I'm Fine

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15 June PM08:52
All was relatively quiet, in the back of the store.

       "Hey I know this guy." A young man picked up a page that had been left on the counter, a male hyena, with the sleeves rolled up past his elbows.

       "Do ya?" Another young man leaned in, this one a taller snow leopard. Both of them wore black collared shirts, with stitched-in labels that read TECH TEAM over on the right of the chest. The both of them examined the details on the paper; name, address, ordered items, all that.

       The hyena pointed to the name on that delivery sheet. "'Vincent Ackermann', yeah. Friend of mine that works on cars." He mentioned, then took the page with him as he sat down in front of the main department computer. "I think you'd like him. He's a chill guy."

       The cat had followed along casually, put his arms on the table, and leant forward against it. "hm. My car needs some work." They thought aloud, idly watching on the yeen assigning the delivery to the proper company truck.

       "Yeah?" The hyena said phatically. "I could talk to him, maybe get you a discount or whatever."

       "If you want. Sure." The feline said, with an indecisive tone.

       On the screen, it showed the optimum route to take, given the current scheduled drop-offs, installations, and how much time they're predicted to take. "It's tomorrow. I'll let him know we're the ones delivering the stuff."



16 June PM01:31
Delivery time.

       It was the cat's turn to drive, not that he minded. Rock music with Russian lyrics played quietly from the moderately clear radio signal. Traffic wasn't too bad this day; seems they were going to arrive early on this one, though that shouldn't be a problem.

       The driver kept his bored and oddly colored eyes on the road, while his passenger leaned against the inside of the door and occupied themself with their phone. They wore company-issued jackets, for efficient insulation use in the frigid climate.

       Their English navigation device chimed in on the otherwise dead air, "In one thousand feet, turn right. Your destination will be on the right."

       The driver took them down the next road on the right, and within a few houses, they could spot what they were looking for. The hyena had put his phone back into his pocket, then sought ahead. "There he is; see him?" He pointed beyond the windshield.

       They both brought their attention to a one-story house with a bunch of somewhat old cars lined up in the semicircular driveway. A tall doberman, the only person outside, was dressed up in a black hoodie, blue jeans, and fitting work gloves, all the while they leaned their head in under the open hood of one of those cars.

       "Yeah, I see." The cat affirmed plainly. He pulled up and parked the truck in front of the guy's property, switching the engine off soon after. As soon as they opened the doors, their breath showed up as a foggy breeze in the air. Both of them stepped out of the truck, the cat taking the keys and slipping them into his pocket.

       The tall dog stood up at the somewhat unexpected arrival, and took his gloves off meanwhile. The yeen walked up to the guy. "ey, Vincent." He lifted his chin.

       "Akira." Vincent returned the gesture, and spoke a gentle greeting. The dober opened his arms just in time for the two friends to share a casual hug for a second. The cat came around the front of the warmed up truck, spotting the tail end of the hug.

       Akira let go of Vince, soon adding to the greeting, "Here's Jay," and pointed to the approaching cat. "Guy I told you about. Jay; Vincent." He briefly introduced the two. Jay waved just a little to the unfamiliar guy.

       Vincent respectfully put his a bare hand out to Jay, to which Jay took in his and gave a firm enough handshake. "Jaydin, good to meet you." Vince greeted Jay politely, and the cat nodded just once. "Yeah, likewise." The cat replied fairly. Jay's sensitive nose picked up on a hint of tobacco on the dog's breath and person. On the other hand, Vincent took note of the pierced and split tongue Jay had, and the asymmetric colors of their eyes; pretty odd for a delivery boy.

       After the handshake, Jay put his hand right back into the warm pocket of his jacket. He relaxed into a slightly more casual stance as he stood there. "So we're here early, hope you don't mind." Jaydin mentioned passively.

       Jay's coworker Akira soon adds, "Yeah, traffic wasn't shit for once."

       Vincent turned around for a second while the two spoke at him, reaching up and grabbing the top of the car's hood to push it closed. "No no, that's fine with me. I wasn't doing much that I can't get back to later." He turned back to the two delivery boys, then motioned them over to the door to the house, offering neutrally, "Come in and I'll get you a drink or something if you want."

