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Starry Night

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Six months already. He could hardly believe it, but Retsuko and her boyfriend had been together for six months already. Even though he didn’t personally know him, he’d heard things, rumors spreading like wildfire across the company, and from what he’d heard, the little guy from Sales seemed to be quite a drag. Always distracted, always doing things wrong, always having to be told what to do, what to say, how to act in certain circumstances… Dating him sure sounded like a chore, but if Retsuko was anything, she was patient. He knew that all too well.

She never talked about her relationship with him, at least not in front of him. Not until that very day, when she didn’t seem to be able to hold in her excitement any longer.

“My boyfriend and I are turning six months today!” she yelped with a bright blush on her cheeks after Fenneko pointed out that she seemed particularly bubbly that day.

It felt like a punch in the stomach, but he didn’t flinch. He didn’t change his facial expression; he just stood there with a cup of coffee in his hand and his eyes fixed on Retsuko, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Fenneko had spared him a quick glance.

“A-Ah! Is that so?” Fenneko said nervously, glancing at him again, and he thought that he should say something then.

“I didn’t know you had a boyfriend, Retsuko.” He lied, but it was the best he could do, for he wasn’t supposed to know this.

“Oh?” Retsuko seemed a tad confused, opening her big shiny eyes to look at him, and he felt another punch but this time to his chest. “You didn’t know, Haida? Well… I guess I never really mentioned it to you…” She muttered the last, looking down at the table while resting her hand on her chin. She was clearly digging into her memory.

“Guess you never did!” Haida hurried to say, offering her a smile. There was no use in letting her try to remember; he knew for a fact that he’d never heard it from her. “It’s ok, though! That’s cool! Congratulations Retsuko.”

He noticed Fenneko turning her face to look at him properly now and his lower lip trembled with the need to tell her to stop. It was making it difficult for him to keep up the act.

“Why, thank you Haida!” Retsuko replied, seeming delighted and bubbly again, “I-I promise I’ll tell you more about him later! I’ll catch you up!”

“You better!” Haida forced out a chuckle and Retsuko obliviously replied in the same manner.

“Well, I should go looking for him now, actually. Gotta get a couple of things settled before our dinner tonight,” she said jumping off her chair and grabbing her empty bento box, “I’ll see you guys later!”

“Sure! See you later, Retsuko,” he said while Fenneko only limited herself to nod. Then the little red panda walked away fast, almost skipping like a little girl. He made sure she had disappeared in the hallway before he let the corners of his lips drop.

There was silence. The few coworkers that were occupying the rest of the tables in the dining area seemed to be minding their own businesses, tapping at their computers, muttering into their phones, reading and fiddling through the newspaper… But none of that was reaching his ears. To him there was only silence. Silence that seemed threatened to be broken when, after a few seconds, Fenneko turned to him again and opened her mouth, inhaling.

“No. Don’t,” he interjected before she could say anything. “Don’t.”

“I’m sorry.” She still went on and said it.

He could do nothing but sigh deeply, throwing his head back to stare into the ceiling for a little bit while trying to control the anger that was starting to bubble at the top of his stomach. She said it, one of the two things he didn’t want to hear.

“It’s ok,” he replied once he felt confident enough to be able to talk.

“Six months isn’t a long time. They could still break u-“

“Fenneko,” he interrupted her in a bit of a harsh tone. “It’s ok.”

He didn’t hear the small fennec fox say anything else, and he knew this time she would remain quiet for good. That helped ease his nerves a little bit.

“I’ll go…” he started while straightening his neck, but after a long pause, he couldn’t come up with anything clever to say.  “…somewhere,” he concluded, and without even turning to look at Fenneko one last time, he started walking away. The heels of his polished brown shoes echoed across the room as he made his way to the same hallway Retsuko had just disappeared down a few moments ago. On his way out he dropped his half finished cup of coffee into the trash before he slid his hands into the pockets of his pants, looking down at the floor in front of his feet as if he were trying to count his steps.

What was worse was… that he had no one to blame but himself. He delayed way too long to tell Retsuko how he felt. He even had three solid chances to do so right before, during, and after that fateful night took place, the night of the mixer. When Tsunoda kept insisting Retsuko to go with her to such party, he’d had his heart in his throat. He’d kept himself from saying anything, but he could feel his blood run cold through his veins. And after everything had been said and done, he had a solid chance to ask Retsuko to talk in private, to ask her to not go to the mixer because he was in love with her and maybe he was the boyfriend she was looking for… But he hadn’t.  

Then there was the night itself. He wasn’t sure how it was that Retsuko and that guy ended up bonding, when Fenneko had assured him that she’d spent the entire night tapping at her phone, but he could’ve taken that chance to call her.  Even if it wasn’t ideal to confess such a thing through the phone, maybe he would’ve interrupted something. Stopped something. 

And lastly, after the party, when he felt at ease, when he thought danger had passed, he let it slip by him again. Not even because he almost lost her, not even because Fenneko herself told him to hurry up. He just remained quiet, and it was only a matter of weeks before he’d noticed her acting strangely. Differently. Like the world was a wonderful place and nothing could get her in a bad mood.

It made him sick to think that that sweet smile of hers was because of him.

After a while of walking around the halls, he decided it was time to go back to the Accounting Department. As much as he’d prefer to be somewhere else, somewhere more private like the rooftop, or hell, even his home, he knew he had work to do, and honestly? Maybe work would help to distract him… even if she was going to be there.

He was still looking at the floor when he turned the corner into the big room, but out of relentless curiosity, he raised his eyes to the line of desks where his workspace laid. He saw both of them were back, Retsuko and Fenneko, and they seemed to be having a quiet conversation while their fingers were moving over their keyboards. He stopped for a moment, gave himself a chance to take a deep breath, and walked inside. He tried not to set his gaze on anything or anyone in particular, but once again, he did notice Fenneko turn to look at him as he walked past her. He just ignored her and continued to take his place in front of the little red panda. Thank God his computer screen was big enough to block her out of his view.

‘Now, let’s see…’ he thought while bringing his computer back to life, wondering what had been the last thing he was doing before he and the ladies had decided to take a short break. But while his computer was slowly turning back on, his ears twitched at the sound of Retsuko’s soft voice.

“You know? I’m honestly a little surprised we’ve made it this far…”

She was still talking to Fenneko. She didn’t sound as eager as she did before, but there was still contentment in her voice.

“Our first month was… Well, let’s just say it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for. I almost broke up with him. But…”

She paused for a bit, and Haida noticed he’d been staring at the bar to type in his password this whole time. He started entering it when he heard Retsuko speak again, and he had to press the rest of it slowly and quietly to keep it from muffling what she was saying.

“…I decided to give him another chance. Maybe get to know the real Resasuke, as opposed to who I thought he was. It’s been hard, but I think I’ve been managing to see through him…”

Another pause, this time a little longer than the previous one. He had his file open, but right in that moment it was nothing but a sea of numbers.

“He can be really sweet when he’s in his comfort zone. I’ve been to his house a few times now, and it’s full of beautiful plants! I love hearing him talk about his plants. He usually doesn’t talk much, but when it’s about them, he could go on and on for several hours. It’s so cute and endearing.”

His eye twitched, and letting a sigh out through his nose, he decided he had heard enough.

“Good for you, Retsuko,” was the last things he heard Fenneko say (rather indifferently), before he tried to divert his attention to something else. Anything else.

God, how he wished he could wear headphones at work. Some good music would help drown her voice, and with that, the sorrow, but Alas. He refused to let that stop him and he quickly tried to think of one of his favorite songs to focus on and distract himself. He hated that his mind’s first pick was “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by the Ramones, but like pressing skip on a music player, he immediately discarded that idea, choosing instead “Starry Night” by Hi-Standard, and it actually drew a smile on his face. He closed his eyes for a few seconds as the song started playing in his head, and deafening himself to the rest of the world, he raised his arms and started scratching the air near his ribs with his right hand, while he made the fingers of his left dance on the neck of an imaginary bass. This was one of the first songs he’d been eager to learn how to play as soon as he’d been able to afford a bass. It was special to him somehow.

Feeling a little better already, he decided to leave the “air guitaring” for when he was back home, where his real bass would be waiting for him. For now he had work to do. Continuing the rhythm by only tapping the heel of his shoe on the floor, he rolled a little closer to his desk and retook where he left off on his Excel spreadsheet.

Chapter Text

Between the numbers and the rich selection of songs from his favorite bands playing in his head, he quickly became oblivious to everything around him. Until after a good hour or so, a loud, high-pitched voice crashed through the heavenly bubble he had created for himself.

“Director Ton!”

It wasn’t necessary to even turn to know who that was, and he felt his insides twist. He didn’t used to mind her that much back in the day; he didn’t like her, but he didn’t dislike her nearly as much as Fenneko did. But now? Hate was quite a strong word that he didn’t like using lightly, but if he had to describe his feelings for her, that would be the closest to it. After all, she manipulated Retsuko and Fenneko into going to that stupid party.

It was all her fault.

Except…

No. He knew that wasn’t true. Despite how badly he wanted to blame her, he had gone through this in his head over and over and over again for the past six months. He had no one else to blame but himself. He delayed too much.

 “Ah, Tsunoda!” Ton’s loud delighted voice filled the air as well, and he knew he’d now have a hard time focusing back on his music.

 “I started the papers you asked me for, but I couldn’t finish them!” There she was, making up poor excuses again with that disgustingly fake tone of remorse in her voice. He peeked over his shoulder and watched her tiptoe to leave a pile of binders and papers on top of Ton’s desk, “And I really gotta leave soon! You think you could get them done for me?”

“Sure, sure! Leave it to me, I’ll make sure they’re finished by the end of the day” was Ton’s reply, and he couldn’t help wrinkling his nose as he knew what that meant.

“Thank you so much, Director Ton! Then I’ll be leaving now!” Tsunoda chanted while doing some of her signature bouncing.

“Be careful!” Ton advised, and after replying with an enthusiastic “Yes!” she made her way out of the room.  Haida followed her with his eyes from the moment she started walking to the moment she disappeared around the corner, and either she didn’t notice or she simply ignored him. Wouldn’t be the first time. She also completely ignored his presence when she approached Retsuko to invite her to the mixer, only greeting Fenneko then.

“Hey, Short-Timer!” Ton’s loud growling pulled him out of his thoughts and he returned his attention to the scene around him.

“Yes!” Retsuko replied with a yelp, her ears and outstretched arm popping up from over the top of his computer, meaning that she rose to her feet super fast. She was startled. Her mind might’ve been elsewhere… 

“Come here!”

As Retsuko made her way to Ton’s desk, Haida returned his eyes to his computer and pretended to be working, though he kept his full attention on them.

“I need you to finish this paperwork by the end of the day,” he heard Ton say.

