Why did you let Ruby convince you this is a good idea? It’s without a doubt, the most risqué thing you’ve ever done in public. All you can do is cross your fingers and pray nobody is within earshot to hear what you and Ruby are doing behind these flimsy, cardboard-thin walls.
“That jacket would look a whole lot better on the floor than on you, you know that?” she asks, trailing a clawed finger down the set of buttons.
You almost choke on your own spit upon hearing her words. “D-do you even know what you’re saying?”
She stares up at you, confusion in her eyes. “Yeah, it’s fuckin’ ugly, hurry up and take it off already.”
You’re not sure how to respond, and no matter how you try to position or angle yourself to better fit in the tight hole, you’ve made little in the way of progress. “Fuck, why is this so hard?”
Whatever trace of her initially excited expression was left mere moments ago is now gone, replaced with a bored and seemingly unamused look. “Look mate, you’ve been trying to shove it in there for almost ten minutes now, just give it a rest already.”
“I’m not giving up that easy,” you reply as you attempt to push in once more. “It’s going to fit, trust me. Just… gotta…”
Despite her words, you continue trying to force your arm into the jacket sleeve, and you can feel and hear the fabric give way as it rips.
“Now look at what you’ve done, you fuckwit!”
You quickly look down to your side and curse under your breath when you see the massive gash you’d made in the material. “Goddamn it, now I have to pay for it.”
She shakes her head knowingly. “Told you it wasn’t going to fit.”
You’ve never particularly enjoyed shopping for new clothes, and making a fool out of yourself in front of Ruby only helps cement your mixed feelings on it. On one hand, it's nice having something new and well-fitting to wear, but the hassle always left you putting it off until the absolute last minute every time it became a necessity. Unfortunately, the favor Kevin had asked of you was one of these times, since you’re not exactly keen on showing up under-dressed to a fancy dinner date. Whatever formal clothes you have stuffed in your closet at home are nowhere near appropriate attire for such an occasion, most of it either no longer fitting you properly or so outdated that it’d be an embarrassment to wear.
So here you are, crammed into a tiny department store dressing room with a girl you haven’t even known for a week. You’d had the bright idea to ask her to tag along for a second opinion while you tried on some dress shirts and jackets, not entirely trusting your own fashion sense. The attendant didn’t seem to mind that the two of you were going in the same dressing room, though much to your annoyance, they checked in surprisingly often to make sure you weren’t up to no good.
“Sir, everything alright in there?” you hear the attendant ask through the paper thin door.
“Yeah, everything’s fine,” you call out, hesitating for a moment as you look down at the torn clothing. “Just some… technical difficulties.”
“If you need anything, just give me a shout,” the attendant replies, and you can hear them walking back to their station.
You turn your attention to the kangaroo quietly snickering at your side.
“So, how are you going to explain the ripped jacket that was clearly too small for you?”
You start to take off the now ripped garment, handing it off to Ruby. “Look, if I wanted someone acting like my mom along to help me out, I would’ve called her instead.”
“Hey, you’re the one who rang me up asking for help, cunt!” Ruby exclaims, lightly poking at your chest with her free hand as she speaks, your response seemingly striking a nerve. “I could be at home sleeping in or working out right now if you hadn’t rang me up begging for help.”
You can’t help but roll your eyes at that last bit, though you feel a slight pang of guilt for throwing a wrench into her plans. “Oh come on, it was not begging.”
“Says you. I know what I heard, dork,” she smugly smiles, taking the jacket in hand and folding it neatly before placing it in a separate pile. “Hurry up and try something else on so we can get out of here, it feels like I’m in a sauna right now.”
“Hey, if you didn’t want to come along all you had to do was say no,” you say, eyeing the pile of clothes until something catches your eye. “I wasn’t going to force you to.”
You begin undoing the buttons on your dress shirt before quickly coming to the realization that you don’t have anything on underneath. “You want to turn around for a second?”
A confused look flashes over her features, quickly changing to one of embarrassment when it sinks in what you meant. “For what? You think I haven’t seen a human’s chest before?”
“Yes,” you say matter-of-factly as you try to gauge her reaction by her expression.
All you earn for your troubles is a glare, though you swear you saw her ears twitching.
“Just hurry up and change your shirt already,” she says as she leans back against one of the walls. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen at the beach before, mate.”
In an attempt to call her bluff, you lock eyes with hers as you slip on the new dress shirt, tensing your arm and chest muscles, slowly doing up the buttons to give her a show.
You can’t help but smile as you watch her gaze dance over your torso, seemingly hypnotized by the sight. “What’s the matter? See something you like?”
“N-no, just finish putting on the shirt already, arsehole,” she says, averting her gaze as a rosy blush shines through the thinner fur of her ears. “Don’t feel like being crammed in here with you all day.”
“Hey, I did say you could wait outside if you wanted,” you say before turning to admire yourself in the mirror. “How’s this one look on me?”
“It’s nice, but don’t you think it might be a biiit too small?” she laughs, running her hands over the breast of your shirt to smooth out the wrinkles. “Seriously mate, if you bend down or flex in that thing, you’re liable to take someone’s eye out.”
You reach down to pick up the black blazer she’d picked out for you before quickly throwing it on. “Something tells me you just want to see me try more shirts on. What do you think of this though?”
“Hmm,” she pauses before giving you an up and down glance. “I think it suits you, but not with that shirt.”
She starts to rummage through one of the piles for a moment before handing you yet another dress shirt. “Here, try this one on. I think it’ll look a lot better with that blazer.”
The corner of your lower lip tightens to form a smirk, looking down at the diminutive kangaroo as you reach to undo the buttons once more. “You going to turn around this time or are you going to keep enjoying the free show?”
“Oh, fuck you,” she says before covering her eyes, though the smile on her face tells you she’s enjoying the back and forth. “Go on then.”
“No peeking,” you tease, quickly unbuttoning and tossing the shirt aside before tossing on another. “Alright, you can look now. So, what do you think? Better?”
She uncovers her eyes and looks you up and down before speaking. “It doesn’t look like you’re going to hulk out this time, so it’s a start.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” you grin. “Now I just need to try on all these dress pants. You should uh, probably wait outside.”
“I uh, yeah- sure, I’ll uh- wait outside for you then, that’s a… good idea,” she says, tripping over her words as she awkwardly shuffles past you to leave.
You start to speak again, stopping her dead in her tracks for a moment as she turns to listen. “Unless you’re looking to shell out for the private dance, that is.”
She flips you the bird over her shoulder as she leaves the dressing room, but you can still see the barest hint of a smile on her face. “Ass.”
You breathe out a sigh of relief as she finally leaves you to your own devices, quickly stripping down to your boxers. You’re grateful it was painless to convince her to leave because the particularly tight pair of boxer briefs you’d chosen to wear today would’ve meant giving her quite the eyeful otherwise. Even if she had chosen to stay, there’s no doubt in your mind that she wouldn’t be able to resist peeking between her fingers.
You opt to throw on the black dress slacks first, figuring it’d match the blazer she’d picked out for you. Once you get a good look at yourself in the mirror from every conceivable angle, you have to admit she has a pretty good eye for fashion, considering you look incredibly sharp in the little ensemble. After making some minor adjustments, you walk out of the dressing room and assume a formal pose, stuffing your hands down your pants pockets.
“So, what do you think?”
She slowly circles you like a shark in chummed waters, closely examining every aspect of your getup, adjusting your sleeves and smoothing out every wrinkle in the fabric that she can catch. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think she was just using them as an excuse to cop a feel, a suspicion only confirmed when you feel her hands start to linger around your arms and chest. You’d be lying if you said the attention didn’t fill you with some much needed confidence.
“I think it looks good, though you should probably try on the other ones just in case,” she says, slowly nodding. “Never hurt to keep your options open.”
“You’re the expert here,” you say before heading back inside and quickly changing into the gray pair of dress slacks.
Once back outside, you assume the same pose as before. “Better or worse?”
“Honestly, I think those look better with the black blazer, mate,” she says, stepping forward to adjust your shirt again. “Yeah, definitely does.”
“Alright, guess I’ll go with these then,” you say, glancing down at your getup once more. “Don’t want to keep you here too much longer if you have places to be.”
“I actually don’t mind being here that much…” she says, a furred hand quickly shooting up to sheepishly scratch at the back of her head. “Look, I’m sorry if I came off like a bit of an impatient arsehole earlier. Honestly didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Don’t sweat it, I’m thankful that you came all this way to help me out,” you say with a smile. “Should probably go get changed though, I’m dying to get out of here.”
