Troy was distracting himself with some day time television when he heard knocking on his door. He swallowed, and tried to put aside his anxiety. Getting up, he quickly padded over to the door and opened it. It was Shadow; wearing his thick brown leather jacket, slightly baggy jeans and his usual thunder cloud expression.
"Hey, man. Want to come in and warm up a sec before we go?" Troy asked. "No," Shadow said. "I'll warm up at the coffee place. I've got to shovel my walk first though, so just stay here for a few minutes."
With that, he turned and walked down the short flight of stairs to the first floor of the building, unlocked the door to his apartment and went inside. Troy closed his door and went to his window to watch. Shadow emerged quickly with his green, wood handled snow shovel and began throwing large mounds of snow to the side of the walk way leading to his apartment. Despite the years of illness, Troy could still tell that Shadow had once been very fit. He had a tall frame, maybe about six feet. His back was straight when standing and he moved with the grace of one who was confident in his abilities and had trained his muscles to act quickly and powerfully when needed.
It only took Shadow a few moments to clear the snow away, but he didn't immediately return inside afterward. Instead, Troy saw him stare across the street at the three ramshackle looking houses on the opposite side for a while. Bowing his head, Shadow trudged across the street and began quickly clearing the snow from their walkways as well. Two of the houses on the other side were owned by an elderly couple who had lived there for decades and hardly came outside anymore except for occasional grocery shopping. In the third lived a middle aged leopard mother and her three cubs that she raised by herself. Troy smiled, placing a paw on one side of his muzzle and cocking his head to the side. Shadow was so gloomy and rough all the time; but if you watched long enough and closely, you could see his true personality shine through sometimes. This kind act reaffirmed Troy's feelings for the black furred wolf and increased his desire to deepen their relationship.
As Shadow finished up and started back towards the apartments, Troy quickly went to his bedroom closet and retrieved his light blue hoodie with words "Free Tibet! *with purchase of equal or lesser Tibet" printed on the back. He also changed his pants to the tighter fitting jeans he preferred when walking in snow. He was just exiting his apartment and locking the door behind him when Shadow reached the stairs and called up to him. "You ready? I'm pretty much numb from the neck down!"
"Yeah, let's go." Troy replied, walking quickly down the steps. Briskly, they headed toward the small coffee shop, the Silver Creek Café, which was fortunately only about four blocks away from their apartments.
They reached their destination quickly, wanting to get out of the cold outside and speaking little as they walked. As they entered past the old wooden door of the café, a wave of warm air greeted them, making it uncomfortably hot for a few moments. The place wasn't fancy, but Troy kind of liked it for that very reason. Established years ago before more of the town's population and economy had shifted more towards the college further south, the place had an old, care worn charm that Troy found very relaxing. Situated strangely between some obscure industrial looking buildings, the business stayed afloat catering to the various workers and surrounding small residential areas similar to where Troy and Shadow lived.
"Uh...why don't you go get us a table Shadow, I'll get our drinks. Caramel latte sound good?" Troy said. "Sure" was all Shadow replied and, predictably, began walking to a table near the back of the sitting area, away from any other nearby customers.
It took a few moments for Troy to reach the counter. The miniature grandfather clock sitting next to the register showed 11:15 a.m. but it seemed some of the lunch rush customers had started filtering in a little early.
When he was finally able to order his two drinks, Troy noticed the cashier glancing down at Shadow sitting at the back table before going to prepare their lattes. She was a golden furred Lab and of a similar age to Troy himself. He didn't know her that closely, but he had been coming here enough to talk to her a few times.
When she came back and handed him his order she said "This is the third time I've seen you here with him. A pity, he's kind of cute."
"Er..." was all Troy said, coughing a little and blushing beneath his fur. "Sorry, customers." She said and started to turn away "You two make a lovely looking couple. You should tell him to smile more often though!" she called over her shoulder as she went to help the waiting patrons.
