Charaka tenderly stepped past an intimidating thorny bush as she shot one more look over her shoulder at Kausen territory. It was still a bit of a shock to her that the alpha would allow her to cross his territory even though she was a mere loner. Sure he had escorted her as she passed to make sure she didn’t get into trouble, but this allowance towards strangers was unfamiliar to her. She scanned the tree line to make sure the alpha, Gregor he had called himself, hadn’t sicked any of his wolves after her, but only a circling eagle above made any noise. Still nervous she faced forward again to continue on her little side-quest.
“Alcatraz!?” she yelled into the surrounding mountainous terrain. About ten other ‘Alcatraz’s echoed back to her, and she flinched. She didn’t like echoes. They made it look like there were others besides herself here. There was no reply other than her own voice so she continued in a quieter voice, “Traz? Are you here?”
Alcatraz was trotting toward the west when a familiar voice echoed through land. He glanced behind him sharply, his eyes narrowed. A few days ago he would be been off in a furious panic, but after helping the Kausen wolf Kidari fight off a few loners from Kausen territory, his confidence was slowly returning and he was feeling more like his old self. He recognized Charaka’s voice even from this distance and immediately changed route to meet her. Would he call them friends? …. eh… a little bit. Enough for him to care about why she was so far from her home in Morrow.
He felt a tinge of annoyance as she addressed him with a nickname. But to a grumpy wolf like Alcatraz, such tiny things often irked him. He saw her far before he reached her and slowed into a trot as he approached. ”It’s Alcatraz.” was the first thing he muttered as he came into earshot. But now on to the more important subject. ”Char, what in the world are you doing up here?” he asked with eyes narrowed curiously.
Charaka’s face split into a wide smile and her tail wagged happily as the sour-puss face of Alcatraz came towards her, but made no move to go and greet him. It was the resident’s right to approach after all! There was no need to cause unnecessary tension even though they were… friends? No… Yes? Almost friends? Ah well. She find a word for it later. However, for now she impatiently bounced on her heels as he drew nearer and dropped enthusiastically into a play bow as he finally reached her.
“Oh. So I can’t call you by a nickname but you can call me by mine?” she said teasingly, tilting her head up at him. The playful glint was still in her eyes as she stood back up. She noticed a sizable chunk of fur missing from his right shoulder as she did so, but ignored it. “I came here to see you! Why else would I be yelling out your name?”
Alcatraz was noticeably less excited to approach the she-wolf, but that was just because nothing really excites him. He in all honesty did not mind seeing this friendly face; he had been through a lot lately and it felt kinda nice to have someone… happy to see him. The steady wag of his tail behind him portrayed how pleased he truly was to see her. He stopped before her, but didn’t return her play bow. Pfft, play… Alcatraz didn’t do that.
Alcatraz stared at her blankly as she teased him, looking mildly confused, ”Char isn’t your full name?” he asked. That was how she introduced herself when they first met. But, then again, she hadn’t been happy to see him, and seemed to have cut herself off before even finishing her name. So perhaps there was more to it? He would soon find out.
Alcatraz frowned a bit as she said she had come to see him. Why… would she do that? Did she need something? ”Why did you come to see me? Is everything okay?” he asked, his tail tip twitching wearily. It couldn’t be his strength she was looking for, after all she had a whole pack behind her. Was it something with Gypsee? That was the only other Morrow wolf he knew well… all he knew was that Charaka was awful far from home
Charaka was a bit shocked at Alcatraz’s confession. She introduce herself right? Thinking hard, she replayed her last two meetings with this wolf. No… No she did not… Gypsee never said her full name either, just Char. “No. It’s not my full name…” she agreed slowly. Then a mischievous idea occurred to her. Alcatraz seemed to hate nicknames and would probably call her by her full name if he knew it. So if she never told him, would he call her by her nickname forever? She kind of liked the sound of that. It made them seem like friends if he did that.
