School had restarted at last. It had seemed like forever to Jamie who was anxious to get back to school. Mark seemed ready too, which surprised Kate. She still had trouble reading that child. It had been a busy week at work as well. Then a heavy snowstorm had dumped more than their fair share of people into the shelter.
The boys had all come home as well this weekend. Bodies were stacked like cord wood in the living room as well as the basement. After settling everyone in, and confirming that school was canceled, Kate looked forward to sleeping in.
Kate woke with a leg cramp that seemed to eat her whole upper thigh and hip on the right side. Finally sitting up, she was able to ease it enough that she could walk. Out in the kitchen, she got some Magnesium Phosphate for the cramp and got a drink of water. Still a bit fuzzy, she crawled back into bed and snuggled up against Eric. It was cold. She was back to sleep quickly.
Hours later, she woke from a deep sleep. She had this feeling that she had done something wrong, and that she aught to apologize to Eric. When she realized he was still asleep, she nuzzled into his back and put her head down next to his hand. She dozed off. Eric woke a few minutes later as the covers had moved down and he was growing cold. He looked down and saw Kate. She was crouched almost like Gretchen when she’d done something wrong.
“Kate, wake up Sweetie.”
Kate blinked her eyes open. “I”m sorry Eric. I really am,” she said, almost before she was awake.
“Sorry for what Sweetie? I don’t understand.”
Blinking again, Kate looked at him. “I… I don’t know. I just felt like I had done something wrong. Screwed something up and needed to apologize to you.” She cuddled up to Eric.
“Well, I don’t have a clue, so don’t worry. It must have been a dream.”
“Ok, but I still have that feeling,” They began to kiss and cuddle.
Sex was fun, but when they finished and were laying there catching their breaths, Eric rolled over to talk. “Kate, do you realize that you were acting almost submissive?”
“Yeah, not exactly me, but I swear I couldn’t get that feeling out of my head. It ran right over me. I just wish I could figure out what the hell I’d done that made me feel this way.”
“Me too Sweetie.” Eric moved to kiss her when there was a knock on the bedroom door. “Yes?”
“Can I come in?” Zach asked from the other side of the door.
Kate and Eric pulled up the covers and spoke almost at the same time. “Yes.”
Zach opened the door and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Mom, next time we go hunting, watch out for the damned hind legs.”
Eric and Kate looked at each other with a puzzled expression. “Zach, what the hell are you talking about?” Kate asked.
“You know Mom. We were hunting and you got kicked in the leg by the elk.” He was pointing to her right thigh. “We were going down that arroyo after the elk, and you stumbled. Then you got kicked and rolled farther downhill. It took us twice as long to bring down that elk.” Then he turned to Eric. “Although, that was a good jump you made to the damned thing’s back.”
“And that was a really cool move you did, coming in and under to take out the throat,” Eric said, suddenly remembering the dream he had had.
All of a sudden, all three of them stopped talking and looked at one another.
“Did we all just have the same dream?” Kate asked. The two men looked at her and then each other. They nodded.
“Okay, Eric, what do you remember?”
“We three were hunting. We saw this elk, and started running. Zach was going to cut it off and head it back towards us. You stumbled and then got kicked. We brought the elk down and ate. I gave you the liver to try and tell you it was okay, and that we weren’t mad at you.”
Zach nodded. “I was way out in front, and came in from the left. I was trying to drive it down the arroyo bank and cut under it at the same time. You were suppose to come in from the left as well Mom, but you tripped. You caught up to us after we killed it and were doing the whole submissive thing. Eric here tried to let you know it was okay, and gave you one of the best bits.”
Kate slapped her forehead. “That explains the leg cramp at Oh-dark-thirty this morning and why I woke up later with an urgent need to apologize to Eric. I remember it now too.”
Zach nodded. “This is kind of weird, but you know, I am so not hungry.”
“Neither am I,” said Eric. Kate nodded in agreement.
“Hmm…We need to note if this happens again. I know that Zach has followed me before, but never as a wolf. I wonder.”
“Wonder what Eric?”
“Makes me wonder if there isn’t a little bit of ‘family’ in your heritage. We’ve talked about this before.”
“What do you mean?” Kate was even more puzzled.
“Remember when I said that there were different types of shifting?”
“There are those that shift totally, like myself. There are those that shift on the astral plain, and there are those that just sort of ride along with the real thing. All of these are types of lycanthropes. The real deciding factor is just how much genetic makeup you’ve gotten.”
“What are you trying to say Eric?” Zach asked.
“Oh,” Kate started with some enlightenment beginning to creep into her thoughts.
“What I’m trying to say is that you and your Mom may have a lycanthropic ancestor in the woodpile somewhere. One that has given you just enough so that you two ‘come along for the ride’. Just enough that when I moved in, it awakened in you your genetic heritage.”
“Sort of like when you open up those psychic centers to magic for the first time you have all this other stuff slide in?” Kate asked.
“Yes. Like that. It’s like I’ve awakened the wolf in each of you by being around.”
“That would make sense. I didn’t start dreaming of wolves and hunting until after I met you,” Zach said. “And things really started intensifying when you moved in with Mom. It makes sense.”
“It also explains a few other things.” Kate was looking at Eric.
“What do you mean Mom?”
“Zach, that would fall under the realm of Too Much Information for you,” Kate said sweetly.
