The next few days were spent on those menial, domestic tasks that kept the paws and mind busy and in the moment.
You and Filbo had been a focused storm the past week, writing and editing and debating on what could be left out and what should be left in. From the moment you had both returned to the apartment, you had been at it. Having him there to help had been revolutionary for you, and you had been delighted and motivated by him.
Filbo was smart. Sharp was a better word, actually, as it captured the speed and uncanniness of his ability to anticipate the feelings of potential readers and adjust accordingly. He removed the parts of the story that had to stay a secret and neatly tucked away the edges, all in a way that made everything seem completely reasonable and understandable. You came back in to fill in the holes with real intrigue. He made the story amiable and unassuming, and you inserted the excitement and emotion. To be honest, it was the best story you had ever turned out, and you owed it to him.
That being said, the two of you had written it in less than a week, and little else had gotten done in that time. The apartment was an even bigger wreck than normal. That’s why, rather than wallowing in the dread of unemployment, Filbo had directed you to clean.
Both your arms were sopping wet up to the elbows with soapy water as you scrubbed at a plate, not quite dwelling on what had happened, but still preoccupied with the fallout of being jobless. It was lucky your landlord didn’t care whether or not you were legally dead as long as the bills got paid, but your savings were starting to get very lean after bearing through all the automatic payments you had set up prior to leaving for Snaktooth. Once Filbo left to go back to his family, you’d have to find a roommate to help with rent. You were done with the paper now, so there wasn’t much of a reason for him to stick around, and you were anticipating losing his company. You sighed quietly, and then called into the other room. “Hey, Filbo?”
“Yeah, Buddy?” He was picking up the recycling from the living room, tossing soda cans into the bin. Most of them were his. He had preferred cola to coffee when the two of you were working late into the night.
“Where does your family live?” You called back. He hadn’t mentioned them since the beach, and if he had gotten in touch with them, you hadn’t seen it. “If I’m legally dead, you might be legally dead too. Might be better to, uh, check in on them sooner rather than later.” You called. “When were you planning on heading back to them?”
The clatter of empty cans being tossed into the recycling bin stopped, and after a moment you turned off the sink and turned around. Filbo was fiddling with his paws in the entrance to the kitchen, looking sheepish.
“Well… I’m glad you brought it up, because I was kind of wondering... “ He scuffed the carpet with one of his paws, eyes on his feet. “Are you looking for a roommate? I-I don’t want to intrude of course, I definitely get it if you want your space. It’s just, it’s been really nice being away from home.” Filbo rubbed his arm, frowning. “My parents and siblings kind of treated me like a helpless kid before I left for Snaktooth… I love them, but they act like I can’t do anything, a-and I know they don’t mean to, but… I mean, I’m an adult, and I’ve done a lot of growing in the past year. I don’t… Want them to ignore the person I am now, and…”
He huffed out a nervous laugh, trying to smile. “Whoo, that was some oversharing, ah hah…! You probably didn’t, um, need my whole life story there, but, but I’m more than happy to start paying rent! If you want a roommate, that is…! I get it if you don’t, of course! No biggie! Just thought I’d ask!”
“Um, no, actually-”
“Yeah, uh, hah sorry! Forget I said anything-”
You put your paws up. “No, no, Filbo, I need a roommate!” The poor grump looked so flustered. You raised your eyebrows, hoping to convey your sincerity. “I mean it, that actually works great. I was going to start looking for one after you left, so this saves me the trouble.” Plus, you were already friends, so that was a bonus.
Filbo had broken into a grin. “Oh, wow…! Thanks, Buddy! This is going to be so great!” He wrapped you up in a hug, squeezing you tight. Your heart skipped a beat. He was so fuzzy and soft - this was one of the cuddliest hugs you had ever experienced - and all you could offer in exchange was a sopping pat on the back with your wet paw. He let you go then, and you took a small step back, looking at your still-drenched arms before grabbing a cup towel to dry them.
“...Sorry about that.” You offered him the cup towel for his back. “So, if we’re splitting the rent, we’d better go get some stuff to fix up the spare room…”
“My thoughts exactly, Buddy. I’m sorry, but the decor in there has got to change. Those taxidermy birds are really creepy.”
“Awh… I got those when I was writing an article on a missing person’s case! You wouldn’t believe it, Filbo. See, the owner of this little motel-”
“Tell me on the way!” He grinned, heading for the door. You grabbed your keys and wallet and scurried out after him, starting your story from the beginning.
Several hours later, you were back at the apartment and taking a break after cleaning out the spare room. Filbo had protested, saying it didn’t need to happen right away, but you had insisted on moving that junk out. Now it was in your room, but you’d deal with it later. Filbo had been right. The stuffed birds were creepy.
The door to the spare room was shut as Filbo decorated his new space, and you were enjoying the moment of solitude and silence. You never really slept well, but things had felt especially exhausting ever since getting back. Slowly, your eyes slid shut, the heavy weight of sleep descending on your tired mind.
You never got to sink into it fully, because your phone began ringing.
You jumped slightly, sitting up and running a hand down your face as you looked around for your bag. It was by the foot of the couch, right next to you. You snatched your phone out of your bag and put it on speaker, sniffing.
That was odd. You had had a long conversation with Beffica three days ago, so there must be something new and pressing to discuss. You sat back on the couch. “Hey Beff. Is everything okay?”
“Peachy! I’m calling you to let you know I did you and future mayor Filbo a favor.”
“Yeah?” You raised an eyebrow.
“Yep! I called around. Everyone’s pretty excited about the campaign, and they want to help out. Sooo, what better way to plan and celebrate than by throwing a party?”
