So I have so many projects to be working on, but this just demanded to be written! Never fear, all my other projects will be finished, but I hope you enjoy this in the meantime!
Soul heard his second alarm go off and he groaned, clutching his pillow closer to his face. He didn't wanna go, dammit. It was Wednesday, which meant it was an Oni day. Fuck.
He slammed his hand down on the blaring alarm clock and blearily opened his eyes. 10:30am. Damn. Okay, he knew it was a little ridiculous that someone needed an alarm to wake up at 10:30 in the morning, but he was a night owl; he couldn't help it. He dragged himself upright, scrubbing his face with his hands. He let out a sigh and his hands fell to his lap. Glaring in the harsh light of his sixth story apartment, Soul absentmindedly rubbed a hand across the large scar bisecting his chest. There was a reason he didn't like that dog.
Getting impaled on a fucking fence did not endear the animal to him.
He stood up, sleeping pants riding low on his hips. He stumbled to his chest of drawers, yawning so wide his jaw cracked. He started to rummage through his shirts, trying to sniff out a clean on.
It hadn't been Oni's fault, not really. The dog was just really excitable and the lure of being able to chase a cat had been too much to resist, so Oni had dragged Soul and the six other dogs he'd been walking across three lanes of traffic (Soul's terrified shrieks to "Heel!" completely ignored) until Soul had made a painful acquaintance with the fence. Oni had seemed apologetic afterward as Soul had been hoisted onto the stretcher, swearing forcefully, but the dog's cautious licks were not going to pay his medical bills. His boss Marie had had to meet them there, her blonde hair up in a harried bun, so that she could finish the walk and return all the dogs to their respective owners.
What Soul really needed to do was walk Oni alone; he wasn't meant for group walks. But his bitch of an owner Medusa insisted that he "needed the socialization." Marie was too fearful of losing her wealthiest customer to argue the point. Soul might have actually believed Medusa really did just want her dog to have friends if not for her positively evil grin every time Soul came to collect her check. That woman was a snake, and if Soul didn't desperately need this job, he would have flipped her the bird and bounced the fuck out of there.
He pulled on what he hoped was a clean T shirt, folding his arms inside it to pull his mop of pale hair through last, and exchanged his pajama pants for boxers and jeans. Soul unlocked his phone and scanned the list of dogs he needed to go get that morning, pressing the heel of his free hand into his eyes to banish sleep from them. He let out a sigh and walked across his tiny studio to mash the buttons on his coffee maker.
Twenty minutes later, Soul was caffeinated and on his way to his first pick up. He brought out the large ring of keys he used to get into his clients' homes to let it jangle merrily against his hip. Today wasn't a bad day; only five dogs. But with Oni, anything could happen.
Soul approached the Gorgon building, the first four dogs walking sedately in front of him. He tied their leashes in an expert knot around the fence outside and climbed the marble steps. Sliding the key into the door's lock triggered something to slam against the front door, agitated barking following the fwump against the wood. "Just me, buddy," Soul said in a monotone, barely audible over the booming barks of the dog on the other side. He turned the key and immediately put his hand down to catch around the collar of the dog before it could push past him.
Oni was all wiggles and drool, and Soul couldn't help but smile as he ran a hand over the dog's cropped ears. He wasn't a bad dog, although Oni's tail knocking the fancy umbrella stand to the floor with an ominous crack didn't really help his case. Soul righted the stand without looking too closely so he could later feign innocence if it was broken and grabbed Oni's leash, hanging neatly on a peg by the door. He let Oni scrabble in excitement across the polished floors for about 45 seconds before catching him and snapping the latch of the leash.
Back in the sunlight, Oni struggled against the leather lead, completely oblivious to Soul's steady refrain of "Heel. Heel. Heel. Heel." Soul managed to untie the other leashes, but it was difficult because Oni kept yanking his other arm away from him as the dog tried to get started on the walk. Eventually Soul succeeded, bent over in half as he held onto all the leads.
Oni walked twice the distance the other dogs did, weaving back and forth and occasionally tangling all their leashes, causing Soul to stop and curse while he undid the knots. Oni was honking and gasping for breath, he was pulling so hard against his collar, yet he wore the dopiest dog grin possible, and Soul rolled his eyes good-naturedly at the mutt. There were a few lunges at some brazen squirrels, but the canine was quickly distracted by other smells, so Soul was able to maintain control.
One of the other dogs squatted primly, and Soul waited while it finished its business, reaching into his pocket for a bag. He pulled out only two very wrinkly ones. Fuck. He had forgotten to restock. Tossing one of his precious bags in the trash, Soul glanced around. His normal route consisted of walking down a stretch of green that ran the length of the city, but there were some convenience stores a few blocks away. Those sidewalks, however, were much more populated than the thin path that wound its way between the trees, and that just spelled danger. But Marie was extremely strict about "elimination retrieval" and he knew if she ever found out he didn't pick up after one of their dogs, she'd skin him alive. He turned the dogs towards the main street. The first four obediently followed, but Oni, no doubt thrilled at the prospect of new territory to explore, started galloping against the leash, nails scraping against the concrete.