She silently nods and steps aside to let you back into the dressing room. You quickly change back into your street clothes before collecting and folding all the strewn about clothing, Ruby offering to carry the stuff you’re dead set on buying. As you walk past the attendant on your way to the register, you hand him the clothes you didn’t want. Some part of you really doesn’t want to pay for the torn jacket because of how heavy the hit to your wallet will be, but deep down you know it’s the right thing to do. You explain the situation to the cashier and while you don’t have to pay full price for the torn item, you just about have a stroke when you see the total. Nearly two hundred dollars for clothes you’re maybe going to wear once. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to use them again at a future job interview. Well, if you ever get a callback for an interview, anyways.
As the two of you walk out of the store you hear Ruby speak up.
“So, what do you even need those clothes for, anyways?” she asks, looking down and nodding towards the bag in your hand. “Planning on going to a wedding or something?”
“Ah, just something I got roped into doing for a friend, nothing major,” you say, shrugging as you continue to wander the mall together.
“Oh yeah, like what?” she asks, tilting her head as she focuses her gaze on yours.
You clear your throat before deepening your voice as best you can to respond. “Sorry ma’am, but I’m afraid that’s classified information.”
She can’t help but laugh at your choice of words. “Mike, ice cream dealer by day, international man of mystery by night.”
“Why are you laughing?” you ask, looking down at her as you walk side by side. “How do you know it’s not true?”
“Let me put it this way, mate,” she says. “You’d be the first secret agent to get circles run around you by a woman.”
“Oh come on, that’s not even fair,” you whine in protest. “I got almost no sleep the night before and on top of that, you’ve got pogo sticks for legs, literally made for running.”
You quickly realize the importance of the words you’d just let slip, shutting up in the hopes that she wouldn’t pick up on it. It’s unreasonable to think she’d put two and two together and realize exactly why you slept terribly that night, but that doesn’t stop you from worrying about it.
“All I’m hearing is excuses,” she says, gently elbowing your side. “Bet you slept like a baby with how much of a sweat you were working up that day. So, what’s next on the agenda?”
“Was planning on spending the rest of the day working on the old junker,” you smile. “Though I did want to grab a quick bite to eat first.”
“Mind if I tag along? Been meaning to learn how to do that stuff on my own,” she asks, her stomach audibly grumbling. “Skipped breakfast too, so I wouldn’t mind taking you up on the food thing, either.”
“You want to just grab something from the food court or head somewhere else?” you ask, stopping at one of the information boards. “I’m game for just about anything right now.”
“How about we grab pizza at Sammy’s again?” she asks, her ear twitching as she rubs at the back of her neck. “If it’s not too far from your house, that is.”
“Nah, it’s actually pretty close, and pizza does sound pretty good right about now,” you say. “I’m only on, my what… fourth cheat meal this week?”
She rolls her eyes as she shakes her head. “I’m glad our morning jogs are being put to such good use.”
“Let’s get going before I change my mind,” you laugh, a smile tugging at the corner of your mouth.
The two of you make your way towards the exit, walking through the mall at a brisk pace. You can’t help but be a little surprised that she’s willing to spend her Saturday morning tagging along on your errands, but you’re not going to complain about having some company. With clothes for your dinner date out of the way, you’re dead set on spending the rest of the day making sure your car isn’t going to break down on the way there. Only one more thing left to knock out on your mental checklist for the future and that’s… finding a date to bring along. It’s proving to be a difficult task and not for lack of trying either, considering you’d pitched the idea to just about every woman you still keep in contact with. All that effort only to get a couple of “maybe’s” in return felt downright discouraging. You’d be lying if you said Ruby wasn’t coming up more frequently in your head as a potential option, the pressure to find someone mounting with each passing day. It’s not that she’s a bad choice or anything but at the same time asking someone you’ve barely known for a few days if they want to go on a double date sounds like a recipe for disaster. Then again, considering you’re almost thinking about asking strangers off Tinder the same thing, your excuses don’t exactly hold up to scrutiny. Despite still entertaining the idea in the back of your head, you’d promised yourself that you’d only ask her as a last resort.
“Goddamn it,” she says, the sound of quietly chattering teeth pulling from your thoughts. “Why is it so c-cold today?”
You’d been so lost in your own head that you barely even noticed you’d left the mall, quickly making your way towards the parking lot.
“What, you want me to hold your hand again?” you say, a smirk forming on your features. “Or was that just a one time thing?”
“Bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” she mock scoffs before a similar expression appears on her face. “Unfortunately for you, I came prepared this time.”
“Oh yeah?” you ask.
You can’t help but stare to your side in curiosity as she starts to lift up the hem of her shirt, reaching into what you can only assume is a pocket or pouch of sorts, pulling out a pair of fuzzy black gloves from within. It’s such an odd sight that you abruptly come to a standstill, Ruby turning to face you once she realizes you’re no longer walking by her side.
“Mike?” she asks.
“Did you just-” you say, almost speechless at what you’d just seen her do.
“Did I what?” she asks, looking even more confused than you right now. “You alright, Mike?”
You continue staring with your dumbfounded expression until you regain the ability to speak. “Wuh- Where did you get those gloves from?”
“What do you mean where’d I get them from? Just pulled them from my po-” she says, a look of surprise in her eyes. “Wait, do you… not know we have pouches?”
“What? It’s not like I’ve ever met a kangaroo anthro before,” you say almost defensively as you try and process this new information. “What else do you keep in there?”
She cocks her head before glaring at you. “I’m not telling you that!”
“Why not?” you ask, surprised at her reaction. “Come on, you can’t just tell me something like that and then not answer any questions. Is it like a pocket or something? How much room do you have in there?”
“There’s room enough,” she mutters, ears twitching as that telltale blush shines through again. “Now s-stop asking stupid questions and start moving, I'm f-freezing to death over here.”
“Is it at least warm in there?” you ask, half hoping you don’t get socked in the arms for your curiosity. “Sorry, I’m just having trouble picturing what it’d be like to have a front pocket that’s… part of you.”
She walks towards you before grabbing you by the forearm, making a half hearted attempt to wordlessly drag you towards the parking lot. “It’s warm enough, now come on.”
You can’t help but come up with more questions to ask her as you give in and start trudging towards your car. “So why don’t you just keep your hands in there instead? Then you wouldn’t need to carry around a pair of gloves, right?”
She shakes her head at the question and sighs. “That’s like me asking you why you don’t keep your hands down your drawers to give your nads some company, mate.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have anything in there like we do, right?” you ask. “If you’re not going to use it, then can I keep my hands in there when it gets cold?”
She turns beet red at your question, letting go of your forearm to start speed walking away from you. You quickly burst into a light sprint to catch up to the kangaroo.
“What?” you ask, walking alongside her as you try to keep up with her pace. “Was it something I said?”
She avoids your gaze, a tinge of blush still visible in her inner ears. “Yes. Can you please drop it now, Mike?”
“Alright, alright, I’m sorry,” you say, raising both your hands in mock surrender. “...You’re not mad at me, are you?”
“No mate,” she sighs out, finally looking up to meet your stare. “It’s just… kinda a weird thing to ask, ya’ know?”
You’re not entirely sure what to make of her reaction, not knowing much about anthro kangaroos or even most anthros in general. It’s shocking that you’d somehow never noticed her having a pouch before, though that much you could chalk up to your intense focus on her… other assets.
“Sorry, guess I really don’t know as much about you guys as I thought I did,” you say, offering what you hope is an apologetic smile. “Hell, you’re probably the first anthro I can really call a friend.”
She looks almost surprised by your words. “Really? And no offense, but you seem like exactly the type of guy that would have a whole lot of anthro friends.”
“And why’s that?” you ask, cocking an eyebrow.
“What, you really don’t know?” she asks, shooting you a puzzled look. “Let’s just say you guys are really popular with some anthros as of late, or so I’ve been told.”
“Wouldn’t know I guess, never really gone out of my way to talk to one before,” you say, shrugging your shoulders “Only met a couple in college, but none that I could really call a friend.”
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?” she asks, nudging at your side.
You look down at her and flash a knowing, almost cocky smile. “See, now look who’s asking the weird questions.”
“Okay smartass, ya’ made your point,” she says, tapping a finger against the side of her snout. “I’ve got an idea though. What if we take turns asking our weird questions, that sound like a fair deal?”
The two of you finally reach your car and you open up the passenger side door for her, closing it once she’s sat down.
“Alright, fair enough, but I get to go first,” you say, taking a moment to think of your question as you walk around to get settled into the driver’s seat. “Why exactly do you think I should have a lot of anthro friends?”
You start the car and slowly pull out and away from the mall parking lot, occasionally glancing to the side to see her lost in thought as you finally make it back out to the main roads. The second you’re clear, she starts to speak again.
