Author: Gecko Osco PM
Sometimes, love just isn't enough to fix what's gone wrong-luckily, that's what puppies are there for. A story of breaking apart, coming together, and puppy-rearing. Warning: socks may have been harmed in the making of this story. USUKRated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - England/Britain & America - Chapters: 6 - Words: 19,370 - Reviews: 29 - Favs: 59 - Follows: 24 - Updated: 01-15-12 - Published: 12-07-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7617926
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
TITLE: Five Weeks aka How Long it Takes a Puppy to Change Everything
GENRE: Romance/angst, fluff
PAIRING(S): USUK, background barely there Prussia/Hungary
WARNINGS: relationship drama/angst, language, some sexy times, present tense, human names
SUMMARY: Sometimes, love just isn't enough to fix what's gone wrong-luckily, that's what puppies are there for. A story of breaking apart, coming together, and puppy-rearing. Warning: socks may have been harmed in the making of this
PROMPT: Alfred and Arthur adopt a puppy together.
NOTES: Done for the Secret Santa exchange at the USUK comm on LJ. A thousand thanks to the wonderful, lovely EllaCRose who beta'ed this story for me and did it with love! I went to town with this and went outside my usual comfort zone, but I'm very happy with the results. This story is completed and will be updated twice a week. Hope you all enjoy, especially you greeko88!
aka How Long it Takes for a Puppy to Change Everything
It's all Alfred's idea, naturally.
Not that Arthur does much to dissuade Alfred out of the idea, but that's irrelevant; it's still Alfred who comes up with everything. Arthur just doesn't put up much of a fight against Alfred, mainly because he isn't able to come up with a good excuse as to why adopting a puppy is such a horrible idea – at least, not a good enough one to combat against Alfred's excitement and his own arguments for the idea. There are the standard excuses that 'puppies are high maintenance and require tons of time' and 'isn't it more practical to adopt a puppy when one lives in a house, not an apartment?' that he voices. And then there is the not-so-usual 'we're having enough problems staying together as it is, and you want to add a bloody hound into the mix', which Arthur feels like screaming in Alfred's unthinking face, but doesn't. Probably for the best—some thoughts are best left to yourself, especially when addressing the quintessential white elephant hanging between Arthur and Alfred for the past few months – the fact that, despite three years of smiling and touching, exploring and discovering each other, and living together for nearly a year, knowing that they love each other didn't always work as a fallback in the wake of their differences. Differences that grow more pronounced and unapproachable the longer they don't talk about them.
Yes, adding a dog, a dog that would be both of theirs, is never a smashing idea when all of that gets factored together. He tries to mention this, he honestly does, but then Alfred grabs his hand and tugs him close, a horribly raw and sad look in his blue eyes as he stares into Arthur's. Alfred brings up their 'rockiness' before Arthur can; it's probably the first time either of them has outright said anything about it that isn't a sniping comment or sarcastic line flung in the middle of a fight. And, in bringing it up, he argues against the thoughts and words he sees building on Arthur's tongue; a puppy would help, he was sure of it, he says. They need to work together, spend more time together than they had been lately, walk and play with it—and maybe, in doing that, they can fix things that have gone so horribly wrong. And, at the very least, having a puppy they are both attached to might keep them from making the wrong decision the next time they do fight, keep them there for a moment longer, and keep them away from the door.
Arthur still isn't sure about all that. Isn't sure of anything, but Alfred looks so damn earnest and hopeful, Arthur agrees in a way. He hasn't said no, at any rate. Secretly, he wants Alfred to be right—he's terrified of what it will mean if he isn't, if things still go south after all of this.
Arthur met Alfred three years prior, newly moved to America from London to pursue his dreams of being a correspondent with a major news network. He was working as a bartender while he was searching for anything in the news world in Boston at a local pub near Cambridge when a group of celebrating college students stumbled in. He learned from picking up bits and pieces of their conversations that they were just starting at MIT and celebrating their acceptance into, admittedly, one of the most prestigious schools for science and technology. Alfred had been hard to ignore; he was tall, blond, gorgeous, and utterly obnoxious, as well as an incorrigible and determined flirt (all characteristics he still retains). Arthur noticed how Alfred always offered to get the drinks for his table, how he always searched the bar for wherever Arthur happened to be, smiled his perfect smile and tilted his head so his hair fell just so as he leaned across the bar. It was annoying at first, mainly because he never quite knew how to respond to drunken flirting without being drunk himself – and, even then, it was generally a 'you're hot, fancy a shag?' sort of scenario. Not the coy, tasteful sort of glances and touches he got from Alfred; Arthur hadn't known what to do besides blush and stammer out some sort of response.
