Daria's Present by DogDrawler (written from December 23rd to December 24th, 2014)

"Runt! Please come inside!" ordered Mom. "The guests will be arriving soon."

"But Mom, look at this view. The dawn looks pretty this morning." I continued to look at the beautiful pink sky, sitting on the ledge in front of our den. Behind me, I heard Mom sigh.

"You're just like your father."

"Did somebody mention me?" asked Dad who approached the den with my siblings next to him. Kate ran to him in a hurry.

"You invited the guests, right?"

"Don't worry Kate; I got them all," he said proudly.

"Oh, thank goodness, honey. For a second, I thought you screwed something up. You even got Daria too?"

"Uhh... I will go get her now..."

"*sigh* I spoke too soon... I can't believe you forgot about our most important guest! You know she hasn't been to a Christmas feast before. I wanna make sure we give her the best experience ever! Now hurry. They'll be here any minute!"

"Okay, okay. Calm down, Kate. I'll go get her."

"Can I come?" I asked, looking for an excuse to be away from the boring ol' den. And to see Daria again. It's been a while since we saw each other. Time flies fast for pups.

"Of course, you can," Dad agreed, smiling. I could always count on him.

"Alright! Go!" Mom was getting worked up. Beware sign.

We both started running to the den we assigned to Daria when she was welcomed to the Western Region. Not long later, I noticed Stinky and Claudette were following us. I slowed to a different stride to get some answers.

"Stinky? Claudette? What are you doing?"

"We're comin' with you," Claudette informed. Stinky nodded.

"You wanna see Daria too, do you?" I asked.

"It's been a while," he said.

"I know. She's warmed up to us," I replied.

"Not to mention bringing us fresh kill with her superb hearing and smell," Stinky added.

Later...

"Hi, Daria. How's life in the West?" said Dad, sitting down at the mouth of her den that was located at the base of the mountain known as Mt. Victory. She, without hesitation, looked at us, showing her teeth with her wide smile. She seemed relieved to hear us.

"Great. Very great. I never knew pack life was the best life." She then turned to me. I missed her a lot, especially those two green cloudy eyes of hers.

"Runt? Is that you?"

"How did you know?" I asked.

"Your scent is really strong."

"Probably because he hasn't been bathing in forever," said my sister.

"I do bathe... every moon cycle or so..." I'd hate to admit it, but we kings of the forest must send a strong message to those who threaten us. Though Dad wasn't so proud.

"First of all, son, gross. Second of all, we'll talk about it later with your mother."

"What brings you to my den?" asked Daria.

"Oh, right! We're having a Christmas feast! Kate wanted to invite you."

"A feast? Why, Humphrey, that would be lovely! Just umm... what exactly is Christmas? Floyd told me it was just a celebration in the winter shared by most animals and humans around the world."

"Well, uhh... I don't have much time to explain. My mate really wants me to come back."

"Oh... okay."

"We can talk about it on the way."

On the way...

"So let me get this straight," Daria said. "What is the true meaning of Christmas?"

"So far what we've learned from humans is that it's better to give than receive," Stinky informed. "But there could possibly be more of a deeper meaning that we wolves don't know or don't understand yet. Overall though, the meaning could just be anything from anyone's perspective."

"Did you celebrate at all?" I asked, worried that maybe, throughout her whole life, she hasn't felt even the slightest glimmer of the Christmas spirit.

"Well, when I was a little pup, a small family lived in the Shadow Forest for a short time, unaware of my presence. Fran and Frieda kept an eye on them to make sure they didn't get close to me. Then, one day in the summer, they saw the family having a celebration. They told me they saw the family's only son give a perfectly white bone to his parents. So perfect, in fact, it even looked appealing to the porcupines." I couldn't help but drool. "So you know what they did? They stole it and gave it to me for Christmas! Even though Christmas was many moons away."

"At least they were trying to be nice," said Claudette.

"True but I simply couldn't accept it. It belonged to that pup's parents. I demanded them to put it back. Thankfully they did."

"How's the family now?" Stinky asked. "As far as Winston knows, Shadow Forest has been completely wolf-free since you left."

"They mysteriously disappeared not long after the incident. I have no idea how."

"Strange..."

