Waves of ever increasing chimes snapped him straight awake. Grabbing his phone, he swiped to silence his alarm. Already heartbeats were pounding in adrenaline. Rotating, he slipped out of bed. He flicked on the light. Walking over to his laundry, he dug through his clothes.
Frustration rose when he didn't immediately find his compression shorts. He didn't really feel like wearing his boxers. With a huff, he moved to dig through one unopened box of clothes. Nearly giving up, he found them near the bottom.
He sighed in relief. After he pulled them on, he left his room.
Light was shining out from the kitchen. Chris's scent was fresh and thick. He waded through it as he flew down the stairs.
Chris was breaking down thick muscle meat with a butcher knife on a cutting board. He watched him as he made his way to the table. The muscles of his back and arms were rippling as he worked. His compression shorts showed off his powerful thighs. For a moment he was jealous. He wished he was as strong as he was.
Hopefully if he went hunting enough, he'd look like that.
As he was about to sit down, Chris paused. Just a hint of fear flared in him as he glanced over his shoulder.
“Morning!” He said, plopping into a chair.
“Morning,” Chris replied, going back to his work, “We'll eat something first, then meet the rest of the pack at the Den.”
He shifted slightly in the chair.
“Are we gonna drive there?” He asked.
“To the Den?”
Chris nodded. He turned and set the cutting board on the table. Eyeing the meat, he decided to wait for him to start first. It seemed Chris had the same idea, as he looked at him after sitting down. With a bit of hesitancy, he reached out and took the first piece.
“First thing you need to learn is that you're an Alpha. You get first dibs on everything.” Chris said as he took a fatty piece between his fingers.
He shoved the half chewed meat into one cheek.
“But, how do I make sure everyone else gets fed?” He asked.
Chris put the food in his mouth. His eyes looked him over.
“Most pack members know how to much they need and how much to take. You just settle squabbles.” He said as he chewed.
“What if there might not be enough?”
“You still get first choice, you just take less.”
He swallowed and grabbed another.
“Well, what's the best to get?”
“Tenderloins and hind quarters. Most protein dense. Far more tender. Liver after that. It has the most nutrients.”
He frowned as he processed.
“What about fat?”
“Leave that for the females. Especially nursing or pregnant ones, they need the calories.”
“Hips and femur. Blood making marrow. Also nutrient rich.”
He nodded. For a while they sat in silence as they continued eating. Chris was staring off into the living room. He watched him from the top of his vision.
“Should…I do that today?” He finally asked.
Eyes snapped to him again.
“No, I'll take care of getting our portion today. I rank higher now since..,” Chris cleared his throat, his eyes flicking away,“…we're mates. In the future you'll be doing it. Just stick close so you can see where I'm getting it from.”
He found it strange that Chris had such an awkward reaction to acknowledging their pairing status. There had been a hint of something acidic in his scent for a moment.
Isn't this what he wanted?
He had to admit it still felt extremely awkward to him. Chris really was more of a roommate than anything else. He wasn't sure if there was more that Chris was expecting. He didn't know if he would be willing to give it if he was.
With another nod he took one of the last two pieces.
Chris took the remaining, and grabbed the cutting board. After he washed it up, he moved to leave the kitchen. He quickly followed behind him.
“I'm nervous.” He said quietly.
It was still to dark to see anything out of the car window.
“To be expected.”
Anxiety was rising in his chest. That wasn't a very comforting answer.
“It's okay to be nervous,” A pause, “I was too at one point.”
He looked over his shoulder at him. The soft lights of the dashboard had his face lit up in an eerie glow.
“Really? Even with all your training?”
Chris nodded, “Yeah. Nothing really prepares you for the real deal. We used to do mock hunts when I was a pup. Track down voles or marmots. But it's not the same.”
“Have you…ever made mistakes before?”
“Tons. You only learn to be better by making them.”
Chris glanced over at him.
“Don't worry Danny, just enjoy it. I'll be looking out for you, alright?” His tone was gentle, but encouraging.
His heart lifted. Offering a weak smile, he nodded.
Chris nodded and focused back on the road.
“What big game did you hunt in Alaska?” He found himself asking.
“Caribou mostly, sometimes moose.”
“Which one's tougher?”
“Moose. They're really powerful. They've got these lower teeth that are as sharp as hell. I've seen their antlers fling wolves clear up in the air. And they can kick in any direction. Some pack mates have lost a jaw by those hooves.”
