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Decisions

Title: Decisions
Author: MikaHaeli8
Pairing(s): You'll find out at the end, hence why I haven't put it on AO3.
Summary: “Where did you come from, hmm?” she asked it quietly, knowing she wouldn’t get an answer. Why are you here? Are you lost? Did you wander off?
Inspired by this Tumblr post.
Genre(s): Family/ domesticity, romance, future!fic.
Warning(s): Self-beta'd, British slang/ spelling. Not American-picked.
Rating:
G/ U.
Word count: 1, 979
Disclaimer: I only really own half the characters in this. The other characters I obviously do not.

~x~

Today, Erin McCready decided at 10am on a warm summer morning. Today, I’ll do those bloody weeds.

She’d been putting it off for a while due to the weather being terrible. It had rained consistently over the past two weeks, thereby interfering with her summer plans. Right now, the weeds were on the cusp of staging a coup. She had to get rid of them and today was probably the last day this year that she would get to do them.

Opening the shed door, she found her gloves, a trowel and a bucket amidst the mess and headed back into the garden to start the arduous task ahead. I’ll get Dan to sort the shed out this weekend, she noted to herself, if he’s back.

At around midday, she stopped, surveying the garden with a ripple of pride. Having gotten rid of half the offending plants, the difference in the garden was already palpable. She decided to reward herself by taking a break for lunch. That was when she saw a shadow, suddenly cast over the expanse of grass and heading towards her.

She turned and was surprised to see a Retriever – quite an old one at that, given that his face was lined with silver, streaks of it glimmering in the sun. His deep brown eyes looked at her inquisitively. Facing the dog fully, Erin held out her hand, palm flat. The dog sniffed it and gave it a small lick, tasting the sweat and soil on her fingers. Crouching, closing the gap between her and the dog, Erin stroked it, eyes scanning for a collar, which she found. It was red and did indeed have a little metal plate on it.

“Where did you come from, hmm?” she asked it quietly, knowing she wouldn’t get an answer. Why are you here? Are you lost? Did you wander off?

The dog nuzzled at her arm, panting. Whatever you are, Erin thought, you’re tired.

“Tell you what,” she decided out loud, “you can stay with me for a little while. If someone asks for you, they can find you here, yeah?”
She got up and went back into the cool shade of the house, the dog following her. Whilst she stopped once she was in the kitchen, the Retriever continued into the even cooler stretch of the hall, loping down into a corner, where he curled up and immediately fell asleep, paws curled.

Erin stared at this dog in astonishment, ultimately deciding it was best to leave him where he was. He didn’t seem like he was going to cause any trouble and if his owner came looking for him, well, at least they wouldn’t have to worry about the dog’s safety.

An hour later, he left, completely of his own accord. The dog remained in Erin’s thoughts all day and throughout the night. She hoped he would be safe, wherever he was.
~x~

The next day was another scorcher and whilst the weeds were all cleared, there was now a large gap, which looked jarring next to the bright colours scattered around the rest of the garden. Erin found herself in the shed once again, this time looking to see if she had any seeds left over from last year. Sure enough, she had a few spare mixed seeds. Swiping them off the shelf, she was just about to step outside to plant them when she saw the dog from yesterday pad across the garden. He stopped at the shed door and faced her, wagging his tail.

“Hello,” Erin greeted, crouching down to fuss him. A measure of warmth spread through her chest as she buried her fingers in the dog’s fur, combined with an ache of loneliness that she thought she’d suppressed. “You remind me of Polly, my doggie from when I was a little girl. She’d follow Mum around in the house just like you did yesterday.”

Swallowing a lump in her throat, she opened the back door. Sure enough, the dog stepped in, padding down the kitchen and the hall to the same spot from yesterday.

Erin could only stare, mouth open, before resuming the task she set out to do.
~x~
The old Retriever’s appearance in the McCready back garden soon became a daily occurrence, no matter the weather. Erin, for one, welcomed the company, even if it was only passive. The thought of another presence in the house warmed her in a way she only previously knew with Dan, when he was here. That was a more infrequent occurrence than the dog, what with Dan being away so often due to his job. So he claimed.

Meanwhile, the curiosity about the dog grew. Nobody had claimed him and she never followed him after he left the house, some instinct assuring her that he knew what he was doing. From what she could tell, no harm ever came to him – something she was relieved about. He also came at the same time every day, slept for an hour or two and then left. The only sign he was ever there was a cluster of dog hairs in the corner.

After the third day, Erin had lain a blanket down in the spot he’d slept in.

Two weeks after he made his first appearance in her garden, Erin was struck with an idea. Tearing off a piece of paper and grabbing a pen, she sat down at the dining table and wrote:

I would like to know who the owner of this sweet, well-behaved dog is and ask just one question: Are you aware that he has come to my house every afternoon for the past two and a half weeks for a nap?

As the old Retriever was sleeping, Erin took the note, folded it and tucked it under his collar, where she knew it would be seen. Not long after she did so, the canine woke up, got elegantly to his feet and quietly padded out again, off to somewhere only he knew.

The next day, as expected, the dog was back. What was unexpected was the slip of paper tucked into his collar. Expecting to see her note, Erin felt disappointment weight her gut down as she removed and unfolded it.

She was pleasantly surprised at what she saw.

We are the owners of Frodo – this dog right here – and we three are part of a large family with twin babies. He was trying to find a quiet place to catch up on his sleep. Thanks for letting him use yours. Would you like to come back with him tomorrow? We’d love to meet you.

