Current Track: Blabb

Crossing his arms,
Octo looked outside the car window. Not far was his family house. It was
moderately decorated from the outside, showing just enough to impose yet
restrained enough to be called refined. It was big, too big for just a family
of three, even though they weren't the only ones living here.

To him, this felt
too much. Even though he grew up here, he valued practicality. Since he moved
to Barrowisle to attend university, he understood that no matter how big or
small was the room, if one felt comfortable in it, then it was home. University
had really changed and improved his way of thinking, and he was glad of it.

He considered
himself to be a smart kid at school, but that didn't come with a cheap price.
His parents wanted only for the best for him, he knew, which was also why he
eventually found comfort in spending his time in his father's library. Books
provided windows to worlds he never had the chance to see. Solitude provided a
reason for him to think about himself; how to persevere, how to fend for
himself, and later, how to rely on himself.

When he was in mid
and high schooler, people used to get close to him for material reasons, and
while there were some who genuinely wanted to be friends with him, he already
learned the lessons and grew to dislike extravagance. Be happy with what you
, Ferdinand, the family butler before Nicholas, used to say to him
before he stepped down and moved out, when you are happy with what you have,
then you shall not ask for more.
Octo learned it the hard way when he
pushed his parents that he wanted to learn to use guns. One innocent bird was
killed that day.

Even though guns
left a bad taste in his mouth after that day, he continued to learn them
because he thought it would be useful one day, aside from the fact that he did
not want to lick his own spit.

Thankfully, after
the seemingly never-ending studies, training, and more studies, university felt
like a breath of fresh air. When he graduated high school, he was proficient
enough in guns and his parents—his father, actually—felt that now he was a
fully responsible adult. He never felt this level of independence and
responsibility. Always willing to learn, he quickly got used to living by
himself, even more so that he could finally let his mask down, even for only a

However, those
were all in Barrowisle and he was in Ausalt-on-Haye now. The car slowed down as
they reached the entrance to the house. Closing his eyes, the panther gave a sigh
before opening the car door and getting out. Somehow, this house in front of
him began to feel less and less like home. As if he was becoming something his
parents wanted, not what he wanted.

No, his parents
were not overly strict or demanding, but as a child of the main branch of the Zoccarato
family, he was expected to be someone. Someone brave, strong, and smart was
what was expected of him. Even though the Zoccarato wasn't a large family, they
already made a name for themselves, and he was to continue that name.

“Good evening,
sir. Can I help you with the suitcase?" The current family butler, Nicholas, greeted
him as he climbed up the stairs, dragging his suitcase.

Octo didn't look
at the tiger, his mind too exhausted. “Thanks, but no need."

“Of course, sir.
Your father is waiting for you in the dining room later this evening."

He just went
inside and nodded. “Yes. Thanks, Nicholas." Having spent so much time with each
other, he knew that Nicholas knew that he was tired and upset, and when he was
tired and upset, he was best left alone.

Octo chuffed as he
went inside. He was well used to this. Go home, have dinner this evening,
sleep, have breakfast the next morning, then free time or a serious talk with
his parents. He already memorised every aspect of this ritual-like monthly
family gathering since he moved to Barrowisle.

Actually, he could
just go to their room and talk; it wasn't like they were so out of reach. His
family liked customs and rules, but not all aspects of their lives were
dictated by rules. Like now, his mother saw him walking to the living room and stood
up to greet him, outstretching his arms for a hug. “Octaviano! Finally you

He pulled her into
a hug, smiling tiredly. “I miss you too, mom."

“Are you well? How's
Barrowisle? You asked for a leave, didn't you? You look exhausted!"

“I'm fine. I'm
okay." The panther let his mother go. “I'm doing just fine there."

“Oh, good! If you
need help, just call us, okay?"

“Yes, mom. Don't
worry. I just need a rest right now." He straightened his bag. “Where is dad,

“In his study with
your uncle. Do you want me to call him?"

“No, it's okay.
I'll head to my room and rest. The dinner is at 19.30 like usual, isn't it?"

“Yes. Go rest up,

“Of course, mom."
He crouched a bit to let the leopard give him a quick peck on the forehead.
“I'll be going."

Inside his room, the
panther put his bag down on one of the sofas and took his jacket off. He opened
the buttons of his shirt and sat down on the sofa, tired from the journey. Finally,
something soft. Really, he wanted nothing more than a quick nap right now.
Unfortunately, dinner was just an hour from now; he couldn't afford to be late.

