... I promised you some fanfiction, didn't I? Here, have some absolute crack, courtesy of my Marvel-obsessed college friends finding out that my neighbor's Husky was named Loki.
Title: Nick Fury and the Dog Walker Initiative
Word Count: ~4,000
Rating: T for Fury's pottymouth.
Warnings: Swearing and Squirrels?
It started in the last week of September, when his buddy Phil told him he was going to leave the country on business. Nick knew that Phil had two dogs, and Phil had decided for some ungodly reason that Nick was the best person to take care of them for two weeks, rather than someone who actually lived anywhere near Phil, or who had any experience with animals whatsoever. Nick thought it was a damn stupid idea, but Phil eventually persuaded him by pointing out that:
1) Nick was going to have nothing better to do the first few weeks of October, since Congress had made the stupid-ass decision to shut down the government rather than working together. This way when Nick had to take a furlough, he wouldn’t be sitting on his couch flicking between bad cop shows, bad old James Bond films, and bad celebrity talk shows while he failed at playing brick breaker on his blackberry.
Yes, he still had a blackberry. There was something comforting about actually having real buttons on his phone.
2) It would get him the exercise that Nick was always complaining that the doctors had told him to get. Phil might have insinuated that he knew that the last doctor had told Nick to lose thirty pounds pronto, or diabetes was going to come and take his other eye, but he did it with plausible deniability. Which still made him a granola-munching asshole, but that wasn’t even old news so much as how Phil operated on a daily basis.
3) Phil would pay him. Nick’s mouth dropped open when Phil told him what the average price for a dog-walker in DC was, and that was just for one walk for one dog. Considering that Phil had two dogs, and someone needed to come around and feed them, walk them, water them, and clean up their shit, Phil said he was getting a great deal offering the same price to Nick.
Nick figured that Phil’s dogs couldn’t be too much trouble, and rode the subway down to Phil’s place the next night after work to meet the dogs.
He’d thought that Phil would have something small, like a yorkie and a dachshund, apartment sized dogs that he could just pick up and carry off if they got into trouble. Instead, he got rushed at the front door by an overexcited German shepherd and something reddish brown with a ridiculous amount of fur and a grin full of teeth. Probably some sort of direwolf.
“What the hell is that?” Nick asked Phil when Phil grabbed both fucking wolves by the collar.
“Natasha?” Phil asked, letting the German shepherd go get his nose up close and personal with Nick’s pants while he ruffled the ears of the fucking wolf. “She’s a Central Asian Shepherd – I think,” he said, “and Clint there is a Belgian Malinois.” That meant absolutely jack shit to Nick, but Clint sat down on top of his feet and leaned his head against Nick’s leg, so Nick reached down and ran a hand over the thing’s head, working on the assumption that he’d get all ten of his fingers back.
“Why do you have two fucking wolves, Phil?” Nick asked when he got his hand back intact.
Phil just sort of shrugged. “They needed me,” he said, “I got Clint two years ago when he was retired from Afghanistan, and Natasha’s from a working dog rescue group in Arlington. She was there for months because everyone thought she was too big.”
In Nick’s opinion, they were right. Phil then let the furry monster go to investigate Nick’s crotch while Nick watched her warily.
“I took Clint down to the shelter to check that they’d be okay together, and Natasha kind of glommed onto him and they’ve been sort of inseparable ever since,” Phil went on, while Clint nosed Nick’s hand insistently and Natasha finished smelling him and disappeared through the door to the living room.
“They’re really just a pair of great big teddy bears, but it’s really hard to convince anyone to take care of them because they’re so big. And because working dogs like Belgians and German Shepherds have a reputation of being territorial, so that puts a lot of people who walk multiple dogs off...” Phil shrugged, but Nick understood. Phil was up shit creek without a paddle unless he wanted to pay some random stranger a lot of money, and he trusted Nick not to let his ridiculous animals starve to death and not to steal his TV when he gave him a house key. It was okay, though: Nick picked up enough shit at his job (when Congress deigned to let him do his fucking job,) on a day-to-day basis, he figured he could deal with a couple of collared wolves for fifteen days. After all, it wasn’t like he was going to have to live with them or anything.
Nick arrived at Phil’s house the first day prepared to be zerg-rushed by two four legged maniacs. He was not disappointed: both of the dogs went beserk, barking and running in circles around his legs like they’d never seen a human being before, despite the fact that he knew Phil had left for the airport just three hours ago. They weren’t out of food or water yet, so he gave them each an awkward pat, hooked up their leashes, and let them out the door.