“Wh-? B-But… all this?”  It seemed like Retsuko was trying to choose her words carefully.

“Yes.”

“But it’s a lot, and I’ve got plans for tonight...” 

“Then work fast!”

He sighed softly and peeked over his shoulder again. Retsuko seemed paralyzed; it took her a couple of seconds to finally reach out for the pile and return to her desk, walking fast with a dull expression on her face. She dropped the pile next to her computer, but she didn’t sit down. Instead, keeping the rapid pace, she made her way out of the Accounting Department.

‘Going for a drink, maybe…’ he thought. He hoped. Somehow he remembered when Fenneko suggested that the abuse of power would one day drive her to jump off the roof, and suddenly he felt alarmed, just like he did back on that day. Should he go after her?

…No. That wasn’t his place anymore. Actually, it never was. And besides, she wouldn’t do something so stupid, having something to look forward to that day. Maybe if she did hurry, she would make it in time to have her romantic dinner with her stupid little cute and perfect plant-loving boyfriend. If anything, she was probably making her way to the Sales Department right in that moment, so he had no business running after her. Better focus on his own work, if he wanted to get home early and run his hands all over his sweet baby bass. He was really looking forward to that.

And yet…                                                                                                                                                   

At 6:47 he was still in the office. He had finished his work more than an hour ago, and for the rest of the time he just checked the statistics over and over again to seem busy, at least until Director Ton left the office at 5:55. One by one the rest of their coworkers started to leave. Even Fenneko stood up at 6:08, and with a soft “Good luck, Retsuko” she left as well. By 6:47 it was just him and Retsuko, and the only sound that could be heard was Retsuko’s fast typing on her keyboard. He, on the other hand, was frozen in his place, leaning back on his chair with his arms crossed over his stomach and his legs stretching far under his desk. What was he still doing there?

He listened in silence to Retsuko’s typing for a couple more minutes, and when he raised his eyes to the clock, the seconds gave three more ticks before the time marked 6:49. He sighed. He knew what he was still doing there.

 He leaned to the side enough so that his computer wouldn’t be blocking his view anymore, and there she was, her little white eyebrows knitted together in a frown while her eyes were set on her computer as if nothing else mattered. Only 50 minutes after work was over, and she already looked exhausted.

“Retsuko,” he called her gently, but loud enough to make sure she’d hear him. And she sure did. She jumped so high on her chair he actually felt guilty.

“Haida!” she replied looking at him and taking a hand to her chest, “You scared me, I thought I was alone.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to,” he said chuckling nervously, leaning up on his seat to stand up and walk around the line of tables towards her.

“What are you still doing here?” she asked following him with her gaze until he stood next to her.

 “Well…” he paused, resting a hand over her desk. He looked down at the slowly decreasing pile of papers she had next to her laptop. He couldn’t come up with anything. “How about you? How’s work coming along?” he asked, moving his eyes to her.

 Her first reply was a forced smile and a weak chuckle.

 “Making my way through it as fast as I can!” she attempted to sound enthusiastic, but even if her nature was always to pretend everything was fine, he was slowly getting better at seeing through that mask. It was so obvious. The pile was hardly a third shorter than before.

 “I’ll finish it for you.”

 Retsuko opened her eyes widely.

 “Eh?” she asked, as if she hadn’t heard properly.

 “I’ll finish it for you,” he repeated himself, “You have other places to be right now. Don’t you have a special dinner tonight?”

 Retsuko stared at him for a few long seconds, and though he tried his best to remain cool on the outside, warmth started crawling up his neck to his cheeks. For a moment she seemed stunned, like she had seen the light at the end of the tunnel, but just before she pressed her little eyebrows together again in a delicate concerned frown.

 “But Haida…” she started saying but he immediately interrupted her, lifting a hand and shaking his head.

 “It’s ok, I don’t have plans for tonight anyway,” he offered her a genuine smile. “You, on the other hand, should get going now or you’ll be late.”

 Now she was the one with the bright blush on her cheeks. Even while standing up she never took her eyes off him, and he wanted, oh how he wanted to reach out and take her face in his hands, leaning down to give her a soft kiss on the lips.

 “Th-thank you so much, Haida!” she said with a squeaky voice while bowing deeply, “I’ll repay you somehow, I promise!”

 “You don’t gotta repay me anything. Now go. He’s waiting for you.”

 “Yes!” she said excitedly while starting to walk backwards. Seemed like the Retsuko from the dining area was back. “Thank you, Haida! You know I usually wou-“ she got interrupted when she almost tripped with Fenneko’s chair, but she regained her posture quickly and rounded it, making sure she wouldn’t trip on anything else before continuing her reverse walking, “You know I usually wouldn’t allow something like this, but… I-I’ll repay you! I promise!”

 Haida chuckled. She was practically already turning around the corner but she kept talking, and the further she was the louder she got, and it was adorable.

 “Retsuko! It’s fine! Just go!” he laughed, and she laughed as well.

 “Yes, sorry!” she said starting to turn away, but stopped herself before her body completely disappeared behind the wall, leaning back to look at him one last time. “See you tomorrow, Haida! Thank you!”

 And with that, she disappeared completely, this time for good.

 “See you tomorrow…” he still replied quietly, in the silence of the empty Accounting Department.

Chapter Text

“Another.” 

The bear behind the bar diverted his attention from the glass he was cleaning to hyena sitting at the corner of the long counter. He had his cheek pressed against the polished wood and his arm stretched above his head, holding an empty glass, which only half a minute ago contained a generous amount of shochu.

“I think you’ve had enough, son,” Mr. Kuma said gently, approaching to him to take the glass away, but the young hyena held it tightly.

“I didn’t ask you that… I asked you to give me another one…”

He didn’t let go off the glass, but neither did Mr. Kuma.

“Son, it’s almost 2 am. From what I can tell, you’re a businessman.” Mr. Kuma scanned the young man before him, and even with his blazer open, his tie undone and hanging loose from his neck, and his shirt buttoned down to his chest, it was clear to him that it was office attire. “Don’t you work tomorrow? Shouldn’t you be home by now? Maybe you got a wife waiting for you…”

The young hyena raised his head a bit, glaring at the bear with his pale olive eyes before flopping it back down on the counter.

“I see…” Mr. Kuma concluded, pausing for a moment before pulling more strongly at the glass, getting it free from the drunken hyena’s hand. “I won’t serve you any more alcohol, son. You’ll have a glass of water and then you’ll go home, alright?”

Haida didn’t reply; he barely heard what the bear had said. He was feeling so light headed but so heavy at the same time that he could hardly move. He noticed a glass with a clear liquid being placed in front of his face, but he made no attempt whatsoever to grab it. He just laid there, looking at the way the lights filtered through it.

He hadn’t been this drunk since the night he got pneumonia. Hell, he was probably even worse now. At least that night he could walk; right now, even moving his arms seemed to require a great amount of effort. How did he let himself get this low?  As if he wasn’t pathetic enough already…

He closed his eyes and took a deep, shaky breath. His head was spinning. It took him a while to realize that the place was suddenly noisier than before, but he didn’t need to see what was happening to figure that one of the private rooms was being vacated. He just wished, with the little conscience he had left, that all of these people would go away fast. He really wasn’t up for sharing space with a bunch of loud strangers, and honestly, he didn’t even want to be seen like this.

“Oh? Haida-Senpai, is that you?”

A familiar voice stood out from the rest and he opened his eyes. With blurry vision he noticed a tall, orange silhouette leaning next to him.

“It is you!” the silhouette exclaimed, and the image slowly came into focus to reveal a young and handsome maned wolf.

“Ookami! Come on!” called another voice in the distance, and the maned wolf’s face disappeared from his range of vision for a few seconds.

“You guys go ahead! I just found a friend from work! I’ll stay a little longer,” he heard him say, and almost immediately his face re-appeared in front of him. “What are you doing here, Senpai?” the young wolf asked as he moved to sit on the empty stool next to him.

He didn’t reply. He was still trying to process what was happening. This maned wolf… he knew him. It was Ookami, from work. They worked in the same department, and would even hang out from time to time… Ookami… He was there.

“Getting drunk, I see!” Ookami responded for him after a moment of silence. “You always had a taste for alcohol, Haida-Senpai.”

Even though his mouth was so small that only his snout would move when he talked, he seemed to be smiling. A rosy blush tinting his cheeks revealed that he was there for the same reason.

“But you seem to have over done it a little bit…” the maned wolf continued, his expression changing to one of slight concern as he leaned closer to him. “Are you ok?”

He didn’t think he could answer that, so he just closed his eyes and groaned softly. After a few moments of silence, he heard Mr. Kuma speak.

“Do you know him?”

“Yes! We work together,” Ookami replied, and he felt a sudden pressure over his shoulder.

“He had too much to drink. You think you could take him home?” Mr. Kuma asked, and he couldn’t help frowning. This bear sure loved snooping into other people’s business. This was probably going to be the last time he’d come to this bar.

“Uh, sure!” he heard the youngest reply, though he actually sounded a little unsure. “Guess…I’ll have to pay for his tab, then.”

He wanted to say ‘No’ but he was really finding it hard to even bring out his voice. Then there was another beat of silence, some rustling of clothes and papers, and after a while he heard Ookami say “Alright, thank you so much for everything.”

“Now, come on, Senpai.” This time it was directed to him. He was barely finding the strength to open his eyes, when he felt his arm being wrapped around the wolf’s neck and his body being pulled off of the stool like a rag doll. He would have crashed to the floor were it not for the tight grip the younger had on his wrist and waist. “Come on!” Ookami insisted while struggling, and he knew he had to help the situation somehow, so he gathered all his might and stiffened his legs to at least be able to stand.

The rest was a blur. When they exited the bar, he thought he heard Ookami ask him something about his place, repeating the word “address” two or three times, but the young wolf never managed to get an answer from him; he was too far gone for that. The next thing he knew, he was sitting down somewhere and there was a lot of movement, almost felt like a roller coaster, but the scarce times he was able to open his eyes he saw a bunch of lights flying by and he subconsciously realized he was in a car. However, he ended up closing his eyes again every time, because the constant flickering was making him very dizzy. Ookami’s voice was present too; who knows what he was babbling about. He wasn’t even sure if he was talking to him or to whoever was driving. All he knew was that by the time they finally reached their destination, he wasn’t feeling very well. He felt himself being unstrapped and then the seat bounced a bit, which didn’t help the feeling at all, so he growled softly as he heard the car door opening next to him.

“Come on, Senpai.”

He opened his eyes and saw Ookami standing there, leaning down with his arms stretched out for him to take. It took him a couple of seconds, but finally with a huge amount of effort he twisted his body and reached out, holding onto the younger one as he helped him out by gently pulling him up. One of Haida’s feet came through without a problem, but the other got stuck in the gap between the car and the sidewalk and he tripped, grasping Ookami’s shoulders as the wolf quickly held his elbows to keep him from falling.