Octo took his
shoes off and leant on the backrest, letting out a sigh. His phone buzzed in his
pocket, but he ignored it. Instead, he let himself enjoy the sofa, tail lazily
waving beside him. He didn't really have anything to do for now.

Looking at his bed
on the other end of the room, he contemplated whether to nap there or not. He
was too tired, though, so he only put his legs up and lay down on the sofa,
hands behind his head. At least a calming moment before the dinner, which he
was in no way looking forward to.

Sometimes, he
wondered if his parents dragged him here just to annoy or to bore the heck out
of him. He glared over the table where his extended family were having
breakfast together, as if last night's dinner wasn't enough. And again, they
were trying to get him into the conversation about things that he really had no
interest in. Family restaurant? Fine. Uncle's company? Okay. But watch brands?
He didn't even wear watches.

He didn't want to
have a piece of expensive jewellery on his wrist just for the sake of having a
piece of expensive jewellery on his wrist. The money could be used to buy
something else, like food, clothing, or a laptop or computer where one can get
things done, or even be invested in the stock market. But a watch? Whose purpose
was just to show time? He knew that watches had sentimental values and he
appreciated when a device lasted for so long, but there was no justification
for five thousand euro watches other than extravagance.

He finished his
desert and pushed the plate forward. He really wanted to go back to his room.

“I heard you
haven't been wearing that watch I bought you, Octaviano. I'm concerned if you
don't like it."

Don't like it? Yes,
I don't.
“No, not like that." He said smoothly to his aunt.
She was really the personification of extravagance. He didn't doubt his uncle's
decision to marry her, though; behind all that bling, she was a good person. “The
watch is just of very fine quality. I want to wear it only for very important
occasions. During my time at the university, I couldn't wear it in fear of
damaging it."

She smiled delightfully
at him. “Well, thank you, Octaviano. I was beginning to think you don't like
it. It's nice to hear that you're taking good care of it."

“I'm glad you
think so." as in, believing my excuse. My, you sure are gullible.

Across the room,
he saw Nicholas standing near the entrance to the kitchen while watching over
the table. Attentive as ever, he thought. The tiger caught his eyes and gave
him a sympathetic smile. Octo just sighed and rolled his eyes; they both shared
the same dislike of inefficiency. He could tell that Nicholas also thought that
this breakfast was a waste of time.

The panther took
another piece of pastry from the tray in the middle of the table. It was more
sugar, but whatever, it was better than being here for another ten minutes. The
topic was now moving to automotive, and some of his nephews were
enthusiastically joining the conversation.

He muffled a groan
and saw Nicholas smiling at him. Ugh, that tiger.

Glancing at the
clock above the door, he saw it was almost 11. The suffering should end soon
when his father remembered that he had things to attend to. However, looking at
the older panther, Octo had a suspicion that he had to endure this for a bit longer.

Really, he was
here just to respect his father. Their relationship had been strained ever
since his graduation, along with his mother though to a lesser degree. Although
it had been one and a half years, they hadn't talked much. Since he moved to Barrowisle,
he made it his personal mission to minimise contact to at least just once a

Octo huffed and
leant back on his chair. His father had always been strict and hard to impress,
but when he did impress him, his father would smile brightly and compliment
him. His father didn't have many demands, and even when he had some, they were
reasonable, but his last one…

“Oh, look at the
time. It's 11." His father finally said. “It's been a lovely talk. Thank you
for coming, I hope the food serves you as delicious."

“Of course, Giuseppe!
You and your wife always cook the best of meals!"

“Don't be like
that, brother, you know your cooking is the best."

Octo just rolled
his eyes. Maybe it was the one thing that set them different from the other
“rich folks". His parents cooked their own food, and in turn, taught him.
Nicholas even told him that his pride as a butler was hurt whenever his mother
cooked some food for him.

His father stood
up, and everyone followed. They shook hands with each other, then one by one
excused the room. Octo just smiled at them when they shook hands with him. Some
asked him to hang out later today and he only replied with “We'll see about it

He was about to go
back to his room along with the others when his father called him. “Octaviano,
study room in ten minutes."

Huffing a breath,
he nodded at his father and walked outside the dining room.

As he walked
towards the bathroom, he took his phone and replied to Tom's text before
looking at the clock. Ugh, ten minutes seemed not to be enough. After doing his
business in the bathroom, he pocketed his phone and exited the bathroom, almost
dragging his tail.