Despite their carrying on inside, once Clint and Natasha hit the sidewalk they actually weren’t a complete pain in Nick’s ass. They didn’t pull or bark their heads off, but they did walk along with their ears up and both pee on the same tree at the end of the block. By the time he brought them back (Phil said he walked them a mile every morning, but Phil was a jackass who ate yogurt and did yoga,) their tongues were hanging out and they walked straight to the bowl and drank all their water, then lay down on the kitchen tiles panting. Nick gave them fresh water, stayed ten minutes in case they had to pee again, then bribed them each with a biscuit and left.
Taking care of dogs was easy.
Nick spent the first two days wondering what in hell was going on with Clint and Natasha’s good behavior and actual eagerness to see him, thinking that either his bribes were extremely effective, or maybe they were going to stage a coup or something. Of course, that was before Phil’s neighbor caught on to the fact that Nick was walking dogs.
Phil’s neighbor was a tottering old lady who was probably a relic of World War Two, by the name of Peggy Carter. She had a scrawny tricolored mutt that Nick vaguely recognized as being mostly Border Collie and retriever. (He’d looked shit up after Phil had described how he’d narrowed down what the hell Natasha was, and most mutts in the country were part Labrador retriever. Peggy Carter had helpfully pointed out that you could usually tell: if the dog had webbed feet, they were part of the retriever family. Webbed. Fucking. Feet.) Nick thought the dog looked like a Fido or a Rover if there ever was one, but it only answered to Steve.
Peggy had had her hip replaced for the second time and this was keeping her from taking Steve on their daily walk, which wasn’t good for him in the least. Nick thought about it, then decided that he was going to be in the area anyway, he was already going to be sweaty from walking Clint and Natasha, and he had a doctor’s appointment on the thirty first, so maybe if he lost ten pounds he could get his doctor off his back about the fact that he still ate potato chips. Besides, being around dogs was supposed to lower your cholesterol or some shit like that.
He charged her half of what Phil was paying him, on account of the fact that she was old as dirt and probably on Medicare, despite her crafty secret-agent eyes that kept watching him, and she’d brought him actual, honest-to-god lemonade.
Steve had the advantage of not being the approximate size of a bear, and of acting exactly like a dog should, at least according to Nick’s hazy idea of dogs from tv and books. He wagged his tail at everyone. He fetched. He shook hands. He had a spot over his eye and one ear that was always turned inside out. Nick worked up to walking sixteen blocks combined, (eight with Clint and Natasha, eight with Steve,) twice a day. Clint and Natasha even listened to him when he told them to sit, and sometimes he stuck around for half an hour after the walks so that Clint and Natasha would stop carrying on like Phil had died or something, rather than leaving them for Europe.
On Friday, the fourth day of dog walking, Nick went out for a drink and ran into a friend that used to work in the same building that he and Phil had, years ago before Phil fucked off to the commercial sector to do people’s accounts without getting the stink eye from everyone who didn’t want their budget cut. (Which was, to be fair, every person in the damn bureaucracy, so Phil probably had a point about going somewhere where he’d be hated less.) The guy’s name was Rick Jones, and Nick remembered him mostly as doing something with radio and being way too fucking young. Since Rick worked for the CIA now, and they weren’t being forced to take a furlough, and he had a dog waiting patiently for him at home too while he was working overtime… things just sort of happened.
Rick’s dog, Bruce, was the sort of dog that people didn’t recognize as a breed, just a great big striped rage machine dripping with slobber and with shoulders crisscrossed with scars. To be fair, Rick had been honest upfront about the fact that his dog was almost two hundred pounds of goddamn English Mastiff, but Nick hadn’t known enough to be prepared. Bruce laid his head on Nick’s knee within seconds of his arrival and drooled. The dog practically produced lakes wherever he went.
On the other hand, Bruce was the most Zen dog that Nick had ever met, even though his expertise in dogs wasn’t even a week old at this point. He walked, he stared, he slobbered. That was pretty much it. Nick liked him.
Rick explained how the poor thing had been abused by not just one, but two masters before Rick got his hands on him, and that the second bastard had tried to make Bruce fight. Dogs as big as Bruce generally only lived about eight or nine years, and Bruce had spent half his life at the whims of some sickass control freaks who wanted him to be some sort of weapon.
It was seriously depressing, to the point that Nick actually went back to Phil’s place afterwards and gave Clint and Natasha surprise biscuits. Then he denied to himself that he was actually getting attached to any of the cadre of furry monsters he’d been assembling, while Natasha tried to herd him into Phil’s living room to play tug.
Rick and his dog weren’t a problem, because Rick’s house was only one subway stop from Phil’s… but Rick had to go and tell one of his neighbors that Nick Fury was taking up a temporary job as a full time dog walker. The neighbor was a reclusive programmer genius named Jarvis (and Nick never did figure out if that was his first or last name,) with a British accent, a weird house, and a tuxedo-marked jack russell terrier named Tony.
