Yep! I ran out of Time!
Eric had called James the next morning and made arrangements to meet him at Dr. Fremont’s office. Zach went with Eric. The drive to the vet’s was short and they were waiting in the parking lot for both Art Fremont and James to show up.
“Glad you and mom had a good time,” Zach was saying as Fremont pulled up. The men nodded at each other and got out of their cars. Fremont had the back door open and let the two of them in. James was the only one missing.
“Well, you look a darn sight better than the last time I saw you,” Dr. Fremont said.
“I feel a lot better too Art.” Eric extended his hand to the vet. The men shook hands and Art looked at Eric’s arm.
“You know, you can barely tell you took any damage at all. Your healing rate is tremendous.”
“Art, it has it’s price. I spend at least 24 hours asleep for any serious injury. I was asleep for almost 36 hours to heal from that fight. Even then I wasn’t totally myself.”
“Yeah, you kept pissing mom off with the pee mail patrol.” Zach smiled.
“Pee mail?” Art asked.
“Yes, checking the fence to see who’d been by and peed on it,” Eric said with a slight glare directed towards Zach.
Art smiled. “Pee mail. I like that.”
“Good morning all.” James came into the office and nodded hello to everyone. “Are we ready to do this?”
“No, but we need to get things done,” said Eric.
“I agree. If Ronny asks me one more time how Max is, I may just lose it.”
“I’d forgotten about him. He is friends with Max.” Eric sighed. “I guess we’d best get on with it.” Eric closed the door to the office and then after tuning his back, he started to undress.
“Umm, Eric, do you…” James started.
“Kate would kill me if I shredded my clothes. Most shifters get undressed first,” Eric started to explain.
“Oh. Okay. I just didn’t know.”
“It’s okay James. I’ll be done in a second.” Eric had his boots off and was working on his socks. He stuffed the socks in his boots. Teeshirt was next off and then the jeans. Eric hesitated at removing his underwear. He still had his back turned to the rest of the men. Uncomfortable didn’t cover it. Kate was one of the few people he actually changed in front of, and that was a lot different than now. One pair of underwear wasn’t that much. He shifted.
The wolf’s tail popped free of the bikini underwear that Eric wore. They didn’t drop, so he brought his right hind leg up trying to catch it with his foot or dew claw to pull them down. It didn’t work. He tried again. This time, he caught the front claws in a bit of the side, but that only served to move them up, and not down. He reached back to try and bite them off. No luck. He scritched at them as if he had the worst case of fleas and the only result was to move them back down to where they had been to begin with. He tried shaking and wagging his tail. It did no good. Finally in utter frustration, he sat down on his haunches and grabbed at them with his teeth. It was a most undignified pose. He grabbed the elasticated edge and pulled. There was a slight tearing sound as they gave way under his teeth. A moment later, the shreds of underwear were dropped to the floor. The wolf didn’t understand the sounds that the men were making. All three of them were doubled over with their arms around their waists. The wolf didn’t know if he’d done something wrong or not. He just sat and watched.
James was wiping his eyes and trying to stop the laughter that had erupted over watching Eric/Max trying to remove the offending underwear. Zach was still giggling and Art had just given over to belly shaking laughter.
It had been rather quiet in the office while Eric had stripped off. When he paused just before shifting, there had been a bit of suspense building in the room. Art and Zach had both seen Eric shift. James had not, and in his own way was skeptical. Watching Eric melt… there was no other way to describe it, into a large wolf had brought everyone to a standstill. Right up until they realized that they were looking at a wolf with bikini underwear on. That had started the giggles. When Eric/Max reached around and started tugging at the underwear, that had been the last straw. James started laughing as did Art. Zach sniggered and then joined in the laughter. Especially when Eric/Max stood there with the last shreds of underwear hanging from his canines.
“Oh my god!” James finally gasped out. “That was hilarious. The last thing I expected was to be laughing. Oh my.” He was still drying his eyes as he finished speaking.
“Max, mom’s gonna be mad at you!” Zach said with a giggle to his voice as he picked up the shreds of underwear. He tucked them in the pocket of the jeans as he picked up Eric’s clothes.
“That was just too funny. Much better than last time. Granted, no one would ever believe me if I wrote it up in the Vet Weekly.” Art smiled. “I got Max a new collar with tags for the occasion.” Art pulled out a deep blue collar with tags attached. “Come Max.” He motioned to the wolf so that he could put the collar on him.
The wolf looked at the one man with his head turned to the side. He knew Art, and so stepped forward. Art put the collar on and the wolf shrugged his shoulders to fix the fit. Zach patted him on the head. He could smell the biscuits on the counter. Jumping up on the table, he walked across to the counter and batted at the jar.
