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Theft By Finding

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She heard feet on the gravel path crunch crunch crunching toward her and stop inches away, “Ho, boy.” Melia said, “Okay, whose dog is that?”

Eurydice shrugged. “Don’t know.” She answered without looking up, her hands carding over the dog’s black and spotted white fur. He was a large breed, mabari mix if she had to guess, but he thought himself as a small lap dog with how he took over her lap and two of the three steps of the stoop. His head was heavy but he was so content and so sweet that she wouldn’t dream of pushing him away.

“Okay. Where did you get it?”

‘Him’. He’s a ‘him’.”

“For the love of—fine. Where did you get him?”

“He was on the street.”

“Alone?”

“Probably.”

“Proba—“ Melia sputtered, her hands gesturing between her and the dog, “Eury, you can’t just steal a dog.”

Eurydice looped her skinny arms around the dog’s head protectively and pulled him closer to her chest. “It is not stealing if he has no owner and he is alone.” She explained, frowning slightly, and it was true. It wasn’t as if she had walked into a house, punched a man, and then ran off with his dog. She had found him crying in an alleyway, shivering next to a pile of garbage from both distress and the cold. She would have been a monster if she hadn’t taken him by the broken leash and brought him along with her. It was common sense, not theft—although, even if it had been considered theft, she would have done it anyway.

Again, she was not a monster.

Dropping her bag, Melia shook her head as she bent down to get a better look at the dog. She offered her hand to him, waiting until he sniffed it then licked it, before scratching his neck and spying some leather around it. “I hate to break it to you, babe, but that pretty collar he’s sporting says different.”

Oh. That. Right.

Eurydice paused then slid her eyes away and said, “…still not stealing if I found him. And Lath likes him.”

Lath offered no indication of how she felt about the new addition currently crushing her owner’s lower half and anyone who glanced at her knew it. The aging greyhound in question was sprawled out in a patch of grass just a few feet away, tongue out and skinny tail flapping in her sleep, too hung up in getting belly rubs in her dreams to pay attention. But when she had met the mabari earlier in the day, she hadn’t sprinted off and hid under the table as she usually did with strangers or cried out when she had to share her food, so Eurydice interpreted it as a good sign.

Melia, however, didn’t appear all that convinced as she played with the golden tag hanging from the color; on one side was the carved symbol of a sword and flaming eye, on the other the bold engraving of a name. “Uh huh. Look, I’m not getting into another argument over semantics with you. You’re a dog-napper and you know it.” She said, smirking in spite of herself, “Let’s see here…so your name is Dane, eh big guy?”

A soft ‘bork’ was her answer as the dog—Dane—perked up in recognition, his tail flapping and his ears up in attention. He panted excitedly as he licked Melia’s hand as if to say ‘yes, that’s me, love me please’.

Eurydice bustled at it and roughly muttered, “Bad name.”

Melia giggled as she scratched Dane’s cheek, his tongue trying to lap at her fingertips. “Oh, so now he has an owner? Anyway, what fantastically creative name have you been calling him? Barker? Blacky? Please don’t say ‘Spot’.”

Eurydice squinted at her, fixing her with a look that said she should know better—her names, after all, were carefully constructed and logical choices for all her pets. “No. Flop—he has too much skin and when he lays down, it all ‘flops’.” She lifted a fold of Dane’s skin and then let it do just as she said—flop right back down, the skin rippling like tiny waves in a puddle of water. She nodded to Melia in self-approval, “See? It is a great name, I think, yes? Yes.”

“Yeah, it’s the best.” Melia quipped playfully, barely concealing her eye roll. Her fingers explored along the leather collar, undoing it blindly by unhooking the latch, and pulled it off Dane’s neck. She ‘hmphed’ as she pulled the collar taut in her hands. “Oh, lookie here. Is this a name and number I see? Golly gee, I think it is.”

On the metal clasp was another engraving in bold lettering:

IF FOUND CALL CULLEN RUTHERFORD
682-XXX-XXXX

It was with great stubbornness that Eurydice even considered giving it a passing glance. She flicked her eyes away and clicked her tongue glibly, “Hm. I did not see that.” Which wasn’t a lie. She hadn’t seen it, but then again she also hadn’t checked it either. No need to do so in her opinion—names weren’t that important when you had scratchies and kisses to give.