Letting the topic slip by, she picked up on another one. “Everything’s… okay.” she said hesitantly. Actually, she didn’t know if she was okay or not. Everytime she stopped to think about the tragedy, a river of painful emotions rushed at her, threatening to overwhelm her. In the end she stopped trying. It was better to be happy anyway... Yeah…
She continued, forcing a more cheerful tone into her voice, “I just wanted to see you! I heard you were here from Gregor. He mentioned you as he was listing off my pack members in Kausen. It’s always nice to see familiar faces! So how have you been!” She took a deep breath, and mentally cursed herself. She had unconsciously spoke slightly too fast to be normal. But... maybe he wouldn’t ask about it, she thought as she smiled to hide the awkwardness.
Alcatraz frowned curiously, ”What is your full name, then?” he asked her. He did like using full names. Nicknames were usually too…. cutesy for him. But she seemed to move on quickly from the subject and he tilted his head at her hesitant tone. It was clear to him that everything was not alright. ”Why aren’t you in Morrow?” he asked, getting an ominous feeling that something terrible had happened….
He narrowed his eyes in what appeared to be irritable confusion as she said that “Gregor” had told her he was here...how would Gregor know the whereabouts of a lone wolf like him, and who was this Gregor anyway? Well, he supposed that he had met a Kausen wolf Kidari who may have reported his presence… And, anyway, why would Charaka’s packmates be up here near Kausen? That confirmed to him that the worst had happened to Charaka’s old pack. ”I’ve been…” flashes of Ivan’s murderous eyes flashed through his mind and the pain and terror from that day… ”...fine.” he finished flatly. But he wasn’t interested in what awful things he had been up to. He had questions and he wanted answers.
Charaka averted her eyes as he asked about Marrow. She guessed that he really didn’t know what had happened. It had been at least a month since it happened, but she supposed news didn’t travel far outside the packs. ”Um… Well, I guess that's fine… That you’re fine.” she said. She didn’t really want to talk about Howl and what happened. Her brown eyes searched the mountainside searching for something else, anything else to talk about.
“The mountains are kind of cold aren’t they? Is there anything to eat here? Er… Do you like mountains? I don’t think I like them very much. Although I found this hideout in the central mountains! And it’s…” Charaka’s eyes shifted to meet Alcatraz’s no-nonsense ones and her pointless chatter stopped. She looked away again. Staring fixedly on the ground in-between her paws looking forlorn. “Howl’s dead. Our alpha. He died from foaming mouth disease…” she admitted finally. “Morrow is gone... Everyone left…” Everyone… Gypsee, Vivian, Crash, Caidan, Ronan… Why did everyone just… abandon the pack? Everything happened so quickly. It was like the time they spent together didn’t even happen. Like Morrow, and Howl, never even existed in the first place…
She felt tears welling up in her eyes and blinked furiously to clear them away. She didn’t want anyone to see her like this. She would be okay. She would be okay. Forcing a smile back on her lips she lifted her head and looked back up at Alcatraz. “So… yeah.” Yeah. She couldn’t just fall apart now.
Alcatraz could sense that something was wrong. He kept his stern gaze fixed on her as she avoided his gaze, asking him about mountains and what he thought of them. The dark brown male frowned. Mountains were fine… they had beautiful views, so he liked them. But he could tell she was avoiding the true issue here, and Alcatraz wanted to know. Not that he cared… but he guessed he did… he knew a few wolves in Morrow… wolves he would prefer to still be alive…
She seemed to sense that he was not interested in small talk and just answered his question. Alcatraz’s expression changed to mild shock as she spoke of Howl’s death and Morrow’s disbanding. Everyone just…. left? Alcatraz could see the grief in the pale she-wolf’s eyes. She blinked, quickly to try and regain herself.
Alcatraz paused a moment, making sure she was finished before he answered. ”I’m… very sorry…” he said, his sand baked yellow eyes lowering to the ground. This was big news, and he could only imagine Charaka’s sorrow at losing all her friends and her home. But he was far from good at comforting others. He glanced up, another question forming, ”Why aren’t you with Gypsee?” He asked. He supposed he didn’t know them too well, but as did know that they were good friends… he was surprised that they would have split up.
