by Hydrargentium

“What’s your name, little one?”

Mason stood for a moment, looking at the little dog, letting it get used to his presence. It didn’t seem like it was going to try to bolt, but its grey-black fur quivered with nervousness.

Crouching down in the tight space. His knees pressed against the walls on either side of him. He held a hand out, knuckles first. The dog shied away, pressing itself into the corner. No growling, but it kept its gaze on his hand, alert black eyes darting furtively up to look at him when it felt brave.

“Hmmmmm, it’s okay,” Mason muttered in low, soothing tones.

He pulled his hand back and tapped it on his calf.

“C’mere, puppy. C’mon over.”

The dog cocked its head, one floppy ear lifting up.

“Come on.” He tapped again.

The dog leaned forward, back no longer pressed into the safety of the corner.

“It’s okay. I’m one of the good guys.” Mason smiled a little stupidly as he spoke. He knew he was, one of the good guys, that is, but he still felt a little dorky saying it like that.

The dog took a couple of tentative steps toward him. Its fur still quivered, and its head hung low as it came forward, but something about its tail seemed to tell Mason that it was a little more relaxed. Mason let his hand hang loose between his knees as the dog approached.

A sniff, a step back, forward, some more sniffs — the back of his hand, under his thumb, and his wrist were all points of interest. Finally, Mason felt the dog was comfortable enough, and he carefully raised one finger to scratch behind a floppy ear.

The dog leaned into it, and he scratched more. Just as carefully, he brought his other hand down and began to scratch the back of its neck. His fingers found a collar under the matted fur, and as he moved it, he heard a jingle. Still scratching with one hand, he found the tag hanging down below, and tilted it into view. The metal was scratched and dirty, but he could read the letters etched into it.

“Well, hi there, Zuzi,” he said, smiling broadly. “I’m Mason.”

Zuzi made a low groan of pleasure as he found a good spot under one ear.

“Nice to meet you.”