Disclaimer: I don't own the premise (Berserkeroo), the title (Love Robin), or the characters (Disney).
-Chapter 11: A Change of Pace-
Shego sighed. There was a downside to the Possible den: it was set in the side of a western mountain, facing to the east. With the rising of the sun, the Alpha had woken and couldn't return to her slumber with the morning rays in her eyes.
So she lay there, trying to be as still as possible and sighing ever so often to prevent the yawns she could feel trying to stretch her jaws.
It had taken all her willpower not to jerk away from the pile when she realized her head was resting on Kim's shoulder and that Kim's head was resting on the pale shewolf's paws. Kim had also rolled onto her side, pressing her back against Shego during the night. The barely noticeable weight on her back suggested that one of the pups had decided she was a more suitable sleeping spot than the rock floor of the den at some point as well; she didn't dare check which one for fear of waking the others.
She just hoped the other two weren't buried beneath crimson and green and black fur.
From what she could see, the rest of the pack had moved in their sleep too and she wondered if that was normal for the pack. Rone was on his back, all four legs somehow sticking in the air and one twitching sporadically while his tongue lolled out of his mouth. It didn't look very comfortable but the golden wolf was still soundly asleep, a goofy grin on his muzzle. From what she could hear, Niqe and Wade had shifted closer together, though towards or away from her was a mystery.
Apparently, Yori was the only one who hadn't moved, which didn't surprise her. That it didn't surprise her did surprise her, though; she wasn't sure how she could become so comfortable with the Possible pack that she could accurately gauge what should and should not be surprising.
With another sigh, Shego tried to squeeze her eyes shut and will herself back to sleep despite the sunlight; Gos never woke up this early without reason. Not to mention it was one of the most peaceful nights of sleep she'd had since this whole mating ceremony mess started and she was keen on going back to it.
The sun continued to rise, eventually reaching the point where the mouth of the cave obstructed the sunlight. As soon as it prevented the rays from reaching her face, Shego fell back asleep.
Once the pale Alpha's breathing became deep and even, Kim opened her eyes and smiled. There would be teasing in her future, no doubt; whether or not the omega was on the receiving end of that teasing would be determined later.
While the sight wasn't surprising to the crimson shewolf, Kim did resist the urge to laugh at her packmates' odd sleeping habits. Rone… was just being Rone and with Yori beside him he looked even goofier. Without looking, she could guess where the others were. The pups had probably crawled atop Niqe or Felix during the night; they always preferred the older wolves to the den floor. Wade was undoubtedly curled up next to Niqe and Felix probably shifted towards the shewolf as well during his sleep.
"Our guest is asleep," Yori whispered, her eyes still closed. Since dawn she'd pretended to sleep and finally let the grin she'd held in check since show on her muzzle.
"Gos don't greet the sun like we do," Kim replied in an equally quiet tone. A typical morning for the Possible pack included waking up at dawn and returning to sleep once the sun had climbed high enough in the sky. The early morning made it easier to hunt fish in the river- a skill Felix learned from watching bears and had taught to the rest of the pack- and the strange sleep schedule was the pack's saving grace. "To be honest, I kinda like sleeping in."
"It's only 'sleeping in' if you actually sleep," Niqe's voice drifted across the den, conveying the hidden smile on her own muzzle. "I'm sure Rone likes it."
"He does seem comfortable," Yori stifled a laugh.
"I can hear you," the golden wolf grumbled, his voice thick with sleep. "And I am comfortable, for the record."
"And now we know." Felix drawled, his voice slightly louder than the other wolves as he joined the conversation.
"Not so loud, Felix," Kim whispered even softer than before. "Let her sleep."
Silence settled over the den as the wolves returned to either sleep or their pretense. Yori raised her head a little, cocking it to the side.
"You were right, Kim," she finally spoke, black eyes roving over the peaceful forms of the wolves in their jumble. "She is a good wolf."
The crimson shewolf smiled, closing her eyes and shuffling closer to the Alpha beside her. She was glad her packmates had accepted their guest so readily. It was a plus that at least Yori could see the side of the Alpha that Shego tried so hard to hide. It was becoming easier to coax it out, though. It usually involved allowing herself to be teased or insulted, but even that was becoming less, and Shego no longer turned irritable whenever the omega threw attitude back at the proud Alpha. Almost too quick to notice, they'd become very comfortable with each other.
It was nice.
Moving her head slightly, Kim nuzzled into the black and green fur, the Alpha's strong scent enveloping her. It was really nice… peaceful… like she was truly content for the first time in her life. If Shego decided to join the pack, she certainly wouldn't complain. Maybe when the mating season began, they would-
Kim jerked violently, startling Shego awake. The sudden action stirred the entire pack, the wolves easily sliding to full alertness as they curiously gazed at their leader. The pale Alpha seemed the most confused, though, and it barely covered the concern flashing in her eyes. With a nervous chuckle and drooping ears, Kim offered a weak apology. "Just a… bad dream. Sorry."
Shego could smell and see that the omega was lying as easily as the others could, but let the matter slide. Joss, on the other hand, moved from the Alpha's hip to her shoulder to question the crimson shewolf.
"You sure it was a bad dream, Kim?" the pup cocked her head to the side, looking down at her cousin.
"Joss, stop being rude and get off our guest!" Niqe chastised from the Alpha's other side, a small sigh of relief escaping the crimson shewolf's muzzle as the subject changed.
"But she's comfy!" Joss whined while complying, shooting glares at Jim and Tim as they barely managed to suppress their mirth- they were resting on Felix and Monique respectively. "And really warm!" Once firmly on the ground before Kim and Shego, Joss turned big, questioning blue green eyes on the Alpha. "Why is your fur thicker than ours? Is it because you're an Alpha?"
Shego blinked a moment- stunned by the abrupt question- and then began chuckling while shaking her head. "No, pup, my fur isn't thicker because I'm an Alpha. If I had to guess, it's probably because Gos tend to sleep in snow during the winter months. We don't have nice warm caves in the forest."
"Really?" Jim and Tim started to clamber off the other wolves, eager to learn more about the home of the Gos. Felix and Monique were able to catch them just in time, though, lightly biting into the napes of their necks to prevent their escape.
"Pups, I'm sure you can pester Shego at your own peril later," Rone grinned, having rolled into an upright position when he woke. Yawning loudly, the golden wolf settled himself on his side. "But let's get some more sleep for now."
"Rone is right," Kim nodded, carefully keeping her gaze focused on the bit of rock between her paws. "We should go back to sleep."
With a bit of grumbling from the pups, everyone settled back down to sleep. Joss seemed torn between climbing onto Yori or Kim, never pausing to consider sleeping on the rock floor of the den. Ultimately, she decided on Kim, padding towards her cousin.
"Hold up, pup," Shego then nosed Kim, gently pushing the omega away. Trying to hide her disappointment, the crimson shewolf rolled onto her other side and was surprised when Shego shifted closer, then rested her head just behind Kim's shoulder. In response to the questioning gazes both Possible shewolves wore, Shego shrugged. "Had to claim my spot first."
"Hey!" the omega protested halfheartedly, a smile on her lips.
"Oh shut up," the Alpha countered, yawning slightly. "You're comfy; deal with it."
Kim could feel as Joss climbed up her back, then walked along her side. The weight disappeared and a quiet, nonthreatening growl came from Shego.
"You're comfy; deal with it," Joss brazenly parroted back to the Alpha. Kim lifted her head just enough to see what had happened before covering her muzzle with her paw, trying hard to stifle her laughter. Joss was grinning triumphantly, laid out atop Shego's neck, the pup's chin resting on the crown of the Alpha's head.
A moment later, Shego snorted. "Omegas."
That was the end of the matter, as Shego didn't force the pup to move. Once the threat of laughing passed, Kim listened to the wolves' breathing around her and the wind sliding along the den floor. Slowly, she drifted to sleep with a smile.
It was still nice.
