|Daniel Ciin (miaiphonos) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2012-01-18 20:15:00
|Entry tags:||aphrodite, ares|
snips & snails
What: Samuel’s Christmas Present!
Where: Aztec Doberman Pinscher, San Diego, CA
When: December 17, 2011, early afternoon
Warnings: DOBERMAN WARRIOR OF DEATH (with snuggles)
Lia had planned things out to the last detail.
It had been an easy enough thing to find the best-known Doberman rescue and foster organization in Orange County, and the group had made it sublimely easy for her to follow this through. The woman she’d been talking to, Elle, was friendly, knowledgeable, and completely willing to help in any way she could. She’d snuck the volunteers from Aztec into Samuel’s apartment when he was working one day shift, and they conducted the home visit thoroughly and quickly. Lia had taken copious notes on all the things she said, though she imagined that once Samuel decided on which dog he’d be taking home, he’d know all this stuff already. Still, it never hurt to prepare.
She’d made the appointment to meet the dogs behind his back, too. She’d already met all the candidates, and had chosen four that she’d had the best feelings about. Though there was one that her instincts -- or maybe Aphrodite, she grudgingly considered -- told her would be The One. That much she’d keep to herself, though, just as she kept their destination to herself as she drove them toward it. She wanted him to choose the dog he connected with best, and all the dogs who’d be there today had taken to her really well when she’d met them before, so she figured there wouldn’t be a danger of any personality conflict there. They were all big dogs, and beautiful, and already adults -- which meant both she and Samuel’s belongings would be safe.
That thought made her smile as they drove down the highway. It wouldn’t be long now, she noted as she furtively checked the directions on her phone then turned to grin at him.
“We’re almost there, bello,” she said, reaching over to squeeze his thigh.
“Almost where, though?”
Samuel shifted in his seat. The Audi was by no means uncomfortable, though it was in places a tight squeeze. The drive was rendered all the more uncomfortable by his not having the first inkling where they might be headed; it was bad enough that he lacked the control that came with behind behind the wheel, but on top of that disgrace, Lia had not given him a single hint as to the nature of their foray out and about the city. They had long ago driven past their usual haunts, and even a few restaurants he had expressed a passing interest in and had, as of yet, been unable to effectively lure her to. He had exhausted all his guesses many miles ago and yet she still showed no signs of giving in to his increasingly petulant, increasingly frustrated demands for further information.
“You’re takin’ me out here to kill me, aren’t you?” He shook his head, shifting back against the seat as much as he was able. “Joke’s on you, sugar. I haven’t written you into the will just yet.”
His seat was as far back as it could go, but using the little tab on the middle console, she adjusted his seat back to let him lean back a bit and make him feel less cramped.
“C’mon, baby,” she said, reaching over from the shifter to squeeze his thigh again, then took his hand to kiss the back of it before she glanced over to him to give him a sweet smile. “if I were going to kill you, I wouldn’t drag you all the way to San Diego to do it; I’d just poison you!” She laughed against his hand before releasing it and returning her own to the shifter.
They really were getting close now, and once she’d pulled off the freeway, she checked her phone to at the stoplight at the end of the ramp to double check the directions before making the turn.
“I promise you’ll like it,” she told him, stealing another glance after she took the next turn, hoping she was right. She’d felt some trepidation about this after she’d had the idea; he might feel it was too soon, or maybe he wanted to do things on his own. But instinct and consideration had won out. This way, he could be sure that he liked the dog he chose, and if he didn’t like any of them, they didn’t have to get any of them. In that case, she had a backup gift plan, of course, but she really hoped she wouldn’t have to use it. As they drew closer to the destination, she grinned at him. “I think I kind of want to blindfold you.”
He looked over to her, one brow lifting to an almost comical arch. He chuckled, lifting his hands from his lap, palms outstretched. His curiosity was piqued; it amused him more than it should that she knew precisely how to word a thing to make it seem to him untenably appealing, and could so easily use his innate curiosity to her own advantage. It was, simply put, one of his favorite of her many and varied skills. “Bring it on, sugar,” he said. “I firmly believe nothin’ said after ‘blindfold you’ can ever be bad, so let’s do it.”
A bright laugh burst from her lips and nodded.
