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15 April 2014 @ 10:45 am
Ficlet: Vor Puppy  
Here is a completely pointless bit of fluff I found on my hard drive this morning and cheered me up after a 5.30am start. It's an outtake from my old Ivan/Duv fic Disciplinary Problems, the story of Ivan, Duv and the wet puppy. Because some days you just need cute puppies and fluffiness.

It was Duv who finally found him, lurching along an alley half a mile from the embassy. Lieutenant Vorpatril halted when Duv faced him, and said, "Oh. S-sir."

"You're three hours late for the night shift, Lieutenant," Duv began, then heard Vorpatril's teeth chattering. He put a hand on Vorpatril's arm and pulled him into the circle of light cast by a streetlamp. Vorpatril was soaked to the skin and with a bluish cast to his face. "Shit. What happened? Are you hurt?"

"Don't think so," Vorpatril managed to get out. "Just ... cold." He was clutching something under his jacket, Duv realised. He put out a hand to investigate, and Vorpatril pulled unsteadily backwards. "No, sir, he might bite you."

It was an animal. A dog. Small and even more bedraggled than Vorpatril, and it made a sound halfway between a whine and a growl as Duv extended his hand. Not knowing enough about such animals to interpret its behaviour, Duv drew back.

"What on earth have you--no. Get into the embassy first and get warmed up, then explanations." Duv put a hand in the small of Vorpatril's back and propelled him forwards, making him walk as briskly as he could. Vorpatril was shaking with cold and stumbling over nothing, his shoulders hunched and his head down. Even his hair was wet and slicked down flat, his usual elegant appearance destroyed. They reached the embassy, and Vorpatril's knees buckled. Duv wrapped an arm around him and half-carried him to the small empty infirmary.

"Where shall I put him?" Vorpatril asked first, still clutching the dog.

Duv looked around a bit helplessly, then spotted an empty supplies crate. "In there."

The dog made the same whine/growl noise as Ivan put it down. Duv pushed Ivan onto an examining table, then pulled out a medical scanner and pointed it at him. Mild hypothermia and exhaustion, the scanner read. Blood alcohol above acceptable levels for work, but not particularly high. Rest and standard rewarming procedures. No need to wake the medic for this, then.

"Get those wet things off," he said sharply, opening the cupboard to pull out some heat packs, blankets and a set of hospital pyjamas. Vorpatril struggled with his sodden tunic, but his hands were shaking and clumsy with cold. With a grimace, Duv began to strip him, peeling off soaked and chilly fabric.

"What the hell happened?" he demanded, pulling the tunic over Vorpatril's head and starting on the uniform shirt.

"I was walking home," Vorpatril said through chattering teeth, "and I saw the pup in the river. It looked like it was stuck on something. So I waded in to pull it out."

Duv got the shirt off, batting away Vorpatril's clumsy attempts to help, and rubbed him briskly with the towel, then got him into the pyjama top and gave him the heat pack to hold. Vorpatril clutched it to him much as he had clutched the puppy earlier.

"You decided to go into the river? At this time of year?"

"It's not like they have a proper winter here, sir. No snow or anything. I didn't think it would be that cold."

Duv pulled off Vorpatril's boots. "Didn't you read the weather briefing at all? And these are ruined. The replacement will have to come out of your pay."

Vorpatril didn't look particularly bothered by that, and Duv recalled belatedly that the Vorpatril family was wealthy, if not as wealthy as the Galen clan had once been. Of course they were.

"But if you only waded in how did you get this wet?" he asked, peeling off Vorpatril's trousers and socks. Vorpatril put down the heat pack to pull the pyjama pants on himself. He leaned in against Duv's steadying hand, reminding Duv irresistibly of the way the puppy had curled up in Vorpatril's arms. This was a half-drowned idiot of a Vor lord, Duv told himself firmly, not a cute puppy.