       Vincent started the lead to the door, and both Akira and Jaydin followed close behind, leaving all the cars behind for now. When Vincent opened the front door, an immediate front of warm air rushed out to breeze against the three. It was appreciated, though only really to two of them. Vince stood to the side to let the delivery boys in, then came in himself and shut the door to stop all that comfortable warmth from escaping out into the neighborhood. " 'eah, Make yourself at home," the doberman assured, "you're welcome to whatever." Vince took his work gloves and stuffed them into a pocket of his, while he walked his way beyond the other two, into the nearby kitchen. "Anything you need, just ask me." He said in passing.

       Akira had stepped into the kitchen too, just behind the dog, if only just to sit down at the dinner table and take his phone back out. Jaydin himself walked further in, eyeing all the sealed snacks moderately lazily strewn about the counter.

       Vincent came over to his fridge and opened it up, taking out a can of soda. In his voice chill as the drink, he addressed Jay, "Hey," and reached out to hand the can over to the cat. Jay looked the dog over a moment, but didn't hesitate much in accepting the soda. "So, Akira tells me you wanted some help with your car." Vince solicited, nodding once at Jay.

       Jaydin nodded too, but more subtly. "eh, A little, I guess." He confirmed, in his usual indecisive tone. Meanwhile Vincent put his hands on the counter, having to part his arms and lean forward a bit so he could see Jay beyond the cupboards between the two.

       "Yeah? What does it need?" Vince further questioned.

       Jay opened the can with a hiss and a crack, shrugging a little. "Just an oil change, really. 'n I know how to do it, just don't have the tools or the space to put 'em."

       "Mm. Well no doubt I have 'em here." Vincent gave his attention to Jay's gaze; some respectful eye contact, though that which Jay was quick to avert, as he drank from the can. Vince didn't force the nicety, simply continuing, "It's an easy quick job though. Assuming, you bring me the right oil and filter. So you can come around whenever."

       Jay puts his can down as the doberman finished. "How much?" He asks.

       Vincent paused just shortly, then said with some confidence, "Sixteen thou."

       "Only sixteen?" Jay questioned some more, "You giving me a discount or something?" Jay sipped at the soda some more.

       Vincent shrugged. "It's just easy labor. Gives you the freedom to choose what kind of oil and filter you want, like I said. And whatever you get is probably infinitely better for your car than the recycled shit they charge for cheap at companies."

       "Yeah. I got ya." Jay understood, with a bit of common interest between them.

       "So, when do you want it done? This week? Next week?" Vincent raised a brow at the cat.

       "uh...This week? I guess?" Jaydin thought aloud. "I'm off on Thursday," he added soon after, "I can come then."

       Vincent nodded once again. "Yeah, anytime. I'll be here, most likely." He stood up straight, "I get everything I need delivered pretty much. So yeah, I'll be here." Vince said while he came around the counter over to Jay's side. "Here, I'll give you my number in case you need me sooner or later."

       Jay's eyes followed the doberman on the way to him, and soon enough the boy took out his phone to get ready to take down the number. "Alright, one sec." He said, navigating to the phone's contacts list.

       Seeing Jay's phone screen ready and waiting for a new phone number, Vincent gave his, "One-four-five two-two-three, forty-five-seventy." And Jay typed it in to the swiftly one number after the other.

       "a'Right," Jay exited to the home screen, "I'll send you a text."

       Vince nodded, and left the snow leopard's side. "Gotcha. Maybe I could help you guys with that delivery then?"

       Akira caught wind of that last part, which prompted him to look up from his own phone. "naw, Don't have to do that. We'll get it for ya." He insisted politely, getting up from the chair. Jaydin locked his phone and stowed it back into his jacket's pocket, taking Akira's tone as a sign to get back to work.

       Vincent's pocket vibrated, and made a game-esque ping, but he didn't acknowledge it. "ah Well...just come get me if you need any help then."



