The wolves ran as quickly as they could through the downpour. It had started in the middle of the night and Wolf had tried to curl up in a nearby cave, but the waters poured in the back. She nipped at him and headed home. Wolf followed. By the time they got to the wooden dens, they were soaked and shivering. The window they’d leapt out of was shut. Wolf ran around to the front followed by the she wolf. They leapt to the porch and shook off as much of the rain as they could. Wolf whined and scratched at the door to be let in.
Jenny heard the thud of paws and ran to the door. She had hoped her parents had found shelter, but when she opened the door, she wasn’t surprised to find two soaked wolves. “Get inside!” she said and went for towels. By the time she came back, there were a trail of muddy paw prints headed to her parents room. “Maman, you need towels?”
“Noh, we havh shome,” Natalie answered, still half shifted.
Jenny walked back to the kitchen and began to make hot water for coffee. It didn’t take long for her parents to join her. Wet hair, bathrobes and slippers and the scent of wet dog. “Oh Maman!”
“You… you be quiet. Don wake those babies. All of them awake in the house, this rain, not good,” said Natalie.
Jenny and Brian nodded. They sat in the kitchen warming up and drinking coffee as the house slowly woke. By 8am, there was a line of people to eat in shifts. Libellue sat on her Papa’s lap while Ann was held by Marie. Alice and Ysabel were cooking. Jenny had done her shift and was laying down for a nap.
“When you go back that Everette?” Alice asked.
“End of the week. Andre he has work. Me, I play house wife.”
“That not so bad. You need get use to that Everette.”
Brian and Natalie had gone back to bed after breakfast. Natalie had gotten chilled, and they decided that bed was the warmest place for her. She rolled against Brian’s arm, and her fever woke him up nearly instantly.
“Nat, you okay?” he asked.
“Non,” she said softly. “Hurt all over. Need that willow bark.”
“I… I get that. Be right back,” he said as he crawled out of bed. He dressed quickly and went to find Andre. Andre was sitting on the front porch, watching the rain pour down. He’d escaped the noise of twelve little ones playing for a moment.
“Andre, Natalie. She is sick.”
“Oh. Just a second,” he said scrambling up out of the chair and following Brian inside. On the way, he grabbed his medical bag. Walking into the bedroom, he could see that Natalie was feverish. Andre took her temperature. 105F.
“Brian, go get some towels. See if Marie or Jenny have any ice. If not, cold water. We have to get her temperature down.”
“Aye.” Brian headed back to the kitchen.
Andre checked Natalie out as best he could. She’d nod or moan, but wasn’t talking much which didn’t make Andre’s job easy. Her heart was a little fluttery, but that could have been because of the fever. He noticed that she moaned when he tested her hands and wrists. He wasn’t sure though if the joint pain had to do with the fever or arthritis. At 58, Natalie had worked hard most of her life. Her hands were farm rough and had taken lot of abuse. Her palms had rough spots that corresponded more to a wolf’s pads than a human’s hand. For once he wished he knew a bit more veterinary medicine. If he learned anything over the years was that with shifters, you had two patients wrapped up in one.
Brian came back in with wet cloths in a bowl. Andre took one and placed it on Natalie’s throat and chest. He took a second one and placed it on her head. He checked her pulse and while still high, was beginning to settle a little.
“Brian, does Jenny have aspirin? Penicillin?”
“I ask. What is wrong?”
“It might be the flu from getting so wet. Maybe pneumonia. Just not sure as it came on so fast. I know she’s been tired lately. Any other problems?” Andre asked.
“I… I don think so. I go ask Jenny. Be right back,” Brian said as he left the bedroom.
Fifteen minutes later, Jenny was back with Jelka, Maria and Brian. Marie had bedding, Jelka tea and Jenny had the medicines. Brian just stood at the head of the bed.
“Natalie, you gon be okay,” Brian said.
“Aye? Hurt. Cohld.” she said.
Andre looked puzzled and then realized that Natalie’s vocal cords had partially shifted. That’s why she hadn’t talked much. He knew from past dealings with shifters that they often shifted to heal. He hoped she didn’t do that too soon. He got her to swallow some aspirin and then gave her a shot of penicillin. Now all they could do was wait.
“Brian, let’s have the girls make sure she’s comfortable and we’ll go get some food.”
“Aye Andre,” Brian said. He kissed Natalie on the head and left the women to change Natalie out of the soaked nightgown and bedding.
Jenny and Jelka helped settle Natalie as Marie took the bedding off to be washed. Natalie was sitting up and drinking mint tea.
“Maman, you never been sick like this. What you think wrong?” Jenny asked.
“I don know. Mebbe that rain. Mebbe that trip.” Natalie took another sip of tea. She was still so hot that the tea felt cool. “Mebbe that damn tick bite I got.”
“Tick? You forget your pennyroyal?”
“Non! We miss one. Behind my knee. Pull it out, but two days later, I have big red spot. I treat it, it go away. Ever since though, my joints ache. Don know if it that bite or jus old age. My hands they have that arthritis.”
Jenny nodded and checked her mother’s knee. No sign of a bite or scar. Everyone got ticks in the spring. Some got sick. Some didn’t. Just like with spiders. “You finish that tea. I go feed this tribe. Jelka stay with you okay?”