Safe in their den the wolves peacefully rested, unaware of the anxiety of the other packs. This particular day, the wind sweeping down their mountain was fierce, bypassing the sheltered cave where the Possible wolves and Shego slept and making its way into the forest, across the river and into the valley.
"One would think winter has already come," Presgo grumbled, shifting around to shelter his muzzle from the cold.
"It will be harsher this year," Jugo noted, drifting between sleep and wakefulness. "It seems to get worse every year."
Presgo snorted in agreement.
In another den, Hego frowned. "Shego's still not back."
"She disappears from time to time," Mego grumbled, turning his back on his brother. "Go back to sleep."
"Aren't you worried about her?" the hulking blue Alpha snapped.
"No," his brother replied easily. "She's always come back before. She does her own thing. Either accept it or spend your time griping about it like Father does."
"Sometimes I think you're heartless."
Mego yawned. "Maybe I just know our sister better than you do."
Hego didn't reply, instead gazing out into the light sunshine peeking through the clouds and leaves. Down by the river, the Wegos had taken it upon themselves to find their sister, eager to tell her of their success in scaring Hego the night before.
"I keep losing her scent," one complained to his twin across the river, worry flashing in his eyes. "You don't think-"
"No way!" The other red wolf sniffed the ground some more, then shook his head. "Shego wouldn't get taken down by a bunch of omegas!"
"Well, there's no blood…"
"Maybe she went into the mountains."
"To… stalk a bear?" The pup's ears drooped. "I dunno."
"Maybe she's already back at the den?"
"Maybe." The pups slowly started back for the Go den, shivering against the cold. "Is it supposed to be this cold already?"
The omega pups weren't the only ones gritting their teeth against the wind's torment. In the valley, the Senior wolves bemoaned the onset of winter as well.
"Our winter coats need to come in sooner," Bonnie grumbled as she paced in front of the burrow, the cold wind blowing aggressively across the valley.
"Winter's coming early," Josh sighed, glancing behind him. "We'll be warmer with the forest's trees to block the wind, right?"
"Not always," James replied, somehow knowing the question was directed at him despite his eyes being closed. "The wind sweeps through the forest first and loses a lot of strength by the time it reaches the valley. You might be able to hide from the wind but it will cut deeper when it finds you."
"The best thing to do is hide in the snow until the wind dies down," Annabelle nuzzled her mate absently. "Or in a burrow like this one."
Bonnie and Josh exchanged hesitant glances. James cracked an eye open.
"You two can guard us just as well from inside."
The two omegas exchanged another quick glance before Bonnie shrugged. "He's got a point…"
As the Senior wolves padded into the burrow, the two Alphas paid them no mind while Hirotaka glared, barely keeping himself from attacking. Only the presence of James and Annabelle allowed him to hold his anger in check.
One day, he would run with the wind and never look back.
Back in the west, the Possible wolves began to stir. They usually woke just after the sun passed the tip of their mountain but sleeping passed daybreak had given them more than enough rest. Shego was still fast asleep though, keeping Kim pinned to the ground as the other omegas began quietly leaving the den.
"Should we wake her up?" Joss whispered, looking down at her cousin from atop Shego's head.
The omega could only smile.
"We could give her a traditional Possible wake-up call!" Jim chimed in, inching closer to the Alpha while pressing his torso low to the ground as he crawled.
"Yeah, then she'd feel like a real member of the pack!" Tim grinned, safely positioning himself on the other side of Kim's muzzle, being only slightly intimidated by the large shewolf.
"What if she attacks?" Wade joined in the conversation from a much safer position- outside the den. Rone laughed softly.
"How can you be sure though?"
"We'll prove it!" The pups responded simultaneously.
Without waiting for any of the other wolves to object- or giving them time enough to- Joss leaned over and sunk her teeth into Shego's ear. Meanwhile, Jim lunged at Shego's throat, latching onto the extra skin there, and Tim- somehow- teleported himself around to attack the Alpha's tail. None of the bites were hard enough to break skin, of course, but enough to jolt the Alpha awake.
Sure enough, it worked.
With a yowl of surprise, Shego jumped to her feet, which was exactly the wrong move to make. Almost instantly the pups disengaged, clearing the way for Rone and Yori to barrel into Shego's side, knocking her over. As the three wolves rolled across the floor of the den, Kim jumped to her paws and rushed over to join the pile alongside Niqe and Felix.
"Did you all lose your minds?" Shego growled, pawing at the assaulting wolves who weren't actually attacking her as much as making it incredibly difficult to get upright. Somehow, the pups found their way into the wolfpile, doing that same here-I-am-then-I'm-not thing they had proven so effective the night before.
Despite the growling coming from the Alpha, the abundance of laughing from the Possible wolves drew Wade into the den.
"Seriously! What are you doing!" Shego snapped her jaws at the air.
"Wake-up, wake-up, time for you to wake-up!" Rone started chanting, the other wolves joining in until it was a complete chorus.
"I'm going to bite each one of your heads off!" the Alpha growled, finally managing to stand up, which of course backfired almost instantly.
Wade had finally decided to join, bowling Shego over and starting the whole process over again. The chanting fell apart as the wolves continued their mock battle, dissolving into more laughing that the Alpha couldn't help but find infectious.
"You are all so dead when I get up!" she called above the din, though the breathless laugh that accompanied it sucked all danger from the threat. "I mean it!"
"Yeah right!" Niqe teased, pulling away from the fight the same time as Felix. "Don't front; you're having fun!"
"That doesn't mean I have to enjoy it!" Shego called back, paused long enough to realize what she'd said and then continued struggling against her assailants. "You know what I mean!"
Rone started laughing so hard he couldn't continue fighting, even in jest, and had to pull himself away from the dwindling pile. Wade, Kim, and Yori were still giving Shego a hard time, with the pups popping in and out of existence just when the Alpha thought she might be able to right herself.
There had to be some sort of benefit to living in the mountains that Shego was unaware of; no wolf could be that quick, much less a whole pack of them!
And just like that, it was over, leaving Shego staring at the roof of the den, flat on her back and panting hard. The Possible wolves were arranged around the disheveled Alpha, grinning like mad and panting like their confused victim.
"What is wrong with you Possible wolves?" Shego blinked and rolled onto her side.
"Consider it your official welcome to the home of the Possible pack," Kim announced, padding over to nose the shewolf's shoulder. "Now, get up! We've slept most of the day!"
"And I'm ready to sleep the rest of it!" the Alpha barked back, swatting aimlessly at the crimson omega. She eventually rolled onto her belly though, rising up and shaking herself to settle her ruffled fur. Before another complaint could be made, Shego's stomach growled. "Or eat. That's a viable option too."
The Possible wolves exchanged sheepish glances.
"Yori, think you could catch a rabbit or two?" Kim fought to keep her smile in place, wondering the whole while how much an Alpha ate compared to an omega. She knew Joss had just a little more of an appetite than her cousins but Shego was a full grown wolf, not a pup. "Maybe three?"
"I'll see what I can do," Yori replied with a graceful smile.
"Wait, rabbits?" Shego's ears perked, at first confused at such a small amount of meat for so many wolves. Then she remembered and laughed. "Deer is more filling. I'll go hunt one down; it shouldn't take long."
"You don't have to Shego." A quick glare silenced any protest from Rone, Felix, and Wade. "It would be terrible manners to ask you to hunt for us."
The Alpha scoffed. "It's not a big deal, Kimmie, and I'm hungry too."
"You've already done so much-"
"I can do a little more-"
The two shewolves stared at each other, standing their ground. The sight was amusing to the other wolves in the den, finding no animosity between the two despite their severe attitudes.
"This is a pointless argument," Shego observed with a smirk.
Kim chuckled. "We've fought much harder over much less."
"Here… how about this," the omega looked around at her packmates. "We'll show the big Alpha how we hunt as a pack-" her gaze fell on Shego "-and she can give us pointers, if she wants. Whoever ends up making the kill doesn't matter."
"That sounds reasonable," the Alpha tilted her head to the side, her smirk still in place. "So, naturally, I refuse."
