John was a big fan of alleys.
Warm vents of air in the winter and buildings to cut the wind. Cool shadows from those buildings in the summer. Private nooks and crannies for him to huddle in year round. Putting his muzzle down on his paws with a muffled sigh John relaxed in the protection of the dumpster. Really the only drawback was the smell. The bottom of the dumpster was high enough off of the ground that he could crawl completely underneath it in his shifted form with only a little bit of squeezing.
The average New Yorker wouldn’t be able to successfully identify a wolf if their lives depended on it. A big gray dog with sharp teeth though, that was universally understood. During the day if he had to be out and about it was always a gamble whether he was wearing fur or patchwork clothes. Either way he went people tended to cross the street to get out of his way. They were, marginally, less likely to call animal control if he was standing on two feet at least.
The shady corner he had managed to curl up in was a lot cooler than the shimmering heat that curled through the city. It wasn’t exactly an air conditioned hotel room with a queen sized bed. Last time he had stayed in one of those though he’d just fallen asleep when the metal door had burst inwards with an almighty bang as it had nearly disintegrated under the weight of a furious werewolf's clawed paws.
John had only been a werewolf for a matter of months and the change had still been an awkward and difficult thing. That night though it had felt like the most natural thing in the world to shed his human form in a swift shift that had let him leap through the window on two feet and land on four. By the time John had stopped running the pads of his paws had been sore and cracked from running on the pavement.
John was unwilling, and at this point unable, to pay for a room that he would have been too tense to sleep in. So back alleys it was for the time being until he figured out how the pack kept finding him. The normal sounds of the city flickered past John’s constantly twitching ears in a nearly constant blare of noise. Everything blended together, honking taxis, chattering pedestrians and the almost drowned out percussion from a street musician all came together to form a soothing type of white noise.
The tinkling sound of a glass bottle being kicked down the cracked concrete of the alley brought John’s half lidded eyes flying open. The next sound of multiple sets of running feet that came echoing into the lair that he had created for himself brought his head up as far as it could go. John gathered his feet underneath his body preparing to defend himself or to flee depending on how cornered he felt.
The first persons shoes that came into his line of sight were a pair of beat up running shoes with scuffed soles and ragged laces. The track pants above those shoes were just as unassuming. Light gray cotton that looked like good quality fabric that had been well loved. The dumpster was low enough to the ground to obstruct his vision and cut the interloper off above the knee. A wolf’s hearing was more than enough to make up for what he couldn’t see.
The shoes sprinted down the alley full tilt going past the dumpster and out of his line of sight. They slowed only when the runner apparently found the chain link fence that had been helpfully topped with concertina wire and the gate padlocked shut with a heavy duty chain. Unless the man was an Olympic worthy athlete who wore heavy duty leather gloves as a matter of course on his morning runs he wasn’t going any further.
The deep gasping breaths and the stink of fear sweat made that even more unlikely.
The next group of shoes that came into John’s view were a different breed. The sneakers were those obnoxiously chunky overpriced kind that were always purchased unironically by young men who were more interested in wolf whistling at pretty girls than in making any kind of an honest living. The metallic tang that followed them in the air spoke of an abundance of necklaces and knives.
John could feel his lips peeling back involuntarily from his teeth. He was going to do something stupid. The CIA had done a lot of unpleasant things to him in the name of stamping out any sort of a hero complex.
The results had been decidedly mixed.
When John finally slunk out from under the dumpster the group of young men, five strong, had encircled the older man with jeers and hands that were picking at the loose sweatshirt. When John was in his shifted form it wasn’t that he couldn’t understand words it just took a lot more concentration than he was willing to give generally. In a fight the wolf’s mind came to the forefront and took control in stressful situations. Higher thought was more of a nuisance than anything; making him trip over his own paws more often than not.
The groups chosen prey had his hands spread out in front of him in apparent supplication as he pressed back as far as he could into the fence. John had no idea why the group had honed in on the small man that they had cornered. No apparent money. The wrong gender and age for these young thugs to be going after for any sort of sexual gratification. So either they just wanted to scare a middle aged man or he had done something to gain their ire.
Probably the latter he decided when the man stiffened up his spine and aimed a nasty kick to the leader of the groups knee. John felt his mouth gape and tongue loll out in a lupine laugh. Little bantam rooster. Probably a terrible idea to push them any further since he thought he was all alone but John had always loved a fighter. The blow had been unexpected and landed solidly.
His ears picked up the lovely sound of cartilage cracking and the leader gave a squeal of agony as he fell onto the rough concrete of the alley. The remainder of the group couldn’t seem to decide whether to go after the little man or if they should help their lead dog to his feet. Second in command seemed to have the quickest reaction time and he lunged towards the small runner with a fisted hand pulled back and his focus on nothing else, well, no point in missing an opportunity.
John lowered his head and charged forward with a scrabble of nails that none of them seemed to notice until he had slammed a bony shoulder into the back of the seconds knees knocking him off his feet and straight into one of his buddies with a breathless grunt. After that it was chaos. The group may have been well practiced in school yard bullying but even in his shifted form and on four legs John’s head came up above their waists and when he reared up on his hind legs, to snap menacingly in their faces, he towered above them.
John kept his teeth carefully out of bare flesh but let them shred clothing and graze the surface so that the boys could feel how close he came. No use in saving this guy’s life only to get chased down by animal control. He didn’t know if they’d be able catch him but he figured a big dog drawing blood, no matter the circumstances, would bring them down on his head. So he knocked them back with his body weight, giving the runner some room to breath, and firmly planted all four feet into the ground and lowered his head. Humanity may have been mostly removed from their animal past but none of the group of boys in front of him mistook it for a sign of surrender.
It felt strange to bark, but John figured growls while more menacing probably wouldn’t garner the same amount of attention. So he let the barks bellow out of his chest in a booming staccato that cut through the noise of the city and seemed to echo down the length of the alley and out into the populated streets of the city. New York was never going to be a place where people came running to help but the group had already been unnerved enough by both the man’s unexpected resistance and the presence of a huge dog that could easily match them pound for pound no matter how skinny he might have been. They broke and ran.
When the second managed to drag himself to his feet he pulled up his leader with him. The blonde draped an arm over his own shoulders and nearly dragged the still whimpering boy away with the rest of the group hot on their heels. John let his lips slowly fall back over his teeth before he snorted disdainfully. Shaking his body hard and letting that ridge of fur that had lifted between his shoulders fall back into place John let himself start to relax again. The way the fence clanged, John figured the runner was trying to at least climb out of his reach. Well at least he wasn’t stupid enough to think that just because John had come to his defense that meant he was automatically on his side.
John looked over his shoulder at the small man. Mindful to keep his lips firmly sealed and his ears pricked forward. There, a couple of slow wags and the runner slowly crept down from the fence. Rescue mission successfully completed, now to make a swift exit. John sneezed happily at the man before he turned away again and started to trot back towards his dumpster. Nice blast of adrenaline, so he wasn’t going to be napping anytime soon, but it was still hours from sunset and he needed to cool down. Crouching down low again to crawl back into his slightly cooler den John was relieved to hear the man’s soft footsteps hurrying out of the alley nearly without pausing.
John whuffed a little when he lay down and let himself sprawl out flat on his side. It had been a long time since he’d attacked anyone and the last time he had he’d been fully human. So really he’d managed to do a good deed, taught some human puppies some manners, and the concrete felt lovely and cool against his heaving sides. It wasn’t even noon and John figured this was already the best day that he’d had in a really long time.
So when it all went to hell later that afternoon John figured he’d jinxed himself really.
Once the adrenaline had worn off John found himself relaxing even more deeply into the concrete as he let himself fall into a light doze. The regular sounds of the city had resumed without incident and he had to bite back a vocal yip of disapproval when he heard footsteps heading back into his alley not more than a couple of hours later. They weren’t sprinting at least, just kept a steady pace as they dragged something with plastic wheels through the cracks and the crevices of the ill-kempt place. It rattled and tipped from side to side and John heard a slightly annoyed voice mutter with exasperation as one of the cracks hit the wheel just right to knock whatever it was on its side.
John rolled upright again and was prepared to try and slink out of the side of the dumpster that was a little bit behind whoever had come in. John was half way out from under it, hind end straddled out and low while he started to pull himself to his feet when he caught sight of the new intruder. Original intruder? It was the runner again. So much for the man learning any sort of lesson from his narrow escape.
At least he had changed clothes.
The sweaty stink of him was gone, replaced with a musky cologne and the scent of freshly washed skin. His running gear had disappeared as well and John froze for a moment still half under the dumpster when caught full sight of him. Who wore a three piece suit in the middle of a New York summer? Scratch that. Who wore a three piece suit? A low croon brought John’s eyes flying up from where they had been staring askance at the man’s clothing. Runner was turning towards him with a single hand outstretched.