20 June PM07:12
The sun set hours ago...

       Vincent came back out into the cold yet well-lit neighborhood through his open garage. The fogging he breathed showed up well in the bright shine of external house lights, while he got back to work on a client's SUV. He had all his surplus of tools available to him in that garage, making it easy to grab and put back his things here and there. In the middle of the job, his phone pinged over a new text message.

       It was that cat again.

📶︎ 100% 🔋︎ 19:18
Jaydin Eversnow145-545-3006

Sunday, 16 June 2205
It's me, Goku
13:40
Thursday, 20 June 2205
Hey. Is now a good time to come over?
19:12
Long sleeper ey?
19:12
Sure, anytime you want.
19:13
Right. I'm on my way then.
just now
Send a message...

       After having read the notification, Vincent put his phone away and got back to his diligent work.

       It took a good long while, but eventually there came a car unfamiliar to him. Vincent stood up when he spotted it. The car pulled up to his section of the neighborhood curb; a compact, likely Japanese manufactured.

       Its engine shut off soon after it came to a stop, the lights too, then the driver opened their door and stepped out. Definitely was that cat again; Jaydin, clad in a green jacket, plus the same black pants and combat boots wore back on Sunday.

       Vince put a hand above his head, signalling Jay a greeting. The new-ish arrival waved back, as he shut the door, clipped his key fob to a belt loop, and came around onto the dober's property.

       The two met halfway, with Vincent starting off asking, "That your car?" To which, Jaydin nodded subtly.

       "Yeah, it's mine." Jay said while coming up to Vince.

       "Looks nice. You buy it?" Vincent asks, looking the seemingly bored cat in the face for a second.

       "nah, My mom gave it to me so she could go buy something else." Jay brought his gaze to the dog as well, though he didn't lock eyes with them. He could smell that familiar scent on them again.

       Vince kept his naturally neutral look. "Ah, Nice of her." He said with slight interest. "So it needed an oil change right?"

       "Yeah, I brought the oil and filter. Just an oil change yeah." Jay confirms, markedly more decisive this time.

       "Yeah? Well I got the tools...if you feel like doing it yourself."

       "What??" Jay's bushy tail thumped the ground. "I thought you said you'd do it for sixteen thousand?" Jay looked over Vince with disbelief and obvious annoyance.

       Despite the reaction, Vincent shrugged insouciantly. "I got busy." He said just as nonchalantly, after which Jay's muzzle wrinkled a bit before Vince continued, "Tell you what though, if you do it yourself—like you said you could—I'll cook you dinner, since it's about that time." Vince put his bare hands into his hoodie's center pocket to warm them back up. "How's that sound?"

       Jaydin grumbled shortly. "mgh, Fine, sounds good I guess..." He came to accept, if not only for the free food.

       "Glad to hear it." Vince nods, then gestures behind himself. "Tools are in the garage; use any you need."

       "mh, Yeah." Jay sighed, but stepped away from Vincent soon enough, and walked back over to his own car. Vincent observed the cat just a bit longer. The car's amber LED blinkers flashed a couple times, just before Jay grabs and opens up the rear door by the handle. Bending forward, he leant into passenger compartment, reaching in and then pulling out a small cardboard box that read マツダ株式会社 over its logo, and a five quart jug that read -20w/20 in one of the corners. The both of them were just lazily laid out on the back seat until he went and got them out. He shut the door with a push of his forearm as he held one item in each hand, then put them down onto the concrete curb a moment later. Jaydin walked back over towards Vincent, and into the doberman's garage in search of the right tools and other items. Eventually, he happened upon a pair of wheel ramps and a pair of chocks, which he casually took in his arms and carried back over to his car. Jay put down the chocks near the jug and the box, while wedging the ramps underneath both front wheels, one for each.

       Meanwhile, Vincent half-pretended to work, choosing to do the more simple tasks involved with the job on that SUV for now. He picked up a long box off of the hood of the truck, opened up the front passenger door, and casually tossed the box onto the bare seat. Kneeling onto the driveway, he lowered himself down so he could manipulate the glovebox more easily. He unlatched and then pulled that glovebox out, and began to swap out the old cabin air filter hiding behind it with the new one in that box. He kept an eye on the cat as they worked, taking short glances over at Jay once every so often.

