levels. You can feel a dampness start to accumulate under your cap and hair net as you serve one of the last customers in the store. You scan the store and find it to be nearly empty, short of a family still working on their cones. A glance at the clock on the wall tells you you’d finished much earlier than expected, something that makes you feel a small sense of pride at a job well done. It’s those little things that help make a job like this feel much more bearable. You opt to take a small bathroom break before cleaning up, having a little under an hour before you get off work. You wash your face and forehead as best you can without taking off the hair net, wanting to be at least somewhat presentable when you hit the gym later. After you’re satisfied with your appearance, you head back out and start the slow process of restocking and cleaning things for the next shift.
When you’re almost wrapping up with said process, you hear that familiar entrance bell ding all the way from the walk-in freezer. You go to see if a customer has come in, but the store is barren aside from you, Kevin and Kelly, who are also both in the back. Chalking it up to a draft or something ringing the bell, you turn to head back to your duties, at least, until you hear someone yell from closeby, scaring the everloving shit out of you.
“Oi dickhead, down here!” you hear, though you don’t see the source over the noise until you approach the tall counter and peer over it.
You find what you think is a kangaroo girl, and a fairly small one in stature at that. Just eyeballing it, she seems to be on the shorter end of four feet, considering how you seem to tower over her in comparison. That being said, your perception might be a bit skewed considering everything behind the counter is on a slightly raised surface. Despite that, it’s difficult to resist the urge to make a short joke since you have about two feet on her. And that wasn’t to say her height is a bad thing either with the excellent view from above it grants you. You feel like a pervert when your eyes land on the rear end of her form fitting shorts, quickly looking away to meet her gaze instead, those ‘research’ websites having done things to your tastes you aren’t exactly proud to admit.
“My bad, didn’t see you there,” you say, putting on your best customer-facing smile.
“Can I still order something or am I buggered, mate?” she asks, and while some part of you wants to say no, the look of excitement on her face prevents you from doing so.
“We’re open late, just wasn’t up here since my shift is almost over,” you say, unsure as to why you felt the need to explain that. “What can I get you?”
“Two scoops of vanilla and… some of the granola there on top,” she says, pointing at the topping. “Oh, and a cone, please.”
You have to admit, the way she has to stand on her tiptoes to see over the counter well is pretty damn adorable. “One cone, coming right up.”
You scoop up the ice cream and sprinkle a generous amount of granola on top, smiling as you reach over the counter to hand it to her. “Anything else, or will that be all?”
“Just that, mate,” she says before taking an experimental lick of her ice cream. “How much do I owe ya?”
You’d never really put much thought into how anthros eat ice cream, but you figure the fur on their snouts might make it a sticky, messy ordeal.
“That’ll be three twenty five, will that be cash or credit?” you ask, sliding over to the register to take her payment.
“Cash,” she says, handing you a five dollar bill before throwing a handful of change into your tip jar. “And that’s for calling ya a dickhead. Sorry, mate.”
You can’t help but smile at the gesture. “Don’t worry about it, just part of the job.”
Seemingly content with your response, she leaves the store, the encounter leaving you chuckling as you go back to cleaning up. You can’t shake the nagging feeling somewhere in the back of your mind telling you that you’d seen her elsewhere before. After racking your mind for potential places, you eventually chalk it up to coincidence as you wrap up your task. Kevin finally emerges from the back, and the two of you grab your bags before clocking out and making your way back towards the nearly empty parking lot, walking side by side towards your car.
“So, you up for a movie this weekend?” you ask.
He seems to think about it for a second before shooting you a reply. “I’m down, just let me know when. Heard the new Ocean’s 14 movie was pretty good.”
“Cool,” you say, fist bumping him as you finally reach your junker. “I’ll shoot you a text this weekend or something. Take it easy.”
“Later dude,” he says before walking off to his parking spot.
