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the sofa must remain free of dog hair at all times

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The dog was sitting on his apartment mat, looking for all the world like he belonged there.

Felix's eyes narrowed.

The dog gave a very hesitant wag of its bristled tail.

“Fine. Get in.” He opened the door a little more, praying that his irritating landlord wouldn't be around to start asking questions.

Obediently, the dog sauntered in on its gangly legs.

Felix shut the door and locked it tight He stared at the creature, still too early in the morning to really feel annoyance or well, anything, outside of a general need for warm tea and a full breakfast.

“Are you just going to do this? Today?”

The dog's ears folded down in embarrassment.

“Fine. Whatever. Just don't get hair on my sofa.” Felix rubbed at the back of his head and breathed. His hair was a mess. He had class in an hour. And now this.

The dog made a quiet whuff and settled onto a small stack of blankets that Sylvain had tossed onto the floor two nights ago. Because of course Sylvain had, and of course Felix had decided Sylvain could damn well fold his blankets himself.

Felix sighed. It was... fine. This would be fine. The beast didn't chew on anything, at least. “I'm going to shower. Don't make a mess.”

The dog's tail thumped against the cheap floor rug.

 

He always felt better after breakfast and tea. His hair was still drying awkwardly, but he could live with it. Not like he wasn't going to tie it back before he left the apartment anyway.

Felix took small sips of the aspen blend with one hand and then picked up too-crispy bits of his bacon to toss at the dog near his feet. So far, he'd caught every one with a quick snap of white teeth.

“You want eggs too?” Felix poked at the yellow meat suspiciously. It probably needed a little more time in the microwave, but whatever. Beasts didn't get to be picky.

Said beast licked its lips.

“Don't touch the jam. You get sick when you eat jam.” Felix set the plate down on the ground and tried to ignore the slightly gross sounds of the dog lapping up his leftover breakfast. “I'll be out for most of the day so... do something. Don't chew.”

The dog's head poked up, ears pricked anxiously.

“Don't scare Sylvain either, if he comes by. He left his stuff and if he doesn't pick it up by Friday, I'm going to burn it.”

The dog darted out of the room, its sharp, long nails clicking all the way to the hallway and back. In its mouth was a plain blue leash, with a collar with shiny gold tags attached.

Felix scowled. “Don't be ridiculous.”

The beast had the nerve to whine.

“No.”

Another whine, this time with an edge of worry to it.

Forget burning Sylvain's things on Friday. He was absolutely going to murder everyone by Wednesday.

“Next time, I'm leaving you outside.” He sighed and reached down to pick up the mostly-empty plate. “I hope you get rained on.”

 

Most days, Felix would just walk to campus. He was close enough that it was worth the physical exertion, and Dimitri would usually meet him halfway, usually with some kind of bitter drink that finished waking them both up.

But he was running late, and of course it had started to rain, so the bus it was.

“Did you really think it appropriate to bring a dog on here?” the woman to his left sniffed indignantly.

Felix shrugged, and looked to the beast by his knee, trying awkwardly to make itself smaller so as to not continually tangle with her legs. Said dog looked positively uncomfortable, but Felix couldn't blame him – the woman was bleeding rather profusely all over the floor through a huge gash in her leg and stomach and he was just big enough to not avoid her body entirely.

“Rather rude. I've been riding this bus for forty years, and to think people bring animals on it now.” The elderly woman huffed again, which was far more impressive given her lips were blue. “I could complain to the driver, you know. Driver, did you allow him to bring this beast onboard?”

The driver didn't respond, and Felix tried to focus on his phone. He was going to miss his drink this morning.

“I never liked mutts. Drooling over everything. Does he have shots?”

The dog whined quietly.

“You know, sometimes I think the people around us don't even know I'm here.” she mused grumpily.

Felix rose up, just as two people hustled in to take his seat. The woman fussed, complaining indignantly as she was sat on.

 

When Felix was ten, he realized he could see... things. That other people couldn't. Well, he'd always seen it, but it was only as he aged that he started to recognize that it was making others uncomfortable when he talked about the little girl in white that played ball down the street, or that his mother still told him stories from her own childhood before he went to bed.

A gift, his old man had told him. That those with Fraldarius blood were protectors, ever-bound to a family they swore an oath to centuries ago.

