Page name: The Runt: Dangerous Encounters [Logged in view]
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The Runt: Dangerous Encounters
By Nekko Fox
Continuance of The Runt storyline
The door swung open when Eric twisted the knob and Amy, wrapped in a towel, fell to the floor. Her ears turned pink as she blushed, and she glanced from Tod to Eric, and back again, a sheepish grin upon her face. Tod realized that she must have been listening through the door, and he looked up at Eric worriedly. Eric merely laughed that laugh that melted Tod's fears and poked his sister with his foot.
“You were right Amy, he does taste like sugar cookies!”
Amy raised an eyebrow, then Tod watched as recognition dawned on her face.
Eric poked Amy with his foot again, laughing. She stood up, only to be met with Eric's tickling fingers. Tod, still in Ethe crook of Eric's arm, gleefully joined in, causing Amy dashed off with a squeal of mock fright. Tod watched her run down the hallway, then looked back at Eric. He gave a small whimper, squirming and fidgeting in Eric's grasp. The large fox looked down at the pup in his arms and cocked his head to the side, unsure of what he was watching. Tod gave out a plaintive whine.
“Are you okay Tod?”
Tod whined again, his small paws falling between his clenched legs.
“I...I....I gotta pee!”
Eric let out a roaring laugh and set Tod on the floor. The collie stood up and pranced from foot to foot, his comical behavior making Eric laugh all the harder. Soon, leaning against the door frame for support, Eric pointed down the hallway.
“Second...Second door on your right Tod...”
The fox shooed his new little brother between fits of giggles. As Tod turned to walk toward the bathroom, when brother caught his shoulder.
“And...Tod? When was the last time you showered?”
Tod thought for a moment.
Eric stopped and stared at Tod. His blank look made Tod somewhat uncomfortable, and he felt compelled to say something.
“What's the matter Eric?”
“You were on your own...for three...weeks?”
Tod nodded his head softly. Eric continued to stare, speechless, then patted Tod on the head, turned him around, and pushed him towards the bathroom.
“Go use the bathroom buddy, and you might want to take a shower too.”
Tod smiled and nodded, then took off at a trot to the bathroom, his tail wagging. He realized he was actually going to shower. With hot water. And soap. And a real wash cloth. For the first time since he was abandoned he could...
His trot slowed to a walk, and his smile faltered ever so slightly.
For the first time since he was abandoned...
He sighed, the smile gone, and he pushed the door open. His eyes widened slightly. His old home, if it could be called such a thing, was nice. This bathroom, in and of itself, was so much better. Having rich, snotty, uptight parents helped make the home fancy...but, being what he was, he was never given quite the same luxuries as his brothers and sisters. He was given lukewarm bathwater to use, a pre-owned mattress purchased from a discount warehouse. The sheets, the clothes, his personal belongings, everything was old, used, or near falling apart. It was terrible.
But, as he looked around the crisp, clean bathroom, it's white floor tiles sparkling gaily below him, the skylight in the ceiling letting in natural light from a cool, early fall sky high above, Tod couldn't help but feel better. He was abandoned...abandoned by people that hated him, detested his existence. They had driven out to the middle of a strange neighborhood, and left him on a street corner. But now look at him!
Tod flicked the light switch on, and the natural light from the skylight was cheered by the warm glow of electrical bulbs. He stepped quickly over to the toilet. Already being completely naked, the pup lifted up the seat. He laughed quietly to himself. Even the toilet looked shiny and beautiful. Maybe he was just imagining this all and was merely thinking these thoughts because he was comparing it to his old life....Or maybe the toilet just seemed cleaner than he had ever seen a toilet. He knew his old mother never cleaned. She hated chemicals, saying they made her fur greasy. She had always hired maids and such to clean, but fired them all eventually because they 'simply did not do the job well enough'. But there was always a new maid hired to clean, so the house was kept in relative neatness.
Tod shook his head, remembering his previous business, and it's urgency. He sidled close, being sure to aim carefully lest he spoil the porcelain with a stream of thoughtless puppy urine. He gave a delighted sigh, his eyes closing as he enjoyed the free bliss one can only achieve when peeing after holding it for so long.
