Finch drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, deliberately, forcing his body to relax under the hot spray of the shower. It had been a trying day. “And it’s not every day that you find your best friend turned into a dog,” he mused with sardonic irony. “I have to remember, this must be exponentially harder for John… No matter how annoying or demanding he might become, I need to be patient with him, bearing in mind that he’s the one who actually has to deal with being a dog…”
His resolve was tested almost immediately, however, when after a burst of scratching noises the bathroom door was opened. Finch pulled back the shower curtain just enough to peer out.
“John! I would like some privacy here.”
“Fow-woof-Ai,” [“So would I.”] Reese retorted before trotting over to the toilet and managing to lift both the lid and the seat with his nose. “Ai-raffoo feifa-funf.” [“I have to take a dump.”]
Finch stifled a sigh as he closed the curtain, reminding himself yet again how much harder this whole situation must be for Reese. He heard a string of heavy plops, audible even over the noise of the shower, and though they did little to lighten his mood, they did make him realize he was lucky that Reese was at least a housebroken dog – one who could even use the toilet so Finch did not have to follow him around with a shovel and a plastic bag.
“Fei, Awr-rowr?” [“Hey, Harold?”] Reese said, nosing the curtain aside and startling Finch into a yelp as he found the huge, shaggy dog-face mere inches from his family jewels.
“Will you please keep that nose of yours out of… out of my personal space!” Finch demanded, scrambling to cover his crotch with his washcloth.
“Row-reeffooree fow-moffeff, Awr-rowr – rooraff ferry raif-rerriffmenf,” [“No need to be so modest, Harold – you have very nice equipment.”] Reese responded, licking his chops as though contemplating a juicy steak. “Roorow Airra-roo’riffer, rownroo?” [“You know I’m a good licker, don’t you?”]
“Foof yorfelf,” [“Suit yourself,”] he shrugged, “ruff-Ai ruff-ranneffoo-reifroor roo-woorn-ree-frarreff fen-Ai-fruff.” [“but I just wanted to make sure you wouldn’t be scalded when I flush.”]
“I’ll be fine, Mr. Reese,” Finch replied, struggling to not fume at Reese’s deliberate invasion of his privacy. “Thank you for the warning; I’ll just step back out of the stream of water while you flush.”
“Owfay, reer-rowf,” [“Okay, here goes,”] Reese announced, backing out of the bathtub area to press the toilet lever with one paw. Finch noticed that the shower water did turn significantly hotter for a few seconds as the cold water in the system was diverted. “Rai-ra-ray,” [“By the way,”] Reese continued, sticking his head back in before Finch had the chance to close the curtain, “Iffyoo reeffom-rahfer in-fa-fuv, Awrrarf-rai-fawv reffor-reffin-in-rev. Awreefen vrai-rem iffyoo-reef-rowr rowrel on-ra-frowr.” [“If you leave some water in the tub, I’ll wash my paws before getting in bed. I’ll even dry them if you leave your towel on the floor.”]
“Yes, of course – thank you for being so considerate,” Finch said in a tone dripping with sarcasm. “I’ll be sure to draw you a foot bath before I leave. Now: out!”
“Aww, Awr-rowr… roorruffa-froof,” [“Aww, Harold… you’re such a prude.”] Reese grumbled as he left, not bothering to close the door behind him which, since it opened inward to the bathroom, would have been difficult for him to do in his present state anyway. Finch expelled another long breath before finishing his shower. He needed to find a cure for Reese’s condition and get him back to his human form – and fast.
Finch kept a change of clothes – several outfits, in fact – at each of his many safe houses, and tonight as he pulled on a pair of flannel pajamas he made a mental note to purchase clothing in Reese’s size and distribute them to several other locations. He could hear his currently four-legged partner splashing around in the bathtub, whether washing or playing with the soap dish he didn’t want to know, but he was determined to have Reese turned back into a man. Any other future was simply unacceptable. He could not even bear to think about it.
He took his time settling into his usual side of the bed, getting out at one point to adjust his pillows and put on a pair of socks. The furnace was working quite efficiently for its age but the underground apartment was spacious, even with the unused bedrooms closed off. Reese hadn’t been kidding when he’d offered to sleep with Finch to keep him warm in the cold environment; the older man reflected with chagrin that he might be glad to have the large dog in bed with him, after all.
