"What do you think it would be like...?" Damien mused aloud. "Kinda nice, maybe... a place to go back to, keep your stuff... people who know you... maybe, uh, maybe who care about you kinda... yeah..."
It'd be nice to know what that was like, even just for a little while...
He walked mostly in step with her through the shoveled streets, snow heaped up on all sides around them. Fifth Street, he thought. Just get to Fifth Street and the cathedral, and from there maybe things would look up. This might be just the job he was waiting for, the one that would get him enough money to last more than just a week or so. Then maybe he could get regular food, and maybe even a bed in an inn somewhere.
They were walking along when they heard a scuffle in an alley nearby, and stray dogs began yelping and barking. Nearby a van was parked, with iron bars on its back windows. The painted letters on its side read "Dog Catcher."
"H-huh? I thought they only had those as the bad guys in kids' cartoons!" Damien was too taken by surprise to deny that he might have ever watched such kiddy shows. Upon hearing the dogs' pained yelping, the angel rushed over to try and see if he could help the distressed animals. "Wait!"
OoC: Clearly I missed my calling writing for Underdog. xD Or Hong Kong Phooey (and I now have that song stuck in my head. x3)
"Maybe," she said without much enthusiasm. "Maybe." The only place she'd ever known like that was a hotel room, paid for with fake cash. It was ironic, in a way. Like the old saying went, money can't buy happiness. Sure, it could stall it for a while and make you forget about the little things, but in the end you realised what you were missing out on, and that kinda sucked.
When yelps and barks broke the silence, Marissa watched, amused, as Damien ran over to the automobile. She wasn't really a dog kind of person, but nonetheless she followed him to the alleyway. They reached the entrance to the street and she peered around the corner as Damien looked through the bars of the van. She saw a man dressed in a old-fashioned tan/grey uniform, complete with square peaked cap and long socks. She stifled a chuckle at the man's ridiculously out-of-season clothing. She noticed he was tightly holding onto a long stick in the other hand. The stick was connected to what could only be described as a bristling mass of fur. That thing can't possibly be a dog...this guy's bitten off way more than he chew, she thought to herself.
However, she made no effort to get involved and only watched as the man struggled in vain. He heaved at the long pole, tugging and sweating profusely in his efforts to move the dog, or wolf, or whatever the thing was. The animal just growled and pulled back, and didn't budge an inch. It raised it's heckles, which made it look even bigger and more menacing. The man heaved again and swore at the dog, pulling as if his life depended on it, but the dog just sat there and refused to give way.
It was no use. The locks on the truck weren't some cheap things, and the bars over the windows on the back doors were thick. Damien knew, based on other places he'd been, that it was probably the law in this city that stray dogs got rounded up and taken to the pound--but something about seeing lost animals taken to idle away their days stuck in a shelter without love and in possibly poor conditions, waiting to maybe even be put to sleep some day, still upset him deeply. There wasn't much he could do though, except to ask that the Lord watched over them. Quietly, he murmured a little prayer for the animals, and promised himself he would be on the lookout for a way to help the dogs sometime later on. Maybe he could at least check out the pound later and make sure they were being treated all right.
He turned back to the cursing of the dogcatcher as he struggled with a mountain of fur in his net--and the angel's heart leapt at the sight. One of the dogs was still free! And it was holding its own! It really was a mountain of a dog--he could scarcely remember a time when he had seen a bigger creature, short of a bear. It was hard to believe such a beast could be classed in the same group as a Man's Best Friend with a wagging tail and eager doggy eyes. But as angry and almost monstrous as it looked, it was one of God's creatures. Damien decided he would help at least this one dog, if he could do nothing else.
"Hey!" he shouted, hurrying toward the two fighting, "leave that dog alone, he hasn't caused any trouble! You've caught enough of the poor animals already!"
Aggravated and growing weary, the dogcatcher looked back over his shoulder with gritted teeth and gave Damien a look that told him he couldn't give two craps what the young man said. "Look pal, unless he's your mutt, butt out! I'm just doin' my job!"
