Erik’s feet ache for a longer stride and just a bit more spring back from the ground than the concrete allows, his mind wishing for something different, and his mind wandering through his route. He knows he’d be better off running in Central Park, but the miles between his apartment and the Park are more than enough to keep him confined to sidewalks close by.
The neighborhood is quiet--far too early for the city to really be waking up--and the peace suits him as his feet thump against the sidewalk in time with the bass on his iPod.
The rhythm he’s set is suddenly interrupted by an unnatural tug at his shoe. Looking down, Erik’s shocked to see a small tan corgi trying to bite him, and then he sees that the one at his shoe is followed closely by three other corgis, all yapping at him.
“What the fuck is this?” he asks to no one, trying to figure out why a pack of corgis has been set loose on the street at 5:30 AM.
“Oh, god, I’m so terribly sorry. Did they hurt you? They really are harmless. They just get a little over-excited sometimes and, I say, you’re quite sweaty, aren’t you? And wearing so very little. Hello.”
The voice is joined in a minute by a smaller man in his bathrobe, blue pajamas and bunny slippers. His hand runs through his floppish hair. Energy, Erik thinks, clearly needing an outlet.
“No, they didn’t hurt me. Just caught me off pace. That’s all.” As Erik finishes the sentence, the one who attacked his shoe jumps up and starts to hump at his leg.
“Mystique! Stop that!” the man yells as Erik watches a horrified expression cover the other man’s face. “By the way, I’m Charles,” the man says before extending one arm to shake Erik’s hand.
“Erik, and please to meet Mystique, I think,” he adds, before looking back at the corgi against his leg.
“She’s really never like this. I don’t know what’s gotten into her. She and her brothers are always perfect angels when I’m around.”
“Just how often is that?” Erik asks, knowing that the dogs are still around his legs, leaving him nowhere to go.
“For a complete stranger, you’ve got a quick wit,” Charles answers back.
“You’re not the one with a pack of corgis around your legs. Legs that should be running a seven minute mile, by the way.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Charles says, bending down to start picking up his dogs. “Banshee, Beast and Havok, get over here. Mystique, please let go of Erik’s shoe for me, please.”
Erik watches as the dogs all run towards Charles’ extended arms and they all jump up into them perfectly.
“Thank you for that. I’ve still got another mile or two on my routine.”
“So sorry that they interrupted. I need to be more careful when I open the door for the paper in the morning.”
“Please do. At least on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when I come this way.”
“Duly noted. Good bye, Erik. Maybe I’ll see you again,” Charles finishes, before turning around and heading back into his brownstone.
Erik watches at the door closes before shaking out his legs and picking back up with his run.
Erik tries to push his Tuesday and Thursday runs past Charles’ brownstone in hopes that the corgis will get out and attack him again.
The door never swings open and Erik rarely stays still long enough to look at the house before leaving again.
It’s only three weeks and a day later that Erik meets Charles again. The man is waiting on the stoop in front of his brownstone as Erik runs by.
Taking a minute to process the blue bathrobe and the bunny slippers, Erik almost keeps going before stopping in front of the next house. One quick turn around and he’s eye to eye with Charles again.
“Hello, Erik,” Charles says as he rises from the steps and starts to descend the remaining stairs.
“Hello, Charles. I see the corgis are safely hidden. I can keep my leg free from--” he trails off.
“Mystique, and I’m still so terribly sorry about that. She’s usually so docile.”
“Unless you’re a man who runs past the house three days a week,” Erik adds, starting to laugh at himself.
“I doubt she can sense your running that keenly.” Charles replies.
“You know that dogs can sense earthquakes right? What’s to say they can’t tell when someone is running past their house?”
“You’re giving them too much credit. To be honest, I’m surprised she can attack anyone. I was told by the Queen’s breeder that they were always very quiet.”
“Mystique is from the same breeder as the Queen’s corgis? What do you do for a living to have that much access, Charles?”
“Just a few well placed connections and I’m only a genetics professor at Columbia.”
“I see. Well, it’s been good seeing you again, but I need to get back to my run.”
“Of course. Sorry to have keep you so long. Do you think, though, that we might meet when you’re not covered in sweat and trying to avoid my house?” Charles wonders.
“I’d like that very much,” Eriks says, trying to find dig out his cell phone from his shirt pocket. “Can I get your number?”
Erik’s phone is quickly in Charles’ hands, as Charles types his information into the phone.
“There you are. Have a good rest of your run, Erik.”
Charles calls at the respectable hour of 10 AM after they met and invites Erik to his house for dinner that evening.
“I promise that the corgis will be well-behaved angels,” the voice through the phone intones.
“What do I get if they aren’t?” Erik asks, knowing this is too forward even for him. Running past a guy’s house for weeks is one thing, but trying to insinuate that he’d accept sexual favors for poorly behaved dogs just feels like one step closer to serial killer.
“Should that happen, I’m sure I can think of something, Erik. I’ll see you at 7 this evening?”
