Title: Learn to Speak Canine in Seven Easy Steps.
Pairing (or more!): F/K
Summary/Story Notes: First foray into the fandom, and I think I had far too much fun writing this one...
Prompt: 132. Fraser/Anyone, Dief's POV.
I. Lost in Translation.
The thing about Ben, Diefenbaker reflects, is that whilst he seems to have an almost unnatural aptitude for human languages, when it comes to speaking Canine (whether the sparse elegance of the tundra language used by the wolves; the conversational equivalent of gargling raw sewage that passes for communication in certain districts of Chicago; or, indeed, any of the hundred dialects in between) the poor man is only just above the level of the average unilingual tourist.
That is to say; he seems to spend an inordinate amount of time repeating things slowly, loudly, and with much consultation of a phrase book written by someone who quite possibly couldn’t correctly identify a map, let alone a specific country on said map.
Given that Canine has only a minor vocal component, trying to shout never really works. He invariably ends up looking severely constipated. Of course; this is only part of the problem. Ben is also hampered by the lack of tail, independently mobile ears, fur, and, of course, acute sense of smell.
It’s rather akin to trying to get a man with no hands to learn Braille.
Consequently, in order to spare Ben’s feelings, Diefenbaker has always been slightly economical with the truth when it comes to just how good he is at interpreting human language. And, yes, okay, also the fact that he isn’t exactly totally deaf.
Though, to be perfectly honest, Diefenbaker is of the firm opinion that humans actually make more sense if you don’t listen to them. They spend that much time flapping their lips and pushing air about, that they seem to completely disregard— and, indeed, don’t even seem to understand— well over ninety percent of their own body language.
Master species of the planet? Only because they invented Krispy Kreme.
II. “—please leave your message at the tone.”
The cell phone, display glowing green, clatters to the floor just in front of Dief’s front paws. He regards it curiously for a moment, feeling, rather than hearing, the monotone recording it is spewing forth, before Spiky-Ray grabs it in one hand and sits back up sharply. From the way he is sitting, the frown pulling at his face, and the way that Ben has begun to radiate disapproval, Dief accurately guesses that Spiky-Ray is resorting to foul language. Yet again.
Dief huffs out a sigh and tries, with little success, to tune out the sensations of the conversation happening above his head.
“—four hours! So help me, I will kick him in the— hello, ma’am, this is Detective Vecchio—“ Spiky-Ray’s voice is nasal, quick-paced and full of the kind of vocal short-cuts that define his accent and make him occasionally difficult to understand.
“Ray, I hardly feel that threats of physical violence are likely to reassure Mr. Giazetti as to your reasons for wanting to speak to him. Particularly not when said threats are delivered via the medium of his seventy-four year old mother.” By comparison, Ben’s voice is calm and measured; his words well-rounded and clear.
“Frase! I’m on the phone here— no, ma’am, I wasn’t calling you— no, I— well, yes, but I— hello? Hello? Jeez!”
Instead, Dief yawns and watches the world (well, the bullpen of the 2-7) go by from the somewhat dubious shelter of Spiky-Ray’s desk. His view is framed by legs; on one side the cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof like fidgeting of Spiky-Ray, all worn blue denim and scuffed black boots and on the other is Ben; perfectly still and straight in his uniform. Beyond them, Diefenbaker has a fairly good view of the main doors in to the bullpen and consequently, the wide assortment of people that parade through them.
The cell phone clatters on to the surface of the desk, slides across it and hits the floor in front of Dief’s outstretched paws once again. A cardboard donut box, victim of the kamikaze cell phone also hits the floor, powdered sugar mushrooming from the tattered top. Spiky-Ray is fast, but Dief is faster; he is back in his relaxed position, a raspberry jelly donut most of the way down his throat before Spiky-Ray’s hand is halfway to the box.
Dief licked his lips, tasting the powdered sugar on his whiskers and blinks innocently back as Spiky-Ray bends down under the desk to glare at him. Spiky-Ray is even worse at interpreting Canine than Ben, so Dief’s comment of; you snooze, you lose, is completely wasted on him.
“Frase! Your damn wolf ate my lunch!” Spiky-Ray tries to sit up too quickly, and bangs his head on the underside of the desk. Clutching at his head with both hands and swearing, he kicks at the floor, scooting his chair backwards and allowing him to straighten.
“Are you alright, Ray? Perhaps you should—“
“My head is fine, Fraser, but my belly thinks my throat’s been cut.”
“Ah, I see. Well, Ray, one can hardly call yesterday’s stale donuts the suitable basis for a meal—“
“A; that donut was not stale, two; why the Hell isn’t it the ‘basis of a meal’? I’ve seen some of the shi—“
“—rubbish that you consider food and a donut is a Helluva lot better than ground boot leather.”
