Derek pushes the barn door all the way open before turning to lift a bag of feed over his shoulder with a grunt. A tiny bark makes him turn around to look down the center isle of the stables. In front of Max’s stall door sits a yellow lab puppy carefully stretching up to meet the Clydesdale’s curious muzzle. They pause, sniffing each other hesitantly. Then the puppy gives a quick flick of his…her? No, his…tongue and Max lifts his head with a shake of his mane. The puppy yips again, spinning around excitedly. Max bobs his head in answer before stretching his neck to bump the dog with his nose.
“Isaac?” Derek calls over his shoulder, letting the feedbag fall to the ground.
“Did we get a dog?”
He wouldn’t put it past Laura to buy a puppy without telling him.
“What? No, I don’t…” The blond pauses just inside the door, following Derek gaze to the middle of the stable where the puppy is now bracing its forepaws on the stable door to get closer to Max. “Oh my God, that’s really cute.”
Derek snorts but has to agree. Max is the friendliest horse they have on the farm, but he’s also the biggest. When the kids come for their lessons they usually stay clear of the draft horse out of fear but this puppy doesn’t seem to have any reservations about approaching an animal a hundred times bigger than him.
“Where do you think he came from?”
“Maybe he escaped from Deaton’s place? Actually,” Isaac shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I think Scott may have said something about a puppy adoption going on today.”
Derek nods walking over to crouch down next to the puppy. Its attention switches from Max to him immediately. Tail and butt both wagging excitedly as Derek runs a hand over his head. Max snorts and nudges the side of Derek’s face with his soft nose.
“Alright, Pup.” Derek murmurs picking the dog up. He squirms in his hold, twisting himself around so he’s looking over Derek’s shoulder as he walks back towards Isaac.
“Can you finish this up by yourself? I’ll take him over.”
“Sure thing, Boss.”
Derek carries the puppy down the dirt road leading off his property but before he gets to the drive leading up to the vet’s office he hears a voice cry out.
“Oh thank God!”
A man with long limbs and ruffled brown hair is jogging down the road towards them. Derek doesn’t remember his name. It’s usually Isaac or Laura that deal with the vet’s office but the few times Derek has gone it’d been impossible not the notice the man with laughing gold eyes and gentle hands as he worked along side the vet tech, Scott. Or at least it had been for Derek.
“Christ, Bruce! You scared the crap out of me.” The man says once he’s close enough to reach out and scratch behind the puppy’s ear. The dog squirms excitedly in Derek’s arms trying to lick the man’s fingers.
“I found him in my barn.” Derek says gruffly.
“Shit, sorry man. Bruce is kind of our resident escape artist. We had the litter outside in a wire fence but he got out.”
“It’s fine.” Derek answers dragging his eyes away from the long pale fingers that continue to rub the dog’s head. “He was keeping one of our horses company.”
“Huh,” The man grins as Derek hands Bruce over. “Making friends buddy?”
The dog barks happily, taking the opportunity to lick all over the man’s face, eliciting a delighted laugh. Derek tries and fails not to be jealous of a dog.
“Well thanks for bringing him back, man. I was starting to get worried.”
“Stiles.” The man grins, holding out a hand not currently holding squirming puppy.
“Derek.” He says, taking the offered hand. His grip is firm and warm and Derek almost doesn’t let go.
“Yeah, I know.” Stiles grins a little shyly. “You come into the clinic sometimes.”
“Yeah. Um, well I better…”
“Right! Yeah, me too.” Stiles says taking a backwards step. “I’ll ah, see you around?”
Derek nods once and get’s the hell out of there before he does something stupid. Like press Stiles up against a fence post.
A day later after Isaac, Boyd and Erica have left for the night and Laura has already gone back up to the house, Derek finds himself walking quietly down the dimly lit isle of the stable. It’s raining outside, heavy drops hitting the metal roof drowning out the noise of horses moving around in their stalls. Max hangs his head over the stall door letting out a low wicker. Derek obligingly rubs his white blaze before moving on to the tack room. He’s about half way through with cleaning Max’s harness when he hears a soft padding coming up behind him. He looks up to see Bruce strutting by him as if he owns the place, not stopping until he’s in front of Max’s stall door. When Max doesn’t automatically appear Bruce barks once and then again when the horse drapes his head over the door to stiff at the puppy. Bruce is muddy and dripping rainwater all over the place but Derek can’t bring himself to break up the happy reunion just yet so he finishes cleaning the tack. Once it’s all put away he scoops the dog up and carries him out to his truck, letting him ride in his lap, despite the muddy footprints all over his thighs, all the way up to Deaton’s.
There’s a light on in one of the back rooms so Derek assumes somebody must still be inside. He knocks a couple times then steps back, careful to keep Bruce tucked firmly in his arms.
“Sorry, we’re cl-” Stiles cuts himself short as he pulls open the door and then lets out a groan of frustration. “Are you serious? How did he even get out?”
Derek chuckles as he follows Stiles further into the clinic. He grabs a towel from the back room and holds his arms out so Derek can place Bruce into them.
