“Oh Brian, I …” Natalie started only to be stopped by his kisses. He held her so tight that the medals on his chest poked her. Her hands held tightly to him as they devoured each other with kisses.
After nearly five minutes, he finally let go of her long enough to speak.
“I have missed you so much and was so afraid that I’d die in that rotten war,” he said as he smoothed her hair back from her head.
“Every time a telegram came, I worried it would be for me,” Natalie said. “Maman got three, and she would be a wreck for days.”
“Where is Jenny?” Brian asked as he realized he didn’t hear a baby or anyone else in the cabin.
“She’s with Maman. I’ve been a mess. Don hear from you, so I go runnin’ in the woods at night,” said Natalie. She grabbed her bathrobe and slippers as it was cold in the cabin even with the fire. “You want we go get her?”
“Aye and non. I’m first home. Your brothers and more come home tomorrow, next week. I couldn’t wait. I packed my bag, shifted and ran most of the way home. Trains too damn slow,” said Brian still looking at Natalie trying to commit each cell of her to his memory as if she might disappear and he wake up from this wonderful dream still in the mud of France.
“Then if no one come home, you are mine tonight. Jenny she is a very bossy little girl. You will love her, but tonight, you can love me,” said Natalie. She took Brian by the hand and led him to the bedroom. As she lit the lamp, he could see that there were dolls and books scattered around the room.
“Ah, Jenny will have to have a new bed aye?” said Brian.
“Aye. I said she is very bossy. Very loved too. Her Grand-mere Celia gives into her and Mamie Davy spoil her rotten,” said Natalie as she began to undress Brian. “And she has Grand-pere Martin wrapped around her little finger.”
Brian laughed thinking about two of the sternest women in the town letting a little girl rule them. He helped Natalie ease off his tunic and then sat to undo his puttees and boots. Once those were off, he took off his trousers. He stood up to take off his union suit. Natalie dropped her bathrobe and crawled onto the bed. Brian climbed into bed wearing nothing but his socks.
As they cuddled, and touched for the first time in years, Natalie noticed new scars that weren’t there before. She also noticed how thin yet muscular he had become.
“Din they feed you?” she asked.
“Not near enough. Big Joe and I’d go huntin when we dare. Still not enough. Or too cold or wet to cook,” Brian said remembering the mud and stench that would turn his stomach. Or, the maggots that would have taken over the food before it could be eaten. He shuddered.
“It don matter. You are home. Safe. I have missed you. Missed touching you,” Natalie said as her hand traced down his chest to his cock which was throbbing against her body.
“I have dreamt of you so often that I almost don know if you are real,” he said as his hands cradled her against him.
“I am real,” Natalie said as she wiggled down under the covers and licked his cock and then took it in her mouth.
“Oh!” he moaned. “Take it easy Nat. I don have no one but my hand all this time.”
“You don go the whores like Big Joe?” she asked as she kissed his stomach.
“Non! I go look and Big Joe there growling at me,” he said trying to work his hands between her legs.
“Big Joe still a big bully?” asked Natalie as she move back up the bed and into Brian’s waiting hands.
“Non, just with me and your honor,” Brian said. His fingers found what he’d been hunting for and missing so long. Natalie was wet and his fingers soon had her moaning and rubbing against his hand. Brian could take it no longer and moved between Natalie’s legs. After positioning himself, he thrust deep into Natalie’s pussy.
“Ah,” Natalie gasped. “So much better than my fingers,” she thought. Grabbing Brian she held on as he slowly increased his rhythm until the bed was bouncing as hard as it could against the wall. Natalie felt that heat build up in her middle that had been almost forgotten. She keened her orgasm as it washed through her.
Brian felt and then heard Natalie orgasm. Biting his lip, he tried to hold off, but couldn’t.
“Grrrrrrrahhh,” he growled and came so hard he almost blacked out. As he tried to roll off, he realized the knot had formed and they were stuck fast. He began to giggle. Natalie joined him as they lay on the bed.
The two of them made love five times before finally falling asleep. Brian woke to the smell of real coffee, bacon and potatoes cooking. He stretched, washed up in the basin and then dressed. He put his uniform back on as he had nothing else.
“Smells good Nat,” he said as he walked up behind her and wrapped her in his arms.
