Precious Cargo

All characters appearing in this story are mine of my own design.
This story is a work of fiction based upon nothing in particular.

Precious Cargo is copyright The Silver Coyote

An Affirmation

Much later that night, or rather very early the next morning, something caused Joe to awaken. He was a little worn down mentally from the previous day's activities, and it took him a few milliseconds to clear his head and ask himself why he was awake. It was dark and quiet in the motel room. The only audible sounds were the room air conditioner humming softly, the faint rushing whine of traffic on the Interstate outside, and Debbie's deep, regular breathing from across the room. The room was cool, the air well filtered and clean smelling. By the dim light coming from around the edges of the drapes across the window he could make out the features of the room. Nothing seemed unusual or out of place.

He was starting to drift off to sleep again when he thought he felt something soft and warm brush his cheek. Rolling his head to one side on the pillow, he saw in the dark two blue eyes staring at him. He smiled as he understood what the soft warm was, and the thought was reinforced by his wife's next kiss, gently upon his forehead. He rolled the rest of his body to face her, and gently caressed the side of her face with his free paw.

They stared at each other for what seemed like several minutes, neither saying anything, but each talking to the other with their eyes and an occasional gentle touch or kiss.

The words her daughter had said earlier as Joe had tucked her in had been rolling around in Annie's head, keeping her awake. Long after her husband had fallen asleep, she had played out the events of the day over and over in her mind. She had been terrified yesterday, to be sure, but now harbored no permanent feelings about the problems at Cameron, not even for the stoned Navajo. It had all worked out for the best, given the circumstances.

So why was she laying here, staring at the ceiling? What's going on in my subconscious? she had wondered. And suddenly, as clearly as if from a DVD, an almost forgotten memory image replayed in her mind from so many years ago.

She and Joe were working friends, this particular event had happened even before they had started dating. They had gone out to a local Mexican restaurant to have a couple of drinks and listen to a local DJ spin some tunes.

Annie had experienced a rough afternoon, even though Joe had been with her most of the day. Her ex husband had not showed up for his customary every- other-weekend pickup of their infant son from her home, instead calling and insisting that Annie deliver the pup to a residence her ex was visiting at the time. Joe, being the gentlefur, offered to drive Annie to the location and help her deliver her son to his father.

As is typically the case with divorcing parents, the scene turned heated, then ugly. First off her ex had become quite upset at Joe's presence, and made some vaguely threatening statements to him. Joe appeared to brush these off with no concern. She told her ex to get used to it, that she would see whoever she wanted now that they were separated pending a divorce. Then he started talking dirt about the custody arrangement, and started saying a bunch of untrue things about her in simple language that their son would, if not understand, at least pick up on the tone of.

Annie tried to calm her son, who began to look worried and afraid, sitting inside his father's car. She kept herself together, but her emotions were cranked up, and it was very difficult for her to follow the mandate of the court and let her ex take their son from her. All the time she divided her attention between her son, who was on the verge of tears, and her ex, who was running his mouth, Joe stood silently at her shoulder. He never said a word then, didn't interfere at all, somehow sensing that she didn't want him to.

Eventually her ex drained himself of all his garbage and lies and fantasies, and drove away. But by the time he left, Annie was nearly frantic with worry, frustration, and anger. She was worried about her son, but only in the sense of how his poor little head was being played with by his own father. She was frustrated by her ex, and mad as Hell at him for his terrible behavior in the presence of their son.

Joe had taken her to the restaurant and bought them a drink, hoping to help her unwind a bit and settle down. They began to talk, and as the alcohol loosened them both up and slowed her down a bit, the conversation became more free wheeling. At one point, growing tired of grumbling about her ex and worrying about her son, she paused to look Joe in the eyes.

"Thank you for staying with me," she said to him simply.

He had smiled that "Aw shucks, ma'am" smile of his and silently nodded, taking another pull on his beer. And then, out of nowhere, he quietly and discreetly offered her a "permanent solution" to her difficulties.

"What do you mean?" she asked innocently, sipping her own beer.

He leaned forward towards her, their noses almost touching across the small bar table. "You know," he said in an almost offhand manner, "You and your son could live a much happier, more fulfilling life if that scum were to just quietly disappear some evening. You wouldn't even have to know about it. It could just... happen." He smiled confidently to her.

Realization was slow in coming to her, but when it did her eyes grew wide. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?" she asked, sitting back with her thoughts a jumble of fear, repulsion, and, amazingly, consideration.

Joe sat back himself, smiling slightly, looking intent. "Look, I hardly know the fur, I couldn't care less about him one way or the other. But I care enough about you and your son that I would be happy to discretely deal with your situation if you like."

She sat there and thought about what she was hearing. This coyote was offering to put himself on the line for her, to deal with an unpleasant situation in a way she never could, such that it would never be an issue for her again. Oddly, it didn't bother her that she was, in fact, if ever so briefly, considering cold blooded murder as a viable solution. What caused her to decide against it wasn't any high and mighty ideal about the sanctity of life. Her ex's life wasn't worth that idealism. What decided her against considering Joe's offer was the notion that her son needed his father's presence to validate his own existence in some way. She felt her son would be at a disadvantage in life having a "disappeared" father instead of a bum for a father. Her son needed to know his father and grow up with him involved in his life, if only to have an example set for him of what not to become.

She smiled in the dark of their motel room thinking of this. That had been exactly what Mike's father had been for him all these years, an example of how to live the wrong way.

Sitting there in the bar, listening to AC/DC belt out "Highway To Hell" on the DJ's music system, she considered briefly Joe's offer. As she pondered the situation, Joe waved down the waitress and asked for another round of beer for them. And while part of her was astonished by and abhorred the concept Joe had presented, in a corner of her brain she noted that he was willing, even at this very early stage of their "relationship", to gamble the rest of his life on making her own better.

The implications of that were not lost on her, then or now, and that concept had stuck with her, down through the years.

Of course the "permanent solution" never walked away from that table. She told him "thanks but no" in no uncertain terms, and he never brought it up again. She had started dating Joe shortly thereafter, they became a couple "officially" when her divorce decree was finalized by the judge a few weeks later. The "permanent solution" had never been discussed between them again, and she expected he had forgotten all about it.

And now, laying here next to her husband, this memory unfolded with new significance. Yesterday she had watched this same coyote once again gamble his freedom and possibly his life in the defense of their daughter and herself. The ultimate unselfishness of that act boggled her mind momentarily. No professed love in her experience had ever manifested itself in this way.

She stared into his eyes in the dark as all these memories and thoughts flooded through her mind in the span of a few seconds. Then, while gently gliding one foot up his lower leg, she reached out and wrapped her free arm around his waist, pulling him closer to her. Placing her lips next to his cheek, she whispered "I need a hero."

He started to open his mouth to make a reply, but she silenced him with a passionate kiss. His arm went about her waist, his paw slowly tracing her lower spine down to the base of her tail. She shivered slightly with pleasure. She heard something like a growl come from somewhere deep within him.

After a minute she let him come up for air. He was smiling. She placed a paw against his shoulder and pushed gently, rolling him onto his back. As she moved to position herself above him he whispered a line of feeble, if pointless, defense. "What about Debbie?"

Grinning hungrily whilst bringing a finger to her lips, she whispered from above him "I know how to keep your mouth quiet. Love me now, my shepherd. Show me the way home..."

To Chapter Twenty: TMI (Too Much Information).

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