It had to work this time.
The mantra played in Feliciano's head like a beacon of fresh optimism as he tapped his white cane about the sidewalk and along the edge of the building. He had tuned Lovino out long ago to familiarize himself with his new surroundings (discernible, smooth edges, no stairs, sidewalk flat and snug and settled deep in the grass) and every step, he knew, brought him closer to his new best friend.
Well. He wasn't supposed to think of them as his best friends (even though they were); they were working dogs, meant to aid and assist, not to cuddle and pamper. This time he would do better. This time he would be strict. It was important, he could hear his brother reiterate. He needed a companion that would keep him from walking into the middle of a street at the wrong cue.
Lovino's voice changed volume and direction, so Feliciano moved accordingly, keeping side by side with the older Italian. He could hear the glide of an automatic door moving aside and a blast of cool air told him that he was stepping inside the building.
"And for God's sake, listen to the trainer this time! The dog's no good if you pamper it!" Lovino finished as they walked up to the counter. He glared at the smiling women behind. "Vargas. We have an appointment." When Feliciano started wandering away, the older brother grabbed him by the arm out of instinct. Just because he was curious about what the wall felt like or whatever it was this time didn't mean he could go wandering off.
Feliciano smiled and when he heard one of the receptionists speak, the smile around her words was audible, and he knew he'd done well. Her voice was lovely, soft and sweet, like marshmallows. And he realized that he had been listening to the sound of her voice and not her words, so he said in apology, "I'm sorry, miss, but your voice is so pretty that I just didn't hear a word. Could you say that again? I promise to listen this time."
He heard a little titter of laughter and Lovino's scoff.
"I said," the lady giggled, "that Antonio will be here in just a moment to bring you to your trainer. He'll know who has been assigned to you."
"Thank you," he replied warmly.
Lovino took him by the arm, leading him to some chairs. "I seriously can't count the number of times you've used that line. It's so cheesy!" But it always seemed to work. He was convinced that the girls fell over Feliciano because he was blind. It made him seem so charming, in that vulnerable kind of way. If anyone else said that thing about the voices, girls would easily see through the cunning deception.
After a few minutes, a fairly tall man with dark skin and darker hair came to them, smiling. "Hi, my name is Antonio. You must be Feliciano. And I'm sorry, I wasn't told your name?" he said, turning to the man that was obviously his brother.
Feliciano listened and found himself smiling as Lovino was just as terse as normal. Since Antonio seemed to direct most of the conversation at his brother, it left Feliciano a window of opportunity to just listen to this new man's voice. It was a rich, lilting tenor, and judging by the sound of it, Antonio probably laughed a lot, and smiled a lot more. He continued to smile through his words as Lovino gave him an unhealthy dose of verbal abuse and snappishness, and that made Feliciano happy.
Then he was being spoken to and beckoned, so Feliciano stood. He felt Lovino take his arm, which was really unnecessary and sometimes threw him off balance and made it harder to direct himself than being left alone would, but Feliciano could never tell Lovino that. His brother, despite his callous facade, was very soft and sensitive inside, and this made him feel needed. Feliciano wouldn't hurt him, not for the world, so he wouldn't take that feeling from Lovino.
Antonio, though, had obviously noticed. "Feliciano, I must ask, do you normally need your brother to help you? As I am sure you're aware, in order to have a Guide dog you have to be ably to travel independently. If you're uncertain, the dog will sense that, and will not know how to act."
Lovino took his hand away, crossing his arms. "He can get around fine! It's not like he always has someone to hold his hand for him. I'm just helping, bastard, so back off."
Feliciano reached out, searching with his hand for a bit until he felt the skin of Lovino's forearm under his fingers. He slipped his hand down and around his brother's, smiling. "I can walk myself, but it's nice to have Lovi with me," he said honestly, and though he could hear Lovino scoff at his words, the hand beneath his own twisted and fumbled to hold his back.
The nice young man led them through the halls of the building, and after two rights and a left, they entered a wide doorway. Feliciano could smell fresh paper, leather, and the lemony undertone of chemical cleaner. An office. Antonio cheerfully greeted someone named Ludwig.
Lovino let go of his hand momentarily, and Feliciano assumed it was for a handshake. "My name is Ludwig," came a deep, rumbling voice that sent little prickles running over the back of Feliciano's neck. "I am an instructor. Please sit. I will be asking some questions, to just try and narrow down which Guide dog will be right for you." He nodded to Antonio.
"Well, I will leave you in Ludwig's capable hands. I will probably be seeing you both again," Antonio said with a smile that grew wider when Lovino scoffed and looked away.
Feliciano bade him farewell and found his seat, easing himself into it. He could hear Lovino flop down into a chair nearby. Smiling in the direction from which he could hear Ludwig's voice, Feliciano did his best to pay close attention. It wasn't hard. Ludwig's voice was firm and clipped, every syllable firmly cut from his vocabulary and uttered with assurance. A deep baritone. German-accented. Feliciano had no time to decide whether or not he liked it as Ludwig's tone did not much allow for wandering thoughts.
He answered the questions honestly, pausing every so often when Lovino cut him off (and judging by the tone in his brother's voice, Lovi really, really didn't like Ludwig), but Ludwig always made sure to bring the questions back to Feliciano.
After that, they did a quick walking test, to make sure that Feleciano could get around on his own with ease. Ludwig gave a nod, mostly to himself, and walked up to the man, making sure his steps were audible. "I see you are very adept at knowing your surroundings. Which is to be expected, since you were born blind, correct?"
Lovino spluttered, and Feliciano too was caught somewhat off guard by the brusqueness of the question. It was so rare to meet a person who spoke to him in such a manner; most were sheepish and overly polite, and even on occasion apologetic, as though they had wronged him in some way by being able to see. The ones who did speak in such a way were bullies; they did it to hurt, to express superiority. Feliciano was frightened by those sorts of people, because he had been the victim of many cruel pranks growing up. He much preferred the company of the painfully polite, even though they did get a bit annoying sometimes.
But Ludwig's tone, though sharp and businesslike, gave no hint of venom or cruelty. It was simply a question he wanted an answer to- no hidden meanings that led up to some hurtful punchline. Just a question. So Feliciano laid a hand on Lovino's shoulder and nodded. "Yes. I can walk just fine; I have for all my life! Lovi likes to help me, though. He takes good care of me."
