Buster's Story Ch. 09 - FinalebyJaisen©
As the title suggests, this is the final chapter of Buster's Story. As with the last chapter, this was difficult to write. We know that Buster had to die as we first dealt with his death in More Than Just A Fairy Tale. My partner has cursed, cried and smiled as he's helped me proof the final pages. When he finished, he said, "Damn it! You did it again." and wiped his eyes. I hope you've enjoyed this part of my Universe. Please vote, and comment. Feedback is the only pay or reward we get when we write. Perhaps if there is enough interest, I will post a story on Andrew.
Wolf ran. In his dreams, his mate was always just ahead of him, the tip of her tail just disappearing over the next rock, or behind the nearest bush. He was never quick enough. He'd woke to find himself in a strange forest. It was cold and there was frost on the ground. He drank thirstily from a small stream and then turned back the way he'd come. His pads were sore from all the running he'd done.
That night, he brought down a deer. He had started to save the liver for his mate and only after pulling it from the warm body did he remember that she was gone. He dropped the liver and sat back on his haunches. He howled his pain to the moon. When he was hoarse, he finally ate his fill. He loped off from the carcass and left it to the crows and small scavengers.
He fell into a pattern. Run, eat, sleep. Soon he was back in familiar territory. He'd left the frost ground behind. For the first time in many nights, he saw another wolf. Yips and growls were exchanged and the two wolves continued on the trail together. He found himself in the meadow where his mate was buried. He slept above her on the rock.
When dawn began to break, he loped to the wooden den and leapt through the window. Curling up on the squeaky metal bed, he turned around three times and slept.
By the time Brian returned from his run, all the company was gone. He woke up naked on the bed. His nose was buried in Natalie's pillow. Rolling over, he looked around at the room which had held so much joy and pain. No one had touched anything in the room. He stretched, found some clothes and wrapping up in his bathrobe, walked down to the bathroom. While he could hear people moving around, he saw no one. He bathed, dressed and looked at himself in the mirror after he dressed. Finding his scissors, he trimmed up the beard that reached nearly to his chest.
"Been gone long time," he thought. Cleaning up the hair, he headed for the kitchen.
"Hello Papa," said Jenny. She'd heard him come in after Henri reported that he'd found Brian in the forest.
"Hello Jenny. How long I been gone?"
"Two nearly three weeks. Family says to tell you they love you. Let them know if you want come live with them," she said placing coffee, eggs, bacon and toast in front of him.
"Aye. I have a house. You help me go through your Maman's stuff today? I wan' pack things up to save them."
"Aye. Tilly can run the clinic today."
It didn't take long for Brian and Jenny to sort through Natalie's things. Some stuff went to the rag box while others went to the basket for clothes going to the clinic. They went for people who needed them. Brian packed Natalie's keepsakes in the same box as his uniforms, medals and photos. Then he came across a book in the bottom of her desk.
"What this?" Brian asked Jenny.
"The birth and death book. We keep track of everyone. Make sure no one marry too close. Like that Estelle and Quintus. They second cousins. Last thing Maman add is Libellue."
Brian nodded. "You keep this. You family head now."
"Papa," Jenny tried to give it back.
"Non. Women, they run this family so long I don' know. You keep that book. Someday, mebbe someone need it."
Jenny gave up and took the book. She hugged her papa. "What about that box?"
Brian picked up the jewelry box. He looked through it. Picking out a couple of items, he handed it to Jenny. "Give to your sisters or you keep."
Jenny nodded and took the box. Everything else was cleaned and put away, because it belonged more to the house and the family than any one person. Brian took the box and put it back in the attic.
Libellue raced from the car to Grand-pere Buster's cabin. "Grand-pere! Grand-pere! "
"I am here, Libellue," said Brian. He'd been napping in the rocker in the kitchen and woke when he heard his name called. Looking around he found Marie and Libellue standing in the kitchen.
"Marie? Why you come visit?" he asked.
"I... I need a little vacation."
Brian looked at her and noticed that there was no Andre. "That Andre, he go that Vietnam War?"
"Aye. We talk long. He is doctor there," admitted Marie.
"What make him go this time?" asked Brian as he put the kettle on for coffee.
"You know he start that clinic for shifters? With Maman's money?" asked Marie.
"Aye. Lot of family down in that United States," said Brian. Lots of his family and other shifters like the Chinese tiger he met in Vancouver.
