Title: Doggy Style
Author: Sol Crafter
Genre: mm, supernatural romance, urban fantasy, magical realism
Warning: Raw Feed.
Summary: One minute Zack was uncrating the new shipment. The next minute he’s a dog. At least Sean seems to be a dog person. Now he just has to get Sean to be a a Zack person.
Zack sighed as he pushed open the door and strode into Faraday-Branagh Antiques.
“Hey, boss, you weren’t gone that long,” Lily called cheerfully. She didn’t look like the kind of young woman that would work in an antique shop. Not with the blue streaks in her unnaturally red hair or her rather punk rock fashion sense. She seemed much too cute and perky to hang around dusty old things all day.
And which am I? he wondered. Dusty, old, or both?
“I was just getting a cup of coffee,” he said, holding it up. “Has Faraday called?”
She shrugged. “Not as such.”
Zack growled and headed toward the back room. “That ass. I guess I’ll be sorting the shipment by myself. Let me know if you need me.”
Lily shot him a salute, her bracelets jangling wildly. “Will do, boss man.”
He rolled his eyes and slammed through the double doors into the storage room. Just seeing the mass of crates awaiting him made him want to strangle Faraday even more. The only thing that let him settle into his mind-breaking task without committing murder first was the wonderful aroma of the coffee in his hand. Just holding the warm cup and breathing in the scent of heaven made some of the tension leave his shoulders.
Phil Faraday had been his best friend since they were kids, but sometimes he seriously thought he could kick the guy’s ass and it would be all right. Especially when he pulled one of his stupid little tricks, like right now.
Zack glared at the crates, wishing he had the power to blow things up with his mind. Faraday was supposed to be here helping him sort the new shipment. Instead he was off doing who-knew-what and was somehow unable to answer his phone.
Taking a gulp of his coffee, Zack reluctantly set the cup on a worktable and grabbed a crowbar. He began prying the lids off the crates.
It had been Faraday’s idea to put in the blind bid for this auction lot, but of course he wasn’t going to appear and help Zack catalog everything. He was probably shacked up with some woman enjoying a tumble in the sheets.
Zack didn’t even want to think about the last time he got laid. It had been too long ago, and not even all that good.
After loosening the lids of four crates, he set the crowbar aside and opened one of the boxes. His hands shook a little as he reached out to move aside the straw that had been used as packing material. He felt like some great explorer about to make an awesome find.
His mouth made a moue of disappointment at what he found. There was no great treasure. Instead, nestled in the crate were several badly kilned pottery bowls and a…
He lifted out the black Anubis head statue. It was actually pretty well crafted, but he didn’t think it would be worth much.
“Great, a box of expensive junk,” Zack complained. He made to put the Anubis statue back down.
It felt as though someone suddenly grabbed him hard by the balls and gave a great big yank.
The sound he made might have been a scream if it had been in human hearing range. White light flared behind his eyes and he barely noticed his knees folding.
All he could feel was that sudden, radiating pain. From his balls all through his belly, down through his legs, and shoved up through his chest until he couldn’t even think about breathing. He had never experienced anything like it and he honestly had to wonder if he was going to die.
Passing out was a relief.
He came to curled up on the floor, his breaths coming in heaving pants. At least the pain was gone.
Zack tried to reach down and make sure his balls were still there… And that was when he realized something was dreadfully wrong.
For one thing, he was no longer wearing his khaki pants, blue shirt, or sweater vest. It also seemed as though his glasses were gone, and his eyesight was worse than ever–everything was in shades of monochrome.
His body was covered in a coat of heavy black fur. He didn’t have hands and feet. He had large paws.
He was a dog.
A frickin’ dog.
Zack curled in on himself on the floor. He was completely freaking out, but his emotions seemed muted somehow. More simplistic than he was used to.
He was shocked to find himself a dog, but he wasn’t losing his mind about it. Not the way he thought he probably should be, anyway.
There was the annoying sound of whimpering. It took him a moment to realize he was the one making it. But he couldn’t seem to stop.
Rolling over on his stomach, he climbed to all four feet. Balance was a real issue for a moment, then instinct took over and he was able to walk.
Zachery Branagh had always been a realist. So he knew that if he was found in the backroom as a dog, he would earn himself a one-way ticket to the pound. Where they still practiced euthanasia as a last resort.
Lily was an incredibly sweet girl, but she had a real hate-on for dogs of all kinds. She’d never bothered to explain, but she positively loathed dogs. So she wouldn’t hesitate to turn him in, no questions asked.