"Yes, I can see that," Ludwig said. Whether or not he recognized the social faux pas he had committed, one could not say. He worked frequently with the disabled, but he much preferred dealing with his dogs than humans, and had never quite been in touch with societal norms. "Well, if you will wait here, I will bring dogs by one at a time, and we will see which one fits." He already had a few in mind; a medium-sized dog would work best, according to Feliciano's height, and it seemed that he could use a dog that had a medium walking speed. He went to get the first.
When he came back into the room with the dog, he walked her over to the chair. "She should be the right height for you, now I would like to see how you are together."
Feliciano listened to Ludwig's instructions carefully and did as he was told; walked up and down the hall with the dog, commanded it, and returned when Ludwig called. He laughed breezily when Ludwig told him he had to be firm when giving commands. "Sorry," he said lightly, "I just love dogs. I don't want to sound mean, you know?"
"You will not sound mean. You will sound authoritative. But I can tell that you will need a 'softer' dog. They are best for someone like you." He took the German Shepherd mix by the leash. "I will bring you someone else."
Next was a Golden Retriever, but he hadn't worked out, walking too close to Feliciano, causing him to almost trip, since he wasn't used to walking with a dog. Then a Labradoodle, who walked too slow for the Italian, and turned out to be a bit too big. Finally, Ludwig brought in a Chow. From the look on Feliciano's face as soon as he felt the fluffy black fur, he thought it wouldn't work out, what with the boy's history of coddling his dogs.
So Ludwig was firm, even firmer than he had been for the past half hour, and Feliciano visibly flinched. To his and Lovino's surprise, despite the obvious display of discomfort, Ludwig's tone did not soften to match Feliciano's delicacy. "You must be firm," Feliciano heard him continue. "Must. This is Ebony. Chows are incredibly intelligent and empathetic, but they have minds of their own. Where a Labrador will follow you vacantly, a Chow will lead with purpose. But you must be firm."
Still a bit shaken from the unrelenting tone, Feliciano nodded. He touched the soft, fury head once more and straightened, commanding her forward. The creature walked at a brisk pace, but nothing Feliciano couldn't handle. She sat when he commanded it, and led when it was ordered. She found doors for him and he made it around a few rooms and back with only minimal use from his white cane. He only knew that he had returned when Ludwig offered a gruff congratulations.
"She seems to be responding to you well. A good height for you. But you must remember: do not treat her like a pet. Treat her like a coworker." He congratulated her on a job well done. "I believe she is the best fit for you. Would you agree?"
Interestingly enough, despite the clipped and time-wary tone of Ludwig's voice that left no room for disagreement, Feliciano could not help but laugh. "Yes," he said, and with the chuckle still quietly moving through him, he held out an expectant hand. It was grasped firmly an easy second later by a large, rough hand; much bigger than Feliciano's, strong fingers, firm grip, professional, masculine, honest. A handshake could tell a lot about a person. Feliciano decided that he liked Ludwig. "Thank you. When should I come back to work with her again?"
They arranged another appointment for later in the week, and when they left, Lovino was so angry he didn't even realize that he wasn't holding his brother's hand. "That guy is such a jerk! Can you believe him? The way he talked to you was so rude! I wanted to punch the bastard!" He huffed and glared at nothing in particular and crossed his arms, still fuming.
But Feliciano tapped the sidewalk rhythmically with an air of excitement, his smile broad. "He wasn't rude," Feliciano said when Lovino paused for breath. "He was just professional. He was doing his job. I think he was very nice."
Lovino scoffed, but left it there.
So they continued on to the bus stop in relative silence, Feliciano's mind and body positively buzzing with excitement.
Feliciano instantly halted his motions, and cocked his head just slightly to the side. He knew then why Ludwig had the job that he did; he was very good at making whoever he was talking to follow his commands. When the German sighed, Feliciano stood, his back straight. "Try again. Stop engaging with her every time she listens to you. She is your guide, not your playmate. Understand?"
The young man nodded, his smile a tiny flicker on his face. It was the third meeting, and still he was having difficulty with keeping his hands to himself where Ebony was concerned. "Sorry. Let me try again."
This time Feliciano kept to the rules well, and Ludwig told him so. "Now I think it is time to go for a walk outside. I would like to see how you handle her there. You will need to remember that she will listen to your commands unless something is wrong, so if she stops, there will be a reason." They would need to go into many different environments to see how they would both react. Since he had trained Ebony himself, he knew she was very well equipped for all sorts of situations, but it was always different with someone else by her side.
Feliciano nodded and folded up the retractable cane and let Ebony lead him to what he assumed to be a back door. He could smell freshly cut grass and the warmth of summer air when they walked out, and Ludwig's footsteps followed at a safe distance behind him. "What should I do now, Ludwig?" he asked, more comfortable with the man's first name than he would addressing him as 'Doctor Weilschmidt'. He had asked if Ludwig minded the last time, and he'd received not so much of an answer as a splutter, but the lack of refusal was good enough to serve as permission for Feliciano.
"We actually have a small course set up, just a series of turns that she will lead you through. I need to see how you react, trusting her instincts." Ebony knew where it was, having gone through it plenty of times. "It is just a bit to your left. She should be able to take you there." Ludwig watched as they made it through, and Feliciano was following her very well, not reaching out to feel the walls or anything.
They returned with ease and Feliciano stood proudly, but there must have been something in his face, or perhaps Ludwig was a clairvoyant, because he knew somehow, somehow that Feliciano had not been able to resist a few tiny cuddles with the dog along the track. "I did," he admitted abashedly, "but if it makes you feel any better, I think she was as annoyed with me about it as you are."
Ludwig looked at him, and shook his head. "You have to stop cuddling her. I know I shouldn't have given you such a fluffy dog..." Although they did look very good together, and he was a little bit glad that the Chow was somewhat intimidating. Hopefully, that would stop people from giving Feliciano a hard time. Feliciano had mentioned the bullying casually and in past tense earlier that week, but it was still bothersome to know that anyone could inflict cruelty on such a light-hearted young man... who, to Ludwig's surprise, had an expression of concern and nervousness written around his dark sunglasses.
"Don't take her away," he begged, as if Ludwig was threatening any such thing. "I'll do better, I promise."
Ludwig gave a sigh, holding his head in his hand. "I won't. By now it's probably too late to change the dog anyway." Since none of the other dogs had worked for him, and Ebony was already getting used to Feliciano. "But this session is almost over, so I would like to talk about your next one. It would be good to have it at your house, to get her used to that environment."
Brightening instantly, Feliciano reached out and felt for Ludwig's hand, clasping it once it had been found. "Does she get to stay with me yet?" he asked excitedly.
"Maybe after a few more sessions. If I let you take her now, you might undo all the hard work we've done in getting you to not pamper her." Since he knew Feliciano's past with Guide dogs, he was sure to be extra strict.