“Oh, careful!” the maned wolf exclaimed. He was starting to sound a little more concerned than he did back in the bar.

As for him, the little shake made his head spin and his insides stir. Unable to hold it in any longer, he clenched the younger’s shoulders and leaned down, heaving before expelling the unwanted excess of alcohol from his system.

Once he was done there was a short pause, both of them standing petrified in their places with only Haida’s heavy breathing between them.

“Aahh, yeah! Okay!” It was Ookami who finally broke the silence, and his sudden loud voice helped Haida regain a bit of consciousness. Still leaning down, he noticed the big wet stain that was now covering the wolf from the stomach of his blue button-up shirt, down to his nice polished black shoes. “So that just happened! Okay! Yep!”

“I’m sorry…” Haida muttered, feeling his face and neck getting really hot.

Ookami took a moment to respond, but when he did he let out a small sigh and reached out to awkwardly pat Haida’s shoulder.

“I-It’s ok, Senpai. Happens to the best of us…” the younger stuttered, clearly trying his best to be nice and understanding. “W-We’re almost there, so hang on! Just try not to vomit anymore until I get you a bucket, ok?”

Chapter Text

Walking up the stairs of this unknown building was a challenge, but it was a little easier now that he was feeling slightly more lucid. Thankfully it was only a couple of floors before they were standing at what he assumed was Ookami’s door, and it was confirmed as soon as the wolf pulled out the keys and opened it. After receiving some assistance in taking off his shoes, he was guided to a room where he was sat on a rather decently sized bed, and being separated from Ookami forced him to regain is own balance to keep himself from falling.

“Hold on a second, please,” he heard the maned wolf say, and he saw him run out of the room, coming back only a few moments later with a red bucket in his hand; a bucket which he placed down on the floor between Haida’s legs. “If you need to puke some more, please do it in here, yes?” he instructed, pointing at it.

“Yes… Thanks, Ookami…” Haida muttered with a hoarse voice, looking down at the handed item.

After a long pause of silence, he heard the younger male sigh.

“What’s gotten into you, Haida-Senpai? I’d never seen you this messed up, and I’ve seen you quite drunk several times.”

Once again, Haida didn’t reply, but this time mostly out of choice. He didn’t trust himself to talk about Retsuko without bursting into tears and embarrassing himself further. He could only allow himself so much with the little conscience he had regained.

“Well, whatever it is, it’s not worth it, Senpai,” Ookami spoke again. “You’re better than this, and you know it.”

Haida didn’t seem to be willing to talk at all, so Ookami let out another sigh and looked down at himself.

“I’m gonna take a quick shower,” he said as he started unbuttoning his shirt. “Try not to lay on your back, ok? I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

And with that the wolf hurried to the bathroom. True to his word, only five or six minutes later he was back in the room with a towel wrapped around his waist, finding Haida with his face buried in the pail. Well, he was glad at least he was using it, instead of getting more of that stuff on any of his personal belongings. He took that chance to dress himself in pajama pants and a clean white t-shirt, and then returned to sit next to his superior, rubbing his back as he continued emptying his stomach, for not even a couple of minutes would pass between retching.

After what felt like at eternity of offering the hyena moral support, it finally seemed like he was clear and done. Panting, sweating and sobbing, he was quite a pitiful sight, but the maned wolf didn’t feel like wasting energy on judgmental thoughts about his coworker. Instead he put the pail aside and handed him a couple of tissues so he could wipe his mouth.

“Thank you,” was the hyena’s response, and the maned wolf somehow couldn’t help smiling warmly.

“Feeling better?” he asked, rubbing Haida’s back some more as the latter sighed and nodded.

“I guess…” he mumbled, resting his elbows on his knees and pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes.

“We should probably go to bed…” Ookami suggested in a soft tone, like fearing his words would somehow upset his superior. “We’ve got work tomorrow…”

Haida didn’t respond; in fact, he didn’t seem to have heard to him at all. Under his hand, the maned wolf could feel the other’s torso inflating and deflating with slow, deep breaths, and he giggled upon realizing that he was starting to fall asleep.

“Come on, Senpai,” he said, patting his back to wake him up before standing in front of him, gently taking his wrists to help him up and preparing himself to catch him in case he were to fall forward, which he actually did. Ookami received him in his arms and embraced him, letting his chin rest on the others shoulder for a moment before pushing him away, holding his arms to keep him still. “Senpai. Come on. We need to get you changed.”

Haida opened his olive eyes and looked down at him with a drowsy expression. Ookami returned the gaze for a few seconds, but then he looked down and swallowed saliva nervously. He helped him out of his blazer and tie, having to keep holding him still like an unstable mannequin. As he started unbuttoning his shirt, he peeked up to see if he was still staring at him, but Haida had moved his eyes to the ceiling. That made things a little easier. He took off his shirt and pants, and decided that leaving him in his undershirt, boxers and socks was good enough. He thought about offering him some mouthwash, but poor guy seemed so out of himself, that probably just letting him sleep would do him a solid.

By the time they were both finally in bed, it was already 4:35 am.

“It’s gonna be a rough day tomorrow, eh?” Ookami commented into the darkness with a soft voice, while staring at the ceiling. “I hope at least I’ll get to hear what happened to you. I think you owe me that much.”

He waited for Haida to reply, but since there was nothing, he turned his head to the side to confirm with the help of the dim moonlight filtering through the window, that the hyena was already fast asleep. He sighed and returned his gaze to the ceiling, remaining quiet for a long moment as he felt his heart beat increase it’s pace a little bit.

“Was it a heartbreak?”

He knew he wasn’t going to receive an answer but it didn’t matter. If fact, it was fine. Better for it, because he knew that since Haida was passed out drunk, he probably couldn’t hear anything.

“If it was a heartbreak… you don’t need to go begging to anyone, Senpai. A lot of people would like to date you.”

He didn’t know that for a fact, but he had heard Kabae mention several times what a wonderful lad she though Haida was, and Tsubone wasn’t even worth mentioning for she actually seemed to be willing to date any young man that would stand in front of her. He giggled because those two were the the first ones that came to mind, but he did know a few others who secretly thought Haida was not only a great guy, but rather handsome too. Him included.

“I’m just saying,” he whispered as he rolled on his side, facing the opposite way to where Haida was, and nuzzling against the pillow to get comfortable. He closed his eyes and it took him only a few minutes to fall asleep as well. He was pretty exhausted. It had been a long night.

Chapter Text

In a dark amber tinted room, a pair of olive eyes opened slowly.  To their owner, everything seemed blurry at first; his heavy eyelids threatening to close again and send him back to dream land, but the longer he kept them open, the clearer the picture became, and the faster he started to realize that something was wrong. He frowned in confusion, and struggling as though someone had drained all the strength from him, he rose up heavily, sitting on the bed and letting the sheets rest on his lap. He gazed bleary-eyed around the neat and quiet room, realizing that its warm color was cast by the unfamiliar orange curtains blocking the sunlight. But not only did he not recognize the curtains; He didn’t recognize anything.

A number of questions started sprouting in his head, “Where am I?” being the first, followed by “How did I get here?” and “What happened?”  But a sudden sharp sting in his head interrupted his worries, and he squeezed his eyes shut, letting out a quiet hiss as he pressed his fingers tightly against his temples. For several seconds he couldn’t focus on anything but the pain, and he had to wait patiently for it to subside before he was able to open his eyes again. He whined; that had left him feeling queasy and it really wasn’t helping his current situation.  

He sighed heavily and looked around once more, determined to find some answers, until he finally set his eyes on the night table beside to him. There were three items that immediately caught his attention: a glass of water, a bottle of painkillers, and a handwritten letter on a ripped sheet of notebook paper. He quickly reached out to grab the latter, his head protesting the sudden movement, and after taking a few breaths to let the pain ease again, he started reading with half opened eyes. 

“Haida-Senpai:

I hope you’re feeling better! Don’t worry, I called to the office and told Director Ton you were terribly sick (enough to not be able to make the call yourself). I told him it seemed to be food poisoning and he gave you the day off, so now you can take it easy and rest.

Help yourself with anything from the kitchen. I made some fresh coffee this morning, and I’ve got Miso soup in the fridge if you’d like. There’s also eggs, toasted bread, some bananas, apple juice… I’m just saying, you probably have a terrible hangover right now.  

If you do feel better though, then maybe I could ask you a favor? I left the clothes you vomited on in a basket in the bathroom, could you take them to the Laundry downstairs? Along with my other clothes, please. I think you owe me that much for taking care of your drunk ass last night ;) You can throw in your clothes too, if you want, since they also reek of puke and alcohol.

Anyway, feel free to stick around my apartment for as long as you want! Internet password is “LadyKiller1996”. Netflix should be permanently logged in, if it isn’t, text me and I’ll give you the username and password, just don’t touch the shows I’m watching please.

I’ll see you later!

Lo Regards, Ookami

AH! Ps. I left you some clean clothes on the chair next to the window! :)”

Even after he was done reading, his eyes were frozen on the bottom of the sheet. He blinked slowly and heavily as his sore brain processed the information. He re-read:

Lo Regards, Ookami”

…Ookami?

He looked back up, running his eyes over the room.

Was this…Ookami’s place? How did he get there?

He looked back down at the letter, this time re-reading the line:

I think you owe me that much for taking care of your drunk ass last night ;)”

He made like a statue again, trying his best to dig into his memory. He sure remembered visiting the bar after he’d finished doing Retsuko’s work, but afterwards…?

He was interrupted once again by a strong throb of his headache, and that’s when he concluded he wouldn’t be able to go on like that. He wasn’t going to get anywhere. His entire being was demanding more rest and he didn’t feel like he could fight it anymore. So, feeling a little calmer now that he at least knew where he was, he took a deep breath and turned to place the letter back on the night table. He then reached out for the pain killers, popping one before drinking it down with several gulps of water. Then he slid back between the sheets and snuggled against the pillow.

Despite how worn out he felt, it did take him a while to fall back asleep due to the strong pain over his shoulders, but the painkiller helped gradually, and after a few minutes he was down for the count.

 

***

 

While he was waiting for the miso soup to boil, his eyes were running once more over the letter that Ookami had left him. The kitchen clock marked 1:48.

Only 20 minutes earlier he had woken up. Feeling much better finally, he’d leaned up, rubbed his face with his hands, and fell still for a few seconds while looking around. Right, he was in Ookami’s room.

“Time is it?” he mumbled to himself then, scanning the walls for a clock before moving his eyes to the night table on the opposite side of the bed. A digital clock read 1:27 pm. 1:27 pm? Holy cow, it was late!

