liked it; Edward was a
good name, strong and dignified, even if he himself wasn’t,
times. HeyRose was a sweet woman, and very much in tune with him. She
regularly and well; she knew all the positive strokes he
liked, and she was the one who
figured out his Gift simply because
she paid attention to him.
had it since he was
very small, and it was both a blessing and a curse, just as
things usually were. The Gift had taken him to GrandpaMilo, and
right up until the old man’s breathing stopped. It
taken him to Phoebe before she
even knew about the baby. The Gift had
been the guide from one house after another
until poor sickly KateHon
had died, and the relatives in their black suits and
mourning had shipped him off because none of them wanted to be
bothered with him.
didn’t mind. He
knew he’d be chosen because the Gift had that charm to it.
looking at him sensed it there. They always smiled at him, even
wasn’t the cutest, or fanciest. And when HeyRose
at him through the bars; that
was when Edward sighed happily, knowing
he was moving on.
followed HeyRose into
the hospital, wishing she’d let him take off his jacket. The
never really fit right, even though she fussed with it to try and
make it comfortable. Edward was too big for it, but it was the only
one available, and he understood he had
to be Dressed for this, even
if he didn’t like it much. Lots of people told him he looked
in green; he wished he could figure that out. Green was one of those
Edward didn’t get, along with Vacation and Booze.
of those made sense, and
he’d long ago stopped trying to
things that puzzled him.
Gift didn’t puzzle
him. It took so many shapes and forms; sometimes it was a smell
tiny bit out of tune with the rest; sometimes a little sound right on
the edge of his
hearing. And sometimes his Gift was in front of his
eyes, a brighty all around the person making them gleam like
sunshined water. Those always left him feeling shivers down
because they could go either way. The brightys were the Very Goods or
it was a Very Good,
Edward would try to reassure the person, letting them know that
everything was on the mend. That part was fun, especially with the
seemed to pick up on his communication so much better
than Biggers everytime.
Making a Very Good see their own light was a
lovely way to visit.
it was a Very Bad,
Edward tried to share that too, as gently as he could. Those hurt
him. Very Bads usually knew deep inside themselves that they
going to get
better, and they never blamed Edward. He’d fight
stay with them, moving close, as if
to draw the pain away. Sometimes
he thought he could, a little. And every now and
then, as with
GrandpaMilo, Edward was there when the Very Bad light went out.
were the times that
he needed to howl a bit, and HeyRose understood that.
looked up as the glass
double doors of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
them, and HeyRose smiled down at him.
Little was nearly
asleep; Edward listened to her breathing and waited for it to
lengthen out. She was a good one, giggly and not afraid of him. That
hands were warm, but strong, and she’d laughed
to tire herself out as he
played fetch with her. Now she was huddled
on the bed, her skinny chest rising and
falling in time with the
monitors around her. Edward sighed.
was having the
dark hot drink with the Wilson over in the nurse’s station.
were talking about the Little in happy terms, and Edward was glad the
news was good. Remission was a good word, and he liked how it made
people smile. Edward lifted his
head from the bed and looked over at
the station. Rose could see him out of the corner
of his eye, and
just as always she knew what he was going to do.
supposed to. He knew that. HeyRose knew that. By law Edward
only go with HeyRose to something called Designated. But HeyRose and
knew better, and so they had this little system
distract, and he’d be free to
mosey on out a while and visit
. . .
. whomever. Edward suspected that the Wilson had
caught onto the
arrangement, but he never got mad about it. Sometimes he even
to help HeyRose keep busy, and Edward liked him even more for it. The
picked up his ball
and quietly trotted out of the room, moving just right. Too
people looked at you. Too slow and they tried to catch you. But if
like you knew where you were going, most people left you
alone. He kept close to the
wall, and went down the stairs, keeping
out of the way of visitors moving on them. Once
he reached the
bottom, Edward blinked, and let the Gift come to him.
people were Hurting.
One a new Hurt, one a very old Hurt and both of them were
along the same hallway. Edward paused a moment, considering what to
The new Hurt was closer, but the very old one was stronger, and
mixed in with it lay the
scent of anger. Following that, Edward began
trotting down the hallway cautiously. He
passed the room that held
the new, and looked at it as if promising to come back, then
along the glass walls.
he reached the
room where the very old Hurt was. The door was propped open,
slunk in, keeping his profile low as he looked around. No one was
here except a
man hanging against a whiteboard, his eyes closed, his
grip tight and unhappy. Edward
came forward and carefully bent down,
picking up the fallen cane. It was awkward for
him since he had to
drop his ball to do it, and the cane was very long, but he managed
and took a step closer to the man.
