A First Encounter in the Street
: All recognizable characters as well as the Buffy- resp. Potter-verse belong to either Joss Whedon or J.K. Rowling, etc. No copyright infringement is intended.
It was an early evening in August, but sunset was approaching, and the reddish-golden light lent the garden a sense of almost otherworldly tranquility. Buffy sighed and carelessly turned the page on the book she was reading. The taste of the last sip of the latte in her mouth was fading, but she was too lazy to get up, wander back into the kitchen, and prod her complicated espresso machine for another.
She jumped up from her seat on the porch when she heard a quiet "thump" and a howl from the street. The hedge hid her house from prying eyes and now also prevented her from seeing what was happening, but she could make a well-educated guess.
"Damned co-ed drivers," she muttered angrily and barely restrained herself from hopping over the low garden gate.
After all, it wouldn't do to become known as the local freak-show who could leap tall buildings with a single bound, would it? Not that the gate was anywhere near a tall building, she assured herself. Still. It was all Dawn's fault. Stupid normal
life. She couldn't understand how she could have ever wanted normalcy.
Normalcy was boring
Normalcy also meant digging in her pants pocket for the key to the gate and opening it as quickly as possible - which was taking far too long
When she arrived in the street, of course there was no car to be seen anymore. A pair of tail lights disappeared in the distance, too far away even for Slayer-enhanced sight to catch the license plate. Typical.
The dark heap at the side of the road was black and furry, and Buffy involuntarily took an audible breath of relief. She loved animals as much as the next person, but at this point in her life she felt miles away from being prepared to be confronted with yet another bloody ruin that used to be a human being once.
Nonetheless she hurried closer. The - bear? dog? hellhound?! - was still breathing. She knelt down next to it, a hand on the hilt of the silver knife in her boot, the stake in the back pocket of her jeans digging into her flesh.
Dammit, what the heck was
this thing? "I'd swear Giles didn't say anything about tiny bears wandering through Oxfordshire," she muttered. She'd never seen a normal dog that big, and Tucker Wells' hellhounds hadn't been very much hound-like, although astonishingly ugly.
She almost poked the creature with a finger, but at the very moment, it gave a pained-sounding whimper and tried to get to its feet.
It looked like a dog. A big, black, skeletal-looking dog with shaggy, matted fur and a deep, bleeding gash on its shoulder.
The dog's legs buckled and she reached out and supported the animal before she even had a chance to think about touching, and although it growled and bared its teeth, the try was half-hearted at best. It didn't snap at her and rather looked like it needed all its strength to just remain standing, trembling, on three paws, the fourth, mangled-looking, curled halfway to its chest.
Buffy brought her left hand to the dog's nose. "Hi, who're you?" she asked quietly. "You look like miles of bad road, doggie." The animal was terribly emaciated and seemed half-dead. "Miles and miles
of bad road, actually. Don't you have a home?"
It couldn't have. Otherwise it wouldn't be as starved-looking as a concentration-camp victim, would it? It certainly wasn't wearing a collar.
Buffy felt a warm rush through her stomach that brought a small, involuntary smile to her face. She'd never had a pet. It was the one thing she'd never managed to talk her dad into. Her friends - and especially Dawn - all agreed (and she usually concurred) that she wasn't the nurturing type... not like Tara had been... or her mom... But now, she wanted to help. Care for the dog. Make it healthy again.
"What would you look like, all mended, well-fed, de-loused, and groomed, doggie?" she whispered to it. "Can I call you 'Lassie'? Because you look like you've crossed all of Merry Old England on foot. Has Timmy fallen into the well again?"
She laughed when the dog nosed her hand, snorted, and shook its head.
"I won't hurt you, Not-Lassie. Promise. But if you have any broken bones, it's to the vet, and no discussion. Do you have fleas? Because I need to touch you now, and that would be yuck much."
It looked to Buffy as though the dog was staring at her intently as though it could see and weigh her intentions. Whatever dogs smelled and felt, however, she seemed to have passed, because the dog licked her hand tentatively. Its tongue was hot and only barely wet. Was that normal? She had no idea and resolved to ask the internet, first chance. Willow used to have a cat together with Tara, but none of the original Scoobies had had any experience with other pets, ever. And Willow's goldfish so
Years of fighting against a multitude of demon species with wildly different physiques came in handy now as she gently palpated the dog's rump and limbs. It held amazingly still and permitted the touches, even to the paw - perhaps it thought it was being petted, the poor thing? - and Buffy sat back on her heels a few minutes later, blowing out her breath.
"You're lucky, Not-Lassie. Nothing major's broken, but your paw might well be. You must have hurt it before that idiot driver hit you, and then you've walked on it for far too long, haven't you? It's all cut up, swollen, and infected. Poor baby."
She changed her touches to outright petting - if the dog had fleas (and she rather bet it did), it was too late now anyway. Lysol was her friend, yay.
A visit to the vet would be the most sensible action to take, really. But she rather doubted the dog had had many non-hurtful encounters with humans, and she didn't want to traumatize it further. But what to do about the paw?
"Okay," she said resolutely, standing up. "I should be able to scrounge up some food for you, and a nice soft pad for you to sleep on, but I should warn you - staying at the house requires you to take a bath. I'll care for your shoulder and your paw, and then we'll see. You can leave tomorrow if you want, or you can stay."I think I'd prefer you to stay
, she couldn't help but think. I need some company. The house is so empty. Dawn is almost never home, and I don't know what to do with myself.