Nick found out via extremely weird e-mail that Tony barked a lot, chewed things up whenever he was stressed, regularly swallowed pen caps, had playdates with a Sheltie named Rhodey, and regularly got bossed around by Jarvis’ ginger tabby cat, Pepper. What Nick didn’t find out until the first walk was that Tony was actually the worst goddamn dog ever. He did nothing but run in circles like he’d eaten a whole pack of energizer batteries, yap, and pull on the leash, except when he sat or laid down on the sidewalk and refused to move. When Nick picked him up, he got growled at, scratched, and headbutted in his good eye for his trouble. He tripped over Tony four times before Tony peed on his shoe.
Nick seriously considered not going back, but Jarvis was paying him the most out of the lot, and Tony’s walk was the last of the day. When he was done with Tony, he usually stopped in at Phil’s again to borrow an hour of his superior cable (hey, the guy was still paying for it even when he wasn’t using it,) and watch Breaking Bad while Clint pranced around the room like a dumbass, bringing him tennis balls and Phil’s socks. Nick thought it was disgusting and sort of hilarious, and Natasha seemed to agree. He had an agreement with Natasha that if she didn’t tell Phil about the cable, he wouldn’t tell Phil that she’d been busy shedding on his couch.
It took him until the tenth to think of walking them all together, which was a good idea in theory.
Clint, Natasha, and Steve were the kind of dogs who could walk for miles, and well behaved too, so he let Steve exchange a round of curious face and butt sniffs with the other two, tied all three leashes together, and headed down to the neighborhood where Rick and Jarvis lived.
The first stumbling block came when all three of the dogs were afraid of Bruce and his deep, booming bark. Tails went stiff, hackles were raised, and Natasha even growled at Bruce, which was a sound that Nick had never even thought would come out of her mouth. By some sort of miracle, though, nobody bit anybody else, mostly because poor Bruce cowered under the combined menace of Clint and Natasha and then submitted to Steve’s cautious inspection by nose.
The second problem was, of course, fucking Tony.
Nick had tied all four dogs to the nearest tree and was just using his key to open the door when Tony ran up his leg, used him as a goddamn springboard, and launched himself right out across the lawn like he thought he was some hot shit. He barreled right over and got up in Bruce’s face yipping and yapping and growling with his head down and his paws up everywhere.
There was a terrible moment where Nick fantasized about Bruce actually taking a chomp, right before he remembered that Tony was his responsibility and that he should be worried that Bruce would swallow Tony whole like a cocktail sausage.
Bruce… didn’t. In fact, when Nick caught up to them, his tail was wagging. He sniffed at Tony (who wouldn’t hold still or shut the fuck up,) and then let out a great, big, happy bark that made Tony practically backflip, which lead directly to Nick actually catching the little bastard and dragging him back to the door by the collar for his leash. It wasn’t dignified, having to stoop down, but if he’d picked Tony up the little shit would probably have peed on him again.
Fortunately for Nick, when he got them all moving again Tony ignored him in favor of running back and forth through the other dogs’ legs, yapping periodically, trying to zoom off into the grass only to get himself choked by his own collar, and generally annoying the shit out of all the other dogs. He and Steve had a growling match that Nick cut short by a quick yank on both their leashes, but compared to the first time he’d had to walk Tony, they were actually making good time to the park. And nobody had bitten anybody else so far.
Of course, that was before a husky ran up out of nowhere, jumped on Clint, and took off. Then Clint ducked out of his own damn collar and took off after it, which meant that the entire assemblage of dogs took off after Clint with Natasha in the lead, dragging Nick and an empty collar behind while Nick yelled himself horse trying to get them to cut it the fuck out.
Even without Clint, the combined force of the dogs outweighed Nick by about a hundred pounds. Maybe a hundred and ten pounds if you counted Tony. Either way, it was all Nick could do to hang on and not faceplant and be dragged to his death like some sort of dog charioteer, and that wasn’t going to last long.
They barely made it across the street and to the park (miraculously without being hit by any cars,) before the loosely tied leashes were ripped out of Nick’s hands and the dogs swarmed like furry, barking bees. Nick could only watch as Steve, Natasha, and Tony homed in on the luckless husky and bowled him over. Bruce followed them halfway and then gave up and lay down, panting, in the nearest patch of shade, and Clint was still zooming around the park in figure eights because he was a goddamn dingus. How the hell had that dog ever been a bomb sniffer?
Fortunately, even though it was Saturday, nobody was around to witness Nick’s dogs massacring the husky with their slobbery wet tongues, or the fact that Steve and Tony were fucking standing on it – actually, Tony was chewing on its tail, because he was an asshole with fur – so he marched up to Bruce, grabbed a hold of his leash, and made to drag him over to a bench to tie him down so he could catch the rest of his morons. Nick looked up just in time to see an absolutely massive golden retriever burst out of the bushes and knock Tony tail-over snout into the grass.
