Story:A Lauren and Lady Thanksgiving Special
A Lauren and Lady Thanksgiving Special
Written by TriangleDelta and IllaRouge
Tiny town; that was the best way to describe Lady's hometown. Lauren would find herself on the only major highway in the area, which soon led to nothing but trees, creeks, and mostly small businesses. The GPS did just fine in getting the skink to the dirt road that headed into the woods, but it was that kind of area that one figured began a horror film about getting lost. The road leading up to a house on a hill was lined with hand-built fences, behind which were sheep and goats up to the nearest tree line. The dirt eventually gave way to gravel, the ride much easier but much noisier. The house was fairly unassuming, perhaps a year off of its most recent white washing, stained stairs leading up to a porch, paving stones picked from the nearby creek dotting the dirt to where the trucks were parked. Lauren would find a spot near the barn. The sound of chickens clucking and turkeys gobbling misted the air.
After parking, Lauren took a moment or two to just stand there in the yard, out in front of the barn. The skink spent a few seconds double checking the address that Lady had given her, but she already knew she was in the right spot. Even if the whole place hadn't matched Lady's description perfectly, then the number on the mailbox, up where she'd left the main road, would have confirmed it. She had a brief moment of doubt as she considered whether she'd maybe gotten there before the corgi.
She set her gaze and stepped up onto the porch. It creaked beneath her shoes as she approached the door.
Inside were the loud voices of a couple folks, while football could distinctly be heard coming from the television. At the sound of the creak, everything but the television ceased. Without warning, the thump of Lady's face meeting the glass in the door accompanied her squished muzzle and lolling tongue. She smiled. "Lauren's here!"
Lauren blinked in surprise as the smooshed face appeared in the doorway. She smiled a moment later. Okay, she definitely hadn't arrived before the corgi. "Hey, Lady." The skink raised a hand. She stepped up to the door, and once Lady had pulled her face away, Lauren let herself in. She braced herself for the hug that she knew was coming and laughed as the short corgi ran into her. "How was the trip from Anchora...?" Her voice trailed off from the small talk as the warmer air of the house washed over her, along with the smell of cooking food. "...oh. I'm suddenly realizing that I haven't eaten since breakfast."
"Well then, have yourself some cinnamon rolls, missy!" A set of ears bobbed behind the kitchen nook leading to the very wood-forward den. A smaller, bespectacled, sweater-donning Lady rounded the corner and came into view. "And who's the new member of the family?" the older corgi joked in a gruff but jovial voice.
"This is Lauren!"
The miniscule Pembroke padded up to the, to him, enormous skink. He held out his hand. "Eli, Miss Lauren, and a pleasure to meet ya."
Lauren did her best to hold in her surprise as the diminutive corgi approached. She cast a look over to Lady, recalling the corgi's widely doubted and debated claims of being the tallest person in her family. She took the man's hand and gave it a shake. "Thanks for agreeing to have me, Mr. Black. A cinnamon roll sounds like a dream right about now."
She removed her shoes and followed Eli and Lady into the house proper. The skink's eyes surveyed the place, noting how high the counters seemed. "If you don't mind me asking, how long have you been living here? I only got a quick look while I was driving up, but your property looks gorgeous."
"Oh, about five years before this little lady showed up." He ruffled Lady's hair. His own muzzle fluff looked like a moustache, albeit unkempt. He headed for the counter. A small plate with an overly large cinnamon bun had already been served. He reached up and took the plate while Lady rushed to get a fork. "You want to come in and sit for a minute? Mrs. Black is wrangling up some eggs for appetizers." He handed the plate to Lauren.
Lauren bobbed her head yes and tried to keep from salivating too much as he handed over the cinnamon bun. She took a seat at the nook and cut off a piece of the bun with the fork. Before she took her bite, she asked, "So I'm guessing the eggs are coming from your own chickens? Also let me know if I can help with any of the prep. Most of my meals are takeout lately, but I think I still remember how to hold a knife."
She finally took her bite, and that long tail of hers tensed and coiled unconsciously behind her. Okay, possibly driving out here right after practice without having lunch first hadn't been a mistake.
Lady's tail wagged as she anticipated the reaction of her friend. Eli waddled toward the living room, his own tail a bit stubbier. "I'm sure the missus will have some work for all of us. Already got water boiling in there for the eggs." He led them into the den and pulled himself into his oversized (for him) armchair. He picked up the clicker and turned the football down a bit, but not too much. "So little Lady here talks about you a lot, Miss Fash."
Lauren was thankful that her mouth was full when the older corgi said that. She cast a quick look over at Lady as she considered her answer. She swallowed her mouthful down, then spoke. "Well, it can be nice having somebody else in the league to talk to about all of the..." She hesitated again, trying to decide how to phrase it. "The many ups and downs of being in the league. Even more so when they aren't on your team. Lady's been a good friend for that since the draft. Do you get the chance to talk often? I know my dad complains that I never call enough."
