|Aleksi (ax3) wrote in repose,|
@ 2019-02-15 20:34:00
|Entry tags:||*log, aleksi ackerman, dietre abendroth|
log: dietre & aleksi
Who: Dietre and Aleksi.
What: Unexpected gifts.
Where: Dietre's place at the Carnival.
When: A few days after this
Aleksi was learning to move around the house without bumping into things - he’d knocked over the stools so many times at this point that at one point he’d just shoved them all into the little nook under the television in the hopes of avoiding them. He felt… off, on two legs, clumsy in ways he hadn’t been since his teenage years. Mostly it was just that he needed to make the adjustment back to being human regularly. It was tempting, sometimes, to abandon the man entirely, but he remembered again the stories of werewolves gone feral, the ones who refused to shift back to human form, and the chaos they caused when the madness finally overtook them.
The possibility that Dietre might come back again was the other reason he forced himself to stay human during his waking hours. He didn’t want a repeat of potentially weirding the boy out with the change, and since that was easily mitigated by just not changing, well. It was easy enough, and probably for Aleksi’s own good in the long run anyway.
And just that single thought of Dietre was enough to send Aleksi down a rabbit hole of thoughts. He wondered if the boy had actually come back when he’d said, and found Aleksi asleep and just left, or if he’d never actually shown up, belatedly freaked out by what he’d seen and been told. More than once, Aleksi had considered trying to find his way back to where Dietre actually lived, though that was likely to be more complicated than it sounded in his head. He hadn’t quite resorted to it yet, but as the hours passed, it was starting to seem like a more enticing idea. Just to check on the boy, make sure nothing had happened to him.
But for now, the sun was still hanging in the afternoon sky, and it was probably best to wait, and see if Dietre showed up for his job. Aleki had started wandering around the carnival a little, been greeted warmly by a few people - including a very sweet fortune teller who had smelled like candle wax and marijuana but had given him homemade beef jerky and a few extra blankets, both of which he’d been very appreciative of. He was sitting on the tiny couch with one of them, wearing the same clothes Dietre had obtained for him that first night, reading through one of the books he’d found by the side of the bed, because poetry was one thing he did remember clearly from before.
Dietre had not, in fact, come back when he said he would. He had been too afraid. Not of Aleksi, per se, but of all the what-ifs and unknown possibilities, good and bad, of having him as a friend. A day or so to work up some courage was needed, and when the guilt over breaking his promise got to be too much, Dietre was finally able to bring himself to return to the little house.
He came laden with the things he said he’d bring and thensome. A special trip to the grocery store had been made to stock the fridge. Dietre might be incapable of food shopping for himself, but it seemed he could do decently enough when he had to do it for someone else. Bags of groceries were carried in one hand, bags of donated clothes in the other, things Misha had scrounged up at Dietre’s request. It was a bit of a struggle to manage his bags while being tugged along by an eager Sieglinde, the dog pulled at her leash and announced their arrival with a happy bark.
Since he had given Aleksi his only set of keys, Dietre could only stand awkwardly outside and knock on the door with an elbow. He made a mental note to remember to ask if he could make copies sometime, he had never thought about it before because he was always alone. But maybe Aleksi wouldn’t want him to be able to drop by whenever he wanted… Everything was still so unclear.
He’d been so absorbed in reading that he hadn’t heard anyone approach until Sieglinde barked. Aleksi startled at the sound, falling halfway off the couch before he righted himself and immediately moved to the door. He pulled it open with perhaps a little more force than was truly necessarily, but he couldn’t be bothered to worry about it at the moment, because Dietre was standing on the other side of it and his mere presence immediately soaked up the majority of Aleksi’s attention.
“Dietre,” he greeted with an almost reverent tone and something that was nearly a smile on his face. The puppy bounded into the house, twining herself around Aleksi’s legs as he reached to help relieve Dietre of some of his burdens. “What is all this?”
In the time they had been apart Aleksi’s image had faded in Dietre’s memory, only to come blazing to the forefront when the man opened the door. Had he looked so handsome before? No… Dietre couldn’t remember. There had been blood and dirt and gore, and a look of profound exhaustion. The man who stood before him now was worlds different, and he found himself tongue tied. He just stood there, mute, as the bags were taken from him. It wasn’t until he was left with only one still in his grip that he was able to come up with something to say.