Zack was reluctantly glad he hadn’t gotten around to getting the back latch fixed. Because with just a bit of doggy effort, he was able to get the back door open and let himself out into the rear alley. He had no idea where he was supposed to go, but he had always been great at responding to situations. He thought he would somehow figure things out as he went.
Walking was a clumsy balancing act, but he somehow managed, walking out of the alley and trying to ignore the strange feeling of a tail brushing against the backs of his legs and occasionally smacking him in the face. Everything looked so different from his new perspective and the smells were so intense they were like a whole new kind of sight.
He really didn’t know what he was supposed to do, and he was kind of thinking he was having some surreal kind of dream. That or he had a brain tumor.
Then his nose caught some wonderful scent, and without even really knowing why, he was running. His tongue hung from his mouth, his ears flopped, and he just felt unbelievably eager. For what, he had no clue.
* * *
It had been a great day so far. He’d woken early, gone for a jog, then came to the shop to find everything running smoothly. He’d greeted his usual customers and settled in for a day of making and serving great coffee.
He’d even gotten to see his favorite cute antiquarian. The guy barely noticed him, of course, but he was adorable in his clueless and nerdy way. Sean always had the urge to peel the man out of his sweater vest… with his teeth.
He was smiling maybe a little goofily as he carried the trash to the dumpster, and he really wasn’t paying attention to the world around him. Which is how he was nearly knocked off his feet by the black dog that barreled into him.
“What the…” He pushed the enthusiastically licking beast away.
The dog had deep black fur and looked to be part-Lab, part-pony. It was a good-looking animal with bright eyes, a friendly wagging tail, and a big panting tongue. And all its attention was on him as it bumped him with its shoulder and tried to nuzzle close.
“Whoa, guy,” Sean said, taking a quick sideways peek. A neutered male, so he had obviously belonged to someone at some point.
The dog whined and gave him soulful brown eyes, still trying to get close against him.
“You’re very friendly, aren’t you?” Sean couldn’t help scratching him behind the ears, laughing at the way the dog’s eyes rolled back in bliss. He didn’t have a collar or anything, which was a little worrying. He was such a good dog, there was probably a family frantically trying to find him. Maybe he’d jumped out of a car or something.
“Hold on,” Sean said. He pushed away long enough to finish tossing the trash bags in the dumpster. “Come on.”
He didn’t know what he was doing, but it was obvious the dog was lost. He really didn’t want to send such a friendly guy to the pound, so he figured he could keep an eye on him and put up fliers or something.
“You hungry, guy?” he asked.
The dog’s tail wagged furiously.
Sean wasn’t willing to take a dog inside his shop, but he did duck in the back real quick to grab his keys and a ham sandwich. “Hey Charlie, you’re in charge, man. I gotta go.”
“Sure thing,” Charlie called back from the front. The guy was a rock. Nothing fazed him.
Stepping back outside, Sean found the dog sitting on its haunches, patiently waiting for him.
“Hey boy, you hungry?” he asked, peeling the plastic off the sandwich and holding it out.
The dog barked once happily, then almost delicately took the sandwich from his hand. Where it proceeded to gulp it down in two bites.
Sean laughed and shook his head. Dogs.
“Come on,” he said, heading out of the alley toward the parking lot. He didn’t really know about the idea of letting some random dog in his truck, but there was just something about the dog. He was getting the feeling that he didn’t need to worry about him messing his truck up.
Glancing down at the dog walking beside him, he had to raise his eyebrows. The dog seemed to mince almost, as though it were just learning to walk.
“You’re kind of a funny fellow, aren’t you?” he said.
The dog rolled an eye toward him, but kept walking.
“You’re not going to rip my upholstery up, are you?” Sean led the dog toward his small blue truck. He opened the driver’s side door and waited. And waited.
Sean looked down at the dog. If he could read the dog’s expression correctly, it looked nervous. “What’s your problem? Get in.”
The dog stared up at the seat above its head. It seemed to sigh, then wriggled its butt and jumped.
“Whoa,” Sean said, catching the dog by the rump before it could fall back out. He pushed the dog inside. “What was that? You couldn’t even jump that high?”
The dog whined. It spun around to sit on the passenger side, attentively looking through the windshield. It looked almost embarrassed.
Sean shook his head. It looked like he had somehow managed to find the world’s weirdest dog.
Still, there was something oddly nice about driving his truck through town with a dog sitting on the seat next to him. It took him back to his teenaged years, before they’d moved to the city. Back then, the family always had dogs around.
“I wonder what I should call you?” Sean asked, glancing at the dog out of the corner of his eye.