As the night wore on, Arthur had discovered that Alfred was not, in fact, drunk, therefore earnestly interested. He was actually quite clever himself, returning most of Arthur's quips with his own—it had all been rather endearing and left Arthur feeling flushed and ridiculously giddy. Alfred had told him how he was studying aerospace engineering and had graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He joked with Arthur about it, asking he knew where that was in the states - which Arthur had, of course. Arthur shared that he had attended Oxford, which had suitably impressed Alfred, and why he had come to America, apart from escaping his 'pugnacious brothers.' Alfred talked about his family and twin brother fondly in response, and before they both knew it, the pub was nearly empty and Alfred's friends had abandoned him (with lewd winks and cat-calls as they headed out the door).
Alfred shrugged somewhat shyly and asked Arthur, "So, since we kinda had all the first date talk tonight, can I take you out for dinner tomorrow? I really want to kiss you right now, but I think dinner needs to come first for it to be an even awesomer first kiss."
Arthur agreed, despite the atrocious grammar. It would have been hard not to in the wake of that smile and those eyes looking up at him softly from beneath his glasses. Before he knew it, they were in love and living their lives together, something Arthur had never really imagined for himself. He was a bit of a pill, he knew that without having his mates and brothers remind him of it all the time, and he'd never really thought himself the type of man for a long-term relationship before. That had been before Alfred, though; he took to referring to his life as 'before Alfred' and 'after Alfred' since then, as sappy as that was. He still does, even though he's started to worry that 'after Alfred' will take on a different connotation if things continue as they are. Now, they're here, Alfred in the midst of getting his doctorate at twenty five, because he is that sort of smart when it comes to science and space, and Arthur working with the Boston Globe, on his way to having his own column, even if some days that goal seems ages away. Both are on their individual ways to success and falling apart when it comes to one another, and Arthur is just as desperate as Alfred is to fix 'them' before they completely unravel.
So, here he is, in the middle of the North East German Shepherd Rescue's front lobby, sitting beside Alfred and, admittedly, a little bit excited and a little bit hopeful. He holds Alfred's hand, and there isn't anything forced in the touch of their palms, in the way their fingers link together. It feels like it's supposed to, like it had in the beginning; that more than anything makes him hope that this might not end in disaster. Maybe.
"What about Bourbon? That's a pretty kick ass name."
"Will you quit trying to name the puppy after liquor?" Arthur scolds Alfred with a glare, which Alfred promptly ignores and instead sticks his tongue out at him. He's already suggested naming the puppy Tequila Sunrise, Jack, Morgan, and Absinthe; Arthur doesn't know what Alfred's preoccupation with alcohol-themed names is, but it's getting ridiculous. "What is wrong with a simple name like Spot or Sparky?"
"Because those names are lame, Artie, and you know it. Our little guy's gotta have a kick ass, take no prisoners kind of name!" Alfred squeezes Arthur's hand and Arthur's stomach flips, doesn't clench, in warmth. "What about Jose? Oh! Gin, that sounds awesome!"
Arthur is spared from answering as one of the volunteers, a nice looking woman named Bridget, comes out and calls their names. They wave at her and rise to their feet. "Hello, boys! So, we got your application and everything's checked out fine on your, so now we can start looking a little more specific to what you're looking for. Was there an age or gender you were interested in?"
"Not really on the gender, but I think maybe younger. Art's got a cat already at home, so we don't want to cause any kind of issues there." Alfred looks over at Arthur for confirmation, still holding his hand.
"That won't be a problem, will it? I've read that German Shepherds can have problems with other dogs or animals." Arthur's cat is absolutely lazy, fat, and a big affection-whore, but he'd read on German Shepherds when Alfred confides that he really wants one of those dogs, that he has ever since he was a kid and watched how they helped rescue people during 9/11. Even though Oliver thinks everyone is his friend (especially if they can be convinced to give him food) shepherds aren't often the friendliest of dogs with the unfamiliar.
Bridget purses her lips and checks her clipboard, shaking her head as she reads. "Not if you get one young enough. We actually do have a couple of puppies right now, about three months old; did you want to look at them first?"
"Puppies? Hell yeah!"
