The sound of water broke through the darkness. Eight could hear it, off in the distance. It grew closer and closer until he could hear it very well. In his sleep, he became conscious. He knew where he was, laid down by the river. He knew that was what he was hearing. He remembered everything fuzzy at first until he began to wake up. His eyes cracked and he took inventory of the world around him. It was quiet. The sound of laughter and splashes he remembered before he drifted had stopped now, but for how long he didn't know. The first thing that came into focus was Zen, who was also asleep on the bank, a few feet away from Eight.
Eight picked his head up some, noticing the Twins and Mingo also sleeping, though, closer to the water. Looks like Eight's idea for a nap caught on, though, they probably would have crashed anyway soon enough.
Eight felt a warm spot to his left side for just a moment. He looked to find сирень snug up against him, her head nuzzled into his shoulder. He stared in part amazement and confusion for a moment before smiling to himself.
He yawned for a moment and slowly stretched out his neck first to the left, then the right. He noticed Zen's stare for a moment, then, when the other волк rose to his feet and stretched, Eight began to do the same. He used his paw to gently rest Lilac's head down to the earth as he quietly moved away from her, pondering over her for a moment, stopping the world again to consider her and what his presence could mean to her.
Eight turned and paced toward Zen.
"Its getting about that time, hmm?" Zen сказал(-а) softly, not to wake the others. He looked at Eight with that same calculating look on his face as when he was determining или thinking.
It was true what he said, the sun had begun to sink low over the back of the cliff-side opposite the river, bathing the area in a cool shadow. The water from the river seemed less inviting now and the landscape around them grew colder.
"Thinkin' Ты might be right." Eight responded, his voice low as well. The two turned towards the woods and began a slow-paced walk, discussing and talking as Друзья would to pass the time.
"I am not looking вперед to working with that short stack, tonight." Eight grimaced at the thought.
"I do not envy you, sir." Came Zen's reply. He always spoke with well enunciated words and phrases, every syllable calculated before it filtered from his brain. Ты could tell by being around this волк that he was always in thought. Always. He spoke eloquently, sure of what he was saying, as well as its meaning and weight in conversation. "But, then again, Stern isn't such a bad guy. He puts up a tough front, but he's seen his share of trials and tribulation."
Eight nodded and "Hmm'ed" in understanding.
The two walked on through the woods at their pace, the ground now noticeably colder, the dirt seeming еще wet than before. Thoughts went through Eight's mind as they tended to. Thoughts of home, the day, the past month, Lilac. Somehow, she kept cropping up. He didn't fight it, he didn't mind. It made his сердце flutter some, even.
"Y'know," Zen began and paused as though he was thinking of what to say next, или determining if he SHOULD say what he had picked out, "Lilac, is very dear to us." His voice was serious, stern with a soft edge, not to be put on the offensive. "To our small group, the rest of the Omegas in the pack... the rest of the PACK. I mention this because she seems to have taken a liking to you."
Eight cleared his throat, the topic making him a bit uncomfortable. He didn't know where it was going, but he knew what it included. Something not of his strong suits.
"Yes, I've -ahem-, I've noticed." He responded.
Zen knew immediately from the way Eight's voice needed clearing еще regularly now that it was a softer topic for him, so he took it into consideration.
"I'm not sure how Ты plan to follow through, или if." Zen continued briefly.
"I'm not rightly sure on the topic my own self." Eight replied. The mere act of inferring that Eight had any plans, COULD have any plans with the female волк sent his mind reeling into avenues untouched prior.
Zen stopped and turned, Eight did the same and they spoke as equals, their eyes met and they understood each other. Zen now cleared his throat, not a common occurring, in Eight's experience with him all day.
"Well, when... IF, Ты do happen to make plans, just remember to consider all of the junctures. And be sure to tread softly with her, as I've said, She is very dear." Eight could hear the hesitation in his voice, it almost sounded like he was choking back, as though the words he spoke came hurtful to him.
"I understand." Eight's reply came simple, he looked into Zen's eyes and Zen stared straight back, never blinking, never wavering. "Just out of curiosity..." Eight started, "What would these junctures be?"