When finished, Tod tugged on the little metal lever that made the toilet flush and walked over to the shower. He pushed the velvet curtain back and stepped into the tub. A quick glance told him of three bottles, a bar of soap and ever the waterspout hung the wash cloth. He smiled and turned the water on, churring as he felt the water grow warm under his paw, his fur darkening as it soaked through. When it was hot enough he turned on the shower, and the hot water sluiced down upon his body. He gave a small yelp of pain when the water hit his face, reminding him all too bluntly of the cut bruise that he had there. He touched his cheek, wondering when the bandage had come off.
“Probably when I was having nightmares last night...”
Tod thought to himself before leaning over to inspect the bottles. One was labeled with flowers and girls of every species in bikinis, vibrant letters spelling out “Body Wash For Ladies”. He smiled, assuming that it was Amy's, and turned his attention to the other two bottles. These were a little more drab, but no less attention getting. The first said “Fluffy Fox Fur Foam: Shampoo” while the second read “Furries Delight: Conditioner”. The pup pulled the Fur Foam close to him and attempted to pour some into his open paw.
The foam smelled sweet, like oranges and cream, and Tod added this as one more small thing that made him smile that he didn't have before. After lathering it in his paws he began working it into the fur on his head, then his cheeks, minding his bruise, and slowly began cleaning his way down his body. He stopped and looked down to examine his young body. His body was covered by soft, golden fur, silky and soft. He gave a wry smile as he inspected himself.
“Fifteen, with the body of a eight year old...”
Tod sighed as he ran his paw through his fur before pulling out the second bottle and repeating the process. He wanted to be nice and clean for his family. Finally, as an afterthought, he pulled out the last bottle, the female body wash. He sniffed it and noticed that it had the scent of lilacs. The scent was intoxicating to his young, delicate nose, and so he used a goodly amount. He wanted to smell very good for his family.
When Tod exited the shower, he encountered a curious problem. He had nothing to wear. His old clothes had been taken away, and he presumed them to be washed. He hoped that he could burn them later, removing a bad memory from his already full mind. As he stepped out of the shower he grabbed a purple towel from a hook on the wall. He dried himself and opened the door, the chill air outside the bathroom making him shiver. But as he was about to call out for someone to help, he glanced at the floor. His eyes filled with tears, for sitting next to the door frame was a small pair of pants, a small shirt, a belt (he assumed in case the pants were too large), and a pair of socks and shoes.
When he was dressed, and the belt was holding up his baggy pants, he trotted downstairs. He had to double knot the shoes to keep them from coming off his little paws, and the shirt went down over his bottom, but he was happier than he had ever been, and his tail cut a blur through the air as it wagged. His mother and father looked up with smiles on their faces as Tod gave a small squeal of delight and leapt into their arms, hugging them and repeating thank you's and I love you's. Suddenly, Tod stopped and backed off. He shuffled his feet softly, noting the smiles, but also seeing surprise. All of the sudden he felt self-conscious.
Tod didn't know what came over him. He felt silly, foolish. How could he do such a random thing when honestly he felt that he barely knew them. And they didn't know him at all! He began to stammer an apology, his face on the ground and his ears drooping. He felt a tear drip off his muzzle, and he felt his embarrassment mount as his parents exchanged glances and raised eyebrows. Finally, his father stood up from his seat and knelt beside Tod, placing a paw upon the pup's shaking shoulder as he hiccuped softly between poorly contained sobs.
“Tod? Tod, listen to me...”
Tod looked up, wiping quickly at his eyes. When he had calmed down sufficiently, Tod's new dad looked him in the eye.
“Tod, there is nothing wrong with hugging me. Or your new mother. You are now part of the family, despite showing up unexpectedly yesterday, you're family now. We'll work out the legal part of you being part of the family, but you can still hug me and your mother all you wish.”
Tod nodded and wrapped his arms around his fathers neck. He gave a surprised yip when his father tucked his arms under his bottom and lifted him from the floor. Tod buried his muzzle in his father's neck fur, giving a soft churr, tears springing anew as he remembered why he was so happy. He was shaken from his reverie when his mother spoke up.
