**I’m calling this episode 13, because last one was 12, but I think at some point I messed up the numbering. It’s not that important, I don’t think. But at some point I’ll probably go back and fix things. 😊. At any rate, here’s the next episode of Lane and Walker! At little break from most of the drama, though the drama isn’t done yet. We are creeping up on the end, only a few more episodes left. But for now, enjoy!**
I was standing at the stove, frying ham, sausage, bacon, and eggs, when the barest hint of sound behind me had me turning. Archer slunk into the kitchen, his hair in disarray, looking better than he had yesterday. I was glad to see it.
I offered him a smile. “Hey, morning. How are you feeling?’
“Okay,” he muttered, and then inhaled deeply. I hid my face as my smile turned to a smirk, turning my attention back to the cooktop.
“You scenting me or the breakfast?”
I didn’t miss his snort, though I didn’t know him well enough yet to interpret it. “Both.”
“Fair.” I watched out of the corner of my eye as he shuffled to the fridge and pulled out the orange juice. He twisted off the top and drank straight from the bottle. When I quirked a brow and gave him full attention, he held my gaze, defiance in his eyes.
Archer swallowed loudly, then make a satisfied “ah” sound when he was done. “This one’s mine. Dad doesn’t drink it.”
“Okay.” I flipped the bacon, then stirred the scrambled eggs before shutting off the heat underneath them and pulling them off the stove. I’d already looked through the cupboards, pulling out plates and flatware, and I had serving dishes sitting ready on the counter.
“Did you sleep with my dad last night?”
It was a good thing I was used to schooling my expressions and reactions from years of needing to show witnesses and suspects alike a neutral façade. But internally, my stomach dropped. I finished spooning the eggs into the bowl before I set the pan in the sink, needing to take those few seconds to get my thoughts in order.
Archer’s question hadn’t been filled with judgement or disgust. More curiosity than anything else. He was fifteen after all, and I understood a little bit where he was coming from. All he had was his dad. The pack too, of course, but his mother had left when he was barely a toddler—Walker and I’d had that conversation last night, how she had left to pursue her dreams—and Walker had been the only constant in his life. He was also old enough to understand the dynamics of relationships. So I had to think how to answer.
I turned and the leaned my hip against the edge of the counter and decided he should have the truth. “I slept on the couch last night. But that’s for now. Your dad and I are figuring things out.”
Oscar chose that moment to wander into the kitchen. The last I’d seen him, he’d been napping in a sunbeam on the windowsill in the living room. He caught both my and Archer’s attention as he sauntered over, stood on his hind legs to sink his claws into my knee, and stretch. He yowled.
“Yes, I’ll get your breakfast in a minute. Have some patience.”
Oscar sneezed, turned his back on me, and wound his way through Archer’s ankles, rubbing his cheeks against Archer’s skin. Archer stared at him for a moment, then set the OJ on the counter.
“Can I pick him up?”
“It’s up to him, but I’m thinking yes.”
Archer bent and Oscar started purring the moment the kid had his hands on him. He snuggled right in against Archer’s chest, and didn’t hesitate to give me the squinty eye. I scoffed and turned back to the stove so the various meats didn’t burn. I flipped the ones that needed it, and pulled the sausage off as it was done.
“Are you mates?” Archer took a quick breath. “Because my dad is equal opportunity, and he’s dated, but I’ve never seen him act like he does with you.”
Way to cut to the chase, kid.
I was saved from answering when Walker strode into the kitchen, freshly showered and looking like a snack. I hummed appreciatively as he beelined right for me. He didn’t hesitate to snuggle against my side, and when I tilted my head to give him a smile, he pushed up on his toes and kissed my cheek.
Having greeted me, Walker turned to his son. “Yeah, Arch. Lane is my mate. I’m his. We’re figuring things out.”
Archer stared at his dad for a long moment before he nodded just once. “Lane said. I…I don’t know how I feel about that, Dad.”
Walker stepped back as I turned off burners, but not before he swiped his wrist against my neck. I shot him a wink and put the meat on a platter as Walker moved toward his son. He placed a hand on Archer’s shoulder.
“I love you, Archer,” Walker said, his voice even. “And I want you to be good with this. But I understand if it’s going to take time. Me casually dating is different than me building a life with someone. We’ll work through it. And if you need to talk about it with Anna along with everything else, I’m sure she’ll be happy to help.”
Archer let out a little whine that had Walker chuckling. “Dad, I maybe don’t—”
“No, kiddo. You’re talking to the counselor for however long she thinks is necessary. I know shifting helped. A lot. But trauma—”
It was Archer’s turn to interrupt his father. “Yeah, I know. Fine.” He sighed. “It’s not…I mean, I know Lane is a good guy. Lane, I know you’re a good guy, it’s not that.”
“I know.” I smiled, letting him know I understood where he was coming from. “Take your juice to the table, all right? Breakfast is served.”
“Thanks for cooking, Lane.” Walker nudged his son toward the table, and then gave me another kiss to the cheek before he took the platter out of my hands and followed Archer. I grabbed the eggs and sent them down, then laid a hand on the back of Walker’s neck. “I need to run out to the car and get Oscar’s emergency food. I’ll be right back, okay?”
Walker didn’t answer with words, just a nod, and Oscar let out a loud yowl that I took to mean “hurry up.” He’d settled on Archer’s lap when the teen sat down, and I laughed as I headed outside.
I always kept food and disposable litter trays in the trunk because we never knew when we might be stuck somewhere. I’d been ecstatic when I found boxes that contained litter and folded out to be its own tray. The convenience of it had made our lives easier.
I took a few seconds to steady myself. This was going to be a big adjustment and would take a lot of communication and understanding on all our parts. And I had to remember that it wasn’t just me and Walker involved in this. Archer was too, though to a different degree. And his opinion wouldn’t stop us, but we needed to take his thoughts and feelings into consideration.
I braced my hands on the trunk and just breathed. I’d never dated a man with a child before, so that was a new experience for me. But Archer, fortunately, was old enough to at least try and explain his thoughts. That wouldn’t necessarily make it easier, but at least it would help us all through the process.
It hit me like a punch to the chest. I was all in. I’d been committed already, since Walker confessed we were mates. But feeling it down to my very soul? That was the surprise. I took a breath, steadied myself, grabbed Oscar’s things, and headed back into the house with a newfound purpose.