Spent way too much time today trying to put things back in order after the craziness of the last few days. Oh, and Sheeple is about to heat up too.
Kate lay on the bed, her heart beating like a bird in a cage, her hand over her chest and wondering what on earth had just happened. She reached for Eric, but he wasn’t back from hunting. That simple movement had cramped her arms up as well as her back. What on earth was going on? Kate worked on controlling her breath when coughs wracked her body.
When the coughing finally stopped, she realized that her heart had stopped fluttering. Her body still hurt, like she had one massive cramp. Reaching for her water bottle, she tried to figure out what was wrong.
She reached out and touched the energy she knew as Eric. He was close, but not close enough. The rest of the house was asleep, so she hadn’t woken them up with coughing. Stretching slowly, she felt almost as if her legs weren’t her own. Neither was one hand. They felt oddly asleep and yet not. Rolling her shoulders, the left one popped loudly. Stretching again, the right one popped. Hmm…
Laying back down, she worked on relaxing and working muscles that were sore for no reason she could figure out. She was drifting off to sleep while thinking of questions to ask Eric.
“Hey sleepy head. Will you let me in the bed?” Eric asked in the darkness of the room.
“Oh…. Eric…. you’re back.” Kate was sleepy.
“Yes sweetie. And now I’m cold. Let me in the bed, and we can talk.”
“Oooohka,” she yawned. “I have a few questions to ask you.”
“Yes?” They snuggled close together under the covers.
Kate then described the symptoms she had earlier in the evening. Eric listened and then cuddled her and spoke quietly in her ear. “You know how we discussed that awakening shifting talent?”
“Yes, but I have to admit that part of me keeps thinking you are just joking. Or, pacifying me.
“No Sweetie. I’m not. In fact, I’m a bit concerned on just how much you have moved towards shifting.”
“Well, partially because I don’t know where it will lead. Just how far will that wolf in your soul want to show itself? Will you go furry? Will you just have very wolfy attributes? Will I have to share my dog biscuits?”
This last bit made Kate start to giggle. “Oh you! I told you you didn’t have to share with Luna and Gretchen!”
“Yeah, but how do I explain to them that I get the fancy snacks? They don’t understand, so I share.”
Kate just shook her head. “There are days when you are just too weird. Good thing I love you. Especially on the days when you track mud and blood across my hardwood floors.”
“Hey! I haven’t done that in… in…. weeks! And besides, it was snowing and cold.”
It was Kate’s turn to smile. “You are so silly!” She coughed about then and winced.
Eric pulled back and started checking out Kate’s chest and sternum.
“What kind of cheap feel are you after Eric? That hurts.”
“I’m checking something out. Hold still,” he said as his fingers moved between her breasts. He moved his hands down a bit and pushed.
“Ouch!” Kate moved away from his hands.”That hurt!”
“Umm, Kate, did it feel like your chest wall was folding in half?”
Kate stopped a moment and though. “You know, I dreamed, or at least I thought I dreamed that I shifted. That I was curled up on the bed, waiting for you.”
“Kate, I don’t think you dreamed. I think you shifted. Not all the way, but enough for your chest to fold in half. That’s why your sternum hurts. It’s why your heart felt the way it did.”
“Oh,” Kate said with understanding dawning. “Oh… my… but what if the children had come in?”
“They would have just thought you were that other dog that shows up here from time to time. The one they know plays with Gretchen.”
Kate shook her head and tried to make sense of what Eric was saying. There were times she had no trouble believing him. Other days, she wondered just how much of it was a grand game of make believe. If she hadn’t seen him shift, she’d still be under the impression that he was more than just a little eccentric. “Do you have any idea of how odd this all sounds? Or even to experience?”
“Yes. Do you know how nice it is to actually have someone to talk to this about?”
“Hadn’t thought of it that way Eric. It’s just that some days it is a bit hard to believe.”
“I understand. There are days I have trouble with it myself.”
“That I can believe. Did you ever slip? Let someone see that shouldn’t have?”
Eric nodded. “It happened once when I was working for that ‘agency’. I came home from the field and fell asleep at a friend’s house. His kids called me Uncle Wolfie after that.”
“Uncle Wolfie? What?”
“I fell asleep and shifted. When I woke up two days later, I panicked. The wife assured me that she’d keep my secret. I’d played with the kids and everything. Asked me if I wanted a steak or dog food when I woke. I must have blushed eight shades of red. She said that no one would believe the two boys if they said that their daddy’s Sargent was a wolf. That kids can say the absolute truth with no one believing them simply because they are kids.”
“That’s for sure. Mine would have ratted me out years ago if anyone had just believed them when they said mommy’s a witch.”
Eric smiled at that. He loved the fact that Kate was pagan and understood so much. He bent his head to hers and kissed her forehead. “We’d best get to sleep. You’ll be sore in the morning.”
“Sore? Oh, because I started to shift.”