“Now, Tod...I'm sorry about the clothes and things. They were hand me downs from Eric. We had a box of them in the basement, heaven knows how we missed them when we last cleaned down there. Anyway, we thought you could use them until we got you more clothes...”
“Which we're going to do right now!”
Tod turned and saw Eric, fully clothed, sparkling clean from his own shower. He wore bluejeans and a black shirt and over that he wore a school jacket. He also spun a set of keys on his finger.
“Wanna go to the mall bro?”
Tod blinked, nodding gently. He stepped over and Eric took Tod's paw his own, and Tod felt more and more like a young puppy, but, for some reason, it bothered him not. It dawned on him that his parents never really took him anywhere, preferring he stay home. They had only taught him the basic things like math, reading, and writing when he was home schooled. Tod felt a pang of sadness that his youth had been so badly undermined by people who cared more for reputation than their own children. He squeezed Eric's paw softly, and Eric returned the squeeze reassuringly. Their mother called out to them as they exited the house.
“Drive safe you two!”
Eric led Tod around the side of the house to the garage. He typed in a numeric password on the panel by the door and it opened. Inside was a shining speed-demon of a vehicle. Tod stared openly at the sleek black metal, the custom rims, and the leather interior. Eric turned as he unlocked the passenger door.
“Took me and my pop three months to fix this old piece up. But Dad said, 'If you can get her running, I'll pay for it and it can be your sixteenth birthday present'. So, here it is, hop in!”
Tod plopped his bottom into the passenger seat, his tail twitching with excitement. Suddenly, the world went dark as a small jacket was dropped over his head. Tod heard Eric laughing.
“It's Fall, Tod. You gotta dress warmer than a t-shirt...”
Tod pulled the jacket on, it also being too big for him, and buckled up. Eric put it into reverse and began pulling out of the drive way. Without looking at him, Eric spoke to Tod, his voice serious.
“Mom gave me some cash so you and I can get you some clothes...on the way there, I want you to tell me about how you got by for three weeks all by yourself...”
Tod nodded slowly. Of all his memories, these were the least painful. He knew he could share them with Eric, and decided he would feel better afterward, as well as closer to his new brother. And so, Tod began from the beginning, when his parents pushed him out of the car in the middle of a strange town.
Tod began telling Eric of his life before, and despite how easy he had originally thought it would be, he soon discovered that even this piece of his past was difficult to discuss. Nonetheless, he carried on, trying to be brave and strong like Eric was.
“My parents...you know, the one's from before...they were part of a pure-breed family of collies. I...I don't quite remember their last name...my last name...I think they thought it unimportant for me to know my last name so they just never told it to me. Anyway, it was a little over three weeks ago when my father told me to get into the car. My brother's, Ashford and Terrance, were already in the car. They sat me by the door, which they never did before. They said I didn't deserve a window seat whenever I was let out into the world, which wasn't very often. Anyway, mother and father got in and we started driving...we drove for nearly two hours”
Tod gave a quivering sigh, and hung his head, ears laid back.
“Father was yelling and ranting about how worthless I was. That wasn't new, of course, but he seemed much more enthusiastic about it that day. Finally, when we came into a new town, he slowed the car down. He turned around and looked at me...he was smiling at me...Father never smiled at me. But that time, he smiled at me and he said 'Well, say hello to your new home.'”
Tod looked over at Eric, who was focused on driving, but Eric glanced over at him, nodding to show that he was indeed listening. Tod continued, despite his discontentment about revealing his painful memories.
“I asked him why, but before I could even finish my sentence, Ashford opened the door and kicked me out of the car while it was still moving. It wasn't going fast, but it still hurt.”
Tod took a deep breath, eyes shut as he held back tears, his voice shaking slightly.
“I knew I couldn't go back to them, not I would want to. I knew I was on my own so I did my best to seek shelter. Fall had started early...Do you remember the early snowfall Eric?”
