Vision in Silver Page 68

Nathan arrived in the pickup used by the Utilities Complex, loaded up the Wolf pups and juveniles, including Sam, and took them back to the Wolfgard Complex for their own kind of meal. Hawks, Crows, and a couple of sleepy Owls also headed for their own places, which left the humans and the residents of the Green Complex, who were walking back to the meal Tess had set out.

Simon trotted ahead of them, leaving Henry to watch over Meg. If he was going to eat with them, better to look human. And better to shift in private. Being terra indigene, he didn’t respond to female bodies the way human males did unless the female smelled like she wanted to mate. But naked wasn’t something done around human pups—although he wanted to ask the men why naked from the waist up was all right for them but females remained covered. That didn’t seem fair.

Shifting a paw just enough to form stubby fingers, he opened his front door, then rushed up to his bedroom to shift all the way and put on denim shorts and a T-shirt. Sandals. Reviewing his mental checklist for human grooming, he decided everyone else was going to be sweaty and leaving a strong scent, so he didn’t have to mask his own scent and could keep his grooming to a minimum. He splashed water on his face, combed his hair, brushed his teeth, and was back outside before the humans straggled into the open area that formed the center of the Green Complex.

A potted tree provided some shade for a water trough that someone had filled with fresh water. A couple of benches provided places for birds to perch or Others in human form to sit if they didn’t want the privacy of their own porches.

Henry picked up the sponge resting in the raised area of the trough and washed his arms, chest, and face before squeezing out water to run down his back.

Kowalski and Debany arrived next.

“Soap?” Kowalski asked when Henry offered the sponge.

“Not in this water,” Henry replied.

Before they could ask why, Jake Crowgard flew over to the trough. He took a drink, then had a quick splash in the raised area before flying off.

“Right,” Debany said, wiping down with the sponge after Kowalski finished with it.

Simon stepped in front of Meg. She looked tired, her eyes a little glazed.

“Too much?” he asked quietly, noticing how the other girls gave him a look before moving toward the trough. Was the look supposed to be a warning, a message, or just the curiosity human females and Crows seemed to have in common?

“Yes, but in a good way.” She smiled. “No pins and needles.”

“Tess, Vlad, and Jester opened up the summer room. Nathan brought over sawhorses and planks to use as a serving table. There’s not much furniture to sit on, but there are a couple of benches.”

She closed her eyes. She frowned a little, but the smile still curved her lips.

“I have training images of sawhorses and benches, but I can’t put them together to make an image of the summer room.”

“I can bring you food. You could eat on your porch, or inside.”

She looked at him, and her smile warmed. “No, I’m all right. I’d like to see the summer room. I’d like to see how the food is put out for a picnic that’s not quite a picnic.”

“Okay.”

Meg looked at the water trough. “But I’m going to wash up in my own bathroom.”

Simon stepped aside.

As soon as Meg went inside her apartment, Montgomery approached him.

“Is Meg all right?” Montgomery asked.

“She’s fine.”

“No problems with yesterday’s cut?”

“No. She was careful today.” And he’d stayed close enough that he would have caught the slightest whiff of blood if the cut had reopened.

Montgomery looked around. “This is something new, isn’t it? You and us.”

Simon shrugged. “Don’t know if it’s new, but I don’t think it’s been tried for a long time. Not with your kind of human.”

Montgomery hesitated, as if he wanted to say something else. Instead he smiled. “Guess I’d better get washed up.”

Simon watched the humans. Cautious but not afraid. Even the newest humans, the Denbys, weren’t afraid. Not like they would have been a year ago.

He hoped they stayed cautious, especially if the Courtyard started having guests.

<The food’s in here,> Vlad said.

<I’m waiting for Meg.> He heard the toilet flush. Hard not to hear water whooshing through the pipes with the summer room open. Since humans pretended they didn’t know about each other’s pee and poop, he’d let her figure that out on her own. He had something else on his mind. <Why is having a share in this garden so important to the human pack?>

<They like to eat same as us?>

<It’s more than that. They’re too relieved about having another source of food besides what they can buy in human stores.>

<Then it will be interesting to find out.>

Simon said nothing more because Meg returned. He followed her into the summer room to see what kind of food he was eating instead of a deer.

*   *   *

Now that he’d eaten, all Monty wanted was a hot shower and sleep. He had at least a decade on every member of his team, and today he felt those years.

Were they going to work this hard every Earthday until harvest?

On the other hand, the terra indigene expected to work hard for every meal, so today was just a different kind of work.

“Fresh corn on the cob is great,” Kowalski said as talk flowed about what everyone wanted to plant.

“Why?” Simon asked, puzzled.

“Corn is good,” Jenni Crowgard said.

Kowalski grinned. “Oh, yeah. Steamed until it’s tender and then brushed with melted butter. Only way to eat it.”

Baffled silence.

“Steamed?” Jenni said. “You cook corn?”

Kowalski, Debany, and MacDonald exchanged looks.

“Yes,” MacDonald said. “We cook lots of vegetables, including corn.”

“I never cared for the taste of it, but it might be appealing if it was cooked properly,” Vlad said.

Jenni huffed. “Maybe. But it’s fine just the way it is.”

If you’re a Crow, Monty thought. “How do you protect your crops?” They weren’t likely to put scarecrows in their gardens.

Henry laughed. “Didn’t you see the Hawk post? What comes to raid a garden is also food for many of us, so this is a season of plenty.”

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