Kim rolled her eyes and groaned while the rest of the pack laughed.
"And you were scared of her," Rone nudged Wade with his shoulder.
"You were too!" the chocolate wolf instantly fired back, with a slight grin on his lips.
The pale Alpha raised a brow at the exchange but didn't press the matter. Deer sounded really good. "Alright, alright, for the sake of food I'll play your little game." Padding to the mouth of the den, the grown wolves followed her while Niqe and Felix began arguing with the pups to stay behind. "Let's hunt."
Meanwhile in the forest, most of the Go wolves slept peacefully in their burrows. A few, though, were not asleep.
"Shego's still not back," one of the Wegos whispered, sniffing around the Alphas' burrow while trying to not to disturb their brother.
"She's probably fine," his twin offered, a twinge of worry in his voice.
"Of course she's fine." The pups turned to see their omega brother padding in from the chilly wind that had only recently started to abate. "She's just avoiding Father, as usual."
"Mego, you shouldn't be so careless," Hego lifted his head, proving he was awake, curled up in the corner of the den. "She's our sister."
"Who wanders off regularly and always comes back fine," the purple omega instantly replied, settling down on the opposite side of where Shego usually slept. "We've been over this. She'll come back when she wants."
The Wegos circled the spot Shego usually rested and laid down, curled close together.
"Why do the two of you bother her so much?" Hego cocked his head to the side. "She's not very fond of us and she's especially mean to you two."
"Like you're much better," one pup growled while the other lifted his head to look at the blue Alpha.
"She cares, she just has a different way of showing it, just like you and Mego."
"Mego cares?" The Alpha looked at his apparently slumbering brother. "He doesn't care about any wolf but himself."
"I heard that." The omega didn't even bother opening his eyes, though one ear twitched towards the Alpha. "I care enough to know that your howling is improving, little by little. You've finally stopped begging for help."
The pups snickered while their eldest brother started in shock.
"Wha- How did- You know I practice in private!"
"So does Shego." Mego paused. "Well, kinda." Upon noticing his brothers' curious looks, he shrugged. "She's making a lot of progress; that's all you need to know."
Silence settled over the brothers, each falling asleep as the wind- though lessened- howled just outside the burrow.
As the wind died down, though it still was strong enough to send a chill through the wolves' fur, a herd of deer grazed idly in a familiar field, unaware of the wolves prowling into place around them. Sunlight occasionally peeked through the clouds but the field itself lay blanketed in the dreary light of an early winter afternoon, the occasional grunt of the deer, their tearing at the grass, and the wind the only obvious noises. Much quieter so as not to alert the dim creatures, the wolves of the Possible pack plus Shego crept through the underbrush, sticking to the shadows of the trees. Yori had already voiced her concern about hunting during the day- apparently, the Possible strategy relied on night- but Shego had encouraged the omegas to try anyway.
A small grin on her muzzle, Shego followed effortlessly after the two shewolves while Rone and Wade mirrored their movements on the other side of the field, closer to the mountains and upwind of their prey. It was amusing, to some degree, how focused Yori was on the deer and how Kim's own attention was split between the deer and Shego.
"I'm not making you nervous, am I?" the Alpha couldn't help but taunt, quietly snickering at the exasperation passing over the crimson shewolf's muzzle.
"Just remember," Kim quietly grumbled. "We get to try first."
The Alpha merely nodded, picking her way deeper into the underbrush as Kim and Yori pressed closer to the field. Already the scent of Rone and Wade was on the wind, the deer snapping their heads up as they caught the smell in their noses. Shego started pressing further along the treeline, expecting the omegas to fail.
The pack's group hunting couldn't work too well if hunting lessons were included in their deal, so it was only logical to prepare herself to make the kill. It wouldn't do if she failed on the first try either, which in itself was actually quite unlikely but there was hardly any reason to take chances.
Not that she was out to impress anyone, though.
The first deer began moving, taking a few long strides towards the safety of the trees on the other end of the field, almost exactly where Yori was lying in wait. Kim was a bit further down, crouching low to the ground as her lips pulled back into a snarl. It took a moment but, halfway between the grazing spot and the tree line, the deer started vocalizing, a strange breathy sound that prompted the rest of the herd to abandon their meal.
A second deer, then a third, followed the first before the remainder moved. Rone and Wade chose that moment to spring forward, teeth gnashing as they chased after their prey. With the danger clear, the hesitant retreat became a full-fledged flee, each of the deer bounding towards the trees as fast as they could. Just when it looked like three or four strides would be enough to reach the trees, where their greater mobility would give them the advantage over their predators they so desperately needed, Yori and Kim lunged forth, bursting through the trees and startling more than half the herd. As hooves lashed out, deer rearing onto their hind legs in a desperate attempt to change direction, Kim and Yori danced between, singling out their own targets.
Yori had picked a doe that couldn't have been more than a few seasons old, too small to pose a serious challenge in Shego's opinion. The black shewolf cut in front of her quarry's path. The doe stopped and tried reversing, aiming to flee from the certain death that awaited it, but was too slow; Yori lunged at it with claws and teeth, scoring a long, bloody welt along the doe's flank. The moment it turned, Wade was there, growling before snapping at the doe's legs. He managed to solidly clamp onto one of the forelegs, coming away from the attack with a bit of skin hanging from his mouth.
Shego was suitably impressed; it would be hard for the wolves to lose the battle against such a weak creature and even she had to admit it was considerably quicker than chasing the damn beasts across the forest and running them ragged before making the kill.
Then her eyes shifted to the other two Possible wolves. Kim, on the other hand, had chosen a young buck, a bit bigger than the doe and obviously heavier. Thinking about the meat hidden beneath its hide made Shego's mouth water but the thought of her impending meal was set aside as the buck lowered its head and swiped at Kim with its antlers. Rone was on the other side of the creature, circling it with Kim, and already three lines of blood shone on the creature's shoulder, though Shego wasn't sure who had made the attack.
Unfortunately, the two wolves were kept at a distance, as each time one would lunge forward for a strike the buck would whirl and toss its head, the threat of those antlers keeping its attackers at bay. Shego watched closely, abandoning the relative concealment of the trees. The rest of the herd had fled, leaving behind the two that the Possible pack had singled out. The doe was back in the middle of the clearing, with Yori on one side and Wade on the other, biting and clawing to draw fresh blood while guiding the creature in its blind retreat, keeping it in the open field.
Kim and Rone were not fairing so well. The buck was standing its ground, refusing to run as it lashed out with hooves and antlers. Neither the golden nor the crimson wolf could get too close until Kim threw caution to the wind and charged, leaping into the air with jaw wide and paws outstretched. The buck, however, was still fresh enough to fight and caught the shewolf midair with its antlers, knocking her off course. As if temporarily forgetting about the other wolf harassing it, the buck turned, as if to bear down on Kim the moment she hit the ground.
Before that could even come to pass, two things happened. One, Rone took the opportunity lunge forward and sink his teeth into the buck's rear right leg, putting every ounce he had into keeping the beast still. Two, Shego broke into her fastest sprint, lips pulled back and teeth glinting maliciously.
Shego's vision narrowed until there were only two things: the ground beneath her paws as she ran and the soft skin of the buck's throat. She was close, she instinctively knew the distance, the motion ingrained into her muscles from countless hunts and perhaps further still, buried deep within her blood, and three, two, her paws hit the ground and she sprang forward, twisting her head just so to catch that tender flesh between her teeth.
Usually, she would make the killing strike head on, after wearing her prey down for hours, when it was too tired to flee further and unable to react in time to save itself. The buck, though, was not tired, and still in the process of turning to deal with Rone, so when her teeth sunk into its throat, her momentum carried her past the beast.
The next thing she knew, the pale shewolf was flat on her back, mouth filled with the taste of blood, a chunk of fur, and the soft flesh of the felled beast's neck. Not one of her most graceful landings or attacks, she mentally chided as she rolled over and spat out the contents of her mouth, but it did the trick. Then, all critique of the hunt left her mind as she started looking for the crimson shewolf.
