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Dogged Love

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Izuku had never seen a pet Hybrid in a muzzle before.

The dog Hybrid watched him with burning red eyes from the large kennel in the corner of the room and crossed his arms over a pillow on the end of the couch. A metal, wire muzzle had been fitted over his face with a bar to bite and the leather straps caught in his choppy, blond hair.

Izuku wasn’t quite sure of the dog hybrid’s specific breed, but the pointed ears on the top of his head covered in dark, reddish fur and his long, curled tail in the same color had to be from a spitz of some sort. Large paws poked out from his jeans, forming dog’s feet, also in the reddish fur with black pads. His red leather collar had two shining tags hanging from it, and it was hooked to a chain that went through the bars and had been wrapped around a hook on the wall out of arm’s reach of the Hybrid.

“Is all that necessary?” Izuku asked before he could stop himself.

Domestic Animal Hybrids were kept as pets, but they were still sentient beings. Treating them like actual animals was an archaic practice from before humans and Hybrids cohabited.

The owner looked up from signing the form on Izuku’s clipboard and followed his gaze to the dog Hybrid. “It is when there’s company over and he knows why.”

The man’s voice raised into a half shout by the end of the sentence and the dog Hybrid rolled his eyes and turned away. He shoved the pillow over his head and curled into the couch they’d shoved in the kennel, facing the back cushions with his tail curled over his thigh.

“May I ask?” Izuku took back his clipboard, still staring at the Hybrid’s firm back. The dog wore a tank top and his arms were muscled like an athlete. “It seems so excessive.”

“He bites,” the man said, crossing his arms. He scowled and rubbed a spot on the bridge of his nose. His eyes said there was more to the story but he held his tongue. “Officially, that’s the reason. He’s legally required to be restrained when there are people other than the family in the house.”

Izuku clutched the clipboard of finished paperwork to his chest. A Hybrid’s relationship with their animal half’s nature was a scary thing. He’d seen plenty of dog Hybrids drop whatever they were doing to give chase to a small animal or maim someone who threatened their owner.

However, the law typically did not hold Hybrids accountable for their actions due to the controversy surrounding whether or not a species should be punished for acting as nature intended. The Pet system was created as sort of a middle ground, with animal Hybrids only legally allowed outside of a registered pet shelter as long as they were matched with an owner.

Anything they did wrong became their human master’s problem as far as the law was concerned.

“What a waste of money,” the owner grumbled under his breath.

Izuku shouldn’t ask, but he did: “Your pet?”

“I bought him as a puppy to train for competition, but after he came of age, he bit a judge the first time he was on the floor. The man had to go to the hospital for stitches and the brat got himself disqualified before he could even start.

“Do you know the worst part of it all?” The owner asked. Izuku shook his head and the owner threw his hand out toward the cage. “He’s a picture perfect Kai Ken Hybrid. The breed by itself is already rare, and I’ve got a flawless one that refuses to behave for five minutes.”

“I see,” Izuku said. A Kai Ken. He’d only seen a dog of that breed before once in person and they were an amazing little animal. That dog’s owner at the time had shared that the dog breed was fiercely loyal and they loved theirs to bits. It was so odd to see an owner look at his own pet, even if it was a Hybrid, with so much disgust. “I guess I’ll leave then, so you can let him back out.”

“So we’re done?” The owner asked.

“Yes, everything is signed and good to go,” Izuku said. He bowed his head and put the clipboard away in his pack. “I’ll turn everything in and the construction work for the addition to your home should be started in two days.”

“Wonderful,” the owner said. “I look forward to it.”

Izuku shot the Hybrid one last look before he excused himself and went out the front door. His heart felt heavy, but instead of thinking of his next job for the day, he made the mistake of looking back to the house’s window.

“He left the Hybrid in the kennel?” Uraraka said, popping her spoon of ice cream in her mouth. She and Izuku sat across from each other in the small cafe. “Are you sure?”

“At first I thought he was going to leave the room to get something, but I watched from the window for fifteen minutes and he never came back,” Izuku said, his stomach twisting. There was no reason to keep his pet locked up when he was the only one there unless he was scared of the dog. But dogs just didn’t attack their owners. They weren’t programmed for that, so if this one was, Izuku didn’t want to know the reason why. “I’m worried.”

“You might be overthinking it,” Uraraka said. “Maybe he had another guest coming after you. If he’s legally obligated to have the dog locked up, it must be a hassle to let him out and in all the time.”