The dog continued to stubbornly thwart any attempts the man made to sweep him up in his net. This wasn't the sort of fight the dogcatcher had been bargaining for that day. Damien groaned and debated what to do. Eventually the catcher would probably call for assistance, and then even the big dog wouldn't be able to do much against a squad of men and some animal tranquilizers.
"I... what if I say I'll look after him?" the angel yelled, not willing to let that happen.
"You... you want to look after this thing?" the dogcatcher's expression made no secret of it--he thought Damien was nuts.
The angel took one more look at the dog--with its big teeth and basso growl--and gulped, but nodded immediately after. "Y... yes, yes, I'll take the responsibility, just leave him alone!"
The man looked for a moment from Damien back to the dog, and then once again, before he raised his eyebrows and gradually loosened his grip on his net. "Eaaasy there..." he cautioned the animal, one hand on a device on his belt. "No sudden moves... this kid's vouching for ya. Our tussle's done here." He stepped back and waited to see if the dog lunged for him. When nothing happened, he picked up his net and backed out of the alley.
"All right kid... he's all yours," he looked at Damien as if he were entrusting a mentally handicapped person with a bomb. "Just... get a collar on him real soon, ya hear?"
The angel nodded, gulping a bit again.
"Good... approach him real slow like now. I'm gonna scram." The catcher grabbed his keys and hurried up into the cab of his van, wasting no time in hitting the gas and putting some distance between himself and the big dog he'd just pissed off. The other dogs in the van yelped and whined as he drove away.
"I-I... I'm sorry..." Damien murmured as he watched them go. "I'm sorry I couldn't save you all... not this time..." Quietly he murmured another prayer to himself and touched the silver cross charm under his shirt, before he slowly turned back to look at Marissa and the big dog he did manage to save.
"U-uh... so... h...hi there, fella..." he laughed uncomfortably, scratching the back of his neck. This wasn't going to be easy.
Marissa raised her eyebrows, but said nothing as she watched. He's got some stones, she thought to herself. She made no attempt to move near the monstrous canine creature, and only watched in silence. She did, however, turn her eyes subtly on the swiftly retreating truck. There was a faint bang, a yelled curse, and a small crash, followed shortly by the yelping and barking of freshly freed mutts. She said nothing of this, though, and turned back to Damien. The Angel seemed to be hesitating on whether or not to approach the hulking beast, but the dog seemed to have ideas of his own.
It rose from its seated position and seemed to regard the Angel, before stepping towards him. Marissa watched with baited breath as the hound reached the boy's legs and began sniffing. It circled him slowly, sniffing around his feet and up his legs. Damien froze on the spot and Marissa did the same, neither wanting to provoke it. Then, apparently satisfied with the investigation of the boy's nether regions, it swung its head to Marissa. But instead of the thorough examination it gave the Angel, the demi-god received only a grunt before the dog turned back to Damien.
The great muscles suddenly relaxed, and its figure slumped down. Even as they watched, it dropped its behind onto the paved floor next to Damien. It let loose a yawn, long and drawn out, and then grunted. It ignored them both then, apparently content to sit by the Angel.
"I think it likes you," Marissa commented dryly. It must do, since it hasn't already swallowed him whole. She didn't really know much about dogs, but it seemed to be enjoying itself. Heck, she didn't even know if it was male or female. She decided to steal a glance--
She straightened hurriedly. "Well, it's a boy." And what a boy.
Damien blinked at Marissa's expression and looked back at the--decidedly male--dog. "Well I could've guessed that... I think. I dunno, I think guy dogs are loners more often... the girl ones look after others."
He swallowed a little again and shifted slightly. The dog had already checked them out, so he figured it was now his turn to make the next move toward friendship. "So... would you like to c-come with us, dog...? Hey... hey maybe we should name you, so we don't just keep calling you 'dog', huh? That would be nice. Is that okay with you?"
