Life returned to normal. Or, about as normal as life ever got around Kate. Eric went back to work and so did she. Jamie and Mark went to school and Pat decided to stay out in Levette. He said that he and Tammy planned to marry. When that would happen would be anyone’s guess.
Zach and Anne announced that she was pregnant and they were still not getting married. Kate just shook her head over that bit of news. Everyone teased Anne about having puppies. Zach went red around the ears and mumbled. Anne didn’t know what to think. In the end, everyone had a good laugh.
Kate was taking mental inventory and was trying to get her mind back to work. The last week had been so busy. Coming home just accelerated things and work was at least quiet.
“Collecting dust bunnies?” Suzanne asked from the door.
Kate looked up to see her boss. “No, just trying to sort out a few things. I still can’t get into the swing of work. You wouldn’t think that two weeks off could scatter the little gray cells so much.”
“Oh yes I would. Why do you think I’m standing here in the door?” Suzanne smiled. “Want a cup of tea or a blueberry muffin?”
“No. Eric said that he’d stop by for lunch. He had to be downtown this morning. Apparently James wanted him to come by and fill out some paperwork.”
“What kind of paperwork?”
“A job application.”
“James wants him as a deputy, but will settle for Search and Rescue.” Kate shook her head. She and Eric had discussed this for a long time. They decided that S&R was fine for right now. Being a deputy was out.
“I can see Eric doing S&R work. He loves being out in the mountains.”
“He does. Granted, I do too, and I’m not signing up.”
Suzanne smiled. “Nope. Not your thing. I hear you are going to be a grandma.”
“Yes. That was interesting. Zach and Anne are happy being together sans paperwork, so who am I to complain?”
“They’ve got you there don’t they. What about Pat and Tammy?”
“Yes. Can’t fuss when Eric and I don’t have anything more than a kiss between us for legalities. As for Pat and Tammy, they want to get married this Autumn. I’m glad he’s settling down. I like Suzie, but she isn’t a good match for Pat.”
“I don’t blame you one bit.” Suzanne stood and started to move out of the door. “Sure I can’t bring you anything?”
“No. I’m fine. Unless you can find a cup of brain starter.”
Suzanne laughed. “Okay. See you in a bit.”
“Bye.” Kate waved and then started back to work. The state had pulled the programs that had invaded the computers at work. Only to set new ones in place that were just as frustrating in new and different ways. No spyware, but lots of data blocks. Kate was wondering just how much they could get away with leaving blank before someone at the capital got pissy.
She had just installed the last of the software and was importing data across the network that Eric and Zach had installed on Monday. Something made the hairs on the back of her neck tingle and she turned around slowly. Eric and Henry were standing in the doorway.
“Look who I found.”
“Hello Henry!” Kate stood and came around the desk. She hugged each man in turn. “Where’s Josie?”
“She’s holding a table at that cafe you recommended in town. We thought we’d come get you for lunch,” Henry said.
“Ooooh, that sounds good. I love eating there.” Kate grabbed her handbag and they headed out the door.
As they passed Suzanne’s office, Kate peeked in. No one was there. Kate took a moment to write a note to let Suzanne know where she was going. Placing the note on the monitor, she turned back to the two men.
“I’m ready. Are we walking or driving?”
“Walking. It took longer to find a parking space than it did to walk here.” Eric shook his head. Parking was becoming an issue as the town grew. Downtown was tight on parking spaces.
The three of them walked down the main street towards the Firefly Cafe. Kate and Eric ate there often as it had decent sandwiches and the best desserts in town. Henry opened the door and Kate saw that the place was packed. Looking around, they saw Josie in the corner. They looked at the chalk board menu and then joined her at the table.
“I hope this place is as good as you say it is,” Josie said. “It took me ten minutes to snatch this table.”
“Oh, it is well worth it.” Eric looked around for the waitress and waved at her when she saw him.
“Heya Eric. How are you?”
“Just fine Cindy. Busy today isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah. Good to see you though. What’ll you have?”
“A firefly special with chicken and raspberry iced tea.”
“Got it, and you Kate?”
“Grilled tuna and raspberry tea.”
Henry looked at the waitress and then to Josie. “You first.”
“I’ll have the French dip and a coke,” Josie ordered.
“And you Hon?” Cindy asked as she turned to Henry.
“Umm… The prime rib sandwich, and a beer.”
“Thanks Hon. I’ll be back with your drinks in a minute.” Cindy finished writing the order and headed off in the direction of the kitchen.
Josie was looking around as was Henry. Both were rather surprised to see all the art on the walls. Paintings were everywhere. “This is some place Kate.”
“We like it. Leigh is from back east and has brought a breath of culture to this part of the state. And, some of the best cooking in town.”
“The first time Kate brought me here, I thought she had some sort of time machine and had warped us to a different reality. It’s a nice change from burgers and burritos.” That brought a smile to everyone’s face.
Cindy interrupted the conversation by bringing the drinks. “I didn’t know what kind of beer you wanted, so I just brought you a Newcastle Ale. Is that alright?”
Henry blinked a moment and then just nodded. Eric smiled and suppressed a laugh.