You get into your car and let out a sigh of contentment now that you’re off work, yanking your cap and hair net off. You toss your bag in the back before turning over the engine, happy to be heading away from that place and towards your little slice of heaven. When you finally pull up to the local gym you feel at home, looking forward to a nice, hard workout to get your mind off things. You park your car and pop the trunk, grabbing your gym bag before slamming it shut and heading inside.
Once there, you make a beeline straight to the locker rooms to change out of your stuffy and frankly embarrassing work clothes in favor of some lighter shorts and a t-shirt. You also fish out your water bottle and gloves from your bag before tossing it in one of the lockers. You slowly make your way out of the locker room, filling up your bottle with some of the cool water from the fountain as you scan the gym to figure out what you want to do. You think about just doing your usual routine and starting off with some cardio, but the punching bag in one of the far corners of the room catches your eye. After the work day you had, it’s not exactly surprising to you that it makes such an appealing choice, allowing you to “healthily” let out all your frustrations without so much as a care in the world. You saunter over to the bag, slipping on your gloves as you walk. Once there, you take a sip from your water bottle before setting it down, taking a few deep breaths as you get into a comfortable boxing stance. You let loose a barrage of blows into the bag, each consecutive punch having more force behind it than the last. Every blow is accompanied by a loud thud as it jostles around with each and every hit absorbed. Maybe it’s not the healthiest way to deal with stress given how much better you feel with every forceful hit on the bag, but it feels right. You continue to work up a serious set, only stopping to take a breather or sip at your water. By the time you’re done, you’re throwing punches that could knock someone out cold if you aimed them correctly, something that fills you with pride.
You find yourself smiling when you’re finally through with your last set. You’re thankful you have this place that you love to serve as your sanctuary, flaws and all. The huge variety of equipment, the friendly regulars, the women in excessively skimpy workout clothing and even the horrible music that had come to grow on you over the years all made this a great place to just… forget about your worries, even if only for a while. You slump against the wall as you take a break from boxing, sipping at the ice cold water as you watch what’s playing on the TV above you. Once you’ve caught your breath again, you settle for doing some lunges to warm up while you decide on whether you want to work arms or legs today. Halfway through, you settle on doing a few deadlifts, some bench pressing and finally, finishing things off with a set or two of squats. You normally try to avoid doing both legs and arms, but you skipped a day on the weekend and you want to try and make up for your slacking. You wrap up your set as quickly as possible and make your way towards the lift platform near another corner of the gym, a grin now stuck on your face. Out of the three lifts you’ve chosen to do today, deadlifts are by far your favorite, the amount of muscle groups you can work at once exhilarating to the fitness gremlin that’d taken up residence in your brain years ago. The thunk of the heavy weights hitting the ground that accompanies each rep is just the icing on the cake, the sound like music to your ears. Bench pressing isn’t far behind on that list though, the pump it gives your chest and arms giving you a huge confidence boost every time you look in the mirror after a set. And last but not least, you can’t forget the glutes for the sloots, your least favorite out of all the essential lifts. As much as you hate them, the results of said squats are apparent to anyone who even so much as glances at the lower half of your body, your ass one even some women might be jealous of.
You rack the bar with three plates on each side, not wanting to go too crazy after your short hiatus from any gym related activity. You do some more quick stretches before you begin your lift, not wanting to put any more unneeded stress or strain on your muscles. You put your hands on the bar and try to settle into a good form before committing to the lift, all the videos you’d seen on the internet about horrendous injuries stemming from poor form scaring you into being almost too careful with your lifts. You lift the bar, nearly bucking at the weight despite not being your one rep max, but you manage to get it all the way before you release the bar, making a satisfying thud when it impacts the wood below. You do a couple more reps until you’re satisfied, not wanting to wear yourself ragged before you get to bench pressing. You quickly blow through the rest of your planned workout, despite having to stop a bit short of your usual sets while bench pressing and squatting due to muscle aches. You take some more time to rest and catch your breath before heading back to the locker room, not exactly a fan of breathing in the musty smell that permeates them. As you walk back towards the locker room, you think about your lifts some more, unhappy with the lack of progress and even stalling on some of your important lifts.