Putting her eyes anywhere else but Melia and the stupid collar, Eurydice looked to Lath rolling onto her back in her sleep and grabbed a handful of hair, twirling it repeatedly around her fingers.

Her sister grinned knowingly at her and said, “Suuuuuure you didn’t. Bet you just happened to overlook it. Well, best get to calling.” She shoved the collar into Eurydice’s chest and waved her hand in a ‘go on’ motion’.

Eurydice tugged at her hair hard enough to hurt and held the collar as if it was something disease ridden. “…or—” she began after a long pause, her pointer going up in a matter-a-fact sort of way, “I could be returning a poor dog to a terrible owner. He could have escaped. Been mistreated. Maybe I am—we are—saving him right now. Yes, definitely saving. Toss it out, we will buy him a better one tomorrow, no regrets.”

She tossed the collar back into Melia’s hand and made to run off right then, but Dane wasn’t exactly the type of dog you could pick up and run with. This was, apparently, the price of having a very, very good boy on her lap—no escape from the pair of bright green eyes stabbing directly into her.

“Oh, piss off! I know you gave him the whole run down before you brought him home. Was he hurt? Cuz he looks as healthy as a hart to me—and as well fed as one, too.”

It burned her right to the tips of her drooping ears that Melia was right. She would have been remiss if she hadn’t taken Dane to her office for a checkup, if only to make sure he wasn’t infested with fleas and safe to have around Lath. It was a problem because not only was he well-groomed, healthy, and spoiled but he was one of the most well-mannered dogs she had ever had the pleasure in dealing with. It was a problem because if he had been even slightly overweight or restless, she might have had an argument in keeping him.

But, he was none of those things. He was…a perfect darling, trained and polite and attentive, and Eurydice couldn’t lie about any of that.

“No…no,” She said quietly, pulling the twirled strand of hair to her mouth to bite down on it, “he is…exceptionally well taken care of…”

“Which means he’s also well loved, right?” Melia asked.

Eurydice peered down at Dane and bit down on her hair again, “…we do not know that.”

“Positive we do.” Melia said as she got up and squirmed her way beneath Dane’s and onto the stoop, nudging her hip into Eurydice until they were squeezed together. Her expression softened as she gently brushed Eurydice hair behind her ear, “Come on, right now this…‘Cullen’…”—Dane’s ears twitched up at the name—“is probably going insane trying to find Dane. What if someone found Lath or Hulk and decided to keep them because of the off chance that you might be treating them like shit?”

“I wouldn’t. Never.”

“But what if? Think about it.”

Eurydice sucked in a sharp breath, her chest inflated with anxiety and denial, and closed her eyes. Melia was right—infuriatingly so, which would make her smug about this later—but she was. If someone snatched Lath off the street or Hulk from a field and didn’t return them she would—she would kill them. No, wait, that was irrational but she would be upset and that was just as inconvenient as killing someone and hiding the body to her.

This man was most likely feeling the same way.

She took the collar from Melia and read the name again. One of her hands found its way back to combing through the fur on Dane’s neck and when he whined quietly, his eyes searching off in the distance for someone, she knew she had little choice. Fishing her phone out of the back pocket of her jeans, Eurydice took her time inputting the number and waved her thumb over the dial button idly.

Speaking with strangers without a buffer was hard. Calling people on the phone was exasperating.

But she tapped call button and started counting the rings as she put the phone to her ear.

One ring, two rings, three rings.

Voicemail, voicemail, go to voicemail.

On the fourth ring, the sound cut into a rustling noise, “Hello?” A man’s voice answered, rushed in tone and graveled.

“Cullen Rutherford?”

Putting her hand on Eurydice’s shoulder, Melia squished herself into her sister’s side and pressed her ear to the other side of the phone so she could properly listen in. The weight slumped Eurydice’s shoulder down but she didn’t push her away.

“Yes?”

“I am calling to inform you that I found your mabari on the street earlier this evening. He is currently residing at my house.”

