Nika curled in the cave. Although the darkness covered her, she had images in her pack memory. She wrestled with her brothers and sisters in her whelp. She nursed from her momma; nursing was always so safe and happy. Outside of herself, even in her sleep she whimpered and gnawed her own paw when her jaw didn’t throb.
She flashed back to a sunny spring day. Her momma was licking her fur, behind the ears first, then down her back. Nika had her eyes closed, and she thought momma had stopped licking. Just as she was about to yip at her momma, another tongue took over.
It was rougher and the smell was more male. It was strong, really strong. She peeked through a half-opened eyelid, and she almost yelped away in surprise. It was her momma’s daddy. He led the whole pack. He’d done it for years.
He was doing something usually only females did. His tongue, though strong, was as gentle as a female’s. As he finished between her ears and down her spine, he howled. It wasn’t the calling howl; it was the howl of an alpha who just won a big fight.
She didn’t understand, so she closed her eyes. The image faded, and she whimpered as the cold set in. She stretched and rolled, trying to bat at her sore jaw again, then she curled up and continued to sleep.
She started to feel like she was being licked, but in the wrong direction. It started at her tail and worked toward her ears. She hated it, but it was a strong tongue like her momma’s daddy. She whimpered in surprise as the tongue went down her snout and then back up to the eye and down the jaw, first the good side, then the sore side.
Nika was happy and afraid all at once. Happy that she felt like a young pup always cared for with no jobs to do and scared of who or what might be licking her. As the tongue kept licking the sore jaw, she sniffed. It was an alpha male, a really strong alpha male, stronger than her momma’s daddy. He smelled like nothing she’d ever smelled before.
As he went back along her snout and between the ears, she peeked. It was an alpha male, but he was pure white with pink eyes. She tried to control her shock so she wouldn’t give herself away. The old stories had a white alpha who put himself in the way of a lion to protect the first pack; he died and the pack lived. Sometimes, the pack and its pups thought they had seen him. But no wolf like that ever survived very long these days.
As he licked down her back, she rolled over to submit to him. He was gone. She felt loved and safe, but also scared that something had come into her safe cave. As she stretched and went to look out the mouth of the cave, she realized her jaw didn’t hurt anymore. She had no pain. She felt almost like a new pup.
After sniffing the air and looking around the cave and its mouth, she curled up again. She didn’t know if the white wolf was real, but she no longer hurt. She curled up again, feeling peaceful. True darkness again overtook her.