Waiting at the bus stop was not how Kurogane pictured himself going to work that November morning, but with his car in the shop, really, there weren't many choices. It was much too far to just walk, and unless he wanted to call a cab, which would have been even more costly on top of the repairs, the bus was the best option. Waking up earlier than normal to make it on time to catch the route he'd need to make it to work on time was not exactly pleasant, but it was manageable. It also meant running into his neighbor that he'd never really spoken to before.
The blonde lived across the street for at least the last five years. He didn't know much about the other, except what he'd seen of the other and had heard from the children. There was a car continually parked in the driveway, a VW Beetle, that looked like it hadn't been used since the age of disco, while the pickup truck actually saw some action. He recalled the other was friendly and outgoing, and would sometimes be found playing with the children and animals in the cul-de-sac. He always wore a smile, and sometimes he'd have company over, but he'd never heard of the other hosting any outlandishly loud parties or causing a social disturbance with illegal fireworks or blasting too-loud music, or anything disturbing the peace. No one ever had to call the cops on him. And when a couple wanted to go out by themselves, they'd often ask to leave their children with him. There wasn't a single child in the cul-de-sac that didn't like him.
The children seemed to know Kurogane was more of the reliable handy man and would come over if their toys broke. But if they wanted someone to bake cookies for them, give them a cup of cocoa, a gentle pat on the shoulder and be a comforting listener, they went to Fai. The blonde had said hi or waved in the past, but they had never really talked to each other. Not till today.
That day, Fai was casually holding a bagel between his teeth, as he shrugged his jacket on the rest the way, his backpack slung halfway on his back. For a minute, Kurogane wondered if he was also a college student, but didn't pause to contemplate it long as he had to keep on schedule. Just because he didn't have a car, didn't excuse him for being late to work.
After a couple of moments, he noticed that disheveled blonde was running the same way. It wasn't just the same way; he was no doubt heading to the bus stop too. The small hurry of the blonde concerned Kurogane, and, not wanting to miss the bus, sped up a little to catch up to his neighbor.
Hearing an echo of footsteps behind him, Fai lightly turned and flashed a grin at him, before speeding up more. Kurogane didn't know what overtook him. Maybe it was the hurry of Fai, or the small challenge in that smile (and he was very competitive) , but somehow it turned the distance into a race for the bus stop. Kurogane ran to catch up to the other. He kept up his shape, but he usually didn't get his exercise in running to bus stops. Yet here he was, chasing down a blonde, and trying to outrun him. Fai glanced back at the sound of quickened footsteps, eyes lighting up in some surprise before running even faster. Kurogane, not easily about to be bested, sped up.
Both men raced to reach the bus stop, Kurogane running hard and fast, as if reaching there first was more important than actually catching the bus itself. Hearts pounding, adrenaline and testosterone pumping, the two ran headlong towards the goal: a metallic bench beside a roadside sign, indicating the bus routes that stopped there.
Speeding down the sidewalk, avoiding tripping repeatedly over cracks and the edges of the sidewalk, before crossing the crosswalk to the other side, and running until the edge of the curve that led to the finish line. Closing in on the goal, Fai hopped down and over the railing, his legs springing him back into the race, as Kurogane raced down the sidewalk a small physical divider splitting up the two as the race heated for the final leg of the race. Only twenty feet away. Ten feet. And the competitors were evenly matched.
Yet, at the last moment, Fai pulled back slightly, letting Kurogane reach the destination first. Luckily, Kurogane had his reflexes and stopped in time not to collide terribly hard with the rain stand that stood over the bench. Kurogane was breathing hard, as he claimed victory over winning, but it wasn't exactly a fulfilling victory. His neighbor had just handed it to him, right there at the end.
"Whoo…you move fast for someone of your size. That was definitely a good work out."
Another thing he just remembered about the neighbor; Fai could not whistle. Instead, he said the noise of a whistle. Also, Fai was hardly breaking a sweat, which told him that the man was probably not running as fast as he could. Damn patronizing blonde.
"So, tell me, what brings you to the bus? Actually, what happened to your lovely car? I was really surprised to see you come out of your place, when I didn't see your car there. I kinda thought you went on some Thanksgiving vacation this year."
"Car's at the shop."
"Shame. You took good care of it too, so I'd like to think whatever wasn't entirely your fault."
"Thanks, I guess?"