“Ah—he’s with you?” The voice on the other end shook with sudden and almost unbelieving relief, “Thank the Maker, I’ve been searching everywhere. I had thought…” There was a beat of silence, she heard an audible swallow, a slow exhale, and then he spoke with more composure, “Nevermind. Is he safe?”

“Yes. His leash was snapped when I discovered him but otherwise, he is unharmed.”

“That’s…that’s great. Not, er, not the leash—I swore it was a cheap buy—but him being safe. I, uh, I thought someone had stolen him.”

Melia stifled a snort under her hand. “Yes, that would have been bad,” Eurydice said without a single trace of irony, which made Melia snort again.

“Where are you? I’ll come pick him up right now.” She heard the familiar jingle of keys being handled.

“No.”

The man sounded caught off guard by that, “Excuse me?”

She grabbed at her hair again and combed it persistently, “I am not giving you my address. It is too late for you to come here. I will bring him to the dog park tomorrow and we can exchange him there.”

“…alright. On Lake Ave?”

“Yes.”

“Alright. And your name is?”

“Eurydice.”

“Well, um, thank you, Eurydice.” He said and there was something about the way he said her name that she liked, as if he trying to sing it, but she ignored it. “You cannot imagine how grateful I am that you—”

Eurydice yanked a little too much on her hair and interrupted him, “I will see you tomorrow at 9 am.”

“Oh, uh…yes, that will be—”

“Goodbye.”

Before he could say any more, Eurydice slid her finger across the ‘end call’ button and watched as the phone promptly cut off his voice and the screen turned black. She pushed Melia off her shoulder and wiggled an inch or two away, the touching suddenly turning suffocating when she thought about it too long.

Falon'Din, could you make it sound any more like a hostage situation?” Melia teased as she sat back against the door, putting some space between them.

Eurydice put a hand on Dane’s back and felt a steady rumbling against her palm. The corners of her lips twitched upward when she realized he was snoring; even in deep slumber he was well behaved.

“’Hostage situation’ infers I am in demand of a ransom when, in fact, I am only losing what I want.” She countered.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was joking.” Melia said as she rolled her eyes and grinned at her, “But anyway—did you hear his voice? He sounded hot. Kinda wish you let him come here tonight just to see the body attached.”

For a second, she recalled how he had said her name before dashing his voice away in the next. “He sounded Fereldan.” She said indifferently.

“And that’s hot—to me, anyway. You, I don’t know what you find hot besides big arms and big horns.” Melia nudged her with her elbow, “Hey, maybe he has big horns! Maybe he’s cute.”

“Hn, that is irrelevant. The only cute thing is Dane.” Eurydice said, rubbing behind his ears and watching with delight as he opened his mouth and flopped his tongue out. A large gloop of salvia dripped out of his mouth and onto the side of Melia’s thigh.

“Ewwww, not when he’s drooling all over my jeans!” Melia cried and shudder, trying to push him off her enough to wiggle out from under him. Dane, however, slept as heavy and as massive as a rock would and couldn’t be bothered to budge, much less stop salivating all over her leg. “Aaa fffenedhis! C’mon, get off!”

Eurydice had long accepted her fate as a doggy bed and offered no help. “Mmm, guess we’re stuck here for the night.” She said with the flat expression, though one might think there was a twinge of humor in her tone.

Dramatically, Melia thunked her head back into the door with a groan and whined, “I’m going to die here and it’ll be all your fault.”

“Sacrifices must be made for the greater good, Melia.”

It was as she said that that the door wrenched open and a yellow light washed over them, a knee almost smacking Melia square in the neck as one of their brothers—Izark—tried to rush out. He swore, bracing himself on the framing before he could trip, and glared at the two of them. “Dread Wolf’s shittin’ balls, not again! Stop blocking the fuckin’ doorway! Some of us have places to go!”

Melia and Eurydice didn’t even look back at him as they said in terrifyingly perfect unison, “Use the backdoor”.


It was snowing again, as was the Fereldan way.