“Pemmican is a highly nutritious and energy dense form of preserved meat, Ray.”
“And I wonder why Dief is always stealing my food…?”
“Diefenbaker has sublimated what hunting instincts he has in to a talent for conning unnecessary junk food from the willing.”
Diefenbaker sticks his nose out from under the desk; ostensibly to better see what the commotion on the far side of the bullpen is and uses the opportunity to give Ben a superior look. Just because he doesn’t get to lick Spiky-Ray’s hands is no reason to be petty.
Neither Ben nor Spiky-Ray gives him the slightest bit of attention, however. Dief follows their gaze, and is treated to the sight of Dewey being menaced by the fattest mime to ever squeeze himself in to a striped t-shirt and black Lycra pants. The man appears to be approximately five feet in every possible direction and— if the strained look of his costume is any indication— likely to expand at a moment’s notice. As painful as the man is to look at, his olfactory imprint is similar to being hit in the nose with a lead brick.
Dief whines and scoots back on his haunches to lessen the impact of the odours drifting across the room. Ben is already standing next to Detective Dewey, doing his best to defuse the situation, so Dief fully expects to be ignored. Somewhat surprisingly, he feels a hand pat him on the head.
Spiky-Ray is looking at him with sympathy, continuing to scratch at his ears, amusement lurking in the depths of his eyes. “Crime against fashion, huh?”
Definitely— Dief groans in response and, whilst Spiky-Ray may not speak Canine, he certainly understands the sentiment.
“I hear ya, buddy.”
III. Talking at Cross-Purposes.
“—said to her that we’d check it out tomorrow sometime.”
Dief is mostly asleep on the (surprisingly comfortable) back seat of Spiky-Ray’s car, not paying in the slightest attention to the conversation that the two men in the front seats are having. Well, not the vocal part of the conversation at any rate. Paying attention, through half open eyes, to the sub-conversation of body language and odour is a rather interesting experience.
Dief wonders if Ben has noticed at all.
A yawn and a stretch and Dief shifts himself around on the back seat to get a better view. The movement obviously catches Spiky-Ray’s attention, as he turns to look at the half-wolf, before elbowing Ben in the side.
“Your wolf’s getting fur all over my car—”
Ben flushes slightly; his body language a confusing mix of touchmedon’ttouchme, but his voice remains steady. “Diefenbaker is only half wolf, Ray, as you well know.”
“Full wolf or half wolf, he’s still getting fur all over the Goat.”
Goat? Dief raises his head and looks around with interest, but sees a distinct lack of caprines.
“No, Diefenbaker, the c-a-r,” Ben taps Dief on the nose and enunciates each word clearly.
Dief is more interested in the fact that, as he turned around, Ben managed to catch Spiky-Ray with his own elbow, sparking off a reciprocal touchmedon’ttouchme reaction. Interesting.
The humans return to watching the empty expanse of dock that doesn’t seem to contain a deal of any kind, let alone one involving smuggled weapons, and Dief is left to consider the backs of their heads, amongst other things.
One thing is certainly a degree of disbelief that anyone can mistake a large, black car for a type of farmyard animal.
However, when Diefenbaker thinks about it further, it’s probably something similar to how everyone seems to think and act like Spiky-Ray is the same as Shiny-Ray. Ben has explained the whole situation to Dief (and admonished him repeatedly about how he distinguishes between the two Rays), but the half-wolf considers it all— as with most human affairs— to be far too complicated for its own good.
Spiky-Ray is, however, a good friend who is always ready to spread the fast-food wealth, and Dief has grown distinctly fond of him. And he’s not the only one, although Ben would— and probably will— deny that.
This brings Diefenbaker back to the other matter at paw. He looks slowly between the two humans, noticing the fact that they seem to have established a kind of invisible wall between each other that they are avoiding crossing if they at all can, and makes up his mind.
Diefenbaker is a half-deaf half-wolf with a plan.
IV. Prick ears/twitch eyebrows/cock head slightly, shift weight balance forwards, blink twice/whine, grunt, slick back fur/grunt/flick left ear.
In the past two and a half weeks, Dief has come to the conclusion that Ben is the most stubborn man on the face of the planet and that Spiky-Ray is the most unobservant man on the face of the planet.
Spiky-Ray is almost-pack, he tells Ben, front feet planted on the edge of Ben’s desk, staring at the embarrassed looking human over a mathematically neat pile of completed paperwork.
“I have absolutely no idea what you are taking about,” Ben says shortly. This… discussion… has been recurring every time that they are alone, with the side-effect that Ben is spending more time in the company of others (well, other) in a bid to keep Dief silent.
Since this has played along with Dief’s plans so far, he hasn’t pushed matters overly much. Until now, that is…
Spiky-Ray is almost-pack, Dief repeats, slowly. I think you should make him really-pack. I think he wants to be really-pack.