Feliciano huffed, though it was just for show. "Fine. But... are treats okay? And squeaky toys? What can I do for her?" He let go of Ludwig's big, warm hand and crouched down, smiling when he could feel a warm, wet nose turn in his direction to press curiously against his neck. He made a noise of surprise when a tongue bathed him in heated affections and laughed upon remembering accidentally spilling his yogurt on the front of his shirt earlier that morning at breakfast. Apparently, even though Lovino had wiped it away, the taste still remained. "She likes sweets! Isn't that cute?"
But the blond was frowning. "No, it's not. She can't have a treat unless she has done something good." But truth be told, Ludwig was impressed by how far Feliciano had come in a short amount of time. They still hadn't gone out in public yet, so they were far from finished, but he was doing fairly well so far. Which brought up a question. "You know, you seem to get around very well. Yesterday you were skipping when you came over here. Why do you need a Guide dog?"
The Italian sighed and gently pushed Ebony back so he could stand. "Well," he began, readjusting his glasses, "I've tried three before now, but I always loved on them too much and sort of... ruined them?" He felt a bit awkward and sheepish, which he hoped wasn't translated too clearly through his smile. "So they didn't really work well, and I learned to take care of myself. But I was almost hit when I was crossing the street a month ago, so Lovi made me come try again."
Ludwig was unsettled by the last part, even though it may very well have been a fairly common problem for the blind. "I knew about the past dogs. But... well Ebony should work out for you, so you won't have that happen again."
Feliciano smiled. "I think so. She doesn't act very happy when I try to play with her. Sometimes I think you have little talks with her before I come to make sure she keeps me in line."
"She is well-trained, and that is just her personality." Ludwig looked at his watch, noting that it was the end of Feliciano's session. For the rest of the day, he would be working with a new puppy, which he always found to be a satisfying challenge. "Well, we should head back inside. I'll need to put Ebony back in her kennel."
"Yes, captain," Feliciano teased and turned, reaching down to where he knew Ebony's big, fuzzy head was. "Until Friday, bella," he cooed, and she snuffled wetly against his wrist, making him laugh.
The German let out a huff, holding the door open for them. He walked Feliciano to the front door, taking Ebony's harness. "So we have your address. If you would be ready on Friday at two o'clock, I will be there on time."
"Of course," he replied cheerfully, and reached out until his fingers found Ludwig's well-muscled shoulder, ignoring the tittering of the two receptionists somewhere behind Ludwig. He smiled and retracted his hand. "Thank you, Ludwig! But, ah, that sounds like siesta time. Would you like to come a little earlier?" He couldn't hold back the hopeful note in his voice. "I can make breakfast."
"'Siesta'? Isn't that just a nap? Why should I rearrange my schedule around your nap time? Besides, you are much too old to be having naps. You sound just like Antonio." It bothered him enough when the Spaniard slept on his breaks and slept too long. People should sleep at night, in his opinion; they should get a solid eight hours of sleep, and then they wouldn't be so tired.
But Feliciano had learned not to be hurt by Ludwig's tone. He just laughed and patted the German's shoulder. "Trust me, you'll be really mad if I fall asleep when we're out and about."
His blue eyes narrowed. "We will be walking, you can't fall asleep while you're walking."
But he felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to see Antonio, who had apparently heard everything. "Don't worry Ludwig, I can take any appointments you have in the morning so you can go over. He said he would make you breakfast, and I hear Feliciano is a really good cook." Not that he would say where he heard such a thing.
The young man visibly brightened. "I am!" he insisted eagerly, squeezing Ludwig's upper arms. "I really am! Please, won't you have breakfast?" The receptionists giggled and whispered.
The grinding of Ludwig's teeth was practically audible, especially to Feliciano. "I eat breakfast at six thirty in the morning, exactly. I will be there at six fifteen." He was hoping that the early time would make Feliciano change his mind, and go with the time that the German had already written in his day planner. How he hated making changes to his day planner.
"That's so early..." But Feliciano's grin just broadened. "Ah, but I'll be able to siesta sooner! Yes! I'll have breakfast ready, Ludwig. Ciao!" And he turned, humming to himself as he scanned the perimeter with his white cane.
In order to calm down, Ludwig took Ebony back to the kennel, and went in with the new puppy. He much preferred dogs than humans.
Dogs were easier to train.
At exactly six fifteen on Friday, Ludwig stood at the door of a surprisingly large house. Did Feliciano perhaps still live at home? He had never heard anything about his parents. He looked down at his watch. It was now six sixteen. Why was the Italian not answering the door yet, when Ludwig had told him exactly when he would arrive? Ebony looked around the place, not going to explore without command, as trained.
After another moment of waiting, there was a brief clatter from somewhere in the house and a shout, and footsteps hurried to the door. "Coming!" came the muffled cry from inside, and soon the sound of locks being fumbled with made way for the sound of the knob turning. Breathless, Feliciano smiled out the door and up to where he assumed Ludwig's face might be. "Hi, Ludwig! Sorry about that... I was pulling something out of the oven."
Ludwig tried to stay annoyed, but this was the first time he had seen the Italian without his sunglasses. It was strange; instead of being blue like he would have expected, his irises were a very light brown.
Ebony stood up, bringing him back. "Yes, well, I had told you when I would be here, so perhaps you should have adjusted." He walked in and looked around at the expensive looking furniture. It was very organized, as he would have expected; there was nothing on the floor to trip on, and everything had its place so he could find it. Regardless of its tidiness, there was dust on all the shelves, and it didn't look like he had cleaned the hard wood floors in a good long while.
Feliciano followed at a slow, calculated pace, but seemed not to be focused on his footing at all as he made his way next to Ludwig. "Sorry again," he chirped. "Normally people aren't really all that punctual. You were right on the dot! I wasn't expecting that."
He led Ludwig into the kitchen, and Ludwig almost choked on air when he saw it. How many dirty dishes could one possibly make just cooking breakfast? In the sink, there were dishes piled up high, and he wondered how Feliciano could have possibly balanced them. "You... don't clean up as you go, do you?"
"Hm? Why would I?" Feliciano laughed and made a beeline for the stove. "I have to be careful to keep track of everything in one place, so doing the cleaning and the cooking all at once... well, it's just a bad idea." He reached out, and with only a second of searching, flicked the knob for the oven off. "Once, I accidentally used dish soap as cooking oil. Lovi cried. I ruined a perfectly good chicken."