“I don’t know how to explain it exactly,” she says, rubbing at the back of her neck. “A lot of us consider you guys to be… sort of exotic? Like, you know how you reacted to me having a pouch back there? That’s how we feel sometimes about how different from us you guys are and look.”
“Different how?” you ask, genuinely curious because as far as you’re concerned, this is the first you’re hearing of this.
She quickly turns around and uses both hands to grip the base of her thick tail. “Well for one, you don’t have to deal with one of these dragging behind you all the time.”
“Is it really that big a deal?” you ask, taking a quick glance at her when you come to a full stop. “Sure, it’s probably pretty heavy and kind of annoying when you sit down, but I can’t see having a tail being all that terrible.”
“Well, you know how it just took us a few hours to buy some clothes for you?”
“God, don’t remind me, I’m just glad we’re finally out of there,” you groan as you watch the traffic light. “Thought we were going to be there all day.”
“Well, clothes shopping is way, way worse for us. First, you have to find something that fits your legs, then even if you manage to find that, you still have to make sure your tail fits in the stupid hole! It’s exhausting to have to go to ten different stores just to find a piece that I don’t need to take to a tailor.”
“So what, just because we don’t have tails you guys think we’re exotic?” you ask as you put your eyes back on the road. “There’s gotta be more to it than just that, right?”
She touches a finger to your nose, making you jerk your head back reflexively. “You guys also have these weird looking things while us anthros have to deal with snouts.”
“Okay, so you have snouts,” you say, still not quite understanding her point. “But don’t you guys have a really good sense of smell because of them? If you ask me, it’s probably worth dealing with the hassle, no?”
“See, you’d think that at first, but being able to smell really well isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” she says. “Having a sensitive nose means you pick up on every little thing, both good and bad, but a lot more of the latter. I don't know about you, but I don't have a good time when I get blasted by someone's bad breath from across the room. Kind of hard to get privacy when you’re among other anthros too, comes with the whole territory of heightened senses. And don’t even get me started on how annoying snout protective gear is for boxing.”
You briefly take a hand off the steering wheel to touch your nose. “Alright I can see how that might be a pain in the ass, but is the way our noses look really that weird to you guys? Can’t say I’ve ever thought of it that way.”
“Not just that, but a lot of anthros either really, really hate or love the fact that you guys have mouths as opposed to snouts. Your guess is as good as any as to why that is.”
From the copious amounts of ‘research’ material you’d consumed in your free time, you know exactly why some of them like the fact that you have a set of lips as opposed to a snout. Still, you figure it’s better to feign ignorance rather than admit your sins to the kangaroo.
“So, why do they hate the fact that we don’t have snouts?”
“Well, have you ever seen an anthro with a really long snout?” she asks. “It’s kind of like that, just in reverse, it really freaks some of them out that you guys have borderline flat faces by comparison.”
“So, do I look weird to you then?” you ask, your interest in the conversation growing by the second.
“I don’t really mind it, personally,” she shrugs as she looks out the passenger window. “...but if I’m being honest, looking at you took some getting used to, what with you guys not having any fur or anything.”
“So what, you’d rather I look like some kind of werewolf instead?” You laugh, imagining how ridiculous you’d look with fur. “You know, actually not a terrible idea for a Halloween costume.”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying,” she says, her tail flicking about like it has a mind of its own. “It’s just something that takes getting used to after hanging around anthros for so long, that’s all.”
You continue driving towards the pizza parlor, sighting as a traffic light once again stops you dead in your tracks. “Alright, I’m satisfied. Your turn to ask a question.”
She turns to look at you, her almost nervous looking gaze meeting yours. “So… why am I your first anthro friend?”
It’s not the question you were waiting to hear, and judging from the look on her face, it’s one she expects a good answer to. “Well, I told you already, you’re a good friend and pretty fun to hang out with.”
“T-thanks, Mike,” she says, and you can hear the sound of her tail thwacking against a panel. “But I meant why am I the first one specifically? You seem like the kind to have pretty good friends of all types, so why me?”
You think back to all the opportunities to make friends with anthros you’d met all throughout high school and college, but none of them ever felt like the type of friendship you have with Ruby.
“Honestly? I couldn’t really tell you,” you say, shrugging your shoulders as best you can. “Don’t get me wrong or anything, I met a lot of anthros back in college, but it takes a lot more for me to consider someone an actual friend, you know?”
She doesn’t answer back for a while, the silence making you increasingly nervous until you finally decide to say something to break the silence.
“Does that make sense?” you ask. “Ruby?”
A quick side glance reveals her to be looking in your direction as she fidgets nervously in her seat.
“Yeah, it makes sense,” she sighs, a small hint of a smile on her face. “It’s just… surprising is all.”
“Why is it surprising?” you ask, puzzled as to why she sees it that way. “It’s the truth.”
“I don’t know,” she says, sighing even more deeply before continuing. “Not a lot of people have ever really told me I’m fun to hang out with. Just you and my best friend, really.”
“Wh-” you start to say before you’re abruptly cut off the by honking of car horns coming from behind you.
You quickly put the car into drive again, taking off before you incur the ire of the drivers stuck behind you.
“So, what were you saying?” you ask.
As you start to pull into the lot she finally responds. “Don’t worry about it Mike, it’s nothing.”
While you want to say something, you know pushing this would only get on her nerves, so you decide to drop it for the time being and instead decide to enjoy your impromptu lunch together. As the two of you step into the familiar atmosphere, you take in the simple beauty of the decor. No matter how old you get, you don’t think you’ll ever get tired of coming here; a place you’ve been to so many times that it almost feels like a second home to you. While it’s certainly not the fanciest or most modern looking place, there’s a lot of things that keep you coming back. The kind and extremely attentive waitstaff is a big part of the reason you prefer this place over anywhere else, seldom leaving the place unhappy with the quality of service provided. The cheesy sports paraphernalia and old news clippings of your hometown’s teams adorn the walls and give the restaurant a feel you can only describe as homely, making it the perfect place to take a load off while enjoying a great meal. You and Ruby make your way to the same booth you’d occupied last time you came here, the spot by the window giving you a good view of the frost and dew-covered scenery of a chilly fall morning.
“Seriously though, what were you going to say?” you ask, her face barely hiding her need to speak.
“Do you really consider me your friend?” she asks, quickly spitting out the words. “After all the shitty things I’ve done to you? It’s like you forgot how we first met.”
The memories she’s referring to are still pretty fresh in your mind, especially considering you came to this very restaurant together that same day. The way she'd angrily tried to confront you outside your workplace, how you put a stop to it by holding her arms up, and even how you somehow managed to convince her into having a peace talk over some pizza. She’s wearing the same exact surprised expression you’d seen on her face that day, likely still wondering why you aren’t livid for the things she did.
“If you’re talking about the day after the whole thing at the gym, I’m not upset,” you say, shrugging your shoulders a bit. “Never been the kind of person to hold grudges, really.”
“B-but… how can you just be okay with that?” she asks, a tone of exasperation in her voice. “Why aren’t you mad at me because of it? I barely even apologized afterwards.”
You meet her gaze, struggling to find the right words to respond with as you watch her tuck an errant strand of hair behind one of her long, furred ears.
“Can I just ask you one thing?” you ask, choosing your next words carefully. “Why’d you even try to do any of that?”
“I don-'' she starts, though she’s quickly cut off by the waitress approaching your table.
She drops a menu in front of each of you, a cheery smile on her face. “Can I get you two started with drinks?”
“Yeah, a coke for me and uh…” you say, nodding towards Ruby.
“I’ll take a coke as well, thanks,” she says, finishing your sentence.
When the waitress finally leaves the two of you alone, she starts to speak again. “I don’t know mate… there’s no excusing it really. I just thought I’d finally met someone who saw past the whole ‘freakishly short girl’ thing and it just made me really upset to think someone had fooled me again.”
“Do you still see me that way?” you ask, hoping your expression shows you’re being genuine. “As someone who sees past all the superficial stuff, I mean.”
“Honestly? I still do, Mike and I’m really, really sorry about that whole mess,” she mutters, suddenly unable to continue meeting your gaze. “I feel awful for even considering what was going through my head that day. Can you forgive me for that? I know I let my feelings get the better of me, but that’s no excuse for what I tried to pull.”
You honestly weren’t expecting her sudden apology and you watch her expression turn to one of anxiety as you try and figure out the best way to respond.
“Look, I forgive you, but only on one condition,” you say, hoping the smile on your face will ease her worries some.
She looks seriously relieved at your response. “Name it, mate.”