“It was a
delicious meal you have prepared, sire."

Tail shooting out
in surprise, Octo glared at Nicholas who suddenly appeared beside him. “Yes,
yes it was."

The tiger simply
smiled as if oblivious to his unspoken annoyance. “You still make the best

“It's simple to
make. I only perfected the sauce, even only added some more meat and tomatoes."

“Yes, sire, but it
still tastes exquisite."

The panther
finally smiled at him as they walked along. “You seem to like my food so much,
Nico. Also, what's with the 'sire'? I'm not that old."

“Am I guilty for
missing your food ever since you moved to Barrowisle?"

He laughed a
little. “Shouldn't I be missing your food ever since I moved to Barrowisle?"

“Your mother has a
tendency to… hog the kitchen for her own use." The tiger said rather

“Well, she's the
head chef of our restaurant." He shrugged.

“Anyway, to the

“Yes. You know,
the usual." He pointed to a large wooden door next to him. “See you later this

“I'll be looking forward
to it, sir."

“Also, you might
want to keep your tail from waving too much."

The tiger yelped a
bit and took his tail, gripping and hiding it from view. “R-right, sir."

Octo chuckled a
bit as he watched the tiger walk away rather embarrassedly, then took a deep
breath and looked at the door. It had been a while since they talked about it.
Now he should be prepared, especially with his own visits to the Barrowislander

With a sigh, he
opened the door and went inside.

His father, Giuseppe,
was sitting behind a large desk with his mother, Maria, on one of the sofas.
They both looked up at him coming in and greeted him. “Octaviano, come sit

He did so, sitting
on the other sofa. “You want to talk to me?"

“Yes, it's about
you and the operation."

Internally, Octo

“You have visited
the headquarter twice, yes? Are there any more things you want to say?"

He shrugged. “No."
After a brief pause, he added. “Things have been going well. Operation Red Wolf
was a failure. They lost 15 men. Nothing to be added."

“I see." Giuseppe
nodded, then turned to his mother. “Maria, how about the restaurant?"

“We're planning to
expand to Barrowisle and right now we're surveying the available buildings to
rent. The one in the Legerville district seems nice."

“Good. Octaviano,
do you have any recommendations?"

“Not really. Operation
Red Wolf took away an empty alleyway which otherwise could be a quite strategic
position for the restaurant. Besides, Legerville is expensive." He sighed, then
looked at his father in the eye. “Shouldn't I be the one who handles the
restaurant in Barrowisle?"

“Octaviano…" his
father sighed and took his eyeglasses off, then looked at him with a tired
expression as if finally letting his emotions be shown. “You know you're meant
to handle the operation. One day you're going to take my place to handle it. The
restaurant too will be your responsibility but for now you are to handle the
operation. Barrowisle is a city we should expand into, yes, but for now, leave
the restaurant to your mother."

“I know but come
on, dad. You know I like cooking." He crossed his arms.

“I know you do,
but I also believe you can do well handling the operation fo—"

“I can't do it."

His parents looked
at him, surprised at what he said. He himself was amazed at cutting his father.


Octo glared at his
father. “I can't do it."

Giuseppe's eyes
narrowed. “You can't do it, you will do it."

“I won't do it."

Maria wanted to intervene
but was cut by Giuseppe. “You will do it. That's not a question."

“And I'm turning
it negative. I won't do it." Octo's eyes narrowed. “I did what you wanted me to
do, and that made me not want to do it."

“You will d—"

“I will not!
And that's final. I might be able to monitor or supervise the operation for a
year or two, but I have no intention to continue it." He raised his tone.

His father rose
from his seat. “Octo, you will do it! The operation will be your

Octo kept staring
at his father's eyes, not backing down at all. It might not be the wisest thing
to do to one's father, but he felt the need.

They glared at
each other for what seemed like five minutes before Maria stepped in. “Now,
now, please calm down. Octaviano, are you sure about this?"

Giuseppe let out a
heavy sigh and sat back down. “I really shouldn't have spent so much time with
Leonardo. Old git's too cunning for his own sake." said the older panther,
giving a chuff before turning back to his son. “You know it will be your
responsibility one day, Octaviano. I want that you be accustomed to it before
it finally becomes your responsibility."

“Dad," Octo said,
softening his tone. “I'm 23. I finished college and have a job. I can decide
what to do with myself." He wanted to continue that should he leave the house,
he could still live by himself, but he held back. He wanted to continue that
this operation was against his morale, but he held back.