       Within a matter of five minutes, Vincent was completely finished with the filter replacement, having shut the truck's door and tossed the box the trash with the old filter put in it. In the same amount of time, Jay had his compact lifted onto those ramps, the hood propped open, and was sliding a plastic oil basin under the engine block. Jay had his sleeves pushed up while he worked, put on a pair of black nitrile gloves, and held a small rack of various sized sockets, plus a ratchet wrench to fit them on. Vincent liked what he saw, seeing that Jay wasn't just some regular kid claiming they knew everything. The dog walked on over to observe Jay more closely.

       "Got it under control, huh?" Vincent asks as he came near. He put his cold hands back into his hoodie's pockets, even if the cat didn't seem to mind the temperature as much.

       "nh, Yeah. I got it." Jay replied, in an almost condescending tone. He got down onto the pavement and reached into his pocket to pull out his phone. After a quick unlocking, he turned on its flashlight, and pointed it up at the underside of the engine block. Jay soon found the drain bolt and began sizing it up with the sockets he had taken from Vince's garage.

       Vincent looked over the whole setup Jay had laid out for working on the vehicle. "ah, Well you weren't lying, s'far as I can tell." He commented idly.

       Jaydin glowered, but mainly kept working, trying for the right socket on that drain plug. "mh...What, you don't trust me?" He questioned back.

       Vince shrugged a little, even though Jay couldn't see it beyond the nose of the car. "I had a little doubt."

       "ugh...Well I know what I'm doing, okay?" Jay grumbled. Soon after, he found the right socket and attached it to the ratchet. Jay made sure the oil basin on the pavement was positioned right, loosened the drain plug a little with the wrench, then unscrewed it the rest of the way by hand. "I don't trust repair shops to do it right." He continues, while letting the warmed, used oil loose into the basin, the liquid showing up a dull dark brown. Jaydin kept the drain plug in-hand as he maneuvers hisself back upright and standing, coming back up to the tall dog's level and reiterating, "I just don't have the tools to do it myself." He sighed, and reached over the top of the engine block to unscrew and pull off the oil cap, just to make it drain faster.

       "Well I'm impressed." Vincent said in a chill tone, yet was genuine about it. "I'm the same way about repair shops." He agreed, while he grabbed something within the pocket of his hoodie. Pulling it out to give to Jay, it was a blue folded paper car wash towel. "That's why I do things myself."

       "Yeah. I'd prefer to." Jaydin took the paper towel from Vince and started cleaning the used oil off his gloved hand, the drain plug and the cap too with it. "So what's for dinner, huh?"

       Vincent subtly tilted his head at the question, almost questioning it back with a sharpened look shot Jay's way. "Bean and kale soup." Vince replied, then stepped back a little, beginning to turn back towards the house while he went on, "Shouldn't take too long, since I already started a while ago." The dog kept his hands warm in his hoodie all the while he coolly walked back to the garage. "Come get some once you're done and cleaned up." He raised his voice some, just so Jay could still clearly hear him across the yard.

       Jaydin, left to his own devices, got back to work alone.

       Some time later, after Jay had completely finished and put away the tools and used oil, he entered the house unannounced through the door in the garage. Jay found himself in sort of a back room that was almost as cold as the outside. Suddenly, he heard the doberman's voice, but dampened behind a second door to the house proper. "ey! Close the garage first!" They called out to the cat, to which Jaydin grunted in mild irritation, yet did as he was told before coming further in.

       Jay walked past the narrow laundry room to the left, then opened the farther door to the rest of the house; the kitchen, more specifically. Almost as soon as he got there, he recognized the place, finding himself back in the same kitchen he spoke to Vince in four days ago. Just like on Sunday, it was a lot more warm inside, perfect for a short-haired canine like Vinny. In fact, the guy had taken his hoodie off some time ago, now just topped in a red t-shirt. Vince stood attentive at the range, tending to a large pot full of bubbling soup, white beans, green kale, and bits of artificial bacon. "Hey, settle down wherever." Vince nodded in Jay's general direction. "Make yourself at home, if you want. Dinner's almost done."