This was how the weather here functioned, she had learned years ago; regardless of season, temperature, time, or the general populous’ opinion, it was always snowing. It snowed in the summer, in the spring, it snowed when it rained or when there was a hurricane. It snowed and then it snowed some more, and when you thought it was the end of it, that the sky had run out of water, it snowed again and buried you deeper in. Dorian told her once about a theory he had in which the whole of Ferelden was cursed to suffer irregular stunts of blizzards but only when it served to inconvenience everyone. A particularly bad-tempered mage had done it, probably, because some prince let his mabari shit in the mages shoes. It’s always the mabari with these people, he told her.

That or global warming, but the two of them agreed that no, having your car submerged in dirty snow, street sludge, and bricks of ice after it had been bright and sunny two days prior had to be the work of some spiteful ancient mage.

Luckily for her (or not so much, depending on who you talked to, as the excuse of a snowstorm would have been the perfect reason not show up) today was only a mild cold spell. Flurries of soft snow fluttered down from a white sky as Eurydice leaned back on a park bench and blew out puffs of air just to see her breath form into white clouds. She lifted her phone above her head to check the time.

8: 52 AM

Hm.

No sign of ‘Cullen’ or whatever his name was.

Eurydice slumped against the bench, her fingers curling and uncurling around the leashes in her hand, scanning the empty park for the man. If he was late or doesn’t show, does that mean he forfeits Dane? She hoped so. Melia would never let her be if she left after ten minutes, though.

Not to mention now that he knows she has Dane and has her number and her name, he might have grounds to call the police on her for ‘dog-napping’—and dealing with the police was not an experience she wished to repeat.

As she exhaled frosty air and sat up, she heard nails scraping against the pavement and a persistent squeaking. Lath scampered up beside Eurydice with her tennis ball in her mouth, her prize to show off as she put her chin on Eurydice’s leg and plopped it into her hand. Dane trailed behind her, tongue and tail and skin messily flopping in the rush of wind, panting as he came near and bounced around the two with all the energy of an energetic little puppy.

“Good, good. Both of you. Very good.” Eurydice cooed at the both of them. She waved the ball in front of them, waiting patiently for both to calm down. She watched as Lath wagged her tail and stood to attention while Dane bowed down on the floor and fidgeted in aspiration.  

“Go get it!”

She hurled the ball as far as she could and the two dogs bounded across the frosty grass field after it, Dane’s bark booming through the otherwise lifeless park.

A small smile began to creep across her face as she watched them play together. The two of them got along remarkably well for the short the time they spent together; a surprise given Lath’s nervous nature. She was a tired, edgy dog, one that quivered at the sight of strangers and didn’t often stray from Eurydice’s side. This was fine, as it was a trait she shared with her owner, but it made Eurydice worry. Dogs are social creatures and Lath, somber as she was, was no exception to the rule. Eurydice too often found her laid out in the dark under the table or bed, too depressed to move or even lay in the sunlight.

She was too old to be doing that—it would make her fade away faster—a thought Eurydice wanted to avoid thinking about as long as possible.

Dane somehow had gotten past all that. It might have been his infectiously charming personality or the fact that he had spent the night and proved to be harmless, but Lath had taken to him immediately. The two of them played together as if they had been playmates since they were puppies. They darted after one another, tossing the ball between them, growling (or in Lath’s case, squeaking) and nipping lightheartedly when the other got too close.

It was comforting to see Lath so happy.

Which made returning Dane to his owner all the more difficult. As foolish as it had been, Eurydice truly did become attached to the mabari. When she had brought him home, she had hoped he would have been a suitable companion for Lath.

Turns out she had been right, which was unfortunate. Creators, if only he wasn’t such a good dog.

Eurydice combed her fingers through her hair and heaved a sigh. Such a shame, such a shame.

Lath jumped on Dane and tugged on his ear and he, though bigger and stronger, did not throw her off. Instead he rolled them over, licking her face before stealing the ball from her, and ran off in the other direction.

“Dane?”

Eurydice’s heart jumped as she saw Dane skid to an abrupt stop and freeze. The mabari became rigid as his ears darted forward and the ball dropped from his mouth. Anxiously, he began turning his heard in every direction, searching for the source of the faraway voice.

“Dane!”