He really was a good-looking dog. Solid black with alert features. He looked like he’d be a smart dog, one of those that learned tricks easily and turned out to be very loyal.
“I could call you ‘Blacky,'” Sean said. The dog whined and Sean laughed. “I’m just kidding. How about ‘Pedro?’ ‘Kojack?’ Howie?'”
None of the names he thought of seemed right. “I think I might have to get to know you a little better before choosing your name.” He pulled into the parking lot of Paolo’s Market and carefully parked between two tiny cars. “Please don’t rip up my vehicle while I’m gone. There might be treats in it for you if you don’t.”
As he walked toward the store, he couldn’t help glancing back.
The dog looked forlorn, with his nose pressed against the gap in the slightly opened window. At least he wasn’t a howler. That would have been awful.
Sean had had a dog as a kid–Mitchie–that barked whenever she was left in the car. But she also ripped up the house when left alone. Other than that, she’d been an absolutely great dog.
Sean shook his head in regret. Thinking about Mitchie was always bittersweet. She was such a good girl, but she’d died badly when someone left antifreeze out. He’d been certain the neighbors had done it on purpose.
He strode into the store, grabbing one of the mini-carts from the kiosk. The store owner was standing near his office door with his arms crossed. They nodded at each other.
First Sean grabbed a big bag of dry dog food and two dog bowls. Then when he started to head toward the produce section, he just had to turn back and grab a few cans of Alpo and a large chew bone. He knew the dog wasn’t going to be around for long, but still…
He had to laugh at his own silliness.
Once he was sure the dog was covered, he grabbed the ingredients for his own dinner. A nice sized steak, salad fixings, and a couple russet potatoes.
He’d found over the years that long hours at the shop meant he didn’t really like to cook when he got home. Hundreds of dollars worth of groceries had gone to waste before he’d finally started buying perishable ingredients a meal at a time.
He waited patiently in the mid-sized line, then gave the cashier a charming smile when he paid. The kid was kind of cute in a “Please show me the world/I’m a virgin” kind of way. Not that Sean would be doing anything to educate him. Still, he wasn’t dead yet.
Sean carried the dog food over one shoulder and a plastic grocery bag in his free hand. He could see the dog peering out at him from the truck when he walked up and he couldn’t help grinning.
It was stupid, he knew, but there was something kind of nice about being greeted by a friendly face, even if it belonged to a dog.
He’d been dedicatedly single for over six months. Things had just kind of gone to crap–from relationship to relationshit in the blink of an eye. Things had even gotten a bit physical at times before he finally just said “Enough” and booted Derek out of his life.
So he’d been coming home from work to solitude. It had been kind of nice at first, but now it was just lonely.
Seeing that dog patiently waiting for him in the truck… it made something loosen in his chest. That doggy grin just made him feel happy.
He tossed the dog food and the groceries in the back, then climbed into the cab of the truck, having to shove the dog over a little so he could sit down. “That’s right, big guy, I got you some chow.”
The dog wagged its tail, its ears pointed toward him.
“You really are one good-looking dog.” Sean shook his head with a laugh.
He started the truck and drove home. They were both hungry for dinner.
* * *
The last thing Faraday expected was a frantic call from Lily saying Mr. Branagh had disappeared.
As usual when he was hiding out, he let his calls go to voice mail. But he kept up with them.
So the frantic message from Lily–“I don’t know what happened! The back door was open and Mr. Branagh is gone! What do I do?”–had him throwing clothes on and hurrying to his car. He barely spared Myka’s questions a glance. Zack was more important.
Zack had been his best friend since fifth grade. He was the one constant in Faraday’s world–so many other people had come and gone, including his deadbeat dad and a mom that hadn’t seemed to really care about him, but Zack was always there. In the end, he was the most important person in Faraday’s life.
As he drove to the shop, he couldn’t help wishing Zack was playing a prank on him. Except faking his disappearance was something he would do. Zack would never do something like that because he was too nice.
Which meant Zack was really gone. Possibly kidnapped.
Just thinking of Zack in some dangerous situation made Faraday’s stomach roil with acid.
He couldn’t stand the thought of Zack being hurt or scared.
* * *
It was a disgusting realization, but dog food was actually pretty tasty. Not the dry stuff Sean had first tried to feed him, but the canned stuff.
He should have been embarrassed by the smacking, gulping sounds he made, but he couldn’t help himself. The sandwich earlier hadn’t felt like nearly enough and he was starving.
He licked his bowl clean, then whined when he realized there wasn’t any more. He wasn’t really hungry, but the food had been so delicious he figured he could happily eat himself fat.