He couldn’t afford staying in bed any longer (not that he even felt like he needed to, thankfully). He had to take care of several things, starting with the black hole he had for a stomach and the dryness in the back of his throat. He remembered Ookami had mentioned, in his letter, something about there being miso soup in fridge, and double checking that fact he was also reminded that there was some coffee. So without further ado, he stood up and headed to the kitchen.

Taking a long sip of that glorious hot beverage, he had to turn his head a little bit so the borrowed mug wouldn’t block his view of the remarkably perfect handwriting. He couldn’t help worrying his eyebrows as soon as his eyes reached the third paragraph.

If you do feel better though, then maybe I could ask you a favor? I left the clothes you vomited on in a basket in the bathroom, could you take them to the Laundry downstairs? Along with my other clothes, please. I think you owe me that much for taking care of your drunk ass last night ;) You can throw in your clothes too, if you want, since they also reek of puke and alcohol.”

He lowered the mug and re-read that whole piece of the letter again.

Of course, miso soup and being in Ookami’s apartment weren’t the only memories that came back to him after he woke up, but there were still some gaps in the picture, like a puzzle he was trying to put together, but several pieces were missing.

He remembered staying late after closing time, offering himself to do Retsuko’s work so she could head out to have her dinner with the guy from Sales, and he remembered regretting that decision about half an hour after she was gone. He remembered going through a whole spectrum of feelings during his over time in the office. He even remembered having to pause his work a couple of times, first to kick and punch his chair out of pent up anger, and then, about an hour later, to cry out of hopelessness and despair.

That’s when he’d decided, that after he was done, he’d go out for a drink. He considered asking Fenneko to come along with him, but he was feeling so miserable, so pathetic, that he didn’t want her to see him like that. And it was late anyway; it was almost 11. So he headed to Kuma’s Bar on his own; a bar he didn’t visit very often, being a little too fancy and slightly pricey for his taste, but screw it, he goddam deserved it! 

He’d sat down at the counter. “Just a couple of drinks,” he told himself, since he didn’t want to repeat what happened the night he got pneumonia, but a couple of drinks turned into several more; who knows how many? He honestly lost count.

By then it was hard to remember everything in greater detail, but he remembered at some point that Ookami had appeared next to him. Then he remembered being in a car. Then he remembered walking up some stairs. And then… That was it. That was all he could remember. But reading the third paragraph for the fourth time, it seemed like he had given the maned wolf a really hard time… Did he really puke on him? How could he not remember that?

If that was true, then he definitely needed to do something about it. He hurried to finish his coffee and devour the soup once it was hot enough, and he headed back to the room to change into the clothes Ookami had left him. It felt a little uncomfortable to wear sweatpants with nothing underneath, but thankfully they were baggy enough so he could move freely inside of them. He couldn’t say the same for the plain white t-shirt though; even if he was only slightly bigger than his coworker, the maned wolf seemed to have a liking for rather tight clothes, and it showed in the way the garment was wrapping around his arms and chest. It wasn’t too uncomfortable though, so he only adjusted it a bit by rolling up the sleeves until they were barely at the bottom curve of his shoulders. He then carried on with the task at hand, which was collect his clothes along with Ookami’s, and take them to the Laundry.

Chapter Text

Needless to say, it had been gross to see, and even worse, to smell what he could only assume were his own fluids on the maned wolf’s clothes. He felt terribly bad for him, especially about how big the freaking stain was, and he swore to himself that if that thing wouldn’t come off, he would personally buy the wolf three new shirts and three pairs of pants to compensate. And even then… he wasn’t sure he’d be able to look at him in the eye again.

Sighing deeply, he flopped down heavily on one of the benches between the washing machines. The second load of clothes, this time of light colors, was starting its first wash cycle, while the first load of white clothes was tumbling wildly inside the dryer. He glanced at the still-waiting load of dark clothes in the basket next to him, and he groaned impatiently, hunching over to rest his elbows on his knees and his chin in one of his hands.

Truth be told, sitting in a hot and steamy laundry room for a couple of hours, especially after dealing with a killer hangover, wasn’t ideal. He hated doing laundry. He would usually wait until he’d run out of clean underwear before finally do something about his lack-of-clean-clothes situation. But thankfully, that didn’t seem to be the case with Ookami, since his bunch of clothes were hardly enough to fill a medium load. He had only chosen the longest cycle in hopes that it would help remove the stains.

His eyelids fluttered slowly as he stared blankly at the shaky machine in front of him. Despite seeming lost in his own thoughts, he was mindful of his surroundings. He was well aware of the big, hunky tiger cursing repeatedly behind his back, apparently because his white shirts were now tinted blue, for he had washed them along with his jeans; and the old koala lady next to him, trying to school him about washing light clothes and dark clothes separately. He was also aware of the young female hare with earphones using the third machine to his right, and how she was constantly glancing at him while humming and tapping her foot to the rhythm of her music, as she kept unnecessarily holding up her panties and stretching them in front of her face before placing them in the washer. What a pain. He was feeling, and probably looking, at his worst. He really didn’t feel like being anyone’s center of attention.

When the young hare finished loading the machine, she practically slammed the lid shut, making it start its washing cycle as she approached to sit next to him, a little too close for his taste. He was starting to consider taking a trip to the convenience store, but before he could even move a muscle, the girl took off her earphones and turned to him.

“I’ve never seen you before!” she commented in an overly enthusiastic, curious tone, tilting her head a bit while crossing her legs. “Are you new around here?”

He sighed softly, letting his eyes rest closed for a bit before opening them and looking at her.

“Not really,” he limited himself to say. He really didn’t feel like engaging in this conversation.

“Then?” she pressed on, smiling at him widely with big, sparkly eyes. She was probably attempting to look cute for him, but it didn’t work out that well, for instead, it made him feel a little nauseous.

“I’m visiting a friend,” he replied, returning his gaze to the machine in front of him, and out of the corner of his eye he noticed her scooting closer.

“Which friend? Do they live in the building? Maybe I know them!” 

What a pain.

“Ookami. From apartment 2B.”

“Oh, I do know him!” she yelped excitedly, clapping her hands together. “He is really cute! So you’re a friend of his?”

“Yeah…” he replied unsurely. Were they really? They would hang out around the office from time to time, but did that make them friends? Especially with what happened the night before… “Something like that, I guess. I don’t know,” he added, and he heard her snort before bursting out laughing.

“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked mockingly, leaning forward to try to catch his eye. “Did you guys have a fight? Oh! Or perhaps…” she gasped at her own thought. “Don’t tell me you guys are, like…” she raised a hand, forming a “V” with her index and middle fingers before crossing them together.

Haida caught the drift and his eye twitched. He was getting tired of this.

“No,” he said gruffly, unable to help shooting a glare at her. “We’re co-workers.”

“Oh, thank God!” she exclaimed, once again in an over exaggerated tone, raising her hand to her chest and breathing a fake sigh of relief. “It would’ve been a shame; you guys are too cute for that!”

That was it. He’d had enough.

“Well then, maybe I could have both of your num-“

“Excuse me,” he interrupted her, standing up and walking fast to the exit door. The little bell at the top of the door rang as he made his way out without looking back, and he was greeted with the embracing heat of a summer afternoon. It was almost August after all.

As he slowly cruised the aisles of the convenience store across the street, his mind kept going over the conversation he just had with the hare girl. It had left him with a really bad after taste. First of all, he couldn’t help thinking that she reminded him of Tsunoda, and some of the other nosy ladies in the company. If there was one thing he’d learned during his five years of working with people like that, it was to stay as far away from them as possible, before he became a topic for gossip. He didn’t like people snooping in his personal life, much less a stranger. It hadn’t been the implication of him and Ookami having something going on, it was just how bloody invasive that girl had been. Inappropriate! And to think she wanted both his and Ookami’s numbers. Hell, she could be cute, she could be curvy and all, but she was still no match for Retsuko!

He stopped his train of thought as soon as she popped in his head.

Retsuko…

He froze for a few seconds while staring blankly at one of the shelves. All the commotion from that afternoon had kept him from thinking about her, but now that she was on his mind…

He’d just realized he hadn’t seen her all day. Well, it was probably for the best, he knew that much. But even though a part of him was aware that hearing from her would only cause him grief, another part kind of wanted to know how the date had gone. Maybe… Maybe they’d had a huge fight and broke up…

No, no. He had to push those thoughts away. Even if it was hurting him, even if he thought the little idiot wasn’t good enough for Retsuko… She was happy. And he had to be happy for her... Right?

He slid his hand into the pocket of his borrowed sweatpants, pulling out his cellphone and looking at the time before sliding his finger over the lock screen. It was 3:54 pm. For a moment he considered calling her, but maybe she wouldn’t be able to pick up, so perhaps … a text? He pressed on the green icon of WeChat and waited for the app to open before selecting Retsuko’s name. Then he started to type:

“Hey Retsuko! Too bad we couldn’t meet today, but I think I’ll be back tomorrow. Hope you didn’t miss me too much!”

He erased that last part.

“Hey Retsuko! Too bad we couldn’t meet today, but I think I’ll be back tomorrow…”

He paused for a bit, re-reading his own sentence a couple of times, and wondering what to say next. Where was he even going with this?

“Hey Retsuko! Too bad we couldn’t meet today, but I think I’ll be back tomorrow. Anyway, I meant to ask how your date had gone? I hope it went fine! Not that I was wondering if it had been otherwise, but…”

He erased that last part again and shook his head.

“Hey Retsuko! Too bad we couldn’t meet today, but I think I’ll be back tomorrow. Anyway, I meant to ask how your date had gone? I hope it went fine! Because you deserve to be happy!”

No, no, no, what was he doing?

“Hey Retsuko! Too bad we couldn’t meet today, but I think I’ll be back tomorrow. Anyway, I meant to ask how your date had gone? I hope it went fine!”

…Then what?

He stared at his own text again, and after a few long seconds he sighed, pressing the backspace to erase everything he had written and he turned off his screen. He slid his phone back in his pocket and took his hands to rub his face.

He was pathetic. Oh God, he was so pathetic.

He pressed his fingertips against his eyes before lowering his hands to his cheeks, only enough to set his gaze at an undefined spot. Just as he was mentally berating himself to stop thinking about her, he noticed that what he had before him on the shelves, were several packs of different flavored instant miso soups. There it was, the distraction he needed. He removed his hands from his face, his mind instantly jumping to the miso soup he had had earlier at Ookami’s apartment. That had been nice of the maned wolf, to share some of it with him, but now he was feeling bad, for not only had he given the younger male a really tough time, he also ate his food. Before touching it, the pot of miso soup had enough for maybe two plates, but after serving himself some, only about half a plate had been left. Maybe he overdid it a bit, with how freaking hungry he had been.

