(2018-09-02) The Vet and the Rancher
General talk at the coffee shop

It was quiet in the coffee shop, aside from the music that drifted from the surround sound speakers - 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' by John Denver, currently filtering through the air. The quiet was a natural side-effect of going to a coffee shop in the evening, when most people were already filtering out to their homes in the city and out of it, though there were still a few hours before closing time on the clock. Luke sat at one of the tables, a barely touched sandwich on a plate nearby, the fingers of his left hand wrapped around a cup of warm coffee that smelled faintly sweet. He was paging through a manilla folder filled with various typed reports, making notes on the pages with a red felt-tipped pen as he went along.

Holly comes to the Junction as a rare treat when she's in town alone. Having just left the feed store for a few supplemental things for the horses, a smaller amount than the cows they were more known for, she walks in, dusty a little from a days work with leather gloves hanging out of the back pocket of her faded jeans and the flannel shirt she's wearing looking a little limp. Her boots make a soft thudding sound as she approaches the barista to make an order. Her secret indulgence. A caramel latte and a cream cheese pastry. Once she's paid and is waiting for her order, she turns to take a look around. It was a hot spot for the locals, mostly the university kids, but when she catches sight of a familiar face she watches a moment as he makes his markings. "Sure hope you're not readying the past due bills. Or if you are, mine's not in there." A lopsided grin is offered over in his direction.

Absorbed in whatever it is he's doing, Luke doesn't notice Holly until her familiar voice is overheard saying something his way. It makes him look up from his work, an honest smile touching his lips when he puts his blue eyes on her. "Oh hey there, Holly," his voice is warm and deep, a light chuckle punctuating the greeting. "Nah, just making some corrections on the reports my assistant wrote up. I don't look at the billing until the end of the month," he winks at her, setting his pen down and closing up the folder. "You want to come sit? How're the horses?" he nudgets out the empty chair at his table with his foot, waving a hand at the space with the offering of a seat.

About that time Holly's order is complete, so she picks up the two items and moseys on over to slide into the seat he had pushed out for her. Settling in, she places the pastry and drink down on the table. With a smile, she looks back towards him once she's in place and laughs softly. "I should be in arrears too far yet with you. It's been a fair year out at Pecos so far." Shooting a glance over the papers, she gives an understanding nod but doesn't try and invade his privacy in studying the papers. "Horses are good. Just got them some supplemental feed so they'd have a better intake of those vitamins you mentioned before. Are you staying busy?"

The manila folder is closed and pushed aside once Holly comes on over, Luke taking a small sip of his coffee as she settles, chuckling at the talk of overdue bills. "Trust me, you're not the one I'm worried about. Not even in the least," he flashes her a dimpled grin, setting his cup aside in favor of pulling over his sandwich, fingering one of the potato chips that were added to the dish as a side. "Good, good. If you want, I'll come up to the ranch before the winter settles in to do another assessment. Make sure everyone's healthy before it gets too cold," he offers, leaning back into his chair comfortably. "And yeah. Not to the point of overwhelming yet? But definitely moving along. I'm setting up a vaccination clinic to keep the costs down for the locals," he tells her, "That should make for good business. What about you, Holly?" he lifts a brow. "I know the ranch keeps you on your toes. But how's life in general?"

Tearing off a piece of the pastry, Holly starts eating. Nothing terribly dainty about it, just normal eating. "Yeah I heard a small fire made things worse for some neighbors further along to the south. Hope it works out for them." Catching that grin, she finds herself responding with one. "That'd be great. Get the cattle checked on before we lead them way out to the winter pasture." Another few bites of her pastry are eaten but this time she follows it with a drink of her latte. "That clinic is a great idea. It sounds like it will help everyone out. As for me? Well, I guess life is just… what it is." Her lips curve more into a smirk. "Ben," that's her 13 year old son. "Got into a fight at school. He was put into the mentoring program so now he's learning how to be an aerial firefighter. So much going on right now."

"Yeah, I heard about that on the radio," Luke's grin fades into a small frown as he picks up his sandwich to take a bite out of it. "And fires mean a lot of runaway pets, so I imagine we'll have an uptick on loose dogs and cats, not to mention the injuries from all the smoke and flames," he adds with a sigh after he swallows, though he eases out of the somber conversation with a light shake of his head. Her mention of Ben causes him to focus on her a little more closely, brows lifting in concern. "Is he okay? Didn't get beat up, I hope. Not that the alternative is much better," he frowns. "The mentor program'll do him some good, I think. Introduce him to an outside force, yanno? I think you're a great role model, but .. well, speaking from personal experience? Boys don't tend to look up to their moms until they are much older," he says with a light chuckle. "But aerial firefighting, huh? Hopefully they don't actually stick him up in a plane quite yet."

