Nacho's Big Adventure by Pengi
Summary:

Wedding bells are practically ringing and Nick's best man is... well, man's best friend. Nacho's got his tuxedo fitted and he's ready for his close-up on the VH1 wedding special Nick and Lauren are filming. But then one week before the wedding, disaster strikes. Can Nacho get in touch with his doggie-side or is Nick's wedding's gonna be ruined by a crazy producer with the hots for Lauren...? Find out in Nacho's Big Adventure.

Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: Nick, Other
Genres: Adventure, Humor
Warnings: Sexual Content
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 11 Completed: No Word count: 19522 Read: 13598 Published: 09/12/13 Updated: 09/24/13

1. Chapter One: My Name is Nacho by Pengi

2. Chapter Two: My Balls! by Pengi

3. Chapter Three: Bow Ties Are Cool by Pengi

4. Chapter Four: Jog by Pengi

5. Chapter Five: The Mean Producer-human by Pengi

6. Chapter Six: Omlettes by Pengi

7. Chapter Seven: The Airport Discovery by Pengi

8. Chapter Eight: Pacing Pugs Make Irrational Decisions by Pengi

9. Chapter Nine: The Pound by Pengi

10. Chapter Ten: Out the Window by Pengi

11. Chapter Eleven: Through the Woods by Pengi

Chapter One: My Name is Nacho by Pengi
Chapter One: My Name is Nacho


My name is Nacho. I'm a sexy beast. I weigh about twenty-three pounds, though Lauren repeatedly reminds Nick that I'm supposed to weigh 13-20 and that he needs to lay off the Beggin' Strips (he won't though, he's too well trained). I'm thirteen inches tall, and my tail is curly. Nick says my face is wrinkly, but I got news for him when he's surprised his forehed's got the same wrinkles as I do and they're much more comely on me than they are on him. Lauren's noticed this. I know because there was this one time her sister was over and her sister was eating this cheese burger and Lauren was eating blueberries and I had my chin on her sister's knee and I was trying real hard to hypnotize her into dropping that burger and Lauren laughed and said, "Look at that. God, he looks like Nick asking for sex."

I dunno what sex is but I bet cheese burgers are better.

Lauren's cool and stuff but my real human is Nick. He's my best bud and we do shit like go barking at squirrels together. In human terms, this is called jogging. Nick and I watch the TV together. We watch this show called Football where people play fetch with each other, and Nick gets real excited when they catch the ball. I'd play fetch with Nick but I'm too lazy. Every once in awhile, Nick gets this great idea that he wants to play fetch with me and I just roll my eyes and lay down and eventually he gives up and says that I'm useless. I like being useless.

The day everything started was a normal day, as far as I could tell. We were all hanging out at home the day after Nick and I got back from Tour (which was a very, very long car ride away and I'm not sure we ever quite got to as I only remember a bunch of pee breaks and pit stops where I had to protect Nick from these crazy humans that scream at him - he calls them fans). Nick and I were watching fetch on TV when Lauren came in and put some food on the coffee table. I jumped up and sniffed but it was just celery so I laid back down. Nick didn't seem any more excited by it 'cos he left it there and scratched my head.

"I was thinking how you wanted Nacho and Igby in the wedding," Lauren said, sitting on the couch and tucking her legs under her. She pushed me up onto Nick's lap, taking over the spot on the cushion I'd commendeered. Sometimes it sucks being small 'cos people can just, like, move you around and you can't do anything about it except kick your legs and it's really rare that they pay any attention to your leg kicking. Nick shifted his legs so I could lay across them without falling through his knees. He grunted as my weight landed on him. "What if they were like honorary best man and maid of honor?"

Nick laughed, "That's so Brian-And-Leighanne of you," he said.

Lauren laughed, too. I knew Brian and Leighanne, they were Maymee, Kiko, Willie, and Lucy's humans. We let our humans have playdates sometimes during the ride to Tour and helped each other protect them all, plus their mini-Human, Baylee, from all the Fans. "I know it's a little dorky," she said, "But I mean how cute would they be in little tuxedos with little red bow ties and top hats?"

Nick snickered. He rubbed my head, "Would you wear a top hat dude?" he asked. My skin moved back and forth under his hands. His hands are very large and his palm was pretty much the size of my entire skull. "You'd do anything if there was a Bggin Strip involved, wouldn'tcha?"

"You're gonna make that dog into a perfect sphere, you know that, right?" Lauren asked, disapproval in her tone.

Nick laughed. "He'd be his own planet. Planet Nacho."

Sounded good to me. I would rule my planet with an iron paw and all the citizens would be required to pay taxes in the form of Beggin' Strips.

"So what do you think?" Lauren asked, a little whine to her voice, "How cute would they be?"

Nick laughed, "You're serious aren't you? Dog tuxes?"

"Yes! The place that's doing your tux actually custom-fits tuxedos for dogs, too."

"No fuckin' way," Nick said, looking at her with that surprised face I mentioned earlier. I swear, we could've been twins if Nick was tan and black and had bulgey eyes and was 13" tall and 23 pounds. "What in hell is this world coming to?" he asked, shaking his head.

"Just picture the wedding photos," Lauren said, grinning.

"I am," Nick said. He rubbed my head and on the other end of the couch Igby got up and laid down on Lauren's feet and she started rubbing his head. He groaned appreciatively, and looked at me through squinty eyes of pure joy.

"So... Can we do it?" Lauren prodded.

"WHAT THE FUCK!" Nick suddenly shouted and I looked up, but not in time. On the TV, some guy dropped the ball he was trying to fetch and Nick jumped up and I rolled off his lap and onto the carpet with a thump that sent shivers through my body. It hurt like hell. I bolted. "Aw shit. Nacho come back... Nacho..." But I was already on my way up the stairs to the bedroom where I planned to slide under the bed. It was the only safe place. "Nacho!" Nick's footsteps thundered up the steps behind me and I skittered in the bedroom door, threw myself onto my belly and started dragging my self by my paws across the carpet under the bed.

Safety was just inches away. I could almost smell the musty scent of Under the Bed, and could almost feel the softness of my old sock that I'd dragged under there foreever ago. But then my ass got stuck halfway under and no matter how hard I clawed at the carpet I could go no further.

Noooooo! I clawed harder and harder, ripping fibers up from the floor. Oh Lord God Almighty, I was gonna die here, stuck halfway between the Promised Land and the Scary World of Out There. I started crying. Life was flashing before my eyes.

I'm a good pug, I don't deserve to go like this.

A few seconds before I was sure I would never see the light of day again, the door creaked open and I heard a laugh. "Dude you really do need to lose weight," Nick said, his voice muffed by the layers of mattress and box spring hovering over my head.

I felt his hands clasp my body and pull and I was dragged backwards out from under the bed and he hoisted me up into his arms.

My hero. My savior. My human.

I licked his face like crazy, my legs shaking from relief. I mean, I was practically dead, this human just saved my life. I wiggled against him, my tail wagging, and Nick laughed, "Well I guess this means you forgive me for knocking ya down, then?" He rubbed my ears and sat down on the bed, hugging me to his chest as I kept licking his face. "So what'cha think Nacho? You willing to look like a total asshat just to make Lauren happy, huh?" he sighed. "The other dogs might make fun of you, but remember, it's for a noble cause."

His nose tasted salty.

"You want Beggin' Strip?"

Oh fuck yes.

"Okay, c'mon, let's get you one. But shhh," he added, putting a hand over his mouth as he put me down, "You can't tell Lauren." He opened his nightstand drawer and pulled out the Yellow Bag of Happiness and opened it. It crinkled. Oh Lord have mercy, I swear there ain't a more beautiful sound in all the universe as the crinkle that a bag makes. He pulled out a Beggin' Strip. It was beautiful. It smelled like... like bacon... and I felt drool forming at the corners of my lips as Nick held it in his mouth and resealed the bag and put it back in the drawer. I spun around in a circle. Nick likes it when I spin in circles. He grinned at me and held the strip up. "You want it?" I wiggled and spun and spun and spun and he laughed. "You want the Beggin' Strip? Yeah?"

The drool was literally touching my paws.

Nick laughed, "Nacho, man, you're disgusting." He tossed the strip at me and I leaped as much as my body would let me... approximately two inches off the ground in the front half of me and my back paws never left the floor... and I caught it. I was the king of this kind of fetch.

I should play football.

Nick reached down and rubbed my ears as I chomped down on the Beggin' Strip with it's meaty, bacony goodness. So chewy, so delicious.

"You're a good dog, Nacho," Nick announced, "A really, damn good dog."

I know.

Chapter Two: My Balls! by Pengi
Chapter Two: My Balls!


"Get in there," Nick pushed my butt. I scrappled with my claws along the door of the pet taxi. Nick pushed my butt harder. "Nacho, stop it. C'mon. Get in the fuckin' box." The truth of the matter is, I like my pet taxi once I'm in the pet taxi. But it's kinda funny watching Nick go through all the bullshit of putting me in there. He grunts and groans and begs and grovels and finally, when Lauren's not looking, he bribes me.

"Fine. Fine," he said, agitated. He put me down, dropped the box onto the floor next to the couch, and walked out of the room. I waited a second to make sure he wasn't just trying to pull a fast one on me, then I peeked in the pet taxi to make sure he didn't somehow smuggle some Beggin' Strips in there before now. He didn't, so I backed out real fast and hid under the coffee table. A few moments later, and I saw Nick's legs re-enter the living room. The crinkling sound of the Beggin' Strips package followed. I peeked out from under the coffee table and Nick knelt down, ripping up a Beggin' Strip into little pieces. He tossed like six of them into the far back of the crate, then created a Hansel and Gretel style trail out the door and over to my nose.

Like I'm gonna give in that easy, Carter.

"Nacho. In the crate, boy. In the crate. C'mon Nacho. Go in the crate..." he stared at me, waiting, expectant. I didn't budge. "God damn it, dog." He got up and walked out of the room again. I hesitated. I stood up. I inched closer. Sniffed the first Beggin' Strip. Yes, yes that was a real-life, gen-u-ine Beggin' Strip. I ate it. Then the next one... and the next one... and the next... and well, he wasn't in the room anyways... so into the crate I went to collect the six in the back and before I'd even finished eating half of'em, Nick came up behind me and slammed the door shut.

"Sucker!" he shouted triumphantly.

Please, human, I just got like fifteen Beggin' Strips. Who the hell are you calling a sucker?

Lauren came in the room. "You aren't giving him those treats are you?" she eyed the yellow bag on the coffee table.

"Just one or two," Nick lied.

Lauren sighed. "He's gonna weigh a hundred pounds by the time you're done with him."

"He's buff."

"He's fat," Lauren answered. "Are you guys headed to your tuxedo fitting?"

"Yeahhh-uh," Nick said.

"Don't forget to pick up Igby's when you're there," Lauren reminded him. She came over and I watched their feet get real close and I heard them slobbering on each other. I rolled my eyes and sighed and laid down.

"See ya later, babe," Nick said after a pretty long session of slobbering. He picked up the taxi by the handle and a feeling of anti-gravity shook me as the crate swung at his side. He walked quick through the house, and I saw Igby staring at me from the bottom step, which he was kind of afraid to jump down.

He barked. Now in Bark, I understood him to be saying, "Hope it's not the vet, man." but all Nick and Lauren heard was woof-woof-woof.

