12. Training to become one
The wolf cubs are quiet and seem to be pleased with my closeness. I lay down on the grass in my wolf form when we return, and they immediately crawl near me. Their tiny tongues lick me, and I groom them back. It’s a sad thought that they’ve been left to their fate in the forest. We lie there close to each other until the vampires and Luis come up to me with inquiring faces. I shift, and Luis gives me a T-shirt to get dressed. The cubs don’t look confused but rub their muzzles against me like before, and I lift them in my arms.
“Are those real wolf cubs?” Blake asks in surprise.
“Yes, they are. I found these cuties when I ran in the forest; there was no wolf mother nearby. There’s no way I’m leaving them there myself. Luis, bring out milk and baby bottles; these babies are going to get a bath,” I say, looking smiling down at them.
“Yes, alpha,” Luis answers and walks away.
The vampires look at me with confused faces while Blake smiles at my motherliness. He’s one of the few who knows how hard it is for me to be away from my puppies, which makes him understand why it’s essential for me to take care of these wolf cubs as if they’re my own.
“This is important to you, right?” Blake asks with an uncertain smile, and I answer the question with nodding.
“Yes, I miss my puppies every day, and it physically hurts me that I don’t have them near me,” I answer quietly with a voice that breaks at the end. “It pains me that I can’t protect them from myself. I shouldn’t have to protect them from me; I’m their mother! But fate obviously has other plans.”
“You’ll learn how to control it, just as you did in the fight earlier. It went so well! You’re in control more than you think, but your insecurity puts a spanner in the wheel for you,” Blake replies with a sad smile.
“I know, and that’s why I can’t go home yet,” I answer and walk into the packhouse.
I walk up the stairs with the wolf cubs and take them with me into my bathroom, which has a large bathtub. Carefully I put them down on the floor and fill the tub with just enough warm water. The puppies sit next to me with their heads crooked and look curiously at what’s happening.
“Soon, it’s finished, and then you two thugs can get clean,” I say, smiling and scratching the puppies between the ears.
Like dogs, their tongues hang out of the corner of their mouths of contentment. It’s not particularly surprising that the puppies are calm in my presence. Wolves, like many other animals, recognize dominance and follow the one who’s the strongest. I’m the one who has the most power and makes the decisions here, so the puppies also follow my will. They can probably even recognize my maternal instincts and thus also realize that I don’t want to hurt them. Given how underweight and dirty they are, I think they’ve been on their own at least for a couple of weeks. They’re not babies, but milk is the best food right now to avoid them getting hurt. Wolves eat meat when they’re old enough for it, and these two are. But as I said, since they’re also underweight, it’s to take a risk if the first thing I do is stuff them full of meat. Slow wins the race; after all, we learned this in the fairy tale about the hare and the turtle. When a wolf doesn’t need milk anymore, the mother trains the cubs to hunt for themselves, and when they become sufficiently skilled at it, they manage by themselves. It doesn’t seem like mom-wolf has had time to teach her pups that, which means I’ll have to do it. How fun, I’m already looking forward to it! I carefully pick up the cubs and put them down in the half-full tub. They seem to like the water, at least, if I’m going to judge it based on how they splash down half the bathroom. Luis has set up special shampoo for dogs in the room, and that’s yet another reason why he’s a fantastic beta. He thinks in advance about what I need.
“What should I call you, huh?” I ask them softly while rubbing the soap into their furs. “I don’t even know if you’re boys or girls.”
They’re boys, Elisa says in my mind.
I don’t ask her how she knows that since she’s my wolf part, she also has more knowledge than me. One of the pups licks the other and makes a grimace of the taste that I take for granted isn’t good. I laugh at them and rinse them off the soap to avoid more contortions.
“How about Cayden and Hunter?” I ask while I pick up one of the puppies in a towel.
He licks my face, and I giggle at the feeling. Apparently, they like their names. When both puppies are wiped with towels and a hairdryer, I open the door for them. Both of them run out of the room and down the stairs, with me after them.
“Come back here right away! You’re going to get dirty again!” I shout and run after them across the lawn.
Pack members and the vampires stop to watch the spectacle. Luis and Blake laugh at the sight. In the end, I catch the puppies and growl low in warning for them. Them whines and licks me in the face like a ‘sorry,’ I melt there and then. With a sigh, I walk back to the packhouse to feed the little monsters.
“I see that things are going well now,” Luis chuckles, and Blake is standing beside him with a grin.
“Oh, shut your mouth and heat the milk,” I bite out through my teeth, and Luis laughs again before going to the kitchen to do what I asked him for.