So he furrowed his eyebrows and reached out to grab one of the packs, the Green Onion flavored one. Yeah, he could do that. He could compensate Ookami for all the trouble he had caused by cooking him some dinner. It would also help keep his mind off Retsuko, or the hare girl, or anything else, really. It was settled then.

He took his time carefully picking up more items to serve at the table, along with a couple of sodas and desserts.  He then walked up to the cashier, checked out, and then made his way back to the Laundery with the grocery bags in hand.  He had to finish his previous duty before he could head back to Ookami’s apartment.

Chapter Text

Thankfully, the rest of his time in the Laundry went smoothly. The hare girl had her earphones back on when he returned, and before she could try to talk to him again, he pulled out his phone and started messaging Fenneko. He purposely went through the pictures they had together during the moments of silence, to seem like he was talking to his girlfriend or a crush or something. It worked like a charm. The girl never tried to engage in another conversation with him, and as soon as she was done doing her laundry, she picked up her basket full of clean clothes and left the room, slamming the door shut on her way out. He didn’t turn to look her way, but he smiled victoriously.

After he was done doing laundry himself, he returned to the apartment, and dedicated the rest of his time to preparing the miso soup. Then, with only a half an hour left before 6 pm, he moved back to the bedroom and turned on the T.V. to watch something on Netflix while folding Ookami’s and his own clothes.

 

***

 

As soon as he heard the main door open, he reached out for the remote control to mute the T.V. before leaning on his side to look through the bedroom door and down the hallway, at the maned wolf entering his apartment. He smiled warmly, watching him remove his shoes and rest his briefcase on the table next to the door, before loosening his tie and finally noticing the hyena’s face on the other side of the dwelling.

“Oh! Haida-Senpai, you’re still here!” Far from sounding upset or anything, the young wolf seemed delighted, and Haida giggled shyly while scooting to the edge of the bed to stand up.

“It didn’t feel right to just leave,” he answered, walking slowly to the bedroom door, as opposed to Ookami who practically jogged to meet him.

“That’s fine! I was actually hoping you’d still be around.” The two males stopped before each other and exchanged looks. “How are you feeling?” the wolf inquired, swinging his tail contently from side to side.

Haida stopped smiling. He knew what Ookami meant by that, but he couldn’t help it.

“G-Guilty?” he answered, forcing another smile before dropping heavily and loudly to his knees, pressing his palms and nose against the floor. “Ookami, I’m so sorry for all the trouble I caused last night!” he shouted. “I don’t remember much of what happened, but I believe I created a huge mess!”

“Oh, whoa, are you alright?” Ookami flinched a bit at the sound of Haida’s knees hitting the floor, and he knelt down right away, placing a hand on the hyena’s shoulder. “Senpai, it’s ok! I und-“ 

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to repay you!” Haida lamented, and Ookami grabbed his ears to pull his face up.

“Senpai! It’s fine!” he repeated in a slightly rougher tone but with a gentle gaze. “I didn’t mind taking care of you at all, you seemed to be in really bad shape. The vomit thing was… inconvenient, but…” He paused for a moment, lowering his eyes to the floor while folding his ears backwards a little bit. “I was mostly worried about you.”

Haida stared back at him, his dark lower eyelids twitching a bit in concern, and after a breath, the soft, warm smile returned to his lips.

“Thank you, Ookami,” he said gently, and the maned wolf glanced back at him, making sure he wasn’t going to drop his head back down to the floor before releasing his ears. “I still don’t know how I’ll ever repay you…” the hyena continued, pushing himself up and letting himself fall backwards to sit on the floor. “For now, I want you to know that I did laundry, just like you asked. And I also prepared more miso soup, since I did have some of yours… You hungry?”

“I certainly am!” Ookami responded with a smile, rising up and stretching his hand down for his superior to take. “Thank you, Senpai. Will you join me for dinner?”

“I was planning to,” Haida admitted, given that he bought two trays of sushi, two sodas, and two desserts. He reached out to hold onto Ookami’s hand and let himself be pulled up. 

Not more than fifteen minutes later, they were sitting across from each other at the squared kitchen table, slurping at their noodles while eating sushi alongside. Luckily, the soup had still been somewhat warm, so it only took a few minutes to reheat it.

“Not bad,” Ookami said after swallowing his first mouthful of it. “It’s been a while since I’ve eaten instant miso soup.”

“Really?” Haida asked while chewing the sushi in his mouth. “Then, the soup you already had in your fridge…”

“I made it myself,” Ookami concluded, seeming proud. “I prefer to cook things myself with fresh ingredients. Was it good?”

“It was, yes!” Haida swallowed before replying. “It did help a lot, after… well, you know…” he chuckled, lowering his eyes and shrugging. “After waking up with such a terrible hangover.”

“I thought so,” Ookami nodded, and they both remained in silence for a beat. He stared at his superior, noticing him shift his eyes uneasily to the table, and fearing he would suddenly change the subject to break the silence, he hurried to ask: “What happened to you, Senpai?”

“Huh?” Haida asked looking up at him.

“Last night. What happened that drove you to drink all of Mr. Kuma’s booze?”

“Ah…” Haida tried to appear calm, but Ookami could see his pupils shrinking, making his olive eyes seem lighter in color. “That…” the hyena sunk his chopsticks into the broth, stirring the noodles in silence for what felt like an eternity. Was he going to answer? Was he thinking what to answer? Was he trying to find a way to avoid talking about it? But in the end, the older male just shook his head and shrugged. “It’s nothing.”

Ookami’s eye twitched. He wasn’t expecting Haida to be bluntly honest, but he was at least expecting him to try to give a poor explanation, or even make up an excuse to not give an answer. Not claim it to be nothing. He hated when people who were clearly affected by something said ‘it’s nothing’. Who did they think they were fooling? Who did he think he was fooling? Did he think he was an idiot?

“Nothing?” the younger repeated with a noticeable tone of incredulity that caught Haida’s attention. “You’re telling me you drowned yourself in alcohol to the point that you couldn’t even walk, for nothing?

“Well…”

“I’m not stupid, ok?” Ookami continued. “I paid your tab, I brought you home, you puked on me,” he paused to let that sink for a bit.

“I’m s-“ Haida tried to interrupt, but Ookami persisted.

“Then I changed your clothes and put you to bed, shared my bed with you. And today I called Ton to make excuses for you, and did your work for you, to let you recover from your hangover. I think the least I deserve to know, is what did I have to go through all that for?”

By the time Ookami was finished talking, Haida looked as though he’d been watching a horror movie, his pale olive eyes open wide with his ears folded backwards. It made the young wolf sigh and lower his gaze to his plate.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, sounding calmer.

No! No, no, I’m the one who’s sorry.” Haida hurried to say, and the distress in his voice made the younger wolf feel worse. He shouldn’t have let himself get carried away like that; he didn’t know what was wrong in the hyena’s life. Maybe it was something terrible, something that’d make the mild inconveniences he had to go through seem like a game for children. But now the hyena was the one to sigh, and he raised his dark emerald eyes to him. “It’s just…”

Haida paused. He seemed to be willing to talk now, but God, where to start? After everything that he put Ookami through, his reason was going to sound dumb as hell. But it couldn’t be helped. 

“You know… Retsuko.” He started off, scratching the back of his neck while lowering his gaze to the table. It wasn’t a question, he knew Ookami knew Retsuko; it was just a hint to the wolf that this whole mess started because of her.

“Retsuko-Senpai? Yes of course,” the maned wolf answered calmly.

“Did you know… that she’s dating a guy from Sales?”

“I heard something along the lines,” Ookami confirmed crossing his legs under the table and resting his cheek in his hand.  “Heard he’s not the brightest crayon in the box, too.”

“Yes, well…” Haida continued, letting himself flop backwards on the chair.  “Yesterday they turned 6 months together. And she seemed so happy about it.”

Ookami frowned. He believed he knew where that was going, but he wanted to be sure.

“And…why is that bad?” he asked cautiously. “He might not be brilliant, but if Senpai is happy…”

He paused, waiting for Haida’s reaction, but the hyena remained immobile with his back against the chair, his frozen hand still holding the chopsticks inside the bowl. The only thing he was moving were his eyelids, slowly blinking to try to hide the way his eyes seemed to reflect light a little more.

“So it was a heartbreak,” the wolf concluded softly.

He finally managed to get a reaction from Haida, who closed his eyes and frowned, letting out a soft growl.

“I’m sorry. It’s stupid, I know!” He finally let go off the chopsticks to rest his face in his hands over the table.

“It’s not stupid, Senpai,” the wolf hurried to say before the hyena could have a chance to scold himself any longer. “Heartbreaks can really fuck us up. I know that all too well…” he paused for a bit, dwelling into his own memories, but immediately shook his head. This was no time for that. Haida needed him. “But it’s not the end of the world! Six months isn’t really a long time! They could break up any min-“

“Don’t!” Haida interjected, rising from his hideout and clenching his fists as the strong desire to slam them on the table overwhelmed him, but he resisted. “Don’t say that. Fenneko said the same.” He sighed, slowly feeling his body relax again. He lowered his hands instead, resting them gently at the edge of the table. “I don’t… want them to break up. Retsuko’s happy… and she deserves to be happy more than anyone. I can’t put my happiness before hers, I don’t even know if she’d be happy with me.” He raised his hands again, sliding them over the fur on top of his head. “If she’s happy with him, then…”

He didn’t finish that last thought. A short silence invaded the kitchen, silence only broken by the ticking of the clock.

“You’re a good man, Haida-Senpai.” It was finally Ookami who spoke up. “That kindness will be rewarded. Maybe not with Retsuko-Senpai, but… you know, someone else.”

Haida shook his head, moving his hands to press the heels against his eyes.

“As if anyone would ever be interested in me…”

“Oh, you’d be surprised!” Ookami couldn’t help bursting out a little laugh; it managed to make the hyena finally remove his goddamned hands from his face. “Trust me, I know at least five people who have a crush on you.”

It delighted the maned wolf to see a bright blush appear on his superior’s face. He had to do make his best effort not to smile too wide.

“W-What…?” Haida asked, and Ookami raised his hands to start counting with his fingers.

“Let’s see… There’s that skunk girl, Hana, from the Marketing department; I’ve caught her several times staring dreamily at you from the distance. The sheep girl, Misumi, from Marketing as well; her and Hana were talking about how cute and sweet you are the other day. Nezumi, the hedgehog from Customer Service; she appreciated you letting her cut in front of you at the vending machine. And even Chick, the cute chicken from the pizzeria around the block; she’s asked me about you a couple of times.” He paused for a little bit, lowering his hands and taking a moment to contemplate Haida’s red and astonished face. “I… also happen know…” he proceeded carefully, “about some guys who have crushes on you too.”