He supposed that made sense, but the mess was almost unbearable. "If you have a few more things to do, I'll start cleaning." Ludwig told Ebony to sit, and he pushed up his sleeves to do the dishes. Soon the sink was filled with soapy water, (he was careful to put the soap back in the exact same place) and he started scrubbing every pot and pan and dish and glass he could.
There was no real conviction in his tone when Feliciano said, "You don't have to, Ludwig, it's breakfast time! You should be eating, not scrubbing." Feliciano tripped over Ebony and caught himself on the counter. "Whoops! So that's where you are. Sorry, bella." He grabbed a couple of plates from the cupboard just to the right of the sink and cautiously made his way back to the stove.
But Ludwig kept scrubbing. He would stop once the food was ready, but Feliciano was doing a few last minute details. "You made breakfast, so I'll clean." Mostly because he couldn't imagine eating in a room this messy. Just looking at all the dirty dishes, he knew that he would lose his appetite if he tried to eat right then.
He completely missed the smile Feliciano sent his way. "You're very sweet, Ludwig, do you know that?" he hummed, gingerly pulling the hot muffins from their silver pan. "I heard that German breakfasts aren't very extravagant, so I thought you might just like some muffins and coffee? Or milk? I have juice, too."
"That would be nice. I haven't had fresh muffins in months." They smelled very good, but he wanted to finish the dishes first. He was quick though, finishing in half the time it would have taken Feliciano.
As he was wiping his hands off on the dish towel hanging on the stove, Feliciano was finishing with the table. "Come sit," the Italian invited, pulling the chair out and smiling in Ludwig's general direction.
He did, and watched the steam rising from the muffins enticingly. As per her training, Ebony remained seated, just sniffing the air for the smell of the food. "Er... thank you for breakfast." Ludwig took the butter, quickly smearing it on his muffin before placing it in front of Feliciano's plate.
"You're very welcome." Feliciano found his own seat and moved forward, reaching for his plate. He seemed surprised to find a muffin already resting there. "Did you... Oh, thank you, Ludwig."
The trainer watched as Feliciano absentmindedly broke off a piece of his muffin and started to reach down. Quickly, Ludwig grabbed his arm. "Don't you dare," he warned, and was glad to see that Ebony was also resisting going forward and taking the food, but just barely, her tail twitching and a quite whine trembling out of her throat.
The young man jumped in surprise, brown eyes wide. His sun-kissed cheeks reddened a bit and his lips curled into a sheepish smile. "You're really observant, Ludwig."
"I have to be. It's part of my job." He let go of Feliciano's hand, glad as he retracted it and ate the piece of muffin. He knew that some of his coworkers thought he was too harsh to his disabled clients, but he saw no reason to treat them any different just because they were blind. They had to be trained just like the dogs, the only difference being that if the human was bad, he couldn't discipline them. So, with the owners, he had to resort to verbal discipline.
Feliciano nibbled on his muffin and nodded in Ludwig's direction. "Why are you a seeing eye dog trainer, Ludwig?" he asked, licking his fingers of the sweet strawberry muffin crumbs.
Ludwig shrugged, even though Feliciano would not be able to see it. "I like dogs. I like training dogs. I started out as just a helper when I was in school, because I liked the dogs and the school was close to where I lived. The instructor said I should become a trainer." A lot of people that didn't work with the disabled thought that people would go into that profession to help the blind, but if you had that thought, you wouldn't be able to work with them well. They were independent people, and they just wanted to get around safer.
"And you're really good at it, too," Feliciano said in awe, a goofy grin coming over him. Then he grimaced. "Er... please don't hate me for undoing the work of people like you. Playing with the dogs, I mean. I never meant to reverse all of that effort and training. I just like dogs. They're so sweet and playful. They just want affection, and I want to give it to them. You know? Do you have any dogs of your own?"
He coughed into his hand, a little uncomfortable. "Um, yes. I have three." Three dogs and him, all living in a fairly small apartment. But they got out as often as possible, and were trained enough to not bother anyone else. In fact, they were so trained, that he had taught Aster to fetch the dog food when Ludwig was particularly busy. He would open the door and say 'food', then the dog would walk down the block to the pet store, where he had a credit set up. Aster would take the food, go to the till so the owner could put it on his tab, and walked home. It had been one of Ludwig's most challenging projects, and he was rather pleased with himself at the result.
Feliciano's eyes went wide. "Three!" he said dreamily. "You're so lucky. I bet they're the best dogs in the whole... oops. Sorry, Ebony." He tutted himself for the slip. "I bet they're wonderful. Of course you would. You really do like dogs. What else do you like, Ludwig?"
It took him a few seconds to think of something he liked just as much as dogs. There was his brother, but no, he would definitely not be on the list. He enjoyed war stories, but didn't think that counted. So finally he responded with, "Wurst."
The auburn locks fell across Feliciano's shoulder as his head cocked to the side. "What's that?" he asked curiously.
"Thick German sausage," he replied easily, taking a sip of his milk.
Feliciano choked on his own glass of juice and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, ears pink. "Oh?" he finally squeaked, and for a moment he really was very confused. "You like that kind of thing...?"
"Yes, they taste really good. You should try one some time," Ludwig replied simply.
"Eh?" he said, voice cracking. "Um. Uh. Well, I mean, I.. I'm not really... I haven't ever t-tried... How's the muffin, Ludwig?"
The German was a little confused why Feliciano was blushing so much, but answered anyway. "It's very good. Um, thank you for making them." He wiped his mouth with his napkin and stood up, taking the plates to the sink. "But I think we should get on with the session. We can't waste the whole time eating."
"Oh, that's not true at all," Feliciano said with a bit of a laugh, expelling the odd conversation with a wave of his hand. "But I see your point. Where to, captain?"
"You should take her around the house. When she is familiar with it here, we can go outside and I'll show you how to interpret the things she does: for example, she always stops at a curb to let you know it's there." After this, they would be spending most of their sessions going to different types of places, but for now they would stay close to Feliciano's home.
Feliciano stood and reached out, his fingers slipping through the thick black fur of Ebony's head down her back until he could reach the handle breaching out from the harness. "So... so do I just... take her on a tour?" he asked quizzically.
Ludwig hummed an affirmative, and followed the Italian around the house. Seeing all the rooms, he once again wondered who owned the house. "Does your brother live here as well? Or are your parents living here too?"
Feliciano shrugged as they walked through the bathroom into an adjoining bedroom. "Lovi's got his own place. This is one of our summer villas. I'm just staying here for college."
