Anita Blake/101 Dalmatians crossover. YES. You didn't know Pongo was a were-hound, DID YOU? Crack.
Pongo lay sprawled on the hearthrug in front of the fire in his Regent’s Park /pied-á- terre/, sleepily watching the flames dance over the curves of the heavy Georgian-silver teapot that sat on the tray beside him. Pargeter had brought it in earlier, along with a now-empty dish of buttered crumpets, and stayed to mix the sweet, milky tea in Pongo’s favourite bowl. Indispensible, faithful Pargeter…humans made such excellent servants, if you remembered their limitations. Keep the instructions simple, the punishment mild, the rewards ample -and don’t forget the beer. Pargeter was fond of his pint, and Pongo saw no need to interfere with his valet’s little pleasures. It made everything so much more civil, and Pongo valued the civilities – he was old-fashioned that way, he knew. Traditional. A gentleman of the old school, he’d heard them say, and it was true, if a trifle cliché.
Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re – that had always been Pongo Dearly’s motto; reason, persuasion, and the possession of a brilliant strategic mind had earned him the position of most respected alpha were-hound in London; immense personal charm, intuition, and a carefully-employed taste for revenge had kept him there. The dalmatian grinned to himself. Nothing was ever simply black or white, after all, but a mixture of the two. Black and white…
Damn the woman. Suddenly the fire felt rather too warm, and he moved a little away from it, the phantom taste of pepper on his tongue. He’d beaten her before; why wouldn’t the witch stay beaten? The news that she’d been sighted - just a glimpse of an absolutely simple white mink coat, a black Bentley with DE VIL vanity tags parked in front of a bijou residence in Chelsea - hadn’t really surprised him – he’d known she was back, he could feel her. She’d be coming for him – unless he got to her first.
He’d been planning to retire gracefully at the New Year; hand the pack leadership on to young Cadpig… she was her father all over again, bless her, a power in her own right and smart as paint – the first acknowledged were-hound ever to stand for Parliament…a bit of a radical, perhaps, but that was all to the good, nowadays. The witch’s reappearance had put paid to that idea, however; he’d fought her twice and he’d fight her again – his duty, for the dogs of England. And there was always a pleasure in meeting an old enemy. /Fortiter in re/, old boy, he told himself, turning over and scratching his back meditatively on the Khelim heathrug, fortiter in re. Time to dig out his Walther PPK and stock up on rowan wood bullets.
And this would be their final battle – Pongo harboured no illusions. He wasn’t as young as he’d been the last time they’d met; well, neither was she. If they went down to hell together, his teeth would be in her throat. No, he wasn’t ready to roll over and play dead just yet, she’d see. Pongo had a plan, an ace up his sleeve. He’d called in few favours, made some phone calls, reminded a werewolf or two across the Pond about the terms of the Alliance, and got his secret weapon. Set a thief to catch a thief, the saying went; de Vil might be a witch, but she was only human, and this plan needed the human touch. A human /woman’s/. The little ormolu clock between the Staffordshire china spaniels on the mantelpiece gave a small whir and began to chime the hour. Six o’clock – he hoped she’d have the courtesy to be prompt.
The guy who answered the bell might have looked like some road-company version of Eliza Doolittle’s father, but at least he was human. And unarmed. And nearly as short as I was. Comforting.
“I’m Pargeter, Miss Blake. Mr. Pongo’s in the second floor sitting-room and said to bring you straight up. He’s just had a lovely run in the Park and his tea – but I reckon he’ll have changed for you, by now.”
“Good. I forgot the Scooby-snacks.”
I shook some of the rain off the black trenchcoat I’d been advised to buy before I left St. Louis – the London weather was just as filthy as it sounded in all those books. Pargeter helped me off with it, politely not staring at the shoulder-holster underneath, then led me up a short flight of stairs and along a paneled hall. Posh, as they said over here. It smelled like beeswax, lavender, and just a little like wet dog. I hoped “Mr. Pongo” wasn’t shedding – I was wearing my favourite pants. The manservant opened a door and stood back, letting me precede him into a room much warmer than any I’d been in since I landed at Heathrow, including my hotel. It was mellow with firelight, and over the mantelpiece was a painting of…yeah, dogs. Two of them, a big one and a little one, and a pile of dead birds. It looked old and probably valuable, but it wasn’t exactly my idea of art.
“It’s a Landseer, Miss Blake,” said a voice from somewhere near the floor. “A bit trite, but still a rather charming genre-piece.” I looked down and then up again as a man rose to his feet from the rug in front of the fireplace. I don’t know what I’d expected, but I was kind of sorry I’d made that crack about the Scooby-snacks, and glad that were-hounds weren’t telepathic. If I’d had a tail, Pongo Dearly would have made me want to wag it.
A little over six feet, and every inch of it alpha. He had a long, thin, aristocratic face and thick, shining pepper and salt hair pulled back in a short ponytail, a few loose strands falling forward over scotch whiskey-coloured eyes that managed to come across as wise and wicked at the same time. His lashes were so thick and dark it looked as if he’d drawn rings around his eyes with a Sharpie, and the black cashmere sweater and perfectly-tailored wool hounds-tooth trousers clung to a lean-muscled frame, narrow-hipped and broad across the chest. Dearly belonged to a breed that could run all day without tiring, and even now, middle-aged as he was, he looked like he could go all night, too. Woof.
“Pongo Dearly,” he said, extending a long-fingered hand.
“Anita Blake, “ I said, taking it. “Shake.”