“Hey Max! Wait a minute!” Art called when he realized where Max was going. He reached in and gave Max a big dog biscuit. Peanut butter flavored.
“Do I get one?” Zach asked.
Art just shook his head. “I do not understand how you two can eat these things.” With resignation, he handed one to Zach. Turning to James who was watching the whole show he asked, “Do you want one too?”
James smiled. “No thank you. I had breakfast.” He shook his head as he watched Zach and Max eat the biscuits. If Art was going to have trouble trying to explain this to the veterinary world, there was no way he could explain this to the doughnut eating bunch down at the station.
“I’ll take Eric’s clothes home and meet you there in a while,” Zach said as he swallowed the last of the dog biscuit.
“Okay. We’ll get the papers in order and head home in a bit. See you there.”
“Bye Zach. Say hello to your mom for me.” Art waved goodbye.
“He’s a good kid, even if he does have strange tastes in food.” Art smiled as he said it.
“Yeah. Now to get Max home. I take it you made up some paperwork for me?”
“Typical bureaucratic stuff. Same thing I give you for every rabies check. Plus, the bill.”
“The county clerk is going to love this one.”
“I know, but if I didn’t charge you, they’d think I was going crazy.”
“You’re probably right.” James tucked the paperwork under his arm and fished in his pocket for the keys to the Explorer. “Come on Max. Let’s go home. “ He motioned to Max who was laying on the counter amidst the last of the crumbs. “See you later Art.”
“Bye James. Bye Max!”
Max gave a broad yawn and then jumped off the counter and followed James out the door.
Max jumped into the seat of the Explorer. He found the remains of James’ breakfast and gobbled it down before James could stop him. “Good thing someone likes a cold egg and sausage biscuit,” James said to Max as Max licked the wrapper. Max turned around three times and then sat down on the seat. He bumped his nose against the window and then looked at James. James opened the window for him and he stuck his head out. James just shook his head and smiled.
“Just how much do you know of what’s going on eh Max?” James spoke to the wolf, but didn’t expect a reply. Max just turned and gave him one of those wolfish grins.
James laughed and started the SUV. In a few minutes, they were out on the highway. James with his elbow out the window and Max with his head out and tongue lolling in the breeze. They took the first exit and turned onto the main road through town. Max was delighting in the smells. James watched him out of the corner of his eye. It was hard to think of Max and Eric being the same person. It brought a smile to his face as he remembered the underwear shredding.
Turning onto a side street, and then up a block brought them to the side of Kate’s house. Zach’s beat up Subaru as well as Kate’s newer one sat in the drive. Across the street was Ronny and the animal control van. James just shook his head. He gave up a long time ago trying to figure out how Ronny or anyone knew where he’d be at any given moment. James parked the SUV and got out. He was going to go around when Max leaped through the open window.
“Hey-ya James!” Ronny was hollering as he crossed the road.
“See ya bringin Max home ta-day.”
“Yes. He’s a free dog.” James ruffled Max’s ears.
Ronny crouched down and gave Max a hug. “Din’t think you’d make it Max. You was one beat up dog.”
Max took the hug and then decided to give Ronny a wet tongue upside the head. He smiled one of those wolfish grins.
“Aww Max!” Ronny wiped at his face where it was wet with slobber.
James laughed. “Good thing he likes you Ronny. After what he did to that wolf, I’m not sure I’d let him that close to my face.”
Ronny stood up and patted Max’s head. “He’s a good dog. Wouldn’t hurt me. Oh! Almost forgot.” Ronny left them and went back over to the van. He pulled a bag out of the front. Kneeling down in front of Max, he opened the bag.
Max could smell the meat before Ronny had the bag all the way open. He stuck his head in it and grabbed at the chunk of steak. Pulling away, he had it out and was merrily chewing on it.
“Geeze Max! You was suppose to have that for yer supper.” Ronny watched as Max made short work of the meat.
“I think he just had breakfast instead. That was nice of you Ronny.” James watched Max and wondered what it did to Eric when he shifted back. He hoped that Eric had a strong stomach. First dog biscuits then an egg and sausage biscuit and now a chunk of steak that didn’t look the freshest.
“Its okay. Martha gived me a piece for him. She saved it from dinner.” Ronny looked up and saw Kate coming down the stairs and out to the cars. “Mornin Kate. Max is home.”
Good morning gentlemen,” Kate held out her hand and shook James’ and then Ronny’s hand. Then she turned to Max. “Morning Max. How was your breakfast?”
Max jumped up and put his paws on Kate’s shoulders. His breath was heavy with the smell of meat and peanut butter dog biscuit. He belched.