Reese loped out of the bathroom after jumping up to turn off the light switches, then trotted around to the other side of the bed. Finch had already turned off the overhead light, leaving the room illuminated only by the 40-watt bulb in his bedside lamp, which created a dim but warm orange glow. Reese managed to worm his way under the covers without any help and wriggled to get closer to the center – and Finch – for a while before coming to rest against Finch’s back.
“Goodnight, John,” Finch said, careful to keep his inflection neutral. He neither wanted to offend his partner nor to invite any undue (and unprofessional) attention.
“Roo’raif, Awr-rowr,” [“Goodnight, Harold.”] Reese whiffled unnervingly close to his ear. After another moment of shifting to get comfortable, Reese curled one paw against Finch’s shoulder and placed the other paw gently on his waist. His long hind legs were already pressed against Finch’s human ones.
“All things considered, this isn’t too uncomfortable,” Finch thought, feeling the warmth of Reese’s hotter canine circulation where their bodies touched. “It’s been so long since I spooned with anyone…”
For a few seconds he allowed himself to linger on thoughts of Grace, on the life he had left behind and the loneliness of living in a series of safe houses, none of which were home even though he owned all of the properties. As his eyes closed with exhaustion, he mentally scolded himself that such loneliness was nothing compared to the guilt of knowing he had caused the death of an innocent bystander, let alone someone dear to him.
“Besides, I have Reese to keep me company now – even if he can be a tad… difficult at times…”
A smile curled his lips before he could stop it. Reese literally had his back at the moment and, although he smelled faintly of wet dog, there was no mistaking the protectiveness and caring in the paw laid on Finch’s midsection. Reese might be many things – a rugged soldier, a capable operative, even a trained assassin – but he was also a compassionate human being. Well, when he wasn’t a dog, at any rate. And Finch trusted him. For all of his teasing and bantering, Reese was always deadly serious when it came to their work and fiercely protective of his “assets” as he called his friends.
Lulled by such comforting thoughts, Finch was almost asleep when he felt something warm touch the back of his neck, just below his hairline. It was only a brief contact and he could not be certain that he had actually felt it, so he allowed his eyes to close again, his breathing already slowing. But when the warmth touched his nape once more, he realized that it was not only warm but also wet since the cool air of the room wafted against it, sending a shiver down his spine.
“Reese! Did you just lick me?” Finch demanded, his face scrunching in disgust.
“Farry. Ai-foorn rerf-iff,” [“Sorry, I couldn’t help it.”] came Reese’s remorseful voice. “Arrimor-inffinff. Roo-reif-roof.” [“Animal instincts. You taste good.”]
“You’re not feeling any urges to eat me, are you?”
“Row! Offorf-noff. Ruff-ranna riffyoo. Ai-finf iff-roar rowrown.” [“No! Of course not. Just wanna lick you. I think it’s your cologne.”]
“I’m not wearing any cologne.”
“Roh. Muffee-rowr arrimor maffnefivm, ven.” [“Oh. Must be your animal magnetism, then.”]
Finch did not stifle his sigh. “I suppose I should be thankful that you haven’t lost your human intellect completely, or you might be licking my face right now.”
“Iff-Ai-roff-rai rooman inferreff, Awr-roar, Awr-ree rumfinyoo infoora-rev raifrow.” [“If I lost my human intellect, Harold, I’d be humping you into the bed right now.”] Reese replied.
Finch felt another shudder travel down his spine, although this one had nothing to do with the cold.
“Please try to hold on to your sanity, Mr. Reese,” he said stiffly, trying not to let the animal at his back sense that his voice was not the only thing which had grown stiff from the mental image elicited by that last remark. “And please keep your tongue to yourself.”
“Awr-frai,” Reese responded in a dubious tone, “ruff arrimor urveff-arr arf-foo reffiff.” [“I’ll try, but animal urges are hard to resist.”]
“Goodnight, Mr. Reese,” Finch declared with another deep, disgruntled sigh.
“Roo’raif, Awr-rowr,” [“Goodnight, Harold.”] Reese said, then added in a whisper, “Ai-ruffyoo.”
Finch thought his heart might have stopped for a minute. When he finally spoke, it was in a much kinder, gentler tone and with a much different attitude.
“I love you, too, John.”
A/N: Sorry for the long wait! Somewhere along the way I lost my game. 😦 I also had to go back and correct some of the spellings for Dog which I’d transliterated inconsistently. I’m still not quite happy with it but oh well… 😛
Meanwhile this commercial was aired on TV and, naturally, became my instant favorite:
Also, I just found this drawing on Tumblr by marco2670:
Dare I assume that this was drawn in response to my story?!? 😯