I don't know what I think I'm doing, I've never been able to understand animals talking very well like some of the other angels... The dog didn't give any kind of indication that he was going to do anything in response except maybe listen, so the angel shrugged and began to think of names.
"Hm... you need something cool... simple too, nothing too girly or fancy like Fido or Fluffles or anything... hey..." Something on his own t-shirt as he glanced down caught his attention. A prism-like logo showed rays of light breaking up into colors. Underneath, a famous band's name was printed, one of the angel's all-time favorites: Pink Floyd.
"That's it!" he beamed, "How about Floyd? You can be a real rocker dog! Someday if I'm on tour, you could... well..." he stammered, "o-okay, maybe that won't ever happen, but... but it's cool to think about! How's about it? Can we call you Floyd?"
In Damien's friendly brown eyes, something boyish and happy gleamed--anyone watching could easily see why people always spoke fondly of "a boy and his dog".
As Marissa watched, she thought that perhaps it wasn't simple chance that had brought the Angel and the big dog together. There seemed to be a bond between them, even after so short a time. The boy was happy and content, seeming not to notice the menacing appearance and visage that most (Marissa included) first saw. But the dog seemed to respond to the Angel in kind; not in any visible way - there was no wagging tail or bouncing or barking - but simply the lack of, well, anything. It didn't growl, it didn't attempt to leave or put distance between them. It simply took what the Angel did and said without fuss. It just...sat there, beside him, tongue lolling. It was strange.
The canine seemed to ignore just about anything Damien said, but when she took a step closer she noticed - and only because she had been looking carefully - a tiny flicker of the eyes, an almost imperceptible turn of the head, and it indicated that the dog was doing more than sitting blankly. It told her that it was watching, observing. And possibly...protecting?
Stranger and stranger, she thought to herself, but said nothing of it.
"Well kid, looks like you made a new friend, and what a charmer he is, at that," she joked. "Do you think he'll want to tag along..?"
"Sure he will! Although I wish we had saved some food for him... are you hungry, Floyd? Maybe we could find something..." he dug through his pockets again and only felt a few pieces of change. Right... I still need that job... how's a broke loser going to take care of a big dog like this?
"It, uh... might be rough going at times, Floyd... being... um," he lowered his voice a little, embarrassed to admit this in front of Marissa, but finding the steady, calm gaze of his new canine friend to make him an ideal confidant. There was nothing judging or really minding anything at all in his look. "...ah, being between jobs means the money doesn't roll in a lot of the time... Any food we get though... we'll share. Is that okay...? People love dogs... maybe we'll be blessed enough to find some willing to give."
He hoped it looked to Marissa as if he was instead admitting that things would be "rough" because he was an international spy or a superhero or something, always living in danger and excitement, but he didn't get those hopes too far up. The angel was beginning to understand more and more that she saw him for who he was, and maybe even liked it. For some miraculous reason. Who knew with girls, really. Even the Lord couldn't make all things clear for him.
Marissa gave a wry smile. "I'm sure that a lovely dog like..Floyd..will have no trouble in finding something to eat, Damien." Hell, the thing could probably eat both of us without touching the sides, she though. But the dog didn't really seem like a bad sort. There was no bad mojo about him that she could pick up, so she put the matter to rest.
"Anywho, what's the plan, Mister Man? Where to next?"
"Well I..." the angel glanced down, thinking back over the day's events. So much had happened in the little time since he got into town. He'd met a girl who actually noticed he existed, and they'd talked and eaten together, and she even wanted to stay in his company, and... oh God, was he as pathetic as it sounded? He shook off that thought and began again. Well, okay, yes, he'd met a girl. And... he liked her. And they'd found Floyd. He had never expected to find friends. Sometimes he would get along with a few people in the towns he went to, but it was always passing acquaintances, passing interactions. In seven years, as sad as it sounded, these two were probably some of the only people he had felt this close to in quite a long time.
But what else had he been looking for? His thoughts had gotten all mixed up in that brief conflict back there. That job... helping the Church. The money that could help me out for a while. Something I might be good at, too.