“That could be.” Izuku didn’t think that was the case though. He bit his lip. The desire to go back and check on the pet Hybrid burned in his chest. He looked up at Uraraka and tapped the side of his drink. “Hey, I know I’m only helping out part time while your employee is sick, but do you think I could help on that man’s construction project?”

Uraraka hummed under her breath and ate another bite of ice cream. “Are you going to come whether I say yes or no?”

Izuku shrugged with a shy smile and Uraraka got the message.

“You’re volunteering,” Uraraka said. She flicked a sprinkle at his face and huffed. “So don’t expect a paycheck out of me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Izuku said, grinning back at his best friend.

The dog Hybrid never left the kennel.

Izuku had been volunteering with Uraraka’s construction team for three weeks and he kept an eye on the Hybrid at every opportunity. When Uraraka’s teams left, Izuku hid on the property to watch through the window. Even hours into the night when there was no company to be found, the dog stayed in the kennel.

He also hadn’t noticed it on the first visit, but there was a small portable toilet in the corner that the dog kept covered with old cushions so he wouldn’t have to look at it.

Legally, the owner hadn’t done anything wrong that he could report, but no animal or person deserved this.

Izuku had to figure out how he could help that Hybrid.

On his fifth trip to the house, while Uraraka’s construction team worked hard on the home addition in the back, Izuku slipped inside from the work site and held his breath as he crept through the house.

He didn’t know what he was going to do, but he did have some questions he wanted answered.

The dog Hybrid growled when Izuku approached, but the muzzle prevented him from barking or talking. The dog’s glare felt like it was digging into his soul and he squatted near the bars.

“Do you really bite people?” Izuku blurted. “Bad enough for this?”

The Hybrid kicked the bar of the cage and rolled over, putting the pillow back of his head. He heard the loud snort of air through his nose.

“Is that a yes?” Izuku winced and crossed his arms over his knees. “Because I noticed you’re never let out of this kennel. At all. And that doesn’t sound like part of the legal lockup, so I wondered if your owner was lying.”

The Hybrid lifted the pillow, turning his head enough to stare at Izuku with a curious expression.

“Is he lying?”

The dog Hybrid made a “so-so” motion with his hand.

“Are you legally required to be locked up around company for biting?” Izuku asked.

The dog pulled the pillow to his chest and squeezed it, nodding after a moment.

“Oh,” Izuku said. He swallowed and but his hand on the back of his neck. “Does he ever let you out around just the family?”

The Hybrid shook his head.

“Because you’ll bite him?” Izuku asked, taking a guess.

The dog shook his head, narrowing his brows together.

“Then why—”

“What are you doing in here?” The dog’s owner asked, walking into the room. He held a plate of kibble and walked toward the kennel. He stuck it on a shelf and pushed it through the small slot onto the shelf on the Hybrid’s side of the bars. “Did you get lost?”

“Sorry!” Izuku said, jumping up. He prayed the owner hadn’t heard any of his conversation with the quiet dog. “I just wanted to see your pet again. I didn’t mean any harm.”

“He is only good for looking at these days,” the owner said. He crossed his arm and stared the dog down. the Hybrid matched his gaze, refusing to budge. “I wouldn’t stand so close to the cage, though.”

Izuku braced himself and gathered his courage. “Forgive me for saying, but you don’t seem to like your pet very much.”

“I don’t,” the owner said. “He’s more trouble than he’s worth, but I can’t afford to get rid of him after all the money I invested.”

“Theoretically, if someone wanted to buy him then, you’d sell?” Izuku asked, his heart pounding in his chest. He had thought about getting a pet once or twice, but this wasn’t how he had expected to do it. “To get your investment back, I mean.”

“It’s cute that you’re interested, but you can’t afford him on a construction worker’s salary,” the owner said.

Izuku believed that, but he wanted a concrete number to be sure. “How much?”

The man snorted and pulled a pad of stationary out of a side table drawer and scribbled down a number. He ripped it off the pad and handed it to Izuku.

The amount that stared back at him was more than he could make between his own job and helping part time with Uraraka. He’d never be able to save that much up in a lump sum in time to actually help the Hybrid. Izuku would have to work for years to get that much money.

Izuku clutched the paper tighter, crinkling it.

He didn’t have that much money, but he knew someone who did.

“So if someone offered this much for your dog, you’d sell?” Izuku asked, just to clarify. The dog Hybrid in the kennel sat up higher, shooting a confused look between Izuku and his owner. “Is that what you’re saying?”

“In a heartbeat.”