“What on earth are you blithering on about Diefenbaker?” Ben asks in his talking-to-Turnbull attitude. “Humans do not form packs.”
Dief lolls out his tongue and gives Ben a knowing look. We’re pack, he points out, fairly sure you’re human—
“Yes, but that’s different—“
Dief snorts and wrinkles his nose, expressing his disbelief. Humans form packs, he says, instead of calling Ben names. Humans form packs-of-two. I think you and Spiky-Ray should form pack-of-two.
“I—what?” Ben jolts back in his chair, staring a Dief with an uncharacteristically shocked looking expression.
Dief shifts his weight back onto his haunches in preparation for following up on the advantage of having rendered Ben speechless, but the door to Ben’s office rebounds open as Turnbull practically falls in. Dief looks over his shoulder at the accident-prone junior Mountie and heaves a sigh.
“Sir!” Turnbull manages to figure out where in relation to the rest of him his feet should be placed and snaps to attention. “Is everything quite alright? I heard raised voices— well, a raised voice— well, your raised voice— and I thought that there might be something wrong…?”
“Everything is fine, Turnbull,” Ben manages to say, although his cheeks are still unusually flushed and his expression rather wild. Dief licks his lips and removes his paws from the desk, the better to turn around and watch Turnbull. Despite the fact that Turnbull is a rather scatty and oft-times vacant person, Diefenbaker likes him.
Any specially cooked meals that may have been consumed in the past month have absolutely no bearing on this.
Turnbull’s face curls into a faint frown. “Are you quite sure, sir? You seem… ill-at-ease.”
“I am perfectly at ease,” Ben replies, although Diefenbaker knows that this is a complete fib; the pheromones and faint tang of sweat permeating the air tell the truth. “Diefenbaker and I were merely having a… difference of opinion.”
“Oh,” Turnbull looks somewhat more confused than usual then glances down at Dief.
Although Ben doesn’t know it, Diefenbaker has been taking the time to try and educate Turnbull in the basics of Canine. He’s woefully inept at anything other than picking up the most basic of instructions (one of the first that Dief made sure he learned involved hunger and the need for either donuts or pizza), but Dief takes care to speak slowly.
Go. Away. Turnbull. Flattened ears emphasise the instruction.
“Um… of course, I believe that I will— that is, um— dusting,” Turnbull manages, backing out of the office and closing the door quietly behind him.
Ben waits for a count of twenty heartbeats before sighing loudly.
Dief stands up, shakes himself and walks around the desk so that he is standing next to Ben, ears pricked. Spiky-Ray and Ben would make good pack-of-two. Spiky-Ray and Boss-Ben and Dief would make good pack.
Ben sighs again and rubs at his eyebrow with one finger. “You’re going to persist with this delusion, aren’t you?”
Not a delusion, Dief huffs out his flanks to add weight to his words.
“Ray and I are friends, Diefenbaker—“
Friends is good, pack is better.
“—being friends with Ray is more than adequate for my needs; and, as I’ve tried to tell you, humans just don’t form packs.” Ben’s face tightens slightly; his mouth thinning and the skin around his eyes crinkling in a way that makes him look lonely.
Humans make packs-for-two, Dief insists, slightly irritated that Ben doesn’t seem to be paying the slightest attention to what the half-wolf is actually saying. Make a pack-for-two with Spiky-Ray, he repeats, then decides to up the ante. Then you and Spiky-Ray can do pack-for-two things.
Ben gives him a puzzled look. “And what, exactly, would that involve?”
Mating, Dief says simply, then has the rather novel experience of watching Ben apparently choke half to death on nothing.
V. Not Exactly a Séance.
Ben’s day off usually means that they (and, increasingly, ‘they’ has come to include Spiky-Ray as well) spend the day somewhere interesting and as unlike the city as possible. Today that includes an almost deserted stretch of beach, an approximation at a picnic, some irritating gulls that don’t seem to realise their place in the natural order of things and the rather chilly looking waters of the Lake that they— apparently— call Michigan.
Dief flops down on a wiry patch of grass and gives said gulls a disgusted look, bobbing around as they are out on the surface of the lake, rather than being within chasing distance like they should be.
Ben is doing things involving stones and sticks and fire— and seems inordinately happy doing it— over by the tattered blanket that marks their camp site for the day. Spiky-Ray is conspicuous in his absence as he is busy rescuing Francesca (who is really Shiny-Ray’s sister, but is pretending to be Spiky-Ray’s sister) from an unlikely situation involving a burst water pipe, a wasp nest and three ducks.
Francesca had, actually, phoned Spiky-Ray specifically to track down Ben so that he could help her— and Diefenbaker was himself quite keen to investigate the ducks in more detail— but Spiky-Ray had used lots of words that caused Ben to say “Ray!” in the donuts-are-bad-for-you way, dropped Ben and Dief at the lakeshore and vanished off again.