Thoroughly flustered, Troy walked to their table and set Shadows drink in front of him then took a seat on the other side. A lovely looking couple? Did they really? Images of himself and Shadow in the coffee shop, laughing, sitting next to each other in a booth instead of across a table floated lazily across his vision. He was startled out of these pleasant dreams by Shadows deep voice and a paw waving back and forth before his eyes.
"Hello, space wolf? You in there?" Shadow said. Starting a little, Troy shook his head. "Sorry, just thinking about some things. How's the latte?"
"It's good." Was all Shadow said, but Troy had watched him closely enough over the last couple of months to notice the tiny sparkle of enjoyment in those eyes as Shadow delicately lapped the extra foam off the top of his drink. The image made Troy giggle inside.
Suddenly a large form loomed over their heads, causing both of them to look up in surprise. Leaning with his paws on the table was the biggest Doberman Troy had seen in his life. The table groaned slightly under the weight of those arms, the size of which suggested that this particular canine must be an experienced travelling refrigerator juggler or possibly that he boxed with oncoming locomotives in his spare time. He had close cropped head fur, a docked tail and a snarling, sneering muzzle that made clear he was not going to ask them about the weather.
Without preamble, he growled "I just want to say that I don't appreciate what you're doing. I won't start anything here. I've known the family of this business too many years to do that, but if you see me in the street you'd best cross to the other side, quick!" And with that, he pushed off the straining table and stalked quickly out of the shop.
Shadow looked at the retreating figure in utter confusion. "What the hell was that all about?" He said. "I...don't know, strange." Troy said, looking down somewhat guiltily. Shadow didn't notice, he was looking out the store windows and watching the angry Doberman return to one of the industrial buildings.
Shaking his head, Shadow returned to drinking his latte muttering something about crazy dogs and docked tails. Troy said nothing, his drink hardly touched. That jerk had completely ruined the whole mood. Trying to pick up the pieces of his concentration, Troy sat in a slowly awkward growing silence for a long moment. Finally, he was able to speak, his voice croaking a bit at first.
"So...uh..." He cleared his throat. "Holiday break starts on Monday, no classes for two weeks. Got any plans?"
"No." Shadow said, not meeting Troy's eyes. "I don't usually do much during breaks." Troy's tail twitched. This was it, the first step. He took a deep breath. "Well....I-" but his words got caught in his throat as Shadows watch started buzzing. "Sorry. One second." Shadow said quickly. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out and opened a small tin labeled "THURS". Taking a small pill from inside he placed it on his tongue and swallowed quickly, following it with the last of his drink.
Troy huffed softly, annoyed. Things were not happening like they were supposed to. He waited until Shadow brought his attention back to him. "Sorry, you were saying something?" Shadow said.
"Yes." Troy said. "I was going to say that during the break, um, I was thinking that during the break, if you wanted to come with me it would be fun...I mean, if you wanted to, we could go...during the break for a few days..." What was happening? This was all wrong! Troy growled to himself mentally. "Why don't you say 'during the break' a few more times, just to make it an even number? Geez!"
"I'm confused." Shadow said. "What the crap are you talking about?"
Troy sighed, then took a breath and spoke slower. "Let me start over, here. I was thinking on going on an ice fishing trip for a few days during the break and I thought it might be cool if you wanted to come with me." There.
Shadow looked down for a few moments, and then said "Um, nah. I don't think so. I'm not used to camping out in snow. And I don't know how to ice fish anyway."
Troy maintained his calm composure. Outside. Inside, a yawning chasm filled with yipping, snapping demon furs had opened up beneath his feet and sucked him straight down into never ending torment. He just smiled at Shadow and gave a little shrug.
"Ah, it's no big deal. I was just wondering. I'm still not even sure that I was really going to go in the first place." Troy said, reaching over and taking a sip of his lukewarm drink. His paw shook a little, but he was able to stop it quickly. "You know, I think I've had enough coffee. I'm just going to use the bathroom real quick, then we'll head back home I guess." Shadow nodded and leaned back in his chair as Troy got up and headed to the back door labeled "Males".
