Eric and Kate took the back roads home. It was a lovely drive that saw them pulling up to the house long after dark. Try as they might though, the minute the car door opened, they could hear Luna and Gretchen barking. Eric smiled and Kate just shook her head. Out of the back door poured Jamie, Mark and Andy.
“Hello Mom. Hi Eric. How was your trip?” Andy asked as he took Kate’s pack.
“It was very interesting. I’ll tell you all about it after we’ve gotten in the door.” Kate smiled and pointed her chin towards the children. Andy understood that she didn’t want to talk in front of them.
“Mama Kate! Mama Kate! We’ve had lots of fun and people in the house!” Jamie was bouncing up and down in front of Kate. “An the doorses are all fixed and the floors. Oh Mama Kate! The floors are pretty! An Andy cooked and cleaned and we helped!”
“Whoa! Slow down Jamie! You’re talking so fast I can barely keep up with you.” Kate took her hand and started heading towards the door. “Now what was this about the floors?”
“Andy oileded them! With lemony stuff and we mopped it all around and now they are all pretty! An the house smells like lemon pie!”
Kate smiled. Thank you sweetie.” She turned towards Mark. “Did you help too?”
“Yes. I did the sweeping before Andy oiled the floors.”
“Thank you too then Mark.” Kate took a good look at him and realized that she couldn’t see his eyes as his hair was covering them. “You know, I think you need a haircut. When did that grow so fast?”
Mark blinked. “Umm, I guess last night.”
Kate and Jamie broke into giggles. Everyone moved into the house.
Kate was pleased with the way the house looked. The floors had been oiled and all the doors replaced. Andy had done a good job matching the old stain and varnish. Eric put the children to bed while Kate unpacked. She threw the last of the dirty clothes into the hamper as Eric came up the stairs.
“Kate, do you want a cup of tea?”
“Yes Eric. That would be nice. How about Andy?”
“I’ve already got one Mom! I’m waiting to hear all about your trip,” Andy called from the kitchen. He had put the kettle on earlier and had all the cups out. He smiled at Eric as they stood in the kitchen. Kate came down the hall and found the two working on tea and toast.
“I thought you might want a snack.” Eric looked up from buttering toast.
“Oh, that does sound good.” Kate took some jam out of the fridge to go on her toast.
“So, did you have fun?” Andy asked.
“Yes. It was a very nice hotel, and Henry and Josie have become good friends.” Kate took a bite of toast.
“I take it that it was ‘friendly’ like your cousin said?” Andy asked Eric.
“Yes. Although one of the guests was a bit of an arse.” Eric sipped at his tea and then smiled at Kate.
“Yeah, Mike was, but getting skunked was more of an adventure for you Eric.”
“Now Kate! That’s not fair. We didn’t plan to get skunked.”
“What?” Andy asked.
“Eric and Henry went hunting and instead of catching a deer, they startled a skunk.” Kate began to giggle.
“Oh… I bet that was a mess!”
“It was. They had to be de-skunked in both shapes.”
“You know, you two weren’t the ones slathered in that damn mixture and naked on the back porch either. You could have a little compassion.” Eric was turning red around the ears.
“Yes, but you two smelled so bad that Josie wouldn’t let you into the house, and I don’t blame her. Besides, we had to bath you two in wolf form. That wasn’t so much fun. Worse than doing Luna or Gretchen.”
“Oh gods, that must have been a sight!” Andy was imagining the whole thing.
“I give up!” Eric sat down and drank his tea while the two of them giggled.
Kate finished her toast and was drinking her tea when the phone rang. Andy went off to answer it, because as far as the world knew, Kate and Eric were not home. Andy came back in a moment later.
“That was Zach. He just wanted to know if you were home yet. I told him you were.”
“That’s fine. I wondered where he and Anne were. I half expected them to be here too.”
“It was a coin toss. I won. They went off to get groceries.”
“Ah. Okay.” Kate took another sip of tea.
“You mentioned Henry and Josie. Are they the owners or other guests?” Andy asked.
“They own the place,” Eric said.
“Okay. I take it that at least Henry shifts?”
“Josie does too. It was my turn to feel the odd one out,” said Kate.
“It’s alright Eric. I guess that it bothers me more that I shift when I don’t expect to rather than the other way around.”
“Sweetie, the important part is that you can deal with me when I do shift and understand what is going on.” Eric reached out and took her hand.
“Yeah,” Kate put her cup down and kissed Eric. “Oh! Andy! Guess where we will be going in a couple of weeks?”
“Umm, Hawaii?” Andy was totally thrown off by Kate’s question.
“No. A little closer to home.”
“Camping up in the mountains?”
“No, but you’re closer.”
“Okay, Mountains. You’re going somewhere in the mountains.” Andy thought for a moment. “Mom, I don’t know.”
Kate smiled. “We’re going to the Dog Bar with Henry and Josie.”
Andy digested this information and then a smile broke out on his face. “You? And Eric? At the Dog Bar? With other…” He stopped as the full picture hit him. “You’re going to take Eric and Henry as dogs?”
“Yes!” Kate smiled and then broke into giggles.
“Yeah, but if we behave, we get to shift back and come in as guys,” Eric said with a smile to his voice.
“Oh that will be a riot. I’ll have to try and be there just to see the effect.” Andy smiled at the thought of it. “I hate to break this up, but I have to be up early in the morning.”
“Okay Andy. Sleep well.” Kate kissed him goodnight.
“Almost forgot! James called and said as soon as you wanted to ‘bring Max home’, he’d help you.”
“Thanks Andy,” Eric said as everyone headed off to bed.
“It feels good to be home,” Kate said as she walked into the bedroom.
“Yes, it does Kate. I guess I had better call James in the morning. We need to get this taken care of and try to get back to normal.”
“I agree. Are you still going to shift for him, or just do it privately?”
“I am going to have to shift in front of him. Not my first choice, but a necessary evil.” Eric sat down on the edge of the bed to pull off his boots.
“A necessary evil? Isn’t that a bit harsh?”
“No. Just something that I’d rather not do, so I can’t view it as a good thing.”
Kate thought she understood Eric. Some days his mind twisted in ways she thought she understood, and other days she was totally off kilter. She dropped the teeshirt over her head and then crawled under the covers. Eric had gotten as far as his socks when he started to hunch his shoulders.
“Yes, could you please scratch my back?”
“Of course,” Kate said as she started moving her hand across his back. “There are days I think a curry comb would be more appropriate.”
“Don’t tease me!”
“No, this is teasing,” Kate said as she reached around and found the sweet spot which made his legs twitch.
“Nnoo… Not fair!” Eric squirmed under her fingers. He reached around and tried to get to Kate’s ribs. She squeaked and they were soon rolling around on the bed.
In the next room, Andy smiled. It was good to have them home.