Having already investigated the contents of the picnic bag that Ben has brought, Dief hopes that Spiky-Ray has the sense to stop off at a bakery on the way back otherwise both of them are going to be disappointed when it comes to lunch.
Standing up and shaking sand from his fur, Dief trots back over to Ben and flops down on the far side of the newly lit camp fire. Ben is now doing things involving a billy-can and some teabags, which Dief watches with a sense of comfort, because this is something familiar.
“Ah— the great outdoors—“ Dief wrinkles his nose as Not-Here-Bob is suddenly sitting next to Ben, clapping his mitten-clad hands together at the end of an expansive gesture.
“Illinois is hardly the great outdoors, Dad,” Ben says, continuing to concentrate on making tea.
“Let’s face it son, it’s the closest you’re going to get. Besides, there’s wildlife,” Not-Here-Bob indicates both the gulls and Dief, who slumps from a sitting to laying position and snorts loudly.
“Diefenbaker is hardly wildlife, Dad,” Ben says with a sigh.
Dief is not entirely sure what to make of Not-Here-Bob. For one thing, he has no scent; this makes it awfully hard to understand completely what he is saying most of the time. Mind you, given Ben’s frequent exasperation at his departed (but unusually still present) father, Dief is not sure that scent would be any help.
“This reminds me of the time that Buck Frobisher and I were camped on the shores of—“
Dief whines and deliberately stops listening as Not-Here-Bob launches into one of his winding stories, and instead turns his mind to the continuing problem of Ben and Spiky-Ray not being pack. After his attempt at directness, Ben refused to speak to him for two whole days— something that prompted Spiky-Ray into teasing Ben for the majority of a stake-out— and Dief is still not entirely sure why.
“—so we made do with a spare ground sheet and used it to—“
He knows, from long experience at reading Ben that he most definitely does want Spiky-Ray in any and all senses of the word that you care to think of, but he doesn’t seem to want to admit it to either Dief or himself. Dief’s also pretty sure that Spiky-Ray wants Ben in exactly the same way, yet neither of them seems able to do anything about it.
Dief supposes that it’s something to do with the large collection of problems that he mentally lumps together under the heading of Being Human. It’s rather a long list, and most of it seems to be taken up with things that Dief thinks of as either Pack or Sex.
In fact problems with Pack and Sex pretty much sums up all humans in five easy words.
“— was unfortunately already being inhabited by a rather irritable bear at the time and the lead dog had seen fit to direct the sled through the inadequately solid edges of the lake, leaving us with no ammunition save what was already in our rifles—“
Contrary to what popular folklore would have you believe; dead men do tell tales. Seemingly endless tales, Diefenbaker grumbles to himself.
Ben and Spiky-Ray have several layers of problems with Pack and Sex; the most obvious being that they haven’t currently got any Pack or Sex— for simplicity’s sake, Diefenbaker is discounting himself in the Pack sense of the word for the moment. They also seem unable to get any. If Dief can just solve that part of the problem, then he’s confident that everything else will sort itself out.
The only problem is how to get around the problem of both Ben and Spiky-Ray Being Human and therefore able to complicate matters unnecessarily.
“— had the side effect that we were rather significantly deaf for the next three hours—“
Sunlight flashing off of metal catches Dief’s attention and he looks up. A short distance away up the lakeshore Spiky-Ray has just parked his car. An equal desire to escape from Not-Here-Bob’s story and to greet Spiky-Ray (and any food he may be carrying) propels Dief to his feet.
Spiky-Ray! he barks, for Ben’s benefit, then bounds off towards the car, tail wagging.
Hello almost-pack Spiky-Ray! Dief greets Ray enthusiastically before turning his attention to the two large paper sacks on the passenger seat of the GTO.
“Nose outta my crotch!” Spiky-Ray yelps, never-the-less patting Dief on the head and scratching his ears. “Jeez, Dief, you need to learn some manners.”
What’s this? Dief sticks his nose in the open passenger door and sniffs at the bags, making the brown paper crinkle. His tongue lolls out and he treats Spiky-Ray to a canine grin. One of the bags smells like meat-and-things and the other smells of sugar and chemicals and nice things.
Spiky-Ray retrieves the bags and closes the car door with his hip. “This is lunch— one that you’re not stealing this time.”
Dief sits back and gives Spiky-Ray a pitiful look. We’re almost-pack! Pack share with each other and what Boss-Ben has smells boring.
“Christ,” Spiky-Ray rolls his eyes and looks critically down at Dief, “you look like someone stole your last donut.”
No, I look like someone who has found out that Boss-Ben has bought a bag of E-u-k-a-n-u-b-a and expects me to eat it when there’s far more interesting things to be had!
