The remnants of whispering from the adjacent room had begun to fade; one solitary figure sat stiff within a grandeous boudoir.
Well...he'd thought it grandeous atleast. Spacious, trussed and trimmed with snug rug and homey drapes: perfect family room.
Even if it had been subject to its' fair share of rough-housing as of late...well; he said rough-housing for what he knew was mere play. The clumsy leaping, lively yapping, tumbling...
Balto was in love.
Mulling a hand through an auburn-red hair-cut; the father of little rascal Rosie had found himself long out-living the toasy glow of lanterns from the town's so-called night-life over an issue that he'd once have merely sifted with snow.
Far be it from him to impugne upon his dog's personal affairs, it was when it crossed paths with his own that he felt the club of the ogre.
Following his little rascal's diptheria ordeal-he'd found the halfbreed mutt Balto be a hassle of sorts; intelligent.
It was incredible, naturally, a pack of dogs navigating vital cargo and a coincidental life out of burning icy blue. It was always going to be incredible; the crowd of the unexpected canine embraced by the palms he'd long-since feared. Hear-say was almost a second-nature to this isolated little quarter of the earth; so was the storm of Balto's...misgivings...suddenly steered back with a rudder of sudden faith.
But that was to be expected, surely-the man would often conclude. Balto was just a starving stray afterall; wolf or not. He'd always been a mere starving stray-partial to clamp his jaws around the first scrap he saw, regardless of whether or not the hand was fulll.
That's what he expected.
The first time the wolfdog pounced upon the family's beloved Jenna-one word.
Just one word.
"Down!" and he was reduced to cowering by the door infront of his powerful mate's lordship.
The man hadn't even made a move towards him, hadn't the chance. Balto bolted.
Taking a sip from a lukewarm beverage of sorts, the father could neither bring himself to fret or fuss over Jenna's infactuation. The man knew gratitude.
Another sip; and observation.
The wolfdog appeared to host a comfort-zone around the general population that based itself upon avoidance: if he wasn't there, they couldn't do anything.
At this point; he no longer reprimanded the chuckle gracing his features at the thought of the scrawny creature wading perplexed through a sea of sudden pets and immediate scraps. Nor could he quell the cascade of dull surprise that washed over him when he saw him recoil at the contact or yelp at occasional flying scraps-karma tasted more bitter than his coffee.
But as he churned it gently within the aging flask, the father of the household couldn't help but ponder over the glaring fact that Balto had never been hit.
To his immediate knowledge; nobody had ever gone through the trouble of throwing a smack or punch at the mutt. He himself had only ever intended to shoo him along, albeit roughly. He just seemed a pest was all; one had to protect their own from potential afterall. Those fangs probably hadn't seen the comfort of a morsel for days.
Balto's wolfly pride was drowned by his doggish need to crawl through the crack of the sdoor; he never stayed away for too long anymore.
First a week, then a day...then maybe an hour or two before he'd find him with Jenna in the crawlspace under the porch; tails intertwined and her paws gently bracing against his back-the man was never sure of what he saw, but if he didn't know any better then he'd have swore that she was the only thing keeping that infernal shuddering quelled whenever they heard him pass by. Rightly so really; why just saunter in through a door that'd been locked for so long without something to catch on the trap-door?
It didn't matter that Rosie had been the one to unhinge the latch one screw at a time.
Month 1-Parameters set to the porch; any closer and it was "Back!"
Month 2-The occasional water-dish by Jenna's at the steps and a murmur.
Month 3-"Back!" "Sit!" "Heel!" the two dogs ran rampant in their play, as if time was avalanching away from them; one had to be put out of the kitchen by Rosie's bedtime.
Month 4-One had to be put out of the family room by the parent's bedtime.
Month 5-There was no bedtime following Jenna's or Balto's own; one hour extra and the two were snugly slumbering, her head guarded under his chin.
And now Balto had his own scraps dish, the one thing that could keep him here that he'd still cow away from if you snapped. Nobody did, but they could...Rosie was ever-filling it at breakfast until Jenna finished, and her mother's affection for the canine world only softened the stray's posture more.
He vouched him for the sled-team willingly. He'd said; because he was capable. Because he didn't kill anyone. Because he pulled double his weight on a team. Because his eyes lit up whenever he was strapped up in place. Because it looked like he was happy.
And that was all.
A set of headlights caught him completely off-guard: on a moon-lit night, those widened orbs never ceased to start him.
A startled twitch of a tail; and faster than any man would blink, the creature dashed through from the doorway to the hall-whipping swiftly towards the bedroom of the house-hold's pride and joy.
The figure jerked, but never turned from the doorway until gentle footfalls rested against a set of cumbersome paws, turning Balto through the shadows and towards the sillhouette of the master. Mild reservations.
Slowly did it shrink, crouching down before the shaggy halfbreed until the dulled outline of a palm was opened out towards him.
Atleast half a minute passed before Balto eased those shimmering irises downwards, tentanitively sniffing the tips of the human's finger-tips before carefully shifting his snout further into the centre.
Upon discovering that it wasn't going to bite into him like a bear-trap, the wolfdog merely cocked a curious glance upwards, ears lopping in loose curiosity.
But the night was patient, and the town-hero was smart.
Straightening slightly on his haunches, he brought a paw upwards, just letting it cling for a moment longer against his chest before warm pads began to cushion themselves against the creases of a palm.
The auburn haired man barely paid heed to another soft chuckle as he beckoned to take Balto's other paw-raising him slightly into an unsuited begging position; the one time he truly took note of how massive the being infront of him was capable of becoming. He could probably just lean forward a fraction of an inch and have him completely at his mercy.
Claws jutted like needles from tender mitts, pupils enveloped the sleek sheen of amber schleras; a proud profile holding its' own against a damning inquisitive quirk.
"Big paws...more speed to hoard, boy?" he could tell by the stiffening of his right ear that he was more than minded.
Gently lowering furred appendages down upon a solid-oak floor; the human reached around to press his daughter's bedroom door wide open.
Rosie lay bundled amongst the mass of blankets alongside her faithful lapdog-a mountainous spewing forth from the mattress to make way for the warmth of the purebred husky.
Her father no longer watched, merely noticed how the wolf would stride slowly forth; basking faithfully within his domain, before the dog would relinquish it-setting himself obediently to sit at the foot the bed; distracted only by the figure that currently stood in the doorway.
He was neither wary nor aggressive; merely turned, one ear lopped loosely against the moonlight as the other awaited instruction within the shadows.
"Balto," wide, sienna orbs blunk slowly in remark "Stay."
It may have just been a simple trick of the night, a mere beam of light ; but as the door drifted closed-he swore that he saw that dog smiling warmly for him.