“Um… They’re things… For you.” He followed Sieglinde inside, placing the last bag on the counter himself. “Clothes and food. And a phone too, like I said I’d bring…”
He cleared his throat, remembering his manners. “How are you? I’m sorry I didn’t come earlier…” And he did look sorry, and maybe a bit ashamed.
Aleksi did not actually remember much of that final conversation, just that Dietre had said he was going to return. He was mostly just glad to see him again, far less concerned about whatever material things he’d brought with him, though the jar of peanut butter definitely caught his attention. “Thank you,” he said automatically, refocusing on the boy next to him than the stuff on the counter.
Whatever expression had formed on Dietre’s face was not one that looked particularly comfortable, and Aleksi wanted it gone as soon as possible. “I am fine,” he answered with a small shrug, scratching behind Sieglinde’s ears as she leaned against his leg heavily. “There is no need for apologies. I have mostly been sleeping anyway. And reading your books,” he continued, unsure about telling Dietre about his trek out to the forest and his encounter there, at least just yet.
“How are you?” he managed to remember to ask, the manners finding their way back from whatever recesses in his brain he’d tucked that information away into. Aleksi was glad for it though, because he was genuinely, immensely interested in hearing about Dietre. He leaned against the counter, close enough again to be able to feel the boy’s body heat radiating out to mingle with his own. Werewolves ran hot, so he wasn’t surprised that he was warmer than Dietre was, the difference barely even registering to him.
This time, when Aleksi moved in close, Dietre didn’t automatically step away. He tensed, but endured until he got used to it, his face going warm at the interest being shown in him. That was one thing he hadn’t gotten used to, people wanting him around, wanting to be near him, wanting to hear what he had to say. There was the man from the maze, but his interest was tinged with danger, everything about him seemed dark, oily, viciously cunning. He radiated threat. Aleksi did not.
“Um… I’m well,” Dietre answered, his nervous gaze traveling aimlessly around the small space of the house, taking in the subtle changes wrought by being lived in again. “Busy.” That wasn’t exactly true, but he had been thinking so much that it felt like there was no time for anything else. A bite to his lip before he confessed, “I hope you don’t mind, but I told a friend about you… He can be trusted, he knows about things.” There was no need to elaborate on what those things were.
“He picked up these clothes for you.” Dietre gestured to the bags. “And he doesn’t think what happened to your town can happen here. If those monsters followed you, there are things here that can fight them.” He didn’t know if this was something Aleksi was worried about, but he wanted to reassure him anyway.
Blinking at that revelation, Aleksi felt a vague concern in the back of his mind - back, before, people finding out about him, or his pack, was something to fret over. Now though, he wasn’t nearly as worried, perhaps because he had much larger problems to focus on. And he trusted Dietre, so if he said it would be fine, then things would be fine. “Okay,” he agreed with a small shrug, unsure of what else to say.
Having more than one change of clothes would be rather nice - Aleksi had been being excessively careful about making sure he didn’t damage the ones he had. He brought his eyes back to Dietre’s face as he continued, his head tilting slightly to one side as he listened. That possibility, of a repeat occurrence, wasn’t something he’d even considered, but now that he was, the idea that there were other things (beyond the other werewolf he’d discovered, he assumed) was almost a reassuring thought.
“This place… it is very strange,” Aleksi commented, not quite a question. “Not in a bad way. Most everyone has been very kind, though none so much as you.” Three others in total wasn’t exactly a large pool of data to work with, but Aleksi was certain that wouldn't change even if he met the entire town. “But there is something… odd. Beyond just the fact that I am newly arrived.”
He hadn’t realized how anxious he was about having spoken about Aleksi to Misha until the relief that the werewolf wasn’t angry over it flooded into him. Dietre shook his head a little at his kindness being praised, Mr. Modesty again. “...I’m only paying back what’s been done for me. Everything I have here has been given to me, and I don’t deserve even half of it. So… it’d only be right to give to you what’s been given to me.” Aleksi was the one in need now, and it made Dietre feel better about his place in the world, less guilty, less like an imposter.
Brows came together. “What do you mean?” Could it be that Aleksi could sense what was triggering the spike in dark activity lately? “The friend I spoke to, his name is Misha, and he says he thinks something’s come to town that’s influencing people here, in a bad way. Is that what you’re feeling?”
