The puppy was too skinny, its ribs showing clearly through thickly matted fur, but it was wearing a bramble-filled collar crusted with mud, and it was the friendliest thing Derek had ever seen. His heart turned to mush when it rushed up to him and dropped its butt on the ground, tail wagging furiously and tongue lolling from its mouth. The black ears stood up straight, nearly touching in the middle as the dog – which couldn’t be more than six months old, judging by the teeth and the size of the paws – lifted a paw for him to shake.
When an adorable, if starving, dog asks to shake your hand, you fucking shake. Derek’s mom taught him manners.
Dropping into a crouch in front of the puppy, Derek reached out a gentle hand and wrapped it around the offered paw, shaking it easily before the puppy let out a little bark and lunged forward, whole body wriggling as it licked Derek’s chin and mouth. Not expecting that, Derek fell over onto his ass, laughing and then making gagging noises as the dog licked inside his mouth when he opened it.
Derek looked up to see Petty Officer Reyes standing there, hands on her hips and a smile fighting to break free. “Yes, Reyes?” he asked, sighing to himself at the knowledge that this little scene would be making the rounds in the office tonight.
“Does it have a tag?” Reyes asked, edging forward and bending a little at the waist, hand dropping from her hip like she wanted to get some pets in as well, but wasn’t sure if she needed permission.
Derek pushed the puppy toward her, needing to get out from under the too-light but energetic ball of fluff in order to stand up. “Why don’t you check? I’m going to call animal services and report it.”
Reyes dropped to her knees, seeming not to care that they were getting as wet and muddy as Derek’s entire backside was – ugh, that was going to suck for the rest of the day – and cooed at the puppy as she hugged and scritched it before easing the collar around and checking the tag. “The owner info is all scratched to hell, but the rabies tag is legible,” she finally said before turning the puppy to a pile of boneless fur with big, dragging belly rubs.
Derek hit the call button under the google return for the San Diego animal services division and waited while it connected. “Be ready to read off that number,” he advised Erica, grinning down at the way the dog was writhing beneath her hands.
“Yes, sir,” she said, and if Derek heard her let out a little giggle when one of the dog’s paws patted her face, smearing mud across her cheek, Derek wasn’t telling anyone.
After informing animal services, they both waited with the dog for someone to show up – there might have been an impromptu game of fetch, but again, Derek wasn’t telling. The sound of tires screeching on pavement made them both look up and then the dog went from shedding all over Derek’s lap to flying through the air toward the person stumbling out of the…
The officer who exited the vehicle was a blur of pale skin and dark hair above his black uniform as he rushed toward the dog. “Luna!” he yelled, diving for the dog and sweeping it up into his arms to let it lick all over his face before he buried it in her ruff, apparently unconcerned with the stiff mud caked there. “Oh my god, baby,” he crooned, loud enough for Derek and Reyes, who were slowly getting to their feet, to hear. “I thought you were dead. We looked everywhere and…” The officer pulled his face away from the dog and looked up, giving Derek a good look at him.
Derek felt his breath catch because. Wow.
He heard Reyes let out a softly breathed, ”Damn,” and couldn’t do anything but agree.
The officer was some unholy cross between cute, hot, and beautiful. His wide shoulders tapered to a narrow waist, trim hips, and long legs, but it was his face that was arresting.
(Derek wanted to punch himself in the face for that pun, but it was already too late to unthink it.)
Pale skin, yes. Dark hair, check. But also: bright brown eyes framed by dark lashes, the color so pure and clear they looked like they were glowing; a wide, mobile mouth with lips so pink Derek wanted to touch them to see if the color was natural; a scattering of moles that made Derek want to bite; and a nose that had the cutest little uptilt at the tip.
While Derek was busy gawking, the officer seemed to finally take notice of them, and he blinked, rapidly, his mouth dropping open – which the puppy, Luna apparently, promptly licked into, causing him to jerk his head away with a laugh that made Derek’s gut clench.
“You know,” the officer finally said, stepping forward and offering his hand to Reyes, then Derek, “I told Scott when we lost Luna that we should have called in the Navy to help us search for her. He thought that was overkill, but apparently I was right.”
Derek deflated; the amount of affection in the officer’s – whose name badge was partially obscured by Luna’s wriggling body, leaving only “LINSKI” viewable in between flashes of her tail – voice told Derek this Scott was someone dear to him.
“Well, sir,” Derek said, letting go of the officer’s hand after a slightly-longer-than-brief shake. “We figured someone was looking for her.”
The officer’s eyes softened and he dropped his gaze to Luna, getting a tongue swiped over his nose in the process. Lucky dog.