I sit down on the couch with one puppy on each side; they place their heads in my lap right away. Luis comes back with two baby bottles a few minutes later and smiles softly when he sees how comfortable the puppies are here. He hands me the bottles, and I just have time to reach out the bottles to the puppies for them to drink hungrily.
“You guys were really hungry, huh?” I coo at them.
“It’s amazing how comfortable they are here, Aleida. You’re surprisingly good with puppies,” Luis says.
“I truly hope I am, given that I have five cubs myself,” I answer laughingly.
When the puppies are full, they climb onto my lap and immediately fall asleep. I pat them softly and enjoy being “mom” again. Blake and Lucas come into the room; they sit down on the couch opposite me. My gaze hasn’t left the puppies, and I find myself sniffing them.
“They’re not your puppies, Aleida,” Luis says sadly from his place at the doorway.
I nod sadly with a whine and sigh deeply. Luis puts a hand on my shoulder, and I feel the tears not far away. He picks up his phone and walks away; I have no idea where. After a while, he comes back with a laptop and smiles at me.
“What?” I ask in confusion.
“I have a couple of people who wants to say ‘hello’ here,” Luis answers and puts the laptop in front of me.
What I see on the screen makes me sob loudly. My mates, puppies, friends, and brother are sitting there, smiling at me. The cubs beside me wake up and whines when they see me crying, their tongues lick my tears away, and I chuckle at them.
“Hello, honey. It looks like you got two new companions there,” Miliano says softly.
“Hello, everyone, and hello, my babies!” I coo at my puppies.
“Mama!” the twins say at the same time and try to climb into the screen.
“Hi darlings, I miss you,” I coo at them.
“Mama, come here?” Alexander asks, and I tear up again.
“Mama can’t be with you right now, baby. Mommy’s coming back home soon, I promise,” I say and try to wipe my tears.
“Are those real wolf cubs?” Killian asks.
I laugh and tell them how I found the cubs, everything from the challenge to my run journey. We talk about how everything is going, about my progress, and how the triplets have evolved since I left them. It’s a heavy conversation to have, but at the same time, it makes me happy to talk to them again.
“Good night, my loves! Sleep tight, I love you,” I coo at my babies when the omegas come to put them in their cribs.
“How have you been, Aleida? We miss you so much,” Kian says, looking sad.
“Believe me; I miss you too, more than you understand. It’s not time for me to come home yet; I still have unfinished business here. When everything is ready, then I come home,” I answer with a faint smile.
“What do you mean ‘unfinished business’?” Kian asks with narrowed eyes.
“Michael left us, you know about that,” I say, and they nod in return. “But he also revoked his pledge.”
“That could’ve killed you!” Miliano growls.
“Yes, but I was stronger, and I’m well now. I have better control than before too.”
“It doesn’t matter, and neither does it take away the big problem of your so-called best friend walking behind your back,” Kian growls.
“Please, Kian. Let me handle this. These are my problems, not yours. What you’re going to focus on is making sure our puppies grow up and are safe, everything else I take care of.”
“We know that it’s your problem, we just... It feels wrong that you aren’t here with us. We need you, baby,” Miliano says, and my heart aches by his words.
“I’ll be home soon again, and when I am, I’ll never disappear again,” I answer, smiling lovingly.
We talk for a while before hanging up, and I walk upstairs with the wolf cubs behind me. I go to bed, and they jump up shortly after that. They lay close to me, and my thoughts slip away to my family that I desperately wish was here. But until then, I’ll have to settle for my new cronies.
The following day it’s time for the joint training between two different races. I stand ready and waiting for everyone to participate to show up, I have a strategy for putting up the training, but I’m not sure if it’ll go as I intend. Werewolves and vampires have had many disputes over the years. Even if everyone within our lands has at least a temporary alliance, that doesn’t mean they’ll be careful with each other, and that’s what scares me a little. This can quickly turn into a war between who’s the strongest.
“Welcome, everyone! Today’s training won’t be as it usually is. We have vampires with us who, first of all, should observe how we train, as well as what harm we can do. After that, you’ll observe how the vampires fight each other; in the end, you’ll fight each other,” I explain when everyone has come to the place and strolls back and forth. “There are only a few rules during this training; Nobody kills anybody, no fatal injuries are allowed, and no werewolf venom in the vampires’ blood. In addition to that, you can fight however you want, and if one of the fighters wants to interrupt, then you do it directly without questions. Is that clear?”
“Yes, alpha,” all the wolves and vampires answer in unison.
“Then find a partner, and begin!”