man opened his eyes
and stared. Edward stared back, feeling the old Hurt
thickly through his leg. Although it wasn’t a Very Bad, it
definitely one that
would never Remission.
a tentative wag of his tail. The man kept looking at him.
are YOU staring
at?” came the mutter. Edward chuffed a little around the
aware that the Hurt was doing the speaking. He sat down and lifted
holding the cane higher so the man could reach for it, and
eventually he did, fingers
brushing Edward’s whiskers.
planted it down and
shifted from the whiteboard. “I’m not going to
thank you. You’re
wagged his tail
politely. He understood the vocal tone far better than the Cane
did himself, and watched as the old hurt faded for a few moments. The
limped to the table and dropped into a chair, still watching
him. Edward watched back,
waiting. Finally the man seemed to notice
the ball on the floor.
think you dropped
something too,” he pointed out in a low voice. Edward pricked
his ears and circled around, scooping up his ball in a lovely
economical gesture before
sitting down again. The Cane man thrust out
his jaw and looked preoccupied, but
Edward knew better than to move.
He’d been around people long enough to sense
often were the little whisker tickle before important things were
said. He cocked his head.
Cane man pursed his
mouth, and let out a long sigh; some of the Hurt went out
“Nice jacket. It’s too small, but I suppose they
make you wear
gave a snuffle of
agreement. This was good; the Cane man was talking now,
staring. The Cane man wiped a hand over his mouth, as if trying to
laugh. He spoke again, his voice somewhat resigned.
I’d really hate
to keep you from your appointed rounds, Rover, but I’ve got
off to get to. I’ve already managed to seriously piss my lady
off and it’s not even
eleven in the morning, so you can just
your tennis ball and retrieve yourself back to whatever bald-headed
cancer kid you were visiting, all right?”
waited a moment
longer, until the Cane man grabbed the thick journal on the
began to thumb through it, studiously ignoring him. Slowly, moving a
inches at a time Edward came forward and ever so gently stretched
out his face, letting
his chin slide over the place on the
leg where the Hurt ached. The thigh was tight
and hot; Edward felt
the pain throbbing hard there, and he blinked, trying to stay very
was the moment—the
Gift had brought him here, but whether he’d be allowed to
help . .
. Edward closed his eyes and let his jaw rest on the Cane
a long, long time the
Cane man pretended he wasn’t there, but Edward could hear
mumbling up beyond the underside of the table. The words meant
little—it was all
in the tone, which was low, tight and
long raspy litany of things that leaked
out like an infection slowly
draining. Words like these that meant feelings, and while
them centered on the leg Hurt, some came from a wounded place in the
man’s chest too. Edward sensed there were scars in there
well, aches that the Cane
man felt and couldn’t drug away.
. . For all the damn
good it does me, but someone HAD to say it before she made a
herself by ending up in bed with some money-grubbing boy toy. Hell,
if all she
wanted was that, I’d . . . “ Edward
the Cane man stiffen, as if some
concept had just dawned on him.
the sound of
paper and the plastic scratching of a pen came from above, and
Cane man wrote, Edward felt a surge of hopeless longing in the man,
but almost fierce, hidden deep within frustration. Carefully
Edward wagged his tail in a
show of support, aware that the Cane man
had stopped paying attention to him as he continued to write
furiously. After several long minutes, the Cane man gave a sigh and
dropped the pen down on the tabletop with a little
Edward waited until the Cane
man shifted and one hand came down to
pet him, finally.
Purged. What I
SHOULD have said, along with my reasoning and a half-assed
apology to boot. Just the sort of note she’ll think Wilson
me into writing.
Now all I need to add is the
listened to him grab the pen again— “That
she’s probably the
only thing keeping me out of rehab, jail, or marriage.”
the Cane man
finished the added notation, Edward moved. With graceful instinct,
pulled away from the Cane man’s thigh and leaped up, paws on
table. A quick
nip, and the paper was in his teeth; Edward twisted
and dashed for the glass door,
aware of the Cane man yelling at him
as he took off.
had to find the new
the hall Edward
galloped, moving swiftly weaving past startled people in the way
almost skidding past the door, scratching at it frantically. He was
aware that the
Cane man was alarmed and angry, but it would take a
while for him to follow. The door opened, and Edward slithered in,
past legs in stockings, running towards the desk at
the far end of
paused, trying to
let the Gift sort it out. There! The person at the door, looking
him with surprise—ohhh! the Good Hands woman. His tail wagged
trotted up to her, warm happiness running through him.
new Hurt was here.
Hers. Of course.
bent down, and petted
him on long sweet strokes, her voice lovely and husky.
you slip away from Rose again? Listen buddy, I appreciate what you
for my patients, I do, but you can’t just go running around
hospital on your own.