You crack a smile before replying. “Please teach me how to box, that was a killer windup you were coming in with.”
She reaches across the table to playfully smack your forearm, smiling as she does before reclining back into her seat. “Ass.”
“I meant what I said though, you’re a good friend and pretty fun to hang out with, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise,” you say, hoping the words finally get through to her.
“Thanks Mike. I know it sounds kind of stupid but…” she says, flashing you a warm half smile. “...that actually really means a lot to me.”
Not long after, the waitress returns with your drinks in hand, setting them down before whipping out a pad to take your order. After a little back and forth you and Ruby settle on ordering the same thing as last time, an extra large pie with extra pepperoni. As you wait for your order to be prepared, you decide to shoot her yet another question.
“Alright, my turn now. What exactly do you keep in that pouch of yours?”
She only cocks an eyebrow at you, seemingly amused by your persistence in asking this kind of question. “Are you really going to waste your questions on stuff like this, Mike?”
“What? I’m honestly curious, it’s not like I’ve ever seen you carry a purse or anything before,” you say, hoping she finally budges.
You watch out of morbid curiosity as she looks down, lifting the hem of her shirt before she starts briefly rooting around in her pouch, a faint metallic jingling filling the air. “I don’t really keep much in here. Usually just my phone, keys and wallet, really.”
You return the gesture and cock an eyebrow at her response. “Wait, usually? You mean you carry other stuff around sometimes? What else could you possibly keep in there?”
She fidgets a bit in her seat, her ears twitching ever so slightly as she does. “You promise you won’t laugh?”
“I won’t laugh, I promise,” you say, putting a hand over your heart.
She giggles at your gesture before lowering her voice to a near whisper. “You promise you won’t tell a soul?”
“Oh come on, it can’t be that embarrassing,” you say. “I promise though, I won’t tell anyone.”
“Snacks,” she mutters so quickly you almost don’t pick it up. “I keep snacks in there sometimes, okay?”
“Good one. No, seriously, what do you actually keep in there?” you ask, but her silence and sudden shift in expression speaks volumes. “Wait, you’re serious? What kind of snacks?”
“Snack cakes, chips sometimes,” she mutters. “Don’t judge me too hard, because from what I can tell almost every day is a cheat day for you.”
“I don’t care about that. If anything, I’m just hurt you never shared any with me,” you tease, a huge grin forming on your face. “I could’ve used a pick me up after that brutal jog last week.”
“So… you don’t think it’s weird?” she asks, no longer speaking in hushed tones.
“Weird? Sounds awesome having your own pouch to keep stuff in,” you say. “I’d carry around so much shit with me if we had something like that. Best thing we’ve got are fanny packs but those went out of style in the 80’s.”
She laughs but doesn’t look too convinced by your answer. “Oh yeah, like what?”
“Well for starters: snacks, protein bars, protein shakes, lifting gloves, hell you could probably even keep a few beers in there,” you say, your mind going wild with the possibilities.
She laughs nervously in response to the things you’d just listed, her eyes now glued to the floor. “Y-yeah, who’d carry something like that in their pouch…”
You shoot her an incredulous look, not fully believing what you’d just heard. “No way. Alright, spit it out, which ones have you carried in your pouch before?”
Still unable to meet your gaze, she spits out a response so quickly you almost don’t understand her. “Justtheproteinbarsandshake.”
“What’s so embarrassing about that?” you ask, not entirely sure why she’s so ashamed of it. “It’s obnoxious carrying around a huge blender bottle with you at the gym.”
“I don’t know…” she says, a hand shooting up from her lap to rub at the back of her neck. “I just… sometimes I just get the feeling people look at me strange when I pull something out of there, ya’ know?”
“Well, you caught me off guard so I imagine they feel the same way about it, right?” you say, leaning forward to put your hand on her shoulder for reassurance. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much, honestly. Probably more curiosity than anything else.”
She finally looks up from the floor, putting her furred hand over the one you have on her shoulder. “I guess I never really thought about it that way… thanks, Mike.”
You offer her what you think is a reassuring smile. “No problem.”
The pizza arrives shortly after, the two of you quickly grabbing a slice and digging in while it’s still piping hot. The only thing that can be heard for a short while is the occasional sound of one of you taking sips from your drink. Seemingly having had her fill of pizza, Ruby leans back into the booth before breaking the silence.
“Alright, I think we’ve got enough time for one more question,” she asks as she takes a moist towelette to her snout. “Unless you’re not feeling it.”
“Hmm,” you say before cleaning off your mouth as well. “Ask away.”
“How do you guys even manage to stay warm in the winter?” she asks, nodding towards the coat you’ve got on.
“I don’t know,” you shrug. “Same way you guys do I guess, we just have to wear a few more layers when it’s cold.”
“Yeah, but you guys don’t have fur or anything to work with, so how do you not just freeze to death on your uncovered parts?” she asks. “I have a pretty thick coat of fur and I start shivering the minute I step outside. How do humans not just turn into popsicles when winter rolls around?”
“You’d be surprised how resilient you can be with the right gear,” you say, tugging at the scarf you’ve got on. “Can’t be that much worse for us, can it? Like you said, you have fur and you still get pretty cold, right?”
“Don’t even get me started, I don’t think I own enough coats to make it through fall, let alone winter,” she says, zipping up her jacket. “It’s the one thing I don’t miss about living here. Australia and everywhere else I’ve been to has pretty nice weather year-round, but here it’s like you’re living in a giant igloo for half the damn year.”
“Be thankful it’s not cold enough to snow yet,” you say, staring out the window almost longingly. “Were you around the last time it snowed here? Almost never happens, but when it does it’s absolutely breathtaking.”
“No, I…” she says, and you can see her trying to figure out what you’re looking at. “...didn’t think it was possible. Were you?”
“Only once when I was a seven year old little shit, wasn’t even enough on the ground to make snowmen with or anything, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget it,” you say, smiling as you think back to better times. “I remember my dad took us out to the park that day and we sat on the grass just watching the snowflakes fall around us. Still one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen to this day.”
“Sounds like it,” she says, your smile apparently contagious. “Hope I get to see it happen again sometime.”
“With the kind of weather we’re getting this early into fall, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again this year,” you say as you pick up another slice.
You briefly check your watch as Ruby continues to work through another slice as well. “I think it’s about time we get going, my landlord hates it if people are working on their cars too late at night.”
“Alright, let me just finish off what I’ve got left and we can go,” she says, taking another bite. “What about the rest of it though?”
You partially raise your hand in an attempt to flag down the server, pulling out your wallet as you do. “I’ll just ask them to box it up, no big deal. Tastes even better the next day, trust me.”
The waitress approaches the table, the very same smile as before tugging at her features. “What can I do for you?”
“If you could bring me the check please,” you say, pointing at the remaining slices of pizza. “And if you could box this up as well, thanks.”
“Not a problem,” she says, taking the pizza pan with her into the back.
“Oh come on mate, you don’t have to pay,” she says, reaching down to rummage through her pouch again. “Let me chip in for my half at least. How much do I owe ya?”
“Nothing, because I’m paying for it,” you say sternly before placing a twenty dollar bill on the table as you wait for the waitress to return with the check. “Seriously, you were a huge help earlier, just think of it as my thanks to you.”
For a moment she looks like she’s about to protest, but seemingly decides against it at the last second. “Alright fine, but next time let me pick up the bill, okay? Don’t want you thinking I’m some kind of mooch or anything.”
“Sounds good to me.”
The waitress returns a minute later with a small takeout box and your change, which you decide to leave as a tip. As you get up to leave, you notice Ruby stealthily leaving an extra five bucks on the table. As stubborn as she could be sometimes, you’d be lying if you said the gesture didn’t put a smile on your face. It’s refreshing to know she’s more than willing to pitch in on your outings together, which is something you can’t say for many of the girls you’ve taken out to lunch before.
Eager to not be in the cold for more than absolutely necessary, the two of you speed walk to your car, tossing the box of leftover pizza into the backseat before setting off to your apartment, trying to reach it with some daylight to spare. A glance at the dash tells you it's still early in the afternoon, yet with how quickly it's been getting dark as of late, you don't feel like taking any chances on your repair job, especially with your double date around the corner. The chance of your car breaking down on the way home isn’t exactly high, but the fact that it’s a possibility at all worries you immensely. You’d never live it down if it happened in front of Ruby, especially given how she’d already joked about your car being a junker before.
Her voice is enough to drag you away from your irrational train of thought, and you take your eyes off the road for a moment to steal a quick glance at the kangaroo.
“Thanks again for the pizza, it was even better than last time,” she says, a satisfied expression on her face.