Eric nodded and mentioned that had really come down hard that night, that he woke up to a foot of snow against his window. Eric stopped and looked fixedly at Tod.
“You mean you were in that blizzard Tod?!”
Tod nodded, a smile on his face.
“I found a box...it wasn't big, just an old refrigerator box, but it kept me out of the wind and snow. I remembered seeing homeless people the few times I was out with my parents, when I could catch a glimpse out the window. I didn't realize I would be using those memories to stay alive. Anyway, I put some old plastic bags over the cardboard to keep it relatively dry, and earlier that week I...I...”
Tod stopped to think of how he would put it.
“I...kind of...stole something...”
Eric glanced at Tod, his brow furrowed.
“Stole something? And what did you steal?”
Tod gave a gentle sigh, shame filling him.
“That jacket I had? It was from a donation box...I thought that, since I didn't have a home, I could look through the box. The manager of the store saw me looking at the coats, with my dirty clothes and scruffy fur, and he came out screaming that I needed to get out of his store before he called the police. I was holding the jacket when I saw the man and got scared, so I turned and ran away as fast as I could. That jacket and some old thrown out clothes were probably what kept me alive on that street...fifth street, if I remember. That was the street that my alley opened up on...It was next to a fast food restaurant and a grocery store, so I got to eat whatever food they tossed out. Mostly scraps and pieces of whatever was going bad, but I occasionally got something nice...it's just...it wasn't very often.”
Tod looked out the window for a moment, marveling at the beauty of the trees, losing himself in the shifting hues of reds, the bright yellows, the deep oranges, and the last of the stoic greens. He sat back in the seat again and relaxed, continuing with his story.
“One day I decided that I needed to find a better home. My box was beginning to fall apart, and police officers were looking around for me. Apparently some of the people in that area noticed a collie pup like me wandering around without ever going to any particular home. I knew if the police found me they would take me back home to my old family, or put me in an orphanage...I didn't want either. So, I started walking and ended up in your...your backyard...I was looking for food. To think that was only two days ago.”
Eric smiled and reached over, catching Tod's paw in his own and giving it a soft squeeze. He turned the wheel and pulled into the parking lot of a large building. Tod could make out the sign reading Harrison Creek Mall. Eric parked with an expert twist of the wheel and soon they were standing outside the mall, Tod craning his neck to look up to the top of the building. Eric laughed at the collies awe and pulled him towards the main entrance. The doorway arched above them in old-style Roman Gothic, complete with carved pillars and vines.
Tod felt as if he couldn't look around fast enough to see all the things inside of the mall when the doors shut behind them. The hustle and bustle the many people thrilled and frightened Tod. Wolves pulling along their cubs. A pair of otters in the corner, snuggling and kissing on a bench. A middle-aged rabbit, looking exceedingly tired, and being chased after by a dozen young bunnies. In every direction, rows and rows of stores of every kind disappeared into the distance. Some sold clothes, some video games, some books, some questionable things that Tod would prefer not to examine. To say the least, Tod felt compelled to squeeze close to Eric.
Eric led the collie pup through the throng of people towards a store that sold children's clothes. Tod blushed, embarrassed and ashamed that his physical structure forced him to wear clothes fit for children, when he himself was almost old enough to drive. Of course, upon reflection, Tod realized that he never had thought of the prospect of driving a car of his own before. He decided he would consider this later, but his wandering mind was brought back to the present as the stepped into the store.
Tod had never felt more uncomfortable in his life in that store. Three separate sales cats swooped down on him, cooing and purring, petting his soft hair and complimenting him on how cute he was. They kept asking Eric if Tod was his son, and he had to laugh and shake his head, then explain that Tod was adopted into his family by his own parents. After the disconcerting greetings were made, Eric led Tod through the store. In the end, Tod picked out a three pairs of kids pants, four shirts, a child's hoody, and a black jacket that looked similar to Eric's jacket. Eric apparently noticed this but said nothing. After they were finished shopping Eric pulled out a hundred dollar bill and handed it to the cashier. There wasn't much, change and Tod apologized for being so expensive.
