Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: No, this story doesn't have a point. It's just fluff. And a little bit of crack. (Although maybe not so much crack, since this is Supernatural, after all.)
Summary: A vet gets a call to the scene of a fire, where she finds an injured puppy. Then she meets a man called Dean, who seems just a little crazy. Also, there's a witch in there somewhere. Set vaguely after the S6 finale; no spoilers past 6.22.
Thanks to Cheryl, for not calling me insane when I sent her this to beta.
It's a Dog
I wasn't even supposed to be on duty that day. Thursday is my day off, and if it had been like any other Thursday, Mel would've been at the clinic instead of me.
That Thursday was Mel's four-year-anniversary with her boyfriend, and she'd begged me to take her shift so she could prepare for her big date.
It was over, and I'd just turned out the lights and was about to leave when I heard the phone ring.
I hesitated. It had been a long day. I was tired. I wanted to leave.
But… What if it was an emergency?
I sighed, went back in, and picked up the phone. "Bakersfield Pet Clinic."
"Miranda," the voice at the other end breathed. "Thank God I caught you before you left. Isn't it Mel's day?"
"Lyle?" I asked. "What's wrong?"
Lyle is a good friend of mine from high school. He's a lawyer – one of the town's finest – and he spends a lot of his free time volunteering with the SPCA, like I do.
"The fire department just called me. There was a fire at the bed-and-breakfast down by the lake. Might be something for us." There was a pause. I heard him shuffling papers. "They found a puppy in the room where they think the fire started."
"Did the puppy start it?"
"It couldn't have." Lyle's tone hardened. "It was in a cage. A cage, from what Annie said, much too small for it."
"God," I hissed, twisting the phone cord. Some people were just… "What happened? What did the owners have to say for themselves?"
"The owners are missing. There was nobody in the room, just the puppy in its cage. From what Annie said, a Saint Bernard and barely a month old. A month old, Miranda!"
"Not even old enough to have left its mother."
"No. Annie… Well, Annie said it's in bad shape. She's afraid it may have to be put down."
"NO!" I practically yelled into the phone. Putting down sick or elderly dogs was bad enough, but a puppy? "Annie doesn't know crap about sick animals. I'm sure it can be saved."
"I thought you'd say that," Lyle said grimly. "How soon can you be there?"
"Let me get my kit. I'll be there in twenty minutes."
"I'll let Annie know."
I saw the smoke curling into the sky long before I saw the charred skeletons of cabins by the lake. The fire was mostly out, the fire-fighters training hoses on the few stubborn flames that still licked the wooden structures.
Annie – another of my former classmates, now a member of the fire department – was waiting for me by one of the ambulances, still dressed in her protective gear. She had a bundle of something wrapped in a blanketin her arms.
"Oh, Thank God!" she said when she saw me, in much the same tone Lyle had used. "I was getting worried about the little guy. I tried to get the paramedics to put him on oxygen but they laughed at me. Apparently a 'half-dead mutt' isn't worth their time. Although they've got nothing else to do here; all the people got out of the motel just fine."
I grimaced. I could well imagine that the paramedics had laughed at her.
"Let me see him… Are you sure it's a 'him'?"
"Yup. I checked. His collar says 'Sam'."
She handed the bundle over. It was completely still, with none of the wriggling and snuffling that would normally have indicated a very young puppy. I took it back to my car, laid it in the front seat, and carefully peeled the blanket back.
A tiny, black nose emerged, followed by a brown and white snout.
"Hey, baby," I said. "How're you feeling?"
Pulling the blankets all the way off revealed a badly singed puppy. A Saint Bernard – Annie had been right about that. He was about three months old, but very small for his age, which explained why she'd thought he was under a month.
The puppy was still wearing his collar – he wasn't old enough to need one, but some owners start early. It looked brand-new, although it had been burnt and in a few places half-melted from the heat. I hissed sympathetically; that must have hurt.
The collar had a tag that said "Sam". I turned the tag over. On the other side, I read, "If found, please call Dean Carew," followed by a phone number.
I snorted. I certainly intended to call Dean Carew, but it wouldn't be to return the poor pup.
Closer examination showed me that the damage wasn't as bad as it looked. The puppy's – Sam's – fur was singed and blackened in a sickening criss-cross pattern – probably from the cage he'd been in. The burns weren't serious. They probably wouldn't even leave a scar. What worried me, though, was that the pup was barely breathing, and his heartbeat was far slower than it should have been.
And the pup was shivering.
"Well?" Annie asked anxiously. "What do you think?"
"He's not going to die from burns," I said. "Smoke inhalation might be a problem." I wrapped the puppy in the blanket again. "I'm taking him back to the clinic."
"And if the owner comes looking for him?"