“Nonetheless, I am very grateful for everything you have done for me. And continue to do for me,” Aleksi replied, unwilling to let Dietre brush it aside completely.
He found that he was not a fan of that worried look on Dietre’s face, and he frowned a little not only that seeing the expression, but the words that followed as well. “I do not know what your friend is speaking of,” Aleksi advised with a small shake of his head. “But I sense strangeness in smaller things. When I went out for a run in the woods, there is a distinct lack of wildlife - the forest is far too quiet. There were almost no birds in the trees, nor deer or rabbits running through the undergrowth. Even the number of squirrels was far fewer than an ecosystem of such a size can sustain.”
“Then… You’re welcome. I’m happy to do it.” When faced with such sincerity, Dietre had no choice but to humbly accept the thanks he was given.
Dietre nodded, subconsciously mirroring Aleksi’s stance, leaning against the counter himself. “Most of the things that have been happening lately happened in the woods. Perhaps the animals are staying away because of it.” He hardly knew how to fill Aleksi in on the news being talked about on the forums. “There have been fires… like someone is burning things they want to hide. And dead deer drained of blood.” He had no guess as to what the fires were really about, but the first thing he thought of when animals were found with no blood was vampires. If werewolves existed, then vampires must too, right?
“If there are things you want to know, sometimes you’ll get answers if you post about it online.” He remembered the phone, and straightened to pull it from his coat pocket and offer it to Aleksi. “There’s a forum people in town use. I already saved it on here,” he explained. “...And my phone number too.”
Smiling softly at that acceptance, and the way Dietre relaxed at his side, Aleksi listened carefully as the boy explained. None of it dissuaded him from his notion that the town was strange - quite the opposite, in fact. He stored all of the information away, glad to at least have the knowledge even if he didn’t know exactly what to do with it yet.
“That sounds like vampires,” Aleksi commented with a hint of disdain, a slight curl to his lip as he spoke. “The deer, at least. They tend to stay away from fires. Or at least, the ones I knew did.”
He took the offered device, his fingertips dragging over Dietre’s palm as he did so. Aleksi lingered for a moment, the bare minimum contact soothing him in a way that he couldn’t really explain, but that he definitely appreciated. “Thank you,” he said again, though in his mind he meant more for the touch than the phone. It didn’t occur to him to actually voice that thought though, and he looked down at the device in his hand for just a moment. A newer version of the one he’d had back home - Aleksi briefly wondered where it was, if it had been destroyed along with everything else - and he quickly brought his eyes back up to Dietre’s face.
“You are certain I won’t be bothering you?” he asked, only slightly hesitant - Aleksi wanted to be in contact with Dietre, but he also didn’t want to annoy him.
That lingering touch was not an accident, Dietre was aware enough to notice that much. He hated that fluttery, senseless hope that filled his chest afterward. Every time he felt that way in the past, it was quickly killed by the cold stab of desertion. Right through his heart. A momentary look of pain flickered in his eyes, Dietre already dreading whatever misery a friendship with Aleksi would bring when it ended. He couldn’t meet the man’s gaze. Instead, he looked at Sieglinde who had made herself home on the couch, snuggling with the blanket that Aleksi left there.
“No, you won’t bother me. I don’t-- um… I don’t have many friends.” He lifted a shoulder in an attempt at a casual shrug, a sad sort of smile hovering on his lips. “There’s no one chomping at the bit to talk to me.”
“Actually,” Dietre began to busy himself by emptying the bags he brought and putting things away in the fridge and cupboards as he spoke, “I prefer talking through text most of the time. I’m better at it. ...What few friends I do have, I met them all on the forums first.” Some of them he still hadn’t met yet. Maybe never would.
Aleksi frowned slightly when Dietre avoided his eyes - he just couldn’t quite understand the motivation there, especially since he hadn’t pulled away from the touch itself. He opened his mouth to ask about it - except that the boy was continuing, and the words had Aleksi frowning even further.
“Is that intentional?” he asked, his eyebrows furrowing. He could remember that, vaguely, the way that the pack had isolated themselves from outsiders, to better keep their secret to themselves. Perhaps Dietre had some secret of his own - just because he knew Aleksi’s true nature didn’t obligate him to share any such knowledge in return.