Steve, for some reason known only to God and people who actually liked dogs, took exception to this, and bared his teeth at the retriever despite being about two thirds of its size, and the two of them proceeded to demolish a flowerbed by jumping on each other and rolling around, with Tony trailing after them like a caffeinated comet on a spring. Nick took the opportunity to collar the husky so he wouldn’t cause more trouble, and drag him over to Bruce’s bench, where he tied him down with the other end of Bruce’s leash and some creative knotwork.
Then it occurred to him: where the fuck was Natasha?
“Clint! Natasha! Come here now!” Nick yelled at the park in general, hoping that they hadn’t been hit by a hotdog cart or something. The last thing he wanted was to have to explain to Phil that one of his precious children had been run over by a food vendor and that the other had gone on a hunger strike because Phil’s dogs were a pair of codependent little shits who Nick absolutely had not taken a picture of curled up together on Phil’s pillow this morning.
Fortunately for Nick, Natasha came trotting up to him, trailing a Clint who had finally started acting like a reasonable being, and who clearly knew that he’d been acting like an idiot, given that his tail and nose were almost dragging the ground. Nick got Clint’s collar back on him and dragged them both over to the bench that was serving him as a timeout box.
Three things happened then.
The husky from hell slipped out of the knot Nick had used to tie him to Bruce. The retriever, who saw him take off, came speeding towards the bench like a thunderbolt, trailing Steve and Tony - and Bruce, who had apparently been infected with the crazy like everyone else, pulled his leash so hard he flipped the motherfucking bench over.
As soon as the bench went over, Clint and Natasha were loose too. They didn’t quite knock Nick over. He did an awkward sort of half-flop onto the tipped-over bench and watched as chaos was born from the ashes of his once-glorious dog-walking initiative.
He’d just gotten back on his feet and was about to go start grabbing dogs again when the first squirrel appeared like it had dropped from a hole in the sky. If Nick had thought his dogs were unmanageable before, he’d been wrong. At the first sign of squirrel, they all went absolutely nuts.
At any given point in the next fifteen minutes, at least two dogs were chasing the husky (or being chased by the husky, Nick wasn’t entirely sure,) and the rest were trying to singlehandedly murder all the squirrels in DC. The park was filled with every range of bark from Tony’s yapping to Bruce’s actually fucking scary Cujo bark. Nick tried to get them back, but the collective dog mass was about two and a half times his size and in seven different places at once, as well as being one hell of a lot faster than him. It didn’t work. The little fuckers were hyped up and squirrel crazed and it wasn’t like they’d ever listened to him in the first place.
One thing was for sure: he was never walking all of his dogs together again.
Four tipped-over trashcans, two decimated flowerbeds, and a ringing headache later, it was all over. The Husky had made the mistake of trying to barrel straight through a squirrel-mad Bruce, and been knocked right back down into the grass with Bruce snarling at him. The husky rolled right over and showed Bruce his belly and just like that, the fight was over.
All the dogs crowded around to see, and Nick was able to gather up Clint, Bruce, Steve, and Natasha by stepping on their leashes so they couldn’t run away again. Then, he problem solved a little by hooking Clint to Natasha to ensure his continuing good behavior, and borrowed Clint’s leash for the husky from hell. The goddamn golden retriever had the nerve to walk up to him wagging, so he got clipped to the husky and tied to the nearest light pole like Bruce and Steve already were, alongside Natasha and Clint.
Nick checked the tags on the husky and the golden, only to find that they had no phone numbers. Instead, the golden retriever’s tag read Thor: please return to Odin Alfodr. Weirdly enough, the husky belonged to the same guy, except the husky’s name was Loki and when Nick looked into its cunning demon eyes (seriously, it had one green and one blue eye, which was about the spookiest thing Nick had ever seen,) he was tempted to just find a phone booth and call the dogcatcher. Assuming they still had a dogcatcher in Washington DC.
It struck Nick that he was still missing somebody. Who, though? After a quick head count, he came up with one ridiculously big dog, Phil’s pair of fucking wolves, Steve lying half on top of Bruce, two mysterious troublemakers… and no Tony.
Tony had apparently missed the memo, and was still yapping up a storm while trying to tree every squirrel in Maryland. Nick thought that if he kept up like he was, he’d either end up stuck in a tree like a cat, or pass out from barking more than he could breathe. Fortunately for Nick, Tony was distracted enough to be easy to catch and drag back to Steve and Bruce’s pole.
Nick looked at the seven dogs he had chained to three street lights, and decided that whatever professional dog walkers got paid, it wasn’t enough. Then he crossed the street to one of the park vendors’ carts and bought himself some Shawarma, low cholesterol diet be damned. He’d earned it.