For the purposes of this story, I'll just translate Bark to Human for you from here on out.

"Igby, quiet," Lauren called.

"Got my balls chopped off once," Igby called tauntingly as Nick carried me to the door, "Just remember, man, you can only get neutered once!"

"My balls ain't going anywhere!" I shouted.

"Nacho!" Nick shook the box a little and I lost my footing.

Igby laughed evilly as I slid and hit the wall of the crate.

"Quiet, Igby," Lauren picked him up and carried him up the stairs as Nick carried me out the door.

Nick sighed the moment the door was closed in a frustrated kind of way. He tilted me and looked down into the crate at me. I stared up at him. I wished he'd level the crate off and stop carrying me like a maniac. "I can't believe I'm taking a dog to a tuxedo fitting," he muttered.

At least it's not just any dog, man, it's me, right?

He sighed again and walked over to his car and the weird tweety sound happened and I looked around out the door of my pet taxi for a squirrel or a bird or something to bark at but before I could see anything he shoved me into the backseat of the car and fastened a seat buckle around my crate and slammed the door.

It took him a second to get in himself and get the air conditioner running. I pressed my nose against the holes in the side of the crate and snuffed, trying to breathe in the cool air. It was like a fucking furnace in that car, I swear to God.

"The air's comin' up, Nacho, no worries," Nick said, hearing me snorting and snuffling. Like a good human, he turned up the air conditioner.

Like I said, I have him well trained.

Once the air conditioning reached my crate, I curled up and tucked my paws under my chin and took a nap while Nick drove. He barked at stuff out the window periodically, but when I looked I didn't see anything except more cars and I never bark at cars because Igby told me this story once about a squirrel he saw try to fight a car and he said the squirrel did so not win that fight and he assured me it was the biggest squirrel he ever saw.

Now in general squirrels don't seem all that fearsome of a warrior, but Igby seemed pretty certain that the squirrel's inherent wussiness wasn't really a factor in the car winning the fight.

After awhile Nick turned on the car blinker.

I started barking.

Blinkers are evil. They are omens of long hours of boring loneliness to come. Whenever a blinker is turned on, humans stop the cars, get out, and leave you there for long periods of time. Blinkers mean We are There in human.

"Nacho! Jesus, shut up!" Nick yelled from the front.

I didn't.

"NaaaaaaaaaaCHO!" Nick yelled again. The car stopped. My heart raced. He was gonna leave me here in the car without air conditioning. I was gonna die. I knew it. My barking increased as my panic did. No way in hell was I going down quiet! "Oh my fucking God," Nick muttered and he got out and slammed the door. I stared at it. My barking had done nothing. I groaned and laid down in my crate and waited for the air to get stale and hot and for my lungs to dry out. Oh it was gonna be a slow death, wasn't it? I closed my eyes and waited.

Then the back door opened and Nick was standing there with my collar and leash. "You better be good in here," he said, "No barking."

I stood up and shook myself with excitement. I wasn't gonna die after all! When Nick opened the crate door I quickly climbed up him and started licking his face with all my might to show my appreciation for him saving myself. Nick seriously saves my life probably fifteen to twenty times a day without even exaggerating.

"Okaaayyyy, okayyy dude," Nick laughed as my tongue slid all over his face. His eyes had little crusty things in the corners that tasted interesting when I got them on my tongue. "Relax, relax. You ain't gonna like me so much in a second when we go see the tailor."

He put me on the ground and we walked across a crowded street, cars humming on either side of us, grinning at me with their big grille-grins. I hovered closer to Nick's ankles. I knew Nick would keep me safe and these cars were lookin' pretty mean, like Igby said they look just before they eat you and turn you inside out. Despite his protective presence and the seemingly tame nature of these particular cars, I felt so much better when Nick led me onto the sidewalk on the other side and we were out of the street.

When we got to the place we were going, Nick opened the door and let me walk in first before following me in. Nick introduced himself to a human-girl behind a counter, and the next thing I knew she was taking my leash from Nick and asking him to have a seat and he waved to me. "Be good, dude," he said. I dug my feet into the carpet.

Be good? Be good? Where the hell am I going that you're not gonna be there to make me be good?

"C'mon little Nacho," laughed the human-girl. "I'm not gonna hurt'cha."

Yeah that's what all the creepy bad guys say just before they handsaw the human to death. I know because I've watched a lot of creepy bad guy movies with Nick and whenever they said stuff like I ain't gonna hurtcha he yells stuff like don't do it! I ain't stupid.

"Go on Nacho," Nick encouraged.

Dude whose side are you on?

The human-girl pulled me through a door and though I made one last-ditch-effort to try to get back to Nick, there was no use. The door closed. I turned around to meet my fate and I saw a whole tray full of shiny instruments.

One of them was a pair of scissors.

Oh my God. Igby was right. I'm getting neutered.

My balls!

Chapter Three: Bow Ties Are Cool by Pengi
Chapter Three: Bow Ties Are Cool


Well needless to say, the tailor is not where you go to get neutered.

It's where you go to feel like a million Beggin' Strips.

The human-girl made me scared at first because she had this long tape thingy she kept wrapping around me and she'd pull it tight, then mutter a number and write it down and she just kept doing that over and over. I thought for sure she was fitting me for my Cone of Shame that I'd be forced to wear after the Operation that would steal my balls. I hunkered away from her every chance I got. But after a little bit, she went in another room and I sat there on the fluffy cushioned table she'd tethered me to, looking around. The walls were covered with pictures of other dogs. None of those dogs looked like they were being neutered. They all had their tongues hanging out and happy.

Maybe they were drugged.

Then the human-girl came back and she had clothes. She came over and sat down and started putting the clothes on me. At first I wriggled to get away, then she got the thing on me and she showed me a mirror and ....Oh hot dog, is that me? I really am a sexy beast. I walked closer to the mirror and bopped my nose against it, tilted my head... the dog in the mirror did, too. Yep, that's me. I checked me out.

She'd put a little tuxedo on me. It made the curve of my chest look important and handsome and I puffed it out even further in pride. Ah Lauren, look at this. The Beggin' Strips really have done me good. Look at thaaat... I turned and checked out my back end, my tail sticking out of a pair of pants that had a big hole in the bottom that let my belly and privates hang out so I could still pee without any hinderance... awesome.

"One last thing," she announced, and she reached around my neck and attached a big red bow tie to the front of my chest. "There we go." She smiled at my reflection. I did, too, but she probably didn't notice. "Wanna go show Nick?"

He's gonna be so proud.

Human-girl untethered my leash and walked with me back out where we'd left Nick sitting. He wasn't on the chair. I panicked. Where the hell was he? I started sniffing the ground, trying to pick up his scent but my nose isn't all that great, I mean it's flat to my face and usually has a lot of snot in it, so my smelling ability isn't as high as it probably should be. Human-girl pulled me down a hallway, despite my trying to go back to pick up Nick's scent, and into another room.

"Hold still," a guy was saying.

"Nick, I'm finished with Nacho."

Nick? I turned around and saw my human standing on a small platform looking really bored while some guy was kneeling in front of him messing around with the ankles of his pants. He turned and the guy said a bad word and dropped a bunch of sharp shiny things to the floor.

"Heyyyy, Nacho!" Nick said, grinning ear-to-ear, "Shit you look sexy bro!" He got down off the platform thing and the guy at his ankles threw up his hands in frustration and Nick came over and knelt in front of me. "Gimme five?" Nick held up his hand and I hit it with my paw, which is what Nick calls Gimme Five. This usually resulted in a Beggin' Strip and I got excited, but he didn't give me one this time. Instead he stood up,"He looks fantastic. Lauren's gonna be very happy."

We hung out at the tailor's a little longer. I got to lay on a big comfy bed and chew on a bone they gave me that was shaped like the bowtie. I let the human-girl take off everything except the bowtie of my tuxedo. She laughed and left it on, so I still looked super distinguished as I laid there watching the guy fix Nick's pants. When he was done, Nick stood and looked in the mirror and spun around, too, just like I had.

Lookin' sexy bro, I told him.

He heard woof, but he still turned and grinned at me. "Thanks Nacho."

Any time.

When we left, he was carrying three garment bags - one his size and two mine and Igby's size. we walked back down the sidewalk and across the street in front of more tame cars until we got to our car where I jumped into my crate and Nick took my leash off and closed the door and we went home.

At the house, Nick opened my crate and let me run loose across the yard. I rushed over to a bush I hadn't peed on inawhile that had Igby's smell all over it and marked it as mine. Nick was getting the garment bags and my crate out of the car and walked up toward the door. I marked a couple more plants then ran after him, barking excitedly. When he opened the door, Igby came bolting out onto the lawn.

"Pee! Pee! Pee! Pee!" Igby was shouting. He ran over to the bushes I'd just marked and quickly remarked them. I stood by the stoop, watching.

"Hey my balls are still here!" I said.

Igby ignored me. That was Igby's way. If he wasn't teasing me, he generally ignored me. I think I kind of annoy him. Before me, he was the king of the house and then Nick met me and everything kinda changed for him. Lauren's technically his human but he'd gotten used to going to Tour with Nick and sleeping on Nick's pillow at night and stuff and now that was my job, and he had to sit around and eat tofu all day with Lauren.

And might I add that for all the complaining about my Beggin' Strips that Lauren does, Igby is easily twice as fat as I am.

"C'mon guys," Nick called, and Igby and I both bolted for the door at the same time, bumping into each other's shoulders. Igby finally shoved me out of the way and took the steps scrambling into the house. I ran after him and tackled him in the hallway. Nick followed us into the house and closed the door. "Knock it off, Nacho," he said, seeing me biting on Igby's ear.

I did. Reluctantly.

Nick headed up the steps and I followed him while Igby wandered off to find Lauren or the water dish or a place to sleep. We went up to the bedroom and I tried to jump up on the bed but hit my face on the edge of the mattress instead. Nick threw the garment bags over a desk chair and hoisted me up onto the bed. I ran around, my legs sinking into the squashy softness of the mattress and blankets, messing the nice neat bedspread all up. Nick put the garment bags into the closet and sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed, stretching out his arms and yawning. "Oh shit Nacho, I'm pooped." He laid back and his body made the bed bounce and his hair went all crazy. I started licking his eyes to see if more of those crunchy things had showed up but they hadn't so I went for his nose instead, shoving my tongue up inside his nostril for the salty taste.

"Dude, stop," he tried to push me away, but I love my human too much to be stopped, and he finally just laughed and gave in and crawled further onto the bed, wrapping his arms around me and pulled me into his chest. I couldn't reach his nostrils anymore so I lapped under his chin and neck instead, even though it's fuzzy because he doesn't shave much when he isn't going to Tour, and I wagged my tail. Nick laughed, "You nut."

Lauren came in the room then, followed by Igby, who jumped up on the chair in the corner and curled up. "So how'd the fitting go?" she asked.

"It went good," Nick answered. "Nacho looks like a little mafia man in his suit." I stopped licking Nick, then turned to Lauren and puffed out my chest for her to see my sexy bowtie. Cos bowties are cool.

Lauren smirked, "He looks like a little nerd."

"He looks like Doctor Who," Nick corrected.

Lauren laughed.

"So that was the last of the prep out here, right?" he asked, "Tomorrow we meet the Producer, then Thursday's the flight..."