It belatedly occurred to him that he should help with the putting away of things, but by that time there wasn’t much left. “What do you mean, ‘better’?” Aleksi didn't see how Dietre could possibly be improved with distance and only a screen with words for communication. That might have been the wolf, lingering at the back of his mind and memorizing not only the boy’s scent once more, but also the way he moved, the sound of his heartbeat.
How could such a simple question shoot straight to the heart of the matter? Dietre almost looked startled, then ashamed, found out, exposed. He didn’t feel like he should lie (not that he was ever good at it) but he also did not know how to answer. “I… It might be,” he finally confessed. That was as good as a yes.
The second question was a little easier. “I’m not good at talking to people face to face. Online… is less nerve wracking? It gives me more time to think of what to say.” A conversation didn’t have to happen all at once, he could take a break, calm down or work himself up, then continue right back where he left off. And there was always the option of not replying at all.
“Maybe I’m hiding behind text, but it just feels safer.” That was the best answer he was able to give, and the closest to being true. Dietre was a coward when it came to social interaction, fear held him prisoner. Even now, Aleksi could probably hear the too quick beating of his heart. So nervous for no reason, it made dealing with people exhausting.
The range of expressions that Dietre made was beyond Aleksi’s current level of comprehension. He was certain that he might have understood, once upon a time, back before the darkness and the wolf reigning in his mind for three endless months. Now though, all he could do was accept that answer for what it was, which he did with a small nod and an, “Okay.”
The explanation provided made sense, though Aleksi didn’t know if he’d ever considered such a thing before. He remembered texting his cousins, work emails, but not much else in any similar vein. Dietre’s elevated heartbeat was distracting though, and Aleksi couldn’t quite help the way his head tilted to listen to it more closely, as if that would help him figure out a way to mitigate it.
“You find written words easier than spoken ones?” Aleksi confirmed, because he wanted to ensure that he understood what Dietre was saying.
There weren’t enough groceries to put away to occupy Dietre for long, he was quickly left with nothing to busy his hands with. He needed distractions if he was going to have a serious conversation about his social ineptitude. He shrugged again, fidgety. “Yes, something like that…”
“But, um… my point is, really, that the forums are a good place to find things out.” That was an attempt to steer the conversation away from himself again and back to something neutral. Dietre liked attention, but there was a fine line between what he soaked up and what he considered ‘too much’. A very fine line. “Like, if you were interested in finding a job, for example.”
The moment the words were out of his mouth, Dietre second guessed them. “I’m not implying I want you to get one, you don’t need to-- I meant-- If you wanted...” A discouraged sigh. This was why he preferred text.
“I used to have a job,” Aleksi interrupted, mostly so Dietre didn’t have to continue speaking. “I used to be a librarian.”
The smell of old books, and dust, streaks of sunlight coming through the skylight at mid-afternoon. Aleksi was assaulted with the memories for a moment, and since wasn’t quite ready to face those old, likely painful thoughts, he forced himself to take a deep breath, refocusing and centered on Dietre - his scent, the rhythm of his heartbeat, the speed of his breathing. He did say, “I’ve always loved libraries. And books.”
Despite Dietre’s belief that he was saying the wrong things, Aleksi didn’t get offended. He seemed unfazed by all the awkwardness, and the unexpected bit of information about his past surprised Dietre out of his spiral of negativity. A librarian? Who would have thought? He wouldn’t have expected a man who looked like Aleksi to be into reading.
Brows arching, he actually lifted his head to look at the werewolf properly. “Really?” Some of that nervousness faded, the energy rechanneled into interest. “Me too…” Discovering he had a thing in common with someone always pleased Dietre. It made him feel normal, and a little bit less lonely. “Growing up, there wasn’t much else to do but read or play the piano.”
“What do you like to read best?” A voice in the back of his head chided him for wanting to know. He remembered the times his friends had reprimanded him for asking too many questions about the men he’d been interested in. Misha in particular. It had gone spectacularly bad when Dietre tried to grill him for information on his ex.
Aleksi couldn’t even recognize social awkwardness within his own interactions, let alone anyone else’s. He took Dietre at his word, and moved on. “Yes, really,” he answered. “From the time I was sixteen.”
Remembering both the piano he’d seen at that first house - the one where Dietre slept, the one that also carried the scent of another man but not too much so - and the boy’s job, Aleksi found himself asking, “How old were you when you learnt to play?”