At his sympathetic apology, Charaka merely nodded her head. Suddenly tired as if all the energy was bled from her, she slowly laid down. Besides, her joints were starting to twinge again. “I… I don’t know where Gypsee is… I don’t know where almost anyone is… Vivian is is Chandor, and some others are in Kausen. But other than that I have no idea…” she said, as she laid her head on her paws. It was another kick to the gut that none of her friends bothered to tell her where they were going before they left. Or maybe they mentioned it and Charaka was too engrossed in grief at the time to remember.
Alcatraz stood awkwardly in front of her as she laid down, her voice suddenly sounding exhausted as she explained her situation. ”Oh…” he said, glancing around uncomfortably as he tried to think of what to say now… He felt sympathy for his friend, but how was he going to comfort her? What could he say to help the pain she was feeling? He had no idea...
He padded a bit closer and laid down before her, offering his companionship. ”Well… why don’t you join them? Go to Chandor… or Kausen.” he suggested, his sand-baked yellow eyes resting on her, their gaze a bit softer than their normal often irritated expression.
Charaka blinked in surprise as the normally grumpy loner actually laid down in some sort of awkward companionship. Plus, she could have sworn his eyes looked a bit softer. Maybe Mr. Grumpy wasn’t always grumpy after all. She raised her head to look backwards at the Kausen borders. At her current elevation she could still see the forest through the gap in the mountains.
“I… don’t like trees very much. They make me feel trapped and unsafe.” she confessed. The words sounded ridiculous even to her ears so she continued. “Also the rules the packs have worries me. They are too friendly to strangers I feel. The possibility that the guards might let someone who looks innocent in to slash my packmates’ throats open during the night… unsettles me.” A phantom pain stung her torn ear and she pawed at it irritably. A not so subtle reminder of the night another pack had attacked her own in the dark. However, she forced the memory down just like she always did.
Alcatraz lifted his gaze to look toward Kausen as she did, as if to see for himself what she was saying. He could see the trees from here and he nodded a bit. That was fair. Forests could certainly be creepy he supposed, now that he thought of it. At least out in the open you knew exactly what was coming to you.
He snorted in agreement as she pointed out Kausen’s often unsafe treatment of outsiders. Clearly it was a sensitive topic for the dark male. ”Yes, that is the problem with most packs these days.” he growled at her, ”They are too soft.” It seemed he and Charaka had more in common than they knew, for his old pack had also fallen victim to strangers they were too stupid to be weary of. That was why the dark male left. He was scorned by others for his suspicion and hostility toward strangers, which had always blown his mind for lack of such prudence was what murdered his father, siblings, and best friend when he had been a pup. But they had forgotten much more quickly than he did. He could never live in a pack knowing that something like that could happen again, and how could he protect them from a whole pack of invaders? He had failed as a puppy, and he was sure he would fail again. They needed to take care of themselves, and if they could not, then they deserved to die… Alcatraz’s sand-baked yellow eyes were narrowed bitterly at the memories.
But then, it was almost just as bad to be too ferocious, such as that cowardly Blutwald pack, attacking a wolf who was a good ways from their borders. He snapped back to reality as Charaka pawed at her ear. ”Perhaps there are other packs… although I suppose it would be hard to join one, since you yourself would be an outsider to start.” he mused.
She shrugged. “Yeah. I was invited to join Morrow before its creation so it was sort of easy to join. Although I half-expected to get run off when I encountered Howl…” How long ago was that? It felt like ages since that fateful moment she cowered in front of the surprised Alpha. Talk about first impressions…
Charaka shook her head roughly, forcing herself to dispel the encroaching morose thoughts. “What about you? Are you planning to stay a loner forever? Surely you’ve found some cute lady you can start a pack with.” she teased gently.
Alcatraz shrugged, ”Well, with you in Morrow it certainly was a place you were likely to get run off from.” he said with a dry laugh, recalling the first rocky meeting with the pale female before him. He would have never expected that they would be friends, not at the time…Alcatraz watched her as she spoke of her meeting with the first Alpha. It sounded like she had really respected the male, although Alcatraz himself had never met him… it must be hard to be uprooted like that. At least Alcatraz had chosen to be alone.