There are laws—“ she
murmured, her words
stern, but oh the sweet tone took all the
sting out, and Edward let
the bliss of her Good Hands stroke him all along his back and
“And wonderful as you are, you need to stick with Rose.
whined, and lifted
his muzzle; Good Hands woman took the paper from in with amusement.
“What, is this your note, excusing you?”
sat down, blocking her
way back to the phone, waiting for her to look at the paper.
Hands woman glanced at it briefly, then re-focused on it, her brows
together sharply. Edward felt the flare of the new Hurt
rising in her, sharp and painful as
her glance darted over the words
on the paper. “That asshole . . . “ she murmured in
voice. “God, does he think he can get away with this . . .
read on, and Edward
shifted closer, feeling the Hurt dissolve a little. Just a little,
around the edges, but it was a start, and that was good. He wagged
his tail. Good
Hands woman glanced from the paper down to him, her
handwriting—I’ve seen it a hundred times so I know
genuine, but I
don’t understand how you—“
sharp interjection. Edward watched as Cane man came lurching into
office, his attention focused on him. He whined a little. Good Hands
in front of him, and Edward felt the odd swirl of the
two Hurts mingling now, the edges
of their auras overlapping. Cane
man was trying to glare at him.
dog stole my
not my dog, and
for the record, this note is addressed to me so that makes it MY
it’s not! That
four-legged beast jacked my exercise in reasoning and I want it
fat chance, you’re
not getting it back, House!”
warning you that
I’m perfectly capable of blocking the door with my body and
you hostage until you hand it over, Cuddy. You may be quick but
only exit covered.”
pricked up his
ears; Cane man’s voice was low and tried to sound menacing
there was a note of embarrassed desperation in it. He wondered if
woman could hear it.
that so? Well I can
just pick up the phone and call security. Better yet, I can walk
right past you with impunity because your sorry ass is SO on the line
as it IS. I don’t
care if you’ve laid this out
according to your
idea of logic, it’s wrong.”
man looked more than
exasperated now, and Edward could smell a rise in
hormones from both
of them. Cane man stepped closer. “It’s NOT wrong.
good to be using an online dating service, that’s all. If
ever was a scenario where
my maxim applies, DocMixer.com is living
Well of COURSE they do! But the trick is to figure out by how
and what about. Do you really think that even I tell the truth a
hundred percent of
the time, Greg? That I’d let my profile
I’m single but not available because when
hospital I’m trying to keep my chief of Diagnostic Medicine
felt her hormones
rising too, and the odd thing was that the Hurts were
something else, something just as painful but not unbearable. His
wagged against his will.
me—you’re taking a hell of a risk. Aside from the
you’ve got a
ninety nine percent chance of meeting nothing
losers, criminals and psychos online,
you’re wasting time
could be spent actually finding someone compatible. When I’m
miserable nobody gives a shit—it’s my normal frame
But when YOU’RE
miserable everyone here suffers.”
that explains why
I made you cry.”
didn’t make me
of course not—you
had a spontaneous particles fly in both eyes right when I was
at you about setting up a date with that pond scum from St.
falter, and he let his Gift guide him. Gently, he shoved his cold
nose right in the ticklish little back of Good Hands woman’s
knee. She jumped
forward, just as Edward knew she would, and slammed
into Cane man, who caught her
with his free arm.
until you agree I’m
That could take
YEARS!” Good Hands woman snarled.
could hear how hard
Cane man was breathing; how his heartbeat raced under
his shirt. He
and Good Hands woman were very close now, Hurts melding together
a new warm brighty around them both, glowing and twinkling. He
wondered if they saw
Listen up because
I’m only going to say this once, Cuddy. You’re
beautiful and sexy and so far above the average human male’s
capacity for appreciation
that it might take the next evolutionary
leap for anyone to qualify to date you, okay?
That being said,
just--stop tossing your pearl choker before electronic
. . . “
watched Good Hands
woman cut him off with a kiss.
tail wagged furiously
as he sat watching them both with doggish intensity, his ears
pricking up at the little moans and slurps and maddening shifts of
cloth as Cane man
and Good Hands woman kept kissing. Edward was no
judge of people ways, but he understood tone, and there were lots of
very promising growls and heavy breathing
going on. The brighty
flared dazzlingly warm around Cane man and Good Hands
slunk around them and nosed the door open just enough to slip
before it closed behind him again.
went back to fetch his
ball, and carefully trotted down the hall until he spotted
and the Wilson coming his way. Edward bounded over, dropping it
Wilson’s out-held hand.
. . . finished
whatever mysterious mission you needed to do today, Edward?”
Wilson asked him gently, tousling his long ears.
wagged his tail.