Both cats felt utter dismay, caught off guard for the moment upon seeing him. Venger if that was his name wore no collar, no human license that marked him as a tamed dog. They could see his hackles pinioning up along the ridge of his back, his lips curling up to reveal razor sharp teeth that glistened pale whitish yellow in the moonlight stained as they were from living off scraps and his findings around the city.
The single most identifying marking on the canine was that one of his ears was a light brown matched only by a patch set diagonally across from it that covered the fur around his right eye. Aside from that he was as black as night.
Denali felt his heart beating hard against his chest, hammering away at his insides in perfect sync to his breathing. Trying not to show much fear he gulped and sat wet as he was, grooming a forepaw and meeting Venger's hungry gaze with a casual one.
"This...this is Bernard and I'm Denali. We didn't mean any harm here Venger" he meowed smoothly struggling to keep his tone from betraying how on edge he really was. "Me and my friend here needed to use the fountain...I fell in a nasty bit of mud near the pier last night and he was kind enough to show me to this place."
"So this is all his fault" the mutt growled?
"No! Not at all...he was helping me" Denali hissed hoping that he hadn't made a mess of things.
"What are ya trying to do Den, get me shredded by this guy" Bernard hissed?
"No....but maybe you should talk to him" he replied hanging his head in defeat. "I'm too cold to be thinking straight."
Bernard turned back to the dog his ears flicking back on themselves in a sure sign of apprehension. Taking note of this Denali prepared himself, priming the muscles in his body should they have to run. For his part he hoped that they wouldn't although he knew the chances of it grew with every moment they sat under those piercing eyes.
"Bottom line is that we're sorry for trespassing and we'll leave" Bernard meowed. "We meant no harm in coming here and we are sincerely sorry."
"Yeah I'll bet you are" the dog growled his jowls for the first time lifting in what could be taken as a smile. "The question is how or what did your friend here...Denali do to himself to get all muddy like that? I've never seen one of you felines in such a state."
Somewhat defensively Denali fluffed up his fur licking his chest in embarrassment.
"I was chased by some dogs and I had to hide myself somehow so I opted to hide in as much muck as I could find. Was the only way I could think to lose them" he muttered flicking his tail from side to side.
"Well I guess if a dog did that to you then it's only right that another offers you a way to clean it off" Venger chuckled disarmingly flopping down on the grass.
Is this dog actually being friendly?
Distrustful as he was Denali could almost feel a warmth to the black mutt that was comforting. On an impulse he wanted to trust the smiling face, he wanted to trust the dog and more importantly he wanted to be sure that things wouldn't change for the worst with Venger chasing them and him not being quick enough to escape.
He shivered licking his fur and trying to get it to lie flat along his skin.
"So you aren't going to chase us off, eat us..." Bernard inquired cautiously staring at Venger.
Without a moments hesitation Venger guffawed, his jowls shaking slightly and his teeth hitting together as with a raised brow his eyes stared at them altogether entertained and twinkling with a mock sympathy. It was almost like he felt sorry that they weren't smart enough to have put two and two together when faced with something obvious.
"Eat you? Of course I'm not going to eat you!"
Watching them both breath twin sighs of relief his grin widened.
"Most dogs like you cats to think that we would...kinda a reputation thing we have to uphold. Don't get me wrong, chasing you little fur balls is great! Not many I know however that would actually attempt to eat cats for the fun of it. Besides...you" he nodded towards Denali, "just barely have managed to rid yourself of the muck I saw coating you....any appetite I could've harbored for attempting digesting you kinda went out the window."
Denali and the dog laughed at the joke together, Denali finding it truly funny even in such strange circumstances. He noted that Bernard chuckled along although on his part it seemed forced and nervous.
Shaking with mirth he tumbled off of the lip of the fountain, laying on his back with the dog nearby holding his sides.
"I must've looked quite the sight for you to be put off Venger, but I must say I'm relieved that it did!"
"Y....you surely did! Looking like a walking talking pile of shit and leavings!"
Both howled with laughter amid Bernard's warning hisses.
"What the hell are you doing Den? He'll attack! He'll catch you unawares! Damn it! You don't just trust a dog when he says something! Denali! Oh you both are hopeless!"
Heedless of his friend Denali continued laughing with the dog, both of them chortling along like it was the most natural thing in the world. He knew full well what he was doing and he knew that somewhere in the back of his mind that he was used to analyzing character and being able to tell when someone meant him harm and when someone didn't.
Where Venger was concerned he sensed nothing to suggest dislike or anything that wasn't genuinely friendly. Infact he was beginning to like the dog. Crude humor was always endearing between friends when it was in good taste.
After some time both lay out on the smooth evenly cut grass panting, Bernard still shaking his head though it seemed to be in some admiration.