It seemed like his
parents knew those, too. His father buried his face in his hands and sighed
heavily. Maria was at Giuseppe's side, patting his shoulder to calm him down.

“Just… we'll talk
more later." His father said without looking up at him.

Octo gave a chuff
and nodded. “Dad, I'm an adult now. I decide what to do with my life."

He stood up and
wanted to leave, but his mother said to him before he could leave. “Octaviano, we'll
talk a bit more about this later in the living room. Sorry, but this is
important." She smiled at him.

The younger
panther nodded, then smiled back at his mother. “Yes, mom. I'll be in my room."
He then turned back and exited the room.

Outside, he gave a
huge sigh and leant on the door. Somehow, he felt empty. Things had been going
very well until his graduation, until this news came out. Suddenly, it felt as
if a rock was thrown and they were waiting for it to hit the water, to break
the still surface and disappear in the depths, leaving the mess it caused. He
knew the reason why his father couldn't just let go of the operation, but he
didn't understand them, and frankly, didn't care much about them.

Perhaps it would
be best if he went to find Nicholas or some of his siblings-in-law to help him
cool down from feeling like he wanted to punch something. The walls wouldn't be

They all knew it
wasn't Max's fault. No one blamed him. Everyone was let down, but no one blamed

Octo could only
watch the dog's slumped back as he walked away from the bus. His teammates were
all down from today's defeat. It was nothing important, though, just a
friendship match with another university in Barrowisle, but Max took it to
heart. No wonder, though, since it was his first match as a captain.

The sky darkened as
if agreeing with the German Shepherd's emotion. Clouds began to cover the
afternoon sun. Octo looked at the sky; it was going to rain tonight, a heavy

Andy put his hand
on his shoulder. “C'mon, mate, let's head to our dorms."

The panther didn't
look away. “You think Max is gonna be okay?"

“I hope he is."
The lion sighed, uncharacteristic of him. Max's frustration really dragged the
team down. Despite his attempts at calming everyone down and smiling at them,
they all noticed several drops of tears falling down the dog's cheek. Really,
they all felt guilty for letting Max down.

Coach said they
all played very well and that he was very impressed with their progress as
first years. However, Inter-Uni was just three months away, and it was their
responsibility to keep up with the training and win the Lower Ysenhalt shire
tier to secure their place in the national championship. Therefore, to Max,
today's loss was not mere loss. It was an indication that they were not strong
enough, and most importantly, that he was not good enough as a captain.

Octo didn't
realise it at first, but he overheard the coach talking to Simon, the captain
of the football club. Despite the loss, they were still impressed at today's
game. The panther didn't know whether they said that because they knew someone could
overhear them or not.

Max's figure
disappeared behind some trees, and Octo walked away from the bus with Andy,
joining the others. “Nice kick, Oct." Sam said to him when he and Andy joined.

The panther
nodded. “Thanks, Sam. I really need to learn to catch the ball the way you

The horse
chuckled. “We'll get to it next week. Looks like Yohan wouldn't be able to do

“Hey, Oct." Simon
called him. “Max went to his dorm already?"

“Yes. He left
immediately after we got down." The panther glanced over the corner of the park
where Max went.

“Ah, okay. See you
next week, I guess." The badger scratched his nape. “I really hope he's okay."

Sam said to him.
“That's gotta be tough. It's his first time being a captain."

“I know, that's
why I really hope he's okay."

“Sorry for
interrupting, but I think I'll head home." Octo said, politely interrupting
them. He noticed the others left already. “Thanks for the match. See you next

“See ya."

“Good work, panther."

He nodded at his
upperclassmen and walked away, tugging softly at Andy's t-shirt.

The ride to his housing
was silent. Andy, for once, was quiet. Well, they were all tired, but unlike
many times before, this time the burden felt heavier. He heard the lion let out
a sigh and fought the urge to calm him down. Instead, his mind thought of Max.

He knew the
feeling. It must feel just like when he graduated his first karate belt when he
was little. He felt like he was 'upgraded' of some sort, that he was better and
could handle more. However, his first match with a then-evenly belted opponent
was a devastating defeat. It felt like he was not enough, that he had tried his
best, had earned the recognition and responsibility, but he was still not

As Max's
co-captain, he understood the feeling.

The panther sighed
and pushed all those thoughts away. So today they lost, big deal. They should
learn from today's defeat and improve, which was exactly what he would do
tomorrow. He'd ask for the recording from the coach tomorrow and watch it to
find some mistakes in their strategy and forms.