"Lady calls home enough. I think any parent could say they want more, but she keeps us up to date on her life." He leaned over and struggled to get his beer from the side table. He pointed it to the screen. "And I keep up with basketball plenty."
Lauren let her gaze flit over to the television. She knew most of the UFFL teams by sight, but she'd never been too familiar with the college football teams. "Big sports family, then? Oh right, Lady, how was Bangor?"
"Could have gone better!" Lady seemed ever the optimist. Since her brief stint on the starting line, she'd gotten a taste for leadership, albeit with a touch of patience.
"Yeah, but you did pretty good when Serra was out."
"Lauren, Lauren, Lauren! Did you see the block I got on Leon?!"
Lauren couldn't hold back laughing around a bite of cinnamon bun. "You mean the block felt around the league? It was amazing. I didn't know that you could get that much vertical with those legs!" She finished swallowing, and then continued. "It seems like you guys have your stuff a bit more together this season. It's been fun watching you give some of the big dogs a run for their money. Pun not intended."
"He wasn't paying attention!" She snickered. The shortest player in the league was hardly known for her jumps, but she managed just enough of one to swipe it away from the mountain lion. "So, uuuuuh, what's up with Huntsville?"
"Well that's a question that should come with a glass of wine." Lauren rolled her eyes. "Look, I still don't know all of it. Chuck and Wendy are keeping pretty tight lipped. All I know is that, like, a week before the preseason started, Kellendyne showed up. Right now he, Emina, and Travis keep looking at each other like they're trying to decide which one of them should try to be in charge, but none of them want to deal with maybe pissing off Wendy, if she ever comes back." She was quiet for a second after that, and then shrugged. "At least it's never boring?"
Lady managed a chuckle. "I think you guys will start doing better as the season goes on, yeah?"
"Here's hoping. How is it playing without Naima? I know you two were close on the team."
"I miss her, but seems like she's doing pretty good on Baltimore. She's got just a little more jump than me." As Lady chuckled, the door swung open, clattering against the cabinets next to it.
"Ladyyyyyyyyy! We got a chicken out!"
"You want me to get it?!"
"That's the plan, ain't it?! That Lauren girl here?!" Lady's mom hadn't come in just yet.
Lauren looked from Lady, over to Eli, then over in the direction of the entrance. She called over, "That Lauren girl is here." She returned her gaze to Lady. "Uh, is catching a rogue chicken something that I can help with?" She wasn't sure if she wanted to help, or to be left out of this particular adventure. Catching a chicken sounded like one of those easy things that turned out to not be that easy at all.
Lady hopped up. She zoomed toward the door and right out. "I've got it!"
"Christ in a handbasket, Lady! Jesus."
The matron corgi bent her neck down to fit into the door. As she shut it behind her, the perfect complement to Eli's three-foot status to net a five-foot daughter came into view. The large corgi, wrapped in a flannel coat with the sleeves rolled up, grinned at their guest. "Well, hi there, Miss Lauren!" She carried a metal bowl with a couple dozen eggs piled in it. She set it on the counter and made long strides to the den. "No no, don't get up, you stay comfy." She held her hand out. "Nice to meet ya. Roxanne."
Lauren blinked as the other corgi walked into view. She was quick enough to stop her jaw from dropping, but just barely. Somehow Eli's height, though surprising, hadn't caught her off guard. This tall corgi striding towards her was quite a different matter.
It took her a moment to remember to take Roxanne's hand and shake it. "Great to meet you, Roxanne. Thanks for having me." She tried desperately to think of something to say to mask the silence. At length, she added on, "So, uh, chickens?"
She laughed. "Well, you gotta know that if anyone's gonna catch one a them fuckers." She caught herself far too late. "Oh shit, sorry, we curse in this house."
Eli groaned. "Goddamn it," to something on the TV.
Roxanne nodded to him. "See?" She let go of Lauren's hand, which was now covered in some kind of chicken dust. "Actually, you'll probably wanna wash your hands before you get back to that cinnamon bun." She laughed and headed to the kitchen to wash off her own hands.
Lauren put the plate onto an end table, then got up and followed Roxanne into the kitchen. She gave her head a shake as she followed her. "Yeah, I've had Lady run into me at full speed before. She's got a reputation for being a bit of a blur in the league."
Once Roxanne finished, the skink ran her own hands under the water, scrubbing at them. "And you won't bother me with cursing. My dad's a union rep at a mill." Once she finished, she glanced around the kitchen. "So I mentioned to Eli, but please, put me to work as you need me. I like to help out."