Erin felt a wave of curiosity and excitement overwhelm her, and she quickly wrote her answer on the back of the note.
~x~
By the time Frodo was ready to return to his home the next day, Erin was ready to follow him. She made sure she was presentable and she had everything with her, including a bottle of wine for the adults. She was nervous, dropping her keys when she went to lock the back door and the gate, running after Frodo in order to keep up with him.

She followed him to a large, gorgeous house with an equally large front garden. Swallowing, she went up to the front door and knocked on it, stepping back and waiting.

It was soon answered by a man with the most piercing blue eyes Erin had ever seen. He was in his forties, she guessed, dark brown hair and beard lined with silver.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hi, are you the one who’s been letting Frodo sleep in your house?”

“I am indeed. My name’s Erin,”

“Hi, Erin, I’m Chris. Come on in! We won’t bite,” he chuckled, lines appearing around his eyes.

Erin swallowed, her throat dry, stepping into the house before remembering the wine in her hand. “Oh yes! I brought this for you.”

“Very kind of you, thank you! We were beginning to run low. Weren’t we?” Chris called to his right.

“Running low on what?” a slightly older man answered, appearing. “Chris, who…”

“Zach, this is Erin, she’s been making sure Frodo got enough sleep over the past couple weeks,” Chris chuckled. “Erin, this is my husband, Zach,”

“Hi, Zach. Lovely home you guys have,”

“Thanks! We need the space with a family like ours…Come in, anyway, sit down. May I offer you a drink?”

“Yeah, course. Um, coffee is fine, thanks,”

“Sure, I’ll just get the pot on – Ruby, NO, the pond is NOT for drinking!” Chris ran off to deal with whatever crisis was sprouting in the back garden.

Zach chuckled and took over coffee-making duties. “So how far did you come to get here?”

“Oh, not that far, really. About a fifteen minute walk,”

“Just outside the town centre?” Zach nodded. “That makes sense, considering Frodo’s getting on for fourteen,”

Erin whistled, clearing her throat. “So how long have you two been married?”

“We celebrated our twentieth anniversary last week,”

“Nice,” Erin replied, a trace of admiration on her voice. She looked around the room, seeing toys scattered everywhere.

“Thanks,” Zach replied warmly. “We’ve got six children. Our eldest is fifteen and our youngest two are two,”

“Busy house,”

The older man chuckled.

“Worth every stained shirt, though,”

Erin smiled, letting a beat go by before her next question. “So, um, what do you two do? If you don’t mind me asking,”

“Not at all,” Zach answered, warmth in his voice. “We were both actors, although we also dabbled in producing and writing for a while. When our twins were born, we decided to retire. Or semi-retire, in my case,”

“You’re still acting?”

“Just producing now.” Zach poured the coffee just as Chris came back in, white shirt covered in mud and arms full of squealing, wriggling toddler.

“I’ve told you time and time again, no drinking from the pond! You’ll have a sick tummy. Do you want a sick tummy?”

“No, Daddy,” the dark-haired girl answered.

“There you go. Sean’s in the lounge, why don’t you go play with him?” Chris put the toddler down.

“‘Kay, Daddy,”

“Good girl. Go on.” Chris patted the little girl on her back and she took off towards the living room. The blue-eyed man straightened up, raising his eyebrows. “Kids, huh?”

“You were the one who wanted a large family,” Zach teased as his husband sat down next to him.

Chris tilted his head. “And I still don’t regret that decision,”

The darker-haired man gave the other man’s hand a brief squeeze of agreement before turning back to Erin, who managed to quash that trickle of loneliness beginning somewhere in her diaphragm and engage in conversation again.
~x~
Chris and Zach saw the young woman to the door at around seven in the evening, just as night was beginning to fall. They’d managed to convince her to stay for tea but no longer, and she at least knew their door was open to her any time.

“She seems lovely,” Zach concluded. “A little lonely, though. Did you pick up on that?”

Chris made a face. “Not really, I’ll be honest,”

“That’s not surprising.” The corner of Zach’s lips quirked up. “It took you a while to perceive my feelings for you, remember?”

“That was twenty-five years ago!” Chris protested. “You’re never gonna let that go, are you?”

“Never.” Zach pinched Chris’s bottom.

Chris jumped, uttering a little “Hey!”

Zach chuckled, looking at Frodo, who was curled up in his blanket, finally getting some peace – if only for a scant period of time. Still, the family knew the four-legged old man had Erin’s place to go to for the silent sanctuary he needed as well as the company she desired (or so he guessed). It was give-and-take for both, and both parties were happy with this silent arrangement.

THE END

Author’s Note: I haven't written in a while, so I apologise if this wasn't particularly good. Still, let me know either way!

Comments

( 4 voices — Speak your mind, Spock. )
molleo
Jun. 18th, 2013 12:53 pm (UTC)
Nice to see you again! Really liked this...makes my heart warm to imagine they ended up in England with a big family and another dog!
mikahaeli8
Jun. 18th, 2013 01:07 pm (UTC)
Haha, thankyou very much! My thoughts were more like Erin being an Englishwoman living in the States, but that sounds good too :D
inu_spockya
May. 2nd, 2014 07:58 am (UTC)
hey grrrl!! this is fine, whaddaya mean not particularly good. es excelente! love the image of them married and happy and all. if anyone ever deserved peace and happiness...

lovely!
mikahaeli8
May. 5th, 2014 05:50 pm (UTC)
Aww, thanks! I totally forgot about this story until now, I must admit. :3

~Mika
( 4 voices — Speak your mind, Spock. )