Chapter 17: Willie
I love springtime in Minnesota.
My new motorcycle was amazing; it took a few trips to get used to it, but I loved the power and the feel of it. Since Snake had time in between meals to ride, every warm and sunny afternoon we would head out and explore a little. With the Pack issues, I wouldn’t go any farther north than Duluth. There are a lot of good routes available, and we spent a lot of time on back roads that connected to the Stillwater or Mississippi Rivers. There were a few times it was just us, but mostly anyone around would join us. After the long winter, we all wanted to get out when we could.
I was riding Snake more than my Harley, which was good for both of us. Our relationship continued to deepen, I found new things to love about him every day. I didn’t regret a thing about my decisions now; I had my own Pack, in a way. They were human, but we were family and that was enough for my wolf to be satisfied.
April was coming to an end, and May was one of my favorite months as the landscape came alive again. I had finished up my clinic appointments for the morning, as all of the Club members and their families were using me now as their private physician. As soon as I returned from our honeymoon, I had gone to the Medical Licensing Board and had all my paperwork changed to my new name; Doctor DelMar was now Doctor Hardigan. I didn’t mind, it was a decent name, easy to spell and all. I didn’t understand why Snake never used his real name until I saw it on his driver’s license.
William Brian Hardigan.
Willie B. Hardigan? Frickin’ hilarious.
And yes, he will be, very soon, if I have anything to do with it.
Anyway, getting my license transferred into my married name was easy, and given the issues I had with a former patient, I was able to keep the name change secret. I got a job at a clinic in White Bear Lake, doing family practice two days a week as a vacation fill-in. It kept my license and certifications active and kept me busy. I did clinic two mornings a week at the club.
The area riders had many larger ‘runs’ where our club participated with dozens of others, plus unaffiliated riders. I kept my trauma aid kit in one of the trail vehicles that was along to pick up breakdowns, and our club stayed near the back in case there was a medical problem. My cut with the big red cross badges got attention and respect. I quickly became known through these runs as a doctor who could provide basic care at a reasonable cost, and many of the younger riders didn’t have insurance. I worked on a cash basis only, and soon I was seeing family members from a half-dozen clubs in the area.
I hadn’t checked in with the Northwoods Pack for a while, so while we were down in Wabasha on a run, I went to a pay phone and called up there. The phone rang three times before it picked up. “Clinic, Denise speaking.”
“Denise? It’s Vivian.” Denise was the Beta’s mate, she was a good woman.
“Vivian? Oh, thank Luna, are you all right?” She sounded excited.
“I’m fine, Beta. I just wanted to see how you were doing. Is Jessica there?”
“She is, she’s with Chelsea now for her prenatal checkup.” Oh shit. Chelsea was a sweet girl, newly mated a year ago to one of the Pack Warriors.
“Denise, how many women are pregnant? Didn’t Jessica pass on my warning about getting pregnant?” I couldn’t believe it, I’d rather experience the pain of a heat with no mate than risk what seemed like a sure death.
“Twelve.” She paused. “Most of the women chose to use contraception instead of taking the isolation, and over half of them ended up pregnant.”
It figured, their wolves would push forward, driven by the need to procreate. The more the human side tried to hold back, the harder their wolves would try to take over. No one had figured out how to get a woman in wolf form to roll on a rubber, and it only took once. “Did Jessica…”
“She’s not pregnant, she rode it out with me in the safe room,” she said. “She mated Carson in March; all the women of age are mated now.” That wasn’t good, I know some of them were waiting for their fate mates. That meant they either were forced or had taken their best option available as a choice. “Vivian, we need you back. These women need you, they are all between six and twelve weeks along. By the end of the summer, they will all be in the danger zone. I know how tough it was last year, but these twelve are your friends, they are my family. We have to give them a chance.”
I could feel the pleading in her voice, she was putting me in an impossible spot. “I’m not mated, Denise, and I don’t want to be. Your Alpha already chased me off, blaming me for his mate’s death. Even if I am there, I’m no closer to figuring out what is causing this or how to treat it.” I let out a sigh. “I can’t be blamed, and I can’t protect myself. I can’t trust ANY male given what’s happened.”