"You said it, not me." She plopped down a bowl of carrots in the sink. "You peeled carrots before, yeah?" Roxanne walked to the stove, where a pot of water was already boiling. She used a ladle to spoon the eggs into the water. "Yeah, Lady's fast. She could do to watch where she was going so she could play more."
Lauren set to work on the carrots. Admittedly, it had been a while since she'd peeled anything. It was rare for her to cook for herself during the season. She'd helped out with enough family dinners when she was younger to make her way through, though. The task gave her something else to focus on and kept her from dodging glances over at the tall corgi, or her shorter husband over in the other room.
"Yeah, well. She has yet to step on my tail during a game, so I'm counting that as a point for her. Were either of you two much into competitive sports?"
"Why would I be in sports?" Roxanne gave her an incredulous look. She broke and started laughing. "I'm fuckin' with ya. But nah. There wasn't nothin' around here for sports when I was your age. School here only just got a soccer field." She craned her neck to look into the den. "Honey, you ever done sports?!"
"Three foot nothing, hun!"
She nodded at Lauren, eliciting another laugh.
Lauren laughed back. "Fair, fair. I think the Canadian perception is that American high school is nothing but sports, all day every day. The football players on my high school's football team told horror stories about going down to play in tournaments in Minneapolis." She paused, looking at a slightly more knobby and crooked carrot in annoyance, before starting to work on it. "So have you two been up to visit Lady in Anchorage?"
"Not yet. Hard to get help around here long enough to travel." She got to work on some cans of cranberry sauce. "Well, we are pretty big on sports here, but we kinda have to outsource for big teams and stuff. Lady was lucky enough the high school could manage a basketball court of them."
"Made it to states three times!"
"Made it to states three times."
A loud thump signaled Lady bounding onto the porch. She burst into the kitchen. "I got it!"
"Wash your damn hands, loudmouth."
Lady slipped past her mom and bopped against Lauren's hip. She smiled.
Lauren flashed a grin back over at Lady, then slid over to give her more room at the sink. "Well I guess lucky for us that they did. I think my hometown still hasn't forgiven me for not sticking with hockey instead of basketball." She ignored thinking about any other reasons that her city might have hard feelings towards her.
At last she finished up the carrots. "Anything else? Got some potatoes that need peeling while I'm over here?"
"Knew I'd like you." Roxanne bent down and checked in the fridge. "Actually, you and Lady can grab some drinks and the turkey from the outside fridge."
Lauren glanced over at Lady and nodded. She followed the corgi out the door, putting her hands into her pockets as they stepped into the chill. After they'd gone a few steps, she glanced over at her. "Your mom's a giant."
Lady looked like Lauren had just gotten a joke. She snorted. "Yeah."
"I thought you said you were the tallest."
"I am! On my dad's side!" Her tail wagged, and she gave a cartoonishly nostril-laden snicker.
"I didn't know good girls lied." Lauren smirked.
"And miss this? Please. Besides, no one will ever believe you." They shared a laugh at Lady's mother's implausible size.
"Thanks again for inviting me out here, by the way." She glanced around the Blacks' property and shook her head. "A break from Huntsville and, like, everything was much needed."
The corgi nodded. "Yeah. I know it's not ideal, but I figured we needed one day." Outside, they headed for the barn. None of the animals were inside, but they could still hear the clucks and gobbles out back.
Lauren followed the corgi inside. "Yeah, a weekend or something would have been nice, but I guess beggars can't be choosers, right? I'm just glad I'm getting a chance to see you a bit." She cast her gaze around the barn, and muttered, "I don't think I've been in an actual barn since I was, like, twelve."
"You didn't grow up in a barn?" She snickered. She led them to the fridge, which was somewhat bigger than the one in the house. Inside were several cases of beer, a bottle of whiskey, and a turkey covered in wax paper. "I killed that." She seemed quite proud.
Lauren was halfway through lifting a case of beer. She let out a startled, "Uh?" and found her grip fumbling on the case. She managed to right herself, and then stared over at the corgi. "Is that a j..." She trailed off as she saw the expression on Lady's face. "Oh. Um, cool. Good job."
"Nothing!" Lauren hefted up the case and glanced over at Lady. "Uh, do you have the turkey?"
Lady nodded. She didn't pick it up. "Hey, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, what's up?" Lauren was adjusting her grip on the beer to see if she could get the whiskey and carry that in as well.
Lauren almost dropped the case, again. As she got her balance and her grip back, she looked over at the corgi. "Uh... okay? How do you mean?"
"Like, uh--" Lady had not thought this out. "Like, being friends. Just friends. Only friends? Friends?"
"I-" She stopped at that, trying to catch up. "I mean, yes. I thought we were just friends, right? Like, I thought you were aromantic and stuff and..." The skink trailed off.