“Todoroki!’ Izuku shouted after his friend opened the door. He clasped his hands together and bowed his head as far as it would go. “I need a favor.”

“Of course,” Todoroki said. He put his hand on Izuku’s shoulder and squeezed. “Are you okay?”

“I know this is awful of me to ask but I promise to pay you back every penny as long as it takes but I need to borrow some money,” Izuku said, barely stopping to breathe between the words. He shoved the paper in his friend’s face and pointed at the owner’s scribble. “This much. Please, I know it’s a lot, but it’s important.”

“Slow down,” Todoroki said. He took the paper from Izuku and looked it over, staring at the number that could be the difference in that Hybrid staying trapped in a kennel for the rest of his life or getting some semblance of freedom until Izuku could find him a proper home. Todoroki looked up from the sheet and said, “Start from the beginning.”

Izuku breathed out and followed him inside the home to explain.

“I believe this is the amount you asked for,” Izuku said, slightly out of breath. He’d arrived at the man’s door after a brisk run from the train station with the case of money clutched to his chest. He handed it over and licked his lip. “For the dog.”

The owner stared at Izuku for a full minute before he shook his head and took the briefcase inside to the sitting room. The dog Hybrid in the corner kennel sat straight up as his owner cursed when he saw the money in the case. His ears were forward and alert while his tail flicked back and forth as he hugged his pillow.

“I’ll be damned,” the man said. He picked up a stack and counted. He looked at Izuku over his shoulder and then back at his dog. He put the money back in the case and crossed his arms and closed his eyes. The owner shook his head. “You know what? I was going to ask, but I don’t want to know where you got this money.”

He left the case on the table and said, “Wait right there.”

Izuku crossed his arms and stood next to the case, his breath heavy. The dog stared at him and Izuku hoped he made the right decision. Izuku hadn’t asked the Hybrid what he wanted or really learned anything about the situation. He was butting in where he didn’t belong.

“Meddling,” as Uraraka and Iida liked to call it.

Izuku looked at the dog Hybrid again, paying close attention to the small indents the muzzle left imprinted on his cheek when it shifted and the toilet he knew was hidden in the corner. The conditions were legal and his needs were technically met, but Izuku couldn’t leave things alone and he renewed his conviction.

His apartment had to be better than a kennel in the corner, didn’t it?

The owner returned after five minutes with a slim black folder with gold embossing on the edges. Izuku watched him open it and saw thick pieces of paper that looked like official registration documents.

“Katsuki” was written at the top of the first page on the line for the Hybrid’s name.

Izuku held his breath, a wave of shame washing over him. He’d come here to purchase a pet but had never asked for the dog Hybrid’s name. Izuku would have to make it up to Katsuki later for overlooking something so important.

The owner signed a line on the third page and closed the folder. He handed it to Izuku and got up. “You’ll need to take that to the registration office downtown with the Hybrid to finish the transfer, but as far as I’m concerned, congratulations: You just bought a pet.”

The man unhooked the chain from the wall and pulled a set of keys out of his pocket. He opened the kennel and the dog sat on the couch, staring forward in disbelief. Katsuki didn’t make a move for the open door, clutching the cushion tight to his chest so hard his claws ripped through the fabric.

“Come on,” the man said to Izuku. He took uneasy steps over and the man dropped the end of the chain leash in his palm. “The dog is all yours. I’ll throw in the muzzle and leash for free, but good luck finding a proper kennel.”

“I’m sure I’ll manage,” Izuku whispered. He clutched the chain tight in his hand, holding the packet of papers to his chest. Izuku looked at the dog Hybrid still frozen in place. He forced as much gentleness into his voice as he could. “We should go now, Katsuki.”

“Get out of here, pup,” the owners said. He smacked the bars once before he stepped back and put his hands in his pockets. “Go ruin someone else’s life for a while.”

The dog growled in his throat and stood, stomping over to his new owner. Izuku tilted his head back to look the dog in the eyes. Katsuki was taller than him. He swallowed and clutched the end of the leash to his chest, knocking it against the folder of papers. The Hybrid walked past without a sound, heading for the open front door.

Katsuki reached behind without looking back and grabbed Izuku by the side of his shirt. He yanked him forward, dragging Izuku every step of the way to the house’s entrance with ease. The owner laughed and shouted “good luck” before he slammed the door shut after them.

Izuku tripped on the concrete as the Hybrid continued to stomp toward the main gate of the property, and in an unnatural swell of concern for his personal safety, he hoped that muzzle worked better than the leash.