He hummed thoughtfully at the question and then shrugged. “I liked science fiction. And poetry,” Aleksi started. Dietre seemed a little more at ease than he had earlier, and so Aleksi couldn’t see any harm in asking in return, “What do you like to read? Aside from what I’ve already found.” He made a small gesture with his head towards the small stack on the end of the couch.
“Only since sixteen?” There was a lightness in his voice, as if Dietre found the specificness somehow amusing. He wondered why Aleksi didn’t enjoy reading earlier than that. He was under the impression that most teenagers had an aversion to reading and weren’t prone to picking it up unless they had learned a love for it when younger.
Dietre was more at ease. Reading was a subject he felt capable of discussing without embarrassing himself. A nice, safe conversation topic, and this simple bit of information exchange came to him easily enough. “I was about five, I think… My mother taught me.” She was not an accomplished musician, or even particularly talented. She had merely shown him the basics and Dietre took to it like a duck to water.
“Hm… For me, it is horror. And poetry.” He paused, hesitating before venturing, “...I’m glad you like poetry. Sometimes I’ll post a poem to the forums and people aren’t always appreciative.” Some could be downright rude.
“Hm?” Aleksi intoned, his eyebrows furrowing together in confusion for a moment while he figured out Dietre’s question. “Oh,” he exclaimed when he realized. “I apologize. That was an unclear statement. I worked at the library starting when I was sixteen,” Aleksi clarified.
“You enjoy playing, then?” He asked, wanting the confirmation - perhaps again, he might have already asked this question, and just couldn’t quite remember.
“Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’,” Aleksi offered, because off the top of his head, the combination of horror and poetry immediately brought Edgar Allen Poe to mind. “I do not understand the aversion some people have to poems, however, I did once know someone who like to say, ‘poetry requires a patient mind’.”
“No, no. I’m sorry, I misunderstood.” Dietre was quick to take the blame. He spoke english as well as anyone, but he still found himself getting confused on occasion. The lack of social skills mixed with english being his second language could sometimes be a hurdle he struggled to get over.
“I do enjoy playing. For a while, it was all I did.” And that was no exaggeration. There were times, when his father was away on business trips, that he would play all day through the night and into the next, not stopping to eat or sleep. He was obsessed. It wasn’t so all consuming these days, however. Most of that behavior had been born from a desperate need to escape.
The quote from The Raven brought forth a rare full smile, surprisingly bright, made all the more precious for it's fleeting existence. “Very nice. One of my favorites. I actually dressed as The Raven for Halloween a year back.” He knew there were literary snobs who didn’t think Poe was a great poet, but Dietre didn’t care. They could call his tastes in poetry juvenile if they wanted.
“That person sounds very wise,” Dietre mused, going quiet and thoughtful. He was enjoying this, having a normal conversation. “...I have other books at Adrian’s. I can bring you some next time if you like.”
Dietre’s smile knocked the breath from Aleksi’s chest, and he couldn’t help the way he stared for a moment or two, breathlessly taken aback as the brilliance of that expression warmed him from the center of his chest to the tips of his toes. Grinning back, Aleksi agreed, “I do love Poe.” Despite the astounding number of people who didn’t share his opinion. So it was nice to find someone who did feel the same. After a moment he then added, “And Frost. And Neruda. Some of Shakespeare’s sonnets.”
Aleksi felt his smile falter for a heartbeat, and then settle into something a little softer, sadder, a rueful hue to the expression. The former head librarian’s funeral had been a few weeks before the town had completely succumbed to the chaos consuming it, so he was a little better adjusted to the thought of her being gone than all the others. “She was,” he said. Some days he had thought Wendy was - had been - the wisest person he knew.
The offer brought another smile to Aleksi’s face, though this was was smaller, something closer to bashful. “If you are certain that it is no burden or trouble, and that you truly don’t mind, I will never turn down books,” Aleksi admitted softly.
Dietre wouldn’t have believed he had such an effect on Aleksi even if he told him, he was convinced he was incapable of making anyone happy. Surely it was his love of Poe that made Aleksi grin like that. Still, it was nice to see, and Dietre’s lips curved again, just a ghost of that earlier smile. “I don’t know if I like any one poet more than another, it's the poems themselves I focus on.” Which was why he enjoyed anthologies so much, many poems from all kinds of sources, all put together for easy digestion.
