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Tootsie gets a dog and Tessa isn't exactly thrilled about it.
''So she's all moved in,'' Steve commented as they got out of the car. He frowned up at the town house. ''Pretty fast after that whole debacle…''
''What do you think she called us for?'' Tessa asked as they walked up to the door.
''It's a house warming, Tess. See, when people have friends-''
''I know what a house warming is,'' Tessa cut in sharply. ''What I mean is she said she had a surprise. What do you think it is?''
''Only one way to find out.'' Steve ran the doorbell with a smirk.
There was shuffling on the other side, and then Tootsie opened the door. ''Here you are!'' She declared. ''Now everyone's here. Come in, come in!''
Fisk and Dee were already here, the former on the couch, his usual stoic self, and the other on the floor, looking very excited. ''Look what Tootsie's got!'' Dee announced.
Steve and Tessa entered. ''Oh my god!'' Steve laughed, seeing what Dee was holding. ''Toots, a dog?''
''His name's Rufus,'' Tootsie said proudly. ''Isn't he darling?''
''What kind is he?''
''St. Bernard, by the looks of him,'' Fisk said, watching the puppy with a bored look. ''Get big for this little place of your's, Imogen.''
''He'll fit just fine,'' Tootsie refuted.
Steve crouched next to Dee, the puppy between them. He came over to sniff at Steve. ''How old is he?'' Dee asked.
''Like I said,'' Fisk repeated, ''He'll get big.''
Tootsie rolled her eyes. ''Tessa,'' she said, ''Aren't you going to come in?''
Steve turned, surprised to see his partner still hovering near the door. ''Oh, no,'' Tessa said evasively. ''Wouldn't want to…crowd…it…''
''Told you, not enough room,'' Fisk said. Dee picked Rufus up and put him in Fisk's face. ''Watch it, Constable!''
''He's getting offended at your comments about his size.'' She pushed the puppy closer to him. ''Apologize.''
The lighthearted moment was interrupted by the sound of a mobile. Tessa quickly answered. Even from the one sided remarks, Steve knew what it was about before Tessa said it. ''Steve? We've got a case.''
Steve stood up with a sigh. ''See you in a bit then,'' he said to the room. He scratched Rufus' ears. ''Except you, of course.''
''Be a real guard dog when he's bigger, yeah?'' Dee asked.
''Indeed,'' Tootsie said proudly.
''I think that was the point I was making all along,'' Fisk remarked.
''Oh, let it go, Lance…''
Steve smiled as he and Tessa exited the house. ''Well, there was the surprise, Tess-'' he stopped, noticing her face. ''You alright?''
''Hmm?'' Maybe it was the sun, but Steve thought she looked deathly pale. Her hands were shoved in her pockets, but he was pretty certain they had been trembling at her side a moment ago. ''Yeah, why?''
''Because you look like you're going to pass out.''
She gave an uneasy laugh. ''Don't be ridiculous. Now, come on. Malcom's waiting.''
It was a busy, gruesome case, with multiple victims, and so Tootsie was practically living in the morgue. As he always looked for any excuse to not be in the place, he decided to volunteer to do something useful. ''Would you like me to pop over to your house and feed Rufus?''
Tootsie beamed at him. ''That would be wonderful. Thank you, Steve.''
It was hardly a chore, and really, a much better thing to do than sitting around the cold autopsy room. The arrangement suited Steve fine. Tessa, not so much.
''Why are we at Tootsie's?'' She asked as Steve parked.
''I said I'd check in on Rufus for her,'' Steve explained. ''It'll only take a moment. Let him out, make sure he's got water.''
Okay, he wasn't imagining it this time, Tessa's face was very pale. ''I'll wait here, then,'' she said.
Steve shrugged. ''All right.''
Just as he was getting out of the car, his phone rang. He checked it. ''Malcom,'' he mouthed to Tessa. She rolled her eyes and with obvious reluctance, followed him up the walk as Steve answered the phone and put it on speaker.
Malcom was just updating them on what the background checks on the victims had turned up. By the time they had reached Tootsie's back garden, he'd hung up. ''Well, something to look forward to when we get back,'' Steve said with false cheerfulness, thinking of the mountains of paperwork and inquires they'd have to follow up with. He found the spare key Tootsie had told him about. ''Be on our way in a second…''
Rufus was already at the back door, watching them through the screen. His tongue was out, panting at them in excitement.
''I think I'll just head back to the car,'' Tessa said as he put the key in the door.
''All right,'' Steve said, turning it. ''Watch out, boy-''
''If you could just wait-''
But Steve had already opened the door. Rufus barreled out like a shot, running first to Steve, then to Tessa, running around them in circles.
Steve laughed at the dog's excitement, but Tessa's reaction was not the same. ''Get him away! Get him away!''
''He's just saying hi,'' Steve explained, sitting back in the grass.
Tessa was standing stock still in the garden, watching with almost horror at the puppy, who had stopped running in circles, and was now pawing at her clothes. ''Steve, it's touching me. Make him stop!''
There was a shrillness to her voice that Steve found both worrisome and inappropriate. He clapped his hands and whistled. ''Rufus!''