"You okay over there, Kimmie?" the Alpha taunted, or at least attempted to, while quickly treading over to where the crimson shewolf lay, sprawled in the grass.
"I'm fine," Kim huffed, hauling herself to her paws and shaking herself free of dirt and grass. "Rone?"
The golden wolf padded over to her, the kill left to its death throes behind him. "I'm fine, Kim, but are you sure you're okay?"
"I've had worse," Kim countered, a lopsided grin on her face as both wolves drew near. "Looks like Wade and Yori did well too." A little ways off, Yori was crouched down, jaw clamped firmly on the doe's throat as its legs kicked out uselessly, Wade sitting not too far away. Their hunts usually weren't so successful; this was certainly a victory for the Possible pack, as far as Kim was concerned. Just before she could call out to her packmates, she winced and yelped. "Ow!"
"It got you pretty good here, Kimmie," Shego noted, nosing the crimson shewolf's side again. Kim tried hard to clamp her jaw shut but all it did was dull the pained yelp and turn it into a pathetic grunt. "You're going to have to rest for a little while."
Kim rolled her eyes. "It's not that-"
"It might not be Kim, but there's no reason to take any chances," Rone nodded towards the buck. "As long as this meat lasts us, you shouldn't try hunting again."
"Oh, seriously, it's no bi- OW- Shego, stop doing that!" Kim snapped, whirling on the Alpha and nearly falling over in the process. Growling, she shook herself again and noted the very distinct pain flowing along her side. Somehow, perhaps in the euphoria of the hunt, she hadn't noticed it until Shego started poking at the wound. "Okay, fine, I won't be doing any hunting for a while. Does that make everyone happy?"
Rone laughed, gently nipping at one of the crimson shewolf's ears. "It's only 'cause we care, Kim."
"I don't," Shego stated, tilting her muzzle towards the sky. "I just don't want her bailing on our agreement prematurely."
Kim rolled her eyes again, looking to Rone. She was surprised to see him grinning at her, amusement plain on his muzzle, which he instantly covered up by calling out to Yori and Wade.
"Hey, we got one over here too! Wade, think you could help me drag it back to the den?"
Wade nodded, trotting over to the carcass before Shego spoke up. "No need, Rone, I can carry it."
"Won't it be pretty heavy?" Wade cocked his head to the side, slowing his approach but not stopping fully just yet.
"Need I remind you I delivered a full sized bear to your den?" Shego smirked, nodding in the direction of the forest. "But more importantly, the blood will attract… others. While I might be able to kill anything in the land, nothing is stupid enough to attack a pack where two wolves are readily able to fight."
Kim opened her mouth to protest- there were three wolves ready to fight, she wasn't completely invalid- but clicked her jaw shut at the look Shego shot her. The omega groaned. "Oh, fine. Let's head home, everyone. Yori, lead the way."
The black shewolf nodded, the doe's head hanging limply as the majority of its body drug along the ground. Still, the weight wasn't so great the omega was unable to pick up a trot, and the others followed just as swiftly. Kim even had to admit she was grudgingly impressed Shego was keeping pace, considering the size of the buck. She fell in beside the pale Alpha as Wade and Rone split to either side, eyes scanning for any possible threat.
When she thought no one was paying much attention, the crimson shewolf cast a sidelong glance at her companion. "Shego… thanks."
As her mouth was full of deer, the only response Kim got was a twitching of her ears and her lip pulling back in a smirk. It might've been a smile but Kim would've bet both kills it was meant to be a smirk.
"You're going to be insufferable about this at least until the next moon, aren't you?"
Shego's response came in the form of a lifted brow.
The crimson omega sighed, a smile on her muzzle. "I thought so."
Thankfully, the trek back to the den was uneventful. Shego was glad for it too; dragging a buck was no easy task, especially not at Yori's pace. She couldn't very well complain about it either. Her pride simply would not accept something so humbling as asking for Rone and Wade to drag the damn thing for a little while, particularly not after her talk of dragging a bear… that she didn't actually drag, per say, at least not very far.
When they finally made it back, Niqe, Felix, and the pups were ecstatic about the fresh meat, though they were more interested in hearing the tale of the hunt. Joss was also very keen on hearing Shego's version while Jim and Tim wanted to hear from Yori, citing she was the best at story telling in the pack. They settled on telling the story in tandem, with Yori detailing the doe's death while Shego explained the buck's, switching between the two and keeping the pups enthralled between mouthfuls of the buck's meat.
"The doe ran, fear so strong I could taste it on my tongue, but the fear fueled its flight, lent it strength it desperately needed to avoid my jaws," Yori continued while Shego chewed a particularly large mouthful. Joss, Jim, and Tim sat before her, hanging on every word, hardly paying attention to the meat lying before them.
"She does tell good stories," Rone whispered, having eaten his portion already. Kim nodded, licking her chops for stray blood as she watched the others. "How's your side?"
"It's fine, Rone, really," she sighed, looking over her shoulder at the wound. It really wasn't so bad; one of the buck's prongs had caught near her hip. It made moving around a little annoying but it was just a scratch.
Felix gave her a reproachful look. "Trying to tough it out isn't going to do you any good, Kim. The last thing we need is for that to fester and lame you. Speaking from experience, it's not enjoyable in the slightest."
"Felix is right," Rone nodded, ears drooping slightly. "We have to be more careful, Kim. It was never the plan to take down two deer; the moment Yori marked the first, we should've helped her and Wade."
"And you really didn't have to go after a buck. They're dangerous and you know that," Wade added quietly, eyes shifting to the ongoing story as Shego picked up with Kim and Rone attacking the buck.
"It swung its massive head, antlers as thick as a log bearing down on Kimmie and Rone," Shego swiped the air with her paw, obviously trying to outdo Yori in the story telling department, completely ignoring that the carcass of said buck was tucked into the back corner of the cave, clearly ruining the embellishment. That didn't mean the pups didn't react with suitable shock as they heard the tale and Kim had to smile at their reactions. "But those two omegas, they were too quick, and it missed! That buck didn't make it easy though; he had these huge hooves, bigger than the three of you combined, and he kicked out at them!"
Niqe glanced at Kim, returning her gaze to the pups before speaking. "You know, mating season is coming up soon."
Kim's ears perked momentarily before flattening against her skull. "And that is relevant to anything, how, exactly?"
Niqe shrugged while Rone snickered behind his paw. "I'm just sayin'."
"Niqe, if you're implying-"
"I didn't hear any implications," Rone, his concern suddenly replaced with a wide grin, rolled onto his side and looked up at her. "Does someone have a guilty conscience?"
"Why would I have a guilty conscience?" The crimson shewolf playfully bared her teeth.
"You're being defensive," Felix pointed out, tongue lolling out of his mouth as Kim glared at him.
"I am not."
Niqe raised a brow. "So, you're saying you don't like Shego."
Kim opened her mouth but hesitated, ears twitching as she tried to form a coherent response. However, the slight delay had already given Rone, Felix, Wade, and Niqe reason to smile. Rather than try to explain herself, Kim opted for the more direct route; she leaned forward and lightly closed her jaws on Niqe's muzzle, effectively preventing the shewolf from saying anything further.
Niqe flattened her ears against her skull and tried to pry her mouth open but to no avail; Kim's jaws were stronger. Rone and Wade fought to keep from busting out laughing, watching the now silent battle between the two shewolves.
"Uh… Kimmie?" An ear and an eye flicked in Shego's direction, noting that the story had either ended or paused while the pups, Shego, and Yori watched them carefully. There was the barest hint of amusement in Yori's smile while the others simply looked confused. "Is everything okay over there?"
Kim looked down her nose at Niqe, then back at the other wolves. Though muffled, she was still able to respond with a barely recognizable, "yeah."