"Well, he work there two days a week. Not many, but enough. He train shifters to be nurses. Our cousin, Petite Luc's grandson, Ron? He a veterinarian. He work there too," explained Marie.
"An how this work that Andre go that Vietnam?"
"One day, he get a call. Hospital. Have a soldier come that war back to Washington need surgery. Andre go. Come back ver' sad. Soldier is minor surgery, but they try put him in crazy house."
"The soldier, he a shifter?"
"Aye. He freak out. Sound like the stories you told us of Bizzet. Andre, he recognize that he a shifter, calm him down, keep him from getting that electric shock stuff for crazies," said Marie.
"Andre feel he do better in the battlefield?" asked Brian although he knew the answer.
"Aye. So, I come here, get away from it all. All those protests, soldiers. Everette, Seattle, all crazy places," said Marie. The fact that the Vietnam war was not popular had spilled out into the streets.
"Grand-pere Buster, I go run outside. Love you!" said Libellue and disappeared out the door.
Brian nodded and watched her head outside. "She don' look nearly 14. More like 10. Is that because of Andre you think?"
Marie nodded. Her other concern was that Libellue would shift too soon. She didn't know how things would go and figured that Jenny could help her.
"Well, you can have the back rooms. I don' use them. I eat with Jenny and Henri. You want cook, fine," said Brian.
"Thank you Papa. I told Andre I come here. Mebbe go back that Everette in September."
The summer was full of Libellue and various cousins running through the house. Alexander and Jelka came with their son Andrew. He was about five and was playing with Mark, Henry's grandson as well as other cousins. Jelka sat on the porch while Brian and Alexander talked.
"That little one, ver' quiet. Looks like he sees things," said Brian.
"Agreed. He's like his mama, and she knows when people are sick or coming to visit before anyone calls. I'm teaching him about being a shaman," said Alexander.
"So young?" asked Brian.
"Yes. I don't think I will be around as long as you or Kent. Jelka, she has dreams of running in the forest alone. So, I make sure one son is family shaman."
Brian nodded. He'd watched so many people leave and others training their children to take over their jobs. Jenny had Caroline working at the clinic along with Mary, the adopted daughter of Alice. There were days he felt rather useless. Other days all he did was run in the forest. Having Marie and Libellue there had at least kept him coming home on a regular basis.
"That Libellue, she is going to be a heartbreaker," said Alexander.
"She is something special," said Jelka.
"Aye. It like I hear her voice in my head when I run too long. I come back and she smile at me," said Brian.
"Papa! I have letter from Andre!" Marie shouted as she ran back from the post office. She sat down next to Brian and opened the letter.
"My dear Marie and Libellue,
I hope this letter makes it home. This is letter #2. I'm saying the same thing in all the letters with extra bits. I don't want things lost like Korea.
"I think he means he don' want no one lost," interjected Brian.
"Aye," said Marie who kept on reading.
"This war is very rough on people. Lots of jungle and no place to feel safe. I am at a hospital base, and not in the midst of the fighting. I am very glad of this. I have lots of work and sometimes I wish for my quiet practice in Everette.
I have run into many cousins. You'd think in a war overseas that I wouldn't find much family, but I have. I find it interesting that so many of our family have chose to be in what they call Special Operations. Some work with scouts. Others with the dog handling units which are so very important here.
I miss you and Libellue and I am looking forward to coming home soon. If you see Alexander or Jelka, let them know that I spent the evening with their son Ross. He is a good boy. He reminds me of Jacques and Henri.
It is very quiet here and maybe that means it will be over soon.
"I wonder how many shifters there are that Vietnam. It sound worse than my wars," said Brian. He thought of all the terror he and family went through. Now the family was so spread out that it was difficult to tell who had gone.
"I think there be plenty. I hope the shifter clinic is okay. Mebbe Libellue and I go back that Everette and see if we can help," said Marie.
"That be a good thing. You write that Andre, tell him you go home," said Brian.
Marie kissed her father and then headed to her room to pack.
"Mama! We need go that Vancouver," said Libellue.
"Why?" asked Marie.
"Can't you hear that cousin ours howling?" asked Libellue.
"Non. We don' have no cousins in Vancouver."
"We do. He ver' scared. I can hear him howl and there is a ver' bad man yelling at him," said Libellue.
Marie looked at her daughter and then called Jenny. For the last three or four years, Libellue had been hearing things, as she put it. It was like she was connected to all the family. She'd known when her papa had been hurt in Vietnam, and when Ross Davis had died in the Tet Offensive.