"Uh... well if you're sure you wanna come... there was this ad in the paper this morning. Um, to help out this foreign priest, visiting the city. I thought... I thought it was kinda up my alley. I'm supposed to meet a Father Dave at St. Mark's Cathedral on Fifth Street if I'm interested. I'm... I'm pretty good with religious stuff usually, and I've been learning my way around town..." Was that a hint of amusement in her green eyes, when he said he was 'good with religious stuff'? Almost... knowing? No, no way, he thought. He was probably projecting or whatever the psychobabble term was for it. But... she was different, wasn't she? From any other girl he'd met... or any other person, for that matter. He felt more comfortable around her... almost... almost enough to admit what he was.
Somehow it felt as if she had already accepted him for it.
"Do ya... think you'd wanna help...? Looks like... looks like we're already on Seventh Street anyway..." he drifted off uncertainly, scratching the back of his long neck out of nervous habit.
Her expression soured slightly when he mentioned the Church. He was one of those Angels. But still, she couldn't hold it against him. She was a tad amused when he mentioned about "religious stuff", but she said nothing of it.
"Do ya... think you'd wanna help...? Looks like... looks like we're already on Seventh Street anyway..."
She smiled. "Sure. I don't know how much help I can be, but I'll certainly tag along." She'd never really bothered with the Judeo-Christian types before. She'd met plenty of Pagan gods though; they were common as mud, most just living the lives of ordinary mortals, minus the mortal part. But, as she often said, different strokes for different folks. Didn't matter what someone believed.
"Hey, company's help enough! I don't think I could come up with enough conversation topics to keep this dude entertained on my own," he smiled at her, finding a little confidence in it. "Whatddaya think, Floyd? Let's get going!"
Trusting the big dog to follow along, he started off, leading their way to St. Mark's. Most of the streets had been ploughed, and the city was a bit warmer now that the sun was at its highest in the sky. The smells and warmth from food vendors carts mixed together and made the walk more pleasant than it might have been. With Marissa by his side, still in his jacket, he was thinking of anything but the winter chill. As they walked, he debated trying to hold her hand.
Man, when she smiles...
St. Mark's Cathedral turned out to be a large, impressive, Gothic-style place, with all the trimmings such a style entailed. The castle-like spires rose high into the sky, majestic even in the age of skyscrapers. Quite a crowd of embassy cars and other visitors filled up the side parking lot. Damien began wondering how many of those cars belonged to people who had come to ask about the same job as him, and gulped. Maybe this wouldn't be so easy.
Little did he know that few people were jumping at the chance to play priest's bodyguard along with the guide duty the paper had mentioned, and he had missed. If a priest wasn't holy enough to deal with whatever dark dangers there were... not many others wanted to find out the details.
They walked side by side, the big dog in tow; as Damien had mentioned it wasn't even that far away. The Cathedral was big and grey, with lots of spires and pokey bits on the roof. Marissa had seen a few such buildings over the years, though perhaps not one as big as this. These Judeo-Christians always were flash with their cash, but they were still relatively young so they hadn't entirely worn out their welcome on this world yet, she supposed.
Well, I may as well get this over with. Entering the grounds of another deity's domain - specifically, their worshipping grounds - was always a little uncomfortable. It was not dissimilar to climbing over a neighbour's fence to retrieve a frisbee, for example; you knew it was probably okay, as long as you were never spotted.
She smiled. "Well, let's not just stand around gawping all day. Shall we?"
"Mark the Lion... a-ah, right, right!" Damien agreed, shaking his head to clear it out of a reverie, "we'd better hurry before someone else beats us to it!"
He led the way up the church steps, nearly tripping on his long jeans in his rush, Floyd following behind at his own steady pace. A few people were coming and going from the double doors at the top of the stairs, and although they stared at the behemoth of a dog, none dared say anything. That was, save for some of the friendlier children, who cried out happily and begged to pet him. They were a little confused when the angel seemed to pause at this and look at the dog, as if for his permission. One kid tried offering him some of their turkey sandwich.