The dark loner snorted at her next comment. ”Pfft, No.” he growled irritably. A lady friend? How silly! He had left one pack, why would he want to start another? And with him as the leader? Nah, too much responsibility… he would be a frantic mess trying to keep track of everyone and make sure they were safe, he was sure of that. And chances were he would not even like most of them! Although talking to Charaka right now he was happier than he usually was wandering alone, and he found that to often be the case in the presence of others… perhaps being alone forever wouldn’t be the best option for his happiness... he pushed the thought away. ”I don’t have a plan.” he asserted, ”I come and go as I please.” A weak statement, but he honestly couldn’t think of anything better.
She stared a bit stoically at him as Alcatraz expressed his disinterest. She nodded, but she felt a bit sad that the loner didn’t wish for a family. “I would like a pack. A family. My brothers and I often talked about how we’d go and find a mate and make our own packs after we left ours. The Sky Walkers aren’t like the packs around here. All of them were small and only had parents and their children in them. When you turned two years old you leave and start another pack. I was raised thinking and dreaming of starting my own pack with a strong and handsome wolf, you know? I still do… It’s like there’s this empty space, a hole, inside of me where my home pack used to be. It’s heavy... Being in Marrow and getting to know Howl made it go away a bit. But now it’s like the missing piece is bigger and heavier than before...” she said sadly, eyes unfocused as they gazed back to the time when she was a juvenile. She smiled a bit as she realized that she was uncharacteristically talkative about the subject. “S-sorry… I’m not usually this chatty.” she said as she glanced at Alcatraz sheepishly.
Alcatraz listened to her with his ears perked and his pale amber eyes mild. It was interesting to hear about the culture of her old home. Never had he heard of a pack system like that, but he kinda liked it. All the packs were friends, none would sneak around at night and attack another if they were all family. At least hopefully not. It sounded like she missed them a lot… or missed what she believed she should have at least.
Alcatraz twitched his ear a bit as she spoke of wanted a strong and handsome wolf. He felt a tinge of envy despite himself. Charaka had never seemed interested in him. Was he not a strong and handsome wolf? He inwardly cursed himself for his arrogance and easily insulted nature. Being the leader of a pack… would he even want that? Maybe if it was a small family pack like her Sky Walkers or whatsit… but anything bigger and he knew it would be nothing but trouble for him. And besides all that, his large muscles indicated his strength, but how could he be considered handsome with that huge patch of missing fur on his shoulder? His once unmarked dark coat was now marred with a scar as glaringly pale as the bald head of a vulture. He tried to stop the dull throb of his heart as he remembered the fear and shame that engulfed him that day and the many days that followed…
He pulled himself back to Charaka as she apologized to being so chatty.”No, don’t worry about it.” he said, ”There are many wolves out there…. I’m sure it is only a matter of time.” he said, his words uncharacteristically comforting. He was quite terrible at consoling others in most cases, but for once he did decent.
She smiled again; she couldn’t help it. Interacting with someone familiar and having them care about her, even a little bit, felt... nice. Plus Alcatraz’s words actually sounded comforting! Which was a bit strange considering the wolf in question. However, Charaka realised never actually bothered to get to know the guy at all! The first time they met… She couldn’t really remember anything other than wanting to rip his throat out. Names, well his name, was mentioned but that was it. And they didn’t talk much during their forced interaction that rainy day in the cave either. He said he liked elk though! Maybe… It couldn’t hurt to ask him a bit more?
“Where do you come from?” she asked out of the blue. Then, remembering her small encounter with another loner, added, “And don’t say from your mother! I mean where where you born and such?”
Alcatraz flicked his ears at her sudden question. Where did he… come from? He was never one to talk about his past. In fact, he hadn’t spoken of it at all since he left. Not ever. It was odd that someone asked where he was born. He looked uncomfortably to the side, reluctant to get into his unbecoming past. ”Well, a place north east of here, near the mountains.” he said, keeping his answer vague.