John let his lip lift in the beginnings of a threat as he bared a single fang. He finally regained his feet fully and turned hurriedly towards the alley’s exit. Well if the man wasn’t going to leave him alone he’d just have to find another place to rest until nightfall. The small rolling suitcase that the man had brought along with him, hit the ground with a small thump as he scrambled to open it up. John picked up his pace to a brisk trot for a moment before he slowed to a hesitant stop. His nose quested the air and John inhaled deeply as he took in the delicate aroma of a rotisserie chicken. Oh man, not fair. He hadn’t eaten anything for a few days.
The soup kitchen that he had liked to slink into for the occasional meal had started to ask him politely worded probing questions. John knew that they had probably just been looking for a way to give him some extra assistance. Once people figured out that he used to be in the army they liked to recommend that he start looking at an assortment of charities that would help a veteran get back on his feet. Kindness felt a lot like a politely worded requested to leave.
The military had spit him out on the streets without so much as a backwards glance and he’d been homeless and heading towards a steady spiral into alcoholism when he had been caught out on a full moon. The wolf had left him nearly immune to alcohol and his newly increasingly predatory instincts had left his previous guilt and shame twisted and small in the back of his mind. He still remembered everything that he’d done at the order of a government that liked to treat people like disposable weapons but the agony of it had faded. No one was going to be looking for him from that corner, the VA might have even managed to get him a job and shelter to live in.
The thought of anyone else being on the receiving end of a werewolf’s fangs because he couldn’t keep ahead of the pack that was following him though was not a pleasant one. John hadn’t yet gathered enough courage to try and find another place that would feed him without alarmed suspicion. His stomach rumbled angrily as he took in the scent and John felt his mouth start to water almost immediately. Another croon brought John swinging back towards the suited man with his ears laid back flat against his skull. Still proving to be at least reasonably intelligent, Runner hadn’t stepped any closer to John when he had made the attention getting noise. Instead he held up a large piece of chicken breast until he was sure that he had John’s attention.
Reese could feel his ears loosen a little bit almost involuntarily as the piece was thrown towards him with a deft hand. John was able to snap the morsel out of the air without any trouble and nearly whined as he let the, still warm, meat slide down his throat almost without chewing. The werewolf had barely managed to swallow completely before another piece was thrown in his direction and he caught it without having to move so much as an inch. They went on like this for some time in a sort of a strange standoff. John let himself slide back every time the man tried to step any closer to him careful to keep an exact distance between them. The chicken was delicious but it wasn’t going to be enough to get him to let his guard down.
The alley opening gaped wide behind him and left John with a clear space to flee from if the man got any sort of bright ideas about trying to catch him. He may have been relatively new but John’s years in the military along with his heightened senses would keep him safe while he could still weasel a meal out of Runner. John couldn’t recall the last time anyone had attempted to thank him for anything and the chicken tasted so good. His long gray tail swayed slowly behind him as he licked his chops clean of the last of the grease. The chicken had been reduced down to bones in a matter of minutes and John could imagine the small bulge the food had left in his cavernous belly.
John spun again on his paws and started his retreat again out of the alley with a small smile stretching his face and a love for certain aspects of humanity in his heart. Both of which shattered into itty bitty pieces when he felt the noose slip neatly around his neck. The other man had been waiting quietly around the corner and any inadvertent noise he might have made had been hidden by the regular pedestrian noise. A normal dog would have hit the end of the catch pole and either pulled up short or fallen flat on his muzzle.
John was not a normal dog.
John was not a dog.
When he felt the thin strap of nylon catch tightly he didn’t try and run away from the man. Instead he spun tightly around and lunged up with an angry roar into the face of the man who had taken him by surprise. The pole was supposed to keep him well away from the man but John took his moment when the man’s grip went lax in shocked fear. The pole slipped through the man’s fingers and John took off at a ground eating lope. The cord was still wrapped around his neck but there would be time to get that nonsense taken off once he managed to get away from his would be captors.
He could hopefully shift back without strangling himself and John figured he’d huddle up in a different corner of the city for a while in his human shape so that nobody else got any bright ideas about rescuing him. The sudden shift of his paws under him brought John stumbling to a less than graceful stop as he felt his vision fuzz out on him like an old television. Oh god damn it. They’d spiked the chicken too? Was nothing sacred? John stumbled sideways as he tried to keep his feet against whatever drug was flooding his system. They must have put in enough of whatever it was to take out a small pony.
John could hear their footsteps cautiously approaching and he managed a wet snarl as he felt foam gather at the corners of his mouth. John spread all four legs as wide as he could to try and stay on top of them. The catch poles aluminum handle scraped a little bit on the sidewalk as Runner came up to his side and picked it up. John could have either let the thin chain lead him away or he could have strangled himself. Not much of a choice really. Another loop slipped easily over his head before he could do more than try and shy drunkenly away from its shadow and John could feel the two poles, now one on either side of him, nearly holding him upright.
Once whatever they had dosed him with wore off, John decided groggily he was going to piss on everything they owned. The crowd of people that generally covered the streets of any big city parted for them like the Red Sea and John couldn’t make his eyes focus on anything except walking slowly. The poles both snapped punishingly tight for a moment when the two men, with straining breaths, forced John up on his hind legs and shoved him none too gently into the back of an SUV that had a cage that was barely large enough to hold him.
Once the cage swung shut with a final sounding clang the two nooses loosened and slid away from him. Drugged or not John wasn’t going to lose this particular opportunity. He snagged the handle of the catch pole in his teeth with a punishing snap that deeply dented the reinforced metal and threw his head sideways hard enough that he nearly brained himself on the side of the cage. Thankfully it also threw the Runner’s friend forward as he tried to keep his grip on the noose and his face hit the sides of the cage with satisfyingly painful crunch. John fell forward onto his chest, the last of his strength gone with that bit of defiance, and started to snore softly, his lips rippling lightly with every exhale.
When John regained consciousness it was a painfully slow process. Whatever type of drug the two men had dosed him with had left him nauseated and with a pounding headache. It was like a combination of the worst hangover he’d ever had and that week he’d spent spewing out everything he’d ever eaten because he’d managed to ingest some sort of intestinal parasite. John let his eyes slowly squint open and even the dim lights of a fading sunset were enough to make his stomach heave a bit. Whatever he was laying on felt like he’d been sleeping on a cloud.
John gingerly lifted his head so he could peer down at the over large dog bed that he was curled up on. The room he had been shut in to looked like it was some rich man’s version of a guest bedroom. The walls were a pale cream color with obnoxious abstract art placed on them at random intervals. The king sized bed that took pride of place in the center of the room was covered in a fluffy comforter so white that it would stain if you looked at wrong. Pale hardwood floors were left bare of any sort of rug and the only other piece of furniture besides the bed was a small bedside table that looked like it would collapse underneath the weight of a glass of water.
With his brain still slowed way down from the after effects it took him a little longer to realize that someone had slipped a leather collar around his neck and clipped the attached leash to a d-ring in the brick wall. John tried to gather his feet underneath him so that he could go and rip that insulting piece of crap out of the wall and shove it down Runner and his friends throat. The sinfully soft fabric of the dog bed combined with his drug clumsy reflexes meant that he face planted a couple of times before he managed to slide his body onto the stability of the wooden floor.
Okay, he was on his feet, sort of. John shook his head hard enough that he could feel the collar flip around his neck and the already annoying sound of tags jingling at his Adam’s apple. The shake didn’t help to clear any of the fog out of his vision though, instead John could feel himself swaying like a sapling in a windstorm and his stomach heaved again. This time he wasn’t able to hold back from vomiting. It must have been a few hours since he’d been drugged most of what came up was bile with only a few bits of chicken to add to the foul mixture. Urgh.
Well he had already decided that he was going to do his best to destroy anything that his two ‘rescuers’ valued. He had an early start on it at least. Usually in his lupine form John could stride gracefully across most surfaces his paws unimpeded by soft grass or rough concrete. Wooden floors were a new one for him though, he’d never felt anything like it. The pads of his feet slid too easily across the dark boards like he was sliding on freshly smoothed ice and when he tried to side step away from his mess, John nearly fell to the ground again; his claws were leaving light gouges in the floors finish without offering him any sort of traction. As he skittered and slid across the floor John’s ears flicked back without his conscious control as he heard the door slowly creak open behind him. The growl that rumbled out of his chest was almost involuntarily.
John looked over his shoulder balefully as Runner stuck his head into the room. He was finally able to get an undistracted look at the man that had managed to get him into a possibly ill-advised fight with a bunch of wanna-be thugs before thanking him for the rescue with roofied chicken. The man looked like he might have been a few years older than him and was clutching a metal bowl to his chest. Big blue eyes blinked at him from behind thick glasses and were framed by a haircut that made it look like he’d made intimate acquaintance with an electrical outlet in recent history.