"Well, for starters," Zen began, "Around here, there are certain provisos... We have rules. Ты should look into it some, perhaps." Eight nodded at his suggestion.
"Well, Ты best be off. As should I. I have an aggregation of riffraff to rouse from their mid день slumber." Zen smiled at Eight lightly and cast his eyes to the ground before turning the other direction. He stared at his paws as he left, just before Eight headed the other direction he heard Zen call out behind him, "And good luck with Stern! Remember, patience."
With that, Eight headed to the North Western piece of the forest, cutting through the trees to make up time. He wouldn't be late for his appointment if he kept his pace. He traveled for about 20 минуты and found himself near the area that he had arrived at almost a week before. This was Stern's neck of the woods, quite literally. He could smell his scent already and he only just entered that piece of territory. Another few moments and Eight came to a clearing in the forest. The very same that he remembered so well. Stern was already there, with three others, they were talking and cutting up a little bit. The others еще than Stern, however, considering his leadership role. He recognized Shade as well and thought about how this was the first to hear his voice. The tone carried in it was that of a light heart. Eight figured that he had to keep his composure on the job - bosses orders, probably.
As Eight came from the trees, stepping softly not to disturb the others, Stern turned his head in Eight's direction.
"Well, would Ты look at that!" He said, calling the others to a relaxed state of attention. "Well, new meat, I heard you'd be with me tonight, but to be honest, I figured you'd run off and hide someplace instead." He laughed to himself as he sauntered a few steps closer to Eight. It wasn't at all refreshing to see that his attitude hadn't changed from their last meeting.
The other Волки whispered here and there amongst themselves while Eight stopped in front of Stern. He wasn't interested in his attitude and he was finding it difficult to put up with it. Considering that they were of equal rank, Eight decided it wouldn't be punishable to let a few snide remarks slide, if Stern deserved. And he did.
"Just here to do a job, Cap'n. Not interested in playful banter." The two stood face to face, a stoic quiet between them, their chests out, their heads up high. Eight had no intention of starting anything with this pint-sized ball of muscle, but he wasn't about to be pushed around all night either.
Stern laughed, "Playful banter. Those are pretty smart words there, bumpkin. You've been hanging with the Omega's haven't you? Shade?" He called back to shade without looking away, Shade responded with a quick sniff, "Yup."
"Yeah... I thought as much." Stern turned and trotted back a moment. Eight stood still and stomached Stern's taunts. "Alright then, this is how it works, a few ground rules. First and foremost, despite being my equal in rank - I STILL outrank you. You'll do as I say, get me?"
Eight stood silent long enough for Stern to Переместить on.
"Good. Just cause the pack leaders say your part of the crew don't make it so. Near as I'm concerned your an Omega, hell, if it were up to me, Ты would be."
"Guess I'm lucky Ты couldn't be in charge of things, then." Eight shot back at him. Stern stopped for a moment, his teeth gritted momentarily, mostly in thought.
"Second thing, Your with me tonight. I can't afford to have any unseen infiltrators any еще than I can afford to have to explain why Ты were mauled to death. Long as your with my crew, you'll act as one of them."
"Well, at least we agree on that point." Eight said, a little relief in his voice.
"Don't get too comfortable, now." Stern reprimanded. "Shade, as usual, you're on scout. You'll serve as relay between each of us on a periodic basis." Stern may have been a pompous, squatty furball with a complex, but he gave orders well. He knew what he was doing. Eight found himself fighting to respect that.
"Ayame, you're taking due west."
"Right." Came the female wolf's response, sharply and quickly.
"Dolph, you're going South. See what Ты can find out about the herd for the hunt teams while your there."
"Got it." Dolph Replied.
"Eight and I will handle the northern front. Okay people, we've all got jobs to do, now lets go do them."
With that final word, each волк quickly retreated in their respective directions.
The sun would be taken over by darkness in a half час или so by this point. Eight followed Stern's lead to the north. A few hours of a routine perimeter check wouldn't be so bad, so long as Stern didn't have much to say, on вверх of that, it would give Eight the chance to learn the real boundaries of the territory.
It was time to to a job.