"If you say so." The pale shewolf replied, nodded slowly, before turning back to the pups with a curious glance at Yori, who simply shrugged. Feeling somewhat embarrassed, Kim released Niqe, who promptly swatted her playfully and stretched her jaw. "Then crack! The buck's antlers caught Kimmie!"
The pups gasped in unison, turning wide eyes to the crimson shewolf.
"Kimmie hit the ground and rolled as the beast turned to finish the job," Shego continued. "But there's no keeping a Possible wolf down, so she sprang up and sunk her fangs into the buck's soft throat-"
"That's not what happened," Kim objected, rising to pad towards the pups. The moment their attention was on her, Kim sank low to the ground, smiling as she continued the story. "I had barely hit the ground when Shego lunged at the beast, sinking her teeth into its fur. With a twist of her head, she tore its throat straight out!"
"Whoa," the pups chorused, lips pulling back as they seemed to reenact the finishing blow amongst themselves. Meanwhile, Kim turned her attention to the Alpha.
"You shouldn't give me the credit. That kill was yours, fair and square."
Shego smirked. "I was just trying to make you look good, Kimmie. They already know I'm awesome."
For what felt like the umpteenth time, Kim rolled her eyes, a smile playing along her muzzle. "You're insufferable sometimes."
"It's part of my charm."
Kim gave a long suffering sigh, turning her head at the sound of claws scratching on stone. "Going for your run, Felix?"
The other omega chuckled, nodding. "It always feels good to run after a nice meal. Whose turn is it to watch the pups?"
"I think it's mine," Rone scratched behind one ear. Yori stood, looking between the golden wolf and Kim.
"All things considered, it might be wiser to let Kim stay behind."
The shewolf cringed, either in embarrassment or disgrace, she couldn't be sure. Her wound wasn't even that bad!
"That's a good point," Rone conceded. Kim thought about speaking up but, noticing the way Shego and Niqe were watching her, thought better of it. "I'll just take your next turn, Kim, if that's okay."
"It's fine," the crimson shewolf replied, settling herself down to watch the pups, who were still adamantly reenacting the hunt, with Joss playing the role of the buck and Jim and Tim alternating as Rone, Shego, and herself. "Just be careful, please."
"Of course," Yori smiled, following Niqe, Felix, and Rone to the mouth of the den.
Niqe stopped just before leaving, looking over her shoulder. "Shego, are you coming?"
The pale Alpha raised a brow, glancing at Kim. "A relaxing run through the mountains? That doesn't sound too bad."
As Shego went to join the other wolves, Yori discreetly winked at Kim. Unfortunately, it didn't amuse the crimson shewolf as much as disappoint her; she could only imagine what her packmates were about to put the Alpha through.
"When can we start going on runs?" Joss turned wide eyes on her cousin, pinned beneath the two omega pups 'devouring' her.
Kim smiled softly. "Soon enough, Joss, I promise."
"How long is 'soon' going to take?"
"Yeah," Tim suddenly chimed in, jumping over Joss to paw at Kim's shoulder. "How long is 'soon'?"
"We can keep up now," Jim had taken to climbing onto Kim's back. "We're almost as fast as Felix!"
"And how long can you keep up with him, hmmm?" The crimson shewolf raised a brow, carefully rolling onto her side as the pups began nuzzling into her fur. Though they were stubborn to admit it, their bodies weren't used to full stomachs; every meal made them very sleepy.
"For… a bit," Tim replied, wincing at his own word choice.
"Oh, is that so?"
"Well, how will we ever find out if we never get a chance?" Joss nipped at her cousin's ear.
Kim rolled her eyes, tempted to get up just to upset the precarious balance of her charges. "You will get the chance, Joss, all of you. Just give it a little more time."
"That's-" Tim broke off to yawn. "-not an answer."
"It's the best I have for now, pups," Kim nosed each in turn as they settled, Joss on her belly, Jim tucked up by her hindlegs, and Tim settling for against her chest, his head peeking out between her forelegs. "Get some sleep."
Surprisingly, there was little protest; the meal sitting heavily in their guts had finally robbed the pups of their waking energy. Kim laid her head down and sighed, a smile on her muzzle. Deep down, it terrified her that one day the pups would grow up and expect to hunt and run through the mountains, most likely on their own the way the others did on occasion. The world outside their den was so dangerous.
Idly, she wondered how Shego was faring; Yori and Rone, more mobile than their packmates, were probably pushing the Alpha to her limits on the treacherous rocks of the mountain. She really wouldn't put it past them to goad the Alpha into following them or Shego into falling for it.
She just hoped the pale shewolf didn't get hurt in the process.
Her concerns were entirely justified, not that the Alpha would be willing to admit such aloud. Deeper into the mountains, the six wolves ran along a barren ravine between two towering peaks, Niqe, Wade, and Felix taking the flatter low ground while Rone, Yori, and Shego ran along the narrow remnants of a trail, rocks occasionally sliding from beneath their paws as easily as their shadows over the rocks.
"This is suicide," the pale Alpha growled under her breath, trying her hardest to stay within snapping distance of the golden tail in front of her. Whenever the trail lead more or less straight, she would gain ground on the omegas before her, but at each twist and turn, with every uncertain bound, Shego would find herself falling just a bit behind.
They weren't even going that fast, truly; Niqe, Wade, and Felix were loping along the ravine floor, slow enough that the injury to his leg was only barely noticeable, but Yori and Rone kept throwing sudden changes into their path- jumping up to a higher, narrower, more dangerous trail before descending, sometimes running along the ravine floor to the other side and repeating the process. Still, the overall speed was light, something Shego would laugh at were they in the soft, solid terrain of the forest.
On hard rock that might not stay where it is? That was a wholly different matter.
"Heads up!" Rone barked, his body falling low to the ground before he bounded up, paws somehow finding just the right places in the rocky wall of the ravine as he ascended without breaking stride. Yori was already on the higher trail, black ears twitching as she led the way.
Shego groaned; this was more work than she was willing to do on a full stomach. Yet, she followed the golden wolf, bounding up to the higher trail, claws scrabbling to keep her from falling. Suddenly, she understood how the crimson omega had managed to hold her own when the two fought; any wolf traversing such treacherous terrain regularly had to be quick and light on their paws.
Shego, however, was neither, at least not to the degree the omegas were, and found herself slipping more than once on the rocks. After reaching the base of yet another mountain, Yori and Rone began to slow, descending to the ravine floor to jog alongside Wade, Niqe, and Felix, who were talking quietly among themselves. Shego trailed behind ever so slightly, trying to catch her breath while ignoring the burning in muscles she never paid attention to even having, much less using.
On countless chases she ran through the forest, across fields, clearings, wherever her prey would take her on their flight to supposed safety, but not since she first learned to hunt, alongside her mother, had she ever felt so winded.
Following a narrow passage east, the six began the trek back to the den, which Shego was silently thankful for; they hadn't run far, not at all, but the vertical distance, up and down the walls of the ravine, had taken a much greater toll than she could've imagined.
As Felix, Wade, and Niqe led the way ahead, Rone and Yori dropped back to pad alongside Shego. "Do you do this in the snow too?"
"We probably will," Rone answered, tongue lolling out ever so slightly. "We started doing these runs late in the spring, so this will be our first winter."
"Kim insisted on us doing these runs when it seemed we were losing hope," Yori dropped her voice to just above a whisper. "She felt the exercise would help, especially Felix."
"He gets pretty restless, staying in the den all the time with the pups," Rone mimicked Yori's volume, shaking himself slightly as the bitter cold wind against their warm fur. "He would love to go on a hunt with us. Maybe once the pups are old enough."
"Kimmie will be a nervous wreck the whole time," Shego stated, finally starting to feel in control of her breathing. "She worries too much."
Yori sighed. "Not without reason."
"Things will get better," Rone quickly spoke up, his tone filled with conviction. "This winter will be much better than the last one."