If John had been more sure of his feet and stomach he would have spun around to try and make the little man pee his pants. As it was though John just tried to arrange his face into as much of an unimpressed bitch face as he could while he continued to growl long and low. He had to give the man a few more props for courage at least, he did jump a little bit sloshing the water that was in the bowl onto his hands, but he didn’t step back and he didn’t make a sound. Well it figured the guy would have some balls. This time when the man spoke John was able to parse out what he was saying in the silence of the large room.
“Hello boy.” John slowly turned himself around, conscious of the lead that was currently impeding him, and lowered his head so that he could give an even more heartfelt growl towards Runner. “I’ve, uh, I’ve brought you some water.” Runner held out the bowl hopefully, with enough force that it sloshed a bit more liquid onto the floor. John let himself lower into a tense crouch as he slowly started to stalk towards his captor. The leash was long enough that he was able to get a fair ways across the room before he hit the end of it. When the leash went taut John could feel the collar start to dig into his throat but he didn’t stop moving forward until he could hear the d-ring that was attached to the wall start to screech in protest loud enough for normal human hearing to pick up on it. When he saw Runner swallow heavily at the sound John froze in place.
His ears were laid fully back against his head, he’d let the thick ruff of fur on his spine fluff up and he’d was crouched low enough to the ground that if he could keep his legs underneath him with enough traction he could rip the piece of hardware right out of the wall. In short he looked like a pissed off wolf that was big enough to drop his captor like a domestic sheep. Unbelievably instead of backing out of the room and slamming the door shut in John’s face the man stepped fully inside of it with mulish expression on his face.
“Now really, I do understand that you’re upset but I couldn’t just leave you there.” John let his lips peel back from his teeth even further, he was pretty sure that if he tried to growl any deeper though it was going to hit his stomach wrong and he was going to start retching again. Was the man incapable of taking a hint. A blatant warning even. “I’ve been seeing signs about you on the streets recently you know.” Okay well apparently the guy was a lunatic since he was trying to talk sense into something that he thought was a street dog. “Animal control was very adamant that no one should approach you since they thought you might have a bit of wolf blood in you.”
Well would you look at that at least some people in New York weren’t completely oblivious. “Come on handsome.” Runner continued, well flattering, but now he was keeping his voice to that low croon obviously just trying to make soothing noises. “I’m sure you’ve got to be thirsty. That chicken probably had far too much sodium in it for you.” And roofies asshole! “Wouldn’t you like some nice refreshing filtered water?” John snorted as hard as he could. Well if it was filtered.
Runner stepped even further into the room and John tried to hold his stance. The closer he got though the more John had to struggle to keep still. These last couple of years had ingrained in him a fear of humanity that he hadn’t even been consciously aware of. John could snap and snarl all he wanted but without a way of getting out of this room and with no real desire to hurt anyone he was trapped. Really, Runner seemed to be trying to be nice overall. The man had no idea that he’d managed to grab a werewolf off of the streets. The bed smelled brand new. The bowl looked like it had never been used. He’d gone to a lot of time and trouble to get John inside and John just couldn’t see himself repaying that with taking a chunk out of the man’s hand.
Still wobbling a little on drug addled feet John slunk back away from Runner and slip slided his way across the floor bypassing the dog bed and trying to fit himself underneath the human bed in the same way that he had done with the dumpster. It was a little bit lower to the ground unfortunately so John had to scrape and scramble a little bit to get underneath its protection but he finally managed it. The collar and chain was going to be a constant irritation but at least the man had left him with enough room to move throughout nearly the entirety of the room so he was able to wiggle into the middle underside of the bed well out of reach of any grasping hands. The underside was a fair bit cleaner than the alleyway had been without a single dust bunny and the not unpleasant scent of whatever lemon cleaner the housekeeper had used to mop the floors. The dimmer lighting felt nice on his eyes too.
So really all John had to do was wait a little while for Runner to leave the house, shift back into his human form and get the hell out of here with no one being the wiser. Runner put the bowl of water near the dog bed with a quiet clang, seemed to take a moment to wipe up John’s vomit with a readied paper towel and with a softly murmured goodbye slipped back out of the room without another word. When several minutes went by with no further sounds coming from nearby John let himself slip back out from under the bed, although he had to claw awkwardly on his side to do it, and walked up to large stainless steel bowl with some interest.
Whether it was the chicken or the drugs going in or coming out John definitely had a sour taste in his mouth that he was going to be more than please to get out and even with some of it lost in transportation the bowl seemed to be filled nearly full to the brim with clear water. John lapped at it cautiously at first, it was nearly sweet it was so fresh and John saw the remnants of a couple of ice cubes that had been placed in the water to cool it. All in all it was damn near the best drink of water he’d had in about a year and John didn’t stop drinking it until the bowl was bone dry and his stomach was tight again though this time with liquid. All in all, he thought as he settled back into the comfy dog bed, he had definitely had a worse time after being kidnapped.
It was only as John was laying his head back down to try and sleep off the worst of the drugs after effects that he noticed the small camera that had been placed unobtrusively into the corner of the room and was pointed directly at him. John whined a little as thoughts of an easy escape fled from his mind but he couldn’t keep his head up anymore. He’d take a nap. Hope for some more water and maybe a bit of uncontaminated food and then John would have to figure out what his next move was going to be. Since it seemed that it was going to be captured on film.
It was early morning sunlight that finally dragged John awake. The bare glass of the windows reflected light off of the entire room except for the brick accent wall. In his slumber he had sprawled wide on the bed until all four legs were trailing off of the side and although John’s head was deeply cushioned in the tan fabric the light managed to sneak its way around the edges of the fabric and woke him up. He was very tempted to just bury his face even deeper as he relaxed in a bed that was more comfortable than anything he had slept on for well over a year and ignore whatever the new day was going to bring.
Slow steps on the other side of the door finally made John lift just his head up enough to stare groggily as Runner slunk into the room again. This time he had a pitcher of water and a plate that smelled like something out of a four star restaurant. He was dressed in some sort of elaborate dressing robe and had a pair of what looked like honest to god silk pajama pants that pooled around his bare feet. Who lived like this?
John grumbled a little bit as he stood up, this time on feet that knew exactly where they were. He managed to slip back underneath the bed again with only a small jingle of the chain to mark his passage. Runner sighed softly but he refilled John’s water bowl without a fuss and dropped the plate down next to it with nothing more than a small clatter. John thought that he was going to leave again at that and so he couldn’t restrain his recoil when Runner flopped down on his belly so that he could look underneath the bed. John let his fangs show briefly but Runner just propped his chin on his fists and looked at him. His gaze was piercing and John felt like it was the first time in years that anyone had actually looked at him. Whether as a wolf or as a man there had always been a reason for people to look away, to flinch. This man did neither.
“I realize that our introduction wasn’t quite the done thing. I also realize that you probably don’t understand a word I’m saying but I do hope you realize that you’re safe here.” Runner let his arms cross on the floor and he brought his face down to rest on them. “I’ve been somewhat remiss in my care of you. I’ve never had a companion animal before and I’m quite sure that I’ll be roundly told that I’m not quite what you need at this point. Much as I would like to think otherwise the internet does not know everything but I do hope you’ll come to trust me.”
Runner grunted a little bit as he got back on his feet, John could hear his knees creaking a little as he stood. John stayed crouched low as he shuffled towards the light and he let himself peer out from underneath the edge of the comforter. Runner paced slowly towards the door and when he looked over his shoulder at John he had a small smile on his face.
“I’m Harold by the way, I do hope you’ll like it here.” Really this was probably the dumbest thing John had ever contemplated. Companion animal though. Not a pet. The water was freshly filtered. It looked like Run...Harold had left him fresh meat and what looked like a raw egg on the plate. There wasn’t a piece of kibble in sight. There were definitely worse places to be, and he’d been running for so long. Surely the other wolves would leave him alone at this point. He hadn’t seen them in months and although John wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being considered some sort of tame pet. (Okay that might be be a bit of lie.) John would love to have some stability in his life. Nothing to worry about anymore. No more fighting for food, for space, for respect. Just an endless length of time where someone else would take care of everything and he could just...be.
The hallway outside of his room had been quiet for a while when John finally slunk back fully out from under the bed and inspected the plate of food that had been left for him. An entire chunk of raw chicken thigh, bone and all, along with the raw egg that he had noticed before. Thankfully any hint of nausea from the day before had left his system and John leaned in close to the meal that had been left for him. Just for him. The raw chicken looked like it had been freshly washed and dried. The egg yolk was still a bright golden yellow. None of it had any sort of chemical tang to it and now that John had taken the time to nose at the pieces with hungry interest he had unearthed a small pile of what smiled like a mixture of chicken livers and hearts that had been hidden beneath the thigh. John wasn’t one to give his heart away for nothing but the idea that Harold had taken this much time and effort to research what would be good for some random stray dog to eat. It made it pretty damn hard not to wag his tail.