"Sure; so… where are you off to? Oh, well that should be pretty obvious, I suppose. Work, neh? So, where is your work? Do you know how to get there on the bus? I know the first time I took the bus I got a bit turned about…" the blonde chatted helpfully, more helpfully taking a bite of his bagel sandwich which shut the man up for a minute so Kurogane could process everything the other just said.
"I looked up what routes they said I need to catch."
"Right. Anyway, I think this is the first time we've really actually talked talked isn't it? I know I said hi at least once and waved a few times, but in case you don't remember, my name is Fai. And you're Kurogane, right?"
"Yeah, that's right."
"So, what routes do you need to get to work? Maybe I can help make sure you get the right ones."
"Don't you have somewhere you also need to be?"
"It's fine," Fai flashed one of those bright, kind smiles, "I'm in no real hurry today."
Kurogane swallowed what pride was about to have him say he'd be fine without the blonde being a patronizing martyr, and respond more honestly, cheeks flaring with hints of embarrassment. "Then… that would be …helpful. Thanks … Fai."
"Of course. Anytime."
Kurogane watched that bright smile, as it just lit up the other's face. Fumbling, he pulled out the instructions he'd printed out from off the internet, and let the blonde see them.
Fai scanned the information, taking it all in, his bright smile falling to something a bit more somber, as he took a bite of his bagel, his eyes widening as he looked it over. Kurogane guessed whatever the blonde saw was a bit disconcerting. Waiting until he swallowed to speak, he looked back up towards Kurogane, with worry and concern clearly visible in those cerulean depths. "These are horrible instructions, Kurogane. Unless you're a God of navigation and have the RTD Time Gods on your side today, there's no way these'll get you to work on time following these instructions."
Kurogane's embarrassment rose, turning away lightly.
"By the way, how much bus fare do you have with you?" Fai asked in a gentle tone.
"Um, …" Calculating what he'd brought, "I grabbed a roll of quarters. Is that not enough?"
"For where you are going, that's plenty," Fai explained, half relieved that the other had actually gotten change. He still saw many whom hadn't figured out the bus takes exact change only, and come on expecting that the bus driver to give them change for a five dollar bill or ask the other customers. "Now what we are wanting to do is to get down to Market Street Station, and the best way to do that is to take the Express. If you rely on the 6, you might. Depends on if you get lucky and the 6 is behind schedule or the 92 is early."
Kurogane nodded lightly, somewhat understanding.
"Once you get on, you are going to want to get a transfer."
"What's a … transfer?"
"It's this little piece of paper that says you paid the fare for a bus ride. So let's say you're taking the 92, and you want to get on the 6 once you get there, going the same way, then since you don't have a special pass, if you've paid the 92 and show the 6 your transfer within the allotted time frame, you can just hop on. Also, let's say, you are going to catch the 120X down at Thornton park n Ride, then they would take off those nine quarters you paid to get on the 92 from your price to get on since it's a more expensive bus. Then, you pay the difference of the seven quarters."
Kurogane took in the offered information.
"So… should we take the 92 first or the 40X?"
"Which'll get me to work on time, and you to … wherever you're going?"
"Both. Just taking the 92 requires an extra transfer than the 40X. Longer, too. But you would be able to get to work on time. If you take the 92, you'll also need the 120X."
"Then, whatever comes first I guess."
The 40X bus would come first. Fai had finished off his bagel, before moving to lean against the sign casually. Fai had lightly reminded him to get his money out ahead of time, so when the bus pulled up to a halt, both men had their things, and were able to get on in a rather efficient process. Slowly inserting the quarters until the 4$ fair was paid for, Kurogane then asked for the transfer, took the little piece of paper, printed with the current day of the month's number near the top before looking for a seat, the blonde more than encouraging that he should sit beside him, patting the seat right in front of him. Kurogane rolled his eyes, before moving to sit there. Figured shouldn't get too far from the blonde as the blonde was acting as his guide. But just in case, "You sure?"
"Trust me Kuro, … I know these routes like you know your way about your car."
How that was a fair comparison, Kurogane questioned, but seeing as he was familiar with most everything that normally could go wrong, and was able to find ways, even alternative ways to repair it, he guessed Fai must be really familiar with most the routes and how they interconnect. However. "It's Kurogane."
"Ah, but Kurogane is super long; Kuro is much easier, and you still know I'm talking to you." Fai grinned, dismissively waving his hand, "Come now. Just relax and enjoy the view; this is going to be fun..!"
"Oh, boy." Kurogane rolled his eyes. Fun indeed.