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Author’s Note: This will be a fairly tragic story in some ways. There will be some terribly upsetting violence (nonsexual), and the ending isn’t meant to be very satisfying. However, different people have different opinions.
Arthur’s body was forced to lurch forward a bit, but when his heart stopped battering his ribs and his goosebumps smoothed out, he realized he wasn’t hurt. His car was worse, though. He could tell. Still, he was able to pull over.
All this had happened in the hot summer daylight, on a quiet intersection with only two buildings in sight, a shop with Spanish signs and a gas station’s convenience store. Arthur opened the driver’s door and slid out of his now damaged gray car. What had collided with him? A huge black pickup truck with four doors. That truck’s bumper was dented, but otherwise the vehicle seemed fine.
Arthur’s car had more than a dent in front. It looked like something had tried to take a bite out of it, failed, kicked it with a giant foot, and moved on with a hateful grumble. His fingers slid up his brow and through his messy blond hair. This would cost money, and he wasn’t exactly craving a visit to small claims court.
“Are you okay?!”
A man’s voice. He genuinely sounded concerned. That was comforting. Arthur turned around to greet him.
Tall, tanned, muscular, and showing off shiny black hair in a low ponytail. Even though his gray eyes were pleasant to see, Arthur couldn’t think of them as showing off. There were too many worried creases tightening around them.
“I think so.” Arthur had to tilt his head back a little to meet the stranger’s eyes, and he wasn’t a short man. “What about you?”
“I’m fine,” the stranger said as he reached back to get something. It turned out to be a cell phone in a case, probably from his jeans’ pocket. “I’ve never rammed into anyone before. I guess I have to give you my number, right?”
“And I think we should call the cops,” Arthur said as he opened his car’s door again. “Hold on.” He went to get his phone. “Okay, I’m calling them now.”
After that was done, the man told him his name. Vince Jeffery. He had a fun loving smile. “Oh,” here, he held up an index finger, “we can’t just share numbers and leave it there, right?”
“You’re right,” Arthur said with a shrug. “Insurance, plate numbers, stuff like that.”
It all went so smoothly, so cordially, that it felt like they were discussing something gentle and fun, like desserts. Even when the cops showed up, everything was perfectly fair and dandy.
“It’s all my fault,” Vince said to the cops. “I’m the one who ran into him.”
And although Arthur thought his insurance would cover at least most of the damage, and even though he’d said this to the other man quite plainly, Vince took out a checkbook and said, “I got you. No worries.”
“Dude, it’s too soon for that.” Arthur was waving his hands up in a very dismissive way. “You’re supposed to wait for me to tell you how much I need to get it fixed.”
The old fashioned sound of pen against paper dug into the air. “Yeah, yeah. I know, but I feel bad about this. I’ll feel better if I give you something now.”
Arthur took a deep breath and put his hands on his hips, looking down at the ground and shaking his head. Who uses checks anymore?! Seriously! This guy was weird. “Even if you handed me cash, I wouldn’t take it. We need to do this right.”
“Shut up and take the check,” Vince said as he ripped said check out. Then he pointed it at Arthur’s chest very smoothly. He held the paper between his index and middle fingers. Those fingers were so long. There were scars on his hands, particularly on the knuckles.
Arthur rolled his blue eyes and took the check, thinking he should tear it up right in front of the other man, but when he looked at the number hastily scratched out on the paper, he paused.
“Really,” Vince said in a deadpan tone.
“Well … okay.”
They parted ways soon after that, and the next two weeks were surprisingly easy. Arthur got his car fixed in a short amount of time, and he had a bit of money leftover to cushion himself. Arthur thought of that odd man as a godsend. His rent was paid in advance and life felt less heavy. It was much easier to ignore his roommate’s snooty stares when he was in a better mood.
At the end of those two weeks, just after Arthur got home from his job as a cashier, he got a text from that weird man. As he walked through the front entrance of the modern mobile home, he held his phone up to read the text.
“Hey! It’s Vince. Did you get your car fixed?”
After Arthur closed and locked the door, he responded with, “Yes. Everything’s fine. Thanks.”
“Cool! Sorry for the trouble.”
Arthur click the phone’s lock screen into place and walked into the house’s living room. The kitchen/dining room was to his left, and the only separation was a small bar-like area with two stools. His roommate, adiosbet yeni giriş a young black woman named Tatiana, was braiding someone’s hair in that kitchen. That was how she made most of her money, and Arthur thought that was pretty neat. He didn’t know how to braid anything.