Andy pulled the motorcycle
over. Octo looked at his housing, then got down and gave the lion's back a pat.
“Thanks, Andy."

“No probs. See

“See ya."

The panther walked
inside, taking his shoe off and putting it on the shelf next to the door. He
might need a new pair of shoes since this one was already worn down.

“Heey, panther!
How was the game?"

Octo glanced at Zhang
and Steve who were playing a game on the console. He didn't answer, just
letting out another sigh before walking to his room to put his bag and take
some fresh clothes.

“That bad, huh?
Sorry, mate."

“It's fine." He
said to the kangaroo as he walked to the bathroom.

Stripping down, he
walked into the shower and sighed heavily. He leant on the wall, relieving some
weight from the sore paw pads of his feet. They had to stay in their defensive
position for the majority of the game, so he had to guard his position. Maybe
it was why his claws hurt; they were pressed too tightly against the insides of
the shoes.

The panther took
the shampoo and applied it to his body, quickly scrubbing his fur. He was
tired, but still eager for a nice sleep. When he was done, he washed his body
and stepped out of the shower. He shook his body for a bit before drying it
with a towel and a blower; he was so looking forward to some food.

Putting a fresh
pair of pants and t-shirt on, he opened the fridge and noticed his portion of
the chicken chest was missing. “Where's my chicken?"

Zhang replied from
the living room. “We ate it, sorry! There was no food after you three left.
Steve bought you another, though, it's next to the fridge."

“We wanted to tell
you but you didn't answer your phone."

He looked at the
package, then took it and walked to the living room. At least they bought him another.
“Where are the others, anyway?" He said as he sat on another couch next to the

“Out for some
fucks, maybe."

Octo rolled his
eyes and ate his dinner, just watching his two housemates playing the console.
He quickly finished his dinner and then put the empty plate in the washtable.
Even with that portion he was still somewhat hungry. He opened the fridge to
see if there was any more food but found nothing.

And it was raining
outside, ugh.

Fine, he was tired
anyway. He walked towards his room, looking forward to getting a nice sleep.
“If you need me, I'll be in my room. Actually, don't come into my room unless
it's important." He opened the door to his room. “God, I fucking need a break."

“Sure, mate."


Inside the safety
of his room, Octo plopped down into his bed in a rather undignified way. He
buried his face in the pillow, his tail softly swaying from side to side in the
air as he was glad that he could finally lie on something soft. Today had been
exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

Right, his phone.
He sat up and reached for his bag. He hadn't checked his phone since the start
of the match. When he got it, he turned it on and… it didn't turn on, maybe it
ran out of battery.

He furrowed his
brows and plugged it in. He powered it on and instantly the notifications came
pouring in. Zhang did call him twice earlier today, along with a text saying
that he was going to take his portion. There was another message from Boleslaw,
though, asking if he could borrow his notes for Basic International Law.

He sent the elk a
text. “Sorry, just got home from a match. You still need my notes?"

The reply came

Boleslaw Napiatek:
“Yeah if you don't mind. I go to your dorm?"

Octo glanced at
the window. It was still raining, but not as heavily as before. He was tired,
but his hunger was now making itself more prominent. Maybe he could go out to
get something to eat along the way. “I can go to your dorm. Give me 15

Boleslaw Napiatek:
“Thanks mate, I'm at my dorm rn. You know, doing tomorrow's assignment"

He took the notes
from his study table and chuckled at the text. Shaking his head at his
classmate's naivety, he put his notebook into a small waterproof bag and headed
out. “I'm going to a classmate's dorm, and maybe getting something to eat. You
want me to get you something?"

“Just get us
whatever you get." Steve answered without looking away from the television.

“Sure. I might
come back later, though. Steve, I'm borrowing your umbrella."

The kangaroo gave
him an ok gesture. He took the umbrella with an amused smile, then went outside
into the rain.

It was raining
gently when he closed the door. At least he wouldn't be all wet by the time he
went back here. Boles?aw was in the east dorm, so he didn't need to walk to the
other side of the university complex to get there.

When the panther
arrived, he took the stairs and went to the third floor to the elk's room. Before
he arrived, he passed by Max's room and stopped for a bit. The room seemed
quiet. Was Max okay?

He walked away. Maybe
he shouldn't disturb the dog. Maybe Max was already asleep.

“Boles?aw, it's
Octo." said he as he knocked at the door.