Moving beyond the more somber conversation of the fire and animals, Holly only gives the cursory nod in acknowledgement, but the sympathy is there for the ones who were suffering for it. "Ben is fine but he won't talk about why he fought. He's very adamant about it. He punched two boys." A helpless gesture as she shrugs. "Ben is usually such a good kid too. The mentor thing seems to be doing him good. He's gone up as a passenger in the plane once but they only did the lookout thing. I have to sign permission slips for every single thing he does. He really seems to be loving it and he talks incessantly about his mentor." She frowns at that though.

Luke's brows furrow at Holly's explanation of Ben's fight, his frown subtly deepening. "Well, it could've been anything. But, I bet he thinks he had a good reason, even if he won't say what it is," he sighs, reaching for his coffee and settling back into his chair, his attention wholly focused on her in the moment. "Still, it's good that the program's having a positive affect on him. And yanno, if he likes that sort of thing, he might want to start thinking about joining the army when he's out of school," he shrugs his shoulders. "At the very least, it pays for college. I couldn't have gotten through vet school if it weren't for the army's scholarship program." He takes another sip of his coffee, watching her from over the rim of his cup, noting the frown when she mentions his mentor. He cants his head, setting the mug back down as he looks over to her. "Are you not a fan, or are you just worried he's getting attached?"

"Yeah Ben usually isn't a fighter so I figure it's a good reason. He just won't tell anyone what it is. For now, since he's not fought any more since, I'm not pushing. Just giving him a little space. Sometimes I wish there was a handbook on raising kids." Holly's lips twist in a wry look. "Army is an option sure, but my dad already made sure Ben is set up for college. We'll see how it goes and what he is interested in when he graduates." She lowers her eyes and moves her straw around in her latte before lifing her eyes again. "Really, Danny is a good guy. Turns out he's someone I knew from college when I went to New York. Ben is getting attached though and I just don't want any blurred lines." She laughs, shaking her head, but there's no amusement in sound or gesture. "Enough of my bleeding heart complaints. How is your mom?"

Luke utters a chuckle at her mention of handbooks, flashing her a dimpled grin. "Hey, maybe you could write one, yeah? You've certainly got the experience," he jokes, though there's a hint of sincerity to the words, though it is far more of a compliment than an actual suggestion. He nods at the talk of Danny, finishing up his sandwich as he listens to her, wiping his fingers on a napkin once he's done. When he focuses on her again, his eyes are softer, a smile present but not very broad. "Not blurring the lines is important. If that's what you want. You set the boundaries, and you always do what's best for Ben. I wouldn't be too worried about it," he says to her, before his smile fades at the question of his mother. It brings out a sigh, and he leans to grab his coffee again. "We're on week two of chemo. She's tired and sick but she's keeping her spirits up. I keep telling her she should come stay with me downtown, it's at least closer to doctor's office, but she's too headstrong for her own good," he chuckles, but there's no real humour to the sound. "I've got a good feeling though. That the chemo will work and she'll go into remission."

"As much as that sounds interesting, writing a book, there's not enough hours in the day. And I feel far, far too inept at parenting to offer any advice to other parents." The smile is sincere when it is given to him though and she finishes off her pastry as she listens. Once she's wiped her fingers and mouth with the napkin, she crinkles it before looking back to him. Squinting a little there's a shake of her hed. "I'm sorry to hear she's tired and sick. If there's anything I can do to lighten your load, you'll let me know, won't you?"

"You don't give yourself nearly enough credit, Holly," Luke replies sincerely, giving his head a shake. The coffee is finished and the empty cup is set back on the table, the man shifting on his chair to relax a little better and put his attention back on the woman beside him. At the talk of his mother, he merely nods his head. "We'll make it through. Like I said, I've got a good feeling. But I'll reach out if I need it," he promises. "But really, it's just nice to have a friendly face to talk to sometimes. It's a good distraction from everything else."

"I've done so many things wrong as a parent. What sounded like a good idea at the time turned out to kick me in the shin." Though Holly offers no further explanations, she does sound at least as if she is speaking with conviction. "I'm really glad your mother is doing well. And that the prognosis is good. If you're going to be away, I could go stay overnight with her if you needed. Or actually, I'm sure a hired nurse would be good to leave with her. Have you hired one to stay with her since she's so defermined to remain at her place?"

Luke gives her a look, somewhere between goofy and serious. "So it sounds like you're on par with about every other mom out there in the world," he chuckles a bit. "None of us are perfect people. I mean, my mom's great and I love her, but I guarantee you she's got a million stories about how she thinks she messed up. But I turned out ok. Mostly," he jokes, flashing her a broad grin. "And I've met Ben, and he's going to be okay, too. Mostly because he's got you. He's a lucky kid," there's genuine warmth in those words - he means what he says. At her offer, his smile softens, and he nods his head. "I don't plan on going away any time soon, but I appreciate the offer. She's pretty adament about not having a nurse," he sighs. "Still, she'd welcome your company, I think. Just fair warning that she's on a tear for me to find somebody, so it's absolutely not my fault if she asks you uncomfortable questions, because I warned you ahead of time," he says playfully.