Wordless, he turned to his right and went down a small hallway. There was a little bedroom and a bathroom waiting on him. First, he freshened up in the bathroom. Then he went to his bedroom, where his bed, a small fridge, and a decent PC waited. He needed some stress relief. Work was typically dull.
Stardew Valley, Civilization V, Borderlands 1 or 2, any Witcher game, even The Sims 3, or even that weak ass number 4! He needed to do something fun. Even fooling around with the first three Princess Maker games would be nice.
He was also saving up a little money to get a console, despite the fact that he thought PCs were better. He just … really liked consoles, as silly as it was. He’d been through a lot of shit recently, and he thought he needed a stupid treat.
Arthur sighed as the pad of his index finger pressed into the PC’s power button. Then he turned on the monitor.
Holy hell did he need a treat.
All the treats.
If he was a drinker, he’d become an alcoholic.
If he was a tweeker, he’d be dead by now.
Arthur’s vice was gaming, specifically video games. He knew better than to spend more than he could afford, but god damn he’d invested so much into gaming over his lifetime!!
And he knew he was going to invest so much more. Even when he was a delicate old man, he’d probably be stuck in a wheelchair or something, and he’d be playing with whatever the best new thing was, as long as it didn’t suck ass, and so many games sucked ass. Not in a sexy way, at least.
Even when he was old …
He’d need the treats.
He woke up on this hot Saturday morning with a dry throat. He took a few chugs from a water bottle on a nightstand and sighed. It was time for some errands. He got dressed and went to his bathroom. He preferred taking his showers right before bed. He almost never bothered with showers in the morning. Sometimes, however, he liked to shave in the morning.
As he lightly applied his favorite white shaving cream, his fingertips happened to touch his crooked nose. It wasn’t naturally crooked.
He wished it was.
When Arthur felt clean enough to leave, brushed teeth, combed hair, and everything, he got his keys and wallet. Then he left for his first errand in town, a visit to a bank. After that he went to the closest Wal Mart to buy a few things. He planned a trip to a grocery store next, but he wanted to get a bite of food first. He went to the local Burger King’s parking lot, parked the car, and went into the building. One order of edible trash later, he was sitting down in a window seat and enjoying a delicious, if deflated, sandwich with a side of fries.
His second bite hadn’t been swallowed when Arthur noticed a familiar black truck rolling into the parking lot.
No way, he thought. Couldn’t be.
The man that came out of the truck was big in the best way.
Well, what do you know?
Vince Jeffery was walking into the building, his long legs closing the distance so quickly that Arthur was nearly dazzled as he watched it. He wasn’t a thin man, but he still looked like he could run fast. A few steps into the restaurant, and Vince happened to turn his head in Arthur’s direction. Arthur didn’t have the nerve to wave at him, but he did put on a wooden smile.
Vince’s smile didn’t seem wooden at all. He waved and said, “Hey!” He started walking towards Arthur. “How are you?”
Arthur lightly put his sandwich back on his tray and wiped his fingers with a napkin as he said, “I’m good. Thanks. What about you?”
When that man stood near him, a warm scent clouded over the flavors in Arthur’s mouth. Peppermint, sea salt, and warm vanilla. It made him think of ice cream and mint candies on the beach. “I have fast food maybe once a month,” Vince said with a hand on his hip. His hair was loose and shifting around his shoulders. It shifted even more as he looked down at Arthur. “I can’t believe I happened to see you here.”
“Oh, I guess it’s a funny coincidence.” Arthur took a sip of his soft drink. It was Pepsi.
“Have you had anymore car trouble?” Vince asked.
A shake of the head, and Arthur said, “Nope. I saw your truck out the window. The bumper looks good.”
Happy little crinkles appeared under Vince’s eyes. His teeth looked clean but not pure white. Those facts made his smile feel more natural. “That wasn’t a problem at all. Hey, I’m going for a walk around the baseball field later. Want to come?”
Arthur’s eyes pointed down for a moment. Then they went back up to that strong, happy face. “I … I don’t think I can. I need to go grocery shopping today.”
“Ah, that sucks.” Vince’s great chest swelled a little as he took a adiosbet giriş sad breath. “I was hoping to have a workout buddy.”
“Workout buddy?” Arthur pinched up one of his fries and poked his sandwich with it. “I’m not exactly an athlete. I can’t keep up with you.”