You partly blame your lack of a coherent diet as of late, your breakup and a few things surrounding it leaving you far too demotivated to eat clean all the time. In reality, it’s unfair to blame it on that, your laziness playing a key role in your slipping food habits. As you make your way inside the locker room, you vow to stop eating junk food for the foreseeable future, praying it’ll bring back the motivation and improved gains you’re so addicted to. Sweat drips down every inch of your exposed skin, and you opt to go for a quick shower before heading home. By most people’s standards using the gym showers is disgusting, but they’re generally kept pretty clean by the staff at yours. Plus, the added benefit of not stinking up your car and saving on the utilities is just the cherry on top. You change into a fresh set of clothes you keep in your gym bag before heading back out towards the parking lot. The ride home is uneventful as usual, though as you trudge up the stairs to your dingy apartment, you can feel your stomach growling.
You turn the key to your apartment and toss the door open, setting down your bag by the door before dragging your tired body into the kitchen. Normally you cook when you get home but just looking through your pantry and fridge makes you want to pig out on the junk food within, making you realize your clean eating challenge might prove far harder than you’d initially thought. You decide to double down on your promise, moving all the junk food into a part of your kitchen where it’d be out of sight and out of mind. Once done, you’re far too exhausted from your second impromptu workout to make dinner and you instead opt to put together a couple ham and cheese sandwiches. You decide to watch some television as you eat, flipping through channels before finally settling on the evening news when nothing else catches your eye. There’s a couple fairly interesting stories and even some warnings about a string of break ins in the county, though what catches your ear most is when the news anchor mentions something about interspecies marriage legislation. You’ve seen enough human and anthro couples in public to where it seems like a relatively normal occurrence, but according to what the man was saying, it’s still greatly frowned upon in a large portion of the country. You’re of the opinion that so long as two people genuinely love each other, they should be able to get married, even if you personally know a few people who would disagree with that notion. You think back to the kangaroo girl you’d helped out earlier today and quickly find yourself having to shake off some less than pure thoughts. You blame your exposure to the ‘research’ material you’d seen during your college years for where your deviant mind went, and you try to think about anything as you work through the rest of your bachelor meal. Once done, a glimpse at the time makes a feeling of urgency well up within you and you shut off the TV before retiring into the bedroom to get some rest, not wanting to be both groggy and miserable tomorrow.
You sit in the parking lot, fifteen minutes early for work and very much not looking forward to another day of painstaking, menial labor. While it’s freezing in your car, spending ten minutes meditating in the cold before going inside would help make the day all the more bearable. When there’s about five minutes left before you’re late, you grab your bag and lock your car before heading inside. You take solace in the fact that you at least have Kevin there to help pass the time, a beacon of hope in your otherwise dreary workplace, godsend he is. Kelly’s standing at the counter, and there’s a smug grin plastered on her face that only seems to widen as you move to clock in.
“See, I knew you could make it on time if you put your mind to it, Mike,” a joking, slightly sarcastic tone dripping from her every word.
“I’m glad I’ve set such low standards that this is worth celebrating,” you mutter to yourself, your lack of sleep the night before clearly having an effect on your mood.
Given how her expression changes to an offended one your muttering might’ve not been as quiet as you would have liked it to be.
"I just want what's best for you," she says, her words bringing back painful and unwanted memories to the forefront of your mind. "Just like how you always wanted what was best for you."
You’re not entirely sure if she’s referring to your breakup but it certainly feels that way, and the words sting as on some level they’re based on truth. She’d had strong feelings for you and you just… didn’t feel the relationship was as serious as she did. It wasn’t like it was your intention to break her heart, but leading someone on for no good reason went against your principles. Sure, you could’ve handled it better by communicating, but you were blinded by fear and self doubt in the past.