“Ah, what?” Haida asked with an awkward laugh, suddenly seeming not only flustered, but nervous. “I-I mean, that’s flattering but… I’m not… I-I mean, I’ve never…”

“It’s fine, Senpai, just thought I’d add.” Ookami caught Haida’s drift and shrugged, lowering his eyes to his bowl of miso soup before sighing deeply and looking up at him again. “I guess what I’m trying to say with all this, is… you shouldn’t be sad because the sun has set in your life, Senpai. If it wasn’t for the night, we wouldn’t see the stars… And we live in quite a starry night.”

The two males exchanged gazes, and at Haidas silence and stillness, the maned wolf smiled.

“We live in quite a starry night…” Haida repeated, fixing his eyes on the bowl of soup in front of him.

 

Chapter Text

He was staring up at the ceiling, tinted a dark shade of blue due to the faint streetlight filtering through the darkness of his room. He had been home for a while now; hell, he had been in bed for a few hours, but he just didn’t seem to be able to fall asleep. Not with everything that had happened in the last 24 hours. There was so much to think about… But at least, for now, the grief was gone, replaced with the fact that he couldn’t get Ookami out of his head; his mind going over the conversation he’d just had with him, again and again, repeating what the maned wolf had said…

“We live in quite a starry night.”

It was true. He had to admit, to remind himself, that Retsuko was not the only star in his life, even if she was the brightest. He knew about “other stars” now. Maybe he could try to focus his attention on them. To distract himself.

He sighed deeply and rolled onto his side, probably for the sixth time that night. His eyes jumped to his digital clock, which marked eleven past one, and he growled softly. It was late. He needed to be up by seven. Closing his eyes, he snuggled against the pillow and decided to leave the thinking for some other time, but it wasn’t until almost three am that he finally fell asleep.

 

***

 

A glimpse from the skunk girl from Marketing. A whispered compliment from the sheep girl from Marketing. A shy smile from the hedgehog girl from Customer Service. He caught them all. He was actually surprised he never noticed those gestures, for now that he was well aware of the ladies’ interest in him, he could see they were pretty obvious.

He had to admit, it was sweet, and they sure served as a distraction during Retsuko and the Sales Guy’s 7th and 8th months together, but… He wasn’t sure if he was ready to take the next step. To start talking to them and getting to know them better. He’d catch himself still staring and smiling at Retsuko while hearing her talk, hurrying to open the door for her, buying her drinks at the vending machine… He was still thinking about her. There was no way he could focus on someone else while she remained in his mind.

“Hey, Fenneko…” he said after a brief moment of silence, one day when it was just him and the little fennec fox in the Dining Area. The calendar was marking the 18th of October, and Retsuko and the Sales Guy’s 9th month was fast approaching.

“Hm?” she replied, her eyes still fixed on her phone as her index finger danced up and down the screen.

“What do you know about Hana, from Marketing?”

“So you finally noticed? Or did someone tell you?”

At Haida’s silence, Fenneko raised her eyes, and his astonished, flushed expression made her smirk.

“I don’t know much about her, except for what you already know. And that she’s an Otaku and an artist. I believe she has an account on Pixiv where she posts her stuff,” she explained, lowering her eyes back to her phone as she kept scrolling.

Haida remained in silence for a moment, setting his gaze on the cup of coffee in his hands. An Otaku, huh? He squinted a little bit. He knew about the subculture of Otakus, and even though he enjoyed some anime shows from time to time, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to keep up with a girl who was obsessed with that kind of stuff. He had other interests.

“And what about-?” He started asking, raising his eyes to the fennec fox again.

“Misumi from Marketing?” Fenneko interrupted. “She’s Hana’s best friend. Seems to be into the same kind of stuff as she is. They’re quite close, actually, many of us suspect they’re in a relationship.”

Haida’s partially opened mouth closed, and he stared at his best friend for a few seconds, waiting for her to clear up that she was joking or something, but she never did. His eye twitched. In a relationship? The two girls, really? Then why would they be interested in him? Were they really interested in him? But he caught the skunk girl staring… And he overheard the sheep girl complimenting him… Then why?

“But that’s just a rumor, right? Nothing confirmed, right?” he asked with a chuckle and a forced little smile.

“Probably,” was all Fenneko said.

It didn’t help shake the weird feeling off him, so he shook his head, deciding to focus instead on his third option.

“Ok, what about Nezumi from Customer Service?”

“I don’t know her,” Fenneko replied, and it made Haida want to slam his forehead against the table in defeat, but before he could do anything, she finally raised her eyes to him, offering him her characteristic little smile. “Would you be interested in hearing about the guys who have a crush on you?”

Warmth immediately crawled up his neck, lighting up his cheeks in a bright blush.

“Not really,” he assured her, taking a hand to discreetly pull at the collar of his shirt.

“Do you know Nyanko?” She asked, nonetheless.

“Nyanko?” His eyes drifted to the ceiling as he made an effort to relate that name to a face, resulting in the picture of a young, orange cat with round, blue glasses. “Oh, from Technical Support? Yeah, I know him… Wait, really?” He lowered his gaze to the fennec fox and she let out a giggle.

“You seem surprised.”

“Well, I am! I’ve only exchanged words with him a couple of times,” he said as he swung his cup, trying to seem busy assessing how much coffee he had left, to avoid fully minding the conversation, but Fenneko could see his blush increasing, covering the bridge of his nose.

“Is he not your type?” She asked resting her cheek on her hand. Now she was just teasing, Haida knew that much.

“No, he is not my type…” he growled while setting the cup back down on the table. “…Because I’m not-“

His voice was cut off by a quiet gasp coming from the fennec fox. In a blink, her expression had morphed completely; she didn’t seem playful anymore, she looked mortified, as if she was facing a ghost. And not only that, but he noticed her attention wasn’t on him anymore; it was on something over his shoulder.

“What?” He asked, and he was about to turn when his little best friend interjected.

“Don’t look.”

He remained frozen in his place, staring at the fennec fox as he slowly began to realize what was probably happening, and before he could do anything about it, he heard Retsuko’s voice behind his ear.

“Hey, guys!” she said with that particular tone if glee in her voice that she’d had for the past few months. “Can we have lunch with you?”

He knew it.

God, he wished he’d had more time to prepare himself. He knew this day would come eventually; hell, they all worked in the same place! But a little warning would’ve been nice. A little “Hey guys, is it ok if we have lunch with my boyfriend?” a few hours earlier would’ve been nice. When Retsuko disappeared from the Accounting Department, he assumed she’d just go look for him, have lunch with him in his department, as she had been doing all these months. Not…bring him along…

“Um, sure.” Fenneko was the one to respond. They both knew Retsuko didn’t deserve cold treatment over this; they needed to be welcoming. Supportive.

Because she was happy.

“Thank you! Oh, Haida!” Retsuko’s voice called him, and his heart skipped a beat. “Let me introduce you to my boyfriend!”

There it was. The line he had hoped for months he’d never have to hear.

He closed his eyes for a breath, collecting himself as best as he could before finally turning around.

Retsuko was standing next to a male red panda who was slightly taller than her, holding his arm with one hand, while the other held two bento boxes in a napkin, stacked one on top of the other.

“This is Resasuke!” she continued, looking at her partner while saying his name, before returning her eyes to him. “Resasuke, this is Haida. He’s also a friend from the Accounting Department, along with Fenneko! You remember Fenneko, right?”

The male red panda didn’t reply, he just turned to look at the small fennec fox with a pair of black, almost lifeless eyes, and she greeted him with a soft “Hey.” He nodded in response, and then moved his eyes back to him.

He had to say it. Retsuko had just introduced them, now he was supposed to smile, to stretch out a hand and say “Nice to meet you!”… But he was paralyzed.

For months he had tried to imagine what Retsuko’s boyfriend would look like, and even though people had told him that the boy wasn’t bright, he really wasn’t expecting…this. This mannequin-looking guy with a dull expression and emotionless eyes. Did he… Did he really lose Retsuko to this guy?

“Senpai!”

In what threatened to grow into a storm of mixed emotions of pain, frustration and despair, a voice crashed in. A voice that his brain delayed a moment to recognize, but just as he was associating it with his owner, he felt a couple of hands clasp onto his shoulders tightly, pulling him back a bit to make him turn.

“Here you are! Thank Goodness, I’ve been looking for you all over!”

Facing the other way, Haida’s face met with the young maned wolf’s, who was offering him a cheerful smile.

“Ookami,” Haida babbled.

“You’ve gotta help me with the thing! Remember?”

“The thing?” the hyena asked clueless, and the maned wolf gazed into his eyes intensely.

“Yes, the thing! I asked you to help me with it this morning. Please, Senpai, I won’t be able to get it done without your help!”

Haida noticed Ookami’s eyes drifting slightly to the doorway, and after a couple of seconds, he caught on.

“Oh! Right!” he exclaimed, and the maned wolf smiled victoriously. “Right, sorry, I almost forgot. Let’s go.”

Taking his cup in one hand, he stood from the chair and turned to Retsuko and her boyfriend, but hardly spared them a glance.

“Um, sorry Retsuko, I gotta go. We’ll talk some other time!” he said as he started to walk away, but only stopped to raise a farewell hand at the male red panda. “Nice to meet you, Resasuke.”

He couldn’t stay to wait for a response, even if he’d wanted to, for he immediately felt Ookami taking his hand and pulling him away from the scene, out of the Dining Area.  

Chapter Text

As they were cruising the halls of the building, Haida couldn’t help but wonder if there really was something he was supposed to help Ookami with, but he merely forgot. The truth was that ever since the incident, they had been talking a lot more than usual, but he didn’t believe they had spoken to each other at all on that day in particular.

His hand was finally released when they reached the elevator and he saw the maned wolf press the button to go up.

“That was close,” the young wolf said, turning to offer him a smile while they waited.

“Yeah, I guess it was,” Haida responded, gazing down at his cup of coffee for a moment before looking back up to him. “So, about that thing you asked me to help you with…”

Ookami laughed.

“It was just an excuse to take you away from there,” he said, just a moment before the elevator greeted them with a ‘ding’ and both males stepped inside. “However I could use some help with the invoices I’m filing...” he continued as he reached out to press the ‘R’ button. “But we’ll worry about that later.”

As they were moving up, Haida had to glance a couple of times at the red halo glowing around the ‘R’ button to convince himself that they weren’t going to the Accounting Department; they were heading to the roof. He swallowed quietly and lowered his eyes to his own reflection on the polished floor. He wasn’t sure he was happy about it. Perhaps math and numbers would’ve helped distract him from what had just happened.

“Are you ok, Senpai?” the maned wolf’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts, startling him a bit.