So he lived near mountains? Is that why he was in them now? The second time they met was in the foothills as well. More questions danced tantalizingly in her mind; however, Alcatraz didn’t seem to happy about her question. Did she hit a nerve? Was it too personal or painful? Charaka squirmed as she resisted spouting more questions at him. Her legs were itching to the point she could barely resist the impulse to jump up and move! She didn’t want to though. It didn’t feel right to stand up while Alcatraz was still laying down. Eventually she found some questions that shouldn’t be too invasive.
“Did you travel a lot to get here? Did you find anything interesting? What do you do when you have nothing to do? What about games? What’s your favorite one to play? Can you sing?” She rattled them off one after each other in excitement, barely able to stop herself before she gave him too many to answer. Tail wagging like a pup, Charaka looked up at him curiosity sparkling in her eyes.
Alcatraz flicked his ear, feeling her suppressed energy and he sat up a bit uncomfortably. What had her all worked up? And then she sputtered off questions. Alcatraz shifted on his paws. He was never one to talk, never mind answer so many personal questions. He glanced sideways before looking back at her. She looked at him with sparkling brown eyes and tail wagging excitedly. He let out a small sigh before deciding to grace her questions with his answers, however inadequate they may be.
”Yes, I have traveled very far. I have found a few interesting things, just nice places usually. I guess I… walk when I have nothing to do? I don’t play games, and I haven’t sang since I was back in my old pack.” he said, his eyes resting on her mildly as he waited for her reply.
Less than satisfied with Alcatraz’s answers, Charaka rocked back onto her haunches and wrinkled her nose. ”You’re terrible at socializing! You know that? It’s hard to be friends if we don’t know anything about each other you know!” she pouted. She still wanted to press him with questions but Alcatraz’s attitude left no room for doubt how he felt about it. And what did he mean by ‘I don’t play games’?
“And have you never ever played ever?” she asked him, disbelief in her voice. “Not even as a pup? Not even a play fight?” Belatedly Charaka realized she had asked more questions but shrugged it off. It didn’t seem like she would be able to hold back anyway.
Alcatraz shrugged helplessly. ”Sorry… I guess I’ve never been a talker.” he said, looking away uncertainly.
Alcatraz glanced at her, ”Well, of course I played games as a puppy. I always enjoyed play fighting with my siblings and friends…and exploring the area for cool places.” he thought of his best friend Gabitrix. They would always go on adventures together, which he used to enjoy even more than play fighting just because his old friend had been so much fun. His pale yellow eyes darted to the light brown female. Perhaps if he directed the conversation to her he would be a little more comfortable. ”What about you? Did you like playing games as a puppy?” he asked, as if he didn’t already know the answer.
Well, well, well! So even Alcatraz could have fun! Charaka beamed at his small reveal of his past self, her previously morose feelings long gone. She didn’t even mind that he swiftly changed the object of the conversation.
“Oh! Yes! I played a lot of games as a pup! I still play games even now!” she said cheerfully. Then an old memory sprang into her mind, lighting up her face as she remembered. “Oh! Oh! Oh! I remember a good one!” she barked happily as she sprang to her feet. Wasting no time she stood and stuck out her right paw as if pointing with it.
“Okay! First, stick your right paw out like this!” she instructed. She waited and gazed up the big male, giving him her best puppy eyes and her tail wagging as if it could be flung off at any second. Deciding more persuasive power was needed she tilted her head and gave a little whine, “Please?”
Alcatraz tilted his head critically at her, his eyes uncertain. He recoiled a bit at her sudden burst of energy, trying to decide the best way to react. He looked at her hesitantly, then decided that the best thing to do would be to go along. I mean, look at how happy she was? He couldn’t resist that.
”Mmmph.” he rumbled, surrendering as he lifted his right paw, holding it out to her. He may be a dignified,tough guy, but he hated letting others down, even in an instance as light hearted as this.
Charaka had to resist bouncing up and down in excitement as Alcatraz grumpily followed her lead. This was going to be so fun! “Okay! Now just do what I do!” she said cheerfully.