“How many times am I going to have to apologize?” you sigh, your tone of voice slightly elevated as you go on the offensive. “Look, I get it. I’m a shitty person. You don’t have to rub it in, alright?”
She shoots you a look of utter bewilderment and confusion as she stays in stunned silence for what feels like a minute. You’re not sure if the words put her on the spot or if you wildly misinterpreted her meaning.
“Apologize for what?” she asks, the awkwardness in the room now palpable. “I just don’t want you to get in trouble with corporate, that’s all.”
From your brief time spent in a relationship with her you know she was tougher than most when it came to showing their emotions around people, but you better than anyone else knows that denial and bottling up feelings isn’t the way to deal with things. You decide to give both yourself an out from talking about stuff that should’ve been buried in the past.
“You know what, forget I even said anything,” you say, a hand rubbing at the back of your neck as you offer an apologetic smile. “Sorry.”
She doesn’t say anything but the nod she gives you while trying to return a similar smile is good enough for you. The two of you go your separate ways as you head behind the counter while she ducks into the back office. Kevin comes out from the freezer not long after, his flushed face making him look like he’s seen a ghost.
You saunter over and put a hand on his shoulder as he rests his elbows on the countertop. “You alright man? You’re not looking so hot.”
“Wish I was man,” he says, both of his hands rubbing at his temples. “I had the craziest goddamn night.”
“Hit the bottle too much or what?” you laugh as you make a mock drinking gesture. “Thought you had an iron liver.”
“Hell, I wish it was that,” he sighs as he closes his eyes. “Would rather have a hangover than feel the way I do right now.”
You shoot him a confused look as you pat him on the shoulder. “So, what the hell did you do then?”
A shit-eating grin starts to tug at the corners of his mouth before speaks. “It’s not what I did, it’s who I did.”
It takes you a second to understand what the fuck he’s talking about, and you stare at him like an idiot until it finally clicks.
“Who?” you ask, though you quickly realize it’s a dumb question. “Wait… the girl from the bar you told me about? Again?”
“Yup,” he says, the grin on his face only widening at your reaction.
“Seriously?” you say, giving him a firm pat on the back for his accomplishment. “Nice going, man.”
Despite how happy he looks outwardly about his conquest, he just groans as he rubs at his temples. “Don’t say it like I’m some kind of sex god, I feel like a human dildo after last night.”
“That bad, huh?” you say, curious as to why he says that like a bad thing. “What happened?”
“Well…” he says, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Did you know anthros go into heat too? Because I sure as hell didn’t.”
You’re painfully aware about the fact that they do from your many hours of ‘research’ but that’s not exactly something you’re prepared to admit to your best friend just yet. Instead, you decide to play innocent just to save yourself from a well deserved ribbing.
“Really?” you ask, hoping your act is at least semi-convincing. “So… how was it? I’m a little curious.”
He turns his head to meet your gaze before cocking an eyebrow at you. “You really want to know? I’m not leaving out any details.”
“Now I’ve gotta know,” you laugh, a grin of your own starting to form on your face. “Spill the beans.”
“Alright, alright,” he chuckles, bringing you in closer as he puts an arm around you.
He quickly looks around the store just to make sure Kelly isn’t within eavesdropping range, turning back to face you when he confirms the coast is clear.
“From the second we walked through the door to my place she was on me like white on rice,” he says, and his colorful language and beyond enthusiastic use of his hands makes you laugh hard. “She wouldn’t stop burying her snout all over me. Literally ripped my jeans trying to get at my dick, it was insane.”
It sounds too crazy of a story to be true but you’ve never known Kevin to be the type to exaggerate or lie, so you take his words at face value, nodding at him to continue.
“And then?” you ask.
“We did it everywhere man, the couch, the counter, the bed, the shower,” he says, his hands waving wildly as he continues retelling his story. “She wouldn’t stop for anything like she was possessed or some shit. If we could’ve done it on the ceiling she would’ve tried.”
“Remind me not to touch or eat anything at your place ever again,” you say, playfully elbowing him in the side. “Hope you at least wiped the place down afterwards.”