Lauren nodded. "We're gettin' close, honey." She crawled onto the bed and laid down on the other side of Nick. I nuzzled closer just to remind him that I was there first. "Excited?" she asked.

"Yeah," Nick replied, but I could hear the nervous in his voice. I rubbed my head against his arm and his hand scratched my backside just right and I kicked my leg against the mattress in excitment. Nick scratched harder. Have merrrrcy.

Lauren rolled so she was leaning over Nick's chest, staring down at him. "Don't be scared," she said, "Nothing really changes, remember? It's just you and me." She stared into his eyes.

"I know," he said, "Just you and me. We're gonna be okay."

"We're gonna be more than okay, we're gonna be amazing." Lauren kissed him.

Nick stopped scratching my backside. His hands moved to wrap around Lauren and Igby looked over as she put her legs around his waist and he jumped down off the chair. "Here we go again," he muttered as he waddled out of the door into the hallway.

Nick and Lauren were slobbering on each other again and I think he was trying to make her sit 'cos he had her hand on her butt which is the signal for sit but she wasn't really good at tricks like that. Nick really needs to train her better. Maybe if she had some Beggin' Strips as motivation...?

Suddenly they started to roll over and I scrambled to get out of the way before Lauren landed on me and squashed me.

"Shoo, Nacho," Nick said, waving his hand at me.

I moved to the other pillow.

"Nacho... shoo."

I did shoo. What the hell do you want?

Nick rolled back over and picked me up and carried me out to the hallway. He put me down and tapped my butt to make me start walkin' away, then he went back in the bedroom and closed the door.

Igby was laying on the carpet by the stairs. "Can you believe him? Kicking me out of my own bedroom like that?"

"Trust me, you don't wanna stay in there."

"You always say that, but I don't know why. They're just slobbering."

"For now." Igby stretched out his legs and yawned, then rolled onto his side.

I laid down, too, suddenly quite sleepy.

It'd been a really long day.

Chapter Four: Jog by Pengi
Chapter Four: Jog


The next morning, Nick got up early and I made sure to get right under his feet and trip him a couple times to get him back for leaving me out in the hallway all night with Igby. This was punishment that would hopefully correct the bad behavior in the future. They call this disciplinary training in Human, I think.

"Nacho c'mon stop it," he grumbled low, his voice still unused and groggy.

I followed him down the steps to the kitchen where I watched as he stumbled back and forth from the fridge to the counter where he dropped stuff into the loud noise maker machine. It made him a cup of colored water that he put a lid on and then asked me, "You wanna go for a jog?" I did. I spun around a few times to show him that yes, yes I did wanna go Jog. He got my Jogging Leash and snapped it onto the collar on my neck and tightened the string on his leg furs and we went out the door.

Usually when we Jog, we go a really long way and I bark at squirrels while we go. Today, Nick stopped about a block away at a park and dropped onto a bench. He leaned back and I made sure to leave my mark on a trash bin that was most definitely Mine now. Nick let out a sigh and his forehead wrinkled - this was his thinking face.

I patrolled at his feet to make sure no birds or squirrels came too close.

After a bit, I got bored though because there were no birds or squirrels threatening my Human's life, so I turned around and looked up at him. He still had his thinking face on. I put my chin on his leg to remind him I was there, hoping maybe he'd bring me somewhere that they had Beggin' Strips or Hamburgers or something. Instead, he hoisted me up on the bench beside him. I wasn't positive I liked the bench because it had these holes between the boards and I was scared my feet would fall through them, so I inched closer and closer to him until he held up his arm and I got on his lap and he held me there so I wouldn't fall down.

Much better.

"Ohhh, Nacho," Nick sighed again. He scratched my side with one hand while the other hand held the smoothie. I kicked my leg against his leg. "I dunno why I'm so scared 'bout this whole wedding thing," he mumbled as he kept scratching. It was marvelous, his scratching. My human's good at scratching. He knows all the right places. "I know it's really not gonna change anything so it's stupid to be nervous about it. It's just a legal thing, right? I just never thought I'd get up the balls to do this." That's when he stopped scratching. He groaned and leaned back so his head hung over the back of the bench. "I'm really, really happy, you know?" he said, his voice sounding funny 'cos of how his neck was bent. "I just can't help but worry that marriage will change how everything's going. It's so, so, so stupid, but I just --" I bopped my nose against the hand that was holding the smoothie. I wanted his attention back. I didn't know what he was whining about, but I knew it had nothing to do with giving me Beggin' Strips and I knew, too, that his other hand had stopped scratching, and that was altogether not okay. He lifted his head. "You don't want my smoothie."

No shit dude, there's wheat grass in that.

"Alright, let's go back. I don't feel like jogging," Nick said. He put me down on the ground and we started walking back to the house. "We'll tell Lauren we jogged, though. It'll be our secret," he said. "In fact -- just so it's convincing..." Nick stopped at the water hose on the side of the house and turned it on and I drank some water and he stuck his head under the nozzle and his head got all wet. He stood up and shook the wet off, but his neck and face were still damp and some of the water went down his back and got his shirt all wet, too. "What'cha think? Convincing?" he asked. He smirked. "Three miles. That sounds fair. I mean it's a short jog, but believable for the time we were gone..."

When we went inside, Lauren was sitting at the desk in the den with her extra eyes on. Both my humans have extra eyes. Nick doesn't wear his a lot but when he does I'm not allowed to lick them because they steam up he says. Usually he wears little plastic things instead of his extra eyes and sometimes those fall out and he has to crawl around like me on the floor. I like laying on those little extra eyes and playing hide and seek with him with them.

Lauren looked up and lowered her extra eyes as we came in the room. "How was your jog? You're all sweaty." Her eyes glistened with approval. Lauren likes it when Nick gets all sweaty.

"It was good," he said.

There was food crumbs on the floor. I launched myself at them. Lauren must've given Igby some of her breakfast. Igby was asleep in the corner on his side, though. He's old so his sniffer isn't great and sometimes he misses food and I get to eat it when I find it later. He'd missed egg and some toast this time. I started eating the crumbleys up. Nick left the room and came back a few minutes later, while I was still eating up Igby's leftovers, carrying a bottle of water.

"Don't forget the guy from VH1 is coming by today," Lauren reminded him.

"Aw shit that's right. When's he comin'?"

"A little less than an hour," she replied. "I recommend going to take a shower. Get the sweat off you."

"Yeah." Nick started up the stairs. I scrambled to get the last of the crumbs into my mouth, then bulleted after him up the steps. I managed to beat him to the top, even with my mad dash to get the crumbs picked up, and I felt accomplished. Nick laughed when I got to the top of the steps. "You racin' me, are ya?"

When we reached the bedroom, Nick pulled his fur off and went into the shower and I grabbed a sneaker and pulled it up onto the chair by the window. I curled up and started gnawing on it. It tasted all sweaty - like licking Nick's toes after going for a Jog, which was one of my favorite activities to do while we watched Fetch on TV.

"Nachoooo, don't eat my shoes," Nick said when he got out of the shower a few minutes later. He pulled the sneaker away from me. "No," he said in a stern voice. "No eating the shoe. No." He tossed the sneaker into the closet, and started going through his assorted furs that were hanging up in there.

Humans are so strange about their furs. It's weird how often they shed them and get new furs. Although Nick changes his fur less often than most humans do, which is something Lauren doesn't seem to like because she yells at him sometimes if he goes too long before changing his furs. He gets mad, too, because if he doesn't change his fur often enough sometimes she makes his old fur disappear because she says it's too far gone and there's no washing the stench out now. He wore the same fur almost every single day on the ride to Tour, when Lauren wasn't there to yell at him.

"Boooosa, where's my Breaking Bad t-shirt?" Nick yelled as he looked into the closet.

"Laundry," Lauren yelled back.

Nick looked at the big box they call The Hamper. Basically this is where they put the fur they've worn already. I don't know what The Hamper does, but after they put the fur into The Hamper, about a week later the fur regenerates and they wear those furs again but they smell funny, like flowers and mountains and stuff. The Hamper is one of the great mysteries of the world.

Nick opened The Hamper lid and pulled out the fur that he'd asked about from among the other discarded furs in The Hamper.

"And do NOT go hamper diving for it either," Lauren called, "Wear something nice."

"Shit, it's like she's got the room bugged," Nick muttered, and he dropped the fur back into The Hamper and closed the lid. He turned back to the closet and ended up putting on a fur that looked like the ones the guys wear playing Fetch and a pair of shorts that even I knew did not go together.

I swear, sometimes my human is a fashion train wreck. Ugh.

We went back downstairs and Lauren was just coming out of the den, folding her extra eyes and sliding them into her back jeans pocket. She looked up. "Oh seriously you're gonna wear that?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

Thank you! My sentiments exactly.

Nick looked down at himself. "What's wrong with this? I'm comfortable."

"You look like you're about to go rob a 7-Eleven," she said.

"What do you want me to wear? A suit and tie? Maybe a smoking jacket?" he smirked, "I could go buy a pipe and sit in the parlor room and clench the pipe between my teeth and have those circles on my elbows - you know, the leather ones on the sweater, like Mr. Rodgers, and --"

Lauren gave Nick The Look.

I knew the Look. I get the Look sometimes when they catch me about to do something naughty.

"They don't care what I'm wearin', Boose," Nick said.

Lauren sighed. "Okay, fine."

"You know I love you," Nick said, grinning.

"Mhm," Lauren replied. She turned to straighten some stuff up on a shelf in the entry way.

"And you know you love me," Nick added, going up behind her and wrapping his arms around her. He put his face all up in her ear.

"Do I?" she asked.

"Mmhm," he said. "And if you want me to change... maybe we could go upstairs... and you could strip this stuff off me.. and --"

DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING DOOOOOOOOOOOONG!

THE DOOR BELL!

INTRUDERS!

The door always let me know when there were people trying to get in the house. The door is an ally in the war against attackers.

I ran at the door, my adrenaline rushing through my veins. Maybe it'll be the mailman, I thought with excitement. I've been waiting for a really long time to chew the mailman's leg off. He intrudes and rings the door bell on a regular basis. I hate that guy.

I barked and leapt against the door, bumping my chest against the wood repeatedly.

"Nacho get down," Nick commanded.

"Put him in the other room, will ya, Nick?" Lauren requested.

NOT THE OTHER ROOM!

Nick picked me up. I kicked my legs.

NOOOO!

He carried me through the house and opened the door to a small study off the living room. "Be good," he commanded, and he tossed me into the room and started to close the door.

Oh hellz nawh. I was not staying in there and missing my opportunity to eat the damn mailman's leg! God only knew what was outside that door -- my humans, they needed my protection! I bolted. Before Nick could close the door, I squeezed myself through it and between his legs. "NACHO!" he yelled, but I was already streaking through the living room and into the entry way, full speed ahead.

I slammed into the denim covered leg of a human that smelled funny and had a lot of fur on his face. I growled at him. I did not like this human. I could just tell there was something fishy about him.

Nick ran up behind me and grabbed me just before I could latch onto the human-guy's leg. He lifted me up and held me at his hip. "Sorry," he said. "Nacho doesn't like people he doesn't know coming in the house. He's great with fans but -- not so much with people in the house."

The guy stared at me and something in his eyes, the disapproval in his face maybe, made me hate him even more than I hate the mailman.

