Morning had never seemed quite so hopeful before. The packs had merged after a relatively bloodless battle between the packs. Garth's Father, ever the traditionalist, decreed to his pack the the mating of Garth and Lily would serve as an acceptable marriage to solidify the merger. It came as no surprise that neither of them had voiced a complaint at the idea, with Lily all but bubbling with delight and Garth grinning like an idiot during the announcement. The cheers, followed por the Moon Light Howl including all members of the newly formed pack followed the all around cheerful mood following the news.
But for Kate, that was not the only reason the morning seemed just a bit brighter than normal. After the Howl, she and Humphrey had managed slip away from the rest of the pack. Exhausted from their adventure and lacking any real rest since returning home, the only thing on either of their minds had been finding a quiet place where they could sleep. A clear night, a bright moon, and no need to worry about attacks from the Eastern lobos any longer had made sleeping in the open forest an easy decision. Now just past sunrise on a cama of soft pine needles, she lay on her side with her eyes wide open. Watching. Just... Watching the slow rise and fall of his chest as he slept beside her.
While her mind was still trying to process everything that had happened in such a short time, her coração quickened a bit when he shifted in his sleep. All four of his legs raised high for a moment mid flip, just long enough to cause him to reflexively kick aimlessly towards the sky until he completed the roll facing away from her with a thump. Apparently enough of a thump to wake him, because as she watched him pull tight into a full body stretch that caused even the tips of his toes to separate briefly. His head raised for a moment, before something like a defeated sigh left him and he laid it back down. "Dreaming again. Gotta stop dreaming about Kate. This waking up thing is annoying when I do."
She felt a little tingle spread through her. Even if his tone had been a self mocking joke, the fact that he thought the dia before had been nothing but a dream about her allowed her a chance she doubted she would have again. Shifting closer to him while making just enough noise to have his back stiffening in surprise for the o espaço of a breath before she pressed her nose into his scruff fur. Enjoying the confused delight on his face, and the dawning clarity that followed it when she turned her muzzle into his ear. "Just how often do you dream about me?" she asked, making sure to keep her voice sleepy and soft, smiling slightly when she felt and saw the shiver race through his entire body at the close contact.
"Oh! Um..." Seeming befuddled for a moment, he stayed exactly where he was as she tipped her head to look down at him. "No, not too often. I mean... I don't keep count. That would make it just a liiiiittle creepy. Unless you like the idea of me dreaming about you, in which case I dream about you all the time."
A light laugh trickled from her muzzle, followed por a light yelp when he rolled over again. This time he used the motion to tumble with her until she lay on her back and he stood over her, one paw on either side of her. "Good morning," he murred softly, a light in his eyes that she knew she had seen a dozen times before. Hidden with laughter, and for her part played off as simple affection because she had not been willing to see the truth. Knowing what it was now, her eyes lowered. She wasn't given the time to feel ashamed, however, when his muzzle lowered to her this time. Expecting a nuzzle, the tip of her head was natural. She did not expect the sharp sensation of his teeth nibbling at her ears, so she wasn't prepared in any way to hide the sharp shivers of delight that raced through her. Nothing like the feeling of Garth's nibbles during their 'marriage'. That had felt, for all intents and purposes, like someone chewing on her ear. This...
This made it very easy for her to tip her head back when his muzzle returned to touch nose against nose for a moment, smiling softly. It also made it easy for her to forget the time, until she heard a voice calling her name.
"Kate! Kate, where are you? We need to organize a hunt!"
Tilting her head back towards the direction of Garth's voice, she watched the forest upside down for a moment before turning her eyes up to Humphrey. "Sorry," she said slowly, and meant it. "Duty calls. Hungry pack to feed. A larger pack now."
"Oh, hey, no problem," he said as she pulled herself out from under him.
His tail swayed from side to side as he pulled himself to his feet. An action which caused him to wince and stumble a bit before he managed to right himself. Noticing that he seemed to be favoring his right side even as he fell in step beside her, Kate turned a worried gaze towards him. "What is it, Humphrey?"
"Nothing," was his simple reply, followed por a roll of his eyes when she looked at him like she didn't believe a word of it. "What? I'm just a little stiff. Must have slept on my tail or something. I'll be fine."
While she wasn't sure she believed him, she didn't have time to dwell on it when Garth cleared the rocks nearby with a single leap. "Kate, there you are. Your parents have been looking for you since dawn." He glanced over his shoulder, an almost pained look on his face when he looked back to her. "Your mother scares me."
"Her mother scares everyone," chirped Humphrey cheerfully, then ducked with a chuckle as Kate swatted at him with her tail as she passed with a shake of her head. "I'll just be... Heading off now. Check on the guys. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
After walking for a moment, still grinning to herself and feeling like she could run laps around an entire herd of Caribou, she heard him call out again. "No really, I mean it! Don't do anything I wouldn't do. And try to avoid a lot of things that I would do!"
"Humphrey!" she exclaimed, feeling the skin under her pele, peles heat slightly as she shook her head as his laughter faded into the forest. Even as he left, she frowned after him. It was hard to miss the way he limped forward, nothing like the exuberant male she had known all her life. Had he been injured on their trip home? There certainly had been plenty of opportunities for it to happen, but why wouldn't he have mentioned it? Frowning over it, she hardly noticed the large alpha beside her watching after the other male with admiration.