"Something like that I guess." Holly finally agrees about the parenting of ben and her feelings about it. "You turned out more than okay. If Ben turned out anything like you, I'd consider my parenting career a success." The smile he gives her is responded to with a more sheepish one from herself. "I am the lucky one though, for having him. He really is a good kid.".She settles back in her seat and sips the remaining latte in her cup. "Oh, yeahhh, I understand that. Completely. If I had a nickel for the amount of times I've been told by family and ranch hands alike that a woman shouldn't be running that ranch alone, that I should have a husband by now. Save us both from well meaning family," she rolls her eyes with amusement, echoing his playfulness.

Luke tips his head, flashing her a lopsided grin that brings out a glint to his blue eyes. "Well, thanks. But I'm just all right," he chuckles. "If I were you? I'd be hoping Ben turns out just like you. A good woman, with a kind heart and a pretty smile," he says, and then crosses his eyes in a comical fashion, perhaps realizing what he's said only after it's come out of his mouth. It makes him laugh, a deep and hearty kind of sound, as he adds, "That came out totally weird. But you know what I mean!" The chuckles continue as he shakes his head, a far broader smile shown her way. "For the record, anyone who goes around saying you can't run a ranch by yourself /clearly/ doesn't know you. Don't listen to that bullshit."

"I definitely don't want him to turn out being a good woman." The teasing lilt remains in her voice and she laughs softly when he catches what he said himself without her joking about it. "Though if he ends up with a kind heart and pretty smile, I can manage him being that. And I'll even support him if he opts that good woman route too." Laughing with him, she absently toys with her beverage with the straw inside it. "I appreciate you saying so about the running of the ranch. My dad comes back around from California every so often with my mom and then I've got my foreman Frank and a few other ranch hands who help me with everything." Besides, even when she'd come back from graduating college pregnant with Ben, she'd never mentioned the father or marriage with anyone.

Luke just laughs, moving to run his fingers through his hair as he throws a sheepish grin her way. "That's what I get for trying to be all complimentary. I guess that just proves the point that I'm not -all- that great," he says in a good-natured, humoured sort of way, clearly poking a bit of fun at himself. He wags his brows at her in a comical fashion before waving his hand dismissively at the talk of the ranch. "Anybody who goes around saying you can't run things yourself is just a plain idiot, in my humble opinion. You got good help around you, sure, but that's what a good business person does, surround themselves with people they can rely on," he shrugs. "You should be proud of what you've accomplished, Holly."

"You're doing fine. Beside it's just me, Holly. We've known each other forever." A smile is offered over, a tender sort of smile. "Nothing to write home about you know?" Laughing at her own self there. "But you're definitely welcome to practice those compliments on me for when someone worth all that effort comes along." Finishes with her drink, when the person comes by to bus the tables, she allows her cup and napkin and all to be taken away. "Really though, thank you for saying so. I appreciate the positive words of encouragement. I am proud of the things I've done. Mostly." Another wry look. "My son is one of them."

Luke makes a goofy face at her. "I appreciate the offer to practice, but I wouldn't want to impose. I'm -really- good at complimenting, I'm worried I might get you all flustered," he jokes, his laughter deep and warm. There is a glance as the busser comes to take away their empty cups and plates, his smile softening when he looks back to her and shrugs. "No need to thank me, honest," he says, before he glances at their now cleaned table with a small sigh. "I guess this is a sign that I should get going home. I gotta feed Sarge anyway," speaking of his dog, of course. "But hey, if Ben's looking to make some extra cash? My mom's got her dog that she can't really walk right now, and the pup gets pretty antsy when she's not getting exercise. I'll pay him ten a week if he can go up there a few times a week? Just like twenty or thirty minutes," he raises his brows in question, starting to collect his reports. "If he can fit it in his schedule, of course, and you're okay with it. She's good on a leash, won't cause him much trouble."

"I'd say you're good at it." Holly supports him in this, laughing at that goofy face. "Flustered you say? A girl could do worse you know." Just teasing him back. As the busser leaves she sighs and comes to the same realization. "All good things must come to an end. It's always good seeing you, Luke." The mention of Ben earning some spending money has her arching a brow, "I'll tell him about it, I know he's been saving for a trip he's taking with Danny soon, so I'm sure he'd love to do that. He loves dogs anyway and he can do it after school before he meets his mentor."

Luke laughs as he stands, tucking his folder underneath his arm. "Well just shoot me a text if he wants to. I don't know what the going rate for dog walking is, but I'll pay him whatever he thinks is fair," he says of Ben, flashing her a warm smile. "It was good chatting with you, Holly. I'm sure I'll see you around again soon, but take care, all right?" And then, with that, he departs!

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