“Yes, you will. I look forward to it.”
It’s odd to Erik when he’s walking and stopping in front of Charles’ home. Not that being at someone’s house is odd, but the fact that he’s only talked to the man twice, once under the duress of corgis attacking him, that he’s now here on something akin to a date.
He knocks quickly, trying to stop himself from turning around and running home--though that’s a very stupid idea given that he’s wearing shoes that aren’t meant to do more than saunter from one side of a gallery to another, at least if he listened to the man at Macy’s.
He waits after his hand raps against the door, and then hears what is probably the corgis running from some part of the house to the door. When the door opens, Charles is standing there, wearing what Erik thinks is the most hideous brown and yellow argyle sweater in existence.
“You’re early,” Charles says when the door is open enough for Erik to walk in.
“Force of habit, I suppose. I hope it’s no trouble.”
“No, not at all. I was just trying to get them ready for you.”
“By doing what? Hypnotizing them into think I’m something other than a human toy?”
“More like a calm conversation on how I wanted to make an impression without them destroying your shoes, or pants.
“I’ve never found out. I wonder if there’s a dog psychiatrist I could ask.”
“That you know such an occupation exists is frightening enough right now.”
“Sorry, sorry. This is a horrid impression to make. Please, come in. I promise they’ll behave, or they’ll be out in the backyard.” Charles looks down at the pack with a stern eye to make the point, but it doesn’t seem to matter, Erik notes, as the dogs start to move towards him.
It’s only a minute or so after Charles has finished his lecture to the dogs before Mystique has managed to jump up towards Erik and begins to tug at his pant leg.
“You were saying, Charles.” Erik makes a point to look at Mystique like she’s trying to ruin her father’s night (which she really is), but it only lasts a minute before the other three join her, making it impossible for Erik to move.
“I don’t suppose we could just sit here until they’re worn out?” Erik asks when he’s sure that the dogs aren’t going to move.
“Do you have three hours?” Charles wonders, before he sits down in his foyer, taking Beast and Banshee, Erik thinks, from around his legs.
“I’d say thank you, but I think that gives me room to sit now. I don’t know what Mystique will do then.”
“Nothing, I hope,”Charles replies, trying to rub behind Beast’s ears and then settle Banshee in his lap.
As Erik finally sits down, he’s not sure if he should trust anything that comes from Charles’ mouth. Havok and Mystique have both decided that he’s now at the perfect height to paw at, especially over his arms and neck.
“So what did I get for their bad behavior again?”
Turns out Erik got a very good chocolate mousse for the trouble that Mystique and Havok caused.
And another date for later in the week, in which Charles promises that the dogs will be outside.
Erik’s not so sad he agreed to the first dinner now, despite the week it took for all their scars to fade.
In five dates with Charles since the first one’s disaster, Erik has come to tolerate the corgis, though he’s still nervous when he knocks on Charles’ door each time.
“Give them time, Erik. I promise, they’re sweethearts.”
“Tell that to my arm again, Charles. Or the ear that Mystique tried to eat.”
“It was just that one time.”
“Because you’ve always started them outside when I’m here now.”
“We could try again with them in the house.”
“What would I get this time?”
Erik, for the trouble on their tenth date, gets a blowjob that leaves him breathless and bone tired in Charles’ bed.
If that’s what he’ll get for the dogs misbehaving again, it’s not so bad to have them in the house for each date.
In a rare moment, Charles suggests that they go out for their next date. It’s not a hardship to meet him at a quiet bistro near NYU, the students suffering through finals, leaving the restaurant nearly empty.
However, when they arrive back at Charles’, Mystique is first to jump on Erik and nearly destroys his pants. Havok tried to make work on a shoe, but Erik’s more than grateful that the leather is capable of surviving corgi bites.
“Please Erik, just try for me.” Charles is looking at his boyfriend, sitting atop him as Banshee licks at Erik’s hand.
“You started me out with Banshee. He never attacks me.”
“Well, Havok and Raven are sleeping.”
“Did you dose their food tonight so they’d be good?”
Charles scoffs at the suggestion. “For that,” Charles starts, before Erik cuts him off with a kiss.
When the kiss is broken, Charles looks stricken. “No fair. You can’t just kiss and make it all better.”
“But it worked, right?”
“Not quite. You’ll have to sleep with Mystique and Havok tonight, I think.”
“You wouldn’t do that?”
“I would. They miss sleeping with me with you around so much now.”
“I’m not even going to ask how you know that, Charles.”
“Good, because I need to keep some secrets.”
“I thought we agreed to not keep any from each other after the time you told me you stared out of your bedroom as I ran past the house?”
“But I know you don’t like them, Erik. It’s not a secret, so much as keeping you from useless information.”
“In that case, I’ll allow it.” Erik punctuates the statement with a kiss that he’s sure will make Charles forget about the dogs for the next hour. Just as soon as they get up from the floor and Erik can work off yet another argyle sweater.