“Wait!" The door
then opened. “Yup!"

He took the notebook
from the small bag and gave it to the elk. “Here's the notebook. Return it
tomorrow before class, okay?"

“Sure, stary!
Thanks a lot! You wanna come over for a bit?"

“I'll pass. I'm
about to get something to eat."

“Okay then. Thanks
a lot!"

“Tomorrow, before
class." He nodded at the elk and walked away.

He passed by Max's
door again. It was quiet, and it made him worry. Was Max okay? He knew the
shepherd was a tough lad but when he remembered how upset he was…

Max was probably
still upset now.

He gave the door
some gentle knocks and said, “Max?"

No answer. Maybe
the dog was really already asleep. However, the door opened when he was about
to walk away. “Yeah? Can I—Octo?"

The dog looked
tired. His fur was unkempt and somehow… the fur on his cheek was rather damp.

“Oh, sorry if I
woke you up. I was just…"

“No, dude, it's
fine." Max asked him, then opened the door. “Come in."

The panther just
followed the dog and went inside. Max closed the door and sat down on his bed
while he sat on the chair. “Where's your roommate?"

“Staying at his
friend's place to do some group project." Max simply said. He still sounded
upset, but this time, it lacked the frustration from before. He simply sounded
like he had given up.

“Max, are you

The dog looked up
and ran his fingers through his head fur. “Yeah, panther, I'm okay. It's just a
tiring match. Yeah, we lost but there's gotta be 'nother match, right?" He
ended with a smile.

Octo could see
through that fake smile. He merely stared at the dog.

“Oh, come on!
Why's everyone asking me if I'm okay or not?! I'm okay! I'm fine! Fuck, the
team's been texting me like I'm a criminal and they're the police or

There it was.

“If you come here
just to ask me that, I'm fine, Oct! Haven't got anything to eat but it's been
raining since afternoon!"

Without thinking
much, Octo stood up from the chair and sat down on the bed in front of Max. The
dog's eyes widened, then narrowed in caution. “What the fuck are you doing?"

The panther didn't
answer. He took the dog's hands and squeezed it softly. Max growled and tried
to pull away, but he replied that growl and kept holding his hands. That
stopped the dog's attempt to pull away, but he was now trying to get away while
his ears went down.

“Um, dude… er,
what are you doing?"

“Ssh, just stay
quiet and listen to the rain."

They went quiet.
Octo didn't say anything, just holding the dog's hands. He could feel the dog's
anger and frustration slowly radiated away, replaced by anxiousness and
confusion. He gently squeezed the hands, then softened his hold, then squeezed
it again, then softened it again.

Max closed his
eyes, his ears slowly going back up. They were close, not close enough until
their knees were touching, but still close with their hands in each other's

Eventually, Max
let out a sigh and squeezed his hands back. He did it a few times, then finally
letting out a huge sigh. “Thanks, dude, I… I didn't know I needed that."

Octo smiled at
him. “You're welcome." He wanted to continue and say that he understood the
feeling, but he held back. He didn't want to talk about it, not when Max
finally looked up and smiled sheepishly at him. “Don't hold it in, okay? You're
our captain, and it's not only your fault. We all played as hard as we could
today." His gaze then softened. “I'm your co-captain, don't hide things from
me, okay?"

Max looked away,
“Y-yeah, I know that." Then he sighed again. “No, yeah, you're right."

“You're not a bad
captain, Max. If you are, then I'm a bad co-captain. I trust you; we trust you.
We can get to the Inter-Uni."

 “Yeah. Thanks, Oct, I really needed that." The
dog looked at him and smiled. “Can you, uh, can you let my hands go now?"

Letting the dog's
hands go, the panther smiled back at him. It was still raining outside, but at
least Max wasn't as upset as before. Food could wait for a bit; he did tell his
housemates he'd get back later. Now, he should talk with Max to get him away
from the anxiety.

They were still
sitting close, but Max didn't pull away. He was glad at that, that although Max
knew about his sexuality, he didn't push him away. “Do you wanna get something
to eat? I'm still hungry, too." He asked the dog.

Max looked at the
clock on the nightstand, then replied, “Sure. Are the canteens still open,

“I'm sure they

The dog nodded,
then stood up and stretched his body a bit. His fur was still unkempt, but he
didn't make any attempt to make himself look more presentable. He only shook
his body and pocketed his phone. Octo stood up and exited the dorm, then Max took
the keys and locked the door.

“Dine in or to

“Eh, both are