Eric merely laughed his easy laugh and lifted Tod up onto his shoulders. With him situated in his new perch, Eric took Tod to a new store. It was an arts and crafts store, and the myriad of pens, pencils, paints, papers, pads, notebooks, and tools made Tod's head spin.
“You can get a sketchbook, two sets of pencils and a set of pens, okay Tod?”
Tod glomped Eric's thigh with a hug, squealing with child-like glee, his tail becoming a blur as he shouted thank you's repeatedly. He took off into the store without a moments hesitation and began his hunt for his new treasures. Tod could hardly believe it! With his old family Tod had never been able to draw without painful repercussions. Yet now, with his new family, they were purchasing him things to be artistic with! He skipped happily through the store, churring with delight as he walked amongst rows and rows of art supplies. Soon he held in his grasp a lovely sketchpad, a set of regular and colored pencils, and two pens. When they were paid for, Tod clutched them to his chest and crooned happily, shutting his eyes as he savored the scent of his new possessions, feelings their weight and realizing that he would be drawing pictures as soon as he got home.
Tod looked up at Eric, a smile making his face glow.
“Thank you Eric...Thank you so much.”
The fox merely picked Tod up and kissed him on the nose before giving him a large hug. Eric took the bag from Tod, adding it to the bag of clothing he already clutched in his paw, and held Tod as if he were a child. After a moment of walking through the store, Eric sniffed curiously and looked at Tod who was dozing over his shoulder.
Eric smiled and squeezed Tod's bottom, eliciting a soft whimper from the pup in his arms.
“You smell good. Like flowers...”
Tod giggled and told Eric about the body wash in the shower. Eric's laugh rung in Tod's ears pleasantly as they walked towards the exit. With all of the action of the day, Tod's eyes grew heavy, and soon he was snoozing quietly on Eric's shoulder. Suddenly, Eric spoke into Tod's ear, rousing the pup from his light slumber.
“Tod! Tod, look! Those are my friends over there. The wolf is Dante, and the tabby cat is Mark. The other cat is Sheila, and she and Mark have been dating for a good four months now.”
Tod looked up, blinking drowsily, his fur ruffled from sleeping on Eric's shoulder. He looked towards a window and saw that the light was fading, and guessed that nightfall would be within an hour or so. He turned his attention to the other creatures that Eric was walking towards. The wolf, Dante, had dark black fur and vivid blue eyes. Tod realized that he was much smaller than most wolves that he had seen around the mall. The tabby, Mark, had dark grey-brown fur, and his girlfriend Sheila had light orange fur. They all called out Eric's name with excitement and joy at seeing their friend. Mark, in turn, waved and called back cheerfully, his tail swishing through the air. Tod gave a soft yawn and rubbed his eyes. He heard Sheila speak to Eric.
“Who's the kiddo Eric? Are you in the baby-sitting business now?”
Tod stopped yawning and looked at Sheila, his ears drooping. He felt self-conscious after hearing her remark at his size. He cowered down slightly, making himself smaller so as to be unobtrusive so that the question he feared was not asked. But it was.
“How old is the little cutie?”
Eric gave Tod's bottom a gentle squeeze, and Tod looked up at his brother. He sighed and placed his head in the crook of Eric's neck.
“Tod here is my new little brother Sheila. His old family disowned him for being a runt...”
“So he's like me.”
Tod looked up at Dante, startled. The wolf was smiling understandably.
“Let me guess you age. Thirteen? Fourteen?”
Tod held up one finger to indicate the addition of one more year. He used his finger for fear of using his voice and breaking into tears. On the verge, Tod felt Dante's paw touch his head lightly.
“I was your size until I was nearly fourteen Tod. I hit a growth spurt and now look at me. Us runts have to stick together, right?”
Mark laughed, his ears twitching. He playfully pushed Dante, then hugged his friend.
“Dante, you are probably the least likely wolf I know to need to stick with anybody. Best scrapper I know...Next to me that is...”
Dante ruffled the cats ears, making Mark meow pitifully, before responding.
“Well, Tod probably could use a companion like me anyway. If you want, I could be his 'step-brother' if he'd like. I'd look after him like my own...would you like that, Tod? And Mark will too!”