Chapter Five: The Mean Producer-human by Pengi
Chapter Five: The Mean Producer-human


The Producer-human was glaring at me, and I was growling under my breath, and Nick was making excuses for me. "He's really no trouble," Nick was saying as Lauren ushered the Producer-human into the living room. Nick followed along, "Really. He doesn't usually act like this around people. He won't be any trouble at the wedding."

The Producer-human froze mid-step. "Excuse me? You're bringing the dog to the wedding?" he looked aghast.

"They're going to be in the wedding," Lauren said. "They have tuxes and everything."

Producer-human looked at me, "There's more than one?"

"Igby," Lauren said, and she waved at my fat, lazy counterpart, who was probably not even aware a new human was in the house. He was sleeping. He reminded me of Nick's playmate Howie who sleeps a lot.

The Producer-human made a face, "I'm not a big fan of dogs, I'm sorry."

Yeah well we aren't big fans of you either, toolbag.

"Nick, put the dog away so we can talk about the project," Lauren said, waving her hand at the Other Room door.

"He doesn't like it in theerrrrre," Nick whined for me.

That's right. I don't like it in theerrrrre.

Lauren gave him The Look and I knew that meant Nick wasn't gonna take my side anymore. He turned and put me in the room. "Sorry buddy," he said as he pulled the door shut before I could escape again. I banged into the door and I barked. I wanted my nemesis to know my presence.

I could hear muffled voices as they talked but mostly all it was just lonely and lame in the Other Room and eventually I laid down by the door with my nose smooshed against the crack at the bottom snuffing. I wanted my human to come get me. After a bit, I let out a long, low howl. This was a sound that I knew from experience made Nick get shivers in his spine and almost always got me an immediate response. I waited. Nothing. So I let out the long, low howl again a second time and waited. Still nothing. I took a deep breath. This would be my greatest production, I thought, future generations of pugs would speak of this moment with awe in their barks.

I let out the most pathetic, drawn out noise I could possibly get out of my lungs.

The muffled voices stopped.

Success.

There were footsteps coming closer and closer and then the door cracked open and my human smooshed his face in. "Nacho, don't do that." He reached a hand in the door and pet my head, "Stop it, please, this is important."

I let out the howl again. No way was he gettin' away with just pettin my head and then leaving. He ocludn't appease me that easy.

"Nacho, please."

I did it again.

"Okay, fine, c'mere." He opened the door enough that I could squeeze out into his arms and I climbed up his chest and nuzzled my head into his neck. I shook a little because this added to the pathetic factor and the more pathetic I seemed to Nick the more spoiled I would get. Igby had wandered over and was staring at me with a look of disapproval and maybe a little awe. I nuzzled all the harder against Nick's throat and chin. "Okay, okay. It's okay buddy, it's a'ight," he said. "Aw I'm sorry..." He scratched my ears. "I'm sorry, dude." I licked his neck right by his Adam's Apple and he sighed, "C'mon."

Nick walked back into the living room with me on his hip. He sat down on the couch next to Lauren. The Producer-human was sitting in a chair across from the couch. He saw me and he pulled a slight face that probably Lauren and Nick didn't even notice. Then he turned back to talking to Lauren about the wedding.

I was in the room about thirty seconds before I noticed that Producer-human was completely ignoring Nick. I thought at first that this was because of me, but I don't think it was because whenever Nick would try to inject a comment in the conversation about the wedding, Producer-human would hold up a hand to signify one moment and Nick would sigh. At one point he muttered, "Of course," and rolled his eyes. I didn't like people who didn't let my human talk. Nick has very complex throughts and feelings sometimes and its important to him that he gets to say them. I could feel the tension building in him and I don't like people that make my human feel tense.

Lauren laughed and blushed as Producer-human said something about how pretty she was and Nick's arms tightened around me. I felt his heart rate go up a little. I looked up at him. I didn't like it when his heart rate changed and neither did he. I know he has a funny heart beat anyway, it's something that he worries about, I know because when his heart is beating funny sometimes we go someplace private and he talks to me about it. We'll lay on the couch in his studio in the dark and he'll whisper fears to me and I listen real diligent-like because thats my job as his dog is to listen and be there for him. His job as my human is to feed me Beggin' Strips. Sometimes I do better at my job than he does at his, but he's just a human so it's understandable that sometimes he messes up.

Plus I like licking his tears off. They taste good.

It was a long time of talking and the Producer-guy paying attention only to Lauren and Lauren trying real hard to get Nick into the conversation. I didn't fully understand what they were talking about other than that it was about the wedding and the fact that this Producer-human was going to be hauling a film crew to the wedding and taking pictures for the TV like where fetch is played. And I wondered how we were all gonna fit in the TV box, but I know Nick knows a secret to that because I've seen him in the TV box before and I've tried to rescue him from in the TV box because the Fans were in there, too, all screaming at him. I don't know how he escapes without me when that happens.

I hoped the Fans wouldn't be able to get to the wedding, too, if we were going to be on the TV box.

Igby had wandered over and jumped up next to Lauren on the couch and was sitting there watching the Producer-guy, who he didn't seem to have any troubles with, probably because he was treating his human better than he was treating mine.
"Igby, the Fans won't be able to scream at Nick at the wedding, right?"

Igby looked at me. "Stop worrying about the stupid Fans, your human likes the Fans."

"How could he like that? They scream at him and try to attack him. Of course he doesn't like them."

Igby sighed. "You're so stupid sometimes..." he muttered and he put his chin on Lauren's leg.

"But they're saying the wedding is going to be in the TV box and the Fans are in the TV box!" I persisted.

"Quiet Nacho," Nick muttered, and he scratched my head softly. I didn't realize I'd made any noises that humans could hear, but I guess I had in my panic.

Igby rolled his eyes so he could only just look at me out of the corner of them. "You don't go in the TV box, you go on the TV box." And with that, he closed his eyes and nuzzled into Lauren's hand with his nose.

Fat ball of lard. Lot of good you are, I thought.

The Producer-human stood up. "Well I will see you all tomorrow morning and we will begin our filming for the show on the way to the airport. It was a pleasure to meet you, Miss. Kitt." He took Lauren's hand and he slobbered on it. Now I don't know a lot about human customs but I do know this: only Nick is allowed to slobber on Lauren. I growled. I think Nick did, too.

The Producer-human laughed, "What, now it doesn't like when people say goodbye either?"

"Apparently not," Nick muttered.

The Producer-human nodded at Nick, "Nice meeting you," he said. He glared at me, then turned and Lauren had stood up and was showing him to the door. Igby stayed behind on the couch, and Nick hovered behind, still carrying me, as Lauren showed Producer-human out. "Have a good evening, Miss. Kitt," he said, and he smiled, showing off a thousand teeth.

My human does that better than you do, Producer-human.

When Lauren shut the front door, Nick put me down on the carpet. "I can't believe you brought him back out to the living room after Terry said he doesn't like dogs!" she said, turning to Nick.

"Well it ain't like he was listening to me about anything so why would I listen to him?" Nick argued, "I swear to God, Laur, he looked at me like twice through that whole thing. It was like I wasn't even there!"

"Well typically guys don't wanna talk about the wedding," Lauren answered.

"AJ's videographer knew he wanted to talk about the wedding!" Nick argued.

"AJ owns more Essie nailpolishes than I do and he wore a dress to one of his wedding photo shoots. I think AJ doesn't really fit the traditional male role and that his videographer probably noticed that." Lauren sighed, "I thought Terry was really nice. He really seemed in-tune with what I want the wedding to look like, you know? He wasn't like insistant on anything that doesn't sound like what we planned."

Nick muttered, "Yeah well he wanted to get in your pants."

"What did you just say?" Lauren asked.

"I said he wanted to get in your pants," Nick repeated louder.

Lauren stared at him, aghast. "You're being ridiculous."

"No I'm not! Laur, he wouldn't stop staring at you."

"Nick that's called paying attention and when people talk to someone, they're supposed to stare at them while they are talking. That is called effective communication." She eyed him. "It's not Terry's fault that you're lacking in that department."

"I ain't lacking in no departments!" Nick said hotly.

Lauren rolled her eyes, "Please. You're not perfect."

"I'm perfecter than that guy was!" Nick yelled, he pointed at the door to emphasize he meant Produder-human. "Did you see that guy's eyebrows? They were ridiculous!"

"Nick!"

"Well they were! How did you not notice that? Christ, it was like Kevin and Oscar the Grouch had a god-damned love child!"

"Okay this conversation has officially descended into levels of ridiculous beyond -- just beyond." Lauren headed for the stairs, "Igby, c'mon."

"Where you goin'?" Nick demanded.

"Upstairs to pack."

"Fine."

"Fine."

We watched as Lauren and Igby went upstairs and when the bedroom door slammed a few minutes later, Nick muttered, "Fucking wooly mammoths on his face, that's what he had... Bastard thinks he can look at my woman... he's got another thing coming... Take a damn photo asshat, it'll last longer..." He stormed into the kitchen as he muttered, and I followed him because angry Nick plus kitchen equals good food and I was going to need to use my hypnotic powers to make some of that fall onto the floor.

Nick ripped open the fridge and pulled out a bottle of beer, then turned to the cupboard and glanced back out at the stairs to make sure Lauren wasn't around. Then he opened the secret cupboard. See, there's this one part of the cupboads where it's not technically supposed to open, but Nick discovered once that it does and that there's a cubby space back there and he started stashing food stuff that Lauren doesn't approve of. Things like Twinkies and Pringles and extra Beggin' Strips and chocolate bars and pretzels. Today's Forbidden Food du Jour was Cheetos.

Nick carried the bag of Cheetos and his beer - the lid of which he popped off on the edge of the counter before we left the kitchen - through the house and back out to the living room. He turned the TV box on and skimmed the channels as he took a big swallow of beer. Fetch wasn't on so we ended up watching a rerun of this show called The Price is Right in which a lot of humans scream at cars. I'm not sure what the show's about other than that. Nick gave me a Cheeto though and I sat next to him and splayed my belly up because it always makes Nick feel better to rub my belly. He did and slowly I felt the tension leaving him as he ate his snack and scratched my belly and we watched the humans scream at exercise equipment on the TV box.

Chapter Six: Omlettes by Pengi
Chapter Six: Omlettes


I was dreaming I was running after a giant Beggin' Strip that was as tall as my human is. I had been hunting it - the legendary Beggin' Strip of Olde - for centuries and now my moment was finally upon me. I was inches from it's heels, could nearly taste the tangy, meaty flavor of it's flesh in my mouth when --- I was ripped from my dream by the sensation of being lifted from the couch. I shimmied and opened my eyes, panicking, half expecting to find myself in the clutches of an even bigger, King Beggin' Strip that was protecting it's kin, but instead found myself in Nick's arms.

His eyes were bleary and the TV was off. It was dark. "C'mon, let's go to bed," he mumbled.

My legs swung by his side as he waddled up the stairs to the bedroom. The lights were off, Lauren was laying in the bed on her back, staring up at the ceiling, her face lit up by the moon light in the window. Several suitcases were piled in the corner. Igby was laying across the bumps of her legs. He looked up as we entered the room. Nick put me down on the bed and I went for his pillow and dug it up and laid in the crevice between it and the headboard and put my chin on the pillow.

"I'm sorry I was a tool earlier," Nick said.

Lauren sighed, "I'm sorry I was a bitch."

"Are we cool now?" he asked.

