"George, what have you got?" Sam held out his hand to his dog.
George trotted over and deposited a pair of sunglasses into Sam's palm.
"Hey, great!" Sam's therapist took the glasses. "Where did you find these, George? I lost them last week." Robin laughed and playfully set the tie-dyed shades on George's nose.
Sam was surprised when George didn't paw them right back off. In fact, George looked from him to Robin with a wide canine grin then strutted around the therapy room. He was obviously enjoying the new tint the glasses gave his world, and his reflection in the mirrors, too.
"You've made my dog vain," Sam scolded Robin, a grin hidden in his voice.
"Nah, he already knew he's hot stuff. The glasses just enhance his latent awesomeness to blinding proportions."
"His future's so bright…" Sam sing-songed. His chuckle morphed into a grunt as he forced out one last rep from his aching, maimed leg.
"So's yours, y'know." Robin eyed him with professional assessment. She helped him back to the bench and handed him his shoes. "I think you can escape my fiendish torture chamber for good now."
Sam paused in the midst of tying his laces. "You don't think I need any more sessions?"
She sat down beside him on the bench. "I think we've gone as far as we can with professional physical therapy. You've proven that you're willing to push yourself hard on your own. You can still make improvements if you keep up your exercises, but you don’t really need me anymore."
Her brightness seemed to ring a bit hollow. Sam realized his own expected elation was more than a little lacking in the enthusiasm department. For all the physical unpleasantness, he'd grown to look forward to his therapy appointments. No, to be honest, not to the therapy, but to Robin.
"Hey." Robin laid a hand on his arm and gave him a little smile. "Firing your physical therapist is a good thing."
Sam finished tying his shoes then reached for his cane. When he was safely on his feet again, he looked down at her and decided—what the heck. Life, as he well knew, was short and unpredictable. So why not go for it?
"If you're not my therapist any longer, we also no longer have a professional relationship, right?" he asked.
She cocked her head, and he could tell she didn't quite know how to take that question. "Well, no, not precisely. But I'm still bound by privacy laws and professional ethics. Things like that."
"Would those lingering ethics prevent you from considering a date with a former client?" Sam asked.
Robin's expression brightened to a happy smile. "No, they would not. Is that a hypothetical question, Mr. Relf?"
"Only if you're going to shoot me down for asking, Ms. Rutledge," he grinned back.
"You're in luck. I left my heavy ammunition at home in my other purse."
"Great. Will the cease-fire last long enough for you to have dinner with me tomorrow night?"
"I'm almost certain it will," she teased, her eyes sparkling.
"Pick you up at seven and take my chances?"
"You're a brave man, Sam. This might earn you a medal of valor," Robin chuckled. She turned and quickly wrote her address and phone number on a note pad and handed him the page.
Sam tucked it into his shirt pocket. "See you then, Robin. George, time to go, buddy."
George trotted up to him and plopped into an informal sit at his feet.
"Give Robin back her sunglasses," Sam prompted. George wilted.
"Awww, Sam. Let him keep them." She laughed. "I lose every pair I own, so I always buy cheap ones. Besides, they look a lot better on him than on me."
"Not sure I agree with that, but thanks," Sam smiled. "Tell Robin thank-you, George."
George looked up at her, doggy-grinning beneath the colorful sunglasses, and gave two short, sharp barks.
"You're welcome!" Robin giggled. She looked back at Sam. "You could get him on that pet tricks show, y'know."
"Then he'd be so vain his glasses wouldn't fit any more." Sam gave her a wink.
Dean was more than glad to face a solo evening. After all, it had been so long since his brother had a date that Dean couldn't even bring himself to rib Sam about it. Much, anyway.
Besides, after a week of over-time, working construction in the middle of a muggy, sweltering Chicago heat-wave, Dean looked forward to a night vegetating in front of the tube with a beer and a pizza with more anticipation than he was comfortable admitting even to himself. Before he found the remote, probably almost before Sam got down to the parking garage, George started whimpering, pacing the living room.
"Sorry, buddy. He ditched us. It's what happens when a woman enters the picture. Better get used to it."
George paused just long enough to look up at him, woebegone abandonment in every line of his furry little body. He turned with another whimper and trotted to check out the bathroom and Sam's bedroom, just in case. When he came back into the living room, he was panting and whining. He went and scratched at the front door.
"Cut that out!" Dean snapped. "You mess up that door we lose our damage deposit. Come over here and settle down. I'll even let you pick the first show."
George took one more sniff along the crack the bottom of the door, then made his way over to Dean's chair with lethargic steps, paws dragging the worn carpet.
"My heart bleeds," Dean told him.
George hopped up beside him in the chair and Dean offered the oversized remote. "Just, please, George—only one episode of Dog Whisperer tonight, ok?"
George ignored the clicker, tucking his nose beneath a foreleg with a huffed sigh.
"Whatever." Dean leaned back and ran the channels. A few minutes later, he shoved the dog back down onto the floor. "If you can't lie still, go get on the couch."
George trotted off instead. He came back with those gaudy, ridiculous sunglasses precariously balanced on his nose, one earpiece still folded. He held his leash in his mouth. He went to the door and waited, tail wagging hopefully.
Dean carefully ignored him.
George thoughtfully waited till a commercial break, then barked and laid his paw on the door, patting this time instead of scratching.
Dean rose. George's tail wagged faster. Dean passed right on by, heading for the kitchen. George drooped.
"I'm tired. We're staying home," Dean called over his shoulder as he got a beer out of the fridge.
George barked again, a shrill, desperate sound. He panted and circled in front of the door, his leash clip rattling across the floor boards. He even humped his back as he waddled.
"Dude, come on, since when? If you have to take a dump, go use the toilet like always. And flush this time, for cripe's sake."
Foiled again, George gave up his bowel-emergency ruse, spat out his leash, threw back his head and howled. His glasses fell off.
"Jeez, dog! Sam will be back by morning, latest. Deal with it."
George darted away into Sam's room.
"Stay in there, you neurotic little freak," Dean muttered.
George came back a half hour later, dragging his toy basket. Dean didn't bother glancing over as George tipped it over and began pawing through the contents. At least the dog was quiet and occupied.
"OW! What the hell?" Dean rubbed his nipped calf and glared at George.
George growled and stomped his forepaws behind a short line of blocks. OUTNOW
"You fuzzy little asshat!" Dean kicked the blocks across the floor and flopped back into his chair. "I wouldn't take you out now even if you were about to crap on the rug."
George raged at him like a pocket-sized Cujo.
"Right back at 'cha, freak." He turned up the volume.
George rooted through his toys again. Dean tried to ignore the dog's existence entirely.
"SonuvaBITCH!" Dean jerked his pants leg up, certain he was going to see blood. He didn't, but a clear imprint of George's teeth reddened his skin. He cocked a kick towards the dog.
The motion suspended in mid-swing.
George had edited his demand.