“I should have known,” she said with a grin as she glanced at him sidelong and reached out to squeeze his thigh. She pulled in to the first parking lot she found, finding a spot and putting the car in park, though she left the engine idling. She unwound the red pashmina that was draped loosely around her neck and folded it neatly. It was a little long, but it would do for the short remainder of the trip. “Here, turn around, bello,” she said, lifting the soft fabric. Quirked brow and matching smirk aside, he obeyed, leaning back toward her as best the small car allowed.
Once they were both properly positioned, she lifted the folded strip of fabric over his head and pressed a kiss to his neck before she tied it. “Now don’t get too excited,” she warned once it was firmly knotted. “This isn’t a kinky present.” Even so, she pressed a kiss to his ear before getting them back on the road.
The rest of the trip was quick enough, and within a few minutes, they were pulling into the right lot.
“Wait right there, amor,” she told him before she got out of the car, straightened her skirt, then went around to the other side to open his door and extend her hand to him.
Samuel found himself considerably more uncomfortable with the blindfold once they were outside the confines of the car. It had been long years since he had found himself in such a situation, and even then he’d had the small reassurance that his sensory deprivation was only a training exercise, carefully monitored to ensure his actual, if not apparent, safety. He stood calmly in place, placing perhaps less trust than was deserved in her instructions from this point forward.
“All right,” he said, his voice more growling than he had intended. “You’re startin’ to worry me.”
“Shhh,” she said, taking his hands in hers and putting them on her waist before sliding her arms around his waist and leaning up, up, up on tiptoe to press a kiss to his mouth. This part was much more fun than she’d expected; having her big man in her hands, leading him blindfolded to his present. The roughness in his tone and his military stance didn’t throw her, but they were reason enough to brush her lips against his and stroke the nape of his neck.
“Trust me, bello,” she said, a smile in her voice before she kissed him again. With that, she turned around, holding his hands to her waist, and began leading him inside.
“There are five steps, love,” she told him when they reached them.
There were worse ways to be led into the unknown, he thought. Her touch eased his concerns somewhat, and though he remained more plainly alert than was typical, the softening slope of his shoulders showed the truth of his increasing comfort with the situation. He further distracted himself by attempting to guess what she had in store for him, letting the better part of his mind wander as he counted the steps she had indicated. He had not gotten far in his wondering when the steps were ascended, leaving him paused at the top as he awaited further instruction.
“Not a single hint, huh,” he muttered.
“Not a one,” she said with a grin as they arrived at the front door. She turned around then, and reached up to untie the pashmina. They were at a converted house, built in the 1920s, standing on the front porch. As she unfolded the scarf and draped it loosely around her own neck once more, she smiled up at him. “Well, maybe one. I think it’s something you’ve been missing.” With that, she rang the doorbell.
The sound was answered promptly by a mustached man in his mid-50s, broad-shouldered, slightly stout, with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair.
“Right on time, Lia,” he said in a gruff but friendly voice. “This must be Samuel.”
The man extended his hand to Samuel for a shake. Samuel obliged, having plainly lost his tongue for the moment, if not his deeply ingrained manners.
“It is,” she replied with a smile so bright it verged on giddy. Her excitement over the impending moment was starting to overtake her, but she tamped it down. “Samuel, this is Ron Ansbach. He’s going to help us out with your present.”
“Come on in,” he said, gesturing inside before looking at Samuel with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. “We’ve got some folks that are eager to meet you.”
The furrow in Samuel’s brow deepened, curiosity and concern warring in his hard blue gaze. He peered beyond them, straining to see or hear anything that would reveal the reason for all their secrecy. Faint sounds carried from rooms beyond, but there was nothing that particularly stood out, nothing that Samuel could readily identify. After a moment he stopped his subtle fidgeting, stepping inside just behind Lia. He glanced to Ron, then to Lia, only half joking when he said, “This better not be an intervention. Or worse, a surprise party.”
Ron chuckled and Lia grinned at him.
“Oh definitely,” she told him, threading her fingers with him as they started down the short hallway. “It’s actually a combination of the two. More efficient that way.” With that, and Ron’s back safely to them, she pulled his knuckles to her lips and kissed them as Ron turned into a room on the left.
“Now you know the rules; just ignore them until they settle,” was the only warning he gave before they entered.
It was a large living room with a number of couches, two women, and two men besides them. However, the stars of the show were four dobermans that ranged in size from relatively large to nearly ridiculous. Two were obviously a bit younger and well-established playmates as they nosed at each other and trotted after one another. One had been napping on the floor, though she turned her head when Lia, Samuel, and Ron entered. Another, the largest of them, was laying down comfortably, but his head was raised, his ears at attention, as the newcomers entered the room.