"Yes, please, if it's not a bother. Alfred wanted a puppy, but we weren't sure what our luck would be with that at a rescue; they always go so fast." Arthur spares a polite smile for Bridget, who hides a grin at Alfred's excitement behind her hand.
"Not a bother, I promise! You picked a good day to come in, they just got released to our organization this past Thursday, haven't had a lot of people in between then and the weekend. Here, wash your hands with the sanitizer on the wall and follow me back. I'll show you to where we've got the babies set up!" She points at the Purell dispenser on the wall before she squirts some for herself and walks through a thick, metal door that all the barks had been coming from. Arthur and Alfred copy her and follow back, eyes glancing inside the different kennels set up for the shepherds the rescue has at the moment. Alfred makes a sad noise as they pass an older dog; Arthur tugs him past quickly so they don't fall too far behind. Or end up adopting the whole bloody shelter.
"Come on, love. I'm sure a handsome man like that will find his own family soon enough."
Alfred looks over at him sharply, eyes wide and a soft smile on his face. "Haven't called me that in a while."
"Love. It's just been 'Alfred' or 'wanker' lately. Sometimes 'tosser' if you're especially cranky." Arthur feels his cheeks go warm and his palms go cold—he's right, Arthur hasn't really called him any sort of endearment recently. Not even in bed; though, the last time they'd actually been in bed and done more than sleep has been a depressingly long time past. Arthur isn't sure what to say to that; an apology seems trite, so he tightens his hold on Alfred's hand and steps a little closer as they walk together. Alfred accepts that, leaning in to press a fleeting kiss to his temple as they follow after Bridget—Arthur wonders why Alfred even mentioned anything, though. The awkward air is back between them, hovering just out of sight and pressing against the happy, affectionate bubble they'd had since they woke up that morning. Arthur can feel it, even though they are walking closer and holding tighter—fuck all.
"And here we are! We've got four still here, three boys and a girl." Arthur is grateful for Bridget's interruption and distraction; it's far easier to ignore the uncomfortable silence when faced with a bunch of adorable, yipping puppies. He lets go of Alfred's hand and walks to the edge of the raised kennel to peer over the top and into a small room where four puppies are alternating between playing and napping. Alfred makes a soft, quiet noise that sounds an awful lot like a coo as he peers inside as well; not that Arthur can fault him. They are adorable. "We can let you meet them one-on-one, if you'd like? Those two napping in the corner are both boys, and we've got the girl there trying to get them to play with her—the last boy is the one going at the stuffed raccoon like it offended him."
Arthur snorts at Bridget's description as he takes in the fourth puppy, who, admittedly, is a little more entertaining to watch than the other three. He's as tall as Alfred's kneecap and has the traditional coloring, dark fur on the back and muzzle with light brown framing the dark fur. His ears look to be straightening up, which he read was normal for German Shepherds around this age, and with one ear fully pointed up and the other still half folded down and off to the side, he looks impossibly charming. His paws are already large for his size and are currently pinning down the stuffed raccoon while he gnaws at the toy's nose, little growls escaping from him. Alfred nudges Arthur and tilts his head down at the puppy; Arthur smiles softly and nods.
"Can we see that guy? The one massacring the raccoon?"
"Sure! Here, the meet and greet pen is right through that green gate. Just go on in and I'll get the little guy on a leash." Bridget flashes them a grin as she walks around the pen and enters the back to grab the puppy. Alfred grabs Arthur's hand again and drags him to the little green gate, an eager bounce in his steps; Arthur doesn't think the puppy needs to do much more to convince Alfred to adopt him. He certainly doesn't need to impress Arthur any further.
Bridget comes back with the puppy a few minutes later. "We're just calling this one Blaze right now, but you can change the name, if you want. He's just a little over three months old, and he's already been neutered, so you won't need to worry about that."
She lets him off the leash after she closes the gate behind her; Alfred immediately drops down to a crouch on the ground and holds out his hand for the puppy. The puppy wastes no time and fearlessly scampers over to Alfred and begins sniffing his hand, little yips and curious growls escaping him before he starts licking Alfred's hand. Alfred turns around and gives Arthur a 'look at that, he loves me, we can't not adopt him now' sort of look before he starts petting the puppy and playing with him. Arthur watches them from where he stands by Bridget and lets Alfred play with the rambunctious puppy. "Living in an apartment won't be a problem with him, will it? I understand that he'll get quite large."