Was. Dietre assumed the woman Aleksi spoke of was another casualty of the mysterious destruction of his town. He felt a pang of sympathy, thinking about his mother. That had been years ago, but it still hurt, a wound that wouldn’t heal. He couldn’t imagine losing a whole town of people he cared about. He didn’t ask any questions, thinking it best not to make Aleksi think about what he lost.
“It isn’t a bother. I’ll bring you some.” A promise he felt capable of keeping. He wanted to make up for avoiding coming back here for days after saying otherwise. “And if there is anything else you need, you can text me and I’ll do my best to get it to you.”
Aleksi’s heart skipped another beat at the hint of that smile, a small grin of his own starting to form. “Of course,” he agreed with a small nod. “Poetry tends to be lovely no matter who wrote it.”
That offer - especially combined with the ease and genuine nature with which it was presented - amazed Aleksi once again with the generosity of it. He was quite certain he hadn’t earned such a thing, but he was also not in a position to be turning down such gifts. And if it came with the added bonus of Dietre’s company, he was even less inclined to do so.
“Thank you,” Aleksi said for what felt like the millionth time. “I will find a way to repay. For everything. Someday.”
Dietre tried to hide his distress at Aleksi’s promise to repay him, but it still came through, faintly, in his voice. “Don’t say that. I don’t need to be paid back for anything.” He sought a way to explain why not in vain, the best he could come up with was, “If you have to pay me back, then I’d have to pay the people who helped me back, and though I want to, I know it will be impossible.” Misha’s generosity toward him had been so great that he knew there was no matching it. That boy practically drowned him with help and kindness, if was a relief to let it spill over to Aleksi, to be honest.
There was a moment of awkward silence as the conversation died, Dietre going quiet. He wanted to think of reasons to stay, but nothing came to mind. Hesitating, the words reluctant to leave his tongue, he straightened up once more. “...I suppose I ought to head off now, and let you get on with your day…”
The hint of venom on that instruction wasn’t lost on Aleksi, and he made a note of it for later, along with the personal revelation Dietre provided with it. “Okay,” he acquiesced, his shoulders falling into a lopsided, unmoving shrug.
He deflated a little bit when Dietre said he was leaving, but there was nothing he could think of to ask him to stay any longer for. Even with the slight distance between them, it didn’t take more than half a step forward for Aleksi to drop his head and nudge his forehead against Dietre’s. Nuzzling there gently for a moment, Aleksi froze when he realized what he was doing. With a small sigh, he drooped, and said flatly, “I’m still having some trouble with the wolf’s urges at times.”
Aleksi was not the only one who froze, Dietre went still the moment the other man stepped forward and their foreheads touched. He held his breath, too surprised to move or react, eyes wide as he marveled at the rare sensation of human contact. He was too reserved to ever be the one to reach out and initiate first contact, and the few times he had been subject to someone else doing so his response had been the same. Deer in the headlights.
Dietre’s pale complexion was fully ablaze, and if it wasn’t for a surge of sympathy for Aleksi’s embarrassment he’d have been a fumbling, flustered mess. He knew the mortification that came with committing a social faux pas, and his need to reassure the man kept him from getting utterly tongue tied. “I-it’s alright.” He took a shaky breath and ducked his head, bashful. “...I think that’s a rather sweet way to say goodbye…”
He had to resist a sudden, inexplicable urge to lean forward and return the gesture. Instead, he stepped away and whistled for Sieglinde. The dog answered the summons with obedient promptness, and Dietre took up her leash and put his hand on the door.
“You can message me any time, alright? You won’t be a bother.”
Aleksi could feel the warmth of Dietre’s blush, and between that and the easy acceptance of the wolf’s weird tendencies, Aleksi smiled softly, glad that his impulsive move hadn’t scared the boy off completely.
He felt the difference in temperature as Dietre stepped away, suddenly just a little colder in his absence. There was a part of Aleksi that wanted to follow him as easily as Sieglinde had, but he refrained, not wanting to push his luck any further than it had been today.
Surprised at the way Dietre stopped to make that statement, Aleksi nodded instinctively, agreeing, “Okay,” without truly thinking it through. That didn’t stop him from smiling softly again as he realized what he’d agreed to, and he offered, “I will talk to you soon, then.”