The voice called again and this time Dane knew exactly where—and from whom—it was coming from. Immediately he was off running toward him—mouth open wide and tongue dangling free in the happiest of grins, his tail whipping like a propeller at his back, barking as if to answer the call. There was a man waiting for him with open arms, hardly able to get to his knees before the large mabari quite literally threw the entirety of himself into him and latched his forelegs onto his shoulders. The man must have been considerably strong (or used to this) to be able to keep upright with Dane all but tackling him, chuckling as the dog nuzzled and licked his face.

“Hey—hey, big guy! Haha—that’s right, it’s me!” He said. “Maker, Dane, I’ve missed you!” Yelping and laughter resounded from the two as the Dane kept squirming out of the man’s hands to lick him again and again. The man hugged him as best he could, kissing and burying his face in Dane’s fur.

Eurydice observed all this with a mixture of disappointment and relief swirling in her stomach. Any idiot with eyes could tell who the man was, which meant that Dane—Dane was finally going home.

Pursing her lip together for a moment, Eurydice looked to Lath over in the field, dutifully walking back with the ball in her mouth. She signaled for her to ‘come’ with the flick of her index and middle finger put together and then got up from the bench. As much as she would like to just leave and avoid a conversation altogether with the man, it would be terribly cruel of her if she didn’t say goodbye or allow Lath to do so.

The man was still rubbing the sides of Dane’s head when she approached and it took Dane barking at her for him to even notice her. The second his eyes tried to catch hers, she snapped her gaze to Dane’s tail slapping against the ground. She had seen enough of his face, however, to know what she was dealing.

A Fereldan human, white-skinned and blonde, his hair pushed back smoothly from his face, and when he stood up, she could see that he wasn’t that tall for a human; average height, she would say. He was, however, quite wide. Broad shoulders, solid body, a big hand with patched scars on the knuckles, which he extended out towards her.

“Ah, you must be Eurydice.” He said her name in that pleasant way again, like he was sounding out the syllables in a melody, but she stubbornly tossed the thought away.

“Yes. And you are Cullen Rutherford.”

She ignored his hand and after it hung in the air too long, the man awkwardly dropped it back to his side.

He cleared his throat, “Yes, um. Well, I must thank you again for taking Dane in. I doubt I would have ever found him if you hadn’t first. I don’t even know how he had gotten loose—the leash broke, you said, but regardless. It is unusual for him to run off as he did.” He put his hand on Dane’s head and brushed his fingers through his fur, “You gave me such a scare. You’re supposed to stay put when I go into stores.”

Dane woofed and licked Cullen’s hand, much too overjoyed to be apologetic.

“Hm.” Eurydice only uttered in response as she untangled Dane’s red leash from Lath’s blue one and held it out, “Here. This should not break.”

He had put his hands up in front of him and said, “Oh. Maker, no. I couldn’t.”

Eurydice curiously pulled her eyes up from his chest to the lower part of his face. She supposed he was handsome, if one was to call him anything, with a layer of dark scruff lining his square jaw. What she found more interesting was his mouth or rather the pale scar which split up the ride side of it, scratching down when he frowned at her.  

“Why not? Yours is broken, yes? Yes.”

“Yes but…” He scratched the side of his neck and turned his head from her, “er, after the trouble we’ve put you through, I can’t just take it. It is yours.”

“It is fine. I have plenty for Lath. She does not like red.”

Lath? Oh.” Cullen asked and it appeared he had finally detected the creature balled up behind Eurydice’s leg, her tail coiled around her ankle as she put the toy ball down. It was a habit of Lath’s to sneak up when others would be least likely to see her, hiding just out of eye range in case she needed to act in Eurydice’s interest. She stared at Cullen with suspicious eyes regardless of how she trembled, unsure of his intentions with her owner.

He peered down at Lath as if she was this new amazing thing and then smiled tenderly at her. “I see. May I?”

“May you ‘what’?” Eurydice asked, not understanding.  

He blinked, “Oh, um, pet? Her?”

“Hm. Okay. Slow. She scares easily.” Eurydice nodded and gingerly taped on Lath’s head. It was a reassurance, just in case she got too frazzled by him. She didn’t want her running off because he moved too fast—even in her old age, Lath was far too quick to catch when she was terrified.