       Jay doesn't respond very audibly, simply choosing to walk in front of the counter and pull out one of the stools to sit down on.

       Vincent eyed Jay from beyond the stove, watching the cat pull out their phone and set it down flat on the countertop, likely to isolate themself with. The air got to be silent between them, beyond the continuous boiling. Vincent eventually grabbed a clear lid, closed it over the pot, and turned off the induction heater below it. "Tired of talking, huh?" He broke the sudden ice between them as he finished up.

       Jaydin's lips curved down ever so slightly. "It's not like that." He answered soon after being questioned. Jay broke his focus on his phone to glance towards Vincent and their pot. "I just, don't have much to talk about is all."

       Vincent raised a brow. "oh I'm sure you do. Maybe someone just hasn't asked the right questions yet."

       The tip of Jaydin's tail flicked. "And you have the right questions?" Jay accused somewhat.

       Vincent put his palms up in mock innocence. "I'm not saying that." He stepped to the side and leaned down to put his elbows on the countertop. "Just that I figure everybody has stuff they like talking about." Vincent paused for a second, as if he were trying to choose his words carefully. "Especially the quiet ones, you know?"

       Jaydin gave Vincent a subtle squint, and Vincent could feel the slight annoyance emanating off the cat. "Besides, dinner isn't fun without someone to talk to." Vincent added, just before he reached into a cabinet and procured a couple opaque glass bowls, then pulled out a drawer to get a ladle and two spoons.

       Jay stayed where he was, leaned over the counter and patiently waiting on his serving of dinner. "So, you make dinner for people pretty often huh?" He idly questioned. As he was starting to feel the heat of the house, the cat began to undo and slip off his jacket, leaving the white t-shirt underneath exposed.

       "Not really actually." Vincent answered without much hesitation. "Most people don't even come inside; just drop their car off and get a ride somewhere else." As he spoke, Vincent opened the pot back up and began filling the two bowls up to their brim with the fresh soup.

       "What's different about me then?" Jay further questioned, roughly folding his jacket up and setting it on one of the unoccupied stools.

       "Well. Like I said, I got busy; since you got here so late." Vince replied honestly. "Normally I just tell people there'll be a delay, but, you said you knew how to do it yourself, so." He trailed off to make a point, then came closer, gently setting down a full bowl of steaming soup plus a spoon to go with it in front of Jay. "Guess I never really asked you if you had anything more important to do, but, seeing as you're still here, suppose you don't."

       Jaydin accepted the bowl and slid it closer to himself, moving his other arm behind it. "Yeah. I don't do much." He affirmed quietly, then started eating up the soup, and eating quick, like he hadn't eaten all day.

       "And why not?" Vince prodded verbally, setting his own bowl up but still patiently listening for an answer.

       "I just don't." Jay stubbornly stuck to his guns, and kept eating.

       "You live with anybody?"

       "No. Just me."

       "Place all to yourself huh?"

       "Yeah."

       Vincent finally picked up his own spoon and began to enjoy his cooking, but not before relating, "I know how that is, as you can see." The air fell dead for a moment yet again. Jay definitely wasn't a long-winded person. "You pay rent; mortgage?" Vincent addressed the feline again, while giving them a side-glance.

       "I pay rent."

       "ah, How many rooms?"

       "Why, you trying to come over or something?" Jaydin's tail flicked again, and his tone was very gradually getting more defensive.

       Vincent closed his eyes a second, while a ghost of a smile appeared across his muzzle, over a subtle scoff. "If you're offering."

       Jay grunted, unamused. "Not unless you like cramped studios."

       "Maybe I do." Vince got more snarky with Jay.

       "uh-huh..." Jaydin's grumpy face only got grumpier, while Vincent kept his un-smiling yet chill expression going.

       Vincent let slip a faint laugh. "hn, In any case, you don't sound too thrilled about living there. So let me make it known that you're welcome to visit here whenever you'd like, alright?" He said, his tone getting less sassy and more helpful, towards the end.

       "egh, Why the generosity? You've only known me for like what, half a day?"

       "Well, you're a friend of Akira, and I trust Akira well enough. Plus, you're not a liar. At least when it comes to telling me about your skills."