A battle that John ultimately lost as soon as he took a hearty bite out of the chicken thigh and felt the bones crunch pleasantly into his mouth. It may not have been a smart idea to leave this much rich food all at once, Harold had obviously tried but a normal dog probably would have guzzled the lot down only to throw it up moments later. Thankfully not only was a werewolf’s stomach hardier than a normal dogs, all vomiting from drugs aside, but John was able to take his time to savor the meal. He’d eat a portion of the meat, take a deep drink of water, and then contemplate how his stomach was feeling before he continued. When he finally slurped up the last piece of chicken heart with relish John felt ready to take on the world.
So he’d stay for a while. Keep Harold company, make sure that the man didn’t get into too much trouble. After all New York or not it really wasn’t that normal to get mugged by a group of men in broad daylight. No matter what the news might think. John could keep an eye on the man, go on some runs with him and regain his strength. All John had to do was pretend to be a smarter than average, but still believably intelligent, dog. If he decided to leave later on it wasn’t like there was a damn thing that Harold could do to stop him. John curled back up on the bed again this time a little gingerly around his full belly but he couldn’t keep himself from whining a little bit as he watched the bright bars of sunlight travel across the floor.
It had been a long time since he’d been outside and all of the water was definitely making itself known. All jokes aside he didn’t really want to take a leak on anything in the room. The smell wouldn’t have been horrible but John was a grown man and he could control himself. When the door slipped open again though only about a half an hour after he had finished his food, John decided that the camera that Harold had set up was definitely not just for show. It seemed the older man was keeping an eye on him.
This time when Harold stepped through the doorway he was dressed again in similar clothing to what he had worn when he had been on his run yesterday. The same beat up sneakers and rough looking pair of joggers and worn out t-shirt. The only difference this time that John could see was that Harold was white knuckling what looked like a very nice looking leather leash. John slowly regained his feet again but this time when he hit the end of his chain he let it slacken again a bit. It wouldn’t do him any good to threaten the man anymore. Better to start gaining his trust now and letting him know that he was house-trained probably wasn’t a bad idea. John had seen those shows on Animal Planet with the dogs that pissed and shit on absorbent pads. No sir. No way.
“Would you like to go for a walk? I imagine it’s been some time since you last relieved yourself.” John sat down to wait patiently for Harold to pluck up his courage to come closer to him. Harold walked slowly forward and when he was finally close enough he attached the leash before he unclipped the chain that was holding John to the wall.
“All right then.” Harold took a deep breath as he started to go towards the still open door and John paced uneasily at his side. It was all well and good to pretend to be a dog but the weight of collar that tugged slightly against his neck when he started to turn the wrong way into the condo was enough to release a near involuntary growl. Harold immediately let the leash go slack again though and John decided to let that bit of indignity, along with the rest that he’d been steadily shedding ever since he’d been hired by the government, fall by the wayside. The rest of the condo all had the same type of flooring throughout and John clicked across it uneasily as he headed towards where he presumed the front door would be. Only instead of a front door Harold had an elevator. John looked up disbelieving at the man at his side. Seriously. Who lived like this?
The elevator was as quiet as it was possible for the machinery to be. All of the gears seemed to be well oiled and it started to slide towards the ground floor without so much as the slightest jerky motion. The mirrored walls were polished to a high shine and John got his first uninterrupted view of himself in his lupine form. Steel gray fur matched his normal human head of hair and it was just as dirty and overgrown. Clumps of his fur were tangled in oily patches along with the occasional piece of trash. His eyes were the same color as his normal self as well, although they stood out in a piercing blue that was a lot more dramatic against the darker fur that creeped up his muzzle and around his eyes.
John was seated at attention next to Harold’s side and he a little amused to see that the tips of his eagerly pricked ears went up past Harold’s rib cage. If John hadn’t been lean to the point of skeletal he would easily outweigh the man that was determinedly clutching the loop of the leash in a futile bid for control. When the elevator doors slid back open with a near silent hiss John barely refrained from bounding out of its confines as his bladder pressed at him more urgently. Now that he had decided to fully take advantage of Harold’s kindness, John thought it might be best to not drag the man face first across the polished marble of the lobby. No need to be rude.
The lobby of the building was just as pretentious as the guest bedroom had been. It wasn’t a huge room and the marbled floors and wood paneled walls were absolutely overwhelmed by a massive solid wood desk. It loomed menacingly in the corner of the room across from the frosted glass of the front doors. Anyone foolish enough to come in would be immediately confronted by a security guard. John’s ears tiled askew a little bit as he studied the young guard as they walked passed him. John found him somewhat...lacking.
Baby fat still clung to the man’s belly and jaw, both of them emphasized by the bright red uniform that looked like it was a couple of sizes too small. Really Harold should be grateful that he’d managed to dognap a werewolf. If the man was silly enough to trust the building security, he was obviously lacking in common sense. The guards eyebrows were crawling up his forehead like hairy blonde caterpillars as he took in the odd pair in front of him.
“Good morning, Mr. Finch?” The guards voice rose to a squeak, at the end and turned his statement into a question.
“Bill.” Harold’s steady stride didn’t even pause as he returned the greeting neutrally. Ignoring any implied questions.
The front doors opened silky smooth as well and John took a deep inhale of some fresh New York air. Really if John hadn’t been feeling increasingly urgent he wouldn’t have spared the guard from an acknowledging snarl, but John started pulling forcefully as soon as he saw a sad little patch of grass that had seen greener days. When John squatted down quickly in the small area he barely gave it any thought. Harold was a hoot though. When John glanced back at him Harold was studiously gazing up into the cloudless sky. Giving John as much privacy as he was able. John felt his tongue flop out in an involuntary canid smile. God the man was nearly precious. Fussy and odd, what a strange little man.
When John finally finished with his business he started to none too gently start tugging Harold down the sidewalk. Thankfully it didn’t feel like Harold would be the kind of person who would try and choke him into submission. As the pair started to walk down the block John felt himself start to relax a little bit more. Harold let him lead the way without trying to keep him at heel and the only pressure he put onto the collar was such that it let John know that Harold was interested in making a turn. It was more of a suggestion than anything else and John complied willingly enough. He didn’t really know the area.
Even with a collar and leash giving John a little bit of respectability though he could still see people flinching away from him a little bit. No matter how loose and non threatening he tried to keep his body language it never seemed to be enough. John felt his tail, that had started to flag a little in happiness start to droop again as he was reminded that no matter his form there never really seemed to be a place for him with humanity. Whether Harold noticed his sudden change in demeanor or if it was just good timing John felt a slight tug on his collar as the older man slowed to a stop.
John sat down willingly, panting a little bit even in the early morning heat and looked around at the small diner that they had stopped at. The small restaurant had some outdoor seating that looked dog friendly and John was able to crawl at least partially underneath the small table to get a bit of shade when Harold settled down comfortably in a chair. They hadn’t been walking for that long but it looked like this was a favorite haunt of Harold’s and John caught a glimpse of some sort of Pomeranian mix that had been set up with its own bowl of water and small plate of food.
“Good Morning Mr. Finch!” John’s ears lay flat and he tried to scoot deeper beneath the table without knocking it over as he heard the waitress’ perky voice. “And who’s this?” John settled his face deeper in his paws but let his eyes roll up to meet hers. If this was a place that Harold went to regularly he didn’t want to mess it up for the man by spooking the staff.
“Ah a bit of new companion Stacey. I haven’t decided on a name for him yet but we seem to be getting along so far.” Stacey proved to be smarter than she looked because she made no move to reach out to try and touch John but just stood back up from her crouch and pulled out a pad of paper.
“Awesome! Well hopefully it works out. I assume you want your usual? Eggs Benedict with some green tea?” “That would be lovely. I would also like for him to have some water and maybe that dog friendly chicken dish I’ve heard so much about.”
“Can do Mr. Finch,” Stacey chirped happily as she stuffed her pad of paper away again. “Be out in a jiffy!”
John felt his ears perk up a little bit more and he let his tail wave once when he heard the words chicken. He may have just had breakfast an hour or so ago but John had always had a metabolism that left him constantly hungry. As Harold sat quietly reading a newspaper that had been left at the table John let his eyes rove around him with some curiosity. He’d been living in New York for a while but that didn’t mean that he was used to being in the nicer areas of the city. The small shops in the area all seemed to be well-kempt with clean and welcoming entryways and a lot of the people that were walking the streets either had their dogs on leashes or in small strollers. The sun was shining too hot already and John could tell that a lot of the people were hurrying to get their morning constitutional with their dogs done before it became too hot to bear.
John’s head came up too abruptly when a large bowl was placed in front of him and he nearly cracked his muzzle on the table legs. He obviously hadn’t been paying attention and John bit back a low growl a couple of moments too late. Harold’s hand came down quickly and John laid his ears back and prepared for the blow. He flinched a little bit when Harold’s fingers met his fur but slowly relaxed again when instead of smacking him they slowly stroked between his ears.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Stacey exclaimed as she gently put a plate down next to the bowl. “I didn’t mean to scare him.”