Cullen, however, seemed to be practiced in dealing with anxious dogs. He was slow as he bent to her height, thoughtful of his movements and Lath’s twitchy state, and offered her his hand to sniff. “It’s alright. I won’t hurt you.” He whispered, careful in keeping himself perfectly still. Lath stared him and his hand with a great deal of wariness and crept back from his reach just in case he tried to grab at her. She looked to Eurydice and then to Dane, who appeared to beam and barked encouragingly at her.

This was his human, he seemed to say, and his human was a good human.

Lath made a little, muffled squeak and tentatively raised her nose to his fingertips, sniffing around them before lapping at them. She squeaked again as she nudged her head into his hand, giving him permission to touch her.

“That’s a good girl.” He chuckled as he ran his hand her over her long neck and head, his other hand softly scratching her under the chin. “My, you’re beautiful, aren’t you? Such a lovely girl.”

Lath yelped in agreement and nuzzled her head in his big hands, the fear slowly draining from her slender body.

He was right, of course. Lath was beautiful. Eurydice was glad to see he had some taste.

Still, his very correct assumption about her dog notwithstanding, she felt herself itching to leave before he decided to get too ‘chummy’, as her siblings might say. Humans were like that—small talk about nothing for the sake of nothing and then they wanted your number and facebook request and then they would talk nothing on there and get upset when you didn’t answer back. Too much trouble.

Eurydice stepped back and Lath, ever vigilant of her owner’s body language, shook Cullen’s hands away and did the same. The human appeared to take the hint, dropping his hands and standing up again. Dane pushed his head against Cullen’s leg and looked at him and Eurydice.

“Beautiful. Er, your dog that is.” He said and scratched at his neck again, “Anyway. I truly do wish to reward you for this. A payment of some kind, perhaps? I can write a check or…”

“No. That is unnecessary. I want nothing from you.”

She saw it. His eyes narrowing and his mouth shaping into a hard line. “I insist.”

“I decline.” Eurydice asserted and tightened her grip on Lath’s leash. She looked away towards the path out of the park and shifted her feet restlessly, “If the matter is settled, I will leave now. Lath, say goodbye to Dane.”

The two dogs peered at her and then at each other as if having an unspoken conversation. Dane whined, his ears drooping, but Lath could do nothing more than lick his cheek and rub her head under his chin before turning away. It hurt to watch.

Dane made another sad sound which tore at her heartstrings as Eurydice kneeled down and ran her fingers through the fur of his neck. “Dar’eth shiral, da’len.” She whispered and kissed him between the eyes.

Dane gave her a sloppy lick in return, which just made the goodbye even harder.

She felt her chest ache as she gently pushed Dane off her and stood up. She really didn’t want to look at the human right now, didn’t really care what he thought or said. She just patted Dane’s head one last time and said, “Take care” before she and Lath started walking away.

And that was the end of it.

“…come on, Dane, let’s go home…”

It should have been the end of it.

“Dane, what’re you—no, no! Dane, stay! Stay—”

Except it wasn’t the end of it—no, definitely not—not when Dane pounced on her back and had taken her straight down to the very hard and very cold frost covered ground. Reflexes saved her face from any bloody/serious injury as she had thrown her arms over her face before she had hit the dirt. However, having a dog of relatively 200 lbs. tackle her wasn’t exactly comfortable.

One of the top ten ways Nike and Sera had said she would die, yes (right after getting crushed by a horse, eaten by a bear, and pissing off the wrong old guy) but how she wanted to spend her day? Not so much.

Dane was at least kind enough to let her turn on her back before he decided to sit down on her stomach and lay his massive head down on her chest.

Hm. Alright. Yeah.

There go her organs, she guessed.

Eurydice squinted up at the bright gray sky, the air knocked out of her and not getting back in what with the pressure on her lungs, pondering if perhaps she deserved this for ‘stealing’. Maybe this was what the elders specifically meant when they said ‘May the Dread Wolf take you’: Fen’Harel sends an adorably fat dog to crush you and makes you cough up your soul.

If that’s the case, then she’s impressed. It’s a creative way to go.