"I knooooooooow, but it's weird, right?! Like is this okay? I brought you to visit my parents, and we do the do, and I totally stole a few of your shirts because you smell nice, but I just wanna make you happy, and--"
Lauren braced the case against her hip and held up a hand as the corgi kept speaking, trying to slow her down. "Lady, Lady. Look, it's fine, it- wait, my shirts?" She raised an eye-ridge for a moment, before shaking her head. "Forget it, not important right now. Like, uh... you know that I'm fine with this stuff, right? Sure, it's not what I ever expected, and it might be a bit weird, but it's working." She paused and cocked her head at the corgi. "It is working, right?"
"Yeah! I think you're really cool and you stuck around way longer than I thought you would!"
Lauren was quiet again, thinking that answer over. Then she asked, "What does that mean?"
Lady attempted a laugh. "What? You're gonna make me spell it out?" Her ears went back, but she kept a smile. "People expect things, you know? And I just want to make you happy. I wanna make everyone happy. But who I am hasn't really been enough for people in the past?"
Lauren finally moved to put down the case of beer. She put her hands back into her pockets and just looked at the corgi. "Lady, I spent the whole day after the draft just panicking about the thought that you might want something more from me than just..." She made a vague gesture. "Whatever this is. Part of that was because I really wasn't ready for anything like that at the time. You've helped me a lot over this past year. I don't need that to change." She hesitated before her next sentence. "Uh... is this because of me and Doreen?"
Lady shook her head. "No! Honestly, it's just because of me." She smiled. "You keep surprising me. Maybe part of me has been afraid that the good parts would have to change because of...too many things going well? I'm dumb."
Lauren kept her hands in her pockets and shrugged. "You're not dumb. You're sweet, and you deserve nice things." She held a groan in as she realized that she was starting to sound like her therapist. "Regardless of where things go, I want us to be friends." She paused, then inclined her head. "The sex is also good, though."
Lady's tail went berserk. "Really?!" To everything Lauren said.
Lauren rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. "Of course really. I'm glad that this just isn't...weird. Trying to do anything casual with people when I was in university was impossible." She bent to pick up the case of beer again, but hesitated. She looked up at Lady again, still bent over. "Are, uh... are you going to be alright?"
"I sure as shit am now!" Her tail was still going a mile a minute. She zoomed forward and hugged Lauren. "Thanks for letting me be me."
Lauren straightened back up in time to take the hug. She squeezed back on the corgi and patted her back a few times. "Alright, cool. Are you going to be good carrying that turkey on your own?"
"Yeah!" She broke the hug and rushed back to the fridge. She threw open the door and hoisted the large bird. "Her name was Petunia."
"Petunia." Lauren nodded, and muttered under her breath. "Great." She hefted up the case of beer, then balanced the bottle of whiskey on top. As the two of them began walking back, she asked, "Just to make sure. What did you tell your parents about, uh, us?"
Lady hummed. "The truuuuuuuuth."
"Ah. Great." Lauren hefted up the drinks. "Well, lead the way."
Lady snickered. "I didn't tell them we fucked, Lauren. Jesus."
Lauren followed along behind her. "Fuck, it would not be the wildest thing you've ever said to me."
"What is the wildest thing I've ever said?"
"'Good morning.'" As they headed for the house, she inclined her head. "You were wearing my shirt. And nothing else."
Lady laughed. "I think that's my favorite look, besides you seeing my mom." Lauren snorted. Before they went back inside, Lady diverted to a couple ragged trees along the side of the house. Lady asked Lauren to pull a few crab apples down for the turkey. The skink mistakenly took a bit of one of them, and she was shocked at how sour they were.
The corgi seemed filled with endless laughter. They She managed to free a hand to pull the door open, and then held it open with her back while Lady walked through. She made her own way back into the warmth of the house.
The rest of the day saw the family drifting back and forth between the living room and the kitchen. Most of the sides were already cooked, but the real preparation came in the form of the turkey. Roxanne pulled a few leaves from the sage plant in the window, while Lauren helped section off the crab apples. Once they were stuffed inside, Lady buttered the entire outside of the chicken, allowing the sprinkling of seasoning salt from Elijah to bring it all together. The eggs, now deviled, sat on the counter, and they each brought a tray of snacks to the den to give them energy to swear at the television for the rest of the day.
And the dinner? Something else. It seemed like the Blacks went above and beyond to feed their guest. Yams, bread, green bean casserole, dressing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and so much more, all from scratch, though not necessarily all from their own ranch. But once the turkey came out, Lauren felt as though she were in one of those Americana paintings; it was almost cliche. And yet, she didn't dwell on it. The smiles from each of the corgis welcomed her into their circle. No questions, no judgments, no worries.
Just warm food and fuzzy feelings.