Then she started to sing, “You put your right paw in~! You put your right paw out~! You put your right paw in and~ you shake it all about!” Grinning happily she did as the song instructed, waggling her paw in front of her.
“You do the Shaky Pokey and you turn yourself around!” she continued as she spiritedly spun around in a circle a few times before coming to a stop. “That’s what it’s all a~bout! Yay!” Finished, she puffed out her chest proudly and tucked her grinning muzzle into it, looking as if she had just completed some extremely difficult task! Suddenly her head snapped up again. “Oh! I think there’s another verse! You put you left paw in~!”
She started singing the second part of the song with gusto, kicking her legs out energetically. The fact that Charaka was a fully grown adult was completely ignored in the face of enjoying the simple pup’s dance.
Alcatraz glared at her as she told him to do what he does. Right paw in… he held out his dark paw toward her, following along with the words as he tried to follow the directions. He had never heard of such a game, so he still had no idea what she was playing out. Right paw out… right. He drew his paw back as she did, then out again. ”Shake it..?” he hesitantly shook his paw, his brows knitting together in grumpy confusion.
He scrambled back to avoid Charaka as she spun about in a lively circle, his yellow eyes wide as he tried to realize what was happening. He got to his paws as she continued on and shook his fur, looking around to make sure no one had seen him or was looking now. But no one was near. He turned back to Charaka, his eyes narrowed irritably, ”What a…. stupid game!” he growled, sounding almost like that cool puppy who was too cool to play silly puppy games with his little sisters.
Feeling dizzy from all the spinning, Charaka stopped and tried to face Alcatraz, nearly stumbling in the process. “Yeah it is pretty stupid.” she said after regaining her balance. “Although it’s just as fun as I remembered it being! It always made my mother happy when I did it as a pup!”
Still feeling pleased with herself, Charaka tilted her head up and smiled at the large growly male. “Do you feel happy?” she asked.
Alcatraz watched her spin and then try to regain herself and he could not help but smirk. She sure was a character. Very playful and active, and just… silly. He chuckled as she said he made her mother happy, ”Yes, perhaps it’s cute when a pup does it!” he joked dryly, but his comment was good-natured.
Alcatraz looked at her,his smile fading as she asked the question. Happy…? Alcatraz supposed he was, at least relatively, with Charaka’s company. Even if it was a bit too lively for his liking. ”Yeah… I guess so.” he admitted with a defeated smile. He looked at the pale she-wolf a moment before saying, ”Well… I suppose I had better get a move on before it gets dark.” he said.
If he was happy… then why did he look so sad all of a sudden? Charaka studied Alcatraz’s face. She didn’t notice before, but it almost seemed like he had aged since she last met him a couple months ago. It was faint, but something was different about him. Something in the way he was carrying himself maybe?
“Hey… Are you okay?” she said after a while, at a loss as to why Alcatraz looked so strange. Mentally flashing through their conversations, Charaka remembered something he said earlier.
‘I’ve been… fine.’
How could she be so stupid! Something was obviously bothering Alcatraz but she was too caught up in her own problems and worries to even notice! Suddenly worried, she asked quickly, “You’re not okay are you. Did something happen? Are you sick? Did you injure yourself?” Speaking of injury…
Her concerned eyes were drawn to the large patch of scarred skin on his right shoulder. The first time she saw it she paid it no mind. Scars just happened as one experienced life. At best they were badges of honor, shown off proudly to one’s children. Then some of them, as Charaka now knew, were a constant reminder of shame. No matter how Alcatraz received the injury, it looked sort of newly healed; however, she couldn't be sure.
“Is your wound okay? It’s not infected is it?” she continued. Stepping closer she touched his bare shoulder lightly with her ruddy brown nose, checking to see if she could feel heat from it.
Alcatraz frowned as she seemed unsatisfied with his answer. He stood in the silence, letting the wind ruffle his dark fur as he waited for her to continue. What was she thinking about? And then she asked if he was okay. He blinked, wondering a bit at what had sparked her sudden concern.