"I'm cold actually. Get in here." She held up the blankets and Nick kicked his shoes and furs off and crawled into bed next to her. They curled up next to each other and Nick tangled his hand up in her hair and pressed his cheek against her forehead as she nuzzled into his chest. He took a deep breath and rubbed her arm with his extra hand. The blanket was pulled tight over their forms. "That's better," Lauren said. She hummed happily. "I swear, I dunno what I did without you there to warm up the bed before," she laughed.

"That's what heating blankets are for," he mumbled.

"That's right. Why am I bothering to marry you again? All I need is a heating blanket."

"Heating blankets don't have magic tongues..." Nick answered with a pur to his voice.

Lauren snorted.

Nick grinned and closed his eyes.

"I really do love you," she said quietly. "You know that, right? I mean even through the banter?"

"Course I do."

"Good." She wrapped her arm around his waist and nuzzled even closer.

"Heating blankets aren't sexy like me," he added. I reached over and licked his head, just to remind him that I was there. Just in case he forgot and started thinking Lauren was the most important thing in his life. Because that would be wrong. I am. Obviously. He laughed, "Nacho, don't do that."

"What's he doin'?"

"Lickin' my forehead."

"Crazy ass pug."

"Right?"

I snuggled into the pillow, satisfied I'd been acknowledged.

"One more week," Lauren said quietly. "Can you believe it? One week from tonight and we'll be married."

"Never thought it'd happen," Nick commented.

"Me either," Lauren said. Her voice trilled with excitement. "You know, when I met you, I honestly didn't think you'd ever want to get married."

"When you met me I honestly didn't think I'd ever want to get married," Nick said with a laugh, "Dude, a year ago I honestly didn't think I'd ever want to get married."

"What changed your mind?" Lauren asked.

They had this conversation on a somewhat regular basis and even though they both knew the answers the other was going to give, they went through it step-by-step like it was a brand new conversation. They'd grin and giggle because they were both in on the joke that it was a often repeated script, but they'd follow through just the same.

"You did, Boos," Nick answered. "Because you were so amazing I couldn't dream of anything better than being right here next to you in bed late at night." He kissed her forehead.

I ignored them. It was too mushy.

I must've fallen asleep because I woke up to the feeling of Nick shaking me and I stretched and yawned and watched as he rolled out of the bed and walked across the room to the door. "C'mon," he whispered. I stretched again, real slow-like, because getting up needs to be my idea not his, and then jumped down and sauntered toward him. He watched me as I made my way as slow as I could over to him and out the door. As he closed the door behind me, he muttered, "Sorry for awakening you, your highness, I thought you might like some breakfast..."

Breakfast? Well that would be acceptable, yes.

Nick led the way down to the kitchen and I was much more energetic now that I knew there was food involved, and he took a lot of crinkly wrapper items out of the fridge and I spun around and around at his feet every time I heard the crinkle, giving him my very best hypnotic stare. "I know you want some, hold on..." Nick laughed as I spun around especially fast. He kept doing what he was doing and the kitchen filled with lovely smells and he reached for the cupboard and pulled out four plates - two small ones and two larger ones - and he pulled out his phone and stared at it for a couple seconds, I think this is called texting in human, but I'm not positive. Nick does it a lot at anyrate. Then he looked down at me. "You ready for breakfast?"

I'm gonna get dizzy from all this spinning.

"Yeah? Do ya?"

I sat on my haunches and held up my high five paw at him.

Nick laughed, "Damn, look at you. You'd think you ain't eaten in a week, dog." He leaned down and put one of the two small plates on the floor, "There ya go."

I launched myself at the plate. It was eggs -- eggs with... oh my God. No way. It couldn't be. EGGS WITH BEGGIN STRIPS. And cheese! Cheese! It was beautiful. It was genius. It was stuff like this that was why I keep my human around.

Nick grinned as I sucked down the eggs with Beggin' Strips. "You like your omlette, huh boy?" he asked, laughing. "I thought you might like that."

Well yeeeeah.

Lauren came in the room, followed by Igby. I guess it was her that Nick was texting because she slid her phone into her pocket and sat down. "Hey Igby, want some breakfast too?" Nick asked and I glanced up to see him put some more of the omlette as he called it onto a second plate for Igby and set it down in front of him. Igby's a lot more delicate about how he eats, though, so he started daintily eating. Nick put a plate in front of Lauren and on the table across from her and sat down, too.

"Thanks honey," she said, and she picked up a fork and took a bite. "Mmm." She smiled at him.

"It felt lik an omlette kinda day."

"Great protiens," she said, grinning.

"Mhm," he nodded. "And taste, too."

They ate in silence a few moments, long enough for me to finish mine and I moved over and started stealing bites of Igby's when he wasn't looking.

"I got us all packed last night, all you gotta do is put the bags in the car and we're good to go," Lauren commented, "The flight leaves at eleven so we should get going pretty soon."

"Didja pack my sweatpants?" Nick asked.

Lauren didn't answer. She stared at the eggs. I watched her for a second while Igby faced his plate, trying to look innocent, like I hadn't been sneaking bites off his plate.

"Boosa?"

"I got you new sweatpants instead," Lauren said.

"New sweatpants?"

"They're grey. But other than being grey they're exactly the same."

"They aren't the same."

"They're exactly the same, I promise," she said.

"No 'cos the red ones are all wore in the way I like," Nick said, he waved his hand at his crotch, "They're stretched just right, you know? They don't bag up and they ain't scratchy..."

"Well if you wore underwear scratchy wouldn't be a problem," Lauren said pointedly. "And the red ones have a hole in them."

"A breeze is good for the kahonies."

"Nick."

"They're comfy."

"They're nasty," she said.

I grabbed a big piece of Igby's egg and he caught me and he barked. "Back off, you lil shit, that's mine. The humans gave it to me."

Lauren looked down. "Nacho -- No. Eat your own."

Nick looked down. "What's he doin'?"

"Stealing Igby's food."

"Nacho don't be a pig."

I whimpered and crawled under the table by Nick's feet. I laid down, my head on his ankle, and started at Igby, who was gloating over the remains of his egg. He probably didn't even want it. He doesn't eat as much as I do. But he was having fun gloating that I'd gotten yelled at for trying to take it.

Old bastard.

"Are the red ones in the wash?" Nick asked, returning to the topic that they'd just left.

Lauren sighed, "Nick, just wear the new grey ones. It won't kill you. The red ones will be here when you get home."

"You didn't chuck them, right?"

"No."

"Swear on your mother's sister's cousin's brother's boyfriend?" he asked.

"Swear on an obscure sort-of family member several times removed? Sure."

"You threw'em away, didn't you?"

"Nick they were nasty." Before he could complain, she speedily added, "And I cleaned the dogs' pet taxis, too. So their beds are all fresh. And speaking of nasty, you should've seen the rat nest of stuff Nacho had hidden under his bed..."

I looked up at her knees under the table.

Don't you be touchin' my shit, woman.

"What'd he have in there?"

"Like fifteen old moldy Beggin' Strips, a couple of your socks, a shredded squeak toy, and what I can only assume used to be a piece of a sandwich."

"Gross," Nick said, laughing.

Hey one man's gross is another dog's treasure, human.

Lauren cleared her throat, "You really seriously gotta lighten up on the Beggin' Strips. He's not even eating them, he's just burying them places and they get gross when they're moldy."

"He loves those things. He probably just stashed those ones so he has them incase I ever actually listen to you and stop giving them to him. He's like Talahassee with the Twinkies."

Lauren laughed. "Either that or even Nacho knows he's getting fat."

"Nacho likes being fat."

That's true, I really do, I'm not gonna lie.

"Besides, have you seen Igby? He's not exactly lacking in the waistline, either."

I glanced over at Igby. He was licking the plate clean, staring at me with spite in his eyes.

Jerk.

"True... He doesn't go jogging either though."

"That's not my fault he's a lazy ass," Nick said.

Lauren laughed. "Igby, are you a lazy ass?"

The answer would be affirmative.

Nick stood up and I scrambled to get away from his foot before he stepped on me and crushed me. He tripped a little but quickly regained his balance. "Okay. I'm gonna go put the bags in the car then," he said, putting his plate in the dish monster.

"Okay," Lauren said. "I'll get the dogs out back while you do that so they can do their final pees."

"Okay." Nick was about to leave the room when Lauren stood up and caught him by the elbow, tossing her own dish in the sink with her free hand. "Yes?" he turned back.

"I love you. Stinky sweatpants and all," she said, and she slobbered on him.

Nick grinned. "I love ya too Boos."

Lauren smiled, "Good. Now go put the stuff in the car." With that, Nick thundered away and I was about to follow him when Lauren said the Magic Words.

"Who wants to go outside?"

MEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

I ran for the back door, spinning and barking all the way while Igby waddled along behind Lauren as she made her way out of the kitchen. She pushed the back door opened and I bolted down the steps onto the beach, sand flying from my toes as I tore around in a wide circle before pausing to pee on a big washed up log that lay a few feet from the water. A handful of seagulls were on the sand, pecking at crabs that skuttled along the shoreline. I ran at them, barking, and they flew away. Then I turned back and ran back up the beach toward the house, literally doing circles around Igby as he waddled along the sand.

It felt good, breathing in the ocean air, and as I glanced back up at the deck at Lauren breathing in the same salty air, I thought to myself how great my life really is. I must be the luckiest pug in the entire world.

Chapter Seven: The Airport Discovery by Pengi
Chapter Seven: The Airport Discovery


I am the unluckiest pug in the entire world.

Lauren was pushing me head-first into my pet taxi, despite my leg-kicking and whining. Igby was already nesting into his freshly cleaned bedding. "Nacho.. just... go in the crate," Lauren pleaded, pushing my butt. I had a firm grasp on the outside of the door of the crate and I was not about to lose it.

"You gotta give him Beggin' Strips," I heard Nick say as he thundered by with a heavy load of bags.

I lost my footing at the words Beggin' Strips.

"If he has many more of those things he's gonna not fit in the crate," Lauren grunted. She pushed and my lost footing did me in and I slid into the crate. "Aha!" She cried. The door closed and locked behind me.

Damn it.

She lugged the two pet taxis out the front door and I caught a swinging glimpse of Nick's backend sticking out of the car as he piled in the luggage. "Here's the dogs," Lauren said, holding us out.

"What the hell did you pack?" Nick asked. I felt the crate shift as he took hold of the handle from Lauren. I slid into the wall and pressed my face against the grated door, staring out. "Everything but the damn kitchen sink? It's only a week, Laur..."

"One week, the wedding, and then the honeymoon. Don't forget the honeymoon," Lauren said, "That's a second whole week!"

"We don't need clothes for that."

"Nick!" Lauren laughed.

"Well we don't."

"You plan to go sightseeing in the nude?"

"That would be a sight to see," Nick shoved the two crates into the car and directed his hand at his crotch. Lauren had her eyebrow raised. "It's a damn fine sight to see."

"Uh huh," she muttered, covering her mouth, trying not to laugh.

Nick reached for the car door and slammed it shut.

"Where are we going?" I asked Igby, shuffling in my crate so I could peer through the breathing holes into his.

He was yawning. "Haven't you been listening to the humans? We're going to Florida."

"Is Florida far?"

"You've been to Florida plenty of times," Igby replied, like that was the answer to my question.

"Is it further than Tour?"

Igby sighed. "For the millionth time, you do not go TO tour, you go ON tour. Tour is not a place, it is an activity."