“Oh Max! Get down!” Kate shoved the big paws off of her shoulders. “Dog breath!”
“Good morning Kate,” James said.
“Thanks for bringing him home. How is Art?”
“He’s doing well. Especially now that Max won’t be eating him out of dog biscuits.”
“Apparently Art has the best biscuits in town. Both Max and Zach agree.” Kate smiled.
“You know that Zach eats dog biscuits?” James asked.
“Ever since he was about three. Andy too. I thought that they did it just to gross me out, but they actually like them.” Kate shook her head not knowing what else to say about her sons and their weird food habits. “Thank you for the steak Ronny. I’m sure that Max appreciated it.”
“Yeah, he ate it fast. Sort of wolfed it.” Ronny smiled at the joke he’d made. “I better go work. Don’t want the mayor mad at me cause I din’t catch no dogs.”
“Bye Ronny. Come by any time.” Kate waved goodbye to him.
“Bye Ronny. See you downtown,” James said.
The two of them watched Ronny head off. Max had gone into the yard and was sniffing the fence line. He stopped once or twice and peed on the fence at one point.
Kate just shook her head and smiled. “Pee mail.”
James looked at her, and then to Max. It dawned on him what she was talking about and smiled. “I get it now. Zach was talking about pee mail this morning.”
“You’ve had a long morning. Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?”
“I’d love one.” James followed Kate up the stairs. Max worked his way past the two of them and nosed the lever handle open. He waited for them to reach the top of the stairs and then headed into the kitchen. James closed the door behind him and watched Max head down the hall.
“He’ll be back in a minute.” Kate put the kettle on. She got three cups down out of the cupboard.
“Okay.” James wasn’t sure if it would be Max or Eric that came back into the kitchen. He sat down on one of the kitchen stools and took a moment to collect himself. It had been an interesting morning.
“Hello James,” Eric said as he came back into the kitchen. He was just buttoning up his shirt that he had had on earlier.
“Hello Eric.” James turned towards Eric. He smiled when he realized that out of the corner of the jeans pocket was hanging a shred of underwear.
Eric caught the look and followed James’ stare. He tugged at the scrap of cloth and pulled out the shredded underwear. “Oh no.”
Kate looked over from where she was adding teabags and sweetener to various cups. She smiled and shook her head. “Another pair gone eh?”
“Umm, Kate, I’m sorry. It’s just that it was a bit embarrassing…” was as far as Eric got. He was turning bright red around the ears.
Kate walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “It’s okay. They already had holes in them from a time or two before where you’ve bit them off.”
James smiled as he watched this exchange. “Did Zach tell you the laugh we all had over those underwear this morning?”
Kate nodded. “Said it was great fun. One minute Eric was standing there in his undies and next minute there was a wolf all tangled up. Rip… Shred…. No undies.”
Eric walked over and put the remains in the trash. “I got myself into that one didn’t I?”
“Yes. However, if you hadn’t shifted in front of me like that, I’m not sure I would have believed you. It certainly proves what you are. Undies and all.” James smiled and then laughed.
Kate and Eric joined him.
“Thanks for the tea. I best be going before the dispatcher has a fit.” James stood up and took his teacup to the sink. “Thank you too Eric. Not many men would be as honorable as you were this morning. I appreciate your trust.”
“Not a problem James. Thank you for all of your help.” Eric extended his hand and shook James’.
“Thank you James. For everything.”
“You’re welcome Kate. Eric, I was serious about that job offer. If you want to be a deputy, I’ll swear you in in a heartbeat.”
“I’ll think about it James. In the meantime, if you need Max, just let us know.” Eric moved towards the back door to open it for James.
“Alright. Have a good day you two.” James waved as he left the house.
“I’m glad that’s over,” Kate said as Eric closed the door.
“So am I. I feel like I’ve spent a little too much time as a wolf lately.”
“I could agree with you on that. You were in fine form this morning.” Kate smiled as she watched Eric’s face. “You were just a tad playful today. Licking Ronny on the face and jumping out of the car window. Thought James flinched when you did that.
“Now if we can just keep Ronny from bringing steak to Max too often.” Eric winced as a belch escaped.
“Are you going to be alright?”
“Yes. It wasn’t off or anything. I just ate it too fast.”
“Okay. I was proud of James not turning green when Ronny gave that to you.”
“I was watching from the top of the stairs. I think if he could have stopped you he would have.”
“It was okay though. Ronny was just being nice.”
“Yes, but James didn’t know that you could eat that and be alright. He was just trying to watch out for you. I guess you and Zach freaked him out a bit when you had dog biscuits at the vets.”
“But they smell and taste so good! I don’t know where Art gets them, but it would be worth finding out.” Eric licked his lips, thinking about them.