”Uh… yeah. I’m fine.” he said uncertainly, but she had answered her question for him as she inquired about his mental and physical state. He went to answer her, but before he could he noticed her eyes land on the pale scar glaring through his dark fur. He turned a bit, letting his full mane block the sight of the scar as he looked at the ground self consciously. It was too late. He let out a sigh. He did not want to be reminded of what happened… but part of Charaka’s concern touched him as well… it was a feeling unusual and foreign to him, and he didn’t know whether to awkwardly try to change the subject or be open with the pale she-wolf.
He decided on the latter, at least to some extent. ”No, it’s fine. Just… a minor conflict…” he muttered, then looked up sharply, his growl defensive, ”But you should have seen the other wolf.” He did not want to look bad in front of his friend. She couldn’t know that he had lost so badly without even leaving a mark on his opponent. How shameful… how pathetic he was! He looked away bitterly, perhaps taking away from the authenticity of his story. He flinched away from her as he felt her cold nose on the thick scar tissue, ruffling up his thick fur and drawing his shoulder as close to him as he could.
She stepped back as he drew away from her. The wound didn’t feel inflamed but… He still looked like he was in pain. She had no doubt in her mind that Alcatraz had beaten the other wolf. He was strong after all! However, something about that fight seemed to have shaken him.
Ears flattened, she gazed at him with concern in her eyes. It just seemed so wrong to see him so… unsure of himself? Charaka didn’t know what to say to make him feel better. Perhaps… Maybe if she did what made her feel loved and secure, he would feel better?
Approaching him slowly as if he was a frightened rabbit, she said softly, “Alcatraz… Could you stand still for a moment please?” and then hugged him. Chest against chest, she wrapped her neck softly but firmly around his, resting her head on his shoulders. She stayed silent for a while, trying to will her feelings of concern and friendly affection through to him with the simple action.
“I’m really glad you’re here, you know.” she said, voice full of tenderness “You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong, but I want you to know that I care. And I want you to know that you are amazing and strong and handsome no matter what has happened or will happen to you! And if you ever need me, I’ll try my best to help you. Because you’re my precious friend and I want you to be happy.”
Alcatraz’s pale yellow eyes darted from Charaka to the ground and back again, narrowed and defensive. She asked him to stand still and he eyed her warily but did so, only leaning back slightly as she started to approach.
And then she pressed her fur against him and wrapped her neck around his thick chest fur, giving him an affectionate wolf hug. After a moment, Alcatraz relented and practically melted into her, leaning back into her and relishing her closeness and warmth in a way he had not done with another wolf in a long time. He was so tired… he needed this...
Hearing such words… never had he heard words like that before and he felt a whirlwind of emotions inside as he struggled to comprehend them. She cared so much… she thought so much of him… he just couldn’t take it.
He was silent for a moment, his face pressed against her fur, and mumbled, ”I lost the fight…” He felt dread and fear in his mind, regretting his words even as he said them. What would she think now? He had just disproved all the wonderful things she had said about him, exposed himself as a liar, AND a weakling. But surely whatever her reaction was, it was better than the guilt he would feel for living such a lie in her eyes.
After Charaka said what she felt like she should say, she simply hugged him back without another word. It surprised her that Alcatraz didn’t stiffen and move away from her touch as she expected. Rather he relaxed into her as if he had just finished a day long run and needed rest. So she guessed she did the right thing!
Then he pressed his muzzle into her fur and mumbled so softly that she almost misheard him. So that’s what had gotten him so choked up… Charaka didn’t know him for too long; however, it was obvious that Alcatraz was proud. Perhaps a little too proud? Either way, Alcatraz had clearly been wounded in more ways than one in that fight.
She didn’t think that he looked too bad though considering he faced off against an opponent even he had trouble dealing with. Though she didn’t want to, Alcatraz’s fur was so soft and his familiar scent was comforting after spending her nights alone after Marrow’s fall, but she softly disengaged from her friend. This was something she should probably say face-to-face.
“Alcatraz, look at me please?” she asked him softly, giving him a small smile.