Tod smiled softly, nodding, immediately taking a liking to Dante and Mark. In less than three days he had gone from the gutter to a new home, and now he is finding people like him, and his family was growing rapidly. He yawned wide, stretching, adding a stretch of his tail into the mix for good measure, and blinked a few times. He looked at Sheila who was eying him differently then before. She stepped close and looked at Eric.
“May I hold the cutie?”
“You'll have to ask Tod.”
Sheila looked at Tod and smiled, her eyes twinkling gaily in the fluorescent light of the mall. She cupped his muzzle in her paw, planting a kiss upon the end of his nose with a teasing giggle.
“Well sweetheart? Can I hold you?”
Tod cocked his head to the side, then nodded several times to show that he liked the idea. Squealing like a school-girl, Sheila scooped him up from Eric's embrace and held him as she would a baby. A little awkward at first, Tod realized that this new position was more comfortable and left him feeling secure and warm. He began dozing, and the world took on a shade of gray as he drifted in and out of sleep. Suddenly, he felt himself shaken lightly, and Sheila's voice whispered into his ear.
“Your cute and small, but your too heavy for me to carry too long.”
He groggily sat up in her arms and yawned again.
“If you want to put me on the floor, that'll be fine.”
Sheila neatly set Tod on the floor, giving him a pat on his rump for good measure. Smiling, despite feeling half-asleep, Tod walked over to Eric and tugged on his pant leg.
“Can I draw a little bit Eric?”
He heard Sheila exclaim how cute he was, and Eric handed him the bag.
“Stay near us, okay Tod? I don;t want you to get lost in here...”
Tod gave Eric a thumbs-up and sat down on the floor a few feet away from the group. He set out a pencil and his sketchbook, carefully clicking out a small segment of lead and then opening his book to it's first page. He decided that he would draw Sheila a picture, but he didn't know what she liked. Thinking it over, he finally decided upon drawing Mark. He looked over his shoulder every few seconds at the cat, noting the curves of his body, ruffles of his clothes, and the shadows on his fur. He began sketching, and soon was deeply engrossed in his work.
Out of the fog of concentration, Tod heard a voice, oddly familiar, but distant, almost foreign in nature. The voice was accompanied by a second, and Tod involuntarily shivered.
“Is that him?”
“Holy...Your right! I thought he'd be...
Tod's ears perked up, his concentration beginning to falter. Then the connection struck him with shocking clarity, and he whipped around just in time to feel a golden paw cover his mouth, and then the world went black as another was placed over his eyes.
Tod whimpered softly, ears flat against his head. How could this possibly be happening to him? Why? Why here of all places? And where was Eric? And Dante? Where was Mark and Sheila too? Tod stifled a sob as he was manhandled along. The air turned cold, and he assumed he had been taken outside. The sound of two pairs of feet on concrete changed from a mild scuff to echoes. An alleyway, thought Tod as the echoes continued. He could not see with the paw over his eyes, and he was having difficulty breathing with the large paw over his mouth. With an abrupt jolt, Tod's trip came to a halt when the paws were removed from his mouth and eyes, then forcibly thrown into a trashcan.
The wind left his lungs painfully upon striking the hard, unyielding steel. He slid to the cold concrete below and lay in a crumpled heap. He lay there, gasping and wheezing, trying to refill his lungs, but trying to avoid bringing pain to his now-sore ribs. As he lay there, he glanced up, noting his surroundings. The alley was behind the mall, and lit by a single light bulb. And directly in front of him, in brand-new leather jackets, stood Ashton and Terrance. The crest of their private school was sewn into the breast, gold and blue filigree, flaunting the pomp and splendor they enjoyed.
“Well, I'll be damned...would you look at you. I never thought I'd ever see you alive again Tod, much less in the mall we shop at.”