Haida looked up at him, seeing him standing to his right with his hands behind his back and his eyes fixed on the changing numbers above the door. However, he could tell his attention was on him, by the way his left ear was slightly turned his way.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he replied, returning his gaze to his feet.

“Are you sure?”

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Ookami peeking at him, and he remembered the maned wolf didn’t like being lied to, so he limited himself to just sigh and remain quiet. Lucky for him, with another ‘ding’ the elevator announced their arrival to the desired level, and Ookami allowed him to walk outside first. 

Past the glass doors that were keeping the elevator safe from the outer conditions, Haida’s face was immediately greeted by the wind of mid autumn. Even if it was only a few hours past noon, one could feel how much the temperature had dropped, as they were slowly approaching winter. He shivered a bit, since it was definitely warmer inside the building, but with the sun still high in the sky, he didn’t remain too distracted by the weather.

“Oh!” he exclaimed, his eyes opening wide as he couldn’t resist walking all the way to the other side of the roof, stopping at the rail. “Man, look at this view!

“Heh, yeah, quite impressive, huh?” he heard Ookami reply, feeling the presence of the maned wolf settling next to him. “You don’t come to the roof very often, Senpai?”

“Not really,” he admitted while contemplating every building, every car, and every person walking by. “I’m usually too busy for that. I think I’ve only been up here like once or twice since I started working for this company.”

It had to be more than once, but he could only remember the time he checked the roof in a hurry to make sure Retsuko was not about to jump off one of the rails. He’d been a little too worried about her to bother admiring the scenery around him.

Ookami hummed in understanding, and it kept Haida from dwelling too much in the memories of that day, and his feelings for Retsuko.

“I come here a lot,” Ookami revealed calmly. “Especially to smoke, or when I need a moment alone.”

Haida’s ears twitched as a certain word broke his concentration, and he finally ripped his eyes off the panorama to give a severe look to the young wolf.

“You smoke?” he questioned, knitting his brows together with a frown.

“Sometimes, yeah,” Ookami admitted. He was resting his elbows on the rail and his chin on his hand. Noticing the hyena had turned to him, he did the same, folding his ears backwards, as his superior didn’t seem too happy. “Don’t you?”

Haida stared at him for a beat, deepening his frown, but then he sighed defeated and closed his eyes, turning back to the railing.

“Sometimes… I try not to, though,” he admitted himself, pausing for a few seconds while imitating the wolf’s motion to rest his elbows on the rail, and holding his cup of coffee with both hands to make sure he wouldn’t accidentally drop it. “You shouldn’t smoke. You’re too young for that,” he admonished, returning his eyes to the younger male who chuckled in response.

“What am I? Like 3 years younger than you?” Ookami asked mockingly, scooting closer to give Haida a playful push with his shoulder. “Don’t talk like an old man, Senpai. We’re both young! We should enjoy the little things in life!”

The bright blush that took over the older male’s face made Ookami want to laugh, but he held back as best he could.

“Thank you for worrying about me, though,” he expressed instead, hesitatingly reaching out to place a hand on the hyena’s arm. 

The gesture wasn’t overlooked, and with a thump in his chest, Haida felt that familiar warmth crawling up his neck again. He looked down at Ookami’s hand before peering back up at his face, and noticed how the determination in his emerald eyes slowly clouded with fear. After a breath, the younger broke eye contact, lowering his gaze, and he withdrew his hand as he backed away to the place he’d been standing before. 

Haida felt bad. Even though the closeness caught him off guard, he didn’t mean to make things awkward for his co-worker. Somehow he really didn’t…mind. But now he was having a hard time trying to figure out what to say, and it seemed to be the same for Ookami, as silence stretched between them, and Haida was starting to tap at the carton of his cup impatiently. 

“Oh! So… how did you know?” He found it, the perfect way to break the silence. It was something he had stuck in his head anyway, so he thought it was the ideal time to ask away. 

“Huh?” Ookami asked confused, and, thankfully, he glanced back up at him. 

“You weren’t in the Dining Area while everything was happening… How did you know I was in trouble?” Haida tried to sound as gentle as possible, even offering the maned wolf a shy little smile, and it seemed to work, for Ookami stood straight again, his ears perking with interest and his tail swinging. 

“Oh! I was on my way back to Accounting when I saw Retsuko-Senpai and the other guy walking by! I was curious as to what they were up to, so I started following them. That’s when I saw them reach you and Fenneko-Senpai, and I, well… I thought I had to do something.” As he told his tale, Ookami’s voice gradually lost excitement, like he had been so proud of himself in the beginning, but then realized that what he was saying was probably a touchy subject for the hyena. He finished off with a shrug, and lowered his gaze a little bit. 

“You saved me. Again.” Haida chuckled, and Ookami looked back up to him, responding in the same manner.

“Yeah, seems to be a recurring thing between us.” 

Both males exchanged smiles, and for some time there was nothing but the sound of the cool wind blowing between them. 

“Senpai…” After a while, it was the maned wolf who spoke first, but Haida interrupted him. 

“I’ll be ok, Ookami,” he assured with a gentle yet firm voice, lowering his eyes to the rail for a moment before returning them to the wolf and offering him a cheeky smile. “Thank you for worrying about me, though.”

Now it was Ookami’s face that lit up with a bright blush, but he giggled playfully and slowly approached the other again, not standing as close as he had been before, but with only a few inches apart.

“I really hope so, Senpai. You don’t deserve to go through all this shit.”

And just like that, the smile disappeared from the hyena’s face. He sighed deeply, turning back to the railing and setting his attention on the cup in his hands.

“Sadly, I do. I delayed too long to tell Retsuko how I feel,” he explained, raising the cup to his lips to take a sip, and he growled softly, as the liquid had already run cold. “It’s what I get for being so scared of my own feelings.”  

For once, Ookami didn’t know what to say. He stared at his superior in silence, feeling his heart slowly increasing it’s pace, until Haida turned to look at him and their eyes connected.

“Have you ever been in love, Ookami?” Haida asked, and the maned wolf felt his insides jump.

“I… I don’t know. I think I was, a couple of years ago,” he answered as calmly as possible, but he felt the need to focus the sudden rush of adrenaline on something to keep it from getting to his nerves. He held unto the rail with both hands and leaned backwards, allowing the task of not letting himself fall to cloud up his mind.

“And?” he heard the older male insist.

“Well, it didn’t work out. I mean, we did date for a while, but…” he paused for a bit, feeling his arms starting to tremble. “I guess I just wasn’t good enough for him.”

The hyena stared at him for a moment, and then he shifted his vision forward, back to the horizon.

“Him,” he repeated mindlessly.

That seemed to be a recurring theme, lately. Between Ookami and Fenneko assuring him that there were guys interested in him, and Fenneko even revealing the identity of one of them, he couldn’t help but start wondering about his co-workers’ sexual orientations.

“I’m bisexual,” he heard Ookami explain, and he felt his face burn because it was almost as if he had read his mind.

“A-Ah! Is that so?” he asked nervously, turning to look at the other and noticing, as the maned wolf pulled himself back on his feet, that he wasn’t looking too happy.

“Does that bother you?” Ookami asked calmly, however, and Haida immediately shook his head.

“No, no, not at all! It just caught me a little off guard, I guess. You’re well known around for being quite the lady-killer, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you flirting with a guy.” Ookami snorted quietly at that, but the hyena seemed to be a little too worked up to notice. “If anything, I’ve seen you flirt with Ms. Tsubone the most, so I thought you were into mature ladies…”

It almost seemed like he had delivered the best joke in history, because Ookami’s face turned as red as an apple and he burst out laughing.

“Oh, no, no! With Ms. Tsubone is a different story!” the maned wolf clarified once he was able to talk again, taking a hand to loosen his tie a bit. “She’s quite the flirt, in case you haven’t noticed. So I just use that to my advantage. She flirts with me, I flirt with her back, and that earns some benefits, like better treatment, or the chance to hand her my work so I can leave early, or even money.” He smirked and winked, seeming so proud of himself. “It’s quite convenient, actually.”

“I see,” Haida said smiling awkwardly.

However, after everything had been said and done, Ookami dropped the cocky attitude. He sighed softly, setting his gaze down to the ground as he turned around to lay his back against the rail.

“But no, I’m not really interested in her. Or… anyone, really. I don’t…” He paused, seeming hesitant to continue, but he took a deep breath, and closed his eyes as he pressed himself on to talk. “I don’t do relationships for now.”  

Chapter Text

Haida’s eyebrows rose, but he didn’t say anything; he just kept his gaze on the wolf, as the younger seemed to be dwelling in his own thoughts.

“I just fool around with girls every now and then,” Ookami continued after shrugging. “Keeps the fire alive, if you will,” he chuckled.

“Why is that, though? Because of your ex-boyfriend?” Haida interrupted impulsively, but immediately realized that’d been a terrible and rather dumb thing to ask. He witnessed, with dread, as Ookami lowered his head further until his snout was almost touching the knot of his tie, and his ears folded backwards. He quickly tried of think of a way to backtrack, but he couldn’t come up with anything clever. “I’m sorry. That was inappropriate,” he simply apologized, and to his surprise, the maned wolf shook his head and sighed deeply, offering him a little smile.

“It’s ok, Senpai,” he assured him, moving his eyes from his own shoes to Haida’s. “I brought this whole thing up.”

Had he really? Haida was the one who started such conversation in the first place, asking Ookami if he’d ever been in love and then pressing him to tell him about it. He just didn’t think things had gone so badly for his coworker. He never thought… that someone could break the younger’s heart.

“You don’t have to tell me more. I’m so sorry for being so invasive,” he apologized, taking his free hand to rub over his face. “I feel terrible.”

“Don’t feel that way, Senpai. Really, it’s ok,” he heard Ookami’s voice as he pressed his fingertips against his eyes. “Heh. I guess you could even say it’s fair. You’ve exposed your heart to me… I guess it’s fair that I tell you a bit about myself as well.”

Haida removed the hand from his eyes, looking back up to Ookami and noticing he had switched positions; now he was standing in front of him with his eyes on his face, as one of his hands rested on the rail.

“I left him,” Ookami said after a breath. “Things hadn’t felt right for a while, but every time I’d ask him what was wrong, he’d just say ‘It’s nothing’…” Even though he kept his head high for a moment, he started lowering it as he explained, shifting his eyes between his feet, Haida’s tie, and his own hand on the rail. “A few months before our second anniversary, I found out that he was seeing someone else. When confronting him about it, he laughed and basically said that I was just his side bitch. I told him that if our relationship was nothing but a game to him, then I wanted no part of it, and he just said ‘suit yourself.’” There was strain in the maned wolf’s voice and Haida could see his eyebrows knitting together in a pained frown.

A short silence stretched between the two males, filled with only the sound of the wind blowing, and Ookami took that chance to turn back to rest both his elbows on the rail, staring at the city underneath him.