Spiky-Ray catches sight of Ben and begins to walk towards him. Dief stands and trots at his side. “Y’know, sometimes I think that you’re actually speaking and I can understand you,” Spiky-Ray tells Dief, looking down at the half-wolf as he walks, “then I realise that I hang around with a man who irons his hat and has an Inuit story for every occasion, so why shouldn’t I think that his deaf wolf can talk?”
If you could understand me, Dief springs over the low wooden railing that nominally marks the edge of the beach, than I would tell you that you and Boss-Ben need to make a pack-of-two because I think it would make you both happy. I would also ask you why you ignore most of what you say to each other and why you always make things so complicated and—?
But, of course, Spiky-Ray can’t understand, so Dief is essentially talking to himself; something that he feels he spends a lot of his time doing, particularly recently. He is cut off from saying any more because they have reached Ben and Not-There-Bob. Not-There-Bob is still talking about… something.
“—is a lesson that should be taken to heart. Ah, I was wondering where the Yank had gotten to.”
Ben looks up and smiles, “good day, Ray. Would you like some tea?”
Dief rolls his eyes and watches with interest the expression that Not-Here-Bob pulls when Spiky-Ray walks right through him.
“Fraser this is a picnic; normal people do not drink tea at a picnic.”
“Well, really— manners!” Not-Here-Bob harrumphs loudly, crosses his arms and vanishes all of a sudden. Ben twitches slightly, but Dief doesn’t think that Spiky-Ray notices.
“Oh,” Ben looks down at his mug of tea, bemused expression on his face.
“Normal people drink soda at picnics,” Spiky-Ray sits himself down and rummages in one of his paper bags, finally extracting a can of Jolt cola, which he waves at Ben before popping open. “Then again, you’re not normal, so I only brought enough soda for me.” Spiky-Ray grins, taking the sting out of the words. Dief watches him attentively, waiting to see what else is in the paper bags.
“Hm,” Ben takes a sip of his tea. “I took the liberty of bringing the components of a stew—“
“And I took the liberty of visiting the supermarket,” Spiky-Ray interrupts. “We have a choice of burgers, sausages and some weird chicken things.” He produces each pre-wrapped item as he names it and Dief makes an approving sound.
“Diefenbaker, I have already set out your food for you,” Ben indicates the bowl full of kibble a short distance away from the blanket.
E-u-k-a-n-u-b-a tastes nasty, Dief protests.
“You eat it every day and don’t seem to find the taste a cause for dissatisfaction, so I am inclined to believe that you are merely trying to con Ray out of his food.”
“Aw, c’mon Fraser. I bought enough for everyone and it’s not fair to make the wolf eat dog chow when we’re cooking proper food in front of him.”
“Ray, you’re only going to encourage him.”
Spiky-Ray’s right— sharing food is good! Dief scoots around the fire and sits next to Spiky-Ray, leaning up against his side.
“Hey, less of the wolf-breath,” Spiky-Ray protests, elbowing Dief in the side. Dief shifts somewhat and noses at the paper bags; one is flat and empty, but the other is still full of things that crinkle, “and keep your drool off that—“ Spiky-Ray moves the bag so that it’s between himself and Ben, out of Diefenbaker’s way.
Dief sighs loudly and lies down, accepting the pat on the head that Spiky-Ray offers.
“That, my friend, is desserts— you can’t have a campfire without having marshmallows.”
“Oh now really, Ray—“ Ben tries to protest, but Spiky-Ray holds up one hand and overrides him.
“Nuh-uh, we are having a relaxing day at the beach with a campfire, and that means, Benton-buddy, that we will be eating marshmallows later.” Spiky-Ray sounds final, and Dief shows his agreement by whining in the right places. “See, Dief agrees with me.”
Ben gives Dief a narrow look, which he largely ignores. “Diefenbaker is a prime example of ‘cupboard love’, Ray.”
“Hey,” Spiky-Ray shrugs expansively, “I’ll take any kind I can get.”
Diefenbaker has figured it out.
This is good, this is great.
This is— in the words of Spiky-Ray— greatness.
This is absolutely no use as Ben has been sent to Ottawa for a week by Snappy-Thatcher.
Dief heaves a sigh and shifts around on Spiky-Ray’s couch so that he can see the turtle tank. Spiky-Ray is looking after him whilst Ben is away, which Dief feels is at least some kind of step forward. It might also have had something to do with the fact that he whimpered at Ben for three and a half solid hours, but a half-wolf’s gotta do what a half-wolf’s gotta do.
Spiky-Ray is at work— somewhere he only went after explaining to Dief repeatedly that the turtle is not food and is not to be eaten. Dief eyes the turtle and decides that Spiky-Ray is beginning to think too much like Ben if he considers that walking pebble to be edible.
Walking-pebble! That which you don’t eat, talk to. Hey, walking-pebble! Dief sits up and tries to attract the turtle’s attention.