"Tell him to check the Lost and Found," I said coldly. Anybody who'd leave a three-month-old puppy locked in a tiny cage in a motel room with nobody around didn't deserve to have a pet. And if this Dean Carew had other ideas, he was going to have to get through me.
There was a sudden commotion by the cabins. Annie and I exchanged a glance, and she went to see.
I got the dog carrier from the trunk – I didn't like it, but the pup needed to be secure while I drove.
I opened it, lined it with a blanket, and was about to put him inside when Annie returned. She had a man with her – early thirties, green eyes, looked scared out of his wits.
Hot, though. Even terrified, he was hot.
"Can I help you?" I asked.
"This is Dean Carew," Annie said tightly.
Right. Scratch that. He wasn't hot at all, the sick freak.
"You have Sam?" Carew asked. He managed to sound anxious. Probably worried I'd report him – and I was sorely tempted, if only to prevent him from owning a pet again. "How is he?"
He leaned past me to reach for the puppy. I shoved him away. "I'm taking him to the clinic."
He stared at me. "He's hurt?" He glanced at the puppy. "He's not moving."
"He's alive. And you're wasting my time."
"Is he OK?"
"Annie, take Mr. Carew away."
Annie reached for the man, but he wrenched his arm out of her grasp. "No – I'm not going anywhere. What's wrong with Sam?"
I sighed. "Smoke inhalation. I think. I need to check him over."
"Fine. I'll come with you."
I laughed. "You're joking, right? You think I'm going to let you anywhere near him after what I found? You left him locked in a cage –"
"That was much too small for him," Annie interjected.
"All alone. While you, no doubt, were getting drunk or picking up girls."
Dean Carew's eyes darkened. "Listen, doctor –"
"No," Annie snapped. "You listen. I was the one who found him. He'd knocked the cage onto its side in his attempts to get out. The fire was inches away from him. His fur was burnt in patches. There was smoke everywhere. He was terrified!"
"Oh, God," Carew breathed, eyes widening. "Poor Sam."
I rolled my eyes. "Right. Enough with the act. You get out before I call for backup. I'm not going to let you hurt him any more than you already have."
"You think I – listen, doctor," Carew growled, and suddenly he was looming over me. "You don't know anything about me – or Sam. You don't know what I do and you sure as hell don't know why we're here. And if you imagine for a second that I would ever, ever willingly let something hurt Sammy, then you know jack squat about us."
I glared at him.
He sighed. "OK, look, you're trying to do what's best for him. I appreciate that. But he needs me."
I rolled my eyes, but before I could say anything, Carew reached past me and snatched up the puppy. I protested, but he waved me to silence. He was cradling the tiny animal in one arm and gently stroking its head with the other hand.
"Sammy?" he asked softly. "Hey, Sammy? You want to wake up for me? Come on. You know it freaks me out when you pull this stunt."
There was a soft sound. For the first time since Annie had brought him to me, the pup moved. It was a barely perceptible wiggling of his nose, but it was there. And it was a good sign.
I hesitated. If the pup was fond of Carew, having him around might be helpful. And if he turned out to be horrible, I could take Sam away from him.
"Fine," I said. "You can come."
Carew unzipped his jacket and slipped the puppy inside, holding it securely. "Let's go." He turned to Annie. "OK to leave my car here?"
"Sure," she said. "We can have it towed into one of the vacant lots if you like. Your room took the worst of the fire, so you might not want to leave it there."
Carew nodded. "Thanks. It's the black Impala."
Carew was silent for the first five minutes of the drive back.
Then, with a sudden, toothy grin, he took the puppy out of his jacket. "He's going to wake up."
I didn't believe him – Sam had barely been breathing; he wasn't about to wake up before I got him on oxygen – but I couldn't help slowing down and turning to see.
The puppy squirmed and opened its eyes. Through my shock I noticed they were a bright hazel, totally unlike any dog I'd ever seen.
Carew, instead of looking happy, frowned at the puppy's left forepaw. "His paw's hurt. He must have sprained it or something."
"It looks fine."
"No. He's favouring it." I didn't see how Carew could tell, since all four of the puppy's feet were dangling in the air, but he sounded certain. He lowered the puppy to his lap and picked up the paw. Sam whimpered. "Hey, shhh. Just looking at it, Sammy. Not going to hurt you, I promise."
Sam whimpered again as Carew gently flexed the paw, and yelped when he touched a tender spot.
"Yeah, OK," the man soothed. "You're OK. Just a sprain, you'll be fine. The nice lady's going to wrap it up for you." He ran his hand over the singed fur. "We'll clean this up too. Finally get you a haircut, how does that sound?"
There was an adorable puppy growl, followed by barking when Dean prodded its soft belly.
"Shivering," he murmured. "Are you cold? C'mon." He held his jacket open. The puppy paused and looked at him, almost as though trying to figure out if the offer was serious. "Yeah," Carew said, clearly thinking the same thing. "Come on. One time offer, Sammy."