“Yeah,” he said, his voice a little rough. “She fell out of the boat when I was fishing last month and by the time we got it turned around… she was just gone. We called the game warden and animal services, all my friends, but even after looking for her all night, we just… She didn’t show up. I thought she’d drowned. So. Thank you. Thank you both so much.”
“It’s our pleasure, sir,” Erica murmured, her lips curving up into a soft smile. She reached her hand out to give Luna another scritch before turning to Derek. “Lieutenant Hale, we should probably be getting back to the office.”
Derek was about to nod in agreement, but the officer lunged forward – reminding Derek a little of Luna’s reaction from earlier and making him hope he might get tackled and kissed by her owner – one hand outstretched as he said, “Wait, no! I just… I need to get her to Scott so he can check her over and get some food in her, but I’d love to take you both to dinner. It’s the least I can do.”
Derek was right in the middle of brushing off the offer with a low, “That’s not necessary,” when Reyes literally stepped on his foot, cutting his words off.
“I have to go do a cake tasting with my fiance,” she said, her smile a little too vicious to truly be sweet, though he could see she was trying, “but I know Lieutenant Hale is free. Besides,” she added with a grin and a wink, “I’m too close to the wedding date now to be giving into temptation.”
The officer coughed out a little laugh, even as his cheeks went mottled with a splotchy flush.
Derek’s lips parted as he stared at the way the color spread over the officer’s cheeks, but he recovered quickly. “It’s really not necessary for you to take either of us to dinner. I’m just happy to reconnect Luna with her owners.”
The officer’s eyes darkened with some emotion Derek couldn’t read before he squared his shoulders, lifted his chin, and said, “I insist. And, uh, I’m her only owner. Just me, all on my lonesome. Single.”
Reyes’ cackle was really uncalled for, but even worse when she elbowed Derek in the side and said, “Maybe you should get a dog, sir.”
Derek smiled tightly at her. “Maybe you should call Boyd and let him know you’ll be swabbing the deck tonight, Petty Officer Reyes.”
She just laughed harder. “The recruitment office has a janitorial staff for that, but nice try, sir.”
Jesus, when had he lost control of his people?
“Oh, sorry…” Derek felt a flush rising in his own cheeks as he turned back to the police officer who was trying to hide a smirk as he looked between Reyes and Derek.
“Stiles,” the officer said, shifting Luna again so he could reach forward for another hand shake. “Sorry, I should have introduced myself before, but I was a little distracted.”
Derek shook his hand again and nodded at Luna who was stretching her neck toward him, clearly begging for more pats. “Luna is definitely distracting.”
Stiles’ face went blank before he nodded a little too quickly. “Yes! Right. Luna. She’s the distraction.”
Reyes cackled again. “Come on, sir, give him your number so you two can talk about your dinner plans.”
Derek sighed and reached down to the pocket on his calf, ripping the velcro flap open to withdraw his wallet. Slipping a card out, he handed it to Stiles and didn’t let go right away. “You really don’t have to do this.”
That wide mouth stretched in a grin as he jerked the card out of Derek’s hand. “Too late. I’ve got your number now…” He glanced at the card. “Lieutenant Derek Hale. No take-backsies unless you want me to send you increasingly forlorn texts until you cave.” Stiles dropped his head so that it rested beside Luna’s, her adorableness only enhancing Stiles’ appeal.
“Blackmail? From San Diego’s finest? I’m shocked,” Derek deadpanned, then sighed. “Fine. Dinner tonight. Text me the details once you’ve got Luna settled.”
“Yes, sir, Lieutenant Hale,” Stiles said with a grin, snapping a salute so perfect, Derek considered asking him around to teach it to the recruits. “Now that’s settled, I’ll let you get back to being all you can be.”
Reyes laughed again, even as Derek rolled his eyes and muttered, “That’s the Army. And that slogan is probably older than you are.”
Stiles’ laughter merged with Reyes’ even as he turned to walk back toward his cruiser, opening the back door and bending over to set Luna in the back seat – and nearly causing Derek to sink to his knees at the sight of that ridiculously perfect ass. Once he had Luna secured in the backseat, he opened the driver’s side door and rested his arm on the top of it while directing a shit-eating grin at Derek. “Well, as long as you save all your adventures for tonight, it’s all good.”
Derek groaned good-naturedly as they watched Stiles slide into the cruiser and slowly pull away with a wave and honk of his horn.
“Sir,” Reyes said as they stood there watching the cruiser disappear. “If you don’t hit that, I’m reporting you up the chain of command for being a fucking idiot.”
“Did you know, Reyes,” Derek growled, though there wasn’t any heat in it, “the Navy never did ban flogging?”
“Now, now, sir, save that kinda dirty talk for dessert with Stiles.”