New Tricks

He limped into the alley. There was a storm coming and the beach was no place to be in a storm. He looked around for a place to take shelter. It smelled like rain. There was a dumpster with a partial lid over the top. Better than getting soaked out in the open. Better than nothing. Slightly. He eyed the opening, wondering if he could manage the height and haul himself inside.

He'd had a home once, and a friend. One good friend. Only the one, but that's all he'd needed or wanted. A friend who had walked beside him, talked to him, let him "steal" fries from his plate …

That was all gone now. He'd run away from it. One night, one act of violence – one act of impulse …

He'd left his friend standing alone, cradling an injured hand, staring after him with confused eyes. And he'd run away. Too far, it seemed, to ever go back.

It was not in his nature to seek forgiveness. He'd known too much cruelty in his life, from his earliest memories. There were times when his instinct to protect himself over-ruled his reasoning and he made bad mistakes. He gave no thoughts to atoning for his past. But he'd not meant to hurt his friend. His one true friend whom he'd found too late in his life, after all the damage had already been done.

x x x x x x x x

House came out of the bar carrying a bag with a burger and fries. It looked like rain. He decided to cut through the alleys and get back to the beach house by the quickest route, before he got soaked. His bag ripped, spilling a few fries onto the ground. He cursed and shifted his grip on the bag, then he saw the big skinny dog peeking out from behind a dumpster. House tightened his grip on his cane, but sensed no threat from the dog.

"Guess you're having fries tonight."

He whimpered in spite of himself. He could smell the fries, but the man had a stick. A big stick. Still, he stepped out from the shadow of the dumpster and took a small step toward the fries on the ground. The man didn't scent want to hit you. He only scented tired. And … sad. This man was Tired Sad.

On impulse House dumped the remaining fries on the ground.

"They're all yours, Brown Eyes. You look like I feel. And I think you need them worse than I do."

He licked his lips and waited cautiously until the man Tired Sad turned and began limping away, then he quickly wolfed down the fries.

"Well now wasn't that sweet. Feeling charitable, gimp? Then you can just hand over your wallet. I'll take that watch and ring too while you're feeling so giving."

"Stupid!" House mocked himself, "watching that dog instead of what was around me!"

Another man had entered the alley. He scented want easy prey. The man Tired Sad lifted his stick, but he slipped in the gravel and fell hard. The wants easy prey laughed an ugly want to hit you sound and moved toward him. Tired Sad swung his big stick and wants easy prey fell too, but he got up quickly and now he was scenting hit you kick you kill you and Tired Sad was going to be too slow … too slow ...

A flood of memories came to him: a ball, a blanket, food in my bowl, wind in my ears in the rolls-fast-box, scratching my chest, fries – fries … this man - Tired Sad … fries … friend? … protect the pack … Tired Sad ...

He decided. It was so easy, really. He was still faster than any man, all teeth-and-nails and protect-my-pack, and the hit you kick you kill you man was now scenting fear fear it can hurt me fear run run and was scrambling away and bloody and screaming "Fuck! Damn dog! My arm! Fuck!"

It had all happened so fast. The man Tired Sad was still lying on the ground. The fear fear was running away. He didn't know what to do now. He had acted on impulse again, but it didn't feel wrong this time. He wouldn't run away. Not this time … tired and alone and no friend … would Tired Sad … friend?

"Damn. You did all that just because I gave you a few fries?"

Tired Sad scented like you friend ? He was getting up. The bag with the burger was lying on the ground. He could smell it, but it was not his.

House followed the dog's gaze to the bag. "It's all yours, Brown Eyes. You've certainly earned at least that much."

Tired Sad had scented this yours to him, but he wasn't sure. So he did the polite thing. He did the 'sit'.

House laughed. "Don't quite trust me? Wise man … err … dog. I'm not the most amiable fellow you're likely to meet. But here, this is for you." He unwrapped the burger and held it out to the dog, who took it gently.

Tired Sad still scented sad sad sad. He didn't know what to do for him. 'kiss me' seemed very wrong right now. So he did the 'sit' some more.

"You know, you're not the first guy with big brown eyes who has defended me." I bet he's STILL defending me, even now. "I wish I deserved it."

Tired Sad scented sad sad sad alone.

He was sad and alone too.

House turned to go. The dog hesitated for a fraction of a second, then fell into step behind him. They limped in synch.

House looked back over his shoulder and gave a little half smile. "I can't promise your level of loyalty," or his "but I'm trying to learn." Then, "I think I'll call you Jimmy."


A/N: Please support animal rescue. Better yet, BE A RESCUER. They might have some baggage (don't we all), but they are so worth it, and you won't find a truer friend.

(Dedicated to cuddyclothes)