"Previously on Dog Cops..."
"You did a fine job on the missing baby case, Sergeant Whiskers. You're a real credit to Felines everywhere."
"Oh shit," Tony said, scooting forward on his chair. "Check out the glare she's giving that bulldog from the mayor's office. I can't believe he used that phrase."
"I don't blame her a bit," Steve said seriously. "Just because she's a cat is no reason for that politician to...oh, hey, Clint! You got here!"
Clint waved a greeting to Steve from the doorway, then sat down on the couch in the space Natasha had saved for him between her and Bruce.
"Did I miss anything," he asked, shrugging out of his jacket and tossing it onto the coffee table. "I would have been here sooner, but Katie wanted to watch the premiere at my place with some of her friends, and she couldn't find her copy of the apartment key."
Steve heroically refrained from saying anything about how many keys Kate Bishop had misplaced over the past five months. "No, you're in plenty of time, Clint. They're still showing scenes from the season one finale."
"He knows Buddy deserves half the credit for solving that case, Prince" hissed Sergeant Whiskers.
"I'm certain he meant no disrespect," said the plainclothes Golden Retriever. "Everyone knows that Sergeant Buddy would have worked the case every step of the way if he had been cleared by his veterinarian. Despite his grievous injuries, he has been a great help to us all." Detective Prince sighed. "Would that all partners showed such loyalty and devotion."
"Is anybody going to kill me if I share a little spoiler?"
"I am certain you need fear nothing from my comrades-in-arms, Darcy."
Natasha raised an eyebrow. "I wouldn't be so quick to make those kind of promises, Thor. How big a spoiler are we talking about?"
"Just a tiny character spoiler. Sergeant Whiskers' former partner? He's going to be in tonight's episode."
"Bullshit!" Tony said.
"I assure you, Sir. Miss Darcy's news is quite accurate."
"Oh, so you know all about t.v. spoilers now, Jarvis?"
"You have asked me to monitor the social media sites, Sir."
"Monitor, my ass," Darcy laughed. "Jarvis has his own tumblr account, don't you, J-Man?"
"As you say, Miss Darcy."
"Jesus," said Tony, shaking his head. "They grow up so fast. Just yesterday I was programming Jarvis to rule the world, and today he's apparently a fourteen year old girl."
"Hey," Darcy said, throwing a pillow at Tony's head. "Sexist!"
"Yeah, yeah...watch the show."
"I appreciate you coming in to help us with our inquiries."
"I hope you realize your appreciation is utterly valueless to me," the detective said disdainfully as he swept past the other officer and strode into the interview room."
"Wait, who's that again?" Bruce asked.
"The doberman? That's Detective Prince's creepy partner," said Jane.
"No, I remember him from last season," Bruce said. "I don't recognize the one doing the questioning...him, that beagle with the designer collar."
"Oh him," Clint said, his eyes lighting up. "I think he's Internal Affairs or something. Did you ever see the original pilot? Not the one that aired on t.v....the one that was only available online?"
Bruce shook his head.
"Yeah, well...the beagle was in the original pilot, but he had some sort of scheduling conflict, so he was written out of the show, except he had a big fan following..."
"Over 75,000 followers on his twitter account," said Darcy.
"...so they found a way to bring him back."
Bruce frowned. "Wait, how could he have had a scheduling conflict? He's a dog."
"None of that," Darcy said, waving her hands in the air. "Don't ruin the magic."
"Anyway," Clint said. "Detective Prince's partner is the prime suspect for...something or other."
"I am sure he is being accused unjustly," said Thor. "In any case, I was certain that this region of Midgard subscribes to the notion that one is innocent until proven guilty, or have I misunderstood?"
♪ Dadada dadada, Dog Cops. ♪
♫ Dadada dadada, Dog Cops. ♫
♪ Dadada dadada, Dog Cops. ♪
♫ Dadada dadada, Dog Cops. ♫ *
(aka, worst t.v. theme ever)
"Oh yay, it's going to start!"
"Gosh, calm down, Darcy,"
"You're not the boss of me, Captain America. We're going to get to see Sergeant Buddy finally. On screen. With Sergeant Whiskers."
Steve frowned. "And that's exciting because...why?"
Darcy rolled her eyes. "Because clearly they're more than just partners."
"Of course they are. Pepper!"
"What do you need, Darcy," called Pepper from the other room.
"You have to support the sisterhood."
Still wearing the suit she'd worn to the SI board meeting that afternoon, Pepper came into the den and sat on the arm of Tony's chair. "What does the sisterhood need from me?" Pepper asked with a smile.
"You can help explain the importance of Sergeant Buddy and Sergeant Whiskers appearing together for the first time on Dog Cops."
"Ooh," Pepper said, her eyes widening. "That's tonight?"
"See?" Darcy said smugly. "Pepper ships them too."
Steve wrinkled his brow in confusion. "You...'ship' them?"