"God damn it, Oni, heel," Soul demanded, but the mongrel paid him no mind as he dragged Soul and the other dogs along with him. They barreled their way through passerby, Soul calling apologies over his shoulder as people dove out of the way of the oncoming mass of canine. It was like being in a car with no brakes. Soul narrowly avoided smacking into a streetlamp pole, cursing loudly. A woman pushing a baby stroller gave him a scandalized look, but Oni galloped him past her before Soul could retort.
About two blocks ahead, Soul could see a CVS. There was a bike rack in front of it. He could probably manage to grab onto it and that combined with his and the other dogs' weight should slow Oni down, and he could wrap the leashes around it while he popped in to grab some more doggy bags, Ziploc bags if need b-
They had been passing in front of a coffee shop, and a young woman with her nose buried in a book had somehow not noticed the crazed herd of dogs barreling down on her. Oni leapt up, paws against her silk blouse, and her coffee cup went flying. Soul tripped forward and smacked his forehead painfully against hers. The other dogs, startled by Soul's loud cry of anguish, starting circling the two, tangling them tighter and tighter together, both soaked in what was (thankfully) iced coffee.
"Oh my god-"
"Man, I'm really sorry—"
Soul pried his eyes open, trying to keep chilled mocha out of them, and noticed a thin woman far too close to him. She was bent at an awkward angle, and it took Soul a minute to figure out why. "Oni!" He dragged the dog back as best he could, extracting the mutt's face from under the woman's skirt.
"Shit, I am so sorry, really, shit, lemme buy you another coffee or like another shirt or something – Oni! Stop that! – oh man, I really, really am sorry-"
The woman looked up, eyes finally meeting his, and Soul found himself opening and closing his mouth like a fish. They were a verdant green, wide and intelligent, and he suddenly felt very rumpled in his questionably clean T shirt and unwashed jeans, covered in a healthy coat of coffee.
She burst out laughing. Soul let out a weak chuckle as the woman broke down into helpless giggles, stiffening slightly as she leaned against his chest. Oni, clearly happy because people were happy, wagged his tail so that it thumped hollowly against Soul's wet pant leg. The young woman finally seemed to compose herself, giggles weak and breathy as she straightened, oblivious to the strange looks the passerby were giving them as they steered well around the messy writhing mass of dogs. She tried to wipe her eyes, but she only managed to smear coffee across her face, and she started laughing again.
"I'm really sorry," Soul said hoarsely, staring at her.
"I know," she said, gulping for air. "I know. It's fine! It's fine. I wasn't watching where I was going." She looked at him again. "Don't worry about it."
"Yeah, but your clothes..." he said, glancing down at her soaked shirt. It was white, and he could see the faint outline of a black lacy bra, and he firmly moved his eyes to her face. The woman glanced down.
"I can dryclean it. No problem."
"I can pay for that!" Soul said quickly.
"It's fine!" she said, smiling at him again. "Really, I am not mad, you don't have to look so scared."
Soul cursed every blood vessel in his face for making his cheeks glow. "I know, but we have a budget for any problems that happen while we're walking the dogs-"
"You mean these aren't all yours?" she asked, a smile in her voice.
"No! Of course... oh," he said, as she laughed again.
"I was kidding. It's quite an eclectic little group of puppies," she said, leaning slightly to rub Oni's coffee-drenched head while Soul struggled to remember the definition of "eclectic" – why did he drop out of college, again? "Especially this little darling. What's his name?"
"Oni. And he's a brat."
"This little angel?" she asked, her voice playful.
"More like a little demon," Soul muttered darkly.
"Aww!" she said, sounding amused. "Well, let me get a better look at this brat." She smiled cheekily at him. "You're gonna have to untangle us, though."
"I- shit, hold on," he mumbled, twisting and pulled at all the various leashes. After some maneuvering that he refused to compare to dancing at all, he managed to free them, and the woman squatted down, her pencil skirt sliding over her knees. Oni began to lap happily at her face, and she chuckled.
"Wow, I have never seen him give so many kisses. Ever."
"What a good boy!" she cooed, scratching at the dog's ears as it tried to wiggle its way into her lap. "Good boy."
"He's a pretty... special dog," Soul reported as the young woman scrubbed at the dog's neck, the extra skin bunching comically around its face. "He's high strung, got a lot of energy. He rarely ever listens to commands."
"Really?" she said, straightening up. She smiled down at Oni. "Sit."
The dog sat neatly on the sidewalk.
Soul gaped. "How did you do that?" The woman grinned.
"I get listened to," she said coquettishly. Soul felt his cheeks burn again.
"No seriously, you're the only who can control him. Not even his owners can."
She cocked her head at him. "Guess I'll have to walk them with you more often, then." She brushed at her stiffening coffee-stained clothes. "I might need that job, seeing as how I lost my boss's coffee."
"I can buy you more!" Soul said quickly. She laughed.
"It's fine, it's no worries! I didn't mean it that way." She picked up her purse from where it had fallen (mercifully coffee free; Soul didn't know how much it cost but it looked expensive). "But, um, if you wanna maybe buy me coffee yourself..." she trailed off, meeting his eyes with a playful glint.
Soul felt a smile creep across his face. "Yeah," he said, feeling a little shell-shocked but more determined than ever in his life not to fuck this up. "Yeah. As long as you tell me your name, so I know what to tell them to put on the cup." So stupid Soul, what the fuck were you thinking, what is wrong with you, you idi-
"Maka," she said, her eyes meeting his, crinkled at the edges where she smiled. "My name is Maka."