“Aye. Read me my book?” Natalie asked pointing to a small nightstand where a book rested.
Jelka nodded and picked up the book. It was Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. Jelka opened the book and began to read about Philip Marlowe’s trouble with cops and a crazy gangster.
Brian came in to check on Natalie. She was asleep. Jelka whispered that her temperature was down a little and the medicines must be working. He thanked Jelka and took her place beside Natalie. Andre came in a little while later and checked on Natalie. He gave her more aspirin, and penicillin. He also checked on Brian and found him fine.
“Are you going to sleep in the chair?”
“Non. I will hold Natalie. That way, she need me, I am right there. I see you in the morning,” Brian said. Andre said goodnight and left.
Brian put on pajamas and crawled in bed with Natalie.
“I’m sorry to be sick,” she said.
“It happens. You have good family. Good doctor. It be okay,” he whispered in her ear. He cradled her in his arms and after a long time went to sleep. “Hope she be okay.”
In the morning, the fever was back and Natalie was coughing. Brian grabbed his bathrobe and went for Andre. They were back in a few minutes.
“How do your lungs feel?” Andre asked Natalie.
“Wet. It hard to breathe.”
Andre checked her lungs and found them congested. He gave her more penicillin and aspirin and then motioned for Brian to come outside with him for a moment.
“What is it?” Brian asked.
“Pneumonia, Or at least the start of it. We should really move her to a hospital,” said Andre.
“The nearest hospital that isn’t one room is Calgary. It is nearly 4 hours, mebbe more.”
“I know, but I don’t know if I can cope with pneumonia here,” said Andre. “If a lung gets too full or collapses, I have very little in a way to fix it here.”
“I know. There is other problem. We take her to Calgary, she no longer your patient. What happen she shift? We don have no shifter doctors there.”
“Damn. I didn’t think of that. You… you don’t think she’d shift do you?” Andre asked.
“Aye. She nearly shift last night in her sleep. I don want to lose Natalie to some damn sickness, but don want her shot for being a wolf in hospital.”
“Shit. Let me think on this. I need to talk to Jenny and Tilly too. Can you get them for me while I talk to Natalie?”
“Aye.” Brian left the kitchen and headed for Jenny’s house.
Andre walked back to Natalie’s room. She was sitting up trying to breathe between coughing fits. That she was coughing was good. However, she looked like her temperature was going up.
“Natalie, I need to talk to you.”
“Aye, I am ver sick. You afraid I die. Probably you right.”
“I want to take you to hospital in Calgary. I…” was as far as Andre got before she put her hand on his.
“Non. No hospital. I shift too easy. You do what you need. I try not to die on you,” she said.
“Natalie, I’m afraid I might have to drain your lungs. I don’t have what I need to do that. You have pneumonia.”
“Aye. I know. I nurse people through this. I have aches too. All my joints hurt. That is not pneumonia. That something else.”
“Yes, and I don’t know what that is without tests,” admitted Andre.
“Talk that Jenny. We do more than you think here.” Natalie broke off to cough and then spit out the phlegm. Andre held the bowl for her and then gave her a drink of tea.
“Brian has gone for Jenny.”
Andre sat with Natalie until Brian came back with Jenny and Tilly. Both women checked on Natalie and then turned to Andre.
“She has pneumonia and a fever. Do you have any way to drain her lungs if that becomes necessary? Or a way to do blood work?” Andre asked.
“Aye. Local anesthetic, simple surgery tools and a laboratory in Lethbridge,” said Jenny. “Maman, she shift too easy to go that hospital.”
“That is what I told him,” Natalie said between coughs.
“Shifters need a hospital,” said Andre.
“Aye!” said everyone in the room.
“It is why we have the Clinic,” said Tilly.
“Alright. I am going to draw some blood and want it taken to Lethbridge. I’ll pay for it. While Brian stays with Natalie, I want to go see this clinic. You must have improved it since I left.”
Jenny nodded and after a quick kiss, departed with Andre for the clinic.
Jenny opened the clinic and turned the lights on in the ‘surgery room’. She stood back as Andre looked around.
“You have improved. I’m impressed. I just hope it is enough to keep Natalie alive.”
“Aye. If we lose Maman, we may lose Papa too.”
“Would… would he shift and not come back?” Andre asked having not thought about this.
“Mebbe. Bizzet went crazier. Celia, she don talk for six months. Papa? I don know,” admitted Jenny. “Let’s not find out.”
“Agreed.” Andre looked through the supplies and was satisfied that he could cope up to a certain extent. What worried him was the arthritic pain. Maybe the blood work would give him a clue. He got some vials for blood and the two of them headed back to the cabin. They talked about ways to make Natalie more comfortable and ways to get Brian to rest as well. When they got back, Andre drew blood and Tilly was ready to take it to Lethbridge. He gave her instructions on what they should look for and gave her money for the tests.
He was listening to Natalie’s lungs when Marie and Libellue showed up. “Hello sweetie. Grand-mere is very sick and needs her rest.”
“Aye. I come give her love,” said Libellue. She climbed up on the bed and hugged Natalie. Then she sat down next to her and just held her hand. Andre watched, and realized that Natalie was just fine. He left Marie and Libellue with Natalie while he went to check on Brian and get some breakfast.