“No problem, I’m just glad you like it as much as I do,” you say, fighting the urge to glance to the side again. “You can take the rest of it home if you want.”
“Nah mate, you paid for it so you should hold onto it, it’s only fair,” she says. “Don’t forget about our bet, you still owe me lunch, remember?”
“How could I forget with you reminding me all the time?” You chuckle, tapping your fingers against the wheel. “Are you still not going to tell me where you want me to take you?”
“Just haven’t decided on a place yet, but I promise I’ll tell you the second I figure it out,” she chuckles. “For now… you’ll just have to keep on guessing.”
The two of you continue to make small talk, distracting you so much that you nearly miss the turn into your apartment complex. You park your car next to a few empty spaces to give yourself adequate room to work. After pulling the trunk release, you step out of the car and go to grab your toolbox, only to realize you’d left it up in your apartment. You’d forgotten to put it back after helping a friend move with your car a few weeks ago.
You decide to give her a heads up before you run upstairs. “Hey Ruby, I’m going to go grab my tools real quick, you mind waiting here and watching the car for a little bit?”
You quickly turn to look at him and nod. “Sure, I’ll keep an eye on your baby while you’re gone.”
He sighs before flashing you his signature smile. “Thanks, be back in a second.”
You watch him like a hawk as he walks away, slowly making his way to what seems to be the stairwell leading up his apartment. While he’s turned away, your eyes take full advantage of the opportunity to linger on his backside, the form fitting jeans he chose to wear today leaving very little to the imagination and doing him no favors in preventing you from ogling his firm, toned butt. You feel like a total pervert during and after the act, but you couldn’t tear away your gaze until he was completely out of sight.
‘It’s perfectly normal, right?’ you think to yourself to try and rationalize what you’d been doing for the better part of the day.
The fact that you’d leaped at the chance to cop a feel of his arms earlier in that cramped dressing room made you feel grimy. Sure, you felt ashamed for doing it after the fact, but there was still something oddly thrilling about the possibility of him calling you out on it. Had he realized what you were doing and just been nice enough to not say anything about it? Either way, you’re going to make an effort to control this side of yourself around him. You don’t want to ruin a good thing for once in your life.
As much as you teased him about his car, you had to admit the interior was spotless, that new car smell still hanging in the air despite its obvious age. For a moment, you almost wish he’d invited you inside just so you could see if he keeps his apartment in a similar state of cleanliness. As you continue to scan the interior, you realize he left the keys in the ignition. It feels oddly nice to know he trusts you enough to do so despite the two of you only knowing each other for about a week. A few more minutes pass before you see him making his way down the stairs, now wearing a sleeveless tank top dotted with splotches that look suspiciously like oil or grease stains. For a second you’re almost sure he chose it intentionally to tease you, because who in their right mind would wear a sleeveless shirt in this kind of weather? It's not going to be easy, but you're certainly not getting beaten by a revealing piece of clothing, determined to stay focused on other things instead.
He sets the hefty toolbox down on the sidewalk in front of the hood, and you can hear the click of latches before he opens it up.
“Alright, so you said you wanted to learn the basics, right?” he asks, calling out from where he’s standing. “Come on out so you can tell me what exactly you want me to show you.”
It takes you a moment to respond as you get out of the passenger side, trying to come up with an answer that wouldn’t make you sound too clueless. “Mate, I’ve never even so much as changed the oil on a car before, so how about we keep things simple to start off, yeah?”
“Simple, got it,” he says. “Alright, you mind popping the hood open for me real quick?”
You walk around to the driver’s side of the car and hit the latch near the pedals before going right back to his side to wait for his instructions. The moment he bends over to get a closer look at something, your eyes betray you once more, gluing themselves to the taut backside currently pressing against the denim of his jeans, and it takes all your willpower to resist the urge to reach out and give it a little squeeze.
“Alright so first you’re going to w-” he starts, your brain unconsciously tuning him out as you continue to ogle the other exposed parts of his body.
If you thought humans and their lack of fur was a bad thing earlier, this spectacle would’ve been more than enough to change your mind entirely. The smooth skin made any muscle definition far more visible at a glance, especially as he turns what seems to be a particularly tight plastic cap, his arm muscles tensing from the strain as he grips it tight. You hear a loud crack followed by the sound of faint snapping, consistent enough to pull you from your ogling induced stupor.
“Hello, Earth to Ruby,” he says, still snapping his fingers inches away from the front of your snout. “You still with me here?”
You can feel the blood rushing to your cheeks and ears, nodding with maybe a little too much enthusiasm in response. “I’m listening, you were turning the cap there, right?”
“Yeah…” he says before nodding. “...but did you hear what I said?”
“I did, I just didn’t understand it,” you say, telling a white lie to avoid admitting what you were doing instead and praying he doesn’t ask any more questions. “You mind repeating it for me?”
“Okay…” he says, your heart rate rising when he cocks an eyebrow. “...so first you want to check the oil levels. To do that, you take the dip stick here, wipe it off and then dip it inside before pulling it out again to see how far the oil reaches. Sound simple enough?”
“Yeah,” you say, leaning over the hood.
“Well, go ahead and give it a shot then,” he says as he steps aside to give you some room.
He hands you the dipstick, your hand trembling slightly as you go to measure the oil. He seems to take notice of your hesitation and gently takes hold of your wrist to guide you. It only makes you even more worried that you come off as clueless in his eyes for not knowing the most basic things about cars. You shove your worries to the wayside for the moment and with his help, you successfully manage to do what he’d explained, making a mental note of how much oil is on the stick. His cold hand makes a shiver run down your spine, something you’re sure he had to notice.
“See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asks before letting go of your wrist. “Now comes the harder part, actually draining the used oil.”
He crouches down to examine the undercarriage and you quickly follow suit, crouching down alongside him. After fiddling with one of his pockets, he fishes out a small flashlight and uses it to direct your attention to a small area on the bottom of the engine.
“You see that there? That’s the drain plug, but it’s not in the same spot on every car, so you might have to look around a bit,” he says, wiggling the light on the spot.
You sheepishly scratch at the back of your head as you avert your gaze. “This is kind of embarrassing but… I don’t actually own a car.”
The look of surprise on his face when you steal a glance doesn’t exactly make you feel better about having just admitted that to him.
“Seriously? How do you make it to work on time then?” he asks. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with not having a car.”
You can only shrug in response, doing your best to act like it’s no big deal. “Some days I take the bus, others I just jog to work and sometimes I just carpool with a friend.”
“Well, if you ever need a ride to work just give me a call, I’d be more than happy to do so,” he says, a small smile on his face.
His generous words take you for a loop, and while you aren’t exactly eager to take him up on it out of fear of looking needy, it still makes you happy that he offered it to you out of the kindness of his heart.
“So anyways, you’re going to need a couple things,” he says, leaning over towards his toolbox. “For starters, a car jack if you can’t reach the pan on your car, some ramps for safety and finally… something to collect the old oil into. Anything you have on hand works, old tupperware, a paint roller tray, whatever.”
“So, I’m guessing what you have to do next is just loosen the plug and that’s it?” you ask, wondering if there’s something you’re missing here.
“Not quite… there’s one more thing you have to do after that, but let’s take it step by step for now,” he says, reaching for a small wrench and offering it to you. “Alright, I’ll let you do the honors here.”
You reach out and grab the wrench, having enough confidence in both your strength and abilities to be completely sure you couldn’t fuck up such a simple task. You take the wrench to the bolt and begin loosening it, watching as oil starts to drain into the plastic container he’d put under it.
“Excellent, now we just need to replace the filter as well,” he says, standing back up to examine the engine again, tapping against a specific spot for you to see. “You can undo the bolt here too.”
You do so before setting the wrench down briefly. It’s surprisingly easy to learn how to do this kind of thing when you have such a patient teacher guiding you every step of the way. You step aside as he moves to pull out the old filter, not wanting to get any oil or grease splattering on your fur. He sets it down on another container and you watch as remnants of oil trickle out of it.
“Alright, now I want you to put in the new one and wrench the bolt back on,” he says, handing you a fresh filter. “If it’s not going in easily, just put a little elbow grease into it and kind of force it inside.”
You trust his advice, figuring he knows his own baby like the back of his hand. You carefully slot the new filter into place, making sure to not drop it in the process. After it’s in place and seemingly secure, you follow his instructions and make sure to tighten the bolt as much as physically possible.
“Good job, now that the oil is drained out down there, go ahead and tighten the plug too,” he says as he crouches down.
You crouch down again to tighten the bolt and find it’s significantly harder to do so than it was to loosen due to your lack of reach when going in the opposite direction. “Mate, can I get a hand down here?”