I have figured out why Spiky-Ray and Boss-Ben won’t make a pack-for-two, walking-pebble, Dief tells the turtle. It’s because humans make things complicated and instead of it being Pack and Sex, they invent things called e-m-o-t-i-o-n-a-l d-o-u-b-t and fear of r-e-j-e-c-t-i-o-n and forget how to read body language and don’t realise what each of them is really saying to each other.
Dief considers this for a moment. They also can’t scent worth anything so they can’t smell how they change when they see each other.
The turtle trundles around its tank.
So, Dief continues, I just need to convince Boss-Ben to really look and that he should lick Spiky-Ray’s mouth and then they can mate and make a pack-for-two and then Spiky-Ray will be really-pack and everyone will be happy! What do you think of that, walking-pebble?
The turtle stretches its head out and stares myopically in Diefenbaker’s direction. Lettuce, it says.
Dinner, a la Spiky-Ray, consisted of Chinese take-out eaten in front of the television whilst shouting at ice-hockey players. Dief, curled up on one end of the couch, watched Spiky-Ray bounce up and down and gesture wildly as much as he did the hockey match.
Dief is quite impressed that Spiky-Ray even remembered to fill the food bowl in the kitchen with enough Eukanuba to make it look like that is what Dief had for dinner.
Once the hockey match finishes, Spiky-Ray begins channel-hopping at a speed that belies belief. Dief is watching the frantic flicker of the television screen when the air suddenly feels itchy and he shakes his head. Spiky-Ray mutters, drops the remote, gets up and snags the phone off the hook.
“Yeah?” he half-growls into it, before his expression changes from a semi-scowl to a bright smile. “Hey, Frase, I thought you were back tomorrow afternoon? Uh huh… oh, okay, yeah, come on up; the Diefster’s getting fur on my couch. What? No, of course not, it’s been Eukanuba all the way.”
Dief raises his head, stretches and looks over the arm of the couch at Spiky-Ray, who replaces the handset in the cradle and raises both eyebrows at Dief.
“I won’t tell him if you won’t.”
Of course I’m not going to tell him, Dief feels compelled to point out. I’m not stupid enough to volunteer myself for a lecture on diet and fitness.
Spiky-Ray stares at Dief for a long moment, a faintly puzzled expression on his face, shrugs and is about to sit down again when a knock sounds at the door. Dief doesn’t need to be able to hear properly to know that Ben has arrived; he can smell the unique admixture of scents that make up Ben’s olfactory presence quite clearly.
Spiky-Ray crosses the room and opens his front door, “Hey, Fraser,”
Hello Boss-Ben! Dief wags his tail, but otherwise maintains his sprawled pose across the majority of Spiky-Ray’s couch, head still on the arm rest.
“Good evening Ray. I trust that Diefenbaker has behaved himself in my absence?” Ben walks in to the apartment and looks around. His gaze lands on the bowl of dog kibble for a moment and one eyebrow twitches.
“He’s been fine,” Spiky-Ray latches the door and spins around lightly on the balls of his feet, “me and Dief, we’re buddies. So, you want a drink or anything? I have beer, milk, soda, coffee or some of that tea stuff you left here—“
“Tea would be nice, thank you.” Ben has made it across the room and is looking down at the coffee table. “You must have been exceptionally hungry, Ray.”
“Uh, what?” Spiky-Ray pokes his head out of the kitchen, expression confused.
“You needed two plates for your dinner and you went to the trouble of licking one of them clean,” Ben gives Dief— who is still on the couch— a reproving look.
Dief whines and looks over at Spiky-Ray, who is wearing an expression of acute guilt. “Uh…we did have mixed vegetables as a side dish,” he offers, before pacing quickly over to the table and retrieving the incriminating plates.
Ben sighs and gestures for Dief to stop taking up the whole couch so that he can sit down. “I imagine that counts as a saving grace.” As soon as Ben is sitting down, Dief sprawls so that his head is on Ben’s lap, inviting an ear scratching.
Spiky-Ray disappears back into the kitchen, presumably to do things involving tea, leaving Ben and Dief with an extended infomercial about haemorrhoid cream.
Left ear, left ear, left—there! Dief sighs happily and blinks. What has Boss-Ben done this week?
Ben continues working his fingers into the short, thick fur around Dief’s left ear and ignores the television. “I predominantly spent time in hotel conference rooms with inadequate air conditioning and listened to a wide variety of bureaucrats lecture about pro-active policing in the RCMP. It was…” Dief watches a muscle twitch in Ben’s jaw as he searches for a diplomatic phrase, “…boring.”
Dief looks carefully at Ben, easily reading the other things that he’s not saying when he says ‘boring’.