“Yes, now time to sleep.”
“But, I’m wide awake now.”
“Not for long. Just relax.” Eric said, his voice going soft. He started working the sleep energy he had on Peaches so many months ago.
“Wha….t?” Kate yawned.
“Go to sleep Kate,” he said softly. “Now.”
“Bu…” Kate tried to protest, but was asleep before she could finish the word. Eric smiled in the dark, pleased with himself that he could put Kate to sleep. He curled up around her and was soon asleep himself.
Kate woke first, the alarm just beginning to beep. She reached out an arm, and half way to the clock, she stopped. The ache in her shoulders was enough to take her breath away. She struggled for a moment and then finally shut off the noise. “Oh, she moaned as she laid back down. “Sweetie, is there any aspirin on the nightstand over there?” she asked pointing at Eric’s side of the bed.
“Of course. Just a second and I’ll get it for you.” Eric untangled himself from the covers and Kate to find the small bottle of extra strength pain reliever. He opened the bottle and handed her two caplets. “Now you know why I keep this stuff nearby.”
Kate nodded as she swallowed the aspirin with a gulp of water from her water bottle. “I feel like I’ve run for miles and then fallen asleep in a heap.”
“In some ways, you did. Shifting isn’t easy. In some ways, I think it is harder on those that only go part way into animal form. Those of us who shift all the way get the benefits of the animal physiology. We heal faster and move better. However, there is a price to pay when we go back to human form.” He stretched. Joints popped and muscles seemed to scream as he did so.
Kate put her water bottle down and tentatively stretched. Her hips and shoulder blades popped. Even her knuckles on her hands seemed stiff. “Oh Eric, no wonder some of them never come back. If this ache is just the peripheral pain, what does this do to someone who doesn’t expect it or can’t cope?”
“They either die or don’t shift back,” he said rather sadly.
“I understand so much more than I did before.” She stood gingerly on the balls of her feet. Eric watched her move across the room, and when he saw how she was walking, he started to smile.
“What are you smiling at?”
“What about me?”
Eric looked at her feet again, aware that she was not conscious of how she was standing. “Oh, just looking at your feet,” he said softly.
Kate looked down quickly. She saw that she was standing on the balls of her feet just like she’d seen Eric do so many times after he’d come back from hunting. With a giggle bursting from her lips, she dropped to her heels. “Oh Eric…”
They both started to laugh.
Later in the shower, Kate wiped the soap out of her eyes and turned to Eric. “Have you discussed any of this with Zach? The changing and the discomfort and such?”
“Yes. So far, the only real symptoms he’s had are hunger or lack thereof, and the urge to bite Anne.”
“Bite?” Kate said with a slightly puzzled look on her face. Then it dawned on her, and she blushed. “Oh. Bite. I forgot he mentioned that.”
“Too much information dear?”
“No, It’s just that I hadn’t thought about that. We’ve been biting and nibbling each other for months.”
“Yes, and so have those two. However, he isn’t having the aches. What he is experiencing is the extra muscles. That ability to run and jump faster. Something you might find happening too.”
“Me? Run? You must be joking! I haven’t run except in dire emergency since I grew breasts. There isn’t a sports bra made that holds me well enough.”
Eric looked down at her breasts which he’d gently soaped while they were talking. “Ah, I could see where that might be the case. Most of my family are rather flat chested.”
“I could see where that might be an advantage. However, I like my breasts.”
“So do I my dear. So do I.” He helped her rinse off.
Kate wasn’t late to work, which amazed her. They never made it to the point of drying off. Unless of course they counted rolling on the sheets drying off. Their play necessitated another shower and Kate had blasted through the second one so fast that Eric was still soaping up as she stepped out. She had dropped Eric off at the hospital and raced back into town to arrive just as Suzanne and a young woman were opening the front doors.
“Good morning Suzanne!”
“Good morning to you Kate. You look like you had a fine start to the day.”
Kate went red in the face. “Yeah, I did. How are you?”
“I’m okay. Slept well, had breakfast, and I made it to work. This is Abby. She had some stuff to bring us and wanted to meet you.”
“Hi Abby.” Kate shook the small slim hand offered her.
“Hi Kate. I am so glad you were able to help us with that software. It just gave me the creeps,” Abby said in a soft voice.
“Glad to do so. Any word back or people coming to check on you?”
“No. Nor has anyone else who did what we did. However, I wanted to talk to you two in private.” She looked around the hall as they moved to Suzanne’s office. “Is this the one with the loaded computer in it?”
“Could I see your office Kate?” Abby moved out of the doorway.
“Sure. It’s this way.” Kate lead the way to her office. The door was locked and it took a moment to open the door and let everyone in.
Abby closed the door and then turned to Kate and Suzanne. “I don’t mean to sound nuts, but I swear that those computers can spy on us. Listen to our conversations.”
“What on earth do you mean?” Kate asked. Suzanne nodded her head as well.