Sam squirmed inside the jacket, settled himself against Dean's stomach, and went to sleep.
"Should he be sleeping this much?" Carew asked, gently depositing the pup on my examination table. "He's usually more active."
"It could just be exhaustion." I checked him over quickly. "His breathing's a little rough, but I expect it'll sort itself out soon. It's better than it was. I'm going to put him on oxygen for a short time, to be safe. In the meantime I'll wrap his paw. He'll probably favour it for a few days and then he'll be fine – you were right, it's a sprain." I ran a hand over the puppy's head. "We're going to have to trim a lot of the hair on his sides. I'll flush out the burns and give you a cream to put on them. Don't let him lick it."
Carew nodded. "Anything else?"
"Bring him in tomorrow if he's not more active by then." I paused. "Another thing. I'm sorry, but I have to ask. I can see you love Sam very much…"
"He's all I have," Carew said, right on cue, curling his arm protectively – and possessively – around the little dog.
"Then why was he alone in a motel room in a cage that was far too small for him?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
I crossed my arms. "Try me."
Carew shrugged. "You want to fix him up first?"
"Fine. Let's get started. I'm not going to sedate him; I don't think this'll hurt. Can you keep him still if he wakes up?"
"Don't worry. I'll make sure he doesn't squirm." Carew drew a chair up to the exam table by the puppy's head and sat down. "Be careful."
"So?" I asked, tying off the last bandage.
Sam, who was now awake, stumbled groggily towards Carew. Carew scooped him up. "See? All better. Don't lick anything, OK?" Sam made a half-hearted attempt to growl, and then settled down in Carew's arms. Carew finally looked at me. "So you still want that explanation?"
"Unless you want me to make that phone call."
Carew rolled his eyes. "Are we still on that? Do you really think Sam would trust me this much if I were cruel to him?"
Carew shrugged and sat back, cradling the drowsy puppy in his lap. "Fine, but I'm warning you, you're not going to believe me."
"I heard you've been having a lot of disappearances in Bakersfield," Dean said, his hand moving down the puppy's back in a rhythmic, soothing motion. "And a sudden influx of homeless but incredibly well-trained and very young strays to the animal shelters."
"I know there've been a lot more strays showing up. I thought – I don't know. Careless tourists or something. What does that have to do with people disappearing?"
"Do you believe in magic?"
I rolled my eyes. "Seriously? You're trying to tell me that someone's been turning people into baby animals?"
Carew shrugged. "I told you it was going to be hard to believe. Here." He shifted his grip to support Sam with one arm, using the other to pull his wallet from his pocket. He flipped it open and slid out a photograph. "Look at this."
I looked. It was a picture of Carew with another guy, a few years younger, brown hair and hazel eyes –
The exact hazel I'd thought was very unusual for a dog.
I stared from the picture to the puppy. "No."
"Yeah." Carew nudged the puppy's belly, making it squirm. "I suppose a Saint Bernard was appropriate, since in human form he makes them look small."
"But – no. No. It isn't possible."
"No? Watch this." Carew pulled out his cell phone and held it under the puppy's nose. "Sam, hack into this nice lady's email account."
The puppy, ignoring my protest, batted its paws at the touch screen for a couple of minutes. When it finally sat back, Carew glanced at the screen. His eyebrows lifted in amusement, and he tilted it to show me.
Don't be a sociopath, Dean. And anyway, I need my laptop to hack.
"Sociopath?" I repeated.
"He went to Stanford. Likes to use fancy words." Carew put his cell phone away. "Anyway, apparently there's an old lady on the other side of town who dabbles in witchcraft. Had a black cat and everything. Cat got turned into roadkill last year. Old lady freaked and cursed the trucker who did it. Next day, the truck was found abandoned in a scrap yard and Mrs. McGuire had a new black kitten."
Carew paused as though waiting for something. Then he gave a start and sighed.
"Sorry. This is usually where Sam interrupts me to explain something pointless and geeky about witchcraft and legends among Amazonian tribes or something. Anyway, the witch discovered she had a taste for it and started doing it to anyone who crossed her. Turned them into a baby animal. Their friends didn't know, of course, and eventually the animals turned up at the shelter."
"And Sam annoyed her?" I asked.
"You could say that. Sam and I – well, it's our job to hunt people like this. We went after the witch. She tried to hex me, Sam shoved me out of the way, and…" Carew shrugged again, stroking the puppy's head. It thrust its nose into his hand. "Yeah, I know, kiddo."
"You and Sam have been friends for a while?"
Carew laughed without humour. "Sam's my little brother."
"And you put your brother in a cage?"
Sam whined, and Carew petted his ears. "I'm so sorry, kiddo. I had no idea… I thought it would help you." Carew looked back up at me, eyes suspiciously bright. "Sam and cages and fire… Not a good combination."