Harold’s voice was a soothing rumble as he patted John once more. “No harm done. I think he might have been on the streets for some time and he’s still a bit nervous around people.” John whined a little in agreement and lowered his head down again to look as unthreatening as possible. His nose twitched sharply though when he caught the scent of more delicious food that had been set out specifically for him. As instinctual as his surprised growl had been the little awoo of joy that John released when he caught sight of the platter covered in chicken breast and grains was just as out of his control. The bowl was filled to the brim with more filtered water and he had another heaping plate of food. This was such a good decision. Harold’s voice was fond as he started to cut into his eggs Benedict.
“Really I think he’s going to be just fine. I just hope he doesn’t become too offended when I give him his first bath.” John nearly choked on the chicken breast that he was horking down and he coughed deeply for a second trying to clear his throat.
John wasn’t trying to be such a drama queen but his tail always seemed to have a mind of its own as it drooped low. The long feathers on the end of his tail swayed in the current of the warm water as the bathtub was slowly filled up until it was half way up his legs. The water was already starting to darken as the muck of New York streets was rinsed off of his paws.
When they had walked back into the large apartment John had been appalled to see that someone had left a basket of dog bath care products on a side table near the door. Harold hadn’t seemed the slightest bit surprised so he had certainly had some sort of lackey bring the products while they had been out on their very first morning constitutional. Harold had barely slowed his step when they walked through the door. He’d grabbed the basket and keeping a firm grip on John’s leash had started purposefully striding towards what John assumed was the bathroom door.
John had stopped dead as soon as his feet hit tile instead of hardwood floor. Of course. Of fricking course the bathroom would be just as ridiculous as the guest bedroom. Everything seemed to be in shades of marbled gray and the bathtub and the shower were two separate entities that each took up a wall of space. John splayed his feet wide and refused to walk through the door. Sure he probably smelled but a man had to have some pride. He probably hadn’t had someone else wash him since his mother had given it up as a bad job when he turned eight.
Harold gently placed the basket down next to the bathtub. It had jets in it for god's sake. The man had a Jacuzzi in his apartments bathroom. Thankfully the older man stayed true to how he had been behaving since the very beginning and he didn't’ try to drag John anywhere. Harold sat down slowly on the floor near the bathtub and he dug through the basket of goodies without looking John’s way at all. No cajoling. No attempts to sweet talk him into changing his mind. Just a clear effort to give John a chance to relax and take a look around the room.
There were a pile of fluffy towels that had been folded up and placed near the bathtub. The expensive looking bamboo floor mat had been tucked away on the counter and a matching towel had been placed in front of the tub so that John would have a place to land when he got out without having to worry about sliding or falling on the hard floor. He stepped stiff legged into the large room and the tone of his claws hitting the floor echoed a little throughout as he began to investigate. The basket had been filled with a variety of shampoos and conditioners and John stuck his muzzle into the middle of it and took a deep whuffling inhale to see how offensive it was going to be.
Thankfully it all seemed to be of the gentle oatmeal variety. No too strong odors and it looked like whoever had put the assortment together had some idea as to what they were doing. Heart worm medication. Flea medication. One of those expensive deshedding tools. The sound of a throat clearing brought John’s head up abruptly and he turned to look at Harold, ears pricked forward with interest.
“Truthfully I would prefer if you were to get into the tub yourself.” Harold gently patted the inside of the tub with an encouraging chirrup. “Hup.” John sat down hard on his butt as he contemplated his options. There weren’t many and a lot of them were bad. He could shift back to his humanoid form and make a run for it. Option two was scare the living bejesus out of a man that had been almost nothing but kind of him by putting up a fight and snapping at him if he tried to pick him up. He could also fucking grow a pair and just hop into the tub because really he was a grown man who’d been living on the streets long enough to gain what sometimes felt like inches of filth.
Harold patted the tub once more although his expression was not hopeful. John sighed a sigh of the deeply inconvenienced and tried to hop gracefully into the deep basin. He was...less than successful. Werewolf legs, or at least John’s version of them, were long gangly things that didn’t always obey his wishes at the best of times. He could feel one of them clear the side easily but the other caught on the side of the porcelain and John neatly face planted into the tub. His back legs flew up into the air as his chin and chest hit the ground first and he ended up basically somersaulting. If Harold had been a little less well bred he would have guffawed out loud but as it was John heard him stifle a gasp of laughter.
John gathered his legs back underneath himself as he tried to regain his feet. When he finally sat down and looked over at a still seated Harold, John could feel that one of his ears had flipped backwards and his chin vaguely hurt from the bashing it had received. Harold was bright red as he brought a fist up to his mouth and he tried to keep his lips from tipping up at the corners. His other hand reached forward hesitantly and John stared back at him dead eyed as he prepared for the inevitable. Slender fingers gently combed through the fur on his head for a moment before they slipped over and righted John’s ear. Harold also took this moment to unclip the leather collar from around John’s neck and he coiled it up on top of the nearest countertop. “Good boy.”
John snorted as hard as he could in the other man’s face letting the snot and drool fly. If he couldn’t be intimidating at least he could try and bring Harold down to his level of ridiculous. Harold reached out blindly for one of the towels with one hand with the other pulled off his glasses so that he could wipe first his face and then the lenses clean of the spray.
“Charming. Well thank you very much for getting into the tub let’s see how you do with some water.” The tap sprayed out lukewarm water behind John’s back and he stood up on all four paws quickly. The water felt strange as it swirled around his feet and John peered down at it. He watched the long fur between his toes spread out wide and it left him looking like his feet had quadrupled in side. His drooping tail did the same thing; puffing out wide. The dark gray darkened even further first with the water hitting it and then with a spreading cloud of filth.
Harold kept his movements slow and deliberate as he turned the water off once it had reached John’s elbows. Thankfully not everything that Harold owned seemed to be bespoke. He had a large plastic cup that he dipped deeply into the water and let it flow gently down John’s spine. The werewolf could feel his fur part underneath the pressure and he couldn’t hold back a shiver of discomfort.
“Shhh, boy.” Harold stroked his hand between John’s ears again as he brought another cup up to wet him further. “You’re such a good boy. Hold still and I’ll get you clean as quickly as possible.” When Harold brought the shampoo around he left a thick line of it across the back of John’s neck and another stripe down his back. When both of the older man’s hands started at the thick ruff of fur around John’s neck he had to brace himself hard against the urge to flinch. Then when the clever fingers dug in deeply into the fur and started massaging both John’s fur as well as the muscles underneath it John couldn’t hold back a low croon of pleasure.
The slow splash of John’s tail as it wagged hard was the only sound that broke the silence going forward; aside from the occasional praise from Harold’s lips as he worked his way down John’s body. John’s eyes were half-lidded with intense relaxation as he let himself get pampered even further. Ultimately Harold had to drain the water each time he rinsed John off, twice for the shampoo and once for the conditioner as the dirt and grime swirled away from him. John was polite enough to wait for Harold to hold up a thick towel as an insufficient barrier before the overwhelming urge to shake himself drier overcame him.
His nails clicked and tapped as he made his way very carefully out of the bathtub and onto the towel that had been left for him so that Harold could wipe him down without having to fight against a confined space. The rough pleasure of the towel as it scrubbed down his fur was marvelous as well when Harold focused on his back and sides. The impersonal wipe down that his belly and sheath received were a little more awkward but John was determined to be a professional about this. Harold finished off his drying attempts by wiping down each leg and squeegeeing off his tail letting the collected water hit the tile with a splat.
John magnanimously ate the proffered heart medication that was disguised as a treat without protest and he even let Harold swipe the awful smelling tube of flea medication down between his shoulder blades before his patience finally broke. He’d had more physical contact today then he’d had in the last six months combined and John needed a moment's respite. He trotted out of the bathroom and headed into the room that he was already starting to consider his own. Whatever magical cleaning crew had come through the apartment while they were gone had replaced the cover on his dog bed. John spun around tightly in a circle three times before he lay down with a whuff of contentment. The two meals he’d had so closely together today left him feeling comfortably full and nothing was nicer than clean fur against clean fabric. Definitely time for a nap.
His nap was glorious.
The cool air conditioning was perfectly offset by the occasional warm ray of sunlight that streamed through a window and John let his legs stretch out long and he pointed his paws sharply until he felt the satisfying crackle of his ankles loosening up. He went completely limp again into the fabric of the dog bed, and let his face smush into the soft pillow that had been built in to one corner and left only one half-lidded eye available to keep watch on the room around him. Harold had peeked in briefly after, from the sounds of it, picking up the minimal mess that they had made in the bathroom. His smile was warm and John let it hit him like a warm spark in his chest and responded with a couple of lazy thumps of his tail. The man seemed willing to let him be without trying to buckle the collar back around his neck too which was great.