“I might be irresponsible as fuck, but I’m not a slob,” he says in a mock offended tone. “God… don’t even get me started on the claws man, if you could see my back right now you’d swear someone took a rake to it.”
You grimace at the description, knowing exactly how bad it feels to get your back scratched up. It’s great in the heat of the moment, but you can’t imagine how badly it would sting the next day with sharp claws.
“You know if your health insurance covers one night stands?” you laugh, and he elbows you back in response. “Might have to get a better job if you plan on seeing her again.”
“Won’t be a one night stand unless I keel over today,” he says, glancing around again just to make sure nobody would hear your conversation. “Got like two hours of sleep last night and my balls are drier than the goddamn Mojave desert.”
While his vivid retelling makes you laugh, you’d be lying if you said some parts of his story didn’t pique your curiosity a bit, the level of passion he’s describing making you feel a tiny bit jealous. With the way he passionately continues to speak about last night’s escapades, you realize he’s serious about this girl, and you lean back against a nearby box as you let him continue to speak his mind.
“Feels like someone took a flamethrower to my crotch last night with how hard we were going at it,” he says, his free hand moving to rub at his backside. “Think I’ve got rug burns on my ass from when we fell off the bed.”
“That fucking bad, huh?” you ask, shaking your head. “Was it worth it, at least?”
He flashes another shit-eating grin at you again, “My everything hurts right now, but if I’m being honest? I fucking loved it. One hundred percent worth the rug burn.”
You’d heard and uh, seen some of the more unique qualities anthro women had to offer but you’d never talked to a ‘victim’ of one firsthand. While talking to him helps pass the time at your monotonous job, you figure he could use a break after the kind of night he had.
You slap your hand on his back, causing him to wince slightly. “Let me take over register duty for you today, yeah? Just pretend to be busy in the back or something so Kelly doesn’t catch on, alright?”
“You’d really do that for me?” he says, letting out a sigh of relief at your words. “Thanks man, I owe you one.”
He gives you a pat on the back before limping towards the back, that dopey grin still on his face. You can’t resist getting in one last ribbing before he rounds the corner.
“No problem, stud!” you shout with a laugh, making sure he hears you.
“Very funny!” you hear him shout back, almost sure he’s flipping you off.
The rest of the morning goes off without a hitch, Kelly in a seemingly better mood than usual and for just a little while, everything feels like it’s just right. It’s hard to describe how you normally feel most days, but if you had to put it into one word it’d be… unfulfilled. Every day feels like you’re just going through the motions, short of your gym visits and the time you spend with your few close friends. Sometimes it feels suffocating, like you’re stuck in a hole with no good way to dig yourself out. This dead end job of yours is partly to blame, the long hours leaving you with no time to pursue much in the way of hobbies once you get home and your intense gym workouts certainly don’t help matters any. If you could nail down a job with more flexible hours, a lot of your current problems would cease to exist.
A glance down at your watch only makes you sigh, realizing you’ve only got a few minutes before the afternoon rush hits. Much to your surprise, it goes relatively smoothly, even if your legs feel like jell-o. You’re not one to keep track, but it feels like you’d scooped your body weight in ice cream over the last two hours, which by your standards is a pretty impressive feat. You decide to try and get started on cleaning up for shift change early, praying Kelly would have some compassion and let you and Kevin go a bit early, god knows he needs it after the kind of night he had.
You poke your head into the back before yelling something out. “You almost done back there Kevin? I’m trying to leave early today!”
He pokes his head out from the massive walk-in freezer, still rubbing at his temples. “I’m sure as hell not. You know how long she’s going to be like this? I’m practically a dead man walking.”
“Look, if you want to hide out in the back here for the rest of your life, be my guest,” you say, chuckling at his choice of words. “Just help me clean up so we can both get going early, will you?”
More of his body peers out from the ajar door, and he gives you a mock salute. “Fair enough, chief.”