Spiky-Ray and I hunted a fat stripy man over the city, he volunteers, trying to cheer Ben up. Except for today; today I stayed here because Big-Boss-Welsh made paperwork noises and Spiky-Ray made bad noises.
Ben half smiles at that. “Fat stripy man?” he asks.
Yes, Dief sits up and shakes his head, the better to talk. The fat stripy man you stopped from shouting at Dewey at the den-for-police.
“That rather ineffective mime-artist?” Ben looks surprised as Dief woofs an affirmative.
Stripy fat man had lots of blows-things-up and he used it on Dewey’s car and a lamp post outside the den-for-police and nearly a bank.
“Good grief,” Ben looks surprised, “I trust no-one was hurt?”
I bit the fat stripy man on the leg, he tasted nasty. Dief sticks out his tongue to emphasise the point. Spiky-Ray laughed lots.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Ben mutters, the other half of his smile showing up finally.
It was the only time that Spiky-Ray laughed, Dief ventures after a moment. Spiky-Ray missed you.
Ben stills suddenly and stares at Dief with suspicious eyes. “Diefenbaker, I thought you had ceased to entertain the delusion—“
Boss-Ben! Listen! Dief jumps down from the sofa and turns in a tight, agitated circle, before sitting down. I know what I see and smell and Spiky-Ray’s scent changes when he sees you, like yours changes when you see him. You both smell like want-to-mate and want-to-be-pack.
You should make a pack-for-two, Dief says stubbornly. You should lick Spiky-Ray’s face and mate and be a pack-for-two.
Ben makes a slightly strangled sound, flushes heavily and stares at Dief in frozen shock.
“Scoot over, Dief,” Spiky-Ray nudges Dief to one side with a bare foot and sets a steaming mug on the coffee table in front of Ben before snagging his own barely-touched bottle of beer. He then sits down on the couch. “There you go; one tea. ‘Fraid it’s black, my milk’s gone all lumpy.”
When Ben doesn’t respond, Spiky-Ray leans forwards slightly and waves his free hand in front of Ben’s face. “Earth to Fraser, is there anybody home?”
“I’m sorry— what?” Ben blinks and looks sideways at Spiky-Ray, who raises both eyebrows.
“You were doing the whole space-cowboy thing there,” Spiky-Ray pauses and shoots a look at Dief. “Hey, he’s not been telling wild stories about me, has he?”
Ben doesn’t seen to be able to formulate any kind of coherent answer beyond staring dumbly at Spiky-Ray, who looks back at him, confusion clear on his face.
Lick Spiky-Ray’s face, Boss-Ben! Dief tries to prompt Ben into action. All he succeeds in doing in drawing Spiky-Ray’s attention.
“Okay, wolf, what have you done to freak Fraser out?”
Only tried to encourage him! Dief feels the need to protest, despite the fact that Spiky-Ray can’t speak Canine. You should lick his face, you know.
“Diefenbaker!” Ben hisses.
He can’t understand, Dief says, irritated, bet if he did he’d have the sense to listen.
“That is quite enough out of you, Diefenbaker,” Ben glares at the half-wolf, who snorts rudely.
“Hey, you’ve only just got back, you and the wolf can’t be having an argument already,” Spiky-Ray takes a swig of his beer then sets the bottle down on the table with a decisive clink. “So, tell me about it and I’ll meditate.”
“Mediate, Ray,” Ben corrects automatically, still treating Dief to a distinctly irritated look.
“Whatever,” Spiky-Ray waves one hand disparagingly in the air, “so what’s the Diefster done? He’s not picking on you ‘cause you smell like an airport is he?”
Ben whips his head around so fast that his neck cracks loud enough for Dief to hear. “Pardon me?”
Dief looks at Spiky-Ray with interest as he gives an embarrassed shrug, but continues to look at Ben. “Kinda weird, huh? You know you’ve been hanging out with your freaky Canadian partner too much when you start smelling things.”
Dief sneezes, primarily to gain Ben’s attention. At least someone is using their nose.
Ben’s eyes flicker to him, but seem drawn back to Spiky-Ray after the briefest of moments. “Smelling things…” he repeats after a moment. Spiky-Ray seems to have reduced him to sentence fragments. Dief can only see this as a good thing.
“Uh, yeah,” Spiky-Ray coughs, looks around the room then back at Ben. “I’ve sort of been doing some, uh, thinking, for a while…” he trails off and swallows.
Dief bites back a moan of despair; it looks like Spiky-Ray’s sudden initiative is about to be ambushed by Being Human. He flattens his ears and tries to think of something to help matters along—
“…thinking?” Ben echoes and Dief flicks an ear up in surprise.
“Uh, yeah…” Spiky-Ray says in a husky kind of voice, one that Dief feels in his whiskers and ears rather than actually hears.
“About… what?” Ben’s voice is nearly as inaudible, and the pair of them seems to have completely forgotten that Diefenbaker is there.