"Jenny? This is Marie. Yes, we are fine. I have question. We have any family that Vancouver?" she asked. "Non, Libellue say she hear a cousin howling. I don' know any family there. Okay. You hear, you call me aye?"
Libellue stood next to her mother, although she had heard the whole conversation. "I still hear him. He scared."
"Aye. We wait that Jenny go through the book. She don' know anyone," said Marie.
An hour later, the phone rang. Marie grabbed it just before Libellue. "Aye, George had a son off that bitch? Non. Papa, he can go. Non, why you no know where Papa is? Oh. Aye. I call," Marie said as she hung up.
"You right. George, your cousin, he have a son. Must be year younger than you. He have fight with his non-shifter mama. She and her husband, they lock him in a shed. Jenny can't go. Want me to go. I say no, and I need call that Quintus," said Marie.
Thirty minutes later, no one was willing to help George's son, and no one knew where Brian was. Marie was frustrated and Libellue was getting frantic.
"Mama, I go find Grand-pere Buster. He go that cousin," she said.
"Libellue, you don' know where Grand-pere is."
"Aye. He in that Idaho. Hunting with Ron. Gone two weeks. Call Papa's clinic. They find them," she said hands on hips.
Marie tried the clinic and found Ron and Brian. At first Brian didn't want to help the boy, but Libellue took the phone from her mother. "Grand-pere, you must go help him. That man, he hit him with sticks. Lock him in a shed," she said in a soft pleading tone. Five minutes later, she hung up the phone and smiled.
Brian was not happy. Vancouver had gotten more confusing in the years since he'd driven there with Natalie. Ron went with him, but when they reached the house in the prim suburb, he stayed in the car. He walked up to the door and rang the bell. He recognized the woman who opened the door as the non-shifter who left George all those years ago.
"Where my great-grandson?" he asked briskly.
"Well, if that thing is your grandson, he's in the shed in the back," said Cindy. She was acting snotty even though she reeked of fear. Her husband stood behind her watching the whole thing while holding a walking cane like a sword.
Brian took a deep breath and could smell something that reminded him of Henry and George. He headed towards the back door. "What's his name?"
"Lewis," she said like it hurt to say his name.
"You given him any water?" Brian asked.
"No! I wasn't going to open that door and be attacked!" Cindy said.
"He no attack his mama. Give me some water. A towel or a blanket."
Cindy's husband handed him a bowl with water while Cindy ran for a towel. Then the three of them walked out to the shed. Brian was angry when he saw the lock on the door and ripped it of. He threw it on the ground and then opened the door. Inside was a wolf. A miserable wolf, laying on the ground.
"Lewis, You hear me? Come here," Brian said. "Lewis, come here."
The wolf pup looked at the old two legs and then over at the two who had yelled at him. The old two legs called to him again and held out a bowl of water. He was so thirsty, that he forgot his fear and belly crawled to the water. The old two legs had put the water bowl on the ground and stood there watching him drink. When the water bowl was empty, the old two legs started talking to him, but when the wolf pup looked up, he watched as the eyes shifted shape and then back. The wolf pup yelped.
"Lewis. You need shift back. I know you hear me. Think that two legged boy you are deep down inside. Don' think those four legged thoughts. Come. Time you do this," said Brian. He waited. A minute later, he encouraged the wolf in front of him again. He crouched down to eye level and let his eyes shift again. "Shrift!" he said this time with more than a hint of sub-vocals.
The wolf pup heard the command in the old two legs voice and shivered.
"Shrift!" Brian growled.
The wolf in front of him shivered and then there was a naked young man on the ground. Brian tossed the towel on him. "Get up, get dressed. We need talk. I am Grand-pere Buster." Brian then turned so that the boy could get up with some dignity and turned towards the house where the other two had retreated. Brian swallowed hard because the boy looked so like Henry and George, who were both gone.
"I take Lewis. We stay in the Valley for the summer. Come school he come back. You be good this boy or I will come to see why," Brian growled at Cindy as they left. He hadn't been there twenty minutes and already he was furious. The boy came downstairs carrying a bag. When he tried to kiss his parents goodbye, neither one would let him touch him. Brian escorted him to the car.
"Lewis, this your cousin, Ron. He a veterinarian in that Washington. We go meet your cousins, then drive to Canada, you learn how to be family," said Brian.
"Yes sir," said Lewis between sniffles. He was only sixteen.