"There was more current than I expected," Vorpatril explained, sitting back on the bed and letting Duv wrap him in blankets. "And it suddenly got deep. I didn't know it was going to be quite that bad. And then I got swept away and so did the puppy and when we finally got out we were three miles from here. And the taxi driver wouldn't let me in because of the dog, you see, and I wandered around for a bit, but I couldn't find a tube station, so I followed the river back."

"Why didn't you just call in for help?" Duv demanded.

Vorpatril looked ... hangdog. "I didn't want to bother you."

"Idiot," Duv muttered. Though, to be fair, hypothermia could cause poor judgement in someone who might otherwise reason perfectly clearly. He sighed. "All right. Take a couple of heatpacks with you and go to bed. Drink something warm, too."

"But what about the puppy, sir?"

In the crate, the animal whined, staring at Ivan. Duv sighed. "I'll take care of the animal."

Vorpatril frowned at him. "Sir, you can't... someone tried to drown the poor thing!"

"I'm not going to shoot it, Vorpatril," Duv said impatiently. "We'll figure out what to do with it in the morning. Go on, get up, take yourself to bed."

Vorpatril pushed himself upright and lurched dangerously. Duv caught him and sighed. "All right, come with me. Come on."

They tried to leave the room, but the puppy's whining increased, and then it suddenly began to hurl itself against the side of the box, knocking it over. It scampered towards them. Duv grimaced, bent down, scooped the animal up and bundled it into a blanket of its own. With one arm around Vorpatril and the other holding the puppy, he headed up to Vorpatril's quarters.

"The things they never mention in training," he muttered. "Looking after wet dogs and complete idiots of junior officers. Hold up, we're nearly there," he said as Vorpatril tripped over a step. The puppy wriggled and tried to jump down, and Duv grimaced, took a tighter hold on both of them and went into Vorpatril's quarters.

It was tidier inside than Duv had expected from a high Vor lord who'd grown up with servants to clean up after him. Vorpatril collapsed onto the bed and extended his hands for the puppy. Duv gave him a dubious look, but the puppy wriggled free and jumped up into bed with his rescuer.

"Very well," Duv muttered, "as you wish. But you're responsible for cleaning up after it, Vorpatril."

Curled around the puppy in bed, Vorpatril looked up at him sleepily. "No problem, sir." The puppy's tail thumped on the blankets, and Duv had a premonition that there would be no getting rid of this animal now.

"I suppose every outpost needs a mascot," he said. "Get some sleep, both of you."

Vorpatril sat up suddenly, making the puppy whimper. "But... the night shift--"

"You're not fit, Vorpatril. I'll cover the shift. Go to sleep." Besides, he thought as he left them settling down in the bed again, someone was going to need to make sure there was some dog food on hand in the morning.

Crossposted at http://philomytha.dreamwidth.org/115022.html. There are comment count unavailable comments there.
Her Hamsternesshamsterwoman on April 15th, 2014 03:37 pm (UTC)
Awww! This was a lovely thing to start the day with :) Rescuing puppies from rivers that can't possibly be really cold is such an Ivan thing to do, and I liked the detail that Galeni doesn't know what to do with an animal (but takes charge as the responsible one anyway). Adorable!
philomytha: Beam me upphilomytha on April 15th, 2014 04:51 pm (UTC)
Plus, Ivan is the one who ends up snuggling a puppy in bed, and Duv is the one trying to procure dogfood in the middle of the night :-)
Trobadora: Galeni - glittering tinseltrobadora on April 15th, 2014 04:00 pm (UTC)
Awww! Puppy! Duv and a puppy! :D
philomytha: Beam me upphilomytha on April 15th, 2014 04:52 pm (UTC)
Sometimes that's just what you need :-D.

Though it might be Duv and two puppies...
silver_chipmunk: Be happysilver_chipmunk on April 16th, 2014 03:01 am (UTC)
shimotsuki: vorkosiganshimotsuki on April 16th, 2014 04:23 am (UTC)
Very sweet! Perfect bedtime reading.

I like the way Duv is almost-but-not-quite thinking that Ivan is just another wet puppy. Heh.