Shadow looked around the small shop while Troy was in the bathroom. He still felt oddly out of place here. He normally stayed home, or maybe went on walks by himself. It had been so many years since he had had the inclination to go to a busy public place. Let alone the fact of having someone with him to go to said place. Even after these few months of meeting Troy, he still didn't know quite what to make of it.
Then, someone was tapping him on the shoulder. It was that female cashier from up front. "Hi." She said, smiling at him. "My name's 'Lenna." She paused, expectantly. After a second, Shadow coughed. "Oh, um, Shadow" and shook her paw.
"I'm really sorry about earlier." Lenna said shaking her head. "Bernie's actually a sweet old hound, but he tends to step on the paws of anyone who makes him uncomfortable. Please don't be too upset with him."
It took Shadow a moment to realize what she was saying. "Oh, that. It's fine; I don't really know what made him so angry."
Lenna smiled again, "He's just old fashioned, I guess."
"I guess..." Shadow said. Not really understanding. "Well, I'd better get going." Lenna said, turning around. "But, just so you know, your partner looked rather upset about something when he walked past me. You might want to talk to him." She smiled again, and then went back towards the front counter, speaking briefly to other customers.
Upset? Why would Troy be upset? Shadow looked down at the table. He probably doesn't get why I never want to hang out more. He drummed his paws on the table for a bit, deliberating. He'd been thinking about telling Troy the truth for a little while now. Even though he didn't show it much, it did feel better having someone around that wanted to talk to him. Shadow didn't know why it was so hard to tell him. It was just such a huge thing, so final; he thought maybe he feared confirming its existence by telling someone else.
Troy had been so determined to help him. It didn't seem fair to keep him in the dark, for Shadow to just disappear some day without Troy knowing why. He thought briefly about what he should do. Then, breathing out a short huff, he decided.
Troy finished dabbing his eyes with the clump of paper towel. Stupid! He'd screwed everything up! Ice fishing? What a dumb idea, he hadn't even thought of whether or not Shadow knew how to ice fish. Gods, he felt like sticking his head in the toilet and drowning himself! It'd be easier and more enjoyable than walking back over to that table right now.
Sighing, he leaned his head against the bathroom mirror and whined sadly. Shadow would be wondering what was taking so long. He had to control himself and get back out there. Looking at his stupid reflection one more time, he gave his whole body a shake, then took a trembling breath and headed back out of the bathroom.
He walked over to their table and said "Ready to go?"
Shadow looked up at him as if startled. "Uh, no. Actually. I wanted to ask you something." He said looking down. Troy walked over and sat in his chair. "What's up?"
Shadow sighed. "I was thinking about it. And...well, I don't really know how to ice fish, or whatever. But I do know a spot in the park that no one ever goes to. The trees block most of the snow too. I guess, if you wanted, we could camp there for the weekend." Shadow looked extremely agitated. "It might be kind of....fun, you know?"
Troy just stared. He couldn't believe this. It just wasn't possible in this universe that anyone could be so inconceivably lucky. Shadow fidgeted, "so...you want to do that instead?" Troy blinked. "Yes! Yes!" he coughed, "I mean, yeah. That sounds way fun, let's do it."
"Okay." Shadow said, "We'll probably have to find a gear shop somewhere, but it's a date."
"A date." Troy agreed, his inner pup chasing its tail and doing marathon laps in his mind.
End of Part 3
Writers Note: This part went completely different than how I expected. I had thought to see Troy's plan perfectly executed, but instead we find him struggling after a fumble only to see him catch an unexpected hail mary. (lol, I enjoy football, go Broncos!) I hope you all enjoy reading this as much as I did. Comments are definitely beneficial in securing your place with the angelic cherubim :3