"I've got to admit I've never seen anything like this. A dog and a cat laughing together like old chums reuniting."
"Oh keep your fur on" Venger growled his tail tapping the ground behind him. "Anyways it's healthy to laugh."
"It is indeed" Denali said agreeably his chest rising and falling as he slowly gained control of his breathing.
"But he's a dog Denali!"
"So I am right enough. Doesn't mean I'm all fangs Bernard."
His vision filled with the black of the sky and the stars above them Denali sighed inwardly his mind soon diverted from their conversation as his belly gave a loud rumble, quite audible to the others.
A tad embarrassed he flipped over into a sitting position, casting a sheepish smile at Venger and Bernard who in turn grinned back in complete understanding. Hunger pulsed in his gut a second time like a demanding beast begging to be sated and fed, driving all coherent thought to the back of his mind and replacing it with the need for dinner. Thinking more on it, the last time that he had eaten had to have been before today, back in that hole in his mind where there were nothing but huge gaps where scenes of his life and identity should have been waiting for him to draw on whenever he felt he wanted to. He hissed silently in frustration, keeping a calm mask on the surface while he seethed inwardly. Not knowing anything about the world in his past let alone not knowing anything about himself was getting annoying to the ginger tom. He wanted answers or else someway to divert his mind and forget, moving on with who he was now and what other cats, dogs, prey, humans saw in him.
He was nothing special he knew. Or at least he wanted to know, going on about the simple day to day routines of a normal domestic feline.
Yet somehow, somewhere at the edges of that black hole in his being rested a lingering doubt that wouldn't let him.
How had he received so much pain, what had cause it and left him alone, hurt, covered with mud and barely clinging to life like nothing more then a lost kitten without it's mother?
And then there was that burn mark on his chest, small, nearly hidden by a raised bit of the white fur that wound down to meet his belly. He hadn't seen it but he had sure felt it, the mud had covered it and congealed inward invading the small wound, then he had felt it again when he washed in the fountain, the water stinging and acting as a non to gentle reminder of that small unexplained area of exposed skin.
It took all of his willpower to keep both of his forepaws from rising to explore the area he could feel pulsing with flamed anger. All he could hope for was that it wasn't infected.
Not having memories was one thing but having to explain this new piece of information every time he met someone new, intolerable. Being honest with himself he couldn't be sure how anyone would take it well even if they found out about it conviently and were given time to process what it could mean. He wasn't even sure that he could himself.
An accident? A fire...some sort of event that had brought him away from anything that sparked memory or rekindled buried bits of himself. Something like that most often couldn't be easily explained or be passed off as something small. Whatever had happened to him had reason behind it, almost enough of a reason for him to begin to suspect that fate or bad luck hadn't been the only thing that 'helped' him arrive where he was now. Infact the only lucky part of the whole ordeal was that he was alive when whoever or whatever had put him on a course to that dock had probably wanted him dead, bringing him as close to passing away as they could, overconfidence, pride, assurity perhaps underestimating his will to hang on had been the one thing to have saved him.
There he went again...
Jumping to conclusions. Maybe his thoughts just wanted direction, maybe he wanted something to believe and maybe perhaps he was being too harsh concerning himself. Fate perhaps had made him the unlucky player in some twisted and cruel game where he had fumbled into losing everything (whatever everything was).
But that left him with absolutely nothing but then simply accepting himself as some inconsequential creature. Although he wasn't by any means selfish or self centered that didn't seem to be enough for him.
Until he could find clues or things that jogged it all back he would assume the worst and be wary of anything that could lead him back along whatever dark path he had come down.
He had been wronged and he intended to make it his mission as well as his purpose to find out how, down to every last detail and why, whether or not other motives beyond his own played their own roles somewhere along the way...
Snapping back from his thoughts Denali tried to alleviate his worries and focus on the present, noticing for the first time that two pairs of eyes were staring at him and probing his privacy.
"Speaking of fangs" he murmured steadily dropping each word with deliberation, "are either of you hungry?"
"I am for sure ready to stuff my face" Bernard said eagerly rising to his paws and leaping down to join him. "What sounds good?"
"I could show you a nice place" Venger woofed enthusiastically bouncing up to his own paws and startling them. Denali was more amused then scared warming to the idea of having a dog around.
"There's a place not far, an alley round the back of a café called Little Italy" Venger continued giving himself a shake truly unaware of how abrupt he had been.
"Sounds delightful" Denali meowed nodding his head at the thought of good free human food. "Lead the way Venger...I'm afraid that I'm kinda new to town and don't know my way around here. Gotta say it's lucky I stumbled upon you two."