"Uh... if lets you, sure, but we have to get inside soon..."
Marissa watched the dog out of the corner of her eye as the children neared. Why anyone would actually want to pet or stroke such a monstrous dog was beyond her, but she said nothing. At first the dog did nothing, simply regarding the approaching children without interest. But Marissa had seen the spark of intelligence deep within those coal black eyes before, and she guessed it was somewhere there now.
Two pairs of eyes - those of the demigod and those of the four-legged "friend" - tracked the child's hand as it neared the dog's head, closer and closer until contact was made, and to Marissa's amazement the hulking dog...yawned. Just a simple yawn. And there was more; when one of the children offered some of his sandwich the dog actually shuffled closer to child and scooped the whole thing from the child's hand, swallowing the morsel whole, and the child actually laughed. The little trio of kids actually gathered around and began petting him.
This blasted dog is more intelligent than it lets on, she thought as she watched. The canine even wagged his tail once - and just once - and though it was more of a careless swish than a full-blown wag, it got resounding "awww"s from the small crowd.
She rolled her eyes. Talk about enjoying the lime-light.
Damien breathed a sigh of relief when it became apparent that his dog was not going to go abominable snowmen on the kids. I was right to trust him... he's a good dog. A real good dog, he thought, smiling to himself. He wondered if he should push his luck and try to pet Floyd too, but that was when a priest came outside and took notice of the little crowd gathering around their group.
"Oh Father, Father, hello!" Damien called, seeing opportunity approach. "Father, could I speak to you a moment?"
The brown-haired, bearded priest turned his gaze from the big dog to the gawky angel and blinked behind his spectacles. He looked like he might be on his way to lunch, his hand patting his vestments around pocket-height for a wallet. His face was patient yet surprised, not quite the put-upon look a lesser man might give when hungry. "Yes, my son...? How can I be of service?"
"I, er..." his voice began to crack and he felt his neck grow hot with embarrassment when some of the kids stopped petting Floyd to stare. "I... came to talk to Father Dave about the job in the paper? The one helping the visiting foreign priest?"
An oddly silent moment passed and the expression that fell over the clergyman's face was a mix of equal parts shock, relief, and something else Damien couldn't quite place. And none of those seemed right as a response to a simple job inquiry. The worrying department of the angel's mind went into double overtime.
Marissa didn't miss the mixture of emotions that crossed the Human's face. She suddenly didn't like the prospects of a job that could cause a holy-man to react so. "Tell us more about the job," she called out. She still stood a couple of feet behind and below Damien on the Church steps, but quickly made up the distance to stand just behind the boy's shoulder; close enough to warrant a small frown from the priest, it seemed, though he said nothing.
"Hm," was the man's only reply. He turned back to the doors of the Cathedral and pushed them slightly ajar. "I suppose you had better come in, but your dog will have to-- hey!" His sentence was cut off by Floyd pushing his bulk through the door.
"Floyd, wait!" Damien cried, hurrying after him. The dog had been kind towards the kids outside, but there was no telling what kind of fright seeing such a huge animal might give to any sweet old church ladies inside the cathedral. Those types always tended to sit towards the front so they could hear better and would be the first the dog barreled into if he kept on going as he was.
Once the angel caught up with him, however, a little ahead of the priest and Marissa, he saw Floyd waiting patiently at the head of the nave, with the whole first row of old ladies in the pews either smiling pleasantly at him or squinting through their thick glasses at him. One wondered aloud who the very hairy but strong-looking child belonged to. Another agreed that such a child must eat all his vegetables and should be rewarded with a butterscotch. Damien couldn't help a small chuckle as he strode forward to meet him, glancing back as he did to check on the priest and Marissa.
Maybe she got him to tell her something... I think she could convince anyone to with one of her smiles...