The words took a second to sink in. "Your... summer villa? Are you... wealthy?" Obviously he would have to have money, because Guide dogs were fairly expensive, but... A summer villa! And then there was Ludwig, who felt like he was going to be paying off his student loans for what seemed the rest of his life.
"Not mine," Feliciano said, letting Ebony pull him through the room. "My family's. I don't even have a job."
"Oh. So this is your parents house." That made sense, at least. Feliciano just came from a rich family, which also explained the very finely-tailored clothing that Ludwig noticed the Italian always wore.
"Mmhmm," he hummed offhandedly. "Well, my grandfather's, really. He gave me my first couple of years of college as a birthday present." His smile twisted a bit at that. "The art institute. He likes to humor me."
A birthday present? He was given a house and college tuition as a birthday present? What would they get him for a wedding present? A whole island in the Caribbean? Ludwig's teeth were grinding together, thinking about the life Feliciano must have had. For his own twentieth birthday, he had received a single book.
"Ludwig?" Feliciano turned outside of the doorway, searching for the German with unseeing eyes. "Why'd you stop walking?"
Startled out of his thinking, the blond continued walking. It was a little bit creepy that Feliciano could hear that well, considering they were on the carpet at the moment. "Sorry. I was thinking."
The muscles in Feliciano's face relaxed and he smiled, letting Ebony lead him down the hall. "I thought maybe you needed to use the bathroom. You're welcome to, by the way."
"I- um... yes, please. Continue showing her around the house. I remember seeing one, I'll be back." He went into the bathroom, not actually needing it. Ludwig washed his hands, and splashed some water on his face. Even in here he could see evidence to Feliciano's wealth, from the size of the bathtub to the quality of the bathroom tile.
After a moment of inspection, he returned to the hallway, and found the two wandering past a row of bedrooms. "Shall we go outside?"
Both Ebony and Feliciano seemed to be in instant agreement and after locking up, they made their way down the street by Feliciano's home. "It feels so nice today," the Italian breathed, tilting his face up toward the warm sun. "How far should we go?"
"We'll just see how you do." As a test, he took them to a curb, and Ebony stopped like usual, but Feliciano kept walking for a few steps. "She stopped, that means there is a curb. If she stayed still even if you kept walking, that means it's unsafe."
"Oh," Feliciano said, and stopped just inches from the curb. "What a good girl," he cooed, ruffling a hand through her fur. Then he froze, straightening. "I mean... smart girl. But I wasn't playing with her," he insisted.
At that, Ludwig actually snorted. "Of course you weren't." They did a few more exercises, mostly dealing with the things that Ebony was trained to detect, and how to tell when she saw something. "The most important thing is just to trust her. If she does something or goes somewhere that you didn't tell her to, there is a reason, so just follow her."
"Yes, Ludwig," Feliciano said, eager to prove himself to be a diligent student. The German sometimes sounded impatient with him, but he always gave Feliciano room for improvement, and all the younger man wanted to do was prove that he was capable. Ludwig was the first person to make him work for himself in ages, and he wouldn't make a mess of the opportunity he'd been granted to impress him. "Is there anything else I should know?"
"There are many things you should know. But that should be good for this session." He started leading them back to the house, because he should be getting to work soon. Antonio had said he would take any appointments he had, but he didn't want him to take too many of them.
Feliciano trailed along beside him, and realized that he had to keep a brisk pace to keep up with Ludwig's calm, even strides. He had already known the man was tall, but his legs must have been very long in comparison to Feliciano's own. Curious, he reached out, and felt up the German's arm toward his face. "Wow," he gasped. "You're really tall!"
A little awkward with the physical contact, Ludwig cleared his throat. "Yes. I am." There was no point denying it. "There are taller people though." Obviously. It shouldn't really be all that surprising; he wasn't the height of a basketball player or anything.
"You're as big as my grandpa," he said in wonder, fingers brushing over the side of Ludwig's face and up into his hair. It was soft, and a bit stiff from product, and it slicked back under his fingertips. It was difficult to keep up the investigation while walking, so he retracted his hand after a bit.
Ludwig quickly ran his fingers through his hair, making sure that it was still back as normal. "You- ah... talk a lot about your grandfather." He had mentioned him a few times now, and seemed to be the only family member that Feliciano talked about besides his brother.
"Yeah," Feliciano agreed. "He lives in Italy still. That's where Lovi and I grew up, and after we moved, that's where we would spend our winters. I was home-schooled, so the extended vacation was fine, but Lovi had to change schools a lot. When he wasn't busy, he would take us lots of places over his homes in Rome and Venice. Well. Me, mostly. I think he wanted to share more things with me because Lovi could see and I couldn't. But it hurt Lovi, and that made me sad, because it wasn't Lovi's fault that I'm this way, so I made him stop taking me."
The German hummed, and they went in the house. "Well, when will the next session work best for you?"
Brightening from the mood he had put himself in, Feliciano let Ebony go once the door was closed. "Any time! Oh... well, I have class on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the morning, and Saturday evenings... but I'm free any other time."
They made plans, the next one not so early since Feliciano was already starting to yawn. So Ludwig took Ebony, and headed to the door. "I will see you in a few days then."
The Italian had already begun to unbutton his shirt in preparation for the siesta before he remembered something. "Oh, and Ludwig!" Feliciano said, catching the front door before it could swing shut behind them. "Ludwig, don't eat before you come. Let's go out for an early supper. My treat."
Of course, Ludwig's mind went to the training. "Yes, that would be good, you need to be in a restaurant with Ebony. But, ah, I couldn't let you pay. I'll pay my own." Of course, on his budget it would have to be a fairly cheap place, better than fast food, but nothing fancy.
Feliciano's grin may have been translated as cheeky. "We'll see," he answered cryptically. "Bye bye, then."
When Ludwig and Ebony arrived at Feliciano's house, he had decided that they could go somewhere that served pizza, which was filling and inexpensive. There was at least one within walking distance, and the tables were usually far enough apart to allow more than enough room for Ebony. He knocked on the door, and was glad when it didn't take Feliciano too long to answer.
What he did not expect was for the young man to be dressed in so... so dapper a fashion. He opened the door in a pastel blue shirt, tailored perfectly for his body, and deep, dark charcoal gray slacks. He smiled and reached out, his hand meeting Ludwig's chest. "I hope you're hungry," he said.
"Uh... yes. But... are you going out after? If you're busy, we can reschedule." Even if he didn't like rescheduling, he would be alright with it, as long as it was for something more important than a nap.
Feliciano's smile was a puzzled one. "No, I'll be walking home after. Why?"