Immediately their entrance was noted. The trotting dogs ran up to them immediately, looking like a pair of clipped-eared twins, barking and pawing. The one who’d been napping rose as well, though hung back, almost as though disdainful of the younger dogs’ unbridled enthusiasm. The large dog rose and let out a single bark, though as instructed Lia ignored them all, avoiding eye contact and pets, tempting as it was. She turned to Samuel.
“Merry Christmas, bello.” She grinned. “Well, sort of. You only get to pick one.”
Samuel was forced to make a conscious effort to close his mouth, openly, boyishly grinning as he realized he was. He ignored the faint pang that pricked at his chest, pushing back and down the memory of his last, lost pup. Distraction was easy to find; though he knew it was proper and would earn the best results, the younger dogs made ignoring their presence a difficult task indeed. Luckily Samuel was wise to the ways of attention hogs. His eyes raised to the two older members of the pack, immediately drawn by their calm, by the sense of presence they exuded. Both were sleek, well groomed, with lean muscle and clear, intelligent eyes. Hard-pressed to decide which to call first, he merely hung back, exhaling on a soft, contented sigh.
“Well.” He tore his eyes away from them, still smiling almost foolishly as he looked back to Lia. “You sure outdid yourself this year, sugar.”
Lia returned his grin and squeezed his hand. Questions raced through his head, a dozen considered and discarded before he cut through his own enthusiasm and reached the heart of the matter. He looked back to their host, addressing him directly.
“I work swing shifts,” he said, “an’ I’m on call a lot. She’ll be around if I’m not, most of the time, but I need one who’s not gonna freak out about changes like that. And they’ll have to be good with her, too.” He nodded toward the older two, whose eyes followed him just as closely. “What’s their story?”
There was a smile on Ron’s face, too, albeit a more knowing but no less content one.
“Darla,” he motioned to the lady dog, then the enormous male, “and Ruckus. Darla was a breeding dog; we found her in the desert, and we think she’s had two or three litters of pups. She’s pretty easygoing, maybe a little cool at first. She’s not a big fan of kids, but she’s not aggressive with them. Good with other animals, too. Ruckus was a fighting dog; he was rescued from a ring in Santa Ana. He’s fine with people, protective. Smart as a whip, really good with kids, and as you can see, he’s good with other dogs. Wouldn’t bring him around cats without some training, though.”
Ron went over to Ruckus and scratched him behind his ears. “I think either of them would be fine with that kind of schedule. Lia already met them both, and they both took to her well.”
Lia smiled, looking to Ron for approval. When he gave the nod, she petted the younger pups, who’d settled down a bit, then walked over to Darla, whom she scratched behind the ears and cooed at a bit.
“They were all very sweet to me,” she told Samuel as she walked over to Ruckus.
“Hi boy,” she said with a smile as she reached out to pet him. “Hi!”
Ruckus leaned into her touch, but still kept a watchful eye on Samuel and Ron, almost as though he understood the conversation.
Samuel made a valiant effort to show both dogs equal consideration, but in truth his mind was very nearly made up. No one thing Ron had said had goaded him in any direction; it was a combination of a number of factors, not least the draw he felt to the massive boy with the unreasonably suited name. He felt markedly comfortable with the huge dog at Lia’s side. He liked the dog’s scarred past, and his observant, almost cautious friendliness in spite of that. He even liked the commentary on the dog’s good nature with children, though this observation he hastily pushed aside, ignoring it to ruminate instead upon the name he loved so well. Havok would have liked this dog, he decided, who might have passed for his larger, more rough and tumble brother.
He crossed the room, giving Darla more than the cursory pat he originally intended. Deliberately he stopped before her, looking down into her bright eyes, trying to be something like objective in this most important decision. They seemed to come to an understanding at that moment; shortly after he moved on and so did she, returning to her resting place on the floor.
“So, Ruckus,” he said, staring down at the dog. “Man says you’re smart. Are you smart enough to keep outta my video games and her...” He threw an impish look at Lia, the dog’s gaze following his own. “Lady shit. I dunno. Makeup and clothes and stuff.” He patted the dog, sharing with him a ludicrously contemplative look. “You look like you would be.”