Alcatraz didn’t move until she did. She slowly drew away as he did too, but his pale yellow eyes were on the ground as he packed up a pace. He didn’t know what he was expecting, but it sure wasn’t good.
She spoke softly and he stole a glance up, only to lift his head to give her his full attention as he saw a small smile on her face, but it wasn’t an unkind smile… right? He met her brown eyes evenly, searching them, silent as he listened for what she would say next.
She stared at him a bit to gather her thoughts, her tail wagging softly and the encouraging small smile still on her face. This was difficult for her to put into words, but here goes everything. “Everything I said about you is still true. And your scar is proof of that. My uncle used to tell me how to use a wolf’s scars and injuries to predict how they fight! And, um, well basically only cowards and the unskilled get scarred up on their back half.” she said a little bit panicked.
She didn’t want to mess up and make him feel worse. But for some reason her words wouldn’t arrange themselves now that she really really wanted them to. “Your scar is on the front half, which means you must have faced whomever it was bravely. As for losing the fight, I doubt that! You weren’t the one who started the fight, right? Your goal at the time probably wasn’t to win but to escape! I mean anyone who can do this much damage to you must have been trying to kill you. So obviously they’re the ones that failed!” she said fervently. She had no idea if any of this was getting through to him, but she meant every word she said.
“J-Just look! You ARE amazing and strong because I said so! And you know it’s true ‘cause I suck at lying!” she said, glaring haughtily up at him. Her frustration was maxed out by her own inability to help Alcatraz at such a crucial moment. Her eyes glistened even as they challenged the male to dare tell her she was wrong.
Alcatraz listened to her words, growing thoughtful as she explained herself. He supposed she was right… he hadn’t started the fight, or wanted to get into it at all. Ivan was the one who struck, unprovoked. Alcatraz had tried to defend himself, but found himself severely outclassed, and so he fled with his life. He saw that as cowardice, but Charaka was right about one thing… Ivan had wanted to kill him, and he had failed. Alcatraz had lived. So perhaps he had won after all, if you looked at it that way.
”I guess…. that makes sense.” the dark male murmured uncertainly, finding himself oddly comforted by her logic. He looked up at her as she went on, and his heart swelled as she stroked his damaged ego, calling him amazing and strong. He smiled tenderly, meeting her challenging eyes was his own yellow ones, which held an unusual warmth. He was never one for words, but he managed to say one thing, his voice a soft rumble. ”Thank you… Char.”
Relief spread through her as Alcatraz relaxed and smiled at her. It didn't look like a forced smile either, so perhaps he was feeling better! Her own gaze softened as he thanked her. The warmth on his face and in his voice surprised her, but she grinned up at him happily, blinking away the residual dampness in her eyes. "You're welcome!" she answered simply. However, she looked away almost immediately in embarrassment. He was still calling her 'Char'...
"Um, my name is Charaka." she said apologetically, looking back at him sheepishly. "Char is what my friends call me! S-so if you want you can still call me that?" she finished a bit hopefully. It wasn't right for Alcatraz not to know her full name, especially not after this. Besides, they were friends even if Mr. Gumpyface didn't like nicknames!
The gurgling of her stomach made her glance upward at the sky. The mountains blocked most of the sky; however, it was already getting dark. Smiling back at Alcatraz she said, "I guess I should get something to eat quickly! Would you like to hunt with me? Maybe we can find one of those elk you love so much!"
Alcatraz perked his ears forward as she recited her full name. ”Charaka.” he echoed, making a note to himself to always refer to her by that name… unless…. did she prefer Char? Alcatraz was never one for nicknames… although they were kinda like friends now weren’t they. As much as he was friends with anyone, anyway. Who had he ever been so open to? So… vulnerable? No one. Yes, she was certainly a friend. He thought back to when they first met, and she had wanted nothing more than to rip his pelt off his bones. How things have changed
A determined smile spread across his muzzle and he got to his paws, his expression professional, like its normal self… except this time happier than usual. ”Yes, let’s go.” he said, glancing up at the darkening sky. It was a crisp autumn night, and Alcatraz was looking forward to hunting with who he finally considered his friend.