“I had that same deer in the headlights feeling when we first came here Henry.” Eric handed him the bar menu that was on the table and showed him the long list of micro-breweries and imports on the beer side.
“I… I didn’t think they’d have anything besides your basic Bud or Coors.”
“Not in here. Those are probably the least favorites.”
Henry just shook his head and tasted his beer. “This is good.”
Cindy smiled and walked back towards the kitchen.
Their food arrived a few minutes later, and everyone dug in. Bites were traded and it was decided that next time they came to the Firefly, it would be for dinner.
“You have got to try the lamb. I don’t know what Leigh does to it, but it is the best I have ever tasted,” Eric said around a mouthful of sandwich.
“If it is as good as this steak in my sandwich, I’ll be amazed. Kate, we will be stopping by more often, if it is only to have lunch here.”
“I agree. Too bad we can’t get Leigh to move up to our neck of the woods,” Josie said.
“You’d have to stand in line. You aren’t the only ones who would go out of their way to eat here. Dessert anyone?” Kate asked.
“Oh damn.” Henry looked across the dining room to the smaller board with the desserts written on it. “I don’t know what to order.”
“How about we order four different ones and trade bites?” Josie asked.
“That sounds good. Kate?” Eric smiled at Kate, knowing that she loved the desserts.
“Fine by me, Eric.”
Cindy was waved over and Kate ordered four desserts. Fifteen minutes later, Eric and Henry were drooling as the plates were set before them. Josie wasn’t sure she wanted to trade bites after she had her first bite of the rich chocolate cake with its own sauce.
“This stuff is just decadent.”
“Umhmm…” Kate mumbled around a spoon of apple torte.
Reluctantly, they all traded plates and then couldn’t decide which was the best. Eric and Henry jostled to get the check when it arrived. Eric lost, and left the tip. The four of them walked slowly out of the cafe, and back towards where the men had parked Henry’s Volvo.
“I’ll need to run all night to work that off,” Henry said as he stretched. Josie nodded in agreement.
“Well, I figured we could all go out later tonight. The moon will give us plenty of light,” Eric mentioned.
Kate sighed. “There are days I wish I changed with the ease of you lot. I guess I”ll just wait till you get home.”
Josie turned to Kate. “Don’t fret. It either will happen or it won’t. In the mean time, don’t let it upset you.” She wrapped Kate in a hug. Kate hugged back. The guys had reached the car and were waiting for the two women.
“Thanks Josie. It just frustrates me some days.” The two of them moved on towards the car.
Eric reached his arms around Kate as well. “Sweetie, I don’t care if you ever change. I love you for who you are.”
“I love you too.” Kate kissed him.
“Well, if you three will get in the car, we can go home and relax. I for one need to get rid of my belt.” Henry unlocked the car and climbed in. Everyone followed suit and Eric gave Henry directions to the house.
When they got home, Kate called Suzanne and let her know that company had show up unexpectedly. Suzanne was fine with her being gone the rest of the afternoon. It was a quiet day and she understood that Kate was having trouble getting back into the routines at work.
The four adults were in Kate’s kitchen. It has been a loud homecoming. Luna and Gretchen barked their fool heads off and half a dozen cats joined in with various hisses, growls and purrs. Mark poked his head up from his homework long enough to say hello and then went back to writing. Jamie on the other hand was chatting ninety miles an hour and Eric had finally sent her off to shower so that the adults could have a breather.
“I see what you mean about the differences in the two children. Are they really both yours?” Josie asked Eric.
“As far as I know. Granted, there are days I do wonder about Mark. He is a lot better though than he was when we first got here. This was very sociable in comparison to how he use to be.”
“Jamie is a sweetie though,” Henry remarked. She had wrapped herself up in his lap ten minutes after they had been introduced. “She is also going to give you a run for your sanity once puberty hits.”
“If she doesn’t shift, I will be very surprised,” said Josie.
“I know. I am also very glad that I have Kate here to help me,” Eric said.
Kate nodded. “She is precocious and I just hope we can manage to go camping often enough.” She and Eric had discussed the possibilities more than once of what would be needed if Jamie shifted like her dad.
“Well, if you need to, you can always come up to the hotel,” Josie offered. Henry nodded in agreement.
“I hadn’t thought of that. Thank you both. That may just be a lifesaver.” Eric looked down the hall as he spoke. “I know we have a few years to go, but…”
“No reason to be caught short eh?” Henry smiled.
“Anyone for a cup of tea?” Kate asked.
“A cup of tea would be nice,” Josie said. Henry nodded in agreement. Eric smiled and started opening the tea cupboard while Kate got the cups.
Andy walked in thirty minutes later. Henry and Josie were introduced and soon the conversation turned to the Dog Bar.
“So, you four are really going to go up there?” Andy asked. He was smiling.
“Yes. Josie and I have gone up there before and have enjoyed ourselves. Granted, the food is nothing compared to the Firefly, but the pizza is good.”
“Yeah, it is. I’ve worked both places. Been thrown out of the Dog Bar for fighting. We all have I think, except for Jon.”