The dog either liked the sound of her voice or understood enough of the words she was saying to follow her at a small distance, limping badly and whining quietly under its breath. She ushered it into the garden, up the porch, and through the sliding glass door into the kitchen where it hunched defensibly in the nearest corner and looked up at her with limpid eyes.
Its eyes were beautiful, blue-grey and clear, with an almost human-looking expression of quiet suffering.
She gave it space and opened the fridge. "Dog food, hmm, dog food. Let's see--"
She took the two cooked chicken breasts she'd intended for that delicious-sounding guacamole wrap recipe she'd received yesterday (thank you, chain email from Slayer houses all over the world, and thank you, Slayer metabolism!), plus the assorted lunch meats left, and picked out what she imagined the dog would be able to eat.
"No kibble, sorry. I'll buy some tomorrow - that is, if you decide to stay."
The meat went into one salad bowl, water into another, and after a cautious sniff the dog made choking sounds upon starting to wolf everything down.
She grabbed it by the ruff and pulled it back a little. "Slowly, Not-Lassie! Don't kill yourself!" It didn't even seem to notice and strained forwards mindlessly. Despite its large frame, it was distressingly light. "Hey! I mean it! You've got to eat slowly, or you'll suffocate!" At least common opinion says so. So you'd better slow down.
The next minutes consisted of a carefully negotiated balance between dog and Slayer, near-starvation hunger versus cautious restraint. Buffy kept up a steady stream of calming chatter until the dog had filled its belly and licked the bowl clean. Twice.
Finally, she sat down on the white tiles of the kitchen floor, crossed her legs, and pulled the dog into her lap. It was breathing as though it had run a race and shivering, although the shaking seemed to lessen with every passing moment. It buried its head under her right arm and tried to push its nose up her sleeve. She laughed. "Stop it! That tickles!" Its tail started wagging tentatively and kept knocking against her leg.
"Ew. You stink, Not-Lassie. And you're still bleeding a little. I think it's time for Willow's latest batch of mirenna berry extract. Thankfully, by now they've refined the recipe enough that swallowing it shouldn't curl one's toe-nails anymore." Buffy rolled her eyes and thought almost fondly of Andrew, who thankfully had toned down his uber-nerdness a little and these days could almost - for a few minutes, at least - pass as a serious Watcher. Of course, whenever there was something witchy to name, his suggestions still almost invariably came from either something gaming- or scifi-related.
Case in point: healing potion. Frankly, Buffy had no idea which - if any berries - had made their way into that brew, and no intention of ever solving that mystery, thank you very much. Still, the New Council's magical innovation department, led by Willow, had made all the Slayers' lives so much easier in the last year, and Buffy was glad to always have a small flask at hand whose contents might one day very well make the difference between a survivable injury in the field and her third - and final - death.
She kept petting the dog with one hand while browsing the internet with her smartphone in the other. Apparently, yoghurt was the treat of choice for dogs, or - ew! - raw egg. Good. Yoghurt it was.
She carefully pushed the dog back onto the floor (if it had opposable thumbs, it so
would have held on), and went back to the fridge. Buffy then spooned a cup of yoghurt into a clean bowl under the watchful eyes of her house-guest, and poured half of the contents of her personal flask on top.
"Yumm. Here's your magical treat. Guaranteed to make you feel loads better, and hopefully help with your paw. Enjoy."
She plopped it down with a flourish in front of the dog who stared at her, scented the air, scented the contents of the bowl, and seemed to freeze in place for a long moment of indecision.
Finally, tentatively, it began to lick at the yoghurt, its tongue lapping faster and faster.
When the bowl was empty, it sat back on its haunches with an almost human-sounding sigh and cleaned its muzzle. A slow ripple seemed to go through its body, and all of a sudden it appeared a little less gaunt, the shoulder wound a lot less severe, and the fourth paw was tentatively set back on the ground.
Buffy lured it to her side with soft words and carefully picked up the paw to test it by touch and sight. The dog didn't even twitch once as she made sure the cuts were closed, the inflammation down, and the small bones knit and back in the places they belonged. Perfect. Thank you, Will.
"I know you're exhausted, Not-Lassie," the dog yawned widely enough that she thought she could look halfway down its throat to its stomach, also, dog-breath? Seriously
disgusting, "okay, sorry, I'll admit that's gone on long enough. I know very well that you're a boy, but I'm horrible with names. And that includes picking them. I have absolutely no idea what to call you. Mr. Dog? Buddy? Rover? Scooby? Baloo? Blacky?..."
She was interrupted by an enthusiastic, if a bit hoarse bark. "Blacky? Really? That's unimaginative, even for me." She wrinkled her nose and ran her fingers along the dog's attempt at pricked-up ears - they were floppy and looked rather ridiculous (and cute, if dirty). "But maybe you're right; my next suggestions would have been even worse. Way
She snipped her fingers at her rapturous-looking audience. "Bath time, Blacky."
The dog woofed softly and stepped forwards with a click of his nails to press against her leg.
"You agree? Then maybe this will be easier than I thought," Buffy contemplated and pulled the dog in the direction of the bathroom.
The next hour and a half went considerably less well.
The end results were:1 insane utility bill for the month in question1 flooded bathroom1 grimy tub1 half-empty, perforated, leaking bottle of Lysol3 empty bottles of expensive shampoo and conditioner8 soaked towels (2 now with holes)1 broken comb1 ew!-never-to-be-used-on-Buffy's-hair-again brush1 towel-dry, good-smelling dog with a lustrous, glossy coat (thank you, bottle labels), and1 filthy, smelly, soaked-to-the-bone Buffy.
Success (is in the eye of the beholder).