You shake your head at his antics before heading back towards the register and you hear that familiar analog ringing, one you've been conditioned to respond to over the last few years. You glance towards the door only to find nobody there for the second time this week, but a quick peek over the counter reveals exactly what you were expecting, the very same kangaroo from yesterday staring up at you, a small smile on her face this time. You give her a closer inspection this time, her brown hair in a neat, raised ponytail, a nice complement to her spats and what looks to be a mix of a tank top and hoodie. They’re both far too small on her frame, though you’re not exactly complaining with the view you have from above.
“Hey, dickhead,” she says, the small smile now a grin plastered on her face.
“You again?” you say in mock surprise, her words not even phasing you. “What can I get you this time, miss?”
“Mate, just… call me Ruby, please,” she chuckles, wiping at her brow before looking down at the ice cream selection. “Miss just sounds weird.”
“Fair enough,” you say, unsure of how else to respond to her. “What can I get you?”
“Same thing as last time mate,” she says, pointing at the flavor she wants. “Go easy on the granola this time though, will ya?”
“What, too healthy for you?” you laugh, amused by your own awful sense of humor. “This might be a weird question, but have I seen you around before?”
You quickly toss two scoops onto a cone and give it a small sprinkling of granola before handing it off to her.
“Usually stop by here after my jog, but it tends to be later than this,” she says, leaning against the counter as she speaks. “Nice little pick-me-up before a workout.”
“Oh yeah?” you ask, curious as to what she means. “You go to the local gym?”
“Yeah, the one over by Byrd Street, bloody good place to work out at,” she says, taking a few experimental licks of her cone between words. “You go there too?”
“Usually after I’m out of this hellhole, but yeah,” you chuckle, a smile starting to tug at the corners of your mouth. “Maybe we’ll see each other around sometime.”
She smiles back before turning to leave. “See you maybe then, dickhead.”
Your eyes are glued to her large, thick swaying tail and toned ass on her way out, her size too small spats struggling to contain the mass. You feel like a pervert for letting your gaze linger, feeling a half chub starting to form from the sight. That was an anthro girl you wouldn’t mind being seen with. A hand on your shoulder startles you and you turn to see Kevin, slightly slack jawed as he stares at the same thing you are.
“Dude,” he says, elbowing you in the side.
“I know, right?” is all you can think to say in response.
The two of you quickly wrap up your duties, and you get off work about half an hour early for your troubles. On the drive to the gym, thoughts of what the kangaroo girl had said earlier cross your mind. Did she plan on seeing you at the gym tonight or was that just you overthinking things? While you’re admittedly not the best with signals, she did seem like she was making more than just casual conversation. You try to shake the thought from your mind as you pull into the parking lot, just happy to be at the gym again. Once inside, you take in a lungful of that stale gym air, greeting the receptionist as you pass by on your way to the locker room. For a Tuesday night, the place is packed to the gills, the weekly yoga and zumba classes probably to blame. You quickly get changed and head back outside before someone hogs the machines you want to work on, skipping out on the punching bag and getting straight into your workout, your cardio goals done multiple times over just at your job today. You make a beeline for the rowing machine, giving your neglected arms some much needed attention as you sit down and plug in your earbuds before your set, nothing quite like listening to your favorite songs as you do some heavy rows. You struggle a bit with some of the later sets given you haven't really trained arms for two days, but you pull through and manage to finish with only some mild soreness. Afterwards, you supplement with some cable flies to fill out the gap in your routine before doing the exact same exercises from the day before, though in a different order as to rest your arms before you get to bench pressing. Maybe it’s just placebo, but the lifts you were struggling with yesterday feel far easier due to your good mood. Once you finally get to the last lift you begin to believe it’s just placebo, beads of sweat forming on your forehead when you finally re rack the weight after your first set. As you lay on your back panting, you notice a small shadow beginning to loom over you. You see the same diminutive kangaroo from before, scrutinizing you from above, and even though you can see her mouth moving, you’re unable to hear anything due to your music. You quickly reach up to pull out one of your earbuds.