"Yes, but even more strange, Floyd later found the bone all by itself nowhere near their den, looking pale white with no marks on it at all like it had always been. It's a puzzling mystery. He brought it to me where I kept it safe in my protected den. I dared not to eat it because if it was as pale white and smooth as the porcupines described, it wasn't worth eating it yet. Then I thought maybe I should save it for someone else. The porcupines provided me with enough food anyway. Though, sometimes, I wish I could finally eat it after all these moons. Oh, how luscious would it taste? Tangy? Salty? Sweet? Bitter?" She was beginning to creep me out as she went off-topic. Fortunately, she shook her head out of it. "But I digress. Sorry. So... that's basically my first Christmas... if you could even call it that. Anyway, I heard something happened to Runt after I settled into this den."

"It was awesome!" I yelled.

"I wouldn't exactly say that," said Dad. "We were attacked by King and his Rogues."

"Correct," said Stinky, "but we showed 'em who's the boss in the Regions. I doubt they'll ever come back here again."

"Yeah," I agreed. "Plus we spent a night inside a cozy truck stop."

"A truck stop?" Daria looked amazed.

"They could've gotten themselves killed," Dad added.

"But we didn't so it was awesome!"

Near the peak of the mountain...

After getting Daria to slowly cross a log bridge, we managed to get home... just not at the time Mom preferred...

"What took so long?" she questioned.

"Don't look at me," said Dad. "Her den is at the base of the mountain."

"*sigh* Just forget it. Half of the guests are here, and finally, you get Daria..."

"Kate... just calm down. Everything's going to be alright. As your Omega mate, I must relieve any tension going on inside you." As Dad massaged Mom, I headed to the ledge where I tried to stare at the dawn. It wasn't there anymore. Behind me, I could hear the guests talking in the cave. Grandpa Winston, Grandma Eve, and a couple of my mom's friends, Hutch and Can-do, were all talking about the holidays, specifically what they were going to give to their friends or to each other, whether it was a going to be a pawful of flowers or a special bone. Wait... A bone? That gives me an idea!

Just as Daria was welcomed by the other guests, my siblings sat next to me on different sides. Perfect. I had to tell them something.

"Stinky! Claudette! I just thought of an idea! If it is better to give than receive, then I know what we can do for Daria!"

"And what might that be?" said Claudette, seeming cautious.

"The bone, of course!"

"You want to get that perfect bone for Daria for Christmas? Genius, bro!" said Stinky

"I know! She hasn't really gotten anything before. I wanna be the first."

"But wait a minute. She didn't tell us where the bone was," said Stinky.

"Well, she did say when Floyd found it, she kept it in her den. It could be still there. Maybe she accidentally left it when we took her in."

"Something doesn't add up..." Usually, when Stinky starts overthinking, it's because he's doubtful. I could see where this was going.

"Please tell me you're not still afraid of Shadow Forest."

"We're not!" they exclaimed in unison. I should've known.

"We're just... concerned for your safety," said Claudette.

"Hm, it's a good thing I never listen." I started to go. They followed, lagging behind me. We snuck around Kate and headed down the mountain. Stinky and Claudette were whispering to each other during the whole trip. Some of the sentences I could hear.

"I don't like it, Claudette. It seems odd that Daria didn't tell us where the bone was."

"Maybe it was for a reason. Maybe she didn't tell us everything about the bone. And maybe that is really why she didn't eat it."

I'm pretty sure they're just overreacting. Daria probably just forgot to tell us where the bone was.

At Daria's old den in Shadow Forest...

Sure enough, the bone was actually here. It was in the farthest corner of the cave covered in cobwebs and dust. It obviously hadn't been touched or moved from that spot in a long time. Interesting enough...

"Now that we've seen it I think we should—"

"No!" I interrupted. "I'm gonna help Daria whether you two like or not. I can't believe you guys don't want to." It was so unlike them that it was unbelievable.

"It's not that, Runt..."

"Whatever." I moved the bone closer and blew off the dust. Not one mark, scratch, or anything on the surface. I licked off any remaining debris and spat it out. The surface... so smooth... it was nearly impossible to look away. And unbearable when looking away...