“God, you’re a pig!” Sean laughed. He’d rolled his sleeves up his muscled forearms and was searing his steak in a pan on the stove. He’d poked holes in one of the potatoes and tossed it in the microwave.
Zack couldn’t seem to resist the impulse that had him walking over to Sean and sitting practically on the man’s feet. He just really wanted to be close to the guy.
“You really are very affectionate, aren’t you?” Sean said, looking down at him.
Zack rolled his eyes up to look at him. Without even knowing why it happened, a low whine escaped his throat.
“You smell this steak, don’t you?” Sean laughed. “Sorry, guy, but you have your own food and this is definitely people food. Not going to happen.”
Zack curled his legs up under himself and rested his chin on the top of Sean’s sneaker. There was something incredibly nice about being close to the man.
With a sigh, Sean gently shook him off his foot so he could shut off the stove and carry the frying pan over to the kitchen island. He slid his steak onto the cutting board to rest, then went about making himself a fresh salad.
A chunk of tomato dropped on the floor and Zack wandered over to sniff it, though one tentative lick had him leaving it there and retreating back against the cupboards.
He sighed heavily and folded his front paws under himself. He rested his chin against the floor. He let his eyes drift closed, his nose filled with the rich scents of cooked meat and Sean.
For some reason, there was nowhere else he wanted to be.
* * *
Sean couldn’t help smiling when he realized the dog had fallen asleep. He would have thought the beast would have been underfoot, trying to cage ground scores, but the dog was surprisingly well-behaved. It was obvious that he’d had some great training.
He couldn’t help feeling a bit of sadness. The dog had belonged to someone that had put some serious time into his training, and that someone was going to want him back. So no matter what Sean was starting to feel about the dog… he was only going to be a visitor for a short time.
There was just something so nice about having a dog around. He got all the benefits of having another presence in the house, and he didn’t have to do anything in particular to keep him happy. As long as he fed the dog, played with him a little, and made sure he had a comfortable place to sleep, the dog would happily be his best friend.
“Too bad people aren’t like you,” he murmured at the sleeping dog. A bushy black tail wagged once, though he didn’t open his eyes.
Sean carried his food to the kitchen table and sat down. Usually he ate in the living room with the TV switched on for company, but tonight there was something oddly peaceful about the quiet kitchen, the dog’s rhythmic exhalations the only sound.
It didn’t feel as lonely as it usually did.
Want to help me out with some funds? I’ve gotta pay for webhosting and there’s some essentials I need in my life.
Paypal to Paypal: Paypal.me/HarperKingsley
Monthly donation: Patreon.com/HarperKingsley
Otherwise, expect Chapter Two shortly. Enjoy the story.
* * * * *
PERSONS OF INTEREST:
Zachery Branagh–half-owner of “Faraday-Branagh Antiques.” Black hair, brown eyes, cute guy. Dresses in sweater vests and suits. 31 years old.
Sean Amend–proprietor of “A Shot In the Dark” coffee shop. Tall, lanky, reddish-brown hair, hazel eyes. A jeans and tee shirt kind of guy. 28 years old.
Phillip Faraday–half-owner of “Faraday-Branagh Antiques.” Blond hair, good-looking, kind of egotistical. Really does love Zack as his best-friend, he just sometimes loses track of what’s important. 32 years old.
Lily West–works at “Faraday-Branagh Antiques,” but is also an art student. Short, cute girl, dyed red hair with blue streaks, brown eyes. 22 years old.
Angela Branagh–Zack’s mother. Very overprotective. She brings him dinner twice a week to make sure he’s not starving. 58 years old.
Jack Branagh–Zack’s father. Curly brown hair, laid back attitude. 59 years old.
Detective Stella Nawisky–curly brown hair, green eyes, Polish/Irish. 38 years old.
PLACES OF INTEREST:
Faraday-Branagh Antiques–upscale antique shop owned and operated by Philip Faraday and Zachery Branagh.
A Shot In the Dark–popular coffee shop owned and operated by Sean Amend. Located just up the street from Faraday-Branagh Antiques.
Paolo’s Market–a small grocery story near Sean-Amend’s condo.
Sean Amend’s condo–built in the 1930’s, the complex has been fully restored. Set up in an old mission-style with ten condos facing a central courtyard. Sean has an upstairs unit with balcony. He enjoys working in the community vegetable garden.
Zachery Branagh’s house–a small, three-bedroom cookie cutter house his mother talked him into buying. Looks like a 1950’s bachelor lives there, which goes in theme with his classic movie collection, his old books, and his dream of meeting Cary Grant once time travel is feasible.