"Like burning," Darcy said. "Oh god, there he is...that's got to be Sergeant Buddy!"
"Buddy?" Sparky trotted out of the motor pool, then shook the grease off his fur and wagged his tail, trying hard to avoid looking at the shaved patch on Buddy's hip or Buddy's missing eye. "What the hell are you doing here, man? I thought you weren't due back for another month at least."
Sergeant Buddy shrugged. "Yeah, just, um...I've got a report to submit, so...."
"You coming back early? Friday night poker games haven't been the same since they put you on medical leave."
"I'll see what I can do, but just 'cause you asked so nicely." Buddy glanced up at the stainless steel clock. "Hey, so...I've gotta go. Sergeant Whiskers is waiting for me upstairs...you know, my master's voice."
Sparky grinned. "Sit. Stay. Roll over. Yeah, I know how that goes. Anyway, it's been good to see you, Buddy."
"Good to see you too, Sparky."
When Dog Cops broke for a commercial, Tony hit the mute button on the remote control.
"Yeah?" Clint's voice was uncharacteristically high-pitched and almost squeaky.
"The dog playing Buddy?" Tony began cautiously. "Isn't that your dog, Lucky?"
"You guess?" Natasha said, flicking Clint's jaw with a snap of her index finger. "No guesswork is involved; that was definitely Lucky."
"Yeah," Clint said, looking a little shell-shocked. "I...okay, so remember at the end of last season, when they kept running ads for that contest: send in a photo of your dog and he or she might be given a walk on?"
"I remember," Natasha said.
"Yeah, so...Kate asked if she could send in a picture of Lucky, which...I figured, why not? it wasn't like they were going to pick him or anything, not all messed up like he was. I mean, Lucky's great, but...I guess he's not exactly the Justin Bieber of dogs."
Natasha nodded. "Except they'd apparently been thinking about an appearance by Sergeant Buddy in the next season."
"Yeah. I guess they picked him." Clint shook his head. "I don't know why Katie didn't say anything."
"Because she wanted it to be a surprise," Darcy chortled, waving her StarkPhone in the air from the other end of the couch. "Say 'hi' to Kate, everyone!"
"Hello, Ms. Bishop."
Clint put his head in his hands.
"What's wrong, Clint?"
"They've bonded, Nat. That...isn't good." Clint crawled over Natasha and reached for Darcy's phone. "Gimme...I need to talk to your new best friend."
Darcy grinned and handed her phone to Clint, immediately powering up her tablet.
"Hey, Girly," Clint said.
"Hey, Jerkface. Surprise!"
Clint could hear the sound of Kate's friends laughing, punctuated by a soft bark or two, at the other end of the phone. "Yeah, it was a surprise, all right. How'd you get Lucky out without me knowing?"
"They wanted him at the studio on one of the days you were in California last month. Honestly, I thought they were just going to use Lucky for a cameo, but I guess he's a natural actor."
"Just like his daddy," Clint said.
He could almost hear Kate rolling her eyes.
"Yeah Clint, you keep telling yourself that, if it helps you sleep at night. Anyway, listen...Lucky earned $500 for the afternoon's work, and I donated it to the veterinary service that took care of him when he was injured. That's okay, right?"
"Sounds good, Katie. Wouldn't want him to get too used to those big fat paychecks now that his brush with fame is over."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Darcy called out from the other end of the sofa, her tablet held aloft in one hand. "#LuckytheDog is trending. Half of the North American twitter!verse wants to see Sergeant Buddy come back for more episodes."
Tony laughed. "Hey, your dog's a celebrity, Barton."
Clint shook his head. "Don't get any ideas, Stark. Lucky's not going with you to Spago or wherever. I'm not letting Lucky become one of those child stars who go bad."
"Um...Lucky's not a child, Barton."
"Totally not the point, Stark."
"Ahem...I'm hanging up now. Simone's kids just showed up at the door with a treat for Lucky, and then we're ordering pizza. You want me to get extra so you'll have leftovers when you get back?"
"Yeah, thanks Kate."
"No problem. Night, Hawkeye."
"Oh, look Clint," Pepper said. "There's Lucky's name in the credits."
Clint shook his head. "So weird."
"It's not exactly the strangest thing you've encountered," Steve said.
"Steve's right," said Bruce. "It's probably not even in the top one hundred of strange."
"Hope you don't mind, Clint, but I just set up a twitter account for @LuckytheDog," Darcy said, looking not at all ashamed of herself. "Oh hey, three minutes, no tweets yet, and Lucky already has 217 followers. Oh my god, Anderson Cooper just followed him. And Oprah. 387 followers. 451 followers...."
Bruce laughed. "I'm officially taking back my last comment; this belongs in the Top One Hundred of Strange."
"God," Clint muttered, slumping down in his seat. "What next?"
"Next week on Dog Cops..."