“Gross. You smell and look disgusting.” Stiles tells the dog who just wags his tail and nips at the man’s chin. “Now I have to give you a bath.”
“You’re working late.” Derek says, not wanting to leave just yet.
“Yeah,” Stiles shrugs. “Scott had a date tonight so I’m covering for him. It takes me a little longer than it does for him usually since I haven’t been working here as long.”
“I can wash Bruce if you have things to finish up.” Derek offers while resolutely looking at his muddy boots. “Just show me where.”
“Oh, wow really? I mean you don’t have to since I keep letting him escape to bother you.”
“He doesn’t come over to see me.” Derek lifts one shoulder. “He comes over to see my horse. And I don’t mind helping out.”
“Okay if you’re sure.” Stiles smiles softly at him. “Thanks, man.”
Derek nods and follows Stiles into one of the back rooms with cat cages lining one wall and a deep industrial sink in the corner. He brings over a bottle of shampoo from a cabinet and an extra towel. Derek gets to work while Stiles moves around the room, cleaning cages and changing the water. It’s quiet for a little while but it feels comfortable; just the sound of running water and Stiles mumbling under his breathe every once in awhile.
As Derek is wrestling Bruce back under the spray Stiles breaks the silence.
“What?” Derek asks distractedly. Damn, the little puppy is a lot stronger than he looks.
“Which horse does Bruce keep going to see?”
“Oh, ah Max. The Clydesdale.”
“Well, at least he’s got good taste.” Stiles laughs. “That horse is gorgeous.”
“Yeah he is.” Derek agrees, finally washing the last of the soap out of Bruce’s coat. He towels him off and lets Stiles carry him back into the room where four other puppies are all fast asleep on top of each other.
“Thanks again.” Stiles says as he locks up the clinic and shuts everything off. “I would have been another hour or two without your help.”
“No problem.” Stiles gives him a small private smile that makes something in Derek’s chest ache. They both make a dash for their respective cars, Stiles into the powder blue Jeep parked on the side of the clinic and Derek to his truck.
When Derek gets back to the house Cora is sitting at the island in the kitchen with a steaming mug pressed to her lips.
“What’s up with you?” She asks, eying him suspiciously.
“Nothing.” Derek moves around the entryway, hanging up his wet jacket and taking off his boots.
“You’re smiling.” Cora repeats. “Like full on dopey grin.”
“No I’m not.”
“You are.” She’s smirking now.
“I’m going to take a shower.” Derek says ignoring her and heading for the stairs. Cora cackles but thankfully doesn’t press any farther.
Derek doesn’t see Bruce or Stiles for three days. He’s starting to think that maybe Bruce finally got adopted or that Stiles found a way to keep the puppy contained.
Maybe Derek should start taking over the errands to the vet’s office...
It’s a cool fall day and the pasture ground has finally hardened enough after the rain that Derek can move Max out of his stall. He’s leaning up against the fence watching Max stretch his legs when a car turns off the road coming from the clinic. He doesn’t pay much mind to it until he hears a series of high-pitched barks and then Max is charging the fence.
Derek swears and ducks out of the way as the Clydesdale flies over the rails easily, landing in the road right in front of the car. Breaks screech and Derek hears yelling from behind him mixed with the ecstatic whining of the puppy inside the car.
“Shit! Is Max okay?” Stiles pants, coming to a halt beside Derek who can’t take his eyes off his horse. His horse that is now walking around the parked car to the passenger door to start nosing at the window where Bruce is desperately trying to get out.
“Oh my God.” Stiles breathes. The man driving the car carefully gets out to turn and glare at Stiles and Derek.
“How much?” Derek says before the man can even open his mouth.
“What?” Stiles gapes. Derek ignores him, keeping eye contact with the other man.
“How much for the puppy?”
“I literally just adopted him.”
“And they were free.” Stiles points out.
“Well, my horse seems a little attached. How much for it?” Derek crosses his arms and puts on his best glare. The man just snorts and shakes his head.
“Take him. Apparently he’s going to be more trouble than he’s worth.”
An hour later Bruce has on a new leather collar courtesy of Laura and is playing in the pasture with Max, barking happily while the horse prances in circles around him. Stiles is leaning over the fence, arm occasionally brushing Derek’s, watching them play with a huge smile on his face.
“That is absolutely adorable. Scott is never going to believe this actually happened.”
“Max doesn’t get a lot of attention.” Derek says. “He’s kind of intimidating.”
“But he’s actually a huge softy, huh?” Stiles says and Derek can hear the grin in his voice. He turns to find Stiles wearing the same dopey grin Cora had accused him of having the other night.
“Do you want to have dinner with me sometime?” Derek blurts before he can change his mind. Stiles’ smile widens making the skin around his eyes crinkle.
“Sure, yeah, I’d like that.”
“Okay.” Derek ducks his head to hide his own smile.
“Okay.” Stiles nods, turning back to the field where Max is standing under a tree to rest with Bruce sprawled on his back next to him.