Todd

by Claire

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As he woke, Jack became aware of the unfamiliar feeling of a warm body wrapped around him. Cuddling his sleeping lover he smiled and thought about the boy in his arms. What a wildcat! And what a vulnerable mixed up kid. Quite a combination! His arms tightened around Dominic as he thought about the story that had finally been dragged out of the boy the previous night.

It was all very well blaming the cat but what on earth had he been doing climbing on the shelves in the first place? He could have been killed! Jack had come close to turning Dominic back over his knee when that fact had finally been admitted. Only some very fast talking on his lover's part and Dom's solemn promise never ever to do anything so stupid again had saved him. That and a swift turn of subject onto how Derek had distracted him by getting into the plaster dust.

Jack made a mental note not to fall for that in future. It was all too clearly one of Dominic's standard 'charm his way out of trouble' tricks and Jack was determined that such tricks would not work with him, however successful they might have been with Dom's family. Too many people had fallen for the boy's charm and allowed him to get away with blue murder but, as far as Jack was concerned, it ended here and now.

Regretfully Jack gently disentangled himself from his clinging lover and got up, turning to tuck the covers back around Dominic as he left. However much he might want to stay, there was a surgery full of animals waiting and he needed to get up.

He came back from his shower to find the bed empty. For a moment he was frightened that the boy had woken, scared, in the unfamiliar bed and regretted what had happened the night before. Had he pushed things too fast?

Before he could do more than form the thought the bedroom door opened and Dominic entered, wearing only a pair of shorts, with a mug of tea in each hand and his beloved biscuit tin tucked under one arm. Giving Jack a glorious smile he handed over one of the mugs and moved in for a hug before settling cross-legged on the bed to consume tea and biscuits in roughly equal quantities.

"Biscuits for breakfast?" Jack asked

"Biscuits then breakfast." Dom responded with a grin wicked enough to not only put all Jack's worries to rest but to reminded him of the day before's disasters.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Dom had been worried about his current, rent free, living status so Jack had suggested that he should start clearing the spare room and stripping the wallpaper in preparation for redecorating. It had seemed like a relatively easy way of letting him feel that he was earning his keep. Now it seemed more like a sure way of coming home to a pile of rubble where his home used to be.

Just as Jack was wondering how he could suggest to Dom that he found something else to do today, without actually hurting his feelings, salvation came in the form of a call from his partner. It seemed that the surgery receptionist would be off again and a temporary replacement was needed urgently. Turning an eye on his now sugar coated young friend Jack agreed that he knew exactly the person they needed.

Realising that he was the topic of the conversation, Dom looked up enquiringly as Jack rang off. He didn't take the idea that he should become a vet's receptionist for the day particularly well to begin with, protesting that he wouldn't have the faintest idea what to and already had a job to do here anyway but he was soon talked around. All things considered, he actually rather liked the idea of spending the day with Jack, even if it meant acting as a temporary receptionist. Without wanting to admit it, he found himself needing the reassurance that Jack was close by and that he wasn't going to decide that the developments of the previous night had been a huge mistake, best disposed of as soon as possible.

A little of this insecurity played over his face as they were talking and Jack pulled him into a hug saying

"Don't look so worried. You'll be fine. We'll be fine."

He was then ruthlessly kissed and sent on his way to the bathroom with a swat to his backside.

"Shower."

"Will you stop doing that?" Dom demanded. Almost, but not quite, stamping.

"But it's such a tempting target." Jack responded, tweaking Dom's chin as he spoke and then using it to pull him closer for another kiss whilst patting the said target with his other hand. "Now go get dressed or I'll remember what else I could be doing with it and we won't get breakfast."

"Don't want any anyway. " Responded Dom. He bent over to strip off his shorts, taking considerably longer than the job really required and casting Jack a look that suggested he hadn't entirely given up hope of tempting him into more pleasant pastimes.

He quickly backtracked though when he suddenly found himself tucked under Jack's arm with a firm hand resting on his buttocks and a voice above him musing on what a pretty red colour they had been the night before and considering whether or not it could be repeated.

Breathless promises of eternal good behaviour earned him a reprieve however and he slipped out of the room, attempting, with limited success, the sidewise twist to avoid a passing swat that most boys perfect in early childhood but which he was only just learning.

After a hurried but compulsory breakfast - Jack made a mental note to consider biscuit rationing - they were headed towards the surgery, Dom becoming quieter and more withdrawn the closer they got.

Since they were already running late there was only had time for a quick hug and a whispered "You'll be fine" before he was ushered through into the main reception and quickly introduced to Jack's business partner Phil and the nurses Jill and Gary.

Jack's opening line of "This is my new partner, Dominic" helped considerably in overcoming his shyness though and he was soon chatting happily with the nurses who promised to keep an eye on him and also insisted he'd be fine. Phil, whilst being perfectly polite, seemed somewhat distant, leaving Dom feeling a little nervous of him. He quickly vanished with Jack however so Dom was soon able to relax in the easy company of the two nurses with Jack popping back to see he was ok before kicking off with his first patient.

The waiting room quickly filled up but Dom's initial panic soon subsided as he realised that things really were straightforward. Even if the others weren't around, the owners themselves usually knew what was required.

"She files it under 's' mate. That cabinet over there"

"No love. She usually uses those forms."