Terrance stepped closer to Tod, his boots crunching on broken glass and pebbles. Tod recoiled against the heavy trashcan behind him, his tail wrapped around his legs. Suddenly the boot whipped up and kicked those shards of glass and pebbles directly into Tod's face, and only Tod's instinctive reflexes saved his eyes from the razor edges on the glass. He cried out in pain as the shards bit into his flesh, leaving small, shallow cuts along his cheeks and muzzle. With a soft whine of dismay, he pulled a needle-like shard directly out of his cheek, staring at the blood glistening darkly upon it's surface.
Ashton stepped forward, reaching down and grabbing Tod by the throat, and squeezing lightly, just enough that it cut off Tod's air enough to make him gasp and claw at his throat.
“I'll admit, you surprised us Tod. We'd have thought you'd be long dead by now, but from the looks of those books and pencils you had, I'd guess you got quite good at stealing.”
Tod shook his head feebly, his breath coming in short whimpers of pain.
“No? Then what was it then? Did you find yourself a new family to sap the life out of? Bring disgrace to? The street is the only home you deserve you little piece of trash!”
Ashton angrily slammed Tod back against the trashcan, banging his head so hard against the metal that the world grew dim for as moment. The pressure on his throat released, and Tod could breathe again, albeit with difficulty. He closed his eyes, then opened them, looking up at Terrance, who now stood closer to him. In fact, he was now kneeling in front of the young collie pup.
“Well, Tod, since you are here, Ash is here, and I'm here, maybe we should catch up on old times, don't you think?”
The larger canine reached behind him his back, into his pocket and pulled forth a small object in his paw. He pressed the side, and a five inch switch-blade popped open in front of Tod's face.
“W-what are you going to do Terrance?”
The dog shrugged, a mirthless smile on his lips.
“I've always wanted to get to know you better Tod, inside and out.”
Terrance stopped and stared blankly at Tod for a moment, then wrinkled his nose in displeasure.
“What are you wearing Tod? You smell like a bouquet!”
There was the sound of footsteps moving away, and Ashton's voice could be heard a short way away.
“You do what you have to do with the disgrace, I'll watch for anybody coming by...just hurry it up, okay?”
Tod's breath became short, his claws bared and digging painfully into his palms as he stared in horror at his older brother, grinning maniacally and holding an open blade in his hands and making clear implications at his intent. He spoke, his voice dripping disgust and loathing.
“I'll be honest Tod...I've never liked you...in fact, I've hated you, even since you were born. I knew you would never grow up to be worth our families time, or money, so we dumped you a goodly distance away. Hell, after we dumped you off, you still managed to travel another good twenty miles here, and what do you get for your trouble?”
He laughed, and twirled the blade in his paw.
“You got a few borrowed weeks, but I suppose the good luck ends here, right? Pity you went to the mall that me and Ash visit on the weekends, huh? Didn't know that, did you?”
Tod merely shook his head. He was inclined to believe that the more Terrance talked, the longer Tod would stay alive. Deep inside, he wished that Terrance would never stop talking, but even he thought that to be foolhardy thinking. He winces as the blade tapped him on the nose, catching his attention as Terrance continued with his oratory.
“Yeah, Ash and I would come here every weekend and look for chicks, or find something interesting to buy. Dad's been pretty generous about our allowance, but I doubt you'd know anything about that. He didn't give you any money, did he? Yeah, I wouldn't either...”
There was some scraping at the end of the alley, and Terrance looked over his shoulder to check, but all was concealed by shadow. He grunted and turned back to Tod.
“Well, Ash will let us know when we can't have anymore fun, so don't worry Tod. Oh, I'm sorry...I meant I can't have anymore fun. You probably won't enjoy this that much...in fact, I'm counting on it.”
Tod pushed his back against the trashcan, his eyes widening in terror. His breath caught in his throat, and he felt terror grip his insides. He was out of time. He would never here Eric's laugh again. He would never see Amy's smile. He would never show Sheila his picture, or learn friendship from Dante and Mark. He would never taste his new mother's cooking, or hug his new father again. His life, so full of pain and misery, had become so wonderful, and now it was being taken from him. Tod started sobbing, clutching his tail in fear. The faint light from the single bulb in the alley glinted menacingly off of the blade, catching more noticeably on the finely honed edge. Tod found his voice as the blade drew closer, and he screamed, his voice cracking through the tears and fright.