“Um, this—“ And, before Ben has a chance to ask any more questions, Spiky-Ray leans forwards and finally— finally!— licks Ben’s mouth.
Dief yips with excitement, then claps his jaws shut, more than half expecting Ben and Spiky-Ray to spring apart at the… Dief blinks… or maybe not. Ben and Spiky-Ray aren’t as much licking each other’s faces as they are devouring each other. Spiky-Ray has already gotten Ben’s coat off and is more than half disposed of his jumper, whilst Ben helps by clumsily kicking off his boots and trying to pull Spiky-Ray into his lap.
Dief is forced to spring backwards to avoid a flying boot to the head. Hey, watch it! Pack don’t hurt each other! In doing so, he bumps the coffee table with his side, making the television remote hit the floor. The volume suddenly increases to almost painful levels—
“—yclean’s uniquely kind formulation deeps cleans pores, leaving your skin visibly clearer in just three da—“
—but Spiky-Ray writhes around in Ben’s lap, half slips off the couch and flails madly in the direction of the remote control with one foot until he stamps on it, killing the television. Dief watches this from the far side of the coffee table, well out of the way of a foot up his nose.
Spiky-Ray flops back onto the couch next to Ben. Both of them are flushed, rather more undressed than they were thirty seconds ago, and seem to be having some difficulty in catching their respective breath. Dief twitches his whiskers and tilts his head to one side, faintly worried that Being Human might be cropping up again.
Spiky-Ray rubs his forehead with one hand— the other, Dief is pleased to notice, is being firmly clasped by Ben— and blinks hard a few times. “Okay, so, I guess I was thinking good ideas, huh?”
“Definitely,” Ben agrees, still sounding somewhat short of breath. He manages to focus on Diefenbaker.
Told you, Dief says smugly. Should always listen to wise-clever Dief!
Ben lets out a sigh, something which causes Spiky-Ray to sit up, a faintly worried expression on his face. “Uh, you are okay with this, aren’t you— I mean, you weren’t just being Mister Polite with that ‘definitely’ just then—?”
“Ray—“ Ben growls, then leans over to initiate some mouth-licking of his own. Diefenbaker isn’t at all surprised at that; once Ben has made up his mind about something he does it whole-heartedly and with his Pack-alpha status very much out in the open.
Dief sighs and lies down, half watching as the shivering, pheromone-pouring, figures on the couch get more and more horizontal and more and more naked, bumping and groaning against each other; unable, it seems, to actually talk. After a moment, Dief notices that Spiky-Ray’s face is visible, his head turned to one side (expression all screwed up in that odd way that humans do on occasion, lips forming sounds that Dief recognises as fragments of very bad words) as Ben licks and nuzzles at his neck.
Spiky-Ray’s eyes open and he freezes. “Frase—Fraser!” he wriggles and drums on Ben’s back with both hands. “Fraser, your wolf is watching—“
Ben props himself up on his elbows slightly and looks blearily at Dief. “It would appear that you are correct, Ray,” he manages after a moment.
“I’m not providing a—a peepshow for the wolf!” Spiky-Ray insists loudly. “Bedroom— now.”
“Yes, Ray,” Ben agrees. Dief is rather amused that it seems to take him several seconds before he can remember which muscles to operate in order to sit up, allowing Spiky-Ray to do the same.
The pair of them then lick each other’s mouths again for a bit, until Spiky-Ray breaks it off muttering, “bedroom—bedroom—“ and they stumble to their feet. Their progress is impeded by an apparent inability to let go of each other and they have to stop briefly to remove Ben’s trousers all the way before he trips over and cracks his head open, then stop again in order to rebalance after Spiky-Ray trips over one of Ben’s discarded boots.
Dief stands up and trails after them long enough to watch them vanish into Spiky-Ray’s bedroom— the door shuts quite forcefully and Dief wonders which one of them shut it— and to feel the thudding vibration in the floorboards when they both hit Spiky-Ray’s bed at the same time.
Then it’s all quiet, at least from a half-deaf wolf’s point of view. Dief casually wanders around the room, stopping every now and then to sniff at an item of discarded clothing— goodness knows how one of Ben’s socks ended up most of the way to the kitchen, of all places— and do a cursory check of territory.
After Dief has thoroughly acquainted himself with the new pack-of-two smells, the half-wolf springs around in a mad little dance, yipping happily to himself, then skids to a halt and launches himself across the room at the turtle tank, thudding both front paws and his nose against the glass side of it. The turtle croaks in alarm and vanishes into its shell.
What do you think of that, walking pebble? I told you I was right! Dief presses his nose against the glass harder. Hey! Walking-pebble!
The turtle pokes its nose out of its shell slightly and gives Diefenbaker a worried look. Lettuce, it says.