There was a minor problem with a chicken that didn't appear to have an appointment but even this quickly sorted itself out when it turned out that she was only there to keep her friend, a duck with a wart on his foot, company. Dom ended up just letting that go with a mental doff of his hat to the eccentricities of your average English pet owner.

After that, a run of cats, dogs, rabbits, a tortoise that was not hibernating when it should and a snail that was apparently permanently asleep - "Don't think it likes the cold weather. Its African you know." - caused him no problems.

He was just getting into the swing of it when a man in as RSPCA uniform appeared in front of him carrying a little orange dog. The dog was clearly pretty old and was utterly filthy with patchy fur and sores all over him. The claws on his feet were so long they had grown around into his pads. He was clearly in a bad state generally but it was the look in his eyes that totally mesmerised Dom. He'd never seen such utterly hopeless resignation before.

Panicking, he paged Jack who came at once, took one look at the dog and then ushered them straight through. Dom followed unnoticed.

"What do you think?" The officer asked.

Talking quietly and reassuringly to the dog as he went, Jack checked him over. The dog made no response to anything Jack did or said. He just lay there, accepting whatever was done to him.

"Well he's not too bad under the circumstances. He's somewhat dehydrated but this skin problem looks worse that it actually is. A little care and it should clear up quite quickly and then the hair should re-grow. The pads are badly infected but again they should clear up with proper medication once we have the claws sorted out. To be honest though, it's his spirit that's bothering me."

As he spoke he began to carefully clip the dog's claws and the gently remove the ends from the embedded pads. However careful he was, the process had to have been extremely painful for the dog but he neither moved nor made a sound.

"So..."

"I'll put him on a drip for now and start him on a course of antibiotics. Gary can try and clean him up a bit and then get some cream on those sores. Provided he wants to, he'll live. Have you any idea what happened to him?"

"No. He was found on the side of the motorway like this. No clues where he came from."

"Ok. We'll get him settled. All things being equal you should be able to pick him up later on. What are you going to do with him?"

"I have no idea. The local pounds are full. I'd try Battersea but I know they're inundated too. Anyway cases like this don't usually thrive in a pound. They just give up. All things considered it might be better just to put him down now and have done with it. No point in prolonging his misery."

"No!" Dom shouted suddenly from behind them, drawing attention to his presence for the first time. "Jack you mustn't. You can't."

"Oh hell! Look, It's ok Dom. I'm doing nothing now but you must understand, he does have a point." Jack tried to put an arm around Dominic but he slipped past him, heading for the dog lying disinterested on the table.

Trying to explain, Jack continued " Old dogs like this are incredibly difficult to re-home and they don't usually survive long in a pound environment. Without much closer attention than any pound can give them, they quite often just lose interest in living. Once that happens then there's almost nothing that can be done for them."

"But what about a proper home. Someone to love him?"

"As he said, dogs like this are incredibly difficult to re-home." The RSPCA man put in. "People just don't want old dogs. And this little guy isn't exactly cute."

"How can you possibly say that? He's gorgeous!" Dom rounded in fury on the official and then put his arms protectively around the little dog who gave his first sign of interest in anything by giving the hand closest to his head a little lick. Delighted Dominic held him closer and the dog responded, as best he could, by trying to cuddle into him.

The idea appeared in his face at the moment it occurred. Jack groaned.

"Why can't we keep him?" Dom asked excitedly. "There's plenty of room and I could look after him"

"Dom..." Jack groaned again as he tried to form all the reasons why a vet just could not take on every deserving stray animal that crossed his path.

Scenting weakness, the RSPCA officer basely changed sides and interrupted saying "You know, if you could just keep him until he was back on his feet and ok again, I'm sure we could take him back off your hands and find him a home then. It would just be a temporary arrangement, of course. Only until he's straight. It would be a great help. Give him a much better chance. And he does seem very taken with the young man. I'm sure he'd settle with you."

"Yes I'm sure you are." Jack growled, glaring at the turncoat in from of him.

"Oh thank you Jack. That's wonderful. It's not as if it's forever. Just until he's better."

The officer at least had the grace to look sheepish at this but stood still stood his ground saying, "Well I'm glad that's sorted. Let me know how he gets on." before retreating rapidly.

Meanwhile Dom had gone back to cuddling his dog, whispering blandishments into his ear. Looking up at Jack with shining eyes he confided

"I've never had a dog before."

"It's only until he's back on his feel." Jack tried to warn Dominic but, seeing the look on his face, Jack knew he didn't stand a chance.

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Later that evening the dog, looking considerably cleaner and healthier, if not more attractive was fast asleep in a basket in front of the fire. Dominic was cuddled up to Jack on the sofa and Derek the cat was an affronted bundle of spiky fur on the back of an armchair.

"So what are you going to call him?" Asked Jack finally. "He's your dog."

"I don't know. What sort of dog is he?"

"Well he's not a pedigree if that's what you mean. Some sort of terrier would be my closest guess."

"What do you think his parents were?"

"Honestly? Well.. In my considered opinion, he could only be the result of an amorous encounter between a mangy fox and a piano stool."

Jack would have continued but was incapable of further speech as he went down under a barrage of cushions; Dominic's response to the insult to his dog.

Once Jack had been properly subdued and had promised never again to say another rude work about the incredibly attractive, if somewhat aromatic, animal in question he was allowed back up and the question of the dog's name considered again.

"Todd. I think I'll call him Todd." Dom decided.

End

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