“I didn’t know that.” Kate wondered what else she had missed.
“We didn’t tell you everything Mom. A guy has to have some secrets.” Andy had a smile playing across his face.
Kate just shook her head. “No, I guess I shouldn’t expect you to tell me everything. Although you did tell your dad far more about your early sex life than he ever wanted to hear.”
“He was so much fun to shock.”
Eric looked at Andy and then remembered the stories that Kate has shared. He was not looking forward to Jamie and Mark being teens.
Henry was smiling and Josie just looked puzzled. “What are you smiling about Henry?”
“I was a teenage boy once.”
“Andy use to give detailed reports on his dates to me. I ignored him because I knew he was trying to shock me. However, one night I was gone and David got the brunt of the date data. You should have heard the yelling when I got home,” Kate explained.
“Oh, I can imagine. I did something similar one time and thought my mom was going to have a stroke.” Josie smiled.
Eric and Henry looked at one another and both decided that silence was their best ploy at the moment.
Josie looked over at them with a quizzical look. “Okay, what on earth did you two do that neither one of you will say a word?”
“Can I plead youthful stupidity?”
“Henry, whatever could you have done that would make you blush like that?” Kate asked with a smile in her voice.
“I’d… I’d really rather not say.”
Eric started to laugh, as he realized that Henry was caught. “You’d better fess up. These two look like they just caught themselves a real treat.”
“Yeah Henry. What did you do?” Josie stepped a little closer as she spoke. She ran her hand up the side of his neck and under his hair at the back. She knew this just melted Henry’s brain.
Henry put his hands in his pockets and took a deep breath. He realized that he had little choice but to talk. “I, umm….. When I first shifted, I tended to be a bit reckless. I chased anything in heat, and a couple of times, I had to get bailed out of the pound,” Henry finished and stared at the floor.
“The pound? As in the dog pound?” Kate asked.
“How on earth did your mom or dad know you were in the pound?”
“Well, the first time, I realized I didn’t have any choice, so I shifted back and had to try and talk my way out of the situation.”
Eric started laughing. Josie and Kate joined him as they all visualized Henry crouched naked in a dog kennel. Andy just smiled.
“Yeah, go ahead and laugh. It wasn’t funny. Luckily, I was able to convince the guy that some college friends of mine had gotten me drunk, taken my clothes and dumped me over the top of the fence into the dog pen.”
“Oh Henry!” Kate gasped between giggles.
“I”m just glad my mom finally believed me and brought me some clothes. The guy still charged her the dog fee, and I had to work it off.” Henry’s face colored pink.
“Mine too,” Eric said quietly.
“What?” Kate looked at Eric as if he’d just grown a horn on his forehead.
“My mom baled me out too. Threatened to let them neuter me next time. Oh, and give me shots and tags,” Eric said softly.
“No wonder you were so resigned to getting tags that time from Doc Fremont.” Kate suddenly had things fell into place.
“Yeah. After that, I was a lot more careful.”
“So was I,” said Henry. “I had to remember to take that damned collar with me when I went out. Saved my balls more than once.”
They all dissolved into giggles.
“Damn, and I thought I was a mess as a teen. At least I never ended up in the dog pound Mom.”
“No, just the drunk tank. I think I’d take the pound over that any day.” Kate smiled.
Andy leaned over and kissed his mom on top of the head. “Glad to know you love me.”
“Yes, I do. Good thing, otherwise you’d have been the terror of the local jail.”
Andy nodded. “Where is everyone sleeping tonight? Do I need to head for the back yard or are we making up a guest bed?”
Kate looked at the rest of them and shrugged her shoulders. “I hadn’t thought about it. They showed up this afternoon and to be honest my mind just didn’t go as far as bedding people down for the night.”
“Kate, we won’t be here for the whole night, so there is no reason to put your son out of his bed. We can sleep on the floor if we have a pillow or two.”
“Mom, I thought you said they were spending the night?” Andy asked rather confused at this point.
“Andy. Henry, Josie and I are going out for a bit and then we will come home for a nap,” Eric started to explain.
Josie and Henry nodded in agreement. “We really don’t mind sleeping on the floor,” Josie added.
Suddenly the light dawned on Andy. “Oh! You three are going hunting! Mom, do you want me to bring up the dog pillows we use for Luna and Gretchen when we go camping? We could toss them in the living room or even a corner of your room.”
“Andy, that sounds like a great idea. Those pillows are nice,” Eric said. “Used them myself more than once.”
“Pillows are fine by me. What about you Henry?”
“That will do just fine.”
“Are you two sure? I can make up a bed. It’s really no trouble,” Kate said suddenly feeling a bit uncertain.
“Hon, we’ve slept outside more than once. To share your room on pillows? That would be great,” Josie said.
“It isn’t like we haven’t puppy piled before. Best way to sleep sometimes, “ Eric said, putting his arms around Kate.
Kate nodded. She remembered the second night up at the hotel. It had been a very cozy night. “Okay, if pillows on the floor are alright, we’ll set that up while you three go out on the town.”
Andy headed downstairs while the rest of the adults headed down the hall towards Kate and Eric’s room.