The dog's attention was diverted from Tessa to him, and he came charging at Steve, greeting him with jumps and licks. ''Yes, good boy! Who's a good boy?''
Steve laughed at the dog's exuberance. ''See, he's a just saying hi,'' he said again to Tessa. He got Rufus in his arms and helped him stand up on his back legs. ''Just saying hi to his Aunt Tess.'' He waved Rufus' paw at her for emphasis.
Tessa shuffled a step back. ''I'm- I'm going to the car now,'' she said shakily, sounding short of breath. ''Just- just give me the keys.''
''Why don't you like him?'' Steve pressed. ''He's just a puppy.''
''Keys, please, Steve.''
''He's not going to hurt you.''
''I didn't say he was.''
''Then give him a pet.''
''Just a cuddle. Look at that face.''
''Because I don't like dogs.''
''Just give me the keys!''
''But-'' And then an idea occurred to Steve, one that filled him with shame. ''Oh…Tess…'' Those stormy eyes of her's flashed in anger. ''C'mon…''
She threw her hands in the air. ''You know what? Forget the keys. I'll walk. See you at the office.''
And she marched out of the garden, latching the gate with shaky hands behind her. Steve watched her go with growing embarrassment at himself. Of course she didn't like dogs…
Rufus whined in his lap. ''I know, buddy. Me too…''
Steve and Tessa didn't speak of the incident for several days, mostly due to the case occupying their time. But once it was closed, suspect in custody, Steve felt like he had to say something. So he went to her apartment.
She greeted him with an arched eyebrow. ''Something wrong?''
''No, just…'' he gestured inside. ''Can I come in?''
Tessa frowned, but conceded. ''Yeah, sure.''
He entered, and she closed the door behind him. ''Um, I just wanted to apologize-'' he began. ''The other day-''
She shook her head. ''No, that was my fault. I was rude-''
''You had every right to be. I- I guess I forgot, sort of.''
Steve could hear her breath catch. ''Yeah, well…I can't.''
''I don't mean I forgot it happened,'' he clarified hastily. ''I just meant…it wasn't me it was happening to, so…look, I'm sorry, okay? Honestly, I just kind of assumed you'd be a dog person.''
The uncomfortable tension broke a little as Tessa laughed. ''What does that mean?''
''I don't know,'' Steve admitted. ''I could see you with a furry sidekick. No offense to your fish, of course.''
''I've never been fond of dogs. At least, not really. I've never hated dogs. I just…can't be around them anymore.''
''Yeah,'' she answered. ''I just get sort of…panicked.''
Steve nodded. ''I get it.''
He watched her shuffle her feet. ''I don't want to be,'' she said, as if he had accused her of something.
''I'm sure you don't.''
''I can't help it.''
''I mean, I've tried. My neighbor Willis has got three dogs. Tiniest little things. Doesn't matter how sweet she says they are, I just…can't be around them.''
''I believe you, Tess,'' Steve assured her. ''I'm sorry I didn't realize sooner. You don't owe any explanations.''
Steve thought she looked a little relieved at that, thought her fingers still did a nervous dance in front of her. There seemed to be something she was on the verge of saying, so he waited, watching her.
Tessa licked her lips. ''I think-'' she began, but stopped. Still, Steve waited. ''I think sometimes I can…smell it.''
''The…the spray.'' Her face went red. ''I mean, I don't have the jacket anymore, I got ride of the shirt and pants. I even washed the shoes and threw them out as well. But sometimes I think the scent…lingers.''
''…And if you can smell, a dog could too?''
She nodded. ''It's stupid, I know.''
''It's not stupid,'' he assured her. ''It's just…''
''I was going to say traumatic, but sure, that works to.''
She laughed again, thought Steve really wasn't sure why.
When they parted, Steve- though filled with a new concern for his partner- was relieved that they were on good terms.
''He's learnt stay,'' Steve said again as they walked up the path. ''A good guide dog's got to learn when not to go, yeah?''
''Fisk says he's gotten bigger?'' Tessa mentioned, trying to sound casual. Steve rolled his eyes.
''That man has got to find a new interest than science…'' They reached the gate. ''Alright, so, you unlatch the gate, Tootsie says 'stay!', and you walk in and nothing will happen.''
''How exciting,'' Tessa said dryly. Steve pretended not to notice her wiping her sweaty palms on her sleeves.
''Okay, on your mark, get set-'' He paused for dramatic effect. ''-Go!''
She didn't move. He poked her gently. ''Go,'' he said again.
Tessa took a deep breath. She pushed open the gate.
A bark came from near the house. ''Rufus, stay!'' Tootsie ordered. The dog immediately went on all fours.
Tessa shuffled into the yard. Steve could see her watching the smiling, panting dog with more suspicion than she did their murder suspects.
Tessa gave Rufus a wide berth. She made her way to Tootsie. ''Here,'' she said, her face red, her voice almost a squeak.
''And well done, too,'' Tootsie said approvingly. Even Rufus gave a bark of encouragement.
Tessa would not look at the dog, and didn't relax until they were inside and Rufus was in another room, but still, Steve considered it progress. Tessa did too, if her proud smirk was anything to go by. Nothing could hold his partner back. Nothing.
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