Title: Pack of Two
Standard Dis, No warnings
Author's Notes: Your comments are greatly appreciated. This was written mostly for myself, in an attempt to bring what I know into the world of Supernatural. So please- love it, hate it, I wanna know why. Thanks!
My name is Ralph, and I'm a purebred Golden Retriever.
I'm also a therapy dog, and this is the story of the day I met Sam and Dean Winchester.
"Okay Jimmy, you rest now. Ralph and I will be back in a few days to visit you again, okay?"
"Will Ralph do more tricks?"
"Sure he will. But only if you do everything the nurses tell you, okay?"
Jimmy sighed. "Even if they tell me to eat my vegetables?"
"Especially if they tell you to eat your vegetables."
I look up at my adopted mother. We've just finished making this little human happy and she's smiling, her left hand twisted in my leash. It tugs on my collar, jingling my tags. I take a step closer to her and continue waiting.
"Okay," Jimmy sighs, crossing his arms. He looks mad, but when he looks at me, he smiles. "Bye, Ralph!"
Before my mother can cue me, I bark once. My tail thumps against the doorframe.
My mother turns and I back up, out into the hallway. "Good boy," she mutters, rubbing the ridge on the top of my head. "Let's go next door now, okay?"
As we walk, my toenails clack on the shiny floor. It looks wet and slippery in my grayscale vision; it took lots of practice before I trusted walking on it. I hate sliding on it.
It's warm in here. I open my mouth to pant, hating the way my cape traps the heat in my fur. Mother will give me a drink soon enough, though. She always takes care of me.
We stop just outside the doorway and I sit. I always have to sit before we go through a door.
Mother knocks. "Hello? Sam, are you awake?"
The window curtains are drawn but I can clearly see the figure on the bed, despite the dim light. This person is big, bigger than most of the humans we talk to. But I can smell the hurt and the sadness and a hint of something else, so I know we have not made a mistake. This male needs me.
"I'm awake." The voice is smooth and quiet and I have to perk up my ears to hear it.
"Would you like a visit from Ralph?" Mother asks.
I listen closely, cocking my head to hear what the human on the bed will say. The sheets rustle as he looks at me. I continue to pant softly and my tail swishes across the floor. Humans seem to like it when I do these things and I want him to like me. I want to show him that I'm not scary.
"I'm not a little kid- I don't need a visit from a dog." His voice sounds sad.
Mother smiles and pats my head. I look up at her.
"Careful, don't hurt his feelings. He just wants to say hi. Please? You look like you could use the company."
The man on the bed is quiet for a moment. I look around. There's another person's scent in this room, though no one else is here now. The other person smells like my adopted Dad- musky and reeking of the liquid he splashes on his face after he gets wet. Is Sam sad because the other person isn't here?
"Fine," the man on the bed says at last. "What do I say to it?"
Mother moves her foot and I stand up. I walk at her side as we approach the bed. The smell of hurt is a lot stronger here. I hope he likes me- I want to make him happy.
"You say whatever you want to," Mother says. "I'm Lisa."
They shake hands and I sit again. I know what's coming.
Mother turns to me. "Ralph, say hello to Sam."
I shift my weight and raise my paw, moving it up and down until I hear Mother's "Good boy." Sam smiles at me and I wag my tail. I'm happy; that trick always makes the humans smile.
"What else can he do?" Sam asks.
"Ralph can do lots of things," Mother says. "But he's really good at listening."
I scoot forward, my toenails scraping on the floor. This human isn't like the rest, and I want to know why.
"I don't have anything to talk about," Sam says. "At least not to a dog."
His voice is low and sad and I whine in response. The smell of pain bothers me. I hate it. The hurt in this human is very strong but he is very good at hiding it, just like me. The little humans aren't so good at it. I don't know which is sadder.
"Everyone needs to talk. Have you ever owned a dog?"
"No. My family moved around too much."
His voice is still sad and I scoot forward some more, pulling on my leash. Mother drops the length of it, remaining where she is with the handle in her hand. I rest my chin on the bed and squint up at Sam. This close to him, another scent tickles my nose, a strange odor I've never smelled before. It smells like danger. It makes me nervous. What is it?
"I see," Mother said. "My dad was in the Army, we had to move around all the time. It was upsetting. I hated leaving my friends behind."
Sam stared at me, his fur hanging down almost in his eyes. He needed to go to the groomers soon. Next to him, his machines beeped and whirred and dripped and blinked. I hoped they wouldn't start screaming. I hate it when they scream.