Kicking up a back leg so that he could half-heartedly scratch behind his ear John yawned widely enough that he felt his jaw crack a little bit as well. He could barely remember the last time he had been this comfortable. Maybe. Maybe it would be that brief sunny vacation in Mexico that he’d had with Jessica. She’d been a pretty, soft memory to hold on to for a long time. He hadn’t been able to keep track of her really since he’d been bitten. No use in trying to rekindle a relationship with someone when you’d basically transformed into a different species. She had been nice though. One of the last really pleasant memories he’d been able to hold onto since...
John’s minds eye flashed with the arterial gush of blood that had erupted from his partner’s throat and the sound of her gurgling gasp of fear when the creature had appeared out of the darkness echoed through his head. He and Kara had been creeping as quietly as they could through the desolate remains of an abandoned factory when they’d been attacked. Kara hadn’t made it out and John had barely managed to drag himself out of the range of the explosives that they’d set out. The first sign that John’s life was irrevocably changed was when he looked down and saw the bloody shrapnel being pushed out of his rapidly healing flesh.
John stood up from his new bed as quickly as he could as he shook off the memory with just as much force as he had shook off the bath water earlier. He went back to the bowl again. The cool water felt good on his too dry mouth and throat and he concentrated on that rather than his memories. It had been months since he’d been chased by anything more aggressive than an underpaid animal control officer and he knew that he needed to try and stay relaxed. Constant stress had been more of a culprit than lack of food in the way John had dropped weight since he’d come to New York. He was sure he looked better now than he had in the elevator earlier with his bath but when John let his tongue rasp over his hip bone he could feel the way that it stuck out too far. The change left his more bloody memories blurred and softened in a way that meant that they didn’t hurt when he contemplated his life pre becoming a werewolf. The change itself had been traumatic but the pack that had been on his heels had been the worst of it. Harold’s home felt warm and quiet. A safe space that left him feeling relaxed and calm.
John paced the small guest room, nosing the cracked door closed a little bit more and letting his ears flick and twitch as he strained to hear any sort of bugs or listening devices. Thankfully the low hum of the camera that Harold had placed was the only sort of electronic sound that he could hear as he checked the perimeter. John lowered himself back into the softness of his bed once more and he heaved a deep sigh as he drifted back to sleep again. John’s return to his very comfortable nap was rudely interrupted by the sound of raised voices an hour or so later.
Normally wolf claws weren’t retractable, but it was almost instinctual for him to draw them back into his paws as he slunk silently across the wooden floor. Neither the boards or the door creaked as he entered the open plan of the kitchen and living room. Harold was sitting primly on the edge of an overstuffed black leather loveseat. He was back in what looked like a suit that had been hand tailored to his measurements and the only sign of stress that he was showing was in the white knuckled grip that he had on the arm of the seat.
“...You have the survival instincts of a rabid lemming, Harold!”
Johns ears had already been laid back lightly against his skull as he walked into the room. When he saw the man, who was so much bigger than Harold, reaching towards him with both hands, they flattened tight and he let his head lower to put as much bass into the growl that rippled out of his throat as possible. The larger man spun away from Harold and looked down at John with the whites of his eye showing all the way around. Blonde hair and a bad suit were all that John really took in as he stalked around the man and managed to shove his way between the two men.
The fact that the stranger was close enough to Finch that John had to use quite a bit of his own body weight to separate the two made him growl again. This was the man that had helped Finch capture him in the first place. So John was sure that Finch considered him at least somewhat a friend. An acquaintance was unlikely to be willing to take time out of a weekday to snag a homeless werewolf off of the streets. So unless the man actually lay hands on Finch he probably shouldn’t bite him. Probably. But well John still had quite a bit of raw power on his side and he managed to lean a bony shoulder into the tall man’s kneecap and send the man stumbling backwards. John shoved him a couple of more times until he was comfortable with the space that he had created between the two men before he trotted quickly back over to Finch’s side and lay down with a heavy fwump. Very careful to land right on top of Finch’s leather shoes so that the man would have a difficult time getting up.
He didn’t smell any sort of weapons on either of the men but better to put some physical distance in between them before their argument was reduced to blows. Harold seemed like the type that would lose his temper by verbally eviscerating someone rather than making it physical but the other man appeared to be unarmed for a battle of wits.
John let his ears finally relax a little bit when he felt another soft stroke of praise between them.
“You’re going to encourage that sort of behavior?” “He didn’t bite you. For goodness sake Nathan he didn’t even bite any of the thugs that attacked me. He’s been a perfect knight in shining armor these last few days.”
John felt his eyes crinkle a little bit as he let his tongue flop out of his mouth again at the praise. Really being treated so nicely was going to become addictive. Harold’s slow steady pets felt wonderful and he didn’t try and keep John from keeping his eyes on the other man. “A knight…” Nathan snorted incredulously. “Yes.” Harold leaned down and stroked all the way from John’s forehead down to the base of his tail. “That’s a good name for you. What a good boy, Knight. Good boy.” John whuffled happily as Harold kept stroking him and when Nathan seemed willing to stay right where he was he even relented and twisted a little bit so that Harold could give him a lovely scritch on his chest. As long as Harold could just keep scratching...right...there. John felt one of his back legs start to jerk without his input. He could definitely call him whatever he wanted.
There you guys go. I fixed it. ;)
The large apartment seemed to echo a little bit as John paced through it. Harold had slipped out an unobtrusive door without him a half an hour ago, muttering something about computer code that would have gone over his head even if he’d been in a fully human mind set and paying close attention. The fact that Harold had been doing all of this muttering in the direction of his cellphone and seemed to be receiving real time responses was a little more concerning.
John had felt his ears shoot forward with surprise at the first quiet beep. The older man had taken a moment to smooth his ears back in a soothing stroke that made John want to fall right back over again. The man was a genius when it came to figuring out where John was itchiest. It was glorious. Unfortunately it had turned out to be something of a goodbye pat and Harold slipped out the door quickly afterwards. The softly murmured. “Be a good boy, Knight.” had left John with a deepening softness in his chest. He’d definitely have to see about getting Harold to take him with him when he went to work. The man seemed to be just about as rich as Midas but aside from a few cameras didn’t seem to have any further security. Now though John had been left co mpletely alone for the first time in a couple of days and he wanted to explore.
As he clicked easily across the hardwood floor, once more acknowledging Harold’s seeming aversion to rugs, John took in just how much space there was. New York wasn’t exactly known for its spacious living quarters but he thought that Harold might have the entire top floor of a building. The guest bedroom wasn’t the only room that seemed to have those accent brick walls and those had been left as the main focal point of the rooms. Minimal art. Overstuffed leather furniture looked obscenely comfortable but didn’t do much to fill up the space. It all looked expensive of course, nothing but the finest quality for a man as fussy as Harold but it all seemed so impersonal and lonely. There wasn’t a lot of warmth or any sense of history; it might very well have been set up by a decorator and Harold had just left it exactly as it had been put together.
There was a sudden sharp buzzing noise in his ears and he dropped down and was scraping his paws at his ears before he could even really think about it. John had just looped back around to the living room when he heard a brisk knock on the door over the sudden strange sound. He felt a cold rush of adrenaline that swept from his head all the way down to the tips of his paws when he heard the voice on the other side.
“John Reese, please open the door. I’ve put an electronic blocker on the cameras so we can talk privately.”
The woman sounded almost preternaturally calm but John started unconsciously backing up, he could feel the ridge of fur rising up on his back and he didn’t know whether to whimper or growl. It had only been a couple of days and someone had already found him? Why couldn’t they just leave him alone? He wasn’t any kind of a threat. Hadn’t done a thing to make them hunt him with such fervor. There was a soft sigh before John heard whoever was on the side of the door turn around and slide down until she was sitting with her back against it.
“Believe me, I know that you’ve got no real reason to trust me on this but all we’ve been trying to do is help you.”
John had neatly found himself a defensible corner and although he didn’t want to give away his location too easily found himself unable to restrai n a snort of disbelief.
“The...cub that broke down your hotel room door has been thoroughly chastised. It’s no excuse but the full moon got the better of him. We...but I guess you don’t even know who we are since your quickening was so strange. We just wanted to introduce you to our ways, welcome you into the Pack. You don’t smell like one of the American bloodlines but our sources found out about you. It sounds like a feral from Russia got the better of you and your partner.”
She knew too much. Whatever sources she might have had they must have gone deep into the government if she was able to pull out classified CIA material with no apparent repercussions. Or she worked for them and was going to try and drag him back into that life. John was frightened all of a sudden. His tail was tucked in tight against his belly as he tried to figure out what to do. He didn’t want to go back. He didn’t want to kill anyone. Not with a gun. Not with his teeth. Johns whimper was nearly subvocal but she must have heard it because she quit talking and he could smell the sudden stink of sadness as it wafted towards him.