Felix thought the whole thing was a little overdramatic. It wasn't like he was some kind of knight, or that Dimitri's family was special and Dimitri definitely wasn't descended from a line of warrior-kings from the old highlands. (Unless warrior-kings were dangerously clumsy, like Dimitri could be with scissors.) He wasn't like, a ghost hunter or a fortuneteller or anything.

And then, at fourteen, he'd found out Dimitri wasn't exactly human either.

 

“I didn't know you had a dog.” Lysithea mused as she settled onto the bench beside Felix. The rain had abated and the sun was coming in and out from the clouds, but the quad itself was still mostly empty, save for a few students hustling to avoid muddy patches and one or two ghosts that mostly seemed lost.

Felix had learned not to try to help the ones that... wandered. None of them ever liked to hear that they didn't belong there anymore.

“He's not my dog. He's my brother's.” Felix frowned as Lysithea began yanking at the beast's ears and examining its face. She could be rather... artless, sometimes. “Don't poke at him like a science experiment.”

“Is he some kind of wolf hybrid? He seems a little too large for a shepherd.” Lysithea pulled the beast's gums back and tilted his jaw upwards, running her finger over its too-sharp fangs with impunity. “I don't think I've ever seen a dog like him. And blue eyes, that's uncommon too.”

“He could bite you, you know.”

Instead, the huge pink tongue lolled out and slobbered all over Lysithea's hands. She made a disgusted noise and pulled back, rubbing the drool off on her black skirt.

“What's his name?”

“Sascha.”

“Where did your brother find him?”

“He followed Glenn home.”

“Does he ever attack anyone?”

“He ate someone last week.”

Lysithea punched him – weakly – in the shoulder. “You're a terrible liar, you know.”

Felix rubbed at his temples. He liked Lysithea – adored her even, because she really was enthusiastic about any topic you gave her. But... sometimes she was just too much. “Do you have to be so nosy?”

“Sorry. You just never struck me as a dog guy. You're a cat person.”

“I'm not an anything person.” Felix argued, dropping his book with a little too much force. Really. All morning long, he'd had weird looks from students and worse – phone calls – from worried do-gooders asking if he was missing a dog and if so, it was right outside a campus building just kind of... sitting there, unattended,. And then there were the girls, that kept stopping to ask to pet his dog like he had time to hang around and get asked cutesy questions. “Especially cats They shed.”

“You know, I think your dog is laughing at you right now.”

Sure enough, the dog's mouth was wide open, tongue lolling out in a mockery of a pleased smile.

“Maybe he'll stop if I take him to the vet like I've been meaning to.” Felix seethed.

The beast had the nerve to move close, nosing at Felix's hand. His tail wagged, big blue eyes staring right at Felix as if asking for forgiveness.

“He is very well behaved, I must admit. You should let him meet Claude's Yorkie.” Lysithea reached out, scratching gently at Sascha's shoulderblades.

Claude was hard enough to read without trying to make sense of his choice in canines. But a little yappy dog seemed absurd, really.

“Although I can't say I appreciate the drool.” Lysithea made a tiny, barely-there coo. He really seems to like you.”

“Of course he does.” Felix slowly, carefully, rubbed beneath Sascha's huge muzzle. “He's my pain in the ass.”

 

Lambert died when Dimitri turned fourteen.

It was a stupid death too; a car crash by a too-tired semi driver and even then, Lambert had fought to the very last in the ICU. Dimitri had been at Felix's house, playing some video game involving knights and dragons and a lot of Dimitri having to hand the controller over so Felix could deal with the hard parts.

Felix remembered that Dimitri didn't really cry all that much at first. Gentlemen don't cry, his father had said or something, but Felix thought that was weird. Felix cried all the time as a kid, and your dad dying was probably a good enough reason for it.

His old man had let Dimitri stay with them during the whole thing, and hadn't said a word about the blonde crawling into bed with Felix every night even though Rodrigue had cleaned up the guest room and put Dimitri's very own blankets on top of the mattress like he always did during a sleepover.

The night after the funeral, Dimitri had huddled close, murmuring soft apologies as snot ran down his nose and his eyes leaked out and Felix had just held onto his hand, mumbling softly as his ghostly mother helped him hum a lullaby.

That morning, he woke up to a freakishly large dog curled up beside him, making little snorting-huffs at it slept.

