I felt strong again. I could feel stronger, I wasn't in my best state, but I was in a much better one than I had been before the food. “Thanks for the food,” I said to Mate.
“My pleasure,” he answered.
I felt like I was cheating us. It should be the two of us. Alone. Not with a whole pack to care for. Not with my first pregnancy to worry about. And not, definitely not, with a human in our pack. I had no problem with it all, but it just wasn't how it should be. And those thoughts just wouldn't leave me alone. They kept pestering me whenever I least expected them. That's what bothered me.
“We should officially claim everything.”
“Yes, we should,” Mate replies.
“I'd do it some time soon,” I add.
“I love you,” I say randomly.
“I you too.”
“Should we go and mark some territory?” I ask.
“Yeah,” Mate agreed. And so it was that we set out to the edges of our unofficial territory and started marking it. Mate did all the marking, I just kept him company. It was a fun sort of outing. Him marking a tree every now and again, me following, checking out possible threats of ways of taking the pack away at a short notice if necessary. There were plenty, which was good because I had a funny feeling that we might have to.
“We should think flexible. I think we'll have to move the pack after our first litter is old enough.”
“I know, but we also need to have a safe life while raising the cubs. And the thing is, Human wouldn't keep up if we moved now. And she's become very much a part of the pack,” Mate replied.
“Yeah, I was thinking of that. But I won't be able to go anywhere any way for a while. Then there'll be the cubs. After that a want to leave. The humans are too close for my liking, and I also don't like what they do when they take you,” I continued.
“I agree. But how about we take it one step at a time?” It wasn't really a question.
We had completed the circle of our territory and were now back where we had started. “Well, may as well join the others for the official claim,” Mate said and came over to me, leaned in a bit and rested his head on my shoulder. He made a low humming noise in my ear which comforted me, would have lulled me to sleep too, only I was standing and I didn't tend to sleep standing up.
“Shall we?” he finally asked into my ear.
“Yeah,” I leaned over a bit and rested my head on his shoulder too. We stayed like that for a while, heads on each other's shoulders, the low hum in our chests vibrating into the other. I would have frozen the moment if I could. Would have tried to keep it away from time's odd work so that I could live in the moment for ever, never having to worry about the pack, or about the humans. But time would not have that and so made us move apart by reminding us of our duties as alphas.
“We should really go now,” Mate reminded us, but he, nor I, made a move to do that. Finally, though, one of us had to be the bad-guy. It may as well be me. I lifted me head up and took a step back.
We were truly one.
The pack had spread out a bit further than their usual area. Normally they were almost all together. Today most of them were all some where else. Probably in their usual groups though. I doubted that that would ever change.
“Should we call them or leave them a few extra moments to have fun, if that's what they're having?” Mate asked.
“Give them a few moments. That way we could steel some as well.”
“Good idea.” Mate was growling contentedly. It was a memory of a growl, so quiet I might have thought it wasn't there. But none the less it drew an answering growl from my throat, equally quiet. A whisper.
I shuffled closer to Mate. He was warm. And he smelled of the oncoming spring. I preferred that to the usual smell of snow that he used to have. I had gotten used to it, but now I realised that it wasn't that nice.
“What? Do I smell odd?”
“No, nicer. Of spring. I prefer that to snow.”
“Why?” I laughed. “Because winter is tough. Spring is what comes shortly before summer, which is a much easier living than winter.
Mate agreed. “So I smell good, do I?”