“This isn’t helping is it?”
She sighed quietly and then there was the sound of something being pushed underneath the door. “Look I’ve left you my card. If you’ve got any questions, you need any help give me a call. It should take a minute or two for the cameras to come back on if you want to keep it without his knowledge.”
She stood up again and John strained his ears so that he could hear her pace all the way down the stairs and leave fully from the building before he slunk o ut of his corner. The small white card looked unassuming but he as he stepped closer to it John inhaled deeply taking in the woman’s, the werewolf’s, scent. It smelled like coffee, gunpowder, and something warmer that John thought might be what the scent of her fur would smell like something honeyed and spiced that was oddly comforting.
The card was plain just her name, phone number, and an email. Detective Jocelyn Carter. It took some maneuvering but John managed to pick up the card delicately between a couple of fangs and he kept his head turned away from the camera that Harold had set up so that he could hide it underneath his bed. Not a great hiding place but he’d have to figure out a better one later. If he decided to keep the card. If he decided to stay with Harold now that John knew that the Pack knew where he was. He’d heard the capital at the beginning of the word. There didn’t seem to be a comfortable way to get out of their reach though. As long as he stayed anywhere for even a short amount of time they seemed able to track him down. Running forever had seemed fine until he had finally taken a breathe to relax.
The door slammed open so suddenly as John was withdrawing from underneath the bed that his back legs slipped out from underneath him for a moment on the slick wood. Harold was taking deep heaving breaths as he stood in the doorway with hands clutching to either side of the casing. John could see the whites of his eyes all the way around once he’d taken a moment to take in the fact that John was okay he turned around and began looping through the apartment with purpose. Talking to his cellphone again (still?) as he checked each camera.
“Yes. I can see that all that happened was that someone came into the building. The question is why. Why did they turn them off? Don’t get shirty with me.”
John followed Harold for a little while as he paced the apartment trying to get glimpses of what Harold was reading from the small screen. Harold had the phone nearly clutched to his chest though and no matter how much he stretched he couldn’t see anything. He finally lay down in a tangle of legs and left Harold alone to his freak out. He may have purposefully chosen a spot that meant the man had to either go around or over him in a fit of pique.
Well at least Harold was a little bit more security conscious then he had thought if he was able to find out so quickly that someone had blocked the cameras. Harold stepped over and around John several times before he finally flopped back into a chair in apparent defeat.
“Really though Knight,” John looked up and over at Harold at the sound of his new name. “This would all be much easier if you could speak.”
Somehow John thought Harold would be singing a different tune if he ever did decide to come clean to the man so for the moment he just woofed softly at him before relaxing again.
John didn’t bother holding back a groan of contentment as he stretched out near Harold’s feet. His stomach was pooched out again from the hefty chunk of chicken that he’d been fed; and his head was resting on the couch at Harold’s hip so that he could enjoy a lovely ear rub while he digested. Harold was typing one handed on a laptop. His expression still a little frustrated as he tried to work out what had happened to his cameras.
Apparently the man had them located all around the building and he was checking each of them individually to see if he could find out who had blocked them. Carter had scared the crap out of him but John had felt an unnerving amount of unexpected stubbornness well up in him. He wasn’t going anywhere. John was so tired of running. He’d been running away from all sorts of things since he was a teenager. His family. His emotions.
Now though, Harold may not have known who or what John really was but he had taken him in and taken care of him. Carter had seemed sincere enough about trying to help him. Even if she was just trying to earn his trust in order to lure him out John could feel the weight of whoever was backing her up.
He’d been moving constantly for months and it had taken them less than a month to catch up with him. Even if he ran away now there was no guarantee that they wouldn’t go after Harold. So at this point John felt like he should just enjoy how much more comfortable his life had become. If the Pack decided that he needed to die John really didn’t think he’d be able to avoid it. Maybe he didn’t deserve it but John felt like grabbing what little happiness he could at this point.
His eyes were slipping down low as Harold kept stroking his ears in a slow soothing rhythm. Another nap sounded lovely.
“Do you want to go for a walk Knight?” John started a little bit as Harold withdrew his hand and set the laptop aside. “Hmmm, or perhaps a run. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m a little slow for your taste but I’m sure we could get a couple of miles in before it gets too dark.” Harold voice was vague as he wandered towards his bedroom. John figured it was a safe bet that Harold was going to get changed into another tracksuit. Running so soon after a meal wasn’t exactly his idea of a good time but John figured he’d be able to keep up with the older man easily enough. So long as he didn’t get any bright ideas about going any faster than a light jog.
It only took Harold a couple of minutes to switch out his suit for the expected tracksuit and John tolerantly allowed the older man to clip his leash onto his collar. Leaving the apartment again from the side door let John see the way the concrete steps spiraled easily down to an exit that emptied out onto a small impeccably clean side street. Harold used the side of the building to stretch out his calves for a couple of minutes before he suggestively raised the leash so that John had some warning that he was going to start jogging. A quiet encouraging chirp brought him to all four feet and snugged up easily against Harold’s heel.
They set off at an easy pace as the older man warmed up to the exercise. The leash stayed lax between them and John found it exceedingly easy to follow Harold’s cues as they took smooth corners. Harold’s breath puffed out regularly before he interrupted it. “Good boy Knight. I don’t know who trained you but they must be kicking themselves for losing you.” Johns stride faltered for a moment before he continued with his easy trot. “Well. More fools they hmm?”
The city was starting to light up around them as they ran and the sun began to set. The crowds of people ubiquitous to the streets parted for them willingly enough both from social politeness and a bit of fear when they saw the wolf at the small mans side. John felt his tail waving high and he nearly pranced at Harold’s side. The older man had an easy smooth stride but he wasn’t going to be winning any races and that left John feeling refreshed and only panting a little bit. It was nice to stretch his legs out a little bit.
All of the good food that he was being fed was appreciated but he had to make sure that he didn’t get too soft. They were only a block or so away from returning to Harold’s building when John felt a sudden prickle on the back of his neck. He planted both front paws abruptly and with force into the concrete ignoring the way the collar snapped uncomfortably against his throat for a moment before Harold caught himself. In a move that John would have appreciated a lot more if some unnamed instinct hadn’t put him on sudden high alert Harold immediately tugged the collar down to a more comfortable position.
“What’s the matter?” The leash stayed loose but John could feel it move a bit as Harold looked around. He didn’t try to tug John along and even managed to put his back against the brick wall of the building and John let his muzzle quest through the air as he tried to pinpoint what scent had set him off. A slight figure slipped out of a parked car and John couldn’t hold back a snarl of recognition as the woman stepped into the light of a street lamp. Harold’s restraining hand on the back of his neck the only reason he didn’t launch himself at her.
“Oh you’re that friend of Nathan’s. This is a...surprise.” “For you and me both.” Alicia Corwin looked even more stressed out than when John had seen her last at his final briefing with Kara and Mark. “I don’t know what strings you managed to pull but I’ve been told most...emphatically that you’re off limits. Harold Finch.” John’s nose hadn’t stopped moving even after he had recognized the woman in front of them and he caught a hefty dose of what he was coming to recognize as the musk of a werewolf coming off of her. She wasn’t one. As vanilla human as he’d probably ever smelled. She’d been in their vicinity though. Up close and personal and it had left her terrified.
“Off limits for what?” Harold’s voice was confused and sharpening with anger. “I don’t know what you think is going on or who you think I...” “Save it. Your project has been commandeered by a different department.” Corwin put up both hands in swift silent protest before Harold could say anything. “I have no idea who. I wasn’t given a lot of information. Just this.” Corwin had a small file that she not so gently shoved into Harold's palm before she spun on her heel. “They’ll be in contact with you within the next few days.”
Corwin paused with her hand on the back door of the car before she dropped into it. “I’d be careful Mr. Finch. You’ve been hiding in the background throughout all of this. IT for Ingram. Unbelievable. But whoever these people are I don’t think you’re going to be hiding too many secrets from them.” The car sped off nearly silently into the night and left Harold nearly pinned against the wall of the building clutching the folder in both hands while the loop of the leash dangled down from his wrist.
John’s eyes sharp enough to see clearly even in the deepening shadows caught a glimpse of movement in the alleyway across the street. Another werewolf. Shorter and stockier but more heavily muscled than he, seated nearly at attention and, John inhaled sharply to catch the scent, he only disappeared again once he was sure that he had gained John’s complete attention. It looked like whatever mess Harold was tangled up in was going to be inextricably intertwined with John’s own insanity. Harold got an unsolicited ping from his cellphone and John watched him fumble it for several long seconds before he actually dropped it to the cement. It landed screen up and John recoiled back from it as he read the text message alert. It was just three sets of numbers. Three numbers. Space. Two numbers. Space. Four numbers. Just numbers.
Just his social security number.