Stinky and Claudette had to stop me. I chewed on that thing so obsessively that they took the bone away from me. I couldn't help it.

"Okay, this thing isn't really safe," Stinky declared. "I was afraid of this." I wasn't fully convinced. Sure, this bone can stimulate the urge to chew it excessively, but I don't see that as a reason not to use it as a gift. Besides, if Daria could control herself and not eat it for all those moons, it's safe for her at least.

"Come on, guys. I can't give her nothing. She'll hate me."

"You could tell the truth," Claudette suggested. I laughed

"Ha, good one. But this is no time for jokes."

"Why don't you just give her a pawful of flowers?" asked Stinky.

"No! Everybody does that. I want to give her something special because she is special."

"But, Runt, everybody gives away bones too."

"But this particular bone is different in so many ways. One being that it's her old Christmas present that never got used."

"...Runt... please..."

"I don't have time. I'm done arguing," I declared. I grabbed the bone with my mouth and ran back home. I ran real fast so my siblings wouldn't catch up easily and put doubts in my mind. I don't need them. Nothing's going to go between me and Daria.

Near the peak of the mountain...

Before crossing the log bridge, that urge came back to haunt me. Stinky and Claudette weren't with me right now to stop me, so I didn't know what I was going to do. Just a few bites wouldn't hurt... I lay down and gnawed at the bone. It still hadn't begun to splinter. Amazing!

Then, as I was gnawing, a couple of interesting thoughts went through my head. The first was what Stinky theorized, that there was a reason why Daria didn't say the bone's whereabouts. The second was new. I starting believing that maybe this bone is the reason why that family in the Shadow Forest disappeared. And possibly that's the real reason why Daria didn't eat it. Maybe she was scared to... especially since she was a blind pup at the time. I thought about what made the family disappear. Were they fighting over the thing in my mouth? I imagined the horror out of it. It was enough for me to drop the bone. I immediately snapped back to reality, picked the bone back up, and threw it over the cliff. The bone went down the mountain slope.

At the same time, I smelled my siblings coming close. They must've seen it.

"What made you do that?" Claudette asked.

"You both were right. That bone is cursed. I guess I should've figured that out since it came out of Shadow Forest."

"You did good, little bro," thanked Stinky who sighed in relief. I began to cry.

"Now what will I bring Daria? *sniff* I guess I'll to go get some flowers from the garden. *sniff*"

"It's okay, Runt. I think it's best you go to her and tell the truth, that you didn't get her anything."

"*sniff* You're right. I'll go." I wiped away my tears and walked to our den where I could hear chatter and laughter among the adults. I stepped in. Mom and Dad were happy to see me as were the guests. A big pile of meat was in the center of the den while wolves were gathered around.

"How's it going, kid?" asked Dad's friend, Shakey, from the back of the cave.

"Good," I answered quietly. "I uhh... was playing Keep Away with my siblings." I tried to keep myself from looking sad. I went straight to Daria who sat next to Garth, not far from the entrance. She sensed my close presence.

"Yes, Runt?"

"I'm sorry to say this, but I don't have any present for you for Christmas." There was a quick frown and a deep silence from her. I felt awful to say that. We were best friends.

"Oh, Runt..." she replied. I looked down at the floor in shame.

"If you hate me, I understand."

"Hate you? Runt, I love you." I looked back up at her face. "It's okay if you don't have a present for me." She leaned in for a whisper. "To be honest, I didn't want one anyway." I was astonished. "Why, you may wonder? Because my greatest wish has already been granted."

"What wish is that?" I asked

"To have a home again... and you are the one who fulfilled it. But I thank you greatly for trying to find something more... It's the thought that counts..." She then winked. She knew...

Later...

After the feast ended, I came to the edge of the ledge and stared at the beautiful dusk. It's lines of pink and purple intertwined in the mixture of clouds and sky surrounding an unrecognizable sun that was falling down behind the sierra in the distance. As my two siblings sat beside me, I began to ponder... I think I have just found the true meaning of Christmas... I turned around to see Daria in front of the den. We both smiled. We were all looking at the dusk.

The End


(The next story I will write is Claudette's Ex-boyfriend for next month. Goodbye as I'll be heading to Los Angeles where I'll stay for a few weeks.)