Cullen’s head appeared in view as he raced up beside her and frantically checked to make sure she hadn’t died. “Maker’s breath! Are you alright?”

Eurydice could barely muster a narrowed eyed look because, really, did she appear alright? The human seemed to realize the useless nature of the question and returned his attention back his dog. “Dane! For the Maker’s sake, get off her! You’ll kill the poor woman!” He shouted as he tried shoving him off.

Dane, however, was stubbornly standing—or sitting—his ground. It was evident that when he wanted to, Dane could turn himself into an unmovable object. When it became apparent that pushing the mabari off was a failed option, Cullen had gotten up and decided to grab at as much of Dane as he could and try heaving him up instead.

“I’m so sorry, Ms. Eurydice.” He huffed breathlessly, struggling with the dead weight of his dog, “He has never behaved this way before.”

In spite of her chest smashed to bits, hearing him say her name again made her heart do a…a flutter. One that she didn’t like at all. It was a stupid flutter and she didn’t want it to happen again. She grimaced as if tasting something bad as she watched Dane wildly squirm in Cullen grip and then, he was breaking free and he was on top of her again, licking her face and barking.

“Dane!”

He barked again and Eurydice realized she wasn’t the one he was barking at. It was Lath.

Lath who was letting Dane make a bed of her while she looked Eurydice right in the face and did nothing to help.

Lath, who appeared more lively than ever, ready to play along with Dane’s game and make Eurydice stick around as long as possible.

Lath, who squeaked back at him and then went to gently lick Eurydice’s cheek as if to say ‘please, may we stay’?

Oh, Creators, she got it. She was being crushed to death, conned by two dogs, and she got it.

“Fine.” She grounded out, feeling three sets of eyes focus in on her, “We will stay and play a little longer. You two win.”

Just like that, Dane howled and was off her. He sprang back over to Lath, nearly knocking her over if she hadn’t been quick on her feet, and the two scampered off together back towards the field. If she wasn’t currently trying to reflate her collapsed lungs, she might have been happy for them—might. It was hard to say what with the lack of air and all.

Eurydice coughed as she sat up and felt the human hovering at her side.

“Shit, are you alright?” He asked and carefully took her by the arm, “Here, let me help you—Maker, I am truly sorry. I don’t know what came over him.”

Eurydice let him pull her to her feet, hair messily thrown over her face, into her mouth, and sticking to her cheeks. Legs unsteady, she blindly placed her hands on his chest to stay upright and felt his arm at the small of her back. He was warm, the black and red fur trim of his jacket scratching her cheek briefly, their bodies closer than either of them intended. Someone’s heart was beating too loudly and Eurydice wasn’t sure if it was her own or his.

Everything suddenly became tense and awkward, neither sure of what to make of the situation or each other, but no one was pulling away. It was strange, very strange, and his hand on her back made her sweat. For whatever reason, Eurydice allowed her eyes to travel up his face then and caught him looking back at her with his dark brown eyes. Dark, she thought, as the old brown wood of a tree. Dark as the old brown trees from her childhood in the Free Marches. The trees she liked to climb and sleep in and hide from everyone in.

Dark, dark, dark brown which bore into her and then it was too much, too deep, it hurt, and Eurydice had snapped her eyes away. She dropped her head down, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks and the tips of her ears, and the man coughed and turned away.

“I, uh, that is. Perhaps we should sit.” He suggested as he slipped his hand away and stepped back from her—and she was grateful for the space to breathe, “I believe they’ll be playing for a while.”

She heard Lath and Dane barking and squeaking and enjoying themselves and knew she was stuck. Stuck with this human man who was going to say her name in that sing-song way again and make her gut twist. Stuck because Lath had a friend, a friend Eurydice really liked, and she wasn’t going to take him from her, not now and not ever.

Stuck and there was not a thing she could do about it. She should have never listened to Melia

Cullen was walking back towards the benches, calling to her with a kind smile, “Coming, Ms. Eurydice?”

She really should have never listened to Melia.

Eurydice combed her fingers through her and followed him, thinking that if she has to suffer through awkward, dull conversations with this human, then at least she got to see Dane a little longer. It was something of a good thing, she supposed.