The three padded along in silence, reaching nearly where they had crossed the river the night before, until Felix looked over his shoulder, flashing them a wicked grin. Shego had no clue what was coming until the five Possible omegas suddenly took off at a dead sprint- not the pace they'd maintained down the mountain and throughout the ravine, no, this was a full on, dead sprint. Even Felix was a fair distance ahead before the Alpha realized what was happening, lips twitching, unsure if they should pull into an amused smirk or a horrified frown.
Shego was not one to back down from a challenge, however, and found herself lunging forward before she could decide how she felt on the matter.
Nestled in the burrow, the Senior wolves slept peacefully, unaware their charges were wide awake beside them.
"Why don't we run now?" Hirotaka whispered, carefully shifting his eyes between their various guards. Annabelle and James laughed softly, curled up next to each other.
"Patience, Hiro. Our time will come," James lifted his head from Annabelle's shoulder, glancing at the opening of the burrow. "Just listen for the wind to call to you."
The black wolf sighed but settled down all the same, laying his head on one paw and looking at the pad of the other. There were a few scars along the flesh, long since healed from when he was a pup. He didn't remember how he got the wounds, only that they refused to heal, much like those across his back. When he tried to remember, tried to envision his own pack, he could see nothing but the opening of the burrow and the field during the day. Hirotaka liked to think, in the quiet moments when the other slept, that he earned the scars while trying to escape, running as fast as he could until some bigger, stronger wolf came bearing down on him.
His memory didn't seem to start until the day the sandy brown wolf limped into the burrow, the fiery shewolf right beside him. At first, he had struggled with the idea of other wolves being captured, held against their will just as he was; he wondered if it would be a kindness to tear their throats out in their sleep, let them escape from the endless confinement.
Of course he never did, especially not after the new wolves treated him so kindly, like kin rather than a pathetic excuse for a creature that looked vaguely like a wolf. It was strange, too, learning new things, like how to hold a conversation without death threats and insults, how not to flinch at every movement, how to keep the growl from his voice. Learning to trust, really, was so difficult for him, and some part of him knew it shouldn't be, that it should've come naturally, to some degree.
Unfortunately, it didn't, and his eyes squeezed shut at the sudden onslaught of embarrassing memories, of snapping at the two wolves- literally and figuratively- when they tried their hardest to be kind. He swore, to Fhang and Fenrir both, he would make it up to them.
He'd learned to trust; learning patience couldn't possibly be more difficult than that.
Eventually, Hiro's breathing became deep as he drifted off, joining the Senior wolves in slumber. Annabelle softly sighed, looking at the younger wolves surrounding her and her mate. A gentle nudge in her shoulder was all it took for the fiery shewolf's gaze to fall on James.
"Our pup's their age, James," she spoke softly, barely above a whisper. "Kim's probably Bonnie's size. Rone and Yori too, Niqe, Wade, and Felix not far behind."
"The little ones should be growing into their paws now," James continued, chuckling just loud enough for his mate to hear. "I bet Jim and Tim are as energetic as Kim was at that age. Joss, doubly so."
Neither wolf said anything for a while.
"I miss them, James."
"Me too, Anne," the sandy brown wolf replied, squeezing his eyes shut as he curled closer to his mate. "But they're ours. They'll make it."
"Of course they will. Anything's possible for the Possible pack."
In the mountain den, Kim had to bite the inside of her cheek. The effort was in vain, however, and what self-control she might've claimed to have disintegrated into a bout of uproarious laughter, joining the majority of her packmates as they writhed on the ground, laughing just as hard.
Standing on shaking legs, Shego glared at the wolves before her, the effect somewhat lost as she fought to breathe. "Shut… up…"
Sprinting, Go Alphas could do, easily. Running through the mountains before sprinting up the side of one, not so much, and Shego was already cursing her stupid pride. She couldn't just let Yori and Rone lead the way, no, she just had to pretend like she wasn't tired and off balance from the sudden change to her sleeping and dietary habits. That went well.
"I… swear… when I-"
Kim got up and padded over to the Alpha, swatting at her once. It was enough to jolt the shewolf into moving which, apparently, her body was not keen on doing. As the pale shewolf fell to the ground, sprawled out, the pups capitalized on the opportunity and claimed their spots. As Kim settled next to the panting shewolf, the pups were settling into pale green and black fur or climbing onto her.
Shego halfheartedly growled at the shewolf before relaxing against the welcoming cool embrace of the stone beneath her. At least it didn't expect her to support her weight, just yet.
The laughter finally died down as the other wolves found their own spots in the den. Felix took care in lying down, a slight grimace marring his features momentarily. Niqe simply raised a brow at him, a small frown on her lips. He simply shrugged.
"I might've over-done it, just a little."
Felix smiled, stretching out his legs as he rolled onto his good side. "It was worth it, though. Totally."
"We'll just make sure you stretch a little longer tomorrow," Niqe stated, leaving the wolf no room to argue. A quick glance at Kim confirmed the crimson shewolf was following the actions, if not the words; a slight nod was all Niqe needed to confirm she would have help in keeping Felix from begging off tomorrow. "It was nice, though."
"Running with you," Niqe lightly nipped at the wolf's ear. "You haven't pushed yourself like that in a while."
Felix gave her a lopsided grin. "Couldn't just let Shego talk trash about us omegas and not show her what we're made of."
Niqe rolled her eyes. "Wolves."
The wolf in question merely grinned wider.
"I think it's my turn-" Rone broke off, yawning loudly before completing his question "-turn to tell a story, right?"
"Yes, Rone," Yori chuckled. "I suppose it's going to be another of Rufus' tales?"
"Rufus?" Shego furrowed her brows, looking at Kim.
"He was the last of the naked mole rats, creatures as intelligent as wolves that lived in the ground."
"Of course!" Rone replied, giving Yori a wide grin. "This time, it's the tale of Rufus and the warring packs of the desert. The tale starts when Rufus, travelling with Jon Stoppable, came to this really hot desert, all covered in fine white sand…"
"He's a myth," Wade whispered, careful the pups- who had suddenly abandoned their spots on the shewolves in favor of sitting before Rone as he began his story- did not hear him. "No wolf has ever seen a naked mole rat but one of the first Stoppable pack leaders is said to have known Rufus and travelled with him farther than the territories."
"… and so they travelled for days, resting during the blistering heat of the day and running along the dunes during the freezing night, with only the stars above to guide them…"
Shego leaned closer to Kim. "Who taught Rone these stories?"
"My father," Kim replied, watching the pups as they sat entranced by Rone's tale. It was one of her personal favorites, about Rufus stopping a pack war by encouraging two secret mates to stand up to their respective pack. The only part about the tale she didn't like was the ending- the shewolf was killed by her pack for being a traitor and her mate vowed revenge, his pack following him into battle until every wolf of the other pack was dead- but she always rewrote that part in her head. "Rone's father taught mine all about Rufus and every one of the stories his father had taught him. When we were old enough, my father taught them to us to keep the memories alive, not just of Rufus and Jon, but of every Stoppable."
"Your father is a very loyal wolf," Shego spoke softly, unaware she'd spoken at all as she concentrated on the story Rone was telling. She completely missed the surprise on the crimson omega's face and the subsequent soft smile on her muzzle.
Conversation died down as Rone continued his story.
The moon overhead lit the way for the gold shewolf as she stalked through the trees to her favored clearing. After checking on each of the dens, Jugo had left the Go wolves to their slumber, including her mate. She wasn't quite ready to forgive him his flawed logic; James and Annabelle had always been friends of the Go pack, as far as she was concerned.
But, much as it was fruitless to try and change the course of the river, arguing with Presgo would've been equally impossible. She would have to use other tactics if she wanted to speed the release of the two Alphas, and even then she wasn't sure that was the best option at the moment. With the return of the Possible Alphas, the deal her daughter had made with the omega pack leader would most likely be broken. Despite her threat when talking with Shego, starting a pack war wasn't high on her list of priorities; equally so, breaking the agreement with the Seniors wouldn't bode well for the Go pack, not to mention the turmoil between her mate and daughter if the shewolf couldn't learn to howl.