"It's not so bad, I have a big brother."
"Where is your brother?"
The lines on Sam's face disappeared and he finally reached out, lightly touching the top of my head. I closed my eyes briefly and waged my tail. His fingers moved from my eyebrows to the top of my neck and I groaned in appreciation. His pain was starting to go away.
"He went to get something to eat. He'll be back soon." Sam blew out air and my eyes popped open as I sniffed his breath. "He'll get a kick out of this."
I smell sickness and medicine on his breath. I sigh.
"He like dogs?"
"He'll never admit it, but I know he does." Sam continued smoothing the fur on my head and slowly, my eyes fell closed again. The combination of soothing strokes and dissipating pain relaxes me. I loved this job. Humans can be so calming. All I have to do was sit next to them and they pet me. Sometimes, when Mother isn't looking, they feed me human food.
I love human food.
"Why won't he admit it?"
"I don't think dogs qualify as 'macho' enough. Dean's pretty aware of his social image."
"Nonsense," Mother replied. "Ralph belches and passes gas just like every other guy."
Sam laughs and I open my eyes. They are both looking at me. I don't know my, but I wag my tail anyway.
Sam starts petting me again.
"So how does a handsome young guy like you end up in a place like this?" Mother asks.
Sam's fingers stop moving. I sigh. Sometimes Mother makes the hurt humans sad. I don't think she means to, but I wish she wouldn't. I have to work even harder to make them happy again.
There's a tension in the air, like when Mother wants me to do something and I don't understand what it is. I raise my head and look at her. She looks at me. She wants me to fix it, to make Sam happy again.
So I bark.
It works. Sam smiles at me, so I bark again.
"What's he want?"
"He wants you to keep petting him," Mother says. "Keep talking to him. He needs to finish his nap."
Sam reaches out to me and I hurry to put my chin back on his blankets. His touch is rough at first, sloppy and heavy, but soon his hand slows and resumes its original, hypnotizing rhythm. I groan.
The humans are quiet and the machines seem to get louder. The smells get stronger. I close my eyes and focus on Sam's touch, and his smell. He smells like outside, like a parking lot, like smoke and wood and blood. That prompts me to lick his hand, to find his wound and help him heal. But then, underneath all of those smells, I smell something else. The strange scent. It's dark, evil. It scares me and I open my eyes. What kind of human is this? What has he been doing? The evil hurt him, put him in this sick-place, I can tell. Why?
"What's he looking at me like that for?"
Mother runs her hand down my shoulders. "He's getting a read on you, that's all. He reads all the people we visit."
I whimper and shift my weight, raising a front foot and clawing lightly at Sam's bed. I was being bad, I knew, but Sam was different. Slowly, I rise up on my back legs and lean forward, so that my elbows slid into the small space between Sam's arm and side. My front feet draped over him and I stretched my neck to lick at his chin. The evil smell is scary and I want it to go away.
"Ralph!" Mother scolded. She grabbed my collar and I held my breath as it tightened against my neck. "Get down!"
"No, it's okay," Sam said as he wraps an arm around my shoulders. "He's not hurting me."
Mother hesitated, then let go. "I'm sorry. He knows better than this. I wonder what's gotten into him."
Sam looked into my eyes. I looked back, curious. What this human's secret? Why did he smell of evil? It made me shiver with fright and I didn't know why; it was the same way I always want to chase the strange little animals that live in the trees. Evil was dangerous, I know that. Evil meant hurt and death. All dogs know that. But I'd never smelt a human who smelled like evil. I'd never smelt anything living who smelled like evil.
I was confused, but somehow, I knew this human could be trusted. He was good. He was warm. I felt safe on his lap. The human wasn't evil, but he had fought something that was. This human was a guard-human, like the ones who wore dark clothes that jingled and smelled like burnt fire. This human protected other humans. And in turn, the evil had hurt him.
I whined and licked his face again. I wanted to help him. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted his hurt to go away and I wanted the evil to leave him alone.
But I didn't know what to do.
I know lots of human words: I know sit, down, come, stay, fetch, drop, good boy and no, heel, kisses, speak, spin, and wave.
But none of those things will work against evil.
This has never happened to me before. I've never met a human I couldn't fix. It makes me sad. I look to Mother. What do I do? Tell me- I'll do anything. Sam is good. I don't want evil to hurt him.
Mother just looks at me. She doesn't say anything. Her eyes get sad. Why is Mother sad? Mother never gets sad when we come here. She never lets the small humans see her sad.