Vince’s head tilted one way as he said, “I don’t need someone to keep up with me. I just wanted a chat.” He wasn’t smiling anymore. “Sometimes it gets lonely all by myself.”
At first, Arthur’s body drooped over the table, but then he exhaled and straightened. He thought this guy didn’t seem like an asshole, and Arthur knew all about assholes.
That wasn’t a sex joke.
Raising a hand, elbow on the table, Arthur blithely said, “I don’t have time today, but if you want we can try a rain check.”
The other man’s shoulders rose as he put on a new smile. “That’s okay. How about tomorrow?”
Sunday morning was thankfully cloudy. Arthur parked his car at the fenced in public baseball field. It was often rented out by local little league teams. There was also a circuit of pavement with white lines, essentially a race track for amateurs, but most people who put their feet there used it for casual exercise. Arthur was wearing his old set of gym clothes and comfy sneakers when he stopped at the track. He stood near a water fountain and politely waited for his new acquaintance to show up. He didn’t wait very long at all.
The black truck rolled in its chosen place, and Vince Jeffery hopped out. His red T-shirt stretched across his chest and clung around his thick arms. He waved at Arthur and said, “Hey!”
“Hey!” Arthur waved right back. “Glad you could make it.”
As if they were already good friends, Vince lightly slapped Arthur’s shoulder as he walked by him. “Come on, let’s go.”
That action had made Arthur recoil a bit, blinking and taking a few upset breaths, but that ended almost as soon as it started. He caught up to Vince and stayed a bit beside him, on the right. It was good to exercise. Arthur wasn’t fat by any means, but he wasn’t a big tough guy either. He thought he needed to take more walks at least.
“Do you hang around here a lot?” Arthur asked.
“Nah. Just found this place a week ago. Do you live around here?”
They happened to see a stray cat sneaking off to a bush. Arthur thought it looked cute. “Maybe twenty minutes away. What about you?”
“About the same, I guess.”
Arthur scratched at his scalp. “So what do you do when you aren’t walking around?”
“Working out in general, I guess.”
A nod. “That’s cool.”
“And I like cooking too.”
Arthur smiled as he looked at him. Vince’s profile was cool yet strong. “Well if you’re a health nut,” Arthur said, “that means you probably know what foods are the best.”
“Pro-tip,” Vince said with a smirk, “don’t go vegan. It makes things way too hard.”
“Huh? How did you know I wasn’t a vegan?”
Vince shrugged and turned to give him a mischievous look. “You didn’t tell me you were a vegan. That’s how I knew.”
Arthur put a hand to his own chest and laughed. Then he wiped at an eye and said, “Okay, nice. So what do you do for a living?”
Raising his arms and putting his hands on the back of his head, Vince said, “Oh, I sell guns.”
Arthur’s feet paused.
Vince went on a few steps. Then he stopped. This fingers drummed against his dark scalp. Then he spun around and gave Arthur the most innocent look. “You okay?”
“Ahhh … nothing. It’s nothing.” Arthur put his hands in his pants’ loose pockets. “That just sounds like a dangerous job.”
The other man’s eyebrows rose. “You think so?”
It was uncomfortable.
Then Arthur stammered out, “Well … well … I mean,” he looked down at his shoe and kicked at an imaginary pebble, “don’t you get shot at a lot?”
“Are you asking me if people tend to waltz into the local gun shop, where there’s a bunch of guns, with their own guns pointed at people?”
Arthur’s face might as well have been held over a hot stove’s burner. “I … well?”
“I won’t say that never happens, but do you really think having guns with you makes the job more dangerous? There’s a reason why school shooters are a thing and gun shop shooters aren’t.”
What snarky son of a bitch.
“You know what I think are some dangerous jobs?” Vince said with quite a bit of choler. “Roofing, taxi driving, fishing, farming, welding, logging, and street walking, to name a few.”
Arthur looked away at the fence, although he wasn’t exactly focusing on the diamond shapes formed by the wires. “I guess so.”
Sharp footsteps went in towards Arthur, and there was a thick pat on his shoulder. “Hey,” Vince said with a warmer but also calmer tone, “sorry about that. Guess I got defensive. Let’s just move on, okay?”
Arthur looked up as Vince turned his back on him. “Sure,” he huffed out.
They went back to the ordinary walking. Simple, easy.
It adiosbet güvenilirmi wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it was nice.
Eventually they got tired and sat down on a bench. That was when Vince asked what Arthur was doing on the coming Friday.