“...going to be alright, mate? Or should I get you an ambulance?” she asks, laughing as she gives you a playful jab on the shoulder.
“Very… funny,” you pant, trying and failing to sit up again. “Just finished my last set.”
She has the smuggest grin on her face as she stares down at your tired, sweaty form. “If you say you don’t need one then I believe you, mate. Just looking out for you.”
“Thanks,” you say before letting out a muffled groan. “What are you doing here this late anyways? Thought you only came to the store after your workouts.”
“Sometimes I like coming to the yoga classes here every now and then, keeps me limber,” she says, shrugging her shoulders. “Plus, it’s ace watching all the fat girls trying to get into the positions, isn’t it?”
You can’t help but chuckle a bit at her words, whale watching also being an occasional guilty gym pleasure of yours.
“Hey, at least they're trying, right?” you say, finally having caught your breath again. "And I’m no expert, but you seem pretty limber as is."
“Yeah, you're right. Sure as hell beats them not coming to the gym at all,” she nods in agreement, smiling as she walks around before extending a hand to help you up. "You know, if you’re getting this worked up just from bench pressing, might want to consider a little cardio."
You take hold of her furred hand to help yourself up. “I’ll keep it in mind. You ever consider doing some stretches and calf raises?”
Her once smug grin and warm amber eyes give way to a cold and bitter expression as she grits her teeth.
“Oh fuck right off then, arsehole,” she says, and you almost lose your balance when she suddenly lets go of your hand before storming off.
“Wait, what?” you say aloud, turning to see her running out of the gym.
By the time you get up, she’s already long gone and the only thing you’re left thinking is, ‘What the hell just happened?’
You slap your forehead when you make the connection, realizing just how much of an idiot you are. You run outside just to see if you can spot her, but you have no such look, the kangaroo seemingly taking off like a rocket.
“What a fucking arse, what kind of twat makes jokes like that out of nowhere?” you mutter to yourself as you walk home.
You’re absolutely sick of hearing jokes about your height from everyone you've met since you were a kid. Sure, you know you're a short girl, but that doesn't mean you need to be reminded of that everywhere you go, making it all the worse when you thought you'd finally met someone who didn't give a shit about it, only to be proven dead wrong. Most people got it out of their system the first time you talked, and the sheer fact he didn't gave you a spark of hope, only to have it extinguished by him soon after. With mom being a wallaby and your dad a kangaroo, short kids were to be expected, but even then you’d really gotten the extremely short end of the stick. Every single one of your brothers and sisters are taller by at least half a foot, even the younger ones. You feel like tearing up, but above that you feel what’s probably misplaced anger towards that cunt from the ice cream shop. You vow to give that fairy a piece of your mind if you see him again tomorrow. You can't help but get yourself even more wound up as you revisit the events in your head, your teeth gritting for a split second as you continue jogging home.
The whole way home you keep thinking about what had happened at the gym. You meant to tease a bit when you gave her the advice, but you didn’t expect her to get so offended by what you thought was a harmless joke. Some part of you hopes you’ll see her again tomorrow to apologize for the misunderstanding since she seems like a nice enough girl. Even when you mean well, things usually end up taking a turn for the worst.
When you finally get home, you decide to cook something resembling real food to take your mind off things. You treat yourself to a hearty plate of carbonara, even going so far as to use the nice guanciale you’d picked up the week before. You watch the news for a bit as you eat, shitposting on some of your favorite forums between bites. Once you're done, you finally decide to turn in for the night, throwing the dishes in the sink and preparing your things for tomorrow before jumping into bed, letting it soften your fall as you collapse into it. Though it's difficult to fall asleep for more than a few minutes at a time, the guilt gnawing at you like a starving rat, you shift and stir enough beneath the sheets to tire yourself out eventually, slowly nodding off as your thoughts continue to swirl in your head.