Especially not when this winter was promising to be harsher than the last; the Go pack, like all the others, was still recovering and in no condition to start or finish a pack war, much less multiple ones at the same time.
Speaking of Shego, the gold shewolf thought with a wry grin, it seemed her wayward daughter was nowhere to be found as of late. Sure, the pale Alpha had a tendency to wander off for a time, especially when Presgo was around, but there was usually some reason for her absence, the time away keeping her ever present anger from boiling over. A disagreement with her brothers, a fight with her father, sometimes even with Jugo; whatever cause for her absence, it wasn't hard to guess or hear about from the other Go wolves. Some had nothing better to do than gossip about the pack leaders' offspring.
Near as she could tell, Shego simply hadn't returned the night prior. There was a deep rooted fear lingering in the back of her mind- strong and capable Shego may be, there was a myriad of dangers in the forest, and even more in the territory at large, and the Alpha would always be her daughter, a little ball of fur curled up against her side- but it was pushed aside for the moment. In all probability, Shego somehow learned that Presgo was back and opted to steer clear of the pack leader for the time being.
With the mating ceremony looming on the horizon, though, it was troubling. Part of her believed her daughter would never shirk from her duties as an Alpha but, well, Shego had never expressed anything positive about the prospect of her arranged mate. That the pale Alpha might leave the territories altogether to avoid the whole ordeal was another consideration she was forced to make, mainly due to snide remarks from other wolves in the pack. Jugo licked her chops; she'd taught them a lesson about disrespecting an Alpha, no doubt, but it was hard to shake off the accusation entirely.
As she came to her clearing, Jugo sighed. She would give the pale Alpha until the next night to return. After that, she would send out the Go Alphas to track her daughter down. The idea of treating the shewolf like a pup wasn't all that enticing, really, but she didn't have many alternatives. It was only a matter of time before Presgo demanded to see her and, were he to stumble upon any of the rumors those cowards were whispering, things would quickly get out of hand.
Alone in the moonlight, Jugo wondered how many other packs faced such an uncertain future… and how they fared.
Shego, her mind never farther from her home in the forest, was quite surprised that Rone was actually pretty good at telling stories himself, though he lacked Yori's finesse with words. He more than made up for it by the excitement in his voice, changing its pitch and severity to portray the voices of wolves long past, moving around as he described epic battles. It was infectious.
Apparently, a little bit too infectious, as the pups, no longer quite content with simply listening to the tales, began challenging the fictitious enemies played by the golden wolf. Suddenly, the story halted altogether as Rone found himself on one end of a coordinated attack. Not that he was alone for long; Wade and Yori quickly leapt to his defense, stacking the odds as they evened the numbers between the two sides. Unfortunately, this somehow volunteered Felix and Niqe as participants as well, and soon the three pups were everywhere and nowhere at once, nipping at tails, ears, and whatever else they could reach before bounding away again.
Kim and Shego, meanwhile, had removed themselves from the fray the moment the pups sprang into action, until Kim lunged forward to snatch up Jim by the nape of his neck before he could attack Felix, who was bemusedly watching Wade halfheartedly snap at the pup's twin currently latched onto his ear. This made Kim the prime target as Tim and Joss valiantly tried to save their counterpart, assaulting the crimson shewolf using every trick the two knew until Jim was freed and all three of the tiny terrors could waylay the pack leader. The others looked on in exasperated amusement, suppressing their laughter as Kim fought alone against her three assailants.
There was a warning brewing in her throat but the pale Alpha clamped down on it immediately; convincing the headstrong omega she was injured enough to warrant rest was difficult enough, she hardly imagined winning the argument when there was nothing seriously threatening to Kim's injured side. She did notice, though, that Kim was favoring the leg just a tad bit, but that was to be expected. A few more nights and the soreness would be gone completely, she was sure.
Shego, once she felt safe from surprise attacks, glanced outside the den's entrance, noting the risen moon. Only then did she remember the reason she was even in the mountains and her own home in the forest. Though she wasn't particularly motivated to do so, she probably should go back to her own den, if for no better reason than to keep Presgo from being exceedingly difficult whenever she did return. Allowing her father to brood, she found, was never the best option.
"The day is more than up, Possibles," Shego smirked, swallowing down the twinge of regret that the day passed so quickly. "I think it's time I go back home."
"Fhang keep you, Shego," Kim paused in her play with the pups to call out as the Alpha padded towards the mouth of the den.
"And Fenrir too," Felix added from his spot on the fringes of the impromptu play fight.
Shego stopped to look over her shoulder at the pack, feeling the regret grow a little more. All of the Possibles were watching her, smiles on their muzzles and a little sadness in their eyes. "And all of you as well."
Turning back, she was almost completely out of the den when Joss called out to her, disentangling herself from the pile of brown and crimson to nervously creep towards the shewolf.
"Can I- can I talk to you, um… alone?" Her tail and ears drooped slightly. "Please?"
Glancing to Kim for permission and receiving it, Shego nodded. "We won't go far."
"Just be careful," the crimson shewolf warned, fighting the impulse to follow after them as Joss and Shego disappeared into the night. She expected to have to defend her decision but, curiously enough, the pack was silent.
"Something on your mind, Joss?" the pale shewolf spoke as soon as she deemed the den was out of earshot.
The pup was quiet a moment, nearly running beside the fully grown shewolf in order to keep up. "I'm not an omega, am I?"
"Uh…" Shego's mind blanked. Shut down completely. No cylinders firing. She'd even stopped dead in her tracks, paw lifted in the air for the next step. "What?"
"I'm not an omega, like them, am I?" Joss repeated, staring up with large, soft blue green eyes. "I'm an Alpha like you."
A sigh escaped her as her mind began working again. Damnit, she objected to lying to the pup in the first place. "Yes, Joss, you're an Alpha." Shego paused, remembering her conversation with Kim about the matter. "Does that matter to you? It doesn't to the rest of your pack."
"They just don't want me to feel bad," Joss plopped down in the cold dirt, trying hard not to cry. "I'm the reason we're always hungry. That's why Kim's always so upset and-"
"Okay, hold up there pup, you're moving way too fast," the shewolf settled herself next to Joss, trying to block the tiny wolf from the wind. "Now, let's go back to the beginning. Why do you feel bad about being an Alpha?"
"I'm not a good Alpha," Joss sniffled. "I'm not big and strong, so I can't hunt. Alphas are supposed to hunt and get food but… I'm too small. Kim has to do it because I can't, and she's not as big or strong as you either."
"But she's quick, cunning, and irritatingly optimistic," Shego nosed the pup. "Besides, you Possibles don't work like that. Everyone shares in the responsibility."
"Because I can't…"
"And that's not your fault. These past few years have been really hard on all the packs. You probably don't remember them, but Kim told me about her parents…" she paused, trying to gauge exactly how much to reveal.
"They were real Alphas."
"As real as you and I," Shego internally winced; this talk was not going as well as she could've hoped. "You're still growing, Joss, and your pack loves you no matter what. They'll support you until you do grow big and strong, and then you'll support them. That's how your pack works; I saw it for myself today."
"Then what's the point of being an Alpha?" Joss snapped her jaws, growling at the larger shewolf. "Why can't I be an omega like they are? Cousin Kim says we're all wolves but we're not, we're different! I'm supposed to be big and strong like you, and be able to hunt, and help the pack, but I'm not! And even if I was big and strong, I don't know how to hunt!" Her ears drooped as her anger died, turning to misery before Shego's eyes. "I'm just useless. Why even be an Alpha when I can't do anything an Alpha is supposed to do?"
They watched each other in silence, the wind ruffling their fur slightly. Without warning, Shego bent down and closed her jaws around the pup's nape, hoisting the undersized shewolf into the air and heading up the path to the overlook.
"Hey!" Joss growled, unable to move her limbs. "This isn't fair!"
Rather than risk dropping the pup and incurring Kim's wrath, Shego stayed silent and steadily padded over rock and dirt, stopping only once she'd reached level ground and setting Joss down beside her. "So you think you're less of a wolf because you can't hunt?"
