Hazel Takes Over
In hindsight, Peter Mitchell should have seen the advent of the puppy into his home as inevitable. Since the death of his beloved Harry, he had refused to consider the idea of getting another dog, having taken the loss very hard.
Evan had been surprisingly sensitive to Peter’s feelings about a new dog, and had resisted the urge to nag him, for which Peter was grateful. It had only been the new presence of Evan in his life that had distracted him from the gaping hole left behind by the loss of his companion. After years of bringing up his family followed by a bitter divorce Peter had resigned himself to the fact his life had settled into quiet and boring. Instead on the worst day of his life, when he’d had to put Harry to sleep, he’d met Dr Evan Wells and had been manhandled onto one long rollercoaster.
Of course, not nagging and not doing anything about it were two different things, at least in Evan’s mind.
Occasionally, Peter popped into the surgery to eat lunch with Evan. Their friends laughed at them for still needing to spend time together but Peter didn’t care, and Evan loved sharing his lunchtime with his boyfriend. He and Evan were eating their sandwiches in the surgery’s tiny staff room when Gina, the practice nurse, poked her head around the door and grinned at Evan.
Evan beamed at her and turned the full force of his smile onto Peter who blinked, dazzled by the sheer love in Evan’s expression. Then Peter was struck by a horrible suspicion.
Peter growled. “Evan, who is here?”
Evan actually shivered. “Ooh, I do love it when you go all big boss on me.”
“I’ll go big boss on your arse if you don’t tell me what scheme you’ve just cooked up.”
“And that’s a threat?” Evan actually licked his lips.
Evan got to his feet and held out his hand. “Come with me.”
Peter hesitated for a second, but resistance was futile where Evan was concerned. He placed his hand in Evan’s and let him pull him up.
Evan led him into the surgery and smiled at the fifty-something woman who stood guard over a large box, a chocolate Labrador sitting quietly at her feet. “Hey Ruth, this is my boyfriend, Peter.”
Ruth grinned at Peter and held out her hand. “Nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.”
Peter shook it, giving her a resigned grin as he realised he’d been set up. “Hi, Ruth.” He arched his eyebrow at Evan. “ So, I guess what you’re desperate for me to see is in that box?”
Evan had the grace to look embarrassed, even if it was tinged with smugness, as he guided Peter to the table. Peter looked into the box and bright eyes, surrounded by lots of red curly fur, stared back at him.
“Oh my God, they’re gorgeous. How old are they? Can I touch them?”
“Of course you can. They’re five weeks old,” Ruth said.
Three little red coated puppies wriggled frantically as Peter stroked each of them in turn. “They are adorable. What are they?”
“Labrador-Springer Spaniel mix. As you can see Mum is a chocolate lab, and the dad is a springer spaniel. He wasn’t meant to be the dad.” Ruth handed him one of the puppies. “Stroke her. She loves all the attention. Dad lives next door and we didn’t realise he could jump the fence until it was too late.”
Peter scratched gently behind the pup’s ears. She closed her eyes in ecstasy. “They are so pretty. Have you got homes for them?”
“Most of them. Just these three left although two of them might be going together.”
“So who is the last one?” Evan asked.
Ruth pointed to the one Peter was stroking. “This little one. She’s a mischievous little critter but somehow every time people came to look, she was asleep and didn’t show herself off.”
Evan stroked one finger down her back. “Poor baby, you need to find a good home, don’t you? Isn’t she adorable, Peter?”
Peter looked at the blissful expression on his boyfriend’s face, mirrored by the puppy that burrowed into Peter’s sweater. “This is a set up, isn’t it?”
“That’s harsh,” Evan said.
“Totally,” Gina agreed as she came in. “He’s been planning this since the puppies were born.
Ruth wisely kept quiet.
“Gina!” Evan said, “You weren’t meant to tell him.”
Gina just rolled her eyes at her boss. “You always make this mistake of thinking Peter is stupid.”
Peter huffed. “That’s what I keep telling him. At least you didn’t just bring her home.” He looked at Ruth. “So was she free or already chosen by my boyfriend here?”
She laughed. “You know Dr Wells so well.”
“Too well,” he said, resigned to bringing the puppy home.
“Betrayed!” If Evan was trying to look put-upon he failed.
Peter decided to go on the offensive. “We’re not in a position to take a puppy, Evan. We’re both at work all day.”
“David’s already agreed Hazel can come with me to work, unless you’re working from home. She can have the staff room and the garden.”
Damn, the man had probably thought of every objection Peter could throw at him if he’d got David on board. David was Evan’s cousin and the senior partner of the vet practice.
“Hazel?” Peter’s eyebrows shot up. “You’ve already named her? Don’t I get any say in the matter?”
“She looks like a Hazel,” Evan crooned.