He grabs the wrench from your hands and reaches in to tighten the plug once again. “Sorry about that, thought you had it handled.”
You almost start to berate yourself again for not being able to do such a simple task, but then you catch a glimpse of his reassuring smile and all those irrational worries melt away in the blink of an eye.
“It’s alright, just couldn’t reach it is all,” you say, his infectious smile causing you to do the same.
He crouches down again to rummage through his toolbox and grabs a funnel along with a small bottle of oil, handing them both to you.
“Now comes the easy part, adding in the new oil. Just make sure to pour it in slowly…” he laughs, tugging at the hem of his camisole. “Well, unless you want your blouse to look like a pollock painting.”
You nod as you slot the funnel into the opening, being careful not to splash yourself as you unscrew the tight cap on the bottle. As you slowly pour in the oil, you take precautions to make sure you wouldn’t spill a single drop. Once the bottle runs dry and you’ve made sure the funnel is empty, you hand it back to him.
“So, what now? Or are we done?” you ask, rubbing your fingers against each other to make sure you hadn’t dirtied up your fur.
“We’re almost done,” he says as he tightens the cap on the oil intake, making sure it’s as tight as possible before continuing. “Now we’ve just gotta run the engine for a second then measure the levels one last time. You mind starting the car for me real quick?”
You nod and walk around to the driver’s seat, settling in before calling out to him. “Ready, Mike?!”
“Yeah, I’ll tell you when to shut it off,” he calls back.
You start the engine, keeping your fingers on the key for what seems like an eternity until he finally gives you the go-ahead to shut it off again. Walking back around to the front of the car, you see him hunched over the motor adjusting god knows what. It’s kind of uncanny how much it reminds you of when you used to watch your dad work on his cars as a kid, even down to the similar heights.
‘Wait…’ you think to yourself as a horrifying thought pieces itself together in your head.
You were ogling Mike’s ass earlier and now you think he reminds you of dad.
You involuntarily shudder as you try and avoid connecting the two in your brain, instead opting to watch intently as he finishes the oil change.
He grabs a rag from his toolbox to clean the oil and grease from his hands. “See, that didn’t take very long, now did it?”
You look up at him and smile. “Honestly wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, but I can’t imagine that’s the only thing you want to teach me how to do.”
He glances down at his watch. “Well… we’ve got another hour or two to burn unless you’ve got somewhere to be.”
“I wouldn’t mind learning a few more things if you’re willing to show me,” you smile. “Something easy though, please. Even the oil change seemed kind of hard at first.”
He crouches down and starts rummaging through his toolbox again. “Well, if you want something really easy, how about… checking the tire pressure?”
“I definitely think I can handle that,” you laugh.
He grabs a small implement from his toolbox that looks like a stopwatch with a small stem protruding from the top. You can only assume it’s a tire pressure gauge given by the numbers printed on it.
“Alright so the first thing you’re going to want to do before starting is make sure you know the recommended pressure for your tires,” he says, walking around the side of the car until he reaches a tire and crouches down. “Once you know that then it’s as easy as unscrewing the cap and then pressing the tip of the gauge into it to get your measurement.”
He hands you the gauge and shuffles out of the way to let you do the process on your own. You follow his exact instructions and compare it to the recommended pressure printed on the side of the tire. The two of you repeat the process for every tire and determine that only one of them could use more air. Once you’re finished, you drop the gauge back down into his toolbox.
“I’ll take care of filling it with more air tomorrow. Nice work,” he says.
You can’t help but feel a little proud at his compliment, never having done anything even resembling maintenance to a car in your life before today. “Thanks. Was there anything else you wanted to show me?”
“Think we’ve got time for one last easy thing if you feel up for it,” he says, nodding towards the windshield. “Just checking the antifreeze levels, which is pretty straightforward.”
You follow him as he walks around to the engine again, hood still held open.
“You see this transparent tank here?” he asks. “All you have to do is make sure the liquid reaches the full line and you’re good to go.”
You lean over the engine to take a look for yourself. “Looks pretty topped up to me.”
“I think that about wraps things up for today then,” he says as he packs all his instruments and tools back into the nearby toolbox.
Afterwards, he places a lid on the two containers he used to drain the oil. You just watch as he tosses both the toolbox and containers into the trunk, making sure to clean his hands off with a rag before tossing it inside and slamming the whole thing shut.
You feel bad for having called his car a junker, even if it was just meant as banter. It’s clear to you now how much he cares for his car given how much time and attention he puts into maintaining it. You open your mouth to apologize for it, but he interrupts your thoughts before you can put them into words.
“So, guess I’ll see you on Monday then?” he asks, leaning back against the trunk.
“W-wait, what?” you ask, taking aback by his sudden goodbyes. “Aren’t you going to give me a ride home? You wouldn’t make me walk home alone in this cold, would you?”
A grin quickly spreads through his features. “Don’t worry, I’m just messing with you. Just wanted to see how you’d react is all.”
You playfully elbow his side, a smile forming on your face. “Didn’t your mom ever tell you it’s not right to play with a girl’s feelings like that?”
He chuckles as he opens the passenger side door for you. “Must’ve missed that lesson, I guess.”
“Well, don’t you forget it, Mike,” you say, jokingly wagging a finger at him as you get into the car.
Soon enough the two of you are on the way to your apartment, the ride home giving you ample time to come up with an apology for your comments earlier this week.
Your mouth, seemingly eager to apologize before your brain could actually catch up, mutters out a meek, “Sorry.”
He takes his eyes off the road for a quick moment to glance at you before looking back again. “For what?”
“You know… for uh- how I called your car a junker before?”
“Oh, you don’t have to apologize for that,” he says, waving you off with his hand. “Look, I know my car isn’t the fanciest thing in the world, but my dad passed it down to me and I’ve been taking care of her ever since. I accept your apology though.”
His explanation only makes you feel even worse about the fact that you called it a junker in the first place, and you can’t help but wince a bit as you rub at the back of your neck. “O-oh. Is this the only car you’ve ever had then?”
“Yep,” he says, rubbing at the steering wheel affectionately. “She’s been with me since high school and I don’t think I’d trade her for anything else in the world.”
“Must be a lot of hard work to keep her running this well, and this clean too,” you say, hoping the honesty would make up for things somewhat.
He glances at you once again, this time with a big smile on his face. “Yeah, though it gets harder to keep her running like this every year, if I’m being honest with you. Still worth the effort to me though.”
“Dad’s a car guy, so I know exactly what you mean,” you admit, thinking back to how much time he spent in the garage on Sundays. “Though I guess that makes it kind of embarrassing that I don’t even know the basics.”
“Just never bothered to ask or what?” he asks.
“You could say that, I guess,” you shrug even though he can’t see it. “Was always too wrapped up in school and hobby stuff to bother.”
You decide to steer the conversation in a different direction, not sure what else to say regarding cars. A question you’d asked him earlier in the day comes to mind, and you decide to jump at the opportunity to get a real answer out of him.
“So, are you ever going to tell me what you really need those clothes for?”
“Told you already,” he chuckles. “I’m a secret agent by night. As soon as I drop you off I have to go fight crime and dispense righteous justice.”
You pout at his response, hoping one look at your face makes him reconsider his answer. “How about this, if I can guess what they’re for, you tell me if I’m right?”
“Alright. I’ll give you three guesses to figure out,” he says. “Bet you ten bucks you won’t be able to though.”
“You’re on,” you say, beaming with confidence. “Uh… a wedding maybe?”
He shakes his head in response. “You already guessed that one earlier, remember? Won’t count it against your three chances.”
“Job interview?” you ask, hoping he’ll nod yes.
He shakes his head again. “Shit, I wish they were for an interview. Can hardly get anyone to call back as is. Two more guesses.”
You decide to give your next guess a bit more thought, looking out the window as if the answer is going to come flying through it. A few minutes pass and you decide to try your luck again as you eye a passing billboard for inspiration.
“Court date…?” you ask, hoping he won’t be offended.
“Just what kind of guy do you take me for?” He laughs heartily. “My memory might not always be the best, but I sure as hell don’t remember having a court date. And to save you a guess, no, it’s not jury duty either.”
You have one guess left and with so many options to choose from, you decide to just wing it instead of trying to think too much about it. “I don’t know… uh, a date?”
His sudden silence and delay in responding speaks volumes about the accuracy of your guess.
“How did you…?” he asks in disbelief. “Still, you’re only half right and out of guesses, so I’m only ponying up five bucks.”
You don’t even care about the money, but you’re beyond curious about where and who he’s going on a date with. “So… who’s the lucky lady? Is she… an anthro girl by chance?”