Harold’s shower seemed to be of the long and overly hot type. The steam billowed out a little bit from under the bathroom door as John paced the hallway. He really wanted to get that file and take an in depth look at it for even just a couple of minutes; the cameras would catch how deliberate he would have to be though and he didn’t want to risk raising any sort of suspicions. So instead John lay himself back down in the living room again while he was waiting and kept an ear out for any sort of out of place sounds. The run had been enough to refresh him and Corwin’s sudden appearance had flooded his system with adrenaline.
She was a nasty surprise, even if someone had apparently already scared her off. That just meant though that someone with more power had taken over in trying to control whatever Harold was up to; and to make things more complicated they seemed to be werewolves. He needed to stay alert. John let his limbs stretch out a little bit and he could feel the joints crackle and loosen. Werewolf or not his months of no more activity than wandering from place to place had left him out of shape and feeling it. He let his lips peel back from his teeth almost instinctively though as he contemplated the Pack trying to come after Harold. Pushing middle age and out of shape he may be but John had a number of nasty tricks up his sleeves.
John let his head fall down to his paws after another moment. It was so strange though. Who had sent Harold his social security number? It didn’t seem like something that Carter would do. She’d been too upfront too abrupt. If the detective had wanted to give information to Harold she would have done more than just given out his social. John’s train of thought was abruptly derailed when Harold shuffled out of the bathroom again, this time in dark aubergine silk pajamas. Long sleeve button up top and drawstring long pants covered him from his neck to the tops of his feet. The air conditioning was certainly working hard enough that neither of them had to worry about overheating but John was a little curious as to why Harold seemed to be completely unwilling to bare any sort of skin even when he thought that he was alone. Body conscious perhaps?
John whuffed a bit of a sigh as he tried to let it go. It really didn’t matter. John had never had a specific type in his life. Anyone, male or female, that he found interesting had always left him with a spark of attraction that more often than not he had let die out without doing too much about it. Harold had definitely snagged his attention though in the short time that he’d known him. Quick bird-like movements that hinted at an impatience that never seemed to pan out. His steady slender fingers carding through fur gently. He had a light voice whose normal tenor seemed to be that of a gentle croon when he was speaking to Knight and a slightly waspish sarcastic edge when he was speaking to others. But he never seemed to raise it. Yelling seemed anathema to the man.
Harold flopped ungently onto the couch with a deep sigh and John flinched away a bit as the sudden movement dragged him out of his thoughts once more. “My apologies Knight. It’s just been rather a long day, wouldn’t you say?” John let his head tip a little bit towards the older man so that Harold knew that he was listening. “First that business with the cameras, Ms. Corwin’s unexpected visit, and then this number.” Harold snagged the cellphone that he had left on his end table with a slightly unsteady hand and his laptop with the other. “Well she’s never steered me wrong yet so I dare say we had better look into this and see who I need to be paying attention to at this point.”
John stood up and slunk over towards Harold reluctantly. He had no real interest in Finch digging too deeply into his personal history. If someone thought that all the man needed was a person’s social security number to gain all of the information required that spoke highly of Harold’s computer skills but it also made him nervous. John hadn’t exactly been living the all-american dream these last few months but his time in the military had been a dark stain on him. The wolf may have taken care of some of the feelings of guilt and anguish that had been slowly eating him up inside but he was still ashamed of some of the things he had done. “Hmmm, John Reese?” John forced himself to keep moving forward without so much as a flinch as he slid up to Harold’s side and let his head rest in the man’s lap so that he could watch the computer screen without getting in the way.
That hadn’t take him nearly long enough.
Looking up someone by their social security number shouldn’t be a matter of typing on a few keys. There he was though. His military jacket pulled up in full, nearly unedited it looked like. Up to date to the point that he had fled from Kara’s death and whatever werewolf had attacked them. It looked like someone had cleaned up after them though and the facility had burned to ground behind him without him even knowing. They thought he was dead. “Hah.” Harold muttered sub-vocally as he typed a little bit more. “I highly doubt that. Much too pat, Knight wouldn’t you say? Two of their agents taken out in one fell swoop.” John whined a little bit and tried to finagle his way between Harold’s side and his arm. It might make it a little bit more difficult for Harold to type but John wanted the reassurance. “Now let’s see if she’s got any more information that the government isn’t privy to hmm?”
Harold pulled up a strange screen that John had trouble deciphering it seemed to mostly just be lines of code. “Well what do you say where is he?” The screen flickered momentarily as though some sort of program had started to run at Harold’s words and John had to restrain a wince of extreme surprise when security footage popped up. It was him. Looked like it was from a couple of months ago when he had still been wandering the streets at times as a man and not a wolf. Long shaggy beard and hair that was more gray than black. Shabby clothes that had been almost enough to keep him comfortable in the early spring air. The footage looked like it had been lifted straight from the cameras that surrounded the soup kitchens that he had used to frequent. “This was from back in April. Don’t you have anything more recent?” Doubtful, John thought, he’d taken to staying in the wolf form constantly right after this footage had been recorded. Hopefully he had managed to hide his shifting form from whatever cameras this hacker was using. Though Harold was asking pointed questions but he didn’t seem to be logged on to any type of video or audio connection. Finally Harold started to dig deeper on his own without asking any further questions of whoever or whatever was on the other end of the line.
John let himself fully climb up onto the couch when it didn’t seem like any protests were going to be forthcoming. Although he had no doubt that was because Harold was distracted rather than because he was willing to have a large dog on his fancy couch and nearly snuggled fully into his lap. “You think you’re so sneaky don’t you?” John froze from where he had been sleepily starting to nuzzle into the soft pudge around Harold’s middle, using it as a pillow. If the older man’s voice hadn’t been full of fond exasperation John might have thought that Harold had managed to find out something incriminating already in his digging. Instead he thought that Harold was finally reacting to how close he had crawled to him. “Well it is getting rather later I suppose. No matter how fascinating Mr. Reese is or was we do need to keep in mind our health I suppose. Would you like some supper Knight? Food?”
John nearly launched himself off of the couch and he sat down at attention in front of Harold attentively. Yeah it had only been a couple of hours but Harold seemed determined to feed him up and who was he to say no. Harold levered himself to his feet with a slight groan and John could hear the older man’s knees pop a little bit as he stood up. He padded into the kitchen unhurriedly with John eagerly on his heels. Instead of just pulling out raw meat though Harold seemed to be snagging several plastic bags from inside of the refrigerator along with a knife and a plastic cutting board. There were some quick cracking pops of joints being sliced apart but there was also the crisper crack of what smelled to John’s questing nose a lot like an apple and maybe some celery.
When Harold placed the nearly full plate down in front of John’s nose the plate had a half of a Cornish game hen, internal organs included, along with the aforementioned apple and a couple of pieces of celery. John looked up at Harold first waiting for the all clear before he dove at the plate. The crunch of the bones between his teeth was so satisfying and John felt his tail waving high as he quickly crunched down everything that was on his plate. The only thing he nosed at was the celery before giving in and swallowing the vegetable as quickly as possible. Not his favorite but probably good for him nonetheless. When he had licked the plate clean John happily licked his chops and panted a smile at Harold to show his appreciation.
Harold leaned down a little bit to stroke the silky fur on the top of John’s head for a moment before he turned away to start turning off the lights in the apartment. Once the living room and kitchen had been dimmed down to near darkness Harold walked into his bedroom and shut the door partially behind himself. John started to walk back towards the guest bedroom and his own bed when he came to a slow halt. The bedrooms weren’t that far apart but what if something happened in the night? If John had to take precious seconds to get out of his room over to Harold’s in the event of an attack who knew what might happen. Thankfully the door was only partially closed so he was able to nose his way into Harold’s room without so much as a creak from the door. Hardwood floor and no rug. Surprise surprise. John really didn’t want to push his luck with the bed in the same way that he had with the couch. The door knobs were such that he’d have a hell of a time opening them with his paws. Finding a relatively more shadowy corner that gave John a good view of the bed, the door, and the large window he lay down as quietly as he could and tried to get comfortable.
When he had finally started to settle down and John had let himself relax a little bit the bedside lamp clicked on quietly and filled the room with warm yellow light. “Knight.” Harold’s voice was a little reproachful and John was very hesitant to walk up to his outstretched hand. He didn’t think Harold was going to do anything other than gently drag him out of the room by his collar but he was shocked when Harold leaned forward and patted the foot of the bed. “Might as well. It’s a King sized more than enough room for two.” His lips twisted a little self-deprecatingly. “I assume anyways.” John managed to hop up onto the bed with a minimum of flailing and he let himself stretch out a little bit when he realized that Harold’s feet weren’t going to be impeded by his body because of the older man’s short stature. John sighed deeply when the light was turned off again and Harold seemed willing to snuggle back into his pillows without another word. If John had a choice he was never sleeping in the dog bed again.