"I'm surprised he can even walk," he commented, drawing her gaze quickly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded, worry flaring into insult before flaring further into a growl. She remembered how... Unfriendly Humphrey and Garth's first meeting had been. "Look, just because he wasn't born an Alpha..."
"Whoa whoa, settle down killer," he laughed, sitting on his hind legs with both paws raised to ward her off with a sign for peace. "In amor with your sister, remember? Who is also an Omega. And gorgeous, with the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen..."
She did settle, as much because she realized that her reaction had been foolish as the fact that he went all dreamy eyed and distant as he thought of Lily. Shaking her head quickly, she pushed in closer to him until her muzzle was almost touching his and his attention was drawn back to her. "Well then what do you mean? What's wrong with him?"
"You mean no one told you? I mean, it was all my father and your father would talk about after the howl last night. They're the only ones who saw it happen." The surprise on his face was obvious as he hobbled back on the ground in a half hearted attempt to avoid a face to face collision with her when she closed the distance between them. From the annoyance on her face, the answer to that pergunta seemed clear enough for him to continue. "During the stampede, when you were unconscious, you never made it to the logs. Dad said that when Humphrey saw you laying there, even your father didn't have time to react before he did. He just..." Pausing in his words as he decided a dramatic demonstration would explain best, he leap up and took a stance as his father had shown him. "...Jumped out like this, and stood over you. Your father said at least three hit him... Mine says it was mais like five. I'll settle for thinking it was four... Kate? Where are you going!"
And there they are, he thought as he made his way towards the topo, início of the hill. Almost like nothing had changed at all, the trio of omega males wrestled and laughed at the topo, início of the colina where they generally launched their log sleds. Waiting for him as was normal, and made obvious when Salty perked up and stood quickly. "That's my dog. We didn't even know if you were going show up, what with Kate and... You know." Shaggy eyebrows wiggled up and down a few times before the smallest of the three shoved his way past.
"You're the talk of the pack. Both parts of it," he added as he bounced over with excitedly dancing paws. "The Alpha has been talking about putting you into alpha school."
"Alpha school?" Humphrey was taken aback por that, and shook his head with an uneasy laugh. "Come on guys. What kind of alpha would I make? 'It's time to hunt! Humphrey will make the Caribou laugh themselves to death and everything will be fine.' Get serious. I..."
"It's true, though," the portly omega added with a sage nod that looked out of place on such a playful face. "I just hope you don't forget about us lowly omegas when you're living the alpha life."
"Oh come on guys," Humphrey snorted, shaking his head again as he padded up between them. Grabbing all three of them at once, managing to ignore the pain in his shoulder as he did so, he pulled them close until all of their faces were mashed together. "Me amigos, buddies, sled mates? Like I could ever forget about you. Now forget about all that and let's have some fun!"
All three laughing, Salty pulled back with the rest and got ready to pounce. "Wolf pile!"
"No no no!" Humphrey managed, darting to the side with a wince before he could be crushed under the weight of his friends. Snickering to himself as he sat beside the pile of groaning wolves. "No lobo pile today. Nuh ugh."
"Oh right," his lanky friend grunted under the weight of the other two. "Does it still hurt?"
"Yeah, Humphrey. Does it still hurt?"
They all froze rather quickly at the feminine voice that came from behind the tree. Humphrey most of all looked a bit panicked when Kate came out from behind the tree. "Kate, what are you doing hiding back there? Me and the guys were just..." He stopped when he turned to glance at the guys, and realized that they weren't there anymore. Looking down the hill, he saw the trio high tailing it back towards the pack caves. "So much for me amigos."
When he turned back, he found himself nose to nose with the beautiful wolfess. Amber eyes a mixture of concern and anger as she took a step closer to him to force him into retreat. "When exactly where you planning on telling me that you almost got yourself killed? Or that you were injured?"
Sitting hard with his rear legs slightly splayed, he shifted his gaze away from hers for a moment. He had hoped to avoid telling her all together, but since that was no longer an option he tried to make light of it. "What? Do you think a few badly placed Caribou hooves can keep a good Omega dow..."
His words were cut off when she closed the distance between them and silenced him por pulling him close to her in a tight embrace. Stunned and a little confused he simply wrapped one paw around her back to return the embrace, his cheek resting against hers as they breathed in each others scents in silence for a moment. "I'm the alpha," she said quietly after a moment as they stood together. "It's my job to protect the pack, and that includes you. What were you thinking?"
"I couldn't think," he replied in serious tone that had her lifting her head to meet his gaze. "I saw you on the ground, and everything in the world went wrong. I didn't know if you were alive, I couldn't stand the thought that you might have been dead. When the stampede passed, I couldn't feel anything when I looked down at you and realized you weren't moving. I thought..."
"You thought you had lost me," she finished softly, remembering his words and the look of relief on his face when she had first woken up surrounded por both packs. Leaning in to rub her nose against his softly before brushing the length of their muzzles together, she leaned against him again as he continued.
"Yeah, I thought I had lost you. And everything that was fun in my world was dead with you," he added, causing her to blink slowly in surprise though she didn't raise her head from his scruff. "So yeah, I would do it again. I can take a few hooves. They don't hurt as much as the alternative." She seemed unable to find anything to say in reply to that, so he remained silent as she stayed close against him.
So there on a hilltop, pressed in close together the two of them learned a little mais about how much they meant to each other.
And an Alpha, even though she had previously thought it impossible, fell even further in amor with her Omega.