Friday, October 09, 2009

New Tricks

Clark/Chloe, Shelby futurefic
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Part of my Shelby series, fitting in somewhere between A Dog's Life and Waiting.
Written for the Fanon_Fridays prompts of "domestic" and "pets."

The Boy was crying.

He was slumped on the floor in front of the fireplace, his back against the couch, his face pressed against his knees. I crept up to him, very quietly, and shoved my wet nose against his cheek. He put his arms around me, and cried into my fur.

Hey, kid, what's wrong?

"She's gone," he whispered in a choked voice. "She's not coming back."

What, The Girl? Don't be stupid, kid, she loves you, and she always comes back. Even when you're an idiot.

He snuffled.

"This time," he said sadly, "she's not coming back."


There had been a lot of yelling.

I'd hidden beneath the kitchen table, because the sounds of human strife freak me out, and The Pup had cried fretfully in its bassinet. There had been yelling on both sides. I can't always follow their words when they bark fast, but I heard things like "selfish" and "preoccupied" and "too damn busy for your family."

I also heard the words "bitch" and "son of a bitch," neither of which seemed to be meant kindly. Why humans think being called a female dog is an insult, I'll never know-- I mean, being a dog is obviously a step up from being human-- but it was clear from their tone of voice that neither term was meant as an endearment.

Anyway, after all that yelling, The Girl stalked out, holding The Pup to her chest. And that was when The Boy sat down on the floor and started crying.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled into my fur. "This is embarrassing. I don't usually-- I just--"

I whined a little, to tell him it was okay. I don't cry because my eyes don't work that way, but I get sad too. Sometimes I wish I had a mate that meant as much to me as The Girl means to The Boy. But I don't really need a mate. I have my people and my Home. For me, that's enough.

But The Boy-- The Boy needs his Girl.

I lifted my head and licked his face. Kid, you need to go after her. You need to fix this.

He sighed, and rubbed my ears. "I've lost her," he said softly.

Oh, the drama. Always with the drama. That was The Boy for you. Everything was always The End with him. In his head, a simple little tiff could easily get magnified into the end of the world.

Sometimes I just wanted to smack him in the head and tell him to lighten up. Too bad I didn't have hands or a human voice.

Sighing, I rolled over in his lap and looked up at him. My legs were up in the air, which was not the most dignified position, but I figured I could live without dignity more easily than we could live without The Girl.

Get a grip, kid. Quit watching the soap opera in your head and tell her you're sorry for whatever it is you did.

"I can't change," he said mournfully, rubbing my exposed belly. "I mean, this is the one thing I can't change. I have to be out there flying patrols, as often as I can. I know it's hard on her, especially with the baby and all, but I just can't stop. Not even for my family."

She knows that, kid. But she's dead tired. The Pup has her up at all hours of the night.

He rubbed his eyes, and for the first time I realized he was tired, too. The Boy didn't get tired often, but I suddenly realized he was just as worn down as The Girl was. Well, The Pup had that effect on everyone. The incessant crying at two a.m. was exhausting. Add to that the fact that The Boy worked all day and half the night, at two different jobs, and I could see why he was dog tired, so to speak.

But I could also see he wasn't going to get up off his tail and try to fix this. He was just too tired and dispirited to do anything other than sit here on the floor and mope.

I hated to leave him, but someone needed to try to do some damage control. I scrambled out of his lap, gave him a last lick, and headed for the dog door.

The Girl had already gone, of course. I'd heard the car leave a few minutes ago. I snuffled around to get the scent of the tires in my head, and then headed off after her, my nose to the ground as I headed down the dirt road. Once I got to the main road, the scent of her tires was drowned out by the smell of all the other tires that ran over the road, but that was okay, because I knew which direction she'd turned in. I lifted my head and trotted after her.

Once upon a time, I would have followed the car at an easy, flowing gallop, but I was growing old, and my stiff joints wouldn't permit anything faster than a trot. I figured that was okay, because I couldn't catch a car going fast even when I was a pup. Hopefully she'd stop at some point, and I'd catch her then.

Sure enough, before I'd even gone a quarter mile I saw her car sitting on the edge of the road. As I approached it I saw she was bent over the steering wheel, crying.

My poor humans. They were both so tired they couldn't seem to talk, or smile, or work anything out. All they could do was yell at each other and cry.

In the back seat, I could hear the thin, fretful wail of The Pup, probably crying not because its mother was crying (since The Pup wasn't old enough to care) but because the car had stopped. The Pup passed out almost instantly in a moving vehicle, but woke up to complain bitterly every time it stopped.

The Girl was obviously lost in her own misery, unaware that I was there, so I did something I'm not supposed to do. I reared up and put my paws on the door, staring at her through the window.

She gave a little start, looked in my direction, and then rolled down the window.

"Shelby," she whispered, wrapping her arms around my neck. "Oh, Shelby."

She buried her face in my ruff, and wept some more.

It wasn't often I had two humans crying into my fur in the space of fifteen minutes. Poor kids. It looked like having a pup was too much for them to cope with. Well, human pups were a lot more trouble than canine ones, for some reason. It was amazing to me how much trouble one pup could be. No wonder humans didn't have litters-- they'd crack under the stress.

I whined and licked her face.

Come on home. The Boy misses you.

"I can't go home," she sobbed, clinging to my fur. It hurt a little, but I ignored the pain and licked her cheek some more. "I can't... after everything I said to him..."