Having planned on raging at the larger shewolf after regaining the ability to move, Joss was struck by the abruptness of the question. Reflecting on it a moment, her ears drooped. "I'm not less of a wolf… just… not an Alpha. Kim and the others always say that we're all wolves, no matter what, 'cause that's how Fhang and Fenrir made us."
"I wish I believed that," Shego grumbled, casting her gaze across the moonlit features of the forest and valley beyond. "Can you howl yet, pup?"
"Uh, yeah… not very loud though," Joss looked out too, trying to see what the pale Alpha was watching. At Shego's insistence, the small shewolf took a deep breath and howled, the sound small but carrying at least as far as the foot of the mountain.
Down in the den, Kim's ears perked at the faint sound, a small, sad smile coming to her lips.
"This really upsets you, huh?"
Joss nodded, lying on a small rock close to the overlook's edge. "I know I'm just a pup and all but… Kim works so hard trying to provide for the pack, Rone, Yori, and Wade too. And Felix and Niqe spend all their time with us. When I think about my parents, I can't remember the wolves they tell me about… just them." She sniffled, her eyes misting over as she fought back tears. "I just want to be… useful. Make things easier for them, so they can smile more like they did today. They only smiled so much because you were here."
"I wouldn't say that," Shego mumbled, ears twitching. After a moment's hesitation, the pale Alpha bent down, nosing the pup affectionately. "You have the best of intentions, Joss, but you need to see yourself the way your pack does. Don't place blame where it doesn't belong." She settled down next to Joss, smiling softly when the tiny Alpha nuzzled into her side. "See, you think you're not an Alpha because you can't hunt… my pack thinks I'm not a wolf because I can't howl."
"You can't howl?" Joss blinked up at the pale shewolf, stunned.
Shego merely shook her head. "Nope. That's why your cousin and I meet every night. She's trying to teach me how to howl." After a moment's pause, she added. "And that stays between the two of us, understood?"
The pup nodded quickly.
"My point is you have a caring pack that tries their hardest to be there for you and each other. One day, you'll grow up and hunt and do all the things Alphas can do… but right now, enjoy what your pack works so hard to give you and remember it so you can pay them back." Shego raised her eyes to the mostly lit moon. "I guess… maybe I learned something today, being with you Possibles. My pack might not have been the most loving bunch of wolves- and I personally think I could've done without even knowing my father- but they gave me the skills I needed to survive. I'm the wolf I am today because of them, all their strengths and faults, all the bad and good. Maybe I'm not the best- I certainly can't run through the mountains the way you Possibles can- and maybe I'm less of a wolf because I can't howl. But…?" Looking down at the pup, Shego raised a brow, encouraging Joss to continue the sentence.
"But you're still a wolf, no matter what," Joss smiled widely. "And I'm an Alpha, even if I'm not the strongest or smartest, even if I can't hunt, because…" The pup cocked her head to the side, suddenly losing her grasp on Shego's logic.
"Because that's who you are and your pack loves you, no matter what," Shego supplied, laughing at the smile that reclaimed the pup's muzzle. "You know, Kimmie doesn't think you know you're an Alpha. She didn't want to tell you."
"I always thought it's because I can't hunt…"
"It's because she doesn't want you to hold yourself up to standards you can't possibly meet yet and she really doesn't care about the differences between Alphas and omegas," Shego replied, grinning slyly. "Obviously, she doesn't give you enough credit. Did you figure it out on your own?"
"Well, yeah… I noticed my paws were bigger than Jim's and Tim's in the spring… never knew why until I saw yours." Joss looked at her paws, then up at Shego. "Can you stay?"
The pale Alpha chuckled. "I somehow knew that was coming. No, pup, I have my own pack to terrorize."
"Well, could you teach me how to hunt? You know, when I'm bigger?"
"Hmmm, maybe. I'm teaching Kimmie to hunt, so she might want to teach you herself."
"What if you both taught me?" Joss gasped, her tail wagging. "That'd be so cool!"
"Ah ah, don't you get all hyper right before going to sleep; Kimmie'll kill me," Shego teased, rising to head back to the den. "Speaking of Kimmie, you need to get back before she kills me anyway."
The pup bounded ahead of the Alpha, throwing a small frown over her shoulder. "I can go back to the den on my own."
"See previous comment about Kimmie killing me. What did we learn about an angry Kimmie?"
Almost instantly the pup stopped in her tracks, waiting until Shego caught up before padding beside the Alpha.
The two made their way back to the den in companionable silence. When they reached the den, Kim was waiting for them. Joss nearly attacked her cousin, crashing into the crimson shewolf's legs playfully. With a soft, nonthreatening growl, Kim pawed her cousin aside easily, the two taking turns growling at each other before Joss dashed inside to terrorize her other cousins.
The omega watched the pups play a moment before turning her gaze on the Alpha. "Thank you, Shego."
Shego raised a brow. "You don't know what we talked about. I might've convinced her to tear your throats out in your sleep."
Kim chuckled and shook her head, padding closer to the Go wolf. "Somehow, I doubt it. Tomorrow night?"
"Of course," the Alpha chuckled. "Try not to eat all that meat in one sitting."
"Another fat joke?" Kim rolled her eyes. "You're lucky I-" She suddenly started coughing, earning a curious look from the other shewolf. "You're lucky I don't rip your ears off!"
Shego laughed, starting down the path back to the forest. "Fhang keep you, Kimmie."
"And you as well, Shego," she replied, sighing in relief as the Alpha disappeared down the path. Maybe she just needed some time away from the shewolf; maybe she'd come to her senses with the rising sun. She couldn't possibly be considering Shego as a mate…
At the base of the mountain, Shego looked over her shoulder. The wind was already cutting through her fur, not nearly at its worst but still more than a little discouraging. They wouldn't really miss her at the Go den- she'd spent an entire week away once, refusing to come within even sniffing distance of her father- but her absence would undoubtedly be noted.
Yet, while she was starting to miss her brothers- the Wegos of course, and perhaps Mego and Hego too, just a little- it felt a little odd to leave the Possibles. She couldn't put a name to it but it somehow felt wrong to leave the pups behind, to leave Kim with an injured side, to leave the pack at all.
But then, there was her father, and he would probably be keen on interrogating her soon. She'd rather face him like an Alpha than be hunted down like prey.
She turned her options over in her head: should she return to the forest or stay in the mountains another day?
Yori's ears perked, the sound of claws on stone meeting her ears followed swiftly by a now familiar scent filling her nose. Cracking an eye open, she saw her packmates respond in kind, first hearing the sound then recognizing who it was making their way up the path. Kim lifted her head, the pups already curled up beside her and fast asleep, and smiled when Shego padded into the den and settled down next to the crimson shewolf.
"Back already?" Kim whispered.
The pale Alpha shrugged. "Joss asked me to stay another night."
"Not surprised." The two shewolves chuckled lightly before laying their heads down for sleep.
Yori noticed the tension flow out of her packmates' bodies. Her own shoulders relaxed, though she wasn't worried, per say, about the Alpha's return. Rather- and she was willing to bet it was the same for the others- she was worried the pups would wake up again. Getting them to calm down after realizing the Alpha was back would be horrible.
Closing her eyes, Yori resolved to get as much sleep as she could; doubtless the pups would be the first ones awake and, thus, the whole pack would be treated to a sneak attack wakeup call once the sun rose. As she drifted off, the smile that formed on her muzzle as a result of the possible start to the morning never left.
[To Be Continued: This Means War]
Author's Note: So… it's been almost a year. I could give plenty of excuses but I don't think anyone's keen on hearing them. Suffice it to say, a huge and heartfelt apology and thanks to everyone who has stuck with this fic. I will be working on the next chapter but, due to this stupidly unpredictable thing known as LIFE, I can't make any promises. Also, thanks Blood Seraph for giving me the extra kick in the rear I needed to finish this chapter.