I curled up, turning my back on the old man. If he was gonna talk nonsense I was gonna just ignore him. I tucked my paws under my chin and waited, trying to remember when I'd been to Florida before so I could gauge how far away it was compared to Tour.

The ride was pretty much really uneventful. Nick and Lauren listened to music, interrupted only when Nick barked at the other cars and Lauren barked at Nick for barking at them. When we got to there, Nick jumped out and started unloading all the luggage onto a cart.

"Florida was really close," I said to Igby.

"That was just the ride to the airport, dumbass," Igby answered, "We haven't even started the trip yet. We still have a plane to ride and another car ride when we get there too."

I sighed.

Suddenly the crates were airbourne and Nick was pushing us onto the top of the cart thing and securing us down, and we were being pushed into this big crazy building that smelled like lots of new people and I looked around wondering if I'd see the mailman, but there was too many foods and people to smell and I didn't really know what the mailmain looked like.

Nick pushed the cart until we were standing in a long line. Lauren was digging in her bag when suddenly a voice rang through the airport that I knew I recognized from somewhere...

"Lauren, hello!"

Lauren stopped and turned. Her face turned red. "Oh boy."

"What?" Nick turned around and as he turned, I saw -- it was the Producer-human, and he was coming towards us all from across the airport, waving at Lauren. I growled instinctively at the sight of him. "What the hell is he doing here?" Nick asked.

"Be nice," Lauren commanded.

"Only if he is," Nick replied.

Lauren gave him The Look as the Producer-human arrived at their sides. "Well imagine running into y'all here," he said, grinning, still staring at Lauren. "What are the odds!"

"Murphey's Law is a bitch," Nick muttered.

Lauren elbowed him.

Nick shrugged.

Producer-human either didn't notice this exchange or didn't pay attention to it. "I was hoping to get a chance to talk to you more," Producer-human said, grinning. "I've been wanting to talk to you for quite some time."

"I bet you have," Nick mumbled.

I was still growling lowly.

Lauren was red-faced as she reached in her purse and shoved two pieces of paper at Nick. "Go get us checked in, sweetie?"

"But --"

Lauren raised her eyebrow.

"Fine, gimme the tickets." Nick took the papers and stared at the Producer-human. I could feel the tension in him. I doubled my growling.

"Nacho stop it," Nick muttered, and he walked away carrying the paper.

Lauren turned back to the Producer-human. "I told you that you are not to bring up the past during this project. I thought I made myself clear about that?"

Producer-human shrugged, "What can I say? I changed my mind about the agreement."

Lauren bit her lips, frustrated. "Look. I'm getting married, I am in love with that man, and I don't care what you think or what you want..."

Producer-human was grinning. "You still haven't told him about us yet have you? What, are you afraid Nick won't marry you if he knows you slept with me?"

Lauren stared at the Producer-human and the tension in her eyes was so great that even Igby started to growl a little bit.

"There isn't an us," Lauren snapped, "There was never an us. All there was was a terrible mistake made on a drunken night over four years ago that didn't mean anything. I was in a very, very bad place at that point, Nick and I were on a break, and you meant nothing to me then, and you mean nothing to me now."

"I don't think that's quite true," the Producer-human said, chuckling. He reached out his hand and leaned it on the suitcase directly beside me.

Big mistake.

I launched myself at the wall of the crate so hard that the crate shifted a little and started to slide off. My noise was great enough - even if all I managed to do was bounce off the wall of the crate a little - that it scared the shit out of the Producer-human, though. He leaped back, clutching his heart. "Jesus!" he shouted. He glared at me, then pointed, turning back to Lauren, "That dog... that dog is vicious."

"He's not vicious, he's just protective, and he knows an asshole when he sees him. Have a good day," Lauren replied, and she reached for the handle of the cart.

He stepped up and put his hands on her waist. "You really should tell Nick before I let something slip..." his voice was low.

Lauren whispered, "You cannot hold something from so long ago against me."

"There's a lot of things I wanna hold against you," the Producer-human whispered back.

Lauren stared straight ahead, her jaw set. Then, very slowly, she mumbled, "If you don't get your fucking hands off my hips right fucking now I will kick your ass into the next dimension."

Producer-human backed up, holding his hands up so she could see them. He smirked. "I'll see y'all on the plane, then," he said, winking, "I think we may just be seated together."

Lauren closed her eyes as the Producer-human disappeared among the crowd of the airport. "He can't ruin the wedding," she whispered. "He just can't."

Ruin the wedding?

Panic went through my veins.

"Igby, what does she mean, ruin the wedding? Like stop it from happening?"

"That's what it sounds like," Igby said, a stunned tone to his voice.

"Well shit, we can't let that happen!" I gasped, "We gotta tell Nick!"

"And how do you propose we do that? All they hear of us is barks and groans, remember?"

"Somehow! Or else... or else we gotta stop the Producer-human ourselves..."

"You've officially lost your mind. We're dogs in case you haven't noticed," Igby replied with a barking scoff.

"There's gotta be something we can do!" I cried.

Nick came back and grabbed the handle of the cart. "Gotta check the bags," he said. He looked around, "Where's Oscar the Grouch?"

"He went to go check in," Lauren answered stiffly.

"You okay?" Nick questioned.

"Yeah," she replied, "Yeah. I'm... it's great. C'mon." She helped him steer the cart through the people crowded around the check in area.

I have never wished that I was able to speak human more than at that moment.

I wanted to scream to Nick everything we'd just heard.

Especially the part where the creepy Producer-human wanted to ruin the wedding.

Looks like I was gonna have to take matters into my own hands. But how? I was going on several years of tryng to catch the mailmain and I was presented an opportunity to get that guy every single day. What could a little pug like me possibly do to save the day against the Producer-human?

Chapter Eight: Pacing Pugs Make Irrational Decisions by Pengi
Chapter Eight: Pacing Pugs Make Irrational Decisions


"Lay down, would'ja?" Igby pleaded.

We were on the plane. The plane was flying on it's way to Florida. We were in the cargo I guess it's called, and there was luggage all over the place, the lighting extremely low. Igby's crate was secured next to mine and there were other dogs all in this big group in there. Several of them were talking, and one particularly bitchy Beagle kept barking randomly about squirrels.

I was pacing, which is why Igby wanted me to lay down. I guess the shuffling of my paws on my crate was getting on his nerves, but I couldn't help it. I was nervous.

"It's a long enough flight without your constant pacing," Igby muttered.

"I'm worried about Nick and Lauren and this Producer-human," I told him. "What are we gonna do about him? He's trying to ruin the wedding. And your human makes my human too happy to let that happen!"

Igby sighed, "Let the humans take care of it, Nacho."

"But Nick doesn't even know about it! How can he take care of something he doesn't know!"

"Lauren knows, she'll take care of it."

I paced more. "She's not gonna tell Nick, you heard her say so yourself."

Igby sighed even heavier this time. "Nacho, we are dogs. There's nothing we can do to save the wedding from the Producer-human. The humans can take care of themselves." I heard Igby shuffle around in his crate and I knew he rolled over so he could ignore my pacing, fed up with trying to talk me down from doing it.

I just couldn't lie down and pretend that everything was okay and I had nothing to worry about. I liked Lauren okay and Igby was a good friend most of the times, but Nick - I loved Nick and if he was sad then I was sad and things that threatened him were a threat to me and the idea that Producer-human was a threat to his happiness with Lauren made me feel threatened and angry and worried. I wished so much I could just find him, climb up on him, and tell him exactly what was bothering me. I knew Nick wouldn't let anything rip apart our little weird family. He'd make sure everything was okay and we'd all be happy.

But I had no way of telling Nick what I knew.

I was still pacing when the air pressure in the cabin dropped and we were descending into Florida. When the plane landed, despite all my hours of thinking and pacing, I was no closer to having an answer for what to do to help the humans. I was exhausted, but energized by worry, feeling highstrung and tense...

Perhaps that's what made me make one of the stupidest choices of my entire life. Perhaps pacing pugs make irrational choices is the lesson that everyone should take from all this.

Airplane-worker Humans got in the plane and Igby and I were loaded onto a cart that was brought inside this big airport building and after a long ride on the cart we were left in a room to wait. Igby moved around a little, but neither of us said anything, we just waited for Nick and Lauren. It took awhile, but finally Nick was there and I barked excitedly, wishing maybe just this once that he could understand that bark bark bark actually meant the Producer-human is trying to sabotage your wedding and steal your Lauren-human away! He didn't seem to get the translation, though.

"Hey Nacho," he said, bending down and staring into my grated crate door, "Hey buddy, I missed you too... yeah I did." He pressed his face into the door and I licked his nose. He smiled.

I love that smile, I thought. I had to help protect him somehow and if he couldn't hear me when I barked my warning then I'd have to find some other way to tell Nick what was going on.

Nick loaded my crate up next to Igby's again on another rolling cart, all the luggage they'd had before in Los Angeles was piled below us. As Nick pushed the cart through the airport, him and Lauren were discussing the latest happenings on some show on the TV Box that they watch together until Nick interrupted her mid-sentence to answer his phone. When he hung up, he turned to Lauren, "They're gonna be like an hour before they'll be here to pick us up."

Lauren sighed, "An hour? Ugh."

"Yeah." Nick pushed the cart over to a bench and Lauren sat down and dug in her purse until she pulled out a little mirror and started putting stuff on her face. "I need coffee while we wait," Nick said, looking around. "I think I saw a Starbucks down that way last time we were here. You want any?"

Lauren shook her head, "I'm okay. I'll stay here with the stuff."

"Okay. Be right back."

Nick walked away.

I whimpered.

"He'll be right back, Nacho, quiet," Lauren said.

I whimpered again. I didn't like it when Nick walked away. Particularly when I was worried about him. It gave me a panicked feeling. Which also may have been a contributing factor to what was about to happen...

"So that was a delightful flight, wasn't it?" came an all-too-familiar voice. I turned to see Producer-human walking towards the cart. Both Igby and I started growling and he made a face in our direction, then stood a couple feet away, staring down at Lauren. "Where's the mighty groom?"

Lauren didn't even look up from her mirror thingy.

"You know what I think?" Producer-human said slowly, staring at his fingers, "I think that you're hoping I'll tell Nick so that he will break up with you and you and I can end up together and continue what we had before."

Lauren's voice was level, but only just holding onto its cool. "I told you, Terry, there wasn't anything to continue. Please leave me alone except on a purely professional basis."

He grinned. "Well why else would you keep me on the job?"

"VH1 hired you, not me," Lauren replied cooly.

The Production-human smirked and he took a step toward Lauren. It was a small step, really, I guess, but it was a step that made her flinch and the moment she flinched .... I dunno, something monsterous took over me. I launched myself at the door of my crate, expecting to only make a loud racket and bounce off the grated door, but instead... instead something very different happened.

Instead, the crate flipped off the cart and I found myself doing a 360* turn in the air before the crate crash-landed on the tile floor of the airport. It burst open along the side seam where the lid met the base and it was like I was hatching from a plastic egg. I found myself standing there - one half of the crate on one side, the other half on the other side, and nothing but cool tile beneath me.

Everyone of us paused.

Lauren's eyes widened.

Producer-human's face paled.

Igby stared out of his own crate.

I stood there, feeling the cool beneath my paws.

"Jesus," Producer-human muttered, "It's loose."