"I had to go finish the witch off to undo her spell. Sam insisted on trying to come with me. And when he's this size the witch's stupid cat might eat him or something. Stupid kid thought he was going to watch my back." Carew shook his head. "First I was just going to shut him in the motel room, but… Well, I heard from a friend that one of our old enemies, girl called Meg, is in town. I didn't want to risk her going after Sam so I had to lock the room down. Drew protective symbols – usually Sam's job to do that, too – and I had to make sure he stayed right in the centre of the room."
"Hence the cage," I said.
Carew nodded. "I'm so sorry, Sammy." He lifted the puppy to eye level. "Never again, I swear. Next time I'll get one of those puppy harness things and carry you under my jacket."
Sam yipped, twisting around to swipe at his brother's arm with his tongue.
Oh, God. I was thinking of the puppy as the man's brother. I was as insane as Dean Carew.
"Dude," Carew said. "Gross. Keep doing that and I'm going to change your name to Fido." But then he put Sam down and offered him his hand to lick, and I got the feeling it was meant to be some sort of absolution.
"Do you know how the room caught fire?" I asked.
Carew grimaced. "Probably Meg. She couldn't get in, but those old motels are practically tinder. She's going to wish she hadn't been so stupid when I get my hands on her."
"I got the witch, but it'll take a few days for the spell to wear off."
It was ridiculous – and unbelievable – but a part of me couldn't help believing. I was probably catching whatever freakish hallucinatory illness Carew had, but… After all, Sam seemed quite content in Carew's lap, and nothing in his actions seemed to suggest that he was afraid. And he did seem far too self-possessed for a puppy.
And then he'd managed to type on Carew's cell phone.
I shook my head. "I really should report you."
"But you believe me," Carew said quietly. "So you won't."
"I don't know…"
Carew nudged Sam. "Hey. Now you're actually a puppy. Do your thing."
I was puzzled for a moment, but then Sam turned to me, letting his head and his ears and even his little whiskers droop, looking at me out of eyes bigger and sadder and more soulful than any beagle's.
I couldn't help laughing. "He must be deadly."
"Sam? He's been using the puppy eyes to get out of trouble since he was a baby… So what do you say? Can we go?"
I reached out to take the puppy, but Sam, displaying the first sign of unfriendliness I'd ever seen from him, shrank away from my hands and into Carew's jacket.
"Yeah, you want to be careful," Carew said apologetically. "He's had a tough time today. I wasn't kidding when I said Sam and cages and fire are a bad combination. He'll be fine as long as I'm holding him, but don't try to take him away. Hold on." Carew lifted the puppy to eye level again. "Sammy, going to let the doctor look at you, OK? She's just looking and I'm right here. Not going to let you go. Not leaving without you. Promise."
"Put him on the exam table," I said. "I want to check his heart rate and his breathing. If they're normal, you can go. Bring him back if there's trouble."
The next time I saw Carew was a week later. I was sitting with my friend and colleague Melanie at Papa John's, enjoying a rare day off for both of us.
I had my back to the counter, so it was Carew's voice I heard. I didn't recognize it at first; it was so different without the edge of tension and worry it had had all through the consultation in my office. All I knew was that it sounded vaguely familiar, and I sat with a small frown trying to place it.
"To go," Carew was saying. "One meat lovers – and I don't want any of that vegetable crap anywhere near it. And one without any meat and all those green things. The girly kind. That's not for me, it's for the Sasquatch over there."
Mel, who was sitting opposite me, looked at the counter. Her eyes brightened. "Wow. He's hot."
As soon as she said that I knew who it had to be, and the next words I heard confirmed it.
"Sammy! Quit geeking out and get over here. Your book's still going to be there when we get back to the motel, and your girl-pizza isn't going to carry itself!"
I turned in time to see Sam – not a puppy this time, but a handsome and very tall young man – hurry up to Carew. "Sure," he said easily, and his voice had a warm, teasing quality that matched his brother's. "I know it's hard for senior citizens to lift a cardboard box with some bread in it –"
"Hey! Show some respect for your elders," Carew said, handing the boxes over.
They turned to leave, and they saw me watching. Carew's eyes crinkled and his mouth widened in a cocky grin. Sam, though, blushed an adorable scarlet and smiled almost shyly.
Carew came up to the table, "We were just going to stop by the clinic. Thought you might like to know my puppy's back to normal. Thanks for all the help, doc." He pushed a little rectangle of cardboard into my hands. "Call us if you ever need us."
He went back to Sam. I ignored Mel muttering about how all the hot dog owners seemed to show up on my shift and watched the two young men as they made their way out to the black Impala waiting by the curb.
What did you think? Good? Bad? I need to give up these ridiculous crack one-shots? Please review! ;-)