“You said you were all right,” she said softly. “Did someone…”
“A rogue force mated me, Denise.” I could hear her intake of breath. “He was killed shortly after, but the bond had already formed before being ripped away. He took my hope, Denise. I won’t let it happen again.”
“I’m sorry, Vivian. Honestly, I can’t believe how bad things have gotten since last summer. There are only four Packs left in the State that I know of, and we’re all looking at the others to see if we can take their women. Luna never meant for us to be this way.”
“I have to go, Denise. Tell Jessica I said hello.”
I heard a door open in the background, and Jessica’s voice. “Chelsea, everything is going well, I’ll see you in two weeks.” I heard the door close, then she picked up the phone. “Vivian? Is that you?”
“Hello Jessica. Congratulations on being mated.”
“Thank you,” she said nervously. “It’s been great.” The door opened again. “Hello Alphas, right this way,” she said as the phone was set down. I cut the connection.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the conversation on the way home. I felt guilty, abandoning those I had vowed to help when I started training to be a Pack Doctor. These females needed me, and I was hiding in a St. Paul suburb, using my talents on humans and avoiding my own kind.
We got back home late, the run being a good excuse to enjoy the weather along the river in between bars and restaurants. I couldn’t get their faces out of my head as I took my shower; I was left to my own thoughts after leaving Snake downstairs with the boys.
I was in bed by the time he came in, and when he tucked into bed I was crying softly. I explained what the problem was, and why there was no easy answer. “Just sleep on it,” he finally said. “The problem will still be there in the morning.”
I finally dropped off in his arms, and he was right. The problem was still there.
He could tell I was still bothered after we cleaned up from breakfast; it was a day off for me in the middle of the week. “Come with me,” he said. He took my hand and led me back upstairs, then up the stairway that led to the roof of the building. The black roof would be too hot by the afternoon, but right now it was fine, and the morning was cool and clear. We grabbed a few chairs out of storage and went to sit by the edge, looking out over the city towards the lake. He pulled a notepad and pen out of his pocket. “We’re going to try something here,” he said. “The rules are simple. Don’t overthink it. We’re just trying to get the ideas out there, later we’ll look at what is good or bad about it, or why it can’t work. No bad ideas, all right?” I nodded. “What is your objective with the pregnant females up north?”
“I want to save them, save their babies.” He drew two circles at the top of the page, labeling one with “Mothers” and the other with “Babies.”
“So, let’s look at what the threats to the mothers are first.” He handed me the notepad. I started listing them; fever, placental separation, uncontrolled hemorrhaging, heart failure. For the babies, it was premature birth, lung development, neonatal intensive care requirements and risk of pneumonia. He put circles under each one, connecting them back to the main circle.
“That’s enough for now. We’re going to sit here and just relax for a bit, I want you to focus just on the sounds around you.” It was disconcerting to let my senses sharpen in the city, there were so many stimuli around me compared to the woods. I closed my eyes, letting my ears become more sensitive, and focused on the noises. The bird in the tree a block away. The cars accelerating away from the stoplight. The sound of the air handler on the roof. I relaxed into the exercise, so much so that I was a little surprised when he squeezed my hand and got up.
“Now what?” I looked down at the list of problems.
“Now, you go down to your office and start working through the list of problems. For each one, figure out what the treatment is, what equipment is required, what drugs, what training. The same rules apply, don’t worry about whether you can get it or how much it costs. Just put down the list. When you are done, cross check it against what you have. Then, start thinking of how you can get the stuff you don’t have.”I pulled him to look at me after we put the chairs back. “Why?”
“Because it doesn’t matter if you risk your life to help them if you can’t help them when you risk your life.” It was so simple, I’d missed it. “I won’t lose you for nothing. I won’t lose you period. I want you to focus on the medical issue, we still have time to prepare there. When we have that down, we’ll talk about what it would take for you to safely care for them.” He leaned down and kissed me. “Work the problem, Doc.”
My husband was a smart man.
We would figure this out.