And just like that, I lunged forward: exactly one thing on my mind.

Producer-human thought that one thing was blood. He leaped up and onto a chair, shrieking as I rushed by him. Lauren jumped forward trying to catch hold of me, but I was out of her grasp long before she could catch me. "NACHO!" She shouted as I streaked into the airport crowd, "Someone catch that dog!"

I ran like a bat out of hell. The only thought on my mind was finding Nick. I was fucking terrified. I've never been loose in a public place like the airport before and holy shit it was horrible. There were people and smells and colors and these crazy floor parts that moved beneath me. There were people yelling and rolling suitcases and carts and all kinds of things going on. I felt like there were a million people and none of them were my human. I listened, desperate to hear his voice, and sniffed, but all I could smell was the gallons of snot that had built up in my nose during the flight that I hadn't yet had the chance to sneeze out. I pictured Producer-human running after me, chasing me, trying to stop me because he knew I knew too much. I doubled my speed. Where the hell was my human?

I found myself suddenly dodging cars. Angry cars. They were barking at me loudly in these big, glaring voices that echoed and made me jump. Sometimes, I thought, coffee is a car ride away. Maybe Nick was in one of the cars? And I tried to peek into them as they barked at me, trying to spot Nick. One or two of the cars almost ate me, and my heart leaped into my chest, and I ran even faster to get away from them, and the next thing I knew I was in a huge parking lot with tons and tons of sleeping cars and I wandered through them, whimpering, shaking, trying to find the one I recognized, the one that Nick had tamed, and I couldn't find it, and I felt scared and the tar was hot under my paw pads.

When I reached the far end of the field, I looked back but I couldn't see Lauren or Igby or the cart or the Producer-human or Nick or anything that I recognized at all. I found a small patch of grass next to a big fence and I laid down, my legs shaking so much I could barely keep them moving. I was panting, my heart racing. I laid close to the ground, my ears flat to my head, looking around, listening to the sound of strange, hissing bugs in the heat and the sun was starting to go down and on the other side of the fence cars rushed by. A plane took off and it was so close that it's roar shook my fur and I pressed my nose into my paws. I shivered.

I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where my humans were. I was alone. In this big, huge, scary, awful world I was all alone.

I howled.... even longer, lower and more pathetic than I had the other night in the Other Room.

I wanted Nick.

Chapter Nine: The Pound by Pengi
Chapter Nine: The Pound


I watched the sun go down and it got real dark and the planes became blurs of lights and noise when they passed me by on their way into the air. I crawled across the patch of grass on my belly to the fence and pressed myself against it, laying as flat as I could to keep myself from being seen. Every noise I heard I looked around wildly, my heart beating so hard I was sure any enemies coming toward me in the dark could hear it. I shivered and waited and waited.

Nick would come for me, I told myself, he had to. He would find me. He wouldn't stop looking until he did, would he?

I pressed my nose against my paws and I must've fallen asleep at some point because the next thing I knew there were hands on my sides and I was being lifted up. I kicked my legs in a panic and wiggled until I caught a glimpse of a short, fat man in a blue suit with heavy leather gloves on his hands. He picked me right up and carried me across the patch of grass I'd spent the night on toward a big white van waiting at the curb. He opened up the back of the van and there were empty pet taxis lining the walls on shelves and a big open space with blankets covering the floor. Old, kinda worn out blankets. He set me down on one of the blankets.

"Looks like you belong to somebody," he mumbled, and he reached for my collar. My collar is red and it has a Tampa Bay Buccs tag with my name on the back. The strange human turned it over, "Nacho, huh?" he asked. I wagged my tail once because this is the most effective way to say yes to a human. "Hmm, looks like your owner didn't put any further information on there about you.... Let's get you back to the pound and I'll call the airlines and see if anyone's reported you missing yet." With that, pulled closed a gate that blocked off the door, then shut the doors themselves.

I lay there on the funny-smelling blankets. Despite the fact that they smelled like a vast many other dogs, the blankets were warm and I was so cold that I was able to over look the smell. I nuzzled down into the blankets and, even though I didn't know this human even a little, I felt a little safer than I had all night and I was so exhausted that I fell asleep while he was driving.

Quite some time later, the van came to a halt and the human came back and opened up the doors. He pulled a leash from a bag hanging on the door and reached through the gate and hooked it onto my collar. I don't know why he thought I was gonna run away - I had most definitely learned my lesson about running away. That lesson being don't do it. "C'mon Nacho," he said, and he lifted me down to the ground and closed the van doors.

We walked across a small dirt lot toward a lonely looking building in the shade of some trees. Even from outside, I could hear a lot of dogs barking and that funny smell from the blankets permeated the air. I wasn't positive I felt safe anymore and I hesitated in following the human. He tugged the leash he'd attached to my collar until I continued on with him. Nick never tugged my leash like that. If I hesitated, Nick either carried me or didn't make me go the direction I was hesitant to go in. I wanted my human, not this random strange human that smelled like other dogs.

He made me follow him into the little building and we were in a small room lined with cages with sleek cats whose tails swished as they watched with beady eyes as the strange human led me by. I glanced up at them and they stared down at me and I tucked my tail between my legs because their stares were so regal and so cold that I couldn't help but feel intimidated by them. I rushed to stay close to the strange human.

He paused behind a desk and I stayed close to his ankles. Somewhere in the building a bird was making a racket and there were dogs barking and howling and the cats were mowing and there were other noises that I couldn't identify, things I'm guessing I've never met before. I could barely move, I was so scared. The strange human was talking on the phone, but I didn't listen to him, I was too busy trying to keep my eyes on alert for whatever one of the animals present would try to kill me first.

After a little bit, he leaned down and picked me up and put me down on the counter top and unhooked his leash from my collar. I could feel the cats staring at me again and I lifted my front paw, something I did whenever I was truly scared shitless, and trembled. "Gon' be a'ight," the strange human said. "Just a couple hours here with us and you'll be on your way with your owner."

He lifted me up again and carried me through a door toward the howling and barking that was previously just a muffled background noise. I looked around as we entered a very dark, drab area that I learned later was called a kennel. He carried me down the hallway and every one of the individual areas had faces pressed into the links of the fence. All eyes were on me.

"Who's the new guy?" I heard voices asking.

"Looks pampered to me."

"Yeah look at that collar, that's a leather collar."

"Real leather, too, it looks! And not a chew mark on it!"

"Your mommy an heiress, ey, little puppy-wuppy-pie?" they teased.

Even if I had an answer to provide, I couldn't have at that moment because I was way too scared to even think about making a peep. The strange human carried me clear to the back corner and opened the very last holding stall and put me in. "You wait here, little fella," he said, and he pulled the stall door shut and walked away.

I stood there at the links until the human door closed behind him.

I shook and hunkered down as the other dogs in the other kennels kept making fun and calling out taunts about my collar and the fact that I looked well fed. Which I think might've meant they were calling me fat, but I'm not sure.

Suddenly there was a noise behind me, and I jumped and turned so I was back-into the corner. Something was moving in the shadowy part of the kennel I'd been put in.

"Stop pickin' on him guys, he's scared to death." It was a girl dog, I could tell that much, but I couldn't see her, she stayed in the shadow. All I could see was a vague shape moving through the dark. "It's obvious this one ain't been far from his owner before."

The other dogs quieted. I could still hear them whispering their comments to each other, but it was better than the racket they'd been making before. I stayed low anyways, though. I squinted into the dark, trying to see the mystery pup that had stood up for me. "Who are you?" I asked.

"My name's Muffin," she replied. "Blueberry Muffin, but everyone just calls me Muffy."

"My human likes blueberry muffins. He buys them on our Jogs sometimes at the coffee shop because Lauren doesn't like it when he eats muffins. She says they're high in fat." I was rambling. I knew I was, but I was nervous and that's what happens when I'm nervous.

Muffy scoffed, a low snorting sound. "Your human? The human that abandoned you?"

"Nick didn't abandon me, I just got lost is all..."

"Lost?" Muffy said the words quietly. "I got lost once. My human never looked for me. It's the same thing as being abandoned, when they don't look for you."

"Nick is looking for me," I said, though I wasn't positive... The long night I'd spent on the patch of grass by the fence before the strange human had found me echoed in the back of my mind. I'd never howled and cried before when he hadn't come. Nick always came when I howled. Always. I'd shivered the whole night waiting for him, and he'd never come. "Maybe your owner is looking for you, too," I suggested.

A barking laugh echoed through the entire kennel as a bunch of the other dogs laughed. I looked around at all the different points the echoing bark was coming from, feeling ambushed.

"Stop." Muffy's voice was firm and all the other dogs stopped laughing and the kennel was filled with a painfully loud silence. Then, in the shadows, Muffy stirred and her paw stepped into the light. "My human isn't looking for me. I was lost three years ago..." And as she spoke, the rest of her came out of the shadow, too, slowly revealing her leg, her chest, her neck, and finally her face.

She was the ugliest god-damn dog I'd ever laid eyes upon.

She was some sort of bulldog-mix with big drooping cheeks and long ears. Her tongue hung funny from her mouth, but it was because the whole right side of her face was scarred and she only had one eye.

I pressed myself to the floor of the kennel. "What happened to you?" I asked, shaking.

"Humans don't love dogs. Humans control dogs, and when they're through they throw them away, like trash. It's better to learn it now, here, from me, rather than the hard way, at the hands of some cruel human, like I learned it," Muffy said darkly, and she turned back into the shadows, like she was haunting the kennel.

I whimpered.

I needed to get out of here. I needed to find Nick. I dug my feet against the cement floor, desperate for it to give way to my scratching. But all it did was tire me out. I could feel the eyes of the other dogs in the kennel on me, even though they weren't saying anything. Probably every one of them had tried to dig out at one point or another, I realized as I collapsed, tired, onto the floor of the kennel, panting.

"There's no way to escape," Muffy said.

"Yeah the only way out is with the Dog-Catcher," spoke up a poodle from across the hallway. He peered out of his kennel with beady little eyes that were hidden in the mess of curls that covered his body. "Or through The Door."

His words were ominous and a general mumbling went through the room. "Why do you gotta bring up The Door?" whimpered a chihuahua from down the hallway. "You know I'm sensitive about The Door!"

"Anyone in this room got reason to be sensitive about the door it's Muffy," commented the poodle. "She's next up and all."

"What's the door?" I asked.

Nobody said a word.

"What's the door?" I asked again, my tension building up.

"Nobody knows," answered a boxer. "Nobody ever comes back from the other side of The Door except the Dog-Catcher."

I realized they were all looking down the end of the hallway and there really was a door there, a big red door with a lock on it.

I looked back into the shadows at Muffy. I could just see the form of her laying in the corner. I was pretty sure - something about the way she sighed - that she knew exactly what lay behind that door.

Chapter Ten: Out the Window by Pengi
Chapter Ten: Out the Window


As I lay there, listening to the other dogs chatter and Muffy snuffle and snort every now and then in the shadows, I tried to think of how I would find my way back to Nick. The facts I knew were that he was somewhere in Florida (however large that may be of a place, I don't know), and the last time I saw him he was going to get coffee at the airport. I didn't see our car in the parking lot, so that led me to believe that he must still be at the airport somewhere, and I just hadn't seen him in my wild dash. So I needed to get back to the airport somehow to find him. He had to be there. He wouldn't leave to continue on to Florida from the airport without me, right? Maybe he was walking around in circles at the airport, calling my name, and looking for me, and here I was -- wherever I was -- not at the airport because the Dog-Catcher-human had picked me up and driven me away.