Lia’s hands were folded in front of her smile as she watched Samuel and Ruckus take each other’s measure, holding her silence as Ruckus looked at her, then back at the other alpha in the room. Ron was sporting a slight smile at the exchange, and Lia was holding her breath until Ruckus leaned into Samuel’s hand and gave a brief bark, an apparent acknowledgment of the conditions his prospective pack leader had put forth. The big black dog was still, then, but for the steady wag of his clipped tail.
Ron chuckled and said, “I think he likes you. He’s not a chewer or a destroyer, despite his name. Of course he’s housebroken, and he’s also microchipped. Though he isn’t likely to stray far from you outside of the house. He likes to keep an eye on the pack.”
Lia looked up at Samuel, beaming. “Do you like him, bello?”
His smile matched hers easily, breaking bright across his face. Samuel realized he even liked the dog’s bark - steady, clipped, and authoritative. It suited him well. “I do,” he said, chuckling to himself. It was the last Christmas gift he might have expected, but one of the best in his memory. Already he was going over their hectic holiday schedule, determining when might be best for them to bring the monster home. “I think he’ll do just fine. So, uh.” He cast a look over to Ron, one brow arched over his gleaming eyes. “What now, Ron? We’ve got some runnin’ around to do for Christmas, but after the first of the year we should be ready to pick him up.” Without a downward glance, Samuel gave the dog’s clipped ear another gentle scratch, his own head tipping toward Lia. “Anything else you need from me, or did Double-oh-seven over here take care of it all behind my back?”
Lia’s expression was quite proud, then, with a twinkle in her dark eyes as she linked her arm through Samuel’s. Ron laughed at that and shook his head.
“Well, she did arrange a home visit while you were at work, so that’s already taken care of. Basically all there’s left is the paperwork, and deciding on a date to come get him. Shouldn’t be too much trouble. Where’re you guys headed for the holidays, and when’ll you be back?” he asked, crossing over to an end table with a folder on it.
“New York, then Texas,” Lia said, casting a grin up to Samuel. She was as excited about their trip to meet each other’s families as she was about how good a fit Ruckus seemed to be for Samuel. She’d known, somehow, that it would be him. He was too perfect. She scratched gently behind his ears, and he turned his head to give her arm a long lick. “We’ll be back on the first, but the following weekend would probably be better.”
She turned to look at Samuel.
“What do you think, bello? The seventh?”
His arm tightened around hers, giving her a little squeeze. “Yeah, that should work.” His eyes darted up and left, an unconscious gesture as he brought to mind his ever-changing work schedule. It was one of few weekends he would not be on call; he could actually spend the morning preparing for Ruckus’ arrival, though he planned on keeping this decidedly geekish consideration to himself. He focused instead on the papers Ron mentioned, bringing Lia along with him as he strode to the man’s side. He disengaged, then, leaning down over the open folder, his eyes darting over the contract. It was short and to the point, clearly delineating his responsibilities as the rescue’s new master. Seeing nothing untoward, he reached for the proffered pen, signing in his bold, dark-lined flourish.
That done, Samuel smiled down at Ruckus, who appeared to have silently padded along behind them. “We’ll be back before you know it.”
As she watched him sign the paper, then talk to the attentive animal, Lia couldn’t have held back her smile if she’d tried. She felt a pang of regret that they couldn’t take him home with them today, but it would be better, in the long run, to have some time to prepare for his arrival. Of course, there were already images of designer collars and dog beds dancing through her head, though she imagined Samuel might accuse her of trying to turn his dog into a metrosexual if she took things too far. She cut a sidelong glance at them as they looked at each other and couldn’t help but grin again. She barely had to lean down to pet Ruckus, who once again leaned into her hand. With a little sigh of regret that she couldn’t take them all home, Lia took another look at the younger dogs and Darla. She took some comfort, though, in knowing that Ruckus was the best fit for Samuel.
“I guess we should get going,” she said. “Thanks so much for everything, Ron. Really.”
Ron smiled at the couple, and Ruckus, who stayed close to his new pack.
“My pleasure, Lia. Really. I think you guys are gonna work out just fine.”
He extended his hand to Samuel. “Good to meet you, Samuel. We’ll have him all ready for you on the seventh. Til then, you guys enjoy your trip; have a good holiday.”
Samuel shook his hand, nodding his thanks. “You too, Ron. Merry Christmas.” With one last scritch of the big dog’s ears they wended their way out, plans already swirling in both of their heads.