Peter was going to have words with his boyfriend. Big, long words that started with “What the hell…?” He hadn’t thought how he was going to end the conversation. “She hasn’t had her injections yet, has she?”
“Not yet, she’s too young,” Ruth said, “but Dr Wells has already booked her in.”
“Of course he has.” Peter scowled at Evan. “What would you have done if I’d put my foot down and refused to have her.”
“I knew you’d love her once you saw her little face.” Evan scritch-scratched Hazel’s back gently.
“I’m going to kill you,” Peter said. The puppy opened her eyes and yawned, burrowing into Peter’s elbow. He fell just a tiny bit in love.
“Of course you are,” Evan said. “I wouldn’t expect anything different.
There was a knock at the door and Lawrence walked in, followed by Will.
Peter scowled at Will, who gave him an apologetic look. “Was everyone in on this?”
Lawrence nodded. “Will wants to see the puppy. I just wanted to see your reaction and what you are going to do to Evan.”
“Don’t think I’m just stopping at Evan. You’re all going to get it, one way or another.”
“Is this the little one?” Will asked, stroking the puppy in Peter’s arms. “She is beautiful. May I hold her?”
Peter found he was reluctant to give up Hazel, but because he didn’t want anyone to notice how hooked he was by the little puppy, he handed her over to the young man. The joy on Will’s face almost made up for the momentary loss.
“Don’t worry, babe. You’ll have her back soon,” Evan whispered in his ear.
Peter was about to respond with something cutting when Gina interrupted, saying, “Surgery in ten minutes, Evan.”
“I love her. How old are they?” Will said as he handed her back to Peter.
“Five weeks,” Evan and Ruth said together.
“They are all gorgeous,” Lawrence said. “How is Mum?”
Ruth rubbed Karla behind the ears. “Exhausted and finding them all a bit much, but she’s a good mum.”
“They’ll be leaving soon, won’t they?”
“In a few weeks,” Ruth said. “The new owners agreed they could stay with mum to get them good and strong. The pups had a rocky start because Karla wasn’t very well and she found it hard to feed them. They are leaving at eight weeks, but the new owners spend a lot of time with them.”
Peter found himself a mixture of relieved and disappointed he wasn’t expected to take little Hazel home immediately. Hazel! That was the first thing he was going to change. Reluctantly he placed Hazel back with her litter mates, a smile curving his lips when he saw her snuggle into the middle of them and yawn.
He looked at the others. “Okay, Will and I have to go back to work and you have a surgery to do.” He stabbed Evan in the chest. “I’ll talk to you later.”
Evan clapped a hand over his chest. “Ouch.” He kissed Peter on his cheek and whispered. “Thank you for not going mental.”
Peter huffed and looked at Will. “Do you want a lift or are you going with Lawrence?”
Will looked hesitantly at his boyfriend.
Lawrence hugged Will to him. “Go with Peter. I need to talk to Evan, and I can give Ruth a hand with the puppies.”
Peter held his hand out to Ruth. “Nice to meet you, Ruth. I’ll see you soon.”
She grinned, the smile lighting up her face. “A pleasure to meet you too, Peter. Evan talks about you all the time.”
Peter patted Evan’s red face. “Aw, honey, I like you too.”
“Shut up,” Evan muttered.
Gina poked her head around the door. “Your first patient is here.”
Peter kissed Evan on the mouth. “Later.”
“Am I in big trouble?” Evan asked quietly, and despite the hilarity of the past few minutes, Peter could see Evan was genuinely concerned.
“A bit,” he admitted, “but we’ll talk later.”
Peter followed Will and Lawrence out of the surgery. “Hold on, Will, I need to get my wallet and keys.”
He ran back to the staff room and laid his hand on the door handle when he overheard Lawrence and Evan.
“Have you told him yet?” Lawrence sounded muffled and Peter guessed they were in the surgery rather than the staff room.
“Of course I haven’t,” Evan said.
Peter waited, a gut feeling that they were talking about him. “You’ve got to tell him, Evan, it’s not right that he doesn’t know.”
Peter turned as he heard footsteps, feeling guilty for listening into their conversation.
“I picked up your wallet and keys earlier.” Gina led him back to reception and produced Peter’s things from behind the counter.
As he took them from the nurse she said, “Go easy on the doc. He was petrified of this moment.”
Peter nodded. “We’ll see.” He had a feeling he was about to be handed another surprise and this one he wasn’t going to like half as much.
He got ambushed by his staff wanting to know about the new puppy as soon as he walked through the office door, and Peter realised he’d been set up by more than just Evan. Will smirked at his scowl and walked away to his desk. In the excitement and a long afternoon the conversation between Lawrence and Evan slipped out of Peter’s mind until he was going to sleep. Evan was resting on his chest and when he murmured Evan’s name, Evan’s response was a long snore. Peter made a mental note to talk to Evan in the morning.