“Don’t know yet,” he says, cocking an eyebrow at you as you come to a stop at a traffic light. “Just know that I’m going on a date. Supposed to be a pretty fancy place too.”
“Huh? You don’t know?” you ask, unsure what he means by that. “Oh god, don’t tell me you’re going on a blind date or something. I’ve heard so many horror stories about them.”
He rubs at the back of his neck with one hand, continuing to steer with the other. “It’s not exactly that, just something sorta similar.”
It’s strange that you feel almost… jealous that he’s going on a date with another girl. You’re just friends so you have no real reason to feel possessive, mentally scolding yourself for not being more supportive instead. “Well, either way I hope you have a good time with her.”
“Thank you,” he says with a smile as the traffic light changes.
The entire rest of the way home you fidget in your seat, playing with your hair and fingers as you continue staring out the window, hoping you didn’t make things awkward between the two of you with your odd line of question. The last thing you want is him deciding to not share anything with you anymore because of your incessant prying for answers, your ears and tail twitching out of anxiety. After some time, you see the familiar signs that tell you you’re coming up on your neighborhood, thankful that you’re close to escaping the awkward environment you’d created.
You’re surprised he’d never asked any questions about how you can afford to live in such a nice community, seeming content with just dropping you off and making sure you’re safe. He doesn’t know it, but you know that every time he drops you off he sticks around until you’re safely inside your apartment, something that you greatly appreciate for the peace of mind it brings.
He brings the car to a full stop in the usual spot before starting to say his goodbyes.
“Listen… thanks a ton for coming out to help me today, it actually really means a lot to me,” he says, his warm signature smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “You’ve got a real eye for fashion, I seriously owe you one.”
You can feel your cheeks and ears starting to burn from his praise and you silently hope it’s not visible through the thin layer of fur, your heart pounding hard in your chest as you respond. “Ah, it’s nothing mate, I’m just happy I could help ya’ out so much. Besides, you taught me a thing or two about cars so I’d say we’re even.”
“Oh right, before I forget,” he says, quickly turning to reach for something in the backseat. “Take this home with you. I don’t want to be tempted when I get home.”
Even with him practically pushing the box of leftover pizza into your hands, you’re reluctant to take it, knowing full well he paid for the entirety of your lunch. “Nah, you hold onto it. You paid for it so it’s only fair you keep it.”
“I’m not going to fight you on this one, Ruby. I want you to take it, seriously,” he insists, thrusting the box forward again as he waggles it slightly. “Consider it a thanks for helping me pick out these clothes.”
You decide that accepting is probably for the best, but in your stubbornness you blurt out a compromise that crossed your thoughts. “Fine, I’ll take the pizza if you don’t give me those five bucks.”
“Alright, fine,” he sighs. “If you say so.”
You accept the pizza box and set it down in your lap before you go in for a goodbye hug, something that you’re ashamed to admit you’ve started looking forward to every time he drops you off. The way he freezes up when you hug him is kind of endearing, but the feeling of his arm wrapped around is well worth making him a little uneasy on occasion. You look up at him as you hug him tight, locking eyes with him.
“So, see you Monday morning?” you ask.
“For wh- Oh right, jogging,” he smiles. “Yeah, I’ll see you first thing in the morning on Monday. You have a good night.”
“You too, Mike.”
You grab your belongings along with the box of pizza and head up to your apartment, taking a glance down at the street when you reach the top of the stone steps to make sure he’s still sitting around waiting for you. Sure enough, he’s still parked in the exact same spot. You have no idea why, but it makes you feel warm and safe that he takes the extra time to stick around instead of leaving immediately.
You root around in your pouch as you walk towards your door, fishing out the keys to the apartment and quickly stepping inside before locking the door behind you. You set down your things and the pizza box on the kitchen counter alongside the small mountain of empty takeout boxes you have yet to throw away. A few choice words fly from your mouth as you forcefully kick at the air, annoyed that your leg and ankle warmers refuse to come off. After many attempts, you decide to wait until later to take them off.
You take a few steps forward into the kitchen, flicking the light switch on as you pass by it. After your eyes adjust to the fluorescent lighting, you take a look at the dirty dishes piled high in your sink and let out a sigh. You really should’ve taken care of them before they became this much of a problem, reaching into the cabinet below the sink for a pair of latex gloves to throw on. You stand there for a moment, staring down at the mountain of dishes before you, looking for any and all excuses to leave the task for another day, a quick glance at the wall clock letting you know just how late it really is. Already half past seven and with how early you have to be up tomorrow, you opt to leave it for another day. A warm shower and a good night’s rest sound fantastic after the long day you’d had and after stashing the leftover pizza in the fridge and putting the gloves back in their place, you turn the lights off before making your way to the bathroom.
You begin taking your clothes off as you go down the hallway, leaving them in the ever growing pile cluttering the entrance to the bathroom, once again promising yourself you'll pick it up first thing in the morning. Getting your tail unstuck from the hole in your pants is your first priority, though you nearly trip over a pair of jeans as you focus on tugging it free, gripping the walls as you release the beast. By the time you waddle into the bathroom with your pants around your ankles, all you have left to take off is your bra, panties and leg coverings, reaching down to yank off the latter first. Your pants follow soon after you reach back to undo the clasp of your padded bra, letting it fall to the floor without a care in the world. Next come your panties, pulling them down as you make your way towards the mirror, and all that's left to do now is to take scrunchie out of your ponytail, your hazelnut brown hair flowing freely after a long and exhausting day. You stand in front of the bathroom mirror and take in your form, flicking at the errant strands tickling at your shoulders and upper back, a brief thought of whether you should trim it or let it grow out even further crossing your mind. After deciding you'd leave your hair alone for the foreseeable future, your attention is quickly drawn to the rest of your body.
The first thing your eyes focus on are your arms, defined but not overly muscular. You can definitely see all those hours of hard work at the gym paying off. While you'd never had much definition to speak of around your breasts, you swore the bench pressing you'd done with Mike was starting to show results, and you can feel a brand new layer of muscle forming around your chest, your fingers gliding across the new borders. As you continue working your way down your body, you notice something else that distresses you. It’s already hard enough having visible abs with the thin layer of fur that typically covers your midsection, but the definition you once had down there seems to be fading rapidly. It makes you consider cutting back on the snacks and eating out more, maybe even going so far as to add some extra crunches to your morning routine. You didn’t work so hard on your core to lose all your progress to a poor diet, after all.
You step into your shower and turn it on, standing just outside it’s flow as you wait for it to heat up. Once the water reaches the perfect temperature, you walk into the stream and close your eyes as you let the warmth wash over and throughout your entire body. You’ve always been of the opinion that a hot shower could fix just about anything, and this one is no exception to that rule, your worries melting away with each passing second. You reach for the bottle of shampoo and squirt a generous dollop of it onto your hand, then begin working it into your hair. It’s one of the few things about yourself that you’re proud of, making sure to always wash and condition it to keep it soft and silky to the touch. Once you’re done with your hair, you start on the rest of your body, making sure to cover every inch of your fur with a special mix of body wash and fur conditioner. It feels really good to run your hands over your sore muscles after such a long day, and you make sure to really dig your fingers in to get the soapy mixture deep within your coat. You can’t help but be proud of the way your fur feels between your fingers, the sensation akin to velvet. You stop to pour another glob of the mixture into your hand to wash your privates, parting your legs slightly to make the job easier on yourself.
As you reach down to spread the soap around, your finger grazes over your button ever so slightly, sending a combination of a tingle and shudder down your spine, the overwhelming sensation reminding you of just how long it’s been since you last took care of yourself.
‘Not that the amount of ogling you do to Mike doesn’t remind you of that already,’ you think to yourself as you continue to wash.
You try to ignore the feeling as you rinse some of the soap out, but you can’t help but run a finger over it again, this time with just a little bit more pressure. The warmth of the water soaking into your fur and the sheer bottled up need welling up inside you make it hard to stop yourself from continuing to rub, each new, delicate touch sending shivers down your spine, a shaky breath escaping you as the pleasure only continues to mount with each passing second. You start to ease into a steady pace, your breath quickening as your fingers continue dancing against your clit, eyes narrowing as you gently bite down on your lower lip, the heat and steam making it easy to lose yourself in a haze of pleasure. The only thought that crosses your mind is how fucking good it feels to finally take care of yourself after abstaining for so long, your cheeks burning as you breathe in the floral scent-laden vapors. As amazing as you feel, you desperately need more, so much more; your mind racing and body trembling as jolts of pleasure arc from your head to your paws, numbing your thoughts. You close your eyes as you try and conjure up a fantasy, letting out a soft, muffled moan as you begin picking up speed. Already, you can feel your legs starting to give out under you, still sore from yesterday’s intense jog. You release your loose grip your free hand has on the wet tile, your other hand still busy idly rubbing at your clit as you sit down on the shower bench. Now in a more comfortable position, you spread your legs a bit more as your hazy, lust-addled mind wanders back to a long, long list of dreamy and oh so muscular men, both fictional and real. Your thoughts don’t linger in one place for too long, each figure more rugged and handsome than the last, until you finally settle on a hunk who’s name you can’t recall, but who’s face and body you certainly couldn’t forget, that slight stubble something you’re shamefully weak to. You grunt as you start to fantasize about what that stubble would feel like against the thin fur and exposed skin of your flower.