I felt adrenaline building up in my system as I envisioned trying to find my way back to the airport to find Nick, and I started hatching a brilliant plan for an escape from the Pound, as they other dogs informed me that it was called.

It took a long time for the Dog-Catcher-human to come back into the kennels and the moment he opened the door all the other dogs started barking real loud and excitedly. I stood up and pressed my face to the door of the kennel and peered down the rows at the door the Dog-Catcher-human had come through. I needed to put my plan into effect. So I started barking, too, just like the other dogs in the kennel. Except I utilized my best hypnotic eyes to draw him to me.

Now in all the years I've been perfecting my hypnotic eyes for use against Nick in the obtaining of Beggin' Strips, I've never seen them work as effectively as they did in that moment. The Dog-Catcher-human sauntered right over to the stall I was in and without any hesitation whatsoever, he swung the door open.

"C'mon lil feller," he said, leaning down and reaching for me.

"The door! The door! He's gonna take you to the door!" the other dogs were shouting, panic in their barks.

But I wasn't about to let the Dog-Catcher-human pick me up. Oh no sirree. Last time he picked me up, he took me further away from Nick and now I had to undo the mistake of letting him get away with that. No way in hell was I letting him make this worse by bringing me through the door to whatever horrors lay on the other side.

So... like I had that night in the Other Room... I bolted. I managed to slip between his reaching hands, under his legs, and I shot down the length of the kennel, my little legs wobbling beneath me and my ears flapping behind me. I heard the other dogs in their stalls barking, cheering me on, howling with glee as the Dog-Catcher-human cursed and came after me, arms flailing wildly.

Luckily, he'd left the door at the end of he hallway between the stalls open and I ran for it, planning to head back out through the lobby where all those cats were caged up. But just before I took the turn to go out there, I felt a nip at my collar and I looked to my left and saw Muffy running alongside me, her lopsided tongue hanging out of her mouth and her one functional eye scrunched up against the brightness of the world outside the kennel. "C'mon, don't go that way, the front door will be shut and we can't open it."

"What's this way?" I asked, as we veered to the left.

It was a small office and there was a desk with paper all over it and a big net leaning against a wall and a big comfy chair and a radio was playing some songs I knew I'd heard before at home when Nick and Lauren listen to music. "A window," said Muffy, and she leaped onto the chair, then onto the desk.

"A window? What're we gonna do with a window?" I asked. I could hear the footsteps of the confused Dog-Catcher-human as he veered to the right in the hallway, clearly thinking we'd gone the other way.

"Jump out it, of course," Muffy answered, and without further hesitation, she leaped from the desk at the window, and the screen that was keeping the outside out gave way and she disappeared. I heard her yap as she hit the ground outside. My heart went in my throat, surely she was dead. She'd fallen and crushed herself or landed under a blood thirsty car or something. I climbed onto the chair and inched to the window from the desk and peered down. Muffy was standing a few feet away, the broken screen on the ground below. "Hurry up!" she shouted.

I hesitated.

Then I heard the Dog-Catcher-human coming in the door. "There ya are!" he shouted, and he lumbered toward me.

Okay Nick, this one's for you, wherever you are...

I launched myself at the empty space where the screen had been, and I felt like I was flying for a moment, like I'd grown wings and was now a pegasus-dog. Then gravity took effect and I started to fall and I kinda regretted all the Beggin' Strips because the fat was probably what made me go from sailing gracefully to dropping like a two-ton brick. I hit the ground chest-first and felt the wind blow out of my chest.

"Git back here!" the Dog-Catcher-human was shouting.

But I leaped to my feet and rushed to run as Muffy turned and led the way down a long sloping yard of grass towards a river and some trees and we ducked among them into the woods until the bellowing shouts of the Dog-Catcher-human were behind us and we were standing, panting, in a clearing quite a ways away.

"That was... fucking...insane..." I panted, dropping onto some old leaves that were covering the ground. I couldn't believe what had just happened. The muscles in my lungs and legs ached from recovering from my leap from the window and I felt my knees shaking a little. "Oh my God that was insane."

Muffy was looking around the clearing, her feet crunching the leaves beneath her. "We can't stay here long, the Dog-Catcher-human will come after us."

I panted. I couldn't believe he'd catch up to us, we'd gone what seemed like miles and miles and miles from the Pound, but I knew Muffy probably had more experience than I did in things like this. "Can't we stay for just a few more moments?" I asked.

Muffy stood, staring out into the trees.

I took her lack of a response as a yes and I rolled onto the leaves and closed my eyes a moment, just breathing and feeling the earth under my side. Then I heard a rustling and I opened my eyes again and found myself face to face with a monster. I started barking like a crazy-dog, leaped up from the floor of the forrest, and onto a log.

"What the hell is your problem?!" Muffy shrieked. She leaped at me and pegged me to the ground solidly. I wriggled, trying to get away, but her weight was so much heavier than mine that there was no escaping her. She had me tackled quite effectively. She growled lowly in my ear, "The Dog-Catcher-human is going to find us and bring us back to the Pound."

"Sorry, there was a - a - a -a monster and it was gonna kill me and --"

"If you don't stop barking like a maniac I'm going to kill you." Muffy growled. She released her grip on me and I got up and shook the dirt off my fur. "What monster did you see?" she demanded, looking around, "Where is it?"

I pointed with my nose.

"That bug?"

"Bug? You have a loose term for bug. That thing's a rhino." I'd seen rhinos on a show on the TV-box with Nick once on the Discovery channel. Nick got into watching animal shows for awhile. Then he realized that the animals all get eaten in the end by lions and he stopped watching them. That bug was most definitely not a bug, that was a rhino.

Muffy hit the bug with her foot and it tipped over and kicked its legs.

She stared at me. "The big scary rhino can't get itself back up off the ground once it tips over," she said. "Totally worth risking our lives over."

If dogs could blush, I would've.

I flattened my ears instead 'cos that's the closest thing dogs can do to blushing.

Muffy looked around, then her ear went up. "Do you hear that?"

"No," I said.

"I hear humans calling your name. We need to go before they catch us. If the Dog Catcher gets us he's gonna put us down."

"Put us down?"

"Euthanize us."

"Euthanize us?"

These were all new words for me.

Muffy's eyes met mine. "Bring us through the door," she simplified it.

"Is the door really, really scary?" I asked.

Muffy took a deep breath, "Just trust me, Nacho," she said. "You don't wanna go through the door."

I trusted her.

Muffy started walking out of the clearing, and I followed her, glancing back at the rhino-bug that had indeed managed to flip itself back onto it's legs. I scrambled to keep up with her, just in case it decided to come after me. I wondered as we walked further and further into the woods which way the airport was and how I would find Nick among all the people and cars there and what I would do if in the end Muffy was right and Nick really wasn't looking for me after all.

Chapter Eleven: Through the Woods by Pengi
Chapter Eleven: Through the Woods


"Why's the light coming in green?"

"Leaves."

"What's that sound?"

"Birds."

"Why aren't there any cars here?"

"We're in the woods."

"Where are we going anyways?"

"Okay. It's time for us to play a little game," Muffy said, turning and stopping me right in my tracks. "It's called the who can be quiet longest game and it's you versus me and the first one of us that says a word loses. Got it?"

I nodded. I like games. Games are good. Games would keep me from thinking about Nick too much.

"Okay. Go." Muffy turned and started walking away again.

I trotted after her, excited. The longer we were in the woods, the more I felt energized. I started to feel positive, like maybe we would actually find Nick - around any one of these corners - and he'd been looking for me everywhere. The whole world smelled like air and there was dirt, and I like dirt. The only thing I didn't like about woods was the bugs and every now and then the occasional mud. I know mud is just wet dirt but it's stickier and dirtier and I don't like the dirty part of dirt, I just like the soft part of it. So I wasn't a big fan of mud. There was a frog and a couple squirrels that I almost barked at until Muffy gave me a Look with her one eye that stopped me - it was like she knew the moment I drew my breath what I was about to do. I hoped she knew where she was going, but I wanted to win the game, so I didn't say anything, I just hopped and jumped along side her.

After a while, I started getting tired of walking. I was thirsty, and I could feel my belly rumbling. It'd been forevvvvver since I'd eaten. The omlettes back in Los Angeles the day before were the last thing I ate. I started wondering if leaves and dirt were edible. They couldn't be that bad, right? Plus my paws were getting achey and the dirt that was so wonderful before suddenly started feeling not so wonderful because it had a lot of pebbly things that poked my feet and I got a twig stuck between my pads and I paused trying to lick it out of there and it wouldn't come out and it hurt to step on it and finally I didn't care about the game anymore and I said, "I wanna lay down."

Muffy sighed. "What are you, a puppy or something? We've barely covered any ground."

"Barely covered any ground?!" I answered. To be honest, I wasn't sure how far we'd gone. Muffy didn't stop or say anything to that, so I whined again, "Where are we even going anyways? I don't think the airport was this way."

"The airport? Why would you want to go to the airport for?" Muffy turned to look at me.

"That's where I last saw my human," I answered, "He wouldn't leave the airport without me. He's probably still there lookin' for me."

Muffy turned around and I stopped short, only just keeping myself from walking directly into her. "I thought we talked about humans?" she asked.

"We talked about your human. My human isn't like that, my human's looking for me," I said.

Muffy stared into me with her one eye, like she was trying to read me. "You seriously believe that?"

"Yes," I said. I shook just a little.

"Okay then." Muffy sniffed the ground a couple moments, then turned to the right and started walking again.

"Where we going?" I asked, hopping after her.

"The airport to find your human," she said.

My heart leaped. "Really? We're goin' to find Nick? Really?" I started frolicking along, leaping over the terrain. "You're gonna like Nick. He's super cool. He's really tall and he watches fetch on TV and he feeds me Beggin' Strips and we go for jogs and --"

"Remember the quiet game?" Muffy asked.

"I didn't like that game," I said, "I was gettin' lonely."

Muffy sighed.

"I bet when we find Nick that he'll wanna keep you," I said.

Muffy stiffened as she walked. "Don't say that."

"Why? It's not so bad having an owner. Especially one like Nick..."

"Stop." Muffy said sternly. She glowered at me.

"Sorry," I said.

We walked along and I was quiet because I was thinking. I snuffled. I stared at the back of Muffy's head and wondered what she was thinking, why she got so upset about me suggesting that Nick might want to keep her. I thought about her opinion of owners. I moved quicker so I was walking alongside her. "Are you scared Nick won't want you and you don't wanna believe he might so you won't be disappointed if he doesn't?" I asked.

"No," Muffy said. "Of course not."

"Oh. Okay." I walked along.

Muffy stayed staring straight ahead as she led me through the woods and the sticks snapped under her bodyweight. I thought about Nick and about my omlette the day before. "Can we get food too?" I asked.

Muffy sighed. She sniffed the air. "If I get you food, will you be quiet?"

"Yes, yes, of course; absolutely; completely silent."

"Okay then. This way." She changed our course again and we broke through a hedge. About ten feet away from us was a big fence and on the other side of the fence a big hill and below us, at the foot of the hill, way down there below, was a glittering mass of places that I had heard Lauren refer to many a time before as fast food restaurants.

Also known as, you know, heaven.

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