“Awwwgh! Never mind! I don’t want to know! Its bad enough just knowing your mom has sex! Nope! No descriptions! No… no! No!” Zach beat a hasty retreat out of the room.
Eric and Kate looked at each other and giggled.
Kate looked at Eric as they got ready for the shower. She wasn’t sure where to start the conversation that she knew they needed to have. She waited until the water was running over them. Eric had just started to rub shampoo into his hair.
“You were right.”
“Huh?” He was trying to figure out what she said over the run of water.
“You mentioned this over a month ago. That we might be shifters. I think you have your proof.” She stepped in under the run of water as he moved out.
“Sweetie, it could simply be a dream.”
“Now don’t even start. We’ve been tap dancing around this issue for months. First my healing rate and smelling like shifters. Then the dreams, and don’t forget the sex.”
Eric couldn’t forget about the sex. Especially the night not long ago when he swore she’d shimmered like she was about to shift, and the way they had both reacted. Sex under a full moon was so intense. He reached for her and kissed her lips with his soapy beard.
“Ok, then I won’t start.” He stepped under the water.
Kate rolled her eyes. This would have to wait. The shower was a disadvantage because of the noise. However, they did do some of their best talking in the tub. Just not today.
“Oh you!” She grabbed the soap to scrub his back. He had a furry patch on his shoulder that always itched when he had shifted or tried very hard not to shift. She knew today that it itched.
Out of the shower and back in the room, she sat down on the bed. “We need to talk about this Eric.”
“I know. I just couldn’t hear very well with all the water running.” He was laying down on the bed with his head on her lap.
“Why have these tenancies woken up in us?”
“Got me. I don’t understand it. I just have the family history so to speak to go by. And as I left the family sooner than most, I’m a little short on info.”
“So what do we do now?”
“I don’t know. Enjoy it? Live with it? It isn’t going to go away. It may get more intense, it may not.”
“So, you don’t know if we will ever go totally furry or not.”
“Nope. However, I don’t understand why you didn’t before. Especially if it is in your genetic make up. I don’t know what was missing that kept you from shifting. Stress, puberty, pregnancy, birth, all those types of physical stresses tend to bring on shifting. You didn’t show any signs really, until I showed up. This gives my cousin’s ideas on catalysts more credence. I’ll have to get ahold of her and let her know.”
“I take it she is a shifter?”
“Yes. In fact, she shifts faster than anyone I know. Married a non-shifter, but some of her children shift too. One was a real handful.” He remembered the long phone calls and midnight discussions on what to do with teens.
“Oh. I know we talked a bit about this. I just never expected things to work this way. It feels really odd to go from a existential conversation to a ‘this is how it works’ conversation.”
Eric nodded. “Welcome to my world. At least you have an adult’s point of view and experience to deal with this. Just think how confusing it is to be a hormonally driven teen who gets most of this info like they do sex. Rumors, half truths and if they’re lucky, one of them has a cousin or sister who’s ‘done it’.”
“Don’t the families prepare their children for this? Especially as you say it hits with puberty?” Kate was just a bit perplexed.
“Yes, many do. However, look at the rest of humanity. Some parents do a really good job of the whole puberty shift to adulthood thing. Others botch it. Some think they are doing the right thing and still miss the boat. Plus, if you aren’t in an area with lots of family around, you might miss some of the signals.”
“Oh… hadn’t thought of it like that. I guess I just expected people to be more organized about this. I remember our conversations now. You said that some die and some don’t come back. Is it worse in the cities than say out in the boonies?”
“I don’t know. However, I do know that some of the marriages with non-shifters have a higher rate of divorce, deaths and such. They all seem to be centered around puberty for their shifting offspring.”
“That must be rough. One minute you have a lovely son or daughter, the next thing you know, all hell breaks loose.” She was thinking of all the permutations.
“You got it. Now do you understand why I went looking for a quiet rural area to live in?”
“Yes. You have a few years before Jamie hits puberty though.”
“But not so long before Mark does,” he said quietly.
Kate looked at him puzzled. “You said that Mark may never shift. “That you didn’t think it was in his nature or genetics.”
“No, I don’t think it is. Just like some of us have an allergy to chocolate. That’s one I don’t have. However, I can’t be 100% sure about Mark shifting. Either way, I did need somewhere for Jamie to grow up where I can let her run and hunt if that is what she needs.”
“Yes. And I am beginning to truly understand just what that means. However, how do we explain this to Zach?”
“Explain what to me?” Zach said from the door.
“That by living with me, you are becoming more and more active as a shifter,” Eric said.
“Well, I could have told you that. After we talked about it earlier, I did a lot of thinking. I can feel the wolf rise in me at times. Plus, I find I like to bite. Good thing Anne isn’t upset about it. I bit her pretty hard one night.”
“Oh my! Zach! You’re blushing!” Kate was giggling. “I never expected you to go that far down the road of too much information.”
“Oh shut up Mom!” Zach said turning redder.
“Hey, you’re fair game now. We aren’t the only ones with bite marks or fur in the bed,” Eric said, teasing Zach.
“Well, umm… yeah. Oh and great grandpa was allergic to chocolate.”
“Who told you that Zach?”
“Grandma. We were talking about cookies one night and she mentioned it.”
Anne peered around Zach. “Dog biscuit anyone?” she said, holding out a handful of dog treats. Everyone broke into giggles and laughs.