hunger - chapter 2
Hunger master post.
The dog is still breathing when Stiles clambers out of the back of the SUV that hit it. The driver is in shock, and has been apologizing profusely ever since it happened. And Stiles knows it’s not the guy’s fault. The dog was going for the man who’d hurt Stiles in the alley, and ran out in front of the SUV. Which makes this Stiles’s fault, doesn’t it?
The animal clinic isn’t open, but there’s a light on inside and someone moving around, so Stiles bangs on the door. It’s opened by a dark-haired boy who looks no older than him.
“My dog,” is all Stiles manages to get out before he’s crying again.
The boy and the driver carry the dog inside on a picnic blanket from the back of the driver’s SUV, and into the examination room. Stiles curls his fingers through the dog’s ruff, and leans down close to his ear to whisper to him again how sorry he is.
The driver slips toward the door, and Stiles thinks about chasing after him for a second and demanding he pay the bill for whatever this is going to cost, but what if the guy refuses? Then the dark-haired boy will know Stiles has no money.
“It’s okay,” he whispers to the dog instead. “You’ll be okay.”
The dark-haired boy checks for a heartbeat. “His heart sounds good,” he says. He runs his hands though the dog’s fur. “I think maybe his leg is broken, and some ribs?” His forehead wrinkles with a frown as he carefully manipulates the dog’s hind leg. “Actually, maybe it’s not a break. I should really call my boss in. I just work here after school.”
“Vet school?” Stiles asks, still sniffling.
“High school,” the boy answers. He wrinkles his nose as he presses his knuckles gently against the dog’s ribcage. “I could have sworn I felt a break a second ago. He really needs an x-ray.”
Stiles nods, despite the jolt of worry that goes through him. He can’t afford that. He’s got three dollars and seventy cents in the pocket of his jeans. He’s got nothing. And, when the boy turns his worried gaze from the dog to Stiles, and rakes it down his body, he knows he can tell.
It doesn’t matter how clean Stiles tries to keep himself. It doesn’t matter if he washes his spare shirt under the faucet in the diner bathroom every few days. He’s still filthy. He can’t remember the last time he showered, or washed his hair. He can’t remember the last time he ate something that wasn’t greasy or half-rotten. He knows he looks like shit. He knows he probably stinks like shit too, and so does the dog.
The boy runs his fingers through the dog’s fur again. “Is this a wolf hybrid?”
“I don’t…I don’t know.”
The boy casts him a worried look. “You’re not supposed to own them in California.”
Stiles feels a sudden flash of panic. He moves forward and nudges the boy out of the way. “We’ll go. We’ll just go.”
The dog blinks his eyes open and fixes his gaze on Stiles.
“Dude,” the boy says, sounding reproachful and regretful all at once, “I’m not going to report you. Just, if anyone finds out, he might get seized and put down.”
The dog rumbles out a growl.
“He’s fine,” Stiles says, his voice catching. “He’s fine, right?”
“Um… I guess?” The boy looks puzzled. “He looked pretty bad when you got him here though. I really should call my boss.”
“No!” Stiles tugs at the dog’s ruff. “Come on. Come on, boy. Please get up. Come on.”
The dog rumbles again.
The boy puts a hand on Stiles’s shoulder. “Dude, don’t freak out, okay? I won’t call my boss if you don’t want me to. I won’t…” He chews his bottom lip for a moment. “You’re homeless, right?”
Stiles feels stripped bare, cold and naked. His breath hitches, and he jerks his chin in a nod.
“Look,” the boy says, squaring his shoulders. “I’m gonna give your dog some fluids, no charge, because I can really use the practice, and my mom packed me some dinner that I haven’t eaten yet. You want some?”
Stiles blinks at him for a moment. “What?”
“Homemade tamales,” the boy says, and wrinkles his nose. “I’m Scott, by the way.”
“St-Stiles,” Stiles says, his heart thumping loudly.