"Lucky you then Den" Bernard smirked. "More then likely we'll both be food for this hungry dog here who's tricking us into following him around town with promises of something good to eat. More then likely we'll trust him and regret it later when his teeth are sinking into our necks and he's laughing at what fools he made of us!"
"He'll do no such thing ya paranoid furball" Denali grumbled before turning to Venger as they padded out of the park. "You...won't eat us....will you?"
"Definitely not, your both too fuzzy and besides, where we're going the food beats most other choices out there! That is unless you happen to be a pampered lay about pet of the humans getting prime bones or in your case...milk, saucers of cream and fish. Maybe kitty litter" he added winking at them knowingly.
"Ya'know, contrary to belief not all of us cats are hopeless when faced with that stuff" Denali scoffed shaking his head adamantly in mock seriousness.
"Oh really?" Bernard asked playing along with him.
"I do find that hard to believe pal, you cats go head over paws for the stuff whenever there's any close by..."
"Well there's always a first for everything. Who knows, maybe I'll surprise ya someday Venger."
Weaving his tail up and aloft back and forth he wasn't prepared for what the dog said next.
"You already did once tonight when I first clapped eyes on a walking talking clump of shit. Maybe there was more to that then I first believed. Maybe sometimes you will surprise me. But most times it'll be in ways that you'd rather not try, or happy accidents where I can thoroughly enjoy the stunned look on your face."
The three laughed, two purring and merowling with glee and the third panting and yipping as they made their way towards town.
Entering the city was like entering a whole new world. Each street was festooned with traffic lights that somehow directed the humans' monsters this way and that on their courses here and there along the crisscrossed black paths. Tall buildings rose along the banks of these, green, red, yellow on the roads and in the apartments, blue and purple setting the mood for the bars and the dance clubs that allowed views inside, large dirty windows allowing some visibility to an even darker place where humans celebrated on their own terms without reason, holiday or an occasion that called for it. They were for this short time of twilight free as the wind and unbound by the chains, the collars and leads that their own society bound to them.
There were flashing rays of shimmering strobes, loud noises, honks, cries, a mass of sounds which baffled him and caused awe to bloom for them all in the pit of his chest. This was the ultimate power, this was why the humans dominated the earth and why all else had to find ways to coexist with them or die away before the wave of strength and ingenuity.
For the first time in the short time since he first had woken on the pier Denali felt admiration like he never had before. Were humans the only creatures that could manage something of this scale? More intriguing to wonder if it had ever been attempted?
Mostly Bernard waddled along talking animatedly about some she-cat that had caught his attention the last time he had gone fishing. She had been with her human family and watched closely, too closely for him to have gotten close enough to introduce himself much to his own dissatisfaction. Crestfallen even now he explained how he could still see her bright face, her perfect whiskers and large dewy eyes catching his a couple of times while he hid nearby and later when she had left.
It was unfair. Simply cruel of them to take her from him!
Venger commented here and there, offering his empathy and advice before launching into park life, territory fights and the place they were headed to. Little Italy and the alleyway that proffered the plentiful and utterly scrumptious garbage mounds, some of it in the easily accessible barrels while some lay available along the overflowing dumpsters themselves.
The black dog drooled more as he led them onward through the streets and past dozens of shops and stores, past a gas station filled with excited people, a diner of sorts called Joe's and then there it was before them.
Enclosed on a sectioned off parking lot was the restaurant, a large blinking sign that read Little Italy greeting them with a warm heavenly glow that bounced off of the ground and shone with green and pink ambience. The smell though was the most welcoming of all leading them off past the building itself to a broken and cracked sidewalk that wound around behind and in-between the establishment and the complexes and motels bunched up across the way.
"Holy hairball can you smell that!?"
Bernard whooped and sprinted to the nearest barrel throwing himself against it and straining before scurrying out of the way as it finally keeled over with a loud crash.
Shaking his head Venger trotted over to inspect the now scattered trash.
"Looks like a treasure trove pal! Next time though maybe you could be more careful. Here, I'll show ya how" he growled eager to show what he meant.
Bernard backed off further as the mutt went to another barrel close by and sniffed at it. Then elevating himself on his hind legs Venger hooked his forepaws along the lip of it pulling slowly down towards himself until it flopped silently on it's side spewing only a little while allowing crawl space further in.
"There ya go" he said his chest swelling with pride as he motioned a paw towards the rubbish invitingly.
Striding up and nosing around Denali grinned up at Venger with amusement.
"Very impressive my friend. Probably a less attention grabbing technique" he meowed watching the smug expression moving across Vengers' face, his hanging muzzle turning up comically at the edges.
"However...." he hinted.
"What's wrong" the dog barked questioningly?
"Well....that is the best way but unfortunately for me and Bernard, we're not as tall or as strong as you and can't reach."