"Well, you are dressed rather..." He was at a loss, not knowing if Feliciano would even really know what it was to be dressed fancy. "Nice. You look... nice." A little overdressed to be going to a pizza joint, especially when Ludwig was only wearing a button up shirt and jeans.
"Oh?" Feliciano moved aside so they could come in and closed the door once they were. "But we're going out. It's normal to get dressed to go out. I can't just go out in public with my pajamas on." He cracked a conspiratorial grin at Ludwig. "Well. That's what Mama always told me. I could care less, you know?"
"Right..." He passed the handle on Ebony's harness to him. "Well, shall we go? I figured we could go to Boston Pizza, it's within walking distance from here, and they have fairly good food. It sometimes is a little noisy, but this time of day it should be fairly quiet."
But Feliciano looked dubious. "Lovi says the pizza there is shit," he said with a puzzled furrow in his brow. "I don't want to be rude, but Lovino and I have the same taste. I don't think I'd like bad pizza. I heard that Angelo's is really good, though."
Ludwig rolled his eyes, silently glad that Feliciano couldn't see him. Of course he would want to go there; Angelo's was one of the most expensive places in town. "Boston Pizza has other things, not just pizza. It's a regular restaurant, they are just known for their pizza. You like other things, don't you?"
The Italian tucked his bottom lip between his teeth in worry. On one hand, he did want to please Ludwig, who was the first person to spend so much time in his company aside from Lovino in a long time, even though it was only a professional relationship. On the other, he really, really couldn't stand bad food. It could ruin a whole evening. "Angelo's has a lot of food, too," he tried again.
Ludwig tried to come up with another reason why they should go to Boston Pizza, that wasn't 'It's cheaper.' But, it was closer to the house, it was obviously better food, and he had never been in there to have anything bad to say about it. "But... Boston Pizza has a dish I like."
Feliciano wrinkled his nose in derision. "But," he argued slyly, "if I don't like it, I probably won't eat it, and I'll probably feed it to Ebony. Which is bad," he added, as if Ludwig needed the reminding.
"But... pizza..." Ludwig tried desperately to think of something else he could say, but gave up when Feliciano started pouting. "Fine. We'll go to Angelo's." He just wouldn't eat that much. And it wouldn't be the end of the world if he just didn't buy treats for his dogs for a week. They were well trained and didn't need the extra encouragement anymore.
Brightening, Feliciano grabbed his keys from the bowl by the door and wrapped his fingers around Ebony's harness. "It's a nice long walk, so you'll be plenty hungry by the time we get there."
He was a bit grumpy about the soon to be extremely expensive dinner, so Ludwig's tone was somewhat harsher than usual, picking on most of the things that Feliciano did. "She can't tell the color of the light, so you have to know when to go, and she is just in case. You still need your instincts."
"Ah! Okay," Feliciano said, listening for the noise that signaled a safe trip across the street. He led Ludwig downtown, the bustle of Friday night crowds in the college town thick and pleasant. Feliciano had always loved being in the middle of a group of people. Hearing laughter, feet on the pavement, people on phones- the scents of different shops, cool air blasting from each open doorway. He loved the liveliness of it all.
Ebony, for her part, did very well, keeping Feliciano from bumping into anyone. The Italian was used to doing it on his own, but it was nice with the added help. Soon they got to the restaurant, and Ludwig was rolling his eyes at the extravagant entrance. Why would anyone pay this much for a meal?
Conversely, Feliciano was taking in all of the delicious scents from within and his mouth was beginning to water. He smiled when the hostess asked if there were only two in their party. Her voice was pleasant, clear and almost sharp. Ludwig answered for him and when he heard a pair of heels clacking in the opposite direction, he followed.
They sat down, and Ludwig took the menu, looking at the prices. Was there anything under twenty dollars? Even the salads were expensive! "Ebony should just sit by your chair, you don't have to hold onto her or anything." Maybe he could just say he wasn't hungry.
Feliciano obligingly let the harness go and folded his hands in his lap. "Would you please read the pasta dishes out loud to me?"
He looked up, realizing that of course he would have to, they wouldn't have braille menus. "Right..." He read them aloud and grimaced. They all sounded extremely fancy, and he had no idea what most of them were.
Feliciano made an appreciative noise and his head bobbed. "Ludwig, Ludwig, you should get the Ricotta, and I'll get the Fettuccine, and we'll see which one we like best! And next time we can try the other two, and then we can deduce which pasta is the best."
He looked at how much the pasta cost, and shook his head. How could anyone afford this place on a regular basis? "Well, I was thinking of just having a salad." Which was still over-priced, but it would have to do.
Feliciano gasped. "No way! You're such a big guy! There's no way a salad could fill you up! Please, Ludwig, get pasta with me. You won't regret it."
Ludwig sighed and closed his eyes. Feliciano just didn't seem to realize that not everyone was from extremely wealthy families. "Alright, I'll have the... lasagna." The waitress came to ask what they wanted, and he just ordered a water to drink.
The young man's grin was broad and he reached for his glass of water, taking a delicate sip. "What other kinds of food do you like, Ludwig?" he asked curiously.
"Wurst, like I said before." He enjoyed other types off food, but none worth mentioning.
Feliciano blinked. "That... that's a food?" he asked in surprise.
Ludwig looked at him strangely. "Yes... like I said, German sausage." He wasn't sure why Feliciano would be confused, he had told him just a few days ago what it was.
Feliciano felt his cheeks grow hot. "Y-yes, of course! I knew that, haha..." He took another long gulp of water and frowned when it was empty. "These cups are very small. Oh well. Will you tell me if the waitress is nearby so I can get some more water please?"
He called her over, and she filled both glasses. But, now that they were going to be sitting here for however long it took the chefs to make the expensive meals, Ludwig realized that it would be really awkward if they had nothing to talk about. But he was terrible at making conversation. Another reason why he was more comfortable with dogs than with humans. His young companion didn't seem to have that problem. "You're awfully quiet, Ludwig," he chirped. "You just seem like the quiet type. When there's no business involved, I mean. That's okay. Sometimes it's nice to be quiet. Do you mind if I talk a lot? I'm sorry if it's annoying; I don't get to talk much to other people, and you just seem like a good listener."
"Er... that's fine." He was relieved that they weren't in an uncomfortable silence, and Feliciano kept talking, with minimal input from Ludwig. It annoyed him slightly, how the Italian never seemed to stick to one topic, or talk about anything of real importance, but it wasn't as bad as he thought it would be.