There are times I long for hands so I can knock heads together. This was one of those times. I sighed, drew back, and stared into her eyes, trying as hard as I could to get through to her despite the language barrier.

Come home, My Girl. The Boy loves you and you love The Boy. Plus, there's The Pup to think about. The two of you need to quit being stupid.

And yeah, that was a little harsh, because clearly they were both beyond exhausted, and not really thinking clearly. But tough love was called for here, or The Girl might drive off, never to be seen again. And that was something I couldn't allow to happen.

She hesitated, looking at me as if she'd caught some inkling of my words. I saw her forehead wrinkle, as if she was actually considering what I'd said.

And then suddenly there was a rush of wind that made my fur ripple.

"Chloe?" The Boy's voice, right behind me. "Are you crying?"

"Of course not." She swiped at her cheeks and glared up at him. "I wouldn't cry just because you were a mean, obnoxious assho--"

"Yeah," he said curtly. "And I wouldn't cry just because you were a flaming bit--"

"Hey, watch your language," she snapped, as if she hadn't been about to say something just as crude. "We have a kid now."

"Yeah," he said. "So we do. We had a kid together, didn't we?"

"Yes. And she's crying in the back seat."

"Maybe she doesn't like the car," he suggested.

She scowled at him. "She'd probably be happier in her bassinet."

"I think you're right." He hesitated. "Maybe the two of you ought to come home."

She hesitated for a long moment, still glaring at him, and I held my breath.

"Chlo," he said, very softly. "Please. Come home."

Her expression softened.

"Okay," she said. "But I don't want her scared again, so we really need to quit yelling at each other."

He nodded solemnly. "From now on, we'll only argue in whispers. How about that?"

She looked up at him, and I saw her lower lip quiver. "Sounds like a plan." She jerked her head toward the passenger seat. "Get in."

He could get back to the house faster if he ran, of course, but getting home fast wasn't the point. Getting home together was the point. He walked around, opened the door, and dropped into the little car. I cocked my head at them.

Hey, how about the old guy with the stiff joints? Doesn't he get a ride, too?

The Girl smiled and opened her door. "Come on home, Shelby."

I jumped in-- well, scrambled in; I wasn't as graceful as I had once been-- clambered over her, and settled into The Boy's lap. He rubbed my ears and grinned, not at all annoyed by my seventy pound weight in his lap.

"Good dog, Shelby. Thanks."

"It's sad," The Girl said, putting the car into gear, "when the dog is more committed to keeping the family together than we are. We really need to work on that, Clark."

He sighed, and put his head back against the headrest, closing his eyes. In the backseat, The Pup subsided into a contented silence as the car rolled down the road. "I'm just so damn tired, Chlo."

"I know," she said gently. "Me too. And maybe, just maybe, you're asking too much of yourself..."

"Look, is this going to turn into another nag about me neglecting my family? Because if it is--"

"Hush," she said, and at the same time I whined.

Quit yapping, kid, and listen to what she has to say.

"I'm sorry." He opened his eyes and glanced at her apologetically. "I'm kind of on edge, I guess."

"Believe me, I noticed. But I think the problem is that you're so overworked. Look, Clark, you know I'd never suggest you should give up on the superhero work, but being exhausted all the time isn't going to help you save people. And besides, you're absolutely miserable because you never get to spend time with me and the baby. I know you don't want to do it, but I think maybe you need to cut back on the hours you spend on patrol. Just for a while."

There was a long silence. At last he spoke.

"You're right, Chlo. I know you're right. Things have changed, and I can't just go on like everything's the same, because it's not. It's just that... well... people need me."

"I understand that. I do. But you can't do as much good when you're stressed and exhausted and ready to explode at a moment's notice. I mean, it's one thing to let off steam by yelling at me. I don't like it, but it's not the end of the world. But what if you lose your temper when dealing with a criminal? What do you think might happen? Clark... you of all people can't afford to run yourself so ragged that you're cranky. You can't afford to have a short fuse."

He sighed, and ran his fingers through the fur behind my ears. I wagged.

"You're right," he said. "Okay, Chlo. For a while, till the baby's older, I'll cut back a bit."

She smiled at him. Her eyes were still tired, but there was a brightness in them I hadn't seen in a while.

"I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks after all."

I wagged again, even though I knew she wasn't referring to my newfound ability as marriage counselor, but to The Boy. She laughed, and reached out to rumple my ears. The Boy patted me too, and I sat in his lap and grinned at both of them.

I had gotten my family back together.

All was right with my world.

-The End-


Tonya said...

Ah, Shelby. Possibly the smartest character on the show. Lovely work!

Anonymous said...

Oh, soooo cute! I lvoe Shelby fic!

DeeDee said...

Go Shelby! Go Shelby!! :)

Another awesome Shelby fic, yay! His canine point of view is so brilliant. I loved how he pointed out that 'bitch' was an improvement, and I couldn't stop giggling when he said that humans would never be able to handle a litter!

And Pup is a GIRL! Finally, some confirmation on that!!!

Good on Shelby, keeping the family together.

Awesome story, Elly. Thanks so much. You're brilliant!


DeeDee said...

PS: Adore that new font! :)

Tracey L said...

You and Tobywolf have the best Shelby appreciation stories!

allie said...

LOVE this! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!!

Anonymous said...

So cute, adorable. Really liked how you write Clark and Chloe's marriage. Very true to the real world, that it's not always easy. I loved Shelby fics, this one was hillarious placing Shelby as a Marriage Concelor. Great story!