The car pulled up in front of a small Victorian on Grand Street. Before the car stopped fully, Libellue bounded out of the door.
"Grand-pere Buster! You get our cousin?" she asked.
"Aye. That Lewis. Don' know how good he is, Son that George," groused Brian.
"Oh, Grand-pere, don' be so mean. He just scared," said Libellue. She moved past Brian to shake Lewis' hand. "I'm Libellue."
"Lewis. Lewis Ca... Davy," he corrected. "Are you... a.. a... wolf too?"
"Aye, I shift sometimes. Jus enough to scare my mama. She your auntie. Sister your grand-pere Henry," said Libellue. "You come the house. You hungry?"
"Starved. My mom is a vegetarian," said Lewis.
"What? She don' eat meat?" asked Marie who'd come up to meet her nephew.
"No ma'am. And she wouldn't let us eat it either," said Lewis.
Marie took a good look at Lewis. She could see he was malnourished. "Come, I get you some hamburger." She turned to Libellue. "You go that store. Buy some steaks for dinner. You know where my pocket book is."
Libellue nodded and ran for the house. She was back out in a flash and heading into town.
Lewis watched his cousin sort of float down the street as she loped away. Then he was escorted into the house and the kitchen where ten minutes later he had a plate with two rare burgers set before him.
Two weeks later, Lewis met his half brother Mark and more family than he ever knew existed. Brian had brought him home and while the cabin was dusty, it was still livable. Jenny and Henri had kept Celia's cabin in good repair and while they offered him and Lewis a place to stay, Brian didn't want anything to do with it. Didn't want much to do with Lewis, but until the boy proved to be something other than a burden, no one else would help the boy.
Kent offered to show Lewis the sawmill and that occupied the days. At night, they shifted and ran in the woods with family or just the two of them. Hunting was a problem at first. While the wolf knew what to do, the boy was squeamish.
"You gon' hunt that deer tonight?" Brian asked.
"Yes, Grandpa Buster," Lewis answered. He really did try, but he just didn't get it like his cousin Mark or some of the others did. They had always hunted in both forms. He never had, and if his grandpa's attitude was anything to go by, he would hunt or starve.
The wolves ran through the forest. Ahead of them was a herd of deer. The older wolf slowed and growled at the younger one when he didn't slow to a crouch soon enough. The deer hadn't scented the wolves. The older wolf nudged the younger one and then crept down towards the herd. One deer panicked and ran almost straight at the younger wolf. As it passed, he lunged for the throat as the older wolf had shown him. His teeth dug deep into the hide of the deer and sweet blood poured across his tongue. Rather than cough and choke as he had the night before, he held on and shook his head as hard as he could. Deep down, he heard a crack as the deer's neck broke. It fell across the younger wolf, almost pinning him.
The older wolf laughed a 'ehhh, eeehh,' sound as he watched the younger one kill the deer and then have it fall on top. He walked over slowly as the young wolf tried to disentangle itself from the deer. He bumped shoulders with the young wolf and licked at his muzzle. Then the two wolves began to tear into the deer.
The younger wolf dug for the liver. He pulled it out and handed it to the older wolf. The older wolf took it and then bumped the carcass towards the younger wolf. Both of them began to eat. When they were both full, they took turns dragging the remains towards the wooden dens. The older wolf walked into the wooden den to sleep, leaving the younger wolf with the deer.
Lewis shifted back, hauled the deer up on the ancient skinning rack, and finished the basic butchering. Once he had that done, he cleaned up and went to sleep. He was so tired he never heard Buster say, "Good job."
Two months later, Lewis stood on the sidewalk as Buster and his cousin Ron drove away. It would be almost another eight months before he'd see them again. Inside, his mother and stepfather waited. He'd tried to stay with the family in the Valley, but Cindy began to call. It was confusing. First she wanted nothing to do with him, and now she was demanding he return. At least he had the addresses to some of his cousins when life got too rough for him in Vancouver.
Brian watched in the rear view mirror as they drove away. He wasn't sure what to think of Lewis. He looked like Henry and in an odd way, very much like the face he saw in the mirror each morning. The boy was so slow in some things and so quick at others. Kent said that he'd learned well at the sawmill, and would have apprenticed him if Cindy hadn't raised such a stink. She threatened to call the Mounties on them if they didn't return the boy she had literally thrown away three months earlier. He didn't understand what George saw in that woman all those years ago. If the boy lived, he'd pick him up next year.