He shivered at the thought.
“New mothers are even more aggressive than males. They'll chase you down.” He added.
“Elk…aren't that dangerous, right?” He squeaked out.
Chris shook his head.
“No, they don't have that many variables, but their antlers are the worst to deal with. They'll gore right through you.”
Sticky swallow down his throat. He stared out the passenger window again.
A bit of silence.
“Don't worry, Danny,” He gently repeated, “It happens very rarely. You'll be fine.”
Subtle sweetness in his scent filled his nose. The new accent caught his attention. He stole a glance from the corner of his eye. Chris was looking ahead again, his face slightly brooding.
Before he could wonder what it meant, the sweetness faded out. Only the thick dark scent remained.
The twilight air gave him a bit of chill. He wanted to transmute so his fur would keep the cold off. But he was probably going to have to wait.
As the door to the truck closed, he looked around. Soft light from the Den windows cast long shadows from the feet of the pack members that had already arrived. Most of the men were dressed like they were. The women had on different versions of either short or long legged singlets.
All their scents shared the same undertone of sour. Excitement and adrenaline pumping as one.
Chris walked by. Quickly he hopped in step behind him. Trying to keep his steps light so the gravel wouldn't dig into the soles of his feet, he hugged himself to keep warm.
Though the dark made it hard to recognize faces, it was easy to recognize his dad's scent. It was intermingled with the betas. Entering their semi-circle, he stopped shoulder to shoulder with Chris.
“Morning boys.” Dad's voice was bright, but he heard a bit of apprehension in it.
“Morning Dad!” He chirped.
“Morning Byron.” Chris said.
“Ready for your first hunt, Danny?”
“Yeah, I'm really excited.” He tried to tune the nervousness out of his voice.
“Glad to hear.”
“Happy to finally have ya along!” One of the betas said.
That made him feel good.
He heard soft footsteps approach next to him.
“We're all here.”
“Alright,” Dad said before raising his voice,“Let's move out!”
The shadows started morphing. Quickly he followed suite, starting to move forward as he transmuted. It was suddenly warm. He soaked up the heat that was captured under his fur. It was easier to see in the dark through his wolf eyes. He still followed Chris's strong scent trail anyways, just in case.
It was a long migration. He guesstimated it to be over an hour, maybe longer. It passed by quickly though. The endless amount of new sounds and smells had him captivated. They were all weaved into the repeatedly thick and thinning forest. He tried to keep his nose tuned in for the Elk scat he and Chris had found the morning before. But it was difficult, everything was so distracting.
The brighter the sky got, the easier it was to keep an eye on Chris. Not like he would have a hard time anyways. He was the largest by far. Massive paws, high shoulder blades. Long, slender, but square jaw. Tall pointed ears that were constantly flicking and rotating. A dark black stripe went from the crown of his head, down his spine, and to the end of his tail. It faded into the rest of his soft gray fur.
He stayed just to the side and behind him. Whatever Chris did, he tried to imitate. It was hard to know what he was mimicking though. Everyone was so quiet, and he got the vibe it wouldn't be appropriate to break the silence with questions.
Just as he pulled his head up from sniffing something pungently earthy, he saw Chris's eyes staring back at him from over his shoulder. Gold was glinting in his blue eyes.
With a short gallop he caught up to him.
“Do you know which way the wind is going?” Chris asked, his voice almost in a whisper.
That was easy.
“From the north.” He whispered back.
“Good. Can you smell them?”
“You will soon.”
“Have you caught the scent?”
“A couple times.”
“We're going to run from the south east up to the north part of the territory.”
"Where we found the scat?"
He watched him nod at a jet black wolf just ahead of them.
“When we split, I want you to trail Quinn. She's the best herder.” Chris said.
“Herder?” His heart fell as he watched her.
He didn't want to be a herder.
Went he looked back at Chris, the intense look in his eyes made him flinch.
“Every wolf and their role is important, none higher than the other. All parts make an effective whole. A pack leaders know every wolf's job, enough to understand it and do it well in the event that position needs replacement. The alpha isn't always in control, he trusts his pack to do what they do best…”
Chris paused to stick his nose in the air. He did the same. That tiny tendril of musky oil hit his senses.
That was elk. Hands down.