I'm more scared now. I look back to Sam. His eyes are wet and he breaths in, wiping his face with his hand. He doesn't want Mother to see his wet eyes. His breathing is jerky, his muscles are tense. Something is very wrong here. Why are the humans so sad? Does Mother know about the evil that hurt Sam? Is Sam afraid of the evil? Do they know that I don't know how to help? I stretch forward and lick the salt from Sam's face. Salt equals hurt and I want it gone.
His hand drops onto my head and I try to stop licking him. The salt makes me even thirstier, but it always makes the little humans happy. I would do anything to make this human happy.
Finally, Sam smiled. His eyes were dry again and his hand was moving slowly on top of my head. I wagged my tail in encouragement. It was working!
I heard footsteps in the hall. They were fast and hard. Sam's friend was coming back. I turned to watch the doorway.
"All they had was tuna or chicken and I know you don't like- What the hell is this?"
A tall male stopped in the doorway. He looked angry. I started to back away from Sam. Maybe if I got down, the new stranger would like me.
Sam grabbed my collar and my tags jingled. I stayed.
"Dean- Ralph is visiting. It's okay."
I watched the new male enter the room. He smelled like human food and Sam, which was good. But this male also smelled like evil and I felt the hair on my back prickling as I shivered.
Mother stood up. "I'm Lisa. This is my therapy dog, Ralph. We were just visiting Sam- we can leave now."
Dean and Mother shook hands and I wanted to sit like Mother taught me but Sam was still holding my collar and I couldn't move. I was scared. The smell of evil was getting stronger, lingering on their clothes and skin like when I roll in the stinky stuff in the backyard.
Maybe someone should give these humans a bath- that's what Mother does to make my smell go away.
"I thought therapy dogs were for crippled kids and old people. Sam's fine- or he will be."
Mother gathered up my leash and moved closer to me, petting my neck like she always did when I was scared. "We were just passing by and thought Sam could use some company. Therapy dogs are for anyone who needs to smile."
Dean looked at Sam. "Sam's already a barrel of laughs, aren't you little brother?"
"I wanted them to come in. Ralph's an awesome dog. Here, pet him."
Dean looked at me and I lowered my tail. I was used to quiet people, slow people. I was used to hurt people. Dean was not hurt. He was loud. He moved fast. He didn't need me to make him happy. I didn't know what to do, but Sam still had his hand around my collar. I waited.
Then I noticed something. Sam's hurt was going away. He was watching Dean move and talk and it was making him happy.
Dean was doing what I could not.
Was Dean a therapy human? How did he know how to make Sam happy?
"Talk to him first," Mother said. "He's friendly."
"Nah, that's okay," Dean said. He reached past my nose and set the human food on the table next to Sam. I watched it, waiting to see if it would fall off. It smelled good.
"Well Sam, it was nice to meet you," Mother said. "But we still have an entire hallway to visit. As much as Ralph likes you, I'm afraid we need to be moving on."
I continued to watch the human food.
My mouth watered.
"Thanks for stopping by," Sam said. He let go of my collar, only to wrap both arms around my neck. He hugged me quickly and murmured, "Good boy," in my ear.
I drooled on his shoulder.
The human food was just sitting there. Was he going to eat it? I would like to eat it.
"Gross, look at what he's doing!" Dean said. "Sam, you're covered in slime. Don't think you're getting in my car without a shower."
Mother tugged on my leash and I backed up, sliding down onto the floor. My feet slid out from under me and I struggled to get my balance while keeping an eye on the human food. I wanted it to fall. Maybe Sam would give it to me.
I stared at him.
"I gotta say, Sam- I hope we don't see you again."
"Thanks for stopping by. Ralph's a special dog."
"Yes he is, isn't he?"
Mother patted my head. It was the cue that we were leaving, and I blinked, breaking my concentration.
Dean had brought the food for Sam, not me.
And anyway, now it was time to say goodbye to Sam.
We looked at each other. He smiled. His pain was almost gone now, and I knew it had something to do with his friend. The smell of evil still lingered on them but it was weaker now that they were together. I didn't understand it, but I knew that Dean would do the job I couldn't- Dean would protect Sam from the evil that battled them. These humans were safe together, in their own small pack. Everyone should have a pack. I was happy.
I knew that when we left, I wouldn't see them again. But I would never forget them; the humans who fought true evil and won. They were special. They were important in ways I didn't understand, I could feel it.
I wagged my tail and barked once. Goodbye, Sam.