“Oh.” his old man had said, in between trying to calm Felix and the Dimitri-beast freaking out around him, “That wasn't supposed to happen for a few years still.”

 

The witch was waiting at his apartment.

Dimitri's ears folded back, his lip curling just so that his canines flashed in an uncharacteristic display of aggression.

Cornelia, ever disdainful, looked at the golden-furred beast as she would an annoying fly.

“Where is he?”

Goddess, Felix would be perfectly content to knife her and hide the body. “I don't know who you mean.”

“I know he's hiding from me, even when I want the best for him.” A lie, of course. Cornelia only cared about money, and keeping the blonde's family under her “financial advising” thumb was the easiest way to keep her pockets full. “Or has he turned his back on you too?”

The beast at his hip growled low. Felix reached down, gently running his fingers along the curled-back ears.

“You can leave, and go back to whatever hole you crawled out of, or I can call the police and say my apartment's being invaded.”

Cornelia's lip twisted unpleasantly. It made her ugly, even in he designer suit and high heels. “After I've gone through all the bother of finding him a suitable girlfriend, too.”

“And we've found him a better lawyer.” Felix glowered. “I told you to leave, didn't I?”

She looked positively homicidal. Maybe she was. Felix wouldn't put anything past that witch. “Do tell him I came by, and will be expecting him.”

Felix waited until she drove away. He shuddered, and made a mental note to talk to his old man about the best way to ward off snakes. Maybe that would help.

“You could tell her no too, you know.” He tugged the collar off Dimitri's neck, and got a gentle, wet nose to his face. “Ugh. You're so gross.”

 

Most of the old stories – about werewolves and vampires and things that bumped in the night were only kind of real. The bad ones hadn't lasted long once people and technology rolled onwards, and the good ones, they adapted. Mostly. The ones that didn't, well, Felix had never had the luxury of meeting them. He hoped he never would.

But Dimitri's “curse” was a pain. Doubly so because with his father and father's father dead, there wasn't really an experienced person to tell Dimitri about the whole werewolf... thing. Felix's old man had helped, kind of, but he couldn't really offer any guidance about the whole sprouting fur on the full moon part, or the really bad times when instead of a big dog, the thing that Dimitri turned into was rotting and twisted and oh-so angry. (Felix had only seen that himself twice; and it was more than enough o pray to the Goddess to never let it happen again.)

Dimitri wasn't prone to mood swings, except maybe getting a little too hyper around the moon phases. But when he was sad, when something happened to knock him off balance, he just ended up walking on four legs for a while.

Felix didn't believe in destiny and he was fairly certain familial obligation was a whole bunch of bullshit that led to more trouble than it was worth.

But he kept a collar and leash in his apartment anyway. And he didn't get too angry about the hairs on his sofa. Usually.

It was Dimitri.

Felix could tolerate a lot of things for his sake.

 

Felix stirred, blinking fuzzily as he woke up to bright colors on his cheap television. Some person was babbling on excitedly about some kind of must-have new kitchen fryer that would revolutionize the way he ate oysters or something.

He reached down, mildly surprised to see a very human Dimitri, his head resting against Felix's thigh as he slept. As a dog-beast, he was huge enough, but it was almost comical how his too-long legs hung off the edge of the extra-long sofa when he was himself again.

On impulse, Felix ran his fingers gently through the golden strands. He paused, flicking his thumb against Dimitri's ear.

“M'awake.” Dimitri mumbled, looking up at Felix with too-blue eyes. “My apologies for... that.”

“You can just fire her.” And file a restraining order. And possibly poison her damned sugary lattes that she always had.

“She works for my uncle, not for me.” Dimitri sighed, reaching up to curl his fingers around Felix's wrist. Goddess, his hand was warm. “I told her I was already dating, but she's rather fixated on me courting a CEO's daughter.”

Felix rolled his eyes. “She can get over it.”

“True.” Dimitri gave the barest of smiles. “I do wonder how you continue to stand me.”

Felix was glad it was mostly dark. He could feel his face flush, and Dimitri didn't need any encouragement.

“Yes well... someone needs to keep you human.” He smoothed the blonde strands back, hesitating. “Let's get to bed already. You're naked. On my couch.”

“Ah... hah.” Dimitri sat up, awkwardly tugging Sylvain's blankets around his hips. A true tragedy, but Felix could live with it. “Yes. Please.”