As Damien's gaze fixed on the girl, a wooden door off to his side closed behind a middle-aged clergyman in vestments even more dignified than the spectacled priest's own. The ash-blond holy man parted his lips in surprise when he spotted Floyd and slowly took in the scene of the hulking canine, young man, and others who'd drawn such attention from his midday congregation. He seemed to be choosing his words carefully before he spoke.
"Father Peter?" he called to the priest with Marissa after a moment, turning curious blue eyes to him, "is something the matter?"
"Father Dave!" Peter answered, "this young man is here about the request in the paper!"
Damien couldn't be sure, but he got the distinct impression that the only reason Father Dave didn't react the way his fellow priest had before was because there was an entire Sunday congregation now watching the conversation unfold.
Marissa hurried past the priest towards Damien. She wasn't at all sure that she - that they - should get involved with this 'job'. She'd seen something in the first priest's eyes that gave her the heebie-jeebies when she'd asked about the job. His eyes had given away his disbelief, shock, perhaps even fear.
Something was definitely odd about this whole situation, and centuries of experience told her to back away slowly and head for the hills. But she kept on walking, literally and proverbially speaking, towards Damien. When she reached him standing near the big dog, she stood awkwardly by his side. She opened her mouth to speak, to ask him to leave with her, but she hesitated, and the second priest - Father Dave - spoke up.
"Children, my friends. Please, come this way." He held open the door he had come through, fine material draping almost to his knees from his arm, and it was finery indeed. This man was clearly important, or held a very unique position, to be sure. Damien walked towards the priest without hesitation, and Floyd followed suit. Marissa trailed a few steps behind. Damien seemed to trust the priest fully - and why not? He was a living testament to the priest's religion, after all - but Marissa knew that, man of the cloth or no, he was still a man. Humans lied and deceived for their own gain. Marissa would have to trust her instincts and watch for the signs that Damien would not.
They stepped through the door and into the chamber beyond. It was surprisingly anticlimactic, the dull and mostly bare room contrasting sharply with the finery of the man's robes. Even the colour schemes were drab and toned down. Only the window showed any extravagance, the painted glass throwing multicoloured prisms of light into the room. She noticed a small table to the side with a plain wooden cross stood upon it. A small red cushion lay on the floor before the table.
"I apologise, this room is hardly worthy of company. I was praying, looking for guidance from the Lord, when I heard Father Peter." He smiled faintly. "Strange that you should appear at such a time. I wonder..." The smile faded slightly. "You say you are here for the job? The one advertised in the paper? What...what do you know of the task?"
"Well... w...well erm..." Damien faltered slightly when he saw all of the cheer go out of the father's smile, "I am supposed to... to play guide for a priest visiting from another country, right...? Show him around, answer questions, and such...? It seemed pretty normal to me, I guess, although I don't get why a priest doesn't just take on the job... like, why there's a need for outside help..." he drifted off, previously ignored gears in his head now turning.
Wait a sec...
Some questions began to spring up in the angel's mind that hadn't been there before. He was reminded again of how different some things could sound when he finally said them aloud. A lesson, that was.
The priest hesitated for a moment, and seemed to be struggling to make a decision. "Yes...that is the crux of the matter, I suppose..." He looked the boy in the eyes and sighed. "I am that priest from the advertisement, Damien. I'm from the Vatican, Rome. I am an exorcist." Marissa frowned and the father must have noticed, mistaking the expression for disbelief. "I know, you probably don't believe in demons. I'm not asking you to." He sighed. "In reality the advertisement only called for a guide, as the local priests are...not trained in the rites of my line of work."
Marissa noticed two things as the priest spoke. The first was the obvious gap in the statement: why a priest could not guide the exorcist but someone else could, perhaps even someone entirely uninvolved with the religion. The second was the slight disapproval in his eyes as he spoke. The other priests are probably too worried to go with him, she thought.
Father Dave sighed. "You can leave now, if you want. I don't expect someone as young as you two to accompany me on this." The demigod's eyes flickered towards Damien, waiting to see his reaction. He wouldn't want to go, surely...