       Jaydin went silent once again, looking into his nearly-empty soup bowl, scooping out what was left of the kale and beans in a sea of tasty broth.

       Vincent's bowl on the other hand was half-full, and he continued eating a bit at a time. "He said good things about you, you know." He broke the silence.

       "I'm sure he would." Jay commented with some sass.

       "I'm serious. Said you're good people." Vince paused for a second, bringing another spoonful to his mouth. "Are you doubting yourself?"

       Another quiet sigh came out of Jay. "I'm just not used to that, is all." Jay answered after a moment, distinctly less snarky this time.

       After hearing that, Vincent took his gaze off of Jay. He was the one to put up the dead air this time, taking the time to enjoy his soup in pensive silence.

       Jaydin himself savored the silence, bringing his bowl to a muzzle and tipping it back to drink down what's left of the soup. The kitchen, as well as the rest of the house, had an awkward quietness to it now, til Jay was done with his serving, and set the bowl back down.

       "You want some more?" Vincent offered after a moment, seemingly leaving the previous conversation behind.

       "I'm good for now." Jaydin politely refused. After cleaning out all the fixings, he continued, "I like it though. Thanks, Vincent." Jay's tone became more level than it was the rest of the day he was with Vincent.

       Vince nodded. "mm, Thank you too. For staying." Then, he took another spoonful of dinner.

       Jay's phone suddenly vibrated on the countertop, and its screen turned itself on to reveal who was contacting him. But, before anyone could really read it, Jay picked it up and quickly stowed it back in his pocket. Vincent had politely ignored the disturbance, simply listening to Jay say, "Yeah...I like it here honestly."

       Vincent looked back over to the cat, showing a hint of a gentle smile on his otherwise neutral face. "Hmn, Well thank you again, Jay."

       "Mmh." Jaydin began to quiet down yet again, this time even looking away from Vincent, at various other things around the kitchen.

       Vincent reached over while Jaydin was distracted and lifted the empty bowl, taking it right over to the sink to rinse it out.

       When Vincent turned their back, Jaydin brought his gaze over now that he could get away with it, watching Vince while they cleaned up for a minute. Jay's phone vibrated one more time in his pocket. It was a lot quieter there, but was still felt by the cat. He let out a whisper of a sigh. "Think I might have to go." Jay reluctantly says while getting out of his seat.

       "Yeah?" Vincent turned off the water then faced Jay again. He casually dried his hands off using his own shirt. "Well I won't keep you." He assured. The dober walked around to the front of the counter, over to Jay. "Just keep in mind that you're always welcome back here. Anytime."

       Jaydin took his jacket off the other chair and started putting it back on. "I kinda wanted to stay longer, but maybe next time." Jay's unusually hesitant mood somewhat showed through his tone.

       Vincent came closer, reaching an arm out as if to offer another handshake. That arm went around Jay's side instead, and pulled the cat into a firm hug. "Like I said last Sunday, I'm here basically all day. You have my number too, if you just need someone for talking."

       Jay was surprised by the sudden show of affection. At least, that was how he saw it. To Vincent, it was simply a small farewell for now. Vincent only kept it going for just a second, after which Jaydin seemed to gently wrench themself out of the embrace.

       "heh...Yeah, I'll keep in touch." Jay adjusts his jacket and zips it back up. Seeing as he already knew where the front door was, Jay saw himself out, with Vince tailing along up until the cat stepped off the threshold. The door was gently shut for Jay soon after his tail cleared the jamb.

       Outside, Jay cursed under his foggy breath as he walked straight back to his car. The blinkers flashed, then he let himself into the driver's seat and started the car.

       Jaydin pulled his phone out of his pocket, letting out a grouchy sigh at the same time. He knew who was texting him.

       He unlocked it to get a better look at the messages received...

📶︎ 64% 21:18
M
Mom

Thursday, 20 June 2205
Where did you go?
19:25
Getting an oil change.
19:42
You didn't tell me that.
19:43
How long does it take to get an oil change?
21:11
I bet you're fucking the mechanic
21:13
Jay.. Hello??
just now
+  Text message