“Work,” Arthur said.
“Okay, but what about after that?” Vince was wiping sweat off his forehead with the back of his head. “We should do something you like to do.”
Leaning back a little, stretching his legs, Arthur thought about it for a few seconds. “Hmmmm … well … movies?”
Vince rubbed his hands into his shirt, gathering the material near his waist and revealing some of his abdomen. No unnecessary fat could be found there. “I like movies, but are you into anime or anything like that?”
Arthur’s eyebrows rose as he curiously looked at the man’s now tired face. “I … I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Why not?” Vince straightened his shirt out. “I recently dipped my toes back in that.”
Well, it wasn’t that weird, really. Arthur made a few suggestions. Then he said, “I’m not sure if I can take you to my place. My roommate braids a lot of random people’s hair, and the customers might talk a lot.”
“Alright. Want to try my place?”
That was fine. They shook hands on it.
Arthur thought he had the wrong place at first. When Vince said he lived in a house, Arthur had assumed it was a small, one story thing. Maybe even a nice mobile home. It was actually a two story house. Arthur assumed a nice family of four could fit in there. He rechecked the address and knocked on the front door with uncertainty twisting his lips.
Thankfully, when the door opened, Vince was right there, grinning and chipper. “Hey! Get in here!”
Arthur pointed back at his car and said, “I brought some snacks.”
“That’s cool,” Vince said as he peeked over Arthur’s head, “but I got plenty of food. Don’t worry.”
The interior looked almost sterile and cold, but there were hints of old fashioned comfort here and there. Arthur was reminded of 1940s interior design for some odd reason, particularly when he glanced at the kitchen. There walls there had old fashioned white and red check wallpaper. The appliances and furniture were so white that it nearly hurt to look at them. The floor was black linoleum.
In the living room, where Arthur settled his bags of snacks and two bottles of soda, the electronics were the most contemporary looking things in sight. The television was a big, flat thing. The walls had pale green stripes. The floor had brown carpeting. The furniture had Arthur thinking of a grandma knitting. There was even a rocking chair.
Vince went to the kitchen and starting bringing out his own food.
Arthur didn’t quite know what to think of it all.
Sugar free drinks. Water. Baked chips and veggies straws with sea salt. Large sections of watermelon in a plastic container. Various nuts. Many kinds of cheese. God damn protein bars. Lightly salted popcorn. Puffed rice cakes. Ants on a log but with hummus instead of peanut butter. And slices of cold turkey. The coffee table was so loaded that it nearly seemed impossible.
“Wow,” Arthur said as he sat down on a couch, “is this what you eat all the time?”
“When I don’t want to cook, yeah.” Vince was hooking his laptop up to his television. “If the wifi dies on me today, I’m going to make a really pissy phone call.”
Gesturing towards a wooden shelf full of books and DVDs, Arthur said, “At least you have some movies in case that happens.”
The next few hours were very fun. Arthur couldn’t remember the last time he watched anything with someone else, and it was great. They both loved comedy and action, and they both disliked most romance. Ecchi was fine as long as it wasn’t too over the top.
They ate so much food, and whenever they needed a break Vince would take Arthur for a walk around the outside of the house. The yard was small, not much was around except for blank grass and a forest. There weren’t any neighbors.
“Hey,” Arthur said during one of these little walks, “do you have any kids?”
Trying to rotate a shoulder, Vince said with a chuckle, “Aha, did you see any family photos?”
“Oh, sorry, no.” Arthur rolled his eyes up to the cheerful sky. “You don’t have to be a smartass.”
He saw Vince’s expression soften a little. “Sorry. I guess I should be nicer to a guest, huh?”
Vince smiled then. His eyes looked so much brighter, like happy flecks of silver. Arthur’s heart seemed to forget a beat as he looked at them. “Let me make it up to you,” Vince said. “I’ll take you out for a drink tomorrow.”
“I don’t drink.”
“Oh? Well what do you want to do?”
Arthur turned his head towards the house, and without thinking he walked that way. Vince followed. “I don’t know, Man,” Arthur said to him. “When I get home from work or errands, I just want to play video games.”
Vince’s voice perked up. His tone reminded Arthur of a cat looking up and running towards the sound of a can opener being used. “I used to play all kinds of games when I was a kid, but life happened.” Vince stepped ahead and onto the stoop. Then he opened the door for his guest. Nice. “What games do you play?”
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