It was by no means a cold night. Early June, in fact.
The Leader, however, shivered very slightly as he lay stretched out on his stone ledge. Sleeping, though not restfully.
Riki's eyes snapped open in his sleep, searching, searching for a pair of brown eyes that weren't there.
He wriggled, seeking the soft musky scent that had just appeared to him, opening his mouth to inhale it. However there was only the gentle summer breeze to greet him.
Riki gave a slight growl. The scent was there, in his mind, but not there at the same time. He did not recognise it yet it was so close to his own.
He delved further into his subconscious, gripping the rough rock with blunt claws. There…..there! The eyes stared back- he could pick up other things. Soft silver-blue fur, a small high bark- the Leader's heart clenched at that bark. A feeling he thought he'd lost was invading him, unfamiliar now to his mind. But his heart understood.
Riki was well acquainted with the feeling of comradeship- the dogs sleeping below meant to world to him- his loyal dogs. Yes, Riki knew that feeling. But this was stronger than comradeship. It was a kind of warm fuzziness- could it be affection? Affection had always been just a word to him. And yet-
In darkness again, he whined very slightly, his paw pads beginning to sweat in the warm night air. Tears were beginning to well in his eyes. There it was- a face now. A young face framed by soft silver fur. He struggled hard to remember- to link the face with something in the physical world. All he could feel, though, was the warmth, the heartbeat emanating from it. He could feel the pup's heartbeat like his own. There was love in the brown eyes, and Riki's heart lifted- then fear.
Riki floundered in his sleep as a cold shadow sluiced over him, a flash of sharp, curved tips then the ground exploded around him. He could feel it, not see it. His heart beat faster and with a sudden fierce rush of protectiveness- a feeling even stronger than felt for his comrades- he lunged. His teeth met soft fur- there was a crazy blur of cold, snow and bone-crunching terror. He could see his own paws churning, the terrible ground-trembling came again and he was thrown forward. The bundle of fur left him, there was a moment of emptiness in Riki's mind- before a mighty jolt, followed by three claws of white-hot pain, then he was spinning, spinning endlessly into a black void, with the cries of his own name and the shrill wail of the pup echoing in his ears.
Half-conscious, Riki was suddenly on his paws. The image of the face in his mind flashed again, stronger still, fueling a fire in his heart. Unable to control his anguish in that moment, he threw back his his head and howled, howled at the vast inkiness above.
A word escaped the Leader's lips as if they were not his own. The word was foreign to him, but it felt….felt so significant.
His sleep-addled mind turned the word over and over like a piece of prey, and suddenly, there was the young face again, deep brown eyes gazing into him until he feared his heart would burst.
The next moment the image disappeared and there was the sky, pinpricks of fire spinning crazily around Riki's head, and the hard stone rose up to welcome him as he slipped once again into darkness. The tears were now flowing freely as he whispered the name to his mind once more, still not understanding, before exhaustion took him.
The stars above glittered just a little colder.