“I was down in one of the shelters northeast of here. One which loaded the software without the precautions we did. My friend who works there, Steve, was complaining of what a mess the computer was with that software. He was showing me the trouble he was having and I had no way to help him. His boss was right there, and so all I could do was nod my head and give him my apologies. We must have tried ten different fixes. Now, no one left the room or made a phone call, and yet fifteen minutes later, this tech support guy called and asked to talk to Steve. Sat there and walked him through his problems he was having and hadn’t even had time to report. It was creepy.”
Kate thought about what Abby said. “You know, Eric mentioned that they might monitor keystrokes or something like that. That’s probably the way they knew to call. If you mess around with the innards, you probably set off an alarm once it is programed.”
“You could be right. I’m just paranoid I guess.” Abby melted into a chair.
“You have every right to be paranoid. Here we are, ignored by the state for how many years? And then bam! New rules, new software, and threats to take our funding if we don’t comply,” said Suzanne. “I’m nervous.”
“So am I,” chimed in Kate. “I live with Eric, and he is so anal about computer safety that he about had a coronary when the software did what it did.”
“Well, I just wanted to tell you about this thing with Steve. I didn’t want to write it down or use the phone. It was just too creepy,” said Abby.
“We understand. If you have anything weird happen, call us from a pay phone, or drive down. You’re only fifty miles north of us.”
“I will. I’d best be going. Told the boss I had stuff to bring to you. Just didn’t say what stuff. Thanks for listening to me,” she said and started towards the door.
“Thanks for letting us know.” Kate gave Abby a hug. Abby hugged her back.
“Bye,” she said and was gone.
“That was a trip to the twilight zone,” Kate said as she sat down at her desk.
“I agree,” Suzanne leaned on a chair. “At least we haven’t had any problems yet.”
“It’s that ‘yet’ I’m nervous about.”
“Me too.” Suzanne headed out the door to start work.
Three weeks later, the phone rang just as they were about to leave for the day. “Damn!” said Suzanne as she headed back to her office.
Kate waited by the door. She could hear Suzanne’s voice becoming more and more agitated. A few minutes later, Suzanne came storming down the hall. “What on earth is going on?”
“We have a software engineer coming down tomorrow to ‘fix’ our computer. Apparently, we screwed up, and they are going to make sure it is done right.”
“Oh shit. Have any of the rest of them called to say they are being fixed?”
“Yeah. I didn’t even get the phone on the hook a second before Abby called. They are doing hers tomorrow too.”
“Damn. Did they ask who did the install?”
“Yes. I said we did it. Got the distinct impression that the guy was thinking ‘stupid women’ when I said that.”
“Oh fun. I guess I’ll let Eric know and see what he wants to do.”
“Best thing would probably be to keep clear of the building and fix the damage later.” Suzanne spoke with tired resignation in her voice.
“Probably right, but this was his baby, and I can’t see him just sitting by while it gets messed with tomorrow.”
“Well, we’d best get some sleep. It may be quiet in the shelter, but it will certainly be stormy in the office.”
Kate nodded. In spite of the cold weather, there were very few people in the shelter. It wasn’t the norm. Usually the colder it got, the more people they had in the shelter.
Kate made a good dinner for everyone and then waited for a quiet moment while she and Eric did the dishes. “We had a phone call today, just as we were trying to head out the door.”
“Oh? What about?”
“We have someone coming tomorrow to check our program install. Apparently, we did something wrong.”
Eric looked at her. “Oh shit. I was hoping that we were just paranoid. I’m sorry.” He was quiet while he thought. Kate almost had the drainboard filled up again when he spoke. “Kate, would you or could you take Max to the office tomorrow?”
Kate looked at him. “I’m not sure that would be such a good idea. Max isn’t exactly a lap dog. What reason would I have you there?”
“Let’s see. Max has a vet appointment? Doesn’t like your sister who is due in town for the night and so you brought Max to the office?”
Kate giggled at that prospect. Eric had met her sister and took an immediate dislike to her. “Well, if Max did bite her, he’d never get the taste out of his mouth.”
Eric gagged at that prospect, and shook his head. “No. Biting her would be a bad thing. However, I’d like Max to be there tomorrow if we could.”
“Then you’d better dig up Max’s collar and lead. Oh, and hope his tags are up to date.”
Eric put down the dishtowel and headed for the office. “They are! Zach and I visited with Dr. Fremont last month. Gods that man can talk. At least I just get the tags and certificate.”
“Yeah, and all the biscuits you can eat! That man is fascinate with you.”
“I know. Then again, so are you and I don’t think it’s deranged.”
“Hey! I lust you. He just wants to dissect you!”
“Nah, he’s just jealous that I can talk to his patients. I spend more time as interpreter down there than anything else.”
“Sure! You just like the company. I know you.” Kate smiled as she walked down the hall. She figured she’d find an explanation for Suzanne in the morning.