“I kept going over our story in my head, again and again, wondering if he ever really loved me. I’d think of our best times together and be like ‘there’s no way he could’ve been pretending back then!’ And then I’d start wondering what happened? What did I do wrong? Why wasn’t I good enough?” He swallowed a lump in his throat as he continued his tale. “I really thought he was the one. He did so much for me during our first year together… But when I started working, things began to go downhill. I wouldn’t spend as much time with him as I had back in high school. I thought he’d understand.”

As the maned wolf made another pause, Haida gulped quietly and looked at the ground. That was some heavy stuff. He’d never been good at knowing what to say in situations like this, so he was trying really hard to think of something, when he heard Ookami’s voice again and he raised his eyes back to him.

“I’m sorry, Senpai, I’m rambling now,” the younger said with his head turned to him. He had a sweet smile on his face, but his expression was definitely one of someone who was still hurting. “But that’s basically why I don’t do relationships for the time being. I’m… I’m honestly a little scared to fall in love again… To be used again…”

“But… No!” Haida exclaimed suddenly, maybe a little louder than he intended. “If that’s the case, you shouldn’t let yourself be blinded by fear! There are other people out there, Ookami, better people! People who will truly appreciate you and love you.” He wasn’t sure if he was being helpful at all, but he could see Ookami’s face was slowly becoming astonished and flushed. “You’re a great guy! And someone will see that one day.”

He decided to cut his words off there and give them some time to sink in, holding his breath as he waited for Ookami to say something in response, but instead, the maned wolf let out a gentle and rather charming laugh.

“It’s funny, that sounds like something I would say to you, Senpai,” the younger said, pushing himself off the rail and turning his whole body to his superior now. He glanced up to his face for a second, but then moved his eyes down; he didn’t seem capable of sustaining eye contact. “You’re really sweet… I’m sorry Retsuko-Senpai wasn’t able to see that,” he spoke with a barely audible voice, but Haida heard it, and he felt his face getting hot.

“Y-Yes, well…” he started, scratching the back of his head and looking away. “She’s happy, and that’s all that matters, I guess.”

“But you deserve to be happy too!” Ookami raised his tone and it made Haida peek back at him. “It’s sweet that you care so much about her, Senpai, but you should really start seeing for yourself as well! I know you don’t want them to break up, and that’s admirable… But then…” He paused, swallowing nervously before continuing. “Start moving on. Look around you. There are other people.”

I’m working on it, Ookami, it’s just not that easy.” Haida rolled his eyes before looking at the floor, letting his hand fall heavily back to his side. “Retsuko’s still there. I see her every day. I talk to her every day. It’s not really something I can help…” he paused for a bit and then looked back at Ookami. “And, by the way, Fenneko told me there’s a rumor going around, about Hana and Misumi from Marketing being more than friends. Did you know about this?”

“I heard that rumor, yeah, but I wasn’t sure if it’s true or not,” Ookami admitted, nodding. “Just thought I’d mention them, nonetheless, in case it was false.”

Haida started at him for a bit, then he lowered his eyes as well as his ears, feeling the heat on his cheeks root down to his neck.

“She… also told me about Nyanko,” he mumbled, barely audible, but for some reason it made Ookami laugh out loud.

“Aw! Why do you let her tell you, but not me?” He scolded, pretending to sound offended, though it was clear from his expression that it was just for amusement.

“I didn’t let her tell me, she just went ahead and did it!” Haida replied looking quite flustered, and Ookami couldn’t help but laugh once more.

“Well, now you know about your little fan from Customer Service,” he teased.

“I guess so…” The hyena replied, rolling his eyes once more before leaving the both of them in a short silence. Then, taking a deep breath, he turned the other way, resting his hand on his hip and holding his cup a little tighter. “So…?”

“So?” Ookami repeated, leaning his head to the side curiously.

“Who are the other ones?” 

Finally the maned wolf stopped looking so smug. His ears perked, and taking a peek at him, Haida could see that his cheeks had tinted a bright crimson.

“Ah… Don’t worry about it, Senpai, you don’t have to hear about it if you don’t want to,” the youngest shrugged, looking down at the floor.

“But I do now. I’m…curious…” Haida admitted, trying his best to sound assuring, and keeping his eyes on the maned wolf’s face. “Tell me.” 

Ookami remained quiet for a beat, then he sighed and crossed his arms over his chest, still avoiding his superior’s gaze.

“Well… I believe there’s another guy in the Warehouse Department, though I don’t really know his name. I just overheard him say he’d fuck you during a game of Fuck, Marry and Kill,” he answered before a pause, and for a moment he looked lost in his own thought until he finally shook his head. “And that’s it.”

Chapter Text

Haida had to admit that the maned wolf’s reply had left him feeling a tad… disappointed. It was a strange feeling, but somehow, deep inside of him, he’d wished he had heard about more guys crushing on him. Have more names, faces…

When he’d first heard about it from Ookami himself, he’d gone to bed a couple of nights with his unruly mind trying to fill in the blanks. The first one to come to his head had been Komiya, as it was an open secret that the meerkat’s sexual preference did not lean towards the opposite gender as he so emphatically tried to pretend a couple of years back. His true colors began to show when he earned his title as Director Ton’s right hand, and compared to how much he would suck up to Ton, he was never heard speaking about women again.

So Komiya was a good theory, but as quickly as it came, he just as quickly dismissed it, for the young meerkat seemed far too obsessed with their middle-aged boss to even pay attention to anyone else around him. Therefore the question remained, and the longer he spent floating around in the limbo of ignorance, the more his subconscious would expand the number of possibilities…

However, now that he’d received a more solid answer to his doubt, he realized that he had only made things bigger than they actually were. 

He should’ve been happy, right? If he wasn’t gay or bisexual or anything, he shouldn’t had been worried about several guys crushing on him or not…

And yet, he still felt disappointed.

***

“Fenneko, have you ever been with a girl?”

It was a heavy question, and for that, he tried to keep his voice only a little above the sizzling of the cooking chicken between them. Thankfully, there was a lot of noise in the restaurant and no one seemed to have heard him. But the small fennec fox had; he could tell by the way her finger stopped moving over her cellphone, and the screen froze in the reflection of her eyes.

“Why you ask?” she finally replied after a few seconds of silence, allowing time to resume its course as her finger danced up and down the screen again. He was a little astonished. Not even a blush on his best friend’s face.

“I was just… wondering what it’s like-”

“To be with a girl?”  The fennec fox interrupted him, raising her eyes to him with a playful smirk.

“No!” Haida growled, but immediately lowered his voice again to barely a whisper. “To be with someone of… your same gender…”

Fenneko stared at him, and the longer she was taking to answer, the more he could feel the embarrassment crawling up his neck and cheeks. Suddenly sitting at a hibachi table seemed to have been a terrible idea.

“So you wanna give one of your fanboys a chance?” was Fenneko’s reply, and Haida had to make an effort to not get too worked up.

“No. Not exactly. I just…” he paused for a breath, trying to organize the ideas in his head. “It’s been on my mind a lot lately, thanks to you and Ookami.” He noticed Fenneko’s smirk getting a little wider. “Like I said, I’ve never… been with a guy before, but…”

“But you’re willing to try.”

“I’m considering it,” Haida hurried to correct. “Considering being willing to try.”

Fenneko hummed in understanding, and as if he had cast a magic spell, he earned her full attention in the form of her turning off her cellphone and leaving it on the table. Then she scooted forward, resting her elbows on each side of her plate, and her face in her hands.

Why are you considering it, though?” she asked, seeming a little too amused for Haida’s comfort.

“Um… Curiosity?” he answered, though it sounded more like a question than a statement.

“Is that so? Or is it because there’s someone ruffling your fur?”

“Wh-What do you mean?”

“Since when are you and Ookami such good friends?” 

The question crashed down on him like a bucket of iced water, but instead of leaving him cold, it made his neck and cheeks burn. He stared at Fenneko with wide eyes and an open mouth for a second, before slowly regaining his composure, sinking into his chair a bit and narrowing his eyes at her.

“Well, if you must know, since Retsuko and the sales guy’s 6th month…” he hurried to say then, for he realized it had taken him a couple of seconds to respond and watching the fennec fox staring at him with that wide smile was making his blood boil. “But, you said it yourself! Friends! Th-There’s nothing going on between us!”

“Maybe not to you, anyway.”

There was another silence, the words repeating in his head once more.

“What are you insinuating?” he asked, feeling his heartbeat slowly starting to increase it’s pace.

“I’ve seen the way he looks at you,” she said with a casual but clear voice as she reached out and grabbed her phone to continue her scrolling. “It’s pretty obvious, if you ask me.”

And then she fell silent, leaving Haida to process the information received and come to his own conclusions. He stared blankly at the table for a moment, the hissing of the grill mimicking the static in his brain. ‘The way he’d look at him’? How did he look at him? He never noticed Ookami looking at him differently from the way he’d look at anyone else, or even noticed anything unusual about his behavior. He tried to look back at all the times they had walked around the office together, had lunch together, hung out together, and finally, as if it had been highlighted with a marker, his mind brought back the memory from the day they talked on the roof.

“W-Wait! You’re getting everything wrong! He doesn’t-“ he spurt out, maybe a little louder than he intended and it made Fenneko look up at him. “I-I mean… There’s no way…” he continued more calmly, correcting his tone to keep his voice hardly audible again. “He said he didn’t want to be in a relationship for now.”

“That doesn’t mean he can’t have feelings for you.” She responded immediately, not even blinking, and Haida’s eyes went wide again. She paused to let her words sink in for a bit, and then she raised her head a little more, setting her gaze straight on Haida’s olive eyes. “And what about you, Haida? How do you feel about him?”

His heart jumped, and all the muscles of his face started working again.

How do I feel...? H-He’s just a friend! I don’t- I’m not…” 

“You said you were considering it.”

He was left speechless, and suddenly the restaurant seemed noisier. The cook was talking to a customer, a mare was babbling into her phone behind him, and at the furthest corner of the restaurant was a group of koalas who had been cackling at their own jokes for a while. The jingling of the cutlery, the slamming of beer bottles on the tables, and finally Haida closed his mouth, sinking in his chair again and crossing his arms over his stomach, looking away.

“…But he said he didn’t want to be in a relationship. Even if I’m considering it, it wouldn’t be anything with him,” he concluded as a weird feeling was taking over him. He couldn’t exactly tell what it was, but it felt like a hole in his chest. “Agh! Just… forget I said anything, ok? Let’s change the subject! Waiter!” he raised his hand, calling the deer who was serving tables. “Another beer, please!”

Fenneko just scoffed and shrugged, complying to Haida’s request of dropping the subject and returning her full attention to the screen of her phone.