"Big breeds actually do well in apartments, believe it or not. You just want to make sure you both make time to play with him and take him on walks; shepherds are pretty active dogs, so as long as you give them plenty of exercise, apartment living won't be an issue. This breed is actually among the easiest to train as well, which definitely helps in apartment living. Though, this one's a bit more rowdy than his brothers and sisters, so you might want to keep that in mind."
"Arthur! Arthur, you have to come and say hello as co-parent! We can talk about all the boring shit with her later when we're doing paperwork to take him home!"
Arthur rolls his eyes and offers Bridget an apologetic smile before heading over. "Rowdy I can handle, as you've no doubt noticed. Yes, I'm coming, Alfred."
Alfred smiles wide at him as he kneels down beside him and holds out his hand for the puppy. "He's cute, right?"
"Quite so, yes."
"I really want him." Arthur chuckles a little as the puppy licks at his fingers and steps on his thighs to get closer to his face; Alfred's smile softens and he reaches over to ruffle the space between the puppy's ears affectionately. "I think he really wants us, too."
Arthur glances over at Alfred before he focuses back on the puppy's adorable face and playful whining as he keeps trying to lick his face. The puppy's fur is soft around his face and chest, getting a little smoother and coarser as he smoothes his hand down his back; it'll be easy getting attached to this young man, Arthur has little doubt, even being a self-proclaimed cat person. And therein lays the danger. Arthur swallows back that thought so it won't show on his face and he spares Alfred a grin. "Do you want to still look at the others or is your mind made up?"
"Well, I really like this guy, but do you? He's not just my dog, Arthur; he'll be both of ours." Alfred's eyes are easy to read, easy to look past the words to the half alluded to, shadowed meanings. Arthur feels a twinge of annoyance, but he swallows that down, too, and looks back down at the puppy.
"I don't think we need to look at any of the others." It's almost worth Alfred's passive-aggressive doubts against how willing Arthur is going to work at this in comparison to himself to see the smile Alfred gives him in response.
"Awesome. You hear that, little guy? We're gonna be your new Papas!"
"I can go ahead and get the adoption paperwork ready for you, if you want to spend a little more time with him out here. Does that sound okay?" Arthur looks up at Bridget as the puppy bounds over to Alfred, who has gotten to his feet and starts playing with him in a game of tag.
"That would be wonderful, thank you." She nods and heads out of the pen; Arthur stares at the closed gate for a moment before looking over at Alfred. He has scooped the puppy up and is grinning like a loon as the puppy squirms and licks at his face, making annoyed little noises. Alfred walks back over to the gate and sits down against the wall, letting the puppy out of his arms to chase after a stray leaf that the wind has picked up. He looks up at Arthur and holds out his hand; Arthur takes it after a moment and lets Alfred tug him down to the ground. He curls his legs under him Indian-style; Alfred rests their hands on Arthur's thigh.
"This is going to be good for us, Artie, I just know it."
Arthur gives a half smile as he watches the puppy chase the leaf. "And if it isn't?"
Alfred is quiet, which is never a good sign. Words come to him eventually, with a prelude of a heavy, sad sigh. "Then we'll figure something else out, then, if we have to."
The puppy stops chasing the leaf and bounds back over to where they sit; he growls and attacks Alfred's shoe with a happy pounce. Arthur smiles, a real one, and doesn't stiffen when Alfred laughs and leans his head against his shoulder, pushing their shoulders closer together. It feels nice, which in and of itself is nice to feel again. "We still need a name for this guy, you know. You kept saying no to all of my ideas."
"We are not naming the puppy after a brand of liquor, Alfred. People will think we're alcoholics."
Alfred chuckles and tips his head up so that he can peer at Arthur's eyes. "Well, I still have another one. What about Moonshine? We could call him Moony for short. German Shepherds kind of look like wolves a little, don't they? It'll be cool to have him named after the moon; he gets a cool, unique name that I can brag about coming up with and you get a Harry Potter reference out of it. And don't pretend you don't think that's the coolest part, I know you do."
Arthur stares at the puppy for a moment, testing the name in his mind a few times, still not thrilled Alfred is getting his way with the whole alcohol name thing but liking how Moonshine worked with the little troublemaker attacking Alfred's shoelaces. "Moonshine…Moony. Our little marauder. I like it."
"Yes." When Alfred pushes up and kisses him, it's warm and new. When he kisses back, Alfred groans a little in victory and a lot in relief. They break apart as Bridget opens the gate again, leash in hand and smiling at them; Moonshine bounds over to greet her and they rise back to their feet, hands still clasped together between them.
Reviews are always appreciated.