“Eric! Please, help me Eric! Help me! Help Me!!”
A smirk flitted across Terrance's face, and he opened his mouth to speak to Tod. Suddenly, there was the sound of running footsteps, heavy and quick. Terrance turned, the smile still on his face as he turned. There was the dull THRACK of wood on bone, and Terrance's face whipped back the direction from whence it had turned, splattering blood across Tod and the trashcan.
“Don't you EVER touch my little brother you creep!”
Tod blinked the blood from his eyes, for once not his own, and stared at the looming figure, cloaked in shadow and holding a broken piece of wood in his paw presumably from one of the cargo pallets that he had seen. Tod knew the voice and immediately held out his paws. Eric took the puppy into his arms and comforted him. Tod couldn't contain himself any longer and started sobbing uncontrollably, his body wracked with nerves and relief. Eric started walking out of the alley with Tod over his shoulder, patting his gently on the back, pausing momentarily to kick Terrance in the stomach, once, then twice, then a third time. After the third kick, the large dog groaned, rolled over, and vomited on the ground.
Eric kept walked and Tod, sniffling gently now, looked in the direction they were going. Mark and Dante were at the entrance to the alley, and between them they held Ashton. They were completely unharmed, whereas blood was dripping from their captives nose, and from the swelling of the fur Tod could see that Ashton also had a black eye. In his mouth was a gag, made from an old oily rag. Mark and Dante both looked up, ears perked and eyes burning with anger.
“Is Tod alright?”
Tod waved at them, his eyes brimming with tears at the sight of them. Eric gave them the thumbs up and they pulled the gag out of Ashton's mouth. He growled quietly, his voice filled with ire.
“When my father learns of what you've done to me..”
Eric stepped over and held Tod in front of Ashton. Ashton stood quiet for a moment, staring at the kin he despised, before looking questioningly at Eric. Eric spoke, his voice barely an audible whisper.
“If your father, or any of your family ever set foot in this town again, and I hear of it, this little pup is going straight to the police station, the media, and the courts, and your family is going to hear from every one of them. Child abuse, neglect, abandonment, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, I think that you can see that this isn't going to look too good on your prissy families resume. The wolf and cat holding you will gladly testify, and Tod will of course be the first to bring to light your families scandalous little problems.”
Ashton remained silent, but he was glaring daggers at Tod, still in front of him. Just then, breaking the momentary silence, Dante spoke up.
“Hey, dumb ass. How does it feel having the tables turned, and having your ass getting beat by a me, a runt?”
Ashton spit on the ground, growling again and his eyes blazing. Just then, Eric leaned close to Tod's ear, and whispered something. Tod blinked, then smiled. He whistled gently, getting Ashton's attention.
“Remember how much you liked to hit me Ash?”
The dog stared at Tod. Tod smiled, then swung his foot up, now neatly clad in a new shoe, and slammed it into Ashton's face. Dante and Mark let the collie fall back, howling in pain and clutching his nose. Eric put his foot heavily on Ashton's stomach, bring a momentary silence.
“Go get your brother in the alley, he should be waking up by now. Get him into your car, and get the hell out of here, and don't you dare come back!”
Ashton shuffled on all four's towards the alley. Groans of pain and quiet whimpering could be heard. At that moment, Sheila drove up in Eric's car. Eric walked around it and calmly opened the door and sat down with Tod in his lap. Sheila told Mark and Dante that she was going over to Eric's house and instructed them to follow. Eric tossed the broken, blood splattered plank into his back seat and hugged Tod close. His voice was quiet, and sounded ear to tears.
“I'm sorry that I wasn't there sooner, Tod, but I told you I would protect you...And I will. You won't have to worry about seeing those two ever again. Your safe with us Tod.”
Tod nodded against his big brother's chest, his eyes closing as he began falling asleep, his body still weak and tired. A tear rolled down his cheek and he said one last thing before he fell asleep, one last thing to make Eric smile.
“Thanks Eric...I love you...”
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