Seeing the smile drop he quickly flicked his tail along one of his friends' paws seeking to amend what he'd said.
"No worries though, couldn't have found this place without cha and eating with a friend is better then eating alone."
"Not sure you mean that" Venger said raising eyebrow with amusement while he chomped down on a meatball with a savory lick, fettuccini sauce thick upon his chops where he'd scuffed around a garbage bag and been met with the delicious concoction. "But you're right Denali. I'm glad you two decided to visit the fountain tonight and that I had the pleasure of running into you both."
"Likewise, I'm glad that we met you though I wish I had been in a better state when we did. My first impressions are never the way I want them to be."
These meatballs are amazing! And the noodles are still fresh!
"I liked your first appearance Den" Venger chuckled before burping audibly. "I'm not going to forget that in a hurry!"
Shaking his head Denali dug deeper into his share his tail flicking with sheer excitement at the wonderful things greeting his eyes, soon to be digested into his thankful stomach. He was starving and the food was perfect, plentiful and filling.
The 'Only' thing that could top this off would be a bit of milk!
For his part he more then ate his fill, rummaging around content on taking his time and scarfing down whatever he came in contact with that agreed with his tastes. With this much food, being picky wasn't a crime it became a possibility and one that rewarded those who explored what that meant.
Instead of having to stuff himself with any old thing and worrying about when next he could expect a meal Denali went about choosing only the most tasty morsels to eat, allowing himself room in his belly and treating his taste buds with the savory leftovers that the humans had decided to throw away. Why did they end up throwing all of this lovely food out anyhow? It was beyond his comprehension to understand at any rate, however as long as it meant that he could expect banquets like this every once in a while he wasn't complaining!
Oh no, quite the contrary. He basked in the thought! He reveled in it and bathed himself in food while selecting what he would add to his dinner completely submerged as he was. However long it had been since the last time he had eaten he could feel and comprehend just how hungry he had been and for the first time in his recollection...being sated in the most eloquent way possible was just that. Completely possible. He was in heaven, utterly lost to himself and the stream of pleasures he allowed to become part of the night.
After what seemed an eternity he reemerged from the bin and the mounds of garbage, the animal in his gut sated in the most wonderful way.
He felt he could sleep the rest of the night through and not have any qualms about it later.
Unfortunately fate had different plans in store for him....
Being the first to have finished his meal he took up a position at the head of the alleyway to groom himself while his friends continued gorging themselves.
Bernard still apparently uncomfortable with Venger had taken to delving inside one of the dumpsters further down the back way, the only visible bit of him his striped rear end which weaved back and forth almost as much as his tail did.
" Must be finding some great stuff!" Denali thought to himself giving a small amused purr.
Venger was putting away food like a champion having tipped over a third barrel and using his teeth to part the black elastic bags to get to the goods within was bolting down food at an alarming rate. His muzzle was outrageously adorned with sauces and fragments of meat that he hadn't licked off yet while he smacked his lips and every so often winked at Denali from his place, tail constantly wagging.
Probably will eat more then me and Bernard put together! Not that surprising really though come to think of it. He is a dog after all....
What a trio they made!
I really do wonder if we could go on like this? The three of us living together and watching out for each others backs, could work.
Venger could perhaps keep other dogs at bay and he seems to know a great deal about the city, far more then I can remember. With our cunning and his strength we'd be quite formidable as a pack, a team! The best of both worlds, us watching out for dogcatchers and him keeping us safe from others like him.
Of course this might all be just a one time thing. Maybe the guy got a wild hare and thought he'd dine with two felines tonight for some reason. Might've been how pathetic I looked before I was able to wash.
Haven't been able to live THAT one down yet and I haven't known either of them for very long. Oh well!
I like them! For sure better then being alone!
Not sure how long Bernard wants to be around a dog...might have to talk to them both about it later...
Yeah! That's it!
After they finish eating and we all settle down for the night I'll see what they would think of this arrangement we could have.
Happy with his new idea he licked a paw and ran it rhythmically over his face while constantly licking at the pads and making sure to settle his whiskers down at a smooth and proper angle. Then came his chest which he set about with vigor, his tongue rasping across his fur and flattening it soothingly.
It felt so good that he had closed his eyes in the process totally lost to everything else around him.
"Denali! Move! Denali...move if you value your life."
It was Vengers' voice slow and steady as if he was trying to keep from aggravating something dangerous, yet his tone was dead serious. He shivered slightly as he picked up the steely urgency in the dogs' voice.
The blood pulsed in his ears then with pure fear. Something was poking the space between his face and his chest, something with teeth near where his neck met his body, something cold, hard and wet...
A blast of hot rabid breath blew over him, engulfed his senses and he knew what it was........