"Lovi is really prickly," he was saying, "and sometimes he's not very nice to people, but it's not really his fault. I got lots of attention from Mama and Grandpa, and he was kind of left to himself. And even though he seems unfriendly, he's actually very sweet. He gets me groceries sometimes when he's in town, even though he doesn't have to, and he takes good care of me. He's the one that made the appointment for a dog in the first place. Do you have any brothers or sisters, Ludwig?"
At the question, he looked up, having only been paying the smallest bit of attention. "I- ah yes, I have a brother." He answered easily, even though it was a rather uncomfortable topic for him. But, as long as Feliciano continued changing the subject as he had been, there wouldn't be a problem.
"You don't sound very happy about it," Feliciano said with a faintly inquisitive edge in his tone.
"Well, I haven't spoken to him in a few years." Not his fault that his older brother left him after their mother died to go back to Germany, because, as he had put it, the beer was better and the tits were bigger.
Feliciano looked crestfallen, though Ludwig couldn't imagine why. Feliciano didn't even know Gilbert... or Ludwig either, for that matter. "Oh no," he murmured. "Do you... but what if he's sick? Or hurt? Do you ever get worried about him?"
Ludwig chuckled a bit at that, shaking his head. "If he died, I am sure that he die happy." Because Gilbert was always happy, always having fun and smiling. Especially when he was drunk.
At that, Feliciano looked very suddenly and terribly sad. "He's your brother," Feliciano murmured, his brow wrinkled in a surprising show of pain. "You wouldn't be sad if he was gone?"
"Not all brothers are as close as you and Lovino. And what difference would it make in my life if he was dead? I haven't seen him for six years, and that wouldn't change." He didn't like the expression on Feliciano's face though, so Ludwig set his jaw. "Look, I'm sure you don't like it when people pity you for being blind, so don't pity me for having a bad family life. I turned out fine, regardless."
Feliciano reached out and patted around the table for Ludwig's hand, snatching it as it was about to recoil. "How could I pity you, Ludwig?" he asked quietly. "You're smart and strong, and you treat me like you treat everyone else. You're very strict and sometimes scary, but you have three dogs that you probably love more than anything else in the world. There is nothing pitiable about you." He squeezed the stiff hand. "I'm just very sad. I think you deserve a good family. A great family. And it makes me sad that you don't feel like you have one."
When his hand was released he withdrew it, and was incredibly thankful as their food came. He thanked the waitress, and looked down at his food. The amount it cost, it better be the best lasagna he had ever tasted.
Feliciano was quiet as he ate, and the food was delicious, but he barely noticed. Dark thoughts swam around in his head, a murky pool of worry. He had made himself nervous about Ludwig's brother, who he had never met. He had made himself sad because Ludwig just didn't seem sad at all. Maybe something was just wrong with him, then; maybe only he got lonely when his brother was away and he didn't have anyone to come home to. So then he was being too forward.
Even with the food to distract him, Ludwig could tell that for Feliciano to be quiet, he must be feeling sad or put out or something. So he went for a change of topic, trying to think of something that the Italian had said that he could ask him about. "So... you said you lived in Italy? I heard it's nice there."
"Huh?" Feliciano tilted his face up. "Oh. Yes. It's... I'm sure it's very beautiful." He smiled. "There are lots and lots of smells. And museums. Sometimes Lovi would describe them to me, even though Grandpa and Mama told him it was rude. You know what's funny, though?" He twirled his fork idly, and the pasta spun round and round. "People think that I'll get upset or feel really left out just because I can't see. But I've been blind since right after I was born. Not being able to see for me is just as normal as being able to see for you. I don't feel sad not being able to see. It just gets frustrating when people don't think about that, you know? I feel normal to me. I only get worried when other people treat me like I'm not."
Ludwig hummed, understanding. "So... what does Italy smell like? Or feel like, or whatever sense you use most." The only other place he had been was Germany, and he had lived there until he was a teenager.
Feliciano laughed at that, high and lilting. His worry from earlier seemed to vaporize into thin air. "That's a silly question, Ludwig," he chuckled, taking a bite of the pasta wrapped around his fork. "There are lots of smells in Italy. The vineyard was my favorite. It was... sharp. Soil and grapes and leaves. Rich and clean. The sea was nearby, and the farmer grew olives, too. I fell asleep in the vineyard on accident because it smelled so good. The soil was soft and warm, and I was just so sleepy. Lovino must have found me and fallen asleep, too, because I woke up to hear Grandpa yelling at him."
"Why was he yelling? As far as I can tell, you Italians take naps often, so he shouldn't get mad at you for it." Even though it must be frustrating for people to be falling asleep all the time. How do they get anything done over there? Ludwig would probably go insane.
"He thought that Lovi was being irresponsible." His brow furrowed. "Like it was his fault that I wandered off and fell asleep. It wasn't," he insisted, so that Ludwig would know without a doubt. "It was all mine. But Grandpa didn't listen. That's... I think that's when Lovi stopped having fun. He started being really careful of me after that."
Ludwig nodded, with a thoughtful noise for Feliciano's benefit. "Yes, he does seem very protective." That was an understatement. But that wasn't really a bad thing, he stood up for his brother.
"He tries to act like he's not," Feliciano chuckled. "He tries to make people think that he's mean, but he's very sweet. He just doesn't like to be hurt. Who does, really?"
The trainer looked down at Ebony, who was sitting patiently by Feliciano's chair. He was doing very well at not treating her; it was almost like he had forgotten that she was there at all. Ludwig was proud of him, and was startled by how odd the sensation was. "Maybe you are just... the type of person that people want to protect."
Feliciano's grin was wry. "Maybe. How is your lasagna, Ludwig?"
"It's good." Truth be told, he liked his food a bit more spicy, but it was fine. He cleared his throat. "Um, just to be clear, I meant people want to protect you because you're small, not because you're blind." He couldn't really tell if that made what he had said any better, or if it had made it worse.
The Italian twirled his pasta about the fork and lifted it across the table. "I'm just normal. I think you think that because you're so tall. Have a bite."
He looked at the pasta a little apprehensively, before eating it. "Thank you." It seemed to him like something a couple might do, and when Ludwig thought that, he blushed, and was thankful Feliciano couldn't see him. "But you are. Small, I mean. Not so small as to be abnormal... It's not a bad thing. It suits you." As soon as the words were out, his blue eyes went wide, unable to believe the awkward words coming from his own mouth. "I-I mean, for the ladies. I mean, uh, girls would appreciate it. Or something. Uh, do you want to try some lasagna?"
"Yes, please," Feliciano said, trying not to laugh. He assumed his wide grin might be a giveaway, though. People who could see always seemed to know what he was thinking. He opened his mouth and waited.