You bring your free hand up to your breast as you lean back against the tiled bench, cupping the soft, pliable flesh, kneading it as you imagine his rugged arms gripping you with ravenous desire. You barely manage to suppress a moan when your mind drifts to the thought of those very same muscles being used to push your tiny frame against the tiled wall, his fingers exploring every inch of taut, corded muscle and soft flesh they can reach. The thought of him gripping your shoulder as he comes in to gently kiss and nibble at your neck makes you violently shudder, your pleasure-addled mind egging you on to finally drive a finger inside you, to take care of your immense, burning need. As you sink your finger deep into your cunt, you can feel just how aroused you are, your velvety, scorching insides contracting in an attempt to pull the invader even deeper inside. Your legs threaten to cramp up from the awkward way you’re sitting and the intensity you’re starting to go at yourself, but you put it all aside as you continue building towards your peak by using your finger to stir at your soaked, needy insides. Eyes still shut, you continue to rub at your button as you picture his large fingers gliding across the side of your snout and rubbing at your fur, your breath going ragged as you start to pant loudly, the realization that there’s no need to hold yourself back in the comfort of your own home hitting you like a freight train.
“O-ooohhh fuck, don’t haaah~ stop, please!” you moan out loudly as you finally get knuckle deep inside yourself.
You pick up the pace once more, pulling your finger almost the entire way out only to quickly plunge it even deeper inside, your toes twitching as you slowly start to approach your limits. Even as the warm droplets of water continue to hit and soak into your fur before running down your legs in rivulets, you can still feel the sticky, almost syrupy juices of your arousal running out and clinging to the fur around your thighs and hand. You take your hand off your breast, opting to press your open palm against the tiled surface beneath you for support instead. Fully committed to getting the most out of this, you spread your legs and bring them up until your calves are almost on either side of your head. In this new, slightly awkward and uncomfortable position, you start to fantasize about what he’d do next, panting heavily as you pick up the pace. You can almost feel those large, calloused and rugged hands gripping your hips as he leans forward, your legs and tail almost instinctively moving to wrap around an imaginary midsection. You picture his fingers digging deep into your thighs and ass as he lines himself up before pushing in deep with an almost reckless abandon. Your fantasies quickly leave you short of breath, your leg trembling as you drive your finger knuckle deep, curling it in as you belt out another series of soft, breathy moans and grunts, far, far too lost in the moment to let any pesky thoughts spoil your fun. You can feel yourself teetering on the edge of your limits, huffing as you careen towards the sweet release your body has been begging for. An imagined kiss as he explores your depths is all it takes to nearly push you over the precipice of pleasure, moaning aloud in the heat of the moment.
“Oh god, just unff- keep nngh- going Mike, just like-”
Everything comes to a screeching halt the second you realize the words that just left your mouth, any hopes of reaching your orgasm swept down the drain in an instant. Why did you moan his name? And better yet, why was he even on your mind while you were- now that you think about it, the fictional guy you were imagining didn’t even have black hair, much less stubble. You’re confused at first as you try to connect the dots but it finally hits you.
“Mike has black hair,” you say under your breath.
Oh god, did y- were you imagining it was him the entire time? Even though there’s no one around to witness your embarrassment, the shame and regret wash over you in waves, your cheeks and ears beginning to burn with a temperature rivaling molten glass as you think about what you just did, and despite that, the heat isn’t even remotely comparable to what you’re still feeling further south. You pull your digit free before standing up and turning the knob in the shower, cool water soon flowing from above, helping you wash away both the memory of what you’d just done and the burning, almost pulsing feeling still coming from your groin. You shiver with disgust at your actions, the freezing temperature bringing you out of your lust-filled haze and back to reality. It feels horribly wrong that you’d thought about him in… that way, especially considering you’ve only known him for a little under a week, but- why did you think of MIKE? Was it even that wrong, that strange? Since the two of you met you’ve practically spent all of your free time together, whether that be exercising or just casually hanging out. And sure, you ogled him here and there, but what girl wouldn’t with a body like his? You’re not entirely sure why you’re going to such lengths to justify your behavior, but you try to focus on other things.
Despite desperately wanting to continue taking care of your needs, you decide to leave things for another day, terrified your thoughts would drift to him again if you were to continue. You quickly finish up your shower before stepping out and thoroughly toweling yourself off as you make your way towards the standing full body dryer near the sink. You stand on the stool beneath it before turning it on, the noise and sudden heat enveloping your body like a warm hug helping you briefly forget about things as you run your furred fingers through your slightly curly hair. As you continue to dry your hair and body, you think hard about the implications of your fantasies. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror from afar, though you quickly look away as you can barely stand to look at your flushed face out of shame. It’s a totally normal and easy thing to explain, right? You just thought of him because of his body, right? Not because of the nice things he says and the jokes he-
You stop yourself before you get carried away again, blushing as you wonder if he’s ever had these kinds of thoughts about you, but you quickly shake the offending idea from your mind. After your hair and fur are sufficiently dry, you make your way towards your bedroom, eager to rest and forget about the entire ordeal. You step into the small walk-in closet, rummaging through pile after pile of clothes as you try and find some sleepwear that isn’t too uncomfortable or dirty. A few more minutes of searching yields nothing you feel comfortable wearing, and you decide to sleep in the buff instead. You groggily crawl into your freshly made bed, draping the navy blue sheets over your nude body, lying face up as the back of your head sinks into the pillow. In a futile attempt to drift off to sleep, you shut your eyes tight and try to think of anything but Mike or what went down just minutes ago. Thinking about work doesn’t help in the slightest, the crushing workload of a soon to start semester only causing more stress to well up within you. You think about all the errands you’ll have to do in the coming days, which brings you some relief but not enough to put you fully at ease. In your head, you plan out your gym routine for the next few days, though you quickly realize it’s a mistake when he worms his way back into the forefront of your thoughts. Instead of the guilt and shame inducing thoughts you’d had before, what fills your mind are the memories of the quality time you’d spent with him today, a guilty half smile emerging as you think back to the chat the two of you had at the pizza place. It’s a serious relief to know he didn’t hold a grudge for all the things you’d done to him, Mike choosing to accept your apology without so much as second guessing himself. No matter how hard you try to change the record playing in your head, your thoughts keep coming back to the rest of the day you’d enjoyed together, breathing out a sigh of relief when you think about his unwavering patience when he was teaching you how to change the oil on his car, not getting upset even a single time despite all the troubles you’d had with the process. It’s a quality of his that you respect, or hell, even downright admire, knowing your temper can get the best of you at times. You’d made good on your promise to stop being so abrasive and apprehensive around him in your mind. The entire day felt just as enjoyable as the time you’d spent together at the mall the night before. One particular moment of the day sticks out above all others, still vivid in your mind; and that’s the way he’d hugged you tight to his chest when you finally said your goodbyes. Is it weird that you’re still thinking about it? It can’t be that weird to feel so happy about being held like that, even if it was just a hug among friends, right?
“Yeah... it just feels nice, and...” you say, reaching for another pillow to place between your legs as you continue attempting to think up excuses, the reality of the situation finally hitting you. “Fuck...”
A growing weariness begins to creep into your body and mind, arms hugging at your pillow as your eyelids begin to flutter, heavier and heavier with each second that passes. You wonder what it’d be like to have Mike’s arm wrapped around you in this very moment, and you think back to the sensation of that hug once more for comfort. The fact that you’re laying in bed alone suddenly sinks in, your ears drooping slightly, as your lips curl into a frown. You hug the pillow even tighter to your chest as you continue to imagine having him by your side, and you fight the urge to tear up from how pathetic you feel right now. Focusing on the comforting thoughts of the time you’d spent together and his contagious smile helps push away that urge to cry, finally giving you just enough peace of mind for the intoxicating warmth of the bed to lull you to dreamland.