“Oh…! Yeah, wow! Uh, I guess we could throw one!” Excitement flickered in your heart at the idea of having everyone back together.
Beff scoffed on the other end of the line. “No, Bestie, I’m not asking you if you want to have a party, I’m inviting you to a party! Snorpy volunteered to have it at his place, and Chandlo and I already did, like, all the planning. Like, we couldn’t have Filbo stick his paws in this one ‘cause his parties always end in disaster. His parties are TOTALLY cursed.”
You snorted. “You’re not wrong. I ought to ask him what his birthday parties were like growing up. You might be onto something.” You said it as a joke, but you wrote the idea down on a napkin anyway.
“You know it.” Beff agreed. “So! Party at Snorpy’s place, next Friday at 7. See you there, Bestie!”
You were grinning. “See you Beff. Do we need to bring anything?”
“Yep! I’ll text you a list. ;0] Talk to you later!”
“Yeah, talk to you later. Colon, o, right parenthesis.” She laughed and hung up. You put the phone down, grinning, and got up to tell Filbo.
You hesitated at his shut door, having the presence of mind to knock. It was weird, adjusting to sharing this space you had owned before, but you were optimistic about it. You and Filbo got along well.
The door swung open and Filbo smiled at you as if it was a surprise that you were the one knocking. “Buddy! Right on time! I just finished sprucing up the place.” He stood back to invite you in. “Come see!”
You stepped into the room. The walls were still covered in the dark green wallpaper, but other than that, the room was transformed. It looked like an ad for a college dorm room. Filbo had put up some string lights to give the space a soft, warm light. The bed was neatly made, his stuffed frogs sitting on his new blue and green striped comforter. Little succulents sat on the dark wooden desk by the window. The beanbag chair the two of you had found in the store sat in the corner next to the little bookcase you had cleared out for him. It looked like a perfect little nook to read in.
“Wow, it really looks cozy in here…!” You were surprised. The room had looked like an 80-year-old librarian’s storage closet before.
Filbo rubbed the back of his head, grinning. “Thanks, Buddy…! I really like it. Looks like home now.” He glanced at you, chuckling.
You nodded, smiling back. “So, I have some news.”
“Well, you are a journalist!” Filbo joked, sitting on his bed. “Go ahead, Buddy.”
“Beffica called. She told everyone about your campaign, and they want to help.”
Filbo actually gasped in excitement.
“Yeah! And they’re throwing a party for you next Friday!” You beamed.
“They are?! Really? Oh my gosh!” He covered his face with his paws, looking overcome with happiness. “I haven’t even done anything yet, Buddy! Nothing is official!”
“That’s alright! Now the apartment is clean and you have a room you can use, we can get right on it. Make sure they have a reason to celebrate, yeah?” You winked.
“Right! Of course!” Filbo’s shoulders sagged slightly in relief. He actually seemed at ease for once.
You smiled. “In the meantime, I better make us some dinner.” You started to leave the room.
“Er- Wait!” You paused and turned back. Filbo got up slowly, troubled... “Can I be honest with you, Buddy?”
You nodded, looking surprised. “What is it?”
Filbo couldn’t meet your eyes. “It’s just… Ever since I started staying with you…” He rubbed the back of his head. “Things have made more and more sense to me, and… If we’re going to be living together, I have to be honest with you.”
Your brows furrowed slightly, concerned. You were silent.
Filbo seemed to gather his courage, meeting your eyes. “Well, Buddy, to be frank, it kind of makes sense now how you were able to live off sauces… I’m sorry, but your cooking is terrible.”
You frowned. “C’mon, it’s not that bad…”
“It’s awful, Buddy.”
“Really? But, it’s edible, right?”
Filbo shook his head. “No, it’s really not. Let me do the cooking. I promise you won’t regret it.”
You rubbed the back of your head and shrugged slightly. “I mean… Sure! I’ll do the dishes, then, and we’ll split the duties that way.” Surely your cooking wasn’t that bad.
“Ah, that’s another thing…” Filbo began walking past you to the kitchen, and you followed along behind him. “I know it’s different when you’re working on an article, but we have to make sure to clean more than twice a month. You will feel a lot better in a clean space, trust me.”
You fiddled with your tie a bit. “I clean…!”
“I know you clean!” Filbo agreed, giving you a sympathetic nod as he got things out of the fridge. “But if we start cleaning on a schedule, we can have the space clean more often! How do you feel about chore charts?”
Oh Grump, he was going to make you get your life together. You leaned back against the counter, rubbing your temple. “Sure, we can try one… Why not.”
Filbo breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Buddy. I really don’t mean to come in here and, uh, make you change up your routine, but I think you’ll be a lot happier if the place is clean and… And you’re not eating things like... Half an old microwaved potato and hot sauce.” He looked concerned.
You frowned, defensive. “It wasn’t hot sauce, it was salsa.”
Filbo glanced at you from the corner of his eye with amused concern, then returned to what he was cooking. “Okay.”
You were a little bitter that it was smelling so good already. He was sauteing some vegetables in olive oil in a large pan. Your stomach stirred. Maybe he could teach you how to cook later…
“And… And, um, Buddy, can I ask for one more favor?” He asked, much more quietly.
“Will you still feed me if I say no?” You teased, coming closer to watch the vegetables brown and hear him better. You caught a hint of amusement in his face, and you shot him a little smile. “I’m kidding of course. What is it?”
“Could we… Keep from talking about Snaktooth in the apartment?” His voice was low, almost a whisper. “There’s just a lot of bad memories, and I want to focus on what’s ahead of us. Not what’s behind us.”
You nodded, patting his back gently. “That’s fine with me.”