Realizing that he was expected to feed him, Ludwig cut a piece and passed it over on his fork. But, to his horror, a large piece of the slippery noodle fell off the fork, landing in Feliciano's lap. "Scheiße. I'm sorry! Here, stand up." He grabbed a few napkins, because he just knew the meat sauce would stain his expensive-looking pants.
Feliciano did as he was told, his thighs bumping into the table as he stood. "It's fine," he said, a little grin lifting the corners of his lips as Ludwig fussed over him. "Really, I can just wash them."
"What? No, you don't wash these pants! If anything they should be dry cleaned..." Ludwig decided that if he couldn't get the stain out then he would have to pay the dry cleaning bill... hopefully he could get the stain out. "Um, could we get the food packed up to go?" he asked the waitress, who had come to see what the commotion was about. "And separate bills, please."
"Not at all! I'll have the check, miss," he said, and reached out. His fingers landed on her hip before he found her wrist and he smiled. "Please?" Ludwig began to protest, and he squeezed her wrist, just a bit, and before she could move he put his card in her hand. "Grazie, miss."
She left, flustered, and Feliciano spoke to Ludwig, though he did not change position. "I invited you, silly. It's the polite thing to do."
"Wait, no, you shouldn't pay for me! I can pay my own way you know. And yes you invited me, but we would have had to go eat sooner or later for you instruction!" He was still pulling his card out of his wallet, not even knowing how Feliciano had produced his so quickly.
"It's already been done," Feliciano said stubbornly. "You spent time with me and I've had fun. I want to be your friend, Ludwig. Let me do this, please."
That surprised him a little, long enough for Feliciano to get his card back and start towards the door. Why would the Italian want to be his friend? People generally found him very unpleasant. Normally the people he taught couldn't wait to be done with him, so why would this one actually want to be around him?
It took him a moment to grab the boxed food and hurry after the young man, who was already out in the darkening street, Ebony's harness under his hand. "That was yummy, wasn't it?" he hummed.
"It was... good." He refused to say 'yummy'. "But you know, you shouldn't have paid the whole bill." Ludwig's pride was still a little bruised by that. While he didn't want to pay for a lasagna that was over-priced, it didn't mean he couldn't.
"But it was good," Feliciano amended with a little smile. "That's the most important thing, isn't it? Good food and company. I make good food all the time, but I don't always have the company." He stopped at the curb when Ebony did and waited. "I really like you, Ludwig. I'm glad you're my trainer."
Once again, he was surprised. No one had ever said that to him in all his years of training. "Well, Antonio is an easier trainer." He was better with the people aspect of the job, while Ludwig was a bit better with the dogs.
"Antonio's really nice," Feliciano agreed and stepped across the street when Ludwig began to walk. "But I've had lots of really nice trainers, and they work too well with me. And I ruin the dogs. You don't let me do that, though."
As the crossed the road, Ludwig pondered that. Well, at least that made sense, Feliciano only meant that he was glad to have him as a trainer because any other trainer wouldn't have worked. And that was most likely true, he had to be really strict with the brunet at the beginning. "So you will be happy when the sessions are over."
"Happy?" Feliciano thought about it. "I'll be very happy if you'll still come visit when they're done. Ebony will miss you, and I may need you to keep me in line."
Ludwig was getting frustrated, trying to figure out the Italian's meanings with everything he was saying. "Ebony won't miss me, that is not how she was trained. And I will make sure that you are well disciplined before I stop our sessions."
Feliciano went quiet for a bit after that, and Ludwig was a bit glad for it. He wasn't being confusing when he was quiet. When they made it past the hubbub of nightlife downtown into the quieter streets, Feliciano piped up. "You don't like me very much, do you, Ludwig?"
The blond's mouth fell open, not sure where that had come from. "I-" Ludwig had no idea how to respond. In truth, he didn't mind Feliciano's constant chatter, though sometimes it was frustrating to keep up, and he felt protective of him most times for some reason, and found him... sweet. In truth, he probably liked Feliciano more than he had liked the girl back in Germany that he had dated for almost a year. Though that probably wasn't the most accurate comparison to make. "I... do like you," he finished lamely.
"Really?" Instantly, he seemed to brighten. "Oh, good," Feliciano gushed, "because those were just excuses to meet you again. I thought maybe you wouldn't like me. But since you do, I'm very happy!"
Ludwig decided to take the statement as truth, although he couldn't understand why the bubbly Italian would actually want to be with him. "So... why would you want to see me again? I am not very good company. Is it because I clean?" They arrived at Feliciano's front walk, and the German was relieved that he would be able to try to clean the spot, hopefully before it dried completely.
"I liked you before I knew you liked to clean, silly," Feliciano chuckled, stumbling slightly over a break in the sidewalk. "I just... like you. I have lots of reasons. You'd probably get all embarrassed if I told you, though. I like that about you, too."
They walked up the few steps, and Feliciano opened the door for them. Ludwig stepped into the house. The conversation was getting a bit awkward, so he cleared his throat. "Well... thank you, for tonight. I will see you next week."
Feliciano was sad to see Ebony go, but he touched Ludwig's arm, pleased when the man simply halted and stood at attention. "Next time, what would you like to do?" he asked pleasantly.
He thought of all the different places they had to go before their sessions were up. "Public transit would be best. Or the mall I suppose."
Feliciano made a face. "I'm not comf... I don't really like the mall. So public transit? Should we take a bus? Where to?"
"It doesn't matter where we go, just that it will need to be a fairly long ride. It would be best if it wasn't too crowded, but it can't be completely empty either. I'll set up a list by the time I get back to you." He was used to picking good buses for the dogs, since he had to take them on quite often as part of their training.
They scheduled a time and Feliciano let him go, feeling slightly hungry still and very content to replay the entire evening over again in his mind.
Ludwig took Ebony back to the school, fed her, brushed her, and put her back in the kennel. He knelt in front of her, since she was no longer wearing the harness, and scratched behind her ears. "You like me because I give you food. That I'm used to. But why would he like me? It doesn't make sense." Ebony just looked at him from under her black fur with big, dark brown eyes and sniffed, black tongue swiping over the roughness of her nose. "But, I like him too. Is that wrong?" He got no response, which was just what he liked. No response, because dogs couldn't understand him, so it didn't matter what he said.
She snuffled and he gave her another scratch behind the ears before standing. If he could be as carefree as the dogs, this entire problem wouldn't exist. And if he was as carefree as Feliciano, he wouldn't see it as a problem at all. But he was just Ludwig, so he would just have to figure it out himself.