“I feed you and then we go see Grandma Davy and get Jenny from Maman,” said Natalie. She’d had plenty of time to figure out how to visit people this morning. She knew that by the time they’d visited Grandma Davy, that the whole village would know and wonder when the rest of the men would be home. Soon she hoped, and no more telegrams with bad news.
Brian ate more than he’d managed in weeks. The trip home on the ship was nearly as bad as the one to Europe. Then he’d ridden the train only long enough to clear the big cities. After that, he’d run most of the way home. It was a long trip made longer by the desire to be home.
Natalie watched him as he ate. She still couldn’t believe he was home. She’d woke many times in the night just to make sure it wasn’t a dream. Each time he’d taken her again. She smiled as tender bits rubbed on the chair.
“I can’t eat any more,” said Brian. He put his plate in the sink and grabbed his great coat. Natalie grabbed her coat and hat and they headed to Grandma Davy’s.
Grandma Davy had just sat down with her tea when there was a knock on her door. She decided her nose must be deceiving her, and went to answer it rather than just calling out for whoever it was to enter. She opened the door to see Brian standing there and nearly fainted.
“Brian!” she cried as he wrapped her in his arms.
“Grandma Davy, I have missed you,” he said as they came in and shut the door.
“Are all the men back?” she asked as they sat at the kitchen table. She pulled her chair close so that she didn’t need to let go of his hand.
“Non, I am the first. I run all the way home as far as I can,” he said.
“Oh. Oh my. Is Kent comin home?” she asked.
Aye. He be home today or tomorrow. So will Big Joe and most his brothers. Hank come home soon and Bizzet. Bizzet, he have troubles. He,…” Brian trailed off not knowing what to say about his friend.
“He and his wolf want to run away?” Grandma Davy asked.
“Aye. Too much noise, too many dead. He cries when alone and think no one hear him,” said Brian.
“We take care of him,” said Grandma Davy. “We take care of all our men.” Grandma Davy had followed the war very carefully and knew more than the rest what kind of horrors the men had faced. Two letters had already arrived about Bizzet and two other men. She didn’t let Brian know that.
They talked for a little longer and then said their goodbyes. Brian was anxious to meet his daughter and Grandma Davy knew she had to make sure her medicinal stores were up to what was coming home.
A little girl was playing in the snow out in front of the cabin where Celia and Martin lived. She was playing with two little boys and pelting them with snowballs.
“Jenny!” Natalie called as she held Brian’s hand.
The little girl looked up and saw her mother. She smiled and then realized that there was a man with her. Walking up to the couple, she sniffed the air and tilted her head to one side trying to puzzle out who the man was.
“Maman, who is that wif you?” she asked.
“This is your Papa. He is home from the war,” said Natalie.
Jenny walked up to the man who had crouched down to her height. He held very still, amazed at how much she looked like Natalie. She took her mother’s hand and looked intensely at the man.
“Papa?” Jenny asked holding out her hand to touch him.
“Yes Jenny, I am your Papa,” he said. “It is very nice to meet you at long last.” Brian wanted to scoop her up and yet knew better. He remembered his own fears at meeting relatives when he was younger. Instead, he held out his hand to Jenny.
Jenny took his hand and looked at it and then very slowly sniffed him. “You must be my Papa. You smell like the flannel shirt Maman keeps in her pillow and cries with late at night when she thinks I am asleep,” she said.
Natalie choked back a tear and looked at Brian. Brian stood and stroked her face. Then he held out both hands to Jenny with an unspoken question.
Jenny smiled and walked into his hands to be picked up. Brian held her close, sniffing her scent to lock it in his memory and then wrapped one arm around Natalie so that all of them were hugging.
“Jenny! Where are you?” called Celia. The boys had come running in without her and she had come looking for the little girl who was both the love and bane of her life. She saw the two adults and Jenny in their arms. She recognized who it was and fainted.
“Maman!” Natalie said as she patted her mother’s face. They had run to where Celia had fallen in the snow after hearing her call Jenny.
“Natalie, is it true? Is that Brian?” she asked trying to focus her eyes.
“Yes Maman. He came home last night. Says the boys will be home soon,” said Natalie.
Brian offered his mother-in-law a hand up out of the snow. No sooner was she on her feet than she wrapped him in her arms tightly. She then patted his face and began to usher all of them into the house.
Martin spilled his coffee when he saw who had come in the door and then patted Brian on the back as Jenny ran in circles around the four adults hollering that her Papa was home.
By noon the word had spread that Brian was home. Everyone had finally congregated in the saloon as it was the only place big enough for everyone. Jenny wouldn’t let Brian out of her sight, and Natalie wasn’t much better. Sally was pouring beer as fast as she could. Two of the wives had cranked up the truck and driven towards the railway station to see if any of the others had arrived home.
Conversations were interrupted by hugs, backslaps and kisses. Brian wasn’t sure it had been such a good thing to come home alone, but then again, he’d never give up the feeling of having Natalie and Jenny in his arms.
Celia and the other women had just begun to set out food when they heard a truck horn honking off in the distance. Everyone went out to see what was coming down the road. It was the two wives that had left earlier and in the back of the truck were ten men in uniform.
Cheers went up as the men jumped down from the truck and families reunited. Brian stood there watching who got off.
“Buster! You bastard! You run home?” called Big Joe as he scooped up his mother and headed for the porch where everyone stood.
“Aye, couldn’t take it no more,” said Brian.
“Buster?” asked Natalie.
“Your man here so dumb, he forget to shift back. Gets caught by an English officer and I have to pretend he one of the dogs,” said Big Joe with a laugh. “So now he have to patrol every few nights as Buster to keep from letting people know wrong things.” Big Joe kissed his mother and then took a beer from Sally who kissed him too.
Brian nodded. He looked around and realized that someone was missing. Someone who should have been with this bunch.
“Big Joe, where is Kent? Bizzet too?” he asked quietly.
“Bizzet, he lost it. Kent he got him off the train. Coming home with him like you did,” said Big Joe.
“How far behind?” asked Brian.
“Two days? One? I don know how long they run,” Big Joe said. “Kent a good man. He’ll take care of him. You tell Grandma Davy about Bizzet yet?”
“Yes. She knew fore I told her. Tried not to show it, but she did. Mebbe the doctors write to her?” Brian asked.
“Mebbe. He howl too much. You let me know when they get home if I don see them first,” said Big Joe.
Brian nodded. They went in to get something to eat and every couple of hours another man or two trailed into the saloon to be welcomed home. He asked quietly, but no one had seen the two missing men. When it was dark, Martin drove the truck back to the railway station to wait for men. Brian, Jenny and Natalie headed home.
Jenny was tucked up in a trundle bed next to the fire. Brian and Natalie sat nearby and talked quietly.
“Bizzet went crazy?” she asked.
“Yes. Like I tol Grandma Davy, too many bad things. The trenches were horrid. Dead soldiers everywhere. Bits and pieces everywhere in the mud. It smelled bad. Worse than any slaughter house you ever been. Then the noise… Bombs all night or gunfire. After a while, you don sleep. Or, you wake every time a bomb or gun goes off. Then there is the cold and the mud. It is everywhere. I think it took three baths just to find my real skin. Threw away my uniform, cause it was more mud than cloth. My boots rotted off three times. Big Joe, he get mold growing on his feet so bad they turn black. Had to go to the hospital for a week. Me, I just get sores. Bizzet, he go crazy,” said Brian. He had only touched on what really happened. There was no way to describe some of it. No need to share the nightmares. For him, the worst was seeing soldiers stuck in the barbed wire scratching at their faces because of the gas. Mustard gas didn’t kill quickly. It burned inside and out and if blinded, soldiers stumbled into the wires and became sitting ducks for the enemy to shoot.
Natalie knew he wasn’t telling her everything and she honestly didn’t want to hear any more than what he was willing to tell her. Grandma Davy wasn’t the only one who read the papers.
“You gonna go look for them?” she asked.
“Non. They come home when ready. Just don be surprised you see a wolf on the porch one morning. Half an ear, it is Bizzet,” said Brian.
“Half an ear?” asked Natalie.
“Aye. Caught it on barbed wire. Pulled and left a bit. When he shift, the ear still missing,” said Brian. Bizzet had gotten caught coming back from a trench raid. He was tangled up in the wire and it took Big Joe, Kent and Brian to free him.
Natalie looked down and saw that Jenny was asleep. “We go to bed now, very quietly,” she said.
Brian looked down at his daughter asleep with a doll in her arms. “Aye,” he said.
They undressed quietly and crawled into bed. Unlike the night before, they made love slowly and gently. Brian held Natalie close as she came. Spooned together, they drifted off to sleep.